Canada to legalize cannabis by 2017!

24/04/2016

Another one bites the dust, eh?  Good on ya, Canada!  And not the namby-pamby “medical marijuana” excuse either – full-on legalisation of recreational use!  Interestingly – surely not coincidentally – the announcement was made on 20 April: an unofficial holiday among cannabis advocates.  Marajuana users celebrated with a spliff outside Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

But what about the UK?  When will Brits be able to relax with a cup of tea and a spliff without worrying about stormtroopers battering the door in and hauling them off to some concentration camp?  When will the UK government grasp the nettle, poo-poo the US federal government’s ridiculous stance on the issue and do what more and more Western-style democracies are doing: leaving users alone and concentrating on real criminals?  Are they worried that if the police delved too deeply into the issue of real crime, they’ll uncover more than a few culprits in the Houses of Parliament?

So: good on ya, Canada!  And Cameron, when are you going to wake up and sniff the roses (while your mates are sniffing something far worse than weed)?

 

Cannabis users celebrating the news with a joint outside Parliament Hill. Image stolen from the BBC.

Cannabis users celebrating the news with a joint outside Parliament Hill. Image stolen from the BBC.


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DEMOCRACY and why it’s so great

21/10/2015

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image stolen from TRANSMETROPOLITAN BY WARREN ELLIS AND DARICK ROBINSON


The Tories won the election; but our true political ruler is still in charge – the Queen!

13/05/2015

I’ve always thought that the UK’s status as a “constitutional monarchy” meant that political decisions were made by our elected government and parliament, and that the Queen’s job was to attract the tourists and to rubber-stamp legislation with her truly ceremonial “Royal Assent”.

But it seems that I, and just about everyone else, have been misled.  The Guardian has reported that the Queen has powers of veto that are stunningly far-reaching.  One small example is the Queen vetoing the Military Actions Against Iraq Bill in 1999, a private member’s bill that sought to transfer the power to authorise military strikes against Iraq from the monarch to parliament.  In effect, it’s the Queen who decides whether to take military action or not, and there is nothing the government can do about it!

Downing Street did what it could to keep all this secret – we only know about it now because of a court order to release details of an internal Whitehall pamphlet was only released following a court order and shows ministers and civil servants are obliged to consult the Queen and Prince Charles in greater detail and over more areas of legislation than was previously understood.

The new laws that were required to receive the seal of approval from the Queen or Prince Charles cover issues from higher education and paternity pay to identity cards and child maintenance.

In one instance the Queen completely vetoed the Military Actions Against Iraq Bill in 1999, a private member’s bill that sought to transfer the power to authorise military strikes against Iraq from the monarch to parliament.

She was even asked to consent to the Civil Partnership Act 2004 because it contained a declaration about the validity of a civil partnership that would bind her.

In the pamphlet, the Parliamentary Counsel warns civil servants that if consent is not forthcoming there is a risk “a major plank of the bill must be removed”.

“This is opening the eyes of those who believe the Queen only has a ceremonial role,” said Andrew George, Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives, which includes land owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, the Prince of Wales’ hereditary estate.

“It shows the royals are playing an active role in the democratic process and we need greater transparency in parliament so we can be fully appraised of whether these powers of influence and veto are really appropriate. At any stage this issue could come up and surprise us and we could find parliament is less powerful than we thought it was.”

This power of veto has been described by constitutional lawyers as a royal “nuclear deterrent” that may help explain why ministers appear to pay close attention to the views of senior royals.

The guidance also warns civil servants that obtaining consent can cause delays to legislation and reveals that even amendments may need to be run past the royals for further consent.

And of course, how is the government supposed to do away with this remnant of absolute monarchy?  If a bill was voted through parliament to do away with the royal power of assent, the Queen would simply veto it – and the veto would probably remain secret, just as it has for so long!

The concept of Royal Assent has always been considered as a quaint anachronism that allows the UK to be both a functioning democracy and a monarchy.  Now we know that’s a lie.  The question is: what the hell are we going to do?

British dictator for life Queen Elizabeth II.  Don't mess with this bitch!"  Picture stolen in the interests for freedom from http://guardianlv.com/

British dictator for life Queen Elizabeth II. Don’t mess with this bitch!” Picture stolen in the interests for freedom from http://guardianlv.com/


If it walks like a Nazi, talks like a Nazi, smells like a Nazi… it must be David Cameron

30/07/2013

Ol’ Cameron’s so desperate to win the next election, he’s trying to steal back Ukip supporters with his “Immigrants go home” mobile billboards. But it looks like he’s shot himself in the foot: Nigel Farage, leader of Ukip, has described the campaign as Big Brother-like and “nasty”. The BBC report says:

Speaking on Daybreak, Mr Farage – whose party campaigns for the UK’s exit from the European Union and includes curbing immigration in its wider policies, said the campaign was really a reaction to his party’s success in English local elections.

