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Saturday, July 12

Welsh Assemby sacks blogger

I wonder if the new social media code for civil servants has any effect and or meaning in a devolved authority? His blog is now 'by invitation only'.

Sacked blogger’s taking case to tribunal

Jul 9 2008 by Martin Shipton, Western Mail

AN Assembly Government civil servant who was sacked for running a political blog is taking his case to an Employment Tribunal.

Last night a former AM who himself is a regular blogger said he found the decision to dismiss the civil servant “heavy handed”.

The former Assembly Government employee, whose real name has not been disclosed but who ran a blog called Christopher Glamorganshire, provided what readers saw as a neutral running commentary on last year’s coalition negotiations involving Labour and Plaid Cymru.

An Assembly Government spokesman said: “This issue regards a former Welsh Assembly Government employee who was dismissed for activities related to the Glamorganshire Blog that contravened the Civil Service Code. The case went to the Civil Service Appeals Board, which we won, and it is listed for Employment Tribunal in Cardiff later this year.”

It is understood the elements of the Civil Service Code regarded by the Assembly Government as relevant to the case come under sections headed “integrity” and “rights and responsibilities”.

Under integrity, the relevant clauses read: “You must always act in a way that is professional and that deserves and retains the confidence of all those with whom you have dealings,” and: “You must not misuse your official position, for example by using information acquired in the course of your official duties to further your private interests or those of others.”

Under rights and responsibilities, the clause considered to have been broken states: “This Code is part of the contractual relationship between you and your employer. It sets out the high standards of behaviour expected of you which follow from your position in public and national life as a civil servant. You can take pride in living up to these values.”

Last night former Conservative AM Glyn Davies, a regular blogger, said: “The Christopher Glamorganshire blog was on my list of ‘my favourites’. It seemed to me to be written in a sensible and rational manner.

“Clearly, if his contract of employment said he was not allowed to blog, he doesn’t have much of a case.

“But if it is simply a question of supposedly contravening the code, I think sacking him is very harsh and heavy handed.”

He added: “This all smacks of the heavy hand of the state.”

Postscript: Matt Wardman has an extensive report and backgrounder. He says:

The approach is slightly out of kilter in a country where only this week Hazel Blears was talking about giving more leeway for Council Officers to participate in the political process.
He also has a comment from Christopher Glamorgan:

A thousand apologies!

It is very kind of you to notice, but I am afraid that the blog has had to be taken ‘offline’ for the time being. I am still an avid reader of other blogs and am chomping at the bit as I type.

Hopefully normal service will resume very soon ;>D

And the reaction from a leading Welsh political blogger, Miss Wagstaff (whose blog is apparently blocked on Assembly government computers).
This all seems unfair to me, but best of luck to you 'Christopher'. Like any large organisation, the Assembly Government will - without a shadow of doubt - put their whole legal team behind the case, and solicitors are costly, so I fear that you'll need more than fair play, luck, and common sense on your side.
Is there a witchhunt? There's a story here saying that he is the fourth blogger sacked by the Assembly government. And this comment:
I can't remember a post by Christopher that was either reveling or controversial, certainly nothing that would appear to justify his dismissal from public service.
As well as this one:
The Welsh Assembly Government recently allowed a member of staff to resign after being found guilty in court of sexually harrassing a colleague.

The man in question was even allowed to stay in the workplace while an investigation was underway.
This post give a further suggestion of a witchhunt, saying that he was a Conservative. Conservative Welsh MP David Jones weighs in here.

What the new social media code for civil servants does not cover is if civil servants have any right to an opinion and how this tallies with 'freedom of expression' rights. Perhaps that is too big a can of worms to open but since 'civil servants' is sometimes taken to mean all public servants (and not just employees of parliaments or ministers) of which there are millions, perhaps this case should be taken up as a chance to add some more definition here?

