Archive for UK Politics

Excellent News

Michael Reiss resigns. Teaching creationism in Science lessons, is he fucking mental? Oh no, he’s an ordained priest – a job, it seems to me, which is wholly incompatible with being Director of Education at the National Academy of Science. Good riddance to the fucktard.

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Harry’s Place: Update

Great News! Harry’s Place is now back online. New DNS being hosted by the good folks at Positive Internet. I haven’t kept up with all this as I’ve been away for a few days, but there is an excellent round-up of events at Modernity Blog.

May I also point you in the direction of this post by Brett at Harry’s Place itself.

A line must be drawn.It cannot possibly get worse than this. The dissemination of literature from a racist, antisemitic, white-supremacist, conspiracy-theorising website in the name of providing insight and/or commentary on Zionism or the policies of the Israeli government is a low point many refused to believe could be reached – though a few have warned that this is where things were headed for some time.

But, having reached this low-point, we have to ask ourselves if it can be allowed to sink any lower.

If those in British Unions who flirt with the far-right can weasel out of this, then they can weasel out of anything. A line must be drawn here. A line must be drawn now.

Do read the rest.

Harry’s Place & Jenna Delich

Harry’s Place appears to have succumbed to the bonkers UK libel laws after posting information relating to Jenna Delich and her circulation of information from notorious Neo-Nazi David Duke’s website.

This is VERY BAD NEWS. Moronic academic sends filth and hate via a professional network (something which she has yet to deny) and UK ISP shits it’s pants when a complaint is made.

Harry’s place is now operating from here – do go and show your support.

UPDATE: As Inna points out in the comments, Jenna Delich has actually admitted using the quote from the article on David Duke’s website. If her plea of ignorance regarding Duke is true that is one thing – but to then copy/paste this quote without fully reading the article she has shown herself to be naive in the ways of the internet; it’s clearly Anti-Semitic as the quotes in the comments below and in The Jerusalem Post report show.

Activists Get 10 Day Jail Sentences

An update to this post of mine. It appears from reports that the activists in question have been given a ten day administrative detention by Chinese Police.

Also:

A Tibetan nun named Sonam Yungzom is reported to have been shot while shouting slogans in Kardze town, eastern Tibet (now part of Sichuan province) on August 10th. One source says she yelled out: “There are no human rights in China, there is brutal oppression in Tibet, still the Olympics go on in China.” She was hit by five to six bullets and then her body was thrown in a vehicle and taken away.

Via SFT

And these images are from Boing Boing:

Nice to see our PM has been sucking up to the Chinese Government:

“The 2008 Beijing Olympics have set a new standard for the Olympic Games, which we in London in 2012 will seek to follow,” he said.

Contemptible.

Nick Clegg: Science – Ur doin it rong

Energy independent by 2050, but with NO nuclear power.  I think not.  Did you get an ACTUAL scientist to check those claims of yours Nick.  No?  Didn’t think so.  What a brainless idiot.

Irony Meter at Maximum

Gideon George Oliver Osborne, Son of the 17th Baronet of Ballintaylor in the County of Tipperary talks about *cough* fairness at today’s Comment is Futile.

So on fairness and progressive goals, the Conservatives are leading the agenda, with the right ideas and policies. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Labour. That must keep Mr Miliband awake at night. But whether or not you mention Gordon Brown in newspaper articles like this, a change of leader won’t help. Because the Labour party itself has run out of ideas.

Fuck off Gideon, your very titled existence is proof positive of the elitist system at the heart of British life. You know nothing of poverty and neither does Dave – the idea that you have the solutions to it is laughable. We probably will have Tory Government after the next election, this present Government is full of bastards, but just you wait to see how big the bastards are in the next.

MCB Backtracks on Progressive Marriage Contract

Ed Husain in today’s Guardian.

When I met Amina she was still in love with this man but her father insisted she marry her cousin from Pakistan, who happened, rather conveniently, to be visiting England. Her father also had a heart condition and used his illness to emotionally blackmail her. Eventually Amina gave way. She sacrificed love to south Asian culture and married Mr Pakistan.

White, liberal eyes reading this article will be astounded to know these things happen in Britain. I am sorry, but they do. And it gets worse.

