Categories
Misc Politics

Catch 22

Does anybody recall the novel Catch 22 from Joseph Heller? One of the main characters in the novel is the army B-25 bombardier Yossarian who tries to escape the war by playing crazy which is the reason why he is found to be perfectly healthy by the doctors and qualified to attend the war.

In one word:

Within the book, “Catch-22” is a military rule, the self-contradictory circular logic that, for example, prevents anyone from avoiding combat missions.

Why do I refer to this book?

In Germany the authorities are exactly playing a Catch 22 against all internet users!

With the argument to fight against child pornography german authorities forced the biggest internet providers in germany to sign a contract according to which they have to establish internet filters according to a list from the german BKA (highest police in germany) as stated in BKA filtert das Web on Spiegel Online. As everybody in this circus knows, all arguments why these measures are not leading to the desired results and are therefore only duped to establish a control mechanism can be read in the article Die Argumente für Kinderporno-Sperren laufen ins Leere.

Now the content of a draft of the bill for the fight against child pornography is published in Kinderporno-Sperren: Provider sollen Nutzerzugriffe loggen dürfen. Further thoughts about this subject are expressed in Zensursula: Gesetzentwurf am Mittwoch & Gedanken zur medialen Wahrnehmung.

The Catch 22 in this is: Not only the criminal content is targeted in this new law but also the filter lists are secret because the content of the domains on these lists is criminal and because the filter lists are secret nobody is allowed to check if the content which shall be filtered is really about child pornography because as soon as you try to check the doing of the BKA you are a criminal too!

To go further, the internet providers are allowed to store all connection data concerning the domains on these lists which means when you are stumbling on such a website, automatically you are under suspicion to be a criminal.

The german constitution stipulates the separation of executive, judicial power and legislation. This means that normally measures which effect the basic law of the people in Germany cannot be decreed by the police without the agreement of a judge. Now the basic law of information and free communication can be restricted by the police without control by the judicial powers or anybody else! This especially because only the police decides about which domain is set on its list. In my eyes this is a violation of the german constitution!

Please keep in mind:

  • The filtering of the internet does not prevent a single case of child abuse!
  • The filtering of the internet does not erase the criminal content!

To make this clear, I am the first one to fight against child pornography or abuse for I have children on my own! Therefore it is even more horrible for me that this argumentation is used to suppress the opposition against establishing internet control mechanisms.

Sometimes I ask myself if in the fight for a political position nowadays everything is allowed because in my eyes a major part of all this is already the fight for the next election.

Categories
Misc Politics

Pandora’s Box

As I mentioned earlier, once the possibilities for gathering informations about you over the internet are established, they will be used!

I just read an article in the New York Times about the NSA: N.S.A.’s Intercepts Exceed Limits Set by Congress. This fits very well together with the plans in Germany about data retention which can be found under https://www.bundesnetzagentur.de and which is explained in the Heise article Entwurf zur technischen Umsetzung der Vorratsdatenspeicherung veröffentlicht.

The British Telekom even tested their Phorm-System which does Deep Packet Inspection to analyse the user behaviour of their internet customers without even asking them what they should have done according to the law, as can be read at Golem.de in EU geht wegen Phorm gegen Großbritannien vor.

And South Corea just implemented a “three-strikes law” even for web forums, to punish internet users when attending filesharing as can be read on netzpolitik.org in the article: Südkorea implementiert “3 Strikes” – auch für Webforen.

When we assemble all these informations we get the following image:

  1. We will have the technical conditions for the control of the internet established
  2. There will always be someone, even in good intent, who will use these instruments to their maximum possibility
  3. And the punishment will be at least to be kicked out of the internet which means the loss of the basic democratic right of information or even more

Once Pandora’s Box is opened it cannot be closed again!

Now is the moment to stop all these things or one day we will find ourselves in a world where all informations and all our doing is controlled. I don’t think that then we will still be able to diskuss these things open.

Categories
Misc Politics

Analysis about Child Pornography as Argument to establish Internet Blocker

In Germany a big political discussion is going on about the establishment of internet blockers to fight the spread of child pornography. Netzpolitik.org is calling for a picket against internet blocks in Berlin on friday Mahnwache am Freitag: Keine Scheuklappen fürs Netz!

