Monday, 29 September 2008

Where are they when you need them?

Ecstasy downgrade is considered (BBC News, Friday, 26 September 2008)
As part of the discussions, panel members will consider the submission from the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), stating that transferring ecstasy to class B would send out an "unfortunate message".

Instead of giving unhelpful advice contradicting scientific evidence, would the police perhaps care to go after the bad guys? Apparently not, not if the bad guys have money and power:

Police close file on BT's trials (BBC News, Thursday, 25 September 2008)


The BBC is not yet as bad as CNN. Just checking:

Tomkat protests (CNN, September 22, 2008)

Brooke Whatever:
Anti-Scientology protesters chanted "Scientology kills" [...]

April Somethingorother:
I mean, considering that these people are protesting with masks and their name is Anonymous, Tom and Katie are probably thinking: "Come up with a real name!"

Brooke Whatever:

The protesters want to remain anonymous and wear masks because Scientology pursues its critics, short of employing polonium-210. Try explaining to cunts from CNN Showbiz that some people go out of their way to make the world a better place, and that this does not include reporting on which celebrity accidentally exposed how many nipples during which award ceremony.

In a next post, I may write about Larry King, also known as the King of Paranormal, giving free publicity to 'psychics' and other scum. But then again, I may find I don't have the stomach for watching more of this rubbish.

Addendum (2008-09-30):

As some are apparently offended by my mentioning Scientology, here is something to make it up:

Being Tom Cruise : How Scientology is in No Way Mental

unlawfully killed

Inquest told of pressure on Met (BBC News, Monday, 29 September 2008)
The inquest is being held at London's Oval cricket ground and the jury will consider whether or not the Brazilian electrician was unlawfully killed.

No matter how often I read about the public execution of Jean Charles de Menezes, I find myself raising my eyebrows every time I come across the phrase "unlawfully killed". Perhaps I'm a linguistic simpleton unable to appreciate the subtle legal meaning of the word "unlawful". But how could it possibly be lawful to shoot an innocent man in the head? Seven times? With hollow point bullets? At point-blank range, and after he had been restrained?

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Millionaire spooked from mansion

Millionaire spooked from mansion (BBC News, Sunday, 21 September 2008)
Paranormal experts were unable to solve the problem.


With many people still relying on the BBC as their main news source, no wonder democracy in the UK is under such a strain.

What's next? Horoscopes and Elvis sightings?


Audio slideshow: The art of mathematics

Why do people waste their time with ghost stories, woo-woo medicine, religion and all that bunk when there is science?

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Sex offenders to face lie tests

Sex offenders to face lie tests (BBC News, Friday, 19 September 2008)

It won't be long until we can read in the newspapers:

Labour to replace police investigations by 16th century witch-hunting methods

Decades of experience with polygraphs used by the US federal government have established that the high number of false negatives and the high number of false positives make the method useless for any purpose whatsoever. For example, all those who were tested and later turned out to be spies had passed the test successfully, while the careers of several innocent people were ruined after they failed a lie detector test.

Polygraph examiners are the lowest of the low. With their bogus claims to possess magical powers of truth finding, they are as deceitful and fraudulent as dowsers, psychics, chiropractors, homoeopaths, and senior members of the Labour Party. Letting them have any function at all in any kind of legal process will cause immeasurable damage. Innocent people will be made to suffer because of false positives, and a misplaced sense of security in the case of false negatives will endanger potential victims.

Once more it is demonstrated that people's brains stop functioning as soon as an issue involves child abuse. No one in Britain would propose use of polygraphs in the case of mass murder, terrorism, or the treason committed by Blair and Brown over the war in Iraq. So why is it okay to apply polygraphs to sex offenders? Because with their conviction, they forfeited their human rights for all eternity? Then why not reintroduce trial by drowning? That would be the ultimate solution to keeping these freaks away from our children.

Study into near-death experiences

Study into near-death experiences (BBC News, Thursday, 18 September 2008)

Doctors at 25 UK and US hospitals will study 1,500 survivors to see if people with no heartbeat or brain activity can have "out of body" experiences.

No one doubts that people can have such experiences. But having an out-of-body experience (OBE) does not mean that the mind can detach itself from the body, floating about the operating room looking from above upon the surgeons and upon the corporeal self. It is clear the knucklehead who wrote this piece doesn't understand the basic vocabulary of near-death studies.

The study, due to take three years and co-ordinated by Southampton University, will include placing on shelves images that could only be seen from above.

Very interesting, but from the cited comments by the researchers it is clear they themselves do not find it very plausible that anything (mind, consciousness, soul, whatever) would actually leave the body during an OBE. A number of neuro-biological factors have been identified that may well cause OBEs and other near-death experiences, and I imagine the proposed studies will attempt to shed more light on these primarily.

