Posts Tagged ‘freedom

Independent commission to investigate future of internet freedom

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A major independent commission headed by the Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt, was launched on Wednesday to investigate the future of the internet in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations.

The two-year inquiry, announced at the World Economic Forum at Davos, will be wide-ranging but focus primarily on state censorship of the internet as well as the issues of privacy and surveillance raised by the Snowden leaks about America’s NSA and Britain’s GCHQ spy agencies…

Bildt, the former Swedish prime minister, said: “The rapid evolution of the net has been made possible by the open and flexible model by which it has evolved and been governed. But increasingly this is coming under attack.

“And this is happening as issues of net freedom, net security and net surveillance are increasingly debated. Net freedom is as fundamental as freedom of information and freedom of speech in our societies.”

The Obama administration on Friday announced the initial findings of a White House-organised review of the NSA. There are also inquiries by the US Congress and by the European parliament, but this is the first major independent one.

The nicest thing said about Obama’s recommendations is that they have the strength of weak tea. My characterization would be more scatalogical.

Robin Niblett, director of Chatham House, said: “The issue of internet governance is set to become one of the most pressing global policy issues of our time…”

Gordon Smith, who is to be deputy chair of the commission, said: “For many people, internet governance sounds technical and esoteric but the reality is that the issues are ‘high politics’ and of consequence to all users of the internet, present and future.”

Many of America’s geek pundits feel the United States owns the Internet and every other nation should simply follow whatever our government says should be the rules. Obedience is required by the Internet Overlords.

The battle comes up every few years, The next round will not only involve the question of global democracy; but, individual privacy and security will have to be part of the discussion.

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Written by Ed Campbell

January 22, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Canada strikes down national criminal prostitution laws

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Nikki Thomas/director Sex Professionals of Canada, Terri-Jean Bedford, Valerie Scott

In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court of Canada has unanimously struck down as unconstitutional the main scheme of criminal laws against the buying and selling of sex by prostitutes, saying it endangers the lives and security of vulnerable sex workers.

However, the country’s top court has given Parliament a one-year grace period to redraft a legislative scheme that could pass constitutional muster.

That means if, 12 months from today, the federal government has not redrawn the laws to address the court’s concern that they are too arbitrary, overbroad and “grossly disproportionate,” then prostitutes will be allowed to legally practice their trade, hire drivers, bodyguards, accountants and screen their clients freely.

In the meantime, the Criminal Code ban on brothels, living on the avails of prostitution and communicating for the purposes of prostitution remain in full effect…

The stunning judgment that the country’s main prostitution laws breach fundamental Charter rights was a unanimous conclusion reached by all nine judges, including the retiring Justice Morris Fish. The court flatly rejected calls by the federal government’s lawyers to defer to Parliament on the contentious matter.

The appeal, known as Canada (Attorney General) v. Bedford, Lebovitch and Scott was brought by Toronto-based dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford, former prostitute Valerie Scott, and downtown eastside Vancouver’s Amy Lebovitch. All three were on hand in Ottawa, and rejoiced loudly.

If you haven’t been following the case, the article is long, detailed and informative. Frankly, it’s worth reading because it should nudge your own thought processes. The questions raised ain’t easy.

On one hand, any sort of libertarian outlook says, let folks earn a living however they wish if they aren’t producing permanent harm to individuals and society. That last word brings in all the religions and philosophers. Not me. Individual freedoms are pretty hard to celebrate to a level that harms a nation.

The only concern from my side is the opportunity for criminals enterprise to profit from and control the lives of sex workers. And history tells us that is easier under criminalization than without. As alcohol prohibition has taught us, as our wonderful war on drugs illustrates on a daily basis.

Worth thinking about, folks – even if the opportunity to visit the question in your own country isn’t likely.

Written by Ed Campbell

December 20, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Federal judge rules against NSA phone surveillance program

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A federal judge in Washington ruled on Monday that the bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records by the National Security Agency is likely to violate the US constitution, in the most significant legal setback for the agency since the publication of the first surveillance disclosures by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Judge Richard Leon declared that the mass collection of metadata probably violates the fourth amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, and was “almost Orwellian” in its scope. In a judgment replete with literary swipes against the NSA, he said James Madison, the architect of the US constitution, would be “aghast” at the scope of the agency’s collection of Americans’ communications data.

The ruling, by the US district court for the District of Columbia, is a blow to the Obama administration, and sets up a legal battle that will drag on for months, almost certainly destined to end up in the supreme court. It was welcomed by campaigners pressing to rein in the NSA, and by Snowden, who issued a rare public statement saying it had vindicated his disclosures. It is also likely to influence other legal challenges to the NSA, currently working their way through federal courts.

