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Privacy

Bill Clinton is right – the U.N. will prove to be a lot worse than the NSA.

Bill Clinton may be a crook (well forget the “may be” – he is a crook), but that does not mean he is not right – indeed it gives him an insight into corrupt minds. And not being in the service of a political ideology (being an “honest thief” rather than a “bitch” [a servant of the Soviets] – in the language of GULAG) he has no reason not to say what it is going on.

We now see what the Edward Snowden thing was really about (as well as giving the FSB some tips in the cyber war – stuff they most likely guessed at anyway). It was about discrediting United States control of the internet – thus giving Mr Obama an excuse to do what he always wanted to do. Hand over control of the internet to the United Nations international telecommunications union (read Russia, China and the Islamic powers). The NSA just wants to know what you are saying – the new masters of the internet (with no pesky First Amendment) will want to stop you saying it.

Was Mr Snowden just a useful idiot – or an FSB agent all along? I do not know – but the censorship of the internet (not practical under American control of the internet) is now a real possibility. Barack Obama may get his dream (control of speech – by P.C. doctrine) by the back door of the “international community”.

The young people (the ones who nod their heads at the “libertarians” on Mr Putin’s “Russia Today” television station) will not (yet) believe me. But the NSA (and yes the CIA also – people such as Mike Baker who risked his life so many times for young people who think he is a “Fascist”) were not the enemy (they never were). They (the NSA and the CIA) were not out to censor you. It is your “saviours” (the people you hero worship) who want to censor you.

“We are techno people, no censorship will work on us” – oh you silly people, that is not what censorship is about. Censorship is about the average person not seeing something.

The Overhead.

The Internet c.1800s...

That was the semaphore system built by Claude Chappe in France around the time of the French Revolution. If the idea of big semaphore machines connecting a nation (indeed internationally) reminds you of the “Clacks” on Discworld then you are in the right ball-park – almost. There is a key difference which we shall come to though and it is a biggy.

Anyway, this is the size of the network…

... and its reach.

Now here is the big difference. What is the modern, electronic, internet as we know it used for? It is a chaos of chatter and (in)sanity, logic and weirdness, bank transactions, Christmas greetings, pornography, blogging, tweeting, facebook, gaming, terrorist plots and how to build a bomb or how to cook a risotto. It can be anything from an interview with One Direction or a seminar on quantum entanglement. It is humanity in toto.

The French clacks wasn’t (that is the “biggy” I mentioned) and neither could it technically be nor was intended to be. The inventor had this rather disingenuous thing to say,

“Chappe once claimed that a signal could go from Toulon to Paris – 120 stations across 475 miles – in just ten or twelve minutes. But he could not make that claim for a full message, even a relatively short one. Three signals per minute was the most that could be expected of even the fastest telegraph operator.”

In modern terms that is 1/20 bit per second (roughly – the Chappe code had a signal space of 98 symbols (2 beam positions and 7 positions each for the “arms” = 2x7x7=98) which is near enough the size of the standard 7 bit ASCII code – 128 symbols – to compare with allowing a bit of wiggle on human factors). Difference is the first common(ish) home modems worked at like 2000 bps or 40,000 times that speed. Sending a signal as simple as, “Advance at noon, reinforcements will meet on your left flank by 1pm.” would be nightmarish. And that is assuming absolute accuracy in transcription at all stations along the way. It need not be said that 2000bps is dismal. A slow ADSL line is over a thousand times faster and if BT Reach-Around has deemed fit to bother with laying fibre even ADSL on Cu is laughable. Sky (my broadband, TV and landline provider keep on trying to get BT to get us into the C21st – to no avail so far). There are always BT vans prowling and doing nowt. I’m not surprised. I used to work for BT and trying to get them to do anything to the porpoise is like assaulting Broadmoor with soft fruit. They might technically be private but they still behave like a state monopoly. Utterly complacent Bertram Blunts plus ultra.

Anyhoo, back to those old French folk. Not only was the system technically very limited (in that it was fast but with abysmal bandwidth) and therefore unsuitable for general communication but it was never intended for such use. Chappe again,

“…took it for granted that the telegraph network of which he dreamed would be a department of the state, government owned and operated. He saw it not as an instrument of knowledge or of riches, but as an instrument of power. ‘The day will come,” he wrote, ‘when the Government will be able to achieve the grandest idea we can possibly have of power, by using the telegraph system in order to spread directly, every day, every hour, and simultaneously, its influence over the whole republic.”

Chilling but not a million miles away from how our Lords and Masters see the internet. Fortunately they don’t really understand TCP/IP and all that jazz and I don’t think they understand the importance of a technology they simply don’t understand (they don’t understand much tech stuff). But they try, hence such things as the unbelievably poorly thought out violent and extreme pornography bill or assorted attempts around the globe to make pornography an “opt-in” service (for the sake of the children, naturally). And will it stop at porn? Does it ever stop? No, of course not!

Now obviously, there is a difference here – almost an inversion. The old French mechanical “clacks” was a way to govern and the modern internet is a way to keep tabs on the governed. This morning for the first time ever I used my bank card contactless (I’ve forgotten my PIN!!!). Some bugger at the NSA or GCHQ now knows what toilet paper I buy, the brand of ciggies I smoke and that I drink semi-skimmed milk. And yeah, I know they could harvest that from the chip anyway but… as a true believing physicist I find action at a distance, “spooky” ;-) That’s a quote from Einstein by the way though Newton himself was not 100% happy with gravity working like that. General Relativity is at least a locally realistic theory. It may be (usually) more mathematically complicated but Relativity makes far fewer metaphysical assumptions than did Newton. Newton has a fair few mad old dears stashed in the attic clad in their wedding dresses. But I digress…

The simple truth is that by hook or by crook any advance in comms will be seen by our Lords and Masters as a potential means of control. Whether it is owning the entire shooting match or just spying on it is a mere matter of tech to the L&M. Tech they will, thankfully, cock-up profoundly but they do try, bless ‘em.

