Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year and Thank You

Well 2006 is nearly over and I have to say, personally, it's been an immensely enjoyable year. Can I just say thank you to everyone who reads this blog for giving me traffic that, quite frankly, I never imagined I would ever get.

Whilst in the measuring stakes with the ruler I don't come close Iain and his 1.2 million uniques, I can't deny that I'm still astounded, and to be fair, shocked, with my rather more humble 110,000 uniques.

Tonight I am, sad to say, on-call for my employer. Such is life working in the ISP industry that is 24/7/365. Having said this I am being paid well for it so I mustn't complain too much. This does of course mean that like so many others I won't be getting hammered though. Mixing root and alcohol just wouldn't be wise.

Anyway, Happy New Year to everyone, and if I may, I'd like to raise a virtual glass to the end of the Labour Government in 2007. The sooner it happens the better off we'll all be.

Saddam Hussein's execution is truly Web 2.0?

The other week, Time Magazine made "You" the person of the year in reference to growth of social networking, blogging and general user generated content. Yesterday, as anyone who wasn't under a rock will know, saw the execution of Saddam Hussein in Iraq for just one of his many crimes.

The mainstream media outlets all reported that scenes from the pre-execution had been broadcast on Iraqi television, and, to my knowledge, few of the western mainstream oulets has carried that footage at all, instead simply reporting on it. Matt Drudge has linked to footage of not just the pre-execution but also, taken by a camera phone the execution itself.

Not surprisingly (to me at least) the video is freely available for all to see on Google Video, and given that it was first leeched by someone on the Something Awful forums, it's undoubtedly also been grabbed, mirrored, and cross-posted to alt-binaries.gore and all the other Net sub-culture sites out there that enjoy that sort of thing.

Now... we don't do public execution in the West, and yet the viral spread of Hussein's execution video (it's been viewed a lot) suggests that, at least in terms of sheer morbid curiosity, if such things are available to see people will view them. Saddam Hussein not only appears to have gone viral (at least in the interim), but his execution - as user-generated and distributed content - is truly "Web 2.0" too.

Kind of creepy huh?

Update: I've been watching the referrers and monitoring the search engines over the past hour or so and it looks like the viral nature of the full execution video has gone absolutely crazy. The search term "Saddam Hussein execution video" appears to be very popular right now. What does that say about us?

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Where does the web go in 2007?

Interesting voting results here about the direction the Web is likely to take in 2007. The results were based on an original predictions article here. I'll be honest I'm not sure I agree with IPTV having the top slot. As much as TV services over IP will undoubtedly grow during 2007, I personally think the growth in AJAX based web applications is going to be the biggest trend.

The growth of these browser based web services represents a significant threat to the likes of Microsoft in terms of the licensing model they currently use for Office. Application Service Providers are not particular new, but with the growth of ever higher bandwidth, and the development potential that AJAX provides, makes me think Microsoft will have to do something very special in 2007 to cope with the threat to their market dominance in the office software space.

Six 2007 Predictions

Technicially speaking this is a meme from Jeremy Jacobs, but given that it's a worthy topic anyway I'm not going to tag anyone specific and instead say everyone who has a blog and reads this ought to do it too. So here are my six predictions for 2007.

  • There will be a General Election.
  • Iran will find herself facing Osirak II. The "international community" will condemn Israel whilst secretly being happy she had the balls.
  • US and UK troops will still be in Iraq by this time next year.
  • Someone will face the possibility of a prison sentence over "Cash for Peerages"
  • Blair will publish his memoirs and humiliate Brown on almost every page.
  • Alastair Campbell will publish his diaries and humiliate Blair on almost every page.
Now I invite others to make their predictions.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Keeley Hazell named as a Hero of Year by Tory Party

As people reading Iain's blog will have seen, the Conservative Party has just made an announcement about its Environmental "Heros and Zeros" of the year. Clearly the person most deserving on the list is Keeley Hazell. A local girl from Lewisham too. Her work for the environment in going green and offering us lots of helpful tips definitely deserves recognition. I wonder if she'll come out canvassing with us in South East London?


Oh yes, there were some other minor celebrities on the list too like Former Vice-President Al Gore (why?) and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Adding to the linkage....

Just a quick note to say that if there is anyone out there who is linking to me but I am not linking to them please email me and it will be added. I've been rather slack recently so I have missed quite a few incoming links I think. Do let me know what category you'd like to go in.

Livingstone makes accusation of corruption at Hammersmith and Fulham Council?

The London mayor, Ken Livingstone, yesterday made a veiled accusation that Hammersmith and Fulham Council was corrupt. Hammersmith and Fulham had requested as part of their new building projects that there be a reduction in the number of new affordable homes built in a particular ward on the grounds that the overall number of affordable homes in the ward already far exceeded the 35% requirement for low rent affordable homes under the London Plan.

However, in response to this, Mayor Livingstone rejected the proposal and implied that the Council was trying to buy votes in the ward as a part of an orchestrated act of corruption similar to that of Westminster Council in the 1980s. In his press statement on the the GLA website he said,

"Hammersmith's actions have the stench of Shirley Porters regime at Westminster Council in the 1980s."
The 35% requirement that Livingstone cites as his reason is important here. If Livingstone really cares about it that much why is he not acting in the same manner with Greenwich Council in South-East London who are also not meeting that requirement? Especially given that the per capita wealth in Greenwich is far lower than in Hammersmith and Fulham. You'd think that he would be all over Greenwich Council like a rash yet he isn't.

This couldn't be because Hammersmith and Fulham is a Tory Council whilst Greenwich Council remains one of the last bastions of Labour strength in the capital could it? Is it right that the Mayor of London should behave with such blatant party political hypocrisy? What's more, is it befitting of his office to makes utterly unfounded implication of deliberate corruption at a time when the party he represents is under investigation by Scotland Yard for the very same?

Doughty Street is TV 2.0?

Have just been sent a link to an opinion article on the Register about 18 Doughty Street. The general thrust is that Doughty Street is some sort of horribly biased Tory spin machine.

How exactly a station that is upfront about not being impartial is an insincere spin machine I'll never know. The article is also a little inaccurate, as to my knowledge Alex Story no longer works at Doughty Street and hasn't now for about a month.

I still like The Register though.

Blair is no longer the cat, he's become the cheese

This morning's papers all appear to be carrying reports of how a number of senior Labour politicians, including the Labour Party Chairman, Hazel Blears and Home Secretary, John Reid, have been out campaigning in their local constituencies against Government NHS cuts which they, as members of Cabinet, are collectively responsible for.

Now besides the rank hypocrisy of such actions, what exactly does this say about the authority of Blair over his Cabinet? To have Cabinet ministers openly rebelling against the impact of policies they're collectively responsible for suggests that discipline within the Blair cabinet is non-existent.

They say that when the cats away the mice will play, but don't the actions of Blears, Reid et al suggest that far from being the cat, Blair has in fact become little more than a stale piece of cheese in the corner of the Cabinet room in Number 10? Clearly the Cabinet is in open revolt.

