Monthly Archives: January 2023

  • Lost?

    Spotted in Bristol’s Old Market Street this morning.

    Bilingual Welsh Road works sign - Traffig gwyriad - Diverted traffic

    Whether it has been dumped far from home and/or is trying to make its way home is not clear from its demeanour.

    This not the first occasion a bilingual Welsh sign has been used in England, as reported by Nation Cymru with this example of the English city known in Welsh as Caerwrangon and Worcester to the local monoglots.

  • More Reach ambiguity

    In my first paid job after graduating, your ‘umble scribe received further instruction in English, namely adapting what he wrote to fit in with his then employer’s house style, part of which included the avoidance any ambiguity.

    As Merriam Webster points out, ambiguity is defined as “a word or expression that can be understood in two or more possible ways: an ambiguous word or expression“.

    If only those writing today’s newspapers had also received such training as your correspondent or access to a newsroom dictionary with the above definition for the entry ambiguity

    Experience would suggest neither situation obtains, particularly in the titles of the Reach plc stable of regional “news” titles, as this ambiguous offering from the Daily Post/North Wales Live implies.

    Headline reads The historic inn opposite a popular country park that's been serving weary travellers for centuries
    Which establishment is serving weary travellers – the inn or the country park?

    Your correspondent diligently read the piece to discover how and what Loggerheads Country Park has been serving weary travellers down the centuries, all to no avail. 🙁

  • Farewell Nadhim Zahawi

    Nadhim Zahawi disgraced MP for Stratford-on-AvonNews broke this morning that the alleged prime minister minister, one Rishi Sunak, had finally shown some of the “integrity, professionalism and accountability” promised when he was inexplicably made Conservative Party leader by its ageing right-wing membership.

    Yes, he’s finally sacked Nadhim “Stable Genius” Zahawi as Party Chair for what is described as a “serious breach of the ministerial code“.

    And the nature of that serious breach? While he was in office briefly as Chancellor Chancer of the Exchequer under disgraced former alleged prime minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, Zahawi by failing to declare he was investigation by HMRC into his tax affairs. It subsequently transpired that he has had to pay the taxman £5 mn. in back taxes and a penalty for tax avoidance. Despite his ministerial media appearances involving prominent – possibly patriotic – display of the Union flag (which some call the Bloody Butcher’s Apron. Ed.), environmental campaigner and philanthropist Julia Davies subsequently wrote in a Guardian opinion piece entitled “Dear Nadhim Zahawi: here’s what patriotic British millionaires do – we pay our proper taxes“.

    Your ‘umble scribe cannot remember any time in his six decades of life when the minister allegedly in overall charge of collecting the country’s tax revenues has been investigated and penalised by the people he’s supposedly administering for not paying what he owed.

    Even before the Zahawi incident, Sunak, who so far has only been PM since the end of October, had already lost one cabinet minister within two weeks of assuming office: over-promoted fireplace salesman “Sir” Gavin Williamson resigned as a result of alleged bullying.

    However, looking around what passes for the current alleged government of the English Empire (which some still call the United Untied Kingdom. Ed.), it seems that despite Zahawi’s sacking, other members of Sunak’s administration seem to regard compliance with the ministerial code as an optional extra during their terms of office.

    Dominic Rennie Raab supposedly Justice Minister and Deputy Prime MinisterTake for example one the case Dominic Rennie Raab, supposedly the Secretary of State for Justice and Deputy Prime Minister.

    Dominic is not a boy who took any notice of his mother’s admonitions to “play nicely“. He is currently under investigation for allegations of bullying. The Guardian reported in December that eight separate incidents of bullying by Raab during a previous term of office at the Justice Ministry during Johnson’s premiership.

    Johnson himself faces a Commons privileges committee inquiry into whether he lied to misled parliament over the Partygate scandal.

    Handy tip for anyone who believes there is any integrity in Johnson: never trust a middle-aged man with a toddler haircut who combs his locks with a balloon.

    It doesn’t look as if there’s much of Sunak’s “integrity, professionalism and accountability” on either the front or back benches of what passes for the political party he is supposed to be leading.

