Monthly Archives: January 2013

The privatisation of snooping

The BBC reports that a court has ruled that “Blanket” use of the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) may not be compatible with Human Rights Act, and thus with human rights. The CRB was set up to create a single point at which those organisations with a child care duty such as schools, can check the criminal records of those they employ or permit to volunteer. This court case looks at the circumstances of an individual who committed acts when he was 11 that put him on the register. Unlike Denmark, as exposed in Borgen last week, the UK age of criminal responsibility is 10. Hard cases make poor law.

The article does not explore the growing ‘requirement’ by professional services employers without a child care duty to ask for both ask for both CRB reports and to ask for permission to pass these reports on to potential customers. More proof that if you create the database, it will be both hacked and judicially extended.

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Was this the new Black Wednesday?

What a week for economic and political news! Unemployment down, National Income (GDP) Down, IMF & Goldman Sachs say Austerity isn’t working, Clegg and Boris agree and argue for increased capital expenditure (Houses and Transport projects). Is it the turning point in this government’s fortunes? It’s clear Plan A isn’t working and Larry Elliott in the Guardian says it better than I can.

Dave Cameron’s response to this is to say that the Tory party will offer an in/out referendum on Europe in the next Parliament, if he wins a majority. Not sure you’re on the right page. It’s still the economy, stupid!

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How important is postal voting becoming?

Late last year, I read Banana Republic UK, which I reviewed here…. We should all be familiar with the dire turnout in the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections, and a comment by Joanna Baxter made me consider what proportion of the PCC elections were cast by postal ballot. Since the postal vote is the most vulnerable part of our voting system, as it becomes more pervasive, the vulnerabilities become more important; the election becomes less safe.

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HMV, a tale of hubris, tax and monopoly

HMV, the UK’s leading bricks & mortar creative industries retailer has gone into administration. Lets hope that its winding up is not as brutal as at Jessops which also failed last week. The FT reports in an article, published yesterday, entitled, HMV calls in the Administrators that the rug was pulled when their suppliers of the music, films and computer/console games refused to extend credit terms to allow them to refinance their debt.

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Sea Lawyering

A couple of years ago, Simon Phipps, introduced me to the idea that any system contains its own counter system, which he describes as a game. In an article I am writing, I summarise this as,

any rule set, inspires its own games

Simon explores this in his Webmink Articles,  The Sentinel Principle and more effectively in The Open by Rule Benchmark.

He also explores the feasibility of realistically building “fair use” interpreters in an article on his Computer World blog, Fair Use Robots? Science Fiction!

In this last article he talks about “Quantifying Discretion”. The difficulty in building systems to undertake this work is based on the fact that at the edge of consideration, its exceptionally difficult, and that it may be that these decisions are not best amenable to a Wisdom of Crowds or the application of machine intelligence. They are best taken by trained and experienced and independent individuals, or Judges as we might call them, although we have usually chosen to ensure that a jury of peers is involved in our courts.


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Short & Sweet…

In the Independent, in an article headlined, “Voters ‘brainwashed by Tory welfare myths’, shows new poll”, Frances O’Grady, the TUC General Secretary, said,

“It is not surprising that voters want to get tough on welfare. They think the system is much more generous than it is in reality, is riddled with fraud and is heavily skewed towards helping the unemployed, who they think are far more likely to stay on the dole than is actually the case. Indeed if what the average voter thinks was true, I’d want tough action too.

“But you should not conduct policy, particularly when it hits some of the most vulnerable people in society, on the basis of prejudice and ignorance. And it is plainly immoral to spread such prejudice purely for party gain, as ministers and their advisers are doing, by deliberately misleading people about the value of benefits and who gets them.”

The article looks at what people think the cases is in terms of benefit levels and what actually happens…

All this on the day Child Benefit for higher rate tax paying families is stopped. A note for Londoner’s…the higher rate tax starts at £42,835, this is beneath the London average wage of £48,000. Not true….the claw back starts at £50,000.

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Author’s Productivity

The last article took me 4 hours to write. I have expertise in the subject matter, which makes it easier and quicker, but had to do the research to find the quotes and cross references and read the supporting links to ensure relevance. The population data came from google sources and wikipedia. There are nearly 1400 words.

Is this slow or fast? Not sure, but it was more than the ½ hour that Boris Johnson claims his chickenfeed column in the Telegraph takes him to write each week and I get £250,000 less than he does for it.

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Can Free Software save the public money?

Bern City Council have adopted an Open Source software procurement policy.

This reported by long time Open Source campaigner, Simon Phipps in his Computer World blog. It seems, as in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, that this decision had a champion, in this case, a Councillor called Matthias Stürmer. Phipps story details the bureaucratic politics around the trigger decision which was the Microsoft licence renewal agreements. The size of the agreement required Council approval and the Council had been moving towards preferring Open Source IT. The Council review requirement led Microsoft to reduce the cost to a value below the review threshold and the renewal was approved without the Council approval. The Council was, it seems, unamused and took action to ensure that the policy preferences of the elected council were to be obeyed in future. Phipps reports,

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