December, 2004

ID Card Vote Goes Through

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306 MPs voted for it, and 93 against. I don’t know who the MPs who voted against are at the moment, but there was an estimate of 18 Labour rebels. The suggestion is that those against the card were asked to make themselves scarce rather than voting against.
I watched a fair amount of the debate live on BBC Parliament, and it scares me that those few hours are seemingly the most detailed examination we’re getting of the government’s plans.
My earlier dissemination of Charles Clark’s piece in today’s Times is nothing compared to that to be found on Spy Blog.
Incidentally, in an enlightening Newsnight report (not yet online, but likely to be tomorrow), full of quotes, it was repeated that Clarke has changed his mind, with a fellow Norwich MP saying that this is the case.
It’s clear that the real reason for this is to reinforce the idea that the government is actually doing something about terrorism. This is an outrageously expensive way of doing so, at the same time fundamentally changing the state’s relationships with its citizens.
It’s just as well that my passport expires next year, as I’ll be getting a non-biometric one (they can’t do it yet).

ID Cards Bill – Second Reading

Well it’s due to be debated in the House anytime now – well once everyone’s finished talking about Blunkett’s rail ticket.
The Guardian’s Newsblog has a good summary of what some of the key supporters are saying in putting forward good reasons for the card and databases’s introduction (incidentally, I’m hearing far too little about the database).
The Charles Clarke piece is in The Times.

I have long been a strong supporter of the benefits of identity cards.

Not according to this piece that I linked to yesterday. Obviously it was inaccurate.
Still, despite the fact that the in today’s press release from the Home Office, Clarke is quoted as saying the reason for the card’s introduction will be…

helping protect against terrorism, organised crime, identity theft, illegal immigration and illegal working.

Clarke prefers to push other benefits in The Times piece. He says that it’ll help us in

opening a bank account, going abroad on holiday, claiming a benefit, buying goods on credit and renting a video.

Opening a bank account? How many people really can’t manage that? Everybody copes claiming benefit, and I find a passport is most useful for getting on holidays. As for things like gaining credit, well that’s more down to the credit agencies than anything. Having a card will neither help nor hinder this. And I don’t understand how it’ll help me rent a video. Does he advocate the 16 year old working part time in my local Blockbuster being able to check my card details via some kind of online terminal? I suggest that Blockbuster will prefer you to present either several pieces of billing information or a credit/debit card as they do at the moment.

Some £50 million a year is claimed illegally from the benefits systems using false identities.

Indeed, I object to so much money being claimed through false identities, although I’d like to see how this was calculated. But isn’t a THREE BILLION POUND scheme just a little over the top for solving a fifty million pound problem. Of course that three billion won’t include any of the machines or the training, or any of the massive IT overspend that’ll undoubtedly accompany a scheme of this size.
Clarke goes on to mention the requirements of the US of us to carry either biometric passports or visas. Well that’s fine, although I note that George Bush has somehow stopped short of requiring his own citizens to carry an ID card.
Meanwhile over in the Telegraph, Michael Howard writes his own defence of ID cards.
As the Guardian points out, he talks in terms of terrorism and September 11, a tragedy where identity of the criminals was not, and never has been in doubt.
ID cards wouldn’t have stopped 9/11. It wouldn’t have made a bit of difference.

