Michael Wharton There Is Always A Theory: politics, anarchy, religion, atheism and science. now with poetry!

13Jul/150

Ironing: Why do we still do it?

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I don't iron any clothing and haven't for about 10 years now. Why do people iron their clothes? It certainly isn't to make them last longer, or to save time, or to make sure that people know that they washed them. Is it to make the clothing appear as though it is brand new out of the packaging? It could also be to make sure people are aware that the person wearing the ironed clothing is wealthy enough to afford to iron their clothes; and certainly wealthy enough to not have to work hard enough physically to crease said clothing. At least, that's why the Victorians still ironed their clothes.

People sometimes point out my creased shirt and ask questions, such as "Did you forget where your iron is?" or give advice like "If you roll your shirt up it won't crease up as much in your bag after you've ironed it!". I usually placate them with throwaway lines like "Well, I cycle to work and change when I'm here, so I don't bother.", but this is not the whole truth. I vehemently disagree with ironing on an ethical and ecological level. I am not just lazy...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ironing

After reading about the history of ironing, I am still bewildered why this custom and tradition is kept up. It is clearly a class issue, those of the upper classes used to be the only ones with ironed clothes, now the lower classes can buy an iron for less than two hours wages. However what is the ecological impact ironing has on the planet, and don't we all hate doing it? I am clearly not the only one out there with such questions:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/green-living-blog/2011/sep/02/ironing-save-energy-electricity-consumption

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/features/my-fashion-footprint-is-your-wardrobe-bad-for-the-planet-887027.html

An excerpt from the 2nd article in the Independent sums up what I had already felt on a more philosophical level, I always assumed that ironing used more energy in joules than even the mechanical energy required to spin them in the washing machine:

"A couple clicks of the mouse, then a figure appears at the bottom of the screen. Our household EDUs is 1,282. A breakdown shows that our actual clothing EDUs is quite low at 558. But then there's the laundry, which at 724 EDUs is slightly alarming. It includes 324 from washing and a whopping 400 from ironing.

The ironing is what did us in, more environmentally damaging than our washing. "It's like having the kettle switched on for seven hours straight," says Phil. But more shocking, if we add seven tumble-dryer loads a week. The figure more than doubles..."

Obviously the excerpt and the full article, (well worth a proper read) allude to the fact that tumble drying is also pretty ecologically harmful. I don't tumble dry myself, but I may on occasion have been tempted to as it is a functional device. We don't like to wear wet clothes, we may be forced to wear something soon after washing it, and it won't dry naturally quickly enough. I plan around the fact I don't have an iron or a tumble dryer by washing my clothes before I need to wear them by a few days (usually...). the article then goes on to give bulletpoint advice on improving the ecological impact of your wardrobe:

"iron only where necessary..."

When is ironing necessary? I can't imagine.

I am clearly not the only person writing about this issue:

http://community.babycentre.co.uk/post/a20837015/anti-ironing_campaign

http://h2g2.com/entry/A361522/conversation/view/F44694/T105842/page/1/

http://davewalker.cc/stop-ironing/

http://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/housekeeping/a1840119-How-to-give-up-ironing-without-crunchy-towels-etc

If there is one thing to take away from reading this webpage, STOP IRONING!

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27Apr/151

Renewing An Irish Passport in the UK

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I am a British citizen; let's get that out of the way. I lived in Ireland for many years in my teens and moved form Ireland to Manchester to attend University, and before moving I applied for an Irish passport. There were several factors in making my decision; cost, ease and timescale. I may have left it a little late, and living in Ireland makes it very difficult to apply for a British passport, which is more expensive to apply for your first passport than the Irish one. As my mother is Irish and my father is English, I am eligible for either, so I decided to go for the Irish option.

Fast-forward to ten years later and I am now living in England, trying to get my Irish passport renewed. As it turns out, the Irish embassy has provided a handy guide to how to do this, which is all relatively straightforward until you come to the part where you have to get your photographs "endorsed" by someone.

https://www.dfa.ie/irish-embassy/great-britain/passports/top-passport-questions/how-to-get-your-passport-application-witnessed/

Unfortunately, of the people on this list produced in Ireland, many seem confused as to the social responsibility they signed up for when they pursued their career initially. I myself would relish the opportunity to flex my community muscles, as it were, if I were one of those on the list. If I were a police officer, it would make my day for a young person to come into my station and I could help him with his forms, stamp and sign and feel like an authoritative member of society, which is why I would have become a police officer or bank manager or, lawyer in the first place. Maybe that's just me.