“What the billboard should say is: Please don’t vote UKIP, we are doing something. That’s what it’s all about.

“I think the actual tone of the billboards, it really is Big Brother, nasty, it’s unpleasant. I don’t think using messaging like this makes any difference, what would make a difference is enforcing our borders properly.”

The BBC also quoted Former Children’s Minister Ms Teather, MP for Brent Central, one of the boroughs targeted by the campaign as saying the “cost” would be community relations.

“It’s really unpleasant and we don’t need it here,” she said.

“If the Home Office want to deal with problems, frankly they should be looking at themselves and their own practice.”

And it seems pretty clear that this campaign is a Tory initiative rather than something dreamt up by the Coalition. The Guardian reports that Lib-Dem leader Nick Clegg “launched a strong attack on the government’s ‘go home” campaign against illegal immigrants, suggesting it was out of step with the ‘decent’ centre-ground tradition in British politics.

In a phone-in on Radio 5 Live on Tuesday, the deputy prime minister said he did not condone people breaking immigration laws but that he objected to the tone of the campaign launched by the Home Office.

He also said it would be hard for his ministerial colleagues in the coalition to persuade him that the campaign should be extended.

Problem is, Clegg and his buddies have already revealed how low they can go in order to keep their illusion in power. Also, I have no links, but I seem to remember the LibDems using racist language in local authority elections in the past.

It’s kinda funny: Ukip’s Farage accusing the Tories of racism. What next? The BNP gonna promise more lax immigration policies to win marginal Tory seats?

Hitler was a charismatic guy operating in a time of economic crisis to gain power. Similar circumstances to now: except Cameron’s got the charisma of a cauliflower. And don’t forget: Cameron has some despicable ideas in the pipeline. Why should sick and disabled people totally unfit to work get benefits? Why should low-paid central London workers like cleaners be able to live close to work when they can commute and spend their paltry wages on travel? Why shouldn’t MPs (public servants paid by us, the taxpayers) have free central London homes as well as constituency homes, all paid for by us, the saps who are suffering austerity pay cuts when the MPs vote themselves massive pay rises?

Foreigners, poor people, the sick and disabled, unemployed people who can’t get a job with a living wage cos none exist: they are the enemy. You want more of the same? Of course you do, you’re the British electorate who are only happy when you’re being butt-fucked by deformed Tory penises. So Vote Conservative As Often As You Can. FFS.

Oh, and before you think voting Labour might save us: don’t be so stupid. Miliband bad-mouths Cameron in public, but in private they’re probably very good friends. Think about it: what kind of person wants a career that allows them to control us? Apart from crazy power freaks that is.  And even crazy power freaks have an off-duty switch, otherwise they’d go round disembowelling everyone who disobeyed them (ie everyone).

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Snowden Q & A

28/06/2013

Sorry, I didn’t spot this when it first came online. Other stuff going on… Anyway, here it is now: Guardian readers asking the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden all about PRISM, the other secret documents he leaked, and of course why did he blow the whistle? The USA and its buddies are now claiming he gave juicy secrets to China and Russia, why else would he have been allowed to travel to Hong Kong and Moscow? Just shit-throwing, but when they throw enough shit at you some will stick and you’ll smell pretty bad. Snowden will likely be considered a hero in the future. But the heroes of history are often reviled in their own time. I just hope the USA doesn’t get hold of him; if they do, he’s a dead man. Killed for telling us that our own governments spy on us just cos they can.

We gotta stop acting like the dumb jackasses our governments treat us like. In the words of RATM we gotta take the power back! Cos it’s our power, not theirs; they have it right now cos we lent it to them. Some of us thought they could be trusted; some of us have acted like idiots. But that doesn’t mean we are idiots, and we should be real pissed off what’s been going on. FFS, what more will it take before we see this set-up as the house of cards it really is and kick the foundations out from under it?

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Bedroom tax suicide… a feature, not a flaw

13/05/2013

No doubt most British readers will know about the tragic case of grandmother Stephanie Bottrill, who committed suicide because she could not afford to live with the bedroom tax. Her children had left home, as adult children tend to do, so Ms Bottrill was living alone in her three-bedroom home – a house she had lived in for 18 years, bringing up 2 children as a single mother. So, under the “spare room subsidy” (ie bedroom tax) the 2 “under-occupied” bedrooms reduced her housing benefit by 25%.

