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January 30, 2007

Let Women Drive

No seriously - it might be a good idea - after all we've allowed women to drive for years now in the West and the statistics prove that they are safer drivers .. .after all the premiums wouldn't be lower for women if the insurance companies weren't making money ...

... but not> in Saudi Arabia apparently ...

From the New York Sun

... what a Saudi princess's greatest wish might be if she were king?

.. "let women drive" ...

Now I thought this was one of those - well you know - nasty "Islamaphobic" reports that get around from time to time - the kind that are "propagated by the right "to support neocons" in the "war on terror" - but you know what ...

They were right - women are forbidden to drive in Saudi Arabia ... I looked it up on the US Department of State: Advice for Travellers website.

Short-term male visitors may drive on their U.S. driver’s license. American men employed in Saudi Arabia should obtain a local driver’s license with the Department of Traffic Police. Women are not allowed to drive or ride bicycles on public roads.

So once again I wondered why? Why are all these "unworthy victims" ignored by the mainstream media and their governments while other "worthy victims" get mainstream media attention ...

It's all part of my search for a narrative - I'm still looking for one that makes sense - but I am not holding my breath ..

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I Feel Safer Already ...

The recent Washington Post story about how the NSA "helped" Microsoft to build Windows Vista makes me feel safer already ...

For the first time, the giant software maker is acknowledging the help of the secretive agency, better known for eavesdropping on foreign officials and, more recently, U.S. citizens as part of the Bush administration's effort to combat terrorism. The agency said it has helped in the development of the security of Microsoft's new operating system -- the brains of a computer -- to protect it from worms, Trojan horses and other insidious computer attackers.

"Our intention is to help everyone with security," Tony W. Sager, the NSA's chief of vulnerability analysis and operations group, said yesterday.

Why would I think that the NSA - of all people - would assist in making a computer "more secure" if it would thwart their efforts against the "War on Terror"?

Why is it that I suspect that the NSA intervention in this case is to ensure that in order to prosecute the "War on Terror" - they will cripple any form of security enhancements to enable a "back door" into Vista machines?

After all - if Windows Vista is as secure as Microsoft says it is - then the NSA and everyone else is going to have a harder time extracting evidence from the computers they examine - and not only that - but will also make it harder to plant Trojans and monitoring programs on the computers of terrorist suspects they are monitoring.

It doesn't make sense for the NSA to contribute technology that is a true "security enhancement" - because the last thing the NSA wants - is to make it harder for them to gather information.

Now there's a new slogan for Microsoft Vista - "I feel safer already" - except you are not.

Already Alex Ionescu is claiming to have cracked the "Driver Signing" problem.

If a well motivated hacker can crack this - for fun and all the right reasons - then think how many other people are working on this to provide us with a whole new generation of AdWare, Trojans and Monitoring software ..

Not to mention the NSA of course ...

Have I mentioned yet that I feel safer already ....

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January 28, 2007

New Cold War: Privacy and Surveillance in the Age of Asymmetrical Warfare

I'm posting this here because my publisher is dragging their heels and asking me to find "somebody famous" to write the introduction to this book "in order to enhance sales possibilities".

If you are:

(a) Somebody who has something interesting to write as in introduction to this book - and are famous enough to satisfy my publisher.

(b) A literary agent who can place this book with another publisher (or convince my current published this is a "runner")

(c) A publisher who feels that this book would complement their current catalogue.

Then please contact me - because I'd like to get this finished and published so as to move on to "New Cold War 2: Propaganda and Disinformation" and "New Cold War 3: Geo-Politics and Energy Security" as soon as possible ...


Privacy & Surveillance in the Age of Asymmetrical Warfare

Although the Cold War brought the world to the brink of destruction on at least two occasions, the real impact of the Cold War was on the lives of millions of people who were caught up in a power struggle between the Western Bloc and the Soviet Bloc.

Yet while an older generation who grew up during the 20th Century Cold War might be getting a sense of déjà vu – not many people have realized that we are in the middle of a 21st Century cold war – the “New Cold War”.

The Cold War was a war of propaganda and counter propaganda, intense diplomatic maneuvering, along with the use of economic pressure and selective aid - accompanied by the biggest arms race the world has ever seen. At the same time a “covert war” used espionage, intimidation, selective military aid, attempted assassination, low intensity military operations and wars by proxy states.

When the media began running stories in the 1950’s about how the “reds under the bed” were forming a “fifth column” intent on subverting the USA, the “Home Front” suddenly became important in the war against the “Communist menace”.

Organizations charged with fighting the Communist threat – the CIA & FBI - increased the use of domestic propaganda, blacklists” and other economic sanctions in an attempt to intimidate dissenters and encourage discrimination against suspected communists and “fellow travelers”, while also raising the paranoia levels with increased wiretapping and surveillance.

