Wednesday, November 30, 2005

In defence of Wikipediaphilia pt2

I was chatting the other day with a character who posts recycled publicity images from the Pentagon onto Flickr (it takes all sorts).

At one point I complimented him on his Tora Bora photographs, recording as they do the efforts of the coalition forces to capture a completely non-existent cave complex, taken straight out of a James Bond film; complete with Blowfeld style international criminal mastermind and everything.

The conversation changed direction.

Bizarrely, he was still under the impression that the cave complex actually existed.

Which gets me to the end of my line of thought about the mixed blessing that is the Internet. If it wasn’t for the Internet I would probably still believe that Tora Bora crap and lots of other crap as well. The very existence of the Internet has turned the notion of keeping abreast of current affairs by passively consuming media on its head. It’s much harder work and much more interactive than any of us would reasonably want it to be.

Whether there is any real point to keeping abreast of current affairs or not is another subject.

And why stop at Tora Bora? Mainstream coverage of the War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq has consisted of almost pure horse manure from beginning to end. And why presume that the horse manure is restricted solely to the War on Terror? It seems unlikely. Without the Internet I would have suspected that. With the Internet I am certain of it.

Favourite examples from Iraq and Afghanistan that come to mind, aside from the now obvious ones, include:

And a blast from the past

I won’t go on but I could, for a very, very long time.

The Saddam killed his own people story was especially crucial in justifying the 2003 war. Whilst it is rarely articulated, the government and the media are presumably aware that military intelligence is composed of two elements; capability and intent. We know for sure that lots of countries have WMDs but we do not perceive them as being a threat as we have judged that they do no intend to use them on us. So when it came to lying us into a war in Iraq it was necessary to exaggerate the Iraqi intent side of things as much as the capability aspect.

That’s why we kept hearing the same mantra time and time again ‘He used chemical weapons on his own people’. The plain fact that Saddam didn’t use his supposed WMDs when we kicked his arse and ripped through his army the first time was simply ignored.

I don’t know if Saddam gassed Kurds in Halabja. The article I linked to above raises questions that no one is answering. I know I can’t trust anything Saddam says. I also know I can’t trust anything the Kurds say on this either. They have a stake in perpetuating the story whether it is true or not. And the fucking pisser is that I can’t trust my own government or newspapers.

Up until the start of Saddam’s trial I tried to maintain an open mind on the subject. And then, surprise, surprise, it turns out that the Halabja atrocity and none of the other incidents that proved what a wicked regime we have overthrown will be aired in a court of law.

Saddam is going to be tried for reprisals made after an attempt was made on his life almost 25 years ago. If he’s found guilty he will be executed without any further hearings. In particular, nothing will be heard about the really big stuff the bastards responsible for the war still cite as being a justification for that war. Our wonderful news media and opposition politicians apparently see nothing wrong with that.

What’s a boy supposed to think?

Come on get happy

I revisited the Backing Blair site for the first time in a while today. Naturally enough, it’s been a little quiet since the General Election with the exception of their latest video Not Over by a Long Shot. An intriguing mix of the music of the Partridge Family, political satire and a zombie movie.

It’s been up for a while now but I’ve linked it so that I have a good excuse to post a screen grab of David Blunkett saying ‘I can smell your spicy brains’. Not that anybody really needs one…

(category: daft stuff)

Monday, November 28, 2005


OK, I took a pop at the 9/11 hologram theory a couple of posts ago and didn’t post a link to a page that explains the hologram theory. I’ll redress that omission right now…

What is the Hologram Theory?

Do I think holograms were employed on the day? No.

Do I think that the use of holograms was absolutely impossible? No.

Do I stand by citing hologram talk as an example of the kind of chatter and plurality on the Internet that can end up confusing the average Joe when surfing the Internet for alternative news and opinion? Yes

Competing conspiracy theories are like organised religions. At the very best, only one of them can be correct.

