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31 May 2005

World No Tobacco Day

Today has been declared World No Tobacco Day, by the World Health Organisation (WHO?).

Remember people, no tobacco in those spliffs today!

27 May 2005

United Mistakes of America Wants Access to UK ID Cards

The Antagonist is wondering quite how much surprise to feign at the news reported in the Independent today about how pleased the American government would be if the proposed UK ID cards were compatible with those in the United Mistakes of America.

This news should help even the most ardent supporters of ID cards realign their fundamentally mistaken perceptions about the fraudulent benefits of any system that tags, bags and tracks the movements of individuals, nearly 100% of which are not, have not been, and will not be criminals, unless governments change laws without due consultation and criminalise thousands of people at a whim.

In case anyone is still unclear on the matter, ID cards are not the tools of 'free' and 'democratic' countries. Instead, ID cards are yet another in the long line of technologies of political control used by governments living in full recognition of the fact that a large number of their citizens have had enough of their bullshit.

19 May 2005

Stop the ATM Charging Rot

Back in March, The Antagonist covered the release of a Treasury Select Committee report on fee charging ATMs, the findings of which highlighted that it costs UK bank customers £140 million each year to access their own money. The report concluded:
  • Signs which warn users of fee-charging ATMs must be made larger and be easier to see (yay)
  • Post offices must "urgently" re-examine the decision to allow fee-charging ATMs (except, sub-postmasters have no control over which machines go in)
  • People on low incomes suffered the most (that's how the rich get richer)
  • Some communities were heading towards a situation where there were no free cash machines (it's Capitalism, fuck 'em)
  • Banks must "think carefully" before selling off their free non-branch based ATM sites to fee-charging providers (why would they "think at all" to care?)
  • Greater regulation of fee-charging cash machine operators is needed by bringing them under the UK Banking Code (don't hold your breath)
Yesterday, as a true testament to the usefulness of the Select Committee, and the general usefulness of those who claim to protect our best interests, the BBC cited an APACS survey which reports a surge in fee charging ATM numbers, with more than four out of 10 UK cash machines operated by independent firms, nearly all of which charge fees for transactions.

More than four? The Antagonist thinks, for the sake of antagonism, argument and making a damned good point, 'more than four' might as well be referred to as 'five'. Five out of ten machines equates to one out of every two, or half, of all ATMs that charge fees.

Half all ATMs in the UK now impose a penalty for transactions. The customer battle is already half lost, and news of the loss is cunningly hidden inside the phrase, 'more than four'.

But wait! APACS says it's not all bad as only one in twenty of the transactions analysed had incurred a fee. Emma Smith, a spokesperson for APACS, told the BBC:
"This shows that people are going to free machines operated by banks and building societies over fee-charging machines.

"The spread of fee-charging machines is about consumer choice. It is worth remembering there are a greater number of free to use cash machines than ever before."

Consumer choice? Let's just clear one thing up before we proceed any further. The Antagonist refuses to refer to 'customers' as 'consumers'. This errant nomenclature just perpetuates the myth that we're here to drain, devour and dissipate as much as possible, in as many different ways as possible. This is wrong.

So, now we know we're talking about 'customer' choice, let's work through this one step at a time.

Customers were previously free to use free ATMs to access their money. Theoretically, this was a total absence of choice, but as far as customers were concerned, it was the best possible situation. No choice needed to be made. Customers could access their own money for free, and all was well.

The introduction of fee-charging ATMs into the equation also introduced a 'choice'. That it was a choice nobody in their right mind would exercise, nor even something they would elect to have as an option, is something which appears to have escaped everyone's notice and is mentioned here for completeness.

At the same time as this marvellous 'choice' was introduced, so too was a dramatic reduction in the opportunity to exercise the right to the original, and far better-for-customers, option. Now that half of all ATMs impose penalties for transactions, only half of all ATMs allow customers to access their money without penalty.

Then consider the Select Committee warnings of communities where no free ATMs exist, and their concerns regarding more communities that are rapidly heading towards having only fee-charging ATMs.

