Monday, December 17, 2007
17 Dec 2007
The culture and Islamic guidance ministry has relaxed its hostile policy towards western pop music by giving De Burgh, 59, permission to stage a concert in Tehran next year. He is expected to play in a 12,000-seater venue with an Iranian band, Arian, with whom he has recorded a song, A Melody For Peace.
Arian's manager, Mohsen Rajabpour, said the singer - an ambassador to the UN's anti-malnutrition programme - planned a preparatory trip to Iran before the Iranian new year next March.
Approval for the concert comes amid growing intolerance of western culture under Iran's Islamist president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. CDs by internationally popular acts have become harder to obtain while the government has pressed state broadcasters to favour Iranian over western music, some of which has been denounced as satanist.
But De Burgh's relatively uncontroversial persona has apparently persuaded the authorities to draw a distinction between him and more exotic performers. Officials were unavailable to comment yesterday on whether the lyrics to Lady in Red might be considered a bit steamy.
They may also have been persuaded by his description in 2002 of Iran as "one of those countries I would love to visit, not only for historical reasons but also for the fact that I believe that music is an international language and deserves to be heard all over the world".
Lesser known acts have already managed to play live to Iranian fans. Henrik Nagy, a Swedish-born rock musician, played at Tehran's Niavaran Palace shortly after Ahmadinejad took office in 2005.
Pop concerts are rare in Iran and have to be approved by the culture and Islamic guidance ministry, which scrutinises lyrics and musical style for "un-Islamic" influences. Many artists only perform instrumental pieces to avoid giving offence. Some bands also play illicit gigs in "underground" venues, such as car parks, an offence that can result in imprisonment.
The authorities have approved western classical musical. Last August, the Osnabruck Symphony Orchestra became the first western orchestra to play in Iran since the revolution.
The music and film industry continues to pursue its idea of a politically "corrected" Internet - one that they imagine could protect their old business models without requiring any extra costs on their part.
This time, the fix is Internet-wide filtering. In a memo to European policy-makers, the International Federation of Phonographic Industries has called upon ISPs in Europe to filter the content sent across their networks, block protocols used by their customers, and cut off access to persistently infringing sites from the Net (you can read their full memo here). Left unsaid in it was the obvious implication: if ISPs aren't willing to comply, EU regulators should force the ISP's hand.
Disturbingly, European politicians seem open to the idea of ISPs policing and interfering with their customers' communications on behalf of rightsholders. Last month, the European Parliament's Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) tabled an amendment to a Parliamentary report that changed an innocuous request to "rethink the critical issue of intellectual property", into a call for "internet service providers to apply filtering measures to prevent copyright infringements".
This week, EFF Europe sent a letter to the members of the Culture and Education Committee, whose original report the ITRE Commitee was amending. We pointed out that some of the groups hardest hit by blanket filtering measures Internet would be artists and teachers themselves. Pre-emptive blocking and filtering by machines could make no evaluation of whether the transmitted content is permitted by the limitations and exceptions carved out for those groups in copyright law. IFPI says that all "unlicensed" files should be blocked: in other words, researchers using the quotation exception, teachers using education exceptions, or artists using their rights to parody or pastiche, would have to beg for a license or find their conversations banned from the Net.
Building such filtering and censorship tools is not just bad for creators and education, though; it's bad for society. Any country that has a centralized system in place to pry into all its citizen's private communications, and then pre-emptively sever those which it deems "unsuitable", creates both a very disturbing precedent, and a dangerously powerful tool vulnerable to misuse. Perhaps the music industry's European lobbyists have lost sight of the serious collateral damage their proposals would cause, but European citizens and their elected policy-makers should not.
Police could not find any fingerprints on Dr Kelly's 'suicide' knife
Fresh doubts were raised over the suicide of Dr David Kelly after it emerged that no fingerprints were found on the knife he supposedly used to kill himself.
The Hutton Inquiry into the death of the Ministry of Defence weapons expert ruled that he slashed one of his wrists with a blunt garden knife and took an overdose of pills.
But the campaigning Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker has carried out his own investigation after forensic experts questioned the official version of events.
He has called for the case to be re-opened after Thames Valley Police revealed that no fingerprints were found on the knife.
The Lewes MP made the discovery after submitting a Freedom of Information request to the force.
