Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Even moderate countries and "democracies" are censoring anti-government speech

Craig Newman has an important op-ed on p. A13 of the Washington Post, July 30, “Advancing Internet freedom doesn’t come for free”.  No, Internet freedom doesn’t lend itself to a “Bill.ing” or “Reid.ing” video.

Newman points out that serious censorship occurs in countries we think of as advanced, reasonably democratic, and civilized.  In Singapore, a blogger like me would have to post a $40,000 performance bond and remove objectionable content within 24 hours.
That would mean that individual, unsupervised journalistic speech would be impractical – at least meaningless if only rich people could do it.  People of ordinary means would have to become engaged in social competition and reciprocity, like it or not. 
Even Australia, according Polliter (link) , is forcing Twitter to censor political debate.
The Post link is here
Twitter has a policy on “country withheld content” here  but says it works with Chilling Effects.

Britain has become more aggressive in censoring anything that looks like pornography.

Thailand has jailed people for insulting the monarchy.

We all know about censorship in China, and Muslim countries.
And Russia, while technically allowing gay behavior, has draconian laws against gay speech, scapegoating it as a cause of Russia’s low birth rates.

Could American bloggers be detained in these countries if they travel there while their critical blogs are up and easily accessed and searched?
To a westerner, censorship sounds like an admission of illegitimacy or weakness.  But a government like Syria doesn’t care if it is legitimate.  One wonders, though, why more moderate mainstream governments fear free “amateur” speech so much.

There is a moral blowback from the right to distribute individual speech, and it leads back to more direct involvement with others. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Even in South Africa, with legal reforms and gay marriage, "corrective rape" occurs in lower income culture

The New York Times Sunday has a horrifying story about “corrective rape” practiced by street culture and some families in South Africa (especially against lesbians), despite the fact that South Africa officially recognizes same-sex marriage. The online story is longer than the print story, by Clare Carter, appearing on p. 6 of Sunday Review under “exposure”.

No question, the practice will be common in other countries like Uganda, where families tend to view progeny as a fundamental right that depends on the enthusiasm of their children – and where families don’t have much else.  The online story is here

This sort of problem could be serious for churches or faith-based infrastructure projects that send pople over to work in missions or even engineers to work on infrastructure, especially clean water, and hire LGBT graduates. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Norwegian woman "blamed" for her own rape and sentenced to prison in Dubai

A Norwegian woman, Marte Dborah Dalelv, has been sentenced to sixteen months in prison in Dubai or the United Arab Emirates, after she reported a rape.  The authorities accused her of lying and of having sex out of wedlock.

Western observers believe she fell victim to an Islamic justice system which is very unfavorable to women and presumes that the man is right,  Dubai generally doesn't enforce Islamic laws much on tourists.

CNN has the detailed story by Nicola Goulding and Phil O'Sullivan, here.

I've often wondered what the issues would be for LGBT people hired as contractors to work in countries with anti-gay laws, particularly Islamic or underdeveloped countries.  This could particularly become an issue for new college graduates. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Taliban observer claims Pakastani girl was attacked for her writings criticizing radical Islam, not for trying to get girls educated

International media report that a senior Taliban “official” wrote to shooting victim Malala Yousafzai now recovering in Britain) that she was targeted and shot because of her writings that amounted to a “smear campaign” against the Taliban and its attempts to continue the practice of Islam in much of Pakistan.

She had written that “the pen is mightier than the sword”, so, according to the letter, insurgents attacked her sword.

The letter claimed she was not attacked for advocating education for girls.
The UK Guardian has a story by Saba Imtiaz in Karachi, link here

It would seem shocking to a westerner that a religious group would fear the writings of a 14 year old girl.  Why isn’t this perceived as a sign of weakness?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Cuban Missile Crisis II in Panama?

This is flak again over North Korea as Panama finds missile components possibly coming from Cuba, with some violence in a skirmish.   There are many media accounts;  The Wall Street Journal had a tory by Julian Barnes and others early Wednesday here

Is this the beginning of “Cuban Missile Crisis II”?
Remember, a few months ago, North Korea and its new young leader were making bellicose, unbelievable threats to hit the US with missiles.  That’s never funny.

Supposedly these were weapons being repaired in Cuba, and North Korea has demanded the ship and cargo be released.

Remember how Ronald Reagan barked about the Panama Canal?

Monday, July 15, 2013

"Outsourcing national security": Comments I hear when playing on the road

Maybe there's a road advantage sometimes.  Oh, remember how kids used to yell "first up" when playing backyard baseball, unaware of the idea of a walkoff win.

You get into interesting conversations on the road.  Last year, I heard about Chick-fil-a and gay marriage in a diner away from home.  So it is, I hear a family restaurant waiter in a company town of sorts talk about "outsourcing national security".

Well, Edward Snowden proved that we do that.

