And they did it.

In the early hours of yesterday morning, the armed forces of US, UK & France bombed three Syrian Government sites. 😪

In the UK, there has and will be much comment on the Prime Minister’s lack of mandate both from the UN and from the UK Parliament.

Some more on Syria

This is the first time I have missed storify, I used it to capture inspirations for blogs but here’s a couple of things you might like to read on whether to bomb Syria. It seems that my cautious, only if legal line has some controversy amongst some friends.

The Guardian has some letters and comments in an article called “Syria, the west’s response and international law“, they report the Government’s response in calling for a robust response to Syria’s chemical weapons attack, which is also reported by the BBC

Corbyn has commented, arguing for a UN led approach.

And the Canary reports on a lawyer’s round robin published at Radio Free, which is interesting because it so clearly states the law.

I also found this, “When it comes to Middle East policy, the UK is nothing but a rogue state“, which, details a number of failings of the UK to honour it’s international legal commitments, from sanctions busting, to illegal weapons supply, and the use of “advisors” in war zones.

I also looked up what the UK did and thought over Gulf War II, and found this, this & this. While some are less clear than others, the following quote is from the Radio Free article

… military strikes by the United States of America and its allies against the Syrian Arab Republic, unless conducted in self-defense or with United Nations Security Council approval, are illegal …

must be central to what limits decent people.

Bombs away again

Bombs away again

Here we go again! What more do the warmongers want us to do in Syria? The RAF is already participating in the “coalition air intervention”. In 1944, the victorious powers of the 2nd World War created the United Nations, criminalised aggressive war and authorised the UN to determine if, when & how collective military action was required. The UN will not authorise revenge or punishment bombing raids, even if only the Russian veto stops it. The bellicose language used by Trump and the threatened Russian reaction are frightening. Our government should be arguing for restraint and the application of international law not colluding with this disaster.

Failing flanks and the new centrism

The Guardian recycles the story about forming a new centrist party and much of the comment is about whether this will damage Labour as the formation of the SDP did in the 1980’s. I wonder? One of Blair’s successes was picking up on the fact that the Tories had lost the trust of business. We are today in a world where British capital is losing faith in the Tories ability to represent them. The Tories, when they think about it at all, rather than their game of thrones, seem to think that the dilettante capitalism of the hedge funds, rentiers and speculators is all that counts. One can assume that this pro-capitalist force in society cannot see how to make an accommodation with Corbyn’s Labour but it’s their loss of faith that the Tories can give them what they need that is driving this.

On the Chakrabarti Inquiry

I had reason to have another look at the Chakrabarti report, you can imagine why. It saddens me deeply, that a such a well thought out & evidenced response to the allegations of antisemitic behaviour has not become the benchmark by which the Labour Party judges itself.

When I first read this, to me the implied allegation that the disciplinary process was unsafe because of the lack of professional legal time and latterly the exposure of the fact that the NCC (Judges & Jury) received little or no independent legal advice from the prosecution seemed to me to be possible the most important finding. After the last week, I am of the view that the gentle yet robust definition of unacceptable behaviour in terms of racism and the Party’s response is equally if not more important

However, for various reasons[1] the then NEC, decided not to bring the recommendations to conference in 2016. This was recognised as a partial mistake by both sides of the argument i.e. those that wanted harsher rules and those who wanted vanilla Chakrabarti since the rules were changed at Conference 17 to delete the “free speech” defence which would have previously prohibited disciplinary actions against any racists or misogynists. Successful prosecutions will remain difficult as the decisions to “do” Livingstone & Greenstein on “bringing the party into disrepute” and not on antisemitism or use of abusive language in the case of Greenstein prove because, despite having changed its rules at Conference 2017 any decisions are still potentially subject to judicial review.

We i.e. the Labour Party badly need the rest of the Chakrabarti Inquiry recommendations to offer certainty around behavioural acceptability, ensure proportionality in terms of penalty and guarantee a fair trial if things require it. In this, the intra-party sectarian delay, has served it poorly.

The benchmark by which we i.e. Labour judge ourselves should be the Chakrabarti report, not the IHRA definition.

ooOOOoo

In this case, there is more to read …..

Freedom of Information

I have been looking at a couple of association/organisation constitutions, both of which have rules controlling the way in which some people, by which we mean those in a minority, can communicate information about the conduct of business to members and/or the public. On thinking about it, I wonder if these rules fall foul of the ECHR Article 10 rights, the freedom of speech right. While the US version is famous, and rightly so, it is much more explicit about speech and publication, the European version, talks of the right to receive information.

Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.

 

Soft-Brexit?

I had dinner with an old friend last night, and one of the topics of conversation was Brexit, he’s of the view that the Government will negotiate a transition period which will be like the EEA and close a deal during the transition either the same or maybe like Ukraine’s. In this case, we may well then decide we want to re-join once we know what the final deal is like and they reckon the EU will let us back in. We’d probably lose the rebate, immunity from the Euro and being outside Schengen.

