Tag Archives: orwell

If This Does Not Chill You To The Bone, You Are Already Dead

14 Jun

Heard anything about the PRISM scandal?

No?

Well then, as we have grown accustomed to saying (but why?), “Google it … Google is your friend”.

Er … perhaps not.

In our world of digital everything, no one is your friend.

From Zero Hedge, a must read (reproduced in full, all emphasis in original … and watch carefully for the “Telstra” reference):

The rabbit hole just got deeper. A whole lot deeper.

On Sunday we predicated that “there’s one reason why the administration, James Clapper and the NSA should just keep their mouths shut as the PRISM-gate fallout escalates: with every incremental attempt to refute some previously unknown facet of the US Big Brother state, a new piece of previously unleaked information from the same intelligence organization now scrambling for damage control, emerges and exposes the brand new narrative as yet another lie, forcing even more lies, more retribution against sources, more journalist persecution and so on.”

And like a hole that just gets deeper the more you dug and exposes ever more dirt, tonight’s installment revealing one more facet of the conversion of a once great republic into a great fascist, “big brother” state, comes from Bloomberg which reports that “thousands of technology, finance and manufacturing companies are working closely with U.S. national security agencies, providing sensitive information and in return receiving benefits that include access to classified intelligence, four people familiar with the process said.”

The companies extend far wider than the legacy telcos, such as Verizon, that launched the entire NSA-spying scandal a week ago: “Makers of hardware and software, banks, Internet security providers, satellite telecommunications companies and many other companies also participate in the government programs. In some cases, the information gathered may be used not just to defend the nation but to help infiltrate computers of its adversaries.”

Many of these same Internet and telecommunications companies voluntarily provide U.S. intelligence organizations with additional data, such as equipment specifications, that don’t involve private communications of their customers, the four people said.

And since what goes on behind the scenes is confidential, literally anything goes: “Along with the NSA, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and branches of the U.S. military have agreements with such companies to gather data that might seem innocuous but could be highly useful in the hands of U.S. intelligence or cyber warfare units, according to the people, who have either worked for the government or are in companies that have these accords.”

Some of the back and forth is innocuous, such as Microsoft revealing ahead of time the nature of its exposed bugs (ostensibly providing the government with a back door into any system using a Microsoft OS, but since it’s don’t ask, dont’ tell, nobody really knows). However the bulk of the interaction is steeped in secrecy: “Most of the arrangements are so sensitive that only a handful of people in a company know of them, and they are sometimes brokered directly between chief executive officers and the heads of the U.S.’s major spy agencies, the people familiar with those programs said.”

More on this “company within a company”:

Typically, a key executive at a company and a small number of technical people cooperate with different agencies and sometimes multiple units within an agency, according to the four people who described the arrangements.

If necessary, a company executive, known as a “committing officer,” is given documents that guarantee immunity from civil actions resulting from the transfer of data. The companies are provided with regular updates, which may include the broad parameters of how that information is used.

Remember how they say conspiracies are impossible because too many people know about them, and the information always eventually leaks? Well not if you contain it to a handful of people in any organization, and force them to sign a bloody NDA, pledging one’s first born in the case of secrecy breach.

An example of a company that is happy to “communicate” with tht the government is Intel’s McAfee internet security unit, which in addition to everything is one giant backdoor entrance for the government. If need be of course:

Intel Corp. (INTC)’s McAfee unit, which makes Internet security software, regularly cooperates with the NSA, FBI and the CIA, for example, and is a valuable partner because of its broad view of malicious Internet traffic, including espionage operations by foreign powers, according to one of the four people, who is familiar with the arrangement.

Such a relationship would start with an approach to McAfee’s chief executive, who would then clear specific individuals to work with investigators or provide the requested data, the person said. The public would be surprised at how much help the government seeks, the person said.

McAfee firewalls collect information on hackers who use legitimate servers to do their work, and the company data can be used to pinpoint where attacks begin. The company also has knowledge of the architecture of information networks worldwide, which may be useful to spy agencies who tap into them, the person said.

Google, another participant in PRISM, already lied about its participation in the covert-op:

Following an attack on his company by Chinese hackers in 2010, Sergey Brin, Google’s co-founder, was provided with highly sensitive government intelligence linking the attack to a specific unit of the People’s Liberation Army, China’s military, according to one of the people, who is familiar with the government’s investigation. Brin was given a temporary classified clearance to sit in on the briefing, the person said.

According to information provided by Snowden, Google, owner of the world’s most popular search engine, had at that point been a Prism participant for more than a year.

