Archive for the ‘Freedom of Speech’ Category

Martha defends “enemy” writers

February 22, 2007

martha-cooley.jpg

Here is how The Delphian Adelphi University’s student magazine began its report on Professor Martha Cooley’s talk about the banning of Axis of Evil, collection of short stories poems and articles written by writers who come from countries such as Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, because it is considered enemy propaganda by the US government under the Patriot Act. 

Adelphi was given a glimpse of what our government may call propaganda on February 7th, 2007. In “Axis of Evil,” Professor Martha Cooley of the English Department and Professor Lawrence Sullivan of the Political Science Department spoke on the issue of the systematic breach of reader privacy, and free expression by the U.S. government under the guise of the Patriot Act.           

The Patriot Act states that all material that might aid and abet terrorist interest and goals is in violation of this act.  The bill has expanded the power of U.S authorities to use surveillance, unwarranted search and arrests, banning and censorship to detect and fight terrorism.  One of the tools Congress and the president have used to detect and fight terrorism is the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). According to OFAC’s website, they “administer and enforce economic and trade sanctions based on U.S. foreign policy and national security goals against targeted foreign countries, terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, and those engaged in activities related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.” In addition, they censor and ban information/books that they believe aid terrorists. ……….. 

Professor Cooley, who is a long-standing and treasured friend, has, with good reason, felt ashamed of what the present government is doing in the name of patriotiam. She can be counted as one of those decent Americans who think that Bush and his cronies have long ago stepped over the mark, and in doing so have managed to make the world not one whit safer than it was before they began their meddling .

It think its fair to say that she believes that in going about things the way he has, Bush has probably made the world a lot less safe than it was.  Interestingly, when asked how other nations think of the US she quoted the first four lines of a poem by Cuban poet Raúl RiveroIt has been translated as I Don’t Want Anyone Coming around to Save Me. 

I don’t want anyone coming around to save me

So, whoever is sending me those nice thoughts,

those smug little messages,

-take it elsewhere. 

The Delphian reporter attempts to get Professor Cooley to expand on that, but I would have thought it was self-explanatory. 

Corrections: The Delphian gives the Words Without Borders link as www.wordswithoutborders.com.

This should read www.wordswithoutborders.org/

Doing business with China.

February 8, 2007

John Naughton’s online diary posting entitled Mute but moving is timely reminder  to all of us that we are willing very few institutions have principles that get in the way of their  doing business with China.

The fight against terrorism..is not a war.

January 25, 2007

On Tuesday night– the 23rd of January- Sir Ken Macdonald, the current director of public prosecutions, addressing the Criminal Bar Association, called on Mr. Blair’s and his government to employ restraint in passing laws to deal with terrorism.  

This, it seems to me, something asking King Lear to be reasonable in the demands he made of his daughters. Let’s not dwell on that too much. 

Sir Ken warned said that a “fear-driven and inappropriate” response to the threat could result in Britain’s abandoning altogether respect for fair trials.

It appears to have escaped Sir Ken’s notice that the government has long ago encouraged the public to lose espect for fair trials by encouraging it think that fair trials they do not work when it comes to dealing with terrorism.  

Giving the impression that he is a man to whom this thought had not occurred, though it must have, he went on to say that:  

…. a culture of legislative restraint in the area of terrorist crime is central to the existence of an efficient and human rights compatible process. We wouldn’t get far in promoting a civilising culture of respect for rights amongst and between citizens if we set about undermining fair trials in the simple pursuit of greater numbers of inevitably less safe convictions. On the contrary, it is obvious that the process of winning convictions ought to be in keeping with a consensual rule of law and not detached from it. Otherwise we sacrifice fundamental values critical to the maintenance of the rule of law – upon which everything else depends.

 
London is not a battlefield. Those innocents who were murdered on July 7 2005 were not victims of war. And the men who killed them were not, as in their vanity they claimed on their ludicrous videos, ’soldiers’. They were deluded, narcissistic inadequates. They were criminals. They were fantasists. We need to be very clear about this. On the streets of London, there is no such thing as a ‘war on terror’, just as there can be no such thing as a ‘war on drugs’.