Postscript: Are the Mail trawling for another blogging civilserf story? Matt Wardman notes the Christopher Glamorganshire sacking story cut and paste Promotional Tour

Postscript: Ian Cuddy at PSF noticed something I managed to miss (ahem) - that blogcatalog has the first lines archived of Christopher's posts. An example:
"I'm off early as I am the boss even though there is a big "issue" developing. You will stay here and work late as you are not senior enough to enjoy a work-life balance. Also used by senior managers as a way of sounding PC..."
The description Christopher offered of his blog is:
"Wales, the Welsh, politics, humour, general philosophical commentary, and gossip... Oh! and the professional bloggers down the Bay (but spare a thought for the Kingdom that is United for we are joined at the hip and rightly so)"
Ian also discovered his Blogger profile which reads: "Will today be a nine-to-five lunch break interrupted by an hour of work or will something substantial fall on my desk?"

As well as according to Wikipedia (which must be true), Christopher is "currently a philosophy student of the University of Wales, Lampeter" and trying to create a Wikipedia entry for Assembly Members and other Welsh politicians.

Yet more searching uncovers Christopher commenting and linking to his blog on the BBC Wales political blog, a flavour of who he may have pissed off

Scrapbook clips catch up

Wait a while and the clips pile up ...

The Berlin gay holocaust memorial is unveiled and among the participants was 95-year-old Rudolf Brazda, who survived incarceration in Buchenwald concentration camp from 1941 to 1945. "It was a terrible time," Brazda said. Asked how he felt now, he responded: "I must say that I feel as though I were in paradise in this democratic society."

What is happening in the Italian blogosphere? I check viral videos regularly and a lot are suddenly Italian. And this is in a list previously 100% dominated by America with occasional Sarkozy interruptions.

Viral, political video on the whole is becoming more international. I've seen (as well as French) some Malaysian and Canadian video pop up with serious numbers of blog postings.

Another, positive, view of the impact of the internet on China:

The Chinese public sphere has become a more freewheeling, interesting and chaotic arena for expressions of opinion than it was. This isn't all due to the Internet (crusading print journalists and activists have also done their part), but bloggers calling attention to official corruption or mocking government policies have definitely helped alter the political landscape.

The politically significant things happening online involve forms of communication, such as efforts to call attention to corrupt acts by local officials, that dovetail with policies that are promoted or at least given lip service by the central authorities.
After racist hiring, another negative against Google Inc: their Daycare arrangements.

The Itch: Its mysterious power may be a clue to a new theory about brains and bodies.

Really recommended science feature from the New Yorker:
The images in our mind are extraordinarily rich. We can tell if something is liquid or solid, heavy or light, dead or alive. But the information we work from is poor—a distorted, two-dimensional transmission with entire spots missing. So the mind fills in most of the picture. You can get a sense of this from brain-anatomy studies. If visual sensations were primarily received rather than constructed by the brain, you’d expect that most of the fibres going to the brain’s primary visual cortex would come from the retina. Instead, scientists have found that only twenty per cent do; eighty per cent come downward from regions of the brain governing functions like memory. Richard Gregory, a prominent British neuropsychologist, estimates that visual perception is more than ninety per cent memory and less than ten per cent sensory nerve signals.


Researchers at the University of Manchester, in England, have gone a step beyond mirrors and fashioned an immersive virtual-reality system for treating patients with phantom-limb pain. Detectors transpose movement of real limbs into a virtual world where patients feel they are actually moving, stretching, even playing a ballgame. So far, five patients have tried the system, and they have all experienced a reduction in pain. Whether those results will last has yet to be established. But the approach raises the possibility of designing similar systems to help patients with other sensor syndromes. How, one wonders, would someone with chronic back pain fare in a virtual world? The Manchester study suggests that there may be many ways to fight our phantoms.
How social networking saved New Orleans: Powered by community, New Orleans residents exposed city hall and the power of social software
Using blogs with names like Fix the Pumps and Squandered Heritage, citizens took up "beats," lending their professional expertise, ingenuity and gumshoe efforts to create a citizens' voice to counter city government rhetoric.
Via David Wilcox: Community networking to tackle climate change
That’s not all, though - I have also been drafted in by Tracey Todhunter to help develop her ideas for a ‘communiversity’ for low carbon communities. She writes about it here. We’re going to start off in my session, so Tracey and her colleagues can develop a strategy using the game; and then take the results into her session to drum up support and refine things.
All about the CivilSerf project:

A global virtual community for teenagers has teamed up with the Matthew Shepard Foundation to educate young online users about dignity and respect.

