Thursday, November 27, 2008

The enduring paranoia

It turns out, according to British researchers at King's College in London, that 40 percent of us are likely to have exaggerated thoughts about perfect strangers or others being "out to get us" at one time or another.

And those strangers are, it turns out, perfect.

Using virtual reality headsets, the King's College researchers led participants through computer-generated London subway setting, filled with imitation people programmed to be neutral.

The study's participants then reacted to these neutral avatars as they looked around the subway car.

Turns out 4 in 10 thought they saw something sinister in their fellow passengers.

[ ... ]

"People walk around with odd thoughts all the time," David Penn, a professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina, told The Associated Press.

"The question is if that translates into real behavior."

King's College says the study found that:

* More than 40 percent of people regularly worry that negative comments are being made about them.

* 27 percent think people deliberately try to irritate them.

* 20 percent worry about being observed or followed.

* 10 percent think someone has it in for them.

* 5 percent worry that there's a conspiracy to harm them.

According to the AP, surveys of several thousands of people in Britain, the United States and elsewhere have found that rates of paranoia are slowly rising.

A British survey found 21 percent of people thought there had been times when others were acting against them, and another survey of 1,000 adults in New York found that 11 percent thought other people were following or spying on them.

If you think they're out to get you, you're not alone. Paranoia, once assumed to afflict only schizophrenics, may be a lot more common than previously thought. Experts say there is a wide spectrum of paranoia, from the dangerous delusions that drive schizophrenics to violence, to the irrational fears many people have daily. A British survey of more than 8,500 adults has found that 21 percent of people thought there had been times when others were acting against them. Another survey of about 1,000 adults in New York has found that nearly 11 percent thought other people were following or spying on them. "We are now starting to discover that madness is human and that we need to look at normal people to understand it," said Dr. Jim van Os, a professor of psychiatry at Maastricht University in the Netherlands who was not connected to the studies. The post-Sept. 11 atmosphere and the war on terror have increased levels of paranoia in the West, some experts said. "We are bombarded with information about our alert status and we're told to report suspicious-looking characters," said David Penn, a professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina. "That primes people to be more paranoid."
Paranoia in children can be caused by a variety of influences including drugs, trauma, relationships and physical health problems, a charity says.

Elderly people are also susceptible to the condition as those who are partially deaf may feel people are hiding things from them, according to Mind.

Those who are wealthy may also suffer from paranoia because they are wary of the reasons people want to be friends with them.

Alison Kerry, a spokesperson for Mind, said paranoia is common in older people who feel they are becoming a burden to friends and relatives.

"Self-esteem, or lack of it, is important. If a child is being bullied or is not shown affection by their family they may become more suspicious or mistrustful," she added.

According to a report published by Mental Health Care, ten to 20 per cent of students taking part in the survey have paranoid thoughts.

The people questioned revealed not talking about paranoia led to them having a greater number of these thoughts which caused significant distress.

Enough drama already: Bring on the clowns

What the world needs now is a darn good laugh.

I put it to you that now, more than ever, it's time for comedy. Drama is done. Bring back the sitcom, the satiric comedy, the savage wit.

[ ... ]

In the United States, there's a new optimism built around the incoming Obama administration. Simultaneously, there's a deep and abiding fear that the U.S. economy is in serious decline. It's a time when comedy works, not serious, long-form storytelling.

Besides, if an era is being left behind - the Bush era, the old economy - comedy and satire are the natural, organic reactions.

It's not simply a matter of comedy serving as escapism. The United States and, indeed, most of the world are just emerging from an era of tension and paranoia about terrorists, a period in which all manner of knee-jerk, right-wing attitudes were allowed to solidify on the basis that old-fashioned values were the best defence against any assault on the country and the culture. Satire, laughter and scorn are the instinctive reactions when the culture shifts away from all that paranoia and brooding...

