US corporations, peadophilia and British values

If you go to Google Inc. images (a special page on the search engine) and type a word, let’s say “tulips” – then examine the page which is returned you will notice that the images are not being served from their location on the Internet. Rather; the search engine appears to serve the image using base64 data. For example an image src attribute might be:

data:image/jpeg;base64,/9j/4AAQSk….

This is a binary, (well, base 64 encoded), representation of the image. In order to do this Google must have read the image data from its source and then translated that into the base64 encoded data which it then serves. The data may or may not be stored for any length of time on Google server’s but it is certainly being served from their servers.

The same experiment can be repeated with other search terms. Given certain sets of search terms child abuse images may be returned. This writer has read one journalist commenting that this is some kind of way to view pornography or other illegal material without being traced. The idea is your IP will not be traced as having accessed the source web site for the image because it hasn’t. Google’s search function is in effect acting as an anonymising proxy. However, quite apart from the moral aspect this does not sound wise. There are myriad ways that the material viewed could be tracked and proven – involving Google sharing data with the authorities or otherwise (e.g. a simple grab of the Internet traffic to your IP). These ways just (it seems) would require authorisation from the Home Secretary. [1]

However; the question is – why is Google allowed to get away with this? There is not even some kind of ‘report image’ feature on the image search page.

The answer no doubt is because Google Inc. is a large US company. And the one golden rule for the British political ‘elite’ these days is obeisance to US financial power.

While on this subject – Amazon.com Inc sells DVDs which are clearly paedophile material. Try the DVD “look at me” which appears to be a collection of children in swimming pools. Or the film “The Genesis Children” which (based on its Wikipedia entry) is a film featuring a group of adolescent boys (from 12 upwards) running naked around a beach. They are, apparently. naked for much of the film, which has no plot. Or there is the touching story about how a 12 year old in the Philippines fell in love with a police officer. The Genesis Children, for example, has not been passed by the British Board of Film Censors. If you order it from Amazon you may be committing an offence as you are the importer. But – what is the likelihood of a prosecution which would involve Amazon?

This author has just done a (mickey mouse) online “Safeguarding Course”. One of the sections related to “British Values”. One must protect children by modelling “British Values” to them.

This is a case of hypocrisy. British values know well their limit when it comes to US corporations. The course should have said “Model to young people what British values used to be“. Of course – there has always been corruption – but at least at one point perhaps there were some kind of shared values in the UK which might have meant something at least as an ideal that people referenced (obviously different social classes would have had different values and/or a different take on the same values). Now it is just so much spin… The only real British value today is to bow down to American fiscal power, whatever it serves up.

Notes

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regulation_of_Investigatory_Powers_Act_2000

I don’t know if this is up to date and accurate. The legislation in this area has been re-written more than once. It may be a tribunal rather than the Home Secretary is required to authorise a police request to obtain the content of electronic data exchanges. Sorry. I don’t know.

 

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Misery Marketing

As a keen observer of social trends the New Observer watches for developments in marketing techniques.

Because all these people (marketeers) are relentless copiers once a new technique emerges it soon becomes widespread.

‘Misery marketing’ is a new technique. This is quite a subtle one. It works with a little twist at the end. In keeping with the broader trend at the moment it focuses on emotional manipulation.

This technique works by making some kind of apparently disinterested and generous offer. You take note of this. You don’t guard against it because it genuinely seems like there is no catch. Indeed there is no catch – until you decide to leave the company (switch brand). At that point it kicks in. You will start to feel miserable. You feel miserable because previously you accepted a kind offer from this company – or in some other way associated your better self with them – and now you are leaving them. In fact you feel awful. The idea is not to encourage more purchases (the usual goal of marketing) but to prevent you leaving.

Two examples:

E-On

My electricity company recently sent me information about a price increase (which they amusingly described as “Your new price”). Printed in large letters on the letter – “Don’t forget you can switch providers at any time”. You read this and think – how honest of them, how decent; to remind me that I have the ‘right’ (ha ha) to ‘choose’. But – try leaving. Now you will feel miserable. After all, they were kind enough to tell you you had the choice. It looks like a disinterested act but it is emotional manipulation to make you feel bad if you try to leave.

Tesco

You get a little token to put into a box. You can ‘choose’ one of 3 charities. It all seems very disinterested. But try leaving Tesco. Now your favourite charity won’t get that little “extra help”. How mean of you. How can you leave? You will feel terrible. They have hooked up your good emotions to their cause in order to make you feel miserable if you think of leaving.

These are just two examples of this technique. The acute observer will find many more.

