Lindsay Lohan's lawyer Mark Heller told the media that a fortune teller says that 2013 would be a lucky one for his client. It's certainly starting out that way. Prosecutors put off her assault case (stemming from an altercation in a New York night club last November) for now, which was really lucky for her. According to Mr. Heller, no charges have yet been filed. As for Ms. Lohan, she's still in London. More here at tmz.com.
Rose Marks and several other members of her family say that they have real psychic powers, which allow them to help persons in distress and put them in touch with deceased loved ones. Federal prosecutors say Ms. Marks and her family are nothing more than scam artists who take victims' money, in some cases thousands of dollars. One person who says she lost money to Rose Marks, almost a million dollars, is the novelist Jude Deveraux. Ms. Deveraux says Ms. Marks, using the name Joyce Michael, became "the source of pain, deception and fraud while trapping Deveraux with threats and the promise of hope."
The defense attorneys in the case are raising a First Amendment free exercise argument, saying that their clients' beliefs in psychic powers and their other practices are part of a sincerely held religious belief. Federal judges in other circuits have held that states cannot prohibit individuals from telling fortunes for pay, for example. The First Amendment exists to protect speech that allows people to engage in discussion on important issues, or issues that they think are worthwhile. Because the First Amendment, one of our fundamental rights is implicated, a court applied the "strict scrutiny" standard, which requires that the government demonstrate that it has a compelling interest (an interest of the highest order) to suppress or limit the speech, and that it is doing so in the most limited way with the narrowest means available. The cases in which federal judges have upheld the rights of fortune tellers, astrologers, clairvoyants and other "crafty science" practitioners to "speak" under the First Amendment include Argello v. City of Lincoln (143 F.3d 1152 (8th Cir. 1998)),(upholding the right of the plaintiff to tell fortunes for pay). See also a prior Law and Magic post here.
However, while the First Amendment is liberal in its protection of speech and belief, it does not protect criminal conduct. What is at issue here may be instead a law of general applicability, a law that is neutral in terms of its application to everyone. If so, if it applies to everyone regarding of his or her beliefs or speech, then the defendants here have a much less convincing argument that they are being targeting for their religious beliefs. The judge in Trimble v. City of New Iberia makes just this point.
For purposes of plaintiffs' motion, the Court will accept the City's position and assume that consumer protection is a compelling state interest. Therefore, the validity of the Ordinance depends on whether it is reasonably necessary to achieve the City's compelling interest. Plaintiffs argue that consumer protection against fraud and unfair trade practices is already provided under state law in the Louisiana Unfair Trade Practices Act, La. R.S. 51:1401 et. seq. Plaintiffs assert that to the extent fortunetelling and the like may be unfair or deceptive, they are already prohibited by state law. The Supreme Court has pointed out that the "existence of adequate content-neutral alternatives undercuts significantly" the government's position that its challenged legislation is reasonably necessary to achieve its interests. R. A. V., 505 U.S. at 395. If the City were concerned about protecting consumers who solicit the services of the plaintiffs, the City could have enacted legislation similar to the Louisiana Unfair Trade Practices Act.
Trimble v. City of New Iberia, 73 F. Supp. 2d 659 (U.S.D.C., W.D. La., Lafayette-Opelousas Div., 1999)(boldface added by editor).
Incidentally, the First Amendment also does not necessarily protect speech "when it is the very vehicle of the crime itself." See Rice v. Paladin Enterprises, 128 F.3d 233 (4th Circ., 1997) at 244.
The case may depend on the language of the statute under which the defendants were charged as well as what the prosecutors can prove the defendants actually did.
Homeopathic medicines are said to have no side-effects; this is considered a major selling point. It is less often noticed that this is because they have no effects at all. This is why you can't overdose on homeopathic remedies. (I wouldn't try this myself, but see here.)
Homeopathic remedies are sold as just that, remedies. Homeopathic doctors prescribe their solutions to help patients suffering specific maladies; the medicines cost real money; they come in impressive looking bottles with precise dosage and usage instructions. In many countries, insurance companies pay for such treatments. Friends of homeopathy think of their medicines as intervening effectively in the causal nexus. But the simple fact is, they do not. Or rather, evidence that they do remains inconclusive. And we know exactly why this should be. The solutions are too dilute for the "active ingredients" to be active at all.
And yet — and it is crucial that there is an "and yet" — homeopathic treatments do have effects. I have very close friends who swear by these treatments; the comfort they take, not only from the drops and tablets, but also from the guidance and counsel of homeopathic "doctors," is undeniable.
Is this just ignorance? Or self-deception? Have my friends been swindled? Or is this an example of the well-documented, but poorly understood placebo effect? Or are things more complicated even than that? In the coming weeks I will return to this topic.
I don't quite understand the point of this post. Is the writer suggesting that homeopathic treatments ought to be regulated more closely because they may have economic and psychological effects, even if their medical effects are unproven? BTW: the link in the post is to James Randi's TED talk about psychics, which includes a bit in which he takes an awful lot of Calms Forte.