All quotes from “The Information” by James Glieck.

On the worship of little tin gods

St. Edward of Snowden, patron saint of whistleblowers

In part this comes down to SAoT’s recent post on the death of Nelson Mandela, but mainly from an argument with Perry de Havilland over at Samizdata who appears to be so utterly blinded by the “what” of St. Edward of Snowden’s revelations that he is unable to ask the fundamental question of “why” did he do what he did.

Don’t get me wrong, I am happy that the truth has come out about the NSA’s activities and if Snowden honestly felt that the way he did it was the only way that it could have been done then fair enough.

The problem is I find that the way that Snowden has gone about his revelations has been distinctly dubious.

This may be just the capricious nature of fate ruining the best laid plans of mice and men, but I consider that Snowden’s deliberately outing himself on the front page of the Guardian (when he could have revealed the necessary information without doing so), to be somewhat questionable.

I am uncomfortable with the fact that he is hiding under the coat tails of a country which would probably have killed him if he had committed the same offence there (as they did with Alexander Litvinenko)

I am uncomfortable that he has potentially carried US state secrets into Russia and, if so,  potentially revealed them to their state security apparatus in return for asylum in Russia.

I am uncomfortable about the sheer volume of information that he has in his possession, which he now appears to be either releasing in dribs-and-drabs to keep himself newsworthy or alternately holding back in some vain attempt to keep out of the clutches of the US Government by blackmailing the NSA from a safe haven in Russia.

Now I am, as some of you will know, a paranoid and suspicious son-of-a-bitch by nature and so it is entirely possible that my natural scepticism is preventing me from seeing the inherent beatitude of our glorious brother Snowden who shines his light of truth into the dark corners of the world.

If the general consensus is that I am being unreasonable, I promise to make amends by wearing a tinfoil hat and sitting in the corner murmuring quietly for a week (as if! Can you imagine…? :-) )

Why I hate the Daily Mail.

Well, the Miliband stuff is beyond anyone’s pale.

I disagree with Ed Miliband on much but there is a hop, skip and jump between that and the virtual grave-robbing they’ve done recently.

But that (vile though it is) is not the real reason. The real reasons are the comments section called [out of their] Right Minds. It’s like a mirror image of the Guardian’s Comment is Free.

But nah, it ain’t even that. Nor is it the obsession with house prices (like the cost of a basic essential going-up is like a good thing?) or their idea that the entire population of Bulgaria is going to sell children to peadophiles in Midsommer next Thursday.

No. It is (and I have previously mentioned this) the right sidebar called “Femail”. Now apart from the name being hideously cute like a kitten that has just puked on a Persian rug it is (very) soft porn whilst the main editorial rants and raves about porn as though it were the work of Satan himself. The hypocrisy is risible in it’s obviousness. I have seen “Femail” sidebar stories trumpeting some starlet’s weight loss post-partum to size 6 (UK) next to polemics against the “media” (which clearly doesn’t include the Mail) for encouraging eating disorders in kids. Or some rant or rave about binge drinking or whatever next to some pic of some X-Factor wannabe falling out of her dress (and a nightclub) simultaneously.

But the Miliband thing is a shark-jump.

I wouldn’t wipe my arse with the Mail – even if I were Venezuelan.

And this is not because I like Ed Miliband. It is because this is plain nasty. If I disagree with the leader of the opposition I shall so and why. I won’t go after his dead father.

And this is the same paper that has campaigned for mandatory IP porn filters that you have to opt out of to protect the kids. But when it gets called on this dreadful stunt starts wibbling about “press freedom”. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the paper ought to have been banned. I’m not saying they ought to be censored (or whatever) but… If they have the right to offend (and they do) then I have the right to be offended. By their grossness over the late Mr Miliband and their serial set of double standards that makes Dr Erwin Schrödinger’s moggie know whether it is coming or going.

Oh, and their football coverage is shite. Their coverage of WAGs (and their handbags that cost more than my wife’s car) on the otherhand…

Fiddling with your hair.

Now a little known fact about me is I have a visceral love for the the concerto. Especially the violin concerto. As a certian (forget the name) English conductor once said “Madam, you have an instrument between your legs (she was a cellist) capable of giving pleasure to millions but all you do is scratch it”. OK, that was very off. Perhaps it she had thrush. I don’t know. But this is Soyoung oon plying the Sibelius concerto in D-minor Op.47. Now she ain’t quite as good as the utterly incomparable Kyung Wha Chung but she is pretty bloody good and the whole thing is on Youtube. Enjoy

Those bloody Koreans! When they aren’t doing top-flight violin-work they make my TV or my computer. Ok, she ain’t Kyung wha Chung but she is bloody brilliant. And that is not an easy concerto. Jean Christian Sibelius was oddly enough a fiddler. He just missed on being a soloist and had to to settle for being a composer instead. It is a harsh life at times. I guess it shows that something good apart from phones and Stalinist rhetoric comes out of Korea. And Kim’s dreadful haircut. But that is the Nork regime which is totally fucking mental. What is it about totalitarians and hair? And this odd idea of “Western haircuts” that Norkland opposes. But it isn’t just them is it? When my parents worked in Zambia in the early ’70s haircuts were proscribed in a neighboring state (forget which one) and if a man had long hair (this was the early ’70s when that was common) then to the barbers with them! And yes the border post had a place for bribing with 200 Marlies and a bottle of Scotch getting your visa stamped in your passport with a barber’s shop. And that mentalist in Iran had a campaign against hair-gel and the Taliban had rules on beards. Didn’t Peter the Great of Russia tax beards? Obsessed with hair the lot of them.

Why? Might it be that whilst folk will risk everything for freedom (some people, some of the time) and are prepared to take the risk of the secret police (or whatever) hanging them by the ankles over the scorpion-pit (or whatever) they aren’t prepared to go round looking like Just-in Beaver to make a political point. Or is it a savvy realization by despots that if you can control something as personal (and essentially unimportant) as a hair-style you have total control over your subjects?

