I’m an arsehole

I’m an arsehole. And a bigot.

Really, I am. I get angry when people take a different view from me in opposition to what I consider common sense or logical conclusion. I see things in a very black and white way, either for or against, and I make angry judgements about people who disagree with me. I often respond by losing my temper and breaking off contact.

So what is a bigot? Bigotry and bias are accusations that come up quite a lot in political discussions, and most people can easily apply them to other people without asking the question of themselves. Here’s the definition of Bigoted:

big·ot·ed

adjective/ˈbigətid/

  • Obstinately convinced of the superiority or correctness of one’s own opinions and prejudiced against those who hold different opinions
    • – a bigoted group of reactionaries
  • Expressing or characterized by prejudice and intolerance
    • – a thoughtless and bigoted article

“Convinced of the correctness of one’s own opinions” That pretty much defines anyone involved in political activism. But is that the sole criterion? What if a person actually IS correct? It is often impossible to judge this until later – otherwise we wouldn’t be able to disagree quite so much, and sometimes the correct answer is completely down to a person’s opinion of the best outcome.

“Prejudiced against those who hold different opinions”

prej·u·dice

noun /ˈprejədəs/
prejudices, plural

  • Preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience

I’m going to plead guilty here. I like to think that most of my opinion is based on reason, and, indeed, my own experiences and those of other people, but my perception of who might be responsible and my understanding of their motives may well be prejudiced.

Unfortunately, I am not alone in being an arsehole and a bigot. I think a huge swathe of humanity are the same. Even people that I campaign alongside and support in their politics also have their flaws and can be nasty to others. That saddens me and is often a trigger for my depression.

Earlier today I got angry about people who call those who cross picket lines “scabs” and who might shout abuse at them. I fully support the public sector strikes but I also consider that people have a right not to withdraw their labour as much as they have a right to withdraw it. In my opinion, shouting abuse at people who go in to work either because they don’t agree with the strike or because they do agree but feel unable to strike is bullying. As such, I am shocked that people who I see fighting for equality, for rights, standing up for each other, also stating that they are prepared to shout “scab” at people who they have failed to convince to go on strike. However, when I stated as much on twitter, I had this quoted to me:

Tweet: "Seems more a case of disagreeing in this instance than actually being against bullying?"

And he quoted one of my own tweets in support of this statement:

http://twitter.com/#!/latentexistence/status/134788571461713921

I suppose it is true that what I said there could be considered bullying. I find the tabloid paper in question vile, their news often false and their opinions offensive. As such I hope that no-one who I know would want to read it. However It is not up to me to force their opinion on this, only to state my case and try to convince them. It is my choice whether I want to know someone or not though, and I don’t think cutting off contact is bullying if done to preserve my own sanity.

Being an arsehole, I can do something about. I can make an effort to listen to other people’s opinions, and discuss them, or ignore them rather than lose my temper. Being a bigot, I’m not sure. I hope that my opinion changes based on facts and rational argument, but ultimately much of what I think is simply based on what I feel. I do at least feel that we should all support each other and people should not hoard wealth and resources, and I hope that I would feel this way even if I were super rich. (Better hope that IT business takes off eventually!) If I am going to be a bigot, at least I am a bigot with principles.

Speed limits and risk

I like to follow the MotoGP. MotoGP involves riding incredibly powerful motorbikes around a track at extremely high speeds in very precise racing lines in close proximity to other bikes. It takes a hell of a lot of skill and no small amount of luck. Sometimes it goes wrong, as in the recent accident when Marco Simoncelli died following a collision during the race.

Is racing fun? Definitely. Is it dangerous? Hell yes! Why, then, do they do it?

Simple. Because they want to.

Step back now and look at the roads that we drive on every day. They are definitely not to be compared to a racetrack, and yet they are still dangerous. In 2008 in the UK there were 228,000 injuries in road traffic accidents. Of those, 26,000 were serious injuries, 2,538 died, and the remaining 202,333 were minor injuries. In air travel, globally there were 884 people killed in 2008 in 156 accidents. I couldn’t find statistics for injuries compared to deaths, but I’m assuming that nearly all aircraft accidents are fatal. (Statistics from Wikipedia, links below.)

