January 1, 2013
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 160,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
November 6, 2012
Unfortunately for Gary, and for the rest of us humans, his vote was wasted. Not a single one of all the lofty ideals mentioned in Gary’s poem can be accomplished by voting no matter that they are all essential to our pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.
Presidential election day always makes me more deeply ashamed to be an American. Instead of being a beacon of freedom and human rights, we’re just a tired, old sham dismantling the Constitution, whose rights were the one and only thing that made the US a different, and better, country. No more. America is now a caricature of its founding ideals. [CONTINUES BELOW]
Dissident Voice: November 5, 2012
I voted today. …
I voted for peace and justice and sanity
In an insane world of violence and injustice.
I voted for clear streams, rivers, and seas;
Bright stars in a cedar-scented night-sky;
Whale-songs heard in unpolluted oceans.
Not for the lesser of two evils,
But for the greatest good for the greatest number—
For nothing less, I voted.
I voted for climate-change victims;
And for those torn apart by war;
Against the Empire, and for the planet;
For the hungry and forgotten,
For the terrified and abused–
Against the military-industrial-media complex
And for the dream of MLK–
I voted for Iraqi mothers and Afghani;
In Pakistan and around the world—
Because each of them is my mother, also,
Weeping like Rachel for her lost children.
For Kathy Kelly and Rachel Corrie,
For Cindy Sheehan and Cynthia McKinney,
Jill Stein, Helen Caldicott and Medea B.–
For standing against madness and lies,
Opportunism and exploitation—
For all of them, I voted.
For brothers in exile I voted;
For the martyred, the betrayed, the abandoned—
Ishmael, Aguinaldo, Sandino and Guevara;
Tashtunka Witco, Tecumseh, Bradley Manning—
For this council of leaders, I voted.
Against slavery and wage-slavery;
Sexploitation, television and bad food;
The corruption of Art; mis-education;
The torture of humans and animals;
Our prison-work-complex and sham democracy;
Citizens United; the Electoral College;
And every meme kicked down the road
By glutinous politicians and their corporate masters—
Against all of this, I voted.
To pass from these Dark Ages
To a Renaissance of Reason,
To a New Age of Enlightenment–
That truths may be reclaimed;
For the wisdom to discern;
That children may be honored
With cleanliness and virtue,
With books and venerable teachers;
That all may be protected
From the ravenous and greedy—
To see the planet whole;
To know our place upon it;
To nurture and restore it;
To abide in moderation,
With compassionate humility;
That the arts might consecrate us—
For the best that lies within us;
For the fortitude to harness;
For the healing grace that’s needed.
For the courage to continue–
Frankly, I was pretty amazed at the close finals between a Mormon born in Mexico and a could-be black, President Al Jolson. Do you really have nothing better to think about than this phony reality TV?
These meat puppets spent six billion dollars advertising themselves to convince you to vote for them. Think about the good a responsible govt could do for all citizens with that enormous sum. Instead, it was spent to elect just another millionaire to commit further atrocities in our name. That money could have gone to your kids’ education.
Drugs. And why? Is somebody going to break into your house and still your flatscreen? If so, you live in the w-r-o-n-g neighbourhood, homes. Millions of people, mostly poor and of colour are in prison. This means they can’t ever vote…if there’s ever anybody better to choose than these bozos.
This election day, 7,225,800 Americans are in prison or parole, mostly people of colour. This means they can’t ever vote—big loss, eh?–…if there’s ever anybody better to choose than these bozos.
Foreclosure. You bought shit you didn’t have the money to pay for. That’s supposed to be the big American dream, isn’t it? But it’s really like playing Monopoly—sometimes you lose. Take a lesson from Occupy: “You are not a loan. You are not alone.” That’s your house. If little Iceland, pop. 300K, can tell the big banks to take a hike, so can you. Don’t leave, not matter what their threats. In America, you can’t be jailed for debt…not yet.
Terrorism. Yeah, where, exactly? All the terrorism plots in the US have been instigated by our FBI. Watch out when you cross the street—it’s way more dangerous.
Frankly, if you think this election is important, I don’t have much sympathy. Meat Loaf…and Fox News do..
Universal health care, even for poor people, caring for the elderly, free education for all with no student loans. All these initiatives which are fundamental to any democratic society could be paid for tomorrow…by deleting the US military.
How, exactly, does the military make you safer in your home?
President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1909 African expedition with his son Kermit brought back to the Smithsonian 5,013 mammals, 4,453 birds, and 2,322 reptiles and amphibians, according to Theodore Roosevelt the Naturalist [!!!] by Paul R. Cutright (1956).
