Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Something Else About Speed Cameras

Following on from previous posts about speed cameras, I thought some of you might be interested in this from the BBC.

Again for people too busy/lazy to read the article here are the points in brief;

Liberty are backing two people's claim to the EU that having to confirm you were the driver of a car photographed by a speed camera breaches your right to silence. In effect this, breaches the right against self-incrimination and thereby your right to a fair trial under the European Convention on Human Rights.

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To my dear friend Jules (who put up with me for far too long while I was out in California in the late 80s) who gave birth to her first child, Mackenzie (6lbs something & 20" long!) very recently. And further congratulations to her & Eric for their fifth wedding anniversary on September 30th.

I've known that poor girl for 20 years now, yet she still seems relatively normal.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

"The House Of Representatives Is Filled With Insane Jackasses"

From The Daily Show, a critique of the American Government's attempts to blame all of their problems on video games. Of particular note is one of the Representatives doing an impression of Pong(!) and another suggesting that kids from middle class homes wouldn't be harmed by playing "GTA: San Andreas" while kids from poorer homes would be.

You seriously cannot make this shit up.

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God Bless The Youth Of America.

Particularly when a handcuffed nine-year-old gets tasered by the American police.

I mention this two year old news story only because MSPs are due to be lobbied by Amnesty International today, regarding the use of tasers in Scotland. Is it just me, or does the thought of Amnesty International having to tell the UK to stop doing something make you a little queasy? I used to think of them as fighting for the rights of the population in third-world countries with tin-pot dictatorships.

Oh wait. Do you see what I've done there?


Identity Cards - Again.

In a speech in Manchester, former IT Consultant Liam Byrne MP told a fringe meeting that Identity Cards could be made to work for less than the current budget. Byrne said that current systems could be used, rather than the "big bang" approach of installing a completely new dedicated system.

I'm particularly pleased by an un-named Salford councillor who told Byrne he would rather go to prison than get an ID Card. The councillor pointed out that Labour would not always be in charge of the country and, brilliantly, "I just don't trust government."

Mr Byrne said the scope of the ID card register was clearly set out in the legislation and the scheme would be policed by an independent commissioner. That would presumably be the same commissioner who has no problem with the fingerprinting of school children without parental permission. Or possibly some other unelected person given a cushy job, large salary (see page 48, £95k-£100k) and potential of life peerage by the Government...

Parliament could in theory change the legislation at a later date but the close margins of previous votes on the issue showed MPs would not be "pushed", Byrne argued. Yeah, really?

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Some Pictures Of Clouds And Empty Buildings.

Through the weirdness of b3ta I found this strangely beautiful site.

And I can't remember where I got this link from, but it's a series of photos taken in abandoned buildings.

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Friday, September 22, 2006

A New World Order - Part One

The notion of a World Government has been around since the 14th Century when Dante wrote "Monarchia", and has since been explored by great thinkers such as Grotius and Kant. More recently George Bush Snr, not his simian half-wit offspring, has also been musing on the idea of a New World Order. Unfortunately, given the current mistrust of American domination of the planet, his version was somewhat ignored.

However, I do feel the need has come for a World Government. This planet is fucked and, unless we do something about it quickly, so are we. The domination of the multi-national corporation means that the exploitation of the planet's resources is likely to continue unchecked. This is unsustainable. A World Government with an ethical living agenda is required urgently.

We have already seen the deforestation of large areas of the rain forest. The so-called "lungs of the planet" are being removed by lumber companies, on behalf of cattle companies, who need more space to keep the herds required by hamburger companies, to feed the demands of already obese consumers on other continents. I'm not suggesting everyone should become a vegetarian, but a reduction in food miles and a move towards quality rather than quantity would surely help.

During the mass production of food in the 50s through to the 90s there was a tacit assumption that the results justified the methods. Farmland was soaked with liquid fertiliser to increase productivity, crops (and surrounding land) were aggresively sprayed with chemicals to protect them from natural diseases and hedgerows removed to allow larger machinery to increase productivity further. The water tables around these farms have been polluted, the diseases have become resistant, and the wildlife that creates the eco-structure around the land have been forced out of their natural habitat or poisoned.

