The Nether-World

May 28, 2007

Ihre Papieren, Bitte!

Filed under: Bliar, Civil Liberties, John Reid — netherworld @ 7:27 am

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Courtesy of Beau Bo D’Or

Warning: Swear blogging alert

So, here I am trying to recover from this awful flu bug which has incapacitated me somewhat, and thinking that as it’s a bank holiday weekend it might just be possible to get through it without without Blair or any of his minions managing to enrage me to the point where I have to write something. Fat chance! Anyway, this has pissed me off enough to go into swear blogging mode so apologies for the language, normal service will resume once I calm down.

Before we have digested John Reid’s latest attack on the European convention on human rights (ECHR) the stupid cunt has to go even further and try to bring back the racist Sus law. It didn’t work then why should it work now?

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, Blair has to put his ten pence worth in, turning my incandescence into apoplexy. Look guys, I’m not feeling well and it’s supposed to be a holiday. Is it really too much to ask for both of you political has-beens to shut the fuck up at least until Tuesday? Apparently it is. It’s hard to know where to start, but seeing as the return of the Sus law has been covered very well here, here, and here we may as well move on to the insane rantings of Blair. Before we do though I’d just like to repeat an important point that Devil’s Kitchen rightly makes:

Er… Does anyone remember that Identity Cards were not going to be compulsory to carry? You know, various Home office ministers pooh-poohed the idea that Britain was going to become some kind of jack-booted, totalitarian police state because you wouldn’t actually have to carry your ID Card with you?

I think this is what DK is referring to:

The bill made no difference to police stop and search powers, he [Charles Clarke] said, and there would be no requirement for people to carry ID cards at all times.

Right, moving on to Blair:

The absconding of three people on control orders because of suspicion of their involvement in terrorism has, once again, thrown into sharp relief the debate about terrorism and civil liberty. Within the next few weeks we will publish new proposals on anti-terror laws. Our aim is to reach a consensus across the main political parties.

Well, if they had been tried for their alleged connections with terrorism using phone tap and other currently disallowed evidence, they would, if found guilty, be behind bars now. The debate about terrorism and civil liberty exists because you are doing the terrorist’s job for them by removing the civil liberties we want to defend. Your aim is to push through even more Draconian legislation with the minimum of debate as usual using a relatively minor event as an excuse.

But at the heart of these new proposals will lie the same debate: the balance between protecting the safety of the public and the rights of the individual suspected of being involved with terrorism.

And where exactly is the “balance” here if everyone is now a suspect?

First let us clear away some of the absurd criticism of the police and security service over the three individuals who absconded.

As far as I’m aware no one is criticising the police and security services over this incident. The criticism has been leveled at you and your government for these ridiculous control orders.

After September 11, 2001, in common with many other nations, we passed new antiterror laws. In the aftermath of such an outrage it was relatively easy to do. We gave ourselves the ability, in exceptional circumstances, to detain foreign nationals who we believed were plotting terrorism but against whom there was insufficient evidence to prosecute. It was an important power. They were, of course, free to leave Britain. But we wouldn’t let them be free here. The ability to detain foreign nationals gave our services the ability to focus even more resources on the surveillance of British nationals who were a threat. It also sent out a strong signal of intent.

It sent out a strong signal of shoddy law making. If there was insufficient evidence to prosecute foreign nationals then there was no need to incarcerate them without trial, and when that was declared illegal to put them under house arrest. If there was a justifiable suspicion of malicious intent then they should have been kept under surveillance until there was sufficient evidence to prosecute.

In December 2004 these laws were struck down by the courts. In his famous judgment Lord Hoffmann said there was a greater risk to Britain through the abrogation of the foreign suspect’s civil liberties than through terrorism.

That’s right, a judge with a far better knowledge of the law than you possess realised that indefinitely imprisoning people without trial is fundamentally wrong in a free society. Not too complicated is it?

So we were forced to opt for the much milder remedy of control orders, applicable to both foreign and British nationals. These do not involve detention. They impose some limits on the individual’s freedom. They are better than nothing and have utility – because otherwise the individuals would have to be subject to even more intensive surveillance.

You were forced to do no such thing. You had the option to attempt a prosecution using phone tap and other surveillance evidence as other countries do. You just didn’t like the humiliation of a judge telling you you were wrong so you appealed the judgement and lost that too. The control orders were your sour grapes.

They were, however, much weaker than we wanted, perpetually diluted by opposition amendments, constantly attacked on civil liberty grounds.

Yes, there is a good reason they were attacked on civil liberty grounds. House arrest is still a form of imprisonment and there was still no trial to justify such an action. Are we learning yet? Obviously not.

