Scottish Independence – Promo For Democracy & Non Violent Politics

Holding a rally in Trafalgar Square to demonstrate England’s passionate desire to keep the Scots on board would have been a brilliant idea, if the passionate desire had actually been on show. Had a million people shown up, screaming in support of the Union, it’s possible that such a powerful demonstration of emotional support for our Caledonian Cousins would have swung a few percent of teary eyed waverers in the direction of voting against Independence.

In the event a derisory 5,000 showed up and politely applauded a few of the usual celebrity suspects. How would you read that tepid reaction from north of the border? If I were Scottish, I’d be taking that as confirmation of English indifference and make me more inclined to think “well fuck you too”.

I wish I’d placed a large bet on a Pro-Independence vote a couple of years ago when the odds were more favourable. Still, I have just managed to get odds of 11-4 on a small bet which, given the obvious momentum in the “Yes” camp, actually looks pretty generous to me.

It’s taken me almost as long as a large lump of the Scottish electorate to make up my mind but my excuse is that I don’t have a vote. Nevertheless, I’ve finally come down in favour of Scottish Independence. The turning point for me was actually a throwaway line from Dara O Briain on last week’s “Mock The Week”.

As he implies, we can’t imagine the fathers of the Irish Free State, gearing themselves up for a run-in with the world’s then biggest Empire, being deterred by the mundane issue of what currency they might be stuck with after their victory!

That hits the nail on the head. What has been going on up in Scotland for the last couple of years – and reaches its conclusion in just a couple of days time – is vastly more important than Money.

For the UK, it is the first opportunity for genuine democracy (where “We The People” decide the Issue rather than elect dictators to make decisions on our behalf) since the 1975 referendum on continued membership of the Common Market – as we used to call it when that’s all it was.

One of the major consequences of this prime democratic exercise is likely to be a demand for more of the same. The Scots have been truly “engaged”, on a completely unprecedented scale and it is widely agreed that, as a result, the politicians have paled into the insignificance they deserve. If and when this revolution takes place, Alex Salmond and the SNP can rightly claim a considerable degree of credit for starting the ball rolling and keeping it on course despite some forgivable wobbles; but the credit for putting the ball in the back of the net will belong entirely to the people of Scotland.

That’s a high they’re likely to develop a taste for.

And, if the prospective Scottish democratic revolution “works”, it could drag the rump of the UK along with it. With a thriving democratic and independent Scotland it will be much easier to make the wider case for Democracy. Why on earth (citizens will increasingly ask) should we continue to tolerate elective dictatorship when our immediate neighbours are so obviously benefitting from the practice of putting politicians in their place (advisors, campaign starters, critics, drafters) and “We The People” in our place (Decision Makers) .

And it won’t stop there. Successful secession from such a globally elite Union will embolden those with similar ambitions elsewhere. Which is why, for example, Spain is already so hostile to the notion of Scottish Independence. After all, if it works for the Scots, why not for the Basques? But have you any idea how many separatist movements there are in Europe alone? I gave up counting after 50…

Moving farther afield, have you seen how many American secessionist groups there are? That page lists a couple of dozen. And, as we learn here, some of them are already watching the Scottish experience with considerable interest.

And, famously, north of the US border, we’ve had the long running Québécois campaign. But they’re not unique even in Canada. There are another 8 Canadian campaigns in various states of array – which most of us have never heard of.

Not to mention more than 50 in China, Indonesia, India and elsewhere in Asia, most recent of which are the universally loathed Islamic State, who, like history’s long chain of extreme authoritarians, have convinced themselves they can bully people into long-term compliance with their brutal regime. They’ll learn. Eventually. After another couple of hundred thousand martyrs have fallen to their cause.

We have to hope, for the sake of that extreme example, amongst others, that Scottish Independence will be a Triumph for Democracy and demonstrate to the world at large that really significant change can take place through peaceful means. The worst possible outcome is that they vote themselves free of the United Kingdom and, ten years down the line, have nothing to show for it. That would send exactly the message we don’t want the authoritarians to be able to retweet.

And Dara highlighted the significance of that too:

Scotland has to prove, to all the doubters and doom-merchants that Secession can be Sexy and Democracy can displace Violence. So bugger the Currency, that’s a dream worth voting for.

State-Rape – Penetrating Justice

My first thought when I heard what David Eckert went through was “State Rape”, but I stuck with the title of the video when I posted it in a previous blog.

