Music and Musing – OK, The EU Referendum As Well

My first creative writing outside school work was actually music lyrics. The words were my first artistic adventures and continued for many years. The few poems on this site are really lyrics for various songs that I have written over the years. Music still inspires me and has the power to move me like no other art form. I like to think I have a wide taste in genres from classical (including some opera) through to modern pop, although rap is a real effort whilst appreciating the skill of the lyricist.

I appreciate art, as in painting and sculpture, in the same way but I do not find it moves me in the same way as music, likewise theatre. I did write a short story, Landscape, with art as the background attempting to convey my love of some paintings. Musical theatre does have that impact, whereas opera tends to get lost for me except the odd aria. Probably the language barrier but also the variations in the notes – a complaint I have with much Jazz.

The language barrier (not necessarily the artistic barrier – ignore the Eurovision song contest) of course applies to our European colleagues, the focus of much of the debate in the referendum. There is not just a language barrier but also a cultural and legal one. Many European countries have a legal system based on Roman/Napoleonic basis (France and other codified legal systems) or are federated states (UK has devolved power to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but not England) as opposed to common law based on precedent with juries. The EU is codified leading I believe to many of the clashes we have seen with the ECJ and the slow but creeping codification of the UK’s laws driven from the EU – a background driver for the sovereignty debate i.e. where UK precedent can be overruled by a codified European Court causing a codified change to UK law.

I remain undecided. I have written before about my concern with population growth. This issue is mixed up with immigration, asylum and the crisis facing the world (not just the EU) The increase in the world’s population is staggering

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As is the UK’s from Migration watch but using ONS numbers

bp9_31_chart

The future projections which are based on net migration levels plus the impact of the new population having children must be addressed. Regardless of what happens in the referendum, and associated immigration policy, the increases of the last ten years will have a major impact on schools, housing, healthcare, etc. for generations. More cars, more use of public transport, and it takes years to get infrastructure in place to cope from London airport runways to sewer mains.

I grew up at a time when the net birth rate was thought to be falling below 2, i.e. population decline. This has now reversed and we have added a massive increase in life expectancy which impacts the same things plus pensions but with a disproportionate impact on health and social care.

As with many undecided I am annoyed with the quality and tone of the debate making it very hard to decipher fact from fiction or forecasts or the real risks in either choice.

The In campaigners fail to talk about the impact of ever closer union (yes UK may have an opt out) when EU policy is pursued. Especially the efforts of Eurozone countries to support the currency. We will be outside (we already are) that decision process. i.e. if EU funds are used to support an in-crisis Eurozone country ahead of a non Eurozone country purely to help stabilise the Eurozone and prevent another crisis. I have just returned from Greece – that crisis has not gone away. The impact on the UK and the financial systems is there regardless of membership status. Outside the Eurozone the UK has zero ability to influence policy in or out. The only way we could would be to stay in and join the Euro! That is something that has been ruled out by most euro campaigners, which seems illogical if we really want to be at the table and have a say on the future of the EU.

The Out campaigners fail to address the risk and the economic forecasts, ignoring many supposedly qualified commentators. Albeit, being lectured by American bankers (Merrill Lynch) and other big businesses does not go down well. Of course economic forecasters are well known for their accuracy; from the IMF to the Treasury we can clearly believe everything they say. Growth rates, employment rates, financial products. That is sarcasm by the way, in case anyone thought that I think economic forecasting has a better success rate than weather forecasting beyond the next 24 hours.

The pleas from foreign leaders feel forced and in some cases (USA) hypocritical. Of course the USA wants the UK in the EU. It means there is some check from the UK on various EU proposals on trade, data and competition so that USA interests are protected.

For EU leaders, if you are so desperate for the UK to remain, Mrs Merkel, why did you not offer a better reform package to the UK when Cameron was running around Europe before the referendum was announced? Actually, why haven’t you reformed the EU thus making the changes needed before a referendum was called?

I cannot abstain. I believe in voting, there should be more of it. I just do not know what is the best decision, for me, my family, the generations to come and my country. I do believe that the EU would be a worse institution without the UK in it but would the UK be worse? I do not just mean economically, but worse in a generic sense. Would the UK be a worse place to live or better?  If someone can give me a clear answer to that and address the population growth issue (not just the immigration issue) I would be grateful.

