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Democracy

2/26/2007

This is something we all have some affinity to in one way or another. Some are aggressively for it (enough so to go to war over it), others vehemently against it (enough so to prepare to go to war to stop it arriving). But what exactly is it?

Do you know how it works, what it means to you, to live in a democracy? What powers does it give you? How to politicians, both national and local, behave differently in a democratic state than in a non-democratic one?

I don’t know the answers to all of those, but I have fast learned what it means to a pleb of a person living in a democratic region. Here is an example of how you wake up in the morning, believing that because you are in an area where your vote counts, that your voice counts too. Then you have lunch whilst thinking carefully about how exactly to make your voice count. And you go to sleep realising that you have been duped and that the only thing that actually only ever counted was that X you are asked for every 4 years or so – the rest of the time you might as well just pay taxes and shut up.

Harsh words? A scathing attack on our way of life? NO. I believe this is a wake up call to protect that which most of us assume to be the basis of our society. Its time we, the people, realised that if democracy is to work, we must temper the power that we give to the politicians who rule over us like kings – and believe me, you might as well be living in a kingdom with no rights other than the right to pay taxes.

There is an argument here, that if the empowerd political party is not in a safe seat, with a huge margin, their behaviour might be different – in that they might be more attentive to social requirements as they are in constant fear of the 4-yearly X ritual. But right now, politics is never marginal – the media and politicians convince us that one way is right, the other abundantly wrong. Therefore we make our own beds, but voting in a massive majority, whichever colour takes our fancy – red, blue or yellow.

So what brought this on? The sorry realisation that you have no local voice in the area you live in.

That is right – think about it for a minute. Have you ever had to say something to prevent or encourage something happening locally in your town? If so, you will have encountered a line of defences that is almost eeriliy like a ministry of shut-your-mouth-and-just-be-taxed. I don’t say this lightly at all. Really.

I am a very open, easy going person. But I am appalled at what I’ve seen happen, first nationally (WMD anyone?) and now locally. I live in a true-blue area, where the majority is huge. Massive. And I wonder just what on earth goes through the minds of people every 4 years when they vote. Because I can’t really see anyone doing anything wonderful locally where I live. Yet the same people are voted in again and again.

Policies young man – I hear some wise reader think to themselves. No, sorry. Local politics is not based on policy as you and I would expect it to be. For instance, policy implies a binding contract, that once a policy is stated, and you are ‘sold’ on it, your X means that it will ‘happen’. Sorry wise reader, I bet you that for every 10 policies you agree and sign up to, only 1 is ever executed. The other 9 are merely ‘first hit is free’ type sweeteners to reel you in.

Oh shut up you upset moaning Nimby – I hear some other wise reader think to themselves. No, sorry. Nimbyism is exactly what politics is – your local and national policies are to protect your home and way of life are they not? And that is why you claim your enemy has WMD so that you can blitz him in defence of your back yard. So sorry, politics is exactly that – Nimbyism. So, moving on….

What if you suddently reaslised that you really wanted one of those 9 policies to be executed, or alternatively that you wanted one of the ‘new ones you didn’t vote for’ terminated? Aha! A unanimous cry of “we live in a democracy, we have a voice. It counts” goes up from the readership. That is exactly how I felt. But let me tell you what actually happens…and you NEVER know this until you try it yourself. It’s a bit like not knowing how difficult it is to hit a six with a cricket bat, or serve an ace in a final, until you actually have to do it yourself. So whats it like…read on.

Well, firstly lets examine HOW you can make your voice heard. There are options to this as follows:
- talk or write to your MP
- talk or write to your local councillor
- talk or write to your local council’s executive committee (did you know one exists? It practically rules your area!)
- talk or write to a sub-committee (such as planning, licensing, social care etc.)

Aha, results are born by talking – I hear some wise readers think. Well they are, IF the person you are talking to is LISTENING. Think back to what I said about democracy and margins. If you are sitting on a 60% margin and have been voted-in two or three times already, then you kinda get to a point that you realise you don’t have to listen. ‘But if you don’t listen people wont vote for you’ – some other wise readers retort. Alas, that’s not how it works, because us wise readers may actively remember that these people have failed us in the past and therefore we will not vote for them, but the other readers who pay no attention until they feel the euphoria of the power of an X, don’t know or recall these failures. So without the presence of a valid alternative, you vote in the same person, because, you know, you haven’t died yet and there isn’t a nuclear power plant in your back garden…yet.

So is talking going to work? Well it depends on WHEN you can talk. Did you think you can just ‘wak up to these people’ and talk to them? Alas no, they demand you set an appointment. Ever tried getting an appointment to talk about something? No? Do try it, especially an issue that you want them toexecute or terminate. Go on, I dare you. Try it. See what you get? It might go along these lines ‘we thank you for your request to discuss this matter with me/us/anyone. We would like to bring to your attention the fact that this matter will be discussed at the next executive meeting on the 10th December at 7.30pm. There is an opportunity for you to ask questions related to this topic at that point.’ Or something much more aloof than that such as ‘Please work with my secretary to find an appointment slot to discuss this’. At which point you realise that they don’t work after 5pm and that you’ll have to take time off work to talk to them – they won’t ever come to you. If you are lucky, you’ll get a slot in the next three weeks…

But email is just as good now isn’t it? – some confused readers ask. Well, have you ever written to an MP or councillor about an issue you want them to execute or terminate? You’ll receive the most amazingly non-committed non-answering non-clear evasive piece of writing you’ll ever have the pleasure of having to read. Try it, there is only one way for you to believe this, try it.

