Monday, December 28, 2009

Some Good News for the New Year


The "Viva Palestina" convoy, led by British MP George Galloway, has been blocked from getting on a ferry from Aqaba to the Egyptian town of Nuweiba where it planned to continue by road to the Rafah border crossing.

But now the convoy faces a potentially budget-draining journey back through Jordan to the Syrian port of Latakia, followed by several ferries to El Arish.

Actions have consequences. Nobody owes your opinions an airing. I bet I could make a few thousands setting up a Cowellesque vote on which one of you got to starve first.

Just fucking sort it, Gorgeous, and stop bothering people who have to live in the real world by moaning about it.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It's not his fault but?

Do they call him "Jones the Safety"?

The incidents came within hours of a campaign launched to improve safety.

Elfyn Jones from Llanberis mountain rescue team said both rescue incidents were "completely and utterly unnecessary".

What is "Illegal"?

Disclaimer - this is the author's opinion on what the law is, not what the law should be ...

Amnesty International on the Uganda "Bahati" or "Round 'em, put 'em in a field ..." Bill:

"Certain provisions in this bill are illegal; they are also immoral," said Kate Sheill, Amnesty International's expert on sexual rights. "They criminalize a sector of society for being who they are, when what the government should be doing instead is protecting them from discrimination and abuse."

Okay - there is only one word in that that I disagree - obvious from the title - and that is "illegal". I happen to think that both the Bahati Bill and the current position in Ugandan law (under Section 140 of the Uganda Penal Code) is certainly arguably dodgy law under Articles 21(1) and 32(1) of the Ugandan Constitution, although readers will note that Article 21(2) of the Constitution expressly does not mention "sexual preference" and, in fact, Article 31(2a) explicitly discriminates against homosexuals - although no more than the UK or the USA (the latter federal) do - in denying 'marriage' - (Ed notes: he is trying hard not to do a Princess Bride / Peter Cook thing here ...) But I don't think that is Amnesty's point - I think they are talking about "International Human Rights Law", here:

The final section of the bill provides for Uganda to nullify any of its international or regional commitments that it deems "contradictory to the spirit and provisions enshrined in this Act." As both the African Commission and the UN Human Rights Committee have held, a state cannot, through its domestic law, negate its international human rights obligations.

But a state can withdraw from or otherwise abrogate those treaties it has freely entered into and anyway, a reasonably careful search of the UN doesn't actually show any treaty or covenant explicitly requiring equal treatment on the basis of sexual preference. Nope, not explicitly. You do have the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights - to which Uganda is a State Party without reservation (since 21 June 1995). Now, Article 2(1) states (my bold):

1. Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Which you could read, for the States Parties, that they agree not to discriminate against people with the 'other status' of fancying or bonking people of their own sex. But this is not settled law - never mind that Article 23 of the Covenant itself seems to imply marriage being specifically between man & woman - the mere existence of the "UN Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity" and the opposing Arab League sponsored declaration (with nearly as many signatories - 57 compared to 67) shows that, despite the completely non-binding Yogyakarta Principles.

There are aspects of the Bahati Bill, regardless of your opinion on the core issue of homosexual rights, that are utterly distasteful (and probably even more easily corallable as illegal under Uganda's Constitution or international obligations):

  • The death penalty. Although Uganda are not a signatory to the 2nd Optional Protocol to the Convenant, the Article 6(2) of the Convenant restricts the death penalty accordingly: "sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes". As s3(1)(b), just for example, of the Bill would impose the death penalty for consensual, protected homosexual acts for adults with HIV, I am fairly sure it would fall foul of this (whereas s3(1)(a) - homosexual paedophile acts might not?)
  • The restrictions on free speech.
  • The requirement (under penalty of prison) to inform on your friends, colleagues or mere acquaintances.
  • The explicit extension of the Stasi clause to ministers of religion with, at least as far as the Christian ones are concerned, the consequent violation of the sacrament of confession (thus possibly breaching the Article 18 rights on freedom of religion, although the qualification in 18(3) for morals is noted. And this is, fundamentally, an argument about opposing morals.)
So, I don't think the Bahati Bill would be "illegal". It might require amendment of the Ugandan constitution, it might (although I don't think it does) require Uganda to withdraw from some treaties currently binding it. Doesn't make it right, I know, but just saying ...

Says it all, really

The Equalities Bill:

It passed through the House of Commons without debate and is currently being read in the House of Lords.

What the fuck do our politicians think they are doing (a non-party political insult, here)? Is the draftsmanship perfect? Is there nothing in this Bill that anyone thinks shouldn't be law or could be better law (having different rules for the public and private sectors in something as basic as this doesn't necessarily strike me as the most reasonable thing) or even something that the bill has missed out (although as a libertarian, I'm not keen on extra rules, although having one Act to refer to rather than 4 or 5 and a whole bunch of Statutory Instruments isn't bad ...)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Colonies at Words

I notice that the Most Reverend Katherine Schori, Presiding Bishop of the (real) Episcopal Church in the general vicinity of Yankdom, has said something very important about the Ugandan "Bahati" bill (the obnoxious one about informing on then executing queer people - although I may have something to say about Amnesty's mouth-fart tomorrow.)