Google CEO Larry Page said in a blog posting June 7 that he hadn’t heard of a program called Prism until after Snowden’s disclosures and that the Mountain View, California-based company didn’t allow the U.S. government direct access to its servers or some back-door to its data centers. He said Google provides user data to governments “only in accordance with the law.”

Ah yes, the law that no mere mortal can observe in action, and which has zero popular checks and balances. So what specifically does Google provide to the government? “Highly offensive information” it appears.

That metadata includes which version of the operating system, browser and Java software are being used on millions of devices around the world, information that U.S. spy agencies could use to infiltrate those computers or phones and spy on their users.

“It’s highly offensive information,” said Glenn Chisholm, the former chief information officer for Telstra Corp (TLS)., one of Australia’s largest telecommunications companies, contrasting it to defensive information used to protect computers rather than infiltrate them.

Going back to Obama’s promise on live TV that nobody was listening in to any conversations, one wonders: why did the major telecom companies “ask for guarantees that they wouldn’t be held liable under U.S. wiretap laws.” Because if the companies demanded a waiver, they obviously were wiretapping, i.e., eavesdropping, and doing so on US citizens, or those protected by US laws. And that’s why Obama should have just kept his mouth shut, instead of having to explain what he meant and that he never said what he said.

Before they agreed to install the system on their networks, some of the five major Internet companies — AT&T Inc. (T), Verizon Communications Inc (VZ)., Sprint Nextel Corp. (S), Level 3 Communications Inc (LVLT). and CenturyLink Inc (CTL). — asked for guarantees that they wouldn’t be held liable under U.S. wiretap laws. Those companies that asked received a letter signed by the U.S. attorney general indicating such exposure didn’t meet the legal definition of a wiretap and granting them immunity from civil lawsuits, the person said.

Ah, the US Attorney General – because what is another Obama scandal that doesn’t involve his primary henchman Eric Holder…

Mark Siegel, a spokesman for Dallas-based AT&T, the nation’s biggest phone carrier, declined to comment. Edward McFadden, a spokesman for New York-based Verizon, the second-largest phone company, declined to comment. Scott Sloat, a spokesman for Overland Park, Kansas-based Sprint, and Monica Martinez, a spokeswoman for Broomfield, Colorado-based Level 3, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

No need to comment – it’s quite clear.

The last question remains: what do companies get out of this proactive betrayal of their clients? Well, in some cases, such as those of IBM and Amazon as we described yesterday, they get lucrative government (CIA) contracts for billions of dollars. But that’s just taxpayer cash. Where it gets worse is when the kickbacks are yet more secrets.

In exchange, leaders of companies are showered with attention and information by the agencies to help maintain the relationship, the person said. In other cases, companies are given quick warnings about threats that could affect their bottom line, including serious Internet attacks and who is behind them.

In other words, what is going on behind the scenes is nothing more than one vast, very selective, extremely secretive, symbiotic and perfectly “legal” giant information exchange network, which allows corporations to profit off classified government information either in kind or in cash, and which allows the government to have all the information at its disposal, collected using public and private venues, in order to protect itself, to take out those it designates as targets, or simply said – to get ever bigger.

The loser in all of this?

You.

UPDATE:

From the UK Express –

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden not welcome in the UK

THE whistleblower behind the largest leak of classified information in the history of the US National Security Agency (NSA) is not welcome in Britain, the Home Office has said because he is “detrimental to the public good.”

Edward Snowden has not been welcomed to come to the UK

Edward Snowden has not been welcomed to come to the UK

The Government has issued an alert to airlines around the world, urging them not to allow Edward Snowden to fly to the United Kingdom.

The alert, on a Home Office letterhead, said carriers should deny boarding to Snowden because “the individual is highly likely to be refused entry to the UK.”

Snowden, 29, revealed himself last week as the source of top-secret documents about controversial American surveillance programs.

He said he revealed America’s snooping of citizens’ internet use for a “better world”.

“I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under,” he said.

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Don’t Get Scroogled

18 May

Supposedly a leaked, internal-only Microsoft parody:

 

This, from Microsoft?

Er …

KettleCallingPotBlack%5B1%5D

 

Orwell Grinning Smugly As Govt Minister Calls For All Newborns To Go On National DNA Database

28 Mar

From Yahoo!7 News:

A national DNA database should be discussed as heinous crimes go unsolved for decades, NSW Police Minister Michael Gallacher says.

Mr Gallacher is leading a push for a debate on the merit of genetic samples being collected from all newborns and a DNA database then being used to compare crime scene DNA under a Supreme Court warrant.

