Geek, Nerd, Dork Defined

A geek is someone who has the knowledge of the geeky type stuff and has social graces.

A nerd is someone who has the knowledge but not the social graces, and a dork is someone who has neither.

Nerds are the type who live in their parents’ basements until they’re 45, whereas geeks are more normal.

— GeekDad contributor Matt Blum

Two quick thoughts.

A major hallmark of democracy is the ability to criticize the Government and to take protest action against it. A democracy is driven by the people not by the leaders. That is what makes the spying scandal more outrageous the mere fact that the police, the leaders in society are spying on those people who drive the society. This really grinds me.

The second is the SIG. Set up post 9/11. WAKE ME UP WHEN SEPTEMBER ENDS. It has been 7 years already. We cannot use one terrorist attack killing 3,000 or so people in a country on the otherside of the world to justify our local actions or international wars killing hundreds of thousands for the next century. The madness must stop now.

Be afraid, very afraid

I have been very busy over the last few weeks and haven’t had much time to blog or do anything much online. But I have been trying to follow the Police Spying Scandal because as the days role on it is getting deeper and much murkier.

Okay for those who haven’t been following the news recently here is a quick update: Last Sunday the Sunday Star Times (Newspaper) revealed that an key political activist was actually a police spy who had infutrated a number of left wing groups. He was reporting to the SIG a group set up after the 9/11 attacks in America to combat terrorism. The Police immediately claimed that the SIG was acting within its boundaries protecting NZ and not spying on activist groups. Since then it has been revealed that the Police through its SIG Counter-Terrorism Spying Taskforce has been spying on a number of political action groups, climate change groups, Greenpeace, the Green Party (yes the political party in parliament), a number of major workers Unions incluing UNITE, and the NDU, and students’ associations especially VUWSA.

Now this is nuts. There is a clear boundary between what is terrorism, what is a terrorist action, what is a threat to national security and the actions of small political lobby groups. I personally believe that if you have done nothing wrong then you should have nothing to hide. But that is not the issue here, the issue is police used a counter terrorism unit to spy on many harmless, democratic and legal political lobby groups.

There are two columns in today’s HoS which add more to this story (and be sure to read the other articles as well there are heaps of them – google is showing over 100 stories written already (http://news.google.co.nz/news?oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-US%3Aofficial&client=firefox-a&um=1&tab=wn&nolr=1&hl=en&q=police+spying&btnG=Search+News)

The first is Bill Ralston who calls for an inquiry into the issue:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10549093

Initially John Key, sensibly, said only those who “present a real or credible risk to the safety and security of communities” should be the subject of such investigations. He then passed the issue on to Judith Collins to sort out.

She spoke to Broad and promptly ruled out any need for an inquiry, saying Broad had assured her police were “meeting their responsibilities”. Hiding behind the old “Governments can’t interfere in police operations” line, Collins blithely accepted Broad’s assurance they were not targeting groups but individuals who might commit criminal acts.

Wrong. Emails from their spy show the SIG was targeting the activities of entire unions, including the EPMU, the CTU, the Maritime Union, and the Unite union.

Its spy also infiltrated the Green Party and reported on the plans of Greenpeace, conservation groups, climate change organisations, animal rights groups, and anti-war protesters.

Oh yes, police also used SIG surveillance to protect its own vested interests, targeting anti-Taser protests and investigating a man who is trying to take action against the police after he was pepper-sprayed.

The SIG was set up and received funding after 9/11 to combat the threat of terrorism. None of the groups listed even remotely come near that description. The SIG seems oblivious to the fact that peace groups are, by their very nature, largely peaceful in intent and, ironically, one of its targets, Greenpeace, is the only victim of terrorism in New Zealand.

You have to watch those dangerous unions. In emails to the SIG, its spy breathlessly reports that the NDU and EPMU were having a day of action and locked-out workers would be planning pickets and making banners. Shocking criminal acts that surely imperilled the safety and security of the community.

What has happened is that, in the hysteria after 9/11, the police got a big budget to set up the SIG which then found it had no real terrorism to combat. To protect its budget and its reason for being, the SIG and police then busied themselves with trivia.

Collins has more than enough evidence to show the SIG was acting outside its brief. She should set up a ministerial inquiry, with a QC or someone like the Ombudsman, verify the facts and get serious about cutting costs by axing the unit.

Yes that is right. The police are spying on the only group ever in NZ to have been targeted by terrorism! (and for those with poor knowledge of NZ history it is a reference to the 1986 bombing of the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbour by the French Secret Service.

The second column is by Matt McCarten head of the Unite Union and a victim of the police spying:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10549080

These groups which were being spied on are incorporated societies carrying out legitimate work on behalf of their members and supporters. They are democratic and transparent. No one has ever accused them of criminal behaviour, let alone terrorism.

Gilchrist started collecting information on our union three years ago. At that time we were running our SupersizeMyPay campaign, set up to abolish youth wages and raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour.

Through a combination of employer negotiations, community demonstrations and parliamentary lobbying, we won. Tens of thousands of workers have since had their wages lifted by more than $3 an hour, in large part because of this campaign, and youth wages were scrapped.

Are our spies seriously suggesting minimum wage workers and school kids working in fast-food restaurants were part of a budding al Qaeda network?

The actions of this spy unit go to the heart of our democracy. Frankly, their actions are worse than the so-called danger they claim to want to protect us from. What could be more of a threat to our society than a secret police force paying undercover “Walter Mitty-type” informants to infiltrate and secretly report on civil and political groups? Isn’t that what totalitarian governments do?

A meat worker who ran as a communist candidate in the last election was detained at Auckland Airport for four hours after returning from Australia. She was subjected to a humiliating strip search. Nothing was found. But what was disturbing is the Customs officers spent the whole time grilling her on her political activity and were well aware of her history.

