Darwin Among The Cyclists – Further Cycle Lobby Idiocy

Heavy Goods

Note : Anyone who reads this and starts to foam at the mouth at any perceived ‘anti-cyclist’ stance, “never been on a bike in his life, wouldn’t understand, etc, etc”, should really read the previous post before continuing.

In further cycle campaign based lunacy, it would appear that “cyclists” have been busy lobbying the EU

Legislation requiring hauliers to fit the 450,000 lorries in Britain with sensors and emergency braking systems is being examined in Brussels following intensive lobbying by relatives of a young woman killed when she was dragged under the wheels of a HGV

Bummer. And what was this poor young woman doing at the time ?

… as it turned without the driver noticing her in the vehicle’s “blind spot”.

Oh I see.

It is – of course – a tragedy when someone is killed, and more tragic if that death could have been avoided. It is an even greater tragedy when the death could so easily have been avoided by the recently deceased.

By, y’know, not riding down the side of a lorry, in its blind spot. Were I a coroner, I’d write that up as suicide.

Still, at least the bereaved family didn’t immediately blame the driver, who could have done absolutely nothing to prevent the incident.

Or did they ? Let’s have a look at the campaign they’ve set up “No More Lethal Lorries”

They have a five point action plan – and yes, of course, this will involve spending some of your money. And some of other people’s money that will eventually end up costing you more of yours. Natch.

1 Cyclist-awareness training for drivers

All city lorry drivers should be have ongoing cycle-awareness training, including on-bike experience.

2 Drivers must take more responsibility

Authorities must recognise driver responsibility for doing everything practical to reduce risks. Blaming a ‘blind spot’ should be an admission of guilt.

3 Safer design for London lorries

Lorries designed for off-road use should be taken off city streets. The best mirrors, cameras and sensors should be fitted as standard.

4 Higher standards from lorry operators

Quality-assurance schemes such as London’s Freight Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) should be mandatory, and the police encouraged to crack down on rogue operators.

5 More responsible procurement

Companies must only buy haulage services from reputable firms, with government taking a lead in encouraging best practice.

Red tape, bureaucracy, legislation, quangos, enforcement. And not one bit of it the responsibility of the actual cyclist. Hmm. In fairness, at the bottom of their action plan is this further point that they haven’t even graced with a number

Plus: Better education for cyclists

Cyclists must be given the most accurate and up-to-date information on riding safely around lorries.

Let me save you the first five and completely implement the unnumbered, insignificant ‘plus’ : Don’t. If you are the sort of person who requires guidance as to when and how it is safe to cycle around a lorry, frankly, it is not safe for you to cycle around a lorry, so just don’t.

The life you save may be your own.

Legislation, Legislation, Legislation

Of course, it is to be understood that the grieving relatives of the recently deceased often make hysterical, emotive and frankly unreasonable demands of the world, been there, done that.

Campaigners called for hauliers to be compelled to buy equipment which alerts drivers if a cyclist pulls up alongside them and brings the vehicle to an automatic halt if there is a risk of a collision.

But as we’re all smart monkeys, we know this, and so there’s no danger of this stupidity – which strikes me as potentially dangerous in itself – passing through the EU as actual legislation is there ?

The Independent understands that Brussels will table changes to pan-European safety legislation by August, while an existing directive requiring all new HGVs to be fitted with cyclist sensors and automatic braking will come into force in 2013.

Oh, fucksticks.

And will this be expensive ?

The haulage industry said it was committed to improving safety for cyclists, pointing out that freight operators had spent £78m since 2008 on retro-fitting mirrors to their fleets.

Yes. If it cost 78M just to fit some mirrors, I think we can probably safely assume that fitting some crazy futuristic cyclist seeking radar and autopilot equipment will be hideously, outrageously, expensive.

Mirror, Mirror, on the, er, Junction. WTF ?

Until today, I had never heard of a Trixi MIrror, then I came across this petition while digging through a twitter search.

