Gitmo Must Be Closed

I can not even begin to imagine what it is like to be incarcerated, without trial, at Guantánamo Bay.

gitmo2

I am sure readers have read the many accounts of innocent individuals scooped up by questionable security services and dumped in Gitmo, but this account is even more troubling, Salon reports:

“Mohamedou Ould Slahi began to tell his story in 2005. Over the course of several months, the Guantánamo prisoner handwrote his memoir, recounting what he calls his “endless world tour” of detention and interrogation. He wrote in English, a language he mastered in prison. His handwriting is relaxed but neat, his narrative, even riddled with redactions, vivid and captivating. In telling his story he tried, as he wrote, “to be as fair as possible to the U.S. government, to my brothers, and to myself.” He finished his 466-page draft in early 2006. For the next six years, the U.S. government held the manuscript as a classified secret.

Part three is disturbing:

“Chess is a game of strategy, art, and mathematics. It takes deep thinking, and there is no luck involved. You get rewarded or punished for your actions, your moves. [ ? ? ? ? ?] brought me a chessboard so I could play against myself. When the guards noticed my chessboard, they wanted to play me. When they started to play me, they always won. The strongest among the guards was [ ? ? ? ? ?]. He taught me how to control the center. Moreover, [ ? ? ? ? ?] brought me some literature, which helped decidedly in honing my skills. After that the guards had no chance to defeat me.

“Now you understand how chess must be played,” he commented. I knew [ ? ? ? ? ?] had issues dealing with defeat, thus I didn’t enjoy playing him because I didn’t feel comfortable practicing my newly acquired knowledge. [ ? ? ? ? ?] believes there are two kinds of people, white Americans and the rest of the world. White Americans are smart and better than anybody. I always tried to explain things to him by saying, for instance, “If I were you … or … If you were me,” but he got angry and said, “Don’t you ever dare compare me with you or compare any American with you.” I was shocked then, but I did as he said. After all, I didn’t have to compare myself with anybody. [ ? ? ? ? ?] hates the rest of the world, especially the Arabs, Jews, French, Cubans, and others. The only other country he mentioned positively was England.

After one game of chess with him, he flipped the board.

“Fuck your nigger chess, this is Jewish chess!” he said.

“Do you have something against black people?” I asked.

“Nigger’s not black, nigger means stupid,” he argued.

We had discussions like that, but we had only one black guard who had no say, and when he worked with [ ? ? ? ? ?] they never interacted. [ ? ? ? ? ?] resented him. [ ? ? ? ? ?] has a very strong personality, dominant, authoritarian, patriarchal, and arrogant. “

Guantánamo Bay must be closed.

Advertisements

UKIP, Casual Racism And BBC’s Bias

UKIP Election Poster 2013

If you ever wanted to understand bigotry in Britain then this UKIP poster from South Shields is a fine example.

It sums them up nicely, scaring people and putting out a simple xenophobic message.

Logan Smith wrote an intelligent piece on casual comments and racism.  I think it has a wider application in society and in particular relationship to UKIP:

“It’s that the people I retweet – the vast majority of which appear to be teenagers – genuinely don’t understand whether they’re being racist. It’s a generation that never had to grow up during the times of Jim Crow, civil rights marches or apartheid, and has never been confronted by the institutional racism that older generations saw on a daily basis. As a result, many teens seem to think racism simply means active hatred of another race, and not the apparent prejudices and stereotypes displayed by the people I retweet. “

Speaking of prejudice, the BBC’s has not helped itself over the years, when it comes to the Jewish community, according to a recent poll:

“36% – The proportion of Jews who believe BBC news coverage is “heavily” biased against Israel, according to the report

14% – The number who say that the corporation reporting is “balanced” “

Bowen and Gaddafi
Over the years I have watched Jeremy Bowen display an unsophisticated vista of the Middle East, so I am surprised the 14% figure is that high.

The full report is here, Jews and the News: News consumption habits and opinions of Jews in Britain. Some 79% of those sampled replied they felt the BBC is biased against Israel. That is a lot, for one community to perceive the BBC’s way of reporting the news.

A reminder of where such prejudice leads, murder in Eltham.

Finally, Doreen Lawrence’s words.

Update 1: A reminder of Richard Dawkins’ stupid words from 2007:

“”When you think about how fantastically successful the Jewish lobby has been, though, in fact, they are less numerous, I am told – religious Jews anyway – than atheists and [yet they] more or less monopolise American foreign policy as far as many people can see. So if atheists could achieve a small fraction of that influence, the world would be a better place.”

