2007: The Continuing Death of Personal Freedom?
I strongly suspect that 2007 will be seen in hindsight as the final skirmish in the losing fight for personal freedom in North American society. After the supposedly resurgent Congressional Democrats fail to halt the slide towards complete government control of personal information (will they even try?), even the professional Pollyannas of the world will forsake all hope.
The information revolution has always been driven by corporations' and governments' need to know everything about everyone. September 11th was brilliantly used as an accelerator of a trend that had been building for a generation or more. There are plenty of examples to be found under the category heading Government Intrusion in the left sidebar. This particular note is prompted by a story in the London Daily Telegraph of the first of the year.
"Britons flying to America could have their credit card and email accounts inspected by the United States authorities following a deal struck by Brussels and Washington. By using a credit card to book a flight, passengers face having other transactions on the card inspected by the American authorities. Providing an email address to an airline could also lead to scrutiny of other messages sent or received on that account ... Not only will such material be available when combating terrorism but the Americans have asserted the right to the same information when dealing with other serious crimes.
In October, Brussels agreed to sweep away the "bureaucratic hurdles" preventing airlines handing over this material after European carriers were threatened with exclusion from the US. The newly-released document sets out the rules underpinning that deal. As a result the Americans are entitled to 34 separate pieces of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data — all of which must be provided by airlines from their computers. Much of it is routine but some elements will prove more contentious, such as a passenger's email address, whether they have a previous history of not turning up for flights and any religious dietary requirements ... Material compiled by the border authorities can be shared with domestic agencies. It can also be on a "case by case" basis with foreign governments.
Shami Chakrabarti, the director of the human rights group Liberty, expressed horror at the extent of the information made available. 'It is a complete handover of the rights of people travelling to the United States,' she said ...'It is pretty horrendous, particularly when you couple it with our one-sided extradition arrangements with the US,' said Miss Chakrabarti. It is making the act of buying a ticket a gateway to a host of personal email and financial information. While there are safeguards, it appears you would have to go to a US court to assert your rights."
Chris Grayling, the [British Conservative Party transport spokesman], said: 'Our government and the EU have handed over very substantial powers to gain access to private information belonging to British citizens'."
This particular story isn't any different or more intrinsically important than many others, I guess (American citizens will no doubt be gratified to learn that this kind of data collection has already been applied to them for years). But it seems somehow symbolic that it should be front and centre at the very beginning of this new year.
Got back into town late last night. Perhaps I'll write some more about the cruise and New Orleans later, but suffice it to say right now that the weather wasn't great but the cruise was even better than last year. Plus we followed the Queen Mary 2 from port to port around the Caribbean -- she is quite some ship up close.
We spent a few anxious days watching news of the storm developing over Denver, through which we were scheduled to transit yesterday. When we got there -- on time from New Orleans -- it seemed that the airport was the only thing still working in the Denver area. No problem.
While we were away some rat broke into our house. Looks like they were just after quick sale items as they stole some of my wife's jewellry and the pocket change we save. Computers, TV, DVDs, etc were all still here. Guess we should feel lucky about that.
And Away We Go!
We are off again, to the Caribbean.
Y'know, I love Vancouver with a deep passion, but I just need to get away for a week or two this time of year. I was walking around this afternoon, getting a haircut, shopping for dinner, and the spitting drizzly rain was blowing in my face. It wasn't that cold, but it wasn't that pleasant either. Time to leave and sit in the sun for a while.
This time we are sailing out of New Orleans. I'm looking forward to seeing the city after Katrina. On Saturday morning we will be having breakfast at Brennan's -- and I can hardly wait!
Under the consumer-capitalist path we have chosen, it is no accident and no surprise to find the following story ...
literally sharing space with this ...
The bottle of champagne costs more than the average Zimbabwean will earn in their lifetime. Is this really the best we can do?
It's A Stretch
It is hard to imagine any fiction writer getting away with this: The world's tallest man -- a Chinese herder at 7' 9" -- helps veterinarians by using his very long arms to reach inside dolphins and remove bits of plastic the animals have swallowed when chewing the edges of their pool.
