Saturday, 31 December 2016

The Eve of the Year of Destruction?

Given the incoming US President's reported enthusiasm for using nuclear weapons those readers who like a flutter might be interested to know you can get decent odds with some bookmakers on the likelihood of a nuclear war breaking out in 2017 - be advised however that collecting your winnings might prove problematic.

A Happy Nuclear sorry i mean New Year.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Another shocking assault on 'British values'

These Muslims coming over here and feeding our homeless!!! Don't they know people being starving and lonely on Christmas day is one of the great British traditions.

A Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to all this blogs readers - or as we say in Wales Nadolig llawen a blwyddyn newydd dda.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Fake news is nothing new

Unless you were on another planet last week then you would have seen reports of US government officials accusing their Russian counterparts of interfering in the US election.With these allegations ranging from Russian hackers sabotaging electronic voting machines in some American states to claims the Russian government flooded US social media with fake stories about Hilary Clinton, indeed some leading democrats have gone a far as accusing the Russians of costing Clinton the presidency

Now i'm not in any position to comment on the veracity of such claims, but i do know enough about how US administrations work to treat some of the claims they make with some caution. Also let's be honest it was the intervention of the Director of the FBI 10 days before polling which probably had the greatest bearing on the outcome of the US election, that and the Democrats selecting a candidate as widely disliked and distrusted as Hilary Clinton was.

But it's important to remember that Fake news is nothing new and that it existed long before the internet and social media were ever even thought of.The mass murdering British Monarch Henry Vlll used his functionaries to spread malicious allegations (fake news) about most of his wives in order to justify annulling his marriages to them and their Beheadings (yes we were beheading people long before ISIS). The British government used fake stories of German soldiers raping Belgian nuns to build popular support for its involvement in the first world war

While states like the US have been practicing the dubious art of spreading fake news for decades.The Gulf of Tonkin incident which the Johnson administration used to gain congress support to increase US involvement in Vietnam - and which would lead directly to the catastrophic Vietnam war - was a lie and what today we would call 'fake news' Similarly in the months prior to the first Gulf War in 1991 readers of newspapers in western countries began to read horror stories of Iraqi soldiers throwing new born babies out of incubators in Kuwait - again these stories were completely baseless.

In 1999 the western media was fed stories by NATO spokespeople of the mass killings of ethnic Albanians by Serb forces in the former Yugoslavia. And these false stories were enough to win public support in Britain and America for NATO to bomb Serbia, and which would infamously see the RAF dropping cluster bombs on Serbia (another war crime Tony Blair appears to have got away with) While probably the most insidious example of 'fake news' in history occurred just a few years ago when Bush and Blair lied about Iraq having 'weapons of mass destruction'. 

And the modus operandi is always the same. So called 'intelligence experts' and government officials accuse the government or enemy it wants to attack/remove of perpetrating or planning to perpetrate some terrible act or other and these claims are dutifully and uncritically reported as facts by various outlets in the print and broadcast media. Indeed it is for this precise reason that both the CIA and MI6 have for many years planted scores of operatives in the the US and British print and broadcast media

In addition to enabling Governments to get away with military actions on seemingly non existent evidence another serious consequence of what is state sponsored 'fake news' has been that it seems to have bred a general sense of cynicism among the public - to the extent where they now end up doubting the truth of any major news story. Thus within hours of the cowardly murder of the Russian Ambassador to Turkey yesterday idiots began popping up on on social media suggesting that either the Ambassador's murder never happened (ie it was staged) or even more bizarrely the Russians had arranged the murder of their own Ambassador themselves.

Indeed this blog witnessed a very depressing example of this type of idiocy when an anonymous poster seriously suggested in the comments section of a blog posting that the Remain campaign planned the murder of Jo Cox We are certainly right to bemoan the baleful and corrosive influence of fake news through social media and it's good to see that companies like facebook are looking at ways of addressing this growing problem But let us also remember that governments and political leaders have been deploying fake news for decades - and getting away with it!  

Monday, 12 December 2016

A very unsocial media

There's no question the internet and social media in particular has transformed how we communicate with each other. Through the wonders of twitter fans of famous people can now communicate - and even argue - directly with celebrities, where previously time consuming letters would need to be written and posted (almost certainly going unread anyway). And via facebook people can accumulate vast numbers of 'friends'. Indeed i know people who can boast of thousands of 'facebook friends' - the fact they have never met 99 percent of these people and might only have half a dozen friends in real life seems not to trouble them. But while there can be no question of the extent to which social media has transformed how we communicate with one another this transformation it must be said also has its grim side.

Following the murder of the MP Jo Cox twenty five thousand people tweeted support for her deranged Nazi murderer Thomas Mair. The Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood was the subject of rape and murder threats earlier this year The prominent Remain supporting MP Anna Soubry was the target of a recent tweet in which someone said she should be 'jo coxed' ie murdered, while Gina Miller and her family have been put under police protection as the result of online death threats from far right opponents of her legal action on whether the UK parliament should be consulted about the brexit agreement.

Only last week a British neo fascist received a two year jail sentence for an online campaign of racial harassment targeted at the Jewish MP Luciana Berger And in the last couple of days the growing and extremely disturbing trend by which people with extreme right wing views use social media to target those they disagree was made even more real for me when a good friend of mine - Martyn Shrewsbury - was the subject of online threats from another apparent graduate of the far right's school for keyboard warriors

There's certainly something about social media which brings out the worst in some people and there can be no doubt that it has emboldened the far right in Britain and further afield in recent times. Witness the statistics released by google this week showing one of the search engines most used online searches is by people querying if the holocaust took place?

While 'fake news' spread via social media has been credited with the Leave Europe campaign winning the EU referendum and the unexpected triumph of Donald Trump in the United States Indeed thanks to the disinformation and fake news being disseminated by far right groups on social media it's now being seriously speculated that we might not any longer recognise fascism if we saw it.
And if all of this wasn't alarming enough then there's the increase in the incidences of people broadcasting their own death via social media. In the latest sickening example Yahoo news last week carried a horrific report of a fatal car crash involving two American teenagers that went out live on facebook.