Why I despise the Daily Mail.

Hypocrisy is the short answer.

The longer answer is their cutsey-named “Femail” sidebar on their website. It by and large consists of stuff like this. Note the second image where Ms Moss’s nipple is clearly visible. And this from the valiant crusader (that’s all over the front page of the print edition) against online pornography. This is the online version. See also this

I don’t know how they got these pictures – they look rather too HQ to be paparazzi but I dunno. I mean it could be a publicity stunt for Moss (who I note from the TV doesn’t seem to be advertising any perfume this Christmas) or it could be the long-lense lads. But… I dunno. The Mail are hypocritical scum either way. Personally I think pornography (however hard or soft) which is done with willing (and paid) participants is morally vastly superior to paparazzi stuff. But that is by the by. Both articles are available in seconds from the Mail website. How can they square that circle? Or do they want the Mail reclassified as an opt-in soft-porn rag? Because this is very far from the first time “Femail” has published “compromising” pictures of ‘slebs.

Or… pictures of say, Rihanna’s (very nice) bottom in her skimpies in the “Femail” column whilst editorialising elsewhere on the corrosive effects on teenage girl’s self-esteem of pictures of “perfect” female bodies or claiming this is resulting in ever younger boys sexually assaulting girls. And all this whilst claiming implicitly (explicitly) to be the moral keel of the nation.

In a sense it would be fitting and sweet if they were cast into the outer darkness of “Asian Babes” or “Monster Jugs” – hoist indeed upon their own petard. But I object to this censorship anyway and in deep principle. Somebody has to decide what is unsuitable for kids and I think that ought to be us adults. This is not a matter for government. It really shouldn’t be. It also implies mission-creep for there is already talk of websites involving deliberate self-harm. And what after that? It’s just government control of the internet.

Our playground. Not there’s. They only hate it because they don’t understand it. And they are small people, pathetic people. People who do not believe that individuals can ever do the right thing without coercion, if not outright violence.

Jimmy Saville Joke.

I bet Gary Glitter regrets not asking Jim to fix it instead of taking his computer to PC World.

That is a terrible joke, via Sickipedia.

But there is a sub-plot. I fix computers. I don’t care what is on the HD(s). If there is obvious criminality there then expect a call from the dibble. If not I don’t care. It’s like a confessional but more like a doctor. I frankly don’t give a damn about your Frankie Vaughn or whatever. I’ve seen it all by now. What interests me, what interests the client is getting it to work. That is all. I love machines and what you do with them is your look-out, not mine.

By the way I wouldn’t take a pair of counting sticks to PC World. If you are in the North West of England speak to me or see the folks at Aria Tech.

Custer’s Revenge.

From Wikipedia…

Custer’s Revenge (also known as Westward Ho and The White Man Came) is a controversial video game made for the Atari 2600 by Mystique, a company that produced a number of adult video game titles for the system. The player character is based on General George Armstrong Custer. The game was first released on October 13, 1982, and has received significant criticism because of its crude simulation of a rape of a Native American woman.

Like a sophisticated rape would have been better?

In the game, the player controls the character of Custer, depicted as a man wearing nothing but a cavalry hat, boots and a bandana, sporting a visible erection. Custer has to overcome arrow attacks [is it just me or if people are firing arrows the very last thing I want is to be is cock out!] to reach the other side of the screen. His goal is to have sex with a naked Native American woman tied to a pole.

To be fair the graphics are so pants quite how one tells she is either Amerindian or indeed even a woman is beyond me.

Custer’s Revenge quickly gained notoriety upon its release. Sold in a sealed package labeled “NOT FOR SALE TO MINORS” and selling for $49.95, it acknowledged that children might nonetheless see the game. The game’s literature stated “if the kids catch you and should ask, tell them Custer and the maiden are just dancing.” The makers elected to preview the game for women’s and Native American groups, an act which some thought was a publicity stunt.

Now I have via the magic of the emu played “Custer’s Revenge” (I had to try it – God curse me!) and it is dreadful. Fifty bucks for that back when that was a lot of money! But clearly the marketing was genius. It occurs to me that if the women’s and Native American groups hadn’t made such a fuss the game would have just died a death and would not be the most notorious thing ever set on silicon. I like old videogames. Around the same time (actually a year before) Warlords came out for the Atari VCS and that is a great game – to this day I play it and I can beat anyone of you at it even post-pub. It has things like game-play and tactics and stuff. The thing is Warlords is fun. Incidentally (and thirty years after my first go) that was coded by a woman. With like real tits and everything. Unlike the piss-poor low-rez object of “Custer’s Revenge”. Which is the point isn’t it? Who defines what is pornographic? “Custer’s Revenge” is only so if you think it so. That’s what I mean about the marketing genius. A dreadful game and not even pornographic (the graphics are crude in the sense of blocky rather than in the sense of obscene*) raised to the heights because it offended**. I would argue it was only bought (it has no other redeeming features) because people wanted to be naughty and they were told this was naughty. It wasn’t. It was merely dreadful.

I mean if you get off on visuals that blocky you are perma-banned from my Lego box.

I guess ultimately what I am trying to say was “Custer’s Revenge” was not incidentally obscene or even pornographic (it was sold in ’82 – video porn – possibly including Native Americans existed and they had curvaceous tits unlike the block lady) but was deliberately obscene because it had nothing else to offer and it was made so because it would be taken seriously becaause people who would object which was precisely what the company behind it ($50 in ’82 recall) wanted. If the feminist and Amerindian groups had just been “That’s a terrible game” and not an obscenity it would have been stetted (good games need tactics). But people always want an obscenity (“the Human Centipede”) and obscenity is always created by those that campaign against it.