Amina was repeatedly raped by Mr Pakistan, but her mother told her that a Muslim man has such rights over his wife, and in Islam there is no such thing as marital rape.

Murdered by a Drunk Racist

Truly terrible – an awful loss of a young life.

But not as terrible as the comments on the piece. Take this gem from “Sarah” – what a pitiful excuse for a human being she must be.

Yes, Sarah, because they were “hanging around” – he was just asking for some maniac to jump out of a car and cut his throat, eh? Are you fucking insane you stupid ignorant fuckwit of a person. This is a free Country, if someone wants to “hang around” – then they should be able to do it without fear of a psycho knifing them. You Sarah, can fuck off and die, you don’t deserve to be a member of the Human Race.

More from Critchley on UK Drugs Policy

Further to my earlier post on this, Julian Critchley has written a brief article at Counterpunch.

And he talks a lot of sense:

Eight years ago, I left my civil service job as director of the UK Anti-Drug Co-Ordination Unit. I went partly because I was sick of having to implement policies that I knew, and my political masters knew, were unsupported by evidence. Yesterday, after a surreal flurry of media requests referring to a blog I wrote that questioned the wisdom of the UK’s drug policies, I found myself in the thick of the debate again, and I was sorry to discover that the terms hadn’t changed a bit.

I was being interviewed on the BBC World Service, and after I tried to explain why I believe that drugs should be decriminalised, the person representing the other side of the argument pointed out that drugs are terrible, that they destroy lives. Now, I am a deeply boring, undruggy person myself, and I think the world would be a better place without drugs. But I think that we must live in the world as it is, and not as we want it to be. And so my answer was, yes, I know that drugs are terrible. I’m not saying that drugs should be decriminalised because it would be fun if we could all get stoned with impunity. I’m saying that we’ve tried minimising harm through a draconian legal policy. It is now clear that enforcement and supply-side interventions are largely pointless. They haven’t worked. There is evidence that this works.

On Gordon Brown’s mentalist policy of reclassifying cannabis from C to B:

Unfortunately, evidence is still not a major component in our policy. Take cannabis. When I was in the Anti-Drug Unit, the moves towards making it a class C drug began, and I hoped that our position on drugs was finally moving in a rational direction. But then Gordon Brown ignored his scientific advisers to make it a class B again. It was a decision that pandered to the instincts of the tabloids, and it made no sense whatsoever.

Yes, and just about everyone said so at the time. A ridiculously ill-thought out policy with not one iota of real peer-reviewed Science saying that the risks outweighed the benefits.

The case [for legalisation] is overwhelming. But I fear that policy will not catch up with the facts any time soon. It would take a mature society to accept that some individuals may hurt, or even kill themselves, as a result of a policy change, even if the evidence suggested that fewer people died or were harmed as a result. It would take a brave government to face down the tabloid fury in the face of anecdotes about middle-class children who bought drugs legally and came to grief, and this is not a brave government.

I think what was truly depressing about my time in the civil service was that the professionals I met from every sector held the same view: the illegality of drugs causes far more problems for society and the individual than it solves. Yet publicly, all those people were forced to repeat the mantra that the Government would be “tough on drugs”, even though they all knew that the policy was causing harm.

This just about sums up the nonsense involved here:

I recall a conversation I had with a Number 10 policy advisor about a series of announcements in which we were to emphasise the shift of resources to treatment and highlight successes in prevention and education. She asked me whether we couldn’t arrange for “a drugs bust in Brighton” at the same time, or “a boat speeding down the Thames to catch smugglers”. For that advisor, what worked mattered considerably less than what would play well in the right-wing press. The tragedy of our drugs policy is that it is dictated by tabloid irrationality, and not by evidence.

For fucks sake, people make decisions about risks in their real lives all the time. Drinking, smoking, not exercising – these are all things, that as adults, we are entitled (and should be supported) to make. The idea that I as an individual should not be able to decide what to imbibe, smoke or if I really want to go guns blazing, inject, is a nonsense. Legalise, Educate, Tax, Support. LETS do it now!. You can even have the slogan for free.

Say No to Terrorism

62,809,427 People can’t be wrong. Sign here.

