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Monday, 30 June 2008

More dangers of filters

This one comes at you sideways.
In addition to blocking traffic from websites they don’t like, it looks like the web-geniuses behind the American Family Association’s OneNewsNow site have a few other tricks up their sleeves, such as automatically replacing any use of the word “gay” with the word “homosexual” in any of the AP stories they run … leading to instances in which proper names are reformatted to meet their ridiculous standard, such as this article about sprinter Tyson Gay winning the 100 meters at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials in which he is renamed “Tyson Homosexual”.



Tee hee ;]

Sunday, 29 June 2008

And the winner is ...



All MattWardman's work - he has more versions ...

Google Reader clips catch up



Sneak preview of iplayer 2.0.
The most important change is that we combined TV and Radio in the same iPlayer interface.
Which will be great for introducing a lot of radio comedy to new audiences and entirely appropriate for the viewing circumstance - via computer or via mobile.

There's a stack of other great user-driven new features in it.

Elizabeth Pisani: Washington has more HIV than Nigeria
In part because Congress has until just a few months ago stood in the way of clean needles for injectors in the city, the capital of the world’s largest economy has HIV rates similar to those in many African countries.
Much web 2.0 isn't accessible but this looks set to rapidly change. Accesify reports that Firefox 3 is "a big accessibility enhancement in the form of WAI-ARIA (Web Accessibility Initiative - Accessible Rich Internet Applications) support."

And the RNIB’s Web Access Centre Blog says:

This is an exciting time in the browser area as support for the Web Accessibility Initiative - Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA) suite gathers pace in the next generation of browsers. Browsers with support, partial support and planned support for WAI-ARIA include Internet Explorer 8, Firefox 3, Opera and Web Kit based browsers including Apple’s Safari.

Leading industry commentator John Battelle declares that with search It's Over. Google Wins.

MP Tom Harris got roasted in the MSM for comments on his blog and Minister and longtime blogger Tom Watson's points to hypocrisy and lack of MSM coverage of that hypocrisy by one of Harris' tormentors - Tory MP Philip Hammond.
If ever there was a time for British bloggers to pick up on a story that the mainstream press have missed/ignored, this is it.
Steve Dale artfully dismisses a CBI claim that Browsing websites costs billions in lost productivity.
I just hope that managers will not use this report as further ammunition to restrict workers from using the web for anything other than browsing their own company’s web site. Let’s not apply 19th century working practices to 21st century workers!
The BarCamp idea just happened in Nairobi!
Fantastic idea posted by Simon Dickson, The power of postcodes.
Postcodes are the country’s greatest example of the Power Of Information. I believe we would unlock significant power if we enshrined postcodes as our key national geography, asking Royal Mail to bequeath them to the nation. All statistical and political geography should be aligned with postcodes, with a commitment not to change them for 10 years, perhaps coinciding with the Census cycle. I don’t care if there are marginally more meaningful statistical boundaries; a flawed system we all understand beats a perfect system nobody understands. Oh, and it’s cheaper too.
Shane McCracken channeling Steve Webb posts that MPs are only just now being allowed to utilise laptops in HofC committee meetings.

Dave Briggs issues Three cheers for Dylan Jeffrey, a civil servant who took part in the debate about ICELE by commenting on his blog in Jeffrey's official capacity.
Of course, this week saw the publication of the guidance for civil servants engaging with the social web. Of the five main points, three were: be credible, be responsive and be a civil servant. Dylan hit all three of these.

Let’s hope other civil servants take note, and that Dylan’s colleagues at CLG thank him for doing this on their behalf.
The guidance has been the subject of much justified, excited comment within egov. It's genesis behind the scenes should be noted for some future history of this period. The actual movers here know who they are and deserve, unfortunately anonymous, thanks. The guidance just needs extending now beyond Whitehall!

John Edwards for CIO examines how new text analytics technology is being deployed in the US to examine customer comments on surveys and e-mail as well as monitor blogs, text messages, online chats, phone calls (through speech-to-text conversion) and social network profiles.
For content management products, Halper notes, text analytics can be a complementary technology; for example, text analytics can help categorize or enrich content, analyze content in a data repository, or improve workflow.

Also, vertical industries, such as the legal industry, are becoming increasingly intrigued by text analytics' ability to add insight to an array of routine business tasks, she says.

Today, many text analytics users believe that the technology provides a useful bridge to help nontechnical staff members get a handle on complex problems without running high-level searches.

"You can have business users who are not analysts really understand 'What are my top 10 problems?' or 'How is this issue trending over time?'" Bodoh says.
All new and early days though.
But while text analytics can rapidly generate vast amounts of deep customer insight, the technology is still far away from becoming an out-of-the-box solution.

"For our purposes, in order to get full value from the application, we will have to train analysts to use the software, invest in tuning the taxonomy to produce more granular analyses and integrate the output...with our enterprise data warehouse so we can use the combined data for even greater customer insight."
Emma Mulqueeny really likes Hazel Blears work on citizen empowerment.
* I can’t precis Ms Blears’ intro, you need to read it then come back for the rest if you need :)
* Bearing in mind that it is based on the GOB Green Paper, you need to know this bit of it: It aims to give citizens the means of participating in decision-making at every level; to clarify the role of Government, both at central and local level; to rebalance power between Parliament and government and give British people a stronger sense of what it means to be British (FWIW: I do not agree with the importance of the second point but hey ho)
* This paper is an action plan covering three areas:
1. Widening and deepening empowerment opportunities locally
2. Supporting and enabling people to take up empowerment opportunities
3. Strengthening local representative democracy
* In Summer 2008 there will be a review of this action plan, with a further plan set out thereafter (I know, I KNOW… these things take time)
One line which leapt out at me was:
Give citizens a greater role in planning
• Build an e-consultation hub: 2007 link every local authority and 2008 open the hub to the general public.
I wonder if this will replace, duplicate or actually means the much-loved, semi-privatised Planning Portal.


Saturday, 28 June 2008

The Obama=Muslim smear: The London connection


The Washington Post carries a feature about attempting to discover who started the Obama=Muslim smear which has anything up to 13% of Americans convinced.

Danielle Allen, a scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study, soon discovered that it wouldn't be easy to source the emails but also that 'virality' takes serious work.
While Allen was already an expert on the mechanics of politics, she fast began to learn the mechanics of the Internet. She discovered, for instance, that the recipe for launching a chain e-mail attack is not as simple as typing it up and hitting the send button to a long list of recipients. It takes effort to seed a chain mail that spreads as widely as the Obama missive, explained Jeff Bedser, president of the Internet Crimes Group, a company that helps corporations battle such broadsides. "Lighting that fire, getting something to have momentum, takes work," he said.
Obama's unusual background, blackness and name helped.

Allen discovered that theories about Obama's religious background had circulated for many years on the Internet. And that the man who takes credit for posting the first article to assert that the Illinois senator was a Muslim is Andy Martin.

