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Tony Benn 1925 – 2014: a politician who actually believed in people
The former Labour Cabinet Minister, author and long-serving MP Tony Benn has passed away today, aged 88.
Mary Wakefield interviewed Benn about the financial crisis and the basic decency at the heart of all human beings in 2009, for The Spectator. It’s well worth a read.
The BBC has a look back at his life in pictures.
What a sad day.

Tony Benn 1925 – 2014: a politician who actually believed in people

The former Labour Cabinet Minister, author and long-serving MP Tony Benn has passed away today, aged 88.

Mary Wakefield interviewed Benn about the financial crisis and the basic decency at the heart of all human beings in 2009, for The Spectator. It’s well worth a read.

The BBC has a look back at his life in pictures.

What a sad day.

1 Notes

The national anthem… ? Still important, if not that relevant
My favourite part of any international football match is the singing of the national anthem at the start.
Players fall into three distinct groups:
Firstly, there are the ones who know the words and sing heartily. There are usually only one or two doing this. David Beckham seems to know the words quite well - I expect Victoria told him to learn them in case it might lead to a knighthood.
Secondly, there are the players who are too cool for school; they keep their mouths firmly shut, trying to look mean, or focused, or both. Wayne Rooney and Ashley Cole leap to mind. They’re most likely scanning the crowd for women to molest.
Thirdly, there’s my favourite group – the ones who don’t know the words but assume no-one will notice if they just open and close their mouths like fish. Steven Gerrard and John Terry do this with gusto. Whether or not this ability to remember a simple sequence of words is emblematic of the players’ respective abilities on the pitch is probably something to be commented on by someone who knows what they’re talking about…
But the national anthem isn’t always used to unite and galvanise - sometimes it’s aggressively and oafishly shouted by people who clearly haven’t paid a lot of attention to the words.
It’s interesting that, in just one generation, we’ve managed to hand our national anthem into the sweaty mitts of blinkered nationalists and football hooligans.
I’m not saying that all football fans are hooligans, or UKIP/BNP/EDL members, obviously. But you know what I mean.
That’s popular culture for you - the same goes for the Cross of St. George; in other countries it’s quite sweet to see a flag hanging in somebody’s window, in France or Italy, say, but in England you know that the people inside will be terrifying nutcases, probably with shaven heads, wifebeater vests and inexpertly-inked bulldog tattoos. National pride is sometimes hard to distinguish from nationalism, but at least we have a song to help us along the way - I guess you just have to sing it in the right way.
If you don’t know the lyrics to the national anthem, you probably don’t feel the urge to sing it that often; what this means is determined by your own views of what’s acceptable behaviour.
The anthem is an interesting concept. God Save the Queen (or ‘God Save the King’, depending on who’s on the throne at the time) is, of course, the British national anthem, and is also so for numerous other countries throughout the Commonwealth; Antigua & Barbuda, the Bahamas, Grenada, Belize, Jamaica, Barbados, St. Kitts & Nevis and Tuvalu all pay tribute to our Queen whenever they participate in international sporting tournaments, as well they should. She’s a nice lady. She looks like she enjoys a sing-song.
God Save the Queen was the first song to be used as a national anthem (although, if you want to be pedantic, Japan’s and the Netherlands’ purpose-written anthems are older, but weren’t made official until after ours, so we win), and it created a huge amount of jealousy among other nations. They wanted songs to reinforce their national identities too. Germany pinched the tune wholesale, as did Russia and Switzerland, although they’ve since displayed sufficient common sense to come up with a different tune so as not to embarrass themselves at the start of World Cup matches. Not so Lichtenstein, however, who have doggedly persevered with our tune with their own lyrics, much to the redfacedness of their soccer fans. Naturally, it just means that when they play England, they get to hear ‘God Save the Queen’ boisterously belted out twice.
There is genius in the lyrics - the second verse is a particular highlight: ‘Scatter her enemies and make them fall, confound their politics, frustrate their knavish tricks…’ - but many people are unclear as to why we need a national anthem at all.
The answer is simple, and two-fold: it stops awkward silences and prevents violence.
Think about when it’s sung - at sporting events, medal ceremonies, Remembrance Day services… times when otherwise people would be reduced to wringing their hands and glancing about, trying to establish if things were due to begin or end. And in the case of football matches, it gives people an excuse to band together in harmonious (well, ish) mass-taunting at a juncture which otherwise could well see them punching the shit out of the opposition. It sprinkles oil on the waters.
…but I know what you’re thinking. Lyrically-speaking, it’s not really relevant to modern British life. To crib a line from Eddie Izzard, ‘the Queen lives in a very big house, she has barbed wire outside, and people with guns in front of that. That’s one saved fucking Queen’.
The idea of ‘sending her victorious’ is, for the youth of today, confusing at best. So, the safest thing to do is just make up your own lyrics and sing them with gusto at the appropriate times. Don’t worry, everyone around you will be concentrating so hard on their own caterwauling that as long as you’re yelling something, no-one will notice. I won’t attempt to create a new, modern set of lyrics for the national anthem here, because it will undoubtedly be awful and something I’ll read back in a couple of years’ time and regret. But, for inspiration, let’s look across the Atlantic…
You’re probably familiar with punk jesters The Bloodhound Gang. With brilliant song titles like ‘I Wish I Was Queer So I Could Get Chicks’, ‘A Lapdance Is So Much Better When The Stripper Is Crying’ and ‘Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo’, their lyrical credentials are strong.
And their first attempt to musically represent a geographical area was a success. The track ‘The Ten Coolest Things About New Jersey’ was just ten seconds of silence.
So we can take a lesson from their idea to write the official state song for their home state, Pennsylvania. The song was called ‘Pennsylvania’.
OK, the plan didn’t work, but it’s nice to think that at least some of the residents of the 2nd state have adopted it as their own - a celebration of things that are a bit disappointing. You might have to Google some of the references, but here’s how it goes:

