4:30 pm - January 25th 2009
Welcome to the first edition of the Carnival on Modern Liberty. This has been an interesting week to begin this carnival. We’ve had the rise and fall of the government’s latest attempt to exempt MPs’ expenses from the Freedom of Information Act, the inauguration of President Barack Obama and the launch of the Guardian’s new Liberty Central. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves…
Winning the Right to Know
Is freedom of information a civil liberties issue? We could debate that for hours, but as (my, ahem, boss) Peter Facey says in Yes, Democracy Works (Comment is Free):
…a significant swath of the establishment fears and distrusts the public, treating us as compliant subjects rather than citizens. We are regarded as a problem to be controlled and managed and our fundamental rights and freedoms are paid lip service but considered ultimately to be an inconvenience. The impulse which has lead us to a national identity database, identity cards, the DNA database, photographers being detained for taking pictures in the street, parents being spied on to check if they live in the appropriate school catchment area, the drive to marginalise trial by duty and hold inquests in secret and suspending/habeas corpus, is the same impulse that assumes the public is neither entitled nor interested in knowing how MPs spend their expenses.
The plan to exempt MPs’ expenses from the Freedom on Information Act caused an uproar. The Campaign for Freedom of Information, Unlock Democracy and mySociety moved swiftly.
The move was opposed by Girl with a One Track Mind, Virtual Lancaster, Scunner Nation, Iain Dale, Open…, SpyBlog, davblog, ecomonkey, COPE, The Northern Light, Jason Kitcat, Rhetorically Speaking, Little Man in a Toque, Mush Kush, Duncan’s Blog and literally thousands of others.
And we won! At least for the time being. The Wardman Wire features a roundup to pay credit to the MPs who publically came out against the move – is your MP on the list?
On that inauguration
Meanwhile, over in the States, there is the small matter of Obama’s presidency. His first acts? Removing Bush’s restrictions on the US’s Freedom of Information Act (yes, they have one too) and shutting down Guantanamo Bay.
Mark Littlewood outlines the difficulties in closing Guantanamo and what happens next. Regardless of the practicalities however, Ken Gude argues that the symbolism of closing the detention centre will save American lives.
Tom Griffin notes Obama’s taste for quoting Thomas Paine and hopes that some of the English revolutionary’s zeal will come back to this side of the Atlantic as well.
…the state has the power to watch you if it has sufficient belief that to do so would prevent a crime that would threaten the security of the UK, or the welfare of children, but no more than this. The new Coroners and Justice bill contains clauses that will blow this out of the water, completely destroy such boundaries to our civil liberties and allow the government to effectively become the managers of our personal data.
(Of course, while these provisions are of course bad news, let’s not forget that the Coroners and Justice Bill is also seeking to allow for certain inquests to be held in secret on the vague grounds of “national security” – a less techie friendly issue perhaps, but still important nonetheless.)
Scrap 696: Sunny Hundal writes at Liberty Central about the nonsense that is the Metropolitan Police’s new Form 696 and its impact on the live music scene.
The Guardian’s Liberty Central, as well as providing a portal for civil liberty-related articles on Comment is Free, includes Liberty Clinic (an advice service in association with Liberty), a database of civil liberty related legislation and a noticeboard of upcoming events.
Food for Thought
- Costigan Quist ruminates on fear and how it corrodes liberty.
- Dominic Grieve’s Chief of Staff Dominic Raab writes on ConservativeHome that the Human Rights Act undermines our liberties and should be replaced by a “Bill of Rights, based on the core rights in the European Convention.” Last thing I saw, that’s what the Human Rights Act was, but then I’ve never understood the Tory line on human rights.
- The Campaigns Manager of Republic Graham Smith urges people to “look at the bigger picture” and recognise that our civil liberties can only be guaranteed if the UK becomes a republic.
- On a related note, Dr Evan Harris MP is introducing a new private members’ bill to end discrimination against Catholics and women in the royal succession. Republic thinks it is “pitiful” while the Catholic Herald’s editor Damian Thompson would like to tell Harris where he can stick his bill, not because he disagrees with it, but because Harris is pro-choice (hat tip: New Humanist).
- Unity wants people to stop banging on about the Database State and start worrying about the “Database Economy“.
- Over at Liberty Central, Ryan Thoresen takes British academia to task over its draconian attitude to porn.
- Duwayne Brooks argues that Trevor Phillips’ declaration that institutional racism is dead in the police force is a serious exaggeration.
- Over in Canada, InformedVote urges “Save the Economy: Legalize Marijuana.”
Outraged that your masterpiece isn’t listed here? DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! If you would like your articles mentioned on the Carnival on Modern Liberty, submit them via this page.
The next edition of the Carnival on Modern Liberty will be next Friday on Our Kingdom.
Special thanks to the following for helping to promote the Carnival: The Daily Maybe, Stephen Glenn’s Linlithgow Journal, OurKingdom, LabourHome, Lib Dem Voice, Quaequam Blog! (yay me!), Yorksher Gob and Liberal England
James is an occasional contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He blogs at: Quaequam Blog!
· Other posts by James Graham
Story Filed Under: Blog ,Civil liberties ,Our democracy ,Westminster
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