Such views are common on the Far and Extreme Right. This essay explains the antecedents of such beliefs, What are “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”? I do wish that Professor Dawkins would educate himself on these issues and not assume he knows everything.

Update 2: Any Richard Dawkins’ supporters who can not see the possible racist connotations here should examine the evidence and come to some reasoned conclusion.

Finally, try and work out why neo-Nazis would proffer such views?

Update 3: Apparently, UKIP banned extremists from its ranks, good first start but did not seem to inform its lay officials, Stand for Peace explains:

“Evidence has emerged that a senior UKIP figure, the Chairman of UKIP Hillingdon, Cliff Dixon has links to the English Defence League (EDL), a far-Right group with a long history of attacking Muslims.

Dixon, formerly involved with the English Democrats party, boasted on his blog, in 2011, that he has ”joined my friends from March for England to tag along on the EDL Tower Hamlets demonstration.”

Colin Cortbus, a Stand for Peace fellow, notes: “If Mr Dixon thinks extremists should get off our streets, perhaps he should lead by example.”

Mr Dixon’s blog also records his attendance at a number of nationalist marches, mainly through the relatively small ‘March for England’ group. One event was co-organised by the British Patriots Society, which is described by anti-extremism campaign Hope not Hate as “a tiny splinter of the English Defence League”.

One photo shows Dixon posing with EDL leader Kevin Carol and other EDL and BNP figures.”

Q:Can any of my readers suggest why UKIPers might be found associating with the neofascists in the English Defence League?
Continue reading

Dave Douglass, An Almost Final Word On Thatcher’s Funeral

When next someone ask you about what it was like to live under Thatcher and what she did, please refer them to Dave Douglass.

His dignified and measured interview on Channel 4 is one man’s summation of Thatcherism, which speaks to us all.

The Absurdity Of The Margaret Thatcher Memorial Library

There is some discussion in the media of a Margaret Thatcher Memorial library, as a way of preserving her memory. It is common for retired presidents of the United States to create a library where their monumental decisions, which could have affected a world, are recorded.

They are mostly vanity projects, but may as with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s or JFK’s libraries be of wider significance and they do fall under the supervision of the NARA.

Whilst the American tax system encourages philanthropic gestures from the excessively wealthy to help create and maintain such libraries, that is not true in Britain. booksmess1

That is part of the reason why I can not see it coming off, at least in the short term. There is a significant reluctance amongst the obscenely rich in Britain to put their hand in their own pockets for the benefit of others.

We are going to witness this next week, as Margaret Thatcher’s funeral will be paid for, mostly, by the State, which is extraordinary.

Not for nearly 50 years taxpayers have had to pay for an ex-Prime Minister’s burial and then only for the exceptional Winston Churchill, when he died in 1965. Even the matchless Clement Attlee, creator of the NHS along with Nye Bevan, had private funerals, which their families paid for.

It is more probable that any Thatcher Memorial library be sponsored or maintain, in part, by Her Majesty’s Government, directly or indirectly. Those who made a packet out of Thatcher’s misrule, bankers, speculators and spivs would only begrudgingly part with money if they can share in some of the reflected glory.

Even if it gets built, with private money and no state sponsorship, then how would it continue running? Who would bear the costs?

Certainly, Thatcher’s estate rumoured to be worth in excess of £60 million could afford it, but her mean spirited offspring are unlikely to give up any significant funds. And if it could be built, money found to keep it going, what would it contain?

Some tawdry copies of the Daily Mail? Or perhaps the knife, which the Tories plunged into Thatcher’s back in 1991, causing her resignation, would be made a prime exhibit?

All in all, it is a terrible idea, based on questionable assumptions, for a political philosophy more accustomed to closinglibraries than opening them.

Update 1: Apparently, the political comedian behind the Thatcher Memorial library is Donal Blaney. He’s a questionable individual, only too willing to make excuses for the fascist dictator, Augusto Pinochet. This link to Tory HQ shows the political pathology at the heart of British conservative thinking, the relativising of Pinochet’s atrocious regime.

Update 2: The Beeb seems to approve of this idea, or at least that is the tone of this news piece.

Railways: A Manifestation Of Thatcherism

During the post-war period the railways were nationalised after years of neglect by private owners, in many ways they were seen as key to building and enhancing Britain’s infrastructure.

Thatcherism changed all of that.

Two of its key aims were to sell off the family silver and enrich its supporters, so it was with Major’s breakup of the railways.

The net result is a poorer, accident prone railway system which rewards management failure and pays individual workers a pittance.

