Camover: Germans vs CCTV

January 27, 2013

Here’s something that may interest you: a reaction to the increasing intrusive surveillance in Germany – nowhere near the police state I live in (the UK) but it’s certainly trying to catch up. A group called Camover has started a campaign of trashing CCTV cameras in public places. The participants have called it a “game”; from the Guardian:

The game is real-life Grand Theft Auto for those tired of being watched by the authorities in Berlin; points are awarded for the number of cameras destroyed and bonus scores are given for particularly imaginative modes of destruction. Axes, ropes and pitchforks are all encouraged.

The rules of Camover are simple: mobilise a crew and think of a name that starts with “command”, “brigade” or “cell”, followed by the moniker of a historical figure (Van der Lubbe, a Dutch bricklayer convicted of setting fire to the Reichstag in 1933, is one name being used). Then destroy as many CCTV cameras as you can. Concealing your identity, while not essential, is recommended. Finally, video your trail of destruction and post it on the game’s website – although even keeping track of the homepage can be a challenge in itself, as it is continually being shut down.

…The winner of the game does not get a trophy or a year’s supply of spray paint. The competition ends on 19 February, to coincide with the start of the European Police Congress. The prize, says Camover, is to be in the frontline of a protest that will take place three days earlier, on 16 February. The location has yet to be confirmed, but Camover advises anyone who turns up to “crouch to avoid the flying cameras”

…”We thought it would motivate inactive people out there if we made a video-invitation to this reality-game,” the creator of Camover (who wanted to remain anonymous) told me. “Although we call it a game, we are quite serious about it: our aim is to destroy as many cameras as possible and to have an influence on video surveillance in our cities.”

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I must say, this game sounds like fun. And the video 9and this one) is instructive as well as entertaining. Any chance it might catch on over here? 😉

PS: That pesky German government, eh? I thought I’d found some sort of “official” site – http://camover.blogsport.de – only to find it’s been taken down! Petty rodents or what! Also this page: https://encrypted.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=camover&source=web&cd=10&cad=rja&ved=0CGoQFjAJ&url=http%3A%2F%2Finagist.com%2Fall%2F295325266933342208%2F&ei=9VAFUYSRM4PAhAeproDwDg&usg=AFQjCNHWWjeT8A1f7ickVsngqAktR5j6qQ&bvm=bv.41524429,d.ZG4′ The European Police Conference are due to gather in Berlin soon. How embarrassing for the “authorities).

Fist

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Lib Dem MP accused of “casual antisemitism”

January 26, 2013

The Liberal Democrat David Ward faces disciplinary action over a comment he wrote on his website concerning Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, according to the Guardian newspaper.

Apparently he wrote about honouring those who were persecuted and killed during the Holocaust but also accusing “the Jews” of “inflicting atrocities on Palestinians … on a daily basis”. Th is is in the run-up to Holocaust Memorial Day. He wrote:

“Having visited Auschwitz twice – once with my family and once with local schools – I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza.”

Ward’s use of the expression “the Jews” was unfortunate, as it appears to suggest that repression of the Palestinians is something that involves all Jews. But he has tried to explain what he meant. In an interview with Sky News he was asked if he accepted that he was accusing Jews, rather than the Israeli state, of inflicting persection on the Palestinians, to which he replied:

I’m accusing the Jews who did it, so if you’re a Jew and you did not do it I’m not accusing you. I’m saying that those Jews who did that and continue to do it have not learned those lessons. If you are a Jew and you do not do those things and have never done those things then I am of course not criticising you.

So, did Ward do anything wrong? Well, apart from the stupid use of the word “Jews” and “Israelis”, I would contend that he did nothing other than speak the truth. It is a fact that the state of Israel was founded on terrorism (for example by the Irgun terrorist group that later became an official arm of the IDF (Israel Defence Forces), that it fought wars of expansionism and forcibly removed Palestinians from their ancestral homes (which were then given to Israeli “settlers”) and that Israel continues to impose an apartheid regime that treats Palestinians as second class citizens. The siege of Gaza clearly demonstrates Israel’s policy concerning its opponents: the civilians of the Gaza Strip will continue to live in Israeli-imposed hellish conditions for the “crime” of democratically electing a government which doesn’t accept Israel’s “right” to steal Palestinian territories.

