Saturday, July 29, 2006

What EU party should you support?

Via Jon Worth, this neat little tool that he helped design a few years back. Given all the fuss over the EPP and similar for the Tory party, might be a good one to see where people stand on European issues. It's just a shame really that we don't, really, get to vote for the European groups directly, merely for the UK party that associates itself with one particular group. We know, for example, that there are some Tories that are very close to EPP policy, just as there are others who would be much closer to the UEN, etc. Unsurprisingly, I get Euro-Greens first, narrowly pipping the Liberal and Reform group, with the Socialists third...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Open letter to John Reid re Rachel North

Update

From the comments, mission succesful; although whether we had any influence I don't know. Regardless, excellent news.

Original post

At Justin's suggestion, I have just sent the following email to John Reid, Home Secretary:
Dr Reid,

I know that you've met the author of the Rachel in North London website, a victim of the July bombings and organiser of Kings Cross United. You may or not be aware that her passport was either lost or stolen at the memorial commemoration, and she is due to be leaving the country at the end of this week.
http://rachelnorthlondon.blogspot.com/2006/07/lost-my-passport-losing-it-generally.html

If you are able to use any influence whatsoever in your position, given her status, a large number of people around the country would very much appreciate it; I'm sure that I will personally still disagree with you politically, but it would certainly up my respect for you personally.

Best regards, Mat

(full name, full address, full contact details as per formal letter)
Please write something similar to:

homesecretary.submissions@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

A few minutes of your time. A much needed break saved. Special treatment? Who cares, she's gone through enough.

Alibhai Brown - missing the point and conflating the issues?

Swamped, again, so a little behind. Yesterday at lunch I read my Independent as usual. In it, a rather, well, mis-informed and ill conceived rant by a certain Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. I'm never quite sure where to place her as a commentator; sometimes I find myself agreeing, other times she simply wants to make me scream in frustration. Yesterday was such a day.

I thought at the time that by the time I got home it would have been given more than a few fiskings, but I was only able to start looking for them tonight. The best? This shouldn't surprise anyone; Dave at the Ministry.
first we really ought to see what Yasmin’s whining about…

… which, sorry, doesn’t really amount to much.
His analysis is spot on, go read. I'm not sure I buy into Tim's opinion that it's a conspiracy, I suspect it's more a case that, as Deek Deekster observes, the proverbial chattering classes have noticed that the internet is allowing us poor normal citizens to share our opinions with each other, debate, deconstruct and critique opinion columns, etc.

Are we simply "wasting our time"?

I think not (obviously). We may not get the biggest readerships compared to columnists, but what is Yasmin's opinion peace from yesterday? The cause of a bit of discussion, and now, mostly, the proverbial chip wrapping. I can read, get to know, debate and discuss ideas with people across the country, most of whom I've never met. We can come to a consensus, agree to differ, work together on issues of common import and, at times, continually, vehemently, disagree.

It's a bit like the days of the pamphleteers of yore, but I can do it all from the, ahem, comfort of my pokey little flat. I can even share my opinions on Ms Brown's column draped in a towel and dripping wet from the shower.

Isn't free debate and democracy wonderful?

I think so, anyway. As does Deekster, a blog new to me:
In the past these true journal-ists would have been writing in isolation, but we contemporary writers are blessed with the modern miracle of interactivity - and frankly this is something that scares the Gucci pants off most hacks, whose idea of interactivity is submitting to an axe-wielding editor.
The beauty of "blogging"? (and what is a blog if not simply a style of managing a website, a different type of publishing tool?) Interactivity, commenting, discourse, analysis.

I can read an article elsewhere, challenge the views put forward, add cogent facts to the debate, link in extra points, question the author on points. And others can do the same here. By being questioned, we analyse. That analysis both improves our ideas and our ability to explain them. I've certainly learnt a lot in the 10 months we've been running this place.

"Waste of time"? Perhaps. But then, some people waste their time watching Eastenders, reading the DaVinci code or even, *shudder*, writing opinion columns on national newspapers. In 3 months time, my opinion on Yasmin's article will be there, on this site, cached in Google, found in search engines. Her article on blogging? Locked behind a subscription firewall on a piss-poor website and, being recycled.

Bloggers may have little legs Yasmin, but we have a much longer tail. Besides which, a number of your colleagues on the paper are also bloggers. Some of them are quite good. Maybe, y'know, you could find out more about what it's really about from them?

Update

Justin on the same subject, rather good in an overall blogging analysis kind of way.

I promise to try and write a substantive article soon. Maybe Thursday. Not sure which Thursday. In the meantime, linkage good, right?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

A warning to bloggers when commenting...