Presidents of today hunt humans with drones. Just like animals in Africa in 1909, there are far too many of them to matter.
Tell me again why this election was important???
It’s high time to call bullshit on this whole system because it’s only reality TV. If you buy into their system, tough luck on you, Bubba.
Break out of the puzzle palace. The USA has stopped being so special.
I don’t buy into a lot of the far-out conspiracy theory. But if you don’t think both these guys have been cloned by aliens, they’ll likely abduct you in your sleep.
Sweet dreams, America.
Freedom Against Censorship[ Thailand (FACT)
October 31, 2012
Thailand’s first blocklist was created by the Ministry of Information and Communication [sic] Technology in January 2004 during the Thaksin Shinawatra administration. It blocked 1,247 URLs by name.
Thailand’s first blocklist marked the first and only attempt at transparency by Thailand’s Internet censors. Every subsequent blocklist, the webpages blocked, the reasons for blocking and even the number of pages blocked is held in secret by Thai government.
Thailand’s first blocklist concentrated on the Patani United Liberation Organisation (PULO), a banned group of separatists from Thailand’s deep Muslim south. In subsequent years, we’ve seen how well that censorship strategy worked out. It created an enormous militant insurgency which has resulted in more than 5,000 murders.
Following Thailand’s military coup d’etat on September 19, 2006, the military’s fifth official order on its first day in power was to block the Internet. Under the coup regime, tens of thousands of webpages were blocked.
Most famously, Thailand ramped up its censorship with a complete block of popular video sharing site, YouTube, for seven months in 2007. It appeared Thai censors didn’t have the capacity to block individual videos.
Thailand was the first country to block YouTube, claiming a handful juvenile videos insulting Thailand’s monarchy were a ‘threat to national security’. Following this stand-off, Google, YouTube’s parent company, created a system of geolocational blocking which is now used to block YouTube videos in dozens of repressive regimes.
However, the coup government’s first legislative action was to promulgate the Computer Crimes Act 2007. In its first drafts, the CCA prescribed the death penalty for computer crimes; this was modified in the final law to ‘only’ 20 years in prison.
The CCA contains full censorship powers but also a provision that MICT must seek court orders for blocking. Revealing these court orders would also make blocking information public so all the court orders, paid for by Thai taxpayers, are sealed in secrecy.
An appointed Democrat administration followed the military junta. However, when mass demonstrations in 2010 threatened its power, the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration declared martial law decreeing a state of emergency. The Emergency Decree suspended all normal rule of law, as well as constitutional and international treaty protections for freedom of expression.
The Dems created two military agencies with Orwellian names and even acronyms. The Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situation (CRES) and the Centre for the Administration of Public Order (CAPO) were given complete extralegal power to censor the Internet.
Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) was just one website to be censored early by the ‘emergency’.
FACT continues to publish leaked blocklists and court orders as well as providing instructions for circumvention of Thai censorship to readers. FACT teaches its readers how to pressure ISPs and govt censors to unblock URLs. FACT has also published censorship blocklists from 16 foreign countries.
However, research by Thailand’s iLaw Foundation revealed that MICT had quietly continued to use the CCA’s provisions for blocking the Internet using court orders. Thai government was ‘legally’ blocking webpages on a wholesale basis, submitting for court order thousands of URLs each time.
The new elected opposition government has continued the folly of its predecessors. It was further revealed that Thai government censorship was rising at a rate of 690 new pages blocked every single day.
Other than court-ordered censorship, Thailand’s Computer Crimes Act has only served one further purpose. Many of Thailand’s scores of political prisoners have been charged with lèse majesté using the CCA.
This has resulted in prison sentences up to 15 years using multiple charges. Charges have not only been brought against content creators but content providers, page designers, webmasters and other intermediaries, including those overseas who dared to visit ‘the land of smiles’.
Furthermore, Thai judges have decreed that hyperlinking to ‘offensive’ or ‘inappropriate’ content is just as criminal as publishing it. Unspecified delay in removing such commentary is also illegal. And so is clicking ‘Like’ on Facebook.
Thailand’s censorship has shown no signs of abating and almost none of the webpages blocked during the ‘emergency’ have been unblocked. In 2012, more than 90,000 Facebook pages were blocked. So are online pharmacies and gambling sites.
Many observers think Thai government censorship solely targets alleged lèse majesté. However, the fact is, we are not allowed the freedom of expression about anything guaranteed by our Constitution.
