Saturday, November 20, 2010

Google gets off with a slap on the wrist

After the furore over Google and in particular Google Street View and it's lack of concern for invading individual's privacy and undermining freedom, you would have thought Google was in for some serious punishment. It's not like there wasn't people advocating some very sensible reforms to force Google and other Internet firms to comply with respect for civil liberties. At the Backbench Business Committee Debate on Google and Privacy initiated by Robert Halfon there were some excellent suggestions made.

Once again the Information Commissioner Christopher Graham seems to have ignored the concerns of many people who care for liberty. He seems to have ignored his International counterparts from countries like South Korea, USA and Germany who seem to take Google's lack of concern for individual freedom much more seriously. If his refusal to come down hard on Google in the first place when there abuse of Google Street View was worrying, his next steps have been no less so. Compared to other Information Commissioners across the world our Information Commissioner has been asleep at the wheel. If he was in the private sector rather than in the safe world of a quangocrat I dare say he would have been fired.

Apparently we are all now safe from the prying eyes of Google who have signed a document committing them to better handling of individual's data. Note this document doesn't put any stop to how much Data Google has be and will in the future collect. However Google has signed similar documentations in the past. It is not worth the paper is written on. If we really want to get serious with Google, criminal proceedings need to be looked into.

Apparently the Information Commissioner is going to be taking an audit of all Google's work when it comes to handling. If its anything like the previous investigations by the Information Commissioner into Google, I'm sure they are quaking in their boots.

Apparently Google is in the Information Commissioner’s good books because they graciously deleted the WI-Fi data on individuals that they collected. That it took them so long to delete the data does not seem to perturb him.

If ever there was proof that the surveillance state in both its public and private sector forms in Britain is still very much alive the softly-softly approach to Google is.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Scale Of The Financial Mess in Context

Over the past week, firstly in a meeting of Progressive Conservatives where Jeremy Browne a right wing Liberal Democrat and Foreign Office Minister in the coalition government spoke and later at a Conservative Way Forward (CWF) seminar where the director of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) Mark Littlewood spoke, the sheer scale of the deficit to me was bought home. The deficit is different to the national debt, as the national debt is what is the total amount owed by the government to various sources such as the gilts market, whereas the deficit is the difference between what the government receives and spends during the year. It is important to note this as over the years such paragons of economic wisdom like Gordon Brown confused the two.

It has been calculated that the deficit is at the monumental level of between £150 to 160 Billion. This massive figure can sometimes be hard to comprehend and thus Jeremy Browne and latterly Mark Littlewood puts it in to context. They calculated that if we abolished the entire arm forces, meaning we would have no navy, no air force, no soldiers and no weapons, on top of that abolish every single police force across the country all those who worked for the police and all their operations and additionally abolished every single school across the country including everyone who worked in the state school system, we would still have a modest deficit. That shows the scale of the task facing the coalition government and why the so-called "cuts" being introduced by the coalition government, which only reduce government spending to 2006 levels do not deal fully with the financial mess the UK is in.

Furthermore for those who are interested in history, the scale of the financial mess we are in is of historical precedence. This deficit is far greater than during the recessions of the 80s and early 90s and even higher than when Britain went cap in hand to the IMF in 1976. The deficit is at a level, which has never before been reached in peacetime in the UK. This was a dramatic transformation for the national finances from 1997 when the national economy was in strong shape with both the budget deficit and the national debt being at manageable levels. It shows the economic destruction Labour inflicted on the UK, not withstanding the financial crisis.

The scale of the deficit also shows that those in the media and in the general public who believe we can keep on adding to our deficit our living in a fantasy world.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Mad Prison Question Shows Up the Government's Mad Prisons Policy

Bob Russell, the Liberal Democrat MP who is making a name for himself as the socialist conscience of the Liberal Democrats asked an absurd question on the breakdown of a tumble dryer in Chelmsford Prison this Tuesday. Firstly how this question got to be asked in the first place is an absolute joke. Once Bob Rusell tabled the question, it should have been thrown out. Considering that there are not enough prison places and our sentencing is far to lenient, I hardly think a lack of tumble dryers for prisoners who are there for a reason is a worthwhile question.

That the prison's minister Crispin Blunt, yes he of the silly quote of the year when he said that unshaped apples in prisons could start a riot, and thus it was a priority for the couple to have shapely apples for prisons " bothered to answer the question saying that the broken down tumble drying machine would be replaced as soon as possible beggars belief. I'm sure prisoners by the sounds of this will get their tumble dryers fixed quicker than most homeowners.