The Episcopal Church represents multiple and varied cultural contexts (the United States and 15 other nations), and as a Church we affirm that the public scapegoating of any category of persons, in any context, is anathema.

Now that, 'anathema' is a very good word. Consult your favourite dictionary for the modern usage but it fits the original meaning very well too - something being offered up to the Old Testament God of Ugandan 'Christians' and Muslims (whether we like it or not, the Muslims are actually following the dictats of their faith.)

Multicultural Hell.

Here. Nothing to say.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Someone's Missing the Point

And, to be honest, it may be me. But as the article is from the "Sunday Grauniad", it probably isn't.

The revelation has provoked outrage among human rights groups who warn that it could affect the job prospects of the innocent. They fear that whenever an employer carries out an "enhanced criminal records" check on a potential employee, the system would flag up the fact that the person had been arrested.

I have no idea whether permanently retaining records of arrests is new and we have no real insight in to the effect of spurious details appearing on Enhanced Disclosure reports (especially the super-sekret "don't tell the applicant" ones straight from the Nu-Labour "Kafka or Orwell - Let's do BOTH!" playbook.) And, we are unlikely ever too, given that the system has already been replaced by the "Independent Safeguarding Authority", which, itself, is probably on rather a short shelf life. But there is an important step missing ... Let's look!

(Liberty) "Government has fed a culture where arrest might as well be conviction, and suspicion equals guilt. In this climate, a permanent record of suspicion can seriously damage the life chances of any young person who has ever had their collar felt by the police."


A spokesman for the Criminal Records Bureau said: "An arrest with no further action may show up as part of an enhanced check, but the decision is made by the chief officer in each police force if they believe that the information ought to be included and that it is relevant to the application.

Hmm. Now, I am a small employer and as such have certain responsibilities when looking at applicants - and I have access to government vetting and also, in some cases, to Enhanced Disclosure rules. Now, except in cases where there is a specific ban on allowing employment (s3, s9 and Schedule 4 of the "Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006" for example) - and that has nothing to do with records of arrest showing on an Enhanced Disclosure - you must have been placed on the relevant barred list (s2), it is up to the employer to consider the nature of the disclosure and its relevance to the employment activity.

In fact, as an Enhanced Disclosure will show up details of spent offences, it is an offence for the employer not to take the specific relevance of the offence into account when making a decision regarding employment. You would assume that if it is an offence to take in to account a conviction for an irrelevant crime, surely there must be (I know, I'm talking about the law here, not common sense) an equivalent offence - or at least civilly actionable tort - for taking in to account an arrest, suspicion or disclosed intelligence regarding a similarly irrelevant crime (assuming for the sake of argument that any crime had actually been committed - whether by the job applicant or anybody else.)

Or am I missing something?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Rt Rev Venner - Right or Wrong?

The Right Reverend Stephen Venner, Bishop to the Armed Forces (and apparently also Bishop of for the Falkland Islands), has been widely condemned for apparently stating, amongst other things:

The Taliban can perhaps be admired for their conviction to their faith and their sense of loyalty to each other.

Clearly, in the storm of protest (including from an MP from the anti-war, anti-army, anti-pretty much everything ilLib Dims accusing him of "giving comfort and succour to the enemy") it was an impolitic thing to do - and, despite his apology (which has itself been attacked), he is going to be pretty much on the defensive for some time and has probably done his reputation permanent (hopefully not terminal) harm.

But was what he said wrong? I don't think that it is clear cut. Yes, some of the Taliban are fighting for money, some are fighting to keep evil crusaders out of the Dar-al-Islam, some just are fighting to keep outsiders* away from their mountain / village / compound / poppy field, etc. However, regardless of the motivation, it is axiomatic that you should not underestimate your enemy and, since before the "Art of War" went beta, that a good commander will try to understand the enemy - capabilities and motivations, strengths and weaknesses. The religious faith or even fervour of the Taliban is an important consideration in understanding them.

And, as I was composing this, Bruce Schneier's monthly Cryptogram brought my attention to this article. It is also axiomatic, particularly amongst retired sergeants, that sergeants run the army. I would disagree slightly - it is the core component of experienced soldiers, many of whom are, indeed, sergeants but some will also be your experienced captains and majors - anyway, different discussion. One of the implications of the report is that the equivalent of the sergeants within the terrorist cells are chosen by the old Soviet system (selected on joining for some combination of brains, political or religious orthodoxy, hereditary or simple nepotism etc) rather than the Western (since the time of the Roman legions) version stressing actual (combat or otherwise) experience. Bodes ill for your ability to learn from your mistakes (even if your successes don't blow you up!)

