Tuesday, February 12, 2008

British Government "collects more data than the Stasi"

One consolation: The Brits are usually too inefficient to do much with it

This has got to stop. Britain's snooper state is getting completely out of hand. We are sleepwalking into a surveillance society, and we must wake up. When the Stasi started spying on me, as I moved around East Germany 30 years ago, I travelled on the assumption that I was coming from one of the freest countries in the world to one of the least free. I don't think I was wrong then, but I would certainly be wrong now. Today, the people of East Germany are much less spied upon than the people of Britain. The human rights group Privacy International rates Britain as an "endemic surveillance society", along with China and Russia, whereas Germany scores much better.

An official report by Britain's interception of communications commissioner has just revealed that nearly 800 public bodies are between them making an average of nearly 1,000 requests a day for "communications data", including actual phone taps, mobile phone records, email or web search histories, not to mention old-fashioned snail mail. The Home Office website notes that all communication service providers "may be served with a notice by the secretary of state requiring them to maintain a permanent intercept capability. In practice, agreement is always reached by consultation and negotiation." How reassuring.

The cell phone networks have been configured for legal wiretapping for a long time now. For example a recent case in Greece, parties unknown simply called the utilities in Ericsson's AXE system to perform an unlawful intercept.

In modern mobile telecommunication networks, legal wiretaps, known as lawful interceptions, are preformed at the switch. Ericsson AXE telephone exchanges support lawful intercepts via the remote-control equipment subsystem (RES), which carries out the tap, and the interception management system (IMS), software used to initiate the tap which adds the tap to the RES database. In a fully operating lawful interception system the RES and IMS both create logs of all numbers being taped so that system administrators can preform audits to find unauthorized taps.

The wiretapping infrastructure is there. And it's going to be used. The attack and defense of the information infrastructure inadvertently creates a technological arms race in which both sides get more sophisticated. The defense of any network -- and the Internet is no exception -- relies to a large extent on having a profile of its "normal" activities. Statistics based on huge samples and datasets are used to create a picture of what should be. Just as when a person knows something has been disturbed on a tabletop with which he is intimately familiar, so must network defenders have a way of spotting "anomalies". But this in turn creates threats to those who, often for legitimate reasons, want to do new things. For example. The RIAA wants to monitor peer-to-peer traffic on the Internet, but advocates of privacy want to prevent them from doing so. In order to frustrate the Internet monitors the privacy advocates use all kinds of ways to obfuscate or encrypt their information. This in turn leads to even greater investments in monitoring and cryptanlysis.

Sometimes public policy goes off in two different directions at once. Privacy laws mandate that data should be protected, while anti-terrorism laws provide that in certain respects they should be monitored. Recently a group of law professors denounced "online mobs" operating under cover of anonymity. But the same law professors might object to requiring everyone who went online to swipe an identity card into a reader before accessing the Internet. Somehow the balance must be struck, but not before there's collateral damage to the little guy.

Perhaps the saddest story of the last week concerned a "59-year-old PG&E worker and his wife, who were mistakenly flagged as pro-Scientology hackers" and had his home address, phone number, cell numbers, Social Security number dragged through the Internet through no fault of his own by a shadowy group called Anonymous. The big bad boys on the network can more than take care of themselves in this "arms race" but the ordinary man must trust to luck.


The batty British welfare State at work

UNEMPLOYED scrounger Mohammed Salim is getting the state to pay for him, his wife and their ELEVEN kids-because he can't be bothered to go to work. He quit his 27,000 pounds job teaching maths and science three years ago and is BETTER OFF claiming 29,096 a year in benefits. And he has much more time to devote to his Islamic political party- which ATTACKS the British government, even though this country gives his family their food, clothes and house for free. Mohammed is also busy planning his TWELFTH baby with wife Noreen, 35, but has no plans to get a job.

He grinned: "For many years I worked in Derby as a teacher, earning 27,000 a year, and Noreen would be at home with the kids. "I would come home at weekends. Then I moved back to work in Manchester and took a pay cut to 24,000. It was a load of c***. "I was teaching at a college and I'd be up at 5.30am with the kids then have to go to work. "I just couldn't be a***d with sitting in traffic. I'd be sat in traffic for hours and I felt like I'd done a day's work by the time I got there, I was so stressed." "It's nice to be at home with the kids and for Noreen to have a hand."

That's a luxury most hard-working taxpayers who struggle to support their families can only dream about. The family we're all supporting live in a comfy five-bedroom house on a quiet street in Rochdale, Gtr Manchester. They get 19,000 a year Jobseeker's Allowance, 6,600 Child Benefit, 2,496 free school meals and 1,000 pounds Council Tax Relief.

They have a minibus to swan around in, two TVs and a computer, plus a garden full of brightly-coloured toys. Noreen has never worked since marrying Mohammed-who is her cousin-when she was 16. She said: "I spend all day clearing up after the children. As soon as you pick up one pile of crisps or mop up drink, there's another."

