Linux Outlaws blog up (again)

May 23, 2013

Linux Outlaws, my favourite Free software-related podcast, has relaunched its blog, mainly so listeners to Sixgun.org podcasts will be able to find out what’s what, when, where, why…  As Fab posts:

All important, official announcements from Sixgun Productions will get a post on this very blog from now on. These are things that most likely also benefit from a more wordy post than a 140 character Twitter message. Links to these posts will, of course, be shared on the above mentioned Twitter and Google+ accounts. Aside from important messages like that, there probably will not be a lot of other content on the blog at this time. Dan and myself are both pretty busy at the moment and the fact that I am writing all day in my day job usually means that when I am coming home at night the last thing I want to do is sit down at a keyboard to type more than 140 character blurbs. That being said, I’ll try to give you behind the scenes impressions and some other (hopefully) interesting tidbits where I can.

So if you want to keep up with Sixgun.org podcasts (Linux Outlaws and Angels of Death right now, but you never know what the Sixgunners are gonna do next), check out sixgun.org/blog – it’s already on my blogroll!

 
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Doors keyboard player Ray Manzarek dies

May 21, 2013

It’s all here, in the article and the comments. Not much to add, other than that carny hurdy-gurdy sound never grates. The Stranglers were similar, but nothing like Ray Manzarek. RIP.

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Bedroom tax suicide… a feature, not a flaw

May 13, 2013

No doubt most British readers will know about the tragic case of grandmother Stephanie Bottrill, who committed suicide because she could not afford to live with the bedroom tax. Her children had left home, as adult children tend to do, so Ms Bottrill was living alone in her three-bedroom home – a house she had lived in for 18 years, bringing up 2 children as a single mother. So, under the “spare room subsidy” (ie bedroom tax) the 2 “under-occupied” bedrooms reduced her housing benefit by 25%.

In the days leading up to her suicide, Ms Bottrill had told her son she struggling to cope, and she had told neighbours she couldn’t afford to live anymore. left a note blaming the government’s so-called “bedroom tax” for her death.

In a letter to her son Steven, 27, she said: “Don’t blame yourself for me ending my life. The only people to blame are the Government.”

The suicide note blaming the government

The suicide note blaming the government

Steven added:

“She was fine before the bedroom tax. It was dreamt up in London, by people in offices and big houses.

“They have no idea the effect it has on people like my mum.”

“Hopefully now someone will listen. Someone will realise what has gone on and change things.

“They are all sitting in an office in London thinking of ideas how they can make money, but Mr Cameron has to give the seal of approval.

“They haven’t thought it through properly, how it will affect people. For my mum £80 a month is a huge amount of money but for people who are on huge salaries who have gone to Eton it is a different world.

“She was struggling already, it was a lot to ask for.

She was so poor she used hot water bottles instead of her central heating. Steven added: “She couldn’t afford it. All the winter she didn’t have the heating on.

“She wrapped up warm, she had hot water bottles even when she was watching the telly.

“In 2013 in Britain you can’t imagine this. To live like that…”

She packed all her belongings, tidy and thoughtful until the end, before killing herself by throwing herself under a lorry on the M6.

This is an awful thing to think about, but I can predict a lot more similar cases in the coming months. Poor people in social housing, in homes where they have lived for 20 years or more, are now being forced to pay a lot of money because their children have grown up and left home. The government want old people dragged away from their homes and stuffed into tiny flats where they have no space for the sentimentally valuable possessions they have gathered over the years, stuffed into tiny cells where they can be safely ignored – out of sight, out of mind.

And, while politicians make all kinds of sympathetic noises, the fact is that the government couldn’t care less. Most of these suicides are by poor people, so that’s another Labour voter the Tories need not worry about any more.

No government like poverty in their own backyard, but only the Conservatives could come up with this solution. Kill the poor.

