Saturday, 7 June 2014

Joined up thinking here

An interesting admission from Vodafone:
Vodafone, one of the world's largest mobile phone groups, has revealed the existence of secret wires that allow government agencies to listen to all conversations on its networks, saying they are widely used in some of the 29 countries in which it operates in Europe and beyond. 
The company has broken its silence on government surveillance in order to push back against the increasingly widespread use of phone and broadband networks to spy on citizens, and will publish its first Law Enforcement Disclosure Report on Friday. At 40,000 words, it is the most comprehensive survey yet of how governments monitor the conversations and whereabouts of their people.
There probably isn't anything there that people didn't already suspect and this just confirms it. Perhaps more interesting though is the reaction below the line. Here's a selection:
Private Eye reporting they'd not only dodged paying tax, but had just landed themselves with a tax-refund from HMRC. 
Heaven forbid they might even pay some tax next! 
So Vodaclone don't pay normal taxes... erm sorry I mean.... pay their taxes according to law and they provide access to our communications to the rich and powerful.. 
Would this be the same Vodafone let off a £6 billion tax bill by HMRC under Dave"thanks for the hospitality"Hartnett? 
Vodaphone, probably the worlds biggest Tax Dodger... 
etc.
So the same people outraged by state surveillance are outraged that a company isn't paying taxes that fund state surveillance. Idiots.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Criticism will not be tolerated

It was interesting to note that the following comment from the Russell Brand article was removed from The People's Assembly website:
ghost whistler commented 2014-05-04 12:56:17 +0100 
Is this a fucking joke? 
A year ago you had your assembly meeting in London. A year ago you sat on your hands and held a talking shop for privileged media interests and political parasites. A year ago you did FUCK ALL to help those of us desperate to believe an alternative to this austerity wasteland being forced on us. While people begged you to get off your fat fucking arses, as spokespeople, to do SOMETHING, all you did was pledge to have…another fucking meeting. 
What good are you? What’s the point of you? I don’t enjoy criticism and I don’t want to sow division but while Owen fucking Jones talks – again – or while Mark Steele cracks the same joke – again – or while some token Labour cunt who won’t reject the party he’s a member of despite their continued betrayal of socialism and society, you DO nothing.  
You sit and have your fucking workshops, you encourage good people to participate and you piss their hope and enthusiasm down the fucking toilet. Each. And. Every. Time.
You sit there with representatives from the capitalist friendly ‘dont rock the boat too much’ unions who say they stand with the poor and the disenfranchised. The likes of Mark fucking Serwotka who oversees a union who’s members are ACTIVELY engaged in the forced destitution and deprivation of the sick, the poor and the mentally unwell.  
These people do not deserve support. They deserve to be forced to make a choice: either you walk the walk, or we want no part of you. If the PCS, for example, will not strike over conditions that affect them as they do the precariat forced to attend their DWP gulags then show them THE FUCKING DOOR!  
Either you fight, or you forget it. I am not remotely interested in millionaire tossers like Russel Brand who have no conception of the reality of the lives of the poor in this country and who treat everything as a fucking joke. Let him do his comedy turn at JOngleurs. What answers does he have? None. What has he actually done on behalf of the unemployed facing IDS’s pogroms? What has he done for DPAC or the disabled or carers or against the Bedroom Tax? Nothing. Why are you tolerating this fucking vacuous piece of shit who’s worldview is a confused superficial mess of pop pyschology and student level mystical woo woo, who panders to the ideology of racist conspiracy idiots like David fucking Icke?  
FIGHT! Get on the streets and fucking FIGHT! Don’t just parade around providing a photo op for Milibland. Fight to take back what is ours.  
It’s either that or we lose everything.
Thank you Google cache.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Some questions on the Left

This was spurred on by a recent posting from The People's Assembly who are bigging up multi-millionaire 1%er Russell Brand as their new poster boy. Nearly a year on and they are planning another march and festival as well as a fund-raising comedy gig. What I'm trying to work out is what exactly they think they will achieve by doing this. It's all very well threatening to bring down the government and demanding an alternative to austerity but meandering down the street with a samba band probably isn't going help you meet your objectives.

This got me thinking; why is it that groups like People's Assembly and Occupy never get beyond waving a few placards and sitting in endless meetings? And not only that, they do this over and over again and then wonder why nothing has changed. What is it about the mentality of these groups that stops them moving from talking about stuff to actually doing stuff?

Sunday, 16 February 2014

On what will kill Wikipedia

I think that the principle of Wikipedia, collaborative editing of articles that anyone can contribute to, is great. In practice though, it's fatally flawed. Here's why...

