Thursday, April 30, 2009

New law on blasphemy

Fianna Failure - dragging Ireland into the 17th century...

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern has been defending, yes, defending a new law on blasphemous libel, one which allows a fine of up to €100,000 to be levied on blasphemers, and one which is entirely counter to the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission, which stated in its 1991 Report on The Crime of Libel, the conclusion
that there was no place for an offence of blasphemous libel in a society which respects freedom of speech


We can only conclude that this government does not respect freedom of speech.

The Fianna Failures might argue, as Dermot Ahern reportedly does, "that a new definition was required by the Constitution" but that doesn't explain why they have decided upon a fine of €100,000. The Irish Times reports that the Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution "recommended amending this Article to remove all references to sedition and blasphemy, and redrafting the Article along the lines of article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which deals with freedom of expression."

Instead the government decides on a €100,000 fine for anyone who insults the religious beliefs institutionalized superstitions of someone else.

What planet are these idiots living on?

H1N1 flu maps

Watch the flu outbreak spread on google maps.





You can see it in more detail here. The same site provides other visualizations of the data: Confirmed cases by Status and Number, and Confirmed cases by Country.


As an alternative, there's this one:




That you can find in more detail here.

500/1 shot at Londis

One job and a queue that stretches around the corner into the next street.

Londis on Stephen's Green in Dublin held open interviews for a position as store assistant - the queue of applicants stretched around the corner onto Grafton Street.

Irish Independent picture

The video's quite long, but even watching the start of it gives you a sense of how many people are there.



Some are wondering whether it's a spoof or not, but it appears to be genuine: see the report in the Irish Independent.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

How about "NAFTA flu"?

What role has agribusiness in the flu outbreak? Robert Wallace, a Visiting professor in the University of Minnesota's Department of Geography, suggests that trade policies have forced poorer country's markets open to under-regulated agribusiness, and that that has played a role in the current flu outbreak.

Interviewed at democracynow.org, Wallace suggests that the spread of what he calls "cities of pork and poultry" goes hand in hand with structural adjustments in agribusiness that are a direct result of IMF policies and treaties like NAFTA. "The North American Free Trade Agreement," he states, "was signed in 1993, instituted in 1994, and has had a subsequent effect on how poultry and pigs are raised in Mexico." Those "cities of pork and poultry" and the regulatory failings in agribusiness play a key role in the outbreak and spreading of avian or swine flu in countries like China and Mexico, Wallace argues.

Lord Glinner of Spanish Fly

Amusing (if slightly creepy) image of the day, courtesy of Glinner:

Spam email: "Claim dominion over the bedroom with these pills!" Mental pic=me, naked, on horse in bedroom with fluttering flag and boner.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Muslims and Jews agree to pick on Mexicans

"Swine flu" is an offensive term, according to Israel's Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman. It should be called "Mexican flu".

Yeah, best to avoid offending people who have scripturally dictated dietary taboos and instead stigmatize an entire nation.

I'm glad to see the dumbass has his priorities in order, and will be able to assure people that they are at least not dying of something with an offensive name. Maybe they'll be able to develop kosher and halal versions of the disease so that religious people can get ill in good faith.

When they've done that, well, hey, then they could even think about finding a vaccine.

Dumbass...

Monday, April 27, 2009

tweet tweet

Twitter


If you're into that sort of thing then you can follow us on twitter for a feed of these blog posts (and the odd thing that doesn't make it as far as the blog).

"Bin Laden may be dead - Zardari"

So says the Irish Times. This is a good time to recall a post of mine from January 2008, "Say What Now??", in which I compared Al Jazeera and BBC versions of a November 2007 David Frost interview with Benazir Bhutto.

Bhutto refers in the Al Jazeera version to the murderer of Osama Bin Laden, a line omitted by the BBC (we get a typically enthusiastic Frost noddy-shot instead). The video clips are both there to look at and the comparison is interesting in all sorts of ways.

Check it out here.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Obama: not saying genocide

Reuters reports Turkish objections to Obama's statement on commemorations of the 1915 killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks. In the light of our earlier post, this bit is interesting:
When he was running for president, Obama, who took office in January, described the killings of Armenians as genocide. But on Friday, in a bid not to upset ties with Turkey, he referred to them as "atrocities."


