Friday, 27 February 2009

Legal Chill from Phorm

Further to my previous post on the mysteriously disappearing articles about the Which survey on attitudes to web tracking, it seems that Phorm has indeed sent in the legal dogs.

The Register article says that Phorm have refused to identify their libel lawyers but it suggests that they could be Schillings. That figures! If you're a dubious individual or company, want to silence your critics and can afford them, they really are the go to lawyers these days.

I guess they are the new Carter-Ruck. Do you think they may also have a bizarre deathbed conversion to Liberal Democracy?

Strange disappearances online - BT/Phorm getting agressive?

Worrying news has been highlighted on the Save UK internet privacy - reject ISPs that use Phorm facebook group.

For those who don't facebook (and for those who do, join the group and spread the word!), Phorm is an advertising company that wants to track our web habits so they can then personalise the adverts we see on the web. There are obvious privacy implications here.

BT and Phorm famously ran secret and allegedly illegal internet monitoring trials in 2006 and 2007 using this technology. People have told the government how this breached UK law but the government is refusing to do anything about it and now the European Commission is threatening to take formal action against the UK government for letting this slide.

Virgin Media and Carphone Warehouse's 'Talk Talk have since also signed a deal with Phorm.

But, enough of the history. Apparently Which did a survey into consumer attitudes to having their information tracked in this way and several news organisations picked it up or wrote related articles about Phorm's plans.

However, the PA article, the Telegraph article, one on Virgin Media and the channel 4 news video have all mysteriously disappeared (you can still read the Daily Mail article).

This blogger wrote about Phorm and pretty quickly got read by someone from the company, so I'm looking forward to the doubling of my readership purely from Phorm PR lackeys!

I can understand the obvious leverage they have with Virgin Media but what pressure could they bring to bear on these other respected news organisations?

Update: Doh! Well, maybe these media organisations are looking to do a deal with Phorm too. So much for my insightful analysis!

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Iain Dale's head is going to explode...

...when he find the comments section on this Guardian article.

With a title like "Where were you when you heard that Margaret Thatcher had resigned?", it was never going to full of warmth!

Pauline Fowler RIP

More sad news, actress Wendy Richards has died at 65.

Watching Pauline and Arthur on Eastenders (it started when I was 10) was one of the memories that makes up my childhood.

I have to say I never got into Are you being Served? (the repeats) but I know a lot of people still love it.

Wendy Richards 1943-2009

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

My condolences to the Camerons but should we cancel PMQs?

The news of the death of their son is very sad. My full condolences are with them. Losing a child must be terrible. They should be left alone to grieve until they are ready to face the world again.

Having said that, on the slightly seperate issue of the cancellation of Prime Ministers Questions I'm finding myself having some truck with the views put forward by both Guido and Michael White (an unusual combination).

Don't we have deputies for this?

Michael White says "Ivan Cameron's death is a matter for private grief" and I think this is the point.

Whilst deeply sad, it is a personal tragedy. Yes people should express sympathy (and I do) and offer support where they can but should we just drop the process of holding the government to account when a politician suffers a personal tragedy?

Obviously, the knock-about Punch and Judy Style of PMQs wouldn't have been inappropriate but maybe they could have then had a sober PMQs where people ask sensible question and get sensible answers. Just a thought. Maybe they could do this every week anyway?

Friday, 20 February 2009

When the tide goes out...

It started, when they were repeated what some American investor (probably Warren Bufffet) had said about the Madoff fraud/credit crunch, something like:

"When the tide goes out, you discover who has been swimming naked".

This phrase has obviously struck a chord with reporters who seem to use it whenever they can but modify it (without mentioning its provenance) to make it sound like their own clever invention. However when they do this they inevitable make it sound clunkier and less apposite.

I've since heard a reporter say:

"When the tide goes out, you see who's got a swimming costume on"

and this morning, with the new Stanford alleged fraud, I heard:

"When the tide goes out, you see what rubbish is left on the beach"

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Fairweather localism and Iain Dale sulks

I don't know whether to react to the Tories latest wafer-thin "proposals" for greater "localism" by being angry by the BBC's constant repetiton of the Tory spin in their news headlines (i.e, "radical decentralisation" yeah right!) or laugh at the sheer vacuity of them.

I think I choose to laugh.

Their headline proposal seems to be elected mayors. These of course have already been tried and have already been rejected by a lot of people when asked.

I do wonder whether their enthusiasm for mayors comes from having Boris Johnson as Mayor of London.

But surely, you wouldn't fundamentally change the constitutional/democratic system of the country for short-term political gain?

