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Nov 062016
 

There has been a great deal of fuss over the recent High Court decision recently that requires the government to ask parliament to authorise Article 50 to trigger leaving the EU. Most of it complete rubbish, and the more extreme responses were childish too.

The court case had nothing to do with Brexit itself – it was a constitutional issue over whether the government had exceeded its authority by trying to use the royal prerogative to authorise Article 50. The court decided it had, and that parliament should decide on the Article 50 issue.

It was not an attempt to defeat Brexit. There wasn’t some sort of remainer conspiracy to block Brexit. It was “just” a standard constitutional law case deciding on whether the government was using the royal prerogative unnecessarily to act in an undemocratic way.

As a side effect of the decision, there is a chance that parliament might decide to ignore the referendum result and try to remain within the EU. This would probably be a dumb move (and I would prefer to remain within the EU), but the blame for that loophole is down to how the original referendum was drawn up.

stack-of-coins-p1

Aug 232016
 

There are moves afoot to scrap the UK’s Human Rights Act.

Think about that for a moment. There is a minister of justice who wants to take away your human rights.

Whether or not you like the ECHR, the fact that a British politician wants to scrap the Human Rights Act is somewhat worrying. They want to take away our human rights. It is all very well saying that the British authorities never behave in ways that would threaten our human rights, and we have both common law and traditions that protect our human rights. But scrapping the Human Rights Act sends a signal that we do not need human rights; a signal that may not be picked up and acted on for years or decades, but the signal is still there.

Now if they were merely going to modify the Human Rights Act, that would be fine. I am sure there are parts that go a bit too far and others that do not go far enough. The key thing is that changing the Human Rights Act; even improving it, sends a different signal no matter what those changes are. That signal is that we do believe in human rights.

And that is a good message to send.

The New Defence

The New Defence

Jul 012016
 

It’s the 100-year anniversary of the Battle of the Somme this morning, and there are those commemorating the event by claiming they all died for our freedom. Well that may have been what they thought they were fighting for, but that’s arguably not what the war was about. At least for the British, there were no real risk of invasion at the beginning of the war.

There is still arguments to be had over the causes of World War 1, but a very high level view indicates military adventurism by the Austria-Hungary empire in the powder-keg of Europe (the Balkans), combined with interlocking defence treaties that amounted to the mutually-assured destruction of the 19th century. To a great extent, Britain was fighting because France was fighting, and they were fighting because Russia was fighting who were fighting because Austria-Hungary were invading their allies in the Balkans – Serbia. Germany was pulled into the mess because of it’s alliance with Austria-Hungary.

If that sounds like a confusing mess, you don’t know the half of it. Not least because I have not mentioned Belgium.

Why does this matter? Particularly since I am implying that the sacrifice of the WW1 casualties was not for a particularly noble cause.

The first reason for remembering, is that those who thought they were fighting for a noble cause deserve to be remembered.

Secondly we need to remember just how stupid war is, and particularly that people are still arguing over exactly how and why it started. There may be justifiable wars – even wars that are not strictly defensive. But if you are not entirely sure why the war is being fought, it is definitely a war you should not be in.

thiepval-memorial

Jun 292016
 

Having said give it a rest already, this is where I rant a bit about the dumbest decision England has made since following the direction of the pope and invading Ireland back in the 13th century.

So it turns out that crowd-sourcing decisions can sometimes result in the dumbest possible result. If you think about it a bit, you realise that the decision is effectively not a decision at all. The result (52% for exit, 48% for remain) indicates that half the country wants to leave and half the country wants to remain. We’re effectively undecided.

Parliament could ignore the result and decide to remain within the EU; the referendum is not legally binding. That probably isn’t going to happen, and a second referendum is even less likely – I cannot see the politicians wanting to spend that much money on democracy.

The amusing thing is that there are people out there who voted to leave as a protest vote, and didn’t really want to leave at all. Which strikes me as possibly the dumbest method of protesting you can possibly come up with. Mooning number 10 Downing Street is more sensible than voting for something you do not want.

