Monthly archives: February 2010

The Press Complaints Commission is a joke 1

My acquaintance the conspiracy theorist should turn his attention to this, it’s got more substance than the stuff he’s buying into.

The Press Complaints Commission is headed by Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail- which is probably the worst of a bad bunch. Left Foot Forward has taken a look at the PCC’s record on dealing with climate related falsehoods and unprofessional reporting. When the papers can get away with making stuff up without so much as mild tutting from the Commission why does it exist in the first place?

It’s a small world, but I wouldn’t want to paint it

Gizmodo has high resolution images of Earth. Really nice. Sadly, neither of the ones they’ve got is quite right as photo reference for one of my favourite lines from part 1 of Point of Contact (I’m not going to give it away).

NASA have more images. And there’s a Goddard Space Flight Centre Flickr account.

Rounding up a few links

That conspiracy theory about Labour re-engineering Britain’s population through immigration? (Just read that sentence and try to get your head around the absurdity of what some people want to believe.) It’s utter rubbish, of course, and Five Chinese Crackers does a good job of dismantling it. Just don’t tell the conspiracy theorist who’s trying to Fisk me, he’d invent a conspiracy theory about a conspiracy to quash the original conspiracy theory.

Sometimes, there comes a point in a discussion where you just have to look awkwardly at your feet and shuffle away, like when when the troofer tells you the CIA were responsible for 9/11, or the cab driver tells you he blames the blacks, or when the shouty man on the bus tells you he invented paint. Any rational response would fall on deaf ears. If vague mentions of social benefits of immigration being cut from speeches can be proof of deliberately importing voters, nothing you can say will make a difference.

The Oath Keepers, the scary sort of organisation which appears when people take conspiracy theories too seriously. It sounds like an unwritten part of Sounds of Soldiers.

A battery technology which uses a carbon polymer could be the future of electric cars. One idea is that the car’s body will serve a double purpose by being made out of the battery material.

The Daily Mail and Sunday Times’ climate journalism is made up to suit their climate change denial agenda. Which is a shock and surprise to me. Really.

Lulu will give me a free copy of any book I upload to them by the 16th of next month, to use as a galley copy for proof reading. I do have an urge to collect the short fiction which has appeared on Spinneyhead over the years (and one or two of the comment pieces as well maybe).

South Cheshire Militaire. Which I shall be visiting on Sunday. Because I’m a geek.

That’s cleared away some of the open tabs.

27 percent more idiots on the roads

Mobile phone use by drivers has risen by 27 percent. When you look beyond the headline that’s between 1.4% and 2.6% of road users (white van man lives up to the stereotype by being at the high end). It may not sound like a lot, until you’re crossing the road or cycling along it when one of these fools comes along.

Point of Contact debuts next Monday

The first page of Point of Contact will be up next Monday. It’s already scheduled, and I’m currently working on pages 2 and 3. If all goes well I may get page 4 pencilled and possibly inked later today.

The comic’s already on a couple of webcomics lists. I don’t know whether it’s in the spirit, but you could always do your bit to push it up them ahead of page 1’s debut.

The Webcomic List

West Didsbury Architecture Wander

I went in a different direction for this architecture trawl.

Before I get to any buildings, here’s what the old railway line looks like now they’ve taken away a load of trees-

The old railway line

I’ve been meaning to get pictures of this building for a while. It’s the Local Board Offices. Board of what, I’m not sure, but it is nice.

local board offices 6

local board offices 5 local board offices 4 local board offices 3 local board offices 2 local board offices 1

A little further down the road is the Mercantile Bank of Lancashire, now a solicitor’s offices.

Mercantile bank Mercantile bank 2

On to Burton Road. The bike atop G.T. Blagg’s is cool. And there are what appear to be cane structures for training plants on the roof behind it. I wonder what they grow up there?

Blagg bike

I’m not sure how much of the decoration on the Metropolitan is original and how much has been added for atmosphere. It looks nice though.

Metropolitan Metropolitan 2

The Jamieson sign is still there. And, despite the gentrification of Burton Road, Hibbert’s continues its slow decay.

Jamieson Hibbert's

Back up Burton Road to the last of my targets for the day. I forgot to take the proper name of this school. It is an impressive building nonetheless.

school 10

school 9 school 8 school 7 school 6 school 5 school 4 school 3 school 2 school 1

Prints of these and other images are available from my shop at

Conspiracy theories are the new religion 3

I did promise the author of this blog post, which claims that conspiracy theories are suddenly more true than reality, that I would provide a detailed response. But it’s going to be too long to waste on someone else’s comment section, so I’m publishing it here.

