Saturday, February 25, 2006

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Serapino bros.

Kitty Killer should be commended for having kept up the pressure on the plight of the Serapino brothers who were expelled from Matthew Boulton College for printing a lefty pamphlet. Well, there's finally been some coverage ! Guess the cartoons had to die down first before our own free speech abuses could be covered. See here for background.

Thanks also to the Serapinos for keeping us informed, hopefully a wider movement can come out of this.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Sneaky authoritarianism?

Now I know I'm meant to be doing a dissertation but this really does take the biscuit. This bill actually proposes that 'Ministers of the Crown' can make changes to the law without parliamentary approval. Ostensibly the plan is to save past legislative clutter, but there seems to be little to safeguard fiddling behind the scenes in quite serious areas. Read Spybot's post for a full run down of why we should be so scared.

I'm having trouble believing this is actually happening. According to Consider Phlebas it isn't:

So that power presumably only applies to statutory instruments, which are bits of legislation granting the Crown discretionary powers. Since the discretionary powers granted through statutory instruments are already limited by the primary legislation they are a part of, which the bill would not grant the power to alter, this wouldn't, if I am right, grant huge powers it doesn'talready possess to the Crown.
...which is very reassuring. A commons select committee, however, gave a directly opposing view:

"[The bill] provides ministers with a wide and general power that could be used to repeal amend or replace almost any primary legislation"

says Andrew Miller MP. It is heartening that the political machinery is picking up on this one - hopefully it'll fizzle into a harmless bit of misdirected drafting. Nonetheless, it's one to keep an eye on.


The blogosphere is coating itself in glory on this one. Tim Worstall at ASI less optimistic than Phlebas's tempered view; he quotes a Telegraph article:
"Clifford Chance, the world's largest law firm, points out that the Bill "usurps the power of Parliament". In a briefing to clients, it says the only red tape that the Bill would remove is "the red tape of Parliamentary scrutiny for primary legislation".The Bill - to be debated in the Commons today - would give the Government so-called "Henry VIII powers" to amend primary legislation by ministerial order without Parliamentary debate, the firm says."
Top marks to Consider Phlebas for actually reading the bill and not joining the hysteria but it does seem that the best place for this bill is the dustbin. Hopefully the level of scrutiny it is receiving will consign it to the archives and Parliament's powers will remain intact.

That still begs the question: why did they even try to push it throuigh in the first place? Even the most brainless of gibbons would have known that giving Ministers carte blanche to change laws needs adequate restrictions, while these were anything but. "Think of this as one of those little moments when you might want to gasp at the audacity of our rulers." says Tim Worstall, and rightly.

Read more intelligent comments here and here.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Supergirl - YES!

Via DK
Your results:
You are Supergirl

Wonder Woman
The Flash
Green Lantern
Iron Man
Lean, muscular and feminine.
Honest and a defender of the innocent.

Click here to take the Superhero Personality Test

Egg on his large face

So the Lib Dems have overcome a majoriy of 11,500 to take Dunfermline, rather embarassingly given Gordon Brown's involvement in the campaign. Alistair Darling is valiantly taking the bullet for the result, whilst showing New Labour's characterstic contempt for the electorate:

Tacitly admitting the campaign had been hobbled by the row over bridge tolls -
in fact a matter devolved to the Scottish parliament rather than Westminster
- Mr Darling conceded: "If [people] are concerned about this they vote
against you - whether you're directly responsible for it or not."

Oh do they Alistair? According to The (non-fluffy) Economist those fools at the ballot box were given a fairly good impression that Westminster was involved with Gordon pre-emptively announcing the abandonment of peak-time tolls before proper consultation and trying to claim credit for the opening of a £28m business school in Dunfermline which 1) had nothing to do with him and b) may have threatened the very project itself as hitherto undecided investors have been scared off.

The Economist's comments, written before the election, make painful reading for any Labour sympathiser:

It's surely not that Labour might lose. More likely, it's the fear that a
poor showing on his own patch would give rise to doubts about his ability to
pull in the vote—doubts that Mr Brown, in touching distance of realising his
ambition to become prime minister, could do without.


Rt Rctny Tony Blair

Tony Blair , no knee-jerk reactionary he, has taken Abu Hamza's conviction as evidence that his glorification bill needs to proceed at pace. Hang on Tone, wasn't the clawed convicted under existing legislation, without the need for fascist reforms?

Just to remind what they are, TB gave a handy outline at PMQ's:

"The law will be strengthened in some very important ways. First of all,
indirect encouragement to acts of terrorism will be made unlawful and
glorification will be mentioned specifically as an example of indirect
incitement to terrorism.

"Secondly, I think it's extremely important - I would be grateful
if you would look again at this position from the point of view of the
Conservative party - we had provisions originally in the bill that would allow
us to proscribe groups who glorify terrorism.

"That has been removed from the legislation in the Lords. I think it is
very important we send a very strong signal out that any group or people who
glorify terrorism in any way at all will be committing a criminal offence and
those groups that rely on glorifying terrorism to attract recruits should not be
able to operate in our society."


Monday, February 06, 2006


Further to the previous, for those smug fuckers who think Europe is a haven for free speech, see this case highlighted by Kitty Killer, and followed by Chicken Yoghurt.

Two men, calling themselves the Serapion brothers, have been expelled from a Birmingham Further Education college for publishing a really not controversial newsletter giving apathetic students a kick up the arse. Furthermore their appeal has been quashed.

There are so many things with this decision I don't know where to begin. I'll leave it for others:

Kitty Killer: "Remember, these are not children which have been smacked for begging for sweets - these are men in their early to mid twenties who have been denied the right to criticise the establishment which they have paid fees to attend to, and punished for exercising that right."

Guerilla: "
as mature students this was our shot at academia little did we know that we would find narrow mindedness on a college campus where intellectuals are supposed to flourish along with critical thinking. Instead the college just wants to churn out morons that don't question or think just obey."

We need to energise the blogosphere to keep our rights in tact. Write to MPs and newspapers, lobby NUS (already involved) and leave messages of support for the Serapion brothers on their blog. Whatever your views, we cannot allow such institutional intolerance to grow. We must send a clear message from the beginning. Just ask Martin Niemoller.

Free Speech

With news from my parents that Danish products have been taken of the shelves in Dubai, where they live, I thought it was timely to wade in to the free speech debate. A lot's been said, however so I'll keep it brief.

1. It was wrong to publish those cartoons if the Danish paper had any sensitivity towards a major religion.
2. Muslims are quite right to be offended. Calls for them to 'chill out', such as those heard on this week's 'Any Answers', don't appreciate the bigotry conveyed by said cartoons. That said some reactions have been a little extreme - see right.
3. Such material should not be made illegal.

The beauty of free speech is that society is able to openly censure material it finds wrong or offensive, without driving it underground. Issues have been highlighted that many would not have otherwise encountered. People who thought the cartoons funny or clever have had their views openly challenged, rather than allowing bigotry to foment in the shadows.

With regards to point 3, the words of Rowan Atkinson, uttered over a year ago, should not be forgotten(via):
"In my view the right to offend is far more important than any right not to be offended.
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