Anything Vista does Linux does better

Back in October I attended a conference in Portcullis House where Microsoft were showing off about Vista. Basically it was a sales presentation pointing out how brilliant Vista was, and all the funky new eye candy features it had.

What struck me as I watched was how all the "new" features in Vista were things that Linux had been doing for years. For example, Vista allows you disable USB ports. Now, besides being able to do that in the BIOS of most systems anyway, the hot plug system under Linux as been able to do it for years with a simple line added to one config file.

Microsoft then showed off it 3D desktop features. Again I found myself thinking that Linux, and OSX for that matter, had been doing what it was doing for some time, and what's more, they were doing it better, and the demos didn't crash.

Thus I come to the compare and contrast between Microsoft Vista and Linux. The contrast between an expensive clunky proprietary operating system and a free, open source community driven operating system. Linux remains way ahead of the curve when it comes to eye candy (and incidentally I call it eye candy because that is all it is. No one is actually likely to use the features on either desktop for any functional reason).

Here is Vista.


Here is Linux

A bet I might make....

Presidential Election 2008

Edwards vs Giuliani

Government to formalise mobocracy in Magistrate sentencing

When it comes to the Criminal Justice system this Government has undoubtedly been the most legislative-obsessed tinkerers in history. They've created literally hundreds of new crimes without the forethought that the prison population might expand, scrapped trial by jury in some cases, and passed umpteen Criminal Justice Acts in the process.

The latest idiocy appears to be a plan for the formalisation of mobocracy in the Magistrate Courts. Effectively, the mob, sorry, the "community" will be given a say in sentencing.

According to the Government, there will now be scope for something called "Community Impact Statements" in Magistrates Courts. This will let local people tell the court how the convicted person[s] has blighted their lives and community. They will then be allowed to put forward how they think the convicted should be sentenced.

By all accounts, that suggests that the a Magistrate is no longer actually being a judge at all, the mob is.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

HM revenue and Customs wants people to quit smoking.... sort of

Those nice people at HM Revenue and Customs have just put out a press release encouraging us all to give up smoking... well sort of. The message is simple, if you're a smoker you probably buy dodgy fags off the bloke who does the Calais run in the pub. This mean you fund organised crime, child labour, human trafficking and what's more the fags are probably fake anyway!

Apparently, "up to 19% of cigarettes smoked in the UK are illicit". Saying "up to 98%" would be just as valid a statement mind. I bet there was a discussion over coffee by press officers about what arbitrary figure to slap in there.

What's more, to dissuade all the tobacco smoking addicts to quit they warn us that counterfeit cigarettes have "80% more nicotine". Surely to your average smoker that's a good thing?

* the illicit cigarette trade funds serious organised crime, including the drugs trade and people smuggling.
Shifted blame guilt-tripping, nice! I wonder when they will start to argue that we should stop using gas supplied by Gazprom because it helps to maintain Russias oligarch mafia bosses reign of terrors in the Urals?
* an illicit tobacco market allows low level criminality to gain a foothold in a community
Actually, having less real police officers and ignoring low level crime due to increased priority for "hate crimes" and centrally driven targets does that.
* the illicit cigarette market will undercut honest traders and can drive them out of business
Translation: Our department gets less of your money.
* the illicit cigarette market is wholly unregulated - smugglers don't care if their customers are children.
Neither do many shopkeepers, and looking at certain African states neither do some of cigarette companies.

How long is it before the Department of Health puts out a press release like this claiming that people who smoke smuggled ciggies are actually responsible for the cash shortage in the NHS? Let's not be under any illussion here, HMRC doesn't want people to quit smoking, it just wants us to quit smoking things that it isn't taxing.

Air travellers should complain about Brown's illegal airport tax

Following from Iain Dale's story last week about Gordon Borwn's illegal airport tax, Iain has just posted saying that the airlines are now hoping that a large number of passengers complain about the levy in order that they have a formal pretext not to levy the charge.

There is also, apparently, the possibility of airline passengers who have already been subjected to this extra £5 per head since the Pre-Budget Report making a claim back on the Government for not having legal power to take the money in the first place.

I do hope that happens, hell hath no fury like a British taxpayer scorned!

DEFRA announces new black teapots amongst other things

It may be the quiet Christmas period, but that doesn't stop the Government press machine reminding us how green it what's us to think it is. The latest announcement from DEFRA is that we're going to get a "comprehensive on-line guide to greener living on DirectGov". The guide has some choice bits in it.

Apparently we should all keep ponds if possible - assuming of course we follow all the health 'n safety regulations about it. We shouldn't buy new monitors for our PCs, the environment is more important than that CRT refresh rate damaging your eyes. We should also only use wood from sustainable sources - our tax credit increases will pay for it (assuming they didn't make a mistake). We should consider using eBay - better not do it too much though or the taxman might consider you a business.

We should all try and get gas ovens, even though they are relatively rare today and far more potentially lethal. We should buy the most expensive fridge freezers (again your tax credits will pay for this). Oh yes, and buy more fuel efficient cars, it's only £8000 on the road for a nice shiny new motor that will lose half its value when you drive it out of the showroom. What do you mean you can't afford it? Have you not heard of tick?

It doesn't stop just with the guide though, the press release goes on to say that a "carbon calculator to help people find out how much carbon they emit annually from their actions is also being developed". What better way to tackle environmental issues than by spending development time and money on something that already exists in bucket loads out on the Interweb?

Of course there is always a mildly amusing part in any Government press release. It's usually the part where the Government makes some claim about it's own self-righteousness which evidence shows to be utterly ludicrous. In this case it says that the "Government is also taking action to reduce its own emissions."

Now, I invite you to take a walk around Westminster in the evening, and in particular past DEFRA, and you shall see an array of empty, yet thoroughly lit buildings. You will also see through windows desktop computers clearly left running, and the gentle hazy light being emitted from monitors on standby.

Now, would anyone like a cup of tea? I made it in this Government approved black teapot.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Speaker tutors Ministers on how to answer questions

This little question made me chuckle. The subject of the question was the Constitutional Affairs Minister, Vera Baird MP.

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West) (Con):On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is there nothing that can be done about lawyers who are somewhat used to being paid by the hour and, as a consequence, take an inordinate amount of time to ask a question and even longer to answer one?

Mr. Speaker: I have been giving some tutoring to the Under-Secretary, because I know that she came from the courts to Parliament. I would not say that she took too long today; it is just that she is improving, and there could be more improvement.
The thing is, is it appropriate for the Speaker to be providing tutoring for Ministers on how to answer questions?

Home Office: Look into my eyes, not around the eyes!

One of the big headlines from the Government's media grid today appears to be that 40 areas in England and Wales with the worst anti-social behaviour problems are to be targeted by the Home Office as "Respect Zones".

