30 July 2007

Windows Weekly

I've been listening to Windows Weekly on Twit since it launched, hosted by Leo Laporte with Paul Thurrott (he of Winsupersite fame). Geeky? Yes, but I don't care, it's entertaining, informative and the latest edition has lead me to rethink my hatred of Microsoft.

Windows Weekly logo

In fact, I've rethought my hatred of Microsoft so much I'm composing this post in Windows Live Writer, which is well recommended and exponentially better than Blogger's application. 

25 July 2007

Finding a Consensus

The Government has announced it will be pushing for a 56 day limit on criminal detention in an attempt to find a "consensus" on this matter. This might strike some as odd, as two years ago, a consensus was reached, but of course, it wasn't the consensus that the Government wanted and so it must be revisited.

Cleverly, rather than going for 90 days all over again, the Government is pushing for the half way mark - 56 days - which probably just means that in another two years they'll push for 90 days after spreading it around that they really wanted 120.

I can't be bothered to go through all the arguments against this ludicrous plan against, so here's what I've written before and what Sir Menzies Campbell had to say about it earlier today (about half way down this page). Don't agree with me? Or simply want an opposing (liberal) view? The Norfolk Blogger gives it.

19 July 2007

The Second Ealing Southall Contractual Obligation Post

Well, the polls have closed, the fight is over, now all parties await the result - and this is a race where all three main parties have a chance.

Ealing Southall LibDem Campaign HQ

Out knocking up and delivering today, to help drive up turnout (in my own meagre way) for the Liberal Democrats, and I was surprised by two things - the heavy police presence at polling stations and the number of Tony Lit posters around the Broadway/High Street area (as in the residential areas, his profile is quite low). Effective campaigning where the maximum number of people are going to see them I suppose.

Now polls have closed, I feel free to tell you something I found out yesterday, without worrying about criticism that I'm bullshitting in order to increase LibDem support. One man whom I canvassed told me that text messages were circulating around the large Sikh community in Southall urging them to vote LibDem in protest at Labour's policies. I even saw the messages. I know a protest vote isn't really what the LibDems should be aiming for, but a vote is a vote is a vote. I saw further evidence of a Labour backlash earlier today, when an ambulance worker accosted some party activists to give them a rollicking about the fines they are receiving for using Ealing Council bus lanes.

Highlights:

A link I couldn't fit into the body of this post, but which deserves a mention: Charlie Beckett on the role the web played in the by-elections.

18 July 2007

The Ealing Southall Contractual Obligation Post

Just returned, with letterbox scars and inked fingers, from a productive day in what was shamefully my first visit to Ealing Southall since the by-election was called. I spent half the day delivering and half the day canvassing. The support seemed largely LibDem or Labour, rather than Conservative and I was impressed by the much larger operation than the previous by-election headquarters I visited.

Brief glimpses of (I think):
Polling day tomorrow, so get down there if you can, directions are here.

16 July 2007

Getting Tony Lit Off My Chest

Look, I don't know why, but everytime I see Tony Lit's name, I instantly translate it to "Tory Light"... And he is the Conservative candidate for Ealing Southall.

Boris Johnson is running for London Mayor

Boris Johnson has launched his campaign to become the Conservative Candidate for Mayor of London. If he wins the nomination, he will become arguably the strongest challenger to Ken Livingstone's leadership since the role was created.


Boris is worried by a group of
approaching Liverpudlians
bearing a message from Papua New Guinea


There are a number of advantages to fielding Boris for Mayor: he's a celebrity politician, one of the few Tory MPs that most of the public could probably recognise; he's pretty much wrapped up a lot of the student votes* and he isn't afraid to speak his mind, even if it has landed him in trouble before.

However, there a quite a few disadvantages to a Boris candidacy, some of them very serious. He isn't a Londoner, nor is he popularly associated with London (leading to accusations that he is a "carpetbagger"); the image he has cultivated isn't one that invites a lot of respect or the feeling that he is a "heavyweight", up to the responsibility of running the capital and, as The Guardian notes, nobody really knows what he stands for.

