Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Surprise! E-voting doesn't boost turnout

"There seems to be no evidence that e-voting increases participation in elections.

"The experience of pilots to date suggests that those who vote by internet would have voted by more traditional methods in any event, in the absence of any e-voting option." —BBC political research editor David Cowling (via Open Rights Group)

Monday, July 30, 2007

OSCE launches Internet governance report

"The Internet is an additional — and in some regions the only — source for media pluralism. Internet governance is not only about technical standards or the Domain Name System. It also has commercial, cultural and social implications, concerning issues like the free flow of information, the fight against intolerance, and freedom of the online media.

"Involving all of society's actors is a difficult task and there is no ready-made approach suiting all OSCE countries. These case studies highlight good practices, but also show where there is room for improvement." —OSCE Freedom of the Media Representative Miklós Haraszti, launching a new report studying Internet governance across the OSCE

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Beware of Mr Brown. He's after your rights

"It took a few years for Mrs Thatcher to become Thatcherite and for the character of Tony Blair's premiership to become settled and apparent. Brown could go either way. He may become a great Prime Minister or one who reflexively resorts to increasing state powers. It's too early to judge but I won't be surprised if in four or five years the crisis of liberty in this country is much graver than it is today. As things stand, we are leading Western democracies into an authoritarian world of arbitrary state powers and total surveillance of people's movements and personal lives." —Henry Porter

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A bonanza of fakery

"If the horror of the Iraq adventure is an extreme example of where blind faith can take you, then here's to mendacious telly bods for ushering in a new cynicism. Admittedly, it's been an accidental sort of public service broadcasting." —Marina Hyde

Blah blah cannabis blah blah blah

"Craziest of all is the fantasy that reclassifying cannabis will stop six million people smoking it, and so eradicate those 800 extra cases of psychosis. If anything, for all drugs, increased prohibition may create market conditions where more concentrated and dangerous forms are more commercially viable. We’re talking about communities, and markets, with people in them, after all: not molecules and neuroreceptors." —Ben Goldacre

Friday, July 27, 2007

Cameron's great mistake is copying Blair's vulgar junta

"There was everything for an honourable Tory to dislike about the Blair junta — the meretricious vulgarity, the intellectual dishonesty, the cheap demagoguery, the sheer deadly emptiness at the heart of New Labour. Anyone who thinks those words exaggerated will find them amply confirmed by reading incomparably the most damaging book ever published about Blair, which is Campbell's diaries. Cameron could do worse than study what Catherine Bennett has rightly called that monumentally lowering book, and say to himself and his colleagues: this is everything we must not be." —Geoffrey Wheatcroft: "

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Ethical shopping is just another way of showing how rich you are

"Challenge the new green consumerism and you become a prig and a party pooper, the spectre at the feast. Against the shiny new world of organic aspirations you are forced to raise drab and boringly equitable restraints: carbon rationing, contraction and convergence, tougher building regulations, coach lanes on motorways. No colour supplement will carry an article about that. No rock star could live comfortably within his carbon ration." —George Monbiot

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Updating European privacy law

Interesting new communication from the European Data Protection Supervisor on the Commission's review of the European privacy framework. Looking ahead, Mr Hustinx thinks the following issues need attention:

  • "Interaction with technology, where specific Article 29 Working Party guidance may need to be complemented by sector specific laws, for instance on RFID technology. Issues linked to interoperability, wider use of biometric data, etc. will also need to be addressed.

  • "Global privacy and jurisdiction, an area where the EDPS has urged the Commission to invest, notably in finding practical solutions that reconcile the need for protection of Europeans in a networked society with personal data processed also outside of the EU.

  • "The increasing interest from authorities combating crime and terrorism for personal data originally processed for commercial purposes."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sex, Crime And Videogames

This story has everything an Interweb 2.0 obsessive could ask for: MMORPGs, social networks and password death threats (via BoingBoing):

An armed gang of four kidnapped one of the world's top RPG gamers after one criminal's girlfriend lured him into a fake date using Orkut, Google's social network. After sequestering him in Sao Paulo, they held a gun against the victim's head for five hours to get his password, which they wanted to sell for $8,000.