That earlier post of ours puts discusses the significance of omitting the word "genocide". Robert Fisk's response to this should be worth reading.

The LA Times has the full text of the President's statement.

Eoin Ryan's poster

Not Looking very FF at all

Still not Looking very FF at all

Overlooking the south-bound platform at Pearse Station, Dublin, 24 April 2009.

[Update: read some remarks on an Eoin Ryan election mailshot here]

Daily Telegraph swearing shocker

An example of what can happen when you try to leverage (inexpensive) technology while cutting corners (i.e., costs) on editorial oversight.

Budget 2009 and big shitty balls

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pirate Bay judge: conflict of interests?

Mashable reports that the judge in the Pirate Bay case, Tomas Norström, "is a member of several organizations which are closely connected to the prosecutors in the case; i.e. the entertainment industry".

More specifically, and following a report by Sveriges Radio, they say that "Norström is a member of Svenska föreningen för upphovsrätt (Swedish Copyright Association)". The organization's website does not list Norström as a member, but it does list Monique Wadsted, who was, according to Mashable, "directly involved in the Pirate Bay trial". (Wikipedia states that she represented "Warner Bros., MGM, Columbia Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Mars Media, Blizzard Entertainment, Sierra Entertainment and Activision Publishing in The Pirate Bay trial.")

Furthermore, Norström reportedly sits "on the board of Svenska föreningen för industriellt rättsskydd - Swedish Association for the Protection of Industrial Property". A visit to their website supports that.

According to Mashable, "Norström doesn’t see his involvement with these organizations as a problem. 'My view has been that these activities do not constitute a conflict of interest,' he told Sveriges Radio".

"Electronic voting to be scrapped"

About bloody time.

See the Irish Times report.

Any chance that someone might actually take responsibility for this one? Might Martin Cullen admit he made a hugely expensive mistake? It's unlikely, given that the man is an utter waster and is probably too busy swanning around the world in business class to one swanky hotel after another - that's if he's not disappointing us all by failing to fall out of a helicopter.

No, he won't take responsibility because he never does. Maybe the good people of Waterford will do us all a favour and get shot of him the next time a good old-fashioned ballot box gives them the chance.

Brain drain: are fees sending students to the UK?

UCAS has released some figures for applications to UK institutions, including those made by applicants who give Ireland as their "Area of Permanent Residence".

Applications from Ireland have risen by 13.5% already, compared to last year's total.

Table 6 - Applicants by overseas (including non-UK EU) country (> 600 applicants only) by 24 March

Country 2009 2008 Percent change
Ireland 5,425 4,780 13.5%

The applications show a reasonable spread across the UK - this is not just a case of people crossing the border in to Northern Ireland
Table 5 - Applicants by declared Area of Permanent Residence and country of institution by 24 March

Area of permanent residenceCountry of institution
England Wales Scotland Northern Ireland
Ireland 2009 3,795 1,014 2,734 1,674
2008 3,351 955 2,471 1,490
% change 13.2% 6.2% 10.6% 12.3%
Note - An applicant has a maximum count of 1 to each 'country of institution'. If an applicant's choices include multiple countries then the applicant is counted once within each 'country of institution' present.


Over the past few years the total figures look like this:
2005 6,586
2006 5,716 -13.2% (overall applications fell 3.2%)
2007 5,256 -8.0% (overall applications rose 5.2%)
2008 4,780 -9.1% (overall applications rose 7.8%)
2009 5,425 +13.5% (overall applications rose 8.8%)

It would seem at first glance that the prospect of fees being introduced here is already having an impact on where people are applying. The CAO figures might make for interesting reading.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Fianna Failure? Eoin Ryan? Erm...?

[Update 1: you can now see the picture here]
[Update 2: read some remarks on an Eoin Ryan election mailshot here]

I see Eoin Ryan, Fianna Failure MEP, has a nice big poster gazing magnificently down on the main concourse in Pearse Station.

One thing that's interesting about it is the colouring. It's all very blue, which may be to make it look a bit Europeany, but which also makes it look decidedly not-Fianna-Failure. No green, no orange - none of the usual FF styling that we might expect. At a glance you might think it was a Fine Gael or even a Libertas poster, but FF certainly doesn't come to mind.

It makes sense, of course. Who would want to go into an election now and be identified with this government?