I thought prison was meant to be a punishment and therefore meant to be uncomfortable. It's not meant to be a hotel, where all prisoners whims are met. The government in the latest prisons reform policy seems to have forgotten this.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Norwich South MP ignores the elephant in the room about pubs

Simon Wright, the Liberal Democrat MP for Norwich South has recently made a big play on his blog about how he is standing up for the city pubs in his areas and listening to their concerns.

However he ignored one issue, which has played a massive role in the closing down of pubs and a reduction in pub sale. That being the smoking ban. Pub landlords and customers apparently didn’t raise the issue. However from comments I have heard from pub landowners I personally find this hard to believe. With this in mind, I commented on his article below and have sent an email to him on the matter, which I will wait for a response on. I have copied the letter I wrote into this blog.

Mr Wright a serious issue affecting pubs is the smoking ban in public places. Since this has been in place in the UK, it has had a destructive effect on pub trade and pub numbers. I find it surprising therefore that you did not raise this issue. Considering that 25% of the country smoke, shutting out this percentage of the population from the pub was always going to have an effect on pub trade.

Additionally David Nuttall on Wednesday set up a ten-minute rule bill to amend the smoking ban in public places that would allow separate smoking rooms with air ventilation. By doing this health concerns would be allayed, pub trade would go up and smokers would head back to the pubs. You did not vote on this. Considering this bill was all about saving British pubs, which you are apparently committed to, I find this strange. This is not an isolated incident as you did not sign Brian Binley's EDM that called for a similar amendment to the smoking ban in public places.

If you truly want to stand up for local pubs, will you take this issue up and bring the issue up in parliament in the future?

Yours Sincerely,

Stephen Hoffman

PS: Watch this space for the response.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Vote For Grant Tucker, He's Sound

I wouldn't normally get involved in Welsh regional politics, especially since I've come from England and haven't felt the need to comment on it before. However it's come to election time in Conservative Future (CF) across the country and there's one race to watch and it's for Welsh Regional Chairman. It is between Zahid Raja and Grant Tucker. It is a case of voting between what is great about the Conservative party and what is wrong about the Conservative party.

It would be an absolute travesty if Zahid Raja won, his comments would make that other great sell out who called himself a Conservative Ted Heath proud. He is a member of the Tory Reform group, whose job it seems over the years was to criticise one of the Conservatives greatest prime minister's in Margaret Thatcher. Not only that Zahid Raja seems to think in his role in CF he has the right to criticise groups who think taxes should be cut and spending cuts. It is worse than this the reason Zahid Raja has campaigned against spending cuts was not for the good of the country but rather out of pure self interest. This is because he advocated his own profession of doctors getting paid more than they are already doing. Not for him the mantra of we're all in it together. He has also called his own university d**ks for advocating spending cuts. Considering that Universities are awash with overspending, it is a serious worry that someone running for such a senior position doesn't recognise that we need to cut public spending both to boost private enterprise and to deal with the massive deficit. It's also worrying that he doesn't realise that he might have to go through some pain to help the country. He has also criticised the excellent right wing pressure group the Taxpayer's Alliance for calling him out on these socialist views. His reaction to them shows someone who is thin skinned and cannot take criticism. Not exactly the qualities you want in a leader. With views like this he would better fit the socialist Labour party. We need selfless people running CF branches, not selfish people.

If Zahid’s views were not enough to put you off voting for him, he is also up against an extremely sound guy in Grant Tucker. I first met Grant Tucker at a Freedom Association event in Cheltenham. Grant is an extremely friendly guy as well as charismatic. With these people skills, with Grant at the head of Wales CF, there will be some fun events for Wales CF members to enjoy. He is not short of a view or two, and won't simply toe the party line when he feels it is wrong. Grant is also an experienced campaigner who will put in the hard work in this area when he needs to as well as passing on his much needed experience in this area. Grant is a proud thatcherite, and will stand up for these sound values when it is needed. Grant is also a proud member of the Freedom Association showing himself as a friend of freedom. He has worked successfully with the Freedom Association in Wales. He also has links to other right wing pressure groups. With this in mind I really feel Grant will be able to work with these groups successfully to create some excellent events for Wales Regional CF. Grant also has the interests of Wales Regional CF. This is why with Grants connections with other CF's across Wales he will work to have a CF presence in every constituency, so that Conservatives presence can spread across Wales. He is not running for his own ego, as many feel Zahid Raja is doing.

