• Schleswig-Holstein moves towards digital sovereignty

    The region of Schleswig-Holstein on the Jutland Peninsula is no stranger where matters of sovereignty are concerned.

    In the nineteenth century there was the Schleswig-Holstein Question, was a complex set of diplomatic and other issues arising in the 19th century from the relations of two duchies, Schleswig (Sønderjylland/Slesvig) and Holstein (Holsten), to the Danish Crown, to the German Confederation, and to each other.

    Coat of arms of Schleswig-HolsteinIn the twenty-first century digital sovereignty has become a matter of political importance to the north German federal state of Schleswig-Holstein.

    The blog of The Document Foundation reports today that, following a successful pilot project, the state has decided to move from Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office to Linux and LibreOffice (and other free and open source software) on the 30,000 PCs used by the state government.

    According to a statement by the Premier of Schleswig-Holstein, the components of its digitally sovereign workplaces are being based on a total of six project pillars:

    • Switching from Microsoft Office to LibreOffice;
    • Switching the operating system from Microsoft Windows to Linux;
    • Collaboration within the state government and with third parties: use of the open source products Nextcloud, Open Xchange/Thunderbird in conjunction with the Univention AD connector to replace Microsoft Sharepoint and Microsoft Exchange/Outlook;
    • Design of an open source-based directory service to replace Microsoft Active Directory;
    • Appraising specialist procedures with regard to compatibility and interoperability with LibreOffice and Linux; and
    • Development of an open source-based solution to replace Telekom-Flexport.

    The decision to switch office suites follows on from the finding by the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) that the European Commission’s use of Microsoft 365 breaches European data protection law.

    According to Schleswig-Holstein’s Digitalisation Minister Dirk Schrödter, digital sovereignty is an integral part of the state government’s digital strategy and work programme. “This cannot be achieved with the current standard IT workstation products. We take digital sovereignty seriously and are moving forward: the decision to change office software is a milestone, but only the beginning of the change: the change to free software for the operating system, the collaboration platform, the directory service, specialist procedures and telephony will follow.”

  • Asda vs Asbo

    British supermarket chain Asda is well known for the lime green livery of its grocery delivery vans, as per the photograph below.

    Asda delivery van and driver
    Photo credit: Asda

    However, there is now a serious rival to Asda’s dominance of the lime green delivery van sector. The vehicle below was spotted last week outside the Chelsea Inn at the junction of Chelsea Road and Bloy Street in Bristol’s Easton area.

    Asbo van outside the Chelsea

    Both Asda and Asbo are acronyms, i.e. abbreviations formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word. Asda is a truncated version of the first part of its original name of Associated Dairies and Farm Stores , whilst Asbo denotes an Anti-Social Behaviour Order, a past form of sanction for naughty boys and girls which has now been replaced by two penalties – the Community Protection Order (CPO) and the Criminal Behaviour Order (CBO).

    Note that the Asbo van is parked on the footway (which some refer to as the pavement (posts passim). Ed.); how apposite! 😀

  • Distracted boyfriend: Tory Lite edition

    The latest variant of the Distracted boyfriend meme has just come into my social media feed (posts passim).

    Starmer distracted by Thatcher to the dismay of Clem Attlee

    This time the dramatis personae are:

    • Distracted boyfriend – ‘Sir’ Keir Rodney Starmer, allegedly leader of the democratic socialist (on paper anyway. Ed.) Labour Party;
    • Annoyed girlfriend – Clement Attlee, leader of the 1945-51 post-war Labour government, which introduced the National Health Service amongst other achievements; and
    • New love interest – one Margaret Hilda Thatcher, one of the Untied Kingdom’s worst prime ministers and figure of divine devotion to the right-wing Conservative Party, the person who inspired the addition to the English language of the noun Thatcherism and the adjective Thatcherite.

    Some would say that any similarity between Starmer and a socialist is – as Hollywood would say – purely coincidental; others would even go as far as to declare such to be non-existent.

  • Honest Bob does a racism

    Smirking Bob Jenrick, a boil on the bottom of the body politicBackbench Tory MP Robert “Honest Bob” Jenrick has proposed that details of a person’s nationality, immigration and visa status should be recorded whenever he or she is given a criminal conviction, Nation Cymru reports.

