Monthly Archives: August 2013

Surveillance state

Surveillance state

Although I do agree in general that Britain is becoming more and more fixated on snooping (in all shapes and forms), the data provided in this post makes the statement of Britain being “the top pryer” a tad exaggerated. 

We seem to be quite in line with the rest of the world in that respect, which is, if anything, a little surprising.   Continue reading Surveillance state

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Safe Passage

Safe Passage

I’ve read this today and was immediately hit by the thought how much I take for granted my safety .

I grew up in a small miners’ town where drinking, poverty and violence were daily occurrences.  Mind you, guns did not feature in this scenarios. Weapons of choice included knives, bottles and various wooden implements.

In spite of that I have never been a witness of direct act of violence, excluding maybe a few punches after one drink too many at a local pub. From early age I walked to school alone (there were just two primary schools and one secondary school in the area).  I was travelling by bus to nearby towns to go shopping/wandering with friends on my own, often coming back home after dark. I’ve spend most of my summer days wandering the area with a group of friends, doing stuff now would probably be illegal.

I lived in at least 6 different places, in three different countries.  Now I live in a big city, but again, I feel safe 99.9% of the time.  [The number of non-sexual crimes of violence recorded by the police in 2012-13 was 7,530 our of which there were 91 homicides – for the WHOLE COUNTRY.  The number of homicides for last year in my city equalled 2]. Maybe I just choose the right places to live…

I guess what I’m trying to say is I don’t have a point of reference for a situation where in XXI century in a western country a four year old kid was a witness to a shooting, where closing schools puts kids at risk because they will have to cross gang boundaries, and where over $15m has to be spend just on providing safe (or merely slightly safer?) routes to school for the local students.

I feel so sorry for all those kids, growing up in the world where they can’t leave the house to play and feel safe. Where they can’t explore the neighbourhood and learn about the world, life and other people themselves, not from a TV screen or video game. Childhood as I remember wasn’t a bed of roses. There were dangers, there were disappointments, there were tears and humiliation. But there was also joy, and freedom, and wide-eyed wonder.

Will future generations ever know that?

Journalism

I don’t really read the Spectator but I’ve stumbled upon two recent articles and the massive difference in them makes me take notice.

The Spectator’s journalist Nick Cohen relates to almost uniform critique of Richard Dawkins (from right, left and centre) after his questionable tweet about Muslims trying to introduce segregation at a debate at UCL.  Cohen defends Dawkins as far as Dawkins consistency in criticizing any religious group’s attempts at exerting control over the public goes and his consistency in support for victims of religious establishment.  And points out that we don’t see Dawkins’s enemies making a stand to defend those who are threatened and assaulted by religious groups – Dawkins himself makes a much better (read: safer) target.

One may or may not agree with the sentiment (I rather do agree) but the story itself is very well written. Well made points, clear thoughts enough wit to make for an interesting debate.

The Spectator commenting on the recent conflict between the government and the Guardian is a completely different story.  The gist of the article is a comparison of the current events with the News of the World phone hacking scandal. The Spectator states that the Guardian is showing the hypocritical side by crying outrage at government interference with their dealing with Edward Snowden and the NSA documents when it did not defend Ruppert Murdoch’s journalist a few months back. The comparison seems ludicrous, not just to me, but also many commentators below the article. News of the World’s journalists broke the law for sensation and gory detail, while Guardian’s reporting of the NSA case is clearly in the public interest.  The Guardian was also apparently in touch with the government agencies to inform them what material is going to be published and assess which information is really sensitive!  In this light what followed (physical destruction of hard drives in the Guardian’s HQ in London to destroy the Snowden files when copies of the material exist in few other locations around the world!) sounds like a farce.

Comparing the apparent intimidation techniques from an embarrassed government (they could have prevented publishing any truly sensitive information – so what are they really afraid to read about in Sunday morning paper?) to an obvious law breaking from a media corporation seems not only thoughtless, but outright provocative. Like someone pointed out, it may just be trolling. Let’s hope.

More about the super secrets and who is sending what to whom

New development in the journalists v government skirmish today.

Independent announced today that the UK government is running a secret surveillance base in the Middle East. Thousands of emails and phone calls are monitored by tapping into the submerged fibre-optic cables running through the region.  The information obtained is suposedely being shared with other Western security agencies.  According to Independent, details of this operation were included in the documents Edward Snowden got from the NSA. 