One of my readers suggested that, though obviously disgusting, abuse that insane was, mercifully, rare. I beg to differ. I googled “State Rape”. I was looking for more evidence of the cavity searches. I’d entirely forgotten about the first story that came up: The imbecilic proposal to force pregnant women in Virginia, Texas, and Iowa to undergo transvaginal ultrasound tests if they were uppity enough to demand abortions.

Yeah! that’ll put em in their place. We’ll consider letting em have their abortion if they’ll just let us rape them first…

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was actually a supporter of that proposal, until someone had the sense to take him aside and explain what a transvaginal ultrasound entailed. Fuckwit.

So that’s one definition of State Rape. Hasn’t happened yet and probably won’t. But cavity searching? That’s now a daily event somewhere between Sea and Shining Sea (although New Mexico seems to be a hot spot). And it’s every bit as brutal and illicit as bog standard Rape. Here’s another couple of examples, where a man and woman were (separately) suspected of carrying drugs and given the full State Rape treatment. And then DESPITE THE FACT THAT NOTHING WAS FOUND in either case, were then BILLED thousands of dollars for being the victims of obviously criminal assault by the State.

Apparently Eckert wasn’t the first New Mexico example. This unnamed woman was State Raped in 2011. And here’s a more recent example; this time from Milwaukee.

How the fuck normal Americans have let it get to this state is a wonder to behold. In a 2012 poll, 30% of Americans actually indicated they’d be prepared to a submit to a “TSA body cavity search!!!”

Just try finding that information anywhere close to a mainstream outlet. Not a chance.

Why not? because even though it’s a trustworthy poll conducted by the highly reputable Harris Poll organisation, the people who commissioned the poll – Infowars – are obviously too far out on the libertarian (American version) fringe to qualify for being taken seriously.

Presumably, if the Dalai Lama discovered, verifiably, a new law of physics, similar mainstream inertia would ensure that it too would be ignored by the “News” organisations, simply on the basis that as a mere religious leader, he has no business asking scientific questions.

It’s a bizarre reaction. Who gives a shit who asks the questions? What matters is what the answers reveal and, in this case of American willingness to let themselves be buggered by the State, those answers are pretty shocking but no surprise.

They are in line with the results of Bob Altemeyer’s findings on the prevalence of Authoritarian Followers, (which I blogged about here). About a quarter of the population fall into that category. They’re the ones who have taken the blue pills with a double helping of Koolade, and still believe that Authority exists to protect them.

So that wasn’t surprising. What did provoke a raised eyebrow was the political split. Altemeyors statistics show a clear authoritarian follower preference for Republicans over Democrats but here they’re evenly split. 31% of republicans will accept State Rape, 33% of democrats and 30% of the independents. Now that’s WEIRD.

Anyway, as I say, you won’t find (well, I couldn’t) that poll reported in a single mainstream source. Not even the populist Daily Mail which loves a bit of salacious America bashing picked it up.

dunno ’bout you, but I think that the fact that 30% of the population of the Land of Free is prepared to let the actors in the biggest Security Theatre on Earth mechanically bugger them is, at least, newsworthy.

Still, some good news on the Eckert case, turns out he was awarded $1.6 million in punitive damages for the illegal assault. That might take the sting out of it for him, and hitting the vicious bastards in the wallet might be the only way America is going to nudge itself back towards being a civil society…

Optional Mortality – The Informed Consent Protocol

It’s time we set the rules for reviving digitally stored humans, once the revival technology has become available. I’m sorry if you had other plans, but this is important.

I don’t usually post responses to my forum comments on this blog but given my recent ramblings on our future as Digital Humans, it seems apt. First off, hat-tip to MrJSSmithy for the nudge. His question (Ah. If you get nagged about the unknown certificate, on the way in to the forum, please allow the “security exception”. Oh, and don’t forget to wipe your feet.) His question forced me to accept that my assumptions (about when we might choose to be revived in digital form) were a) hidden b) possibly unfounded or at least not necessarily universally applicable and c) needed to be made explicit.

There are multiple reasons we need to consider an Informed Consent Protocol, some of which are touched on in the play (Resurrection), where I introduce the notion of Omortality (optional mortality). Other reasons are touched on in my initial reply to Smithy.

While the arrival of the technology capable of sustaining our digital existence is obviously still speculative, it is certainly reasonable to assume that we’ll achieve the prerequisite storage capacity and brain reading techniques required to capture the human brain map well before we achieve the ability to revive that map as an autonomous human clone, psychologically identical to its source, but in a digital environment. Personally I reckon that gap (between the ability to store and the ability to revive) will be at least a few decades. Kurzweil is more optimistic.