I don’t think it is obscene (as such) myself. I have said it is a dreadful game but what really gets me is that games like that only exist because people think pr0n dodgy which means numpties will buy it because despite it being a truly dreadful game (and computer and video games are our greatest art-form if done right) it is given a surly dirtiness by the likes of Mary Whitehouse and that is the only reason it was ever saleable. As I said, Pr0n is entirely made by the prod-noses. It would generally be considered risible if it wasn’t vaguely banned. Although I don’t know! As Woody Allen put it, “Sex is only good if it is dirty”.

*A pornographic game that isn’t even obscene is truly shocking. It makes me think of the “Royal Nonsuch” in Huck Finn.

**And yes it was grotesquely offensive. Off course it was. It had to be because it wasn’t any good.

For the children…

I’m an IT tech*. I am 38. My wife is 33. I have a cat and he is a minor but a complete innocent (he doesn’t have any bollocks for a start) and certainly no interest in pr0n – or at least not what you or me would regard as pr0n – I dunno about you but the torture and killing of small mammals doesn’t do it for me. It does it for Timmy and he is only seven so clearly the TV and internet is to blame. The cute little sod.

Therefore to protect the children I don’t have I shall have my internet hobbled by the government unless I sign-up to the preverts registar. Now I am not really into ‘net pr0n – I’ve had a look, obviously, and so have you and it’s like whatever. In fact, truthfully, much of this has been intellectual curiosity – the categories that exist such as the truly stupifying ones like “ugly” intrigue me. Why? To the very limited extent that I like pr0n it’s tasteful images of very attractive naked women of the sort you find on Met Art or Domai that I like. Domai even has (or had) a positive review on it’s front-page from the Daily Telegraph which is enough to make a retired Colonel’s monocle pop-out. But so what? That is my kink (I am given to understand a not uncommon one and indeed nothing that would look out of place at the North End of Trafalgar Square) but that is not my point. As Ian B said recently if the photo shows an illegal act it is the act that ought to be illegal and not the photo. The photo of course ought to be gold-dust to those prosecuting the act itself – “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury can you deny it was the accused pictured here with a tub of vaseline, a gimp and a cocker spaniel?” As long as we all play nice (and no spies end-up dead in bags) and it is consensual (that doesn’t really include the dog) then we are adults and do adult things like have sex in all the myriad forms that takes (enough to blow Sigmund Freud’s eyebrows off! – Yeah he’s meant to be woo woo but he isn’t is he? I mean if you get off on potty-training then seek professional help and not my bed-chamber) and that is cool. I mean I once met in a club (Queen’s Court, Leeds) a gay bloke who only fancied straight men. He was good-humouredly bitterly amused at his predicament. Takes all sorts I guess.

So, what is wrong with this nonsense?

The first and most obvious thing is the assumption that because many households have children everyone must have censorship put upon them. But that is not really what it is about. Of course actually seeing in the flesh is fine (until the Republic of Gilead is established) but an image is something else (just out of interest – do they know how high they create the image?). The last lot who thought that had bones through their noses and thought photographs took their soul or something. Yet this is an acceptable form of policy discussion in Britain in The Century of the Fruitbat.

The second (and I am not hanging my hat on this peg – my objection is vastly more one of principle – but it must be noted) I always turn Google SafeSearch off. It is a crude tool and will block all sorts of things. I will give good odds that the government filter would make it difficult for gynecological cancer patients to access discussion forums etc because they involve “rude” words. It inconveniences me looking up stuff on graphics cards and fighter jets…

The third is the assumption that pr0n is “corrupting”. Is it really? I grew-up during the early eighties and the VCR revolution. I grew-up in the age during which pr0n didn’t exactly grow on trees but seemed by a process of abiogensis (as yet unexplained by science) to be readily found under hedges. Didn’t do me any harm. I even recall Jordan when she was a 34A. I thought she was well fit**. I think she was 17 at the time so call me a retroactive peado. But seriously nobody springs into life as a sexual adult upon the moment of their 16th birthday. For me (and I bet for you) there was seeing people in magazines and movies and thinking them foxy (and if you’re at all like me I bet you’re embarrassed by a lot of the ones you hada crush over in your callow youth – and yes, that applies just as much to female readers – perhaps more so – I remember the lasses in my year at school going mental over Bros. Sweet Jesus. They had the Grolsch bottle tops in their shoes and neckerchiefs and all. My mum, in her youth, was hit by Beatlemania but… Well, how very dare I compare that with Bros? And even my Mum said that whilst as a teen she liked Paul but on sober reflection she reckoned George was the looker. But anyway, isn’t being a kid about being a bit naughty? How else do you learn? Well, I guess there is “sex and relationships education” which sounds like enough to put anyone on the permanent slack. But whilst that is to do with sex it’s about as sexy as genital warts which are also to do with sex but not sexy. Unless you are into that sort of thing – somebody will be. God help them!

The fourth is that obviously if it’s pr0n today by a week on Tuesday all bets are off as to what else shall be banned. For our own good you understand. Again not a point I hang my titfer upon because whilst there is the thin end of a slippery slope here pr0n is worth defending in itself. It is not just a line in the sand (though it is) but important in it’s own right. That is the first principle of defending lines in the sand anyway. Defend each line because it itself matters. Not because abandoning might lead to tyranny. Tyranny will already be there anyway, waiting for us, in a ’70s gown, legs akimbo.

