fear porn

Are mandatory #AmberAlert messages less than useless?

October 2, 2019 Incoherent ramblings No comments , , ,

I received two supremely annoying Amber alerts on my phone yesterday.  They appear to be specifically designed to maximize intrusiveness, which is quite counterproductive, as the natural response is to shut down the incessant pinging as quick as you can. I’ll elaborate on why I consider that these alerts have no value (actually negative value) below.

The thought and action process to deal with the alert is modeled by the following internal dialogue: “Gaghg … what the hell is that noise!?   Grab, swipe, clear.  Thank god I wasn’t wearing my headphones!”  I got a passing glance at the message in the process, enough to see that it was an Amber alert, but no more.

This was pretty much the same process as dealing with an accidental press of that stupid red panic button on a car key fob — you know the one, it’s always triggered because you are trying to hold your keys, phone, and two dribbling travel mugs in one hand, and a backpack, garbage from the car, and a bag of groceries in the other.  Like the Amber alert, the panic button just triggers more city noise that is ignored by everybody.  It’s been 30 years since car alarms have had any value, but for some reason, instead of just getting rid of them, the manufacturers have supplied an easy way to trigger then accidentally — but I digress.

When yesterday’s second Amber alert triggered, I knew the drill and was able to silence it quickly without even having to look at it.  It was time to turn to google and see if there was a way to avoid these.  It appears there’s a way to do that on an android, but for the ancient discarded iPhone-6s that I bought for $50 USD (and probably even newer models), I appear to be out of luck.  There’s a CRTC ruling that mandates these messages, and phone providers are not allowed to provide a mechanism to disable it. They are also sent with a priority so high that their intrusiveness is off the charts.

Ironically, making the message so intrusive, means that the rush to shut it off means that you loose any chance to actually look at the message.  This is a classic example of a government policy backfire, as the policy has the exact opposite effect than the intention.

Later in the day, having struck out with google, I noticed a an #AmberAlert hash tag beside my twitter stream.  My thought was, “Perfect, there’s got to be people who know how to deal with this there”, and I posted

There were a couple helpful responses, and the rest basically conformed to expectations that one has for the worst Jon-Ronson “So You’ve Been Publically Shamed” style twitter responses:

Reading those reactions, you’d think that I’m an advocate for kidnapping and abduction, perhaps child sex trafficking, and pedophilia too.  How could I be such a piece of shit heartless fucking bastard?  Why would I want to avoid a tiny inconvenience when kids lives are at stake? Sigh.

It is striking to observe first hand how easily people are willing to take up arms to shame somebody for a cause, despite not knowing anything about their thought process, or any possible nuances that underlie the perceived offense. It’s truly thoughtless mob mentality.

Understanding that so many people are unfortunate victims of media stranger-danger fear-porn, the vitriolic reactions of the people above make some sense.  Like useless car alarms, we’ve had 30+ years of the media pumping it’s danger is everywhere story.  Fear sells exceptionally.  However, all the worry that’s been drummed into us about the black van at the school taking off with the kids has been shown again and again to be unsubstantiated.  Most kidnappings are by family members, largely related to custody issues.  Kidnapping is the conflict resolution strategy for desperate white trash trailer park inhabitants who aren’t smart nor sober enough to realize that a split second decision of that nature will only backfire and result in no access to your kids, plus considerable jail time.

Unlike car alarms, media stranger danger carping is not just an annoyance, but has massive social consequences.  I’ve now lived in three Markham subdivisions in the last 20 years, where walking the streets would make you think that you are living in a retirement community.  There are no kids playing.  The parks and the streets are empty on weekends and after school.  Kids are kept corralled in their houses, or only let out for carefully supervised play.  This fear has also become institutionalized.  I know one mother who was afraid to let her 10 year old son out to play at the park alone or try to recruit friends for unsupervised park play, because she was worried that she would be vulnerable to a child protective services induced confiscation of her son.

I know that the media and fear of CPS aren’t the only factors that are keeping kids from outdoor play.  Video games, TV, and phones now also compound the problem.  We have a couple generations of effectively lost kids, who are all experts on the characters in the 10 Netflix or YouTube series that they’ve binge watched, in countless video games, or other useless knowledge sets.  They aren’t kids who know how to  play with each other, start conversations, get into fights and make up, or even look each other in the eyes.

The AmberAlert, in my eyes, is just another conduit for media related fear porn.  It is also useless.  I’ll never know anybody who’s name flashes by in an AmberAlert, not on my phone, on media, or one one of those highway signs.  I’ll never know anybody who knows somebody related to an AmberAlert.  The chances of one of these messages being relevant is effectively zero.  I probably have a better chance of winning the lottery.  If I look at 50 Amber alerts, there will be a 50x times more chance that it is relevant: 50 x 0.00000000001 = 0 — just like buying 50 lottery tickets.