Whatever the outcome of the vote, I can still write words and occasionally music. The paintings will remain in the galleries. Life will go on. The world will not stop and the 6.5 billion people who live outside the EU (with or without the UK) will continue to have their lives. The population will continue to increase, and the poor and scared will desperately seek a better life wherever that may be.

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A Tinfoil Hat – Data Protection and Security

For those of you that know me in my regular life, you will recall I can get a bee in my bonnet about data protection. Partly this is due to my previous professional roles and responsibilities. A frequent comment is that tin foil hats are needed as if my concerns and others are exaggerated. Using the Internet and any part of modern society means that your personal data is not personal or private it belongs to big corporations and government agencies. I do not believe that governments will deliberately misuse the data. That is the way of conspiracies and tin-foil hats. The scope though for data loss, data selling to third parties (who will misuse it) and data errors will grow. Then there are the criminal risks. If the security services need a backdoor through encryption then that back door exists for anyone that can find it. Ashley Madison anyone, to name one hacking case.

This also goes to some of my more reclusive tendencies. Reclusive? I hear you exclaim, a sometimes writer with a twitter feed, email, Facebook page as well as this blog. However, when it comes to data, this tendency can become overactive. I do not have a personal Facebook page and my on-line activities are covered by occasional blogs and comments on Goodreads. I have author profiles on Amazon and other sites, I have a Linked-In profile but my other personal details do not appear. I do not share my birthday or medical details on-line and I would prefer it if the companies I interact with did not either. Nor my financial details, spending patterns or other marketing led data. But we are in the era of big data. Having worked for one of the big credit reference agencies, I am aware of just how much data is known about me. More interesting is the analysis applied to that data to be sold to other companies which then results in marketing.

I recently received a mail shot from a marketing company offering me contact details on 5 million company directors. My details are probably in that list. How did they get that data (It might not be accurate of course, but how? I did not give anyone permission to give my data to this company. But of course I probably did when I forgot to tick or un-tick a box on another web site opting in or out. Of course I could have just wanted to run something and hidden in the EULA was an explicit clause along the lines of “We may use your data with selected third parties, if you do not wish this to happen etc….” To use the product you have to agree. Next thing you are offered US Car loan deals in Wisconsin – I kid you not. Not helpful in rural Englan not New England – the original.

Why is this relevant? Well last week saw the European Court of Justice (ECJ) rule that one of the data safeguards used by many companies, including Facebook and many cloud providers, the so called Safe Harbor (US Spelling) rules, were not worth the paper they are written on. Under that scheme the European rules on data protection are upheld in the USA where most cloud providers and social media companies reside.  This comes not just on the back of the Eric Snowden revelations about security service activities but also due to the USA’s Patriot Act. Under the act a; American companies are effectively obliged to hand over all data.Then there is the ongoing dispute involving Microsoft being asked to hand over data by the FBI held in an Irish data centre via a court order in a US Court without going through the existing legal agreements with the Irish authorities.

For cloud providers including WordPress what does this mean. In legal terms it means that no European citizen or company can handover data to a US company and know that the data is legally protected from misuse i.e. selling on or using for a purpose other than which it was provided. Something that US companies do not seem to understand. The UK’s Information Commissioner Office (ICO) provides a very simple set of principles for managing data which meets European requirements but they too have been relying on Safe Harbor and other contractual protections called Model Clauses when data is processed outside the EU.

The EU and the USA are negotiating new data protection rules but the bottom line for all of us is that if you use any cloud based provider that has any connection to a US company for any corporate or personal activity you cannot expect any privacy. You cannot expect that any of your data will not end up in the hands of the US authorities or sold on at the whim of a company. Expect more spam and more targeted marketing built on analysis of everything from your inside leg measurement to who you discussed fashion with on a social media outlet.  The terms of service issues by the providers with all their associated privacy policies are worthless and overriden by the activities of the US agencies and corporations.

A tin foil hat won’t help.