I've only ever edited a couple of Wikipedia articles. They had been neglected as most of the reference links were broken and the content was hopelessly out of date. No one had made any meaningful changes in a long time. Knowing something about the subjects in question, I got them bang up to date with everything properly referenced. Over the last couple of years, I've made a few updates to keep things current and so have other people; collaboration works! Although a bit obscure, the subjects of these articles have occasionally appeared in the mainstream media, and as is well known, the lazy journos first (and often only) port of call for research is Wikipedia, so accuracy and currency of the articles is important. A classic example of when it goes wrong being this.

Unfortunately, the articles got the attention of some rather more dedicated editors than me. On one occasion, someone added "x is a dick" to one of them. That's one of the downsides of allowing anyone to edit but those sort of changes can easily be reverted. Someone with admin rights decided that the page should be locked down because of this and so all changes required his/her approval before they were published. Mine and anybody else's were swiftly rejected for spurious reasons. In the meantime, the admin reverted the article back to an out of date version...

The other article is now useless. It fell victim to a Wikipedia policy pedant who appears to edit for a full time "job". When I say full time, I mean they spend 18 hours plus a day deleting content that does not conform to the letter of this huge list of policies and guidelines. Because of the actions of the Pedant-in-Chief, the content of the article no longer contains the reason for the subject's notability and so the whole thing might as well be deleted. I tried to engage with the editor and got a cryptic comment back citing some obscure policy and basically telling me to fuck off, so I gave up.

The biggest problem with Wikipedia is that the casual editor like me cannot compete with those who spend their entire lives on it. We simply cannot and do not want to have to invest huge amounts of time in reading, understanding, and applying hundreds of different rules in order to be able to post content. We also don't want to spend time trying to improve an article just for someone to come along and delete all of your changes and more. If that happens then I suspect that like me, subject matter experts will just give up and walk away. That then leaves the editor community comprising of the bureaucrats, the pedants, and those who like to play attrition warfare and you end up with a site full of articles that are dated or just wrong. But that's OK because all the rules have been followed, a perfect embodiment of "the operation was a success but the patient died".

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Fucking Google again

I guess that we're going to have the same stories published around about the same time each year aren't we?
Google yesterday announced record British earnings of £3.6billion last year, an increase of £600million on 2012. 
But the online search giant has yet to disclose how much corporation tax it will pay.
It will come under enormous pressure over the figure following fierce criticism over its tax affairs. For 2012, the US multinational paid just £11.6million of tax on an income of £3billion.
 
It was accused of leaving hard-pressed families and businesses to fund public services such as hospitals and schools.
I've covered Google in the past so I won't repeat myself, but let's have a look at that last sentence that I've quoted from the Mail. So if Google et al magically start paying corporation tax and fund the schoolsandhospitals, that will reduce the tax burden from a "hard-working family" like me and my lot? Will it fuck. The government of the day will just find something else to spunk it on, what with it being rather easy to be loose and fast with someone else's money.

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

How to claim your free food

I always thought that you needed a referral from a GP, Job Centre, or social worker in order to be eligible for assistance from a food bank. Not so apparently:
The Bristol NW Foodbank voucher holders are care agencies, charities and other organisations who come into contact with vulnerable families or individuals in our local community, who may find themselves in crisis and in need of a food package from the Foodbank. This is intended as a short term help, until the agency is able to help their client resolve their situation.
If you are part of an organisation that is working with people in crisis who would benefit from this service and you would like to become a voucher holder, see the contacts page for contact details.
Agencies registered with us working across NW Bristol
  • 1625 Independent People
  • Addiction Recovery Agency (ARA)
  • Age UK Bristol
  • Big Issue
  • Bristol Black Carers
  • Bristol CC Tenancy Support Service
  • Bristol Central Job Centre
  • Bristol Citizens Advice Bureau
  • Bristol Crisi Prevention Fund Team
  • Bristol Debt Advice Service
  • Bristol Drugs Project
  • Bristol Early Intervention Team
  • Bristol Health Trainers
  • Bristol Home Start
  • Bristol Hospital Education Service
  • Bristol Intensive Team
  • Bristol Later Life
  • Bristol Mental Health Crisis Team
  • British Red Cross Fire and Emergency Support Service
  • Bristol Specialist Drug and Alcohol Service
etc.
These are only the first 20 organisations on the list. There are loads more including schools, a cafe (yes, really!), and unbelievably churches. Given that the Trussell Trust franchisees tend to be church-run, this is hardly an independent check for eligibility. Worse still, one of the big players in the poverty industry, the Child Poverty Action Group can issue vouchers. They wouldn't exist without so-called "child poverty" so it's obviously in their interest to perpetuate it. They can claim an increase in child poverty by an increase in food bank referrals, referrals that they make themselves.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Cure your hunger and your gayness