Meanwhile, Thai censorship that we know about continues to rise at a rate of 690 new blocked URLs every day. In fact, with complete secrecy by Thai censors, the real number is likely to be far higher.
The cost to society by creating a dumbed-down public not in possession of all the facts is impossible to quantify. The economic costs, however, can be. To block 690 web pages, Thai government spends THB 1.5 million (USD $50,000), or THB 2,174 (USD $71) per URL.
To date, Thailand has spent THB 2,173,913,043—more than two billion baht—(almost USD $71 million) to censor our Internet.
On December 28, 2011, Thailand was blocking 777,286 webpages. Today, November 1, 2012, Thailand blocks ONE MILLION URLs—Happy Halloween.
Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT)
Bangkok: October 31, 2555
July 21, 2012
[FACT comments: You’d have to be plain crazy to pop the bird at the King…or even his visage. Thai courts won’t buy the truth; can they be expected to take bona fide medical reasons into consideration?]
Woman to face royal insult charge pending mental examination
The Nation: July 19, 2012
Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung on Thursday confirmed police would charge a woman accused of insulting the monarchy if she was found to be sane in the mental status examination.
“I confirm police will legal action,” he said, dismissing speculation about police inaction.
On Friday, Thitinan Juntaranont, Thai expatriate from New Zealand and seen as a red shirt, defiled the picture of the King displayed at the multi-colour shirt rally during the Constitution Court verdict session on charter change.
Policemen promptly intervened to escort her from the scene and refused to press charge on grounds for suspected insanity.
A number of activists stepped forward to criticise police for drawing a hasty conclusion before sending the accused for psychological evaluation.
On Tuesday following the spread of messages in the social media, a number of Thais rallied at Suvarnabhumi Airport in a bid prevent Thitinan from boarding a flight to Auckland.
Police subsequently clarified that Thitinan was admitted to the Galya Rajanagarindra Institute to undergo mental tests.
Woman held for making rude gestures
The Nation July 19, 2012
City police have assigned a team to look into allegations that Thitinant Kaewchantranont, a 63-year-old New Zealand resident, had made an improper gesture toward an image of His Majesty the King outside the Constitution Court on Friday, Metropolitan Police deputy commander Pol Maj-General Anuchai Lekbumrung said yesterday.
The woman, who was born in Thailand, was stopped from boarding a flight to Auckland and is currently being detained at the Galaya Rajanagarindra Institute.
Thitinant will face lese majeste charges, though a psychiatrist will also determine the state of her mind, he said. She reportedly has a history of mental illness and had undergone treatment at Sri Thanya Hospital.
Meanwhile, Immigration Police Office 2 commander Pol Maj-General Natthorn Phrosunthorn said that Thitinant’s name was not included in the list of those leaving the country nor was there an arrest warrant out for her. However, he added, that police had notified his office at 4pm yesterday to stop her from leaving the country. He said Thitinant’s two relatives were able to travel to Auckland as normal.
[CJ Hinke of FACT comments: We honestly don’t care much about Jakrapob or Sondhi but govt shows its despicable true colours by going after a fruit vendor who had the impunity to try to raise a little extra money by selling CDs of publicly aired television news in Red-land. Memo: Foo-foo is everywhere!]
Thai man on trial for selling ABC footage critical of royal family
Asian Correspondent: July 17, 2012
The trial of a Thai man accused of selling video CDs of an Australian television news segment about Thailand’s monarchy is set to begin today in Bangkok.
Akachai Hongkangwan, a 36-year-old local fruit vendor, faces a possible 15 years in prison under Thailand’s draconian lese-majeste law and Computer Crimes Act, laws which criminalize scrutiny or criticism of the revered Thai royal family.
Akachai is accused of distributing VCD copies of an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) news segment produced by the network’s Foreign Correspondent program, at a red-shirt rally in March 2011.
The ABC segment, ‘Long Live the King’, was aired in Australia in April 2010. It featured a number of high-profile lese-majeste cases, including those of Chiranuch Premchaiporn, charged as moderator of comments made on a local news website; the brother of lese-majeste prisoner Darinee ‘Da Torpedo’ Charnchoensilpakul, currently serving an extended jail term, and Chotisak Onsung, who was charged with lese-majeste in 2008 for not standing during the screening of the royal anthem prior to a movie screening.
Most controversially, the ABC segment featured footage of the Thai Crown Prince Vijiralongkorn, heir to the throne, that was frowned upon by the Thai authorities.
