Sigorney Weaver in the Documentary "Acid Test" on Ocean Acidification.
Friday, April 30, 2010
Monday, April 26, 2010
"Keep Calm and Carry On"
A slogan orgionally produced by the Britsh Government to keep up moral during the opening months of World War II, the poster was never used. A lonely copy of this poster remained buried in Barter Books in Alnwick, Northumberland, UK until the year 2000 where it was literally, uncovered.
Since then it has become a pop culture hit with its bold colouration, hope filled message and equally hopeful symbol of the British Crown and has spun off into its own clothing and accessory line.
When in doubt fellow Britions and British Canadians: "Keep Calm and Carry On" (...Does that Crown have a happy face on it...?)
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Jupiter – Bringer of Joy
Saturn – Bringer of Time and Age
Mars – Bringer of War
Venus – Bringer of Peace
Neptune – The Mystic
Mercury – The Messenger
Uranus – The Magician
"Brits at their Best" is a exploration into the profoundly world changing influence of British culture and the British people.
It is an important site to boost British pride since so many seek only to focus on the negatives of the British role in culture and history and those same choose to ignore their own cultures actions and omissions. The truth about Britain is a far more wonderful thing. Not since the ancient Greeks has one peoples influence been so profound upon the world.
If Britain survives the sometimes proud, sometimes angry, sometimes spiteful independence of her daughter nations teenage temper tantrums, she may someday receive the "thank you" that she so deserves as so many Mom's do in their raising of a family.
Let me do my part.
On behalf of Canada, thanks Mom.
We really do owe you so much.
I will do my part not to let Canada, turn its back on you.
Here then is the website, BritsattheirBest:
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Astroturfing and re-imagining history.
Empires are always built to last but as we have seen, their presence at least in the material world, is growing shorter and shorter. As the well worn comparison reads, the Egyptians reined over their lands for approximately millennia, the Roman Empire lasted approximately five centuries, the British Empire between three and five centuries and after this, Empires become less Imperial and more geo-political influences with the US dominating the latter half of the twentieth century, but Empire?... Only in the minds of Marxists and gourmets.
Future “Empires” will more likely be measured in years if any are to exist at all as the world becomes more fluid and connected as nations take back seats to corporations and “organizations.”
But Empires do not just exist in the material world. If history is written by the victors, then surely the greatest conquest of any empire is neither a continent nor a people but of the record and understanding of history and of influence over culture, the way people think. In this regard not only are Empires still being forged but we are very much in a state of war and like usual in typical Neville Chamberlain manner, it seems for British and British Canadians it is a threat we are oblivious to until we are about to lose it all. Sometimes you just can’t make a pot of tea and hope it all goes away.
In this connected age of information technology where definitions and vocabulary are defined by whomever has the greatest media acumen, new empires are being built, history is being re-written, “experts “ can be produced, fabricated and purchased; truth depends on the most web page hits.
It is into this age of common knowledge and common understanding written by the “common” grassroots people on Facebook, Wikipedia and Youtubethat new wars are being quietly waged, new quiet revolutions are being engineered, history quietly being re-written and opinions being manipulated and shifted. While Canada and the west have seen the Internet as a tool of information dissemination, other countries with a history of controlling and manipulating information not only on their own citizens but also outwardly as propaganda have utilized the internet as a means of cultural control and manipulation. Culture wars.
(During the latter half of the twentieth century the quiet joke in political circles was that any country with the word “Peoples” or similar phrase in the title was anything but. )
Those countries and cultures that have long experience in telling their “people” what to think are leading the race in defining not only the modern information culture but are also actively re-shaping the current western generations perceptions of historical events by defining history on popular information sites and comment boards. In doing so, shaping “street” perspectives in democratic countries around the world.
They have in fact recruited entire armies to do nothing but shape “opinion” on the Internet around the world while western nations do nothing and hope for the best… more tea?
