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Saturday, June 14

Boycott Associated Press!

AP is threatening bloggers with lawsuits just for quoting them and even for linking to them. Seriously. Even links in comments.

In one of the daftest 'monetisation' strategies I've ever heard of, they've targeted The Drudge Retort and made clear they will go after others.

The quotes range from 33 to 79 words long.

Says Jeff Jarvis:

This complaint comes from an organization that leaches off original reporting and kills links and credit to the source of that journalism. Yes, it has a right to reproduce reporting from member news organizations. But as I point out here, the AP is hurting original reporting by not crediting and linking to the journalism at its source. We should be operating under an ethic of the link to original reporting; this is an ethic that the AP systematically violates.

In its complaint against [The Drudge Retort], the AP is flouting fair use and fair comment. It is ignoring the essential structure of the link architecture of the web. It is declaring war on blogs and commenters.

Twitter whore

Mugabe, al-Qaida links alleged

As the BBC finally publishes proof that the terror campaign in Zimbabwe is organised by the police and army — others have done this already but the BBC seems to like exclusives from its own reporters and has yet to add one link to a non-government, civic society source like Sokwanele, Solidarity Peace Trust, Kubatana, Zim Lawyers for Human Rights, Eyes on Zimbabwe, MISA, WOZA, Human Rights NGO Forum, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, or Media Monitoring Project Zim — ZanuPF is alleged to be attempting to buy arms from terrorists.

This report claims that meetings happened whilst Mugabe was in Rome at the (sic) UN Food Summit.

Intelligence agents at the conference confirmed Mugabe was in daily touch with the generals to discuss details of their secret meetings with the PAGAD and Qibla groups -- regarded by London and Washington as two of the most dangerous terror organizations operating on the African continent.

"The purpose was to see how the groups could provide the arms that China failed to deliver recently when the ship's cargo was turned away from African ports and forced to return to China," confirmed a senior intelligence source.

The meetings were held in Bulawayo in a government safe house last week.

Chairing the discussions was Gen. Constantine Chiwenga, the country's overall military chief. With him were Augustine Chihuri, the Zimbabwe chief of police; Gen. Paradzai Zimondi, head of the prison service, and the fourth member was Air Marshal Perence Shiri, the commander of the country's air force.

All four fought in Mugabe's guerrilla force during the war against white rule in the 1970s.

An MI6 intelligence analyst described the quartet as "the junta which is now running Zimbabwe on a daily basis. It was they who stopped Mugabe from quitting when he lost the first presidential election in March. It was they who ordered the attack on British and U.S. diplomats last week and control the continued campaign of terror against the opposition, Movement for Democratic Change."

The junta's links with Qibla and PAGAD have raised serious concerns within MI6 and other Western intelligence services that Zimbabwe soon could face a full-scale blood bath.
These generals are the ones responsible for the Gukurahundi campaign against Joseph Nkomo's people in Matabeleland in the early 1980s which killed up to 30,000 people. This was where the tactics currently being used - such as withholding food - were first employed by ZANU. The troops used were trained by North Koreans.
The techniques were calculated to maximise terror, pain, grief and humiliation. The soldiers, under Mugabe’s instruction, set out to injure and mutilate human beings, to kill them, but to do so in such evil cruel ways that the scars would be indelibly etched in memories for generations to come.

Mugabe intended to leave this civilian population with fear for the rest of their lives, for the horror to be so great that they would pass the fear down to subsequent generations. This is how he believed he would manage discontent in the region, and hold onto power indefinitely.
These generals fear the International Criminal Court.

And the experience of the Gukurahundi campaign against Nkomo's supporters is why the campaign led by Thabo Mbeki for a 'government of national unity' and calling off of the presidential election is rejected by the MDC. Plus, finally, a coalition of African leaders and dignitaries.
Fourteen former presidents and African dignitaries including former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for Zimbabwean authorities to allow a free and fair vote on June 27 overseen by independent observers.

"As Africans we consider the forthcoming elections to be critical. We are aware of the attention of the world," said the appeal, signed by some of Africa's most well-known figures, from Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu and Senegalese musician Youssou N'Dour to former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano.

"We call for an end to the violence and intimidation, and restoration of full access for humanitarian and aid agencies."

