Friday, October 8, 2010

If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear

Before I present my opinions of the "nothing to hide" argument, can anyone tell me anything about the origin of this statement?  I've also seen the variant "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about".  I've been unsuccessful in finding any background information on the web, so if anyone has any info, please do leave me a comment!


This statement really makes me cringe and there once was a time when I agreed with it. I don't even know where this adage comes from, nor who said it first, nor in what context, but I used to state it as if it were fact; this is yet another example of me being a repeater (and after having googled the phrase it would appear that I am far from the only one!)

These are currently the main problems I have with this argument:
  • It confuses a want for privacy with prudishness or deceitfulness,
  • It fails to address the implications of data aggregation,
  • It fails to address the dangers of incrementalism,
  • It fails to address the security of the personal data gathered by CLOGs, not to mention how easily the data may be accessed in the future and by whom.
  • It does not take into account changes in legal statutes/social norms in the future,  
  • It ignores the hypocrisy demonstrated by the CLOGs who enjoy spouting this mantra,
  • It also ignores the question: Is this truly being done for my security?

"It’s not about having anything to hide, it’s about things not being anyone else’s business." 

I found the preceding quote in an essay titled 'I've Got Nothing to Hide' and Other Misunderstandings of Privacy by Daniel J. Solove, an Associate Professor at George Washington University Law School (available as a free pdf download here). It perfectly encapsulates my feelings on the matter.

I think the "nothing to hide" sentiment muddles the definition of privacy; it seems to make the assumption that as long as you are not ashamed of something then you shouldn't mind also exposing this "something" to other people as if things that you might not want others to know are tantamount to things that shame you or that are morally wrong. 

I am not ashamed of my sexual history, but that doesn't mean I would share the details of my sex life with just anyone, nor would I want anyone to record or publicize such information or activity without my explicit permission.  There are also thoughts, emotions, and even moments in time, which I will choose to share with a very close and few individuals, not because those thoughts/emotions/moments are morally wrong, embarrassing, sinful or dangerous, but because they are special and sometimes vulnerable moments, and they are my own.

Plainly, the "nothing to hide" argument confuses privacy with prudishness and/or deceitfulness and I think this mindset sometimes causes people to allow infringements on their privacy simply because they are made to feel guilty for not allowing the infringement almost as if wanting to hide something automatically makes that something "wrong".

Just because another person or entity wants to know something about me, and that something about me is nothing to be ashamed of, this does not automatically give them the right to know this information; only I have the authority to allow or disallow someone else from knowing something about me, as long as that something about me doesn't cause harm to someone else's person or property.

Putting the puzzle pieces together

The "nothing to hide" mantra also ignores the fact that the individual bits of data that one might not feel the need to "hide" can be put together with other bits of data gathered about oneself in order to create a larger profile of an individual.  What is scary is that the resulting profile can be run through algorithms in order to assess the "threat level" that this individual could potentially possess or to even predict possible crimes he or she might commit in the future.

One might be surprised of the types of profiling technologies currently being considered, developed or implemented by law enforcement around the world:
  • As described in this ABC News piece, there is software being developed to "predict criminal behavior" and "if the software proves successful, it could influence sentencing recommendations and bail amounts." (What does one say when WTF just doesn't cut it?!)
  • Then there is this article from The Guardian about a brain scanning technology being developed that allows one "to look deep inside a person's brain and read their intentions before they act."  And as the article suggests this technology "could be used to help interrogate criminals and assess prisoners before they are released [and] may be able to spot people who plan to commit crimes before they break the law." (Do the words "thoughtcrime" or "precrime" ring any bells?...Hello???!!!
  • There is also software being implemented known as Operation Blue C.R.U.S.H. that uses "statistical information to target crime hot spots and chronic perpetrators" this is a 2006 article from the Memphis Daily News and another by the Memphis Flyer from 2007.  These articles make the software sound innocuous enough and they talk about how it helps the police to focus its resources thereby more effectively reducing crime as well as costs.  But I also cannot deny my skepticism when I read statements such as this excerpt from the Memphis Flyer article: "The program also does not track the race of an offender. '[Ethnicity] doesn't directly figure in the data,' Janikowski says. 'The reality is that [with] arrests in Memphis, just like nationwide, the overwhelming number identified in criminal activity are young African-American men.'" The skeptic in me says that although they claim not to be "tracking" this information, you can almost bet that they are recording the ethnicity of those "identified in criminal activity" and so that data-set could easily be used at a later date.  And am I the only one to find it unsettling that this software was developed by IBM? o.O
  • Update: Then there's this article from the Washington Post from Dec 20th, 2010 about how "the United States is assembling a vast domestic intelligence apparatus to collect information about Americans, using the FBI, local police, state homeland security offices and military criminal investigators." During their investigation WaPo also found that "the FBI is building a database with the names and certain personal information, such as employment history, of thousands of U.S. citizens and residents whom a local police officer or a fellow citizen believed to be acting suspiciously," and "the Department of Homeland Security sends its state and local partners intelligence reports with little meaningful guidance, and state reports have sometimes inappropriately reported on lawful meetings."  There is also a quote from a former CIA official who states that "some senior people in the intelligence community" question whether such a large-sweeping security profiling system is even an effective way to catch terrorists. 
  • Update:  And now in the wake of the 2013 revelations made by whistle-blower Edward Snowden regarding the NSA wiretapping program, there is this article from Bloomberg about how private companies in the US (everything from makers of hardware and software, banks, Internet security providers, satellite telecommunications companies, etc...) are sharing data about their customers with the NSA, CIA and FBI.  And you can bet that much of this data pertain to non-Amercian citizens as well...
There is also the danger of assuming that, just because you are innocent and that there is nothing about yourself that could possibly cause any alarm, or nothing which could ever implicate you in any sort of crime, the fact is that this "innocent" information about yourself could still be misconstrued by law enforcement and used in an attempt to implicate you in a crime.  To better understand what I mean, I suggest watching this very enlightening 49 minute video titled "Don't talk to the police":  In it, Law Professor James Duane explains why innocent people should never talk to the police, no matter how seemingly innocuous any knowledge they possess may be, directly followed by a presentation by George Bruch from the Virginia Beach police department who goes on to agree with Professor Duane.

Update: This 2014 article from Al Jazeera in the wake of the Snowden revelations points out: When investigators have mountains of data on a particular target, it’s easy to see only the data points that confirm their theories — especially in counterterrorism investigations when the stakes are so high — while ignoring or downplaying the rest. There doesn’t have to be any particular malice on the part of investigators or analysts, although prejudice no doubt comes into play, just circumstantial evidence and the dangerous belief in their intuition. Social scientists refer to this phenomenon as confirmation bias, and when people are confronted with data overload, it’s much easier to weave the data into a narrative that substantiates what they already believe.

If you're okay with that, then you won't mind this

Furthermore, the "nothing to hide" viewpoint is shortsighted: It does not take into account the slippery slope that is created by the legal precedents that make room for increasing infringements to our rights to privacy, right to travel, etc., nor does this viewpoint speak to how future CLOGs will choose to interpret these new "freedoms".

You know those fancy new backscatter X-ray units that they have been installing in airports around the world in order to increase "our security"?  Well, I've seen a lot of discussion about these devices and there are certainly people who object to having naked images of themselves being viewed and stored by private companies (i.e. airport security); then of course there are those who say: "Who cares if they see me naked? As long as it keeps weapons and bombs off the plane, I'm happy." While I am not ashamed of my body, that doesn't automatically make it okay for a stranger to see it.  Even if we really don't mind showing strangers our naked bodies, we should also be asking ourselves what our limits are when it comes to our security, BEFORE someone presents the next option.

The fact is, these same backscatter X-ray machines are only able to see beneath one's clothes, but if you have something **ahem** inserted into yourself, the object becomes invisible to these scanners. So, let's say another "terrorist plot" is planned or executed on or around another airport due to the "terrorist" being able to get past the body scanners with their "inserted" goods; would it then surprise you if airport security/the government were to suggest random cavity searches?  Now, if such exams were performed by registered physicians alone in a room with just the two of you, would that be okay too?  I mean, it's no more intrusive than your yearly pap or prostate exam, right?  And if those scanners can't detect materials stashed inside one's body and all of these "terrorists" keep hijacking and attempting to bomb commercial airplanes, we need to do something to stop it, right?  Are the same people who put down others as being "prudes" for not wanting fairly detailed naked images of themselves being taken of them at airports and stored in a database willing to "spread 'em" in the name of "security"?  I mean, there is nothing to be ashamed of, especially if it's just you and a physician in a room together, right?

And did you know that there are plans to use vans equipped with these same backscatter x-ray machines so that law enforcement agencies are able to look through walls of buildings and vehicles simply by driving by them? Sure, you might not know that they are x-raying your home, but the chances of it ever happening are slim, and it's no different than the amount of radiation you would experience during an airport scan....