How long before we start seeing state executions in China or the United States broadcast live via facebook or gang rapes by drugs cartels going out on Skype? And if you think there wouldn't be an audience out there for such repulsive things you'd be mistaken - the profitable worldwide trade in images of bestiality, rape and child porn ought to tell you that. Maybe the sickening beheading videos carried out by the medieval homicides of daesh - and still freely available to view online - have just been softening us all up for live twitter feeds of lethal injections from the Huntsville Penitentiary in Texas? (The new tenant arriving in the White House would likely be an avid viewer).

Clearly you don't have to be Sigmund Freud to see that for all its popularity the internet and social media is changing people - and almost certainly not for the better. So much so that 'anti social' media would perhaps be a more fitting epithet. Indeed if i was seriously inclined to believe in such things i might begin to wonder if social media was the work of the devil?

Friday, 2 December 2016

Deafening silence on Rohingya

Being the recipient of the Nobel peace prize doesn't automatically confer great humanitarian status on an individual - after all a certain Henry Kissinger received the award shortly after overseeing the carpet bombing of Cambodia and Laos over Christmas 1972. But bizarre aberrations like Kissinger aside recent winners of this prestigious award make a pretty impressive roll call. In the last quarter of a century winners have included the teenager Malala Yousafzi, the East Timorese independence campaigner Jose Manuel Horta, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama.

Another winner in that time was the Burmese democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi. Subject to house arrest by the Myanmar (Burma) authorities for 15 years Suu Kyi became an international symbol for non violent struggle against a dictatorial regime. And in recent years the democracy movement she led has swept to power with Suu Kyi herself elected to the countries parliament, and she is now the countries de facto prime minister.

As well as the emergence of Suu Kyi Myanmar has also been in the news in recent years for less positive reasons however - namely frequent murderous attacks on Myanmar's Muslim population by the Myanmar police, army and Buddhist gangs.There are around one million Rohingya in Myanmar and they have lived there for generations. However Myanmar's largely buddhist population still views the Rohingyas as 'foreigners' from Bangladesh - but Bangladesh doesnt recognise the Rohingya as its people either! And alas their terrible plight has generally goes unnoticed by the world at large.

It means that - like the Kurds, the Tamils and until recently the Palestinians - the Rohingya have fallen into that grim category known as 'stateless people'. People who's identity isn't recognised where they live and who arent recognised internationally either and for whom violent persecution is the norm.

In recent years Buddhist attacks on Rohingya villages have become frequent. Tens of thousands of have been murdered, raped and driven from their homes prompting a UN representative to accuse the Myanmar authorities of ethnic cleansing. Thousands of Rohngya have drowned in capsized makeshift boats desperately trying to flee these attacks.Indeed so dire has life in Myanmar become for the Rohingya that some have accused its government of perpetrating genocide.

You would have thought then that a prominent human rights campaigner like Suu Kyi would have been quick to call a halt to the atrocities taking place in her country and condemned those carrying them out? Not a bit of it! Aside from a vague statement calling for 'dialogue on all sides' she has remained silent on the issue and repeatedly refused to condemn the attacks - even ignoring a plea from the Dalai Lama to do so. She even appeared to give encouragement to anti rohingya feeling by questioning whether they are Burmese at all.

Suu Kyi's supporters have tried to justify her refusal to condemn the persecution of the Rohingya on the grounds that she fears reprisals from Myanmar's military if she does so. But is that explanation credible? This is someone who after all openly defied the countries dictators for years no doubt putting her life in danger in the process. So it simply doesnt wash that she is now afraid to speak out on human rights abuses in her country.That wise old adage about some heroes having 'feet of clay' seems very apposite in Suu Kyi's case

I'd urge everyone reading this to raise the matter of the Rohingya's persecution with Myanmar's UK Ambassador

This website shows other ways we can help the Rohingya

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Paul Nuttall's 'Fairly Secret Army'

Older readers might recall the brilliant 1970s comedy The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin. The show became famous for its savage satire on 1970s consumerism and what we used to call back then the 'rat race'. While on occasions - and very unusually for a sitcom - the show would stray into the political arena. I remember in one episode Reggie Perrin (played superbly by the late Leonard Rossiter) ruminated on the question of whether or not it was possible for a socialist government to be successful in a market economy (a question we on the left are arguably still wrestling with 4 decades on).

But the show's most striking foray into the world of politics came during a memorable exchange between Reggie and his brother-in law Jimmy. A former military man Jimmy was struggling to adapt to life on 'civvy street'. He frequently wore a regulation army sweater and peppered his conversation with military metaphors and phrases. Jimmy also held some extreme right wing view, basically regarding anyone to the left of Margaret Thatcher as a dangerous communist. And Jimmy's paranoid right wing take on life was superbly illustrated in this memorable exchange between Reggie and Himself.

Of course as amusing as this scene was it's important to remember that in Britain in the mid 70s there really were people around like Jimmy. The former SAS Commander David Stirling had formed the paramilitary group GB75, who's members included  a Jersey-based arms dealer, business leaders, civil servants, ex-soldiers and spies with links to the military  and people like Peter Wright in the intelligence services. While another 'private army' - Civil Assistance - was set up by the British General Sir Walter Walker. And we now know of course there were real and advanced plans to stage a coup against Harold Wilson's labour government of the 1970s

Meanwhile Jimmy's paranoid right wing character proved such a hit with audiences he would go on to enjoy his own comedy series 'Fairly Secret Army'. A series based in part on the private armies set up by the likes of Stirling and Walker.

Seen through contemporary eyes it's not very hard to see similarities between Jimmy's reactionary and alarming opinions and many of those in Ukip, and i don't think there's any doubt as to which side Jimmy would have been on during the EU referendum campaign. Indeed it's very likely that even as i type 'Jimmy' would be trying to set up another 'fairly secret army' to deal with 'remoaners' ie people who wanted the UK to remain in the EU and who have now apparently replaced 'communists' as the the greatest threat to 'the british way of life' among paranoid right wing fantasists.

