Tuesday, March 21, 2006

quick plug

I've ben asked to plug this event (I'm a bit late - it's on today): it's a mini bible school (mini-school, not mini-bible) about the second coming (of Christ). No idea what sort of pre-inter-post-anti millennial line they take, but if you go, you'll hear at least one view explained.

There are 4 talks over the two evenings.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Abolition of Parliament Bill

Any time I tell myself that things can't get much worse, they usually do.

Under the guise of removing red tape and streamlining procedures, Tony Blair wants to give himself sweeping powers without precedent in Britain since our constitutional monarchy was established.

The tiny four-page bill now working its way through parliament allows ministers to

  • Abolish any law they don't like.
  • Change any existing or new law they want to, in almost any way at all.
  • Introduce new laws based on proposals by a Law Commission, with almost any changes they feel like.
These sweeping powers are not to be scrutinised or debated by parliament - there will just be a single chance for parliament to notice whatever is in the small print (while the Prime Minister intones "minor procedural changes - nothing to see here") , and veto it - otherwise a set of completely unscrutinised changes, of a scope which is impossible to predict, will suddenly be part of the laws of the United Kingdom.

The so-called safeguards are weak, and don't affect the central fundamental change to the constitution. The government have only to convince themselves that they are being balanced, and that they really need to change the rules this way, rather than through parliament. They can't raise new taxes this way, and there is a maximum sentence for any new crimes they invent. And they can only remove freedom where they think it is "reasonable". But that's about it, for safeguards. And most of these safeguards vanish if they are just "clarifying" existing law, or if a Law Commission thinks it might be a good idea!

There are precedents, of course. Before the power of the Crown was curtailed by Parliament, the King could rule by decree. And Adolf Hitler had an Enabling Act that allowed him to rule like a dictator. But in a modern democracy, to attempt to abolish parliamentary scrutiny is shocking.

No doubt Blair will offer minor concessions and further insignificant "safeguards". This is not enough. The problem is not the dearth of safeguards (though that in itself is horrific).

No - the problem here is the power to rewrite the laws of a democracy on demand.

Its official and innocuous title is the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, but it has been called the Abolition of Parliament Bill (see Hansard) - Quite simply, granting that much power to the current and all future governments could deliver a fatal wound to our democracy.

Speak out now, while there is time - tell your MP though http://theyworkforyou.com/

What sort of madness has seized the mind of Her Majesty's Prime Minister, Anthony Blair, that he even imagines this is a good idea?

Credit to Old Mother Chaos and Martin from the BLUG list for pointing this out.

Friday, March 10, 2006

What, no life?

It's starting to look like I'm giving up my social life for Lent! I have too much work and too little time. The good news is that it'll all be over in a couple of weeks, and I'll be able to sleep again, and have time off and stuff.

At least my parents were passing through this evening, so I got some time off to drop them at the airport, which was nice...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Who said there are no free lunches?

There's an interesting event on in Belfast next week! Two major international figures, Richard Stallman (see Wikipedia article) and Bruce Perens (see his site) are coming to the FOSS Means Business conference on Thursday 16th March, in Spires Conference Centre.

In the software and business worlds, this is big!

The conference is on why business and government can and should use Free / Open Source software to meet their needs and save money, where it might be appropriate, and how they might successfully and profitably do that. It's not a sales event - these speakers are not trying to sell you their products. It's more of an explanation of what this free stuff is, how it has already been widely deployed, and how it can help bring wider success in the real, commercial world.

And it's not just anybody talking about it - two of the main figures in the Open Source community are travelling to Belfast, and their complimentary perspectives on Free and Open Source will make for compelling listening for anyone with a business interest - or an interest in the software itself - or even an interest in the ethical and technical challenges that the Open Source movement presents!

If that's not enough, there are speakers from Google, Oracle, the Free Software Foundation Europe, and the Open Source Academy too, to add their perspectives on how it has worked for them, what they plan to do with Free and Open Source, and some of the range of resources available to help.

But what's that about free lunches? Perhaps it's symbolic of the whole free software movement ("Free, as in Speech!", they sometimes say, and also "Free, as in Beer!"). But for registered attendees, there will be a Free Lunch! And due to the unique way this whole Open Source and Free Software community works, registration is free too!

Get on over there - http://foss-means-business.org

Free, as in Lunch!

Thursday 16th March, Belfast. Be there!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

And why was I in Budapest?

No - none of these are of me ;-)

The day was an interesting fusion of traditions from Ireland and Hungary. The excellent translations helped enormously, since I still only have about five words of Hungarian: Hi, Yes, No, Coffee, and I love you (and some of these are more useful than others)!

Allegedly it's a tradition that if the bride holds a baby, she'll have lots of them! I wonder if anyone warned David?

There was food and drink, there were speeches (in which David got off remarkably lightly), and there was music and dancing.

Judging by David's expression, cutting cakes must be much harder than it looks!

David and Zita lasted very well, considering they'd been up late the night before sorting out the seating plan (or so we were told).

All in all, a good trip!