Friday, 31 May 2013

Mark Bridger and Child Porn

That the Murderer of little April Jones is evil is on record. The Judge said so. Mark Bridger will spend the rest of his life in gaol and rightly so, joining a small group of people who've committed terrible sexual crimes against children who will never be released.

There is a lot of talk in the press about what motivated him to do this terrible thing. Of course a man with a sexual interest in children, child rape and murder is going to seek out images depicting such acts. The press then go on to blame "the Internet" and call for Google to redouble efforts to block such images, in an almost perfect demonstration of the post-hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Children were raped and murdered before the Internet. The question is whether such images lead people who would not have otherwise raped and killed children to do so. Is it not just as likely that viewing porn acts as a substitute for the deed?

Does online pornography lead to more child rape and murder? This can be teased out in the numbers, though none of these studies where looking specifically at sex-crimes involving children.

The evidence is clear for all other forms of sexual crime - pornography acts as a substitute, not a complement  for sexual activity.  Availability of online pornography is correlated with lower incidences of rape and other sexual crimes. This has been found in Denmark, Japan and the Czech Republic. It also seems that the USA & Germany saw similar data supporting the hypothesis that sexual violence falls as online pornography becomes more available due to Broadband roll-out. (Google scholar is your friend when conducting this sort of research). The STRONGEST inverse correlations appear to be with sexual violence against children. That is child abuse fell when online pornography became available.

The fact that "porn addiction" has been blamed for killing people's sex-lives in 'meat-space' rather supports this view.

Obviously pornography involving minors is evidence of a real crime - the abuse of minors. That needs to be stamped down on. And more strength to the arm of the law in seeking the perpetrators out. But if it's clear, and it appears to be, access to virtual sex is a substitute for the real thing, then current laws banning simulated material appear to be misplaced. CGI is that good these days, lives might be saved by allowing production of simulated violent pornography. A great deal more research is needed before I will come down firmly on one side of that debate.

It maybe for example, with the current strong laws surrounding the viewing of such material, only those predisposed may seek it out. Perhaps people will be sucked into viewing ever more extreme material were it freely available, and this would encourage offending behaviour in those not already predisposed.

Whatever happens, it's certainly not entirely Google's problem. Google simply cannot ban search phrases, or you'd ban perfectly reasonable searches like those I put into Google scholar to research this article. Porn and especially that involving minors is already filtered, by the Internet Watch Foundation and in the UK Canada and soon Australia, Cleanfeed. Even so, capturing everything illicit is going to be impossible. The Internet is too vast, and too encrypted to police.

Google’s search index is estimated to contain details of around 44-45 billion web pages, although that will include a lot of historical data relating to pages that have since fallen down the Internet memory hole. By way of comparison, Microsoft’s Bing search engine is estimated to have indexed around 13.5 billion web pages and Yahoo’s index is currently estimated to contain around 10.5 billion web pages. It’s therefore estimated that the current size of the ‘Indexed web’ – i.e. websites/pages than can be located using a search engine – is somewhere around 15 billion ‘live’ webpages, but this is still just a fraction of the total number of web pages out there and doesn’t include websites that don’t allow themselves to be indexed or which restrict the ability of search engines to index their content, one of the biggest of which Facebook.

As far as registered domain names are concerned, again there are no clear or accurate global figures but to give you some idea of scale, on the 30th May 2013, there were 145,498,970 domains registered for just the five most popular generic top level domains ( ‘.com’, ‘.net’, ‘.org’, ‘.biz’, ‘.info’) and the most popular Country code TLD (‘.us’) and on that same day 143,800 new domains were registered and 112,589 existing domains were deleted, giving a net gain of 31,211 domains, and 189,302 domains were transferred.
Unity Concludes...
… anyone you see demanding that Google should be doing more to block child porn hasn’t got the first fucking clue what they’re talking about.
The problem is one of attribution bias. Child murders are thankfully rare, and therefore notable. People remember them. There's also the seeking of blame - the idea that monsters exist is uncomfortable. It is comforting that in campaigning against online pornography, you're helping to prevent the same happening to another little girl. The reality, that you're probably wasting your time, is depressing. People develop paraphilias, and sometimes these obsessions lead to terrible crimes. They did before the Internet. But the Internet appears to be preventing some of these people acting out on their sickening fantasies.

