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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UK’s TEMPORA eavesdropping programme could be worse than USA’s PRISM

13/07/2013

I don’t know what I’ve been doing for the past month, but it isn’t very effective. I thought I’d been keeping an eye on the Edward Snowden/PRISM situation, but I only just found out about GCHQ’s eavesdropping programme TEMPORA.

According to the Guardian newspaper, the UK eavesdropping service GCHQ’s ability to access the internet’s fibre-optic cables has made it “an intelligence superpower”.

TEMPORA stores the intercepted data for 3 days, and the meta-data for 30 days. The data includes actual recordings of phone calls, the contents of emails, Facebook activity, and anyone’s browsing history. That’s right: anyone’s data is collected and stored, not just terrorist suspects.

300 analysts from GCHQ and 250 from the NSA are sifting this data, in what must be the biggest fishing operation to date. TEMPORA was first trialled in 2008, and has been fully up and running since 2011. Lawyers for GCHQ said it would be impossible to list the total number of people targeted by Tempora because “this would be an infinite list which we couldn’t manage”.

We only know about this horrific violation of our privacy because NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked documents about it. Snowden told the Guardian that illegal state-sponsored eavesdropping “is not just a US problem. The UK has a huge dog in this fight. They [GCHQ] are worse than the US.” The documents’ titles show how huge TEMPORA is: “Mastering the Internet” and “Global Telecoms Exploitation”. GCHQ are intercepting the communications of absolutely anyone, anywhere. The UK may be the leading member of the Five Eyes electronic eavesdropping alliance, comprising the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

So, I’ve been indignant that the USA might be violating my privacy with no legal reason or oversight – and now I’ve learnt that my own country is doing the same! Nasty spooks are getting their sticky hands on my personal business, the thought makes me shudder!

Oh, and no “It couldn’t happen here” bollocks. It’s happening now, it’s been happening for years, and it’ll keep happening until we force the nasty pigs to back off!

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Is Hamas a terrorist organization? Funnily enough: no.

31/03/2010

My recent post on the documentary film “Children of Gaza” has provoked a couple of comments from someone calling him/herself “Facts First” (both to the post referred to above and an earlier one also about the Israel-Palestine conflict). While “Facts First” is most eloquent in his/her support for Israel and dismissal of Hamas, he/she has basically restated the US and Israeli position that Hamas is a terrorist organization and has no legitimacy as a government. This has persuaded me that I need to state the truth about Hamas’ legitimacy both in the Palestinian territories and the wider world.

In 2006, Hamas beat its opposition party Fatah in a free and fair election. This resulted in Hamas forming a government with Fatah. Unfortunately, supporters of both parties continued to fight each other.

As well as this factional conflict, Hamas’ position as a legitimate government partner was undermined by the USA and EU’s refusal to recognize a government that contained Hamas – their view is that Hamas is a terrorist organization and therefore unqualified to govern.

Matters came to a head when Fatah seized control of the West Bank territory and Hamas did the same in the Gaza Strip. Israel and Egypt, with US and EU support, then imposed a political, economic and humanitarian blockade on the Gaza Strip, again because Hamas is a terrorist organization.

Many critics of Hamas, including the US, the EU and “Facts First” make much of Hamas’ terrorist status. They tend to claim that Hamas’ status as a terrorist organization is a fact.

They are wrong. It is simply their opinion that Hamas are terrorists. There is an equal argument that Hamas is a legitimate political party qualified to govern the Palestinian territories.

For instance the Council on Foreign Relations says of Hamas:

Is Hamas only a terrorist group?

No. In addition to its military wing, the so-called Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade, Hamas devotes much of its estimated $70-million annual budget to an extensive social services network. Indeed, the extensive social and political work done by Hamas – and its reputation among Palestinians as averse to corruption – partly explain its defeat of the Fatah old guard in the 2006 legislative vote. Hamas funds schools, orphanages, mosques, healthcare clinics, soup kitchens, and sports leagues. “Approximately 90 percent of its work is in social, welfare, cultural, and educational activities,” writes the Israeli scholar Reuven Paz. The Palestinian Authority often fails to provide such services, and Hamas’s efforts in this area—as well as a reputation for honesty, in contrast to the many Fatah officials accused of corruption—help to explain the broad popularity it summoned to defeat Fatah in the PA’s recent elections.

Although the USA, the EU, Israel, Canada, Japan and others call Hamas a terrorist organization, there is not an international consensus on this matter. The United Kingdom and Australia consider Hamas’ independent military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, to be terroristic, but accept that Hamas does have legitimacy. Norway is resolute in its position of recognizing Hamas as a legitimate party, and Russia also refuse to regard Hamas as terroristic because Hamas was elected democratically.

Considering the above facts, one has to wonder what exactly Israel was trying to achieve when it attacked Gaza in Operation Cast Lead, and with its ongoing blockade on the region. Israel claims its goal is to remove Hamas’ ability to operate as a terrorist organization. But this has involved the destruction of civil infrastructure in Gaza, including police stations, prisons, power and water supplies, roads, communications, commerce – and hospitals, schools and residential buildings have also been attacked. This all looks like an attempt to destroy Hamas’ ability to provide the services mentioned by the Council on Foreign Relations in the passage quoted earlier – and as no one else can provide those services, this means Israel is trying to destroy Gaza as a functional territory. Exactly who are the terrorists in this scenario?

“Facts First” has criticized my use of Wikipedia as a source of information on this subject. And I’m well aware of Wikipedia’s problems. But I think the article on Hamas is well researched, with a large and diverse number of references, and is very balanced in its presentation of the facts. In fact, I believe it is the article’s thoroughness and neutrality that makes “Facts First” dislike it so much – he/she would prefer to use US or even Israeli sources of information instead as they are more likely to present the “facts” the way he/she likes to see them. But don’t take my word on the Wikipedia’s Hamas article’s balance and thoroughness – read it and decide for yourself. And please, feel free to comment here on what has been said (and also what has not been said). All I ask is that you take “Facts First’s” pseudonym as advice: let’s stick to the facts rather than deal in opinion. And I contend that one simple fact is: Hamas is not a terrorist organization just because some governments think that’s so.


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