If we allow the status quo to deteriorate further, such that it reaches its only logical conclusion, we will end up in the exact opposite place to where we started - a total absence of choice but, this time, one that imposes extreme financial penalties on customers.

This, of course, is how any business makes its money, but that doesn't imply that there should be no limits to the levels of extortion allowed by regulatory authorities, or tolerated by customers.

It's time to stop the ATM charging rot. Plan ahead. Take cash out in advance without penalty. If you get stuck, borrow, and pay it back when you have access to your money without penalty. Keep a cheque-book with you. Better still, don't leave your money in bank accounts at all. Haggle. Barter. Be resourceful. Most importantly, spread the word.

When there is no money to be made installing and maintaining fee-charging ATMs that nobody uses, despite the near eradication of free alternatives, and when research continues to show that, despite their increasingly limited choice, customers are still refusing to use fee-charging ATMs, fee-charging ATMs will disappear.

18 May 2005

Queen Orders ID Cards & Tracking of Subjects

The Queen has spoken. Again. Presumably for the benefit of those who can remember quite how she and her extended Germano-Greco family got there in the first place and quite why she and her Germano-Greco extended family are still there now.

The Antagonist isn't sure how relevant the strange qualifications of 'swanning around on huge chunks of land stolen from under the feet of the people that lived there' and 'extensive Corgi-walking' might be when it comes to dictating how the people that one has deemed one's subjects should live their lives, but that doesn't stop the old bag from trying.

Top of the list is money, and continuing to grow the bullshit economy that a bunch of bankers dreamt up over the years to keep them rich (solely in the material sense, of course), and to make sure the rest of us do precious little else other than work so we can live in a small box for the rest of our natural born lives, until someone comes along and puts us in a slightly smaller box, 6 feet under. No great surprises so far.

Next in the Queen's Speech came some nonsense about public services with increased security measures and education with increased security measures because we really need sniffer dogs and CCTV in all schools, otherwise kids won't become accustomed to the idea of being permanently monitored. It seems Big Brother and other, similar abominations loosely termed 'reality TV' aren't working well enough in conveying the underlying message that is their sole purpose, so Brenda intervened.

Then she said the two magic words, ID cards. As if anything else could follow all the references to increased security measures than the ID cards that will cost the people that have no want or need for them a lot of time, money and hassle, while simultaneously providing no additional security and ultimately curtailing civil liberties.

The great thing about this for B.Liar and cronies is that they can now claim, quite validly, to have dropped the ID card bill prior to the election, and that they are only bringing it back because the Queen said so. Labour claim they dropped the bill. Those that knew the bill was only gone for the duration of the election propaganda can't claim that they didn't, and the government can now say, "I'm sorry folks, the Queen made us do it!"

Children in their CCTV and sniffer-dog filled classrooms wouldn't get away with this sort of infantile, buck-passing behaviour. In 'free' and 'democratic' societies, neither should any government or authority.

Royal Mail Loses Jobs, Post Offices & Profits

The Royal Mail has announced record profits. That they made this profit through sacking 33,000 workers and closure of 2,500 post offices is, apparently, merely incidental because remaining workers get an extra £1,000 or so for their efforts, and those that removed the unnecessary costs of workers and Post Offices pocket up to £3 million each.

Is This The Way To Propaganda

Quick mention for the nonsense video, put to Tony Christie's 'Is This The Way To Amarillo', made by a bunch of off-duty soldiers in Iraq and for which all the newscasters are cracking fake smiles and lots of false laughter.

The Antagonist thinks this rather unsubtle piece of propaganda to popularise the invaders speaks for itself and isn't even going to grace it with a link. The only saving grace of this story is that, for a few minutes at least, British soldiers weren't killing anyone in an illegal invasion that was based on lies.