I thought I would get my MP to do it, but due entirely to my own foolishness I left it too late, and parliament dissolved, rendering my MP powerless to help me as he is now just some guy I met last time he was campaigning. Wanting to get it done sooner rather than later, I first tried the police station. On the weekend I cycled all the way from Withington to Didsbury only to find out that Didsbury Police Station is a Police station in name only, no actual police inside. So after work, I cycled to Lonsight police station which was manned by two female PCSOs who initially seemed not to know for certain what to do, discussing various reasons why they wouldn't endorse it. One reason they mentioned (with a straight face) was that they wouldn't endorse it in case I was actually a wanted criminal in Ireland. They followed this up by theorising that if the newspapers found out that a Manchester police officer had endorsed my application it would cause a scandal. They touched on the fact that they believed that I have to have known the individual for at least 2 years, as it is with an INITIAL UK passport application; this is not the case. I explained the facts of the case and they seemed to think it over before confidently claiming that they had seen them get rejected in the past, when UK officers filled it as it has to be a member of Garda Síochána and that I should "Google it". Well I did "Google it", I even tweeted my Embassy and they have reassured me that they would not reject the application if a UK police officer had endorsed it, and that unfortunately they can't force people to live up to their end of the social contract they agreed to when they applied for their career path.

Shortly after my less than helpful encounter with the police, I decided that maybe my local Reverend would be helpful and full of Christian charity. I may have been wrong about this, she turned me away without listening to me very well, insisting that she had to have known me for 2 years, the same story I was to hear again and again, despite it not being the case at all. She did have someone with her and I can understand her desire to get back to that person quickly if they were known for their petty theft when left unattended for periods longer that 3 minutes.

The following day I didn't start work until 12:30 so I cycled into Manchester City centre to visit as many High street Banks as I could, to get my application endorsed by a "bank official". I arrived at my own personal bank, believing that I had the best chance with the Co-operative; they have it in the name! Unfortunately the branch manager was unavailable so I had to try Halifax, who point blank refused, without going into any actual detail as to why. They will only Endorse or stamp internal documents. Full-stop. Okay, on to Barclay's, who were bend over backwards helpful, but unfortunately their branch manager was at the same meeting that every other bank manager was at that day. Santander and NatWest point blank refused, Lloyds had nobody to speak to. I had zero faith that I would genuinely get any help from a Bank, but still didn't think that they would quite be so obstructively unhelpful. I headed into work and on my lunch break went to the nearest doctor's surgery.

I walked in and confidently approached the counter asking if the Dr had any free time to take 5 minutes to endorse my form. The receptionist gave me 3 mutually exclusive excuses as to why this would not happen today; 1 this Doctor would not endorse my application because I am registered with a different Doctor, and he has to have known me for two years... 2 The Doctor doesn't get a spare 5 minutes as he has to do lots of admin work between patients, so I should book an appointment if I want my Doc to sign and endorse my form, 3 There is a £20 administration fee to pay. On the list of authorised professions, is accountant, lawyer and notary public, all of whom I expect without even asking would charge me to do this, but I really did not expect the Doctor to charge. I didn't even want to get the Dr to do it as he has sick people to deal with, who are his priority. For all I know my appointment will be cancelled to deal with a real patient, or emergency.

So the story is not over, I am still looking for someone to do it for me!

If you are an Irish Passport holder and have been through this; then please leave a comment with tips for me and others on how to get around this bureaucratic headache.

With as little expense as possible!

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29Feb/121

The Death Throes Of Capitalism: Anonymous Occupy Wikileaks; Theory

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Is Capitalism A Malevolent Force For Control Of Consumption?

I personally really dislike capitalism, let us just get that out of the way. That is my opinion, it is based on the fact that its principles of wealth acquisition causes a massive disparity between richest and poorest. The stark contrast between the consequences of success and failure leads to a control over material resources that we all need equally. Then there is the fact that resources are seen completely objectively, no matter how destructive or costly it is to obtain them.  There is no greater example for these factors than the oil industry. At each stage in the process of extracting and selling petroleum products, there is some form of evil added. Land is acquired many times under duress, defended militarily and the sea itself is plundered. Workers in some countries are threatened with violence and intimidated into working in poor dangerous conditions and for very little money. Oil as a toxin is released into the ocean, the by-products of petroleum refinement are toxic. The consumption of petroleum produces carcinogens which cause cancer and excessive amounts of heat and carbon dioxide, which scientists theorise may be causing a greenhouse effect; gradually heating the earth leading to freak weather and eventually melting the poles and flooding coastal areas. Oil is bad. It causes conflict everywhere it pops up, it probably has done for aeons of human history. Wars have been fought over oil for thousands of years, people have been killed, blown up, assassinated, assimilated, executed and oppressed. Does all this bloodshed and environmental damage increase the price of oil? No, it makes it a lot cheaper. Oppression and control of supply enables the worlds largest buyer and distributor of oil to keep prices down and maintain market control over any would be competition. When the price does go up due to a manufactured shortage, or any other kind of false scarcity tactic to drive the market, we all complain and moan, not truly wanting to face the reality of where the product comes from and what the true cost is.

Oil is a source of energy, other forms of energy are less easy to commodify and therefore market for a profit, therefore in a capitalist environment these energy sources are ignored. Solar power is not terribly efficient, but wind and hydroelectricity are both incredibly efficient and found in almost every populated area on the planet. The most efficient use of these technologies is on a distributed network amongst homes and businesses themselves, cutting out the energy companies. They spend a lot of money on massive windmills in the countryside and off-shore to prove that you still need them, but for a fraction of the cost they could individually kit out thousands of  homes in a distributed network that would power  thousands more. Companies would never do this though because they would be losing consumers. As much as it is the best strategy for resource efficiency and the best application of the technology to protect against power failure, it isn't very capitalism friendly.

Consumable commodities are the most profitable, products that your customer needs to replenish their supply of and therefore return for repeat business. Food is the best example of this, we buy it, we eat it, we want more. Due to a constant consumer demand for a variety of cheap food, we have begun to cut back on the ethics of the industry. The quality of the food we take into our bodies has suffered due to capitalism, whatever is cheapest and most profitable to produce, packaged in a way that has a greater market life and value. Our food comes from all over the world, more and more oil is used to transport our food over hundreds, even thousands of miles. Preservative chemicals are added to our diets, in order to allow for such mass transport over such vast distances. People in the countries that grow our food rarely see much profit from their efforts, and are often bullied and intimidated into growing a cash crop rather than food for the region. More and more people are becoming aware of where their food comes from due to public pressure from famous chefs, who have a higher standard than the average supermarket consumer.

(Due to technical difficulties I.E. the hacking of the admin area of my Wordpress installation the rest of this blog was written between  13/02/2012 and 29/02/2012)

Occupied: Update; The Internet Takes Over Real Life As Predicted!

Once again Capitalism is in the direct gaze of the public consciousness, the one percent are under direct scrutiny by the ninety-nine percent. So as far as I can understand, the Occupy movement is the public reaction to finding out that the people who caused widespread unemployment, poverty, repossession, fore-closures and bankruptcies, were bailed out of their debts with tax money from our governments and then they want to pay themselves huge bonuses out of that money. Money itself is the worst single product that capitalism spews out. Capitalism needs money to survive, if we all used barter, it would be difficult to acquire much wealth,(or create wealth from doing nothing more than picking up a telephone and barking coded messages to an underpaid underling).

The world could do without money I think, with a little science and technology. The Venus Project has aspirational ideals and hopes and dreams that seem very far removed from reality, however there does seem to be a global shift in aspiration towards a sustainable, fairer future.  Technology is being developed all around the world that seems to make all our lives easier, robotic assistants around the house are a great start, but robots have been taking over jobs and reducing the cost of manufacturing for decades. It won't be long until there are fully automated machines doing 99% of jobs while humans become the 1% on them. The futurists of history imagined humanoid robots that could do all of the jobs a human could do, but the current trends signify a shift towards specialisation. Automated vacuum cleaners, self parking cars, automated checkouts, driver-less vehicles, and even vending machines (not an entirely new threat, but more and more products are coming out of the bottom of them these days!) are all replacing human tasks in succession. We may well have servile humanoid robots in the future, to serve us personally, but the majority of labour will be divided between scores of devices engineered around their tasks.

The Internet shopping trend has also cost a lot of people their jobs. It's true, it is a sad fact. Retail and sales is a huge sector of the workforce globally, this sector is the most critically hit by Internet. As much as the Internet has created jobs for many highly trained and skilled professionals, these professionals created code to make a lot of jobs redundant as they created online shops. It was great for the capitalist model, it fit perfectly; you see a product on the internet, the place you spend so much more of your time now, you like it, you buy it and it gets sent out to you from a warehouse, PROFIT! What will people actually do for jobs in the future? Will there be any jobs in the future? What if every process could be automated, if every human effort could be replaced by an efficiently designed machine? What need of capitalism would we have then?

