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Why LJ has been up and down a lot recently, or, more importantly, what has made it the target of hackers and a series of DDoS attacks.

Worth a read, for a sense of perspective if nothing else.
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A friend has just pointed me towards this - it's Francis Maude getting completely flummoxed when appearing on the radio to talk about how important the Big Society is and how everyone should be doing some volunteering.

Apparently he never thought that the interviewer might possibly ask the question "So what volunteering do you do, then?".


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I've linked to the Chiron blog before - it's written by a US Police Officer who specialises in combat training - threat assessment and threat management especially. It's usually interesting.

Today's post on 'loving and caring' really strikes a chord with me:

"I'm going to make a value judgment here: Immature people confuse their feelings with the world.  And feel that the feelings are more important than the physical world.  You feel a swelling chest and your throat gets dry when you see your main squeeze.  Must be true love, so it's okay if you slap her around occasionally. Bullshit."

As I've just commented on his post; "you are what you do".

Claim that you love something? Do something about it - if it's a person, act, if it's a place, pick litter, or volunteer to help.

Hate something? Campaign against it.

But do something.

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I note with interest that Boris Johnson is calling for a change in strike legislation to stop Unions calling for a strike when less than 50% of the union members in a workplace take place in a ballot. (link). He claims that he wants to stop unions calling "capricious strikes on a minority turnout".

I further note that Boris Johnson was elected mayor in an election where 45% of the electorate turned out.
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An interesting article at the New Statesman on 'Hey Baby' - a "Grand Theft Auto" style game where the female protagonist has to cope with being hassled on the streets as she walks around, trying to get home; however, unlike real life, her coping strategies can include an AK47.

As the NS review says:

This is a game that's meant not to be played, but to be discussed. Its creator, Suyin Looui, a digital activist rather than a professional game designer, has said that her aim was to "examine new technologies and their potential value for feminist activism". Hey Baby is guerrilla feminist art masquerading as a PC pastime, and is all the more effective for the knowledgeable, unpatronising way in which it subverts the tropes of gaming to make its points.

There's a playable demo on the Hey Baby website, but if you try to order a copy they say they're currently 'sold out'. Vapourware as political activism?
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"Identity cards

Both Parties that now form the new Government stated in their manifestos that they will cancel Identity Cards and the National Identity Register. We will announce in due course how this will be achieved. Applications can continue to be made for ID cards but we would advise anyone thinking of applying to wait for further announcements.

Until Parliament agrees otherwise, identity cards remain valid and as such can still be used as an identity document and for travel within Europe. We will update you with further information as soon as we have it."


May I be (one of) the first to say "Woo hoo!"?
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"What do they know of England, who only England know?"

Kipling, via Billy Bragg, of course.

Friends and I went to see 'Pressure Drop' at the Wellcome Institute last night: a play / art installation / live gig with Billy Bragg. Like much of Bragg's recent work it's looking at the nature of Englishness and identity, detailing a day in the life of a white, working class family in East End London as they get ready for a funeral.

I expected it to be an unchallenging work - with tickets around £20 and it being at the Wellcome, you could pretty much describe the audience without being there, and I doubt I'll ever see Billy Bragg anywhere other than in opposition to the BNP. But I came away from it with more questions than answers, and that for me is good theatre.

In part, its due to the performance of David Kennedy as the shaven headed right wing thug Tony; a broadly drawn caricature who becomes very, very real. His shifts from comedy to ranting to violence are mercurial; at one point you're laughing at him, and almost a heartbeat later you're backing away in case he kicks off and you get caught in the crossfire. But he's also, to my mind, the most emotionally deep character - everyone else reacts to him, and are defined by their relationships with him. Mick Gordon (the playwright) could have taken the easy way out with Tony, but instead he is greater than the sum of his parts.

He's racist, yes. But the questions he (somewhat incoherently) asks about cultural change and the nature of a sense of place, and more importantly, the right to a sense of place and community ... I'm not sure I have answers to those.

Don't get me wrong; I didn't come away changing my views - I think that immigration has been a valuable thing for this country (but then as a first generation immigrant I _would_ say that) and I think that this country (and Europe as a whole) has benefited massively from our position and our empires over the last 500 years. I've nothing against immigrants coming here, working and making this country stronger.

But I do think that it should be possible to ask questions without being automatically labelled a bigot, even if you don't ask those questions in the most politically correct way.

And I don't know what the answers to some of the questions raised are.
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In a good news / bad news stylee ....

Bad News:

My dad is working with his local Tory party as a canvasser and will be overseeing the elections / vote counting for them.

