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Nationwide Debit Card Useless Abroad

Nationwide customers should be aware that Flex Account debit cards are useless when traveling outside Europe as the Nationwide automatically blocks the first transaction in any country outside Europe and it is not always possible to phone them to get the account unblocked – for example the phone numbers quoted on debit cards are likely to be out of date, and we are not adequately warned of such changes.

You can inform Nationwide that you are traveling outside Europe but the automated fraud detection system ignores this. This is not the case with other banks. The Nationwide has persistently refused to say in writing whether all such transactions abroad are blocked or not, in spite of the fact that we are constantly told over the phone and in branches there is nothing to worry about – there are new algorithms.  Our experience is sufficient to conclude that the first transaction in any country outside Europe will be blocked.

In the latest incident Nationwide’s message to the card holder was sent 12 and a half hours after the attempted transaction. It was a miracle he had enough cash, otherwise he would now be in a Miami jail having missed his flight home, he had to leave all his possessions with a restaurant while he found a bureau de change.

We ask as a minimum that the Nationwide admits publicly that using a debit card abroad is at best problematical, but we fail to see why their fraud detection algorithm cannot be altered so as to take note of what the customer has told them. We fail to see how this is unfair to some members as they claim. They are not listening.

Unlike the board of a bank which is at least answerable to its major shareholders, the Nationwide board, which is in theory answerable to members, would only listen if at least half of all members voted not to reappoint directors whose term had expired.

And by the way, prepaid money cards are not accepted by everyone; if you want to pay to change your flight details tough luck. You need another bank account or a credit card.

Voting Reform – Ten Million Signature Petition

Many of those campaigning for voting reform are hoping for a ‘progressive alliance’ of parties committed to voting reform and fighting the next election on that platform. Sadly I am pessimistic about this. Certainly in Dorset it does not appear that activist feel unable to set aside their narrow party allegiances. Also in Canada where the Liberal Party under Justinc Trudeau won power promising voting reform are now backing off reform as they see that First Past the Post had helped them to power. Parliament as a whole has to be convinced that the public just not trust them, and that without reform Britain will become a populist dictatorship.

As a start we need a petition signed by at least ten million people. Impossible? Perhaps not –  a government petition demanding  “…a rule that if the remain or leave vote is less than 60% based [sic] a turnout less than 75% there should be another referendum”, attracted over four million votes. The government was able to ignore that. We need ten million people who understand WHY we need reform.

Britain faces unprecedented challenges in the 21st century; we need to be united not divided. Under First Past the Post governments keep control by dividing us, misleading us, and indoctrinating us. We need a government that listens, and educates in the sense of leading us to think about the issues. We need  a voting system that does not merely ensure fair shares for parties, but puts people in control.

Reaching ten million people means seeking out people in whatever groups they meet Churches, WI, rotary, U3A, civic societies… It is going to be tough but let’s make it a New Year resolution to try. What are YOUR networks?

‘Fake News’ – Facebook Censorship

Facebook has added new tools to allow prevention of sharing of websites that are not approved of; at least that is claimed at http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-12-15/facebook-rolls-out-tools-curb-fake-news. The stated intention is to block out fake news which may mislead innocent readers. However such tools can, and I am sure will, be used to censor sites that try to tell the truth that ‘white listed’ mainstream sources avoid telling.

But is the zero hedge article itself a lie? One clue is that when last night (15 Dec 2016) I tried to share it on Facebook I was told it was not trusted and when I tried again I got in such a tangle that I had to get out of Facebook. So at least some of the tools that zero hedge allege exist, do in fact exist.

I reproduce the text of the zero hedge article below without warranting that it is true, but if it is it seems that Facebook itself will no longer be trusted for the dissemination of genuine news.

************************************************

“One month after Facebook revealed a seven point plan to eradicate “fake news”, Mark Zuckerberg has made good on his promise to strip Facebook of fake news stories, starting with a tool that allows users to flag anything they consider a hoax, as well as features that tweak Facebook’s news algorithm and provide more restrictions on advertising.

