Profiting from the right kind of idiots

Gambling companies draw a lot of stick for profiting from people with psychological or emotional problems and people with learning difficulties. At their worst, they can offer vestiges of hope to the damaged that lead them into a spiral of addiction and ruin.

However, not all attempts by gambling companies to profit on the stupid views that idiots hold are quite so reprehensible. For example, PaddyPower is currently offering odds of 6/4 against that the UK will lose its AAA credit rating by the end of January.

The UK won’t lose its AAA credit rating by the end of January. If you believe the UK will lose its AAA credit rating by the end of January, then you score an absolute maximum “Fat UKIP voter in the pub” on the “Warren Buffett’s IFA to Crazy Tramp Shitting Through A Letterbox” scale of ‘understands financial markets’ (this is about one point below George Osborne, fact fans).

So crazed EVILZANULIEBOURHAVERUINEDOURCOUNTRY!!!!-ites will lose their cash to an Irish joke. That’s good news all round. Incidentally – I’ve checked, and PaddyPower very sensibly aren’t running the bet the other way.

Legal guidelines for photographers in England and Wales

In the wake of the Guardian newspaper’s treacherous attempts to photograph the secret, hitherto unseen building at 1 St Mary Axe, everyone considering taking photographs in public places in England and Wales should really ensure they’re aware of the complex legal situation surrounding photography.

A conventional reading of the law can be seen in this memo from Chief Constable Andy Trotter, head of the Association of Chief Police Officers, where he reiterates many times that “there are no powers prohibiting the taking of photographs, film or digital images in a public place“.

However, layman as he is, Constable Trotter has failed to consider three very important legal concepts in this matter: the doctrines of ‘jobbious worthious’, ‘soulibus stealibus’, and ‘facina nonce’. Respectively:

1) Jobbious worthious highlights the long-established precedent that any arsehole in a uniform [*] has the absolute right to tell you what to do, demand respect at all times, pretend that he’s a policeman, and be backed up by the real police when they arrive, despite the fact that the closest he’s come to an understanding of the law is the time he got cautioned for beating up some bleedin’ liberty- taker after 12 Stellas on a Saturday night.

2) Soulibus stealibus relates to the fact that the fact that if you take a photograph of someone in any context in a public place you are, ipse facto, guilty of ‘infringing their bleedin’ human rights’. The harm done to the victim reflects the fact that your camera captures a proportion of their soul with each click (proportion captured depends on size of camera, which is why cameraphones are viewed as less serious and tripods as worst of all), and hence the social concern that with sufficient photographs you’ll start to own the person in a voodoo-slavemaster capacity.

3) Facina nonce takes precedence over soulibus stealibus in the event that there is anyone who is, resembles, or has ever been, a child in any part of the
photograph. In this context, you are automatically guilty of making and distributing child pornography (which is defined as anything that a person who is sexually excited by photographs of children, irrespective of context or content, might be sexually excited by), and hence will be summarily hanged.

[*] applies to: security guard uniforms; PCSO uniforms; railway staff uniforms. Does not apply to: school uniforms, although see point 3.

Two questions on Iraq

1) If the UK had lined up with the rest of Old Europe in opposing the war, how likely would it have been to go ahead anyway?

2) If the war had gone ahead as a unilateral US operation rather than a US/UK operation, would the outcome have been any different, for better or worse?

(worth noting that even if the answer to 1 is ‘entirely certain’ and the answer to 2 is ‘significantly worse’, I’m not claiming that’d provide sufficient moral justification for UK entry. But it’s an interesting question.)