As she sits on the sofa nursing their latest addition-an as yet unnamed two-week-old girl-Mohammed explains: "I can't stand condoms. "I used a condom once. It was awful. Never again, it's nothing like the real thing. It's up to God whether we have any more kids." He chortles: "It says in the Bible and the Koran to go forth and multiply, and that's what we'll do. It's Noreen, she finds me irresistible! "I see my children as God's blessing, as a gift from God. Some people out there pay to have children, through IVF or surrogacy. I feel so lucky that I can have as many as I want. "I want to carry on my family name and for my children and grandchildren to remember me."

The couple's ten other children are Muhammad Aves, 16, Sarah Zenib Bibi, 15, Maryam Hajra Bibi, 13, Muhammad Bilal, 11, Muhammad Haider Ali, nine, Halimn Sadia Bibi, eight, Umayah Habiba Hadia Bibi, seven, Saadiqah Fatima Bibi, five, Muhammad Ibrahim Amter, three, and Muhammad Imam Ismail, 18 months.

Mohammed moved to Britain from Pakistan in 1966, when he was eight. He went on to university and qualified as a teacher. He then taught computer studies, maths and science at primary and high schools and a higher education college in Manchester and Derbyshire until three years ago.

Soon afterwards he stood as a candidate in the Rochdale constituency in the 2005 General Election, using an anti-war message. But he only got 361 votes-less then one per cent of the total cast. Mohammed said: "It goes to show that we are not living in a democracy, because a democracy is supposed to reflect the opinions and the interests of the majority. "The so-called democratic process has let down the Rochdale people, just as it let down the people of the entire country when the Blair government went to war in Iraq." Previously, Mohammed staged a hunger strike in protest at the publication of Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses-which some Muslims claimed was blasphemous. He said: "The hunger strike was successful in that people saw I was prepared to make a sacrifice for what I believed in."

Now he spends his time running his political party, Islam Zinda Badd, whose name means `Long Live Islam'. He said: "I set it up to protest about the war in Iraq and the NHS, and we want to show that all Muslims are not terrorists. "We use the Koran for guidance. We are not radical. We believe that we should look after each other, especially children and the elderly, and that wealth should be shared. "That is what is great about Britain. In Pakistan the government does not look after you like in England. The government here is so supportive...

And he has no plans to go back to Pakistan despite his party's anger at British policy. He said: "I did want to move back at one point but now it is so unstable-and I don't think we would be able to have the quality of life we have here."


British minister warns of `inbred' Muslims

It's a wonder this guy is not accused of "hate speech" In Australia there is a similar problem and a radio host was heavily attacked for mentioning it. For some facts on the Muslim inbreeding problem in Australia, see here.

A government minister has warned that inbreeding among immigrants is causing a surge in birth defects - comments likely to spark a new row over the place of Muslims in British society. Phil Woolas, an environment minister, said the culture of arranged marriages between first cousins was the "elephant in the room". Woolas, a former race relations minister, said: "If you have a child with your cousin the likelihood is there'll be a genetic problem."

The minister, whose views were supported by medical experts this weekend, said: "The issue we need to debate is first cousin marriages, whereby a lot of arranged marriages are with first cousins, and that produces lots of genetic problems in terms of disability [in children]." Woolas emphasised the practice did not extend to all Muslim communities but was confined mainly to families originating from rural Pakistan. However, up to half of all marriages within these communities are estimated to involve first cousins. Medical research suggests that while British Pakistanis are responsible for 3% of all births, they account for one in three British children born with genetic illnesses.

The minister's comments come as Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, rejected calls to resign over claims that Islamic law should be introduced in Britain. "I'm not contemplating resignation," he told friends. Williams insists his remarks were misinterpreted and that he was not advocating a parallel sharia jurisdiction for Muslims, but Lord Carey, his predecessor, warned acceptance of Muslim laws in Britain would be "disastrous". The archbishop is believed to have received hate mail since he made his controversial comments but has rejected offers of round-the-clock police protection. Williams is set to clash with the government again this week by voicing opposition to plans to extend detention without charge for terrorist suspects to 42 days.

Woolas, who represents the ethnically mixed seat of Oldham East and Saddleworth, has previously warned that Muslim women who wear headscarves could provoke "fear and resentment". Yesterday, he was similarly outspoken. "If you talk to any primary care worker they will tell you that levels of disability among the . . . Pakistani population are higher than the general population. And everybody knows it's caused by first cousin marriage. "That's a cultural thing rather than a religious thing. It is not illegal in this country. "The problem is that many of the parents themselves and many of the public spokespeople are themselves products of first cousin marriages. It's very difficult for people to say `you can't do that' because it's a very sensitive, human thing."

He added that the issue is not talked about. "The health authorities look into it. Most health workers and primary care trusts in areas like mine are very aware of it. But it's a very sensitive issue. That's why it's not even a debate and people outside of these areas don't really know it exists."

Woolas was supported by Ann Cryer, Labour MP for Keighley, who called for the NHS to do more to warn parents of the dangers of inbreeding. "This is to do with a medieval culture where you keep wealth within the family," she said. "If you go into a paediatric ward in Bradford or Keighley you will find more than half of the kids there are from the Asian community. Since Asians only represent 20%-30% of the population, you can see that they are over represented. "I have encountered cases of blindness and deafness. There was one poor girl who had to have an oxygen tank on her back and breathe from a hole in the front of her neck. "The parents were warned they should not have any more children. But when the husband returned again from Pakistan, within months they had another child with exactly the same condition."