All those "middle men" cut out of the consumer experience have been racking up, but the capitalist model still seems to be making profit. Or is it? The juggernaut of capitalism is definitely slowing down and weakening. The need for a fairer system is ever more urgent, the money men, the ones who control vast wealth, are unscrupulous.  They use our money for the manufacture of their fortune from speculations they make on our lives, our successes and failures fuel their extravagant lifestyles while we scramble for a pittance.

Globally the iron fist of capitalist oppression is squeezing tighter, most reccently on the Occupy London, it won't be the end of the movement. May is traditionally an excellent month for anti capitalist protests and planning is going on right now to make this years Mayday protests even bigger. I'm really upset by the news of School of Ideas, how do we explain to children that we live in a big angry state that will come and get you if you threaten to oppose it, especially if you are trying to expose it's corruption and greed. In our country we are not really doing anything new. We are using new tools, like the internet and tent cities, but the tactics employed by the Occupy Movement, to me, are like an urban version of the environmentalist forestry protests where protesters occupy treetops. The main difference is our knowledge, we have serious amounts of information about the inadequacies of the economic system used to control us. We know how crooked our politicians  and how morally bankrupt our journalists are.  We have Wikileaks and Anonymous to thank for that, and maybe even our morally bankrupt journalists a little too. It is like the darkest parts of society all turned on each other, the media, the government, and the financial greed machine are all devouring each other in a bid to rule us supremely. In this moment we must seize our opportunity to stand as one and say "No, we shall not be ruled over by leaders with agendas and objectives for us. If we allow a state to exist, it must serve our agendas and objectives, it must serve us. "

The likelihood of humanity rising up against the archaic control systems imposed upon it for millennia , may have seemed insignificant even a decade ago.  This decade though seems to be one of serious thought towards the future, and why we're not there yet? What systems have been holding us back for personal gain and what should we do about it? A global revolution towards Utopian Anarchy could be great, but as long as there are haves and have nots,  there will always be a threat of capitalism and greed.  We need to figure out the limitations imposed on us by corporate entities, we need to provide for ourselves. Then we can survive without them.

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6Feb/111

Anonymous, Wikileaks & Arabic Cyber Revolution: Cause

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Anonymous Operation Payback Targets Opponents Of Wikileaks

Okay, so due to really badly timed server issues, I have not been able to blog during the latest developments of what is now being called the first global cyber-revolution (thanks to Roger Davies for helping me out!). As my last blog entry: Twittocracy, Interactivism, Hacktivism & Cyber Anarchy: Cause covered Operation Payback, it was a vendetta campaign against those attempting to censor online content based on copyright infringement. Those perpetrating the attacks were Anonymous, the mysterious hacktivist group behind the latest cyber protests against opponents of Wikileaks.

At the end of last year, Wikileaks released the torrent of leaked American diplomatic cables they called Cablegate. To say that this prompted a lot of international reaction would be the understatement of this century. Most world leaders had something to say on the matter and the majority of it was not sounding too good for Wikileaks or its founder Julian Assange. The web server that Wikileaks was hosted on came under DDoS attacks, similar in style to those carried out by Anonymous during Operation Payback Is a Bitch: Save The Pirate Bay. Wikileaks then had its money supply cut off by Paypal, Visa, Mastercard and Amazon dropped hosting. Anonymous; as a hive collective, decided to leap into action. The public home pages of Visa, Paypal and Mastercard were targetted for DDoS by Operation Payback: Save Wikileaks, and hundreds of alternate mirrors of the site's Cablegate Datatbase were spawned.

Anonymous Changes Tactics: Operation Leakspin

The cyber protests in the form of DDoS caught the ever gazing eye of the worlds media and Anonymous got a lot of press attention, using this attention Anonymous launched into a new direction with a new campaign; Operation Leakspin. Operation Payback had successfully brought attention to the shameful acts of private corporations under the intimidation of the United Sates of America. More importantly it had won the support of the people of the internet for Wikileaks, and freedom of the press. With this heightened level of awareness, Operation Leakspin was to spread the contents of the leaked diplomatic cables virally; via social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. Other spin off Anonymous Operations were Operation Blackout/Face-Off which encouraged people to replace their internet avatars with a plain black square, and Operation Paperstorm which encouraged people to print out and distribute paper flyers about Wikileaks and Operation Leakspin. A new hub site emerged as a centralised meeting -place for organisation of such Anonymous Operations with resources such as web chat, IRC and forums.

