* Posts by Mithvetr

61 publicly visible posts • joined 1 Apr 2009


Moribund Mexican litters Street View


@ Brent Longborough

"I'm very sorry to have to say this, but in most of Central and South America, it's an unwise move to stop to investigate someone lying in the middle of the road."

Hmmm. There is that, I guess. I suppose we still have to acknowledge that we don't really have the full story. And I guess there's something in the argument that it helps make us in well-off countries more aware that everything isn't so shiny everywhere else.

That said, it'd still be good if Google would let us know what their spy car operator did in this case.

(By the way, El Reg, I keep finding reason to use your 'meh', 'ambivalent' or 'so-so' icon - or I would, if you had one. Any chance, please? Ta.)

Bishop calls for Priests 2.0 to evangelise on the net


@ Jemma

Your post strongly suggests that you've had some bad experiences at the hands of Christians. If so, then I'm sorry about it. But that doesn't mean that everyone's out to get you, and it doesn't mean that your comment here is anything other than blinkered prejudice and hatred.

Every religion has its share of overzealous, bigoted nutcases. Every single one. And before anyone jumps on that as proof that religion is, after all, inherently evil, bear in mind that 'secular humanism' has a fair few, too. In fact, truth be told, *any* strongly held belief system(*) - religious, political, philosophical, artistic, sporting - will have at least a few people who take it to extremes. Myself, I'm pagan. But the fact that Christianity has always had rather a downer on paganism doesn't concern me in the slightest. Nor does the fact that it supposedly disapproves of various other aspects of my life. Why should it? The rules of Christianity only apply to Christians. "His deathlist" - and I'm assuming that by 'he' you mean Jesus - can be of relevance only to those who believe in him as the judge of mankind. Sure, when a Christian tries to force me to comply with their rules, then I'll resist them fiercely. But I prefer to fight battles only when there's a battle to fight.

Most of the Christians I've actually met - and I mean real-life 'met', rather than just ranting on the Internet - have been perfectly decent, accepting, tolerant people who would no more demand that I worship their God than run naked down the high street. They've welcomed me into their homes, and on the few occasions I've had cause to enter a church, they've been entirely welcoming there, too - even knowing that, by their standards at least, I'm a 'lost soul'. I've never been preached at, I've never been leaned on to join up, and on the couple of times any of them have even discussed it with me, I've known that their words came from a genuine concern for my immortal soul: a concern I appreciated very much.

*Those* are the people upon whose behaviour I prefer to base my judgement of Christianity; just as I judge Islam by the few Muslims I've met, none of whom - despite the hysterical media's bogeyman portrayal - showed the slightest sign of wanting to blow me up or subject me to Shariah law.

You said: "So you'll forgive me if I go dancing round the place ecstatically if within my life time the Christian Church and all the curtain-peepers, homophobes, kiddie fiddlers and, to misquote south park, science knows who else finally give up and die."

Well, it's not for me to forgive you or not; but if you're suggesting that I should in some way approve of your desire to see Christians dead, then I'd sooner not. As for science, many who like to imagine that their anti-religious outlook is somehow more morally enlightened and intellectually sophisticated will appeal to science of some form, implying that it's fundamentally incompatible with religious belief. This is a fallacy. While certain beliefs of certain religions are contradicted by scientific understanding (for example the 'Young Earth' belief specific to a certain branch of Christian creationism), as any honest scientist will tell you, science simply does not address the question of whether there is any form of divine power in the Universe. For the very reason that so many pre-emptively reject the idea - there is no way to test the hypothesis - this is a question that science cannot and does not try to answer. But science does not support, much less require, the sort of prejudice you show here. Perhaps your own experiences and feelings do demand it, but that's unlikely the fault of Christianity as a whole, given that there are very few beliefs universal to all Christians - save possibly the idea that Jesus was the son of God (and even there I'd hesitate to make too many assumptions).


(* Yes, yes - I know Atheism Isn't A Belief System, even though it involves making a firm statement about something on which empirical science offers no evidence or opinion. And yes, I know all the arguments about burden of proof and yadda yadda yadda. Still, the point remains that even atheism has its angry fanatics.)

Revealed: The amazing premise behind Ridley Scott's Monopoly


Just a pitch

A film pitch isn't necessarily going to bear a lot of resemblance to the final product. In Lester Haines' own words: "Quite how Monopoly: The Motion Picture eventually turns out remains to be seen".

I think I'd have to agree with Simon C that it's better to encourage creativity than slamming an idea just because our immediate impression of it isn't too favourable. Yes, I know it's hard times even in the big movie business and that filmmakers can't really afford to bugger about too much. But as others have said, there have been board-game movies before. They might not have been works of artistic genius, but if they entertain for an hour or two and make the studio a little money, no-one really loses out, and the studio might survive to be able to make the next timeless epic.

Police sitting on forensic backlog risk, says top e-cop


List of subversives

@ AndrueC:

"Rely on some algorithm or - God forbid - heuristics and anything could happen."

Damn right. I'm no expert on this sort of thing, but the notion that my liberty might be in the hands of the same sort of script that supposedly 'protects' me from spam emails would be terrifying.

@ asiaseen:

"but there might also be part of that which contains all your banking details, your diary etc." Which is what they are really after."

Of COURSE they are... Because out of sixty-odd million people, your life is just THAT important...

Don't get me wrong: I don't deny that Labour have come up with some fairly scary general surveillance powers. That's a problem, and one it's right to highlight. But Know Your Enemy. Respond to real threats, not imagined ones. Think about it: the public complain incessantly about how the lack of police resources means they can't respond with blue lights and sirens to every complaint of 'nuisance youths' (read: children and teenagers playing or hanging out in a public street); yet that same public is more than happy to take it as read that the police are obsessed with obtaining, analysing and storing every last detail of each of our lives. Presumably there are actually a lot more police than 'They' will admit, but they're all being hushed up and kept busy in secret bunkers trawling through all this data?

Do you honestly believe that the average street bobby cares that much about your niece's wedding photos or your Christmas card list?

@ Steven Say:

"Hampshire Constabulary ... CAN outsource work but they won't so the mountain gets bigger they could reduce the back log overnight if they wanted to but to save money and piss eveyone off they won't do it"

'Outsource'? So privatisation of the criminal justice system's a *good* thing now?

Incidentally, there are a lot of references around here to 'child porn'. Call me fussy, but I personally go with the notion that there's no such thing as 'child porn'. 'Porn' is short for 'pornography', and it can be anything from cheap titillation to art. What's being referred to here is the violent sexual abuse of children, and it's nothing whatsoever to do with 'porn'.

The best mad scientist memoir of the year



Call me pedantic, but a 'vomitorium' isn't 'somewhere you vomit', as implied in the article. It's an exit hall - a room designed to allow the rapid departure of a number of people from a venue, such as an arena. The act is named after the room, not the room after the act.

Also, the plural is 'vomitoria'.

Okay, I'm going, I'm going...

Loud sex a human right, says loud sex woman


@ AC 09:03 11/11

"Of course if we actually built half decent houses on this island we might not have these issues."

Or better still, why not use some of the masses of properties that're already built and standing derelict, but which could be perfectly usable with a little investment and renovation?

Oh, yeah, I forgot: people only want *shiny new* houses on *shiny new* estates, never mind the fact that even the crappiest sink estate was shiny and new at one point.

Keep building, folks, and soon we'll win final victory over the evil forces of, you know, trees and fields and green stuff and stuff...


Human Rights Act

As some have touched on already, the problem with Human Rights cases - especially when Human Rights are invoked frivolously, as in this case - is that they depend on the establishment of an order of precedence. This woman claims protection under Article 8 - the Right to Private and Family Life. Since her 'privacy' involves interfering with other people's privacy and family life, someone somewhere is going to have to decide whose rights take the upper hand here; because either way, someone is going to lose their rights under Article 8 - at least as they perceive them.

Although it's worth bearing in mind that many of the Articles contain an all-encompassing exception clause - for example, Article 8 itself:

"There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others."

These generalised exemptions mean that the Human Rights Act cannot be used to restrict any behaviour by government or state representatives. Its only remaining purpose is to settle scores between squabbling citizens.

'L33T' web defacer blames Durham police for Pakistani conflict


@ Ed Blackshaw

"They were smart enough to blow up everything EXCEPT you. How much smarter do you want?"

Fair point. I just always figured I had matching shields or something.


letters and/or digits

@AC 13:58

"Or is he saying "I'm an idiot who can't read beyond the headlines"?"

Well. yes, pretty much. I'd think that was fairly obvious. He's an attention-seeker who can't see past the end of his nose. He wants to hit out at 'authority', so he hits* what looks like authority to him. His childishly simplistic ideas about politics give him a reason to feel all big and growed-up about doing something that, let's face it, any idiot could do given the right scripts.