Unfortunately, we live in a bizarre system which equates anti-Israeli rhetoric with anti-semitism. I wish David Ward luck in defending himself against the ridiculous charges levelled against him. But I fear that all the luck in the world won’t save him from the Israeli-apologists who rule the Western world.

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Winterberries in spring

January 25, 2013

Winterberries in spring 2012-resized
Berries on the winterberry tree, Spring 2012

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Victim of miscarriage of justice told: Tough shit baby

January 25, 2013

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Jill Dando. She was not killed by Barry George, but the courts don’t give a toss

Barry George, the man wrongly convicted for the murder of TV presenter Jill Dando, has been told he isn’t entitled to a penny of compensation even though he served eight years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. George is one of four people whose faulty convictions and subsequent claims for compensation were reviewed by the London high court.

This is because of a Supreme Court ruling in 2011 concerning compensation payments to victims of miscarriage of justice. The Supreme Court ruling states:

“[A miscarriage of justice occurs] when a new or newly discovered fact shows conclusively that the evidence against a defendant has been so undermined that no conviction could possibly be based upon it…

“A claimant for compensation will not need to prove he was innocent of the crime but he will have to show that, on the basis of facts as they are now known, he should not have been convicted or that conviction could not possibly be based on those facts.”

Not all miscarriages of justice, it follows, will lead to compensation. “Procedural deficiencies that led to irregularities in the trial or errors in the investigation of offences will not suffice to establish entitlement to compensation,” the supreme court judges explained.

This means that it makes no difference whether you have committed the crime or not. You’ll get compensation only if compelling new evidence comes to light. A flawed police investigation, or faulty behaviour by court officers at the time of the trial, mean nothing. So Barry George, who wrongly served eight years, gets nothing by way of compensation. Neither will Ismail Ali, who was convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm upon his wife at Luton Crown Court in 2007; Kevin Dennis, whose conviction of the murder of Babatunde Oba was declared unsound and whose retrial was abandoned when the trial judge agreed with submissions there was no case answer and directed the jury to acquit Dennis of murder; and Justin Tunbridge whose convictions for two counts of indecent assault in 1995 were eventually quashed by the Court of Appeal in April 2008. Another eleven miscarriage of justice cases are due to come before the High Court soon, but these rulings make it unlikely that any compensation will be paid to these innocent people.

This is what it boils down to: it doesn’t matter if you actually committed the crimes you were sent to jail for. In Barry George’s case, he served eight years for a crime he did not commit. His wrongful conviction made him a hate figure to the public who loved Jill Dando. And now he’s been denied compensation, which will make people think “there’s no smoke without fire – he must have done it, otherwise he’d have got compensation.” This could happen to any of us. And this is British justice? Gaddafi’s Libya would probably have been fairer.

Make no mistake: George, Ali, Dennis and Tunbridge did not commit the crimes for which they were imprisoned. They’ve had years stolen from their lives, they have been labelled murderers,or sex offenders, labels which tend to stick. And what compensation do they get? None. British justice is a sadistic farce.

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Court martial denies Bradley Manning whistleblower defence

January 23, 2013

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The US military court trying Bradley Manning for releasing thousands of secret documents to the whistleblowing Wikileaks website has ruled he cannot raise his motives as part of his defence. From the Guardian:

The judge, Colonel Denise Lind, ruled that general issues of motive were not relevant to the trial stage of the court martial, and must be held back until Manning either entered a plea or was found guilty, at which point it could be used in mitigation to lessen the sentence. The ruling is a blow to the defence as it will make it harder for the soldier’s legal team to argue he was acting as a whistleblower and not as someone who knowingly damaged US interests at a time of war.