 

But – don’t forget, dear Reader, that it is all a con anyway. ‘Choice’ between brands is no choice at all. They are all owned by the same finance capital. The directors and shareholding companies move freely between them. The ‘choice’ in this kind of market is no choice at all.

 

 

Squashing people…

This is a personal post by the editor of The New Observer.

I’ve just signed up for a ‘permanent’ job – something that millions of people in the country do multiple times in their life. I’ve been avoiding it for a while, but the freelance career is fizzling out. I know, from experience, what it is like to be poor – threatening letters from the local authority and utility companies, a complete lack of sympathy or even mercy – complete hell. These days I wouldn’t even consider benefits: it is clear that there is a deliberate campaign to humiliate and abuse people who claim benefits. This, despite the fact that all people who claim benefits are doing is recouping some of the insurance payments they’ve paid into a mutual social fund. Ha. Ha. Ha. So; to forestall that I’ve taken a permanent job. – The system works; by making being poor such hell I’ve been forced to supply my labour on any terms.

Today I’ve signed the contract of employment. Looking at it it looks very generic. In fact so generic I suspect it was downloaded as template for a few pounds from some web site. It contains, as I fully expected, clauses that no rational and self-respecting person would sign. For example the clause about how my ‘performance’ will be ‘monitored and appraised’. Or, the clause about how the firm has the right to ask me to work extra hours with no overtime pay if the business requires it. Or, the clause that if I do outside work it is entirely at the discretion of the employer to decide if it interferes with their business and if they decide so they can tell me to stop doing it.

The contract was signed electronically using a tacky online signing system produced by an American company. Obama liked to boast about how America leads the world in exports. It may export a lot (the US is the world’s second largest exporter)  – but the quality is terrible: the truth is that the US leads the world in exporting crass entertainment and tacky or low-quality IT products, harmful pharmaceuticals and arms. Here again I had to agree to their terms – which contain all sorts of clauses that no sensible person would agree to, such as indemnifying them against any liabilities.

Rational and self-respecting people do not accept things which harm them. It is a pattern linked with abuse to accept being harmed. People who have been abused often have a pattern of not being able to say No – to being further harmed. But to get this job I have to break this fundamental principle of sanity and good health. My ‘self-esteem’ takes a hit.

And then there is this discourse about the ‘mental health crisis’. If it is institutionalised that people are treated like s* then it is hardly surprising that there is an epidemic of ‘mental health’ problems. Of course; the discourse never gets anywhere near the real causes. For millions of people in this country every day, every week, every month, they have to accept things (actions done to them or actions which they have to do in order to keep their heads above water) which are demeaning, insulting and destructive of their self-respect.

The official discourse including 99% of that in the liberal press is stage managed to avoid any of the real questions.

Glenfell – the cover-up

For a brief moment it seemed like there would, on this occasion, be no cover-up.

Sadly, that turns out to be an illusion. The terms of reference of the public inquiry are limited to investigating how the fire started and how it spread so quickly.

This means that the apparent fact that the emergency services were telling people to stay in their flats will not be investigated. Given that people who took the initiative and evacuated, even from the upper floors, survived it seems clear that had an immediate evacuation been ordered then potentially everyone could have been saved. 80 deaths could have been avoided.

It is perhaps no surprise that this matter will not be included in the public inquiry.

The cover-up is already firmly in place.

Provisional morals of the Glenfell fire tragedy

How many of the deaths in the Grenfell Tower disaster were avoidable?

Possibly all.

One man, at least, escaped from the top floor – carrying his disabled mother on his back.

It follows that if everyone in the block had received an instruction to leave at this time everyone could potentially have been saved.

If this man was able to get down 24 flights of stairs it follows that firefighters will have been able to have get up these stairs. Some of the 200 firefighters [1] on the scene could have gone straight to the top floor and worked their way down the block – banging on doors and ordering an immediate evacuation. Everyone could, potentially, have been saved.

What seems to have been happening – based on multiple press reports – was that people were dialling 999 and being told to wait in their flat to be rescued. Many it seems were then not rescued. I.e. they were in effect being told “sit there and die please, no, don’t try and escape; we want you to die”. People – who have been tamed to obey the authorities will have done just that. People who have maintained an independent spirit and know not to rely on the authorities had a chance.

(See for example this story in the Telegraph:

Jamal Ali, 28, said his aunt, Zainab Ali, had been told by police to stay in her flat but she had ignored them, fleeing to safety with her five children down the stairs.

“The police were telling her to stay inside, but she ran down the stairs with her kids and managed to get away – otherwise she’d be dead)

There is a moral here.