Mat gets comment notification. Mat replies, then realises he hasn't looked at said commenters frontpage for a bit, so clicks the link commenter has left. Ends up here:
Mega site of Bible studies and information

Andrew? Better be careful with that url, some, um, interesting types have register blogPSot.com

Enterprising, innovative. Can't design a website for shit, but, y'know, can't have everything. Ye gods, if you're going to go to the effort of trying to hijack bloggers like that, at least design a site that doesn't make me want to scream at you, that's worse than my first efforts, and I suck at web design...

The Monarchy -reform or replace?

At The Sharpener, Andrew has an interesting idea as to what could replace the Monarch as ceremonial head of state. This follow on from an excellent discussion at Robert Sharp's a few weeks back, but rather than rehash my old posts, might as well simply link to them. Why I converted from Republicanism to constititutional monarchism, and why we need a constitutional convention to sort this, and all the other messes, out.

Why is it all the interesting stuff happens when I've been busy?

Following the money - Blair, Levy and Dromey

On the subject of the Lords as an accident waiting to happen, we have two interesting post. Garry Smith shows that the loans were probably not, really, on commercial terms, and were really donations in disguise.
In fact, the loans are actually only repayable six months after the lender specifically asks for them to be repaid. If the lender does not do so, the loan might conceivably never be repaid. It's almost as if the terms of the loans have been specifically written so that they could be turned into donations at a later date.
In the meantime, Shaun Rolph has all the evidence pointing that Levy and Blair acted illegally if they did withhold details of the money to the elected party treasurer, Jack Dromey (via).
anyone who, with intent to deceive, concealed from Jack Dromey (i) the amount of any donation made to the party, or (ii) the person or body making such a donation, has committed a criminal offence.
It's probably a good thing for tired Tony that he knows a few decent lawyers, right? When I wrote that post, I didn't even think to dream he'd be out because he broke a law he himself wrote.

Pledgebank- Jack Straw, the House of Lords, reform and accountability

Jack Straw - Cretin?

Right, it's fairly well established around these here parts that we don't think much of the current Government. However, we now have conclusive proof that Jack Straw is an idiot:
we have a problem in the House, which is called researchers trying to prove a point and the result of these websites called TheyWorkForYou which simply seem to measure MPs' work by quantitative rather than qualitative measures.
Apparently, that MPs are getting their researchers to make themselves look good is the fault of a website dedicated to informing people what MPs get up to. On the face of it, he may have a point, but the site itself makes it clear the best way to judge an MP is to get to know them, stats are simply a metric not an end in themselves.

Tom Steinberg, head of MySociety, in a comment at RecessMonkey:
For anyone who wants to help us tweak and improve the data that TheyWorkForYou publishes so that it makes MPs do more good things (like answer constituency mail) and fewer dumb things (like table pointless questions) we’re holding a public meeting on November 7th to discuss the options. Please email beta@theyworkforyou.com to reserve your place, as space is limited. Someone please ask Jack if he’ll come to say something more constructive
Both of which leads us to this new pledge. As Guido puts it:
TheyWorkForYou, PublicWhip and WriteToThem.com shine a spotlight on what our parliamentary shysters get up to. You can see what they say, how they voted and who is giving them bungs. In addition what freebies they take, what vested interests they are close to and where they have been are all in the register of interests online. The websites also enable you to communicate with your representative easily. They are tools for democracy.

Guido thinks we need to play closer attention to Jack Straw and what he is trying to keep out of the picture.
Go sign up.

Reform the House of Lords

James, it seems, is on a roll, for he's also got another pledge going that has me interested; a year ago, I signed the first Elect the Lords Pledge, the results of which are here (and looking back, boy has my writing improved over the last year of blogging), so the new one is welcome. I restate my belief that direct election isn't the answer, and prefer a hybrid chamber made up partially of representatives from lower levels of elected representation such as Holyrood, County Councils, the London Assembly, etc and also partially of citizens selected by lot from the electoral register. It seems I'm not alone in this preference, and it even has a name, Sortition:
In 1998, Anthony Barnett, a Senior Research Fellow at London University, wrote a pamphlet in connection with the ongoing reform of the House of Lords entitled The Athenian Option, in which he advocated random selection as a method of election to the new upper chamber.
The current House of Lords is an accident waiting to happen, and the corruption scandals surrounding the Prime Minister at the moment are largely linked closely to the way it is composited. Change is needed. As I said before:
I've already argued here and here, we don't need an elected Lords, we need an effective Lords. We need to sort the constitution out.
Pledge to reform the lords

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Israel Vs Lebanon: Ceasefire now

When we set up here, we decided we'd avoid foreign policy. Partially because we wanted to focus on domestic + EU, partially because, well, quagmire. Especially when our Government seems intent on invading the entire Muslim world and supporting Israel regardless of circumstance. Generally, I agree with Garry (as usual). Specifically, I agree with Ming Campbell.