So, for example, some 911 theorists support the hologram theory. Others believe that the airliners were hijacked remotely and guided into the towers using ‘Global Hawk’ technology. At least one of those groups is flat wrong and peddaling misinformation. Whether they are doing this sincerely or maliciously is kind of academic.

That’s why I personally prefer discussing and contemplating unanswered questions rather than formulating or supporting alternate explanations.

And I admit it, that makes me a pussy

Sunday, November 27, 2005

A couple of links

I’m a serious connoisseur of the New World Order conspiracy thing and looking forward to the embarrassed silence when American militia types, anti globalisation campaigners, genuine environmentalists, civil liberties protestors and all the other deliberately fractured and manipulated activist groups out there realise that they have all essentially believed the same things all along.

That’ll be a laugh.

One of the exciting developments we can look forward to in the meantime is increasing scarcity, genuine and manufactured, of all sorts of things; fuel, personal freedom, water, decent jobs that pay a living wage, this year’s must have Christmas present, life saving vaccines, stuff like that.

With that in mind, I find stories of people fighting each other for shit that they really don’t need quite entertaining and a handy pointer towards what life will be like for most of us in the not too distant future. This video clip of people stamping on each other in a Walmart in Michigan is a fairly amusing example of the genre.


And whilst I’m posting links, how about this story in the Washington Post that talks about ‘Post Traumatic Personal Growth’ experienced by soldiers returning from combat in Iraq – and there was I thinking that seeing babies burned alive and having your own legs blown off wouldn’t have an up side.

(category: daft stuff)

Saturday, November 26, 2005

In defence of Wikipediaphilia pt1

Someone pulled me up by way of comment on my previous post on my implication that the Internet may be somehow be a less reliable source of information than other sources.

That wasn’t my intention

I absolutely love the Internet

But it does present unique problems.

In the good old days, before the Internet, most news stories would be subject to a handful of different interpretations. Hard core alternative news junkies subscribed to limited production newsletters and journals but this was hard work and small beer.

Now, and without exaggeration, any individual news event may be subject to literally hundreds of interpretations; all of which are just a couple of clicks away. Some of those interpretations are heartfelt and sincere, some are lucid and sane, some are not lucid and sane, and some are planted by individuals deliberately seeking to poison the well. The barriers to entry are low and anonymity easily achieved. The result is thousands of voices, of varying degrees of merit, all clamouring for attention.

Sifting through this stuff is fucking hard work and most people are not equipped with the time or the skills to wade through it all. Remember, just under half the people out there have a sub-average IQ.

Every public interest story out there is subject to lies and spin, and sneaky tricks and, yes, some honest, objective coverage. But, in truth, your average Joe or Jane’s reaction to being pounded with the sheer volume of bullshit that they are now subject to is to become nihilistic, not give a fuck about anything ‘important’ and concentrate on the sports news and celebrity gossip. Can anyone blame them?

A small example from this week…

On Wednesday, Downing Street threatened The Daily Mirror with prosecution under the Britain's Official Secrets act for the disclosing a memo that indicated Blair had convinced Bush not to bomb the Arab language news network al-Jazeera.

So, how many different ways are there to serve this story up on the Internet?

On top of that, I could cite dozens of references who believe that al-Jazeera is CIA funded misinformation and agitation agency anyway.

Aren’t the weekly football results so much more straightforward?

And that’s an example of a relatively open and shut story. If you consider larger more complex stories, such as the entire basis for the attack on Iraq or the 9/11 attacks, the sheer mass of information and misinformation is baffling.

For example, there are piles of hard evidence out there that sections of the US administration were at least complicit in the 9/11 attacks but if you start trawling through the material available on the Internet you will encounter absolute bollocks almost immediately… the airliners that hit the Twin Towers fired missiles into the buildings before striking them … they weren’t really airliners at all, they were holograms

fucking holograms

What are the chances of the real issues rising up through all of the bullshit? The mainstream media has explained the situation to us very clearly ... doubts about 9/11 or the build-up to the Iraqi War are conspiracy theories and all conspiracy theories are bullshit

... fucking holograms

And let’s not kid ourselves here. Hardcore alternative media fans regularly criticise the mainstream media for being bogus yet still feel obliged to seek the validation of the same mainstream media when trying to break a story.