Enter the Astroturfer. No, not the rotund fellow at the football stadium laying turf down. The Astroturfer is the foot soldier in the new media and info war, whose duty it is to represent a particular agenda and make it sound like their voice is the voice of the common people, the masses or as we say in Canada, grassroots; hence how the term got its name, “Astroturf” – laying down fake grass.
What the Astroturf virtual trench soldier does is find news or information articles such as comment boards on news stories such as the CBC, or entries such as on Wikipedia. Then they write in their opinion or re-write fact to make it sound like their point of view is the common, grassroots public opinion or the accepted historical fact… hoping of course that others with no opinion or education will join in.
This action shapes “public” opinion because if you can come up with oneemotionalist argument that causes people to rally to support you, you have shaped the dominant opinion of an information source that news outlets and governments will monitor for opinion. More importantly, you can shut down intelligent debate and the great enemy of authoritarian states, the very, very British traits of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Expression.
It is no surprise then that the nations employing and need I add, unchallenged “Astroturf Armies” to expand their influence in the hearts and minds of populations around the world are the least democratic nations in the world and they have been launching cyber hacking and information acts of war against the west for some years now with increasing effect. Acts that in the west we unwisely ignore as inconsequential.
In the last year, stories of China’s 300,000 astroturf army also known as the “50 cent army” have emerged. In 2007, China’s President, Tiger Hu Jintao called on Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members to “assert supremacy over online public opinion, raise the level and study the art of online guidance and actively use new technologies to increase the strength of positive propaganda.”
This is a ?respected? world leader publically asking his citizens to engage in a propaganda war on the west to counter, even silence the legitimate opinions of other bloggers and create a pro China atmosphere.
Is this War somehow more “refined”, acceptable?
War is war and psychological violence is just, if not more, evil than physical violence.
Can you imagine the Canadian publics response if Harper told Canadians to get on line and harass other nations in their feedback columns and media. He would be voted out but in modern China however just as in ancient China, that middle kingdom between finger and thumb of the authoritarian semi communist, gangster government, you do what your told or else.
Mike Elgan of Internet dot Com writes of China’s “Astroturf Army”:
This Astroturf Army has one job and that is “to infiltrate chat rooms, message boards and comment areas on the Internet posing as ordinary users to voice support for the agenda and interest of the CCP. They praise China’s one-party system and condemn anyone who criticizes China’s policy on Tibet. They comment aggressively on news reports about China’s food-safety problems, relations withTaiwan, suppression of bird-flu and AIDS information, Internet censorship, jailing of dissidents, support of Sudan’s military in Darfur and other sensitive topics. Comments applaud the Chinese government and slam its critics, all using scripts and lines approved by the party.” How China's '50 Cent Army' Could Wreck Web 2.0 – Internet.com - January 8, 2009 - By Mike Elgan.”
Another report presented to the US Congress by Rebecca MacKinnon at the hearing “China, the Internet and Google, March 1, 2010, reads:
“Pro-active measures: “astro-turfing” and outreach: The government increasingly combines censorship and surveillance measures with pro-active efforts to steer online conversations in the direction it prefers. In 2008 the Hong Kong-based researcher DavidBandurski determined that at least 280,000 people had been hired at various levels of government to work as “online commentators.” Known derisively as the “fifty cent party,” these people are paid to write postings that show their employers in a favorable light in online chat rooms, social networking services, blogs, and comments sections of news websites.24 Many more people do similar work as volunteers – recruited from among the ranks of retired officials as well as college students in the Communist Youth League who aspire to become Party members.”
In Canada we witness the end product this new Chinese Democracy daily. The CBC comment boards and Vancouver Sun letters to the editor are regularly flooded with pro China, pro east comments any time anything resembling criticism of China is mentioned. A vitriolic vilification of pro west writers as either racist, capitalist, elitist or colonialist can be guaranteed if anyone stands up to them … and when that does not work as some comments about a local British Canadian weather reporter in Vancouver show, they simply get personal. Even before I knew about Astroturfing I had coined the phrase for CBC comment boards “The Peoples Republic Blog Squad.” I am glad to find out I was not imagining it.
