The Odd Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘civil liberties’

DADT Officially Over

Posted by That Other Mike on 20/09/2011

With Tuesday’s repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, gays and lesbians are now free to serve openly in the U.S. armed services.

The U.S. military has spent months preparing for the repeal, updating regulations and training to reflect the impending change, and the Pentagon has already begun accepting applications from openly gay men and women.

The historic shift follows years of battle and debate over the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, also referred to as “DADT.” When it was signed by President Clinton in 1993, the policy was hailed by proponents for extending protection to gays and lesbians serving their country. Under the law, commanders were not allowed to ask about someone’s sexual orientation, and gays and lesbians were expected to keep their orientation under wraps.

But as gays and lesbians continued to fight for equal rights in other areas of society, the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy grew to become a painful reminder that those in the military still had to hide their sexual orientation. Moreover, gays and lesbians who were open about their sexual orientation — or who were outed — faced punishment and expulsion.

Such punishments and expulsions will now stop. And the repeal ends any pending investigations or inquiries.

The original drive to lift the ban, and later the DADT policy, pitted those fighting to recognize the service of gay servicemen and women against those who feared it would disrupt the service’s sense of order and undermine critical military relationships.

President Obama signed the law that repealed “don’t ask, don’t tell” and officially certified this summer that it would not diminish military readiness. But plenty of opposition still remains.”It’s a tragic day for America,” said Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council.

While gays and lesbians can now serve openly, there are still limits: All servicemen and women — regardless of sexual orientation — must continue to abide by strict standards of personal conduct, such as those pertaining to public displays of affection.

Navy Lt. Gary Ross celebrated the appeal by marrying his longtime partner in Vermont at midnight Monday — the exact moment of the repeal. Ross told the Associated Press that when he returns to work as a surface warfare officer at Ft. Huachuca in Arizona near the Mexican border, he does not plan to make a big deal about the marriage. But he no longer has to keep it a secret either.

The old system “requires you to lie several times a day,” he said.

LA Times

It’s about time, and I, for one, eagerly await our homosexual overlords.

In all seriousness, though, over the next couple of weeks, expect the following:

  1. Rightwing chicken littles will be pouncing on every opportunity to discredit gay and lesbian soldiers, whether it’s by the same generalised unpleasantness they always employ when it comes to GLBT rights, or by pointing out individuals who happen to be gay and who have done something wrong as how it was all a big mistake.
  2. Firebaggers will continue to act as if it just wasn’t enough, and will continue to try to paint Obama as a man unfriendly to the GLBT community

See also.

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Fuck that!

Posted by That Other Mike on 27/12/2008

Age-ratings plan for websites

Websites could be given cinema-style age-ratings under plans by the Government to limit access to “unacceptable” material, Culture Secretary Andy Burnham warned.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Burnham said “clearer standards” were needed as to what could be displayed online.

He said it was his “absolutely categorical” view that there was material on the web – including beheadings – which should not be available to anyone.

He confirmed one of the proposals being considered by ministers to protect children from harmful material was the introduction of age-ratings for websites.

“That would be an option. This is an area that is really now coming into full focus,” he said.

Another option said to be under consideration was a requirement on internet service providers to offer a service which would give access only to websites which are suitable for children.

Mr Burnham insisted his proposals were not intended as an attack on freedom of speech, but that some material on the web had gone too far.

“If you look back at the people who created the internet they talked very deliberately about creating a space that governments couldn’t reach. I think we are having to revisit that stuff seriously now,” he said.

“I think there is definitely a case for clearer standards online. You can still view content on the internet which I would say is unacceptable. You can view a beheading.

“There is content that should just not be available to be viewed. That is my view. Absolutely categorical. This is not a campaign against free speech, far from it; it is simply there is a wider public interest at stake when it involves harm to other people.” Via Yahoo! News

More news available here.

Oh, fuck that shit!

I’ve become more and more disgusted by the Labour Party in recent years; the real deep-seated revulsion towards it began, for me, with the refusal to allow a general election following the leadership contest which resulted in Brown becoming Prime Minister – while not constitutionally required, this would, at least, have provided the party with a symbolic new beginning and at least a patina of the legitimacy which Blair so deftly destroyed.

Further events which have caused me to doubt not only the ability of the Labour Party to govern but also its commitment to civil liberties include the ID cards fiasco, as well as the recent proposals by Jacqui Smith to enshrine radical feminist doctrine into law by adopting a partial version of the Swedish model of regulation of prostitution (a la the boiling frog scenario) something I’ve previously blogged about and which is opposed by more or less every group with a legitimate interest in the matter.

Enough is enough! Under the guise of attempting to protect children, the Labour Party is attempting to usher in a new era of Internet censorship and yet further attack our civil liberties.

Mr Burnham said:

“It’s not about banning or stopping people having that freedom of expression,” he said. “It’s simply about clearer signposting, more information, so people know where they’re working.”

It fucking is about banning! You mentioned beheadings online – if I want to watch a fucking beheading, I’ll watch a fucking beheading. I’m an adult. Don’t try to protect me from my own choices; stop trying to be my parent, because I don’t need one.

As for the child protection angle, don’t make me laugh! You know who should be protecting children from accessing unsuitable material on the internet? Their parents. Until you can demonstrate the influx into the lives of children of beheadings or bestial porn or whatever else you feel like gathering some phony moral outrage over this week in your quest to regulate every aspect of our lives, you can fuck off, Andy Burnham, and take your illegitimate Prime Minster with you. This is just the first step towards actual censorship of the internet, and we will not stand by and let it happen.

