• Auntie prefers football to politics

    Yesterday’s The Jouker column in The National highlights a prime example of a colonial attitude in the media of the Untied Kingdom.

    There were two two significant resignations on Tuesday, but as The Jouker points out, football – and English football at that – was prioritised on the BBC News website ahead of a major political development in Caerdydd, capital of England’s oldest colony.

    Vaughan Gething, disgraced former firsts minister of CymruThat resignation was of the disgraced First Minister of Cymru, Vaughan Gething, who amongst other things, had refused to step down after, inter alia, losing a vote of confidence and accepting a £200,000 “donation” from a “businessman” convicted of environmental crimes. Gething’s hand was forced by a mass outbreak of ministerial resignations similar to that which ended the premiership of disgraced former alleged party-time prime minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson.

    Although he’d only been First Minister since March, when the BBC did finally send its political editor down the M4/Great Western railway line to Caerdydd, Chris Mason did helpfully point pout that Gething’s term of office was 2.4 times longer than that of another British premier, one Mary Elizabeth Truss, the ultimate free marketeer whose polices were roundly rejected by the, er, market.

    Former England football manager Gareth SouthgateThe resignation story which took precedence yesterday was that of England football manager Gareth Southgate who managed to get his team to two consecutive European Football Championship finals, yet still disappointed the jingoistic English media by failing (yet again) to win a chunk of international silverware like his predecessor in 1966, Alf Ramsey.

    Why should football take priority over politics? Critics on social media were not slow to notice the choice of priorities made in London, i.e. that only England matters and Wales is a lesser concern, as has been the case ever since Henry VIII’s 16th century Acts of Union.

    There is however precedence for this attitude and it comes from another footballer; and one that is one of Scotland’s greatest football exports, Bill Shankly, who was manager of Liverpool FC from 1959 to 1974, a length of tenure of office which modern football managers can only dream of.

    Shankly is famously on record as rating the importance of football as follows:

    Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.

    The above quote from Shankly can be found here with plenty of others from the sage of Anfield.

  • Commission sends preliminary findings to X for DSA breach

    X logoToday the EU Commission has informed X – the declining social media platform formerly known as Twitter – of its preliminary view that the company is in breach of the Digital Services Act (DSA) in areas linked to dark patterns, advertising transparency and data access for researchers.

    Based on an in-depth investigation that included, inter alia, the analysis of internal company documents, interviews with experts, as well as cooperation with national Digital Services Coordinators, the Commission has issued preliminary findings of non-compliance with the DSA on three grievances:

    • First, X designs and operates its interface for the “verified accounts” with the “Blue checkmark” in a way that does not correspond to industry practice and deceives users. Since anyone can subscribe to obtain such a “verified” status, it negatively affects users’ ability to make free and informed decisions about the authenticity of the accounts and the content they interact with. There is evidence of motivated malicious actors abusing the “verified account” to deceive users.

    • Second, X does not comply with the required transparency on advertising, as it does not provide a searchable and reliable advertisement repository, but instead put in place design features and access barriers that make the repository unfit for its transparency purpose towards users. In particular, the design does not allow for the required supervision and research into emerging risks brought about by the distribution of advertising online.

    • Third, X fails to provide access to its public data to researchers in line with the conditions set out in the DSA. In particular, X prohibits eligible researchers from independently accessing its public data, such as by scraping, as stated in its terms of service. In addition, X’s process to grant eligible researchers access to its application programming interface (API) appears to dissuade researchers from carrying out their research projects or leave them with no other choice than to pay disproportionally high fees.

    If the Commission’s preliminary views were to be confirmed, the Commission would adopt a non-compliance decision finding that X is in breach of Articles 25, 39 and 40(12) of the DS, which could entail fines of up to 6% of X’s total worldwide annual turnover and order the provider to take measures to address the breach. A non-compliance decision may also trigger an enhanced supervision period to ensure compliance with the measures the provider intends to take to remedy the breach. The Commission can also impose periodic penalty payments to compel a platform to comply.

    Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market said:

    Back in the day, BlueChecks used to mean trustworthy sources of information. Now with X, our preliminary view is that they deceive users and infringe the DSA. We also consider that X’s ads repository and conditions for data access by researchers are not in line with the DSA transparency requirements. X has now the right of defence — but if our view is confirmed we will impose fines and require significant changes.
  • Scamming the scammer

    Behind its paywall, the Daily Telegraph carries a story about a scam to con the already gullible, Reform UK Party Ltd ‘members’. A non-paywalled version of the article can be read here.

