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Newspaper Crowdsources 700,000-Page Investigation of MP Expenses

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the would-like-to-see-this-for-the-us-federal-budget dept.

Government 188

projector writes with an interesting project from the UK: "The Guardian are crowd-sourcing the investigation of 700,000 pages of UK MPs' expenses data. Readers are being invited to categorize each document, transcribe the handwritten expenses details into an online form and alert the newspaper if any claims merit further investigation. 'Some pages will be covering letters, or claim forms for office stationery. But somewhere in here is the receipt for a duck island. And who knows what else may turn up. If you find something which you think needs further attention, simply hit the button marked "investigate this!" and we'll take a closer look.'"

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188 comments

Power to the people! (4, Interesting)

rvw (755107) | more than 4 years ago | (#28386837)

Do I need to say more?

m0d d03n (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28386875)

suck my dick /. !!!

Re:Power to the people! (5, Insightful)

jabithew (1340853) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387111)

Hardly. This is a set of expenses paid for by the taxpayers, and we have also had to pay to have it censored before it was released. Ostensibly this was for privacy, but it was more likely to hide the shame of our MPs. Some of the most unforgivable expenses-laundering (flipping the status of primary and secondary residences to avoid capital gains tax and to gain a property portfolio at our expense) is hidden in the official release. In the meantime the Telegraph got a hold of the unredacted claims a month before now through a leak.

Also, the Guardian's claim that there's a receipt for a duck-house in there is false, as that claim was rejected and no rejected claims have been released officially. Arguably this is no great omission, but to see what MPs have tried and failed to claim for illuminates their sense of entitlement.

I cheated and RTFA. (5, Informative)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387591)

"Also, the Guardian's claim that there's a receipt for a duck-house in there is false, as that claim was rejected and no rejected claims have been released officially."

The Guardian doesn't make that claim, the summary does. The Gaurdian actually backs up your statement that it was rejected...

"...he admitted claiming £1,645 for a floating "duck island" in his garden...[snip]...a claim for a floating duck island designed to protect his ducks from foxes. This was rejected by the Commons authorities."

I know this isn't the point.... (3, Insightful)

ammit (1485755) | more than 4 years ago | (#28386855)

But I'm pretty sure that almost ANYONE in their shoes would have done the same...it's called the human condition. You are given the power to abuse something and you think nobody will notice....so you do. Flame away but i probably would have.

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (5, Insightful)

uglyduckling (103926) | more than 4 years ago | (#28386879)

Yup, and the job of those who oversee and regulate these things is to prevent abuse, so that the same rules that apply when I fill out my tax forms apply to the people that devise the laws that underpin that tax form.

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (2, Insightful)

ammit (1485755) | more than 4 years ago | (#28386915)

There is a saying "who will guard the guards". Nobody apparently.

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (5, Funny)

seyyah (986027) | more than 4 years ago | (#28386963)

There is a saying "who will guard the guards". Nobody apparently.

The Guardian guards the guards apparently.

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28387187)

It seems "The Guardian" is trying to do its best. Any insightful limeys care to divulge, whether The Guardian is the pillar of justice and righteousness I'm inclined to believe? How big a paper is it? Someone from the UK once told me your elections will go whichever way The Sun wants them to go...

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387281)

Apparently the Guardian is the one read by people who think they should run the country http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGscoaUWW2M [youtube.com]

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (0)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387405)

That clip dates from the Thatcher government.

The Guardian readers who thought they should run the country then, came into power in 1997, and are now busy self-destructing.

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (5, Informative)

91degrees (207121) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387339)

It's one of the more reputable newspapers in Britain. Has a moderate left wing stance and a well educated readership.

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (1, Interesting)

owlnation (858981) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387801)

It's one of the more reputable newspapers in Britain. Has a moderate left wing stance and a well educated readership.

That depends on your political perception. It is registered as supporting the Labour Party. The same Labour Party that is doing the redacting here. Their "outrage" at the censorship, may just be spin. While there's been minor criticisms of the Government in the past, they are the Government's lone supportive voice in the media (other than much of the BBC).

It's very likely that the crowd doing their sourcing, are Labour Party members, or supporters. I doubt very much anyone else reads the Guardian.

On the other hand, they've been lagging so far behind the Telegraph for years in readership, and the Telegraph has completely owned the whole expenses debacle. So it may be that they are trying to look relevant and investigative, long after the fact. A save our skins attempt to generate sales.

They are, of course, not the only news source looking at this, and it is important to have balance and all points of view in this. But trusting the Guardian solely with the truth would be very foolish indeed.

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (4, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387935)

That depends on your political perception. It is registered as supporting the Labour Party. The same Labour Party that is doing the redacting here.

Maybe their online presence is different, but I subscribe to the Guardian's RSS feed and in recent months they've been much more harsh on the current government than I would have been. They've also been running articles claiming that the Labour party has abandoned its roots and the people it is supposed to represent. Maybe they are supporting the Labour Party in the abstract, but they certainly aren't supporting the current Labour leadership; even the BBC has been more moderate in their attacks on the government, and attacking the government is practically the official hobby of the BBC.