The fight against terrorism on the streets of Britain is not a war. It is the prevention of crime, the enforcement of our laws and the winning of justice for those damaged by their infringement.

The Guardian’s legal editor, Clare Dyer, observed in her report next day:

(Sir Ken’s)…. comments will be seen as a swipe against government legislation allowing the indefinite detention of suspected terrorists without trial, later held incompatible with human rights by the courts, and the replacement law that permits suspects to be placed under control orders instead of being brought to trial.

Sir Ken referred to the government’s opt-out from the European convention on human rights to pass the detention law – possible under the convention only if the “life of the nation” is threatened. “Everyone here will come to their own conclusion about whether, in the striking Strasbourg phrase, the very ‘life of the nation’ is presently endangered,” he said. “And everyone here will equally understand the risk to our constitution if we decide that it is, when it is not.

The criminal justice response to terrorism must be “proportionate and grounded in due process and the rule of law,” he said. “We must protect ourselves from these atrocious crimes without abandoning our traditions of freedom.” 

There are some among us, myself included, who believe that we have already abandoned too many freedoms and that Sir Ken’s remarks, admirably clear-headed and insightful though they may be, come much, much too late. Will they have any immediate effect on what the government does? I shouldn’t think so.

Ryanair fails to silence critic.

January 2, 2007

I have nothing in particular say against Ryanair or its strident CEO Michael O’Leary. However,  I do believe that that there are times Mr. O’Leary so oversteps the mark by treating his critics – or those people who refuse to see things his way – with such contempt that he deserves to be taken down a notch or two from time to time.  

I have to say that it delights more than somewhat to hear that someone who is standing up to Mr. O’Leary’s and his bully-boy tactics does get backing from powerful UN group such as World Intellectual Property Organization .

The low-cost airline’s  battle to win control of the internet domain name http://www.ryanaircampaign.org which was set in 2006 by disgruntled former customer, Michael Coulston as a open platform from which he and others could criticize the airline’s business practices, was revealed by WIPO for what it always was – a typically naked attempt by the airline to silence critics. 

Ryanair had complained to WIPO that the domain name infringed on its trademarks and that it should therefore be transferred into Ryanair’s possession.

 But  the WIPO, which was set up by the UN in 1967 with the stated purpose of encouraging creative activity and promoting the protection of intellectual property throughout the world, under an arbitration procedure set up in 1999, rejected Ryanair’s claim. 

Coulston, it said in its judgment, had not breached breached ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) policy [link] in any way. It went on to say that even in where Coulston himself had admitted to breaking with he what he thought was policy, he actually hadn’t. It would appear that he thought that that the mere act of criticized Ryanair was, under ICANN rules, and by default, tarnishing its name. 

The WIPO arbitration panel, obviously realizing that Ryanair was attempting to shut Coulston up by sugesting that he tarnishing the company, thought otherwise. It made it very clear to Ryanair that criticism and tarnishing were quite different things.

…Complainant* states that Respondent** admitted to attempting to tarnish the RYANAIR mark. This argument, though, reflects a misunderstanding of the nature of the tarnishment prohibited by the Policy. Tarnishment in this context does not mean criticism. If it did, every website critical of a brand owner could be branded a tarnishing use. Rather, “[t]arnishment in this context refers to such unseemly conduct as linking unrelated pornographic, violent or drug-related images or information to an otherwise wholesome mark”. Britannia Building Society v. Britannia Fraud Prevention, WIPO Case No. D2001-0505 (July 6, 2001). In the instant case, Respondent’s site criticizes Complainant and its business practices, sometimes in harsh terms, but it does not associate the RYANAIR mark with any unwholesome activity. Accordingly, Complainant has failed to show that Respondent has used the Domain Name to tarnish Complainant’s trademark  

*Ryanair **Coulston 

I like the way  Ryanair’s claim is summarily dismissed by saying that “tarnishment does not mean criticism” before going on to say that “if it did every website critical of a brand owner could be branded a tarnishing use” and finally giving a clear definition of what tarnishment “in the context means”. 