In Central Liverpool and a bit down on your luck? Can't afford food (and that's your story and you're sticking to it)? Well then maybe the Central Liverpool Foodbank could be your saviour?
Feeding the hidden hunger in Liverpool
Central Liverpool foodbank provides a minimum of 3 days emergency food and support to local people in crisis.
Yep, it's another Trussell Trust franchise run by a church, in this case the Frontline Church:
All of our pastors share a vision to see the city of Liverpool impacted with the good news of Jesus through:
  • A growing network of Missional Communities, giving church members a place of belonging, and reaching out to every man, woman and child in our city region.
  • Church Services in various locations across the city, so every man, woman and child can be part of a vibrant local congregation.
  • Good works bringing social and economic transformation to every man, woman and child in our city.
Which is perhaps most famous for this:
A Liverpool church seeking to help gay men and lesbians "break free" with a 'Homosexuality Fact Sheet' has attracted widespread criticism.The Frontline church said homosexuality was caused by "childhood pain" and offers advice on how to recognise someone struggling with their sexuality.
Note that the police and a housing association have gone to efforts to distance themselves from the church. There's a full copy of the "fact sheet" on the Mail website that's worth a read.

It's pretty backward stuff and does make you wonder just how many other Trussell franchises are out there with similar views...

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Foodbank closures

Ha! Only kidding. Given The Trussell Trust's ambitious expansion plans, I'm of the view that the future of foodbanks is looking pretty good. But this perpetuation is a problem; if you are going to offer essential goods free with few or any checks for need or eligibility then the demand will always be there.

Surely it should be the case that a foodbank success story is one that has to drastically scale back its operations or close because of lack of demand? This can never happen now as expectations have been set; the foodbanks will provide.

I personally don't like the politics around foodbanks. Labour might make political capital out of it now but if elected in 2015, the foodbanks will still be there, still be expanding, and there's only so long they can blame the "Tory's savage legacy" before the fingers are pointed in their direction.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Free food

The Tories are driving the poor into starvation and reliance on food banks to survive apparently. At least that's the impression you get should you read anything in the Left-leaning press or hear a quote from a Labour MP on the matter. Now food banks are for emergencies, perhaps the most common being a delay in receiving a benefits claim. Not great, but the help is there. But then a new benefits claim is going to be an irregular event so being reliant on them is unlikely, which fires up my inner cynic...

You need a referral from the Job Centre, your doctor, social worker, etc. to be able to get help from a food bank. Now faced with a request for a food bank voucher, what do you think that the Job Centre staff, doctors, and social workers are going to do? Get the requester to state their case and challenge their story, or knowing they face an argument and have limited time, just write out the referral? Of course they're going to chose the latter option and take the path of least resistance; of what benefit to them is to refuse? Knowing that free food is on offer, is every claimant going to be 100% honest if there is no disadvantage or sanction for a false claim? I'll leave that for you to decide.

I think the thing that bothers me the most about food banks is the "charity" behind a lot of them, The Trussell Trust. Every article you read about food banks will have a quote from a spokesman about how the brutal and heartless Tories are trying to exterminate the poor, who are only saved from this fate by one of their food banks. So what does The Trussell Trust actually do? Well it's actually a franchise operation masquerading as a charity. Want to set up a food bank in your area but need some help? £1,500 to The Trussel Trust should sort that out with ongoing fees every year. They are very keen on your money as:
The Trussell Trust partners with churches and communities to open new foodbanks nationwide. With almost 400 foodbanks currently launched, our goal is for every town to have one.
Yep, so this is yet another "charity" concerned more with perpetuating itself rather than trying to deal with the underlying causes for its existence. It doesn't even get its hands dirty, that's the job of the franchisees who are volunteers, and not to mention that half of its income goes on staff salaries...

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Voluntary work experience not slavery shocker - part 2

Today, the Supreme Court have ruled on the "Poundland" case:
The government has lost a Supreme Court appeal over a ruling its flagship "back to work" schemes were legally flawed.
Ministers failed in a bid to overturn an earlier ruling that regulations underpinning the schemes were invalid.
That second sentence is important because:
But the Supreme Court rejected a counter-appeal against the scheme and upheld the Court of Appeal's ruling in the government's favour that the regulations did not constitute forced or compulsory labour.
And that's the crux of the case the likes of Boycott Workfare or whatever union front were making; that workfare equals slavery. The highest court in the land says otherwise.

Part 1 here.