mfioretti: human rights*

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  1. There are serious consequences of putting so much power in the hands of one authority that will be working under the beck and call of the government of India. Not only will this regulator have the power to inspect records and data in the guise of data audits, it will also be able to levy fines that can bankrupt businesses and regulate Indian companies with enough red tape to make them uncompetitive in a global marketplace. If it seems like I am exaggerating, just look back into history and see the legacy of Indian regulation – be it the Industrial Licensing Act, 1951 or the Essential Commodities Act, 1956. Indian politicians and babudom have demonstrated a superb ability to throttle free enterprise.

    As the Indian economy becomes more digitised and generates the avalanche of data that everybody is betting on, this data regulator will accumulate more power over the ‘oil of the 21st century’. With more regulation, there will be consequences on civil liberties. Take for example the role of social media today, especially Facebook, Twitter and Google which provide Indian public debate with a much-needed lifeline in the age of a compromised mainstream media. There currently exist few options for the Indian government to control and regulate platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google. A data regulator will however presumably have power to substantially regulate these platforms and that will have consequences for our ability to use the platforms to communicate and debate issues of importance.
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2017-12-08)
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  2. When NSA seizes, in bulk, data belonging to U.S. citizens or residents, data that inevitably includes information from innocent people that the government does not have probable cause to investigate, the agency has already committed an unconstitutional “unreasonable seizure,” even if analysts never query the data about innocent U.S. persons.

    The NSA has legal justifications for all their surveillance: Section 215 of the Patriot Act, now expired, was used to justify bulk collection of phone and email metadata. Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) is currently used to justify so-called “upstream” collection, tapping the physical infrastructure that the Internet uses to route traffic across the country and around the world in order to import into systems like XKEYSCORE. Executive Order 12333, approved by President Reagan, outlines vague rules, which are littered with exceptions and loopholes, that the executive branch made for itself to follow regarding spying on Americans, which includes USSID 18.

    But these laws and regulations ignore the uncomfortable truth that the Fourth Amendment requires surveillance of Americans to be targeted; it cannot be done in bulk. Americans are fighting to end bulk surveillance in dozens of lawsuits, including Jewel v. NSA, which relies on whistleblower-obtained evidence that NSA tapped the fiber optic cables that carry Internet traffic in AT&T’s Folsom Street building in San Francisco. It’s easy for the government to stall cases like this, or get them dismissed, by insisting that talking about it at all puts our national security at risk.

    And, of course, let’s not forget the 6.8 billion people on Earth who are not in the United States. Article 12 of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights states:
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  3. In a landmark decision, Judge Hill declared “ the youths’ » very survival depends upon the will of their elders to act now, decisively and unequivocally, to stem the tide of global warming…before doing so becomes first too costly and then too late.” Highlighting inextricable relationships between navigable waters and the atmosphere, and finding that separating the two is “nonsensical,” the judge found the public trust doctrine mandates that the state act through its designated agency “to protect what it holds in trust.” The court confirmed what the Washington youth and youth across the nation have been arguing in courts of law, that “ t » he state has a constitutional obligation to protect the public’s interest in natural resources held in trust for the common benefit of the people.”
    Tags: , by M. Fioretti (2015-12-22)
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  4. After a long negotiation process, the 193 member states of the United Nations have agreed to 17 goals and 169 targets that seek to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, promote economic growth and prosperity, improve health and education and protect the planet.

    If that sounds like a lot of targets, it is, because the goals represent a very big agenda and the culmination of extensive input from countries, non-government organisations, business and millions of ordinary citizens around the world. All countries including Australia are expected to use the goals in framing their agendas and policies.
    What are they?

    The Sustainable Development Goals aim to encourage countries and the private sector to focus simultaneously on the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic prosperity, social inclusion and environmental sustainability. Several countries, including Australia, argued during the negotiating process that peace and good governance are pre-conditions for sustainable development.

    So there is also a goal (number 16) to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies”, and “build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions”.

    Within each of the goals there are targets such as reducing by at least half the number of people living in poverty according to national definitions (goal 1.2) and reducing premature mortality from non-communicable diseases like diabetes by one-third by 2030 (goal 3.4).

    Under the clean energy goal there is a target to double the rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030, and a specific goal to make cities more sustainable with targets to increase affordable housing and access to sustainable transport (goal 11)

    Despite the great advances in poverty alleviation and development, there are still around 800 million people living in extreme poverty or suffering from hunger. In some areas the world has gone backwards. In most countries relative inequality has increased.