This is not the same thing that was announced six months ago in June. In that case the forty worst areas were to be called "Respect Areas" which is clearly totally different.

3-2-1 you're back in the room!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Lib Dem councillors say Ming must go

OK, so this probably (definitely) will be my last post for a day or two, but I simply couldn't resist. This morning Broadcasting House on Radio 4 did a feature on the Liberal Democrats and there terrible scandal ridden year. During the feature a number of Liberal Democrat councillors were asked about how they would feel when Gordon Brown came along and all anyone talked about was Brown/Cameron.

The response was certainly interesting, the general consensus was that Ming Campbell was not up to the job and would need to be replaced before the next General Election else it would not play out very well for the Lib Dems. So, that's rumblings from Lib Dems about the ability of their leader at Christmas. What is it they say about history? If the noise for a snap election next October grows, might we have yet another leadership contest?

Happy Christmas from me

This will be my last posting for a couple of days, so I just want to take the opportunity to wish everyone a Happy Christmas. For those I know personally that I've not sent a card too, Happy Christmas. Sadly I've always been rubbish when it comes to doing Christmas cards, don't know why, I just have. So if anyone thought I was snubbing them I wasn't. Anyways, Happy Christmas, eat, drink and be merry. Normal service will be resumed in a couple of days (comments may not get authorised until I get back).

Windows Vista Content Protection system is like the Labour 1983 Manifesto

If anyone is interested in what some of the features of Windows Vista includes, part of it is Content Protection, and, according to a New Zealand based academic, it quite possibly represents the "longest suicide note in history" by Microsoft.

Peter Gutmann, of the Computing Science department at the University of Auckland has written a cost analysis of Vista's content protection system which certainly cuts to the chase in highlighting it's problem. Well worth a read, although it is quite technical.

Religion is not the cause, it's a symptom

It's an old cliche I know, but you will always here the line that religion has killed more people than anything and therefore it's a bad thing. In fact, in a few voxpops last night on Channel 4 it was said, and it is also said in this morning's Guardian. Perfectly timed around Christmas, they have commissioned a poll which has found that 82% of people in Britain think religion is a force for causing tension and division.

The reason I'm posting about this is because this argument that religion causes tension, division and war is simply not true. The cause of tension, division and war, is mankind acting politically in the pursuit of maintaining some sort of power through ideology. Religion is merely a symptom of that root cause. One only has to look at Stalin or Mao, to realise that even without religion, man remains just as brutish (if not even more some might argue).

It's actually an intellectual cop-out to simply blame religion for the world's ills. We find it much easier to search for organisations to blame, rather than taking a deeper look at the fundamental reality of man's condition. It's much more palatable to blame organisations that believe in a supernatural deity than to acknowledge that human nature is the real cause tension and division.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Happy Christmas from Al Qaeda?

It's almost becoming a ritual now, but every year I think, around about now, Al Qaeda release some sort of video taunting America and the West generally. This year is no different it seems. The Blotter is reporting that a video has been released in which the Al Qaeda number two, Ayman al Zawahri, gives a message directly to the US Democrats. Zawahri says,

"[The Democrats] aren't the ones who won the midterm elections, nor are the Republicans the ones who lost. Rather, the Mujahideen -- the Muslim Ummah's vanguard in Afghanistan and Iraq -- are the ones who won, and the American forces and their Crusader allies are the ones who lost"
Ayman al Zawahri goes on to say the Democrats should negotiate with bin Laden and not anyone else in the Islamic world.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Seven Best Things You Did This Year

So Iain has tagged me in one of these blog memes. I must say, before I get on with the bloody thing, these are becoming very common. I may have to make a New Years resolution to only do two a year or something. I need to regain my BOFH reputation.

Anyways, here are the seven best things I did this year.

1: Started this blog.
2: Discovered the johnson4leader domains.
3: Turned 600+ lines of bad code into less than 100 lines of elegant code.
4: Became "published" in the Little Red Book of New Labour Sleaze.
5: Stood for Council, lost, but had bloody good time winding Labour up in the process.
6: Read Homer
7: Appeared on 18 Doughty Street.

I'm in a cheeky mood, so I think I will tag Ed Vaizey and Boris just to see if they'll do it, and also the man from Croydon, and that bloke in Prague.

The Web "The Times" Loved 2006

Today, the Times Online has posted a listing under the title of "The web we loved" which is an arbitrary (and not comprehensive) list of the websites and blogs that they've enjoyed most during 2006. The list is split into six themes, Westminster, War, Religion, the Environment, You and Leaders.

The Westminster section contains the obvious two, Guido and Iain, but also contains the Devil's Kitchen and yours truly. I'm not really sure what to say to be honest, its been a rather peculiar year for me, especially the growth of this site. Cheers.

Do check out the rest of the list here.

Does Brown think he's Cromwell?

There's an interesting little exclusive over on Iain's blog about Gordon Brown's airport tax increases. Iain goes into much more detail than I shall, but to summarise it appears that Brown believes he has the legal authority akin to Lord Protector and can simply raise airport duty before the next Budget by decree.

However, the rules state that he must pass a resolution in Parliament to do so. As Parliament has now risen it means that there is no legal requirement for the airlines to collect the extra duty, nor is there any obligation on travellers to do so.

This isn't the first time that the Government has thought it has the power to do things which it can't. People may remember when Blair, in his rapid evening re-shuffle, scrap the office of Lord Chancellor. It was only later that same day that it was pointed out to him that he could not just scrap the position of Lord Chancellor on a whim because it would require amendments to literally hundreds of pieces of legislation first.

Read more from Iain here.

French Prime Minister questioned by Police

Typical bloody French. They have to copy us on everything!
See here for details

London braces for Christmas terrorist attack?

According to ABC News, London is preparing to face a terrorist attack over Christmas. Weird thing is that it's the middle of the night in the US, yet they're the only one talking about it that I can see. Lots more detail/speculation in the ABC link.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Government website wide open to hacking?

Yesterday, to very little fanfare, the Department for Constitutional Affairs launched a new website called The UK Statute Law Database. The site is basically a free online resource containing over 30,000 items of revised UK primary legislation, all searchable.

When I first discovered the site I wondered why it went live with so little Government boasting. After all, it's a successful Government IT project, and they are few and far between. Then I discovered the awful truth.

It is wise that they've not promoted it to much. The site is running on a Windows server using IIS 5.0. This is bad. This is very bad. IIS is now officially at 6.0 and whilst it remains utter rubbish as a web server it doesn't at least have quite the wealth of "how to hack IIS" guides as 5.0 does.

I'd be surprised if it isn't attacked by scriptkiddies at some point, although in fairness it's likely to fall over before that if gets a sustained amount of traffic from lawyers etc. I should add too that this has really lightened up the day in my office. We're all rather amused that such a system could go live. The question on our lips is if the front-end is running IIS5.0 what the hell is the database running? *shudders*

Update: I'm sure the ID cards database system will be very secure though.