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The killer bees have been saved… hold on, shouldn’t that be “vanquished”? No, apparently it’s good news that we are at the mercy of giant killer bees or something

May 2, 2013

Remember I told you I’m in a few online action groups? No? Then clear that beeswax outta your ears and listen up! And you at the back, put that cellphone away or I’ll confiscate it…

Where was I? Oh yeah, online action groups. There’re not (all) useless circle jerks, some actually achieve stuff! One group, avaaz.org, sent me an email saying:

HUGE WIN ON BEES!
Dear amazing Avaaz community,

We did it — Europe just banned bee-killing pesticides!! Mega-corporations like Bayer threw everything they had at this, but people-power, science and good governance came out on top!!

Vanessa Amaral-Rogers from the specialist conservation organisation Buglife, says:

“It was a close vote, but thanks to a massive mobilisation by Avaaz members, beekeepers, and others, we won! I have no doubt that the floods of phonecalls and emails to ministers, the actions in London, Brussels and Cologne, and the giant petition with 2.6 million signers made this result possible. Thank you Avaaz, and everyone who worked so hard to save bees!”

Bees pollinate two thirds of all our food — so when scientists noticed that silently, they were dying at a terrifying rate, Avaaz swung in to action, and we kept on swinging until we won. This week’s victory is the result of two years of flooding ministers with messages, organizing media-grabbing protests with beekeepers, funding opinion polls and much, much more. Here’s how we did it, together:

Keeping France strong. In January 2011, 1 million people sign our call to France to uphold its ban on deadly neonicotinoid pesticides. Avaaz members and beekeepers meet the French agriculture minister and fill the airwaves, pressing him to face down fierce industry lobbying and keep the ban, sending a strong signal to other European countries.

Tackling industry head on. Bayer has faced Avaaz and allies protesting at its last three annual meetings. The pesticide giant’s managers and investors are welcomed by beekeepers, loud buzzing, and massive banners with our 1 million plus call on them to suspend use of neonicotinoids until scientists reviewed their effect on bees. Avaaz even makes a presentation inside the meeting, but Bayer says ‘no’.

Making the science count. In January the European Food Safety Agency finds that three pesticides pose unacceptable risks to bees, and we jump in to ensure Europe’s politicians respond to their scientific experts. Our petition quickly grows to 2 million signatures. After many talks with EU decision-makers, Avaaz delivers our call right to the EU HQ in Brussels. Later that same day, the Commission proposes a two-year ban!

Seizing our chance. The battle to save the bees heats up in February and March. Across the EU, Avaaz members are ready to respond as all 27 EU countries decide whether to welcome or block the proposal. When farming giants UK and Germany say they won’t vote yes, Avaaz publishes public opinion polls showing huge majorities of Brits and Germans in favour of the ban. Avaaz members also send almost half a million emails to EU Agriculture Ministers. Apparently afraid of dealing with citizens rather than industry lobbyists, UK minister Owen Paterson complains of a “cyber-attack”, which journalists turn into a story in our favour! And then comes Bernie — our 6 metre bee in Brussels — a powerful visual way to deliver our petition as negotiations enter the final stages. Journalists flock to Bernie, and we hear we’ve helped get the Spanish ministry to look harder at the science and shift position . But we didn’t get the majority we needed to pass the ban.

Turning the red light green. In April the bee-saving proposal is sent to an Appeals Committee, giving us a glimmer of hope if we can switch a few more countries’ positions. In the final sprint, Avaaz teams up with groups including Environmental Justice Foundation, Friends of the Earth and Pesticides Action Network, plus beekeepers and famous bee-loving fashion designers to organise an action outside the UK Parliament. In Germany, beekeepers launch their own Avaaz petition to their government, signed by over 150,000 Germans in just two days and delivered in Cologne soon after. More phone calls rain down on ministries in different capitals as Avaaz responds to a last-minute wrecking amendment by Hungary, and positions Bernie the bee again in Brussels. Pesticide companies buy adverts in the airport to catch arriving officials, and take to the airwaves suggesting other measures such as planting wild flowers. But their slick messaging machine is ignored, first Bulgaria then — the big prize — Germany switch their stances and this week we win, with over half of EU countries voting for the ban!

It’s been a long haul, to get this win, and it wouldn’t have been possible without scientists, specialists, sympathetic officials, beekeepers and our campaign partners. We can be proud of what we’ve helped to accomplish together.

