Re: Limits of pragmatism
A mute point now?
217 posts • joined 18 Jun 2009
The last word on this matter belongs to J.S. Mill, just a shame that more than a hundred and fifty years later the direction of travel is going the wrong way again:
"A theory of "social rights," the like of which probably never before found its way into distinct language: being nothing short of this—that it is the absolute social right of every individual, that every other individual shall act in every respect exactly as he ought; that whosoever fails thereof in the smallest particular, violates my social right, and entitles me to demand from the legislature the removal of the grievance. So monstrous a principle is far more dangerous than any single interference with liberty; there is no violation of liberty which it would not justify; it acknowledges no right to any freedom whatever, except perhaps to that of holding opinions in secret, without ever disclosing them: for, the moment an opinion which I consider noxious passes any one's lips, it invades all the "social rights" attributed to me by the [aggrieved]. The doctrine ascribes to all mankind a vested interest in each other's moral, intellectual, and even physical perfection, to be defined by each claimant according to his own standard."
Obviously we aren't talking about statute here, which makes it even worse in some ways.
Yup, they wrote me a letter saying they were hiking prices and I was entitled to leave 'without penalty' (as per Ofcom guidelines). When I was so bold as to follow through with this they billed me ~£180 for terminating my contract (which was three times more than the remaining value of my contract anyway). Took numerous calls to India to have the balance sorted. The same thing happened the year before with my SIM contract.
It would seem the customer service drones aren't informed what the bean counters are doing. Or, more likely, they deliberately bill people and see who complains and make life so difficult you wish you hadn't left. I'm out now and I ain't going back any time soon.
"However, you can't determine that just because someone holds views with which you disagree, that they should be prevented from holding or expressing those views"
Agreed! But it's missing the point slightly. Anonymous aren't attacking free speech. They are seeking to unmask KKK members in revenge for (alleged) KKK attempts to target Anonymous members and activities. The irony of one faceless bunch of vigilantes exposing another bunch of faceless vigilantes cannot surely be lost on most, least of all Anonymous!
In many ways I share the same sympathies as Anonymous seem to and if I had to live with one and without the other I would rather see the demise of the KKK. But I would have a lot more respect for Anonymous if they would take the masks off and become lawful activists - difficult in many ways I know but not impossible. Both Anonymous and the KKK seek to take the law into their own hands and that is why they attempt to hide their identities. So from a dispassionate standpoint, neither has the moral high ground.
The culture is definitely changing. My place of work suffered from 'presenteeism' in the past, if you did anything weird like part-time, compressed hours or working from home you were regarded as being 'at it'. Formal wear, including ties, was mandatory.
These days the dress policy is business casual and we're literally being pushed out of the door by the property division as they rationalise offices. Some offices have a staff to desk ratio of 1.7! IT save money too through the use of thin clients rather than PCs and virtualised infrastructure. Effectively they're externalising the cost of providing us with desks and PCs, but it works both ways as we can save on our commutes and subsistence costs like coffees and lunches and get that commuting time back in our lives. It has to be balanced with some time in the office though, as has been mentioned. To be honest I think employers look at the bottom line too much and don't appreciate the less tangible loss of team cohesion and availability upon productivity. Instant messaging and collaboration tools don't make up for proper face to face communication.
So have we come full circle, where the operators are finally realising that locked, bloated, branded handsets with a customised OS and uninstallable apps chewing up storage space actually really, really piss some people off? That differentiation can be achieved by simply selling phones with stock Android installed? That money can be saved and updates made quicker and more cheaply?
I'll believe it when I see it. As it stands we still have the manufacturer overlays, no word about locked handsets and I'll bet they aren't talking about those unwelcome apps whose smelly faces you are only reminded of when you open your app drawer (I'm guessing someone pays them to put them on?). But it's progress...
Peated whisky can be an acquired taste but, believe me, it can be acquired. Traditionally the sweet sherry-casked whisky of Speyside was touted to American and Japanese markets for its easy-drinking qualities but, increasingly, whisky aficionados seek out the smokiest expressions such as Laphroaig and Ardbeg from the tiny island of Islay. The island has eight distilleries and the peat there has a unique 'medicinal' character.
Although none of this whisky has been to space, it comes with a price tag of £124.99, which is a circa £50 mark-up on their last 'committee release'. Lumsden is a very knowledgeable distiller but a shameless marketer.
Yeah, I was with them when it was BlueYonder all the way up to a couple of years ago. In those days dial-up and ADSL services were about as expensive and complete pants. The annoying thing was they knew to price the bundles only just higher than the cost of dropping the landline (and why would they need a landline network when they have fibre cable right?), really cynical!
Anyway, I moved to the sticks a couple of years ago and I'm getting 10Mbs-15Mbs with a TalkTalk bundle for half the price! It's amazing how far ADSL has come, always worth a look if you haven't checked for a while.
Reminds me of Robin Williams stand-up sketch about UK policemen. "'Stop!', or I'll say 'Stop!' again!".
That aside, this may actually have some effect. Some people may be spooked enough that they stop file-sharing. However, after more than a decade of wrangles, inaction and a total failure on the part of content providers to provide reasonably priced, comprehensive and legal alternatives, file-sharing is now an entrenched part of our culture. We all know that everyone from housewives to policemen to politicians are now au fait with the techniques and the lack of consequences. And their children surely don't even give it a second thought.
The reality is that copyright legislation and enforcement in its current form is designed for a pre-digital age and is effectively dead in the water. And the fact that the film companies keep making record profits and the major labels haven't folded suggests that the moral panic around piracy has little foundation. Yet we are still left with the execrable DEA on the statute books thanks to Mssrs Mandelson and Geffen:
The minister added:
"the complexity of dealing with harmful online content is not an acceptable reason for the current situation to persist."
