UK Circumvents Fair Trial Guarantees For Its Citizens

Well, it certainly is a changing world. The ripple effect from the controversial 9/11 attack in New York continues to alter our government’s focus, the scope of our rights as citizens, and the very character of our focus on world politics.

The BBC reports today that the new “Protection from Terrorism” bill has passed successfully through Parliament.

The “Anti-Terrorism, Crime & Security Act 2001” gave UK politicians, not judges, the power to imprison, without trial and indefinitely, foreign nationals suspected of terrorist links. During the time the UK was petitioning the US to release British Nationals held without trial at Guantanamo Bay, the UK was, themselves, doing the same to other foreign nationals at Belmarsh.

Recently, a UK judge ordered the release on bail of several suspects held under the ATCSA, ruling their detention was illegal. Even with the passage of the new “Protection from Terrorism” bill, England will still be violating European Law by suspending fair trial guarantees.

The new bill even allows British citizens to be detained without trial. The scope of the bill now extends beyond foreign nationals to include the UK’s own citizenry.

The first draft of the bill, pushed heavily by Prime Minister Tony Blair, granted politicians the power to imprison anyone without trial suspected of ties to terrorism. However, in an unusual move, the House of Lords – the unelected portion of Parliament, comprised of hereditary seats, lifetime appointments, and bishops of the Church of England – refused to grant the bill their approval.

Perhaps members of the House of Lords have a better memory of the lives of citizens that can be imprisoned at will, indefinitely, and without trial.

The initial bill was forced into change. Judges instead of politicians must now make the determiniation. Better definitions are in place to determine who, exactly, can be considered a terrorist suspect. And most strikingly, the bill has an expiration date: one year. After one year, the bill needs revisiting. This satisfies many claims by MPs, even within the Labour Party, that the bill lacks enough thought and debate.

So, here we are again. At least the British have named their draconian bill something reasonable – “Protection from Terrorism”. Our American one is simply ridiculous – the “Patriot Act”. That alone should reveal something fundamental about the manipulation inherent in our American culture.

But whatever you call it, here we are back in George Orwell’s world again. Strikingly so, in the most subtle of ways.

Twenty New Judges

Tomorrow the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin considering some very questionble Bush nominations for lifetime positions in the second highest US court.

Here are three of the nominees (info taken from MoveON PAC):

William Myers III has never been a judge and spent most of his career as a lobbyist for the cattle and mining industry. [1] He has written that all habitat conservation laws are unconstitutional because they interfere with potential profit. [2] In 2001, Bush appointed him as the chief lawyer for the Department of the Interior. In that role he continued as a champion of corporate interests, setting his agenda in meetings with former employers he promised not to speak with, and even illegally giving away sacred Native American land to be strip mined. [3]

Terrence Boyle was a legal aide to Jesse Helms. As a judge, his signature decisions have attempted to circumvent federal laws barring employment discrimination by race, gender, and disability. [4] His rulings have been overturned a staggering 120 times by the conservative 4th District Court of Appeals, either due to gross errors in judgment or simple incompetence. [5]

William Pryor Jr. served as Attorney General of Alabama, where he took money from Phillip Morris, fought against the anti-tobacco lawsuit until it was almost over, and cost the people of Alabama billions in settlement money for their healthcare system as a result. [6] He called Roe v. Wade “the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history,” and has consistently argued against the federal protections for the civil rights of minorities, lesbian and gay couples, women, and the disabled. [7]

Dick Cheney has threatened to push these people through at nearly any cost, including doing all he can to make even a filibuster impossible.

This begins tomorrow. More information and a petition can be found on the MoveOn PAC site if you’re interested.

Welcome, Europe, to the Rule of Corporations at the Cost of Freedoms

Well, it’s getting more and more difficult for Europe to claim any sort of ethical or moral superiority any more.

The European Council has just adopted the software patent directive which makes the patenting of ideas possible and enforceable.

ZDNet UK has an article available with more details.

Apparently this directive was passed only by violating the Council’s own Rules of Procedure which state that, in the procedure, only a majority vote of the Council could have rejected ongoing considerations. However, the further considerations were rejected outright by the President of the Council alone, allowing it to pass.

This is a clear violation of European democracy and plays directly into the hands of corporate interests.

The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFI) has more details availble on this.

Groklaw has an article suggesting that a high-profile Member of the European Parliament is stating that the European Commission is acting in collusion with Microsoft. The Commission rejected the European Parliament’s request for a restart on the legislative process around these software patents. The Parliament believed a restart was a good idea considering all of the futzing that was occuring with it. The Commissions actions are not good, and considered antagonistic against the Parliament.

More information can be found on that subject at the nosoftwarepatents.com website.

“Chances are that patents on software, common practice in the US and on the brink of being legalised in Europe, in fact stifle innovation. Europe could still alter course.”

Deutsche Bank Research

And this, just after Bill Gates was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in England… 😉

Linux Moving Up – Grid Computing

Grid ComputingLinux continues to expand its depth and scope within information technologies as it is deployed more and more in inexpensive clusters and begins to replace very expensive supercomputers by being arranged in supercomputing grid configurations.

Even Business Week is recognizing the increased demand in computational grid computing, even for business applications. No longer relegated to scientific applications, Linux grid computing has solidified its role, even within IBM.

One of the greatest strengths of Linux grid computing, in the business sense, is its scalability. For example, one department may have a computational budget of a certain amount, and another department a computational budget of another amount. In the clustered grids, departments can combine their monetary resources to purchase computational power far more economically.

For linux end users, this is not the nice workstation they’re used to. This is a mad and churning behemoth of raw number crunching power that before, was only possible when purchasing exceedingly expensive supercomputers.

FCC Censorship Expanding

Ars Technica published an article on the FCC’s huge increase in censorship lately, and their plans to move into censoring paid-for broadcasting such as cable and satellite.

Senate Commerce Committe Chairman Ted Stevens seems to be the main force behind this expansion in censorship.

“Vowing to push legislation on the matter, Stevens apparently does not see the distinction between free public television, which anyone can get, and cable and satellite TV, which must be purchased by those who want access to it.”

Personally, I think we’re OK making our own choices instead of someone else making them for us.