Tory Leader spins tabloid appeal

Well, time for a departure from American politics and a look closer to home.

At the moment the Conservative party are spewing out vast tracts of nonsense, under the guise of a party conference. It does, however, give an insight into how willing to manipulate the voters they are, and how easily manipulated we actually are.

This is a headline news item which has been in papers and on radio bulletins quite a bit under the headline “Tories ‘to help have-a-go heroes’“:

Measures to help the public and police tackle criminals and end the “walk on by society” have been outlined by shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve.
He told the Conservative Party conference that too many people making “genuine attempts to prevent crime” had been arrested or prosecuted.

Erm, no. Not really true. It is, however, the poster child of the tabloid news papers. For decades we have been hearing urban myths about how a “have a go hero” stepped in to save someone and then got prosecuted. Most of the time, these are just that – urban myths. If you investigate the cited examples, the truth is often very different.

The law of the land is not biased against “have a go heroes” but, quite rightly, punishes vigilante gangs and disproportionate use of force.

Sadly, British journalists are shamefully bad at investigating. The BBC even have an example in their article:

Mr Grieve’s comments came after banker Frank McGarahan died following an attack in Norwich. The 45-year-old intervened when he saw two other people being assaulted in the early hours of Sunday morning, but was himself set upon, suffering fatal head injuries. Police have launched a murder inquiry.

Now, is that relevant? No. Mr McGarahan was not prosecuted by the police. The government did not kill him. Unless this is an example of the BBC showing why it is a bad idea to encourage untrained, unskilled people to pile in, there was no reason to bring it up.

If, however, the BBC are similar to the tabloids, the conflation of statements like this is often done to generate misdirection – the public hear the two, and decide that the government shouldn’t have prosecuted people like Mr McGarahan….

Madness. I am saying this a lot lately. We are a society of lunatics. Worryingly, when you think everyone else in the world is insane it normally means……..

Anyway, pushing that to one side. We get more ludicrous waffle from the tories:

Mr Grieve pledged to “take on the health and safety culture” and the legislation which “is holding officers back and making them more risk averse”.

This defies belief.

Health and safety measures are there to protect people. They are there to stop your employer forcing you to risk your life and limb for your job. They are there to make sure that you can function as a working member of society for as long as possible. It has nothing to do with stopping people from being “risk averse” (and here I suspect the Tories demonstrate a lack of understanding as to what “risk” means).

The Conservatives point to examples like the case of 10-year-old Jordan Lyon, who drowned in May 2007 saving his younger sister.
Two community support officers were at the scene but did not get into the water because they had not received the appropriate training.

What should they have done? Should they have died trying to save the 10-year old? (In which case the 10-year old would have died anyway). Do the tories plan to force everyone to risk their lives on a daily basis?

Note, the 10 year old was not risk averse. He took a risk and died. Should two other lives have been added to the tally? If you are family of Jordan Lyon, the likely answer is yes, but if you were a loved one of the community support officer would you have wanted them dead? Whose life is more important?

It gets funnier though:

The Conservatives want to amend Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure that protecting the public from risk is given priority over the risk to officers.

Interesting. Police officers will no longer be able to risk the life of the public to protect themselves… There go the tasers, armed police, batons, riot shields etc. When someone tries to jump off a balcony, will police have to throw themselves underneath to break the fall?

Still it is a sad day that the lives of our Police officers is now deemed to be less important the lives of our public. This is doubly sad in the case of the Police Community Support Officers(*) who have no powers, are paid appallingly bad wages but still have to sacrifice their lives.

Going back to the tragic Jordan Lyon case, the officers were untrained in how to save someone. If they had been compelled to dive in without knowing what to do, what are the chances they would have saved him? Why is lifesaving a taught skill that comes with a qualification if everyone can do it automatically?

The sad fact is, the manipulative tories have jumped on this bandwagon to stir up an apathetic public. They have made meaningless gestures but grabbed headlines. The tabloids love them and to uncritical thought it sounds great.

Dont you just hate politicians?

It isnt just the tories who are prone to such underhand statements:

But the government said its was already working on the issues the Conservatives had raised, including changes to the law, so people using “reasonable force” to protect themselves could have “greater confidence” they would not be prosecuted.

Political vapourware at its best. This basically says: they are not currently going to be prosecuted but the tabloids and tories make them think they are so we will change a meaningless part of the law so everyone feels better. Argh.

Given the lies of the tories, the emptiness of the Labour party and the pointlessness of the Liberal Democrats is it any wonder voters are apathetic?

(*) I detest the very concept of PCSOs. It strikes me as a nasty way of getting policing on the cheap, while allowing under-trained, under-educated thugs out on to the street with a false idea of their own authority. Spend more money on getting real police out. That would save 99% of the problems with PCSOs. IMHO of course…. 😀

EnRaptured

The makers of the Rapture Ready Index are getting really quite upset about the prospect of Obama’s winning. (Make it so. Please, make it so.)

So upset that they seem to see Obama in a rapture-causing category almost all of his own.

…If Obama should win in November, I plan to issue the most dire warning I’ve ever issued during the history of this ministry.

That will be pretty damn dire then. Isn’t that their whole raison d’etre? Issuing dire warnings? And this will be the most dire.

I admit to being too dumb to understand the whole “dire warnings” thrust of the Index. Aren’t these people counting the minutes until they get raised up to heaven on a big cloud? Is their Index supposed to list bad things or good things, from their perspective?

In fact, if they really believe that an Obama victory will issue in the end of the world, then why are they condemning the “liberal” media for supporting him? Shouldn’t they be welcoming him for supposedly hastening their coming move upstairs?

Why are they supporting the emetic McCain/Palin combo, then?

(Well, not quite. They barely mention McCain. All their hopes seem to be on Palin, who is much scarier even than McCain to my godless self – and quite a threat to moose, wolves and polar bears, too, apparently.)