Martin, a former political opponent of Obama's, is the publisher of an Internet newspaper who sends e-mails to his mailing list almost daily. He said in an interview that he first began questioning Obama's religious background after hearing his famous keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. In an Aug. 10, 2004, article, which he posted on Web sites and e-mailed to bloggers, he said that Obama had concealed his Muslim heritage. "I feel sad having to expose Barack Obama," Martin wrote in an accompanying press release, "but the man is a complete fraud. The truth is going to surprise, and disappoint, and outrage many people who were drawn to him. He has lied to the American people, and he has sought to misrepresent his own heritage." Martin's article did not suggest an association between Obama and radical Islam.

Martin was trying to launch a Senate bid against Obama when he says he first ran the Democrat's name by a contact in London. "They said he must be a Muslim. That was interesting to me because it was an angle that nobody had covered. We started looking. As a candidate you learn how to harness the Internet. You end up really learning how to work the street. I sort of picked this story up as a sideline." Martin said the primary basis for his belief was simple -- Obama's father was a Muslim. In a defamation lawsuit he filed against the New York Times and others several months ago, Martin says that Obama "eventually became a Christian" but that "as a matter of Islamic law began life as a Muslim" due to his father's religion.

But Martin was a false lead, a 'seed', as were others.

Where Allen kept coming back to was a libertarian conservative website, based in California, Free Republic - who are already in full paranoia mode with Allen's analysis' publication.
To: plangent; Grampa Dave; Ernest_at_the_Beach; Dog; EternalVigilance; Congressman Billybob; ...
Sifting through hundreds of postings, she began to piece together their identities.

And if Obama gets elected. FReeRepublic will be on their "Enemies List".

7 posted on 28 June 2008 16:11:36 by BOBTHENAILER (One by one, in small groups or in whole armies, we don't care how we do it, but we're gonna getcha)
But which 'freeper' did it? We still don't know. Here's where Allen's trail ends and what she learnt about how this really got off the ground.
Another Free Republic participant who attracted Allen's interest went by the handle "Eva." She was one of the first to write on the site about Obama's religion -- in November 2006 she began repeating the phrase "Once a Muslim, always a Muslim," when discussing Obama.

With the help of Allen's biographical sketch, The Post located Eva in rural Washington state. She is Donna Shaw, 60, a teacher who said Obama's ability to captivate audiences made her deeply uneasy because his "tone and cadence" reminded her of the child revivalist con-man preacher Marjoe Gortner.

"What I've come to realize is, the labor of generating an e-mail smear is divided and distributed amongst parties whose identities are secret even to each other,"[Allen] says. A first group of people published articles that created the basis for the attack. A second group recirculated the claims from those articles without ever having been asked to do so. "No one coordinates the roles," Allen said. Instead the participants swim toward their goal like a school of fish -- moving on their own, but also in unison.

"Citizens and political scientists must face the fact that the Internet has enabled a new form of political organization that is just as influential on local and national elections as unions and political action committees," she says. "This kind of misinformation campaign short-circuits judgment. It also aggressively disregards the fundamental principle of free societies that one be able to debate one's accusers."
Irony of ironies, a Google search on 'Obama Muslim' currently brings up this news article (actually a letter) 'Obama Risks Muslim Backlash'.

"The suffering... You can't describe it"


Report filmed undercover by SBS Australia's 'Dateline'.
Video Journalist Ginny Stein has reported from the African nation several times, defying a government ban and possibly risking jail time. However her local fixer deems it too dangerous for her to enter - so he borrows her hidden camera and journeys into his homeland to record the pre-election violence.

“I think everybody has to do his own bit,” he tells Stein before he crosses the border. “I happen to be working with the media and that’s my way of fighting for change in Zimbabwe.”
This is a very graphic, powerful and moving report.
DEE: Now we are going to Manica bridge, an area where most MDC people here have been victimised. The guy I am going with here is telling me that there has been a lot of arson, burning down of property, beatings, lootings and even rape, to innocent victims. I'm just going to show you a little extent of the violence being meted on the opposition by the ruling party.

So few are vehicles in rural areas, each one that passes through is noticed. To stay too long is to attract attention.

DEE: The driver I am going with makes sure he turns around the car so that if we have to escape it will be easy.

In this village, the men have come together to offer each other protection. Albert - not his real name - is the MDC's ward chairman. But it was his role as an election observer that brought him to the attention of Robert Mugabe's loyalists.
ALBERT: They started to throw stones in my house, so, fearing that they would injure my family I come out and faced them then they started to beat me using different weapons - they were holding metal axes and logs and ties of rubber strips. Ah, they've made me even braver. Because all these injuries they've inflicted on me - they've branded me - I am even braver and I am going to vote for MDC and I am not going to change my mind though they've beaten me.

At a local hospital, Dee finds most patients too scared to speak. This man, a polling officer, a public servant who was beaten in front of his entire village, was brave enough to talk but too fearful of retribution to be identified.

Just heard Chris Patten promoting the Avaaz petition "there is something you can do". if you haven't already, please sign this.
Petition to Thabo Mbeki and other leaders of Southern Africa:
We call on you to hold an emergency meeting of Southern African leaders, to work by all means necessary for a legitimate Zimbabwean government that reflects the will of its people, and to decisively isolate those who stand in the way of a peaceful, democratic future for Zimbabwe.

Postscript: I neglected to give a hat-tip to The Sowetan. The SBS report has now been picked up from my post by Sokwanele, which will hopefully lead to a much wider viewership.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Ready for Change


From Sokwanele

Sowetan editorial: Stand up to tyranny
Almost everyone who has watched this tragedy unfold knows what is happening. Tsvangirai knows it, Jacob Zuma knows its, and so do the AU, the UN and everyone else calling for the farcical so-called run-off poll in Zimbabwe to be called off.

But it still took inordinate guts for Tsvangirai to withdraw from the election. Participating would only have lent credibility to a sham.

Only a few isolated politicians in South Africa and slightly further afield believed anything good could come out of Mugabe’s pantomime. He stole the 2002 election in a similar fashion.

Now the world must follow up on its bluster. Mugabe and his henchmen must be isolated economically, politically and morally – the way apartheid politicians were.
And the already battered folk north of our borders have one last battle to endure and stand up against his tyranny – just as we did here.

The next move for PSWMG

For those public service webbies interested in forming an interest group representing us, please have a look at the PSWMG site and contribute to the debate about the next moves.

If you've not joined the Board, please register (NB: approvals should take a few hours).

Please note that this means all the public sector and includes people working with it but not employed full-time within it. The debate will cover what role we'd like the latter to play in any new organisation.

The topics I've initially suggested need hammering out are:
  • AGM organisation
  • Membership
  • Purpose
  • Collaboration
  • Funding
  • Online organisation

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

“I f****** hope he dies"


A few days a go a woman walked free from a Liverpool court after she'd killed her husband.

He hadn't bashed her.

He hadn't abused her.

He'd told her he was gay.

When I first saw this story on the PinkPaper website I started a Google Alert monitor and apart from the initial local BBC story nobody else has covered it.

This is the PinkPaper story (the local BBC story misses a few crucial bits), and the lack of coverage/interest says everything about the actual position of LGBT in the UK today.
Christine McGreavey, who told police: “I fucking hope he dies,” shortly after her arrest, stood trial for the murder of Barry Parkin after the incident in January.

She was also found not guilty of manslaughter at Liverpool Crown Court.

