Saturday, November 03, 2007

[facebook part 2] run for your lives

I recently wrote a piece on Facebook, commenting on their delisting of bloggers who don’t use their real names. It now looks more insidious than first thought.

I said that I was thinking of unsubscribing and Ian Grey said one can’t – only de-activate but can re-activate at any time. Let me put that again:
When you sign up to Facebook, they have you in and you can not unsubscribe! You can unsubscribe from applications, discussion groups etc., you can unsubscribe from e-mail notifications but you can’t unsubscribe from Facebook itself – there is no mechanism.
This immediately gave me the shivers because it looks no different to those webpages where, the moment you enter, they lock you in and give you no navigation out until you’ve been through a series of other intrusive pages.

I want out and I want out now! I looked around to see what the web said:
Facebook, America’s number two social network behind MySpace, launched a redesign and two new features early this morning, allowing a user’s activities on the site to be tracked.

My guess is that if they’d allowed Facebook users to turn this feature off, most of them would have done so.

What’s odd is that most of Facebook’s recent additions have been extremely smart.
And ...
Facebook is commonly referred to as Stalkerbook, due to its many features that allows you to track people in your network, especially when you are friends with those people.

On September 5, 2006 Facebook altered the default logged-in screen to be the "News Feed," a new feature that lists every action that every Facebook friend of yours makes on Facebook.
And finally, Ian Parker:
Just remember who funded the building of Facebook and why it is there.

It was funded by DARPA's Information Awareness Office, and is there to collect information about you and build a profile on you.

Thats why they dont like pseudonyms.
Their site for those with concerns is here and when there, look down near the bottom of the page and see the group mentioned.

I’m outta here … or I would be if there were a mechanism to do so, which there isn’t.

[oh so wild] the importance of being english

These Weblog Awards, [there's a little banner top left for those who'd care to cast their vote], have had one unexpected spin-off.

Whereas some men have had their potency called into question and some their intelligence, hitherto I’ve only had my height called into question … oh, and my receding hair … well, yes … also my sanity at times … but I digress.

It appears that now, as a result of these double-edged awards, my origins have also been called into question. Wounded to the heart.

An esteemed rambler, uber-blogger, mother of note and lady of spotless virtue has asked the simple question: “Are you a UK blog, James?”

How to answer that, avoiding a simple yes or no?

Is Croydonian a UK blogger? He seems to blog on everything from France to Sweden. Is Tuscan Tony a UK blogger? Is Tom Paine, of questionable Facebook status, who blogs on the England he holds dear but doesn’t actually live there?

To rephrase the question – what constitutes a UK blogger? That he is permanently resident in the UK? If so, where does that leave Tim Worstall or Welshcakes Limoncello? Or Praguetory for that matter?

Or is it that he blogs on specifically UK matters, to the exclusion of all others? Where does that leave Bryan Appleyard or Ian Appleby? Where does that leave the girlbloggers like Liz Hinds and Wife in the North, [whom I understand is in the south right now], who blog on home related matters [and a bit of Rugby]?

Perhaps my crime is to pay too much heed to the Americans and to be too au fait with their affairs, barring football and baseball, which immediately label me non-American. Perhaps my premiership winning Aussie football team raises suspicion, as does my clear familiarity with matters Vancouver.

Is Colin Campbell an Aussie? Is JMB a Canadian or an Aussie? And what on earth is Lady MacLeod?

Or my French language posts, concerning Sarko, Segie and undergarments – do they put me out of contention as a sturdy oak and does this also put out L’Ombre?

What is, in fact, a UK blogger?

The Witanagemot seem to have come to terms with my Englishness, the Cross of St George group, of which I am involved, labelling me “an English Expat”, an epithet I am comfortable with.

Is it that I fail to appreciate the minutiae of daily life in the UK and can’t recite the lists of current pollies? After all, these awards aren’t for “political bloggers” – they’re for “bloggers”.

Further - these are supposedly prestigious stateside-based awards, centred in Florida and under scrutiny by the State Dept and other interested groups. Those top ten UK blogs were the top ten in American eyes. In UK eyes, I’m way down at N124.

Is it that I'm not over there currently, as I'd wish to be, clubbing, swapping asides in the idiom? I do touch on matters UK most days but not party politics – more Common Purpose and other nefarious nasties which the average Brit knows little of as yet.