    Headline Reform UK warns members over Nigel Farage online scam

    The pretend political party (it’s actually a limited company in which dodgy former MEP Nigel Farage is the majority shareholder. Ed.) issued an emergency email on Thursday evening after a fraudulent Telegram account bearing Mr Farage’s name told members to donate £200 to it to become a “VIP member” of the party.

    A spokesperson for the party company has said the following:
    At present we are only aware that this scammer is working on Telegram, however we are acutely aware that they could be operating on various other social media and messaging platforms.


    This is a criminal fraudulent endeavour and we are getting in touch with Telegram and the police to have it shut down.

    Your ‘umble scribe would add that anyone foolish enough to have handed money to a charlatan like Farage has already been scammed.

  • The new enemy within

    Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher infamously branded the leaders of the 1984–85 miners’ strikethe enemy within”.

    In the wake of last weeks’ general election, there is a new enemy within; and one far more dangerous to the country than Arthur Scargill and his NUM colleagues.

    There’s now an enemy within the walls of the House of Commons.

    Step forward Nigel Farage and his four fellow MPs elected for pretend political party Reform UK, which is actually constituted as a limited liability company with Farage as the person with significant control and financed by perma-tanned “businessman” Richard Tice.

    Disgraced former MEP Farage, who once famously had his MEP’s salary docked for misuse of EU funds, has finally become a member of the Westminster parliament at the eighth attempt. Your ‘umble scribe hopes that parliamentary watchdog IPSA keeps a beady eye on the new dishonourable member for Clacton given his past behaviour in Strasbourg and Brussels.

    As is usual, social media has been awash the reactions to the general election result, including the following exchange.

    Original tweet - name the boy band. Answer - a Flock of Sieg Heils

    No more needs to be said. Farage has been known to harbour extreme right wind views for decades, dating back to his schooldays at reassuringly expensive Dulwich College.

  • Trolled by donkeys

    The Columbine Centre in the Essex coastal town of Walton-on-the-Naze has not been renowned as a venue with a history of political drama.

    Until now.

    Yesterday the good folk from Led By Donkeys – in their own words – “dropped in on Farage’s election rally with a beaming picture of Putin. Nigel was not pleased“.

    Farage is on record as far back as 2014 in expressing his admiration for Vladimir Vladimirovich and his gangster regime in the Kremlin. Moreover, Farage has faced criticism in recent weeks for his outrageous statement that the western democracies are responsible for provoking Russia to invade Ukraine.

    In addition, Farage has also vehemently denied any Russian interference or involvement in the divisive 2016 Brexit referendum, a fact helped by British establishment reluctance to investigate such claims.

  • Election special: Tories pretend to be HMRC

    There’s only a week to go until the vote for the Untied Kingdom’s general election to end 14 years of Tory misrule will be taking place.

    A wipeout of Conservative members of parliament has been/is being widely predicted, which will give the opposition Labour party what is now being erroneously called a supermajority. For the sake of clarity, a supermajority is a otherwise known as a qualified majority. Older readers may recognise that what is being actually being talked of is in fact a phenomenon known as an elective dictatorship, a thumping great parliamentary majority that makes political opposition little more than tokenistic, a subject tackled by Quintin Hogg in his 1976 Richard Dimbleby Lecture.

    As is usual, this general election has seen its fair share of bad behaviour, which was first documented by the likes of William Hogarth in the mid-18th century.

    Chairing the Member from William Hogarth's 1755 Humours of an Election series. Image courtesy pf Wikimedia Commons.
    Chairing the Member from William Hogarth’s 1755 Humours of an Election series. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

    The most egregious bad behaviour so far in the current campaign has been the Conservative election betting scandal, which has so far implicated 15 Tory candidates and officials who are being investigated by the Gambling Commission for using inside knowledge to place bets and gain unfair pecuniary advantage.

    However, more bad behaviour by the Blue Team was uncovered earlier today by Alan Beattie who writes opinion pieces for the Financial Times, namely impersonation, trying to pass themselves off as a different organisation, in this case HMRC.

    Mr Beattie has today posted the following on the social media site formerly known as Twitter.

    Post reads Government: make sure you don't fall for phishing scams from people doing fake HMRC letters. Conservatives: here's election material made to make you think it's an HMRC letter.

