history_monk: (Me)
The "Great Repeal Bill" is trying to chip away at human rights protection for UK citizens. I'm amazed that the Tories think this is a good idea; do they expect to be in power forever? Petition from 38 Degrees here
history_monk: (Default)
This is a semi-cunning plan. Like most of what Mrs May has been doing since she became Prime Minister, it's mainly about improving the position of the Conservative Party.

  • She would not be doing this if she didn't feel confident of winning the election. Given the disarray of the Labour Party, her confidence is not misplaced.

  • It created an instant dilemma for the Labour Party: support it and lose seats, or oppose it (and prevent the election - the vote needs a two-thirds majority) and open themselves to accusations of supporting everything the Conservatives do subsequently. In fact, Labour has welcomed it; Jeremy Corbyn may be delusional enough to believe he can win the election.

  • It gives May a personal mandate, rather than being the person who the Conservatives elected after the previous leader resigned.

  • It forces most of the press to decide if they support the Conservatives or UKIP.

  • It means that the Conservatives will be in power for a little over three years after Brexit, rather than just over one year. Since anyone other than the most fanatic Brexiteer would concede that there may well be short-term economic instability after Brexit, this increases the chance that the next election will be held under conditions of stability.

Overall, good politics, more questionable government. It delays the start of proper Brexit negotiations, and reduces the ability of negotiators to compromise. But that's probably what May wants when she says that this will bring "strong leadership" to the negotiations.
history_monk: (Me)
The UK's Human Rights Act 1998 embeds the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law. Given that the Convention was largely written by British Conservative lawyers, in the aftermath of WWII, it's rather disappointing that the current Tories want to remove these human-rights protections.

Amnesty International is campaigning against this: http://keeptheact.uk
history_monk: (Me)
Is an independent pressure group campaigning for openness and freedom on the Internet. I've belonged to it for a couple of years. They're mostly funded by members' subscriptions, and are having a membership drive to enable some campaigning for the general election, mainly against the government's message of "Privacy means the terrorists win."


Tony Blair

Nov. 24th, 2014 08:38 pm
history_monk: (Me)
I get quite a few "please sign our petition" e-mails, and I sign some of them. They all want you to pass them on, and I'm much more restrained about that. But the idea that Save The Children, a charity I had thought to be reasonably worthwhile, is giving Tony Blair an award for saving children is ... beyond polite description. There's a petition to ask them to withdraw it, here.
history_monk: (Me)
I had a response from my MP. He was noncommittal about LibDem policy, since he's in no position to make rulings, but he's not in favour of this.

Here's a petition to the head of HMRC about it:


history_monk: (Me)

Here's the letter I've just written to my MP:

Guardian Article

The government is intending to provide "anonymised" access to tax records. A senior Tory MP has described this as "borderline insane". I'd go considerably further than that. It will mean that people don't reveal their financial affairs to the tax authorities, producing a vast increase in evasion and clogging the courts with pointless cases.

It's a very naked example of what has seemed to be this government's attitude to the population for some time: not as citizens to be safeguarded, but as resources to be strip-mined. If this goes ahead, it will be historically recorded as one of the steps that triggered revolution. The people will not put up with this.

It will, incidentally, make certain of the Scottish Referendum result. All the SNP has to do is undertake that an independent Scottish government will not do such a thing, and they've won. And a lot of the English will be considering emigration.

Up until now, I have still be prepared to support you at the general election. I am not happy with much of the coalition's policy, but I feel that Parliament needs at least one scientist, and Cambridge seems to have the role of supplying them. Were Nick Cleg my MP, voting for him would already be quite impossible. But sale of tax records passes, you would be mere collateral damage.

I'm already reasonably certain that you would vote against this scheme. That is not enough to save your seat: Parliament must reject the idea, if it is brought to a vote.

history_monk: (Me)
Grant Shapps, Conservative Party Chairman, has said it's time to draw a line under the issue of Maria Miller's expenses, and the apparent attempt by one of Miler's staff to intimidate a newspaper that was investigating the story. Miller is the Culture Secretary, the minister responsible for regulation of the press.

