A Christmas Thought

December 24, 2007

It’s nearly Christmas as I’m writing this. My family wasn’t religious, what Christmas meant to me as a child was… Christmas TV! So, I want to share with you, at this time of year, something that I’ve read about TV. This is from Food of the Gods by Terence McKenna ~

ELECTRONIC DRUGS

In his science fiction novel The Man in the High Castle, Philip K Dick imagined an alternative world in which World War 2 was won by the Japanese and the Third Reich. In Dick’s fictional world, the Japanese occupation authorities introduced and legalized marijuana as one of their first moves at pacifying the population of California. Things are hardly less strange here in what conventional wisdom lightheartedly refers to as “reality”. In “this world” too, the victors introduced an all-pervasive, ultra-powerful society-shaping drug. This drug was the first of a growing group of high-technology drugs that deliver the user into an alternative reality by acting directly on the user’s sensorium, without chemicals being introduced into the nervous system. It was television. No epidemic or religious hysteria has ever moved faster or made as many converts in so short a time.

The nearest analogy to the addictive power of television and the transformation of values that is wrought in the life of the heavy user is probably heroin. Heroin flattens the image; with heroin, things are neither hot nor cold; the junkie looks out at the world certain that whatever it is, it doesn’t matter. The illusion of knowing and of control that heroin engenders is analogous to the unconsious assumption of the television consumer that what is seen is “real” somewhere in the world. In fact, what is seen are the cosmetically needed surfaces of products. Television, while chemically noninvasive, nevertheless is every bit as addictive and physiologically damaging as any other drug.

Not unlike drugs or alcohol, the television experience allows the participant to blot out the real world and enter into a pleasurable and passive mental state. The worries and anxieties of reality are as effectively deferred by becoming absorbed in a television program as by going on a “trip” induced by drugs or alcohol. And just as alcoholics are only vaguely aware of their addiction, feeling that they control their drinking more than they really do… people similarly overestimate their control over television-watching… Finally it is the adverse effect of television viewing on the lives of so many people that defines it as a serious addiction. The television habit distorts the sense of time. It renders other experiences vague and curiously unreal while taking on a greater reality for itself. It weakens relationships by reducing and sometimes eliminating normal opportunities for talking, for communicating.

THE HIDDEN PERSUADER

Most unsettling of all is this: the content of television is not a vision but a manufactured data stream that can be sanitized to “protect” or impose cultural values. Thus we are confronted with an addictive and all-pervasive drug that delivers an experience whose message is whatever those who deal the drug wish it to be. Could anything provide a more fertile ground for fostering racism and totalitarianism than this? In the United States, there are many more televisions than households, the average television set is on six hours a day, and the average person watches more than five hours a day, nearly one-third their waking time. Aware as we all are of these simple facts, we seem unable to react to their implications. Serious study of the effects of television on health and culture only began recently. Yet no drug in history has so completely succeeded in remaking in its own image the values of the culture it has infected.

Television is by nature the dominator drug par excellence.  Control of content, uniformity of content, repeatability of content make it inevitably a tool of coercion, brainwashing and manipulation.  Television induces a trance state in the viewer that is the necessary precondition for brainwashing.  As with all other drugs and technologies, television’s basic character cannot be changed; television is no more reformable than is the technology that produces automatic assault rifles…


Baghdad Neighbourhood Watch: bringing peace to the streets with an AK-47

December 20, 2007

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Check out these respectable young men.  They are members of “sahwa” (awakening) – the Iraqi version of Neighbourhood Watch.

The sahwa groups are made up of what the US military authorities call “concerned local citizens”.  The streets of Baghdad are dangerous, and the police are pretty ineffective.  So the US military fund these sahwa groups to police their own streets.

There are 72,000 members of 300 sahwa groups in Iraq, and these numbers are increasing.  It is “Iraq’s own surge” and it is having an effect.  Attacks in Baghdad are down 80% since November last year, murders down 90%, and vehicle-borne bombs reduced by 70%.

