Goodbye Analogue, hello BskyB. The Digital TV scam

Some of my readers have been getting their knickers in a right old twist of late over falling standards at the BBC and among the mainstream news media in general. But their ire is justified. It’s a bugger when people have to look to reports from hedge fund managers in order to get to know what is really going on in their backyard.
Punters could always stick with Little Nicky Machiavelli of course, we report the news months before it happens. A good example is the progress of the switchover from analogue to digital T.V.
Thanks to a report commissioned by the managers of Opus Hedge Fund our analysis of the real reason behind the push to digital, first published here in Nov 2005 (I think) and reprised several times since, has been proved correct.
Naturally, when Machiavelli Blog first said that the great digital changeover was nothing to do with benefits to the consumer and everything to do with politics and handing television in the UK to Murdoch’s Evil Empire a bunch of people who regard themselves as rational and progressive accused Little Nicky of being a dinosaur who is opposed to all progress, thus showing themselves to be dull witted and narrow minded bufoons. Never mistake technological advance for progress. If something improves the lives of the majority at minimal cost it can be called progress, but if a thing diminishes the lives of the majority at high cost it is nothing but the march of corporate fascism.
In Whitehaven, Cumbria, the town chosen to pioneer the television switchover in October this year Freeview, the only alternative to BskyB paid services and “free sat” for which punters pay £150 as opposed to £30 for a Freeview set top box, will not be available before switchover. So the only way people will be able to see television in the interim is by subscribing to a BskyB offering in order to get what they now have for free.
Freeview is a service of dubious quality, its coverage is overstated and the reception in areas with less than excellent signal strength is vulnerable to deterioration due to rain and mist.

Television industry analysts expect BskyB to have achieved 98% penetration in the Whitehaven area by the switchover. And will these people who have to pay for their TV another way get a discount on their TV licence fee. Discount my arse.

NB: To save some smartarse going to check the bogus and misleading map showing Freeview coverage and telling me coverage is excellent, I’ll tell you that map would be fine if Cumbria was flat. Unfortunately Cumbria is notoriously not flat. Whitehaven is in an inlet overlooked by high cliffs. Don’t belive me? ask fatsally, she stood the market there more times than I did.

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Jehovah’s Kiddie Fiddler

Should the fact that a man is a prominent member of a religious group known for its oddball beliefs be enough to keep him out of prison when he is convicted of paedophile crimes?

Michael Porter, a 38 year-old member of the doomsday cult, admitted 24 cases of assault on children, including a baby less than two years old. A prominent member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses community in his area and used his position of trust to prey on children of church members. And yet the Judge, swayed by Porter’s pleas that he was a person of strong faith who had been tempted and been to weak to resist, and by a further plea that he had undergone therapy, decided he should not go to prison.

Porter also tried to claim his paedophile tendencies were a result of his childhood but his own sister exposed this as a lie.

It is unbelievable that we still fall for this grovelling to God act that so many Christians caught out in malfeasance try to pull. Rational people know there is no such thing as evil, there is no horned beast with cloven hooves constantly putting temptation in our way. We all know what actions are wrong and that some things are wronger than others. And abusing children, very young children who are not in a position to resist, is one of the very worst of all crimes. So forget shifting blame, Porter and those like him know what they are doing is wrong and unacceptable in any society and yet they choose to do it.

The very nature of the crime shows the perpetrators to be arrogant and manipulative by nature, they must believe they have a right to do what they do and they believe they can convince others that they are deserving of special consideration. In other words they are the most amoral of people.

When someone “of faith” commits such a crime then, would not a more harsh punishment be appropriate. Though hypocrisy in itself is not a crime, it can compound other offences.

Similarly it is not acceptable for a judge to show leniency because a criminal has “undergone therapy.” The evidence tat therapy actually helps towards rehabilitation is very shaky and too often psychologists are convinced of the success of their treatment simply because the patient is savvy enough to tell them what they want to hear. The therapy can be made part of the prison sentence but should not be an alternative to it.

In the case of both faith and therapy I am very suspicious of the rapid results achieved, especially when the criminal is a member of some fringe faith. If you remember Ted Haggard, the American fundamentalist preacher who was caught with his penis in a rent boy’s mouth; he was pronounced “totally heterosexual again” after a few weeks of prayer and “therapy.”

In the case of Haggard as with Porter, their respective churches “stood by” them. That’s fine, its up to the members of those congregations what they do. But the law must not be swayed by talk of miracle cures and the hand of God. And if people who commit crimes subsequently try to hide behind superstition and hocus pocus it shows those people are actually a long way from accepting what they have is wrong, let alone experiencing remorse. Put simply they are grabbing at anything that looks like a Get Out Of Jail card.

Ted Haggard had not committed a sexual crime but to preach homophobic sermons and ask for money to “further the church’s mission” while conducting himself in that was was certainly fraudulent.