Profit From Paranoia

...Everyone might have been acting rationally, given the small slice of the world they were working within, but it added up to a pretty substantial meltdown. All this rationality has two implications.

First, rationality won't save us -- precisely because everyone is working within only a tiny piece of the whole puzzle. That's where regulators are supposed to step in, allowing people and institutions to do the 920,321 things that won't destroy our economic system, but stopping them from doing the 97 things that can. But try telling that to Mr. Greenspan.

Second, we as shareholders are dependent on management acting with prudence and integrity -- and not just taking the easier and more rational path of making risky bets to achieve short-term profit goals. And that means being paranoid about the management of the companies you're investing in.

[ ... ]

It might seem counter-intuitive in this volatile market, but the market crash means there are many stocks selling with wide margins of safety -- and some of them have the kind of management you want in your corner. But it pays to be paranoid...

Be afraid: It's the Paranoia Paranoia Epidemic!

14 Nov, 2008

By James Lewis

Well, whaddaya know? The very same week that Nature journal revealed that we are all going to die from a Global Ice Age -- pay attention out there, kids, it's not Global Warming after all -- the "experts" on paranoia are telling us that, Yes, we are surrounded by a fast-growing paranoia epidemic!

It's enough to make a person feel very, very suspicious.

Personally I'm all in favor of a Paranoia Epidemic, just because it would cut out the middle man. Right now the Global Warming Industry is being stoked by an endless series of paranoid stories in the media. A whole pseudo-science of climate modeling, the New Astrology, is getting the big bucks to make up scare stories. The UN is tumbling all over itself trying to "solve" Global Warming. And yes, Barack Obama is a True Believer in all that farcical pseudo-science -- or at least in the political juice you can squeeze out of it.

Watch for the Feds to put a lot more junk scientists on the payroll in the Obama years, who will justify their money by rolling out more horror stories, which will take more experts to study, and so on, ad infinitum. OK, that's all good clean graft. The trouble is that Global Warming is really expensive paranoia. Everybody is getting money out of it except the people who pay taxes.

But today, science brings you paranoia on the cheap! All we need is to get very, very worried about the Paranoia Epidemic. No middle man, no parasitical U-N-ocrats to ride the gravy train. Eh, voila! As Hercule Poirot would say. If you get bored with that one, we have the answer --- It's a Paranoia Paranoia Epidemic. You don't need to be just plain paranoid anymore. All you need is to get really paranoid about the growing paranoia pandemic.

Glorious tales of PPE will keep the media agog for years.

Yes, you can make fear, ignorance and superstition pay. All you do is major in Communications, and if you look cute enough on TV you can be doing the local news right out of college. There you will learn to make your audience feel just as paranoid as possible -- because fear -- or even the fear of fear -- or maybe the fear of fear of fear -- keeps those suckers glued to the tube. Don't know much about history? Don't know much about geography? No problem! You, too, can make the big bucks selling the screaming meemies to the masses.

In due course Barack Obama is bound for a Nobel Peace Prize -- not for spreading fear about Planetary Doom 'midst Fire and Ice, like Al Go re, but for calling the world's attention to a new pandemic, a newly discovered Planetary Mental Disorder of Paranoia Paranoia Paranoia. Yes, folks, it's the fear of the fear of fear itself. Fear Cubed. Experts are even now rushing to study this new threat to your life, and will soon be supplying more hair-raising tales to the mentally challenged.

There's a stellar political career looking for a new Prophet of Doom. Do we have any takers? Does John Edwards need a new schtick? Do you need any highly trained experts to testify at the forthcoming Congressional Hearings on the PPP Pandemic? Hurry, hurry, hear all about it.

Meeting of the peculiar minds in 'Frost/Nixon'

The real Nixon exuded a trapped, shifty-eyed paranoia. He was so tense that he notoriously walked the beach of his California home in a three-piece suit and tie. He seems always to be torn between the conflicting impulses of rounding on his tormentors like a caged animal with teeth bared, or jumping out of his own skin.