From next Monday foundation staff will lead discussions twice a week in's InfoBus, which is a virtual room designed to look like the inside of a high-end bus.

Good new resource: The Social Web Analytics eBook 2008

Zugby's blog post about being forced to the ground by armed police in Bournemouth.
I oblige. I'm shocked, confused, scared and embarrassed all at the same time. Most of the bystanders have vacated the platform by now, by police order. And I'm not talking about normal police either. This is the Specialist Firearms Unit, about 8 of them, machine guns, bulletproof vests, police dogs and all. And they're here to arrest ME!
AP feature on Web 2.0 - censoring the right to rant

With online services becoming greater conduits than shopping malls for public communications, however, some advocacy groups believe the federal government needs to guarantee open access to speech. That, of course, could also invite meddling by the government, the way broadcasters now face indecency and other restrictions that are criticised as vague.

Others believe companies shouldn't police content at all, and if they do, they should at least make clearer the rules and the mechanisms for appeal.

Where's Web 2.0 at in the US government?
Local government officials had mixed views about how they see Web 2.0 meshing with their needs, however. Mary Benner, CIO of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, called it "something that we need to pursue, but it is not an immediate priority".

While Web 2.0 can help residents communicate better with their governments, she says, offering those kinds of features is becoming a key way to lure younger IT workers to take jobs in government where they can build innovative Web 2.0 applications.
Dave Briggs' review of Communities in Control, the new white paper by the Department for Communities and Local Government. It's pretty radical but I commented that if you want to address the 'digital divide', which it references, you could start by ramping up funding for UK Online Centres whose CEO has been screaming about underfunding. Not sexy and seemingly not on anyone's agenda.

Craig Tomley offers (tongue in cheek) 10 reasons government agencies should not advertise online
7) Because our senior executives haven't gotten the hang of email yet, and we know that our executives (who approve our ad design and spend) think and act exactly in the same way as our customers, even though they earn more, are degree-qualified, much older and live in Canberra.

Comment from Belgium about the YouTube/Viacon decision:
Obviously, European Youtube users didn’t ask for their youtube usage to be handed over to Viacom Inc.. Who knows what Viacom will do with this highly private data (which contains highly detailed information about people’s interests such as the videos they watch, the various topics they are interested in, and so on)?

I only hope that enough Europeans will formally protest at their country’s privacy agencies and/or at the European institutions. Although, I fear it won’t matter anymore as privacy nowadays has become far less important than Britney Spears or Paris Hilton.

Anyway, please find the contact details for Belgium here.

In the US, the right-wing Xstian preacher Hagee has through take-down been attempting to get off the viral video circuit, but it's backfired.

More on 'The War On Tourism' @ America's borders from Peter Tatchell:
After being held in custody in appalling conditions for over 26 hours by the department of homeland security, Mengal was refused entry to the US and deported. No reasons given. No right of appeal. This is Bush-style democracy in action.
Patricia Hewitt is Nigerian?
Before my retirement, I personally made an over estimation, and stacked the sum of Six Million Three Hundred Thousand Great Britain Pounds which I totally intend for the purpose of charity and none other which will be supervised Attorney as he will also be the one in charge of securing these funds into your custody.
The historic victory for UK bloggers of Alan Murray in Northern Ireland.
'During my testimony in court I said I was only trying to criticise those in power or those that would speak for us. That right has been upheld by the judge's decision. If the judge had ruled against me, then every blogger would have been vulnerable to charges of intimidation because those at the end of their criticism could claim they were being picked upon. A very bad precedent would have been set,' he said.
Revealed: The ten members of Web’s ‘500 million club’ - Via NetImperative: Only 10 websites and applications - led by MSN Messenger, eBay and Facebook – have averaged at least 500 million UK minutes per month over the last year, according to new research. Facebook, YouTube and Second Life are the fastest growing sites in terms of total UK minutes.

