England, as opposed to Britain, has an unfortunate history around the world and within the British Isles and please do not say that it is all past.
It is a fact that the right and extreme right in Britain cloak themselves in the English flag, the cross of St.George and claim to be the true representatives of the English.
Wherever there is hooligan behaviour, usually linked to extreme right-wing political groups e.g. at football matches here and abroad, it is the flag of St.George that is displayed and that, I would imagine, is the reason why the MP referred to this type of 'Englishness' as a threat to democracy.However in a bid to be slightly balanced WRT the labour party it has to be said that that response was kicked off by a rather more intelligent essay by Labour MP Gisela Stuart, which was mostly about our EU elites, where she said:
Yet it has only been in the last five years or so that I have heard people in my constituency telling me, “I am not British – I am English”. That worries me. British identity is based on and anchored in its political and legal institutions and this enables it to take in new entrants more easily than it would be if being a member of a nation were to be defined by blood. But a democratic polity will only work if citizens’ identification is with the community as a whole, or at least with the shared process, which overrides their loyalty to a segment.That comment also sparked a debate in the Birmingham Post, including a clarification by Mrs Stuart, all of which was reported at the CEP and the England Project and was far better than the usual discussion. Moving a tad further north we had the new Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, making some sound comments about the English. It ought to be a cause for concern that the only public figures who seem to be able to make intelligent comments and get quoted in the "Establishment Media" seem to be immigrants (from Germany and Uganda respectively and note that intelligent need not imply agreement).
But the DVLA wouldn’t deal with such people, would it? Yep. It does. It has been forced to hand over its list of the 157 companies registered to buy personal information about drivers — the list includes bailiffs, debt collection agencies and financial services companies. DVLA bleats that it is obliged — under an undebated Statutory Instrument of 2002 — to sell the information to anyone with “reasonable cause”. Well, almost anyone can claim that a car might park in their space. Thus a credit company, which bombards us all with mailshots offering loans, is on the list because it’s got a company car park. Nor does DVLA check that it is not selling the list to people with criminal records: it deals with Aquarius Security — clampers whose management were found guilty of blackmail at Bristol Crown Court and given prison sentences. One of them was already on an ASBO after being accused of driving his truck into a 60-year-old man, breaking his knee. They clamped one young woman’s car in the middle of a three-point turn. But the DVLA saw nothing wrong in selling that company addresses for £2.50 each so that they could find other citizens to harass.
Other people who can get your address just by noting down your registration number include a car park management company, which without issuing tickets or reproofs sends bills for £170 to people it has secretly photographed overstaying the free limit in supermarket car parks, and another which notoriously forced an Olympic athlete to pay £335 to retrieve a clamped car in Swindon.Also, on the subject of the law, there has been a lot of evidence recently of moonbattiness spreading amongst the various chief constables etc. of England who have become deeply political. One wonders whether this is because they are engaged in a game of musical chairs to see who will win in the amalgamation wars but it probably isn't as this powerpoint slide shown at The Policeman's Blog shows that the tendency is deeply embedded. Blues&Twos reports that Sir Ian Blair is on a plane of his own (and lacking a pilot) but we also have Mancunians trying to ban toy guns and Avon & Somerset police trying to recruit more minorities in an area where 99% of the population is pasty white.
The company's explanation is that their machines contain Microsoft software, which they have no right to make available to state election officials. This seems disingenuous, as it is hard to imagine Microsoft suing Diebold for complying with the law. It would hardly be Diebold's fault if it released MS code to a lawful authority on demand; that issue would be something for MS and North Carolina to work out.
One far-fetched explanation would be that MS has licensed its software to Diebold with a provision that the company withdraw from jurisdictions where the law requires the release of its source code. It's possible, but there's no reason to believe it.
A considerably more plausible explanation is that Diebold is using this non-problem as an excuse to keep its bugware from the prying eyes of government regulators. And the most likely reason for that is that they've got a lot of blunders to hide. If North Carolina were to reject the machines on the basis of their software, other states would undoubtedly become suspicious, and begin doing their own investigations. So in that case, withdrawing from the market is the smartest move the company can make.As Instapundit pointed out ages ago there is a simple solution.
by Helen Cannam
SO the European Union is a "political project"? At least, that's the view of the people who oppose Wear Valley District Council's right to fly the EU flag outside the Civic Centre in Crook.
You'll have to excuse the cheap point, but somehow a local authority having an office in a place called Crook seems somewhat appropriate. Perhaps they could twin themselves with Corrèze, the home of l'Escroc... But moving on to matters of more substance, why the scare quotes around political project?
Well, yes, it probably is. In the same sort of way as the union of Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland is a "political project", if a rather older one.
They were both set up as a means of pooling the interests of a collection of disparate nations which (in spite of mutual suspicion and many causes of disagreement) yet had many things in common. They both involve sharing sovereignty in the interests of a greater good. They are both ways of giving a stronger voice to smaller nations than any of them would have on their own. And we are after all (like it or not) an integral part of both projects. Shouldn't we then be doing our best to make a success of them?
The union of Scotland, Wales etc. involved rather more than simple politics. In the case of both Ireland and Wales the union was established by means of an invading army. In the case of Scotland it involved England agreeing to bail out a bankrupt nation who shared the same head of state. Arguably that was a political project but the relations between England & Wales on the one hand and Scotland on the other between 1645 and 1745 or there abouts involved a lot of invasions, putting down of rebellions etc. etc. culminating in Culloden. You might stretch a point and call it a sharing of sovereignty but it was not a way to give a voice to weaker nations it was a way for a stronger nation (England) to impose its will on the others. It may well be true that England benefitted from its conquest of the rest and certainly the British Empire that sprang from the union featured numerous Scots, Welsh and Irish but up until the advent of the Blair government in the 1990s neither Scotland nor Wales could claim much independance or influence within the UK.
There's a lot wrong with the way the EU's run. Even the most passionate European would have to admit that. But in my view that's a reason for reforming it and making it work better, rather than turning up our noses and saying we'll have nothing to do with it.
And this has precisely what to do with the flying of the EU flag? The UK (and hence England and hence perforce Wear Valley District Council) are members of the UN, NATO and half a dozen other international organizations so should WVDC also fly the NATO, UN etc. flags as well? Some of them are run better than the EU (e.g. NATO) others are run worse (e.g. the UN), I could draw a lesson from which are well run and which aren't but that is a rant for another day. Suffice it to say that their administration is not a factor in the reason why WVDC chooses not to fly their flags.
Many years ago we spent a family holiday in a cottage in a village in Alsace in north-east France. The lady who owned the house had lived in that pretty village all her life. When she was born, it was in France. In her girlhood, it was annexed by Germany. Suddenly, they were all made to speak German, to behave as if they'd never been French. Then the war ended and the village became French again.
That lady was the most passionate pro-European I've ever come across. She'd had more than enough of war, of disputes about what land belonged to whom. She just wanted to be allowed to live her life in peace. It was there, in that region of ever-changing borders, that the whole European project made real sense.
It is unclear to me why decisions about a border between France and Germany should have any bearing on the welfare on the rest of us. Furthermore the fact that there has been no war between the two for the last 60 years and that during most of that time the EU has been either non-existent or a predecessor body like the EEC indicates that the "European project" does not in fact require us all to fly a flag. It is in fact a little hard to understand what advantages the EU (which needs reform and to be made to work better) has presented in terms of the prevention of Franco-Prussian War IV that a free trade area or UN peacekeepers might not have done. Although I guess there might be more corruption and more abuse of women and children with the UN approach.
We've lately been remembering the dead of two World Wars. We think of the waste of young lives, the terrible suffering, the cruel things that were done, in the names of other nations and (sometimes) of our own.
And most of these things happened in the heart of Europe between the nations of Europe.
Assuming you define Russia as Europe, ignore all the deaths in China, Indochina etc etc that is possibly true. But it is a bit of a stretch and includes fighting in countries which are not even to this day part of the EU. The EU, madam, is not in fact Europe and Europe is not a place which has a flag. It is true that many European nations wish to be part of the EU but by no means all do. Norway, for example, which was invaded by Germany in 1940 is not a member of the EU and shows no desire what so ever to become a member of it.
