Google bashing – the ultimate silly season story?

David Cameron gets tough on the internet corporations. He wants them to do more to combat online child pornography. A warning to flash up if someone puts in a vile search term, for example.                   

I don’t wish to diminish the appalling scurge of child pornography. “Every photo is a crime scene” says Cameron. I agree with that.
In one sense this Cameron “initiative” (although I hesitate to describe it as such because I doubt whether Cameron’s “proposals” have sufficient technical or intellectual rigour to be described as such) is laudable. Of course, the corporations could do more.

In another sense, I suspect a rather cynical headline-gathering stunt here.
“Everyone is an expert” on the internet, and that includes me.

But I had difficulty understanding what Cameron is trying to do when I watched his Andy Marr interview yesterday. (Welcome back Andrew Marr, by the way).

At one point it seemed he wanted to protect kids like his own from exposure to online filth.

But I suspect any wealthy home counties family has net nanny filter software coming out of its ears.

So he wants to stop offenders putting in awful search terms to find appalling photos….is that it?

Even prohibited searches might screen out some offenders. But these seem token measures.        

There is still “peer to peer” as mentioned in the interview.

But, generally, the internet is of such a character that, I suspect, if you put your mind to it, you can find an alternative way to do anything.     

For example. A person who is so intelligent and internet-savvy that he has a PhD in it, once explained to me that you can become your own Internet Service Provider (ISP) by using your own server to get online. Indeed, another wonk, with almost comically impenetrable knowledge of the internet, explained the same thing to me the other day (I think). And once you are your own ISP, I suspect you can do a lot.

Cameron is basically using a silly season media window to try to convince us that he, or governments, have power over the internet corporations.

In one sense, he and governments don’t have much power in this area. People won’t tolerate the North Korean-style solutions that would be needed to really crack down on illegal web use.

In another sense, if Cameron really means business, why doesn’t he just get his girls and boys to use their 30 day window (see Edward Snowden revelations) to track down every iffy search term enterer? (I gest, of course). That would keep the girls and boys busy. Morning lasses and lads!

I suspect that the “flashing warnings” he seems to be talking about might deter the odd beginner offender.

At best, they might make prosecutions clearer. “The warnings were ignored” takes away any suggestion of naive ignorance.

This morning, we have a couple of “announcements” on the coat tails of Cameron’s interview yesterday. Neither was mentioned by Cameron yesterday.

Firstly, depictions of rape are to be made illegal. I thought they were already, but, if not, I welcome this and wish good luck to the civil servants who have to wordsmith this provision.

Secondly, we hear that there will be an opt-in filter for porn on “households”. This is not a new idea. I can’t help thinking we are in danger of muddling up legal and illegal porn.

Such an opt-in filter will certainly stop a heck of a lot of legal activity. It may also nip some embryonic illegal activity in the bud. In that sense, I welcome it.             

But, again, if you put such a restriction into the internet environment, then I suspect you simply push offenders into creating another by-pass procedure.        

Would such a measure stop email or peer-to-peer sharing of illegal images, for example? I somehow doubt it.
(I put “households” above in inverted commas because surely illegal internet use cannot be reduced to such handy units as “households” can it? With tablets and mobiles etc, it seems rather odd to discuss internet use in such terms.)

Lynton Crosby: Lady Bracknell rules apply

You know the one.

To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose both looks like carelessness.

Similarly, to make one questionable hiring decision concerning an adviser (namely Andy Coulson) can be regarded as a misfortune. To make two such decisions…….

Has David Ward been using his loaf?

3059005398_f9fd73e8e5_oAn interesting comments thread over at Liberal Democrat Voice on the David Ward issue includes a comment from ATF, with which I entirely agree subject to the rider that it is the disproportionate and imprecise expression of his opinions which are the issue:

He is entirely free to and has the right to express his opinion as part of society, that does not mean he can say so and still be a LibDem MP. No one has stopped him saying it, they have only stopped him saying it as a party MP.

The letter from Alistair Carmichael is very well written and argued. I reproduce it in full below.

The party leadership, which at all times in dealings with David Ward has, it seems, included, importantly, Simon Hughes, has been enormously patient with David. I fully support this latest move.

It may be me, but I do find myself wondering whether David Ward has been using sufficient intellectual resources at his disposal in this long-running episode. I refer to his brain.

David Ward MP
House of Commons

17th July, 2013

Thank you for coming to see Nick, Simon and me this afternoon.

You will recall that we discussed the report of your two meetings with the group convened by Simon, which included Jewish colleagues. As Nick indicated to you, that report was a largely positive one. In particular we were all pleased to note that you appreciated the need to use language in this debate that was proportionate and precise.

It was therefore with immense disappointment that we were presented with your public comment made on 13th July on Twitter in the following terms:

“Am I wrong or are am I right? At long last the #Zionists are losing the battle – how long can the #apartheid State of #Israel last?”

We were in unanimous agreement that questioning the continued existence of the State of Israel fails the test of language that is “proportionate and precise”.

