The 2016 Referendum on EU Membership Was Not Democratic

Even though the UK leaving the EU would result in democratic unaccountability (because we would inevitably end up being subject to EU rules without a democratic say) and economic decline (basic free market economics says when you put up barriers the economic activity will reduce) or collapse (cliff edge Brexit means much economic activity will simple cease) many people have told me that it should still be carried about because there was a democratic referendum in 2016 where a majority of the people voted to leave.

This is incorrect for a number of reasons, but it is worth stating the reasons again as they seem to have passed many people by:

  • Restricted franchise.   The franchise used by the UK parliament is grossly undemocratic with many UK residents unable to vote because they happen to hold the wrong passport.  For a referendum on EU membership it is extremely important residents who are EU citizens but not UK citizens get a vote.  But they did not.  That 16 and 17 year olds did not get to vote either just shows how obsolete the UK level of government is compared to modern democracies.  If either of these had been fixed the vote would have gone the other way.
  • No manifesto from the Vote Leave campaign.  This official campaign from Dominic Cummings, Michael Gove, Boris Johnson et al never once said what they expected the relationship to be between the UK and the EU.  The Electoral Reform Society called the campaign “dire”.  They have still not explained what the relationship is to be between the UK and the EU.  They have run down the government of Theresa May with their illogic.  They will shotrly be running the government from the top.
  • Lies from the Vote Leave campaign.  The figure used on the bus was a lie as an amount of money but more importantly it was a lie because it suggested that the money spent by the EU level of government was spent on something other than services for the population and it would not need to be spent if the UK was no longer in the EU, this is obviously nonsense the same money will need to be spent on much the same stuff just in a far more inefficient way.  It wasn’t just the suggestion that it could go to ‘the’ NHS instead which was a lie but the misrepresentation of the money in a weekly unit.  We never talk of government spending in weekly units, we talk of it in yearly units. Giving an incorrect large figure out of context suggesting the spending would no longer be needed was a lie on many levels and I’ve never seen anyone point out all those problems.  Boris Johnson was taken to court over this lie, a misuse of public office  but so far the English courts have refused, good luck to the puruer on the appeal.
  • Stolen data.  This is organised crime by technology companies thinking, and knowing, they can get away with crimes to make money from targetted advertising.  Facebook allowed Cambridge Analytica to steal our data and make money from it.  The campaigns were happy to use that crime to their advantage.
  • Targetted secret contradictory Facebook adverts.  Facebook is quite open about how they can be used to persuade people of political opinions through advertising.  We ban political advertising on television because it is too easy to persuade people to a cause through the emotive effect rather than rational arguments.  But that law doesn’t exist for online advertising.  On top of this the online advertising allows targeting people with individualised messages.  Whereas a poster campaign for a political cause will receive some amount of scrutiny from the public at large that is not possible with the secret adverts done on Facebook.  The Leave.eu campaign used this to their advantage.  They still do.
  • Dark money through the DUP. Political campaigning costs money and the more you have the more successful your campaign will be.  That is why politics in the US is often won by whoever can collect the most donations.  In the UK we have spending limits during election and referendum campaigns to limit this problem.  But those rules are only for the 6 weeks before a vote and there are ways around them.  Nobody knows where the money came from.  It could have been benevelent millionairs like Aaron Banks but it could also be disinformation campaigns from the Russian government, we simply don’t know.  The DUP got £435,000 in donations from Richard Cook who got it from unknown sources.  That was spent in Great Britain where the DUP has no pretense so someone deliberately gave a donation through a route it knew could not be tracked.  The worse part is the law allows for a change in the rules so it can be tracked but Theresa May’s government chose not to.
  • Dark money through Leave.eu.  The non-official campaign got an £8m donation from insurance company owner Aaron Banks.  This is the largest donation to any political cause in the UK ever.  The money came through tax havens.  We do not allow money to come from outside the UK for political causes in the UK because it should be up to the residents of the UK to decide our politics.  It’s not clear at all whether the £8million was earned by Aaron Banks in the UK or whether it was donated by,  say, a Russian government disinformation campaign.   The Electoral Commission worries it might be the latter and passed it onto the police.  The police have refused to investigate, maybe they are corrupt or maybe just incompetant and scared.  Good luck to the MPs who are taking them to court to force the case.
  • Illegally Coordinated campaigns. The Vote Leave campaign got large donations which took them beyond the spending limit.  But this is a free country and anyone can start a campaign for the referendum and spend money on promoting the same cause.  So they gave money to someone called Darren Grimes who had made some videos promoting leave.  They then coordinated with Grimes to spend the money on the exact same stuff anyway, which was mostly Cambridge Analytica adverts on Facebook using stolen data.  This is criminal and lead to illegal overspending.

