Friday, March 22, 2013

Dianetics Pays For Its Own Bad Publicity


From out of the blue, the Dianetics drones started sending me spam. It turns out that they bought an email list from "Database Solutions", whose owner Andy Quinan should know better, since he knows a lot about the Direct Marketing Association's "Do Not Contact" list. My email address has been on that list for many years, so he clearly should not have sold my address to anyone.
What he failed to mention to his client is that by taking their money he was violating the DMA's code of conduct, as well as exposing them to legal liability by repeated violations of the ECT Act. Furthermore, he failed to advise them of the bad publicity they would expose themselves to by annoying the public with their spam drivel.
When I pointed this our to the Dianetics receptionist in Kensington, she said they could do with any publicity (good or bad) raised by this blog. So here it is. I'd hate to disappoint them. After all, can you really trust an organisation that buys mailing lists from disreputable marketers in order to flood the mailboxes of the general public with marketing rubbish? That puts them at the same despicable level as the greedy con artists who sell "Viagra" or "Penis Enlargement Pills" or "Low Interest Loans" via email.
Can you trust the sales pitch of a marketer who knowingly sells bad data? Furthermore, how can you trust an organisation with an existing reputation for hard sell and misleading marketing (such as the Dianetics/Scientology folks). It seems that these marketing types just have no ethical or common sense boundaries. If they can't understand that most email users find spam marketing both annoying and despicable, then they need a reality check. DUH!

Update: Andy Quinan said he got the list from "Brownstone", but they have sent me spam before. This is getting more incestuous by the minute.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A Call to Cryptographic Arms

"This book is not a manifesto. There is not time for that. This book is a warning.
"The world is not sliding, but galloping into a new transnational dystopia. This development has not been properly recognized outside of national security circles. It has been hidden by secrecy, complexity and scale. The internet, our greatest tool of emancipation, has been transformed into the most dangerous facilitator of totalitarianism we have ever seen. The internet is a threat to human civilization.
"These transformations have come about silently, because those who know what is going on work in the global surveillance industry and have no incentives to speak out. Left to its own trajectory, within a few years, global civilization will be a postmodern surveillance dystopia, from which escape for all but the most skilled individuals will be impossible. In fact, we may already be there.
"While many writers have considered what the internet means for global civilization, they are wrong. They are wrong because they do not have the sense of perspective that direct experience brings. They are wrong because they have never met the enemy.
"No description of the world survives first contact with the enemy.
"We have met the enemy.
"Over the last six years WikiLeaks has had conflicts with nearly every powerful state. We know the new surveillance state from an insider’s perspective, because we have plumbed its secrets. We know it from a combatant’s perspective, because we have had to protect our people, our finances and our sources from it. We know it from a global perspective, because we have people, assets and information in nearly every country. We know it from the perspective of time, because we have been fighting this phenomenon for years and have seen it double and spread, again and again. It is an invasive parasite, growing fat off societies that merge with the internet. It is rolling over the planet, infecting all states and peoples before it."

Extract from the introduction to Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet, published 2012 by OR Books. You need to read it and act if you want to stay free on the internet.
Update: The book is now also available in Audiobook format from Audible.com and Audible.co.uk. However, it would appear to be an edited version of the follwing two videos. So if you have the spare 4 hours to watch the videos, you don't need to buy the (audio)book.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Enough Pope-Sniping Already!

