Link blog: brexit, law, court, prerogative

Charles I, Brexit and the Royal Prerogative
A Queen’s Counsel on recent court decision and the royal prerogative. The post has the QC who wrote it answering questions: it sounds like the Government’s referendum leaflets promised something they didn’t have the power to deliver without Parliament’s approval.
(tags: brexit law court prerogative)
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Link blog: development, C, testing, money

cmocka – unit testing framework for C
Nifty unit test framework which does the checking arguments and providing return values from stub/mocked functions which I tend to spend a bit of time re-creating each time I write a test.
(tags: test development programming testing unit-test C)
What cohabiting couples can to do put their financial house in order | Money | The Guardian
(tags: cohabitation finances will legal law money)
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Link blog: politics, problematic, clapping, gchq

Satanists want to use Hobby Lobby decision to exempt women from anti-abortion laws
This is win. Hail Satan, and His only Son, Harry Potter.
(tags: satanism abortion law)
Harry Connick Jr & French Rhythm Accents – YouTube
Harry Connick Jr sorts out the audience’s clapping (from 1&3 to 2&4). Can you spot how? Genius.
(tags: music clapping afterbeat)
Between the Hammer and the Anvil: On Countering The Ukip Cri-de-Colon
Author shares my frustration that Labour apparently has no balls: “Every unchallenged Question Time assertion that people aren’t allowed to talk about the topics that they are themselves talking about on national television at that very moment. Every word from the party’s self-appointed detectors of the legitimate feelings of thick-headed bellends. All of it has been leading to precisely this point, at which politicians explicitly talking about sending them back are seen as engaging in respectable conjecture, and posting a picture on the internet is a sackable offence.”
(tags: ukip politics immigration racism labour)
Why Are All The Good Guys Always Taken, Gay, Dead, Or Available? | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source
“When you finally do come across one of the good guys out there, why does it always turn out that he’s either taken, gay, dead, or available?” Via Phil.
(tags: dating funny parody onion)
“Everything is problematic” | The McGill Daily
“Perhaps the most deeply held tenet of a certain version of anti-oppressive politics – which is by no means the only version – is that members of an oppressed group are infallible in what they say about the oppression faced by that group. … Let me give an example. A gay person is typically much better acquainted with homophobia than a straight person. Moreover, a gay person has a much greater stake in what society does about homophobia, so their view on the matter is more important. However, there is nothing about the experience of being gay in itself that enlightens a gay person about the ethics of sexual orientation. To take a dead simple case, you don’t have to hear it from a gay person to know that homosexuality is ethically just fine.”
(tags: politics feminism activism culture rationality problematic)
Top Level Telecommunications: INCENSER, or how NSA and GCHQ are tapping internet cables
Cornwall is the centre of GCHQ/NSA’s taps on undersea cables. This blog post puts the picture together from a bunch of sources. Via Bruce Schneier.
(tags: gchq cornwall cable interception nsa undersea)
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Link blog: intrade, business, betting, prediction

The Fall Of Intrade And The Business Of Betting On Real Life
“There’s always been a thin line between investing and gambling, and one firm turned the concept into a multimillion-dollar industry until the government shut it down. As number crunchers like Nate Silver become cultural touchstones, how does Intrade’s fate predict the future of how we process the world?”
(tags: prediction gambling intrade law business betting markets elections)
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Solicitor in Cambridge for deposit dispute with former landlord

Can anyone recommend one? One of those free 1 hour consultations would be nice.

Also, if anyone’s got any experience in taking action to get your deposit back, I’d welcome the benefit of your experience. I’m not going to give details in a public forum, but you can get in touch privately (paul AT noctua.org.uk or Facebook PM me or something) if you want to get into specifics.

