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UK Election open thread

by IdiotSavant Sat Apr 17th, 2010 at 04:05:56 PM EST

Today UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown stepped out of the door of Downing Street and called an election for May 6th.  

Talk about it here.

bumped by afew

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Iceland rejects debt-slavery

by IdiotSavant Mon Mar 8th, 2010 at 08:22:49 AM EST

From No Right Turn, New Zealand's liberal blog:

Iceland went to the polls yesterday in a referendum on the government's debt-repayment deal with the UK and the Netherlands - and rejected it utterly, with 93% voting against.  That's a powerful message to Iceland's international "creditors" that the Icelandic people do not regard themselves as liable for the private debts of selfish bankers - and a powerful threat to any Icelandic government who dares to think otherwise.  Icelanders have already toppled one government over the banker's bailout, and it looks like they'll be quite happy to do it again if the current government fails to properly represent their views.

The interesting question is what the UK and Netherlands will do.  They're making the usual threats of financial armageddon, but the blunt fact is that the Icelandic government simply cannot meet their demands (and if it purports to, it will be rolled and replaced with one that rejects them).  Turning the screw tighter - e.g. by repeating their 2008 abuse of anti-terrorist legislation - won't change that, and will simply harden attitudes further.  Unfortunately, acknowledging that reality would mean a loss of face, and so we're likely see a lengthy period of pointless and futile sadism, as the UK tries to squeeze blood out of a stone.

frontpaged - Nomad

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A victory for privacy in Germany

by IdiotSavant Tue Mar 2nd, 2010 at 11:20:20 PM EST

From No Right Turn - New Zealand's liberal blog:

In 2006, as a response to hysteria whipped up during the war on terror, the European Union passed the Data Retention Directive.  The directive requires member states to log and store all telecommunications and internet data, such as call times, destinations, IP addresses - effectively, full traffic data - for six to 24 months so that police can datamine it (with a court order, of course - but they have tame judges to give them that).

The German Constitutional Court has just ruled Germany's implementation of that directive illegal.

The reason, of course, is privacy.  The law requires that the communications details of everyone, regardless of guilt or innocence, be logged and made available to police.  While the communications themselves are not recorded and stored, the fact that they were made is - and that violates individual privacy.  Who you talk to and when is fundamentally private information, and requires strong evidence of wrongdoing (not to mention relevance) to justify.  The law did not require any evidence of wrongdoing at all.  As a result, it was a "particularly serious infringement of privacy" and has been struck down.

This means that Germany will be violating the Data Directive.  But from the BBC story, it sounds like that will be being "reassessed" later this year.  Hopefully Germany and other countries will decide to ditch it entirely.

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Arrest Blair!

by IdiotSavant Mon Jan 25th, 2010 at 06:28:00 PM EST

From No Right Turn - New Zealand's liberal blog:

Tony Blair is a war criminal, guilty of "the supreme international crime", waging a war of aggression.  Unfortunately, the UK government has no interest in bringing him to justice.  The present government backed the war, and many of them could end up beside Blair in the dock should he ever face trial.  As for the opposition, they voted for the war, and so can hardly oppose it now.  The result is that a war criminal gets to walk free due to the protection of the powerful.

Enter the Arrest Blair campaign.  They're offering a bounty to anyone who attempts a peaceful citizens arrest of Tony Blair for crimes against peace.  The attempt doesn't have to be successful, but it does have to be reported in the media.  The aim is to embarrass the government into enforcing the law; making the rat live in fear of justice for the rest of his life (as Pinochet did) is just a bonus.

George Monbiot has more about the reason for the campaign here.

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UK government protects Israeli war criminals

by IdiotSavant Tue Jan 5th, 2010 at 08:44:37 PM EST

From No Right Turn - New Zealand's liberal blog:

The UK has a problem: it has universal jurisdiction for war crimes and crimes against humanity.   This has led to several embarrassing incidents where people have taken the law at face value, and demanded that the government prosecute war criminals visiting the UK.  In the absence of any government action to do so, some have even tried to enforce it themselves, by bringing private prosecutions against visiting war criminals.

