Monday, May 28, 2007

Coming shortly ... to a cinema near you

posted by k

I've heard about this film. My teenage son just alerted me to the trailer.

I'll have to find out where it's on and see it for myself.

Taking Liberties Trailer

More about the film here.

And there are details of the book here.

As we approach John Reid's threatened State of Emergency, I would like to write more but am busy with work. But I'm adding, without comment, links to two stories in the Sunday papers: the use of psychiatrists to confine people judged a risk to "VIP"s and the much-discussed threat to widen police powers to stop and question anyone they wish.

Meanwhile, in a wide-ranging article in the Sunday Times, Tony Blair has launched an attack on judges, parliament and the people. It seems that no-one knows what to do ... except Tony Blair.

If the police and psychiatrists can act on behalf of ministers to incarcerate mentally ill critics of the government, I wonder if they can also act on behalf of the people to incarcerate ministers.

P.S. If Taking Liberties isn't coming shortly to a cinema near you, why not write, phone or e-mail your local cinema and suggest they show it?

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Saturday, May 26, 2007


posted by k

Craig Murray's book, Murder in Samarkand, is part of a 3 for 2 promotion in Waterstone's. (That means that if you go shopping with two friends, you can get a copy each and pay for only two of them). It's also reduced in Waterstone's internet shop. You don't have to buy it there. You may prefer to go to a good local bookshop. There are various on-line booksellers. Your library should stock a copy - or several. If they don't, why not ask them to order a copy?

You can buy Murder in Samarkand in paperback or in hardback - or borrow it.

Above all - read it. It's a good read and has important things to say. The focus is Uzbekistan. But it discusses the way British foreign policy operates. It explains a great deal of the background to the so-called "War on Terror".

And while some books on politics aren't that gripping, this is a real page-turner - with jokes too!

Click here to reach Craig Murray's website and blog.

P.S. (added later) Craig Murray has just posted a letter about the book from Noam Chomsky on his blog.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

"necessity, the tyrant's plea"

posted by k (again, a post taken from elsewhere)

Help! Panic now! This is DANGEROUS!!!!

Home Secretary John Reid - the one who's resigning with Tony Blair - has said he may declare a State of Emergency. This is because three non-dangerous prisoners who have never been convicted (as described here) have gone missing.

It seems a slight over-reaction.
But according to the Guardian, which has recently transformed itself into a right-wing anti-libertarian newspaper (as demonstrated by some of its Comment columns), unnamed MPs fear their control orders may are turning them into "a laughing stock". And our leaders don't like being laughed at.

Besides that, John Reid has several complaints. For a start, control orders
may be illegal. Of course, that would mean the government is breaking the law and not the escaped prisoners. Reid has been keeping them under house arrest regardless of a High Court ruling against him, in the hope that he can get support from the Court of Appeal or the Law Lords. Apart from control orders, MPs refused to let the Home Secretary imprison people without charge for more than 28 days. The courts and parliament are against Reid and people have started laughing at him. What is he to do?

So far as I can see, Ministers can declare a State of Emergency under the
2004 Civil Contingencies Act if there is a state of war, an environmental disaster, a major act of terrorism or a natural disaster. I wonder which of these categories includes the disagreement of parliament and the courts - not to mention the risk of public laughter.

It all sounds so unlikely. But the risks presented by this legislation have been identified. And it seems quite clear that the government wants to suspend parts of the European Human Rights convention - unless, of course, the judges do exactly as they are told.

Surely Parliament won't let this happen, Surely, if necessary, people will take to the streets and defend democracy and the rule of law. We know what happens when governments take power into their own hands and away from parliament and the courts. Don't we?

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

"our far-flung battle-line"

posted by k (copied from a blog elsewhere)

Gordon Brown thinks the British Empire was a good thing. More than two years ago, he visited East Africa and called for a celebration of empire: for its ideas of freedom, tolerance and civic duty.

Some of the outposts of empire were the most beautiful parts of the world. In 1815, after Napoleon's defeat, the British took control of the little island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

It's the largest of the Chagos Islands - a small string of coral atolls with white sandy beaches. Twenty years later, slavery was abolished on the islands. Diego Garcia flourished: as a mixed race community it developed its own variety of French Creole. There were villages, a hospital, a church, a school, the means of livelihood by fishing and selling copra. By the early 1960s, there were plans for tourism.