So now comes the question – so if you can’t find the time to talk to them about the issue, and they won’t put anything in writing directly with you about the topic, there are public forums where you can put your concerns and have them heard right? – Yes! Absolutely right. The wiser elders have always tried to put in place a forum for democratic purposes. Council meetings where the public can hear and talk to the council about local issues.

Except….have you ever tried to use these forums yourself? Or seen one even? Let me explain what people have done to them over these years – these same people we have asked to protect us and lead us into a safe future. They have restricted your time to ask questions to 30 minutes per meeting. Ample time you think? Well each question takes about 2-3 mins to ask, and about 2-3 minutes to answer. That’s 6 mins per question. That’s 5 or 6 questions per meeting at best. 6 questons per meeting. Each meeting is monthly.

Think about it.

And the answers? Remember those gray, vague, evasive written responses? Well you get those back, but you get them in an aloof manner, along the lines of ‘we will consider your thoughts when we make a decision’.

Shut up you winger – you say. Well, that’s exactly what the councillors and politicians are doing to us. Shutting us up.

Because – you actually do not have any direct say in what happens where you live. Either locally or nationally. None whatsoever. You cant stop a building project easily, you cant start a social project easily, you can’t stop us going to war, you can’t start us on diplomatic relations again. We all think we can do this, but unfortunately every single forum that once allowed us to do this, has been closed or is being tightly locked down.

What can we do about it? Well, funnily enough, to do anything about it you have to use the forums and routes I’ve just described…
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tnn


US Continues Net Censorship

2/14/2007

Act
30 ILCS 805/8.31 new
Creates the Social Networking Website Prohibition Act. Provides that each public library must prohibit access to social networking websites on all computers made available to the public in the library. Provides that each public school must prohibit access to social networking websites on all computers made available to students in the school. Provides for enforcement by the Attorney General or a citizen. Amends the State Mandates Act to require implementation without reimbursement. Effective January 1, 2008.


Censorship Act - full text here
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tnn


US Continues Net Censorship

Act
30 ILCS 805/8.31 new
Creates the Social Networking Website Prohibition Act. Provides that each public library must prohibit access to social networking websites on all computers made available to the public in the library. Provides that each public school must prohibit access to social networking websites on all computers made available to students in the school. Provides for enforcement by the Attorney General or a citizen. Amends the State Mandates Act to require implementation without reimbursement. Effective January 1, 2008.


Censorship Act - full text here:
http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=&SessionId=51&GA=95&DocTypeId=SB&DocNum=1682&GAID=9&LegID=29749&SpecSess=&Session=

--
tnn


Votes for sale...

2/06/2007

Tories warn firms bidding for ID card scheme: 'We will scrap the whole idea'

The Tories have moved to sabotage the Government's national identity card scheme a year before its launch.

The party was accused of "political point-scoring" after it wrote to Sir Gus O'Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, giving formal notice that an incoming Conservative government would scrap the project.

It has also warned firms bidding to run the ID card scheme that their contracts would be cancelled shortly after a Tory election win.

Under Home Office plans, the first biometric identity cards will be issued to non-European foreign nationals next year. Britons would begin to receive their cards when they renew their passports the following year, with "significant volumes" being sent out in 2010.

With the next election expected in 2009 or 2010, the Tory moves could further destabilise the already troubled project, which has suffered a series of delays as well as protests over its impact on civil liberties.

David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, challenged Sir Gus to guarantee that the taxpayer would not be hugely out of pocket if the ID scheme was scrapped.

He said: "As a matter of financial prudence, it is incumbent upon you to ensure public money is not wasted, and contractual obligations are not incurred, investing in a scheme with such a high risk of not being implemented.

"In particular, I would be interested to know what provision, if any, has been made in the relevant contractual arrangements to protect the Government - and public funds - against the costs that would be incurred as a result of early cancellation of the scheme."

In a letter to firms expected to be involved, Mr Davis warned of the "commercial risks involved" of bidding to run the scheme.

He said: "Your company may wish to consider carefully the financial viability of any contract, with the present Government, to participate in this project."

The Tories will launch a campaign today, including leaflet and poster advertising, against ID cards. They are encouraging voters to sign a national petition against the scheme.

John Reid, the Home Secretary, said ID cards would help secure Britain's borders, boost the fight against illegal immigration, combat people-trafficking and protect the country against terrorism.

He said: "The Tories' ill-considered opposition highlights their lack of leadership on security issues - they can't be trusted with Britain's safety. David Davis has shown that he and David Cameron talk tough while acting soft. They are more interested in political point-scoring than backing Labour's tough and necessary measures to keep the country safe."

The Government finally secured parliamentary backing last March for the ID scheme, which will cost £5.4 billion over 10 years.

Mr Davis said: "There are many other more worthwhile things the money could be spent on such as a dedicated UK Border Police or more prison spaces. People would much rather that their money was spent on these kind of schemes than being wasted on a plastic poll tax."


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tnn


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Weekly musings from a confused mind. This blog, and all posts within it, are just ramblings. They are in no way affiliated with any past, current or future employers. Neither do they represent my deep felt views, or those of my friends or family. Really, its just a blog, which is a new thing, and has new dimensions. So please, dont take anything seriously. If you do, contact me via a comment, and I will get back to you to resolve the situation. Seriously, enjoy life, ignore this blog, and views within it.

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