(I'll get a picture if I can.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Olympic sexism on the slopes

Women's ski-jumping is banned from the Winter Olympics. The BBC today reports on an attempt by a "group of international female ski jumpers" to force the organisers of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics to include their sport.

According to the BBC, "The International Olympic Committee (IOC) says women's ski jumping is not developed enough to merit inclusion." What does "not developed enough" actually mean?

The Vancouver Sun reported on 24 February that, when challenged on the issue by Vancouver city manager Penny Ballem, IOC president Jacques Rogge argued that, "There are just too few women involved in the sport. It would diminish the value of an Olympic medal to include it in the games." The report noted, however, that "there are more women competing in ski jumping internationally than there are in two other women's winter sports allowed by the Olympics: snowboarding and bobsledding."

In 2005 Austria's Daniela Iraschko jumped 200m on a slope where the record distance jumped by a man was 215m. That ratio is comparable with other Olympic sports, so women's ski-jumping can hardly be called under-developed on that basis. Indeed, US ski-jumper Alissa Johnson made the cut for the men's division in the 2003 national championships.

So the question persists of what is at the root of the IOC's objections. This issue is raised in another Vancouver Sun report, one which notes that "even today there are people who argue that women shouldn't ski jump because it's dangerous to their reproductive health. It's the same argument that's kept women and girls off playing fields and out of locker rooms for millennia."

A report on the modern Olympics prepared for the Australian Parliament (PDF here) makes a similar observation:
In fighting to gain entry to athletics in the Olympics women had to contend with cultural perceptions about the limitations of the female body and what was appropriate conduct for their gender. Implicit in these arguments was the idea that elite sport could only reflect masculinity; there was no room for female athletic prowess.

Notwithstanding that this and other ideas that sport makes women less attractive and that physical exertion may affect childbearing have been discredited, some residual of the argument that women were too fragile to become athletes, continues to surface occasionally.
Is it reasonable to ascribe these views to Rogge and the IOC? Rogge insists (in this video, for example) that the exclusion of women's ski-jumping is a technical matter and not a gender issue. Does the problem lie with the FIS? Matt Slater remarks on the BBC that "the instinctively conservative and predominately male International Ski Federation (FIS)" had doubts about women's ski jumping, and ABC News reported in 2006 that,
The International Ski Federation has ruled that ski jumping is too dangerous for women, making it the only winter Olympic sport that has male competitors and no female counterparts.

"It's like jumping down from, let's say, about two meters on the ground about a thousand times a year, which seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view," the federation's president Gian Franco Kasper said on National Public Radio.
Nonetheless, the FIS did vote in 2006 and by 114 to 1 "in favour of introducing women's ski jumping as an Olympic sport. That was the preliminary step required to get the IOC to consider it. Later that same year, Rogge and the rest turned the idea down flat" (Vancouver Sun). Women's ski-jumping is part of the FIS-organized World Championhip event. The BBC notes that that one dissenting vote in 2006 came from a Swiss delegate - Switzerland being home to the FIS, to the IOC, and to Gian Franco Kasper.

So the problem rests with the IOC, not the FIS, at least if one discounts Kasper and his "medical point of view". Yet Rogge's technical arguments don't appear to hold up to much scrutiny. So what's left?

Of note is Rogge's reported attempt at a rebuttal (an example of what-iffery, and not one that impressed Penny Ballem): "There are, he said, many female boxers in the world, but it is not an Olympic sport for women." Could it be that Rogge's objection is not to the level of development of a sport, but to the nature of the sport itself? Does he, or does the IOC, consider ski jumping "unladylike"?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Pirate Bay is not that simple

The judgement against the founders of the Pirate Bay has implications for the way the web works, but the issue of copyright and filesharing is far from simple. The response of Stephen Fry illustrates that:
Yes, use of "torrents" deliberate. Poor old Pirates. As an industry insider & (c) holder I'm not supposed to support them, but I do.
and
PB not saints. But we've got to think about this rationally & sensibly. Shouting "thief" all the time is no help. I stole in cassette age
Copyright laws, not to mention business models, are in many cases hopelessly outdated. The existence, for example, of "UK laws that make it a copyright violation to copy a CD that you own onto a computer or iPod" illustrates the point well.