Can you see how the same arguments can be used over and over again, as more and more ridiculous demands are placed upon us? Things that, only decades ago, would have been considered preposterous? Some have called this the boiled frog syndrome if people become acclimated to some policy or state of affairs over a sufficient period of time, they come to accept the policy or state of affairs as normal.  And the best motivator is fear, and boy, do the CLOGs and the MSM know how to use that one!

The problem about giving away freedoms in the name of security is that the same types of arguments can be used over and over again to get us to submit to more and more abuses of our rights cuz let's face it, the MSM tells us the world is an increasingly scary and dangerous place.  We really need to draw a clear outline and set very specific limits to what CLOGs can do to us in the name of security.

Your secret is safe with us
No data are 100% secure no one can guarantee that some information or data won't get leaked in error, or accessed by a hacker or **gasp!** a terrorist.  Just think of all the stories in the news about hacks into bank records, governmental and medical records being lost due to human error, etc...  I mean, even the Pentagon has been hacked on several occasions and surely they must have some of the world's top experts on data encryption working for them!  No matter what assurances a CLOG gives you about how your data will not be shared with others, the fact is they can only assure you that they will not knowingly or voluntarily share your data with anyone. That doesn't mean someone else won't take it from them.

"Ignorance of the law excuses no one"

Wow, there's another mantra that irks me; nonetheless, this is the opinion of those who create and enforce statute law, and in knowing this, those who repeat the "nothing to hide" mantra should also consider that something which is perfectly legal today, might become illegal tomorrow.  In other words, something that you don't feel the need to "hide" today may become something to "fear" tomorrow.  And what if you are completely unaware in the change?  Are you expected to be constantly and consistently aware of all of the ordinances and statute laws held over you?  And if the law changes and you don't know it, does that then become "your problem"?  Apparently so.

What's good for the goose...

If you will all excuse me as I drift into some ad-hominem, I think it should not go unnoticed that the very same CLOGs of the world who wish to use controversial data mining, and other intrusions on ones personal lives, in the name of "security" the very same CLOGs who love to throw the "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about" argument at anyone who complains have all SORTS of excuses for why they should be able to hide their own activities from the people: What did Ben Bernenke say when Sen. Bernie Sanders asked him  "will you tell the American people to whom you lent $2.2 trillion of their dollars?" Of course he said: "No." And whenever there's a press conference regarding the Afghan and Iraq missions at the White House and hard-hitting questions are asked about the death counts, human rights abuses, or anything else that the government doesn't want to answer, they always bring out the "I can't because it is a matter of national security" or that it would "put our troops in jeopardy" or "affect their morale".

And what do police officers and security guards tend to do when someone so much as points a video camera in their general direction? Just ask this person, or this person, or this person.  Many security officers would also have us believe that filming certain buildings is against the law, such as in this video and in this video at about 4:17.  And here is Dan getting harassed yet again at about 5:05 in this video, to the point where security tells him he can't even stand on the sidewalk and has to move on to the road!

People are even harassed by police for filming officers on duty from their own private property, such as this guy from the UK and this guy from the US who, as the video shows, was eventually arrested for doing just that.  It would seem that not even MSM news camera men are immune.  And here is another great video specifically about photographer's rights in the UK.  And this article from the Washington Post speaks to photographer's rights in the US and gives many more examples of people being harassed for taking photos on supposed "private property". 

Isn't it strange how policy enforcement officers will often ask (or demand) that a person not film them for "security reasons", yet the very reason they claim that they need to record our images, is for (you guessed it!) "our security"?!

This is for whose security?

To use CCTV as an example, with all of these "wonderful" cameras placed in public areas for "our security", and police dashboard cams installed in police vehicles for "our security", isn't it funny that when someone is mysteriously injured, or even dies while in police custody, the cameras happen to "malfunction" or to be turned off? There are even situations were several cameras in the same location coincidentally fail to work at the exact same moment as in this story about a man who died while in Scotland Yard custody, whereby several cameras in the same train-station where the death occurred either had blank recordings or happened to have had their disks removed the day before the incident in question.

I also wonder why the police were so keen on putting CCTV all over downtown Toronto during the G20 summit this year; presumably it was to track and identify individuals possibly causing harm to people and property, and yet when such activities actually occurred and those images were being streamed to whatever agency was monitoring those cameras, somehow the police still failed to call anyone to the scene of the vandalism, instead letting people smash store windows and set fire to police cars without any officers in sight.  Instead, they proceeded in the following days to just arrest anyone and everyone, even people simply passing through on their way home from work.

Where is that camera footage and just how did it keep the public safer and more secure that weekend?  And how much money did those seemingly useless "security" cameras cost us in the end?

Then there are the questions as to whether surveillance methods pushed on us as a "necessary evil" so that we can "catch the bad guys" thereby "reducing crime" and "increasing our overall security" really reduce crime at all.  CCTV perhaps being the most glaring example of this:
CCTV is but one type of surveillance that CLOGs are using around the world. What is perhaps even more troublesome are the powers that CLOGs are increasingly giving themselves to conduct various types of surveillance without oversight, or even so much as a warrant, such as the internet wiretapping bill being pushed by the Obama administration and powers that the FBI are already using to eavesdrop on people by using the mic in the person-of-interest's own cell-phone.  And if you don't think that this could be done on your laptop, think again:  Google has developed software to listen in on a laptop user's mic so that Google can identify a piece of music or TV show playing the background and offer up "relevant content, whether that's adverts or search results, or a chat room on the subject"; I would almost bet that the same software could be tweaked by CLOGs to listen for key words.  And here's a story about a high school in Philadelphia who used laptops provided to students to surreptitiously take snap-shots of them in order to spy on them, even as they slept at home.

So, I hope I may have convinced some people who would have otherwise agreed with the "nothing to hide" mantra to reconsider their position on the matter.   As usual, I welcome any and all commentary.

If you are interested in reading-up or watching more videos on the subjects of privacy and surveillance you might consider reading the essay I mentioned earlier titled 'I've Got Nothing to Hide' and Other Misunderstandings of Privacy, available as a free pdf download here.  There is also this short but well edited video titled "Big Brother Truth Now! The police state is no longer a conspiracy".  And if you want to watch longer films on the subject here is a whole page of related video links from Esoteric Tube a website that provides links to many free, on-line documentaries on various alternative and esoteric topics.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Are public demonstrations an affective agent of positive change?

I've been composing this post for a few months now.  In the beginning I had titled it "Do protests really accomplish anything?" but, as I continued writing, I realised this was not a good question for a couple of reasons: A) While it would seem to me that most people in the Western World tend to picture public demonstrations and rallies when they hear the word "protest" (I'm sure due in no small part to the fact that the MSM usually refers to public demonstrations as "protests" and anyone in the vicinity of a march or rally as a "protester"), protests truly come in many forms, such as petitions, pickets, strikes, acts of non-compliance, artistic expression, acts of destruction, and even acts of violence; I believe that some of these methods are more effective than others and so I didn't want to speak to "protests" as if they were all the same. B.) History has shown us that positive social change has followed protests of various sorts around the world, so to simply ask whether protests are an agent of positive change didn't seem right. Yet, conversely, as time goes on and I read more and more historical accounts from sources outside of what is fed to us in public-school history classes, I'm beginning to question everything, even socio-political changes that have seemingly been made in the name of morals, ethics and human progress.  (More on that later.)

So, although I have been wrestling with the question for quite some time now, it has definitely been on my mind a lot more lately since the events at the Toronto G20:  Do a bunch of people marching, holding signs and chanting slogans really change anything?

While I'm starting to question how much of an impact public demonstrations have really had on socio-political change in the world,  I do believe that public demonstrations have served, and continue to serve, to highlight issues and bring them to the attention of people who would not have otherwise heard about them via the MSM.  I also think that the work of such grassroots groups as We Are Change, Press for Truth, and The Love Police, and the propagation of videos of their interactions with various government/corporate/law enforcement agents on video sharing sites such as YouTube, is actually reaching people and causing some to question things about the "realities" presented to us by the government and the MSM.

However, while history tells us that public demonstrations have been responsible for positive social change, I think that the effectiveness of demonstrating en masse with picket signs etc... has unfortunately jumped the shark.

I think there was a time when images of peaceful demonstrators, especially images of them being abused and mistreated by military/law enforcement officers, brought a human face to civil rights issues, resulting in changes in popular opinion and causing larger portions of the populace to pressure their governments into action, but I think the PTB have long since learned from this; they have decided that the way to better control populations and to quell dissent is to demonize the people who take part in public demonstrations. The MSM also do their part by devoting a disproportional amount of airtime to acts of violence and vandalism -- as well as images of people carrying misspelled, offensive or down-right crazy signs -- far more than the issues being presented by the much larger group of peaceful, reasonable and well-meaning demonstrators.