The only way you can explain this is that a file has been compiled on her and given to other state agencies. If this doesn’t worry New Zealanders, we’re in real trouble.

The new Prime Minister, John Key, should agree to the request by the targeted unions for a full inquiry. If the unit has been spying on organisations carrying out lawful work, it should be disbanded and the Police Commissioner sacked.

In future, when our political leaders tell us we need greater police power to fight terrorism, just be aware it has little to do with keeping us safe and everything to do with keeping us under control.

And so we end up back with a scene from V For Vendetta.

People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.

Two new live albums

I got both Skillet’s Comatose Comes Alive and Rapture Ruckus’s Live at World’s End Live CD/DVDs yesterday.

What a contrast between the two albums.

Skillet’s album is fantastic. I mean more then fantastic. The DVD of the film is just amazing, lots of postproduction effects and a really good selection of songs accross their past few albums, and a one hour 20 minute show.

Rapture on the other hand is a 40 minute, 10 song show which is interrupted every second song by Parachute Music putting in a mini promo or message about something, I didn’t buy a live DVD to get advertising breaks. However the show itself is awesome.

Both albums also come with an audio cd version of the respective concerts which is good for the MP3 Player.

The HoS solution to Google Street View

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/technology/news/article.cfm?c_id=5&objectid=10546856

There’s only one way to be sure that you won’t be seen in public: don’t go out. And that constitutes a complete answer to the privacy geeks who lament that Google Street View, which went online in New Zealand this week, is a dangerous invasion of our privacy.

They’re a few years too late. Google Earth, active for some years, has allowed anyone with a decent PC to inspect aerial views of your backyard much more up-to-date than those that will be loaded biennially by Street View. And it seems a bit silly to get uptight about a static image of a moment in time on your street that would be visible, in much higher-definition and in real time, to anyone driving by.

It’s called Street View for a reason. The camera isn’t coming down your drive, up the steps and into the kitchen. When it does, it will be called reality television. Now there’s an idea whose time has come.

I for one accept that privacy is a word of the 20th century and not the 21st and that is why I don’t care about what is transparent to the world, I am me and the world has to live with that.

Workers rights. Yeah Right.

Today’s HoS has an excellent piece on workers rights by Matt McCarten

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10546860

They want the Government to immediately allow small businesses to have unfettered right to dismiss any new worker in the first three months of their employment. That means that at any one time, 100,000 New Zealanders would have no legal rights if they are dismissed, no matter the reason.

This is outrageous and would allow exploitation and intimidation for those workers, particularly at the low end of the market.

They say employers are reluctant to take on new employees if they can’t terminate them if it doesn’t work out. Nonsense. The current law has a 90-day trial period for workers.

That’s just the first step. Here are some of their juicer demands: remove the union’s right to negotiate a collective agreement on behalf of its members; restrict a union’s ability to educate members on their rights; restrict their workers’ representatives from coming on to worksites; allow employers to refuse a worker’s request to have their union fees deducted from their pay.

Despite all of this, if employees do join a union, the employers want the right to pass on all union terms and conditions negotiated to non-union workers.

If there’s a strike or lockout of the union members by an employer they want the right to bring in scabs to break their employees’ resolve.

If the workers still don’t bend, it’s proposed that the employer can just divide up the union wage agreement and pass it on to each worker separately. This action would effectively end a dispute on an employer’s terms.

The power in any employment relationship is always with the employer and that’s why every civilised country has laws to protect workers from exploitation. Business NZ is demanding the unbridled right to control their workers. We used to call this relationship slavery.

It is really worthwhile reading the full article an insightful but also scary piece of potential reality

God Bless America/God Bless the West

From Jesus Wants To Save Christians by Rob Bell

America controls nearly 20 percent of the world’s wealth. There are around six billion people in the world, and there are roughly three hundred million people in the US. That makes America less than 5 percent of the world’s population. And this 5 percent owns a fifth of the world’s wealth.

One billion people in the world do not have access to clean water, while the average American uses four hundred to six hundred litres of water a day.

Every seven seconds, somewhere in the world a child under the age of five dies of hunger, while Americans throw away 14 percent of the food they purchase.

Nearly one billion people in the world live on less than one American dollar a day.

Another 2.5 billion people in the world live on less than two American dollars a day.

More than half of the world lives on less than two dollars a day, while the average American teenager spends nearly $150 a week.

Forty percent of people in the world lack basic sanitation, while forty-nine million diapers are used and thrown away in America every day.

One point six billion people in the world have no electricity.

Nearly one billion people in the world cannot read or sign their name.

Nearly one hundred million children are denied basic education.

By far, most of the people in the world do not own a car.

One-third of American families own three cars.

One in seven children worldwide (158 million) have to go to work every day just to survive.

Four out of five American adults are high school graduates.

Americans spend more annually on trash bags than nearly half of the world does on all goods.

Human history has never witnessed the abundance that we consider normal. America is the wealthiest nation in the history of humanity. We have more resources than anyone group of people anywhere at any time has ever had. Ever.

God bless America?

God has.

Kind of puts things into perspective a little doesn’t it?

We claim we have no money.

Yet we can go on our yearly tours around the world. Visiting countries because we are young and we can. Giving to the poor, to World Vision, Oxfarm, Unicef off our profits not out of love. We give as little as we can to offset our guilt.

We rob the poor countries of their natural resources, send their children to sweat shops to make shoes for us. Then give to World Vision to set them free. It is just wrong. And sick.

How about God bless the East. God bless the poor. The real poor. The real needy. And may God teach us how to be better citizens of the world, removing our guilt and opening our eyes to our selfish ways.