On domestic policy, I still have disagreements with the Lib Dems. On foreign policy, I've been broadly in agreement for as long as I can remember. On this, Ming's approach seems spot on. Shame the US is intent on giving Israel all the time it needs to (re)destroy a struggling, nascent state.

As I said in a comment on Garry's post:
If faced with similar circumstances, there's not a country I can think of that wouldn't pursue a legitimate armed response. Why should Israel be expected to behave any differently in that regard?

It shouldn't. Thing is, it isn't.

this isn't a legitimate armed response. It's overkill and then some. The Lebanese Govt is new, barely established and far too weak to control the militants directly. Israel knows that.

Legitimate reponse fine. Disproportionate overkil?

No way.
And, although I disagree with some of his take on it, Richard at Leninology has a good selection of coverage not being picked up by certain elements of the media. Given I don't actually watch TV, how are the various channels managing tog et all sides across?
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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

What was John Prescott's greatest achievement?

Further to my earlier question (thus far unanswered), 24dash.com has a rather amusingly biased poll on PRescott's acheivements. Apparently, he was responsible for:
Creating more affordable homes

Delivering sustainable communities

Urban regeneration

Tackling poverty and social exclusion
Apparently, anyway. They provide no evidence there, but the results of the full poll are worth a look.

Yes, it's nasty. I've seen comments elsewhere that the constant Prescott attacks are "classist" or "snobbery". Bollocks, the man's a pathetic failure without a decent policy success to his name. That's not snobbery, it's fact.
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Presidents Vs Parliaments - Accountability wins

At some point, I plan to write a nice article on how Parliamentary Governance is far superior to Presidential (and other directly elected Executive) systems. I did a fairly big case study on it once, and my opinion has only hardened since then, despite the abuse Blair has put to the UK system. But, as I'm still swamped at work*, this article in the New York Times is a good start:
a leading scholar on democratization, warned of the “perils of presidentialism.” Presidents, he argued, made for a “winner take all” politics and tended to see themselves in dangerously “plebiscitarian” terms as the living embodiment of the nation’s will and deepest interests. Linz’s special concern was Latin America, which (like the Philippines, Indonesia, South Korea and much of Africa and Central Asia) has followed the model set by the United States. To his mind, Europe’s more accountable prime ministers — and their parliamentary counterparts in countries like Canada, Japan and Australia — represented a safer institutional alternative.
Reading it requires registration, but that's free, so worth the effort. Interesting real world analysis to back up my academic interest in the subject; essentially, America set the standard for Presidential systems, but got lucky, because the early Presidents were all great statesmen with experience in government already. For most countries, especially emerging democracies, too much power in the hands of one person, especially one who can claim a rather spurios "mandate" is dangerous, as numerous coups and pwer grabs the world over have shown. Parliamentary systems may be flawed, and open to abuse, but in the long term, they're both more stable, more democratic, and contain their own checks and balances.

Time, of course, to rebalance the British system.

Liberty Central is on hiatus currently, most of us involved are far too busy*, but when it relaunches, that full article should be one of my early efforts I think.

*Today, I finished work at 6.30pm. Yesterday, I finished at 11.30pm. Yup, 11.30pm on a Sunday, in a nominally office job. It starts to calm down from now on, I'll be human in August, if the heat goes away.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Alan Barrett - Innocence lost?

Via DK I encounter this, worrying, story of an increasing trend in British public life; absolute paranoia when it comes to children and "innapropriate behaviour". As Chris puts it:
This is unspeakable, seriously. As we withdraw physically from one another and see dangers and threats around every corner, so we become yet more obsessed with "sharing" guilt and grief in an increasingly embarrassing manner, whilst others value the lives of others as nothing more than a punchbag for the culmination of a drunken night on the piss.

We are becoming a nation paralysed by paranoia, seeing "paedo's" behind every door and, in the meantime, our social services turn a blind eye to little girls being beaten, tied up in baths, sexually assaulted and murdered by their own relatives.
What I found most worrying was the report of the diocesan spokesman for his Bishop (Lichfield):
The conclusion that Mr Barrett had acted inappropriately is not a finding of guilt or negligence, but recognition that in today's climate, previously acceptable innocent behaviour is now subject to misunderstanding and suspicion.

"As the complaint and subsequent police investigation demonstrates, the simple act of a kiss on the cheek - a common greeting throughout the world - has potentially damaging consequences.
Right, a common greeting across the world now has "potentially damaging consequences". Let's get this straight, if a young kid, known to me, comes up to me very happy with something (s)he's done, and I, as my parents and grandparents were wont to do, kiss that child on the cheeks, it's "potentially damaging"? Because an overly suspicious parent, fed on a diet of tabloid scare stories and misinformation, is convinced that anyone who actually likes children is a potential abuser?