In addition, after September 11, and again after July 7, we have tried continually to deport foreign nationals who were either engaged in or inciting extremism. Again and again in court judgments we were forced to keep them here. The important point is that although of the hundreds we keep under surveillance, many are UK citizens – as with these three individuals – many are not and in any event their influence and the ideas they import from abroad have a significant and radicalising effect. And, of course, we lost the crucial vote on 90 days’ precharge detention, despite offering a week-by-week court hearing throughout the 90 days.

If inciting extremism is illegal, then those who do it can and should be charged, tried and locked up if found guilty. Simple no? If someone is deemed dangerous or suspicious by the security services then surveillance seems the obvious course of action. I don’t see what difference it makes whether they are foreign nationals or UK citizens (like the July 7 bombers). Yes, you did lose the vote on 90 days detention without trial and you haven’t stopped sulking since. Hopefully, if you try to reintroduce it, you’ll lose the vote again because it’s damaging to civil liberties (even with a week-by-week court hearing) and completely unnecessary as we have seen.

So when there is an outcry about the three absconding, we should remember that consistently over the past few years, and even after July 7, attempts to introduce stronger powers have been knocked back in parliament and in the courts. Indeed recently it was said, again in a court case, that unless the British government could prove that a foreign national suspect would not be at risk of mistreatment in his own country, we were obliged to keep him here.

Er…outcry? The only outcry I heard came from you and that odious thug John Reid. You just don’t get do you Blair? The reason Parliament and the courts knocked back your attempts to introduce stronger powers is because Britain has a strong tradition of protecting civil liberties, and as Prime Minister you have a duty to do that also. Your dismay that the British government should prove that a foreign national suspect would not be at risk of mistreatment in his own country before you deport him is not a great surprise to anyone because we are all too familiar with your ambivalence to torture, whether it’s calling the American Guantanamo gulag an “anomaly” or pretending that extraordinary rendition doesn’t happen. The fact is, you couldn’t give a flying fuck if people are tortured even if they are innocent.

So the fault is not with our services or, in this instance, with the Home Office. We have chosen as a society to put the civil liberties of the suspect, even if a foreign national, first.

Yes, the fault is with the Home Office and you. Who else is at fault if your dodgy legislation fails? As you say, we have chosen as a society to put the civil liberties of the suspect, even if a foreign national, first. This is what makes us different from the terrorists and from the totalitarian regimes that you support. Strange as it may seem to you Mr Blair, that’s how we like it.

I happen to believe this is misguided and wrong. If a foreign national comes here, and may be at risk in his own country, we should treat him well. But if he then abuses our hospitality and threatens us, I feel he should take his chance back in his own home country.

Oh, fuck off! Civil liberties are not “misguided and wrong” you wanker. If foreign nationals abuse our hospitality we can either deport them (if we know they won’t be tortured or worse) or we can imprison them. We just need to prove in a court of law that they have indeed abused our hospitality. I can’t believe I have to explain this to a barrister.

As for British nationals who pose a threat to us, we need to be able to monitor them carefully and limit their activities. It is true that the police and security services can engage in surveillance in any event. But this is incredibly time-consuming and expensive, and even with the huge investment we have made since 2001, they simply cannot do it for all suspects. Over the past five or six years, we have decided as a country that except in the most limited of ways, the threat to our public safety does not justify changing radically the legal basis on which we confront this extremism.

You should monitor anyone, foreign or British, who the security services believe pose a threat to us, and activities shouldn’t be limited unless a good reason to do so can be shown. Time and money shouldn’t be a constraint on justice. What a bloody daft thing to suggest. With that logic you might as well bang everyone up up and dispense with courts all together… Oh, wait a moment… Of course, if your America’s foreign policies didn’t have half the world wanting us dead then maybe, just maybe, we wouldn’t have such a terrorist threat to confront.

Their right to traditional civil liberties comes first. I believe this is a dangerous misjudgment. This extremism, operating the world over, is not like anything we have faced before. It needs to be confronted with every means at our disposal. Tougher laws in themselves help, but just as crucial is the signal they send out: that Britain is an inhospitable place to practise this extremism.

Anyone’s right to civil liberties comes first. What is dangerous is departing from that stance. The tougher laws don’t seem to help. You keep introducing more and more and yet we are constantly being told of ever more numerous heinous plots against us. Saudi Arabia has even more Draconian laws and yet extremism is still practiced. Go figure.

This is part of a bigger picture, in which a considerable part of media and public opinion continues to blame us for causing the extremism.

Hmmm, I wonder why the media and public opinion would think such a thing. Could it be they have a point? Anyway, not all the media do think along those lines. Your masters at The Scum and The Daily Mail certainly don’t.