I’ve heard people argue there was bad practice on both sides.  And indeed on the remain side Lib Dems and Open Britain didn’t keep track of its paperwork

But the bad bookkeeping by the remain campaigns is nothing compared to the scale of criminality of the leave campaigns.  The main problem with the remain campaigns is they were crap, they made no good arguments for the cause, did not work with the existing groups and parties and did nothing to inspire people like me who wanted to be politically active.

So both sides were crap.  One side was massively criminal.  That was not a valid exercise in democracy.

The Tory party has since had entryism from radicalised former UKIP members and they will shortly be selecting Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.  He claims to want no deal which will mean social and economic collapse come November.   Labour is led by someone who wants to break the rules of functional economies in a false argument about it being in the interests of the people so he is also happy to leave the EU and will block attempts to do otherwise. Hopefully parliament can have a vote of no confidence in the new PM and block that but it’s very uncertain.   We live in dangerous times.

 

 

KDE.org Description Update

The KDE Applications website was a minimal possible change to move it from an unmaintained and incomplete site to a self-maintaining and complete site.  It’s been fun to see it get picked up in places like Ubuntu Weekly News, Late Night Linux and chatting to people in real life they have seen it get an update. So clearly it’s important to keep our websites maintained.  Alas the social and technical barriers are too high in KDE.  My current hope is that the Promo team will take over the kde-www stuff giving it communication channels and transparancy that doesn’t currently exist.  There is plenty more work to be done on kde.org/applications website to make it useful, do give me a ping if you want to help out.

In the mean time I’ve updated the kde.org front page text box where there is a brief description of KDE.  I remember a keynote from Aaron around 2010 at Akademy where he slagged off the description that was used on kde.org.  Since then we have had Visions and Missions and Goals and whatnot defined but nobody has thought to put them on the website.  So here’s the new way of presenting KDE to the world:

Thanks to Carl and others for review.

 

Go WTO! A Dangerous Recipe for Economic Collapse.

There is a dangerous radicalised movement in the UK that wants to bring economic and social destruction to it citizens.  It is the politicians who want a no deal Brexit.  There are maybe 100 MPs in parliament who want this to happen.  Most of the contenders for the leader of the Conservative party claim to want it to happen.  The Brexit party, who came first in the European elections in England, wants it to happen.

A no deal Brexit means that goods and services and money and people which could previously cross over a line on a map will now not be able to.  Very basic free market economics means this will result in less economic activity in the long term and in the short term means chaos.  “Chaos” is the term used by Theresa May’s government to describe it, she started by saying that no deal was better than a bad deal but when the reality dawned on her she couldn’t go through with it.   She ended up turning on her own MPs and parliament in a desperate attempt to win the people over but this was never going to work when it was the paliament she had to win over. She has now stepped down from leading that political party and will soon step down from leading that government.

There is not enough parliamentary time to get half the legislation needed to make this happen in a manor which is vaguely controlled.  When it was due to happen earlier this year hundreds of millions of pounds maybe even billions of pounds were spent trying to mitigate against the effects.  It is next scheduled to happen on 1 November and the political pressure to allow it to happen is growing. The civil servants who worked on the mitigation have gone back to their regular jobs but they will be asked to move into no deal Brexit preparations again later in the Summer.  Many will have left the civil service then knowing what will happen.  Expecting to mitigate against economic collapse after a couple months in the job is not an achievable task.

