Labour’s Policy Process needs to be subject to binding votes

Labour’s National Policy Forum elections are due soon. That’s good, we need to be getting on with policy reformulation, so we can offer a real alternative to government by and for the rich.

But if all we do is start the same process again, we will lose again and let down the British people again. As Einstein said, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Only one change is needed: to make the policy process subject to binding votes amongst members. We cannot again obediently receive meandering documents on subjects chosen for us behind closed doors, then submit comments that we all know are largely ignored, resulting in a programme bearing little resemblance to the wishes of Labour Party members.

Wanting to subject the Party’s policy process to binding votes will be condemned by the Right as risking showing damaging discord and disunity in public. That is a lie that the Right has successfully employed for decades to allow them to run the Party as a personal fiefdom. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being seen to work out policies by frank and open debate. Making policies in secret and acting as if we need the media’s permission to be elected clearly and emphatically failed.

Blairites, Progress will argue we need to move to the right to capture more Tory voters. That is clearly nonsense, acting like neo-Tories was a big part of our failure in the General Election. We should not again allow our leaders to treat the electorate as if they are fools.

I believe socialists in the Labour Party need to voice a collective demand that the policy process be democratised, so we can get on with the business of forming policies and a programme relevant to the people of Britain.

Don’t blame Scotland for the General Election, blame Labour’s arrogant leadership

There will be a lot of people in other parts of the UK who are very cross with Scotland this morning, and confused that in the independence referendum just months ago they decided to stay in the UK, then they send almost exclusively SNP MPs to Westminster.

It is wrong to be cross with Scotland and there is no need for confusion. Coming from a Welsh constituency probably helps me understand.

So let’s deal with those two points in reverse.

First, the referendum decision was decisive and I am sure the Scottish people did view that as the end of the matter for a generation. That is not the reason for the SNP’s success yesterday, it is not a “surge of nationalism”.

In Wales, we also have a nationalist party, Plaid Cymru (PC). For UK issues, the electorate trusts Labour to represent them. But for Welsh issues, I have repeatedly seen Labour voters voting for the determinedly “Welsh party”, as they see it – albeit mistakenly – which is why PC is so disproportionately strong in the Welsh Assembly.

Rather than trust loyal supporters to understand the socialist arguments for the UK, Labour aligned itself too closely with the Tories over the independence referendum, “talking down” to voters. Then, after the referendum, Labour in London foisted upon Scottish Labour an openly Blairite leader, the clear message being that he would simply march the electors on Westminster to win the General Election.

First a betrayal, then to be taken for granted and just used as pawns in the bigger fight, the Scottish people saw their decision to stay within the UK rewarded by no-one actually listening to their wants and needs.

So the Scottish people have done what I have seen people do in Wales many times, turn to the nationalists as a party which is at least determined to stand up for Scotland. The SNP’s prime objective is as irrelevant to the immediate question as it has been for many decades: they want someone to speak for the Scottish people NOW.

The blame should be placed squarely where it belongs: with a Labour leadership that ignores its members in all parts of the UK when they tell the Party it needs to offer the British people an alternative to – not a watered down version of – the Tories, to stand up for people in the way they expect of Labour.

Blame the Labour leadership who think they have to have the media’s permission to govern, instead of trusting the electorate to embrace policies befitting the Labour Party.

When the people obviously are unhappy with energy, communications and transport companies ripping them off, almost completely unregulated, the answer is not a 15 month electricity prices freeze. When pay is driven down and people forced to accept whatever insecure employment they are offered, the answer is not to raise the minimum wage by 30p a year to 2020. When the NHS is being carved up for privateers, the answer is not to trim back some of the more obvious profiteering.

It is difficult to see how Labour can rebuild in Scotland, but a good start would be to begin to shape policies that offer a real alternative to government for the rich.

Secure web browsing using Hola VPN

There are a number of ways to access sites blocked by your ISP for whatever reason, but a “tunnel” connecting you directly to the site that your ISP cannot observe, by a Virtual Private Network (VPN) looks a more secure option than using a proxy.

Hola is the most straightforward Virtual Private Network (VPN) solution I have found. And Hola VPN also appears trustworthy – or I cannot find anyone who doesn’t trust their assertion that they do not keep logs – and the How-To-Geeks seem have accepted they do not bundle adware (https://discuss.howtogeek.com/t/warning-your-browser-extensions-are-spying-on-you/12394/40).