Of course, they manage to get in a sly insinuation that Obama is a mysteriously secret Muslim. This is utterly confusing, apart from obviously being the worst kind of nonsense, although it seems to be believed by a fair proportion of the people on their chatboards. How can such people both blame Obama for the words of his former Christian pastor and still see him as a Muslim? (Quite apart from their bizarre assumptions that “Muslim” is just a euphemism for “being a suicide bomber” and would self-evidently disqualify anyone from the presidency.) But, again, if they really believe this, shouldn’t they be welcoming it, following what I hesitate to call their logic?

Rapture Ready’s avid enthusiasm for the prospect of the destruction of humanity is expressed perfectly in another disturbing piece on the same page, which complains that the US is stopping the rapture by failing to support Israel:

The perfect prophetic storm is upon this last-time generation. To understand the darkly serious truth of America’s tinkering in the matter of forcing Israel to make human peace with its enemies, we must delve heavily into the relevant prophetic Scriptures.

(If only the US would force Israel to “make human peace.” ) They reckon that America and the UN are interfering in god’s plan for Israel.

…America’s and the Quartet’s (U.S., E.U., U.N., and Russia) attempts to force the making of a Palestinian nation upon land that is Israel’s by divine right.

I’m not going to be too snide about people with absolutely no education in history, let alone modern international politics. These are tough subjects and I am already marvelling that people as mentally challenged as the RR gang can write sentences and use the Internet.

I am going to challenge “god’s plan.” Either their god wants the world to be scourged of us evil humans or he doesn’t. If he does, but is too idle to do it himself, shouldn’t they be welcoming any potential anti-christ figure who fills the bill? If god wants the US to support Israel right into the jaws of Armageddon, why can’t he bloody do it himself?

Look, RR people. I wouldn’t dare suggest you try reading history books or anything. But there are plenty of other holy books that you could take as literally true. You could take the Eddas or the Mabinogion or the Baghavad Gita or the Dao de Jing (however they are spelled.)

I’m not saying that you still couldn’t do serious damage if you believed in any of these books as accurate prophecies but at least the rest of us would get a break for a few centuries while you worked up an appropriately life-destroying worldview.

Church says “Sorry,” believers furious

(I know it was a week ago, but I missed this first time round)

It seems that the Church of England has decided to apologise to Charles Darwin for heaping abuse and disbelief on him in the mid 1800’s. From the Daily Mail [Online version]:

The Church of England will tomorrow [14 Sep 08] officially apologise to Charles Darwin for misunderstanding his theory of evolution.

Wonderful. I know decisions are slow in large organisations but this is a bit weird. It has taken them almost one and a half centuries to decide to say “sorry, we were wrong.” Still, better late than never I suppose. In this instance, it is no better or worse than people apologising for the slave trade. It is just one of those things organisations need to do so they can feel better about themselves.

The Mail article continues:

In a bizarre step, the Church will address its contrition directly to the Victorian scientist himself, even though he died 126 years ago.

Now, this isn’t actually all that bizarre. Well, if you are a Christian anyway. Look at it from the truly faithful’s point of view. Darwin isn’t dead in the secular sense – he is just no longer on the Earth. He is either in Heaven or Hell so an apology to him personally is actually totally appropriate. If you really believe in an afterlife, why cant big old Charlie be reading the Church of England’s newsletter and watching their cermonies. I mean, the man was a minister after all…

As even the most dense of lifeforms could have predicted, such PR stunts dont always attact postive commentary. Take this bit of ironic waffle:

Former Conservative Minister Ann Widdecombe, who left the Church of England to become a Roman Catholic, said: ‘It’s absolutely ludicrous. Why don’t we have the Italians apologising for Pontius Pilate?‘We’ve already apologised for slavery and for the Crusades. When is it all going to stop? It’s insane and makes the Church of England look ridiculous.’

Poor old Ann, it isn’t even a good parallel but then, she is a tory minister so you cant expect too much. The thing that interested me the most, though, was why on Earth should she care? She is no longer CofE – she defected to the evil Catholicism. What makes her opinion on an organisation she spurned remotely valid? (Add to which, that is possibly the LEAST flattering photograph of a living person I have ever seen).

The only good “professional” comment comes from the National Secular Association (no suprise there, then): [Emphasis mine]

‘As well as being much too late, the message strikes me as insincere, as if there is an unspoken “but” behind the text. However, if it means that from now on the Church of England will say “No” to the teaching of creationism in school science lessons, then we would accept the apology on Darwin’s behalf.’

I couldn’t agree more. (continues below the fold) Continue reading

Dumb Belief

Alun posted an excellent link as a comment on heather’s last post. This pointed to an article by Jamie Whyte on the Times Online. Now I am a big fan of Jamie Whyte, so it goes without saying the article is interesting, well written and possibly informative.

The basic crux of it is that people who profess to believe don’t actually believe – rather they go through the motions and pretend to have FAITH in what ever sky faerie they think is the correct one. Jamie argues that, if people really did believe, they would have to act on their crackpottery, but as most people just go about their daily lives in the same manner as an atheist, what belief is there really out there?

As I largely agree with Jamie Whyte on this topic, I won’t go into it any further – however there are some comments on the Times article that really cannot be ignored. 🙂

Take this nugget:

I’m a Catholic. My election vote always goes to the candidate most likely to vote for policies that will save unborn lives. Issues such as health care, education and housing are of little significance if the right to life is not accorded to all human beings at all stages of development.

Julia, Manchester, UK

First off, I have to say “Liar, liar pants on fire” as I very, very much doubt this is from someone who lives in the UK. The terminology used is very much American and relates to US political issues. Lying for Jesus is still lying and this is just a pointless lie as teh intarweb is truly global – who cares where you come from?

More interestingly, from an angry atheist point of view, is the perverted world view it expresses.