As Paul and I discussed a few months back, the biggest threat in all of this is fear itself. Most abuse happens away from the public eye, behind close doors, and is perpetrated by someone known, not only to the child, but to the parents as well. The idea that a vicar and school governor should be investigated by the police and his diocese for simply congratulating a young girl with a public display of innocent affection is simply wrong.

If, as the spokesman says, this sort of behaviour is now subject to misunderstanding and suspicion, then we need to do something about this. When thugs start using the Cross of St George or the Union flag as part of their racist reportoir, the correct response is not to proclaim such items as racist, but to reclaim them, and assert that they are not racist, that they are worthy symbols. When people use the word "ghay" (pronounced gay) as a synonym for rubbish, the correct response is to reject such homophobic stupidity and assert that being gay is not rubbish.

If people misunderstand public displays of affection, presumably because they are so rare, the correct response is not to promise not to do it again; it's to do it more often, and ensure that innocent affection is allowed towards children, for without it, their innocence will truly be lost, wrapped up in a safety blanket that hinders their progress.

Racism, 'No platform' and ASBOs

Too tired to write substatantive posts, but when I can link to stuff like this at the Ministry of Truth then, well, that's good enough. He's managed to capture my attitude to No Platform ideas completely; counter productive, and in the long term damaging to the idea:
there are many who still try and hold to the idea of ‘No Platform’, a tactic that I long ago concluded was ultimately counterproductive as efforts to ’silence’ the National Front, BNP and others and prevent then getting their message out only serve to contribute to the false mystique they try to create around their appaling ideas and values in order to convey the impression that they are somehow dealing in ‘forbidden knowledge’ rather than errant, pig-ignorant, bullshit.

‘No platform’ also leaves us wide open to the charge that we are censorious and acting as the enemy of free speech, sometimes with some considerable justification, and all too easily leads us into hypocrisy.
He then goes on to cover a specifi case in generality over how racists can abuse the ASBO system. The basic principle of a method of dealing with genuine anti-social behaviour is a good one. But the blunt and open to abuse intstrument we've been granted is not a good way to go about it. Especially when it's this open to abuse.
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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Threat Levels and the Home Office incompetence

On Livejournal, there's a community called Metaquotes, wherein LJers quote stuff they found funny elsewhere in LJland. No such facility exists in blogspot or similar, so, instead, I'll just point everyone at Nosemonkey:
Today's colour-coded "Labour idiocy threat level" stands at Puce (middling to high idiocy), a slight decline from last week's Prescott-inspired Vermillion and the weekend's ID-card and Super Happy Fun Public Terror Threat Indicator prompted Burundy alerts.
However, for a more serious analysis of the latest addition to the politics of fear, I give you Robert Sharp. Go read.
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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Censorship, Freedom of Information, the Foreign Office and Uzbekistan

Craig Murray - Murder in SamarkandRight, Craig Murray's Book is out. To support the assertions he makes in it, he published all the documents on his website. Most of these documents were released under the Freedom of Information Act. Unfortunately, they're also covered by Crown Copyright. That means that you can only republish extracts. He's been threatened with legal action, which will need the price of a London house to defend in court. So he's taken them down. They're mirrored elsewhere already (links below), but those mirrors will also be forced down, as copyright is covered by the Berne conventions. So, there are ways of getting around it. One is a lot of people publishing separate extracts (we'll work on that), the other? Chris Lightfoot:
If one person can get hold of documents under the Freedom of Information Act, then so can anybody else, simply by making a request to the relevant public authority. Rather than trying to face down the FCO and its lawyers, a better response would be to draft a fill-in-the-blanks Freedom of Information Request, which anybody could email in to the FCO to get their own copy of the key documents perfectly legally. That's certainly less convenient than simply downloading them off the web -- in particular, most government departments make sure they send responses no earlier than the maximum twenty working days permitted under the Act -- but there's a limit to what the government can do to wriggle out of its obligations. If Craig can provide information identifying each document to be used in such a request, I'll happily build him a website which will allow anybody to send in such a request at the click of a button.
As Chris is one of the MySociety people, and I've yet to see a site of his that didn't impress, this is a damn fine offer.

Assuming it does happen, links to it will of course follow. As will links to the extracts. Now, go buy the book already (seriously, I'm skint, and I've no time to go into the library for at least another two weeks).

Mirror sites known as of 22.24BST 20060712:
If you haven’t seen the documents, they’re available here, here, here, here, here, here, and as a bittorrent here.
(via)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Prescott: What has he ever done for us?

Following on from my earlier post, Peter at Liberal Review has more on the Thames Gateway project, and has also prompted a thought. In a very Monty Python Romans vein...

What has John Prescott ever done for us?

He, personally, has been in a very senior Govt office since 1997. I'm trying to be charitable, I listed a number of his major failures, but he must have managed to implement one policy well, right? He must have got a success somewhere, something he's got right?

Right?

Can someone, anyone, tell me what it is? Bob? Paul? Anyone?