You can find plenty of Amber alert advocates that claim they are effective, but it’s not hard to find research that shows the opposite.  One such example is this “After 20 years of AMBER Alerts… Are They Worth It?” research gate interview with Timothy Griffin, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Asked about the success rate of the program, he states: “However, in my reading of the data, the number of children whose lives have been saved by AMBER Alert ranges from zero to something very close to zero.”, and as expected “These cases do not appear to typically involve apparently life-threatening abductors. Rather, they are far more often deployed in familial/custodial disputes and other cases not suggestive of life-threatening peril to the abducted child(ren).” I defer to that interview for other interesting facts, none of which were surprising to me.

The truth of the effectiveness of Amber alerts probably lies in between the glowing stats of the Amber alert advocates, and the more data driven conclusions of Prof. Griffin — but I’d guess the facts are much more strongly skewed towards the conclusions of Prof. Griffin.

Regardless of the effectiveness of the program, not allowing an opt out mechanism for these messages, nor any way to regulate priority, is a strategic mistake by the CRTC, who appears to be pushing the value of this program. Setting inappropriate priorities gets you ignored. In a corporate environment, think of the pencil pusher who sends all his ISO-9001 process conformance emails with urgent priority.  You set up a rule in short order to put all emails from that person directly in the trash.

Even if you believed that these alerts were helpful, Amber alerts depend upon an “everybody sees it” strategy that is actually crippled by making these messages mandatory and in your face. The end result is that people will delete without reading, just to silence the offending noise. The probability of even the limited possible success of the alert program is thus sabotaged. The small subset of people who will actually read the Amber alert text, and feel that it is important to do so, is made even smaller by the CRTC policy that enforces “can’t be ignored” and “can’t be prioritized”.

Unionville public school. Acting even more like a jail.

October 26, 2015 Incoherent ramblings No comments , ,

I dropped off Karl’s lunch on the way to work (we didn’t have anything he would eat, so I made him something when we got back).

The school is more and more like a jail. In addition to the asinine security system, the secretary today wouldn’t even let me into the school office to drop off Karl’s lunch. She came to the door to get it, instead of letting me in for a few seconds.

I view the security system at the school as pandering to idiotic media fear porn. Implemented board wide, I’m sure that some security company is making bucket loads of cash at our expense.

Perhaps they wouldn’t let me into the school because I didn’t play their Oh Canada conformity training game, and have been open stating that their multiplication teaching methods are stupid. I’m definitely a bad influence. The new-math “four ways of multiplying” are great for making Karl (and other kids) confused, but are excellent ways of ensuring that we’ll have another generation of kids that have to use a calculator to do basic math, and will shortly live in a third world country with respect to the sciences.

A parliamentary office response from first C-51 letter.

April 16, 2015 Incoherent ramblings 1 comment , , ,

Eating crow.

Rather unexpectedly, I’ve received a response from the office of my parliamentary representative John McCallum for my questions about supporters and financiers of Bill C-51. This is the government’s terrorize-Canadians bill that’s milking the fear-porn from the recent shooting at the parliament to increase it’s secret policing and domestic spying infrastructure.

When I wrote Why you should support Canada’s bill C-51 terrorism bill, I also assumed that I’d receive no response.  With that assumption I wrote that I was sending a paper letter so that the civil servant who had to press the delete key for my first letter would have to file a union grievance against me.  Not only was that incorrect, but Mr Nicholson has done an admirable job answering those questions.

That said, it’s hard not to laugh a statement like “corporate donations are prohibited at the federal level.”

The response.

Dear Mr. Joot,

Please accept my sincere apologies for the delay in responding to you. We receive a great deal of correspondence, and do our best to reply in as timely a manner as possible.

I will do my best to answer each of your questions in turn. With respect to the authorship of C-51, it would have been written by officials in the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Justice. The bill was sponsored in the House by Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney. There is no way of knowing precisely who provided the impetus for the bill in cabinet, nor how those discussions progressed.

With respect to financial backing, as I am sure you know, corporate donations are prohibited at the federal level. As such, Members of Parliament may only receive donations from individual Canadians. Elections Canada has a detailed donor database that allows one to search through the donation records of MPs and federal candidates. I have included a link to their robust search tool: http://elections.ca/WPAPPS/WPF/EN/CCS?returntype=1

As far as we know, there are no previous versions of this bill that existed prior to the events of October 22, 2014.

Thank you for writing Mr. McCallum. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions or concerns.

Kyle W. Nicholson

Parliamentary Assistant

Office of the Hon. John McCallum, P.C., M.P.

Member of Parliament for Markham-Unionville

 

 Followup Q&A

In response to the additional question:

“Is there any public database of past corporate affiliations and employment history of politicians that are currently in office?”
Mr Nicholson writes:
“Unfortunately, there isn’t a central database. The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner posts the disclosures every member of parliament must make, which includes an external income and assets – see http://ciec-ccie.parl.gc.ca/EN/PublicRegistries/Pages/CodePublicRegistry.aspx. As far as employment history is concerned, you’re pretty much limited to Google.”

 

Why you should support Canada’s bill C-51 terrorism bill.