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (2, Informative)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387387)

The best way to characterise The Guardian is by attempting to characterise its readership. The Guardian once bundled a poster by one of their cartoonists Posy Simmonds, which had charicatures of the various archetypes -- the social science academic with his beard and wooly sweater, the New Labourite in a suit, the muesli eating sandal wearer, the earnest social worker, etc.

For a while the term 'Guardianista' has been used, in a gently mocking tone.

I'm pretty faithful to the paper. Although it's stuck with New Labour as they shamelessly drifted to the right, it's still (what I would call) moderate-left at its heart, and has its share of columnists who keep the faith.

It's funded by a trust, so it's meant to be independant of owner interests. It was the first paper to appoint a Reader's Editor.. it's generally good stuff.

Readership is low compared to the big hitters, but it's mainstream enough that you'll find a copy in any newsagent.

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (0, Troll)

ammit (1485755) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387431)

I think the proper response to this is "fuck you".

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (0)

ammit (1485755) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387499)

Not a troll, just British and irritated by posts by anon TROLLS calling us Limeys. Seeing as I started this thread, I think you put the troll mod in the WRONG place!

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (2, Interesting)

jabithew (1340853) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387569)

No newspaper is a pillar of justice and righteousness. The Guardian may be closer to a pillar of hypocrisy [order-order.com] and leftiousness, but it does report actual news in an accurate and fairly even-handed manner. I tend to swing between the Guardian and the Telegraph depending on the front page, though I wouldn't sign up to the stance of either. I can stomach either as long as I avoid the editorials*.

Having said that, the Guardian does employ Polly Toynbee, a typical champagne socialist [order-order.com] , and a hypocrite to boot [youtube.com] **.

In terms of size, the Guardian is the third biggest of what used to be called the broadsheets and you could consider as the real newspapers. The most popular is the Telegraph, but the Sun has ten times the readership at about 8million readers. The Guardian is on about 1/20th of that.

*The Guardian; 'All these capitalists are stealing money from the workers by avoiding tax! This is evil! Unless we're doing it!'
The Telegraph; 'The problem with young people is that too many of them are immigrants and none of them are whipped enough, what?'
**Please don't misconstrue this as support of Littlejohn. A stopped clock is right twice a day etc etc.

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (2, Interesting)

siloko (1133863) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387173)

. . . and the job of those who oversee and regulate these things is to prevent abuse

Actually not. The office responsible for overseeing MP's expense claims actually saw it as their job to ensure that Members maximised their income within the stated rules. Most of what has happened happened under advice from the guards - they were guarding MP's interests not those of the taxpayer.

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (1, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#28386891)

This is exactly the reason why campaign contributions and contributors should be made public.

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387227)

Why does this have anything to do with campaign contributions or contributors? A guy attempted to get reimbursed for his normal living expenses and luxury items around the home and got called on it. The article isn't claiming he did that to get funding for anything thing.

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (5, Insightful)

routerl (976394) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387011)

But I'm pretty sure that almost ANYONE in their shoes would have done the same...it's called the human condition. You are given the power to abuse something and you think nobody will notice....so you do. Flame away but i probably would have.

Categorize this as flaming if you wish, but that is exactly the kind of reasoning unscrupulous people use to justify continuing violation of moral and legal conventions. Other variations include but are not limited to "don't hate the player, hate the game" and "screw or be screwed". All amount to the same thing, and all are inexcusable. Believe it or not, the majority of people entrusted with power over the lives of others live up to the minimal expectation that this trust will not be broken. The word that describes this is integrity, and no amount of fallacious reasoning will erase the fact that you lack it.

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (1, Interesting)

ammit (1485755) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387579)

No I don't categorise it as flaming and I do agree to an extent with what you say. I'd rather that having not ever met me you would refrain from telling me which traits I do and do not possess. You can dress things up any way you wish but what SHOULD and DOES happen are seperate things, I'm not saying I would have claimed for a set of Chanel scatter cushions here, I'm just trying to be realist rather than idealist (as you seem to be). You are entirely right with what you say, but it simply does not and will not change the fact that this is reality, deal with it.

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (2, Insightful)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387623)

You are entirely right with what you say, but it simply does not and will not change the fact that this is reality, deal with it.

People like you are the justification for the behavior of countries like North Korea. When someone else deals with it for you, you never end up liking it in the end...

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (1)

ammit (1485755) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387687)

Seriously....do you think I'm sitting here saying "yeah people are assholes so what's the point, i'll be one too". "people like me" - I suppose that it all down to your self righteous assumption of me then isn't it.

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28387765)

You are entirely right with what you say, but it simply does not and will not change the fact that this is reality, deal with it.

This will probably be dealt with in 2010. Unfortunately, that will probably put the fucking tories into power.

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (1)

pacinpm (631330) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387631)

Believe it or not, the majority of people entrusted with power over the lives of others live up to the minimal expectation that this trust will not be broken. The word that describes this is integrity, and no amount of fallacious reasoning will erase the fact that you lack it.