(* Well, I say 'hits'. More like 'flails at'.)

@ Martin 6:

"I can think of a few ways to scam people if you own this process."

True enough. It would be a good idea if website operators - including public services - could be persuaded to educate the public about how the Internet works. For example: you don't commit any information to the Internet if you don't think you can control the damage when it's made publicly available.

@ Cameron Colley:

"You may well jest, but the last time I looked the number for the police was not 999 but some 0898 number or something"

I doubt it. 0898 was discontinued in the Big Number Change in 2000. You may be thinking of 0845, which is a national rate number (as opposed to premium rate) used by a lot of forces for their non-emergency lines. Many, like my local force, are now switching to 0345 which provides contact at local rate from anywhere in the country and is cheaper for mobiles*.

(* 'Cos who needs nouns when you've got a handy adjective to use on its own instead?)

@ John Naismith:

"You'll find that most people regardless of religious "beliefs" behave much the same in the UK - they don't give a fuck about anyone else."

Hang on, woah. Are you implying that you think the people of the UK should behave like those prissy 'civilised' types you get in those foppish European countries? Like showing 'respect' and 'compassion', following 'rules', and all that lah-di-dah rubbish? We don't take kindly to that sort of thing around here. Next you'll be telling us you think we should be saying 'hello' or some shit to our neighbours instead of telling them to fuck off and smashing their windows. You know you, right? I bet you weren't even properly pissed up when you were typing that shit, were you? Probably been drinking 'in moderation', or some such frilly cosmopolitan crap.

@ AC 15:37:

"US only fire smart bombs into Pakistan. Smart bombs, are by definition, intelligent."

Yeah. I always wondered why the game-blitzing, one-shot weapons you used to get in old Spectrum and Amiga shooter games were called 'smart-bombs', when clearly they were dumb as bricks.

More delays for UK.gov's net snooping programme


@ Various

@ AC 15:57

"The BBC reports this as "UK surveillance plan to go ahead". Who's agenda are they serving?"

Well now, let's see. Whose agenda would the state-run national broadcasting agency be serving? Hmmm...

@ AC 16:07

"A recent book on the NSA's record is that it isn't that good at picking up obvious warning signs (e.g. 911, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Vietnam war, etc). Scrapping might not be such a bad thing."

Chaff. As has been said a zillion times before, automated flagging systems can be made useless if enough people are willing to pepper their communications with enough trigger words and phrases.

@ AC 16:42

"Um... CLITORISA?!?"

What a lovely name. Is it Italian?

@ AC 17:10

"Why exactly is there a need to extend these existing powers?"

There isn't. There hasn't been a need to extend any of the powers that have been extended since 2001. They're doing it because they have an excuse to stir up hysteria and frighten the population shitless about terrorists and paedophiles and all that other bunk... But the legislation for dealing with these things has been more than adequate for decades. Everything a terrorist could do has been covered by existing law: every new 'anti-terror' law introduced since 9/11 has been surplus to requirements, and intended more for the control than the safety of the population.

@ bluest.one

"So the cops won't have two years worth of previous comms data to trawl through ready and waiting for them at their convenience. Tough!"

I imagine that quite a lot of 'cops' ('coppers' in Britain, no matter what GMP and the Met might prefer to call themselves) are breathing a sigh of relief that they won't have to trawl through two years' worth of inane babbling bullshit every time someone's accused of something. Many people seem to imagine that what ACPO wants the average street bobby also wants. I can only assume that these people have never experienced a management structure.

@ AC 18:09

"Crime is out of control despite how they fudge the numbers."

It's not 'out of control' by any measure. That's The Sun talking. Crime is of concern, yes, and it can have a serious effect on those who experience it. And yes, some areas are worse than others. But there are plenty of places in the world you could go if you want to see what crime looks like when it's *really* 'out of control'.

Police fail to dampen down bonfire night Westminster protest



On the protest: all seems a bit of a pointless exercise to me. Although it's good to see that peaceful protest does seem to get a peaceful response, despite the hysteria the tabloids (including the Reg) love to stir up about heavy-handed totalitarian policing.

On the article: IT angle blah blah bleh... (There's a simple enough way to stop the "IT angle" question being asked every two minutes, and that is to make it clear that what the Reg really is is a political commentary site with occasional tech articles thrown in.)

On Guy Fawkes as a symbol: I'm always left a bit perplexed by the current obsession of look-at-me trendy wannabe subversives with Guy Fawkes.

Guy Fawkes was attempting to kill a monarch and parliament in order to replace one state religion with another, very very slightly different, state religion. Now, if there's one thing I know about Reg commenters, it's that they do love to hate those primitive religious whack-jobs. After all, religion is responsible for all the suffering and evil in the world, right? Yet give them an article on how rubbish the government is (a sentiment I don't disagree with, incidentally), and they'll fall over each other in the rush to strap on the Fawkes masks.

Ah, no - but this is Guy Fawkes. GUY FAWKES! You know Guy Fawkes: he's suave, and intelligent, and well-read, and he makes excellent, quotable speeches with lots of Vs in them, and stands up for the downtrodden. We know all this, because we've seen it in a movie. And he keeps this really cool blog, too.

But the truth, surely, is that as revolutionaries go Guy Fawkes was crap. He achieved nothing except getting himself caught, tortured and killed. That's the only reason we Remember Remember him. If I was going to be a masked insurrectionist, I think I'd want to find someone slightly more competent as my new face.

Brown declines to resign


Some poor flunky

I can't understand why anyone would make the assumption that a petition site operated by the government would act in support of people opposed to the government.

As Kryten once said: "That's a bit of a barmy notion, sir, if you don't mind me saying so."

As I understand it, the petitions are only 'official' in the sense that some poor flunky in some office somewhere is tasked with reading the latest whinges from everyone with a gripe, a net connection and an awareness that the site exists.

Bear in mind that most people probably *don't* know it exists, so are unlikely to add their names to it. Of those who do, many won't care, assuming - rightly - that it will have no bearing on anything. Some will assume - as jeremy 3 pointed out - that a petition such as this is nothing more than a way to declare yourself hostile to the Government. Which is no problem until 'They' find some excuse (war, terrorism, financial crisis, plague, whatever) to suspend elections and institute further 'security' legislation.

Online government petitions mean nothing, affect nothing, do nothing. They're a sop to the concept of public consultation. They're just time-sinks. Get people to sign one of these and they *feel* as though they've aired their grievance, even though they might just as well have gone into the forest (if they can find one) and shouted it at the trees. It's a bit like the BBC website's constant invitations for us to 'have our say': it's a way of making the reader feel involved without actually having to pay any attention to them.

(And the Reg is a similar case (sorry, Onionman, you'll just have to live with it): we legions of commentards post endless opinion, assertion, accusation and insult, apparently confident in the knowledge that the authors of Reg articles hang on our every word. Barring the illustrious Sarah, of course, who appears to be paid, at least in part, to wade through all our drivel and make sure we're not saying anything that'd actually get the Reg sued, I'd be surprised if anyone at Vulture Central gives half a monkey's what we think about anything. Comments, I'm sure, are read predominantly by other commenters in a sort of free-access Usenet substitute.)

But an online petition isn't useless *only* because the people who invite the petitions - in this case the government - aren't actually bothered about what 70-odd thousand people think; it's useless because of the fundamental nature of online petitions: anyone can be anyone online. You could sign the petition as many times as you like under as many names as you see fit. You don't have to give your correct details. There's no checking involved. So an online petition signed by half the population can, by definition, carry no more weight than a single badly-spelt anonymised email sent to 10 Downing Street in green text. It can't - otherwise there's the potential for one sufficiently determined person to have a direct influence on national policy. Even pen-and-paper petitions have this problem to an extent, but it's far greater online.

Incidentally, to all those ripping into AC 16:07:

Putting aside the crowing about how criticising spelling means you've lost the argument (which is true only if you have nothing to offer besides), a couple of people have picked 16:07 up on the point that there aren't six billion people in Britain. This is true, but 16:07 knew that perfectly well, and that was the point:

"72k is a pathetically low number considering that no-one was checking if you were actually a british citizen and therefore it's 72k out of 6 billion"

To put it another way, since there was no nationality checking, anyone in the world - current population somewhat over six billion - could potentially have signed that petition. From that point of view, the petition represents the views of (at an absolute maximum) 72,000 people out of six billion.

Judge spanks lawyer for leaking personal details in brief


Nothing top secret

@ AC 06:03 05/11/09

"What an idiot! Should be $10K per SS # / name, credit monitoring and 180 days in the slammer."