All of which makes the statement made by Paul Nutter - er sorry i mean Nuttall - following his election as UKIP leader all the more disturbing, with Nuttall telling a journalist he would be 'coming after Remainers''

What then are we to make of Nuttall's extraordinary threat? (as a threat it surely is). Can those of us who campaigned to stay in the EU during the referendum expect to be accosted on the street or in our homes by balaclava clad right wing paramilitary gangs and bundled into the backs of vehicles never to be seen again? I think Nutter er sorry i mean Nuttall owes us all an explanation, and in light of the awful fate visited on Jo Cox by a right wing paramilitary surely an apology too.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Farewell Fidel

Sad news this morning with the passing away of former Cuban president and lifelong revolutionary Fidel Castro.The target of numerous assassination attempts by the CIA and US funded terrorists during his lifetime Fidel oversaw Cuba's transformation from a playground for the American mafia and the super rich into a socialist state with one of the best public health and education systems in the world. A state with comprehensive social welfare provision and an infant mortality rate which ranks among the world's lowest is all the more remarkable when you consider it has been achieved in the face of decades of economic and military sabotage by the United States.

Under Fidel's leadership Cuba also supported numerous liberation struggles around the world - most notably in Africa, where Cuban soldiers helped defeat terrorist armies backed by the South African apartheid regime in Angola and Mozambique. Cuba was a staunch supporter of the ANC and shortly after his release from prison Nelson Mandela singled out Cuba for the support it had given to the international struggle against Apartheid. Cuba has also been a long time supporter of the Palestinian struggle for statehood and of course Cuba has long served as a friend and inspiration to progressive movements across Latin America seeking to free their countries from US economic domination (the gun Chile's socialist president Salvador Allende used to defend himself in La Moneda during Pinochet's fascist coup was given to him by Fidel Castro).

I'm sure Fidel and his long departed compaƱero Che are already enjoying a cigar together.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

"They've all come to look for America"

No one should be the least bit surprised at footage which has emerged in recent days of American neo nazis and other assorted right wing headbangers greeting Donald Trump's election victory with fascist salutes and ecstatic cries of "hail trump"

Throughout the Republican primaries and the presidential campaign itself there was plenty of evidence of groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi party supporting trump, and we can be sure any self respecting American neo fascist flogged themselves to a standstill on Trump's behalf on November 8th.Of course Donald Trump isn't himself directly responsible for the activities of America's racist far right - and he has on occasions condemned such people - but he certainly could have done more to disown them. And his appointment of the Alt-Right guru Steve Bannon to his oval office team has not done much to reassure people that racists and America's hard right won't have Trump's ear during his presidency

Aside from impromptu outbursts of support for Trump on show during the leaked video perhaps the most staggering thing about it however is the sheer ignorance of those involved.The speaker Richard Spencer asserts that "until this generation America's history was white" - er has he never heard of a group of people called native Americans? There used to be millions of them right across what we now call America, before their numbers were decimated by disease, war and persecution from... ahem... white European invaders.

Today we would call the treatment suffered by native americans following the arrival of european settlers by it's proper name - genocide! Oh and the millions of black people literally stolen from Africa, enslaved and made to work for nothing might have made a contribution to America's history and its emergence as the most powerful nation on the earth too. But let's face it historical ignorance and right wing bigots are perfect bedfellows so the drivel spouted by the likes of Spencer is par for the course. But alas as we saw following the result of the EU referendum in the UK - where racists have greeted the result as a signal to increase violent attacks on non british nationals - Trump's victory has buoyed racist thugs in the US too and there has been a sharp spike in hate crimes since November 8th. And this in a country where white policeman shooting unarmed black people had already become almost routine.

Another ominous sign of what a Trump presidency will look like can be seen in his early treatment of the press. Still smarting from some of the coverage he received from the press during the election Trump has been quick to exact his revenge on some prominent US papers and journalists by refusing to grant interviews and trashing them in public. This is not a surprise of course - Trump has a reputation for seeking revenge on those whom he believes have wronged him. But now he has the power to go after his enemies in a way he could only dream of before. And this sobering point was made before Trump was elected and by one of the people who perhaps knows Trump best - author of his biography Tony Schwartz. Schwartz warned that if elected Trump will make the spiteful and sinister presidency of Richard Nixon look positively benign, even speculating that Trump would impose martial law in the US if he was presented with an opportunity to do so. Americans cant say they haven't been warned.

Course Trump has been lobbying this week for his number one british fan Nigel Farage to be appointed UK Ambassador to the US, an invitation that was thankfully quickly rebuffed by 'her majesty's government'. Presumably Trump's brazen lobbying on Farage's behalf was his reward for the slavish support he has given Trump over the last 12 months. Indeed one of the curious things about Farage and other right wing 'transatlantacists' like Nigel Lawson and Aaron Banks is that while they made great play during the referendum campaign of leaving the EU so Britain could 'get its sovereignty back' you can be certain that if tomorrow donald trump proposed making the UK the 51st state the likes of Farage and Banks would leap at the chance.

Let's face it with a legal system which still sentences people to death, where private health insurance is the norm, where racial inequalities would shame apartheid south africa and where trade unions have been completely marginalised the contemporary US is the kind of society the kippers and their neo thatcherite buddies can only dream of - and the kind of state they will create here if they get the chance.

Friday, 18 November 2016

And then there were two....

No im not referring to the number of dinner guests left alive halfway through an Agatha Christie story but the surviving members of Wales 1958 world cup team. The sad news this week of the passing away of Len Allchurch means only Terry Medwin and Cliff Jones now survive from a Wales team which - with a bit more more luck - could have quite easily won football's world cup in sweden in 1958. And if they had won that world cup how different might the history of welsh football and maybe even the history of the country of Wales itself have been?

