jayeless: ANGRYFACE (smilers)

This post is a crosspost from Jayeless, and has been backdated to the date on which I posted it. It discusses the BBC article Rove "proud" of waterboarding, can be found in its original location at Jayeless » Rove "proud" of waterboarding.

This is disgusting. I'm not surprised that he'd feel this way, but surprised that he would admit it so publicly and blatantly, that he'd boast about it (although I guess that shouldn't surprise me either). And it is disgusting.

The article says this:

In a BBC interview, Karl Rove, who was known as "Bush's brain", said he "was proud we used techniques that broke the will of these terrorists".

Okay. So basically what he is admitting is that waterboarding is an (apparently non-torturous) technique that breaks the will of people. This technique breaks the will of people by instilling in them a sense of terror so great that they can't bear it any more. Obviously waterboarding cannot persuade people the opposite way, by convincing them that the interrogators are good people with correct arguments whom they want to provide help to. I would call this kind of technique "torture". Rove doesn't have to, because he seems to agree with the "instilling terror to break people" thing.

So then, what is really strange is this little tidbit:

Mr Rove said US soldiers were subjected to waterboarding as a regular part of their training.

A less severe form of the technique was used on the three suspects interrogated at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, he added.

So wait... the less severe form of the technique torments victims into breaking down with (Rove seems keen to suggest) great effectiveness.

So what the hell is being done to the USA's own soldiers?! Do they want to break them, too, to carry out the US government's agenda? Or is Rove suggesting that they torture use this technique on their own people in order for them to be able to resist breaking if subjected to it in the future?

Either way, what the hell, man? It's not like torture even works, so this is just obscene and cruel. Honestly, if I were a terrorist, I would come up with a plausible lie beforehand that I could tell my torturers to make them stop. This whole thing is vile.

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This post is a crosspost from Jayeless, and has been backdated to the date on which I posted it. It can be found in its original location at Jayeless » Aafia Siddiqui.

Yesterday I read about the case of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, who was found guilty of the attempted murder of her American interrogators in a New York court.

Reading that article, it seemed fairly obvious that the case didn't stack up. In 2003, Aafia Siddiqui went missing, with no (public) record of her whereabouts for the next five years. The next the public record knows of her, she was arrested by Americans in Afghanistan in 2008.

US military personnel argues that they were interrogating her in Afghanistan when she picked up an unattended gun, and started shooting at them. She didn't manage to hit a single soldier, but they sure got her, and then they hauled her back to the US to try her for attempted murder.

Forensic evidence suggests that the gun she ostensibly fired was never fired by her, nor even fired at all. Furthermore, common sense suggests that US soldiers wouldn't have left loaded guns lying around unattended where their prisoner would be able to reach them.

Aafia Siddiqui also says that during her five years of imprisonment, she was held in a secret US prison in Afghanistan. This is denied by both the US and the Pakistani authorities, but it is not exactly hard to believe. Evidence about her whereabouts during that time was disallowed from the trial, according to Al Jazeera, which would seem to suggest that wherever she was, US authorities don't want people to know.

Al Jazeera's article is also good in that it focuses much more attention on the response to this bizarre verdict. The Pakistani government is trying to work out how they can bring her back to Pakistan, Pakistanis are furious and burning American flags, and Siddiqui's family are saying how proud they are to be related to a victim of the US justice system.

I also read Fox News's article on the case -- not because I thought it'd actually tell me anything useful, but because I was curious to see how they'd (mis?)represent it. Their article was actually grabbed from the Associated Press, but judging by their headline (Pakistani Scientist Convicted of Trying to Kill Americans), they do not want to convey any possibility that Aafia Siddiqui might be innocent.

This article takes great pleasure in describing Siddiqui's outbursts during her trial -- for instance, declaring that she couldn't get a fair trial if there were any Jews on the jury, and declaring once the verdict was announced, "This is a verdict coming from Israel, not America." (The BBC mentioned that too, but were more reasonable about it.) They devote space to relaying one soldier's account of the incident -- how scared the poor little defenceless soldiers were when their prisoner grabbed a gun, and so on. And then you have lovely quotes like, These charges are no joke. People almost died.