There's a slow but increasing move back to organic farming methods and a crop rotation system that wouldn't be unusual to the Romans. You may get slightly less back, but the damage to the enviroment has been reduced significantly. The same is true in fishing, where the traditional method of line catching reduces the overall number of fish caught, but allows the fisherman to throw back anything undersize. The huge drift net fleets catch anything and everything and have contributed massively to the depopulation of North Atlantic Cod, whilst drag netting has damaged the seabed.

There may be less food, but it will be ethically produced and not as damaging to the environment as the stuff currently available. Now all we need to do is reduce the number of people, which is probably where America can help.


Fingerprinting Children In Schools - A Follow-Up.

After posting the recent bit about fingerprinting of schoolchildren in the UK, I sent an email to Grant Shapps MP - who is mentioned in the DNA Database article - to see what his opinion was about fingerprinting. He mailed me back saying that he wasn't supposed to be involved in discussions with non-constituents and asked me to contact my local MP. Which I did.

Got a reply yesterday which is here;

Dear Silas

David Burrowes has asked me to email you on his behalf to thank you for your recent email about the fingerprinting of school children.

He would like to assure you that he is totally opposed to the idea of fingerprinting school children and agrees with the comments you made in your email.

I hope that this serves to re-assure you.

Kind regards
Rebecca Smith

Office of David Burrowes MP
Member of Parliament for Enfield Southgate

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Microsoft Removes Even More Of Your Rights.

An exquisite rant from The Inquirer about the upcoming Windows Media Player 11. The salient points for those with too little time to read it are;

1. Windows Media Player 11 does not permit you to back up your media usage rights (previously known as licenses) so you can't move your music from one PC to another. Well you can, but it won't play or anything.

2. If you rip your own CDs then "you might be able to restore your usage rights by playing the file. You will be prompted to connect to a Microsoft Web page that explains how to restore your rights a limited number of times". They're my OWN bought and paid for CDs you fuckers!

3. Recorded TV shows that are protected with media usage rights, such as some TV content recorded on premium channels, will not play back after 3 days when Windows Media Player 11 Beta 2 for Windows XP is installed on Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005. So if you're on holiday for a week, you're shit out of luck for the first four days of recordings.

Enjoy! Or change to Linux/Unix/FreeBSD as an OS.

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Get Well Soon Hamster!

It's not been a good month to be a television presenter, has it?

Another Dismal Quiz Display.

After coming fifth by myself last week, I was hoping that having Hanson with me would actually help. It didn't and we came seventh. That said, we did win £5 as we had the funniest team name "Evil Super Villain seeks; Romance, Poetry, Walks and World Domination". But financially we did better than we've ever done, up £1 each.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Anonymous Web Browsing.

w00t! The techie in me has got *very* excited about this.

It's a self-extracting app that you can put on a USB stick and take from computer to computer, safe in the knowledge that you can surf for WHATEVER and no-one will know where you were when you looked at/downloaded whatever. The only proviso is that the computer needs the Mozilla Firefox browser on it.



Eats. Goats. Cheese. Salad.


A Quick Follow Up To An Earlier Post.

You may (or may not) remember one of my early rants on here about the gentrification of Newcastle, and making allusions about the Council acting more like a Conservative one than a Labour one.

Well it seems I'm not the only person who thinks this.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Pope Upsets Muslims. Shock.

So, the Pope has managed to infuriate and annoy Muslims around the world by repeating the words of a Byzantine ruler. Brilliant. The religious equivalent of me telling you that King Herod thinks my imaginary friend is better than your imaginary friend.

Muslim leaders have reacted by condemning the speech and forced the Pope to apologise. Which is quite something for a man who is supposed to be infallible.

My problem is this. Islam, we are constantly told, is a religion of peace. Yet how do the peaceable Muslims react? By shooting things. I know that not all Muslims shoot things and not all people who shoot things are Muslim, but trying to persuade people your religion means peace by shooting churches and calling jihad seems an odd way to go about things.