Western governmental bodies have come to the realisation that they can't just ban demonstrations without being (rightfully) accused of trying to infringe upon the people's freedom of speech.  They realise that even people who don't believe in the demonstrators' cause might still stand up for their fellow citizens' rights to express their ideas and opinions.  The PTB have learned over time that the trick is to get the general public to not just ignore the issues of the protesters, but to feel outright hostility and antipathy towards them.  They've realised that whenever a demonstration happens, all they have to do is plant a few agents provocateurs in the crowd in order to cast the first stone (sometimes literally), then eventually group psychology takes over causing many of the angry, disaffected people attending the demonstration to get whipped up in the frenzy and join in.  As a result, when the police react violently towards "protesters", much of the public is left to comment: "Well, they got what they deserved," and "the police have a tough job to do, so I don't blame them for being forceful with these anarchists"

And this does not happen just to the mainly left-leaning individuals and groups  (keep in mind, as I use this labels, my opinions on this left/right CONstruct) who attend G20-type rallies. The tea-party movement in the States is an example of this subversion game: Whenever a grassroots organisation or cause starts gaining momentum, private/governmental interests jump on the bandwagon, subvert the cause to their own agenda, a few extremists join in and get all of the press, then soon every crazy lunatic and their uncle shows up with a Hitler mustache slapped on to a blown-up picture of whomever is the "enemy-du-jour". These situations are made even worse when the MSM -- who no longer ask important or pertinent questions -- lap up the footage of the crazies and the violence, playing it over an over again causing it to far overshadow the coverage of the legitimate issues being raised by the demonstrators.  As a result, much of the public is left to comment: "What a bunch of dumb hick hatemongers."  Meanwhile networks like Fox will actually bring some of the more extreme crazies and disingenuous GOP politicians on board to put the focus on the more sensational issues and viewpoints, almost totally ignoring the valid constitutional arguments being put forth by the people who started the tea-party movement and those faithful to that original vision.

This game has been referred to as the Hegelian Dialectic, or in a phrase coined by David Icke: "Problem-Reaction-Solution".  So if the problem is that there are a bunch of demonstrators out there bringing up valid socio-political issues that the State would rather keep hush-hush (I'll use the various issues being raised by demonstrators at the Toronto G20 as an example) and the State would like to quell their descent by force, but don't want the general populace to decry the State's infringements on the individual's right to protest, then what the State does is fabricate a violent reaction by the supposed Black Bloc so that they can provide their solution in the form of quelling the descent of demonstrators -- including those simply bringing up valid socio-political issues -- by force. Et voilà, the police use violence and force to prevent people from exercising their right to protest and much of the public not only barely pays any notice to the actions of their government and their enforcement agents, but actually defends and praises their violent actions.

So what about passive resistance?  Again, I am starting to question my beliefs on this matter, which brings me back to my point about questioning history:  I used to think that as humans evolved, became more worldly and better educated that, eventually and inevitably society at large was no longer be able to justify the irrational theories which formed the bases for racial and sexual discrimination; I believed that brave pioneers such as Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Susan B. Anthony, Betty Friedan et al, were able to articulate the injustices of inequality in such a way and with such unwavering conviction that paradigms were shattered so that eventually the general populace could no longer deny the absurdity and illogicality of inequality.  Conversely, I've always been surprised that governments, or any other power structure, would relinquish any power they seemingly hold over others, (as I went into in  my post about absolute power), regardless of how upset it makes some of their populace.  It really makes me wonder if some of the socio-political pioneers I just mentioned really did change the government's mind, or whether the government really only agreed to go along for their own personal gain somehow.

For example, it has been argued that the feminist idea of the getting more women in the workplace and empowering women to see themselves as more than just homemakers was not so much a movement against the establishment, but was actually pushed by the establishment because they realised that putting women to work meant that many more consumers/tax-payers would be plugging their money back into the system which was hemorrhaging debt.  The same has also been said about the abolition of slavery in the West: Turning slave labourers into "equal members of society" meant that they too could be taxed and turned into mindless consumers of goods and services.

The progress in civil rights around the world seems to make for some very noble and proud moments in human history, but the cynical, suspicious side of me questions whether the power structures around the world are really such softies at heart.  I mean, if they can tax us while wasting our money at the same time, if they collude with corporate interests and tend to put the rights of corporations ahead of the rights of their citizens, and if they still sanction and profit from slavery in other parts of the world, then why would they be so "kind" as to look out for the rights of any of its own citizens?  Why would they relinquish any of their power if there wasn't something in it for them?

I've also held quite an interest in Gandhi and how he his followers who were able to gain independence for the peoples of India from British rule without the use of violent force.  I have even gone so far as to praise Gandhi's accomplishments in the comments sections of various articles and blogs in response to comments such as "what can you do, the system sucks but we're stuck with it" or those sanctioning some sort of violent revolution claiming that it is the only option. But I have also heard it argued that the British Empire was long on its way out and that Gandhi just provided the straw the broke the camel's back.  I have also heard it claimed that Gandhi was just the lesser-of-other-evils and that the Empire saw working with him to be less distasteful than others vying for power in the region as the Brits left.

So, I suppose it is of no coincidence that I recently came across this video, which features Derrick Jensen and other speakers who argue against passive resistance and its effectiveness; the video also deconstructs the legend of Gandhi as it is most often presented to us in the West.  This video clip is from the upcoming documentary END:CIV.  I'm still trying to decide what I think about Mr. Jensen and his theories.  I have not read any of his books, and so far I have only seen a some clips of him in interviews, but I have already seen more than a couple of clips where he makes statements that sound like they make sense, but then I also find some of his logic supporting those statements to be a bit flawed and some of his analogies to be a little heavy-handed and simplistic.  But again, I am beginning to question EVERYTHING these days -- including what any "official history book" tells me about events past.  And I don't discount the possibility that story of Gandhi and India's independence has been slanted and twisted with time; in fact, (like most of the West's interpretations of history), I almost expect that it has.

Nevertheless, even though I question Gandhi's true involvement in India's independence from British rule, I do not discount Gandhi's philosophies.  Far from it.  Part of me thinks that the answer to positive social change truly is for one to "be the change you want to see in the world."  I think living by example is the key, or must at least go hand-in-hand with demonstrations and other forms of protest.  I think you can go and protest en mass, chant slogans and pass out pamphlets all you want; you can spread the word about volunteerism, living off-grid, having community bartering to get away from using fiat currency, ridding oneself of the SIN/SSN/NINO and the farce of statute law, and so on, and so on, until you are blue in the face; you can attend a million protests with billions of others, you can write a billion blog posts, you can start a facebook group and share it will billions of people, and spread your ideas to as wide an audience as possible; and even if every last one of the people who receive your message were to wholeheartedly agree with your principals and theories, the fact is the vast majority will still never actually do anything about it themselves unless they can see someone they know succeeding at it; most people do not like to step out of their perceived idea of reality unless one can physically prove their alternate reality to them. I include myself in that category, I'm afraid, but I am working towards changing that.

I also have difficulty with the idea of forceful, violent revolution.  I think that violent action can lead to the serious injury or death of innocent people and could very well turn those who could have been allies against your cause.  I also believe that law enforcement and intelligence agencies can easily hijack violent actions and worsen them to their own advantage, let alone provoke them themselves.  We also must remember that, although we-the-people may vastly outnumber the PTB, even if every person on the earth had their own personal weapons arsenal, the PTB have sound cannons, nuclear armaments, satellites watching the globe, CCTV on the ground, tanks, submarines, fighter jets, missiles -- and that's just the stuff we know about. Violence is their game and we are not even playing in the same league.

Does this mean I believe in just being enslaved? Not at all, but you can most certainly resist something, even physically, without having to resort to physical violence. Personally, I believe non-compliance/civil disobedience is the key: If we all walked into our banks tomorrow and said “I want my money” they would be screwed. If we all refused to pay our taxes, they would be screwed. If we all said “fuck your fiat currency, me and my neighbours are going to barter and swap to support and feed one another”, they would be screwed. If we all grew our own food, produced our own energy, made our own clothes, furniture, you name it, they would be screwed.  Now does that mean that governments and other power structures around the world are just going to throw up their hands and say "okay, you win; I guess the jig is up"?  Of course not, and I suspect that before this CONstruct is dismantled there will be false arrests, illegal seizure of property,  intimidation, incarcerations, and there may even be some bloodshed and loss of life -- all of which are definitely unfortunate and avoidable, to say the least.  Unfortunately upheaval does not come easily nor gently, at least not on the part of those who are in the position to lose great power.

So I guess in the end, while I support those who take to the streets to demonstrate/protest against policies and agendas which they feel to be unjust and unfair, I hope that in addition to doing so they actually work towards an alternative solution, live it, and manifest it.  I also hope that those who have found or do find a better way to live also make sure to share that information with others, even if that means bringing possible endangerment/harassment/marginalisation from government agents or fellow citizens upon themselves.