No European Project is going to wipe out all our differences. The French will always be French, the Germans, German. We will always be British; just as within the United Kingdom the Scots will always be Scottish, the Welsh, Welsh - and the people of the North-East, North-Easterners, shouting loudly for their region.
Didn't we forget a little layer of nationality between Britain and the North East? It's called ENGLAND and I reckon that if you did a survey of people in your neck of the woods you would find them describing themselves as English not North Easteners. They might call themselves Geordies or Northumbrians or something but that is not apparently one of the options on offer according to Ms Cannam.
But surely it's better that our representatives should sit round a table, however tediously, however unproductively, and try to solve our problems by talking, rather than shouting from the sidelines with a stockpile of weapons at their elbows? Surely in these days of a global economy, global terrorism, global warming, it's a good thing that we work together to give a stronger voice to our nations than we would ever have working alone?
Well if talking solves the problem that is good, but lets go back to the most recent Franco-Prussian war and see how "jaw jaw" did then. In the build up to it we had things like the "Munich Agreement" for "peace in our time", said peace utterly failing to stop a rather unpleasant dictator. In fact I have to say that the number of dictators who have been toppled by means of people sitting around a table is approximately zero. The number of terror campaigns that have been stopped by sitting around a table is also nearly zero - the Northern Irish "troubles" being the sole example I can think of and that not being stopped exclusively by the filling of bums on seats around a table. Furthermore the EU's "stronger voice" utterly failed to stop the dissolution of Yugoslavia and doesn't seem to be doing much to stop Iran developing nuclear weapons either.
So I like to see the EU flag flying from our flagpoles. It speaks to me of friendship, or working together, of trying to make a better world. We're nowhere near achieving it yet. But it's a hope worth striving for.
It may speak to you of motherhood and apple pie too for all I care. So what? The argument for flying the UN flag or the NATO flag would be identical. As it happens the EU, in addition to speaking "of friendship, or working together, of trying to make a better world", could also be said to speak of corruption, incompetence, bureaucratic micromanagement and so on. On the other hand given those latter feeling perhaps flying that flag in a place called Crook would be remarkably appropriate.
Europeanism is based on two assumptions:and
Nearly all European Leaders, whether left or right have accepted this argument.
- Nation states are a left over from the past, they have no future.
- The individual cannot be responsible for his own actions, he must be controlled from the centre.
The idea that opposition to the EU can only be from Nationalism is a cheap argument. It reminds me of Soviet era politicians who always tried to claim there was no alternative. The real alternative is friendly cooperation between states.Anyway to get on with the job of pointing out paragraph by paragraph where Mr Palmer is wrong
The level of public debate in Britain about the future of European integration, since the rejection of the European Union constitutional treaty in France and the Netherlands, has been abysmal. The main political parties ignore the issues raised by the de facto suspension of a treaty which all EU governments held to be essential for the governance of an ever-expanding European Union. Even “pro-European” politicians make no serious attempt to argue the case for strengthening the efficiency and the democratic accountability of the EU and its institutions – even as they prepare to negotiate the accession of more new member-states.
It is worth pointing out that the level of public debate in one of the nations which rejected said treaty (France) has been non-existent. The position of France subsequently can be summed up by Vile Pin & l'Escroc's statements that "CAP reform will only occur over their dead bodies" (whicn increases my desire for CAP reform dramatically :) ) and any debate has been effectively about whether Polish plumbers can be kicked out or not.
Gisela Stuart, the Labour member of parliament is to be congratulated, therefore, for engaging at a serious level – in her openDemocracy article “The body of democracy” – with the arguments about whether it is possible to build a serious transnational European democracy. As a former participant in the Convention on the Future of Europe she saw at close hand a fascinating attempt to create at least a building-block of a future European demos which engaged both European and national parliamentarians as well as EU governments and the European Commission in an extended debate about democracy and EU governance.
Omitted is the question of why we should have a "serious transnational European democracy". Mr Palmer seems to think that the benefits of this are self evident but I would think that it might be worth trotting out the Helen Cannam arguments about prvention of war even though they are readily debunked. Perhaps he is hoping we won't notice it if he doesn't call attention to it.
As a close observer of that process over many months I was struck by the extent to which national parliamentarians (from all the EU’s then fifteen member-states) developed a fuller and richer understanding of the need to strengthen European democracy at the supranational as well as the national level. Gisela’s own evolution has proved very different. The experience seems to have led her to conclude that any attempt to build a European Union democracy is misguided and doomed to failure. She cites with enthusiasm the conservative philosopher Roger Scruton who believes that the “nation”-state alone is capable of generating that sense of community without which no democratic polity can be built.
If the EU is not intended to morph into a genuine nation itself then it's proponants do a bad job of disguising that fact. Constitutions, flags, defence forces, not to mention common passports, driving licenses etc. make the EU look more and more like a nation than a federation of independant states. Indeed the fact the EU law is generally held to supercede national law looks remarkably similar to the way the federal US law supercedes state law in most cases.
This is an ominous conclusion, not just because European Union member-states have already agreed to pool sovereignty and take collective decisions in very important areas of policy (in some of them by forms of majority-vote decision). It also has implications for the future of the global system of governance.
The fact that the EU member states have agreed to pool sovereignty is precisely the reason that we are having this debate. The EU is taking on many of the trappings of a nation (see above) without this being approved by the inhabitants of its nations. The Dutch and French referenda showed clearly that the population is far from convinced that they will benefit in any way from this pooling of sovereignty. Surely a democratic body that its people disagree with should disband itself?
Are we really saying that it is inherently utopian to work to some appropriate form of supranational democratic accountability for the emerging global decision-making bodies? Do we, for example, really see a longer-term future for a strengthened United Nations without at least the foundations for a future global democratic assembly? We are – rightly – adding to the number of global governance institutions in an effort to manage globalisation. We may add more in future. Can this really be done while responsibility for democratic accountability rests with purely national parliaments?
Surely the real question is whether the world wants supranational global decision-making bodies at all, not how responsive they should be to individuals. To be honest many of them seem to turn into giant sinks of bureaucratic unaccountability and corruption, which seem to try and spread their reach further and further without consideration of whether they are wanted or not. Why, other than to provide jobs for the boys, should we be increasing the number of global governance institutions? Globalization could be managed, it seems to me, with at most the WTO, the BIS and perhaps the world bank. Most transnational bodies seem to be designed more to impede progress by means of bureaucratic red tape than anything else.
Gisela Stuart and those (on the left as well as the right) who think like her are investing a great deal indeed on their single wager for democracy – the “nation”-state. At this point readers will notice that by insisting on inverted commas around the word nation that I have some difficulty with this language. In truth Gisela Stuart also has her concerns, for she admits that she is worried by the number of United Kingdom citizens she meets who prefer to describe themselves as “English” rather than “British”. Could that have something to do with the fact that “nation” is not an unchanging phenomenon but something which is being constantly revised through history? Certainly the rise of an English national consciousness must have something to do with the increasingly self-confident assertion of their distinct national identity by our Scots and Welsh fellow-UK citizens.
Gisela et al are not investing a lot in something that is a high risk investment. The "nation"-state is the only successful body in the world today when it comes to democracy and for that matter for governance by non-democratic forms too. There is variety between nations; in addition to the democracy/tyranny divide, some nation-states are federal in various forms while others are effectively unitary nations, but entities that are not "nation"-states seem to be rather thin on the ground and to fail comparitively quickly. Perhaps the only non-nation state to exist today is the People's Republic of China but that is busy trying to turn itself into a genuine nation state and not an empire. It is true that the nation is not an unchanging thing but other than the USA 200 years ago the trend amongst nations seems to be to split rather than join - witness precisely the "English" vs "British" question. The fact that the EU seems to be alone in attempting to reverse this process seems to indicate its chances of success as a potential single entity.
In Europe today people feel themselves to possess multiple identities: local / regional / national / Europe, depending on the circumstances where the question of identity is posed. Only the other day (in London) I heard one person introduce himself to another by saying: “I am a Basque, a European and I hold a Spanish passport.” To which his new acquaintance replied: “Well, I am Welsh, a European and I hold a British passport.”
Odd circles you move in Mr Palmer. I rarely hear people introduce themselves while mentioning their passport and I don't think I've ever met anyone who said unprompted that they were "European".