Continue reading More about the super secrets and who is sending what to whom

Slane Girl, In Solidarity

I’m almost too angry for writing.

The girl might be young and silly (if the sex was consensual) or she is a victim of rape and sexual assault – but in our twisted society even if the second is the case there are people out there who will say she didn’t have to go to the concert/drink/take drugs, and blame her anyway.

We are living in omnipresent rape culture, where a woman has to be always aware what she’s doing, what she’s wearing and make sure she’s not smiling at a wrong person too, because if something terrible happens to her, people will will give more attention to where she was at the time and what was she wearing than to the simple fact that it’s the person who forces someone else to a sexual act who is at fault. Always.

Security or Liberty

A bit of a ramble ahead.

After Edward Snowden released information regarding NSA listening on and recording millions of conversations and emails worldwide, I thought “Inconceivable!”, and then of course realised it was many things, but definitely not inconceivable.

I think we all knew, to certain extent, that governments are ‘spying’ on everyone, including their own citizens. After all, the war on terror screaming from front pages of newspapers and poking us in the gut  from every possible angle made us almost used to the idea that to keep us safe They have to know stuff.

Few were ever clear on what stuff do They need to know, about whom exactly and what should be done with that information when they already have it… Continue reading Security or Liberty

A book that changed me

I remember reading a similar book, which title and author escape me right now completely, when I was maybe 16-17 and the decisions about my future loomed over me.
I think I made the right ones, I’ve studied subjects I love, enjoyed the time, people and expanding my horizons.
So what thou, as getting a position doing something remotely connected with my education – and by proxy, my dream job – is next to impossible?
I work in a lovely place, with very nice people but doing boring, boring things that make my brain turn to mush and all my skills and knowledge I gathered on the way seep slowly out of me with every day.

So, I agree. Doing something you love is important, and great, and you should strive to get a job where you can do just that. But don’t hold your breath and don’t just wait around for the perfect opportunity – to do what you love for money you need a truck load of determination AND a bit of luck.

I wish that last part to everyone, myself included.

Book of words

The ElementThe inspiration for this blog post came from the Guardian site which encourages readers to contribute short blurbs about books that left them with a lasting impression.

For me, my choice would be non-fiction book “The Element” by educationalist Ken Robinson. I bought it during a long transit at London’s Heathrow airport to kill time but it turned out to be the right book, ‘speaking’ to me at a point in my life where I was standing at a crossroad after completing my undergraduate degree.

For many of us, graduation is a milestone in our lives where we are being thrust with the responsibility to decide how we are going to take our first steps into the real world. I thought long and hard, even when I was traveling, about various considerations mentioned in the book such as money, career and passion.

And I regretted. I started re-thinking about my…

View original post 289 more words

Wild

Wild

A good review of a book I’ve read a few months back.

I really enjoyed the story – completely unprepared and knowing nothing about hiking, Cheryl Strayed goes on a solitary trek following the over 1000 km of Pacific Crest Trail with the intention to sort through her messed up life, deal with her mother’s death, drug addiction and divorce.

As expected, things aren’t simple when you’re miles away from civilisation and your backpack weighs somewhere around a tonne.

Enjoyable read that did make me think if maybe I’m too at the point of life when I need to get a bit of clarity of mind through a hard physical work.

But then I closed the book, and went back to sit in my garden, happy to have a chair, my cat and a warm cup of tea. And just a little bit of longing for a Great Adventure.

Freedom of speech

I wasn’t planning on starting a blog. I probably don’t even have time for a blog.

But in the recent few days/weeks/months I have encountered so many things in today’s political and social sphere that astonish me/enrage me/ made me speechless that I felt the need to do something about it.

Being relatively honest with myself about the possibility of me, myself and I actually doing ‘something about it’ I resolve myself to writing. I just want to think it through out here, out loud and see how it all sounds when you put in on the virtual paper.

I know very little about politics, even less about economy, and I am not aspiring to becoming an engaged or even thoroughly informed observer (Is there anyone who could with all honesty call themselves that?). It is just me here, my thoughts and my attempt at understanding how on Earth did we get where we are, where are we going and what can be done about it.

Abundance of ‘somethings’ here already. Probably lack of words to describe things I want to write about is not the best start.

But you’ve got to start somewhere.