Archive for the ‘Constitution’ Category

UK Human rights and Freedom extinguished

February 18, 2007

Hi Grit

The government in the UK, if re-elected at the next election, will be taking the final steps to abolish human rights, freedom and privacy for the individual UK citizen, all in the name of protecting us against terrorism.

If the labour government have their way, all adults over the age of 16 will, by 2009, be required to place their fingerprints on a central computer. The suggested law may even extend to “iris” prints. These moves are in addition to the requirement to provide photographs for driving licences; requirement to provide details for the census and annual local government property occupancy register (for council tax purposes); and the multitude of close-circuit television cameras that adorn our towns, streets, villages and roads. An extra measure of identity that is also being considered is to place our medical records in the same “identikit” of us.

Not satisfied with us already being the most watched nation in the EU, these latest moves will actually increase the gap between us and other countries, turning us into one of the most monitored nations in the world. Some may argue that these moves are positive, but are they? Let us consider the evidence.

1) COST:

Naturally, there is the cost of the citizen ID rules. The government suggest that this will amount to just over £5.4 billion ($10.8 billion). However, independent sources put the figure at £19.3 billion ($38.6 billion). This represents over £300 ($600) per annum, per citizen. In addition to this, it is compulsory for people to give this information at one of 69 centres through the UK, at their own cost. In some cases this means travelling up to 100 miles, irrespective of age, financial situation or infirmity. A round trip of this nature, taken in work time will cost the worst affected another £100 at least. Of course, this does not take into account the annual running costs of the scheme.

2) PRIVACY

A basic human right is that of privacy. The ability to live our lives without fear or favour, and to keep parts of our lives free from the prying eyes of others. From 2009, if these plans go ahead, this will no longer be possible. Some will argue that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear, but that is not the point. Do I really want my health, age, medical condition, financial status and life history potentially exposed to every form of media and individual nationally and internationally? Our data protection act suggests that such information should be secure but, in view of the fact that the government has incorporated rules to allow certain organisations, commercial as well as government and non-government organisations to access the data, this guarantee no longer holds true.

3) DISCRIMINATION

Such a system will also lead to discrimination, both intentional and by devious means. Employers will be tempted to access medical and financial information about potential employees, therefore leading to unfair bias against certain applicants. This is particularly the case in medical issues. For example, take the case of a person who may in the past have had cancer. Although possibly totally cured, when such a person is set against an applicant who has not past health problems, which is the less than totally honest employer going to chose?

Medical, legal and financial practitioners will be able to access medical records, providing a situation where they can discriminate against those they do not want to assist.   

4) MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE:

No computer or other registration system is infalible and the identity system will be no exception. With personal and biometric information on around fifty million people on file, the incidences of misinterpretation, incorrect identification and transpostion of information will rise. As a result this is bound to lead to an increase in the incidence of miscarriages of Justice. Add to this the fact that none of the biometric identity measures are 100% accurate and it can be seen that this will compound the issue. A small example of this might occur with twins for example. Especially in cases of identical twins wrong identification is even more likely.

5) THE CONCEPT OF INNOCENCE

The United Kingdom laws have always been founded upon the rule of “innocent until proven guilty.” It is bad enough that in recent decades tax and other laws have led to a reverse of this process in such areas. Now, with the introduction of of these measures, such a foundation has been totally eroded. The onus on the citizen will now be to prove their innocence in all cases.

Does this mean that in future one has to keep a daily diary of life events to ensure that one cannot get into a situation where lack of evidence to suggest otherwise leads to automatic guilt? I work from home and, during the day, this means that there is no-one to provide an alibi for my whereabouts, especially if I am not on the computer. If I take two hours off for a bath and rest, will I in future have to log this and provide photographic evidence? 

6) IDENTITY THEFT

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes of the past decade. It is also one of the least obvious to the victim, unless it has been committed for financial purposes. How can we be sure that our identity will not be stolen or duplicated for other criminal purposes? What is more important is, if such an event does occur, how will we know until a crime, using our identity has been committed?