When would Sir like to be revived?
In any case we can certainly anticipate that many bitizens will sign up for storage before they can ever know whether it will even be possible for them to be revived. Which means, if and when the revival technology is available we’ll have a backlog of – possibly millions or even hundreds of millions – of dead but digitally stored humans available to be re-activated. One obvious potential ethical issue will be the question of whether and in what circumstances each relevant individual has consented to be revived.

This is the most important issue which I am proposing to tackle with the Informed Consent Protocol. The idea is to allow anyone who opts to be digitally preserved to record, for the benefit of the eventual Revival Team or Computer, the conditions under which they would like to be re-activated and, optionally, the extent of that re-activation. As you may have gathered, I do not regard it as a simple “Yes/No” question.

There are definitely conditions in which I, for one, would not wish to be revived. For instance, if the planet is about to be struck by a massive asteroid or if the current batch of Islamic Terrorists has won their war against the modern world and humanity all lives under a new Caliphate – or any other form of Theocracy. Revival Mr Stottle? Think I’ll pass on this occasion.

Yes, I know that even the option of Revival would almost certainly have disappeared under a Caliphate but, a) I’m merely illustrating the point that there are potential circumstances under which I’d prefer to stay in storage. (Try me again in a coupla hundred years). And b) even (or especially) under a Theocracy, there will be a Resistance movement and it might be them who are trying to revive me.

So the Protocol needs to allow bitizens to set the parameters or conditions under which they would wish or not wish to be re-activated.

and how much of you shall we revive?
There are also potential levels of activation, short of full autonomy, which an individual may wish to accept in preference to full activation. The protocol needs to capture these preferences as well.

I’ve already made it clear that I wouldn’t wish my digital self to wake up in “the wrong sort of future”. But that doesn’t mean that no part of me could be revived without the full Stottle. In a digital environment the options are limited only by our imagination.

One such is a functional avatar, based on me but without the conscious spark (whatever that turns out to be) that makes it “me”. Such an avatar could serve two useful purposes. First, it could answer, on my behalf, any question that I’d be able to answer and could choose to answer or not based on its awareness of whether or not the full “me” would consent to answering. Second, it could identify the presence of the conditions in which I would be happy to be fully activated. And that possibility would make the protocol much easier to implement.

Instead of trying to describe all the possible reasons you may or may not wish to be revived, it would be much more straightforward if you could just say “Revive my Avatar to the point where it is capable of making the decision for me”.

Wake me up when I’m thirsty…
As well as deciding the moment of initial digital re-activation, I have predicted elsewhere that this (functional Avatars) is how future digital humans may well cope with living potential eternal lives. Unlike some, I do not imagine that, after living a few million years, some individuals might become bored and choose voluntary personal extinction. But I can imagine that, in some circumstances (eg travelling to a distant galaxy which might still take millions of years) where individuals might choose to become dormant until or unless their permanently conscious Avatar wakes them up because something interesting is about to happen (or just has).

But even if such Avatars become possible, we still need the Informed Consent Protocol so that each digitally stored human can record their unequivocal consent to the revival of, first, the Avatar and second, subject to the Avatar’s judgement, the fully restored human mind.

The other reason we need the protocol is, of course, that such an Avatar may NOT be possible, so we have to be able to leave some kind of guide to the conditions which would meet our consent.

So with all that in mind, here’s my first stab at the kind of questions you’d have to record your answers to, in order to allow a future Revival Team/Computer to make a reasonable assessment of your willingness to rejoin the human race. I do not intend to design some kind of “form” we’d fill in. I’ll just describe the issues the “form” has to cover. I’ll leave it for the legal eagles to create the paperwork.

Section 1 – Identity.
Obviously the Revival team will need a fool-proof way to identify you as the owner of the relevant digital store. That’ll almost certainly require a cryptographic proof. So a digital notary will verify your identity, record your consent and have it protected on an Immutable Audit Trail. It will include embedding the hash of the digital store (which we can assume to be unique itself) in the document which describes your consent to revival. This will tie the consent to the data. (It might even form part of the key which must be used to decrypt and unlock the data) The crypto-geeks will no doubt improve on that outline as we get closer to needing to store the data.

Section 2 – Avatar consent
Here we’d sign up to allowing an Avatar, judged – in the technical context of the time – capable of representing your wishes, to make the judgement on your behalf as to whether “now” is the right time to revive you. This is obviously a conditional consent based on the existence of technology which makes the Avatars possible and capable of that level of functionality.