Everyone's a better judge than the ones in the courts, aren't they?

And if it HAD been 10k per number, guaranteed someone'd be squawking about how it should've been 20k. It didn't *have* to be *anything*, remember. No-one filed a motion, after all. The judge did more than he strictly had to as it is. Besides, as was already pointed out, what this lawyer did was make publicly available information and bit more easy to obtain. He didn't compromise anything top secret. The penalty seems quite proportional to me.

Incidentally, I think I read too much Tom Clancy when younger. Every time someone says 'SSN' I read 'nuclear attack submarine'. Try it: the comments take on a whole new spin. (Mind you, what I read when someone says 'SS #' is an entirely different sack of armadillos.)

Women coppers eager to drop trousers


They Don't Fit

Sarah Bee said:

"If you think female police officers should wear skirts you are ridiculous and should forfeit your entire brain."

Without wanting to sound hopelessly outdated and retro here... Skirts *are* actually still an option provided by forces - at least I'm not aware of any that don't offer them if requested. So what if women officers actually *want* to wear skirts? It does happen. Some argue that they prefer skirts and give various reasons. I believe that they should wear skirts if it's their personal preference. Do I still have to forfeit my brain?

And I was gearing up to lay into the "WPCs should be fighting crime rather than worrying about their looks" crowd, but I've noticed there are one or two people towards the bottom of the page who're starting to catch on to what the article actually *said*. The BAWP's complaint isn't about whether female officers are fashionable - it's whether the clothing they're being supplied with actually fits them. Yes, there was the mention of 'looking like a sack of spuds', but that's due to the fact that the men's trousers and the supposedly 'unisex' trousers are made to fit men, and therefore don't properly fit women. If your company made you wear uniform that didn't fit you, because the firm hadn't worked out or refused to acknowledge that men and women are basically different shapes, wouldn't *you* complain?

It's not about looking sexy. It's more about an officer having to spend 9-12 hours - plus unplanned, short-notice, compulsory overtime - walking around, driving around or, in most cases, sitting around doing paperwork in trousers that were irritating her almost as soon as she put them on before coming to work. And I mean 'irritating' as in 'causing physical irritation' rather than 'tsk, I'm really irritated that I don't look utterly gorgeous in these trousers'.

Police-issue trousers appear in any case to be made from hessian cunningly interwoven with razor wire.

(Oh, and, accepting there will be howls of Daily Mail outrage at the political correctness of it all, they're not WPCs any more. Just PCs is fine.)

Wikipedia bans Church of Scientology


All right - just one more...

... since I've been asked a direct question. But first:

"Circular reasoning."

Easy get-out. Avoids the questions entirely and enables you to dodge the fact that religion is not a matter of scientific empiricism.

"It is a specific frequency of [blah blah]"

All very clever, right enough. It sure put the superstitious nutjob straight, eh?

Yes, I know *what* red is. My challenge to you wasn't to describe how red works. I don't care about wavelengths or photon energies here. I want you to describe - without simply pointing or referring to something red - what red *looks like*.

"I won't bother analyzing the rest of your waffling, because it would be pointless."

I said as much myself. It's impossible to explain any religious viewpoint to someone who maintains an attitude of indiscriminate hostility towards religion as a concept. So in that sense, yes, our exchange is pointless.

""I was brainwashed as a child, and I'll go way out of my way trying to justify myself to total strangers on an obscure Internet message board because I actually have doubts about my faith". How'd I do?"


My religion isn't shared by those who brought me up; and if I sought to justify my beliefs to you, I'd probably have told you what they were. I don't need your approval or affirmation.

There are a lot of simple-minded 'benchmark' assumptions behind the standard set of anti-religious arguments. 'Childhood brainwashing' is one. 'Religion always indicates low intelligence' is another. 'Science leads inevitably to atheism' is a third. And, of course, the idea that religion is a matter of scientific empiricism.

As long as people like you can't grasp the fact that religion, like philosophy and ethics as mentioned, is a matter outside the remit of science, you won't understand why, despite all your best efforts, people like me continue to annoy you by believing things you don't approve of.

That's it for me on this one. Carry on posting your opinions to total strangers on an obscure Internet message board.


@ Pierre and jake

Pierre: that doesn't help me at all. Do you want to correct me on something?


"Prove to me that ANY religion isn't hokum. Pick one. Or three. Or nine."

By definition, if you believe in a religion then to you it isn't hokum. Equally, if you don't, then it is. But this objection falls into the "I think it's silly" bracket that I mentioned: it's an objection based on nothing more than an individual dislike for something seen as irrational. It's based on the flawed presumption that religion is something that must be subject to scientific, experimental evidence. It isn't, any more than ethics or philosophy are. And, like ethics and philosophy, the term 'religion' covers an enormous range of diverse belief systems, which are nevertheless bundled together under a single, easy-to-deride bracket by people who simply can't tolerate the notion that someone else sees the world in a different way from themselves.

It's all about perception. It's impossible to prove that you see any single part of the world in precisely the same way that anyone else does. For example, when you and I look at the Reg's header banner, do we both see the same colour? Sure, we both see the colour that we've been taught is red - but does it actually look the same to each of us? Can you define 'red', so that I can measure your perceptions against mine, without pointing to something that's red?

There is a similar perceptual barrier between people in relation to religion. If you aren't a religious person, then I cannot, under any circumstances, offer you any information or reasoning that would cause you to accept the concept of gods, much less my particular view of them. And even if you were religious, it would be almost as difficult to offer you any reason to alter your existing belief system: if you were a monotheist I would have a hard time persuading you to a polytheistic viewpoint through reason and 'evidence'. Quite obviously, if you are actively hostile to the very concept of religion then your conviction that I'm primitive, superstitious and stupid for believing in anything is going to make it absolutely impossible for you to understand my position at all - but on the up side (for you at least), it's also going to mean that you have absolutely no desire to.

Incidentally, the above all assumes that I would actually *want* you to believe as I do and would therefore wish to try to offer you 'proof'. This in itself is an assumption often made in attacks on religion: that religious people invariably want to convert everyone. Speaking for myself, it's absolutely no concern of mine what, if anything, anyone else believes in terms of religion. For precisely these reasons, I have no interest in converting anyone because I know that my perception of the world may not be the same as theirs - so why would my religious beliefs be relevant to them?

"Likewise, demonstrate that anyone on the planet's faith is unfakeable."

I'm not sure I understand what you're demanding here. 'Faith is unfakeable'? Do you mean that I should prove that some miracle couldn't be replicated? That, for example, I couldn't seek to attract a following or start a new religion by doing something that Jesus was alleged to have done? If that's what you meant, then of course I can't - but I'm not sure what relevance that has. 'Faith' - by which I assume you mean religious faith - isn't invariably based on belief in some unlikely event like turning water into wine or rising from the dead. Sometimes it's simply a belief that things are a certain way; that the universe - even the one partially revealed to us through scientific investigation - has a particular character. It isn't necessarily something that can or needs to be tested empirically.

Or maybe you meant that a person can fake a faith in a certain religion? In which case, I'm sure anyone could if they wanted to. But again, that doesn't have much bearing on anything we've said here.

Perhaps you meant 'unshakeable'? If so, I can't and wouldn't try to do that either: people do change their religious beliefs from time to time because our perceptions change as we get older. It's vital that people should be allowed to do so, because religious belief can be a significant part of our self-expression. Similarly, people must be free to reject religion if they wish. I condemn many of the things done *in the name of religion* - but that's not the same as the *concept* of religion. So I'd simply prefer people to think a little before embracing and parroting simplistic rhetorical dogma as Nic did above.

(I'll not post again as I have a habit of putting far too many words on the Reg's comments pages. It's just because I'm interested in the subject.)


A few points missed?

Cade Metz, you clearly have an unhealthy obsession with Wikipedia. Your obvious bias undermines the credibility of your articles on the subject. For example, your repeated statement that the term 'ArbCom' is 'Orwellian' apparently ignores the common use of syllabic abbreviations anywhere else. Or is it only Orwellian if it's Wikipedia doing it? Is FedEx working for Big Brother too?

Face it: Wikipedia is at its heart a good idea. It offers a huge amount of information which is perfectly adequate if it's treated as what it is: a summary of or an introduction to a subject. As others have pointed out, if you're doing more than a casual browse then you absolutely never ever rely on a single source for information anyway, and if Wikipedia is nothing else, its referencing system serves as a useful catalogue of suggested reading.

Wikipedia's worst aspect is that it's freely editable by a large community of ignorant people and vandals. Its best aspect is that it's freely editable by a large community of well-informed people and experts.