“It’s something that needs to happen and it needs to start to be considered by governments,” Mr Gallacher told the Seven Network on Wednesday.

“Just think of the potential this has in terms of crime.”

Translation: “Just think of the potential this has in terms of totalitarian control, in just 2-3 generations”.

A spokesman for Mr Gallacher said the NSW government had no concrete proposal to collect DNA from babies for an Australia-wide database, adding it was just an idea that could only happen at a national level.

“There are challenges with safeguards,” the spokesman told AAP.

“All views, ideas and opinions have to be canvassed.”

Stephen Blanks, a lawyer with the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, said a national database was a dangerous idea.

“We know that if there is a national database, there will be people who want to access it for all sorts of extraneous reasons,” he said.

Wherever he is now, George Orwell is grinning like a Cheshire cat:

“If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”

The Simple Way To Tell That The Mining Tax And Carbon Tax Are Unconstitutional

22 Mar

“By their words you shall know them.”

What is the biggest red flag alerting you to the likelihood that a government bill is unconstitutional?

When the wording of a government bill repeatedly insists that it is in compliance with a section of the Constitution.

Or, when the bill repeatedly insists that it does not do something, or is not something, that would constitute a breach of the Constitution.

Because if it were in keeping with the Constitution, then there would be no need whatsoever to say anything.

This is not just the rational surmising of your humble blogger.

A constitutional law expert agrees.

From Yahoo!7 News (emphasis added):

Government facing mining tax revolt

… [Macquarie University’s] Dr [Margaret] Kelly not only thinks Fortescue will get a hearing but that it has a decent shot at winning the case.

“Given the shortness of the Act, the lack of definitions in the Act, and the very general nature of the Act, then I, if I were the Commonwealth, wouldn’t be as hopeful as apparently the Prime Minister currently is,” she said.

She says challenges made under section 114 of the Constitution would attract serious consideration by the High Court.

The fact that each of these acts purports to say the Act does not impose a tax on the property of the states, I think, quite clearly raises that question unambiguously.

“The acts in their various forms also raise the question of, is this really a tax as opposed to being, as I say, a pecuniary penalty or some kind of fee?

“That too is a constitutional question.”

Dr Kelly is right.

In the 425 page (!?!) Explanatory Memorandum to the 288 page Minerals Resource Rent Tax Bill 2011, we find the following (emphasis added):

Imposing the MRRT

3.31    The MRRT is imposed by three different imposition Bills. One imposes MRRT to the extent that it is a duty of customs [section 3, MRRT customs imposition Bill]; one imposes MRRT to the extent that it is a duty of excise [section 3, MRRT excise imposition Bill]; and one imposes MRRT to the extent that it is neither a duty of customs nor one of excise [section 3, MRRT general imposition Bill]. This reflects the constitutional requirement that laws imposing duties of customs shall deal only with duties of customs and that laws imposing duties of excise shall deal only with duties of excise (see section 55 of the Constitution). However, there is only one assessment Act.

“This reflects the constitutional requirement” does it?  Utter bollocks!  What it “reflects”, is Australian governments’ now standard method of circumventing the clear wording and plainly obvious intent of the authors of the Constitution. I for one have no doubt whatsoever that when the authors of our Constitution wrote section 55, they certainly did NOT do so with the intent that every new tax, customs duty, or excise duty, should require the separate drafting and passage through both houses of Parliament of multiple, interdependent but at the same time, mutually-contradictory bills defining the new impost as being (1) not a tax, (2) a duty of customs, (3) a duty of excise, and (4) neither a duty of customs nor a duty of excise. To suggest otherwise is risible, and would be to assume that the authors of the Constitution wanted to make it as complicated and difficult as possible for government to impose genuine taxes, customs duties, and excise duties. No dear reader – the true reason why Australian governments (both “sides”) use this multiple interdependent but mutually-contradictory bills technique, is plainly obvious: their new imposts are not taxes, customs duties, or excise duties. They are unconstitutional money grabs … and they know it.

3.33    MRRT is not imposed on property belonging to a State. That ensures that the MRRT complies with section 114 of the Constitution, which prohibits the Commonwealth from imposing a tax on any kind of property of a State. In practice, this will only have an effect to the extent that a State mines its own taxable resources. In that case, the State will not be subject to MRRT.

Sorry BrownGilSwan.

Sorry Big Three multinational mining oligopoly PM-removers and tax-dodge designers.

Your saying so, does not make it so.

Indeed, the opposite is true.

Your saying so, almost certainly makes it not so.