    Mr Beattie’s post contains 2 screenshots, the first of which is from the HMRC section of the government’s website, informing visitors what to look out for in genuine content and/or information from the tax authorities.

    Screenshot of HMRC spot the scam web page

    The other screenshot shows a letter to small businesses from the Conservative Party and purporting to come from an organisation calling itself Briefing for Business. Anyone who has been in communication with the tax authorities will immediately notice how the letter mimics the fonts, layout and colours used by HMRC. The giveaway is that all party political materials must bear an imprint indicating who is responsible for publishing the material and for whom they’re promoting it.

    Screenshot of post from Conservatives showing letter to business mimicking fonts, style and colours used by HMRC in correspondence

    Your ‘umble scribe is aware that in the past political parties have passed themselves off as their opponents in election materials in an attempt to discredit them, but this is the first time he can remember a party trying to mimic a government department; if you know differently, please post details in the comments below.

    And finally…

    Don’t forget to vote and never forget that the emphasis on Conservatives is on the first syllable, i.e. con. 😀

  • Microsoft in trouble with EU Commission… again

    EU Commission logoThe European Commission website has today published a press release stating that the Commission has informed Microsoft of its preliminary view that Microsoft has breached EU anti-competition regulations by tying its communication and collaboration product Teams to its popular productivity applications included in its Office 365 and Microsoft 365 business suites.

    Teams logoTeams is a cloud-based communication and collaboration tool. It offers functionalities such as messaging, calling, video meetings and file sharing; it brings together Microsoft’s and third-party workplace tools and other applications.

    In its investigation, the Commission found that Microsoft is dominant worldwide in the market for SaaS productivity applications for professional use. Since at least April 2019, Microsoft has been tying Teams with its core SaaS productivity applications, thereby restricting competition on the market for communication and collaboration products and defending its market position in productivity software and its suites-centric model from competing suppliers of individual software.

    In particular, the Commission is concerned that Microsoft may have granted Teams a distribution advantage by not giving customers the choice of whether or not to acquire access to Teams when they subscribe to MS’ SaaS productivity applications. This advantage may have been further exacerbated by interoperability limitations between Teams’ competitors and Microsoft’s offerings. The conduct may have prevented Teams’ rivals from competing, and in turn innovating, to the detriment of customers in the European Economic Area.

    If confirmed, these practices would infringe Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (‘TFEU’), which prohibits the abuse of a dominant market position.

    After the Commission opened proceedings in July 2023, Microsoft introduced changes in the way it distributes Teams, particularly by starting to offer some suites without Teams. The Commission preliminarily finds that these changes are insufficient to address its concerns and that more changes to Microsoft’s conduct are necessary to restore competition.

    Speaking about the Commission’s decision, Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President in charge of competition policy, said:

    We are concerned that Microsoft may be giving its own communication product Teams an undue advantage over competitors, by tying it to its popular productivity suites for businesses. And preserving competition for remote communication and collaboration tools is essential as it also fosters innovation on these markets. If confirmed, Microsoft’s conduct would be illegal under our competition rules. Microsoft now has the opportunity to reply to our concerns.

    In 2007 the Commission initiated legal proceedings against Microsoft for abuse of its dominant position in the market. The case started as a complaint from Sun Microsystems over Microsoft’s licensing practices in 1993 and eventually resulted in the EU ordering Microsoft to divulge certain information about its server products and release a version of Microsoft Windows without Windows Media Player. The European Commission focused especially on interoperability – characteristic of a product or system to work with other products or systems.

  • Monoglot Saxons screw up badly west of Offa’s Dyke

    Election time is the time for political gaffes by all involved in politics, a profession which has in the past been described as show business for ugly people.

    There’s been alleged prime minister Rishi Sunak accused of being a D-Day dodger by slipping away early from the 80th anniversary commemorations of Operation Overlord to do an interview with ITV. Liberal Democrat supremo Ed Davey has been filmed and photographed variously falling off objects or into water in miscellaneous stunts masquerading as political campaigning, whilst over in the Labour camp, all of its control freakery could not stop Keir Starmer being heckled at the party’s manifesto launch.

    Minor parties like the Greens or regional parties like the Scottish Nation Party and Plaid Cymru or in the occupied six counties of Ireland have struggled to get coverage in the mainstream British media, which has concentrated almost 100% of its coverage on the residents of the Westminster bubble, seemingly believing that what has been billed as a British general election is a strictly English matter.

