Since the Tories came to power two years and seven months ago, with the assistance of the Liberal Democrats, they have reshaped the political landscape in the UK in the most horrific manner, launching a savage age of austerity aimed at the young, the working poor, the unemployed, the ill, the old and the disabled, in defiance of the Christian values they supposedly hold.
In response, a group of concerned citizens have launched an e-petition urging the government to change course, which already has over 9,000 signatures since its launch just three weeks ago, and needs 100,000 signatures by December 12, 2013 to be eligible for a Parliamentary debate. The “War on Welfare” petition, which has a website here, and is being promoted as the #wowpetition, calls for “a Cumulative Impact Assessment of Welfare Reform, and a New Deal for sick and disabled people based on their needs, abilities and ambitions.”
Driven by a Thatcherite and neo-conservative obsession with destroying the state (with a few exceptions, including their own salaries and expenses), the Tories have been taking advantage of the economic crisis created by bankers and politicians (themselves included) in the global crash of 2008 not to rein in the bankers, but to endorse the enthusiasm for austerity amongst so-called economists — those who have not learned that austerity measures in a recession lead only to economic collapse. Read the rest of this entry »
A Winter Wonderland: The Scottish Highlands in Perthshire, a set on Flickr.
From Dunkeld, in Perthshire, in Scotland, beside the A9 (the major route through northern Scotland), the A822, a mixture of former drovers’ routes and military roads, heads west, and then south, for around 16 miles in total, ascending to forlorn, blasted heathland that is very dear to me. Every year, we — my wife, my son and I — visit my wife’s family in Edinburgh for Christmas, and every Boxing Day my wife and I leave our son with his grandparents, drive north to the Highlands, in Perthshire, and stay one night in a hotel. The following day, we return via this stretch of the A822, which passes through a particularly beautiful, but largely unknown part of the Highlands.
This landscape never fails to provide a reminder that, just around the corner from places where humans have settled for hundreds of years, or for millennia, are other places that have proven far more inhospitable. The highest pass on this road between Dunkeld and Crieff is a sublime example of this, where a strip of road runs across boggy, wind-swept land that has repulsed all those who have tried to tame it by living here. The road remains, as do electric pylons and, somewhere nearby, a wind farm, but no permanent settlements still stand. Read the rest of this entry »
Christmas in London, 2012, a set on Flickr.
Best wishes for the holiday season to those following my work, or to anyone who has just stumbled across it. This is a selection of Christmas-themed photos that I’ve taken over the last month during my journeys around London, as part of my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, which I began in May this year.
This is the 69th set of my London photos, and it was fun to go through all the photos I’ve been accumulating from my almost daily journeys, large and small, over the last month, picking out those with a Christmas theme — from locations in north London, in central London and the City, on the Isle of Dogs and at various places in south east London, where I live — including my home in Brockley, and also Blackheath, Camberwell, Deptford, Greenwich, Honor Oak, Lewisham and Rotherhithe. Read the rest of this entry »
As the 11th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay approaches (on January 11, 2013), I wanted to make sure that I made available an interview I undertook recently with the respected progressive radio host Peter B. Collins, in San Francisco. Peter’s site is here, and our 50-minute interview is here, as an MP3.
Peter and I have spoken many times over the years, and it is always a pleasure to talk to him, as he is such a well-informed host, and his shows allow complex issues — like Guantánamo — to be discussed in depth.
Out latest conversation followed the reelection of Barack Obama, and gave us an opportunity to catch up on where we stand nearly four years on from the President’s failed promise to close Guantánamo within a year. Read the rest of this entry »
Memories of Summer: The Thames Festival on London’s South Bank, a set on Flickr.
Sunday September 9, 2012 was the final day of the weekend-long Thames Festival, established in 1997, and run by the Thames Festival Trust, which regularly attracts tens of thousands of visitors, and did so again this year, even though it was the last day of the Paralympic Games, and had been a summer so saturated with cultural events that it was possible to have thought beforehand that cultural saturation might well have set in.
Instead, the banks of the River Thames were packed, and nowhere more so than along the action-packed shoreline that stretches from Butlers Wharf in the east to Westminster Bridge in the west, via Tower Bridge, City Hall, Shakespeare’s Globe, Tate Modern and the Millennium Bridge, Gabriels Wharf, the South Bank Centre, the London Eye, and the cluster of largely unappealing corporate attractions in the former County Hall. Read the rest of this entry »
For those of us who have been arguing for years that senior officials and lawyers in the Bush administration must be held accountable for the torture program they introduced and used in their “war on terror,” last week was a very interesting week indeed, as developments took place in Strasbourg, in London and in Washington D.C., which all pointed towards the impossibility that the torturers can escape accountability forever.
