Tell me this isn’t a coincidence
First, there’s this:
A chief examiner at one of Britain’s biggest exam boards was recorded boasting about the lack of substance in the company’s tests – and their disbelief that it has been cleared by the official regulator.
Steph Warren, in charge of Edexcel GCSE Geography, said that teachers should pick her company’s exam because “you don’t have to teach a lot”.
And then there’s this:
Now I do realise that these are from different countries but the UK and US have quite a lot in common, including the modern sleb culture and persistent worries about dumbing down of edumacation – ‘dumbing down’ is an American phrase, after all. If you want a more UK-centric example of sleb-fascination as an alternative to news you don’t have to look far. Looking at The Daily Mail’s site now their sidebar consists of the following (and I really don’t blame if you don’t read every line of this):
- Something about Sinead O’Connor getting married again
- A story about the average weight of British women
- Something about Anna Nicole-Smith, who is apparently still dead
- Something about Angelina Jolie
- Something about Jennifer Lopez
- Something about X-Factor judges who are apparently called Gary, Kelly and Tulisa (who, who, who and who gives a fuck?)
- Something about someone called Selena Gomez and Justin fucking Bieber
- A story about a single father raising twins
- Something by Jan Moir about someone called Caroline Flack
- Something about someone called Kimberley Walsh
- Something about someone called Irina Shayk
- Something about Charlize Theron’s clothes
- Something about someone called Chelsee Healey
- Something about someone called Kate Upton
- Something about Prince William’s wife’s clothes
- Something about Declan Donnelly’s car
- Something about Katie Price
- Something about someone called Lea Michele
- Something about someone called Kris Jenner being upset about something Daniel Craig said
- Something about someone called Alicia Douvall
- Something about something called a Kardashian (who are apparently not Star Trek aliens but real people… for a given value of real)
- Something about someone called Amanda Seyfried
- Something by Jizz Loans
- Something about someone called Harry Judd
- Something about Paris Hilton
- Something about Beyoncé whatsername
- Something about Twiggy
- Something about Salma Hayek’s tits
- Something else about that Caroline Flack person again, but not by Jan Moir
- Something about a coat owned by Emma Watson, Natalie Portman and someone called Kristen Stewart
- Something about someone called Anna Massey in something about a loony in Broadmoor
- Something about someone called Amy Childs
- Something about Ray Winstone being in something
- Something about David Jason being in something
- Something else about Angelina Jolie
- Something about someone called Jacqui Ainsley
- Something about Louise Redknapp’s shampoo
- Something about Sacha Baron Cohen
- Something about someone called Kara Tointon
- Something about Venus Williams
- Something about someone called Kelly Rowland and someone called Amelia
- Something about something called JWoww (who seems to be a person but sounds like a cleaning product)
- Something about someone called Jennifer Hudson
- Something about someone called Kitty Brucknell
- Something about a transexual trying to turn him/herself into Barbie (just more plastic, I assume)
- Something about someone called Jennifer Garner
- Something about one of Michael Jackon’s kids being in a film or something
- Something about someone called Christine Bleakley
- Something about that Grilled Bear bloke meeting Mrs Queen
- Something about someone called Andrew Garfield
- Something about someone called Pat Sharp and her daughter, and someone called Mark Wright
- Something about Andie MacDowell’s daughter
- Something about someone called Rachel Crow
- Something about another one of the Kardashians
- Something about someone called Kris Humphries
- Something about someone called Dianna Agron and someone called Sebastian Stan (almost current affairs in that he sounds like he might be a country)
- Something about Shakira
- Something about someone called Coco Rocha
- Something about Jessica Alba’s sprog meeting Santa
- Something that might be about sexual abuse in Mormon communities, but might be more about some Mormon piano group
- Something about someone who’s someone’s widow being angry with Alec Baldwin for whatever he did on that plane
- Something about Michael Jackson’s doctor getting a prison visit
- Something about that Katherine Heigl who used to be in Grey’s Annoying Me
- Something about that Tiff Needell who used to be in the old Top Gear
- Something about someone called Toni Collette
- Something about Kirstie Alley’s current size
- Something about Demi Moore’s daughter’s arse
- Something about something called Chord Overstreet (who seems to be a person but sounds like gameplay from Guitar Hero) and someone called Emma Roberts
- Something about someone called Demi Lovato (who seems to be a person but sounds like musical notation)
- Something about someone called Jennifer Hudson
- Something about that Amy Childs again
- Something about someone called Selma Blair
- Something about Jessica Alba
- Something about Lady Gaga
- Something about Gwyneth Paltrow
- Something about Cheryl Cole
- Something about Christina Ricci
- Something else about Katie bloody Price
- Something about handbags
- Something about shops
- Something about shopping
- Something about Tom Cruise
- Something else about this Demi Lovato
- Something else about this Emma Roberts person having a tattoo like the one in that book about the girl with a tattoo
- Something about bridesmaids wearing tuxedos
- Something else about Tom Cruise
- Something about someone called Kendra Wilkison
- Something about someone called Kevin Federline
- A story about a fake doctor doing bad cosmetic surgery in the US
- Something about new Top Shop branches coming to your local high street, providing you live in Australia
- Something about someone called Abigail Breslin
- Something about someone called Danny O’Donaghue and Tom Jones
- Something about Jersey Shore
- Something about Brad Pitt’s hair
- Something about someone called Ali Larter’s son
- Something about cocaine and Charlie Sheen and someone called Brooke Mueller
- A story about how Christmas drives everyone fucking nuts