Take the recent news that the Americans used White Phosphorous and Napalm in Fallujah. I’ve been reading about this on the Internet for months now. I’ve seen dozens of pictures of people with their faces literally melted off. This horror happened almost a year ago, yet the story only broke in the UK and US because a documentary was screened on Italian national television. Right up until that point the US government denied the use of these weapons in Fallujah but now the story is acknowledged as being true. The story itself hadn’t changed yet it was transformed from conspiracy theory to a matter of fact purely due to the seal of approval grudgingly given by major news organisations

That’s bullshit isn’t it?

Friday, November 25, 2005

Wikipediaphiles beware

I spend a fair chunk of my on-line time hanging around the Flickr photo-sharing site. I originally started using it as cheap off-site storage for my photos but then gradually got sucked into the photo sharing and community side of the site.

I have made many virtual friends

Oh dear, that’s quite sad isn’t it.

Anyway, one of my virtual friends was a character called ‘Pulitzer Prize Winning Photographer’ aka Clicky McPhotographer. As the names suggest, he was even more virtual than most of the characters you meet on the Internet. His entire portfolio consisted of blurry photos of half eaten packets of economy cheese, used ashtrays and pictures borrowed from other sites, particularly a gay podcast group. The face chosen for PPWP was that of Patrick Litchfield. PPWP’s persona was that of an arrogant old multimillion photographer who thought his pictures were the greatest ever and who enjoyed perverted sex in public places with like-minded individuals.

My understanding is that the genesis of PPWP began in the rude, crude, (and wonderful), ubergeek b3ta site, and his behaviour was consistent with that background

PPWP’s very existence annoyed a very large section of the Flickr community. He was banned from numerous groups within Flickr and blocked by many users. Earlier this month the inevitable finally happened and Flickr management deleted his account.

By a curious twist of fate the real Patrick Litchfield took sick and died less than a week later.

Anyway, all this is of limited interest to anyone not directly involved with PPWP.

PPWP’s wider legacy is of slightly more general interest though. Even though he was deleted, PPWP merchandise is still available from the Cafe Press site and he still is on record in Wikipedia for winning the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography in 1999

1999: Clicky McPhotographer, for his undercover work investigating an international ring of underage male prostitutes, based in Luton (UK)

This entry has remained uncorrected for months.

This isn’t the first time I’ve personally encountered misinformation in Wikipedia. Just in the last few months I’ve seen an entry that described my local MP Kate Hoey as an ardent supporter of the London 2012 Olympic bid when she was an ardent opponent and some dubious comments made about the use of acetone peroxide, the explosive supposedly used by the alleged 7/7 bombers. Both entries have since been corrected.

Now, I quote Wikipedia regularly, it’s a source of handy summaries, but only if an entry is confirmed by other sources. But there’s a wider issue than just the integrity of a single on-line reference work here and it's a point I've made before. I have seen too many examples of ‘shilling’ on the internet to ever trust material I find on it without a healthy side helping of scepticism; from on-line product reviews through to accounts of supposed terror attacks.

If you accept the possibility that there are people out there deliberately poisoning the well it’s only logical to assume that government and business are aware of the potential of Internet disinformation and exploit that potential. You should expect Trojan Horses of all kinds to abound on the Internet, from individual comments through to entire websites and blogs. And they do.

My advice is to trust no one. Well, except for me obviously.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Blog Cross Plug

Came across this blog through a comment made on my recent climate change post

Global Warming is Good

A contrary weblog that argues against the dangers of climate change, that contends that global warming is not essentially a man-made phenomenon nor can it be significantly modified by man. Many scientists are afraid to speak out against the global warming culture, possibly because they may lose funding, possibly because they are not able to get the word out through a biassed media. So it is up to sites like this to get out the word.

