Saturday, September 24, 2005

Perfect - "Authority was given to the police in 2001 to take and retain DNA samples from everyone they arrest in connection with a ‘serious recordable offence’. Everyone; whether subsequently released, charged, convicted or acquitted. Prior to this change in the law, the police had been retaining DNA samples illegally for around seventeen years. The police now have over two million DNA records."

Postman Patel (following up on yesterday's security alert at Manchester Airport) - "A police spokeswoman confirmed the suspect had been arrested under the Terrorism Act and was being questioned. Subsequently he has been held under the Mental Health Act, a controlled explosion by a hastily summoned bomb squad revealed the man’s clothing and his passport, but no bomb or weapons...
'A man who had a picture taken of him at Manchester Airport without his consent has agreed an out of court settlement of £4,000 with the airport. Tim Hedgley had his photograph while passing through airport security when travelling on a domestic flight. His picture was used to ensure he did not buy duty-free goods and to check his identity at the gate.

'The photograph was taken without his permission and was therefore a breach of the Data Protection Act. He agreed to receive agreed an out of court settlement of £4,000 with the airport.'"

Friday, September 23, 2005

Something stupidly good for the weekend

Via The Virtual Stoa and Early Modern Notes, for today, tomorrow and Sunday only the Oxford University Press are offering free online access to the Dictionary of National Biography, one of the finest academic achievements of all time. Truly superb stuff - I don't think I can over-emphasise just how damn good the DNB is - register for free access and indulge. You won't regret it.

German elections: Some possible scenarios (and interesting discussion in the comments), plus a look at why the German mess does NOT mean that Proportional Representation systems are rubbish (with more good debate/links in the comments - including my solution to all this country's political ills, which should net me all kinds of awards and stuff, naturally...)

Read. Now. Then ponder if the next time you see an episode of Are you Being Served? and John Inman minces on to utter his catchphrase you won't pause for a moment and sigh with nostalgia for a more innocent time when, despite the fact that terrorists were bombing this country on a regular basis, the words "I'm free" could be uttered, meant, and still be true.

Hopefully nothing - "incident" at Manchester airport...

Jarndyce has more - once again, Manchester police manage to arrest someone without killing them. Good work Manchester police! Fancy coming to London and showing our lot how it's done?

A sensible response to terrorism - yes, really!

First one of these I've seen, but trust anyone but the government to come up with it. My old mates St John Ambulance have come up with a sensible and cunning idea, following their experiences tending the wounded on 7th July: First Aid lessons via podcast.

Stupidly good, simple idea. Download the buggers, whack 'em on your MP3 wotsit (assuming you have one, of course), and then should you be faced with an emergency you've got an expert in your pocket ready to talk you through how to help people out. Top stuff - and completely free. (Might be nice if you made a donation though...)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

What. The. Pissing. Shit. Is. Going. On. With. This. Fucking. Country?

More at Perfect. (I are too busy at the moment, hence delay in picking up on this...)

Emigration is beginning to look increasingly appealing. Either that or I'm going to freeze to death this winter through fear of wearing a coat the police deem "suspicious" for no apparent reason. Bunch of cunts. I blame Blair and Blair.

The constitution rears its ugly head once more

Today the European Parliment's Constitutional Affairs Committee is expected to follow yesterday's entirely sensible point from Commission head José Manuel Barroso that debate on the future of Europe has stalled with an announcement that the old provisional constitution is dead and crap and it's about time to start again from scratch.

The committee's report, “the EU's constitutional crisis - breaking the deadlock” is to be published today, rejecting repeat referenda in the Netherlands or France and finally killing off any eurosceptic hopes of a vote in the UK at the same time.

This may well explain why UKIP have started spouting mindless nonsense about a referendum on EU membership, as they've finally accepted they'll never get to rub their hands with glee as they put a few final bullets into the constitution's now rather smelly, near-unrecognisable corpse - they never were that quick on the uptake, were they? The rest of us twigged the constitution was dead months ago... (As an aside, UKIP will no doubt be funding this latest pointless campaign with the £170,000 EU grant they've just been awarded - that's right, kids, the EU is funding anti-EU propaganda, isn't it eeeevil?)

Of course, the trouble is that while the UK holds the presidency, nothing much is going to be able to happen. Not only are we too contentious a figurehead,but also Blair and co are entirely obsessed with terrorists at the moment, and can't be arsed to do anything other than run around screaming about how we're all going to die. As such, the budget squabble has yet to be resolved, the Anglo-French spat over the CAP has got nowhere and thanks to the post-election stalemate in Germany, until the final member of the big three has managed to work out who's leading the country, the most obvious referee in the UK/France fight is utterly impotent.

