This week’s Insgragram TOS kerfuffle is nothing new. Instagram is not the problem, it’s just the latest symptom of a sick business model that has been allowed to become so dominant as to be almost un-challengeable – services on the web MUST be free, so you MUST give up your privacy and/or your intellectual property rights to enable the service providers profits. If you dare stand up for privacy then you are a greedy idiot who wants something for nothing, and you need to grow up and let the companies make money.
My problem is not that companies want to make profits, it’s their instance on selling our data to do it that I have a problem with. How about this for an idea – why not let people pay for services rather than insisting we all whore out our privacy and intellectual property?
It’s primary time in the US, and Mitt Romney is running again, so of course you can’t drown out the chorus of pundits denigrating him for being a ‘flip-flopper’. It would appear that in the mind of much of the popular press on the west side of the Altlantic, keeping an open mind is an unforgivable crime!
Before you all think I’ve gone mad, I am NOT saying Mitt Romney is great, I’m saying the problem with him is not THAT he changes his mind, but his dishonesty about his many reversals. A good leader will be guided by his core principles, and reality. His principles should not change, but reality does, inevitably, and eternally. As reality evolves, the best avenues to peruse your principles have to evolve as well. If you want to live in a well run country you should applaud political leaders who have the courage to re-evaluate their plans and proposals as situations evolve.
I’m annoyed today. Very annoyed. I think we’re witnessing the demise of the country which I am proud to be a citizen of – Belgium. There’s no doubt that it is, and always has been, a strange place. It was a purely made up country that had nothing on common apart from a shared Catholic faith, and the newly appointed king. I don’t know of any other country where there is no common national language. The struggles between the Wallonians and the Flemish has been long and complicated. Despite being a physically tiny nation, Belgium has become a Federal State, with a national federal government in Brussels, and local ‘state’ governments in Brussels, Flanders, and Wallonia. The local governments are all working just fine, they have administrations in place, and are getting on with the job of running their respective parts of the country. The problem lies with the national federal government. We have had a string of unstable governments for years now, often with very long gaps between elections and the eventual formation of short-lived and turbulent administrations. When the previous government collapsed last spring, elections were called and held in June. Since then, there have been on-going negotiations to form a government, and they have not gone smoothly. Today, for what feels like the millionth time, talks collapsed, and the King’s mediator has handed his resignation to the King. If you’re wondering why there have to be negotiations, the reason is that there are no nation-wide parties in the Belgium. There are Flemish parties and Wallonian parties, and although there is a Flemish Green Party and a Wallonian one, they are not the same party, and don’t work together. The constitution sets this division in stone mandating that governments consist of coalitions of Flemish and Wallonian parties.
I’ve never broadcast details of my love life on this blog or on the many podcasts I contribute to because frankly, my personal life is, well, personal. In this case though, I’m going to make an exception. Why? Because of the relevance to the tragedy I want to draw your attention to. I’m in a committed loving relationship with another man. We’ve been together for over 5 years now, and we’re building a life together. We just want what every couple want, some basic recognition of the fact that we are a family. This is what the fight for marriage equality is all about. It’s about the simple things like hospital visitation rights, inheritance rights, and so on. It’s inevitable that one day one of us will get sick, and when that day comes, we’ll want the right to visit each other, and to make medical decisions for each other should one of us not be capable of making those decisions for ourselves anymore. Should one of us die before the other we want our worldly possessions to go to the remaining partner without question or taxation, just like it happens for regular couples. These are very simple things, but very important things.
I may have stumbled in to Catholicism as an accident of birth, but I’ve since picked myself up, dusted myself off, and decided that I want nothing to do with such a profoundly corrupt and power-hungry organisation. Nothing about the RCC gels with the person I am. I believe there is nothing more dangerous than blind faith, while the RCC literally preaches it as a virtue. I believe each person should be free to explore their own spirituality, while the RCC believes it and it’s priests are there to tell the people how to interpret the bible, because ordinary people are too dumb to do it themselves.
