Thursday, 13 May 2010

Hopes

The new coalition Government in the UK has had its first cabinet meeting.

It is hopeful and interesting to see that one of the major areas where they feel the need to have rapid action is, as reported on the BBC, "a full programme of measures to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties under the Labour Government and roll back state intrusion.".

The mentioned erosion, suffered under the former Government and its (mildly put) stalinist Homes Secretaries like Charles Clarke and Jacqui Smith, would be attempted to be reversed via a list of measures, some highlighted below (as per BBC report on the section titled 'Civil Liberties'.

The list acts as a good summary on all the hair-raising issues that were introduced under Labour in what was known as one of the citadels of democracy and human rights.

Just look at this list, focusing not on what it states as something to be done, but as a list of what has happened that now needs removal, reversal or correction:

# A Freedom or Great Repeal Bill.

# The scrapping of ID card scheme, the National Identity register, the next generation of biometric passports and the Contact Point Database.

# Outlawing the finger-printing of children at school without parental permission.

# The extension of the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to provide greater transparency.

# Adopting the protections of the Scottish model for the DNA database.

# The protection of historic freedoms through the defence of trial by jury. (Again, in violation of the very Constitution, introduced in the name of a safer society...).

# The restoration of rights to non-violent protest. (Remember the rules that banned demonstrations around the Parliament in a vast radius? Eastern European dictators would have been proud of it).

# The review of libel laws to protect freedom of speech. (As we were heading for a total paranoia cult that could be enforced via such restrictions).

# Safeguards against the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation. (Let's see what happens to police and jobsworth's continual abuse of power in the name of that legislation, affecting everybody from amateur photographers to journalists).

# Further regulation of CCTV. (Where we are on top of the list with never before seen levels of surveillance).

# Ending of storage of internet and email records without good reason. (Again introduced under the anti-terror legislation, and China would be proud of us...).

# A new mechanism to prevent the proliferation of unnecessary new criminal offences.

So future will tell, whether the UK can become again a country without deepening shades of totalitarianism.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Solutions

While the UK election was, what a comedian recently said, a new high for anti-climax, the new Romanian Government certainly has solutions for solving its financial problems... or so they say.

While the UK is still waiting for the coalition talks to end and a Government to be finally announced at some point, the top agenda point for Emil Boc's Government in Romania was... the refining of uranium. Considering the recently disclosed data on what amounts of money were offered to e.g. Kazakhstan for its uranium by certain dubious governments, certainly this makes it a priority for the Romanian top Mafia. After all, the potential income is truly unimaginably vast even for the clan that runs the country.

But while they have such priorities and the vast sums of money disappear continuously (the anti-corruption show trials of certain ministers embezzling some puny sums of a few millions of euros are just tip of the iceberg), they also have a list of solutions for the Romanian financial crisis.

For example, what is the top measure to solve budget problems? Well, of course, the highly paid pensioners (who often can't pay even the heating bill in winter) are to have their pensions cut by 15% from 1 June 2010.

Also public sector workers, like teachers, will enjoy a 20-25% pay cut.

Then there will be an estimated 250 000 public sector jobs lost over the coming years, starting with a whopping batch of 70 000.

Food coupons, given out by certain employers in order to supplement the measly salaries, are to be taxed.

This Government (one could say in the UK currently that, well, at least they have a Government...) certainly is using a tiny icepick to poke at the tip of the iceberg.

The president has stated that he is a basically a hero and that the measures are not against Romanians etc. etc.

Apart from such helium balloons and the financial icebergs (or the proverbial elephant in the room they all hope nobody sees), they hopefully continue to work out the pseudo-legal money making schemes around Romania's uranium refining activities, after all, priorities are priorities.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Revisions

After the wall-to-wall scandals and much publicised abuses of power under the all-encompassing anti-terrorism legislation (where also fellow members of a photography bureau have been challenged or worse), the police has now 'revised' its guidelines to the officers.

At least the worst offender, the Metropolitan Police did.

They now made it even clearer (but as they saying goes, you can lead the horse to the water... but...) that they can not confiscate nor delete the pictures a photographer has, only if the police officers in question are in possession of a specific court order.

The atrocious Section 58A of the so-called Terrorism Act, which made it illegal to photograph police officers, has also received a welcome special mention.

The new guidelines firmly warn the police officers that they can not (mis)use these powers in order to suppress legitimate photography in public places.

The latter section was said by many to be the end of street photography, as the dubious law gave truly stalinist powers to police officers.

Also, due to the many scandalous arrest of amateur and professional photographers, the new guidelines try to clearly state that such arrests can only and only be made when the officer(s) in question have a solid suspicion that the photographer is gathering material for terrorist purposes.

The previous publicity and well-thought-out acts by many, including the photographic bureau I'm member of, didn't quite manage to better things when it came to jobsworths thinking they are acting as guardians of the society...

So we shall see whether the new guidelines will change the mindset of people, at least those in certain uniforms, who caused so much grief all around London at least.

And there are general elections coming this Thursday, one wonders whether the new Government (whichever that may be) will revisit the measures that illustrious figures like Dave Blunkett and especially Jacqui Smith introduced... which, over the years, have shown at least one effectiveness: that of warping even normal minds with their cult of paranoia.