Of course luck and the Welsh national football team have never exactly been close acquaintances. Erroneously awarded penalties, deflected goals, late goals, criminal refereeing, even drugged up opponents - you name the calamity and it's likely the welsh football side have been on the receiving end of it over the years. All of which of course made the achievements of Wales in France in the summer all the sweeter. And while a disappointing start to the current world cup campaign has seen some people all to quick to write off this team it's worth remembering that it wasn't that long ago that teams like Serbia were putting 6 goals past Wales.

But to return to the 1958 world cup team a closer inspection reveals a quite remarkable feature of that side. 6 key members - Len Allchurch and his brother Ivor, John and Mel Charles, Cliff Jones and Terry Medwin were from the same part of Wales - namely Swansea. I'm not sure if any other part of Wales has produced footballers of such quality in their entire histories but for 6 players of such quality to emerge from the same place at the same time is frankly extraordinary, and certainly something we are unlikely to see again in Wales (current manager Chris Coleman is also from Swansea as it happens).

I dont know whether it's to do with the passage of time - there's not even any colour footage or colour photographs of the Wales team in Sweden - but it's easy to forget just how good a team Wales were in 1958. In John Charles and Ivor Allchurch they possessed two world class players, and who along with Gareth Bale are the greatest footballers ever to pull on a Wales shirt. Goalkeeper Jack Kelsey and Captain Dave Bowen were part of an Arsenal league title winning squad. While Cliff Jones, Terry Medwin and Mel Hopkins would go on to star in the great Spurs team of the early 1960s. And in Jimmy Murphy they had a great manager too. Murphy was Matt Busby's assistant at Manchester United for 15 years and took charge of the team while Busby recovered from the terrible injuries he sustained in the Munich air disaster. Murphy would play a key role in developing United's star studded side of the 1960s - indeed Bobby Charlton credited Murphy with making him the player he became.

Unbeaten in their group and then seeing off what even without Puskas was a still very good Hungary side Wales faced Pele and Brazil in the quarter final. Unfortunately the battering John Charles received from the hungarians meant they did so without their best player but even so it still took a late deflected Pele goal to end Wales participation in Sweden. Of course we'll never know if a Wales with John Charles in their side would have beaten Brazil but it's not unreasonable to think that if John Charles had played in that match Bobby Moore wouldn't have been the first red shirted captain from a UK country to lift the world cup.

For anyone wanting to know more about the Wales 1958 world cup squad and what might have been i recommend getting a copy of Mario Basini's excellent book 'When Pele Broke our Hearts'.

And continuing with a Wales and Swansea theme the campaigning organisation YES Cymru will be staging a rally in Swansea this Saturday. A non party campaign Yes Cymru was launched earlier this year with the aim of building popular grassroots support for independence for Wales. Saturday's rally will take place at Castle Gardens at midday and among the speakers will be the former Labour MP Gwynoro Jones.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Poppy fascists at it again.

Lots of people in the UK wear poppies to commemorate those who've died in wars and there's nothing wrong with that. Similarly there's nothing wrong with those who choose not to wear a poppy either. It doesnt mean they don't respect or care about British soldiers who have lost their lives in wars - it means they don't feel they have to go about with a plastic flower somewhere on their clothing to show it. In recent times however the sincere and voluntary act of wearing a poppy at this time of year has morphed into something else - something ugly and almost fascist in its intolerance towards anyone who deviates from poppy wearing.

Furthermore might it not be a good idea to not send people to die in wars in the first place? Indeed the second world war aside - a war against the terrifying evil that was Nazism and which had to be fought - i cant think of a single war the British have been involved in which has been necessary or couldn't have been resolved by other means. I certainly include the first world war in that list of unnecessary conflicts - a disastrous and pointless War brought about by a falling out between Europe's corrupt ruling classes and fought by clueless aristocratic generals indifferent to the deaths of their largely working class soldiers.   

But unfortunately FIFA's hair brained inflexibility over the matter of 'symbol' wearing by national teams has this week resulted in the Wales football team targeted for abuse by the poppy fascists

The hypocrisy involved in all of this is simply breathtaking - the UK's home nations have played football matches on or near Armistice day without wearing poppies on numerous occasions before and there hasnt been a murmur of protest. Course amid all the hullabaloo and the abuse currently being directed at the Wales team by the likes of Hopkins and right wing hacks the tribute the Welsh FA are in fact planning before their game this weekend seems to have been missed

One other point - i wonder how those currently lambasting the Wales team would react if England met Argentina in the next world cup and the Argentinian team wanted to wear something on their shirt to commemorate the hundreds of young Argentinian conscripts drowned when Margaret Thatcher gave the order to sink the Belgrano? I strongly suspect the likes of Hopkins and the Daily i mean Mail ....would be singing a different tune then.

But the Welsh football team should perhaps consider it a badge of honour that they are the latest victims of Hopkins bile - anyone who urges the machine gunning of drowning child migrants surely ceased to be a member of the human race long ago

Finally - and i thought it was a fitting way to end this post - if you watched telly in Britain in the 80s chances are you would have been a fan of the comedy series Blackadder and chances are you would have been touched by the shows profoundly moving last scene. In a few short minutes - courtesy of some brilliant script writing by Ben Elton - it managed to capture the sheer insanity of much of what was supposed to be 'the war to end all wars' and the terrible human cost involved.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Midnight in the Century

The above phrase is associated with the Russian revolutionary and writer Victor Serge. A dedicated anti stalinist he coined the term in the mid 1930s, a time when the left opposition had been extinguished in the Soviet Union the purges and the show trials had begun in earnest and the rest of Europe quivered in the shadow of fascism and the rise of Hitler. So all in all it was a very grim time and one which Serge's phrase brilliantly captured.