Before I explain my thinking on all this, I want to set the scene. I do work in the public sector, but I’m not a civil servant. I work in a university. I am on strike today, but I’m not out on the picket line. I voted against strike action, but I believe in democracy, so I’m respecting the strike, though not actively supporting it. It is true that people at the top of the public sector earn very high wages, but that is not true of people all the way down. To be honest, it’s just like the private sector. The plebs at the bottom struggling to pay their bills, and the fat-cats at the top compensating themselves generously. It’s also true that I get a good pension, but, it’s not a free pension. I pay for it each month, and on top of actually paying for my pension, I have to pay the pension levy too.
I imagine there are very few people reading this blog who don’t know that the Allies won the second world war. I also imagine that many, if not most, of you have heard of Enigma machines, and that a significant number of you know that the British managed to crack the Enigma codes as well as other German and Axis codes. This was a massive advantage for the Allies, and in no small way, helped to turn the tide of war against the Axis powers.
However, I imagine that there are not too many of you who have heard of Alan Turing. Academically he laid the very foundations upon which computer science, and hence our entire digital world, are built. His 1936 paper entitled “On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem” doesn’t sound very relevant to Twitter or FaceBook, but it’s one of the foundation stones on which all these things rest. You’ll note that Turing’s work on the theory of computation pre-dates the existence of any actual computers!
So when atheists applied to have the slogan “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life” put on buses, the Christian right responded by insisting that this was false advertising because it asserts a claim that cannot be substantiated. You’ll note that the atheists chose to use the qualifier “probably”. The Advertising standards authority thankfully agreed that with the probably in there the atheist ad is just fine. So how do the Christian right respond? Why, with adverts of their own. How do these ads stand up to the yardstick they insisted be applied to the atheist ads? They don’t. You’ll see no “probably” in the Christian ad. They make no bones about making a direct statement that is physically impossible to back up. If you believe that there is no evidence to say that there is “probably no God”, you can’t possibly also believe there is evidence that there is “definitely a God”, yet that’s exactly what the Christian ads say:
There definitely is a God. So join the Christian Party and enjoy your life.
Now, it’s important to stress that the organisation which filed the complaint against the atheist bus slogan is not the same organisation that is paying to have the above ad put on buses. It was Christian Voice which objected to the atheist add, and it’s the Christian Party which is paying for the above ad. Now, the question has to be, will Christian Voice lodge a complaint against the Christian Party ad? Or are they happy with a double-standard if it’s a pro-Christian double-standard?
Mind you, I have a feeling this could turn into a fantastic own goal! With this ad out there, there is no no way an appeal can be lodged against an atheist ad that omits the word “probably”. If I were running the Atheist Bus campaign, I know what I’d be doing next
If you’re not in the mood to “hear” me rant, best move along to another part of the blogo-web now because ranting is certainly something I’m going to do. The incompetent morons we are unfortunate enough to call a government have decided that the solution to their incompetence is to steal money from nurses, teachers, Gardai (Irish Policemen) and other government workers on the pretence of paying for the pension we already pay for! No one can deny that the government finances are a mess, or that the books needed balancing, but this is a dishonest and down-right unfair way of doing it. As is typical for our government, they haven’t got the balls to do things the honest way, so it’s done through stealth taxes. We have a taxation system for a reason, to bring in money for the government in a fair and equitable way. It’s full of safe-guards to ensure that those on the lowest incomes pay the least. With the 1-2% income levy on everyone in the countries gross income and now this 7-9% levy on public servants gross income the government are by-passing all the safeguards in a mad dash to make up for their incompetence.
Given how historic a day today was, I’m hoping you’ll humour me and forgive a rare political post. Like millions of people all around the world I watched the inauguration live on the internet. Not TV, but the internet, a sign of things to come perhaps? Anyhow, that’s not really what I want to write about here. I just want to make three observations about today’s events from the perspective of an outsider. Or, to be more precise, from the point of view of a European gay agnostic.