Facebook’s 1.8 billion users will now be able to click the upper right-hand corner of the post to flag content as fake news.

The first problem, however, immediately emerges because as NBC notes, “legitimate news outlets won’t be able to be flagged”, which then begs the question who or what is considered “legitimate news outlets”, does it include the likes of NYTs and the WaPos, which during the runup to the election declared on a daily basis, that Trump has no chance of winning, which have since posted defamatory stories about so-called “Russian propaganda news sites”, admitting subsequently that their source data was incorrect, and which many consider to be the source of “fake news”.

Also, just who makes the determination what is considered “legitimate news outlets.”

In any case, flagged stories – which really means any story that a readers disagrees with – will then be reviewed by Facebook researchers and sent on to third-party fact-checking organizations for further verification — or marked as fake.

Here too, one wonders how much good will checking will take place considering that these “researchers” will be bombarded with tens of thousands of flagged articles daily, until it ultimately become a rote move to simply delete anything flagged as flase by enough disgruntled readers, before moving on to the next article, while in the process not touching the narrative spun by the liberal “legitimate news outlets”, the ones who would jump at the opportunity to have dinner with Podesta in hopes of becoming Hillary Clinton’s public relations arm.

“We believe in giving people a voice and that we cannot become arbiters of truth ourselves, so we’re approaching this problem carefully,” Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s vice president of News Feed, said in a blog post. So, what Facebook will do, is give the voice to all those others who praise any article they agree with, and slam and flag as “fake news” antyhing they disagree with. At least no book burning will be involved.

The Facebook VP promised that “we’ve focused our efforts on the worst of the worst, on the clear hoaxes spread by spammers for their own gain, and on engaging both our community and third party organizations.”

Not only that, but Facebook’s algorithm that decides what gets the most prominence in News Feed, will also be tweaked, one would assume to give more prominence to the abovementioned “legitimate news oulets”… such as WaPo and the NYT.

How will the algo determine if a story is potentially fake? If a story is being read but not shared, Mosseri said that may be a sign it’s misleading. Which in turn means that clickbait articles are about to explode at the expense of deep-though, long-read pieces which the current generation of Facebook readers has no time for.

“We’re going to test incorporating this signal into ranking, specifically for articles that are outliers, where people who read the article are significantly less likely to share it,” he said.

It gets better: the next step in Facebook’s plan to rid the site of fake news involves sending flagged stories to third-party fact-checking organizations, which include Snopes, Politifact, and Factcheck.org, which as the recent election showed, are just as biased as the so-called “fake news” sites, however they cover their partiality under the cloak of being objective, which they conflate with being “factual.”

A group of Facebook researchers will initially have the responsibility of sifting through flagged stories and determining which ones to send to the fact-checking organizations. If it’s determined to be fake, the story will be flagged as disputed and include a link explaining why.

Then the punishment: flagged stories can still be shared, but readers will be warned in advance, and they’ll be more likely to appear lower in News Feed. These stories also won’t be able to be promoted or turned into advertisements.

* * *

Facebook’s bottom-line argument for engaging in soft censorship? Money.

While Facebook hopes these tools will be helpful, they’re also aiming to hit purveyors of fake news where it hurts — the pocketbook.

“Spammers make money by masquerading as well-known news organizations, and posting hoaxes that get people to visit to their sites, which are often mostly ads,” Mosseri said.

“On the buying side we’ve eliminated the ability to spoof domains, which will reduce the prevalence of sites that pretend to be real publications. On the publisher side, we are analyzing publisher sites to detect where policy enforcement actions might be necessary,” he said.

As a reminder, the Fake News theme reached a boiling point days after the election, when Zuckerberg said it was “pretty crazy” to think fake news could have influenced the election and warned Facebook “must be extremely cautious about becoming arbiters of truth.” Less than two weeks later, with the issue still simmering, Zuckerberg shared a more detailed account of projects he said were already underway to thwart the spread of misinformation.