Previously, we have seen exactly the same blatant Constitution-sidestepping ruse used in the 19 different bills and 1,000+ pages of the Clean Energy Future 2011 legislation:

Charge payable

(10) If a carbon unit is issued to a person in accordance with this section, the person is liable to pay a charge for the issue of the unit.

(11) Subsection (10) has effect only so far as it is not a law imposing taxation within the meaning of section 55 of the Constitution.

Note: See also:
(a) Part 2 of the Clean Energy (Charges—Excise) Act 2011; and
(b) the Clean Energy (Unit Issue Charge—General) Act 2011.

Compare …

Clean Energy (Charges – Excise) Act 2011

A Bill for an Act to impose charges associated with the Clean Energy Act 2011, so far as those charges are duties of excise

And compare …

Clean Energy (Unit Issue Charge – General) Act 2011

A Bill for an Act to impose charges associated with the Clean Energy Act 2011, so far as those charges are not duties of excise

The government’s bills for the mining tax, and the carbon tax, are not unlike a spoilt domineering child trying to get its own way.

Fingers inserted in ears.

Eyes screwed tightly shut.

And insisting, “It IS it IS it IS it IS it IS!”

Or, “It’s NOT it’s NOT it’s NOT it’s NOT it’s NOT!”

Basic rule of life, dear reader.

Listen very, very carefully to a government’s words.

Then ask yourself, “What is the opposite of what they have said?”

The opposite, is far more likely to be the truth.

Real Honest Journalism For Times Like These

18 Mar

Bravo Des Houghton!

Election seen through smudged lens

SO WE have endured an election campaign with plenty of mud-slinging.

The conservative protagonist and former Brisbane lord mayor has even been depicted as a spider and his wife vilified.

In the spirit of this campaign, today I would like to borrow from the Labor strategist’s play book:

Queensland’s Labor Government is worm-eaten, inept, rancid, pernicious, dirty, exhausted, dishonest, incompetent and lazy, not to mention mendaciously mud-slinging, ignorant, rotten, flagitious, disreputable, deceitful, unsavoury, unworthy, unsound, unwholesome, unscrupulous, untrustworthy, untruthful, corrupt, insincere and misleading.

And perhaps I should throw in reprehensible, weaseling, miscreant, nefarious, tarnished, ill-mannered, snivelling, expendable, foul, abominable, soiled, shifty, discreditable, improper, obscene, hateful, impure, degraded, grubby, pitiful, dilapidated, shabby, grovelling, flea-ridden, discredited, disgraced, degenerate, depraved, nefarious, toe-curling, perverse, putrid, rotten, unhealthy, faulty, opprobrious and empty.

Not to mention peccant, tergiversating, vituperative and insalubrious.

Hyperbole for dramatic effect, to be sure, but the campaign needs a bit of humour.

Labor should have been kicked out of office at the last election in March 2009.

That would have spared us further misery. And now, thanks to Labor’s campaign of misinformation, we have been hoodwinked again.

I have a horrible feeling we are going to the polls not knowing as much as we should about how an incoming government will handle new challenges such as the soaring cost of living, the collapse of tourism, the failure to protect the choicest cropping land and the terrifying state debt.

We don’t know fully how the parties intend to respond to these challenges.

Perhaps this is how Premier Anna Bligh and her political strategists planned it.

The print, electronic and social media was hit by an asteroid shower of misinformation. Mudslinging smudged the lens through which we view policy.

The good folk of Ashgrove have been forced into hiding from candidates and pollsters.

Some media was so besieged by charges of impropriety against Campbell and Lisa Newman there has been little air time left to truly examine Bligh’s record, much of it studded with spectacular failures.

And little time to fully examine LNP policy, for that matter.

The integrity row was a diversion that left little media time to explain how Labor gouged the workers and mismanaged the economy and how it failed in crucial areas of health, education and transport.

Bligh is at the centre of Labor’s long decline.

She joined the Cabinet in 1998 and has served as minister for families, youth, community care, disabilities, education, arts, trades and innovation.

She has been minister for finance and state development and she served as treasurer and deputy premier.

She has been the premier of Queensland since September 2007.

She was treasurer when the state debt began to balloon.

She was education minister when standards began to plunge.

Bligh must accept some of the condemnation for Queensland’s poor numeracy and literacy rates.

And she must accept blame for the childcare crisis, the debt blow-out and the lack of skilled tradesmen and women.

But perhaps her biggest mistake was failing to hold any of her ministers accountable for serious blunders and rorts in health and infrastructure.

There was a failure, too, to contain the public service, which is hemorrhaging your money.

Then there was Labor’s seemingly relentless attack on local government, first with forced council amalgamations then with the botched takeover of council water assets.

