Friday, February 16, 2007

Government Pledges Our DNA To The EU

It was, I suppose, only a matter of time before the European Union got its hands on our extremely intrusive DNA database. The Blair government doesn't give a damn about civil liberties and has now actively set about creating an EU-wide database that gives other governments access to our records. A large number of people on the database haven't even been convicted of a crime.

I have said it here before and I will say it again, we are evolving into a police state. The most worrying thing about the sharing of data across borders is the fact that DNA will become part of the passport application in 2009. DNA data can today be used for relatively few applications, but that is not to say that current scientific research won't yield greater uses. Feel afraid.
David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said: "The decision to share broad categories of information across the enlarged EU is deeply troubling. The information includes personal data, it is not limited to criminals and there are no reliable means to guarantee the safeguards on the use of that information by criminals gangs or those not entitled to use that data."

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Citizen Hain

Not so much a lurch as an opportunistic hop to the left by arch idiot Peter Hain. Not content with telling city workers to donate two thirds of their bonuses to charity or face a big fight, he has now suggested that television licences and bus passes should be means tested and given free to "the poor". If that doesn't contribute to a poverty trap then I don't know what will. Would we then need a sliding scale of television licence fees as people move out of poverty? It strikes me that a better move would be the removal of the subsidy for the BBC altogether. Then there would be no television tax and Eastenders could be paid for by advertising revenue. Do you see how less state intervention can actually be empowering Peter?

Let Peter's Westminster Popular Front come together for this "war on inequality".

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

More BBC Waste

The Telegraph has picked up on the fact that the BBC has spent £700,000 or the equivalent of more than 5,300 household license fees on the redesign of the BBC 2 idents. They look lovely, but what a ridiculous amount of money flushed down the drain. Do they really need to spend this money at a time when they are downsizing? Would a commercial enterprise spend this money?

To add insult to injury, they were filmed in South Africa due to cost and the weather!

The Tip Of The CCTV Iceberg

Is it surprising that CCTV cameras are being abused by staff at CCTV centres? Not really. There's an article in The Sun today that outs Tom Muff, who couldn't be more appropriately named, as spying on women using the police screens that he is paid to watch.
A POLICE CCTV operator has been carpeted — after security camera footage showed close-ups of the boobs and backside of a woman in the street.

Shocked detectives found a 20-minute sequence of saucy footage while checking the film during a probe into an assault.

The screen was filled by shots of a scantily clad woman’s breasts, bum and legs as she was “followed” by cameras in Worcester.

The Sun story, as you can imagine, is focused on the more salacious side of the incident, but there is a much larger issue at stake. Anybody who claims that this type of ubiquitous surveillance is only troubling to those of us who've done anything wrong is crazy. This is an occasion when an individual abused the system, but in the long-run there is no reason that the government can't undertake similar or worse abuses of our rights. Dizzy wrote yesterday about us not assuming that future governments will be as incompetent as the current one and he is absolutely right. This technology in the hands of an efficient state machine rather than a horny operator could be terrifying.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Russian Soldier Prostitutes

This story here on the BBC website is too bizarre for words. Apparently, young soldiers based in St Petersburg have been forced into prostitution. If that wasn't bad enough, one was beaten so severely that he got gangrene and had to have his legs, and wait for it... genitals amputated. Are you kidding me? Is this common?

Richard Dawkins Interviewed On CNN's Paul Zahn Show

This is not the best interview ever, but as usual Dawkins is extremely eloquent.

Petty Victories In The Blogosphere

In the US, the big blogging story today is that a blogging member of staff for Presidential candidate John Edwards has been forced to resign. This has been heralded as a huge coup for the Catholic groups that set out to achieve this. It's yet another example of the influence of blogging on mainstream politics. The key question though is what it has really achieved? For some it will be proof that their contribution to the blogosphere has been recognised. For others it will be the culmination of thousands of words wasted in defence of a fallen comrade. For yet others it will mean nothing as they continue to blog about Jessica Simpson's new brown hair do.

So why is a relatively small online group of bloggers so focused on this story? I think we all feel that the political systems in our vast liberal democracies are remote, unresponsive and difficult to influence. These victories show that we can influence and that we aren't just shouting into a void. It's the little guy reclaiming some power for a change and what a rush when one of your blogging campaigns leaves cyberspace and ends up on the front page.