See Also:
* Sad but true in my opinion.

Internment

Ken Jones, head of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), has been arguing for an extension of the 28 day limit on detaining suspected criminals* without charge, possibly indefinitely. He's been attempting to backtrack on this (or, "clarify what he said") so here's what he said in full, from the original source:
"We are now arguing for judicially supervised detention for as long as it takes. We are up against the buffers on the 28-day limit. We understand people will be concerned and nervous, but we need to create a system with sufficient judicial checks and balances which holds people, but no longer than a day necessary.

"We need to go there and I think that politicians of all parties and the public have great faith in the judiciary to make sure that's used in the most proportionate way possible."
Yup, no matter what judicial checks you put in place (short of an actual criminal trial), that still sounds like internment to me.

Now, the thing is, I can't remember a single instance when the police have got to the 28 day limit and released someone without charge who they felt was guilty. And none of the statements they've made have indicated a specific instance - just allusions to "the increasing complexity of investigations" or "the growing threat of terrorism". Nothing concrete, nothing real, just scaremongering in an effort to get their way (David Davis, Tory Shadow Home Secretary, is quoted as picking up on this in the BBC story).

If the terror threat really is growing, and not merely bubbling to the surface occasionally (as with the Glasgow and London scares last week), why isn't phone tap evidence be introduced into court, as the Liberal Democrats advocate? Surely, if we need to introduce new measures to tackle terrorism, we should be introducing measures which infringe on our liberties in a small way, before we introduce measures which infringe on our liberties in a big way and deprive us of our most vital liberty: freedom.
Other countries use phone-tap evidence, what's so special about the way we do that means it can't be used in court here?
Update
* Much of the press coverage has used the phrase "terror suspects", but let's call them "criminals", as that is all that they are. To me, the phrase "terror suspects" pre-judges one aspect of the argument and is a useless catch-all with negative connotations.

14 July 2007

Conrad Black Loses Tory Party Whip

I'm tempted to say "about bloody time", but then would they have been pre-empting the outcome of the case?

13 July 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Being the uber-geek that I am, I saw Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix last night, on the day it was released, because, of course, I couldn't wait any longer.

Spot the puberty

... And I wasn't disappointed. This film, unlike Goblet of Fire, gets so many things right - the pacing, the emotion, the feeling that something tangible is at stake and the edits. The edits, in particular, are worthy of praise, as out of all six books so far, Order of the Phoenix is the one with the most "fat" - this film feels like a faithful adaptation of what the book should have been, had there been a harsher editor. Notable (positive) changes:
  • Occlumency lessons: Harry's discovery of his fathers' tormenting of Snape works much better than it did in the books.
  • Who betrays Dumbledore's Army: As with Occlumency, the film version makes more sense (although doesn't work as well as it could have done).
  • Cutting the immense amount of useless action that takes place before Harry reaches Hogwarts.
I was still sorry to see some cuts - the brains attacking Ron, the reaction of the DA to the unseen Thestrals they are flying on and the way the prophecy reveal was handled. The way Cho and Harry's romance was also disappointing - far too quick and underplayed by both actors. But these are minor (let's face it, fanboy) quibbles in what is otherwise a bloody strong movie, and definitely in the running for best film of the series (along with Azkaban), if, for nothing else, due to the final battle in the battle in the Ministry of Magic, first between the Death Eaters and the Order, and then between Dumbledore and Voldemort.

Visited for the first time whilst writing this review: JK Rowling's site, which contains a number of interesting tidbits to keep the geekiest of HP fans happy.

12 July 2007

FCCFU.Com

From those good chaps over at FFCFU.com* comes this video:



Hat tip to LibDemVoice.

* If you don't know who the FCC are, check this out.