We the undersigned call upon the Mayor, as Chair of TfL, and the Members of the Greater London Authority to:

– Immediately install “Trixi” mirrors at every A Road junction, starting with the A503, Camden Road, then move on to B Roads. Let’s have London-wide safety for our cyclists, not a patchwork cover.

Have you guessed what a Trixi Mirror is yet ? (Perhaps this is common knowledge?) Here’s a pic and an apposite quote from the Guardian, which illustrate it nicely.

What's wrong with this picture ?

Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, is seeking government approval to place mirrors at traffic lights to prevent collisions by revealing cyclists and pedestrians hidden in lorries’ blind spots.

So again, lots of lovely taxpayer lolly to be spent on letting drivers know when people are in their blind spots.

Once more with feeling

Look at that picture. Look at the cycle lane. See where the cyclist has had to ride to get to that forward box at the junction ? Yup, right through the HGV’s blind spot. This is stupid. And the solution to this problem is not to add the mirror to make it safe to do so.

Far cheaper option is simply to remove the priority boxes, lose the mirrors and for cyclists who are stuck behind a lorry or bus to just wait there and deal with it.

Look ma, I just saved a bucketload of other peoples’ money. Oh, and some lives.

Note: Anyone feeling the urge to rush to the comments and leave a snarky message about traffic fumes, don’t bother, I ride bus lanes. If it bothers you, don’t cycle on the roads. Or buy a mask. Or get off and walk around on the pavement.

I will simply reiterate what I said last time. Your safety on a bicycle is your responsibility. You take your life in your hands. If you rely on things like trixy mirrors, putative cyborg lorry systems, other people’s awareness of you or any other road features to keep you safe, you will be dead soon. And it will be largely your own fault.

Wise, wise words :

Because if you’ve put yourself in a position where someone has to see you in order for you to be safe — to see you, and to give a fuck — you’ve already blown it.
Neal Stephenson – Zodiac

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Human beings NOT classified by the EU as ‘biological economic devices’

FFS

I rarely click on Ian Parker Joseph’s twitter links, he is after all the main reason I felt I couldn’t join the UKLP. He does a great job of illustrating why it’s good that he is no longer the leader today.

This was his tweet :

An idiot, earlier

Good god! Could that be true ? That would be dynamite. Worth a click for once.

Idiotarians

Well no, of course, it isn’t true at all. It’s not even hyperbole, it’s just bullshit. Pure and simple. I can’t be arsed to fisk Ian’s godawful post in its entirety, so lets just pull out the relevant parts. Ian says :

Over the past week, as the result of being passed some high level academic reports in the field of technology and ICT reasearch, I have been doing my homework, researching the claims made in the documents, and looking for corroborating EU documentation.

OMG! So far so shadowy. He was passed some “high level academic reports”, bloody hell! No. He wasn’t. The report that he refers to is in fact on line here which of course just adds to the hilarity when Ian promises to email anyone a copy, and subsequently ‘makes it available’ in a download. How fucking generous of him.

For whatever reason he decides that he doesn’t want you to know that this is a freely available document. Presumably he feels it adds to his mystique. To everyone else, not linking to source is just plain fucking rude.

Citation needed

Enter one Ian Dent, allegedly of Cambridge University, although if that’s true they seriously need to sack the fucker. Ian is quoting from the linked document “Beyond Broadband – The True Cost Of Digital Britain” by the aforesaid Dent.

Here is the money quote from Dent’s ‘report ‘(his emphasis)

In computing terms (where the concept originated), an ‘attribute’ can be defined as: ‘a specification that defines a property of an object, element, or file . . ‘ An ‘object’ in this [computing] context can be defined as: a collection of co-operating objects . . . capable of receiving messages, processing data and sending messages to other objects and can be viewed as an independent ‘machine’ with a distinct role or responsibility . .
This is how each person will become defined within Grid profiling – as an object – a ‘Biological Economic Device’.

Wow, Just Fucking Wow

So Dent here goes from a straightforward definition of a computer science term (a definition which, incidentally, he hasn’t referenced) to suggesting that a phrase he has just made up based on it is how we will all become defined by the EU.