They also called for an "adequate number of independent electoral observers" both during and after the June poll.

Friday, June 13

Postcript: Another gay asylum seeker to be sent back to torture or death

Another gay asylum seeker to be sent back to torture or death

And another one (the Azerbaijani queen in the pic on the right, he's a world-renowned artist). Sense a policy here?

David Davis, anything to add? Labour? Think this might lose you some votes?

British people are not that stoopid and can pick a genuine asylum seeker, following our great tradition (i.e. the Azerbaijani queen in the pic on the right). Asylum seekers like Charles Saatchi's antecedents (Iraqi jews).

The message from Jacqui Smith's Home Office to people like Babi is 'be discreet' (as if), and go 'home'. And we'll rough you up if we feel like it. And at the same time they're raising Rainbow Flags in Warsaw's UK embassy.

Makes you proud. Hypocrisy, thy name is British.

No gay (and friends) votes for you Mr Brown!

Genius viral

"I love cheap Chinese crap", "if people want clean water, buy it in a bottle" "Texas needs more billionaires", "because all other countries are inferior to us" ...

Facebook scares me

Well I just signed up for Facebook.

Yes, just. Never bothered because it's 'another thing to do', I ain't trendy and there a wiff of 'been there, done that'.

But an overseas friend bent my arm so I signed up.

And I was shocked, nay, shocked to be presented on signing up, after giving them merely my email address and location, a list of potential 'friends' which was eerily accurate; egov, new media (Martha Lane Fox?), Australia. I really hadn't given them anything else, I swear, so how the heck could they know this?

I will use it for my charity work (+ sending 'gifts' to my real friend) but my experience seems to be that of too many people and I notice the industry buzz is that profits aren't really forthcoming and the business plan has holes - giant rat-sized ones.

If interoperability between social networks becomes real then who in their right mind would invest in them?

Gold surfers

Heard numerous times from the elders that 'silver surfers' is, well, patronising.

Radio Four's Front Row had an interview with two octogenerians posting film reviews on the web. I went to have a look at their YouTube page and, f+++ me, they got half a million views for their last show. To put that in context a million views is a lot for a US cable news show.

Turns out, 81 year old Marsha Nasatir and 84 year old Lorenzo Semple are both industry veterans — Semple wrote the fabulous 3 Days of the Condor and Nasatir worked with Laurence Kasdan — though they don't credit themselves. Apparently "people in the industry love the show but in true Hollywood fashion they don't watch it!"

They say, "the point of it - the reality, it's a reality show - is that we argue." They see films seperately and "don't exchange words until we're on the air."

Strangely, they reminded me of David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz, who host a long-running movie review show on Australian TV.

After looking, I ended up viewing lots of their reviews. They are that good, and funny. Though they do geezery things, like get chilly.

Here's their latest - NSFW! Menstruation and f+++!

And here's their take on the Oscars, complete with embarrassing baby photos! And they know how to pick 'em! - well most of them. (+ a private moment about Julie Christie and discussion of Viggo Mortenson's 'endowment')

Here's the review of Sex and the City (warning spoilers) . "It's very upsetting that I spent $8.75 on a Saturday morning when I could have been shopping".

Wednesday, June 11

The LGov website future: what's missing?

Public Sector Forums (PSF) held an event in Birmingham last week called 'The Future of Local Authority Websites and How They're Assessed'. It was basically about SOCITM's annual report on local government (LGov) websites, Better Connected, which has come in for a lot of criticism. Particularly on PSF's forums and by PSF authors.

The day led off with a detailed, quietly devastating critique from accessibility champion, Dan Champion (aptly named). Point by point he layed out the charges, which fed off bad publicity vs accessibility for LGov sites from last year's Better Connected.

Stepping up to hear this were both the report's main author, Martin Greenwood, and SOCITM's new President, Richard Steel. There was a fair bit of anger in the room because for some web teams they end up being assessed internally because of what's written in Better Connected and accessibility has become a judgment point. Peter Barton has gone off on one about precisely this problem in this week's PSF features (nb. only access).

So it was worth noting that Martin and Richard showed up to hear it and Richard accepted a lot of the "frank and open discussion". Well, that was what I heard (others didn't).