An interesting blog, Chasing Down Emma, devoted to scholarship about Emma Hardinge Brittan, the nineteenth century Spiritualist medium and author of Modern American Spiritualism (1870), who developed the seven principles which still characterize the belief system of spiritualism today: The Fatherhood of God, The Brotherhood of Man, The Communion of Spirits and the Ministry of Angels, The Continuous Existence of the Human Soul, Personal Responsibility, Compensation and Retribution Hereafter For All the Good and Evil Deeds Done On Earth, Eternal Progress Open To Every Human Soul. Here's a link to a companion archive on Mrs. Britten. While the archive has a link to the blog, the reverse doesn't seem to be true.
From what I know about Mrs. Britten, she was a spirited sort. I can't readily discern who runs the archive and blog, but I'll bet he or she is having a lot of fun chasing Emma down.
With this essay I begin an examination of the effect and influence of psychics and psychic detectives on the legal system and popular culture. Scripted shows such as the popular Medium and the recently cancelled Ghost Whisperer enhance the personal accounts of the psychic detectives on whom they are based, adapting interesting characteristics and stories, and creating entertainment for viewers. Psychic detective shows such as the reality shows Psychic Detectives, Psychic Witness, and the new series Paranormal Cops provide an alternative to the popular crime scene investigation (CSI) shows as a way to provide a window into the legal system for America’s TV audience. The CSI shows rely on experts and an exciting array of scientific tools, suggesting that scientific evidence often can be so conclusive that the prosecutor in criminal cases can satisfy the “reasonable doubt” standard with no problem. Psychicdetective shows seem to present investigative television that appeals to those interested in the spiritual and the unknown and offer a contrast to the certain outcomes of CSI shows by posing questions that seem closer to the realities with which many viewers are more likely to be familiar through their newspaper and tv experiences. Sometimes juries or judges acquit defendants even though they seem to be guilty or convict them though they seem innocent. Some members of the public think they have paranormal experiences and regularly go to psychics. Many people read newspaper horoscopes, even if only for entertainment, and love the inserts in their Chinese fortune cookies.
Further, such shows emphasize what many viewers may consider to be the fallible side of the legal system, playing on existing viewer fears that defense attorneys with their “tricks” can overwhelm prosecutors and juries. These fears include those that arise out of the impression that constitutional guarantees such as those embedded in the Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments are “loopholes” or “technicalities,” which function solely to give the accused far too many rights at the expense of the victim and his or her family. Linked to that fear is the idea that the police may arrest the wrong person or fail to solve crimes altogether. In conjunction with a news media which deluges viewers with stories about cold cases are horror stories about criminals inexplicably allowed to go free who then commit additional crimes, killers never caught and the suspicion that innocent persons may spend years in prison or may well be executed, such “psychic detective” shows present a convenient solution to what seems to some to be an insoluble and horrific dilemma.
Law enforcement in Santa Cruz is using a tactic called "predictive policing" to try to discern when crimes might spin off from an initial infraction. The practice uses computer modelling to try to figure out when individuals might commit future crimes. It's not sf, it's apparently the latest in attempts to use both computer science and psychology to cut crime proactively now that the economy is down and city, county, and state budgets are no longer so robust.
Why might the police use predictive policing rather than simply watch suspects or persons of interest? They don't have the manpower, and if they don't have sufficient grounds, they also might be subject to an individual's claim that he's the target of police harrassment. But a prediction served up by computer program that certain types of crime, might be likely to occur in certain neighborhoods, based on statistical patterns, could be very helpful.
The Department of Homeland Security is also testing out predictive policing in order to try to weed out terrorist. Its program is called FAST (Future Attribute Screening Technology). Like other commentators on this type of program, the May 27, 2011 Nature article that discusses it likes the analogy to Philip K. Dick's story The Minority Report, made much famous by the film based on it which starred Tom Cruise. Says Nature,
In lab tests, the DHS has claimed accuracy rates of around 70%, but it remains unclear whether the system will perform better or worse in field trials. "The results are still being analysed, so we cannot yet comment on performance," says John Verrico, a spokesman for the DHS. "Since this is an ongoing scientific study, tests will continue throughout coming months."
As I understand the predictive policing systems, none of them promise to identify which individuals will actually commit crimes in the future, as the individual psychics in Minority Report do. But I can understand how some members of the public might believe that such systems might do that, and might object to the use of such systems, or in the alternative, might believe that such systems might do that, and might favor the use of such systems. They might believe that getting potential criminals off the streets before they commit crimes ought to be the business of the police. Lock 'em up, they say. That will keep us safer. After all, isn't continuing the civil confinement of a sexual predator a good idea? (The Supreme Court agrees to some extent: see U.S. v. Comstock--federal law allows civil commitment of mentally ill, sexually dangerous federal prisoner after date he is scheduled to be released from criminal confinement). If a predictive policing system can do that, it's magical. Indeed. We've been looking for the magic that can tell us who's good and who's bad for centuries. That's Santa Claus's list. I think only he has it, and I don't know anyone who has talked to him.