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UK In Floods Of Tears

17 Feb

DSC00027 (2)

Frustration

Sadness

Loss

Despair

Release

Relief

That is the Official List of British Tears and the order in which they must be presented to the TV News crews.

Already, the national news here in WaterWorld is skewing slightly to highlight a traditional and typically British attitude: cynicism towards our own government and armed forces. Damp locals huddle in chilly pubs and draw diagrams of Kevin Costner’s boating equipment from memory. If you approach too close to them, they close ranks while one of them swallows the plans.

And in this next clip, Prince Charles is seen talking with a selection of pre-selected and security vetted locals. Prince Charles sticks it to Prime Minister David Cameron by openly voicing his doubts on the very matters where David has been pretending all is good.

So, Cameron responds by saying everything that can be done will be done…and that includes what he describes in pure political euphemism as “an end to the pause in dredging on the Somerset Levels”

An end to the pause in dredging? Do you now see why we Brits get cynical?

So, if I decide one day that I shall not to pay my taxes, when I am dragged in front of the judge months later, I can simply explain to him that I was pausing. I shall now ‘end the pause in my paying taxes’. I am sure the judge will understand.

Today, Cameron has announced that he is bringing the Army in to check the flood defences. They (the British Army) will achieve within five weeks what normally takes two years when left to the Environment Agency. They will work at 20.8 times the speed of an expert agency.

Why are we Brits so cynical?

Have you ever seen the British Army in action? They are remarkably effective at what they excel in which is essentially beating the crap out of non-UK passport holders. You don’t even have to come to them – they are quite happy to visit you in your own country. But the last time a Prime Minister was stupid enough to let them loose among British taxpayers was during the General Strike of 1926.

Briefly, in the 1980’s they were ordered to drive ambulances. It went badly. The Army only stopped when patients finally demanded to be driven to hospital instead by a local fourteen year old in a stolen Vauxhall Astra. Survival was more likely than being driven through busy London streets at high speed in a dark green and camouflaged ambulance by an enthusiastic eighteen year old from Manchester.

It was a PR disaster in 1926 and it was a hugely covered-up tragedy during the ambulance strike in the 1980’s. From then on, every British Prime Minister wrote in pen on the inside of their hand: “Don’t let Army near UK’s hard-working taxpayers. V. Important! Doesn’t work!”

Now Cameron is about to break this rule.

And we will now have thousands of well paid soldiers grabbing away the work from the specialist civilian workers in the Environment Agency who are paid much less and are facing redundancy anyway?

Oh, well done, Prime Minister!

And the Army, who are not in the least bit knowledgeable at a local level of Britains flood water defences will be working at 20.8 times the speed of these Environment Agency specialists who are being swept aside and made redundant?

Oh, well done, Prime Minister! What could possibly go wrong…?

The photo at the beginning of this article shows the author after having been coated from head to toe in raw faeces during a storm on a waste treatment site. I am shown smiling through my tears. (advanced students only).

Do you see that brown line around the tank on the right?

That is not caused by rust…

 

Trolling: Understanding what it is and also why it happens.

24 Sep

Introduction

The topic of ‘Trolling’ is being discussed in great detail on the internet and in the media these days.

Or is it…?

To celebrate yet another confused and inaccurate article being launched on the BBC’s internet site, Roadwax feels that the time is right to encourage proper debate on the topic. One should never encourage a troll but one needs to know what food they like to eat.

This post is a stripped-down “How-to” guide for those of us who do not have much time right now but need to understand more about trolling. It is intended to inform and also to encourage a clearer understanding of what ‘trolling’ actually is.

By necessity, this article also discusses internet bullying. However a separate Roadwax article deals with this topic in more detail.

If anyone wants to read the full, unabridged articles then please email loopwithers@live.co.uk and ask for a copy. Don’t all rush at once. Oh – there aren’t any pictures in this post. Trolls do not really go for pictures. It is all about words. Bring on the trolls.

The current situation: where we are right now

A quick search through the world’s top English-language internet news sites reveals that the word ‘trolling’ is being frequently used but never properly explained. A longer and more refined search will just make you want to weep. It soon becomes clear that the word is being thrown around without a clear understanding of its meaning. After more than thirty years of trolling on the internet across the world, we rarely find a definition of exactly what a ‘troll’ is.

Is ‘internet trolling’ actually being discussed and described or is it simply being mentioned, like a fashionable buzz-word…?

Now is a good time to clear up some frequent misunderstandings that are beginning to creep in to the current debate. If we do not agree a clear understanding of what trolling is then we cannot effectively deal with the topic.

A brief history of the troll

Trolling has been around for centuries. Every culture with a well-established language has always had trolls. Trolling particularly appears at times when there is war and conflict. Diplomatic statements and war-time propaganda messages are often good examples of simple trolling. Over the last couple of decades, ‘internet trolls’ have appeared. We owe them a debt of thanks. If the internet community had not labelled them as ‘Trolls’ for the first time, we would never have realised that they existed.

The differences between a troll and bully

Trolls are not necessarily bullies…but bullies can be trolls.

Think of it like this: A house can be a home but a home is not necessarily a house.

The current focus in the media is to describe trolls as bullies. This is a dangerously incorrect assumption because it masks what is really going on and…is quite possibly a form of trolling itself!

It is very important that we separate out ‘trolling behaviour’ from ‘bullying behaviour’ to understand what is going on when we look at our screens.

Here is a short list explaining why we should make a distinction:

1) Bullies get given elevated status in society if described as trolls – a label which they do not deserve.