To come clean at the death, my ancestral home is in the West Riding, snuggled up against Ilkley Moor, baht ‘at. You’d never pick it from either my writing, my accent or my dialect; [now I've lost all the Londoners with whom I lived for three years].

Your ladyship, this is all the explanation I fear I can give. I pray that it should suffice and that your smile shall once again alight on my fevered brow.

Friday, November 02, 2007

[2007 weblog awards] voting now open

Click on pic to vote.

The awards are now open and you can vote once in 24 hours. Should you wish to vote for my little blog or indeed, for another, click on the pic above.

[cartels] free trade or restraint of trade

In the wake of the largest fine in Australian corporate history handed out to packaging giant Visy, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Graham Samuel said cartels were "a cancer on the Australian economy" and an "insidious attack on consumers" and said criminal penalties should be imposed on those found guilty.
History has been punctuated by attempts to control them such as the 1890 Sherman Act:
The Sherman Act provides: "Every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, is declared to be illegal".[2]

The Act also provides: "Every person who shall monopolize, or attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire with any other person or persons, to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, shall be deemed guilty of a felony [. . . ]"
But it could be equally argued that the legislation is restraint of trade in itself. And at what point do mergers and takeovers become illegal? The whole thrust of business is to combine and strengthen and though asset strippers are a scourge, resulting in cries to ban the practice:
In an interview with the BBC, Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain said he shared the concerns of Britain’s general trade union GMB which voiced fears over a growing number of venture capitalists investing in UK firms only to strip them. "We want policies that make sure the objective of investment by private equity fund, for example, is to rescue them, to maintain as many jobs as possible, not to asset strip them," he said. This is ironic as Labour has been the recipient of donations from equity specialists that have been criticised by unions for their approach to certain businesses.
What happens when the government, e.g. the NHS, gets into the practice?
The government has been accused of orchestrating a £345m sell-off of former hospitals in one year in an attempt to balance the NHS budget. The value of the sales is 14 times the previous year's total.
Tough call, this one because should their be constraint on capitalism? This is not covered by the Free Trade/Fair Trade argument. Even if one argues for Free Trade, are we referring to cross border tarrif reduction and if so, what would be the effects?

The Congressional Budget Office says:
… the arguments for and against FTAs extend beyond their net economic effects on the United States to considerations of foreign policy and tactics for achieving multilateral free trade …
Critics worry, however, that the pursuit of free-trade agreements could divert the world from multilateral negotiations and lead to the development of rival trading blocs centered on the United States, the European Union (EU), and Japan. Indeed, the EU has negotiated a number of FTAs in recent years.
In a world of outsourcing, how can legislation from national assemblies have any jurisdiction over those of outsourced countries? There seems to me to be very much a move towards blocs and this has political ramifications, especially regarding the EU.

How could the Sherman Act operate in the context of more globalized trade? And what relevance does a corporate affairs fine have on a major operator - surely it's window dressing?

Example of the thrust against the survival of small businesses was my screenprinting business. It was in a healthy state, orders were coming in and it looked rosy until some I was asked to tender for an indoor sports centre's team shirts.

My little firm could only do the job at near cost and still a large international printing firm undercut it by half by not only mass printing but supplying the shirts as well from one branch of their operation.

Diddums, you might say - that's just business and it certainly put me out except with customers who weren't aware they could approach this company to get their shirts for half the price. That was one of the key reasons I dropped it - it was unsustainable.

Should the small to medium businessman have any protection and if so - isn't this restraint of trade? Isn't this propping up unprofitable enterprises, as with CAP?

Still pondering on this one.

[facebook] banning bloggers with pseudonyms

Jonathan Swift is and has been for a considerable time, on this blog’s White List. Decoded, this means he’s a major world blogger, with a wide readership, whose posts do affect people’s lives. His method is biting satire but for all that, it’s subtle – sometimes too subtle and he’s been in hot water before for seemingly supporting one opinion when in fact he was taking the Michael out of it.

He is currently up for Funniest Blog and Nourishing Obscurity urges you to pop over here and vote for him each day, if you can see your way clear.

I mentioned hot water and he was in just that recently when Facebook, in their esteemed wisdom, decided to delist him on the grounds that he was using a pseudonym. What the hell are they going on about?

Seems they only want people to use their real names, which supports the contention that they are a very insidious organization who need watching. Jon Swift says:
By banning bloggers who use pseudonyms Facebook has declared war on the blogosphere. More and more bloggers have been using Facebook as a social networking tool, but how useful will it be if so many bloggers will be left out?
It appears that due to blogger pressure he’s been reinstated. All power to the blogosphere.