After the pre-trial hearing, a spokesman for the Bradley Manning support network, Nathan Fuller, said “This is another effort to attack the whistleblower defence.”

Colonel Lind has also stopped the defence from presenting evidence designed to show that WikiLeaks caused little or no damage to US national security. This is after David Coombs, Manning’s lead defence lawyer, spent a long time trying to extract from US government agencies their official assessments of the impact of WikiLeaks around the world. All this information has been ruled inadmissible.

The 25-year-old intelligence analyst faces 22 charges relating to the leaking of hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables, war logs from the Afghan and Iraq wars, and videos of US military actions. The most serious charge, “aiding the enemy”, which carries the life sentence, accuses him of arranging for state secrets to be published via WikiLeaks on the internet knowing that al-Qaida would have access to it. The fact that he cannot use the whistleblower’s defence means his legal options are severely limited. Basically, he has been set up to lose.

The message from the court is clear: whistleblowers will face the full fury of the law, regardless of motives. The precedent of the Pentagon Papers, or of “Deep Throat” in the Watergate case, no longer stands, it would seem. Once it was seen as acceptable to leak info if one thought it was morally imperative. But no more. This will ensure that Julian Assange won’t be leaving the Ecuador embassy in London for some time. And it will have a corrosive effect on democracy in general – if we can’t bring our governments’ crimes into the light, there will be nothing to stop them committing even worse outrages. It makes the authorities truly untouchable, turning the very idea of democracy into a cruel joke. And it should stand as an important message: if you are going to blow any whistles, don’t go bragging about it. Especially to an asshole like Adrian Lamo.

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18 January – Internet Freedom Day!! Hip Hip Hooray!!

January 18, 2013

I got an email today from the nice people at Fight for the Future, reminding me that a year ago today, “you, me, and 24 million people defeated SOPA and Internet censorship. It was the largest online protest ever.” SOPA was the Stop Online Piracy Act, a proposed US law that would have impacted horribly on all our freedoms online. But it was stomped, one year ago today, and now many people are calling for 18 January to be known as Internet Freedom Day.

The email suggested one way we can celebrate Internet Freedom Day:

How is Fight for the Future participating? Since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is coming up, we’re reminded that Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is copyrighted, and often censored on sites like Youtube. We realized that watching and sharing this speech (which could be considered illegal) to celebrate Dr. King’s work and the freedom we fought for is exactly what needs to happen.

To honor Dr. King’s legacy of nonviolent civil disobedience and to celebrate our historic defeat of SOPA, we made this video that contains the entire 17 minute speech.

Join us in a small act of civil disobedience to remember what we fight for. Watch and share this video.

If SOPA had passed, you could have gone to jail for sharing a video of it, and entire websites could have been shut down for linking to it.

But even more than that, there’s a bigger question: Are you okay with a world where when someone just learning about race and civil rights goes to the web to see MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech and is confronted with a notice that says “this video has been removed”? It isn’t until 2038, when the copyright on this speech is over, that you’re even allowed to share this video.

If you haven’t done so already, send this video to a friend, tweet it, talk to your friends about it, and celebrate MLK’s work and our ability to fight back online censorship that can keep the things we love and need from us.

Nice sentiment. And if you click that link to see the Martin Luther King “I Have a Dream” speech, you will see that there’s still a lot to fight for.

The email also said:

Last, but not least, our friend and Center for Rights board member, Marvin Ammori, just wrote a book called On Internet Freedom that you can download *for free* today. He describes it as “a sort of love song to the First Amendment and the Internet.” (You can download the Kindle app for free to read on your computer, phone, or anything else, and we think he’d approve if you removed the DRM to read it on other devices.)

But anyway: 18 January as Internet Freedom Day? Hell yeah, I’m up for it.

Let’s try and make sure the Internet is, and remains, Free.

HAPPY INTERNET FREEDOM DAY!!!

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A pair of Swans

January 17, 2013

adult-and-juvenile-swans

Adult Swan with Juvenile

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