One could have presented this story with an emphasis on medical science, but no, BBC News goes straight for the woo-woo.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

former monopolies

I am getting annoying phone calls from British Gas again, from this dreaded number: 08450700827. It turns out that anyone who dares to move to another supplier from British Gas will be harassed even more, with silent calls as punishment for desertion. So never ever get involved with British Gas in the first place, or you might regret it for years to come. Their service is crap anyway.

Then there is:

UK government responds on Phorm (BBC News, Tuesday, 16 September 2008)
"After conducting its enquiries with Phorm the UK authorities consider that Phorm's products are capable of being operated in a lawful, appropriate and transparent fashion," said a Berr statement.

The scumbags at BT who concocted the Phorm trials, thereby violating the privacy of about 18,000 customers, should be in jail. But the government thinks everything is hunky-dory. What's wrong with spying on people? We do it all the time ourselves!

If you can't leave this cursed country, then at least stay away from BT as far as you can. Also avoid Virgin Media and TalkTalk. You want an ISP that has the interests of its customers at heart rather than any shady deals with advertisers. See also:

Phorm: Our business is fine, honest (The Register, 4th September 2008)

Update (2008-09-22):

Since last time, I've received several more calls from British Gas, some of which were silent. I'm trying to find the magical formula to keep them at bay. So far I've tried "Thank you very much but please do not call me anymore", "sod off", "drop dead", and "drop dead after suffering from a horrible disease". No success so far.

Monday, 15 September 2008

double standards

A selection from today's news:

Driver jailed for killing couple (BBC News, Monday, 15 September 2008)

RAF Iraq base deaths 'unlawful' (BBC News, Monday, 15 September 2008)

A driver is jailed for two years and four months over a split-second lapse in concentration.

Blair, Brown and several others who conspired to start a disastrous war that has cost the lives of 176 British soldiers, and many, many more innocent Iraqis, may never face justice.

Bus driver stalker spared prison (BBC News, Monday, 15 September 2008)

Minister 'set to quit' over Brown (BBC News, Monday, 15 September 2008)

The BBC has no qualms about publishing names and intimate details concerning a case of obsessive love, including the name of the victim. (No photo today, but one can be sure they tried to obtain one.)

The BBC allows a minister who is playing political games in the Labour government to remain unnamed.

The British police, who are so eager to pursue all who step out of line whether they actually break the law or not, demonstrate their own incompetence:

Police admit to lost data blunder (BBC News, Monday, 15 September 2008)

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Why are there so few female conductors?

Why are there so few female conductors? (BBC News, Friday, 12 September 2008)

Another article that is more politically correct than informative, by avoiding all thorny issues.

* Long tradition of male conductors proving hard to shake off

With all due respect to Marin Alsop, to whom we owe a number of truly outstanding performances, female conductors are nothing new. The great Nadia Boulanger appeared as conductor of several major American orchestras in the 1930s. (How could they write a piece about female conductors without mentioning her?) In Britain around the same time there was Ethel Leginska.

There is a long tradition of female concert pianists, starting with Clara Schumann. Is there gender equality among the top 50 most celebrated pianists of the world today? I don't think so. Off the cuff, I suspect the situation is more balanced for top violinists, whereas there were few noted female violinists before 1900.

* Many conductors don't reach their peak until later life
* Top females still working up through system

That's it? This three point answer explains why there are so few female conductors? Would the same answer be given if asked why there are so few women CEOs? Just a matter of tradition, and in time it will even out?

Of course there are more important factors behind gender inequality in many professions, especially those that carry prestige. Some of these factors are 'nurture', and others, whether we like it or not, are 'nature'. Conjecturing about the relative importance of these factors without having done adequate research would reveal more about one's prejudices than about reality. But one thing is clear: the usual escapism of BBC News won't get us any nearer to real answers.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Woman jailed for sex with boy

Woman jailed for sex with boy, 15 (BBC News, Friday, 12 September 2008)

Here we go again. Apparently jails aren't full enough yet.

As in the case two weeks ago, there was consensual sex, and the father had nothing better to do than snoop on his offspring, who might have been months, days or seconds away from the age of consent.

Passing sentence Judge Peter Jacobs told her: "If this was a 35-year-old man and a 15-year-old girl no one would raise an eyebrow if he was sent to prison."

I would. And I don't understand the reasoning. Did she deserve 15 months in jail for reasons of gender equality?

The court heard there was no victim impact statement as he had been a willing party.

So this is a victimless crime? Why are victimless crimes punished so harshly in this country? Is there a rational explanation for this?

"His parents have been very upset," Mrs Tucker added.

So it is really the parents who are the victims. Just let the implications sink in for a moment.

Monday, 8 September 2008

TV licence fee tactics

Review of TV licence fee tactics (BBC News, Monday, 8 September 2008)
He was particularly angry at the requirement for people who do not own
televisions - some one million people in Britain - to prove their "non-use".