Power and weakness
No one would deny that the cultural and public-awareness foundations for democratic politics at the European Union level are very fragile. On the other hand the scale of population movement for settlement between EU member-states is enormous and is steadily growing (I am told there are half a dozen Anglophone mayors of French communes).
One of the main streets in Nice is called the "Promenade des Anglais". Both Nice and nearby Menton have Russian Orthodox graves and churches. Cannes was chiefly developed by a Lord Brougham. All of these developments date from the 1800s. The "grand tour" is even older. The difference is that today more of us have the disposable income and the transportation to do the same.
Gisela Stuart is right to be worried about the weakness of democratic legitimacy at the European level. But is the picture so much better at national level – given falling voter turnout and rapidly declining party membership across the board? In all European countries, voters perceive parties to be capable of offering an ever more restricted political choice. Globalisation is indeed shrinking the space for national politics to offer real alternatives as it forces parties into an ever smaller and more overcrowded ideological telephone-box.
What forces parties into "an ever smaller and more overcrowded ideological telephone-box" is the fact that the more wacko policies have been tried and have generally failed. When you add the fact that the current political elites do their best to demonize those who propose alternative solutions - witness the reactions to the Vlams Blok and to Jor Haidar - it should not be a great surprise that politicians seem to be remarkably similar.
The low level of voter turnout in European parliament elections cannot be written off simply as a function of a low level of collective political awareness. It has much more to do with the fact that voters have come to realise that European parliament elections are simply not about enough. As Gisela Stuart points out, European votes – unlike other elections – do not elect an executive or government. In reality successive European parliament elections have been tired, low-key affairs where national parties have tried to fight over the warmed up leftovers from domestic elections (do I like or dislike the national government holding office at any given moment in my member-state?)
I fear Mr Palmer is getting the cart before the horse. The reason why we don't throng the poling booths for MEPs is because we can tell they are a waste of time, space and money. The fact that most of them seem to be total non-entities or national politicans who have fallen out of favour is surely an indication that the political elites also see Europe as less importsnt that national politics. Maybe Mr Palmer should consider that the fact that rulers and ruled unanimously treat the European Parliament as a sideshow might be a symptom of a lack of belief in the Euronation platitudes he and his transnational buddies are trying to peddle.
This is not what European elections should be about. They should be about the strategic choices about the future direction of the Union and its policies. Ironically, at the level of twenty-five EU member-states the potential space to explore alternatives is far greater than at the national level of even the larger individual countries.
To the extent that parties such as UKIP or the Vlaams Blok prosper in these elections I think that the European elections are about strategic choices. The problem for Mr Palmer is that the strategic choice preferred by the voters appears to be to move away from his supranational Euronation
This weakness was understood by the convention and – in a diluted form – provision was made to encourage the development of genuinely European political parties which would (in effect) be able in future to propose their candidates for the post of European Commission president in future. This would offer – for the first time – a way for voters to shape the political leadership of the EU executive (by electing the president of the commission.) I wish they had gone one step further and said that the proposed future president of the European Council should also be directly elected.
It may be that – with or without the proposed constitutional treaty – something like this will anyway come to pass when the next European parliament elections are held in 2009. Events are forcing the embryonic European parties to define themselves and their programmes ever more clearly. The appointment of the commission led by José Manuel Barroso has resulted in a clearly right-wing dominated executive and this is pushing the social democrats and other parties on the left to take their stand as the “opposition.”
The opposition of the left to Barroso and co is not as obvious as the opposition of the Eurosceptics who mostly seem to be on the "right" and who are frequently maligned as fascist.
The pretence that the commission is somehow “above politics” is being abandoned. This trend is revealed in a recent study from the London School of Economics which shows that voting divisions in the European parliament have become less and less defined by national differences and more and more by cross border party-political differences.
I was unaware that the comission had ever been "above politics".
Constitution and identity
Gisela Stuart may want to defend “neo-liberal economics” as an essential concomitant of her commitment to democracy, but in the argument over the future of the European economic and social model those demanding stronger, more integrated and more democratic Europe will be on both sides of that debate. She is right, however, to imply there is something unhealthy about the European parliament having a big role in decisions about how EU money is spent but no power to raise taxes. It would be far more transparent if EU revenue was raised not by the present, Byzantine system of national “contributions” but by a hypothecated tax which should be subject to open European parliamentary scrutiny and decision.
So, having stated earlier that nations are passé, Mr Palmer seems to now be doing his best to create a new nation by the back door. Mr Palmer seems to have missed something though. Given that I think it is 66% of the EU budget is spent on the CAP and that this money is effectively agreed on at intergovernmental meetings the idea that the European parliament has a big role in the spending of the budget is at odds with reality. If the European parliament were to somehow reject the current budgetary agreements and (say) refuse to disburse any CAP money until member nations had provided an audited accounting of the money disbursed over the last ten years then I would believe that the parliament had a big role in spending. Since the idea that MEPs would dare to tinker with the budget as agreed by Messrs Blair Chirac and co in their intergovernmental negotiation is laughable the entire thesis proposed is a joke. However I'm not against the idea of an EU tax, I think that the introduction of such a tax, assuming it were to be paid by the majority of EU citizens, would help raise demands to rid ourselves of this bureuacratic nonsense. Imagine a pan-European party running on a plank of cutting said hypothecated tax and cutting the Brussels Eurocracy commensurately.
What is worrying is that Gisela Stuart seems to think that the essential burden of ensuring that European governance should fall to national parliaments. It is vital that national parliaments make a much better fist of holding their own governments to account in the wider EU decision-making process. But the same member-state governments want many key decisions to be taken at EU level. Indeed Tony Blair and others are even now talking about the EU taking some further – largely undefined – responsibilities in the field of justice, security, energy and the creation of EU wide centres of higher-educational “excellence.” How much further does this process have to go before Gisela and others recognise that we refuse to demand a serious element of supranational democracy at our own peril?
No what is worrying is that Mr Palmer sees no alternative to a (supra)national EU. Politicans may try to propose additional EU competencies but I don't see a commensurate demand from voters. The problem is that no ever seems to propose less Eurocracy - or if they do they seem to get shouted down by the pigs desperate to keep their trough filled.
In the conclusion of her openDemocracy essay, Gisela Stuart says that the key question is who “we” are in the European Union. It is a mistake to imagine that until the peoples of Europe have a fully developed sense of their collective identity that we cannot build a democratic polity. As the architects of the American constitution recognised, a collective American identity did not create the constitution, rather the constitution generated a collective American identity. It will take time in Europe as well – but maybe much less: since we are not seeking to create a national identity, but a legitimate European democratic identity alongside all those other identities which define us in the modern world.
I think that drawing parallels between the nascent United States of 225 years ago and the EU nations today is rather a stretch. The American states had a clear external enemy (England and to a lesser extent other European powers), a clear benefit to stick together, a shared heritage (English) and their populations were miniscule. The total population of the USA in the first census of 1790 was estimated at under 4 million people (for comparison the population of England and Wales alone in 1801 was nearly nime million). Twentieth century attempts by the Soviets and by the Arabs to instill some sort of larger identity on their populations failed miserably. It is unclear to me why Mr Palmer thinks that the diverse nations of Europe, which mostly have centuries of history as separate nations, should somehow find a common European identity thanks to some hypothetical constitution. And given that the consitutution we were supposed to sign up to ended up having a table of contents half the length of the entire US constitution, it seems rather unlikely that it will inspire Europeans to anything other than a collective desire to somnolence amongst all who read it.
A woman faces a fine of £20,000 after coating her Grade II listed house with organic yoghurt on the orders of the local planning authority
Julie Waters, 41, stripped ivy from the house at Downton, Wiltshire, because it had damaged the pointing and was causing damp problems. She followed the local authority’s advice and had the building repointed with traditional lime mortar.
Shortly afterwards she received an enforcement notice that the work had been carried out without listed building consent. She was instructed to treat the new mortar to make it look weathered and was given the choice of soot, horse manure or plain — not fruit — yoghurt.Glad to see that the jobsworths down in Wiltshire have lots to do. It gets worse though:
Mrs Waters says she bought ten one-litre pots and paid her window cleaner to apply it to the house. But instead of encouraging lichen growth, it flaked off within days. She has now been summoned to appear before Salisbury magistrates on December 16 for “failing to comply” with an enforcement notice.So given a choice of soot (tricky to get hold of in quantity I imagine), shit (a trifle smelly?) or yoghurt (readily available from all good supermarkets) she chose option C. Obviously she should have used the Bifidus Bulgarian culture yoghurt...