“Julia” will base her choices on a government based on how it treats an unborn life. She cares not how badly people who are currently alive are treated, it is the unborn life that means more. Who cares if people are starving to death, dying of hypothermia or falling down with all manner of communicable diseases as long as no fetus is aborted.

How can that not be wrong? (The cynic in me puts this down to a distorted form of capitalism – they actually only want more babies so they have more people to subjugate and take money from).

Moving on, we hit the tired old drivel one comes to expect from poorly educated theists:

First, just because someone calls themself a Christian, does not mean that they are in fact a Christian, Second, do you ‘believe’ or do you ‘wish’ that this column actually has any meaning?….since under an Atheistic world view, we are all here by chance and have no purpose or meaning.
John, USA

I don’t mean to be rude to any American readers, but this strikes me as really being from an American. It is no argument. It is some one who doesn’t understand atheism (at least we have Religious Education classes) and is so brainwashed by Southern Baptism they can;t comprehend an alternative. I am a touch confused where the “meaning” came from – I am sure Jamie Whyte doesn’t care if “John” thinks the column has meaning – although obviously it had enough to get John to respond….

In quick succession we find:

Atheism is the state religion of a decaying culture; the new British state religion. Your column of atheism has every sign of a religious argument. (Religion: “that which is of ultimate importance.”)
Could you imagine a Christian getting a platform such as the one you have; never happen in UK.
kris, Pass,

No, I don’t get it either. I am sure the Church of England, the Church of Scotland, The Church of Wales and the Church of Ireland have their own views on our “state religion” – given that the figure head of the state is head of the Church of England, I could only dream of a day when Atheism was a “state religion” – even if it did contort the brain trying to explain how “atheism” can be a religion. As for the last sentence, the mind boggles. The Times alone has four times as many Christian columnists as atheists ones. There is even a whole section of the Times blogs for “faith” blogs. Sorry kris, but you fail.

It seems Americans just can’t stay away from English newspapers lately:

Why do you care?
Why does it irritate and anger you so much?
Why is it necessary to attack Christianity?
Because you are not sure.
There’s a part of you that wants to believe and you won’t allow it.
That’s very sad.
Roy, Vermont, USA

Erm, no. Why do western Atheists care about, and attack, the insane spreading of Christianity – well, simply because it directly affects our lives. Laws are passed based on Christian doctrine. Taxes are taken from hard working atheists to fund crackpot theists. Both are good reasons to care about Christianity in politics. Still, the ideal counter argument is why, “Roy,” do you care about what an Atheist says? Is it because part of you is not sure? For a BELIEVER that has to hurt. That really is sad.

Next we stray into very volatile territory:

I’m an agnostic and I think unborn children should be protected. It’s not about a soul, it’s the knowledge that once a life has started there is no difference between destroying it ten weeks or ten years later. Interestingly, the foetuses killed in Omagh are included in the tally of those murdered.
Paul Williams, London, UK

“Agnostic” – well, I have commented on that line of weak thinking in the past, but then again Santa may be real, no one has totally proven he isn’t.

Without straying too far into the abortion debate, this has a bit of a flaw. Basically put, it is not an argument against abortion, it is one against all form of contraception – along with being against eating meat, euthanasia etc. In itself these may be fine ideas and some people do agree with them but it is not an “anti-abortion” argument. The question still remains – when does “life” begin. The Omagh death tally is just an irrelevance.

From the almost-arguments we get the predictable Godwining of the thread:

Kant’s Enlightenment could have been his reaction to an overbearingly strict religious upbringing.Despite its “civilizing”
commentary, Kant himself rprtdly delighted at the news of the
French Revolution.Murderous atheistic Communism/Nazism were the major global effects of Enlightenment philosophy.
Joan Moira Peters, Whangarei UK Citizen, temp o/seas in New Zealand

Yada, yada, nonsense. This is such nonsense that I hope anyone reading this blog wont need me to explain.

Things start to go downhill here:

But it’s not just Christians who don’t follow through. Determinists continue to talk as if they were “free” to judge the validity of an argument. And atheists aren’t always the self-interested hedonists one might expect from believers in a meaningless universe with only a darwinian moral compass!
JS, Glasgow, UK

Nope. I am lost. I am not sure of the point trying to be made here and part of me thinks it could be somewhat tongue in cheek, although any reference to “Darwinian” annoys me.

With that, then, I will end my search though the comments. I strongly suggest you take a look and remember the comments read from the bottom of the list up. Some are interesting, some are annoying and lots are just plain crazy!

It is still discrimination

As believers are sometimes noted saying “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” The moral of this story should have been noted by the more than slightly foolish Harriet Harman. Today, the news has been full of her frankly crazy ideas about changing the law. The BBC leads with:

Equality minister Harriet Harman has set out plans to allow firms to discriminate in favour of female and ethnic minority job candidates.

The spectre of positive discrimination raises its ugly head again… Confusingly, this is followed with:

She said firms should be able to choose a woman over a man of equal ability if they wanted to – or vice versa.

I am forced to admit the “vice versa” has me confused a touch, but I will try to come back to that.

The basic principle, as reported on the TV and Radio news, is that Ms Harman is keen to allow employers to discriminate against certain groups of our society. No matter how it is dressed up, discrimination is wrong. It is very wrong that some sectors of the UK workforce are dominated by one gender, one racial group, one religion (or whatever). No one (sane) would disagree with this. However, forcing discrimination in the other direction is not the solution. Nothing is better at creating a divisive society. Nothing undermines the “equal” in equal opportunities more. It is not a good idea.

To make matters worse, like the BBC allude, this is a pretty incoherent policy idea (The BBC have a Q&A that doesn’t really say anything it is that confusing). The comment by the diversity advisor for the CIPD pretty much sums it all up:

Not everyone thinks it will create a fairer workplace.
Some business groups say it could create a box-ticking culture.
“This [proposal] is pretty incoherent. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for this,” said Dianah Worman, diversity adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

It will (and is) provide a massive PR victory for the rightwing pundits who cry that [insert ethnic group/gender of choice] are taking all “our” jobs (and I have never worked out who “us” are..). It will do nothing real to protect vulnerable groups. It is, basically, a perfect example of our current governments legislative policies.