We are Cop Rock, we are Screech, we are Z. Cavaricci
We are laser-removed Tasmanian devil tattoos

We are Third String, we are Puck, we are Special People’s Club
We are the half-shirts with irreverent spring break top-ten lists

We are Munson, we are squat, we are flashing twelve o’clock
We are spread out butt-cheeks, pulled apart so just the air leaks

We are Ishtar, we are Tab, we are no right turn on red
We are the moustaches The Beatles grew when they dropped acid

You are the heart dotting ‘i’ in the word ’apologise’
Scribbled drunk on a postcard, sent from somewhere volcanoes are
I am the heart with no name, airbrushed on the license plate
Of a Subaru that was registered in Pennsylvania

We are Zima, we are Barf, we are cinderblock yard art
We are Baldwin brothers, not the good one but the others

We are Amway, we are Shemp, we are Sir David of Brent
We are the queef after a porn star breaks the gangbang record

You are the heart dotting ’i’ in the word ’apologise’
Scribbled drunk on a postcard, sent from somewhere volcanoes are
I am the heart with no name, airbrushed on the license plate
Of a Subaru that was registered in Pennsylvania

Do you even know what a Wawa is?
Do you even know what a Wawa is?
I’m in a state of P fuckin’ A

Something in that vein – but, y’know, more Britishy - would undoubtedly make Her Maj smile and help to contemporise the anthem for today’s youth.
The place to develop our new lyrics? Why, the terraces, of course. If there’s one thing football fans do better than anyone, it’s create inspired derision in song form. Perhaps that’s something our tattooed lager enthusiasts can get together before the World Cup kicks of… ?
JuicyPips, direct from the mind of @denialvibes, is published weekly.

The national anthem… ? Still important, if not that relevant

My favourite part of any international football match is the singing of the national anthem at the start.

Players fall into three distinct groups:

Firstly, there are the ones who know the words and sing heartily. There are usually only one or two doing this. David Beckham seems to know the words quite well - I expect Victoria told him to learn them in case it might lead to a knighthood.

Secondly, there are the players who are too cool for school; they keep their mouths firmly shut, trying to look mean, or focused, or both. Wayne Rooney and Ashley Cole leap to mind. They’re most likely scanning the crowd for women to molest.

Thirdly, there’s my favourite group – the ones who don’t know the words but assume no-one will notice if they just open and close their mouths like fish. Steven Gerrard and John Terry do this with gusto. Whether or not this ability to remember a simple sequence of words is emblematic of the players’ respective abilities on the pitch is probably something to be commented on by someone who knows what they’re talking about…

But the national anthem isn’t always used to unite and galvanise - sometimes it’s aggressively and oafishly shouted by people who clearly haven’t paid a lot of attention to the words.

It’s interesting that, in just one generation, we’ve managed to hand our national anthem into the sweaty mitts of blinkered nationalists and football hooligans.

I’m not saying that all football fans are hooligans, or UKIP/BNP/EDL members, obviously. But you know what I mean.

That’s popular culture for you - the same goes for the Cross of St. George; in other countries it’s quite sweet to see a flag hanging in somebody’s window, in France or Italy, say, but in England you know that the people inside will be terrifying nutcases, probably with shaven heads, wifebeater vests and inexpertly-inked bulldog tattoos. National pride is sometimes hard to distinguish from nationalism, but at least we have a song to help us along the way - I guess you just have to sing it in the right way.

If you don’t know the lyrics to the national anthem, you probably don’t feel the urge to sing it that often; what this means is determined by your own views of what’s acceptable behaviour.

The anthem is an interesting concept. God Save the Queen (or ‘God Save the King’, depending on who’s on the throne at the time) is, of course, the British national anthem, and is also so for numerous other countries throughout the Commonwealth; Antigua & Barbuda, the Bahamas, Grenada, Belize, Jamaica, Barbados, St. Kitts & Nevis and Tuvalu all pay tribute to our Queen whenever they participate in international sporting tournaments, as well they should. She’s a nice lady. She looks like she enjoys a sing-song.

God Save the Queen was the first song to be used as a national anthem (although, if you want to be pedantic, Japan’s and the Netherlands’ purpose-written anthems are older, but weren’t made official until after ours, so we win), and it created a huge amount of jealousy among other nations. They wanted songs to reinforce their national identities too. Germany pinched the tune wholesale, as did Russia and Switzerland, although they’ve since displayed sufficient common sense to come up with a different tune so as not to embarrass themselves at the start of World Cup matches. Not so Lichtenstein, however, who have doggedly persevered with our tune with their own lyrics, much to the redfacedness of their soccer fans. Naturally, it just means that when they play England, they get to hear ‘God Save the Queen’ boisterously belted out twice.

There is genius in the lyrics - the second verse is a particular highlight: ‘Scatter her enemies and make them fall, confound their politics, frustrate their knavish tricks…’ - but many people are unclear as to why we need a national anthem at all.

The answer is simple, and two-fold: it stops awkward silences and prevents violence.

Think about when it’s sung - at sporting events, medal ceremonies, Remembrance Day services… times when otherwise people would be reduced to wringing their hands and glancing about, trying to establish if things were due to begin or end. And in the case of football matches, it gives people an excuse to band together in harmonious (well, ish) mass-taunting at a juncture which otherwise could well see them punching the shit out of the opposition. It sprinkles oil on the waters.

