Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Dutch Constitution: Bogus?

Hey all,

I recently had discussed on an internal mailing list of the Dutch Pirate Party about the validity of a new cybersecurity bill proposed by Ivo Opstelten. I looked towards the Dutch Constitution and asked myself: Does this bill fit with the guidelines of the Dutch Constitution? The conclusion was simple: It does not. It even violates multiple articles.

This immediately prompted the next question in me: If this is against the Dutch Constitution, how do they still get it into their minds to propose such a preposterous law? I started doing some research. Of course, the first destination is going to the document of the Dutch constitution which the government supplies (you can expect this to be the actual form of it). I had already looked into it earlier, and did find some interesting stuff in there.

First of all, almost every section and article of the constitution is littered with small lines like these:

  1. behoudens in de gevallen, bij de wet bepaald.
  2. behoudens bij de wet gestelde beperkingen en uitzonderingen.
  3. behoudens ieders verantwoordelijkheid volgens de wet.

What this says, is that every article in the constitution can be limited or overridden by normal laws which are formed under normal parliamtentary procedures (the procedures for the Wetboeken, Law Books, which only require a 51% majority instead of the 67% needed for changes in the constitution). This is because it refers to the Wetboeken to say in which cases these constitution articles are valid. Of course, this is logical, as the wetboeken also describe procedures and how high the punishment should be. So this alone was no reason to assume that the constitution could be violated (it is an open door though, but still there had to be protections).

Well, I thought I might have a look what the responsibility for the Dutch lawmakers are (1st and 2nd chamber). Often, it is described that the 2nd chamber (2e kamer) actually sets up the laws, and the 1st chamber (1e kamer) has to check if these laws are in line with the constitution and things like that. So I decided to look into that. We are looking now at this section for that. Actually, there's nothing there which says the responsibilities are at all. This entire section and the related section actually say that both chambers act as the lawmaking force. The regering (which resides in the 2nd chamber, a small subsection of that) are the ones who run the actual government. So together with a separated judicial system, this arranges the trias politica (which this constitution is based on).

Well, I wondered: Why does everyone say that the 1st chamber checks if laws passed in the 2nd chamber are in check with the constitution or other guidelines? I tried to find an article about it myself in the constitution, but couldn't find any. If anyone can tell me where I can find this, then I will take back my claims about there being no protection of the constitution in the lawmaking area of power.

Well, then there's the judicial part of the trias politica. In most modern democracies, there's some sort of legal organisation which checks if a law or action of the government or any other entity in the country is in line with the constitution. Well, the following line might shock most people:

De rechter treedt niet in de beoordeling van de grondwettigheid van wetten en verdragen. (source)

Well, this actually puts up an interesting contradiction. Earlier in the constitution it is said that no treaty (verdrag) may break any law. But what if one does? You can't hold the lawmaking and governing areas of power liable, and the judicial system can't do anything about it. In fact, it can not only do something against constitution-breaking treaties, but if the government decides to break the constitution, there's no checks built in against that. So I have come down to a very simple conclusion.

If the government would ever decide to break the constitution (which is already been done maybe, and most likely underway now with this proposal by Ivo Opstelten from the VVD), there's nothing the citizens can do against it. At least, save for 2 things:
First, they can try to depose the government. This would of course involve violence, and I don't want that to happen. So this option is a no-go.
Secondly, you can try to change the opinion of the lawmakers in such a direction, that they will fix this up. They can, because one of the very few pieces of the constitution being valid, is that it needs a 67% majority to change the constitution.

So yes, the constitution is worth a lot if a government is acting ethically correct. But if any fictional person would ever gain enough power to get 51% of the 2nd chamber to support him or his party (which is the usual case in any democracy), and would have the desire to seize power for himself (or for a select club of people), he can't be stopped by any law according to our constitution. So what I would like to propose is to make the lawmakers aware of this serious problem, or at least try to make the public aware of this serious problem in one of the most critical parts of the Dutch government.

PS: If anyone can point me to official pieces of the law, disproving my claim that the government is not held in check by the constitution, please inform me by a comment on this blog post.

PS2: I'm still shocked by the conclusion which I've drawn in this blog post. So please, if anyone can prove me wrong, do it! I don't want this thing I've concluded here to be true. I really hope I overlooked something.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Ridiculousness and congratulations

Hey all,

It's been a long time since my most recent blogpost. I was past week at a debate on the radio. There were 3 parties present there. The Party for Animals (PvdD), the Labour Party (PVDA) and the conservatives (VVD). I was very surprised about a thing, but could also understand it. That's what I wanted to write about.