At this time as the FBI were started COINTELPRO operations which infiltrated agents provocateurs and informants into underground organizations, and the CIA were running the notorious MK-ULTRA drug & mind-control program. These covert operations were targeted against anybody and everybody who was considered to be a “threat to society” at that time - John Lennon, Arthur Miller, and Martin Luther King – all of which were perceived to be the “enemy within”.

When the old Cold War ended the world heaved a huge sigh of relief as the tension over the possibility of nuclear war began to recede.

Then the new wave of bombings shattered all that – 9/11 in New York, 3/11 in Madrid, 7/7 in London – but Delhi, Bali, Egypt were also rocked by attacks, along with Israel, Chechnya and Turkey and many other countries, indicating a global problem to many.

Now, with the recent US announcement of their long range plans to battle global “Islamist Terrorism”, defined as a “conflict fought in dozens of countries and for decades to come” , and the statements by President Bush about the need to fight “a generation long war against Islamic radicalism” – we can see that the old Cold War has returned – with a vengeance.

Welcome to the 21st Century New Cold War - where the USAxis and the IslamistAxis square off against each other in a massive war of propaganda and counter propaganda, selective military and economic aid, low-intensity military operations and full scale proxy wars - accompanied by a hi-tech arms race that could militarise space and ensure weapons of mass destruction are owned by every tin-pot dictator on the planet.

It all sounds very familiar - but this time it will be very different.

The advent of “asymmetrical warfare” as a force multiplier for terrorist threats, coupled with the idea of “home-grown terrorism” as the subversive “enemy within”, means that the New Cold War will not be fought for hearts and minds in the way the war against Communism was fought

The New Cold War will be fought in information space - the weapons are powerful computers which collect, store and correlate vast amounts of data – and the target, quite possibly, could be you.

In the Cold War the citizens were not watched continuously by CCTV cameras that connected to computers which could match number plates and faces and their financial transactions were not routinely data-mined for patterns that fitted the profile of terrorists, drugs dealers or money launderers. Their movements were not tracked by RFID smartcards embedded in travelcards, old phone technology would never have allowed for every phone call and email to be logged by the NSA, and it was not possible to geo-track cell phones.

The New Cold War will be fought like any other war in the age of Information Warfare: - computers will track, list, watch, compile and cross-compile files on anyone who is considered “a suspect” – and in the New Cold War anybody could be a suspect.

For this reason the growth of ubiquitous, systematic surveillance by computer systems is one of the biggest threats democracy currently faces: Who programs these systems? Are they confidential? Who has access to them? What will happen when the data is incorrect or the programmer makes a mistake?

This is the new fear of the modern age: Who controls the data that controls our lives?

What happens when your life is ruined by a malfunctioning computer program that decides you are a terrorist, a criminal, a drug dealer or a child molester?

Worse still - suppose a criminal hacker entered the database – and made it look like you were all of those things – and then stole your identity long enough to perpetrate a terrorist atrocity?

Would the SWAT team believe your story when they came for you - or would they shoot first and ask questions later?

When everybody is perpetually watched by computers which decide if our patterns of behaviour fits a “profile” – then everybody is a potential security threat.

But do these automated systems make us more or less secure?

This is the question that everybody should be asking as the “war on terror” accelerates and the problems associated with a permanent surveillance culture in a digitally interconnected world are already being felt.

• Secret Blacklists: The current use of “No Fly” lists in the USA – and Canada – have been alleged to harass political activists , , make life difficult for political opponents and have terrible effects if your name happens to be similar to that of someone else on the no-fly lists, but can include children of nine months old. The “No Fly” blacklist is secret, contains over 20,000 names, and is almost impossible to get your name removed from.

• Electronic Surveillance: The recent revelations that the NSA were tapping into communications networks with the assistance of the Big Telcos , , indicated that everybody’s emails and phone calls are being monitored by a secret automated computer guarded by an agency so secretive, that for many years the acronym NSA stood for “No Such Agency”.

• Financial Surveillance: The current row breaking in the USA about the data-mining of SWIFT transactions , is the tip of the iceberg. Government agencies all over the world track the movement of funds, not only for terrorist funding but also as part of the “war on drugs” and to prevent money laundering . The recent case of Walter Soehnge who decided to pay off his credit card early - and then had problems with the Department of Homeland Security - shows that anyone who fits the “terrorist profile” is automatically a suspect.

• Geographical Surveillance: Data from RFID chips in purchases and “smartcard enabled” travel cards can be used to gather information about your location, , while mobile phones can be used to track movement and pinpoint suspects using advanced computerized databases.

• Satellite Surveillance: The advent of Google Earth makes it easier than ever for anyone to find ground images – but how much better are the military satellites than the commercial satellites? The commercial satellite companies will soon be able to offer satellite imagery at the ½ metre per pixel resolution – something previously used solely for military and intelligence gathering purposes – to anyone who can afford to pay.