11 July 2007

Essential Viewing

Paddy Ashdown, former LibDem leader, being interviewed tonight on 18 Doughty Street on One to One (available for replay after the show ends tonight at 10pm... I'm guessing). Very interesting viewing and a good hour chat without Newsnight/Today Programme interruptions from the interviewer.

PS. Yes, I know I'm becoming a bit of an 18 Doughty Street cheerleader, but it is good.

Doing Something Right

Something good has come out of Gordon Brown's new administration*: the Downing Street Podcast now includes PMQs.



Geeky? Moi?

* Aside from constitutional reform.

10 July 2007

The Facebook Song

Compulsory viewing for Facebook users from RhettAndLink.com:

09 July 2007

Credit where credit is due

In contrast to last week's Blogger TV on 18 Doughty Street (3 Conservatives/right-leaning individuals to 1 Lib Dem), this week's edition has 2 Lib Dems, 1 Labour and 1 Conservative. Now that's the kind of balance I can live with.

The Now Show Podcast...

... has ceased to be, which is very irritating as I now have to go back to the '90s (or at least 2006) and actually bother to check the radio listings on a regular basis. I mean, jeez, don't these people know I have better things to do?



Like blog about the termination of their podcast service... And scratch my bum and stuff.

07 July 2007

Live Earth

I'm not going to be the first one to say this, and probably not the last, but:


Live Earth: Raising awareness of climate change by burning fuck loads of carbon
If nothing else, you have to admire the logic.

05 July 2007

Violent Pornography, a Conviction and a New Bill

Graham Coutts was yesterday convicted of the murder of Brighton schoolteacher Jane Longhurst for the second time, after his previous trial conviction was quashed. The details of the case are fairly grisly, but unfortunately have to be recounted to put into context what I'm about to write: he strangled Ms Longhurst with a pair of tights and stored her body for three weeks and visited it nine time before burning it. Distressing, I know.


Her mother, Liz Longhurst, as I've noted before, has successfully campaigned for the criminalisation of the possession of violent pornographic images, as she believes that Graham Coutts' access to them caused the murder. The offence is contained in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill introduced to Parliament last week.

Whilst it was obviously right for Coutts to have been convicted, it would be so wrong for Parliament to pass this provision into law: on principle because people have the right to view whatever images they want, practically because the law will be very hard to enforce - at best, these images will only be discovered when a person's computer is searched in relation to another offence or if disproportionate resources are used to catch the people that possess the images. And, like I've said before, it's not the images that are the problem, it is the people who are viewing them and take them as an inspiration to kill - if they do so they are already unhinged.

See also:

A Threat to National Security?

Thoughtful extract from Simon Jenkins piece in yesterday's Guardian, on the true nature of the last week's spate of attempted bombings:
"British national security is not remotely threatened by these bombs. They do not, as Blair loved to claim, "undermine the British way of life and threaten western civilisation". They kill people and damage property. When last November Mr Justice Butterfield sentenced the terrorist Dhiren Barot to life imprisonment for conspiracy to murder, he felt obliged ludicrously to elevate a criminal into an Islamist hero and martyr by accusing him of "seeking the means to bring death and destruction to the western world ... striking at the heart of democracy ... and ultimately the whole nation of the US and the UK".

Such Nuremberg histrionics are exactly what Islamist terrorism craves. The worst the present crop of maniacs appears able to do is kill people. This is deplorable, but death happens daily to innocent people on Britain's streets, from which police are being withdrawn under Home Office pressure "to counter terrorism". While the concept of the suicide bomber has given a new menace to the history of political violence, the change is quantitative rather than qualitative."

04 July 2007

Brown's Constitutional Reforms

Yesterday new Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced a series of constitutional reforms, to Parliament of all places. Not the press, to whom most important government announcements were made under the old regime, but that old democratic institution situated in the Palace of Westminster. Well done him. The Guardian has printed up a fairly good rundown of the different proposals.

Anyway, seeing as I've taken an interest in the constitution before (especially the royal prerogative, which was the subject of my final year dissertation), I thought I'd comment on these reform proposals, and ripping off Tory blogger Caroline Hunt entirely, I've split each reform up into headings and put my thoughts below them.