As for the issue of censorship: Wikipedia is not a public platform for free speech. It was never intended to be; it's never been advertised as such. It's a privately owned, publicly editable encyclopaedia. That's it. There's nothing in its structure or its stated aims that promises it will be free from censorship. Cade misses the point: Wikipedia is not a public resource being maliciously taken over by a shadowy cabal. That shadowy cabal has every right to exert whatever control over Wikipedia that it sees fit. If the Wikimedia Foundation decided to shut the project down tomorrow they would be entirely within their rights to do so. And if they, or anyone acting on their behalf or with their approval, makes a decision to block or remove content then that's fine too - although doing so would necessarily harm the reputation for balance that Wikipedia seeks to build (I'm not making any judgements about whether it's achieved that reputation or not).

In this case what is being banned isn't content but IPs and accounts from which a disproportionate number of disruptive edits were being made, both in favour of and in opposition to Scientology. Wikipedia has few options open to it to protect itself from vandalism or biased edits, since it can't take real-world legal action. Any other site would, I suspect, have taken similar action in similar circumstances. Scientologists and anti-Scientologists have made this action necessary not because they wished to make edits to the articles, but because they did so in a persistently disruptive and self-serving manner.

Finally, to anyone offering any variant on Nic's comment at 08:14 about religion:

"Antiquated mythological activity practised by persons of limited intelligence. Derived from an early human fear of death and a lack of understanding of basic astronomy, physics, chemistry and biology."

You asked for a flame, Nic, so here it is: this is ignorant, lazy, party-line Dawkinsite crap. Despite the best efforts of the oh-so-superior religion-bashing crowd for the best part of two hundred years, no evidence has ever been forthcoming to establish a link between religious belief and intelligence. I imagine intelligence may play a part in determining the preferred *type* of religious model, but even that's speculation. As for the sciences you mentioned, plenty of religious people have at least some understanding of these subjects; and annoying as it might be for blinkered anti-religionists, there are many religious people amongst the scientists working in these areas. Similarly, there are many non-religious people who have little or no clue about such things, and care even less, as long as they get their regular fix of reality TV.

As for fear of death, this is once again a standard assertion offered without any evidence beyond the force with which the claim is made. Not everyone religion postulates an afterlife, or promises continued existence to all. It's worth bearing in mind, in fact, that not all religion is fundamentalist Abramic monotheism; yet all too many people, in setting out to condemn and mock it, seem unwilling or unable to view it as anything else.

If anti-religionists really want to achieve anything beyond mutual back-slapping and self-congratulation, then their arguments need to grow up. They need to find an objection to religion that is non-trivial ("I think it's silly" is irrelevant), has some grounding in reality (statistical or experimental evidence), and that cannot similarly be used against the non-religious (so "causes all the wars" and "is used to justify genocide" won't wash). Until then, fanatics on both sides will continue to squeal at each other based on nothing more than blind, fundamentalist faith in the righteousness of their own position.

Beeb names new Who companion


Old Fans Never Die...

The shame is that they got the whole Doctor Who/Torchwood approaches the wrong way round. Since Doctor Who already had an established fan base in or around their 30s, I reckon they'd have done better to treat the new Who show as the 'adult' programme and aimed Torchwood at the kids.

Mind you, even then we'd have to face up to the fact that Torchwood was more adolescent than adult: throwing in lots of gratuitous sex references (of any orientation) doesn't make an adult programme. It's a shame RTD didn't wait until after the new Battlestar Galactica showed what adult sci-fi *really* looks like. Torchwood at its best can't hold a candle to BSG at its weakest. I'd say the same for Doctor Who except it does get a little redemption from the episode 'Blink', which was frankly genius. Having the Doctor as a mysterious background character, barely seen while influencing the lives of others, made for a far more interesting story. 'The Girl in the Fireplace' was pretty good, too. But in general the new stories have been really weak - too much focus on ancillary characters and bloody Daleks. And it's a shame we never explored the Doctor's back-story more.

Still, I do rate Eccleston and Tennant as the Doctor - I think they both did an excellent job, and without wanting to be unfair to this new guy, who hasn't actually had a go yet, I think the makers of the show went in the wrong direction. Aside from the opportunities they had to try something contentious - a black Doctor, perhaps, or a female - I think they're missing out by focusing on Young And Attractive at the expense of Mature And Interesting. (With due respect to any readers who might be young and attractive and interesting, obviously.)

I've tried very hard to be a fan of the new Doctor Who, out of established loyalty to Tom Baker through to Sylvester McCoy; but I think when David Tennant leaves it'll be time to give up.

Russian blows off ex-boyf's todger with firecrackers


@ Pierre

Sorry, but (bearing in mind the hold for moderation) Destroy All Monsters, AC@11:55 and Doug Glass all got in before you.


Can't see the joke

Nothing quite so hilarious as a bit of near-fatal domestic violence, eh?

I agree with The Jase: had it been the other way around, this wouldn't have been considered funny. Howls of outrage - and rightly so - if a woman is viciously mutilated by her partner. If a woman does it to a man, though, that's comedy. Apparently. Well, no. It isn't funny either way; not even a little bit.

That the guy was having an affair is irrelevant. We don't know the full story; we know nothing about his circumstances. Or hers, for that matter. Either way, even a cheat doesn't deserve this kind of savagery.

Oh, and Nick L? I'm British. And I'm perfectly happy to indulge in that black humour you mentioned in situations where there's nothing else to be done, but I won't use it to excuse violence. As for irony, I see none here. Maybe I should listen to more Alanis Morissette?

Scientists: Tasers work, but we don't know how


Onoz! Moar orwelldoublethinkbigbrotherthoughtpoliceomgwtflol!

The trouble is that, in their haste to slag off the police for being the brutal thugs of a totalitarian regime, people don't seem to take any time to actually think about things. I mean, look at that last comment from peter tomlinson:

"It was murder by plod, plain and simple"

Plain and simple, was it? Like every declamation in the Daily Mail's letters pages: who cares whether we have all the relevant information and have examined it in full? Just see which way your knee jerks, and that's all the "plain and simple" truth you need.


'End of.'

And so on. Pub wisdom: nothing quite like it for running a country.

Then there are those complaining about the term 'less lethal'. Yes, it's a silly expression: 'lethal' is an incomparable: as mentioned above, something is either lethal or it's not. And in fact, the expression was originally 'less-than-lethal'; but for some reason the 'than' seems to have been dropped, and we're left with an awkward and apparently contradictory phrase.

But then, you'd have to be pretty pedantic to ignore the obvious: in context, it's still pretty clear what 'less-lethal' means. It's a little like Americans saying "I could care less", when what they mean is "I couldn't care less" ("I don't care at all, so it's not possible for me to care any less"): it's ungrammatical, it's illogical, and it sounds strange to British ears - but we know what they're getting at. Sure, we can nitpick if we have time, but the job gets done anyway.

Whether the weapons could ever really be called 'non-lethal' or 'less-than-lethal' given that people have died as a result of their use is another question. But still, if we're talking about overall lethality within a population, then 'less lethal' becomes perfectly acceptable grammatically anyway. Statistically, this weapon is less lethal (i.e. carries a lower probability of inflicting fatal injury) than, say, a gun.

@ AC 09:01:

"And remember folks you only need 5 GCSE's at grade C to apply for the opportunity to fry some perps!"

Hmmm. While more lofty qualifications are an effective and reliable indicator of competence and integrity, aren't they? Step forward the House of Commons...

"Black helicopters as they dont want you to know the truth"

You know, for all the things 'They' don't want us to know the truth about, it's remarkable how many people on the Internet seem to have special access to the truth 'They' don't want us to know. So how come you're privileged in this case, AC?

@ AC 18:04:

"And before anyone says anything - Obviously I know you can't check first, it is a philosophical question."

I believe it's actually a *rhetorical* question: one asked to make a point but without expecting, or really wanting, an actual answer.

Wolfram Alpha - a new kind of Fail


@ DutchOven

<< I promised myself that I'd use it for an entire day. I did - I rarely got back any results though and the ones I did get back were usually not relevant at all. >>

At the risk of being repetitive here, it took you an entire DAY to work out that it's not a Google-style search engine? Did you actually read any of the articles you saw?


@ nicholas22

<< This article shows great insight, especially about Wolfram's ego thing. >>

It might well - and Wolfram might well be an egomaniac. From what little I've heard of him it seems to be a common complaint. But when all's said and done, that's not what's relevant here. Ted's article purported to be about WA. If he'd simply written an article on "Why I Don't Like Stephen Wolfram" then opinions about Wolfram's ego would be relevant. As an assessment of the WA technology, they're not. Does the technology work? If it does, say so. If it doesn't, tell us where and why it fails. "The man who wrote it is an egomaniac" tells us nothing of any use.