All in all, a victory for common sense I would say. Naturally enough, we cannot expect Mr O’Leary to let a little setback like this get him down. He’s got far too much of a bruiser for that. It’s almost certain that he’ll be crying “foul” – but then this is what he always does when things do not go his way.  

Ryanair fails to silence critic.

January 2, 2007

I have nothing in particular say against Ryanair or its strident CEO Michael O’Leary. However,  I do believe that that there are times Mr. O’Leary so oversteps the mark by treating his critics – or those people who refuse to see things his way – with such contempt that he deserves to be taken down a notch or two from time to time.  

I have to say that it delights more than somewhat to hear that someone who is standing up to Mr. O’Leary’s and his bully-boy tactics does get backing from powerful UN group such as World Intellectual Property Organization .

The low-cost airline’s  battle to win control of the internet domain name http://www.ryanaircampaign.org which was set in 2006 by disgruntled former customer, Michael Coulston as a open platform from which he and others could criticize the airline’s business practices, was revealed by WIPO for what it always was – a typically naked attempt by the airline to silence critics. 

Ryanair had complained to WIPO that the domain name infringed on its trademarks and that it should therefore be transferred into Ryanair’s possession.

 But  the WIPO, which was set up by the UN in 1967 with the stated purpose of encouraging creative activity and promoting the protection of intellectual property throughout the world, under an arbitration procedure set up in 1999, rejected Ryanair’s claim. 

Coulston, it said in its judgment, had not breached breached ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) policy [link] in any way. It went on to say that even in where Coulston himself had admitted to breaking with he what he thought was policy, he actually hadn’t. It would appear that he thought that that the mere act of criticized Ryanair was, under ICANN rules, and by default, tarnishing its name. 

The WIPO arbitration panel, obviously realizing that Ryanair was attempting to shut Coulston up by sugesting that he tarnishing the company, thought otherwise. It made it very clear to Ryanair that criticism and tarnishing were quite different things.

…Complainant* states that Respondent** admitted to attempting to tarnish the RYANAIR mark. This argument, though, reflects a misunderstanding of the nature of the tarnishment prohibited by the Policy. Tarnishment in this context does not mean criticism. If it did, every website critical of a brand owner could be branded a tarnishing use. Rather, “[t]arnishment in this context refers to such unseemly conduct as linking unrelated pornographic, violent or drug-related images or information to an otherwise wholesome mark”. Britannia Building Society v. Britannia Fraud Prevention, WIPO Case No. D2001-0505 (July 6, 2001). In the instant case, Respondent’s site criticizes Complainant and its business practices, sometimes in harsh terms, but it does not associate the RYANAIR mark with any unwholesome activity. Accordingly, Complainant has failed to show that Respondent has used the Domain Name to tarnish Complainant’s trademark  

*Ryanair **Coulston 

I like the way  Ryanair’s claim is summarily dismissed by saying that “tarnishment does not mean criticism” before going on to say that “if it did every website critical of a brand owner could be branded a tarnishing use” and finally giving a clear definition of what tarnishment “in the context means”. 

All in all, a victory for common sense I would say. Naturally enough, we cannot expect Mr O’Leary to let a little setback like this get him down. He’s got far too much of a bruiser for that. It’s almost certain that he’ll be crying “foul” – but then this is what he always does when things do not go his way.  

Amnesty petition.

October 29, 2006

My wife and I have just returned from a very enjoyable  two and a half day sojourn in the Lake District. In that time, neither of us has bothered with what is going on the internet, nor did we bother very much about checking up on whether or not we were accumulating any mail. It was good just to get away and forget the outside world, even if it was only for a couple of days.

The bad thing about being away for even this short length of time is that I had accumulated about nearly two hundred and twenty mailings in my inboxes. The good thing was that about 200 of those could be deleted without my even bothering opening them. Oh, for a life without spam.  

Reading though the various blogs I regularly read, I found that John Naughton (see blogroll on the right) had posted the following:

Sign the pledge

October 29th, 2006 [link] Amnesty is campaigning to support bloggers who are being censored or imprisoned for their views. There’s an online petition here.

At least give it a second thought before passing it over.