Blogging as a medium of communication is well suited to those of us with a slightly obsessive personality. From the early morning newspapers to late night TV, everything around us becomes something that might make a good blog entry. You can post instantly on any topic, so the desire to maintain a dialogue and a somewhat unique perspective on the world for your 45ish daily readers can concentrate the mind on issues that to others would appear to be esoteric and bizarre. These little victories can take on mammoth proportions. Let's just hope that the desire to be "influencers" doesn't just lead to petty squabbles and victories that are anything but.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Problem With Permanent Sucking Up

I've always been a big fan of being sucked up to and whether it's in a shop or on a plane, a bit of brown nosing goes a long way. In small doses it can make you feel special, warm and just a little bit powerful. I suppose it's a bit like a gateway drug. It starts with the occasional weekend excess, but in a short time you've moved on to Class A ego stroking and from there it's a risky business. An overdose can be fatal.

Judging by the last few weeks, Blair has been smoking the crack pipe of adulation for slightly too long. He's become a man obsessed by the hand of history and the "legacy" that he will leave after 10 long years in office. Jackie Ashley writing in the Guardian today has been the first to out Tony's post office plan. He will become to the global environment what Superman is to Metropolis. In Ashley's words it is "Tony to save the world".

If the Priory didn't have enough on their plate, what with Jade Goody's recent stint, it is becoming increasingly clear that Blair needs a bit of therapy and counseling of his own in order to beat his addiction. In cases like this, the intervention strategy might be appropriate. First of all Tony must be removed from his Downing Street buddies that lead him astray. Secondly he needs to understand the impact that his actions are having on those closest to him. It's only when he can admit that he has a problem that he can begin to change. C'mon Tony it's not too late.

New Look...

No, not the low end chain of high street clothing stores, a make-over for the blog. I thought that if it was good enough for The Mirror, The Times and The Appalling Strangeness then it was good enough for me. I've tried to keep it very simple and based it on the standard Rounders theme.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Worst Dressed?

Admittedly there were a lot of contenders at this year's BAFTA awards, but I think Eva Green wins. What the hell has she done to her hair?

Did the guys who redesigned the Mirror website style her for the night? I'm sure I recognise that red.

Expensive Mistakes

First The Times and now the Mirror. Who redesigned their site? It is awful and now officially the worst newspaper website in the UK, just ahead of The Times Online. From the bubbly buttons to the busy screen it is a travesty of crap design. I'm no designer, but does anybody want to hire me as a consultant on a newspaper redesign? I certainly wouldn't do a worse job than these guys have.

BBC Once Again Stifling The Media Industry

Good to see Kevin Bakhurst, the BBC News 24 Controller, writing here on the BBC's The Editors about competition being a fine thing for viewers. It is always fun when the word competition is used by an organisation that faces no competitive threats whatsoever due to its position as a taxpayer funded body. Yes, competition is a good thing for the audience, so maybe we can start by leveling the playing field.

Here are his comments:

It emerged late yesterday that from the Spring, if Ofcom approves, Sky News will no longer be available free to viewers on Freeview.

They currently get around 845,000 viewers a week on this platform out of their weekly total of 4 million. For us at the BBC, I think this is a double-edged sword.

Sky have already rather given up on viewing figures as BBC News 24 has moved substantially ahead of them (6 million a week versus 4 million). Whereas, a few years ago audience size was their preferred measure of success, it has now been quietly dropped. The move on Freeview will almost certainly be another big blow to their audience size.

I can fully understand why Rupert Murdoch and BSkyB have taken this decision on commercial grounds alone: you can make money out of movies and sport but not easily from news. However, I do think it's a real shame for TV News coverage in the UK.

We are very fortunate to have two thriving 24-hour TV News channels and I firmly believe competition is a good thing for the audience. Sky's decision will be a bad thing for news audiences, particularly those who can't afford subscription services and choose Freeview for that reason. I would just say that for us at BBC News 24, we put immense value on our audiences and their views - and will continue to do so whatever platform they watch us on.

Old Labour Rears Its Ugly Hain

You really need to read this interview by Peter Hain in the Daily Telegraph (here). In this imaginative return to the 70s, he calls for City bonuses to be given to the poor and needy.

"I don't believe that people will only work in the City because they get those sort of bonuses. They don't need to offer them. Why don't they give two thirds of that £8.8 billion and invest it in charity or invest it in regeneration schemes for unemployed kids who are living a mile away from the opulence that there is in the City?

"In the interest of the City, particularly if they don't want to invite attacks for greater regulation or changes in taxation, if they don't want to get into that kind of arena, then they have to show a lead.

"Let's work this out on the basis of consensus, let's not have a big fight, because it will come to a big fight otherwise.

"There's a debate starting and either it's done in a self policing way, a way that shows moral and socially responsible leadership, or people will look for other solutions."They may go down the regulation road. It's hard for me to see how that would work, but they may do."

Does Hain honestly believe that large banks and asset managers would be giving such whacking great bonuses if they didn't need to? And if they stopped, would they give it to charity or to shareholders? Hmmm let me think... Nice one Peter, now go and lie down for a while.