We want to be clear with you that in this process we are not concerned about your views and opinions on the policies of present or previous Israeli governments, nor the situation in the Israeli-occupied territories, nor the strength of feeling with which your views are held. As we have sought to impress upon you repeatedly, we are having to decide on whether language you chose to use in January and February, and now this month, is language which brings the party into disrepute or harms the interests of the Party.

During the meeting, we put it to you that your most recent statement – which specifically questions the continuing existence of the State of Israel – is neither proportionate nor precise. Unfortunately, we considered your explanation to be unconvincing and it did not satisfy us that you understood the importance of conducting the debate on this issue at all times and in all places in terms that are proportionate and precise.

We wish to reiterate that this is not about telling you what your views should be. Indeed, we have all visited the occupied territories and we have all experienced an instinctive and liberal reaction to the humanitarian suffering we have witnessed. You will know that Nick, Simon and I have a consistent track record of being outspoken about illegal settlement activities of Israeli governments and the threat this poses to the two-state solution for which the party has long argued.

It is also immensely frustrating for us to find ourselves constantly responding to questions about disproportionate and imprecise language from you. These interventions cause considerable offence rather than addressing questions of political substance about the plight of the Palestinian people and the right of Israel’s citizens to live a life free of violence. It is extraordinarily difficult to gain traction in that debate at an effective political level if the expression of our concerns is undermined by the way your language misrepresents the view of our party.

Whilst we understand you have your own views about this process, which has been long and complicated, we also hope you recognise that we have given you every opportunity to reconcile the expression of your views with the party’s policy on a two-state solution. Unfortunately, you have not been able to do that.

Therefore, it is with regret that I have to inform you that we have decided to suspend the Liberal Democrat whip from you. This period of suspension will be with immediate effect until 13th September inclusive. I very much regret that it has been necessary to take this action.

Yours ever,

Alistair Carmichael

Photo by David Masters

“Katie Hopkins: Northerners sound stupid and regional accents don’t work on TV”

Comments to liven up the silly season.

But hold on a minute. The regular presenters of Daybreak, on which programme Ms Hopkins expressed these views have strong Scots and Welsh accents. Lorraine Kelly has a wonderfully broad Scots accent. And yet she is one of the most popular and enduring television presenters in the UK.

I’m a great fan of Stephanie McGovern, whose Geordie vowels started all this.

It’s funny that Katie Hopkins thinks that regional accents don’t work on TV. I don’t think her regional accent works on TV. She’s from a region. Most people are. The Home Counties? Every time she speaks on Daybreak I desperately want to kick the living daylights out of my TV set.

Nostalgia from the days when many TV programmes had three minutes of opening and closing credits

…Nowadays you get a few seconds in a box in the corner, overlaid by trailers and goodness knows what.

And this clip, from Howard’s Way, includes the classic line from “Jack Rolfe” delivered with superb aplomb by the great actor Glynn Owen:


The music from the series was written by Simon May, who also wrote the Eastenders theme music.

Wonderful Whicker's World

A fuller tribute to Alan Whicker, now I’ve had a delve into the bowels of YouTube.

The world really is a poorer place without Alan Whicker. He had such style. He was so suave. Handkerchief in his top pocket. Hair greased back. The very essence of urbanity.

Yet, when I look back on his clips, I can’t help but think that he captured an age which has now passed. It was an age when world travel had an exotic glamour about it. We saw these jets taking off, Whicker in a bar in Sydney and in a sampan in Hong Kong harbour, and it all looked so unattainably wonderful. Whicker was enjoying it all on our behalf.

Nowadays, most of us are more used to air travel and Sydney doesn’t seem so far away.

Whicker, of course, described everything with such panache in his much imitated style. There’s a clip of his description of the QE2 in 1984 which makes it sound utterly luxurious and fantastic. Of course, we look back on it now in a different light. The QE2 sits in retirement in Dubai and has been superseded by much larger and more glamourous ships. But Whicker’s description of the QE2 was exquisite, including this quintessential Whicker opening salvo:

Dr Johnston said “a ship was a prison with the chance of being drowned.” But this ship takes the sea out of sea-faring. Up close, Queen Elizabeth 2 is overwhelming. As long as a street. As tall as a sky-scraper. Far too big to see. A resort hotel that follows the sun. You relax. They move the scenery. And should any resident of this floating city ever smell the ocean….they come in and fix the air-conditioning.

Here’s the opening of his QE2 series including those lines:

And here’s the series closing, which includes the wonderful story of the lady who went up to a steward and asked for him to call a taxi. The steward replied: “Madam, we’re in mid-Pacific” to which the lady replied: “That, son, is your problem” (which, in turn, reminds me of the time Elton John phoned down to reception from his room high up in the London Hilton and asked them to turn the wind off):

I said in my piece immediately after Alan Whicker’s death was announced that my favourite programme of his was “Whicker’s World Down Under”. I erred. It was actually “Whicker’s World:Living with Waltzing Matilda”. Here’s a clip, complete with delicious theme music, where he goes round Cape Leeuwin lighthouse at the most south-westerly point in Oz:

And, if you crave more Whicker, Amazon have a wonderful sounding DVD called “Alan Whicker’s Journey of a lifetime” which is beautifully summed up in this glorious series of clips: