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Is OJ Innocent? A Review

Conclusion

So let me start this off by doing one of the shortest film reviews in history, and laying my cards on the table. I’m going to give the docu-series 3/10. It’s not completely terrible, but most of it is unnecessary padding, and there was no reason to make it seem like Jason is the centre of their investigation just because that’s Dear’s belief. In my view, OJ was certainly at the scene of the murder, the evidence overwhelmingly supports the view of his culpability, and he most likely acted alone.

History

So let’s backtrack to another docu-series that was much better: OJ Made in America. Made in America is a really great multi-award winning docu-series. It gave us a whole biography of OJ’s life. It talked about facts of the case I never knew about, and wouldn’t have known about from Is OJ Innocent such as that most whites in America in 1995 believed OJ was guilty while most African Americans believed he was innocent. It explained quite well how OJ was acquitted – and that was through a very rigorous defence that exemplified all the flaws to be found in the prosecution’s case, and the police investigation. As a result of this case of course, new policies and procedures were put in place by the police to better protect their investigations and the collection of evidence. Made in America also exposes the problem with guilt or innocence being determined by juries. You can learn all of this in Made in America, but in Is OJ Innocent none of this is ever discussed.

Let’s recap. On 12 June 1994, around 2215 Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were brutally murdered. Ron was 25 years old and a 3rd degree black belt in Karate – he had put up a valiant fight. Nicole was OJ’s ex-wife, and 35 years old. The police did a thorough investigation and the forensic evidence proved that the murder was committed by OJ. OJ was acquitted, and William C Dear believes that it was OJ’s son Jason who perpetrated the murders.

Evidence

Dear’s evidence, at least as presented in this docu-series, never stacked up. For that reason it was just marketing to make this about Jason Simpson, and I think it was terrible to do that. On the positive side though, the other “investigators” in the show Kris Mohandie and Derrick Levasseur did a good job of examining the evidence that Dear provided, instead of slavishly bringing Bill’s book OJ Is Innocent and I can Prove It to the screen. Based on the positive reviews for his book I honestly thought his case would have been stronger. It was a shame that the opinions of Kris and Derrick were intentionally obfuscated until the end of the series, instead of allowing for a natural flow of investigation to take place. If this were done then they could have provided more information to viewers of the hard evidence of the case, such as the shoes which barely got a mention.

Let’s go over some of Bill’s stupid claims. According to Dr Henry Lee who was a Forensic Expert for the defence in the OJ trial, there were two sets of footprints at the scene of the murder. Okay that’s his valid professional opinion, but the opinion of William J Bodziak the Forensic Expert who testified for the prosecution was that there was only one set of footprints, and they came from size-12 Bruno Magli shoes. OJ claimed he didn’t own a pair, yet his civil conviction was secured because a photograph of him wearing the shoes at a Buffalo Bills American Football game was found (later still they unearthed dozens more). Had this photograph been presented at the time of the criminal trial it’s very likely that OJ would have been convicted: According to the company only 299 pairs of that particular shoe had been sold in the US, and Simpson wore size-12 shoes of which only 9% of American men wore. In total there would have been about 27 pairs of those particular shoes in the right size in all of the USA.

This is not at all the only time the docu-series leaves us with only partial information. At one point in the series they talk to Andrea Scott, a friend of Ron’s. She says that she lent her car to Ron and that the police returned her keys caked in blood still sealed in an evidence bag. They then talk about how keys can be used as a stabbing weapon in self defence. They talk to Bill Pavelic (lead defence investigator in the criminal case) who claims that they keys were found in Ron’s hands and that the police would have tested them, and if the blood didn’t match either of the victims or OJ they would have destroyed the evidence! The big problem here though is we’re not given any hard evidence of any of this. How does Pavelic know they were found in Rons hands and not his pocket? Where are the trial notes that would demonstrate this or a photograph of them in his hands? If you have the stomach for it you can google the photos of Ron’s deceased body, and I can tell you – there are no keys visible. If they were in his pocket then it disproves the hypothesis that they were used as a self-defence weapon. Also, if they were used in that way they would have been damaged/broken, and not just caked in blood.

Bill also claims the time card evidence is dubious and wrongly identifies the first entry as Sunday 12 June 1994 when it clearly runs Monday to Sunday, not Sunday to Sunday as Bill kept claiming. You just have to look at it to know that – otherwise there’s no space for Monday on the card (the machine automatically prints each day of the week at a different level on the card). The knife Bill believes is the murder weapon is another lunacy, the experts clearly believe the primary murder weapon was a single-edged knife, and it makes no sense that the killer would use more than one knife in the attack. Especially when no murder weapon was left behind.

Bill claims that the watch Nicole was wearing at the time had stopped working. This, however, contradicts the evidence. In the series they talk to Tom Lange who was a police detective in the original investigation, and he tells them that it was operational – and this does appear in the official records/police notes that were taken. In favour of this hypothesis is that Tanya Brown (Nicole’s Sister) received the watch back “damaged”, something they learn from Bill Pavelic and later confirm by talking to Nicole. Now I’m not sure why this makes a huge difference to the case anyway, the watch displays 9:59, and the police believe the murders happened at 10:15. And again, they never actually test their hypothesis – all they had to do is buy an identical watch, put it on a dummy and let the dummy fall to the ground and see if it stops or not. I suspect it would keep working. And I suspect the reason it “didn’t work” when given to Tanya is because it had been in police evidence for months and the battery had worn out. Or that oxidisation had occurred due to moisture from the blood.