Bligh became unaccountable by not holding her ministers accountable and presiding over a government many now see as inept.

During the Beattie-Bligh era, Labor MPs went to jail for blackmail, rape, perjury and bribery, and Bligh’s own integrity was called into question.

She used government aircraft like a personal taxi .

Bligh broke promises on the fuel subsidy, asset sales and on power prices.

Car rego fees have soared 30 per cent since 2008.

Under Treasurer Andrew Fraser, Queensland has lost its AAA credit rating in a mining boom, racking up a debt of $85 billion.

Bligh’s Labor wasted $220 million on a health payroll system that denied doctors and nurses their pay at the same time as the department was being defrauded by a fake Tahitian prince.

When there were mistakes, Bligh’s Labor lied and attempted to cover them up, as in the Commonwealth Games cost over-runs.

Bligh’s Labor is politically obsolete.

Great survivor that she is, she will need a miracle to come back from here.

From Cairns to Coolangatta, Labor heads will roll.

And if Newman’s daredevil bid for power comes off, he, too, will have a lot of explaining to do.

Please feel free to have your say.

And remember that even as Labor heads for political oblivion, there is a place for a little humour.

Well Des, I’d not call your article an act of borrowing “from the Labor strategist’s playbook”.

Nor would I call it “hyperbole for dramatic effect”.

I’d call it what it is.

Real honest journalism.

An Entertaining Tutorial In Spotting Politicians’ Bullshit

25 Jan

Now it seems to me, dear reader, that there are two ways in which to approach the issue of politicians’ ceaseless lying.

Like your humble blogger, you can simply adopt a sound base position: That everything a politician says is almost certainly a lie-by-omission, half-truth, distortion, obfuscation, misdirection, or indeed, a bald-faced lie:

“I have certain rules I live by. My first rule: I don’t believe anything the government tells me .. NOTHING .. ZERO.”

– George Carlin

Or, you can enjoy learning HOW they are deceiving you, by listening very closely, with a very sceptical ear, to every word they say.

Here’s the late, legendary George Carlin explaining the latter method:

Fruitlooping Swan: Every Word A Lie

27 Jul

Recently I commented to a Twitter follower that, after my 3-weeks-of-work-in-1 spent on researching the government’s National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting department’s entire Register of “polluters” (results here), I now consider every single word that this government utters to be a lie.  By default.

And here comes Wayne Swan talking lying about the economy, confirming that I was right.

From the Australian (emphasis added):

Treasurer Wayne Swan has played down an inflation surge as he defended the government’s productivity agenda, saying its benefits would not be realised overnight.

Mr Swan said a summer of natural disasters and higher fruit prices were responsible for a stronger than expected increase in Australia’s consumer price index, which he accepted was making life harder for struggling families.

“These events are one-off events and they have a one-off impact on the CPI,” he said.

The Treasurer said a 27 per cent increase in fruit prices had contributed 0.4 per cent to the total 0.9 per cent inflation rate.

Bullshit.

Not “fruit” prices.

“Food” prices.

From the Australian Bureau of Statistics, whence cometh said CPI figures fraudulently misquoth by the completely despicable truth-avoidance expert, Treasurer Swan (emphasis added):

JUNE KEY FIGURES

Mar Qtr 2011 to Jun Qtr 2011
Jun Qtr 2010 to Jun Qtr 2011
Weighted average of eight capital cities
% change
% change

Food
1.4
6.1
Alcohol and tobacco
0.7
5.6
Clothing and footwear
2.5
1.1
Housing
0.4
4.6
Household contents and services
1.5
0.1
Health
2.0
4.0
Transportation
1.2
3.5
Communication
0.4
0.4
Recreation
-0.6
-0.3
Education
0.0
5.9
Financial and insurance services
1.6
4.2
All groups
0.9
3.6
All groups excluding Housing and Financial and insurance services
1.0
3.2

Contribution to quarterly change – June Quarter 2011

OVERVIEW OF CPI MOVEMENTS

* The most significant price rises this quarter were for fruit (+26.9%), automotive fuel (+4.0%), hospital and medical services (+3.4%), furniture (+6.0%), deposit and loan facilities (+2.1%) and rents (+1.1%).

FOOD prices increased by 1.4% in the quarter (table, in red).

FOOD price increases contributed almost half (0.4%) of the 0.9% increase in the CPI.

“Fruit” alone did NOT contribute 0.4% of the 0.9% increase in the CPI.

Not unless the entire nation bought fruit and only fruit to eat during the March to June quarter.

Wayne Swan lied.

Again.

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