I was stopped by someone the other week who said it was not surprising there was so much terrorism in the world when we invaded their countries (meaning Afghanistan and Iraq). No wonder Muslims felt angry.

Er, yes…?

When he had finished, I said to him: tell me exactly what they feel angry about. We remove two utterly brutal and dictatorial regimes; we replace them with a United Nations-supervised democratic process and the Muslims in both countries get the chance to vote, which incidentally they take in very large numbers. And the only reason it is difficult still is because other Muslims are using terrorism to try to destroy the fledgling democracy and, in doing so, are killing fellow Muslims.

You remove two utterly brutal and dictatorial regimes. In both countries the civilians are being bombed to smithereens by British and American forces. Iraq has been utterly destroyed and is now in the grip of terrorism that didn’t exist before the illegal invasion. You lied to the world about Iraq’s non-existent WMD because regime change is illegal. The various civil wars are tearing what’s left of Iraq to pieces, you made no plans whatsoever for the aftermath of the illegal invasion. There are two million refugees and a further two million internally displaced people and over 600,000 dead. The country is now divided along sectarian lines with a government that seems almost as brutal as Saddam’s…but at least they got to vote for the candidates you put forward – Whoop di doo!! And you wonder why Muslims feel angry? You deluded idiot. Oh, and you are losing in Afghanistan too.

What’s more, British troops are risking their lives trying to prevent the killing. Why should anyone feel angry about us? Why aren’t’t they angry about the people doing the killing? The odd thing about the conversation is that I could tell it was the first time he had even heard the alternative argument.

Words fail me. So, the British army aren’t doing any of the killing, is that what you’re saying? Have you asked the family of Baha Musa why they might be angry? You might, by luck or design, managed to have a conversation with someone who perhaps wasn’t as well informed as he might be, but I bet there are opponents of your policies who could wipe the floor with you.

This extremism can be defeated. But it will be defeated only by recognising that we have not created it; it cannot be negotiated with; pandering to its sense of grievance will only encourage it; and only by confronting it, the methods and the ideas, will we win.

I think one way of defeating this extremism is by recognising that we have at the very least contributed to causing it, whether in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Palestine or Lebanon. I don’t know whether or not it can be negotiated with but we have to acknowledge that there are legitimate grievances that need to be addressed even if we rightly condemn and try to counter the violence, because by dismissing the grievances you are provoking further extremism. Your confrontational attitude has made things worse not better and you seem to have run out of ideas (I’m not sure you had any to begin with). Fortunately for all of us, both here and abroad, you will be out of office soon and we can only hope that your successor is a bit more pragmatic (a forlorn hope I fear). The continuation of your policies will lead to even more defeat. Your conviction that your bankrupt policies will lead to victory remind me of the claptrap Mussolini came out with during the second world war… Vincere e vinceremo! (To win and we will win!). Well, we all know what happened to him. Here’s a reminder. What isn’t widely known is that when the bodies were taken down the children of Milan were invited to piss on the corpses (I cite my father as a source for that nugget). You Mr Blair deserve nothing less for your crimes.

*UPDATE*

More bloggage on this from Not Saussure and Obsolete

 

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May 26, 2007

Under The Weather

Filed under: Civil Liberties, Fruitbats, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Nu Labour, UK Politics — netherworld @ 4:33 am

Sorry about the lack of posts. I seem to have come down with some nasty lurgy which is making staring at a computer screen for any great length of time give me a headache (not to mention the blocked sinuses, fever, aching muscles and hacking cough), and stringing a coherent sentence together is difficult. So as a total cop-out, here are ten other stories collected over the week (in no rational order) that are worth reading:

  • Ministry of Truth on John Reid’s latest attack on our freedoms.

  • Mask of Anarchy on McDonald’s efforts to to have the word “McJob” removed from the dictionary.

  • Rachel has returned from her honeymoon only to face yet more abuse from a batshit cyber-stalker and is asking for help.

  • Grimmerupnorth on why Jon Cruddas is a dishonourable hypocrite who should not be elected to the Deputy Leadership.

  • Not Saussure on yet another attack on our civil liberties by our wonderful government.

  • Blood & Treasure on the latest ratcheting up of the hate campaign against Iran.

  • Ten Percent on America’s renewed sabre rattling against Iran and on just who is really supporting Fatah al-Islam in Lebanon.

  • Lenin’s Tomb on the secret air war in Iraq.

  • Tears for Lebanon on the misery that the Lebanese people are facing.

  • Obsolete on Margaret Hodge’s latest outburst in favour of the BNP (supported by Hazel Blears no less).

Hopefully I’ll be back to ‘normal’ blogging as soon as I feel a bit better.

