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Democracies Becoming Security States

Edward Snowden

What it comes down to, in the end, is: “Trust us.” And the trouble with that is that in recent decades our political elites have done precious little to deserve our trust. Now we’re being asked to suspend our disbelief as they eavesdrop on all of our online activities – to trust them, in a way, with the most intimate details of our social and private lives. And all on the basis of laws that they – or their security apparatuses – wrote in order to rationalize and legitimize their snooping.

- John Naughton

From The Guardian, about the revelation that its Government Communications Center (GCHQ) has been eavesdropping on citizens for years through its own clandestine surveillance program called “Tempora”. It has also been collecting data gathered from the US PRISM program since 2010.

What we’re witnessing is the metamorphosis of our democracies into national security states in which the prerogatives of security authorities trump every other consideration and in which critical or sceptical appraisal of them is ruled out of court.

China is laughing its collective head off right now, basking in what is surely the most biting example of Western hypocrisy in years. We have publicly shamed China for years over its lack of respect for liberty and justice, but when our wildly unrestricted surveillance programs are unearthed by people like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, we look like fools who stand for nothing.

If Edward Snowden was Chinese and worked for the Chinese National Security Agency, Obama probably would already have had him to dinner at the White House and nominated him for the next Nobel Peace Prize.

- Chinese netizen

Reveal the dark secrets of a political adversary and become a hero. Reveal the dark secrets of your own country and be vilified forever.

Published on June 25, 2013

Mainland China News

If you believe that China Daily has journalistic credibility, I’m about to challenge that belief. Or if you believe that China Daily is completely outside of the field of actual journalism, this won’t surprise you at all.

I was recently interviewed by China Daily and the article was published yesterday. I’m frustrated that they inserted so many fake quotes that they claim were said by me, many of which aren’t even correct English. I’m quite certain that what they did was speak to me and them approximate my words with quotes, in many cases completely changing the meaning of what I said. Either they don’t how quotes work, or they are free to make up fake quotes at will. I’m guessing it’s the latter.

I don’t entirely blame the author, what with China being ranked #173 out of 179 countries on the Press Freedom Index. The problem is institutional. To be fair, I should add that I have done dozens of interviews of this type and this is the first time that I’ve noticed blatant misquotes throughout the text.

This article came to my attention when a stranger in another region of China emailed me saying that he read it. Upon reading the article I contacted the reporter and he responded within several hours saying that he would help me amend misquotes in the online version, which is appreciated.

China Daily article

Published on June 6, 2013

Read My Recent Interview

I was interviewed by New Dynasty recently, which is a magazine and website in Xi’an that’s similar to Chengdu Living. They do regular profiles of foreigners in China and they recently did one on me and Chengdu Living. They called me a “Hao Hao Reporter” due to the success that Chengdu Living has achieved on that site. For those who don’t know, Hao Hao Report is an aggregate news site similar to Digg.com which specializes in content about China. This was a personal interview, as opposed to one about Disco Death or Chengdu Living.

I knew this interview would get submitted to Hao Hao Report but I didn’t think it would get voted up to the front page! Read the interview and check out the post on Hao Hao Report.

They linked to justcharlie.com and discodeath.net also. Bonus!

Published on May 13, 2010

Congratulations, Washington D.C.

Well, it’s about damn time. Although it’s not without its caveats (no cultivation), it’s a step in the right direction: removing the puritanical government from the doctor patient relationship. Congratulations, D.C. – here’s the article that brought me this news:

Washington D.C. Legalizes Medical Marijuana

The D.C. Council on Tuesday approved amendments to a medical marijuana law first passed in 1998 by 69 percent of District voters. Congress had blocked implementation of Initiative 59 for more than a decade, until it lifted its ban last year.

With Tuesday’s vote, the District of Columbia joins the 14 states across the country which already allow qualified patients to use medical marijuana without fear of arrest.

“Today marks a long overdue victory for D.C. voters and potentially thousands of chronically ill residents who will benefit from legal access to medical marijuana,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project.

“A well-working medical marijuana program in the nation’s capital will also provide members of Congress who have never seen such programs up close with a unique opportunity to do so,” O’Keefe said. “Once they see for themselves that these laws do nothing but provide compassionate care for seriously ill patients, hopefully they will understand the need to create a federal policy that no longer criminalizes patients in any state who could benefit from this legitimate treatment option.”

“It has taken nearly 12 years, but the District will at last have a law that recognizes the mounting scientific consensus that, for many conditions, marijuana can be safe and effective medicine,” O’Keefe said.

Under the District’s law, physicians will be able to give medical marijuana recommendations to patients suffering from HIV/AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, and other serious conditions that can be alleviated through marijuana.

Qualified patients will have access to their medicine through dispensaries within the District.

Published on May 4, 2010

Chengdu Living in Italian

This is interesting: the recent Chengdu’s Spy Network article on Chengdu Living has been picked up by a few blogs and even translated in Italian by one. I can’t read Italian but it’s pretty neat that it’s been translated and posted in other languages. The link came from Cinaoggi.it, which is user that I’ve been seeing a lot on Hao Hao Report recently.

Chengdu Living in Italian

Rock on Cinaoggi.it, thanks for covering Chengdu’s “Una gang di hacker” story.

Published on April 12, 2010

Tweeting in China

As you may or may not know, Twitter is (and has been blocked) in Mainland China. Iran’s Twitter Revolution has the Beijing regime fearing for the spread of ideas and opinions so the service remains mostly accessible from the world’s largest internet audience. For this reason, I have seldom used the service over the last year unless I’ve been travelling in Hong Kong or other countries in Asia.

Follow MeHowever, I’ve recently come upon a solution, via an API Proxy trick that enables me to send and receive tweets from my iPod Touch (thanks to Kevin for his help working that out) and I’m reading and sending tweets again. Hooray.

If you’re on Twitter frequently, follow me and see what I’m up to as I navigate my way through life, work, and fun in Chengdu.

Oh, there’s a Chengdu Living twitter account as well which I’m updating more now that I can access the service from my mobile device. Follow that, too.

Published on April 10, 2010

New Sites Online, Happy New Year!

I haven’t posted on 19thstep.com in a long time because I’ve been busy building two new sites. They’re both online new, check them out:

www.chengduliving.com – a site about life in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, chronicling the adventures of being a foreigner in the worlds fastest changing country

www.discodeath.net – a musical collective of myself and local producer Jovian. We’ll throw up our DJ mixes, remixes, and original songs on this site and it’s also the homepage of our monthly event at Xiong Mao.

As I spend more time developing these sites I won’t be updating the 19thstep quite as much (since over the years, it’s come to be similar to Chengdu Living, anyway) but the back catalog of years of posts are still available for browsing.

Happy new year, by the way!

Published on January 1, 2010

Restored

I’ve moved to a new host and I’m back up with all of my old posts. I decided to implement a new theme. Even though I’ve changed the design for this blog a lot in the last few years, I haven’t been able to tweak it exactly the way that I want. I like the current muted look which focuses on the content and feels more like a journal which it truly has become.

Published on November 10, 2009