2) Bullying is a form of psychological or physical pressure used to unreasonably coerce people. Trolling isn’t.

3) Trolls and bullies both cause disruption but in different ways. They operate similarly but differently.

4) Trolls wreak destruction and disorder but bullying causes distress and depression.

5) Knowing the difference can keep us protected both on and offline and it can even save lives.

How to spot an online bully:

Online bullying can only take place on websites that allow people to ‘comment’ – write and upload statements that other people can read. Think hard on this point. Notice how many websites do not allow the posting of comments or else ‘suspend’ the writing of comments for a while. Often this denial of the ‘comment’ facility is being carried out to stop bullying or trolling being possible.

So, online bullying takes place most often in ‘forums’ – where a topic can be discussed openly by anyone who want s to have their say. YouTube videos, News Website articles, Enthusiast Forums, Bebo, Askfm…the list of places who offer forums or the opportunity to comment is almost endless. This is where trolling and bullying takes place.

An online bully will always make a personal attack or a particular threat to writers in the forum. Always.

Here is an imaginary ‘thread’ on an imaginary forum:

Bob123:          ‘I think this video is great. I love cats! Cats are so cool!’

Fishman:        ‘Check out 1’24” when the cat goes nuts! LOL!!!’

ZZZmonkey:   ‘You think video footage is real? You are so stupid.’

Bob123:           ‘F**k you, a**hole, you are just a sad piece of sh*t. Go play with yourself.’

ZZZMonkey:   ‘Video is not real! If you think cat actually jump then you are nuts.’

Fishman:         ‘In English please? Are you another crazy Russian who eats cats?’

Bob123:           ‘You f***ing piece of commie sh*t. F**k you.’

ZZZMonkey:   ‘Video is fake. I am not commie. You know nothing.’

There is only one bully in this example. It is Bob123. ZZZMonkey is holding a different opinion about the video and tries to persuade others that they are watching fake footage and believing it is real. ZZZMonkey is straightforward and also rude but he doesn’t bully. Bob123 immediately responds by attacking him personally and then Fishman adds what is possibly a racist slant in his reply which has nothing to do with the points being made by either side.

Now, read the thread again and imagine that:

Bob123 is aged 11 years, female, goes to school.

Fishman is aged 33 years, male, works in telesales.

ZZZMonkey is aged 42 years, transgender, CCTV operator.

Notice how the internet removes so much information that can help us make sense of what appears to be a pointless conflict situation. Bullying often seems more horrifying precisely because it often appears to be so personally vindictive yet it is conducted by apparent strangers.

Bullying is often carried out by people who are struggling to understand what is going on around them. They feel insecure and threatened and so they lash out. They will continue to do this until they are forced to stop. It becomes an exciting new power and the thrill of hurting people is – as adults eventually learn – addictive. If bullying is allowed to go on, then that is exactly what it does. It goes on, and on…and on.

How to spot an online troll:

Trolling is the opposite of bullying. It is often carried out by people who are confident and assured about the world they see. They feel excited by the chances to mess around with the comfort level of less confident or less well informed online guests. They get their fun from wrecking, derailing, destroying and challenging the view of others. They don’t get their thrill from attacking people but instead from manipulating what people think.

Trolls love the power they get from controlling proceedings, dictating what the debate is actually about. Trolls might also bully but then – if they do, they have failed as trolls and should be desribed as bullies. Trolling has nothing to do with bullying.

Trolling is all about power and manipulation. Bullying is all about hatred and aggression.

Let’s run the same scenario again. Remember – we know nothing about the three people who are commenting.

WigWax: ‘I think this video is great. I love cats! Cats are sooo coooool!’

108566M: ‘check out 1′ 24″ when the cat goes nuts! LOL!!!’

Nobby:  ‘My dog could eat that cat. Dogs rule. sorry but thats the way it is.’

108566M ‘Dogs spread disease and suck up to their owners. You sad moron.’

Nobby: ‘Grow up. Cats spread more disease than dogs. Fact. Is a cat gonna save you in a robbery?’

WigWax: ‘Great. A drug dealer wants to lecture me about how great his dog is. Sad.’

Nobby: ‘Maybe I sell your mother all the crack she takes just to put up with you. What’s wrong with that?’

WigWax: ‘Why don’t you get a real job and stop wrecking people’s lives? You scum.’

108566M: ‘I feel sorry for you. You will rot in Hell. God will punish you.’

Nobby: ‘My dog just ate your God. And your cat.’

Nobby is an internet troll. Nobby just derailed this thread and turned the conversation from the love of cats to the morality of drug-taking and religious concepts. Nobby did this without using threats or bullying. Nobby relied on WigWax and 108566M to respond with anger and abuse and Nobby is now firmly in control of this thread. You can use your own imagination to work out how much fun Nobby has over the next few hours…

Notice also – and this is so important – how this thread would simply stop if nobody responds to Nobby’s last comment. The troll cannot continue to dominate unless others allow that to happen by posting replies. The troll can only

a) have the last word in the thread

b) kill the thread by killing off the orginal discussion

c) encourage a Moderator to delete the thread because it is now wrecked

If someone now posts:

Girlfriday: “Nice trolling. Anyway – back to the thread. Cats ARE cool…!”

…then there is still a good chance that Nobby will dive back in and continue. Remember – Trolling is about control and manipulation. Do not feed the trolls.