Another example of the sort of nonsense that pushes people towards torrents is the recent revamp of Channel 4's catch-up system. It now works for Mac users, but is newly geo-filtered to block anyone in Ireland from accessing it - just like the BBC's iPlayer. So, I can pay a subscription to ntl for access to BBC and Channel 4, and thereby make a contribution to the stations' budgets (and watch the ads, in the case of C4), but they still won't let me access the online material. Similarly, online sports commentaries on BBC Radio Five Live are sometimes not available outside the UK, but I can still listen to them over the radio that sits beside the computer.

Rational and sensible? I don't think so.

Right, anyone know of a safe and reliable UK-based proxy server? Just wondering...

Little Guantanamo: Bush's US blackout jails

Democracynow reports that,
With little public scrutiny, the Bush administration opened two secretive prisons in Indiana and Illinois known as Communication Management Units–or CMUs–that are designed to severely restrict prisoner communication with family members, the media and the outside world. Dozens of Muslim men are still being held at the CMUs as well as other prisoners including environmental and animal rights activists.
President Obama has already released details of the Bush-Cheney torture policies, but has granted an amnesty to those who were just following orders. He has also undertaken to close the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay. What other secret prisons are hidden around the world?

Tomlinson did not die of a heart attack

A policeman has been interviewed under caution on suspicion of manslaughter after new tests overturned the cause of a newspaper-seller's death.
The BBC reports that Ian Tomlinson did not die of a heart attack, as was initially reported, but of abdominal bleeding. This follows a second post-mortem examination.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Disturbing Strokes

G20 policing and media censorship

The Guardian explains that in this video,
A City of London police officer approaches a group of photographers and camera crews and orders them to leave the area for a period of about 30 minutes or face arrest. The instruction is made under section 14 of the Public Order Act, which is intended primarily to disperse potentially disruptive or violent gatherings. The Metropolitan police, which led the G20 operations, later apologised for using the measure on members of the press.

It's all very well to apologize afterwards, but by that stage the job of rendered impossible any scrutiny of police behaviour has been done. The other videos posted show how important that scrutiny is.

Surely it is with scrutiny of the police just as it is with scrutiny of the government, and just as governments would have us believe it is with scrutiny of the public: if they're not doing anything wrong then they don't have anything to worry about.

Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 (c. 64) is here. It states that the senior police officer may impose conditions on a public assembly if he or she
reasonably believes that—

(a) it may result in serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community, or

(b) the purpose of the persons organising it is the intimidation of others with a view to compelling them not to do an act they have a right to do, or to do an act they have a right not to do

Sect 14 (1)

How exactly was it thought that that should apply to the press in this instance?

Brown takes responsibility for buck-passing

On the sacking of Damian McBride, Gordon Brown had this to say:
I take full responsibility for what happens and that's why the person who was responsible went immediately.
Anyone fancy a whip-round to see can we summon up the spirit of George Orwell?


Draper's email hacked: all your spin are belong to us

Was UK Labour smeardoctor Derek Draper's email hacked? PR Week is reporting that Draper himself believes that his Yahoo! email account was hacked and that that is at the root of a series of recent leaks.

What's more, "it is feared that the individual behind the hacking may be sitting on hundreds or thousands of emails – potentially dating back years – that could be used to destabilise the Government in the run up to the next election."

Senior media advisor doesn't have robust password or secure email account: there's a story for you.

No doubt this will be spun as obscene hackers and intrusive bloggers using nefarious means to do damage to a legitimate and elected (oops, of course, Brown has never gone to the electorate seeking a mandate as PM) government.

Let's instead apply the sort of logic that governments do when they want to install pervasive CCTV systems, harvest huge amounts of personal data for storage in insecure databases, force people to carry ID cards, introduce biometric scanning systems, retain Police records of DNA taken from innocent people (including children), and so on and on:

If you have done nothing wrong then you have nothing to fear.

If this government and its cronies have done nothing wrong then a little bit of public scrutiny should give them no cause for concern. If they have done something wrong then they deserve whatever shitstorm is spinning their way.

And here's hoping Bertie and his mates all have crappy passwords...

Glastonbury on Venus?

You're going to need lots of tent pegs and very good wellies by the look of it...