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May 15, 2007

Taking Liberties

Filed under: 7/7, Bliar, Civil Liberties, Protest, Terrorism, Torture — netherworld @ 4:35 pm

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This film is at the top of my ‘must see’ list. As the title suggests, Taking Liberties is about the attack on civil liberties that Britain has experienced since 1997 when Tony Blair came to power. Other than the various plugs for it I’ve seen on numerous blogs of all political persuasions and, of course, the information on the film’s website along with the trailer, I don’t know that much about it but it certainly seems to be a very interesting documentary and a fitting tribute to the Blair years. The film covers the following topics:

Tim Ireland over at Bloggerheads has seen the press screening and has written a positive review. Here is the trailer on YouTube:

Taking Liberties will be in cinemas from June 8. It is very unlikely to get anything like the same publicity that Hollywood bockbusters get and it will only be shown in a few selected cinemas so check the website’s cinema listings to find out where it is showing.

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December 21, 2006

Mass Lone Demonstration and Carol Service

Filed under: Civil Liberties, Democracy, Protest — netherworld @ 8:42 am

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The last Mass Lone Demonstration of 2006 was as much fun as the others I’ve attended only much, much colder. It really was freezing but that didn’t stop a bunch of die-hard democracy fans assembling in Parliament Square once again to make a mockery of the idiotic SOCPA law which forbids protest in the vicinity of the Prime Minister’s office without written permission from the police which has to be obtained a week beforehand. There was the usual amusing array of diverse protests; from “Fair Pay For Elves” to my own “Stop the Surveillance Society”.

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After protesting for an hour, we gathered under the statue of Winston Churchill to break the law by singing Christmas carols, an event organised by Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads. Veteran peace protester Brian Haw was presented with a new and more powerful loudspeaker and then the singing commenced in candle light, and very tuneful it was too. Pausing only briefly for some mince pies, we sang:

  • O Come All Ye Faithful
  • Away In A Manger
  • Little Drummer Boy
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas
  • Deck The Halls
  • Good King Wenceslas
  • The First Noel
  • Joy To The World
  • We Wish You a Merry Christmas
  • Jingle Bells
  • Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer
  • Santa Clause Is Coming To Town
  • Amazing Grace
  • God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
  • Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
  • Silent Night

Christmas carols aren’t usually my sort of thing but this was really quite charming and it again highlighted the utter stupidity of a repressive law. A collection was made for sick children in Iraq and we also had a minute’s silent reflection. The police were nowhere to be seen. Obviously they decided to keep an even lower profile than they did last year.

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By eight o clock it was all over and we took our frozen bodies down to the Red Lion to thaw out before moving on to another pub to continue the festivities. Among the revellers were Rachel, Gareth from D-Notice, the Disillusioned Kid and of course Tim. As soon as they post something on the Mass Lone Protest, I’ll link to it. You can see higher resolution versions of these photos here and Gareth has some more over here. I expect Indymedia will have some more pictures soon.

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*UPDATE*

Here are the links to the reports from some of the other bloggers who attended:

If I find any more I’ll update this post again. Oh, and we managed to raise £85.93 (and 70 euro-cents) for Medical Aid for Iraqi Children.

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November 19, 2006

Git of the Week #1 (of an occasional series)

Filed under: Bliar, Blogging, Civil Liberties, Media, Nu Labour — netherworld @ 10:23 pm

I meant to comment on this earlier so by now it’s already all over the blogosphere, but this story does need to be recorded here too. Actually “git” is probably too polite a word to describe Matthew Taylor, Tony Blair’s outgoing chief strategy adviser who has decided that the reason people are turned off by politics is not the lies and corruption of the politicians but the people who have the audacity to comment on them, particularly bloggers. Talk about shooting the messenger. Anyway, judging by the reaction from the blogs I’ve read so far there is a rare (but unsurprising in this case) show of unanimity, with everyone having pretty much the same message for this patronising idiot. Let’s have a closer look at the comments he made at an e-democracy conference in central London.

Tony Blair’s outgoing chief strategy adviser fears the internet could be fuelling a “crisis” in the relationship between politicians and voters.

If by “crisis” you mean that more people are able to scrutinse and debate Government policy Matthew, that’s not a crisis but a very positive development, one you should be encouraging rather than criticising.

Matthew Taylor – who stressed he was speaking as a “citizen” not a government spokesman – said the web could be “fantastic” for democracy.

But it was too often used to encourage the “shrill discourse of demands” that dominated modern politics.

He was speaking on the day Mr Blair carried out an online interview.

I thought we were all citizens in a democracy, whether we are a part of the Government or not. Are you suggesting that if you were speaking in your capacity of a government spokesman you would have a different set of views? Yes, the web could be “fantastic” for democracy if only you lot would stop meddling with it and trying to impose unnecessary restrictions on it.