Also touching on this is the always excellent and increasingly unmissable Prodicus who thinks we have but a short time left.

[thou shalt not] with hellfire and brimstone

It’s All Souls Day, the day for the ordinary person, the day we remember the souls of our grandparents, those who fought for us - anyone who died.

Who knows if this would be efficacious or not? But if we didn't remember, it would certainly not be efficacious.

As for faith, follow the supposed logic here and tell me this is wrong
. Susie Bright was speaking of her Catholic upbringing, recalling such things as the eternal question:
"If there is a God, why doesn't He stop the killing?"
She wrote of her oppressive Catholic upbringing and emerging desire to break out, rebelling inwardly against the Thou Shalt Not nuns:
If they were what "Godliness" was about, I wanted nothing to do with it.
I replied:
They weren't. They were the main reason people turn the other way and with all their ritualistic clothing and mumbo jumbo they certainly weren't promoting their supposed boss. Looks like they were promoting the other guy.
Why do people insist on misrepresenting and acting in weird and unnatural ways whenever they come near the Christian faith? Church is an association of people, not a building. What’s with the mitres and regalia, the thundering pipe organs with their manic welcome to vaulted cathedrals, impressive though they are – what have they to do with simple faith?

And it’s a voluntary faith. You can say the disciples were press-ganged but you could also say “invited”. It is voluntary and there is nowhere in His lifetime where that wasn’t so. If you choose to go that way, good luck to you because I know the overwhelming benefits which come to you upon joining.

The evangelistic weapon was always meant to be persuasion, not the sword, not the convent, not the locking of bibles in Latin in churches, which the common man could never access, not dire threats of fire and brimstone.

All that was a later, human embellishment. But I haven’t answered the question:
"If there is a God, why doesn't He stop the killing?"
How the hell should I know? I have my ideas though.

I think somewhere in the mists of time, great power was vested in humans [even the humanists acknowledge the amazingness of man] and this might explain the puzzling "ye are gods" reference.

But above all was vested Free Will, the thing the whole blogosphere is up in arms about right now, as governments continually turn the screws. Seems to me you can't offer Free Will with one hand then take it away with the other.

There's been a lot of talk lately about Freedom of Speech in the sphere. One point of view is that however much we might not like it, we have to allow it, otherwise the road to loss of freedom is embarked on.

Seems to me that the analogy holds water. And how to ensure the happy day to day lives we'd fight for?

I think it comes down to faith, hope and charity and if everyone did one little bit of this every day, it would kill off any warring madness which possesses our supposed leaders. We could block this stupidity.

Though I'm right behind our armed forces - the men and women who serve - this doesn't alter the fact that they are being used and deployed by cynical people who simply don't care for their welfare or that of the nation.

If all people were continually shown, by repeated example, that a kind act a day was the way, it would starve the warmongers of the oxygen they need to continue.

My little contribution to All Souls Day today.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

[oh my goodness] they’ve called our bluff

Click on pic to vote.

If you were to pop over here:

… you would note that sadly, Blogpower did not make it to Best Online Community finalists.

However, the Best UK Blog category features:
* Iain Dale

* Guy Fawkes

* Neil Clark

* EUReferendum

* Pub Philosopher

* The Devil's Kitchen

* Baggage Reclaim

* Nourishing Obscurity

* Bright Meadow

• Kickette
Gobsmacked and delighted for all my blogfriends who made it to these awards, in the light of last year’s comment which actually kicked off Blogpower:

I first found out about this at the ever witty and top ranking blog of Jon Swift and I would like to add that Jon is a finalist under the heading of Funniest Blog.

People, voting starts tonight apparently and it seems you can vote once a day and as none of ours are in the Funniest category, could I prevail on you to give Jon a bit of a bunk up here?

I would regard this as a personal favour.

You do as you feel in the Britblog category – I can’t very well canvass, with Steve in there as well.

[price fixing] can’t even trust the nordics these days

Chicken breast, believe it or not ...

I know, I know I’ve neglected the gentle world of Iceland recently so popped in just now and was shocked by the rampant price fixing which is alleged to have taken over the retail sector:
To test these accusations, RÚV sent two reporters to Krónan and Bónus to investigate the price of products like chicken breasts.

At first they were disguised as “normal housewives” shopping for groceries and then the reporter who went to Krónan appeared as a reporter intending to survey prices in Bónus and vica versa.

