Sunday, March 30, 2008

Unusual web - wierd, wacky stuff I can't explain

Periodically in my travels through cyberspace I come across very odd things. Below are a few such items. Don't worry, normal service will be resumed next post.

Dancing Chibi Fox

Weird Al
Some of his songs in flash movies are listed below:
Do I creep you out
Don't download this song
That's your horoscope for today
What I bought on ebay
- also see the list of songs by Weird Al

Star Wars clips:

Star Wars kid
Lego Star Wars
Star Wars Help Desk


Thursday, March 27, 2008

EU & US Big Brother and the costs

Many times in my exploration through the internet I find Americans (and to a lesser extent EU members (not including the Brits)) who are extremely patriotic, drawing pride from their constitutions and freedoms. This I feel is natural and good. We certainly should compliment states and governments that respect the society they serve.

However in regard to the US, whilst most citizens still believe in liberty for themselves and their fellow neighbours, many have stopped supporting the notion that foreigners should also enjoy these same freedoms and rights, as can be shown through their "patriot act" and the US Visit scheme (in which all visitors must be fingerprinted and photographed). Also I don't envy anyone who has to try and obtain a US Visa! Interestingly though according to (you might have to view an advert to access the site), since 2001 according to the commerce department America has lost over $100 billion in tourist revenues because of the new "anti-terror" regulations and Bruce Schneier points out the excessive costs of the scheme equating to a spend of at least $15 million per criminal/illegal immigrant caught.

The EU however is even worse, because unlike Americans who are directing their totalitarianism outwards, the EU is targeting its own citizens. For example, Statewatch has highlighted that the "majority of the (EU Council) delegations supported the commission proposal providing for an obligation to take fingerprints from the age of 6 years".

Unfortunately what both governments are missing is that one step leads to another. As with the ID Card scheme, when they are installed under one regime, other omnipotent officials use that as justification for installing them in a new location. The US approach therefore is doomed because "what goes around comes around".

The EU approach is also flawed, but for different reasons. The EU was created to prevent war and fascism returning to Europe. It sought to do this by creating economic and ideological connections based upon liberalism. By subverting this ideology which promotes tolerance with one which denies privacy or secrecy except to those in authority, the foundation for the abuse of human rights has been erected. Economic stability cannot always be guaranteed. Additionally as the pool of creativity is drained by bureaucrats and authoritarians the competitiveness and vibrancy of Europe will be threatened and undermined.

It is only by working together for a genuinely free world for all people that we can all enjoy the benefits. To deny freedom to others is to prove you do not deserve it yourself.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter

Ahh its Easter and in between eating eggs, religious ceremonies and family time you might enjoy:

Some Easter Wallpapers:
The holiday spot
Wallpaper base

Or some Easter Games:
Easter Egg Swap
Easter fun - a selection of Easter games

Or maybe you'd like to create your own giant Cadbury's creme egg or a slightly more appetising one.


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Thursday, March 20, 2008

The last day of Winter: time for PC Spring Cleaning

This year Winter has been fairly mild and I'm happy about that. Although the novelty of snow is fun, early mornings when it is freezing and you've got a long journey ahead are definitely not!

So as today is the Vernal equinox and the end of winter, I've compiled a list of "spring cleaning" tasks for all computer users.

1) Do a back-up of any essential data.
2) Patch up your system fully and check to see if there is a new version of your operating system or any key programs you use.
3) Buy yourself a few new games
4) Uninstall one program you rarely use
5) Perform a complete anti-virus scan and anti-spyware scan (using a program like Spybot for windows)
6) Reorganise your folders/bookmarks if things are getting messy.
7) Change your desktop background to something appropriate (See: here, here and here)

A few bonus extras you might like: if your OS permits, change your theme and start-up sound.

Now to prepare for Easter...

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Tibet independence?

When I think about Tibet, I am reminded of the British Empire and the numerous calls for freedom from its members and I think, well okay, those people wanted an autonomous, representative state and that's a reasonable request. However then I think of Scotland's SNP calling for independence and I'm less cheerful. If Scotland left the UK our international political power would crumble away.

So how does this relate to China and Tibet? In the UK, Scotland and the other non-English members are subsidised by us through the Barnett Formula. Though the amount given is gradually declining, it is still significant at this time. This gives them an incentive to remain in the UK, and China is investing in Tibet to achieve the same end.

Imagine for a moment the consequences of Tibet being granted independence from China.

1) Geographic size

Tibet is very large in size and has several natural resources. China has a high population. Any land loss would weaken China's political power. (map)

2) Political Precedent

If Tibet can have independence, why not Hong Kong or Taiwan?

3) Possible instability

The region could become destabilised if a suitable government was not established. Is Tibet ready for a democracy? Would the west compel it to be one?

4) Border disputes

There have been numerous disagreements over where Tibet's borders should be. What event in history do you use to determine the true borders?

Of course leaving Tibet under the control of China is also a danger. They have a poor human rights record and disallow any political dissent. The population is clearly not going to passively accept Chinese rule and increased resistance is likely.

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

ID cards: the idea that won't die

It has been over five years since I became interested in the ID card proposal and over seven since it was first introduced. During this time I have written to the Home Office (and political parties, NO2ID, Individual MPs and others) expressing my criticisms to the scheme. I've supported Spy Blog and NO2ID. I've questioned MPs over it.

Essentially I've been one of the people who, despite not having anything to hide, believes I have a lot to fear from this scheme (and the numerous others introduced in the name of security) and have made my voice heard: ID cards are a bad idea; totalitarianism is a bad idea. There are too many people who unquestioningly accept the "law" as a moral code or standard, as if it replaces ethics and virtue, respect for humanity and the right to life.

Even with the recent government data fiascoes and the function creep of their legislation and schemes, they are still demanding this extension of power.

So lets consider a few of the ways the government has tried to get the scheme through:

Benefit fraud
Identity fraud
National Security
"Everyone else has one" - in reference to the other EU nations that have cards (without the database I hasten to add)
Mandatory with passport
Optional with passport
Increasing the passport fee to reduce the costs of the cards (Passports now cost £72!, ID cards and a passport was originally going to cost £70)
Needed to get a job/benefits
Ignoring/discrediting opponents - The LSE report against ID cards was dismissed on the grounds that one of the contributors was a civil rights campaigner
"Biometric data will make it secure"
You won't need to provide biometric data initially
Everyone has to have one - Blunkett
Not everyone has to have one - Clarke onwards
Use of other legislation to circumvent need for ID cards + give the government other powers
America demands biometric passports anyway
And so on

Pretty underhand and coercive eh? The state is there to serve the people, not to control them. Indeed virtually all of the above arguments have either been entirely refuted or at the least are highly questionable.

There latest gimmick involves following the US strategy of attacking the liberties of foreigners who visit, migrate or study and getting them onto the scheme. Then it's just a small step to increasing the categories of people who must have a card. Military personnel, teachers, doctors, criminals, civil servants, the unemployed, anyone who goes to apply for a new job and needs to prove their identity and so on.

Sadly what the advocates of the scheme and the government fail to understand is that the reason I am against the scheme is because I am a patriot. I want the UK to be a beacon of success, prosperity, liberty and freedom. Identity Cards threaten these values to a far greater degree than terrorists, who we have grown very sophisticated at handling. America has proven to be so successful because the economic (e.g. private business) and civil spheres have not been intruded upon by the state.

We are in the middle of a dangerous descent towards authoritarianism. Technology should be used to improve the quality of life for humans, not merely as mechanism for coercion and control.

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