A year ago, I wrote ‘Dreamers’, a song for the 50th birthday of a very good friend, Jen Owen, who I first met 20 years before. I played it for the first time at her birthday party in Stroud, in Gloucestershire, and then recorded it last September with my band The Four Fathers, and we’ve just released it online as the second single from our forthcoming second album, ‘How Much Is A Life Worth?’
‘Dreamers’ reflects on our wilder, younger years, and then progresses to look at how we came to be parents and how “we overcame some demons / And gained some wisdom somehow,” and it’s one of a number of songs I’ve written in which I attempt to grapple with getting older and what that means — something that, I find, very little popular music does, being generally fixated as it is with youth, even when those responsible for its creation have long passed their youthful days.
That said, one of the most poignant musical moments for me over the last few years was when David Bowie returned from long years of musical silence with his 2013 album, ‘The Next Day’, and the absolutely extraordinary ‘Where Are We Now?’ with its palpable sense of mortality, and its refrain about “walking the dead.” And then, in 2016, almost on the eve of Bowie’s death, came ‘Blackstar’, a song that felt like a requiem — as well as being one of the most profound pieces of popular music ever recorded. Read the rest of this entry »
Back in November, I was delighted to take part in a fascinating day-long event in Brockley, the Brockley Festival of Ideas for Change, featuring 16 speakers from the local area discussing pressing issues of our time from a left-of-centre perspective. The day was divided into four sessions, and I’m pleased to note that recordings of the event are now online on the Brockley Society website as follows:
I took part in the third session, An Inclusive Society, and the recording of my talk, “Demonising ‘The Other’: Tackling the Rise of Racism and Xenophobia”, begins 14 minute into the recording, after the novelist Gabriel Gbadamosi, discussing “The Creative Community as a Condition of Multicultural Society.” Read the rest of this entry »
On Saturday March 25, 2017, I joined tens of thousands of supporters of the UK remaining in the EU in Parliament Square, at the rally at the end of the Unite for Europe march that began at Park Lane, and I hope you have time to look at my photos, and to share them if you like them.
The march had been called to mark the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, signed in 1957 by the six founder member states of what became the EU, but it took on an added poignancy because, this Wednesday, Theresa May will trigger Article 50 of the 2009 Lisbon Treaty, officially beginning the two-year process of the UK leaving the EU.
As I have thought ever since the Leave camp secured a small majority in last June’s referendum, the 16.1m of us who voted to stay in the EU need to work relentlessly over the next two years to try and make sure that, if we do leave the EU, we do so in a way that isn’t as economically suicidal as the “hard Brexit” favoured by Theresa May and her chief advisers — David Davis, Boris Johnson and Liam Fox — although my favoured end result, and one I will not waver from seeking relentlessly, is for the Brexit process to be halted when it becomes clear that there is no way for it to take place without destroying our economy. Read the rest of this entry »
A few days ago, I was delighted to speak to an old friend with whom I haven’t spoken for over a year — Scott Horton, formerly of Antiwar Radio, who now runs his own website, the Libertarian Institute, where he continues to make and broadcast hard-hitting radio interviews about every aspect imaginable of America’s insane foreign policy, as he has for the last 13 or 14 years, with over 4,000 conducted to date.
Scott and I have spoken many times since I was first interviewed by him in the summer of 2007, but for some reason we hadn’t spoken for 14 months until last week. I’d been going through my archives, updating links and trying to work out which articles to include in a forthcoming collection of the best of my writing about Guantánamo over the last ten years, and I realized we hadn’t spoken for some time, so I sent him an email and he got back to me almost immediately.
