Politics, Rights, Technology

Former Irish Chief Justice slams data retention as mass surveillance and threat to fundamental rights

Former Chief Justice of Ireland John L Murray has warned that retained telecommunications data poses a threat to fundamental rights and freedoms in a searing report [PDF] released on Tuesday alongside proposed amendments by the government to Ireland’s data retention laws.

Murray said Ireland’s data retention system touches every aspect of a person’s communications profile for a lengthy period of time.

[Data retention] establishes a form of mass surveillance of virtually the entire population of the state, involving the retention and storage of historic data, other than actual content, pertaining to every electronic communication, in any form, made by anyone and everyone at any time, he wrote.

A vast amount of private information pertaining to the personal communications of virtually everyone in the state is now retained without the consent of those affected in databases maintained by each private service provider in fulfilment of its statutory obligations.

Ireland’s data retention regime, enacted in 2011, mandates that data related to phone calls, text messages, and phone location be kept for two years and IP addresses for internet connections for one year. Due to a decision by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) striking down a European Union data retention directive in 2014, Ireland’s laws in the area need to be modified to remain compliant.

The retained data is able to be currently accessed under a disclosure request by Irish Defence Forces, an officer of the Revenue Commissioners, the Garda Síochána (Irish Police), the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, or anyone with an appropriate court order or authorisation by the Data Protection Commissioner. The legislation also allows for individuals to request the data kept on them.

The former chief justice warned that safeguards in place for state authorities to access retained data could be undermined by those agencies believing they are entitled to the data if it is deemed useful by them.

Access to a person’s private historical communications data is an intrusion on their rights and on data which is personal to them, Murray said. Mere utility or potential utility is not the test — via ZDNet

Politics

Trump’s Media Pals Are Busy Creating a Left-Wing ‘Threat’ to Balance Out the Awful Racist Right-Wing Hordes That Threaten Civil Society

In these dark days, an intergenerational warning is in order: Antifa folks, be wary. They are coming for you.

Some of us have seen this movie before. In my generation, when I was a teenage member of MSU’s SDS in the late 1960s, I remember the guy who was always yelling, Kill the pigs, and encouraging us to burn down the ROTC building on campus. In later years, I heard from old SDS colleagues that when they sued the police, they learned that the outspoken guy was a police officer and his friends were informants.

For my dad’s generation, the right-wing takeover of a protest movement happened in Germany generations ago, so most Americans don’t even recognize Marinus van der Lubbe’s name. But the Germans remember well that fateful day 84 years ago: 27 February 1933. And many of them are looking at the confrontations in our streets and worrying.

It started when the government, struggling with questions of its own legitimacy and the instability of its leader, received reports of an imminent terrorist attack. Historians are still debating whether the terrorist was a mentally incompetent young man manoeuvred into place to take the fall for the crime, or was an actual communist ideologue (of limited intellectual means and probably schizophrenic; that seems to be one thing most agree on).

But the warnings of investigators were ignored at the highest levels, in part because the government was distracted; the man who claimed to be the nation’s leader had not been elected by a majority vote and the people claimed he had no right to the powers he coveted — via AlterNet.org

Politics

Chap behind Godwin’s law suspends his own rule for Charlottesville fascists: ‘By all means, compare them to Nazis’

Mike Godwin, creator of Godwin’s law, has rescinded his own rule for those outraged by vile fascists marching the streets of Virginia, USA, at the weekend.

In other words, it’s OK to call these un-American white supremacists exactly what they are: By all means, compare these shitheads to Nazis. Again and again. I’m with you, Godwin said on Sunday evening.

Godwin’s law states that as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one. The unofficial extension of this is that the first person to bring up Hitler automatically loses the argument.

Godwin created the aphorism in the early 1990s, when he was the first in-house lawyer for the EFF. It was created partly as a humorous aside on bulletin board behaviour and partly as an exercise in mimetics and to encourage people to read more history. More than 20 years later it’s still cited online.

In the wake of white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend, which left one protestor dead and 30 injured, Godwin has, at least in this case, suspended his own law – or, rather, granted permission to break it. This comes after a plea from a fan online for him to respond to the scenes of fascists in America’s streets — via The Register (UK)

Politics, Technology

Elon Musk’s Tesla to build world’s biggest lithium ion battery to secure power for South Australia

South Australia will be home to the world’s largest lithium ion battery thanks to a historic agreement between Tesla and the State Government.