As studies about the actual situation show, nearly all of the servers with denounced content could be legally taken from the internet without any collateral damage which would be caused by internet filtering. Based on a list from https://scusiblog.org/ who set the published blocking lists from Finnland, Norway and Australia into relation of the position of the servers where the content is hosted, Rochus Wessel went one step further and analysed these countries according to a study from the Internatinal Centre for missing & exploited Children about the legal possibilities to ban these contents in compliance with the local laws in these countries “Netzsperren sind Vermeidbar“.

Interesting in this context is the conclusion Rochus Wessel took:

The analysis shows that the predominant part of blocked content is hosted on servers in countries which would allow a complete deletion of the content. This lesser intervention should by all means be preferred because it causes no collateral damage and is more effective because deleted content cannot be accessed any more while filtered content is always still accessible by bypassing the filtering mechanisms.

How is it possible that in country A, which prohibits child pornography, content is still continously available while in country B these contents are already known to and blocked by the police?

  1. The classification in country B as child pornography was wrong
  2. Country A has less strikt laws then country B
  3. The public authorities in country B did not inform country A
  4. The public authorities in country A did not act in spite of their knowledge

Supposed that country A would be the USA these contents would be deleted within 1-3 days so that case (4) can be ignored. As well case (2) can be ignored because in this case the USA has perhaps the most restrictive laws in the world. Remains case (3) which would show a drastic lack of international cooperation which should be eliminated at once or case (1) which would state that all raised fears of opponents of internet filters were legitimate.

I can only add that this kind of blind political actionism which is produced by germans minister Ursula von der Leyen is only good to distinguish herself but in the matter completely contra productive. To exploit the rule of law possibilities and strengthen the international cooperation might be politically less sexy but would be in my eyes a much more effective way if the real goal is a fight against abuse of the internet.

Otherwise, you can call me paranoid, the reason for these campaigns might be simply to establish internet filtering as legal instrument to control the internet and therefore us all.

Categories
Environment Misc

What is “green” in Green Gene Technology

In one word: nothing!

Green Gene Technology describes the genetic manipulation of plants in contrast for example to the Red Gene Technology which describes the genetic manipulation of organisms with red blood like animals or humans. It has nothing to do with biological agriculture.

Germans Ministry for Agriculture in the person of Ilse Aigner denied the permission to cultivate the genetic manipulated Monsanto Corn MON 810 in spite of all efforts and lobbying which Monsanto did to push the genetic Corn into the german market, as can be read on Spiegel Online in (Deutschland demütigt den Agro-Giganten and Anbau von umstrittenem Genmais gestoppt.

Why are companies like Monsanto manipulating plants? First of all to make them resistant specially against their own products from their pesticide product categories. For example a Monsanto manipulated Corn is resistant against the Monsanto Roundup herbicide with the desired effect that a farmer growing Monsanto Corn naturally will buy Monsanto Roundup for his weed control.

From the economic point of view of Monsanto this makes perfectly sense. Only there are studies which at least leave the doubt that genetic manipulated corn even as forage will have an impact on humans who enjoy the end product like milk or meat. As studies show the genetic material of the forage passes the food chain and finally will end in us all.

Which effects will this have? Genetic Engineering cannot predict the effects of a manipulation as many tests in the past have shown! It is more or less a game of try and error that even the desired effects show up. So everybody should ask himself if he really wants to gamble his own health and that of his children for the sake of the product line of some big enterprises which try to dominate the agriculture market with promises of higher harvests?

At last I would like to point you to the following report about risks in genetic engineering from the german part of the Greenpeace organisation: Risiko Gentechnik

Categories
Misc Politics

Chinese Human Rights Action Plan

As the chinese news agency Xinhua reported, yesterday the chinese government published for the first time a human rights action plan for China. During the next 2 years human rights shall be protected and promoted with an focus on:

  • Civil and Political Rights
  • Rights and Interests of Ethnic Minorities
  • Education in Human Rights
  • Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  • Performing International Human Rights Duties

As stated in Spiegel Online, specially the promise of better social benefits would be highly welcome from a vast majority of the population.

It is arguable how many of these good intentions can be realised and in which time frame because it takes a lot of time until a governmental policy in China becomes reality in local government decision making. But for the first time at all the chinese government approved that there might be a need for change in the human rights policies in China.