And most of our domestic power transformers are made out of country.  That makes recovery from a olar super storm or possible EMP terror attack even more problematical.

I don't think the laxness about controlling national security in house started with President Obama, but it hasn't gotten better.

It's odd to hear this discussion when at the same time we're all the more concerned about metadata surveillance (of citizens' "pen register" data).

I'm reading a book by law professor Daniel Solove, and one comment that comes to mind is that there is no constitutional limitation in taking surveillance data from third party providers -- ironically, an advantage to the government from "outsourcing".  There's not a lot to stop the deputizing of their parties as posse. It can give the government a way to go after individual people with legal contrivances for political purposes.   

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Snowden may have taken Booz job just to expose the NSA and start "Wikileaks II"

Walter Pincus has an interesting column on the Washington Post Tuesday, p. A11, “Snowden’s links to Wikileaks and journalists raises questions”, link here
Put bluntly, the allegation is that Snowden took the job with Booz Allen Hamilton in Hawaii in order to gain access to materials that he could link to journalists, especially Glenn Greenwald of the UK Guardian, and filmmaker Laura Poitras.

It seems rather shocking that a major contractor would have hired someone with no questions asked and such a spurious background investigation, given my own personal history with security clearances in the distant past.

Here’s a question: If a blogger were to stumble into possession of classified information, could he or she be prosecuted for publishing it?  On a few occasions, I have unsolicited received materials by email which might have classified if true. I have not published them and have contacted authorities on at least four occasions, with an extensive telephone conversation with the FBI once in 2005.
The general answer to the question is “probably” no, but Congress has toyed with legislation that could put journalists and bloggers in vague jeopardy if they did so.  (After all, Wikileaks was driven off the web.)  Emily Peterson has a long article “WikiLeaks and the Espionage Act of 1917 on a site called Reporters’ Committee, link here

Timothy Lee reports a distantly related case about “scraping” about Andrew Auernheimer on the Post Wonkblog, here. It is possible to get into legal trouble with this stuff.  This case sounds a bit more like Aaron Swartz to me.  

Monday, July 8, 2013

China passes its filial piety law, which is deliberately vague

China recently did indeed enact its law requiring filial piety, allowing parents to sue adult children who don’t look after them and possibly allowing criminal charges,  The exact definition of what would constitute “neglect” seems a bit ambiguous. 
Yu Hua has a perspective on p. A19 of the July 8 New York Times, "Where filial piety is the law",  here

Hua makes references to the demands of Chinese employers for overtime, and the flight of younger adults (often only children) from the countryside to the cities.  A half century ago, remember, the “Cultural Revolution” of Chairman Mao made everybody take turns being a peasant (well, not quite everybody).  The extremeness of this “fairness” measure caught the attention of the radical Left in the U.S.  Hua seems to think that at one time, the Communist Party thought it could take responsibility for extended family continuity (Confucian style) and realized it couldn’t.
In the United States, there has been some controversy over “filial responsibility laws”, especially with a case in Pennsylvania (retirement blog, May 22, 2012). 

See also earlier story about this law in China here Dec. 28, 2012.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Smithsonian Folk Life Festival small, but worth a "vacation" visit

It’s humid and torrid on the Mall at the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival, but at least it’s an opportunity for a “free” one hour round-the-world trip. It's not quite as elaborate as a Busch Gardens (May 4) or Epcot opportunity. 

The emphasis this time was on lost languages.  There were several posters on efforts to rehabilitate obscure African and Asian languages.  Oddly, on the way back on the Metro, a woman was reading a handwritten booklet in a script that looked like Thai.

I got a clip, just a miniature, of Hugarian folk song at “Danuba”.  I don’t think it resembled Bartok very much.

There were booths from autonomous regions with Russia, and for Colombia, and Guatemala (with all the volunteer infrastructure projects).

Apparently more pictures and displays were added for Hungary on Saturday, July 6, such as this:

or this interesting cultural mapo.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Egyptian coup seems to be based on real life concerns

This is not a good time to go see the Pyramids or the Valley of the Kings, even if you're not a controversial blogger or activist.

Morsi is out, and apparently the coup, led by the military, really is based on economic and infrastructure issues.  The military is also concerned that radical mullahs will keep unrest stirred up.

It's hard to imagine a principled response to this.  The tragedy of the young American student seems even greater.

CNN's account of the coup is here.
In the meantime, on the "other" issue. Snowden seems to become a "Le Carre" man without a country.  He can't stay in Russia forever.  Everyone says no, but maybe Bolivia was going to take him, and let him camp out ta Tiahuanoco and wait for the Chariots of the Gods.

If you live in northern Virginia and vote, expect the possibility of a federal jury summons for a Snowden trial some day.  I wonder if the attorneys would read the jurors' blogs and social media first.