AP: Uncertainty aplenty as Web, media leaders convene
Both media and online leaders are grappling with the Internet's increasing fragmentation. And they're all looking for more advertising revenue online, where media companies have recouped only a small fraction of what they lost in print and where Web companies want to maximize their investments.
Bill Thompson on the reaction to copyright infringement by big corps:
EMI, Warner, V2, Sony BMG and the other four hundred or so members of the BPI want to cut people off from that network for copyright infringement.

Imagine if you had a child who was excluded from school for cheating in an exam, and you were told that they weren't allowed to watch TV, listen to music, read books, talk to their friends or go into any shop during the exclusion.

Oh, and you and your entire family were subject to the same restrictions.

Wal-Mart: Ethical retailing? Hmmm.
The company has been churning out dozens of white papers on sustainability, publicly available on its website, addressing everything from how to change eating and exercise habits to green charities; holding state-of-the art conferences on greening the supply chain; building environmentally efficient stores with open sky lighting and motion sensors to reduce energy consumption; rolling out green products in almost every department; and basing its promotion structure of its own employees, including senior staff, on how successful they are in convincing vendors to adopt measurable environmental standards.
Monbiot: Trawlermen cling on as oceans empty of fish - and the ecosystem is gasping

From PSF, this story made me think of numerous Fairy Tale analogies:, largely involving wolves
Ministers have declared another major sweeping 'new' pan-government efficiency drive aiming to cut down IT spending and slash back-office costs.

The 'Operational' Efficiency Programme kicked off last week with the launch of a series of 'cross-cutting' reviews headed up by a veritable host of business leaders. Each review will report back in March with news of where £££ billions of savings can be made across the public sector.

The first review, led by Martin Jay, chairman of technology and engineering group and former stock market darling Invensys.
Talk about desperation ... in Slate: the movie I'm rushing out to see, Wall-E, is allegedly fattist:
This stereotype of the "obese lifestyle" is simply false. How fat you are has a lot more to do with your genes than with your behavior. As much as 80 percent of the variation in human body weight can be explained by differences in our DNA.
Genius take on all those stories about science's quest to find the cause of gayness by David Ehrensten, merging a “feminized brain” with Plan 9 From Outer Space:
That’s because, Lord Saletan, we know full well who WILL be doing the controlling — Eros from Plan 9 !
Can’t you see him now explaining it all to us? Why is this happening, O Visitors From Another World?
“Because of death. Because all you of Earth are idiots! You see! You see! Your stupid female brains! Stupid! Stupid!”


If ever anything summed up that British "stiff upper lip", this Keep Calm And Carry On poster is it. During the early spring of 1939 and the war with Germany almost inevitable the British Government commissioned this poster to be displayed throughout the country upon the out-break of war. The plan for the poster was to relay a message from the King to his people that all capable measures to defend the country were being taken. This original World War II poster lay undiscovered and forgotten until a copy turned up over 50 years later within a pile of dusty old books bought from an auction, it's soothing message is still relevant today - it understands that you are a little bit stressed but knows you'll be ok. You can purchase heaps of great products that feature the Keep Calm and Carry On logo from this fab site.
The Onion has been celebrating Gay Pride march month (for want of a better word) by pulling together past posts, including this: New Dad Thinks Baby Might Be Gay.

The great Yossi Alpher falls for Sasha Baron-Cohen's latest creation:
"Vait, vait. Vat’s zee connection between a political movement and food. Vy hummus?”
Quote of the week
John Harris on Any Questions?, about the Islington Registrar being allowed to discriminate against gay couples:
It's about privileged beliefs. I'm a vegetarian. If I worked at Tesco and said I'm not going to put meat through the checkout they'd be quite justified in saying 'you're not right for the job'.

