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Wednesday 30 November 2016

(free) Words on Wednesday: "You have nothing to fear, if you have nothing to hide."

This is an extended edit of a comment I made earlier today in response to someone paraphrasing the above remark on Farcebook.

It is itself a response to the news that the UK government has passed the "snooper's charter" or the Draft Communications Data Bill without much of a fuss, or complaint from the opposition, or taking into account the views of those in the communications industry or anything like that. Here's a link to a story in the Guardian. And here's one that explains that encryption technology can also be bypassed by the government with this law.

"Arguing that you don't care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don't care about free speech because you have nothing to say."

          - Edward Snowden

But maybe that's not convincing enough. Here's some other reasons why this is bad for you, if you need to have it made personal rather than seeing why it would be bad if you are a Muslim or a protester or a journalist or someone who uses private data (like lawyers, therapists, doctors etc.)

1. YOU don't decide whether you've done anything wrong, the government does. So, maybe you think you're totally innocent now but ultimately that is not up to you to decide.
2. The rules might change. Now this is law, there's not much we can do if they decide to 'extend' it. 
3. Laws need to change, people need to express opposition to laws, "You have nothing to fear, if you have nothing to hide" is not the language of a democratic society, or a position that allows opposition or difference, it is a weak encouragement of the powerful.
4. Privacy is (or should be) a fundamental human right. If we allow it to be so described, as the 'nothing to fear' assumption does, as a basis in hiding a wrong-doing then we are also allowing ourselves to be labelled as potential criminals straight away. Privacy is about human dignity, it is about having some measure of personal freedom. Wanting privacy doesn't mean you've something to hide.
5. What happens with the storing of this data? What happens if this data is lost, or hacked? When it becomes the property of someone else, someone who does not even have to pretend to have your best interests at heart (like the UK government does) then you might find that this was a bad idea after all.

Big Brother is Watching You

Tuesday 22 November 2016

Library Tales: Book curse

“For him that stealeth, or borroweth and returneth not, this book from its owner, let it change into a serpent in his hand & rend him. Let him be struck with palsy & all his members blasted. Let him languish in pain crying aloud for mercy, & let there be no surcease to his agony till he sing in dissolution. Let bookworms gnaw his entrails in token of the Worm that dieth not, & when at last he goeth to his final punishment, let the flames of Hell consume him for ever.”

- from the library of the monastery of San Pedro, Barcelona

It appears that some people have always taken libraries as a free book shop. I'd imagine that these threats of damnation did about as much good as our threats of fines to students. At one point a student was not allowed to graduate until they had paid all of their library fines, which became a motivating factor, however, one clever law student pointed out this was actually illegal and most institutions stopped enforcing this. Still, most libraries would be wise to not let this fact be well known.

Thursday 17 November 2016

Thoughts on Thursday: Tabula Rasa

Presently I feel as if my mind has been swept blank,

& although there are no thoughts, there is a noise

an intense buzzing,

which comes in waves,

washing me further from the shores of feeling

into a deep cold sea, populated with monsters

King's spoil, dread with the undecided, blooded doomed

plunging gasping back towards the light, fearful as a newborn

. CFT 2016

Illustration by Mervyn Peake

Thursday 10 November 2016

Quotes worth saving (20): the coming ages of barbarism and darkness

After Virtue: a study in moral theory, by Alasdair MacIntyre.
Published in 1981. 

It is always dangerous to draw too precise parallels between one historical period and another; and among the most misleading of such parallels are those which have been drawn between our own age in Europe and North America and the epoch in which the Roman empire declined into the Dark Ages. Nonetheless certain parallels there are. A crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium. What they set themselves to achieve instead - often not recognizing fully what they were doing - was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness. If my account of our moral condition is correct, we ought also to conclude that for some time now we too have reached that turning point. What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time however the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another - doubtless very different - St. Benedict.


Alasdair MacIntyre

Monday 7 November 2016

Melancholy Mondays: Please don't

The red tie is the new arditi fez


Please don't.

I know it might look like a way to overthrow corporate neo-liberalism, but this isn't the way.

The only real way to accomplish that would take hard work and co-operation.

Please America, don't.

Some people have talked about a Trump presidency making the world an "interesting place."

I suppose self-immolation is 'interesting' in a manner of speaking.

So, don't do it.

Just don't.


I fear it's too late already, however, whether he wins or not.

Brexit has helped give a public voice to the darker thoughts of a part of British society that I once considered a minority, but those thoughts were always there waiting.

It's always easier to stoke resentment than a mutual accord.

People are not good.

People are not evil.

People are good AND evil. Their battle is internal. Individual. Constant. Their failures are externalised and multiplied by denial.

We think of ourselves, when we should think of others.

We blame others, when we should blame ourselves.

Please don't be selfish.

Please don't be cruel.

Please don't be dumb.



Saturday 5 November 2016

Silly sATURDAY: It's all relative

Geologically - within a fraction
Individually - mortifying
Cosmically - nada
Interpersonally - "perhaps it's the tie?" - JJ