Section 3 – Unaided consent
This is the more difficult scenario where we have to try to anticipate, today, all the possible reasons which might exist tomorrow which might deter us from being revived. Or an overriding positive condition which will authorise our revival regardless of any potential obstacles.

However, I don’t think it’s as difficult as it may first appear. Because, in short, you could always decide to go back into hibernation. So you could stipulate that you’ll act, in a sense, as your own Avatar. You’ll wake up, take a look around and decide whether or not to make the awakening permanent or hit the snooze button for another thousand years.

That would only require one condition to be true in order for your revival to be permitted and that condition is simply that the newly awakened you will retain the sole authority on whether and how long you stay re-activated. You might even make that the ONLY condition for your revival. “Don’t wake me up until and unless when I wake up, I can choose to return to indefinite storage”, or the more positive “Wake me up as soon as it becomes possible for me to exercise the option to return to storage”

Section 4 – Arbitrary conditions
Where the first three sections really deal with the technical issues of identification and available functionality, this section needs to deal with non-technical issues which might affect the stored individual’s decision on revival. If the (section 2) Avatar consent is possible, then this section would be unnecessary, but if not, then the individual may need to list the conditions which they consider would block or permit their revival; or should at least be present/absent before attempting revival under (Section 3) unaided consent.

For instance, someone might stipulate that they would only want to be revived if other named individuals had also chosen to be revived. Or, more negatively, if other named individuals had NOT chosen to be revived.

Section 5 – Simultaneous Consciousness and the “Right to Murder”?
This section is the direct result of MrJSSmithy’s question. It is probably not going to be an issue for the first generation of digitally stored humans because it won’t be possible, as mentioned above, to re-activate your stored version until the technology has advanced to make that possible and that is likely, in my view, to be a few decades after we’ve begun to store ourselves in digital form.

But step forward, say, a hundred years from now and there is no obvious reason why your digital clone could not be re-activated as soon as the backup is complete. As I said in the forum, I’ve always been conscious of the myriad of awkward issues this would raise and assumed that we’d avoid the problem by forbidding such activation while the “source” (or “Simulee” as I’ve named it in the forum reply) remained alive. (see the reply for more detail)

That, I now admit, was essentially a personal prejudice. I wouldn’t permit it for my clone, but I can’t think of any technical reason why it would not be possible to have multiple versions of yourself active at the same time. I’m quite sure we will do that deliberately when we ARE digital humans. For example, I can imagine sending a version of myself off to live on the plains of Africa to observe the wildlife in real-time for periods of decades at a time. It might be an advanced Avatar or a full clone. It might have no physical form, or the form of an insect just large enough to fly around with an HD camera, or whatever, and it might link up other versions of me, from time to time to merge experiences.

The question is, would such an arrangement be feasible or “a good idea” while your organic self was still around and gathering experience and data in its own pedestrian organic fashion? The biggest single problem being that, whereas digital versions of yourself could easily choose to merge their experiences, and will thus always comprise the full organic you, plus any new experiences the clone/s gather in their new existence, the traffic is likely to remain very much “one way”. i.e. the organic you will never be able to assimilate the experience of your active digital clone/s…

… and a major consequence of that would be that the inevitable divergence between the personality of source and clone/s may quickly reach the point at which they can no longer be considered the “same person”. Indeed, as I suggest in the forum discussion, the clones might actually become antagonistic to their own source!

For me, therefore, simultaneous consciousness is a big “no no”. But others may be indifferent or even think it’s a good idea. So this final section of the protocol needs to spell out whether, while you remain alive, you would consent to the full activation of the clone. And even that, even for me, is not going to be a simple “yes/no” question.

Attending My Own Funeral
For example, as I say in the same place, I can well imagine circumstances in which my organic self deteriorates into the senescence of old age and dementia robs me of the ability to meaningfully consent to anything. At which point I would be happy for my digital clone to be activated and assume “Power of Attorney” over my organic shell until it shuffles off this mortal coil. Indeed it is the vision of that future which led to my saying somewhere in the distant past “I hope and intend to be one of the first humans to attend (perhaps even conduct!) their own funeral”

Actually I now recognise that to be a bit too optimistic. Although I hope and still expect to survive till the storage technology becomes available, hanging on till revival is also possible is probably a bit of a stretch given that I’m already in my sixties.

Nevertheless, this final section needs to allow the organic source to stipulate the conditions under which activation of the clone could take place during their organic lifetime. And it is actually the most potentially controversial component of the entire protocol.