And sure, her outbursts seem to be counter-factual and racist. That doesn't make her guilty of attempted murder, and it doesn't mean she deserves to have been found guilty.

According to the BBC, prosecutors also argued that when Siddiqui was arrested, she was carrying a list of instructions of how to make a bomb, and a list of potential targets (e.g. the Statue of Liberty). If the real issue is that US authorities think she was planning a terrorist attack, she should have been charged with and tried for plotting a terrorist attack. The authorities should have found evidence to support that charge.

All this stuff about how she hated Americans, Israelis and Jews doesn't change the fact that there is no evidence to suggest she's actually guilty of the crime of which she's been convicted. There's no proof the gun was ever fired, none of the soldiers were harmed (even though she was), and let's keep in mind that the US criminal justice system is supposed to evaluate whether she is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. There is a ton of doubt here, more than a reasonable amount. And if she really has spent five years locked in a secret US-run jail in Afghanistan, is it any wonder she hates the US? It's not that I agree with what she said in her outbursts, but I can understand why she'd be so angry.

Basically, if she actually committed a crime, she should have been charged with that crime. It only undermines the US's own ideals to trump up charges against people they don't like. It's not exactly shocking, in that the US violates their own supposed ideals all the time, but they really ought to stop.

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This post is a crosspost from Jayeless, and has been backdated to the date on which I posted it. It discusses the BBC article Internet uprising overturns Australian censorship law, and can be found in its original location at Jayeless » Internet uprising overturns (South) Australian censorship law.

Only yesterday I wrote about the South Australian government's plan to limit political free speech and today I get to write about how they're giving up on it. If only the federal government would be this efficient!

In all probability, the South Australian government's turnaround is due to the fact that there's an election there next month, and they don't want to completely destroy their supporter base when there's so little time to go. The federal government can trust people to forget about internet filtering by the end of the year -- and indeed, it seems vocal objections have died down -- but the South Australian one didn't have that much time.

Of course, a success is a success, and SA's attorney-general announcing he'll retrospectively repeal the law is probably a success (unless he changes his mind after the election and doesn't repeal it after all).

Something particularly amusing to come out of this is the attorney-general's insistence that a man named Aaron Fornarino doesn't exist, and is merely a sock puppet internet account of the Liberal Party. Sock puppets like him are exactly why South Australian Labor felt this law was so necessary -- the Liberals were disseminating propaganda whilst posing as ordinary citizens, oh noes!!

Except that Aaron Fornarino does exist... and lives in the attorney-general's electorate... 500m from his office.

When asked how he could be so sure Fornarino didn't exist, the attorney-general's response was, hilariously, "Because I've been the member for the area for 20 years, I've lived here for longer. I have the up-to-date electoral roll and I just know West Croydon people very well."

Yeah... evidently.

At any rate, it's good to finally have an example of a government caving in to public pressure instead of devoting huge amounts of energy to resisting it. It'd be good if the Rudd and Brumby Governments would take note.

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This post is a crosspost from Jayeless, and has been backdated to the date on which I posted it. It can be found in its original location at Jayeless » South Australia limits political free speech.

I found out about this issue today through this entry on mgk. The South Australian government has decided that all political commentary during an election campaign must be accompanied with the writer's real name and postcode. This legislation appears particularly aimed at banning "anonymous" commentary on the Internet, and was passed with the full support of the Opposition. Their spokeswoman did admit it'd be too hard to enforce if they tried to identify political Twitterers and Facebookers, but apparently that was their only concern.

The legislation is absurd. As both weez and the Opposition spokeswoman point out, it is unenforceable. The South Australian government cannot possibly monitor all bloggers in South Australia to confirm that every time they write something about the election campaign, they've attached their full name and post code. That's assuming they give up on Twitter and Facebook, because seriously, they're dreaming if they think it's possible to monitor Twitter and Facebook.

