Thursday, 28 July 2011

Be worried about the Web

The Telegraph technology section today reports on a legal decision thatforces BT to block access to a copyright breaking web site.

It may not matter to social freedom if young master Chav can’t download a free film, and we know the Web is already censored for pedophile and extreme terrorism/criminal material , but as far as I know up to now it has only affected minority material that many would agree is unwanted and overtly criminal. Some people, like me, may not agree that any censorship is ever justified or useful, but I’m prepared to concede to what I perceive as a majority view.  But this judgment is a landmark, as far as I know we have never had a site ban or Web censorship imposed on civil or commercial grounds and deliberately designed to support a commercial market sector.

To quote one paragraph  
“ Today's order, a first under section 97a of the the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, will be seen as a heavy blow to ISPs' long-held defence on infringement that they act as a "mere conduit" and cannot be expect to enforce copyright holders' rights.”

I see two issues here. One is the expansion of the principle of making a service provider ISP or company actively enforce laws, a precedent well established by, for example making landlords responsible for smoking enforcement, but one applied this way could easily be expanded to make your electricity provider responsible for preventing your ‘overuse’ of electricity or justify inspection of the contents of mail and parcels.

The other, and even more serious issue, is that this is just one step nearer banning web sites that the authorities claim will encourage criminality or stir public dissent. In the light of recent anti right-wing * sentiment from government and press I see this as another part of a multi-pronged pincer movement designed to emasculate the Web and squash social dissent.

There is an addon here that might be useful in the future.

*I know it’s not actually right-wing, I’m using their knee-jerk shorthand.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Who do utility regulators work for?

I just noticed another regulator getting uppity, this time Ofgem slapping British Gas for poor complaints procedures to the tune of 2.5 milliom.

When a company has a whole or partial monopoly for an essential utility, water, power grid, rail network etc, but has its primary responsibility of profitability towards its shareholders there is plenty of scope for poor service and inflated prices. This was the inherent folly of privatisation and created the need for close regulation. But ignoring how we got here, and ignoring the failing of the regulators, I want to know what is the point of levying a fine on a utility company?  Who gains and who loses?

It’s not as though the company cares or is significantly affected. It’s possible a few low level employees might get office or tool budgets squeezed, some infrastructure improvements or repairs might get delayed, but how does that help anyone?  You can be very sure that a fine won’t significantly affect the shareholder profits and you can be absolutely sure it won’t affect management bonuses.

The only source of revenue to such a company is the customer, so when regulator fines are levied all money has to come ultimately, albeit indirectly, from the customer.  It is either a part of every customer’s bill, hidden away in, and inflating, the company running costs or it manifests as even worse service.

Regulator fines have minimal effect on the utility company owners or top managers and are therefore no more than a particularly pernicious type of hidden taxation on the innocent victims, the hapless customers. So the customer suffers the bad non-compliant service then has to stump up the fine! It’s a type of group punishment, equivalent to handing out a school class detention because a teacher has broken the rules.

The only fair way to regulate such companies would be make the owners or management take responsibility personally for poor management. If the board members were personally fined, even a relatively small sum each, or open to court action for damages and loss caused by poor service, or a levy were placed directly on the share dividends, you can be sure compliance would soon be a priority. I can’t see it happening.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Worse than Murdoch?

I haven’t posted much recently as family issues have taken over my time. I have tried to keep up with reading all the ongoing nonsense but only just started thinking about any of it. There is not much I can add to the opinions already expressed about Stony Stratford, Murdoch bashing, corrupt politicians, the Eurocrisis or all the other storms gathering in the wings to bite us.

I did however get very cross on Tuesday morning when, while in the car, I flicked on Radio 4 and was initially pleased to find what I assumed was a play, something R4 can (or used to) do quite well. It started with a chatty (if irritatingly patronizing) narrator describing the lives of Mr and Mrs average with their average income, typical kids and typical lifestyle. I decided to stay with it for a while but was made suspicious when it became clear that George Monbiot would be involved to help them make their lifestyle more sustainable.

I switched off in total disgust when the narrator explained that – and I paraphrase as I was driving not taking notes – Many people believe that the dinosaurs died out because volcanoes gave off too much carbon dioxide!

Of course if we follow the meteor wipeout hypothesis a meteor strike would trigger volcanoes, and they would emit CO2, but no sensible scientist would suggest the CO2 was a problem for the dinosaurs, the global ash and debris causing a drop in temperature and killing plant growth was the problem.

I am well used to BBC bias and hidden propaganda on social issues and climate change but this was something quite different. It was obviously and brazenly an attempt to suggest and spread the idea that carbon dioxide is a poison that caused mass extinction.  An outright lie deliberately being used for propaganda to support the ‘green’ agenda.