It is typical for the BBC to repeat misleading information when their own interests are at stake. People who do not watch television don't have to prove anything, although they may be harassed a bit if they don't. (Note furthermore that one should distinguish between "own a television" and "watch television".)

If a TV Licensing agent calls, don't open the door. If you've already opened the door, smile friendly if you must, and then close the door again. Don't say anything, especially not your name! Everything you say can and will be used against you and so on. If they call more often than once every 6 months or so, withdraw their implied right of access (under an assumed name if they don't know your name already).

These TV Licensing agents are not police and have no special powers, despite their frequent lies to suggest otherwise. Only if they come with a search warrant do you have to let them in, and then they will usually be accompanied by a police officer. For once, regard that police officer as your friend. His or her presence will keep the TV Licensing creep from opening the drawer with your undies and sniffing where he's not allowed to.

If you happen to have a video camera lying around, film the event. Don't believe them if they tell you you can't film in your own home. Make it as embarrassing for them as it is for you, but without actually hindering the search. You must also comply with any reasonable request to assist the search. But for goodness sake, don't sign anything, under any circumstances and whatever they tell you!

Unless you watch television with the curtains open, TV Licensing officers don't usually go so far as to seek a search warrant. In a truly free, civilised society, it wouldn't happen that one of them convinces some dork of a magistrate that there are reasonable grounds for believing that you watch television while you don't. But regrettably, we live in Britain. The real problem here is of course the legal system as a whole, but that's a different story.

As to the letters from TV Licensing you receive about every two months, just throw them away unopened. Reading them is bad for your health, I've been told.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Sarah Palin

Pray to the Flying Spaghetti Monster that the Yanks will make the right choice in November, or we might soon have another nut in the White House.

If you haven't seen it yet, watch the video and shudder:

Palin: average isn't good enough (at

Addendum (2008-09-22):

When Atheists Attack (by Sam Harris, at

our civil liberties or our wallets?

'Environmental volunteers' will be encouraged to spy on their neighbours (Telegraph, 02 Sep 2008)

Anti-terrorism laws used to spy on noisy children (Telegraph, 06 Sep 2008)

Children aged eight enlisted as council snoopers (Telegraph, 06 Sep 2008)

Child sleuths 'are not snoopers' (BBC News, Saturday, 6 September 2008)

Some observations:

First, the justified expressions of discontent if not outrage everywhere on the web in response to the above news may be ultimately driven by the worsening economic climate, which is mostly to blame on global factors rather than on Labour's incompetence. The surveillance state has been unfolding itself for several years now. Why are people waking up at this moment? Why were there no mass demonstrations five years ago, or as far back as eight years ago, when some of our most fundamental human rights were annulled? Remember that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill is from 2000, and wide-ranging extensions are from 2003. But our economy wasn't doing so badly then, and any financial adversity could always be blamed on the EU.

Secondly, even if the present government is overthrown tomorrow by an angry mob, and its senior members are tarred and feathered, they might be elected again at the next occasion, after a future Tory government will inevitably fuck up too, unable to find their place to the right of Labour on the political spectrum, and unable to turn the tide on our economy. Such is the memory of the average constituent.

Lastly, given that the news comes from the Daily Telegraph, could there be an element of opportunism from the side of the Tories?

Tories condemn rise in number of civilians given police powers
(Guardian, Wednesday August 27 2008)

Still remember how civil liberties existed in perfect harmony with the fight on crime and terrorism in times when the Conservatives were in power? Neither do I. See e.g.:

British Detention Law Is Ruled a Breach of Rights (The New York Times, November 30, 1988)

One more noteworthy link:

'Spying' requests exceed 500,000 (BBC News, Tuesday, 22 July 2008)

Saturday, 6 September 2008


20 examples of grammar misuse (BBC News, Wednesday, 3 September 2008)

Having strong opinions about grammar is of all nationalities and of all ages. Having strong opinions while being wrong requires a special breed. See the annotated items.

Spy software snares child abuser

Spy software snares child abuser (BBC News, Tuesday, 2 September 2008)

There is not much about this case in the press, and perhaps the offender is really pure evil and the victim is pure innocence. The only practical way to criminalise child abuse is to set an age of consent, which according to my sources happens to be 12 in Malta, 14 in Austria, 15 in France, and 18 in Turkey. The case reported here is clearly statutory rape in the UK, as the girl was not yet 16. (By how many months or how many days?)

This said, am I a vile monster myself if I feel some compassion for this guy who is being sent to jail for 4.5 years? Having sex is what has saved the human race from extinction, and urges programmed into our genes tend to take precedence over social conventions about, for example, age difference. Moreover, the reality seems to be that a third of British teens have sex below the age of consent (Third 'have sex below legal age', BBC News, 13 Aug 06), and for gay teens this may be more than half (Report Finds 58% of Gay Teens Have Sex Before Legal Age of 16, UKGayNews, 1 December 2006).