 

What seems to have happened is that the advice to people to remain in their flats was based on a policy which in turn is based on the experience that fires in tower blocks are usually localised and even if they do expand do so slowly. In this case the fire spread rapidly (possibly due to newly fitted exterior cladding). The fire commander on the scene was playing it by the rulebook and did not have the initiative to realise that the fire was not playing by the rulebook; and adjust the plan on the spot to fit the situation. This is a typical local authority reaction. The safest thing to do in most cases for a local authority manager is to stick to the “policy and procedure”. If they do this and something goes wrong they can always blame the “policy and procedure”. An inquiry will then find that the “policy and procedures” need updating. No one is ever personally responsible. On the other hand if they take the risk and order a deviation from the “policy and procedure” then there is always the chance that if someone goes wrong they will now be personally blamed. The safest thing for the individual in any circumstances is to stick to the policy.

An example of when this didn’t happen is when, in 2009, the pilot of a crippled passenger aircraft flying out of New York put the plane down on the Hudson river. This was contrary to the rulebook – which said that in cases of engine failure near the airport the pilot should attempt to return to the airport. The pilot was investigated for breaking the rule book – and cleared. All his passengers survived. (If one or two had died would he have been blamed?)

One culprit in the Glenfell tragedy appears to be a culture of not taking risks, and avoiding personal responsibility in Britain’s public services. It would be quite possible to change this culture. People who are quick to cast blame when people do take risks and things go wrong are at least as much at fault here as those who are afraid to take responsibility.

Notes

1. Daily Telegraph

True tales from Britain’s public sector (1)

Your editor went for a job interview the other day – at a Higher Education public sector organisation which will remain nameless.

One of the interview questions was “what issues are facing the Higher Education sector at the moment”. The correct answer was “the funding crisis”.

Later (in fact at a second interview) he was sat down in the technical office and asked to complete a test. This started at about 3.15pm.

First of all a young woman glided in. She asked some people in the office if they had any returns to make (of some kind). “No”, they said. She said she’d go and find some people who did. I may be reading too much into it but this had all the hallmarks of a “non-job”. (That is a job which generates no useful, productive, results at all).

Next; two staff in the office started discussing a technical task. It didn’t sound very complicated. It wasn’t very clear why it needed any discussion. They discussed it for about half  an hour. One of them mentioned that someone had been sent “for training”. (Observers of the public sector will know that ‘training’ is required to do anything new; people are never expected to be able to work it out for themselves).  After that these two staff pushed off. It must have been about 3.45 pm at the latest. It was a Wednesday.

A small microcosm of life in the public sector.

In any other country it would be called corruption. But it is so prevalent that it is not seen as such.

 

There is a ‘political debate’ in this country about public sector spending. One side, driven by the Unions, tells us that there is a crisis of under-funding. The other side, the government, is making cuts in central government grants. Neither side is addressing the real problem – institutionalised graft and corruption.

Instead of talking about the corruption there is an entirely fake discourse about the necessity or not of the ‘austerity agenda’.

Lenin probably had the (only) answer to this – public officials should be elected, instantly recallable and paid no more than the average wage for a working man.

 

A lack of realism in the political class response to terrorism

At least one of the attackers on the 7/7 London Tube bombings was known to the intelligence services. [1]

Khalid Masood who attacked Parliament on March 2017, killing several people, was known to the intelligence services. [2]

Salman Abedi who blew himself up – killing 23 at a concert in May 2017 was known to the intelligence services. [3]

At least one of the attackers in the June 2017 London Bridge attack appears to have been known to the intelligence services. [4]

In at least some of the cases above (Abedi and one of the as yet unnamed London Bridge attackers) there are claims of multiple reports by the public to the police and even the Prevent helpline (set up to allow the public to report concerns about terrorists).

In fact this pattern is repeated for virtually all (if not all) the recent terrorist attacks in Europe including the French theatre bombings (November 2015) and the Madrid train bombings (March 2004).

This fact – that all these criminals are already on the watch lists of the intelligence agencies – shows what amazing work the intelligence services do.

However; this fact raises the question as to whether or not these attacks could have been prevented. After the Manchester attack MI5 leaked to the press that at any one time they have 23,000 in a wider pool of suspects and 3,000 under active scrutiny.  They only have resources to keep 3,000 under active surveillance at any one time. [5] It would appear that in the 4 cases above of attacks on UK soil the attacker(s) known to MI5 were in the 23,000 list but not in the 3,000 list. [6]  Given that none of the above 4 attacks in the UK were carried out by people in the 3,000 list we can reasonably infer that this level of surveillance may be effective in preventing attacks. The conclusion is obvious; at the least MI5 should be resourced to place all 23,000 under active surveillance. Given the levels of training presumably required for this kind of work this cannot probably be done overnight; but it seems to be a direction worth heading in.