Most people are aware of the risks, but nearly everyone will sill travel by road and by air. I think that is for two reasons. Firstly, the actual chances of an individual being in an accident are pretty small. Secondly, we make a trade off – we all take risks everyday, either for convenience or for fun. Those risks extend to most aspects of life, and yet I think road safety is subject to far more campaigning and legislation than most things. I think making the roads safer for us all is very important and I am grateful for all the additions that help with that – seatbelts, airbags, ABS brakes, MOTs, and thousands of other improvements. I think that the campaigning goes too far though. For one thing, I think that the effect of speed on accident rates is exaggerated by safety campaigners. When there are accidents that could have been avoided I believe that the problem is usually not speed, but other failings of the driver like following other vehicles too closely, not concentrating on the road or looking before manoeuvring, or misjudging weather conditions. Safety campaigners argue that the national speed limit should not be raised from 70mph to 80mph because it would cause more accidents, but would it really? I suspect that actually it will make no difference and I think that unless the speed limit were reduced down to 30 or 40mph then the severity of accidents wouldn’t change either.

We should not forget that when motorways were first introduced they had no speed limit. There were many accidents, however those accidents for the most part were not caused by inability to control a car at speed, but the inability of the cars to maintain those speeds without falling apart or exploding. Cars then were rickety, had few safety features, and many unsafe design decisions, and their engines and parts could not deal with high speed travel without overheating or wearing out. In addition cars in much poorer condition were allowed on the road. Modern safety features and MOT checks have changed all that and cars are far safer and more capable now and so I believe the 70mph speed limit to no longer be necessary.

Numbers killed on British Roads 1920 - 2010
Numbers killed on British Roads 1920 - 2010 and relevant changes

Many bikers are increasingly worried about new and proposed regulations affecting motorbikes and especially regulations coming from the EU. Motorcycle Action Group (MAG) and other groups have even staged protests against many of these laws which would mandate taking away absolute control of the throttle and ban home maintenance or making changes to parts of the bike, among other things. There are even some who are calling for an outright ban on motorbikes.

I believe this to be absurd, and not just because I ride a motorbike myself. When riding, people again make a choice between risk and convenience or enjoyment. These rules would remove that choice from people. A great many people ride motorbikes for enjoyment, but most also ride motorbikes because bikes and scooters are the cheapest and simplest way for many people to get around. These changes would destroy that advantage and make motorbikes costly and complex.

I think the arguments against raising speed limits for safety reasons are null and void. If the rise is unsafe, and if motorbikes are unsafe, then so are cars. Where does it end? The only logical conclusion is to ban road travel. And then ban kitchen knives and hot cooker hobs. And ban lawnmowers. And… well, you can see where I am going. We always take some risks just to get on with our lives, and we make choices about the amount of risk and the trade-off made.

Finally, I should point out that many people are against a speed limit increase for environmental reasons. That’s fine, but you should note that it is a separate issue from speed, and that it also rules out speed increases that are more environmentally friendly. If an electric car were charged by wind-power, why shouldn’t it travel at 80mph?

And so I’m in favour of increasing the speed limit. Actually, I’m in favour of abolishing speed limits on motorways altogether. It works for Germany.

All of the above is my own opinion and is changeable subject to rational arguments or actual research and statistics.

Links

Reported_Road_Casualties_Great_Britain [Wikipedia]

Aviation_accidents_and_incidents [Wikipedia]

EU Hands Off Biking! [MAG]

Ban motorcycles, safety expert says [Telegraph]

The end of home servicing? [MCN]

Reply from PCC about Rod Liddle on fibromyalgia and ME

A few weeks ago I made a complaint to the Press Complaint Commission about a blog post written on The Spectator website by Rod Liddle. (Blog posts are covered if on a website of a print publication.) He asserted that fibromyalgia

“is another one of those imaginary afflictions claimed by malingering mentals.”

He went on to say

Things Which Definitely Are Not Illnesses or Diseases: 

Fibromyalgia
Addiction to alcohol
Addiction to drugs
Obesity
Being a bit odd
M.E.
Hepatitis contracted when behaving in an inappropriate manner
Stress
Wearing spectacles
Addiction to sex

This is the complaint that I sent in to the Press Complaints Commission. (And I must thank them for providing me with a copy as I had lost mine.)