No.

I would recommend against reading Dent’s eleven pages of poorly referenced and clearly delusional word salad, – which contains more than the average Daily Mail’s worth of ‘scare quotes’ – in it’s entirety. It will probably actually make you stupider. But this is just stupid. And for someone who is supposedly a Cambridge academic it is practically unforgivable. No citation, no reference. Not true.

Ian, however is prepared to report this as though it were some kind of hard, verifiable fact, rather than just some paranoid phrase that Dent coins on page 17 of his ridiculous screed.

Since Dent doesn’t cite any document that supports his delusion, perhaps the redoubtable IanPJ can help us out, since he states

(documents are there.. if you can find them)

Wow! Links to them ? No.

Seriously people, do better

I have no love for the EU, it’s a crawling horror of a bureaucracy, largely unelected and almost completely unaccountable, but for fuck’s sake people, shout them down for real things that they actually do, rather than just making shit up.

Sad fucks.

Alan Johnson – Dribbling trot mentalist drinks fullsome from poisoned chalice

It has long been mooted that the Home Office is something of a poisoned chalice, and the last twelve years have done nothing to dispel this impression with a succession of frothing at the mouth nutters being broken upon it’s wheel.

Latest corpse on the pile is due to be the career of current Home Sec Alan Johnson. The interview linked below appears to be – so far – the only TV face time on the issue that Johnson has given, even News24 are rolling the Sky footage, and according to Krishnan Guru-Murthy of C4 news fame

krishgm : Home Office still refusing to come on C4 News about drugs policy, for third day in a row.

It’s quite easy to see why. In the Adam Boulton interview AJ shows his true colours, incandescently angry dribbling trot mentalist without a clue.

Dribbling Trot Mentalist

Dribbling Trot Mentalist

I can think of better ways to destroy your political credibility than losing your rag like that on a Sunday morning interview, but not many.

Yesterday Charlotte Gore opined

I did think the reason Gordon gave Alan the Home Secretary job was to basically destroy his popularity forever.1:28 PM Oct 31st from Tweetie

In which case, job done.

Johnson does neither himself or his office (or indeed his party) any favours by acting like this, he clearly isn’t handling this well at all, and as the day continues I imagine he will continue to be made to look petty and stupid.

And there was once a rumour that this man would try and knock Gordon off the top spot ? Dream on, Alan.

Quelle Horror! Decent Post On Labourlist

Normally, reading Labourlist makes me want to go outside, find anyone who professes to be a socialist and beat them to within an inch of their life.

Currently, however, there is an excellent post by Labour PPC Andrew Lomas decrying the “denigration of science for political expediency”.

Well worth a read.

Of course, in order to restore the clever/stupid balance to the universe, the comments section has been colonised by a complete mong who thinks that David Nutt kills children. And is a Tory. Or something.

So that’s all right then.

This is your government on drugs

Jacqui And Alan Go Nutts

Well, there I was thinking about chucking up some waffle about the use of things like science and cost benefit analysis and suchlike as the basis for decision making in my ongoing sketch of a utopian future democracy, and suddenly the Stalinist dog fuckers that we managed to elect twice hand me a fantastic example in the form of the sacking of Professor David Nutt, chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson’s letter to Prof. Nutt leaves us in little doubt about the reasons behind his removal from post. It also demonstrates a level of ignorance that would be frankly stunning if it wasn’t simply what we have come to expect. In it, Johnson says

I have concerns regarding your recent comments that have received such media attention. It is important that I can be confident that advice from the ACMD will be about matters of evidence. Your recent comments have gone beyond such evidence.

Those ‘comments’ presumably being that alcohol and tobacco are more dangerous than cannabis, and that the government – in the form of former Home Sec. Jacqui ‘the smug fascist’ Smith – simply ignored scientific evidence when they re-reclassified cannabis in January 2009.

Johnson’s characterisation of these as mere comments is, to put it extremely charitably, disingenuous.