McGreavy, 48, formerly of Manorbier Crescent, Walton, Merseyside, denied the charges.

Prosecutor Richard Pratt QC told the jury Parkin had initially tried to cover for the mother of his daughter, but, as the 48-year-old realised he was dying, admitted to paramedics that McGreavy had “lost it” and stabbed him in the chest.

McGreavy said the incident happened during a row about his sexuality. Police were called to Parkin’s home at 9.20pm on 6 December after he staggered to a neighbour, covered in blood and requesting help.

Allegedly, he came out of the kitchen with a knife pointing towards his chest. She lunged forward and accidentally “bumped” the knife into his torso. The knife pierced his heart which slowly filled with blood. He died five hours later in Fazakerley hospital.

McGreavey later apologised at the police station, telling officers she had acted in self-defence. “I just flipped,” she said. “I just found out today that the father of my child is gay.”
Liverpool Echo has more, more.
Mr Pratt told the jury Mr Parkin initially told officers he had been attacked on Rice Lane. But as he travelled to hospital he asked the paramedic if he was going to die, and said it was his former girlfriend McGreavy who attacked him.
Sure sounds like gay men are fair game for murder to me.

Another suicide follow up


I had a very moving comment to my post about the BMJ's article about search and suicide prevention.

Here it is:
Thank you for writing this article. I agree with you and believe that suicide should be a private matter and if someone wants to kill themselves they should be allowed to. Why do we force people to suffer in ways we would never allow a dog or cat suffer in. In any case they will, no matter what laws are out there and no matter how much society frowns on it. The difference is that without resources they may die painfully or fail and end up a vegetable.

I have a progressive neurological disorder. I live everyday in varying degrees of pain and have lost much of my abilities, despite taking time released pain med (because god forbid I should become addicted to my meds) because the amounts are not adequate.

Perhaps if people were able to get good pain control and the support they need they might not be looking at suicide. But many of us have little choice. I know that when my disease progresses to the point I can't take care of myself (and actually because of the laws that make it a crime to "assist" suicide, I'll have to do this before I reach that point) I am not sticking around. I refuse to end up in a nursing home where I have NO CONTROL over my own life and I will not be more of a burden to my husband then I already am. Again because of the stupid laws by these so called compassionate Christians I will be forced to die alone without my loved one who will have to establish an airtight alibi so they don't go to jail This just isn't right. I'm a disabled veteran and an adult. I should be able to end my life WHEN and HOW I want. The worst part is that you can't even talk with a mental health professional because they'll put you in the loony bin "to save you" because the only reason people kill themselves is because of depression (what a load of horse pucky). Maybe if it was safe to talk with someone people might go for help but since we know they will try and talk us out of it or will commit us we don't have that option. It would be nice to be able to talk with someone who has no stake in what is going to happen. Just to make sure you're thinking ok. But I'm rambling. Laws need to be changed so adults can make the decisions they need to make and can die at home comfortably surrounded by their loved ones. Think of how less scary death would be if children could see this natural end to life. And even adults might not have such a fear. I stayed with my father in law when he died at the hospital last year. It was peaceful and the way I'd like to go. He had his family around him, enough medications to make him comfortable and he seemed so happy to end the pain he had been in. I'd like to see laws created that would keep our rights intact and keep the government out of personal matters.
Because I lived through too many AIDS deaths I'm probably 'hardened' to these issues. I'm practical. I'm realistic. I'm not 'moral'. I knew people who topped themselves before they descended into hell/madness.

But as far as I'm concerned, yes, I didn't actually say in this article that I "believe that suicide should be a private matter and if someone wants to kill themselves they should be allowed to" (it was about search and 'suicide') but I do think that. My experience tells me that the alternatives are perverse and cruel.

Thank you to my commentator, 'Charlotte'.

Save Zimbabwe from Mugabe



Avaaz has a new petition - they're the ones who organised relief via monks to Burma and a flying banner above the UN when they last considered Zimbabwe.

Their call:
The United Nations Security Council unanimously held on Monday that free and fair elections are now impossible in Zimbabwe. The UN Secretary-General spoke out. But it is African leaders, most of all Thabo Mbeki, who hold the key. Even Mugabe cannot cling to power without their cooperation. Today, we're launching an emergency campaign, petitioning these leaders to call an immediate summit, isolate Mugabe, and broker a legitimate government for Zimbabwe. Our call will be published in big newspaper advertisements in South Africa, Tanzania, Angola, and Mozambique this week -- click here to see the ads and endorse their message

Help us raise 250,000 voices this week, including a great roar from every country in Africa, to be delivered in an immediate multi-country ad campaign. Click to see the ads, sign, and then forward this to friends.

Flypaper and the EU


For some reason, this summer I am plagued by flies. It's not due to ripe bins or dead beasties outside my back door. I haven't a clue why they're here but they're driving - me - mad. To the point of desperate, pathetic swatting.

Truly, destructively pathetic swatting. Monty Python stylee. It's like I'm back in a Sydney fly plague.

Now when I went looking for a solution which did not involve spays (which stink and mean room evacuation) could I find it? Could I eck. Only massively expensive traps or a 'repellent' which vaguely works (not really).

Admittedly I live where it's just brand name shops a-go-go and not local specialists, unless you search. Like much of these isles.

I was looking for flypaper. Y'know: they stick, they die. Only the lady in the shop informed me that it's banned by the EU. On investigation, presumably because that involves arsenic and some kid or idiot might decide to suck on it (I was a tad mad-as-hell and not-going-to-take-it-any-more).

One of my readers (you know who you are) was asking for comment on the Irish rejection of the EU Treaty.

As far as I'm concerned (and not very), the EU is obviously a 'good idea' but obviously inefficient (two parliaments!?!) and the treaty appeared to be about attempting to sort that. But I haven't heard much about flypaper in the debate.

The point being - what is the alternative to flypaper? According to what's actually in the shops it's either sprays (yecch) or expensive, plug-in electric things which capture the bastards.

But according to a search there are other 'humane' (this is a joke, right?) 'methods' you can buy which seem to only be online. 'Humane' flypaper. But they're not in the shops. What's in the shops is only what some GIANT CORP gives out and it's mainly sprays.

So, when someone thought up this lovely, save the whales ban on yee traditional flypaper did it cross their mind what the end consumer would actually end up having to choose from as alternatives?

I think not.

And no, this isn't a 'failing of the EU' per se because it's probably not a good idea to have arsenic floating around on rubbish tips etc. But the system needs reforming and, I'd guess, it's not my top interest, a bit more public engagement than what you'd get via the Daily Mail to make the decision makers think through what the decisions mean at the sharp end - i.e. flypaper bans - would help.

To sum up: from my harried perspective, the EU appears to operate in the interests of GIANT CORPS. They should pay attention to the little guy, in this case the little england(er). (Shakes fist and starts swatting).

NHS website - how much?!


I don't know what the NHS website costs but given their IT expenditure is in the multi-billions you would expect it's a lot. Maybe it's actually minimal. I don't know if this has bothered the Public Accounts Committee.

What I do know is that it appears to not contain any information about medical/doctor's certificates - those things which come in various flavours and require a visit to the GP. Definitely not 'a page' which contains 'the official info'.