…but I know what you’re thinking. Lyrically-speaking, it’s not really relevant to modern British life. To crib a line from Eddie Izzard, ‘the Queen lives in a very big house, she has barbed wire outside, and people with guns in front of that. That’s one saved fucking Queen’.

The idea of ‘sending her victorious’ is, for the youth of today, confusing at best. So, the safest thing to do is just make up your own lyrics and sing them with gusto at the appropriate times. Don’t worry, everyone around you will be concentrating so hard on their own caterwauling that as long as you’re yelling something, no-one will notice. I won’t attempt to create a new, modern set of lyrics for the national anthem here, because it will undoubtedly be awful and something I’ll read back in a couple of years’ time and regret. But, for inspiration, let’s look across the Atlantic…

You’re probably familiar with punk jesters The Bloodhound Gang. With brilliant song titles like ‘I Wish I Was Queer So I Could Get Chicks’, ‘A Lapdance Is So Much Better When The Stripper Is Crying’ and ‘Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo’, their lyrical credentials are strong.

And their first attempt to musically represent a geographical area was a success. The track ‘The Ten Coolest Things About New Jersey’ was just ten seconds of silence.

So we can take a lesson from their idea to write the official state song for their home state, Pennsylvania. The song was called ‘Pennsylvania’.

OK, the plan didn’t work, but it’s nice to think that at least some of the residents of the 2nd state have adopted it as their own - a celebration of things that are a bit disappointing. You might have to Google some of the references, but here’s how it goes:

We are Cop Rock, we are Screech, we are Z. Cavaricci

We are laser-removed Tasmanian devil tattoos

We are Third String, we are Puck, we are Special People’s Club

We are the half-shirts with irreverent spring break top-ten lists

We are Munson, we are squat, we are flashing twelve o’clock

We are spread out butt-cheeks, pulled apart so just the air leaks

We are Ishtar, we are Tab, we are no right turn on red

We are the moustaches The Beatles grew when they dropped acid

You are the heart dotting ‘i’ in the word apologise’

Scribbled drunk on a postcard, sent from somewhere volcanoes are

I am the heart with no name, airbrushed on the license plate

Of a Subaru that was registered in Pennsylvania

We are Zima, we are Barf, we are cinderblock yard art

We are Baldwin brothers, not the good one but the others

We are Amway, we are Shemp, we are Sir David of Brent

We are the queef after a porn star breaks the gangbang record

You are the heart dotting i in the word apologise

Scribbled drunk on a postcard, sent from somewhere volcanoes are

I am the heart with no name, airbrushed on the license plate

Of a Subaru that was registered in Pennsylvania

Do you even know what a Wawa is?

Do you even know what a Wawa is?

I’m in a state of P fuckin A

Something in that vein – but, yknow, more Britishy - would undoubtedly make Her Maj smile and help to contemporise the anthem for today’s youth.

The place to develop our new lyrics? Why, the terraces, of course. If there’s one thing football fans do better than anyone, its create inspired derision in song form. Perhaps that’s something our tattooed lager enthusiasts can get together before the World Cup kicks of… ?

JuicyPips, direct from the mind of @denialvibes, is published weekly.

1 Notes

UK government plans switch to open source from Microsoft office suite
Ministers are looking at saving tens of millions of pounds a year by abandoning expensive software produced by firms such as Microsoft. 
Some £200m - ! - has been spent by the public sector on the computer giant’s Office suite alone since 2010.
But Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude believes a significant proportion of that outlay could be cut by switching to Open Source software.
Document formats are set to be standardised across Whitehall to help break the “oligopoly” of IT suppliers, and improve communications between civil servants.
About freaking time. Full story on the Guardian.
Via @chrismair.

UK government plans switch to open source from Microsoft office suite

Ministers are looking at saving tens of millions of pounds a year by abandoning expensive software produced by firms such as Microsoft. 

Some £200m - ! - has been spent by the public sector on the computer giant’s Office suite alone since 2010.

But Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude believes a significant proportion of that outlay could be cut by switching to Open Source software.

Document formats are set to be standardised across Whitehall to help break the “oligopoly” of IT suppliers, and improve communications between civil servants.

About freaking time. Full story on the Guardian.

Via @chrismair.

Notes

Detroit bankruptcy puts $2.5 billion city art collection under threat as legal battle gathers pace

One of America’s most acclaimed collections of publicly-owned artworks is under threat following the largest municipal bankruptcy in history.

The fate of both Detroit’s pension plan and its art collection has been up in the air since the city filed for bankruptcy in July, and was deemed eligible for the Chapter 9 filing in December.

With over $18 billion in debt to pay off, the city has considered the possibility that its most valuable assets could be put on the auction block, sacrificing cultural heritage to pay its bills.

Now, a group of private donors have offered up a plan that would help save both the workers and the art - but the city might not go for it.

Full article on The Atlantic.

@paulrgn is a regular contributor to Found Things.

