UK Culture Secretary Fails Internet

In a terrible indictment on the UK government, Andy Burnham (Culture Secretary) demonstrates some fundamental gaps in his knowledge of both the mystical internet and what freedom of speech means.

From the BBC:

Film-style age ratings could be applied to websites to protect children from harmful and offensive material, Culture Secretary Andy Burnham has said.
Mr Burnham told the Daily Telegraph the government was looking at a number of possible new internet safeguards.
He said some content, such as clips of beheadings, was unacceptable and new standards of decency were needed.

Briefly defending him, Mr Burnham has only suggested it as an option. But that is as far as my charity will go.

First things first. Film style age ratings do not “protect” anyone from anything. Browser based implementations (such as blocking your browser from viewing certain ratings) would prevent people from seeing “offensive” material but that is a different matter. Film style age ratings are far from 100% successful in stopping people seeing offensive films (have you seen Mama Mia?) and they are only moderately sucessful in stopping people seeing age-inappropriate content. Why would they work on the internet?

Despite being culture secretary, Mr Burnham appears unaware that the internet is global in nature. This website is written by British people, hosted on a German server and has 60% of its traffic from the USA. Who gets to say what is, or isnt, appropriate here? Harmful content is very culture-specific and by its nature, the internet skips over these boundaries. Do we censor information that the Iranians find offensive? Or the North Koreans? Or southern-US Baptists? Who gets to choose what is harmful? What gives that person the right to say to me what is harmful for my children?

There are some common standards that could be applied, but I suspect there are less of these than Mr Burnham thinks there are. Some cultures think it is acceptable for people to watch criminals being executed, others don’t. Supporters of capital punishment talk about the death of the criminal serving as a deterrent to others. This only works if others know of the death, which is why most executions of this nature are public. Is it harmful (in this context) for people to see the punishment carried out? It is “harmful” in the eyes of a culture that does not condone the death penalty, but why should that culture control the internet?

One thing that screamed out at me was the idea that a video clip of a beheading was unacceptable, rather than the beheading itself… But, in my charitable mood that might have just been a turn of phrase.

The madness continues:

[Mr Burnham] also plans to negotiate with the US on drawing up international rules for English language websites.

Wow. So the UK and US will make a pact that dictates the rules for Australian websites? That sounds fair. What about Iranian websites translated into English? This is mind-numbing madness. Hopefully the US government is technologically literate enough to tell Mr Burnham to boil his head for a few hours. Equally, most video clips showing beheadings are on foreign language websites. What control does the US have over them (short of invading, although admittedly the US rarely stops short of that…).

“Leaving your child for two hours completely unregulated on the internet is not something you can do,” he told the Telegraph.

Another bit of madness. The internet is not a parent. It is not even a child minder. Parents need to be able to educate and assist their children, not rely on badly-thought out “ratings schemes.” Parents need to sit with their child as they surf the internet. Its like anything children do – if you abandon your child to do it, you have no control over what they do. You may think you have some say, but you dont. Take the ratings scheme: most children who are able to surf un-assisted will be able to change web-browers to one that ignores the ratings. Or better still, will be able to enter a URL without a .uk or .com ending where the UK/US RULE is ignored. Technologically backward parents will not be able to implement a control to prevent the child switching to [Lynx|Amaya|Chrome|Opera|FireFox|Mozilla|Safari|Etc]. Does Mr Burnham think every browser coder will be willing to implement a strong age-ratings control without new ones spawning up? Is he that foolish?

The final bit of oddness is: [Emphasis mine]

He went on to say it was time to review the accessibility of certain content on the internet and insisted he was not trying to curb free speech.
His plans are likely to anger those who advocate the freedom of the worldwide web.
You can still view content on the internet which I would say is unacceptable. You can view a beheading,” he said.
“This is not a campaign against free speech, far from it, it is simply there is a wider public interest at stake when it involves harm to other people.”

For a culture secretary, Mr Burnham is woefully ignorant of what “freedom of speech” means. Personally I am opposed to beheading people. I find the death penalty for any crime offensive. Not everyone shares my opinion and, as a result, there are websites where you can read about executions. There are even websites that support the death penalty. I would say they were unacceptable. Does that mean they should be blocked from your browser? No, it means I shouldn’t view them. If I find something offensive, then I shouldn’t look at it. With my children, I sit with them to educate them about what they see. Should I accept your view of what is acceptable for them?