The lack of fingerprints is especially strange as police records also revealed the germ warfare expert was not wearing any gloves when he died – nor were any found at the scene of his death.
Mr Baker said: 'It is one of the things that makes me think Dr Kelly was murdered.
'The angle you pick up a knife to kill yourself – there would be fingerprints. Someone who wanted to kill himself wouldn't go to the lengths of wiping the knife clean of fingerprints.
'And wearing gloves would seem very odd when you are about to cut your own wrists. It is very strange.'
Mr Baker is also suspicious about the cut to Dr Kelly's wrist.
It completely severed a tiny blood vessel called the ulnar artery, which is deep in the wrist and protected by nerves and tendons.
It is highly unlikely anyone without a blood-clotting defect would bleed to death from a single cut to this artery.
It would have required unusual force to cut through the tendons, particularly with a blunt gardening knife, and it would have been very painful.
To ascertain just how unusual the injury was, Mr Baker asked the Office of National Statistics how many people in the UK died in 2003 from a cut to the ulnar artery.
He was told that Dr Kelly was the only one. The scientist was found dead in woodland near his home in Southmoor, Oxfordshire, in July 2003 after becoming trapped at the centre of a vicious war of words between the Government and the BBC.
His death came days after he was unmasked as the source of a Today programme report alleging Labour had 'sexed up' a dossier outlining the case for war in Iraq.
The document had famously claimed that Saddam Hussein could launch a nuclear or biological weapons strike on Britain within 45 minutes.
Dr Kelly, a father of three, was grilled on TV by MPs on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.
His widow, Janice, claimed her husband had been put under 'intolerable pressure'.
But Lord Hutton exonerated the Government and ruled that Dr Kelly's death was a suicide – leading to accusations that the inquiry had been a whitewash.
Independent doctors have pointed to discrepancies in the post-mortem examination results.
They say neither the cut to Dr Kelly's wrist nor the drugs he took were enough to kill him.
Friends and relatives said the doctor had shown no suicidal tendencies, and had been looking forward to his daughter's wedding.
However, Mrs Kelly remains convinced that her husband killed himself and refused to comment on the latest development.
A Thames Valley Police spokesman said: 'It has been confirmed that there were no fingerprints on the knife whatsoever. This however does not change the official explanation of his death.'
~ Link ~
" ... The simplest summation of the overall strategy I propose is this:
1. Destabilize Existing Structure
2. Minimize Destructive Backlash
3. Establish Robust Communication
To this end, I propose 10 steps which form a conceptual toolkit. Perhaps that’s a euphemism for “disorganized pile of shit,” but I feel strongly that these are all relevant and useful:
1. Practice is repetition is preparation is power.
Can you win a fight? Can you control a situation enough to escape? Can you outrun police? I’m not saying you need to be able to knock someone out like Brad Pitt, but I am saying self-defense is a core life skill. Without it, you’re not effective. I recommend Aikido and Tai Chi to all living humans, unconditionally.
Establish meaningful and beneficial routines. Our culture is a constant pulse of imposed rhythms and rituals that we need to actively fight against to maintain clarity and effectiveness. Learning any skill set is amazingly simple: learn about it, then try it out until you get it. That iron-clad formula will guide you through anything, from juggling to fellatio to meditation.
2. Create situations that cannot be controlled.
I don’t propose that because it’s punk rock, but because I believe it’s a solid strategy. Ideally, in any confrontation, you want control of the situation. However, we’re talking about us, you and me as individuals, taking on the global power structure of Earth in 2007 for control of our planet. We are not in control of the situation, it is dumb to assume we could be. So go for the next best thing—be totally unpredictable, escalate chaos and noise, and create a situation that nobody could possibly control.
This is basically an unspoken bet with your opponent: “I am giving up control of this situation because I am faster, smarter and stronger than you.” Embrace chaos and leverage chaos, because what cannot be predicted cannot be controlled. Only a lawyer would pretend otherwise.
3. Do not allow yourself to be controlled by situations.
What do you do if someone puts a loaded gun in your face? Sure, that’s a heavy situation, but do you panic? I propose you remain calm and ask the human with the gun what they want. There is never any reason to panic. Self-assembling nanotech hunter-destroyer clusters swarming thousands of feet high, raining down human blood and internal organs, is still not a valid reason to panic. Panic is helpless idiot fear. In high stakes situations, you need to be calm and focused.