Nicely put


While am at plugging other blogs here’s another that I picked up on by way of comment to one of my previous posts

Robert Sharp’s Blog

anyone who links to one of my posts is alright in my book ;)

Monday, November 21, 2005

Second Class Citizens

So, this year’s Christmas stamps are out. I was looking them over in the post office this morning. In the words of the post office blurb…

The images of the Madonna and Child for the special stamps were selected by artist Irene von Treskow, award winning designer, illustrator and Anglican priest. The collection comes from European, Haitian, Italian, Indian, Native American and Aboriginal Australian backgrounds.

Middle-aged white males who have benefited from a life of outstanding privilege such as myself will no doubt detect the hand of political correctness in their selection. But why should our stamps be any different? Our television has been adhering to Black face quotas for years now.

Britain’s cities, and London in particular, are now home to a staggering variety of different ethnic groups. Yet, all that diversity and complexity is dealt with by simply sticking the occasional Black face in a shot. Apparently, British television makers appear to be labouring under the perverse impression that all ethnic minorities are Black.

Yes, when you’re dealing with complicated issues such as race and culture why not over-simplify your treatment by making do with sticking a couple of Black kids in front of a camera, then giving yourself a great big pat on the back at how fucking right on you are.

So, as things stand in the UK at the moment, Black people are over-represented in novelty yoghurt adverts and postage stamps but thin on the ground in parliament.

I have a strong sense that the TV advertisers and the people who make programmes for the BBC are at least twenty years behind the times. Much of the ‘racial’ concern I pick up from people is not directed at Blacks. Most people’s concerns are not racial at all. They are cultural. Many people, myself included, may be concerned about the development of a certain kind of street culture in which Black male teenagers are over-represented but Black people per se are not an issue. There is plenty of grumbling about different cultural groups going on these days but it’s bugger all to do with skin colour and not usually directed at Blacks or Asians anyway. Fuck it, round where I live Jamaicans and Asians are amongst the only people who actually speak English and watched the same television as I did when they were kids.

Actually, I hear a lot more concern expressed about the perceived negative influence of certain groups of East European migrants than people from the Caribbean. So maybe TV commercial makers and postage stamp designers should start featuring thin white babies with high cheek bones in shiny leather jackets and crew cuts to communicate their anti-racist message.

You may detect that I have a problem with forced expressions of multiracialism. They are crude and patronising and usually ring false. It is painfully easy to identify when a Black face has been pressed into a TV show or advert or whatever in response to a quota or an edict. The result just doesn’t feel right. Watching a TV show or ad where a Black actor has obviously been drafted in to play the token ethnic friend in a group of middle class white people is truly cringe-inducing.

And often the results are outstandingly counterproductive as well as embarrassing. Take this year’s first and second class Christmas stamps for example…

That can’t be right can it?

Friday, November 18, 2005

Up the Elephant and Round the Castle

So, what have I been doing for the last week or so?

Well, thanks for asking.

As it happens I spent most of my free time restoring my spacked-out PC. The laughs I had…

I fact I was so busy fixing my PC I missed out on this event just down the road…

£5 note give-away descends into chaos

A promotional stunt inviting the public to pluck a £5 note from a "money poster" descended into a frenzied stampede today as greedy Londoners grabbed handfuls of cash.

The give-away, to encourage investment in rundown Elephant and Castle, south London, was over in minutes as passers-by elbowed each other out of the way before walking off with pocketfuls of cash.

The money-grab, in which more than three hundred £5 notes were stuck to a billboard on Walworth Road, began with an orderly queue as organisers tried to ensure only one note per person.

But within minutes the true character of the locals appeared, with around 25 people pulling down as much as they could lay their hands on.

As a friend said ‘Ha, madness. They could never have predicted that.’

Or as another said ‘I believe in the essential goodness of mankind. What a heart warming and life affirming little tale...’

Presumably in response to this quote from the news story…

"But then I saw some other people at the other end of the poster just grabbing as much as they could so I ran round and started filling my pockets.