One of the first things which should be changed is the disparity between countryside and city citizens as explained in Lizhens article about the chinese Hukou. This disparity in my eyes is a shame for an communist country where all brothers should be seen as equal.

[Update]
The full text of the action plan can be found here: National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2009-2010) .

For me as computer scientist I am specially interested to see the implementation of II. Guarantee of Civil and Political Rights, (5) The right to be informed. Will this point cover a less strickt filtering of the internet as well?

As far as the chinese government does not exactly explain what they want to change and how they want to achieve these goals a slight suspiciousness about this program is indicated.

Categories
HDR Photos

My Living Room

For the first time I played a little bit with HDR photography and tried some programs like Photomatix, Dynamic Photo HDR and QtPfsGui. The results were not always as I expected but one of the results of my living room, made with QtPfsGui, looks quite interesting.


More to come …

Categories
Around the World China

Guangzhou

I just came back from Guangzhou where I had to go for a week. Guangzhou is a city with about 10.5 mio. habitants and when you arrive there coming from Haikou the impression is that of a very busy and dirty city. There is much more traffic and the air is simply not comparable to the fresh sea air in Haikou.

The pace in Guangzhou is much higher than in Haikou. You can see it when you have a look at the people who are hurring into the Metro or when you see the speed of the cars and busses in the streets. Even in the restaurants I have seen that during a normal lunch which took us about 30 min. on our neighbour table three groups of people have been serverd their lunch during the same time.

But luckily you can feel very safe when you are guarded even by the police during a coffee break at KFC 😉

One thing I really liked in Guangzhou are all the good restaurants. There are plenty of them and in all chinese and even many stranger country styles. Fortunately we didn’t have the time to visit more than two of them per day 😉 There were also some restaurants which offer specialties where I had to pass. For example one famous snake restaurant, … Therefore we found a very small but extremly good goose restaurant and got very big and yummy goose dishes for 25 RMB.

And Guangzhou is ideal for shopping. We have seen shopping malls which were bigger than half of the shopping malls of Haikou together.

Wherever you go in Guangzhou, its crowded. I have been in several big chinese cities but I think Guangzhou is only comparable to Shanghai when it comes to the crowds walking through the streets and shops and if you try to find a table in a restaurant during normal lunch time be prepared that you might wait for some minutes until one becomes free. But as I stated already you don’t have to wait for long 😉

Transportation is always a subject in China. Guangzhou has a very modern and fast Metro which covers already the main directions and is continuously extended. The regions of the city you cannot reach by Metro are very good covered by many bus lines.

Even though the traffic is already full of trucks and small transporters with supply you can still find the more traditional chinese transport systems as well. I had the luck to see this bicycle transporter with empty boxes which even found a solution against the rainy weather.

chinese transportation solution

At last we found an old european quarter. The houses are still more or less in the old european style which I am used to from Germany and old houses are repaired in the same way to conserve the unique style of this little island. We spent a nice an quiet afternoon on the terrace of the Starbucks with a good coffee and many muffins.

On this little island you can find restaurants from Italy and Germany but be prepared for the more european prices as well.

Categories
Misc Politics

China is tightening the Net again

I am living in China, a country very well known for its ability to build the biggest walls in this world. One remarkable example can even be seen from the moon. The other one is not that obvious and quite immaterial.

As computer scientist I am depending a lot on the informations I get over the internet. My whole daily work actually cannot be done without the actual documentations of tools and components I am using.

Living behind the biggest firewall in the world has a big disadvantage for my profession and I believe that this must also have an impact on the chinese software industry. There are many strictly professional sites which are unreachable without additional measures, like www.jruby.org. All blogs which are hosted at www.wordpress.com are unreachable even though I have access to the main page. These pages should be easily reachable for you if you are living in Europe or America.

The normal behaviour is a timeout of the network connection or that the address cannot be found at all. But also some websites are unnaturally slow, actually so slow that you cannot really navigate on them. Many sites can only be reached after several attempts.

Actually it is getting worse in China again. A friend of me even complained about rejected mails to me which were filtered out by there IP address.

On one hand I can understand the discomfort with which most governments see the internet as an anarchical, uncontrollable zone which they are trying to get under constitutional legality but the internet is nothing else than real life. When you want to find a way around the laws you will find it. You don’t need the internet for this. And when you want to get informations you will get them.