There was a debate about the economic crisis. It was surprising to see how much things the PVDA en VVD were saying which were completely out of place. Or even not true. There's a very big lack of understanding about the source of the crisis at the major political parties, or even most parties. PVDA and VVD were saying "We should invest in startups. We should invest in providing more jobs.". This is in my opinion only partially correct. Creating new jobs and investing in startups only works if the jobs and startups even stay (alive). And with the current economic model, that's not possible.

Besides from Pirate viewpoints like patents, copyright and education, there's more. And only one party in the debate hinted into that direction: The PvdD. They said that Earth's resources are limited. This is very true, and it isn't only logical that this has implications for the economy, but is critical to understand the current economic crisis. We're nearing the limits of the resources on Earth, and that will have a serious impact on the economy.

So after the debate, I told the candidate for the PvdD that I thought that he was the only one drawing the correct conclusions about the crisis. I also told him that I appreciated it that at least one party could draw the correct conclusions about it and saying that out loud on a live radio show. I don't agree with all the PvdD's viewpoints, but this one was very correct. I told him that if the Pirate Party would get into parliament, they would surely get support for this.

Now, why do I understand that the VVD and PVDA were basically talking shit? That's a good question, but simply said: They have been doing this for years. And they're grinded so much into using arguments which are not based on facts (which are clearly out there!), that basically all which comes out of their mouths currently is nonsense. Only one thing I could agree on with those 2 parties: You can't turn your backs on Europe. You have to work together, in order to be competitive in the world. Clearly enough, there was only one thing which was correct which they could say in 45 minutes. So big thumbs up towards PvdD!

That's kinda my rant and all I wanted to say.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Frustraties rondom verkiezingsstrijd

Beste Lezers,

deze keer in het Nederlands een blogje. Ik heb een frustratie, gezien dat ik al 2 maanden lang campagne probeer te voeren in Limburg voor de Piratenpartij, maar de Gemeente Heerlen lijkt nu de laatste weken ons keihard te negeren. Hoezo? Dat leg ik even uit.

Op 15 juni 2012 stuurde ik een mailtje naar de desbetreffende ambtenaar, om te vragen voor een vergunning om op enkele data in juni, juli en augustus campagne te mogen voeren voor de Piratenpartij. Deze ambtenaar is normaal zeer behulpzaam, maar was nu helaas afwezig, dus ik werd doorgestuurd naar het algemene loket van de Gemeente. Daar kreeg ik op de 21e een antwoord dat de aanvraag was doorgestuurd naar de ambtenaar die erover ging. Ik heb tot nu toe geen verder antwoord ontvangen.

Op 10 juli heb ik nogmaals een mailtje naar de gemeente gestuurd, met de vraag of ze voor 13 juli willen reageren met een definitief antwoord, gezien ik meestal binnen 1 a 2 dagen een antwoord kreeg voorheen. Ik wacht hun antwoord af, maar het frustreert me mateloos. Zou het slordigheid in hun administratie zijn? Waarschijnlijk wel.

Ondertussen zie ik wel in de stad andere partijen campagne voeren. Waarom krijgen zij wel toestemming? En wij niet? Dit maakt mij nogal achterdochtig. Maar ik zal het maar erop gooien dat de gemeente de aanvraag is kwijtgeraakt.

Helaas heeft dit akkefietje wel al flink wat schade aan de campagne van de Piratenpartij in Limburg aangebracht. We hebben al meer dan een maand niet meer campagne kunnen voeren, en dat brengt de kans op winst in Limburg ernstig in gevaar. En als niet alle partijen gelijke kansen krijgen, dan vind ik dat de democratie niet is gewaarborgd. Maar de 13e zal het uitwijzen.

Even afwachten dus!

PS: Na een dringend verzoek heb ik binnen 1 dag antwoord gekregen! Dus toch nog opgelost gelukkig! De behulpzame ambtenaar was weer aanwezig!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Direct attack on democracy in The Netherlands by lobby organisation

Today something troubling occurred in The Netherlands. A lobby organization named BREIN, demanded that a democratic political party would be held on the leash by the same lobby organization, in terms of freedom of expression. In my opinion this is crossing a line. This is not just fighting a dispute. It is actually a disruption of the democratic process. How can a political party voice its opinion, if it may only say what is approved by a lobbyist organization. To make matters worse, in The Netherlands, the election campaigns are heating up. But let's take a step back, and look at the past. Because the lobbyist organization isn't well known for its obedience to the law.

