The gay marriage “slippery slope” merchant

I think what bothers me most about people who use the “slippery slope” argument against gay marriage is they always say it’ll lead to people marrying dogs or cars.

Thing is, I find the underlying mindset disturbing more than the fact they’re making the argument. Cars aren’t alive. Dogs are incapable of providing informed consent. Neither are legally resposible for themselves, recognised as sovereign entities. The underlying mindset seems to be that marriage is something that you do to others, wether consentual or not. It seems to cry “I beleive marriage is an act of violence” first, arguably worse than the explicit text that they only beleive it should be commited against the opposite sex.

Or given the context, perhaps that should be the opposing sex.

It screams, “When I marry someone, they are my property”. My object. My slave. My Husband. My wife. My dog. My Car. Mine.

Maybe it’s actually the frequent use of the word “partner” they object to.

OpenCV in citizen media 3D compositing?

Last week someone put an interesting item onto Hack-A-Day; someone who’d built their own “CT Scanner”. And functionally it is. It takes x-ray images from all angles around an object, which they then scan into a computer and let it turn the platen images into a 3D model. I believe the latter was done using OpenCV scripts.

The recent and ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City have generated a large amount of citizen-media footage (albeit released without sound in many cases, to avoid breaking outdated wiretapping laws).

If key events observed from different positions could be found to align the timelines of footage, it seems plausible that the same scripts used in the CT scanner could be used to assemble a crude animated 3D model of the events as they unfold.

For purposes of evidence gathering and contextualisation of the news stories, it seems this could be a very useful tool, rendering isolated and often repeated footage into singular but multifaceted logs of events from every recorded angle.

I doubt it would be of high quality, due to all the variables and low-quality of the footage used, but it could perhaps knit together the results with the events that preceded them, and at least help in giving a more rounded view of events.

Something on the policing of the riots

If you read my Twitter, you’ll know a few days ago I was fully in support of bringing in the army to support the overwhelmed police forces. I’m not any more, and I suspect my reasons are the same as a number of other peoples. A misapprehension.

I mistakenly believed that because the police were being overwhelmed in the first couple of days (or “beyond their limits” as I think someone said), then naturally they must have all of their resources attending to it. It seems a natural assumption; if I said I was being overwhelmed by something, it would be because everything I had wasn’t enough.
That was when there were 1400 officers on the streets of London. The last couple of nights there’s been 16000. Ten times as many, and then some.

I assumed that 1400 was the absolute most number of police officers that could be deployed, so was incredulous that the army hadn’t been brought in to back them up. Turns out I was wrong and there were MANY more officers that could have been deployed, so the army wasn’t needed.

So my next question is why did it take 24 hours to get all those additional officers into place? Okay the big wheels of bureaucracy take a long time to turn, but aren’t we supposed to be prepared with rapid-response tactics and so on? I know the situation isn’t the same as a few bombs going off somewhere, but still.

I’m also going to say these panicked reactions, even though I’ve shared some of them at the time, are wrong.

Water-cannons are dangerous (though admittedly the least-so of the suggested options). They’re used to break up large groups of people who’re refusing to move. The riots weren’t groups refusing to move, they were people moving about entirely too much! If anything they could have done with some sort of oil-cannon to make it harder to run away.
But that water is very high-pressure. There’s the famous picture doing the rounds of the protester who literally had the eyes blown out of his face by the water pressure. I believe he lost one entirely, and only has partial sight in the other now.
Water cannons are only used for breaking up demonstrations. If they’d had them during the student protests in London, that’s where they would have been used. To soak them to the skin and make them give up faster. And now the PM has given the OK for them to be used in England (I’d say UK, but they’ve been used in Northern Ireland for a long time).

Mandatory army service. Because having an unemployed, desperate, underclass who’re also trained in firearms and hand-to-hand combat is a great idea. Okay that’s histrionic, but all I know is my grandfather said maybe I should have joined the army to teach me some self-discipline. And I know that if I wouldn’t have killed myself or been beaten to a pulp, I would have probably come out psychotic. That’s a judgement call. I know my own mind, and I know while I need a certain level of self discipline, the army level plus all the combat training would have cemented itself to my latent school-time anger, and any form of creativity or self-exploration would have been buried. I would be a horrible and self-hating person. Up until a few years ago I did whatever people told me. The sense of duty they drill into you, I’d never have been able to fight that. Private Meat Puppet, sir.
Also ask ANY military professional how well conscripted armies compare to voluntary armies. I’ll give you a clue to the only answer you’ll get: they don’t.