Trolling on world News Sites:

All news sites – ABC, NBC, BBC, Reuters…every news site in the world – are trolled every day. The trolling takes place in the section of the site where people can leave their comments. Some trolling is done for the sheer twisted fun of it but some trolling is done for a darker reason – to stifle proper debate and to crush dissent.

I could put a link in here to a real-life example that is happening now. Unfortunately, by the time you click on it, the debate will either have moved on or else the comments will have been removed.

Instead, I encourage you to click on your favourite national news site and find a breaking news item which also has a comments thread – and watch it evolve. See if you can spot the point at which an internet troll begins to change the topic under discussion.

Is it a story about a car crash that suddenly changes to a discussion on banning older drivers? Is it a news item on a new hospital brain scanning procedure and the comment thread changes into an argument about abortion?

Hopefully, (to prove my point here) as soon as you see this happening, a Moderator for the site will ‘close’ the comments so that no more posts are allowed.

The comments thread will disappear from view if you revisit the site.

The troll will have successfully stopped open debate and discussion.

The troll will have won.

Trolling on ‘SIF – Sites’ (single interest fanatics) – and YouTube

YouTube provides a fascinating and vibrant introduction for anyone who wishes to study trolling, bullying or any aspect of mass culture. If you watch YouTube, you will see examples of trolling easily and quickly. They are identical to those you may find on the thousands of sif-sites around the world.

YouTube is the most influential and powerful internet media site in the world of 2013. Facebook simply pales into insignificance by comparison, even if one takes their already mathematically corrupted viewing and membership figures…and doubles them.

YouTube allows anyone to upload any piece of film and audio footage for the world to see. It is a place where all you have to do is type in any ‘search’ word and you will find a list of uploaded film relating to that topic. It is hugely influential, whereas other sites are not.

Precisely because of its universal accessibility and worldwide reach, it becomes far more valuable than any single news channel. Notice how, when a new story breaks on a world news channel, one can frequently discover related footage existed a few hours sooner on YouTube.

YouTube allows users to ‘comment’ on footage uploaded by other users.

Think of a popular topic that interests you personally. Go onto YouTube and search for films and videos on that topic. Read the YouTube ‘comments’ and you will see trolling and bullying laid bare. You may also find supreme examples of ‘Moderating’ – where potential trolls and bullies are put in their place by third parties – other visitors to the site.

However – for the sake of clarity – remember that YouTube’s own Moderators use a firm but light touch. YouTube – like Twitter – is a citadel of free speech and expression and therefore it aims to censor as little as possible. YouTube singlehandedly defines the complex struggles involved in maintaining a world concept of ‘free speech’ by simply allowing it.

To many new viewers, this is quite a shocking and revelatory experience. YouTube allows us to see, experience and come face to face with the often shocking world of free speech. Free speech can easily be controlled by bullies and trolls and those who are spectacularly ignorant.

It should be borne in mind that a vast proportion of the most extreme comments on sif-sites and YouTube as well are left by children aged 12 – 18 years. Whether this consideration makes you feel better or worse probably depends a lot upon how you value the power of education.

Trolling as a means of stifling dissent.

As we see in the example of News websites, a troll can stop debate taking place by encouraging the Moderator to close the thread down because it has got out of hand. It has collapsed into a vicious fight between overheated commentators who are now verbally abusing each other.

Most news sites used to try to keep trolls out and keep any debate going but this proved to be a thankless and exhausting task. Now, newsgroups simply ‘pull’ the thread. It is safer and cheaper. Discussion forums – where enthusiasts go to talk with each other – still allow trolls. They cannot really close the forum just because a troll has moved in. Instead, they warn them against trolling – either by an online message for all to see – or privately and more discretely.

A wise troll will move on once their actions are identified. There used to be a saying: “Please do not feed the trolls”. Some web forums still use it but, in truth, that request is usually lost on the very people who should heed it. Trolls have plenty to feed on.

Professional Trolling

But suppose that the troll is employed by a political party? Suppose the news item on the news site or the article in a discussion forum is about a piece of legislation being proposed by The Gorilla Party (hey – I’m just making up a name to keep things simple) and The Ostrich Party doesn’t want that piece of news to give attention to their competitor?

Suppose the Gorilla Party announces support for “free day-care for all children of working single mothers. Vote for the Gorillas and get free day care!”

The Ostrich Party are pretty sure that this legislation will never get passed because it is too expensive. They have worked out the costing figures and they are certain that the Gorilla Party have too. But they are annoyed because the Gorilla Party is bringing to people’s attention the fact that the Ostrich Party do not have their own solution on offer. It makes them look un-caring by comparison.

Do you really believe that the Ostrich Party will keep clear of the ‘comments’ section on that news item? Of course not! They will get a troll in there as soon as possible, to wreck the debate and hopefully get the comments page closed down as quickly as possible.

Stifle debate.

Unintentional trolls

Especially when it comes to news sites, people sometimes become trolls without realising it. They add comments without understanding that they have derailed the discussion.

If a news item is about an accidental house fire where a baby has tragically died, the comments may be mostly from people who wish to express their sadness and support. This is normal and well meant. It goes on all the time. Feelings are intense and people want to express their grief or sympathy.

Now is a bad time for someone to point out the fact that the parents were recent immigrants to the country and they had trouble calling the emergency services because they could not speak the same language.

This comment might have actually been intended as a helpful explanation. It might be a very significant factor that needs to be addressed by the local fire department.

The comment has the opposite effect on the thread. It appears sudden and insensitive and detracts from the emotional integrity of the other comments. The comment thread collapses into accusations of racism, xenophobia, bitter personal abuse and the moderator has to close it down since meaningful debate is now long gone and no postive advantages exist to keeping it open.