If you want to protect children, help their parents; don’t try to be mine.

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Rebellion from the back

Posted by That Other Mike on 05/06/2008

Gordon Brown is once again facing a rebellion by backbench MPs, this time on new anti-terrorism laws. The issue in question is the new Counter-Terrorism Bill, a massive piece of legislation that would, among other things, give police the power to detain terrorism suspects for up to 42 days under certain circumstances before they would be required to press charges, the explicit ability to question suspects about further possible charges when lesser ones have already been brought, and give judges the right to impose longer sentences where alleged terrorism connections are considered an “aggravating factor”. Brown looking saturnine and vaguely creepy

You may already have guessed my response to the proposed terms of the Bill. Even with the proposed “safeguards” in place (such as the requirement for judicial approval), the provisions of it are deeply troubling.

This is one more sign that the current government needs to be brought to heel by its members –in this case, backbenchers– or to lose power entirely. We cannot preserve the principles of democracy and individual autonomy by destroying them entirely.

I would also remind everyone rushing to defend the limits on their freedoms that even during the worst parts of the Troubles, when there was a real and constantly present threat, we did not throw our liberties away.

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Students win appeal against terrorism conviction

Posted by That Other Mike on 13/02/2008

Or rather, their conviction for downloading extremist literature from the Internet, which was made a crime under the Terrorism Act 2000.

ExoneratedThe convictions of five young Muslim men jailed over extremist literature have been quashed by the Appeal Court.

Freeing the men, the Lord Chief Justice said there was no proof of terrorist intent. The lawyer for one said they had been jailed for a “thought crime”.

A jury convicted the students in 2007 after hearing the men, of Bradford and Ilford, east London, became obsessed with jihadi websites and literature.

The Home Office said it would study the judgement carefully.

This is good news. The Terrorism Act 2000 is a monstrous piece of legislation which makes the PATRIOT ACT look like a shining example of civil liberties protection. It criminalised the possession of extremist literature, among other things, which was widely decried at the time. It in no way proves terroristic intent; to give an example, I have downloaded Industrial Society and Its Future, otherwise known as the Unabomber Manifesto. It’s a rather disturbing piece of writing, although what’s even more frightening is how many internutters post extremely similar diatribes on a daily basis. That aside, I could technically go to prison under the provisions of the Terrorism Act. So too, thinking about it, could anyone who owns a copy of Mein Kampf or The Communist Manifesto.

This is simply the latest in a series of dubious uses of the Terrorism Act. As I’ve mentioned before, all anti-terrorist legislation is prone to abuse; how could it not be? It gives law enforcement sweeping powers and relaxes the rule of law to the point of being a joke, and that is just an invitation for it to be used for unintended consequences.

The Terrorism Act, for example, has resulted in 1166 arrests, with a conviction rate of 40 in total; this itself is from the grand total of 221 people charged with terrorism-related offences under the Act. This equates to related charges being brought 18% of the time, with 18% of those resulting convictions. To put it another way, less than 3.5% of the people arrested under the Act were convicted of terrorism-related offences.

A conviction rate so low is because of three things: the Act is not fit for purpose; the police are not able to secure evidence of wrongdoing (whether it exists or not); and the Act is being abused.

Numerous acts of abuse are on record: Walter Wolfgang, whom I have mentioned before, and Sally Cameron being the most obvious and well-known, although other victims of the stop and search provisions of the Act; not to mention an 11 year old girl, a cricketer and a busload of elderly anti-war protestors on their way to a peaceful protest. Then there is the case of Samina Malik, convicted under the Act for writing poetry approving of mujahideen and martyrdom, and given a six moth suspended sentence after much outcry in the press.

There are no crimes here, except for the Government’s use of the law as a bludgeon to damage civil liberties. Make no mistake, I do not condone membership of pro-jihadi or pro-mujahideen groups, nor do I approve of lionising terrorism; however, these people have not committed crimes. They have merely held political views which are abhorrent and unpleasant. If that is a crime, then we all need to be thrown in jail — if abhorrent politics are terrorism, we’re all terrorists.

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Labour government plans infringement of civil liberties. Film at 11.00.

Posted by That Other Mike on 07/12/2007

Is there anything they won’t play politics with? It’s disturbing to see this wholesale abandonment of the concept of the rule of just law and civil liberties using the rhetoric of anti-terrorism. We know it will be abused; a heckler at the Labour Party conference was detained under the Terrorism Act, a couple protesting peacefully were detained under the same, and in October 2005 Sally Cameron was held in police custody for four hours after being arrested under the Terrorism Act for walking on a cycle path!

Can we trust the increasingly authoritarian UK government to really safeguard our civil liberties and not misuse the Act? I don’t think so.

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UK ID Card Scheme to Cost £5.6bn

Posted by That Other Mike on 08/11/2007


ID card scheme ‘to cost £5.6bn’

Ministers say the cards will help protect people against ID fraud

The projected cost of the identity card scheme will be £5.612bn over the next 10 years, the Home Office says.

The figures, which are for October 2007 to October 2017, cover the set up and the operational expenses of the set up and the operational expenses of the scheme.

This rather… expected news (UK governments underestimate costs worse than any cowboy builder) has prompted a new flurry of argument over the Brown government’s continuation of the Blair plan for a national identity card. Read the rest of this entry »

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