Throwing people onto the streets or cutting off benefits? 1) Do people still receive benefits in prison? No? Do they when they get out? I presume so, because they’ve served their time. Better question; if someone is known to have been in the riots and hasn’t been sent to prison for it, why not? 2) At least one cause behind these riots is poverty (probably enforced by culteral expectations to own expensive pointless things, but again, not getting into that here). Making people even poorer, homeless and desperate is not going to prevent this from happening again. I can almost guarantee you’ll end up with the worst areas of the city literally breaking away from the rest of society. Imagine a whole borough where outsiders and police get killed if they enter. Cutting back food isn’t going to make the patient healthier.

Rubber bullets are dangerous. They’re not paintball gun bullets or BB rounds. The British type are 1.5″ rounds, about 4 inches long and actually made of plastic. They have a range of about 100metres and travel at 200ft/s. They’re supposed to be fired at the ground so they bounce up and hit the legs or lower body, but if they bounce or are fired higher can hit the upper body or face. 17 people were killed by rubber bullets in Northern Ireland (and 41 permanent injuries), and the UN has they under a temporary ban from peacekeeping use after two protesters died. Okay this is the extreme, and you can get away with broken bones, severe bruising, bleeding and so on, but be aware what you’re asking for.

But hey, they’re rioters, they’re fucking with our lives, they deserve to get beaten on, right? Who cares if they die while breaking the law?

Leaving the reasons behind the riots aside totally, as that’s a whole different argument, let me list three things that’ve happened today.

  • Someone got sentenced to two months in prison for taking part in the riots. However they claim they were video-taping a police officer beating a youth who was already on the ground. When the officers noticed, the filmer was pepper-sprayed and arrested. Did they? Doubt we’ll ever know. If it’s true you can bet that camera doesn’t exist anymore.
  • EDIT: It doesn’t seem this is the specific video mentioned, but it seems to show the same series of events. Filming a stop-and-search, annoyed police deciding he’s looking for a fight and tackling him to the ground. Uploaded today, the 10th.
  • Video was put online of Birmingham (?) police swarming on a couple of people and beating them to the ground including putting the boot in. They did not appear to be part of any gang larger than 3 people or appear to be making any hostile motion. After they were beaten it is said they were NOT arrested. Why are you beating people to the ground who are making no violent actions or who have apparently not done anything you can arrest them for?
  • A friend witnessed and videoed a youth walking past a ground of police officers, apparently peacefully. The 15 officers and dog piled onto him and arrested him. His only crime appears to have been that he was wearing a hoodie. I have a friend who makes and sells hoodies. There’s a fashion-police joke here somewhere, but it’s not a funny one. If her account of the video pans out, 15 police and a canine unit arrested someone because of the way they were dressed. Because of how they looked.

We can’t afford to be trite with this kind of shit. If abuses are happening in the name of the law, it needs to be dealt with. Likewise we can’t allow panic to edge us into thinking street-justice is the way forward.

I mean, you do realised Judge Dredd was supposed to be DIStopian, right? That the idea of having a police force where you receive summary justice based on a single persons opinion is a nightmare of personal vendettas? I’m surprised I’ve heard so much of it come from people in racial or sexual minorities too, and it’s hard to repress the feeling I need to shout in their faces “You realise you could be giving some racist or homophobic asshole in a position of power permission to kill YOU, right??”
And that’s not to mention all those hundreds of thousands who supported the student protests who under the same carte-blanche would have instead been leaving parliament square soaking wet with outright hypothermia instead of a chill, or shattered ribs and kneecaps instead of scuffed elbows. Those that would have been able to still walk anyway.

