Robin Walker – what a nasty piece of Tory to find on the sole of your shoe!

May 1, 2013

I am a member of online campaign groups like 38 Degrees and Open Rights Group. These are groups that ask members what campaigns it should get involved with, then the group will call on its members to send to local MPs. ministers and other such, so our will is focused and targeted and helps ensure that the government and others can’t just ignore us. Divided we are nothing. United we can do anything… well, the government can’t just ignore us.

My local MP is the Tory Robin Walker. Incidentally, his late father Peter Walker (1932-2010) was MP for Worcester until 1992, when he resigned as MP and was sent to the House of Lords to do his masters’ work. Robin has been a pretty engaged MP – he has replied to every email I’ve sent him (he uses official House of Commons writing paper and envelopes – you would have thought that Parliament had discouraged use of snail mail) but only once has he expressed agreement with my point, about the Defamation Bill). Most recently he sent me a (probably form) letter telling me how important it was that the government keep my communication and other logs for all eternity just in case I were a terrorist or paedophile. He wrote:

Communications data is vital for the police in their fight against crime, including serious offences, such as child abuse, drug-dealing and terrorism.

Note the use of the “big 3″: child abuse, drug-dealing and terrorism”. The suggestion is that opposing the Data Communications Data Bill is, or supports, nonces, pushers and suicide bombers. Thanks Robin; yet another reason to avoid voting for him when the general election comes round.

Right now, I don’t have a clue who’ll get my vote: it won’t be the Conservatives, the Lib Dems are no longer a viable choice…if Ed Miliband can drag Labour back to the left I might put my mark by his name; but how likely will that happen?

Brits are wage-slaves, with mortgages and their children’s educations keeping the populace keeping their nose to the stone, while bankers, corporate directors and other vested interests keep their money in tax havens. But don’t worry: the Conservatives want your personal data, phone logs, emails, bowel movements, whatever, stored for all eternity in a massive computer system that probably fail (as do most government-contracted computer systems do). We’re stuck with this situation unless someone does something about it.

Who’s your MP? Does he care about you? I’d love to see along string of Comments to this post, telling us how our MPs act for our best interests. And my current voting advice regarding the next election: go to the voting station, spoil your ballot (I like to write at the bottom of the voting card “None of the above” and a X in a box next to it), put it in the black box, and be on your way. This is not apathy, this is showing the establishment that the status quo must end.

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Megaupload.com shut down by USA… even though it’s run from New Zealand

January 21, 2012

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock somewhere the past few days, I thought I’d fill you in: the popular “internet locker” storage site Megaupload.com has been closed down by the USA because of charges of alleged “piracy”. Apparently:

Shotguns, a Rolls Royce Phantom and millions of dollars were seized from properties linked to Megaupload on Friday, as the US sought to extradite the file-sharing firm’s founders over online piracy claims

and it seems that our of the seven Megaupload executives arrested, including founder Kim Dotcom, appeared in a New Zealand courtroom for a first appearance in what is likely to be a lengthy extradition process. USA authorities, clearly following orders from the vested interests in the SOPA/PIPA controversy, the US wants to put Megaupload bosses on trial for charges including accusing them of racketeering, money laundering and copyright infringement. It’s widely reported (even by the Guardian, damn their eyes!) that Aukland police seized luxury cars, firearms and millions of dollars in cash. As if ownership of nice legal stuff somehow makes these people guilty.

When Kim Dotcom spoke to press, apparently unfazed, he said he has “nothing to hide”

I really don’t get this raid at all. Megaupload.com is an online locker service, where the pubic can buy storage space for files. Megaupload does not examine all these files, but if someone reports that their intellectual rights are being infringed, Megaupload immediately take down the content in question. This all suggests to me that Megaupload is exactly the lawful, prudent service that should be protected under “safe harbor” laws. Ad I certainly don’t get where the US authorities are involved. As the EFF put it: “If the United States can seize a Dutch citizen in New Zealand over a copyright claim, what is next?”.

This is all clearly meant to bolster the case of those who back the draconian SOPA/PIPA laws being considered in the USA. SOPA/PIPA garnered a lot of bad press on “black-out Wednesday” and President Obama’s stated intent to veto the ridiculous laws.