So it comes to the climax. Oh err missus! And it comes to this. I don’t really do pr0n because he has a wife you know. She has a vagina you know (of course she has – she’s a woman!). And indeed like tits and everything. So what earthly use is Pr0n if I have free access to Coke, not Pepsi (or indeed Shirley)? Well, I dunno! I suspect it adds to the general gaiety of nations. I mean anything banned in North Korea or Iran is good, right? I like pr0n in principle. I like attractive women getting their kit off. Now men doing the same… Well, I’m a liberal-type (unlike Hattie Harmann) so fine. There is a market. But what really winds me is this. At university I did a physics degree and a night-class in life-drawing. We had two models. One was a bloke and the other was a bird who looked like she had just walked out of the studio of a Pre-Raphaelite. Now, this was weird. I mean I tried to draw. And he was trickier than her (men are apparently) but what got me was this. I was a single(ish) heterosexual man and she was an extremely attractive naked female yet I had to wield my pencil, not my cock and what really got me was (a) how it was all done in the best possible taste (b) I almost took the job as a model but didn’t not because it was getting nekkid but because it was holding poses until your legs fell off and (c) the guy who ran the course was a postgrad art student and it was like this. I tried very hard to place on paper an image of this lovely lady (and also the bloke) but I have never felt more naked than when the bloke who ran it took a look at my drawing and said, “Keep trying!”. I actually felt more naked than she did! We just saw her body. He saw my soul. I mean she was just beautiful but was my rendering of her? Let me put it bluntly. At the end of the evening I would bundle-up my piccies and I would much rather get nekkid myself than show them to anyone. I think I did better with the geezer oddly enough.

And here is the point. Were those models exploited personally? No. Was it pr0n? Depends how one looks at it but I would say there was no difference. Really. Did it exploit? I can’t recall what I paid but the models were on like 7 quid an hour which was OK money at the time (I considered it – early ’90s) so is that an exploit? I think not. I think not because I didn’t feel an exploit was going on. It just felt nice. And by buggery – if I am to learn to draw then I guess someone has to get their kit off or it’s still-life’s of baskets of fruit (Imagine studying art in Tehran!). No. Almost the entire schtick of porno-phobia is not about the specific alleged exploitation of the models (we’d have a beer afters – that’s how exploited they were) but this bizarre generalization that it is every women who are obscurely exploited whether they chose to model nude or not. Despite the fact there was a male model too! Despite the fact the female model was perfectly happy. And despite the fact this wan’t pornography (though how does one define that?). No. If you ask me it comes down to one thing. There are women (and men) who people are prepared to pay good money to see in the nip. And there are men (and women) who are pig-ugly. Life is not fair. Certainly not to politicians. And they hate it because nobody will give ‘em 7 quid an hour to model. They have to ponce off the tax-payer instead and sit on moral high-horses. Purely because the populace is prepared to pay Eric Pickles and Tessa Jowell not to disrobe doesn’t mean we ought to be banned from seeing genuine lookers in the nip. That is why they think it generally immoral. ‘Cos they are ugly and they can only take a moral high-chair rather than get their tits out. I bet Pickles has bigger ones than Jowell, mind. That is a horrible thought.

*I have seen things on HDs you people would not believe… And no it wasn’t attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. The one that springs to mind was a video of a naked and heavily pregnant woman declaiming her own poetry. It was emotional. Oh, it was explicit alright but that is not the same as erotic. I had to ask for details because the presenting problem was a fucked IEEE1334 which to all intents, purposes and tastes – the tongue can be a diagnostic tool – had had marmalade jammed in it. It was flatly denied that any child had touched the machine despite the fact the disk also had a lot of Barney the Dinosaur on it. Really nice Acer laptop buggered by a kid. Either that or something unspeakable and dreadful had happened to it. I did re-jiggle the softwares so the performance art looked “OK” for a certain value of “OK” (reasonable raspberrys) but I don’t do hardware with laptops. There is no jam in it for me, so to speak. Perhaps the moral to this story (if there is one and there isn’t) is that kids probably do more harm to computers than vice-versa.

**In a kind of filthy shag, not date sense. That’s “filthy” in a good sense. Seeing as I was a spotty teen who was good at maths and all that it was all fairly hypothetical anyway. Obviously nowadays I wouldn’t touch her with a disinfected 36″ hitting stick. Though if Cate Blanchett and Uma Thurman decided to oil-wrestle on my living-room carpet…

A classical education is clearly not required by the Met.*

While London looks increasingly like a city under martial law it is nice to see the Met still have time for pursuing nonsenses as well as going round looking like characters from some post-apocalyptic FPS game…

There were no complaints from the public when a Mayfair gallery exhibited a dramatic modern rendering of the ancient Greek myth of Leda and the swan in its window.

But the sensitive souls of the Metropolitan Police took a different view when they spotted Derrick Santini’s photograph of a naked woman being ravished by the bird.

Personally I quite like the picture and I think it’s a bit more “artistic” than “ravished”.

An officer took exception as he passed the Scream gallery in Bruton Street on a bus. He alerted colleagues and two uniformed officers from Harrow arrived to demand the work be removed.

“Alerted”? I mean this morning a copper in Leeds on his way into work spotted and then alerted his colleagues and then apprehended a double murder suspect. That’s “alerted”. And why two coppers? I dunno though in the current climate of Olympic and Jubilee paranoia I guess it’s lucky they didn’t send a SWAT team.

Jag Mehta, sales director at the gallery owned by Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood’s sons Tyrone and Jamie, said: “We asked them what the problem was and they said it suggested we condoned bestiality, which they said was an arrestable offence. The show, Metamorphosis, had been running for a month and was really well received.”

Now that is the nub of it is it not? Bestiality is illegal though to be fair I’ve always tended to see it as it’s own punishment. But is “condoning bestiality” or indeed condoning anything actually illegal. Or did the cops just take offence and make it up? Like when they made-up a death penalty for being a Brazilian electrician in South London?

The final day of the exhibition was on Saturday and the gallery was taking down the artworks when police arrived. Ms Mehta pointed out that for prim Victorians, the myth of how Zeus, in the form of a swan, raped young Leda and produced Helen of Troy, was an acceptable form of erotica. But the explanation that the picture was based on a legend that had inspired countless generations of artists failed to cut the mustard with the police, she said.

They didn’t know anything about the myth. They stood there and didn’t leave until we took the piece down. They asked us whether we had had complaints and we said quite the contrary. Lots of people were intrigued by it.