One strong bees advocate, Paul de Zylva, head of the Pesticides and Pollinators Unit at Friends of the Earth said:

“Thanks to millions of Avaaz members who mobilised online and in the streets. Without a doubt Avaaz’s massive petition and creative campaigning helped push this over the edge, complementing our work and that of other NGOs.”

It’s time to celebrate this breathing space for one of the earth’s most precious and important creatures. But the EU ban is only in place for 2 years pending further review. And around the world bees continue to die from the pesticides which weaken and confuse them, as well as from loss of habitat as we plough up and build over the countryside. In Europe and across the world there’s lots of work to do to ensure sound science guides our farming and environmental policies. And we’re just the community for the job. 🙂

With hope and happiness,

Ricken, Iain, Joseph, Emily, Alex, Michelle, Aldine, Julien, Anne, Christoph and the rest of the Avaaz team

So, proof positive that a lot of little emails can join together into a huge swarm of killer emails that kills all in its path… Hmmm, maybe not the best metaphor, but you get the meaning, right? Right? RIGHT? Hey Dave, is this thing working?

Well, that’s all I have to say right now. Oh, I nearly forgot! You can join Avaaz.org, give ’em your credit card details and whatever at https://secure.avaaz.org/en/. And all the other groups, like 38 Degrees (who also participated in the bee thing), the Open Rights Group, and any I failed to mention (sorry guys!)… these things don’t work by perpetual motion or cold fusion… they need money. Just a couple of quid’ll do; if everyone sent these groupd £2, that’d add to… I dunno, a big heap of £2 coins I suppose.

Anyway, that’s the message of the day: we saved the bees! Hooray!!

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Robin Walker – what a nasty piece of Tory to find on the sole of your shoe!

May 1, 2013

I am a member of online campaign groups like 38 Degrees and Open Rights Group. These are groups that ask members what campaigns it should get involved with, then the group will call on its members to send to local MPs. ministers and other such, so our will is focused and targeted and helps ensure that the government and others can’t just ignore us. Divided we are nothing. United we can do anything… well, the government can’t just ignore us.

My local MP is the Tory Robin Walker. Incidentally, his late father Peter Walker (1932-2010) was MP for Worcester until 1992, when he resigned as MP and was sent to the House of Lords to do his masters’ work. Robin has been a pretty engaged MP – he has replied to every email I’ve sent him (he uses official House of Commons writing paper and envelopes – you would have thought that Parliament had discouraged use of snail mail) but only once has he expressed agreement with my point, about the Defamation Bill). Most recently he sent me a (probably form) letter telling me how important it was that the government keep my communication and other logs for all eternity just in case I were a terrorist or paedophile. He wrote:

Communications data is vital for the police in their fight against crime, including serious offences, such as child abuse, drug-dealing and terrorism.

Note the use of the “big 3″: child abuse, drug-dealing and terrorism”. The suggestion is that opposing the Data Communications Data Bill is, or supports, nonces, pushers and suicide bombers. Thanks Robin; yet another reason to avoid voting for him when the general election comes round.

Right now, I don’t have a clue who’ll get my vote: it won’t be the Conservatives, the Lib Dems are no longer a viable choice…if Ed Miliband can drag Labour back to the left I might put my mark by his name; but how likely will that happen?

Brits are wage-slaves, with mortgages and their children’s educations keeping the populace keeping their nose to the stone, while bankers, corporate directors and other vested interests keep their money in tax havens. But don’t worry: the Conservatives want your personal data, phone logs, emails, bowel movements, whatever, stored for all eternity in a massive computer system that probably fail (as do most government-contracted computer systems do). We’re stuck with this situation unless someone does something about it.

Who’s your MP? Does he care about you? I’d love to see along string of Comments to this post, telling us how our MPs act for our best interests. And my current voting advice regarding the next election: go to the voting station, spoil your ballot (I like to write at the bottom of the voting card “None of the above” and a X in a box next to it), put it in the black box, and be on your way. This is not apathy, this is showing the establishment that the status quo must end.

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