Saturday, July 14, 2012

Olympics rights and wrongs

An old friend of the family, James Grote, hugely deserving of the honour, carried the Olympic torch through Oxford early on Tuesday morning.  My wife and younger son got up early to watch it pass a couple of hundred yards from our house, as the crow flies. They both came back buzzing with the excitement of it all.

Before I became a modern day curmudgeon about the political and corporate pollution and exploitation of it all, I shared that sense of awe and magic surrounding major sporting events like the Olympics, world cup & European championship finals, FA cup final, various athletics events, Gaelic games, Tour de France and even Wimbledon.

However, the government are turning London and the Olympic venues into a police state for the duration of the games. Visitors from totalitarian states won't see any difference in their treatment around the venues than that they receive from authorities at home; as they watch the VIPs being ferried, in official Olympic vehicles, rapidly and smoothly down Olympic designated lanes, whilst they wait to be processed by security with the rest of us ordinary plebs .

Special laws, like the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 and the Olympic Symbol (Protection) Act of 1995, relating to the protection of corporate sponsors of the games are probably the most restrictive ever, in their scope and potential penalties should they be deliberately or inadvertently transgressed. The former law gives LOCOG the power to prevent unauthorised associations with the Olympics.  Officially sanctioned associations are called "London Olympic Association rights".  Businesses along the torch route in Oxford have been told to cover their signs as they are not entitled to any publicity that might be remotely associated with the Olympics.

The intellectual property, promotional and economic rights of the sponsors are more important than the civil rights of people attending or even linking to the website of the games or just watching the torch relay. The IOC, LOCOG and the big companies involved defend their intellectual property vigorously and some would say viciously. Never forget, for example that within the confines of the Olympic Park McDonalds is watching you.
"Due to sponsorship obligations with McDonalds LOCOG have instructed the Catering team that they are no longer able to serve chips on their own within the Olympic Park.
The only loophole to this is if they are served with fish."

I've got two tickets for a quarter final football match at Wembley and amongst the items I'm banned from bringing are musical instruments, "professional style cameras", containers with a capacity greater than 100ml. Oh but I can bring essential medication if I also bring a letter from a doctor saying I need it.

Then there is the catch all no "items with corporate or inappropriate branding, sponsorship, promotional or marketing material or literature, except for official Games merchandise and/or other football related clothing worn in good faith, any unofficial or counterfeit merchandise".

The job of the general public is to quietly acquiesce to over-reaching, abusive security theatre and consume and cheer the Olympics bread and circuses.  I love sport and like my family really want to enjoy the games. The Olympics are supposed to be about building a better world through sport - better, higher, faster, stronger - excellence, respect, friendship built on ethical values; development through sport, education through sport, peace through sport.  That idealism sadly gets lost in the real world.

I will use my tickets and hope that kids in particular can revel in and remember the excitement of the occasion. But it's really difficult to set aside the industrial scale political and corporate malfeasance surrounding it all.  Let's face it, if we all decided to engage exclusively with ethical political, public, social, economic, private and civil society actors/agents/individuals/institutions and hold them to those ethical values, the world would be a much better place.

Perhaps those of us lucky enough to have got tickets for Olympic events might start by wearing T-shirts with the insignia 'UK taxpayer: Official Sponsor of London 2012'.  After all we are paying the biggest part of the multi billion pound bill. Or would LOCOG and the IOC consider that ambush marketing?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Terry: he said it but not proven racially aggravated insult

The John Terry judgment is very readable and clear. The short version:

Did John Terry use threatening, abusive/insulting words.. within.. hearing/sight of a person likely to be caused.. distress? Yes.

Was it a racially aggravated abuse/insult under S28 of the Crime and Disorder Act (CDA) 1998, S5 of Public Order Act 1986 & S31(1)(c) & (5) of CDA there's a doubt, so...not guilty.

From the judgment:
"John Terry faces one allegation. It is said that on the 23rd October 2011 at
Loftus Road Stadium London, W12 he used threatening, abusive or insulting
words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour within the hearing or sight of a
person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress and the offence was
racially aggravated in accordance with section 28 of the Crime and Disorder
Act 1998, contrary to Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 and section
31(1)(c) and (5) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.

