Is it antisemitic to hate Israel?

31/07/2018
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Corbyn risks his party being torn apart if he can’t sort out this anti-semitism business (pic from the Independent)

What does anti-semitic mean?  The top three online dictionaries (of a Google search) say:

anti-Semitism discrimination against or prejudice or hostility toward Jews (www.dictionary.com)

anti-Semitism Hostility to or prejudice against Jews (oxforddictionaries.com)

anti-Semitism the strong dislike or cruel and unfair treatment of Jewish people (dictionary.cambridge.org)

Well, that seems simple enough, right?  Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple.  Some people want the term antisemitic to cover a lot more than anti-Jewishism.  And it’s tearing the Labour party into strips when Britain badly needs a working Opposition to the Conservative government.

So what is the problem?  Some people want the Labour party to adopt an “official” international definition of anti-semitism.  The definition they have chosen to push is that of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).  Their definition is:

Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred towards Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed towards Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, towards Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.

Even this definition isn’t too bad.  But the main problem is the examples that go with the definition.  These include “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, eg by claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavour,” and “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”  Basically, criticism of the state of Israel should be viewed as anti-Semitism, as should any equivalence of their racist policies and those of Nazi Germany.

Why should criticising Israel be labelled anti-Semitic?  Generally it is accepted that anti-Semitism is wrong.  So now criticising Israel is wrong too?  That country can do no wrong?  And why is it wrong to point out that Israel’s foreign and domestic policies are racist?  I mean, those policies are racist, inasmuch as they are hostile to Palestinians.  And how exactly does pointing out this racism deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination?  Israel is denying Palestinians their right to self-determination… but to point that out is anti-Semitic?  My head’s starting to hurt.

The organisation that first drafted this definition, the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, recognized it was contentious – it drafted but never adopted the definition.  And the UK government, which has adopted the “working definition” and the examples, was warned by the Commons home affairs select committee in October 2016 that in the interests of free speech it ought to adopt an explicit rider that it is not antisemitic to criticise the government of Israel, or to hold the Israeli government to the same standards as other liberal democracies, without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent (the government sadly ignored this advice).

Unfortunately for the Labour Party and its leader, some party members and supporters of the leader have come out with some awful stuff on this subject.  Peter Willsman, for instance, has said some stuff that is just plain wrong and he needs to resign.  But the party should not adopt the IHRA definition.  And if supporters of Israel don’t like that country’s policies being criticised, maybe they should call for those policies to be changed.  To be made less racist.  Less likely to be compared to those of that old Nazi Adolf Hitler.

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an american idiot

20/07/2018
donald trump idiot google search

Don’t wanna be an american idiot? Too late Donald!

Ain’t it grand, how any idiot can game Google results and show the world who really is the idiot?

That’s what activists have been doing: do a Google image search for the word “idiot” and you get a fine selection of Donald Trump pictures!

This is how it works:

According to Inquisitr,  part of the reason for this result is that several English articles published last week included the Green Day song titled “American Idiot” in the headline in relation to Donald Trump and his trip to England; (protestors were actually using the song in the protests). This meant that images were likely titled to describe the article and used the terms “American Idiot” and Donald Trump as descriptives in the image metadata as well as in the article content. As a result, Google’s algorithm has paired these terms together, and with so many people reading and sharing these articles, it has pushed its relevance to the top of the search results.

When you type the word “idiot” into Google’s image search, Trump is the first returned result. This is partly because the Green Day song American Idiot was used by protesters to soundtrack his trip to London. But since then there’s also been a concerted campaign to capitalize on that association, and manipulate Google’s algorithm, by linking the word to the picture. Mostly this involved people upvoting a post containing a photo of him and the word “idiot” on Reddit. [from theguardian.com]

This trick has been used many times before.  For instance, there was a spate of hook-nosed caricatures posted with the single word “Jew”, which resulted in an Image Search for “jew” returning the hook-nosed caricature.

