Tagged: freedom

We may never find aliens if they’re hip to encryption

snowden tv

Edward Snowden has strongly defended citizens’ rights to encrypt their messages, and has taught journalists how to use encryption to protect themselves from spying programs.

But the NSA whistleblower sees a downside to encrypting so much information: aliens may not be able to spot signs of intelligent life.

Snowden, appearing on Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk podcast via a video link from Moscow on Sept. 18, told the astrophysicist how encryption could interfere in our attempts at alien communication.

Done properly, encrypted communication—encoded so that only the intended recipient can read the information—can’t be identified and is indistinguishable from random behavior, Snowden said.

“So if you have an alien civilization trying to listen for other civilizations, or our civilization trying to listen for aliens, there’s only one small period in the development of their society when all of their communication will be sent via the most primitive and most unprotected means,” Snowden said. “So what we are hearing that’s actually an alien television show or, you know, a phone call … is indistinguishable to us from cosmic microwave background radiation.”

Although as Tyson noted on his podcast, alien species might not be so keen on encryption. “Only if they have the same security problems as us,” he told Snowden.

You might hope that some other species with sufficient advancement in science to track down our wee ball of mud in the night sky – might also have moved to social development more reliant upon science and less dependent on superstition and imperial amorality. And may have grown beyond our need for encryption.

Celebrate International Women’s Day

On Sunday 8 March, it’s International Women’s Day. To celebrate, Helen Lewis pays tribute to 10 inspirational feminists

Aphra Behn

A playwright, translator and spy, Behn (also known as Astrea) has a good claim to being the first Englishwoman to make a living out of her writing. In the centuries after her death in 1689, her plays were dismissed as indecent because of their focus on female sexuality (“The stage how loosely does Astrea tread/ Who fairly puts all characters to bed!” wrote Alexander Pope in 1737). Recent feminist scholars have rediscovered her writing, and have made the case that the publication of her prose fiction Oroonoko, the story of a slave, was a key moment in the development of the English novel.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.” In the most high-profile pop-feminist moment of 2013, Beyoncé included these words – taken from a TED talk given by Adichie – on her single Flawless. In the talk, which has since been published as a book called We Should All Be Feminists, the Nigerian-born author asks: why are girls taught to shrink themselves, to compete for men, to limit their ambitions? She urges her audience to reclaim the word “feminist” and to say: “Yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today, and we must fix it.”

Nellie Bly

“No one but a man can do this,” Nellie Bly’s editor told her in 1886 when she suggested travelling round the world in less than 80 days. She would need a protector, he said – and how would she ever carry all the luggage a lady would need on such a trip? Bly didn’t worry too much about the first quibble, and travelled light, crushing all her belongings into a single handbag. She made it home in 72 days. That wasn’t the first time the pioneering American journalist had attracted attention through her work – a year earlier, in 1887, she faked madness to go undercover in an asylum, exposing its poor conditions and abusive staff.

The list goes on from there. RTFA to learn about a few folks you may not know. And should.

Angela and Gurley Flynn

Who would I add to the list? Angela Davis – who probably needs no introduction to folks under the age of 80. Occasionally, on her visits to the Northeast, I was one of her bodyguards.

Most especially, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. I met the Rebel Girl in 1963, a year before she died. She was an inspiration to working women and men for decades. She paid for it with time in prison, hatred from fascists, proto-fascists, every flavor of apologist for the religion of corporate hierarchies owning and running our lives.

Judge rules perp’s upskirt creative freedom trumps girl’s privacy

An Oregon judge has ruled that a 61-year-old man did nothing illegal when he crouched in the aisle of a Target store and snapped photos up a 13-year-old’s skirt.

It was lewd and appalling, but not outlawed, Washington County Judge Eric Butterfield said.

“From a legal point of view, which unfortunately today is my job to enforce, he didn’t do anything wrong,” the judge said…

Patrick Buono of Portland didn’t dispute using his cellphone to take upskirt photos on Jan. 3 at the store in suburban Beaverton…

But his defense lawyer, Mark Lawrence, argued Buono didn’t violate the laws against invasion of privacy and attempted encouraging child sexual abuse, a child pornography count…

The privacy law bans clandestine photography in bathrooms, locker rooms, dressing rooms and tanning booths, but the Target aisle was plainly public, Lawrence said…

The privacy law also specifies nudity, and the girl was wearing underwear, Lawrence said…

“Sure, she’s in a public place. But she had an expectation of privacy that a deviant isn’t going to stick a camera up her skirt and capture private images of her body,” Deputy District Attorney Paul Maloney said…

Maloney said Buono took the photos hoping they would be explicit.

After the ruling, Buono shook his lawyer’s hand and hurried from the courtroom.

The differentiating feature in legal and illegal porn like this has always been participation, permission. And in the case of a minor, even a parent or guardian typically can’t give permission for an illegal act.

Poisonally, I think if the judge had the courage to defend privacy – a scarce enough commodity in 21st Century America – he’d have no shortage of defenders within and without the legal profession.

Sweden recognizes the state of Palestine

Sweden has officially recognised the state of Palestine, Stockholm’s foreign minister has said, less than a month after the government announced its intention to make the unprecedented move.