Essentially, this section needs to cover the issue of whether or not the organic human can “murder” their own digital clone, and even, in the Power of Attorney scenario, permit almost the exact opposite – where the clone, for example, eventually gives the final authority to switch off the life support system for its organic source.

I point out, in the forum reply, that the ONLY reason I would want to activate my own clone while I was both alive and fully functional, is that I would need to be convinced that the clone really was “me”. (I raised the point, first, during a lengthy debate, on whether that was even conceivable)

And that the only way I can currently imagine being sufficiently convinced would be to engage in a fairly lengthy and confidential conversation with my clone to probe it’s conformance with me. For which reason it would obviously have to be activated.

When Does My Clone Achieve Normal “Human Rights”?
But that immediately raises the question of the legal basis on which I can then effectively say, “yup, you’ve convinced me, now go back to sleep”. That, of course, would NOT be murder. (because the clone could eventually be revived again) but if we allow the more extended activation suggested by MrJSSmithy’s question, it raises the possibility, as I’ve already mentioned, of the clone become hostile to the source, or even without such hostility, developing characteristics which so horrify the source that the source decides s/he needs to terminate their own clone. i.e wipe the storage – not just put the clone to sleep. Would we – COULD WE – ever permit that?

I think that’s likely to become a hotter topic once the technology exists and clones have started to be stored. But I can certainly imagine a rule which would encompass the simpler situation described by my own preference.

For a start, given that my own clone would start out as psychologically identical in all respects to me, I have no problem in stating, on behalf of my clone, that I am willing to be put back to sleep after I have convinced myself that, as a clone, I really am “me”. I have no problem further stipulating that if my clone indicates, during the persuasion period, that it has changed its mind and now wishes to remain active, that this should be taken as direct evidence that it is a faulty copy (because it clearly does not mirror acceptance of this crucial condition) and should thus not just be de-activated but destroyed.

The first question, if you like, for the newly activated clone, would thus be: “do you still accept these conditions?” If not, the clone is immediately destroyed, whereas, if it indicates it is still happy with the conditions, then it has already consented to de-activation after persuasion.

But that only really deals with the relatively simple scenario required for the short “period of persuasion” and I don’t anticipate that such periods will even be necessary once the technology has been running long enough for people to trust it without such tests.

So the really difficult question is whether and how we would frame rules to deal with de-activation or destruction after a clone has been allowed to develop its own new life during the lifetime of the organic source. My gut instinct is to avoid that problem by blocking the option, as I would do for my own clone. Once you’ve allowed the clone to become a “different person” you can no longer kill it. The only law I can imagine being consistent with our current notions of autonomy and “human rights” – once a clone has been permitted to diverge to the point where it no longer wishes to become dormant – is one that states, from that point on, the clone is one of us…

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(Feel free to discuss this here or on the forum. You have to be a WordPress member to post comments here and you need to join my forum to add comments there. Be seeing you…)

US Man Raped By Police – Then Billed For It


You know what shocks me more than the “rape” itself? The fact that only 84 people had watched that video before me.

If stuff like that doesn’t go viral, it’s no wonder the Police State of America is becoming normalised. Mind you, that video has an awful lot of competition. Try googling “Police Brutality” youtube and you’ll get around 5 million hits (I just got 4,960,000) so I suppose the discerning observer of the Police State has their work cut out trying to keep up with it all.

Are all those videos about violent American Police? No, only about 90% are exclusively American and I do concede that the results are slanted by the fact that the technology (including access to youtube) is much more likely to be available to the American witnesses and victims than to, say, their Chinese equivalents. But you can also find (a handful of) examples from other “western” nations including the UK, France, Australia and even Sweden, where, of course, the technology is just as prevalent.

That handful of examples from other parts of the “free world” only serves to emphasise just how serious the problem has become in the “Land of The Free”. I’m sure there’s a PhD waiting for the first to make a statistical comparison of the rates of Police Brutality and levels of Incarceration in and around the so-called “democratic” world.

Watching a random sample of the youtube videos is deeply depressing as well as promoting righteous anger (and occasionally incandescent rage), so I don’t recommend it if you have medical or psychological issues. But it is also profoundly educational.

After a while, you begin to recognise patterns. The first to strike me was how many of the state employed thugs have shaven heads and look like regular users of steroids. I’d gamble a moderate sum on the outcome of a random drug test should anyone dare to set one up. If my intuition is right, the steroids might have an important role in the level and prevalence of the aggressive attitudes and physical abuse. Steroids are well-known to promote such attitudes in regular users.