    Climate change, deforestation and environmental degradation now threaten to undermine future well-being and the development gains that have been achieved. Global greenhouse gases are now more than 50% higher than in 1990 and deforestation, desertification and collapsing fisheries threaten the livelihoods of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

    The fact that all the world’s countries have been able to agree on a set of goals and targets for sustainable development – a sort of “to do list” for a better world is important in itself. As the Declaration accompanying the goals states: “Never before have world leaders pledged common action and endeavour across such a broad and universal policy agenda”.
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  5. The right to communicate anonymously has been lost, due to the copyright industry’s lobbying. This was so fundamental a right – putting up anonymous posters – that the United States would not exist without it (see the Federalist Papers which were anonymously posted everywhere).

    We no longer have the right to modify, rebuild, and repurpose our own possessions, because we may do so with an intent of discussing interesting things with our friends.cameraspy

    Mail carriers no longer have messenger immunity, something that had otherwise been a sacred constant between the Roman Empire and the Dimwitted Copyright Industry.

    We no longer have the legal right to point at or give directions to interesting places if what happens in that location breaks a law somewhere. (Just to illustrate the special treatment of the copyright industry here, compare this to the fact that Wikipedia has a helpful page on nuclear weapons design.)

    The copyright industry has been given the right to write its own laws thanks to an intentional legal loophole that prohibits us from circumventing digital restriction measures, even when those measures prevent still-legal uses of our own possessions.

    The right to send private letters is being lost, due to a long-standing tirade. The copyright industry has successfully lobbied the largest correspondence carriers today – Facebook and the like – to just ban anything they don’t like. Not long ago, if you posted a link to The Pirate Bay on Facebook, you would be interrupted by a message saying that you had discussed a forbidden subject. Imagine that happening in an old-fashioned phonecall or a conversation in the street, and you’ll realize what a horrifying development it is.

    A diary has extensive protection in law against search and seizure in most legislations. However, a computer – which is far more sensitive – does not
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  6. Have you guys heard of The Next Five Billion? Yeah? They’re really excited about this in Silicon Valley. The Next Five Billion are these poor souls in parts of the world where they can’t connect to the internet; they don’t have the resources, and there’s nobody locally who could fix this problem of course, so the white man has to bring the fire, right? With things like balloons with Google Loon, or which is already working, where they’re giving free internet, but it’s not the full internet; it’s only Facebook and a few other services.

    So in the future, there might be a whole nation whose notion of the internet is something you sign into with your Google username or password, or your Facebook username and password, and that’s quite a bleak future to look forward to. And it’s also what I call digital imperialism. It is a new form of colonialism.

    So that’s data about you. But there’s more data in the world, right? And Google needs that data as well, so how do they get it? They’ve got satellites of course, they’ve got maps; beautiful Google Street View. Who’s seen the Google Street View Car here? Who’s done something funny while it was going by? Yeah. But there’s some places they can’t go with a car and they need the data. So there’s the Google Street View Trike for places you can’t go with a car but you need the data, right? And if you can’t go there with a trike, there’s the Google Street View Snowmobile. You can use that. And if you can’t go there with a snowmobile, maybe it’s indoors, there’s the Google Street View Trolley for that. And if you can’t go there with a trolley but you need the data, there is the Google Street View Backpack. And I saw this the other day; I shit you not!

    Now. Do you kinda get the feeling they need the data? Do you? Talk about Apple; they’ve got a different business model my friend; they sell products. They don’t sell your data, but we can talk about them. They’re not great; they’re closed, but they are a very different company. So that’s why I’m not talking about Apple, but thank you for bringing it up.

    So, what is the end-game? What are we trying to do? What does all of this combine into? Data about the world, data about all of us. What do we get if we combine all of that? Well we get what I would call the Camera Panopticon. And you might say Aral, OK, so they’re building this Camera Panopticon that knows everything about the world and everything about us. And that’s probably a useful tool for manipulating behaviour, for even, depending on how good your lens is, in predicting the future and creating it. But at least they don’t share it with governments, right? Well, wrong, of course. Since 9/11 things have changed. In the US, they’ve formed this, the Information Awareness Office, with the publicly stated goal of attaining total information awareness, knowing everything about everyone and everything. Now, if you’re going to do that, this was their real logo. Don’t make this your logo! Really! People get scared with a pyramid with an all-seeing eye shooting laser beams at the world. So, people got scared, and they were like, we were kidding, we’re just going to shut it down, right? That was a joke, ha-ha!