Good news:

He's lost 5 kilos with all the walking around.

So, it's official - The Tories - Bad for the Country, good for your waistline.
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From @DavidWorsfold:

The only time the Daily Mail was pro-European was when it supported Adolf Hitler in the 1930s. #nickcleggsfault

There's an article in the Daily Mail today where they lambast Nick Clegg for digging up the corpse of every British soldier who died in World War II so that he can personally spit in their faces.

I exaggerate, dear reader, but not by much. See for yourself (though they've toned it down since I read it earlier today - how they must love the fact that they can re-edit their published articles on the fly):


They're basing their Nazi accusations on the following Guardian article which Clegg wrote in 2002 when he was a Euro MP.


In it, Clegg remembers a school exchange trip to Germany, staying with German kids (far too young to bear any guilt for Nazism, surely?) when his schoolmates started insulting their hosts, claiming "we own your country, we won the war" and following it with Nazi salutes and goose steps.

What Clegg actually said is that we as a country have a "tenacious obsession with the last war" and that it's holding us back - we don't benefit from the partnerships available to us within Europe because many of us see ourselves still as the Sons of Empire, who bashed the Bosch in WW1, nadgered the Nazis in WW2 and will be prepared to hound the Hun forever more.

I can't see that he's wrong in that.

In other political news, Unilever, the makers of Marmite, are suing the British National Party over their strange use of a jar of Marmite in their latest party political broadcast. This is not an April Fools joke.

6 Music

Mar. 2nd, 2010 03:39 pm
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If you like 6 Music and you want to keep it, fill out the consultation on the link above. You can join as many Facebook groups as you want and sign all the online petitions you like and that's okay - they're good for getting the word out that something needs to be done.

But the something in this case is responding to the BBC consultation. That's the link above.
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Interesting journey into work this morning.

I got stopped by the British Transport Police under the auspices of the Terrorism Act, and subjected to a search.

What was really interesting was that while the officer in question very politely made it clear that the search was not optional, he also stressed that I was under no obligation to provide them with my ID, or even my name unless I wanted to. When he patted me down and found my wallet, he didn't open it. He didn't even look at the envelope of a parcel I had in my bag.

That's a real step forward.

I guess it helps that my face fits; white, middle class, middle aged (*sob* ) and that I don't look 'weird' - no obvious piercings or tattoos. And I know how to talk to authority, and don't put their backs up as a matter of principle. But if it were a matter of the officer's discretion whether to ask for ID or not, I don't think he'd have phrased it the way he did. (Edit: Under the provisions of Sec.44 of the Terrorism Act, 2000, you don't have to give your name and address. However, I've seen videos of police on Youtube opening someone's wallet and taking their name and address from the contents. The officer searching me today made no effort to do anything like that.)

I don't have a particular problem with stop and search (if it's applied fairly) - but if nothing shows up then I shouldn't have to show ID.

I think that's a good balance; I'm very aware several people on here will disagree.

(oh, and the 'white powder' was the chalk I use for climbing. I thought I should mention it before he found it.)
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Well, perhaps not.


The Liberal Democrats are suggesting that we use the opportunity caused by the snouts in the trough (see LJ passim.) to fundamentally look at how we do politics in this country.

They're suggesting we, not local party committees, should have the right to de-select MPs. Don't like your MP? Sack him.

They're suggesting that we should have the right to an elected upper house, rather than current mish-mash of theocrats, nobles and cronies that are there at the moment. (And yes, I'm aware that sometimes recently said house has been very useful in slowing down the government. I think that says more about the current government than the House of Lords, to be honest.)

They're suggesting that we have fixed term Parliaments, so it's not at the whim of the current PM to decide when to call an election, allowing them to choose the time of best advantage.

They're suggesting a lot more.

I fully suppose that many of you will not agree with their suggestions.

But some of you will.

Have a look.

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I know several of my friends think that because the expenses claims were 'legal', they were justified. I'd just like to point out that the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the House of Commons disagrees with you.

"The Prime Minister has said it is not acceptable therefore it will not be accepted. It might be enforceable in a court of law but it's not acceptable in the court of public opinion, and that's where the Government steps in."

Rt. Hon. Harriet Harman, QC, MP, March 2009.
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I received a reply from my MP, Mike Gapes, earlier today, concerning my email. It was a little bit cut and paste, given that it addressed issues that I hadn't actually raised (like payments for office staff and equipment, which I don't actually disagree with) but it did clarify that his staff are all employed on contract, aren't related to him, and are paid according to trade union pay scales, which is good to hear. He also confirmed that he has no paid work outside of being an MP, which is another tick in his favour.