Here’s a couple that illustrate the Steroid look…

first this footage caught on CCTV within what I take to be police premises… (which means they knew they were being filmed but even that didn’t deter them)

jump forward to about 1 min 10 seconds to see the unprovoked attack by the steroidal cop on this teenage girl walking away from an incident in this one:

this one features another steroidal cop punching a mentally handicapped woman on a bus – again despite full awareness that he was being filmed:

Perhaps the least steroidal ones (indicated by retention of hair?) retain some human-like intelligence. This one, for example shows signs of understanding that performing his crime in front of a live camera is sub-optimal, and has even worked out how to switch it off before launching an attack, and then switch it back on! Like this:

it’s good to know, though, that the citizens aren’t as passive as the lack of public outrage implies. Checkout out these citizens’ resistance to the bullies at the illegal immigration checkpoints last year:

But the prize for the cleverest “resistance” (only just short of “These are not the Droids you’re looking for”) is this “threaten em with the bible” tactic:

All the above are excellent examples of why I’ve been banging on about Trusted Surveillance for the best part of a decade. The Police have definitely got the message. Which is why it’s hardly surprising that the Police State Bullies in some of the more primitive States have been doing their best to criminalise videos like the above. For example:

But elsewhere, Police are beginning to get the more positive message – that recording everything (deliberately rather than accidentally) both constrains police brutality and increases citizen compliance. In Rialto California, where they’ve been trying this out for a year or so, complaints have already dropped 88% and the use of Force (by the cops) by 60%. Now that’s a real improvement in Homeland Security…

Today is October 10th, 2012 and I am ready to go to prison.

Thus spake Leah Lynn Plante just over a year ago.

The Empire obviously broke her spirit because they let her out again a few days later, while the other two refuseniks who were kidnapped by the State at the same time, were only released five months later, when the judge admitted that the State bullying had failed to break their spirits and that he could see no further point in detaining them.

Leah, it is rumoured, co-operated with the grand jury and has thus, apparently, since been shunned by her erstwhile anarchist companions. I, for one, salute her bravery. Not many of us would dare to confront the Bully State to the extent she did and the fact that their bullying and intimidation appears to have frightened her into compliance is certainly no basis for condemnation or even disdain.

But I’d be fascinated to know what she revealed. I’m betting it was buggerall because she obviously isn’t any kind of terrorist – unlike the state employed thugs who broke into her home, kidnapped her and locked her up in the name of the scandalous “War on Terror”

So…read the statement, watch the video, then ask yourself, “who, exactly, are the terrorists in this story?”

here’s a more detailed discussion of the implications of what the modern McCarthyites are up to:

now consider the irony of the source of that video. And in case you distrust the message because you might distrust the messenger, remember that the story is on the public record because at least one “proper” newspaper did report the facts and even the negative and seditious comments by Neil Fox, president of the National Lawyer’s guild. It’s also quite well summarised, with references,here as usual. So we know it really happened. Yet hardly any of us DO know…

I was, initially, concerned that this was old news. A year old to be almost precise. Then I thought, well I didn’t know about it before I “stumbled” it tonight and it’s right in my target zone. Then I looked around for other coverage of what ought to have been fairly major police state outrage and found almost nothing. Fewer than 150 people have watched that video before now, so you’re an early adopter. I couldn’t find any evidence of more than a few thousand views of other versions of the same thing and, as for the mainstream, as usual, nada… Indeed just google “leah-lynn plante” “grand-jury” which terms ought to appear in any serious reporting of the story. It returned a little under 37,000 results, none of which included, in the first five pages, any recognisable commercial or state media. Bizarrely not even that Seattle Times piece appears in the early pages and it definitely contains those search terms!

Somehow they’ve managed to hide the story in plain sight. Which is why it’s probably as much news to you as it was to me.

I find this particular disturbing. One of the observations I made, back in 2005, in the first comment I wrote for my original “Police State of America” collection was that one feature that gave us “hope” for the American condition was that – at least – all its problems were being reported by other Americans, revealing a considerable level of resistance and dissent.

Will we now have to start relying on the Russians to host discussion of the continuing American descent into State brutality against its own citizens?

NSA Backlash limps into action


Kudos to the Real News for that interview.

I’m still surprised and disappointed at the miserably subdued backlash against what the American authoritarians and their poodles have been getting away with against the citizens of the world.

But perhaps I’m just impatient and the Resistance is building. Today I hear that there are demonstrations in the streets of Washington, under the banner “Stop Watching Us“. No word yet on how many turned up.