BREIN is perhaps best known for shutting down Dutch eDonkey 2000 link giant ShareConnector[1] in December 2004. Due to controversy over the legality of links to illegal content, and a lack of quality in the evidence provided by BREIN,[2] the case has not been put to trial yet. After being offline for two years, ShareConnector reopened in December 2006 but after barely one year; on November 12, 2007, Shareconnector went offline again.
Last Monday the guys from BREIN visited me at home to convince me to close ShareConnector or else they will start a civil proceeding with a claim. Of course, this does not mean I agree with their point of view, it's just that I can't afford taking any risks. As of today, November 12, 2007 I decided to close down. If there is anything new to report, you will be informed. Thank you for all your support and understanding.

How these "visits" happen, is often clearly criminal according to reports which can't be 100% verified. There have been reports (I can't say if these are true, since it's only word of mouth), where BREIN officials would visit a person with babies, and they would say "You better shut down your activities, or the future of that little one over there won't be so nice.". This IS illegal. But I can't confirm or deny these allegations, and I won't take these into account further. What else is there?

After a series of allegations that Usenet community Fill Threads Database (FTD) was acting illegally, the Dutch FTD started a lawsuit against BREIN in May 2009. BREIN president Tim Kuik alleged in a Dutch newspaper that “Although they [FTD] are not carrying illegal content on their servers, what FTD does is simply criminal”. FTD is suing for a retraction of this libelous statement and demands a declaration from the courts that its activities are entirely within the law.

This is not clearly criminal, as BREIN managed to get a verdict from the judge declaring that FTD was acting illegally. What is questionable though, is that BREIN made such charges in front of the mainstream press, without having a verdict. And that's something we'll see in the next thing...

On the 1 June 2009 Tim Kuik published an online article claiming BREIN's website was "broken" by hackers performing DDoS attacks. He speculated about a possible connection with the intended court summons against The Pirate Bay. Several independent sources reported the site's deep links were still available (only the frontpage was inaccessible) and as such BREIN's claim of having been attacked was false. Brein responded claiming the attacks had stopped and that the site's year old backup had been used to recover the site. Because the backup was dated, the website was now under construction.
Internet blog Geenstijl purportedly discovered BREIN's server was still fully operational and there had been no attack whatsoever - the complete news archive was still available.[5][6][7] (A password was later added to BREIN's news archive to prevent further checks on availability.)
On 23 June 2009 The Pirate Bay announced a lawsuit against Tim Kuik on libel charges, claiming The Pirate Bay had nothing to do with the alleged DDoS attack.

What this shows, is that BREIN doesn't refrain from using statements and lies which can cause a competitor (because that's what TPB is, nothing more) to have a bad name in media. This is effectively framing or making libelous statements. But BREIN got away with this, and 2 other things which are not only just questionable, but actually clearly criminal:

BREIN attracted controversy again when several suspicious aspects of their lawsuit against The Pirate Bay and Reservella were revealed, including evidence that documents used to link Fredrik Neij of The Pirate Bay to Reservella were faked.[10][11] Peter Sunde and the Dutch Pirate Party filed criminal felony charges against both Tim Kuik and BREIN for fraud and forgery.
In January 2011, Dutch anti-piracy outfit BREIN targeted one of the Internet’s largest warez piracy topsites. The site, known as Swan, was taken down by hosting provider WorldStream and without judicial process BREIN seized its servers. The owners of the servers retaliated by seizing them back and may sue BREIN for breach of privacy and property rights as BREIN is a private organization and has no special legal or investigative authority.[12]

BREIN got away with both of these things. It's really a miracle that they came away with it, since it's clearly a criminal act. I suppose BREIN has good lawyers.

So, going back to the recent state of affairs. The fight started with BREIN forcing the biggest ISP, and a smaller ISP to block access to the TPB for their users. We can debate long over the legal basis of this, but best is to draw your own conclusions. Before the verdict went into effect (feb 2012), many proxies sprang up which offered access to specifically TPB. One of those was the Piratenpartij's proxy, known as tpb.piratenpartij.nl. This proxy wasn't used much for a long time, until BREIN decided to force the Piratenpartij to shut down the specific proxy through an ex-parte court order. In an ex-parte, the Piratenpartij wasn't allowed to voice its concerns, effectively eliminating a fair trial.

