Election 2015: What difference would proportional representation have made?

Courtesy of the BBC:

UKIP, the Lib Dems and Greens would have benefited from proportional representation
“The time has come for real, genuine, radical political reform,” Nigel Farage said after losing his bid to take Thanet South from the Conservatives.

The UKIP leader had increased his party’s share of the vote in the seat by 27%, and nationally UKIP’s vote share was up by 10 percentage points to a total of 3.9 million.

Still, the party won just one constituency under the UK’s first-past-the-post voting system.

The Greens’ ambitions were similarly thwarted: they won more than a million votes but just one seat.

The Electoral Reform Society, a campaign group, has modelled what would have happened under a proportional voting system that makes use of the D’Hondt method of converting votes to seats.

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The Conservatives would have won 75 fewer seats but would still have been the largest party in the Commons. Labour too would have taken fewer seats. Continue reading

UK Government Quietly Rewrites Hacking Laws to Give GCHQ Immunity

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GCHQ’s main building in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.
GCHQ/Crown Copyright

If you can be held to account by a ‘law’, well just change the ‘law’ and hey presto it’s ‘legal’ though statutes are not lawful but the actions of psychopaths entrenching in for the long haul. Expect more ‘laws’ to give legitimacy to unlawful acts committed by the government against the citizenry but we are far from the nadir of where totalitarianism will take us.

Courtesy of Sebastian Anthony @ Ars technica UK:

The UK government has quietly passed new legislation that exempts GCHQ, police, and other intelligence officers from prosecution for hacking into computers and mobile phones.

While major or controversial legislative changes usually go through normal parliamentary process (i.e. democratic debate) before being passed into law, in this case an amendment to the Computer Misuse Act was snuck in under the radar as secondary legislation. According to Privacy International, “It appears no regulators, commissioners responsible for overseeing the intelligence agencies, the Information Commissioner’s Office, industry, NGOs or the public were notified or consulted about the proposed legislative changes… There was no public debate.”

Privacy International also suggests that the change to the law was in direct response to a complaint that it filed last year. In May 2014, Privacy International and seven communications providers filed a complaint with the UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), asserting that GCHQ’s hacking activities were unlawful under the Computer Misuse Act. Continue reading

Israel is Losing the Debate – in More Ways Than One

Courtesy of Ben White @ Middle East Monitor:

Last night, I participated in a debate at the Cambridge Union on ‘This House Believes Israel is a Rogue State.’ Speaking alongside Ghada Karmi and Norman Finkelstein for the proposition, the motion was carried by 51 percent to 19 percent – with a 7 percent swing from the pre-debate vote.

The debating chamber was packed, and the atmosphere charged. At the end of the debate, cries of ‘Free, Free Palestine’ rang out. But my main takeaway from the proceedings was the sheer weakness of the opposition’s arguments – a microcosm of pro-Israel propaganda that simply no longer works.

In my opening speech, I pointed out that the issue was not about whether Israel is ‘perfect’, or makes ‘mistakes’. To concede that Israel is ‘not perfect’, as I suggested the opposition may do, is in fact no concession at all, and misses the point. The issue is whether Israel violates international law and human rights, and whether it does so systematically.

I also stressed that the debate was not about the record of other countries or actors, in the region or elsewhere. It was not about Iran or Syria, Hamas or ISIS, North Korea or Russia. The Cambridge debating chamber hosts debates about dozens of topics of international interest but last night, the subject was Israeli policy, and the question was plain – is Israel a rogue state?

Yet in the speech directly following mine, Vivian Wineman, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, opened up for the opposition by stating exactly what I had predicted just minutes before: ‘Israel is not perfect.’ Such is the reliance of Israel’s apologists on predictable talking points.

Similarly, Wineman – like the other two opposition speakers – indulged in the familiar tactic of citing abuses by other states (Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, etc.). The rest of his talk was a regurgitation of tired talking points about the Israeli army’s morality and so forth.

Joining Wineman in opposing the motion were Hannah Weisfeld, head of liberal Zionist advocacy group Yachad, and Davis Lewin, deputy director of the Henry Jackson Society.

Weisfeld’s approach was to immediately state she had no intention of defending the occupation or settlements. The bulk of her speech was an attempt to demonstrate that Israel could not be a rogue state because it has parliamentary democracy, an independent judiciary, a free press, and that critics of the government are not arrested.