These riots have also brought the “truth” spouted by some groups into stark relief. I’m not talking any of these nationalist groups who’ve been trying to jump on the hero/vigilante bandwagon (notably by going into other peoples neighbourhoods to “defend” them, where they don’t know who is what, and getting into trouble with police themselves as a result). I’m not talking about Scientology, who’ve been out scouting the clean-up works for vulnerable victims of these riots to recruit and brainwash (you surely know about THAT by now, right?).

I’m talking about groups like Wikileaks and Anonymous, whose tweets have thoroughly embarrassed both of them these past few days with what I can only assume is either their own anarchic wishful thinking or genuine confusion that any sudden “riots” reported in the mainstream media must be popular revolutions that needs supporting, and not a bunch of criminal louts out to steal TVs and trainers.


What do we need in the aftermath of all this?

Well for starters the places that have fared best have been those with strong community ties. It’s not surprising that came from areas with strong ethnic backgrounds. Everywhere else is commuters who’d sooner step on your face than be 15 seconds late for work. Get to know your fucking neighbours. You’ll make your area a nicer, more secure place.

Police need to be able to call in and get in support forces MUCH faster.

Police need their equipment rethinking if they’re carrying too much to be able run after someone.

Police need to be able to coordinate better. I still have no idea why they couldn’t have swept a team through the Pembury Estate and kettled that mob in the next road where there were solid walls of terraces either side.

While I thought it nightmarish at first, and it would be if applied to peaceful protests, give the police super-soakers full of UV dye, and fit the helicopters out with UV strobes. Tag them and look for people flashing bright red in the street later at your leisure.

To prevent abuses of power, equip every officer with sealed camera unit that runs the entire time they’re on duty. Passive evidence-gathering plus a personal black-box. If the camera’s off and you’re accused of something though, you’re considered off-duty. Might help those community relations too if there’s a guarantee of evidence in case someone “falls down” while getting arrested. And yes that shit still happens.

We also need more distractions for people. Free ones. There’s 500k jobs available in this country and 2.5million unemployed. “Get a job” only works if there’s actually enough jobs for everyone. But that gets into the reasons behind the riots, which is another matter entirely.

We need a government with the balls to say when we all need to calm down, rather than making reactionary blanket statements that they’ll use against us in future in order to cover a loss of face because they didn’t want to stop sipping margaritas in the sun. We elect a government to make the big decisions we CAN’T make as individuals and SHOULDN’T make in the heat of the moment. This lot are supposed professionals pandering to the whims of the amateurs who hired them. Stop pandering to the armchair generals already!


Also I’d like to say the riots revealed another sad state of things. While in the final day it was mostly black males still engaged in the rioting, in the first couple of days those involved were of both sexes and all races. Is it only when people hit rock bottom people actually stop giving a shit about those things?


If I get the time and energy, will follow up with thoughts on the causes of the riots and the misapprehension that “insurance will cover it all”. The latter because as someone who’s had business insurance, it makes me laaaaaaaugh. :P

Misuse of police powers, case analysis

A 16yo photo-journalists gets arrested for trying to photograph a parade on Saturday 26th, but not before being accused of everything from paedophilia to terrorism and being pushed down steps by three full grown Met officers.

As nice to start the day online with some annoying news. Thanks to BoingBoing for the link this..

Two police officers stopped a teenage photographer from taking pictures of an Armed Forces Day parade – and then claimed they did not need a law to detain him.

It requires a bit of attention, but I recommend listening to the audio recording the teenage photographer made. The particulars of what the 16yo photographer (student and part-time freelance journalist) is doing wrong changes at least twice a minute. In order it goes:
(actual accusations are in BOLD, items of note are in ITALIC)
Unclear portions in [square brackets].