Shapps' comment seems to translate as "We don't have any good answers to these questions, so we're asking our allies in the media to change the subject." At least, that's the charitable view. A less charitable view would be that this is a misguided attempt to intimidate all of the media.
history_monk: (Me)
There’s a consultation out on changes to legal aid in England and Wales. I don’t like the look of it at all, and here’s what I sent into the consultation this morning:

The courts are vital for maintaining a balance between the power of government, the rights of companies, and the rights of individuals. The difficulties in this balance depend on the character and programme of the government, but there are always issues that have to be tested

No government can afford to act in ways that undermine trust in the legal system. This change to legal aid is dangerous. It's quite obvious that companies that are contracted by the government to provide legal representation in volume for individuals are potentially subject to political pressure, by any government that feels unhappy with the way cases are being decided in the courts. Pressurising individual lawyers under the current system is harder, because there are so many of them, and because they're more willing to expose such pressure than corporate managers, who tend to seek a quiet life and regular profits.

I am not accusing the government of having plans to exert such pressure. The capability to do so seems to be being created inadvertently, through a desire to save money without full consideration of the side-effects of the change. But that doesn't affect the problem.

A populist claim that legal aid lawyers were subject to financial pressure from government will make every minor case into a "popular cause", and any result unfavourable to an individual into a "travesty of justice" in the media. The populists of UKIP and their allies in the press are fully capable of exploiting this, gumming up the courts far beyond present levels and undermining trust in ways that will take decades to rebuild.

Cutting the costs of legal aid needs to be done some other way, and the possible undesirable consequences need to be considered more carefully before a consultation is started.

If you’d like to comment, 38 Degrees’ page about it is here.

Bad idea!

Dec. 3rd, 2012 10:23 pm
history_monk: (Me)
The article at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-20578691 tells us that the Ministry of Defence (UK) is intending to forn a mational Computer Emergency Response Team ("CERT"), and to recruit a "Cyber Reserve", to provide a means to use civillian computert security expertise if the UK is subjected to a major "cyber attack."

This may be a good idea, although the MoD are good at messing up new ideas. But my twisted mind immediately came up with the idea of a TV comedy series based on it, as an unholy combination of Dad's Army and The Big Bang Theory. And the really ironic thing is that such a series might actually be a good way of teaching the population some basic security precautions. Ordinary methods don't work at all well. But doing it would be really hard, because preaching will kill the ratings, quickly. 

"Script kiddie" puns in the comments, please. 
history_monk: (Me)
Dear Dr Huppert,

While I have definite reservations about the conduct of the coalition government to date, I am writing to express my support for the Liberal Democrats' position on the Leveson Report.

It seems to me to be crucial that the system by which the public can obtain redress against abuse of the power of the press be changed. We need, without any kind of direct control, to mark a new phase in the conduct of the press. It has been clear from the testimony to the enquiry, that the Conservative Party has been strongly influenced by the press, and that this influence needs to be limited. If Mr Cameron resists this, he will be confirmed in the public's eyes as a puppet of News International.

We do not need our government's status to be brought so low.

Yours sincerely,
history_monk: (Default)
The BBC has a new Director-General. Who, like all of them, has to fight accusations of political bias, best countered by keeping all the politicians mildly unhappy. 38 Degrees are collecting signatures for an open letter, to demonstrate that he has support in this matter.  https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/BBC-DG-letter
history_monk: (Default)

From the Free Software Foundation's website:

"Microsoft has announced that if computer makers wish to distribute machines with the Windows 8 compatibility logo, they will have to implement a measure called "Secure Boot." However, it is currently up for grabs whether this technology will live up to its name, or will instead earn the name Restricted Boot."