On Tuesday 14 July 2009, Nutt delivered the The Eve Saville memorial lecture for the The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, held in Great Hall, Kings College, London.

The subject of his lecture was a briefing paper titled ‘Estimating drug harms : a risky business ?’, the text of which can be downloaded from here. It’s a fascinating read, and I thoroughly recommend it.

It is indeed sharply critical of the government, and of policy makers in general. As well it might be given the revolving cluster fuck that passes for drug policy. Nutt relates the difficulty he has trying to get people to engage with the idea of measuring risks and harm associated with prohibited recreational substances relative to other activities and substances.

This is an example of a conversation that I’ve had many times with many people, some of them politicians:

MP: ‘You can’t compare harms from a legal activity with an illegal one.’

Professor Nutt: ‘Why not?’

MP: ‘Because one’s illegal.’

Professor Nutt: ‘Why is it illegal?’

MP: ‘Because it’s harmful.’

Professor Nutt: ‘Don’t we need to compare harms to determine if it should be illegal?’

MP: ‘You can’t compare harms from a legal activity with an illegal one.’

repeats …

This of course exposes the hypocrisy at the core of drugs policy, debate about which Nutt characterises – not without justification – as

isolated and arbitrary, more akin to a ‘religious’ discussion

Quite. But the comments that really boil the government’s piss are of course the statements regarding the relative harm caused by consumption of various substances, and in particular, since it directly contradicts the government’s ‘message’, the harm and risks associated with cannabis use.

Johnson expressed his concern that advice from the ACMD be “about matters of evidence” and clearly he feels this oversteps the mark. Nutt’s remarks about cannabis, however, are based on a a 2008 ACMD report “Cannabis: Classification and Public Health”, which itself drew on earlier work by Nutt and his academic colleagues ‘Development of a rational scale to assess the harm of drugs of potential misuse’ which was published in the Lancet in March 2007. (PDF available from here if you don’t wish to register).

So it’s difficult, almost impossible, in fact, to imagine how Johnson could be concerned that these remarks aren’t “matters of evidence”. Clearly then, the Home Sec is defenestrating the poor prof because his rational, scientific approach conflicts with the approach the government wishes to take. Johnson is eager to leave us in no doubt that this is the case

I cannot have public confusion between scientific advice and policy and have therefore lost confidence in your ability to advise me as Chair of the ACMD

Comfortably Decoupled From Reality

This is bad. This is in fact very, very bad indeed. Because it means that the government of the United Kingdom is happy to operate as though it were living in some fucked up fantasy land of imaginings (not unlike someone who is ripped off their tits on drugs, in fact) rather than actually dealing with reality as it is. Did I mention that this is bad ?

In this particular case, it is actually recursively bad. On receipt of the ACMD’s 2008 report on cannabis classification, Commissar Smith quoth

In reaching my decision, I have also taken into account the views of others, particularly those responsible for enforcing the law, and the public … I have given the council’s report careful consideration. Of its 21 recommendations, I accept all bar those relating to classification.

This is not true. Nutt quotes the results of a poll conducted by the government during the consultation carried out prior to the latest reclassification, which show a solid majority of respondents thought cannabis should have been left in classification C. Many of us would have left it at that, but Nutt and his colleagues didn’t like the poll question, so they conducted their own Mori poll for their report. Only 26% of respondents thought that cannabis should be class ‘B’. 18% thought it should be class C, 11% thought it should be legal. 11% were undecided. 32%, surprisingly, thought it should be class ‘A’. Bastards.

Reclassification to ‘A’, of course, wasn’t on the cards. Neither of those sets of numbers supports Smith’s statement about taking into account the views of the public. Nutt and co asked a second question about criminal penalties which is even more interesting and reveals public misunderstanding of the classification system in general. Again I encourage the reader to consume the paper in it’s entirety. It’s clear that no one at the home office did, because it turned out that the penalties a solid majority of respondents thought would be appropriate are in fact those associated with a classification of ‘C’, with ‘No Punishment’ coming in second.

So in overriding the views of the ACMD experts in favour of the views of the public, she had, in fact, not taken any notice of what those views actually were. Ouchies.