To be fair, the production company did a really good job of getting interviews with people connected to the case. Interviews that could have made for a really great series had they let these people tell their stories openly and produced and presented that instead. Don’t get me wrong, it appears they were at least mostly respectful with how they treated their guests, but they didn’t let them tell their stories! Unfortunately, Kato Kaelin (a friend of OJ and Nicole) and Fred Goldman (Ron’s father) don’t add very much to this docu-series, and that’s because their stories are not directly relevant to “examining Bill’s theory”.

Eyewitness nonsense

Possibly the lowest moment in the series, is when Dear announces he has discovered a new eyewitness who can put Jason at the scene on the night of the murders. Interestingly this isn’t just some whack-job that the producers hired, he actually spoke to Dear as early as 2014 well before this docu-series was produced as evidenced by this facebook post. ‘My name is Michael Martin and I am the witness in this video. It has been a long journey in finding the courage to come forward to the world with all that I witnessed that night. I will now not stop until justice is given to Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. I wrote this quote during one of my many dark moments while dealing with my depression and guilt over this long held secret. “Times spent in memory of the violent acts from the past will leave a scar that is carried on by all those who were forced to endure what they should never have witnessed.” M M’ But there are problems with eyewitness statements, that this docu-series never mentions. They’re highly unreliable – they’re the least reliable form of primary evidence in a courtroom! They’re unreliable because we misremember things that have happened in the past, and we can be made to do so by events in the future. He might be remembering an entirely different night. Sunday a week earlier. If he was there the night of the murder how come he didn’t know a murder had occurred? Wouldn’t he have heard the blood-curdling screams of the murder victims? Another example of why we can’t trust eyewitness testimony is when they talk to the silent owner of Jackson’s (the restaurant where Jason worked), he identifies the top entry as Sunday 12 June 1994 (leaving nowhere for Monday’s entry). But notice that they ask him a leading question, they don’t ask where is Sunday, they tell him that line is Sunday in their question! Yet on the very same time card we see Sunday at the bottom, and clear blank lines for the days not worked (Thursday and Friday). Yet another witness is Carlos Ramos, a former worker at Jackson’s, emphatically claimed the chefs would have finished work and left by 9PM at the latest on a Sunday night, yet this claim is also clearly disproved by the time card itself as it has Sunday’s entry clearly stamped out at 10:20 PM.

Jason Simpson

Actually, strike that, the lowest moment of the entire series is when they decide to psycho-evaluate Jason Simpson based purely on his diaries that Bill has. Diaries that any decent person would return to Jason. They don’t take into account what the people who know him have to say about him (even though they talked to them in the series), it’s just one-sided and largely speculative. That was absolute trash, and I don’t think it tells us anything valuable about his character, it just unfairly defames and slanders an innocent third party for no valid reason other than to make the viewer think they really are interested in “investigating” Bill’s farcical conspiracy theory. We actually see Tanya Brown get really upset about the fact that Jason faces allegations by Bill; and they’ve clearly been less than truthful with her by not revealing the true nature of their documentary or the fact that they are working with Bill Dear. Look in the end they do exonerate Jason (well Bill doesn’t but that’s because nothing will deter his belief in his hypothesis), but not before spending five of the six episodes treating him as their prime suspect.

Where is the evidence?

I must say I was expecting Dear to present much better evidence. All of Dear’s evidence was highly speculative. For example, Dear claims that the beanie belonged to Jason because he is photographed with a similar one. The “investigators” go and ask Tom Lange why the hair in the beanie wasn’t tested for DNA and he tells them what they should already know – you can’t get DNA from hair. That was true at the time of the investigations, although you could do so now. The handwriting analysis was absolutely farcical – they looked nothing alike. And finally, the docu-series ignored most of the trial evidence, including the shoes which are really a smoking gun in this case, in my opinion.

The other thing never talked about in the entire docu-series is the issues of means, motive, and opportunity. The killer had to have all three, and with OJ as a suspect we do have all three. He was in the prime of his life – 46 years old, physically fit, well trained and strong. He was possessive and violent, and had been stalking Nicole. His whereabouts on that night provided him the opportunity to commit the crime. On the other hand while we do know Jason had an arrest or conviction for violence, we don’t have evidence brought to us by Bill that he was well trained and could have successfully won a fight against a Karate black-belt. So his means are at best plausible. He didn’t have a motive, from what we hear he loved Nicole very much and she loved him like a son. And he has a solid alibi for the whole duration of the time of the attack, so he didn’t have the opportunity. We can never say anything in life with absolute certainty, but I have to say that even if the police planted evidence (which is unlikely), the evidence of OJ’s guilt is overwhelming.

Trump V. Turnbull

Turnbull on Sunday: Tells Australians that Trump has agreed to honour the deal made under the Obama administration.