- Something about that horsey woman from Sex and the City
- Something else about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie
- Something about a body scanner, but at clothes shops to help you buy stuff rather than airports to help delay you while you’re treated as a suspected terrorist
- Something about some people called Arg, Mark and Dougie
- Something about Lindsay Lohan
- Something about Nigella Lawson
- Something else about Emma Watson, but apparently not her coat this time
- Something about someone called Adele
- Something about money and divorces
- Something that might be about sexual abuse in Mormon communities, but might be more about some Mormon piano group, and appears to be exactly the same something as the something about sexual abuse/Mormon pianists from earlier
- Something about someone called Jeff Probst and someone called Lisa Ann Russell
- Something about someone called Patrica Klanic whose husband is a soccer player and has been accused of rape
- Something about Blur
- Something else about Andie MacDowell
- Something about Cameron Diaz
- Something about David Cameron’s hair (for fuck’s fucking sake I’m fucking losing the fucking will to fucking live here)
- Yet another fucking thing about this Caroline Flack and someone called harry Styles
- Something about Prince Harry and his brother’s wife’s sister, except not really because they’re only lookalikes (that’s it – when I’m finished with this I’m going to book a holiday where I’m legally allowed to shoot things)
- Something about Katy Perry
- Something about that woman who looked all upset when Jeremy Clarkson said he wanted to shoot strikers and how she used to have a damp spot for Jason Donovan
- Something about a model who’s going bald
- Jesus H. Christ in a fucking mothership, something else about Tom fucking Cruise
- Something else about a Kardashian, possibly one of the ones from earlier but I’m so far past fucking caring at this point I just asked Mrs Exile to hold a mirror up under my nose
- Something about Prince Charles not understanding Peter Kay’s jokes or something
- Something about Madonna likeing Prince William’s wife’s clothes
- Something about someone called Gamu
- Something about someone called Zac Effron kissing Michelle Pfeiffer
- Something about Dawn French’s clothes
For those that skipped much of that list it’s 125 articles, 95% of which involve slebs, and close to 0% of which involve actual news. Okay, sure, they do put a lot of shite in the sidebar and more newsy news in the main bit, but even there Sinead O’Connor puts in an appearance along with one or two things about house prices (wouldn’t be the Mail without them, would it?) while the story about exams being made easier appears nearly halfway down the home page.
Coincidence? I find that hard to believe. Whether it’s just an effect of successive governments prioritising the appearance of educational success over actually educating or whether it’s a deliberate attempt to create Orwell’s proles, the undereducated 85% who were conditioned to have little or no interest in the world but were easy to manipulate. As always I tend to go with Hanlon’s Razor and assume stupidity and cupidity over conspiracies, but sometimes I do wonder.
Silencing of dissent
Yesterday the Snowolf put up a video that was put on YouTube, apparently by the European Central Bank if the user name is any guide, in celebration of the Euro and its forthcoming tenth birthday. Wolfers suggests that with Europe’s current financial problems and the part the single currency has played no small amount of chutzpah must have been needed to post a video celebrating that, but he notes something else interesting.
Perhaps a little surprisingly (or not) the owners of the video have decided to disable comments on it.
No room for dissent, Comrades.
No room indeed, though when has the EU or its institutions ever shown much interest in what people think? However, in the spirit of freedom of expression, as enshrined in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, I’ve re-uploaded their video with commenting enabled and the following message:
Original video by YouTube user ecbeuro at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0YrRM7yee0
The European Central Bank has chosen not to allow comments on its video, and given current issues within the EU I feel this is disappointing and undemocratic from an institution ultimately dependent on taxpayers. Accordingly I’m re-uploading the video with comments enabled, which I feel is fair dealing under the law where I currently live (Australian Copyright Act 1968 – for the purpose of criticism or review (s41, s103A)) and fair use in the US where YouTube is based.
All rights to the video and soundtrack remain with its creators. I will happily remove this copy if the original opens to criticism/review in the form of YouTube comments.
Will YouTube take it down and give me a smack on the wrist over copyright or will my bit about the undemocratic lack of comments on the original and appeal of fair dealing be enough to keep it where it is? If it goes it’ll reappear on EyeTube, though not if the ECB enable commenting on theirs, but I hope YouTube will see what I’m getting at. In the meantime you can watch the ECB version either at Wolfers’ or at the link above, and if you want to be able to comment on the single currency then you can do it on the one I put up instead. At least for the time being.
You know something’s in bad shape when…
… when its creators begin to turn against it. Ladies and genitals, I give you former president of the European Commission Jacques Delors, who believes the Euro is fucked.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Jacques Delors, the former president of the European Commission, claims that errors made when the euro was created had effectively doomed the single currency to the current debt crisis
Admittedly he doesn’t actually say it’s fucked and he is saying that it would all have gone swimmingly if it had been done his way, but all the same there’s quite a bit he says that a lot of people would agree with.
Mr Delors claims that the current crisis stems from “a fault in execution” by the political leaders who oversaw the euro in its early days. Leaders chose to turn a blind eye to the fundamental weaknesses and imbalances of member states’ economies, he says.