I guess you have never heard of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_prison_experiment [wikipedia.org] .

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (3, Insightful)

anarchyboy (720565) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387029)

Except for the large number of MPs that didn't claim for everything under the sun. So apparently not everyone would have or did feel the need to steal everything that isn't bolted down.

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (1)

ammit (1485755) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387563)

I wasn't talking about to what degree they were claiming, merely making the point that the human condition largely dictates people will take advantage when they can. I believe this is actually a trait of every species.

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (1)

anarchyboy (720565) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387597)

My point was that not everyone took advantage, it may be human nature to a certain degree but as people we can still make choices and some people choose not to take advantage of the system and some people did. People should not be able to say "oh but its human nature" to get away with acting like a dick.

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (1)

ammit (1485755) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387637)

That's not what I'm saying - I'm not excusing them or anyone for being a dick. I'm just making the point that you have to be realistic, can you ever TRULY trust anyone. You only have to look at the scenario with Catholic priests for goodness sake, if priests can rape children then I hardly think what is happening with our government is suprising at all.

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (2, Interesting)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387065)

I can honestly say I wouldn't. I became a civil servant because *gasp* I actually enjoy being of service to others. I heartily recommend it; the pay is decent and you get the Queen's birthday off.

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (2, Interesting)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387067)

I'm pretty sure that almost ANYONE in their shoes would have done the same

Which is why we shouldn't be electing just anyone, but testing their ethics and wisdom etc. at least, or better yet, not electing representatives at all.

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (2, Interesting)

SquirrelsUnite (1179759) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387347)

But I'm pretty sure that almost ANYONE in their shoes would have done the same...it's called the human condition. You are given the power to abuse something and you think nobody will notice....so you do. Flame away but i probably would have.

I doubt almost everybody, but yeah a lot of people would. Which just makes it even more important not to let them get away with it. So that you and everybody else will think twice in the same situation.

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (1)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387429)

I think it's more that in certain circles it became so endemic that people thought it was normal and allowed.

In a sense, people felt as if the expenses system was a perk to go with their salary - like a company car or a healthcare package.

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (3, Insightful)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387491)

Flame away but i probably would have.

Would have what?

Claimed 39p for a Mars Bar - or continued to claim hundreds of pounds a month for interest on a mortgage that no longer existed? Claimed that you needed to subscribe to such-and-such magazine as part of your job, or played complex second home/primary residence "flipping" shenanigans in order to get both nicely tricked out at taxpayers' expense - but then tell a different story to the revenue when it came to capital gains tax?

Thing is, when the Telegraph got their original leaked, uncensored information, they did a masterful job of padding out the really serious stuff with lots of trivia. What you say is true of much of the trivia - if you can claim it, why not? But the big money stuff is not excusable.

Bear in mind that this is the same administration that is putting out the "No Ifs, No Buts" adverts telling the "little people" claiming state benefit exactly how hard the book will be thrown at them if they are not scrupulously honest.

The annoying thing is that the fallout from this is probably going to be a bureaucracy-laden system that costs the taxpayers 100 quid for every 50 quid claimed and lots of silly regulations that will trickle down to everybody else who ever claims expenses.

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (1)

ammit (1485755) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387541)

My point is that people DO abuse systems - to what degree is not what I was discussing. No I wouldn't have claimed or a mars bar or committed mass fraud, but i might have taken the piss a tiny bit. I should use the anon button more, clearly.

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (3, Insightful)

fedtmule (614169) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387549)

I am with you on this one. Especially, since the bad behavior had decades to build up. What I do not get, is why the British don't just pay the MPs a fixed amount for the expense of maintaining an extra home. If they use less, they stuff it untaxed in their pocket. If they use more, they take it nondeductible from their pocket. Seems fair to me. After all, if you want your second home to be a small castle, should you not pay for it yourself? I have heard about this case, only from our local reporters (a live in Denmark, Scandinavia) and they talked of different remedies proposed. And all I could here, was more and more bureaucracy. And sure, in the beginning this is going to work. Especially, since politicians are scared shirtless now. But in 30-40 years, when the case is almost forgotten and the bureaucrats have gotten lazy, they are going to have similar scandal again.

Re:I know this isn't the point.... (1)

khakipuce (625944) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387887)

Thing is they should have had the political balls to pay them selves a salary comensurate with their (percieved) status rather than hiding it in expenses - it was bound to catch them out sooner or later. However sucessive governments have failed to up the salaries, and to compensate they have made the expenses system increasingly lax.

That way if we thought they paid themselves too much we could vote them out at the next election, personally I don't mind them getting similar average salaries to that of professionals (doctors, lawyers, etc) and I think it is important that we encourage people with real careers to move into the politcail system.

Like I said, they should have had the guts to win the argument over salaries rather than trying to hide it

This bodes well (1, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#28386877)

Two things about crowdsourcing:

1) It is terribly efficient.

2) It solicits input from the public.