Tuesday-Wednesday: White House spokesman say that no decision has been made yet whether to progress with the deal, and that any refuges would need to face “extreme vetting”. Note that we’re talking about people who have already been assessed as having g refugee status!

Meanwhile Turnbull insists the deal is good.

Washington Post today: Trump hung up on Turnbull more than half an hour early, was angry, and said it was the worst call from a world leader. Furthermore he called the refugee-swap deal “the worst deal ever”, saying “I don’t want these people” and telling Turnbull it was “his intention” to honour the pre-existing agreement – a phrase used to allow him plenty of wiggle room later so he can (presumably) say “despite my best intentions we cannot honour Obama’s arrangement”.

Meanwhile Turnbull still insists the deal is good!

The Presidential Twitter account today:

Dead, buried, and cremated. Enough said!

HTTP is officially deprecated. SSL is DEAD.

Just in case anyone’s confused by the title – SSL is dead, its successor is TLS and that’s what people really mean when they say SSL now (we still call security certificates SSL certificates).

In the latest Firefox update Mozilla quietly put into action the first step in their plan to phase out HTTP. What am I talking about?

Well this is how my blog is displayed in Firefox:

Notice the Green HTTPS Padlock to the left of the URL. This is how an insecure website looked before the 51.0 update was installed:

Notice that “Connection Not Secure” appears in red. Well that’s how it still looks, but on any page that has a user-name and password input you will see this:

This is the first time the insecure padlock has been used to mark HTTP pages. You can see this in action on just about any insecure forum on the internet.

Google is implementing the policy as well, this is how a secure page now looks as of earlier this month:

Notice that to the right of the padlock is the word “Secure”, whereas until earlier this month there was just the padlock. At the moment insecure sites in Chrome look like this:

The icon is a “neutral” information icon at present. However it does already display a direct warning in the information panel. This is how it will look soon:

And still later on the “neutral” information icon will be changed to a warning icon:

As mentioned though, Firofox already displays the warning icon. Mozilla and Google are intentionally staggering their implementation of this policy in order to ensure webmasters and hosts alike have a transition period, and also I imagine so they don’t put Let’s Encrypt under impossible pressure. On that note it’s worth saying that Let’s Encrypt over the past one year has become the largest CA by far, and their continued success will be very important to ensure that people have access to free security certificates.

As you can see, phasing out the HTTP protocol is the policy of Google and Mozilla, so I highly suggest all webmasters start securing their websites. At the moment they are targeting insecure pages with logins, however the eventual treatment will be to mark all HTTP pages on the internet as insecure. Further information on these policies can be found here:

  1. https://www.chromium.org/Home/chromium-security/marking-http-as-non-secure
  2. https://security.googleblog.com/2016/09/moving-towards-more-secure-web.html
  3. https://blog.mozilla.org/security/2015/04/30/deprecating-non-secure-http/

Honourable mention: When I discovered this policy earlier this month, I happened to see completely by chance that the EST Hosting site’s SSL cert had expired (by about 4 hours at the time). I had a giggle about that and put it into the Whirlpool thread I made. As a courtesy I sent EST an email, and got a response back from the director Eddie who said their main concern was their clients websites, but they were actually working on enabling automated Let’s Encrypt certs for their clients. Eddie sent me another email today letting me know the implementation was complete (he also made a comment on the Whirlpool thread). It’s really great to see proactive webhosts like that who are enabling TLS, SNI, and free automated certificates from Let’s Encrypt for their client’s websites.

The Force Awakens: Still terrible and here’s why!

RIP Carrie! 21-10-1956 – 27-12-2016.

SW The Force Awakens Crawl

What a difference a year makes! Feel free to read my original review first, this is more of a supplement to that post than anything else. As usual, some spoilers are ahead.

Why is the film bad?

I’ve had a lot of discussions with people over the past year, many of whom feel I was too tough with my assessment of the movie. In some ways though I was not tough enough. Yes there are no end to people on the internet who see themselves as film critics and they often have different criteria to what I do when I evaluate at a film. Another thing that people have done is to dismiss my evaluation because “it has great reviews by others”. That may be true, but often these “others” are reviewers for newspapers that are no more qualified than I am to review films – and many of them do it because they get early access to cinema films, and free review discs of movies. I have even seen reviewers in the past give the same film different reviews each time it re-airs on television!

So let’s first discuss what TFA is and isn’t. TFA is a direct sequel to Return of the Jedi. What it isn’t is a remake of Star Wars (aka “A New Hope”). Star Wars movies combine Action, Adventure, Drama, and finally Sci-Fi. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking of movie genres as singular, when in fact a good movie often draws from a variety of genre-specific motifs. George Lucas usually describes the SW films as “space dramas” or “space soap operas”. As a film it should slot into the Star Wars universe in a way that incorporates it well into the existing film canon, and also works well as its own film.