While the narrative has since shifted to fake news following the disastrous WaPo report on “Russian Propaganda” outlets, which ultimately crushed the credibility of its author, and has been replaced with the “Putin hacked the election” narrative, the quiet push to silence non-compliant voices continues.

Amusingly, the team at Facebook has made it clear they don’t want censorship on the site and that these new tools are just part of the evolving process of combating misinformation. And yet, crowdsourced censorship is precisely what Facebook has just unrolled.

Ultimately, what will end up happening is that One half of Facebook users will flag what they read by one half the media as fake, and vice versa, while millions of users will simply leave the now censorship endorsing social network out of disgust.

Because, while we admire Zuckerberg’s initiative, there is one tried and true way to avoid the all the “fake news” on Facebook:…”

Reforming Parliament – another way?

The most popular proposal for the reform of parliament is to reform the voting system, but there is now a competing proposal – The Campaign for a Free Parliament (CFP) , http://freeparliament.org.uk/ ‘Free Parliament: a Campaign to Elect Indpendent MPs to Parliament’. It is funded by a reclusive Scottish multi-millionaire and endorsed by Lord Digby Jones.

On the 6 March 2016 the Independent reported, ‘A reclusive Scottish multi-millionaire industrialist, regarded as being on the right of UK politics, is the main money man behind the ambitious scheme to give £10,000  to 600 independents to fund an effective challenge to mainstream candidates in every constituency.’ http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/lord-digby-jones-millionaire-recluse-to-fund-disaffected-mps-in-the-next-general-election-a6915911.html . On 22 November a letter was sent to all MPs outlining CFP’s plans.

CFP aims to select an independent candidate for each constituency. There will be a national list of approved candidates who may then apply to a constituency for selection by open primary. Although they aim to replace general elections every five years with rolling elections, this can only happen when enough independent MPs are elected to get this enacted. Further, since (if they are successful)  the bulk of such MPs will have been elected at a general election, complicated arrangements for retiring some early would be required. They do not say what the term of office of an MP would be once general elections are abolished.

If all MPs were independent then ministers (including the PM) would be elected by Parliament.

In the Tooting by election in June 2016 the seat was won by Labour with 55% of the vote – although the result may have been influenced by the murder of Jo Cox – whereas Zia Samadani, endorsed by CFP, attracted just 0.1% of the vote. CFP have work to do in convincing people to vote for an independent. The BBC did not even mention his name.

Their proposals do address some problems such as the fact that mainstream parties making very similar and undeliverable promises. They should lead to more competent and honest government. Issues would be debated in parliament on their merits. Lobbying would of course continue, but it would be much more open as lobbyists would have to reach all MPs. However the promoters of the scheme do not seem to recognise the case for genuinely socialist policies, nor that some pretty radical policies are needed if the human race is to survive the threats developing in the 21st century. There is no indication that they need to question the current model of capitalism.

CFP say, “Although it is open for the candidates to express their preferences on a range of policies, their focus should be on setting out their qualifications, personal skills and any notable achievements to date. We strongly believe that policies should be decided in the debating chamber rather than touted for votes. In any event, an independent MP will only ever be able to get a policy implemented if a majority of his colleagues support and prioritise it. That said it will be open for any MP to propose a policy.” The danger is that all successful candidates will tend to follow the current orthodoxy, whereas at times it needs challenging.

They are opposed to proportional representation, which of course makes no sense if most MPs are independant. However they make no mention of ranked choice voting which would make sense in their primaries. Nor have they thought about the possibility that a natural community might be divided on a vital issue, and that more than one view should be represented in Parliament. Elections could be by Single Transfereable Vote in multi member constituencies.

All in all CFP have not thought everything through, but their ideas are worthy of study.

The Route to Voting Reform

Those of us who want voting reform for Westminster need to up our game somewhat. Firstly we need more signatures on the petitions, especially the official parliamentary one. Only 33,000 signatures so far though four and a half months to go. If the petition for a second vote on leaving the EU has attracted 4 million votes so far, we can do better. We do need to reach those who normally vote Conservative.