There are calls to force the UK parliament to shut down to ensure it happens.  When the contenders for prime minister are calling for social and economic collapse and to shut down parliament to ensure that happens we are living through a democracy that is collapsing.

There is not even enough time to allow for trading under WTO terms, the UK has no registered list of tariffs for the thousands of items that needs to applied and the 180odd member states who need to vote on that schedule have voted against what the UK has proposed so far. So the hard border these politicians want around the UK will become an unbalanced one, other countries will charge whatever they like for customs knowing the UK can do nothing in retaliation.

The SNP won the European election in Scotland by a landslide.  Sinn Féin won the first preference votes in Northern Ireland.  But a UK in economic collapse is not a good starting place to win an independence or reunification referendum.  People will cling to what they know and for some reason people do insist in clinging to the idea of Britain.

What will happen is a mugs game.  The Tory party will select a new leader at the end of July.  As far as anyone understands how the UK parliament works that means our monarch Betty will appoint them Prime Minister .  The new PM might play constitutional games and shut down parliament which would again involve calling in Betty to do his or her dirty work.  But assuming parliament resists that, a motion of no confidence will likely be proposed by Jeremy Corbyn and because the is no majority for the Tories they will either need to give the DUP another large bung or they will fail, they might fail regardless as some Tories are sensible enough not to want a no deal Brexit.  That gives 14 days for the government to resign and find another PM or call a general election.  The election then would be at the start of September which allows for about two weeks of parliament time to work out who the hell will be PM next.  That election will be so unpredictable that the Lib Dems might win it for all we know, the Brexit party might make a breakthrough, the SNP will possibly take all the seats in Scotland, really nobody can say.  There is then a three week break for political party conferences giving only three weeks until no deal Brexit happens.

We live in interesting times.  But I wish we didn’t.

 

UK Open Source Awards 2019 Shortlists

The UK Open Source Awards is an event in Edinburgh next Wednesday (June 12 2019) to celebrate and recognise freedom and collaborative software. If you’ve not got your ticket book on now.  Keynote speaker is Frank Karlitschek the former KDE e.V. board member, then there’s quality selection of other speakers and panelists before the award ceremony to close the day.

I’m the head judge and together with Allison Randal and Dawn Foster we have picked a short list of 4 names for each of the awards.

Individual – for outstanding contributions to open source

  • Mandy ChessellMandy Chessell CBE FREng is a computer scientist and a Distinguished Engineer at IBM. Mandy became involved in open source through her efforts with Linux Foundation’s ODPi organization and her work on Egeria, the Industry’s First Open Metadata Standard, designed to help organizations better understand, manage and gain value from data.
  • Simon McVittieSimon’s one of the key players behind some of the most important steps of desktop linux. As well as being the head of DBus, a key part of the linux stack, Simon is the one of the core people on freedesktop.org
  • James MorganJames Morgan has successfully led the OpenEyes community (https://openeyes.org.uk) to release a best in class open source Opthalmology Electronic Patient Record solution OpenEyes,
  • Tracy Miranda Tracy Miranda is currently the Director of Open Source at Cloudbees and a long time supporter of open source. She has served on the board of directors at the Eclipse Foundation and recently was responsible for helping form the Continuous Delivery Foundation (CDF)

Company – for outstanding contribution to open source either through product development or contributions to projects

  • Cloudsoft CorpThe company behind the open source Apache Brooklyn project.
  • Open Healthcare Builds open source digital tools that help clinicians to deliver better care.
  • AB EHRWorking predominantly with open source software and delivery methods they provide solutions that will enable improved patient care and service standards.
  • Outlier VenturesOutlier Ventures contributes to the community at large, open sourcing all major internal projects, and contributing technical expertise to all of the projects we partner with, fuelling open source adoption.