Losing one’s way

Over the last few days, the Guardian has broken the story of the illegal use of personal data in the US 2016 general election. We are now waiting for the trail to come back to UK politics, in particular, the use of Cambridge Analytica (or one of its associates) by the alliance of Leave organisations. The data was stolen, well acquired, from Facebook, but it seems they knew for two years and there is some argument as to their corporate complicity. Their Chief Information Security Officer has been on the way out since the end of last year and some stories suggest it’s because he argued for greater openness in co-operating with the enquiries into Russian state sourced fake news.

Citizens, their representatives and law makers have been arguing that IT companies should have a duty to report security breaches to law enforcement and the EU is introducing such a law now; such Laws exist in California which is where Facebook is headquartered. We should also note that their duty to protect their users personal data is governed by the US privacy laws, the now defunct EU Safe Harbour agreement and its successor, the Privacy Shield. In addition, the US signed up to the 7 Principles of Data Potection when first declared by the OECD.  It is a fact however, that many US business executives (and their employees) consider the European Data Protection laws as non-tariff import barriers, not that this should matter but I have no doubt that considerable time has been spent in determining where the line between legality and illegal activity stands.

There are several factors in the US political culture which often makes it hard for the US to obey foreign laws (and their own), one of them being, that they often have difficulty in legitimising their own laws and law enforcement.

This is, to me, summarised in the 10th Amendment, one of the Bill of Rights amendments to the US Constitution.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

There is a beauty to the sentiment and an economy to the words, but they are a fundamental challenge to the rule of law. (Is this a bit extreme?) The Citizen’s United ruling, which upheld the citizen’s free speech rights for an association, can be taken to mean that corporations have citizenship rights. US Laws are hard to make and often Laws re challenged in court often to the Supreme Court asking for laws to be struck down as unconstitutional. The upshot of all this is that politicaly citizens can take a view on whether a law is legal in the knowledge that if they win, unlike in Europe & the Antipodes where the Government’s have majorities in their legislatures and will rewrite the laws, they get to do what they want.

The US tradition of a people’s access to justice, showcased by the Judge Judy show is also admirable, if a bit bizarre to UK eyes but it is another dimension of the US commitment to rights and the rule of law; they’e just a bit weaker in understanding collective and inalienable rights, such as privacy (except from Government).

We also have the growing dichotomy between companies Legal and Compliance teams, with Legal advising under the protection of client/attorney privilege in the best interests of their clients and Compliance having a duty to the public advising how not to break the Law.

One can see how US Companies might lose their way. It’s nothing to be proud of though, the UK route to corruption is just shorter as currently viewing the C4 news program on Cambridge Analytica will show.

Do politicians understand? They may not understand the details of the tech., but they do understand Human Rights law and the rule of law, although some of the House of Commons are to quote the shadow chancellor “Fucking Useless”, and the select committees could do with better advisors;  the purpose of the witnesses is to deliver this advice and knowledge, but you need to know the questions and understand the answers. You need a nose for a cover up and to know the 2nd question.

The subversion of democracy by big data

The subversion of democracy by big data

The fabulous Carol Cadwalladyr brings us the next instalment of undoing the surveillance states control over our democracies.

In an article “The Great British Brexit Robbery”, she and the Guardian showed how the Tories and the Brexit Leave Campaigns had used US Data Aanlytics companies to influence the Brexit referendum. It is alleged that the personal data was obtained illegally, its processing was illegal and that it was an undeclared election/referendum expense. The evidence was sufficient for the Information Commissioner’s Office and the Electoral Commission to launch investigations.

Over the last two days, Facebook have suspended Cambridge Analytica & one other company and the latter’s Principal for breaking their terms and conditions and in one case a breach of contract not to pass data on. The story is reported in the Guardian in a story called, “‘I made Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare tool’: meet the data war whistleblower” , which documents the contractual paper trial. This happened two years ago and it is alleged that Facebook knew of it then. It is a crime in many jurisdictions, including California to not notify either the regulators or the data subjects of a breach/leak of personal data.

Sadly 🤔 they have been accused of misleading the House of Commons, select committee inquiry into Fake News. It has been denied that Cambridge Analytica had Facebook data in a verbal submission. Its Chair, Damian Collins, is quite forthright, accusing Facebook of sending under informed representatives to answer the committee’s questions. The word wilful ignorance comes to mind.

As Brits, we need to see if crimes were committed during the 2015 & 2017 General Elections and/or the Brexit Refrendum but this can’t be good for Facebook’s reputation.

ooOOOoo

I wish we still had Storify, this is one for them.

The image is from the Guardian on the story on Parliament’s reaction.