7) PROTECTION AGAINST CRIME AND TERRORISM

The assumption that identity laws will offer protection against crime and terrorism is flawed in so many ways as to make it laughable. It only works if one starts from the premise that every hardened criminal and committed terrorist is going to abide by these laws. Naturally, Osama Bin Laden and other terrorists, and underworld criminals are going to assist the law by coming forward voluntarily to offer their biometric identity to the authorities. I think not! Such an assumption is, at best, insane.

There are those who argue that it is easier to catch someone who does not possess an identity card. How does that work? There are 60 million people in the UK and it is certain that there are not enough law enforcement agencies or officers to check each indicvidual. Add to this the fact that there is unencumbered travel in the EU through 25 countries and a determined criminal or terrorist has more than adequate escape routes. These are in addition to the many illegal ways of escaping from the country. Furthermore, why should such persons worry about being apprehended when there is always the route of identity theft to cover their tracks?

Although there may be rules and laws in place to address breaches of the protections in place, these are an “after the event” remedy, by which time the damage is done. Once the security of information has been broken, one cannot recapture the privacy, irrespective of how much money has been recovered in damages.

The hypothesis that these measures are a protection against crime and terrorism, as has been clearly demonstrated, is totally wrong. They will have little to no effect in these areas. 

In conclusion therefore, one has to observe that these new laws will have limited impact upon detering any major crime and terrorism attempts. What they will do is to damage the human rights of the innocent citizen.

the Brit

Advertisements

MP travel expenses

February 14, 2007

Hi Grit

All of the debate about travel costs, its effects on Global Warming and the need to conserve energy is generated by politicians. However, today figures have been published that show just how two-faced these people can be, especially in the UK. You need to bear in mind that there are around 634 MP’s and that the travel expenses are in addition to their salary and other expenses.

The current report reveals that the cost of MP’s travel for 2005-06 was a staggering £4.5 million ($9 Million). Of this £2 million was spent on car travel, £1.5 million on trains and £1 million on Flights. This equates to over £7,000 per MP, or £136 per week, and these figures are rising. However, as can be seen from the report, some MP’s are claiming as much as £44,000 per year, an incredible £850 per week!

There are a number of issues here. Firstly, these same MP’s are telling us to cut down on our road travelling, whilst at the same time failing to take their own advice. On the one hand the government is saying that the congestion on the roads is reaching a gridlock position, yet at the same time over 44% of their own travel is adding to the problem. The difference is that we, as lowly citizens, will not be able to reclaim any “rush hour” mileage cost imposed upon us, whilst the MP will be reimbursed. Every £1 an employee spends on mileage costs them £1.30 of gross income.

Secondly, they keep saying that we need to reduce our carbon footprint and reduce energy consumption, at the same time as they are increasing their own (or perhaps we should all walk so that they can travel in luxury!). Our tax authorities penalise us for the type of vehicle that we drive. For example, the tax levels on a 4×4 (SUV) are far more stingent than a small saloon. For an MP this is not a problem as they reclaim all of their expenses direct from the government.

Thirdly, there are no budget constraints on MP spending. They do not have to answer to anyone regarding the level of their expenditure. Any family is aware that they have to budget their expenditure to match their disposable income, or they will suffer the problems of escalating debt. Similarly, every employee knows that their expenses will not be sanctioned by their employer if it is considered to be unreasonable, and that continual extravagance will be rewarded with unemployment. A corporation is aware that cost control is vital to attracting business growth. An Mp’s attitude is directly opposite to all of these, safe in the knowledge that Joe public will be made to pay for their representative’s extravagance through the tax system, either directly or by stealth.

Standing alone, the MP’s travel expenses are bad enough, but when you add to this their other annual expenses, which on average work out at £110,000 ($220,000) each, and their salary of between £57,000 and £150,000 depending upon their position, it all adds up to an enormous public cost. What is worrying is that this represents just a small fraction of the cost of our government and civil service. In my view the time for “accountability of government” is NOW!

the Brit 

   

Drink and sex abuse in UK politics

February 9, 2007

Hi Grit

Want to know why are politics in the UK are in such a shambles? The following story that I found gives some insight into this situation. It involves the case of Fiona Jones, once heralded as one of “Blairs Babes”, a term that was given to the 100 women MP’s that came into parliament with him in 1997.