In the introduction to the program, ABC presenter Mark Corcoran would pertinently assess the difficulties that media face in covering political issues in-country. He would note:
How do you tell the story of Thailand’s royal family when any criticism of the royals can bring (about) a hefty jail sentence in that country?… With Thailand at the crossroads, we’ve resolved that it’s time for a detailed examination of the laws that gag analysis of the laws, and their pivotal role in Thai politics.
With the ABC’s Bangkok bureau evacuated prior to the screening, featured journalist Eric Campbell explained that ”it’s basically a story that can only be done by people who don’t live and work in Thailand.” For him, “the downside is unfortunately I can never go back”.
Thailand’s Ambassador to Australia would later complain to ABC executives “that an organization of the ABC’s stature has lowered its own standard by airing the said documentary, which is presented in a manner no different from tabloid journalism.”
‘Local’ media in an online world
Made available on the ABC website with international ‘blocks’ in place, it is clear that the segment had been intended only for viewing by Australian audiences. Yet the segment would be quickly uploaded to the internet, where Thai censors hastily sought to ban digital access (the video, while regularly uploaded to YouTube before being removed under copyright restrictions, cannot be viewed in Thailand). Yet it is clear that international ‘blocks’ and local efforts to censor aside, once online such material does tend to proliferate.
It is no secret on the streets of Bangkok that material which scrutinizes the Thai royal family are broadly distributed among those ‘in the know’. (This journalist was once accosted by a local motorcycle driver who’d downloaded the ABC segment to his iPhone).
Akachai and the ABC
Sources close to Akachai say that, in the weeks following his arrest, he approached ABC staff in Bangkok. The local fruit vendor “thought to advise them of what had happened, and that he was out on bail. In effect, he was told: ‘go away: consider yourself lucky that we don’t sue you for IP violation.’”
In July last year, staff who’d assisted the crew in Bangkok wrote to program producers. Concerned that Akachai’s case would go unnoticed, they asked that the ABC consider making a public statement. “That the producers was (sic) not intended to ‘insult’ or ‘disdain’ the institution (of the monarchy),” they wrote, “but to fairly criticize and present fair views as journalists.” They received no reply.
“It boils down to, well, ‘why are we journalists?’” says Hinke, a Canadian who himself has lived in Thailand for over 20 years. “Why are we reporting on news? We’re journalists because we want to expose that which wouldn’t otherwise be exposed. Why is the ABC producing such shows if they don’t care if people watch it or not, in the places where people are the most concerned?”
Sources close to Akachai say he remains hopeful that the ABC will make a public statement condemning the charges brought against him.
“If they won’t make a statement, at the very least, they should attend the trial,” says a source. “It’s too dangerous for people to speak out in his defense,” says another. “But not for the ABC – they’re already persona non grata.”
In the digital age, questions of distribution are key. Can journalists expect that what they produce for a single, localized audience, remain that way? Are there any such obligations that our information-gathering extends to those prosecuted?
The case will be heard throughout the week, and a verdict expected soon thereafter.
Lisa Gardner is an Australian freelance journalist based in Bangkok. Follow her on Twitter @leesebkk
FACTannouncement: Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT)…now Under Royal Patronage ในพระอุปถัมภ์ฯ
July 9, 2012
Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) is delighted to announce that Prudence Margaret Leith, OBE, CBE has honoured us by becoming FACT’s Royal patron.
Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT)…now Under Royal Patronage, ในพระอุปถัมภ์ฯ in Thai.
Prue Leith is a remarkable woman. We came to know her as the widow of the author of Thailand’s most famous banned book.
The Devil’s Discus by Prue’s husband, Rayne Kruger, was published in the UK in 1964. Not only was the book immediately officially banned in Thailand but it is rumoured that Thai govt bought, and burned, as many remaining copies it could acquire. First editions remain exceedingly scarce and costly.
A Thai translation, กงจักรปีศาจ (Kongjat Bisat), was published in 1977, credited to the Students’ History Club at Thammasat University. It was translated by Chalit Chaisitthiwet, the brother of the officer named as King Ananda’s killer.
It is rumoured but unsubstantiated in Rayne Kruger’s obituary in The Times that the Thai printing house was burned to the ground for this affront. In any case, the Thai translation was not banned until 2007 when it came to the attention of authorities…30 years after its original publication.
Every known copy of the two printings of The Devil’s Discus in Thai are found to have the first 16 pages excised. Of course, this only deepens the mystery. What was on those missing pages which was considered too risky to distribute to the public…even more risky than the banned book itself?