Whoa! Deja Vu!

Nutt points out that this is the first time in the history of the ACMD that the government has ignored it’s recommendations, heaping well deserved scorn on Gordon Brown for his risible “lethal skunk” outbursts. This may well be true, but it is by no means the first time that a government has received a report on cannabis use, disliked it, and binned it. In 1968 while James Callaghan was Home Sec, the Wootton report was submitted by the Advisory Committee On Drug Dependence.

We don’t even have to go beyond the covering letter before we find this

We think that the adverse effects which the consumption of cannabis in even small amounts may produce in some people should not be dismissed as in-significant. We have no doubt that the wider use of cannabis should not be encouraged. On the other hand, we think that the dangers of its use as commonly accepted in the past and the risk of progression to opiates have been overstated, and that the existing criminal sanctions intended to curb its use are unjustifiably severe.

Drugs policy is a particularly good (and topical) example of common sense and rational investigation being swatted aside in the pursuit of some ideological tenet or to win a few votes, but it is by no means the only one.

Earlier this month, “The most comprehensive enquiry into English primary education for 40 years” in the form of the Cambridge Primary Review was completed and submitted to the Department For Children, Schools and Families. Quoth the Graun

The Cambridge review, the biggest inquiry into primary education in 40 years, was published last week after a three-year process which produced 31 interim reports, 28 surveys and thousands of submissions.

The Cambridge review received support from every teaching union, agency and school support group

Quoth schools minister, Vernon Coaker (pdf), in response to the review’s findings that it would be beneficial to the nations children if formal education and testing started at age 6

The world has moved on since this review was started. If every child making progress and reaching their potential is what matters then Professor Alexander’s proposals are a backward step.

Heavy Heavy Deja Vu!

A May 2008 schools select committee report concluded

In addition, the data derived from the testing system do not necessarily provide an accurate or complete picture of the performance of schools and teachers, yet they are relied upon by the Government, the QCA and Ofsted to make important decisions affecting the education system in general and individual schools, teachers and pupils in particular.

Okay, that’s bad, so we should change it right ? Don’t hold your breath because

The Government has repeatedly refused to face up to accusations that an excessive testing regime has denied children a rounded education, according to one of the nation’s leading experts.

And indeed, if you have a quick peek around, you can find another select committee report from this year that draw similar conclusions.

Google Is Your Friend

Even the briefest, laziest research possible, googling a bit using “government ignored” as a search term reveals a depressing number of occasions where government ministers or officials have simply stuck their fingers in their ears when being advised by experts.

On Swine Flu

Advisers urged the Government to offer paracetamol to the public instead of Tamiflu, to stop the virus gaining resistance to the drug.

But the Department of Health advisers said ministers ignored their advice, even when it became clear the outbreak was mild.

They say the Government forged ahead with mass prescription, fearing the public would be angry if they were told that millions of Tamiflu doses were being held in storage.

On Clostridium difficile outbreaks

The Department of Health knew of a damning report into an outbreak of Clostridium difficile at a hospital trust in Kent more than five months ago and failed to act, it was claimed last night.

On medical training reforms

The government sidelined two top medical advisers to rush through the doomed online recruitment system for junior doctors, MPs were told last week.

It goes on and on and on. I can’t ever remember a government spokesdroid on the TV or radio saying “Well, we didn’t like the conclusions of the report, and we really don’t agree with recommendations, but hey, we’ll just have to suck it up and accept that we’re doing this wrong.”

Not once. Did I mention that this is bad ?

Recursively, Recursively Dense

It has been suggested that as far as the current shower are concerned much of the reason that the Home Sec. always is, or morphs into what Charlotte Gore delightfully labels “Authoritarian Super Cocks” is due to New Labour’s reliance on manipulative shitweasels like Phillip Gould, the so called ‘guru’ of the focus group.