    This piece of blatant racism has been submitted an amendment to the government’s Criminal Justice Bill, with Jenrick justifying it by saying the data would help to inform deportation and visa policies.

    Under Jenrick’s plan, there would be an annual requirement to publish the nationality, visa and asylum status of every offender convicted in English and Welsh courts in the previous year.

    In the traditional early morning media round for politicians in the last few days, Jenrick has been claiming without any citations or empirical evidence that there is “significant and growing evidence that we [the UK] were importing crime”.

    The BBC notes that Jenrick’s proposal has been backed by 25 Tory MPs, including the likes of former ministers ‘Sir’ Jacob “Happier Fish” Rees-Mogg and ‘Sir’ Robert Buckland, who presumably are also not bothered about being labelled as racists.

    Well-informed readers will be aware that Jenrick is a former immigration minister, who resigned because alleged prime minister Rishi Sunak was not being sufficiently nasty to foreigners.

    There is an old idiom in English, the fox guarding the hen house, which dates back to at least the 1580s. It denotes a set of circumstances in which someone who should not be trusted has been chosen to protect someone or oversee a situation.

    It is ideal to describe xenophobe like Jenrick being elevated to such a public office. Now he’s back on the back benches of the Commons, he’s clearly not letting opportunities to embrace his inner racist pass him by.

  • Distracted boyfriend: fascist edition

    According to Wikipedia, “Distracted boyfriend is an Internet meme based on a 2015 stock photograph by Spanish photographer Antonio Guillem. Social media users started using the image as a meme at the start of 2017, and it went viral in August 2017 as a way to depict different forms of disloyalty. The meme has inspired various spin-offs and received critical acclaim.”

    Copyright on original: Antonio Guillem.
    Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

    The latest depiction of such portrayal has taken more than one step to the right, depicting as it does Kremlin crook Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin as the object of distraction, Adolf Hitler as the long-suffering girlfriend and one Donald John Trump, unauthorised keeper of classified documents, convicted business fraudster, convicted sexual predator, suspected Capitol insurrectionist in chief and disgraced forty-fifth president of the United States of America.

    Donald Trump, holding hands with Adolf Hitler, distracted by Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin
  • Total failure for Bristol City Council campaign

    Rather than waste sending any officers out from their cosy bolt-holes in the Counts Louse, Bristol City Council – along with their colleagues in the Avon and Somerset Constabulary – favours a policy of legal enforcement by public notice.

    This has been applied in recent years to the authority’s duties under the Environmental Protection Act covering littering, fly-tipping (posts passim) and the like.

    In recent months, the fly-tipping hotspots of Easton and Lawrence Hill wards have been subjected to not one, but two rounds of public notices being added to the already cluttered and confusing street scene: the first consisting of the well-known red NO FLYTIPPING [sic] signs which long been known to be totally ineffective; and the second consisting of the newer so-called lamp post wraps as shown in the photograph below which was taken in Ducie Road in Barton Hill this morning.

    Scene showing two fly-tipping enforcement notices being ineffective at halting fly-tipping in Ducie Road, Barton Hill, Bristol
    Do two enforcement notices work better than one?
    Note also the large volume of litter between both signs.

    The lamp post wrap informs anyone who cares to read it that someone has recently been penalised fort dumping rubbish here. Between it and the traditional red sign, are a black waste sack and a catering size white plastic tub in the corner of the city council’s public car park in Ducie Road.

    A couple of conclusions may be drawn from the above picture, as follows:

    • Enforcement by signage is not effective against fly-tipping; and
    • The city’s fly-tippers are either illiterate or don’t bother reading materials meant to dissuade them; or
    • They consider their chances of being penalised by a local authority constantly pleading poverty and cutting staff numbers are so close to zero that they can be discounted.

    Just around the corner from Ducie Road, there’s another lamp post wrap on the bridge carrying the A420 over the railway line at Lawrence Hill. It too has been remarkably ineffective at preventing fly-tipping by the 1600 litre general waste bin that shares the railway bridge’s footway.

    As a footnote, your ‘umble scribe did take the time and effort to report the incident mentioned above.