Well, if you listened to Caroline Spelman, the Tory's local government spokesperson, on the Today programme yesterday you think they might. When presented with the Tories appalling record on localism (Thatcher helping to make Britain the most centralised state in the western world) and asked what's changed, she said:

"The landscape has changed. The conservative actually control three times as many councils as our opponents put together"

It also amazes me when governments introduce laws to help themselves as the government and hurt opposition. Don't they realise that at some point they won't be the government anymore and they will be the opposition?

Also, according to Mrs. Spelman, their proposals to have referendum on council tax increases won't be an issue as a Conservative government will be "working with" local council to ensure a council tax freeze for the next two years. Um, isn't that central control?

When politicians explain away new laws/powers by saying "don't worry they won't be used", you should always be suspicious.

Anyway, my favorite laugh out loud moment (or annoyance but as I've said I've decided to be light-hearted) of the day was over on Iain Dale's blog.

The sometimes thoughtful Tory blogger, quite rightly pointed out in a post that talking about localism is all very well and good but it means little without a shift of revenue-raising from central to local government. He then went on to bemoan the fact that no party even wants to address this:

"At the moment, council tax raises less than a quarter of all local government spending. It would be a brave political party which proposed to increase it.The LibDems want a local income tax, yet as far as I know, don't propose to change the 25-75 balance"

"All political parties have filed it in the 'Too Difficult' tray."

Oh dear, someone then points out to him that it is indeed to aim of the LibDems to switch the balance of funding around (from 75/25 to 25/75) which is indeed what a party that believed in localism would do rather than one that believed in localism for only people who agreed with them!

Iain quite correctly then posted an update, crossed out the bit about the 75/25 split but then finished with this comment:

"While I very much agree with the sentiments, it's an easy thing to say when you lead a party which will never have to find a way of implementing such an aspiration."

Whoo there! Can you spit your dummy out any further? So not a "brave political party" then?

Facebook does a U-turn (at least temporarily)

Logging in to facebook this morning, I am greeted by this message:

"Over the past few days, we have received a lot of feedback about the new terms we posted two weeks ago. Because of this response, we have decided to return to our previous Terms of Use while we resolve the issues that people have raised"

Looks like another unpopular Facebook change has been thwarted by user pressure.

There is a Times article on this here.

I think this kind of thing will continue to happen as the owners of Facebook desperately scrabble around for a way to make it profitable (which will always be to the detriment of the users)

Monday, 16 February 2009

Freddy Windsor to marry Big Suze!

This news surprised me.

Talk about beauty and the beast or more accurately beauty and the arrogant ...CENSORED...


Finding offence in programmes

I complete a regular media survey detailing what I watch and listen to.

Recently though they have added a new question for each programme:

"Was there anything in the programme that you personally found offensive? "

I find this to be a worrying development. More evidence of the Daily Mail's chilling effect on our culture?

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Nick Clegg & Joss Whedon - separated at birth?

Looking at promo videos for the upcoming (already showing in the US but hoping it might be upcoming in the UK) new Joss Whedon series DollHouse, it struck me that there was a likeness between the visionary writer and our glorious leader. Well, in profile at least:

Friday, 13 February 2009

Who is Doctor Thumbs?

I still get a steady trickle of people who arrive at this previous posting who are searching for "doctor thumbs". I've tried the search and my post does indeed come top but nothing else of use.

Maybe they are looking for a thumb doctor?

Why Chris Huhne why?

Sigh, again my tardiness (or wanting to watch Cowboy Builders on Channel 5 instead) has caused me to be the late one to this particular party. I was going to mention the couple of other bloggers who have raised concerns with this but now even LibDem Voice has a round up of the by now myriad blogposts on this subject. That's how late I am, sigh.
Anyhoo this is what I was going to say:

When people ask me why I'm a LibDem, I don't have to give any of this wishy-washy well, on-balance, my views are more in line with theirs than other parties nonsense.

I am privileged to be able to honestly say that whenever a LibDem spokesman says anything, they are merely saying what I already thought or had concluded (and what the establishment parties would never say).
(although I think my stock answer for this year will be the more combative "Well, I have a brain and a conscience so my options are limited"!)
My only criticism is that sometimes they are too timid and don't go far enough.

The exception (that proves the rule) of course being Sandra Gidley MP. In fact the complete opposite applies in her case, i.e. you can almost guarantee I that I will vehemently disagree with anything that comes out of her mouth!
Take her pronouncement on so called extreme porn.

"You cannot look at this sort of material and not be affected." indeed!

That and the way she charmlessly and publicly stuck the knife into CK causing members to resign left, right and centre...
(okay only one then local member that I know of who wrote to Cowley street citing Sandra Gidley's shenanigans as the reason, but if this trend was repeated across the country...)