• Global Censorship: As large search engines like Google and Yahoo build “censorware” versions of their sites in China , , more and more countries are seeking to restrict the free flow of information across the Internet. The “Cyber Curtains” are coming down all over the web as we rapidly approach the limits of “free speech” on the Internet which were previously taken for granted.

• Local Censorship: The increasing use of blacklist “Censorware” means that companies can routinely use their stranglehold to censor sites critical of their activities , , libraries and educational sites use censorware that blocks “inappropriate material” but prevents students from finding relevant material , and the UK is trying to force ISPs to install censorware which is not only expensive and doesn’t work – but which can also be reverse-engineered to provide a directory of sites containing illegal material .

The “New Cold War: Privacy & Security in the Age of Asymmetrical Warfare” examines how state of the art computing technology is being to fight the “war on terror” and asks the questions:

Will these technological measures make us safe from a terrorist threat or will they impinge on our society in such a way that we have to accept less privacy and civil liberties in return for a “sense of security”?

Will the technological developments designed to save democracy actually destroy it – as we take for granted the perpetual surveillance and intrusions into our privacy that were previously only the realm of fiction – so that the terrorists win after all?

How reliable are these automated systems designed to monitor our everyday movements – and what are the chances of these data-mining systems determining that you are the threat – while ignoring actual terrorist plots?

This book looks at the New Cold War in the light of the recent developments in computerized surveillance techniques that track our every move - and comes to a frightening conclusion:

In the “New Cold War” - where everyone is perpetually watched to see if they are a potential security threat – we are all “The Enemy” now.


America's Long War - Guardian Unlimited - 15/02/06 -

Bush Compares anti-terror effort to Cold War era - Washington Times - 28/05/06- http://www.washtimes.com/national/20060528-012149-4595r.htm

Canada gets its own no-fly list - CBC 05/08/05 - http://www.cbc.ca/story/news/national/2005/08/05/lapierre-050805.html

No-fly blacklist snares political activists - San Francisco Chronicle - 27/09/02 -

The No-Fly List: Is the Federal agency systematically harassing travellers for their political beliefs? - In These Times

Sen. Kennedy Flagged by No-Fly List - Washington Post - 20/08/04 - http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A17073-2004Aug19.html

No Fly List: Men with common names being searched at airports across US - Los Angeles Daily News - 14/06/03

Stuck on the No-Fly List - Wired News - 25/08/05 -

NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls - USA Today -11/05/06 -

Documents Show Link Between AT&T and Agency in Eavesdropping Case - New York Times - 13/04/06 -

Questions Raised for Phone Giants in Spy Data Furore - New York Times - 13/05/06 - http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/13/washington/13phone.html?ex=1305172800&en=0872ff5e182d5e7c&ei=5090

Bank Data is Sifted by U.S. in Secret to Block Terror - New York Times - 23/06/06 - http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/23/washington/23intel.html

Secret U.S. Programme Tracks Global Bank Transfers - LA Times - 23/06/06 - http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/la-na-swift23jun23,1,357838.story

DEA Wesbite -

Money Laundering -

Pay too much and you could raise the alarm - The Providence Journal - 28/02/06 - http://www.shns.com/shns/g_index2.cfm?action=detail&pk=RAISEALARM-02-28-06

US Privacy Campaigners Fear Mark of the Beast - Guardian Online - 26/04/06 http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1761719,00.html

Smart Cards track commuters - BBC News - 25/09/03

Tracking a suspect by mobile phone - BBC News - 03/08/05

Private spy satellite can peer anywhere - USA Today 29/08/01 - http://www.usatoday.com/news/science/astro/2001-08-28-pvt-spy-sat.htm

Google "soul searches" over censorship - Guardian Online -12/06/06 - http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/observer/archives/2006/06/12/we_are_irrepres_1.html

Yahoo "Strictest" Censor in China - Wired News - 15/06/06 - http://www.wired.com/news/technology/internet/0,71166-0.html?tw=wn_politics_1

Blue Coat censorware company blocks BB for criticizing censorware - BoingBoing - 03/06/06 - http://www.boingboing.net/2006/06/03/blue_coat_censorware.html

SmartFilter, BoingBoing, and Adult Baby - Diaper Lovers - BoingBoing - 10/03/06 - http://www.boingboing.net/2006/03/10/smartfilter_boingboi.html

Schools' Censorware Stinks - BoingBoing - 23/06/03 http://www.boingboing.net/2003/06/23/schools_censorware_s.html

BT puts block on child porn sites - Guardian Online - 06/06/04 http://technology.guardian.co.uk/online/news/0,12597,1232506,00.html

Supporting Women's Rights

Unexpected support for the rights of women who are from Muslim backgrounds - from the Tory Party no less ...