These people just do not 'get it'. They are fascists in all but name. I can't even form the words to express my repugnance at this way of thinking!
Strange Days started brilliantly with a great concept but it's trawling the depths by the end with the most ridiculous conspiracy theory dénouement.
Gattaca is a great shout. You could have mentioned Forbidden Planet had the first entirely electronic soundtrack (which wasn't released as 'music') and, what's more, was composed by a woman, Bebe Barron.
Dark Star, Silent Running (flawed), Dune (seriously, but again flawed) and Alien might have been candidates for me. I think Alien in particular, although being as much horror as SF, raises some serious themes (genetic adaptation/dystopian future/corporate exploitation/human flaws/woman as heroine) and spectacular plot twists/shocks (chest burst scene/Ash as a robot) that were so new and influential at the time that they have coloured everything since and detracted from its radicalism today.
Guilty pleasures - Them, Rollerball, Robocop.
It's amazing that only 5% of us are at it! In fact I don't really believe that, if we all paid for what we consume we'd be impoverished, e.g. you'd have to be a millionaire to fill an iPod. And the 'legitimate' income streams denied to the distributors isn't somehow wasted, it all goes back into the economy in other ways, not many paytards seem to acknowledge this (OK, some might go on recreational drugs). Hopefully it will stay this way and the intransigence at Westminster will continue. I reckon most of their disinterest is down to them not having the first fucking clue about how the Interwebs work, their ignorance is certainly apparent when they have to discuss it (cf. DEB). That and the fact the PM's wife isn't a performing artist (to whom could I be alluding?).
If we are to be mothered, mother must know best. . . . In every age the men who want us under their thumb, if they have any sense, will put forward the particular pretension which the hopes and fears of that age render most potent. They ‘cash in.’ It has been magic, it has been Christianity. Now it will certainly be science. . . . Let us not be deceived by phrases about ‘Man taking charge of his own destiny.’ All that can really happen is that some men will take charge of the destiny of others. . . . The more completely we are planned the more powerful they will be.
. . . .
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. Their very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.
—C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock
I'm not a fan of American foreign policy but North Korea really is a wacky place. I don't understand why we provide them with food aid, whilst they pursue ballistics and nuclear research. If we stopped providing aid and the country eventually fell apart is this scenario really scarier than the present regime? Surely China would step in anyway?
As far as Iran goes I entirely understand their perception that they need nuclear weapons, most of their borders are with countries either under direct occupation by the US, with a US presence or under the influence of the US. The US have also armed their mortal enemies in the region and Syria is no longer a powerful ally to them. However at least they can feed their own people and afford a space programme at the same time!
"With the British economy now increasingly dependent on "intangibles" - brands, designs, patents and copyright"
Instead of, er, making stuff? Thatcher ripped the soul out of this nation, Blair violated the open wounds, now we're all busy trying to sell branded coffee to each other (with all proceeds going straight to the Caymans). Technology has devastated the ability of monopolists to create artificial scarcity in media markets. That's a genie that's not about to go back in the bottle any time soon, perhaps the IPO simply realise this.
Have a nice day now!
Agreed, out and out greed. The move to digital publishing should have been smoother than that of digital music but it seems no one learned anything, if anything it's been worse with format wars and next-gen DRM. Again and again we hear of examples of corporations showing their true colours, i.e. they're out to gouge you wherever they can. Digital publishing offered certain 'opportunities' and they just couldn't help themselves. It must also be said charging VAT on eBooks is a major, major fail.
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. Their very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be ‘cured' against one's will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals."
One could argue that the reduction in tobacco consumption is as much or more to do with a change in attitudes and awareness of the health dangers than the pricing. Besides there is a roaring and ever-increasing black market in tobacco now. That complicates health studies, deprives the treasury of income and funds other smuggling activities (some you may approve of but these are not nice people ultimately!).
I'm sure I remember someone telling me that in Turkey committing a crime whilst drunk is an aggravating factor. Here, drunkenness is sometimes offered as an excuse (at least for a lack of recall) and may be a mitigating factor in crimes, in Turkey the logic is that being drunk makes the crime even more irresponsible and the sentence will be even more severe. Even if I was being led up the garden path, this logic makes sense to me. It's fine to drink but drink responsibly, it's even fine to be completely bladdered, just do it quietly. If you look at other countries it's clear to see that most of our problems with alcohol are not with the alcohol per se but are social and relate to our attitudes to and expectations of alcohol, it's our culture that needs to change.
For a paytard, you do at least acknowledge the lessons of history. And as far as taxation on alcohol goes I am with you, and John Stuart Mill who condemned the prohibitionist doctrine as:
"A theory of "social rights," the like of which probably never before found its way into distinct language: being nothing short of this—that it is the absolute social right of every individual, that every other individual shall act in every respect exactly as he ought; that whosoever fails thereof in the smallest particular, violates my social right, and entitles me to demand from the legislature the removal of the grievance. So monstrous a principle is far more dangerous than any single interference with liberty; there is no violation of liberty which it would not justify; it acknowledges no right to any freedom whatever"
In Scotland the otherwise populist SNP are pushing forward with minimum pricing, I only hope they founder in the European courts (the Scotch Whisky Assoc. has already moved to challenge it). The SNP point to the infamous Sheffield University study for the touted social benefits but, as we know, that is based on pseudo-science and the original findings have now been reined back. Minimum pricing will simply provide the stimulus to black market booze that we have seen with tobacco market and will end with people simply turning to illicit sources and/or other drugs. I shouldn't care, I like expensive ales and whiskies, but I'm a libertarian and I do.
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