In the meantime, I hope to live these ideals myself.  Wish me luck!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Common knowledge

I spend quite a bit of my time on the internet posting comments to various blogs, news sites and YouTube.  I like a good debate and I'm quite the devil's advocate at times (plus my ego loves to garner feedback and validation).  So if while in a comments section I find someone is making a "concrete" statement based on what I believe to be faulty logic, or shaky to non-existent "evidence", I will often question them on it, even if I ultimately agree with the conclusions they have come to.  This is because I am still trying to figure out things for myself.  I'm trying to find out if the conclusion or idea being presented is truly sound and well thought out before I make the decision to agree with it, discount it or to investigate it further.  I also hope that I am helping at least all small fraction of these people to question their own beliefs about things, to truly ask themselves: Do I really know this to be fact or am I just repeating a comment I heard someone else make, simply because it made sense to me at the time when that other person said it?

So when people make seemingly definitive and concrete statements about why something is "right" or "wrong"  -- particularly in the realm of ethics and values -- I will often ask them how they came to these conclusions.  Every so often people respond with comments about "common knowledge" or "common sense" or how the the action or comments of another person were "wrong" because they were  "outside the community standards of common decency" or "out of bounds" .  I will often ask these same people: Whose bounds?  Can you provide me a list of these "standards"?  How do you know what the "community" is thinking on any topic at any particular moment in time?

I have yet to receive a direct response to these questions.  Usually at best I get a link to a definition of "common knowledge" or the person will avoid these questions entirely and simply continue to provide arguments in favour or against the topic being discussed.

If there is someone out there in cyberspace who is reading this post and believes that there is such a thing as "common knowledge", "common sense" or "common decency", please do leave me a comment to explain how you know that something like this exists and where you are getting this information from. Who are the holders and arbiters of this "common knowledge", "common sense" or "common decency"? How is one able to "know" what this "common majority" of people think about things? Is there a website I can go to?

Then there are the semantics of what one defines as their "community" or who one defines as being a "common person"; when one speaks of the "majority" I have to ask: The majority of what? Middle class white people? Canadians? North Americans? People of the Western World? And are you including immigrants and aboriginals?  What group of people you are pulling this data from?  Is it just from speaking with people you have run into throughout your life?  And have you associated with a truly heterogeneous and equal mix of peoples of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, economic classes, educations levels etc...?  Or is the "common person" someone who is like yourself in these respects?

I believe the idea of "common knowledge" is a figment of our imaginations, and that to different people "common knowledge" means different things, which kinda negates the idea of this knowledge being at all common.  Maybe others have some sort of mental ability that I have yet to comprehend, but I personally do not know what everyone else thinks; I have no psychic powers that I know of, and I have yet to find a person or group of persons that knows the whole truth about anything.  Even if I did know what the majority think about a particular topic at any one time, I also recognise that this doesn't mean that the belief or opinion of that majority is any more true than the beliefs of those in the minority.  I also recognise that ideas about what is "politically correct" or "morally objectionable" or "publicly acceptable" not only vary between individual people, or between larger cultural groups, but that the opinions of said individuals and cultural groups are ever evolving in themselves.  Just think of things we do and say today which would have been considered exceptionally rude, shocking or disgusting many years ago.

I'm not sure how to conclude this post, except by entreating any and all people who read it to leave me a comment about what they think about the concepts of "common knowledge".  Does such a thing truly exist?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Absolute power corrupts absolutely

I would venture to guess that the majority of people agree with this statement.  (Or maybe I'm wrong; if someone disagrees, please leave a comment -- this topic might need a separate thread!)  While I do not believe that anyone is innately evil, nor do I believe that man is ultimately depraved at heart, I do believe that extreme concentration of wealth and power affects people in negative ways.

On a smaller scale, I'd be willing to bet that most people reading this have personally known someone who either came upon a large sum of money, or who was promoted to a position of power and who, as a result, had a big change of personality.  And the MSM certainly loves to bombard us with stories of people who gain fame and/or a large fortune and either burn-out, go crazy or die from it.  Then, of course, on the world scale there are the numerous situations in history whereby a small group of people (i.e. government, oligarchy, monarchy, religious group, etc...) has endeavored to control another group of peoples.

So assuming most would agree that absolute power corrupts absolutely (yes, I'm building a house of cards -- sue me!) then why do many of these same people scoff at the idea of a coming police state, a New World Order, or a concerted effort by the Powers That Be to control the world's population?

Okay, so let's argue that governments in the Western World are truly only giving themselves the freedom to do such things as perform warrantless searches and wiretaps on its citizens, unlawfully detain people who the government arbitrarily deems to be a "threat to national security", capture all of its citizens' movements using CCTV and IDs with embedded RFID chips, all simply because they are concerned about threats of "terrorism".  Let's also argue that the government has (or should I say, had) absolutely no intention whatsoever of making use of these new "freedoms" against regular citizens who have nothing to do with "terrorism" (whatever that is).  If you believe these things, then please explain to me: What stops governmental,  military and law enforcement groups from abusing those powers going forward? And not only the current government, but future governments for which you may not have even voted?  For example: Self described right-wingers in the US might have been okay with it when Bush's administration started the "Patriot" Act, but how are they feeling knowing that the "socialist" Obama now has those same powers and has even extended them?  And even though self-described left-wingers might console themselves with the thought that Obama will not abuse such powers, what if the GOP gets back into office in 2012? 

Let's be honest: Everyone works in an office where there is at least one Machiavellian, sociopathic douchebag (if not several), so why would we expect those in positions of power within governments, armies or police forces to be any different?  And I would even argue that people who run for political office or who decide to take on some sort of security or law enforcement position will tend to have a higher percentage of douchebaggerie among their ranks -- after all, the very nature of said positions is to wield power over, to make decisions for and to enforce rules and regulations upon other fellow humans.

So, to get back to my point:  Even if we believe that the intent of "Patriot" Acts and the like are being implemented for our protection, therefore the loss of some civil liberties are okay, who is to say that some powerful douchebag, or group of powerful douchebags, isn't going to eventually abuse these powers?  Even if all the world's wars were to come to an end and all "terrorists" were wiped off the face of the Earth, what governing body do you think would ever give those powers back?  Do you really think your government would say "Phew!  Glad that's over!  I guess we can take this security act off of the books now..."

I mean, come on.  I've worked in the telecom industry for over a decade and I know of employees who have checked their boyfriends'/girlfriends'/coworkers' text messages and call lists; I been told of people checking in on coworkers who have called in sick by pulling their cell tower location to see if they were actually at home; I've caught dealers activating fraudulent accounts for friends using their dead grandfather's ID, and that's just stuff that I have personally been aware of and I don't think the company I work for is any different from most corporations.

So again, I ask you:  If we accept IDs containing RFID chips, if we accept subjecting ourselves to dangers of scanners such as these when exercising our common law right to travel,  if we allow ourselves to be under the constant watchful eye of CCTV, then are you really going to be surprised if someone or some group of individuals decides to use this data against us even though we don't consider ourselves to be in anyway close to a "terrorist"?  Are you really going to be surprised if they use this data and these new "freedoms" in a way that they claimed they never would -- like this, or this, or this, or this, or this, or this or these ways?  Do you really trust politicians, banksters, corporate oligarchs and their military/security personnel any more than the people you work with?

I also find it interesting how (at least in the Western world) there seems to be a common sentiment that if there were no government or no laws and regulations telling us how to live then our lives would descend into bedlam and violence causing us to live out some dystopian nightmare reminiscent of Mad Max.  I have two questions for people who believe this:  #1)  Are you telling me that the only reason you that you don't steal, rape and pillage is because there are laws preventing you from doing it?  #2) If you truly believe that Man is ultimately an evil sinner that cannot control itself and that, if left unchecked and unconstrained by outside laws and regulations, Man would descend into chaos and turmoil, then how does it follow that the solution to this problem would be to allow a some small minority of humans to make decisions for and to enforce rules upon the much larger majority?  Do proponents of this opinion think that there actually is an elite group of people out there who are better than most humans and who really know what's best for the rest of us?  A group of people who, by some stroke of luck, have none of the evil and inevitable propensities to rape, steal, and pillage that the rest of us do?  And doesn't that sound an awful lot like how the masses were "saved from ourselves" by the various monarchies/religious oligarchies of history -- saved by blue bloods who knew what was best for us, the slovenly masses, because somehow they were "blessed by the divine" to be better than us?  I mean, who is really wearing the tinfoil hat in this debate?

I've also had people tell me that they have a hard time believing that there are people out there so evil and cruel as to want to create such an oppressive state.  Really?!  Do I really have to give the plethora of examples in human history where a small group of individuals has abused and subjugated its populace?  I get the impression that when people tell me "I just can't see that happening" what they are really saying is "I don't want to believe that can happen".  It's like closing your eyes, putting your hands over your ears and saying "La la la, I can't hear you..." I don't want to believe something so horrible either, but the fact that I don't want to believe it has nothing to do with whether or not it is an actual possibility.