And it was used by Trump fans to associate the word “rapist” with pictures of Bill Clinton.

Many of these were rudimentary, almost meaningless. “RAPIST! RAPIST! RAPIST! RAPIST!” “Today this rapist turns 70. Happy Birthday, rapist.” Most originated from the notorious Reddit forum TheDonald, where fans of Trump congregated to spread his gospel of doing whatever you like, screw the consequences.

The forum moderators would pin a post to the top of the forum to encourage others to upvote it, and the swell of upvotes would push it to the front page of Reddit, which already styles itself “The front page of the Internet”, causing it to leap up to the top row of Google images.

They also did it with an image of Michelle Obama with features Paintshopped to look like an ape.  And the TheDonald team did it with the CNN logo and the words “fake news”.

So it’s kind of fitting that the trick has now been turned on Trump and his idiotic fans!

So is there a moral to be learnt from this story?  Of course not!  The internet is utterly amoral, as are those of us who spend too much time in it. Who knows who will be belittled and demonized next?  And that’s probably the best thing about it – he who demonizes today may be demonized tomorrow.  The internet giveth and… well, it don’t giveth anything but it demands its pound of virtual flesh!

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Cypherpunk: Freedom and the Future of the Internet, free download pdf

19/07/2018

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Just found this download link for Julian Assange’s 2012 book Cypherpunk: Freedom and the Future of the Internet.  I found it literally less than thirty minutes ago, so I’m posting it here before I’ve had a chance to read it myself.  Once I have, I’ll tell you what I think of it.  In the meantime, check it out for yourselves!  And here is an excerpt from a review by Marienna Pope-Weidemann at http://www.counterfire.org:

A watchman’s shout in the night

Since the infamous PRISM surveillance system was exposed by the NSA analyst Edward Snowden, the existence of what the cypherpunks have long called ‘the transnational surveillance state’ is beyond doubt. Conspiracy has become reality, and paranoia has become the number-one necessity of investigative journalism.

Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet, published last year, describes itself as ‘a watchman’s shout in the night’. An apt description, given everything we have learned lately. What the book is trying to hammer home is the immense importance of the internet as a new political battleground: how it is structured, monitored and used has serious ramifications for political organisation, economics, education, labour, culture and just about every other area of our lives, because increasingly, their world is our world. And if knowledge is power, and it is never been as ubiquitous as it is in cyberspace, there is a great deal at stake.

Who are the cypherpunks?

Begun by a circle of Californian libertarians, the original cypherpunk mailing list was initiated in the late 1980s, as individuals and activists, as well as corporations, started making use of cryptography and, in response, state-wide bans were introduced (p.64). For the cypherpunks, the use of encryption for anonymity and secure communication was the single most important weapon for activists in the internet age.

Their rallying cry was ‘privacy for the weak, transparency for the powerful’; the dictum to which Wikileaks has dedicated itself. As discussed in the book, the subsequent evolution of the internet has taken it in the opposite direction: citizens, politically active or otherwise, law-abiding or otherwise, have lost all right to privacy, while the powerful hide increasingly behind secret laws and extrajudicial practices.

Cypherpunks is a collective contribution of four authors, three of them leading figures in the cypherpunk movement. First we have Julian Assange, who needs less and less introduction as time goes by (there are even two films now devoted to this problematic figure, the independent Australian feature, Underground, and the highly inaccurate box-office disaster We Steal Secrets). Assange has been hacking since the age of seventeen, when he founded the Australian group, the International Subversives, and wrote down the early rules of this subculture: ‘Don’t damage computer systems you break into (including crashing them); don’t change the information in those systems (except for altering logs to cover your tracks); and share information.’ Next we have German journalist Andy Müller-Maguhn of the Chaos Computer Club, co-founder of European Digital Rights and writer for Bugged Planet. Jacob Appelbaum, also a member of the Chaos Computer Club, is the developer who founded Noisebridge, an award-winning educational hackerspace in San Fransisco and international advocate for the Tor Project. Finally, we have the co-founder of the La Quadrature du Net advocacy group, Jérémie Zimmerman, a leading figure in struggles for net neutrality and against the Anti-Counterfeit and Trade Agreement (ACTA) who does not seem to be able to get on a plane without being harassed by government officials over his ties to Wikileaks.