Finally, on the 2nd home front, he didn't buy somewhere, but he did rent a flat in Westminster for "a number of years" because of the unsocial hours that he had to work. That I find far less defensible. I wouldn't expect an MP to get the nightbus (in the same way that I would expect my work to pay for a taxi home if they made me stay after midnight on occasion) - but nor do I see why he should be allowed to spend £22k a year on a flat less than 15 miles from where he lives.

However, Mr. Gapes says that he stopped claiming for the flat in early 2008, and now has been commuting from Ilford daily for just over a year.

I'm a little bit mollified by that.

Not a lot.
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I've just found out, thanks to the BBC, that Mike Gapes, Labour MP for Ilford, claimed £22,000 last year for his additional living allowance, and then a further £3000 on travel expenses. And those travel expenses are supposed to be for his constituency business.

That's Ilford. Zone 4. Outer London.

My travelcard, which gives 24 hour travel for a year, is £1400, give or take. I have to pay for that.

A taxi from Westminster to Ilford costs roughly £40 after midnight. Maybe £50 [livejournal.com profile] feistyredhead used to often have to get a cab home if she worked on an event that went on after the tubes finished. Her work paid for that. I don't have a problem with that.

But do the maths.

Parliament doesn't sit late any more - deliberately to make it family friendly. Mike Gapes could have a travelcard, and get a taxi home twice a week, and it would cost £7,400.

Why is he allowed to claim £25,000 instead?

I've sent him the following message. I'm going to be interested in his response.

Dear Mr Gapes,

Given the scandal enveloping the Houses of Commons at the moment concerning MPs expenses, I was wondering if you'd care to comment on the fact that the BBC are alleging that you claimed £22,000 for a second home allowance in 2007 / 8?


If their allegation is true, I'm assuming one of your two homes is in Ilford, where I live.

Ilford, which is in Zone 4.

Ilford, which is about an hour away from Westminster by public transport, and about the same by car.

Mr Gapes - how many of your constituents do you think work in the centre of London? And of those, how many would you estimate have the luxury of getting £22,000 per year to obtain and maintain a property closer to where they work in addition to a salary at least twice the national average?

Yours sincerely,

John Scott
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When I was queuing to buy a ticket for a train on Friday morning, two blokes were in the queue behind me moaning about the G20 protests; they though that the bloke who'd died had had a heart attack and the protesters had bottled the emergency services as they'd tried to get to him.

Not that they're ever going to read this blog, but they were wrong.

Footage obtained by the Guardian showing the police pushing the man in question over minutes before he died.

Ganked from [livejournal.com profile] cavalorn.
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You may or may not be aware that earlier this month, it became illegal to photograph or video a police officer or soldier if the resulting images are "likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism".

Read that carefully.

It doesn't suggest that the photographer has to have the intent of committing a terrorist act. Just that the photos are likely to be useful to someone who is. So if I take a photograph of a police officer, and then my camera is stolen by a terrorist, and they then use the photo to identify a member of Her Majesty's Constabulary, I could be liable for prosecution. It also doesn't matter if they're serving or retired; in uniform or in plain clothes.

[livejournal.com profile] severe_delays has some interesting thoughts on the matter.

I particularly like the thought raised in the comments that any shop that has CCTV will now, for the sake of their own legal well being, have to ban all police officers, soldiers or members of the intelligence services from any areas covered by CCTV.

Oh - and expect mass arrests at the next Changing of the Guard. All those tourists? Potentially aiding terrorists.

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I've only just heard about this - quoted from a friend's blog:

The 696 Form compels licensees who wish to hold live music events in 21 London Boroughs to report to the police the names, addresses, aliases and telephone numbers of performers, and most worryingly, the likely ethnicity of their audience. Failure to comply could result in fines or imprisonment. We believe this places unnecessary and frankly Orwellian powers in the hands of the Metropolitan Police, an institution which does not have the best record of racial fairness. The 696 form can only serve to deter the staging of live musical events - a positive form of activity in London and all cities - stifle free expression and quite possible penalise certain genres of music and ethnic audiences. It is an intrusion too far.

If you think this can't be true, look at http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/how-form-696-could-pull-pull-the-plug-on-the-capitals-music-scene-1028240.html , http://www.billboard.biz/bbbiz/content_display/industry/e3ib7a1cbce7faa46dfb966f53ed2b33507

Please sign the petition!


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