Category Archives: News

This is why Disclosure is pointless

HIMMELPFORT, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 16:  A man dre...
Santa needs *this* many forms

Many of you will be aware by now that if you take up any position – paid or voluntary – whereby you will come into contact with children then you have to be “disclosed”. This entails filling out a form detailing where you’ve lived for the last three years, forwarding proof of identity and getting letters from the police of any country you’ve been in (for 3 months or more) saying that you weren’t naughty when you were there.

Oh, and it’s not just if you will be working with kids. It’s also if you might. Maybe. One day. Such as one person I heard of who’s teaching in a college for mature students. There’s no rule stating that under 18’s can’t attend classes (though they’ve never had anyone – ever), so he had to go through the rigmarole as well.

Did I mention it’s £35 a shot as well? And, generally, you’ll need one for each employer / voluntary organisation / council / etc? My uncle does Santa Claus for a lot of organisations, hotels and so forth in the area. As of this year he’ll need five or six disclosures to do the same work he’s been doing the last umpteen years.

Of course, all this is for the good of the kids, yes? It stops dirty paedos and child molesters and murderers from getting near our children. Which is a good thing. Only it doesn’t really work. It only stops them if they’ve been caught in the past.

We have two issues here – if you don’t have one, then you can’t work with kids. This is effectively saying “guilty until proven innocent”. Until you get hold of one of these pieces of paper, you’re a potential kiddy fiddler.

Secondly, if you do get one then you’re fine. Obviously not going to try and take advantage of your trusted position to lead children astray.

Tell that to the two girls abused by the student teacher in Glasgow recently.

The simple truth of the matter lies in the single line:

As a teaching student at Glasgow University, Binns would have been fully vetted before his school placement.

“Fully vetted”. Yup. He’d not done it before. Or hadn’t been caught. Or lied on the forms. Or hadn’t previously been in a situation where temptation became too much for him. You can’t fully vet someone. Convicted murderers have passed psychological exams with flying colours, and they’re somewhat more thorough than a check of the criminal records database.

Disclosure is pointless. One thing we constantly hammer into kids in the internet safety classes we give them is that the people who deal in child porn and the like are not stupid. They’re evil, sneaky, underhanded, disgusting, degraded… and quite often very clever indeed.

Identity theft is staggeringly easy to manage. What’s to stop a persistent, previously convicted, offender from assuming someone else’s identity and sneaking under the radar? After all, once he/she has that piece of paper we’re led to assume they’re totally trustworthy.

Once again we’re being led down a pointless path due to scaremongering by the tabloids. And all it’s resulting in is a nice bit of cash flow and some jobs for people keying this data in.

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KFC are at it again

KFC Corporation
Cotton pickin' colonel

Sky News reports that KFC are being pilloried for an advert that was released in Australia which found its way onto YouTube where Americans watched it and jumped on the “racist” bandwagon. I won’t go into more detail here, just read the story.

However. This isn’t the first time KFC have done this, only the last time the internet was a little smaller and I don’t think anyone noticed. In fact, I blogged about it back in 2005! It’s at the bottom of the quoted letter and about another advert that appeared in the UK for a brief period.

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Ryanair “puerile” according to OFT

2008/08/27 Ryanair Boeing 737-8AS EI-DCD
Not that cheap, definitely not cheerful

I don’t comment on new stories too often any more, but it’s nice to see Ryanair getting a hoofing now and again. A lovely report from the BBC about the Office of Fare Trading branding Ryanair’s charging of credit card transactions “puerile and childish”.

The most interesting points of note:

  • Ryanair are charging for card processing by having one free option – this is the law, but a loophole that must be closed
  • It costs Ryanair approximately 30p for each debit card transaction. They charge you £5. Per leg of flight. Per passenger
  • Their spokesman claims that “Ryanair is not for the overpaid John Fingletons on this world but for the everyday Joe Bloggs”. Yet they heap charges on these everyday Joe Bloggs’ and expect then to cough up
  • Also “passengers prefer Ryanair’s model as it allows them to avoid costs, such as baggage charges, which are still included in the high fares of high cost, fuel surcharging, strike-threatened airlines such as BA.” Which is cobblers – name me anyone who likes buying a £5 flight then finding out it’s going to cost them £40 with fees, luggage, check-in and a cab ride as it lands 85 miles from the city advertised after all the buses have stopped.

What is the point in advertising “low cost flights” when people are now figuring out that, while the flights are indeed low-cost, all the “optional extras” such as checking in (erm… can you fly without checking in?), hold baggage, going to the toilet (is this actioned yet?), cabin baggage (soon, I believe?), paying by anything other than MasterCard pre-pay… will all add to the cost?