Incidentally, judging from our overcrowded prisons (e.g. Scots jail numbers at record high, BBC News, Friday, 29 August 2008), it seems that either Britons are more inclined to commit crimes than our neighbours oversees, or most people in UK jails don't deserve to be there, due to an antiquated legal system and self-righteous legislators who think that all that is undesirable will go away if only penalties are high enough, irrespective of any sense of justice.

Of course, in the present climate of child abuse hysteria, it is no longer allowed to consider such matters rationally. This holds in the UK as much as in the US, cf. the Rind et al. controversy. Further recommended reading is Predator Panic: A Closer Look by Benjamin Radford, Skeptical Inquirer 30(5). In France we saw the Outreau trial a few years ago.

Back to the original BBC News article: If an attempt was made to provide a balanced view on the trial, it wasn't successful. Could it be that the father who installed spy software on his daughter's computer was himself a bit off his rocker? This doesn't sound very sane to me:
I picked up the software for £60 and is the best thing I have ever bought and is now on all my children's PCs.

Poor children. Will they sustain more permanent trauma from the consequences of their budding sexuality or from being continuously spied on by their parents?

This is a good occasion to reread:

Girl to get tracker implant to ease parents' fears (The Guardian, Tuesday September 3 2002)

A less gullible source is:

Cap Cyborg to chip 11 year old in wake of UK child killings (The Register, Monday 2nd September 2002)

Want to mould people into a surveillance society? Start early!

WWII body

'It seemed to be a body from WWII' (BBC News, Thursday, 4 September 2008)

Papua 'remains' are not WWII body (BBC News, Friday, 5 September 2008)

Did you think the BBC would wait one day for confirmation before publishing a sensationalist story that turns out to be complete bollocks?

aren't we brave

Muhammad novel set for UK release (BBC News, Thursday, 4 September 2008)

American publishers were too chicken to release this novel, and also a Serbian publisher was forced to pull the title (US Book Stirs Debate in Europe on Self-Censorship and Islam, Deutsche Welle, 19-08-2008). The British were called in to restore freedom of expression. Hurrah!

Well, not so fast. It seems the only thing that scared Random House into scrapping the novel was a review from an 'expert' on Islam who had never even been to the Middle East. Recall:

Prophet Muhammad novel scrapped (BBC News, Saturday, 9 August 2008)

It takes an American reviewer to assume that what is offensive to the Western mind (a 52 year old man having sex with a 9 year old girl) must be offensive to the entire Muslim world. Statements by the author herself (e.g. "Anyone who reads the book will see that it honours the prophet and his favourite wife") do not exclude the possibility the book is meant as glorification of part of the history of Islam. Until the novel is released, we can only guess.

See also the column:

The Wages of Fear kill The Jewel of Medina
(New Europe, 1 September 2008)

The Danish (three cheers for them!) are perhaps the only people in the world at the moment who wouldn't let their freedom of expression be compromised by Islamophobia:

Danish publisher hopes to publish 'inflammatory' Islam novel (Guardian, Tuesday August 26 2008)

Now from pulp literature to something that actually matters: our health. If it weren't for Quackometer, the UK-skeptics, and several other blogs, we would never have known about the latest assault by charlatans on the freedom of speech, in this case chiroquacks, who try to silence author Dr. Simon Singh by suing him for libel over his article 'Beware the spinal trap' in The Guardian on April 19th 2008, in which he exposes chiropractic for the laughable sham it is. Moreover, The Guardian has pulled the article. (But thanks to Svetlana Pertsovich, there is an internet-cached copy.)

That chirofascists go after anyone who dares criticise their fraudulent practices is nothing new. By their own admission (pp. 6-7 of News from General Chiropractic Council, issue 23, March 08), they have in the past bullied several newspapers (The Guardian, The Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph) into either watering down their critical comments to insignificance or into removing a critical article altogether, replacing it by chiropractic propaganda. They have resorted to similar legal intimidation in Canada and New Zealand.

But what is truly shocking is that news about this censorship is in turn being (self-)censored. That a newspaper is forced to pull an article because of a legal threat should be headline news, but somehow it isn't, not in Britain. It is perhaps not surprising that the Guardian itself hasn't provided any justification for removing the article, as their legal department may have advised against making any further comments. But how many other newspapers have reported this story? The Times? No! The Independent? Nope! BBC News? Only in your dreams would these weasels stick their necks out over a controversial issue! Daily Mail, Daily Express, Mirror, Sun? You must be kidding! I've found only one mention in the 'old media', and that reads as a pro-chiropractic piece, devoid of any critical thinking:

Doctors take Simon Singh to court (Telegraph, 16 Aug 2008)

The British press sucks.