I live in a country generally assumed to be a dictatorship. One of the Arab spring countries. I have lived through curfews and have seen the outcomes of the sort of surveillance now being revealed in the US. People here talking about curfews aren't realizing what that actually FEELS like. It isn't about having to go inside, and the practicality of that. It's about creating the feeling that everyone, everything is watching. A few points:
1) the purpose of this surveillance from the governments point of view is to control enemies of the state. Not terrorists. People who are coalescing around ideas that would destabilize the status quo. These could be religious ideas. These could be groups like anon who are too good with tech for the governments liking. It makes it very easy to know who these people are. It also makes it very simple to control these people.
Lets say you are a college student and you get in with some people who want to stop farming practices that hurt animals. So you make a plan and go to protest these practices. You get there, and wow, the protest is huge. You never expected this, you were just goofing off. Well now everyone who was there is suspect. Even though you technically had the right to protest, you're now considered a dangerous person. With this tech in place, the government doesn't have to put you in jail. They can do something more sinister. They can just email you a sexy picture you took with a girlfriend. Or they can email you a note saying that they can prove your dad is cheating on his taxes. Or they can threaten to get your dad fired. All you have to do, the email says, is help them catch your friends in the group. You have to report back every week, or you dad might lose his job. So you do. You turn in your friends and even though they try to keep meetings off grid, you're reporting on them to protect your dad.
2) Let's say number one goes on. The country is a weird place now. Really weird. Pretty soon, a movement springs up like occupy, except its bigger this time. People are really serious, and they are saying they want a government without this power. I guess people are realizing that it is a serious deal. You see on the news that tear gas was fired. Your friend calls you, frantic. They're shooting people. Oh my god. you never signed up for this. You say, fuck it. My dad might lose his job but I won't be responsible for anyone dying. That's going too far. You refuse to report anymore. You just stop going to meetings. You stay at home, and try not to watch the news. Three days later, police come to your door and arrest you. They confiscate your computer and phones, and they beat you up a bit. No one can help you so they all just sit quietly. They know if they say anything they're next. This happened in the country I live in. It is not a joke.
3) Its hard to say how long you were in there. What you saw was horrible. Most of the time, you only heard screams. People begging to be killed. Noises you've never heard before. You, you were lucky. You got kicked every day when they threw your moldy food at you, but no one shocked you. No one used sexual violence on you, at least that you remember. There were some times they gave you pills, and you can't say for sure what happened then. To be honest, sometimes the pills were the best part of your day, because at least then you didn't feel anything. You have scars on you from the way you were treated. You learn in prison that torture is now common. But everyone who uploads videos or pictures of this torture is labeled a leaker. Its considered a threat to national security. Pretty soon, a cut you got on your leg is looking really bad. You think it's infected. There were no doctors in prison, and it was so overcrowded, who knows what got in the cut. You go to the doctor, but he refuses to see you. He knows if he does the government can see the records that he treated you. Even you calling his office prompts a visit from the local police.
You decide to go home and see your parents. Maybe they can help. This leg is getting really bad. You get to their house. They aren't home. You can't reach them no matter how hard you try. A neighbor pulls you aside, and he quickly tells you they were arrested three weeks ago and haven't been seen since. You vaguely remember mentioning to them on the phone you were going to that protest. Even your little brother isn't there.
4) Is this even really happening? You look at the news. Sports scores. Celebrity news. It's like nothing is wrong. What the hell is going on? A stranger smirks at you reading the paper. You lose it. You shout at him "fuck you dude what are you laughing at can't you see I've got a fucking wound on my leg?" "Sorry," he says. "I just didn't know anyone read the news anymore." There haven't been any real journalists for months. They're all in jail.
Everyone walking around is scared. They can't talk to anyone else because they don't know who is reporting for the government. Hell, at one time YOU were reporting for the government. Maybe they just want their kid to get through school. Maybe they want to keep their job. Maybe they're sick and want to be able to visit the doctor. It's always a simple reason. Good people always do bad things for simple reasons.
You want to protest. You want your family back. You need help for your leg. This is way beyond anything you ever wanted. It started because you just wanted to see fair treatment in farms. Now you're basically considered a terrorist, and everyone around you might be reporting on you. You definitely can't use a phone or email. You can't get a job. You can't even trust people face to face anymore. On every corner, there are people with guns. They are as scared as you are. They just don't want to lose their jobs. They don't want to be labeled as traitors.