Despite what Mr Burnham says, freedom of speech is not about being free to say things that he (or anyone else) finds acceptable. I find political diatribes offensive and I find religious websites offensive. Will Mr Burnham have them removed? Or would that be a violation of the concept of Freedom of Speech? (I suspect the answer is yes)

The world is full of things which people will find offensive. I find children dying of hunger in Africa unacceptable. Does that mean we ban video clips of it (there go those Oxfam adverts) or does it mean we try to prevent it happening in the first place?

Mr Burnham is right to be offended by the video clips of beheadings. So why dont we prevent the beheadings?

I am sorry, Mr Burnham. As culture secretary you fail.

Die in a hail of gunfire

Who would have thought it, eh? Some crazy people have jumped on the Mumbai Massacre bandwagon to espouse their crazy ideas. Amazing…

Disappointingly predictably, certain individuals are using the massacre to promote their own crazy agendas. On the “Cybercast News Service” yesterday there was an article in which it was claimed that the killings would have been prevented if India didn’t have such strict gun laws:

India’s strict gun laws are partly to blame for the success of the terrorist attack in Mumbai, according to the head of an Indian gun rights group and a U.S. expert who has examined the impact of gun laws on crime and terrorism.

Abhijeet Singh, founder of Indians for Guns, told CNSNews.com Tuesday that if the citizens of Mumbai had been allowed to carry guns, terrorists would not have killed as many people as they did–and might have been deterred from attacking in the first place.

Wow. It still surprises me a little that people can (with apparent seriousness) claim that if everyone had guns, there would be less gunfights. I can see an element of appealing logic, although it flies counter to the current anti-knife crime campaign we have in the UK, which seems to be working. The idea hangs on the fact that Terrorist X wont carry out an attack because if they do, the people they attack will be able to return fire and kill them.

Flawed logic.

First off – if this was true, soldiers wouldn’t be attacked. Islamic terrorists are reasonably prepared to die in the course of their actions, so the return fire is not a deterrent. Equally, even if everyone is carrying guns, the terrorists still have the huge advantage of being the attacker. A crowd of people goin about their daily business is in no state to drop to cover and return handgun fire when they are ambushed by assault rifles. The terrorist has the initiative, dictates where and when the attack will happen and can still kill large numbers before fire is returned with sufficient effect to defeat them.

Another line of reasoning was that if the public had all been armed, the terrorists would have killed a few, then the return fire would have got them – reducing the overall casualty figures.

Wrong, but less flawed. Most people are not combat trained. Despite all the range time gun-lovers carry out, despite all the films they watch, and magazines they read, combat shooting is something very, very different. Battle inoculation is so important that soldiers undergo it so they can experience what being under fire is like – hopefully to reduce the chance they will fuck up when the time comes to fight. Even with all this, and months of specialist training, soldiers make mistakes in the heat of battle. Some people will panic and shoot randomly, some will miss, some will be good shots but poor at target identification. The potential for carnage is beyond belief. The only thing you could hope for is that the terrorist would be just as shocked by the bullets flying in every direction they’d panic and fuck up as well. The problem is terrorists have often been to training camps, where they are taught what it is like…

The whole idea is insane and creates a wonderful scenario for any budding terrorist planners.

Imagine the scene: A shopping mall filled with several hundred armed people going about their daily business. One armed terrorist, dressed like everyone else, walks into the mall and opens fire, dashes to cover, fires again and lies low. The crowd are under fire. Everyone draws their guns and shoots in the direction they think the attack is coming from… At this point, the mall is filled with people seeing other people pointing guns at them. In the ensuing carnage there is only a moderate chance the terrorist will actually get killed, if he has any sense he could easily lie low enough to avoid being hit. Better still, when the security forces arrive, they are faced with how ever many survivors there are, all shooting at each other – how do they decide who to take out?

It is pure madness. Is this really the scenario these people want, or do they think all the members of the public will do cowboy style quick-draws, drop to one knee and double tap the terrorists in the head? By Zeus, the madness makes my eyes water.