TFA does work well as its own movie. But how many other wholly derivative sequels could we say the same for? How many remakes are good but inferior to their predecessor? Some examples here may help. The Empire Strikes back is one of the greatest movie sequels ever made, it brings a fresh and entertaining story that expands upon the film’s universe, and it has its own style flair and creativity. Let Me In is a fantastic example of a remake that is better than the original. It also shows how less is more: by throwing out the subplot involving the adults, and focusing the film’s attention squarely on the main plot. But it’s rare, most remakes fall well short of their potential: Robocop, Red Drragon, King Kong, The Hills Have Eyes, Halloween, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and The Three Musketeers just to name a few. If we evaluated TFA as a remake then it would fare better than as a sequel to ROTJ, but it still wouldn’t be a great movie either as it overcomplicates the plot with sub-plots that go nowhere, and never develops the story as well as Star Wars.

In the original Star Wars Trilogy, most people would agree that Return of the Jedi is the weakest of the films. One of the reasons why is recycling the Death Star sub-plot. The film’s main story is about defeating the Empire and reconciling Anakin and Luke. And on this part it does really well. TFA on the other hand is a direct sequel to ROTJ and recycles the Death Star sub-plot yet again! The main plot of TFA is to find Luke, and when they do the film ends.

In summary, the film is bad because it is a sequel to ROTJ that repeats the same sub-plot wholesale, as well as repeating the main plot of Star Wars wholesale as well. It doesn’t have its own creative flair, it doesn’t bring us new and beautifully designed planets such as Naboo, and it doesn’t understand the Star Wars genre as will be discussed in the next section.

What is Star Wars?

Star Wars is a 1977 film. Most kids today haven’t even seen the original film, in no small part due to the fact that only the revised 1997 Special Edition has been available on home video. But in addition to this, Star Wars in an Epic. It’s an original story from which other stories can be spawned. Each of the OT and PT are standard three-act movies. And they have their own genre in a way that combines the aforementioned genres of Action, Adventure, Drama, and Sci-Fi.

I don’t think a Star Wars movie needs to be a three act film, that’s more a description of the way they conform more than anything else. Most people today do not understand the three act film structure anyway, and can’t recognise when it does and doesn’t exist in a film. Many of the philosophies adhered to in the three act structure though still apply to all films. For example, your characters should experience luck or coincidences early in the movie, not later in the movie. You should make sure your audience is engaged and interested in the film’s plot early on. You need to define your reality, especially in a Sci-Fi film, early because to do it later leads to breaking the suspension of disbelief. For example, in TFA we see that Kylo Ren can stop a blaster bolt with the force – something we certainly wouldn’t accept late in the movie.

Problems with physics?

If we think of it just purely in these clinical terms we can also spot problems. The Starkiller base is not revealed to us until the second act of the movie. Now true, in the original film we don’t see the Death Star in all its glory until the second act either, but we are exposed to ever increasingly large space crafts as it is. In TFA we are instantly supposed to believe that a small group calling themselves the first order has gouged out a giant gash more than visible from space to construct their weapon? I think that’s where we loose the suspension of disbelief in this movie. With Coruscant we can at least believe that urbanisation expanded over time to cover the entire planet, but with Starkiller we have a purpose-built facility that can literally fit about six Death Stars into its gauge like marbles.

Another issues is when we see it suck in the mass of a nearby star with people still on-board the planet! Not to mention just look how fucking close they are to the star:

Starkiller

This is the case with a lot of sci-fi movies. I get to this point where I say “enough, this is fucking bullshit”. Note that just one scene earlier the sun appeared to be “normal” in the sky, yet if they were this close to it, besides the fact the planet would be engulfed anyway, it would fill nearly the whole god-damned sky! And this occurs way too late into the movie to suspend disbelief. To put it in perspective for you, if our Sun was the same size as the sun in the image above, the distance between us and the sun is about 130x longer than the distance shown. And the earth would be just two pixels across! And besides, the sun and stars are white, not yellow.

Yes Star Wars breaks some laws of physics, but they have to engage the audience first. Not doing it that way leads to the suspension of disbelief being broken. Holograms, Star Destroyers, Artificial Gravity, Landspeeders, Lightsabers and the Force are all introduced in the first act of Star Wars.

Conclusion

The movie is terrible. Yes people will enjoy it, especially if they never saw the originals and are unfamiliar with their story. But as a sequel and a Star Wars movie it fails dismally. In other Star Wars films, planets have their own distinct character – but in this film they do not. I thought we were on Tatooine when I saw the movie until I heard them say “Jakku”! That’s inexcusable when we’re put on a desert planet with Tatooine’s distinctive moisture vapourators.

Rogue One – Reviewed

This post contains SPOILERS, however plot details are very light in this review.

Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin

Well what can I say? Is it as bad as The Force Awakens?

The Good

Let’s start on the positives. At least this time the cinematography wasn’t awful, although the cross-cut action editing was annoying as hell. The first 20 minutes or so of the film was more or less a pleasure to watch. The pacing was good – much better than TFA. And the dialogue – although there was a lot of it – was good for the most part, the most glaring dialogue issues were with Tarkin and Vader. The droid (K2SO) was okay. He provided the film’s comic relief, but without the silliness of Jar Jar.