If I go to BA’s website and book a flight to London at £30 do you know how much comes off my credit card? Exactly £30. I don’t pay a penny extra. And I get a drink and a snack on the flight. Plus a plane seat that doesn’t feel like it was stolen from a primary school pedal car.

I can book a flight that departs and arrives at a reasonable hour to a central airport with good transport links.

And when it lands I don’t get a bloody annoying fanfare on the tannoy telling me how great it is that we’ve landed on time.

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Blasphemer! That’ll be €25,000 please

Icon for censorship
Thou shalt not have an opinion

Ireland has just, as of Jan 1st, put into place a law that the UK effectively ditched in 2008. It is now illegal to blaspheme against any religion on penalty of a very painful direct debit from your bank account. Up to €25,000. Ouchies.

Freedom of expression? Nope, no more. In fact, this “law” is just setting itself up to be repealed. It’s difficult to practice some religions without defaming (and therefore blaspheming) against others as their beliefs are at odds with each other. Who decides what classes as a religion in Ireland? If someone writes bad press about Scientology will they be fined? And how about the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

The Irish Atheists have put up a web page containing 26 blasphemous quotes (at the time of writing, their server was down but Google have a cached copy of the page or there’s a re-published version on their blog) by people such as Jesus Christ, the Pope, Salman Rushdie, Bjork and – oh – the Irish Minister For Justice who put this law into force in the first place.

This law protects religions, but criminalises any body who isn’t religious if they voice their own opinions. Some may even argue that school textbooks containing information on evolution could, technically, be blasphemy. Are they going to take all the publishers to court? As a couple of the quotes on that page mention, Jesus himself blasphemed against the Jews. The quote itself is in the Bible. So they should all be removed from public reach and the printers fined appropriately.

Am I being over-reactive? I don’t think so. I’m purely saying that if you’re going to act on the law then it has to be a level playing field. Everyone must be treated equally regardless of why they’re blaspheming.

After all, why should some people be protected for having religious views at the detriment of a completely harmless group who now face prosecution simply for not having a belief at all?

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Say goodbye to your internet

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 11:  Secretary of ...
Secretary for Business and out-of-touch sleazebag

People my age will remember the old days when someone would tell you off for something, and the response would be to tut and say “it’s a free country”.

Well those days are coming to an end and there’s no worse example of why than the new Digital Economy Bill unveiled today. How do you fancy these for powers:

  • Your internet can be cut off if someone in your household is suspected of filesharing. No evidence or proof is required nor formal charge need be brought
  • ISPs are forced to snitch on you or face a fine of up to £250,000
  • Accused of filesharing? £50,000 please – even though it might not be you that’s done it
  • These rules not working? The the Business Secretary (an unelected role) can make up any new punishments and regulations as they see fit. Just for a laugh.
  • Eavesdroppers funded by “rightsholders” (that’ll be our friends in the movie and music companies) who will be able to freely poke around your internet traffic, data, usage patterns and then demand that you remove files, block websites and so forth. Privacy? What privacy?

Then there’s some stuff about a rejigging of the games ratings system which actually isn’t that bad as it takes the BBFC out of the loop. This means, hopefully, that games may be more evenly rated and unlikely to be banned.

What’s amusing is that this whole mess is the brainchild of one Peter Mandelson. Mandie came up with this great idea after a free holiday in Corfu paid for by Geffen. Who happen to be one of the aforementioned rightsholders. Of course, he’s saying this is coincidence.

We are being told to behave ourselves and to follow rules and not steal stuff by a man who was forced to step down from government not once but twice due to his inability not to be a sleazy little dick.

This whole bill is a travesty. It’s the digital equivalent – worse, even – than speed cameras where you’re guilty until proven innocent. The only winners here are the near-sighted media corporations who are too old-fashioned to embrace a new technology and instead seek to stifle it while they continually fail to catch up.

Please, check out the articles linked below. And if you feel as I do then go to the Number10 website and sign the petition. Of course, this makes the assumption that the government we elected actually give the faintest damn about what we have to say.

Not something I think most of us believe to be the case these days.

If you at all doubt the government’s integrity or my attack on it then bear in mind that when they announced the Bill, it was with the statement that it had 99% support of British ISPs. Have a look at the man who started the petition. He’s TalkTalk‘s head of strategy and development. BT, if I recall correctly, threatened legal action if it went through. The ISP industry as a whole announced it’s “disappointment” with the wording of the Bill as it stands.

Hardly 9% support, let alone 99%.

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