Update 2: It has just occurred to me that should this site be compromised I will be the first port of call for the Old Bill. For the record, I am not encouraging any criminality, I am highlighting the fact that the Government has launched a system that is inherently weak in terms of security, and it clearly needs to look at it's processes in relation to security review.

Pete Burns must be raking in the royalties

To be honest it's becoming a little cliche for me to point out when the Government re-announces money, but what the hell, why should I change the habit of a lifetime? They haven't.

The latest example is from Health Minister Lord Warner, who has "today announced 44.5 million in funding for four new community hospitals and health centres". Read on though and it becomes clear that this is money from an already allocated pot of 750 million.

[insert reference to Dead or Alive tune here]

Iran: We have manifest destiny on our side!

The ever sane Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has calmly predicted the disappearance of Brtiain, the USA and Israel, comparing the group to the pharonic kings of Egypt. Ahmadinejad said,

"The oppressive powers will disappear while the Iranian people will stay. Any power that is close to God will survive while the powers who are far from God will disappear like the pharaohs.... Today, it is the United States, Britain and the Zionist regime which are doomed to disappear as they have moved far away from the teachings of God," he said in a speech in the western town of Javanroud.... It is a divine promise."
How quaint to appeal to a Jacksonite-style manifest destiny whilst simultaneously predicting the demise of the USA!

Blogs: "Written by fools to be read by imbeciles."

Have just read a thought provoking piece in the Wall Street Journal about blogs. The argument put forward is that we bloggers tend to have large ego and feelings of self-importance. I can't deny that I myself have often thought that too. The article asserts that the blogs are not threatening the mainstream media, but are instead riding along with it, "like remora fish on the bellies of sharks, picking at the scraps". He goes on to say "the blogs have enthusiastically endorsed Joseph Conrad's judgment of newspapering--"written by fools to be read by imbeciles"--they have also demonstrated a remarkable ecumenicalism in filling out that same role themselves."

Harsh, but probably fair for the vast majority of blogs. I do think though that if you remove the noise it may not be quite a starkly put. After all, and certainly in the case of the UK, I'd say the the core actors within this theatre are clearly people who, IRL, were already working in the media, think tanks, and/or political parties. They are not ranting and raving loonies that make up the bulk of what passes for comment. They often break stories, and they certainly influence the political agenda within their respective parties.

Having said all this though, clearly I'm a fool and you're an imbecile.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Government to invest in sinking ships?

The DTI has just announced that its going throw £278,000 at a project that will develop new "greener" biodegradable plastic. Apparently the stuff will be derived from plants and is lightweight and strong, making it suitable for car doors and boat hulls.

Now, besides giving a whole new meaning to the phrase "running a car into the ground", why exactly would you want to make the hull of a boat out of biodegradable material? Forgive me if I'm being a little cynical here, but would you get in a boat if you knew the hull might spring a leak by design?

workFRIENDLY is here to help

Worried about browsing the Internet at work and getting caught by the boss? Never fear, workFRIENDLY is here. The workFRIENDLY website acts a web browser proxy server and automatically converts the web page you want to look at into a format that looks just like a Word document. Even better, if you press the "Boss Key" it will switch it to appear like a document about Time Management if the boss should come over to your desk.

Click image for large version

How many?!

In 2005-06 the Department of Transport employed the services of 571 different consultancy firms. On the basis of my poor B grade GCSE Maths, I reckon that's approximtely 1.5 consultancy firms hired per day. No doubt much synergy was achieved as a result.

Is there a row brewing between the Treasury and Transport?

Are the Department of Transport and the Treasury at loggerheads over the issue of fuel duty versus road pricing? That certainly seems to be the implication in a response from Stephen Ladyman on the matter.

The Tory MP, Anne McIntosh asked the Transport minister what assessment had been made on the "likely effect on congestion of increases in fuel duty". Stephen Ladyman's response was that responsibility for making such impact assesments was the Chancellors, but went on to say that "raising fuel duty would be significantly less efficient than road pricing as a means of reducing congestion".

Given that Gordon Brown claimed his recent increase in fuel duty was about the environment and congestion it's certainly interesting that the Department of Transport is so willing to state that he's wrong. I wonder if Ladyman was speaking for wee Doogie in his answer?

The EU, cars and carrots

As some people may know, the EU is currently having a "consultation" about proposals to force all cars and vehicles to run with - at the very least - their sidelight on during the day. There are arguments in favour of this for those nations that get long period of darkness (in the North), but in many cases the idea is not, if you excuse the pun, a particularly bright one.

The most vocal opponents in the UK happen to be motorcyclists who already ride with their lights on so they can be seen. If every vehicle on the road suddenly has it;s lights on, motorcyclists become lost in the mass of light, and it will likely increase the danger to them. There is also of course the issue of using more power, ergo carbon, with this proposal. Joined-up thinking and all that stuff.

However, the reason for this post is to highlight, to the EU's credit, the fact that they do pretty much publish anything they receive in representation. Specifically I refer to the submission by Mr John Crippetts here, who said,

Subject: Can't see in broad daylight?
Try eating more carrots. Cars could have them feeding from the steering column for driver to nibble at when stopped in traffic jams.
Meanwhile, if you can't think of how to fill the day, why not take the gravy train on a fact finding tour to Timbuktoo or somewhere far away rather than make up silly new laws.
Mr Crippetts, I salute you.

The real problem is it isn't actually "sensible"

One of the big news story of the day is John Reid's u-turn on the ID card database. Essentially, he's decided that instead of starting with a fresh schema the ID cards will be based on multiple databases already in existence. According to John Reid, this is "lower risk, more efficient and faster". Now, I don't support the ID Card policy on principle, however, the argument that using already existing systems rather than starting afresh will be "lower risk, more efficient and faster" is, frankly, bollocks.

Starting with "lower risk", what Reid is really saying is less risk of overrun in costs due to poor estimates at the outset. However, from a data integrity point of view, using already existing systems, which are known to hold inaccurate data, and are accessed and updated by separate groups under different protocols, is actually an increase in risk.

There is more potential for information leakage, failures, and, most fundamentally, a wider net of loosely controlled human beings affecting data that could significantly impact on people's live if mistakes are made. Let's not be under any illusions here, mistakes will be made. I don't say this for political reasons I say it in operational terms.

Large-scale databases, especially those that carry out masses of transactional queries and updates will always have problems. "Fixing" data is a necessary fact of operational life. Place that reality in the context of multiple databases under multiple theatres of control, and you have a very risky situation indeed. Especially when it is about a card that, if introduced, will apparently become the de facto point for all manner of access to services, and other general day-to-day living.

The idea that such a system will also be more "efficient" is, to say the very least fanciful. I imagine that the argument is based on the notion of efficiency when related to data gathering. Why gather lots of data you already have in other databases that are already able to be easily queried? However, the problem of efficiency, again from an operational understand is highly questionable.