The Bad

This film goes nowhere. It doesn’t have any exciting space battles, or great action sequences. It’s dialogue-heavy. The characters are two-dimensional and underdeveloped. The use of CGI Peter Cushing was in poor taste, not to mention just poorly done anyway. Darth Vader’s appearance was lacklustre and his behaviour out of character. He throws people around using the force, which is something we never see him do except in satire shows. There is nothing new, fresh, or original in this film. Even the droid seems to be channelling Anthony Daniels’ C3PO instead of carving out his own character. Also, all the characters that have little to no knowledge or experience of the Jedi keep using the phrase “may the force be with you” – even though the only character that can use the force is the blind guy, and most of the time these scenes don’t even involve him!

Now there’s also a blind character. And he keeps his eyes open all the time and blinks like an ordinary person. That is simply not realistic – blind people have no use for their eye muscles and so don’t use them, and when they do their eyelids do not move in the same way that sighted people’s do due to their very occasional use. Don’t believe me? Here’s a video:

The Very Bad

The film’s plot does not progress nicely. The original trilogy, and the prequels all flowed quite well with the exception of Phantom Menace which feels like it makes Tatooine an extension of the first act, due to obfuscation of the main character. But this film has such a simple plot with a clear main character (Jyn), and yet it still manages not to flow! And even where it does, much of it is just not believable – such as the Traitor being able to intentionally sabotage the construction of the Death Star in the first place. And really – should we believe that after all of this the second Death Star still had the same sabotaged reactor core as the first – it just doesn’t make sense.

The film overuses the bad guys. Now, I don’t think they should have used a CGI Peter Cushing at all. It was awful to see this version deliver more lines and enjoy 4 or 5 times the screen-time of the real Peter Cushing in Star Wars. The Death Star should not have featured at all – again this is just lazy sloppy storytelling.

Credit where credit is due, I did say in my scathing review of Force Awakens that Rey was a stronger lead-character than Luke. Much stronger in fact, and one of the weaknesses of the original trilogy is to have had the main character upstaged by a secondary character. Of course this happened again in the prequels with Ewan McGregor’s wonderful performance. But in this movie, there’s no reason to care about the main character, and she’s just so weak. Her achievements in the film are spoiled by being inter-cut with x-wings and tie-fighters going mad. And that brings me nicely onto that point:

Most of the action sequences are spoiled. A really good action sequences requires the film maker to focus their attention and the audience’s attention on it. It builds suspense and has a climax. You don’t try to inter-cut two or three sequences together. When Luke and Vader have their final showdown in front of the Emperor do we see that inter-cut with the rebels fighting tie-fighters outside? No we don’t!

Furthermore most of the film is completely predictable. A good film takes the audience on a journey using a story that progresses and unfolds before them. In this movie we’re just going through the motions of what we’re anticipating to happen. To give a good example of this (and this is the most spoiler heavy sentence in the review), there is one point where the Traitor is about to be confronted – and it’s completely predictable that he will give himself up to save his men, his men will be shot anyway, and that he will end up dying in the arms of a loved one. There is just nothing good about that scene – it could have unfolded in a much more natural and less predictable fashion without affecting the plot one iota.

The Verdict

This film did get a number of things right that Force Awakens didn’t regarding the look, feel, and atmosphere of the Star Wars universe. The score was pretty goddamned ordinary though.

I’m going to say this movie is just as bad as Force Awakens, and possibly even worse. Disney’s just going to keep milking this cash-cow dry, so don’t expect anything great any time soon. I should also mention that I viewed this film completely fresh, I didn’t read any plot details before hand, or view any of the trailers.

Trailers

Trailer 1:
Trailer 2, Trailer 3

Trailer 2:
Trailer 1, Trailer 3

Trailer 3:
Trailer 1, Trailer 2

Dr. Phil exploiting Shelley Duvall

So, before we begin here is a hopelessly low quality copy of the episode. As it is copyrighted, I will have to remove it if asked (and I will probably remove it anyway quite soon), however I am aware that this show is no longer being promoted or marketed, and there is no way to obtain a “legitimate viewing” at this time, and that is my fair-use rational for supplying it:


Video © Peteski Productions, 2016. Original US air-date: 18 Nov 2016.

What’s the problem?

Well, without reading other people’s comments on this, I see a number of huge ethical problems with this episode. Firstly – and this is not the only time this has happened on the Dr. Phil show – it seems very obvious that Ms Duvall has not given informed consent to be filmed, broadcast, and ogled at. Secondly, Phillip C. McGraw introduced her in a completely offensive and sexist way. His introduction was this:

“The former starlet famous for her quirky and waif-like appearance is unrecognizable.” -Phillip C McGraw, 2016.

That sounds an awful lot like body-shaming someone for their aging process to me. Yet later on in the episode he tells her she’s still beautiful. Make your goddamned mind up!

Thirdly, Phillip C McGraw is not a psychologist, and his show is the worst level of trash on TV that there is. Now you might say “well everyone knows he isn’t a psychologist” – um, no they don’t. I have to tell fans this, and half the time they don’t believe me. It was only about a year ago that I told this to someone who simply didn’t believe me. She would have done better to go on the Jerry Springer Show than to appear on this one, at least Springer doesn’t bullshit his guests.