Guns do not keep you safe. They do not stop people shooting you. At best they give you the chance to shoot back, but a holstered gun is useless. Carrying a gun makes you a target for everyone else with a gun.  Carrying a gun, at best, gives you a false sense of security.

As ever, the comments for the CNS article are a fertile ground of madness. Some of the more, erm, entertaining ones:

Quote: “Distributing weapons to general public is not the wise and right idea to counter the terrorism.” Hmm, that’s funny, the citizens of Israel found the exact opposite to be true. You think maybe they might have some experience in the matter? Here in Michigan, USA, I carry a loaded pistol every day, everywhere I go. Nothing unusual, just normal everyday business. It’s nice to feel like a citizen instead of a subject.

Erm, no.

I, for one, have had a gun put to my head. I was lucky to have survived. I have vowed to never go through this again without a fight. Dispite my handing over everything to the robber, he still shot at me, but missed, thank God. I can’t carry at a bar, but look how many people are assulted leaving the bar to go to their car. Where would my pistol be? Locked in my car. Big help, isn’t it! I would like to see just one time where a person with a carry permit has gone on a shooting spree in a church, school, sports arena, or entertainment facility with a capacity of 2500 people plus, as these are the places Michigan law forbids my having my weapon with me at. Note! I can carry in a church with the permission of the church. It looks to me like none of the Government Law Makers or any of their families or friends have ever been assulted, so they don’t know what it is like. I suggest they get their heads out of the sand, look at reality and come up with laws that are reaistic.

God and Guns – dont they go together well… This person misses the whole point, but it isnt surprising really. I have been shot at, I have had mortars fired at me, I have had petrol bombs thrown at me by rioters. I was carrying a gun at the time and it didn’t help at all. This person doesn’t want protection, they want to be able to shoot the robber, after they have been robbed. Wonderful escalation that will result in the robber just shooting them first. I defy anyone in the real world to draw a gun and kill an attacker who has a loaded weapon drawn and pointed at them.

Armed,law abiding, citizens protect a nation and its people. But, an unarmed population is at the mercy of their own government, home grown thugs and terrorists as well as invaders from outside their country. Gandhi was right on!!! A realistic pacifist knows that force is the only way to meet force in the end. “If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun.” — The Dalai Lama, (May 15, 2001, The Seattle Times) speaking at the “Educating Heart Summit” in Portland, Oregon, when asked by a girl how to react when a shooter takes aim at a classmate

Well, while it may be true that “armed, law abiding citizens” protect a nation, they are called “soldiers.” Having every citizen armed is certainly not the same thing and does not protect a nation. An armed population is just as at the mercy of its government as an unarmed one. The realistic pacifist mentioned is not a pacifist, pretty much by definition. Self defence is important but if carrying a gun is not defence. A weapon is designed to be used to attack someone. Armour and a Sheild were defence, the sword was the offensive weapon. In modern times the gun is there for offensive activity. If you want to defend yourself, buy a kevlar vest and helmet. Yes, a good (military) defence is a good offence – however that does not carry over to every day life – unless you shoot all passers-by just in case.

If you are so scared that you feel the need to have a gun tucked inside your pants, fine – as long as you dont draw it anywhere near me, I don’t mind. Just remember though, that now you have a gun you are a threat to everyone around you who doesn’t know you. How do they know that you aren’t a screaming madman about to go on a killing rampage? What if you look at them a bit funny and they think its time for the offensive-defence…

Personally, even having been to most of the worlds war-zones, I’d rather not carry a gun.

Have your hate

I suspect the Twat-O-Tron has been at work on the BBC’s Have Your Say (HYS) pages once more. One of todays “discussion” topics is Should immigration be cut because of the downturn? As you can imagine, this sort of thing really does bring the spiteful, uneducated, masses out of the dark, hate-filled world they normally hide in.

As always, a second-rate politician has found a topic they can grand-stand on, which appeals to the base instincts of the public:

The economic downturn will mean fewer people from outside the European Union are allowed to live and work in Britain, the UK Immigration Minister Phil Woolas has suggested.
Mr Woolas told the Times newspaper that in times of economic difficulty, racial stereotyping gets stronger so jobs should go primarily to those who live here.
He said when people were losing their jobs, immigration had become an extremely thorny issue.
Mr Woolas said the government would not allow the population to go up to 70 million.