In the days leading up to her suicide, Ms Bottrill had told her son she struggling to cope, and she had told neighbours she couldn’t afford to live anymore. left a note blaming the government’s so-called “bedroom tax” for her death.

In a letter to her son Steven, 27, she said: “Don’t blame yourself for me ending my life. The only people to blame are the Government.”

The suicide note blaming the government

The suicide note blaming the government

Steven added:

“She was fine before the bedroom tax. It was dreamt up in London, by people in offices and big houses.

“They have no idea the effect it has on people like my mum.”

“Hopefully now someone will listen. Someone will realise what has gone on and change things.

“They are all sitting in an office in London thinking of ideas how they can make money, but Mr Cameron has to give the seal of approval.

“They haven’t thought it through properly, how it will affect people. For my mum £80 a month is a huge amount of money but for people who are on huge salaries who have gone to Eton it is a different world.

“She was struggling already, it was a lot to ask for.

She was so poor she used hot water bottles instead of her central heating. Steven added: “She couldn’t afford it. All the winter she didn’t have the heating on.

“She wrapped up warm, she had hot water bottles even when she was watching the telly.

“In 2013 in Britain you can’t imagine this. To live like that…”

She packed all her belongings, tidy and thoughtful until the end, before killing herself by throwing herself under a lorry on the M6.

This is an awful thing to think about, but I can predict a lot more similar cases in the coming months. Poor people in social housing, in homes where they have lived for 20 years or more, are now being forced to pay a lot of money because their children have grown up and left home. The government want old people dragged away from their homes and stuffed into tiny flats where they have no space for the sentimentally valuable possessions they have gathered over the years, stuffed into tiny cells where they can be safely ignored – out of sight, out of mind.

And, while politicians make all kinds of sympathetic noises, the fact is that the government couldn’t care less. Most of these suicides are by poor people, so that’s another Labour voter the Tories need not worry about any more.

No government like poverty in their own backyard, but only the Conservatives could come up with this solution. Kill the poor.

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Court martial denies Bradley Manning whistleblower defence

23/01/2013

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The US military court trying Bradley Manning for releasing thousands of secret documents to the whistleblowing Wikileaks website has ruled he cannot raise his motives as part of his defence. From the Guardian:

The judge, Colonel Denise Lind, ruled that general issues of motive were not relevant to the trial stage of the court martial, and must be held back until Manning either entered a plea or was found guilty, at which point it could be used in mitigation to lessen the sentence. The ruling is a blow to the defence as it will make it harder for the soldier’s legal team to argue he was acting as a whistleblower and not as someone who knowingly damaged US interests at a time of war.

After the pre-trial hearing, a spokesman for the Bradley Manning support network, Nathan Fuller, said “This is another effort to attack the whistleblower defence.”

Colonel Lind has also stopped the defence from presenting evidence designed to show that WikiLeaks caused little or no damage to US national security. This is after David Coombs, Manning’s lead defence lawyer, spent a long time trying to extract from US government agencies their official assessments of the impact of WikiLeaks around the world. All this information has been ruled inadmissible.

The 25-year-old intelligence analyst faces 22 charges relating to the leaking of hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables, war logs from the Afghan and Iraq wars, and videos of US military actions. The most serious charge, “aiding the enemy”, which carries the life sentence, accuses him of arranging for state secrets to be published via WikiLeaks on the internet knowing that al-Qaida would have access to it. The fact that he cannot use the whistleblower’s defence means his legal options are severely limited. Basically, he has been set up to lose.

The message from the court is clear: whistleblowers will face the full fury of the law, regardless of motives. The precedent of the Pentagon Papers, or of “Deep Throat” in the Watergate case, no longer stands, it would seem. Once it was seen as acceptable to leak info if one thought it was morally imperative. But no more. This will ensure that Julian Assange won’t be leaving the Ecuador embassy in London for some time. And it will have a corrosive effect on democracy in general – if we can’t bring our governments’ crimes into the light, there will be nothing to stop them committing even worse outrages. It makes the authorities truly untouchable, turning the very idea of democracy into a cruel joke. And it should stand as an important message: if you are going to blow any whistles, don’t go bragging about it. Especially to an asshole like Adrian Lamo.

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Is Turkey a modern democracy?