    Before the announcement of Zahawi’s sacking, there did not appear to be much local support in Stratford-on-Avon for their tax-avoiding dishonourable member. Given the opinions expressed to The Guardian four days ago, our Stable Genius would be well advised not to seek the Conservative Party candidacy for the next general election.

    Update 31/01/23: In today’s letters in The Guardian, Keith Flett of the Beard Liberation Front remarks that Nadhim Zahawi “has now managed to bring the hirsute into disrepute“.

  • How to Lose French and Alienate People

    The stylebook of Associated Press (AP), the largest news agency in the USA is a highly regarded reference work for journalists wishing to improve their written English.

    The same cannot be said of the AP Stylebook Twitter account which posted the tweet below on Thursday.

    Tweet reads We recommend avoiding general and often dehumanizing “the” labels such as the poor, the mentally ill, the French, the disabled, the college-educated. Instead, use wording such as people with mental illnesses. And use these descriptions only when clearly relevant.
    Zut alors !

    The offending post has since been deleted, the BBC reports.

    Before its deletion, the advice was widely mocked by Francophones and Francophiles. Even the French embassy in the USA joined in the derision, briefly changing its name to the “Embassy of Frenchness in the United States“.

    Writer Sarah Haider responded that there was “nothing as dehumanizing as being considered one of the French” and that a better term was “suffering from Frenchness“, whilst political scientist Ian Bremmer suggestedpeople experiencing Frenchness” as a possible alternative.

    Washington Post journalist Megan McArdle also joined in the fun: “The people experiencing journalism at the AP have their work cut out for them“.

    After the tweet had been deleted, those in charge of the AP Stylebook Twitter account said their reference to French people had been “inappropriate” and that it “did not intend to offend“.

    The moral of this story: think before you tweet.

  • Content liability: Big Tech squares up to Uncle Sam

    US Supreme Court sealFollowing the announcement anti-trust action by the United States Department of Justice along with the Attorneys General of California, Colorado, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Virginia against Google, Meta (owners of Facebook and Instagram), Microsoft and Twitter have all made statements seeking to defend their actions.

    In their legal opinions, the big US tech giants, including Microsoft, Meta and Twitter, are warning the Supreme Court against amending Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA). This would enable actions against content recommendation algorithms, French IT news site Le Monde Informatique reports.

    One week after Google’s filing of a defence statement with the US Supreme Court warning that amending Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) “would upend the internet“, several companies including Twitter, Meta and Microsoft, have filed their own legal opinions. They support Google’s argument that a restriction of the law could have disastrous consequences for the content editors. By virtue of the 1996 CDA, the companies are shielded from liability for content posted by their users, including comments, criticism and advertising.

    US Supreme Court west facade
    US Supreme Court.
    Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and UpstateNYer

    However, the Supreme Court has been asked to examine whether Section 230 was still pertinent and appropriate, given that it was promulgated before the internet became part of everyday life. The law was subject to a minute before the suit filed by the family of Nohemi Gonzalez, a 23 year-pld US citizen killed in Paris during the 13th November 2015 terrorist attacks claimed by ISIS. The Gonzalez family asserts that the algorithms should be regarded as editorial content not covered by the immunity from liability granted by Section 230 and thus Google’s YouTube subsidiary has violated the US Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) when its algorithms have recommended ISIS-linked content to users. The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in the case on 21st February next.

    Criticisms of the protections of Section 230 for websites

    Both Democratic and Republican members of Congress have criticised the protections provided for by the law. The Republicans believe that those in respect of liability make websites take partial decisions regarding content removal, whilst the Democrats would like the same sites to take more responsibility as regards moderation. In a statement President Biden has stated that his administration would support the position that Section 230 protections should not apply to recommendation algorithms. In its petition of 19th January, Microsoft asserts that if the Supreme Court makes amendments to Section 230, it would “strip these digital publishing decisions suit—and it would do so in illogical ways that are inconsistent with how algorithms actually work.“.