  • Dire outlook for Tories

    Yesterday saw Jeremy Hunt, a man who does very poor Chancellor of the Exchequer impression (preceding which he had pretended to be Secretary of State for Health, managing to incur the ire of hospital doctors while in office. Ed.), present his budget to parliament.

    Many folk have remarked on social media recently on the similarity between Mr Hunt and Rowan Atkinson’s Mr Bean sitcom character, so here’s a handy image to see if their affirmations are correct.

    Private Eye style lookalike featuring Mr Bean and Jeremy Hunt

    Sticking with the same two characters, your ‘umble scribe decided to have some fun yesterday on Mastodon with a poll asking who would make the better finance minister. The unsurprising results are shown below.

    Poll asks who would make a better chancellor - Mr Bean or Jeremy Hunt. Result Mr Bean 100%, Jeremy Hunt 0%

    And that’s not the end of the bad news for the Blue Team. Another poll in which I participated asked who readers would like to be the next prime minister, giving the options of incumbent Rishi Sunak, Labour leader ‘Sir’ Keir Starmer, the late lamented Groucho Marx, and Larry the Downing Street mouser.

Who would you prefer to be the
next UK Prime Minister?
0% Rishi Sunak
19% Groucho Marx
13% Kier Starmer
68% Lary The Cat

    Larry the CatYes, that’s right Larry the Cat, the Downing Street moggy, beat both professional politicians, as did the runner-up, a Marxist, albeit one from the Groucho wing of the movement.

    Groucho MarxWe are cursed to live in the proverbial interesting times.

    Even though Larry resigned from his post under the premiership of disgraced former party-time alleged prime minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson (posts passim), as did lots of other staffers, he soon returned to his old stomping ground during the lettuce shelf life length premiership of the disastrous free marketeer Mary Elizabeth Truss, the free marketeer the markets rejected.

  • Michelle Donelan does a libel

    Official mugshot of libellous minister Michelle DonelanNews has come to light today that Michelle Donelan, the dishonourable member for Chippenham, currently doing a nice sideline in incompetence as the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, has retracted libellous allegations made in October 2023 against Professor Kate Sang of Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh – an academic recently appointed to a UKRI advisory group – accusing Prof. Sang of expressing sympathy for proscribed terrorist organisation Hamas. Donelan also made similar defamatory allegations about another academic, Dr Kamna Patel of University College London.

    Donelan has now withdrawn her allegations and apologised for the remarks she initially made via social media, as well as agreeing to pay Prof. Sang undisclosed damages and legal cost have been funded by the taxpayer, in the same manner disgraced former party-time Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson had his legal fees funded by the public purse when he was finally pulled up after constantly lying to the House of Commons.

    The use of public funds to redress the damage done by a government minister’s private bigotry has not gone down well in some circles, to put it mildly. Those objecting include the Liberal Democrats’ deputy leader Daisy Cooper, who has has referred to the largesse of the public purse in relieving Donelan’s financial embarrassment as nothing short of a national scandal as her actions were clearly outside of her ministerial brief.

    However, not all the media presented the audiences with the full facts. Here the BBC has Donelan forking out herself for the damages and legal costs. It was not alone in doing so, with The Guardian, Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph all implying Donelan is paying the agreed sum out of her own pocket.

    Headline reads Cabinet minister pays damages over Hamas claim

    Wikipedia helpfully mentions in its article on the minister that before entering politics, Donelan’s career was in marketing, meaning that she has previous form in peddling stuff that is patently untrue or closely related thereto (along with advertising, public relations and broadcasting, marketing is one of the so-called bullshit industries. Ed.).

    Calls are now being made for her resignation, but as per usual an anonymous Number 10 source has stated that Rishi Sunak had full confidence in Donelan, calling her “an excellent minister”. The last time I looked, excellent ministers do not commit libel.

  • German literary translators want strict AI regulation

    German news site heise reports that German-speaking literary translators associations are demanding stricter regulation of Artificial Intelligence (usually abbreviated to AI) due to its threats to art and literature.

    “Art and democracy too are being threatened.” This is being said by German-speaking literary translators associations in Germany, Austria and Switzerland in respect of the increasing “automation of intellectual work and human speech“. They have therefore collaborated on an open letter (PDF) in which they are demanding strict regulation of AI.