More examples of this Thatherite attitude has been seen recently:

“Network Rail has paid out £630,000 to four of its executive directors as a portion of their long-term incentive plan (L-tip) to reflect the organisation’s performance in the period 2009-12.

However, Network Rail’s remuneration committee decided to reduce the award by 20% to take into account specific safety and train performance issues.

Patrick Butcher, finance director, was awarded £168,000, while Robin Gisby, managing director of network operations and Simon Kirby, managing director of infrastructure projects, were awarded £158,000, and Paul Plummer, group strategy director was awarded £148,000. Chief executive David Higgins did not qualify because he was not with the organisation in 2009.”

In July 2012 even the Torygraph was moved to comment:

“The taxpayer-backed company is once again at the centre of a political row, after it put forward plans to pay five directors an extra £2.6 million under two new schemes.

Under the proposals, three directors at the company will get payments of £300,000 each in 2014 just for turning up to work for the next two years.”

It pointed out the dismal record of Network Rail’s management:

“Two months later, the operator was fined £4 million over the Grayrigg rail disaster that killed one person and seriously injured 28 others.

Within the last two years, Network Rail has also been fined £1 million over the deaths of two school girls at a level crossing in 2005 and £3 million over the Potters Bar crash in 2002 that left seven dead.

The company is also under pressure over its punctuality, leaving it in danger of a £42 million fine. It has a target of running 92 per cent of trains on time – or less than ten minutes late.

At the moment, it is only providing 89.2 per cent of services within these limits, risking a £1.5 million fine for each 0.1 per cent below the target. “

Continue reading

A Few Thoughts on Thatcher’s demise

Had you asked me five or ten years ago what I thought of Margaret Thatcher then I would have let forth a stream of invective and only subsided as my blood pressure reached a critical point.

But now on reflection I am not sure I could do the same. That is not to say I do not loathe every facet of Thatcher’s governments, but I feel we should avoid overly simplifying our reactions to her demise.

I think it is necessary to separate out the person from the politics and the wider consequences.

Consequences

Looking at the latter first. It is hard to describe to contemporary generations what Britain was like some 40 years ago. Not only in terms of lack of technology, variation or the comparatively insular nature of society back then. Whole books have been written on the political, economic and social legacy of Thatcherism, instead I would sum those changes up in two words, privatisation and profit.

When you look at fragmented British society with its extremes of wealth and poverty that is a legacy of Thatcherism. Where other European countries have public utilities running public services Britain has a range of private monopolies, which yearly attack people’s pockets. Other countries have joined up transport and infrastructure, Britain has Thatcher’s legacy.

Nevertheless, she cannot take all of the blame, numerous politicians, some even found in public life today (Michael Portillo is but one example) were key advocates of Thatcher’s myopic policies back then.

The politics

Thatcherism has had a profound political influence in Britain, all major political parties eventually succumb to its ideas, one way or the other. The notion that the market could fix everything, or nearly everything, has been adopted by both Conservative and Labour Party. Tony Blair, was obviously from the outset an admirer of Margaret Thatcher, brought those maligned policies into the Labour Party. This can be seen by the fool hardly and dangerous changes to the NHS over the past 16 years.

But the adoption of manic pro-market politics cannot be blamed solely on Thatcher. While she was a vehicle and obvious face of those wretched ideas, others chose to pick up the policies and articulate them, with the resultant mess that we see in Britain today: scarcely any manufacturing, poor public services, poorer infrastructure and a seriously divided society

The person

Margaret Thatcher was a singularly clever individual, who crawled her way to the top of the Conservative Party. When they had no use for her she was stabbed in the back and thrown aside.

If newspaper reports are to be believed, she suffered numerous ailments, the loss of a husband and serious dementia which is punishment enough for one person

But the other individuals, who articulated or benefited from her policies, have greater culpability.

Thatcher alone was not to blame for Britain’s adoption of vicious pro-market attitudes. Thatcher alone was not to blame for profiteering. Thatcher cannot be blamed, solely, for a financial sector, which is a law unto itself. She, alone, cannot be blamed for the lifelong misery, unemployment and destitution which resulted from her and subsequent governments’ policies.

Tory_cab2

Many, many others are to blame, as well.

She died as a sad, confused individual. A failure.

More is the pity that the pro-market nonsense she articulated can not be buried at the same time.
Continue reading

Di Canio’s Fascism A Round Up

It is irrefutable that Paolo Di Canio is a self-proclaimed fascist.

That’s not me saying it, he boasted about it.

Di Canio even praised Mussolini. dicanos2

So it’s all the more surprising that senior management in Sunderland football club can’t find the links to Di Canio’s own words and verify them for themselves.