Conspiracy theories tend to say more about the theorists than the alleged conspirators. I’m going to approach the examples cited by asking two questions- If the theorists are correct, what do the conspiracists get out of it? and Why might the theorists want to believe in this particular conspiracy? So-

“1) The theory: mass immigration is being used to re-engineer society.”

What do the conspiracists get? Errrrm. What do they get? According to the theory the mostly white, mostly christian engineers of this massed social change get a country where they lose a lot of their privileges because their constituents are less like, and less likely to vote for, them. And we know how willing MPs are to give up their privileges.

Why might the theorists believe in this conspiracy? Because they’re racists? Because they don’t like immigration? Possibly, as a great many of them claim to be christians, they’re scared by falling church attendance and don’t want to have to fight for believers with a younger, louder religion.

“2) The theory: climate change is not primarily manmade, but is a ruse to impose a world government which will tax and control us.”

What might the conspiracists get? They’d get to pay more tax. Which I’m sure they really want to do. The scientists will get to keep the funding which pays for their research. Even though they could be better off working in the private sector. I have a problem with the repeated line about paying more tax. The people who’ll pay more tax are the ones who are too dumb to find ways to make their lives more efficient. Those who cut their carbon emmissions will find they’re paying less money to corporations, and the government, so they will have more money for themselves and be financially more secure.

Why might the theorists believe in this conspiracy? See the last bit above about people too dumb to make their lives better.

“3) The theory: the BBC is a propaganda machine for liberals and socialists.”

What might the conspiracists get? The licence fee cut by the next Conservative government. Though that will probably happen anyway.

Why might the theorists believe in this conspiracy? Because Fox News is Fair and Balanced.

“4) The theory: the 9/11 attacks were an inside job.”

What might the conspiracists get? The satisfaction of having turned real life into the opening sequence of the first X Files Movie.

Why might the theorists believe in this conspiracy? Racism? Brown people couldn’t possibly have organised something this big, it has to be the work of the Illuminati and/or the Jews. (An early 9/11 conspiracy theory had all Jewish workers in the World Trade Centre being called up and told not to go in to work that day.) An inability to grasp reality. Given all the genuinely horrible, stupid, illegal and dangerous stuff the Bush regime did, why on Earth do some people need to make stuff like this up?

“5) The theory: the Theory of Evolution is a 19th Century misunderstanding, which is now clear from modern scientific discoveries.”

What might the conspiracists get? Confused, given that modern discoveries strengthen and refine the Theory of Evolution.

Why might the theorists believe in this conspiracy? Fear that science, and increased understanding of it, will undermine their religion. Inability to visualise a simple and elegant theory. The writer of the post is a Creationist, so this is a favourite subject of his. He claims masses of evidence for his belief, but can never present any that stands up to scrutiny.

This is a bit of a rambling post, because I started it as a comment then brought it over here. Feel free to add your own comments and help me refine and better explain my reasoning that way.

Has Iain Dale gone Godwin?

There’s a fair amount of anger about this post on Iain Dale’s Diary, where he reprints a couple of political images by artist Louis Sidoli. One of the pictures in Dale’s post features Gordon Brown as Hitler with a description, from the artist, which is pure Godwin-

The first piece is called ‘Reign of Error’ . It is a play on words from the recent book which described Gordon Brown’s leadership at No10 as a ‘Reign Of Terror’. In this piece, he is ‘morphed’ into an image of Hitler! Of course it is provocative, but if you think about it, there are strong similarities: Both started out as chancellors, both bullied their way to the top and seized power without being democratically elected, both tried to rig the electoral process, both prone to flying into uncontrollable rages and both caused huge economic damage to our country etc…

Dale is only really reporting on the artist’s work, but he does throw in a justification by comparing it to anti-Thatcher works which appeared during her time. Still, I do think the reaction’s a bit over the top. Sidoli’s art, in these pictures at least, is weak and naive. He suggests that he wants to create something as iconic as Shepard Fairey’s Hope image of Obama, but he’s a long, long way away from that.

I’m not going to jump on the anti-Dale bandwagon on this one, but I do wonder what his reaction would have been to an equaly offensive image of David Cameron.