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Monday, July 10, 2006

When loosing is winning

So it looks like the Attorney General will not be making any changes to the sentence of paedophile Craig Sweeney. This has, of course, been greeted with dismay by many people, but actually it's fair enough. Y'see, the problem is that the sentence itself was not illegal or incorrect - the Attorney General is quite right in saying that if he tried to argue the case out, he'd probably loose. What needs to happen now is a reassessment of the sentencing guidelines to see whether or not we are happy with the current sentencing laws (as I believe I've said before.)

Once again though, the issue looks likely to get overwhelmed by calls of an individualistic nature focussed solely on this one particular case. And yes, it's an awful thing to hear that a man like this may be free again in only five years. But the point is that we need to get the laws changed for everybody - slapping a longer sentence on Sweeney may make a few people happy, but doesn't affect the many others whose crimes haven't made the front pages. So maybe, actually, we need to let our feelings for this specific case settle a little, with the longer goal of altering the guidelines for everyone found guilty of these crimes.

I guess it's a good thing when injustices hit the headlines, in that it focuses he public's attention and forces the issue with the politicians. However it's also easy to get carried away with the specifics rather than looking at the bigger picture - the bigger picture which in the long run will be the one that really matters.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

John Prescott should be out, here's why

My dislike of the Labour leadership is a sense of betreyal. I voted for the bastards before, and I'd like to be able to vote for them again. But, currently, I can't. Prescott is by no means the only fault, but his perpetuation in office by Blair is completely beyond me. Others, howver, have no sense of betrayal, and have always hated him. Tim Montgomerie at Conservative Home has created a list of reasons to dislike Honest John's term in government, since the very beginning. Given that many of the policy areas he claimed for himself at the beginning were issues I felt strongly about, and in cases still do, his absolute failure to implement anything decent is worthy of comment. So, using Tim's list as a starting point, here's mine:
  1. Council Tax rates have effectively doubled for most people in the last ten years, and the short term bribe in the 2005 budget for pensioners was abolished this year.
  2. The Standards Board for England is an anti-democratic monstrosity that puts those we elect at the control of quangocrats. Ken shouldn't have been suspended; it's teh electors job to fire him, no one else's
  3. Postal voting has been pushed and pushed and pushed. Make no mistake, the facility for the frail and housebound to vote by post is essential. But everyone else should go to the polling booth. Fraud allegations are perpetual, and very worrying.
  4. Integrated transport policy? Anyone remember this one? We were going to cut car use (its risen), improve railways (um...), improve availability, etc. Me? I'd love to travel by bus instead of driving most mornings. Not going to happen, even with a half price bus pass from work.
  5. Strategic Rail Authority. Yes, well, enough said there, when Transport was removed from his control (let's face it, he wasn't up to it), Darling abolished the waste of money that it was.
  6. The Thames Gateway city project. Combined with the demolish half the north project. Very little has effectively been done to encourage people to live, work, set up offices in, etc in areas outside of the SE. The SE can't handle more people effectively, water supplies are limited, housing density growing, etc. The North? Emptying. The SW? Full of second homes, holiday homes, etc. Empirical evidence for the latter? There is no way that my I could, even if I doubled my salary, afford a mortgage on the house my father was born in. Why? Holiday homes. Honest John's fault.
  7. The England Problem. A perpetual topic on here, but John was given the task of sorting out devolution in England. What did we get? Devolution from the centre? No. We got another local government reorganisation offered, with virtually no devolved power, a White Elephant. The boundaries he's using are over 50 years old and outdated, based on bureacratic, treasury need rather than local lines. Horrible mess. The worst is he's effectively killed off any arguments for decent, genuine devolution from Westminster to any form of regional or provincial assemblies, which would be a genuine (and to my mind good) solution to the West Lothian Question.
  8. The Casino at the Dome. Let's face it, this is the big one. It appears, on every face, to be genuine corruption, and it's not just Honest John that it tars. But John is their designated scapegoat.

He's going to go, and soon. I, like Snoo, do not care who he's slept with. It's gossip, tittle tattle, salacious fun. It does raise a concern (did any of them deserve their promotions?), but, ultimately, sex scandal, I care not.

He's corrupt, incompetent and an utter failure. He has betrayed the principles of his party, he has betrayed the principles he was elected on, and his botched implementation of vital policies has done lasting damage to this country. Time to go John.

On the other hand

Clive at The UK Today:
Now I agree that something doesn't add up, by I'm more concerned about what is going on elsewhere in Government while Prescott acts as a lighting conductor for all the flak being aimed at New Labour. It may be crediting Blair with too much foresight, but it seems very convenient that John has been kept around in spite of Tracey Temple and croquet on the lawn at Dorneywood.