The Simpsons go to Paris

Marge, Homer and Karl Lagerfeld

Monday, July 23, 2007

Microsoft's mixed messages on search privacy

Microsoft is giving out some mixed messages on search privacy. Brendon Lynch, MS director of privacy strategy, told The Guardian:

'We have got to have a cross-industry dialogue on this privacy issue. We believe that, ultimately, consumers will benefit from one common standard as it will bring more certainty than the current patchwork of policies. What's really different with our offering is what we mean by 'anonymisation'. Anonymous should mean anonymous.'

Indeed — and achieving that is more difficult than many companies first realise, given the amount of identifying information included in search terms. But why shouldn't companies compete on their privacy strategies? And why is Microsoft following Google's lead in storing identifiable search terms for 18 months?

This particular expression of Microsoft concern over privacy seems prompted by their imminent launch of third-party behavioural ad targeting, which will give advertisers access to information about their search users.

Don't blame drinkers - it's the problem drinks

"I think the problem is what we drink. A pint of real ale costs just £1.99 in a Samuel Smith's pub in central London, but there's about as much chance of seeing a fight there as at a Jehovah's Witnesses gathering…

"However, there are problem drinks that deserve close scrutiny. The super-strength lager known as 'wife-beater', alcopops, sugary sweet to make them more palatable to the kids, and brain-rotting cheap vodka; they are all draughts favoured by the trouble-makers — the under-agers, the abusive alcoholics, the fist-flying yobs.

"Stereotyping drinkers as homogenous is a form of prejudice tantamount to alcophobia: punitive taxes should target the problem drinkers through the problem drinks. Why should the peaceful majority of the drinking community suffer because of a few extremists?" —Ed West.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Be sick in your own time

I like the way that the CBI has managed to spin a
demand that employees visit GPs out of working hours into an appearance of concern for their staff:

"'Businesses need a healthy workforce, but not one stuck in doctors' surgeries during the middle of the day. It's frustrating for firms and for hard-working people who would rather be getting on with their jobs, not trapped in waiting rooms."

Cabinet guffaws at the law

"When the gambling laws were liberalised and off-course betting permitted in the 1960s, moral conservatives were appalled at such sin being sold in every high street. Yet betting shops, regulated to prevent advertising and exclude minors, wiped out a chunk of criminal activity. Likewise legalising drug outlets and treatment centres is the only way to regulate and thus try to limit drug use and reduce its penumbra of massive criminality." —Simon Jenkins

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The bug auctioneer

Got a bug you want to sell? WabiSabiLabi to the rescue:

A bug-hunter can use this marketplace in one of three ways. He can offer his discovery in a straightforward auction, with the highest bidder getting exclusive rights. He can sell the bug at a fixed price to as many buyers as want it. Or he can try to sell the bug at a fixed price exclusively to one company, without going through an auction.

Ban my books, please!

The Battle for God"I arrived in Kuala Lumpur to find that the Malaysian government had banned three of my books as 'incompatible with peace and social harmony'. This was surprising because the government had invited me to Malaysia, and sponsored two of my public lectures. Their position was absurd, because it is impossible to exert this type of censorship in the electronic age. In fact, my books seemed so popular in Malaysia that I found myself wondering if the veto was part of a Machiavellian plot to entice the public to read them." —Karen Armstrong

Friday, July 20, 2007

Are we a free country any more?