That matters. If it’s a handful, the regime will read that as a green light to continue. It would need to be a several hundred thousand to have serious political impact.

Authoritarian defenders are crawling around trying to find ways to defend the indefensible. One of the most cringeworthy was Cameron’s puerile posing at yesterday’s EU summit

“What Snowden is doing – and to an extent, what the newspapers are doing in helping him doing what he is doing – is frankly signalling to people who mean to do us harm how to evade and avoid intelligence and surveillance,” he said. “That is not going to make our world safer.”

What the fuck has that got to do with listening in on Angela Merkel’s private telephone conversations?

The answer, of course, is “nothing whatsoever” but they haven’t got any kind of justification for that abuse, so, instead they fall back on a childlike reference to the reason they routinely give for snooping on everyone else, in the hope that somehow, the “bewildered herd” will conflate the two issues and conclude that spying on 35 world leaders is all necessarily part of the “War on Terror”

Well those 35 and many other members of the international political classes are beginning to smell the coffee. And they’re beginning to feel their blood pressure mounting as they take on board the extent of American (and British) hubris. This has already resulted in growing demands for NSA-proof communication systems between them and, as you’ll have seen in that Video, countries like Brazil are going a whole stage further and demanding communication channels which bypass America altogether.

This is a very welcome development for the politicians at least. Let’s hope they remember that any secure sauce considered good enough for the political goose is equally good for the citizen ganders.

None of the so-called “Revelations” are actually new…
Coincidentally, “Nothing Whatsoever” is also the answer to the question: how much does the average politician, including the British Prime Minister, understand about “Security”? He and many others we’ve seen squirming in recent weeks have frequently repeated that absurd argument quoted above.

As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, NOTHING in the Snowden revelations is new or unexpected. We have been able to read about it for years, and not just in conspiracy fetish forums where they don’t believe Man has ever walked on the Moon, but in well documented and highly respected sources like the trilogy of exposes written by James Bamford over the past 30 years (“Puzzle Palace” 1983, “Body of Secrets” 2002 and, with specific reference to all the web snooping, “Shadow Factory” 2009)

All Snowden has added to the picture is detail (like the name of the relevant program – PRISM) and some notion of scale. Mostly he has simply confirmed what we’d read in Shadow Factory. (Actually, in my case, I was 2/3 of the way through that book when the Snowden revelations hit the street. That made it somewhat more pressing and relevant!)

So the notion that the “evil-doers” didn’t already know this is utterly stupid and exactly the kind of misapprehension that those who do understand Security would NOT be labouring under. Such naiveté might have been widespread among terrorists at the turn of the century but after 12 years of targeted drone strikes and other successful assassination attempts, the spooks KNOW that their main genuine targets are very aware of the need for secure communications and, almost certainly, avoid using the web altogether (at least not for operational communications).

The only “terrorists” who are going to be caught through their web activity are the terrorist equivalent of those “script kiddies” who created a bunch of irritating but mostly harmless malware in the Nineties and Naughties. They’re the “wannabe jihadists” who, even if they aren’t caught, are rarely going to have the aptitude and experience to pose real threats.

Exposing the scale of the NSA dragnet has, therefore, done “nothing whatsoever” to alert the real bad guys. Which is not, however, to say that the exposure doesn’t help the terrorists. It does, but obviously the spooks haven’t bothered to tell the Prime Minister and other politicians how. Perhaps they think it’s too complicated for him and the rest of the bewildered herd to grok. Or perhaps they’re too embarrassed to admit that they’ve shot themselves in both feet.

How Snowden HAS Helped the Terrorists…
Here’s how Snowden’s high-profile confirmation is going to make life easier for the terrorists and the few other genuine anti-social bastards (like the paedophile network, or people traffickers) we really do need the security services to try to keep tabs on.

At the moment, none of the serious targets will ever be caught discussing anything (significant) online in plain text. If they use the web at all they’ll be using adequate encryption, almost certainly beyond NSA’s capacity to break. But it’s unlikely they’ll even use much in the way of encrypted emails because they will also be aware that even if their messages cannot be read, traffic analysis and the so-called “metadata” we keep hearing about provides a huge amount of significant data on its own, even without knowing the content.

The NSA have huge programs designed to trace the networks of connections between ANY given bunch of targets. As you can read in that link, they (and others) can easily create ad hoc network diagrams for any given targets. But they live in a “target rich environment”, so they have to spend most of their time focussed on those most likely to be sharing sensitive data. Thus they’re most interested in the connections between users of encrypted email. Because, they reason, if the senders are hiding something, it is probably worth reading, and definitely worth knowing who is talking to who.