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A French water treatment engineer was seized from his home in Baghdad on Monday, an Iraqi police officer said, the third kidnapping of Westerners in Iraq in the past 10 days.
Blanche's kidnapping follows the abduction of German archaeologist and aid worker Susanne Osthoff on November 25 and that of four Christian peace activists -- two from Canada and one each from Britain and the United States -- the following day.
Thousands of civilians have been kidnapped in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, including over 200 foreigners. Insurgent groups holding them have often demanded foreign forces quit Iraq, sought ransoms, or both.
Many have been released, but around 50 have been executed -- some by beheading in front of cameras.Bad news of course but nowhere is there any mention that some of those kidnapped get rescued. For example (and the reason why I consider this to be bias) there is this recent report from the US DoD:
Soldiers from 1st Squadron, 71st Cavalry, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, found two Iraqi civilians bound and gagged in the trunk of a white sedan. The two individuals, employed by an American contractor, claimed they had been taken hostage and were to be murdered.By the way the latter comes as a result of a recommendation from Murdoc Online to link to the truly excellent DoD RSS feed(s).
This case is an interesting one. The Solomon Amendment requires that colleges and universities allow military recruiters on campus in order to receive federal funding. The problem, though, is that many schools — including NYU Law — have anti-discrimination measures which bar discriminatory employers from recruiting on campus. So, for example, if a particular law firm had a policy of only hiring whites, they wouldn’t be allowed to come and recruit.
The JAG Corps, which recruit law students, operate under the same discriminatory “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy as the rest of the U.S. armed forces. This policy clearly violates NYU’s anti-discrimination standards, the same way a law firm that had a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for non-Christians would be in violation.The problem is that the argument that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" violates anti-discrimmination laws is, in my opinion, stretching it a bit. There are good reasons why the military gets hung up on sex, mostly because in a strictly hierachical organization the potential for abuse of power to get sex is very high and this applies to both homosexual and heterosexual relationships. Assuming it is enforced sensibly "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" makes a lot of sense because all it boils down to is that the military stays out of the bedroom and reduces the chance that homosexuals face peer group pressure/bullying. Now you might say that the military would be better accepting gays openly and coming down on the bullies but it seems to me that implementation of such a policy is likely to cause a lot of problems in an organization, which is currently fighting a war to protect homosexuals from the kind attentions of Islamists who don't understand the concept of tolerance.
"The reason they don't believe you is because you're willing to take the money," Chief Justice Roberts interjected. "What you're saying is this is a message we believe in strongly, but we don't believe in it to the detriment of $100 million."
[...] And Justice Breyer asked "why you don't have here what I'd say is normal in the First Amendment area, that the remedy for speech you don't like is not less speech, it is more speech."The lead sentence though is just plain silly:
The military wants access to law schools on the same basis as other potential employers seeking to recruit students, although openly gay law students, of course, need not apply.What is silly though is the question of how you define "openly gay". I admit I am not totally clear on how the military handles recruits but I personally don't see how a student in suit and tie (or female equivalent) can be identified as "gay" nor, unless said student has citations on his/her resumé to articles written which contain phrases like "As a gay student I find that..." or President of XXX University Gay and Lesbian Society, do I see how a recuiter would in practise determine an applicant's sexual orientation without a direct question. In other words the phrase "red herring" springs to mind. The fact that the Supremes have a firm grasp of the golden rule seems to irritate many such as Slate's Dahlia Lithwick although her concluding paragraphs are a joy to read:
Suddenly one can't help but notice that all the conservative justices have gotten quiet while the liberals are taking turns beating on counsel. That can't be a good sign. Says Breyer: "Speech is on their side. They are trying to recruit!"
Clement's rebuttal is a beautiful thing. He quickly explains that no student can confuse a military recruiter's speech with the law school's. Also that any protest can be re-characterized as free speech or free association, opening the door to allowing law schools, if they so choose, to disregard bedrock federal anti-discrimination laws. It's a clever approach—painting the Solomon Amendment as an anti-discrimination law, as opposed to an aggressive counter-punch at anti-discrimination diehards. A series of culture clashes underlies this case: The Army versus the Ivies; brawn versus brain; raw politics versus political correctness. But none of that really matters. You want the truth? You can't handle the truth. The law schools have no case.Permalink
In our travels around the Web, we come across countless sites and services. But with only 24 hours in the day, we have to settle on a relative few as places to work, play, and get things done online. These are our picks for the cream of the crop, ranging from the ridiculous (the disturbingly hilarious StuffOnMyCat) to the sublime (the group art blog PostSecret)....What I find fascinating is the section that he is placed in and his fellows in that section:
LONDON (Reuters) - Newly elected opposition leader David Cameron turned politics on its head on Wednesday, offering to help Prime Minister Tony Blair pass laws which many in the Labour party oppose. [...]
In his debut parliamentary joust with Blair, the relative newcomer confounded tradition, declaring he wanted an end to the adversarial debate which characterises British politics.
Cameron rose to his feet in a baying House of Commons then virtually silenced it by saying: "The first issue the prime minister and I are going to have to work together on is getting the good bits of his education reforms ... into law."
Many on Blair's side seemed at a loss at how to react.I hope this is part of an deliberate Tory strategy because I think it holds considerable promise. Blair has been identified by numerous commentators as the best Conservative PM Britain has never had (or similar) and certainly he has shamelessly stolen the best parts of successive Tory manifestos for himself. If the Tories start publicly taking credit for this and simultaneously damning with faint praise as in "getting the good bits passed into law" this could cause a nasty split within ZANU Labour. Given the existing fractures between Blair and Brown and the fact that Tax'n'Spend is looking like a bit of loser as taxes rise higher but we see little improvement in government services this could well help the Tories regain the perceived centre ground that Blair so cunningly stole from them.
The government will spend $66 million on the package, the Nihon Keizai newspaper reported earlier Tuesday.
Kitagawa said the government would demand compensation from companies involved in the construction and sale of faulty buildings. It will also set up a center to handle inquiries from citizens worried about building safety, help cities pay for building inspections, and audit architectural safety agencies accused of approving the flawed construction plans.
So far, the ministry has confirmed that 57 defective buildings — the majority of them hotels — are at risk of collapsing in a moderately strong earthquake.
On Monday, the ministry filed a criminal complaint against architect Hidetsugu Aneha, who admitted to violating quake safety regulations to cut costs on at least 21 of the faulty buildings. The ministry also reportedly planned to file criminal charges against builders who worked with Aneha.
"We need to pursue their civil and criminal responsibility for this problem," Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said.Of course since the construction sector is a major beneficiary of pork it came as no surprise to discover that certain politicians seem to have been pulling strings (or trying to) and this is bound to result in another group of likely payers - the suckers like my wife's friend who bought property there. As this AFP article notes the residents are worried:
"Any of us could go crazy thinking about double loans for the next 30 years, a more serious problem than the risk of a major quake itself."
... [T]he residents would have to pay for moving and new rent or a housing loan on top of the loan for the condo.
"No one, even the government, understands we have no compensation, althoughd they say residents' lives must be protected more than anything else," said another resident, a four-month pregnant housewife, 27.Although of course (and also in the "No shit" category) the government is putting "pressure" on the construction companies caught to pay some of the costs.
29 Nov 2005 by Peter Gee
Trustees of the George Orwell estate yesterday announced that they intend to sue the British government over copyright breeches relating to the George Orwell novel '1984', a novel about a futuristic police state.
Professor Ramsbottom, a trustee of the Orwell estate, said: "Our lawyers have compared George Orwell's novel '1984' with a number of Labour documents. These documents include the Labour party manifesto, known in the Labour party as the 'The Book', and a number of laws passed by the Labour government over the past five years. Our analysis shows there are clearly great swathes of text that have simply been copied and adopted as Labour policy, far too much for this to be just coincidence."