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Link blog: sound, cow, dmca, copyright

Striking Back Against Censorship — Blog — WordPress.com
WordPress files suit against two people who misused the provisions of the USA’s Digital Millenium Copyright Act to suppress speech about them they don’t like. Bravo to WordPress, though as the miscreants are in the UK and India, I’m not sure how much good a California court will do.
(tags: wordpress dmca copyright law legal censorship)
Find the Invisible Cow
cow cow cow cow COW COW COWCOWCOW!
(tags: games sound cow funny)
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Link blog: politics, law, privacy, nsa

The mandatory tweets of the self-righteous vacillating centrist stats bore: a user’s guide – Telegraph Blogs
"Sit back with a look of superiority on your face." Tee hee. I think I’ve probably used some of these (though not on Twitter of course, that’s for twits).
(tags: argument twitter funny)
A plea for politeness; or, a call for kindness | Slave of the Passions
"politeness is something you owe to me not in virtue of my natural superiority over you, but in virtue of our equality. You should be polite to me, not in deference to my authority, but in recognition of our shared humanity, according to which I, like you, am a human being with feelings, weaknesses and frustrations; I am vulnerable and capable of being hurt, just as you are." But are people who are systematically better off than others as vulnerable?
(tags: argument politeness privilege philosophy)
Feds Threaten To Arrest Lavabit Founder For Shutting Down His Service | Techdirt
If you shut down your email service rather than giving the US government a back door, they’ll threaten to arrest you.
(tags: law politics nsa email encryption privacy lavabit)
Glenn Greenwald’s partner detained at Heathrow airport for nine hours
"David Miranda, partner of Guardian interviewer of whistleblower Edward Snowden, questioned under Terrorism Act." This is why we don’t permit laws which allow people to be held for long periods without charge, even if the laws are ostensibly about fighting "terrorism". There’s no way that the UK authorities can seriously think Miranda is a terrorist. Via Metafilter, where they’re speculating that the US and UK are spooked because they don’t know what Snowden has actually got.
(tags: law politics terrorism nsa spying heathrow privacy edward-snowden glenn-greenwald gchq)
Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation
"I am an independent Q.C. and not part of the government machine. I am tasked with reviewing the operation of the United Kingdom’s anti-terrorism laws. Where I am critical, I recommend change. My reports and recommendations are submitted to ministers and laid before Parliament." Interesting blog posts and reports on the police use of their anti-terrorism powers.
(tags: law politics terrorism police)
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Link blog: art, spying, nsa, argument

Arguments From My Opponent Believes Something | Slate Star Codex
1. Argument From My Opponent Believes Something, Which Is Kinda Like Believing It On Faith, Which Is Kinda Like Them Being A Religion: “The high priests of the economic orthodoxy take it on faith that anyone who doubts the market is a heretic who must be punished.”
(tags: argument belief debate epistemology)
Skeptics shouldn’t have lined up with the Mail to call Psychic Sally a fraud
"The great pity about the legal battle between the Daily Mail and ‘Psychic’ Sally Morgan was that somebody had to win." You’re not a sceptic if you call someone a fraud without evidence
(tags: libel law sally-morgan evidence scepticism daily-mail psychic fraud)
Twelve Tones – YouTube
30 minutes of video (hand drawn pictures in time to the narration) and music on finding patterns and 12 tone music. Worth a watch/listen. Via AB on Google+.
(tags: music pattern stravinsky chromatic art vi-hart video)
Schneier on Security: The Office of the Director of National Intelligence Defends NSA Surveillance Programs
"Here’s a transcript of a panel discussion about NSA surveillance. There’s a lot worth reading here, but I want to quote Bob Litt’s opening remarks. He’s the General Counsel for ODNI, and he has a lot to say about the programs revealed so far in the Snowden documents."
(tags: terrorism nsa spying leaks privacy security prism)
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Dis-recommendation: VIP Catamaran cruise in Cyprus

We went to Cyprus for a week recently. While there, we went on a “VIP Catamaran” trip which was sold to us by the holiday company, Thomson. Unfortunately, it wasn’t what we’d been lead to think it would be by Thomson’s advertising. Thomson’s response hasn’t been very good, as you’ll see. If anyone has any ideas about what to do about this, I’d be glad to hear them.

