Yearly Archives: 2012

Looking back at 2012

Goodby to 2012, and welcome 2013. A look at the highs and lows of 2012.

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What’s my vote worth?

How easy would it be to steal an election in the UK? Over the break, I read “Banana Republic UK?” by Sam Buckley. In it, he argues that that it’s too easy to rig and steal elections in the UK, and that this has been compounded by the then Labour Government’s decision in 2000 to allow postal votes on demand as an attempt to increase voter participation. He reviews process of legal review of elections, illustrates the difficulty and cost of starting and winning such a review. He then looks firstly at the specific review of two wards in Birmingham in 2004, which led to the elections being voided and a number of individuals being disqualified from standing for public office because they had corrupted the postal votes. Those disqualified were members of the Labour Party; Buckley balances this by exploring a review of elections in Slough where supporters of the Conservative candidate were convicted of rigging the election by placing non eligible voters on the electoral roll. The constraints on who can request an election court, the burden of proof and the time limits make it hard for the Police to participate in ensuring that vote rigging doesn’t occur. They can prosecute wrong doers, but cannot void the election.

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Mrs Windsor goes to Downing Street.

The Queen attended the Cabinet earlier this week. Basically this as an attempt by this tarnished and cruel Tory-led government to acquire some of the Queen’s current popularity. You’d think they’ve learned since the Jubilee and Olympics failed to help them. Actually, it’s a disgrace and a demonstration of a massive ignorance of the history of democracy in this country. One can only assume that this Government doesn’t care.

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Vile Class Warriors

In the Independent, Owen James eviscerates Osborne’s benefit trap for Labour exposing it as a piece of class war and “vile”. He points out that the economy is still in a worse state than in 2008, the level of debt is over double the level in the 2008, the deficit for this financial year is £100bn higher than planned and that the Government’s own tame forecaster, the Office of Budgetary Responsibility is now predicting a decade of lost growth; they have massively reduced their growth forecast but are still seen as too optimistic by many independent commentators. The economics and juvenile politics is also exposed in a David Blanchflower article, “The Bullingdon Chancellor: why George Osborne is a very uncivil, as well as useless, Chancellor”

The cut in benefits is rightly described as vile. The Tories want to tell a “Strivers vs. Skivers” story, despite the fact that many benefit claimants work, have recently done so, or want to work, James states,

That a gang of multimillionaire class warriors is intentionally attempting to turn poor people against each other for political advantage is as shameful as the often grubby world of politics gets.”

Much of what’s left of the benefit system is now subsidising landlords and exploitative businesses, and other proposals in the “Autumn Statement” protect business profits. Let’s not forget that in the 2012 Budget, they reduced the highest rate of tax from 50% to 45%, a benefit to those “earning” over £150,000.

James argues that the Parliamentary Labour Party needs to take them on and examines the proponents and opposition to this. I agree … what they propose is wrong and they made a mistake in framing the public vs. private wages argument, they have done so again.

This is a brilliantly written, well researched article; wish I had written it.

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Save Lewisham A&E II

Unfortunately, I can’t make the final consultation meeting organised to consult on the TSA report on South London’s Hospitals. It seems that a large number of Lewisham’s residents have managed it. We can find out what’s happening by tracking twitter’s #savelewishamae feed.

After this meeting, it’s important that we all express our views in the “consultation” exercise. How to participate is best expressed at “Save Lewisham A+E” web site. This now has

It’s important to get as many as possible, in Ealing which is suffering a similar attack, the Commissioners are trying to ignore a response of 18,000 as reported in the Ealing Gazette. I have created a short URL, http://is.gd/u5pdea

If you haven’t signed the petition , then it’s here.

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Police Commissioner Gordon wanted

I voted by post early today for Jacqui Rayment as Hampshire’s new PCC. See what she says on her campaign site and on twitter @jacqui4hantspcc; here is what the last parliamentary results for the region i.e.counties and constabularies other than Hampshire posted. Also check out her opponents; all candidates are listed on the Hants PCC site.

Like many I am not a fan of personal mandates, corruption is too easy, and unlike the executive mayors I can see no elected financial control body. Some have argued for abstention, as has former Met Commissioner Sir Iain Blair, but in some places the choice is acute. I have spoiled my ballot paper before, albeit deliberately, and this time I have decided I need to use my vote, but only the first preference. Luke Akehurst replies to John Harris at Labour List; people have the right to abstain, but should do so on the ballot paper.

The Portsmouth News reported on a hustings here. None of the candidates have stated they’ll rely on costumed vigilante’s summoned by a searchlight pointed at the clouds.

In the General Election2012, in Hampshire, 14 Tory MPs were returned, 2 Labour and 1 Lib Dem, although Winchester, now Tory, has been Lib Dem in the recent past. it would seem that Michael Mates, the ex-Tory MP should win. Do we really want him as Police & Crime Commissioner?

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Beneath the Cobbles, an NWN adventure

Last weekend, I finally finished the NWN User Authored Module, “Agrenost, Beneath the Cobbles”. I have been playing it, as I do very sporadically, for a couple of months. A very atmospheric and as far as fantasy fiction goes, believable module that had me returning week after week.

I took a Rogue/Thief through; as pretty much recommended, but I think they come into their own with the later rule sets and NWN usually rewards the flexibility of a rogue, however in this game, unusually you have up to five companions, as you can see, and they pretty much fit into the ideal party, although I was not provided with a healer and didn’t multi-class to take any levels of cleric. The companions below seem to be a fighter, paladin, monk, mage and fighter/thief. The adventure takes you through and below the slums, merchant’s quarter and docks of Agrenost, a city at the edge of an empire and suffering from invasion by an undead horde.