Remember sunscreen

864 mph winds, 74,649,600.0 mm of rain (that's about 46 miles), and temperatures of 1455°C. Maybe someone had a little too much of the brown acid.

Let's see if they fix it. You can check the forecast straight from the source at metcheck.com.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Why does the Daily Mail love cancer so much?

The Daily Mail is FOR, er, no, is AGAINST, no, FOR, no, hang on, AGAINST, um, er, no, is FOR...

Well, if you read the UK edition, The Daily Mail is decidedly AGAINST the HPV vaccine, but if you read the Irish edition then The Daily Mail is decidedly FOR the HPV vaccine.

As Martin at The Lay Scientist puts it:
The Daily Mail position on vaccines is whatever sells newspapers - and if those positions are completely self-contradictory, or might cause a bit more cancer in the readership, then who cares, as long as the advertisers are happy?

Nice responsible journalism that: it's good to see that the Mail's going after important targets.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Who be pirates now?

More on the complications of the Somalian piracy story, something I mentioned yesterday, this time from democracynow.org..

"Analysis: Somalia Piracy Began in Response to Illegal Fishing and Toxic Dumping by Western Ships off Somali Coast"

Again there's an mp3 and other video and audio streaming options.

Chomsky on the economic crisis

"Global Economic Crisis, Healthcare, US Foreign Policy and Resistance to American Empire": Noam Chomsky in conversation with Amy Goodman for democracynow.org. The transcript is also available here, and an mp3 here.

The mp3 has one of those yeah-groovy-funk intros that American news radio seems to want to put everywhere but which would be more at home in a pilot episode of a sitcom spin-off where Chandler Bing listens to dissenting intellectuals discussing human rights abuses and then turns to camera at the end and says "Could I BE more shocked??"

But don't let that put you off.

Green wave traffic technology

I can see how this makes sense, although not how it resolves conflicts at junctions.

We're told that
vehicles at or just below the speed limit trigger a succession of green lights

What I want to know is, will vehicles OVER the speed limit trigger red lights and a big sign (with neon flashing Las Vegas style moving arrow attached) saying
You're all having to wait because the twat in the "I'm so cocking important" Range Rover was speeding

Now THAT I would like.

Death film may exist

LONDON (Reuters) - The police watchdog probing the death of a man during anti-G20 protests in London said on Tuesday its chairman had been wrong to say there was no CCTV film of the incident and that such footage might indeed exist.

The day after Ian Tomlinson died of a heart attack after becoming caught up in demonstrations near the Bank of England, the chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Commission appeared on TV to say cameras had not recorded the incident.

"We don't have CCTV footage," Nick Hardwick told Channel 4.

The IPCC now says that assertion was wrong.

"At this point Mr Hardwick believed that he was correct in this assertion -- we now know this may not be accurate. There are cameras in the surrounding area," the watchdog said in a statement.


So there might be some CCTV cameras operating in the City of London? Well, who'd have thought? It seems an unlikely place to have that sort of thing, which is probably why the chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Commission was so sure that there was no CCTV footage of the events that he went onto a national news broadcast to say so.

Ok... Glad we cleared that up.

Amazon's response

You can safely go and get yourself a copy of Graham Linehan's memoir Balls Are My Weakness...

Techflash report that Amazon have admitted to a "ham-fisted" error. We should accept that, and perhaps feel reassured that if they had actually tried to do this deliberately then they wouldn't have got away with it unscathed.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Who be pirates?

Johann Hari, writing in The Independent, has an interesting angle on Somalian piracy. While not seeking to defend hostage-taking, he reminds us that the Somalian government collapsed in 1991 and that the population of nine million has been living in dire circumstances since, and asks,
Did we expect starving Somalians to stand passively on their beaches, paddling in our toxic waste, and watch us snatch their fish to eat in restaurants in London and Paris and Rome? We won't act on those crimes – the only sane solution to this problem – but when some of the fishermen responded by disrupting the transit-corridor for 20 per cent of the world's oil supply, we swiftly send in the gunboats.

Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, is quoted as telling Hari, "Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury – you name it." Much of it, Hari says "can be traced back to European hospitals and factories". European governments are doing nothing. You can read a Somali perspective here.

Not the brightest?

Getting caught out once is bad, but twice?