This all happened in the country where I live. You want to know why revolutions happen? Because little by little by little things get worse and worse. But this thing that is happening now is big. This is the key ingredient. This allows them to know everything they need to know to accomplish the above. The fact that they are doing it is proof that they are the sort of people who might use it in the way I described. In the country I live in, they also claimed it was for the safety of the people. Same in Soviet Russia. Same in East Germany. In fact, that is always the excuse that is used to surveil everyone. But it has never ONCE proven to be the reality.
Maybe Obama won't do it. Maybe the next guy won't, or the one after him. Maybe this story isn't about you. Maybe it happens 10 or 20 years from now, when a big war is happening, or after another big attack. Maybe it's about your daughter or your son. We just don't know yet. But what we do know is that right now, in this moment we have a choice. Are we okay with this, or not? Do we want this power to exist, or not?
You know for me, the reason I'm upset is that I grew up in school saying the pledge of allegiance. I was taught that the United States meant "liberty and justice for all." You get older, you learn that in this country we define that phrase based on the constitution. That's what tells us what liberty is and what justice is. Well, the government just violated that ideal. So if they aren't standing for liberty and justice anymore, what are they standing for? Safety?
Ask yourself a question. In the story I told above, does anyone sound safe?
I didn't make anything up. These things happened to people I know. We used to think it couldn't happen in America. But guess what? It's starting to happen. I actually get really upset when people say "I don't have anything to hide. Let them read everything." People saying that have no idea what they are bringing down on their own heads. They are naive, and we need to listen to people in other countries who are clearly telling us that this is a horrible horrible sign and it is time to stand up and say no.
I tie our hair together in looping knots, gold twined with red and purple, my hair wrapped in his like set gemstones. We match our garnet earrings, I think, we match and are beautiful, here in this place, this tent of our tangled hair, in this moment where we’ve erased the entire world but ourselves.
I think of the violence in Iran, the students shot for protesting, the plain clothes agitators hired by the police state to enact violence in the name of the wronged, and I am especially glad for this small green hill, our hair braided together, our eyes shining together like light. Such perspective is deeply important to me. There are no fires here, no government shootings, no rigged elections for despots. We are not threatened here in Canada, the country we’ve made of a million languages, stronger together, we are safe here, and no matter how complex or stressful our lives might be, we will not die from politics. We are not persecuted and can help those that are.
#iranelection cyberwar guide for beginners
The purpose of this guide is to help you participate constructively in the Iranian election protests through twitter.
1. Do NOT publicise proxy IP’s over twitter, and especially not using the #iranelection hashtag. Security forces are monitoring this hashtag, and the moment they identify a proxy IP they will block it in Iran. If you are creating new proxies for the Iranian bloggers, DM them to @stopAhmadi or @iran09 and they will distributed them discretely to bloggers in Iran.
2. Hashtags, the only two legitimate hashtags being used by bloggers in Iran are #iranelection and #gr88, other hashtag ideas run the risk of diluting the conversation.
3. Keep you bull$hit filter up! Security forces are now setting up twitter accounts to spread disinformation by posing as Iranian protesters. Please don’t retweet impetuosly, try to confirm information with reliable sources before retweeting. The legitimate sources are not hard to find and follow.
4. Help cover the bloggers: change your twitter settings so that your location is TEHRAN and your time zone is GMT +3.30. Security forces are hunting for bloggers using location and timezone searches. If we all become ‘Iranians’ it becomes much harder to find them.
5. Don’t blow their cover! If you discover a genuine source, please don’t publicise their name or location on a website. These bloggers are in REAL danger. Spread the word discretely through your own networks but don’t signpost them to the security forces. People are dying there, for real, please keep that in mind.
6. Denial of Service attacks. If you don’t know what you are doing, stay out of this game. Only target those sites the legitimate Iranian bloggers are designating. Be aware that these attacks can have detrimental effects to the network the protesters are relying on. Keep monitoring their traffic to note when you should turn the taps on or off.
7. Do spread the (legitimate) word, it works! When the bloggers asked for twitter maintenance to be postponed using the #nomaintenance tag, it had the desired effect. As long as we spread good information, provide moral support to the protesters, and take our lead from the legitimate bloggers, we can make a constructive contribution.
Please remember that this is about the future of the Iranian people, while it might be exciting to get caught up in the flow of participating in a new meme, do not lose sight of what this is really about.
In 1991, the government of Somalia collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since – and the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country’s food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.
Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died.
Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, tells me: "Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury – you name it." Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to "dispose" of cheaply.
