Archive for the ‘party’ Category

My lobbying project has been entered in the Open Data Challenge! Someone posted this to the MySociety list, with rather fewer than the advertised 36 hours left. I was at a wedding and didn’t read it at the time. After my partner and I had tried to invent a tap routine to the back end of Prince’s “Alphabet Street” and had got up at 8am to make it for the sadistic bed & breakfast breakfast and gone back to help clean up and drink any unaccountably unconsumed champagne, and the only thing left to look forward to was the end of the day, I remembered the message and noted that I had to get it filed before midnight.

So it was filed in the Apps category – there’s an Ideas category but that struck me as pathetic, and after all there is some running code. I pushed on to try and get something out under the Visualisation category but ManyEyes was a bit broken that evening and anyway its network diagram view starts to suck after a thousand or so vertices.

As a result, the project now has a name and I have some thin chance of snagging an actual Big Society cheque for a few thousand euros and a trip to Brussels. (You’ve got to take the rough with the smooth.)

The most recent experiment with the Lobster Project – see, it’s got a name! It’s got you its grips before you’re born…it lets you think you’re king when you’re really a prawn…whoops, wrong shellfish – was to try out a new centrality metric, networkx.algorithms.centrality.betweenness_centrality. This is defined as the fraction of the shortest paths between all the pairs of nodes in the network that pass through a given node. As you have probably guessed, this is quite an inefficient metric to compute and the T1700 lappy took over a minute to crunch it compared to 7 seconds to complete the processing script without it. Perhaps the new KillPad would do better but the difference is big enough that it’s obviously my fault.

Worth bothering with?

As far as I can see, though, it’s also not very useful. The results are correlated (R^2 = 0.64) with the infinitely faster weighted graph degree. (It also confirms that Francis Maude is the secret ruler of the world, though.)

The NX functions I’m really interested in, though, are the ones for clique discovery and blockmodelling. It’s obvious that with getting on for 3,000 links and more to come, any visualisation is going to need a lot of reduction. Blockmodelling basically chops your network into groups of nodes you provide and aggregates the links between those groups – it’s one way, for example, to get department level results.

But I’d be really interested to use empirical clique discovery to feed into blockmodelling – the API for the one generates a python list of cliques, which are themselves lists of nodes, and the other accepts a list of nodes or a list of lists (of nodes). Another interesting option might be to blockmodel by edge attribute, which would be a way of deriving results for the content of meetings via the “Purpose of meeting” field. However, that would require creating a list of unique meeting subjects and then iterating over it creating lists of nodes with at least one edge having that subject, and then shoving the resulting list-of-lists into the blockmodeller.

That’s a lorra lorra iteratin’ by anybody’s standards, even if, this being Python, most of it will end up being rolled up in a couple of seriously convoluted list comps. Oddly enough, it would be far easier in a query language or an ORM, but I’ve not heard of anything that lets you do SQL queries against a NX graph.

Having got this far, I notice that I’ve managed to blog my enthusiasm back up.

Anyway, I think it’s perhaps time for a meetup on this next week with Who’s Rob-bying.

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I’ve been reading the oohing and aahing about the Obama web operation (for example, here at the Linux Journal); all those individual pages and RSS feeds and iCals for every event. It strikes me that some of this can be generalised, and that we can probably improve on it. After all, as LJ points out, the difference between this and the Republican view of the Internet (Talk radio! With porn!), which also happens to be the Government view, is that it’s amenable to individual activists and groups of activists doing things other than sending shitty chain e-mail to their relatives and shouting a lot.

But it still doesn’t really allow for them to participate in the direction of the campaign; and it’s a one-off tailormade job. If you want to change something with design and engineering, you’ve got to think mass production – or better, lean production, being able to quickly change the product and still rip them out as if they were standard stampings, and mass customisation, designing to let the users alter the product before and after they get it. Perhaps the crucial factor in this is modularity; you break it down into lumps subject to old-fashioned mass production and configure them as desired.