If you're Brazilian and you get turned away from entering the UK because your suitcase contains "a collection of sexual paraphernalia and details of escort agencies and sex sites" and the immigration people decided you might just possibly be seeking to work as a prostitute, then maybe best not turn up at Newcastle Airport three months later sporting a new passport and toting a suitcase that contains only "T-shirts, a dressing gown and lingerie".

Also, when asked, probably best not to say that your main reason for visiting the UK is "seeing Newcastle city centre". I don't think even Alan Shearer would believe that one.

Still, it beats getting shot on a tube train for looking a bit muslimy.

via BBC News

Amazon Censorship update

The Guardian has now picked up on this story:

'Gay writing' falls foul of Amazon sales ranking system

Amazon are blaming it on a glitch, which doesn't explain why - before there was an avalanche of outrage about it - they simply stood over it as a policy designed to protect their whole customer base, but now that there is an avalanche of outrage they insist it was never a policy at all.

If it was a "glitch" then they need to explain it better.

Hillsborough 20 years on

Police cover-ups are nothing new, and the anniversary of Hillsborough serves as a reminder and a warning of that.

Twenty years on and families of the ninety-six people who died that day are still seeking answers from the police. Might we know more if those who were being crushed had had the sort of cameras that were around to see Ian Tomlinson being pushed to the ground by police?

There are pictures of events at Hillsborough, but I wonder whether someone photographing police deployments at a major football ground might now be committing an offence? Might they be ordered to cease and desist? Might they be treated as a suspected terrorist? What evidence might be lost as a result?

Read more about what happened at Hillsborough here.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Amazon censorship

Amazon censors its own sales ranks, filtering out material that it considers might offend. This is, in itself, not unreasonable. What's alarming is that the criteria for exclusion seem very strange. Surely some easily implemented opt-out setting would make more sense.

Excluded are authors such as Annie Proulx (for Brokeback Mountain), Radclyffe Hall (The well of Loneliness), Jeanette Winterson (Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit), and several books by Edmund White. In addition, a biography of Harvey Milk, Sarah Waters's Tipping the Velvet, and E. M. Forster's Maurice are all excluded.

Seeing a pattern yet? Apparently, Amazon feels that any treatment of anything homosexual/lesbian/gay/queer, however non-explicit and including texts specifically aimed at young adult readers, is likely to offend and should be excluded as "adult" material. (What the hell does "adult" actually mean in this context anyway?)

That's just plain wrong.

See here, here and here for more information.

[And see here for an update]

Free wi-fi anyone?

Final County Council, 2008 Minutes, Full Council, 11/02/2008

F/71/08 EU LEGISLATION - WiFi

Question: Councillor A. Farrell
“To ask the Manager to investigate and report on EU legislation regarding the provision of free WiFi by state or semi-state authorities?”
Reply:
The EU Commission have made a ruling in 2007 that State Bodies should not distort the Private sector market in the provision of WiFi. State /Semi State Bodies can provide free WiFi only for the provision of their own services such as access to their website, CCTV, Scada or similar type uses. These bodies cannot provide free unlimited access to the Internet as they would be in direct competition with the private sector operators and would distort the market place.

Let's have another go at that:

F/71/08 EU LEGISLATION - Books

Question: Councillor A. Farrell
“To ask the Manager to investigate and report on EU legislation regarding the provision of free books by state or semi-state authorities?”
Reply:
The EU Commission have made a ruling in 2007 that State Bodies should not distort the Private sector market in the provision of books. State /Semi State Bodies can provide free books only for the provision of their own services such as access to their libraries, phonebooks, dictionaries or similar type uses. These bodies cannot provide free unlimited access to the library as they would be in direct competition with the private sector operators and would distort the market place.

Best close all those libraries, maybe also those toll-free roads, and your water pipes, too. Oh yeah, they're doing that...

Well, maybe they'll sell off some cheap books when they close down all the libraries and turn them into pay-as-you-go internet cafés.

Still, Dublin City Council can and do provide free wi-fi at their libraries.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Russian milk is dirty

Drink milk or you'll end up playing for Accrington Stanleygrad?

