Information Landmine

"The Americans keep telling us how successful their system is. Then they remind us not to stray too far from our hotel at night." - An un-named EU trade representative quoted during international trade talks in Denver, Colorado, 1997.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Not so much a post... a couple of links.

Normal service will be resumed shorlty, now that I've got my assignments out the way.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Sign O' The Times

As a cultured member of the liberal elite (take that, Rush Limbaugh!), I can say in all honestly and with great pride that I have never, in my nearly four decades on this earth, watched even so much as 30 seconds of the vile and cretinous public spectacle that is the global Big Brother television franchise. However, the present run of the UK version seems to have thrown up (an apt phrase if ever there was one) a situation which may be seen as instructive of the values system presently operating within the media, society and the international political economy alike.

A great hullabaloo has arisen due to the petty racism of a few of the white "celebrity" (Information Landmine uses this word advisedly) contestants against the glamorous Indian film star Shilpa Shetty, who is also locked in amongst the collection of has-beens and never-really-weres desperate to re-ignite their sputtering careers.

So what does all this nonsense have to do with trends within the international political economy? While certain wags (of the old-fashioned variety, as opposed to the opportunistic female companions of England footballers) might suggest that it has something to do with a (presumably) well-paid job that might previously have been filled by a Briton being outsourced to an Indian counterpart, a deeper, more fundamental trend can be seen at work within this situation, one that illuminates the underlying values and concepts of power within a globalizing world.

What the hell am I on about exactly? When this whole debacle hit the media, there were protests in the streets across India - the world's largest democracy - and questions to the Prime Minister and members of his cabinet in the British House of Commons. Nevertheless, the producers of Big Brother, Endemol, and the broadcaster, Channel Four, defended the programme and would not budge in the face of official and public criticism alike. Then something noteworthy happened: one of the programme's biggest sponsors, The Carphone Warehouse, pulled out, citing concerns about its corporate image. Having offended two governments and many of their citizens/subjects (delete as applicable), Endemol and Channel Four did jack all. But having seemingly offended a powerful corporate paymaster, they suddenly seemed in retreat, with Channel Four's panic-stricken boss repeatedly refusing to comment on the whole sordid affair during an interview with BBC Radio 4.

Power in the modern world lies with the corporations and their pounds, dollars and rupees, as opposed to governments or citizens, although the former can use the lever of regulation if it chooses to do so and the latter can spook the money men into changing tack given enough negative momentum. But surely in a more democratic world, power should rest with the people and the governments who are elected by and thus, at least ostensibly, represent them?

Maybe in a more democratic world, but certainly not in this one.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

More creeping Stalinism...

Spyblog has a good post about the suggestion that Revenue and Customs (HMRC) need increased surveillance powers to tackle organised crime. The thrust of their argument is that tackling organised crime is the job of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), who already have spectacularly wide-ranging powers of investigation of the sort that HMRC are requesting, and that HMRC should be liaising with them in so far as their investigations relate to organised crime.

Yet more evidence that any security problems the UK may be having are less to do with our last remaining civil liberties and more to do with government agencies being unable to handle the data they’ve already got.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

NOW if someone steals my details with a hand-scanner, I'm going to have to get a new head

Well, I'm now back, but drowning in paperwork, so will be leaving you to enjoy Steve's relevant, readable and generally less arcane posts for a while. Bastard even writes about copyright better that I do, it's all most upsetting.

However, careful readers will be wanting to know whether the guy with the rubber glove at Luton Airport was gentle, to which I have to say I managed to dodge the entire sorry treatment. This was not by shaving off the beard (although that was replaced by a very tasteful handle-bar tache upon my arrival in Morocco), but might have been more to do with my new biometric passport.

I've mentioned before that this sort of thing is not really combatting terrorism, except in the term's technical usage of "keeping the military-industrial complex good and bloated" [see for example, George W. Bush, "By invading Iraq, we will be combatting terrorism"]. Obviously it's too much to ask that they consider anyone's civil liberties while pursing such higher goals as this, but did they really have make it easier for organised crime to steal my identity in the process?

This is compounded by the fact that airport security also seem to trust the new passports more, and so check them less carefully. So in so far as biometric passports have done anything in terms of UK vulnerability to attack by shadowy masterminds, they've presumably made it less safe.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Is Tobias Jones high on crack or just high on "The Lord"?

Possibly the most ridiculous opinion piece ever to have appeared in The Guardian is Tobias Jones' screamer, "Secular fundamentalists are the new totalitarians", as published in today's edition.

As some old book or other said: "By their deeds shall ye know them". Thus the day that we see "secular fundamentalists" violently protesting outside productions of Jesus Christ Superstar in the manner that a section of the Sikh community did outside of Behzti; or burning copies of the Bible or Koran and threatening its publishers and sellers with physical harm or death the way that radical Islamists did with Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses; or destroying copies of Cliff Richard and Amy Grant albums, as evangelical Christians have done with those by the likes of Black Sabbath and Dead Kennedys, is the day Information Landmine will reassess which of the parties in question - secularists or believers - represents the greater and more immediate threat to our society's traditions of openness and tolerance.

Much of this may or may not be re-printed in a letter fired off to The Guardian via e-mail this morning.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Just asking, really

Following the sectarian debacle of Saddam Hussein's execution, an event which has achieved the near-unthinkable by turning the late Iraqi tyrant and war criminal into a martyr, America's own chief tyrant and war criminal had this to say of events in Baghdad last weekend:

"I wish, obviously, that the proceedings had been - gone in a more dignified way. But nevertheless, he was given justice. The thousands of people he killed were not."

With Saddam having met the noose, the question now surely is: when will Bush, Blair, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Hoon, Rice et al. be given justice for the thousands of people that they have killed?

The world deserves an answer.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The only real surprise...

... is that this didn't appear on Fox News instead of CNN!

Sign the petition!

A worthy cause if ever there was one. Information Landmine urges you go to and sign this petition from the European Trade Union Confederation post haste:

ETUC launches petition to defend public services in the EU
The petition calls for “priority to the general interest embodied in public services; everyone to have access to public services; Strengthening public services in order to guarantee citizens’ fundamental rights; more legal security so as to allow the development of sustainable public service missions; Giving public services a firm legal basis and thus immunity from ideologically motivated free market attacks.” You can sign the petition here:

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