The case was brought by Larry Klayman, a conservative lawyer, and Charles Strange, father of a cryptologist killed in Afghanistan when his helicopter was shot down in 2011. His son worked for the NSA and carried out support work for Navy Seal Team Six, the elite force that killed Osama bin Laden.

In Monday’s ruling, the judge concluded that the pair’s constitutional challenge was likely to be successful. In what was the only comfort to the NSA in a stinging judgment, Leon put the ruling on hold, pending an appeal by the government.

Leon expressed doubt about the central rationale for the program cited by the NSA: that it is necessary for preventing terrorist attacks. “The government does not cite a single case in which analysis of the NSA’s bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent terrorist attack,” he wrote.

“Given the limited record before me at this point in the litigation – most notably, the utter lack of evidence that a terrorist attack has ever been prevented because searching the NSA database was faster than other investigative tactics – I have serious doubts about the efficacy of the metadata collection program as a means of conducting time-sensitive investigations in cases involving imminent threats of terrorism.”

Bravo. A judge with the courage to defend our Constitution – in the face of a President, Congress and most of our elected officials more than willing to defame the document that defines our history of freedom.

Written by Ed Campbell

December 17, 2013 at 8:00 am

Elizabeth Warren on anti-woman issues raised by Republicans

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If I still lived in Massachusetts, I would be voting for Elizabeth Warren. I wouldn’t have voted for Scott Brown in the first place, because I’m not foolish enough to believe any of the campaign promises made by Republicans. Even so-called moderates.

I raise my questions about Democrats to Democrats; but, this is a question simply that addresses all women, all Americans. The Party-formerly-known-as-Republican has chosen to bring back questions resolved in the 20th Century to satisfy the 19th Century ideology they now serve. I cannot support politics whose only direction is backwards.

Written by Ed Campbell

October 11, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Turkey’s Islamist politicians retreat from anti-abortion legislation — Their counterparts in Mississippi don’t miss a beat!

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“The government has backed away from initial plans to curb abortion rights,” an unnamed parliamentary source told the AFP news agency on Friday…

The legislation, initially proposed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), would have required all abortions to take place within the first six weeks of pregnancy, down from the 10 weeks currently allowed…Experts said the limit would have effectively outlawed abortions, since most women do not realise they are pregnant until around the sixth week of pregnancy.

Thousands of women and activists have staged demonstrations throughout the country in protest of the planned measures, while Turkish media published surveys that indicated curbing abortion rights would cause the AKP to lose votes, even among its female supporters…

Nurettin Canikli, an influential AKP lawmaker, also said the ruling party would not introduce a bill to curb abortion rights…”The abortion issue is off the agenda. No legislation will be introduced to the parliament on this issue,” he told the Turkish daily Hurriyet…

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had sparked outrage last month when he likened abortion to murder…Erdogan has frequently called for women to have at least three children, and his party intended to criminalise adultery in 2004 but backed off under pressure from the European Union.

Erdogan has tried to convince the European Union he’s only pandering to radical Islam to keep sufficient votes to stay in office. A concept the average Western politician is well familiar with. I think that’s just more of his lies – and he’s thoroughly committed to moving his nation further and further away from secular democracy into the bowels of theocracy.

At least as long as he can remain in charge.


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Written by Ed Campbell

June 22, 2012 at 2:00 pm

“The Use and Abuse of Religious Freedom”

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What are the proper limits of religious freedom? Marianne Thieme, leader of the Party for the Animals in the Netherlands, offers this answer: “Religious freedom stops where human or animal suffering begins.”

The Party for the Animals, the only animal-rights party to be represented in a national parliament, has proposed a law requiring that all animals be stunned before slaughter. The proposal has united Islamic and Jewish leaders in defense of what they see as a threat to their religious freedom, because their religious doctrines prohibit eating meat from animals that are not conscious when killed…

Meanwhile, in the United States, Catholic bishops have claimed that President Barack Obama is violating their religious freedom by requiring all big employers, including Catholic hospitals and universities, to offer their employees health insurance that covers contraception. And, in Israel, the ultra-orthodox, who interpret Jewish law as prohibiting men from touching women to whom they are not related or married, want separate seating for men and women on buses…

When people are prohibited from practicing their religion – for example, by laws that bar worshiping in certain ways – there can be no doubt that their freedom of religion has been violated…

Restricting the legitimate defense of religious freedom to rejecting proposals that stop people from practicing their religion makes it possible to resolve many other disputes in which it is claimed that freedom of religion is at stake. For example, allowing men and women to sit in any part of a bus does not violate orthodox Jews’ religious freedom, because Jewish law does not command that one use public transport. It’s just a convenience that one can do without – and orthodox Jews can hardly believe that the laws to which they adhere were intended to make life maximally convenient.

