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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

New Zealand institutions Work for the Empire

There are reports right now about New Zealand residents taking action (e.g. protests) against illegal actions by their secret agencies and government, which include — quite famously — the illegal raid of a mansion. Here is a good reports about it.

Here is Kim telling his side of the story in a challenging interview.

Moving Away From Civility

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I COULD not help noticing that society is moving away from civility, attaining the exact opposite of progress because plutocrats took over the government and are now occupying entire nations.

We oughtn’t assume that society always moves forward. Just look at the Middle Ages, Islamisation, the rise of Nazism in Germany and so on. Civil rights are relative, but they are not very subjective. There is a yardstick for comparatively assessing human values.

The United States has been the world’s unchallenged empire for a few decades now (after parity with the Soviet empire) and it is conspiring with several other nations where degradation of human rights is closely correlated (the UK is no exception). Consider collaboration on surveillance by the NSA, drone strikes (the UK and Australia help with those), indefinite detention (with abductions outside the US), and even torture cells in several unmarked sites across Europe (for the CIA to aggressively “interrogate” people). These are just a few examples among many more. This post is not an exhaustive summary of what I have in mind.

In the age of Facebook as an online distraction (people posting photos of their family and friends, i.e. unwittingly act as informants) I remain quite pessimistic. Those of us who try to warn others about the loss of civility in the digitised and increasingly-automated world (where spying and assassination too are being automated) just perpetually remain a niche, so the forces of plutocracy carry on, largely unchallenged and scarcely feared by the public. The corporate media helps keep it that way and independent sites keep imploding in an age of austerity and other types of pressure against the population at large.

I realise that protests — while they’re in principle considered legal here — are practically impossible. For a protest to be effective it needs to be disruptive but authorities limit the effect by ensuring no protest disrupts anything (otherwise there are mass arrests to serve as intimidation measures). Online protests are being suppressed and journalism too (see Barrett Brown), so even those of us who engage in peaceful activism and no civil disobedience are coming under unprecedented pressure.

Defeatism would be premature because leaks such as the ones from Manning and Snowden show everyone that we, the people, still have ways to counter human suffering.

Ask Your Bank to Stop Giving Your Bank Details/Data/Purchases to Spooks Abroad

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WITH PRISM all over the news, politicians in Finland (land of Nokia) are being pressured to drop E-mail services that give the US data which compromises sovereignty, e.g. political espionage.

Contributing my own bit to this push for sovereignty, I have contacted my bank, National Westminster, which will probably tell me I can’t opt out of sending my financial data to the US, land of illegal surveillance by NSA. I am now waiting for a phonecall from someone higher up in National Westminster. Here is my chat log from an hour ago:

Manny: Hi, you’re chatting with Manny. How may I help you?
Dr. Roy Schestowitz: Hi Manny, good afternoon.
Manny: Good Afternoon
Manny: How can I help today?
Dr. Roy Schestowitz: I have 5 accounts with NatWest, 1 of which is a USD account
Dr. Roy Schestowitz: Several months ago I contacted NatWest regarding my newly-issued debit card, which is tied to Visa, not Maestro/Switch
Dr. Roy Schestowitz: I had asked them to stop sending my financial data to Visa
Dr. Roy Schestowitz: I wish to use my account without going through a foreign party
Manny: Okay, is that for your USD account, or the regular account?
Dr. Roy Schestowitz: All accounts preferably
Dr. Roy Schestowitz: I want my financial data to stay within the UK, I think the law protects me on this matter
Dr. Roy Schestowitz: I can give my account details if they helps
Manny: Okay, do you do online banking with your accounts?
Dr. Roy Schestowitz: Yes, I do
Manny: Okay, can you log in online for me please?
Dr. Roy Schestowitz: The USD account I cannot access online, it’s a Currency Account, but it’s based on Warwick, if I recall correcly, so I assume the data stays in the UK
Manny: Okay, can you log in online for me please?
Dr. Roy Schestowitz: Sure, hang on..
Dr. Roy Schestowitz: I am logged in now
Dr. Roy Schestowitz: By the way, the chat facility did not work in Firefox
Dr. Roy Schestowitz: Maybe a bug, I had to launch Chromium to get to it
Manny: Thank you, okay, and what is it you would like me change on the account exactly please?
Dr. Roy Schestowitz: My accounts are, based on information I have been given by NatWest, enable my financial activity to be sent to another nation, even when I make payments within the UK
Dr. Roy Schestowitz: I would like to opt out
Manny: Okay, one moment please.
Dr. Roy Schestowitz: thank you, Manny
Manny: Okay, we wouldn’t share an specific financial information with any parties outside of the UK, and any monitoring on your account or Visa card, would be done solely by the bank, and no one else.
Manny: I haven’t heard from you for a while. Are you still there?
Dr. Roy Schestowitz: yes
Manny: Is this in reference to making payment via the internet or just using your card in general anywhere?
Dr. Roy Schestowitz: I am trying to interpret this because it’s sufficient for the processing to be done by Visa for another nation to hold a copy of all transactions
Dr. Roy Schestowitz: Using my card as well as making transaction over the Internet. I need reassurance that in both cases the financial data is in no way trickling out outside the UK.
Dr. Roy Schestowitz: That would contradict what NatWest told me before, as they said Visa is a “man-in-the-middle” in the transactions
Manny: Okay, I don’t have access specifically to that information here I’m afraid, Dr. but what I will do for you is, send this on for investigation, and then my supervisory will look into this situation further for you, and then call you back once all the necessary information has been located for you.
Manny: You will get a call back within 5 working days at the very latest, is that okay for you?
Dr. Roy Schestowitz: Thank you, Manny
Manny: You’re very welcome, may I take your best daytime contact number please?
Dr. Roy Schestowitz: I am at home most of the time, the number to reach me on is xxxxxx
Manny: Thank you, I will get this request send for you right away, and you will hear back within 5 working days.
Manny: Is there anything else I can help you with today?
Dr. Roy Schestowitz: That’s enough for today, thank you. I shall wait for the call for clarifications, I hope they can amend my accounts to address the privacy problems that I never opted into
Manny: Okay, not to worry.
Manny: I would be grateful if you could take a moment of your time to complete the attached survey in connection with the service I have provided today?
Manny: Thank you for chatting with me. I hope you enjoy the rest of your day.

Stay tuned…

Google Glass: Wearable Surveillance

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OTHER than the fact that Google Glass is Linux-powered and partly Free/Open Source, I have never had interest in Google Glass. The fact that it is hackable — in the sense one can install one’s own system on the hardware — sure makes a difference, but most people will never practise this freedom. As long as Google, by default, hoovers in data from Google Glass (like it does on the Nexus series), the data is easily accessible to the Surveillance Industrial Complex. This ties into the previous post about peer-surveillance. There is no escaping it and there is reason to antagonise Google Glass as a concept, irrespective of whether one buys/uses it. A lot of people will have no choice as to whether their life(as dynamic imagery) is taken and then uploaded to a datacentre with weak data sharing/protection/retention policy. This is not the same as CCTV. Here we talk about videos that are captured in private spaces, too, more so than surveillance drones whose motion is limited to aerial and is still privacy-infringing, albeit they’re less ubiquitous due to cost, air traffic control, legislation and so on.

This is not about resisting a brand. It’s not hating advancement or fearing the future as Google likes to paint it. It is about telling the difference between marketing (the technology for Google Glass as an implementable concept has been around for decades) and societal effects. It’s like antagonising proprietary software for its effects on society, regardless of practical uses. Fog Computing (‘cloud’) should be rejected on similar grounds. Not everything that can be done should be done, at least or especially if it disregards the consent of non-participants.

To the user, the novelty here is the size of the hardware, the image resolution, and the wireless connection speeds (not related to Google at all).

To the Surveillance Industrial Complex, the novelty here is the ability to access a private (i.e. not accessible by us) database of videos for any given person queried (identity can be derived in a variety of ways, ranging from inter-personal connections to audio, video, and geographical location).

Censorship Against Dissent

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I have become exceedingly concerned about a trend that I’ve been watching in recent years, especially after the great transfer of wealth, aka “economic meltdown”. Whistleblowers are ferociously attacked, sites are being gagged, and bank accounts get forzen for those who do effective activism against a corrupt banking system which is now clawing away people’s savings. Last night I changed my avatar in all social networks to a photo of me covering my mouth. As we approach a class war like never seen before we must fight for the right to free speech. Without it, only the plutocrats get to popularise their points of view.

Stallman on Ubuntu

Last year I asked Dr. Stallman to comment on what Ubuntu/Canonical had done with regards to privacy and since then he has expressed his view very clearly, most recently in this video.

Brave Woman Speaks Out On Drone Strikes and Blowback

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