If we are to maintain any credible claim to be a civilised society and not a superstitious rabble sliding backwards towards medieval ignorance then we must add a new commandment to our moral compass: SAME RULES APPLY regradless of race, faith, class, age or sexual preference.

Should We Stop Them From Breeding?

The mindless murder of young Rhys Jones in Liverpool this week has given us a very disturbing insight into gang culture among the young. The stories told by members of The Noggzy’eds and the Crocky’eds, their nihilistic view of life and their perverted loyalties. Evidence presented in so many news reports suggesting this behaviour is not confined to one city but spread over the whole country.

It makes the assurances of middle class bleeding hearts that “there have always been gangs and things are no worse than they ever were except in the eyes of the hysterical media,” seem rather hollow. Things seem to have run completely out of control in the past few weeks, perhaps it is because the school holidays have freed more young people to roam free, looking for “laffs.” That could explain the recent violence. But the problems are not confined to violence. Irresponsibility is at the root of problems relating to drugs, drinking and sexual behaviour.

Not long ago on a daytime TV show I saw two young men, both in their teens, swaggering around bragging about their sexual prowess. Both were still in their teens, one had fathered eight children, the other claimed nine. Neither had kept in touch with the mothers, probably the kindest thing they had done for those girls. Worse though, neither young man saw any reason to change their behaviour, both said they would refuse to use condoms as it was “unmanly” and both felt that fathering a lot of unwanted children “proved they were men.” The attitudes are primitive.

It does not matter how many A-levels pupils can be coached to pass, if the system is not teaching young people how to behave it has failed abysmally. Real education does not begin until after we leave school. Schools should give us the basics, literacy and numeracy and it should at best teach people to think rationally and instil curiosity and hunger for knowledge.

What is going on may seem like The End Of Civilisation As We Know It but we can get things back on track quite easily. Firstly, the world has TOO MANY ARSEHOLES. These people, mostly members of the nationwide ubergang, The Needaspikethroughtheir’eads must be controlled.

Most important, we need to stop them breeding. In the 1960s or 70s Indira Gandhi’s government in India offered men transistor radios in return for having a vasectomy. Only they did not explain what a vasectomy was. We could try something like that to stop the arseholes from breeding. Offer them an X-box or a few rocks of meth perhaps? The cost benefit to society is enormous when we consider the cost of providing care for a few dozen abandoned children for eighteen years.

Second, young people who have never been subjected to proper discipline but only punished for disturbing parents who were sleeping off a booze or drugs binge should be taught that actions have consequences. Kill somebody and you spend the rest of your life doing hard labour in unpleasant conditions. Terrorise someone and we send you to work as a street cleaner in Baghdad or somewhere. It does not take much imagination to make the punishment fit the crime.

Thirdly, and more controversially, there has to be a concerted effort to rebuild communities. Reverse every law Margaret Thatcher’s government ever passed. Build social housing, invest in railways and bus systems, deprivatise everything that was stolen from public ownership and sold for pennies to Thatcher’s and Blair’s cronies.

In Britain our biggest problem has always been the division of society on lines of class. No human being is of less worth than another because of where they were born or how they speak, or what educational qualifications they have. Personal wealth does not make somebody more worthy of respect or bestow privilege on them.

If we attack the problem at both ends, show people who wish to be anti – social that society can be nastier on a bigger scale that individuals ever can and start to repair the damaged caused by the warped political thinking of people whose ambitions outweighed their abilities, we can change course.

We have to become a society again.

And I’m not the only liberal intellectual that thinks so

Science: A career for tossers?

A level results are in and I guess some of you will be discussing with your offspring, degree options and career choices. As usual siren voices in the government are extolling the wisdom of choosing a career in science. Should you let your children be seduced?

A few weeks ago Little Nicky was involved in a bit of a kerfuffle with the boy scientists from The Bad Science forum. One of the more intelligent and articulate commenters eventually asked why science gets such a bad press?
Well it could be something to do with the way, when their certainties are challenged the science boys tend to respond, “You’re not a scientist, you don’t understand scientific methods.” Such a response puts “scientists” in the same category as those religionists whose answer to any challenge is, “Anything is possible for God.” Could it be that narrow minded, blinkered attitude?

Or it could be because we see so many stories like the two below.

Researchers at Herriot Watt University and Strathclyde University claim to have proved older people have difficulty using new technology because physiological deterioration in connections between cells in the frontal lobes of the brain causes them to be easily confused by unfamiliar things.

Typically the “scientists” involved in this study forgot to look at the most obvious thing. Do older people want to use new technology that much? So we can watch movies or play games on our mobile phones. Are we bovvered? Many of us who have been rounded out by leading full and interesting lives can think of a hundred better things to do than watch a movie on a three inch by two inch screen.