And Tesla boss Elon Musk is promising to build it in 100 days, or it’s free. Key points:

A 100-megawatt (129 megawatt hour) battery is to be in place before summer It will provide energy stability for SA and also be emergency back-up for shortfalls Elon Musk is sticking by a 100 days or free promise for SA taxpayers

Tesla will build the 100-megawatt battery which will store energy from French renewable company Neoen’s Hornsdale Wind Farm near Jamestown, which is still under construction.

The project will be in place before summer.

Mr Musk’s 100 days or it’s free pledge starts once the grid interconnection agreement has been signed — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Weird

Children: The Cause of All Crime / Scarfolk Council

In 1970 the Scarfolk Crime Commission embarked on the largest study into crime to date. After two years of intense investigation it found a startling correlation between the types of people who commit crime and their early life experiences.

The findings were unequivocal: 100% of criminals had also once been children.

The council immediately put into effect acts intended to reduce, if not entirely eradicate this insidious cause of crime. Thousands of children were rounded up in camps. Toys were burnt in massive pyres. Adults were sterilised. Anyone who had been in regular contact with children, or had ever been a child, was quarantined in vast bunkers specially built several storeys below the council building.

Though Scarfolk was reduced to a ghost town, the scheme proved a success. During the first month that these stringent measures had been implemented not one crime had been committed. Consequently, at the 1972 Conference of Sham Utopias, a local conservative MP predicted that the most successful towns, and even countries, of the future will be those that eradicate all citizens who have any connection to, or dealings with, children or the adults they grow into — via Scarfolk Council

Politics

Election Campaign Poster (1974) / Scarfolk Council

Gerry Mander (see above) was the Scarfolk Party candidate in the 1974 election. Though much of his nationalistic campaign consisted of subliminal brainwashing techniques, complicated satanic invocations, and simply lying and punching liberals in the face, he did also proffer tangible promises.

For example, he wanted Britain to be the first western nation to construct an underground sewage system designed specifically to transport its disabled and sick to landfill sites. He also insisted that women finally be recognised as the most valuable resource in their husband’s or father’s livestock.

Most of all, he strongly promoted British exports such as conker wine and badger cheese and demanded that the UK be acknowledged as the clear trade leader out of all the world’s authoritarian third world nations — via Scarfolk Council

Politics, Technology

How Australia Bungled Its $36 Billion High-Speed Internet Rollout

The story of Australia’s costly internet bungle illustrates the hazards of mingling telecommunication infrastructure with the impatience of modern politics. The internet modernization plan has been hobbled by cost overruns, partisan maneuvering and a major technical compromise that put 19th-century technology between the country’s 21st-century digital backbone and many of its homes and businesses.

The government-led push to modernize its telecommunications system was unprecedented, experts say — and provides a cautionary tale for others who might like to try something similar.

Australia was the first country where a totally national plan to cover every house or business was considered, said Rod Tucker, a University of Melbourne professor and a member of the expert panel that advised on the effort. The fact it was a government plan didn’t necessarily make it doomed. In Australia, we have changes of governments every three years, which really works against the ability to undertake long-term planning, and the long-term rollouts of networks like this.

Australia poses natural connectivity challenges. It lies oceans away from other countries, and any network would have to connect far-flung cities separated by its sparsely populated interior.

Still, Australia had high hopes for its ambitious internet project. Started in 2009, the initiative, known as the National Broadband Network, was intended to bring advanced fibre-optic technology to the doorstep of just about every home and business. It was initially estimated to cost 43 billion Australian dollars, shared by the government and the private sector — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Entertainment, Politics

Obituary: John Clarke

Celebrated satirist and comedian John Clarke has died suddenly, aged 68. Your favourite Clarke and Dawe sketches

Iconic comedy duo John Clarke and Bryan Dawe entertained audiences with their political satire skits for over 25 years. We’ve collated some of their most loved segments and classic exchanges.

Clarke died from natural causes while bushwalking in Victoria over the weekend.

John died doing one of the things he loved the most in the world, taking photos of birds in beautiful bushland with his wife and friends. He is forever in our hearts, his family said in a statement issued by the ABC.

We are aware of what he has meant to so many for so many years, throughout the world but especially in Australia and New Zealand.