I thoroughly recommend this module and it just shows there’s still life in this venerable game.

Now, shall I start NWN2, or look for a new NWN module

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What does Obama’s victory mean for us?

Obama wins re-election as President of the USA against the combined might of Wall Street and Occupy’s 1%. Congratulations!

Several UK commentators have expressed the view that it’s good news for Cameron because an incumbent won re-election despite the fact that the economy was in an appalling state. See [James Forsyth in the Spectator]. Most surprisingly Peter Oborne in the Daily Telegraph, who offers Cameron six other lessons. What they miss, as expressed on Conservative Home of all places, albeit in the comments is that the Tories have deliberately wrecked Labour’s recovering economy; Obama managed to get a stimulus package through and as his VP and running mate, Joe Biden said, “GM is still alive”. The Tories and Democrats are also travelling in different directions on Healthcare provision. The most important difference though is when Obama says “We’re all in this together”, he’s believed, when Cameron or Osborne say it, they’re not…partly because as in Romney’s case, they have some very unpleasant and greedy friends.

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Save Lewisham Hospital

A special administrator has recommended that Lewisham Hospital’s A&E and Maternity wards are closed, seemingly to create demand for other local hospitals which are part of the financially failing South London Healthcare. A campaign has started to defend Lewisham Hospital, which explains why Lewisham Hospital is to be gutted while it is the outer London’s, South London Health Care Trust that is financially failing.

Heidi Alexander, the local MP, states her support in an article, “Join the fight to save Lewisham A&E & maternity”, on her web site, she points at the campaign’s site, and advertises the “Hands around Lewisham Hospital event”, together with the consultation exercise meetings taking place in the area. If you live locally, you might like to take part in some of these.

“Hands around Lewisham Hospital” is taking place on Saturday 24th November, it has been announced on the “Take Action” page of the “Save Lewisham Hospital campaign web site. It is planned to assemble at Loampit Vale roundabout at 2:00 p.m. and march to the Hospital and then link up around it.

The Campaign is also encouraging people to write to the Special Administrator and tell him what you think. How to do that is explained on Heidi’s and the campaign’s web sites.

The simplest way to show your support is to sign the petition.

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On parliament and the EU budget

In parliament, Labour voted with Tory europhobes last week to express the view that the next seven year budget for the EU should be less than the previous seven years budget. I think this is playing with fire. In voting with the Tory backwoodsmen, Labour gives credibility to their xenophobia and also to their austerity agenda. It is also committing to cuts for seven years. However it is a fact that the EU budget is about 1% of EU GDP and can thus not have much impact on the growth of the European economy, although the pump priming aspect of the expenditure programmes is one of the reasons that the majority of the EU member states want to see an increase in expenditure.

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Fixing my Feeds

Just done some tidying up on the blog and web site and my syndication strategies.

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And now it’s Google’s turn, this time it’s privacy

Simon Davies, who writes a Blog called the Privacy Surgeon has today commented on the EU Commission’s latest intervention against Google. His article, Europe to Google: respect our laws or face the consequences details the actions taken by the EU’s regulators, led by France which has amongst the strongest data protection and privacy laws in the EU. His article’s title sums up his views as to what is happening.

I have been meaning to write up my views that Google may have jumped the shark, but it’ll have to wait ’till another day, meanwhile, here’s another piece of evidence.

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#FreeGary to stay in the UK

Today, Theresa May announced that she was prohibiting the extradition of Gary McKinnon to the United States on computer hacking charges. She did this via an announcement to the House of Commons which can be watched on www.parliamentlive.tv. I come to the conclusion that she’s a class act. I also watched her yesterday dealing with Parliamentary Questions on the #snooperscharter. PQs are difficult for the opposition, the government always gets the last word, and so with only one intervention it can be desperately hard to get one’s point across; it’s too easy for a Minister to ignore the question and answer one they want too. Today she announced, in an hour long question and answer session that

  1. she was exercising her right of prerogative to stop the McKinnon extradition
  2. she was going to introduce new procedures to ensure that British Citizens get to be prosecuted in the UK for crimes committed in the UK
  3. she was not planning to demand that the US, (or other extradition counterparties) present their evidence to UK courts
  4. she would seek to end politician’s role in extradition process

Her decision is taken because on review of the evidence she believes that McKinnon’s Human Rights would be breached if he were to be extradited to the US. She has received medical evidence that he was a significant suicide risk and his European Convention , Article 3 rights, the right to life would be at risk.

I am deeply unsure that this makes good or fair law.

She has abdicated the fundamental tests of extradition, that it must be a serious crime in both states to the courts; the treaty prohibits that British Courts from evaluating the evidence to determine if there is a British legal case to answer, the Home Secretary can now only use prerogative to defend a suspects Human Rights, and she wants to give that away.

Despite this most MPs on both sides of the house seemed pleased, although some Labour MPs raise the issue of Babar Ahamd and Syed Talha Ahsan who may have both benefited from forum bars since their alleged illegal acts cannot have taken place in the USA; they have never been there. Despite this, their families expressed their solidarity with McKinnon and his family.  Only Alan Johnson MP raised the issue that when the medical evidence was reviewed in an open court, it rejected the arguments that McKinnon was too ill to face trial, or punishment, in the USA.

Keith Vaz made a good argument that the British Courts should evaluate if there is sufficient evidence that there is a case to answer, and that politicians should keep the prerogative power to ensure that extraordinary clemency in the case of McKinnon or extraordinary vengence in the case of Pinochet can remain part of the system. (Although the last case didn’t work so well, did it; but that’s because Jack Straw left it to the judges.)

Yvette Cooper made a very balanced speech, welcoming the ruling, offering parliamentary   … » Read more …