They say you shouldn’t take your work home with you 2

But I work for a company which sells quality audio and video equipment, so sometimes I wish I could. (I’ve linked to their page on Amazon. I’m loyal to my employers, but I’m not above making some affiliate cash out of pushing sales their way.)

Expect occasional shameless plugging as products catch my eye.

From ships to turbines- a future for British shipbuilding?

I still couldn’t pick NicK Clegg out of a line up, but he and the Lib Dems seem to be the only one of the big three parties coming up with any interesting policies. As Labour and the Tories descend further into (occasionally amusing) poster remixes the Liberal Democrats are putting forward solid suggestions.

For example, as reported by Left Foot Forward, they’d invest in converting shipbuilding facilities into wind turbine factories, so that we don’t have to keep outsourcing their construction. This one works coming and going- cut carbon emissions whilst creating jobs in the UK. With time, we could even become an exporter of turbines and wind technology.

John Redwood’s climate change dog whistle 3

One of the phrases I’ve learnt through folowing US politics is “dog whistle”. A dog whistle is a phrase or turn of speech deployed by politicians in front of like-minded crowds, the true meaning of which is supposedly only heard by fellow believers. Most often I’ve heard of them being used by right wingers in lieu of the sort of language that’s frowned upon these days. A recent example is Tom Tancredo, who made a failed bid to be the Republican presidential candidate in 2008, telling a conference of Teabaggers that there should be a “civics-literacy” test before allowing anyone to vote. What sounds like an innocuous phrase was almost certainly meant to allude to the days of segregation in the southern states, basically suggesting that Obama only got in because blacks voted for him and everything would be better if they could go back to the good old days when various tricks were used to keep non-whites off the voting register.

John Redwood, the supposedly super intelligent MP for Wokingham, has a dog whistle which isn’t as offensive. In fact it’s becoming a bit pathetic the more times I see him use it. In any post on his blog about climate change he has to throw in something along the lines of “remember, it’s climate, not weather”. This is a smug attempt at a jibe at climate scientists, who regularly have to explain day to day weather and the long term climate are not the same things. The sort of climate change deniers attracted to Redwood’s blog don’t want to think too hard, so can’t imagine that there’s a difference between data and a datum. Today it’s cold, they reason, so the world can’t possibly be warming up over time.

A variation on the phrase was deployed today in a post that’s even more wrongheaded than normal. The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology released a report on how plants and animals have shifted their rhythms earlier in the year and in Redwood’s muddled thinking this somehow became meteorologists getting weather forecasting wrong. So he made fun of them for predicting the start of spring at the wrong time, when they did nothing of the sort.

Every time John Redwood writes about climate change he gets it all wrong. Neither of the reasons I can think of for his doing so say anything good about his ability to represent his constituents, let alone make decisions that affect the rest of us (should the Tories win the election and he gets a cabinet position). Either he doesn’t do any research and just goes with what his idealogy tells him, or he has such a low opinion of us that he thinks he can keep on lying and he’ll get away with it.

Update It seems the Vulcan has a thin skin. Apparently “The comments on this link are offensive and wrong. Clearly the author has no sense of humour about this subject.” And the comment I left on his blog, which was a variation on the last paragraph above, hasn’t been approved.

I’ve left another comment, which also may not be approved so I’m going to reproduce it here-

Humour is subjective. Your repetitive catchphrase is dull and nowhere near as clever as some think it is. And the attempts to poke fun at climate scientists that it appears in are plodding and, crucially for someone making himself out to be informed on the subject, invariably based upon arguments which have been shown to be wrong.

If you don’t like my honest and forthright assessment of what I think you’re doing then you need to put a bit more effort into researching the subject before writing about it. Jumping on the denial bandwagon may appeal to some of your readers but I expect better from someone who may have a say in running the country after the election.

Sounds of Soldiers is out now

Available in print or as a download through Lulu. Soon to be available from

Robert Jones is back from the war.

It’s been five years. Paris has been flattened, nuclear explosions have lit up the Mediterranean and the US military has destroyed itself fighting imaginary enemies. And Robert was there through it all.

How can a man who witnessed some of the most important events of recent history adapt to peace? Reconnecting with friends and family, Robert investigates a newly green Manchester and finds out about life away from the warzone.

But there are still some ghosts and secrets from his time on the continent which are ready to come back and shake up Robert’s new peaceful life.