Madcap: Privacy and Information

On January 1 2005, the Freedom of Information Act comes fully into force. This will give us the right to ask various government departments and public authorities what data they hold on us.
Remarkably, the Cabinet Office has suddenly decided that now would be a good time to delete all emails older than three months! So millions of emails will go – and those which need to be kept will be printed out and filed! That way, when someone makes a Freedom of Information Act claim it’ll be a lot harder than running a search engine over the email server. It’ll be good old fashioned civil servant filing cabinets.
And never mind the fact that millions of official records will be lost forever.
The fact is that storage of these emails will be a trivial cost in the scheme of things – indeed I’d think that the ground rent on one filing cabinet in Westminster postcode is more than the cost of gigabytes of backup tapes.
Anyone would think that they’re trying to hide stuff from us.
In the meantime the Law Lords on Thursday ruled that human rights laws are being broken by holding people without trial. This really is our version of Guantanamo. I don’t understand why they can’t be charged if we have any proof of any kind of terrorist activities. We’re told that we can’t be told everything – but since we just went into a war where the primary reason for doing so was found to be false – I’m not really going to accept that. Cases can be heard behind closed doors if need be, but either charge them with conspiracy or release them. If we don’t have law to fall back on then we have nothing.
Finally, tomorrow sees the second reading of the ID Card Bill. Yup – already. And this is despite the Home Secretary resigning and the Home Office being is chaos as a result. But they government are just ploughing ahead with this.
Charles Clarke says that he’s going to continue with plans to introduce the cards. It seems that the objections he was reported as having in September must have all gone away!
Then there’s the Shadown Home Secretary David Davies. This is the same David Davies who spoke at the Mistaken Identity meeting earlier this year, where he was certainly not fully behind the scheme. See my report here, or listen to the meeting’s audio here.
Finally there’s Mark Oaten of the Lib Dems who have always been ID Cards. Again follow these two links for my report and the Oaten’s audio from Mistaken Identity.
So there you have it: three people leading the debate tomorrow in the Commons, all of whom have at the very least, some serious reservations towards this ridiculous bill. A bill which will cost the taxpayer much much more than the widely reported £3 billion, will not make an iota of difference in the fight against terrorism, but will ensure that we become that much less of a free people.
There’s an election next year, and I really don’t know who I can vote for except the Lib Dems, however unlikely they are to get into my constituency.

MT Comments

Wow. This article scares the hell out of me in regard to comment spam that I’ve been suffering. And it may well be the case that something to do with comment spam was the cause of my massive file issues. Although that may have been a broken RSS link.
In the meantime, I’ve got to continue without comments at the moment, and will try to get a “contact me” form up and running soon…

Terrestrial Live TV is Out

Well the ECB have done it. They’ve gone completely to Sky for live coverage. All live cricket is now exclusively available to satellite and cable subscribers.
The sop to the rest of us is that channel Five are going to show highlights between 7.15pm and 8.00pm. Of course large parts of the country don’t get Five either. My parents will not be able to watch any cricket for a start – no analogue Five and no DTT.
Do they really see much of a future for cricket in this country?
If I was at nPower right now, I’d be looking very carefully at where I spent my next sponsorship cash.
Read more from Mediaguardian here.
Back to the radio then…

Is It Stumps For Terrestrial Live Cricket

Today’s the day when the ECC decide whether or not they’re going to deprive the masses and do for themselves what rugby (union and league) already does by removing themselves entirely from terrestrial television.
Do they take the extra £20 available and go exclusively to Sky? How much less should nPower, Vodafone and other sponsors pay if the sport were to be marginalised in this way? This is different to football, which, aside from a brief spell just before the foundation of the Premiership, has never had a history of live coverage. No terrestrial channel is going to put cricket highlights on at any time except the dead of night – the ratings just won’t be good enough.
Rugby Union is a case in point. Just over a year ago, England won the world cup. The winning team had a procession through London, Clive Woodward was knighted and all was happy. And then we realised that the Six Nations was the only other coverage the Sky-less were ever going to get. Now the coverage for that is good, and all the matches are live on the BBC. But the Heineken Cup is no longer shared with multi-channel, and club rugby has no outlet. You get broader coverage of snooker on BBC television.
Anyway, we’ll have to wait and see.

Golden Globes – Who Are They Anyway?