* Not just Brits, Yanks or even Russians but also those Kabul townies who've never chased a goat around a mountain.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

This says something about Blair

Apropos of a BBC News sidebar article - Seb Coe does not plan to return to politics, we learn this:

And the former athlete provided an insight into the moments shortly before London was named as Olympic host at the 2005 International Olympic Committee session in Singapore.

Lord Coe revealed he was called on his mobile phone by the then prime minister Tony Blair, who appeared unable to understand the result would be kept secret until the announcement.

"He couldn't actually understand, somehow, that we didn't actually know, that there were no exit polls here. We didn't know the result," recalled the peer.

I think he is being too polite - it had nothing to do with exit polls, Blair simply could not understand that the news hadn't been given (not, not 'leaked') to the important people (i.e. him) well before the proles were allowed to know.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I'm not sure this is right.

Mr Roger Day has been arrested, by Warwickshire Police, for an offence under s197 of the Army Act 1955, being that on the 8th November this year, he did march down Bedworth High Street wearing a bunch of medals to which he clearly was not entitled.

Some people are quite surprised by this. Some people think it is, or should be*, a reprehensible crime. I would quite like to see the stocks brought back and would be willing to travel to Bedworth and supply the local urchins with rotten fruit and out-of-date eggs.

Anyway, this deluded old fool (assuming he isn't a fraudster - in which case England has a perfectly good Fraud Act 2006 to wield) has done something objectionable (but no more so than playing rap music in public, for example), and has been arrested.

I bring to your notice Schedule 17 of the Armed Forces Act 2006 (Repeals and Revocations):
Army Act 1955 (3 & 4 Eliz. 2 c. 18) The whole Act.

The MOD announced, in a Defence Internal Brief that "The Armed Forces Act 2006 will come into force on 31 October 2009" - I assume there is another enabling Statutory Instrument (there were 4 already by the end of March 09). There is no equivalent of the s197 offence in the new act.

? Or maybe Warwickshire are operating in a little time warp?

* Disclaimer - I know Adam - for a very weak (aka internet) definition of "know".

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Trust Me, I'm From the Government

The government, today, released its whitewash (or, as they have it "investigation") report into the Joseph Rowntree Trust's report into the Database State.

Highlights for you:

  • "The methodology underpinning its judgements is opaque and inadequately substantiated" - but somewhat less so than the methodology by which you bunch of bastards committed us to war in Iraq, for example ... Or the Civil Contingencies Act. Or, to take a more recent example, the Digital Economy Bill.
  • We passed a law so it's legal (despite the requirements of HRA98 and the DPA and, since Lisbon, of the absolutely overriding nature of EU law.) - "This has always been the purpose of the Register since the Identity Cards Bill was brought to Parliament in 2005. The Register will hold, as specified under the Identity Cards Act 2006 ..."
  • Passwords - the ultimate in security: "a highly restricted password-protected electronic system, with both server and network access restrictions"
I don't generally agree with the JRRT on poverty, I do generally agree with them on prison reform, and the "Database State" report has an heavy and honest pedigree for its authors and its production. Choose who you believe - a New Labour place-man or this lot:
About the Authors

Ross Anderson chairs the Foundation for Information Policy Research. He is Professor of Security Engineering at Cambridge University, a Fellow of the IET and the IMA, and a pioneer of the economics of information security.

Ian Brown is a senior research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, with a PhD in information security. He is a member of the Advisory Council and a former Director of the Foundation for Information Policy Research.

Terri Dowty is Director of Action on Rights for Children. She has many years’ experience in education and children’s human rights. She sits on the Advisory Council of the Foundation for Information Policy Research.

William Heath chairs Open Rights Group and two new start-ups: Mydex CIC and Ctrl-Shift Ltd. He founded the public-sector IT research business Kable, now part of Guardian News & Media. He also sits on the Advisory Council of the Foundation for Information Policy Research.

Philip Inglesant is a postdoctoral researcher at University College London specialising in the human aspects of information systems and e-government.

Angela Sasse is Professor of Human Centred Systems at University College London, specialising in how to design and implement novel technologies that are fit for purpose and that benefit individuals and society. She is also a member of the Advisory Council of the Foundation for Information Policy Research.

Disclaimer - I am a member of FIPR, although not of the eminence to be on their Advisory Council.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

It Isn't Even Irony

A New Labour apparatchik quoting 1984 to justify the surveillance state:

In 1984, ‘Newspeak’ is a vital weapon for the totalitarian state precisely because it removes nuance. ‘The whole aim of Newspeak’, Syme tells Winston, ‘is to narrow the range of thought’.

Government must take its share of the blame for this failure of discourse. Too often, we have been overly defensive and dismissive of criticism. Government believes it is acting benignly and legally and has not adequately recognised the fears of those who believe this is not the case.

Friday, December 04, 2009

21st Century Love

Apparently, according to young Master S-E, is Mrs S-E and I watering the plants in each others virtual pets' gardens.

He is, just, pre-puberty. He'll learn!
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