Pope Francis I on Argentina’s push for gay marriage: 'Let's not be naive, we're not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.' New pope, same old attitudes.” - Daily Maverick newsletter
Don't you just hate it when secular journalists attack religious institutions in the name of political correctness? All those barbed comments about the Pope being "old fashioned" because he opposes same-sex marriage? Often these comments come from the same people who sidestep the issue of our President's many wives and illegitimate children. Such hypocrisy!
FWIW, I am not a Roman Catholic; I am a Christian, and a member of a non-denominational Christian congregation. I made my marriage vows in a Christian church, and I regard marriage as a religious institution, not a civil one. So I find it repulsive when secular society tries to dictate to me what my church can and can't do when it comes to marriage vows. Why should secular society dictate to the church that it may not refuse to perform a marriage ceremony for same-sex couples? Has secular society ever read or understood the vows made in a marriage service?
Most secular society condemns incest and rape, but is largely silent on infidelity and extra-marital affairs, including sex before marriage. So it obviously doesn't regard marriage as a viable institution, and thus condones divorce for almost any reason. It's not surprising then that secular society doesn't have much of a problem with same-sex marriage, since it takes marriage so lightly anyway.
On the other hand, the Judeo-Christian understanding of marriage is completely different: marriage is a covenant entered into between a man and a woman with the specific intent of creating a safe environment to raise children. It is a life-long undertaking because children need full-time parents to nurture and support them. Children and parents need grandparents to help and guide them; and uncles and aunts and cousins to provide a secure social environment. Families need a caring community to provide support and security, where children can grow and learn and develop. This includes schools, churches and other social structures.
I thought all of this was obvious, but apparently civil society (which includes journalists) have decided differently. They have decided it is OK for couples to screw around, inside and outside of marriage, and to hell with the consequences. Abortion is permissible if not encouraged; pornography and adult movies are ok in private; gay sex is ok, even at a young age, as long as it is consensual. It's inevitable and logical to allow incest and rape too. After all, there are plenty of movies and erotic literature that celebrate, if not glorify, it. Popular music has song after song that glorifies licentiousness, lust, fornication, etc. We don't even notice how permissive, bent or risqué the lyrics are.
The Roman Catholic Church has been plagued by scandals involving priests who molested under-age children. What about priests who molest grown-ups? The outrage just vanishes, because gay sex is OK, and straight sex is fine. The outrage is more about the "cover-up" than the act itself.
Isn't it inevitable that anyone who opposes "gay rights" is therefore subject to bitter attacks, if not downright character-assassination? People involved in ministry to those with issues of sexual brokenness have received death threats, been ostracized, vilified or attacked in public. Psychologists or counselors who regard lesbian or homosexual behavior as morally wrong have been expelled from (secular) professional bodies or had their credentials revoked. So much for human rights and/or morality.
I'm not saying the church is above criticism: it isn't. But sometimes the source of the criticism is worse than the criticism itself. What does a cynical pagan know about the covenant of marriage? What gives him/her the right to criticise a system he/she will never be part of, whether it changes or not? Why should I listen to people outside the church pontificate on what the church should be like? I'm tired of our modern double standards:
  • Senators and politicians talking about morality, but only when it applies to others; 
  • Journalists who drool over the doings and screwings of business, music and movie stars, but who express outrage over the same behavior by political or religious leaders; 
  • Gun advocates who glorify war (and shooting their neighbours) yet claim to be responsible citizens;
  • Parents who complain about our declining society, yet allow their children to watch sex and violence on TV and in movies, and enjoy it themselves as "entertainment";
  • Banks who pay massive bonuses to employees when they make outrageous profits, yet won't lend money to small businesses when they need to grow;
  • Laws that punish prostitutes, but not their clients;
  • A legal system that requires witnesses to take an oath, but allows lawyers to lie and twist the truth with impunity;
The list is endless. The consequences are obvious and everywhere to see.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Post Office Strike: Consumers Strike Back


I understand that workers demand a "living wage" and that many workers in South Africa are exploited. But it seems to me that the trades unions are being shortsighted when it comes to the Post Office. Snail mail is a declining service, and as soon as it becomes unreliable consumers and businesses look for alternatives.
In the case of snail mail, the answer is obvious: use email, or a fax. Most of my monthly invoices arrive by email, and this week I added another one. So I really don't care if the Post Office can't deliver letters any more: I seldom get any. The only stuff I pay for that arrives by post is Noseweek and National Geographic. And Noseweek is looking into the possibility of using a delivery method other than mail. After all, City Press is delivered every Sunday without relying on the Post Office. Why not use them?
I already have a dual subscription, so I can read the news online, or in print, and I usually check out the most interesting articles online before the print edition arrives. So my advice to the postal unions is this: if you want the Post Office to stay in business, don't disrupt the delivery of mail. There are plenty of alternatives, including courier services, for letters and packages to be delivered. Your workers have stolen plenty of packages from Amazon.com and elsewhere, that quite frankly I'll be quite happy to use a more reliable alternative, such as Postnet, if push comes to shove.
The problem is this: trade union leaders and organizers do not lose their jobs when workers get retrenched after a strike. Perhaps if they did, the pre-strike negotiations would be more about workers and less about scoring political points.

Update Sunday 24th March: Today's Sunday Times newspaper claims that the CEO of the Post Office was chosen by the boyfriend of the Minister of Communications: one of those "jobs for pals" posts that works so well in the real world. In the meantime we have not had a letter or magazine delivered for around 8 weeks already.
Update Thursday 4th April: Hooray! First letters delivered in 9 weeks. Only 3 letters mind you, but it's a start. I reckon that The Post Office should be asking Sanral for volunteers from all those empty eToll shops around Gauteng. Without the Postal Service they are never going to be able to get their eToll invoices out.
Update Friday 17th May: Just received 3 National Geographics and 2 Noseweeks (but not the current ones) and a letter from Discovery dated 27th February. So our postal delivery appears to be weekly, with a delivery time of around 2-3 months. Mmm ...

Warning: The NSA and 4 million other sick weirdos with "security clearance" have intercepted this page and know that you are reading it.