ASBOs and the Curbing of Political Dissent

The living legend that is 63-year old peace activist Lindis Percy escaped an Anti-Social Behaviour Order barring her from the vicinity of the Menwith Hill spy base near Harrogate in North Yorkshire. Unfortunately, she didn't manage to escape the imposition of a fine, a night time curfew for eight weeks, and the fitting of an electronic tag to monitor her whereabouts.

The BBC ran a nice article highlighting the implications of ASBOs being used to curb peaceful and legitimate protest, and even though it didn't go that way this time round, a watchful eye needs to be kept lest a dangerous precedent be set in future.

To his credit, judge Roy Anderson said:
"I am firmly of the view courts ought not to allow anti-social behaviour orders to be used as a club to beat down the expression of legitimate comment and the dissemination of views of matters of public concern."
The Antagonist can't help wondering if that means it is now possible to have open discussions with the authorities about the American spy base that inhabits the Yorkshire countryside, or whether Menwith Hill will continue to make the headlines occasionally, only to be dropped just as quickly as it appeared, unmonitored, unlike everyone and everything else.

The Antagonist also hopes the hideous irony of electronically tagging someone who has so vocally, passionately, and peacefully protested against the global monitoring and surveillance network that operates in part from Menwith Hill, is not lost.

To quote Lindis Percy on the matter:
"You can't suppress the human spirit."
If ever there was repeated testament to that statement, Lindis Percy is it.

17 May 2005

Galloway Vs the Senate & Iraq Lies

George Galloway, the British MP for the Respect Coalition who has a bit of a reputation for asking the awkward questions that all us proles wish someone would ask of those that seek to remain unaccountable, voluntarily appeared before a Senate sub-committee in Washington today to answer accusations about links with Iraq, Saddam Hussein and alleged profiteering from oil-money.

In his impressive and bombastic rhetoric, Galloway not only countered the charges, he also asked all the questions that Tony B.liar and leaders of other puppet administrations around the world should have been asking when the first hints of war surfaced, even if they came long after the clandestine plans for war were originally conceived by NeoCon think tanks.

Swapping the barrels of alleged oil for the metaphorical barrels of a verbal super gun, Galloway unleashed facts, accusations, and a written dossier of evidence supporting his claims which he casually cast down before the Senate committee that orchestrated the immoral and provably illegal invasion of Iraq.

Galloway's performance was beautiful. It ranked up alongside those highly rehearsed and stage-managed PR efforts of top-ranking American politicans, only this time the words were coming from someone who, for a brilliantly refreshing change, was telling the truth.

In the words of Mr Galloway:
“I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims did not have weapons of mass destruction.

I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al-Qaeda.

I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11 2001.

I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning.

Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies."

Full transcripts of how George Galloway truly earnt his 'gorgeous' tag are available from The Times and Common Dreams and provide something that slightly closer resembles the truth than that which was presented as justification for the illegal Iraq invasion by the U.S. and British administrations.

Halliburton Increase Deaths, Profits & Share Prices

On the eve of Halliburton's Annual General Meeting in Houston, Texas, Corporate Watch have released The Alternative Annual Report on Halliburton, which gives a little more insight into Halliburton's activies than the AGM might.

In all likelihood, tomorrow's AGM will see Halliburton CEO David Lesar waxing lyrical about the $7.1 billion revenue the company has made from recent work in Iraq, which doubles the profits Halliburton made in Iraq in 2003.

However, Halliburton's overall revenue for 2004 is $20 billion and the graph below from the Corporate Watch Alternative Annual Report on Halliburton shows a very interesting correlation between Halliburton's increasing stock price, increasing revenues generated in Iraq, and the increasing number of deaths of U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

The Antagonist believes that this rather limited focus on the number of deaths of U.S. soldiers should be expanded to include the deaths of soldiers from all countries involved in the invasion and continued occupation of Iraq.

Furthermore, if we also include all civilians deaths in Iraq in this figure, we would see a much more interesting correlation between the volume of deaths that have occurred as a result of the illegal invasion of Iraq and the illegitimate revenues that Halliburton and their ilk have been allowed to generate from this illegal act.