So then it would seem the intended purpose is simply to punish people who piss them off. Having a really broad law and enforcing it selectively seems to be one of governments' favourite tactics, since it means they can get pretty much anyone who annoys them somehow. You know, like how they got Al Capone for tax evasion. Governments want to be able to do that.

There's no reason why political commentary must be accompanied by the full name and post code of the commentator. This seems obvious. How on earth can a point be invalidated by the identity of the one who made it? If a point is good, it's good regardless of who made it, and regardless of whether you know who made it. Wanting to "protect" people from "anonymous" political analysis is not a motivation -- there is no need to protect people from that.

The true reason for this legislation must be to inconvenience people who want to influence the political landscape of South Australia in the lead-up to the election. Either they might be inconvenienced by having to release this information in the first place, or else they might be inconvenienced by how this information will be used -- to take revenge on them somehow for saying mean things, presumably. And of course, no one will be prosecuted for supporting any mainstream party -- Labor, the Nationals, the Liberals, and maybe even the Greens are going to have their supporters protected. To do anything else would be to alienate voters.

So what is this -- is it that in South Australia, politics is now to be considered the dominion of a select few who rattle off the correct ideas? That everyone else should live in fear? I mean why else would the South Australian government care who says what? I think the fact that the Opposition is totally behind this measure is also insightful -- it shows that the Opposition considers itself so identical to the government that it can also benefit from legislation like this.

Media like newspapers and TV can already be controlled through the steep cost of entry -- only the wealthiest businesspeople can promote their opinions through those. But since the Internet is truly democratic -- a realm where everyone's opinions can be heard -- it seems that fearful governments want it stifled. If they weren't afraid, why would they bother?

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This post is a crosspost from Jayeless, and has been backdated to the date on which I posted it. It discusses the BBC article Next round of ACTA negotiations, Mexico: still no transparency in sight, and can be found in its original location at Jayeless » Next round of ACTA negotiations, Mexico: still no transparency in sight.

This article brings up a lot of stuff that I think is fundamentally wrong with the copyright system as it is.

Most crucial among these is that governments are negotiating in secret to intensify copyright laws and punishments. They are doing this without any mandate from their citizens, without any regard for the wishes or interests of their citizens.

For Australia, the grossly excessive nature of these negotiations won't have much effect on our laws... because we already implemented a ton of the worse measures when Howard was so desperate to include a free-trade agreement with the US. But there is one measure that hasn't yet been implemented here, but which could be, and that is worrying.

Without being a legal expert, I'll say my understanding of the nature of suing is that someone has to have actually harmed you before you can sue for damages. So you know, if you haven't lost any money through someone else's actions, you're not allowed to demand that they pay you tons of money. You would have no reason to demand lots of money, that that would basically be stealing. However. Among the secret provisions of this treaty, that could all change.

The current situation in the US has lead to ordinary American citizens being ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in punishment for illegally downloading music -- sometimes amounting to $22,000 per file.

How much is a music track? In Australia, single tracks can be bought through iTunes for $1.69. I'm sure they can be bought elsewhere for less.

Does it harm giant, sprawling corporations for people to not spend LESS THAN TWO DOLLARS on a certain track? Even if an individual downloads a hundred different tracks, what the hell does $170 matter to a corporation worth billions?

Answer: it doesn't matter. These companies will get on by without your $170 quite nicely, thank you. An individual downloading a track for free is basically equivalent to an individual who has never heard that track in the first place. The notion of "stealing" doesn't work when individuals are supposedly "stealing" digital files that can be copied and copied and copied again and again. The people who do pay more than compensate for those who don't.

Since corporations would look ridiculous suing ordinary American people for, say, twenty bucks, lawmakers have decided they're allowed to sue for THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS instead. I believe that people who "pirate" tracks are not harming corporations, and even if they ARE harming corporations, they are harming corporations to the value of two dollars. Not $22,000. Under no circumstances, ever, should a corporation be allowed to extort $22,000 per song downloaded from individuals who have not even harmed them.

What this demonstrates is that our lawmakers think corporations and lobbyists are more important than people. And why should that be? What a backwards system.

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