Beyond that there is the fraught and extremely problematic question about the existence in the UK of thousands of people who are basically potential terrorists. Surveillance is extremely resource intensive and can only go so far.

At the same time; it is time perhaps to drop some of the niceness and absurdities that this is not to do with Islam. All of the attackers above thought that they were doing something in the name of Allah and most seem to have thought that they were acting for the benefit of Muslims suffering under Western bombs in the Middle East. (The 7/7 attackers gave this as their reason. Masood did). That alone means that this is a problem not just with ‘extremism’ but with Islamic extremism. The UK is, again a fact, involved in an illegal military intervention in Syria and illegally invaded Iraq in 2003. That Muslims are suffering considerably in the Middle East is incontrovertible. Even if the individuals who commit these atrocities are psychologically damaged people acting out of their own personal problems who have just latched onto a cause to make themselves appear heroes it remains the case that there is an undoubted connection to what is happening in the Middle East. Chaos in the Middle East leads to chaos at home.

The argument that ISIS ‘hate our values’ and would attack us even if we withdrew from the Middle East is not serious. ISIS always overstate the case; it is part of their modus operandi. Furthermore; whatever some Twitter account linked to ISIS says the fact is that it is the sight of Muslims suffering in Iraq, Syria and Libya which gets some British Muslims so worked up. The argument that there is no connection is simply imperialism; an attempt to continue our war ad infinitum by claiming that all the aggression is on their side. In this link Labour politician Andy Burnham gives a very good illustration of the kind of sheer phantasy land that deniers of the connection between British Foreign Policy and domestic terrorism exist in. He claims that “let’s remember that the appalling atrocity of 9/11 happened before interventions anywhere”. This is completely untrue. 9/11 was carried out by a group which had been part of a movement funded by the CIA in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets. Bin Laden gave as his rationale the Western presence in Saudi Arabia. Andy Burnham shows precisely the kind of childish thinking which would, if allowed to inform policy, ensure we will never escape from this problem. These people don’t drop down from outer space. Their actions – even if they are the actions of a deluded minority with psychological problems – are connected with British interventions abroad.

Britain has a clear track record of interventions in the Middle East which create chaos and cause suffering to Muslims. There are 2.75 millions Muslims living in the UK. Of these 4% “sympathise” with suicide bombings. [7] That makes 110,000. Of these 1% “completely sympathise” – which is 27,000. MI5 says that 23,000 are ‘subjects of interest’. Just 3,000 are being actively watched at any one time. There is a real problem here. One which the political class is dancing around the edges of. Either because, on the one hand, they don’t want to admit the connection between these attacks and Britain’s involvement in ill-thought out interventions abroad (which they want to continue) or because they are too wedded to a politics of ‘promoting diversity’ at all costs and can’t bring themselves to admit that there is a cultural and religious dimension to this.

There is a serious lack of real politik here. As long as this is the case this spiral will continue.

Update 6 June

In a truly disgusting spectacle of political blame avoidance we can now see Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and London Mayor Sadiq Khan trying to blame the police for letting these events take place. It should be evident to anyone that surveillance alone cannot stop 100% of these attacks.  There are thousands of people in this country who are potential terrorists. MI5 can play a guessing game about which ones are likely to move to the active stage but it is inevitable that they can’t always get this right. Human behaviour is not 100% predictable. The clear reality here is that this is a political problem; here we see two political class politicians trying to duck the problem by making wholly impossible demands on the police.

Notes

1. https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2009/may/19/july7-atacks-mohammad-sidique-khan-shehzad-tanweer

2. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/mar/24/khalid-masood-questions-over-how-much-mi5-knew-about-attacker

3. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/may/28/mi5-launches-inquiries-into-failings-on-manchester-arena-bomber-salman-abedi-moss-side-raids-amber-rudd

4. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/05/questions-raised-about-police-knowledge-of-london-bridge-attackers

5. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/05/27/23000-people-have-subjects-interest-scale-terror-threat-emerges/

6.  According to this article in the Guardian one of the London Bridge attackers was in the 3000 list. However a) no source is given and b) the police had said he was no longer considered a threat which would suggest he was not being actively monitored. RT who also provide a quote but without giving many details about the source say that Butt, one of the main London Bridge attackers, was classified as “low priority” which would appear to mean he was on the 23,000 list and not the 3,000. All matters considered RT is probably right.

7. http://www.channel4.com/info/press/news/c4-survey-and-documentary-reveals-what-british-muslims-really-think