Prescott seems emminently suited to the role he is now fulfilling, the bumbling leftie northerner who is out of his depth; the fall guy who can be blamed for any number of ills given the wide remit the ODPM used to have.
John? Given most of it isn't your fault, can you stop being a scapegoat and take Tony with you?

Update:

From the comments, A rather good selection of Prescottisms
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Friday, July 07, 2006

The British Govt supports torture and repression

Craig Murray - Murder in SamarkandI've said it before, I say it again, self publicist or not, the story has to be told. Now, you can read all about it in glorious print. If 20 readers buy the book following that link, then I can afford to buy a copy myself. Go on, y'know you want to...

Yes, I've spent the evening since getting in from work following the Prescott fuss. No specific links, just keep reading the Ministry of Truth and Iain Dale's Diary. So, no real blogging tonight. Then again, 14 hour days aren't good for a man.
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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Bin Laden for Bush?

Chris covers the story that Bin Laden's famous videotape intervention in the 2004 Presidential Election may have been aimed at getting Bush to win:
This does have a kind of logic to it, after all as a global revolutionary leader why wouldn't you want your most powerful opponent to be run by a guy that would lose a general knowledge contest with an Aubergine.
To be honest, I'm quite surprised it took the CIA that long to figure it out, seemed obvious to me. Ah well.
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Prescott, Anschutz, the Dome and a Casino Licence

Ministry of Truth - Follow the Money:
What is is about is a government that has a direct pecuniary (i.e. financial) interest in seeing AEG get the super casino licence, and one compounded even further by the fact that it is the same department (Culture, Media and Sport) that made the deal with AEG for the use of the Dome, that will now issue the licence for the super casino.
The BBC has all the facts, covered it on Newsnight, but didn't make the link. Dave had already done so, and has now written it up.

What was Prescott doing there? Why? What's the Govt role in visiting rich, evangelical, science denying American businessmen?

Also, Blognor Regis: Dome pays its way at last...

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Blair: Negotiation is for the weak

Blair is an arse shock. Interesting discussion at Simon's, my comment here:
You can't defeat the ideology of extremist Islam by saying we half agree with your grievances but you're wrong to deal with it that way

That's my big problem with the statement. We "defeated" the IRA by recognising the legitimate grievances of the population supporting them. "We" managed 2 Palestine ceasefires by acknowledging legitimate grievances, etc...

"represion: creates the water for the terrorist fish to swim in..."

First said of Franco's Spain but true everywhere.
Do we "half" agree with the grievances? Are some of the complaints legitimate? I say yes, we do, and some are. Given this, why can't we ameliorate those complaints to reduce the resentment that fuels the extremists? We already know it works FFS.

You don't need to talk to Bin Laden, but you could help deal with the iniquities that he feeds off of.

Addenda:

Justin has more on a different aspect:
“I am probably not the person to go into the Muslim community,” said Blair today. How does he know? If walking into Leeds, Dewsbury, Beeston or Rawthorpe nude but for a sandwich board with “I’M SORRY” painted on it dissuaded just one potential bomber, wouldn’t it be worth it?
Garry Smith:
This is possibly the least helpful thing I've ever heard our moronic Prime Minister say, and that's really going some.
I think he's right, on both counts. Jamie Kenny:
Only when people stop opposing my foreign policy can terrorists be defeated. Got that one cleared up, then.

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Prescott: Abuse of priviledge, junkets and 'charity'?

Mr Eugenides:
Just to recap: a minister whose department is in charge of planning applications for casinos receives free hospitality from a tycoon bidding to build a supercasino. Minister stays night in tycoon's ranch with "a small number of civil servants" (including diary secretary?) and makes charity donation to cover hospitality. Donation paid for out of public purse.

The abridged version: Prescott spends night on Colorado ranch relaxing/sipping martinis/banging his mistress, and gets you to pay for it.

Guido has more (including the news, revealed by Iain Dale, that the Daily Mail may be planning to run a story revealing alleging that DPM was having an affair with an unnamed Labour MP. Needless to say this story is not true and no-one should imagine otherwise, certainly not R**** W********'s lawyers).

The debasement of ethical standards in public life is almost complete.
I said before that it was a smokescreen and I didn't care who he slept with. I suspect the rumours to be true, it piques my interest in a salacious way, but ultimately, I care not. But the idea that he's off on junkets to ranches owned by people bidding for contracts he has power to grant?

"Honest" John really ought to go now. On his own, or with the tired man.

London Bombings: Public Enquiry needed

Public Service Announcement

Rachel from north London: Give Us Our 7/7 Inquiry

Read. Now. That is all.

90 Day Detentions (again)

I agree, completely, with Tim Worstall, and it's not often I get to say that, so here's the link:
Apologies for this outbreak of crudity but the one eyed Goblin King can fuck right off. *

What is the point of taking away our liberties in order to fight those who would take away our liberties?
DK goes a bit further and R-M has some outraged reactions. To think I nearly put some complimentary stuff in my previous post about him. We're screwed, the Labour leadership wants constitutional reform, but only to give them more power, the Tories are giving the name "stupid party" even more meaning.

