England Today

This section is part of something like a blog. To contact me or comment on this, see my email page.


Company Problems

BAA plc

Aigarius Blog mentions "government's BAA" in passing, but doesn't allow comments (stupid buggy maths test), so I note this here and trackback: BAA plc was privatised in the mid-1990s and is currently being bought by the Ferrovial Consortium. Government may behave like it's still theirs, but it's just another market-dominating privatised corporation.

Civic Information

Forum on Civic Information No. 2 (UCLondon 2006-11-28 18:45) "will focus on open 'civic' information. Civic information is material produced by government or other groups which is relevant to political activity by citizens."

I had some experience tracking this down through the Walks Action Group and I really should write up my notes on the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA or fire) and the Access to Environmental Information Regulations (AEIR, or air) before I forget it all.

ID Cards

If you tolerate this...

I wrote the following item a few months ago and didn't post it to my blog because I thought it was too ranty, too scaremongering, too frothy, and I was trying to reduce the amount of that sort of stuff I posted. Now I see the top story in the latest NO2ID newsletter and IT systems designed to protect kids will put them at risk instead [foundation for information policy research] and I think it maybe wasn't ranty enough.

A few years ago, the Blair government introduced Higher Education student-paid fees despite quite a large opposition movement. Part of the success was by introducing them for new students only which worked in three ways:

  1. Some current students stopped actively opposing - it no longer threatened them and they had studies to do;
  2. Some future students didn't actively oppose because it was hard to explain its effects - they had nothing to compare it to;
  3. Past students were deterred from actively opposing by suggesting an alternative if fees failed: a "graduate tax" which would hit them too.

Forward to 2006. ID Cards are controversial and apply to the whole population, but there's widespread opposition to compulsary registraion. Could the same tactic be used? Compulsary registration for "new people" only?

  1. Database of all Children - for their own safety, honest
  2. Record the DNA of everyone (including children) who come into contact with the police - for their future security, honest
  3. Register immigrants - just another border control?

If the above actually work, everyone in the country will be known to the Database State eventually.

Want a Pint? Give us your prints!

As if the underhand registration of children wasn't bad enough, this NO2ID newsletter describes another way to encourage people to submit to scanning:

"The scheme which is backed by the Home Office was first trialled in Yeovil but plans are afoot to expand the system to Coventry, Hull, Sheffield, Leeds, Gwent, Nottingham, Taunton and possibly Swindon. Drinkers must have their thumbprints scanned and supply their name, address and date of birth to enrol onto the system before they are allowed to enter licensed premises taking part in the scheme."

"If you are in any of the towns affected, especially Yeovil, and are willing to do something then send an e-mail to phil@no2id.net (please put "pub fingerprinting" in the Subject).Don't get depressed, don't give in and get a home-brew kit - get angry and do something!"

"PS. If anyone knows a pub that would like to take NO2ID beer mats, Newcastle NO2ID has created some with our logo on the front and key counter-arguments on the back, ideal for starting the discussions of the scheme that we need."

Not even our beer is safe from the ID State!

ePassport 0-day crack

And now, just when you thought the ID State couldn't get any dafter, it turns out the ePassport chips are an identity thief's friend. The UK is adopting ePassports when even the United States of Paranoia concluded its Radio-Frequency ID (RFID) technology:

"increases risks to personal privacy and security, with no commensurate benefit for performance or national security."

More from NO2ID:

"With a standard RFID reader bought over the internet for just £95.73, the campaign was able to prove that the same "contactless" microchips that are also to be incorporated into ID cards will "dramatically decrease [citizens'] security and privacy, and increase risk of identity theft" [FIDIS Press Release] ."

Time to get a RFID-proof wallet, like Benjamin Mako Hill and Andreas Metzler

Mick commented:

"The more I hear about the UK in recent years the less I want to vist:

"The UK is starting to sound like The Clockwork Orange."

"And then the plonkers claim "if you've nothing to hide what's the problem"?"

Driving a car? Give us your prints!

After registering children and alcohol drinkers, now they're going to fingerprint drivers at roadside checks, according to Motorists to give fingerprints [BBC News]. The report says

"Officers promise prints will not be kept on file"

but as Mark Wallace of civil liberties group the Freedom Association told them:

"I don't think we should be reassured by the fact that at the moment it's voluntary and at the moment they won't be recorded. Both of those things are actually only happening in the trial because the laws haven't been passed to do this on a national basis compulsorily and with recording."

ken lewis commented:

"My response to being asked for my fingerprints will be to say no and ask to prove my identity at the police station. That's non-violent resistance to this liberty-threatening move."

"And that reminds me -- as a lurker on Planet Debian, I'm struck by the references to mailing-list flamewars. Why are people so keen on freedom able to discuss so violently that freedom?"

Registered with a doctor? Give us your medical records!

As described in a NO2ID newsletter you need to send an opt-out letter to your GP, else all your medical records will be transferred to central government and could be made available to thousands of people who have nothing to do with your medical care.

Major Events

The Ipswich Murders

12 December: three prostitutes have been murdered near Ipswich and two more are missing. BBC News ( The World At One in particular) seem to be dwelling on the fact that Suffolk has no permanent investigation team.

It's probably totally alien to London-based commentators and analysts that an area the size of Suffolk (roughly the middle third of the round bit north of London that sticks out into the North Sea - an area about two-and-a-half times the size of Greater London) has only about a dozen killings a year. What would the investigation team do for the rest of the year? It seems better to have police that know their service area, but sometimes call in help from neighbouring police to investigate murders.

I wish the BBC would stop looking at East Anglia through the London Eye and treat it like the other regions. I lived there until recently and East Anglia may be next to London, but it's very different. Why does BBC even bother to point out that it was Norwich South MP Charles Clarke who proposed merging Suffolk Constabulary with two of its neighbours? London-born Clarke was infamous for doing as he was told by Islington Blair.

Anyway, this is well outside my normal writing, but the BBC non-news really irritated. Now, fingers crossed that Suffolk Constabulary get to the bottom of the murders soon and the BBC stops criticising the police at this early stage.

Comments are moderated (damn spammers) but almost anything sensible gets approved (albeit eventually). If you give a web address, I'll link it. I won't publish your email address unless you ask me to, but I'll email you a link when the comment is posted, or the reason why it's not posted.

This is copyright 2006 MJ Ray. See fuller notice on front page.