Employers need to be free to chose the most suitable candidate. Most suitable for the job, not the one who is most suited to ensure their workforce is an accurate representation of the wider society. Either the law allows this or it forces an employer to favour one candidate over another based on something other than their ability to do the job.

That is discrimination. That is wrong.

The Irony, It burns…

Don’t you just love “Have Your Say“? What a wonderful place for those without any education, or any concept of the society they live in, to get burning issues off their chest without any fear of being punched in the face.

One of today’s topics is “Should witnesses have the right to anonymity” (link may be dead by the time you read this but it lives in the BBC archives). In a nutshell, the Law Lords upheld a long standing British legal tradition that says you have the right to face your accuser, and now the moaning-right want to abolish it. Ostensibly this is to allow people to give evidence without fear of criminal retribution (which, incidentally already happens and has happened for many, many years).

I think removing this right would be insane. It wouldn’t really help the police as they can already protect a witness under threat, but would allow people to lie without having to suffer the consequences. This is, IMHO, a very bad thing.

Anyway, on HYS there is a healthy mix of reactions. This is good as it means there are sane people out there. Ironically, the pro-anonymity argument seems to wrap itself up in contradictions…

Take this tirade against the law lords for their ruling:

The government is supposed to make the laws in this country, not a bunch of sad, senile old freaks. It’s patently obvious to anyone with an IQ greater than that of a prune that witnesses should be allowed anonymity, otherwise no one in their right mind would ever give evidence against criminal gangs. These idiots should not be allowed to make any more decisions of this kind.

Wow. The elected government (so often the brunt of right-wingers ire) is better a the law than the Law lords? Hmm. I disagree but that is not the issue. From this madness we get on to how the quality of the witness will be determined if the accussed can not challenge them:

The quality of the evidence will be taken into consideration by the judge during the trial. This will determine the validity and the Jury will be directed accordingly.

Wow. Ironic, isn’t it?

No Photo Day 2008

Following my posting yesterday (although I doubt the two are linked), I received a message on flickr today, inviting me to join a group (No Photographs Day / 15.DEC.2008) that read:

All,
We, the photographers of the world, are at risk. More and more we are viewed with suspicion, more and more we are subject to illegal interpretations of new anti-terrorism laws, more and more are we stopped and our cameras, our film, our digital media are either confiscated or wiped by officials unaware of the real laws. More and more are we bullied, more and more are we treated with disrespect and fear.
This needs to stop.
This group is to organize a protest.
This protest will involve attempting to get *every* member of flickr to refrain from uploading *any photographs* on a specific day.
This day will be Monday, December 15th 2008.
Join the group, put it in your diaries, tell your friends, discuss in the group, tell people you know in the media, come together.
Come together before it’s illegal to use a camera in a public place.

Now, I am not yet convinced of the value this action will take, but I rarely see the point in “awareness raising” activities so that is not unusual. However, the group does address something I have begun to become interested in (which is why I have “raised awareness” of it through the medium of blog).

Added to this, it (worryingly) seems there are many groups of people who have had problems in one way or another because of their interest in photography:

Representative or not, it is a sorry state of affairs if people in the “free” civilized societies in the west can not carry out a harmless pastime that has been enjoyed for a hundred years. Wont life be better when we carry our papers round, are stopped at random by non-Police Security / Border Guards, are monitored 24/7, have all our emails sifted through by civil servants, be imprisoned for drawings …

Welcome to the New World Order.

Civic Duty

It seems that not only is the UK full of people too stupid to realise that 42 days detention of innocent people is a BADTHING©™®, but it is also full of people with a weird idea of what to do when something, which is a potential threat to national security, happens.

The second main news item on the BBC now (after the travesty of 42 days) is about the government losing some top secret documents on a train. Now, I am not going to harp on about the irony that a government that wants to intern people for six weeks is staffed by people who can’t look after a document for a sixty minute train journey. That would be too obvious 🙂

What really intrigued me is the actions of the member of public who found the documents. Did they, upon seeing the MOD and Government headers and top secret classifications, go straight to the police and report this heinous breach of national security?(*) No. Did they, on realising a crime had taken place report it to the police? No. Did they, in fact, do anything which could be described as fulfilling their public duty? Not really, no.

What they actually did was give it to the BBC security correspondent. Yes, not just turned up at the BBC and said here you go, they actually made enough arrangements to find out who the BBC security correspondent was (I have no idea and cant be bothered to look it up), then went to the BBC to hand over the documents. Madness.

What sort of world do we live in where 65% of people want innocent people locked up but don’t have the sense of civic duty to hand top secret documents in to the police, preferring to give them to the media….

* Top Secret apparently means “Information and material the unauthorized disclosure of which would cause EXCEPTIONALLY GRAVE DAMAGE to the nation (UK).” (source)

Identity Cards Will Cure All That Ails You

Well, first off, thanks to Alun sending me the link to the monstrously funny site called “spEak You’re bRanes” and the simply amazing Twat O Tron, I no longer have the faintest idea if the garbage posted on the BBC website’s have your say section is even slightly real. Worryingly, I think that the gibberish there is actually posted by real people. I say real people, but now I am convinced they are actually employees of the Home Secretary posting nonsense in a thinly disguised attempt to change public opinion. I would hate to think that people this stupid would be able to use a computer well enough to access the internet.

One of today’s talking points is the prospect of introducing Identity Cards to this once free nation. Weirdly the BBC seems to have used the wrong tense with the title, but it is called “Is the government creating a ‘surveillance society’?” and, boy, has it generated some nonsense.