    The company added that any decision aimed at restricting the law “thereby expose interactive computer services to liability for publishing content to users whenever a plaintiff could craft a theory that sharing the content is somehow harmful“. In its own petition Meta stated that the plaintiffs’ argument is “deeply flawed from a legal point of view”; by interpreting Section 230 as a means of protecting sites from liability for content posted by its users whilst removing protection from content “ignores the way in which the internet works“. The company continued by describing the plaintiffs’ position as “regrettable from a practical point of view” and by stating that a ruling in their favour would ultimately prompt “online services to remove important, provocative and controversial content on matters of general interest“.

    Protection from liability essential for website operation according to Twitter

    Twitter has said that the current interpretation of Section 230 “ensures that sites such as Twitter and YouTube can work in spite of the unfathomable amount of information they make available and the potential liability that might result from this“. Since Twitter’s acquisition by Elon Musk, the site has been criticised for having reinstated the accounts of people it previously banned, such as disgraced former president Donald Trump or alpha male par excellence and all-round amateur human being Andrew Tate who is currently under investigation in Romania for alleged human trafficking.

    However, the review of several other high-profile cases will have to take place before the law is changed. Last week the Supreme Court was set to discuss its jurisdiction in two cases that challenge Texas and Florida laws prohibiting online platforms from removing certain political content. In addition, a Twitter vs. Taamneh case, which has many similarities with the Gonzalez vs. Google case, is due to oral pleadings on 2nd February. In this case Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are accused of having aided and abetted another attack claimed by Islamic State.

  • Da iawn, Casnewydd

    Yesterday’s Wales Online reports that the railway station in Casnewydd/Newport, which was refurbished in 2009/10, has come third in a poll to find the world’s ugliest building.

    According to poll organisers , the two uglier buildings in the world are the Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh and the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington, D.C., USA, the headquarters of the FBI.

    Footbridge over tracks at Newport railway station
    Footbridge over tracks, Casnewydd/Newport railway station

    Lost property office at Casnewydd/Newport railway station
    Lost property office at Newport railway station

    For a comparison, images of the FBI’s headquarters and the Scottish Parliament are included below for comparative purposes.

    FBI HQ, Washington DC
    J Edgar Hoover building

    Scottish Parliament building
    Scottish Parliament building, Edinburgh
  • A family with the wrong members in control

    In 1941 in the midst of World War 2, George Orwell wrote his essay The Lion and the Unicorn on the state of England in wartime and examining what the England of the 1940s could have in common with the England of 1840.

    His line of reasoning resulted in him penning the following paragraph.

    England is not the jewelled isle of Shakespeare’s much-quoted message, nor is it the inferno depicted by Dr Goebbels. More than either it resembles a family, a rather stuffy Victorian family, with not many black sheep in it but with all its cupboards bursting with skeletons. It has rich relations who have to be kow-towed to and poor relations who are horribly sat upon, and there is a deep conspiracy of silence about the source of the family income. It is a family in which the young are generally thwarted and most of the power is in the hands of irresponsible uncles and bedridden aunts. Still, it is a family. It has its private language and its common memories, and at the approach of an enemy it closes its ranks. A family with the wrong members in control – that, perhaps, is as near as one can come to describing England in a phrase.

    There is so much in that one paragraph that is still pertinent today: the cupboards bursting with skeletons; the poor relations who are horribly sat upon; deep conspiracy of silence about the source of the family income; and above all a family with the wrong members in control.

    Which brings us very neatly to today’s Daily Mirror font page with some blunt advice for the current “wrong” members in control.

    Headline reads they still don't get it
    The ‘irresponsible uncles’ mentioned by Orwell

    When alleged prime minister Rishi Sunak entered Number 10 he promised: “this government will have integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level.”

    His words have rung hollow, as revealed by his own actions – not wearing a seat belt in a moving car whilst being over 17 years of age – and those of others such as disgraced former alleged prime minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson’s cronysim. Furthermore, Sunak has revealed himself to be particularly foolish. Who else would video themselves breaking the law and then post the evidence on social media?

    However, perhaps far worse than that is the case of present Tory Party chair Nadhim “Stable Genius” Zahawi. It has now come to light that he was under investigation by the Revenue for tax irregularities while he was Chancellor Chancer of the Exchequer. It has emerged today that Zahawi actually had to pay overdue taxes as well as a penalty.

