ATM Bank Charity

Honestly, this would make more sense with the porn definition of ATM, but here we go:

Cash machines should automatically give customers an option of donating to charity, the coalition proposes tomorrow in a green paper designed to define the elusive “big society” in Britain.

Yes, that’s right, the general public, who are experiencing loss of income and wealth like never before are being badgered to donate to charities when they go to the bank. To the bank?! Are these people having a fucking laugh?

This is apparently an effort to “shift what the coalition sees as the stubborn British refusal to be philanthropic with time or money”. My guess is that British people are a little stubborn when it comes to philanthropy because they’re sick of getting shafted six ways to Sunday buy the institutions of english life! Rip-off Britain – it’s so good that it gets it’s own page on wikipedia…

Back when the Captains of Industry were busy trying to appease their guilty consciences over their raping of the working poor during the industrial revolution, they built public buildings, housing, donated their fortunes. Now it’s simply not fair to ask the rich to pay extra taxes on incomes (that in many cases that are the result of exploiting the less well of in society) but it’s alright to badger everyone to be more charitable.

I guess this is what happens when you have a government of millionaires…

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Treesonous…

Had a feeling this particular picture was going to come in handy…

The twit on the left is Zac Goldsmith, son of Lady Annabel Vane-Tempest-Stewart (you really couldn’t make this shit up…) and Sir James Goldsmith. The twat in the middle is his campaign manager (David Newman). If you have any experience of english society you know that they are a couple of public school educated, upper class twits / twats. The term, as far as i’m concerned, is interchangeable.

What makes Goldsmith an especially malignant form of twat is that he worked as an environmental (where only the ‘mental’ part seems to count) journalist, and ran as a Conservative candidate. Part of the Conservative manifesto is a pledge to sell off England’s woodlands to the private sector. To quote:

Part of our policy is clearly established: we wish to proceed with very substantial disposal of public forest estate, which could go to the extent of all of it…

That’s public schoolboy James Edward Thornton “Jim” Paice telling it like it is…

Let’s be honest, these people are hell bent on building a neo-feudal England. The fact that Zac Goldsmith wore environmental colours before being elected does nothing to disguise that his true allegiance lies with people who think that the privatisation of railways, water, gas, electricity has benefited the people they govern. Actually, i’m not that naive, they don’t think anything of the sort, they know full well that delivering the assets of a nation into private hands allows for the maximisation of profit, and to hell with the future!

Treesonous… get it?!

The Chilling Effect?

The ripples from the Wikileaks cable releases are still spreading out into the internet. My initial reaction to the behavior of the likes of Mastercard, Visa, Back of America, PayPal, Facebook, Google, was, rather predictably, anger.

That corporations such as Mastercard and Visa should so easily bend to the unexpressed will of the US administration (resisting the urge to call it a regime…) isn’t all that surprising. Given the obvious connections between management at corporations and their “regulators” it would be easy to imagine an informal word being had, through the usual network of contacts. Contact would of course be unofficial, but the expression of displeasure would make it clear enough that action was expected. Which is not to say that all of the actors need to be similarly motivated – BofA probably feels intimidated enough to strike out on it’s own.

PayPal, being rather new new to game, made a mess of initial statements. First saying that it had been under pressure from the state department, then retracting, and claiming it had acted on it’s own, that there was no intervention from the government. This somewhat let the cat out of bag…

It seems to me that the actions of these financial institutions is worrying, in so much that they are de facto gatekeepers to the will of people to fund causes (causes which haven’t violated laws, but have certainly challenged the power of governments..), but it is not altogether surprising. They are operating in an environment in which punitive actions can be taken against them. Given their prodigious unpopularity, it seems unlikely that public sentiment would move to help them if stepped out of line.

Far more worrying are the quiet actions of the likes of Amazon (denying hosting), Facebook (blacklisting links, locking pages), Google (taking down YouTube videos), Twitter (controversial, but a trend algorithm that can ignore a hashtag as hot as #wikileaks / #cablegate is broken), wikipedia (removing a list of wikileaks mirrors), various ISP, and service providers, etc. Although i’m willing to believe that the US government has high level connections at some of these internet companies, the more reasonable conclusion is that they are actually self-consoring.