Interestingly enough, neither of those are directly related to truth.

Re:This bodes well (2, Insightful)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387273)

The efficiency can be negated by an attack of tagging for further investigations.

This is especially true if the object is to stall for time,- Lets say to keep the results hidden until after the election. It also carries the problem of the people/public getting bored waiting for results. American politicians are famous for this. They leak that something less then honorable took place, Initially dodge the questions on it, then finally release more and more information until such time it can be discovered independent of the leak source. By then, it's out in the open and they say "oh, that again, how many time do I have to pay for a mistake" and walk away pretty much intact.

Ask your sister... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28386889)

...if she masturbates, then report back here.

Re:Ask your sister... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28386899)

I didn't get a definitive answer, but I can tell you, she was not amused.

Why TF doesn't it happen in US? (5, Insightful)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 4 years ago | (#28386959)

Why don't our corporate controlled, drug-addled newspapers act like their British counterparts?
Ours is a direct republic, so in theory, our press must be more active in exposing the illegal, false and corrupt expense accounts of the numerous Ted Stevens clones that walk the same halls that Lincoln and Jackson walked.
Why don't our media have a daily expose show at 7 PM detailing the latest claims our diseased congressmen and senators claim as expenses?
British press is so Cool!

Re:Why TF doesn't it happen in US? (5, Insightful)

ionix5891 (1228718) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387233)

British press is so Cool!

you obviously never seen The Sun or the Daily Mail

Re:Why TF doesn't it happen in US? (5, Interesting)

sqldr (838964) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387483)

It works both ways. The British government and the American government simultaneously had meetings with the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England 2 days ago.

Obama came out with tough new regulations. Gordon Brown came saying one wishy washy thing, whilst the Bank of England didn't get the tougher regulations they were asking for, and now want to challenge the government in court.

And as for the British press being cool, here's a quick rundown:

The Sun: Trashy tabloid, most popular paper, tells thick people who to vote for. Banned in Liverpool after a controversial story suggesting Liverpool fans were responsible for the Hillsborough disaster

The Mirror: Wishes it was the sun. Even more trashy.

The Times: Owned by Murdoch, like the Sun, but seems to understand that its readerbase has brains, whilst trying to slip political opinion through without you noticing.

The Independent: "independent", my arse. I used to read this. As much as I was against the Iraq war, I don't appreciate being lectured on it on a daily basis. They like preaching to the converted. People supposedly buy this one because it lacks opinion. The editor is best mates with the head of MI6. Also horrifically boring.

The Daily Mail: Right wing christian crap, obsessed with house prices and Elizabeth Hurley. Encourages people who haven't even watched the show to complain to the BBC about someone saying something rude, and complain they do, in their thousands.

The Guardian: They write this in a very small font, just so they can fit in the HUGE essays written by political activists who like to drone on and on and on about some green issue whilst everyone else has fallen asleep. You can read the entirety of the Sun in the time it takes to read the front page of the Guardian.

The Telegraph: Like the Daily Mail, but with less readers. Also obsessed with Elizabeth Hurley. Source of the expenses scandal, which they've been milking for nearly 2 months now. Ok, the MPs did wrong, but they also have jobs to do, and all they've been doing for the past 2 months is apologise, resign, and shout at eachother.

The People: Apparently still running. First UK paper to be printed in colour, but I haven't seen it on sale anywhere for years.

Metro: Free newspaper found outside tube and train stations. Written by the same company as the daily mail, but with all the political bias taken out. Designed to be read in 20 minutes. Always has a stupid non-news story on page 3 about someone's pet cat climbing Everest or something. Letters page

Various regional newspapers: "Local man bitten by local dog in local park". Win tickets to see Neasden FC playing this Saturday!!!

Private Eye: Fortnightly paper. Reports on the newspapers themselves. Prints stuff that newspapers don't dare print from freelance journalists because of the potential implications. Editor is Ian Hislop who is "the most sued man in Britain". Very cynical, and often quite funny.

So. The British press is shit.

Re:Why TF doesn't it happen in US? (1)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387517)

Thanks for the MUCH, MUCh detailed explanation of each newspaper in UK.
I used to like The Times occassionally for its 4th page reporting when i was i London, but i prefer the web for news.
Thanks once again.
Someone please mod him up!

Re:Why TF doesn't it happen in US? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387653)

So. The British press is shit.

Hey! What about The Register?

Re:Why TF doesn't it happen in US? (3, Insightful)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387697)

What [theregister.co.uk] about [theregister.co.uk] the [theregister.co.uk] Register? [theregister.co.uk]

The Register is the IT version of The Sun; A Red Top tabloid.

The Register (2, Insightful)

YourExperiment (1081089) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387803)

The Register is the IT version of The Sun; A Red Top tabloid.

Not quite. The Register deliberately copies several traits from the tabloids. The red masthead is the most obvious of these. They also use a lot of slang, and run plenty of trashy comedy stories. However, these are always reported in a very cynical and/or tongue-in-cheek fashion, not at all like the crap you read in newspapers like The Sun.

