The politics of intervention in Syria revisited

raf typhoons

The Guardian run a retrospective story on Parliament’s decision not to use British military force in Syria after the chemical weapons attacks there. One of the threads in the story is that the old division of powers between the executive and legislature has been irreparably changed. In my mind the precedents and the development of Law needs to be put in the context of the decisions taken about Suez, the Falklands and Iraq, the latter two military interventions both having Parliamentary debates before military action. It should also be born in mind that the US used to have a similar  disposition but changed their laws after Nixon’s escalation of the Vietnam War. …

Web Blocking in the UK

Web Blocking in the UK

An internet safe for kids, plebs and Tories

The phone companies’ Tory inspired “safe content” filters are coming online. While the road to and strong arming of the ISPs into voluntary agreement was well covered over the summer, although not be me, it seemed the Surveillance stories were more important, the New Statesman in an article published last week by Martin Robbins, entitled “Cameron’s internet filter goes far beyond porn – and that was always the plan” shows the bleeding obvious that it’s not possible to build “safe” filters for other people. The article has provoked some noise on twitter since these privately implemented filters are a non-accountable overreach, there is no appeal, no democratic oversight and they are implemented using crude ineffective technology which reinforces such overreach. Taken in conjunction with the Gagging Bill, also known as the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill currently going through Parliament, this should be seen as an attack on our democratic systems in that it will deprive citizens of the information and evidence that they need to vote. …

Destroying Value

Destroying Value

Building another W8 laptop as Xmas present for someone. I am really unsure that Microsoft did the right thing in trashing so much of the XP/Vista UI. Stuff that was easy is now hard, not because it’s hard, but because no-one knows how. They have destroyed the value of the world’s Windows self administration knowledge which was one of its key competitive advantages in winning the desktop. While the battleground for consumer mindshare has moved to the the phone and Microsoft needed something that worked there, the amount of learning required by consumers is very high and not required of Linux nor Apple users. Neither Apple nor Google have one user interface for the laptop and phone, why do Microsoft think they need it. …

An iTunes appliance

An iTunes appliance

I have over the last couple of weeks, upgraded my Apple Macbook pro from Mac OS 10.6 to 10.9. It’s been pretty easy until it came to Macports. There is/was a rumour that stopping at Version 10.8 was the best answer but this wasn’t available to me; they’ve stopped shipping it. The new version of MacOS was easy enough to install, just a download from the Apple Store which is good, although the consequent performance was shit and then we have to move Macports forward. This wasn’t so easy, and I document the steps I took at an article called Macports on my companion wiki. The fact there is so much mucking around is another proof point that Apple are not building a general purpose computer, but a desktop appliance and iTunes host.

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It’s guns that made a difference.

It’s guns that made a difference.

With so many articles and other writing stuck in production, I thought I”d knock out a quick blog inspired by at Naked Keynesianism; he posted an article called, The Fiscal-Military State and Western Hegemony. The article has a quick look at a select choice of the literature, and reminds us of Charles Tilly‘s allegedly famous argument that “War made the State, and the State made war”, although I suspect that Tilley was not the first to make this argument. Most interestingly, he argues that where cavalry warfare was in the ascendancy, it acted as an inhibitor to  military technological development and latterly superiority. I would suggest it was the development of cities, and their density in Europe together with their walls that necessitated the invention of artillery to conduct siege warfare and an infantry to protect it. Similarly, the development of naval warfare and overseas empires, incubated by Europe’s geography reinforced, or maybe preceded the evolution of land based cannons.  …

On Hunt’s chances of remaining an MP in 2015

On Hunt’s chances of remaining an MP in 2015

The Lib Dems came a pretty poor second in South West Surrey in 2010, the County Council elected in 2013 is pretty solidly Tory, but the Tories did not win the Surrey Police Commissioner elections. The county includes Hunt’s constituency and the ward results are available. The Police Commissioner and a number of County Councillors are independents, which usually means expelled or secret Tories; there are also UKIP county councilors but none of the non-Tory County Councillors were elected from wards in Hunt’s seat as far as I can tell from a cursory inspection. …

Parliament debates the Bedroom Tax

Parliament debates the Bedroom Tax

On the 12th November, the Labour Party used one of its opposition days, to debate the so-called Bedroom Tax, which reduces the amount of Housing Benefit paid to council house tenants deemed to be under occupying their homes. It was generally reported that the Labour Party won the debate, although not the vote. As I finished my article on Rachel Reeves’ interview on being tougher than the Tories, I decided to watch the debate on Parliament TV, hoping that in the light of the Labour Party’s unequivocal commitment to repeal this measure, she could reshape the the debate on welfare and establish a position of compassion. …

Who watches the Watchmen?

Who watches the Watchmen?

In the continuing story of the NSA and their five eyes attempts to do to the world what the GDR’s Stasi did to East Germany, someone finally asks how did we let GCHQ capture and process the internet traffic of the British people, those using the transatlantic internet cables and using the decryption technology to spy on allies and diplomats engaged in economic talks and treaties. On the 31st October, Julian Huppert MP with cross bench support from Tom Watson MP and Dominic Rabb MP managed to get time in the Westminster Hall committee room to debate Parliament’s oversight of the Intelligence agencies, specifically GCHQ, but let’s not forget our old friends, the burglars at MI5.  The debate was broadcast on Parliament TV, and transcribed in Hansard here. Both the Video and Hansard report the debate verbatim, and so if you want to hear what the MPs said, then you’ll have to use those resources. The rest of this article is a personal comment on the meeting. …

Having our say

Yesterday evening, Brockley Labour passed the following motion in response to the Labour Party’s review on rules and democracy. This review is being undertaken by Ray Collins, an ex-General Secretary of the Labour Party and an interim report was presented to Labour’s Conference, Collins Review Interim Report Sep 2013. I commented on the debate at conference on this blog in an article called Labour’s Rules considered by those that can change them. …