Monday, 25 June 2012

The Death of Democracy

It's not often that we get serious here, preferring to rant about the antics of TV has-beens or wannabees, however, we note that the founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, has started a petition to prevent the extradition of Richard O'Dwyer, a 24 year old British student who created a website, TVShack.net, which provided links to sites where people could download films.

According to the 'Stop the extradition of Richard O'Dwyer to the USA' petition:

O'Dwyer is not a US citizen, he's lived in the UK all his life, his site was not hosted there, and most of his users were not from the US. America is trying to prosecute a UK citizen for an alleged crime which took place on UK soil.

Now then, here's the problem. O'Dwyer did not infringe copyright, he merely provided links to copyrighted content. If there was a stall on your local market selling fake Rolex watches and counterfeit DVDs then you'd be prosecuted for knowing where it was. In George Orwell's '1984', that's called a Thought Crime.

Democracy is based on, amongst other things, the fundamental principles of freedom of information and freedom of speech. We have the right to know what our government is up to, and we have the right to disagree with it. The Yanks bang on about democracy, but what they want is conditional democracy; freedom on the condition that we only do and say things that they like and which earn their corporations lots of money.

If the US media industry wants to protect its profits, it needs to attack the people who are making illegal copies of films and music in the first place. Except it can't, because they're everywhere. I might be one of these cyber-criminals. You might. You might have downloaded some music, or copied a CD to listen to in the car, or copied a DVD for a friend. Or you might be the ringleader of an International counterfeit DVD operation. But no-one knows. So the Yanks take the easy route; attack the people they can find, no matter how loosely connected to the problem they may be, and bully them. They figure that if they cut off the communication channels, the supply will stop. Just like their policy on drugs. And guns. And alcohol. Let's face it, the American's aren't really in the best place to lecture the world on moral principles, are they?

So the threat to democracy is this: When you punish criminals by shooting the messenger, you don't stop crime, you just create a police state. Do you want to live in a world where you can be arrested just for knowing where you can buy a stolen car stereo? Where you can go to jail just for telling someone where they can get cheap DVDs?

On BBC Radio 4 this morning, they were talking about England's predictable exit from the football competition, lamenting the expertise of other countries' national teams in kicking the ball around. Last week, an expert on the subject said that it's inevitable that England won't make it very far in the competition because we're not actually very good at football, even though we like to think we are. We don't only hope to win, we expect it, and when we fail, we go and kick the rival fans' heads in as mark of our indignation. But why is this? Well, go to any village in Spain, Mexico, Italy and so on, and what are the kids doing in the streets? Playing football, doing tricks with the ball, becoming as adept at handling the ball as a baby penguin becomes at flying through water. Visit any English town or village and what do you see the kids doing? Rapping, skateboarding and hanging' with their homies and honeez.

Sadly, we are closer to America, culturally, than we are to Europe. It's no wonder, America is our adolescent child, growing up at last and trying to break free from our traditions. And like a middle aged parent trying to 'get with the kids' by pretending to like rap music and crap food, we actually give a damn what the American courts want us to do.

Sign the petition and play your part in protecting true democracy.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Well Done Ricky

Ricky Martin, the famous Latino singing wrestler, has won The Apprentice.

We would have placed a bet on him to win, but you can't bet on The Apprentice because it was won 6 months ago. But why did Ricky win? Let's probe the finalists:

Tom: A risk taker. Whether it's enormous (and very badly painted) pictures or investments, he likes to gamble with other peoples' money. When Lord Sugar said that he had never risked other peoples' money, what he was really saying was that he didn't want Tom gambling HIS money. Nick tried to sway him by saying that it would be a tremendously exciting business. "Electrifying" was the word. Buying and selling wine to greedy rich people? Electrifying?

Jade: No costs in her business plan! Clearly no head for business. A good saleswoman? Maybe, if you can survive her annoying. grating voice. But good sales people aka 'canon fodder' are ten a Euro. She was the hanger-on in the final, the contestant who got there, not through merit, but by keeping a low profile and being insufficiently bad to have been selected out thus far.

Nick: An incredibly complex business model, technically, which can be replicated easily by anyone else and which tries to squeeze margin out of the supermarket business. As if! Supermarkets give away margin?Supermarkets use their pet celebrity chefs to come up with recipes to drive sales. You can already order complete cook-it-yourself dinner parties, and you can already get your meals for a week delivered to make sure you stick to your diet. An interesting idea, but not unique and not a money maker in itself. And how did his platform cope with what I've already got in my cupboard? Oh, I get everything out of my fridge and type it in to his website. I give up, we'll have a takeaway instead.

Ricky: Strangely, Lord Sugar said last year that he doesn't like service businesses and he's never had one. But this year, all four plans were for service businesses. So Lord Sugar didn't choose which was the best plan, he chose who he could most easily mould into his own image, who was most open to learn, probably the least arrogant and was the safest bet. We're not convinced that Ricky will be running a recruitment business, it's more likely that LS will have him doing something else. There are already niche recruiters. Every failed salesman who isn't a sales trainer is a recruitment consultant. They are ten a Drachma. Maybe he thinks that sticking his name on a recruitment company will make it a winner. Well, has it worked for James Caan? Not really. Do you travel by Virgin trains just because they're connected to Richard Branson? Of course not. Do you buy curry sauce just because it's got Loyd Grossman's face on it? No. Although to be honest, that's more to do with the salmonella or e.coli or whatever it was, and the fact that his korma sauce looks like baby vomit.

Last year's winner, Tom, isn't running the business he pitched; ergonomic office chairs and a service to improve workplace productivity. Instead, Al did exactly what we predicted, he bought his way into Tom's existing product, the curved nail file. He stole all of Tom's years of hard work in getting the product to market and stuck his wrinkly face all over it. As he said to the girl who made the hand cream in her kitchen, he's not exactly a walking advert for the beauty market.

One odd thing, though. In the after-show-show, You're Hired, they showed a compilation of clips of Ricky's wayward eyebrows. But not once did they pick up on his other odd habit of twitching like a pigeon. Either he's not comfortable in a shirt or Lord Sugar is training him to peck at competitors.

Bad Language

The English language is falling into disrepair.

In restaurants, it seems to have become the norm for us to be referred to as "guys". We are not guys. We are sir and madam. One of us may be, at a stretch, a guy. The other is quite clearly not.

It very much annoys me when someone calls me "yourself". "Can I get anything else for yourself?" Yourself? Don't you mean you? Can I get anything else for you?

And most annoyingly, these two are often combined... "Can I get anything else for yourselves guys?"

I've also seen professionals, including solicitors who you'd think would speak English, say that they'll "revert" to me. How can someone revert to me? Am I their natural form? Are they only temporarily someone else, and at midnight they'll revert to me? They mean reply.

Anyway, here's another one, in a contract from a very, very large contract management company.

The contract says:

The Supplier shall submit its invoices in accordance with the payment plan set out in each Order, in the absence of which it shall submit an invoice on the completion of the Services.

We sought clarification on this, so their contract manager said:

"I am not sure I understand what you are asking, please can you digress a bit more."

I certainly could. Lord knows, I can digress for England. But I don't see how that's going to help her to understand the contract.

I'm afraid that I can't even imagine what she actually means to say.