As I said I rather like it. What is this about, really? I suspect at some level the cops were acting due to the our old friend – the absurd and illiberal Violent and Extreme Pornography Act. To summarize. This act potentially makes almost any image deemed pornographic potentially illegal. Everything from an old copy of the Sun (with Sam Fox aged sixteen back when that was legal) to this rather famous example of Japanese art**. Yes, it is retroactive and yes it applies to paintings or drawings or CGI as well. It is not just victimless thought crime (though it is) but it’s a also a strict liability which means that if a court decides it is Frankie Vaughn or could be construed as such you’ll be taken up the Gary Glitter.

It is understood that the incident was not recorded by police as a crime.

Because it wasn’t one. Or shouldn’t be. God knows. The law doesn’t.

*Or even a passing aquaintance with English law or Peel’s Principles of Policing. Or a Terry Pratchett Watch book.

**A peculiarity here is that this image would be regarded as very naughty by the Japanese due to the depiction of pubic hair. In comparison here it would appear now that a shaven woman is more likely to get you into trouble for making the image look child-like. Yes, an image seen to be of a child regardless of the model’s actual age can be illegal. Yes, the actual age of the model is no defence. And neither is the purpose for which the image exists. Here is a theoretical example. Let’s imagine my wife (33 – but still sometimes gets IDed for buying wine which like nude modelling is an 18+ thing) and I take some foxy piccies of her in the buff. I have potentially committed a child pornography offence even if it is entirely for private purposes. Of course if this photo-shoot ends with us having sex that is OK but filming or photographing it might be illegal if it was deemed by a court as a representation of a minor. The fact that this was an entirely consensual act between a married couple for their own fun with no intent to sell this is as kiddie-porn would not be a defense. This is strict liability recall.

Tell me this is an April Fool. Please!

The government will be able to monitor the calls, emails, texts and website visits of everyone in the UK under new legislation set to be announced soon.

Internet firms will be required to give intelligence agency GCHQ access to communications on demand, in real time.

The Home Office says the move is key to tackling crime and terrorism, but civil liberties groups have criticised it.

Words fail.

Tory MP David Davis called it “an unnecessary extension of the ability of the state to snoop on ordinary people”.

Attempts by the last Labour government to take similar steps failed after huge opposition, including from the Tories.

I might as well move to Pyongyang. Oh, and why is the phrase, “Out of the frying pan and into the fire” springing to mind? Oh, and encrypt everything. I have a scheme for a cipher that is potentially unbreakable in principle. At least if you don’t know how it works ;-) More on that in a later post!

Read the whole thing. And get angry. I shall be writing to my MP.

Save us from the big bad Google we keep voluntarily using, European Union, save us!

This was started as a comment to this Commentator article, which didn’t seem to get through for some reason. Possibly because of one of the domains I’ve blocked, which would be ironic.)

Do you own a smartphone, tablet or computer? If yes then the chances are that you have downloaded free apps or use free services from the likes of Facebook, Google or i-tunes. Have you ever stopped to wonder why these services are able to remain free?

Once again, the loose definition of “free” in software comes back to haunt us. There are plenty of free Android apps, voluntarily released by their authors under open licences. Recently, I found I was even able to replace the Google dialer with an Apache-licenced one. Personally, I’m well aware whether an app is free or “free”.

Big Brother Watch highlighted the way in which some mobile phone apps have been gaining access to you text messages, phone calls, phone book, location and even have the ability to turn your camera on and off without your knowledge. Granted, this information is buried within the terms and conditions that the consumer accepted when downloading the app, but…

Woah, waaaaait a minute. “Buried within the terms and conditions”? I don’t know about Tw@face or iTunes (I don’t use them – more on that bizarre new idea later), but on Android they’re right there, on a screen of their own, that you have to actively accept before installing the app. What more do you want? A voice booming from the speaker, “Danger, danger! This mapping app will access your location! Danger!”? I’ve always been of the opinion that Android actually handles this really well. But if people can’t be bothered to read what it says on the screen…

A poll carried out by BBW and You Gov showed that nine out of ten adults had not read the new privacy policy despite 92 percent of adults using Google services on a regular basis (at least once a week). The concern is that consumers were unaware that their private information was about to become a lot more valuable to Google and as such had no opportunity to decide whether they were comfortable with this.

Yeah. That same poll found that 47% of respondents weren’t even aware that Google had a new privacy policy, despite it being splashed all over Google’s sites since the beginning of the year with the tagline “This stuff matters!”. So this isn’t about understanding or complication; it’s about apathy. I would have some sympathy if Google et al. were making it actively difficult for people to find out what was happening to their data, but they had every “opportunity to to decide whether they were comfortable” with the new policy and they simply didn’t bother.

So we get more guff like this, moaning for a few more paragraphs about “clarity” and “engagement”. How do you engage people who actively seem to resist? BBW’s heart is undoubtedly in the right place and the new policy is a bit grim in parts, but this is pathetic, weak-willed, spineless, statist claptrap.

Sure, there are EULAs that are too complicated to understand. So decline, for Pete’s sake. Nobody has a gun to your head. You wouldn’t sign a contract you hadn’t at least skimmed over, and you certainly wouldn’t agree to one that you weren’t sure about, so what makes software so different? We don’t need “protection” from this; we just need to stand up for ourselves like grown adults and take a bloody interest in what we’re getting ourselves into. I do it all the time. “Dolphin is teh bestest browser on Android!!!1!”, I keep hearing. Well, I read the EULA. Didn’t like it. I’ll stick to Zirco (GPL3). It’s a bit slow, but I prefer the cut of its jib.

And that’s the trouble: one of the main protests I hear when advocating Free software is that “X” program doesn’t have a certain feature that “Y” proprietary program does, or that the interface is slightly unfamililar, or it’s a bit slow, or some other minor functional issue. Proprietary software, with all its concomitant restrictive licencing, is just more convenient, they say. And, I admit, sometimes they have a point (hell, I have an XBox and its EULAs are nasty). But if that’s more important to them than their rights and privacy, then that’s their lookout, not their fellow taxpayers.

I myself will remain an avid Google user.

See what I mean?

Edit: Stupid WP visual mode.