<< I mean would you call anything "<your surname>|Alpha" if you weren't a megalomaniacal egoist? >>

Is it the 'Alpha' part you object to, or the fact that he's used his own name? If the latter, it's not exactly an unusual way of naming companies, as a look at Ford, Chevrolet, Lockheed, Armani, Rolls-Royce, Sainsburys and hundreds if not thousands of others throughout business history will show.

And if the argument then is that, well, it's egotistical for *anyone* to do it, then see above.


complaints about the journalism

Jodo Kast said:

<< I would think that the trolls complaining about the word Fail should post a blog about it, and express their outrage there.

Instead they troll the comments section. How about talking about Alpha instead of hijacking the thread? thanks in advance! >>

Now there's an irritatingly smug little habit: "thanks in advance!" with that faux-cheery exclamation mark... Yuck.

Despite being a total stickler when it comes to spelin and grandma an all dat stuf, I'm afraid I'd have to defend the use of the word 'fail' here. If anything it's irritating because it's so massively overused; but that's because it's an established usage, so we can't say that it's incorrect.

But you missed the point, too: the comments pages are attached to articles so that people can comment on articles. While I agree that there are more relevant criticisms to be made than the language used in the article - for example Ted's glaring bias against Wolfram|Alpha because of his obvious dislike for its creator - the complaints about 'fail' are valid comments on the article that he posted, and are not therefore trolling.

Besides, it's my personal view that the word 'troll' as used on net forums and newsgroups is now essentially meaningless, since its primary purpose is now to denote "someone who does not agree with me".

<< You seem new. Don't start flame wars. If you don't like this website, don't come here. Send criticism about their journalism to their e-mail address. Public drama won't help your case. >>

You've started out here by saying someone seems new. Yet you yourself seem unaware that El Reg comments pages frequently contain complaints about the journalism, and that these comments have each been passed by a moderator. Since the moderators seem happy to allow such criticism (one of the things that must be said in the Reg's favour - even if the journalists themselves rarely venture to respond to the criticisms), it does kind of undermine your instructions here.

Re AC @ 21:10:

<< ...this thing does have some serious limitations and I don't immediately see how they can be overcome. [snip] >>

Now that was fair comment. I can't trust WA for practical purposes because the information it gives me might not be accurate. That would be a far more valid observation than "I don't like the guy who created it", which formed the bulk of Ted's diatribe. But there again, that observation, valid as it is, does seem to invite the reply, "welcome to the Internet". This is the misinformation superhighway, and everyone should know that you cannot fully trust any single online source (or indeed any single source full stop). But this is where we bear the responsibility to manage our own expectations: if we just sit back and expect Google, or Wikipedia, or WA or any other single source, to provide everything we need without us having to lift a finger, then we deserve to get stung.


Nice balanced review, there...

So let me get this right, Ted. A brand-new, specialised search facility is 'fail' because:

a) it isn't very well-established and doesn't yet have an enormous dataset like Google does;

b) it doesn't enable you to search for the latest goss on ur fave celeb innit like what Google does;

c) it doesn't take a *three-letter input* (FFS) and return reams of data about Ted Dziuba;

d) it doesn't serve as the universal, generic search engine that Google is?

You're like the people who complained about McDonald's not selling salads. They missed the point in the same way you did. McDonald's don't force you into their restaurants to gorge on flab-patties and suck down litres of brightly-coloured fizzy chemicals. The choices are available, and it's your responsibility to make them.

What you're doing in this article is basically sitting in a McDonald's restaurant stuffing yourself with Chicken McNuggets and Big Macs and complaining that you're not eating asparagus.

I don't know who first started marketing WA as a 'Google killer', but as far as I can tell that's never what it was supposed to be. Google and WA are two different things.

If you want an all-encompassing, omnipresent, pervasive, all-your-details-are-belong-to-us search engine you go to Google. If you want a more task-specific engine designed for a particular kind of enquiry then Wolfram Alpha might (not 'will': 'might') serve you pretty well. And if you have trouble deciding which you need, then Wolfram Alpha very obligingly includes a facility to run your search term through any of three popular search engines.

Seriously, I can't see myself using WA every day, or even very often. It'll be of limited use to me, but I can already see that it will be of *some* use. Its capabilities will, I'm sure, improve as time goes on. Yes, it has glitches and oddities: I don't claim to know any more than anyone else why it picks that particular guy as the 'Ted' we're interested in - but click on 'as a given name' and you find a lot of information about the name 'Ted'; and that's the sort of thing it's obviously supposed to do. It's obvious that you have a personal issue with this Wolfram guy. And your comment about the average user and 140 characters suggests a fairly hefty case of inverse snobbery.

Whether WA ultimately succeeds or fails it is an interesting innovation, and even if it dies a death as a standalone service a year down the line, I've no doubt that Google might like to assimilate what's left. You know, just to add that technological distinctiveness to its own.

Honestly, I've got no axe to grind here, Ted. I don't know this Wolfram chap and I don't know you. But until you can get a grip on your personal feelings and show some professionalism then your assessments will be compromised.

You said:

"It's times like this where the internet's abundant anti-intellectualism actually does some good for the world. Cutting down Wolfram-sized ego is worth a thousand 4chans."

No, it really isn't. We all know that no single information source should be relied upon, but in general anything that improves people's access to knowledge is a good thing. Denouncing it for the sake of your own personal dislike of one man is cutting off *everyone's* noses to spite *your* face.

Facebook denies denying Holocaust deniers


Last one from me

jake said:

<< In the former Soviet Union, the state was effectively the religion. Likewise, the Catholic Church was a State before it was a religion (some would say it's still a state more than a religion ...). The ancient Egyptian kings were "gods on earth". The Roman Senate officially sanctified Julius Caesar as a Roman deity. GWBush's former handlers seem to think they are gods. Etc. >>

Well, taken with your previous comments I read this as saying that, if we deliberately employ a sufficiently loose definition of 'religion' we can apply it to just about any matter involving any form of faith at all. In which case, since that would encompass just about any matter of opinion, I would have to concede that 'religion', at least according to this new definition, must indeed be considered the root of all evil.

For myself, I cannot and will not agree that faith and religion are synonymous, but that the former is simply a component of the latter. I still consider the substition of 'religion' with 'faith' to have been a highly dubious tactic.

<< I just point & giggle when I run across it. >>

And that's fine and no more than deniers deserve. My only concern there would be that any uncertain observer, wavering between the two points of view and unsure which to believe for truth, will see one side producing what looks (at face value at least) to be calm and measured claims, and the other side merely pointing and giggling. All other things being equal, this would make the deniers appear to be the ones with the coherent argument.


@ jake

jake said in reply to me:

>> "not all evil is in fact caused by religion."

> No? Give me an example of evil that isn't based on the perpetrators faith in something.

Oooo, that's a bit dodgy. 'Religion' neatly substituted with 'faith in something'? I've no doubt that you're well aware (if only from previous theist/anti-religionist squabbles) that the strictly atheistic Soviet regime can easily be advanced as an example of an evil not based on *religion* - but evils not based on someone's "faith in something" isn't the same thing at all. It could easily be argued that any given evil act is the result of the perpetrator's faith in their entitlement to do it.

Still, it'd be interesting to explore this point: it would imply that 'faith' *isn't* something exclusive to deluded god-bothering fools, as it's sometimes claimed to be by anti-religious campaigners.

> For the record, I'm no Holocaust "revisionist".

I want to make it entirely clear that I never said you were.

Your personal account is interesting, and is one of many I've heard; which is one of the reasons I feel quite strongly about Holocaust denial.


Responses to AC and jake

@ AC - 14:12

<< I'm not referring to those who seek to mitigate the holocaust or the nazi world view. >>


<< Quite the opposite in fact. You have inferred that I am just because I believe that it is correct to permit people to question the accepted facts and then answer those questions through research. >>

You implied equivalence between revisionists and deniers when you said "revisionists (call them deniers if you will)". I pointed out that a revisionist is not necessarily the same thing as a denier, but since you indicated that you saw them as the same thing I felt it was fair to infer what I did from your comments.

As I hope I made clear, I am fully in support of researchers seeking to learn more about that period of history, particularly as it's a prominent example of humanity's capacity for calculated savagery. The trouble is that we already know quite a bit about it. So while you speak about 'reluctance to engage in the debate', I'd tend to wonder exactly what debate it's necessary to have.