Think about the saying: The word is more powerful than the sword!

Categories
Misc Politics

Big Brother is watching you

It is quiet a while ago that I last read the novels “1984” from George Orwell or “Brave new World” from Aldous Huxley but it seems that todays reality outdistances these novels by far.

Nearly daily there are news like about the spybot net called “Ghostnet” (see ghostnet.pdf), also mentioned in an Heise article (Chinesische Spionage-Software infiltriert Rechner tibetischer Exil-Regierung) or about searching the house because of information gathered from an internet provider or trading or loosing personal data from an telco provider like in Datenskandal bei Kabel-Deutschland or from banking information or …

The internet and all our data in the internet are gaining a central role in our lives. Not only that they enable us to gather important information in a form never known in history before or to communicate with each other all around the world but the internet also exposes us in a form never known before. In my mind I tried to sum up all new technologies which are commodities today and their possible dangers and wanted to list some of them as example:

  • ISDN phone can be remote controlled and switched into an listening facility without drawing the attention of the people sitting in the same room.
  • mobile phone can be used to track your position, can be remotely switched into a listening facility and perhaps even used as remote web-cam.
  • eMail is normally uncryptified so that everyone with the right equipment can read what you wrote and track with whom you are communicating. Exposes your computer to possible break-ins.
  • Browser the websurfing is trackable with the right equipment and you are exposed to the owners of the websites your are visiting. (Think of Amazon or EBay evaluating your clicks). Enables break-ins on your computer when surfing on a malicious website.
  • Customer Cards give the shop owners a perfect possibility to track your buying habits.
  • Traffic control cameras specially with the right recognition software together enable to create a motion profile

This list is far from being complete and only thought to show in which way we are exposing ourselves to the overall information gathering machinery. When all these data about us could be correlated it would give an image about us which would be that precise that we would be surprised, I am sure.

The handling of all these data should be done in a much more responsible way as today!

I think that the data retention at service- and telco providers which discriminates us all as possible criminals and trying to filter and control the internet are the wrong approaches. It is not as if the internet is a lawless space, it is only that each country adopts its law differently when it comes to the internet. But instead of a common effort to coordinate the execution of laws on internet cases I see only technical approaches.

The big countries are much more forcing other countries into a common sense, like they did with Switzerland when it came to the interpretation of their local tax laws, when it comes to money. But it seems that the only idea which comes into the mind of politicians when the internet is involved is control.

Does anybody of them ask himself what kind of free world this is where you need control over your compatriots to ensure the law and safety?

[update]
When you really still believe that all these surveillance possibilities will not be used against you one day have a look at the news in Germany: After 9/11 the German Telekom gave millions of customer data without legal basis to the police for dragnet investigation as published on netzpolitik.org and Spiegel Online

Categories
Around the World China

Living on a Construction Site

On Haidian Island in Haikou where I am living they are constructing new buildings all the time. I guess the result will be a complete and modern part of Haikou because the old houses, step by step, have to give place to construction sites.

Unlike in Germany or Europe the chinese companies are not building and decorating a complete building until it is finished but they are building the the structure and normally enter windows and doors and than they are finished for the moment.

When an appartment is sold the new owner has to decorate the appartment, construct walls in the appartment to seperate it into rooms, kitchen and bathroom, lay a floor, make the electricity and so on until the appartment is ready for living.

This proceeding gives the customer the freedom to decorate the appartment exactly as he likes. The disadvantage of this naturally are the living conditions I am living in because as long as there are still undecorated appartments there will be the noise of construction work to finish them.

Here turnes up another habit in China. Unlike people in Europe the workers in China work seven days a week. There is no such thing as free weekend for normal workers. Except for the Spring Festival when the whole China is traveling home for holiday there is the noise of construction around me every day.

I take this as motivation to work nearly every day too 🙂

The good point, specially when you come from Europe, is that you can go shopping every single day in the year and this from the morning to the at least 22:00 and also your favourite restaurant will not have a day off when you choose to eat there which I had often when I thought about having dinner outside on sundays while I was still living in Switzerland 😉

At last I would like to show you an image of the new driving range not far from me with some old barracks still inhabited in the front and the new buildings already in the back.