Explanation : The article breaches the code of practice as it is inaccurate and misleading.

The article lists Fibromyalgia and M.E. under the heading “Things Which Definitely Are Not Illnesses or Diseases”

It is factually incorrect to state that these are not illnesses. Fibromyalgia is listed in the World Health Organisation’s Internationa l Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems under M79 Other soft tissue disorders, not elsewhere classified, as M79.7, Fibromyalgia. Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.) is listed under G93 Other disorders of the nervous system as G93.3 Postviral fatigue syndrome – Benign myalgic encephalomyelitis.

The article states “[Fibromyalgia] is another one of those imaginary afflictions claimed by malingering mentals.”

The author has no grounds to claim that fibromyalgia is imaginary, as it recognised as a real physical illness by the WHO. He also has no grounds to use the phrase “malingering mentals.” Fibromyalgia is not a mental illness, and even if it were, a mental illness is a real illness and is not “malingering.” This phrase is incorrect and is disablist hate speech. The errors in this article contribute directly to hate crime, abuse, and verbal abuse against sick and disabled people, of which there has been a significant increase in rece nt months. (As reported by Scope at http://www.scope.org.uk/news/matthew-parris-and-times)

Clauses : The article breaches clause 1 part 1 of the code of practice.
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

And here is their response.

Commission’s decision in the case of

Various v The Spectator 

The complainants considered that an article that stated that Fibromyalgia (FM) was not a real illness and that sufferers were “malingering mentals” was inaccurate and discriminatory.

The Commission acknowledged that the article was controversial and that many readers would not agree with its content, however, it made clear that columnists are entitled to express their personal views and comments, provided they are clearly distinguished from fact. It noted that the column was written in the first person and as such, the views expressed were clearly attributable to the columnist.

The Commission considered first the complaint under Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code. The Commission acknowledged that the complainants considered that the article’s reference to the columnist being a doctor and the statement that Fibromyalgia (FM) and other recognised diseases were not “real” was inaccurate. The Commission considered that readers in general would understand that the reference to the columnist being a doctor was intended to be a facetious reference rather than a statement of fact that he was a qualified medical practitioner. As such they would not be misled. Furthermore, the Commission considered that the categorization of the illnesses clearly represented the columnist’s opinion on the conditions – indeed he clearly qualified his views on Fibromyalgia by asserting he “may be wrong”. The Commission considered that readers would understand that it reflected the personal, albeit caustic views of the columnist and would not be misled by the article; as such it did not establish a breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code.

The Commission then turned to the alleged breach of Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Code. It appreciated the reasons why the complainants considered the article was distasteful and prejudicial and acknowledged that many readers would take offence at the article; however this did not render a breach of Clause 12. The Commission made clear that under Clause 12 (i), newspapers must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s physical or mental illness or disability; the clause does not cover references to groups or categories of people. In this instance, the article did not make reference to the physical or mental illness or disability of a particular individual but rather referred to Fibromyalgia sufferers in general. While the Commission understood the concerns raised by the complainants, it did not establish that Clause 12 (i) of the Code had been breached.

Finally, the Commission considered the complainants’ concerns that the magazine published offensive material. It acknowledged that the complainants found the article highly offensive; however, it made clear that the terms of the Editors’ Code of Practice do not address issues of taste and offence. The Code is designed to address the potentially competing rights of freedom of expression and other rights of individuals, such as privacy. Newspapers and magazines have editorial freedom to publish what they consider to be appropriate provided that the rights of individuals – enshrined in the terms of the Code which specifically defines and protects these rights – are not compromised.  To come to an inevitably subjective judgement as to whether such material is tasteless or offensive would amount to the Commission acting as a moral arbiter, which can lead to censorship. It could not, therefore, comment on this aspect of the complaint further.

 

Channel 4 News report – The revolving door of ESA appeals

This report was shown this evening on Channel 4 news and shows the problems with the Work Capability Assessment and the appeals process for Employment Support Allowance. Skip to 8:50 for the interview with Chris Grayling.

This is the official Channel 4 video and is the same as the one above but it does not have the interview with Chris Grayling.