Wikileaks, Anonymous & The Coming Arabic Cyber Revolution

In the last two weeks, the internet; in particular, Twitter, Wikileaks  and Anonymous , have played a vital role in the on-going cyber revolution across the Arab world. Firstly in Tunisia, where internet censorship has been used to silence dissenting voices for a while, one incident sparked a wave of protests across the country. A single individual immolated himself publicly leading to days of protests, until the leader of Tunisia, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, fled to Saudi Arabia. More recently since January 25th, Egypt has been awash with protests against their tyrannical dictator Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak. Over the last few days these protests have descended into violent chaos, as Mubarak attempts to cling onto power by inciting violence among his minority of supporters. At one point Mubarak was desperate enough to shut down the entire country's internet access, to try and end this burgeoning revolution. According to the latest news sources, Mubarak was no longer intending to run for re-election in September yet refused to step down as President. [UPDATE] Mubarak has now handed over power to his senior military leadership; who were instrumental in advising him to step aside at the behest of his people. The people of Egypt seem to have accepting this situation as an interim to a new democratic government, but have planned to hold a public demonstration for this Friday (18/02/2011), to garner public opinion on the progression of this process . [/UPDATE]

As if inspired by the courage displayed by the brave Tunisian and Egyptian people; similar protests have taken place across the Arab world. Algeria, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Libya, Iran, Jordan, Oman, Sudan, Morocco, Mauritania and even Saudi Arabia have all had incidents ranging from small protests to all out revolution. This democratic movement is largely driven through social media and the internet, which is why net neutrality is so important globally. The open internet model is necessary to maintain the freedoms of expression of those who are oppressed. In those countries where oppression is most rampant, the internet is used as a means to silence dissent. The voices of freedom cry out to the internet and are silenced, but Anonymous, and other internet freedom groups have taken up the mantle of freedom of speech. These internet vigilantes or hacktivists, have provided services to such affected regions such as Google's Speak to Tweet or information on proxies like Tor.

[UPDATE] (17/02/2011) Anonymous & Wikileaks Versus The FBI & HBGary [/UPDATE]

Open Letter from Anonymous to HBGary

Open Letter from Anonymous to HBGary

In the recent weeks the FBI in the USA and British Police have arrested several "Members of Anonymous". The FBI hired a company called HBGary to infiltrate and gather intelligence on the group Anonymous. Their efforts did not go unnoticed by the more skilled hacktivists of the group, who proceeded to hack into HBGary's server. They replaced the home page with the above image, and leaked thousands of emails to and from the company.

It seems like the message from Anonymous is pretty clear; the world governments and organisations who seek to control the internet have three options now:

A) Release all of your secret information in an organised fashion

B) People inside your organisation feel compelled to leak the information and do so

C) The extremist arm of the internet comes and takes all your secrets and leaks them into the public domain

Whatever the future holds, the internet is key not only to observing and predicting social change, but generating it.

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2Jul/100

Your Freedom: A Forum For Internet Activism In The UK

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Your Freedom

Yesterday on the first of July Your Freedom was launched by the coalition Liberal Democrat/Conservative government. It seems that Nick Clegg is at the lead of the project, spearheading a new avenue of internet political interactivity. Over the last couple of years, there have been more and more politically charged social networking sites springing up on all bands of the political spectrum. Several of these were single policy sites, pushing a particular agenda, some were more broadly focused with a particular political slant. In the UK, the government is attempting to give all of these disparate viewpoints a forum for debate and discussion of ideas.

Although it's still a little shaky due to the fact that demand for the service is so much higher than anticipated, the functionality of the front end more than makes up for it. There's an intuitive tagging system, which allows all users to add tags to all campaigns, and all users can leave comments too. It's like we are truly entering a state of Twittocracy (well there is always a theory...), a society shaped by the majority, with their collective opinions being aggregated automatically through what I like to call Interactivism (maybe Hacktivism?) which is basically a marriage of internet and activism.

A number of campaigns are theoretically sound, but the methodology is lacking (poor spelling and grammar...). A great many campaigns are identical to others and sevceral recurring themes have sprung up; such as repealing the Digital Economy Act and the Legalization of Cannabis.

I believe that this proactive platform for public political promotion is pretty provocative. It is probably paramount to protect personal privacy and post (okay, enough alliteration...) anonymously to begin with. Compared with Petition The PM at Number 10 it is definitely an improvement in that it is much less patronising.

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