That may be wishful thinking, given the concerted efforts by officials in the US and elsewhere to avoid having to answer for their crimes, and the ways in which, through legal arguments and backroom deals, they have suppressed all attempts to hold them accountable. However, despite this, it seems that maintaining absolute silence is impossible, and last week one breakthrough took place when, unanimously, a 17-judge panel of the European Court of Human Rights ruled in favor of Khaled El-Masri, a German used car salesman of Lebanese origin, who is one of the most notorious cases of mistaken identity in the whole of the “war on terror.” See the summary here.
Describing the ruling, the Guardian described how the court stated that “CIA agents tortured a German citizen, sodomising, shackling, and beating him, as Macedonian state police looked on,” and “also found Macedonia guilty of torturing, abusing, and secretly imprisoning [him],” also noting, “It is the first time the court has described CIA treatment meted out to terror suspects as torture.” Read the rest of this entry »
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.
As we approach the 11th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, those of us calling for the prison’s closure, as President Obama promised on his second day in office nearly four years ago, are still waiting for a sign that, in his second and final term, the President will revisit that promise and, first of all, address the disgraceful and unacceptable fact that, of the 166 prisoners still held, 86 were approved for transfer out of the prison by the Guantánamo Review Task Force that he established soon after taking office in 2009.
One of these men, and the one who, we believe, ought to be the first to be freed, is Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who is one of the 86 cleared prisoners — and was one of 55 cleared prisoners named in an important document released by the Justice Department in September, which, for the first time ever, identified these men publicly. Read the rest of this entry »
The photos in this set — the 67th in my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike — were taken on September 8, 2012, a lovely Sunny Saturday, and are the second of five sets from September, drawn from the huge archive I’ve been building up of my photographic journeys over the last five months (see the first set here). They also provide a contrast to the photos from November that I published previously, of autumn in south east London (see here, here, here, here and here), although I will soon return to more contemporary photos, as winter is now in full swing and Christmas is just around the corner.
On the day in question, I had set off on a bike ride, and had found myself drawn to the heights of Nunhead, one of the areas next to my home in Brockley, in south east London, where I had lived briefly in 1999, before the birth of my son. Completely unexpectedly, I stumbled on the allotments below Nunhead Reservoir, at the highest point in Nunhead, formerly known as Nunhead Hill, just as people were being let in, and, impulsively, I asked if I could come in and take some photos. For more information, see the Stuart Road Allotment Society’s website, and, for a history of allotments, see the National Allotment Society website, and the article, “A Brief History of Allotments in England.” Read the rest of this entry »
Modern Britain is gripped by a cold-heartedness created by a sense of entitlement — not the entitlement to meagre benefits that is so shamefully touted by the Tory leaders of the coalition government as an excuse for hateful attacks on the welfare state, but the entitlement of those like David Cameron and George Osborne and those they represent, those who feel entitled to use clever accountants to avoid paying tax, both individually and in relation to the companies and corporations they support, and those who believe that it is acceptable to exploit others to live in the manner to which they believe they are entitled — which many people do through property.
These people, through their invented sense of entitlement, are presiding over the creation of the most hideously unequal society since before the time of the great Victorian reformers, who, in contrast, were inspired by a desire to help the poor rather than punish them, and were often inspired by the words and deeds of Jesus Christ. As a response to unfettered exploitation and hideous inequality, these reformers laid the foundations for the welfare state in the second half of the 19th century, foundations that were only fully realised through the establishment of the modern welfare state (including the creation of the NHS) by a Labour government after the Second World War.
However, in modern Britain, the notion of Christian charity is severely endangered by naked profiteers and those who, less obviously but no less damagingly, exploit those who cannot afford to buy their own homes to charge hideously expensive rents in a rental market that is unregulated by government, and is, moreover, one in which rampant greed has become commonplace. Read the rest of this entry »
My thanks to the ten friends and supporters who have made donations to help to support my ongoing work as an independent journalist, investigator and commentator, working primarily to close the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, through humanizing the men held there, and exposing the enduring lies put forward by the Bush administration.
These lies are summed up in Donald Rumsfeld’s claim that the prisoners at Guantánamo are the “worst of the worst,” when the truth is that, in the overwhelming majority of cases, the men held had no involvement whatsoever with terrorism, and the cases against them are built up not of verifiable evidence, but of unreliable statements made by their fellow prisoners, most of whom have been exposed as unreliable witnesses by analysts within the US military and intelligence communities.
I’m also a concerned citizen of the UK, appalled at my government’s malevolent ideological assault on the poor, the ill, the unemployed and the disabled — as well as the attempt to destroy the NHS — and I write about these issues when possible, as well as being involved in a project I established in May this year, to photograph the whole of London by bike, a project that is also politically charged. Read the rest of this entry »
Writer, campaigner, investigative journalist and commentator. 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.
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