    Last time your ‘umble scribe looked, those who handle their tax affairs with integrity generally have to pay penalties to the taxman.

    Sunak’s fine words in respect of integrity, professionalism and accountability have a distinctly hollow ring, reminiscent of a phrase of Orwell’s regarding political speech in his 1946 essay Politics and the English Language.

    Political language – and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists – is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

    One wonders whether Sunak’s answer to all the sleaze, corruption and general misbehaviour rife in his party with an updated version of John Major’s 1990s Back to Basics campaign. However, your correspondent doubts Sunak has the political skills.

  • Not news, not Bristol

    The Bristol (Evening) Post?Bristol Live website has a Bristol News menu item on its website. Today the home page revealed the item below had been added to that category.

    Headline reads Prince Harry's training flight story in Spare memoir complete fantasy, army instructor says
    Where to in Bristol did Mr. Henry Charles Albert David Mountbatten-Windsor do his flight training in Bristol?

    At this point a number of significant howevers enter the narrative. Firstly, the army has no aviation training centre either in Bristol or its immediate environs, according to its website.

    A second however could be levelled at the second part of the Reach publication’s classification of this item as News. It’s actually what could be classed as gossip, i.e. idle talk or rumour, especially about personal or private affairs of others, except that informant in question has gone running a national Sunday ‘news’ publication in the Reach plc stable.

    Thirdly, for those whose who are really desperate to read this alleged news, it can be found here.

  • Another data protection fine for Meta

    New logo as Facebook morphs into MetaAfter a record fine of €390 mn. at the start of January, the Irish Data Protection Commission is imposing a further fine of €5.5 mn. on Meta, this time for WhatsApp’s policy with regard to personal data under the GDPR, Le Monde Informatique reports.

    Has been welcoming (in tax terms) to American IT companies, but is proving to be as very sensitive area for implementation of the GDPR. Meta has just experienced this once again with a fine of €5,5 mn. imposed by Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner. This is the social network’s second fine in less than a month; on 4 January the same commission announced a record fine of €390 mn. on the personal data processing policy of Facebook and Instagram (posts passim).

    In this instance it’s WhatsApp’s policy that is being censured following a complaint filed on 25 May 2018 – the date the GDPR entered into effect – by a German user. After this date the messaging service updated its general conditions of use and informed its users they had to click on “accept and continue” to indicate their consent. If they did not reply, they no longer had access to the service.As in the decision of 4th January, WhatsApp regards its data processing policy must be considered like a “contract” according to the GDPR (Article 6.1) concluded between the company and the user.

    EDPB lays it on thick

    The Irish Data Protection Commission investigated and drew up a draft decision which was submitted to the European regulators parties involved in this case. It proposed not imposing additional financial penalties. WhatsApp had already been fined €225 mn. in September 2021 for similar actions. However, the DPC pleaded for recognition of the contractual and thus legal nature of WhatsApp’s personal data policy – a position which caused an outcry from other data protection regulators.

    The DPC approached the EDPB for a decision. It dismissed the legal basis of the contract and added an additional infringement of the transparency obligation. As a consequence, the Irish DPC is adding €5.5 mn. to the fine imposed on Meta, WhatsApp’s parent company.

  • Where’s that to?

    The Galleries shopping centre in Broadmead in Bristol opened in October 1991. Originally managed by managed by Capital & Regional and Aviva Investors, the complex is now in the hands of LaSalle Investment Management, whose registered office is in Chicago, IL in the United States.

    However, this has not stopped them from trying to appear a local company: note the phrase “Proud of our city

    However, despite their pride in our city, LaSalle still manages to fail miserably as shown in the photograph below.

    Shopping centre mural showing caption Bristol Suspension Bridge

    Last time I looked there was no Bristol Suspension Bridge. There are, however, a few suspension bridges around the city, but none of them is named after the city of their siting.

    Somehow a photograph of the world-famous Clifton Suspension Bridge designed by Brunel but not opened until after his death has been used in error.

    Ask any Bristolian its whereabouts and the answer is likely to be:”Bristle Suspension Bridge: where’s that to?”

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