The Palestinians cheered Thursday’s move, while Israel recalled its ambassador to Sweden for consultations…

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said in a statement that the recognition was “an important step that confirms the Palestinians’ right to self-determination”.

We hope that this will show the way for others,” she said in remarks published in the Dagens Nyheter daily.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas hailed the “brave and historic” move to officially recognise the state of Palestine, his spokesman told the AFP news agency.

Sweden is the first EU member state in Western Europe to recognise the Palestinian state.

Seven EU members in eastern European and the Mediterranean have already recognised a Palestinian state – Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta, Poland, and Romania.

Non-EU member Iceland is the only other western European nation to have done so…

The United States expressed dismay – from their usual position next Israel in bed. Nothing new. They only know one position.

Our government’s willingness to ignore historic professions of support for national liberation, anti-colonialism, opposition to oil-based imperialism reaches new depths of hypocrisy.

Civil Rights continue to grow – Republicans continue to fail

Marriage freedom selfies, a new day in Idaho, NevadaJIM URQUHART/REUTERS

Legal momentum for extending U.S. marriage rights to same-sex couples accelerated on Tuesday as a federal appeals court struck down bans on gay matrimony in Idaho and Nevada a day after the U.S. Supreme Court let stand similar rulings for five other states.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled the bans in Idaho and Nevada violated the constitution and cannot be enforced, adding to a growing list of states where same-sex unions are now legal.

The 9th Circuit move puts the United States on track for legal gay marriage in 35 states, as rulings by the court are binding on all states in its region including three others that do not permit gay marriage, Arizona, Montana and Alaska…

Nevada’s Republican governor, Brian Sandoval, whose state withdrew its opposition to gay marriage earlier this year, said he respected the ruling, and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada welcomed it warmly…

By contrast, Idaho Republican Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter said blah, blah, blah…

County clerks’ offices in big cities in Idaho and Nevada said they were reviewing the ruling and waiting for formal direction before issuing licenses.

Diana Alba, clerk of Nevada’s Clark County, said her office had been preparing for weeks, including changing the forms for marriage licenses so they use gender-neutral pronouns, employing “party one” and “party two” instead of “bride” and “groom.”

When we get the green light, we’re ready,” Alba said…

Click the link above to read the complete article. It finishes with a state-by-state update on further challenges to the last few states dragging their feet. Still afraid to enter the 21st Century.

Republican commitment to Christian sharia law illustrates what a dead end that party has become. They haven’t a conservative viewpoint to offer. They only whine “NO”, beat their holier-than-thou bosoms and hope there are enough old white folks left to keep them in office – picking plums off the tree of corporate lobbyists.

In this occasional land of the free, there are plenty of old white folks like me who were willing to stand up for our Black brothers and sisters in the 1950’s. We’re still here and perfectly able to smack Democrats on the butt to get them to join up with progressive women, minorities, young people. Speak out, march to the polls and shove foot-dragging bigots out of the way.

It may not be quick enough to satisfy this short time each of us has to tread on this Earth – but, the need for freedom shall prevail.

UPDATE: Idaho governor apparently whined loud and hard enough to nudge Justice Kennedy into ordering a temporary stay of the order allowing same-sex marriages. Shouldn’t be long before the appellate court can review the plea. Sanity will return.

Japanese artist jailed for kayak replicating her vagina

Click to enlarge

A Japanese artist who made figures of Lady Gaga and a kayak modeled on her vagina said on Wednesday from jail she was “outraged” by her arrest and vowed a court fight against obscenity charges.

Megumi Igarashi, 42, says she was challenging a culture of “discrimination” against discussion of the vagina in Japanese society.

Igarashi, who worked under the alias Rokudenashiko, which means “good-for-nothing girl” in Japanese, built a yellow kayak with a top shaped like her vagina after raising about $10,000 through crowdfunding.

Igarashi sent 3D printer data of her scanned vagina – the digital basis for her kayak project – as a thanks to a number of donors.

She was arrested for distributing indecent material on Saturday and faces up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.

Igarashi said about 10 police officers had arrived at her house on Saturday and initially, she thought they were only interested in confiscating work she has said is meant as a pop-art exploration of the “manko”, vulgar Japanese slang for vagina.

“I couldn’t stop myself from laughing a little as I explained to the grim-looking officers, ‘This is the Lady Gaga ‘manko’ figure’,” Igarashi told Reuters from across a plastic security divide in a central Tokyo jail.

“I did not expect to get arrested at all. Even as they were confiscating my works, I thought to myself, ‘This will be a good story’. Then they handcuffed and arrested me. Now, I just feel outraged…”

Igarashi has touched off a debate on both women’s rights and the freedom of artistic expression, said Kazuyuki Minami, her lead defense lawyer.

The legal definition of what counts as obscenity is vague in Japan, and the key point of debate will be deciding whether the vagina itself can be considered obscene, said Minami…

A 1951 Supreme Court case broadly defined obscenity as something that stimulates desire and violates an ordinary person’s sense of sexual shame and morality.

Just like political idjits, bigoted idjits, even musical idjits – every nation seems to have its share of sensual and sexual idjits. Japan, obviously, is no exception.