Again, the disconnected management of these discreet systems to be used, means that multiple layers of bureaucracy will stifle operational administration. In Reid's proposal, when a mistake occurs which effect data integrity, the process for rectifying it will be wholly inefficient and laborious. The consequential impact on those who mistakes impact could potentially be massive.

Take for example if the ID card becomes a requirement for receiving medical treatment. What happens when data integrity is lost for someone who can then no longer be managed through the pervasive all seeing system of the state? What happens, when due to a failure in one system, a person becomes effectively a non-person for a period whilst the bureaucracy grinds on between the different stakeholders to rectify that situation?

Finally, one has to assume that when Reid claims the system will be "faster" he is only referring to the idea that they can get it all up and running within their given deadlines. However, there cannot be a serious argument that the system itself, once running will be faster when it will make multiple access and query requests to multiple databases in multiple locations across saturated bandwidth networks? Throw on top an overhead for encryption (which one assumes must be planned), and it's pretty clear that this system will be anything but faster than the original proposal.

There is of course a little bit of political trickery and triangulation going on here as well though. After all, opposing the Reid U-turn proposals on the grounds that it will not be lower risk, efficient or faster than the original plan, suggests, consequentially, that one is supporting the original plan - this is not necessarily so. There is also something else we should note in Reid's comment though. He claimed that "[d]oing something sensible is not necessarily a U-turn".

Putting aside the absurdity of this argument regarding the U-turn not being a U-turn, these proposals are not - it seems - actually sensible at all. The system that will be produced now, will - if it ever manages to become operational - be high risk, inefficient and slower. There is nothing sensible about Reid's statement, but then that doesn't surprise me in the slightest. He's a politician trying to talk about IT without having a clue about what the real implications are.

Hat Tip: The Spine for the image

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Cross party support for Open Source grows

Back in November, Liberal Democrat MP, John Pugh, put down an Early Day Motion (179), calling on the Government and the Department for Education and Skills to move away from expensive proprietary computer systems in schools towards Open Source solutions, and the motion has garnered significant cross party support.

Importantly, what this means is that we might yet see Linux with OpenOffice.org and the multitude of free software available out there in schools instead of the insecure, overly bloated, and stupidly expensive Windows.

Now, I wonder if there is any chance of convincing people like the Home Office that having thin client based Linux systems will make more sense than Windows Vista? Tux the Penguin looks better than the Windows logo too.

I bet the value-add is poor on this IT system

I never knew that it existed, but apparently there is an online pension planner and forecast service run by the Department of Work and Pensions (see here) . The scary thing about it is that, according to the Government, it has incurred a cost of £11.3 million "to date" to develop, set up and run.

I wonder what its usage statistcs are? I bet the per usage cost ratio doesn't represent significant value-add. I don't deny I may be a tad cynical, but can you blame me given the fact that even Government minister's admit they are incompetent at IT?

Office politics at its very best?

Since the publication of the Downing Street memo last week there has been a lot of speculation about who wrote it. Iain and Guido think it was Philip Gould, who, let's be honest, has a history of writing and leaking such things.

The official Downing Street line has been to dismiss the memo by saying it was not written by any of Blair's staff, or Labour Party-funded staff in his personal office. There has been no denial of the memo's existence or of it's validity.

Whilst Downing Street's line is what led Iain and Guido to Gould, are there not a number of political appointees who work on the Civil Service side in Number 10? Wouldn't these be people who fall between the gaps of the very specific groups in the PMOS's official statement?

It is pretty much an accepted truth these days that Gordon Brown will takeover from Blair as the next leader of the Labour Party - thereby becoming Prime Minister. It is also a well known fact that Brown very much has his own "team" in the Treasury that will inevitably move next door into Downing Street when the time comes.

Could it therefore be that this memo emanated from those who fall through the cracks in the official line who known that they are about to lose their jobs? Was the memo actually a plea by those that know they have no future salary prospects in Downing Street for someone, anyone, to stand against Brown?

Obviously the contents of the memo is astonishing, and in my mind quite an accurate reflection of how poor the Government actually is. But rather than it being by someone like Philip Gould, might it just be by a bunch of disgruntled employees who really are not looking forward to the hatchet man next door ruining their summer with compulsory redundancy?

You'd think they'd all be in a Union for their own protection, wouldn't you?

Does anyone in Government keep basic figures?

The other week I asked what "disproportionate cost" actually was in relation to questions that go unanswered in Parliament. I have since discovered that basically, if the question will cost more than £700 to answer it is considered to be at "disproportionate cost".

Now, besides that being an excellent way of avoiding answering politically sensitive questions, you have to wonder how they calculate when a question will actually cost more than £700. The reason I say that is because of two unanswered questions that seem so simple as to beggar belief that they will cost too much to answer.

Both questions were put to the Ministry of Defence, the first asking which of the 10 consultancy fees charged to the MoD since May 1997 "were most expensive", and the second simply asking what how much was "spent on the Territorial Army in the last period for which figures are available; and what percentage that figure represents of total defence spending in that period."

Both responses start with the line that the information is not held centrally. Can this really be true? Does the MoD really not have a single budget ledger listing the figures it spent on 10 different consultancy charges? Is it genuinely conceivable that the MoD, the central organisation, does not keep a record of how much money it allocated to non-regular Army provision?

If it is true that these figures are not held centrally, then doesn't that imply a fundamental and serial failure in accountancy management in the Ministry of Defence? Wouldn't a call to the Treasury be able to access the figures for less than £700? If a business acted in this sort of way it would fall foul of all sorts of FSA rules wouldn't it?

I can accept that sometimes there will be difficulties in answering some of the granular questions that are submitted about matters of accountancy. However, these two questions are brilliant examples of very non-granular questions that should be able to be answered quite quickly. Hell, the question about the Territorials only asked for the last set of figures available, it gave massive leeway for the failure to provide information and yet still the question wasn't answered.

Given yesterdays news regarding body armour and the fact that the Secretary of State has to sign off things (and failed to do so), is it not fair to ask whether the MoD is fit for purpose when it comes to fiscal accountability? Or perhaps I'm being naive and that question should be asked of the entire Government?

Misleading headlines in the Telegraph

This morning I spotted a headline in the Telegraph which said, "The school nerd who liked to help vice girls". Imagine my surprise when I clicked on the link and discovered that it wasn't a biography piece about the former Liberal Prime Minister, William Gladstone.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Little Red Book of New Labour Sleaze Second Edition

Well it's been some month since the first edition of the Little Red book of New Labour Sleaze was published. As people who read Iain's site will know, there is now to be a second edition in the New year with the extra months added.

I shall of course being offering a contribution for consideration.

Government announces nearly £1bn cut in transport funding

If I had to pinpoint something about the Government that I actually liked it would have to be the amusing and deliberately obfuscated press releases they put out. This morning is no exception, the Secretary of State for Transport, Douglas Alexander, has announced "the country will benefit from £1.25billion to improve local transport" in 2007/08.