One in the eye for them RooskiesHeidi was never this interesting


These are visuals from Russian ads promoting milk as a healthy drink. (Why did An Bord Bainne never do anything like this?) Really they should have a series featuring hunky men, too, but that would make it all less entertainingly crass...
And lashings of ginger milkIt's raining milk, hallelujahIt's behind you
Wear a cowbell but hold a leather whip - confused?So not a swallower then?Is anyone actually drinking this?
Woman as cow - delightful...Now that's just rudeWhat's with the butterfly?

Design with intent

Dan Lockton's excellent Design With Intent blog now has his Toolkit v0.9 outlining design patterns for influencing user behaviour.

That all sounds very geeky, but a read through it helps make clear the extent to which design of various kinds (urban, architectural, traffic, transport, product, software, website, marketing, graphic, etc. etc.) works to control our behaviour and thinking.

At various points Dan mentions the ethical choices involved in such design: these are not neutral decisions and can be malign as easily as benign.

Becoming aware of these functions is an act of consciousness-raising that has broad political as well as ethical implications.

The main post is here, but I'd urge you to take some time to look over the more detailed entries on these topics:

Architecture
Errorproofing
Persuasion
Visuals
Cognition
Security

Friday, April 10, 2009

Sad stolen bike story

via bikeradar

66-year old bicycle stolen from 83-year old
By Gary Boulanger, US editor

An 83-year-old woman's 66-year-old bicycle was stolen in Lewiston, Maine recently.

According to a recent Associated Press report, Lewiston resident Ruth Slovenski's 1943 blue Huffy bicycle -- a gift she received as a teenager -- was stolen from outside the Maison Marcotte nursing home she was visiting last Saturday afternoon.

Miss Slovenski told police she left her bicycle unlocked near a mailbox between 2:45 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. The blue bicycle had mudguards and a front metal basket.

A nursing home security video shows a man wearing a hat and dark clothing riding off on the bike.

As yet, there is no word from the Lewiston police about the recovery of Miss Slovenski's treasured bicycle.



The AP version is here. It sounds like a very nice bicycle, and I'm sure that, as Ms Slovenski told the police, it had "had great sentimental value". I doubt very much that in Dublin it would have lasted from 1943 until now.

1943 - that's so long ago. Back then Ireland was in the midst of an emergency (or even an Emergency), and we were trying to figure out what to do with this new-fangled Central Bank thingy. Things change so very much...

More photography not less

Ian Tomlinson's tragic death continues to be a cause of grave concern. The Guardian expresses it's worries about the independence of the IPCC and the truthfulness of the police force, and there are some very interesting blog posts on the topic.

Some key questions are:
was this an isolated incident or the inevitable outcome of a wider policing policy?
why did the IPCC unquestioningly accept the police account of events until the video evidence was released?
where is the CCTV footage taken that day?
where is the police video and photographic material generated on the day (or is it illegal for a police officer to take a photo of a police officer)?

This is a matter not just for the UK but for anyone who is concerned about human rights and civil liberties.

Ireland has a worrying tendency to follow in the footsteps of the UK, and it's not as if we haven't had our own controversies about how the Gardaí have policed public protests.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Taking pictures is a crime

In the UK, Section 76 of the Counter Terrorism Act, which came into force in February of this year, means that, as the BBC put it, "anyone taking a photograph of a police officer could be deemed to have committed a criminal offence".

It makes perfect sense. After all, being photographed or filmed might be embarrassing for them.

The police approach Tomlinson(Guardian.co.uk)


Tomlinson falling(Guardian.co.uk)


Tomlinson receiving medical assistance(Oli Scarff/Getty images)

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Obama and the G word

Some interesting articles on Obama's non-use of the word "genocide" in relation to the Turkish genocidal killing of 1,500,000 Armenian Christians in 1915. It's still a hot political issue, one about which the Turks remain happy to exercise some quite brutal censorship. Will they keep up that oppression if they get into the EU?

Obama himself said in January 2008: "The Armenian genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence."

What will he say on April 24th?

See Robert Fisk in December 2008 and again today, as well as The Guardian today.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Following on from an earlier post, I have to say that RTÉ's caving in to wholly inappropriate pressure from Fianna Failure was pathetic.

You can see the report here:



It seems pretty innocuous to me. What were they getting their underpants in a twist about? RTÉ apologized all the same, but they shouldn't have.

More on the Dunblane/Express saga

Some further updates (via Glinner) on the Sunday Express / Dunblane complaints story.

See the blog entry here.