I cannot take pictures or record video clips with my mobile phone. Is my brain going or is the case simply that my excellent digital camera and state of the art camcorder perform those tasks far better than the phone ever could. So I cannot do those things simply because I am never likely to want to.

Similarly neither I nor my wife ever learned to set the VCR to record a week in advance. Are we sliding into dementia or are we simply not the type of people to get withdrawal symptoms if we miss an episode or two of a favourite programs. They will be repeated in a few months anyway.

So it is not a question of neurological degeneration because everybody is different in that respect, it is a question of how interested we are. QED.

The second story has slightly more sinister connotations. Scientists (again – its never philosophers or artists or historians causing trouble is it?) at the University of Kentucky, Louisville – now keep in mind this is in Kentucky; think fried chicken, bluegrass and red necks – claim to have found a link between eye colour and intelligence.
Blue eyed people, amazingly, are found to be more intelligent, ambitious and focused. Brown eyed people can run faster.
Nobody thought to mention in the context of this study that brown eyed people tend to have darker skin and curlier hair than blue eyed people.
My entirely unscientific observations on this issue, made throughout a long career in management consultancy is that if you tell people they are intelligent, creative and capable of more than they have ever given themselves credit for, they tend to aim higher and as a result grow in confidence and perform better. This approach works regardless of “eye” colour.
So let’s throw this one back at the boy scientists. What is it exactly that us alleged non scientists don’t understand? That ageism and racism are OK so long as they are backed up by properly conducted scientific studies?
You should bear that in mind when talking to young people about career options.

Swivel Eyed, Pointy Eared, True Blue Tory Monster

Nice to see the re-emergence of Conservative Mr. Spock impersonator John Redwood to the front rank of the Conservative Party.
Resurgent Redwood has surged back to the fore just when the Tories were in danger of starting to look a weeny bit credible.
Launching a review of economic policy Mr. Redwood came up with a totally new and revolutionary idea for the redistribution of wealth. Abolish inheritance tax. Yeah right! We haven’t heard that one before.

All this proves is the Tories have not moved forward one single step singe the mother of all swivel eyed politicians made them unelectable with her looney economics.
Yes the suburban S&M queen, Maggie “skewer the poor” Thatcher still holds the party in thrall.
Just analyse Redwood’s plan to abolish inheritance tax and you see how looney it is.
Nobody pays inheritance tax now unless they are a mentalist. The seriously righ have their money, share and property portfolios safely wrapped up in offshore trusts, the working class have their fortunes invested in cirrhosised livers and hardened arteries while the dodgy geezers like my car – dealer mate Big Jim will just give heirs the keys to the safe deposit box and the instruction “stay stumm.”
As for the Daily Mail Readers who are scarecd their million pound suburban semis will attract inheritance tax, don’t fret. You may be clinically sane now but the proceeds from the sale of your home will have been eaten up by care bills long before you pop your clogs.

So what are the Conservatives on about?

God’s Shock Jock?

Those of you who read my articles might be surprised to learn that earlier today I was guesting on a Chistian Radio show for London’s Premier Radio station.

Even more strage, the producer Justin Brierley contacted me after following comment threads on some of my jousts with fundies at U.S. site Gather.

Well Justin’s show “Unbelieveable” is a British production with a more moderate tone than U.S. evangelical Christianity, so after some discussion I decided the programme would be fun to do and managed to get my friend Jenni Hutchinson (vieira) invited as my opponent, the Christian speaker. Did you know BTW that satan is the Aramaic (ancient assyrian language) word for opponent or adversary. Ha! Jenni is a little devil – she will love that.

Anyway we put together a really good programme, covering topics such as how the church may fulfil a role in modern society, the nature of faith, building bridges (we bridged the religious divide, the generation gap – Jenni is 24 I’m…not. OK, I’m yibblety-yibble. We bridged the geographical divide between north and south and the soccer supporters gap, Jenni follows Arsenal, my loyalties are to lowly Accrington Stanley (the team that came back from the dead – reluctantly apparently.)

All in all we proved there can be dialogue between Christians and non believers.

It will be difficult to get the show on the air in some areas but there is an internet feed. ?Here are the details:

The programme airs at 2pm this Saturday here are the ways to listen “Live”

1305, 1332, 1413 MW (Greater London)| Sky Digital 0123 | Virgin Media 968 | Freeview 725 | London DAB or online at http://www.premier.org.uk

From (Usually) Monday you can listen to the archive edition of the programme online http://www.premier.org.uk/engine.cfm?i=680

Not of great spiritual interest to many of my friends here maybe, as most share my attitude to organised religion, but a worthwhile demonstration of constructive dialogue between faith and non-faith, with some good points made on both sides.

OK, that’s just a cynical ploy to bost the show in search engine listings of course. But you will excuse me one shameless self promotion item I’m sure. I promise to get back to more humour and controversy next time.