Fourthly, Phillip C McGraw offers her “professional assistance as a gift”. Hmm, really? What he doesn’t tell you is that he has specifically decided what professional assistance she’s going to need – despite the fact that he is unqualified to do so. For people who have mental or behavioural disorders there are a number of different ways to approach treatment. McGraw’s preferred method is to send her off to some unfamiliar place for treatment. Whereas she could have received treatment in her home, or even by telephone. There was no evidence that anyone professional evaluated how best to approach treatment from the best interests of Ms Duvall.

But McGraw does treat Ms Duvall with respect, right?

I feel genuinely annoyed at the fact that McGraw is so good at pulling the wool over his viewer’s eyes. Let’s be honest here, the kind of people that are interested in this show are generally pretty naive about current psychological thought. That’s not to be disparaging, it’s just that the show would lose its interest if a person has a strong knowledge of current psychological theories. The show is after all based on the audience being shocked by the guests.

Right, so I actually haven’t finished listing the problems with just this one episode yet, but I wanted to give you the opportunity to pause for a moment and think about whether you think McGraw is genuinely respectful to his guests? Well I think he’s not an the reason is…

Fifthly, McGraw’s show thrives on provoking and perpetuating the social stigmas attached to mental and behavioural disorders.

“The single most important barrier to overcome in the community is the stigma and associated discrimination towards persons suffering from mental and behavioural disorders.” –World Health Organization, 2001.

Now I can’t possibly go over social stigma in just this one post – if you want to know more you’re going to have to do some reading, or watch some videos, starting with my own here:


Baxter, D. 2016. Video released under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Licence (Aus). Originally published at: https://youtu.be/HMdl-VDRg9I

For many people stigma is worse than the disease itself. To hear people say that for yourself see this video featuring HIV+ people.

Generally speaking, from what I’ve seen of the show in the past, McGraw is very often interested in blaming people who likely have mental or behavioural disorders for their anti-social behaviours. This of course is called victim-blaming. Now he does sprinkle in a bit of “it’s not your fault” here and there, but I think one of the things that made this episode in particular so heinous is the fact that Ms Duvall clearly does not understand what’s going on around her, and McGraw & producers still think it’s appropriate to publish and profit from her “interview” anyway.

And by the way he does use victim-blaming language, even in this episode. For example, towards the end of the episode you hear him say that Ms Duvall “refused medication”. The way that he phrased it implied that she should have accepted medication it’s for her own good; however the episode itself made it clear Ms Duvall is fearful of doctors. So really this response is exactly what you would have expected from someone in her circumstance. We don’t even know what her diagnosis is and whether it can be managed with medication or not, so that statement was quite inappropriate and disrespectful to say the least.

Sixthly, I would have to assume that Ms Duvall was lured onto the show under false pretences. She doesn’t appear to understand that she’s being filmed, as previously mentioned.

Do these opinions matter?

Well it’s not just that there are ethical problems with the show, but the fact that it also a clear breach of professional standards by anyone’s measure. For reasons I’ve already listed. Now what’s interesting is that even the producers of the show have realised they fucked up big time by producing and then publishing this episode – and if you want proof of that go here. You will find that all the pages on the DrPhil website with mention of the episode have been removed. As of writing this though you can see what was there by viewing the Google-cached versions. Note that despite the fact that this action proves they’ve acknowledged their fuck-up that there’s no official explanation given.

Ms Duvall deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. I fear that what McGraw has done can only cause her undue damage and harm. Ms Duvall doesn’t deserve to be stigmatised in this way, and the greatest tragedy of all is that the show didn’t even try to balance the negativity by showing her at her best. She might have plenty of other great hobbies and interests that fill her time in a valuable and fulfilling way, but the show paid no attention to that area of her life at all.

What’s the deal with mythicists?

Before we begin, please view this short 18 second clip:


Bart Ehrman. Video © Mythicist Milwaukee, 2016.

As Bart says above and will wholeheartedly agree, I don’t think Christians are foolish. There are many types of atheists, and again as Bart puts it, some are atheist fundamentalist, every bit as bad as a fundamental Christian. This is kind of where the mythicist belief has crept in, and I will agree with Bart on that as well. Where we are different is that I am not agnostic on Yahweh – I am convinced that he does not exist as a real physical entity, and exists only in mythology.

The tendency to gravitate towards beliefs on the extremes like mythicism is typical of inter-group bias. It’s no different to what happens within religions. People think that it sound like an intelligent argument – but that’s largely because they’re not historians and don’t know how to evaluate ancient literary evidence. It’s also because they don’t understand the answer to the question “why was Jesus special if he was an ordinary man?” I think Jesus of Nazareth was a special person, and I’ll explain why in a moment.

Mythicism is not taken seriously in scholarly circles. As an atheist, attaching yourselves to these outlandish claims makes all of us atheists look like closed-minded tinfoil-hat wearing nut cases. Despite this Bart recently agreed to debate one of the two prominent mythicist scholars – Robert Price. Bob did not appear up to the task frankly, he did not so much engage in a debate, rather he gave an overview of why he doubted the historicity of Jesus and then concluded by saying it was on a knife’s edge and could be disproved any time with a “new discovery”. Bob appears to have his beliefs and to be set in them – as is the case in fact with all mythicist scholars. You’d have to be joking to say that Richard Carrier doesn’t have a vested interest, and Thomas Brodie has held the same mythicist belief from before he even studied to become a scholar and a priest. Brodie is unique in being a devout Catholic Priest convinced that Jesus didn’t exist – which I hope shows that this belief is not unique to atheists.