2 Notes

On Benefits Street and poverty porn
There’s been a lot of chatter around Channel 4's Benefits Street recently. The phrase that critics have been hurling around is ‘poverty porn’ - lasciviously peeping at the lurid details of other people’s unfortunate situations for our own filthy entertainment. It’s the kind of incendiary tabloid-infused reality docu-drama that deliberately aims to rub Twitter grumblers up the wrong way by its inclusion of the word ‘benefits’ in the title. That’s a Daily Mail ear-pricker right there.
On the face of it, as many have pointed out, it’s a fairly horrible premise. A whole street of people who are out of work and scratching a living, placed into a fishbowl for the titillation of middle-class gawpers.
The way the producers set the scene as being some kind of latter-day hippie commune initially smacks of the inauthentic, with the de facto mother figure sorting out everyone’s benefits issues while all around leave their front doors unlocked and live in jovial harmony.
There’s a reel of rogues on the street - the alcoholic who can’t see his kids, the shoplifter who keeps getting arrested, the guy growing weed in his spare room - who give viewers plenty to be angry about, while their repeated references to receiving benefits as ‘getting paid’ demonstrates a certain lack of respect for the system; it’s not a helping hand for people who are actively trying to get back into work, it’s a supplementary income to pay for fags and lager for a group of people who consider themselves above the law.
This, of course, is unfair and sensationalist.
The very fact that the desperate situation of these people has been broadcast along with their exact location opens a path to a sort of macabre poverty tourism, while all manner of hideous threats are being levelled at the ‘stars’ of the show. Imagine what targets they’ve suddenly become. Ask yourself why they’re on TV in the first place - it’s notoriously difficult to get people on the poverty line to discuss their benefit situation, so why do we have a whole street of people willing to open up their lives for the judgement of the public, in the certain knowledge that they’ll be mocked and derided?
Is it because they have nothing else to fill their time and will grab at the opportunity for reality TV fame at any cost, or is it that they feel an open forum on their situation might improve their lot?
The latter seems far more likely, and press reports that certain ‘characters’ have since received multiple job offers bolsters this. (Further reports that they were all duped into a protracted ridicule showcase on the production company’s word that the show would be a sensitive portrayal of community spirit in harsh economic times is another matter.)
Benefits Street is not representative of everybody on benefits in Britain - it is merely representative of that particular street. And even then, it’s the edited, mangled version that’s fed to us, complete with theme music and hashtags.
The 50p man was the star of the first episode - a reformed criminal who makes his living by dividing a variety of household goods (washing liquid, toilet roll, tea bags, you name it) into small quantities and selling them door-to-door for fifty pence a piece.
His soothing voice and demeanour of genuinely trying to help others as well as himself was endearing, as was his awareness that even 50p might be a stretch for a community as impoverished as James Turner Street, where families struggle to even afford basic groceries, and where nobody has 50p just lying around.
This counterpoint to the street’s unashamed and unapologetic shoplifter offers essential diversity, breaking the cycle of showing a collection of people to be sneered at. It’s these green shoots of humanity that should be focused on, not the relentless naughtiness of other figures. The street is diverse, because the world is. No amount of cynical editing can paper over that.
The second episode had a rather different focus, swinging between one group of migrants and another - the Romanians who moved in, the travellers who set up their caravans at the end of the street, then back to another group of Romanians who replaced the first lot.
These Romanians came across as ineffably charming and pleasant, refusing to let a desperate and appalling situation crush their spirit. ‘Hope is the last thing I can lose,’ smiled one (having been chased out of his home on James Turner Street by a dangerous employer and finding himself sleeping rough in a park). And all the while, the cameras focus on local residents yelling racist abuse at the newcomers, casting aspersions over their intentions, moral values and general cleanliness.
Is this xenophobia representative of the whole caricaturised sub-class of People On Benefits that the show aims variously to create, sensationalise and propagate? No, it can’t be. Again, it’s probably not even representative of that street. But it makes good telly.
Yes, some of the families have incongruously big tellies, but they’re probably not the pondlife that the #BenefitsStreet hashtag would have you believe. As a manufactured gallery of outcasts, Benefits Street will have you watching open mouthed. But as a snapshot of genuine modern-day hardship with tales of day-to-day human bonding, it’s rather heartwarming.
Watch with an open mind, I say. It’s important to remember that while #1.2bn in benefits was lost to fraud last year, #16bn went unclaimed - the showboating of some claimants is not representative of the whole.
There is no average profile of a benefits claimant any more than there is one of a 9-5 worker or a millionaire. The show uses existing prejudices against people on benefits to reinforce the stereotypes that they’re workshy, criminals, or both. But if you push past the hate-woven curtain, you’ll find humans behind it.
Don’t lose faith in people. Incendiary hashtags are not the boss of you.
JuicyPips, direct from the mind of @denialvibes, is published weekly.

On Benefits Street and poverty porn

There’s been a lot of chatter around Channel 4's Benefits Street recently. The phrase that critics have been hurling around is ‘poverty porn’ - lasciviously peeping at the lurid details of other people’s unfortunate situations for our own filthy entertainment. It’s the kind of incendiary tabloid-infused reality docu-drama that deliberately aims to rub Twitter grumblers up the wrong way by its inclusion of the word ‘benefits’ in the title. That’s a Daily Mail ear-pricker right there.

On the face of it, as many have pointed out, it’s a fairly horrible premise. A whole street of people who are out of work and scratching a living, placed into a fishbowl for the titillation of middle-class gawpers.

The way the producers set the scene as being some kind of latter-day hippie commune initially smacks of the inauthentic, with the de facto mother figure sorting out everyone’s benefits issues while all around leave their front doors unlocked and live in jovial harmony.

There’s a reel of rogues on the street - the alcoholic who can’t see his kids, the shoplifter who keeps getting arrested, the guy growing weed in his spare room - who give viewers plenty to be angry about, while their repeated references to receiving benefits as ‘getting paid’ demonstrates a certain lack of respect for the system; it’s not a helping hand for people who are actively trying to get back into work, it’s a supplementary income to pay for fags and lager for a group of people who consider themselves above the law.

This, of course, is unfair and sensationalist.

The very fact that the desperate situation of these people has been broadcast along with their exact location opens a path to a sort of macabre poverty tourism, while all manner of hideous threats are being levelled at the ‘stars’ of the show. Imagine what targets they’ve suddenly become. Ask yourself why they’re on TV in the first place - it’s notoriously difficult to get people on the poverty line to discuss their benefit situation, so why do we have a whole street of people willing to open up their lives for the judgement of the public, in the certain knowledge that they’ll be mocked and derided?

