Archive for June, 2012

Britain’s Tax Avoidance Scandal and David Cameron’s Colossal Hypocrisy

When David Cameron responded to a Times investigation into offshore tax avoidance schemes, which found that around 1,000 individuals — including the comedian Jimmy Carr, and other celebrities, including musicians and sports stars — were paying as little as 1% of their earnings in tax through a legal, but morally unacceptable scheme in Jersey, a notorious tax haven, he decided to take the moral high ground.

Saying that media reports of Carr’s financial arrangements suggested “straightforward tax avoidance,” the Prime Minister added:

I think some of these schemes — and I think particularly of the Jimmy Carr scheme — I have had time to read about and I just think this is completely wrong [sic]. People work hard, they pay their taxes, they save up to go to one of his shows. They buy the tickets. He is taking the money from those tickets and he, as far as I can see, is putting all of that into some very dodgy tax avoiding schemes. That is wrong. There is nothing wrong with people planning their tax affairs to invest in their pension and plan for their retirement — that sort of tax management is fine. But some of these schemes we have seen are quite frankly morally wrong. The government is acting by looking at a general anti-avoidance law but we do need to make progress on this. It is not fair on hardworking people who do the right thing and pay their taxes to see these sorts of scams taking place. Read the rest of this entry »

My Photos on Flickr: San Francisco and Chicago, January 2012

San FranciscoStop the violenceBerkeley a.m.The Bay Bridge (1)The Bay Bridge (2)The Bay Bridge (3)
The hills of San Francisco (1)The hills of San Francisco (2)Anti-torture reunionWinter windowsSnow in ChicagoGuantanamo in Chicago
Chicago skylinePolice line - Do not crossChicago at nightSam's Restaurant, Brooklyn

San Francisco and Chicago, January 2012, a set on Flickr.

Earlier this week, I posted the first two sets of photos on my new Flickr account. The first set was of of my wanderings in New York in January, at the start of my two-week US tour to campaign for the closure of Guantánamo on the 10th anniversary of the opening of the prison, and the second was of the protests in Washington D.C. on the 10th anniversary, January 11, when it poured with rain, but our spirit was strong.

This third set concludes the photos of my trip, taken in San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley during a one-day visit to the Bay Area, and in Chicago during another brief visit (my first ever to the Windy City), before flying back to New York, and 24 hours in Brooklyn preceding the long flight home. Read the rest of this entry »

Stonehenge and the Summer Solstice: On the 28th Anniversary of the Last Free Festival, Check Out “Festivals Britannia”

So today, as 14,000 revellers at Stonehenge faced a rainy summer solstice morning, with some of them, at least, echoing the reverence that those who built this giant sun temple over 4,000 years ago had for the great axis of the solar year, many of those in attendance may not have known of the long struggles that enabled them to party in the world’s most famous stone circle, or of the free festival that sprawled across the fields opposite Stonehenge every June for 11 years from 1974 to 1984, or of the brutal suppression, in 1985, of the convoy of travellers, anarchists and environmental activists heading to Stonehenge to set up what would have been the 12th Stonehenge Free Festival, who were violently set upon and “decommissioned” in what has become known as the Battle of the Beanfield.

Those who want to know more can check out my books Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield, and can also find out more via my most recent article on the Beanfield, three weeks ago, and my recent radio interview, which I posted yesterday. However, I believe this is also an excellent opportunity for people to watch “Festivals Britannia,” a 90-minute long BBC4 documentary by Sam Bridger, first broadcast in December 2010, which I’m posting below in six parts, as available on YouTube.

This is an important programme, with excellent commentators and some astounding footage (including dreamlike Super-8 footage from the ’70s by Chris Waite, and equally dreamlike images from the last great gathering of the tribes, at Castlemorton in 1992), even though watching it was a rather surreal experience, as its narrative arc seemed to be drawn entirely — but without credit — from Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion. Read the rest of this entry »

Radio: On Eve of Summer Solstice at Stonehenge, Andy Worthington Discusses the Battle of the Beanfield and Dissent in the UK

Listen to my interview here!

A month ago, I was delighted to meet up with — and be interviewed by — an old friend and colleague, Tony Gosling, a journalist and broadcaster, who also has a long-established mail order service, Culture Shop, making videos and books on important political topics available. For many years, Tony has sold videos and DVDs of “Operation Solstice,” the documentary about the showdown between new age travellers and Margaret Thatcher’s government that took place on June 1, 1985, in a field in Wiltshire, when police from six forces and the MoD savagely “decommissioned” a convoy of travellers, anarchists and environmental and anti-nuclear activists, assaulting men, women and children, and destroying vehicles.