I doubt more than a handful of people outside his constituency had heard of Mr Woolas before this, but he has achieved his goal. His “inspiring” comments have drawn quite a bit of attention to him.

Predictably, at the time of writing anyway, the weight of comments on HYS is in support of this madness. It seems that people have an arbitrary idea of what means someone is “British” enough to be here. On its own, this is bizarre enough but it seems there is a new version of logic available to these people. Each of these seem to fall into a theme.

The first is made up from people who are slightly misled:

UK Government must respond to the changing economic situation by making drastic cuts in the non EU workers coming to work and live in UK.With recession knocking on our doors resulting in job losses and increase in unemployment it will be folley to allow the immigration at the present level. Immigration must be restricted to needed skilled workers only. [By the miracle of irony, this comment was from “Mohan Lal Ramchandani, Westhoughton, United Kingdom”]

Non-EU migrant workers are, despite scare-mongering stories, few and far between in the UK. There are already regulations in place to restrict this migration to skilled workers, which is why the non-EU migrants tend to be in highly specialised professions (Doctors for example). Now, as with all things, the jobs are open to everyone – if British doctors are either unable to take the job, or unwilling to work at the market rate, then why on Odin’s Earth shouldn’t non-EU immigrants do the work?

Worryingly for non-xenophobic lunatics, the jobs lost in the recession are always certainly going to hit “British” workers before they hit migrants; the migrants are already paid peanuts. This will provide an arsenal of madness for the xenophobes and it is worrying that the Immigration Minister didn’t think before he spoke. Well done HM Government.

The next category is the weird, irrelevant, analogy:

At last. Well done for your comments hear. This country could easily be swamped by immigration. The world population is spiralling out of control.
In the Ciaro area for example, there are more than 1.5 million every year, and there is no way enough jobs can be created, despite Egypt’s economic growth.
Rubbish just piles up in the streets, alongside dead animals and roaming packs of unempoyed young men. A worrying vision for a future UK city? [Phil, Enfield]

Typo’s aside, this madness. I have been Cairo and it looked very different to that. However, even if “Phil” was 100% accurate it carries a huge so what. London is not Cairo. The differences are immense, even if UK councils have gone down the road of less and less frequent rubbish collection…

The inevitable empty rant also has its place:

I just cant express my anger at the way in which New Labour have allowed immigration to run riot over the last 11 years in only 500 words.
To announce a cap on immigration now, after the NHS and almost every other public body in the country have been saying for years that they cant cope with the current influx beggars belief, and I just dont believe that they will have the strength to stand up to the namby pamby lefties who put the needs of foreigners before those of brits.
Shut the door today [Downingstreet Mole, Leominster, United Kingdom]

Basically, this is someone who is just plain angry. They don’t really have anything to say and there is no coherent argument. They just wanted to rant about leftwingers. Well done them. Oddly, and sadly for the tabloids, most immigrant workers don’t put pressure on the NHS. People who are earning less than minimum wage aren’t really in a position to take a few days off sick. People who are here, living 30 to a house, dont make a huge dent in the NHS dentistry budget. Yes, a small percentage do use the health service but most don’t. They cant afford to.

Conspiracy theorists have to get their oar in:

please remember we live on an island, and not a very big island at that.
tony blairs government idea of a multicultral country is and was flawed from the outset forgetting history and the fact this little island is not big enough for too many people to live on safely.
the only reason the government invited so many in was to gain supportand ultimately engineer staying in power longer, ignoring indiginous minorities infavour of incoming peoples.
it has to stop now.[delminister, truro, United Kingdom]

Well, this is odd. There are quite a few which have made this claim (or a variation thereof). It strikes me as odd, because Labour’s managed to get in power while a Conservative government held the seat. So, did Labour have a secret load of migrants to vote for them or is this just nonsense? Equally weird, migrants dont get to vote… Truly, the world of HYS is bizarre.

Staying with the madness we get this:

Everyone I speak to from the UK complains about immigration.
The Government ignores what the population of the UK wants. A stop to it.
For this reason alone, regardless of any supposed economic benefits, it should be stopped.[Will de Beest, Spain]

(Spain! Ha). Basically this implies that the government shouldn’t mind about the benefits or costs of a policy, but should just do what ever the subset of the population this nutcase talks to want. Wow. Wouldn’t that lead to a Utopia.