Horrible and amazing things will happen in the next five years, but you’re going to survive and maintain, just like humans always do. You yourself should make peace with death. I mean that honestly, not being sarcastic or macabre—it’s important for psychological health to keep your death in perspective. Avoiding it always leads to complications, and as I will discuss later, denial of death has been shown to make people more suggestible, afraid, and prone to violence.
4. Seek information, avoid arguments.
The only person responsible for getting you trustworthy information is you. This involves a great deal of work. Am I seriously advocating that you spend hours a day just sitting around learning stuff? Absolutely yes, I am. The wonderful Jennifer Bowen introduced me to the phrase “good company is kept discussing good ideas—not people.”
The internet is insanely effective for rapidly accessing high volumes of high quality information. It’s also a great way to spend four hours checking your email, watching porn, or getting into pointless arguments with total strangers. We all have egos, we all get pissed off occasionally, but don’t do that online: get up immediately and use that anger to lift some free weights.
5. Seek predictive models, avoid explanatory models.
I propose that it’s more important to have a general sense of what’s coming up next, than to have a precise picture of what’s going on now. The global power structure is not a monolithic, static object: it is constantly shifting, and while we focus on one tentacle, seven more will be taking advantage of our ignorance. An accurate history of this power structure is far less valuable than knowing how they operate, and what their assumptions are.
Remember, we’re living on the same planet. No amount of secret insider knowledge will spare you the consequences of catastrophic storms, toxic pollution, solar and lunar cycles, space weather radiation, etc. The global power structure has to respond and adapt to the world it claims to control, use the cycles of nature against them.
This is a massive source of power that few activists seem to be aware of: for the past three centuries, governments, militaries and corporations have been waging a very literal War Against Nature, attempting to control what they cannot understand. Recent documents like the UK Ministry of Defense report “Global Trends 2007-2036” make it clear that those in power cannot predict the short-term consequences of worldwide toxic pollution. They are scrambling to prepare for a future crisis they cannot plan for. You can, though.
6. Become an autonomous cell.
Do you realize that most of what “intelligence analysts” do is just read through publicly available media and look for patterns? Are you familiar with the concept, technique and theory behind “asymmetric warfare?” What do you think military analysts mean when they predict a future of “constant low-intensity urban conflict?” Is it signifigant that the US government has a long track record of inflitrating, subverting and murdering counter-culture icons and revolutionary leaders?
As Peter J. Carroll observed in Psybermagick: “In practice the power of any conspiracy rises and falls in inverse proportion to the power of its internal conspiracies. Mutual guilt and bribery mainly hold together conspiracies whose ideologies command insufficient loyalty, but this makes them vulnerable.” Take advantage of your opponents paranoia, use their need for control against them.
Autonomy also implies economic freedom, good health, and secure access to food. Shelter can of course be communal and improvised—in many climates, shelter is barely nescessary most of the year. Although I’m essentially advocating that we take the Army recruiting slogan, “an army of one,” further than they themselves ever will, I’m not avocating turning your back on anyone. I’m advocating that you work for your community, independently and perhaps invisibly.
7. Don’t be a dickhead, and love thy neighbor.
It’s the only rational approach to life: do your best to be nice. By doing so, you make life easier for those around you, you reduce physical stress that wears on your own body, and you will often find yourself reaping rewards at random. Some people call this “karma,” other folks call this “emergent properties of complex networks.”
Be nice to your neighbors. Help them out for no reason, refuse to accept money for doing so. Partly because real charity is subversive these days. Also, in 2007, you do not want the cops called on you, period. You truly do the world a favor when you purge yourself of terms like “sheeple” and “the herd”—I’ve also learned, through hilarious personal experience, that referring to taxpaying citizens as “slaves” will never work out for you.
There is nothing wrong with being selfish, only being dumb. Dumb selfish people look for simple self-benefit, smart selfish people look for open-ended, mutually beneficial situations. If you can improve your community, you have also improved your personal power base and your chances for long-term success. That’s not “public service,” just science, math and common sense.
