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Archive for July, 2010

Growing awareness of online privacy concerns

Much as the individual online in the privacy home will always tend to forget their tweets and posts are actually very public, the employee under commercial pressures will always tend to forget they may be interfering with people’s private lives. These are unavoidable consequences of human nature, and only external forces will prevent these tendencies from becoming troublesome. Therefore I find it encouraging to see growing awareness in the business community of online privacy. Articles such as this one in the FT give me hope that the corporate world may start to listen to the advocacy groups:

Using software to monitor programs running on the page of CareerBuilder.com, the researcher for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an advocacy group, saw data identifying his computer being whisked off to at least 10 outfits that track where people go on the internet. More troubling was his inability to tell what the companies did with the data.

If corporations start to recognise the rightful social concerns many of us have regarding privacy on the internet, I hope the result is that government becomes willing to implement and enforce the necessary regulation. Commercial operations simply cannot be relied upon to treat the individual’s data with respect – they are caught up in what the article rightfully calls “a scary race to the privacy bottom”.

For my part, I am looking forward to seeing what the Diaspora team come up with. A decentralised, open source alternative to Facebook that the individual controls strikes me as a very necessary part of our collective internet future.

Is Miliband defining what should be Lib Dem territory?

David Miliband makes the point in the FT that the Lib Dems should be making. Where indeed is our fiscal escape hatch? Is Nick Clegg ready to come out fighting against Osborne if the rather optimistic tactic of heavy cuts doesn’t pan out? Here’s David’s core argument:

I am an economic realist. The public finances need addressing. Labour’s plans would halve the budget deficit and remove the bulk of the structural deficit in four years. It is the sensible, credible middle-ground between extreme cuts and unchecked spending. But the government’s proposals, designed without an escape hatch in the event of slowing growth, reflect ideology, not realism. Read more

Ah, the old “I’ll travel with the people” trick

It’s interesting seeing a Prime Minister doing that trick popular amongst turnaround CEOs, namely giving up the private jet and first class travel – some chiefs will even then insist on making it perfectly clear they got a basic hire car and drove themselves rather than hire a limo. It’s all about sending out a public message of frugality. It rarely lasts, however. Read more

Goldsmith: I get to decide what’s relevant

Zac Goldsmith’s interview on Channel 4 is either an amusing satire or a warning shot across the Conservative’s PR bows. It’s a perfect example of how to demonstrate contempt for accountability: Read more

Nneka: passion and politics. Good new music for the weekend.

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My favourite artist at Glastonbury. Forget the Pyramid stage and the Gorillaz, there was a great little party going on at the West Holts world music stage – with much more interesting messages in the music.

Nneka is entirely new to me. Nigerian born, now lives in Germany, and making some great political hip-hop influenced music. I’d namecheck Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu to get a vague feel, but actually listening is the better idea of course. The tracks that really works for me (Heartbeat) has a definite flavour from Eminem’s Lose Yourself in the intro, but even when I noticed that it didn’t distract from a great vocal performance. She has great stage presence. She puts power into the potentially simplistic and trite line “do you feel my heartbreaking” – no wilting flower, here.

It’s not easy getting across messages of corruption and national suffering, at a personal level on a big stage. The photo above doesn’t quite manage to capture the mixture of frustration, pain and anger at corrupt politicians, for instance, that she conveyed so well. It was a last minute performance, as well, she was filling in a slot after Femi Kuti was shifted up to cover Mos Def, whose grandmother had sadly died that day.

I went on to buy her To And Fro 3-CD collection from Amazon – a good value buy for us old fogies still buying CDs.

Her MySpace page has some great content. Check out the YouTube clip of HeartBeat, live on the Letterman show in the US. The performance is actually pretty stilted to what I saw live – I’m guessing their first national US performance was a pretty high pressure affair for them. And yet it’s still pretty damned good. I love her voice.

It’s a shame they don’t have a clip of the bass player doing a tribal chant of some kind (forgive my ignorance). Got a photo of him towards the end below. That guy had some presence. Put me in mind of the Maori haka.