The price of chicken breasts remained the same in Bónus in both cases, but in Krónan, the kilo price of chicken breasts dropped by 34 percent when the reporter said the price was being included in the survey and a discount on the product was increased from ten percent to 50 percent.

Both managing director of Bónus Gudmundur Marteinsson and operational manager of Krónan Kristin Skúlason denied accusations of price fixing and other deceptive tactics in price surveys in an interview with RÚV yesterday.
I have a few questions:

1. What's an "abnormal" Icelandic housewife look like? Are there many of them and do they wear clothes? Would we want them to?

2. What do Icelandic chickens do in winter?

3. Was there any possibility the reporters telegraphed their moves?

4. Could the interview have possibly gone like this:
RÚV We sent a cunningly disguised "normal housewife" to your store to check prices. Then we sent a reporter.

Kristin Skúlason Er … yes.

RÚV And you immediately dropped prices 34 percent.

Kristin Skúlason Er … no.

RÚV But we have the dockets here to prove it [hands them over].

Kristin Skúlason They’re not our dockets.

RÚV But your store’s name is written in large letters across the top – Krónan.

Kristin Skúlason [Quickly scribbles on docket] Says Bónus.

RÚV Mr. Skulduggery, you deliberately falsified that docket.

Kristin Skúlason You want concrete boots? Cod are hungry this time of year. What’s your name anyway?

RÚV Njala Sverisdottir, phone 234 593 567 78. Mr. Skullcap, are you threatening me?

Kristin Skúlason Heaven forbid!

RÚV Mr. Skull, I’m going to ask you one more time – did you or did you not drop your prices when you knew you were being surveyed?

Kristin Skúlason No.

RÚV Well that’s all right then.

Kristin Skúlason Cheque’s in the mail.

Chicken breast - in case you missed it the first time

[blogfocus] bumper all saints day edition

This evening we have a round, even, seven bloggers strutting their stuff. But before that, if you want to see how to put together a real Blogfocus [or roundup in this case], then get over here when you're done [or even before, if you're so inclined].

1. Mr. Eugenides is just deciding how best to deal with James Higham’s moan about not connecting the dots – the cudgel or the headbutt.

2. Hercules gets straight down to the messy business of divorce:
Since the wife lost around 20 pounds she’s been gagging for it! The only reason he doesn’t want "it" is because he likes chubby sex!!!!

He also plans to make legal history by being the first person to cite a dietary product as the third party in divorce papers. And he intends to sue the tablet makers for causing the couple’s constant rows over sex.
4. Ordo gets straight down to Welsh politics:
El gobierno de la asamblea galesa - una coalición formada por el Partido Laborista de Gales y los nacionalistas de Plaid Cymru - acaba de nombrar Sir Emyr Jones Parry como presidente de la convención constitucional galesa. Dicha convención preparará un referéndum para aprobar la creación de un parlamento con plenos poderes legislativos, o sea, dar estos poderes a la asamblea y cambiar su titulo a "parlamento" (el edificio nuevo de la asamblea ya tiene el nombre de y Senedd, "el parlamento" en la habla galesa).
You might like to tackle Ordo on that one.

3. If Scottish politics and whips are your thing, then you can’t go past this blow-by-blow description by MacNumpty:
Anyway, MSPs had more to do on Thursday - eight questions were put to a vote, all non-binding, and there was a defeat for the Government in there. Angela Constance was still absent and probably just about to go into labour (that's childbirth, not the party), while John Farquhar Munro was also missing for asecond day, and Margo MacDonald reverted to form and gave the Chamber a miss.
5. Cassilis touches on the important topic of serial killers’ nicknames:
Serial killers have their own sub-genre of nicknames. From the well-known such as the 'Yorkshire Ripper', the 'Boston Strangler' and even the 'Moors Murderers' to the more obscure but wonderfully inventive 'Giggling Granny', 'Gorilla Killer' or 'Wolf Man' (what price the surname Lupo eh?) There are also a few standards in this genre - anyone with the loosest of medical connections who happens to kill can be labelled 'Angel of Death' and the use of any sort of ligature guarantees the 'strangler' tag even when is wasn't a particularly defining feature.
6. The full-bosomed Ruthie with the Zaftig figure does not like Anonymous:
Here's my observation about anonymous comments: generally, when a person disagrees with the premise of a post, dislikes the post's author, or just wants to be an ass, he or she will leave a cryptic anonymous comment. This is alternately annoying and amusing, because it's as though the person is saying: "I want to tell you you're wrong/stupid/whatever, but I'm not brave enough to leave my name or identify myself in anyway."
7. Finally, Marina has a bag with a difference:

[the charismatic] genesis of a monster

Warren Jeffs

Monsters don’t fascinate me - there but for the grace of …

However, their genesis is interesting, just as the Genesis of the Daleks episode was interesting. The charismatic definitely has some “pull” which he discovers early and by a process of trial and error, manages to identify its source.