The sahwa initiative works because each group’s members are patrolling the streets where they live; they have a real interest in combatting crime, as opposed to the police who generally are most concerned with staying alive and maybe receiving bribes.

But, by funding these groups, the US Army is saying it’s okay to be a vigilante.  The police are governed by regulations (even if those regs are regularly breached).  The sahwa are not governed in the same way.  They patrol the streets in large groups, armed with assault rifles, questioning any strangers they come across.  Is this really the way to bring peace to the streets of Baghdad?

The US military obviously believe this is the right solution.  But American soldiers are there for a tour of duty, then they’re rotated out.  They don’t have to live on those streets full-time.  Their wives and mothers don’t have to negotiate those streets to get to the market.

If Washington,DC was “policed” like  Baghdad, maybe the generals wouldn’t be so blase about what they call “security”.  Security for who?


Four British residents to be freed from Guantanamo Bay… two others will stay locked up

December 8, 2007

Four British residents are to be freed from Guantanamo Bay, after being held without charge for 5 years.  They are Jamil el-Banna, a father of 5 from London;  Abdenour Samuer, who fled from persecution in Algeria and was given political asylum in the UK;  Omar Deghayes, a 37 year old man who was born in Libya and came to Britain as a child after his father was murdered;  and Shaker Abdur-Raheem Aamer, a Saudi national with a British wife.

Although the men are not British citizens, they have long, established links with the UK.  But until August this year, the government refused them representation.  Then foreign secretary David Miliband responded to growing criticism of the government’s position, and wrote to Condaleezza Rice requesting their release.

They will be returning to Britain, except Shaker Aamer who is going to Saudi Arabia.

Jamil el-Banna, a Jordanian, was on a business trip to Gambia.  MI5 had approached him, asking him to work for them; then, a few days later they told the CIA that Banna’s travelling companion was carrying bomb materials.  This was not true, but the CIA grabbed him and flew him to Guantanamo.

Omar Deghayes had studied law at Wolverhampton University and in Huddersfield.  His family says that he condemns terrorism.  He has been blinded in one eye by a US soldier during his imprisonment.

Another UK resident, Binyam Mohammed al-Habashi from Ethiopia, is to stay in Guantánamo. The Pentagon claims he is particularly dangerous and it is determined that he face one of the military commissions established to prosecute prisoners in the camp.   And another former UK resident, Ahmed Belbacha, has not even been mentioned in the reports.

Amnesty International urgently wants to find out why these 2 men are not being freed after 5 years of being held with no charge.  And David Miliband should do what he can to get them freed.  After all, if they were truly dangerous, wouldn’t they have been tried in court by now?


Greedy relatives lose £10 million will challenge

December 7, 2007

Here’s a story that caught my eye: a family have lost their case after contesting a will that left £10 million to a pair of Chinese restaurateurs.

Golda “Goldie” Bechal, from Mayfair, London, died aged 88 in 2004, and left most of her estate to Kim Sing Man and Bee Lian Man.

The widow’s five nephews and nieces claimed they were entitled to inherit her fortune.  But a judge has dismissed their claim.  Mr and Mrs Man had had a long friendship with Goldie Bechal.  Mrs Man said:
“She’s like a mother to us, a grandmother to our children. We have a very special relationship. I’m like a daughter to her. And I still feel it deep down.”

I really don’t like it when folk contest a deceased relative’s will.  What could make Goldie Bechal’s nephews and nieces believe that they were somehow more deserving to inherit than the Mans?  They should have just accepted that their aunt didn’t like them.

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The money-grabbing relatives – who didn’t actually get to grab any money!!


UK supermarkets admit milk price fixing

December 7, 2007

The Office of Fair Trading has handed out fines totalling £116 million, after supermarkets including Sainsbury’s and Asda admitted that they were part of a milk price fixing cartel that took over £270 million extra from British shoppers.