    Artificial Intelligence graphic combining a human brain schematic with a circuit board.
    Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

    Regulation must ensure that the functionality of generative AI and its training data must be disclosed. Furthermore, AI providers must clearly state which copyrighted works they have used for training. No works should be used for this purpose against the wishes of copyright holders. In addition to this, the open letter states that copyright holders should be paid if AI is trained using their works and a labelling requirement should be introduced for 100% AI content.

    “Human language is being simulated now”

    “A translation is the result of an individual interaction with an original work”, the translators write. This interaction must take place responsibly. How a sentence is constructed and what attention is focused on guides the inner experience of readers. The language skills needed for this are developed and honed in the active writing process. “The creation of a new literary text in another language makes the translator a copyright holder of a new work.”

    However, text-generating AI can only simulate human speech, according to the translators. “They have neither thoughts, emotions nor aesthetic sense, know no truth, have no knowledge of the world and no reasons for translation decisions.” Due to their design, language simulations are often illogical and full of gaps; they contain substitute terms and statements that are not always immediately recognised as incorrect.

    “AI multiplies prejudices”

    The translators continue by saying that When AI products are advertised, it is suggested that the AI can work independently, “understand” and “learn”. “This means the huge amounts of human work on which the supposedly ‘intelligent’ products are based are kept secret.” Millions of copyrighted works are ‘scraped‘ from illegally established internet libraries to create language bots.

    These and other arguments are combined in a “Manifesto for Human Language”. In it the translators write as follows: “Bot language only ever reproduces the status quo. It multiplies prejudices, inhibits creativity, the dynamic development of languages and the acquisition of language skills.” Text-generating AI is attempting to make human and machine language indistinguishable. It is not designed as a tool, but a replacement for human skill.

    However, AI is not intelligence at all, since this also includes emotional, moral, social and aesthetic intelligence, practical sense and experience which arise from physicality and action. “In this respect, the technical development of language bots cannot be termed ‘progress'”, the open letter states.

  • MO Republican embraces her inner Nazi

    Q: what links an anonymous-looking plot of land somewhere in Missouri with Bebelplatz (also known as Opernplatz) in the city of Berlin?

    A: The burning of books.

    On 10th May 1933 , Nazi supporters from the German Student Association gathered in Bebelplatz to burn books. They burned around 20,000 books, including works by Heinrich Mann, Erich Maria Remarque, Heinrich Heine, Karl Marx, Albert Einstein, Erich Kästner and many other authors.

    Nazis burn books in Bebelplatz on 10th May 1933
    Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

    On 6th February 2024, Valentina Gomez, a Republican Party candidate for Missouri’s Secretary of State (the state’s public officer whose duties include the oversight of elections, running the state library and the preservation of state archives. Ed.), posted a video of herself on the social media platform formerly known as Twitter showing herself using a flame-thrower to destroy 2 LGBTQ-inclusive books, as reported by NBC.

    Post reads When I’m Secretary of State, I will BURN all books that are grooming, indoctrinating, and sexualizing our children. MAGA. America First

    Gomez’s text accompanying the post tells one all that’s needed to know about her extreme right-wing views of the “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition” variety. The books she destroyed were also taken from public libraries in the state, so she is also guilty of vandalism or destroying public property, but as the value of the books is under $750, she’ll probably escape censure under state law.

    To return to Bebelplatz, it now contains an artwork by the sculptor Micha Ullman entitled The Empty Library, which was unveiled in May 1995. The memorial is set into the square’s cobblestones and contains a collection of empty subterranean bookcases. A few metres away is a commemorative bronze plaque containing a quotation by the author Heinrich Heine, whose books were amongst those burned.

    The quotation reads:

    Das war ein Vorspiel nur, dort
    wo man Bücher verbrennt,
    verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen.
    In English the quotation is equally chilling:
    That was but a prelude;
    where they burn books,
    they will ultimately burn people as well

    As to the Nazi link, LGBTQ Nation remarks:

    Whether or not Gomez understands the political and moral implications of book burning is unclear. The video could be a savvy and unsubtle reference, like Donald Trump’s use of terms including “vermin” and “poisoning the blood”, to Nazi ideology in an appeal to the most extreme of the MAGA base.

    America, history is trying to teach you a lesson. Don’t fall asleep in class or gaze out of the window.

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