Twelve days Fiona was found dead by her 17 year old son. She was surrounded by empty Vodka bottles. It is obvious from this scenario that she was an alcholic, but how did she get into this position. “Parliament taught her to drink,” accuses her husband. It transpires that the Houses of Parliament offers cut-price drink to all members and that heavy drinking sessions are not uncommon. With it being a very close environment there is a culture of “you have to do this to become one of us.” 

The other contributory factor to Fiona’s demise was sexual harassment. From the reports it seems that the lady was continuously subjected to bullying sexual attacks and innuendo by her chauvenistic colleagues.

Surprisingly, only one MP (an ex-MP at that) mentioned Fiona’s death. The article itself seems to brush away the importance of the issues of drink and sex, blaming Fiona’s demise on other issues.

This story is not only tragic, for which our sympathies are extended to Fiona’s family, the root causes of it are indefensible.

Tony Blair and his government publicly depore the menace of drink, often quoting how much work time is lost as a result, and the health and safety issues surrounding it. The same government has introduced laws and cracks down hard on sexual abuse and harassment in the workplace. Why have these issues not been addressed in their own (private) club?

If we were found drunk in the workplace, the minimum expected of us would be to seek treatment. At worse we would be sacked for being unsafe to perform our task. If we were found guilty of sexual harassment in the workplace we would be fined, sacked or even imprisoned and our employers would be accountable as well. Why are the same rules not applied here.

Our government is responsible for making decisions that affect the health and safety of its citizens and, in many cases those of other nations. They are supposed to make sensible, sober decisions regarding matters of local, national and international importance. How can they be trusted to do that if these sorts of incidences are occuring?

No doubt this is the tip of a dangerous ice-berg. The government’s treatment of this lady is deplorable. The governments failure to maintain the same rules and regulations that they apply to its citizens and their employees is unforgivable and, in my view, a criminal dereliction of its duties.

the Brit

Tony Blair at home

February 9, 2007

Hi Grit

For those who don’t know a lot about Blair and his official home, here is a site that lets you take a tour around it. It will walk you through all of the rooms where important decisions are made and you can click on items of special interest to learn more. Unfortunately it does not allow you into his private accommodation.

Other interesting fact from this site include some interesting quotes from previous PM’s, dating back to the 1740’s, which our friend Tony might do well to refer to. For example:-

William Pitt the elder (1766-1788) “Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it.”

Henry Addington (1801-04) “In youth, the absence of pleasure is pain, in old age the absence of pain is pleasure.”

Sir Robert Peel (1841-46) “There seem to me to be very few facts, at least ascertainable facts, in politics.”

Marquis of Salisbury (1886-92). “English policy is to float lazily downstream, occasionally putting out a diplomatic boathook to avoid collisions.”

Arthur James Balfour (1902-1905) “I am more or less happy when being praised, not very comfortable when being abused, but I have moments of uneasiness when being explained.”

Andrew Bonar Law (1922-3) “If I am a great man, then a good many great men of history are frauds.”

Clement Richard Atlee (1945-51) “Often the experts make the worst possible ministers in their own fields. In this country we prefer rule by amateur.”

Sir Alec Douglas Hume (1963-64) “There are two problems in my life. The political ones are insoluble and the economic ones are incomprehensible.”

Interesting!

the Brit

Hillary slips, admits she’s a whore for socialism!

February 2, 2007

Hi Brit,

While I have never had any doubt that Hillary Clinton is, at heart, a socialist, she finally admitted it to the world today, Hillary on Oil Profits.  In this short clip from her speech, she proclaims that, as President, she would take the profits from the oil companies and invest it in research programs.  I’ll leave the rant about alternative energy and its general state of being a pipe dream until later.  However, I must take a moment and explain to the Candidate From Hell that the race is for President.  If she wants to be Dictator, she should go to Cuba or Venezuela.  Even though I hope daily that Bill finally gets tired of her and adds her to the long list of dead Friends Of Bill, this admission of greed and corruption having a prominent place in her personal philosophy, once again demonstrates the stomach turning ugliness that is the true face of the Democratic Party and liberalism in general.

the Grit

Death by hanging

January 31, 2007

Hi Grit,

You will remember all the todo there was about Sadam Hussain’s hanging? I have just found another very descriptive, detailed and gruesome account of a hanging in Scotland, although without video. You might well be wondering how this could be, bearing in mind that the UK no longer have the death penalty.