By not including the sum total of all deaths resulting from the Iraq invasion and mapping these to the revenues generated by all organisations involved in Iraq, we are all giving tacit approval to the blatant, largley unspoken and entirely mistaken presupposition that the lives of U.S. solidiers and civilians are somehow more important than those of soldiers and civilians from any other part of the world.

This presupposition of American life being somehow more relevant than that of every other life on the planet, dear reader, means you and your life in whichever non-American land you happen to be as you read this.

If you are happy about this, and allowing this flawed presupposition to perpetuate and be used to justify illegal acts of war at a whim, solely in the interests of global control and profit, then carry on as you were.

If, however, you believe that your right to life is equal to that of any American, that that right to life is equally as valid as that of every other being, and that the profit and global control of the few, at the huge expense of the many is not the best way for the many to proceed into the future, then now is the time to start to making changes.

12 May 2005

Magnetic Stimulation Treatment for Retail Therapy

"IMAGINE movies and computer games in which you get to smell, taste and perhaps even feel things. That's the tantalising prospect raised by a patent on a device for transmitting sensory data directly into the human brain - granted to none other than the entertainment giant Sony."
Those were the words that heralded the New Scientist news of a Sony Patent that allows ultrasonic remote control of people's brains and which featured on "Anything...." some time ago.

Earlier today researchers at Antagonist Twin Towers spied this story about the use of the same Transcranial Magnetic stimulation therapy being used to treat depression.

Source: Newswise
Barbara Baas ran away from home and tried to kill herself as a teenager. As an adult, she has tried more than 15 varieties of antidepressants. But, thanks to a new weapon, she has finally reached a truce in a 45-year battle.

Mrs. Baas says a new treatment for depression is changing her life – so much so that she’s willing to drive 115 miles five days a week from Decatur to UT Southwestern Medical Center where she is participating in an experimental study. She undergoes transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a noninvasive, nonpharmacological technology, in which short pulses of magnetic energy stimulate nerve cells in a specific area of the brain – an area that research has shown to be associated with depression.

All of which sounds great until you remember that the technology is referred to as a weapon, and that TMS is the same technology for which Sony recently acquired a patent to allow remote, fake sensory stimulation in the brains of media consumers.

The story continues with Mrs Baas thoughts (or are they her thoughts?) on the matter:
“I am experiencing joy for the first time in years,” Mrs. Baas, 60, said. “I’m participating in life again. I went shopping at a new store near my home and realized it wasn’t drudgery. I actually enjoyed myself."

Mrs Baas.... Mrs Baas.... it's a very simple choice between that of being a little depressed as you wander through the rest of life, and that of being completely deluded through reliance on sensory information that is not your own and which someone has beamed into your head.

The Antagonist beseeches you to save yourself the 115 mile drive five times a week, and the expensive treatments, and urges you to not worry about the opening of these frivolous new stores about town for it is entirely natural that you feel almost-suicidally depressed at the prospect of buying a load of useless shit for which you have no need.

Live with it, learn from it, and adapt accordingly.

11 May 2005

CIA Plane Bomber Outed

No, not a September 11 hijacker, not yet anyway.

Today the BBC reports that Luis Posada Carriles, a Cuban-born Venezuelan and anti-Castro dissident who was a CIA agent and informer abd on the CIA payroll from the 1960s until mid-1976. Carriles was also responsible for a 1976 Venezuelan plane bombing and plotting to kill Fidel Castro.

Declassified (they keep these things secret for many reasons, folks, and 'truth' is not one of them) documents contain statements from an FBI informer who "all but admitted" that Luis Posada Carriles was one of those behind the 1976 bombing that killed 73 people.

Mr Carriles once boasted of being responsible for a series of bomb attacks of Havana tourist spots in the 1990s. Five years ago he was arrested in Panama and accused of plotting to kill Fidel Castro during a summit there. Castro referred to Carriles "a monster".

After living in hiding for fear of his life since the trial, Luis Posada Carriles last month crossed the Mexican border and sought asylum in the U.S., in an attempt to finally come home to roost like so many other terrorist chickens in the past.