In an ex-parte, there should be an urgent case, which also wasn't there. So the legal basis wasn't there, according to several well-known lawyers. Even when the Piratenpartij asked to be heard in court, it was met with laughter. And the most outrageous part? The Piratenpartij was forced to do this, or get a fine of €1.000.000, while the biggest Dutch ISP would get a fine of €250.000. The proportionality of this is entirely missing. The biggest ISP in The Netherlands is a commercial entity which makes millions a month, while the Piratenpartij is a non-profit political party. Even if the Piratenpartij would be forced to pay this fine, it'd take them 163 years to pay this back. Effectively bankrupting the party. This shows how ridiculous the ex-parte was.

The Piratenpartij knew this, and filed a so called "enforcement dispute" (I hope I translate this well, blame google translate if it's wrong), since BREIN was also expanding its demands without consent from a judge. On 17 april, the Piratenpartij got their justice at a judge, and forced BREIN to drop the extra demands. This effectively halted BREIN's advance... temporarily.

Back to today. Today, BREIN and the Piratenpartij had to fight it in the court. It was about the ex-parte, but BREIN added more demands at the last moment. They demanded that the Piratenpartij wouldn't be allowed to talk about anything related to circumventing blockades. How this was formulated, would make it even so everything the Piratenpartij (or any of its members) would say in public and private, had to be checked by BREIN or a lawyer. This effectively kills a political party's free speech. And as I said, matters are only worse because parliamentary elections are coming soon.

The final verdict will be at 10 may. If it should be a negative verdict for the Piratenpartij, it remains to be seen if these elections can be called true democratic elections...

Quotes taken from wikipedia. Licensed under CC-BY-SA.

UPDATE 25-04: BREIN has dropped demands to censor the Piratenpartij, seeing that they went too far (after massive public backlash). The only thing still up for trial is about proxies.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Auteursrechten - Een zinloze discussie

Er zijn vele discussies over het auteursrecht gevoerd waar ik aan heb mogen deelnemen. Ik merk aan mensen dat naarmate ze meer in contact komen met een van de grote internetculturen, dat ze meer aan de kant van de Piratenpartij staan. Ze weten immers dat in de internetculturen veel meer creativiteit te vinden is dan in de mainstream entertainmentplatformen. En dat allemaal zonder dat in de internetculturen het auteursrecht naleven. Hoe kan een cultuur rijk zijn, zonder dat men er grof geld aan verdient?

Het probleem zit hem al in de vraag die ik net stelde. Cultuur bestaat al sindsdat de mens een beschaving heeft. Zelfs voordat er beschaving was. Vanaf het moment dat de mens een stuk houtskool over een rotswand kon wrijven, of klei kon boetseren, kunnen wij sporen van de menselijke cultuur herontdekken. Pas veel later deed de mensheid de stap terug te denken dat deze activiteit er een was die zijn merites economisch moest verantwoorden.

Ondertussen heeft de copyright industrie en lobby zijn mond vol met termen als "Hoe kan de artiest overleven als men alles gratis kan downloaden?". Dit gebruiken ze om allerlei burgerrechtenschendingen erdoorheen te duwen. Tot nu toe vaak met succes. De discussies gaan dan vaak over hoe de artiest financieel kan overleven in een wereld waar alles gratis gedownload kan worden.

In mijn ogen is dit een discussie over een punt waar de feiten keer op keer zijn bewezen. Ten eerste is het downloaden over de afgelopen jaren enorm toegenomen, waardoor het zou moeten zijn dat er bijna geen muziek en films gemaakt worden. Het tegendeel is echter waar. De platenlabels en filmindustrie boeken recordwinsten, en er wordt meer muziek dan ooit te voren gemaakt. En dan hebben we het niet eens over de sectoren die buiten de mainstream entertainment vallen, zoals Creative Commons muziek en dergelijke. Dus dat downloaden de muziek en filmindustrie kapot maakt, is al in meerdere onafhankelijke onderzoeken als onzin en drogreden aangetoond. Deze onderzoeken worden zelfs onderbouwd door de cijfers van de muziek en filmindustrie, in het kort de copyrightindustrie, waardoor de copyright industrie eigenlijk nog meer wind uit de zeilen genomen zou moeten worden.