For some, as you know, it’s the power of words and passion, like Adolph and for some it’s physical charisma and the latter is the hardest to combat because words come and go but a beautiful boy stays a beautiful boy.

It starts with little things, questioning this, questioning that and soon it appears some people are following all this silently. Girls mysteriously appear at his side and it surprises and delights him that they really actually want to be there. He’s still a bit bashful, maybe but has some sort of inner drive, some sense of direction or else is endlessly seeking it.

The line, it seems to me, is the defect in character where he actually starts the self-congratulation with little nods to himself – he’s just that little bit better and finds people hanging on his words as well as his natural charm.

Perfect example – Jim Morrison. You could call it ego though that hardly explains it all – everyone has ego. As Tull mentioned, it’s about being able to bend this rule and that rule with virtual impunity and it’s forgiven.

To a much lesser extent I have a certain “pull” myself of a quite minor nature – still, it does turn heads and might just be my ugliness. If I walk into a café the girls do start to flock and that’s where the trouble begins.

If you don’t have firmly rooted spiritual harmony at that point, which most of these guys don’t, the temptation to “believe your own publicity” becomes oppressive, especially if it is a weak man who is susceptible to the charismatic “call to greatness”. Then he starts to avail himself of the talent at hand and as he sees how easy it is, the temptation is there to bathe in it.

That’s the genesis of the monster and now he becomes more and more hedonistic, less and less open and starts that long path to degradation where he actually starts to justify what he knows deep down is wrong. He starts to build a code of life which his charisma allows him to persuade with eloquently and immediately inducts the closest admirers as disciples and they, in turn, begin to put out the word and seek followers.

But some trainee monsters have some element in them which arrests this process and I'm not sure why – perhaps it’s some element in the character which gets people’s backs up [in my case I know it’s so] or maybe it’s a sort of Darth Vader Final Moral Last Gasp which does it and methinks that this story is about such a one as this, concerning Warren Jeffs, who’s led the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints since 2002, taking over from his father:
In telephone calls Jan. 24, Jeffs told family that he "had been immoral with a sister and a daughter" when he was 20 ... He goes on to renounce his role as the church prophet and says the Lord had "revealed to him that he was a wicked man."

It is not clear who Jeffs is speaking about, and Jeffs does not elaborate on the conduct. Some listeners responded by telling Jeffs he is the prophet and was being tested, according to the documents.
“Among FLDS members, who cover their bodies from neck to ankle, even small physical gestures would be considered inappropriate,” said Ken Driggs, a Georgia lawyer and polygamy expert.
Jeffs came a cropper and it might be his conscience which finally got to him – who knows? His charisma maybe was not sufficiently high to drag him down into the circle of admirers and narcissistically preen himself and drink their accolades as a vampire drinks blood.

Seems to me that the one who continues on from here enters into some state of or form of madness and it can’t be described as a healthy or “good” madness. The end result is megalomania, of course - or else it branches off into satiating desires of some kind – sexual, political, wealth – maybe all at the one time.

It worries me greatly that this fixation with immorality and self-flagellation and the really weird biblical language in which some Christians immerse themselves is also not healthy and can only act as a breeding ground for the genesis of monsters – witness Christian TV.

Seems that though the gift of the spirit is a mightily powerful thing, I wonder if some people aren’t strong enough to fully let it download and are operating with the operating system definitely onboard but with a Leopard-like blue screen instead of a clear, sustainable vision.

The last thing which worries me is if a leader for "good" is highly charismatic. For a start he is stealing the thunder from the Lord who gave him his start and then again, if he was truly possessed of the holy spirit, he wouldn't need his charisma anymore - he now has all he needs to find happiness.

By some sort of convoluted bizarre twist, the more contented he becomes, the less charismatic he becomes anyway - happy people don't usually bestride the world - it's the malcontents and troubled who do that.

Just my little contribution to All Saints Day.