“The finance ministers did not want to see anything disagreeable which they would be forced to deal with,” he says.
Can’t argue with that, and nor can I argue with some bits from the interview proper because they sound very similar to what I’ve said more than once myself.
It is a fault in the execution, not of the architects, which he claimed to have pointed out in 1997 when the plans for introducing the euro finally came together. At the time, he says, the best of the eurosceptic economists, whom he refers to as “the Anglo-Saxons”, raised the simple objection that if you have an independent central bank, you must also have a state.
Mr Delors thinks “they had a point”, but the way round this problem was to insist on the economic bit of the union as much as the monetary. As well as creating a single currency, you also had to create common economic policies “founded on the co-operation of the member states”.
I get the impression from Mr Delors that he thinks Mrs Thatcher would have agreed with this view. She certainly would not have agreed, however, on the Delors version of what that co-operation should produce — the harmonisation of most taxes, plans to deal with youth and long-term unemployment, and that social dimension for which he always called…
And when the Euro finally goes tits up the call will be for exactly that and possibly more. I’ve said it in comments on several other blogs as well as once or twice here – the former colonies in America formed the United States first and created their single currency later, and there will be Europhiles and Eurocrats who will seize on this as evidence that the EU attempted to put the cart before the horse and call for the full and immediate federalisation of Europe so that Son-of-Euro can be launched as quickly as possible. A United States of Europe wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if it was a federation of competing states, but does anyone think that’s even a remote possibility if it’s constructed on the foundations of what’s now the EU?
Not. A. Prayer.
We make jokes about the EUSSR now, but I reckon it’s not half as bad as it could be if formal union were to occur any time soon. It’s already been pointed out before that the European Commission and Parliament are not unlike the Politburo and Supreme Soviet, and if all the borrowed money had to be repaid it won’t even look as cheery as 1980s Gorky in the winter.
If they fail and the Euro fails with them it might only be the silver lining round a nasty looking cloud. The breakup of the EU is being warned, but if that sounds good to you my advice would be not to get your hopes up. More likely it’ll be patched together to save egos and careers as the architects of half a billion people’s misfortune say that the death of the single currency is not proof that Europe should remain a continent of independent nations but proof of the need for a federal Europe.
Stony Stratford Saturday
A brief post to wish those going with Dick Puddlecote to Stony Stratford today a very enjoyable and successful day proving that smokers and non-smokers can get on together just fine, and hopefully getting the chance to raise the point in front of the media that the ban-happy, nannying control freaks are already targeting drink and food that they disapprove of and that non-smokers who think they’ll never be in the firing line should think hard about how sure they are about that. But keep your own cameras on – Cllr Bartlett sounds crazy enough to empty a load of ashtrays all over the streets the minute you all go just so he can blame it on you.
Bin Laden is dead but he’s still fighting
No, he’s not a zombie, but we’re still spending ridiculous sums of money fighting the war on a vague sense of unease and it’s clear from statements made by Obama, Cameramong and others in the last day and a half that finally having slotted Bin Laden doesn’t mean bringing back soldiers or winding down on the security theatre. If anything, they tell us, it means the opposite because of the desire of the wild-eyed religioloons to avenge Bin Laden’s death, itself an act of vengeance for 9/11 which in turn, according to some of the loons, was an act of revenge for occupation of Muslim lands, itself a reaction to one lot invading another lot and the constant threat of almost everyone there to wipe Israel off the map or words to that effect.
Now I’m not going to go all bleeding heart on you and say things like an eye for an eye means we all end up blind. There may be something in that but while thinking about this latest concern over possible revenge of revenge of revenge something quite different occurred to me. As I mentioned the other day, our act of revenge has cost well over a trillion dollars, taken nearly a decade and indirectly cost the lives of more than twice as many as were killed in the atrocity we’ve been trying to avenge. Some might say that turning fewer than 3,000 dead into more than 9,000 is, in hindsight, a good enough reason to stop, but it’s not the only one. Look again at the money – more than $300 million a day.
This isn’t about putting a dollar value on the lives of those who died on September 11th 2001 because it can’t be done and would be distasteful even to try. However, revenge cannot come at any price for one very simple reason. Each act of terrorism or even the threat of it is relatively cheap, but if each act of revenge is even a tenth as costly as getting Bin Liner has proven to be then before long we in the West, the ‘free’ countries, will bankrupt ourselves. And the horrible thought that occurred to me last night was this: maybe that was the plan all along.
Seriously, have a think about it. Did the West beat the Soviet Union in a gunfight? No, it just outspent it. Various things made this possible, not least of which was free(ish) markets and an absence of five year plans made it easier to make the money, and of course there were other things besides the Soviet economy involved, but they were provoked into spending more than they should faster than they should have. Bin Laden, whatever else he was, wasn’t stupid. Couldn’t it have occurred to the bastard to try the same thing with us, to wound pride cheaply but deeply in the hope of an expensive and drawn out response? I’m not the only one to think so (from the Ludwig von Mises blog):
Mises wrote, “No foreign aggressor can destroy capitalist civilization if it does not destroy itself.” [implying] that the sole way a foreign aggressor can contribute toward capitalist civilization’s destruction is to goad it into destroying itself.