It seems we have been asked to do battle in our own homes for the culture of democratic Canada and British Canadians still have their head in the sand trying to pretend this isn’t happening. After all, the propaganda war HAS been declared.
China already has a huge advantage on this playing field. From the days of the old emperors to the days of the re-imagined emperor Mao and now Hu, China has groomed populations more than willing to frantically wave little red books and do as they were told where as in Britain and Canada, with our famous reserve, generally thought such things are obnoxious and distasteful. Such flagrant acts of flag waving were mostly left to football thugs and god forbid…. Americans.
But maybe we should follow China’s lead here. Maybe we should virtualize our violence into the refined information age or just, as Sun Tzu Chinese wisdom aka Machiavellian wisdom dictates, attack your opponent by every means, continuously to weaken them. Maybe we should meet the international Chinese patriotic community on the virtual battlefields in this by no uncertain terms, cyber war simply undeclared.
There is after all, great opportunity in crisis.
(Yes yes, there is also danger – thug me later, I am expressing.)
Great Britain for example could follow China's lead for once and instead of paying its 3 million strong welfare cue to do nothing but ask for the next check, employ them by setting up it’s own Astroturf Army. Not only would they be given access to computers that they could look for employment on, they could also harass Chinese interests the same way Chinese interests have been attacking Western interests for the last decade.
Or is this the downward spiral that those who mock democracy want us to take?
Are we being baited to destroy our democracy ourselves?
In the “Freedom of Speech or Suppression of Speech – article by Elgin” he raises a point that I touched on in “Serving the Meat before the Gravy”, that the Chinese nationalists are deliberately trying to fatally wound freedom of speech and democracy by manipulating it and by extension, the cultures that promote it. In doing so he points out that what the Chinese government and nationals around the globe are doing is actually far beyond “Astroturfing” which is a mere manipulation of one issue – this is a sustained attack against the west and it's values of free speech. It is a sustained attack against Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the USA.
It is a form of war.
Elgin raises the question of devalued democracy where large “swaths” of the population are not voicing a genuine opinion but are having their voices and opinion bought and dictated. It is in fact probably the most effective attack on democracy there is
Of the Chinese effort he says,
"Criticism of the Chinese government abroad is often countered by the argument that China's political system is an "internal matter" - something that none of the business of outsiders. But China's 50 Cent Army is everybody's business.
With 300,000 people, you can see how the CCP could easily determine what makes it onto the front page of Digg and what gets shouted down. They could use Wikipedia, YouTube and Slashdot as their most powerful tools of global propaganda. It would be trivial for China to determine Yahoo's "Most Popular" news item ("Most E-Mailed," "Most Viewed" and "Most Recommended").
Over the long term, the existance of China's 50 Cent Army erodes the value of the Web 2.0 which is based entirely on the actions of users. If half of those users are working for the CCP, then the result of user actions are compromised. Nobody can trust it.
It's also yet another threat to Internet anonymity, which is already under pressure from legislators and some organizations who believe that anonymous posts create opportunities for fraud, deception and the exploitation of children. The more China's 50 Cent Army succeeds, the more support will fall behind the idea of fixing the problem by illegalizing anonymity.
Ultimately, China's 50 Cent Army threatens free speech. And although new threats to free speech are constantly being invented - the 50 Cent Army being one of the most recent innovations - the defense of free speech is always the same: more free speech"It is no wonder that China is going after the internet so viciously. Freedom of expression and information are the things it hates the most. It is no wonder then that British and British Canadian culture comes under attack by the CCP and Canadian CCP Blogsquads here at home in Canada. They are merely following orders to create a perception of "grassroots" opinion but one generated in Hainan; China's cyber warfare center.
Dear Canada and British Canada, dear Britain. Sometimes, as we have seen all to often before it seems everything our fathers and forefathers fought for is again on the line and just as before ignoring the conflict will not make it go away. It just gets closer until it won't be ignored. It just gets closer until it sits in your living room.