Such Things As Communism Could only Dream of…

Cats seems to think this is sinister. It ain’t got nothing on this though. It’s a long article but well worth reading in full. I’m excerpting bits to give the flavour.

On the surface, Shustorovich’s project is a public-spirited attempt to bring Russia’s education system into the digital era. In the 2010-11 academic year, around 300 year-six pupils from 11 schools in cities across Russia, from well-heeled Moscow to the rural Siberian city of Tomsk and the mining stronghold of Magnitogorsk, were loaned a portable hybrid e-book and tablet computer with which to learn, do their homework, revise for exams and — soon — order lunch from the school cafeteria.

But this isn’t solely a social experiment. Shustorovich, 45, wants to create Russia’s next platform for digital interactions, one that his business controls. With every keystroke and swipe on his devices, he is building a giant real-time spreadsheet of personal data. Once millions of teenagers get used to learning, interacting and connecting via Shustorovich’s proprietary system, then what need will this and future generations have for social networks such as Facebook? “Facebook is Facebook,” he says. “But adding a social network on top of the [educational platform] will be very easy.”

Unlike other electronic classroom aids, E-OK isn’t designed merely to complement books and desktop PCs, but to replace everything a pupil uses to study. Connected wirelessly (and soon via 4G) to the school’s year-six and -seven curricula — with years five and eight due to be added shortly — the devices aim to reboot how children learn, teachers teach and principals run schools. By gathering data from classroom test scores, exam results and attendance records alongside statistics from mandatory school medical checks and even food ordered by the catering staff, the system creates a real-time data chain which loops from individual schools, through regional hubs, to the Ministry of Education — right up to the Kremlin. Last June, prime minister Vladimir Putin signed a directive ordering Russia’s ministers of education and communications to evaluate and report to him personally. Both ministers have since reported back “favourably”, says Shustorovich, speaking in support of E-OK’s implementation in schools.

The trial has shown her the project’s huge potential: “The information flows from the child, to the teacher, to me and all the way to the district prefect.”

E-OK is Shustorovich’s brainchild, and the sheer scale of his vision quickly becomes apparent. He intends to rewire one of the world’s greatest bureaucracies — the Russian state.

Ultimately he intends that every child in Russia’s 50,000 secondary schools — some 16.5 million — will have their own tablet. “[The situation's] so fluid right now. But if we continue to get the sort of traction we’re getting, eventually we’ll be in every school in the country.” [He has the Russian patents and they are pending elsewhere...]

“We had three aptitudes which made us unique players,” he explains. “A long history of being conversant with technology, because we produced a huge volume of scientific information. Second, we had the experience with dealing with internet products in a financial way — our electronic sales of scientific journals and information for universities is in the high-nineties per cent [of overall sales]. And the third was that we knew how to develop school curricula.”

“…when they get their hands on our device, it’s transformative for the psyche.”

Do I need to comment further?

Rick Santorum in his own words…

This is him talking about his book It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good.

One of the criticisms I make is to what I refer to as more of a libertarianish right. You know, the left has gone so far left and the right in some respects has gone so far right that they touch each other. They come around in the circle. This whole idea of personal autonomy, well I don’t think most conservatives hold that point of view. Some do. They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low, that we shouldn’t get involved in the bedroom*, we shouldn’t get involved in cultural issues. You know, people should do whatever they want. Well, that is not how traditional conservatives view the world and I think most conservatives understand that individuals can’t go it alone. That there is no such society that I am aware of, where we’ve had radical individualism and that it succeeds as a culture.

Rick, my friend, there is (or was) such a culture and I’ve been there a few times and it is called the United States of America. And it worked because nobody “went it alone”. One of the cherished principles of the libertarians you clearly despise is voluntary co-operation. We call it “civil society” and it tends to self-organize. For example when my wife and I are away my neighbour looks after our cat and vice-versa we’re on bunny watch. It is the most natural thing in the world. It doesn’t require statist aresholes like Santorum to “make it so!”

He is deranged. He wants to impose the Republic of Gilead. But hey at least he’s fiscally sound and good for the economy! Er… not exactly.

Santorum’s voting record shows that he embraced George Bush–style “big-government conservatism.” For example, he supported the Medicare prescription-drug benefit and No Child Left Behind.

He never met an earmark that he didn’t like. In fact, it wasn’t just earmarks for his own state that he favored, which might be forgiven as pure electoral pragmatism, but earmarks for everyone, including the notorious “Bridge to Nowhere.” The quintessential Washington insider, he worked closely with Tom DeLay to set up the “K Street Project,” linking lobbyists with the GOP leadership.

He voted against NAFTA and has long opposed free trade. He backed higher tariffs on everything from steel to honey. He still supports an industrial policy with the government tilting the playing field toward manufacturing industries and picking winners and losers.

Both quotes are from the Cato Institute which is a well known hot-bed of Trotskyite agit-prop! At the risk of a self-Godwinning he’s verging on fascist. I mean, “The Common Good”. Cripes! And can anyone answer me this one? Seeing as the USA is (by most European standards) very religious anyway why do people like Santorum feel God (of whatever flavour) is not enough by Himself to command the believers but they need the likes of Santorum too? I mean why? It’s distressing to an individualist like myself because you get this all the time. We are all grown-ups (apart from the kids and they can’t vote) so we can follow our own consciences as we see fit and according to whatever religion we do or don’t believe in anyway. The hubris of the man is staggering. I mean you’d think being commander in chief of the US military and chief of the executive branch of federal government was enough but he also wants to be a supreme moral guardian. I actually think far from aiding religious faith Santorum and his ilk are utterly corrosive to it.

A tip of the feline enumeration rod to commentator PeterT over at Samizdata.

*If I ever find Ricky in my bedchamber he will never stand for anything again. Not even to urinate.

Hip-Hop Diplomacy and the War on Cameras.

It must have seemed like a good idea at the time:”Send an American rap crew on a tour of Pakistan to help build bridges between two countries whose relations have plumbed new depths this year”.