A web search shows that Thomson have had complaints going back to 2006 about the number of people on the trip. I wish we’d found that before we booked. I hope I’ve got some Google juice and that’ll mean more people find this and consider whether the trip is worth the money.

All aboard

The advertising said that “numbers are strictly limited, so there’s plenty of room to sunbathe on the rigging nets” and “there’s room to stretch out”. It also said “there’s snorkelling gear and canoes too”. The accompanying photograph shows a fairly sparsely populated boat.

What you actually get is a coachload (I’d say at least 50 people) on a boat which certainly doesn’t have room to fit everyone on the nets. The people who get off the coach and to the boat first get those and stick their towels on them. The rear half of the boat has a shaded area with some tables, so we sat at one of those. Someone nearby started smoking. We moved. A whole bunch of people near where we moved to chain smoked through the trip. By then other people had expanded into the space we’d been sat in before. So we got treated to a nice bit of passive smoking, as well as ash blowing onto our clothes and towels. I’d guess we were one of the few, if not the only, non-smoking groups on there. We couldn’t have expected everyone not to smoke, but the density of people on there meant we couldn’t get a space away from it.

The canoes turned out to be 2 canoes. The crew told people to share them, but this wasn’t very realistic given the number of people on the boat and the duration of the swimming stops.

They also play pretty loud dance music during the portion of the cruise when the sail isn’t up.

By the end of it we were fuming at having paid 70 quid each for the privilege of being in a nightclub before the smoking ban came in.

Customer service

We were glad to get back to the shore. That evening, we saw Chris, the Thomson rep, at the Sunrise Pearl hotel, and told him we weren’t happy with the way the trip had been sold and we wanted a refund. As soon as he heard we wanted a refund, he began to stonewall. He said that a refund was not available as we’d had the trip. We pointed out that it was impossible to get off until the end of the trip. He told us that we couldn’t expect the boat to have the same number of people on it as the photograph, and that he hadn’t mentioned numbers in his presentation on the excursions (which he gave when we arrived). He said that “I said there were canoes and there were canoes”. I told him I’d blog about this, and I’m as good as my word (unlike Thomson, alas).

Chris said he’d investigate our claims the following day. When we went back the next evening, he said he’d spoken to some people on the trip from other hotels, who had been perfectly happy with it. When we asked what the extra money for the “VIP” cruise was for (when compared with the other catamaran excursion), he said it was for the open bar and better food, but didn’t mention the extra space and “more relaxed” stuff mentioned in the Thomson advertising. His investigation hadn’t gone as far as actually finding out how many people had been on the boat that day. When we told him that we weren’t happy with his lack of concern, he offered us a bottle of wine. We initially accepted it but later that evening rejected it as it’d have to go in our hold luggage on the flight the next day, and we didn’t want it to break. (I also wasn’t sure whether accepting it would prejudice a future claim for our money back).

When we asked what the official complaint procedure was (but only when we asked), he filled in a web form. As a result, I got an email telling me that “My team are fully trained and empowered to resolve your complaint and I hope you’re satisfied with the outcome and that we’ve taken every step to resolve it fully. If you feel this isn’t the case, then please review the solution with your Holiday Advisor as we will not contact you again about this matter.” Super.

Now what?

As a result of this, we won’t be buying from Thomson again. It’s a shame as the hotel was really good, but there are other good hotels. In these straitened times, I’m quite surprised the company thinks they can get away with service like this.

I’m not inclined to let this drop. If anyone knows what our options might be at this point, I’d be interested to hear them. I’m aware that the Advertising Standards Authority might take an interest, that I might have some recourse because I bought the trip on a credit card (although it may be complicated by the fact that Thomson were acting as agents for the company who ran the cruise, whose name is on the credit card receipt), and that we might be able to use the Small Claims Court (though I’m not sure whether they have jurisdiction as we bought the trip in Cyprus). Anyone dealt with anything like this before? What’s my next move here?

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