  • Taking photographs of children – Public event in a public place, not illegal.
  • Taking photographs of military personnel – Public event in a public place, not illegal.
  • Implying he’s not answering questions properly/to their satisfaction – Unknown prior to where the recording starts.
  • Taking photographs of the officer questioning him is “drawing attention to himself” – True, but not illegal. Mr Mattsson states it’s due to them grabbing his arm.
  • No answer to what law he’s being asked for his details under, just more demands for the details – Possibly illegal to not provide details, but only if officers have provable grounds for suspicion (IIRC).
  • At the fourth time Mr Mattsson asks “Under what law are you taking my details” the officer replies “[we] don’t have to have any law to take your details” (@1m into recording) – Strictly speaking you could argue that you don’t need a law for the act of taking someones details if offered, but these details are being coerced, and secondly as they’re being taken by an on-duty police officer are subject to both the law and data-protection act.
  • Identified as taking photographs [of the event] and that “he can’t be doing that, unless he’s been given permission to do that” – Untrue, public event took place in a public space.
  • “When you’re asked to stop taking photographs of children, it becomes a little bit of a grey-area, yeah?” – Again, not true when it’s a public event in a public place (unless they’ve got some particular reason to suspect ulterior motives, I believe).
  • “You’re not being detained.” “Then why did you prevent me from leaving?” “Because you were acting the silliest[?]” “But that’s detaining.” “You know you were[n’t?], you were running around, being stupid [again/ and gay].” (@1m41s)
  • Is told he can go if he stays in a particular area, because they’re trying to form up the parade. Re-states that it’s a public area. – Probably the most legitimate complaint on the polices part here. If they’re trying to get the parade set up, having someone wandering through taking photos could get in their way. Not illegal, but rather rude if Mr Mattsson is actually getting in their way.
  • The above is probably the longest single argument, and does seem to be the nub of the matter. The police want everyone out of the way while they set up, which is understandable. However it rapidly descends back into attempting to force Mr Mattsson to leave by illegal threats rather than just asking. Possibly if the officer had just asked if he could step back to clear the space, rather than threatening him…?
  • Claims by police that Mr Mattsson needs signed parental consent forms to take photographs of the children present – Not true when for editorial use.
  • Breach of the peace (@3m30s) – Debatable, but unlikely when accused is only repeatedly asking what he’s being held under.
  • Hazard to the public (@3m35s) – Again, unlikely as no physical acts have occurred. At worst, he’s being a nuisance to the parade set-up.
  • Tells him that he will get trampled by soldiers (@3m45s) – I thought this was a childrens/cadets parade?
  • “We are concerned about terrorism at this event. Taking photographs of police officers and police staff is a criminal offence under these circumstances.” “No it’s not.” “Right, I’m John Fisher, I’m in charge of this parade. I’m not going to enter into a state with you [illegible]” (@3m53s) – Now escalating into terrorism threats?
  • “Can you tell me what law it’s an offence under?” “Young man, you are an agitator. [illegible] You clearly are. You are recording what I’m saying for later reference. I have better things to do; go away.” (@4m11s) – I agree that John Fisher has better things he could be doing.
  • Told he will not “disrupt” the parade and that he has to stay in a specific area, and he will not pass. Told that he’s not being detained but that he will not walk past him (the officer). (@4m48s) – It is a public space, and strictly speaking the officer has no right to block his way unless he genuinely believes someone’s in danger (again, IIRC). Does then state “I am concerned for your safety.” (@4m58s)
  • “You know what? I consider you a threat under the terrorism act young man.” “Hey, give me my camera back! Give me my camera back!” -sounds of scuffling- “Under what law am I being detained officer?? [muffled]” (@5m22s)
  • Fisher: “Right [I’ve/we’ve] had enough..” Mattsson: “Hands off me please! Hey, give me that camera!” Fisher: “[illegible] walk this way..” Mattsson: “Under what law am I being detained officer?! Under what law am I being detained officer?? Can you please take your hands off me and tell me under what law I am being detained? Hands off me! If I’m being arrested you have to tell me what law it is under! Is that correct? Oi! [a yell and sound of a fall into echoing space] Fuck! Did you just PUSH me down the stairs??” Fisher: “It’s a public order offence to swear in this area.” Mattsson: “You pushed me down the stairs!” (starts @5m23s) – That’s the sound of three Metropolitan Police Officers taking the camera from a 16yo journalist and pushing him down some steps, then telling him off for swearing once.
  • Mattsson: “The officer just pushed me down the stairs!!” Officer: “And you stay down there.”
  • Officer: “Please do not take photos of me because it will prevent me from doing covert operations in the future.” (@6m48s) – Untrue. Only covers officers currently engaged in covert operations (IIRC).
  • “Under my public privacy law I do not wish you to [take my photograph – talked over]” “No, in a public space there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.”
  • Mattsson: “Breach of the peace, how?” Fisher: “You know what you were doing.” Mattsson: “I took a photo and that’s my right to do so.” Fisher: “It was, and we support your right to [?] this parade is a reasonable way. However what you will not do is purposefully disrupt..” [interrupting] Mattsson: “I did not purposefully disrupt! One of the uniformed staff..” Fisher: “[?] ..Look, you’re recording what I’m saying. [stop recording. – muffled]” Mattsson: “No, I’m not going to stop recording.” Fisher: “I’ve told you why you’re detained. You ARE detained. I’m the inspector Fish[er?], under my authority, to prevent a breach of the peace, because of the anxiety you were causing to members of the public back there..” Mattsson: “The anxiety I was causing taking pictures?” Fisher: “Fair enough. I’m obliged to [? – something “for transport”?], you are detained for acting in an anti-social manner.. [illegible]” [interrupting] Mattsson: “I have not been acting in an antisocial manner. Under what law am I going to supply my details?” Fisher: “Under the breach of the peace law.” Officer: “[illegible] ..down at the police station, you’re under arrest.”(@7m08s)
  • Video ends on some of the shots Mattsson took at the parade.