This imaginary example shows us how trolls can sometimes be innocent commentators who merely make a badly-timed or poorly-judged observation but meant no actual harm. It illustrates how we can all unintentionally appear as trolls if we mis-judge the mood on a forum or a comment thread.

We might be intending to make a postive or constructive comment – to encourage the debate to broaden out and not simply dwell on the tragedy but instead the cause – but we get it wrong. Suddenly, we have appeared as a troll in the eyes of our peers.

Part-time Trolling

Anyone can be a part-time troll. If we understand anything about trolling then we realise the power that trolling can give us. If we take the power of the troll and turn it to good use, is that not a good thing?

So, suppose you saw a bully attacking someone on a website. Would you ‘troll’ them as a way of stopping them carrying on? Would you try and draw them off their poor target by a display of intelligent trolling without becoming a bully yourself? I reckon that you might. A lot of people do.

Maybe, you would never dream of trolling but then you accidentally stumble across a comment thread where one writer is abusing another simply because of their ethnic background and not for their views. Would you do something to stop it? Of course, the choice always rests with you.

Although trolling is almost always carried out to stifle or subvert debate, it can be seen how trolling can sometimes be used as a weapon against hatred or bullying.

Basic Trolling

At its most basic, trolling is just a means of subverting or suppressing debate. Basic trolling is seen when an internet  discussion suddenly gets ‘hit’ by someone who types: “Buy viagra. Meet beautiful girls and get love pills for free when you click on this address: www.khfskfh.com Best tablets guaranteed.”

They upload this message five or six times in a row on the thread. Let’s be honest, they have probably killed any conversation stone dead. Still want to discuss how mortgage interest relief can be used as a social tool? Nah…nor me.

Sophisticated Trolling

Some trolling is outstandingly sophisticated. It is carried out to undermine or discredit people who are – in the eyes of the troller – deserving to be trolled. People who make overtly political statements, politicians of all levels, are frequently trolled by their adversaries. After all, politics is a dirty game. Trolls silently read the comments left by a particular person over months or even years until they find the right moment. Note – the troll never breaks cover by joining the debate. They just sit and wait and bide their time.

Then, when their ‘target’ – frequently a politician, media professional or social advocate – appears to be gaining fame and popular support, the trolling starts.

‘Great speech. Funny how you support free childcare now but stood against it last year. click this link to your earlier comments: www.abvkdzz.com

Off we go. The trolling has started. The debate is being diverted away from the wishes of the speech-maker.

Governments and politically-charged departments are the most sophisiticated trollers of all. Who can forget the British Government’s encouragement of the belief among the world’s people that Adolf Hitler only possessed one out of a possible maximum of two testicles?

Serious questions raised in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 quickly focussed on asking how the terrible catastrophe had happened in the first place. Go look at the threads now. 99.9% of the arguments are buried under tons of trolled nonsense. The aeroplanes were holograms and the whole thing never happened. It was the Illumnati. It was little green men.

It is now almost impossible for anyone find out how the events on 9/11 actually managed to happen. Sophisticated Trolling at its finest.

Conclusion:

Trolling is an integral part of modern internet communication. it is the art of subverting or suppressing debate. But there is a great reluctance within the world’s government and media to discuss in detail what it is and how it works.

Now, isn’t that strange?

Here’s a picture of a kitten:

"He told you there would be no pictures. He lied to you. And I'm not a kitten.."

“He told you there would be no pictures. He lied to you. And I’m not a kitten..”

If all our news were truthful, questions would be illegal…wouldn’t they?

9 Apr

I have started an argument with an online news editor.

I could have done a thousand other things but the voice inside my head said: “Go for it! Speak up NOW!”

This is the same voice that once advised me to accuse a policeman of lying on oath while I was standing in the dock and had already managed to annoy the judge.

This voice also advised me to confront two street robbers who held very long knives and were in the process of throwing a mini cab driver onto a railway line.

This voice gets me into trouble but it also saves my soul. It allows me to confront and to question when the easy way out is to ignore or withdraw.

The online news editor – we shall call him by his acronym ‘ONE’ , is a reasonable, educated and good – natured soul. I know this for a fact because of ONE’s replies so far.

ONE has enough to do already without needing to waste time engaged in spurious debates with strangers. ONE’s replies to my criticism have been in the form of questions. ONE moves the debate between us onward with intelligence and good humour and I try to respond in the same way.

I hope I succeed because if I do not, I know that ONE will spot the crack in my armour and a spear will dispatch me in an instant. I am certain that I would do the same if I get the chance.

Now, I am going to reveal what I am arguing with ONE about. Perhaps, you will suddenly see me in a different way.

We are arguing over the use of the question mark.

*?*

For a  journalist, the question mark is sacred. It drives their world, their identity and their reason for turning up for work each day. They ask questions.

For a reader, the question mark is an outrage. A reader seeks answers. We only read because we already have a question mark in our head. We are trying to remove the damned thing.

ONE writes headlines with a question mark at the end.

I don’t like this. I tell ONE that it is not the job of a journalist. Journalists should not write headlines that end in a question mark.

ONE replies to me:

“Why??????”

I instantly adore ONE’s answer and I want to frame it. Behind a sheet of slate.

“Because I believe that the essence of reportage is to provide answers, not debate uncertainty”

ONE replies to me:

“Agreed, reports should probably explain rather than pose questions, but surely Twitter is not reportage?????????”