Mark Bridger will rot in gaol. But there may be little girls like April Jones who are alive now because of the depraved images he viewed before he killed her. That is not a comfortable thought, and what to do with it, I don't know. But knee-jerk legislation because 'something must be done' is never the right response.



Thursday, 16 May 2013

What do the Eurosceptics actually want?

The problem with the debate on the EU is that one side doesn't care, and the other has worked itself into an irrational frenzy. It's now poisoning the Tory party again, whose inability to address this issue rationally (though the press presenting any Tory mentioning 'yurp in the context of 'splits' doesn't help...) leaves the serious possibility of Prime-Minister Miliband. This and the return to power of Brownian lickspittle, Ed Balls is a much more clear and present threat to the UK than anything the EU might throw at us. The eurosceptic movement has been proven comprehensively right over the Euro. The UK dodged that bullet thanks to the likes of John Redwood and, it pains me to say, Gordon Brown. Now the sillier Eurosceptics are making demands that are simply impossible to meet.

What do the Eurosceptics want? Many seem to want an immediate, unilateral withdrawal, by repealing the Single European Act. To imagine this policy is without costs is ludicrous, not least for the million or so British citizens living outside Britain in the EU. Business would suddenly lose free access to the single market, and while access would almost certainly be granted along Norwegian or Swiss lines, it's hard to see the UK's negotiating position improved by such drastic action. It will also take time, probably years to sort out. In taking this drastic action, the UK would STILL be subject to the ECHR, over which UKIPpers work themselves into a tizzy. The European Court of Human Rights, set up by British and American lawyers after World War II, is not an EU institution, and it's convention has been incorporated into British law.

Yes, yes, yes. I want a bill of rights too, but this has little to do with the EU.

So, some sort of negotiated partial withdrawal, where the UK retains access to the Single Market, but withdraws from much of the decision-making process. As a net contributor, with a trade-deficit, a declared nuclear power, the 6-8th largest economy in the world, permanent member of the UN security council and one of only 3 countries able to deploy an expeditionary brigade, the UK will be able to negotiate generous terms for access to the single market. But the City, Britain's largest foreign currency earner, would lose out as much EU business would drift to Paris and Frankfurt. True, the city would be slightly freer to operate world-wide, but it would be slightly less attractive to potential partners. This is not bonkers, but is a large leap into the unknown, and has risks as well as benefits. We will lose whatever influence we have over the EU.

The sillier end of UKIP will counter "but we have no influence over the EU anyway". This is bollocks. The EU is as free-trade as it is because Britain and Germany together can gang up on France, rather like Waterloo. The idea that Britain has no influence in the EU is risible. The UKIPpers tend to forget that most of the UK doesn't agree with them, let alone Europe. Enlargement was a British desire, as is the single market. France much prefers protectionism. The EU negotiates strongly in favour of Global free-trade. It's hard to imagine that without British participation. The EU is a force for good, especially in South-Eastern Europe, where the carrot of EU membership is keeping nations once totalitarian hell-holes on the path to freedom and the Rule of Law. Britain has played a leading role in this. Of course the EU has costs: direct ones like fees and indirect ones like some silly and costly regulation. The cost/benefit analysis is, if you're being sensible, pretty close. It's not mad to want to leave, and I vacillate. I suspect I'll vote out, but let's see what Cameron comes up with first, eh?

The old rallying cry of the Eurosceptic movement was 'single market or quit'. The Eurozone is forging ahead with credit-crunch inspired ever-closer banking and fiscal union. This leaves the outs split into to camps: still want to join (really?) and never will join. The Euro has been shown to be a massive risk for small countries, and in truth, many EU members will never join. Britain as by far the largest of the 'outs' will be the leader. EU leaders are likely to give a fair amount of ground to Cameron in negotiation, as it's clear that unless they do, Britain will leave. They are getting what they want: ever closer union. It will cost them nothing to grant Britain a series of opt-outs while they're busy shoring up the foundations of their group. It seems to me that the UK may get from Europe what we've always wanted. To surrender our participation in the EU's decision-making while we negotiate it strikes me as idiotic.