Now, whilst I cannot (yet) establish whether this is money that's already been announced, what is hidden away in the press release is the announcement that the amount of money the Government plans to spend in 2008/09 and 2010/11 will be cut.

The final paragraph of the release states that "[i]ntegrated transport allocations totalling £1,769 million across the country for 2008/09 to 2010/11, subject only to next year's spending review, are also included in today's announcement."

Crude maths I know, but that means the Department of Transport plans to spend £700 million less over the two years following 2007/08. You have to love obfuscation really. When they're not obviously re-announcing money, they're burying budget cuts in the detail.

Has Blair told the Police porkies?

As everyone following the story now knows, the line that Blair (and his supporters) have put out about the peerage nominations that are under the spotlight was that they were for "party services" not for services to the public. Many questioned that line at the time, Iain Dale for one, but over the weekend a couple of nomination forms have been leaked to the press and they suggest that the line is completely false.

According to the report in the Independent on Sunday, the nomination forms show that they were put forward as a result of their public service, including making donations to City Academies. The implication here, if the nomination forms are genuine, is that Blair has misled, or possibly even lied, to the Police when he was questioned. How long will it be before the door to Number 10 gets another knock, this time for the benefit of the tape?

Leading blogger confused by modern technology?

"How do I work this thing again?"
;-)

Hutton re-announces ten year old policy

According to reports this morning, John Hutton is going to crackdown on the persistently jobless by withdrawing benefits. Essentially he says that he is going to go after the "can work, won't work" people.

Please be aware though this is not the same policy that Frank Field advocated when he said Labour should "think the unthinkable" in the build-up to 1997. This is a completely different policy, just as the abolition of the CSA was a completely different policy to the one that has been talked about for years and never happened.

It's coming to something when the Government - in need of grabbing the news agenda after the week that saw the Police at Downing Street, and the "shambles memo" - has to re-announce (again) a policy that it's serially failed to implement over the past nine year.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Alan Milburn Sycophant Society

Just spoted a post on Ed Vaizey's blog about a fan site for Alan Milburn here. It's the soft-focus banner image that disturbs me most.
This said, it's get worse when you change "milburn" for "blair" in the url.

Dizzy: Time Person of the Year

Yes that's right, I have been named Time Person of the Year, as has, Guido, Iain Dale, Croydonian, LonelyGirl15, Star Wars Kid, and everyone else. This year, Time magazine has recognised that the Person of the Year is "You".

The Information Age is ours and we control it with our content, our networks, and our lives. YouTube, Blogger, MySpace, LiveJournal, Bebo, AIMPages have given the ability to the non-technical to easily and freely communicate their content to the world, and 2006 saw an explosion of it's usage worldwide. Congratulations to everyone I guess.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Downing Street has a Hungarian moment

A stunning memo from Downing Street in the Mail on Sunday has just been reported by Iain Dale that essentially shows the Government know they are rubbish, and they know we know they are rubbish. Read the full memo here.
What a brilliant week this has been! I particularly like this bit from the memo,

"The Government is seen as a shambles. It is not just Labour internal conflicts but a lack of grip and competence on key issues. Iraq is a potent and raw issue, so is the NHS, immigration and crime. We have lost control of the big issues and are not delivering"
Oh happy days!

David Taylor must be gutted

I imagine the news that Senator Johnson has had a stroke must have hit David Taylor quite hard. As people may remember, when I discovered the "johnson4leader" domains had been registered by the Blairite spinner Taylor, he briefly redirected them to the Senator's website.

Giving Taylor the benefit of the doubt, I guess he must be absolutely shocked and stunned that such a good friend of his would be struck by a stroke. I send my condolences.

LabourHome has the right to remain silent

I've just been over to have a look at LabourHome and thought I'd grab a screenshot because there doesn't appear to be a single posting about Blair police questioning session. Nor is there anything about Gordon Brown's alleged involvement, as reported by Channel 4 and denied by Brown last night. Perhaps they'll write something later today, or perhaps not.

Click image for large version

Durham University Estates Clampdown?

Click Image for Larger Version
Reminds me of a Spoldgyness Abounds song called "Student Wankers"

Friday, December 15, 2006

IRC brought to life

IRC in the Real World. Brilliant.

Well worth watching even though it's ten minutes. The end is hilarious.

When it comes to the punch, Dizzy beats Prescott

The other day Guido pointed out normality had returned and he was more popular than the Downing Street website once more. I've just learnt that I (and quite a few other bloggers) are far more popular than the Deputy Prime Minister's website as well. In fact, his traffic is truly poor.

According to a written answer from Prescott, his department's website has had only 2,771 unique visits since August, and a mere 6,836 page impressions.

Update: Seeing as that very nice man Iain Dale has linked to me and boasted about his traffic, I thought I ought to boast a little too. Whilst I'm not a patch on the Blogfathers, I have had 37,752 unique visits and 49,656 page impressions since the August. You'll note that my unique to page impression ratio is far better than Iain's, hence I win.
Hat Tip: Croydonian for the post title

Thursday, December 14, 2006

This is what happens when you have a liquid lunch

Typical.. I go to the pub and the PM gets questioned by the Old Bill. The BBC is saying that Yates "expects to deliver a report to the CPS next month".

What does that actually mean though? Would Yates bother presenting a report if he didn't think there was a case? Or is presenting a report standard practice.. especially given the high profile nature of the whole thing?

More importantly, why is no one talking about the fact that the world's tallest man has saved a dolphin's life by using his long arms to reach into their stomachs and pull out dangerous plastic shards?

Blair waves goodbye

Just what you've always wanted. A Tony Blair watch, available on EBay for only £4.99 (+ £5.99 p+p). As the description says,

It's a wind up watch, and as it ticks away the PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR majestically waves her[sic] hand.
Perhaps Tony should get one to count the seconds before she leaves?

Blunkett paid £100K for book serialisation

According to the Register of Memebrs Interests recorded on December 11th, David blunkett recieved just over £100,000 for the serialisation of the Blunkett Tapes in the Guardian and Daily Mail.

You've got to admit that's not bad considering everyone said they were rubbish, and sales are bearing that statement out to be true. I'm going to wait until I can get a copy at a car boot sale for 50p. Shouldn't be long.

Social engineering and the newspapers

There is a scandal brewing it seems about the roles newspapers are playing in being complicit with information law breaking. First revealed by Iain Dale (and to be fully revealed by the Information Commissioner today), it appears that a large number of national newspapers have been using an agency to obtain personal information on politicians, celebrities and whoever else they want dirt on. This however is no ordinary Magnum PI because the methods that are being used to get the information is anything but legal.

According to following reports, in for example, the Daily Telegraph, some classic old school hacking techniques are coming into play. In the hacking world it's called social engineering, the extraction of information from someone without them realising they're doing it. For example, the person mentioned in the Telegraph story rang BT pretending to be another BT call centre agent who's system had crashed. He then asked the agent to give him details of a customer. Thankfully, and maybe unusually, the agent was quick enough to be suspicious of such a call.