One more interesting factoid: The Pirate Bay was nearly wrecked by Swedish authorities following US orders. And now New Zealand has done the same. So tell me something: when did the entire world become USA juridiction? And WTF are we going to do about it?

Go to Megaupload.com and you get to see this

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Wednesday 18 January 2012… The Day The (Online) World Stood Still

January 19, 2012

Thursday, 19 Jan 2012

Well, what a to-do “Blackout Wednesday” caused! A world of students couldn’t do their homework because Wikipedia went offline (Does serve em right though…students should not be using Wikipedia as the basis of their online research/plagiarism. Google and Bing were still working, as were most other websites; and in a worst-case scenario they could still haul ass to the local library and, you know, look at an actual book!. In fact, all sorts of stuff happened (or didn’t happen) during Black-out Wednesday – far too much for me to catalogue here – so here’s a link to a Guardian webpage that handily links on to lots of news and comment on the momentous day and its meanings and effects.

I’m not an American, and, like most people (including Americans FFS!), I don’t know much about the proposed SOPA and PIPA laws. But I do know this: SOPA/PIPA will enable intellectual property owners (mostly media, movie and music corporations) to block access to any websites the corporations claim are infringing their intellectual property rights – without any judicial or statuary oversight. And Americans won’t be the only victims of this censorship. As a lot of the internet’s infrastructure goes through the USA or US-related systems, online users everywhere will be affected. SOPA/PIPA isn’t just an American problem: its tendrils reach out everywhere. So come on, American action heroes – it’s time for you to save the world again!

I already said I’m not a PIPA/SOPA expert. But these guys are. So click that link (here it is again), find out what SOPA and PIPA would actually mean to your life, and learn what you can do to stop it. There’s some pretty simple action you can do to help, without even leaving your seat – but, because PIPA and SOPA are US legal proposals, only Americans can do them. So go on, USA, do the right thing – cos if you don’t, it might end up that no one anywhere will be able to do their homework from the comfort of their basement!!! :p

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4 years for “inciting” non-existant riots… WTF are the British authorities up to?

August 17, 2011

Yesterday (16 August 2011) Chester crown court sentenced 2 men to 4 years imprisonment for “trying” to incite riots that never actually happened. And David Cameron, who is supposed to be the prime minister of Britain, not a judge or legal commentator, said it was “very good”, adding:

“What happened on our streets was absolutely appalling behaviour and to send a very clear message that it’s wrong and won’t be tolerated is what the criminal justice system should be doing.”

Of course it’s terrible that riot and looting went on across England. But what do the riots that actually happened have to do with what Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan did? Moreover, Blackshaw and Sutcliffe-Keenan pleaded guilty to the charges – which makes me wonder what kind of low-grade legal advice they’d been given – and an early guilty plea is supposed to result in a reduced sentence. So this pair of clowns would have got maybe 10-year sentences if they’d pleaded not guilty? 10 years for not inciting a riot? What are our judges smoking before entering their court rooms?

MPs and civil rights groups have spoken out against the sentences, unsurprisingly. But what should be surprising is that prime minister Cameron said the sentences were “very good” – before adding that it is down to the courts to decide sentences. So, which is it, Cameron? Do judges have the discretion on sentencing here? Or are you sending (barely) concealed message to the court that anyone who says anything not in line with his beliefs deserves to rot in jail for as long as possible?

In Britain, the government proposes laws. Parliament debates, fine-tunes then passes the laws. And the police and courts enforce those laws. Cameron shouldn’t be telling judges how to do their jobs. Lord Carlile, the government’s former terror advisor accused ministers of appearing to “steer” the courts into handing down the more stringent sentences. Lord Carlile, a barrister and former Liberal Democrat MP warned that the sacrosanct separation of powers between the government and the judiciary had appeared to have been breached by some of the messages coming out of government since the riots engulfed neighbourhoods last week.