If arguments in terms of fairness to voters don’t work, what about attacking the competence of government? The Brexit shambles is a good case in point. For example it is clear that there is no common strategy amongst ministers. There should have been a contingency plan and work on this could have started in 2013. In addition the civil service does not have the numbers of people

The Guardian reported on Tuesday 22 November,

“The civil service will not be able to implement Brexit while carrying out its other duties after having been shrunk to its smallest size since the second world war, Bob Kerslake, a former Whitehall chief, has warned.

The former head of the civil service under David Cameron added to recent warnings that Whitehall was not sufficiently equipped to cope with the extra demands of leaving the EU.” https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/nov/22/civil-service-unable-to-cope-with-brexit-bob-kerslake.

More generally, one of the main arguments in support of First Past the Post is that it is ‘decisive’ in the sense that it produces single party government. The trouble with this is that either you get a government made up of like minded individuals who tend to make stupid decisions because of groupthink,  see https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/oct/11/new-ministers-stupid-ideas-conservative-politicians  (“All studies of group decision making shows that increasing diversity means decisions taken tend to be better quality, even though they take longer. This might mean cross-party groups should work through the details of new policy before it is released on the world.”) or in the case of the May government you have a crypto coalition united only by their wish to hold onto power, and who fail to resolve their differences constructively.

Having made the case for proportional representation in principle, by what process should a specific system be agreed upon? It is a bad principle to leave this to the government in power; MPs should not decide the means by which they are elected. However the last two referendums campaigns have hardly given voters reliable information on which to decide. The referendum should be preceded by some sort of deliberative process. In the case of New Zealand it was a Royal Commission,but could we trust a commission made up of the ‘great and the good’ in this country be trusted to be independent. The altenative is an assembly made up of ordinary people selected by lot, as has been tried in Canada.

Two Models of Politics

I compare two models of politics. The first is the current dysfunctional model that seems to be an inevitable consequence of the First Past the Post Voting system. The second is the model we must have in order to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

At present:

  • Winner takes all: the need for an effective opposition is given lip service only
  • Scum Rises to the Top: Only those MPs who put their own selfish interests above the public interest or the wishes of their constituents rise to ministerial office.
  • Power is an end in itself; glory in it! Forget the public good.
  • Do not question the current orthodoxy, however destructive; it works for the majority of MPs.
  • Most MPs don’t need evidence; they know what is right; they just have to shout it out loud enough and often enough.
  • The truth is only admissable when convenient to the government.
  • They do not care about people; just pretend to.
  • They can afford to ignore ordinary people most of the time; when they cannot they manipulate them.
  • Loyalty to party is all; they are happy for the whips to push them physically through the right lobby when they are confused.
  • Hubris is inevitable. Serious mistakes will be made.
  • Never apologise; it is a sign of weakness.

What We Need:

  • Executive power is granted by parliament only to the extent to which it is necessary.
  • Good legislation is the result of collaborative effort.
  • New ideas are essential; the current orthodoxy must always be challenged.
  • Evidence is key; it may be challenged but never ignored.
  • Disagreements should be openly acknowleged and used as a means of mutual learning.
  • Loyalty to those you represent should trump loyalty to party.
  • If you know you have got it wrong apologise.

A proportional voting system does not of itself bring about the necessary culture change, but it does make it possible.

The government’s handling of the EU in or out issue has been disastrous. It is very unlikely the the current mess could have arisen if a proportional voting system had been in operation.

When in 2013 Cameron committed himself to a referendum, he was not interested in the arguments for and against Brexit. he just ‘knew’ it was right to remain, and that he would win, thus getting the Brexiteers off his back. It did not occur to him to look at the extent of and reasons for support for UKIP as an indicator of the possible result. He did not anticipate the need to plan for a possible Brexit,  to define what Brexit might mean before formulating the referendum question, or to consider whether there should have been two referenda. This was the height of insanity, but noone challenged him. If we had had proportional voting system premature and rash commitments simply would not have been taken seriously.