Words made all the improbable difference in a war that we should have, by all expectations, lost not long ago. Maybe those that wager on such things in expensive boardrooms were shocked and amused that mere words rallied our people in WW II and changed the course of history because here we are again, fighting for all that we are.... or at least we should be fighting but we are not, not yet. Not yet fighting the danger of being erased from history in countries, cultures and databases and all for 50 cents.
In this battle of words let us remember the greatest words ever spoken.
“I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands.
But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, This was their finest hour.”
Ladies and Gentlemen particularly my fellow British Canadians which I write this blog for, no matter what country you call home. The nature of conflicts have changed, but the challenge has not and will face it again and again. If we believe in the values of our society we are going to have to fight for them, be it on land, on sea or by air, by wire, hard drive or satellite, thought, innuendo or guilt.
Britian and Canada, the country that Britain founded have a history of fighting for democracy for human rights and this beautiful planet. Hundreds of thousands of Britons, mostly young men, died for this in the last century alone. They deserve to be honored, not erased. We fight for freedom of speech even when it is used to ridicule and slander us by others. If we ignore what is happening today in the world and on the bloglines, we lose the power of what last saved us by a great man, Sir Winston Churchill and his beautiful weilding of words.
Pick up your pens, take to your keyboards and fight back. We are at war again. Its an invisible war but for a far greater prize. Most people don't know, Hu is defining you.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Regardless, I cannot believe it!!!
Canada has it's own Rolling Cheese contest.... AND ITS IN BC... It's in Whistler! BRITISH Columbia after all!
At last a beacon of civilization and culture in this wild western land.
For those of you heathens who know not of what I speak, Cheese Rolling is a 200 yr tradition held in the English town of Brockworth on Coopers Hill (and now Blackcomb Mountain, Canada, I might add.) A round of Double Gloucester cheese is rolled down a steeply inclined hill chased by souls of boundless courage and personal life focus all in a bid to win the aforementioned cheese.
Pointless, some might say but then again, so is throwing plates against a wall, Opa! or chopsticks or hurling tomatos or running with bulls. No cows were harmed during this event, just milked.
Never underestimate the cunning British in their ability to seek out fun, courage and daring from nothing more than a piece of Cheese hurtling by at 70km per hour.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
To many it still does, that is, if you get a pure-bred.
Here is a link to the Old English Car Club of British Columbia
Left to our own devices, we make the coolest, sexiest things.
Freedom of expression, to dream and to do.
Preferably better than anyone else.
On April 28th British leadership candidate Gordon Brown called a elderly pensioner a bigot for raising the question of immigration to Britain with him. (I know, your looking at the date of this posting and going wha....?... Just one of those things.) As we see later in the interview, she is is notably afraid to even mention the topic again on camera knowing how she will be and already has been portrayed. Immigration is a huge issue in Britain as it is in Canada where the face of the nation has been forcibly changed in the span of a generation and where so many entry level and blue collar jobs have been taken by the unprecedented flood immigrants into both countries. Ms Duffy raised a legitimate and simple question but perhaps too simple for the modern politician to want to touch. It can be encapsulated in "Isn't your job to look out for the citizens who built the country, so why are you doing this?"
I suppose Ms. Duffy, a British Grandmother and pensioner should count her luck that all she received was a backhanded insult for trying to defend her neighbourhood from non-sensical or dis-empowering change. When a Grandmother in China, Wang Cuyun made a stand, she was buried alive while police looked the other way. (2)
I have to applaud these women though. Men are often caricatured as the territorial ones but have you ever seen a furious Mother or Grand Mother. They are fearless. In our modern societies where men are often neutered as 'chauvinists' or as 'out dated' anytime they speak out, women are now the angry, protective voices of the community. True to form their voices do not sound any louder against a bulldozer or when just as disregarded as bigoted than a man's does.
So where do we belong when home is no longer our own and we are not allowed to raise our voice to say so? What becomes of a nation, when the families that build it are the ones most disenfranchised by the need to build an economy "at any cost?" What if the cost is a factor not yet counted, the same way the value of the environment has not been quantified to current economic models? What about the spirit and the values of the people of a nation, a spirit that took thousands of years to craft. What are they worth?