The Golden Globe nominations have just been announced and there’s the usual hullaballoo about them, but what exactly are the Golden Globes? Well they’re awarded by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association – an important sounding institution. Hollywood’s films are of interest around the world, and it’s only right that the various critics “who disseminate information about movies and television to the world through their various publications throughout the world” should have an organisation at its heart.
Except that the membership seems very meagre at just 90 members, with another half dozen affiliate members. Still, the UK seems well represented, but when I cast my eyes over the list, I’m not completely familiar with many of the names. In fact I haven’t heard of any of them.
But that might be my problem – I don’t read every publication in the UK, so lets have a quick run through the list. The following is obviously incomplete, but is an honest account of what searching Google reveals.
Gabrielle Donnelly
There’s a Gabrielle Donnelly who’s written such books as The Girl in the Photograph amongst others. They seem to be fiction though. Still there’s a record of a Gabrielle Donnelly who wrote an article on Colin Firth (he has quite an internet following) for Real Magazine. This isn’t a magazine that I’m familiar with. Is it British?
Gloria Geale
Now in her late eighties, she’s obviously something of a stalwart member given her mention in this article. But that’s as much as I could turn up on her.
Mike Goodridge
Goodridge is an active journalist in Hollywood working for the British trade magazine Screen International and its sister website. There’s also a Mike Goodridge who’s written books on directing.
Emanuel Levy
With his own website, Levy is obviously an active writer in Hollywood. But I don’t see the connection with the UK. Indeed the About Me on the website doesn’t mention any British publications or broadcasters, nor does it mention his membership of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, despite mentioning membership of several other organisations.
Howard Lucraft
There’s a Howard Lucraft who was born in the UK in 1916 (making him 88), and there’s a Howard Lucraft who writes about (and plays) jazz on the west coast of the States. Are they the same people? I don’t know. But I can’t find any mentions of any Howard Lucraft who writes in the UK.
Jerry Watson
A common name, so much trickier to tie down. I can’t find any record of a Jerry Watson writing in a UK publication. There’s a Jerry Watson who was Director of Photography on a couple of films, but that’s about it. No correspondents of that name.
The following list England among other countries. So I can’t discount the fact that they’re the equivalent of Barry Norman or Jonathan Ross in those countries – just that I’ve not heard of them in the UK (or even England)
Jenny Cooney Carrillo (also lists Australia and New Zealand)
Definitely writes for Australian publications including this one. But I can’t see any British publications.
John Hiscock (also lists Canada)
Writes extensively for The Daily Telegraph in the UK. Until recently Telegraph newspapers were owned by Conrad Black who had extensive press interests in Canada, hence the probable link.
Anita Weber (also lists France, Japan and South Africa)
All I could find about Weber was a quote from an enlightening criticism about the HFPA on wikipedia – “everyone comes in as a writer but many eventually become photographers as well, because there’s more money in photos.”
Jean E. Cummings (also lists Japan)
Absolutely no idea. The only listings I can find are those that speak of her membership of the HFPA. Surely she’s not the same person who’s office manager of an accountancy firm?
Isabelle Caron (also lists France and Spain)
Difficult to say, as there are significant French listings to be found. There is a Caron who translates British writer Pat Barker into French, and a writer in Canada. Can’t find any British offerings though.
Mohammed Rouda (also lists Kuwait and UAE)
Obviously a true Hollywood correspondent for the Arabic region, he’s likely to be published in the UK in the Arabic press here.
I don’t deny that even those journalists that I’ve not found a UK connection with haven’t published occassionally in the UK – we speak the same language just about. But just because you can get Variety here really isn’t the same thing. The Wikipedia article linked to above mentions that membership requirements mean that you only have to publish four times a year – not what you expect from a working journalist. So kidding on about being the “Foreign” press really isn’t on.
I suspect that if I was part of quite a powerful club, I wouldn’t want to let in many of the correspondents who really do work in La La Land. It’d dilute my power. But I don’t work in the industry, so I’m sure that there are many things I don’t understand.

Worth Reading

Check out this Carl Hiaasen piece from today’s Miami Herald. Jon Stewart showed that clip on his show earlier this week, but I think we in the UK have missed it (aren’t torrents wonderful?). Rumsfield was so out of his depth in that arena it was a joke – and he appeared with the ridiculous sight of an attack helicopter behind his dais that had obviously been wheeled in for the occassion to make it look good on telly.

Massive File Sizes

I’ve got some kind of hosting problems at the moment – it seems that this page is being recorded as somewhere in the region of up to 100MB which kinda kills my hosting. I’m looking into the problem ASAP, but in the meantime, please bear with me, and I apologise in advance for any outtages.
As I’m still suffering from comment spam, I’m having to disable comments for the time being. But I’ll put some kind of contact box up in its place.