Take this wonder from “Joy Pattinson” (claiming to be from Switzerland, but that just makes me think it is the Twat o Tron):

I have no confidence in this “government” whatsoever! They are unelected, uncouth and incompetent. But I am for ID cards 100% but think they should include everybody over the age of 12 with so much knife crimes in the UK. ID cards are in focus in other European countries and they are not considered security states. But I prefer to live in on with security and less personal freedom than the other way around. ID card protect the honest and legitimates. Those protesting are suspect! Joy

What? Seriously this idiot is claiming that carrying ID cards will prevent knife crime. How, Zeus only knows. I honestly cant even work out where to begin with this bit of nonsense. And, as a point of note, the Labour Party were elected to power in the UK, it is down to the party to decide on the leader of the government.

“John from Wilts” also produces a strangely “Twat-0-Tron”-esque comment with:

I have 2 ID cards both Spanish. One has my name and address on it and my Spanish NHS number and my fingerprint on the reverse. The 2nd card is my medical card with my NHS number and date of birth. Should I have an accident anywhere in Spain when the card is swiped it gives my doctors name my Consultorio (Surgery) and access to my medical records which would include any time spent in hospital and the treatment recieved. What fuss people make about ID cards here is entirely childish and petty.

Again we have another magical use for ID cards to save lives. Quite why some one from Wiltshire thinks a Spanish health service card is any use to them – or different from carrying your British NHS card – is beyond me. Does the NHS even have a system which would allow this?

Oddly, this wonderful life saving use of ID cards is not one they could be put to – so quite how John From Wilts thinks it is relevant is beyond me. Is this an opening shot in the inevitable mission creep ID cards are going to suffer from?

People who support ID cards have a list of things they think the ID card will protect them from. The fact that none of these match the government claims is ignored. Weirdly, the government itself seems unable to quantify what value ID cards will give to our society. What crimes in the (say) last 10 years would have been prevented by people carrying ID cards?

Still, despite this, there seem to be people capable of at least some higher brain functions who support ID cards.

Why?

Loyalty you just cant buy

What must be the corporate Holy Grail is having a customer base so loyal to your product that it doesn’t matter what you do to them, they will just suck it up, keep paying you and ask for more. Before the Internet, I am not sure I ever encountered any examples of this loyalty, I am not even sure it existed.

As with much of life, the Internet changed everything.

We, consumers, are often subjected to watchdog type programs saying we should stand up and complain about bad service more – and I agree. For too long people have sat in quiet anger while companies have taken advantage of them.

With this in mind, it is ironic how some internet “companies” (for want of a better word) have managed to develop an almost slavish fan base who will defend them from even the slightest criticism.

Take Flickr as an example. Today it is having some massive database problems. It has been playing up for at least the last three hours, maybe longer. This is not the first time it has happened, and every few weeks it has has a few little “hiccups.” For most people, on free accounts, this is just something you would expect to live with – you get what you pay for some might argue (not me but that is another rant).

However, for people who have paid US$25 per year for a pro account things are, I think, quite different. The amount of money paid is not the issue. The fact is Flickr have taken a payment for a service. If they are unable to provide that service then they should be held accountable in the same manner as if it was a US$25,000 a year account. For some people in the world, US$25 is a monstrous amount of money so there is no argument to say it is “cheap” so we should expect a poor service.

Now in the flickr help thread, there is quite a mixed bag of comments (and hundreds of them). Basically though, they fall into some clearly defined camps:

  1. People who are outraged and annoyed with flickr for failing to provide them with a service they have paid for.
  2. People who, for whatever reason, feel the need to defend flickr no matter what.

There are some people who appear “neutral” but they generally make comments that fall into the latter camp, such as:

Get a life [aimed at complaining comments]. And learn that in that life nothing is perfect. Suck it up and be patient. (link)

What a day for this to happen! The day after I signed up , but I must add to the chorus saying, ‘Thank you Kevin for letting us know what’s going on’, there are many many sites out there who would simply leave their users in the dark. (link)

No problem Sir. Thanks for informing us… fail in the system is very normal, because it is created and made by man… very human. Dont worry. Thank you… and take your time (link)

These are not neutral posts – the are basically people who are happy with bad service. I am all for having some tolerance over problems but tolerance is not the same as cheerful acceptance. “Take your time” was too annoying for words. The idea that flickr is great simply because other people wouldn’t tell anyone is nonsense as well.

On the side of the slavish Flickr Fans there is one commenter who really stood out- SF Lights. This person has made dozens of posts basically flaming anyone who complains about the service and then, when people make the inevitable threat to go elsewhere he points out there is no where else to go. Some examples:

Guide [a commenter], you can feel free to leave and go to a more mediocre photo sharing website. (link)

Seriously, learn your facts before posting ignorant crap here. (link)

Byebye Panos, Be sure to upload a video on whichever other great photosharing website you….oh wait, there aren’t any. (link)

He really does come across as annoying. One commenter (Panos) seems to think SF LIghts is flickr staff and I have to say I agree – It is weird to think of a paying customer making authoritative comments like this.

All in all, you have to read the thread to get a full feel for how much the flickr supporters are willing to bend over for this. The idea that their wonderful flickr could ever be at fault seems alien to them. The idea that you should be able to expect a service you have paid for to be fit for purpose seems alien to them.

Just to finish, I actually think this is a trivial fault – it takes about two minutes longer to upload pictures and sometimes you have to refresh a few times to get a page. However, imagine you were in a restaurant and had to order each item of food three of four times… Would you complain? Would you say it was the best restaurant ever?

Cameras and Security

A comment on a recent post, by someone apparently called Video Surveillance, got me thinking about some common misconceptions. In case you are wondering, I the link I munged goes no where of any value – it certainly doesn’t continue the “story” began in the comment.

The odd thing is one of the concepts the commenter (bot?) has brought up. Do video cameras make you safer?