What's more, when it comes to their tech-related articles (the majority of their output) they often publish some very interesting pieces of investigative journalism. They put out some slightly dodgy op-ed occasionally, they don't always nail their stories, and their copy editing is poor (rarely a story without a typo) but overall the site is an entertaining, and usually highly informative, read.

Re:Why TF doesn't it happen in US? (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387847)

The Sun actually seems to accept that it caters to stupid people though.

The Register is more like the Daily Mail, self appointed moral defender of the internet that is more often wrong in it's opinion pieces than not but doesn't like to hear it and so heavily moderates or outright disables comments in response to stories that deep down even it knows are stupid.

I agree though, it's an atrociously bad site.

Re:Why TF doesn't it happen in US? (3, Informative)

Wizard Drongo (712526) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387727)

Very true..
To add to this, a scottish perspective (and maybe a little backdrop since the main papers here are basically either independent politically, and stick to to whomever they feel deserves it, SNP-loyal, or Labour-loyal; all the papers are much more political in Scotland) would be to add in the Scottish dailies; obviously i'm not going to include the "scottish" Sun etc. since they are exactly the same as the UK version, just with a story about how all Scots are thieving lying benefit-scheating heroin addicts every 2 pages...

The Record: Biggest scottish daily. Owned by trinity mirror, much like the Mirror itself, really. Heavily, extremely pro-Labour, anti-SNP, anti-Scotland and anti-anything-Labour-tell-them-to-be. On the day of the 2007 Scottish elections (which the SNP won), their editorial predicted a plague on all your houses if you vote SNP etc. Going out of business fairly soon if they continue to lose readers...

The Scotsman: broadsheet, mostly independent; seems to moderately support the SNP now, as well as other liberal ideals. Quite a nice paper, if I bought a daily it'd probably be this...

The Herald: broadsheet; biggest selling "proper" paper in Scotland now, having overtaken the Scotsman. Politically independent (mostly), and will occasionally criticise Labour or SNP alike. May well be also folding, many many job losses in recent years.

There are others but I can't be bothered and they're mostly all small-fry anyway....

Re:Why TF doesn't it happen in US? (1)

crimperman (225941) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387941)

> The Daily Mail: Right wing christian crap...

these days it's probably more accurate to say Right-wing, Middle-england [wikipedia.org] crap. The rest is spot-on though. And if you're going to say the Daily mail, Telegraph etc are right-wing, you should probably point out that the Grauniad is generally left-wing.

> The People: Apparently still running. First UK paper to be printed in colour...

I thought that was Eddie Shah's Today [wikipedia.org] in the 80s

Oh and you forgot

The Daily Express: More Right-wing, Middle-england crap. Obsessed with Diana, Princess of Wales - seems to be outraged about something on a daily basis.

Re:Why TF doesn't it happen in US? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28387971)

You forgot the Sunday sport, which for the benefit of our American friends has nothing to do with sport but does come out on a Sunday. It's the only news paper worth reading because it doesn't pretend to be telling the truth. You can think of it as the National Enquirer meets the Onion with none of the intellectual bullshit.

Re:Why TF doesn't it happen in US? (1)

permaculture (567540) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387717)

As I understand it, the US mainstream media is almost entirely owned by a small handful of companies.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concentration_of_media_ownership [wikipedia.org]

They often have a vested interest in the stories they choose to report on or avoid.

e.g.

> Reporters Steve Wilson and Jane Akre were first asked by FOX News and later bribed,
> to downplay a story they had on a cancer-causing growth hormone called Posilac
> which is growth hormone for dairy cows which is absorbed by humans through milk.
> The reporters decided to blow the whistle on FOX News and filed a law suit.
> After the ordeal was over, it was discovered in the appeals court that it's
> actually not against the law to falsify the "News."

http://behavioralhealth.typepad.com/markhams_behavioral_healt/food_and_drink/ [typepad.com]

Hacker target? (1)

dugeen (1224138) | more than 4 years ago | (#28386961)

No doubt pro-Bush renegade hackers will already be attacking the site, keen to repeat their Clark County anti-Guardian campaign by deleting any data that casts suspicion on right-wing MPs.

Re:Hacker target? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28387085)

To be honest, you sound like some kind of crackpot moron.

Newsflash: Democrats rape children so as to create a bigger pool of needy people they can claim for!1!!1

Re:Hacker target? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28387195)

note to US readers this is a UK story which the means neither republicans nor democrats have anythign to do with it.

Re:Hacker target? (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387315)

What the hell does Bush have to do with this?

Re:Hacker target? (1)

NinjaCoder (878547) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387473)

I read the Guardian (online, as I am not in the UK atm). But they did a monumentally stupid thing during the last Bush election. They got hold of electors' addresses in Clark County in the US, and got Guardian readers to write to them with advice. You can imagine the reaction. What the hell possessed them to think that people would take kindly to non-citizens giving them political advice?? http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/oct/18/uselections2004.usa2 [guardian.co.uk]

Re:Hacker target? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28387515)

He's referring to the Guardian's addled plot to sway the voters of Clark County, OH and thus help John Kerry during the 2004 election. See Dear Limey Assholes [slate.com] . Still an incongruous connection the GP is making but there's the background.