Guy Herbert on Freedom

Guy Herbert of Samizdata fame on Freedom, in today’s Guardian, here.

A taster:

The Home Office is taking the maximum powers allowed under the directive – which shouldn’t be a surprise, as the directive itself was inspired by lobbying from Charles Clarke in the council of ministers when he was home secretary. The minimum six months’ retention is probably what we will see in Germany, which resisted the exercise; the Home Office is taking powers for four times as long.

All this is the logical pursuit of the path set out in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, and most of the debate is founded on the false premise that this was a special anti-terrorist power that somehow got out of hand when councils started using it to pursue litterers. It just isn’t true. RIPA was always a snooper’s charter, as the Guardian noted at the time. Its function is to provide a bureaucratic mechanism by which hundreds of different official bodies from MI5 to Ofcom can authorise their staff to use surveillance. It is purposely obscure and hard to challenge.

UK Government misses EU Phorm Deadline

Not aware of Phorm, then go here to The Registers original exclusive.

BT secretly intercepted and profiled the web browsing of 18,000 of its broadband customers in 2006 using advertising technology provided by 121Media, the alleged spyware company that changed its name to Phorm last year.

BT Retail ran the “stealth” pilot without customer consent between 23 September and 6 October 2006. The technology was approved, pending a further trial*.

Documents seen by The Register show that the companies used the secret profiles to target advertising at broadband customers when they visited certain popular websites.

Phorm had purchased commercial space on these websites, although their URLs are not included in the documents. The groups targeted included people interested in finance (for an Egg credit card campaign), weight loss (a Weight Watchers campaign), and jobs (a Monster.com campaign).

The technical report drawn up by BT in the wake of the 2006 trial states: “The validation was made within BT’s live broadband environment and involved a user base of approximately 18,000 customers, with a maximum of 10,000 online concurrently.

“The customers who participated in the trial were not made aware of this fact as one of the aims of the validation was not to affect their experience.”

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) makes intercepting internet traffic without a warrant or consent an offence.

BT did not even contact the Home Office to see if the trial was illegal under Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, until a month after the trial had finished.

More from The Register:

BT’s long-held claim that legal advice said its Phorm trials did not breach wiretapping laws came under renewed scrutiny today, as documents revealed the firm approached government experts after it had secretly co-opted 18,000 broadband customers into the advertising targeting system.

Papers obtained from the Home Office under the Freedom of Information Act show that the department was first contacted about Phorm on 15 November 2006. The first secret trial of the system conducted by BT Retail ran between 23 September and 6 October that year.

BT’s initial approach was followed by further emails to civil servants on 7 December 2006 and 23 January 2007. The content of the correspondence are being kept secret by officials, who cite confidentiality exemptions under FOIA. The Home Office is currently conducting an internal review of that embargo.

The sequence of events means that BT executives did not ask the Home Office whether Phorm’s technology might contravene the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) until after their experiment to profile customers’ web browsing for advertisers without their consent had been judged a success.

And just as Phorm did not disclose the secret trials when it met Home Office officials in August 2007, BT did not mention them when it sought government legal opinion. Home Office spokesmen have said it was not aware that either the 2006 or 2007 trial had taken place until they were revealed by The Register.

On 3 April BT Retail’s head of value-added services Emma Sanderson said on television: “We don’t believe this is illegal. We have sought extensive advice, both internally and externally, and prior to conducting this trial… It’s not illegal.”

In response to this Fiasco, Fabio Colasanti, Director General of combative European Commissioner Viviane Reding’s Information Society and Media Directorate sent a letter to the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, here are a few highlights:

In particular, Directive 2002/58/EC on privacy and electronic communications, which particularises and complements for the electronic communications sector the general personal data protection principles defined in the directive 94/45/EC (Data Protection Directive), obliges Member States to ensure the confidentiality of communications and related traffic through national legislation. They are required to prohibit listening, tapping, storage or other kinds of interception or surveillance of communications and the related traffic data by persons other than the users without their consent (Article 5(1)). The consent must be freely given, specific and an informed indication of the user’s wishes (Article 2(h) of Directive 95/46/EC). Traffic data may only be processed for certain defined purposes and for a limited period. The subscriber must be informed about the processing of traffic data and, depending on the purpose of processing, prior consent of the subscriber or user must be obtained (Article 6 of Directive 2002/58/EC).