"It is this extension of state control through the unfettered and unthinking deployment of modern surveillance technology and databases for which the Blair years (and those of his successor, unless he does something dramatic to change course) will most be remembered. Our children, and theirs, will be perplexed as to why their forebears came so easily, and with so little public debate, to allow the State to manipulate their lives." —Philip Johnston

Consent is the signal of good research governance

Thanks to an Oxford colleague who sent me another fascinating piece of research on patient attitudes to research governance. Public Perspectives on the Governance of Biomedical Research: A qualitative study in a deliberative context, commissioned by the Wellcome Trust in 2006, has some strong conclusions on the necessity of explicit consent (pp.5—7):

The key way in which the adequacy of research governance was signalled was through the process of providing consent. The ways in which personal data were handled, the care that was afforded to guarantees of anonymisation, the handling of sensitive material and the security of databases, were also diagnostic of whether research governance was working well and could be trusted. Of least importance were the models of governance themselves. Which structures of governance were in place made little difference to participants’ willingness to participate in biomedical research. They played a limited role in participants’ constructions of what constituted ‘proof’ that governance was working or in providing reassurance in the face of concern. It was rather the outward manifestation via material ‘proofs’, such as seeking explicit consent, for example, that signalled that governance was working…

[R]ights over personal information with regard to issues of consent are invariably viewed as related; it is not enough to identify what personal data means but rather what people decide they will or will not allow with regard to that information. Strongly related to this are concerns about the use, storage, access, and protection of personal data via different types of databases. Discussions invariably alluded to a combination of these topics whereby one would impinge on the other. For example, a discussion about sensitive personal information would also bring in issues about storage or third-party access. Personal information is subsequently linked to the topic models of governance because the handling and protection of this information are the outward signals that mechanisms are functioning, thereby offering the necessary assurances…

There was strong agreement across all the groups that explicitly being asked for their consent to take part in biomedical research was a good thing. Even those that were very positive about taking part in biomedical research, and would readily give consent, stressed the importance of the consent-seeking process. There was some variation in how stringent the consent requirements were for different types of research: the most minimal consent procedures were required for routine compilation and analysis of statistics.

Implied consent was not welcomed as a model of the consent process. Implied consent was equated to no consent.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Public demands consent for patient record use

We hear over and over again from the Department of Health and various medical research bodies that concerns over patient privacy are overblown, and that the public interest in research using patient records outweighs the requirement for privacy and consent.

These statements have just been dealt a dramatic blow by a large-scale qualitative and quantitative study commissioned by the Medical Research Council from Mori. Their key conclusion (p.9):

Results indicate that a majority of the general public feels that consent should always be sought. When given a variety of scenarios in which consent might not be essential, no more than a third of the public agrees with them. In Ipsos MORI’s experience, this is quite low. Indeed just over one in five (21%) does not find any of the scenarios acceptable. The public is most likely to say consent is not important when the information is ‘not generally regarded as being sensitive’ (35%). This is closely followed by when consent has already been given for use in a previous project (29%). These are two situations that also came out in the qualitative work as times when some (but not all) participants feel that consent is not always essential.

Lords approve ContactPoint regulations

Yesterday saw a spirited debate in the Lords on the Statutory Instrument that will allow the government to build a database on all 11 million children in the country. While the regulations passed, the government's plans were roundly condemned by a number of peers, including Lord Armstrong:

I had the impression that those who came to give evidence to us were so steeped in—I might almost say dazzled by—the beauty and complexity of the universal database of children which they sought to create that they were losing sight of whether the universality of the scheme was proportionate to the needs of the children whom it was intended to benefit, and to the costs and risks inherent in it. For the sake of catching as quickly as possible the 3.5 million to 5 million children who may be in need of specialist and targeted services, they will include in the database 5 million to 7.5 million children who have no such need.

The sheer size of the database, and the large number of practitioners who will have access to it, will maximise the costs and the potential risks of breaches of security which could be damaging to children as well as to the scheme, and the threat to privacy not only of the children who need the additional services, but also of those who do not. It is all in a good cause, no doubt, but I think that it is fair to say that the members of the committee were not convinced whether we really needed this universal sledgehammer to crack this partial, even if sizeable, nut.

The government has wasted no time in awarding CapGemini the £40m contract to build the database (thanks, Ross and Terri!)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Caught on camera – and found on Facebook

It seems that UK universities are catching up with their US counterparts in using Facebook to police student activities. Oxford University is fining students who upload photos of post-exam celebrations that break university rules.

Sadly, this current "Facebook generation" will continue to be haunted by indiscreet social networking site profiles when applying for jobs, and later in going into public life. Hopefully their younger siblings will be more careful with their privacy as they grow up.