Toch blijft de copyrightindustrie meer terrein winnen. Dat komt doordat ze het geld wat jij ze geeft door hun spullen te kopen, grotendeels inzetten om politici en beleidsmakers te overtuigen van hun foutieve standpunten. Dus eigenlijk betaal jij deze bedrijven om jouw burgerrechten af te pakken, indirect. En als je het niet gelooft? Zoek dan maar verdragen en wetten op zoals ACTA (Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) en SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) en de bedrijven die deze wetten steunen. Dan zul je erachter komen dat de bedrijven die erachter staan precies dezelfde bedrijven zijn die de films maken die je in de bioscoop ziet en waarvan je de DVD's koopt. Dat het dezelfde bedrijven zijn die de muziek die je op de radio hoort en waarvan je de albums koopt. Door deze producten te kopen (muziekalbums, bioscoopkaartjes, films op dvd en bluray), steun je eigenlijk de teloorgang van de westerse democratie.

Maar stel dat downloaden ├ęcht schadelijk zou zijn de platenlabels en filmproducenten, en de mainstream producenten echt kapot eraan zouden gaan. Zou je dan je fundamentele burgerrechten zoals de vrijheid van meningsuiting en het briefgeheim opgeven om het auteursrecht te handhaven? Het ACTA verdrag, dat waarschijnlijk binnenkort ondertekend wordt door de Europese lidstaten, zal wel veroorzaken dat minimaal op internet deze burgerrechten geschonden zullen worden. De kans is ook groot dat het 'echte leven' in gevaar komt.

Hoe kan dit? Dit is simpel. ACTA maakt het mogelijk voor iedere partij om zelfs uitingen of bepaald taalgebruik copyrighted te maken. [citation needed] Als iemand dan dit zonder toestemming gebruikt, kan die persoon in de gevangenis terecht komen. [citation needed] Dit is in feite censuur, en kan gebruikt worden om zelfs overheidskritische websites en dergelijke te blokkeren. Hier komt het veel door de Piratenpartijen gebruikte 'glijdende schaal' argument ter sprake. De Piratenpartijen stellen dat als er eenmaal censuur infrastructuur is, die na verloop van tijd bijna altijd misbruikt gaat worden. En dan is de weg naar een totalitaire staat zeer klein.

Daarom wil ik ook iedereen adviseren om eens het internet op te gaan. Iets te lezen over verdragen zoals ACTA en wetten zoals SOPA. En vervolgens kijken welke partijen zich hiertegen inzetten. Er zijn verschillende wegen. Organisaties zoals Bits of Freedom en La Quadrature Du Net proberen via voorlichting en wetgevers aan te spreken te voorkomen dat het bovengenoemde gebeurt. En organisaties zoals de Piratenpartijen proberen het corrupte systeem zelf te
enteren, en van binnenuit de ziektes genezen. Beide methodieken kunnen potentieel werken.

Dus als je vrijheid en burgerrechten boven de woekerwinsten van een paar grote multinationals zet, dan raad ik je aan om BoF, LQDN, de Piratenpartijen of dergelijke organisaties te steunen! Zij zijn een van de weinigen die deze tenondergang van vrijheid kunnen voorkomen.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

My opinion about the 4th box

Hey there,

I recently translated an article from Rick Falkvinge into the Dutch Language. I have written the translation, because I was kind of struck by this article. I would like to explain my opinion on it in this blog post.

Firstly, I think many of the facts told in that article are correct. The balance of power is sliding out of balance. But my personal opinion is, that the more it gets out of balance, the harder the other side will fight to regain the balance. That was in essence what I think he meant with the Pirate Parties trying to make the 2nd box working again.

There will always be power struggle, and there will always be one side at a certain time on the winning side. The balance might slide to one side, and then to another. Still, we must remain watchful of the events, because once the balance slides beyond a certain threshold, it slides out of control. Permanently. This is what in my opinion Rick has been trying to warn us from.

Of course, in regards to emotions, people sometimes go beyond what their rational mind may be thinking. This happens often, and is a factor which also shouldn't be neglected. At the time I read the article, I was shocked, and believed firmly in what it said. While many things may still be true, I am now of an opinion that the balance will eventually be regained, as long as we remain watchful and come into action if the balance of power is at the verge of sliding out of control. And at the moment, it's slowly continuing to slide towards a certain side, with only slow signs of slowing down.

But... There's hope. SOPA was delayed, and this might be a major sign that the sliding of the balance of power to the Copyright Lobby's side might be stopping. I encourage our civil rights activists to continue pressing the congress to refuse the law, so the politicians are aware that they must listen to everyone, not just one group. As long as the balance is kept, I'm not the one who will undertake any drastic actions.

That's all I wanted to say.