Duck Islands (5, Insightful)

CmdrGravy (645153) | more than 4 years ago | (#28386969)

As it happens though the claim for the duck island does not appear in the official expenses data as it's blacked out along with, I would guess, almost anything else likely to cause embarrassment for the MP.

Apparently once the fees office had blacked out the bits they didn't think the public should see the MPs had several months to look at their own claims and recommend any other sections they didn't think should be public so when you look at the actual claims, and some MPs are much worse than others, there is an awful lot you can't see.

What really pisses me off is the string of MPs saying

"Well my claim was completely within the rules and I have done nothing wrong however I now realise the rules were horribly wrong and fundamentally flawed so what we need to do is change the rules to make them stricter."

No ! What you need to do is behave in an honest and honourable fashion and not try to screw the system for as much as you think you can get away with.

Re:Duck Islands (1)

abigsmurf (919188) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387367)

They black out anything which reveals personal details of the person (addresses and phone numbers) claiming the expenses and details of the people they are purchasing off of.

It wouldn't exactly be fair for you to wake up one morning with 1000 press outside your house because you sold something on ebay and it was claimed for, revealing your name and address.

Re:Duck Islands (1, Troll)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387377)

As it happens though the claim for the duck island does not appear in the official expenses data as it's blacked out along with, I would guess, almost anything else likely to cause embarrassment for the MP.

How about because it was denied reimbursement? The article links to specifically states that.

Apparently once the fees office had blacked out the bits they didn't think the public should see the MPs had several months to look at their own claims and recommend any other sections they didn't think should be public so when you look at the actual claims, and some MPs are much worse than others, there is an awful lot you can't see.

I bet your sorry that all those people in your country was making fun of the US idiots who were placing digital lines over the information instead of removing it only to be discovered later by someone simply removing the black line.. at least then your government offices may have done the same thing and you would know for sure instead of just guessing about it and acting as if it actually happened. But hey, now that there is less information, it just provers your contempt even more right?

What really pisses me off is the string of MPs saying

"Well my claim was completely within the rules and I have done nothing wrong however I now realise the rules were horribly wrong and fundamentally flawed so what we need to do is change the rules to make them stricter."

No ! What you need to do is behave in an honest and honourable fashion and not try to screw the system for as much as you think you can get away with.

Following the rules is an honorable and honest fashion. If you a bowl of candy that said take one, you wouldn't consider yourself a thief if you took one would you? How about those have a penny take a penny trays that are helpful in keeping the small change out of your pocket? Surely you wouldn't want to stop at a stop sign while waiting for the right of way in traffic and get a ticket because you were blocking trafic behind you.

Whatever the rules say, is the measure of honesty and honorable. You can't expect anyone to follow unwritten rules that meet your ideals and expectations. Retrospect, or hindsight, often allows us to reflect on things in ways not possible until after other people's reactions. The first clue to this is where the MP says "I know realize". You see, without the public outrage or even your outrage, they didn't know that a set of rules in place before they even took office and a set of practices just as old, was offensive to many people. Now he knows, and now he realizes.

Re:Duck Islands (2, Informative)

NinjaCoder (878547) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387525)

These guys wrote the rules; but put in a get-out clause for themselves. For example, I am self-employed. But I can't claim for household goods, food, decoration and cleaning for a 2nd home when I need to work from home. I can reimburse myself from my company, right enough, but then the taxman taxes that as a benefit. In the tax code there is a specific clause releasing MPs from this. When I sell a second home, the tax man can claim a chunk of the profits; when they sell a second home they can designate their official MP 2nd home, and escape that tax. Not to mention the taxpayers actually pay for the interest on the mortgage of that second home. And they can also claim renovation and improvement and decoration grants for these 2nd homes. So we end up with MPs building property portfolios on taxpayers expense. And some of these guys live within tens of miles of Parliament, so why do they even need a 2nd home?? (As an aside, Private Eye revealed that Labour minister made a statement to the effect that the government expects job-seeks to be able to commute up to 1 1/2-2 hours to get a job. Yet he lives within 10s of miles of Parliament, but still needed to get a second home to reduce his commute)

But will it work? (1)

SFA_AOK (752620) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387001)

I commend the idea and the effort. But there are 700,000 documents, each with how many pages each? It's an interesting idea but will the crowd's enthusiasm hold up?

Re:But will it work? (4, Informative)

stupid_is (716292) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387069)

I commend the idea and the effort. But there are 700,000 documents, each with how many pages each? It's an interesting idea but will the crowd's enthusiasm hold up?

Each doc is usually around 1-5 pages - but there's so much redaction it's almost worthless (have a peek here [bbc.co.uk] ). As to the crowd's enthusiasm - I can't see it waning unless the govmt get another crisis to hide this behind. Most folks want to see a significant change in the way MPs are paid, and this really kicked the Labour party in the knackers at the recent local & European elections (admittedly it may have been more akin to kicking them while they were down, what with the current PM being as charismatic as month old roadkill, and the Iraq war being such a success).