Friday, July 11

Cars cause allergies

We already know that car and lorry driven pollution cause thousands of premature deaths amongst asthmatics, the elderly and others. Now German scientists have established a link between car-pollution and allergies. Y'know, those conditions which our grandparents didn't seem to suffer from but our children do.

Allergic diseases appear more often in children who grow up near busy roads. This is the result of a study of several thousand children, now published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Under the direction of the Helmholtz Zentrum München, a German research group studied in a longitudinal study, over six years, whether associations are identifiable between the onset of atopic diseases and exposure to air pollutants originating from traffic. The scientists based their analysis, on the one hand, on the corresponding distance of the parental home to streets busy with traffic, and on the other hand, modeled values, for the respective residencial addresses of the children, of air pollution with fine dust, diesel soot and nitrogen dioxide.

The research team led by Dr. Joachim Heinrich of the Institute of Epidemiology of the Helmholtz Zentrum München compared, with this, the data of 3,061 six-year old children from Munich and its surroundings. From birth, their development has been tracked within the scope of the so-called GINI and LISA studies. The studies are led by Prof. Dr. H.-Erich Wichmann of the Helmholtz Zentrum München, and, among other things, are aimed at the study of behavioral and environmental risk factors for allergic diseases. In the current analysis, the results of medical research and regular parental interviews were considered. Moreover, the appearance of the specific IgE antibodies against common allergens in blood serum was tested in children at the age of 6.

Joachim Heinrich and his colleagues consider the results of their research to be clear evidence of the disadvantageous effects of air pollution from traffic on the causes of allergies and atopic diseases. In the past, epidemiological studies on this subject failed to supply a clear picture, although the effects of laboratory experiments and inhalation studies are well-known.
Is this science? Yes. Is this also common sense? Yes. Is our continuing to pollute our children's air a classic example of collective displacement behavior? Yes.

McCain's week

And no, you won't hear any of this via the BBC's Washington 'reporters'. This is just the last week!

The sole thing going for him is the US media's absence of coverage which, given the increasing news sourcing from the web, isn't what it used to be. If there are any favorable odds left for Obama bets, take them.

  1. McCain unambiguously called Social Security [pensions] "an absolute disgrace."
  2. McCain's top economic policy adviser calls Americans a bunch of "whiners" for being worried about the slumping economy.
  3. Iraqi leaders call for a timetable for U.S. withdrawal, McCain gets caught in a bizarre denial and flip flop.
  4. McCain's economic plan to cut the deficit has no details and is simply not believable.
  5. McCain's deficit plan includes bringing the troops home represents a major Iraq flip-flop.
  6. McCain campaign misled about economists support.
  7. McCain makes a joke about killing Iranians.
  8. McCain denies, flatly, that he ever said that he is not an expert in economics.
  9. McCain distorts his record on veterans benefits in response to a question from Vietnam Veteran, who then proceeds to call McCain out on it.
  10. McCain demonstrates he knows nothing about Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Music: Ain't no mountain high enough

Both Marvin Gaye (one of the sexiest men of all time) and Tammi Terrell are tragic figures.

Gaye, famoulsy, shot by his dad. Terrell died of a brain tumour at 24.

Channel Four News: embedded

This is the story of today's protests about Zimbabwean asylum seekers being allowed to work.

Channel Four is ahead of the game, ahead of the BBC.

This is:

  1. a public service
  2. great promotion for Channel Four
  3. greatly increasing the viewership for these reports
I am not just promoting this story, I am (through embedding) promoting Channel Four.

Postscript: Demonstrating my point, Sokwanele are now carrying this C4 News clip.

Thursday, July 10

egov bloggers and news sources

Dave Briggs has started, (and included me, thanks ;] ) and had a lot of suggestions to add to the site.

These are the feeds I've got in my Reader - and Dave's post + comments following mean I have a number of others to add. (There are some sources without feeds - shock - which are in my links list in the right column).