Fortunately, not all judges have been castrated by Cameron and his henchmen. The same Evening Standard article reports that a court in Bury St Edmund’s let a teenager walk free after his guilty plea. He had sent Facebook messages saying “”I think we should start rioting – it’s about time we stopped the authorities pushing us about. It’s about time we stood up for ourselves for once so come on riot – get some – LoL” Bad, to be sure, but hardly evil. His barrister said his client “had been a bit of a prat” – which pretty sums up Blackshaw’s and Sutcliffe-Keenan’s actions too.

Also, a Lambeth teenager who had been caught on CCTV hurling sticks and spades at officers, was allowed to walk free after his uncle, a Premier League football player, offered him somewhere to live outside of London.

This variation in judicial decisions is good, as it demonstrates that not all judges are bowing and scraping before their governmental overlords. But it is clear that a substantial number of judges are all too keen to please their masters. In the Guardian, Lord Carlile said:

“I don’t think it’s helpful for ministers to appear to be giving a steer to judges. The judges in criminal courts are mostly extremely experienced and well capable of making the decisions themselves. Ministers should focus on securing the safety of the public.”

The lord, who served for six years under Labour and the coalition until March as the government’s anti-terror adviser, added: “”Some judges may feel that and some ministers may feel that they have had a responsibility to use the language of sentences rather than policy.”

The authorities doubtless think it’s important to stamp down hard on some people’s recent behaviour. But that doesn’t mean the courts should become kangaroo courts blindly following the government’s instructions. Every single case is different, and each should be dealt with on its own merits. The government is beginning to see the consequences of its actions and policies; and they are scared of those consequences. Instead of knee-jerk reactions, they should try to fix the damage they have done. Otherwise today’s Britain will be just like the 1980s, when widespread civil unrest rocked the country.

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Super-injunctions must die!!

May 10, 2011

The twit who tweeted about which wealthy people had taken out super-injunctions to gag the press has certainly stirred up some controversy, even though he (she?) seems to have got some of his facts wrong. For instance he claimed that Jemima Khan had taken out such an injunction to prevent publication of prurient photos of her and Jeremy Clarkson, presenter of the BBC’s TV show Top Gear; but Jemima says it’s not true, and it appears that the twit had been confused because Jemima and her brother Zac Goldsmith (a dickhead who inherited lots of money) got a super-injunction in 2008 to prevent publication of emails from “hacked” accounts.

Goldsmith has taken advantage of the controversy to suggest that Britain needs a proper privacy law to prevent inappropriate disclosure of people’s private lives. But of course he would. The real reason why these super-injunctions are wrong is because they are used to gag the press to a horrendous degree. Anyone who’s rich enough to get such an injunction (and believe me, it’s only the rich who can afford these measures) can not only silence the press, they even prevent the press from reporting that the injunction has been taken out! An example of the extreme effects of super-injunctions is when the oil trading company Trafigura stopped the Guardian newspaper from mentioning in any way a scientific report on Trafigura’s horrendous waste dumping in west Africa.

Of course, rich assholes like Goldsmith say that the Trafigura case is an exception, and that private citizens need to be able to keep their private lives private. Media lawyer Charlotte Harris says the stories subject to super-injunctions were quite often cases of “nasty blackmail”. She said: “You should be allowed to end a relationship with somebody, whether you are married or not, without having that person say ‘right, I’m going to go to the paper, I’m going to destroy your life, I’m going to tell everybody every intimate thing about you’. You should have some protection.”

The way she puts it, it all sounds so reasonable. Everyone’s entitled to a private life, surely? But these super-injunctions go far beyond what is reasonable. For a start, they are only available to the rich. And why do these gagging orders need to ban reporting that a gagging order has been imposed? These injunctions are not about protecting people’s private lives. They are a mechanism to censor the press. The courts allow these super-injunctions when the stories involved are not “in the public interest”. But who decides what is or is not in the public interest? A judge, listening to an expensive lawyer who’s in the same clubs as the judge and who possibly sodomises the judge on a regular basis.

So super-injunctions are wrong. But what will replace them? Should we have a privacy law like Zac Goldsmith suggests? I say no. Britain already has ridiculously stern libel laws. That should be enough for those who feel they need “protecting”. Let the press report their stories: if they are false, the injured party can sue them for libel. And if the stories are true? Well, if they’re true, they’re true, and the press should be free to tell us things that are true. If the individuals involved are ashamed of what they’ve done, that’s an issue they’ll have to sort out with their analysts. If they don’t want us to know about their sins, they shouldn’t sin. Pretty simple really.