The referendum is a distraction, and seen as such by the Electorate, to solving the immediate problems of the UK. Cameron has granted a referendum, legislated for in this parliament. He could do no more while in coalition with the Liberal Democrats. However having granted the wish that the dirty foreigners be pelted with turds, the sillier end of the Eurosceptic movement are now declaring Cameron to be a traitorous Europhile because he is not submitting to their (new) demand to kick the dirty foreigners in the nuts too.

Cameron's strategy is right. The Eurosceptics are not serving their country any more, now they've secured a referendum from one of the Main parties. To this end, UKIP sniggering that "Cameron can't win, therefore the promise is meaningless" is just another way of saying that UKIP are the main obstacle to their main declared end.

The Eurosceptic dog is now chasing its tail. If it's not careful, Prime Minister Miliband will ensure it's taken to the back garden and quietly drowned in 2015. If you want 'out', get behind the only referendum you'll ever be offered.



Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Where's the Outrage?

It's a  futile pass-time, but I like coming up with definitions of 'left-wing' and 'right wing'. For most people it's like the difference between pornography and art in that "I'll know it when I see it" but it's fun to deconstruct the mindset of the two tribes of politics.


There are many theories which try to put policy answers - Left-wing is statist for example but few argue the idea Fascists are other than right-wing collectivist totalitarians, while anarchists are mostly creatures of the left. Nazis and Communists are right and left-wing respectively. The former are dictators allied to the owners of capital, the latter to the means of production. The effect of both is big piles of corpses. Policy is unsatisfactory to define what they are: 'Left' or 'Right' is about a mindset.

Here's a thought: Where's your outrage directed? Are you outraged about policy on behalf of people you know or yourself? High taxes, too much ill-thought-through legislation? Do you campaign against roads cutting through YOUR back yard? Then you're probably right-wing. The left-wing get outraged about things that happen to OTHERS, specifically people they don't know. 'The Poor' whether here or in the third world and so forth. While the right are demanding/opposing a bypass in the local area, the left are outraged about Roads round someone else's town that cut through a site of environmental concern for example.

The problem with the right-wing world view is that it tends towards nimbyism and rather ignores social problems once they're put out of sight. The problem with the left-wing view is that it tends to see people as mute recipients of state charity, and tends to stick its nose where its not needed or wanted, to everyone's cost. It sees the problems of the prosperous majority as very small next to the problems of their clients, and ends up seeing the Bourgeoisie as a mere source of funds.  

Both views are necessary to temper the excesses of the other. Without the right, the left over-legislates to solve perceived social problems, and in doing so, kills the golden goose of private business and wealth-creation. Left wing outrage, because it's on someone-else's behalf, is likely to be less accurately directed. As are the perceived solutions, which are often more about the left-winger's own prejudices. However, without the left, genuine social problems can be left to fester.

And there we have the glorious creative tension built into the combative two-party politics, which is being lost in the multi-party system which will gift power to party managers and consensus-seekers. Consensus is almost always sub-optimal. Without the tension created by competing outrage, "consensus" will end up being in effect "the man in Whitehall knows best" when all the evidence is clear that, in the long-run, he doesn't. Of course there are exceptions. Any left/right rule is bound to be simplistic, and riven with exceptions. But think about the things you're outraged about. How many of them directly affect you?



Monday, 13 May 2013

Cameron and 'The Right'. What more do they want?

By 'The Right' I am referring to that spectrum of opinion which rebels over Gay Marriage and the EU and forms the Right of the Tory party and the Ex-Tory UKIP voters.

The Tory party is rather united over Europe: There are those who're suspicious of the edifice, but want, on balance to remain in, and those who favour withdrawal on our terms. Everyone's in favour of a referendum, after a re-negotiation. Afterall, re-negotiate or withdraw was the rallying cry of the Tory rebels.