And setting out specific questions to be answered by the Government…

I would therefore be grateful to receive the response of the United Kingdom authorities on the following questions:

1. What are the United Kingdom laws and other legal acts which govern activities falling within the scope of Articles 5(1) and 6 of Directive 2002/58/EC on privacy and electronic communications and Articles 6, 7 and 17(1) of Directive 95/46/EC?

2. Which United Kingdom authority(-ies) is (are) competent (i) to investigate whether there have been any breaches of the national law transposing each of the above-mentioned provisions of Community law arising from the past trials of Phorm technology carried out by BT and (ii) to impose any penalties for infringement of those provisions where appropriate?

3. Have there been any investigations about the past trials of Phorm technology by BT and what were their results and the conclusions of the competent authority(-ies)? Are there ongoing investigations about possible similar activities by other ISPs?

4. What remedies, liability and sanctions are provided for by United Kingdom law in accordance with Article 15(2) of the Directive on privacy and electronic communications, which may be sought by users affected by the past trials of the Phorm technology and may be imposed by the competent United Kingdom authority(-ies) including the courts?

5. According to the information available to the United Kingdom authorities, what exactly will be the methodology followed by the ISPs in order to obtain their customers’ consent for the deployment of Phorm technology in accordance with the relevant legal requirements and what is the United Kingdom authorities’ assessment of this methodology?

Given the urgency of this matter I would highly appreciate receiving your reply within one month of receipt of this letter.

The letter was dated the 30th June 2008; it seems we have yet to reply. This whole thing has got “stinks like a teenage boy’s trainers” written all over it. I’ll be checking back with The Register to follow progress.

Snoopers Charter

Why is it this Government is so interminably bent on prying into every corner of our lives? At first the excuse was always “terrorism” – now it seems, they just want to create a culture where everyone is constantly seen as a suspect, until they check your records and confirm you are not.

Ministers want to make it mandatory for telephone and internet companies to keep details of all personal internet traffic for at least 12 months so it can be accessed for investigations into crime or other threats to public safety.

The Home Office last night admitted that the measure will mean companies have to store “a billion incidents of data exchange a day”. As the measure is the result of an EU directive, the data will be made available to public investigators across Europe.

The consultation paper published yesterday estimates that it will cost the internet industry over £50m to store the mountain of data.

Apparently both the Libs and the Tories have branded it the “Snoopers Charter” – can’t say much for the Libs, but the Tories can fuck right off, they are just as much snooping busybodies as Labour. Again, I say, it feels like they are conspiring to create a culture of suspicion – where only the State may decide your “status” as an innocent.

They want to create a super-database containing all the local information. How that will work is anybody’s guess – the amount of data it would contain would be enormous. How would they even make the thing searchable in anything like an acceptable timescale?

This Government has had some MAJOR shortcomings when it comes to IT systems – it doesn’t exactly fill you with confidence.

Seven in 10 government IT projects in the United Kingdom have failed, according to the chief information officer of the Department for Work and Pensions.

Joe Harley called for projects to be completed at a lower cost to the taxpayer, and said the government wanted to reduce the number of project failures to just one in 10.

Speaking at the Government IT Summit this week, Harley said: “Today, only 30 percent of government IT projects and programs are successful. We want 90 percent by 2010/11. We want to achieve a 20 percent overall reduction on IT spend in government, including reducing the total cost of a government laptop by 40 percent [in the same timescale].”

Remember EDS and the Child Support Agency fiasco or Siemens and the Passport Agency, perhaps and lets not even get into The Spine. It’s not difficult to see this whole thing heading down the plughole and at what cost the taxpayer?

This Government seems determined to drive itself from Office, and these types of issues (and ID cards) are the very thing doing it. The People don’t want the damn thing; but we are forced by these authoritarian twats to not only have it, but to pay for it to boot. Bastards.