That was what Osama Bin Laden was trying to do all along. And the war party (along with its enablers at the Fed) has been playing right into his hands. Even now that Bin Laden is dead, they have given every indication that they will continue to do so.
From the Washington Post:
Did Osama bin Laden win? No. Did he succeed? Well, America is still standing, and he isn’t. So why, when I called Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a counterterrorism expert who specializes in al-Qaeda, did he tell me that “bin Laden has been enormously successful”? There’s no caliphate. There’s no sweeping sharia law. Didn’t we win this one in a clean knockout?
Apparently not. Bin Laden, according to Gartenstein-Ross, had a strategy that we never bothered to understand, and thus that we never bothered to defend against. What he really wanted to do — and, more to the point, what he thought he could do — was bankrupt the United States of America. […]
The campaign taught bin Laden a lot. For one thing, superpowers fall because their economies crumble, not because they’re beaten on the battlefield. For another, superpowers are so allergic to losing that they’ll bankrupt themselves trying to conquer a mass of rocks and sand. This was bin Laden’s plan for the United States, too.
On Monday I said that despite everything, especially despite being dead, Bin Laden was technically still ahead on points, though when I said it I was really only thinking how he managed to hurt our liberty just by tempting our governments to take it away from us and – oh, the irony – keep it locked up for safety. Now I wonder if he isn’t even further ahead than I’d thought. I suppose the answer depends on for how much longer the US can and wants to carry on spending 300 million dollars a day.
The eye of my Apple
A week ago, before some people getting married and a loony being shot in the face distracted us from it, the big issue was Apple and it’s creepy plans to watch everyone going to the toilet if they’d left their iPhones on. At the time I blogged on the possibility that it was a consequence of people wanting smart-phones to do stupid things I had a vague feeling that something had happened before, but couldn’t remember exactly what it was. Just now while looking for something completely unrelated here on my own blog I found that I hadn’t imagined it and had even blogged it at the time.
For the price of an iPhone I could have my Nokia and a separate GPS and a brand new Melway for when the GPS instructions turn out to be wrong. And not only that, I wouldn’t have to worry about making a tinfoil hat so that Apple couldn’t see my thoughts, or failing that see where I am.
A thief, Horatio Toure, who stole an Apple iPhone from its owner’s hands was arrested by American police within minutes after being tracked by global positioning system (GPS) software.
The 31 year-old snatched the highly-sought after phone from the hands of a software company employee who was testing a new application in San Francisco earlier this week.
But the hapless thief was arrested by police just nine minutes later after the iPhone tracked his every move.
Now, granted this was new software being tested and which happened to be on at the time, and Apple have said that if he’d turned the phone off it would have been game over as far as nicking him so quickly was concerned. But it occurs to me that with a bit of code here and there surely it would be possible to have a phone that turns itself on at regular intervals to give a little ‘Here I Am’ wave in the direction of Cupertino, or whoever pays them for that information. To be honest I really can’t think of any reason why they would do that, but if it can be done then it is a concern.
And the sky did not fall in and iPhone users did not shit bricks and newspapers did not make headlines out of it and politicians did not make threats and demand answers from Apple. Ten months on and the world is worrying about smart-phones being potentially capable of something rather like what was actually demonstrated last year.
Questions, questions – UPDATED
Right, so a guy who’s evaded capture for nearly ten years is finally tracked down and killed by a US special forces team the existence of which the US government refuses to confirm, and which manages to identify the body by means of a DNA test (oh boy, Jeremy Kyle must be rueing the lost opportunity there) conducted at a speed that must have every police department in the world salivating in envy, before promptly weighting the body down and chucking it overboard at a so far undisclosed location. I’m not saying that that it couldn’t or didn’t happen that way – I’m not a ‘truther’ and use only moderate amounts of tinfoil – but it’s not exactly the most convincing narrative, is it? It’s sure as hell not going to convince anyone who thinks there was any more to the September 11th attacks than crashing aircraft and incompetence.
Meanwhile, the von Mises blog proves the point I made yesterday, that this will almost certainly mean no increase in liberty for citizens in ‘free’ nations and if anything may well mean even less (quoting en bloc):
Via ESPN Chicago:
CHICAGO — In the aftermath of the death of Osama bin Laden, the Chicago Bulls will use metal detectors to screen all patrons entering the United Center before Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinal against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday.
I’m sure this is just a temporary security measure until we apprehend bin Laden. Wait a minute…
Quite. We have always been at war with
Eastasia terror, or at least we soon will have.
UPDATE – and shooting back while using his wife as a human shield too. Again, I’m not saying it didn’t happen that way, but doesn’t it sound to anyone else like these preconceptions – cowardice, misogyny and, somewhat strangely for a coward, a willingness to fight to the death – are gilding the lily just a bit?
The spy is not in your pocket, it’s on your dashboard
With all the hysteria going on about Apple’s and Google’s smartphones at the moment it might be easy to forget that as far as anyone knows they’ve really not done anything with the info apart from maybe used it for tailored advertising.* It seems the same can’t be said of Tom Tom, who are helping the police catch speeding motorists.
Dutch GPS maker TomTom went into damage control today after it emerged that Dutch police have been using data collected from drivers who use the company’s products to set speed traps.