Bill in Congress to guarantee right to contraception – who will try to stop it?


Democrats in Congress said Tuesday that they had developed legislation to override the Supreme Court decision on contraceptives. The bill would ensure that women have access to insurance coverage for birth control even if they work for businesses that have religious objections.

The bill, put together in consultation with the Obama administration, would require for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby Stores to provide and pay for contraceptive coverage, along with other preventive health services, under the Affordable Care Act.

The measure could be on the Senate floor as early as next week, Senate Democrats said. House Democrats are developing a companion bill, but it faces long odds in the House, which is controlled by Republicans. Speaker John A. Boehner described the Hobby Lobby decision last week as “a victory for religious freedom.”

Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, who led efforts by Senate Democrats to respond to the ruling, said: “Your health care decisions are not your boss’s business. Since the Supreme Court decided it will not protect women’s access to health care, I will.”

Ms. Murray wrote her proposal with Senator Mark Udall, Democrat of Colorado.

Ms. Murray’s bill criticizes the court’s majority opinion and declares that “employers may not discriminate against their female employees” in the coverage of preventive health services.

To this end, it says that an employer “shall not deny coverage of a specific health care item or service” where coverage is required under any provision of federal law. This requirement, it says, shall apply to employers notwithstanding the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Someday the role our original constitution played in leading separation of church and state throughout the world will once again be recognized back where it started. Right here in the Heart of the Free World.

More or less, eh?

Independent commission to investigate future of internet freedom

A major independent commission headed by the Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt, was launched on Wednesday to investigate the future of the internet in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations.

The two-year inquiry, announced at the World Economic Forum at Davos, will be wide-ranging but focus primarily on state censorship of the internet as well as the issues of privacy and surveillance raised by the Snowden leaks about America’s NSA and Britain’s GCHQ spy agencies…

Bildt, the former Swedish prime minister, said: “The rapid evolution of the net has been made possible by the open and flexible model by which it has evolved and been governed. But increasingly this is coming under attack.

“And this is happening as issues of net freedom, net security and net surveillance are increasingly debated. Net freedom is as fundamental as freedom of information and freedom of speech in our societies.”

The Obama administration on Friday announced the initial findings of a White House-organised review of the NSA. There are also inquiries by the US Congress and by the European parliament, but this is the first major independent one.

The nicest thing said about Obama’s recommendations is that they have the strength of weak tea. My characterization would be more scatalogical.

Robin Niblett, director of Chatham House, said: “The issue of internet governance is set to become one of the most pressing global policy issues of our time…”

Gordon Smith, who is to be deputy chair of the commission, said: “For many people, internet governance sounds technical and esoteric but the reality is that the issues are ‘high politics’ and of consequence to all users of the internet, present and future.”

Many of America’s geek pundits feel the United States owns the Internet and every other nation should simply follow whatever our government says should be the rules. Obedience is required by the Internet Overlords.

The battle comes up every few years, The next round will not only involve the question of global democracy; but, individual privacy and security will have to be part of the discussion.

Canada strikes down national criminal prostitution laws

Nikki Thomas/director Sex Professionals of Canada, Terri-Jean Bedford, Valerie Scott

In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court of Canada has unanimously struck down as unconstitutional the main scheme of criminal laws against the buying and selling of sex by prostitutes, saying it endangers the lives and security of vulnerable sex workers.

However, the country’s top court has given Parliament a one-year grace period to redraft a legislative scheme that could pass constitutional muster.

That means if, 12 months from today, the federal government has not redrawn the laws to address the court’s concern that they are too arbitrary, overbroad and “grossly disproportionate,” then prostitutes will be allowed to legally practice their trade, hire drivers, bodyguards, accountants and screen their clients freely.

In the meantime, the Criminal Code ban on brothels, living on the avails of prostitution and communicating for the purposes of prostitution remain in full effect…

The stunning judgment that the country’s main prostitution laws breach fundamental Charter rights was a unanimous conclusion reached by all nine judges, including the retiring Justice Morris Fish. The court flatly rejected calls by the federal government’s lawyers to defer to Parliament on the contentious matter.

The appeal, known as Canada (Attorney General) v. Bedford, Lebovitch and Scott was brought by Toronto-based dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford, former prostitute Valerie Scott, and downtown eastside Vancouver’s Amy Lebovitch. All three were on hand in Ottawa, and rejoiced loudly.

If you haven’t been following the case, the article is long, detailed and informative. Frankly, it’s worth reading because it should nudge your own thought processes. The questions raised ain’t easy.

On one hand, any sort of libertarian outlook says, let folks earn a living however they wish if they aren’t producing permanent harm to individuals and society. That last word brings in all the religions and philosophers. Not me. Individual freedoms are pretty hard to celebrate to a level that harms a nation.

The only concern from my side is the opportunity for criminals enterprise to profit from and control the lives of sex workers. And history tells us that is easier under criminalization than without. As alcohol prohibition has taught us, as our wonderful war on drugs illustrates on a daily basis.

Worth thinking about, folks – even if the opportunity to visit the question in your own country isn’t likely.