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EFF on direct action against internet censorship

December 22, 2010

Recently, the Wikileaks case has brought the subject of online censorship into the limelight: Amazon and EveryDNS withdrawing their services to Wikileaks, apparently due to US government pressure, has brought up some important questions: just who “owns” the internet? Is it right that access to “sensitive” info should be cut, even though that info doesn’t really compromise “national security” but just embarrasses politicians?

The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) has compiled a list of tools and schemes that can be used by individuals in a “direct action” type fashion. The EFF doesn’t advocate stuff like Distributed Denial-of-service (DDOS) attacks or tools like the LOIC (Low Orbit Ion Cannon) that make DDOS attacks easier to engage in; but the list includes tools and services like Tor(an “anonymizing overlay network”), BitCoin(a decentralized internet currency) and the Dot-P2P Project(an “alternative DNS hierarchy that resists censorship”).

These tools and services will make it much harder for any central authority to limit our access to information. And as the EFF cocedes in the article, its list is nowhere near exhaustive – there are a lot of other projects that do similar stuff. If you are anti-censorship, check out the article then do a bit of googling of your own to arm yourself. We may need these tools sooner than you think!

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Wikileaks.org is back up! Not a *huge* victory for freedom and common sense – but a victory nevertheless

December 15, 2010

On 3 December, we reported that you could no longer reach the Wikileaks site by using the wikileaks.org URL. Well, that is no longer the case: aim your browser at “http://wikileaks.org” and you get rerouted to http://mirror.wikileaks.info/ – one of the many, many mirrors that sprouted after the USA’s clumsy efforts to limit free speech. Not a major victory by any means. But a victory nevertheless.

In other (Wikileaks/Assange-related) news: Julian Assange is still in prison even though he was granted bail yesterday. The Swedish prosecutors have appealed against the bail ruling, claiming that he would pose a major flight risk. I’m not sure how the Swedes think he’ll flee: Assange’s face must be one of the best known in border security circles, plus they have his passport… but as things stand, he must remain in HMP Wandsworth for at leat another couple of days while this judicial circus runs its course.

This case is highlighting the problems with the new European arrest warrant system. Usually, it is only possible to extradite someone if the crime he’s accused of is also a crime in the country he’s “hiding” in. As far as I can tell, Assange’s alleged crimes are not illegal in Britain (what the Swedes call “rape” and “sexual molestation” are very different to the UK’s definitions – I believe one of the charges relates to Assange refusing to use a condom; the complainant admits that the sex was consensual, so how in hell can this be called a crime? He didn’t force her to have unprotected sex).

Anyway, a blog like this one is not really a good place to discuss the intricacies of Swedish law. But what I will say is this: Sweden has got very accommodating rendition agreements with the USA. If Assange is extradited to Sweden, it won’t be long before he ends up in America. And if you look at what politicians are saying about Assange it’s pretty clear he won’t receive a free trial and he’ll end up on a slab.

But do these people really believe that Assange is Wikileaks? The leaks will continue, regardless of his fate. All that will happen is that Assange’s colleagues will improve their security and anonymity. Killing (or imprisoning) Assange will not kill Wikileaks. And all politicians need to beware: if they treat Assange like a piece of shit, the leaks will become more and more damaging to the so-called “liberal” European “democracies” who are currently baying for his blood. So watch out, fools: the day of reckoning is nearly upon us… and you.

UPDATE: I just noticed this, a page that lists the very many sites that are mirroring Wikileaks in an attempt to stop the authorities ever again closing them down. Well, when I say “stop”, I actually mean “make it very difficult”. The USA has already demonstrated the length of its reach. But when Wikileaks is mirrored in a huge number of countries, some of whom dislike America intensely, the job of censorship becomes much more difficult.

There’s also info on the page about how you too can mirror Wikileaks on your web server. I say go for it! I think it’s about time that the USA learned what “democracy” actually means: rule by the people for the people; not rule by a bunch of rich geezers on behalf of their billionaire buddies. Or is my dictionary out of date?

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