Mar 202012

Whilst Sunny reports on the big hoo-ha of today, Paul kind of pooh-poohs the implications thus:

[…] Get the picture? Ken’s not a tax dodger. Boris hasn’t hi-jacked anything. And this is going to be a very long month or so.

But I do wonder if the situation isn’t actually a bit more serious than Paul thinks.  As I just tweeted:

Doesn’t appropriating 250,000 Twitter followers mean you can now access all their DMs? And if so, isn’t this a data protection issue?

What do you think?

Whether Boris Johnson started off the account in a mayoral capacity or not, he’s now moved its ownership from a public space to that of private gain.  I presume those DMs were sent in the presumption they would be administered by civil servants.

Not for personal political advantage in the run-up to an election campaign.

I mention a potentially not dissimilar set of circumstances here in Chester: the website belongs to the incumbent Tory MP – but nothing about the domain name itself would lead one to understand it was anything but generic.  What might happen in the future if and when a candidate from a different party wins the seat and becomes MP?  Would the Tory substitute continue with the same domain – or casually give it up?  Or simply rename it but redirect using the previous domain?  Imagine if he or she did the latter: all that SEO juice would be driving the online traffic away from the new incumbent.

So does any legislation exist which contemplates anything at all in relation to such names?  Or is this one massive no-man’s-land of a legal situation?

Either way, obfuscation appears to be the name of the game.  And a further muddying of the waters of public discourse clearly the aim.


Update to this post: the Guardian has just reported that Boris has decided to back down due to the “hysteria” surrounding his original decision.  More here.

Mar 202012

There’s a complex piece over at Al Jazeera at the moment on the subject of the worldwide Occupy movement and the new economics it may help to configure.  Till now, Occupy has been generally perceived and criticised as an umbrella group of people who obviously know what they disagree with but find difficulty in saying what they’re in favour of.

Also, till now, Occupy has been seen as a mainly political statement of utter rejection of the more immoral sides of latterday economic practice, without offering concrete solutions or alternatives.  But the article Al Jazeera published on the 9th of this month, and which can be found here, points us in a different direction completely.  The thesis thus described appears to build on solid and pre-existing process as exemplified by the grand American IT corporations which have already cared to get involved with the ecosystems of open source software (the bold is mine):

Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organisationsstresses that companies that work with Linux, such as IBM, “have given up the right to manage the projects they are paying for, and their competitors have immediate access to everything they do. It’s not IBM’s product”.

This, then, is the point I want to make: that even with shareholder companies allied with peer production, the community’s value creation is still at the core of the process, and that the entrepreneurial coalition, to a substantial degree, already follows this new logic – in which the community is primary and business secondary.

If gigantic corporations such as IBM can work out a way of keeping their shareholders onside whilst they work to create libre software, surely it cannot be beyond us to contemplate a society of the common good where that common good is sustained by empowered communities which can choose according to their own particular set of ethical values.  From Al Jazeera once more:

[…] Occupy Wall Street set up working groups to find solutions to their physical needs. The economy was considered as a provisioning system (as explained in Marvin Brown’s wonderful book, Civilising the Economy), and it was the “citizens”, organised in these working groups, who decided which provisioning system was appropriate given their ethical values.

For example, organic farmers from Vermont provided free food to the campers, but this had a negative side effect: the local street vendors, generally poor immigrants, did not fare too well with everyone getting free food. The occupiers cared about the vendors and so they set up an Occupy Wall Street Vendor Project, which raised funds to buy food from the vendors.

Bingo: in one swoop, OWS created a well-functioning ethical economy that included a market dynamic, but that also functioned in harmony with the value system of the occupiers. What is crucial here is that it was the citizens who decided on the most appropriate provisioning system – and not the property and money owners in an economy divorced from ethical values.

As I pointed out in my own piece linked to above, the tools of large corporate behaviours can be useful or destructive: it all depends to what organisational purposes they are put and what values are employed to define their implementation.  That so many large corporations psychopathically get it wrong doesn’t mean everyone who uses such tools of mass organisation will be tainted by the same behaviours.

Meanwhile, this observation, from the new blog Shifting Grounds,  puts the neoliberals of this world firmly in their place:

An ideology that celebrates selfishness and denigrates the common good has been the moral and financial ruin of Britain.

As well as a great many other places around the world.

It may, then, now be the turn of open source strategies and their ilk to allow a protest movement with many relatively passive adherents in a wider society to build on a considerable corporate expertise proven over the a quarter of a century.  The challenge, of course, is to find a way of interfacing the powerful with the needy – without losing our moral compasses.

New Labour failed to do the latter.

In the shadow of the moral outpourings of a discarded generation, quite another Labour must not.

Another learning Labour, that is.

Mar 202012

Rupert Murdoch, a rumbustious cavalier of worldwide proportions, would I think say he was an outsider who made good.  Those of us who didn’t witness his upward climb, however, see him simply as part of the establishment.  It’s all a question of frame and point of view and perspective in time.

Our disagreements – where sincerely held – probably all lie herein.

Just a thought, then, on the juggernauting of the NHS bill – a bill which will now almost certainly be passed in the House of Commons without the government’s own assessment of the risks it presupposes seeing the informative light of day before any final vote.  It’s clear, if you’ve been paying attention, that the vast majority of the medical profession at all levels is against the proposals.  On the other hand, it’s equally clear that businesspeople across the globe are pushing and lobbying firmly for this first salvo in a broader war against public sector ideology.