With crime on the rise many people and business are looking for added security.

Well, I agree with this. There is a very strong argument that crime being on the rise is a misleading claim, but the fact is people think crime is on the rise, so they are looking for added security. Sadly, people who are easily misled into thinking crime is on the rise, are also easily misled over how to improve their security.

Video surveillance is one the top ways to improve the security of your belongings and loved ones.

Well, after a good start this amazing claim. Here I strongly disagree. This is the standard “marketing” crap pushed out by people selling woo to the public. Tell them they should be scared, then lie about your product solving their fears.

As with all the best lies, there is an element of truth. As part of a robust security package, video surveillance will improve your overall security, slightly. I am not sure what “top ways” means, but it certainly is not the “best way” or the “most cost effective way.”

Security is a many headed beast, and it will mean different things to different people. The best that can be claimed about video surveillance is that it offers a “deterrent” effect in that people who SEE a CCTV camera may be less inclined to commit a crime because they know the chances of being caught AFTER the event are slightly greater. The same can be said about a robust lock or a big thick door, however. A functioning, real, burglar alarm which is actually responded to is more effective than a CCTV system.

Here we hit a crux of the problem. For CCTV to be anything other an an “after-incident” investigation tool it has to be monitored 24/7 by people capable and willing to respond to an incident within an effective time scale. I could set up the best CCTV system in the world to monitor my house, but if I didn’t lock the door when I went on holiday it would be useless. CCTV is defeated by the simple expedient of wearing a hood – what sort of security system is that. Without monitors and responders it is the most pointless security system (do you really want to watch a video of someone breaking into your house?). With monitors and responders it becomes prohibitively expensive.

All in all, selling CCTV as “security” is tricking fools out of their money. CCTV has value in identifying criminals and will have some deterrent effect but it certainly is not a remotely cost effective method of improving your security.

If you want real, tested, cost effective security advice, my rates are reasonable 🙂

Ebay and pay more

Now, given that this blog has an amazingly technical readership (who often put Heather and me to shame) it will probably come as no surprise to most of you that Ebay is actually a more expensive way of buying things. However, it was a bit of a shock to me.

Today, I was looking around for books on the CISSP course and out of idle curiosity I did a search for CISSP for dummies (yeah, yeah). On ebay today, the cheapest I could find was £13.99 plus £2.75 postage (visit auction page – auction ends 12 May 08 so the link might die).

Compare against Amazon.co.uk where the same book costs £13.49 plus £2.75 postage (here).

Now this is a trivial example, and most people wouldn’t bat an eyelid over saving 50p (I would but that is because no one ever makes donations here and I am poor). However, if we look at it a bit further…

Ebay has the CISSP Exam Cram 2 book available as a Buy It Now for the discounted price of £21.37 plus £2.75 postage. Can Amazon beat that?

Well, yes. On Amazon, the CISSP Exam Cram 2 is £14.99 (postage seems to be a grey area here but I think it will be £2.75). That is no mere £0.50 saving, that is a whopping £6.38.

There is a change in the balance of power over the CISSP all in one exam guide (Ebay, Amazon) where Ebay is actually about £3 cheaper, but by and large you actually pay for the privilege of using Ebay. It strikes me, from talking to all the ebayers I know, that people have a strange attitude towards Ebay. When people go to shop there, the idea of checking prices becomes alien.

For some reason, people seem to get caught in some weird mindset when they are faced with an auction and apparently regularly pay prices close to, or in excess of, the market rate for an item. I have experienced this a bit in the past when I’ve been bidding on cameras or camera parts – I have never won a single auction because almost every one of them has gone over the price you could buy it from a camera shop.

Why on Earth does Ebay have this effect on people? Great for sellers but, methinks, not so good for the buyer…

Faith Blinds

(Old news from the department of simple answers)

My time away has meant that some of the weird and wonderful nonsense over the last few weeks has escaped the harsh light of reality. Take this little blinder posted by Joanna Sugden to the Times Online on 2 May 08.

The article is titled: “Is the Bible science fiction?

Simple answer: “Yes” (Or slight variation: “No, it is fantasy fiction”)

Why is there any need for more debate? Strangely, debate there is… As you can imagine, the article talks about “debate” as to the veracity of Noah’s Ark. It seems that some people over the age of six actually think that two of every species on Earth was crammed into the Ark to survive a world flood. Wonderfully, IMDB list a film about this under “Science Fiction Literature” which I think is a GoodThing™.
Equally great is the predictable response of the loonies.

The first to kick it off is Rick Beekman who is certainly a “person of faith” (and, I suspect with no real evidence, an American):

I believe the story of Noah’s Ark. I also believe all the stories in The Bible.
The ones who don’t believe it are the usual group of scoffers..Atheists..Secular Humanists.Those Who generally think everything has an Explanation based on their worldly but non-spiritual understanding of Events in the Bible they deem “Impossible”.

Word salad. This is nothing but an assertion of his belief with an appeal to ridicule against anyone who disagrees. The unusual capitalisation is always a good sign of a nutjob – I hope he doesn’t have access to firearms. After this start, he continues:

The reason for these stories is to teach we lowly humans what God has done..And what he can and will do.

Scary. I find myself agreeing with the insane. Dear Toutatis save me. Actually, the bit I agree with is the reason of the story. They are not supposed to be factual representations of the past. They are there to “teach” (for want of a better word) people about their belief system. This subtle fact is lost on Rick – despite the fact he worded it in quite a good way, I suppose that was just chance. (Monkeys, typewriters…) Anyway, after a bit more drivel he finishes off:

In Genesis 8 v 4 we read where the Ark rested upon Mt. Ararat as the waters receded.
Sattelite Photos confirm taken in 1972 that something very large is encased in Ice on top of that Mountain.
How could any large Ship get up there unless Water rested it there as The Bible says?