Plenty of food for paranoia, fired whistleblower says

Some might dismiss Shiv Chopra as paranoid for seeing carcinogens in every mouthful.

As the Health Canada whistleblower whose testimony led to the agency's banning bovine growth hormone as an additive to increase milk yields in cows, Chopra puts little faith in regulatory bodies and food safety standards.

"There's the tainted blood inquiry, mad cow disease, silicone breast implants ... there's a whole series of things that government says it knows better," said Chopra, who will be in Montreal tonight to launch his book, Corrupt to the Core: Memoirs of a Health Canada Whistleblower.

The agency fired Chopra, a microbiologist, and fellow scientists Gérard Lambert and Margaret Haydon in 2004, six years after they testified before the Canadian Senate about their concerns surrounding bovine growth hormone. (The dismissal is under appeal.)...

As U.S. evolves, paranoia rises

...For that and other reasons, the Fairness Doctrine was abandoned more than 20 years ago, a change that in turn opened the door to creation of right-wing talk radio.

However, with Democrats in control of Congress and Barack Obama about to become president, the maestros of talk radio see an opportunity. They know that the more threatened their audience feels, the higher their ratings get. And what better way to rile up their listeners than to claim that the Democrats are out to silence talk radio itself, the medium that brings conservatives the truth as they want to know it.

So for months, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and others have been warning their audiences that once in power, the Democrats plan to bring back the Fairness Doctrine. Politicians such as Newt Gingrich have joined the chorus, and right-wing pundits insist the issue will be part of Obama's agenda in his first 100 days in office.

But it's all nonsense. Obama, for example, is on the record as very clearly opposing a new Fairness Doctrine. The most recent bill calling for reinstatement of the doctrine was introduced back in 2005 and it went nowhere. In the current Congress, controlled by Democrats in both chambers, no such bills have been introduced and no Democrats have announced or even suggested an effort to resurrect the policy.

With no justification for their paranoia, right-wing media outlets have gone seeking it out, asking individual Democrats whether they think that restoring the doctrine might be a good idea. When they get a yes, it sets off a whole new round of bemoaning. You get the sense that the Democrats are amusing themselves, much as you'd toss a hunk of meat into a tank of piranhas just to watch them go into a frenzy.

The bottom line is that there is no chance whatsoever of the Fairness Doctrine coming back, as those on the right will no doubt learn in the months to come. But it won't matter, because just as quickly as one justification for paranoia disappears, another is certain to emerge. Among a certain crowd, paranoia is a steady state that continues independent of evidence or proof.

In a famous essay written in 1964, historian Richard Hofstadter traced the evolution of what he called "the paranoid style in American politics," and his description remains as fresh and accurate as the day it was written:

"But the modern right wing … feels dispossessed," Hofstadter wrote. "America has been largely taken away from them and their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion. The old American virtues have already been eaten away by cosmopolitans and intellectuals; the old competitive capitalism has been gradually undermined by socialistic and communistic schemers."

It all sounds so familiar, doesn't it? The passage of more than 40 years has confirmed Hofstadter's observation that the paranoid style is enduring. All that has changed is the degree of influence that the paranoid style has achieved through talk radio, and the grip it now holds on the Republican Party...

Big Brother Awards Czech Republic 2008

19 Nov, 2008

The fourth edition of Big Brother Awards was announced in the Czech Republic in Prague on 14 November 2008. Under the direction of Czech EDRi-member Iuridicum Remedium, seven worst perpetrators of the right to privacy were awarded. The positive prize was granted to German Working Group on Data Retention AK Vorrat.

The prizes were chosen by an expert jury from more than seventy nominations submitted by the public. The jury members were Petr Krcmár (editor-in-chief,, Lenka Nejezchlebová (journalist, MF Dnes), Karel Neuwirth (Council of Europe Data Protection Commissioner), Miroslav Ouzký (member of the European Parliament), Radek Smolík (regional director, Symantec), Helena Svatosová (Iuridicum Remedium) and Václav Vlk (lawyer).