Home Secretary Charles Clarke, said: "This is clearly absolute rubbish. A police state is a political condition where the government maintains strict control over society, particularly through suspension of civil rights and often with the use of the police. We thought police should not be used for that purpose as it is inherently anti-democratic. Name me one thing that demonstrates Labour is heading that way? OK - name me two things? OK - name me three things..."Read the whole thing but ensure you are not drinking anything at the same time unless you enjoy nasal regurgiation. Its almost as good as pootergeek - who BTW has this excellent Gordon Brown budget summary.
…and the lowest unemployment since the Roman invasion of AD 54.
[Cries of “Hear hear!” from Labour benches.]
In the last fourteen quarters, under this Labour government, the seasonally adjusted Hall-Oates coefficient has remained within a fifth of a percent of its optimum range and this year the Ciccone measure is at its highest level (0.876) since the brief and ultimately disastrous Lawson boom years.
[Audible snores throughout the chamber.]
[Ten minutes later:]
…There will also be a one-off oil windfall tax on George Galloway…
Anyone still awake?
Excellent. I now come to my growth forecast. This was, frankly, miles out. One hundred bloody percent out. So far off I might it might as well have been the product of astrology, not economics. It was the sort of estimate even the Lancet would have been embarrassed to publish.
Was anybody surprised at Tuesday’s announcement that the MediaMax copy protection software on SonyBMG CDs had a serious security flaw? I sure wasn’t. The folks at iSEC Partners were clever to find the flaw, and the details they uncovered were interesting, but it was pretty predictable that a problem like this would turn up.
Security is all about risk management. If you’re careful to avoid unnecessary risks, to manage the risks you must accept, and to have a recovery plan for when things go wrong, you can keep your security under control. If you plunge ahead, heedless of the risks, you’ll be sorry.
If you’re a parent, you’ll surely remember the time your kid left an overfull glass of juice on the corner of a table and, after the inevitable spill, said, “It was an accident. It’s not my fault.” And so the kid had to learn why we don’t set glasses at the very edges of tables, or balance paintbrushes on the top of the easel, or leave roller skates on the stairs. The accident won’t happen every time, or even most of the time, but it will happen eventually.However one curiousity remains from the previous brouhaha, namely why did SonyBMG and/or its partner First4Internet apparently violate the GPL and/or LGPL by incorporating LAME code? and particularly why did they borrow code to do with Apple's iTunes DRM and thereby apparently violate the DMCA as well? Well it looks like the Freedom to Tinker crowd have come up with a plausible explanation or two:
The answer is that XCP utilizes the DRMS code not to remove Apple DRM but to add it. I’ve discovered that XCP uses code from DRMS as part of a hidden XCP feature that provides iTunes and iPod compatibility. This functionality has shipped on nearly every XCP CD, but it has never been enabled or made visible in the XCP user interface. Despite being inactive, the code appears to be fully functional and was compatible with the current version of iTunes when the first XCP CDs were released. This strongly suggests that the infringing DRMS code was deliberately copied by XCP’s creator, First4Internet, rather than accidentally included as part of a more general purpose media library used for other functions in the copy protection system.
Intriguingly, the FairPlay compatibility code in XCP is not limited to converting files from XCP CDs. The code appears to support conversion into FairPlay of files in a wide variety of input formats — MP3s, WAV files, raw audio files, and standard unprotected audio CDs — in addition to XCP-protected discs. It’s also strange that the FairPlay compatibility code is shipped but not made available for use by applications, not even XCP’s own player software. (Technically, the code is not exported from the shared library where it is stored.) This might indicate that First4Internet decided to remove the feature at the very last minute, shortly before XCP CDs started to ship.What this boils down to is SonyBMG appears to have thought that, since Apple is unwilling to license its iTunes FairPly DRM code, it was OK to reverse engineer it so that SonyBMG CDs could be played on customer's iPods. Worse, having made that decision they then seem to have decided that it would be easier to steal someone else's reverse engineered code than do it themselves. This "relaxed" attitude to other people's intellectual assets, not to mention the DMCA, may possibly have struck someone in SonyBMG as bad at the last minute, hence the removal of the UI to use the code. However as the other article points out SonyBMG and Apple have been sparing about iPod DRM for a while and SonyBMG has tried to put pressure on Apple to open up its DRM, something that remains in its FAQ on copy protection:
Apple's proprietary technology doesn't support secure music formats other than their own and therefore the music on this disc can't be directly imported into iTunes or iPods.
Sony BMG wants music to be easily transferable to any device that supports secure music. Currently, music from our protected CDs may be transferred to hundreds of such devices, as both Microsoft and Sony have assisted to make the user experience on our discs as seamless as possible with their secure formats.
Unfortunately, in order to directly and smoothly rip content into iTunes it requires the assistance of Apple. To date, Apple has not been willing to cooperate with our protection vendors to make ripping to iTunes and to the iPod a simple experience.
If you believe that you should be able to easily move tracks from your protected CD to your iPod then we encourage you to use the following link to contact Apple directly and tell them so. http://www.apple.com/feedback/ipod.html
That said, while there is no direct support on the disc for iTunes or iPod, SONY BMG has worked out an indirect way for consumers to move content into these environments, despite the challenges noted above. If you'd like more information on how to move content to iTunes please CLICK HERE.This makes it hard to disagree with this conclusion from Freedon to Tinker:
Running through this whole convoluted tale are two consistent threads. DRM is used as a weapon not against infringers but against market rivals. And when companies use DRM to undermine compatibility, law-abiding customers lose.DRM is not being used to benefit consumers, or even benefit artists, it is being used by publishers to battle each other for market share.
ESIGODINI, Zimbabwe (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's ruling party wraps up its annual congress on Saturday secure in its political domination, but facing the daunting task of pulling the economy out of crisis and overcoming factionalism.
Mugabe has blamed Zimbabwe's problems on sabotage by opponents of his drive to redistribute white-owned farms among blacks. But he conceded some party officials were involved in corrupt activities such as black market trade in scant foreign currency.
Others had seized more than one farm for themselves in abuse of the land reforms, which critics blame for food shortages which have plagued Africa's former breadbasket over the last five years.
Britain still wanted control of Zimbabwe to exploit its vast mineral and agricultural wealth, Mugabe told delegates, charging: "They would want Zimbabwe therefore to subject itself to their will so they can manipulate the government here so they can have a grip on our economy."
Mugabe accused U.N. humanitarian affairs and relief coordinator Jan Egeland of misrepresenting Zimbabwe this week after a four-day tour to assess the impact of a government crackdown on urban slums.
Calling Egeland was a "hypocrite and a liar", Mugabe said on Friday he would ask U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to no longer send to Zimbabwe envoys "who are not his own but agents of the British, because we don't trust men from his office any more."Now I understand that Reuters is indeed just parroting Comrade Bob's speech, but you might think that a little original reporting would help give a certain amount of balance to the piece. Maybe find an opposition party spokesman who might be willing to point out errors? perhaps a quote from a human rights NGO? that sort of thing. The fact that a mere day or two earlier Reuters had reports about Egeland's trip, which were somewhat less flattering (but still showing a remarkable lack of finger pointing) would seem to me to indicate that Reuters actually knows that Comrade Bob is a lying hypocritical tyrant, but still Reuters seems happy to report his rantings with a straight face, while somehow not managing to do the same thing with the US regime and/or Iraq.
Germany's Schroeder Joins Russian-German Gas Pipeline Project
Dec. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will lead the shareholders committee for a German- Russian gas-pipeline project to pump gas under the Baltic Sea, OAO Gazprom Chief Executive Alexei Miller said today.As noted by both the BBC and David, but Bloomberg, the conflict of interest in this is staggering since Schröder negotiated the deal to start this pipeline just three months ago while he was still Chancellor. The German opposition parties are distinctly unimpressed (and rightly so):
But the opposition Greens and Liberals (FDP) condemned Mr Schroeder's acceptance of the post, saying it would lead to the suspicion that the former chancellor was unable to distinguish between public and private affairs.
"It stinks," said Greens co-chairman Reinhard Buetikofer.
"It is to be hoped that Schroeder would do the job without payment. Otherwise there would be the suspicion that Russian President Putin created a job to reward Schroeder," the FDP's Rainer Bruederle told the International Herald Tribune.Somehow I rather doubt that Schröder will willingly do this job for free but he may be forced to. If so then perhaps Schröder's busiess sense is little better than Blunkett's, whose investment in the DNA firm seems to have been extremely bad financially as well as ethically (via Tim W).