Here's what happens when you type in 'certificates'.



Nowt of any use to anyone.

Actually another thing that happens is that a list of suggestions pop-up which are all about types of illness - obviously the site is geared around 'prevention'. This is pretty damn obvious from the homepage as well, as it yells 'FIVE A DAY MEALS ' at you.

The actual reason I was looking for 'certificates' was to provide information to people who needed to know something about the different types of them and what they meant. Y'know 'joined up government', 'do it online' and all that.

Plus it was people who were online anyway - looking at something I was attempting to link from - and in the particular case probably hadn't much clue about the way the system works. So, yes, talking to someone like a GP would help them but aren't we supposed to be saving government's money by doing more of the info provision online?

A fair bit of what the rest of government does is linked in some way to 'health'. Is this a case of dem silos? I would note that in my egov networking NHS people seem to be strangely absent ...

Postscript: turns out that info on medical certificates is on the DVLA website. Makes sense? Not.

British LGBT's sense of priorities


Great sense of priorities we in the gay community have.

A day and a complaint about an ad withdrawal attracts 2000 signatures. Four months and a petition to Gordon Brown to stop deporting gays and lesbians to torture and possible death attracts 2837 - a considerable proportion of which I think are from heterosexuals (and thank you to them).

The petition is here petitions.pm.gov.uk/Stopdeportinggay/ if you'd care to take a few minutes of your valuable time to sign it. That's unless you agree that this should be happening of course, gay community?

Makes you proud, not.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

What ketchup now!?


Heinz has slunk away after 200 fundamentalists complained about a TV ad. You'd think the two blokes had their tongues down each others throats rather than a quick goodbye peck. It's not even clear they're a couple, or even gay. And it was after the watershed. Mustn't get the kiddies asking questions.

I'd posted it before here. Their PR about it, quoting Nigel Dickie (real name), Director of Corporate Affairs.

I wonder what John Kerry's wife thinks?

So it's not just the Ketchup it's:

Branston baked beans, Baxters soups. Lea & Perrins. Buitoni spaghetti, Jardines tomato ketchup, Hellmann's mayonnaise.

We should boycott in this era of international corporations ;{

Arrgh! What tastes as good as their ketchup and their beans? Readers?

Thank you BBC



The BBC has a long story about reactions from Zimbabwean bloggers to Tsvangari's resignation - with links.

It's been disappearing down the Zim stories through the day but it's there as a feature. Sokwanele is also described as a 'Civic Action Support Group, which is good. The BBC is the world's biggest news source, so the link is important.

The group is also now being picked up across the blogosphere.

Mentions by Day
Posts mentioning sokwanele per day for the past 30 days.



Today they covered a terrifying statement issued by Genocide Watch:
ZANU-PF’s hate speech, torture, and murder have terrorized Zimbabwe since the Movement for Democratic Change defeated Mugabe and the ZANU-PF in March’s elections. Now ZANU-PF has stepped up its violence to openly kill leaders of the MDC and their families. Such acts are prelude to every politicide or genocide.

A sign of the gravity of the danger is the phenomenon of “mirroring,” a strange but common psychological mechanism of denial used by mass murderers. ZANU-PF spokesmen accuse their victims of being traitors or terrorists, when in fact ZANU-PF is the real perpetrator.

President Mugabe’s open declaration that his followers would go to war rather than accept defeat in the election is a sign of the high probability that Zimbabwe is headed for a bloodbath. His termination of relief aid to his own starving people shows his complete contempt for human life.


Monday, 23 June 2008

Zimbabwe is about Africa and African solutions


More Zapiro

Lester Holloway has a spot-on piece in today's Guardian:

Clegg's wrong on Zimbabwe
Calling for military action risks dividing Africa just as its leaders appear to be uniting against Mugabe

The west can spend its time comparing Mugabe to Hitler, but the real answer is African solutions to African problems", he argues.
African civil society is taking a stand and following their lead and supporting them is the most effective action. Clegg and many other 'useful idiots' haven't a clue. Zimbabwean civil society and South Africans are standing against those, like Mbeki, who are enabling Mugabe.

In a statement signed by a large group of African dignatories and published in many newspapers before Tsvangari's pullout, some hope that those African solutions will eventuate took form.
African civil society must make a clear stand. Our voice must be clear, precise and loud enough to be heard by our brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe.
  • We stand for free and democratic processes in Zimbabwe
  • We regret and condemn violence and intimidation
  • It is unacceptable to harass and detain presidential candidates.
We Africans are no longer willing to accept lower standards of governance than the rest of the world.

Great sacrifices were made during the liberation struggle. To live up to the aspirations of those who sacrificed, it is vital that nothing is done to deny the legitimate expression of the will of the people of Zimbabwe.