8. Invest in tools and share them subversively.
The old Industrial Revolution plan for social control was simple. Wealthy families owned all the “capital goods”—the machines and factories that make consumer goods. So they used that power to hire poor people to work for them, in exchange for being able to purchase some of the “consumer goods” they themselves made. Things have changed a lot in 2007, because the line between capital and consumer goods has blurred almost completely. You can launch a record label with about $5000 and be pressing your own CDs, for instance.
Technology is magick. I think that’s become clear enough to just leave that as a statement. We now have the tools for invisibility, weather control, human cloning and burning entire cities to the ground with a single missile. We will soon have the tools for universal translation, undoing one of Jehovah’s major curses as chronicled in Genesis 11. It’s vitally important that us fringe weirdos get ahold of all these amazing future toys before they get turned into future weapons against us.
Sharing is subversive. Communal access to important tools is subversive. Growth is a sign of a healthy economy, profit is a sign of a sick one. Break the profit cycle everywhere you can. Nobody will go pay for a service or tool when they can use an equally good one locally, for free. You would be amazed how low overhead can be when maintenance is your only expense. You would be amazed how well you can maintain tools and facilities if you’re willing to put in work.
9. Become a Beacon of Insane Hope
Yeah, perhaps I’m reaching with this one, but I mean it emphatically. There is no shortage of people telling me how fucked I am, but I’ve spent the better part of a year tracking down people who are talking about solutions, comparing technique, and putting in work towards something better. I want to talk to people about seed bombs, quantum microdots, urban farming, water purification, anything that can improve reality, here and now.
There’s strong evidence that fear and anger are actively used as tools of manipulation and social control: the White House spent $1.6 billion dollars in 2006 on “public relations.” This is a signal that needs to be counteracted, becacause based on psychology experiments, evoking the concept of death alters human perception. People become more dogmatic, nationalist and likely to support violence. This is based on the research of Sheldon Solomon, Jeff Greenberg, and Tom Pyszczynski, and you can find more information searching for the phrase “Terror Management Theory.”
I am not advocating violence to any extent. Perhaps this is the strangest concept in my toolbag, but for what it’s worth: violence is actually not your weapon. Sure, you can throw rocks at cops, shoot cops, and blow up police stations, but you’re actually not accomplishing anything. In fact, you’re doing Their Job for them, which is why undercover police officers around the world try to start riots at peaceful protests. Violence is not a weapon we can control, so it’s not a weapon we should use, either.
10. Please, be fearless.
The stakes are beautifully high, the enemy is unbelievably strong, the fight looks completely hopeless. It’s too perfect, it’s ridiculous. How can we be bored on a planet as deliciously dangerous and insane as Earth? I can only conclude that my entire generation is living inside an open-ended video game that we’ve been training for since birth without even realizing it.
So keep pushing, stay calm, eat healthy, seek novelty, breathe deeply, take risks, think slowly, move quickly, speak clearly, fight dirty, dream crazy and please, be fearless. ..."
~ Full post... ~
The Bushies started rockin' hard right out of the gate – well before 9/11. Taking office in January, 2001, the administration introduced it's paranoid style — immediately broadening the scope of documents and information that could be classified, and within a couple of months they had the NSA monitoring domestic calls and internet traffic.
We all tend to remember the big hits. The Patriot Act of 2001. The Military Commissions Act of 2006. But how many of us recall deceptively clever little mindfucks like when the FBI and DOD routed around US law by contracting with private companies to provide them with information on US citizens? And how about the time the Justice Department gave the FBI permission to monitor US religious and political groups? And not to be outdone, the Supreme Court showed off it's own chops in 2006, deciding that it was OK for drug-sniffing dogs to search your car when you're stopped for a random traffic violation. (Full disclosure: I've dated a few drug-sniffing dogs in my time!) ... "
" ... Three senior members of the House Judiciary Committee have called for the immediate opening of impeachment hearings for Vice President Richard Cheney.
Democrats Robert Wexler of Florida, Luis Gutierrez of Illinois and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin on Friday distributed a statement, "A Case for Hearings," that declares, "The issues at hand are too serious to ignore, including credible allegations of abuse of power that if proven may well constitute high crimes and misdemeanors under our constitution. The charges against Vice President Cheney relate to his deceptive actions leading up to the Iraq war, the revelation of the identity of a covert agent for political retaliation, and the illegal wiretapping of American citizens." ... "
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