The problem I have with the criticism is that it misses the bigger picture.

For example, I praised Martin's work in the report on usability because this is not the result of some big, Whitehall-led push. It's his and SOCITM's own initiative and exactly the sort of mainstream web issue which is currently almost invisible in egov.

But wait there's more, lots more. As I wrote in response to Minister Tom Watson's question 'OK then, what aren't we doing', I can name ten things off the top of my head.

They were:

  1. Findability
  2. Disengagement from the wider web and those damned walled gardens
  3. Engaging the industry
  4. Marketing
  5. Widgetising services
  6. Engaging the local
  7. Cheaper usability methods
  8. Content
  9. Fixations on 'engagement'
  10. Utilising reputation
The point being that it's not ridiculous to assess websites but the context needs to be changed. As Martin kept trying to say it's not supposed to be a scoreboard, it's meant to be guidance. But because of the chaotic nature of guidance for UK egov webteams where, for example, are they to look for more about how to do usability? I told people (I doubt that they know) that government webteams in Hong Kong, New Zealand, Australia and the US, amongst others, don't have this problem — they have well maintained portals setup years back to support them. In The UK, Better Connected sits in a vacuum.

The anger and energy in the room needs to be directed towards Whitehall and egov leadership as well as towards what we can do in the absence of it, for ourselves, rather than fighting amongst ourselves (as I said).

Jeremy Gould has posted today about how the COI is going about developing some new guidance and lays out how the methods they're using to do this are an exemplar of how not to.

But he also says we shouldn't wait for government and we have to organise ourselves.

This was the other aspect to the day, which was a discussion of the development of the embryonic Public Sector Web Managers Group (PSWMG) — which may, I hope, change it's name! I'm one of the initiators and group members have already done some work, including writing a response for the COI's new guidance.

We're hoping to organise at some point over the next few months a first proper national meeting and there was discussion about this at the end of the day in Birmingham. There are a lot of issues to sort out, not the least of which is exactly what it is and should do and how it can be made sustainable.

But, as Jeremy suggested, taking the bull by the horns and just writing our own guidance — as government webbies — is definitely one of the things it must do. And this can only help Better Connected in what should be it's true role - guidance not judgment.
  • If you're in egov — and this is all public sector and includes consultants and suppliers — please sign up to PSWMG.


Gem from the day. Glyn Evans of Birmingham City Council says that 40% of Brummies use the web (I suspect that's actually a conservative estimate) but only 3% have used the Council's website. This talks to the bigger issue which accepts 18% 'take-up' (Schools admissions) as a raving success and which is the bigger picture I addressed in One year on: Ten answers for Minister Watson. (I've also blogged about how to do better than 18%).


Richard Steel presented about web teams being part of ICT — he blogs about the day and his presentation here. Once I get the OK to reproduce this so you can see what he said, I'll respond here (I respectfully disagreed!).

McCain is illiterate!

He relies on the wife...

Telling one source from another

In PM Questions today Gordon Brown referred to ConservativeHome as the Conservatives website.

The Conservative party’s members’ website, ConservativeHome, also said this morning:

“A clear majority of the British people favour a longer detention period. We believe that the British people are right. They won’t readily forgive any politicians who allow a major atrocity to occur because our detention procedures prove to be inadequate.”

The right hon. Gentleman must answer also to members of his own party.

It's not the "members’ website", it's Tim Montgomerie's.

I hope this is a one-off, from a bad No. 10 researcher, confusing an individual's website with those of the party they're in sympathy with. There's been enough of this in the US election, including bizarre, deliberate attacks on out-there comments or images on Democrat-orientated sites like dailyKos or HuffPost somehow being the site's or 'the liberal left's' (aka Democrats) responsibility. Something similar is happening at the moment confusing with Obama's stated positions.

What made it even stranger was Brown pointing at how ConservativeHome was supporting 42-days detention. Actually, all it was doing was pointing at a Telegraph poll ... and that quote is wrong.

Also, ConservativeHome, never mind the Conservative party, appears to have missed this Prime Ministerial faux-paus.

All very odd and hopefully not a trend in the making.

Sunday, June 8

Off with the pixies

HT: Dave Briggs

Here's Phil Hope MP - no, it says here that's his real name - who is allegedly 'Minister for the Third Sector', babbling away at some conference.