We are very grateful for all expressions of sympathy and love which John would have greatly appreciated — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics

Some notes on the worst-case scenario

Confession time: I’m an optimist, especially about the ideas of social progress that emerged in Europe at the end of the middle ages and became mainstream in western politics in the early 20th century. I called the outcome of the Brexit referendum wrong (by underestimating the number of racist bigots and Little Englanders in the UK population: Brexit is a proxy for English nationalism, which is absolutely not the same as British nationalism), and I called the US presidential election wrong (underestimating the extent of gerrymandering and micro-targeted black propaganda driven by data mining in the campaign).

Since January 20th we’ve seen a degree and type of activity emanating from the new US administration that is markedly different from anything in my politically aware lifetime (loosely: since Reagan). Blanket bans on entry to the USA by anyone associated with certain nationalities, mass firings at the State Department, a president railing against a so-called judge, the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff being booted off the National Security Council and replaced by a white nationalist ideologue, and a former CEO of Exxon in the Cabinet: what’s going on?

Let me pull on my pessimist’s hat and advance the most scary hypothesis I can imagine that explains the current situation.

Please note that the following scenario assumes that what we are witnessing is deliberate and planned and that the people in Trump’s inner circle actually have a coherent objective they are working towards. (I desperately hope that I’m wrong on all counts) — via redwolf.newsvine.com

History, Politics

Against Normalisation: The Lesson of the “Munich Post”

The Trump-Hitler comparison. Is there any comparison? Between the way the campaigns of Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler should have been treated by the media and the culture? The way the media should act now? The problem of normalisation?

Because I’d written a book called Explaining Hitler several editors had asked me, during the campaign, to see what could be said on the subject.

Until the morning after the election I had declined them. While Trump’s crusade had at times been malign, as had his vociferous supporters, he and they did not seem bent on genocide. He did not seem bent on anything but hideous, hurtful simple-mindedness — a childishly vindictive buffoon trailing racist followers whose existence he had main-streamed. When I say followers I’m thinking about the perpetrators of violence against women outlined by New York Magazine who punched women in the face and shouted racist slurs at them. Those supporters. These are the people Trump has dragged into the mainstream, and as my friend Michael Hirschorn pointed out, their hatefulness will no longer find the Obama Justice Department standing in their way.

Bad enough, but genocide is almost by definition beyond comparison with normal politics and everyday thuggish behaviour, and to compare Trump’s feckless racism and compulsive lying was inevitably to trivialize Hitler’s crime and the victims of genocide — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics

Sales of George Orwell’s 1984 surge after Kellyanne Conway’s ‘alternative facts’

Sales of George Orwell’s dystopian drama 1984 have soared after Kellyanne Conway, adviser to the reality-TV-star-turned-president, Donald Trump, used the phrase alternative facts in an interview. As of Tuesday, the book was the sixth best-selling book on Amazon.

Comparisons were made with the term newspeak used in the 1949 novel, which was used to signal a fictional language that aims at eliminating personal thought and also doublethink. In the book Orwell writes that it means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.

The connection was initially made on CNN’s Reliable Sources. Alternative facts is a George Orwell phrase, said Washington Post reporter Karen Tumulty.

Conway’s use of the term was in reference to White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s comments about last week’s inauguration attracting the largest audience ever. Her interview was widely criticized and she was sub-tweeted by Merriam-Webster dictionary with a definition of the word fact. On last night’s Late Night with Seth Meyers, the host joked: Kellyanne Conway is like someone trying to do a Jedi mind trick after only a week of Jedi training.

In 1984, a superstate wields extreme control over the people and persecutes any form of independent thought — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics

Voting Should Be Mandatory

When you survey the wreckage of 2016, it’s easy to forget that the most seismic democratic events were brought about by minorities.

Only 37 percent of eligible Britons voted to leave the European Union. The case is even clearer in the American election, which Donald J Trump won despite having persuaded only a quarter of the American electorate to support him. Mr Trump triumphed in a low-turnout election.

As we scramble to explain the upheavals in democratic politics, we may be describing shifts that, while significant, are smaller than we think.

It’s time for democracies to adopt compulsory voting. I say this from Australia, one of about a dozen countries where people can be penalized for not voting (about a dozen more have compulsory voting on the books but don’t enforce it). We’ve done so at the federal level since 1924, following a drop in voter turnout. We’re now required by law to enrol at 18 years old (though this isn’t strictly monitored), and we’re fined if we fail to vote. Around three-quarters of Australians have consistently supported compulsory voting, and there is no meaningful movement for change.