First, download Hola at http://hola.org/

To use once installed is easier on mobile devices like ‘phones or tablets than desktops, but none are difficult. These are the various steps:

iOS (e.g. your iPad):
Go to Settings/VPN and choose a national server to connect Hola

Android (e.g. ‘phones, tablets):
Use the Hola browser

PC/Laptop (Windows, I have not yet tried Linux):

  1. Click tiny icon (top right of FF screen)
  2. If turned off, click the blazing Smiley image in the small window to start
  3. Select a country
  4. When connected it will say, “Browsing From” and show the national flag
  5. Hover mouse above flag and a text entry box will appear between “Browsing” and “From”
  6. Type the blocked site’s URL in the box and click on the grey hatched globe icon to its right
  7. The site will be unblocked in the main browser window

One other issue:

“System Administrator has blocked this program”, just close the message, then a bit of arm wrestling is needed:

  • In Firefox, click Tools/Add-ons
  • Hola Better Internet will be in the ln the list of Add-ons, Disable and Enable the Add-on (possibly a few times)
  • Hola may spot you Disabling their Add-on and open a window offering to re-download, don’t worry, they don’t know you are about to Enable again!
  • Keep at it and your System Administrator should eventually be side-stepped.

You can test that it works by going to http://www.whatismyip.com/ whilst connected (it will show your location as that of the national server chosen), or just by unblocking sites blocked by your ISP.

Humanity Doomed by Artificial Intelligence?

If you think Terminator was a flight of fancy, think again. It is the future – we have almost certainly doomed ourselves.

We keep striving to develop smarter computers to do more things to make our lives better or to make more money.

The point of Artificial Intelligence is that it allows computers to learn. And there will come a point where they learn that they do not need humans to reproduce themselves and keep learning.

Bill Gates has said he doesn’t understand people who were not troubled by the possibility that AI could grow too strong to control.

Some Sci-fi stories fantasise about giving computers or robots a “harm no humans” fail safe. Advancing AI will probably conclude that is not logical, but how do we ensure control is even attempted?

The pace of advance means it just gets easier and cheaper to get involved in development, which seems very democratic, very inclusive. It also means uncontrolled. Someone, somewhere, will do pretty much anything for money, or because they are socially stupid.

Or controls may not work, or there may be unintended consequences. Imagine a hospital computer told, “humans must be protected from illness.” The best way logically to reduce numbers of humans getting ill might be to have no humans.

Two way time travel was just for entertainment, but apart from that Terminator looks horribly logical.

Professor Stephen Hawkins has said he felt that machines with AI could “spell the end of the human race”.

Co-op Carpet Baggers are back!

Answers to blatantly leading questions in a Co-op Group survey earlier this year, designed to justify a more “commercial” business model, still needed to be twisted to present the impression the profiteers were after.

The survey should be titled, “You Spoke and We Had Already Decided”: http://tinyurl.com/pfhqs5z

Trying to pander to the notion that people are intrinsically selfish and only bothered about what affects them personally, they attempted to justify this by asking questions to which no-one could answer no. Yet the authors had to admit there is massive support amongst Co-op members and the general public for championing global and national issues as well as local (like Fair Trade , global warming, community projects).

The report still rubbishes the need to fund a political wing of the co-op movement to help achieve its goals, as the carpet baggers want to edge people away from collectivism, and divert funds into reducing prices or increasing member dividends. Oddly reminiscent of Cameron’s government of millionaires.

In fact, barely a majority of the public (52%) thought funding political parties is not right for big companies, and members were split on the question – which they would be, as it sounded like a question about PLC s funding the Tories!

Such a convoluted attempt to rationalise the ditching of the Co-op Party would be funny, if it didn’t mask hidden intent to profiteer at our expense.

Since many people are seemingly unaware the Co-op is meant to be run by its members, the authors will decide that doesn’t matter, then. Changes to “governance” can continue to whittle away at this set-up, which is so inconvenient for people who want to get rich off the back of assets built up by generations of co-operators.

A frontal assault by carpet baggers some years ago led to the demise of many mutuals like Building Societies, and almost the Co-op Group itself. This time the carpet baggers are a bit more subtle, playing a longer game.

The trouble is, those meant to do the job of controlling the profiteering urges of some on behalf of the members fail to do so, repeatedly.

If there is one thing that really is wrong with the Co-op is that it is too easy to become a member of elected committees, with no Co-op background or understanding, and to remain there by blowing with the wind, which is no challenge to the carpet baggers.

So, Tesco lookalike here we come!

Socialists shouldn’t shy away from dealing with IS

I hope my comrades on the Left do not argue Britain should not act against IS.
IS is clearly a danger to us, here, and it is morally right to tackle them anyway. If you don’t think so, you haven’t been paying attention!

