Friday, January 19, 2007

Carphone Warehouse shows principle

It appears that some people tied up with the Big Brother controversy can come out of this with reputations clean. CPW at least has shown it is not prepared to stay wallowing in the publicity and try to elicit some more business out of it.

I suspect there are other business considerations in that decision, but yesterday the behaviour of Endemol, Ch4 and advertisers linked with the show indicated they seemed to be happy to continue milking it to get the most out.

On Question Time last night the panel was asked if it was a window on society or irresponsible programming. Yet the MPs on the panel seemed a little retiscent to condemn it completely.

Earlier in the day Tessa Jowell said that the regulator would deal with it and it was not a good day if ministers call for programmes to be axed.

Well from a Government that wants to list us all on endless databases, and assaults our liberties everyday, yes that would be a worry. But if as David Cameron says we establish a consensus in a future Britain based around social responsibility, where the Government doesn't legislate on everything and anything and people to recognise the consequences of their actions, then we could rightly take such statements from Ministers and MPs for what they should be seen as; a lead to follow and an example of behaviour, not an implicit threat to outlaw something else.

Let's stop arguing whether BB is racist, based on class or a culture clash. It is glamourising and commercialising a behaviour pattern that many of us will recognise as objectionable and Channel4 or Endemol should take responsibility for their actions and get it off our screens.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Airport Tax

The new tax Gordon has imposed on flights is getting a bit of airtime now that the deadline is approaching and it will have to be collected. Its quite small but it sums up Browns attitude to a lot of things; how can I turn it into a revenue opportunity ?

Applying this tax on all flights already booked (rather than flights booked after say Jan 1st 2007) is very unlikely to deter people from flying. Hotels and other expenses will already be committed. It might have a tiny, tiny affect on business or air frieght, but probably so small as to not be measurable. Yet this will now cause confusion and stress for travellers and the airlines trying to collect it.

Let's be honest, we need extra stress at an airport like a hole in the head.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Mythbusting fingerprint recognition

Following on from my earlier ID cards post.....Mythbusters is a kind of kids semi-science program where the presenters use methods to try to disprove a myth, such as soldiers must break step whilst going over a bridge, otherwise it will collapse.

So they decided to break into a door lock that used finger print recognition, that supposedly had never been compromised.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Motorola V3i

For a non-political post, I'm really miffed I spent money on one of these phones for my wife's birthday just before Xmas. Thinking of buying an iPod, I (slightly impulsively I'm afraid, so I guess its my fault) bought a Motorola V3i phone for her that had mp3 support, on the basis it might substitute for the iPod and renew her phone.

How wrong I was. This phone claims to be a music player as well as a phone, but the support is truly shocking. Music transfer speeds onto the phone are painfully slow, the player is awful and now we've stuffed it with a couple of hundred tunes, its locks up when you start the player. The phone needs to be switched on and off to recover.

My own music phone the Sony w800i at least has good music support and other good features in the hardware, however the software is truly dreadful on that one and lets it down.

My recommendation for anyone thinking of buying a music phone, research it well.

Saddam execution 'not dignified' - Do me a favour

Bush and the American forces in Iraq say the execution was not dignified and they would not have conducted it this way.

This defies belief, I cannot believe killing someone in cold blood in front of witnesses can ever be dignified, so please let's not pretend it could be. Not many will miss Saddam and his crimes were truly horrendous. However hanging him still goes against at least two of the four principles for which I believe it should never be applied:-

1 It makes a martyr of him (look at the posthumous coverage he's getting, we've almost forgotten what he was like)
2 It reinforces the impression that killing someone is OK, provided you've got good reason

(The other two being the effect it has on your family and the fact that innocent people get hanged however much you try to prevent it)

Blair comment on Saddam execution video

So its seems Blair is moving to comment on this, after having decided he would wait, he's now being bounced by Brown. Bush commented a few days ago, so surely Tony can go ahead now ?

As with the Americans, Blair should not be afraid to criticize the Iraqis when they do something we think is wrong. I thought this man was opposed to the death penalty?