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Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2010 to avoid extradition to Sweden and USA. Pic from http://www.extremetech.com


Trump claims Montenegro a bigger threat than Russia

19/07/2018
NATO-heads-of-state-2018

NATO heads of state all looking at one thing – except Trump, who has something something else in his sights. As usual, eh!

In between rounds of golf and tea with the Queen, US president Donald Trump has told the world that he considers Russia as a more valuable ally than NATO and has called into question whether the NATO mutual defense agreement still stands.

Trump launched his assault on his NATO “partners” immediately, criticising Germany’s reliance on Russian natural gas, and other members’ failure to commit adequate funding for their membership.  He made it clear that he prefers Putin and Russia over some of his “allies”, and even called into question the doctrine of mutual defense.  In a Fox News interview, newsman Tucker Carlson asked the Prez why the U.S. should protect a country like Montenegro, which joined NATO last year; and Trump replied that he has asked himself the same question.

“Montenegro is a tiny country with very strong people,” Trump said. “They’re very aggressive people, and they may get aggressive, and congratulations, you’re in World War III. But that’s the way it was set up.”

NATO summit--Trump-shoves-Markovic

Trump shoves Montenegro Prime Minister Dusko Markovic out of his way at NATO summit

When Montenegro joined NATO, Russian president Putin didn’t like it at all.  So really it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that Trump doesn’t like it either.  He declared that Russia did not pose any kind of danger to the US, contradicting everything he has been told by his military advisors.  The White House tried to put a different spin on it, but the facts are clear: Trump has got a very “special” relationship with Putin – more “special” than the “special relationship” US and UK leaders are supposed to have enjoyed at least as far back as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher back in the 1980s.

This also shouldn’t really be a surprise: in London Trump made it clear that his favourite thing in the British government was Boris Johnson, former Foreign Secretary who has quit his job over Brexit.  Trump said that prime minister Theresa May’s Brexit plans have scuppered any chance of a post-Brexit trade deal between the US and UK.  So Trump clearly wants May out of office and Johnson in.  Then the special relationship can be resurrected.

So, what did Trump achieve on this trip to Europe?  He offered the hand of friendship to Vladimir bloody Putin and Boris bloody Johnson.  He belittled or ignored his allies in NATO.  He undermined the British prime minister.  He called into question the principles on which NATO was founded.  And he had tea with the Queen.

All in all, a profitable few days.  Thanks Mr Trump!  Come back soon!

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DWP will pay £150 million in arrears… but your prescription charges? No chance!!

18/07/2018
Esther-McVey

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey said that the poor could eat cake.  The last woman in a position of authority to make a comment like that got her head chopped off.  An act that I in no way endorse!

The British Department of Work and Pensions has given in to pressure from anti-poverty charities and will pay arrears owed to sick and disabled benefit claimants who were cheated out of thousands of pounds after what is described as “a series of bureaucratic errors.”

The under-payments, some of which date back to 2011, happened when claimants of contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance were not told they would be better off if they claimed income-based ESA.  This “mistake” resulted in at least 70,000 claimants missing out on up to £20,000 each.

Child Poverty Action Group challenged the under-payments in a judicial review, but the DWP has accepted that it was in the wrong and will not contest the review.  A CPAG lawyer welcomed the DWP’s change of heart but added it “shouldn’t be necessary to take a government department to court to achieve justice for people who have been failed by officials making errors.”

The decision quickly followed the publication of a report by cross-bench public accounts committee.  The report said there was a “culture of indifference” at the DWP, and criticised its failure to obtain legal advice when transferring claimants to ESA, failed to make basic checks and ignored evidence and complaints that the process was flawed.