But we have First Past the Post and so Mrs May was confronted with an impossible dilemma. Had she any democratic legitimacy, and had she publicly told Cameron in good time what an idiot he was, she could have roundly denounced Cameron and said the process was so flawed that it had to be repeated. But the Cameron government had been elected by First Past the Post on a minority of the popular vote, and the way that May emerged was hardly democratic, so she has been boxed into a corner. Politically she has to appease the Brexiteers. In so doing she has had to assume she can invoke Article 50 under the Royal Prerogative but now the high court has said she cannot!

First Past the Post by fostering a poisonous culture both within and outside parliament, has created deep divisions in society. Brexit has has worsened this. If the high court ruling is upheld it is unlikely that Brexit will happen, and Brexiteers will forever hate the the Remainers. If the ruling is overturned, then it is clear Britain can expect no mercy from Europeans, and will face Hard Brexit. The economy will suffer and those who admit to supporting Brexit will be hated and attacked. Either way the whole fabric of society is in danger. I hope those MPs who support First Past the Post for entirely selfish reasons are proud of the disaster they have created.

Labour and AntiSemitism

In view of accusations of antisemitism in the Labour Party. I thought it appropriate to draw attention to a finding of the 10th report (HC136) of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Published on 13 October 2016, on ‘Antisemitism in the UK’. available at: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/home-affairs-committee/
In the detail of the report the committee had to acknowledge that there is no evidence that Labout is any more antisemitic than any other party – see below for detail.
“Other political activity
120.
Despite significant press and public attention on the Labour Party, and a number of
revelations regarding inappropriate social media content, there exists no reliable, empirical
evidence to support the notion that there is a higher prevalence of antisemitic attitudes
within the Labour Party than any other political party. We are unaware whether efforts
to identify antisemitic social media content within the Labour Party were applied equally
to members and activists from other political parties, and we are not aware of any polls
exploring antisemitic attitudes among political party members, either within or outside
the Labour Party. The current impression of a heightened prevalence of antisemitism
within in the Labour Party is clearly a serious problem, but we would wish to emphasise
that this is also a challenge for other parties.
121.
A representative YouGov poll carried out in May 2016 found that Labour voters were
no more likely than voters from other parties to express antisemitic attitudes, with UKIP
voters demonstrating the highest levels of antisemitism.
179
As outlined earlier in this
report, a survey of British Jewish people found that almost half of respondents felt that the
Green Party is too tolerant of antisemitism (compared with 87% in relation to the Labour
Party), 43% think the same of UKIP, 40% of the SNP, and over a third in relation to the
Liberal Democrats.
180
122.
Other political parties have not been immune to accusations of antisemitism, albeit
apparently with a smaller number of reported incidents, and with a lower profile. In April
2015, a Conservative candidate for Derby Council was expelled from her Party after she
said she would never support “the Jew” Ed Miliband.
181
In August 2014, the University
College London (UCL) Union investigated the university’s Conservative Society after it was
accused of creating a “toxic environment”, with one member reported to have said “Jews
own everything, we all know it’s true. I wish I was Jewish, but my nose isn’t long enough”.
Media reports suggest that the incident was never investigated by the Conservative Party,
182
but it is unclear whether it was ever referred to the Party, and questions have subsequently
been raised about the veracity of the complaint.
123.
A former Conservative Councillor who defected to the Liberal Democrats after losing
his seat, Matthew Gordon Banks, was suspended from his new Party in September after
writing on Twitter that “[Tim] Farron’s leadership campaign was organised and funded by
London Jews”, adding in a second tweet: “I tried to work with them. Very difficult.”

 

There is a very powerful Jewish lobby that insists that any criticism of Israel is antisemitic, although this lobby does not represent all Jews either inside or outside Israel.