She did not clarify if this wonderful list also applies to the millions of Palestinians living for half a century under a military regime. Continue reading

UK PM David Cameron Proclaims: It’s Not Enough To Follow The Law, You Must Love Big Brother

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Courtesy of Mike Krieger @ Liberty Blitzkrieg:

It’s not just those domestic extremists and crazy “conspiracy theory” kooks who took serious issue with UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent overtly fascist language when it comes to freedom of expression in Great Britain. For example, in a post published today, the UK Independent describes the quote below as “the creepiest thing David Cameron has ever said.”

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This statement, and others like it, are a huge deal. This isn’t how the leader of a major civilized Western so-called “democracy” speaks to the citizenry. It is how a master talks to his slaves. How a ruler addresses his subjects. I think the following tweet by Glenn Greenwald earlier today sums up David Cameron’s attitude perfectly well: Continue reading

TTIP: Why the EU-US Trade Deal Matters

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Courtesy of Andrew Walker @ BBC:

There’s one big issue for the new UK government that stayed below the radar during the election campaign – trade negotiations between the European Union and the United States, known as TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

The big political parties didn’t make much of it during the campaign. Both the Conservatives and Labour are broadly in favour, though the Greens are very critical. TTIP was however addressed in the manifestos. War on Want (who oppose the plans) have compiled the parties’ positions on the issue.

Outside the political arena there are some very strong opinions. Many business voices are enthusiastic, but there is also very vocal opposition.

What is TTIP and what is it for?

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or it will be if the negotiations are completed. The aim is to boost the economies of the EU and the US by removing or reducing barriers to trade and foreign investment.

President Obama said, when the talks were launched, that TTIP would promote “new growth and jobs on both sides of the Atlantic”. Critics reject that claim – more of that below. Continue reading

David Cameron to Unveil New Limits on Extremists’ Activities in Queen’s Speech

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Just the actions of a government moving to crack down on it’s citizenry as their own incompetence and gratuitous malevolence becomes too obvious to ignore. Tip towing towards totalitarianism, slowly but surely. Cameron and May’s words are duplicitous but it is their actions that will breed extremism by labelling it as such, creating the thing they wish to stop, further exacerbating ‘extremism’ and further crack down on personal and social liberty. Courtesy of Patrick Wintour @ The Guardian:

A counter-terrorism bill including plans for extremism disruption orders designed to restrict those trying to radicalise young people is to be included in the Queen’s speech, David Cameron will tell the national security council on Wednesday.

The orders, the product of an extremism task force set up by the prime minister, were proposed during the last parliament in March, but were largely vetoed by the Liberal Democrats on the grounds of free speech. They were subsequently revived in the Conservative manifesto.

The measures would give the police powers to apply to the high court for an order to limit the “harmful activities” of an extremist individual. The definition of harmful is to include a risk of public disorder, a risk of harassment, alarm or distress or creating a “threat to the functioning of democracy”.

The aim is to catch not just those who spread or incite hatred on the grounds of gender, race or religion but also those who undertake harmful activities for the “purpose of overthrowing democracy”.

They would include a ban on broadcasting and a requirement to submit to the police in advance any proposed publication on the web and social media or in print. The bill will also contain plans for banning orders for extremist organisations which seek to undermine democracy or use hate speech in public places, but it will fall short of banning on the grounds of provoking hatred. Continue reading

Snoopers’ Charter Set to Return to Law as Theresa May Suggests Conservative Majority Could Lead to Huge Increase in surveillance Powers

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Courtesy of Andrew Griffin @ The Independent:

The Conservatives are already planning to introduce the huge surveillance powers known as the Snoopers’ Charter, hoping that the removal from government of the Liberal Democrats that previously blocked the controversial law will allow it to go through.

The law, officially known as the Draft Communications Data Bill, is already back on the agenda according to Theresa May. It is expected to force British internet service providers to keep huge amounts of data on their customers, and to make that information available to the government and security services.

The snoopers’ charter received huge criticism from computing experts and civil liberties campaigners in the wake of introduction. It was set to come into law in 2014, but Nick Clegg withdrew his support for the bill and it was blocked by the Liberal Democrats. Theresa May, who led the legislation as home secretary, said shortly after the Conservatives’ election victory became clear that she will seek to re-introduce it to government. With the re-election of May and the likely majority of her party, the bill is likely to find success if the new government tries again. Continue reading