Archive for 22 March 2011

Independent Citizens in a Dependent Society

I recently set up a group on Facebook announcing that I intend to file my co-operative’s ‘P14 and P35’ tax returns (what tax my employees need to pay) on April 29 – the day of the Royal Wedding.

I strongly feel that if the government expects businesses like mine to give our employees the day off to celebrate, and have their taxes fund, the wedding of a member of one of the country’s most dysfunctional privileged families – then so should they have their weddings and funerals funded through ‘Independent Deposit Accounts’ and they and their families have ‘Statutory Civil Pay’ (SCP) to fund a fair number of days of work for such ceremonies.

It would just be a matter of me adding a new field in my accounts package for SCP next to Statutory Sick Pay and Statutory Maternity Pay. And we already have the framework of Independent Savings Accounts, so Independent Deposit Accounts (IDAs) where we put in money for things likes weddings and funerals (and other civic participation like jury service, education and religious holidays) and then the government top it up, should be simple for the market to provide. I was outraged by the Fairpak travesty where the poorest saving for their family’s Christmas were cheated out of their savings. This will be the Government’s chance to put that right, and support ordinary people in participating in society not just the privledged through these government guaranteed civic saving and participation schemes.

Stand up and be seen – protect those behind the screen

My name is Jonathan Bishop. I am a member of the Cardiff Mixed Speakers Club. My speech is entitled, ‘Stand up and be seen – protect those behind the screen’.

For over a decade I have researched online communities, first at the University of Glamorgan, then Kingston, then Aberystwyth, and now UWIC and the Open University, as well as having a dedicated research centre at Swansea University.

Some of you may have heard of the tragic death of Natasha MacBryde recently, who newspaper reports say was bullied online so much that she took her own life, and then even after this those cyber-bullies taunted her family through her online tribute website.

This bullying is often done by people known as Snerts, or ‘Snotty-nosed egotistical repressed twits’. They are often men in their 20s and 30s, denied opportunities by much older ‘job-squatters’ hanging on to the most rewarding jobs and denying them their opportunities in life. The more privileged 20 to thirty year olds will have degrees, and working in unpaid internships as ‘degree slaves’.

Like Natasha, I went online recently during a difficult time, and like her I was subject to a tirade of abuse from lowlife cyber-bullies. People like Natasha and me were looking for help are known as ‘Rippers’. In search of empathy they look for the ‘My Heart Bleeds for You Jennies’, rather than solutions, which are offered by the rational minded and opinionated ‘Big Men’ – yes that’s me!

All too often we are greeted by these Snerts, who ‘flame’ us – by telling us to GFGI (Go ‘flipping’ Google it) or suggesting ‘M/S’ (murder/suicide).

It is not just in these internet forums where vulnerable people are at risk. Searching for the term ‘social networking’ and a two word term that child sex offenders search for, on the search engine statistics website called Google Trends shows that there has been an decrease in the searches for that term for obscene pictures of young people directly proportional to an increase in searches for the term ‘social networking’ . This suggests to me that child sex offenders are lying about their age and identity on sites like Bebo and MySpace and asking minors to ‘sext’ obscene pictures to them so that they can ‘groom’ them and get instant gratification from the without detection. When I was young my mother heard me talking to a potential predator on the citizen band radio. She con hear this, but with unseen written messages and graphics on the computer screen protecting one’s offspring is more difficult. Studying online communities for decades I have studied interview data showing tat minors are complicit in the proliferation in these offenders lurid fantasies, using what is called ‘pedeo-bait’ to get sent cameras and other ‘gifts’ from these predators.

Because they don’t know what they are getting into, then I think all minors and only those young people under 15 should be allowed to have to have a ‘Solo’ debit card. Those who are 15 to 17 should have another dedicated card, such as Switch, which I had at that age. Then only people aged 18 or over should be allowed a Visa, Electron, or Mastercard.
The Video Recording Act is the piece of legislation that requires any audio-visual media containing sexual context should be given an age rating. I think it should be used so that any content in any electronic media which is sexually explicit or any electronic product or any service used primarily by children should be required to request a rating from the film classification board. This happened with video games were required to after the James Bulger case, something I thought extreme in an essay I wrote for my GCSE English project in 1993.

Internet services containing adult content (such as Second Life, and Ann Summers) should in my opinion only be allowed to accessed with a credit or debit card that only adults over 18 can use. Sites rated U to 12A should require both an adult credit card and child Switch or Solo debit card. Those rated 15 should require only either a Switch card, or an adult card for someone 18 or over.

I recently took part in an EU consultation on electronic signatures and online identity, in which I suggested both them that both these issues I have talked about of protecting minors and vulnerable adults, should have legislation from the EU.

I would like the cyber-bullying miscreants like those who attacked Natasha MacBryde and myself should be unmasked by requiring everyone to use their real names online. It wouldn’t be a panacea, but it may help make the online world safer and encourage people to look out for each other. This is what happened in the age of Davy lamp, where an active community spirit helped the industrialised Rhondda communities in which my grandfather grew up function and a self-sustaining civic society.