I chew over my relationship with Twitter before suggesting to him:

“It evolves as we use it, changing from look-at-me platform to echo-platform to breaking-newsroom. Hot news at its best, period.”

ONE has better things to do and goes off and does them.

I use the time to write this post on my WordPress blog and clarify my battle plans. Have I won my point? I doubt it.

ONE has asked the Big Question.

Is Twitter reportage?

The word reportage is defined as the means of reporting news.

ONE is making an important point here.

ONE is suggesting that Twitter does not itself report news but is instead, something other. Twitter is a ‘platform’, a soap-box on which we can all stand and shout.

ONE is suggesting that Twitter is the means by which we link to news. It is not the news report itself.

ONE is pointing out that by capturing our attention with a question mark, we will follow the link to the report and read the story. ONE is selling the story on Twitter and not reporting it.

Now, this is a wonderful day for me and ONE to be slugging this argument out. Why? Because yesterday morning, Margaret Thatcher died of a stroke. Thatcher was once a famous and powerful British Prime Minister.

Margaret Thatcher’s death is just a simple and natural occurrence. We get old and we die. It happens to us all.

But Thatcher’s death has unleashed a huge news battle across the internet and the lives of those in Britain. Some welcome her death and others mourn it.

Those that welcome her death do so because the secrets that she hid from the world when she was a powerful leader are now one step closer to being released for the press to report. Many of these secret documents can only be released after her death.

Those that mourn her death are the ones who broadly benefit from those secrets staying locked away.

The most powerful interests are held by the press who wish to maintain her image as a force for good.

The weakest footing is held by those who cannot argue their case until all the documents she hid away are revealed to the world and become common knowledge for the first time.

You see, Thatcher used her power to suppress facts from being reported that might harm her power to rule or cause unrest among the already angry sections of  Britain’s population.

Those among us who personally witnessed the gross censorship and distortion of news under her rule are powerless to speak out because our evidence is locked away in dusty vaults.

We purse our lips as her powerful friends weep Hollywood tears at her passing so that they gain a better seat at her funeral wake.

We wait until we can question what actually went on in secret and get an answer. We cannot do this yet because the facts are still withheld from the journalists who will reveal them. Some files are locked away for seventy years.

One day they will come out. One day, the news will be more truthful than it is today.

ONE is right.

Twitter is just a railway station where trains carrying truth arrive and depart. We get on them if we choose and we are transported to where we want to be. ONE is just a guard with a flag, shouting the destinations and helping people get on board. You want to go here? Get on this carriage. You want to go there? Next train.

But Twitter has one unique element.

It is not owned by the wealthy and influential news groups who have an interest in pitching a certain version of the truth.

Twitter is the place where truth, lies and fantasy are all available and we are allowed to choose. Where the process of news starts and where it is advertised once it is ready for us to read it.

In between us and our news is a man or a woman who has to ask questions on our behalf.

And ONE has to occasionally ask us questions to make sure that we are listening.

And a truth unspoken is a lie that sleeps.

Millions of new cars remain unsold. Join the dots…

8 Feb

DSC00283roadwax

As more than 10 MILLION brand new cars join the ever increasing backlog of unsold stock across the World – four million cars in Europe alone – factory closures are now to become a reality.

Well-hidden and secure compounds across Europe, Asia and America are the usual first home for newly-born cars awaiting shipping to dealers. But these are now so full that dealers themselves are having to store cars in their already-packed yards.

The backlog of stored new cars in Europe now runs to four million. US sources point to a similar figure for America and things are so bad in China that Mercedes Benz are offering as much as 30% discount on some new models (S-Class, anyone?) as an attempt to shift stock.

No matter how politicians of all persuasions in all car-making countries try to dress it up, the fact is that production lines and whole factories now stand to be closed as a means of reducing output to match the drop in demand.

As Jorn Madslien’s BBC article here points out, the 7 – 10% annual drop in European demand since the Banking crisis of 2008 is set to continue through 2013 according to industry analysts.

There is no evidence to suggest that this trending reduction in demand will halt. Unemployment, static wages and financial insecurity continue to keep potential customers away from showrooms.021roadwax

What many ordinary people have overlooked in the last three years is the part that national politicians have played in this unfolding catastrophe.

Anxious to deflect criticism of themselves from voters already outraged at the corruption within the financial industry that has wrecked economic prospects, many political leaders have persuaded car giants to keep production at a steady level to avoid redundancies.

In the last three years, American car-making states have seen the quite shocking sight of trains loaded with brand new cars leaving the factories bound for the deserts – where the cars are simply off-loaded and parked up – as an alternative to laying off workers or reducing pay-packets.

Now, this temporary vote-buying strategy has resulted in such high levels of surplus vehicles that the need to close whole factories has replaced the idea of cutting the odd work shift. There is now no other option left.

Discounting of new car prices at dealership level is now rising into thousands of dollars. Some makes and models are almost dead in the water, effectively having so few interested potential buyers that they may as well not be offered.

Chrysler, for example, has more than six months worth of 2013 Dodge Darts parked up right now, as the Wall Street Journal’s article here reveals.

Six months worth of Dodge Darts. At what point does a ‘new’ car technically become an ‘old’ new car? Can a car that has sat out in the open for most of a year still be described as ‘new’? One can easily imagine the challenges that car manufacturers now face.

027

But showroom price discounting – especially up to amounts like 30% – can wreak havoc with the residual value of that car’s marque. The prices of ‘nearly-new’ second-hand versions plummet at auction and fleet clients and Hire Purchase customers can become saddled with a kind of negative equity on their own vehicles. Fleet News made this point six months ago in their article here.