Earlier, TomTom had reported weak first quarter earnings in which it cut 2011 sales forecasts and said it was seeking to compensate for a decline in demand for personal navigation devices by growing service revenues – including selling traffic data to governments.
National newspaper Algemeen Dagblad reported that police had obtained the information from the government and used it to set targeted speed traps, prompting angry reactions from TomTom users.
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In a written apology, chief executive Harold Goddijn said the company sold the anonymous data believing it would be used to improve safety or relieve traffic bottlenecks.
Now while this doesn’t involve tracking specific users the thought occurs that that’s also a possibility. My satnav remembers where it’s been and how fast it went there, and that information can be downloaded to a computer. What’s to stop the program on the computer that manages that information from being collected and sent off to the manufacturers who in turn flog the info to Vic police so they can see how hard I hit the pedal on the freeway? Not much if we don’t take action to prevent it as far as I can see, which is a slight worry as my satnav’s records have me once doing nearly 140km/h several hundred feet underground below Port Phillip Bay.** Obviously an error and in any case probably not something I’d get a ticket for, though with Vic police’s constant hard on for speeding I wouldn’t too sure, but I’ve known satnavs to get a little confused about speed in other places now and again. Not often, but if it thinks you’re a block away from where you are and then works out your real position it’s going to think you’ve just moved very quickly. Fifty metres in two seconds is 90 km/h and could get you a ticket on many urban and city centre roads round here, which would be a real pisser if it was just a figment of your satnav’s moronic imagination.
Don’t think it could happen? Look at that second paragraph again (my bold).
Earlier, TomTom had reported weak first quarter earnings in which it cut 2011 sales forecasts and said it was seeking to compensate for a decline in demand for personal navigation devices by growing service revenues – including selling traffic data to governments.
Yeah, they’re back-pedalling like crazy now but if they need the money it could get awfully tempting to build this kind of feature into future units if everybody’s smartphones aren’t already grassing them up by then. And the moral of the story is we’d all better start thinking about firewall rules to stop things doing an E.T. or avoiding plugging them into the computer at all.
* Not that I am saying that they are not arseholes, but I’m not sure this is particularly arseholish of them.
** I was actually holding it while standing still in a car port at the time, and while I’m not sure of the elevation I was certainly not in the bay, much less underneath it.
That smartphone tracking thing
I’ve probably mentioned before that as far as phone apps go I feel that the absolute best app ever is the Talking To People Far Away Without A Landline app, which has been around since the days when mobile phones were actually called car phones because they were so big you needed a fucking car to cart the bloody thing around. I’m happy that the march of progress has shrunk things to a more convenient pocket size, improved the battery life and generally made it able to do more things. Mine plays a game about a snake that gets longer as it eats, which is a feature that I’m immensely indifferent about and only one of literally some features that the phone came with and which I never, ever use. But that Talking To People Far Away Without A Landline one is so good that when the phone eventually carks it I will be demanding that its replacement can do the same thing. Text messages are occasionally handy so I’d quite like the new one to do those too.
Clearly then the smartphones tracking their owners thing is an issue that has largely passed me by. Yes, I know that if they really want to the powers that be can get a rough idea of where my old ‘dumb’ phone is, and therefore where I am too, but I feel it’s pretty clear that smartphones are likely to make the job that much easier. More accurate too if they’re GPS enabled, which I believe most are, and sneakily programmed to report on their whereabouts to 10m from time to time, which they’re probably not but potentially could be at any time by way of an OS update or something. And you just know that the sneaky bastards have probably covered themselves with a clause in the EULA that almost everybody overlooked because they were too keen to get the wrapping off and play with the new shiny to read 49 paragraphs of impenetrable small print. My feeling is that if this is objectionable then a smartphone is probably not for you, and if you’re concerned even at the possibility for being tracked anyway then buy a second hand dumb phone and turn it off most of the time or do without one altogether. If you bought one anyway and now don’t like it because it spies on you I will buy it off you. I’m prepared to go all the way up to five dollars, which I realise is a shit price but it’s about what the thing is worth to me personally.* Someone else will probably give you a lot more if you’re wanting to get rid of it.
So not being a smartphone user (I LOLed at Max Farquar’s ‘spyPhone’ video but to me it’s always been more whyPhone) it never occurred to me that this tracking and data logging might actually be there as a consequence of some users wanting their smartphones to be able to do dumb things (en bloc from the von Mises blog)
My initial reaction to the alarmist news that the iPhone collects (but doesn’t use unless you tell it to) information about your whereabouts is: no kidding. I mean, people WANT their iPhones to do this so that they can use them as GPSs and so that they can update their status on FB with a “check in.” It’s not my thing but it is what people want to do. There is probably good reason to make that information more secure but truly this is not a flaw but a feature, and generally a response to customer demand. In any case, it is not the case that Steve Jobs knows the location of all the opium dens you have been visiting and plans to blackmail you with that information.
A final note: 10 years ago, the idea that you could hold in your palm a device that would reveal your precise whereabouts and also permit you to broadcast this in an instant to millions of people of your own choosing would have seemed like impossible science fiction. Now that we have it, the punditry class screams in outrage.