Castro demanded to know how a high profile terrorist like Carrilles could breach U.S. border security. The Antagonist is guessing that Castro didn't meet with the response, "Hey Fidel, since when do you stop your employees getting in to their places of work?"

The Antagonist believes that this is just one in what will prove to be a rather long line of high profile plane bombers to be outed in the coming years because the truth, as this and so many other stories show, cannot be suppressed indefinitely.

06 May 2005

Bliar's Third Term

The UK election is over. Bliar is in for a third term and dictionary.com's Election Word of The Day couldn't be more appropriate:

Word of the Day for Thursday May 5, 2005

claque \KLACK\, noun:

1. A group hired to applaud at a performance.
2. A group of fawning admirers.

05 May 2005

The Lamposts Are Listening

The walls once had ears in a metaphorical sense. Now modern technology is enabling the lamposts to listen to us as Westminster Council in London sets about installing microphones in lamp posts and CCTV cameras.

In towns and cities around the world the everyday journeys of everyone have long been followed on camera and startling numbers of people don't appear to have noticed, or have been led to believe that a tiny fraction of the population being criminals is sufficient justification to watch absolutely everyone, all the time.

Now, if we're not careful, we're all going to be listened to as well.

On London's public transport you can be followed by CCTV for your entire journey and tracking could be (and in all likelihood already is) automatically initiated just as soon as the Oyster Card of a tagged individual hits the system. A few stealthy photographs of everyone as they innocently pass through tube ticket barriers while innocently going about their business makes light work of constructing detailed and accurate facial recognition databases and activity profiles of everyone.

What time did an invidual enter the system? At which station? To where did they travel? Was the destination a known destination for this individual, or have they travelled somewhere new? Were they with anyone else? Did they have contact with anyone else in transit?

The possibilities are endless yet, to a lot of people, the idea of a unique, permenent, rechargeable ticket seems like such an innocuous idea.

If you are still to be convinced quite how invasive and pervasive audio/visual surveillance and tracking technology is, The Antagonist recommends setting yourself up for a few rather unpleasant surprises and taking a little time during your daily regime to expand your field of vision to include the multiplicity of CCTV cameras that are located everywhere and are frequently found 20-30 feet above eye level. Find them affixed to lamp posts, buildings and just about anything else and watch them swivel, pan and scan everything and everyone in sight. Get a feel for the size of the area each one of them covers and understand how coverage areas are overlapped to enable blanket coverage.

Recall the zoom functions on your cheap camera and imagine how much better the zoom functions might be on government surveillance devices and how much detail they would capture.

Imagine CCTV systems linked in to Automated Number Plate Recognition systems that track the wherebouts of each car that passes and, for the most part, each car owner too. Imagine these systems in patrolling police cars that automatically scan cars passed on the road and which alert units to cars that are perhaps seen driving some distance from their registered address, or at odd hours of the day given the owner's listed occupation.

Then consider that practically 100% of us aren't criminals.

It sounds like a nightmare vision of some dystopian future under an oppressive regime, or a similarly hideous past we'd all rather learn from and forget. In fact, it's the increasingly frightening reality of life in more and more self-proclaimed 'free' and 'democratic' countries around the world.

As you pootle off to the polls to cast your vote today (or not) be aware that, no matter who you vote for, the march of all technologies of political control that watch, listen to and monitor all of us, all the time, continues unabated, unchecked and unchallenged.

Forget for whom you are voting now and consider instead for what it is you are continuing to vote.

04 May 2005

Last Minute General Election Voting Advice

On the eve of the 2005 UK General Election, The Antagonist feels obliged to offer a few words for those who are still undecided about how to vote.
As long as we keep replacing a small bunch of self interested idiots that don't much care about the masses with another small bunch of self interested idiots that don't much care about the masses, the problem of the country - nay, the world - being run by a small bunch of self interested idiots that don't much care about the masses will never be resolved.

Simple enough, eh?