Likewise, the Obama administration’s requirement to provide health insurance that covers contraception does not prevent Catholics from practicing their religion. Catholicism does not oblige its adherents to run hospitals and universities…

RTFA for greater detail. Professor Singer comes to the obvious conclusion. These “controversial” appeals are not really about the freedom to practice one’s religion. As occurs so very often, the appeal to religious freedom is being misused.

Just another religious tradition – the practice of hypocrisy.

Written by Ed Campbell

June 11, 2012 at 10:00 pm

Which companies protect your data from the government — and which don’t?

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When you use the Internet, you entrust your online conversations, thoughts, experiences, locations, photos, and more to companies like Google, AT&T and Facebook. But what happens when the government demands that these companies to hand over your private information? Will the company stand with you? Will it tell you that the government is looking for your data so that you can take steps to protect yourself?

The Electronic Frontier Foundation examined the policies of 18 major Internet companies — including email providers, ISPs, cloud storage providers, and social networking sites — to assess whether they publicly commit to standing with users when the government seeks access to user data….We also examined their track record of fighting for user privacy in the courts and whether they’re members of the Digital Due Process coalition, which works to improve outdated communications law. Finally, we contacted each of the companies with our conclusions and gave them an opportunity to respond and provide us evidence of improved policies and practices…

We are pleased to see that service providers across the board are increasingly adopting the best practices we’ve been highlighting in this campaign. We first published this report last year to recognize exemplary practices that at least one service provider was engaging in for each category we measured. This year, it appears that publishing law enforcement guidelines, formally promising to give users notice when possible, and publishing transparency reports are on their way to becoming standard practices for industry leaders, and several more service providers are pushing for privacy protections in the courts and on Capitol Hill.

We’re also happy to report that several of the companies included in last year’s report have stepped up their game. Facebook, Dropbox and Twitter have each upgraded their practices in the past year and earned additional stars. Comcast drew our attention to a case in which they went to bat for user privacy, and so it earned a star, too.

Some of the new companies we’ve added to the report are neck-and-neck with the competition. LinkedIn and SpiderOak, like Dropbox, have each earned recognition in three categories: promising to inform users about government access requests, transparency about how and when data goes to the government, and standing up for user privacy in Congress. None of them has a publicly available record of standing up in court for users. However, that’s not something that all companies have had the opportunity to do, and sometimes companies will defend users in court but be prevented from publicly disclosing this fact.

We are especially pleased to recognize the first company to ever receive a full gold star in each of the categories measured by the privacy and transparency report: Sonic.net, an ISP based in Santa Rosa, California.

You know I sometimes disagree with the EFF. When they climb onto their Open Source Religion hobby horse, those rare occasions when they start to behave like Greenpeace on a fundraising drive – patting themselves on the back. But, in general, they act like a cyber-ACLU and that’s OK by me. We all need someone dedicated to protecting our online speech and privacy. This report is another example of the electronic Frontier Foundation doing a terrific job.

RTFA for graphic results.

Written by Ed Campbell

June 1, 2012 at 6:00 pm

FBI has established a surveillance unit for the Web — and you!

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You think we’re going to do what to protect the Bill of Rights?

CNET has learned that the FBI has formed a Domestic Communications Assistance Center, which is tasked with developing new electronic surveillance technologies, including intercepting Internet, wireless, and VoIP communications…

The establishment of the Quantico, Va.-based unit, which is also staffed by agents from the U.S. Marshals Service and the Drug Enforcement Agency, is a response to technological developments that FBI officials believe outpace law enforcement’s ability to listen in on private communications…

DCAC’s mandate is broad, covering everything from trying to intercept and decode Skype conversations to building custom wiretap hardware or analyzing the gigabytes of data that a wireless provider or social network might turn over in response to a court order. It’s also designed to serve as a kind of surveillance help desk for state, local, and other federal police.

The center represents the technological component of the bureau’s “Going Dark” Internet wiretapping push, which was allocated $54 million by a Senate committee last month. The legal component is no less important: as CNET reported on May 4, the FBI wants Internet companies not to oppose a proposed law that would require social-networks and providers of VoIP, instant messaging, and Web e-mail to build in backdoors for government surveillance…

“The big question for me is why there isn’t more transparency about what’s going on?” asks Jennifer Lynch, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group in San Francisco. “We should know more about the program and what the FBI is doing. Which carriers they’re working with — which carriers they’re having problems with. They’re doing the best they can to avoid being transparent…”

Eventually, the FBI may be forced to lift the cloak of secrecy that has surrounded the DCAC’s creation. On May 2, a House of Representatives committee directed the bureau to disclose “participation by other agencies and the accomplishments of the center to date” three months after the legislation is enacted.

How hard does anyone think the Republican-controlled House of Representatives will “push” the FBI towards transparency?

If there’s a singularly outstanding characteristic of the rightwing creeps currently infesting Congress it is their hypocrisy about individual freedoms, the liberty guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. All you need is one fart escaping the anus of American politics and attracts the attention of Homeland Security – then rallying around the flag of repression immediately takes precedence over civil liberties.