Re:But will it work? (1)

stupid_is (716292) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387083)

Supplement - the Guardian link in the /. article states "We have 91996 pages of documents, of which 25264 are unreviewed." so I have no idea how that translates to 700K documents.

Re:But will it work? (1)

SFA_AOK (752620) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387121)

Said article also says "Join us in digging through the 700,000 documents of MPs' expenses". The 91996 is just what they've uploaded so far - that number crept up yesterday as more pages were uploaded. 700,000 documents means at least 700,000 pages. By that thinking they've only got 1/7th of the total so far...

Re:But will it work? (1)

stupid_is (716292) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387183)

ah - that makes sense. All the furore is an interesting read, though, and possibly a handy distraction from more serious aspects of parliament...:-)

Re:But will it work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28387447)

You're expecting the Grauniad to get their numbers right?

Re:But will it work? (1)

stupid_is (716292) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387903)

Now updated to We have 134039 pages of documents, of which 57403 are unreviewed., so it would seem another large chunk got uploaded in the last few hours

Re:But will it work? (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387287)

That's just over 1000 per MP. 50 people from each constituency can do 20 sheets each. Mostly they are till receipts which don't take long to look at.

Re:But will it work? (1)

NinjaCoder (878547) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387545)

People are fizzing mad about this. And I guess people will look for their own MP and look for what they spent money on rather than start at document 1 and increment. Such a neat example of parallelism.

Waste of time? (5, Insightful)

Xest (935314) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387025)

Anyone who has seen the expenses will know that the important stuff is all blanked out.

There are pages that are entirely black in there.

There are pages that say things like:

"Dear xx, here is your invoice of £2,500 for the following work:" ...and then everything below it blanked out.

The BBC had a copy of Gordon Brown's uncensored expenses document and compared it to the official version. The uncensored version said "£99.00 Sky TV", the censored version just said "£99.00".

The whole thing is a farce, we need to get the uncensored version - there was suggestion yesterday the Telegraph who obtained the leaked uncensored versions would release them to the public today but I've heard nothing more since.

There are some gems in the official version, under MP Ian Cawsey's expenses I noticed he'd sponsored a local football team £300, and then charged the tax payer for that sponsorship via the expenses system, but I feel if we start this now we'll only need to start right over when we do finally get hold of the uncensored version.

I suppose there's an argument finding breaches in the official release will allow us to apply more pressure to get the uncensored version though maybe? I'd have thought people's time would be better spent actually pressuring for the release though of the uncensored versions overall and then do something like this.

Still, good work to the Guardian for working with what we have at least, you can't fault them for that.

Re:Waste of time? (4, Informative)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387053)

The Telegraph will publish the uncensored versions [telegraph.co.uk] over the coming days.

Re:Waste of time? (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387361)

Cheers, looks like they've already published some although a little dissapointing - they've still black out some data although they claim it's only address.

Frankly I don't buy the security argument for addresses and was hoping the Telegraph wouldn't either.

As MPs seem so intent on collecting all our data, they should have no problem with us having theirs. Anyone who is a security threat could find out where they live regardless.

Re:Waste of time? (1)

rich_r (655226) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387923)

The Telegraph may not buy it either, but by redacting the addresses they can continue to use the 'in the public interest' argument. If they start printing addresses, then it becomes a whole different kettle of fish as that was the one thing the Information Commisioner was allowing to be blacked out, with the exception of the first 3 chars of the postcode.

Personally, I think they should have been published intact by the Commons, but that's just my opinion!

Re:Waste of time? (2, Interesting)

niks42 (768188) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387225)

There are some cracking findings in there .. what amazes me is the complete switch in perception. Diane Abbott is almost a paragon of virtue because the only thing she does is to take the maximum allowance of £250 a month for her "petty cash". I had a look at Tim Yeo, wondered how anyone could spend £1200 in a month on a mobile phone bill on a regular basis. But then, he did spend £3000 on some shelving for his office, so maybe he has expensive tastes (at our expense). I looked at the MP for Gosport, failed to find reference to Duck Island, instead found he (sorry, we taxpayers) had paid for the local conservative association to refurbish the offices that he subsequently rented from them. And it costs him £19,000 a year to maintain their garden, to which we contribute.

Re:Waste of time? (3, Informative)

Xest (935314) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387337)

Yeah, this is what amazes me, and this is the stuff they didn't censor. That's why I think we really need to know the stuff that was censored.

We already know they censored some pretty major stuff, so it suggests they actually think the stuff that isn't censored is all okay.

As you say there's a lot of stuff like the £250 petty cash, the £400 food allowances and so on, but there's also a lot of small staff that across all claims will instead add up. Using Ian Cawsey as an example again he paid £26 for a hanging basket and a watering service, £26 is little, but he could've paid £5 for the hanging basket and watered it himself, £21 saving isn't a lot, but that £21 that could've bought another text book at a school - across all expenses and MPs however many textbooks for schools can we not afford for even the small expenditures?