The Municipal-Council of the city of Prague received the prize for the Worst Public Agency for the multifunctional chip card it introduced for public transport earlier this year. Although the card is designed to replace all currently available season tickets, it is available only after presentation of an ID and the signed agreement for the processing of personal data. Along with the plans to reintroduce electronic gates in Prague underground, the possibility to use public transport anonymously slowly diminishes.

The award in the category of the Greatest Corporate Invader was granted to the AQUER.CZ for its products specifically aimed at devaluation of personal privacy in terms of providing full software for complete monitoring of one's computer activity.

Deutsche Telekom AG got the Lifetime Menace prize for the massive data loss it incurred two years ago and willingly ignored until Der Spiegel proved the data concerned were available for sale on the Internet. Until then, Deutsche Telekom AG had not taken any steps to inform its customers about potential threats that could have resulted from its failure to protect the customer's data.

The USA government has again kept its position of the world leader in the category of the Worst Snooper among Nations for setting bilateral agreements on personal data transfers that were concluded between the governments of USA and several EU member states in exchange of visa waiver. The agreement with the Czech government is kept under secret regime and will not be subjected to democratic vote of the Parliament. It raises fears concerning the quality, quantity, as well as protection of the data to be transferred.

The Electronic road-toll system provided by Kapsch AG for monitoring and regulating the traffic on the country's highways won the prize in the category of Dangerous New Technology. The original intention to use this system to charge extra fees from transportation entrepreneurs will soon be extended to include every car on the road. Although the Ministry of Transportation claims that anonymity of transport is its priority, it has provided neither guarantees nor any information how the anonymity will be achieved.

In the category Big Brother´s Precept of Law the award was given to the European Commission for its proposal to introduce virtual strip search cameras in European airports. The virtual strip search provides the airport controllers with detailed picture of the traveler's body construction which is in breach not only with the right to privacy but also the fundamental principles of human dignity.

Mr Rudolf Marek was awarded in the category Boot in the Mouth for the statement in his article in the EURO magazine on spying called "Hon na skodnou nebo paranoia?" (Chasing the Vermints or Paranoia?), which presents the possibility of hidden spying on employees as normal and usual, although it is strictly prohibited by law.

At the end, the organizers were pleased to award the group of privacy advocates AK Vorrat the Positive Winston Smith prize for its unceasing endeavor to remedy the critical situation in the field of personal data protection and defense of the fundamentals right to privacy not only within the country of its origin, Germany, but within the entire Europe. The recent successes of AK Vorrat have proven that its strong mission can mobilize tens of thousands of people who do not hesitate to take part in process of achieving the vision of the world we all share - world where the Big Brother does not exist.

Big Brother Awards Czech Republic Official Web Site (only in Czech)

Big Brother Awards Czech Republic 2007 (in English) (only in Czech)

Hospodárské noviny (only in Czech)

Czech TV (only in Czech)

(Contribution by EDRi-member Iuridicum Remedium - Czech Republic)


~ European Digital Rights ~


Plight of the unpeople

During the 1960s and 1970s British governments, Labour and Tory, tricked and expelled the entire population of the Chagos Archipelago, more than 2,000 British citizens, so that Diego Garcia could be given to the United States as the site for a military base. It was an act of mass kidnapping carried out in high secrecy. As unclassified official files now show, Foreign Office officials conspired to lie, coaching each other to "maintain" and "argue" the "fiction" that the Chagossians existed only as a "floating population". On 28 July 1965, a senior Foreign Office official, T C D Jerrom, wrote to the British representative at the United Nations, instructing him to lie to the General Assembly that the Chagos Archipelago was "uninhabited when the United Kingdom government first acquired it". Nine years later, the Ministry of Defence went further, lying that "there is nothing in our files about inhabitants [of the Chagos] or about an evacuation".