And, at the moment, tracing those connections and compiling the relevant “organisation chart” is relatively simple. I doubt if, even globally, more than a hundred thousand email users regularly securely encrypt their messages. And mapping the links for that hundred thousand or so is well within the NSA reach.

But a major consequence of Snowden’s leaks is already beginning to be visible as the number of users of serious encryption begins to rise. And some significant political and commercial muscle is going into the mix. For example, Brazil, as we’ve heard, is now demanding a secure email system for their politicians and it’s quite likely they’ll make it available and recommend it for their citizens.

German entrepreneurs, meanwhile, have already come up with a partial solution and appeared within hours of the Merkel revelations, to exploit the advertising opportunity for their SecuSmart micro SD card “encryption dongle” – available for all smartphone users and in use by the German Government since July; which might be why we’re now hearing that Merkel was targeted from 2002 up until June this year. Once the card was fitted, NSA would have lost their ability to bug her – although not necessarily their ability to track who she was calling or being called by. Any communications between two users fitted with those cards can at least be confident that the content of their conversations is not being overheard (providing, of course, that the phones themselves haven’t been tampered with and they’re not bugged in any other way)

We can confidently expect a rash of genuinely secure phone and email products to appear on web pages near you in the near future. Who knows, Google and some of the other major players might even tweak their own services to make them snoop proof (by giving users the ability to add their own secret keys).

So there is a very real prospect that within, say, 5 years, instead of a hundred thousand secure emailers, there will be a hundred million and, as any fule kno, the complexity of a network diagram is proportional not to the number of nodes, but the square of that number (“Metcalfe’s Law”). So the NSA task isn’t going to be a mere thousand times more difficult, but around a million. And even their shiny new Utah Repository isn’t going to be able to cope with that.

Which means that it will shortly become much safer for terrorists and others to use their own encrypted emails. Fish are always safer swimming in the sea. Up till now, they’ve been forced to swim in a rather small pond and have, thus, been easy to target with a hand-held net. Snowden’s revelations, with the help of those media not afraid to talk truth to power, have already achieved far more exposure than Bamford’s. His book is currently languishing at number 72,169 in the Amazon sales rankings, which I reckon must mean that probably fewer people have so far read his (much more detailed) exposure than my guesstimate of the number of users who routinely encrypt their mail.

So the sharks we really do need to keep an eye on are about to get the comforting camouflage of another hundred million or so fish and the reasonably sized Sea they need to swim in more safely. This is what they call, in the trade, Blowback. Nice one NSA…

Ad Blocking Software – Strongly Recommended

Check out this pleading inanity from one of my (otherwise) favourite sites

Dearie me, am I to understand that it’s a problem for Physorg that I choose not to conform?

Idiots like this just don’t get it. Some of us are not just immune to advertising, we actively and passionately object to it as a manipulative abuse of bandwidth.

This antipathy is more prevalent, perhaps, in UK citizens than most because we have the Beeb, producing consistently high standards of broadcasting without commercial breaks. Before we had our hard-drive backed digital TV services we often had to wait two hours before getting to pee.

Nowadays, we can just pause the program, which neatly eliminates the one advantage that commercial breaks could boast. And boy does it make for a massive culture shock when we are exposed to American TV. That culture must be behind the sentiments expressed by this drivel.

They clearly believe it is their god given right to advertise to me. As my regular reader will know, I obviously don’t believe in god given rights. And, as it happens, I don’t believe in human rights either. I believe in Liberty – which is merely the absence of constraint – and Reciprocity – treat others as you would wish to be treated in return. That combination covers every conceivable ethical question you’ll ever confront; including whether or not to tolerate intrusive commercials on a web page.

And I see absolutely nothing which justifies any constraint whatsoever on my ability to install Adblock and not just ignore your adverts but remain blissfully unaware of their existence. Adblock is a free Firefox add-on – strongly recommended if you’re as allergic to ads as I am. And those who might be inclined to follow my recommendation will not confuse the previous sentence with “advertising” because they will know I have absolutely nothing to gain by that recommendation other than the knowledge I am spreading a little more contentment. My motives, are, therefore, entirely honorable. As I’m sure is true even of some commercials. But not many…

What Physorg and those who think like that obviously don’t understand is that if I was forced to suffer their sites with ads, I would simply exercise my liberty to avoid visiting those sites. How would that improve the human condition?

Dorks.

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