(Yes this has been doing the rounds - Google has hits from all sorts of pages including the BNP - but I haven't seen it before...)
Nelson: "Order the signal, Hardy."
Hardy: "Aye, aye sir."
Nelson: "Hold on, that's not what I dictated to the signal officer.
What's the meaning of this?"
Hardy: "Sorry sir?"
Nelson (reading aloud): "England expects every person to do his duty, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religious persuasion or disability. What gobbledygook is this?"
Hardy: "Admiralty policy, I'm afraid, sir. We're an equal opportunity employer now. We had the devil's own job getting 'England' past the censors, lest it be considered racist."
Nelson: "Gadzooks, Hardy. Hand me my pipe and tobacco."
Hardy: "Sorry sir. All naval vessels have been designated smoke-free working environments."
Nelson: "In that case, break open the rum ration. Let us splice the main brace to steel the men before battle."
Hardy: "The rum ration has been abolished Admiral. Its part of the Government's policy on binge drinking."
Nelson: "Good heavens, Hardy. I suppose we'd better get on with it. Full speed ahead."
Hardy: "I think you'll find that there's a 4 knot speed limit in this stretch of water."
Nelson: "Damn it man! We are on the eve of the greatest sea battle in history. We must advance with all dispatch. Report from the crow's nest, please."
Hardy: "That won't be possible, sir."
Hardy: "Health and safety have closed the crow's nest, sir. No harness.
And, they said that a rope ladder doesn't meet regulations. They won't let anyone up there until a proper scaffolding can be erected."
Nelson: "Then get me the ship's carpenter without delay, Hardy."
Hardy: "He's busy knocking up a wheelchair access to the fo'c'sle Admiral."
Nelson: "Wheelchair access? I've never heard anything so absurd."
Hardy: "Health and safety again, sir. We have to provide a barrier-free environment for the differently abled."
Nelson: "Differently abled? I've only one arm and one eye and I refuse even to hear mention of the word. I didn't rise to the rank of Admiral by playing the disability card."
Hardy: "Actually, sir, you did. The Royal Navy is under-represented in the areas of visual impairment and limb deficiency."
Nelson: "Whatever next? Give me full sail. The salt spray beckons."
Hardy: "A couple of problems there too, sir. Health and safety won't let the crew up the rigging without crash helmets. And they don't want anyone breathing in too much salt - haven't you seen the adverts?"
Nelson: "I've never heard such infamy. Break out the cannon and tell the men to stand by to engage the enemy."
Hardy: "The men are a bit worried about shooting at anyone, Admiral."
Nelson: "What? This is mutiny."
Hardy: "It's not that, sir. It's just that they're afraid of being charged with murder if they actually kill anyone. There's a couple of legal aid lawyers on board, watching everyone like hawks."
Nelson: "Then how are we to sink the Frenchies and the Spanish?"
Hardy: "Actually, sir, we're not."
Nelson: "We're not?"
Hardy: "No, sir. The Frenchies and the Spanish are our European partners now. According to the Common Fisheries Policy, we shouldn't even be in this stretch of water. We could get hit with a claim for compensation."
Nelson: "But you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil."
Hardy: "I wouldn't let the ship's diversity co-coordinator hear you saying that sir. You'll be up on a disciplinary."
Nelson: "You must consider every man an enemy who speaks ill of your King."
Hardy: "Not any more, sir. We must be inclusive in this multicultural age. Now put on your Kevlar vest; it's the rules."
Nelson: "Don't tell me - health and safety. Whatever happened to rum, sodomy and the lash?"
Hardy: "As I explained, sir, rum is off the menu! And there's a ban on corporal punishment."
Nelson: "What about sodomy?"
Hardy: "I believe it's to be encouraged, sir."Nelson: "In that case. Kiss me, Hardy." Permalink
By Jennifer Hewlett
HERALD-LEADER STAFF WRITER
Maggie Bailey, known as "The Queen of the Mountain Bootleggers," died of complications from pneumonia Saturday at Harlan Appalachian Regional Hospital. The Kentucky legend, who began selling moonshine when she was 17 and was still selling alcohol from her modest home at Clovertown in Harlan County when she was 95, was 101.
Over and over again, often despite a preponderance of evidence against her, Mrs. Bailey beat charges of illegally selling alcoholic beverages. Juries just would not convict her.
"Everybody knew her and she had helped everybody. Why do you bite the hand that feeds you, as the old saying goes," said Helen Halcomb, who is married to Mrs. Bailey's nephew.
Mrs. Bailey was well-liked and well-respected, and she often helped poor Harlan Countians, buying coal to heat their homes in the winter and giving them grocery money so they would not go hungry, friends said. Mrs. Bailey put several children through college.
Anybody who wanted to get elected went to see Maggie Bailey, Halcomb said.
"She was very influential. She had power," she said.
Former Gov. Albert B. "Happy" Chandler was among the many politicians who paid Mrs. Bailey a visit while campaigning.
During one of his campaigns for governor he told her, "'Mag, if you can help me get elected, I'm going to buy you some shoes,'" Halcomb said. "Sure enough, when he got elected he sent his lieutenant governor in here with some new shoes."
'A delightful lady'
While she spent money on other people, Mrs. Bailey lived like a pauper, Halcomb said.
For years, Mrs. Bailey, perhaps appropriately, wore a uniform with the name "National Distillery" over a breast pocket when she greeted her customers. One of Mrs. Bailey's sisters worked at the distillery in Louisville and handed down her old uniforms to Mrs. Bailey, Halcomb said.
"I represented her for a number of years. I always thought she was a delightful lady," said U.S. District Judge Karl Forester.
"She was an expert on the Fourth Amendment. She knew the laws of search and seizure as well as any person I've known," he said.
Forester recalled once representing Mrs. Bailey on bootlegging charges at six trials on the same day.
"We had six acquittals at three different courts in the same day," he said.
During routine maintenance of our network and storage systems last night, we experienced an issue with our primary disk system where data from published blogs are stored. We are currently running diagnostics on the device, and working to restore your data as soon as possible. Verifying data can be a slow process and will take time.
In the meantime we are currently deploying backup copies of your weblogs from approximately 2 days ago. This is what will be displayed for your blog. The TypePad application is currently unavailable, which means that users will not be able to log in, and visitors to weblogs will not be able to post comments. We are working to bring TypePad back online as soon as possible.The disadvantage of having your own blog tools is that sometimes they cock up slightly and give misleading results. On the other had though you aren't tied to anyone else. Indeed since my blog tools require nothing more than a basic web server (no MySQL or PHP thank you very much) and FTP access thereunto its hard for things to kill my blog.
The Hursti Hack requires a moderate level of inside access. It is, however, accomplished without being given any password and with the same level of access given thousands of poll workers across the USA. It is a particularly dangerous exploit, because it changes votes in a one-step process that will not be detected in any normal canvassing procedure, it requires only a single a credit-card sized memory card, any single individual with access to the memory cards can do it, and it requires only a small piece of equipment which can be purchased off the Internet for a few hundred dollars.
One thousand two hundred locations in the U.S. and Canada use Diebold voting machines. In each of these locations, typically three people have a high level of inside access. Temporary employees also often have brief access to loose memory cards as machines are being prepared for elections. Poll workers sometimes have a very high level of inside access. National elections utilize up to two million poll workers, with hundreds or thousands in a single jurisdiction.
Many locations in the U.S. ask poll workers to take voting machines home with them with the memory cards inside. San Diego County (Calif) sent 713 voting machines/memory cards home with poll workers for its July 26 election, and King County (Wash.) sent over 500 voting machines home with poll workers before its Nov. 8 election.
