Wednesday 28 May 2008

That complete waste of money known as ID cards (again)

Another attempted terrorist outrage - the Exeter Giraffe bombing - which happened while I was tucking into a burger in its twin in London. We can add this to the attempted airport bombings, and to the July 2005 bombs and attempted bombs in London.

All carried out by people who were exactly who they said they were. The £18 billion (and rising) ID card scheme would have made not one jot of difference.

Are they trying to lose our respect?

As reported on the BBC: "'Lump sum expenses plan' for MPs - MPs could seek to avoid future expenses criticism by awarding themselves an automatic lump sum of £23,000 a year for second homes, it has emerged."

To be fair the headline is slightly misleading. The truth is that only some MPs are after this. Others, like Norman Baker, recognise it for what it is: "an outrageous idea" - quoted in the BBC piece linked above.

Saturday 17 May 2008

Trouble in Belize?

The Economist also shines a light in A $10m mystery on some of the underpinnings of Lord Ashcroft's wealth, and reminds us that his tax status is still unresolved despite the promise the Tories made in the year 2000 that he would resume permanent residence in Britain. Eight years and they still haven't made good on that promise. Money is worth so much more than keeping your word... Not something they'll relish being reminded of as they try to keep their cuddly champion of the poor image in front of us.

Air drops to Burma?

The Economist this week advocates air drops to victims of the flooding in Burma - here's the twist, whether or not the junta agree to them.

I will quote the final paragraph of the editorial, which is the finest single paragraph of rhetorical writing I have seen in a while: "More storms are forecast for Myanmar. If thousands more people are to die in the coming weeks, let those who oppose any action now, however modest its effect, then explain why they favoured a policy of doing nothing. And let them try to describe the circumstances in which the new-found responsibility to protect might actually be invoked if it is not just to join the UN's scrapheap of dashed expectations, broken promises and dismal betrayals."

Friday 16 May 2008

Commons loses MPs' expenses fight

Hip hip hooray, and jump for joy. At last a bit of light in the murky corridors of power. As long as they don't appeal - I really hope not. Few things have looked cheaper than this. (Some would say the move back to a 10p tax rate was a cheap stunt, but actually it was darned expensive.)

Wednesday 7 May 2008

Terror legislation and encryption keys

There's a good article at The Register about the police not making much use of the powers they've had since October 2007 to demand that people hand over encryption keys to material on their computers, on pain of a stay at HM's pleasure of up to five years.

They've used it precisely 8 times. That's one a month. And only four of the eight were actually terror related. So basically they've hardly used one of the powers the government said they had to have, and half of the cases they've used them on had nothing to do with terror. The others were to do with conspiracy to murder, conspiracy to defraud and child porn, which are themselves terrible things, but not terror. At least they haven't used them yet to investigate the computers of parents trying to get their kids into a good school.

Furthermore, here's a piece of not-joined-up government thinking. One of the arguments for the 42 day detention without trial thing is that it gives the police longer to break the encryption on computers belonging to suspects. But they don't need it. If Mr Suspect doesn't give them the key, he can be banged up for five years - which gives the police ample time to crack the wretched thing.