Telling your followers these are just words, telling people not to call for murder or jihad, showing the world the peaceful face of Islam, that would seem a far more sensible idea. If the reaction had been one of discussion, of questioning the Pope's own beliefs, then Islam could have showed that Catholicism is the true evil.


It's International Talk Like A Pirate Day, me hearties. Now swab the decks you land lubbing scum!


Imagine What Would Happen Here!

There's been an uprising in Budapest overnight. Which is probably scaring the crap out of the Cannonball Run people who arrived there last night.

Can you imagine what would happen here if the British people discovered Tony Blair had lied and lied again?

Such as promising in a pre-election manifesto of 2001 that there would be no top-up fees? Then admitting in 2004 that "We simply cannot duck the funding issue. There is no Plan B. There is no pain-free option of extending opportunity and building a quality higher-education system for the many - not just the few - without someone paying for it."

Or telling parliament that the UN Nuclear Inspectors had been barred access from sites - denied strongly and repeatedly by Hans Blix - when this had never been the case? Or that the Iraqi's had "Weapons of Mass Destruction" capable of being used "within 45 minutes", when no such weapons existed and any that had previously were destroyed in compliance with UN mandate?

It seems that what the British public would do - as opposed to the Hungarians - is to re-elect Blair, rather than impeach him or set fire to his house. And watch the opposition parties fail to make any inroads whatsoever. Blair is becoming - with apologies to Harry Harrison - the Stainless Steel Rat of politics.

It's not the opposition that's going to get him out of power, it's his own party.

I've come to the conclusion that there is no effective opposition party in this country any longer. The Tories had a vampire lead them to their last election defeat and are now run by someone who looks suspiciously like a children's entertainer or a trendy vicar. The Lib Dems were led by an alcoholic - and are now being run by someone's grandfather - who looks like looks like becoming leader again now he's a dull and worthy recovering alcoholic.

If Boris Johnson leaves the Conservative Party, I'd happily vote for him. Let's show America that they aren't the only ones who can have a complete idiot as a leader. Vote Johnson! He cuts his own hair! Liverpool hates him! Entire countries hate him!

Let's show the world the contempt it deserves and send Boris Johnson to represent us on our behalf. What better statement can a country make?

Suddenly Hating The Doors.

I refer you to the following comments on Gary Feldman's blog.

I didn't previously know that I disliked either the film or the band "The Doors" quite so much. Maybe it's the coffee. Maybe it's the glorification of the dead. Maybe it's just that I stood outside the office for 15mins this morning because my boss has my building keys and no-one else had turned up. Or maybe I just don't like The Doors very much.

Saying that, I was very pleased with the comment "sucks cock worse than a 9yr old boy". My mother would be so proud of me.

Friday, September 15, 2006

My Horoscope From The Onion.

Sagittarius November 22 - December 21

"The stars think it's time you stopped letting fear control your life, and started letting it control the lives of those around you."

I can't tell you how entertainingly accurate this is. I mean, I could, but then I'd have to kill you.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Wednesday Night Is Quiz Night!

So, as is getting quite the norm for me, I made my way down to Islington's Mucky Pup last night for the pub quiz. Unusually, I was by myself for the entire quiz as none of the rest of my team made it along - and Hanson, if you are reading this, please either text me or email me, ta.

Despite (or possibly because of) this I managed to get fifth place, only two points off third. I like to think this was because of the lack of arguments. However, if I'd known anything about celebrity gossip, then I could've done better.

The last round for me was rubbish, particularly as I didn't know that Chantelle had got married with brown hair or that Preston's first name was Samuel. Or somebody's kid was called Beatrice. Or that one of the Princes was dating someone called Kate Middleton. If I had known that, then I might've won.

Similarly, if I hadn't assumed Paul McCartney's naming policy for his children wasn't entirely lager based - I only knew Stella, so guessed the rest were called Foster(s), Carl(sberg), (Tet)Lee(s) - I wouldn't have looked quite so stupid.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Fingerprinting Children - And Worse.

For more information about schools near you that are currently fingerprinting children (and there are more than you might expect) may I recommend a visit to;

And if you think that fingerprinting kids without the consent of their parents and holding the information on a database is okay, what about if the Government were doing it with children's DNA? Oh look, they are!