Unsurprisingly some of the comments say that this is downplaying the issue but I think there’s a good point being made here. I don’t get the appeal of social networking either (anti-social networking, now that might interest me) and most of the features look like solutions desperately looking for problems, but I can see that there are people who do want their phones to automatically let their friends know where they are. God knows why you’d want this because if my Facebook account is any guide nearly all your friends will be people you’ve never met or even heard of, and in any case how hard is it to just tell the handful you really do know that you’re going to the pub if anyone wants to meet you for a beer? You’ve got a fucking telephone right in your hand, for Christ’s sake! I don’t understand it but then the appeal of soap operas are a mystery to me as well, yet I’m prepared to accept that lots of people do actually want their minds melted by whatever implausible thing has happened in Summer Bay today. That’s supply and demand and people are currently demanding that their phones do as much of their live’s heavy lifting as possible, which is why you’ve got services like Foursquare and Google Places being launched. People really are signing up for this shit so inevitably the phones have to have the capability, right?
That being so is it really so much of a shock that companies are looking at using this info to make a quid by sending targeted and location specific advertising at the users? Not like nobody saw this coming, is it?
Irritating? Yep. Creepy? Potentially. Worrying? Well, when you can vote with your feet and sell your phone (seriously, I am good for five dollars for a used iPhone) or not buy one to start with unless they come without all that extra crap that the media is currently busy scaresturbating itself into a frenzy over, I’d say it’s not all that worrying. Especially when it turns out that while it is enabled by default, which is annoying but since hardly anyone would enable it voluntarily it’s also exactly what nearly all of us would do if we were in the same position, you can still actually turn it off. You won’t read that in the Mainly Fail smartphone spying scare stories, but then they’re trying to make a quid selling advertising too and leading an article about it with the solution to the problem is no more in their business interests than making a phone which allows personalised ads but has them disabled by default.
It’s not a conspiracy, folks. It’s just a reminder that the free market ain’t perfect, it’s just free.
* If it’s an iPad I’ll pay $4.50.
Bad ideas don’t just go away – UPDATED
Back in June 09 I made various allusions to Minority Report when I blogged on claims that UK police were arresting youths just to get DNA samples on file. That rant took place at a time when IngSoc in their NuLabour clothes were still having fun and games, and the most egregiously authoritarian cock dribble seemed to be made attractive to the government if whoever was selling the idea said it used a database.
Officers are targeting children as young as 10 with the aim of placing their DNA profiles on the national database to improve their chances of solving crimes, it is claimed.
The alleged practice is also described as part of a “long-term crime prevention strategy” to dissuade youths from committing offences in the future.
In English this translates as “we assume that you will commit an unspecified crime at an unspecified date in the future, so in order to solve it more easily then we’ll have your DNA right fucking now, sunny Jim.”
“It is part of a long-term crime prevention strategy. If you know you have had your DNA taken and it is on a database then you will think twice about committing burglary for a living.
“We are often told that we have just one chance to get that DNA sample and if we miss it then that might mean a rape or a murder goes unsolved in the future.”
Fuck, if you’re going to think along those lines why not just declare the whole country a prison now. Anyone with a penis – potential rapist. Anyone with a vagina – potential prostitute. Anyone with two working arms that can stand upright – potential murderer. Anyone good at maths, which probably eliminates 75% of people under 30 or so – potential fraudster. Anyone who buys a pack of fags – potential drug addict and dealer. The Department of PreCrime is working hard on the red ball / brown ball thing to ensure your future safety, but until it’s working properly you’re all considered potentially guilty of something.
And the red ball / brown ball thing just got slightly closer to reality, though rather than precognitive mutants it centres on brain scanning young children to identify those with criminal tendencies before they’re even of school age.
More researchers believe that violent tendencies have a biological basis and that tests and brain imaging can pick them up in children.
They argue that, by predicting which children have the potential to be trouble, treatments could be introduced to keep them on the straight and narrow. If the tests are accurate enough then a form of screening could be introduced in the same way we test for some diseases.
Okay, I’m prepared to believe that there may be something in the idea that some people are just wired to be criminals and I don’t disagree that a pinch of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but surely that doesn’t mean that the nature vs nuture argument is one sided.
The tests are back, Mr and Mrs Scum, and I’m afraid there’s some bad news.
The brain scans indicate that your boy is a financial prodigy and we feel he’s
likely to move through a stage of teaching economics at degree level before
winding up advising the Bank of England.
I know. We’re so terribly sorry.
The theories were put forward by two leading criminologists at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington.
Washington? Holy shit, it really is like Minority Report.
Prof Adrian Raine, a British criminologist, argued that abnormal physical brain make-up could be a cause of criminality, as well as helping to predict it.
His studies have shown that psychopaths and criminals have smaller areas of the brain such as the amygdala and prefrontal cortex, both of which regulate and control emotion and behaviour. He also believes that a lack of conditioning to fear punishment, which can be measured in toddlers before disruptive behaviour is apparent, could also be a strong indicator.
Dr Nathalie Fontaine, who also spoke at the conference, argued that children as young as four exhibited “callous unemotional traits” such as lack of guilt and empathy that could also suggest future bad behaviour. Linking these features with “conduct problems” such as throwing tantrums could be a strong way to predict who could be anti-social in later life.
Both speakers said that identifying these issues earlier could be important in stopping children from becoming criminals.
Perhaps, but if you’re not really fucking careful how you go about it you’re also sticking the mark of Cain on the kids before they ever do anything.