If anyone wants to take part in this consultation and tell the EU that enough is enough, and the disregulation of identities online has gone so far, then they can visit:


Further ideas for tax reform

I have discussed my tax proposals with several people, in including my sister-in-law who works as a Chartered Accountant and with members of the Labour Party.

It seems that my essential idea of flat direct income tax and progressive indirect tax is not liked by most people, but I stand by it for the primary reason of encouraging people on incomes lower than their potential who face barriers to taking risk in terms of a higher paid jobs, like myself, overcome these barriers to create a new self-concept, based wanting to earn more rather than not wanting to pay more tax if they do earn more.

So, I would like to propose the following to the government in addition to my plans for a progressive sales tax.

1) People on welfare benefits pay income tax and national insurance as well as contribute towards a self-selected pension scheme independent of the State they reside in, just like I want everyone to do. Welfare benefits are paid by the country of which someone is a National while they are in the EU and they are ‘passportable’ to any country in the Common Market.

2a). For those inside the EU: Income tax should be paid to the EU nation in which someone is working. National Insurance should become EU-wide, perhaps call Supranational Insurance and be paid to country of which someone is a National in order for their EU wide healthcare and welfare benefits to be funded by that country of which they are a national.

2b). For those EU Nationals working outside the EU who are graduates, such as those working in the USA, they would have to pay a graduate tax to the EU, in order to encourage them to stay in the EU and for there not to be a brain-drain. This would also be payable by international students who study at a university in the EU and then return home.

The Government Gateway that I used when working in IT in the construction industry mean we were able to look up the tax status of any sub-contractor. Also, today I still use the Government Gateway to find out the tax status of any one I employ who gives me a P45 or for whom I file a P46.

So energy firms, and other providers of services ‘in the public good’ will be easily able to use someone’s National Insurance number in addition to an identity check with a credit reference agency as they do now, to see what someone’s indirect tax status is, such as whether they are a pensioner, disabled person, or parent, and increase their tax thresholds accordingly so they pay less tax on things such as gas and electricity.

Maslow is flawed

JESSE FOOT, in In My View (Cornish Guardian, March 2) advocates Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory as a way of understanding human growth, even though, as he points out, Maslow’s theories were constructed on his evaluation of elites. This is equally as ineffective as Sigmund Freud basing all his theories on his mentally-impaired patients.

I also made the same mistake as Jesse, by accepting the legitimacy of Maslow’s framework in my undergraduate dissertation, as it was recommended as a model for online community design by Amy Jo Kim.

Five years later, in 2007, I had a paper published in the Computers In Human Behavior journal where I dismissed Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in favour of my proposed ‘ecological cognition framework’.

Maslow’s idea that there is a hierarchy of needs is completely flawed. He says that people cannot meet their ‘esteem needs’, such as to be social, if their ‘deficit needs’, such as excretion, food and sleep, are not met.

One just has to look at problematic internet use in China where people sit in front of a computer nearly all day playing games like World Of Warcraft – they won’t sleep any more than necessary or even move in order to relieve themselves.

Even during the Second World War, those in concentration camps whose so-called deficit needs weren’t met were still sociable and empathetic.

So as ‘orderly’ as Maslow’s framework may have seemed in 2002 to both academics like Ben Shneiderman and myself, in 2011 we have moved on, and my framework is now used in theses from degrees to PhD, with Maslow just a footnote in history.

Letter of the Week

This week’s winner is Jonathan Bishop, of Pontypridd, for his shared insights in online forum species. He wins a Filofax Finsbury personal organiser. For Filofax products, go to

The Readers’ Letters Editor announces the Letter Of The Week each Friday from those published up to the preceding Thursday.

Write to: Daily Mail Readers’ Letters, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, fax on 020 7937 7493 or email including your full postal address.

Caught red handed – Why is it always the vulnerable?

Once again it is the vulnerable that are facing the full force of the law. The story by Giles Brown (The Press, March 3) of Arie Smith, a 20-year-old with Asperger Syndrome (AS), who is alleged to have looted lighting equipment after the quake shows how we have our priorities wrong. Having a diagnosis of Aspergers myself, I know how without training one can be vulnerable to being singled out by others. Not even I’m perfect in this regard.

In Wales, our former Welsh Prince, Llywelyn had the matrices of the seals of him and his wife, and his brother Dafydd melted down to make a chalice which was given by the English King to Vale Royal Abbey after their theft by Edward I of England as well as his stolen coronet which formed part of the Crown Jewels in 1284. The new powers in Government of Wales Act 2006 approved by the Welsh people in the referendum on March 3 may mean we now have our Seal and legislative powers back, but this may be the best retribution we can hope for after centuries of lost heritage and control.