US has moved beyond racist past

IS the US an irredeemably racist society? You would think the success of Barack Obama's presidential campaign would have answered that question in the negative. Yet many observers, both in the US and abroad, still insist a black man cannot be elected president. There is no question that Obama, unlike earlier black candidates Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, has an appeal that transcends race. He won big in Iowa, a state that is only 2.3 per cent black. Although he lost New Hampshire to Hillary Clinton, he finished a strong second, in a state that is just 1.1 per cent black.

True, in South Carolina the Clintons' efforts to marginalise him as the black candidate seemed to pay off. Fewer than one in four white voters supported him. On Super Tuesday his share of the white vote was similarly small in the southern states of Alabama and Tennessee. But he won South Carolina and Alabama, thanks to huge shares of the black vote, and he won Georgia, where he managed to pull 43 per cent of whites.

He also won Super Tuesday contests in every other region of the country: the northeast (Connecticut, Delaware), the Midwest (Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota) and the west (Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Utah). And he won at least 40 per cent of the vote everywhere except in Oklahoma and Hillary Clinton's former home state of Arkansas. This is an astonishingly strong showing for a freshman senator challenging one of his party's senior figures.

Sceptics will point out that these are Democratic primaries, in which the electorate is more liberal and, the thinking goes, more racially tolerant than in a general election. It is also true that blacks have had trouble being elected statewide in America. Obama is only the second black elected to the US Senate in the past 35 years, and only two blacks have been elected governor during the same period, or ever.

Yet the reasons for the political marginalisation of blacks are complicated and have less to do with lingering racism than with the unintended consequences of measures designed to combat racism.

For a century after the Civil War, blacks' political preferences, where they were able to vote at all, changed roughly in tune with those of the nation as a whole. Blacks were loyal Republicans between the 1860s and the 1920s, a period during which the Republicans were the dominant party nationwide. They moved toward the Democrats during the New Deal era, as did the country. In 1964 blacks voted overwhelmingly for Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson, who beat Republican Barry Goldwater in a landslide.

Ever since, blacks have voted solidly Democratic, even as the country as a whole turned Republican. That is in large part because Johnson earned black loyalty by pressing Congress to approve the Civil Rights Act of 1964, while Republicans lost it by nominating Goldwater, a senator who had opposed the act, albeit on libertarian grounds rather than racial ones.

Few blacks have been elected to statewide office in part because of another landmark civil rights law, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Eventually this law was construed as requiring a practice known as racial gerrymandering, the creation of majority-black congressional and state legislative districts. Republicans, normally cool to racial quotas, embraced them in this case out of self-interest: concentrating black (mostly Democratic) voters in their own districts made neighbouring districts easier for Republican candidates to win.

Racial gerrymandering had the desired effect of increasing the number of blacks in the House of Representatives and state legislatures. But it meant that in order to be elected to office, a young black politician did not have to appeal outside his race.

Thus blacks in the house tend to be more left-wing, and more focused on racial matters, than their colleagues, even fellow Democrats. This positions them poorly to face statewide electorates, which are more racially and ideologically diverse.

Obama, a member of the Illinois Senate when he was elected to the US Senate in 2004, has already beaten these odds. In 2006, two black men who departed from the ideological norm were nominated for the Senate. Although both lost, their experience belies the notion that there is a significant racist vote in the US.

Representative Harold Ford was a moderate Democrat from Tennessee, a state so Republican that George W. Bush carried it in 2000 over favourite son Al Gore. Ford lost to Republican Bob Corker, a former mayor of Chattanooga, by 51 per cent to 48 per cent, the best showing by a Democratic Senate candidate in Tennessee since 1990.

Lieutenant-governor Michael Steele was a Republican from heavily Democratic Maryland. He lost to representative Ben Cardin by 54 per cent to 44 per cent. Although 2006 was a Democratic year, Steele's percentage was the highest by a Republican in a Maryland US senate race since 1980.

Steele actually did better among white voters (50 per cent) than Cardin (48 per cent). But blacks voted party over race, choosing Cardin by a 74 per cent to 25 per cent margin. Steele polled very well among groups that, according to common prejudice, would not be expected to favour a black candidate. He won 94 per cent of Republicans, 83 per cent of conservatives, 63 per cent of white Protestants and 60 per cent of rural voters.

If Obama is the nominee, he will win a far smaller percentage of Republicans and conservatives than Steele did. But that is because he is a liberal Democrat, not because he is black. If anything, his race will be an asset, boosting turnout among blacks and attracting whites who like the idea of moving beyond race by electing a black president.

There is no guarantee that Obama will be the next president of the US. He still has to vanquish Clinton and voters in November may yet conclude he is too liberal or too inexperienced for the highest office in the land, or that the cult of personality that has arisen around him is a bit creepy, or simply that they like John McCain better.

To suggest that he cannot win because he is black, however, is to ignore how far he has already come, and how far the US has come in overcoming its history of racism.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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