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Comment Re:Strengths and weaknesses (Score 1) 510

This is rhetoric, not reality. Science is perfectly well able to "stand scrutiny". But talking repeatedly about how evolution isn't actually anything like a whirlwind in a junkyard creating a jumbo jet is a waste of valuable teaching time and energy. We don't spend time in science lessons debating whether the atomic theory is actually correct ("have you ever seen an atom with your own eyes??") or whether the heart does actually pump blood round the body, etc etc, and we shouldn't spend time debating other well-settled science.

It's absolutely fine for the science that's taught in the classroom to not fully reflect the complexity and uncertainty of the actual state of scientific knowledge. We can teach Newtonian mechanics without continually qualifying every statement with reference to quantum mechanics or relativity.

Comment Re:Lease, Don't Buy (Score 2) 111

In the UK, there's an arrangement called PCP (personal car purchase). It's perfect: you pay a deposit and small monthly charges, and you hand the keys back after two or three years. (If you wanted to keep the car, you'd have to pay a large balloon payment, but why would you do that when you can get a new model that will be much better?)

The monthly costs can be really low. For our shiny new Renault Zoe, we're paying £180 (~$250) per month. Upfront payment was about £2k (~$3k). It's a small car, and the range is only ~80miles, but we don't commute by car nor do many long journeys, so this is very rarely going to be an issue for us.

Comment Re:Nothing to do with American Tech Industry (Score 1) 460

I've lived in London since 1995, and minicab drivers have never lied to me, and I've taken a shit-load of them in that time.

For a start, in London you don't agree the price with the driver, you agree it on the phone with the head office or you agree it in the local office if you're a walk-in. So what's to discuss with the driver? And how does a lie like that even work? "Oooh, tricked you, I said it was a tenner and it's actually fifteen quid!" "Er, well I agreed to a tenner, not 15 quid, so I'm paying a tenner".

As for your other complaints: the vast majority of cab firms now allow you to pay online with a card, so you don't have to argue about cabbies not having enough change.

I notice you only picked out one aspect of what I wrote about in the passage you quoted, by the way. I also highlighted that minicabs are required to be pre-bookable. Uber chooses to ignore this requirement, which was by itself the reason I gave up on using them. When I need to get my son to a football match at 9.30 on a Sunday morning from our house in the London suburbs, I want to be sure the cab will be there at 9.15. Uber are completely unreliable for this, because funnily enough, there's not much liquidity of supply at 9am on a Sunday in zone 3.

I stand by what I said: Uber don't offer firm pricing, they don't offer regulated metered pricing, they don't offer pre-bookability, they don't meet the behavioural regulations that benefit passengers (e.g. cab-rank obligation to carry regardless of destination, public liability insurance), nor the vehicle requirements (e.g. turning circle), nor the driver requirements (e.g. enhanced DBS check, the Knowledge). They are a crap mix of the least beneficial aspects of minicabs and taxis, operating in the interests of their investors much more than their passengers. But they are -- for now, and when surge pricing isn't switched on -- cheap, and they are reasonably plentiful. So they're reasonably popular.

Comment Re:Nothing to do with American Tech Industry (Score 1) 460

What a pile of pants.

Uber is *not* playing by the rules, and this is to the detriment of passengers.

The rules are:
- if you want to ply for hire and provide an unmetered service, you have to give customers a firm price in advance so you can't gouge them en route, you have to provide a pre-booking facility. Customers benefit from a cheap known price and some reasonable degree of certainty that you'll be there when you say you will.
- if you want to ply for hire, you have to provide a metered service so customers can't be gouged en route, you have to meet high standards of knowledge of London's streets and all the other additional requirements of hackney carriage licensing, including using a hackney cab with all its attendant benefits for passengers (e.g. tight turning circle, seating five so they can speak to each other, accessibility features for the disabled etc). Customers benefit from a regulated price, high availability of cabs throughout central London, the added speed from using bus lanes, and the ability to give someone vague directions and still have them get you there ("it's next to that church near City Hall")

Uber are the worst of both worlds for passengers: they don't provide a pre-booking facility, won't give a firm price, and in practice they ply for hire without providing drivers or cars that meet the standards of hackney carriage licensing. Plus, you cannot just call the driver to discuss how to find each other, which is really fucking irritating.

They're cheap the way a cheap sausage is cheap.

Comment Re:annoy the terrorists (Score 1) 150

None of this is material to the crucial questions of editorial independence, impartiality, and willingness to critique the government. The BBC is *the* global example of a media organisation committed to those principles and behaviours. It is this that distinguishes public service broadcasting from both state broadcasters (who are beholden to governments) and commercial broadcasters (who are beholden to their commercial interests, e.g. advertisers).

Comment Re:annoy the terrorists (Score 2, Insightful) 150

Christ, it's really irritating when people who don't know shit talk pontificate about a subject, and pray Wikipedia in aid. The BBC is publicly funded, but not a state broadcaster. This is true both in terms of its structure and its behaviour. If the BBC were a state broadcaster, it would take a pro-government line. That is not the case. We have a right-wing government in power in the UK, and the BBC is famously accused of being biased to the left. When the centre-left Labour party was in power, the BBC got in a fight with them too, over the Iraq war. The BBC is not owned by the government, it is publicly owned. It is not controlled by the government, although governments of all stripes have tried to control it to some degree, with little success.

I really don't mind you being right-wing. You're entitled to your view. But do you have to be so fucking stupid? It would take you all of a few minutes research to learn that there is a huge difference, both in theory and practice, between a state broadcaster like Zvezda and a public service broadcaster like the BBC. Evidence matters, for Chrissakes, and this being the media, there's quite a lot of evidence out there.

You could start with this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programme...

Submission + - BBC taken offline by "anti-IS" group (bbc.co.uk)

shilly writes: The BBC is reporting that all its websites were taken offline on New Year's Eve for several hours, and the attack appears to be from a group calling itself New World Hacking. The group claims its raison d'être is to attack IS, but wanted to test out its capabilities first and chose the BBC as a target.

Comment Re: "marketplace of ideas is inevitably compromise (Score 1) 618

"The two definitions of respect: that it is deserved as a default vs earned on merit are part of the core ideological conflict between right and left."

That is no part of any established political theory that I've ever heard of.

The right is just as likely to respect people who have not earned respect as the left. The pro-life/anti-abortion right, for example, would say that they respect foetuses, and want foetuses to be treated with respect. Many conservatives would say that those in positions of authority ought to be respected, as should the elderly, irrespective of individual actions.

Life may be simpler if you just caricature the views of the people with whom you disagree, but it's like a filter on the world that strips out everything bar primary colours: it is impoverishing.

Comment Re:Ridiculous claim in summary (Score 1) 342

Actively hurting London is not what I'm suggesting. But investing the marginal pound outside London is definitely what I'm suggesting. There's nothing inevitable about the midlands or north being relatively uninteresting: it's entirely unsurprising after decades of dramatically lower levels of investment cf London. It's not true in Germany (famously). It's not even true in Italy, where the north-south divide is now less sharp than in England.

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