This has caused a great deal of embarrassment to the UK government.  Why, they can't play host to some very good friends with blood on their hands, while joint meetings on how better to effect war crimes have to be cancelled for fear that someone might end up in jail.  So they have a solution: require the Attorney-General to consent to any prosecution.  That way, she can veto any attempt to hold war criminals to account, and the law can go back to being what it was always intended to be: a dead letter which is never enforced (or at least, never against friends and allies - a tool for victor's "justice" or colonial "justice", nothing more).

This is how power protects its own.  And its a clear example of why we should regard all politicians as hostis humani generis, the common enemies of all mankind.

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Iceland revolts against debt-slavery

by IdiotSavant Sun Jan 3rd, 2010 at 03:51:32 PM EST

Back in 2008, we saw one of the most naked and tawdry displays of big-country power in recent memory, when the UK abused anti-terror legislation to freeze the assets of the Icelandic government to force it to guarantee the deposits of UK citizens in a collapsed Icelandic bank.  Faced with this sort of pressure, the Icelandic government capitulated, and effectively sold its own people into debt-slavery, accepting a debt amounting to 40% of its GDP which it had no moral obligation for.  

Last week, the Icelandic Parliament finally passed a law cementing the deal, providing for crippling payments to the UK and the Netherlands over the next 15 years.  But there's a problem: the Icelandic people will not accept being enslaved to pay someone else's debts.  60,000 of them - 25% of the voting population - have signed a petition opposing the bill.  And as a result, Iceland's President has delayed signing it into law, and looks set to invoke his rarely-used power to put a bill to a referendum.  With 70% opposition, if it goes to a vote, the bill will lose.  If it doesn't go to a vote, then there will almost certainly be a repeat of the mass public protests which forced the collapse of the previous government in 2009.  And those protests will be repeated until a new government is elected which repudiates the unjust debt.

The UK government will be furious, and will no doubt threaten further asset freezes.  But Iceland's people are not going to be enslaved.  And if their politicians collaborate with foreign economic oppression, then they will roll them and get new ones.

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Electoral Reform in the UK

by IdiotSavant Tue Dec 1st, 2009 at 08:10:22 PM EST

From No Right Turn - New Zealand's liberal blog:

After a decade of broken promises, the UK's Labour government is finally moving on electoral reform, announcing that they will pass a law before the election requiring a vote on the electoral system within two years.  Of course, New Labour being New Labour it is being done for all the wrong reasons:

Ministers, who agreed the move at a meeting of the cabinet's democratic renewal committee (DRC) yesterday, believe that the prospect of a referendum will have three key benefits. It will:

  • Allow Labour to depict itself at the general election as the party of reform in response to the parliamentary expenses scandal.

  • Make David Cameron look like a defender of the status quo. The Tories, who are opposed to abolishing the first-past-the-post system, would have to introduce fresh legislation to block the referendum if they win the election.

  • Increase the chances that the Liberal Democrats will support Labour - or at least not support the Tories - if no party wins an overall majority at the election, resulting in a hung parliament. The Lib Dems have traditionally regarded the introduction of PR as their key demand in any coalition negotiations. While AV does not technically count as PR, many Lib Dems regard AV as a step in the right direction.

Not what's missing from this list: anything to do with the actual fairness of the electoral system.  just another example of how under New labour, policy is just a rhetorical prop for spin.

But then, their "reform" - the "alternative vote", AKA preferential voting - is the electoral reform you have when you don't really want electoral reform and doesn't actually fix the core problem of disproportional results (just look at any Australian election for evidence of this).  But it is some improvement, in that it makes FPP slightly less broken while preserving its worst feature of large manufactured majorities, and if we're lucky, it will force a wider debate on a real alternative, rather than the pallid tripe New Labour is offering up.

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No freedom of religion in Switzerland

by IdiotSavant Sun Nov 29th, 2009 at 05:07:10 PM EST

From No Right Turn - New Zealand's liberal blog:

Switzerland has voted in a referendum to ban minarets.  I am simply appalled.  This is an outright attack on freedom of religion, specifically the freedom of Muslims to build religious buildings, and if it was reversed and applied to e.g. church spires, people would instantly recognise this.  