When will the Left stand up for women's rights in the same way and stop turning a blind eye to behaviour that denies the rights of women by constantly apologising for cultural and religious behaviour .. oh I remember now - its because they hate the USA more than they love human rights ...

Sayeeda Warsi, Tory vice-chairman and adviser to Cameron, said she was struck by the way some female Muslims were held back while she was out canvassing at the last election. 'The number of women I came across who said they wanted to go to university but their parents didn't want them to, who wanted to get a job but were not allowed, who were not allowed to vote freely because the men in their family got postal votes... I came away feeling that here was an enormous resource wasted,' she said. 'This way of life is not because of the faith, it is cultural interpretations of it. David feels we can't be culturally sensitive to issues which are fundamentally wrong.'

Well said Ms. Warsi - until we start to tackle this problem we are wasting one of our precious resources - people.

Dismissing Women out of hand and treating them as second class citizens is a good way of ensuring that your culture goes backwards - suddenly 50% of the population cannot make a good and proper contribution to society - unless you believe that women only make a good and usefull contribution to society while chained to the sink and raising children ...

Funny enough this is what religious fundamentalists all over the world seem to believe ...

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January 21, 2007

The Silence of the Left

Long - but excellent article - by Nick Cohen in The Guardian which argues that Anti-Americanism has left the modern left blind to the evils of militant Islam.

Strangely enough - one of the turning points for Nick Cohen was the first Gulf war - as it was for me - and the growing realisation that the left were less concerned about human rights and much more concerned with despising America.

The second turning point for me was when I started the "New Cold War" project.

It began simply enough as an exercise in Herman/Chomsky style analysis - familiar from "Manufacturing Consent" - of the current "War on Terror".

But as I began to read I realised that something unexpected was happening - all of the "worthy victims" and "unworthy victims" seemed swapped around and I realised that the narrative I was using was wrong.

I have been in search of an alternative narrative ever since - if there is one ...

Why is it that apologies for a militant Islam which stands for everything the liberal left is against come from the liberal left? Why will students hear a leftish postmodern theorist defend the exploitation of women in traditional cultures but not a crusty conservative don? After the American and British wars in Bosnia and Kosovo against Slobodan Milosevic's ethnic cleansers, why were men and women of the left denying the existence of Serb concentration camps? As important, why did a European Union that daily announces its commitment to the liberal principles of human rights and international law do nothing as crimes against humanity took place just over its borders? Why is Palestine a cause for the liberal left, but not China, Sudan, Zimbabwe, the Congo or North Korea? Why, even in the case of Palestine, can't those who say they support the Palestinian cause tell you what type of Palestine they would like to see? After the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington why were you as likely to read that a sinister conspiracy of Jews controlled American or British foreign policy in a superior literary journal as in a neo-Nazi hate sheet? And why after the 7/7 attacks on London did leftish rather than right-wing newspapers run pieces excusing suicide bombers who were inspired by a psychopathic theology from the ultra-right?

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January 7, 2007

Blog Problems or Censorware?

Right now I am wondering if my weblog provider has been blocked by some kind of censorware - or whether my ISP has some kind of DNS problem.

For several days I've had problems accessing the admin portion of this blog - but recently the blog itself was unavailable - along with SpyBlog, which is hosted in the same place - and anyway you would think that blocking the whole of the Yahoo! premium hosting service was a little severe

Right now my only access is from a proxy server in the UK - at least it appears I can post and do admin stuff - but it is a real pain in the backside.

If anyone is reading this via telefonica in Spain let me know ... of course if you are using telefonica and can't read it - you won't be able to let me know ....

If it continues I might go and stop over at wordpress for a few days and document whats going on over there - rather than using this somewhat ad-laden proxy server.

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January 5, 2007


Take a quick look at this picture.


What does it represent? What it meant to be?

It is quite clear that it is using visual imagery that is very close to the visual imagery found in pornographic images.

Was the choice of imagery deliberate - or was it an accident foisted on the company by some over-zealous advertising type?


If there was any doubt about the intentional use of this type of iimagery - the slogan "lick it up" gives it all away. Of course as this is branding for a well known make of cigarette papers - the makers could argue that "lick it up" refers to the papers themselves. Yeah right ....

For a long time now the idea that "sex sells" has been popular in advertising and marketing - but this type of imagery goes far beyond the scantily clad models that drape themselves over cars and boats - or even the pneumatic types used to sell video games.

As we get more and more saturated with sexual imagery of this nature - used only to sell products and produce "branding" what are the pornographers going to do to keep up? Eventually we shall all be so used to pornographic imagery that nothing will shock and the branding excercise will be futile.

What then - go back to using fluffy kittens, puppies and vases of flowers to brand products - like choclate boxes in the 50's?

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