It was this inaccessible work of fine investigative reporting which led to my vendetta against censorship and the founding of Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) in 2006. It was King Ananda who drew me to the censorship issue.
In 2007, Prue generously assigned the international rights to The Devil’s Discus to FACT. Since then, new editions have been published in German, Japanese, and English; a Chinese translation is in process. Not one but two new editions of กงจักรปีศาจ reached print in 2011 in Thailand. They are still quite illegal to distribute (though not to possess) and are sold quietly but openly, passed from hand to hand.
It is testament to the enduring scholarship of The Devil’s Discus for publishers and distributors to risk their freedom to get this book into the hands of readers.
Prudence Leith is a remarkable woman whose varied iterations she chronicled just this year in her autobiography, Relish: My Life in Many Courses.
Prue was born in South Africa before emigrating to England with her husband Rayne. The couple was an obvious inspiration to their children: Danny became a journalist and Li-Da a filmmaker.
Prue became a professional caterer (Leith’s Good Food, 1961); a celebrity chef in her own Michelin-starred London restaurant (Leith’s, 1969); and founder of Leith’s School of Food and Wine (1975) to train global chefs. Prue has had cookery columns in four major British daily newspapers for which she received the Corning Award Food Journalist of the Year (1979) and the Glenfiddich Trade Journalist of the Year award (1983). Six of Prue’s own cooking show series have appeared on British television.
Prue has been received eleven honourary degrees and fellowships and serves several charities. She founded the British Food Trust, is a trustee of Slow Food UK and chairs the School Food Trust which she considers her most important work so far. She still serves on the board of the Orient-Express. Prue is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA) and an Honourary Fellow of the Council of City and Guilds of London Institute (FCGI). In her spare time, Prue has authored 21 cookbooks from 1979 to 1999 and six novels in the new millennium.
She was Royally-appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1989, named Veuve Clicquot’s 1990 Business Woman of the Year and received the Royal appointment Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2010 as part of Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday honours.
Considering Thailand’s current political imbroglio over govt’s profligate use of the lèse majesté laws, Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) is pleased to buck this trend…under Royal patronage.
Deepest thanks and affection for our patron, and friend, Prudence Leith OBE, CBE.
Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT)
The Devil’s Discus in English is available for download here: http://www.scribd.com/collections/2496420/The-Devil-s-Discus
and จักรปีศาจ here: http://www.scribd.com/collections/2801432/หนังสือหายาก, and here: http://www.scribd.com/collections/2690652/หนังสือหายาก.
The Devil’s Discus in English may be purchased here: http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?sts=t&vci=1330729&an=&tn=devil%27s+discus&kn=&isbn=&x=0&y=0
Works by Prudence Leith
In advance of Independence Day, a host of groups and individuals have launched the Declaration of Internet Freedom, fighting for a free and open Internet.
CNET News: July 2, 2012
SIGN THE PETITION!:
Civil society: http://www.internetdeclaration.org/freedom
Do you believe the Internet needs protection against censorship and other threats? If so, then you may want to join in on the new Declaration of Internet Freedom.
Launched by a large coalition of privacy groups, Web sites, and individuals, the Declaration of Internet Freedom is the start of a process striving to keep the Internet free and open. The organizations and people who kicked off this process are looking for other Internet users to discuss the ideas, share their own thoughts, and sign the declaration.
“We’ve seen how the Internet has been under attack from various directions, and we recognize that it’s time to make that stop,” said TechDirt, one of the Web sites involved in the new movement. “The Internet is an incredible platform that we want to grow and to thrive, and thus, a very large coalition got together to produce the following document as a starting point, hoping to kick off a much larger discussion which we hope you’ll join in.”
At this point, the Declaration of Internet Freedom advocates five basic principles:
- Expression: Don’t censor the Internet.
- Access: Promote universal access to fast and affordable networks.
- Openness: Keep the Internet an open network where everyone is free to connect, communicate, write, read, watch, speak, listen, learn, create, and innovate.
- Innovation: Protect the freedom to innovate and create without permission. Don’t block new technologies, and don’t punish innovators for their users’ actions.
- Privacy: Protect privacy and defend everyone’s ability to control how their data and devices are used.
For now, the declaration and its principles are still in the discussion stage, inviting people to debate the issues and offer their own opinions.
But the groups behind this cause are clearly hoping the power of Internet users and Web sites can have an effect on Washington, especially in light of the defeat of the SOPA bill earlier this year.