Give MPs power to decide whether to wage war

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes, and exactly what the House of Lords Constitutional Committee called for last July. Clare Short also introduced a Private Members Bill fairly recently too, which was unfortunately talked out of the Chamber. I wrote a more considered piece about this, and the shape such reform could take, for Liberal Review last year.

Setting up national security council

I don't really know how this differs from Cobra, but I'm sure it does. I guess this would co-ordinate action outside of emergency times as well as during them.

Parliament to ratify international treaties

Not a massive change, as under the Ponsonby Rule (which of course, in the spirit of our constitution, isn't really a rule, but a convention), all treaties are laid before Parliament at least 21 days before ratification and any major objections can be raised then. In fairness though, a more considered debate will probably be had under this new proposal.

Commons committees for each English region

Worthy but dull anyone? Talking shops even?

New ministerial code

New ministerial codes are usually signed off after every general election anyway, so this is hardly a major move.

PM no longer to choose Church of England bishops

Sensible, seeing as it's perfectly possible for a non-Anglican to become Prime Minister. This should really be a matter for the Church of England itself, but hoo-hum, no separation of Church and State in Brown's reforms.

Elections moving from Thursday to weekends

Turnout - straight up. Yes, yes I know, when the Electoral Commission tried it out in select wards nothing significant happened, but if you ask me that's because not enough people were aware of it to make a difference. Coupled with more convenient voting locations this could make a real difference.

MPs to hold hearings on key public appointments

But no power to actually reject officials if they are unsuitable. Doesn't go too far in my opinion.

People to be consulted on possible 'bill of rights' and written constitution

Arguably we already have a Bill of Rights in the shape of the Human Rights Act, but codifying it into a new written constitution could certainly make it stronger, enshrine the rights of individuals and (on the constitution itself) clearly lay down the powers of the government

Potential lowering of voting age to 16

I've got no strong feeling either way on this one. On the one hand, politically aware young people will love this and make good use of it, but on the other, how much lower can the voting age get? 14? 12? Could be a slippery slope.

PS. This post on the EU's new (sexually suggestive) video has got me my highest ever daily stats for this blog. I'm saying nothing about the habits of web users.

Boris Johnson may run for London mayorship




Way to court the student vote. Is it wrong that I'd consider voting for him? (although admittedly I probably wouldn't actually do it)

03 July 2007

Film lovers will love this!

The EU, not normally known for producing riveting 45 second adverts, has posted this on their newly launched EUTube channel on Youtube:

A New Wii

The BBC reports that the Nintendo Wii is outselling the Sony PS3 by six to one (in Japan), and as of last Saturday, I am the proud owner of this bestselling console. Is a Wii Fitness age of 32 good or bad for a 22 year old?

PS. This is my 400th post since the blog launched! I really should get one of those life things everyone keeps talking about.

02 July 2007

My First 18 Doughty Street Viewing

Just been watching 18 Doughty Street for the first time (properly) since it launched, and I have to say, I was impressed. The production values were not too shabby - I've seen worse on some of the more obscure digital TV stations*, the video streamed well for the whole three hours I watched and, much more importantly, considered views from some "real" (albeit politically aware) people, rather than the usual talking heads I see on the mainstream media.



Blogger TV, in particular, was interesting: two refreshingly young faces talking sensibly about politics, Will Howells of No Geek is an Island and Caroline Hunt.

It was disappointing to see so many Conservatives on the programmes (and no Labour supporters at all!), but then 18 Doughty Street is largely run and funded by right-leaning individuals so maybe I shouldn't complain and be grateful that at least one Liberal Democrat made it on. To be fair, the conservatives on the programmes did have a sufficient diversity of views to keep it interesting - one of them used the "because we're falliable" reason for not extending dentention periods (brilliant).

... And my (in hindsight, rather pompous) email even got on the air :-D

* Legal TV springs to mind here.