Whatever the outcome of the election, it will be vital for all Zimbabweans to come together in a spirit of reconciliation to secure Zimbabwe’s future. We further call upon African leaders at all levels -- pan-African, regional and national -- and their institutions to ensure the achievement of these objectives.
This is the list of signatories:
  • Abdusalami Alhaji Abubakar former president of Nigeria (1998-1999);
  • Kofi Annan former secretary general of the United Nations (1997-2007), Nobel Laureate and member of The Elders;
  • Professor Kwame Appiah, Laurence S Rockefeller University professor of Philosophy at Princeton University;
  • Boutros Boutros-Ghali former secretary-general of the UN (1992-1997);
  • Lakhdar Brahimi former UN special representative for Afghanistan, Haiti, Iraq and South Africa, member of The Elders;
  • Pierre Buyoya former president of Burundi (1987-1993, 1996-2003);
  • Joaquim Chissano former president of Mozambique (1986-2005);
  • John Githongo former permanent secretary for governance and ethics in Kenya;
  • Richard Goldstone former judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa;
  • Mo Ibrahim founder of Celtel International and founder of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation;
  • Sam Jonah former chief executive of the Ashanti Goldfields Corporation;
  • Angelique Kidjo musician and Unicef goodwill ambassador;
  • Wangari Maathai founder of the Green Belt Movement and Nobel Laureate;
  • Graça Machel president of the Foundation for Community Development and member of The Elders;
  • Ketumile Masire former president of Botswana (1980-1998);
  • Moeletsi Mbeki deputy chair of the South African Institute of International Affairs;
  • Benjamin William Mkapa former president of Tanzania (1995-2005);
  • Festus Mogae former president of Botswana (1998-2008);
  • António Mascarenhas Monteiro former president of Cape Verde (1991-2001);
  • Elson Bakili Muluzi former president of Malawi (1994-2004);
  • Ali Hassan Mwinyi former president of Tanzania (1985-1995);
  • Kumi Naidoo secretary general of Civicus;
  • Babacar Ndiaye former president of the African Development Bank;
  • Youssou N’Dour Musician and Unicef goodwill ambassador;
  • Njongonkulu Ndungane former Archbishop of Cape Town;
  • Moustapha Niasse former prime minister of Senegal (1983, 2000-2001);
  • Loyiso Nongxa vice-chancellor and principal of the University of the Witwatersrand;
  • Karl Offmann former president of Mauritius (2002-2003);
  • Mamphela Ramphele former managing director of the World Bank and former vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town;
  • Jerry John Rawlings former president of Ghana (1993-2001);
  • Johann Rupert chair of Remgro Limited;
  • Mohammed Sahnoun former UN/OAU special representative for the Great Lakes region of Africa;
  • Salim Ahmed Salim former prime minister of Tanzania (1994-1995) and former secretary general of the OAU (1989-2001);
  • John Sentamu Archbishop of York;
  • Nicéphore Dieudonné Soglo former president of Benin (1991-1996);
  • Miguel Trovoada former president of São Tomé and Príncipe (1991-2001);
  • Desmond Tutu laureate and chair of The Elders;
  • Cassam Uteem former president of Mauritius (1992-2002);
  • Zwelinzima Vavi general secretary of the Cosatu;
  • Joseph Sinde Warioba former prime minister of Tanzania (1985-1990);
  • William Kalema chair of the Uganda Investment Authority;
  • Kenneth David Kaunda former president of Zambia (1964-1991);
  • Thabo Cecil Makgoba Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town;
  • Domitien Ndayizeye former president of Burundi (2003-2005).
Who turns out for Mugabe's coronation will be a sure marker of whether Africa will work this out for themselves.

~~~~~

Sokwanele
remains the best source for news. Today they report on legal opinion arguing that Zimbabwean electoral law means that Tsvangari should be confirmed as President.

Sokwanele
also carries details of numerous ways in which you can practically help.

As well as this brilliant insider view (by 'Hope') of what Sunday's events meant.

Today is the day democracy died in Zimbabwe
It isn’t simply about voting: the fact is that the changes in Zimbabwe’s legislation which made it possible for the opposition movement to thwart Mugabe’s tried and trusted rigging tricks unfortunately also handed Mugabe and his thugs a roadmap to all his victims. By displaying the polling results on the walls outside the polling stations - the scores on the doors - the world and Zimbabwean citizens knew the result before it had been processed by Zanu PF’s creative number-crunching team, and made it difficult for him it to rig. But it also told Mugabe, right down to the wards WITHIN towns, who voted against him, and where they lived.

Those people who crave the images of bravery I mentioned before should hold this picture in their minds: a poor person standing in a polling station, casting a vote against a violent dictator, despite the fact they live in a rural area. There’s your man courageously facing a bullet with dignity!

On March 29th the gun was being held behind Mugabe’s back, ready to whip out and use against a civilian when he needed it to be used. The June 27th elections are different: this time the gun would have almost literally been held to civilian heads because those brave people were being asked to cast their votes before the hard cruel eyes of the Zanu PF loyalists that the government has recruited and flooded the polling stations with.

...

There is still a chance that violence might spiral out of control as brutalised people grow more desperate, but if it does happen, it happens under SADC’s watch. They can stop it and they can also restore democracy to Zimbabwe and give us a new lease of life; the question now is whether they have the political will and moral fibre to do so.

As for the rest of us, we will struggle on as we always have done.

gayasylumuk condemns "inhumane, anti-gay" Labour government

MEDIA RELEASE
23rd June, 2008

FOR IMMEDIATE USE

gayasylumuk condemns "inhumane, anti-gay" Labour government

The campaigning group gayaylumuk today called the comments of British Labour Home Secretary Jacqui Smith about retuning gays and lesbians to Iran "outrageous, shameful, inhumane and anti-gay".

In a letter to the LibDem MP Lord Roberts, Smith echoed government policy by claiming that it was safe to return people if they were "discreet".

Spokesperson, Paul Canning, said "we are calling for protest to be directed at Gordon Brown over the issue. Sign the petition."

"We hope that gay and lesbian Labour voters in particular will consider changing their vote if the policy isn't changed before the next election. This is one way to get the message through on their hypocrisy regarding lesbian and gay rights issues — when embassies in other countries are flying the rainbow flag they aren't doing this in Tehran, Kingston or Kampala."

Human Rights Watch (HRW), the respected international authority often quoted by the government, has documented the persecution and torture of gays and lesbians in Iran, where sex can attract the death penalty.

In March they issued an alert over the raiding of a private party in Ishfahan. In May the Home Office was added to their 'Hall of Shame'.

Scott Long of HRW said: "Torturing and killing gays is legal in Iran: you don't need to view the bodies to prove it. International law bars Britain from returning people to the risk of torture. Britain must give gay Iranians asylum."

"Human Rights Watch has shown how Britain tries to redefine its obligations on torture, so it can send people back to states where they face grave risk. Usually it happens in the context of counterterrorism. But with gay Iranians, too, the government aims to change the rules, denying that legal torture is "persecution"."

gayasylumuk believes that the number of such asylum seekers in the UK is small, maybe 30. Such small numbers is also the case in other countries.

"The Dutch experience shows that a proven, tested model exists of how to operate a humane asylum policy for gays and lesbians - and they haven't had a 'flood'", said Canning.

"Similar policy and practice exists in the United States, Canada and Sweden - why is the UK alone in being inhumane and disregarding international law?"

gayasylumuk countered the government's position, as restated in the Medhi Kazemi case in the House of Lords by the Home Office Minister, Lord West.

"We are extremely cautious about the way in which we treat these cases"
They have shown no evidence of caution. For a number of years they have consistently refused asylum to gays and lesbians and transgender people who would suffer persecution if returned, because that is their policy. Some of these people have committed suicide rather than be returned. There is a mass of evidence that Iran and other countries like Jamaica and Uganda are a 'deathzone'.

"We give detailed consideration to these cases"

This is not the experience of asylum seekers, and this is well documented. They do not consider the stated opinion of their own colleagues in the Foreign Office and never have. They misrepresent evidence of torture and systematic harassment by Human Rights Watch and other NGOs.

"They go through a rigorous appeals and court process"
As Smith has just reiterated, there is a Home Office policy that gays and lesbians can be returned if they are 'discreet'. Further, there is a history of the Home Office accepting bland assurances from the Iranian and other governments. Further, there is a lot of evidence of homophobic attitudes within the Appeals Court process.

"Obviously we have to follow and respect the integrity of that process"
Not if it is biased. Not if the outcome is guaranteed because of their (unstated) policy. There is no integrity to this process for gays and lesbians.

The group is calling on all British people outraged by government policy to sign the petition, established by Durham Methodist minister Walter Attwood, which says: 'we the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to stop deporting gays and lesbians to countries where they may be imprisoned, tortured or executed because of their sexuality'. to Gordon Brown (at http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/Stopdeportinggay/).

This petition says: 'we the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to stop deporting gays and lesbians to countries where they may be imprisoned, tortured or executed because of their sexuality'.

The petition has almost 3000 signatures but needs many more to achieve significance in the Number Ten petitions system, established by Downing Street to affect and inform policy.

gayasylumuk is a campaign group established by Omar Kuddas. It has supporters in the UK, USA, Europe and around the world.


A button promoting the petition to Gordon Brown, for use on websites and blogs, can also be found on our website.

~~~~~~

Independent: Iran is safe for 'discreet' gays, says Jacqui Smith

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Full Statement from Morgan Tsvangirai


“We in the MDC cannot ask them to cast their vote on the 27th when that vote would cost them their lives.”