The good news is that Switzerland is a party to the European Convention on Human Rights, which affirms freedom of religion.  The Convention is legally binding and enforceable on its members through the European Court of Human Rights, and it is difficult to see how the ban could survive a legal challenge.  OTOH, the Court has previously upheld a Turkish law banning headscarves, so they may simply decide that allowing Christians but not Muslims to express their faith in architecture is within the "margin of appreciation" granted to states, and effectively piss on the document they are supposed to be enforcing.

This is also a perfect example of how citizens initiated referenda can be used by a majority to victimise and oppress a minority, and a strong argument for building human rights safeguards into any system of binding referenda.  

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by IdiotSavant Thu Oct 29th, 2009 at 07:47:22 PM EST

From No Right Turn - New Zealand's liberal blog:

Earlier in the month the Irish agreed in a referendum to EU expansion - prompting a wave of stories in the UK media about how of course this meant that war-criminal Tony Blair would be the EU's first president.  Now it looks like Europe isn't so keen:

Tony Blair's hopes of becoming Europe's first sitting president were receding fast tonight as Britain admitted his chances of success were "fading" after the continent's centre-right leaders made it clear one of their own must have the post.

Hours after Gordon Brown delivered his strongest statement of support for Blair - disclosing that he had spoken to him earlier this week - British sources indicated that the former prime minister was unlikely to assume the high-profile job.

"It would be right to describe Tony's chances as fading," one British source said. "Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel are not terribly enthusiastic. Silvio Berlusconi remains his strongest backer."

"One of their own" means someone from the European People's Party grouping, the EU-wide group of national-level centre-right parties, currently dominant in Germany, France, and the European Parliament.  But reading on, they make it clear that the European left doesn't want Blair either.  In fact, the only people who seem to want Blair are... the UK.  Who for some reason - a legacy of Imperialism? - seem to believe that the rest of Europe will just naturally conform to their whim.  Fortunately, Europe doesn't work like that.

So, Blair seems to have been stopped.  Is it too early to celebrate?  Or do we have to wait until the stake is finally hammered into his chest?

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by IdiotSavant Mon Oct 19th, 2009 at 09:38:15 PM EST

From No Right Turn - New Zealand's liberal blog:

Not content with wanting to give massive subsidies to the nuclear industry, the UK government also wants to insulate them from the true costs of their activities by weakening standards around the disposal and storage of nuclear waste.  The highlight?  Letting them dump nuclear waste in local landfills.

This is simply insanity.  At a time when western countries are shitting themselves over the risk of a "dirty bomb" (to the extent that in 2004 they robbed Iraq of all its medical radiation sources, leaving Iraqis to die of cancer), the UK is now proposing that the materials required to create one be left lying around with the trash.  But its not just about terrorism - we've already seen the consequences of this sort of dumping in the third world and the former Soviet Union.  Dumping this stuff in landfills means it will be found, scavenged, played with, and people will be contaminated and die as a result.  But I guess the UK government doesn't care about that as much as it cares about the profits of the nuclear industry.

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World Day Against the Death Penalty

by IdiotSavant Sat Oct 10th, 2009 at 10:20:29 AM EST

Today, October 10, is the world day against the death penalty.  Europe is almost entirely free of the death penalty - Belarus is the only European country which still retains it - but executions still happen around the world. Today is the day we work to change that, and end the abomination of judicial murder for good.

This year the focus is on teaching abolition [PDF].  The children of today will be the citizens of tomorrow.  Encouraging them to debate the death penalty will help them to understand why it must be abolished.  In addition, there is a push to end child executions, outlawed under the (universally accepted) Convention on the Rights of the Child, but still practiced in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Sudan.  There is a petition calling on these countries to end their practice of executing children; you can sign it here.

This is a struggle we are winning.  Last year two more countries - Burundi and Togo - abolished capital punishment, and the number of countries performing executions has fallen. By keeping up the pressure, we can end the death penalty globally, and consign it to the history books forever.