    And of course, they didn’t shut it down, as Edward Snowden’s revelations showed last year and we’ll be hearing from him tonight. The NSA really needs to hire a PowerPoint designer! But apart from that, all of these companies that we trusted with our most personal data, we realised were sharing it with the Government, all of this data that we thought was private. Why? Well easy; because data that you have volunteered to a third party is not under the same protections under the law. It’s so much easier for them to go to one place and to ask them for information you have volunteered. It’s like a drive-through MacDonald’s or something, you know, if you’re an agency, it’s just like all this data in one place and I just have to ask; it’s beautiful, right?

    privacy is not about whether or not you have something to hide; it’s about having the right to choose what you want to keep to yourself and what you want to share with others. It’s a fundamental human right that we have seen fit to enshrine in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Article 12 specifically. So, when these companies that need your data, that don’t respect your privacy, tell you, oh my gosh, we are fighting for your privacy, right, and if they build things like reform government surveillance and say, “We’re fighting for your privacy; the government is evil.” There’s a term for that. It is “bullshit”. Right?

    It is bullshit and it is misdirection. This is a cornerstone of magic.

    here’s the problem. If you want the problem at its core, this is the problem: in order to share something with your friend, you shouldn’t also have to share it with a stranger. You should be able to share it directly with them. This is not a complicated problem, and it doesn’t require a complicated solution. And if anyone tells you it’s a complicated problem, they probably have a vested interested in it appearing to be complicated. If we can do this, then we can start people off in their own homes, not in the home of a known abuser. We can start them off somewhere that is safe, not start them off somewhere that’s unsafe and say, “Protect yourself”. And if we can do this, then we can build products that actually protect our human rights, that protect our fundamental freedoms, that protect democracy.
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  7. Feeding Britain, a new report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger and Food Poverty, has been greeted with some fanfare. It details the full extent of the UK’s food poverty crisis and urges the government to confront the reality of the situation.

    The report concludes that benefit delays, “rip-off merchants”, the decline of communities, debt and addiction all underpin the growth of the food bank phenomenon. It also highlights the high levels of food, fuel and housing inflation in the country. Shockingly, the evidence also suggests that 8% of adults cannot afford to eat properly.

    And yet, the report makes no mention of another startling fact: that the UK in fact has an international legal obligation to uphold its citizens' right to food. And by forgetting that this fundamental duty applies, we are storing up serious trouble for the future.

    the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, requires the UK to ensure individuals have a decent standard of living, and recognises the “fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger”.

    But this isn’t just a legal obligation: it’s also a well-tested template for how to handle food supply issues fairly and equitably.

    The covenant’s terms require that countries ensure food is available (in sufficient quality and quantity), accessible (economically and physically) and acceptable (especially taking account of cultural practices and religious beliefs). This approach means social policy specialists, researchers and voluntary organisations all have a part to play. Food poverty, after all, isn’t just about calories – it’s also about security and dignity.

    Given the clarity of its obligations and the ready availability of guidance and oversight, the UK’s performance on the right to food has been remarkably poor. That there are approximately 1,500 food assistance projects in the UK and, given that more hunger undoubtedly exists beyond the reach of food aid providers, Britain is clearly falling far short of the acceptable standard.

    Although food banks have filled a crucial gap, in their present form they simply cannot meet the full range of human rights standards.

    There are real difficulties ensuring an even geographical distribution of food aid under the current system and, in many cases, people using food banks are unable to maintain their kosher, halal, vegetarian or vegan convictions. The weight of individual testimony in the Feeding Britain report illustrates just how stigmatised charitable “hand-outs” are – and this may be magnified where “second-hand” or waste food is distributed.

    Another demonstration of the shortcomings of the current approach are the horror stories of financial checks on those wishing to use food banks.
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2014-12-09)
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  8. “You shouldn’t impose your morality on others” is itself a moral position.

    You hear this all the time, but you can probably spot the fallacy here pretty quickly: that “shouldn’t” there is itself a moral “shouldn’t” (rather than a prudential or social “shouldn’t,” like “you shouldn’t tease bears” or “you shouldn’t swear at the Queen”). Telling other people it’s morally wrong to tell other people what’s morally wrong looks obviously flawed – so why do otherwise bright, thoughtful people still do it?

    Possibly because what the speaker is assuming here is that “morality” is a domain of personal beliefs (“morals”) which we can set aside while continuing to discuss issues of how we should treat each other. In effect, the speaker is imposing one particular moral framework – liberalism – without realising it.
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  9. the people were not, and are not, the masters or the owners of a given society. And perhaps this is why Aristotle in Book III of his Politics defines democracy as that political system in which the poor have power.

    And because the poor (historically at least) comprise the majority of a population, the idea of majority rule arises alongside this. This majoritarian power, majority rule, however, is really indistinct from the rule of force (or ochlocracy, mob rule). As John Stuart Mill’s conservative rival James Fitzjames Stephen put it, “we agree to try strength by counting heads, not breaking heads.” So, since this rule of force is thought to be incongruent with the demands of fairness and justice – which democracy, according to its adherents, is supposed to realize – certain protections are put into place.