Is it because they have nothing else to fill their time and will grab at the opportunity for reality TV fame at any cost, or is it that they feel an open forum on their situation might improve their lot?

The latter seems far more likely, and press reports that certain ‘characters’ have since received multiple job offers bolsters this. (Further reports that they were all duped into a protracted ridicule showcase on the production company’s word that the show would be a sensitive portrayal of community spirit in harsh economic times is another matter.)

Benefits Street is not representative of everybody on benefits in Britain - it is merely representative of that particular street. And even then, it’s the edited, mangled version that’s fed to us, complete with theme music and hashtags.

The 50p man was the star of the first episode - a reformed criminal who makes his living by dividing a variety of household goods (washing liquid, toilet roll, tea bags, you name it) into small quantities and selling them door-to-door for fifty pence a piece.

His soothing voice and demeanour of genuinely trying to help others as well as himself was endearing, as was his awareness that even 50p might be a stretch for a community as impoverished as James Turner Street, where families struggle to even afford basic groceries, and where nobody has 50p just lying around.

This counterpoint to the street’s unashamed and unapologetic shoplifter offers essential diversity, breaking the cycle of showing a collection of people to be sneered at. It’s these green shoots of humanity that should be focused on, not the relentless naughtiness of other figures. The street is diverse, because the world is. No amount of cynical editing can paper over that.

The second episode had a rather different focus, swinging between one group of migrants and another - the Romanians who moved in, the travellers who set up their caravans at the end of the street, then back to another group of Romanians who replaced the first lot.

These Romanians came across as ineffably charming and pleasant, refusing to let a desperate and appalling situation crush their spirit. ‘Hope is the last thing I can lose,’ smiled one (having been chased out of his home on James Turner Street by a dangerous employer and finding himself sleeping rough in a park). And all the while, the cameras focus on local residents yelling racist abuse at the newcomers, casting aspersions over their intentions, moral values and general cleanliness.

Is this xenophobia representative of the whole caricaturised sub-class of People On Benefits that the show aims variously to create, sensationalise and propagate? No, it can’t be. Again, it’s probably not even representative of that street. But it makes good telly.

Yes, some of the families have incongruously big tellies, but they’re probably not the pondlife that the #BenefitsStreet hashtag would have you believe. As a manufactured gallery of outcasts, Benefits Street will have you watching open mouthed. But as a snapshot of genuine modern-day hardship with tales of day-to-day human bonding, it’s rather heartwarming.

Watch with an open mind, I say. It’s important to remember that while #1.2bn in benefits was lost to fraud last year, #16bn went unclaimed - the showboating of some claimants is not representative of the whole.

There is no average profile of a benefits claimant any more than there is one of a 9-5 worker or a millionaire. The show uses existing prejudices against people on benefits to reinforce the stereotypes that they’re workshy, criminals, or both. But if you push past the hate-woven curtain, you’ll find humans behind it.

Don’t lose faith in people. Incendiary hashtags are not the boss of you.

JuicyPips, direct from the mind of @denialvibes, is published weekly.

Notes

Sharp-eyed sleuth finds evidence that he’s being tracked by his ISP
A guy named Hayden James Lee found all kinds of shenanigans going on in his browser whenever he visited non-https sites.
Here was his conclusion -

"I realized that the only sites that weren’t affected were those using https rather than http. This makes sense, you can’t inject code into https because it is encrypted."

Yet another reason to encrypt all web traffic.
Via Mike Elgan.
@ColonyClive is a regular contributor to Found Things.

Sharp-eyed sleuth finds evidence that he’s being tracked by his ISP

A guy named Hayden James Lee found all kinds of shenanigans going on in his browser whenever he visited non-https sites.

Here was his conclusion -

"I realized that the only sites that weren’t affected were those using https rather than http. This makes sense, you can’t inject code into https because it is encrypted."

Yet another reason to encrypt all web traffic.

Via Mike Elgan.

@ColonyClive is a regular contributor to Found Things.

1 Notes

Counterpoint: 9 reasons why 2013 was not the best year in human history
If you’ve been paying attention to the state of the world’s climate, you may have been shocked to read that 2013 was the best year in human history.
Here’s the counter argument -
In 2013, enough fossil fuels were burned so that carbon pollution levels hit the milestone of 400 parts per million. Scientists confirmed, again, that this is bad news for most of the residents of Planet Earth, with many plants and animals facing extinction. This carbon pollution trapped enough heat to help fuel heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods. The oceans grew in size as sea levels reached record highs this year - meaning any storm making landfall became even more deadly.
Some may say these are byproducts of progress, forging ahead with continued investment in the dirty fuels that release these long-trapped compounds into the atmosphere. But it’s not just indirect greenhouse effects - major population centres had to shut down for days at a time when choking smog reached levels that went well beyond the hazardous. The fossil fuels that once promised so much progress have turned on us.
Here are nine major reasons climate change - and the carbon pollution that drives it - helped make 2013 one of the worst years in human history.
Here’s the 9 big reasons why.

Counterpoint: 9 reasons why 2013 was not the best year in human history

If you’ve been paying attention to the state of the world’s climate, you may have been shocked to read that 2013 was the best year in human history.

Here’s the counter argument -

In 2013, enough fossil fuels were burned so that carbon pollution levels hit the milestone of 400 parts per million. Scientists confirmed, again, that this is bad news for most of the residents of Planet Earth, with many plants and animals facing extinction. This carbon pollution trapped enough heat to help fuel heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods. The oceans grew in size as sea levels reached record highs this year - meaning any storm making landfall became even more deadly.