Isn't That Illegal? Oh Wait, You're The Police.

I particularly liked the bit where the chief constable of South Yorkshire Police says "There have been a number of cases where people feel that justice has not been done... where people have evaded the law having driven cars recklessly and at very high speeds."

You don't mean this do you? Because yeah, I would agree that justice hadn't been done there.

However, the police have a plan! Oh yes. The police say they will be keeping a close eye on drivers who they think have been wrongly acquitted of crimes. The chief constable said "And if they haven't mended their ways we have an attitude in the police service that we'll see them again sometime."

Which does sound strangely like a breach of civil liberties - again. Liberty spokesman James Welch said "If [the chief constable] is suggesting that police officers are going to target people they consider have been unjustly acquitted - meaning they are going to stop them on a number of occasions when they don't have a good reason - then that should be wrong in principle and probably is almost certainly illegal as well."

An Interesting Way To Get Promoted.

So, having overseen a botched police operation - where an innocent man who wasn't acting suspiciously in anyway whatsoever ends up being shot repeatedly - you avoid being prosecuted and then are rewarded by promotion.

Not surprised the family of the Brazilian man said they were "absolutely disgusted and outraged at what is just one more slap in the face".

Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering September 11th 2001.

I was in the final week of working for Demon Internet. There was a mail on our internal discussion list, noise, which said something along the lines of "A plane has crashed into the WTC". Most people initially thought it was one of those small planes that fly tourists around lower Manhattan. Then we watched the news coverage.

We were stood in the 7th floor lunch room watching the events unfold on the television, while others sat at their desks watching the news feeds via the internet and our New York office. Then the first tower collapsed and took out the feeds as the New York Net Exchange was built in the WTC basement: "Safest place in New York".

Then the coverage on the TV changes to some other town. I asked "is that Paris?" and Clive Feather replies, "no, trust me, that's Washington".

I've just watched CNN's re-run of their coverage that day, and it is quite startling. They're busy interviewing a guy about the first plane hit when the second plane hits the other tower. Unbelievably, neither the reporter or his eyewitness sees the plane. Another reporter says he's seen a "propeller driven plane" hit, then they realise the awful truth - these are passenger planes. Until 9.20am (ET) CNN are still questioning whether the planes have had a navigational malfunction. Then AP reports plane hi-jacking. You know the rest.

My main memory of that day was a BBC reporter who asked someone in New York whether that city having a terrorist attack would make the citizens less likely to fund the terrorist activities of the IRA. Which, given that the US were still in shock about the fact that terrorism was the actual cause of what they were witnessing (okay, some would say their foreign policy was the *actual* cause) is quite a stunning question.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Fingerprinting Children

Now, as some of you will know, I'm not a "children" kind of person. If I had my way, there'd be a lot less children around. However, I'm not allowed to be in charge of policy decisions regarding education and capital punishment (and no, I don't mean corporal punishment). That said, the libertarian in me does question the following news item:

Which, looking ahead, would handily become a database of everybody's fingerprints in a few years time. So all you (as the Government) would need to do, is sneak through a Bill saying that all education records are the property of the Government and can be used for whatever purposes, and bingo, you've completely circumvented any and all opposition to a National Identity Scheme.

Let's look at the background to this.

So, WITHOUT the permission of the parent, schools can keep a database of children's fingerprints. Which suggests that children (as young as 5) are now responsible enough to make their own decisions on matters such as this. Anyone now asking someone else's child if they want to go to the cinema/come and see some puppies will be able to say "well the child was mature enough to understand what I was asking, it's less complicated than understanding civil liberties" as a defence. But this isn't really about paedophiles.

It is yet another erosion of civil liberties in this country. Not content with being able to track our cars across the country, watch us on CCTV, and how much rubbish we put in our bins the Government now have the opportunity to fingerprint the entire population.

And their argument back to us? "If you've got nothing to hide there's nothing to be afraid of". Well the thing I'm afraid of IS the Government.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Steve Irwin 1962 - 2006. Legend. R.I.P.

Well, at least he didn't die in a really dull way.

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