Some commercial vehicle manufacturers have been hit really hard as savvy fleet operators have held onto their trucks for an extra year or two to avoid this depreciation risk. One major truck maker sold zero units of its product in the UK in 2011 as regular clients simply sat tight.

General Motors has only now struggled back into profit in the US after years in the red with an unloved product range. Desperate for small cars it didn’t have, it hastily re-badged Asian Daewoo products, slapping a ‘Chevrolet’ badge on them and shipping them into America.

Now, it is watching as its twin European badges – Vauxhall and Opel – fight a desperate war to survive. It is abundantly clear that 7-10% over-capacity plus some ageing and inefficiently designed production facilities cannot be propped up at all cost.

roadwaxJeep 101

In this situation, the cost will be production line workers. There are no deserts in Europe to hide millions of unwanted cars.

The emerging giant economy of China fueled the revival of hopes in 2009 for top marques like BMW, Cadillac and Rolls Royce. Dying on their feet as Europe and America struggled with a banking collapse, these big names spearheaded a rush to satisfy Chinese auto sales volume growth of 46% in that year.

But by 2010 that figure had dropped to 32% and in early 2011 it slumped to 2.5%.

We are not supposed to use the word ‘problem’. The fashionable and politically correct word today is ‘challenge’.

The ‘problem’ is over-production of depreciating consumer goods.

The ‘challenge’ for today’s politicians is to find unemployed workers jobs that can generate their family a surplus income. Enough to buy yet more depreciating consumer goods and certainly more than enough to live on.

If today’s politicians actually have a solution to this challenge, then they are keeping very quiet about it.

 

First UK motorist is taught to drive on snow and ice.

12 Jan
A typically devastating scene showing what can happen when snow falls on an English pub.

A typically devastating scene showing what can happen when snow falls on an English pub.

The BBC have released footage of a British driver secretly being taught how to drive on snow and ice. The footage lasts just a few seconds and is hidden within a normal news article.

This news has been greeted with horror by Britain’s biggest safety quango, The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA). Although its own website proudly claims to advise drivers on how to drive on snow, it is actually designed to discourage drivers from venturing out by simply re-posting the same dubious information that was printed in 1955.

RoSPA’s approach to the topic is simple. Load the driver down with so much cautionary advice on planning and multiple check-lists that they simply give up and stay indoors.

Even under the specific section ‘Driving on snow and ice’ – it doesn’t reveal any actual advice on how to drive on snow and ice beyond what is stated in the Police Driver’s Handbook. There is not a single mention of winter tyres, traction control, accelerator technique or gearbox control over-ride.

It instead assumes that you are immediately going to get stuck. Their finest advice is reproduced below:

“…move your vehicle slowly backwards and forwards out of the rut using the highest gear you can. If this doesn’t work, you may have to ask a friendly passerby for a push or get your shovel out…”

and the all-time classic:

“…slow down in plenty of time before bends and corners…”

What can easily happen if you don't "reduce your speed in plenty of time" as RoSPA advise...

What can easily happen if you don’t “reduce your speed in plenty of time” as RoSPA advise…

Roadwax sent special reporter Elena Handcart to ask RoSPA why they are fifty years out of touch with modern techniques for driving on snow and ice. Brian Loadsworth, head of Driver Thinking explained:

“The average British chappie is a little bit of a nuisance when it comes to driving a motor car on snow. We find it is far safer to try and keep him at home, checking his battery charge level and walking around trying to find a shop that will sell him a cavalry tweed car blanket.

The more ordinary people we can leave completely in the dark about snow driving techniques, the more space there is on the roads for bus drivers to pull over and cancel their journey. One really shouldn’t encourage this sort of foolhardy attitude among the workers”.

Thomas Schneebinder from the Stockholm Institute for Common Sense disagrees:

“When I was just six years old, my parents gave me my first Volvo. Like all other normal Swedish drivers, I learned to race old Saabs over packed ice by the time I was twelve. I am surprised that this knowledge is forbidden in Britain. Well done to the BBC for leaking it.”

DSC00026.roadwaxsnowJPG

A post box completely cut off by more than four inches of snow – typical of what Britain may have to endure for up to several days

North Korean rocket scientist goes home and hugs kids.

12 Dec

All civilians are instructed to continue with their work program.

That is all.

Is somebody gonna come and wake me up when I’m supposed to salute…?

Human Rights Industry for sale. Click here to add ‘Human Rights’ to shopping cart.

6 Nov

If you are reading these words, then you are a conscientious citizen who cares about protecting human rights.

Or else,  you are an employee belonging to one of  hundreds of worldwide government organisations who monitor the internet for early signs of organised dissent.

If you fall into both categories then your body may soon be found by a passer-by.

If you are ‘time-poor’ or otherwise have a boss who wears sunglasses inside the office, here are the two links:

This one is to the RFK Training Institute.

This one is to the BBC who have written an online article about them.

Off you go. See you back here later.

Over the last two years, Roadwax has noticed a couple of disturbing trends within the media.

1) The increasing use of the term “Human Rights Activist”.

2) Investigative journalists who mock Twitter for being a fickle gossip shop yet all have Twitter accounts.

Let’s take a closer look:

1) “Human Rights Activist”. Er…someone who actively promotes human rights? Not just a “Human Rights Supporter” – someone who supports basic human rights but…well…someone who goes a little bit further. Maybe, too far.