The MDC won the March 29th elections despite conditions that were far from free and fair. Our party’s message of peaceful, democratic change and rebuilding a New Zimbabwe enjoys the support of the vast majority of Zimbabweans.

Our election victory confirmed this to Mugabe and since that date, he and his supporters have been waging a war against the people of Zimbabwe.

This violent retributive agenda has seen over 200 000 people internally displaced and over 86 MDC supporters killed. Over 20 000 homes have been destroyed and over 10 000 people have been injured and maimed in this orgy of violence.

For the record, there are eight broad reasons why a free and fair election is impossible. Zanu PF has already subverted the run-off through the following:

STATE SPONSORED VIOLENCE

The police have been reduced to bystanders while Zanu PF militia commit crimes against humanity varying from rape, torture, murder, arson, abductions and other atrocities.

Zanu PF militia dressed in army regalia have been deployed to spearhead the terror campaign in the rural and urban areas. Armed Zanu PF youths are waging a terror campaign and have vowed that the MDC will not rule the county even if it wins.

The Joint Operations Command (JOC) is engineering a violent campaign to subvert the will of the people. The Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) has designed covert operations to destabilize the nation.

Zanu PF has set up over 3000 militia bases across the length and breath of the country in order to cow and intimidate MDC supporters into submission.

Death and hit squads are on the loose in all the provinces.

War veterans and Zanu PF youths are manning illegal roadblocks with impunity in complicity with the police.

The use of guns and arms of war by Zanu PF militia and war vets to campaign for Zanu PF has virtually militarized the election atmosphere.

All this is being done as State sponsored ploy to tilt the vote in favour of Zanu PF.

MDC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE’S CAMPAIGN

The regime has crippled the MDC Presidential Candidate’s campaign. MDC rallies have been banned. Court orders have been ignored. Today, Sunday the 22nd of June 2008, a mere five days before the run-off date, police refused MDC permission to hold its only Star Rally at the open space across the Harare Show Grounds. We successfully sought a High Court Order which granted us permission to proceed with our rally. Regrettably, armed Zanu PF thugs occupied the venue in order to prevent us from gathering. MDC supporters were attacked and cars were stoned at the venue. This happened in full view of the police.

Unlawful arrests of the MDC Presidential Candidate have been going on unabated. The public media has flatly refused to flight MDC adverts. To date, no single commercial has aired by the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation. There is a total blackout of the MDC in the public media in clear contravention of the SADC guidelines and standards governing a free and fair election.

The hate language and the vilification of the MDC Presidential candidate by the public broadcasters and public media is unprecedented. By denying us access to the media the regime has managed to deny the MDC access to the people.

DECIMATION OF MDC STRUCTURES

The MDC Secretary General, Hon. Tendai Biti and MP Advocate Matinenga are illegally detained. Over 2000 MDC supporters including our polling agents are in illegal detention. The arrests have targeted members of Parliament, Councillors, the MDC structures and election agents. Over 200 000 people have been internally displaced. The whole game plan is designed to cripple the MDC campaign.

THE ZIMBABWE ELECTORAL COMMISSION (ZEC)

The MDC is shocked by the level of partisanship of ZEC. We have lost confidence in ZEC. The organization has been staffed by war veterans and Zanu PF militia. In fact, as it stands now, ZEC is not in charge of the management of this election.

THE MEDIA

The media is under attack. There is a complete blackout of the MDC’s campaign. Journalists are being harassed and intimidated and foreign journalists barred from entering the country.

THE ZANU PF PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

The Zanu PF candidate has no respect for the MDC, observers, the regional and international community. He has made public pronouncements to the effect that he will not accept defeat. He has declared war by saying that the bullet has replaced the ballot. The statement by General Chiwenga and Commissioner of Prisons Zimondi that they will not respect and accept the will of the people is regrettable and is a clear manifestation that a free and fair election is impossible.

PLANNED ELECTION RIGGING BY ZANU PF

The MDC has unearthed an elaborate and decisive plan by Zanu PF to rig the elections through the following measures:

1. Commandeering the uniformed forces to use the postal ballot and forcing them to vote in front of their superiors.
2. The prevention of MDC election agents to get to the polling stations through roadblocks and arrests.
3. The three Mashonaland provinces have been identified as rigging centres where ballots are going to be stuffed.
4. Villagers are having their national identity cards confiscated denying them their right to vote.
5. There is a plan to record the serial numbers of ballot papers so as to intimidate voters.
6. The holding of forced pungwes (overnight meetings) where MDC supporters are beaten and forced to undergo “re-education”.
7. The abuse of traditional leaders.
8. The use of massive violence as a weapon to influence the ballot.

CONCLUSION

Given the totality of these circumstances, we believe a credible election, which reflects the will of the people is impossible. We remain unreservedly committed to free and fair elections in the country. The conditions prevailing as of today do not permit the holding of a credible poll.
The militia, war veterans and even Mugabe himself have made it clear that anyone that votes for me in the forthcoming election faces the very real possibility of being killed.

Zimbabweans have also shown how brave and resilient they can be. They have withstood years of brutality, impoverishment and intimidation. They are dedicated to a New democratic
Zimbabwe.

But, we in the MDC, cannot ask them to cast their vote on June 27th when that vote could cost them their lives.

Therefore, we in the MDC have resolved that we will no longer participate in this violent, illegitimate sham of an election process.

The courageous people of this country, and the people of the MDC have done everything humanly and democratically possible to deliver a New Zimbabwe under a New Government.
We urge SADC, AU and the United Nations to intervene urgently in this unprecedented situation to restore the rule of law, peace, and conditions for a free and fair election.

We are going to articulate our vision and the way forward to the people of Zimbabwe and the world, after further consulting the people.

Finally, we salute and thank all the suppressed masses of Zimbabwe who have been maimed, raped, tortured, lost homes and properties in the pursuit of a noble cause of wishing to see a free and democratic Zimbabwe. I sympathize with you over the loss of your loved ones in these final phases of the struggle. Victory is certain, it can only be delayed.