UK Drugs Policy

Julian Critchley, the former Director of the the cabinet office’s Anti-Drug Unit has said he believes that we should legalise drugs.  He also said that the “overwhelming majority” of professionals in  the field agree with him.  Unsuprisingly, Critchley admitted that the UK’s drug policy is aimed at the Daily Mail – which as you’ll see from the screeching tone of those articles is hardly in-step with contemporary thinking around these issues.

The UK Drugs Policy commission notes that for 2003/2004 (last available figures):

Latest figures (for 2003/04) estimate the size of the UK illicit drug market to be £5.3 billion and is considered to pose the single greatest organised crime threat to the UK.

About one-quarter of the total cost of delivering the drug strategy has been dedicated to reducing supply (£380 million in 2005/06).

Drug markets have proven to be extremely resilient. They are highly fluid and adapt to law enforcement interventions. (Emphasis Mine)

While the availability of controlled drugs is restricted by definition, it appears that additional enforcement efforts had had little adverse effect on the availability of illicit drugs in the UK.

The available evidence suggests that street-level drug law enforcement should focus on forging productive local partnerships and not rely solely on police crackdowns.

The authors were unable to locate any comprehensive published UK evidence of the relative effectiveness of different enforcement approaches. They were also not able to identify any published comparative cost-benefit or value-for-money analysis for different interventions within the UK.

Enforcement can have a significant and unintended negative impact on the nature and extent of harms associated with drugs and this should be recognised and minimised.

It is patently obvious to anyone remotely connected with the field or who has seen the misery of lives blighted by Heroin, Crime and Prostitution that the UK’s prohibition based policy is a complete failure, we are pouring money into a black hole.

Looking around the blogs for reaction on the story, I came across this comment on Anthony Campbell’s blog, the substance of which I can only find myself nodding in agreement with:

The prohibition of recreational drugs has provoked the biggest world wide explosion in organised crime since the prohibition of alcohol in the USA in the 1920’s

The majority of deaths are caused by consumers not knowing exactly what they are using.

Simply because they are banned they become a fashionable fad instead of a stupid way of showing off.

The proliferation caused by the dealers giving the kids free samples would disappear if there were no commercial incentive for them to do so.

The massive savings achieved would turn into a revenue earner if the various substances were moderately taxed.

Savings and taxes would more than finance a serious drug dependency unit to also cover tobacco and alcohol.

I have many more instances where society would benefit from this approach and would suggest that a serious study be made to weigh the benefits of this approach against the disadvantages.

I am sure the benefits outweigh the downside by a considerable margin financially, danger to society and even ethically.

The biggest obstacles are 1) The public kneejerk reaction to the proposal and 2)the political reluctance to take a stand on something which has been obvious to me for many years

Very sensible. We need a revolution to change this problem – but I fear it will be sometime yet before a Government of any colour finds the cojones to stand up and address this issue against the backdrop of wailing Daily Mail readers.

Whither David Davis?

Remember For Freedom?

Well read this and think again. Meet the new boss, same as….

Grieve said: “It is not right that we charge our police with combating crime and disorder and then tie their hands behind their backs in the name of Whitehall bureaucracy. The Conservative party believes the police should be given both the resources to do their job and the freedom to use them. Revising the act’s framework so that authorisation – and all the paperwork that goes with it – is not required for basic police work is just one way the party will cut red tape to free more police onto our streets.”

Yes, because plod should be able to snoop on whomever he sees fit without any authorisation or oversight. Meet the Tories, statist bastards.

Wookie-moan of pain and regret

Fabulous turn of phrase from Jesse Armstrong in today’s Guardian.

But he [Miliband] needed to raise that flag now because he gets the feeling, like everyone else in the country, that Gordon Brown is a wounded beast. Almost all you can hear when the prime minister speaks in public is a low wookie-moan of pain and regret.

Do read the whole thing, it’s very good.

Strange Times

The quintessential Tories Tory, and Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has apparently thrown his weight behind an Obama win in the Presidential run-off in November. It’ll be a “…fantastic boost for black people all over the world…” I think I need a lie-down.

shifting the Titanic Like the on deckchairs (Sentence (anag), 7)

Sign it…

A petition has been posted on the Downing Street website, against Mrs T receiving a state funeral. You know what you have to do.

Surely, it’s what she would want.