Lords attack ContactPoint

In their extremely polite way, the House of Lords Committee on the Merits of Statutory Instruments has published a strong attack on the ContactPoint secondary legislation:

We are in no doubt about the importance of these Regulations. They set out the details of the "ContactPoint" database which will hold basic identifying information on all 11 million children in England under the age of 18, and which will be accessible to over 300,000 users. The Government have shown a thoroughgoing commitment to preparing for the national operation of the scheme, through large-scale expenditure and wide-ranging engagement with all interested parties. However, the Government have not in our view conclusively demonstrated that a universal database is a proportionate response to the problem being addressed. While the Government have taken the need for security seriously, the scale and importance of the scheme increase the risk that any accidental or inadvertent breach of security, or any deliberate misuse of the data, would be likely to bring the whole scheme into disrepute.

Remember that if a system invading people's privacy is not "proportionate," it is illegal under the European Convention on Human Rights.

US loses 1.3m medical records

Now, why was it I opted out of the NHS centralised patient record database again?

The disappearance of one external hard drive — the sort one can buy in PC World for about £100 — contained 1.3 million sensitive medical records.

In England a loss on this scale could not happen with a breach of security at a GP practice. But the NPfIT's Care Records Service is due to store 50 million patient records.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Very few causes are worth dying for

"Like being shot by a sniper on the western front at 10.59am on November 11, 1918, to die now as a British soldier in Iraq is its own special category of tragedy. What has he died for? Is Iraq a safer and more secure place? Is the rest of the world, including Britain, likewise? Is the Middle East more democratic, more optimistic of its future? But adjust these lofty aims: is the price of oil lower? The answer is not just that these things have stayed much the same; it is in all cases the incendiary opposite. Worse than all this futility, worse even than the bogus prospectus for the invasion that took him there in the first place, the dead soldier will know in the last days of his life that only a small number of his fellow citizens want him and his comrades to be there, and that his government, with what on the hottest Basra day must seem like glacial slowness, is trying to get him out." —Ian Jack

Men on the verge of a nervous breakdown

"This is not The West Wing. It is Number 10, in Campbell's own words, as 'Peyton fucking Place'. The cumulative portrait of the Blair government is deeply unflattering. You never get much sense that there was any strategic purpose. In so much as policy is mentioned at all, it is in the background of a stage dominated by the feuds and angsts of the personalities." —Andrew Rawnsley

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Apple takes care of the recording industry

"Here at Apple we're defining a new role for ourselves in this whole dismal story. We're positioning ourselves as a caring nurturer, part shrink and part hospice worker, making these old thieves comfortable during their final days. It's sort of like working in the nursing home where Uncle Junior lives. It's hard because you know you're dealing with evil human beings but you also know that the best thing to do is just to keep them happy and quiet. So you give them their morphine and change their bed pans and tell them how important they still are. Every so often, to humor them, you have a 'meeting' and pretend to 'negotiate' something, but mostly you just smile while you wait for them to die. And maybe once in while when no one is looking you put a pillow over someone's face." —Fake Steve Jobs

The Alistair Campbell Diaries

"This is a boastful tale whose subtext is moral disintegration: a story of private wobbles, minor disasters and small triumphs, travelling a road towards who knows where (Campbell has long forgotten) but always at his master’s side. If Bill Sikes’s bull terrier had written an autobiography it would read like this: a snarling, compelling, gut-wrenching splicing of loyalty with faithlessness." —Matthew Parris

