Friday, 9 April 2010

Stephen Timms MP (Meat Plank)

What to say, in the aftermath of the Digital Economy Bill (DEB), about the letter sent by Stephen Timms MP (our Minister for Digital Britain) to another MP, Emily Thornberry, in which he explains the acronym ‘IP address’ as meaning ‘intellectual property address’.

There’s been quite a bit of online guffawing and hair-pulling about this already today, mostly suggesting that Stephen Timms personally doesn’t know what an IP address is. I’m torn between my intrinsic good nature and the bitter cynicism I’ve been forced to cultivate.

Viewed charitably: Stephen Timms probably doesn’t write a lot of his own mail. In any case, ministerial questions are usually picked up by expert civil servants in the relevant department. What may well have happened here is a civil servant wrote an answer and, in the casual manner of someone who deals with this stuff every day, just wrote “IP address” without spelling it out. It was then either typed up or checked over by a wonklet, who added the incorrect detail for clarity.

Viewed uncharitably: Either Stephen Timms or (perhaps more damningly) someone in his department thinks IP addresses exist for the purpose of intellectual property enforcement, rather than simply to identify network nodes.

Even if it’s somewhere between the two, the implied acceptance that IP addresses are a realistic means of detecting and enforcing infringement is troubling, particularly as it’s precisely this logic which underpins the craziest parts of the DEB.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Well hung

The media cliché du jour seems to be that David Cameron “has a mountain to climb” if he’s to secure a workable majority in four weeks time. Of course, the true picture is muddied by wildly diverging poll results, which probably reflect either:

a) The high proportion of decidedly undecided voters.
b) The political allegiances of the newspapers doing the commissioning.

Either way though, it seems less and less likely that Cameron will be able to surf along the Mall, through Westminster and into the doors of Number 10 on a wave of grateful Hard-Working British Families.

But a hung parliament may not be such a bad thing. Sure, traders all over the world are likely to start selling the Pound like it’s made of ghosts, but I don’t think that should be our primary concern. At best, forced cooperation with other parties will lead whoever forms the next Government to abandon some of their entrenched thinking. At worst, it’ll gum up the whole system so badly that nobody will be able to do anything to make matters worse. Frankly, either sounds good.

Dread and apathy on the campaign trail

There was a time when I'd get very excited at the prospect of a General Election; the trading of Big Ideas, our one real chance to change the course and currency of the national debate.

But this time, it feels a bit like I've been gang raped by three bikers, then asked which of them gets to be my boyfriend.

And I won’t even get a tattoo in return for voting.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Eyes on the road, Cameron

While I'm very happy that David and Samantha Cameron will once again soon be hearing the pitter-patter of little cloven hooves, I have two problems with the story.

1) It's everywhere. Where a particular story consists of just one fact, run it - on the front page if you really have to - then move on. Telling us the same thing again doesn't mean it's still news.

2) The fact that David Cameron was capable of maintaining a stonk-on tells me he's not sufficiently worried about our spiralling national debt. Can you imagine Mervyn King strolling in late to a meeting of the MPC, furtively zipping his fly with a laddish wink to Paul Tucker? Of course you can't. Because he's got gravitas.

We all know the dangers of electing prime ministers on the basis of how naturally affable they seem on telly. But you've got to hand it to him - Cameron is pretty darned affable on telly.

I promise that's the nicest thing you'll ever see me write about him.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

"Here comes Mr Blobbyeeeee...."

Sometimes our cold, cruel, cynical universe drops something into your life which makes just makes you stop and marvel at the sheer beauty of creation.

Apparently, gimlet-eyed chuckle merchant turned right-wing ragecaster Noel Edmonds is currently pitching a game show concept called Beat the Monkey.

I’m hoping it will be a lot like House Party, with the addition of frantic, competitive onanism. Watch this space.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

You are Spartacus

Just spotted an absolutely darling little Flash banner ad for the UK’s new ‘voluntary’ ID card programme. It starts with a cutesy little potato man popping up and saying “I’m Spartacus”, who is soon joined by another and another, and so on. You get the idea.

But then the potato men disappear (bye bye!) and are replaced by a smiley thumb print, who says “Actually, I’m Spartacus”, before whipping out his ID card as proof.

Lovely. So, for those few of you who may be unfamiliar with Stanley Kubrick’s 1960 classic Spartacus, let’s fill in the blanks.

Our smiley thumb here is Spartacus, a righteous hero of the downtrodden masses. He’s already been dragged into the cruel games of the totalitarian regime under which he has toiled for so many years and witnessed the contempt in which it holds him and his lowly kind. Not seeking glory or power, he nonetheless finds himself leading an uprising of slaves against the corruption and excess of the state.

In this particular scene, Crassus (a Roman baddy) promises a band of captured slaves they will be freed if they identify Spartacus in their midst. One by one, they each stand and claim to be Spartacus, in the hope that the thumb’s true identity will remain undiscovered and he will be freed to continue the revolution.

But, uh-oh, Thumb Spartacus has an ID card and corresponding entry on the nasty Roman biometric database.

I don’t know if you’ve ever crucified your thumb (I have, with a stapler), but it bloody hurts.

Without wishing to hammer my point home, if you’ll pardon the expression, I find it odd that the Home Office has chosen to reference this particular film. Maybe in a few weeks’ time we’ll see the little potato men doing the Two Minute Hate.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Poor David Cameron...

His time at Eton must have been terribly lonely. Simple logistics dictate that, as a left-hander, he would always have to face out during circle-jerks.

There's a special Tech Horn prize for any comments managing to work that imagine into a decent metaphor.