Defending privacy

To argue that ‘if you have nothing to fear, you have nothing to hide’ is to assume that government always does good. For if government has a right to pry and a capacity to do what is wrong it will use its power of surveillance and its monopoly on violence to control the efforts of those citizens fighting for what is right. Therefore, to willingly forgo privacy is to believe it impossible that government could ever use its power for an ignoble cause, or not to care that it is possible.

Countering the Craft International Boston Marathon bombing theory

There’s a theory buzzing around the Interwebs claiming that ex-US Military employees from Craft International are really behind the Boston Marathon bombings.

Such theories can be found here, for example.

This theory draws on three images for evidence: one taken prior to the bombings and the other two taken after.

In the ‘before’ image, a military-looking man can be seen wearing a black backpack with a small, white square patch on the top handle. In one of the ‘after’ images, the same man is said to be fleeing the scene without a backpack.

Here are these two images as popularly presented on the Interwebs:

Boston imaged cropped

Boston image

Where did his backpack go? This is where the third image comes in. Here it is:

The backpack

The backpack

Notice the white square?

Case closed.



What the persons who wish to implicate this poor chap in the Boston Marathon bombings don’t tell you is that the image of him supposedly ‘fleeing’ the scene has been cropped. Here’s the original:

Boston imaged full

Boston image, full

As you can see in the full image, this photo was taken well after the bombings. Emergency staff are out in force, tending to those few people who still require medical attention. It looks more like he’s assisting emergency staff, not fleeing the scene.

‘Okay, so he’s not fleeing the scene,’ I hear you say, ‘So what? He could still be the culprit. He could have planted the backpack bomb and then stuck around. Right?’

Wrong again.

Here’s why. There exists footage (see below), recorded by Fatma Tanis, that shows our poor chap in the crowd with his backpack on his back just after the first bomb detonates and just before the second bomb detonates. There is so little time between him appearing in frame and the second detonation that it is nigh on impossible that he could have set down the second bomb and fled to a safe distance before it detonated.

A two-minute video presenting the theory, the evidence for it (stated succinctly by DAHBOO77), and the counter-evidence in the footage captured by Tanis.

VECCI and Bolt on Baiada

Andrew Bolt

Andrew Bolt

As part of strike action against Baiada Poultry Pty Ltd, from Wednesday 9 November Baiada workers and their supporters set up a picket line to block access to Baiada’s Pipe Rd processing plant in Laverton. On Thursday 17 November the Supreme Court of Victoria issued an interim injunction against the ‘National Union of Workers [NUW] & Others’, the result of which listed parties were required not to block access to the Laverton plant. NUW employees and the listed ‘others’ left the picket line or were removed by police while Baiada workers and their allies who were not listed in the injunction continued to picket. Yesterday, Tuesday 22 November, the picket ended as management and workers reached an agreement on pay and conditions.

In defence of those who continued to hold the picket line, the NUW made the following argument.

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Advance Australia Fair (Skinned)

This little revision of the national anthem’s first verse is inspired by Australian politics and is dedicated to the Queen’s visit—a suitable occasion for discussing Australia’s identity … moving forward.

Australian Flag

Advance Australia Fair (Skinned)

Australia is a barren land,
Where bogans can be free;

With iron ore and coal from soil;
We’ll all drive HSVs;

“F#ck off, we’re full” our bumpers say
We like our refos rare;

From Herald’s page to talkback rage
Advance Australia Fair.

With drawn-out vowels, now let us sing,
Advaance Austraalya Fair.

Osama bin Laden’s death: justice and extrajudicial killing

The scenes of jubilation in the US following Osama bin Laden’s death indicate that many people think killing him without trial was a good thing. But you don’t have to be an Osama bin Laden apologist to believe that it would have been preferable for the US to maintain at least a veneer of justice by first putting him on trial.

There were three possible courses of action:

Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden

  1. Find bin Laden, kill him without trial;
  2. Find bin Laden, try him and then kill him;
  3. Find bin Laden, try him and and jail him for life.

(1) is pure blood lust. It may feel good, but it lacks even the pretence of impartial judgement. (2) at least makes the veneer of justice possible — of weighing evidence and punishing accordingly. Think, in recent history, of Saddam Hussein’s trial and execution or, going further back, the trial and execution of Charles I. In terms of impartial judgement, (3) is similar to (2) but with an alternative punishment.

Now, if you’re in a firefight with Osama bin Laden and he’d rather die than surrender, then (1) is the only option. But then you’ve chosen (1) because (2) and (3) were not available options. In this situation (1) may be justified. It does not make it just.

Based on the FBI most-wanted list, Osama bin Laden has yet to be convicted: ‘REWARD: The Rewards For Justice Program, United States Department of State, is offering a reward of up to $25 million for information leading directly to the apprehension or conviction of Usama Bin Laden.’

The problem with the images beaming out of the US of Osama-death parties is that they suggest people think (1) was the first preference and best option. Those images just look like people celebrating an extrajudicial killing by a big state.

WikiLeaks and US State Department to-and-fro

The Index on Censorship has published the legal toing and froing that took place between Julian Assange, WikiLeaks Editor in Chief, and a Legal Adviser to the US Department of State (USDOS) prior to the public release of classified US Government documents. The correspondence is brief and worth the read.

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Footage released of US forces killing two Reuters employees in Iraq

Still from the US Apache helicopter

Still from the US Apache helicopter

WikiLeaks, a website for whistle blowers, has released video evidence of US forces killing two Iraqi Reuters employees: Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen. The footage is taken from an Apache helicopter gun sight on July 12, 2007. The helicopter (one of two) circles above a town in Iraq as those on board try to identify who the people are on the street and what they are carrying.

The transcript of communication between ground forces (GF), the helicopter from which the footage is taken (H1), a second Apache helicopter (H2) and ground command (GC), although difficult to decipher, sufficiently reveals how events unfold:

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Quentin Skinner, Hobbes and Republican Liberty

Skinner 2008

Skinner 2008

Quentin Skinner’s work as an historian focuses on the history of political philosophy. His particular interest is in understanding how historical ideas represent the real-world issues that concerned past political philosophers. Skinner turns to the classic texts of political philosophy to provide insight into the political situation and political ideas their authors wished to address. For Skinner, however, these texts contain more than just the thoughts of past philosophers. These classic texts are also ‘deeds’ in the sense that they are polemical interventions in the debates of the time (2002). For us to interact with these texts is to do more than engage in historical surveys of ideas. Such interactions expose the present to unfamiliar ideas that have the potential to influence the way we understand the world. Whenever one confronts a classic text, Skinner argues (2002), the basic question will always be ‘What are the appropriate procedures to adopt in the attempt to arrive at an understanding of the work?’

Hobbes and Republican Liberty (2008) is Skinner’s most recent interpretation of Hobbes’ political philosophy. As an interpretive work, Hobbes and Republican Liberty validates Skinner’s methodological claim that texts must be understood as deeds. Skinner’s understanding of Hobbes’ works as polemical interventions in the ideological context of their time provides fresh insights into the development of Hobbes’ thought. These insights are the evidence for his central hypothesis that Hobbes’ works present distinct conceptions of liberty, but that when considered in chronological order these conceptions reveal an underlying development of Hobbes’ thought. By applying his interpretive approach to Hobbes’ work, Skinner also hopes to repudiate the claim that Hobbes’ oeuvre presents a single conception of liberty.

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