"Flaubert warned us that by dint of railing at idiots, one risks becoming idiotic oneself. But Campbell has never been shy of taking that risk. Throughout the book he employs the same manly phrases to praise the few people he likes: Glenn Hoddle is 'a decent bloke', Prince Charles 'a fairly decent bloke', Robert Janvin, the Queen's secretary, 'a thoroughly decent bloke. Geoff Hoon is not only 'pretty much a total Blairite' but also 'a decent bloke'. The MP Bruce Grocott is 'always so supportive of me,' and, by chance, 'such a lovely bloke'. But most people Campbell meets come in for some pretty vigorous towel-snapping. Mo Mowlam is 'unbelievably up herself'. Martin Sixsmith is 'a twat'. Adam Boulton is at one moment 'total scum', then later born again as 'a total cunt'. Clare Short turns his stomach. Worse, she cannot 'recalibrate to circumstances'. Bernard Ingham is 'a silly old fucker', Roy Hattersley 'a fat pompous bugger', Matthew Parris 'a little shit', Simon Jenkins 'a total wanker', while George Robertson has 'a real problem on the blather front'." —David Hare

Don't flatter terrorists with po-faced hush

"Why do wannabe terrorists bother scrambling on their tummies under all those rope nets in the shadow of the Hindu Kush? No disrespect, but all their eventual mission will involve is setting fire to their trainers in an aisle seat once the captain has switched the seatbelts sign off and the crew have commenced their in-flight service. Seems an awful waste of a fortnight in Pakistan to have spent it practising for some Junior Action Man contest that will never happen. The 72 virgins are guaranteed. You don't need to get all buff to attract them." —Marina Hyde

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Music industry finally figures out iTunes

"The guys running the labels are pretty stupid — most are just dirtbags who started out as band managers or promoters — but now at long last they are kinda sorta finally vaguely getting clued in to the fact that both parts of their business model are fucked. Their loan-sharking business is being eliminated by low-cost digital recording technology that lets people make an album for very little money. And by letting us build the online music store they've taken themselves out of the distribution business. In the days of vinyl and then CDs, the labels managed to control the value chain by having loads of retailers in a highly fragmented market, and playing them off each other. In the digital world they've got us. And that's it." —Fake Steve Jobs

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

LSE launches constitutional reform programme

Jack StrawNext Wednesday afternoon my good friend Simon Davies will be launching an exciting new programme on constitutional reform at the London School of Economics.

The launch features a spectacular selection of speakers, including the Lord Chancellor and Conservative and Lib Dem front-bench spokesmen. The full announcement is below. If you would like to attend, you can RSVP to s.g.davies@lse.ac.uk

In what will be his first major speech since taking on leadership of constitutional reform, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Jack Straw, will deliver a keynote address at the London School of Economics on July 18th.

Mr Straw will be speaking at the launch of the LSE’s ‘Future Britain’ project, a two-year initiative funded through the school to explore the best and most appropriate processes for constitutional reform in the UK. This important LSE initiative will play a key role in the crucial first stage of reform by reaching out across the country and across the world to find the constitutional approach that best suits the UK. It will then work closely with all political parties and stakeholders to help guide longer-term evolution of reform.

The all-party launch will also hear addresses from the Minister with responsibility for constitutional renewal, Michael Wills, Shadow Attorney General Dominic Grieve, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman Nick Clegg and the Hon Justice Robert Sharpe of the Ontario Court of Appeal,

The launch will also hear from many of the key organisations that have been working to create the basis for constitutional reform. These include Roger Smith, director of JUSTICE, Professor Robert Hazell, director of the UCL Constitution Unit, Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty and Peter Facey, director of Unlock Democracy (formerly Charter 88).

The Director of Future Britain, Simon Davies, commented: “This is a crucial moment for constitutional reform in Britain. All parties seem willing to go the extra mile to improve the governance of the UK. We are hopeful that the launch of Future Britain will be an opportunity for all the key players to demonstrate their willingness to work cooperatively to achieve meaningful and celebrated reform”.