What I’ve been up to, week ending 2009-12-06

  • LHR most destination is JFK according to BAA website, Paris not in top 5 (@hackneye @leylandrichard) #
  • People who use the word "personally", in the context of "that's not what I personally like" etc, should be hanged. Personally. #
  • I hate people who occupy seats on crowded trains with their bags too, but this is taking things *slightly* too far: #
  • Works for me -> RT @VizTopTips MEN: stop people doodling on photos of you by wearing glasses and growing a beard and moustache #
  • Changes in English usage 1950s: "the pillar box is next to the phone booth outside the railway station" (partly @benlocker) #
  • Changes in English usage 2000s: "the post box is next to the phone box outside the train station" #
  • Changes in English usage 2020s: "the, erm, used to be next to the, erm, which used to be outside the, erm". #
  • Result: I'm told that LHR-CDG is the most *flights*, LHR-JFK is the most *passengers* @hackneye @matgb @leylandrichard #
  • Still a bit perplexed about who flies LHR-CDG. There can't be *that* many people who live in Reading visiting clients in Roissy… #
  • …would be interesting to get transfer pax vs real pax stats (also, since TGVs already go to CDG, a shuttle for transfer pax would be kewl) #
  • If your interest in FS industry failings goes beyond "ooh! greedy and evil" to "more to the point, they don't work", #
  • Mock The Week repeat today upset me: Andy Parsons made four or five good jokes. Luckily he reverted to form before the end #
  • RT @simonk133 If Dave [Cam] thinks we need to be a culture which risks lives in a pointless cause, might I suggest he fucks back off to WWI #
  • Feel rather sorry for Pete D over Deutschland fuss – like most people, he didn't realise .de dropped Verse 1 after WWII but kept tune #
  • RT @VizLetterBocks: txt hugs & kisses are annoying; now I can’t go past my cupboard without making love to my OXO cubes (via @thesophie) #
  • Cab ride home worth a blog. "immigrants OK if don't take piss"; every immigrant I know he agreed=non-pisstaker. All his examples from Sun #
  • This pretty much summarises my political outlook: (via @mrpower) #
  • Dear Lord this is bad: – amused by the artist's controversial views on piracy though (no, not like Lily Allen) #
  • RT @themanwhofell Disappointed to see all the Gary Glitter fans with their "Free Gary" twibbons. #
  • RT @mePadraigReidy Delingpole: who are the real deniers now? Me or climate research inst? <- fairly obviously, still Delingpole #
  • So what, who cares you boring little f***? #importantpopquestions #
  • If size isn't everything, and I'm half his size, how come it's him who gets to take the prize? #importantpopquestions #
  • RT @Helzbels What is a reflexologist? I imagine it's someone who sits on a stool all day, banging people on the knee with a rubber mallet. #
  • RT @Helzbels Friend who works at LHR said Air France only flying at 40% capacity. <- supports discussion from t'other day #
  • I knew my AGW post on LC was going to stir up a bit of a fuss – but Christ on a bike, the anti lot are properly mad. Jesus. #
  • #ff @kara_simsek is just so goddamn awesome #
  • …but I properly love Martin Rowson. Hogarth would be proud, this is the best cartoon EVAH: #
  • Merrick has a fine piece on first-time inland waterway exploration: – canals fucking rule. #
  • Carter-Ruck = Wolfram & Hart; bring out the stakes: #

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AGW and helicopters

Quick lunchtime update: a new piece I wrote last night has just gone up on LC (it’s taken the editors the morning to remove my sarcastic footnotes, apparently…).

It’s on an obvious point that tends to be missed from the debate on anthropogenic global warming: the people who’d benefit from the enormous, co-ordinated scam required to present a false AGW theory as true across the scientist community are small in both numbers and power (and it’d be a very hard thing to do), whilst the people who’d benefit from smearing a true AGW theory as false among newspaper, politicians and bloggers but not scientists (and we already know big companies regularly use the above channels to promote their interests), are large in numbers and enormous in power. Read the whole thing.

Quick digression before I return to working out scripts to automatically convert Word documents to XML (ENVY MY LIFE): why the hell is there an enormous black twin-rotor military helicopter hovering over the City and South Bank? Are the vested interests coming to get me…?

Mmm, tempura morays

From Ars Technica, enlightening the ‘net neutrality’ debate, a piece on the corrupt institutions and robber barons who hijacked the Victorian equivalent of the Internet.

This digression was interesting:

The result was the infamous Credit Mobilier scandal of the 1870s… Rather than license the construction of the Union Pacific railroad to an independent contractor, its Board of Directors farmed the work out to Credit Mobilier, a company that was, essentially, themselves. In turn, Credit billed the UP vastly more than the actual cost of the project. To keep Congress quiet about the affair, the firm offered stock in itself to Representatives and Senators of any political persuasion at bargain basement prices.

The piece compared the scandal to Enron. But for some reason (and I’m struggling to work out why the thought hit me at this point), I started to wonder whether any Treasury politicians or officials in place in the early 2000s were granted generous share options or shares in Atkins, Balfour Beatty, Bombardier, EDF or Thames Water…

Visa card [*]

I’ve long approved of a semi-referendum for the reintroduction of the death penalty, under which only people who vote in favour actually face it as a punishment option (this would work well, as “being a crazy violent idiot” is correlated both with “supporting the death penalty” and “committing murder”).

On the basis of this, do-as-you-would-be-done-by, principle, I’ve come up with an excellent new rule, inspired initially by my annoyance with visa requirements from assorted countries that have visa requirements solely to annoy people who make those countries’ nationals jump through annoying and stupid hoops to get visas [**].

Simply, it involves a plebiscite voting on “do you think all immigration from everywhere to everywhere else should be allowed, or are you a stupid bigot?”. Then, if you tick “stupid bigot”, you’re never allowed to go further than 10km from your hometown ever again, and if you don’t, then you’re allowed to roam the whole glorious world in which we live.

This would be applied on a local area basis, such that areas which have a majority of idiots are cut off (although they’d be allowed to have a separate referendum desperately begging for business travellers and tourists to be allowed to visit, if they liked). Meanwhile, anywhere that wasn’t in the “majority bigot” camp would be thoroughly visitable and liveable for all concerned, subject to “if you try and claim benefits or do crime before you get a passport then you can piss off and never come back” requirements.