So I urge the good people of Wales CF to vote for Grant Tucker if you want a true Conservative, who has the interests of the people of Wales CF at heart rather than himself.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Racing 4 Peace by Simon Stiel

Today we have a guest piece from Simon Stiel on an excellent organisation which is involved in a scheme celebrating co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians. In a relationship which is often marked by darkness on both sides, it is heartwarming to see that there is some light in the relationship. Perhaps politicians on both sides should take note. Whatever your viewpoint on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, It is clear that both sides want peace and they just have different ways of achieving it. I therefore urge everyone to support this excellent project which Simon will talk about below in any way possible.


Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are happening again. They have happened before and arouse hope across the world. Yet they have constantly petered out with no satisfactory conclusion for both sides. Over the last decade, Israelis and Palestinians have collaborated together in several fields as non-governmental organisations: film, the environment, music, academia and sport. Racing 4 Peace represents another endeavour, this time for motorsport.

The Israeli and Palestinian founders of this team met each other at the go-kart track in Latrun, Jerusalem in 2006. Rasheed Nashashibi is the Official Karting champion in Palestine and he met Israeli engineer Aric Lapter. Rasheed described the meeting: “I was racing and wearing my racing suit. I had a Palestinian flag on it and I noticed he was wearing a similar T-shirt. I got a call from the track saying he wanted my number; that’s how he got my number and he called me. He came over to my place and said. ‘I have an idea about racing, do you want to meet up and talk about it?’ That’s all it all started.”

Rasheed was astonished even more when Aric told him he’d the first single seater built in Israel. “I was like, show me the pictures!” The car is a Formula Vee. Based on the Volkswagen Beetle, it is designed for the Formula Vee series, a cheap form of motor racing.

Aric and Rasheed have tested the car at the Arad air strip in the Negev desert in Israel. The tests have demonstrated how well designed the machine has been as Rasheed explains: ““It has at the end, a circle where we do a big turn at the end and we do some cones. We do left hand and right hand turns. It’s all slower than a proper track, but it’s all we’ve got you know.”

A GPS device was fitted onto the car and during the test, the lateral G force was measured at 1.6; which is considered impressive. Six tests have taken place. “It was really good considering the car has old tyres. The last time we drove it we pushed it really hard. The handling is very neutral. It’s a lot of fun, you should try it!” Rasheed laughs.

The two aim to compete in Britain as team-mates. At the moment, they’re looking for $100,000 to cover the cost of transporting the car and racing. So far, due to the economic depression, they’ve only got $2000. Fortunately, publicity has been helped by a documentary being made by renowned Israeli director, Omer Reiss. The BBC has sponsored the film and may pay for two weekends of racing.

The two men aim to be role models for their peoples. Rasheed has helped Palestinian children embrace karting as another popular sport and Aric hopes one day motor racing will be legalised in Israel and open motorsport up to Israeli talent. With the necessary funds, they could make a real difference and they need all the help they can get.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A response to Melanchton's suggested letter to Conservative MP'S

Over on Conservative Home Melanchthon has encouraged us to write to our local Conservative MP's to ask them where the government has repatriated powers to Britain from the EU and that they will push the government on this issue. This comes about from the news that the government is in favour of a new European Union treaty, as long as they can use the treaty to repatriate powers to Britain. Here is my response to Melanchthon's suggestion below which I wrote on Conservative Home. The response comes from the article here:

We can ask our Conservative MP'S to tell us where we have repatriated powers from the EU. However if they are being honest they will admit that we haven't repatriated any powers from the EU to Britain but have in fact done precisely the opposite.

This has been done by signing up to the European Investigation Order, which increases criminal justice harmonisation across the EU, whilst making the work of British police force and judiciary null and void. They will be forced to follow European Union orders in the name of further EU integration, rather than doing their jobs.

Then there was the creation of the European External Action Service, which in all but in name created a European Diplomatic Corps. This means nowadays that European diplomats will be speaking on our behalf. In all of this the British Foreign Office might as well cease to exist. It will not have much power to do anything after all. Clearly this is a serious loss of national sovereignty.

With the best intentions in the world trying to repatriate some powers from Brussels as a member of the European Union is impossible. No European bureaucrat is going to let a member state on the proviso of national sovereignty get some powers back from the EU. It goes against everything, which the EU institutions and the people in charge of these institutions believe. The only way to get power back for the UK so we can become a sovereign independent nation state again is to leave the EU.

So Melanchthon's suggested letter to Conservative MP's may be good in one sense.It will show up the old lie that we can be in Europe but not run by Europe.