The answer is that this hanging took place 178 years ago. It involved a man named “Burke” of Burke and Hare fame. You will note that the media coverage then, was just as outrageous as it is now. However, in those days at least the public did not hide their feelings, being prepared to pay 20 shillings (must be over £20,000 now) to watch the event.

Just goes to show that, despite the technological and civilisation advances, we still have the same basic instincts as we did then.

the Brit

The Church, descrimination and double standards

January 30, 2007

Hi Grit

Far be it from me to interfere in the workings of the church, but is appears from a recent news item that the Church in the UK is complaining loudly because the government is banning it from being descriminatory. The issue has been raised over the fact that the Church have been told that their adoption agencies will no longer be able to deny same sex partners from adopting children.

What I find interesting in this article is the response from Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor when he says they are not being descriminatory, just wont allow children from their agencies to be adopted by non hetrosexual partners. To me it is obvious that the church is discriminatory, and not only in this instance. 

He also says that the government is creating a “different kind of morality.” Now I thought that equality was part of the moral fibre of the bible, but perhaps I got that wrong.

The other aspect of this issue that I find unusual is the double standards in operation. It seems to now be acceptable for non-hetrosexual people to become members of the clergy, where they can be involved with the instruction and development of a childs life, but they are not allowed to do this in a family environment. How about the sector of the churches that discriminate against married clergy, whilst advocating marriage as the right way of family life, or its position on female clergy in the past? Then of course there is the Churches position on divorce where, although it is frowned upon, they will turn a blind eye to remarrying in the Church, especially if Royalty is involved.

The term “put your own house in order” springs to mind.

the Brit

NGO’s empowered

January 30, 2007

Hi Grit

I read with interest your comment about power being delegated to committees and am really thinking that you and your fellow Americans would not feel at home in the UK, despite popular beliefs.

The problem with where power lies and decisions can be made in the UK is even more complex than the US. Like you, we have a system where governments, when they get into power, think “don’t need the electorate now!” so they delegate some of the most difficult laws and regulations to those who do not have to vote on it. For example, when there was all the furore about big business, ancient men (notice I did not use the word wise?) were gathered together to define new regulations to control corporate governance. This produced a regulation that, whilst not law, was orchestrated in such a way that if a corporation did not implement, they would be delisted from the stock market. No voting on that then!

Similarly, the government passes a lot of regulations that it does not want to bother Parliament with, to outside NGO’s, probably because they feel that we as voters, apart from being surplus to requirements, would be too confused by the issues to make a sensible decision. Of course the other way that the politicians can sidestep the due process of democracy is to take a leaf out of John Reid’s (the Home Secretary) book. He changed the way our legal system worked within twenty four hours by simply writing to the Judges and asking (so he says) that they stop imprisoning guilty criminals.

Finally, as if this wasn’t enough, we in the UK have another non-democratic “big brother” showering us with laws and regulations like confetti at a wedding. It is called the EU. In my view the European Union structure is an ideal place for politicians who are tired of allowing themselves to be subjected to the vagaries of democracy. They sit in their ivory towers constructing regulations about matters in which they have no knowledge nor have been asked to interfere with, and churn these out at the rate of knots. Of course no-one outside of the EUSS (European Union Secret Society) is asked for opinion or allowed to cast judgement. Thus suddenly us mere mortals find ourselves waking up in the morning to find that we cannot have milk in our coffee because the EU have deemed that milk should not be cream in colour or something stupid like that.

The moral of this of course is that there is always someone worse off than you 🙂

the Brit

Finally, the yoke gets lighter.