What inconsistencies or inadequacies in the existing account yet need to be resolved? In what way is our current knowledge of the Holocaust incomplete or open to interpretation? Is it simply a matter of numbers? You yourself have said that you agree that the numbers make little difference - yet it's the numbers that Holocaust revisionists tend to focus on: rather than acknowledging that the Nazis killed millions, Jews and others, they quibble over just *how many* million, as though three million murders is any less an atrocity than six.

You ask what's likely to be lost by doing the research, and in a world of infinite money, time and resources I'd say nothing. But even so, that assumes that the research is done entirely honestly, with no intrinsic bias towards a particular outcome.

Still, even if there's little or no disagreement about the account of an event, of course it doesn't *preclude* further investigation - I'm aware that many crucial scientific advances have taken place because of people who were willing to challenge unquestioned established wisdom. But don't forget that for every challenge that turns out to be a Copernicus or an Einstein, there are lots of Planet Xs, Bible Codes and Time Cubes. A challenge doesn't have any merit simply *because* it's a challenge.

<< The censorship I refer to has nothing to do with Facebook. It has to do with the proposals by the EU to introduce European anti holocaust denial legislation which pretty much makes it illegal to ask questions about what happened. >>

But the point of my comment about censorship was that Facebook is free to 'censor' because it's a commercially-owned site and not a public platform for free speech. The question of state censorship of the issue is different. But even then, it's worth bearing in mind exactly WHY Germany and other European countries might be so careful about this issue. Despite the amount of times people say "never forget", it's remarkable how quickly and easily they do. Hitler and the Nazi regime didn't seize power, at least at first: they were given it, freely, under a democratic system, by an aggrieved populace, and only later subverted the system. What followed was, once it became public knowledge, as abhorrent to the German people as a whole as it was to anyone else, and it's natural that they as a nation are particularly keen to ensure it doesn't happen again. It's very easy for extremists to take advantage of a people's sense of grievance. You've only to look at the comments of British nationalists with regard to the BNP and you can see how easily public dissatisfaction could lead to destructive consequences.

@ jake:

<< Quite honestly, I don't care. When I was younger I thought I could change the world. >>

Working in public service, I can quite understand how you've come to the conclusion you have. I also once thought it was possible to do some good in society, but now realise that the very best you can hope to do is simply try to stay afloat as long as you can. Even so, my objection to Holocaust denial (or 'revisionism', if you prefer) isn't about changing the world - it's about preserving history from those who would re-write it to their own advantage. And I know that 'history is written by the victor', and that as a child of the 1970s I must take it on faith to some extent that the Holocaust happened as described; but when I see that even those who would deny it are forced by the weight of evidence to retreat into messing around with the numbers of dead, I'm reasonably confident that their arguments have no merit.

<< Please note that I am not claiming all religion is evil, nor that all organized religions are inherently evil, nor that all religion should be eradicated. >>

I agree, except that I'd add only one further qualifier to your statement: not all evil is in fact caused by religion. So perhaps we can agree on "organised religion is the root of some evil"?


Common halfway-house position

@ jake:

<< Does anyone, anywhere, really believe anything important found on facebook, or any other site on the Internet, without researching other sources?

If they do, and they spout about it in public, they deserve the ridicule that is sure to follow. >>

Yes, they do. Lots of them. People will believe anything they read, whether it be the latest junk horrors-we're-all-going-to-die hysteria in the tabloids, or the idiotic rumourmongering in these noxious 'celeb' magazines.

The big problem is that you can't just dismiss it as above: "if they believe it then they deserve to be ridiculed". Yes, they do deserve that - but the problem is if enough people start parroting something then more people will be swayed by it and sooner or later the truth becomes the minority view; abandoned in favour of the conspiracy theory, the rumour, whatever. The question then is who's actually getting ridiculed.

How many people believe - truly, fervently believe - every word of those asinine websites about September 11th being an inside job? Yes, quite obviously the supposed 'evidence' that The Government Did It amounts to absolutely nothing beyond speculation and wishful thinking - but there are a LOT of people around the world who are willing to uncritically embrace every wild claim the conspiracy theorists chuck onto the web. But challenge them on any of their beliefs and you will find yourself treated as the idiot for not seeing the perfectly self-evident truth of the conspiracy...

@ Chris W:

<< Does this make all followers of any religion a jerk and an asshole? >>

No - but this wasn't a good place to ask that, in light of the kind of comments that usually get tagged to any article featuring religion. Some of them make Richard Dawkins look the very model of reason and tolerance.

@ vishal vashisht:

<< how long before religious nuts start calling for Facebook to close down athiest groups because they are offensive >>

Presumably you'd suggest that it couldn't happen the other way around? Haven't you noticed those atheists who claim that religion is the root of all human evil and that it must be eradicated? There are militants and fanatics on all sides. It's biased to imply that the intolerance runs in only one direction.

@ AC - "Censorship makes the situation worse":

<< [S]ome revisionists (call them deniers if you will) raise some very interesting questions about the detail of the holocaust . Many of these questions are about method and scale and do not necessarily say that it never happened. >>

The terms 'revisionist' and 'denier' are partially synonymous, in that a Holocaust denier is a historical revisionist. But not all historical revisionists are necessarily Holocaust deniers.

In context, though, what you're referring to are those people who seek to mitigate the Holocaust or otherwise excuse the Nazis by claiming that, "well, it *happened*, but it wasn't as bad as everyone says it was".

This is a common halfway-house position for former outright deniers who've studied the evidence and found themselves unable to remain convinced of the denial. However, Holocaust denial is normally the rationalisation for another motive, whether that be hatred of the Jews (and bearing in mind Chris's point that the Jews were only one of many persecuted groups, they're certainly the most politically prominent), love of the Nazi worldview, or both. Abandon denial entirely, and suddenly you're without even a pseudo-intellectual basis for your arguments and you're just another racist/anti-semite/nationalist/whatever.

Revisionism of the sort you describe is appealing for such people, because it allows them to offer apology for the Nazis while still maintaining the appearance of scholarly reason.

But ultimately we're still faced with one of the big questions of ethical philosophy here: how much do the numbers matter? Where do we draw the line between "abhorrent attempt at genocide" and "oh, that's okay then"? How many people would it have been acceptable for Hitler and his minions to kill *before* we consider it a crime against humanity? Would hundreds of thousands murdered be more acceptable than millions?

I agree that we must be able to study the Holocaust. If nothing else, such events serve as valuable lessons for us to learn (or would, if our species had the collective intelligence to do so). But there's a big, big difference between studying something with the intention of finding out about it, and studying it to find bits you can re-write in order to push a weighted political viewpoint.

(Incidentally, with regard to 'censorship' - that complaint doesn't apply on Facebook any more than it applies on Wikipedia. Both sites are publicly accessible, but they are not publicly owned and therefore the owning organisations may impose whatever terms and restrictions they wish on the activity of their users.)

Darth Vader tops movie misquote poll


@ Steve Poll

<< David Prowse was the man in the suit but it was James Earl Jones that did the reading >>

Yes, but what Dave Prowse read out was deliberately different to what James Earl Jones read. Prowse's line, as read on set and then dubbed over later, had Vader telling Luke that Obi-Wan was his father, rather than the actual line that Vader was. Knowledge of the true line was very tightly controlled - even the cast didn't know it - so that the shock of the revelation wouldn't be leaked to the public in advance.

Although we now fully expect Sinister Bad Guy to turn out to be the father of Plucky Good Guy, it's only because ESB made it such an iconic development.

Aw. I'm a geek.

Apple: No Jesus on the Jesus Phone


Let them have their app

Ridiculous that Apple should make a big issue out of what is, let's face it, one idiotically pointless app amongst a vast number of idiotically pointless apps.

I have to agree with adnim, albeit a bit more broadly: if your religious faith is so fragile that you need to police what other people do with such imagery then you would benefit from some quiet reflection on your beliefs.

For myself as a religious person, it's not my place to tell other people what they can and can't do with images of the gods. That's up to them. Other religions have laws prohibiting the pictorial depiction of their holy figures, but those laws can bind only the followers of that religion and no-one else.

There's a long-standing claim that religious people demand disproportionate respect for their beliefs and insist that they can't be questioned or challenged. I don't think that's the case for most religious people - it certainly isn't for me. Inasmuch as we each have our own outlook on the world, I believe that eventually we will have to accept that 'respect for religion' isn't so much demanded as simply inevitable: sooner or later people will have to realise and accept that different people see the same world in very different ways, and that no matter how much either side rants and bawls and threatens and cajoles, there really isn't all that much anybody can do about that.

On the same principle, I say let the Apple flunkies have their comedy pictures of prophets. They'll have a laugh and then forget about it. The app will come and go and be forgotten, as is always the way with pointless gizmos.