Mr Taylor said Mr Blair’s online grilling from voters – and other initiatives such as environment secretary David Miliband’s blog and Downing Street’s new online petition service – showed the government was making good progress in using the internet to become more open and accountable.

But he said more needed to be done by the web community in general to encourage people to use the internet to “solve problems” rather than simply abuse politicians or make “incommensurate” demands on them.

The Government is slowly waking up to the power of the internet and I applaud some of those initiatives, but I hardly think it’s making the Government more accountable. Mr Blair answered only a small handful of questions selected by the journalists conducting the interview. It wasn’t exactly a “grilling” was it? David Miliband’s blog is the laughing stock of the blogosphere. Has it ever veered off message? As for the petition service on the Downing Street website, well the jury is still out. We don’t know if the Government will take any more notice of the petitions than it does of the votes at the Labour Party Conference.

One of the problems the web community is trying to solve is the undemocratic, mendacious and illiberal actions of this government, I’m afraid that requires a little criticism… deal with it! Politicians are servants of the people, so the people are quite right to make demands on them. If Politicians don’t like that then they should be in another line of work.

Speaking at an e-democracy conference in central London, he said modern politics was all about “quality of life” and that voters had a “very complex set of needs”.

The end of deference, the rapid pace of social change and growing diversity were all good things, he argued, but they also meant governments found it increasingly difficult to govern.

Voters do have a “very complex set of needs” and it is the job of the politicians to try and address those needs. Many of those needs are being expressed on the internet. Because there are so many people on-line, there are obviously going to be a lot of differing opinions. Rather than complain about it, look at what people are saying. The end of deference is a good thing, as you say Matthew, but you don’t really mean that do you, otherwise you wouldn’t be saying this:

“We have a citizenry which can be caricatured as being increasingly unwilling to be governed but not yet capable of self-government,” Mr Taylor told the audience.

Like “teenagers”, people were demanding, but “conflicted” about what they actually wanted, he argued.

They wanted “sustainability”, for example, but not higher fuel prices, affordable homes for their children but not new housing developments in their town or village.

I’ve been trying to avoid expletives up until now but … Fuck right off you arrogant, patronising, condescending twat. Yes, we are increasingly unwilling to be governed by a bunch of lying, corrupt, greedy hypocrites like yourself and the rest of the NuLabour junta who are not held to account for their actions. Democracy is supposed to be self-government you idiot. Look it up in a dictionary. Of course people are demanding, and they have different views. Your generalisations of the “conflicted” people are offensive in the extreme which is exactly why you should expect some reciprocation. The examples you give show nothing new. It’s up to governments to balance those conflicts as best they can. If you can’t do that or complain about having to do it then piss off and we’ll find people who can.

But rather than work out these dilemmas in partnership with their elected leaders, they were encouraged to regard all politicians as corrupt or “mendacious” by the media, which he described as “a conspiracy to maintain the population in a perpetual state of self-righteous rage”.

Whether media was left wing or right wing, the message was always that “leaders are out there to shaft you”.

Now where would we get the insane idea that our leaders are corrupt, mendacious and out there to shaft us? The media reporting on the cash for honours investigation, the lies we were told in the run up to the war with Iraq…? Calling the media “a conspiracy to maintain the population in a perpetual state of self-righteous rage” is a little disingenuous when what it does is report on your actions, and anyway, what about NuLaour’s conspiracy to maintain the population in a perpetual state of fear?

He went on: “At a time at which we need a richer relationship between politicians and citizens than we have ever had, to confront the shared challenges we face, arguably we have a more impoverished relationship between politicians and citizens than we have ever had.

“It seems to me this is something which is worth calling a crisis.”

Yes Matthew it is a crisis, one entirely of the Government’s making. The impoverished relationship between politicians and citizens you lament is because of the dishonesty and lack of accountability. The richer relationship you want is partly possible because of a vibrant media and on-line community.

The internet, he told the conference, was part of that “crisis”.

“The internet has immense potential but we face a real problem if the main way in which that potential expresses itself is through allowing citizens to participate in a shrill discourse of demands.

“If you look at the way in which citizens are using technology and the way that is growing up, there are worrying signs that that is the case.

No, the internet is part of the solution. What you call a “shrill discourse of demands” is in fact citizens discussing, debating, arguing and informing. What is wrong with that, and why shouldn’t they use technology to do those things more effectively?

“What is the big breakthrough, in terms of politics, on the web in the last few years? It’s basically blogs which are, generally speaking, hostile and, generally speaking, basically see their job as every day exposing how venal, stupid, mendacious politicians are.