So, the EP's Constitutional Affairs Committee wants to know how we can kick-start debate on the future of Europe? Simple - wait until the UK presidency's ended because you're going to get fuck all done while Blair's in charge. Oh, and if you want sensible debate, probably wait until both Chirac and Blair are out of office, make sure that any new Convention on the Future of Europe ends up rather more democratic and open than the last one - and, most importantly, don't rush the buggers this time.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

EU internet survey thingie

Via Ken at EU Realist, let's help some poor PhD student, shall we? Spirit of altruism and all that. Go here and follow the instructions - it's a survey to check public perception of "the EU’s public diplomacy strategy online and its use of the Internet to promote a European public sphere", looking at the websites Europa (aimed at us European types), EurUnion (aimed at the yanks) and Europa at the UN (aimed, I assume, at the rest of the world - I'd never heard of it before...)

There are, of course, more than just those three (like the recently revamped European Parliament website) - but the Europa site itself is so damn vast you can find pretty much anything on there, once you work out how - it's also the home to dear Margot's blog.

There's a total of 27 questions, most fairly simple and quick to fill out. So go on - and let's try and keep this scientific, shall we? No childish spamming of the place with "Brittania roolz, E-U SUXX0rz" type crap, shall we? Leave your political opinions at the door and answer the questions honestly and sensibly. For science and stuff. Everyone likes science.

German elections: If you don't know what the hell's going on (which is most people, German or otherwise), you could do a lot worse than this round-up by Alex. Missed it yesterday - good stuff.

This - largely my take on the whole shoot to kill fiasco, with only minor quibbles, differences in interpretation and/or additions. It's hard to summon up the will to write about it any more, it's just so obviously been so shockingly poorly handled and ill thought out. Perhaps I'm suffering from this kind of thing.

Blair and co thwarted by the EU?

Let's hope so, eh? Today the wonderful data retention and electronic surveillance proposals put forward by our delightful government are being tabled by the European Commission amid EU-wide differences of opinion over their legality and effectiveness.

Blair's lovely plan, for those who missed it, is to force all phone companies and internet service providers to record all your phone calls (and keep tabs on missed calls), texts, emails, internet usage etc. etc. etc. and store them for anything up to three years (with, naturally, the potential to extend this at a later date), enabling the state to poke around into our lives whenever the hell they feel like it (especially were this information to become linked to the proposed biometric ID cards for ease of cross-referencing - although, obviously, if you've got nothing to hide... and anyway, human rights are outdated...)

However, Blair's initial proposals seem already to have been watered down by the Commission - at least to an extent. There have apparently been clauses inserted stating that the stored information can only be used for the investigation of serious organised crime and terrorism. Which, while no doubt intended to be reassuring, summons up an image of using five-mile net to catch a single flea - after all, how many of the 450 million people whose details will be stored will actually have been involved in any of those activities? And don't you think, just possibly, that criminals and terrorists will switch to non-electronic communication methods to excape detection? (Sorry, repeating myself, but the point apparently still needs to be made.)

Perhaps most promisingly, the European Parliament is to be given co-decision powers, allowing MEPs to scrutinise and amend this crappy legislation. (Of course, the European Parliament - as the only democratically-elected body in the EU - should ALWAYS have co-decision powers, but that's another matter altogether).

The only danger, of course, is that these measures are forced through the EP in a bit of a rush, with little time for debate, and are passed unthinkingly by our anonymous MEP masters, thus daubing them with a touch of democratic respectability. This is unlikely to happen here (largely thanks to the unpopularity of the measures with business, with poorer EU states who don't like the idea of the cost, and with anyone who thinks for half a second about how hapy they'd be fore some civil servant to be able to poke through their inbox and read their texts), but I'm still worried about the ID threat, about which there has, of yet, been no word... When they go quiet, that's generally when they're about to pounce.

There will also be a Commission discussion paper on the radicalisation of European muslims published today. Be on guard for Blairite thoughcrime language in the small print - and be aware that, on this occasion, it is thanks to Britain holding the EU presidency that the EU is pushing ahead with these dodgy, antidemocratic moves. But enough should be reluctant (or simply pissed off with Blair over the rebate) enough to try and drag it out until our term at the top ends, and if so there's a good chance we can get it all pushed out. Perhaps it's nearly time to cynically raise the spectre of Nazism, still far more powerful an epitome of all that is repressive across the Channel than it ever has been over here? That should raise a bit more opposition to giving Uncle Tony the right to, effectively, flick through our diaries whenever he likes, eh?