Memory cards are held in a compartment protected by a small plastic seal. However, these simple seals can be defeated, and Hursti has found evidence that the memory card can be reprogrammed without disturbing the seal by using a telephone modem port on the back of the machine.To be honest calling this report damning is to be kind. The fact that these machines are regularly sent out some days before elections to poll workers means that a hypothetical corrupt poll worker has (at the least) an entire evening to fiddle the system. Moreover, the hacks demonstrated in this are apparently just the tip of the iceberg with the PDF report listing a whole series of possible avenues for additional memory card attacks as well as stating clearly:
Diebold voting systems contain a number of attack vectors. This report pertains to memory card attacks. Details on the following attack vectors are not included in this report, and they will be the focus of other reports:
Many people seem to think that jobs that can be done at home aren't real jobs. Never mind that home-office dwellers are their own cafeteria staff, shipping-and-receiving clerks and janitors. They never get credit for cutting an employer's costs, or saving commuting time to do more work. Instead, managers believe that if they aren't there to witness someone working, it can't be happening. They envision homebound workers getting away with something, like lounging in their bathrobes and watching "General Hospital."
It's as if they believe that the people working under their noses don't waste a tremendous amount of time talking about last night's college basketball game, making bids on eBay, or reading only like-minded blogs while on company time. The misconceptions are yet another indication that vacuous symbols of productivity, rather than productivity itself, are all that really count.As the article says one definite minus is the lack of respect you get from office-bound colleagues or mnagers who seem to think that working from home = skiving. This is especially true if your home is on the Côte d'Azur :) but it flat out isn't true, yes it is possible to goof off at home, but as a highly experienced procrastinator I can say it is just as easy to sit at a desk in an office and do no work whatsoever. Blogs and the Internet are the same everywhere and while it is true that no one (other than the spouse) can see you if you start cruising more dodgy bits of the information superhighway, the potential embarassement factor is only delayed because you still have to meet those deadline thingies or suffer the inconvenience of not being paid. Another minus, albeit one rectified by Skype, is the lack of chat time with fellow workers. It can, to be honest, be boring and lonely workign on your own and that means it can also be hard to summon up the enthusiasm to actually work.
undermine the entire concept of unions and workers' rights. Ask yourself a question: what is the one tool that ordinary, blue-collar workers have that can really help them assert economic power in a way that can minimally compete with the massive economic institutions (corporate/government) that run our society? The answer is ultimately through the threat of a strike – whether a strike happens or not. Without a union having the power to strike, they cannot threaten to strike and that means there is no real reason an employer should listen to any union requests, because the employer knows the union can't back up its requests with any consequences.Despite my desire to fire the strikers I would tend to agree with that statement (although not much else written by Sirota). I believe that trades unions have generally outlived their usefulness in the west because most of the good they used to do has now been superceded by government laws or programs, but I see no point in banning them and I also believe that no company (or government) should have the right to ban trades unions from organizing or stopping its workers from withholding their labour.
“I’ve had this theory for a while now,” I said. “It looks like some, if not most, Middle East countries are going to have to live under an Islamic state for a while and get it out of their system.”This isn't a thought that is very hopeful in the short term but it makes a certain amount of long term sense. One of the more fundamental problems with democracies is that the average man in the street or souk is not trained in things like economics and that therefore he tends to hold on to the simplistic, easily grasped but wrong solutions to probems proposed by demagogues. As the middle east gradually moves towards the twentieth century in terms of democracy and human rights it's peoples will have to learn in the manner of the proverb about the burned hand that certain things are bad. The key thing that we in the west need to do is to ensure that elections recur in a fair manner after the religious bigots have won control. This is problematic but key. Bearing this thought in mind helps, I think, in the framing of the debate linked by Wretchard between Daniel Pipes and Reuel Marc Gerecht of the American Enterprise Institute
Roggio's arrival in Iraq comes amid what military commanders and analysts say is an increasingly aggressive battle for control over information about the conflict. Scrutiny of what the Pentagon calls information operations heightened late last month, when news reports revealed that the U.S. military was paying Iraqi journalists and news organizations to publish favorable stories written by soldiers, sometimes without disclosing the military's role in producing them.Not surprisingly Bill rebutts:
In an email to Mr. Finer expressing my displeasure with being labeled a military information operation, Mr. Finer suggested I read the entire article. I assured him I did. The title and subtitle are not meaningless to the context of the article; it is implied I was a tool of the military, when in fact the military had no influence whatsoever in what I said from Iraq.Do we see damning with faint praise. Check
He raised more than $30,000 from his online readers to pay for airfare, technical equipment and body armor. A few weeks later, he was posting dispatches from a remote outpost in western Anbar province, a hotbed of Iraq's insurgency.Makes it look like the shoestring budget doesn't it? like it's a one off? you see the unspoken subtext? "$30,000" was a bit of a struggle to raise so isn't it good that us "real journalists" have secure budgets to ensure we always have the feet on the street. And then there is this combination slur/faint praise
After military officials in Baghdad said Roggio could not be issued media credentials unless he was affiliated with an organization, the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-leaning research organization in Washington, offered him an affiliation, according to an entry on Roggio's blog. He and two other bloggers launched a new Web site a month ago ( http://threatswatch.com ), where he has posted many stories about his time with the Marines. Most provide detailed accounts of patrols or other outings on which he accompanied U.S. forces.Firstly the "couldn't get affiliated with a real media organization so he pluckily found a slightly disreputable 'conservative' cause to hide behind" bit then the stories are just "detailed accounts of patrols" as if to say there is no analysis or strategic overlook of what is going on. i.e. this is just hearsay and given the "conservative"="rabid Bush supporting" so called news organization of course it can be dismissed as propaganda too. This also gets into the third FUD category "good but you need more".
There is of course a lot of commentary about this and I'm not going to provide a linkfest because my readers have probably read most of them but I think the Daily Pundit has a post that makes complentary points to this one.Permalink
It's refreshing to see the MSM implode. Having started my professional career in the journalism field, I quickly left after clearly not relating to the "write this story in this perspective because the managing editor says the publisher says so" model. Early assignments shocked me at first -- being sent to interview the "man on the street" (a typical new reporter assignment) and get opinions on proposed ordinances that reflected a certain view (with one or two street people to be the uncredible opposition). One memorable assignment was a proposed city council sign ordinance change restricting the height of all commercial signs, which the Council Bluffs newspaper publisher strongly supported but the business community opposed. I found nothing but disinterested people - how could you expect the man on the street to give a damn about sign ordinances - but was expected to have "five for the ordinanace, one opposed" so the paper could prove the citizenry supported the publisher's position - I bribed college friends from Omaha with beer to get my quotes and finish the publisher's exercise in fraud.
Even after having left shortly after and proceeded into a successful IT executive career, I've always been puzzled at the tolerance for complete incompetence in the MSM. Reporters who've interviewed me consistently missed basic facts and their editors never considered any sort of verification.
When your software is mostly bugs, your software business fails. The MSM's product has been nothing but factually-flawed opinion pieces posing as news for at least two decades. Their demise is well overdue.The bias of media is nothing new to those of us who work to produce content for the beast, but I submit that much of it is due to laziness rather than much else. The well known restatement of Occam's Razor that one should not attribute to malice what could be caused by incompetance/stupidity applies in spades here. The pressure of deadlines and editors means that it is easier to go with the flow than write some story that challenges long held assumptions by ones colleagues and bosses. Much the same explains why experts in practically every field consider most news articles written about their field to be chock full of laughable errors, the feeling that the story needs to filed ASAP in order to "beat the competition" means that time spent fact-checking is generally speaking considered a waste - after all the theory goes "no one will notice".
ANYONE wanting to hear daily insights into what it is like to be in a convoy hit by an explosion or ordered to pick up the body parts of comrades dismembered by a suicide bomber does not have to be there in person any more.
Instead they just need to log on to the internet from the safety of their home or office.
In a development that is worrying US military commanders in Iraq, a growing number of US soldiers - 200 at the last count - have set up their own blogs, or internet diaries, and are updating them from the battlefield.