Committee chair, Meg Hillier MP, welcomed the U-turn, saying she had been appalled by the DWP’s failure to correct its errors.

But the DWP still refuses to pay compensation to claimants who were wrongly denied related benefits such free prescriptions as a result of the “error”.  Big surprise!

 
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EVTOL – the tech to deliver air taxis to the city’s skies

16/07/2018
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Rolls-Royce EVTOL air taxi concept, launched at Farnborough Air Show July 2018

People have been dreaming of personal flying vehicles since Icarus flew too close to the sun.  But there have been fundamental problems to the concept of air taxis and flying “cars”: noise, pollution and the need for air strips included.  But now the technology to make the dream possible has arrived: EVTOL.

Electric (or hybrid-electric, or electrically-assisted) Vertical Take-Off/Landing means an air vehicle that has the VTOL characteristics of a helicopter but otherwise flies like a fixed-wing airplane.  The VTOL is possible thanks to swivel-wings or swivel engines that are electrically (or hybrid-electrically) powered.  This helps beat the noise problem of helicopters, the pollution that a high concentration of conventionally-fuelled aircraft would cause, and the urban airstrips that fixed-wing vehicles would need.

For example, let’s look at the EVTOL air taxi concept that Rolls-Royce unveilled earlier today (16 July 2018) at the Farnborough Airshow.  The hybrid aircraft, designed to carry four or five passengers, has an M250 gas turbine which delivers around 500kW of electrical power. This is used to drive six rotors that can provide both lift and propulsion, with the wings tilting forward 90 degrees once sufficient altitude has been reached. Four of the rotors can also fold into the wings, leaving two at the rear to provide thrust at cruising altitude while helping to reduce cabin noise. Top speed is estimated at 250mph and range is predicted to be 500 miles. According to Rolls, an onboard battery will bring additional climb power and will be recharged by the M250 engine.

BlackFly-OPENER-Personal-eVTOL

The Blackfly Personal EVTOL

And this is just four days after Opener announced its single-person EVTOL personal aerial vehicle, Blackfly, hailed as the world’s first ultralight, fixed-wing EVTOL  aircraft.  The BlackFly Opener is amphibious and is primarily designed as a small grassy area hopper. It can travel up to 25 miles at 62 mph in the US, or over 80 mph elsewhere.  And in the US anyone can own and operate a Blackfly – there is no need for formal licensing.  And in the pollution stakes: it uses less energy than an electric car, and produces less noise than do petrol-driven cars.

BlackFly-energy-noise-figures

How the Blackfly stacks up on the noise and energy fronts

Unlike Opener, Rolls-Royce produced a concept rather than an actual aircraft.  Nevertheless they claim that the concept is based upon technology that either already exists or is currently under development. If a viable commercial model emerges, the company believes the vehicle could be in service by the early 2020s.  However there will be a lot of competition in this market: Airbus and Uber have both announced plans, Google’s Kittyhawk is taking orders ; and last year, Dubai staged its first autonomous air taxi trial, and authorities there claim personal air mobility could transform the region over the next five years.

In April 2017 after the first Uber Elevate Summit, Electric VTOL News started a catalogue of EVTOL aircraft – it grew at a rate of about one aircraft per week during the first year, but this has now accelerated to an average rate of two aircraft per week as more aircraft are unveiled and new actors join the sector, and now numbers over a hundred aircraft.

As of June 15, 2018, the site had 45 vectored thrust aircraft listed; 12 lift + cruise configurations24 wingless multicopter aircraft; and 23 Hover Bikes/Personal Flying Devices.

In addition, the website now hosts more than 100 news articles and in-depth stories on eVTOL aircraft and developments.

This is an exciting sector and brings ever closer to reality the dream of personal air vehicles – your very own airplane! So keep an eye on the skies!

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I Hate Hate – the Google Images Results Part 1

13/07/2018

Part One of an occasional series of hateful images.

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