To summarize:
     There is no doubt the words “Fucking black cunt” were directed at Mr
     Overall I found Anton Ferdinand to be a believable witness on the
central issue.
     It is inherently unlikely that he should firstly accuse John Terry of
calling him a black cunt, then shortly after the match completely deny
that he had made such a comment, and then maintain that false
account throughout the police investigation and throughout this trial.
There is no history of animosity between the two men. The supposed
motivation is slight.
     Mr Terry’s explanation is, certainly under the cold light of forensic
examination, unlikely. It is not the most obvious response. It is
sandwiched between other undoubted insults.
     I believe that he is an unwilling witness, and would have preferred that
this matter not come to court.
There were discrepancies in his evidence. To a large extent this is what
you would expect from a truthful witness. Much of what happened;
happened in a brief period of time, in circumstances where the result of
the game was more important than any individual argument between
two players. I will return later to the discrepancies.
So the question for me now is whether there is a doubt that the offence is
made out. In all criminal courts in this country a defendant is found guilty
only if the court, be it a jury, magistrate, or a judge, is sure of guilt. If there
is a reasonable doubt then the defendant is entitled to be acquitted.
The prosecution has presented a strong case. There is no doubt that John
Terry uttered the words “fucking black cunt” at Anton Ferdinand. When he
did so he was angry. Mr Ferdinand says that he did not precipitate this
comment by himself accusing Mr Terry of calling him a black cunt.
Even with all the help the court has received from television footage,
expert lip readers, witnesses and indeed counsel, it is impossible to be  
sure exactly what were the words spoken by Mr Terry at the relevant time. It is
impossible to be sure exactly what was said to him at the relevant time by
Mr Ferdinand.

Weighing all the evidence together, I think it is highly unlikely that Mr
Ferdinand accused Mr Terry on the pitch of calling him a black cunt.
However I accept that it is possible that Mr Terry believed at the time, and
believes now, that such an accusation was made. The prosecution evidence
as to what was said by Mr Ferdinand at this point is not strong. Mr Cole
gives corroborating (although far from compelling corroborating)  
evidence on this point. It is therefore possible that what he said was not intended as
an insult, but rather as a challenge to what he believed had been said to
In those circumstances, there being a doubt, the only verdict the court can
record is one of not guilty." 
John Terry was on trial for using racially aggravated "threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress" as set out in section 28 of the Crime & Disorder Act 1998, Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 and section 31(1)(c) and (5) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.

The case was not proven beyond doubt, so he was found not guilty.

None of the actors in this little drama have come out of it looking too good. The footballers behaved badly.  They also seem to believe that vicious verbal abuse and offensive language is ok as long as there is no reference to colour?

The law (s5) determines that engaging in insulting words or behaviour is a criminal offence. That's pretty offensive itself in a modern democracy.

So I guess there are three remaining questions on the case.

Was it ok for the court to postpone the case until after the European championship finals for John Terry's convenience?

Do the FA now follow up by charging Mr Terry with misconduct as per the Suarez case last year?

More importantly, does the case help or hinder the campaign to get section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 repealed or updated?

Monday, July 09, 2012

New laptop set up: just switch on and go...?

I've been setting up a new computer today.  Am I getting slower or is setting up a new laptop computer getting more tortuous? Maybe it's just that this is an infrequently used skill?  Anyway it took most of the morning and part of the afternoon.
  • Sorted battery out.
  • Did new computer Windows 7 rigmarole
  • Ignoring McAfee advice that I needed to register a McAfee account before removal, I removed McAfee first via the Windows uninstaller; then rebooted and downloaded McAfee removal tool; ran this as an administrator and rebooted again
  • Installed Sophos via remote user disk (the Open University has a licence covering home users). Not as smooth as it should have been; again had to run as an administrator and of course Windows 7 doesn't facilitate the easy set up from starting of an administrator account; (for OU readers run it from the OUlocal.bat file in the main folder rather than the sophos-install.bat file in the sophos folder - for some reason trying to install from the latter file gets part way through and then tries to connect to a network printer and fails)
  • Next installed Firefox
  • Revise to personal preference the privacy and proxy and security Firefox settings
  • Install Skype; find user's lost Skype password; set preferred privacy settings
  • Install Thunderbird
  • Set up email account on Thunderbird; again this took a little longer than expected because I made a series of simple errors when entering the IMAP and smtp server settings
  • Next step should be installing Enigmail GPG extension for Thunderbird
  • Next and most importantly installed Linux, Ubuntu 12.04 in this case
  • Couple of reboots later and Ubuntu is running smoothly
  • Needed language support update
  • Needed about 230MB of other updates via the Software Updater
  • Install Synaptic package manager
  • Install Thunderbird for Linux and set up account
  • Install Enigmail GPG extension
  • Install Skype for Linux; set privacy settings etc
  • Install recordMyDesktop
  • Install Chrome and Flash for Linux (there are going to be no further Flash updates for Linux but Google are taking over and will integrate to Chrome)
  • Install audio/video codecs
  • Set Ubuntu privacy settings to suit
  • Set Firefox proxies, security, privacy settings
  • Install LibreOffice Global Menu
Then you're pretty much ready to go.  Now that wasn't too difficult was it? Though why is it I still think I've missed something obvious?

Just on the Ubuntu 12.04, it's worth checking out Joey Sneddon's 10 things to do after installing Ubuntu 12.04. and Sean from novelldesktop's 5 things to do after installing Ubuntu 12.04.