WTF? Seriously, what sort of insane leap of faith is this? How did “something” become a “large ship” in the space of a full stop? Quantum physics be damned! (Why is water capitalised?) Critically, why have none of the ultra rich evangelical groups over the world got a more recent ultra high res photograph to confirm – or just gone there on an expedition? Madness like this gives me a headache.

My faith in human nature is restored by a run of sensible comments, but then Rick returns:

John;
God our Creator can do whatever he pleases. He usually does things to suit his purposes not necessarily for what we think. He knows The end from the beginning. God could have chosen to just let everyone drop dead except the chosen animals etc and of course Noah and his family. There is no human now or past or in the future who is any match for the Wisdom and creator.

Ah the way of the madness runs true in this one. This at least shows there is no science in the bible or in creationism. Basically this is Rick saying he doesn’t care what feeble evidence there is, he knows his Invisible Friend can do things other people can’t. Well done Rick. There are seven year olds kicking themselves in shame at this…

More sensible refutations are made – thank Heimdall for the human race – then someone called CESEELEY chimes up with their own brand of wisdom:

One of the main points of stories like Noah’s Ark is to help one from the Old Testament into the New Testament so that one will learn to walk in the Spirit after being Born Again, Baptized and given the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Ah, here come the erratic capital letters. Wonderful. Still it is all gibberish.

Our bodies were designed by God to be guided by the Holy Spirit. That is what those scripture about the Holy Temple imply.

Eh? Is this going anywhere? This is more drivel – why use 1 word to say something when eight hundred and ninety four will do… Comments on Times Online are moderated so a human actually decided this was relevant enough to the thread to let through (and about 50% of mine get knocked back… hmmm).

If you want to experience the more Abundant Life that Christ promised and have become Born Again and Baptized by immersion, then start taking Roman 12:1-2 seriously in your life so that you can prove what is God’s perfect will for your life as compared to His permissive will.

Ok, I’ll stop here. It doesn’t get any better. It is just a string of meaningless drivel with little relevance to the topic other than it seems to want every one to become a Born Again lunatic. I am a touch confused about his “perfect will” being different from his “permissive will” though…

Not to be out lunatic’d, Rick returns:

To All;
Seems I am the only one on this thread who believes the Story of Noah And His Ark.

God, I hope so…

I guess God Really did’nt ask Adam to name all the animals Either..(Genesis 2 verses 19 & 20).

Well done for taking a step in the right direction. Why did God let Adam name the echnida such a bloody awkward name? Oh right, he didn’t because Adam would never have seen one..

According to the “Experts” on this thread there is no possible way God could have brought all the animals to Adam from all over so Adam could name them.

Erm, yep. See, after a while everyone starts to agree with the lunatics.

Another one has stated the story of the flood is a Babylonian myth.

Yes, some one did state that. I thought they were being charitable instead of just calling Rick insane. Obviously Rick just likes using words, because he doesn’t even try to refute the claims any more – he just repeats them. He does, however, save the best till last:

I Just Wanted All Of You To Know All Of You Are Dead Wrong…But the Good News Is I’m Not Upset And Love All Of You!!

Wonderful. Don’t you just love the shift key… How would we spot lunatics without it.

If it doesnt work, keep trying

(From the department of tastelessly picking on the distraught and clueless)

The ever comical Sunday Times has picked up on Kate McCann showing that, despite all the evidence of human history and the immediate evidence of the last year of her life, she still has faith…

In an article titled “‘Pray like mad,’ begs tearful Kate McCann” she apparently broke down in tears at a church and urged the congregation to pray for her daughter’s return. Now, I haven’t lived on another planet this last year, so I am aware that barely has a week gone by without something from the McCann PR Machine alternately proclaiming their innocence while begging everyone pray for the return of Maddie. It is a regular occurrence.

Despite all this, despite the prayers of almost every Christian (and lots of other faiths), despite the intercession of the Pope himself, Maddie McCann is not back.

What does this tell us? For the rational it is obvious. Prayer does not work. I am sure most sane people did not need the McCann tragedy to realise that, the evidence of cripples is a good start. The same is not true of the “faithful.” These seems to be a batch of people who will deliberately fight against the evidence of their senses. For them, a years worth of praying hasn’t worked just means “pray more” and “pray harder.” Is God deaf? Has old age made him hard of hearing? Does he have a Prayer-ometer and he only acts when it gets to a certain level?

On a more general note, maybe the McCanns just have it wrong. Millions of children die or go missing the world over. Why should God listen to their selfish whining for more prayers over the prayers of (insert random other child here)?

Still, it isn’t just their belief in magic that seems weird to the sane. Look at this:

In an interview before the anniversary the couple revealed they had been given
new hope in the search by the “massive” response to their appeal for fresh
information last week.

Their team of private investigators are combing hundreds of recorded calls and
e-mails for further leads.

Gerry said: “The lines have been overwhelmed; we’ve had to call additional
operators in.

What? Despite this massive response and huge amount of expenditure (they are approaching the financial turn over of a reasonable company now), they are no closer to catching the killer than they were a year ago. They spend more money on private eyes (and mediums but that is another story) than a normal police force. Yet they are still no closer.

Kate recently viewed footage from last year and said she could not recognise
herself.

Yeah, interesting. I wonder if coaching has anything to do with it.

The ultimate irony of this latest round of the McCann media train returns once more to poor old Robert Murat. Before you read on, remember the McCanns have a huge legal defence fund and are willing to sue at the slightest hint that they may have been involved…

Brian Kennedy, the home improvements tycoon backing the McCanns, admitted
yesterday that he flew to Portugal last November and spent an evening with
Robert Murat, apart from the McCanns the only other official suspect. A
source close to Kennedy said he was “gathering information”.

Kennedy’s lawyer, Ed Smethurst, approached Murat through a mutual friend and
said that Kennedy wanted to offer him a job.