Don’t waste public money on sport

"When all long-term costs are taken into consideration, the financial benefit to the Treasury of increased participation is far less than is claimed in the platitudes that pass for argument in sporting circles. So in such circumstances public expenditure could only be justified on financial grounds if there were a direct and powerful impact upon participation. And this is in the context of sporting administrators splurging billions over the past decade without generating a single extra participant." —Matthew Syed

Bush's poodle was also Campbell's labrador

"Blair should have seen the damage that Campbell's ubiquity and management style were doing to the workings of his government. How could there be open cabinet discussion when the prime minister's henchman was in the room jotting down every word of dissent, with added bile, for leaking to the press if need be? It made ministers unwilling to take risks, for fear of what the press, and Campbell, might say on the morrow. It fed the publicity machine with cod statistics while turning every internal debate into a flaming row. It snapped the links between policy and delivery and left Blair after 2003 miserable and floundering." —Simon Jenkins

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ali C's "thuggish" diaries

Alastair Campbell"Above all, there's the sense, which leaps from every page of the diaries, of government as one continuous mistake: a frenetic, shambolic, unplannable, thrown-together-at-the-last-minute botch job." —Oliver Burkeman

Monday, July 09, 2007

Bush justice is a national disgrace

"In the course of its tenure since the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has turned the entire government (and the DOJ in particular) into a veritable Augean stable on issues such as civil rights, civil liberties, international law and basic human rights, as well as criminal prosecution and federal employment and contracting practices. It has systematically undermined the rule of law in the name of fighting terrorism, and it has sought to insulate its actions from legislative or judicial scrutiny and accountability by invoking national security at every turn, engaging in persistent fearmongering, routinely impugning the integrity and/or patriotism of its critics, and protecting its own lawbreakers. This is neither normal government conduct nor 'politics as usual,' but a national disgrace of a magnitude unseen since the days of Watergate — which, in fact, I believe it eclipses." —US Attorney John S. Koppel (via Andrew Sullivan)

A force for evil?

"Everything human has its lunatic fringe, and we could dismiss those who kill for their superstitions as such if they were such. But the truth is that religion itself is the lunatic fringe of human thought, and that is why we see scores or hundreds murdered daily for sectarian reasons, infantile mobs yelling in the streets of Pakistan over a book they have not read, religious organisations tearing themselves apart because of their ancient prejudices against homosexuals (as if there were not genuine problems in the world to be exercised about), and much, much more besides that is puerile, nauseating or plain dangerous." —A.C. Grayling

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Tap, tap, tap to wear down the terrorists

"Blair's willingness to dispense with basic rights was not just wrong and unnecessary; it was counterproductive, because fighting terrorism requires not only neutralising the terrorist suspects we know about but also discovering those suspects we don't know about and deterring others from joining them. The government acknowledged as much when it made preventing 'radicalisation and recruitment' central to its counterterrorism strategy. But that requires maintaining the moral high ground." —Kenneth Roth

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Evil plotters? More like sad and crackpot

"Something is changing in the public mood, and I think it’s this: terrorism is beginning to look a bit stupid. Those pictures of that idiotic and slightly overweight fellow with his clothes burnt off looked pathetic, undignified. It has occurred to even the meanest of intellects that concrete doesn’t burn.

"And it isn’t just the technical competence of alleged British terrorists that people are beginning to doubt: it’s the whole jihadist idea. What world are they aiming for? Most British Muslims, just like most British everyone-else, think it’s all pie in the sky: all rather silly." —Matthew Parris

A president transformed

"I thoroughly approve of the president's change of heart towards convicted criminals, and hope it will continue until his term of office expires — and that in the future we shall witness increasing moderation in the justice department's insatiable urge to punish, imprison and execute.

"And I sincerely hope that the commutation of Libby's prison sentence will usher in a new era of clemency, compassion and human forgiveness, under a president who otherwise has so much blood on his hands." —Terry Jones

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The terror clowns

"If these guys at the weekend really were anything to do with al-Qaeda, all one can really say is that it looks as though the War on Terror is won. This whole hoo-ha kicked off, remember, with 9/11: an extremely effective attack. Then we had the Bali and Madrid bombings, not by any measure as shocking and bloody but still nasty stuff. Then we had London 7/7, a further significant drop in bodycount but still competently planned and executed (Not too many groups would have been able to mix up that much peroxide-based explosive first try without an own goal).