    However, the regional press is providing its own election coverage beyond the constricting noose of the M25 London orbital car park, particularly when it comes the English political class screwing up badly in the devolved regions as Nation Cymru reports on a glaring linguistic cock-up by the Nigel Farage Fascist Fan Club Ltd., which masquerades as a political party called Reform UK.

    Farage’s fanbois and girls have been accused of a cavalier attitude towards the Welsh language after a party political broadcast used mistranslated copy in a political broadcast shown on Welsh television stations, as per the screenshot below.

    Screenshot from BBC iPlayer showing mistranslated text

    Nation Cymru helpfully states how Reform had mangled its simplistic message – Britain is broken. Britain needs Reform – in Cymraeg:

    Whilst the words ‘Prydain’ and ‘angen’ individually translate to word for word copies of ‘Britain’ and ‘need’, when used together it in fact should have been “Mae angen Reform ar Brydain”.

    The article points out that Google Translate – a tool not noted for the accuracy of a its output – managed a better translation than Reform UK did. One unnamed person quoted by Nation Cymru summarised the problem as follows:

    “This does not look particularly respectful of the Welsh people and their language. It also shows a cavalier attitude towards accuracy.”

    However, Reform’s – and Farage’s – cavalier attitude does not stop at the Welsh language. It has a wide embrace, encompassing those annoyingly important little things known to ordinary people as facts.

  • Vos passeports, s.v.p. !

    An irony of our times came to light at the 80th anniversary D-Day celebrations as yet another dubious Brexit bonus emerged, further illustrating the Untied Kingdom’s third country EU status, as well as depicting a bureaucratic obstacle not faced by those arriving in Normandy on 6th June 1944.

    The screenshot below of a post on X/Twitter by the Brexitshambles account needs no further comment, apart from to add that the parachutists not only had to show their passports, but get them stamped too, so that officials can check in future whether they’ve overstayed their maximum term of 90 days in a European Union member state. 😀

    Post reads - So you thought we'd reached Peak Brexit? Watch British Paratroopers who after being dropped into Sannerville, France, to commemorate D-Day, had to show their passports to the French Douane... @Nigel Farage must be so proud

    Update: 07/06/2024: Today’s Guardian has reported on the above incident, noting that ‘while immigration checks for British troops on exercise abroad are routine, doing so at a public commemoration is deemed exceptional‘.

  • Conservatives’ National Service proposal – social media responds

    Yesterday’s duff election idea from the soon-to-be-annihilated Conservative Party was the reintroduction of mandatory national service, otherwise known in more plain-speaking parts of the world as military service or conscription.

    Your ‘umble scribe remembers older people during his 1960s childhood advocating the return of conscription as a panacea to cure all the evils that emerged during the 1960s like social progress (e.g. the abolition of the death penalty, the decriminalisation of homosexuality, legalisation of abortion, etc.), youth culture, colourful clothes, the consumption of drugs other than alcohol and tobacco, contraception, sexual promiscuity and everything else they didn’t like about the time.

    Needless to say, the Conservatives’ idea to revive conscription has been widely ridiculed on social media.

    First out of the blocks, a lovely post parodying not just the idea itself, but Britain’s misplaced and chauvinistic idea of its own greatness, when in reality thanks to Brexit, it’s a small island off the west coast of Europe that has shut itself off from closer ties with its neighbours.

    Advert reads Army - Be the best. Caption reads The Tory National Service plan.

    Also featuring on social media posts was ridicule of the Conservative Party itself, particularly its more unpleasant members such as the dishonourable member for Stoke-on-Trent North, one Jonathan Edward Gullis (majority 6,286). In a previous life Gullis was a schoolteacher.

    Post reads  Dear Rishi, this is Johns mum.
He cant do National Services as hes two busy doing MPing and has a sore tummy. Love Johns mum xxx

    Whether the poor spelling and punctuation are deliberate is unknown.

    A different line of attack was taken by those who are critical of the Tories seeing everything as an opportunity to make money such as the grasping ‘Baroness’ Michelle Georgina Mone, who during the Covid-19 pandemic succeeded in selling the British government £200m of useless PPE via her husband’s newly-established PPE Medpro company.

    Photograph of Michelle Mone below the words Hi Rishi. It's Michelle from Mone Military Uniforms.

    Meanwhile in the offline world, Former chief of the naval staff, Admiral Alan West, has described the plan as “bonkers” and added it would deplete the defence budget.

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