90 days is not an answer

Look, Gordon, we've gone through this one before. As Rachel so eloquently put it:
I am not surprised that terrorists seek to do what they can to attack my democratic society, to threaten my liberties, to spread fear, to seek to divide us.

I do not expect my democratically-elected government to do the same.
Her words summed up all our reactions then. They remain true now. Gordon? 90 days without trial? Fuck off.

The West Oxfordshire Question and Tory Hypocrisy

Right, first of all the partizan silliness, courtesy of Alex Wilcock:
So, let’s recap: it’s wrong for Liberal Democrats to point out Four Jobs Bob isn’t local to Bromley because he lives somewhere completely different – which is a statement of fact. But it’s all right for the Conservatives to say the leader of a country that’s a union of different nations can only come from the bit that the Tories have all their votes in, ruling out Scots not because of their ability or their ideas but simply because of where they live. Which is a wholly negative opinion that Scots should be second-class citizens in the Britain made up of all of us, based on their being not ‘local’ to England.
Yup, to run for election as an MP while not being local is acceptable, but to run for election as British Prime Minister while living in Britain, being British and married to an English wife isn't if you're not local to most Tory MPs (ie, Southern England).

But, the more important link. Ministry of Truth:
If, by excluding Scottish MPs from voting on English bills, parliament is left with left with a government that lacks a Common’s majority on English issues, how is fair that that government retains control of the legislative programme and timetable for England.
This is of course all linked to the Conservatives desire to not appear to be "too radical" and instead implement something that sounds right, and simple. Except of course, it isn't right, it isn't simple, and it's a lot more radical than either of the three other main solutions. Gareth outlined a list of objections and questions back in March. While I disagree with Gareth's proposed solution, his is at least both honest and intellectually coherent. EVOEM is neither.
English Votes on English Matters is so unworkable and prejudiced towards Scotland that it will inevitably lead to a constitutional impasse so great that an English parliament will be the only solution. But at what cost? The alienation of Scotland; the break-up of the Union; an end to the principles of parliamentary democracy? Can we have a union in which MPs are barred from the top-jobs because they represent a non-English constituency?
Like I say, I disagree with the solution he proposes. England has to be represented, but given that England and Wales share a law code, you need a Welsh element at times. The Westcountry has different needs to the Home Counties, both are different to Yorkshire.

I'd like to see some sort of Provincial arrangement, each province being approximately 4 counties or so, big enough to have "clout" and to make cross border planning, but small and local enough to reflect local needs (Foot and Mouth and the failure of Whitehall and the absolute need for a Kingskerswell bypass are too issues that Westminster messed up). You'd need a method of having England taken into account, perhaps a monthly meeting in Westminster hall of Provincial AMs, maybe with English MPs in attendance?

Whatever we come up with, it'll be a fudge. The UK constitution, on paper, simply doesn't work, it makes no sense. But in reality, we know it has worked for centuries. Squaring the circle of competing demands is difficult. Trying to brush it under the carpet as the Tories are doing isn't the way to deal with it. Cicero:
Dangerous nonsense!

Liberals and Liberal Democrats always supported home rule for Scotland and Wales on the basis that the result would be a Federal Britain. Only Federalism answers the so-called West Lothian question. What is now needed is a full constitutional settlement- which means restoring the lost powers of local government and making the current Scottish and Welsh systems self sustaining.

If England chooses a Parliament of its own or chooses regional assemblies, or makes the existing Counties more powerful (after all many of them are larger than several member states of the EU) then that is a matter for them.

What they can NOT do is to minimize or exclude Scottish or Welsh members from the only body that unites us: The national Parliament in Westminster.
The rest of that post gives a very strong reason for why I'm actually fairly happy within the Lib Dems; they actually address the issues and don't hide from policy or constitutional impact. Y'see, while I've long been convinced the current "settlement" is anything but, I'm pretty sure the Tories are only really coming on board because
  1. They can see some votes in it
  2. They haven't got many Scottish MPs
Yet why haven't they got many Scots MPs? Is it because they don't get many votes? Nope, they normally get more votes up there than the Lib Dems, but the Lib Dems get a fair few MPs up there. If the Tories would just wake up, they'd see the solution to their problem would be solved by supporting a decent electoral system. Of course, they don't see that being a predominantly Home Counties shire set party is a problem, and they don't seem to mind not having any MPs in our main provincial cities, despite getting a fair few votes there.

Petty partizanship is all I can really see in the Tories EVOEM proposals. That and the break up of the Union. For the Conservative and Unionist party to come up with a policy that will, inevitably, create a constitutional crisis, means they have utterly forgotten what they're supposed to stand for.