03/12/2012

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Turkey claims to be a modern democracy, with ambitions to join the European Union.  But is Turkey really that democratic, or that modern?  I wonder if any country is anything like nice to live in when it has laws that criminalize insulting historical figures or religions, especially when the “insult” is portrayed for satire – or even just a joke.

Look, for instance, at the recent case where the Turkish radio and television watchdog RTUK has fined TV channel CNBC-e 52,951 lira (£18,600) for airing an episode of The Simpsons, whose scenes included God taking orders from Satan (the devil tells God to make him some coffee) – apparently this silly joke is insulting religious beliefs.  Also, last week the Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdoğan attacked a hit soap opera about the Ottoman Empire’s longest-reigning Sultan, while RTUK has warned the show’s makers about “insulting a historical figure”.  And insulting Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, is a heinous crime that can get you seven years imprisonmentMustafa Akyol, Turkish himself, writes that Turkey is “one of the world’s last remaining regimes based on a cult of personality. It is outdone only by North Korea”.  He says it is impossible to write anything about Ataturk that represents him as a normal human being with normal frailties without risking prosecution for “insulting” the guy.  Turkish law 5816 criminalises “insulting the legacy of Ataturk”.

And then there’s the Armenian genocide (this’ll get me extradited to Turkey for sure!).  During and after World War 1, the Ottoman government carried out a systematic extermination of its minority Armenian subjects from their historic homeland in the territory constituting the present-day country of Turkey.  Able-bodied Armenian men were either murdered immediately or killed slowly through means of forced labour; women, children, the elderly and the infirm were dealt with by deportation and death marches to the Syrian desert.  There were also extermination camps established, near Turkey’s moderm Iraqi and Syrian borders.  The term “genocide” was coined to describe these events; it’s thought to be the first historical example of a deliberate policy to exterminate a single people.

Modern day Turkey denies that the Armenian genocide ever took place – there might have been a few unfortunate incidents down to over-zealous soldiers or officials, but there was no policy of genocide.  Honest.  Turkey has some really weak arguments on this.  For instance (from Wikipedia):

“Turkish governmental sources have asserted that the historically demonstrated ‘tolerance of Turkish people’ itself renders the Armenian Genocide an impossibility. One military document leverages 11th century history to cast doubt on the Armenian Genocide: ‘It was the Seljuq Turks who saved the Armenians that came under the Turkish domination in 1071 from the Byzantine persecution and granted them the right to live as a man should’.”

In other words, Turks saved the Armenians from Byzantine persecution in 1071 so there’s no way they would have changed their minds and tried to wipe the Armenians from the face of the earth a thousand years later.  Yeah, real compelling evidence.

Anyway, suggesting that the Turks carried out genocidal policies is, surprise surprise, considered as “insulting Turkey, the Turkish ethnicity, or Turkish government institutions”, a crime under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code.  And this isn’t some archaic law that the government just haven’t got round to repealing yet – this law was passed in 2005!

It would seem that Turkey is getting more authoritarian by the day.  And this is a country that would claim to be a modern democracy?  The Turkish government needs to look at the statute books and do away with some of its ridiculous laws if it wants to be seen abroad as anything other than a petty, ridiculous “democratic” dictatorship. Oh, and it needs to stop persecuting the Kurds – an exclusive club whose other members are Iran and Iraq is a club you do not want to join.

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Secret courts, FFS – Now tell me the Tories aren’t Nazis!

11/09/2012

The government’s proposed justice and security bill, which they are trying to get through Parliament, will enable them to cover up any involvement in torture – past, present and future – as well as denying defendants any right to a fair trial.

As an example: British resident Binyam Mohamed, who was seized in Pakistan in 2002 and rendered to Guantamano Bay, went to court to get compensated for the cruel and brutal treatment he got from the CIA with the full knowledge and complicity of the UK intelligence services. The high court ruled that CIA information that revealed MI5 and MI6 knew of Mohamed’s ill-treatment should be disclosed. The ruling provoked a storm of protest, with some in the government claiming the US had threatened to withhold intelligence from the UK.

At the same time, to avoid further incriminating evidence being disclosed, the UK government paid undisclosed sums, believed to amount to millions of pounds, in an out-of-court settlement to British citizens and residents who had been incarcerated in Guantánamo Bay.

So now, the government’s proposals will prevent the disclosure of any information in the hands of the security and intelligence agencies from being disclosed in civil cases. The Tory ex-justice minister Kenneth Clarke said that it was necessary to keep evidence secret from the defence – otherwise “you would have terrorists in the public gallery, lining up making notes.”