Some may say these are byproducts of progress, forging ahead with continued investment in the dirty fuels that release these long-trapped compounds into the atmosphere. But it’s not just indirect greenhouse effects - major population centres had to shut down for days at a time when choking smog reached levels that went well beyond the hazardous. The fossil fuels that once promised so much progress have turned on us.

Here are nine major reasons climate change - and the carbon pollution that drives it - helped make 2013 one of the worst years in human history.

Here’s the 9 big reasons why.

1 Notes

5 reasons why 2013 was the best year in human history
We have every reason to believe that 2013 was, in fact, the best year on the planet for humankind.
Contrary to what you might have heard, virtually all of the most important forces that determine what make people’s lives good — the things that determine how long they live, and whether they live happily and freely — are trending in an extremely happy direction. While it’s possible that this progress could be reversed by something like runaway climate change, the effects will have to be dramatic to overcome the extraordinary and growing progress we’ve made in making the world a better place.
Here’s the five big reasons why.

5 reasons why 2013 was the best year in human history

We have every reason to believe that 2013 was, in fact, the best year on the planet for humankind.

Contrary to what you might have heard, virtually all of the most important forces that determine what make people’s lives good — the things that determine how long they live, and whether they live happily and freely — are trending in an extremely happy direction. While it’s possible that this progress could be reversed by something like runaway climate change, the effects will have to be dramatic to overcome the extraordinary and growing progress we’ve made in making the world a better place.

Here’s the five big reasons why.

1 Notes

2013: the best year in human history?
Ever noticed how it’s the negative posts in your Facebook feed that generates the most comments?
We are hooked on negative.
It sells newspapers, boosts ratings and drives political debate. We are fed doom from dawn ‘til dusk, from climate change Armageddon to global economic crisis after global economic crisis.
But are things really that bad? Is it possible that in the day-to-day malstrom of pessimism that we’ve missed the bigger story?
Our review of the year turned up a wealth of exciting, ground breaking and world-changing developments. Standing back a little and looking at the facts and figures that underpin our world, it would seem that we are living in a golden era.
By any objective measure, 2013 was the best year in human history.
Take a look at the crudest of measures: the world’s economic output. In 2013 it was $73.5 trillion, more than has ever been generated before.
The important fact here is where this comes from - never has growth been shared more evenly. While the rich world is wallowing in debt, the developing world is making incredible progress. The global inequality gap is narrowing, thanks not to the edicts of governments, but to the co-operation of millions of people through international trade.
As a result what once seemed fantastical flights of fancy are now well within reach: the end of Aids; the end of famine.
To understand the speed of this progress consider the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, drawn up in 2000. The plan then was to halve the number of people living on $1 a day by 2015. The target was reached five years early.
This amazing achievement passed with practically no comment, perhaps because it had been achieved by the market rather than foreign aid. People, when free to trade with each other, are succeeding where decades of government schemes failed.
The 2015 UN Millennium Development Goal on undernourishment was hit seven years ago. And the goal to halve the number of people without access to drinking water by 2015 was achieved last year. The UN wanted to improve the lives of 100 million slum dwellers - with water supply, sanitation and better housing - by 2020. This target has been met ten years early (in fact, 200 million were helped by 2010, twice the target).
Of course there are still huge problems - 400 million children still live in poverty. But a few more years of globalisation may end that.
At the current trajectory, the World Bank’s target to all but eliminate poverty by 2030 [PDF] looks like it will be achieved early. Most people alive now can hope to see a time when the concept of famine is consigned to history.
In fact, the United Nations now believes Africa could be only 12 years away [PDF] from this extraordinary goal.
Why such progress?
Because the world is trading, and co-operating, as never before. With wealth comes better ways to protect crops, and ability to guard against and recover from natural disasters. The number of deaths due to natural disaster is a fraction of what it was a century ago; nature is no less vicious, but we are far better prepared.
Take a look at China, now the world’s workshop. It is driving the planet’s progress against hardship: its embrace of market reform has reduced the number of people living in extreme poverty from 84 per cent three decades ago to just 10 per cent now.
China remains far poorer than the West, but the gap is closing extremely quickly and in many areas the Chinese are overtaking the West: the poorest pupils in Shanghai - a city with more inhabitants than most European countries - are now better at maths than the richest in Britain.
In sub-Saharan Africa two-thirds of children are now in school. In 1990 literacy had been extended to only 75 per cent of adults. Now, it’s 83 per cent and rising quickly.
Child labour has fallen by a third over the past decade (source: the International Labour Organisation), and the number of children in hazardous work has more than halved.
We are healthier too.
The introduction of anti-retroviral drugs in Malawi, for example, has seen its Aids death toll fall from 92,400 ten years ago to under 46,000 now. This reflects a worldwide trend.
Cambodia is on track to eliminate deaths from malaria by 2015, having halved infections over the course of this year. Malaria is one of the world’s biggest killers – and, as the World Health Organisation recently confirmed, its death rate has almost halved since the turn of the century.
As the world grows richer, it grows smarter, healthier and safer.

It is still argued that the explosion of our population has induced a food crisis, but in fact the opposite has occurred: the portion of mankind going hungry is at a record low.
And what of peak oil?  Again, the panic here has proved unfounded. We are instead in an era of abundance, thanks in the main to advances in fracking technology. America has cut energy prices by two thirds and is preparing for an era where it won’t need oil imports at all. In Britain there is enough shale gas in Lancashire alone to power the country for 50 years.
And at the same time, even with the population increasing, aviation booming and more cars than ever on our roads, the rich world’s fossil fuel consumption is actually falling.
Of course this is being written from the comfort and perspective of a London home; there are many, many problems out there and our progress remains susceptible to reversals. But 2013 saw our lot improve faster than at any point in history.
Unfortunately you are not likely to hear such positivity in the mainstream press. But you can rest assured that we’ll be reporting it here.
Here’s to 2014.

