September 2003

A case of the pot calling the kettle black

MPs reject US drugs criticism

US demands that the Netherlands take a tougher stance against the drugs trade, use more criminals to infiltrate gangs and broaden police powers has sparked irritation among Dutch politicians and prosecutors.

Given the complete and ongoing failure of their war on drugs, the Americans really arent in much of a position to criticise anyone.

Quote of the Day: Perpetual Childhood

For most of us, adulthood is a journey and not a destination. In the end, some of us will be responsible for our own lives and well-being, for our own choices and our own behaviors. And some will not. For those who refuse to grow up, perpetual adolescence is a lonely place, full of empty distractions that never quite assuage the fear.
- Victor Rozek

Poseurs and parasites at the UN

Spiked has quite a lot to say about Bush and his critics at the recent UN General Assembly.

There was no principled divide at the UN General Assembly. Bush, like a moral coward, sought to justify his war in Iraq by hiding behind the fig-leaf of internationalism - while his critics picked off American doubt, like hyenas around a rotting carcass.

Read it here.

British Roundabouts are Art

Roundabouts of the UK

The legendary Roundabouts of Redditch Calendars are back for a second year of running. This time hold your breath.

12 stunning shots of the very best Traffic Islands in the seven of the UKs stunning towns. The lucky Towns are: -

Bolton, Croydon, Milton Keynes, Swindon, Grimsby and Cleethorpes, Slough and Redditch.

(via Ministry of Propaganda)

Banned in Moscow

(via one.point.zero)

The Arrogance of Christians

Thousands sign petition calling for reference to Christianity

Thousands of Maltese people have signed a petition calling for a reference to Christianity to be inserted in the preamble of the EU Constitution.

The petition urges EU leaders to include a reference to God: Reference to God reminds man of his limitations and that his power over life and nations is not absolute. Invoking God in the Preamble of the Constitution would hence ensure that peoples, be they Christians, Muslims or Jews, are free to invoke God. This recognition would ensure the true freedom of the human person as well as the guarantee of that freedom.

This, of course, excludes Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Pagans, and the all the rest of the non-Abrahamic religions as well as all the atheists, agnostics, brights and freethinkers that dont follow any religion.

True freedom of religion comes from not giving any single religion or religious idea precedence over all the rest.

While congratulating all those responsible for the remarkable improvement of the text of the preamble making an inclusive reference to the religious heritage of the European identity and civilisation, the explicit absence of reference to Christianity is deplorable, says the petition.

Of course, this part of the petition fails to recognise that Christianity is a Middle Easter import.

European countries have a long pre-Christian heritage. The values that we, as Europeans, hold dear are far from explicitly Christian. Democracy, for example, was invented by the Greeks several hundred years before Jesus was born. Principles upon which we depend to safeguard our freedoms - such as trial by jury - appear nowhere in the Bible.

The explicit absence of a reference to Christianity is an important safeguard against religious intolerance.

It concludes that reference to the above factors will ensure that European citizens will be able to identify with the values of the EU, transcend their divisions and forge a common destiny.

European values - liberty, freedom, democracy - are not Christian values and trying to insist that one set of religious values are more significant or better than other value systems is both divisive and self defeating.

Another call for a reference to Christianity in the preamble of the constitution has come from the presidency of the Commission of the Bishops Conferences of the European Community (COMECE).

In a letter to the President of the European Council, Silvio Berlusconi, on the eve of the inter-governmental conference, COMECES president and two vice-presidents welcomed the achievement of the European Convention that drafted the proposed constitutional treaty, which they describe as a successful innovation in the European democratic process.

Democracy is another concept that appears nowhere in the Bible.

Bishop Josef Homeyer (Hildesheim, Germany), Bishop Adrianus van Luyn (Rotterdam, Netherlands) and Archbishop Hippolyte Simon (Clermont, France) also welcome the proposed references to Europes religious inheritance and values, to the protection of religious freedom and to the identity and specific contribution of Churches and religious communities.

This represents, in their view, significant progress in the way in which religion is taken into account in the European Unions constitutional architecture.

Religion should have no part of Europes constitutional architecture. Religion is something for priests to concern themselves with - national governments and the EU should limit themselves to ensuring that state and international organisations function effectively and to the benefit of all members of society.

However, they argue that a reference to Christianity would complete the constitution by giving concrete expression to what many citizens recognise as the source of the values on which the European project is founded.

According to Adherents.com, 12% of West Germans are atheists; 14% of Britons are atheists; 24% of Dutch people are atheists and a whopping 88% of East Germans are atheists.

Not all citizens recognise Christianity as being the source on which the European project is founded. To try to claim otherwise is deceitful.

Given that Christianitys contribution to European civilisation is undeniable, omitting such a reference would be difficult to understand for many citizens in Europe, whether or not they believe in the Transcendent, they conclude.

The English legal system is based on English common law. This predates Christianity by several hundred years. Christianitys contribution to European civilisation is far less than many Christians would like to admit.

And what Christianity has contributed - intolerance, witch burnings, religious wars, the Inquisition - isnt really something that many people would consider desirable.

Quote of the Day: Data Protection

Data protection covers what information is passed over, who it is passed on to, how long it is kept for and whether a person can see and correct data held on them. Civil liberties deals with how that data is used against people - whether they are questioned, searched, detained or placed under surveillance. In a democratic society the two are indivisible.
- Tony Bunyan

Quote of the Day: Freedom for all

Social liberalism and freedom must also be about harnessing the power of the market to do good.
- Charles Kennedy

European Parliament compromises on patents

European Parliament agrees software patent text

The European Parliament has voted in favour of a law that goes some way towards limiting the scope for patents on software programs.

With 364 voting in favour, 153 against and 33 abstaining, MEPs appear to have ignored heavy lobbying from both extremes in the debate by opting for a compromise solution.

The two extremes mentioned are the open source community which argued that patents should not be awarded to software under any circumstances, and the software publishers who wanted to be allowed to patent anything they liked as is the case in the US and Japan.

Personally, Id lean more towards the open source position - copyright protection should be sufficient to cover software and algorythms - but the European Parliaments compromise isnt an unreasonable middle way.

That said, of course, its not over yet. The amended directive now has to be debated by the state governments and will then go back to the European Parliament for a second vote.

Update: EUobserver outlines the pro- and anti-patent arguments:

Those arguing against the Directive claim that all types of software will become subject to patents, meaning that small businesses risk becoming swamped with licensing fees.

More importantly, software patenting can stiffle innovation for two reasons.

Firstly, small businesses and programmers lack the resources to check whether every line of code in their software programs might infringe someone elses patent, so there is less incentive to innovate.

Secondly, every programme is based on previous innovations. If all these innovations become subject to licensing fees, it will be expensive to follow up on someone elses work.

But the pro-patenting campaign argues that it is precisely these small businesses that would be protected by patenting, because they will be able to charge licensing fees for their innovations, thus enabling them to compete against big companies like Microsoft and IBM.

The patents would only apply to computer-implemented inventions, rather than to pure software, so innovation in programming would not be inhibited, say the pro-patent lobby.

Free Trade for All

Push for sanctions to be levied on US

The European Commission yesterday announced that it will ask member states to impose sanctions on the United States.

Three years after the US Anti-Dumping Act of 1916 was found incompatible with WTO rules, the European Union is still waiting for concrete signs that the US will repeal its condemned legislation, the statement said.

The US has a protectionist law on its books that has been ruled illegal by the World Trade Organisation. Free trade cuts both ways - if the US wants to be able to export to rest of the world then they also have to accept imports from those countries regardless of whether or not those imports prove to be cheaper.

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