Posts Tagged ‘the Intertubes’

Cathy Ashton Google mentalism.

February 20, 2010

Cathy Ashton – everybody’s favourite election-dodging Labour peer who went from low-profile technocrat to fairly high-profile Eurocrat – was the subject of a Google search I conducted the other day.

I had only typed in ‘Cathy Ashton’ when Google automatically suggested some popular searches. Of course the largest number of search results is 806,000 for ‘Cathy Ashton EU’. Predictable. I was more bemused to see that the second highest was ‘Cathy Ashton Jewish’ (401,000 results) closely followed by ‘Cathy Ashton Communist’ (315,000 results) and ‘Cathy Ashton Bilderberg’ (181,000 results).

There are also 139,000 results for ‘Cathy Ashton Dalek’. I initially wondered whether Google-addicted conspiracy nuts were convinced that Cathy Ashton was part of a Jewish-Communist conspiracy, operating through the Bilderberg group, to use the EU and a force of Dalek mercenaries to take over the planet. But then I remembered that Cathy Ashton is known to be a massive Doctor Who fan and apparently has a life-size Dalek in her sitting room.


Mixture of friends.

January 30, 2010

The contrast between the types of things different Facebook ‘friends” include in their status updates is often amusing.

Friend A is just back from a 4 hour canvassing session with Emily Thornberry MP.

Friend B Anyone in Preston GOt green?!?! Lemme know

Big trouble with big China.

January 13, 2010

Yesterday I received an email that went something like this:

Dear Jako, 

Thank you for your email about Mr Akmal Shaikh, who was executed in China on 29 December, 2009.

The UK condemns in the strongest terms the execution of Akmal Shaikh and Ministers and officials worked tirelessly to try and prevent it. We made 27 separate high level representations to the Chinese authorities, including by the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary who were both personally involved in this case.

We deeply regret that our concerns , and in particular those surrounding mental health issues, were not taken into consideration despite repeated calls by the Prime Minister, Government Ministers, Members of the Opposition and the European Union.

The UK respects China’s right to bring those responsible for drug smuggling to justice. But the UK is completely opposed to the use of the death penalty in all circumstances and will continue to work on its abolition worldwide.

At this time our thoughts are with Mr Shaikh’s family and friends. We continue to offer them all the support we can. 

Yours sincerely, 

Lynsey Hughes  

Country Casework Team

Counsular Directorate

And then one of today’s top stories has been ‘Google to end censorship in China over cyber attacks’:

Google, the world’s leading search engine, has thrown down the gauntlet to China by saying it is no longer willing to censor search results on its Chinese service.

The internet giant said the decision followed a cyber attack it believes was aimed at gathering information on Chinese human rights activists.

The move follows a clampdown on the internet in China over the last year, which has seen sites and social networking services hosted overseas blocked – including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube – and the closure of many sites at home. Chinese authorities ­criticised Google for supplying “vulgar” content in results.

Google acknowledged that the decision “may well mean” the closure of and its offices in China.

That is an understatement, given that it had to agree to censor sensitive material – such as details of human rights groups and references to the pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989 – to launch

Whether you are a government hoping to prevent the execution of one of your citizens or a business trying to protect your intellectual property and the privacy of your clients, China is clearly problematic.

The country is too big a power now to be ignored or chastised into improving its behaviour. Britain launching unilateral sanctions against China in protest at the killing of Akmal Shaikh would probably hurt us more than it would hurt them. There is an air of impotence about the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s insistence that “Ministers and officials worked tirelessly to try and prevent it” (as well as linguistically unpleasing).  

As the world’s most populus country, China is an irresistible market opportunity. Companies will be drawn to it. Operating inside an authoritarian one-party state may raise some ‘moral issues’ but as long as the money’s flowing in then these can mostly be put to one side. Whilst I am surprised and pleased that Google is now reassessing its operations in China, it is disappointing that they had agreed to aid state censorship in the first place and only seem to be pulling out because their business integrity is threatened by (state-sanctioned?) hackers.

Stories such as these give China the image of the powerful, up-and-coming state on the international scene. It is an image the government eagerly wants to share with the people of China. Challenging Western countries and companies and refusing to conform to their sensibilities can play well with the strong nationalist sentiments held by large numbers of Chinese. 