In 2016 we've recently seen a vote for Brexit in the UK - a vote almost entirely based on lies on xenophobia and a nascent and ugly British chauvinism. And now we're seeing a President elected in America on a platform based almost entirely on lies on xenophobia and statements from the candidate which on times have bordered on fascism. So all in all this a very grim time for those of us with a world view based on tolerance, compassion and a commitment to social and economic justice. 

There's no way of ameliorating what has taken place or softening the blow - make no mistake this is our Midnight in the Century. We know what horrors were unleashed on the world in the decade after Victor Serge penned those famous words in 1935 - i dread to think what horrors await us in the next few years!

PS. the French National Front leader Marine le Pen was quick to congratulate Trump - ominously tweeting "their world is collapsing - ours is being built". You shudder to think what kind of world she wants to build.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

"Birds of a feather flock together"

As far back as 391 BC Plato told us "like attracts like" and we now call this the 'law of attraction'. So lest you be in any doubt over who we on this side of 'the pond' should want to win tomorrow a quick look at some of those who are supporting the two candidates might assist you in making up your mind.

In the Hillary Clinton Camp

In the Donald Trump camp  

Friday, 4 November 2016

Er isn't this what the brexiters wanted?

The High Court's decision that the British government must get the approval of MPs before triggering article 50 and formally leave the EU has understandably made all the headlines in the last 24 hours. Predictably the europhobic right reacted with characteristic hysteria to the decision. Ukip leadership hopeful Suzanne Evans displayed echoes of Mussolini by calling for the judges to be sacked, while other kippers called for a "peoples march" on i mean London.

What critics of the decision who complain it is an attack on democracy seem to forget is the British government was going to use the archaic and entirely undemocratic royal prerogative to enact article 50. Yesterday's decision doesnt mean the result on June 23rd wont be respected and that Brexit wont happen - but it does mean that the british government will need to get the approval of MPs before triggering article 50. I can't see MPs trying to reverse the referendum result - indeed all the signs are that most MPs will vote in favour of triggering article 50. But it does mean the kipper and tory right dream of a so called 'hard brexit' may be dead - and quite right too! After all there was nothing on the ballot paper on June 23rd about leaving the EU single market or deporting millions of EU nationals currently living in the UK.

The irony about all of this of course is that what yesterday's decision represented was a British court deciding that the British government must consult the British parliament before triggering Britain's exit from the EU - now how could any brexiter argue with that? Surely that is 'taking back control'?

Finally being Welsh i did smile when i learned that the most senior judge sitting in the High court is a certain Baron Thomas of Cwmgiedd - Cwmgiedd is a village in the Welsh town of Ystradgynlais.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Frack off Tindale!

Well Stephen Tindale has certainly travelled a long way since he was a director of Greenpeace a few years back. He was in the news in Wales yesterday for chastising the Welsh government for its opposition to fracking in Wales (fracking is a devolved issue and no fracking licenses can be issued in Wales without Welsh government approval).

Doubtless Tindale's intervention will be seized upon by the fracking lobby as evidence that opposition to fracking is misguided. But when considering his criticisms of the Welsh government it needs to be understood that the self styled 'energy consultant' Tindale was last year part of a so called 'independent' task force looking into fracking which received £650,000 from the fracking industry, including the leading shale gas explorers Cuadrilla and Centrica.The task force was also found to have strong ties to the fossil fuel industries favourite PR company Edelman

Interestingly Stephen Tindale is now a supporter of GM crops too, and in keeping with someone who now opposes everything he seemingly once believed in Tindale is now also a paid director for the pro nuclear power Alvin Weinberg Foundation. Clearly you don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that people like Tindale change their positions because it's very lucrative for them to do so, his kind are evidently the sort of unprincipled turn coats who would give their backing to anything if it was in their own financial interests to do so. And while Stephen Tindale makes much of his former Greenpeace credentials - he can be found touting his earlier role with them over the internet - he of course omits to mention that Greenpeace itself remains resolutely opposed to Fracking (and GM foods)

If anyone wants to see the terrible impact of fracking all they need do is spend a few minutes watching the excellent documentary 'fracking hell', or read the multitude of independent reports linking fracking with poisoning water supplies. Documentaries and reports like these will tell you everything you need to know about the catastrophic damage fracking does to the environment and the serious health risks it poses to nearby communities.

While there is growing scientific evidence linking fracking to an increased risk of earthquakes

This is why the Welsh government is right to stand firm on its ban on fracking in Wales - a stance for which it certainly has the backing of the majority of people. Indeed a Yougov poll last month showed a sharp rise in public opposition to fracking Delighted to report the SNP government appears equally unlikely to grant any licenses to frack in Scotland too, and while the UK government at Westminister has granted licenses to companies to frack in some parts of England the Friends of the Earth link posted at the bottom of this article shows there is widespread opposition to fracking right across England - opposition which may well succeed in preventing fracking taking place in England too.

Of course just like their devious counterparts in the nuclear lobby the hired mouthpieces of the fracking industry - like Tindale - say 'we need fracking because we have to keep the lights on" and yes they're right we do need to keep the lights on - but the point is we don't have to poison our water supplies from fracking or contaminate our land and seas with radioactive waste in order to do so.There's a clean,safe and ready made source of energy all around us - energy from renewable sources like the tides, solar and wind. A growing number of countries across the world are investing in renewable energy - Denmark, Uruguay and Costa Rica now produce almost all their electricity from renewable sources while last year more of Scotland's energy came from renewables than all other sources put together

Some useful anti fracking links :

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

The real reason there wont be a public inquiry into Orgreave

There was widespread consternation yesterday at the announcement by UK home secretary Amber Rudd that there wouldn't be an investigation into the events at Orgreave during the 1980s miners strike. It had been generally expected that following the inquiry into South Yorkshire police force's central role in the Hillsborough disaster an inquiry into the same police force's handling of the deeply troubling events at Orgreave would be a formality. Indeed even the current leadership of South Yorkshire police themselves were said to favour a independent public inquiry into their predecessors role at Orgreave.

However perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised by this decision. What Amber Rudd really meant when she said an independent inquiry "wouldn't be in the public interest" was that it wouldn't be in the interest of former senior Tories, like the then PM the late Margaret Thatcher and then Home Secretary Leon Brittan. As any independent inquiry into Orgreave might throw up evidence of Thatcher's role in directing the british state's response to the strike and her use of army personnel and the intelligence services in helping to defeat the miners.

In the compelling 'The Enemy Within' Guardian journalist Seamus Milne details the efforts of intelligence service agents like Roger Windsor to sabotage the NUM during the year long strike. He reports how even a retired senior CIA officer met with miners leader Arthur Scargill to warn him that british spooks had infiltrated the miners union. Former serving police officers on duty during the strike have told of  'people showing up during the strike in police uniform who clearly weren't police officers". Indeed it's entirely likely army personnel were among the massed police ranks at Orgreave - something an independent inquiry might reveal.

Senior tories know that an independent public inquiry into Orgreave would most likely shed light on Britain's 'secret state' - that murky side of the British state the British ruling class would rather us ordinary folk didn't know about. The dark side of the British state which smeared Harold Wilson and plotted to assassinate Tony Benn Which colluded with and armed loyalist terrorists in the north of Ireland and which has spied on trade unionists, anti nuclear activists and Scottish and Welsh nationalists for decades - and which is most likely spying on anti fracking activists today. Website of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign

Monday, 31 October 2016

Boozing parents abandon son to go out on lash

A shocking tale of feckless parents leaving their 11 year old child on his own in a B&B while they went out and got boozed up!

The Mirror reported "Michael Gove's young son was left alone in a room at a posh B&B for six hours while his parents enjoyed a glitzy celebrity party.The ex-Cabinet minister and his wife Sarah Vine told hotel workers they would be back by around 9.30pm.But the couple are said to have failed to answer calls from a concerned night porter who found the 11-year-old wandering the corridors, asking where his parents were.The Goves are believed to have returned to the £250-a-night, 13-bedroom B&B at 1.30am the next morning – four hours later than they said they would be".

I trust the Goves will soon be getting a visit from their local child protection unit and from the police? Hundreds of other people in England and Wales have been arrested for leaving their children alone at home

Of course incidences of child neglect among the British upper classes are nothing new - the reason they have packed their children off to boarding schools for generations is because they are either incapable of looking after their own children or they simply can't be bothered.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

In the Year 2020.......

I'm sure older readers will recall the famous 1969 Zager and Evans song 'in the year 2525' (younger readers google it). With its grim warnings for the future of the human race it was a massive hit for the nebraskan duo on both sides of the Atlantic. But it's doubtful when Rick Evans penned such doom laden lyrics as "man has taken everything this old earth can give and he ain't put nothing back" he could have imagined that the kind of troubling future he envisaged in the song wouldnt be as far off as he imagined. In fact the grave consequences of humankind's exploitation of the planet and the living things we share the earth with would be realised within a few of decades of the song's release.

Last week the guardian published a chilling report from the Living Planet Index that warned the world is set to lose two thirds of its wild animals by 2020. In the most comprehensive study of its kind ever undertaken researchers from the WWF and the Zoological Society of London revealed that the world's animal population fell by 58 percent between 1970 and 2012.

And very depressing to report that among those species we might see disappear in a short time is the African elephant. There were 500,000 Elephants in Africa in 1970 but a failure by many governments to properly enforce the world ivory ban adopted in 1989 has seen  that figure fall to under 200,000. This magnificent and intelligent species ongoing battle for survival can be seen on the miniseries the BBC is currently screening 'Saving Africa's Elephants'

It is as a result of humankind's impact on the planet in recent decades that geologists have now credited our species with the advent of a new era in earth's history - the Anthropocene era. But as i wrote a little while ago this is not a milestone we should be proud of

Zager and Evans signed off their track with a reference to the year 9595, but sad to say that on current trends it's doubtful the human race will still be around by then. But if we are still around its highly unlikely that - a few insect and marine based species aside - any of the living creatures we currently share the planet will still be around with us.

But it doesnt have to be this way as contrary to the old Thatcherite nostrum there is an alternative - and that alternative is 'eco socialism'! A philosophy which marries the pursuit of economic and social justice with the protection of the world's environment and the living things we share this planet with. As it's abundantly clear that the dominant economic philosophy of the last 3 decades - free market capitalism - is incompatible with the well being of the planet and life on it.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Are some labour MPs on the Saudi payroll too?

I visited the subject of the war crimes committed by the Saudi regime in Yemen in a previous post so bitterly disappointing then last night to see over 100 Labour MPs helped scupper a motion in the UK parliament which sought to hold the Saudis to account for their actions in Yemen and to withdraw British support for the Saudi led coalition in the Yemeni civil war

Given the disgraceful conduct of these Labour MPs in helping to sink what was in essence a fairly moderate motion - it didnt even call for the suspension of arms sales to Saudi Arabia - we could be forgiven for concluding that along with scores of other politicians in the West there are Labour MPs in the pockets of the barbaric Saudi regime too.

Would also love to know what the 'moderating influence' the UK is exercising over Saudi Arabia Boris Johnson refers to in the article is? Maybe the medieval Saudi regime will stop beheading people in public and stoning women to death for adultery? Course what Boris Johnson really means is "buy lot of arms from us and we'll turn a blind eye to your appalling human rights record and your war crimes in Yemen".

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Some things dont change...

Sadly some things dont change and hostility and prejudice in right wing british newspapers towards refugees is one of them.The screenshot below shows how the Daily Mail referred to 'so called refugees' in this report from 1900 - a report which also wreaks of anti semitism.

Step forward 116 years and we have the same right wing rags like the mail demonising refugees and fuelling islamophobia.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Shameful attacks on child refugees

Given the current story making headlines in the British media it's very important to remember that racists and right wing bigots objected to the Kindertransport scheme back in the 1930s too

Sadly some things dont change 

Sunday, 16 October 2016

A mass killer in our midst.

