London mayoral debate on LBC

April 10, 2008

Earlier today the LBC Radio hosted a debate with the three major London mayor candidates.

Labour candidate Ken Livingstone, Conservative candidate Boris Johnson and Liberal Democrat Brian Paddick joined Nick Ferrari in the studio to face questions from Nick and from the public.

London crime is on top of many Londoner's lists of things that need to be taken care of by a new mayor.

Ken claims that statistics show how crime has declined (by a few percentage points) over the last 3 years.

Brian mentioned that telephone polls, which he believes are better indicators, showed no perceived reduction in crime. Instead he suspects that less people report crime thus lowering the crime statistics.

Boris told how he is shocked by the "28% increase of muggings of teenagers" and proclaimed that he will put more people (officers) on the streets.

The rowdy and sometimes violent behaviour on buses was brought up to which Brian Paddick argued that "the driver should get out of the cab and speak to the aggressors".

Nick was then wondering whether the driver would get assaulted and that maybe we should hire some of the Chinese bodyguards we have seen along the Olympic torch as bus drivers?

Brian Paddick still believed that "somebody has to do something about it".

The London bombings of July 2005 were brought up and Mr Livingstone
was the first to comment on it. Mr Livingstone handled the situation well back in 2005 by addressing the city with a speech of defiance. In his words the bombings had been "an act by a group of criminal men".

Ken then attacked Boris Johnson by claiming that Mr Johnson blamed the bombings on Islam.

Boris refuted forcefully by proclaiming that Islam "is a religion of peace" and that he has Muslim ancestors ("his great grandfather knew the Quran by heart").

All in all it seemed like a cheap shot by Mr Livingstone at mudslinging.

Ken's private life was brought up. A reporter was wondering whether "his relationship with London is same as his relationships to his out of relationship children". Ken kept insisting that his private life is of no one's business.

When asked about Lee Jasper, Ken stated that he "would employ Lee Jasper again if he was cleared of all allegations" to which Boris strongly opposed because he "wants a change and believes that the mayor should have full accountability" for the spending of the tax payer's money.

Regarding London transport Boris wants to offer alternatives and to improve public transport.

Brian Paddick wants to improve the state of the motorways leading into London.

"Bendy buses" are a hot topic among London drivers and Boris Johnson has promised to "scrape them and replace them with an alternative design buses that cost the same".

There is still no design on the table however and Mr Johnson was not quite sure of the cost of a bendy bus when first asked.

On the topic of London congestion charge Ken promised that the current level £8 and the future higher level of £25 would not be increased. The income from the congestion charge would go towards "cycling super highways".

Boris promised to scrap the proposed £25 higher level congestion charge, to remove the West Kensington extension and allow paying on account (no more c-charge late fees).

Further Boris wants to improve the state of London streets to allow for "smoother traffic".

Finally the candidates were asked why the public should vote for them.

Brian Paddick promised a real change and strong leadership. He continued that he has 30 years of experience as a police officer, understands communities and finally he vowed to improve public transport.

Ken proclaimed to have done many improvements in the last 8 years but that he can do much more. He has won £4 billion from the government to spend on London with which he "can build 30,000 houses for rent" among other things. Mr Livingstone will press ahead with the £25 charge on (what he calls) "gas guzzling" vehicles.

What was my impression of the London mayoral debate?

Ken Livingstone doesn't seem to listen to the public and is not honest enough. The c-charge is his main politics tool with which he will continue taxing and punishing the London motorists.

Most people voting on Brian Paddick will probably be voting for him to sort out the state of London crime but his previous spat with Ian Blair may complicate things.

Boris in my opinion is the strongest candidate for a change in London. His arguments for crime, businesses, education and transport are very reasonable.

Whoever is your favourite candidate please make sure you are registered to vote and then vote on the 1st of May.

I would recommend you to go for Boris Johnson as your first choice and Brian Paddick as your second choice but ultimately it is up you... just make sure you vote.

P.S. Rather "The grass is greener on the other side" than "Better the devil you know"

20 minutes or so about why Lessig is 4Barack

February 05, 2008

There is no question that there is a need for change in Washington D.C. but the need is for a fundamental change; a change at the core.