I think perhaps the key to this is the point where the article describes the officer as “an adult cadet officer”. Presumably that means he was one of the officers directly organising the event, so there exists the possibility that it was a sense of infringed personal superiority that caused him to threaten Mr Mattsson so. It’s an aspect of human nature we expect police officers to be able to overcome, specifically so we receive fair an impartial treatment in the eyes of the law.

However instead we see the young (in fact, in the eyes of the law, juvenile) reporter accused of, in order; Taking photos of children, taking photos of the military, annoying the officers by not providing details, “drawing attention to himself”, taking photos in a public place without permission, taking photos of children without permission, lack of consent forms, a breach of the peace, being a hazard to the public, that he’d be in harms way from the parade, implying that he might be working for terrorists, of being an “agitator”, of revealing a police officer in convert operations, of a public order act for swearing, another breach of the peace, causing anxiety to the public and finally breach of the peace again (for which he is apparently arrested).

As well as being told he didn’t have to be charged to legally required to provide his details, he’s told to stay in a particular area with no cordon or (apparent) reason for it; in a public space that’s detention without cause. He also apparently has his camera taken from him at one point and is (unintentionally?) pushed down a flight of 4 steps.

Additionally he’s escorted forcefully away as a threat under the terrorism act, before being charged for a mere breach of the peace.

All in under 9 minutes, by three police officers on a 16 year old boy taking photographs of a parade.

Maybe Mattsson is a freak 16yo; a 6’5″ brick shit-house with neo-nazi tattoos all over his face, and the police and public were understandably cautious of him. But from his voice, the fact he’s a part-time reporter as his hobby and has a very complete knowledge of his citizens rights, I don’t imagine that’s the case. I can readily imagine Mattsson being about 5’6″, fairly slim, a bit pale, occasionally bookish, and finding reporting a creative outlet. And possessing a great deal of self control.

The only argument for this sort of behaviour is that Mattsson was a minor nuisance to the officers involved, and maybe Mattsson should have just stayed out of their way as asked. In day to day civilian life, that can be a valid argument; sometimes it’s best to ignore people who’re being officious ass-holes. However these people were the police. The people we’re supposed to defer our own personal defence to. The people we are told by law that we are to rely on for our safety and liberty. So yes, when they start throwing illegal threats around and attempt to bully us into doing what they want with no legal backing, you have to stand up for what’s in the letter of the law. It may seem pedantic to some, but if you don’t then you loose control completely.

In this case, short of rolling over for police officers who were themselves breaking the law, I see nothing Mattsson could have done differently. I can’t think of a better example of police bullying than what happened here. The police wanted him to do something they had no official power to force him to do, so illegally threatened him with everything they could think of.

Jules Mattsson’s own blog of the incident can be found HERE. Praise be, connectivity.

(note: the Independent states Mattsson is 16, his YouTube account states 19. Will see which is correct.)