If you think the idea of an attempt by the PTB to create some sort of oppressive, fascistic world government is impossible, just because you have a hard time believing that there are people out there who would be so evil and cruel, and yet you acknowledge that there are "paranoid conspiracy theorist losers living in grandma's basement" who are imagining this stuff, then why is it so hard to believe that rich and powerful paranoid losers could be imagining the same stuff from their meeting rooms?

And if you think the idea of an elite group of industrialists and bankers conspiring together to create a global fascist state is just some tinfoil hat-wearing craziness, consider this:  It was already attempted in the US during the Great Depression -- Check out this radio broadcast from the BBC.  (Or if you don't have the RealPlayer installed you can listen to it here on YouTube in 3 parts.)  And here is another article on this plot which originally appeared in 1995 in the magazine History Today.  And given the power that the banksters have been abusing around the world long after WWII, do you really think they've given up on this idea since then?

Large government is wrong for the same reason that large corporations like Walmart are wrong: The extreme concentration of power and ultimate detachment that those in power have from the people.  Cutting a couple hundred thousand jobs in nothing to them.  We are no longer flesh and blood beings, we are numbers on a computer screen.  To them we are nothing more than voters, tax payers, money makers and resource wasters.  Plus it could easily be argued, especially in the States, that large corporations are the government since not only do they wield massive lobbying power, but the last few administrations, from both the so-called right-wing and left-wing, have been riddled with banksters and other corporate agents.

And as much as we in the Western World like to tout how great our "freedoms" are, when it comes down to it, what is more important to us, our freedoms or our security?  I'm hoping it is the former, but the way things are going these days, particularly in the US, Australia, the UK and in Canada (see my post on the G20) I'm beginning to think that the majority of the populace finds security to be more important.  Which is sad, because once we lose our freedoms we no longer have any security.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Toronto G20

What a horrendous, predictable and well orchestrated mess that was!  I can't say that I was sad to be out of the province that weekend, but I was very sad to see the destruction of property, the inconveniencing and abuse of innocent people and the erosion of our civil liberties, all taking place in a span of a few days in Toronto.

And who could honestly say that they were surprised?  Leading up to the G20 summit, the mainstream news, politicians and police did nothing but prepare us for violence, and **gasp!** violence happened!

And isn't it funny that in all of the interviews and televised meetings which took place in the days leading up to the G20, there was no mention made whatsoever by the government nor the police that a little-known, and very disturbing act known as the Public Works Protections Act (PWPA) would be enacted that weekend in order to basically institute a state of martial law within the vicinity of the G20 conference?  And isn't it funny that Chief Blair "mistakenly" told the public (which the MSM reported repeatedly) that people travelling within 5 metres of the outside the security fences could be arrested if they failed to show ID or consent to a search by police? The truth was that these powers were only available to the police in an area inside the fence. Chief Blair went on to admit, days after the summit ended, that the five-metre rule never existed.  (For more on the imaginary 5 metre perimeter check out this article from the Globe and Mail.)

The PWPA, first drafted back in 1939, was apparently meant to be applied to "public works", and has most often been applied to courthouses.  The thing is, as per the act the definition of a "public work" includes "any other building, place or work designated a public work by the Lieutenant Governor in Council."  So basically, as long as a building is officially declared a "public work" this then allows law enforcement officers within the vicinity of such a space the power to arrest and detain people who refuse to identify themselves, whether or not they have committed any crime.  This act also allows people, who are not normally licenced to be law enforcement officers, to be appointed such a position -- like police from outside of Ontario or even security personnel.

Under this act the right to privacy, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, presumption of innocence and probable cause all get thrown out the window.  People who were peacefully demonstrating and people who were in the area just to watch the demonstration and even reporters were beaten and arrested.  And yet, on several news sites the majority of the comments I read was "the protesters got what they deserved", "if you don't want to get arrested, don't smash windows", blah, blah, blah...  So arresting peaceful, undisguised individuals, practicing their right to free speech is justified by the actions of a small group of people of people dressed in black?  Punching reporters and threatening to arrest them if they don't leave is justified by the actions of a few people with black bandannas and sticks?  Take a good look at the footage of people being arrested and make note of how many of those people are wearing all-black.  The people being arrested were not the so-called Black Bloc.

I find the whole alleged "Black Bloc" phenomenon quite suspicious.  Firstly, to call them "anarchists" is an extreme misnomer: Anarchy does not equal wanton destruction -- far from it; anarchy means being a responsible human who is able to set their own limits and contract with other human beings, as opposed to having laws imposed upon them by a third party who may or may not be looking out for their best interests.  In fact, anarchists want nothing to do with government, so it would seem to me that the last thing they would want to do is participate in a political demonstration.  But this is all assuming that this Black Bloc is a legitimate organisation of some kind...

I also find it uncomfortably contradictory that the same people who wear things to cover their faces -- presumably so that they can cause destruction with anonymity -- choose at the same time to wear the very recognisable Black Bloc "uniform" (i.e. all-black) so that they are easily identified in a crowd.  And why do we always have great video footage of these people vandalising property, seemingly unmolested by anyone, including law enforcement, despite the fact that their clothing makes them stand out and therefore easily tracked by the police?  And why did the police drive their cars into the middle of the street then abandon them with the keys in the ignition after repeatedly warning the public about possible violence and vandalism prior to the summit?

Let us not forget that there were obvious police officers dressed in the black bloc "uniform" who were trying to incite violence during the protests held at the SPP conference in Montebello, Québec in 2007 -- this was later admitted by the Sûreté du Québec.  And in a community meeting held in Toronto prior to the G20, I remember noting the discomfort that George Tucker displayed when Dan Dicks of Press for Truth asked him whether or not the Toronto Police planned on using agent provocateurs like those used by the Sûreté du Québec in 2007; watch George rock back and forth just as he answers the question and how he doesn't make any sort of statement that the Toronto Police would never use such a tactic or had no plans to at the G20.  You can watch the entire meeting here, and you can see that George never shifted in his seat during the rest of the meeting like he did when Dan asked him that question.  You will also note that in this video George makes sure to mention 9/11 and then ties this into the idea that increased security is now needed due to "certain members of society." (Now who would they be? Hmmmmm...)  Then at the end of this subsequent video he talks about how most demonstrators are peaceful, but that there are some who cause mischief.  He then directly reinforces his statement about "certain members of society."  (Got that? 9/11 = more security measures to protect us from "certain members of society" and "certain members of society" = G20 protesters.....What?)

So what truly went on during the G20 protests?  Were there angry people there just looking for a reason to wreak havoc?  It's very possible.  Were there actions taken by the police to ensure that some of that havoc would occur?  It seems just as possible to me.  Then the next logical question would be: Why?  Why would the police want to incite acts of vandalism and violence only to crack down on innocent protesters and the press?  And why do a bunch of world leaders, who are so worried about their own personal security, all choose to come together in one spot every year -- putting themselves at serious risk and costing the host city millions of dollars -- when they could all have easily met by video-conference?  I'll leave you to answer that for yourself, but if you've read my previous posts or visited my YouTube channel you probably know where my position is on that...

There may be one upside to all of this, though: The actions of the police may well backfire on them, because innocent, unassuming people like this lady or this guy or the people in this video or these people -- people who might not have otherwise had any opportunity in their lifetimes to be handled by police nor to question the law -- got to see first hand how unfair the police can be (hardly "innocent till proven guilty"...) And now these people will spread the word to their family and friends who might not have believed the same story had it come from the mouth of a so called "anarchist."


For many more videos related to the G20, including testimony from both reporters and others who were abused and/or arrested during the G20 demonstrations, checkout my Toronto G20 playlist on YouTube.   I've also found a link to a report published by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association who had many of its own observers present during the events of the G20, some of whom were arrested and detained themselves.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Bye-bye Facebook

I started composing this post a while ago and at that time I was only considering leaving Facebook; my intent was to list what I felt to be the pros and cons and to solicit the opinions of others as to whether or not I should leave, but as time went on and as some of the more recent interface changes and security failures began happening I became more resolved in my decision to leave.  And once someone started the Quit Facebook Day movement it gave me a definite date to use - May 31st.

One of the first things that irked me about Facebook was making you solicit your friends to add a certain application when you went to add it to your own profile (not to mention all the people who started soliciting me to join Farmville... Sheesh.)

I also noticed that there were certain friends who didn't show up in my news feeds anymore -- presumably because they were people who were not linked to any of the other people in my friends list. You used to be able to set the level to which you wanted to see certain friends within your news feed, but now you could only hide them completely or not at all.  And even people I never hid, I still didn't see anymore.  Facebook decided who was important to me for me.  How nice of them.

