helenic: (CCTV - big government)

The Home Office has just announced its revised plans to keep the DNA profiles of innocent people on the National DNA Database, despite an EU ruling that this constitutes a breach of human rights. The new policy, under which DNA samples can be taken from any individual stopped by police for an arrestable offence, permits retention of these samples for six years regardless of whether the individual was convicted or released without charge.

This directly contravenes the decision made by the European Court of Human Rights in the S and Marper case last December, in which all 17 judges unanimously ruled that the UK policy of indefinitely retaining DNA samples from people who had not committed a crime was illegal under EU law.

The Association of Chief Police Officers claimed that this ruling would seriously limit their use of DNA technology. They therefore advised chief constables to ignore the EU decision, and since the Strasbourg ruling, while the Home Office drafts new legislation in response to the EU's decision, police have added DNA profiles of over 90 000 people who have never been convicted of an offense to the database. Various proposals have been submitted, condemned by human rights organisations, rewritten, resubmitted - and no response to the EU ruling is yet to pass through Parliament. The current set of plans, if passed, are likely to be in contempt of the EU court, and will no doubt provoke another long-winded round of litigation. The Home Office is clearly making every attempt to avoid the strongly-worded recommendations of the ECHR, and while the UK legislators drag their feet, every day more innocent people are added to a criminal database.

So what's the problem? )
helenic: (every turn of the wheel is a revolution)

Couple of good articles on the sacking of David Nutt, which I find abhorrent for all the obvious reasons, plus those articulated by JQP in his two "Expertease" articles written at the start of this year.

This isn't the first time this issue has been on our radar. Drugs legislation is one of the easiest targets. Then there was the debate about Green Party science policy earlier this year. Now this, which some commentators have compared to the way policy on ID cards continues to ignore expert advice. Detecting a bit of a theme?

[Democracy] relies on one very important variable, which British society has utterly failed to deliver: accurate information.
In theory, democracy works for the benefit of mankind because the government responds to public demands. This requires two things to be fulfilled. The public have to be rational, which sometimes pertains, and it has to have access to reliable information, or else its demands rest on false assumptions. But the media, its main source of information, does not deliver. It provides truth, yes, but it also spews out myths and nonsense to substantiate its editorial agenda.

(Drugs policy and the death of reason, politics.co.uk, Monday, 02, Nov 2009 12:00)

Ah, everyone's favourite rant about democracy and the media! Excellent: I always enjoy having someone else do this one for me. It even includes references to Plato, if not to the process of Athenian democracy itself.

You all know this already, but just in case: Athenian democracy worked because it was tiny. Something in the region of 60,000 adult male citizens had the right to vote at any one point in the mid-5th century BC - a figure that dropped during wartime. Start with a small city-state and then exclude women, children and adolscents, immigrants, slaves, criminals and anyone who hasn't completed military training. The result is a direct democracy, where those involved are small enough to sit in a single assembly, watch political speakers and satirical theatre as a single audience, and participate in the same big debate. More oligarchy than democracy by modern standards. (Is more complicated than this, but you get the idea. Feel free to comment if you think I'm misrepresenting.)

Modern democracies which aim at representing the demands of the whole population - including, even more recently, women - can't be directly representational (until we develop secure tech for remote voting) and they can't be directly informed. Our representation is a mess, and so is our information. I mean the internet is great and all, but so far it mostly seems to be resulting in more people sharing opinion than data. (Peer-reviewed science has massive class and accessibility issues - is wikipedia the closest thing we have to democratic information?)

Anyway, so I'm sure you all know my feelings on policy and the meeja. What I found kind of interesting reading the post-Nutt-sacking commentary (har) is the fact that no-one's thought to relate this issue to climate science. Which seems a bit odd. Look at this paragraph from that Nutt vs ID cards article:

That's not to say politicians should blindly and slavishly heed scientific advice without any other considerations. Of course not. The whole nature of politics is about balancing various constituencies of interest. But politicians should be able to explain the reason for their decisions when they choose to ignore independent expert advice and press ahead with proposals that potentially put the UK population at greater risk.