I thank you.
President Morgan Tsvangirai

~~~~~

The pressure should now be on SADC and especially Mbeki.

Scrapbook clips catch up

My piece on 'Why Obama could be good for gays' has been republished by PinkNews, unfortunately the formatting fell through their template ;[

Arianna Huffington has been all over the UK media this week as she made a flying visit to London. I have been reading HuffPost since it started and am still waiting for it to do international news. It now has a green section and a 'living' section and, in London, much focus was on her move into local news.

The big, huge gap in American news reporting is international. It is very clear from reading HuffPost that even the liberals are plain ignorant. And why? Lack of decent reporting. It is pretty damming of Arianna's enterprise that she is putting local US news before developing a truly international section to her, now, very influential website — I just wish someone would say this to her and that didn't appear to happen on her flying visit.

One recent instance where HuffPost behaved badly was during the Burmese cyclone. They just reported and didn't link to donation sites — whereas the old school aka the New York Times did, and immediately.

Via Netimperative: Mobile advertising is the most unpopular ad format in the UK, according to new research from Dynamic Logic.

The study indicated that print advertising generates the most positive reaction with UK consumers and is seen as having the most relevance.

The Dynamic Logic ‘AdReaction’ study gauged consumer’s opinions of advertising.



Jonathan Zittrain interview on BBC News 24's Click.

His new book, The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It, develops the theme about how the commercial world's platform dominance will spike the sorts of developments which we need to drive the Internet further. I have always been queasy about the odd attitudes towards corps like Apple and their closed, exclusive partnership relationships. Zittrain nails why and I have to read the book.

I think that Tim Berners-Lee would agree. In a speech last week he said:
"How can we make the Web be an infrastructure that allows more than one person to think more effectively than one person can? There's no proof yet that for creative thinking we've done that," he said. "The challenge is to build a system that allows the formation of half-formed ideas and allows collective creativity."
HT: nomensa

Age Concern is developing an online campaign to encourage people to become more organised.

Cancer Research UK has launched a blog to tackle cancer myths.

Barack Obama is mentioning Google a lot on the trail to contrast himself with McCain (who cannot use a computer at all).

The authoritative Pew Internet Project has released a report on the election campaign thus far and found:
  • 46% of Americans have used the internet, email or cell phone text messaging to get news about the campaign, share their views and mobilize others.
  • 35% of Americans say they have watched online political videos.
  • 10% say they have used social networking sites such as Facebook or MySpace to gather information or become involved. This is particularly popular with younger voters: Two-thirds of internet users under the age of 30 have a social networking profile, and half of these use social networking sites to get or share information about politics or the campaigns.
  • 6% of Americans have made political contributions online.
  • 39% of online Americans have used the internet to access "unfiltered" campaign materials, which includes video of candidate debates, speeches and announcements, as well as position papers and speech transcripts.
  • 5% of Americans have posted their own original commentary or analysis.
That's a lot.

One of the least reported aspect of the disaster that is Zimbabwe is the ecological crisis. This organization is trying to do something about it.

Shake hands with killers... Harare Tribune article on the history behind today's suffering.
At Zimbabwe's Independence then Prime Minister R. G. Mugabe established a government of apparent reconciliation including Zapu leader, Nkomo. The apparent integration of former warring combatants, Zanu's ZANLA and Zapu's ZPRA, into one Zimbabwe National Army proceeded. But, behind what eventually was revealed as a continuing charade, the ruthless accumulation of all power by Zanu (PF) proceeded apace.
BBC News Online Magazine, 50 office-speak phrases you love to hate.
"The latest that's stuck in my head is we are still optimistic things will feed through the sales and delivery pipeline (ie: we actually haven't sold anything to anyone yet but maybe we will one day)."
Would Australia's PM ban Botticelli? Germaine has a good 'ole go at Australia's Catholic PM.
Rudd would not recoil in horror from Botticelli's Birth of Venus, one hopes, but that, too, is the image of an adolescent. For some months, travellers on the London underground have been unable to escape the image of a naked pre-teen, fully lit and meticulously detailed down to her faint cloud of pubic fuzz. But no child protection campaigners have picketed the Royal Academy.
The Village Voice's annual Queer issues had lots of good stuff, including Triumph of the Lipstick Lesbians.
Today's middle-class and wealthy lesbians, however, look mainstream. "I've certainly noticed a more glamorous element among lesbians," said Julie Bolcer, the news editor of Go magazine, a monthly based in New York that is this group's bible. Bolcer can be seen many nights prowling hot-girl clubs for news tips. She's surprised by how many women wear long hair and how "flagrantly feminine" many of her peers dress.
21st Century ad from Heinz:



Quote of the week 1, from Radio 4's The Learning Curve:
"Up to 20% of school pupils could be classed as disabled under the Disability Discrimination Act".
Quote of the week 2, from Tim Footman's The gay priests row is a holy smokescreen:
"Let's be clear: removing all the gay priests from the Anglican communion would provoke a serious staffing shortage; although they're better off than the Roman Catholic church, which would probably cease to exist if all the Hail Marys had to find alternative employment."

Three ways to support Zimbabwe


1. Help a Zimbabwean return home to vote


A diaspora focussed campaign is aiming to help Zimbabweans return home to vote on Friday next week. It is being coordinated by the Peace and Democracy Project (PDP) and the Southern African Women’s Institute for Migration Affairs (SAWIMA).

Sponsorship options include assisting an employee with a return ticket, paying for one or more seats on a bus via the www.votezim.com website, or even sponsoring an entire bus.

Contact these numbers for further information:

Peace and Democracy Project of Zimbabwe:
Mr Mathula Lusinga, Programme Officer
Cell: 084 744 7272
E-mail: mlusinga@yahoo.com

Or:

Mr Gilbert Moyo, Project Co-ordinator
Cell: 079 665 8870
E-mail: gil.shel@yahoo.co.uk

Southern African Women’s Institute for Migration Affairs:
Mrs Joyce Dube, Director
Tel: (011) 339 3900
Cell: 079 873 9021
E-mail: sawima2003@yahoo.com

2. Protect the Vote

People who wish to donate money to pay for on the ground infrastructure, like petrol for getting to polling stations, promotional material etc, please send it to:

Acc Name: Protect Your Vote
Standard Bank 025609 Blue route
Ac no 270055045
Swift SBZAZAJJ

3. Amnesty International: Petition on the crisis in Zimbabwe to the Governments of Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, and South Africa

Amnesty International (Canada) have launched an appeal calling on Angola, Namibia, Mozambique and South Africa to take action on the crisis in Zimbabwe. The text of the petition in below and you can sign it at this link here. Please use the feature on their website to invite everyone you know to sign it as well.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Directionless gov part 573


PSF reports today that LocalDirectGov, primary hate object for local government webbies, is to be revived after a twelve month 'hiatus'.
Like a delicate flower gently awakening from a long dark Winter's slumber, Local Directgov made its return last week – and immediately announced plans for another of its famous national link-gathering exercises (famed mainly for having cost millions and delivered next to nothing), this time involving around 150 councils in England.
Cameroon? Osboon? Millions (and it really was millions), wasted? LibDems? Scandal? Anyone?

Presumably the first job will be to correct all the now broken links after the 'hiatus' ... Only it won't be a Whitehall bureaucrat doing this but a far more expensive so-called method involving people with far better things to do.

Any thoughts Minister Watson? Thought not.
More: in that past post (August 2007) I discussed the DCLG's then new web 2.0 efforts. I just clicked through and there's nothing about localdirectgov in their highly controlled and pretty empty forums and a grand total of one blog.

Another apology - where is Britain? where is Miliband

This brought tears to my eyes.

Canada's conservative PM, Stephen Harper, in the House of Commons, formally apologising on behalf of the government for the federally-run Indian residential school system, which forcibly took 150,000 children from their families and stripped them of their culture and heritage, often subjecting them to physical and sexual abuses. The apology comes after the government agreed to pay out $C billions in compensation payments for survivors.

