After the success with the improvised stream yesterday, we’re at it again today! The OKFestival 2014 keynotes now broadcasting live.
I’m currently broadcasting OK Festival here, because the wifi in the room is not working and hence I have needed to improvise. Here is the stream:
So how am I doing it?
The film is from the phone camera on my iPhone 4S. Bambuser drains the battery quite fast, so my phone is connected to my Solarmonkey Adventurer Battery Charger to keep it at 100%, and the phone is mounted on a GripTight GorillaPod.
And that’s about it!
So Juncker is now certain. 26-2 in the Council, 422 of 751 in the European Parliament. I have analysed the High Rep and President of the European Council positions at the LSE EUROPP blog here. But who has been nominated by the 27 other countries? (Luxembourg’s Commissioner is Juncker)
Bulgaria – Kristalina Georgieva(?) (f) – Wikipedia, News Story. Wants: Juncker apparently wants her for High Rep. If this is possible Bulgaria could renominate her. If not then renomination not certain. Party: EPP
Cyprus - Christos Stylianides(?) (m) –
Wikipedia, News Story. Wants: unknown. Status of the nomination also currently unclear. Party:
Denmark – not yet known. Hedegaard will not continue as the government has changed since her nomination, but candidate names are not yet known. [UPDATE: 15.7.14, 1900 - Berlingske reports, in Danish, Christine Antorini and Mette Gjerskov are in the frame - thanks @jacobchr on Twitter]
Greece – unlikely to be Damanaki again. But who could it be? No news at time of writing.
Netherlands – Jeroen Dijsselbloem(?) (m) – Wikipedia, News Story. Wants: something senior and economic. Details sketchy as to if he is indeed a nominee. Name of Timmermans also in the frame for High Rep. Party: PES
Portugal – no names yet known. Barroso will not continue. EPP member party will nominate.
Slovenia – has just held a snap election. No names yet known.
Sweden – with a Swedish general election on 14th September, the Swedish situation remains open. Renomination of Cecilia Malmström (f) (ALDE) is not out of the question.
At the moment there are only 4 female nominees. Kroes’s demand of 10 or more looks some way off! The entire Commission team has to be approved by the European Parliament after hearings, and by the European Council. The team should be agreed by the autumn.
LSE EUROPP | The next President of the European Council and High Representative for Foreign Affairs: a final look at the candidates
A summary by me for LSE EUROPP of the EU top jobs to be decided at the European Council on 16th July.
Beijing is a city known for its bikes. Despite the Chinese obsession with the car, and the city’s smog problem, cycling still seems to work quite well in China’s capital city. Most large streets have cycle paths on the sides, used by regular cyclists and a variety of transport cycles. This blog post documents my impressions of this cycle culture.
This is the standard Chinese city bicycle. Upright stance, no gears, and a type of hub brake mounted on the opposite side from the chain at the back.
I have just returned from 10 days spent in Beijing. One day the friend there I was staying with and I planned a trip to the Great Wall of China, and decided to make the journey to Shanhaiguan, 300km east of Beijing, where the wall meets the sea for a day trip. The information available online in English about this part of the wall is sketchy at best (this is the best there is), so hence I am writing this blog entry to help out other independent travellers making the trip in future. Data is correct as of June 2014.
Our trip covered First Pass under Heaven, Laolongtou and Jiumenkou, each of which is covered in more depth below. Continue Reading
So I am in China for a week. I will write about the wider politics of the place when my time here draws to a close, but for now I will focus on just one aspect: what China’s block on Google tells us… about our use of Google.
China blocked access to Google services before the 25th anniversary of the Tian’anmen uprising, and it seems that things have not improved since. On my laptop I can access no Google services through my web browser at all. The only thing that works is Gmail via IMAP (web interface is also blocked). Twitter and Facebook are also blocked, but I do not actually need those as urgently, or they are not as central needs. Dropbox not working is a pain, but for a week I can live without it, as I use it mostly for my own files anyway.
So I can live without Google Search, right? Indeed that’s actually the easiest part. I have added DuckDuckGo to my browser and it works fine. Bing.com is just about passable if I need it. The interesting thing here is how I have become so used to browser address bar search – after years of doing just that, going to a website for search felt really odd.
The next challenge was maps. I have used nothing but Google Maps for a good few years, so what’s the best bet for a replacement? Turns out that the search on Bing Maps is rubbish unless you use the Chinese characters. So here Apple Maps (and indeed the Maps app in Mac OS that I’d even forgotten existed) has turned out to be a fair substitute.
Then what about calendars? I use Google Calendars for a bunch of collaborative projects (I don’t use these for my own use), so those I will have to live without for now. Were I to be in China more often I would have to find an alternative, as would businesses doing China – non China collaborations.
Then, to my surprise, there is Google’s Font APIs that are increasingly heavily used, even in open source software – including WordPress that powers this blog. Yes, pages will load without these fonts, but browsers keep on trying to load the APIs, and slow down the loading of pages.
Last but not least, and rather central when in China as I do not speak Mandarin, is Google Translate, which is also built into my browser. Baidu’s translation tool is useless as its interface is just in Mandarin (unless I am missing something), so Pons is basically my only option.
So the conclusion is this: while Google makes the argument that provision of web services is a free market, and that anyone can switch to alternatives, we nevertheless find ourselves so dependent on Google as a matter of habit that those habits are damned hard to break.
I am not a fan of Jean Claude Juncker, the person and the politician. I am a lefty, he is a christian democrat, and he – ideologically – stands for a future of the European Union that I, as an individual person, do not agree with. Yet I am also an advocate of EU-wide democracy, and as the European Peoples Party ended up as the largest after the European Parliament elections, Juncker ought to become President of the European Commission. In a democracy you sometimes end up on the losing side.
The problem is that the opposition to Juncker in the UK does not take this form.
The argument runs that Juncker is not in favour of British views of ‘reform’ of the EU (whatever that means), and hence should be opposed, and indeed the very future of the UK’s membership of the EU could be called into question were Juncker to succeed. This is the sort of argument, with no irony, that was defended by Adam Nathan on Twitter this afternoon and prompted this blog entry:
— Adam Nathan (@eubetter) June 15, 2014
— Adam Nathan (@eubetter) June 15, 2014
— Jon Worth (@jonworth) June 15, 2014
Essentially there is just one legitimate pro-Europeanism in the UK according to this line of argument. There is the “British national interest is in being in the EU” line, which is the very essence of the comms of British Influence, the organisation Nathan used to work for. This is also the reason why Labour’s opposition to Juncker sounds exactly the same as Cameron’s.
Basically there is only one way to be pro-EU in the UK at the moment. This is that the European Union is a battle of national interests (i.e. it is intergovernmental), and the reason to be in favour of the UK in the EU is that UK membership assists British business, and everyone ought to be in favour of that. This is the sort of line that every pro-EU British politician would make – from Chuka Umunna through the Liberal Democrats to Ken Clarke. Such a view of the European Union has no place for a difference of ideology within the European Union, and nor does it have any time or respect for the European Parliament, as that might actually take ideologically-driven rather than national-interest motivated decisions.
All of this worries me with a possible referendum on the horizon on the UK’s membership of the European Union. There must be multiple ways to be able to be a British pro-EU person – to be a social democratic European, a green European, a conservative European, a liberal European… and to be able to be a British passport holding European. To put it another way there are different, perhaps contradictory, ways to be in favour of the EU. It’s high time this was understood in the UK!