“The internet is being used as a tool of mobilisation, which is fantastic, but it only adds to the growing, incommensurate nature of the demands being made on government.”

Yes, blogs like the mainstream media, can be hostile and if they expose how venal, stupid, mendacious politicians are then they are doing a valuable service. If you don’t like it, why not try being less venal, stupid and mendacious? Anyway not all blogs provide this service, you’ve already mentioned David Miliband’s blog, and there are other blogs which will happily praise your illiberal policies, gloss over your dishonesty and be the deferential compliant citizens you obviously want. I seem to remember you wanting an official blogger for the recent Labour Party Conference. And what about Hazel Blears’ blog? You seem to complain about blogs when they dare to disagree with you, but are quite happy to use them to spread your message.

He challenged the online community to provide more opportunities for “people to try to understand the real trade-offs that politicians face and the real dilemmas that citizens face”.

In other words to shut up and get with the programme… No chance, if it’s all the same to you we’ll just carry on exposing how venal, stupid, mendacious you are. It’s more fun anyway.

“I want people to have more power, but I want them to have more power in the context of a more mature discourse about the responsibilities of government and the responsibilities of citizens,” Mr Taylor told delegates.

The last thing you want is for us to have more power which is why your government has put so much effort into removing as many of our liberties as possible. If you want responsible citizens then lead by example and empower people.

Part of the problem, he added, was the “net-head” culture itself, which was rooted in libertarianism and “anti-establishment” attitudes.

Oh dear! What on earth, may I ask, is wrong with libertarianism? Are you saying that you are opposed to liberty and free will? Judging by NuLabour policies, I suppose the answer is “yes” but that isn’t specified in the rhetoric is it? As for “anti-establishment” attitudes, well Britain has a rich tradition in “anti-establishment” attitudes. It is not a new phenomenon that grew out of the internet, rather a continuation of an old tradition using the internet.

He told delegates: “You have to be part of changing that culture. It’s important for people who understand technology, to move from that frame of mind, which is about attacking the establishment into one which is about problem-solving and social enterprise.”

Technology should be used to encourage elected representatives to communicate better with voters, he told delegates.

Why exactly should users of technology not challenge their leaders and ask pertinent questions?

Government also needed to “develop new forms of consultation and engagement that are deliberative in their form and trust citizens to get to the heart of the difficult trade-offs involved.”

And there should be more effort to make communities “work together to solve problems,” said Mr Taylor.

This government has shown no trust in its citizens and should therefore expect no trust from its citizens. “Work together to solve problems,” is a NuLabour euphemism for “keep quiet and do as your told”. After ten years in power that has become fairly apparent to many people.

Mr Taylor is Tony Blair’s chief adviser on political strategy and the former head of the centre left think tank the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR).

He is leaving Downing Street next week, after three years, to become the chief executive of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts (RSA).

I’m glad you’re leaving Downing Street Mr Taylor. Hopefully you’ll do less harm working in the RSA, but be warned, artists can be notoriously anti-establishment. I doubt they will be any more deferential and compliant than the numerous bloggers who have such a low opinion of you.

Bloggage
Blairwatch
D-Notice
Guido Fawkes
Iain Dale’s Diary
Mr Eugenides
Not Saussure
Rachel
Paul Linford
Devil’s Kitchen

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November 17, 2006

More ID Card Mayhem

Filed under: Bliar, Civil Liberties, Privacy — netherworld @ 7:43 am

Tony Blair yesterday in an interview on the Downing Street website:

Prime Minister:

Obviously all the normal protections will apply, but the important thing about this data is that the data that you have in your passport isn’t fantastically confidential to people, and the key for this thing is not actually the data about you, it is the fact that you have the biometric data of your fingerprint and your iris scan, that is the data that matters and that data is peculiar to you.

Will Hutton:

But who has access to it and how will citizens know that it is absolutely ring fenced and that only appropriate people will have access to it?

Prime Minister:

Because in the laws that we have put through on this, there are only certain people that are allowed access to it and that access, as I say, it is your actual biological data. And I think the confusion that people have here is they kind of think well you know the taxman can go in and get this information also, there is no information other than the same information you get in your passport, the key thing is the biometrics that are there and the reason for that is that this new technology, the biometric technology, and this is why the whole argument has changed, gives you a far better and more secure way of identifying people.
Source

Today’s Guardian:

The government was facing demands to recall 3m micro-chipped biometric passports last night after a Guardian investigation which found that they could be electronically attacked and cloned with a £174 microchip reader.

Biometric data was transferred to a PC after gaining access to the chips in three passports. The findings are likely to put pressure on John Reid, the home secretary, to rethink plans for ID cards.