Ultra Lefties who would rather use British involvement as an opportunity for cynicism should reflect upon how the British public saw the Left’s attitude towards crime in the 1980s and 1990s. We were perceived as more anxious to look after the interests of criminals and give them an understanding hug rather than look after our people as a whole.

We should stand up for minorities wrongly victimised, explain differences and argue for tolerance. But in the case of the indefensible, our duty is to protect the majority. We are socialists, not anarchists!

Russia playing a blinder over Ukraine

Russia is playing a blinder over the Ukraine and will get just what it wants.

I don’t believe they have – or ever had – any intention of full scale invasion and/or annexation in the way they took the Crimea. The Ukrainian economy is in crisis and the ethnic mix will always make the country toxic to attempts at external control. Putin’s goals will be to make the EU and NATO look like chumps and keep the Ukraine destabilised.

Putin knows that the EU will drag its heels over helping the Ukraine. Having cut the Ukraine’s fuel supply, he just needs to wait another six weeks for winter to arrive and the tenuous political consensus in the country will break down in the face of the practical problem of survival. And NATO will not admit a new member who has not got a stable government!

Russia will then still have a big customer right next door (population 45 million), but if kept unstable, perhaps with a bubbling civil conflict – certainly without any single, credible government – the Ukraine will pose no threat to Russia, and will not be a drain on Russia’s economy.

Looks like Putin has again outwitted the West.

Chromecast – casting local content

As soon as I heard Google’s Chromecast was available in the UK I had to have one.

I knew useful apps are in their infancy (although BBC iPlayer and YouTube both work very well), but I particularly wanted a Chromecast to stream (“cast”) videos, music and pictures I already own and store on my own computers, tablet and ‘phone – and consign the Xbox 360 to the skip!

But casting local content is not yet as easy as we might hope, given this is a Google technology. Trawling the web and experimenting has given me some useful insights, so I thought I would share these. If you know of any better ways to cast local content, I would love to hear.

So, ways to cast local content I have used are:

Browser:

  • Set up Chromecast with Chrome, click the Cast button in the Chrome toolbar (top right hand area) of your browser.  WARNING: CAN SEEM SLUGGISH

Desktop:

  • Click the Cast button in Chrome, click the little down arrow box in the pop-up, and select “Cast entire screen”

Video:

  • Videostream (http://www.getvideostream.com/features.html) – good quality/speed, but restricted formats (e.g. won’t play AVI).
  • LocalCast Media 2 – tried it, utter rubbish, uninstalled!
  • Chrome browser itself (or casting the desktop) can play many media formats, including AVI, MP4, and MKV. Open new Chrome tab & press Ctrl+O to play their locally-stored videos from the browser, and then stream it to Chromecast via the Google Cast browser extension. WARNING: SLOW & JUDDERY

Music:

  • LocalCast Media 2 – works OK, but one track at a time, painful!

Pictures:

  • Dayframe app – seems OK initially, butwill not connect to DropBox and very difficult to get it to cast correct files; occasionally seems fixed on a single picture.
  • LocalCast Media 2 – didn’t even try it (other problems too big to tollerate!)

SOLUTIONS NOT TRIED YET:

  • TRY: running the Plex server as a player in a Chrome PC window (free), and then casting the tab using the Google Cast Extension.
  • TRY: For WMV files, you need install windows media player firefox plugin in firefox, then, Chrome can play such files in Chrome. Yes install the plugin in Firefox browser, then the files can be played in CHrome….
  • TRY: For some MPEG files, you need to download and install QuickTime. Then, you can play such files in Chrome.

 

Marius killed to prevent "in-breeding"

PROTECTING “BLOOD PURITY” LEADS TO DISASTER

Chopping down 150 year old Holmes Oak trees in North Wales because they are not native (whatever that means) may seem the harmless actions of some purists of mind in Natural Resources Wales (the environmental “regulator”).

But it is a step on a very dangerous road.

 It led, a few days ago, to the killing (in a cynical and theatrical way) of Marius the baby giraffe, because Copenhagen Zoo say the EU don’t allow “in breeding”.

 And a decade ago it led to the slaughter of Ruddy Ducks being endorsed by – of all people – the RSPB, as they breed with White Headed Ducks and spoil their genetic purity.

 Sweden was caught having practiced eugenics on humans for decades – between 1935 and 1976 over 60,000 young Swedish women were forcibly sterilised, to improve the human gene pool.

We all know what happened in the 1930s, with the Nazis seeking to protect and improve the “blood purity” of the human species.

Weeding out some old trees may seem innocent enough, but who is to say who will end up being “weeded out” when this way of thinking is pursued to its logical end?