The supermarkets claim that they entered into the illegal price fixing so they could pay dairy farmers more.

But the OFT says that is a lie.  The collusion saw customers being charged 3 pence extra for a pint of milk, 15p extra per quarter-pound of butter and 15p per half-pound of cheese – but hard-pressed farmers didn’t see a single penny of the supermarkets’ inflated profits.

I’ve got to say, I believe the OFT here.  For years now, UK dairy farmers have been bitterly complaining that the supermarkets refuse to pay a decent price.  Because Asda and Sainsbury’s have such huge buying power, they are able to dictate how much they will pay; the farmers have no choice but to accept what they are offered.

Tesco and Morrissons refused to admit any guilt in this affair.  But the OFT is pressing on with investigations against them.  And I won’t be surprised if it turns out that the last two supermarket chains were in the cartel.

And if that is how it turns out, the OFT should hit Tesco and Morrissons with really big fines.  Why should they be allowed to make inflated profits off us and give the farmers next to nothing?!!


CCC demonstrates ease of forging biometrics

December 6, 2007

On 27 November, the Chaos Computer Club’s “biometrics experts” and journalists working for German TV Magazine PlusMinus, demonstrated how easy it is to beat the biometrics tests planned for passports and identity cards.

In front of running cameras, a fingerprint scanner installed at a supermarket checkout was deceived, charging the transaction to someone else’s account. The journalists of the TV magazine were able to trick the point-of-sale system with forged fingerprints after only a short tutorial from CCC experts.

This effectively rubbishes the claims made by biometrics proponents and security system manufacturers that such forgery is only possible under “laboratory conditions”.

The fingerprinting system tricked here is the same used in biometric-equipped passports. It is also the standard planned for German ID cards – and also the likely system for the proposed UK identity card.

If a couple of journos can defeat the system after a brief tutorial, how on earth can the authorities claim that identity documents will be secure? Yet that is exactly what we are being told! ID cards won’t be worth the plastic they’re printed on… any two-bit crook will be able to assume your identity.

These cards are not meant to save us from “identity theft”. Really, they will be used as part of the growing surveillance culture. Each card will contain a chip carrying a bewildering amount of your personal information. And this info won’t just be readable by your friendly neighbourhood policeman – the criminals will have your entire life history on tap.

Yet the authorities are still intent on pushing these identity document laws on us. We must stop them! RESIST!!


“I’m close to finding Madeleine,” boasts lying private eye

December 6, 2007

At the end of November, Francisco Marco, the overweight boss of the Spanish Metodo 3 private investigation agency, claimed that his boys were on the verge of finding Madeleine McCann.  Marco said that the Portugese police were bumbling and inept; that Madeleine was “definitely alive”; and that very soon, he would find her.

Well, ten days have passed since his claims – and there’s still no sign of the missing girl.

The fact is, the hunt for Madeleine is beginning to seem pretty hopeless.  Kate and Gerry McCann still say in public that they’re sure their daughter is still alive.  But in private, they must now start to face up to the fact that they very well may never see the girl again.  A resident of Praia da Luz, who has been involved in the case since near the start, said:  “No one is any nearer knowing what happened and we are tired of retracing old ground.”

I’ve been as hopeful as anyone that Madeleine would turn up.  But I fear that it is a murder case, and that the body – and the killer – will never be found.

But Fransisco Marco is still acting like the ace sleuth.  He is still making boastful claims to the press.  Claims that never seem to lead to anything substantial.  He just keeps parrotting the line that he’s “sure” Madeleine is still alive.

Well, Kate and Gerry have said that they are sure she’s not dead.  But they never pretended that they had any reason other than blind faith to believe that.  Marco, however, says it with the air of someone who is privy to secret information.  He constantly makes out that he knows more than he’s saying.

It’s time for the McCanns to accept that Marco knows jack.  They’ve been “sold a pup”.

Fransisco Marco: latter-day Sherlock Holmes?  Or a quick-talking operator with pockets full of empty hands?


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