Earlier this year Australian PM, Kevin Rudd, issued an apology for similar policies in Australia. It came without $ recompense and it did not move me like this does.

Our government, the British government, continues to refuse equality for indigenous peoples in international law and accept Britain's historic role in their condition.




NSFW: He Said It First

BBC "essentially a socialist enterprise"

Ads on local council websites?



Lincolnshire have started running banner adverts today on their website, in what they claim is "a nationwide first for any local authority."

They're not the first actually! I was surprised when researching this to see quite a few other councils are already doing them.
  • Flyde is running Google text ads.
  • Nottingham is selling banners (see their media pack- PDF).
  • Hampshire are doing ad packages which includes web advertising. Their sponsorship policy.
  • Weymouth and Portland will be doing sponsorships.


Others are considering it and there's probably some I don't know of.

One thing Andy Key of Hampshire noticed which also rang true with Lincolnshire was that the public never complained - only the council staff. In fact Lincolnshire has reported public applause for imaginative monetisation.

There are other possible revenue streams as well.
  • Linkage from any .gov.uk address has value
  • Income from amazon or other links - for example where you are already effectively choosing one business over another, e.g. Google over multimap etc.
  • Rent out server space for small business/sole traders
  • Recommending and linking to specific suppliers, insurance agencies for example, or in specific sections local attractions like swimming pools other than the council ones
But there are numerous issues. Andy Key posted at PSF about some of the problems they discovered that are involved with advertising on .gov.uk and they seem to be general, across others thinking about it.
  • They found ads on council sites a hard sell, who uses the site? You need solid stats
  • In general, the web ads market is still relatively small, don't expect riches
  • The ads must be content specific - in which case the business section may be the most lucrative
  • Adverts may be sought to give the appearance of a council endorsement, similarly you may end up with potential competitor advertising (e.g. in arts/leisure)
  • Advertisers must be vetted by trading standards
  • You must have a member agreed policy
Other issues and negatives include:
  • Sponsorship will offer more control than auto-generated ads (Google AdWords) which may be inappropriate (similar to the COI experience on Facebook) i.e. 'get a loan' 'debt advice' etc.
  • There may be some potential for a negative impact on web budgets, or web budgets increasingly forced to 'outsource'
  • Like with staff, some members may be strongly opposed - so a resident survey would be extremely useful for any proposition
  • There aren't any Whitehall guidelines on web ads for local government
It's also worth mentioning that I don't recall ever seeing an advert on a US government website - which says something I think.



MK web (Milton Keynes) doesn't carry ads in the 'council channel', but they do use skyscraper ads for council services in the style of the rest of site. This is probably a mistake because users have learned to tune out ads in general - they probably think this draws more attention to services they're cross-selling when in fact it's probably less.

I'd also have a similar issue for the method chosen in Lincolnshire. They're animated, rather than static, banner ads which I think does detract from the content. Thank god for AdBlock.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

McCain: a left-field thought

BBC play? Ya think.

Any UK Press?

When McCain Drops Out
I think there is every reason to believe John McCain won't be the nominee. Ok, let me say that again. McCain will not be the Republican candidate in November.

The reasons are simple. He can't win. Now that Obama is the presumptive Democratic nominee -- the polls all show that McCain's pro-war stance and Bush endorsement make him a lost cause in November. That combined with soft stand on litmus test conservative issues make him an unpopular candidate among the base. I know some Democrats that think the Republicans are planning to let McCain lose and 'sit this one out' so that they can hang the democrats with a bad economy and a war that is a morass. But that just isn't how they play. They play to win every hand -- think about 2000 with a popular Democratic president and good economy and a solid VP running for president. Why did they put up Bush? And why did they fight so hard? Because, you don't ever throw a game. And they're not going to throw this one.

McCain won't be the nominee.
Olbermann on the numbers.

Barack has ladyparts!

Panicking politicians and caustic censorship


HT: Nick Booth

I was having issues posting this response to Nick's request [Is the British Government planning a new department of Digital Cleaners?] for 'more detail' on how Culture Secretary Andy Burnham's call for censorship a la TV of YouTube etc. (mainly YouTube) gives me the deja vus.

I lived through the Australian conservative government's equally knee-jerk reaction to a moral panic around these issues in the late nineties.

They, similarly, proposed that the Aussie equivalent of Ofcom become involved and, unlike here, the equivalent of Ofcom salivated at the thought (the power! the power!).

What they ended up instituting was a national filtering system with opt-outs which mirrored what Saudi Arabia and China do. Is this what Andy wants? Or maybe he'd like something like the Thais insisted on, upset as they were at 'derogatory' portrayals of their King on - guess what - YouTube!?

Anyway, if you want to read up on the history of this in Australia, the activists on this in Oz are EFA and the Censorware Project.

How the Victorians do it (and how the dicks in charge here do it)


Following up on a previous post about ICELE, the multi-million pound funded Centre for e-democracy, it's officially dead.
On the 13 June 2008, the Minister for local e-democracy, Parmjit Dhanda M.P. [MP for Gloucester for the next two years, pictured right], announced in a letter to the International Centre of Excellence for Local eDemocracy (ICELE) Chair, Cllr. Matthew Ellis, that ICELE as a sponsored entity of CLG, would no longer receive any further funding beyond the agreed life-span of the programme.
He's ordered it closed by the end of the month and, in d***khead move #9,786 from yet another Minister responsible for some arm of egov, only then will they work out what to do with the good bits.
ICELE, as a sponsored entity of CLG, should cease operations on the 30 June 2008 [other than core staffing support activities related to the Review]. I have instructed officials to conduct a further review in partnership with ICELE on the tools and products produced or managed by the Centre. This review will also seek to establish how best any successful elements of ICELE's work might be taken forward and how sustainability might be achieved.
As I commented before, despite the stuff which many thought rubbish or unnecesary duplication, ICELE had done great stuff, not the least of which was produce basic guidance for people like councillors on blogging and other such 'e-dem' issues. More than any other wing of this incompetent administration around egov.

How many millions has been wasted? On this and countless other now dead and buried 'resources'?

As I have commented ad nauseum, it's not like there aren't numerous overseas models ready to copy.

Many countries have central portals which link into guidance, both basic and complex, and so - say - a councillor wondering where to start isn't lost in a process of 'projects' both new and defunded or a webteam can both get up-to-date guidance as well as useful news instead of a deluge of rubbish and hard-sells.

The US has resources like usability.gov and webcontent.gov.

Many east Asian countries manage it. The Australian state of Victoria (pop. 5,25m) has a great portal with regular edited updates (I publish their RSS news feed). There's a great Australian federal resource too.


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This site was previously managed by Mutlimedia Victoria, however, following machinery of government changes in late 2006 the Citizen Access and Transformation Group, was set up within the Department of Planning and Community Development (DPCD) and assumed responsibility for its management. The Citizen Access and Transformation Group has been set up to work on transforming the contact and experience people have interacting with government. As of 8 November 2007, this Group has now moved to the Department of Innovation, Industry and Regional Development.

Further information about the Citizen Access and Transformation Division is available by contacting us. An A-Z list of Victorian Government websites is also available on the Victoria Online portal.
Go look and weep.

More: I've been called me on content. Hands up! He says it's not "millions' but £380kish over two years".

Here's my point.
Seriously, no-ones adding it all up (to my knowledge). So gawd knows how much the waste amounts to.