Then there were the recent changes they made to the lists of one's favourite music, books, films, etc., on one's profile page.  Once you selected to go to the new version you couldn't go back to the way it was.  Information which you may have decided to only make available to certain friends were now linked to public pages that anyone could see.  Just cuz I like a certain band or movie doesn't mean that I want to be added to a public group about it.  And some of the notes I had added to my favourite lists just disappeared because statements like "any band that includes Damon Albarn" or "wow, this makes me sound like a misanthropic hippy nerd" didn't link to any particular existing group subject.  Instead Facebook suggested I link to groups like "any band" and "hippies" and "nerds" and "Damon Albarn", but gave me no option to just type something random.  I don't like having my creativity taken away from me like that.

I also don't feel comfortable with how Facebook feeds into my self-indulgent, validation-seeking side.  Like, why should anyone care about what I thought about a movie I saw, or what animal just appeared in my yard, etc... etc...  How does this enrich anyone's life?  And then there's also the BS that goes on in my head such as "Why didn't he/she respond to my message?", "Why do most people have at least X number of friends and I only have X number?" "If I don't accept this friend invitation, will I seem like a bitch?", "Why didn't anyone comment on my post?  Did they think it was dumb?"  It's like fricken highschool on a computer.  Yuck.

I also acknowledge that blogging basically caters to the same "look-at-me" syndrome, but at least in a blog format people can choose whether or not to visit it in the first place. I think there is a lot to be said about actively seeking information rather than passively absorbing it.  On a blog I'm not constantly throwing my random thoughts at people regardless of the time of day or whether or not the reader wants to know.  And if people want to read and/or comment on my blog they aren't forced to register any of their own personal info first.   There also isn't this expectation of a response from anyone, or the feeling that something might be wrong with what you said just because no one responded.

I also don't like the idea of having my personal info being tracked and sold.  I used to be of the opinion that if you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear by posting personal info, but my view has vastly changed on this subject over the past year or two.  Just think about all the information about ourselves that one could garner from Facebook data: We post everything from our birthdays to our political views and affiliations to our sexual orientations to our relationship statuses. There is just a goldmine of info in there for marketing and intelligence gathering. And what alliances or responsibilities does Facebook have towards you? If someone wanted this data for nefarious purposes, would Facebook care? Is it even Facebook's responsibility to find out what this data is being used for by third parties? Of course not; they will simply sell that info to whomever is willing to pay. And that doesn't even cover people possibly hacking into Facebook.

You might also fully agree with Facebook's current policies, but if they change and you want out, do you really think everything you did in Facebook disappears into thin air, never to be seen again?  There have also been more than a few publicised situations where info on Facebook was "accidentally" leaked.  It's not like I have any confidence that any of my personal information will be any safer once I deactivate my account, but at least Facebook won't be able to sell any more of my info to anyone else going forward.

And yes, I do realise that I am being tracked every time I do a google search or use a credit card or Airmiles card; that my searches and purchases are being logged and stored somewhere and that this data is being sold to the nasty corporations and banksters.  But you gotta start somewhere right?

Then there are the scary stories about Mark Zuckerburg's own personal lack of ethics.  This really isn't a guy I want to support, no matter how groundbreaking and useful a tool he has created.  Anyone who knows me well is also well aware of my hatred for Walmart and how I refuse to shop there.  (I will enter the premises with someone else, but that's only because by entering their store and not buying anything I am actually costing them money.)   Well, Facebook is beginning to look a lot like the Walmart of social networking.  Yeah, Walmart has great prices, and Facebook allows for some great social interactions and networking, but at what cost?

That being said, I did have one big reason for sticking with Facebook which strongly made me consider staying:  I'm a hermit.

If I didn't have to drive into the city every so often to go to the office, I would rarely leave the house.  I also keep my cellphone off most of the time these days - mainly because I get crap signal up at my house and, well, let's just say I've "fallen behind" on a few bills...  I also have crap VOIP for a home phone which is basically useless during high traffic hours (I really, really don't want to give any more money to Ma Bell, but I might have to go crawling back eventually.)  But truly, I'm not big on talking on the phone anyway.  I can't do the whole forced conversation thing.

So, my point is that I'm not a social butterfly, but I am constantly on the internet, so Facebook did give me some sort of connection to the outside world (cuz lets face it, not much of the outside world is reading this blog...)  But on the same token, I realise it would be a lot more healthy if I actually physically went outside and met with people to do things, instead of using Facebook as my interface with most people.

I will also readily admit that there are people with whom I am thankful to have had the opportunity to reconnect, as well as those with whom I have had the ability to stay connected after they moved to another part of the globe.  But, the hermit in me also knows that there are those in her friends list who she really had no interest in hooking up with again, but did accept as friends on Facebook anyway, simply because she didn't want to seem cold or appear to be someone who had something to hide.  It's this very type of thinking that bugs me about Facebook -- yes, this is all in my head, but it obviously isn't healthy, so maybe Facebook just isn't right for me.

You know what happens when you go to deactivate?  Facebook actually shows you a page of random friends' profile pics and beneath them it says: "Jack will miss you."  "Jill will miss you."  Creepy.  And the final confirmation message reminds you that all you need to do is to log back in and "you will then be able to use the site as before," (i.e. everything you did in here belongs to us and will be here whether you log back in or not.)  Creepier.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Right wing or left wing, they're both part of the same bird.

There are only two types of people in the world, those who think in false dichotomies and penguins. (A great quote stolen from this video.)

As I had stated in a previous post, I don't believe in voting anymore, or to be more precise, I no longer have faith in the two-party political system. 

Yes, there are more than two political parties in Canada and in the US, but truly, there have been only two political parties represented in political office on either side of the border for 1 and 1/2 centuries. This phony two-party, left/right, liberal/conservative, social/fiscal division has reduced party politics to the level of professional team sports -- where people will vote and support the decisions of "their side" while decrying the very same decisions when they are made by "the other side". Meanwhile the left and right-wing politicians have been reduced to appealing to the ever-changing whims of a small group of swing voters, since they are the only people who really decide who gets into office in the end. So now the focus of politics rests far more on creating a great image and ensuring that one gets elected than it does on creating actual policy. And this catering to a small group of special interests also ensures that people truly in need, i.e. the lower and working classes, get little to no attention, regardless of whether the right or left are in power.

There are also those who would tell us that this goes a step further, that this is done by design and that that all presidential and prime-ministerial candidates, from both the left and the right, are chosen long beforehand by the elite Powers That Be, via such groups as Bilderberg, the Trilateral Commission and The Council on Foreign Relations. Therefore the Right vs/ Left battles fought out for the media camera are nothing more than theatre for the masses. They use polarizing issues such as abortion, stem-cell research and gay-marriage debates to obscure and preoccupy us with emotional and unresolvable issues, endlessly, year after year. And even though these issues might only affect a small portion of overall society we divert our attentions to these issues while large and truly important and resolvable issues are ignored -- such as the North American obesity epidemic, the increasing gap between rich and poor, the laughable and costly "war on drugs", the laughable and costly "war on terror", the destruction of our flora and fauna, the imaginary and fraudulent reserve banking system, Codex Alimentarius, etc...  And whether or not you believe in a "powerful elite" secretly pulling the strings, one cannot deny the corporate interests which now have their hand in politics; one cannot deny the power of the political lobbyists. 

There was a time when asked about my political leanings I might have described myself as liberal or left-wing, but no longer.  I realise now that it is wrong to force ourselves into these boxes we put ourselves in when we label ourselves....  Much like how I disagree with the idea "you're either straight or you're gay" idea of human sexuality, I also disagree with "you're either left-of-centre or right-of-centre".  Humans are not that black and white.  We vary greatly and lie within a spectrum of sexual preferences, political ideologies, philosophies, cultural backgrounds etc... etc... We should be focusing more on what unites us than what divides us.


Here are some videos for anyone interested in investigating these ideas a little further:

This is the 4th part in a fascinating 4-part series done by Adam Curtis for the BBC titled "The Century of the Self". This series looks at how Freud's theories about the hidden desires and drives of man were used to manipulate the Western masses. The final part of this series deals with how the study of the psychology of the precious swing voters resulted in Thatcher and Reagan gaining political office in the 80s, and how the Clinton team learned from this and began to cater to the flippant and specific whims of the same small portion of society in order to get elected.

The following is an interview of Jeff Cohen, from the Park Center for Independent Media, where he talks about how corporate interests have been infiltrating the Democratic party in order to make it an "agent of the corporate right." He also speaks to how heavily Obama's candidacy was funded by corporate interests long before he was even considered to be a front-runner for the Democratic nomination.

Now, if you are interested in going even further down the rabbit hole, this documentary -- Alex Jones's The Obama Deception -- discusses how the agenda of the Obama administration has nothing to do with "hope and change" and how it is simply a front for Wall Street and corporate interests - just like the Bush, Clinton and Reagan administrations before it. The documentary also gets into the theory that the financial elite of the world are conspiring to bring about a one world government as part of their plans for a "New World Order" and controlling the populations of the world.