April 15, 2015 Incoherent ramblings 1 comment , , , , , ,

To my great surprise, the Canadian government’s attempt to enact a terrorize-Canadians bill is actually getting noticed.  There’s even been protests.

For those who find this objectionable, the stopc51 website makes it easy for people to write a form letter to their representative, but what about all those people who want to support this bill? There’s no startc51 website for people to use!

For all those people, I’ve drafted a form letter that they can use, based on the stopc51 form letter. I’m paper mailing my copy of this letter, with the hopes that a paper letter requires slightly more work to throw out. The civil servant who’s job is to press the delete key can file a union grievance against me.

EDIT: I ended up with a response to my original C-51 letter.

Form letter for support of bill C-51.

[your name and address, including postal code]

[date]

cc: [who else should get a copy of your letter?]

The Honourable [representative name here],

I’m writing to call on you to take a firm stand in support of the government’s carefully thought out, harmless, and effective Bill C-51. I’m asking you to side with Canadians and vote for this legislation.

I applaud the Canadian government initiative to exploit the fear-porn potential of the recent parliamentary shooting to its advantage.

The bill is prudent because it turns CSIS into a ‘secret police’ force with little oversight or accountability. Oversight and accountability are both highly overrated. History has proven that secret police forces have been important forces in many effective governments. Without a secret police force Stalin would not have been able to cull so many millions of the excess citizens of his country. Without a secret police force Hitler would not have been able to implement his death camps. In this day of omnipresent globalism Canada clearly needs its own secret police force to remain competitive.

The bill is useful because it opens the door for violations of our Charter Rights including censorship of free expression online. If people are able to express themselves openly, how can they be controlled?

The bill is effective because it will lead to dragnet surveillance and information sharing on innocent Canadians. Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau or any other current or future politician would love to have such powers available for blackmail and manipulation purposes.

I applaud the government for trying to push this law through parliament in record time without a proper debate. No Canadian wants to see meaningful discussion in government. Reruns of Jerry Springer is clearly sufficient debate for most people. Inhibiting discussion is prudent since questioning authority and the power elite just feeds uncertainty in these difficult times.

If this bill doesn’t pass, it would limit opportunities for the Canadian government to spy on anyone, at any time. No Canadian wants to know when such spying has occurred. We want to create a shadowy and unaccountable secret police force that will have such a critical role in removing the freedoms of a nation that cannot be allowed to question government and authority.

Please, side with the majority of Canadians who are clueless and have never heard of this bill. Please don’t talk about or vote against this important legislation. Assuming you decide to vote for this bill, I hope you also won’t have any part in educate Canadians about this bill. Nobody needs to know what government allows itself to do “in our names.”

I’m one of the millions of Canadians who are perfectly happy with the status quo, which includes politicians who will not represent us in any meaningful way. I am assuming that you will be towing the party line and will vote for this bill. I already know that free expression is not tolerated in government, so when I see an affirmative vote for this bill, I’ll know that the world as I know it is stable and cannot be changed by individual action.

Please don’t respond to this letter. I do not want a response outlining the reasons that you will not be voting for this bill. Such a response would serve to destroy my worldview that assumes no politicians act for nor truly care for their constituents or Canadians in general. I want to continue to view politicians as pawns placed in positions of powerlessness and ineptitude, incapable of altering or even accurately observing the world around them.

Sincerely,

[your name here]

Posting your letter.

Note that mail may be sent postage-free to any Member of parliament at the following address:

Name of Member of Parliament
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada
K1A 0A6

Yes, we still pay for that “free” mail service through taxation, but I’m going to justify my exploitation of that service as a fair exchange for all the time that I have to spend weeding through the huge stacks of junk mail that Canada Post delivers to my mailbox daily.

My last letter to my “representative” (John McCallum) in parliament about bill C-51 went unanswered. I don’t really believe that I am represented by virtue of having voted or not. Will the actions of the Honourable John McCallum of Markham-Unionville surprise me, or make me doubt this position?

EDIT: as noted above, I did get an answer to my original C-51 letter.  It was neutral in tone, and matter of fact, giving no hint of whether or not the bill will be supported.  What sort of response will this letter produce if any?

Questions about bill C-51 to my “representative” John McCallum in parliment.

March 20, 2015 Incoherent ramblings 1 comment , , , ,

Hi John,

As a new home owner in the Markham-Unionville riding it appears you are my representative in parliament. I have some questions about the Canadian Bill C-51, which appears is being carried along with the spree of fear porn that the media is pushing after the recent shooting at the capital.

I would like to know the following:

– Who are the specific authors of this bill? If they were bureaucrats and lawyers that were not members of parliament themselves, who were the members of parliament that backed their work?

– Who are the primary financial backers of the members of parliament that either wrote or supported the writing of this bill?

– Are there any known copies of this bill that precede the capital shooting? If so, the same questions apply to the authors or supporters of those bills.

Sincerely,

Peeter Joot


A copy of this letter and any associated correspondence will be made publicly available.