The Identity and Passport Service has spent £60m on new passport production lines for the £66 documents, which were introduced in March.
Source

And whilst on the subject of ID Cards I can’t let this little beauty go un noticed (via Nosemonkey)

“ID Cards will reduce the threat of the Surveillance Society and help safeguard civil liberties”
Source

The comment from Antipholus Papps is superb:

Concentration camps will reduce the threat of genocidal holocaust and help safeguard cultural diversity.

Fantastic! So ID Cards are going to save us from this are they? Just look at what can happen in America if you are careless enough to forget your ID card.

“A cell phone captured video of a 23-year-old student being administered multiple Taser shocks by UCLA police on Tuesday. The UCLA student was hit with the Taser shocks multiple times while he was in the Powell Library Computer Lab. According to the paper, (Mostafa) Tabatabainejad did not show ID to community service officers who were conducting a random check,” reports NBC.

John Reid will be green with envy. Time for another petition I think. And while on the petition page you may as well sign this one too (via Justin).

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November 12, 2006

Remembrance Sunday

Filed under: Bliar, Civil Liberties — netherworld @ 7:40 am

Cenotaph

Image by Beau Bo D’Or

Today is Remembrance Sunday, the day we remember the soldiers who died for their country in the many wars that have been fought. In the case of the Second World War there is no doubt that the soldiers were genuinely fighting for our freedom and against a dangerous enemy with a disgusting ideology that threatened all of Europe and devastated much of it and killed so many. As for the other wars, well I’m not so sure. This in no way is meant to disrespect the brave soldiers who fought and died in these wars and who rightly deserve to be honoured, just criticism of the politicians who started these wars. What I hate most about Remembrance Sunday is how politicised it is, particularly now with the Iraq war still raging. I can’t describe this any better than Quarsan over at Blairwatch who summed up my feelings perfectly:

On Sunday, wearing his ‘special serious statesman face’ Tony Blair will lay a wreath at the Cenotaph. The man who sent soldiers out to die for a tissue of lies, the man who has never attended a funeral of a soldier killed by following his orders, the man who has never visited the wounded, the maimed, the disfigured.

The man who just can’t face seeing the consequences of his actions, his errors. The man who doesn’t want us to remember.

I can think of nothing more sickening, more offensive to the dead.

It’s worth reading the whole short post and its comments.

Nearly a century after The First World War the brutality, the lies, the greed, the imperialism and the racism continues only with even more sophisticated means. The utter hypocrisy of Blair pretending to honour those who gave their lives for our freedoms when he is removing those very freedoms as fast as he can beggars belief.

Blair Poppies

Image by Beau Bo D’Or

Over the last week there was the annual discussion of the wearing of poppies particularly for news presenters and politicians who are obliged to wear them when they go on air. One presenter, Jon Snow of Channel 4 news refused to succumb to “poppy fascism” as he called it. You can read his reasons here. Others happily wore their poppies.

There was also a debate about white poppies and red poppies. The point I’m trying to get to is this, if all these brave people fought and died to defend our freedom, surely we have the freedom to wear white poppies, red poppies or no poppies at all without all this fuss. The argument that the money raised from red poppies goes to a good cause (looking after veterans) is all very well, but if the nation is so grateful to these heroes, then they shouldn’t have to rely on a charity financed by the selling of paper flowers once a year.

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October 30, 2006

Waking up to the Surveillance Society

Filed under: Bliar, Civil Liberties, Privacy — netherworld @ 6:56 am

Back in February I wrote a post entitled “Fascist Britain” in which I outlined numerous ways in which our freedoms are being eroded. Since then the situation seems to have worsened. The British are now the most spied-on people in western world.

BRITISH people are now more spied upon by their political leaders than any other population in the free world, according to an official report.

The linkage of databases and surveillance systems mean people are now having their movements tracked, habits profiled and photograph taken hundreds of times a day. The findings, in a report compiled on behalf of Richard Thomas, the information commissioner, raised concerns that Britain is “waking up in a surveillance society”.

Thomas said: “Many of these schemes are public sector driven, and the individual has no choice over whether or not to take part. People are being scrutinised and having their lives tracked, and are not even aware of it.

“They don’t know, for instance, that a record is kept of every internet site they visit. They don’t realise that when identity cards come in, there will be a record of their movements and every time they have engaged with any public service.”
Read on

The intrusions into our privacy go even further than those outlined in the above article. For instance, Tony Blair wants as many people as possible to have their DNA stored on a national database. Not to be outdone, Gordon Brown is planning to allow shops to share confidential information with police databases with the ID card scheme. Even our household wheelie bins are being secretly tagged with hidden electronic “bugs” and and innocent children are to be subjected to compulsory fingerprinting.