Even the most right-wing dictator or left-wing Supreme Leader supports human rights. It always looks good on their CV or resume and calms fears that they might actually be a right-wing dictator or a left wing Supreme Leader. But hey, running around and actively supporting Human Rights – now, that is just asking for trouble. Best stay at home and click ‘like’ on a Facebook campaign when asked. Don’t push it. Don’t get active. You need to be a trained pro to do all that stuff. Best leave it to someone else.

On what date in history did we normal humans apparently stop actively supporting our rights? Or, is popular media beginning to use the term ‘active’ as a kind of negative adjective, a nudge in the ribs to their readers and viewers?

“Watch out for Dave. He’s an Education Activist. He openly questions the teachers at parent meetings.”

“Watch out for Ella. She’s an Animal Welfare Activist. She persuaded her local store to stop selling battery-farmed eggs.”

Supporters are supposed to fill seats in the stadium and watch the activists do the work.

Nonsense. Dangerous nonsense.

We should all be Human Rights Activists. We should regain ownership of the term.

Which brings me neatly to point number 2).

Again, in the space of a couple of years, Twitter has gone from lightweight world chat-room to premier source of breaking news.

How do we know? Well, we could conduct a simple scientific experiment:

1) Have a huge storm hit a major city. New York will do fine.

2) Go on to Twitter and watch what ordinary people say and upload as pictures.

3) When someone uploads a picture of a shark swimming in their yard…

4) Watch how long it takes in seconds before major news websites carry the story…

5) …before dumping  it and instead running a “How to Spot a Faked Photo” article.

So, without causing any cruelty or suffering to animals, we can test out how the major news-gathering organisations work these days.

They watch Twitter. They use a mixed bag of paid and unpaid freelance reporters to report from the front line. They use activists.

Staff reporters visiting dangerous places? Not likely. Have you any idea how expensive and embarrassing it gets when a staff reporter gets their head stuck in a toilet in a Kiev brothel or runs down a local warlord’s mother-in-law while driving a Sixt Rental Toyota in Afghanistan? Nope. Staff reporters do the restaurant reviews and click on Twitter.

The RFK Training Institute have spotted this trend. The BBC have spotted the RFK Institute spotting this trend. Roadwax spotted the BBC spotting the RFK…oh – you know how word travels.

The RFK Institute in Florence, Italy are opening their doors today.

They are offering to train Human Rights Activists how not to get caught, killed or disconnected. The big beasts. The ones who report human rights abuses in other people’s countries. Countries where nobody can tell who the guys with the guns and the Toyota pickup truck work for. The guys outside your house.

If you want any more information, email  Valentina Pagliai on:  pagliai@rfkcenter.com but do not waste her time. They are apparently looking to focus efforts on the most high priority cases – the men and women who already have to hide from tyranny to stay alive long enough to report it.

The BBC says that the RFK Institute are going to sell courses to teach human rights activists how to protect themselves online from being tracked, monitored, shut down or effectively marginalised.

The first students will enroll in January 2013.

Strange.

Instead of offering all this information free to everyone via the internet, the RFK Institute is carefully hand-picking a few whose names will be kept secret and who will be trained behind closed doors.

Instead of freely revealing all the tips and tricks that every human ought to be aware of to be kept safe while using the internet in 2012, RFK is teaching maybe fifty or a hundred paying guests.

They will become the elite who can protect themselves from prying agencies. RFK Institute will issue the qualifications, I assume. Control the market, as it were.

The RFK Institute has just created the Human Rights Industry.

It has just put a price on knowledge instead of uploading it for free to everyone.

If I become a donor to this charity, will I get a monthly newsletter that includes a helpful ‘handy tip’ on how to keep my freedom online? I doubt it. I sincerely hope not.

The RFK Institute appears to be ‘professionalising’ human rights activism.

My heart hurts.

Lydia Callis, Interpreter, is deleted. ‘Killing the messenger’, Bloomberg Style…

30 Oct

Last night, as New York state (and also half the world) watched TV news for information on Pretty Damn Big Storm Sandy, a star was born.

As New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg  droned relentlessly onward like a Caterpillar D8 bulldozer (shown below), Lydia Callis translated the true meaning of his words for those listeners who still believed in the power of life and who still had hearts that beat.

By 02:00 hrs GMT, as the storm was thrashing Lower Manhattan, Lydia had a Twitter account that was trending like a rocket. She was gaining followers  in a way that meant only one thing: she had become an overnight sensation in the literal sense.

Her outstanding, intuitive and skilled visual interpretation of Bloomberg’s words was truly electrifying to watch.

It was made more so by the contrast between her vivacious delivery and his life-sucking, soul-crushingly unmemorable droning. 

Lydia spoke to the living and the hard of hearing.

Mike spoke to the telegraph poles and the concrete kerb stones.

By morning, Lydia was receiving the kind of internet media attention that spelled trouble. People loved her. People adored her. People wanted to see more of her rather than Bloomberg.

One just knew what would happen next…

In a simple feat of 1950’s Russian Communist Party subtlety, Lydia has been deleted. Airbrushed out of the history of New York’s worst night.

Camera footage of her at Bloomberg’s side on the night of the storm has been cropped so that she is no longer in view. You can just catch a glimpse of her elbow if you have sharp eyes. Yes, the footage looks slightly grainy now; it has been cropped and enlarged  to counter for the fact that it is zoomed in on Mike.

Her upbeat Twitter account comment which she made last night:   “I’m back…!” has gone.