January 30, 2007

Hi Brit,

This item, Bush Directive Increases Sway on Regulation, should give you a bit of an insight into US politics and how our Government works.  As you may know, our Federal Government has blessed us with gigantic agencies and departments, crammed full of careerer bureaucrats, that exist for the sole purpose of attempting to regulate every tiny detail of everything that happens, or can happen, in America.  Now, a moments thought, will expose the trouble of this system, that being that there is no conceivable way for legislation to be passed with enough detail to cover all this.  Thus, over the years, Congress, realizing in their wisdom that millions might die from RRDS (Rules & Regulations Deficit Syndrome) without a constant flow of new and ever more complex and comprehensive instructions from Washington, solved the problem by delegating their Constitutional duty to the unelected employees of the various nanny agencies. 

President Bush has, with the stroke of a Constitutionally authorized pen, slapped the new Power in town back down to size.  The best part of the article is a response from a leading, and very liberal, Democrat:

Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California and chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said: “The executive order allows the political staff at the White House to dictate decisions on health and safety issues, even if the government’s own impartial experts disagree. This is a terrible way to govern, but great news for special interests.”

Yes, Mr. Waxman, I know how you feel.  It is certainly a shame that we have to bother with involving elected officials in the process.  Oh, the trouble caused by this thing we call democracy.

the Grit

2008 Elections

January 28, 2007

Hi Grit

Thanks for the information on your 2008 Presidential elections. As Solomon once said (although I hasten to add this is heresay as I wasn’t there at the time), those who give wisdom empower others. However, in this instance, as the UK papers have passed little comment about any of the potential candidates apart from Hilary Clinton, I am of course little the wiser. No doubt more will become clear as the months move on.

I was pleased to note that some of the normal traditions of the Presidency race are being kept. Naturally, the exhorbitant funding levels will be maintain as candidates attempt to buy the office. The one tradition that caught my eye though, was the area of candidate scandals. I notice that this is already moving into full swing as people look to dig the dirt. A number of candidates are already revealing themselves in this area as I found at this address.

Sometimes nothing changes.

the Brit

EU – Don’t blame us!

January 26, 2007

Hi Grit

I hear your comments about the way that the EU is reacting to Microsoft. In fact it is a coalition of other computer companies that is raising their ugly heads about the matter. It is one of the problems with globalisation that every business wants a slice of it until someone (like Microsoft), find a great way to really make a go of it. Then all of the also-rans like IBM etc., start to rant because they have not made such a good job of achieving market share.

The EU commission, which is hardly a representative body from the electorate of the European nations, thinks to itself “oh dear, we had better not upset these transnational companies.” So they start ranting off as well. Of course no-one asks the millions of civilians what they think about the subject.

So, whilst I accept that this might have upset those in the US like you Grit, I would say that it is not a EU wide decision.

the Brit

US Presidential race – confused

January 25, 2007

Hi Grit

I may be a little dense, but I am having real trouble working out who is doing what in the race to become your next President. Firstly people seem to jumping jumping on the band wagon. As far as I can see there are now three democrats involved, including Hilary Clinton. I have yet to catch up with who is running for the other side, but no doubt that will come to me in the next few days.

Also, it appears that everyone is leading on the same home policy, home care. Assuming that the Iraq situation is over by then, won’t this be just a little confusing for the electorate?

Oh I will also be looking to see how much money is being thrown at the election campaigns as well.

the Brit

Justice delayed is?

January 24, 2007

Hi Brit,

We seem to have a spurt in old crimes finally being brought to justice:

Ex-Deputy Arrested in 1964 Race Case

and

8 Arrests in 1971 Police Killing in S.F.

While I am a big fan of law and order, I also must question how any case that is over 30 years old can have a fair hearing.  Really, since I can barely recall last week, how credible can witnesses be decades later?  As I recall, our Constitution guaranties us the right to a fair and SPEEDY trial.  Somehow, I get the feeling that our Founding Fathers would not consider a delay of 30 years as falling into the “speedy” category.  It’s sad to see the foundations of our country slowly crumble.

the Grit