Based on what Iain posted and the other stuff in the media, it's probably very likely that information was not just gained through the use of social engineering though. At the very worst end of the scale we are talking about the potential of information leaks within Government agencies. Anyone who reads my blog regularly will know that information leak and the supposed argument about "safeguards" is not one I trust. This revelation from Iain via Michael Ashcroft initially merely strengthens my view on that point.

There is though an important educational issue here. In the past I have written about banks which call people and request personal information for identification purposes. That practice remains commonplace today. The result is that people are all too easily manipulated into giving out information that they shouldn't. Ironically, we hear that there is a "trust issue" today between the public politicians, yet many of these breaches suggest that perhaps we are far too trusting.

Iain's biggest point on this issue was that because the papers were being fingered as culpable parties in the practice it was unlikely they would print the the story. Whey print something that slags yourself off. It would appear that he is right on that matter, the only papers to print the story thus far are those not implicated, the Telegraph and the Guardian. There is deafening silence from the tabloids. What a surprise!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Reid to ban Entartete Kunst?

Just read an interesting article on the Register saying that John Reid has floated the idea of legislation designed to outlaw the possession of computer generated Entartete Kunst. Specifically the issue relates to the anomaly that it is illegal to distribute computer generated images of child abuse, but it is not illegal to possess them.

The Register makes an interesting point though regarding whether such laws might extend into the area of role-playing games, they argue that, "[b]izarre as it is, on the much-hyped VR environment Second Life, some subscribers represent themselves as children, in the expectation of being abused."

Something that springs to mind as another grey area would be Japanese hentai which, like it's less sexually explicit Anime cousin, has a tendency to portray it's characters as particularly child-like in appearance (although not in action in either case). I guess we shall just have to wait for the Home Office's consultation paper on the issue.

Ringo Starr and Finkestein Bridge petitions

Last week here I posted about Danny Finkelstein's call to sign a petition urging the Prime Minister to give Ringo Starr a knighthood.

The Fink is reporting that his petition has now gone live so I thought I'd check my mail and see if my petition had gone live yet. The great news it has, here. I wonder if many people will sign it.

DEFRA spending on management consultants

Earlier on, Iain highlighted Tony Blair's lack of knowledge of his own e-petitions after he said he knew nothing about cuts to Waterways by DEFRA even though one of the most popular petitions on the Downing Street website is about precisely that subject.

It should probably be no wonder that DEFRA has to cut the Waterways budget though. Not only is there the problem that it has totally balls up the single payment subsidy to farmers, but it was revealed in a written answer that since 2002 DEFRA has spent a staggering £169,146,043 on management consultants.

Who needs canals when you've got consultants?

Need a cash machine? Go to a poor area

Apparently, a report is to be published today that will put forward details of an agreement between the Government, banks and cash machine operators to ensure that ATMs that are located in "low income areas" will not charge people to withdraw money.

Thankfully I live in the poorest postal district in London, so this is great news for me. I do wonder about the increase in cars parked on the side of road as all those people deemed "rich" stop draw money out.

Even though I will probably beneift from this plan, I have to admit I think it's rather silly. For example, pensioners who bought their homes in what was once a poor area and is now a rich area will find themselves punished. People on low income who decide to treat themselves to a day out may find themselves charged for cash withdrawal simply because of where they went out for the day.

The claim is that it is about finanical inclusion, but the reality is that the so-called "rich" people will just find the ATMs that don't charge them and the banks and cash machine operators will find themselves having to claw back the operating costs through other means.

Government accepts people will lose money in its pension scheme?

According to a report in this morning's Times the Government's proposals for an automatic pension scheme unless one opts-out could result in people losing 85% of the money they save. Basically for every pound that these people put in they will get 15p back at retirement.

Whilst the scheme claims to be voluntary, its the opt-out that is voluntary, thus for many people who do not follow the news daily and have employers who don't provide financial advice, it is likely that it will be too late before they find out they are quite literally giving thousands of pounds away to the Treasury.

The most worrying thing though is that the report also quotes the Pension Reform Minister, James Purnell acknowledging that 10% of pensioner households in the scheme "may not see any benefit from saving" by 2050.

The Government claim that 10% is "only a small group of people", but given the well-documented fact that the population is aging, that 10% will undoubtedly be a significant real number when the day comes. Of course, in the short term Brown wants the money, so presumably that makes it alright.

Heffer blames drugs for the death of "tarts"

Simon Heffer has come up with an interesting angle in today's Telegraph. Apparently the reason "people kill tarts" all stems from drugs, the "theory" (and I use that term loosely) goes like this. The vast majority of hookers are smackheads (I'm not sure if that is actually true), therefore if we put drug users in jail more then drug dealers will have no one to sell to, the Mr Big loses money, and there will be less hookers on drugs, therefore less hookers will be murdered by homicidal fruitcakes. Got it? Heffer is very clear about how this will work,

[i]f drugs use is made more difficult, there will be fewer pushers. If there are fewer pushers then life will become harder for those further up the food chain.... there would still be tarts, and there would still be people who kill tarts. There would probably, though, be gratifyingly fewer of both.
Now, forgive me for being naive here, but I was under the impression Heffer was a Thatcherite? So why has he ignored the power of the market in his argument I wonder? In his scenario the drug supply won't disappear, the price will just fall, and as the price falls, those "tarts" will get more smack for the shag as it were. What's more, what about the sex market? He may not like it, but it's not considered the oldest profession in the world for nothing.

Isn't it all so tremendously postmodern? A piece screaming for moral clarity in today's world which then cites drugs, rather than the killer[s] as the real cause for the slaughter in Ipswich. Not only has Heffer failed to realise the power of the market when it comes to drugs and sex, he also seems to have conceded the cultural war is lost to the Left's view of blame shifting. He'll be saying he likes Polly Toynbee next!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Headphones.. how much do think?

Click the image to see how much

Prezza mangles written word too?

After his tooth-spitting incident as highlighted by Guido, I found this an interesting written answer by Prezza

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister which 10 consultancy fees charged to his Office since its establishment were the most expensive.

The Deputy Prime Minister: Since its establishment, my Department has not let any consultancies.
WTF?
Hansard

Que SERA sera?

I've just come across an organisation called SERA that promotes "sustainable environmental policies within government and the Labour Party." From what I can tell its a Labour Party affiliated pressure group, presumably funded by Labour as I can't see the membership fees raking much in.

Having said this, the amusing thing is that an explanation of the acronym SERA doesn't actually appear on the site. That couldn't be because it stands for "Socialist Environment and Resources Association" could it? How very un-New Labour sounding. I wonder if the Blairites' who are members demanded the name purge?