"Now we have this; one terror-clown badly burnt and nobody else hurt at all. An event about as significant as the teenagers burning cars down my way — and don't I wish those little sods got as much police attention and jail time. The jihadi threat has seemingly sunk to animal-lib levels." —Lewis Page


Less hysteria, more punching: the perfect prescription for the "war" on terror.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Conservative leader backs copyright term extension

It seems that David Cameron wishes to cement Gordon Brown's reputation for good economic sense, and the Tories' record of supporting big business against consumers (via Open Rights Group).

In a speech today to an industry lobby group, Cameron suggested transferring £3.3bn from consumers to record company shareholders over the next 50 years by extending the term of copyright. He also said that Internet Service Providers should be forced to block access to filesharing sites. How quickly technology introduced in an attempt to block access to child pornography is repurposed…

Govt ignores lessons of e-voting trials

Despite the car-crash that was the e-voting trials in the May elections, the government is to push ahead with electronic voting (via Open Rights Group):

"150. The Government has extended the use of postal voting with appropriate safeguards and continues to pilot a range of measures to make voting more convenient. As part of the electoral modernisation programme the Government has piloted advance voting at the weekend. However, under current legislation advance voting can only be in addition to the normal polling day. In the longer term, the Government is investigating the potential benefits of remote electronic voting (using the internet and telephone systems), taking advantage of developing communications technologies to provide increased flexibility and choice in the way people vote."

Isn't making the same mistake twice the definition of stupidity?

We are offering the terrorist a megaphone for his cause

"Omigod! Now they are doctors! Wake the prime minister, round up the Arabs and order armoured helicopters. Stop the presses and clear the schedules. The fiends from outer Asia are cunning. They could be poisoning hospital drips. They could be lacing paracetamol and putting anthrax in Elastoplast. Declare another bomb 'imminent'. Surround Heathrow with tanks, fortify Wimbledon, put blast blocks round Waterloo and ack-ack guns on Parliament Hill. Raise the threat level from critical to panic. On second thoughts make that totally hysterical." —Simon Jenkins

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Books of Albion by Pete Doherty

"I feel something profound is going on. Am I too good for this world? How long must my genius be tortured? How much more of my self-indulgent junkie whinings can anyone take? A fair bit, it seems." —Pete Doherty, as told by John Crace

The Paris Hilton school of privacy

"It is a paradox to me that while greybeards are taking court cases to protect the right to disguise who is driving their car when it is captured speeding, or expending many column inches on paranoid fantasies about being spied on by the State through road pricing and CCTV, their kids are voluntarily surrendering some of the most valuable psychological rights that they possess." —David Aaronovitch

Monday, July 02, 2007

Take our self-regulation survey!

I'm working with some colleagues at RAND Europe on a report for the European Commission on self- and co-regulation online. If you have experience with self- and co-regulatory bodies such as the Internet Watch Foundation, please let us know the good and bad aspects of your experience by taking our web survey.

Music2.0 and the Future of Music

"2006: the losers built digital music stores, and the winners built vibrant communities based on music. The losers built walled gardens while the winners built public squares. The losers were busy guarding their intellectual property while the winners were busy getting everyone’s attention. Warner Music Group’s stock nose-dived from $30 to $14 in less than one year; Google rose from $323 to $526, Apple went from $50 to $127.

"For the independent music industry, the question is: which side do you want to be on? Do you want to become another ‘major player’, and stay stuck in music1.0, or do you want to lead the way into music2.0?" —Gerd Leonhard

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The forgotten lessons of Afghanistan

"Afghanistan has a fatal attraction for the imperialist default mode in London foreign policy. It will doubtless work its magic on Brown and Miliband. Already the largest British embassy anywhere is being built in Kabul, like the American one in Baghdad. Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, the new ambassador, said last month that 'we are going to win this…but it’s not a three-year sprint, it’s a 30-year marathon'. He sounded like a Victorian governor of the Punjab. A Russian who witnessed his own country’s occupation of Afghanistan told me incredulously: 'I can hardly believe that you are making every single one of our mistakes.' Cowper-Coles seems to think he can hold Afghanistan for 30 years with 30,000 mostly reluctant Nato troops. What century do these people inhabit?" —Simon Jenkins