But the job offer never transpired. Kennedy spent the evening with Murat and
his lawyers at his aunt’s house in Praia da Luz, discussing Madeleine’s
disappearance.

He left with a “flea in his ear” after being confronted over reports that
Metodo 3, the McCanns’ private investigators, had suspicions about Murat.

By Thor’s ear! The Portuguese police suspicions of the McCanns aren’t enough to avoid a court case, but a PI having “suspicions” is enough to get a rich financier to stage a fake interview so he can put a “flea in the ear” of someone who has less evidence against him than the McCanns.

Wrong. This is just plain wrong. Who said money can’t buy you justice.

Preach the Controversy…

The nonsense, and false controversy, created by Expelled just seems to never want to go away. In this respect the Discovery Institute really hit on to a winner with what could best be described as a poor first attempt by an art student film. Atheist and science blogs have been discussing the nonsense for what seems like eternity. I cant imagine how anyone could even begin to pay for this amount of publicity but there you go. Sadly, I actually feel that all this furore around the crap film is actually required.

Gorilla's EyesOnce upon a time I was optimistic about the human race. In this mindset I would have thought to myself “everyone seeing this film will realise it is total bullshit and ignore it.” I have, sadly, learned to think differently. When nonsense is placed into the public domain it can be either challenged or ignored. By challenging it the nonsense rises to the status of “controversy” and there is (in the public mind at least) the concept of a debate taking place. By ignoring it, the unthinking public begin to think it has merit and it slowly becomes an accepted “truth.” It really is a lose:lose situation for rational science. I can not think of a way to avoid the nonsense taking over the Earth, but at least, where I can, I will try to challenge it.

With this in mind, I came across a gorgeous picture of an American church on flickr. This is a very attractive picture so please, take a moment to visit and have a look – if you have a flickr account, please let the photographer know what you think of the picture (and he has a pretty good photostream).

It all went downhill, however, when I read the description of the picture.

Freedom of thought and expression are two of the most basic tenants of any free society.
Without those two things, you do not have a free society.

Well, I pretty much agree. They may well not be the most basic tenets of society but freedom of expression is very important. On a pedantic note, I cant see how (realistically) you can take away someone’s freedom of thought until mind-reading becomes commonplace.

We went to a must see movie this weekend. In Ben Stein’s (“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”) new documentary movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed Ben shows how little academic freedom exists in our universities if you want to discuss unpopular topics like the origins of life. (links removed here but intact on the original)

Ouch. And he had got off to such a good start. Notice how this brings in the Creationist stand-by of creating the false associations with “academic freedom” and “unpopular topics”? Creationism / ID relies on trickery to convince the unthinking that it is a legitimate “alternative” and some secret cabal are trying to repress it. The “freedom” word is thrown around whenever someone tries to point out is not science to the extent that the average non-scientist actually thinks it is an oppressed viewpoint. Amazing really.

Much of the academic world thinks that the conversation should be closed because Darwinian Evolution has answered all of those questions… But, is that true????

Another creationist gem. This is a great question because it is massively false. No scientist, especially evolutionary biologists, think the conversation should be closed. That is the claim made by the creationists. However, this 180 degree spin goes a long way to masking that.

If you do not think that is true as a professor, get ready to loose you job. Yes, that politically incorrect thought has been banned in the university… I thought the university was a place of open discussion and thought???? Think again…

And here is the first falsehood. No professor who thinks the question about origins of species is not closed would lose their job. A professor who is so confused about their subject area as to think Creationism is an “alternative” to evolution should lose their job in the same manner that a physics professor who thinks the luminiferous ether exists, and propagates light, should lose their job. Imagine a woodwork teacher who thought you could cut would with butter, should he remain teaching? No. But not because “politically incorrect thought has been banned.”

Further on, as part of a short debate, the photographer comments:

You are exactly what the movie was talking about… you just to creationism the moment that intelligent design is brought up…
and you assume that all tenants of darwinian evolution are true..
and you think they are well defined….
Darwinian evolition is a mess… It is not science in the least…

More weirdness. Creationism is ID. No one assumes all the tenets of “Darwinian Evolution” are true, no one even assumes all the “tenets” of Evolution are true. That is not what science is about. The odd bit is the claim that Evolution is not science… I really struggle to get my head round the idea that people can honestly think Creationism Intelligent Design is “good science” compared to evolution. Where is the falsifiability? Where are the predictions?

After a while others join in the debate with things like this (from an otherwise reasonable person):

All that said, Wayne I completely agree that the way the discussion is silenced in academia is shameful. When scientist trot out the “earth is flat” idea they forget that at one time “scientiist” accepted that idea too. In other words, the commonly accepted “facts” might be wrong.

Argh. Do people honestly think that the academic world should engage in constant debate over all possible alternatives to a scientific theory? When did scientists EVER think the world was flat?

The last point I want to make before I remind everyone to go and look at the picture themselves is based on this:

We know from the second law of thermodynamics (entropy) www.entropylaw.com/ stuff always breaks down and degrades…. macro evoution requires more information to be added to produce more complex things…. second law of thermodynamics directly contratics that…. btw.. this is a law… meaning it always happen… not a theory like evolution…

Ouch. That good old standby the 2nd law. Obviously the Earth lives in isolation from the rest of the universe and no information (energy) can be added. Damn that Sun…

The best bit is the Law / Theory nonsense. Do people really not understand how the words work? Obviously not, because when challenged on the matter, our creationist photographer responded:

With all due respect, you are wrong about scientific law and theory.
You can read here science.kennesaw.edu/~rmatson/3380theory.html and a million other places…

Argh. Such madness, especially as the link doesn’t really support his claim but I will leave it as an exercise to the reader to try an educate him.

Please, take a moment to visit the Flickr photo page. It is a nice picture and the more sensible, reasonable and educational comments he get, the greater the chance he (or others) will learn something. If the nonsense is ignored, then the nonsense prospers.