Bad stuff

When I woke up after eleven hours sleep and in hardly any pain, I thought this was going to be a good day. How wrong can I be? This is the news today:

GPs should ‘not sign off long-term sick’ [BBC]

A report not only says that an independant board should be responsible for signing people off work, but also that people who are signed off should go on Job Seekers Allowance and look for work. I’ve written a response in Sick? No you’re not!

Ken Clarke hopeful of deal on European human rights laws [BBC]

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke says he is close to reaching a deal which would allow British judges to overrule European human rights legislation.

Human rights legislation appears to be the only thing holding the Tories back. This is bad.

Things aren’t going well in Egypt either. The military are still in control despite promises of elections, and they don’t like protests so much now.

http://twitter.com/#!/adamakary/status/137828845666574336

Then there is this video of police using pepper spray on seated, compliant protesters at UC Davis in California.

Police pepper-spray seated protesters

And I have a flu jab in two hours time.

 

Sick? No you’re not!

This news item is worrying. Scary, in fact.  GPs should ‘not sign off long-term sick’ [BBC] I’ve quoted most of it here, with my responses.

People should be signed off for long-term sickness by an independent assessment service and not GPs, a government-backed review says.

Strange. The government trusts GPs to run the NHS but not to decide who is too sick to work. Yet they trust Atos and Group 4 who have a proven record of ignoring evidence and making wrong decisions. I wonder which company the government will outsource this “independent” assessment service to?

The review also suggests tax breaks for firms which employ people who suffer from long-term conditions.

This, I actually like.

It is estimated the changes would send 20% of those off sick back to work.

This is blatantly a move in favour of employers and against employees. Tories always side with people with money. Perhaps the government should instead ask why so many people are sick.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “The government is committed to supporting more people with health conditions to work.”

Supporting? They mean forcing. Whether it’s what people need for their health or not.

Around 300,000 people a year are absent from work due to long-term sickness.

Perhaps there is some problem other than people pretending to be sick. Perhaps being forced to do too much work for too little pay is the problem. Perhaps employers should pay more and stop sacking people and then forcing other employees to do the work of more than one person.

The review also calls for a new government backed job-brokering service, to find work for people cannot stay in their current job because of their condition.

Great idea. But don’t force it on people that shouldn’t be working at all.

A survey suggested 77% of GPs had admitted they signed people off sick for reasons other than their physical health, the report authors told the BBC.

What, like MENTAL HEALTH? This is an absurd, biased statement that ignores a huge part of health care.

The government asked Professor Carol Black and the former head of the British Chambers of Commerce David Frost to consider radical changes to deal with the human and financial cost of sickness absence in the workplace.

Ah. “Deal with”. Because it must not really be sickness.

If the recommendations are accepted people who are signed off sick would also be put on to Job Seekers’ Allowance, instead of Employment Support Allowance, for a period of three months.

They would receive less money and have to prove they were looking for work.aul

This is outrageous. In fact, it’s evil. When someone has been signed off sick the last thing they need is to be forced to look for work. Being made to visit the job centre every fortnight can be very difficult and highly damaging to what little health remains. Looking for a more suitable job means being forced to leave the job you are in and abandon hope of going back which can be crushing. Even if there are jobs which a sick person could manage to fit around their problems, most employers would hire a healthy person, which means endless applications and rejections which cause stress, which in turn aggravates both mental and physical health problems. Sometimes a GP will sign a person off work because they need rest, both physical and mental, in order to recover from their illness.

The government’s new policy to deal with the costs of sickness in the workplace appears to be to pretend that people aren’t sick at all.

 

—Update—

As is pointed out by Paul Cotterill at Liberal Conspiracy, Atos founded the Commercial Occupational Health Providers Association (COHPA) which has seats on Dame Carol Black’s select committee for occupational health and the Council for Work and Health. COHPA boasts

COHPA has been active politically in trying to represent the interests of commercial OH providers to Dame Carol Black, Government and key bodies in the industry.

It seems likely that Atos will be well-placed to bid to carry out these assessments.

Of CPUs and GPUs and FPUs and APUs

After looking at AMD’s new APUs combining CPU and GPU recently I asked the question “What is the point of integrating the GPU with the CPU when having the GPU in the motherboard chipset does just as well?” I had a couple of suggestions, including that it moved the GPU (a big heat source) under the main heatsink which might allow for better cooling. Now I have had a think about it some more and have realised a couple of other things.

Now that the memory controller is built in to most CPUs, moving the GPU in there too might allow faster and lower-latency memory access. Although probably still slower than having a dedicated GPU with GDDR5 RAM, the latency to access raw data from main memory will be improved.

More importantly, however, is the growing trend of offloading number-crunching tasks to the GPU using NVIDA’s CUDA or AMD’s OpenCL. Currently this is limited to software that has specifically been coded to make us of this function. Some high-end video editing effects plugins, video compression, Photoshop plugins, and some large scientific models are about all that make use of this. It looks like more and more things will be converted to make use of the extra power over time.

Since using the GPU marks a shift from using the CPU, the CPU could be simplified as these tasks move out. Current CPUs include plenty of Single Instruction Multiple Data (SIMD) instructions that could be replaced by GPU functions. The GPU can take care of both integer and floating point operations, so potentially the FPU could also be done away with. Actually, in AMD’s new FX Bulldozer architecture CPUs there is only one FPU between each pair of CPUs and so I wonder if this is because FPUs are less needed than main cores, or because of an intention to move floating point functions away from the CPU.

When you look at everything that can be moved from the CPU to the GPU, integrating the GPU in the heart of the computer suddenly seems like a much more sensible idea. I can envisage a time when CPU and GPU cores come in pairs (or 2 cores per GPU, or whatever the best ratio is) and the CPUs are much simpler devices without SSE SIMD instructions or FPUs. I know that it is AMD’s intention to make an APU combining Bulldozer with a GPU; perhaps we will see a Bulldozer-like design where the FPU in each CPU-pair module is replaced by a GPU.

Is this feasible?

 

Daily Mail backpedal on DLA attack?

On Friday the Daily Mail published a story with a front page headline “DISABLED BENEFIT? JUST FILL IN A FORM”. On Saturday, a story by the same author appeared inside the paper, this time presenting some of the objections to the first story.

I’m afraid that I remain rather cynical on this. The piece looks to me like a rather hurried climb-down by the same author that wrote the previous story. The tone of the two pieces is completely different; the first one contains many (incorrect) assertions, while the second one simply quotes various objections from charities but asserts nothing. Indeed, the words “claims” and “said” are all over the place in the article including the headline. The article does make an effort to present the correct data about numbers with evidence and amounts claimed but this is still limited to a tiny paragraph more than halfway through. Then look at the prominence given to the two articles – one was a front-page headline and the other was hidden inside the paper.

Ultimately the intention of the writer is betrayed by the choice of final paragraph – a quote from Ian Duncan Smith which again emphasises the lack of checks of permanently disabled recipients of DLA. This emphasis is purely idealogical and in my opinion an absurd stance – checking permanently disabled people so frequently costs a fortune and achieves nothing! My dad isn’t going to re-grow the discs in his spine. Blind people aren’t going to suddenly see. Paralysed people won’t suddenly walk again. Admittedly some people’s health will improve, but for people on DLA that is a rare occurence and could be better served simply by writing to the patients or their GP once a year and asking if their condition has changed.

 

Poppies, police and protest

The messages shown here were all sent out to the public through twitter today by the Metropolitan Police. All I will add to them is this:

Protest is a right stemming from freedom of speech, assembly and association. The Met are suppressing it. People do not have a right not to see anything upsetting. And most of all, human rights exist in part not to protect the popular opinions, but to protect those that are hated by society and are at risk from them.

https://twitter.com/#!/CO11MetPolice/status/134927822333542400
https://twitter.com/#!/CO11MetPolice/status/134928477819371521
https://twitter.com/#!/CO11MetPolice/status/134933010033291264
https://twitter.com/#!/CO11MetPolice/status/134939558814035968
https://twitter.com/#!/CO11MetPolice/status/134940638813753344
https://twitter.com/#!/CO11MetPolice/status/134975106672902146
https://twitter.com/#!/CO11MetPolice/status/134975543916494849
https://twitter.com/#!/CO11MetPolice/status/135020192702009344
https://twitter.com/#!/CO11MetPolice/status/135021436120207361