The government succeeded in preventing the convoy from reaching their planned destination, Stonehenge, where they had intended to establish the 12th annual Stonehenge Free Festival — a huge free event that was a gigantic inspiration for all kinds of dissidents, but was, of course, feared and despised by the establishment.

After I published my first book, Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion, in June 2004, a social history of Stonehenge that was, essentially, a wider British counter-cultural history, in which the Battle of the Beanfield was pivotal, I swiftly followed up with another book, focusing specifically on The Battle of the Beanfield, through original essays, transcripts of interviews with people involved on the day, and excerpts from the police log, which was published on the 21st anniversary of the Beanfield in 2005. Read the rest of this entry »

Stop the Extradition to the US of Talha Ahsan, Babar Ahmad, Gary McKinnon and Richard O’Dwyer

Tomorrow, Wednesday, June 20, 2012, there is a meeting in the House of Commons to discuss the US-UK Extradition Treaty, a source of consternation since its establishment in 2003, as it allows British citizens to be extradited to the US for the flimsiest of reasons, where they will face a legal system that is, in many ways, out of control, in which cases that involve activities that can be described as providing material support for terrorism, for example, attract horrendously long sentences.

The meeting, in Committee Room 10, begins at 6 pm, and lasts until 8 pm, and features the following speakers:

Caroline Lucas MP
John Hemming MP
Sadiq Khan MP (Shadow Justice Secretary)
Gareth Peirce
Victoria Brittain
David Bermingham (Natwest Three)
Sir Iqbal Sacranie
Ashfaq Ahmad

Those facing extradition, whose cases will be discussed, are Talha Ahsan, Babar Ahmad, Gary McKinnon and Richard O’Dwyer. I discussed their cases back in April, after Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad had their appeal to the European Court of Human Rights turned down, and I recommend that article for anyone who wants to know more. Briefly, however, none of the men have ever visited the US, and summaries of their cases are as follows: Talha Ahsan is a poet and writer with Asperger’s syndrome who has been detained for six years without charge or trial; Babar Ahmad has been detained without charge or trial for eight years, longer than any other British citizen in modern British history (and both men are accused of alleged crimes involving web-based militant activity); Gary McKinnon, who also has Asperger’s Syndrome, is accused of hacking into US agency websites ten years ago and has been fighting extradition ever since; and Richard O’Dwyer is accused of breaching US copyright laws, despite the fact that what he is accused of does not constitute a crime in the UK. Read the rest of this entry »

My Photos on Flickr: Campaigning to Close Guantánamo, Washington D.C., January 2012

Guantanamo comes to the Supreme CourtDebra SweetOccupy D.C.I need work now!Col. Morris DavisFree our clients!
"Close Guantanamo" bannersWhat does torture teach our children?Guantanamo cageHooded and shackledWhite House protestFree Shaker Aamer
Never too young to call for justiceTom WilnerDaniel LakemacherStephen OleskeyAndy WorthingtonFree Shaker Aamer v.2
Where habeas corpus died

Close Guantanamo, Washington D.C., January 2012, a set on Flickr.

In the small hours of this morning, I posted the first set of photos on my new Flickr account, of my wanderings in New York in January, at the start of my two-week US tour to campaign for the closure of Guantánamo on the 10th anniversary of the opening of the prison.

My tour — my fifth visit to the US to call for the closure of Guantánamo, and to publicize the stories of the men held there — was organized by the campaigning group The World Can’t Wait, and in New York and Washington D.C., I spent a lot of time with The World Can’t Wait’s National Director, Debra Sweet, a relentless  campaigner for justice, who, very deservedly, recently won an American Humanist Award as a “Humanist Heroine.” Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington’s Photos on Flickr: New York, January 2012

Empire StateCar parking New York styleColumbia lightsChristmas lobbyLust U.S.A.Signs
125th Street125th Street highWorkers muralVery cool subway artTimes SquareCorporate America
Chrysler BuildingFlatiron BuildingJudson Memorial ChurchApocalyptic subway artPolice stateProduct placement
Leaving New York

New York, January 2012, a set on Flickr.