His silence is deafening

ID Cards nonsense

As a implaccable opponent of ID cards, I'm glad to see another admission that it won't quite be what was promised.

It appears now we won't be using Iris recognition as part of the biometrics. It'll just be fingerprints, which numerous people have now demonstrated can be fooled using culinary gelatin, cheap printers and other bits just from a print lifted off a glass. (I remember reading whenClinton visited before the end of his term, he had a pint with Blair in a Birmingham pub somewhere. Apparently after he went the Secret Service guys took all the glasses on the table he and Blair had been at, broke them and took the bits away. I guess they knew then what was possible in a few years)

So now we have something that nobody believes will achieve the hyped up promises, uses existing databases, not a 'clean database', uses only one biometric, not a multiple of 'infallible biometrics' (all Blunkett quotes fromthe debates during passage of the bill), and yet it seems some senior Labour MPs still think we should consider this compulsory, if Hazel Blears' poll on her website is any guide.

New Labour vs RyanAir

Good to see that Ian Pearson MP got a dressing down for his attacks on Ryan Air. It was a typical piece of mindless posturing and missing of the point on air travel. The only positive thing you could say about it air travel is going to grow, so perhaps by vilifying the low cost airlines, they can justify taxing them more, thus putting the flights out of reach of more people in the future. Hardly a great way for all to work together to save the environment though.

It seems there is a bit of snobbery about low cost flights, as if it enables people to fly that are not able to act responsibly about the effects, thus we somehow have to force those people out. Forget the realities of full aircraft, modern aircraft, use of quiet airports, thus little circling around Heathrow waiting for slots.

How about supporting Biofuels for cars which make up the biggest UK CO2 contribution ? Or perhaps getting the railways right, as was promised by the foolish fat one when he was Transport Sec as well as Deputy PM.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Get involved

Brian Jenner wrote this excellent platform piece on ConservativeHome the other day which really resonated well with me. It starts to open up a real issue now that I think is at the heart of democracy in this country. On the one hand we apparently have a populous that is disenchanted with politics, yet is clearly not apathetic about political issues as we see the growth of single issue campaigning. So what explains this ?

The mention of Jeremy Paxman’s book is interesting because the book provides quite a few anecdotes about life in politics and is well researched, but does leave you with a slightly miserable feeling about getting involved. In fact if it had not been the case I was already involved in my local Conservative Association already by the point of reading I would have been put off.

The one phrase that caught my attention at the time was where Paxman asks the question ‘What is that makes certain people want to tell the rest of us what to do ?’ and with that, as in real life Paxman did the world of politics a great disservice.

From what of I have seen of people involved in political activity (of any persuasion) they go in to it to genuinely try to make things better. In other words for the best of reasons. Indeed I believe there are not many bad people in politics, just plenty of bad ideas.

As a result of the bad ideas and mistrust we see the rise of single issue campaigning, but thanks to the Paxman effect we don’t see that reflected in traditional political activity. If nobody took an interest, then we would get the nutters and the bigots in, but thankfully it’s not got that bad yet.

Part of the problem is the potential exposure to public glare. When I stood for election as a County Councillor I fully expected my friends to either not be that interested or possibly even ridicule me for it. But I was truly amazed at how many people admired my actions, even to point of saying it was brave and thought it was a great thing to do.

So it appears doing politics is OK if you know and can trust the person and that brings me then to two points; firstly how can you translate that into a willingness to get more involved and secondly why is there is a taboo about ‘doing politics’. What is it that makes people resist switching from being a voter to an activist or candidate? Having been someone that made the switch relatively recently, I can say that once it is done, you really wonder what the big deal was.

The other thing which will happen if political activity starts to become normal again is people will become closer to their elected representatives and will start to realise they are human and fallible, just like the rest of us. Perhaps then the fascination with the human failures will fade.

So yes, the answer is to get involved, make a difference and do a bit. You can do a lot and it will probably only make a small difference, but the journey of a thousand miles starts with the first footstep. Don’t expect to change to happen at once. We can all shout from the sidelines, but it’s those who get in the action that make the difference. Those that make the biggest sacrifices and do the most work are those that effect the most change.