Public Sector and Third Sector – for an outstanding open source project in the UK public sector or third sector.

  • Ripple FoundationThe Ripple Foundation is a clinically led foundation that has led on the development of a number of key open source projects in support of improving and making easier to develop digital applications in the NHS.
  • The Apperta Foundation The Apperta Foundation is a clinically led, not-for-profit organisation that acts as a custodian for a number of clinical and non-clinical digital solutions for Health and Care, ensuring they are available not only open source, but developed using an open approach.
  • Inside Outcomes CIC Inside Outcomes CIC supports businesses working in the public health, social care and third sectors with their open source risk management software .
  • NHS DigitalLaunch of the NHS Digital Service Manual in January 2019; including open standards for content, health literacy, design principles and integrating the open source NHS.

Student – a cash prize of £1,500 for an outstanding contribution to open source from currently matriculated UK students

  • Antreas Antoniou (University of Edinburgh – School of Informatics) – Antreas built a meta-learning framework, with a large variety of researcher-oriented tooling and just the right abstraction to allow very quick modifications of the model for research purposes, or altogether extensions and overhauls. Finally, the framework includes a data-provider designed to receive a folder of data-points and with no other changes, train such a model for ML-enthusiasts and industry applications. All code and paper are publically available.
  • Andrew Brock (University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt – Edinburgh Centre For Robotics) – Andrew Brock’s work on machine learning has led to three major conference papers and two workshop papers, all of which are accompanied by open source code for replication. His latest project, BigGAN, represents the state-of-the-art in neural network image generation, and (through open source releases of trained networks and training code) forms the basis for a variety of projects built atop it.
  • Nathan Hughes – (Aberystwyth University) – During his undergraduate degree he worked at the national plant phenomics centre in Wales, UK. There he made all of my work open source. Currently working on his PhD (at the John Innes Centre) where he will go on to produce open source software for analysing biological problems in plant science.
  • Yiannis Simillides – (Imperial College London) –While studying for an MSc in Scientific Computing at UCL, Yiannis wrote the library called FEniCS.jl, the julia-version of a popular open-source finite element package, receiving funding from the Google Open-source programme (GSoC).

Who will we pick as winners?  Come along on the day to find out 🙂

With thanks to these lovely sponsors and helpers.

KDE Applications Website

The new KDE Applications website is now up

The old one was a manual task of keeping the metadata up to date while this one scans builds from build.kde.org and Git in search of appstream appdata.xml files and converts them into the required info.

Technical info on the website wiki pages.

If you see mistakes, go and fix them by updating the appstream files. These files are also used in distro packages and appstores and new container packages so a fix there goes a long way.  Appstream in KDE guide.

Icons come from Breeze. If you see an issue with an icon I’m sure the Breeze folks would be happy for a fix on the bug report.

Future work is to make the content more pretty and relevant. Adding in non app projects in some way. Adding in version numbers and release notes and other features supported by Appstream. Workboard at Phabricator.

But at last you can browse all of KDE’s applications. KDE needs to up its game for the support it provides for our applications, here’s to a great future for them 🙂

Why Did You Vote Leave?

Why would anyone vote to leave the EU?  I’ve spent weeks campaigning on the streets of Edinburgh for remain and most people walk past uninterested, some are also concerned about the consequences and stop to thank us or have a moan about how insane it is, some are angry leave voters who shout angry things and very very occasionally there is a leave voter who stops to chat.  So what are their reasons?

Worried Leave Voter

The first conversation I had was with a lady who had got off the bus to chat because she didn’t know what to think.  She had voted leave, she said because she saw Germany had started two world wars and she didn’t want her children involved in that.  She didn’t want to be part of this beurocratic undemocratic setup.  I explain that one of the purposes of the EU was to stop wars by increasing interdependence.  I explained that the EU spends around 6% of its budget on staff of around 43,000 (split between Commission, Parliament and Council) [reference].  This allows a massive reduction in bureaucracy by allowing freedoms and common rules.  It’s a bit more staff than the BBC and less than a third of NHS Scotland (covers for a population 100 times the size) [reference]. She finished up wondering what she could do to help us stay in the EU.