"To get us out of our homes," Lizette told me, "they spread rumours we would be bombed, then they turned on our dogs. The American soldiers who had arrived to build the base backed several of their big vehicles against a brick shed, and hundreds of dogs were rounded up and imprisoned there, and they gassed them through a tube from the trucks' exhaust. You could hear them crying. Then they burned them on a pyre, many still alive."

Lizette and her family were finally forced on to a rusting freighter and made to lie on a cargo of bird fertiliser during a voyage, through stormy seas, to the slums of Port Louis, Mauritius. Within months, she had lost Jollice, aged eight, and Regis, aged ten months. "They died of sadness," she said. "The eight-year-old had seen the horror of what had happened to the dogs. The doctor said he could not treat sadness."

Since 2000, no fewer than nine high court judgments have described these British government actions as "illegal", "outrageous" and "repugnant". One ruling cited Magna Carta, which says no free man can be sent into exile. In desperation, the Blair government used the royal prerogative - the divine right of kings - to circumvent the courts and parliament and to ban the islanders from even visiting the Chagos. When this, too, was overturned by the high court, the government was rescued by the law lords, of whom a majority of one (three to two) found for the government in a scandalously inept, political manner. In the weasel, almost flippant words of Lord Hoffmann, "the right of abode is a creature of the law. The law gives it and the law takes it away." Forget Magna Carta. Human rights are in the gift of three stooges doing the dirty work of a government, itself lawless.

~ more... ~


Cops tase 54 year old woman for sitting in wrong seat at football game

Wisconsin Police were caught on camera tasing a 54 year old woman and confining her to a wheel chair after she sat in the wrong seat at a football game in Madison.

Margaret Hiebing, a veteran Badger season ticket holder, was ejected from the Camp Randall stadium during the Oct. 11 game against Penn State after she was found sitting in the wrong seat, reports WKOW 27 News.

Hiebing had taken a different seat because someone else had occupied her usual place at the packed game.

When police approached Mrs Hiebing she explained the situation and refused to leave. Onlookers began to berate the cops after one of them reportedly threatened Hiebing with pepper spray.

One witness filmed the altercation on a cell phone, evidence which would later dispel initial police claims that Hiebing was causing an obstruction by sitting in the aisle.

Police then forced Hiebing face down on the ground and tased her on the back of the leg.

Hiebing was then placed in a wheel chair and ejected as she was unable to walk out of the stadium.

~ more... ~


Government bailout hits $8.5 trillion

The federal government committed an additional $800 billion to two new loan programs on Tuesday, bringing its cumulative commitment to financial rescue initiatives to a staggering $8.5 trillion, according to Bloomberg News.

That sum represents almost 60 percent of the nation's estimated gross domestic product.

Given the unprecedented size and complexity of these programs and the fact that many have never been tried before, it's impossible to predict how much they will cost taxpayers. The final cost won't be known for many years.

The money has been committed to a wide array of programs, including loans and loan guarantees, asset purchases, equity investments in financial companies, tax breaks for banks, help for struggling homeowners and a currency stabilization fund.

Most of the money, about $5.5 trillion, comes from the Federal Reserve, which as an independent entity does not need congressional approval to lend money to banks or, in "unusual and exigent circumstances," to other financial institutions.

To stimulate lending, the Fed said on Tuesday it will purchase up to $600 billion in mortgage debt issued or backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and government housing agencies. It also will lend up to $200 billion to holders of securities backed by consumer and small-business loans. All but $20 billion of that $800 billion represents new commitments, a Fed spokeswoman said.

About $1.1 trillion of the $8.5 trillion is coming from the Treasury Department, including $700 billion approved by Congress in dramatic fashion under the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

The rest of the commitments are coming from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Federal Housing Administration.

Only about $3.2 trillion of the $8.5 trillion has been tapped so far, according to Bloomberg. Some of it might never be.