But I digress.

So I was somewhat perturbed to hear Chris Huhne on the radio this morning supporting Jacqui Smith's decision to ban Dutch MP Geert Wilders from the UK.

Now, don't get my wrong I find him objectionable and one look at his pictures confirms my inner prejudices. With his slicked-back blond hair and sneery face he is so the Tory boys' Tory boy!
("The hair proves it" is a line from "The Blackadder" when he is accussed of being a witch which I am want to use when referring to an unjustified judgement resting on an ignorant basis which I realise is what I've just done there but you know I'm right

When I first heard the Chris Huhne was coming on Today to defend this decision, my heart sank but I also just had a general feeling of bewilderment. Somehow my firm party political foundations were feeleing a little more shaky.

To be honest, I thought he sounded a bit like a New Labour minister who has been put up to defend the indefensible so was going to just power through his weak argument even though his heart wasn't really in it.

Do we know if he actually thinks this or was a political decision made (although we don't tend to do this kind of thing)?

It will be interesting to hear what Jo Swinson MP has to say on Any Questions tonight.

Anyway on a purely cynical note, I don't think it does us any good as it muddies our message on civil liberties.

Why Chris Huhne, why have you forsaken us?

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Koala bushfire survivour - cute!

A Koala who survived the terrible bushfires in Australia was rescued by a fireman who re-hydrated her by giving her bottled water. His mate caught the whole thing on his mobile phone.

She is now being looked after. Her carer said she suffered burns on her paws and was in a lot of pain, but was on the road to recovery.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Wire in the Blood Cancelled!

I know this is slightly old news now but there is a new article online about the writer's reaction.

Personally, I'm gutted by this moronic decision by ITV. Wire in the Blood was one of the very few things that was actually appointment TV for me on ITV (apart from Corrie although that is more routine so maybe doesn't count). They seem to have been showing some good dramas recently (like Unforgiven) but maybe now they are going to head downhill again.

I don't suppose there's any chance someone else, like C4, would pick it up?

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Have Sainsbury's embraced their inner Jamie Oliver?

Last Thursday, I was sent out to go and buy some bacon.

Luckily Sainsbury's had some nice-looking branded (Walls) bacon on one of their special offer end-of-aisle displays. It had a third off.

This usually means it's nearing it's sell-by date. This was surprisingly not the case.

The packaging had block read and blue colouring and had a suitably regal-looking crest which would make the casual observer (i.e., me) think it was British.

That night we watched Jamie Saves Our Bacon on which he used that very pack as an example of a bacon pack that is designed to mislead people into thinking it was British when it wasn't.

I wonder if Sainsbury's were clearing their shelves of this product before the programme went out?

Then I see an advert for Sainsbury's in a newspaper advertising their free-range British pork with the strapline "Our Values make us different".

I know there is a certain amount of cynical marketing going on here but if Jamie Oliver's association with Sainsbury's can make them alter there policies for the better then that's all to the good.

I'm not sure this is what Sainsbury's were expecting when they started their association with Jamie Oliver (and there were a lot of awkward accusations of conflict and/or hypocrisy when he started out on his various crusades) but maybe they have now managed to reconcile themselves with his work.

Maybe they have embraced their inner Jamie Oliver?

Or maybe I'm a hopeless optimist/naive...

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

I am the Dalia Lama!

Well according to The Political Compass I am very close to him politically.

I'm nerdier than you, ner ner ner ner ner

I decided to have a go at the nerdtest thing that seems to be doing the rounds on several LD blogs.

However, about half way through I got so annoyed about the American assumptions in it (i.e., How much do you watch Jeopardy?) despite it asking which continent you are from that I gave up! I contend that makes me more nerdy than all of you! :)

Yes, yes I know it was a bit of fun...

But seriously, I get unreasonably annoyed at doing surveys that try to pidgeonhole me (I know that's the point of surveys and this one was tongue in cheek).

I get frustrated if I do a survey that has a non-complete list of options and then no "none of the above" or "other" category and then it doesn't let you proceed unless you pick one.

An example:

Have you in the last year:

a) Had a baby
b) Moved house
c) Moved jobs
d) Retired


Error: You must pick one

But I can't! Arrgghh!!!

I'm sure this not wishing to be enslaved by conformity must speak for my Liberal credentials or something...

Monday, 2 February 2009

The Black Police Association are still Idiots

Further to my post in October last year questioning whether the Black Police Associations (BPA) are idiots (more of a rhetorical question it turned out) for their policy of dissuading BME recruits, Himmelgarten cafe posts about the BPA response to the appointment of the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner.

Seems they are still Idiots. No question this time.