"I'm Leaving" threads

For anyone well versed in the realm of Internet discussion forums, the "I'm leaving" thread is a legendary phenomenon. At some point or other in an Online Community someone will decide they have enough, they may have been excessively flamed, they may have had a bad day in the real world, but the result is the thread where they announce to their peers that "that's it", "I've had enough", "I'm leaving".

Those that known such threads will also know that people who say their leaving rarely do. They lurk for a while and then all of sudden re-appear. The "I'm leaving" thread is then thrown back in their face with the usual flamers and bile that comes with the Internet.

Another rule of the Internet is never, under any circumstance, announce you're going (especially in advance if you are a Prime Minister). Such actions will inevitably come back to bite you, because, if you've spent a long time posting online, either on boards or blogs, you'll never leave, the pull is to great.

Why am I posting about this? Well, it is with much regret that Bob Piper has just posted an "I'm Leaving" thread on his blog here. I do hope he's joking. True, the online virtual world has breached it's wall and spilt out into the real world for him, but as much as he may say the two events are not connected, he should not allow it to cloud his judgement.

Bob, for all his left wing ideological faults, has provided a service to his readership but also to those of us on the other side of the fence to snipe at. It's part of the game and it's part of the fun of it all, and the UK political blogosphere will not be as rich a place for debate without him in my opinion. He also recently did a lot of work changing his blog's look and appeal, to leave now would be a waste.

This is not to say he didn't make a misjudgement over the past few days. I think he did. However, that is no reason to announce a departure in my mind. His post is actually titled "Time to Reflect", he's right about that. He needs to reflect on his decision to post that he is leaving. The cynical Internet geek in me knows that he will be back, but that doesn't change my disappointment that he posted saying he was going.

What are "other costs"?

Last week I posted that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport had spent £14million in one year on TV advertising. Tory shadow culture minister, Hugo Swire, has asked the Department of Work and Pensions how much it spent on TV advertising in 2005-06.

The DWP it seems is much cheaper than DCMS, having spent only £1,987,000 on television advertising for the Targeting Benefit Fraud campaign. However, that figure did come with some caveats.

The figure represented media spend only, and did not include production costs, direct mailing, public relation and something mysteriously vague called "other costs". The figure was also net of VAT.

When you add VAT to the figure it's just short of £2,335,000 million. My limited understanding of TV suggests that production costs would be considerable, and lord know how much you can lump in "other costs". I wonder what the total TV advertising spend across Government departments is in one financial year?

Police officer calls for DNA to be taken from babies?

I have to amdit I'd presumed this was happening already , but it seems not. However a leading murder detective, Commander Dave Johnston, has called for all babies DNA to be stored on the DNA database. We're all suspects in his world it seems.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Christian Aid forces out Baroness Tonge?

Baroness Jenny Tonge has made quite a name for herself in recent months, especially after she all but in essence said that the Jews controlled the world media and the Liberal Democrats.

"The pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the Western world, its financial grips. I think they have probably got a certain grip on our party."
Something that hasn't been wildly reported in the UK that I can see, is that last week she resigned as a trustee from the Christian Aid board at their AGM. There are also rumours that she may have been forced to resign precisely because Christian Aid no longer wanted her views associated with them.

Full-time elected Councillors?

Labour MP for Stoke on Trent, Robert Flello, has put down a question for Ruth Kelly asking her whether she has made an assessment "the merits of having full-time elected local councillors." What an absolutely horrible thought that is.

I wonder what Flello's motivation is for such a question though? According to TheyWorkForYou he never rebels against the party in Parliament. Good this be a planted question in advance of some announcement about the so-called "double-devolution" plans for local authorities? After all, you wouldn't ask such a question unless you either believed in it, or you knew something about the answer already would you?

The very idea of yet more professional full-time politicians should make anyone wince really. The best thing about councillors currently is that they are normal people with real world experience (most of the time (at least Tories anyway (usually)). If we started to have full-time elected councillor we would see the rise of the political class at a local level like we have in Westminster. I'm looking forward to seeing the response.

Ask David

As Guido has already mentioned, today saw the launch of WebCameron's new feature "Ask David". The idea behind it for the users of the site to vote for the questions from the Open Blog they most want David Cameron to answer via his video blog. As you'll notice, Guido has been particularly mischievous with his question.

Rule #34 of Internet Flame Wars

If you find yourself having to explain your joke it probably wasnt funny. You will lose. Retreat and fight another day.

John Reid's kitemark is dangerous

According to reports, John Reid is planning on introducing a Government Kitemark for software that is designed to protect children online. Currently there are many different applications out there which can be used to monitor usage of computers. Key stroke loggers, port blocking software, pixel blocking software, web browser locking etc, and the one's that the Government deems are good will carry a Kitemark symbol to let parents know they are good.

The problem is that this is like a sticking plaster masking the issue. People will see this Kitemark and falsely assume that their children are now safe. You can just see it now, little Johnny has been groomed and abused by someone online, and his parents go on the news and say "we bought a Government Kitemark product and it didn't work".

Frankly this policy, besides being clearly driven by headlines (you can't beat a good "Government crack down on Net pervs!" story in the tabloids), will not actually protect children. In fact, it is dangerous because it will lull parents into a false sense of security. This kind of software is only as good as the person that administers it, and, as technology changes, many will become obsolete very quickly. Many parents though will not be aware of such things because they "have a Kitemark product, so everything is OK".

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Bob Piper makes the Mail

The Daily Mail is reporting that there have been calls to Tony Blair to expel Bob Piper from the Labour Party and that he's been reported to the Commission of Racial Equality. Not looking good for Bob it seems.

Bob Piper makes the BBC

It would appear that the story of Bob Piper and the "sort-it spoof" has now made the BBC. Grant Shapps MP, one of the Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Party is quoted as saying.

"I assume and hope that they (the council) will immediately ask him to take it down and possibly take some disciplinary action themselves. If they do not then there's the option of taking it further.... I am sure the Commission for Racial Equality would be interested. It just shows a spectacular lack of judgement. I know that Bob Piper represents a reasonably diverse and ethnic area - what could he be thinking of to post this up on his blog?"
A reasonable point made by Grant really. The leader of Sandwell Council is also quoted as saying
"I think it overstepped the mark quite frankly and I will be taking measures to see Councillor Piper as soon as possible"
For me the biggest issue is that if someone from the right had produced the same "satire" the reaction would've been total outrage from the Left with accusations of racism. There is something worrying with this intellectual position that many on the Left have which asserts they are not capable of racism because of their ideological purity. It's bollocks.

Is there a future for the big site portals?

Have just read a very interesting piece on edgeio which has noted what appears to be a flattening trend on the traffic to the big portals. Essentially, since 2002 there has been a gradual reduction in the competition between the dominant portals, suggesting, possibly, that web users are turning their backs on the "portal experience".

I have to say I think the argument is compelling. The portals of the world are now established, and it is highly unlikely that any players would start spending large amounts of money to enter such space. The only genuine revenue streams in portals are ads, and most web users are starting to block such delivery.


 

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