Relatively little of the money represents direct outlays of cash with no strings attached, such as the $168 billion in stimulus checks mailed last spring.


Obama win prompts wave of hate crimes

Barack Obama's election as America's first black president has unleashed a wave of hate crimes across the nation, according to police and monitoring organisations.
Far from heralding a new age of tolerance, Mr Obama's victory in the November 4 poll has highlighted the stubborn racism that lingers within some elements of American society as opponents pour their frustration into vandalism, harassment, threats and even physical attacks.

Cross burnings, black figures hung from nooses, and schoolchildren chanting "Assassinate Obama" are just some of the incidents that have been documented by police from California to Maine.

There have been "hundreds" of cases since the election, many more than usual, said Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate crimes.

The phenomenon appears to be at its most intense in the Southern states, where opposition to Mr Obama is at its highest and where reports of hate crimes were emerging even before the election. Incidents involving adults, college students and even schoolchildren have dampened the early post-election glow of racial progress and harmony, with some African American residents reporting an atmosphere of fear and inter-community tension.

In North Carolina, four students at the state university admitted writing anti-Obama comments in a tunnel designated for free speech expression, including one that said: "Let's shoot that (N-word) in the head." Mr Obama has received more threats than any other president-elect, authorities say.

Marsha L. Houston, a University of Alabama professor, said a poster of the Obama family was ripped off her office door. A replacement poster was defaced with a death threat and a racial slur. "It seems the election brought the racist rats out of the woodwork," Ms Houston said.

~ more... ~


Gambling mogul owned jet in SuitCase-Gate scandal

Prosecutors at the Suitcase-Gate Trial revealed a shadowy Venezuelan elite of Ferrari-driving "socialists" who exploited connections to Hugo Chavez to rake in billions of dollars. But they also exposed some dark corners of America's own shadowy elite...


The MadCowMorningNews has learned exclusively that the owner of the luxury Citation X jet used to fly Guido Antonini Wilson and his cash-stuffed suitcase around South America is an American online gambling tycoon, and formerly one of convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff's biggest clients. 


Living in exile in Gibraltar, secretive gambling mogul Ruth Parasol was the true owner of the plane which flew 'Guido the Bagman' and several suitcases stuffed with cash to Buenos Aires last August 4. The flight kicked off what became known as Suitcase-Gate.


Parasol was in the news during the recent Presidential campaign, when reporters learned that Hunter Biden, youngest son of Vice President-elect Joe Biden, had hired on to lobby Congress for her $8 billion empire of online gambling sites.


Lobbying documents on file with the Senate Public Records Office show that Biden intended to lobby on the "legality of internet gaming" and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. 


Biden, the subject of an unflattering profile online with the headline Hunt Biden is an Evil Lobbyist  resigned from the law firm with the account when his lobbying activities for Parasol came to light, announcing he would no longer be a lobbyist.


Guido's Luggage flies first class.


From the plane's literature: "The Citation X is the fastest business jet ever and quite efficient. Traveling at 510 knots, the Citation X can climb to 43,000 feet in under 30 minutes at its maximum takeoff weight, lifting you quickly to transcontinental and transatlantic altitudes.

The Citation X is certified to fly where fuel efficiency is optimized and airline traffic is non-existent."


The unanswered question is what ownership of the plane by a gambling and pornography tycoon (both of which, it must be said, are traditional Mob pursuits) means to our understanding of the mysterious Suitcase-Gate Scandal, especially given that, as we reported previously, the Citation jet was carrying the same registration, or  "N" number, N5113S, as that of a plane flying for CIA contractor Air-Scan in Iraq.


Newspaper photos taken after the ill-fated suitcase flight show that the 'N' number on the tail was being used, and at the same time, by a Cessna 182 flying in Iraq, by Florida-based CIA air contractor Air-Scan Inc.


There was no explanation during the trial for the murky provenance of the jet, nor any mention that, according to FAA regulations,  the charter flight was illegal.

~ more... ~



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