Further, it’s quite common to have an Internet-enabled campaign that sends messages down from headquarters to the mob; not just the organisational model of the 20th century mass party, as originally invented by the Tories in the late 19th century, but even more so, as the party members always had a significant influence on policy and personnel, whether formally (like the Labour and Liberal parties) or informally (like the Tories pre-1965 and pre-1998). However, the “Labour Supporters’ Network” (copyright – Zack Ecksley) and the world of nicely on-message duckspeakers around Iain Dale’s blog have about as much influence on their party headquarters as a passing slug. Donal Blaney, for all he’s the most contemptible arsewit (copy-pasting early 90s Clinton-murder smears? changing the world, Don!) on the Internet, has got the right end of the stick there. But he’s still just a one-way blowhard.

What do you need to campaign? You need to know what is happening at the top level, in your rough region, and in your locality. You need to have a locality – to join a group or form one. You need to tell others when and where things will happen. And, I think, you need to be able to escalate things up the organisation. We already have functions like this for various rather crappy geek newssites, but what is important is that the members of the N19 group or the Fisheries special-interest group can break the point out into the London or the Economic or the Environment group, and they can break it out into the main broadcast to everyone – completing the loop.

If this reminds you of Stafford Beer, it’s entirely deliberate. Information should percolate up as the members want it to, and “perk” ought to be a better word than “digg”.

———-MEMBERS—————————–
|LOCALITY 1|LOCALITY 2|LOCALITY 3|
REGION 1 |REGION 2 |REGION 3
:THEME 2 :THEME 1 :THEME 3
|CAMPAIGN|
| = UNIQUE
: = NON-UNIQUE

We have pretty good standards for all the information exchange involved; RSS for the various local, regional, thematic, and main broadcast messages, iCal for calendar events, GeoRSS for messages with location content. SMS or MMS for mobile alerts. And the relationships involved are all ones that can go in a database schema. Members are subsets of the campaign (the campaign, better, is a superset of the membership); they are also part of groups. Messages and events are held in their originating table, until escalated into the next one up or across. By default, each member page has the local, regional and main broadcast feeds, and all the links you need to join or create other groups, start events, subscribe to them, set up alerts, and recommend anything for escalation. All groups, locations, etc create public and password-protected feeds. GeoRSS, with iCal enclosures, should be as MVC as it gets.

Whilst working on the Viktorfeed, I never quite grokked what the various Python Web frameworks (y’know – django, zope, cherrypy, webpy) were for. Now, however, I’ve actually bothered to read the Django documentation and it looks like the perfect solution. Essentially, it lets you build all your database tables in Python classes, set up all the views of the data you might want, and fit them in whatever HTML chrome you like, as well as creating RSS feeds of any view you can create of the shared data. (*I know I’m years behind the kool kidz here, but, well.)

I think it would be a cracking idea to have a deployable, pythonic, hackable platform for weird political action; with options for resource control, you might be able to use it to run almost anything.

This is hilarious, and depressing: you may find tech-libertarians annoying, but just think yourself lucky we got Paul “Van der” Staines, and not this guy. Dmitri Golubov, for it is he, was nailed in 2005 for running a massive credit-card phishing operation (in that case he was probably behind some percentage of the spamwave I spent part of that year trying to keep out of AFOE’s comments); now he’s starting the Internet Party of Ukraine.

Well, if he’s a spammer he’s presumably competent. Here’s their platform:

Golubov and the Internet Party are running on a platform of rooting out public corruption and reducing bureaucracy. Other parts of its platform include the “computerization of the entire country,”

Dunno what that means, but it’s probably rather like Patricia Hewitt’s promise in December, 2003 to deliver “online services” to every household in Britain – this blog existed then, and anyone with a BT landline could at least get dialup. Else something more like the J.G. Ballard character whose “attempts to streamline all the furniture in the dayroom unsettled the other patients”. But I doubt a Cybersyn-like real-time planned economy is on the cards.

“free computer courses and foreign languages at the expense of the budget,”

And ponies.

“the creation of offshore zones in certain regions of Ukraine,” and the organization of Ukraine as a “tax free paradise with the aim to attract money from all over the world.”

Of course…does anyone know if that’ll get him an invite to CPAC?

Dear God, John Redwood says something entirely sane. This frightens me – there is something we agree on. Naturally, I followed a link from Chris Dillow – I don’t read his stuff, you know.