The image, however, is a false one. The government’s continued reliance on censorship and other illiberal measures suggests that the Communist Party lacks faith in the security of its own position. The frequency of riots in China’s provinces suggests that the central government lacks the absolute control it would like to have. Playing tough with external enemies and competitors is an attempt to compensate for the internal weaknesses that make the government feel insecure.     

It is tricky to know how the outside world should deal with problematic China. A balance is needed. Countries such as Britain and companies such as Google will need to engage with this large, increasingly powerful country, but fundamental values and concerns should not be compromised for the sake of pleasing the Chinese Communist Party.

Human rights activists inside China are trying to change their country for the better. Even if the Western states cannot be crusading liberal imperialists who come to their aid, they must avoid making life harder for them. The question of how Western democracies and businesses work constructively with China is amongst the most pressing of our time.

All very weird: the Kirk McCambley Facebook phenomenon.

January 9, 2010

Kirk McCambley has become famous for illicitly making whoopee with Iris Robinson MP and getting some money out of her to start a café. 

He has gained a strange sort of celebrity status for his pivotal role in this scandal. McCambley’s achievements are as follows: revelations about his affair with hardline Christian Robinson expose her as a hypocrite; he has managed to freak everyone out a bit by enjoying intimate relations with someone 40 years his senior who has described him as being like her ideal son; and the dodgy financial side of things may additionally ruin the first minister’s career. 

McCambley is now undoubtedly the most well-known toyboy in Northern Ireland, perhaps even the whole United Kingdom (with some competition). Such is the state of our modern society, that means he’s going to have a lot of Facebook groups set up in his honour. Here is a list of them:

Kirk McCambley Appreciation Society: “Dedicated to the 19 year old victim of Iris ‘Cougar’ Robinson. He may have stirred Peter’s porridge but he makes a mean cheese and tuna toastie!” –  4,352 members.

I want to have an affair with Kirk McCambley: “Fair enough I don’t have a spare £50,000 or some dodgy developer friends, but IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ME. Dammit.” – 212 members.

I also had an affair with Kirk McCambley but don’t tell my husband: “A self-help forum” – 43 members.

Mass trip to the Lock Keeper’s Inn to see Big Kirk McCambley: “May we all take a moment to offer our thanks to Kirk and his missus. THIS IS PURE GOLD.” – 1,496 members.

Let’s get Kirk McCambley into Celebrity Big Brother 7: “So I think we should get this campaign underway and get him into CBB7! Plus he’s HOT and I just don’t think there’s enough hot Irish totty on the telly (especially not in CBB!)” – 55 members.

Very amusing. I expect poor Kirk McCambley had no idea what he was getting himself into…

Marriage tax breaks – no thanks Dave.

January 8, 2010

Matthew McG helped with Jon Cruddas’ campaign for the deputy leadership and works at Blue State Digital (the clever tech strategists who assisted Barack Obama and Hope not Hate), so he already gets two Jako thumbs up. His new Facebook group also gets enthusiastic approval:

David Cameron wants to give me and Mrs McG a tax break just because we got hitched. But he won’t give a tax break to our friends who live together, or our mates who got civil partnered.

What a muppet.

Me and Mrs McG didn’t get married for a few quid in tax breaks. We got married because (a) she’s cool and (b) she thinks I’m great.

So, if the Tories give us a tax break, we’re going to donate it to an anti-Tory campaign group to send them a message:

Don’t discriminate against our mates just because they didn’t get married.
Don’t be sordid and make it seem like me and Mrs McG got married for money.

Join this group to tell David Cameron to stop being creepy – and if you’re married too, to be alerted when the time is right to hand over your ill-gotten tax break pounds!!

Join it, Facebookers!

The internet can bring humanity together. Or it shows that there are morons all over the world.

December 24, 2009

There is a Facebook group called ‘STOP THE EXECUTION OF AKMAL SHAIKH’. It is raising awareness of Akmal Shaikh’s plight and encouraging people to send emails to the UK government and to the Chinese embassy. All very good.

Some Chinese Facebook users, however, have joined the group and are acting like total shits. Apparently any criticism of China’s sick enthusiasm for executing people is “Western arrogance” and all of those trying to save Akmal Shaikh’s life are “white racists”.