2013: the best year in human history?

Ever noticed how it’s the negative posts in your Facebook feed that generates the most comments?

We are hooked on negative.

It sells newspapers, boosts ratings and drives political debate. We are fed doom from dawn ‘til dusk, from climate change Armageddon to global economic crisis after global economic crisis.

But are things really that bad? Is it possible that in the day-to-day malstrom of pessimism that we’ve missed the bigger story?

Our review of the year turned up a wealth of exciting, ground breaking and world-changing developments. Standing back a little and looking at the facts and figures that underpin our world, it would seem that we are living in a golden era.

By any objective measure, 2013 was the best year in human history.

Take a look at the crudest of measures: the world’s economic output. In 2013 it was $73.5 trillion, more than has ever been generated before.

The important fact here is where this comes from - never has growth been shared more evenly. While the rich world is wallowing in debt, the developing world is making incredible progress. The global inequality gap is narrowing, thanks not to the edicts of governments, but to the co-operation of millions of people through international trade.

As a result what once seemed fantastical flights of fancy are now well within reach: the end of Aids; the end of famine.

To understand the speed of this progress consider the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, drawn up in 2000. The plan then was to halve the number of people living on $1 a day by 2015. The target was reached five years early.

This amazing achievement passed with practically no comment, perhaps because it had been achieved by the market rather than foreign aid. People, when free to trade with each other, are succeeding where decades of government schemes failed.

The 2015 UN Millennium Development Goal on undernourishment was hit seven years ago. And the goal to halve the number of people without access to drinking water by 2015 was achieved last year. The UN wanted to improve the lives of 100 million slum dwellers - with water supply, sanitation and better housing - by 2020. This target has been met ten years early (in fact, 200 million were helped by 2010, twice the target).

Of course there are still huge problems - 400 million children still live in poverty. But a few more years of globalisation may end that.

At the current trajectory, the World Bank’s target to all but eliminate poverty by 2030 [PDF] looks like it will be achieved early. Most people alive now can hope to see a time when the concept of famine is consigned to history.

In fact, the United Nations now believes Africa could be only 12 years away [PDF] from this extraordinary goal.

Why such progress?

Because the world is trading, and co-operating, as never before. With wealth comes better ways to protect crops, and ability to guard against and recover from natural disasters. The number of deaths due to natural disaster is a fraction of what it was a century ago; nature is no less vicious, but we are far better prepared.

Take a look at China, now the world’s workshop. It is driving the planet’s progress against hardship: its embrace of market reform has reduced the number of people living in extreme poverty from 84 per cent three decades ago to just 10 per cent now.

China remains far poorer than the West, but the gap is closing extremely quickly and in many areas the Chinese are overtaking the West: the poorest pupils in Shanghai - a city with more inhabitants than most European countries - are now better at maths than the richest in Britain.

In sub-Saharan Africa two-thirds of children are now in school. In 1990 literacy had been extended to only 75 per cent of adults. Now, it’s 83 per cent and rising quickly.

Child labour has fallen by a third over the past decade (source: the International Labour Organisation), and the number of children in hazardous work has more than halved.

We are healthier too.

The introduction of anti-retroviral drugs in Malawi, for example, has seen its Aids death toll fall from 92,400 ten years ago to under 46,000 now. This reflects a worldwide trend.

Cambodia is on track to eliminate deaths from malaria by 2015, having halved infections over the course of this year. Malaria is one of the world’s biggest killers – and, as the World Health Organisation recently confirmed, its death rate has almost halved since the turn of the century.

As the world grows richer, it grows smarter, healthier and safer.

It is still argued that the explosion of our population has induced a food crisis, but in fact the opposite has occurred: the portion of mankind going hungry is at a record low.

And what of peak oil?  Again, the panic here has proved unfounded. We are instead in an era of abundance, thanks in the main to advances in fracking technology. America has cut energy prices by two thirds and is preparing for an era where it won’t need oil imports at all. In Britain there is enough shale gas in Lancashire alone to power the country for 50 years.

And at the same time, even with the population increasing, aviation booming and more cars than ever on our roads, the rich world’s fossil fuel consumption is actually falling.

Of course this is being written from the comfort and perspective of a London home; there are many, many problems out there and our progress remains susceptible to reversals. But 2013 saw our lot improve faster than at any point in history.

Unfortunately you are not likely to hear such positivity in the mainstream press. But you can rest assured that we’ll be reporting it here.

Here’s to 2014.

3 Notes

Liu Bolin, invisible man

Liu from Shandong, China, manages to camouflage himself in any surroundings, no matter how impossible the task might seem. Standing silently in strange locations around the world, the 39-year-old artist uses himself as a blank canvas.

Liu say that his images are a way of examining the relationship between culture and its development; and that that they speak for those who are rendered invisible by the Chinese government, by consumer culture or simply by the circumstances of history.

"From the beginning, this series has a protesting, reflective and uncompromising spirit… I think that in art, an artist’s attitude is the most important element. If an artwork is to touch someone, it must be the result of not only technique, but also the artist’s thinking and struggles in life."

You can see much more on the artists site.