The phenomenon, helped by internet cafes at almost all US camps to permit soldiers regular contact with home, has for the first time allowed personal reports of the reality of combat to be read as they happen.This is a curious claim and one which is not really backed up with any evidence. It is true, and obvious, that OPSEC and privacy concerns do affect military blogs and that therefore sometimes some milbloggers will overstep the line, but this article is more like wishful thinking than fact. It is clear from the fact that a google search gives thousands of hits and that there is both a http://www.milblog.org/ and a http://www.milblogging.com/ that milblogs are a growing category, something that would not be the case if the military was really opposed to their existence. Unlike the MSM the (US) military seems to think that it is better to have the unvarnished truth out there from the boots on the ground than worry about its precise content except in the limited case where it affects security or privacy. Indeed if you read the "conservative" Weekly Standard earlier this month you would see much evidence that the rise of the milblogs is directly attributable to the lack of good MSM coverage on military affairs although that article does have a prescient warning of a threat that I suspect the SMH article is an example of:
Second, some mid-level Pentagon type will decide that troops and officers speaking their mind is a threat to the tradition of a military detached from politics. Here's hoping Secretary Rumsfeld squashes that with a pre-emptive snow-flake that notes this development is critical to the public's understanding of the sacrifices and contribution of America's military.I can well believe that some staff puke, powerpoint warrior or puzzle palace inhabitant will feel that their cozy position is threatened by the existence of milblogs. Certainly I can well believe that the people who leak juicy stories to Washinton journalists, and the journalists themselves, will feel threatened because Milblogs seem likely to
UpdateOne of my favourite quotes seems remarkable appropriate here:
"I hate newspapermen. They come into camp and pick up their camp rumors and print them as facts. I regard them as spies, which, in truth, they are. If I killed them all this evening they would be reporting news from Hell before breakfast."
General William Tecumseh Sherman
Are e-books anything more than an electronic version of the traditional hard copy book? E-book purchasers are principally higher education institutions and business/reference/research institutions and libraries. Individualsâ€™ access to e-books is conducted through these institutions for learning, research and training purposes. More training and learning in higher education are conducted on a so-called distant learning basis. This is stirring the development of e-books. In the UK, government pressures for efficiency, increasing numbers in higher education, combined with so-called learning access, are contributing to the pressure for these developments. At the same time there is, understandably, no demand for e-books for leisure reading purposes and this seems likely to continue. Who wants to read a novel or biography glued to a screen? The concept is appalling.The author seems unable to use google correctly; a google for "ebook fiction" turns up some 4 million pages and the first page is full of links to sites where fiction can be downloaded. The business model is somewhat confused but publishers such as Baen appear to make good money out of electronic fiction and there is considerable demand for it. Now I suspect the problem the author has is that sales of DRM-crippled ebooks are miniscule and that companies attempting to put DRM on books aren't making any money and hence by default the assumption is that all ebook sales are miniscule.
I measure "successful," by the way, using the only criterion that means much to me as an author: Webscriptions, unlike all other electronic outlets I know of, pays me royalties in substantial amounts. As of now, I've received about $2,140 in electronic royalties from Baen Books for the year 2000. (The last period reported.)
That sum is of course much smaller than my paper edition royalties, but it can hardly be called "peanuts." Every other electronic outlet I know of, in contrast, pays royalties-if at all-in two figures. My friend Dave Drake has given me permission to let the public know that his best-earning book published by anyone other than Baen, in one reporting period, earned him $36,000 in royalties for the paper edition-and $28 for the electronic edition. And that's about typical for even a successful book issued electronically.Baen has published some 360 individual ebook titles and if we assume a somewhat pessimistic 3000 copies sold each that works out at around 1 million total ebooks. In some ways that doesn't sound like a lot but on the other hand it is 1 million more than JK Rowling has sold since she (and/or her publisher) has refused to sell ebooks. More to the point even if my numbers are off by a bit - say total sales are half my estimate at 500,000 - the money made is still significant. 500,000 books sold at mimimum of $2 each works out at $1million and I reckon that this sum is a pessimistic one. Given that the hardware costs of Baen's epublishing empire are trivial (say $50k-$100k including telecom costs total) and that the other costs of making the electronic copy from the copy sent to the printers is also negligable this means that Baen, his authors and his epublishing minion got to share a pot of at least $1 million over the last 5 years or $200,000 per year.
In essence, as a business model, our strategy is to use the free entry and accessibility of the internet to substitute for the ready availability of paper editions of SF magazines in times past. This will be a big challenge, of course, because the electronic fiction market is still small. But, by combining a very aggressive promotional campaign with Baen’s longstanding policies with regard to electronic publishing – which you can summarize as WE SELL CHEAP AND UNENCRYPTED STUFF, AND THAZZIT – we think we’ve got a good shot at pulling it off.Now the interesting thing here is that despite paying top rates of US$0.25/word or so because of electronic delivery the magazine is liable to be profitable at relatively low subscription rates (although of course we'd all like to see it grow). By my sums a circulation of around 15,000/issue should bring in between $75,000 and $90,000 (the variance is because some people will buy discounted subscriptions of 6 issues for $30 instead of paying the full $6/issue). Assuming that $15,000 of that sum is required for the payment of the various minions that do the editing, web set up etc. we are left with somewhere between $60,000 and $75,000 as payment for content and possible profit. Now short stories are typically around 15,000 words long so at $0.25/word that means each author will pocket $3750. If there are 16 stories per issue then 16*$3750 = $60,000 so we have break even if we have 15,000 subsription readers. Any more readers and any who pay full whack instead of the subscription discount turn up in the profit column (although it should be noted that Baen intends to pay authors royalties as well). 15,000 readers is not in my opinion a stretch goal.
Update Wow two Instalanches in two days - either I'm suddenly interesting or there is no other news! anyway be sure to buy Baen's Universe
Corrections My numbers are slightly off - according to a Barfly commentator the magazine costs $30,000 to produce (including author payments - confirmed see new post) and the average number of monthly webscriptions is 1500 not 2000. Minor adjustments of some sums may be required but given the large number of SWAGs in the calculations I don't think the basic conclusions are altered.
The magazine's costs are variable, because most of the operating expenses other than paying for stories -- which is the single most expensive item in the budget -- are set at a percentage of gross income. For instance, Paula and I will split a 20% editors' commission, the exact amount of which will be determined by gross income. In a similar manner, we're setting aside a percentage for Baen -- that's partly repaying of initial costs and (as time goes on and that gets paid back) a profit margin, a percentage for art work, etc.
So the figure of $32,000 I gave people was predicated on a number of assumptions which, in the real world, will obviously vary. The main ones are:
1) It presumes a certain level of sales: 6000 average per issue.
2) It presumes a certain ratio of subscriptions to single copy sales: specifically, 2 to 1. That's the ratio we've averaged for the [Grantville] Gazette, and since we had no other comparable figure we transferred it over as a working hypothesis.
3) It does not include any extra income raised from Universe Club memberships. At least in these early days, however, that has proven to be very significant. We've actually raised more money from Club membership sales than simple subscriptions. That will change, of course, as we get nearer to the publication date. Still, it's a variable factor that works in our favor since I never included it in the original assumptions the budget is based on.
4) It also doesn't include any income derived from sales of individual stories. I didn't include those because this is really terra incognita and there was no way to make any estimate that wouldn't have been pure guesswork. Still, since no sales are assumed, any sales will help.
Assuming an average budget per issue of $32,000, by the way, the cost of the stories will average about 5/8 (62.5%) of the total expense.
EricMy (minor) emphasis and add of a relevant link. Anyway from this we get the following analysis of costs etc. per issue assuming the worst case break even subs
|Item ||Number ||Income |
|6 issue subscriptions of $30 = $5/issue ||4000 ||$20,000 |
|single issue purchases at $6 ||2000 ||$12,000 |
|Total Income ||$32,000 |
|Item ||%age ||Expense |
|Payment to authors ||62.5% ||$20,000 |
|Payment to editors ||20% ||$6,400 |
|Remainder (Baen repayment, profit and illstration cost) ||17.5% ||$5,600 |
In addition, we will pay royalties. The royalties will be 20% of the gross income of an issue of Universe, if the stories and articles in that issue earn out, divided among the authors in that issue. In the event Baen Books decides to reissue the magazine later in paper format, we will also pay book royalty rates.This is not a trivial sum. If Baen's universe does get the 15,000 subscribers I figured was fairly easy then the amount of income (ignoring club memberships and going on the same 2:1 ratio) is 10,000x$5 + 5,000x$6 = $80,000. Royalties are paid at a rate of 20% of the amount above the break even which I think means that authors get 20% of the $48,000 excess beyond the $32,000 break even. This is $9,600 and will jump up every author by some $600-$800 depending on how many stories there are in the magazine and it totally ignores the other sources of royalty such as the possibility to purchase individual stories.