    Beyond the form of democracy (majority rule, voting – which is always ever only really acclamation – and other formalistic, procedural qualities) democracy, then, may be said to possess or require a content as well. And this content – what we just referred to as justice and fairness – takes, among other things, its legal form as rights. The right to due process of law, or free speech, for instance.

    The point is, however, that, in general, rights (whether they actually exist or not) are said to be inalienable and this ultimately sets up a fundamental conflict between the regime of rights (democracy) and, among other things, capitalism. Because, just as democracy can be said to be the regime of the inalienable, capitalism may be said to be the regime of the alienable. Within capitalism, everything’s alienable: land, water, labor, everything. Even time is said to be money. And, of course, people are alienable under capitalism, too (in whole, as with slavery, and in part, by the hour, in the wage system).

    Certain basic conditions need to be present for a democratic society to arise: security from hunger, security from lack of shelter, conditions that precede and support political rights must exist. And these conditions, or preconditions, this infrastructure of democracy – like the rights they’re actually inseparable from – must also be inalienable – as inalienable as those prerequisite 50 acres, unconditionally.

    To some extent, a basic income law is comparable to this prerequisite. But it falls short. And it falls short because an income is defined by, and inseparable from, the idea, or quality, of alienability. Rather than inalienability, and multi-dimensional political participation, a basic income law is restricted – primarily – to enabling consumption. In spite of the fact that a basic income law would afford people with more time to participate politically, a basic income law does not address the issue – the political-economic issue – of what, for instance, should be produced, or not produced – or how whatever should be produced should be produced – in the first place. Indeed, the present ecocidal political-economy would not necessarily be altered at all by this. It could just keep plugging and fracking along, launching wars and other projects that benefit the few at the expense of the many.

    Moreover, in addition to a democratic politics, a basic income law is just as easily reconcilable with an aristocratic politics.And it’s funny, because there is this idea that really goes back to Aristotle, who did not really like democracy at all, that what was in the interest of the best (who were by definition the few) was, because they were the best, in the overall interest of the city (the polis) and everyone else as well. But what was in the interest of the many (who by definition could not be the best) was not in the interest of the city. And this idea, which is not a democratic idea but is really a rather aristocratic idea is not only prevalent today, it is prevalent among some people who champion a basic income law.

    Among those who harbor genuinely egalitarian political goals – who have a genuine concern for social justice – there are people who to some degree claim to be working toward democracy but wind up conflating the rule of the people with the rule of the market.

    For example, there are the followers of the right-wing economist Milton Friedman of the Chicago School of economics. As most are probably familiar, this school of thought champions austerity, among other hardly egalitarian economic policies and programs. And in their own way they also claim to champion democracy, or they at least appeal to the idea of democracy, and freedom, while pursuing policies that are more often than not nakedly plutocratic (favoring the wealthy, privatizing the public, etc.) as opposed to democratic in the sense of championing the interests of the people, the masses, the multitude, the little people, the proletariat, pick your term – for austerity means restricting the public realm, whereas democratization calls for its extension and expansion.

    While Milton Friedman and his followers (who are well-represented in government, mass media, the business community, etc.) claim to have the interests of democracy – or freedom – at heart they in fact spend their time and money and energy concretely undermining what we might refer to as genuinely egalitarian democratic tendencies in the US, and other places, as unambiguously as they did in Chile under Pinochet. In spite of this flagrantly anti-democratic, pro-aristocratic tendency, however, Milton Friedman championed a basic income law, and many of his supporters continue to support a basic income law today.

    Though this may at first seem odd, it is entirely consistent with the libertarian political-economic goal of total privatization – total de-socialization – in which everything is for sale.
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  10. This is the second step in the systematic dismantling of Australia’s child-centred adoption system in favour of a more unregulated, consumer-led model. Countries not party to the convention aren’t legally bound by mechanisms to protect children from being adopted through fraud, trafficking, duress or profit. Because of this, countries like Australia have greater responsibilities to make sure practices are above board.

    Abbott claims the seven countries with which the government is pursuing agreements will meet the safeguards of the convention. The ABC’s Foreign Correspondent investigation into Ethiopia in 2009 reminds us why Australia should never be complacent when it comes to intercountry adoption and why we should resist consumer-led models at both ends of the adoption process.

    Australia is abdicating its international responsibilities by simply trusting processes in sending countries. The way children are made available overseas is not the same as in Australia.
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