British artist Billy Bragg is promoting the play "Pressure Drop" in Britain with obvious relevance around the world in the age of globalization.
"Pressure Drop examines three generations of a white, working-class English family and their anxieties about immigration. Actor Michael Gould plays a working man in his forties who voices concerns about people's perceptions of the working class: "People used to be proud of us," his character complains. "The working people, they used to be proud. But now, we're not even acknowledged. It's like we don't exist."
In pressure drop Billy Bragg touches on the heart break of his neighbours and family when they see the culture of the neighbourhoods they lived in and fought for, change in a single generation. The loss, when the elderly who consoled themselves with always at least having a place where they felt they belonged, no longer understand the neighbourhoods they grew up in nor why they of all people, have the least say in them. It does not matter if you are from the traditional British families in the UK or Han Chinese in China or British Canadian in Canada. The move to dismantle nations and globalize the world comes with some unsavoury consequences.
"The car factory's gone. Immigration - the ability of people to move where the work is has changed the face of the borough... incredible change in a short amount of time. For people like my mum who's lived there all of her life that change is highly visible," he says.
Pressure Drop portrays such feelings of confusion. They are voiced by a grandmother in her seventies:
"Do you know what came through the door yesterday? Something from a witch doctor. A witch doctor? I just don't know any more. I'm starting not to recognise the place."
Obviously, the play also has ramifications in Vancouver and Canada too where the population also has radically been altered in the space of a generation. The topic no one yet has studied to my knowledge are which segments of the population were the most displaced by this change in the economic, demographic and cultural landscapes of the city and why or rather how? Why Canada as a whole has adopted such an aggressive immigration policy particularly from Asia but not else where? Why is immigration from the UK so low? What are the long term implications for social cohesion of the country when large and culturally different new populations enter and settle regionally? What happens when these populations not only have different value systems from the cultures and values of Canada but also have a decreasing incentive to adapt to the "Canadian" way of life as founded by the British and French? What happens when aggressive groups start to re-write the nature of 'Canadian' to their liking? What tests come next when these populations grow larger? Unpopular questions to ask but all too necessary.
It seems we have, ironically in Mr. Browns comment, an answer to Professor Yu's dare to Anglophone Canada to speak out. It is to be labeled bigoted. It seems the English of England are also dared to speak out to protect their own culture and the families which built and fought for the country once called home. And when they do...
This is the climate that has been created today in the countries that are the bastions of free speech; that the people most afraid to say anything are those that should have been called, the core of the country. Does this climate have an effect?
In the article on Billy Bragg's play he mentions the instance of a young Afghan immigrant who was knifed to death at a soccer match, no doubt in part because of the frustration of the working class of Britain who are fighting and dying in Afghanistan and at the same time asked to accommodate large numbers of refugees from the same. The frustration that British troops are given poor equipment and ammo while back home, services are given to accommodating large numbers of immigrants from the country they are fighting; while British men and society are called intolerant and racist even while extremists in immigrant populations launch bomb attacks in London such as 7/7. The frustration that when people do have the courage to speak up, they are told to shut up.
It seems that forces that be are again pushing the British and British Canadians to break. To strain under the commitment to care or to become as barbaric as they hope to portray us. To that end knives will never solve this problem, just cause more. Follow Bragg's lead, pick up your pens. The only way to defeat silence is to speak. The only way to harm hate is though compassion. Put away the knives and pick up your pens. The only way to win this war is with with heart and head.
Dare to ask your politican about the "I" word if it concerns you. Its a very important part of defining the nation and neighbourhood you live in.
Oh and Mr Brown and Canadian politicians too, I would like to pretend that the only way to dominate an election is for you to listen. If you can pull off that illusion you might just win. Regardless, there is more to lose here than your seat.
Here is to Billy Bragg!
Friday, April 16, 2010
I thought to myself, when women actually "Honor Men" they will have no trouble finding one.