“What are you going to say to the employer who is desperate to fill a job, but can’t find anyone suitable in the European economic area?”
Keith Best, chief executive, Immigration Advisory Service
Is this for real? – is this guy seriously suggesting that there are jobs out there that can not be filled by anyone from within the EU, let alone this country?
If that is the case then maybe the employer should take his business elsewhere.[Graham Duncan, United Kingdom]

Erm, yes. That is what Keith Best is saying, If the employer can’t find some one from the EU he takes his business elsewhere and employs from outside the EU. It is a shame that (on HYS) British-loving seems to mean the same as idiot. This is a milder version where a poor sense of history has conspired to create the idiocy:

We were once a proud nation at peace with itself and common sense lived here it was so good everyone else wanted to live here.
Our grandfathers had worked hard and sacrificed much to make this county Great but immigration reversed all that. Broke, and under shortsighted leadership we have given away more than we could afford.
Should immigration be cut YES, in all honesty it should have been stopped years ago. [Tom J-P[, Byfleet]

There isn’t really all that much I can say to that, other than no.

The comments continue to be a mix of racist, mad or just daft, although having just refreshed them I see there is some balance there now. The oddest part is that people are in favour of immigration laws (which will only affect non-EU migrants) because they want to reduce the number of EU migrants. It really is that stupid.

Worryingly (for the UK) it does show how stupid our electorate is, and how easily they can be misdirected by a slightly cunning politician. I really do think that democracy doesn’t work – most people are too thick.

Ironically, if we did institute a system where people who could barely read or write English were deported, we’d be stuck as most of them (using HYS as my non-scientific, non-representative sample) would have been born here…

Sarah Palin – Laugh Away

From the excellent “Why do people laugh at creationists” series on YouTube:

Why do people laugh at creationists? (part 26) Sarah Palin

It worries me that there are other people who think like this mad woman.

Palin wins hearts – boggles minds

Amazingly, it seems that despite the sheer force of nonsense in her, ahem, speeches, Sarah Palin has won some supporters. No, I cant understand it either.

Reading the comments on the entertaining Guardian piece I linked to previously, shows there are some people with an interesting take on reality. I will try to provide links to the comments but Heather has informed me this doesn’t seem to be working.

For some reason, there are a lot of Americans reading British newspapers [see Heathers Post] and then feeling the need to wade in when ever the Republican party is mentioned. Nearly all are so rabidly anti-Obama it is quite funny. Even funnier are the ones who say we should mind our own business and no one in America cares what we think. The irony is fantastic, and only matched by their ignorance of it.

Anyway, on the current stream of conciousness, which is at least on the American Comment pages… I am aware my recent posts have been long, so I will only look at two funny comments here:

The first s by the very American sounding “JohnQPublic” who writes:

No honest person would have described this debate as anything other than a draw in which both candidates states many falsehoods as truths and didn’t answer the questions posed. No one sets the cause of equal rights for women further back than do self-described feminists.

Well, I am hurt that John Q Public thinks I am dishonest, but in all fairness nothing Biden could have done would have been either as offensive or just plain wrong as Palin. To say she “drew” with him is comical. Bastet only knows what the second sentence refers to…

The second is by the also-American-sounding “FreedomLand.” This one is so good, I’m going to have to take it a bit at a time:

Ahh, is this the male misogynist blog? Opps, no, its written by a woman! Perhaps an Obama-phile in disguise. “The Ring” attacks again, duh…..

The “ring” bit has lost me, however the opening gambit speaks volumes. It is a twist of appeal to ridicule mixed with ad-hominems. It says nothing of value and adds nothing to FreedomLand’s arguments – it does highlight a lack thereof.

For some reason, it has become quite common for a certain type of person to misspell “oops” as “opps” – check out how many times you can see it on FSTDT. It certainly takes the sting out of this attempt at an insult though.

[comment about Palin getting off lightly] No, you are quite wrong, Michelle Goldberg, Barack Obama has been doing precisely that all year. Along comes a woman with executive experience in government and you assume the rules should change to pillory her to your satisfaction.