So what then is the evidence?

The primary evidence for the historicity of Jesus are the four Christian gospels. Secondary to that are the genuine epistles of Paul. And thirdly there is the Epistle of James. That’s it in a nutshell.

The Epistle of James is often overlooked, it wasn’t even mentioned by Bart in his recent debate (even though he mentions the SotM). Yet the Epistle of James is unique in that the author knows of the Sermon on the Mount, and uses its teachings prior to the SotM being published in Matthew, but knows about almost nothing else found in the synoptic gospels.

So what makes Jesus special?

Contrary to what Christians think, Jesus was not a perfect man. However he appears to emphasise with marginalised, stigmatised, and low-status people so much so that scholars are convinced that Jesus came from a poor family! The interesting thing though is that the gospels do not ever say that Mary and Joseph were poor, and the nativities that paint them as being so are not considered historical events. For evidence though that perhaps they were in fact well off let’s compare Joseph to Paul of Tarsus. Joseph was said to be a builder, in Nazareth, where there would have been plenty of work for him. Paul is said to be a tentmaker, and the book of Acts makes it pretty clear he is well off as he can afford to rent a house out of his own pocket while under house arrest, as well as employ a full time secretary, for two whole years leading up to his presumed execution. Now I’m no expert in classics, but it appears to me that Paul was under house arrest because he could afford to rent his house – if he couldn’t he would have been placed in a Roman prison of some kind. It also appears to me that if tentmakers were wealthy people, then likely the same would be true for carpenters.

This at least gives us some insight into Jesus’s background. He wasn’t from a dirt-poor family – even if carpenters in Nazareth were not wealthy people, they still would have been well off as their service was in demand at that time in history. They weren’t lowly fishermen after all. The other thing that suggests to us that Jesus wasn’t poor as scholars assume, is the fact that he clearly could read the Hebrew scriptures for himself. This is demonstrated clearly when Jesus goes to the synagogue in Nazareth, reads from Isaiah, and is rejected and chased out of town. This event is considered historical by scholars. And it is generally assumed that the poor in ancient world were illiterate.

So Jesus’s empathy with people of low social status is remarkable – as is some of his teachings. And in particular you will not find a better example of this than the Parable of the Good Samaritan. In modern day terms it would be like giving a parable of the “Good Jihadist”. The other thing Jesus did not like was the religious leaders exploiting the laity. This is possibly what motivated him to perform his own healing ceremonies – which the gospels paint as being very popular. Although you may scoff at the idea of faith healings, the fact is that Jesus offered these healings to people like lepers who no one else would. And even today just offering people prayer can be very powerful for believers.

So I think it’s a shame there are people that doubt the existence of demonstrably good people like Jesus of Nazareth, simply because they want to be right. Jesus did exactly the same thing in his day that atheists like us do today – he challenged the religious authorities of his day. He disputed their beliefs, and boldly held his own – even in the face of oppression. If Jesus were alive today he would have made a terrific atheist!

Indians are selling your personal information!

Continuing on from my security-based theme, let’s examine the claims made by a Fairfax investigation that a bunch of Indians are selling Telstra, Optus, and Vodafine customer details. According to the report, they (a company called AI Solutions as well as others) will sell anyone willing to pay: your name, your address, your date of birth, all your phone numbers, and your call history as well.

How did they get this sensitive data? Well according to the story, they have bought it directly from the Indian call centres that are contracted by the Telco’s to handle their customers. This just goes to prove that you cannot trust a non-Australian company to protect sensitive user data. But it’s much worse than that too.

Optus, Telstra, and Vodafone are crying foul – but they are the goddamned assholes responsible for this mess. This I think goes to show why it is unethical for companies to ask you for information which they do not need to know – like your date of birth, or your home address if you have a mobile with them. It also highlights why the metadata laws are huge potential beach of your human rights, and your privacy. For example, it means that a violent ex-partner can gain access to your information, and get the phone numbers of all your best friends all in one hit – just from purchasing your data from these pricks.

Indian people have a completely different culture to us, and generally speaking the kind of people who work in these call centres feel no obligation to treat their customer information as confidential. In fact, they often feel apprehensive towards wealthy cashed-up westerners that they have to talk to for their jobs, and god-only-knows what hours through the night. This is not an attack on Indian people, it’s just a reality – and even if people like this make up a minority in call centres it’s still a reality. Now if you don’t believe me, and you think I’m being too harsh – look up Indian scammers on Youtube, where you will find a multitude of videos containing Indians that work in call centres for the Microsoft Security Scam and often voice their opinions about the people they scam/rip-off; and they routinely deny that they are doing anything “wrong”. That last point is really important, because from listening to those calls I can tell you that many of them genuinely feel that they are entitled to scam the wealthy westerners and it does not bother their conscious – and they only difference between those Indian Scammers, and the Indians selling your data illegally is the call centre company they work for. And remember, this is India – even for people who do have respect for privacy, they are in a country that does not have the privacy laws that Australia has, and that alone creates a weakness where vulnerable Indians can be exploited to reveal confidential customer information.