And I can imagine how and why these businesspeople react as they do: they work long hours, they are tied to their jobs, they have the ultimately illusory satisfactions of power and wealth to keep them in check, they must pay homage to those above them even as they may not approve of their ways of doing … in reality, I wouldn’t want to do what they do even if I was able to earn what they earn.

So it is that all this talk and blabber they spout about choice makes me wonder the following: why can’t I choose to just bumble along relatively safely and without too much fear of the future?  Why must I aspire so religiously to want to make so desperately good?

Why must a battle of vested interests on all sides – in this case, medical professionals, businesspeople and politicians in the pockets of the rich – force me to engage in a game I really would rather avoid?  I don’t want to allow them to define my ways of seeing or doing.  In fact, remembering the past decade or so, all that talk of aspiration really got on my nerves.

Aspirational socialism even more so.

All I want to do is write usefully, bring up happy children, engage in a kindly way with my wife, keep tabs on certain friends and acquaintances and enjoy my holidays when they may arrive.

Everything else, life is going to throw at me anyway.

What gives you all the God-given right to want to re-engineer these ways of being?

Why do you want to encourage us to believe that in the grand universal scheme of things we are anything more impactful than a grain of sand on a thousand beaches?  Or to delude ourselves into playing follow-the-leader into a cul-de-sac of never-ending flux even you can’t control?

And do such thoughts mean I’m becoming a conservative who is really serious about conserving?  Because – you know? – I’ve really really had it up to here with the radicals of the world.

Mar 202012

I hear, this morning on the television news, that sixty percent of all UK demand is consumer-driven.  That means that business-to-consumer is quite a bit more important than business-to-business.  I wonder what the trends are either side of that snapshot.  Anyone know?

Anyhow.  If the economic crisis which the Tory-led Coalition has exacerbated is squeezing the pips out of household oranges; and spending is falling wherever those adjustments can be made; and fuel poverty is growing rapidly; and homelessness is increasing … what then can Big Business do about this state of affairs to protect its profit margins and shareholder interests?

Some Big Business is, of course, relatively immune to slowdowns in the economy.  We have to eat, we have to cook our food even if we do not need to keep ourselves warm, we have to drink water and flush toilets – and many of us can’t get by without a fuel-driven vehicle of some kind.  But what about the other areas of business where economies can be made?  You know, I wouldn’t be surprised if the large conglomerates weren’t scurrying right now to acquire as big a piece as possible of the soon-to-be privatised health-service-provider action.

That is to say, an area of moneymaking where a fast-greying national population incurs spending patterns both age and illness help make particularly predictable; in fact, probably to a degree unheard of in other industries to date.

Why, this is Nirvana as far as most large transnationals are concerned.  A captive population, an unavoidable expense, death and infirmity as the ultimate motivational factors to act … what more could you ask for?

No wonder they wanted to privatise the NHS.  If tablets and potions and quackeries of all kinds weren’t enough to fill the pockets of “value-adding” organisations, here we have the really good news: that aforementioned sixty percent of consumer-driven demand will now be able to grow as it can be expanded to the once sacred and so very community-based concept of healthcare.  As Labour Matters tweeted last night:

@AndyCharlwood Read the Bill. It does end the NHS. We used private to fill NHS failures, this creates failure so you have to go private.

Terrible terrible self-interested stuff.

The fascism of the 20th century involved mowing down hundreds and thousands of people who were considered different.

The fascism of the 21st century is, however, far more subtle: it involves leaving the different nominally standing while cutting away and destroying their rights to hold, sustain and propagate different belief systems.

If you believe in the accumulation of money, you will be loved.

If you do not, you will be hated.

Little more to say, except I wish others could see this as clearly.

Mar 202012

So the big news on BBC Breakfast is James Cameron’s goal of plunging over a precipice and down seven miles into the ocean.  “A film-maker’s dream machine,” I’ve just heard it described.

“A story with a happy ending,” is another easy phrase which trips of the reporter’s tongue.

Meanwhile, this is the current screenshot of BBC News online.  Just see, if you can, the priority they’ve given to the Lords’ approval of the NHS reforms.  And remember, I’ve chosen the England section of the news – the section the legislation exclusively applies to!

I have already tweeted about the possibility that there is a sort of super-injunction operating on certain aspects of this NHS news, especially since there could be every incentive for someone to leak the risk register before today’s last-ditch debate in the House of Commons on this matter.

All I can say, after having seen the BBC‘s coverage over the past twenty-four hours, is that it has finally become that lapdog of government the Tories always accused it of being.  If there is no actual super-injunction, it is nevertheless an auto-injunction of similar mindsets.  Deliberately insensitive to massive social media protest, it is beginning to clarify the media playing-fields of the future.

It is clear our Coalition government has realised it cannot win the incessant social media battles against its policies, where ordinary people express their day-to-day realities and experiences.  Instead, it is deciding pretty sharpish it must simply ignore and deny those facts and figures – much as a bullying husband ignores and denies a depressive wife.

The die is set.

We now are into a politics of “I can, so I will …”; a politics where those with brute force are quite relaxed about using it on those they believe are wrong.  The classic process of distancing oneself from one’s victims; of turning victims into pseudo-aggressors we can then quite happily destroy and discard.

Is this one step from fascism?  Or are we already there?