PGP public key

So the GCHQ and the NSA are apparently teaming up to do a whole lot of extremely legal warrantless mass surveillance.

I am not against spying or surveillance per se. Anyone who lives in the UK and says "if you've nothing to hide you've nothing to fear" doesn't understand the purpose of judicial oversight and probably doesn't speak arabic. I believe in judicial oversight. An amoral-nerd-handler is not a judge. And political bias, false-positives and chilling self-censorship are the only outcomes of the GCHQ program I can see on the horizon.

So, if you're emailing me, please feel free to encrypt your message with my PGP public key.
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Might take a couple generations for this devilry to quit

An image taken from the Archdiocese's site; a cute kid raising her hand with the caption "aim higher. catholic schools"

The Star Tribune reports on an Archdiocese who reduced members of a mandatory assembly at DeLaSalle High School to tears and protest with their disgusting homophobia and anti-adoption propaganda.

From the article:

[Quoting pupil Matt Bliss] "...it started going downhill when they started talking about single parents and adopted kids. They didn't directly say it, but they implied that kids who are adopted or live with single parents are less than kids with two parents of the opposite sex. They implied that a 'normal' family is the best family."

...Bliss was one of several students who stood up to argue with the representatives from the archdiocese. One girl held up a sign that said, "I love my moms."

...A priest and a volunteer couple presented the information. When someone asked a question about two men being able to have a quality, committed relationship, the couple compared their love to bestiality, Bliss said.

..."My friend said, 'You didn't just compare people to animals, did you?'" said [adopted student] Hannah. "I think everyone has a right to their opinion, and I don't judge them on it. But we don't force people to sit down so we can tell them their opinion is wrong."

...They were so upset that the priest and school officials abruptly ended the assembly. Students who were angry were allowed to stay there and talk with the archdiocese volunteers. It was more civil, for a while, but the more questions the presenters tried to answer, the worse it got.

"It was a really awful ending," said Bliss. "It was anger, anger, anger, and then we were done and they left. This is really a bad idea."

These kids are amazing and brave to protest in such a hostile environment. Looks like, even in an American Catholic School, pupils are beginning to be en masse unwilling to put up with being forced to endure institutional bigotry. These are the same students who (assuming they become Catholic) will form the congregations of the next generation, and who will vote on bills to do with marriage and religion in education. With any luck, this signals the beginning of the inevitable end to mainstream Catholic homophobic and anti-adoption (is even that a thing now?) bigotry. At least we can pray it is.

Police suppression of peaceful pro-NHS protest, March 17th 2012

Here's what happened when me and a few friends went to London to show our opposition to the atrocious Health and Social Care Bill 2011. The one currently being forced through parliament with a middle finger to all who look on.

I feel it's important to document what I witnessed at this demonstration since, as many have noted, there has been little-to-no coverage of this protest by the BBC and other UK mass media. A deeply worrying trend for anti-government protests, but one others are better placed to comment on than me.

The bottom line is: this was a completely nonviolent, unaggressive protest. The police action was hostile and totally unprovoked. There is no way we could have been seen as a threat to anyone.

The goal of the police did not seem to be to confront the protest or get into a fight. Each time a kettle was formed, it was dropped after a short time on some signal. The police were acting in a coordinated fashion, and their only goal seemed to be to suppress and disband the protest. By kettling and separating any big group which formed into smaller groups, they prevented the the crowd coordinating, communicating or decision-making properly. At its start, the protest was self-motivated, passionate, and made up of citizens trying to make a (last) stand for something they believed in. Through their action, the police successfully reduced it to separate groups of disconnected, scared, angry people who didn't know what to do and felt unable to continue.

The way the police acted was, while not actually violent in any cases I saw (grabbing, shoving and restraining, but no beating), extremely intimidating. They incited the crowd to run for safety on multiple occasions, though there were many elderly and disabled amongst us (this was a pro-NHS campaign after all). I did not see anybody get hurt, but if the crowd had been any denser, larger or had any rogue elements, things could easily have kicked off — if they had it would have been completely the fault of the aggression and intimidation tactics of the police. No attempt was made at dialogue, or even megaphoned monologue to warn the protest that action would take place. Instead, the riot police acted quickly and unpredictably, communicating with shouted codes, avoiding eye contact with the demonstrators.

There are other accounts online. Important points to note from my view of events that may contradict or corroborate other points of view:

  • All aggression I saw was on the part of the police.
  • All the protesters I saw were completely nonviolent, and not even aggressive.
  • I saw no signs of police firearms, though there have been alarming reports of this (including photos of police with automatic weapons within sight of the demo) from elsewhere.

Below the fold is my account in full, to the best of my recollection.

Edit: still no mainstream attention, but a great roundup of social media coverage by Steven Sumpter can be found here.

Edit: Since I complain here about a lack of media coverage of the protest, I should acknowledge that the Guardian's NHS Reforms Liveblog has just made mention of the protest and included a link to this post. I'm flattered that it's "worth a read" and delighted that they explicitly "don't endorse it's view" :P
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Seeing the full picture?

Window smashed during 2010 student protests in London. Image "courtesy" of BBC.
Window smashed during 2010 student protests in London. Image "courtesy" of BBC.


I can't help seeing this image like this — a lone protestor doing something crazy and anarchistic surrounded by a semicircle of a hundred professional cameras — and wondering if this is anything like good journalism.  Sure, this event happened. But it sure looks like a stunt for the cameras, rather than an organic protest event.  Would this have happened were the cameras not there to see it? Continue reading "Seeing the full picture?"