Promoted by afew

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Twilight of the European left?

by IdiotSavant Thu Oct 8th, 2009 at 06:07:02 AM EST

From No Right Turn - New Zealand's liberal blog:

There's an interesting piece on Crooked Timber on the twilight of the European left.  From near-total hegemony back in 2000, social democratic parties are now in opposition in most of Europe (and that map is pre-German elections).  Rather than blaming it on the natural electoral cycle (which seems to be moving into phase in much of Europe, just as it did a few years ago in South America), Daniel Davies instead blames Blairism:

promoted by nanne

Read more... (7 comments, 549 words in story)

Everything I hate about New Labour

by IdiotSavant Tue Sep 29th, 2009 at 08:14:22 PM EST

From No Right Turn - New Zealand's liberal blog:

Gordon Brown gave his keynote address to the UK Labour conference today, and with the party now coming third in the polls, he retreated into New Labour's favoured ground: authoritarianism.  If Labour wins, he promises a crackdown on anti-social behaviour (again) and compulsory internment of teenage mothers (yes, really).  Plus the usual array of soundbite policy props, all so he could fight the election for the "squeezed middle classes".  Pardon me, but I didn't think the middle classes (which most UKanians don't identify themselves as anyway) were who a labour party was supposed to fight for.

The good news is that this conference will almost certainly be Brown's last as Prime Minister.  And hopefully the wretched New Labour project of authoritarianism, triangulation, and abandoning their base will go with him.

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Earning their pay?

by IdiotSavant Tue Sep 22nd, 2009 at 08:20:48 PM EST

From No Right Turn - New Zealand's liberal blog:

The biggest "justification" for excessive executive pay is that the fat cats earn it.  Without these Randian super-heroes, businesses would decline, share-values would tank, and "ordinary share-holders" would lose out.  


Executive pay has defied a fall in company performance, according to a new study published today, which calls on investors to wield their power by exercising their right to vote on remuneration reports.

The report, which studies the impact of the "say on pay" power handed to investors at annual meetings since 2002, shows an inverse correlation between the cash paid to executives and the performance of the FTSE All-Share index.

Or, to put that in English, the worse companies do, the more their managers are paid.  It's a scam, nothing more.

The report argues that "ordinary shareholders" should use their votes to curb this greed.  The problem is that most shareholders aren't ordinary; hell, most aren't even people.  Instead, most shares are owned and voted by corporations and pension funds, and the decisions on how they vote are made by... corporate executives.  Who have no interest whatsoever in upsetting their own gravy train.  And so the scam goes on and on...  

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The left wins in Norway

by IdiotSavant Tue Sep 15th, 2009 at 09:31:24 PM EST

From No Right Turn - New Zealand's liberal blog:

Norwegians went to the polls yesterday in parliamentary elections - and appear to have re-elected their centre-left government by the narrowest of margins.  The Labour / Socialist Left / Centre coalition won 86 seats in the 169 member Storting, a majority of a single seat.  Which sounds bad - but it is the first time Norwegians have re-elected a government in 16 years.

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Linguistic discrimination in Slovakia

by IdiotSavant Tue Sep 1st, 2009 at 11:31:46 PM EST

From No Right Turn - New Zealand's liberal blog:

Slovakia has passed a law restricting the use of minority languages.  Using any language other than Slovak in official business, in schools or hospitals will be punished by a fine of up to 5,000 Euros - around a year's income for the average Slovakian.  The law directly contravenes the obligations of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages which requires that parties, at minimum,

undertake to eliminate, if they have not yet done so, any unjustified distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference relating to the use of a regional or minority language and intended to discourage or endanger the maintenance or development of it.

(The Charter actually requires parties such as Slovakia to promote and encourage the use of minority languages as an expression of cultural wealth. Eliminating linguistic discrimination is simply the first step)

Slovakia has a substantial Hungarian minority, numbering about 10% of the total population.  And they feel specifically targeted by the law, viewing it as an effort to eliminate their language - and them - from public life.  It's not a recipe for good ethnic relations - or good international relations, at that.  The law has already caused substantial tension between Hungary and Slovakia, which both countries recognise is now getting out of control.

This is not the sort of law I would have expected to see in a modern democracy, let alone one which is part of modern, multicultural Europe.  Which language people choose to speak is ont just a matter of personal choice, but also of cultural identity. And it is simply not the state's business to try and change that.

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A cleanout in the UK

by IdiotSavant Sun Aug 9th, 2009 at 10:11:46 PM EST

From No Right Turn - New Zealand's liberal blog:

According to the Guardian 120 UK Labour MPs - a third of their caucus - are expected to quit at the next election. 63 have already said they're going. And that's in addition to the unknown number who will be forcibly de-elected by their angry constituents.