Yes, there’s some satire in some of these provisions, but ultimately if they were adopted the general migration scheme would actually be noticeably less rubbish than the current one…

[*] in the Northern British sense of “card” meaning “person who thinks they’re a great wit”.

[**] let’s be realistic, India is lovely, but the reason a UK passport holder requires an advance-acquired visa to go to India isn’t that the Indians are terrified of being swamped by British immigrants…

The wrong 1980s Liverpool injustice

Scepticisle disagrees with my comments on the case of the (appallingly tasteless, Hitler-trivialising) Sun anti-Scargill front page from the miners’ strike which was blocked by the print unions.

My take was that either content should be illegal to publish, or people who want to publish (and are willing to set up presses to publish on – this isn’t a “Griffin on the BBC” point) should be allowed to publish. Even though this particular literary work was of no merit at all, it doesn’t justify overriding that principle to give a small-C-conservative-small-S-socialist cartel, with a massive interest in preserving union power, the power of veto over all nationally published voices. Which really was the case before the print unions were broken.

But that isn’t actually what I’m going to talk about here.

Obsolete also uses The Sun’s equally vile Hillsborough coverage as an example of something the unions might have prevented. In the context of writing about tabloid vileness, there really ought to be a Godwin-equivalent for Hillsborough and the Sun… but even so, the end-point on that one is surely:

1) the Sun is considered appalling and vile
2) the Sun’s accusations about pissing on and robbing the dead are discredited in the eyes of absolutely everyone
3) any suggestion that the Liverpool crowd’s behaviour might, even unwittingly and non-maliciously, have contributed to the tragedy that unfurled is pretty much off the radar of acceptable commentary.

…I’d say that was Liverpool 1, Sun 0?

However, a few years beforehand, when a slightly less fatal, equally badly managed by the cops, both-sides’-fans-equally-at-fault episode took place that also involved Liverpool, the net result was an official decree that Liverpool fans were evil (domestically and internationally), English fans were evil (internationally), and that football fans in general were evil (domestically). Literally unbelievably to anyone under about 30, all English clubs spent five whole years banned from European football.

And yet, even though Liverpool basically wasn’t scapegoated for Hillsborough, and yet massively was scapegoated for Heysel; even though the English football community basically wasn’t scapegoated for Hillsborough and massively was scapegoated for Heysel, it’s the former rather than the latter which is brought up as an example of Liverpool being misrepresented by the authorities and press.

Which is silly.

At Heysel and at Hillsborough, the primary cause of the deaths was the incompetence and complacency of the officials and police supposedly responsible for guaranteeing safety. At Heysel and Hillsborough, the behaviour of the crowds (Juventus and Liverpool fans alike at Heysel, Liverpool fans alone at Hillsborough) was a contributory factor that the authorities should’ve foreseen.

The difference is, the UK authorities (both football and public safety) have some degree of professionalism and non-corruption in retrospect [*], hence investigated Hillsborough properly. Whereas UEFA and the Belgian authorities stuck to the, pretty much criminally complacent, line that “Only the English fans were responsible. Of that there is no doubt“.

Yes, obviously I’m aware that the difference between the two events from a Liverpool perspective is that in one, the people who died were from Liverpool and in the other they were from Italy. The conclusion to draw from that is an interesting one: the stereotype of Scousers of being chippy whingers is actually rubbish.

If they were, then Heysel would be the event that was brought up [**], because it was the one that Liverpool was blamed for and which was properly lied about whilst the guilty went free. So it’s just not the gross injustice that saw Liverpool being blamed and punished for others’ failings that causes upset – it is, actually, grief at the fact that 96 of their people died, horribly and preventably.

And so while the Scum lives up to its name, as does Kelvin MacKenzie, I’m really quite sceptical that “THE TRUTH” headline has quite the impact it’s alleged, any more than staged videos of Palestinians dancing in the street had a significant effect on New Yorkers’ response to September 11.

The important and terrible thing had already happened; the rest was irrelevant.

[*] at least when it comes to investigation, compensation and recommendations for future action; I’m aware that punishment of officials who fail is disappointingly far down the line. However, the South Yorkshire police got a hell of a lot closer to the inside of a courtroom than anyone responsible [***] for Heysel.

[**] it’s interesting that “it was the Scousers’ fault, nothing to see here” seems to have satisfied the families in the Heysel case, despite being transparently false. I suppose “it was partly the authorities’ fault, partly the Scousers’ fault, and partly their own bloody fault” isn’t as satisfying as “the English bastards murdered them” to a grieving relation.

[***] looking lairy, red-and-white and a bit scary on CCTV doesn’t count as “responsible”, even if some kangaroo court does give you 18 months probation on jumped-up ‘manslaughter’ charges.

The idle musings of John B