Let's have a real debate, acknowledge what the problem is, and call together a convention to resolve it.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Open Thread thingy - template trouble again

Right, I blame Paul Burgin. He mentioned Tracksy.Com as an alternative to Statcounter, so I thought I'd try it. Stupidly, I used their auto-blogger-install. D'oh! So, Tracksy tells me that at approximately 50 people have tried to read the blog today. Um, sorry there was nothing to see since at some point on Saturday evening.

Next time, I'll stick to hard coding amendments myself. Good job I had a template backup, even if it's not recent enough. Unfortunately, Google has spidered so I've lost my presence completely, so it'll be a few days before I go back to getting top results for random searches and Shakespeare quotes. Life/work related, if anyone cares, succesfully dealt with the busiest day at work for years yesterday, but left the office at 1.30am. Still recovering. Still, The Famous Grouse was on offer in Tesco...

In the meantime, I've no energy to write about anything, despite the Tories committing themselves to a policy doomed to failure, Blair showing he's all mouth and no action over Make Poverty History et al and Gordon being boring as usual. Anyone got anything they want to talk about?

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Deaths in Iraq: Just more statistics on a slow news day?

Garry Smith:
When I write 7/7, you'll know exactly what I'm referring to. A year on, the tragic deaths of 52 people in London is still very much in people's minds and rightly so.

In Iraq, attempting to identify the deaths of civilians by the date on which they occurred would be entirely pointless. Today, on 1/7, a car bomb has killed at least 62 people in Sadr City. This time next week, 1/7 will mean nothing to you or I.
When London was attacked, 52 people dies, many more injured, the whole world new, there was massive coverage in media everywhere. It was an unusual event, ergo it was news. It was a horrible event, and therefore it made people scared. Yet when more Iraqis die in terrorist attacks on a regular basis? It's no longer news, it's no longer unusual. It's just statistics.
Perhaps, one day far in the future, Iraq will become a peaceful democratic country. But, three years on from the invasion, with conservatively tens of thousands of Iraqis dead and no sign of the violence abating, if it does, it will be no thanks to the two men who instigated the violence whilst having not the slightest idea how to stop it.

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Feeds, syndication, insults and the Tories

It's hot, I'm tired, my downstairs naighbour is playing music loud enough to drown mine out (again) and I'm exhausted after a loooong week at work (in which the VPN and mainframe crashed, twice - busiest week of the year, thanks guys). Yup, I'm writing about blogging instead of actually, y'know, covering some issues. Normal service will be resumed when I can summon either some vitriol or some energy to think. In the meantime...

Meta-blogging

The server logs tell me that many of you, my lovely readers (and infrequent commenters) come here from some sort of syndication service. The most popular three at the moment are Bloglines, NetVibes and Livejournal. That last may have caused some to stop; isn't Livejournal a blogging platform? Well, yes, sort of, but the main innovation for it is the "friends page" which effectively works as a feed reader for all your LJ 'friends', which in LJ speak is basically "blogs wot I'm watching". It's how I started, and while I'm not exactly keen on the (mis)management of the new owners (more here and here), I do still like the basic platform. Netvibes is very cool, but the AJAX platform is, like most AJAX platforms, bandwidth intensive. Dial Up user, 'nuff said. Bloglines is OK, but I dislike the way folders are only ever organised by feed.

LJ has the advantage that I can read it from anywhere, it pre-fetches everything, and I can sort all my respective feeds into different views. Setting up a feed in the first place can be annoying, but I've done it enough now to do it quickly. Thing is, once a feed is syndicated to LJ, everyone that wants to read that feed subscribes to the same account, named by the initial creator. Most of the ones I now read I created, but initially, some of my favourite blogs were found via someone else's listed LJ subscription. Sometimes, that account has a sensible name, (egs robertsharp, timworstall, nosemonkey, bssc_world) and there are some naming conventions that seem to work (for example, TheyWorkForYou feeds are mostly mp_name_constituency_fd, and all the Comment is Free feeds I set up are all cif_author_fd - here's Sunny's). Othertimes, you search for the account, and the initial creator wasn't exactly complementary. Most amusing?

Tory_bollocks

The Conservative Party official newsfeed. Always cheers me up when I see that, reminds me that for all that my brain says I have have to not hate them, they're still Tories at heart. Best bit of LJ? You don't even need an account with them to log in, you can have a "friends page" by logging in with your TypeKey profile or any other OpenID supporting service. Utterly pointless, but I'm not currently in the practice of promoting LJ accounts, just observing how useful it can be.

Meh, enough pointless introspection. Francis Maude is using Conservative Home as part of the analysis of the by-election results (didn't they all do badly?), which is, hopefully, a sign that the big politicians are finally "getting" the idea that the internet can be used to engage directly with people in a good way. Hopefully.

I'm off to get another bowl of ice cream.