On friday morning a lot of news outlets in Wales led with a story in which the British Lung Foundation revealed that half of Welsh councils did not have any air quality monitors outside schools. The BLF report also revealed that 5 areas of Wales - including the major urban areas of Cardiff, Swansea and Newport - have unsafe levels of particle pollution Of course it goes without saying that all local authorities should be monitoring the air quality in their respective areas but perhaps it's more important to look at the major cause of the poor air quality in the first place ie the numbers of vehicles on our roads.

The numbers of vehicles using british roads in the last 40 years has risen exponentially. So whereas in 1977 it was estimated there were around 11 million privately owned vehicles in the UK that figure now stands at well over 40 million. Now you dont have to be a scientist to work out that concurrent with this huge rise in vehicle ownership has been a rise in health conditions associated with pollution from vehicles. As despite the improvements made to vehicles by car manufacturers in recent years petrol and diesel fumes still contain chemical agents which can cause lung disease, asthma and cancer and which can hinder intellectual development in children.Thus it was reported two months ago that air pollution kills 50,000 thousand people in Britain annually - an astonishing figure

There are a number of reasons for the huge increase of vehicle ownership in the UK in recent decades but key among them certainly was the privatisation of rail and bus services in britain by the Thatcher government in the 1980s. And an indication of the contempt Thatcher had for public transport can be seen when she once told a close aide "A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure". Hence one of Thatcher's dreams was to create what she called a 'great car economy'

Unfortunately Thatcher's 'dream' has turned into a nightmare for millions of people in modern britain, with bus and rail services shrinking or disappearing altogether in many places. And many people wouldnt be able to get to work or fulfill other basic activities if they didnt have access to a car. Evidently a key instrument in improving the air quality in modern britain and reducing the staggering numbers of deaths it causes would be to return the railways and buses to public ownership. Unfortunately successive British governments at westminister have remained in thrall to free market ideas and so - despite the mounting evidence - have left the rail networks and bus services in private hands. Resulting in the UK (outside london) having among the worst public transport in the developed world.

The devolved governments in Wales and Scotland have had the powers to reregulate bus services in their respective countries for some years now, but for some unfathomable reason have neglected to use these powers. In fact the ruling SNP shamefully abandoned a manifesto committment to reregulate buses in Scotland after it received large donations from Brian Souter the owner of the private bus company Stagecoach

This week a case is being heard in the UK at the high court in london brought by the Environmental organisation Client Earth. They charge the British government with failing to tackle air pollution in the UK. Let's hope Client Earth succeeds in its case - it could end up saving thousands of lives in the coming years   

Friday, 14 October 2016

Boris Johnson is no friend of Human rights

The news from a certain middle eastern country was very depressing last weekend. Riven in recent years by a brutal civil war news broke on saturday that over 100 innocent civilians had been killed in a direct hit on a funeral - assembled by a terrible irony to remember earlier victims of the terrible civil war this country is experiencing.The perpetrator of this obscenity (and 'war crime' most certainly) was the airforce of a foreign power - a foreign power which has been propping up the unpopular regime in this country.

But dont expect to hear the bigoted bombastic Boris Johnson urge folk to protest outside that country's London embassy anytime soon. You see the foreign power i'm refering to isnt Russia and the country in which these slaughters of civilians is taking place isnt Syria - i'm refering to the murderous military campaign of Saudi Arabia in Yemen.

Dogged by conflict and division in the decades since the British colonists were driven out of what was Aden the Yemeni civil war began in 2015 when the largely Shia Houthis led a revolt against the corrupt administration of the Sunni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who the UN has reported stole 60 billion dollars from the Yemeni people during his 3 decades in power

The Houthi rebels have proposed a transitional government of National Unity as a solution to end the civil war but this was unsurprisingly rejected by the clique around the deposed president and his saudi backers. But nearly one million Yemenis marched in support of the proposal in August

The scale of the humanitarian catastrophe currently taking place in yemen was made clear earlier this year - the UN reporting that many thousands have been killed, over 10 million yemenis dont have enough food to eat or access to clean water and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. The medieval homicides of Al Qaeda and Daesh have also been carrying out mass slaughters of Houthi civilans.

Saudi Arabia is an absolutist and feudal dictatorship. It is ruled by the Saudi royal family much in the way European states were ruled centuries ago. Unsurprisingly then there is much about life in contemporary Saudi Arabia which could be described as positively 'medieval' - there are no forms of free and democratic politics, public beheadings are commonplace, women are stoned to death for adultery and gay people face imprisonment and even death.

Given the authoritarian nature of the Saudi Arabian state and its total absence of any form of democracy, its role in arming jihadist terrorist groups and world wide promotion of the most reactionary branch of Islam (wahhabism) and its appalling human rights record you would think then that the western democracies like the US, France and the UK would want nothing to do with Saudi Arabia and would be clamouring for the imposition of sanctions on the Saudi regime - er you couldnt be more wrong! And there are two main reasons for this - Oil and Arms sales.

British and American multi national oil companies enjoy very lucrative business from their plants in Saudi Arabia while US and British governments have been arranging multi billion arm sales to saudi arabia for decades. In fact the Obama administration has sold more arms to the Saudis than even George W Bush did, with the US completing arns deals with Saudi Arabia amounting to 130 billion dollars on Obama's watch.While during David Cameron's 6 years as British PM the MOD sold 6 billion pounds worth of arms to the Saudis.The UK based Campaign Against the Arms Trade has produced an excellent report on the murky and long history of UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia

Interestingly the Saudi royal family has donated millions to both Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump via their 'foundations'. So whoever wins the US presidential election don't expect any change towards the Saudi regime from the next US president.While the British foreign office recently blocked an inquiry by the EU parliament into the Saudi's role in the Yemen Civil war, and Boris Johnson did his best to water down an MPs report into UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia

The example of Saudi Arabia and its murderous role in Yemen simply confirms what we all know - British and American governments are generally only concerned with human rights and protecting human lives when it doesnt impact on their own economic interests.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

An early victim of Brexit

A signal that the post brexit slump is starting to bite occured yesterday with the news the Welsh labour government was dropping a scheme called 'Communities first'. Indeed last month the Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones hinted some government backed programmes would lose out as a consequence of brexit and what it is likely to mean for the resources available to the Welsh Assembly in future

For those readers from outside Wales or who may be unfamiliar with the scheme Communities First was set up in 2001 by the Welsh Assembly and targeted resources at the poorest areas in wales. Funding numerous community schemes in areas like port talbot, wrexham and merthyr. The nature of these schemes varied - some sought to help people in deprived areas into work, others sought to impove life skills and access to higher education and others sought to engage and work with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

As with any government funded programmes there were hits and misses with Community First, and the widely respected academic Victoria Winkler of the left leaning Bevan Foundation has given an honest assessment of Communities First here

But when discussing the merits of anti poverty programmes like Communities First it needs to be stressed that a scheme which has in its 15 year existence received less than 400 million in funding wouldnt on its own seriously dent poverty levels in Wales - a country where one in five people lives in poverty and which has long standing economic problems.The fact is the major economic levers which can make a real difference to tackling poverty - like powers over welfare and employment law - still lay with the British government at Westminister and not the Welsh government in Cardiff bay.

It's also important to understand that many of the poorest people in Wales are actually in work but constitute that growing and disturbing development in modern Britain known as the 'working poor'

So the importance and value of government funded programmes in communities with poor transport links, where there's poor health and nutrition and where many households cant afford access to basic things like the internet shouldnt be underestimated. And if such interventions are abandoned the quality of life of people in these communities isnt suddenly going to improve by itself. Indeed with numerous reports of the grave economic consequences of brexit already emerging ( ) the future for the poorest people in Wales and the wider UK - people who need more resources and more government intervention not less - doesnt bear thinking about.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Remembering a Socialist Martyr

"People may die but their ideas will not"
Ernesto 'Che' Guevara June 14th 1928 - 9th October 1967

Looking at the state of the world today we need people like Che more than ever.

Be very afraid.

The current affairs and news website buzzfeed published the findings of a europe wide yougov poll on friday - and the poll's findings were both startling and disturbing.The Buzzfeed report stated

"Almost half of the adults in 12 European countries now hold anti-immigrant, nationalist views, according to major new research that reveals the spread of fringe political views into the mainstream. BuzzFeed News has been given exclusive access to new data from YouGov, which polled more than 12,000 people across the continent to measure the extent of what it termed “authoritarian populist” opinions – a combination of anti-immigration sentiments, strong foreign policy views, and opposition to human rights laws, EU institutions, and European integration policies".

"In Britain, the poll found authoritarian populist attitudes were shared by 48% of adults, despite less than 20% of the population identifying itself as right-wing. Three months on from the EU referendum, prime minister Theresa May has responded this week by appealing directly to disaffected working-class voters with a promise to crackdown on immigration and reassert British sovereignty".

"In France, a clear majority of people surveyed – 63% – held authoritarian populist views, while in Italy the figure was 47%. In Germany, it was 18%, which appears low by comparison but, given the country’s history and the extreme nature of its far-right groups, is regarded by analysts as surprisingly high. The highest levels of authoritarian populist views were recorded in Romania and Poland, where they were held by 82% and 78% of adults respectively".

Of course we've seen the rise of right wing populism and support for anti-immigrant, nationalist, and authoritarian parties in Europe once before in the 1930s - and we know how that turned out. As George Santayana famously warned us many years ago "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it". And when surveying post brexit UK and the rest of Europe in late 2016 it looks like a growing number of people have certainly forgotten what happened in the 1930s - or maybe it's just that they dont care? 

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels opened the Communist Manifesto with the memorable line "a spectre is haunting Europe" and for Marx and Engels of course that spectre was a socialist revolution that would sweep away the old corrupt monarchies and wealthy ruling elites and establish socialist societies controlled by Europe's working classes. But looking at the contemporary European political scene the spectre which appears to haunt Europe today is fascism.

And there was a very timely screening of the 1972 film Cabaret on BBC2 on Saturday night. A musical centering on the chaotic lives of 3 twenty something bohemians and set in early 1930s Berlin against the backdrop of the collapse of the Weimar republic and the emergence of Hitler and the far right in Germany. Most of the film's musical sequences take place in a berlin burlesque theatre the Kit Kat club, a raucous and liberal venue where crossdressers performed dance and jazz numbers and gay and straight patrons mingled openly and freely - needless to say all things that were detested by Hitler and his fascist thugs. And it was no surprise that soon after the Nazis took power in Germany in 1933 that so called 'degenerate' forms of music like jazz were banned, gay venues were shut down and gay people were forced to go underground. And tens of thousands of gay people would later perish in the concentration camps along with the jews, socialists and others.

We should all surely be very concerned then with the news tonite that homophobic attacks have risen by a massive 147 pecent since June 23rd And when set alongside the big increase in racially motivated hate crimes since June 23rd there's clearly something going on in contemporay Britain  - something very nasty and very right wing.

Probably Cabaret's most memorable scene occurs when the film's central characters stop off for some refreshments at a rural beer garden while out on a country drive and this is the rest of the scene as described by wikipedia

"In a sunlit outdoor setting a boy - only his face seen - sings to a relaxed audience of all ages what at first seem innocent lyrics ("Tomorrow Belongs To Me") about the beauties of nature and youth. The camera shifts to show that the singer is wearing a brown Hitler Youth  uniform. He lifts his hand in the Nazi salute as the accompanying music becomes strident. One by one, nearly all the adults and young people watching are caught up in the hysteria and rise to join in the singing and saluting".
Let's face it with the way everything is going in the UK and Europe at the moment you dont have to be Mystic Meg to see how things might turn out if we are not vigilant.