"But cast-Iron Dave reneged last time" The promise was made in the context of a pre-ratification election. And you know it.

"I don't trust Cameron, he's a Europhile" See answer above. He's the most Eurosceptic PM the country's ever had.

"But he doesn't want to leave" No, and most people think the issue is pretty finely balanced. Whether we're in or not, the EU is our nearest, and biggest neighbour. You can be sceptical about the EU project without being obsessed by the idea that leaving the EU is the answer to all the UK's problems.

"He's not right-wing. There are no cuts" This is a simple lie. Even as the economy flat-lines Government spending has been falling in real terms. Headcount has been falling. If (and when) the growth comes the deficit will fall faster than anticipated from here. The left underestimate the necessity for cuts. The right underestimate how hard they are to put into effect. The truth is the coaltion's cutting far faster than Thatcher ever did.

"Lib-Lab-Con, they're all the same". Um No. The Rhetoric may be the same, but the policies are very different.

"I'm not homophobic, but why did Dave use so much political capital over Gay marriage?" Why did you make him use so much political capital over Gay Marriage. You may not be Homophobic, but you're doing a damn good job of pretending to be. I simply don't understand why the issue of Gay Marriage has split the Tory party assunder more completely than Europe, over which the Tory tribe is broadly united. WHY DO YOU CARE?

"Cameron can't win". Yes, he can. Thatcher was a lot further behind in the polls than Cameron is now at the equivalent point before the 1983 election. She too faced a useless Labour leader on the left of his party.

"But Cameron is no Thatcher". No, the Coalition's more radical (but with less radical rhetoric) than Thatcher's first term.

The question is "what more do the Right want from Cameron?"



Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The Opposition Comfort Zone

In 1997, any Labour activist under 40 would not have had the experience of voting for a Labour government. The attitudes of opposition were deep-set and the party in the country was deeply unready for Government, however prepared Blair and Brown and the rest of the shower were.

In opposition, everything confirms your cognitive biases. Things that go wrong are your enemy's fault. It's easy to brush good news under the carpet. Focussing relentlessly on the negative that Government does, when your enemies are the government, feels good. Evidence, the easily available and memorable sort, confirms every prejudice you hold about the "wicked" Tories, and it's easy to go looking for more.

This is why Blair, who for all his myriad faults, was detested by his party and the broader left. He was comfortable with the compromises of Government. He was unable to deliver the re-nationalisation of industry the Labour movement craved and yearned for. But he was, despite the wailings of the idiot left of his party, a creature who increased state control. The Blair Government increased taxes, increased state spending and increased the scale and reach of the state. State workers were generously remunerated, and headcount exploded. Regulations were poured onto business like glue. Blair was a lefty, leading a left-wing government. It was just not as left wing as the activists wanted.

Can you see where I am going with this?

For Labour in 1997, read Conservatives in 2010. For Blair read Cameron. For Idiot left, read UKIP.

If you're on the right, ranting about how David Cameron is "no different to Tony Blair" and "it doesn't matter, they're all the same. We're governed by the EUSSR anyway" you sound just like a Labour activist ranting about "capitalism" in 1983, and just as electable.

The morons of the Tory right/UKIP borg: the mirror image of why Labour was unelectable in the 1980s.

Cameron's a good egg, cutting spending, taking on the Unions, standing up to Europe. Just not quite as much  nor with the relish demanded by, the kind of activist who's gotten rather too comfortable with the idealogical certainties of opposition. Tories govern, practically and with the best long-term interests of the UK at heart. It's what we do. It's what Maggie Thatcher did (whatever the Tory right and Labour left say she did). We don't govern according to some idealogical play-book nor should we. State spending is growing in nominal, but not in real terms. Stop lying with statistics, and get behind the only man who can keep Ed Miliband out of Downing Street.

If you think that "doesn't matter", because they're "all the same", my contempt for you is absolute. The enemy is to Cameron's left, Gentlemen, not yours. Get back to your posts.



Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Why I unsubscribed from Labour's spam e-mails.

I've been getting spam from Labour. I clicked on the 'Unsubscribe' button. They asked me why I wanted to no longer hear Labour's daily take on political events. Here's what I told 'em:

Because I think Labour are a bunch utter lackwits whom I wouldn't trust to run a bath. Ed Miliband has all the charisma of a rail replacement bus service to Stevenage. Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper's beard, is the bloke who was chief lickspittle to the man most directly responsible for the current parlous state of the country. Why would I be interested in the opinions on how to drive of the people who drove the bus into the fucking tree in the first place?
Vote Labour? I'd rather shit in my hands and clap. 
Do everyone a favour and fuck off. 
I haven't typed such satisfying invective in a while. It feels good. I wonder if they'll get the message....



Friday, 3 May 2013

"I Just Want to Feel Like Someone's On My Side"

I asked some collegues, mainly conservative (small 'c') what they wanted. These are wealthy people who've been hit hard by the tax-rises of the coalition. They're thinking of voting UKIP. This is exactly the same rhetoric you get from the benefits recipient, like my Twitter correspondent Kaliya who tweets at @bendygirl and blogs at Benefit Scrounging Scum People, from the top 50%/45% payers to the benefits recipients, are simply fed up of paying the bills for others' failure.

The who the "others" who've "failed" are varies of course. But the fact is we all failed. We all got used to spending money we didn't have on houses that were too expensive. We all enjoyed benefits we'd not paid for, Government, the people, all thought the living standards we'd got used to in 2008 were real. Bankers bet that house-prices would keep going up, and regulators let 'em, because they believed it too. Egging all this on, were politicians, keen to spend the taxes of the Bankers' profits, and ride the goodwill an asset price-bubble created. We are now suffering the hangover from the party. Everyone's realised the party was on a 'school night', and they're scowling on the way to work.

Every class of people is having its living standards squeezed, apart from the super-rich who face no significant constraints even if there are fewer '0's at the end of the pay-cheque. Unfortunately for Cameron, he is super-rich. But other than them, we are "all in this together". The entire country is tightening its belt and grumbling, looking for someone to blame.

Which brings us to protest votes. Liberal Democrats are generally good at the Council stuff. They run a good ground campaign, follow up complaints well and therefore they're good at getting a local following. As a result they're harder to shift than herpes. Their main attraction outside the hyper-local is the ability their voters  enjoyed to say "don't blame me, I voted Liberal Democrat" at dinner parties. Going into coalition meant these people need to vote for someone else.

Conservatives, as the natural party of Government struggle to win when people are pissed off. The Tories are in Government so when the economy's flat-lining it's always going to be a difficult sell. Furthermore, Tories in 2009, the last time these seats were up for grabs, swept the board. It's nearly mathematically impossible for them to go anywhere but down from then. With that in mind, the kicking the Tories got yesterday was natural, expected and nothing to panic about.

Labour barely did better than when they were in Government, during the biggest crash in history, while they were led by Jonah Gordon Fuckwit Brown McDoom. Ed Miliband is a hopeless liability. If the party was a horse, it would have a black curtain round it now and a vet would be striding towards it with a grim expression and a long-cased object.

Which brings us to UKIP. The fact that the protest votes are going to a party which, when it thinks about grown-up things like deficits seems to be in favour of "further and faster" cuts, and Tax-Cuts now should embolden Tories. The British People are sending a message. "We're pissed off. But we also know austerity's necessary" They are sending a message that they'd really rather no Romanians emigrate here. But mainly that they're pissed off.

The Tories can do one of two things. Panic and Guarantee a loss at the next election. Or knuckle down and still stand a chance of winning if, (and of course it remains a big 'if') the economy recovers in time. 8% behind in the polls, when most of the votes lost since the election have gone to a protest party which mainly aggrees with you is not so bad. There's no message the Conservatives should send that they aren't already doing.