2 Notes

Snowden gives alternative Christmas message on Channel 4
Edward Snowden has given this years alternative Christmas message, speaking about his objections to mass indiscriminate surveillance by governments -

"Think about what this means for the privacy of the average person. A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. They’ll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves — an unrecorded, unanalyzed thought. And that’s a problem, because privacy matters. Privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be."

Watch now.

Snowden gives alternative Christmas message on Channel 4

Edward Snowden has given this years alternative Christmas message, speaking about his objections to mass indiscriminate surveillance by governments -

"Think about what this means for the privacy of the average person. A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. They’ll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves — an unrecorded, unanalyzed thought. And that’s a problem, because privacy matters. Privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be."

Watch now.

2 Notes

Enigma codebreaker Alan Turing receives royal pardon
Alan Turing, the second world war codebreaker who took his own life after undergoing chemical castration following a conviction for homosexual activity, has been granted a posthumous royal pardon 59 years after his death.
The brilliant mathematician, who played a major role in breaking the Enigma code – which arguably shortened the war by at least two years – has been granted a pardon under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy by the Queen, following a request from the justice secretary, Chris Grayling.
Turing was considered to be the father of modern computer science and was most famous for his work in helping to create the “bombe” that cracked messages enciphered with the German Enigma machines. He was convicted of gross indecency in 1952 after admitting a sexual relationship with a man.
He was given experimental chemical castration as a “treatment”. His criminal record resulted in the loss of his security clearance and meant he was no longer able to work for Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), where he had been employed following service at Bletchley Park during the war. He died of cyanide poisoning in 1954, aged 41.
Announcing the pardon, Grayling said -

"Dr Alan Turing was an exceptional man with a brilliant mind. His brilliance was put into practice at Bletchley Park during the second world war, where he was pivotal to breaking the Enigma code, helping to end the war and save thousands of lives.
"His later life was overshadowed by his conviction for homosexual activity, a sentence we would now consider unjust and discriminatory and which has now been repealed.
"Dr Turing deserves to be remembered and recognised for his fantastic contribution to the war effort and his legacy to science. A pardon from the Queen is a fitting tribute to an exceptional man."

David Cameron described Turing as a “remarkable man” -

"His actions saved countless lives. He also left a remarkable national legacy through his substantial scientific achievements, often being referred to as the father of modern computing."

You can view or download a copy of the pardon here (PDF).

Enigma codebreaker Alan Turing receives royal pardon

Alan Turing, the second world war codebreaker who took his own life after undergoing chemical castration following a conviction for homosexual activity, has been granted a posthumous royal pardon 59 years after his death.

The brilliant mathematician, who played a major role in breaking the Enigma code – which arguably shortened the war by at least two years – has been granted a pardon under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy by the Queen, following a request from the justice secretary, Chris Grayling.

Turing was considered to be the father of modern computer science and was most famous for his work in helping to create the “bombe” that cracked messages enciphered with the German Enigma machines. He was convicted of gross indecency in 1952 after admitting a sexual relationship with a man.

He was given experimental chemical castration as a “treatment”. His criminal record resulted in the loss of his security clearance and meant he was no longer able to work for Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), where he had been employed following service at Bletchley Park during the war. He died of cyanide poisoning in 1954, aged 41.

Announcing the pardon, Grayling said -

"Dr Alan Turing was an exceptional man with a brilliant mind. His brilliance was put into practice at Bletchley Park during the second world war, where he was pivotal to breaking the Enigma code, helping to end the war and save thousands of lives.

"His later life was overshadowed by his conviction for homosexual activity, a sentence we would now consider unjust and discriminatory and which has now been repealed.

"Dr Turing deserves to be remembered and recognised for his fantastic contribution to the war effort and his legacy to science. A pardon from the Queen is a fitting tribute to an exceptional man."

David Cameron described Turing as a “remarkable man” -

"His actions saved countless lives. He also left a remarkable national legacy through his substantial scientific achievements, often being referred to as the father of modern computing."

You can view or download a copy of the pardon here (PDF).

Notes

Wild emotions are all very well, Russell Brand, but then what?
Nick Cohen: Now, as in the 1920s and 30s, many Europeans agree with Brand that all politicians are crooks and democracy is a sham.
And I think I’m one of them. However I’m also clear that we do not need revolution, rather we need to reassert our democratic right by overhauling the structures in which we live to make democracy relevant again. The political systems in place today were fit for purpose in a world of a billion people, but strain the limits of accountability now we are 7. We need devolution, and on a massive scale.
Worth a read.

Wild emotions are all very well, Russell Brand, but then what?

Nick Cohen: Now, as in the 1920s and 30s, many Europeans agree with Brand that all politicians are crooks and democracy is a sham.

And I think I’m one of them. However I’m also clear that we do not need revolution, rather we need to reassert our democratic right by overhauling the structures in which we live to make democracy relevant again. The political systems in place today were fit for purpose in a world of a billion people, but strain the limits of accountability now we are 7. We need devolution, and on a massive scale.

Worth a read.

Notes

10 reasons not to trust claims national security is being threatened by leaks
One to read -

"At the trial of Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning, convicted of leaking the documents, the Pentagon’s chief investigator into the impact of the leaks admitted he could find no evidence of a single person losing their life as a result."

Full article on the Guardian.

10 reasons not to trust claims national security is being threatened by leaks

One to read -

"At the trial of Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning, convicted of leaking the documents, the Pentagon’s chief investigator into the impact of the leaks admitted he could find no evidence of a single person losing their life as a result."

Full article on the Guardian.

3 Notes

Detroit’s beautiful, horrible decline

Two French photographers, Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre’s, immortalise the remains of the motor city in these extraordinary photographs documenting the dramatic decline of a major American city.

You can buy their book, "The Ruins of Detroit" book, published by Steidl, here.