I should point out that I love Indian people, I know quite a few in Canberra and they’re all great people. I just would never trust someone working in a foreign country with my personal information, and neither should you.

How should you respond? If you have a mobile phone with one of the companies listed above, I would highly suggest changing to another company and writing a letter of complaint explaining why. They are required to port your mobile number when requested, and if you are under contract I would suggest calling and asking to be released from it because they have broken their obligation to ensure that your sensitive information is stored safely and kept confidential. If they do not agree, I would refer the matter to the TIO. The only appropriate response in my opinion is a strong one to show these pricks that they should put their customers first, and not their profits by jeopardising your data. And the only response from these Muppets should be to move call centres back to Australia – at least for everything where customer information is required.

Is this website safe?

I want my visitors and readers to know that I take your experience seriously. I don’t want to waste your time with a trashy blog, and I don’t want you to feel you were click-baited or otherwise mislead either. One of the things that keeps my website objective is that it is not a commercial website, and I have no conflicts of interests to declare. Recently I received, let’s call it criticism, for posting a graphic depiction of Androgen-insensitivity syndrome (i.e. nudity). I took this criticism on board and I put it behind a warning, not really because I want to or because the content warrants it, but because I recognise that some visitors from certain cultures seem to expect that.

But now let’s talk about web safety in the broader sense. Can you even tell that a website is safe any more? Does the green padlock even mean anything now that Cloudflare uses a MITM approach?

You might be thinking you can look websites up on WOT (Web of Trust). WOT has recently been exposed for selling user-data that was inadequately anonymised (link is in German). German data scientist Andreas Dewes showed that the supposedly anonymous data sold by WOT could be easily de-anonymised, saying “für mich war sehr überraschend, wie einfach man einen Großteil der Daten deanonymisieren konnte. Die Privatsphäre des Nutzers wird in keinster Weise respektiert”. Or in English “I found it very surprising how easily one could de-anonymise much of the data, privacy of the users was not respected in any way”.

You guys know that I think privacy is a basic human right, and it’s one of the key reasons I advocate the use of extensions such as uBlock Origin. In light of the information above, WOT has subsequently been removed from DuckDuckGo as well as other search engines that supported it, and its Chrome and Firefox extensions have also been removed from the official respective extension repositories. WOT’s response has been inadequate, to say the least.

Privacy issues aside, WOT was never a great service anyway. It’s just an opinion-based thing, which is terrible because as I noted right at the start – some people have expectations of what they consider to be “safe” that are different to others. And that has the potential to affect smaller websites like mine that contains content that is no more or less safe or acceptable than content you might find on Wikipedia.

The discussion on SSL and Cloudflare will have to wait for another day. For now, I encourage you to read this article which pretty much sums up the problem with Cloudflare’s SSL, and this one that explains how an intercept proxy works. There are several problems with Cloudflare SSL, but as mentioned this blog entry got quite long so I’ll have to go over it separately.

Hillary you lost: accept it

Following the US Presidential election something very interesting has happened. It’s also quite serious and I’m not writing to make light of it. Now I know some of you might think “that doesn’t sound like Aractus, he hates the US”, but there are two reasons why I need to be serious about this. Firstly, because the blame lies with certain people but not with others. And secondly, because as much as I’m loathed to admit this – the yanks, not Aussies make up the largest visitor group to this blog.

Many yanks have felt completely dismayed, blind-sighted, betrayed, and angry about the Presidential election result. As a result there have been non-stop protesting for six straight days now in the US. It doesn’t surprise me at all that this has happened. Obama and Clinton fostered the environment for this to happen by repeatedly warning people that Trump was the complete antithesis of what a President should be, and that everyone was in real danger if he were to win the election. Not only did they say these statements, but then they doubled-down on them in the final days leading to the election as well.

The media questioned whether the Donald would accept the election result, noting they didn’t want “another 2000” (referring to Al Gore’s attempt to have the Florida vote recounted). Look this whole thing highlights some of the institutional problems with the US voting system, most notably its lack of integrity. But with that said, Hillary refused to deliver a concession speech on election night – something which she was expected to do, instead sending out John Podesta to tell their supports that they might still win and go to bed.

Now she’s blaming the FBI for “interfering” with the election, and claiming they cost her the Presidency. This does not help the situation in the US, where some people are feeling great anxiety, stress, depression, and a range of other strong emotions following what they perceive as a shocking outcome of the election. It is Hillary denying her responsibility, and her role in the election. Is she really claiming that she was just a pawn in all of this? Hillary lost because she’s a corrupt politician, because she’s a criminal, because her real policies were unpopular, and because she had to be “coached” into articulating “Bernie policies” which she never intended to keep. Only a conspiracy theorist nut would believe that the election was controlled by a combination of Wikileaks, Russia, and the FBI!

The only person she has to blame in this is herself. Stand up and take some god-damned responsibility for your own campaign, your own actions, your own policies, and your own failings to create any real enthusiasm in the base.