So have all her other comments and posts.

So has her Twitter account.

All that remains is a hashtag page for ‘SignLanguageLady’ – her own original account address. It leads to nowhere. She is now nobody. She has become a ‘non-person’.

Some might argue that it does not befit a mayor’s interpreter to upstage a mayor.

Others might counter that it does not befit a mayor to make his atrociously poor communication worse by removing his interpreter.

Some might argue that she diverted attention from Bloomberg’s words.

Others might argue that this was an act of supreme charity and kindness since Mike has no talent for communication. Not a shred. Nada.

Lydia mentioned last night that, although she loves working with Mike, when Bloomberg tries to “habla” (speak Spanish) – she stops signing. 

Her comment has now been removed from the internet.

Bloomberg has as much in common with the Hispanic community as a hat stand does with a pork pie. This is not a thing that should be pointed out. If it is, then people might think that he is unelectable in the Hispanic community.

People might be right. 

Bloomberg does not speak for and does not speak with the people. He should not be a mayor.

Callis (or: Callas – the spelling that used to appear) spoke for and to the people and she should be.

Standard Chartered and FSA stumble after NYSDFS and Jeffrey Robinson kick zimmer frames.

7 Aug

“Comatose”.

With this one word, American financial crime analyst Jeffrey Robinson described the  British Financial Services Authority on the BBC’s national radio news today.

Of course, being a writer, Jeffrey placed the word into a coherent sentence (you get more jobs that way) but his damning judgement rang out across Britain as a thousand pictures could never do.

The New York State Department of Financial Services is gunning for City of London -based Standard Chartered Bank. Standard Chartered was accused of breaking pretty much every rule that matters in an apparent attempt to launder Iranian money.

Standard Chartered shares dived by over 16% in value today as the news got out that the bank had ventured into the cross-hairs of one of the world’s most influential financial investigatory bodies.

Strange then, that Britain’s own FSA was not the one making the accusations or even raising a pair of opera glasses? Not really.

Although the FSA describes itself as the body that regulates the financial industry in the UK, it has an almost unbroken record of not regulating the financial industry in the UK. The FSA’s record is startling in both breadth of inertia and depth of failure.

The FSA has failed to step in on almost every single case relating to a British bank that is now facing charges of corruption, mis-selling, dishonesty or fraud. Almost every high-street bank in Britain is now facing legal action for one crime or another but none of those legal challenges was begun by the FSA.

The FSA appears to be run by people who share the interests of the fraudsters whom it is responsible for regulating and excluding from Financial Services. How else could it explain such a ridiculously poor performance? Has it been off work with a bad back since 2002?

And this is where Jeffrey Robinson comes in. While the American version of the British FSA is regulating British banks, the American version of our business analysts accuses the British FSA of being “comatose”.

You see, as the Americans have often pointed out, we British don’t know how to complain.

And if we do, we often find that doors close in front of us and promotions don’t appear as they used to. Our job positions are deleted in sudden cost-cutting exercises and we may be regarded as “no longer having the correct security credentials.”

Jeffrey Robinson doesn’t need a promotion to keep up with the mortgage on his apartment and he’s not scared of the greasy and corrupt men and women behind the scenes in the City of London. Many British commentators are afraid and with good reason.

Remember, Britain is a small island, easily fitting inside the footprint of some US states. David Kelly ended up committing suicide when he was hounded for leaking a few facts. Well, that’s the official explanation. Read the whole Wiki article before you reach a judgement. The undisputed facts of a very British death.

Just like in World War 2, The Americans may have dived in a little late but they do seem to be digging in rather nicely, making up for lost time. Once again, they’re fighting alongside the British people against a small band of wealthy elitists who threaten the democracy and stability of the west.

It is not quite clear whether Prime Minister Cameron and Chancellor Osborne are willing to ‘do a Rudolf Hess’ and extract themselves from the influence of their six Bullingdon Club friends and the dozens of Old Etonians who are now influential city bankers and financiers. It would be difficult for either of them to use the excuse: “We were only following orders.”

An out-of-touch and under-skilled Prime Minister gives the job of Chancellor to his close Bullingdon Club friend, despite that friend having no personal experience of business. Not a problem…if your city friends actually run the show from the shadows, is it?

Unless American institutions and American commentators start to speak up now, the bad guys could win for good this time.

Today’s war is not about Democracy versus Fascism, nor the failure to regulate. It is a war about Lawfulness versus the illegal and covert creation of supreme wealth and unimaginable power.

British Royal Wedding souvenirs “made in Chinese sweatshops” -BBC Radio 4

23 May

“Hey, Mister – wanna buy a dish cloth…?”

On 18th May 2012, at 02:21 GMT, the BBC Radio 4 World Service announced that many souvenirs for the recent Royal Wedding had been made in sweat-shops in China. Young Kate Middleton knows a bargain when she sees one.

The more you think about this amazing fact, the sadder and more strangely disconnected from reality the Royal Family appear to be.

I mean, these are not the counterfeit goods – these are the official souvenirs. The souvenirs that have been commissioned, sourced and approved by the Royal Family.

I have waited a few days to see if this news item was repeated by the BBC but, as is often the case, it has been ‘spiked’  – no doubt under pressure from Buckingham Palace who have their hands full trying to organize the celebrations for the Queen’s Birthday which is coming up shortly.

Now, you don’t suppose that Buckingham Palace awarded the contracts for  manufacturing these “Happy Birthday” souvenirs to the same eager applicants, do you…?

Would the Palace care to comment on this issue?

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