Keep an eye out.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Hmmm... Booze, you say? Free, you say? On the BBC, you say? If you're a London-based blogger, it may be worth checking out. I shall reserve commitment for the time being, as I can't remember if I'm meant to be doing anything on Thursday evening - if anyone's planning on popping along, though, let me know. Could be entertaining, plus a chance to spout nonsense on the radio by the sounds of things...

More info via the person organising it. Apparently she was on the telly once or something - weren't we all, dear? (In the nicest possible way, of course - I'm sure she's lovely really...)

It would appear (via la Worstall) that those of you who contributed to my London bombs beer fund a couple of months back in preference to Ken Livingstone's official Red Cross one made the right choice. Am I seriously more efficient than the Mayor's office and the government put together? What a bunch of shoddily-organised fuckwits. They should give me a job, I'll whip 'em into shape. Using tanks.

This BiasedBBC cross-post actually makes some very valid points. I may have to re-assess my opinion of Auntie.

Look, sorry - I know everyone seems to expect that I'm a wishy-washy pinko liberal peacenik and stuff, but there's only one way to describe this story - this is fucking cool! That's what war should be all about - the sort of bollocks they always used to get up to in those late-1960s caper movies with the comedy Nazis and stuff. Quality! Especially check out the quote from the Ministry of Defence Spokesman, and imagine him being played by James Robertson Justice, leaving an extended pause before the last word and then tapping his nose and winking at the end and shit. War's great.

(Normal service will be resumed shortly)

Monday, September 19, 2005

German elections: it could be weeks

The Beeb, as ever, has a load of good info, including the wonderful bit "Mr Schroeder said he could not understand how the CDU 'stakes a claim to political leadership from a disastrous election result'" - because, erm... they beat you by 1% and yet you're still claiming power? Nice one, Gerdy...

Meanwhile Ostracised from Österreich looks at some potential coalitions after liveblogging yesterday's results, while North Sea Diaries points out that, despite the scare stories about the German economy and unemployment, comparisons to 1970s Britain (and thus Merkel to Thatcher) are not as accurate as many believe.

Medienkritik has the German electoral map - showing a rather hefty north/south, east/west divide. He's also provided a similar map of unemployment figures, hinting at a correlation, as well as a bit more coalition speculation.

Over at Bildt Comments, in Berlin everything's unclear except the weather - the only thing that's certain is that "there are distinctly more losers than winners" - and the Dresden election in two weeks could end up decisive. Possibly. Depending on everything else that happens. Perhaps.

Whether or not this result is as bad as some seem to think (sections of the German press apparently calling it "fatal") it's simply too early to say. But if even the German press don't know what to make of it, you can be sure that anything you read in the English language press will be even less helpful - not least thanks to the animosity with Britain and America that Schröder's managed to build up over the last few years (and that Merkel could, lazily, be mistaken for a Neocon).

Expect a load of punditry on potential German governments in the European press over the next couple of weeks, in other words. Most of it more or less ill-informed, all of it highly speculative and based in little in the way of knowledge or fact.

Update: Hysteria from the Commission. Well, not hysteria, exactly, but can't we just let the Germans sort out their problems for themselves? It's not like they actually WANT a political deadlock. Well, except for the fact that that's what they voted for...

(Oh, and can someone tell Mandelson to shut up about "social models"? Whenever I hear that phrase I think of those little postcard adverts you get in the phone boxes around Soho. As such, a "new social model" appears to feel quite nice for a bit but then leave you feeling ripped off, broke and dosed up on clap. Not that I'd know, obviously...)

By the by, this should be read if you want to know what's going on - a nice overview with good analysis, and even a few nuggets along the lines of "the F.D.P. served chicken wings in their car park". Can't be bad.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

German elections: Dead heat?

Well, well, well. Down to the wire, no obvious majority, and suggestions even appearing that Schröder and Merkel should team up and form a coalition - much like Labour teaming up with the Tories. Yet both wannabe Chancellors have claimed victory, and neither is likely to want to compromise over their fairly significant political differences. It's all gone a bit mad, in other words.

Best place for all the excitement appears to be Der Spiegel's election liveblog (hat tip to MattGB in a comment here earlier this evening) and their special section on the elections, with Deutsch Welle's funky graphic thing also worth a quick look. Its exit poll is currently (10:30pm) showing 1% in it - or a two seat difference - nowhere near enough for any one party to comfortably take charge. (Of course, a 1% difference in Britain can be enough to give a 60 seat overall majority... But more on that, no doubt, some other time.)

Lots of good stuff at Fistful as per usual.

My arse.

Piss off, Murdoch.

Oh, and the latest Britblog Roundup is up. Go, read and stuff.

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