My mood was made worse by Wednesday afternoon’s broadcast. Once again I expected a play while driving but what was presented was in a similar narrated format to Tuesday’s. This time the subject was community leaders, it seemed to be specializing in ethnic communities with some total pillock (described as a comedian – a profession fast becoming as despised as bankers and politicians) making fun of the Indian community.  He seemed to suggest all they wanted was to wear a suit and look respectable. I have zero sympathy with anything PC, anything to do with the ‘big society’ and little patience with ethnic community leaders but the level of dumbed-down, patronizing drivel was excruciating and insulting, both the content and the stupidity. I tolerated 2 minutes of the sickening social brainwashing and switched that off.

I wonder if anyone else followed these programmes? I haven't spotted any comment on Biased BBC  but the programmes were not part of the ‘serious’ political or news coverage that gets noticed. They seem to represent a determined attempt by the BBC at blatant propaganda, to the extent of using outright lies.

All we hear in the media is how bad Murdoch is and how he is misusing his influence. He may be a thoroughly nasty individual, with some despicable people working for him, and he may well influence people inappropriately, but personally I am far more worried by the BBC being handed an uncontested monopoly.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Good Luck

Various obstacles prevent me being in Stony Stratford for the get together tomorrow but good luck and thank you in advance to all who can make it! We need our freedoms back.
All the info here:

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Don't get caught short in Llandudno

One evening last week I had to go to Llandudno, one of those long distance Ebay purchases that seem such a good idea to one’s offspring from their computer desk.

Llandudno is an attractive seaside town with a nice promenade having views of the bay, and it was a brilliant summer day so we decided rather than rushing there and straight home we would take a bit more time over it. So Mrs Grump, Grump junior, and me set out for a few hours by the seaside.

Had a pleasant drive through the countryside and along the coast road, did the collection, then set about deciding on supper. Normally I am not a take away food person, especially here inland where fish and chips are usually mediocre at best, but seaside chippies almost always have better fish. So fish and chips and a flask of tea while sitting in the sun on the prom was the order of the day, and excellent it was.

Then nature began to intrude, and the question arose is there a loo around? Not obviously, so we investigated the main area nearer the pier and sure enough found a friendly little sign pointing to all sorts of attractions including toilets. An uphill slog later we found them next to the café. Firmly closed, padlocked and steel reinforced to discourage the potential user (an abuser). So we made our way to the town centre and yes, there again a pretty little tourist fingerpost which we followed to discover the toilets, again firmly closed with metal shutters. That explains the friendly little signs in pub windows claiming toilets are for customer use only.

Now I realise the council probably has a problem with anti-social idiots that vandalise public facilities but this was early evening of a sunny summer day, indeed in a week that was, before school holiday standardisation, a wakes holiday week for much of the midlands, so there were quite a few visitors around. Surely the council want to attract visitors and make their stay pleasant? Sending them on a wild goose chase and making them cross their legs and dance around until they can get back into their car and away to a garage on the main road is not very welcoming.

This issue is not of vital importance to many people, it won’t solve the problems of bloated eurocrats, the failing euro, chemtrails or the encroachment of the NWO. It does however shed a warning light on the sorts of decisions localism might produce.

(photo NoelWalley at en.wikipedia)

Monday, 4 July 2011

Selling our data

The scandal of the DVLA selling details to wheel claming cowboys has rumbled on for years. We just recently have a new story, that even the AA and RAC while complaining publicly about rising insurance costs, have been selling details of road accident victims to ambulance chasing lawyers.

The result of this data trade is that we get bombarded with unwanted phone calls and texts (for those daft enough to tell any commercial organisation their mobile number) for everything from insulation, to solar panels, and have people like the lawyers trying to cash in on our life.

There are also the pure scam calls. I have been getting a steady stream for some time, always callers with Indian accents, usually asking if my computer is working properly, claiming to be associated with Microsoft, and trying to sell a DIY virus-your-own-computer kit to the terminally stupid.

But I have just experienced a whole new angle on the scams. I haven’t been blogging much recently because my emotional energy has been directed towards an elderly family member who has been seriously ill in hospital, and who sadly lost the battle just over a week ago. A few days ago I got what I thought was another of the scam computer calls. Same delay, same clicks on the line, similar Indian accent. Except this time he knew my full name (forename and surname) and was telling me that he wasn’t selling anything, that his company is associated with the UK government, and they can help with financial details following a family bereavement.

Apart from the morality of a scam that targets bereaved relatives it also leaves me with another bad taste. How did they get my full name and phone number and know of the death in the family within a week?

Obviously friends and relatives know but other than the solicitors, the funeral directors and the registrar nobody else does, and as it happens another member of the family did the service arrangements and the registration so those people don’t have my phone number on their record. After careful thought the only people I can think of who did very specifically list my full name and phone number were the  hospital, who had me as next of kin to be contacted over the past weeks.

I would prefer not to think the hospital were passing on such details, but unless anyone can think of an alternative explanation I have to believe they did.