But I think he’s right that a big part of the solution to party spending is that the buggers ought not to spend so much. As energy geeks will tell you, only half the problem is supply. After all, if they couldn’t rely on spin, broadcast ads, and billboards they would rely so much more on their activists, which would imply greater accountability of the politicians to the base. Broadcast, by the way, should here be read to include all forms of one-way, centre to mass communication.

In a sense, large donations and their pal, broadcast campaigning are to British politics what oil revenues are to (enter ‘orrible rentier state here). That is, they provide a way of escaping not only from accountability, but also from the realities of society.

All those folk looking for dirt on John Prescott. It’s nice and quiet again now. Still, I’ve been away, far from the nearest wireless LAN, so far away I didn’t hear about the new war(s) until getting back to town, and now I’m back.

All those folk looking for dirt on John Prescott. It’s nice and quiet again now. Still, I’ve been away, far from the nearest wireless LAN, so far away I didn’t hear about the new war(s) until getting back to town, and now I’m back.

One thing not addressed in this post is the exact arrangements between the Government and AEG regarding the big…can it be a beer gut?…pimple on the Thames. As made clear in comments here, the terms under which AEG got the Dome specify that the Government gets a share in the profits over and above AEG’s costs plus a percentage markup. So, the insertion of a casino in the Dome would tend to bring forward the point at which the State makes money on the deal, not to mention increase the sums involved.

It’s been pointed out elsewhere that the thing was quite a while earlier, well before the Gambling Bill. Pshaw. I don’t see that this gets them off the hook – in fact it strikes me as more incriminating than Anschutz buying the Dome after the Gambling Bill passes, because implying a quid pro quo. Anyway, consider this report from the HoC Public Accounts Committee. Note that, although the c-word is used later in the document, the summary description of the AEG scheme makes no mention of a casino at all…although this had been mentioned in the press prior to the report.

Eventually you come to this:

10. There are various elements in this scheme which may generate future profits to the taxpayer, but which English Partnerships did not assume when evaluating the deal. For example the extent to which there might be a share in future profits from the Dome Arena and Waterfront is uncertain. Also in 2003 the Anschutz Group expressed interest in placing at the Dome one of the eight large Regional Casinos proposed in the government’s draft Gambling legislation. At the time of Meridian Delta’s original proposals there had been no discussion on casinos. A casino would require both planning permission and a licence under the recently enacted Gambling Act. The Government has indicated that there will only be one Regional Casino, and it is not yet clear whether the Dome will be successful in obtaining a licence. The Department has no firm view about whether a casino would be a positive or negative factor in terms of value to the deal. It is not party to any related negotiations with the Anschutz Entertainment Group, but recognises that Anschutz are pursuing it because they expect it to increase their profits, in which English Partnerships would take a 15% share after the operator had made a prior return. English Partnerships have not however assumed any return from a casino.[11]

So as early as 2003 they were talking slot machines. I wonder how often John Prescott has been to see the old railroad tycoon before his recent trip? According to the report, the sale closed in June, 2004. It’s hard not to see, as they say, a pattern of behaviour here. As far as I can make out, “the Department” is a strangely worded reference to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, not (as I first thought) to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

One thing not addressed in this post is the exact arrangements between the Government and AEG regarding the big…can it be a beer gut?…pimple on the Thames. As made clear in comments here, the terms under which AEG got the Dome specify that the Government gets a share in the profits over and above AEG’s costs plus a percentage markup. So, the insertion of a casino in the Dome would tend to bring forward the point at which the State makes money on the deal, not to mention increase the sums involved.

It’s been pointed out elsewhere that the thing was quite a while earlier, well before the Gambling Bill. Pshaw. I don’t see that this gets them off the hook – in fact it strikes me as more incriminating than Anschutz buying the Dome after the Gambling Bill passes, because implying a quid pro quo. Anyway, consider this report from the HoC Public Accounts Committee. Note that, although the c-word is used later in the document, the summary description of the AEG scheme makes no mention of a casino at all…although this had been mentioned in the press prior to the report.