Lots of details in the article. But, then, CNET is already being watched through heavy lenses, anyway. As would be the Electronic Frontier Foundation and anyone else subversive enough to believe in free speech, free thought.

Written by Ed Campbell

May 24, 2012 at 6:00 am

Catholic Cardinal tries to block Secretary Sebelius from speaking at Georgetown University

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Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

The already-boiling debate about Georgetown University’s decision to invite Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to speak during graduation hit the highest levels of Catholic Washington on Tuesday, with the region’s archbishop slamming the school’s president for the “shocking” invitation and saying the real issue was being distorted.

The real issue is the princes of the church trying to censor science and reality, a mind free of the shutters of superstition.

…Sebelius was a key architect of the 2010 health-care law, and she authored the requirement that employers, including most religious ones, provide their employees with contraception coverage.

On Tuesday, the archdiocese of Washington, led by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, criticized Georgetown President John J. DeGioia for remarks he issued a day earlier — apparently to address the controversy — saying DeGioia had mischaracterized the issue as being about birth control. As the region’s top Catholic official, Wuerl is responsible for making sure Catholic institutions, including Georgetown, follow church teachings…

The Catholic bishops have led opposition to the mandate, arguing that it violates religious freedom. Liberal and moderate Catholics and other religious advocates also opposed the mandate when it was announced in January but their opposition died down after the White House shifted the requirement from the employers to insurance companies.

Addressing the controversy Monday, DeGioia noted that debate about the mandate “dominated public discourse” in the months after Sebelius was invited in January to speak at an awards ceremony for the school’s Public Policy Institute…

The back and forth reflects the intense debates among American Catholics about the degree to which Catholic institutions should reflect the official teachings of the church on contraception and other things.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Church and other equally restrictive religions join Republicans to continue their onslaught not only on education and science; but, on the right of women to manage their own reproductive decisions. Politics that are the opposite of liberty.

Written by Ed Campbell

May 16, 2012 at 10:00 pm

Pope pissed off at uppity American nuns — orders Inquisition!

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You’re toast!

The Vatican has appointed an American bishop to rein in the largest and most influential group of Catholic nuns in the United States, saying that an investigation found that the group had “serious doctrinal problems.”

The Vatican’s assessment…said that members of the group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, had challenged church teaching on homosexuality and the male-only priesthood, and promoted “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

The sisters were also reprimanded for making public statements that “disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.” During the debate over the health care overhaul in 2010, American bishops came out in opposition to the health plan, but dozens of sisters, many of whom belong to the Leadership Conference, signed a statement supporting it — support that provided crucial cover for the Obama administration in the battle over health care…

Word of the Vatican’s action took the group completely by surprise, Sister Annmarie Sanders said. She said that the group’s leaders were in Rome on Wednesday for what they thought was a routine annual visit to the Vatican when they were informed of the outcome of the investigation, which began in 2008.

“I’m stunned,” said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby founded by sisters. Her group was also cited in the Vatican document, along with the Leadership Conference, for focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping “silent” on abortion and same-sex marriage…

The verdict on the nuns group was issued by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is now led by an American, Cardinal William Levada… He appointed Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle to lead the process of reforming the sisters’ conference, with assistance from Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki and Bishop Leonard Blair, who was in charge of the investigation of the group.

They have been given up to five years to revise the group’s statutes, approve of every speaker at the group’s public programs and replace a handbook the group used to facilitate dialogue on matters that the Vatican said should be settled doctrine. They are also supposed to review the Leadership Conference’s links with Network and another organization, the Resource Center for Religious Life.

Doctrinal issues have been in the forefront during the papacy of Benedict XVI, who was in charge of the Vatican’s doctrinal office before he became pope. American nuns have come under particular scrutiny. Last year, American bishops announced that a book by a popular theologian at Fordham University, Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson, should be removed from all Catholic schools and universities.

And while the Vatican was investigating the Leadership Conference, the Vatican was also conducting a separate, widespread investigation of all women’s religious orders and communities in the United States. That inquiry, known as a “visitation,” was concluded last December, but the results of that process have not been made public.

Just in case anyone wondered about transparency or democracy under a theocracy. The Pope and his henchmen bishops are making it clear that modern thought is anathema; equal civil rights for women are forbidden; any attempts to bring the Roman Catholic Church into the 20th or 21st Centuries will be met with an Inquisition and whatever penalties the men in charge deem necessary.

While you’re at it – if you’re a True Believer who dares to disagree with this Inquisition – then reconsider why you should be obeying Holy Monarchs in the first place. If you’re wandering the Web, reading and examining independent thought without following the rules of the official catechism – maybe you might find yourself capable of many more decisions on your own.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 19, 2012 at 6:00 am


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