January 29th, 2011

Murdered by ones government, again

In December 2009, Zahra Bahrami, a born Iranian woman, but naturalized to be Dutch, traveled back to her home country for a family visit. What exactly happened there is not clear, but she was arrested for treason and drugs possession. The storyline here is she was arrested shortly after attending a demonstration against the regime. Iran not accepting her Dutch citizenship sentenced her to death.

Today, it was confirmed she was executed by hanging. In Iran, this used to be being hoisted by a crane, not breaking the neck, but dying a slow, painful, barbarian death. Diplomatic contacts have been put on the back-burner and there are voices stating there is no use in having an embassy at all. Picture posted to show we are talking real people, not some abstract concept of life and death.

Zahra Bahrami

Note: the Iranian government states she was convicted of drugs trafficking, which, if true, is not the smartest thing to do (see footnote in this post). And she was caught here for that crime earlier. The major issue though is the death sentence in itself, and the complete opaqueness of the trial. No assistance, no lawyers, no nothing.

Note: The “security forces” informed her daughter last week Zahra Bahrami was being buried at the same moment in a village a couple of hundred kilometers from Teheran, making the process of dealing with all this unnecessary harder for the family. The Dutch ambassador in Teheran is being withdrawn. The minister of foreign affairs was being seriously questioned about the diplomatic actions and non actions of the administration. He lied flat out saying “everything posssible had been done”, while, in fact he personally had done literally nothing at all. But of course this had no consequences. What is the expression again? The chicken is involved in the bacon-and-egg; the pig is committed?

January 26th, 2011

It works like this…

January 25th, 2011

The violence

In Europe, the how should I put it, “general opinion” is more or less that the American society is more cruel, more violent, than us sophisticated lot (uh huh, please DO read the sarcasm). Still, a major difference exists which I have touched here long ago and that is the availability of firearms. Where in the US, you are allowed, no obliged almost, to protect your family and property, in most of Europe violence is a “state monopoly”. The implications have many gray areas which is really out of the scope of this entry.

More interesting though is that the “more cruel, more violent” notion seems to slowly permeate in the US. An American analysis.

The recent murderous acts of violence committed by Jared Lee Loughner in Arizona cannot be reduced to the mental instability of young man out of touch with reality. Nor can such a horrendous act be reduced to a breakdown in civil discourse. Such rationales are too easy, and emulate what Frank Rich has called “classic American denial.” (…)

I want to suggest that underlying the Arizona shootings is a culture of cruelty that has become so widespread in American society that the violence it produces is largely taken for granted, often dismissed in terms that cut it off from any larger systemic forces at work in the society.

I am not entirely sure yet I buy into this analysis. The comments are interesting too (ignoring the extreme guns-freedom blah). Especially imho when they DO refer to Europe.

Think the overall message of the article is clear and sound, referring to the American culture is a bit too simplistic as here in Europe we see without the easy access to arms identical trends. Governments are not doing their jobs, instead going for the easy way and running from one media hype to the next with a magnifier allowing fear to take over from common sense. Please lets stick together, use our brains and respect each species as only then we have a change to survive a couple of more generations on this planet.

The last sentence a bit dramatic but I didn’t want to censor and I am always in favor of using our brains. What do you think?

January 22nd, 2011
January 17th, 2011

Good manners in the age of Wikileaks

In The London Review of books, Slavoj Žižek published an essay about the meaning of the Wikileaks era. An intriguing piece I must say, and I can only recommend to read it.

The only surprising thing about the WikiLeaks revelations is that they contain no surprises. Didn’t we learn exactly what we expected to learn? The real disturbance was at the level of appearances: we can no longer pretend we don’t know what everyone knows we know. This is the paradox of public space: even if everyone knows an unpleasant fact, saying it in public changes everything.

In Europe, there is the this half-sentence. still being used in this context. It is a reminiscent of the second world war. It is was many, many regime supporters said when confronted with the atrocities of the Nazi’s: “Wir haben es nicht gewusst” (“We didn’t know”). Žižek’s conclusion is not very agreeable.