But after being detained by security officials in Rawalpindi and then seeing a major concert cancelled by a venue in Lahore at the last moment, the FEW Collective’s attempt at cultural diplomacy has backfired, emphasising the frosty feelings between two awkward allies.

Well, let’s call a spade a manual earth-removal tool. The most absurdly obvious derangement in international relations is the idea that Pakistan is an ally of the USA. Bridges perhaps need to be built but from Pakistan and not the USA.

On Wednesday, the hip hop troupe from Chicago, was in Karachi preparing for a concert after being forced to abandon its Lahore gig amid allegations the venue had come under pressure to cancel the event.

Only the Telegraph could refer to rappers as “a troupe”.

The Al-Hamra Arts Council claimed US officials had not produced a No Objection Certificate from the Pakistani government.

A what?

However, a spokeswoman for the US embassy in Islamabad insisted that the paperwork was in order.

Paperwork from the embassy for a rap gig? How very rebel!

“We don’t know whether there was pressure or not to hold it or if they just felt uncomfortable,” she said.

While America’s image through much of the Muslim world has been dominated by war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the music that sprang from its inner city black populations in the 1980s is popular everywhere from the West Bank to Kabul.

You got to love the Telegraph for feeling the need to explain what rap is. I mean it’s not like it’s the most dominent form of popular music for the last 30 years.

Rappers such as El General in Tunisia have even helped spread the message of democracy during the Arab Spring this year.

Hip hop diplomacy has become an increasingly important plank of American foreign policy during the past decade as officials try to tap in to the worldwide popularity of rap – just like the jazz tours of the Cold War when Dizzie Gillespie and Benny Goodman were dispatched to counter Soviet propaganda in Africa and the Middle East.
Nowhere is the effort needed more than in Pakistan.

Or more wasted.

In January, a CIA contractor shot dead two men in Lahore.

Then a secret mission to kill Osama bin Laden on Pakistani territory sparked a fresh wave of anti-US anger in May.

Meanwhile, CIA drones continue to pound targets in the country’s lawless tribal belt.
The result is that only 12 per cent of Pakistanis have a favourable opinion of the United States, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center.

Is that really cause and effect? I mean let’s face facts the USA has indulged Pakistan for various reasons over decades and all they got was… Well bin Laden got safe refuge for a decade in Pakistan walking distance from that country’s top military academy. I mean really. It is taking the piss. I am no great fan of Obama but he had to send the SEALS in because the USA’s “key ally in the war on terror” was doing less than nothing. He also has to have the drones prowling over Pakistan’s tribal areas. Basically if Pakistan can’t be arsed to keep it’s house in order then somebody has to. Or perhaps more to the point if they can’t (for whatever reason) deal with their own gaff then they shouldn’t bitch about violations of their sovereignty should they? They can’t have it both ways can they?

In response, the US embassy has hosted a string of touring musicians in order to show a different side of America.

And this worked out…

But within days of their arrival the FEW Collective fell foul of the country’s beady-eyed security services last week when a band member was spotted taking photographs from a US embassy vehicle in Rawalpindi, home to Pakistan’s military headquarters and Benazir Bhutto International Airport.

Yeah, the police state that can’t find in a decade the World’s most wanted man when he’s spitting distance from their foremost military academy but can nick a rapper for taking photos.

They were released only after deleting images from their cameras.

I would argue that the litmus test of freedom is the attitude to cameras. Objections to them are the stock in trade of pecksniff jobsworths. In this respect the UK is going south. The dibble a few years ago caused a German tourist hell for photographing a tube station. The man had an interest in LRT architecture. OK, a minority pursuit but so what? Minority pursuits are what makes our species so magnificent. They are also something despised by the gits that be. They hate everything they don’t understand (and that could fill a Zeppelin Hanger) because they don’t have the understanding to understand that we are all individuals.

Then there is Greece. Recall the plane-spotters a few years back? You know what got me about that one? They were scrobbled on espionage charges (aren’t we both NATO?) for photographing F-16s. Now who might want to know about Greek F-16s… Turkey might. But the Turks oddly enough also fly almost identical F-16s. Turkey also builds F-16s. If there is one thing the Turkish air force know it’s F-16s.

One thing that I hate (no, I despair about) this country is we are heading down the Greek road of anyone with a camera being suspected of something. Anyone with a camera in the vicinity of children is clearly a pervert. But what really bugs me is there is no rhyme nor reason to it – it’s just arbitrary because they can and they need no reason because they are the state. It’s like enforcing a law that bans the wearing of purple hats on Tuesdays. Trust me you would get the likes of PCSOs to hand-out fifty quid fixed penalties without questioning. They might even walk past someone being murdered or raped to do it.

And it isn’t just state-sanctioned. It is pervasive. Ten years ago I could trot around with a camera and nobody would care. Now I get “looks”. I get looks because I use a DSLT (if you don’t know cameras the same as a DSLR which means it looks like a “proper” camera) to take piccies so I am clearly up to no good. Only spies, terrorists, peadophiles and the paparazzi who so cruelly hunted down Diana need a lens that size. We should all make do with the much more discreet camera on our phones. I love that Sony because it’s a cracking camera and I take photos to look at and not upload to Facebook LOL! Anyway, phone cameras are shite. I mean they’re OK for what they are but…

What they are ain’t much.

Of course what has also happened over those years where the private individual has come under increasing suspicion for even carrying an obvious camera the state has rolled out CCTV to an unprecedented level. Odd isn’t it? The private individual is an automatic suspect for having a camera but the state can video you with full impunity from the law. And yes, I meant that carefully. A rational and just polity would not put the state above the law it imposes on the rest of us. It might even obey it’s own laws.

I am no terrorist or spy. I’m just a bloke who is a bit of an f/stop philosopher (a minority hobby like golf or angling but a common enough one – anyway if it was an utterly peculiar one then so fucking what) . I like taking piccies. And I ought to post more. But…

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