Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Terrorists don't shop on Amazon

Spyblog picks up on a sci-fi collection intentionally breaking the "law" around glorification of terrorism, by publishing a book called "Glorifying Terrorism".

The debate over the definition of "terrorist" is certainly one (amongst many) that needs to be hammered out much more than it has been permitted to be. Use of language as a technology to control thoughts is commonplace. Watching 'V for Vendetta' the other week reminded me again of this - or perhaps not of the definition of "terrorist", strictly, but of what value we place on violence, and the utter subjectivity of this value. Whose side are you on? Whose side do they want you to be on?

I'm thinking about ordering a copy, but money is pretty tight at the moment. Still, I wanted to check the price over at Amazon (wow, a whole bunch more) so I went over and entered "glorifying terrorism" into the search box. As I closed the tab after seeing the price, I couldn't help but wonder if it looked like I was trying to hide something; I'm making the search through a University network (a hotbed for fundamentalist musings, apparently). My previous search was for anti-establishment industrial music. Hell, my purchase history shows up an example of quite obviously dubious purpose, collapsing 8 years of learning and experience thoughtfully into 1 dropdown menu. I can only hope all those Celtic music buys help to offset the damage.

Attitudes ride around, attaching themselves to words, and bouncing off other attitudes. We live and learn through associations and connections. We know that the fastest way to get attention drawn to ourselves is to make links - in these days, however tenuous - with people we know to be breaking the law. I shouldn't have to feel guilty or concerned about searching for a sci-fi collection, yet this is the imperceptible, invisible hand of precaution - no, wait - fear that continues to creep into our minds. Fear of association.

Monday, February 12, 2007

UK DNA database stats

Have you had your DNA taken by the Police? If so, according to the local rag, you amongst the 1 out of every 20 people in the UK that's on file. Sussex Police are tops at hiking up the average, "enlisting" over 6% of the county's population in their scheme. I'd love to see that number plotted on a graph over time.

How long until you join the club? (Oh, and don't forget you can't leave...)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

"Tony Blair luvs ID Cards = TRUE!"

Blair spews more curious rhetoric over the evil-bad-guy-ness of ID cards, claiming that they will hold 'less than store card'. The usual annoyingly retrogressive assumptions about the nature of politics persist, though:

  1. Comparing ID cards to store cards further reveals just how Blair thinks about Government - as a company, with citizens not as citizens but as consumers. While he may be coming from a viewpoint of "efficiency" and yadda, there are hugely important differences between the two, such as oh I don't know, access to a Police force maybe? Control over market failures? Any amateur economist will happily sum up the differences between how a market is assumed to work (though not necessarily how they do work) and where, at least under a capitalist policy, Government steps up to "fill in the gaps". The split between ID cards as a personal artefact of governance (i.e. between the government and you, just you), and as a social artefact (i.e. between the government and the whole of the governed) needs to be emphasised increasingly.

  2. Blair shuffles into the "sharing data is good" spiel. I notice he drops in a part on safeguards - "and we do need to make sure that;s subject to debate, proper scrutiny". Uh huh. And so far these safeguards have been subject to... uh... how much proper (i.e. un-spun) debate? Quick Martha, I can feel my Bayesian Learning kicking in.

  3. Ha, what a fantastic quote: "in every other walk of life the technology is being used to enhance service, in the public service we put down a barrier." Perhaps Blair should read Danah Boyd's thoughts on walls. The question is not just "should we just make things more efficient for government?" The questions include issues about freedom and privacy. Which walls do we want?

    Secondly, it also seems that Blair hasn't really been following all the hoohah over DRM and IP control (or is selective about his morals here - oh wait, yeah, I go with that). Walls are being constructed with technology all the time, to control markets, to control economies. From an efficiency point of view, bringing down walls can make things extremely smooth, lubricated. But again, what do we lose when we chase after efficiency?

  4. Further proof that Blair is unwilling to actually debate with and listen to people on this one comes at the bottom of the article, regarding nationally shared medical data: "if you're taken ill in a different part of a country from where your GP is you can access immediately the details of someone's health care, what drugs they may need or want to use." The option - that such data is held in the hands of the concerned - seems to have been ruled out. Centralisation is, apparently, the only way to achieve data transferral. With regard to ID cards, this is similar to "why not just have a card with your data on?" - an argument that I haven't heard a pro-ID politician answer in any meaningful way,e ver. Blair envies the supermarkets. Blair wants to know who you are.

In a week where the Conservatives have drawn their line and are now playing the risk card against ID system investors, it's a shame to see the same crappy drivel being vomited forth that was being vomited forth 3 years ago. As such, this response gets an appropriately idiotic and childish title.