The evidence is mixed on whether compulsory voting favours parties of the right or the left, and some studies suggest that most United States federal election results would be unchanged. But all that misses the point because it overlooks that compulsory voting changes more than the number of voters: It changes who runs for office and the policy proposals they support — redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics

NSW Premier Mike Baird announces retirement

NSW Premier Mike Baird has announced his retirement from politics.

In a statement on Twitter, Mr Baird said he was ready to move on from politics after 10 years in public life.

As I have reflected on the approaching halfway mark of our current term of government, and the opportunity it presents to refresh the Cabinet team, I have decided that this is the perfect time for me to hand the reins over to a new Premier, it read.

Serving as Premier of NSW has been a tremendous honour, but I have made clear from the beginning that I was in politics to make a difference, and then move on.

After 10 years in public life, this moment for me has arrived.

Mr Baird has been Premier of NSW since April 2014, taking over after Barry O’Farrell’s resignation — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics

Catch the Fire ministries stripped of charitable status after raising funds for Rise Up Australia party

Controversial Melbourne evangelical church Catch the Fire, which solicits donations for the Rise Up Australia Party, has had its charitable status revoked by authorities.

The ministries, based in the south-eastern suburbs, have been run by Sri Lankan-born pastor Daniel Nalliah since the late 1990s.

Mr Nalliah launched the Rise up Australia party in 2013 on an anti-Islam, anti-multiculturalism platform and fielded candidates at last year’s federal election.

He openly preaches his political message from the pulpit and collects donations for the party at church services.

As a registered charity, Catch the Fire had access to Commonwealth tax concessions including GST waivers, income tax exemptions and fringe benefit tax rebates.

But the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission (ACNC) has now revoked its charitable status. Charities are not allowed to promote or fund political candidates — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics

President Trump: The Inauguration

After a long absence, The Twilight Zone returns with one of the most ambitious, expensive and controversial productions in broadcast history. Sci-fi writers have dabbled often with alternative history stories – among the most common is the What If The Nazis Had Won The Second World War setting — but this huge interactive virtual reality project, which will unfold on TV, in the press, and on Twitter over the next four years, sets out to build an ongoing alternative present. The story begins in a nightmarish version of 2017 in which huge sections of the US electorate have somehow been duped into voting to make Donald Trump president. It sounds far-fetched, and it is, but as it goes on it becomes more and more chillingly plausible. Today’s feature-length opener concentrates on the gaudy inauguration of President Trump, and the stirrings of protest and despair surrounding the ceremony, while pundits speculate gravely on what lies ahead. It’s a flawed piece, but a disturbing glimpse of the horrors we could stumble into, if we’re not careful — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics

Wayne Swan: we know how to stop Trumpism

You want to stop people from turning to divisive figures who peddle hatred? Ensure they have a decent standard of living, writes former treasurer Wayne Swan.

Far from history being over, it seems like the battle of ideas has only just begun. The election of Donald Trump, the UK’s exit from the European Union and the rise of nationalist parties such as the National Front in France, the AFD in Germany and of course, One Nation and their fellow-travellers in the Liberal and National parties in Australia have completely shattered the notion that support for trickle-down economics, particularly labour market deregulation and discriminatory trade agreements, is settled in Western democracy. Indeed, recent events suggest that a majority of voters have been stewing in ominous silence for the past two decades as their countries were transformed without their consent.

But while Brexit and Trump provide a stinging rebuke to major parties that cling to the trickle-down agenda in the US and the UK, the Australian experience has, so far at least, been more inclusive. While Australia can learn a number of lessons from what is happening overseas, our closest allies can learn some important lessons from us as well.

The first lesson is that rising inequality is the major threat to economic growth in developed countries. Unless economic policy is aimed at securing inclusive growth that delivers benefits to those outside the 1% it is now clear that a majority of voters will block that reform. The thing that now scares the working class the most is a bigger dose of free-market capitalism.

The second lesson for all politicians is that voters no longer fear the wrath of the markets if they refuse to swallow the bitter pill of trickle-down tax and trade policies. The idea that the cure for unemployment, poverty and regional decline is another dose of trade agreements and tax cuts is dead. Working-class voters now fear the medicine of neoliberal reform more than they fear the problem of slow growth — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics

Points-Based Citizenship (1972-) / Scarfolk Council

While politicians debated a points-based system for immigrants in the early 1970s, Scarfolk went a step further and introduced a similar system for existing citizens.