Governments have been ignoring expert advice on climate change for, gosh, several decades now. I'm outraged about that, but I'm not surprised. It's not even really news, apart from in the "shit continues to hit fan" sense - but that's not unusual either.

If the outrage over the Home Office not only disregarding the recommendations of its chosen experts, but actually punishing those experts for telling the truth, leads to it happening less, well, great: perhaps they'll start listening to expert advice on environmental policy. Drugs legislation is a relatively quiet issue - you don't get many people willing to protest about it, and most public figures avoid speaking out on it unless they're happy to be branded a filthy munter.

Climate change should be a considerably less risky thing to talk about: surely most people believe that saving the human race from extinction is a generally good thing, even if they're not willing to act personally to help the cause. I mean, to oversimplify dramatically, this is one of the reasons we have laws, right? To encourage people to do the right thing even if they might not always want to?

Not only does policy fly in the face of scientific evidence when it comes to climate change, those who complain loudly about this are treated far worse by the state than those outraged at scandal of David Nutt's illegitimate sacking. Climate change doesn't seem to make it into any of the commentary on governments ignoring their experts. Is the issue becoming so marginalised that no-one's willing to include it in their analysis? Perhaps they're all just trying to avoid being labelled domestic extremists. In which case, the re-branding of climate activists as a marginal, undesirable group by the police is clearly starting to take effect.

helenic: (windowsill; cafe; people-watching)

I'll admit it: the main reason I repost links like these isn't because I think I need to check my own privilege (although I do); it's because I'm tired of having conversations about gender with people who don't believe that sexism is a problem for most women today. Usually well-meaning, smart, decent guys who live in the same queer-friendly alternative bubble as I do. Asking them to listen before they become defensive is an important part of that conversation. However, I've started to think it might be worth actually keeping notes on the sexism I experience.

One of the problems I have with feminist analysis is that I have no stomach for anger. I just don't have the energy for it. Sometimes something will offend me, but I'm much more inclined to shrug it off than dwell on it. Sometimes something that happens to me will strike me as intellectually offensive, but my emotional barriers stop me from being personally riled by it. This is a valuable self-defense mechanism and a political weakness. I'm much more interested in putting my time and energy into creating positive, beautiful, affirming artworks and experiences for people than I am in maintaining an anger at the injustice I perceive around me. Injustice is everywhere: being angry all the time would make me unhappy. I have a flash temper and it often doesn't take much to hurt or annoy me, but I don't stay angry easily.

I'm pretty sure I have no real concept of the scale of the sexism I've experienced in my life. Women are, let's face it, used to being victims of sexism - we rationalise it away, shrug it off, don't dwell on it. Which is all very well for short-term personal happiness, but not for revolutionising society. We go out of our way to avoid sexism, which is often self-defeating when our long-practised skills at avoiding abuse result in a lack of convincing examples to persuade anyone that there is, in fact, a problem.

I'm not interested in being angrier, really. But what I can do is observe, take notes, make a record. I think it might be interesting to start using this LJ to record examples of sexism when I notice it. And I won't notice everything; I'm not trained in this sort of analysis. But it would be useful for me to have a better idea of the scale of it, rather than having a transient, unsubstantiated, emotional sense that it's there, but never being able to think of good examples during relevant conversations. I don't want this to turn into a list of complaints; I certainly don't want anyone to start criticising me for not balancing this list with examples of female privilege. That's not what I'm focussing on, here. Nor am I trying to say that women are the only victims of sexism or oppression. I'm just trying to combat a very real belief among my (mostly male) friends that a feminist perspective is out-dated and inappropriate in our society.

I'd encourage anyone who's had similar experiences to comment, just because I know it's not just me, and I think it's important to notice the little things.

recently )

That's all I can think of right now. I'll add more as and when they happen; I have no doubt that they will. Please feel free to contribute your own, whether or not they're related to the above. The more anecdotal evidence I have, the more chance we have of persuading the non-feminists reading this that we aren't imagining things.