How could we let things get so bad? There are several possible answers to this. Most obviously is the climate of fear that is being spread by our Government which uses the so called “War on Terror” to scare us into accepting ever more draconian restrictions on our freedoms… in order to preserve them. John Reid is particularly prone to using this absurd argument as is Tony Blair. But there is more to the phenomenon of the surveillance society than just scare mongering. One way we allow this to happen is to be sold the idea that all this surveillance makes our lives easier. By allowing private businesses in on the act, the Government can avoid taking responsibility for what happens and just calling it ‘progress’. For example, the idea that shoppers may one day be able to pay their grocery bills using a microchip implanted in their body is being sold to us as a quicker and more secure way of purchasing goods. By falling for this trick we willingly participate in our own enslavement. In other words we are responsible for how free we are and governments and businesses can only intrude on our privacy because we let them. We reverse this process only by refusing to be terrorised into accepting these initiatives; boycotting businesses that participate and protesting. It may well be too late, but do we really want to sleepwalk into a fascist state?

*UPDATE*

I just found news of a conference on Data Protection and Privacy whilst reading Spyblog. The theme is:

“A Surveillance Society?” – 28th International Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners’ Conference, London 2nd – 3rd November 2006

I was struck by the welcome address by The United Kingdom’s Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas:

Whilst I cannot promise the sunshine of Buenos Aires, I can promise that by coming to the United Kingdom you will be visiting a country with over 4 million CCTV cameras. Visiting London, you will be staying in a city able to monitor its citizens as they travel around the capital by car or on the Underground system. But London is also a city that has witnessed the kind of terrorist atrocities that spark calls for governments to do more and more to protect its citizens.

I’d be interested in reading a report from anyone going.

*ANOTHER UPDATE*

Antipholus Papps makes a very good point in the comments.

It’s also worth mentioning the Big Brother/reality TV propaganda offensive that has accompanied this. Constant surveillance is being sold to the podlings as a lark. A sign of importance and celebrity.

And while I’m updating this post again, I should include some other articles that have just come out and are very relevant to this post. First this:

The man who developed DNA testing in the 1980s has attacked the spread of data collection by police as “mission creep”.

Sir Alec Jeffreys said that the tool, which was meant to catch criminals who reoffend, has created a vast database of gene profiles of thousands of innocent citizens.
Source

And more alarming still there is this:

By 2016, they’ll be able to watch you everywhere

By Richard Ford

Surveillance systems installed to fight crime and terrorism track us as we go about our lives. It may be too late to halt Big Brother

Britain is becoming a “Big Brother” surveillance society with millions of people being tracked throughout their lives, according to a report published today.

Shopping habits, travel movements and car and train journeys are being monitored increasingly as part of the fabric of daily life.

The report gives warning that funding from the War on Terror is being used to explore the opportunity of connecting data-gathering systems to track “the movements and behaviour” of millions of people.

Massive surveillance systems now underpin modern life and are set to transform the ability of the Government, law and order agencies and companies to keep a closer check on citizens.
Read on

It’s worth reading the whole article as it paints a very scary and accurate picture of what is going on in our society. Also there is this article from The Independent:

Britain has sleepwalked into becoming a surveillance society that increasingly intrudes into our private lives and impacts on everyday activities, the head of the information watchdog warns.

New technology and “invisible” techniques are being used to gather a growing amount of information about UK citizens. The level of surveillance will grow even further in the next 10 years, which could result in a growing number of people being discriminated against and excluded from society, says a report by the Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas.

Future developments could include microchip implants to identify and track individuals; facial recognition cameras fitted into lamp posts; and unmanned surveillance aircraft, predict the report’s authors.

I’ve saved the article as a pdf file which you can access here when the on-line version expires. The Guardian is also reporting on this phenomenon as is The Telegraph. This creeping surveillance has been steadily increasing and, as the article says, we have been sleepwalking into it. How many people remember this sinister poster campaign from the Mayor of London?

Secure beneath the watchful eyes

I don’t know about you dear reader but when I saw these posters crop up all over London I felt far less secure; and yet we accepted it despite the Orwellian implication of the message. If Richard Thomas, the UK Infomation Commissioner is concerned then we should be as well.

*YET ANOTHER UPDATE*

Oh, one more thing.

The NHS database will soon be on line. This means that:

Millions of personal medical records are to be uploaded regardless of patients’ wishes to a central national database from where information can be made available to police and security services, the Guardian has learned.

Details of mental illnesses, abortions, pregnancy, HIV status, drug-taking, or alcoholism may also be included, and there are no laws to prevent DNA profiles being added. The uploading is planned under Whitehall’s bedevilled £12bn scheme to computerise the health service.
Read on

In fact, better still, read the same article via this post by Obsolete. It’s worth it.
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