A major attitude change is indeed required and not just in government but right across public sector from schools to police to MPs (I use to work in public sector for just over 5 years FWIW) no thought whatsoever goes into how can I ensure I do this in a manner fair to tax payers. They just assume money grows on trees, because the government provides an endless supply of cash. When a department head says they don't have enough money the government just pays them more, the real answer should be to sack him and get someone that can do the job on budget.

I'm concerned that no media outlet has really made the connection yet - that maybe this isn't just a problem with MPs and the issue spreads right across public sector. Some council heads get paid £250,000 a year, far more than any MP and get expenses as well - we should be scrutinising that lot as well as MPs. We need a nationwide re-evaluation of how tax payer money is used. If any amount of fairness was injected into the system as a result I guarantee you we could shave a good few % off of everyone's tax and still have no detriment to public services whatsoever, hell, I saw literally millions thrown down the drain first hand when I worked in public sector, but good luck finding any manager who cares. It needs to come from the top down, starting with the MPs and absolutely not stopping at the MPs.

Re:Waste of time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28387553)

As we know the scan is just an image of the document. A few years ago the blacked out part was just an extra layer added and could be removed to reveal what was behind it.
  Our local council used to use this method but has since reverted to using tipex on all the parts not to be viewed before the document was scanned.

If it's been done with a computer it can be undone with a computer...

Re:Waste of time? (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387643)

That's not necessarily true, it depends entirely how it's been done with a computer.

If they used the PDF redaction tool then it probably can be undone. The problem is I'm not sure they have, I've had a fiddle around with the files and it seems they may have been images where they have put black boxes over in an unlayered manner meaning the process is totally destructive.

It needs more research for sure, but it's far from certain as to whether that data can be recovered in anyway. If they have indeed used a destructive technique for the redactions then even done on a computer it cannot be recovered.

one problem (1)

squoozer (730327) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387055)

They will get 690,000 pages tagged investigate this. Given an open and apparently unchecked money source the MP's will have pushed every last thting they can through the system. I've heard a few people on the news saying that we should think ourselves lucky because corruption in other (developing) nations is so much worse. That has got to be one of the most idiotic arguments I've ever heard. I'm not about to advocate stringing them up but there are at least a few cases that should be investigated by the police and numerous others that should result in sackings. I suspect though that the police will never become involved and so far I don't think anyone has been sacked (quite a few have jumped before being pushed).

I don't think anyone expected their MP to be whiter than white. People would have turned a blind eye to claims for a few extra miles traveled and a bit of food and maybe even some modest second home improvement / repair but some of these MPs have been claiming for houses they didn't even own! IMHO the worst revelation is that it would appear that they even changed the law so that their scond homes were exempt from capital gains tax a luxury that, AFAIK, nobody else can say they have and in a booming house market a loophole that has netted many MPs sizable amounts of money.

Re:one problem (2, Insightful)

jabithew (1340853) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387165)

MPs salary, pension and expenses are exempt from tax [private-eye.co.uk] , unlike standard practice in the private sector. Everyone's first home is free from capital gains tax, MPs just allowed themselves to claim a home was their secondary residence for expenses purposes and then claim it was a primary residence for tax purposes, occasionally at the same time [wikipedia.org] .

Exempting themselves from the tax system is a good sign of tyranny, not to mention hypocrisy.

Shameless Yes, Minister quote (5, Funny)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387097)

Hacker: Don't tell me about the press. I know exactly who reads the papers: the Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country; The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country; The Times is read by people who actually do run the country; the Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country; the Financial Times is read by people who own the country; The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country; and The Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it already is.

Sir Humphrey: Prime Minister, what about the people who read The Sun?

Bernard: Sun readers don't care who runs the country, as long as she's got big tits.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGscoaUWW2M for those who'd like to see the original

Re:Shameless Yes, Minister quote (1)

cheros (223479) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387703)

A good friend gave me the DVDs of the series as a present. It's fantastically funny up until the point you realise just how close it presently is to the farcical reality..

Re:Shameless Yes, Minister quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28387931)

Yes Minister, although a good version, was not the original.

That joke was doing the rounds many years before Yes Minister was aired.

Nothing to see in there (1)

kno3 (1327725) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387223)

This is the censored database, there is nothing interesting or even slightly embarrassing left in here. Almost all of the scandals exposed by the Telegraph from their database has been censored out of this one, and there are huge amounts of other blanked out parts. I'm afraid that we will never know just how bad this got.

Guardian looking for attention (1)

jonnyt886 (1252670) | more than 4 years ago | (#28387807)

This is just an attempt by the Guardian to steal the thunder of the Daily Telegraph, who have been at the centre of this by publishing uncensored figures.

And what's the point of 'investigating' this stuff when we know the Telegraph has all the answers? Well, I'm sure the guys at the Guardian will publish the results of their so-called 'investigations' when the Telegraph release the rest of their data...
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