"A change in the power of money or corruption in how Washington DC runs... Edwards/Obama have [clearly demonstrated] their support for this strong version of change... their target is a fundamental reform of the system."

Professor Lawrence Lessig has some very strong arguments why Barack Obama should be the next president of the United States of America and why you should vote for him.

There is also a transcript of the Lawrence Lessig "20 minutes or so about why I am 4Barack" speech.

Real time CCTV data and frog stews

July 24, 2007

big brother societyWhen congestion charge CCTV cameras were first introduced, the Greater London Authority promised they would not pass on the information to the police. Then they started to allow access to the police to look at the video afterwards on a case-to-case basis.

Now the BBC reports that new rules are in place that give the police access to live CCTV feeds to monitor all vehicles inside the congestion charge area.

What does this have to do with frogs and stew?

The boiling frog story tells that a frog will jump out of boiling water but place it in cold water, increase the temperature slowly and the frog will not notice the heat and end up being boiled.

The story can serve as an analogy to the UK citizen surveillance situation.

Ordinary citizens are the frogs and the heated water is the erosion of our privacy and liberty.

Being cooked would represent that there is no privacy left and that the government has total insight into our private lives: who we vote for, what books we check out at the library and what colour of underwear we put on in the morning (if any).

The introduction of London CCTV congestion cameras is a lesson in how the government can get away with measures that would cause public outcry were they introduced openly.

A new system that has the potential to be abused is introduced by the government. People allow it because the initial purpose is legitimate and the government sets rules to guarantee legitimate use only.

However once the system is in place the rules are changed and abuse (with regards to the citizens) is allowed.

Only by overseeing the use of the cameras by the public or by public representatives can the public preserve their privacy.

This could be achieved by offering web access to all congestion charge CCTV cameras installed in London. After all, they are only filming public places thus creating public information.

The police could be given an advantage of getting access to live feeds whereas the public would see a delayed (1 hour?) feed.

This would also give a small window for any legitimate redactions (the removing of confidential and/or sensitive information in a public document without distorting the meaning of the record).

Without any public oversight the live CCTV data is effectively a Big Brother's palantir.

"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety" - Benjamin Franklin.

In related news, American Civil Liberties Union are objecting to proposed automated plate readers that would store vehicle GPS data infinitely. I wonder why.

Update August 8th
New York City is seeking funding for a multi-million dollar surveillance system modelled on the one used in London.

Steve Swain, who served for years with the London Metropolitan Police and its counter-terror operations had the following to say about CCTV surveillance systems:

"I don't know of a single incident where CCTV has actually been used to spot, apprehend or detain offenders in the act"
and further
"The presence of CCTV is irrelevant for those who want to sacrifice their lives to carry out a terrorist act."


Prime Minister Tony Blair responds to my signature

February 24, 2007

big brother societyEarlier this week I received a semi personal e-mail response from the UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. Here is an open response it.

Last week I signed an online petition to "Scrap the planned vehicle tracking and road pricing policy" in the UK.

The UK government has proposed a plan to replace road tax and petrol duty with road charging. In the scheme you would pay up to £1.30 per mile you drive.

The cost per mile would be variable so that heavily congested roads could be taxed more. "Black boxes" would be installed in vehicles to track their position and determine correct road cost.

The intention to monitor and track every movement of every vehicle in the UK is a very sinister thing to do.

Some argue that the intention is good but what matters is the reality. In reality there will be mistakes and blunders and there will be missuses from various government organizations.

Mr Blair keeps tellings to us what he thinks is the best way to do things. I believe that instead he should be representing us by acting on what the people he represents want.

Almost 2 million citizens have voiced their opinion and they don't want this scheme in place. If you disregard children and the elderly, 2 million is a noticeable proportion of the voting population.

So please Mr Blair, listen to the people that voted you in and scrap the planned vehicle tracking and road pricing policy!

Photo credit: Ynr

Freedom of movement

September 18, 2003

Just have had dinner with some friends from different parts of the world and touched a topic that made me realize how your choices of movement are decided by your origins.