The primary reason is apparently a crack-down on secondary employment, which will "prevent them realising their earning potential". And naturally, they're timing their departures to take advantage of the UK Parliament's generous severance package.

Good riddance is all I can say. UK Labour has been sick for a very long time, and the attitudes on display here are simply further evidence of it. And with these self-serving parasites gone, perhaps Labour can regain its position as a party of the left, rather than a continuation of Thatcher.

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UK government to repeal sedition

by IdiotSavant Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 12:59:10 AM EST

From No Right Turn - New Zealand's liberal blog:

First, we take Wellington.  Then we take London:

Laws dating from the Star Chamber that can see people jailed for speaking out are to be abolished after a campaign by writers and actors, lawyers and politicians.

Lord Bach, the Justice Minister, has bowed to the weight of criticism and agreed that the offences of sedition and criminal libel are "outdated" and should be abolished. "Sedition and defamatory libel are arcane offences from a bygone era when freedom of expression wasn't seen as the right it is today," he said.

But it was not just a case of removing some redundant offences. The laws may not have been used much lately in Britain, but their significance was the legitimacy they provided to other countries to suppress public criticism.

As Lord Bach acknowledged: "The retention of these obsolete offences has been cited by other countries as justification for the retention of similar laws that have been used to restrict press freedom."

This is an excellent move, and long past due.  The UK Law Commission recommended the abolition of sedition in 1977, but it has hung around on the books like a bad smell for a further 30 years.  Meanwhile, this bit illustrates perfectly why sedition has to go

The offences date from the time of the Star Chamber and were used in 1792 against Thomas Paine on the ground that the Rights of Man brought into hatred and contempt the present sovereign, Parliament, kingdom, constitution, laws and government.

Paine's "crime"?  He advocated democracy.  There's no better example of how sedition has been used by bad governments in an effort to suppress good ideas.  

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Ireland goes medieval

by IdiotSavant Thu Jul 9th, 2009 at 10:16:38 PM EST

From No Right Turn - New Zealand's liberal blog:

Last year, the UK abolished the archaic offence of blasphemous libel, and New Zealand will almost certainly follow suit if anybody has the courage to actually bring a bill on it.  Meanwhile, Ireland is moving in the opposite direction, with the Dail passing a new defamation bill which included the following:

36. Publication or utterance of blasphemous matter.

(1) A person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €100,000. [This has now been amended to €25,000 - I/S]

(2) For the purposes of this section, a person publishes or utters blasphemous matter if (a) he or she publishes or utters matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion, and (b) he or she intends, by the publication or utterance of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.

(3) It shall be a defence to proceedings for an offence under this section for the defendant to prove that a reasonable person would find genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value in the matter to which the offence relates

So, in Ireland, the easily outraged religious now get a veto on free speech.  Say that "god doesn't exist", make a great TV comedy mocking the Catholic church, tell those people worshipping the latest slightly Virgin Mary-shaped object that they're credulous fools, and get a whopping fine.  Because their right not to be offended apparently outweighs your right to express the blatantly obvious.  

This is a medieval law.  And by passing it, the Dail have marked Ireland as a medieval country, on a par with Afghanistan, Iran and similar backwards places.

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Westminster gets a new Speaker

by IdiotSavant Mon Jun 22nd, 2009 at 09:36:39 PM EST

From No Right Turn - New Zealand's liberal blog.

The UK House of Commons has elected Conservative MP John Bercow as its new Speaker.  The election was caused by the resignation of Michael Martin, who was irrevocably tainted by his mishandling of the Parliamentary expenses scandal and his shameless response to it.

So, at a time when the UK Parliament's mana is at rock bottom after systematic corruption and abuse of the expenses system, who did they elect?  An MP who used his expenses to commit tax fraud, enriching himself by stealing from the public.  And UK MPs wonder why the public regard them as rotten to the core...

Looking at the Guardian's spreadsheet of candidate's expenses, it seems that none of the top candidates were clean, while those who had not abused their expenses were the first eliminated.  I think that tells us very clearly where the Parliament's sentiments lie - and it is not towards honesty or transparency.  This is a corrupt House, and it needs to go - and the sooner, the better.

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