OK Mr Hope, if that is indeed your real name: How do the great British public find all this stuff? How much use do these fabulous 'initiatives' actually get - I believe you may understand this in your language as 'take-up'? What happens when the funding runs out? How does this play against your government's underfunding of UK Online Centres? Shall I go on? Would you like a moment to answer questions 1,2,3 and 4?

This sort of excited waffle has been going on for years. Give me a grounded-in-reality politician any day of the week. The Phil Hope's are ten-a-penny. The good ones vis egov are thin on the ground to non-existent.

nb: Don't get me wrong, most of the people doing this stuff, these initiatives, are great people trying to do good works. They're ill-served.

Teaser poster for W

Oliver Stone's movie 'W' has a teaser poster featuring a list of Bushisms. Click the image for the large version.

Another gay asylum seeker to be sent back to torture or death

The Home Office wants to send another gay asylum seeker back to torture and possible death — and is again claiming that 'discretion' means they can do it.

Prossy Kakooza is a 26-year-old lesbian woman who fled Uganda after suffering vicious sexual, physical and verbal attacks due to her sexual orientation. She has an English Literature degree and would like to teach here.

Uganda's government is violently anti-gay, newspapers and religious groups are engaged in witch hunts and asylum campaigners have reported that returnees on arrival in Kampala have been immediately taken to a torture centre.

While in prison Kakooza was subjected to multiple rapes and branded with red hot meat skewers on her thighs by drunken police officers.

"I’m still receiving counseling at a rape crisis centre," she said.

"I have nightmares every night and I don’t think I will ever get over what happened to me."

Kakooza also said that she often thinks of her girlfriend, Leah, who remains in prison.

"I was lucky I got out. I can’t bear to think of what is happening to her there."

The Home Office has done this before to gay Ugandan torture victims.

For example, in 2005 Kizza Musinguzi who was jailed by the Ugandan government for his gay human rights work and subjected to four months of forced labour, water torture, beatings and rape faced the Home Office saying that the abuse he was subject to did not constitute persecution. In Harmondsworth asylum detention centre he was abused and denied medical treatment.

There is considerable evidence that asylum seekers have been subjected to severe physical abuse from contractors hired by Gordon Brown and Jacqui Smith's Home Office.

UK Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group carries many harrowing stories of the UK's treatment of gay asylum seekers like Prossy. Most of those returned simply disappear to unknown fates. Others have committed suicide here rather than be returned.

Makes you proud to be British.

Prossy telling her own story:

Obama: good for the gays?

When Hillary Clinton explicitly called for gay rights (twice) in her concession speech it was noteworthy. Why? Because it was unknown previously for her to say the word gay in a public forum during the campaign, she even had trouble when it was a gay audience.

Yet despite this lack of upfront support, as well as the hangover from her husband's support for 'Don't ask, don't tell' and 'Defense of marriage', it is Clinton, not Obama, who ended the campaign with the Washington gay establishment in her pocket (Obama's early gay support was mainly black or Chicagoan).

It was Clinton in whom much of the gay community had invested itself: to the point that some of her supporters are now saying they'll join the small minority of gays who'll vote for John McCain (the gay community is the most loyally Democrat after African-Americans and Jewish-Americans).

From Jon Stewart's Daily Show, Aasif Mandvi found one of the fanatical gay supporters who refuse to do Hillary's bidding and 'not go there' (support McCain):

There are more like that. Here's some on Michaelangelo Signorile's Sirius Radio Show:

Yet it is Obama who has been most public, and more importantly, more confrontational, in his support for gays.

Back at the beginning of the campaign he gave a speech in the bull-pulpit of Martin Luther King's Church in Atlanta and explicitly attacked how the black community had "scorned our gay brothers and sisters". This was actually the point at which I got seriously interested in him.

On the trail he consistently mentioned the word and often.

In redneck, small town Texas he said this at a rally.

"Now I’m a Christian, and I praise Jesus every Sunday. [But] I hear people saying things that I don’t think are very Christian with respect to people who are gay and lesbian."

This was the point at which gay community support began to flip towards him.