We face the shameless cynicism of a global order whose agents only imagine that they believe in their ideas of democracy, human rights and so on. Through actions like the WikiLeaks disclosures, the shame – our shame for tolerating such power over us – is made more shameful by being publicised. When the US intervenes in Iraq to bring secular democracy, and the result is the strengthening of religious fundamentalism and a much stronger Iran, this is not the tragic mistake of a sincere agent, but the case of a cynical trickster being beaten at his own game.

January 16th, 2011

The eBooks

I am a happy owner of a Sony PRS-600. The only thing against it is the glare on the touch screen. Other than that, is is a sleek, sturdy and smart design. Today, I might go for the nook as the separated LCD/touch makes it more readable, but it is not as well designed as Sony’s. Maybe the color version, but then, eInk really reads good.

Now I think if something is free, it is free, and if not, well, let it go or pay for it. In content, this is often translated in DRM. In layman’s terms this means the content is bound to a key stored in the reader. Different key, no luck. This is actually a flawed design. If my device cracks, I am out of luck. I might get new downloads of my purchases providing my new key, but maybe the store went out of business. Some DRM schemes even phone home once in a while and if the mother ship is gone or has decided your content needs to self destruct, bye bye content, If you think this is unlikely, or unthinkable business practice, do your research (Microsoft and Apple respectively).

So, any content I get will be decrypted. Not give away and thus steal from the author/publisher, but to ensure I can read it as long as I like, instead of as long as they like, thank you very much. Content that I cannot decrypt I will not, never, ever pay for. For the interested, let me just say it is doable as long as you are not afraid to use python and the command line. For my Ubuntu, I only needed to install tKinter, which Ubuntu’s software center did just fine. This nice toolkit will do all the heavy lifting for kindle (device and mobi), Barnes and Nobles epub, Adobe epub and a few others. Calibre then will convert almost any now freed format to unencrypted ePub.

ps: note that for the generation of the Barnes and Nobles decryption key, you need to have the buyers credit card number. Even more reason to only decrypt your OWN files.

January 8th, 2011

The long arm of the law

Today it was announced that on December 15th, the US subpoenaed a.o. the twitter accounts of Rob Gongrijp (a Dutchman, he is the guy behind the “we don’t trust voting computers” here, there is more on this blog about that) and an Icelandic member of parliament Birgitta Jónsdóttir (she has pushed lawmaking in favor of protecting “leakers”). The subpoena was held secret for 3 weeks, by order of the US magistrate Theresa Buchanan.

Lessons kearned:

  • If one uses US based cloud services, accept they are bound by US law (google, microsoft, twitter, this blog)
  • accept there is no such thing as respect for foreign law, on the contrary: in my experience, for US law enforcement, a non-American citizen is one step lower on the ladder (sorry to be so blunt)
  • accept in a broad sense that to plead for a transparent government, one is probably a Wikileaks supporter, and therefor somehow a terrorist, or at least there is some sort of smell. (see this youtube how Wikileaks REALLY works)
  • accept that this smell is enough to tear down a lot of intrinsic mechanisms to protect the average Joe from it’s, or in this case somebody else’s government.

A sad state of affairs.

And just for the record: my country is not a shred better in cases like this. Just more silent.

January 4th, 2011

The Euro

2002 marked the introduction of the Euro as the common currency in the Euro zone in 12 countries: Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Greece, France, Luxembourg, Austria, Finland, Belgium, Ireland, Portugal and Spain. In the short run, one could say the blessings are mixed, partly because of the slow political response of the European countries on highly speculative market “movers”, but that will change slowly.

Without a lot of hoopla, four more countries switched to the Euro: Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta and Slovakia. January 1st, Estland became the 17th member.

The Euro is also used in some “overseas” area’s such as some French islands in the Caribbean and a few Spanish near the African continent. Non-joiners are Denmark and the UK.

Five more countries are expected to join in the next 5 years: Hungary, Litowenia, Letland, Poland and the Czech Republic. More here.