Eventually you come to this:

10. There are various elements in this scheme which may generate future profits to the taxpayer, but which English Partnerships did not assume when evaluating the deal. For example the extent to which there might be a share in future profits from the Dome Arena and Waterfront is uncertain. Also in 2003 the Anschutz Group expressed interest in placing at the Dome one of the eight large Regional Casinos proposed in the government’s draft Gambling legislation. At the time of Meridian Delta’s original proposals there had been no discussion on casinos. A casino would require both planning permission and a licence under the recently enacted Gambling Act. The Government has indicated that there will only be one Regional Casino, and it is not yet clear whether the Dome will be successful in obtaining a licence. The Department has no firm view about whether a casino would be a positive or negative factor in terms of value to the deal. It is not party to any related negotiations with the Anschutz Entertainment Group, but recognises that Anschutz are pursuing it because they expect it to increase their profits, in which English Partnerships would take a 15% share after the operator had made a prior return. English Partnerships have not however assumed any return from a casino.[11]

So as early as 2003 they were talking slot machines. I wonder how often John Prescott has been to see the old railroad tycoon before his recent trip? According to the report, the sale closed in June, 2004. It’s hard not to see, as they say, a pattern of behaviour here. As far as I can make out, “the Department” is a strangely worded reference to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, not (as I first thought) to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Sir Ian Blair is far more like Tony Blair than Tony would want to admit, but not in the way Sir Ian would want to admit.

In the beginning, and still up to a point, Sir Ian Blair was subject to a steady flow of vitriol from what might be described as the Richard Littlejohn tendency – the Police Federation, the Daily Mail, Simon Heffer, the Conservative Party and the man himself. Sir Ian had, lest we forget, been promoted to run the Metropolitan Police after the Stephen Lawrence inquiry and its exposition of not just the famous institutional racism, but also incompetence and possible corruption (one of Lawrence’s probable killers’ father was a well-known gangster, known to have “friends in the force”, something no-one now remembers). This meant pissing off the Knackers of the Yard and the racist tendency, and in the fullness of time ran him into conflict with the Home Office as it swung steadily rightwards post-2000.

He was branded as a wobbly liberal, setting a match to the foundations of the police force that would one day shake it asunder, wasting public money on a variety of supposed causes recovered from the file marked “Loony Left – 1983”.

This was always silly. For a wet loony-left flabbler pandering to political correctness, blah, blah, he had made his career in a very noticeable manner. It was Ian Blair, pre-knighthood, who marshalled hordes of private security goons alongside his constables to wallop road protestors for Michael Howard, after all. It was his Thames Valley force that played cat and mouse with sound systems along the M4 corridor for years, in the same cause. By 1997 Michael Howard, motorway building schemes bigger than anything since the Romans, legislation against music, and the rest was going out of fashion. It was time to trim, and trim he did all the way to New Scotland Yard.

Once there, however, he soon detected that the climate was changing. In the time of terrorism and David Blunkett, the new Sir Ian was deeply unfashionable. More than that, great bureaucratic opportunities presented themselves – more powers and more budget. So he became Mr Security, and eventually took on something approaching an independent political role when briefing MPs before the vote on the Terrorism Bill. He could now count, again, on the support of Chief Inspector Knacker, Richard Littlejohn, and the Home Office top bureaucracy – he could even offer the chip butty squad a resumption of stop-and-search powers. In return, he gave the politicians what they wanted – sending 78 cops to harass Brian Haw and keeping the bill quiet, for example, and taking the lumps for the execution of de Menezes.

Unfortunately, some people don’t spot the changing times, or don’t want to. Hence last week’s decapitation mission. Neither Brian Paddick nor Tarique Ghaffur have any place under the new Sir Ian, and it’s only surprising it took so long.

I don’t presume to determine which is the real Sir Ian, the trendy schoolteacher or the overweening bully. Rather, I suspect, he doesn’t feel any attachment to either. You can do that for a while, of course – keep the bases covered through constant manoeuvring. But in the end, you are left with no allies on either side. Just like Tony Blair.

Anekdot!

Remember how Viktor Yanukovich and his party were standing up to Teh Neoliberal US Imperialist NATO Consensus? Them, decadent rock music and their US publicists, apparently.