Dr Raine, a former Home Office psychologist who works at the University of Pennsylvania, said therapy could include counselling to counteract innate behavioural problems and boosting the brain with drugs or foods rich in Omega 3.
Dr Fontaine, from Indiana University, said the work showed that punishment did not necessarily work and that reinforcing positive behaviour rather than punishing bad might be the solution.
Which may be true, but don’t you think that it might occur to someone that simply sticking a Peckam Rolex on them at an early age might be cheaper and a lot less effort? And let’s just remind ourselves of how much actual crime they’ll have committed at this stage:
Oh, yeah. That’s right, almost certainly bugger all because we’re talking about four-year olds.
Assessments of callous unemotional traits and conduct problems were based on teacher questionnaires when the children were seven, nine and 12. Information was taken from parents when the children were as young as four.
But it seems that according to Dr Raine all this is for the greater good.
Dr Raine said he acknowledged the ethical implications of treating children before they had done anything wrong, but argued that “biological” causes of crime could not be ignored.
Who’s saying they should be ignored? I’m certainly not, but I do think we should worry about the potential for labelling people as naturally criminal to act as a self fulfilling prophecy. How broad a net is being cast? How many of the people we see walking around every day, almost all of whom will be as law abiding as either Prof Raine or Dr Fontaine, have brains that naturally make them – what was it again? – unemotional and lacking empathy? Quite a few, I’d guess. We’ve all known some cold fish but I’d bet few of them are also criminals. And where does free will come in? How should we see someone who is unemotional and lacking empathy yet law abiding? Are they all criminals who just haven’t happen not to have committed a crime yet, or are they law abiding people who’ve chosen not to? And how should we see someone who wears their heart on their sleeve and has a record longer than the arm inside it? Do we say it’s not really their fault because they can’t help the way their brain is, or do we never ever forget that they always had the choice not to commit a crime? I’m not saying that there’s no value in this at all but we’re in a very iffy area here, on the one hand risking ruining innocent lives by labelling them in a way that would cause outrage if applied to gender, ethnicity or sexuality, and on the other hand further diluting the concept of personal responsibility by allowing criminals to externalise their guilt on yet another thing.
The bottom line is that the only way we can tell for sure that someone has criminal tendencies is that they have committed crimes, and even then we have to hold to the idea that all are innocent until proven guilty. Brain scanning kids to try to identify future criminals goes beyond simply turning that around to guilty until proven innocent. It’s guilty before a crime has even happened.
It’s the Department of Pre-Crime.
UPDATE – Mrs Exile’s reaction to this when I told her a short while ago bears repeating. Her exact words were: “Oh, fuck off. That’s the modern equivalent of having your bumps felt.” She’s got a point, though I have to admit the obvious comparison with phrenology hadn’t occurred to me.
What did you learn in school today, hon?
Unusually for me I can’t make my mind up about this one.
[Smithereens,] a book of gruesome short stories, which includes a task asking students to write two suicide notes, is being taught to 13-year-olds at some schools, prompting adolescent health experts to warn it could encourage vulnerable teens to self harm.
Australian Childhood Foundation chief executive Joe Tucci said schools should not be asking students to rehearse potentially harmful behaviour. ”When you encourage adolescents to undertake activities that blur the line between fantasy and reality … it might tip them into undertaking that activity,” he said.
Childhood pyschologist Michael Carr-Gregg said Smithereens should be immediately removed from schools.
”It could give them ideas about self harm and potentially lead them to believe the world is a bleaker, darker, more miserable place than it actually is,” Dr Carr-Gregg said.
Well, actually I’m settled on one or two things, chief of which is this paranoia that children and adolescents are so fucking fragile these days that almost anything is seen as liable to tip them over the edge in some way, is probably a bit over the top. Newsflash: at school we did Lord of the Flies without becoming savages (well, more savage than teenagers are naturally), To Kill A Mockingbird without instantly becoming racists, lawyers or Gregory Peck, and a couple of Shakespeare romance comedies without anyone expressing a desire get into any item of female attire except in the sense that teenage boys normally want to. My teenage years are not so far behind me that I don’t recall them quite well, and I can say without any hesitation that we were able to tell the bloody difference between the written word and the real world. Teenagers don’t shatter when they read something depressing. No, probably not even the emos.
On the other hand it does seem like the kind of book I’d have hated to get in English class. Lord of the Flies was depressing and bored my arse off so thoroughly that I used to fall over sitting down. Part of its educational effect on me was that I didn’t learn what a good book it is until school was a few years behind me, but at the time I had to read it I did not actually read it at all. I read just enough of it to get the homework done without too many really crap marks, and not a single sentence more. What I’d like to have read would have been some Tom Clancy or something. Or perhaps Alastair MacClean or Ian Fleming if it had to be something a bit older.* Something with some bloody excitement in, for Christ’s sake. So if at the start of a new term the English teacher had plopped a copy of Smithereens on my desk it might have induced feelings of suicide, though not for the reasons that have been suggested, but they would quickly have given way to narcolepsy and catatonia.** And that’s it.
Maybe it’s different if you’re a parent. Maybe I’d also send my offspring off each day with a little part of my mind gibbering and fretting about their safety and their wellbeing until I saw them again each evening. Actually I’m sure I would, but I hope I’d also recognise that they’re likely to be little different from the rest of us at the same age. So despite the headline that made me think it’d be more of this or this the thing I’m really unsure about is just the appeal to kids of that age and wether it can tear them away from fluffy and non-violent things like World of Modern Zombie Warfare Combatcraft 2. And Facebook.