Getting very hard to keep up ;{ I certainly have ones I make a point to check (hey Dave!) but some mechanism to float more interesting stuff to the surface is definitely needed. I can't really see a way of automating this, it needs a human editor.

This is kindof what egov Victoria does, maybe somewhere like Public Sector Forums (only not just accessible?) could do it sustainably? Would be terribly useful!

Our shame: official, imposed destitution

Protest by Zimbabwean refugees - the banner reads 'you take our nurses but not our wounded'

In a story buried in almost all the media, Gordon Brown has misled people on his government's attitude to Zimbabwean refugees.

According to the Press Association:
The deportation of failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe has now been halted, Gordon Brown said.

The Prime Minister told MPs that while officials continued to deal with the issue on a case-by-case basis, no returns were currently taking place.

“No-one is being forced to return to Zimbabwe from the United Kingdom at this time,” he said.

Mr Brown, who has been under pressure to stop the deportations in the wake of the violence surrounding the disputed presidential election, said that ministers were also looking to help failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers who were unable to work.
It is noticeable that the story fails to quote press statements such as by the Refugee Council's Donna Covey.

They were not deporting anyway because of a legal challenge - it’s not news, it's not some great act of charity, source G.Brown, which might please his Minister father.

What’s desperately needed is that the Zimbabweans in the UK are granted ‘leave to remain’ so they can work.

At the moment 11,000 are officially destitute. Many are homeless and begging. All are reliant on charity. This is intolerable.

What Brown said was, frankly, a lie.

This is what the Refugee Council said:
The Refugee Council will tomorrow accuse the government of “utter hypocrisy” as its Chief Executive, Donna Covey, addresses a rally outside Parliament calling on the government to give Zimbabwean asylum seekers leave to stay in the UK and allow them to work.

Thousands of Zimbabweans have been refused asylum in the UK, yet the government admits it is not safe to send them back. They are left homeless and destitute, with no entitlement to any support or the ability to work and support themselves.

It comes close to a charade for the Foreign Secretary to applaud the courage of refugees from Zimbabwe in South Africa, while in this country Zimbabwean refugees are being left to rot.

“The current situation amounts to a policy of saying to Zimbabweans, we won’t return you but our protection will amount to you being allowed to stay and beg on our streets.

“If the government had a shred of decency it would act now, to give Zimbabweans some temporary status in this country, allowing them to work and indeed to reskill so that they are better placed to help rebuild their country when the Mugabe regime falls.”
Unfortunately we have a strong anti-refugee movement led by the media outlets which aren't covering this or quoting the Refugee Council, and this is why it's so difficult to get pressure on G. Brown to do something about the situation of the Zimbabweans.

The government hides behind blatant falsehoods about their system's supposed 'fairness' but the reality is as I explained: official destitution.

They have merely suspended deportations to Harare but only after being forced to by being taken to court.

I and many Brits find this shameful. We live in the fifth biggest economy and most other European countries - or for that matter African countries - do not behave this way. At least they let people work.

And it's not just Zimbabweans. We are now sending refugees back to Darfur. And because the system which creates this is getting no media coverage, British people haven't a clue about what's being done in our name.

Wednesday, July 9

Union misses a trick online: surprised?

Next week over a million UNISON members will be on strike. It's about a low pay offer, the rising cost of living and the - still - low pay of many people working in the public sector.

So what is UNISON's suggestion about how you can support them online?

Add your support for the strike to Google Earth
I'm not kidding.
Spread the word among your members and get them to ask a friend, relative, or workmate to pin their support on Google Earth.
As a UNISON member I'm annoyed. No banner I can stick on my blog. No petition I can sign + link to. No video I can help go viral.

None of the tried'n'tested basics for online campaigning.

It's irrelevant, disconnected and - laughably - useless.

Canada's genocide

Canada's "dirty secret" - the planned genocide of aboriginal people in church-run Indian Residential Schools - and a clergyman's efforts to document and make public these crimes. An excellent, extremely moving and educative film.

Web power: From the Zimbabwe underground to the G8

Two days ago the Zimbabwean civic organisation Sokwanele published this photo on their blog.