So let us have a sense of proportion. A few light fittings in a scene of destruction is nothing compared to the theft of the heritage of prized artefacts by English Monarch from my homeland, nor in my opinion the theft of dividends from shareholders and pension funds by greedy directors and other overpaid employees, such as those in finance and energy sectors. Autism authority Simon Baron-Cohen presented a study in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry in 1992 pointing out that people with autism spectrum conditions like AS are likely to be vulnerable to being led astray and ‘caught up in the moment’. Instead of penalising minorities the authorities should be enforcing Company Laws to stopping the theft of profits from investors by company directors and employees knowingly acting in their own interests and not that of the shareholders.

Name and shame internet bullies

There’s more to online communities than the “trolls” who post shocking messages on memorial web pages. My studies have discovered ‘trolling’ isn’t necessarily done to hurt people, but to be provocative and to create a reaction for supposedly humorous effect. This is done by existing members of a community to newcomers; something referred to as “trolling for newbies”.

Whitney Phillips describes tolls as men ain their 20s and 30s (Mail), but these are more likely to be ‘Snerts’ (Snotty nosed egotistical rude teens), who enjoy putting other people down.

Many of the trolls I have come across have been successfully employed women seeking an escape from the grind of modern life. Men who are Snerts have generally been denied opportunities to progress in life. The more successful ones may be “degree slaves”, well qualified but working for nothing.

Less fortunate youngsters abuse others to makes themselves feel big, by acting as ‘Masked Snerts’ or ‘Masked E-Vengers’. My research [has] been used by authorities such as Professors Jenny Preece and Sherry Turkle.

Many people with emotional difficulties (known as ‘Rippers’) go online in search of empathy (from the ‘My Heart Bleeds for You Jennies’) rather than solutions (offered by the ‘Big Men’).

All too often they are greeted by Snerts, who ‘flame’ them  by telling them to GFGI (Go “flipping” Google it) or suggesting ‘M/S’ (murder/suicide).

I took part in an EU consultation on electronic signatures, suggesting that these miscreants should be unmasked by requiring everyone to use their real names online. It wouldn’t be a panacea, but it may help make the online world safer and encourage people to look out for each other in the same way in which the use of the Davy lamp and an active community spirit helped the industrialised Rhondda communities in which my grandfather grew up. Then the Snerts who bullied Natasha MacBryde – and continued to torment her family after her suicide – would be held account for their actions.

Three ways to make it in politics

The following are three sure-fire ways to make it in politics in my opinion based on observation.

1) Lie your way to the top. Most people elect those who live in their area. So join a party that is likely to get in and tell the membership you believe the same as them, even if you don’t. To become a candidate you’ll need to be on a candidate list. Tell the interviewing panel that you’ll do whatever the party whip says and not vote or speak against the party, even if it goes against your principles. You can then go before a local selection committee. You tell that committee, regardless of what the whip says, you’ll always do what they want. If they select you, you then may need to get 10 members of the public to support you, by telling them how local you are. Once the election period starts, you ask the public their opinions and even if the public differ from each other you lie to them by saying you agree with them completely and will do whatever they want. You then get in and the freedom of speech you used to enjoy goes because your party says you can’t have unless they vet it and make you lie about your actual beliefs. A matter comes up where the community you lied to vote for says they want you to support, but your party says if you don’t vote with the party they they’ll withdraw the whip and you won’t get selected again. You then have to lie to the people and give a reason why you couldn’t support them, such as that the “civil servants” blocked the party. You then repeat this process for each election.

2) No woman no lie. If you don’t want to lie, or you are a minority, such as a woman, black or minority ethnic, lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender, disabled, or similar, then the best option for you is to stand as an independent or for a minority party. You may not get elected straight away, but you will have the chance to go before the public and set out who you really are what you really believe in.

3) Looking after local loyalties. If you don’t want to lie, and are not ready to become open about your minority status, then there is one last way you can get in. Become a leading local trade unionist in the case of the Labour Party, a successful professional in the case of the Conservative Party, or a well-respected local figure in the case of the Liberal Democrats. You may be able to get far if you work as a researcher or activist for any of the parties, representing the views of a senior figure, then by showing this loyalty you can show you can be trusted, and then you may be able to get past the shortlisting committee by using the skills of spin and subterfuge you learned when working for the party’s elected representative. If you well liked in your respective party they will put you in a ‘safe seat’ where you stand a greater chance of getting elected.

Fight misery caused by anonymous cyber bullies

VIRGINIA Blackburn puts the tragic death of Natasha MacBryde into the perspective of the society we have become (Cruelty so obscene is evil and inhuman, February 24).

Like Natasha, I went online recently during a difficult time, and like her I was subject to a tirade of abuse from lowlife cyber-bullies.

These people are often jobless individuals in their 20s and 30s who use these online communities to feel better about themselves. They mask themselves in anonymity by using pseudonyms, and it is almost impossible for them to be traced.

The EU is currently holding a consultation on protecting people’s identity online.

The address for the consultation is at:

Master of Economic and Social Science (MScEcon) in Information Systems

Aberystwyth University

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