At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia’s seas of their greatest resource: seafood. We have destroyed our own fish stocks by overexploitation – and now we have moved on to theirs. More than $300m-worth of tuna, shrimp, and lobster are being stolen every year by illegal trawlers. The local fishermen are now starving. Mohammed Hussein, a fisherman in the town of Marka 100km south of Mogadishu, told Reuters: "If nothing is done, there soon won’t be much fish left in our coastal waters."
This is the context in which the "pirates" have emerged. Somalian fishermen took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least levy a "tax" on them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia – and ordinary Somalis agree. The independent Somalian news site WardheerNews found 70 per cent "strongly supported the piracy as a form of national defence".
I didn’t make it to Sweet Nothings last night, instead I was caught in a crime-scene on my way to the art gallery/tattoo parlour where Claire and Noah have their paintings up. I knew going down that there had been a murder, two people shot in a black SUV outside Gotham, the overly expensive steak-house across the street, but what I didn’t know was that by the time I arrived, the police were locking down the entire block.
I had perfect timing. As I walked from the bus-stop, cutting between buildings, they literally blocked off all the exits with police tape around me. I tried stepping under it to get out onto Seymour where the gallery is, as I tried to find my way out, and I was shouted at to get back, this is a crime scene, then I tried the alley to the same results, then the way I came in to the same results. Finally, having used up three of the four cardinal directions, I decided to hell with their shouting, I was going to breach the damned line, and ducked under the tape out onto Dunsmuir.
Next thing, I was sitting hand-cuffed on the hood of a police car as four cops shouted at me for sneaking in, possibly tampering with evidence, and theatening to arrest me for obstructing the law. It must have made an odd little scene. Four large men shouting at me in my long black coat, a top hat with a pretty ribbon, and gold lipstick, as I explained as patiently as I could that no, I had simply gotten off the bus, I was not involved in any way, and yes, you can go through my things as much as you like and would you please take these damned things off me, I am not twelve years old, thank you, stop treating me as such.
There were so many police present at the scene that I can’t imagine there were any left in the rest of Vancouver, so it took twenty minutes for them to find anyone who could verify my story. When it finally came crackling over the radio, “what, you mean that chick in the top hat?” I was testy enough to bitch them out for being unprofessional enough to call me a “chick”.
The rest of the night was lovely, however. Frank and Claire, once they were allowed out, picked me up at the Tim Horton’s across the street, and we stayed up immensely late taking incredibly silly cleavage-filled photos at their place. So there you are, internet, you’ve been warned. Breasts are imminent.
I was caught in a thought last night, unable to sleep. Awake and aware hours past I should have. Three thirty came bringing the police to the door. I came flying, askew, ina bundle to the door. Bill was sparked out of sleep. “Do you know Marshall White?” I nod and tell her to come around back, as our front door is broken.
By the time she wends her way past the brushpile, through the back, (lucky police carry flashlights), M’love and I have convened at the back door. “what is happening” “the police have marshall” “excuse the hour, but do you two know if marshall takes drugs?”
He had frightened the battlehardened store clerks at the 7-11 to calling the police. The bluesuited help arrived and called an ambulance. We were not informed what his behaviour had been. Enough, apparently, that they were concerned for his health. These, the clerks that told the man arguing with his prostitute to pay the woman and leave. With a stick.
We discussed some recent oddities, and agreed that people had been asking questions..
In the morning, a doctor called. Bill answered from in bed and I listened while curled to his chest. “No medication that I know of” I felt odd, wanting to drift into sleep, yet curious and wondering. “He asked us yesterday where to find ‘the good acid’ then asked us if that was where love and happiness came from”
Apparently he’d not said a word to them all night. He’s staying under observation in the Psychiatric Assesment Unit. I was sent upstairs and returned with a packet with his granna’s phone and contact information. She called later, with worries and doubt.
The doctors aren’t sure if it’s drugs or schizophrenia and the possibility of taking away all personal responsibilty has been mentioned.
I actually have to leave the house today. I’m feeling sort of nervous about it. I have to collect my keys, and the money – and leave. Walk outside. Step from the house into the open air.
The day before yesterday, I was walking home through the dark alley that runs parallel to Victoria, and two bicycle police stopped me to ask, “Have you seen a rather large man with a fire axe?” . He had robbed the gas station down the road about 30 minutes earlier, and was presumed still in the neighborhood.
I have to leave the house?? A strange man tried to kidnap me this month! I’m being asked about psychotics with FIRE AXES! Fire axes are serious frightening things!
I dearly hope there’s someone available to spend time today.