Ireland bucks trend with anti-blasphemy law


@ "Pfft" (AC 06:16)

<< Religion is a mental disorder and anyone beliving in noncorpoal beings should be forced into treatment. Religion is a deciese and should be treated as such. >>


Now there's a well-worn bit of wishful polemic. Show me the definition in DSM, if you please?


Complex and difficult

Ooh, an El Reg article on religion. The joy. I do love some good IT news.

Maybe I'd better start by declaring my interests: Yes, I'm religious. No, I'm not Christian, and I'm not Muslim. In fact, no, I'm not a monotheist. Yes, I love the sciences and absolutely respect the scientific method as a way to answer those questions that science can answer. Yes, I believe that there are limits to science, and that there are some questions that science can't and doesn't attempt to address. No, I don't want you to believe as I do. Yes, I'm happy to tell you about my beliefs IF you ask me. No, I really don't care whether you believe as I do. No, I don't want laws protecting my beliefs from your scorn, and no, I don't want schools to teach your kids my religion - although I believe that teaching them about religion in general is crucial if they're to understand the world.

Okay, so.

Putting aside the rather sneery tone of the article (which isn't unusual for the Reg when dealing with the primitive superstitions of us religious idiots) the problem is straightforward enough: the Irish Constitution makes reference to punishments for blasphemy but doesn't actually back that up with any laws defining blasphemy or setting out the punishments for it.

The suggestion - and if I understand it correctly this is as yet merely a suggestion - is to draft a law that would resolve that inconsistency by defining an offence of blasphemy.

This means making reference to religion in law: something that is automatically deeply offensive to some atheists. But let's stop and think about it. I noticed one telling little phrase in the article:

"It may appear strange that the Irish are looking to introduce such a law at the very moment that other governments – in particular the UK government – are doing away with specific provisions on blasphemy".

Firstly, it's worth highlighting that part about 'other governments' which are ditching blasphemy rules. Obviously that's not supportive of the anti-religious picture of religion creeping into legislation and exerting more and more control over what we can say and do. But why should this be suggested in Ireland particularly? Well, considering the history of Ireland, I don't think it's unreasonable to say that religion has been something of a tinderbox issue there, just as it has in the UK. Perhaps with that in mind the idea of a universal law preventing *deliberate religious provocation* (which is what the proposed law would be, as I read it) doesn't seem quite so ridiculous.

Such a law is going to be complex and difficult to perfect, because European principles demand that all religious views (including those who reject religion) have to be given equal attention. Nevertheless there are some in every category - atheists included - who're so convinced of the superiority of their position that the idea of *not* slagging off the others seems quite distasteful. Some people build their whole outlook on this issue based not on their own beliefs (or absence thereof), but on their views of other people's. Take for example the poor, weary Flying Spaghetti Monster. The FSM's original intended use was highlighting the inconsistency in Creationist demands that their religious views should be given equal weight in science classes. However, the Noodly One has now become a staple tool of the anti-religious campaigner. He's no longer a way to illustrate the logical inconsistency of an argument. He's now a clumsy 'reductio ad absurdum' argument against religion in general.

At the moment there are no blasphemy laws to speak of. The existing UK laws about inciting religious hatred deal with just that: they don't ban you from telling me I'm a fking idiot because I'm religious - but they *do* ban you from exhorting a mob of angry anti-religionists to go round to my house and set fire to it. Similarly, I couldn't stand in the street and demand that people start burning atheists in wicker men. But is that an *oppressive* law? An unreasonable one? Of course not: it doesn't prevent me from doing anything I would expect a civilised person to want to do. It doesn't prohibit religious debate or debate about religion; it doesn't stop me from telling other people about my faith (even if I were inclined to do so), and it doesn't give me recourse to law just because the Jehovah's Witnesses turn up at my door and tell me I'm wrong in my beliefs. It doesn't even prohibit criticism of religion in general. Instead it seeks to prevent what often happens when people don't have the wit to discuss or debate something like sensible adults, and instead react based on unrestrained emotion - something the British have become ironically good at.

The article does make a good point at the end, though:

"A person bullied for their intense belief in Scientology, then, will receive strengthened protection under this law - someone bullied because they are obese, dress like a Goth, or for no apparent reason will have to stick up for themselves."

This is certainly an inconsistency. But how do we get round it? There are two routes: the first is to generalise legal protections so that they cover bullying on any grounds whatsoever. The second is to remove all laws dealing with any such offence and let people deal with it on their own. Given the number of people who derive pleasure from witnessing or causing the suffering of others, it's difficult to argue that we're a mature enough society to take the second route. But then, the first option either requires bullying to be defined at epic length in order to include all possible forms of and bases for it, or it requires a truly nebulous definition such as "anything that causes offence" - in which case we could make every citizen a police officer and there still wouldn't be enough to handle the workload.

The only other alternative is to have different laws for different sorts of bullying in different areas of life, and define them so that they are specific or general depending on what they're seeking to deal with. A law prohibiting incitment to religious hatred (call it 'blasphemy' if you like, for all the inherent meaning the word actually has) would seem to serve that purpose.

Plod called in on MPs' expenses leak


What moral high ground

@ Anonymous Coward 16:31 - "We need to kick out these MPs."

Yes, we do. But replace them with what? I assume you don't believe that turfing Labour out and putting any of the current alternatives in power would improve matters? These people all share the same comfy world; living their happy little lives in Parliament, enjoying the best the public purse has to offer. Much as I enjoyed watching Gordon Brown being pulled to pieces in PMQs the other day, I couldn't help but wonder what moral high ground his attackers imagined they were standing on.

But you've thought about that, no doubt. So I assume you mean get rid of *all* MPs - in which case, what do we do about democracy? If we want democracy in Britain - and I assume we do because one of our main complaints about the current 'leadership' is that they're trying to crush our freedoms - we have to have some means of representing the people's views in Parliament. Even if we had some clever IT-based system installed whereby the people themselves could register a vote on any issue, there'd still have to be people looking after that system, which means there are still specific people selected to wield power.

Still, I'm assured democracy is the best form of government. Having been born in 1970s Britain I've nothing to compare it with save the world's tinpot dictatorships at the other extreme, so I'll have to take that as read. Although it does seem inherently unhealthy that the only people who will ever rule us will be people who WANT to rule us; and more so that their overriding priority in ruling us will always be to secure a further term.

But for the life of me I can't see exactly what justification MPs have for being 'outraged'. The only issue I would have with the information that's been released is if it goes beyond the financial. We regularly protest loudly at the thought that someone might release our personal details - addresses, dates of birth, kids' schools, and so on - so it follows that we don't think that sort of information should be out in the open. If we demand that protection then I think we should be willing to extend it to MPs as well, especially where their families are concerned (we elect *them* to positions of accountability, not their kids).

Their expenses claims are not private: they're a matter of public interest because it's state money - NOT their already ample wages - that's being used for their decorators, their big TVs, their toilet seats and their porn. Therefore there's absolutely no reason for them to be 'outraged' at the release of this information, and certainly no reason why they should be setting the police on people for releasing it. That, as far as I'm concerned, indicates an institutional guilty conscience over expenses.

@ amanfromMars: "Funny Handshakes all round?"

I assume you're implying that they're all Freemasons and will corruptly stick up for each other. As someone who actually knows some Freemasons, rather than simply reading hysterical, religious-right conspiracy books about them, the casual assumption that Masons are all bent is very irritating to me. Certainly they have their bad apples, as would any organisation, company or club, but the bulk of them in my experience have a strong sense of social ethics. And Grand Lodge itself says:

"It must be clearly understood by every member of the Craft that his membership does not in any way exempt him from his duty to meet his responsibilities to the society in which he lives. The Charge to the new Initiate calls on him to be exemplary in the discharge of his civil duties; this duty extends throughout his private, public, business or professional life."

Yeah, yeah, I know: they *would* say that, wouldn't they...?

@ AC 15:23: "Tell me one of you wouldn't do either and I'll show you a liar."

Damn right I wouldn't. Now prove me a liar if you can; otherwise your declarations are worthless.

Homer Simpson 'nuclear waste spill' panic at nuke sub base!


Media Panic-Mongering

The simple fact that protesters and campaigners seem happy to ignore is that for something to serve as a fuel source it must be energetic. And if it's energetic, it's potentially dangerous.

Scott Swarthout asks how many coal fires there've been. I'd add how many gas explosions; fuel fires in motor vehicles; deaths by electrocution... People simply don't understand that energy is dangerous, and if it's not handled correctly then it can easily do terrible things to you. Yes, even if it's been generated by friendly green wind turbines.