So why the hell are they actually bothering? Ah, silly me, the answer has been staring me in the face all the time. Looks like they’re afraid of someone suing for compo.
If a student harmed themselves after reading it, the school could be in breach of its duty of care.
And they’re worried about the stuff in the book making people depressed? What the fuck do they think their reaction to it is doing?
* Just about everyone read Lord of the Rings themselves. Boys’ school. I imagine it’s normal.
** The thought of Cerys Matthews might have woken everyone up again. Boys’ school. Probably normal as well.
Not that I want to be all tinfoil hatty, but…
After you, Dave.
According to The Teletubbygraph David Cameramong is shortly going to be talking about freedom.
British Muslims must subscribe to mainstream values of freedom and equality, David Cameron will say as he declares that the doctrine of multiculturalism has “failed” and will be abandoned.
He will also warn that groups that fail to promote British values will no longer receive public money or be able to engage with the state.
Well, that sounds a nice idea, Dave. I’m all for the state not funding any groups promoting anything at all, much less those promoting things that go against British values – if they can’t get funding from people who see things their way then they sure as hell don’t deserve a penny of taxpayers’ money.* And I certainly won’t argue that the whole multiculti dream has created more problems than it solved or that those who don’t like living in a free country and refuse to adapt are, ironically, free to leave it. But I have a question for you: when are you going subscribe to the values of freedom and equality you’re lecturing others about?
No, I am deadly serious. Britain is a country where speaking your mind risks legal action if other people don’t like what you say, which means that there is no freedom of speech – say the wrong thing and someone may use the courts and the legal system to silence you. The same courts protect slebs and shag-happy bootfallers from having their embarrassing lives discussed in the media, and while I have no interest in reading about them anyway it means that there’s no freedom of the press either. While in theory law abiding citizens have the right to defend themselves against violent attack they are in practice denied almost all means of doing so effectively, so the freedom to defend oneself is extremely shaky. Even aside from the ridiculous detention of people for taking photos and buying tobacco or because the police can’t remember the difference between a suspect and a witness, there is no freedom from malicious arrest or from cruel and unusual punishment since UK police forces, when they’re not delaying the proles for the convenience of surgically enhanced minor slebs, may be required by foreign law enforcement to arrest British citizens or residents with little in the way of prima facie evidence and for offences that need not be crimes in the UK.** If you are of a religious persuasion and hold certain disagreeable views about homosexuals you are not free to allow them to influence the way you choose to do business or with whom, which means Britons do not have freedom of religion or association either and are not free to exercise property rights. The drugs laws mean that people aren’t free to decide what to put in their own bodies and the persistent belief in the state as moral guardian and arbiter means that those with vaginas aren’t free to use them to earn a quid from those without one. For heaven’s sake, even consensual sex requires an IQ test now. And don’t get me started on how completely not-at-all-like-being-free it feels to fucking fly anywhere these days because I might not stop for a while.
Want me to carry on, Dave? Want me to look at the lack of freedom British citizens have when it comes to being heard over Britain’s EU membership despite the promises of both Cobbleition parties? Or the apparently shelved, or at least vastly watered down, Great Repeal Bill that you promised would be used to sweep away much of the most pointless and egregious legislation put on the books by previous governments? Or the way the promise that that would be open to public consultation was broken almost as soon as it became clear that many people wanted the smoking ban reconsidered? Freedom to for business owners and patrons to choose for themselves – no, can’t have that, can we?
And it gets worse.
Entering the debate on national identity and religious tolerance, the Prime Minister will declare an end to “passive tolerance” of divided communities, and say that members of all faiths must integrate into wider society and accept core values.
To be British is to believe in freedom of speech and religion, democracy and equal rights regardless of race, sex or sexuality, he will say. Proclaiming a doctrine of “muscular liberalism”, he will say that everyone, from ministers to ordinary voters, should actively confront those who hold extremist views.
See what I mean? To be considered properly British in Cameramong’s Britain you have to believe in mutually incompatible ideals. You have equal rights subject to them clashing with someone whose rights are more equal than yours. You have freedom of speech provided you don’t say anything unacceptable. You have freedom to believe in whatever god or gods you like and practice which ever flavour of religion that appeals to you providing you don’t believe in the bits that the British state aren’t comfortable with. And what the fuck is “muscular liberalism”? I’d really love to know because it sounds awfully like a doctrine of the state being free to exercise force against citizens until they are made to see things its way, and if so I don’t think there’s anything remotely liberal about it.
These freedoms are fucking absolutes, you hateful authoritarian prick. You are at liberty or you have restrictions. You are free or you are not. It’s that fucking simple, Dave, and if you can’t or won’t practice what you preach then I rate you as little better than those you have the chutzpah to lecture about it.
* Since I’d hold libertarian organisations to that principle I’d sure as fuck say it applies to any group that exists to tell other people what to do and how to live. Get by on voluntary donations or get lost.
** As the case of the Natwest Three showed us, it’s not always even necessary for any offence to have taken place in the jurisdiction that asked for the arrests to be made.