It is of the mutilated and burnt corpse of Joshua Bakacheza, MDC driver for Mashonaland West and discovered late on Saturday. Many people apart from the 103 confirmed dead are also missing. It had taken his family two weeks to find it.

Joshua and another MDC supporter, Tendai Chidziwo, had been assisting murdered MDC activist Tonderai Ndira’s wife to move her furniture and personal belongings as she no longer felt safe at her home in Mabvuku, a sprawling township on the outskirts of Harare.

Their truck was ambushed by 16 Zanu-PF thugs, leaving Tonderai’s widow and her two children standing by the roadside, trembling from fright and crying.

Joshua and Tendai was taken to a torture centre and tortured and then shot. Tendai miraculously survived, he directed the family to where the corpse might be found.

Sokwanele have a Flickr page which hosts this photo and many others, and a Google Map, as well as the blog, where they are documenting the terror campaign.

Yesterday Gordon Brown used this photo at the G8 summit to convince his fellow leaders of the need for action against Mugabe's murderous regime.

The meme is that he was producing it from his back pocket. (It was also mentioned on his Twitter feed).

From determined family to Sokwanele to the G8 - this is an amazing moment in web history.

I have read many comments on Sokwanele's blog about whether their documentation is worthwhile, whether people elsewhere can make any real impact. Today showed that they could and the web is enabling this; this is worth noting and I am amazed that none of the news reporting about Brown's actions have sourced the photo back to the web and the heroic people behind Sokwanele.

Postscript: What is more, well, amazing is that in my correspondence with Sokwanele they do not care if credit is given.

These people are my heroes.

Tuesday, July 8

Music: Shoot the dog

George Michael - Shoot the dog - kewego
George Michael - Shoot the dog - kewego

Great politics, great bassline. Fabulous.

"I have strong opinions on Britain's current situation & I feel that in a time when public debate is being suppressed even something as trivial as a pop song can be a good thing. Shoot The Dog is intended as a piece of political satire, no more no less, & I hope that it will make people laugh & dance, & then think."
He was crucified for this in the US. You go, girlfriend.

Animation by 2DTV.


We're doomed I say, doomed ...

"[Pringles] has a shape not found in nature, being designed and manufactured for stacking, and giving a pleasing and regular undulating appearance which permits comfortable eating."
Potato based content = 42%

Less taxes for us them!

... I draw attention to various George Monbiot columns about the DOOMED nature of us westerners carrying on like this ... as well as the results of eating their 'low-fat' variety (think Olestra, think "anal leakage") ...

Monday, July 7

Zimbabwean exiles abandoned, left destitute

One image from the terror campaign: More

Cross-posted from LGBT asylum news also on Wardman Wire

The UK Prime Minister is currently in Japan lecturing people about doing more to oust Robert Mugabe.

At the same time his government is doing everything it can to oust the opposition to Mugabe from the UK.

This week 11,000 Zimbabwean refugees received letters asking them to return to a country described by the same government as undergoing a campaign of terror orchestrated by a military cabal. No opposition is brokered and activists are being hunted down and killed.

These refugees are being denied a right to work or any official support (because they are 'refused' to return because they are terrified and do not have 'leave to remain') so they are - officially - destitute and many are homeless and some beg to survive. This is the practice adopted by the UK government to force people to return.

It is hypocrisy of the highest order. Many poor African countries have accepted thousands more Zimbabwean refugees, in South Africa millions. Yet the fifth richest country in the world refuses basic support to the very same people it is praising in Zimbabwe - Mugabe's opposition.

The sole reason is because the UK government is beholden to a few media proprietors who propagate lies about asylum seekers to make money from populist fears.

The government has been trying for some time to forcibly send people back to Zimbabwe - there was a court case which highlighted the unreported issue this week.

Donna Covey, Chief executive of the Refugee Council said:

“The legal ping pong over the removal of Zimbabweans is now becoming farcical. The Judges in explaining their decision today said as much, making the point that the test case going through the courts is more than a year old, and based on even older evidence, while the situation in Zimbabwe is clearly deteriorating day by day.