But what do those of us who want to remain part of the EU do? Probably the most sensible thing is to keep quiet, let things go through their course, and in about 5 years time start campaigning to re-join the EU. Five years is about long enough to demonstrate just how dumb this move was, and will also shift all those under-18 remain fans get old enough to start voting.

B84V1827t1-elderley-man-past-gravestones

Nov 022013
 

Why on earth have we got this new name – Human Trafficking – for the very old crime of slavery and slave trading? Is it some kind of attempt at putting a trendy new gloss on it? It’s not a crime that should have a trendy new gloss; even ignoring the fact that it is the kind of crime that shouldn’t be glamorised in any way, there’s a very good legal reason why we should carry on calling it slavery and slave trading.

Back in the 19th century, the British unilaterally declared that slavery and slave trading would be treated the same as piracy and set about (with the assistance of the US) eliminating the African slave trade. Under the principle of jus cogens they set about hanging slavers, confiscating their assets, and freeing slaves claiming that they had a universal right to punish those who took part in the crime of slavery.

In other words, some crimes are so heinous that anyone is allowed to prosecute offenders no matter where or when the offenses took place.

By keeping the old name for the crime, we retain it’s classification as a crime subject to universal jurisdiction. This opens the possibility of setting up a court – such as the ICC – to prosecute slavers wherever in the world they are, and the possibility of empowering law enforcement units to bring slavers to justice wherever they happen to be.

And after all, the fight against slavery isn’t going too well with more slaves today than there has ever been.

Mar 242007
 

I have written on slavery before in a more general sense, but this time it is more about how media represents slavery at a time when slavery is in the news because Sunday is the 200th anniversary of the British attempting to abolish the slave trade as the first step in abolishing slavery which is something that is still not finished.

Well, actually the campaign for the abolition of slavery in Britain/England is actually quite a bit older than that act in 1807; the first step was allegedly the abolition of serfdom in 1102. There were many steps forward and many shameful steps backwards (such as the start of the transatlantic slave trade). But I’ll stop there before I get carried away and just point you to the Wikipedia article on the history of slavery … [w:History of Slavery]

What this little rant is about, is how the media portray slavery as an institution where only blacks were slaves and only whites were slave owners and traders. Wrong!

Even ignoring the earlier history of slavery, it is clear from various statistics that slaves could be white or black :-

Group Number
Africans in the transatlantic slave trade 11.6 million
Africans in the Eastern slave trade 11-16 million
Europeans in the Eastern slave trade 1-1.5 million

These figures are hardly likely to be accurate … slave traders do not appear to be good record keepers for some reason, but it would appear that from these figures approximately 6% of the slaves in early modern history were European. That seems like a relatively small quantity in comparison to the number of African slaves taken from their homes, but each individual forced into slavery is a crime against humanity, and a tragedy for the individual whether the individual was black, white or any other colour.

These figures probably vastly underestimate the number of slaves throughout history even if we exclude serfs (a serf is a slave owned by the land and not a person … a distinction likely to make a difference to a lawyer but not the serf). The colour of a slave is irrelevant; it is the fact that he is a slave that is important (and important to free him). The colour of a slave owner is irrelevant; it is the fact that she owns slaves and abuses them that is important (no matter how kind a slavemaster is, she is still abusing other humans).

It is easy to overlook the African involvement in the slave trade … we are given the impression that it was solely white Europeans who threw black Africans into chains. There was certainly plenty of that going on, but in the early days at least many black Africans were involved in the slave trade.

The media needs to stop getting carried away with the easy job of portraying the transatlantic slave trade where images are relatively easy to come by, and make it plain that all slavery is wrong and that it was not just black Africans abused in this way. Given how widespread slavery has been in the past, it is almost certain that everyone alive today is descended from someone who was a slave and probable that they are descended from slave owner.

There are those who say we should compensate the descendants of slaves for the crime against their ancestors. If everyone is a descendent of a slave, this could be somewhat expensive to do! However there is some that we must do and that is to do everything we can to stop present day slavery … yes it still goes on. I am sure that many if not all of history’s dead slaves would cry out that any money that could be put into compensation should be first spent on stopping anyone else being subject to slavery in any form … that is the first priority.

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