The optimistic chainsaw

I try to be an optimist myself, but what a fantastic comment from Christina Patterson in The Independent: “David Cameron is an optimist. He thinks that the economic equivalent of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is an excellent way to let the sunshine in.”

Wisely she doesn’t comment on the detail of the cuts (anyone feel we really haven’t got beyond “something must be done!”?). She acknowledges some of the ideas sound good. The fundamental problem she identifies in Parliament right is that Labour’s plan seems to be to provide no input and let the whole thing fail for political purposes.

We’re headed for some tough times, and I’m not convinced either of the political heavy weight parties have managed to set aside ideology enough that we avoid the situation as described by a visiting Canadian: “A lot of people died in hospital corridors. And a lot of people lost their homes.”

Glastonbury Revelations: Two Door Cinema Club

Two Door Cinema Club were the band that kicked off the music at Glastonbury for me, on the Thursday afternoon. I was dragged along to see Boy George of all artists the night before, which was actually quite a fun flashback to the 80s, but not exactly what I’m hoping for at a rock festival.

I did see the band on before them at the Queens Head, who were good enough but nothing special. Alex, Kevin and Sam brought waay more energy to the stage, and indeed a fair crowd. Since the gig, I’ve been hearing their Come Back Homeconstantly on Xfm. Maybe they had just escaped my attention. Hence the title, Glastonbury Revelations. Can’t keep up with the kids these days, no doubt I well behind the times, so these are the bands that were great new discoveries for me.

As befits their name, their music videos are quite good to. On the video for Come Back Home, I’m particularly fond of the transition using masks and a split screen at around 0:54. Check it out at http://www.myspace.com/twodoorcinemaclub.

Volunteering for Shelter at Glastonbury

Happy Anniversary, Glastonbury

Happy Anniversary, Glastonbury

Volunteering for Shelter at Glastonbury was a lot of fun. Hard on the feet and earned one quite impressive blister, but the crowd was incredibly friendly and chatty and the eight hour shifts didn’t seem that long at all. Although it’s been a long time since I’ve done shift work – I’d forgotten how the final minutes really drag out if you’re not busy. Bar staff of the world, I salute you. Read more

Wacky Races for real!!

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(something has gone awry with the links behind the top level images on the blog. Will be fixed later today.)

A friend of mine won tickets to the Goodwood Festival of Speed, a car event. Yes, environment fans, it was everything you would expect.

Read more

Gerrymandering is a Boundaries Commission issue

There’s been a few accusations of the proposed electoral reforms as being blatant gerrymandering. To be fair to Labour, the government has announced (subject to referendum) that it will make large scale changes to the electoral map. Gerrymandering should always be considered a valid concern. I would expect no less of an opposition party, or indeed any member of the public who has absolutely no reason to view politicians as a trust worthy bunch.

Supporters of electoral reform can quite rightly point out that changing the size and boundaries of the constituencies so that everyone’s vote carries equal weight is not gerrymandering but the precise opposite. It is widely acknowledged the current setup favours Labour, and fighting to keep an unfair system is no different to shifting boundaries to create one. What has been proposed is an improved definition of fair boundaries, not the bizarre salamander-shaped boundaries that gave rise to the word gerrymandering in the first place.

Good points on both sides, then. The real issue then is whether any new boundaries will be indeed be fair. In practice this means asking whether we can trust the people who draw them to carry out their job honourably. In particular, do they avoid taking voting patterns into account when drawing up boundaries? This process is not the responsibility of either of the coalition parties but the Boundaries Commission. Rather than just claim that a Coalition change to the boundaries would be perfectly fair – I don’t think that passes the laugh test – I think more pointed questions are in order.

Labour was quite happy to trust the work of the Boundaries Commission when they were in power. For instance, in 2005 when they won a majority government with a smaller percentage of the vote than gave the Tories a chance at only a minority administration this past May.

Why are they now accusing the Commission of blatant anti-Labour bias? What are their proposed changes to ensure the Commission avoids this bias in future?