"When done correctly, "Secure Boot" is designed to protect against malware by preventing computers from loading unauthorized binary programs when booting. In practice, this means that computers implementing it won't boot unauthorized operating systems -- including initially authorized systems that have been modified without being re-approved."

"This could be a feature deserving of the name, as long as the user is able to authorize the programs she wants to use, so she can run free software written and modified by herself or people she trusts. However, we are concerned that Microsoft and hardware manufacturers will implement these boot restrictions in a way that will prevent users from booting anything other than Windows. In this case, we are better off calling the technology Restricted Boot, since such a requirement would be a disastrous restriction on computer users and not a security feature at all."

More, and a petition, here:


history_monk: (Default)
I want to write more about this, after Eastercon, but here's a petition about it that I've just signed.
history_monk: (Default)

The Home Office has a consultation out about equalising marriage rights for same-sex couples here. It looks pretty reasonable, if incremental, and they have a feedback questionnaire.

history_monk: (Default)

Dear Dr Huppert,

Thank you for your e-mail on the report on the Health and Social Care Bill. I am glad to hear that Andrew Lansley has been ordered to publish it.

Seumas Milne alleges in today's Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/dec/07/iran-war-already-begun)

"Last month the Guardian was told by British defence ministry officials that if the US brought forward plans to attack Iran (as they believed it might), it would "seek, and receive, UK military help", including sea and air support and permission to use the ethnically cleansed British island colony of Diego Garcia."

There is a very important hurdle to be crossed before any such help can properly be granted. It's the step that Tony Blair failed to secure for the war in Iraq, and the coalition had for action in Libya. The unambiguous UN resolution.

This is not just a political nicety. It makes the difference between a legal and an illegal conflict. It's not a question of slight illegality, either. The crime is called "Planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression", and it was the second charge on the sheet at the Nuremberg Trials in 1945-46.

There is a strong case that the UK Government committed this crime in 2003. I really don't want the coalition to commit it now, because that would leave UKIP and the SNP as the largest UK political parties untainted by the kind of criminality that makes it entirely impossible for me to vote for them. If the situation arises, getting that UN resolution - or giving no support to
the USA - should be an absolute requirement for the survival of the coalition.


history_monk: (Default)
When I was a kid, “understand” basically meant “comprehend”, with nuances of “and appreciate the significance of”. There was an extra usage of “I feel your pain” or “I sympathise with the problem you are suffering”, but that seemed to be clearly understood as only applying when consoling someone.

Time passed, and now “understand” seems to mean, in commonplace usage “I sympathise with your problem, and agree with your point of view about it”. The "comprehend" meaning has disappeared. I find this to be a bit of a problem, because in any vaguely sophisticated thinking, it’s necessary to be able to comprehend the thinking of people you disagree with. That lets you discover possibilities for compromise, for changing the parts of their view that you disagree with, anticipating their plans, and generally accomplishing something. This is far easier than just telling people they are wrong and that they must abandon their views entirely and conform to yours. However, that is not a fashionable way of thinking.

An illustration of the change of “understanding” came when John Major, as Prime Minister, said that society should seek to understand crime a little less and condemn it a little more. He was talking to the Mail on Sunday, where rational thought is discouraged, but even so, the statement makes no sense if “understand” is used in the sense of “comprehend”.

I had an even clearer illustration of this after the 9/11 attacks. Those were pretty much unexpected, but were clearly the result of some careful planning. It seemed obviously sensible to seek some insight into the thinking behind them, so as to have some chance of predicting what else might be attacked, and what would likely not be. Knowing an enemy’s tactics allows economy of force, avoiding wasting resources and political capital. But the forum where I was trying to talk about this idea (Usenet sci.military.naval, sadly) had enough people for whom “understand” always meant “sympathise and agree with” that using the word meant I was an enemy. I wasn't. Given there was already a war, I was just trying to raise the idea of fighting a bit smarter and getting it over with more quickly, doing less harm.
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