Between 1964 and 1966, the Chagos islands were stolen from the islanders. The British government pretended they were uninhabited and leased them to the Pentagon. The United States military wanted a base in the area. With their usual attention to the meaning of words, they set up a camp there and called it "Camp Justice." In theory, it still comes under British law - or the law of the British Indian Ocean Territories.

You might expect British law to protect the islanders. But as the British government pretended the islanders didn't exist, they had to depopulate the islands. First the islanders were told to leave. But they didn't want to go. So the food ships were stopped. Men, women and children went hungry. It didn't work. The islanders wanted to stay in their homes. After that the British authorities had a better idea. They decided to scare the people by killing their dogs. The dogs were poisoned, beaten, gassed and even burnt alive - in front of the islanders. Children watched grown men torture their pets to death. That is what empire means.

At last the islanders boarded the boats that would take them from their homes. They were dumped on Mauritius in poverty. After some years (and some deaths) the islanders were offered a little compensation for the loss of their homes and way of life.

Labour and Conservative governments have systematically lied and tried to cover up the truth. They couldn't come to Britain to make their case. None of the islanders were allowed to live in Britain as citizens until a court ruling in the year 2000.

Ever since they were deported, the islanders have been trying to get back home. In the year 2000, the British courts also ruled that the islanders could return to the Chagos Islands, with the exception of Diego Garcia. Robin Cook, who was Foreign Secretary, said the government wouldn't fight the decision. But in 2004, after Robin Cook had resigned, the government used the royal prerogative to overturn the decision of the courts.

The islanders went back to court. Both the High Court and, today, the Court of Appeal have ruled that the government went beyond its powers and that the islanders should be allowed to return. But Margaret Beckett as Foreign Secretary won't let it go at that. She's appealing to the House of Lords.

After all, Diego Garcia was one of the bases for bombing Iraq and Afghanistan. Empire puts the interests of the ruling nation at war above the peaceable interests of colonised people.

The campaign of the Chagos Islanders goes on. So does the Empire. Freedom? Tolerance? Civil duty? ... Starving children. Killing dogs. Lying. Mr Brown, this was and is your government. What were you talking about?

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

"an appearance of solidity"

posted by k

We now have a Ministry of Justice and a Minister of Justice. The language alarms me; it's a little too close to Orwell's Ministry of Truth. But then, the Health Ministry deals with sickness and the Minister of Employment is concerned with unemployment (or "job seeking" as it is now known). Perhaps the Ministry of Defence will soon be called the Ministry of Peace. "Ministry of Attack" might be a more honest name.

It's hard to see what the effects of the new ministries will be. The new Home Office, with its concern for telephone taps, immigration and surveillance seems like the U.S. Department for Homeland Security.

The Ministry of Justice remains controversial. I hope that the objectives of the Office for Criminal Justice Reform don't mean quite what they say; increasing "the number of crimes for which an offender is brought to justice to 1.25 million" is ambiguous at least. Presumably they don't really want to increase the number of crimes on the statute book to quite so high a number, nor to ecnourage criminal acts. A ratio between crime and conviction might be a better aim.

Meanwhile the hasty change leaves people uncertain. David Pannick's article in yesterday's Times is measured and thought-provoking. The relationship between parliament and the judiciary requires thought and attention. If justice doesn't protect everyone equally, it has ceased to be justice. And the government's tendency to attack decisions of the courts suggests a disregard for both justice and parliamentary process. After all, the government proposes laws which parliament debates, amends and passes or rejects. The courts' role is to uphold the laws that parliament has made.

To attack the courts is to bypass parliament and undermine the law.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

"inky blots, and rotten parchment bonds"

posted by k

How is Britain ruled and by whom?

And how are laws really made?

John Reid, announcing that his resignation would coincide with Tony Blair's - said that he would complete major and controversial changes to the Home Office before then. That gives him merely a few weeks. Presumably he does not plan to seek parliamentary approval.

Meanwhile, other changes are being arranged by treaty and without public consultation. I have heard no public debate on the new United States/European Union single market, which will change our daily lives. Phrases like "harmonising regulations" and "widening choice" are usually code for taking protection from workers and customers - and pushing up private profits.

There's some further detail and opinion here. It's convinced me that, at the very least, this should have been a matter of further debate. It still should be. But I fear there's little chance for more detailed discussion while Europe is dominated by Blair/Brown, Merkel and Sarkozy in close alliance with Bush.

It's curious to see how the government of countries can be changed without voting, debate or much public knowledge.