An unsurprising irony then that they don’t listen to him when they don’t like what he tells them either. Witness this excerpt from a “sensational memo” from Gould to Gordon Brown from August 2008

We have to have a strategy of audacious advance. The best way of achieving this is to hold an early election after a short period of intense and compelling activity. A kind of “shock and awe strategy” blasting through the opposition and blasting us to the mid-40 per-cents.

Remind me, how did that go ?

Tories in a PR Pickle over Spotify ?

There was a story going around last week about the Conservative party buying up ads on Spotify.

For the uninitiated, Spotify is a streaming internet music service funded by advertising. The user selects a play list or a type of music that they would like to listen to to and hits play. Periodically the user hears some advertising, or they can pay for an ad free service.

Here’s an example of some of the coverage it garnered at the time, mainly from the tech and music media. A story from PC Pro

Tories to campaign on Spotify

The Conservatives are to campaign on Spotify, as the party reaches out to tech-savvy voters.

The ad will feature Tory party chairman, Eric Pickles, lambasting the Government’s handling of the recent economic crisis, and urging listeners to vote Conservative at the next General Election.

It resurfaced again yesterday, this time the coverage was of a somewhat different tone. Here’s auntie beeb :

Tories stop music to woo voters

Conservative chairman Eric Pickles will apologise to music lovers later – as he interrupts their favourite tunes to ask for their vote.

Mr Pickles’ distinctive Yorkshire tones will interrupt music to attack the government over the economy.

Somewhat harsher, I think you’ll agree. Now, instead of ‘buying ads’ Pickles will ‘interrupt music’. Damn you, you Evil Tory fun spoiler !

Some folks have suggested that the article displays the BBC’s bias against the tories. Let’s see what the Times has to say

A 45-second message from the Conservative Party chairman, in which he interrupts listening pleasures to attack Gordon Brown’s ‘reckless spending’, is the latest attempt by politicians to get their messages across to the digital generation.

Hmm, spookily similar. Looks like we have a fine example of cut’n’paste journalism, which means there should be a press release a couple of clicks away. Yup.

The Conservatives are launching a bid to woo young, internet-savvy voters by advertising on digital music service Spotify.

A 45-second message from party chairman Eric Pickles will interrupt listeners’ choice of tracks to criticise Gordon Brown’s “reckless spending”.

Ouchies. Possibly time to sack the PR firm who wrote that. “interrupting” is a much poorer choice of words than “advertising”

Possibly also time to sack whoever came up with the idea in the first place, here’s a sample of Spoitfy users response to hearing repeated ads :

The ‘alcohol-know your limits’ one is so smug it makes me want to punch my monitor. I have to turn the volume down fully, and this is from someone who doesn’t even drink!

Joanathan was such a ****. If he’d hung around longer, I would to have had to construct some sort of effigy of him, then savagely beat him to alleviate my anger whenever an ad came on.

I can’t wait to see how they react to Pickles.

BNP Takes PR Back In House – No Platform My Arse

Everybody’s favourite cassus belli de jour the BNP have clearly tired of having their publicity managed for them by the Labour Party and the UAF and have taken it back in house and placed it firmly back in the hands of odious wee turd Nick Griffin.

Determined to do his bit for free speech, Griffin set out to prove that “No Platform” policies have allowed the BNP to hide a right bunch of utter knobs behind the shadowy façade of a terribly threatening fascist movement. One largely manufactured from whole cloth by rabid anti fascist activists and Labour MPs.

Griffin replied thusly to members of the armed forces who take issue at his abuse of their heritage :

“Those Tory generals who today attacked the British National Party should remember that at the Nuremberg Trials, the politicians and generals accused of waging illegal aggressive wars were all charged — and hanged — together.

He added: “Sir Richard and Sir Mike fall squarely into this bracket, and they must not think that they will escape culpability for pursuing the illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Beautiful. Every time the fucker gets near a camera or a microphone he makes an utter bell-end of himself.

Labour PPC Tom Flynn doesn’t think the plebs are fit to engage to the BNP though, he thinks we’re

“naive about the level of political sophistication which the BNP operation has achieved”

Yeah. Right. No Platform, my arse.

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