"Attempts to use surgical instruments to remove the plastic failed because the dolphins' stomachs contracted in response to the instruments, the China Daily newspaper reported. Veterinarians then decided to ask for help from Bao Xishun, a 7-feet-9 herdsman from Inner Mongolia with 41.7-inch arms, state media said ... Chen Lujun, the manager of the Royal Jidi Ocean World aquarium, told The Associated Press that the shape of the dolphins' stomachs made it difficult to push an instrument very far in without hurting the animals ... 'When we failed to get the objects out we sought the help of Bao Xishun from Inner Mongolia and he did it successfully yesterday,' Chen said. 'The two dolphins are in very good condition now'."
Life is forever interesting.
Pinochet is Dead
There is breaking news that Pinochet has died. Finally, the devil reclaims his own.
There is a meme in science fiction B-movies where the village or town or nation has been taken over by aliens or zombies who look just like us. Outsiders coming into town can't tell the difference between the aliens and the townsfolk, and the law is definitely NOT on their side. It's fiction, right?
In the desert twin town of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah, with a shared police department, most of the 9,000 population are followers of Warren Jeff's polygamous and legally-challenged Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. These followers consider Jeffs to be a prophet and a tenet of their faith is total obedience to his commands. Fred Barlow, police chief of the twin towns, recently wrote to Jeffs -- facing trial for rape in a case that centres on a forced marriage he ordered on a teenaged girl -- to confirm his allegiance:
"I would first like to acknowledge you as the one man that was and is called of God to stand at the head of his priesthood and the Kingdom of God on the earth in this day and time ... I love you ... and know you have the right to rule in all aspects of my life. Without priesthood I am nothing ... I am praying for you to be protected and yearn to be with you again. I and all of the officers have expressed our desire to stand with you and the priesthood."
This is the Chief of Police writing to a man who was recently featured on the FBI's Most Wanted Fugitive List. Can you imagine life in these places if you are not a Fundamentalist Mormon? I'm sure it really would be like living a B-movie.
The Iraq Study Group Yawn
Daddy Bush's old guys came in with their report today. Old, rich, white politicians the lot of them, not a Middle East specialist among them. The report doesn't give any answers, and certainly doesn't point a specific way forward. Bush the son will probably reject it anyway; and I doubt that Tony Snow has the nous to make the rejection more diplomatic. What a waste of time.
Ten more American soldiers dead today.
Not Considered Newsworthy
The basic truths of Ed Herman and Noam Chomsky's Propaganda Model have rarely been displayed so decisively as in the case of Demetrius Crocker. This white liberterian-racist extremist from Tennessee has been sentenced to thirty years in prison for attempting to buy a chemical weapon and for planning explosive murder.
"The 40-year-old farmhand and father of two was convicted of accepting what he thought were ingredients to make Sarin nerve gas and a block of C-4 explosive from undercover agents in October 2004 ... In all, Crocker was convicted on five charges: one count of attempted possession of a chemical weapon, one count of inducing another person to acquire a chemical weapon, one count of possession of stolen explosives, one count of possession of explosive material with intent to harm an individual or damage or destroy a building, and one count of possession of an unregistered destructive device. During the trial, prosecutors introduced video- and audio-taped conversations that Crocker had with undercover agents, laced with profanity, racial slurs and Crocker's open hatred of all things to do with the government."
Have you heard of this case? No? Can you imagine the splash coverage this would have received if Crocker's name had been Abdullah Mohammed, his skin was olive, and he wore a fierce black beard? CNN, Fox, all the main stream whinos would have grabbed this case as another excuse for sensationalist coverage of the Islamic threat. But the guy's white and he only seems to want to blow up black people, so we don't need to hear about it, I guess.
Have you heard of this case? No? Can you imagine the splash coverage this would have received if Crocker's name had been Abdullah Mohammed, his skin was olive, and he wore a fierce black beard? CNN, Fox, all the main stream whinos would have grabbed this case as another excuse for sensationalist coverage of the Islamic threat. But the guy's white and he only seems to want to blow up black people, so we don't need to hear about it, I guess.It is just another of those Zero-Some games I've written about before: -- like zero tolerance in the War on Some Drugs, this is a War on Some Terror. And as the Propaganda Model correctly predicts, the media is used to keep us on focus. Shame on them.