The council didn’t see why it should be burdened with unimportant, objectionable people.

Surprisingly, many citizens had never even entertained the idea that their country of birth was purely accidental and that their value to society might be lower than that of a pack of disposable nappies or a plate of tripe*, nevermind better educated, more civilised foreigners.

Between 1972 and 1976 thousands of British citizens were deported to an immense raft which floated five miles off the coast of Blackpool. Realising that they were now the foreigners they had previously denigrated, the deportees hurled racist abuse at themselves and each other and frequently got into fights.

* see Citizen Values for further details — via Scarfolk Council

Politics, Technology

#CensusFail is a failure to listen to ‘experts’ and it’s complicated…

Australia just had a massive jump in IT jargon, well, sort of LOL! DDoS is now a thing you hear punters inserting into a conversation, so are servers, hacks, VPN’s and more. The problem is, most don’t actually really understand what the hell they are saying. As is often the case when it comes to the technical, a little bit of knowledge is dangerous.

But you know what, you don’t need to understand it all.

Yes, we are in a so-called Digital era, but the point is, do you know exactly how your car works, all the intimate details of how it is built, what is used, all the safety parameters, engineering, designing etc? In general the answer would be No. It is a tool. You know how to drive it, not the ducks nuts about how it is put together and all the moving parts. You do know you need to lock it so it won’t get stolen, you know there are certain laws to abide by so you don’t endanger yourself and others, but the actual chunk of steel that propels you – sometimes at great speed – down the road is beyond your knowledge and to be perfectly frank, we don’t need to know — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Technology

Census 2016: no sign of any DDoS attack

While the head of the Australian Bureau of Statistics David Kalisch is claiming that hackers forced the closure of the organisation’s website on census night, there is no evidence to show that any such attack occurred.

The website digitalattackmap.com tracks events of this nature but as security pro Matthew Hackling posted last night, the site detected no unusual activity in Australia at all.

Hackling commented in a tweet: Hmmm. Nothing unusual DDoS wise for Australia and yesterday #censusfail — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics

I’m With The Banned — Welcome to the Scream Room

Milo Yiannopoulos is a charming devil and one of the worst people I know. I have seen the death of political discourse reflected in his designer sunglasses. It chills me. We met four years ago, before he was the self-styled most fabulous supervillain on the internet, when he was just another floppy-haired right-wing pundit and we were guests on opposing sides of a panel show whose topic I don’t remember and can’t be bothered to look up. Afterwards we got hammered in the green room and ran around the BBC talking about boys. It was fun.

Since that day, there is absolutely nothing I have been able to say to Milo to persuade him that we are not friends. The more famous he gets off the back of extravagantly abusing women and minorities, the more I tell him I hate him and everything he stands for, the more he laughs and asks when we’re drinking. I’m a radical queer feminist leftist writer burdened with actual principles. He thinks that’s funny and invites me to his parties — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics

Greyhound racing to be banned in New South Wales, Baird Government announces

Greyhound racing will be banned in New South Wales from 1 July next year, with Premier Mike Baird saying the cannot be tolerated. Key points:

NSW becomes first state in Australia to ban greyhound racing Mike Baird says the Government was left with no acceptable course of action except to close this industry down Detailed plans for the shutdown will be developed with industry consultation

It comes after a special commission of inquiry found overwhelming evidence of animal cruelty, including mass greyhound killings and live baiting.

In announcing his reasons for the ban, Mr Baird said the inquiry found:

Between 48,000–68,000 dogs were killed in past 12 years in NSW because they were too slow or otherwise unsuitable for racing Live baiting is widespread, with about 10–20 per cent of trainers engaged in the practice Greyhound Racing NSW had a policy of deliberately misreporting the number of dog deaths and injuries The industry is not capable of reforming over the short or medium term

Mr Baird said the Government had received the report of the commission, conducted by former High Court judge Michael McHugh, and the findings were damning — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics

Old People Don’t Care About Climate Change / Funny Or Die

Screw it. They don’t care about climate change — why should you? Hear from professional old people who certainly won’t be alive long enough to see the effects of climate change continue to plague our planet. The esteemed bearers of bad news featured in this video include film and comedy legends Cloris Leachman, Ed Asner, M Emmet Walsh, Michael Lerner and Bill Cobbs. They all think you are terrible — via Youtube