And now Prof Juan Méndez, the UN’s special rapporteur on torture,is expressing “deep concern” about the government’s plans. He says they will allow intelligence services to be party to torture without any fear of disclosure of their role. Many people who have been tortured by “third party” countries allege that MI6 officers were giving the torturers lists of questions they wanted the torture victims to be asked.

The “war on terror” is enabling governments in supposedly free democratic countries to strip their citizens of any rights. Secret courts and torture should have no place in our institutions. The treatment meted out to Binyam Mohamed should have been stopped. But things have only got worse over the past decade. All the government needs to do a bit of hand-waving and mention the word “terrorism” and bang! There goes another fundamental human right. What is the matter with us? Why do we allow our evil governments to exist? Something needs to be done about it.

Some relevant links:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/may/29/secret-justice-bill-not-perfect
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/09/secret-justice-bill
http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2012/sep/11/un-official-secret-courts-torture

Please have a look at them. This is important!

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4 years for “inciting” non-existant riots… WTF are the British authorities up to?

17/08/2011

Yesterday (16 August 2011) Chester crown court sentenced 2 men to 4 years imprisonment for “trying” to incite riots that never actually happened. And David Cameron, who is supposed to be the prime minister of Britain, not a judge or legal commentator, said it was “very good”, adding:

“What happened on our streets was absolutely appalling behaviour and to send a very clear message that it’s wrong and won’t be tolerated is what the criminal justice system should be doing.”

Of course it’s terrible that riot and looting went on across England. But what do the riots that actually happened have to do with what Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan did? Moreover, Blackshaw and Sutcliffe-Keenan pleaded guilty to the charges – which makes me wonder what kind of low-grade legal advice they’d been given – and an early guilty plea is supposed to result in a reduced sentence. So this pair of clowns would have got maybe 10-year sentences if they’d pleaded not guilty? 10 years for not inciting a riot? What are our judges smoking before entering their court rooms?

MPs and civil rights groups have spoken out against the sentences, unsurprisingly. But what should be surprising is that prime minister Cameron said the sentences were “very good” – before adding that it is down to the courts to decide sentences. So, which is it, Cameron? Do judges have the discretion on sentencing here? Or are you sending (barely) concealed message to the court that anyone who says anything not in line with his beliefs deserves to rot in jail for as long as possible?

In Britain, the government proposes laws. Parliament debates, fine-tunes then passes the laws. And the police and courts enforce those laws. Cameron shouldn’t be telling judges how to do their jobs. Lord Carlile, the government’s former terror advisor accused ministers of appearing to “steer” the courts into handing down the more stringent sentences. Lord Carlile, a barrister and former Liberal Democrat MP warned that the sacrosanct separation of powers between the government and the judiciary had appeared to have been breached by some of the messages coming out of government since the riots engulfed neighbourhoods last week.

Fortunately, not all judges have been castrated by Cameron and his henchmen. The same Evening Standard article reports that a court in Bury St Edmund’s let a teenager walk free after his guilty plea. He had sent Facebook messages saying “”I think we should start rioting – it’s about time we stopped the authorities pushing us about. It’s about time we stood up for ourselves for once so come on riot – get some – LoL” Bad, to be sure, but hardly evil. His barrister said his client “had been a bit of a prat” – which pretty sums up Blackshaw’s and Sutcliffe-Keenan’s actions too.

Also, a Lambeth teenager who had been caught on CCTV hurling sticks and spades at officers, was allowed to walk free after his uncle, a Premier League football player, offered him somewhere to live outside of London.

This variation in judicial decisions is good, as it demonstrates that not all judges are bowing and scraping before their governmental overlords. But it is clear that a substantial number of judges are all too keen to please their masters. In the Guardian, Lord Carlile said:

“I don’t think it’s helpful for ministers to appear to be giving a steer to judges. The judges in criminal courts are mostly extremely experienced and well capable of making the decisions themselves. Ministers should focus on securing the safety of the public.”

The lord, who served for six years under Labour and the coalition until March as the government’s anti-terror adviser, added: “”Some judges may feel that and some ministers may feel that they have had a responsibility to use the language of sentences rather than policy.”

The authorities doubtless think it’s important to stamp down hard on some people’s recent behaviour. But that doesn’t mean the courts should become kangaroo courts blindly following the government’s instructions. Every single case is different, and each should be dealt with on its own merits. The government is beginning to see the consequences of its actions and policies; and they are scared of those consequences. Instead of knee-jerk reactions, they should try to fix the damage they have done. Otherwise today’s Britain will be just like the 1980s, when widespread civil unrest rocked the country.

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