It is worthwhile considering why this might be happening. The obvious reason who be that they fear the imposition of genuine censorship, and the resulting public backlash. If they don’t act first and regulate themselves, they can expect to find zealous congressmen / senators (yes Lieberman, i’m talking about you) encumbering them with ill considered (and unenforcible?) legislation, and attacks from the (government directed) press. Another possibility is that they consider their users to be significantly sympathetic to the official message (ie, stupid and brainwashed enough to believe that not knowing is better for them…) that action will lose them less users than inaction.

There is, in my not particularly humble opinion, a worrying trend of commercialization among the internet digerati. This is nothing particularly new, and in fact has been the goal of many internet entrepreneurs for many years; “monetize the web”. However, this has always been balanced by an idealistic (yes, i know it’s a dirty word in a capitalist world) element fighting to hold onto the initial vision of the web as a democratizing / unifying platform for the free and open sharing of information.

If anything positive is going to come out of the current situation surrounding Wikileaks / Bradley Manning it has to be that more people are willing to take a stand against the increasing centralization of information under corporate / commercial control. It seems likely that the battle for the mass-market has already been lost, but the initial skirmishes of a resistance movement are already visible in projects like Tor, YaCy, Diaspora.

Whether it’s still possible to carve channels of free communication through the grey goo of the commercial ‘net probably depends on the actions and support of people like, dear reader, you and i.

Where is the Outrage?

Ever since the Wikileaks diplomatic cable story (i refuse to call it cablegate, and so should you!) broke, i’ve been puzzled by the lack of outrage, and seeming bored acceptance.What the cables seem to tell us is that it is standard operating procedure for governments, neé democracies, around the world to lie to their citizens, and break local and international laws if it is convenient for americans and their corporations.

As i’m writing this i can already hear the tired sighs of the oh so jaded generations, “Yes”, they’ll wearily intone, “we know. It’s always been like this, how could you be so naive as to think that they were trying to do anything but line their own pockets?!” Well, guess what? That’s not the point, of course it has always been obvious that this was going on. The inherent corruption in our corporatist, quasi-democracy, kleptocracies is plainly obvious to anyone who is willing to imagine what is behind current events. What the Wikileaks cables change is that there is no longer any need to imagine! It’s out in the open that, for example:

  • governments know that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are lost. That they’ll leave behind large scale corruption, destroyed infrastructure, and a people with no hope.
  • the US is actively encouraging European governments to spy on their citizens for the benefit of american corporations.
  • the US Secretary of State thinks is fine to collect the biometric and other personal data of UN staff.
  • the prior and current UK government are willing to do almost anything to maintain a positive relationship with the US even if it means lying / evading the truth in parliament and public inquiries.

The list goes on and on, despite making a concerted effort to read a few cables every day, the shear volume and scope of the material makes it hard to feel like you are really making a dent in it…

In the last couple of weeks another, and perhaps more worrying, aspect of this story has been the quiet projection of power by the system. All of the people who are find themselves unable to summon the necessary outrage at the revelations in cables perhaps might manage to get a little worked up about how effortlessly the US has worked to isolate Wikileaks from it supporters. The initial attacks on the internets infrastructure (DNS, DDoS, ISP, Cloud hosting services) were pretty crude, but then things got really ugly with the likes of Visa, Mastercard, & PayPal obviously caving into pressure. This attempt to isolate Wikileaks from funding is chilling – not only have they not been convicted of breaking any laws, they are not even charged with so doing!

As this piece in The Atlantic makes clear, we are at a critical point:

During these past weeks, rather than a nerd takeover, I saw the crumbling of the facade of a flat, equal, open Internet and the revelation of an Internet which has corporate power occupying its key crossroads, ever-so-sensitive to any whiff of displeasure by the state. I saw an Internet in danger of becoming merely an interactive version of the television in terms of effective freedom of speech.

If the net is going to stand any chance of avoiding becoming the next co-opted medium used to stuff advertising down the gullets of a placid generation of consumers, this battle is going to have to be fought. As things stand not only has the battle not been joined, the war is as good as lost.

I’ll ask again: where is the outrage?