However, as a public service, I will help those incapable or unwilling to see the bleeding obvious.

Carl Packman tackles the issue of Italian fascism and racism straight on, Can you be a fascist, Paolo Di Canio, without being a racist?

dicanos1

Bonnie Greer is succinct, Stupidity and Anti-Semitism, Thy Name Is Legion.

Even the right-wing Torygraph, for once, can spot this fascist:

“Di Canio, though a wonderfully gifted former footballer, is a fascist. That’s not a slur or a smear, but a statement of fact. “I’m a fascist, not a racist,” is how the new Duce of the North East describes himself.

He has a tattoo with DVX on his shoulder, the symbol of the former Italian dictator. In his autobiography he wrote “I think he [Mussolini] was a deeply misunderstood individual. He deceived people. His actions were often vile. But all this was motivated by a higher purpose. He was basically a very principled individual.

And in 2005 he was banned for giving a straight-arm fascist salute to Lazio fans after scoring in his side’s 3-1 win over bitter rivals Roma.

Alessandra Mussolini, the former dictator’s granddaughter, praised Di Canio, saying “How nice that Roman salute was. It delighted me so much … I shall write him a thank-you note.

Paolo di Canio is obviously a complex character. From what I’ve read about him, his attraction to fascism is as much historical as it is political.

In an in-depth article for the Independent in 2011, an associate of Di Canio’s is quoted as saying “Paolo is not, and has never been, a bad person, or an ideological fascist. Certain things he has said and done – like the salute with the Lazio fans – have to do with his psychological history, particularly his former compulsive tendencies and pronounced mood swings.”

All of which may be true. But he’s a fascist all the same.”[My emphasis.]

Continue reading

BBC, Lies And The Tory View Of The World

When next you hear a Tory, or one of his University chums at the BBC, explain that the “welfare changes” are really to help the poor and disabled, then do remind them of these relatively unreported examples:

“…[Henry Sherlock] had been “bullied and harassed” by Atos Healthcare, the French firm slammed for carrying out the humiliating eligibility tests for the Department for Work and Pensions.

Henry worked for the DWP for 18 years until he was forced to retire on medical grounds eight years ago. He lost his sight after suffering meningitis and also has chronic heart disease, diabetes and depression. He said: “I found it such a shock being on the other side of the fence.

“Being a claimant, you are treated with total disrespect.

More begging is what the Tories want:

“When I worked for the DWP it was the case that the client came first and they were given the best support possible but now all they are interested in is cutting costs.

MSPs were told how a blind former health worker, Henry Sherlock, was reduced to begging after being interviewed and reassessed by the Department of Work and Pensions and Atos Healthcare, the private firm paid to carry out fit-to-work medical assessments, claiming both of them had “harassed and bullied” him.

He told how he had been threatened with having his benefits stopped after refusing to provide personal information after receiving an unannounced call from Atos one Saturday evening.”

Read what he said.

Brain-damaged amputee fit for work, says Atos:

“An amputee who cannot walk, struggles to talk and is brain damaged has been passed “fit for work” and had his benefits cut under government reforms.

Mark Evans, from Daubhill in Bolton, said his incapacity benefits were cut by £440 a month and has been left with just £220 to pay his monthly rent, bills and food.

The 50-year-old had received incapacity benefits, now known as employment and support allowances, since 1993 when he had a brain tumour. He also had his left leg amputated below the knee in 2004 after contracting deep vein thrombosis. “

Anxiety over Atos fit-for-work test brings on father’s heart attack:

“The controversial assessments by the French IT firm are part of a benefits shake-up by the Con-Dem Government, who are looking to cut billions from the welfare bill.

Former welder Jim, who had worked all his adult life until he suffered a heart attack 18 months ago, said: “It was very clear that I wasn’t 100 per cent.

I was sweating profusely, my breath was very laboured and I had been confused during the interview.

“I wasn’t able to concentrate on a lot of what they were saying.

“They gave me a glass of water but that was it.

“They were more concerned with asking me questions such as, ‘Can you walk 200m and can you raise your arm up in the air?’”

Jim, of Cambuslang, near Glasgow, added: “I was telling them I was stressed and that I was anxious, and that I didn’t feel like I could go out and work at that moment.”

The very next day, he had a heart attack as he was walking down a street in Glasgow’s west end. “

Cecilia Burns:

“Ms Burns, a mother of two boys, was diagnosed in 2011. After surgery, she underwent months of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and was on the drug Herceptin until her death.

In March 2012, her employment support allowance was reduced by £30 and she was told she was fit to work, even though she was still undergoing treatment. “