Regular readers will be aware that, since the start of this year, some of my articles have featured photos I have taken (see Photos: The “Austerity Isn’t Working” Protest Outside Downing Street and ParliamentPhotos: May Day Celebrations in London, Including Occupy London ProtestorsOccupy London, May 12: Photos from St. Paul’s Cathedral Protest and Occupy London, May 12: Photos from the Bank of England Protest and a Call for Global Solidarity, for example).

Photography has been a love of mine since I was a teenager, but it is something that I largely let slip after Guantánamo took over my life six years ago, and my last analogue camera broke and I failed to buy a new digital replacement. Fortunately, my wife gave me a great digital camera at Christmas, which has now become my constant companion, and, as a result, I’ve now set up a Flickr account, and will regularly be uploading photos on Flickr and then providing notification here. Read the rest of this entry »

Meet the Seven Guantánamo Prisoners Whose Appeals Were Turned Down by the Supreme Court

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January with US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

This week, the Supreme Court took a decision not to accept appeals by seven Guantánamo prisoners who, over the last few years, either had their habeas petitions denied, or had their successful petitions overturned on appeal. The ruling came the day before the 4th anniversary of Boumediene v. Bush, the 2008 case in which the Supreme Court granted the prisoners constitutionally guaranteed habeas corpus rights.

That led to a number of stunning court victories for the prisoners between 2008 and 2010, but in the last two years no prisoners have had their habeas petitions granted, because judges in the D.C. Circuit Court, a bastion of Bush-era paranoia about the “war on terror,” where the deeply Conservative Senior Judge A. Raymond Randolph holds sway, have unfairly rewritten the rules in the government’s favor, so that it is now almost impossible for a habeas petition to be granted. Read the rest of this entry »

The Supreme Court Abandons the Guantánamo Prisoners

On Monday, when the Supreme Court decided to turn down seven appeals submitted by prisoners held at Guantánamo, without providing any explanation, a particularly low point was reached in the prison’s history.

The decision came just one day before the fourth anniversary of Boumediene v. Bush, the hugely significant 2008 ruling granting the prisoners constitutionally guaranteed habeas corpus rights.

That ruling reaffirmed a previous Supreme Court ruling, Rasul v. Bush, in June 2004, granting the prisoners habeas rights, and involved the Court establishing that Congressional attempts to strip habeas rights from the prisoners — in the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 and the Military Commissions Act of 2006 — had been unconstitutional.

Boumediene led to a flurry of activity, as long-frozen cases were revived. District Court judges in Washington D.C. then decided the evidentiary standards required, assessing that the government needed only to establish its case by a preponderance of the evidence, and not beyond a reasonable doubt, as is required in criminal cases. Read the rest of this entry »

Quarterly Fundraiser Day 5: $1000 Needed for My Campaigning Work to Close Guantánamo and Combat Injustice

Please support my work!

Every three months, I ask you, my friends and supporters, to provide financial assistance to help me to continue working as a freelance investigative journalist, exposing the lies and distortions used to keep Guantánamo open, and telling the stories of the men held there, to humanize them, and to help people understand how important it is for that dreadful icon of US lawlessness is finally closed. Regular readers will also be aware that I have branched out into commenting on the ongoing global economic crisis, and, in particular, the age of austerity cynically imposed in the UK by the Tory-led government, which is both savage and deluded.

With the kind help of 17 friends and supporters, I have so far raised $1450 to support my work over the next three months, three-quarters of which is completely unfunded, and is only possible with your help.

I am enormously grateful to those who have donated, and, on this last day of fundraising, I can only reiterate that all contributions are welcome, whether it’s $25, $50, $100 or $500 — or, of course, the equivalent in pounds sterling or any other currency. Readers can pay via PayPal from anywhere in the world, but if you’re in the UK and want to help without using PayPal, you can send me a cheque (address here — scroll down to the bottom of the page), and if you’re not a PayPal user and want to send a check from the US (or from anywhere else in the world, for that matter), please feel free to do so, but bear in mind that I have to pay a $10/£6.50 processing fee on every transaction. Securely packaged cash is also an option! Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
Email Andy Worthington

CD: Love and War

Love and War by The Four Fathers

The Guantánamo Files book cover

The Guantánamo Files

The Battle of the Beanfield book cover

The Battle of the Beanfield

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion book cover

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion

Outside The Law DVD cover

Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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