“It’s now time for the government to drop the legal action and do the decent and sensible thing. It should give all Zimbabweans a temporary right to stay in the UK until the situation in their country improves markedly. This would allow the Zimbabweans, many of whom are well qualified, to work to support themselves and to carry on making plans for rebuilding their shattered country once the Mugabe regime falls.

“The current situation, where brave Zimbabweans who have stood up for democracy and human rights are left homeless and destitute in the UK, having been refused any protection, is a disgrace.”

Sir John Waite, co-chairman of the Independent Asylum Commission, which has just published a report on the asylum system in the UK, described the situation as a source of shame.

He said: "We heard testimony from many Zimbabwean asylum seekers and we were shocked by what we found - Zimbabweans sleeping on sofas, in parks and launderettes, reliant on charity and prevented from working."

He added: "Our nation's leaders have loudly condemned the Mugabe regime, but perhaps we should also look a little closer to home, to the thousands of Zimbabwean asylum seekers who have been left in a harsh legal limbo - unable to work, deprived of welfare and unable to return home. If the British people had heard what we have heard from destitute Zimbabweans, they would be troubled and perhaps even ashamed."

A march and rally is due to be held in Westminster on Friday, to ask for asylum seekers from Zimbabwe to be given status and the right to work. It will begin in Parliament Square, outside Westminster Abbey, at 1.30pm.

It will be preceded by a special service at St Margaret’s Church Westminster Abbey, led by the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu.

  • The Still Human Still Here Campaign
    Dedicated to highlighting the plight of tens of thousands of refused asylum seekers who are being forced into abject poverty in an attempt to drive them out of the country.

Sunday, July 6

It's also about the money

Several colleagues have blogged about David Lammy MP’s speech to the Fabian Society, in which he drew inspiration from Barack Obama's internet-led campaign and internet-empowered base. Comparing with Labour, Lammy said:

This is light years away from the caution that can come either from the long shadow of opposition in the 1980s, or the straightjacket that being in office can feel like.

It has put together a web strategy premised on connecting activists and supporters to one another, not just pushing out tightly controlled messages from campaign HQ.

Suddenly in the US the web is being used to connect people with politics again – at a time when people are using it to circumvent politics in the UK.

And the huge lesson for us is that the technology is neither particularly complicated, nor especially expensive or labour-intensive to run.

Obama’s web strategy is focused solely on making the vital work which goes on in town halls and on doorsteps work better.

The lesson is that internet campaigning should also be about giving supporters the tools they need to get their own message across in their neighbourhood or local area.
However both Simon Dickson and Dave Briggs echo Lammy's talk about web tools being 'cheap, often free, and easy'. They are but the ones Barack employed aren't cheap (e.g. phone banks) , infact they are the legacy of marketing industry tools first deployed by Karl Rove in 2000, and the advisors who created the online campaign come from several years experience (and probably aren't cheap). Plus the traditional marketing spend - TV ads - outweighed it many, many times over. See my post Turning web buzz into votes: how Obama does it for more about the tools the campaign employed.

How they did it was new, in contrast to Hillary there wasn't the normal degree of top-down messaging during the primaries - although this may well change as we get closer to the general election and the 'netroots' is already squirming about that.

And they didn't get everything right - Hillary did better and earlier online marketing - plus one really big lesson is that email remains the killer app.

Plus US politics is very different to UK politics. Plus the US is 6x bigger - scale matters. Plus the campaign is oppositional (one reason why the right are bigger online in the UK).

In short, Barack's campaign is very inspiring but very open to picking up from it the wrong lessons.

Here's some for Lammy:
  1. once November is past, Labour should go hiring
  2. he should be arguing for a shift in party spending to online
  3. (and this was the meat of his speech) - he should also look at how Labour can adapt to become less top-down and encourage and empower the base (but this goes against the actions of the last twenty years or so).
And I think those points are in decreasing order of likelihood.