Kortrijk is watching you

The city of Kortrijk has plans to monitor visitors’ whereabouts in detail. The city will know, to within 10 metres, where you are, what you are doing and where you came from. And they want to capture as much information as they can get away with in order “to take tailor-made decisions” because “Measuring is knowing.”

My first thought, when I read this, was that it sounds like an awfully huge invasion of privacy to try and track a whole city’s worth of people to this level of detail. Of course, I shouldn’t have worried:

They just track smart phones.

I don’t know whether to facepalm or headdesk.

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Taking a long-term approach to fake news

I have previously expressed the view that the only way of realistically dealing with fake news is to encourage more media literacy and stronger critical thinking skills in the population.

With that in mind, I was quite heartened to see this report about an initiative from VRT that aims to give young people a better understanding of news and current affairs. It certainly looks like an effective first step towards tacking the media literacy part.

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The psychology of snap elections

Raj Persaud and Adrian Furnham point to a 2003 study which argues that the timing of an election tells the electorate how confident the government feels about the future. Both the article and the paper are worth a read, but the short version is this:

  • We all know that the government knows more than we know about how things are likely to pan out.
  • So we tend to assume that a competent and confident (or even a strong and stable) government is not going to feel the need to dash to the polls. This is borne out by looking at past election timings.
  • So when a government does call a snap election, it’s because the Prime Minister thinks that things are going to start going very badly in the near future. This is also borne out by past election timings.
  • And deep down, regardless of the ratings when the election is called, we realise this

When Theresa May called the election in April, it was widely assumed that she would win a landslide. What has happened instead is that the electorate called her bluff.

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Understatement of the day

While reporting on the Belgian reaction to the UK election result, and providing a bit of context, VRT mentions that Theresa May called the election in order to strengthen her hand in the Brexit negotiations by increasing her majority in the British Parliament.

However, things didn’t quite go to plan

Not quite.

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Quote of the Day: On bringing back blood sports

Look, I know a lot of bleeding hearts are always appalled by the sight of the Conservative party in pursuit, as a wounded leader desperately tries to get back to its foxhole. But I’m afraid those hand-wringers simply don’t understand the traditions involved or the wonderful community bonds that are forged over the activity. Well done to May for supporting its return.

Marina Hyde

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A song for Sunday: Shiny Happy People

Today is the first round1 of voting for the French assembly elections and, because I am consistently amused by the fact that Macron’s La Republique En Marche is often abbreviated to REM, here’s REM with their least REMmy single ever.

Footnote

  1. Not entirely true. Voting started on 3rd June in French Polynesia and on Sunday 4 June at French diplomatic missions outside the Americas. But for French voters in France, today is the day.

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Merging multiple PDF files with pdfunite

One thing that using Linux has taught me is to always look for the simplest solution, because it probably exists. As it turned out in this case.

In this case, I was emailed a five page PDF document that I had to print, sign, scan and send back. Printing and signing, of course, was easy enough and I can scan the five pages to get five, separate PDF files. Merging these files back into a single document is where pdfunite comes in, and it really is as simple as:

pdfunite page1.pdf page2.pdf page3.pdf page4.pdf page5.pdf outfile.pdf

You can specify as many source files as you like and the last file is the destination file.

And if I’d known about pdfseperate, I could have probably avoided printing the entire document in the first place.

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Not so strong and stable

Schadenfreude

It’s difficult not to laugh at Theresa May today. Thinking she could take advantage of her huge lead in the polls (remember when that was a thing?), she called a snap election clearly intending to crush a weak and divided Labour Party and entrench the Conservatives in government for the foreseeable future.

Well that didn’t happen, did it?

Instead we discovered that, far from being strong and stable, May is weak, wobbly and terrified of encountering actual voters. Corbyn, on the other hand, has had a spectacular campaign. I remain skeptical of both the man and his agenda, but it cannot be denied that he is able to find and fire up supporters, and get them to go out and vote. This proves, if nothing else, that campaigns really do matter:

Theresa May ran what was perhaps the worst campaign in recent political history—robotic, cliché-ridden, condescending, slapdash and otherwise awful. By contrast Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn ran an inspired campaign. He started off with the huge advantage that expectations were so low; if he didn’t devour a baby on the screen people were pleasantly surprised. But as the election proceeded he turned into an impressive campaigner. He dealt with hostile interviewers with a zen-like calm. He explained his beliefs patiently. Mrs May’s rallies were abysmal affairs. She frequently imported party apparatchiks to pretend to be real people. Mr Corbyn’s rallies by contrast were thrilling—huge crowds of the party faithful flocked to see their leader.

The knives are already out for Theresa May and I really don’t see her surviving as leader of the Conservative Party until the end of the year. At the time of writing this post, it looks like she is trying to come to a deal with the DUP to stay in power but I don’t see this lasting for long. Much of her party have been keeping their heads down while she looked likely to remain in power, but now they’ve scented blood and the more liberal and tolerant (Ruth Davidson) wing of the Tory party are going to bring her down quickly if she cedes to much to the Irish Unionists. And if she doesn’t, they’ll bring her down slowly.

Having voted for Brexit by a small majority last year, it appears that the electorate aren’t as keen on driving the UK economy over a cliff as May had assumed. While Labour are still favouring exiting the EU, they also have their own red lines (such as retaining access to the single market) which has the potential to complicate things and cause no end of delays. As long as Labour are willing to work with other parties, including the more moderate wing of the Conservatives, they should be able to ensure that the May will have to pay more attention to Parliament than she does to the tabloids.

The rest of May’s ‘red Tory’ agenda is, of course, toast. Any dream of marching into Labour heartlands and hoovering up disaffected voters has been revealed to be nothing more than an over-excited fantasy. Labour Ukippers have gone back to Labour, Tory Ukippers have gone back to the Tories and UKIP have finally shuffled off it’s mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. Which is nice.

Against this background and the much vaunted (by most of the media) return to two-party politics, the Lib Dems have done well to increase their total seats. I have to admit that, at the start of the campaign, I expected them to do better than 15 MPs. With hindsight, though, I think the election was too early for a party that bet the house on opposition to Brexit. Brexit hasn’t happened yet, the negotiations haven’t even started and, while I still think it will be a disaster, the disaster hasn’t happened yet.

I find myself feeling pretty positive about this result. The Conservatives definitely deserved to lose but I remain unconvinced that Labour deserved to win. And that’s what happened. So well played Britain and here’s to Round Two in October.

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