It is my belief that politics have degenerated into nothing more than the WWE -- the only difference is that politicians generally wear business attire and rarely get into physical fisticuffs.  I suppose that leaves us with the question: Why?  Is this just out of sheer incompetency? Is it due to individual greed? Or could it actually be by design?

Whether or not you believe in a coming New World Order whose aims are to enslave us all, it is well established in any Western nations' constitutions, charters of rights etc... that the government is supposed to work for the people, not the other way around.  So how is it that we've been convinced otherwise?  And much like corporations, whose bottom line is profit, the bottom line of the politician is financial contributions, and so like the corporation who will cut whatever corners they can in order to make a profit the following year (by cutting jobs, cutting employee benefits, "accidentally" using lead paint on some toys, etc...), politicians cut out the pesky corners that don't hold any sway with the corporations that fund them (i.e. programs that help the social sector, environmental policies, product regulation and control).  Our governments, whether lead by a "left wing" or "right wing" politician, also seem to be very interested in wars and there is no denying that wars are very profitable for banks, insurance companies and other corporations brought in to fight the war or "rebuild" after the war -- honourable and honest corporations like Blackwater and Halliburton... 

So really, what does your vote count for anymore, other than helping someone to win a seat in office?  That's if you even believe that our votes are actually counted at all...  And do you really think that the actions of governments reflect the will of their peoples? And perhaps the biggest and most important question of all is: Cui bono?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Wikipedia – A wonderful resource or unreliable trash?

Before I begin, I should qualify that I’ve been an editor on Wikipedia for almost two years now – here’s my user page – so from the start it should be obvious that I don’t think Wikipedia is a piece of garbage. Do I think it’s perfect? No.  Do I think there are a lot of errors on it?  Sure.   But here’s my two cents on the matter:

Prior to Wikipedia, if one wanted access to information about a particular subject, most of us either went to the library or consulted an encyclopaedia – if we happened to own one. Now, do you suppose most if not all of these books contained factual errors? I’m sure they did – after all, humans wrote them. And once an error was discovered, was there any way for someone to go back and fix those errors on every copy?  Nope, but you can do that on Wikipedia.

And who would have recorded the vast majority of the information in encyclopaedias and works of non-fiction pertaining to history, the sciences, etc? A bunch of older, Caucasian, and probably fairly financially well-off, men (and for those of us in English-speaking countries, these would have been mostly English-speaking, Judeo-Christian men). So in effect, said books would have represented the viewpoint of a very small portion of Western society, which in itself makes up a small portion of the societies of the world. On Wikipedia, however, one can have people from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, with different and oftentimes opposing viewpoints, contributing to the very same article. Yes, there are heated debates and “edit wars” all over the place, and there are certain topics on which consensus is truly impossible. And that is one of the wonderful things about Wikipedia: Instead of having a book tell you “this is the history of ABC, and that’s that” – a book that will say the same thing year after year, decade after decade – the information on Wikipedia is ever changing, just like how our view of history, science, etc, is ever changing.  One also has access to the discussion pages of each article where people are actively discussing the article's content.

Doesn’t the act of allowing any Joe Blow to edit the information on Wikipedia make that information incredibly unreliable? Not as much as one might think:

It is my belief that if you want to “know” something, you have to investigate it for yourself and when seemingly contradictory information comes about you should also investigate that information as well and not simply dismiss it because of its slant or source. You cannot go to Wikipedia or any printed book or article – or any religious tome for that matter – to know the whole truth about anything. All of these things are edited and written by flesh and blood humans, and as humans we are only able to see things through our own eyes, which is a very small slice of reality. So if you think “there’s no point in trusting anything on Wikipedia; I’d rather get my information from X, Y or Z” you’re missing the point: You can’t trust X, Y or Z either. I find the same rings true for those who poo-poo certain “alternative media” sites and news blogs as if “mainstream media” is somehow less biased and more reliable. The best you can do is to try and search out information from as many different sources as possible, including sources which tend to carry viewpoints contrary to your own.

Mainstream media, comedians and other Wikipedia detractors often like to point to examples of articles which state things like “and he is also a big doodie head”. Yes, this kind of silliness creeps in constantly; you can only imagine how many times a day one has to revert edits to articles such as Beaver or Ballcock; it is impossible to stop, much like it is hard to stop government and corporate agents from manipulating articles on Wikipedia (as reported in this article by the BBC, who themselves were caught manipulating Wikipedia articles as per this story from The Independant of the UK!).  Corporate and government agents also have their hands in the information that gets fed to us through the "mainstream media", however, unlike factual errors made by the media or in published materials, on Wikipedia you will find that poorly sourced information, obvious vandalism or errors, are reverted almost always within the day. There is a function within Wikipedia which allows editors to “watch” certain articles; in most cases editors will “watch” articles which pertain to topics of interest or articles which they had created or greatly contributed to themselves. Many of us check our “watchlists” daily, if not several times daily, not to mention that there are many articles out there being watched by multiple editors at any one time, and if we see that someone has added some contentious or downright false material to an article, or removed valid or properly sourced material, we can revert their edits with just a click of the mouse. There are also editors who go through lists of newly created and poorly sourced articles to see if they meet Wikipedia’s notability and verifiability standards. Unsurprisingly there is also an article on Wikipedia about the of reliability of Wikipedia as well as a related article on the Wikipedia biography controversy (and remember, don’t just read what these articles say, check out the sources as well as any rebuttals to said sources!)

And I admit these “notability” and “verifiability” standards are a contentious issue for me: Remember what I was saying above about how you can’t just trust information from the “mainstream media” and “official” history books and encyclopaedias any more than “alternative media” and blog sites? Well, Wikipedia’s notability and verifiability standards actually state that one should be able to back-up any material they add to Wikipedia with citations from reliable sources which, you guessed it, tend to include published materials, mainstream news sources etc...

But I don’t find the fact that I edit on Wikipedia and conform to these standards to be contradictory to my opinions about “official” history books and "mainstream" news sources. I recognise that if one is going to add information to Wikipedia, another person reading said information should then be able to find the source of said information and read it for themselves. Not only should they be able to do this, IMO they should go and check out the source of said information, for many reasons, including: A) to assess the source of the material as well as any corporate/political ties that the source(s) may have, B) to see if what is written in Wikipedia accurately reflects the actual text in the source that is being cited, and C) to then go out and try to find further sources on the topic, especially from sources which tend to have opposing viewpoints. In fact, people should be taking these steps no matter where they are getting their information from, be it Wikipedia or otherwise.

Many of you might say that you simply don’t have the time to research everything you read or see or hear, and this is very true. This is why I believe we should try to not to repeat anything we’ve read in a book or on the web, or seen in a video or film or on TV as fact (which comes back yet again to my post on repeating). Admittedly this is very hard to do. I’m trying as much as I can to catch myself and to preface certain statements with qualifiers such as “as I see it” or “here are my 2 cents” or “as so-and-so once said...” or “I read an article which said...” (And I’m certain that within the posts of this blog you are going to find many places where I’ve made “statements of certainty” in error. If you catch me on any, please feel free to post a comment to point them out. )

Another great thing about Wikipedia is that it is edited by people all around the world and so, in the case of English Wikipedia, we now have information about topics that might not otherwise have been available in our own language, because most of the source material on the topic was in another language. Now, multilingual editors can allow us to see more about the history of other parts of the world and with the ever-improving sophistication of web translation programmes we can often check out these sources for ourselves.

So yes, if you are going to Wikipedia expecting it to be an infallible source of truth, then you are going to be disappointed.  However, if you need a starting point for your investigation, Wikipedia is as good a point as any. And to all those who like to point out mistakes on Wikipedia, I'd ask: Why don’t you fix them? That’s what it's there for! And if anyone wants to learn more about editing on Wikipedia, feel free to leave me a message on my Wikipedia user talk page or leave a comment on this post and I’ll help you with whatever I can.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Freeman/Sovereign/Natural Person awakening

I'd like to give you all a high-level overview (as I see it) of a very interesting awakening coming about; when I originally started writing this post I tended to use the word “movement” to describe it, but I hesitate to call it that since this is not really a coherent or organised amassing of people towards a common goal, but rather an awakening of individuals to a greater reality -- individuals who have come to some very similar conclusions about life, reality and consciousness. (WARNING FOR SKEPTICS AND THE LIKE: I’ve just used some scary terms like “awakening”, “a greater reality” and “consciousness”. Please believe me when I say that I am not going all crystal-wearing, purple-loving, candle-burning, seminar-attending, mantra-chanting crazy. This is not what this is about, so please read-on...) There are also so many levels and layers to the story that the best I can do is provide you an introduction (as I see it) and allow you to find your own route to discovery.

I've been studying this stuff for about a year and a half now and I find it both fascinating and inspiring. Thus far I have only found stories of individuals from the English-Speaking Western World who are putting these concepts to practice (no doubt, due in large part to the fact that I am English speaking and that the internet is dominated with English-based information); there very well could be others in the world coming to very similar conclusions about life, but I have yet to discover them.