Remain Voter Who Educated Himself

This was the most scary conversation I’ve had.  That was a person who said he had voted remain but had then educated himself on websites and YouTube videos.  He said that the head man in the EU is unelected.  I explained that there are three presidential positions for the three parts of the EU and each one selects a president by a different democratic method, in the case of the government (the Commission) it’s the spritzenkandidaten nominated by the parliament, but anyway a president in the EU is a chair position not an all powerful head of administration such as in the US.  He moved on saying how “our” culture is democratic and “their” culture is not, asking what he ment by these terms he said it was islamic culture which was not.  He said the Quran was scary and promoted violence and Islamic culture is very different from our own.  I agreed there was a lot I didn’t like about hardline and fundamentalist Islam and there was plenty I disliked about the attitudes of my local mosque Imam to society but the same could be said about hardline Christian culture including the violence that gets justified in its name in places such as Northern Ireland, I pointed out this topic was unrelated to the EU but somehow in his mind it was related.  I said it was better to visit a mosque to chat about the issues than to build walls.  Which brought him onto Israel and why they should be able to build walls.  At which point I lost interest.  He wasn’t angry but he was very radicalised by angry websites.

Someone Who Wants Indy Scot but not EU

One man wanted to know why I wanted to break up the UK but remain in the EU, if I believed in independence and sovereignty then surely I shouldn’t want a layer of government above Scottish?  This is a trap the independence movement falls into saying they want sovereignty but shared with other independent nations.  I hold no interest in either side of the argument, sovereignty is a medaeval idea to justify absolute power in a monarch and for some reason we insist on keeping the idea around, but it should be done away with.  National borders are a case of finding the best organisation for the population who lives within them. Changing national borders should be as easily done as changing local council borders, not done every day but if it becomes clear there’s a more efficient and democratic way to draw some lines on a map then it should be done.  It makes perfect sense for nations to work together in common government to make their borders as uninteresting as possible while working on common rules for issues like pollution and fish that don’t care about lines on a map.  He wasn’t very interested in my answer.

Oxford Cricket Leave Voter

On a cricket lawn in England a gentleman in a suit introduced himself as Scottish.  He’d grown up and lived in England however but he had been born in Scotland so surely that was what counts.  He thought that British law which is based on common law and used in the US and Australia was better than the Continental system of law which was based on Roman law.  I explained that he was mistaking Britain for England, Scotland has a legal system is based on Roman law.  It is unrelated to England’s system which is unrelated to France’s system.  Legal systems are organised at a national level so EU or indeed UK has no say in how these work and this wasn’t relevant to either.  He said imperial measurements were based on easily understandable units like a foot or a thumb or an arm and these were superior to the metric system.  I said I quite liked the ease of decimal but again he could use whatever measurements he wanted so the topic was unrelated to EU membership.  He quaffed some Champaign and wandered off.

No Good Reasons

I have never heard a single good reason to leave the EU except from Craig Murray who considers its democratic structures help justify and enforce the borders of the nation state.  When Catalunya had a democratic vote for independence (Catalunya is a nation in the Spanish constitution and the UN charter says that a People’s have a right to self determination so it’s a basic part of human rights and international law) nobody in the EU stood up for them, which is to the shame of the EU.  But then nobody in any other layer of government stood up for them, even the Scottish government didn’t support them much.  And he still wants to be in EFTA which would just mean all the same EU processes but without our people being part of the democracy, so that doesn’t help much.

Next time I meet a leave voter I’ll not bother to ask why they voted leave as they never have any sane answers.  Instead I’ll ask what their preferred setup is for the UK to EU relationship.  I doubt this will make any sense either but at least it’ll show the limitations of their opinions quicker.