Still, that's an ongoing issue. The main problem here is, as most have identified already, the repulsive media and the delight they take in trying to frighten everyone stupid. Reading this item I'm put in mind of the TV reports - even from the once-respectable BBC - relating to the collision of the HMS Vanguard and French submarine Le Triomphant in February. There's no doubt that a collision between ships - and especially submarines - is potentially catastrophic for the crews. On this occasion, luckily, the collision was minor and the two boats suffered no more than 'dents and scrapes'.

But how did the BBC report it? They stuck a woman on a hill overlooking Faslane and had her make deathly-grave comment on how we only narrowly avoided a major nuclear disaster - both vessels being SSBNs. The item on the BBC News website quotes the CND chair*, Kate Hudson:

"The collision of two submarines, both with nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons onboard, could have released vast amounts of radiation and scattered scores of nuclear warheads across the seabed"

Well, I suppose it's vaguely *possible* - but it sure as eggs isn't terribly likely, as anyone with even a casual interest in naval or nuclear stuff would probably realise. But then, I can understand it's in CND's interest to create as much fear as humanly possible - given that it seems the mere knowledge of what a nuclear weapon correctly used can do isn't quite enough to convince people that the damned things should be dismantled.

Still, if I didn't know better I'd say I expected more from the BBC than this kind of cheap scare-mongering. But having seen their handling of the EVIL TERRORIST PIG MONSTER AL-QA'EDA BIN LADEN SATANIST PAEDOPHILE COMMUNIST WITCH DEVIL FLU PANIC PANIC PANIC WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE story I can honestly say I didn't.

A free press is, I'm told, an essential part of a healthy democracy. Well, frankly, I don't see a deal healthy about either our press or our democracy as things stand. Sure: it's fascistic and oppressive and totalitarian to gag the press. But does that REALLY have to mean that they can't be held to account for publishing blatant lies in regular and utterly transparent attempts to stir up public hysteria?


* Always makes me wonder what's wrong with 'chairwoman', to be honest, if there's a woman in the chair. Is she ashamed of her gender or her individuality? Or both? (And yes, I'd be saying the same if a man had been described as 'chair'.)

UK agent leaves secret drugs info on bus


@ AC 01:10

"In Western countries, they work only as directed by the elected Government of their respective country."

Oh, good. If I knew who THEY were working for, I might feel a little better about it...

And @ elderlybloke:

"It seems a female can get away with being a brainless , useless incompetent. If a man did anything like this he would have charged under the Official Secrets Act. The females bleat about wanting equality. If they get it they will be worse off than now."

No, you clicked the wrong link, sir. Google ''Have Your Say' and click on 'Mindless Sexist Dimwits'. I'm sure others of your kind will be delighted to listen to you hold forth on the failings of females for as long as you like - and it'll keep you from stubbing your toe on the 21st century. Off you go now.



... I'm not convinced. As is so often the case, there's more to this story. Doesn't anyone else think it's a little convenient that SOCA - an agency with serious identity problems (not to mention purpose problems) - just happened to have a handy bubblehead right there to dump all the blame on?

Maybe they understood that all they needed to do was make her sound dozy enough and the tabloid-reading, every-opinion-straight-from-the-Sun community would be delighted to have the chance to leap in making misogynistic jokes about blondes... And not one of them - well, hardly any - take even a moment to think that maybe things aren't as simple as they seem.

I mean, what information have we actually got here? A shadowy 'Agent T', a secretive organisation, a 'former colleague'... No-one and nothing actually named, of course: so really, the story tells us nothing.

Maybe I'm just gullible, but something makes me wonder what actually happened here. And that same thing makes me suspect that the immediate knee-jerk reaction demonstrated here is simply the reaction someone somewhere wanted.

Or maybe our intelligence services - working as they do for the gods alone know who - really are just as stupid and inept as people are so quick to declare them.

ASBO woman cuffed over raucous rumpy-pumpy

Thumb Up

Been Done Before

"It's come to a funny state of affairs when a woman can't have a bit of rumpo in the privacy of her own bedroom."

"It's having it in your back garden that people are objecting to."

"We done it in the shed!"

"The shed collapsed! In fact sheds collapsed like dominoes all along Divinity Road. Mister Jones from number 36 phoned us - he claimed his compost heap was bouncing round the lawn."

"Look, Sergeant, you're a woman. You know about a woman's needs. When a woman needs love she's got to have it. Otherwise she's just a dried-up old prune."

"It doesn't strike me that banging away in the potting shed screaming 'do it to me big boy' at the top of your voice has much to do with love."

"Well I love it."

"I love sucking the middle bits out of Walnut Whips, but that doesn't mean I have the right to make everyone else listen to me do it!"

- The Thin Blue Line; "Night Shift"

Swiss woman rolled over Facebook


@ Peter Gant and DR and Other Listers-of-Symptoms

Peter Gant basically says the woman was pulling a fast one because she didn't have the same symptoms he has. Further down, DR says, for much the same reason, that she had only a 'bit of a headache'.

If these commenters are migraine sufferers (as Peter Gant indicates he is), it's surprising that they seem to take so little interest in their condition. If they did a little research, or talked to other sufferers, they'd find that the symptoms of migraine can be hugely variable. For most, without doubt, an attack takes the form of a headache. But there are many other effects of migraine. Even the 'straightforward' headache attacks can vary, from mild-but-annoying to vicious agony; from disablingly frequent to once-in-a-lifetime.

There again, there are numerous other symptoms associated with migraine. There are the 'aura' symptoms: flashing lights, fog, spinning 'wheels' in the vision, visual impairment or disorientation... There are the physical symptoms: numbness or pain in the extremities; temporary paralysis; extreme fatigue; nausea and vomiting... The list goes on. Migraine is an unpredictable thing, difficult to diagnose precisely because of the sheer number and variability of symptoms that could be caused by it.

My own migraines tend to consist primarily of aura/visual effects and disorientation - and frankly, even knowing what they are they can be very frightening indeed. But for me there tends to be surprisingly little pain - perhaps a few minutes' mild pain immediately the aura subsides. The headache phase doesn't comprise the main part of my attacks. Even so, I honestly doubt if I could work whilst it was going on. I couldn't concentrate; sometimes I couldn't read a screen; sometimes I couldn't stand up and walk across the room. Which leaves me knowing enough to know that I'm not in a position to dictate what someone else's experience of a migraine 'should' be like, or what they should or shouldn't be able to do during an attack.

If the woman was my employee, and I found out she'd faked an illness and taken a day off, then the first thing I'd want to be asking her is why. Is she unhappy? Is there anything that can be done to make her more motivated and thus improve her performance? If she's just being idle then fine, then we can talk about disciplinary action. The trouble is always going to be *proving* that she was just being idle. And frankly, I don't see any way I could obtain that proof solely based on the fact that she's been on Facebook while she's at home. It's certainly going to take more than a company spy added to her 'friends' list.

For the record, I've no time for Facebook or its kin and I see no appeal in such sites whatsoever. On the other hand, if staff are using it at home - even when off sick - then it's really none of my business. I'll treat their sick days as sick days and judge their performance accordingly - which still leaves me with options if they're underperforming.

Wikipedia's Norwegian press officer cuffed for killing mum


For the life of me...

... I can't work out what the IT angle is here.

If a man entirely unconnected with Wikipedia killed his mother, would the Reg bother to report the story? Assuming the case didn't provide an opportunity to complain about the oppressive bully-boy tactics of the police, I suspect not.

So what, I wonder, is the connection here? Are we trying to imply that Wikipedia - evil sinister conspiracy-o'-doom though it may or may not be - had something to do with the killing? Or is grumpy's 'joke' comment above actually quite close to the mark?

UK.gov to spend £2bn on ISP tracking



""I agree that what we're asking the industry to do is something that will put a burden on them," Smith said at today's IMP briefing for journalists. She said providers will be refunded the cost of collecting and processing the data by the government."

So that'll be us, then - paying someone to spy on us. In what way, I wonder, this being the case, will this NOT be a government-run system?

Isn't democracy great?

Google accused of UK tax dodge


Something Missing?

"British advertisers send their money to Google's Irish subsidiary, an arrangment described as unfair and unacceptable."

Described by whom?

Who snapped first?


@ 'Silly question'

It's perfectly possible to suffer a heart attack purely as a result of emotional stress without any physical contact at all. If the deceased had a history of high blood pressure or some sort of cardiac condition, it's not unfeasible that just having a heated argument with someone could trigger the necessary physical reactions. And as Oz says, the end result might well not be immediate.

If nothing else it's a sobering reminder of just how fragile human beings can be. It'd be nice if our perpetually angry British people, whether police officers or not, could learn to consider that before indulging in their oh-so-manly confrontational bullshit. (Yeah; like most of them give a shit whether their victim lives or dies...)