"My ten-year-old son Kevin managed to get quite a lot of money from the top of the poster by sitting on my shoulders. This has been a great day."

To be honest, even if I knew what was going on my camera’s fastest shutter speed is only 1/4000 second, so the photographs would have been pretty blurred.

Admittedly, a certain degree of chaos would have been expected in any part of the world but to pull a stunt like that at the Elephant and Castle of all places. Why not go the whole hog and do it at night in a dimly lit street. Better yet, wait until the much predicted global pandemic gets under way and pin a few hundred doses of Tamiflu up on a wall somewhere and maybe lay some razor wire and man traps out in front of it. The concept of offering free stuff people desperately need, positioned so that they have to jostle and fight for it in a public place is a winning one whose time has definitely come.

It’s a firmly held belief of mine that there are a shit load of people out there, mostly middle class, who have absolutely no conception of the reality of life in our inner cities. How else can you explain some Muppet coming up with the idea of pinning free fivers up on the Walworth Road and expecting people to wait patiently in line for them? For fuck’s sake…

Or maybe I’m too jaded. Maybe I’ve lived in London for too long. A couple of weeks ago we were strolling in Oban, up in Scotland, on a Saturday evening and I saw a distressed child inside a car desperately banging on the car window screaming ‘Help me! Please help me!’. I started towards the car. A shifty looking man moved between me and the child, blocking my path, and glared at me. For a moment, I considered twatting him and sized up the most effective way of going about it.

Then he turned around and opened the car door and the kid said

Thank you daddy’

There’s a moral to that tale somewhere

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Stef's Long Post About Climate Change

We’ve just come back from a couple of days in the Western Isles of Scotland. And, as one does, we caught a couple of ferries between one island and another.

I could enthuse about the scenery in that part of the world for a long time, even if it does piss down most of the time, but that’s not important right now. The reason why I mention our ferry rides is that we saw a lot of raised beaches from the boat.

Raised beaches are beaches or wave cut platforms raised above the shoreline by a relative fall in the sea level. In some places you can see three or four distinct platforms on a hillside. What those beaches tell us is that…

  • Sea levels have changed quite significantly over relatively short geological timescales.
  • The changes are quick, with relative sea level changing by fifty-foot or more in sudden jumps. Otherwise they wouldn’t be as distinct as they are. Sometimes the sea jumped up or down, sometimes the land did.

OK, I’m a geology geek but this stuff is relevant to the global warming ‘debate’ that is currently raging in the media.

I have said this before but the reality of our existence is that we are sitting on the crust of a ball of molten rock, spinning through a vacuum at thousands of miles an hour. The ambient temperature of the space around us is –273C and our planet is constantly bathed in lethal radiation. If it wasn’t for the stabilising effect of the Moon, our planet would tumble erratically, seasons would last for years and the business of Life would be extremely difficult, if not downright impossible. On top of all that, this stuff is variable. The Earth is constantly cooling and degassing, the heat from the Sun has increased by at least 30% since the Earth was first formed.

I really could go on about the improbability of our continued existence for a very, very long time.

Now, I’m a non-fundamentalist advocate of intelligent design. That’s not to say I believe that ‘God’ set this all up, just that someone did but I’ll shelve that belief for a minute. Thinking strictly scientifically, how could it be that the conditions on this planet; temperature, availability of water, surface radiation etc, have stayed within the relatively narrow range required for the continued existence of life as we know it for the 650+ million years that it is supposed to have existed?

The scientific explanation invokes the concept of Homeostasis

Homeostasis is the property of an open system; especially living organisms, to regulate its internal environment so as to maintain a stable condition, by means of multiple dynamic equilibrium adjustments controlled by interrelated regulation mechanisms.