Apart from Gay Marriage (which is UKIP's biggest driver of support), there's nothing the Tories aren't doing that UKIP want. There's a referendum promise on the EU, and possibly legislation this parliament. Immigration's being cut, Benefits are being capped, the public-sector's being cut, and markets are being introduced in the NHS and Education. This UKIP talk of "abandoning Conservative values" is nonsense. Unless you weight Gay Marriage very, very highly. And that's the thing. UKIP had a chance to be "libertarian" and they blew it by preferring (rightly, as it turned out) to hoover up angry, bigoted, gay-hating conservatives of whom there's a surprising number.

It's Gay Marriage (and it seems Gay Marriage alone) which broke Cameron from Tory England. Every other pro-gay measure from legalising homosexuality to legalising homosexuals serving in the military, to Civil Partnerships has faced red-faced harrumphing from the shires. They just didn't have a party back then. This will pass, as it always has. The UKIPasm will fade, probably starting from their high-water mark at next-years Euro elections. The red-faced saloon bar bore will start to drift back to the Conservative party, as the prospect of Miliband as prime-minister becomes closer.

UKIP want Conservatism but MORE! and FASTER! (But with FEWER GAYS). It's Labour who need to panic, not the Conservatives. They've lost the country.



Wednesday, 1 May 2013

"Race to the Bottom"

The Coalition has sought to Abolish the Agricultural Wages Board. Labour oppose this, because they think the Countryside is still some Dickensian hell of near-slave labour, and that only State intervention prevents a "race-to-the-bottom" in wages. The phrase appears again in Labour shadow Education Minister Tristram Hunt's argument about British Skills shortages.

This phrase also underpins the arguments for the Minimum wage, which Labour introduced, and every other intervention into people's working lives. Of course the UK has been getting steadily richer over the past couple of centuries, with or without government intervention in wages and industrial conditions. Labour like to point to Laws being passed as the point at which things change. It's not like this of course. The law changes when it becomes acceptable and economically viable to do so. The law reflects change to society. It doesn't drive it.

The average British worker expects more than 12-hour factory drudgery for tuppence-ha'penny an hour, but in poorer parts of the world this represents a step up from subsistence agriculture, which is 14 hours of drudgery for no pay, with the ever present risk of starvation. He won't accept back-breaking labour in the fields, which is why we import Polish fruit-pickers and Chinese cockle-gatherers. The native Brit who once would have done these jobs is better off on welfare.

As countries become richer, they take some of the increase in productivity and spend it on better working conditions, wages and so forth. Some people - the kind who become North-sea divers for example, are willing to take on personal risk for a big pay-cheque. Others, those who become HMRC tax-clerks would sacrifice pay-cheque for a near-job-for-life. The difference between socialists is they think GOVERNMENT should decide who gets to decide their working conditions. But it's clear. The shortage is of skilled Labour.

Unfortunately, Labour cannot follow the logic. If the shortage is of skilled Labour, then skilled Labourers do not need protection. Employers will be competing in wages and working conditions to attract them. Far from being a "race to the bottom" it's inflationary. Government has decided that there should be a minimum wage, and for those whose labour isn't worth even that, a welfare state. And with that, you've protected people from "exploitation". It's now possible to survive in the UK while taking none of the Jobs on offer. This is true of every developed nation, and this limits employers power over people.

Labour seems to think Government is all that stands in the way of employers, who all carry whips and wear top-hats, driving down working conditions and pay. Nothing in economic history supports this view, though it's a comforting idea, if you see everything through scarlet-tinted spectacles and romanticise the Workers' "struggle". If you want decent working conditions for everyone, give them the tools and let them get on with it. People, making the best of what they've got will, over the generations, given peace and freedom, drive up living standards.  Decent pay and standards will happen when everyone's rich enough to afford them. Conditions we now think acceptable will be shunned by our children. There is a case for minimum standards but it's weaker than most think. "Race to the Bottom" is a left-wing dog-whistle, which should alert you to the fact the speaker is an idiot.

Scrap the Agricultural Wages Board. It makes no difference. It's a relic of the bygone age. Like most of Labour's thinking.



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