I remember similar attitudes being displayed by Chinese Facebookers during the 2008 riots in Tibet. Facebook groups calling for a peaceful resolution to the situation and condemning China’s occupation of the country would soon be filled up with Chinese people calling all the other members racists, imperialists, etc.

The blind loyalty of these young, well-educated, English-speaking Chinese to their authoritarian government is very depressing. Any criticism of China’s human rights record is interpreted as a hostile Western conspiracy aimed at stopping their country’s rising power – even though the primary victims of the Chinese regime are the Chinese people themselves.

The nationalistic instinct to think ‘my country, right or wrong’ clearly pollutes minds everywhere. What a pity.

The rules of the internet.

October 27, 2009

As set out in the Daily Telegraph. Very good.


Glum Councillors

August 30, 2009

I know, I know. 6 weeks is too long to leave poor old Captain Jako to run the blog all on his lonesome. But I’ve been busy, and on holiday, and have determined to mend my ways.

I’m saving up for some nice long posts on esoteric areas of policy that you won’t want to read, but for the moment, I’m going to ease in slightly

The picture of a local councillor pointing at a pot hole and looking disgusted is, apparently, so much a part of British national life that it now merits its own blog, This may well be the first known local government-themed internet meme. This effort gets the Paintbrush thumbs up – please send them your faves.

The Liberal Democrats who say ‘No2NHS’

August 16, 2009

First some figures:

Membership of the facebook group A Better Way of Funding Universal Healthcare (#no2NHS) = 120.

Membership of the facebook group We Love the NHS = 8,352 (and rising!).

Excellent stuff.

Looking at the names behind some of these online anti-NHS efforts, I was mildly surprised to find out that there was a Liberal Democrat mastermind pushing the buttons.

It seems that the ‘No2NHS’ twitter campaign and facebook group was set-up Sara Scarlett, a student at the Royal Holloway and former national officer of Liberal Youth (the Lib Dem yoof contingent).

Scarlett blogs at Liberal Vision, the libertarian wing of the Liberal Democrats. One of her recent posts is entitled ‘If you love the NHS so much – marry it!! #privatisetheNHS’.

In a commendably frank interview with Conservative blogger Tory Bear (I don’t think he considers himself to be this type of bear but I can’t be sure) Scarlett came out with all sorts of juicy quotes which reveal the full extent of her libertarianism.

She’s disappointed with Nick Clegg because he hasn’t been loud enough about “personal freedom”. Asked by the Bear whether her fiercely anti-state views would not be more suited to the Tory Party, Scarlett declares: “I’ll join the Conservatives when David Cameron legalises heroin”.


Other administrators of the facebook group include Mark Littlewood, a former head of media for the Lib Dems who has been subjected to the physical wrath of a Liberal Democrat MP, and Shane Frith, director of the think-tank Progressive Vision which – much like Dan Hannan – argues that “the NHS is providing one of the worst levels of performance in the developed world” and “a new system must be adopted. Singapore’s health savings accounts system is showing promising results”.

People who try to convince themselves that the Lib Dems are a harmless, perhaps even left-wing, alternative to Labour are mistaken. I’m sure that these right-wing libertarians are a minority within the uneasy ideological coalition underpinning the Lib Dems, but it’s always worth pointing out to voters that there is a strong strand of Yellow Toryism within the party.

7/7 conspiracy madness – the ripple effect

June 30, 2009
But thats what the government want you to think...

But that's what the government want you to think...

As tonight’s excellent BBC2 documentary demonstrated, there really isn’t any way to describe the 7/7 conspiracy brigade other than ‘bunch of nutters’.

There is a film available on the internet entitled ‘7/7 Ripple Effect’. Apparently it is quite popular. I had never heard of it. But then again, I don’t go looking for this sort of thing.

Some run-of-the-mill conspiracy geeks can be expected to simply ask pedantic questions about every detail of an event and then take smug self-satisfaction in doubting the ‘official’ line on the matter, as if such an act demonstrates great independence of mind and intellectual superiority over everyone else.  

‘7/7 Ripple Effect’, however, goes so far as to label the London bombings of July 7th 2005 a MI5-Mossad operation and accuses several individuals (who aren’t even connected to the government or security services) of being involved in the mass murder. Some of these people have been receiving death threats from conspiracy loons as a result.