Choke. Wow. There are loads of people who bang on about how Palin has more experience than Obama. I find it quite weird to be honest, but most worryingly, if she does have “experience” why in Hades’ name does she come across as an ignorant retard every time she sees a camera? If she has “executive experience” where in Asgard is she hiding it?

Palin gets away with murder in front of the public. People hold back on savaging her because it seems a touch unchivalrous and, honestly, it is like kicking a puppy. She is, on the whole, too easy a target to fully ridicule – even here we hold back because so many things just seem to obvious and cruel as she is blatantly educationally subnormal.

You also forgot to mention that her husband is at least part native American Eskimo. What does it mean for a white woman to be married to an indigenous ethnic minority in the USA? Quite a lot really…..

What? A lot of what? The article also forgets to mention she has ten fingers and two ears… Is this a weird implication that Palin gets the “race” vote because she is married to a Native American? Have you seen Obama? I am really confused by this rant.

[comment on her performance being a farce] Well, this IS politics as it is, you know. Its a popularity contest decided by the lowest common denominator in society and usually on the most superficial grounds. Its the same for women candidates as it is for men.

Oh that makes it OK then? Vote for Palin because she is an idiot who appeals to other idiots.

Isn’t America a great place?

I am rapidly trying to convert my urge to emigrate to the US into an emigration to New Zealand

No smugness here

Jonathon Freedland wrote about the hate email he’s been getting from Americans who tell him, in picturesque terms, that non-Yanks shouldn’t have opinions on the US election.

The counterblasts featured all the usual themes ….America had saved Europe’s “ass” twice before — and we would doubtless come bleating for help again when we inevitably sought rescue from the Muslim hordes imposing sharia law on London, Paris and Berlin. We can’t defend ourselves, of course, because we are limp-wristed “Euroweenies”, effeminate socialists whose own decline robs us of the right to say anything about the United States, which remains the greatest nation on earth. …….
One Bill07407 managed to capture the flavour of this virtual avalanche — including the curiously homoerotic undercurrent that runs through much rightwing American invective — with this effort: “If you want Comrade Obama we will gladly ship him over after he loses in a landslide. Meanwhile you can kiss my ass. I bet you would enjoy it faggot.” Equally reflective, this from bioguy777: “I love it! A pansy-ass limey Brit begs the US to do his bidding while his own country slips further towards total Islamic rule. We’re electing McCain, and the rest of the world can piss up a rope if they don’t like it. 1776, BITCH!(from the Guardian).

I am impressed by the sheer energy of this rhetoric. But a bit stung, on a patriotic basis. Surely, our own home-grown right wing nutters can’t achieve this level of ranting? This is a hard act to folllow. These comments manage to combine communism; homo-eroticism; islam and the bottom word. all . They are slightly lacking in the random-capitalisation and generous-use-of-exclamation-marks that normally distinguish such comments, but nobody’s perfect.

Bah, can the British product compete in this growing international market?

I was irresistibly drawn to the Daily Express by a front page I saw today which claimed that muslim fanatics were planning an attack on EastEnders (a British soap) I fought back the thought “Finally, a use for Al Qaeda.”

The Daily Express. Surely, if there’s a serious national challenge to foreign rabid-ranting supremacy, it must be in the Daily Express? The Express has a website. Imagine my delight to find it even has a Have Your Say page.

I would have to say the Express may be guilty of trying to juke the stats though. It may be trying to win an award from the twat-a-tron. It provides a list of questions that its readers might want to Have their Say about. These topics have obviously been cynically calculated to get comments by the shit-bucketload, applying a simple “Bull and red rag” principle.

More Have Your Say
•Should it be illegal to break manifesto promises?
•Is it time for Labour to stop bankrupting Britain?
•Is Brown to blame for credit crunch?
•Should ALL police forces get back to basics?
•Have you had enough of high taxes and poor services?
•Is Gordon Brown a laughing stock?
•Should Labour halt the war on motorists?
•Are we living in a Big Brother state?
•Should doomed Brown take the hint and quit?
•Is ‘nanny’ Brown just full of hot air?
•Are rubbish fines just a way of ripping us off?
•Have you been badly affected by the dismal property market?
• Will ex-soldiers bring discipline to our schools?
CLASSROOM yobs will be brought to heel by former soldiers trained as teachers, the Conservatives pledged last night.
• Should Ecstasy be downgraded from a Class A drug?
ECSTASY could be downgraded from a Class A drug despite a three-fold rise in the number of deaths.
• Does our benefits system reward scroungers?
TODAY The Daily Express reported that Brits are better off on benefits.
• Are you sick of the EU meddling in British affairs?
TODAY the Daily Express reported that British motorists will soon be forced into driving with their lights on in the daytime under a new EU edict.

Hah. I don’t even need to read the comments. The Express reporters might as well have written them at the same time they picked the topics. They know exactly what buttons to press to get that fear-filled little-England worldview spewed out to fill their empty webpages.

I spent a fair bit of time scanning the 99 “benefits scroungers” comments but you could tell their hearts weren’t in it (maybe with some secretly fearing they might end up in that category themselves, in a world recession, and are possibly suddenly realising that £60 a week would barely heat and light their homes, let alone feed them.)

Better entertainment from the “ex-soldiers” in schools thread. I become uncomfortably aware that not only do these people hate and fear children (no surprise) but they believe that Britain’s armed forces are staffed by the human equivalent of pitbull terriers, who, if ever let loose on schoolkids would terrorise and bully them into behaving. And they think this is a good thing.

Well, except for those who fear that gaining actual teaching skills would draw their psychopathic teeth.

The answer is no, how will they instill discipline,
they would not be alowed to punish the kids, they could not yell at them the same as a squadie, and off coarse they will need to go through collage or university to get thier teaching degrees or deplomas, by the time they have been through the system they will be just as PC as the present teachers, or will they go striaght into schools with out any degrees or deplomas, and we will have teaching on the cheap.

(How beautifully ironic that this educational expert has managed to come out of school without grasping the rudiments of spelling and punctuation.)

Or there are still some who feel that the troublesome rule of law will still hamstring the psychopaths.

IT WONT WORK
unless Cameron is going to get rid of the softly softly approach and the human rights loony lot , then this is a waste of time,

It’s probably too much to hope that these people can’t breed. In which case, no wonder that the UK has been told off again by the united nations for making its kids miserable.

It’s also something of a pretty serious insult to the British forces. These nutters somehow assume that any serving soldier is basically a thug, who has has been brutalised through training.:

Only if we get rid of the PC mongers and allow them to use the same discipline that army recruits face.

I don’t know anything about army training that I haven’t learned from watching Vietnam war films (Full Metal Jacket, etc) but I suspect they don’t either. It’s just that they misread the message about what happens when you brutalise young men into becoming disposable killers. They assumed it was a template, rather than a warning.

Quite by coincidence, I just saw the British National Party’s manifesto (I am buggered if I’m putting a link to that) and its central concerns seem to be the exact same “issues” that feature as topics on the Daily Express’s Have your Say. The BNP apparently plans to go after the Tories’ more rabid voters.

(Well, at least it would split the Tories’ vote, so I can see an upside. But generally, this shit just frames political debate in terms that are ever more rightwing. So, we see the Labour party fallling over itself to be tough on immigrants and scroungers.)

So, in your face, right-wing Yanks. Britain still has much more than its fair share of people after your own twisted hearts. (OK, the Brit ones don’t care about abortion and wouldn’t recognise a creationist theory if it bit them on the nose, and the American ones don’t seem to hate teenagers much, but they certainly seem to be brothers and sisters under the skin.)

Vote For Me! Self Delusional Politics

I cant wait until the US elections are over. At the moment, it is not possible to encounter a news bulletin that doesn’t make reference to it. Often including a clip of the brain destroyingly odious Sarah Palin stringing random words together in the manner of someone who has heard them, but has no idea what they mean.

Initially, reading about how Palin had been chosen to appeal to the “female demographic” (what?) I felt offended on behalf of women the world over. It is stunningly offensive to think that a political strategist thinks so little of American women that they would vote for Palin simply because she is a woman. I mean, how shallow must you be to choose your vote based on nothing more than the gender of the politician….

With this in mind, imagine my surprise to read / hear on various news sources (admittedly less and less, recently) that polls showed women were changing their intended votes because of Palin. Wow. Who in the name of Loki would have thought that could happen. Fortunately, this is largely just terminally bad polling techniques and probably bears as much resemblance to reality as me being a multi-millionaire. Phew.

When the initial relief had passed, I realised that there still were actual, living, apparently sane (*), people who thought Palin was a good candidate and would do the part good. Shock time again. How can this be I wondered. She is woefully under-educated and this is only matched by her lack of experience in either national or international politics. Yet some people love her.

How can this be the case, I wondered. Look at this example of a Palin quote about how she isn’t going to answer the questions she is asked during the debate: (source)

I may not answer the questions that either the moderator or you want to hear, but I’m going to talk straight to the American people and let them know my track record also,

No really. Not only is it a collection of empty words which seek to divert attention from her ignorance, it is also quite bad use of language. Now you might have thought there would be some element of scripting and rehearsal, so the only conclusion is this is how she wants to be seen speaking. It is clearer in this next quote (same source)

Here, for example, is how she responded to Biden’s comments about how the middle class has been short-changed during the Bush administration, and how McCain will continue Bush’s policies:

Say it ain’t so, Joe, there you go again pointing backwards again. You preferenced [sic] your whole comment with the Bush administration. Now doggone it, let’s look ahead and tell Americans what we have to plan to do for them in the future. You mentioned education, and I’m glad you did. I know education you are passionate about with your wife being a teacher for 30 years, and god bless her. Her reward is in heaven, right? … My brother, who I think is the best schoolteacher in the year, and here’s a shout-out to all those third graders at Gladys Wood Elementary School, you get extra credit for watching the debate.

Look at the use of language. If you are a native English speaker it is enough to make your brain scream mercy while your eyes surrender the fight. If she was a bit older, I would assume she was senile. The meandering from point to point, to avoid the question, is something Grandpa Simpson would be proud of. It starts off gibberish then ends up with a shout out to some random school children. Truly the mind boggles. She plays on being un-educated to a level that would make George Dubya himself blush. It is beyond painfully bad. Surely no politician could think this is the way to speak in public.

Then, all of a sudden, it hit me like a bolt of lightning from Zeus himself.

This is why people want to vote for her.

Her “down to Earth” use of language constructs, her folk-story terminology, her “cute” (**) mannerisms. These are solely engineered to make people think “Hey, she is just like me.” Amazingly, taken in this light, it is very successful.

Still this confuses me a touch. I am not a good candidate for running the bath, let alone a country. Most people I know are either easily confused by finance, fail to understand international relations, struggle to decide how to reduce crime and so on. These are educated, intelligent people who could run rings around Palin (even if they are only three years old). None of the people I know, myself included, would make a good world leader – even if we all daydream about it occasionally.

Ah. Lightning bolt again. Thank Zeus that the Olympians are watching over us.

Palin appeals to the ignorant people who, through years of false positive reinforcement, actually do think, all the time, that they could really run the country. These people must be so truly deluded that they think it is just a slight accident of fate that their name isn’t on the ticket, and if they could run the country so could Palin – who is so like them.

This is a terrifying example of how a massive dose of self-delusion can have a traumatic effect on the nation.

Not only that, but it is really, really offensive. It offends me that people can be so self obsessed as to even come close to thinking this. Yes, everyone can have ideas on how the country can be run, and sometimes we may think we know better than the politicians. Yes, we can all shout at the TV how we could do the job a millions times better but the truth is very different.

In the modern world (and possibly always) there are very few, if any, jobs that are so generalised anyone can do them without training. My job is very specialised and I doubt someone could walk in of the street without any prior knowledge or training and even come close to doing it. Heather’s job is the same. Pretty much every job I can think of is done by people who have been taught how to do it, and it is done better by people who have experience. Even jobs considered to be of low importance to society require training.

Why on Earth are people so arrogant that they think a job as important as Vice-President (to a potentially frail President) can be done by someone “just like us.” Surely if America is a great nation, it needs great leaders – not empty phrases jumbled together in a pathetic appeal to the lowest common denominator?

(Sorry for the rants. I will attempt to resume normal service as soon as possible)

* By this, I mean they were not currently locked up in a mental health facility… Their lack of sanity is evident by their voting choice.

** By cute, of course, I mean vomit inducing.