Which is techno-babble for ‘It just happened’. Fans of homeostasis basically believe that life adapts to changes in the environment and may actually interact with the environment in a way that encourages equilibrium. The classic Daisyworld computer simulation and the Gaia concept are examples of homeostatic thinking. More sun = more white daisies. Less sun = more black daisies. A real world example would be trees growing more vigorously due to more carbon in the atmosphere. More vigoroustree growth = reduction in atmospheric carbon.

There’s no doubt that the living world does contain an almost infinite number of interactions that help stabilise our environment. It’s fucking marvellous. What is not so clear is whether this system was established by accident or design. I’m particularly interested to know how the homeostatic argument accounts for all the astronomical factors that ensure environmental stability and shield life from harm. The tremendous significance of the moon, the shielding effect of the Earth’s magnetic field, a rotation pattern that ensures reasonable days and nights and annual seasonality. Again I could go on for a long time. Just take a look at any of the other planets in the Solar System to see how extreme the results would be if just one of those factors were out of whack.

It’s one thing to say that living things have an impact on atmospheric composition, it’s another to imply that they can collectively move planets around. Actually, there is the basis for a very interesting theory of life in that last statement if someone smarter than me ever got hold of it.

When pondering upon such things, my heart is always warmed by the Biosphere 2 story. Built in the 1980s and costing something like $150m, the idea was to demonstrate that people could live in a scientifically designed closed system. I still fondly remember the coverage of the first ‘mission’ and the sight of eight intrepid pioneers suited up like astronauts or, more appropriately, Heaven’s Gate cult members, waving and smiling before being sealed up on their voyage of exploration.

It didn’t work. Twice. Homeostasis proved terribly elusive in the real world and the Bionauts began to run out of oxygen straight away. They had to have more pumped in. The last time I looked the site was up for sale for use as a spa, resort or, most significantly, a church. The Eden Project in Cornwall is sort of a homage to Biosphere 2, without the inconvenience of trying to make the system work.

I’ll chuck a couple of more personal favourites into the pile whilst I’m at it. If you radiocarbon date the Earth’s atmosphere it comes out at less than 30,000 years old, which is why radiocarbon data needs ‘correcting’ before publication. If you date the atmosphere based on Helium isotopes it comes out at 175,000 years old. I mention these two nuggets on the basis that they either mean radioactive dating techniques are crap, that Bible fans might have a point or, more intriguingly, the Earth has been stripped of its atmosphere more than once. Which would beg the question what were living things doing whilst all that was going on?

So, where am I going with all this?

First off, the notion that there is a 'correct' temperature for the Earth, as advocated by the Global Warming industry, just blows me away. The Earth’s temperature has always shown variability and always will. The real blessing, or handy accident, has been that this variability has somehow managed to stay within a survivable range over millions of years. My, how fortunate. The notion that we should somehow strive to stabilise the Earth’s temperature is arrogant and chauvinistic in the extreme, even if it were possible.

Secondly, we really haven’t the faintest fucking idea how this system works. Scientists acknowledge that the ecosystem is self-correcting but have decided that human pollution is being generated at a rate faster than it can be absorbed and that it is the major driver in climate change. And data that doesn’t fit in with that view is flatly ignored. Take the news that the Sun’s temperature has increased steadily over the last 20 years for example.

Finally, you’ve got to ask yourself what are the scientists and politicians playing at? What’s the real agenda here? The level of debate over this issue is retarded and misleading to say the least. Even a non-atmospheric disaster such as last year’s tsunami managed to get groups with a vested interest in climate change shamelessly jumping onto the bandwagon.

Sea levels are going to change and we ain’t going to stop that, with or without Kyoto. Instead of pissing about worrying about continued consumption of hydrocarbons that scientists are saying we’re going to run out of anyway, we should be discussing how to deal with the certainty of sea level change. The reason why this year’s hurricanes had they effect they did, and the tsunami before that, is partly because of sloppy management but more significantly because more people are occupying marginal land, all over the world. How much debate is taking place about that?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Top notch quote

Here's a good quote I've just read ...

Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. but, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a parliament or a communist dictatorship ... the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country

Herman Goering, 1946