Part of the appeal, for me, is that this awakening is comprised of a very diverse and interesting cast of characters; people who have awakened to the games of law, government, and corporations -- sometimes via a slow awakening and at other times by accident, sometimes after having been “agents” on the inside, sometimes after having been victims of the con. The ideas and concepts that many of these people espouse (I’ll get to just who they are in a moment) really hit home with me on a deeper, moral and (dare I say) spiritual level. (SKEPTICS: I’m warning you: Keep reading!) And the simple fact that so many different people, from so many different places in the world, have come to such similar conclusions via such different avenues tells me that there must be some truth to it. This is not a “movement” whereby some charismatic individual manages to convince another group of people about the nature of reality and/or the self. They weren’t born-into these ideas, much like one is to organised religion. This is truly an organic expansion of consciousness, and contrary to many of the prophets and gurus throughout history you will actually find that the people involved in spreading the ideas of this awakening will often make statements such as “I’m not a leader”, “I don’t know everything”, “I’m not especially intelligent”, “don’t just believe what I say; investigate it for yourself”. For the most part, these are not people looking to gain profit or fame from this information, they simply want to share what they’ve discovered with the world and the internet has certainly allowed them to do that.

Yes, you might find some of these people to be a bit eccentric (for lack of a better term), but I challenge anyone to find me a true "free thinker" who doesn't communicate ideas which fall outside of bounds of societal norms (whatever those are.) There is also a spiritual message that is very closely connected and intertwined with this awakening, and I know how that can also turn some people off. Having been raised in a household with no religious affiliation (read atheistic) I certainly cringe at times when someone starts to drift into the territory of “God” and “the power of the self” and “trusting intuition”; terms like these, at least for me, tend to conjure up images of houses of worship, Oprah gurus, personal empowerment seminars, e-meters and the like. However, I’m starting to warm up to these concepts a little more, due in no small part to the concepts of the freeman/sovereign/natural person awakening.

A large part of this awakening has to do with the realisation that the whole world of laws, governmental regulation/taxes, fiat currency, etc. -- things by which most of us feel bound -- are actually nothing more than ink on paper. WE humans created these things and WE humans give them power over us and WE humans ALSO have the ability to choose not to take part in those constructs and systems. Admittedly, this is very obvious to many of us, but I find very few of us actually believe it, or at least, there are many of us (and I include myself in this group, although I am trying to free myself of this) who think that these things have been around for so long and there is such an institution and web built around it, that we have no choice but to continue on within it, but the fact is, there are people living today in Canada, the US, the UK and Australia who have decided for themselves what relationship, if any, that they want to have with the various governmental and fiscal bodies of the world. Many of these people no longer pay income or property taxes, do not register their vehicles with the government, travel freely without a driver’s licence or passport, and pay for services such as post-secondary education, electricity bills, credit card bills etc... using a bond created in their name when their birth was registered with the state. Many of us do not even know of the existence of such an account in our names, let alone how to use it. One might also ask: “If such a thing exists: Why don’t I know about it?” And this is a VERY interesting question and is but a fraction of the stuff you’ll discover with some of the links I am about to provide.

Another part of this awakening is to understand the history and the language of law. Due to the fact that very few of us went to law school, very few of us truly understand the language of law. Although English law texts will contain words written in what looks like English, many of the words used in law and commerce actually have a very different meanings, sometimes even opposite to the same word’s definition in an English-language dictionary; it is because of these assumptions that most of us make -- including, sadly, assumptions made by enforcement officers (i.e. the police, the tax man, airport security) -- that the con works.

But the most attractive thing to me about this awakening is the importance on questioning EVERYTHING that we don't understand and taking NOTHING for granted. Many of the victories experienced by these people in legal matters came from them simply asking the right questions. There are certain questions that the establishment does not want to address, otherwise their con falls apart, and so there are people who are winning cases in court, and even avoiding court cases all together, because the Courts would rather throw the case out than allow anyone else in the court to figure out what's going on.

So where to start? There are bits and pieces all over the web. Here are some people whose work is worth investigating.


Robert-Arthur: Menard. (Why did I write his name like that? You'll have to watch his videos to find out.) Rob is a Canadian currently living in BC. He has made many videos available on the web and his YouTube channel which he updates quite regularly. He also has a website: However, I would suggest you start with these two particular movies which explain his discoveries about statute law.

Bursting Bubbles of Government Deception – 1hr 20mins. In this video Rob explains many of the terms in law which we misinterpret due to their actual “legal” meanings. He discusses such things as the concept of the “person” in law, the right to travel, the bond created by your birth certificate and much, much more. He also discusses many interesting experiences that he and others have had in court.

The Magnificent Deception - 2hrs 01mins. In this video Rob further expands on the concepts introduced in Bursting Bubbles. He discusses such things as how we unknowingly become agents of the government, how tickets are actually bills of exchange, and of course his always amusing interactions with police officers and agents of the judicial system.

Rob has also started on his Very Cunning Plan which he has further updated on and through videos posted to his YouTube channel.


The Strawman Illusion - 1:34:55. This is audio of a presentation by Thomas (aka Agent J) Anderson, from Australia. In it he discusses the concept of "The Strawman" or the "capitalised fiction" which is created with the registration of our birth. There is also this interview of Thomas by Adam Davis of Truth Movement Australia available on YouTube.


Russell Anthony Porisky of The Paradigm Group has a couple of his presentations on the web. He is one of the many people who accidentally discovered the intricacies language of law when a case against him was dismissed in court after he asked a particular question. In his presentations Your Human Rights and the Illusion - 3hrs 23mins and Reclaiming Our Rights - 1hr 41mins he discusses the language of law and how to decipher it. He also talks about the origins and significance of our capitalised fiction -- our name in all capital letters. Russell's journey tends to be more focused on tax laws in Canada and why he believes Canadians are not required to pay income tax if you properly decipher the statues of the tax act. The Paradigm Group also has their own website at, although as I type this their site is under construction.

Update: I should mention that one of the commenters on this post stated that Porisky has been imprisoned for tax evasion. Although I cannot find any information about his conviction via the web, it is true that the website has been taken down and I'm thinking that Robert-Arthur:Menard may have indeed referenced Porisky in a couple of his talks which I saw on his YouTube channel -- in these videos Rob advised against the use of the "natural person" defence, adding that a man had gone to jail trying to argue that point.  Even if this is the case, this does not invalidate his argument, in my opinion.  I also still strongly recommend the aforementioned videos to help one understand how to deconstruct laws and statutes.

Mary Elizabeth: Croft has lived in both the US and Canada and is best known for her lengthily-titled web-book How I Clobbered Every Bureaucratic Cash Confiscatory Agency Known to Man ... a Spiritual Economics Book on $$$ and Remembering Who You Are. Mary Elizabeth discusses interactions with law enforcement and collection agents on both sides of the border and how laws, taxes, bills, etc. are all used to keep the general populace in a constant state of worry and fear, which in turn allows them to be more easily controlled and manipulated. Her text is a long one and does tend to go into different directions. Her book was one of the first things I read and I find that now that I have been doing some more investigating I am better equipped to go back and read this book again. I do however love her conviction and sardonic view of things.

Mary Elizabeth also has a blog called Spiritual Economics Now.


Veronica: Chapman is from the UK and also hosts her own website FMOTL stands for Freeman-on-the-Land. As you will see, the very first thing she states on her home page is: "This is a weird website. It is deliberate." It is not especially easy to navigate, but contains some great info as well as examples of documents, such as her NOUICOR (a Notice of Understanding and Intent and Claim of Right). She also has her own web-book Freedom Is More Than Just A Seven-Letter Word.  She has also published a paperback version which apparently has some updates and an extra chapter.

I also enjoy Veronica's writings. She is quite direct and actually pokes a few jabs at some of the people mentioned above and I find that her book is a good summary of much of what has been discovered by Robert, Thomas, Mary-Elizabeth et al. However, I do find that in order to comprehend some of what she discusses in her book, you need to read some of the works of the people mentioned above in advance.


John Harris. I love listening to this guy speak, not only because of his heavy cockney accent, but he just says things in a way that really ring true to me. I have a few of his speeches and interviews on my YouTube Channel, including his talks titled It's an Illusion. He is also the creator of the website - TPUC stands for The Peoples United Collective.


Other names you might want to Google:
  • Irene-Maus: Gravenhorst
  • Gary-Thomas: Clement
  • Jon Witterick

...So this is all just a starting point. There is certainly a lot to investigate, watch and read out there, including the forums of the various sites mentioned above where people are discussing these topics and putting them into action in their own lives. I suspect that I'm not going to receive many comments on this post, if any; I have written a lot and have provided links to a lot of lengthy documents as well as videos, some of which are hours long. Unless this stuff truly interests you I suppose this would all be quite boring. I do however hope that someone out there comes across this post and discovers a new way of looking at the world and “reality” (for lack of a better term). And as always, I welcome any and all commentary.