Next question: what's the best way to respond to this kind of thing? The older and more confident I get, the more ready I am to stand up for myself in public, to make a fuss. I would dearly love to respond to these examples by loudly and clearly calling attention to the behaviour and making it clear that it's unacceptable. I don't; I keep my head down and hurry on. Occasionally I manage a contemptuous laugh or a withering look first. I'd love to have a clear, pointed comeback that called people who do this up on it without starting a confrontation that could get nasty, but sadly, I doubt it's possible. If anyone has any bright ideas, I'd love to hear them.

In the meantime I shall await the inevitable responses from male readers telling me that they're not like that; that I'm overreacting; that the above are neither indicative of endemic issues nor examples of sexism. G'wan, prove me wrong. :)

helenic: (sitting and thinking; hat of foolishness)

A couple of weeks ago, [livejournal.com profile] dennyd linked me to http://www.helpwinmybet.com. This site is now down, but consisted of a guy (Jim) who'd made a bet with his girlfriend (Allison):

"I said to my girlfriend that any stupid website could get tons of hits, simply because people are bored all the time. She said that I was an idiot and couldn’t make a website that could get tons of hits if I wanted to. After a long argument (mostly centered around the fact that she called me an idiot) we made a bet: If I could not make a website to get 2,000,000 hits, I would agree that I was an idiot; however, if I could make a website to get 2,000,000 hits, she would have a menage a trois (that's a threesome to you non french-speakers) with me and another girl."

So! Spread the link, up the hit count, help Jim get his threesome. There was a picture of blonde Allison at the top of the page. The hit counter was very nearly at 2 million, and looked set to reach it that evening. As the hitcount got higher Jim updated more frequently, boggling at having created a net phenomenon, and started joining dating sites to try and find their third partner. "Wanna be our third? Click on the link!" It was tacky, but he also posted about having had to update his bandwidth and needing to cover his costs, and was upfront that if you joined this dating site he'd get a bit of cash, and the teasing tone meant that it didn't actually grate.

"Reckon it's genuine?" I asked. "Probably", Denny said, "it doesn't look like it's making a profit." It was written with a kind of appealing ironic humour, and raised a smirk and a giggle when I first looked at it. Denny commented that the girlfriend probably had someone in mind and this was just an excuse, and I thought that you know, more people being open-minded about group sex is a good thing, even if they do go about it in stupid ways, so yeah, trendies making free with the bisexuality and sexual experimentation, that's kinda cool.

I forgot about it, and then yesterday my friendslist was spammed with links to http://www.helpwinthisbet.com. The hit count had been reset to zero, the more recent updates had been deleted; it was started again from scratch. The url was slightly different and the picture of the girl (and names of the characters) were changed, but the text was exactly the same. The other difference was that the contract link is broken - both sites linked to a scanned, handwritten contract, but "This Bet" didn't have the image, which suggested it was a copycat site rather than the newest incarnation of an ongoing hoax. I posted a few comments on the relevant entries pointing out it was a fake, and [livejournal.com profile] zotz directed me to an article about the original "My Bet" site on The Register, which not only provides evidence for the previous version's existence, but revealed that the site was for profit after all:

"If you look at the link properties for his links to metrodate.com and gamefly.com (well, the gamefly link is gone, but it did the same thing yesterday), the actual href link takes you through a redirection website! I looked up the owner of the sites that the links redirect through and came across a company named: ValueClick.com, an online advertising firm.

Now, this was before the statements listed for April 5 were posted. He has since stated that he is getting a financial bonus for signing people up for metrodate.com. However, with a click-through redirection system, he's actually making money from people simply clicking on the link to metrodate (not from having them sign up!)."

Why copycat it, then? Is the new "This Bet" site planning to use the same redirection scam? I did some research.

Which was interesting. )

helenic: (you mess with me you mess with ROME)

"At the turn of the millennium, the United Nations General Assembly agreed on a set of development goals, the supreme one being the eradication of poverty. It is not trivial that world leaders use the language of “eradication” instead of “relieving”. But victory it was not. We have the means to end poverty; the world is endlessly rich and more redistribution would not be costly. The real impediment is the old one: it is about will. ... Unnecessary misery persists because the will to end it comes not from our hearts, where we are all pure, but from our collective opinions and actions, where we are not." Stein Ringen

I'm not sure how I feel about Live 8. )

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