What's little known is that his time at the Trinity Baptist Church and his relationship with Rev. Wright undoubtedly reinforced this version of Christianity. Wright and Trinity supported gay people.

What problems he's had with gays came from, firstly, including an anti-gay black gospel singer, Donnie McClurkin, on a tour and, secondly, from refusing an interview to a gay newspaper in Philadelphia. (He answered both in an interview with The Advocate). He has also been called out for not attending Chicago Gay Pride marches, although he's supported them. Hillary has marched, though not in 2007 (and she had anti-gay preachers associated with her campaign).

Hillary first big problem was her evident issue on the campaign trail with not saying the word gay — even when speaking to a gay audience as she showed in this embarrassing Logo interview.
1:02 LOGO: "Your opponent, Senator Obama, regularly mentions gay people in his stump speech... You don't mention gay rights all the time in your stump speech, you do when you're in front of gay audiences, why is that?"
1:21 CLINTON: "Well I do mention, uh, from time to time, um, you know I don't mention, you know, everything in every speech that I give, but uh people, you know, know how committed I am and they know what I've done, and that I led the efforts uh to try and defeat the Federal Marriage Amendment, working with you know all of the major uh gay rights organizations, uh, so you know I'm gonna continue to not just talk about what I will do but demonstrate by my actions what I have done and will do."
Her second was as the campaign got dirty and especially when she felt the need to assert her 'testicular fortitude' she referenced "San Francisco" when 'bittergate' struck, a long-standing right-wing anti-gay 'dog-whistle' and something which united San Franciscans in distaste, and stood by whilst a supporter used the "pansy" word.

Many weren't impressed when she sent Chelsea into gay bars, rather than go herself. Though the photos were stunning.

The lowest point came at the end when at the 31st May Democrats Rules Committee (where the Florida and Michigan delegations were decided) her bused-in protesters happily took leaflets from a proven liar who'd claimed to have had sex and done drugs with Obama.
Clusters of people in Hillary shirts ask to take their photo with him, one woman covered in Clinton buttons introduces him to Greta Van Susteren, and he estimates he has handed out 500 fliers. "You could improve your credibility if you downplayed the gay sex and focused on the drugs," sagely advises one Hillary supporter with auburn hair and elegant makeup. But in this universe, Sinclair's credibility doesn't seem to be suffering too much. In fact, he's treated nearly as well as he might be at a meeting of the Vast Right-wing Conspiracy. In the thirty minutes I stand with him, only one woman expresses disgust at his fliers and his willingness to chattily discourse on whether Obama is "good in bed."
It came to this. And on the 'gay dirt' score, for Obama it will get worse.

When both candidates had virtually identical positions (Obama is slightly better) on gay issues - including both being against gay marriage - points like what they say to hostile audiences and whether they appear prepared to throw gays 'under the bus' become important to how they should be judged.

Unfortunately Hillary was originally the anointed candidate and the Washington gay organisations and leadership, including almost all of the gay press, consequently went for her. And the unspoken element was race. Many comments supporting her on gay blogs, as elsewhere, referred to Barack Hussein Obama and some were explicitly racist or offered racist anecdotes regarding Obama. This reflected the also unspoken racial schism in the gay community.

On his record during the campaign, a President Obama definitely looks like he'll be good for the gays. He included and didn't pander - consistently. After Hillary endorsed him he is already doing the outreach to her gay supporters. Whether the gay establishment will be getting any White House sleep-overs is another matter entirely.

Andrew Sullivan had a great summary of what an Obama Presidency might mean for the US gay community, a point which Obama himself made in his Advocate interview:
The Clinton model - exemplified by the Human Rights Campaign - is: give us some big donor checks, we'll hire a lobbyist (if you're lucky), and we'll work the Democratic party establishment to give you your equality (which somehow never happens). Meanwhile: keep whining (and sending the checks). The Obama model is: you will only get your equality if you stand up for it, risk your job, status, even life for the sake of your own integrity. Stop whining and start explaining and persuading and acting.

So many gay people over the years have asked me where our "leader" is. It's the wrong question. We are the ones we have been waiting for. Be the change you want to see in the world. And the world changes. In exact proportion to the number of gay people who have abandoned their fear and self-hatred, it already has. No excuses, guys. And no need to wait.