Our half-hour interview is here — and here as an MP3 — and I hope you have time to listen to it, and to share it if you find useful. We spoke about Donald Trump and what he has threatened to do regarding Guantánamo — keeping it open and bringing new prisoners there — but as with so much this lamentable imitation of a coherent president says and does, it’s difficult to know quite what he will end up doing. He has already backed down on his ludicrous intention to bring back torture and “black sites,” after all but his own most deranged advisers told him that was not on the cards, but on Guantánamo we will have to wait and see if he is told that federal court trials are preferable to bringing anyone new to Guantánamo, if he gets told that he doesn’t have the authorization to bring ISIS prisoners to Guantánamo, and if, as I hope, someone he listens to tells him that, given how ridiculously expensive Guantánamo is, he really ought to close it and bring the men still held to the US mainland. Read the rest of this entry »
This is my 2800th article since I first began writing here, on an almost daily basis, back in May 2007. Nearly three-quarters of those articles have been about Guantánamo, with others covering related topics, and, when I have found time, the political situation in the UK, which is my home.
Most of my work is unpaid — or, rather, is reader-funded, meaning that I rely on you, my readers, to make donations to support what I do if you find it useful, and if you recognize that, as the traditional model of advertiser-funded, pay-per-newspaper print journalism steadily fades away, trustworthy online voices are increasingly important. This is what I have been trying to do here for the last ten years (in direct contrast to the growth of right-wing websites and, recently, fake news sites), and I’m grateful to everyone who has supported me throughout many years of fundraisers, which I run every three months.
Last week, I launched my latest fundraiser, hoping to raise money to maintain the struggle to close Guantánamo in light of Barack Obama’s failure to close it for good, despite promising to do so, and Donald Trump’s desire to keep it open and to expand it. However, although over 20 supporters and monthly sustainers have donated nearly $500 ($400) to keep me working for the next three months, I’m still a long way from my target of $2500 (£2000) — not a huge amount, I’m sure you’ll agree, for the 50 or so articles I write and publish here very quarter. A donation of $25 ($20) is just $2 (£1.50) a week for the next three months, but any donation, however large or small, will be greatly appreciated. Read the rest of this entry »
Exactly six years ago, my life changed drastically when I was hospitalised, for 12 days, as doctors with the NHS tried — and eventually succeeded — in working out how to save a number of my toes, which, over the preceding months, had gone black and were causing me truly extraordinary pain. It is also important because, as I prepared to admit myself to hospital, at noon on March 18, 2011, I smoked the last cigarette in 29 years of enthusiastic addiction, a move that counts as one of the single most important things I have ever done on my life. As a chain-smoker of roll-ups, I was, very genuinely, killing myself by the time of my illness, and I am thankful that I not only carried on living, but also recovered my lung capacity, and began singing again (I come from a long line of singers, stretching back as far as my family’s memory reaches).
As for my illness, at the start of the year, I had first noticed what appeared to be a painful bruise on the big toe of my right foot, although I had no recollection of hitting it on anything to cause such a bruise. I then made a visit to the US to campaign for the closure of Guantánamo (for the first time on the anniversary of the prison’s opening), where I was in pain but still able to function, and, at the end of the month, I visited Poland for a week, to show a Polish-subtitled version of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” the film I co-directed with filmmaker Polly Nash, where the pain grew much more severe.
On my return to the UK, my big toe was turning back, and was soon joined by my middle toe, and yet I was failed by both GPs and doctors at my local hospital, who didn’t understand the severity of what was happening to me. For the entire month before I was finally hospitalised, at my wife’s instance, when I was finally given morphine, the only effective painkiller for truly severe pain, I suffered the most horrible sleep deprivation, unable to sleep for more than a few minutes at a time, as every time I managed to fall asleep the pain would wake me up just minutes later. Just once, I managed to get locum doctors to give me two painkillers stronger than over the counter medications, and on the first occasion I actually got one good night’s sleep, but by the time I took the second its strength was insufficient to combat the ever-growing pain. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s that time of the year, when I ask you, my friends and supporters, to make a donation to support my work, primarily on Guantánamo, which I have been researching, writing about and campaigning to close for eleven years. This website — and the 50 or so articles I publish here very three months — is entirely reader-supported, so I need your support if I am to continue the work I have been doing since 2006.
My target for this quarter — $2500 (£2000) — works out at just $50 an article, so if you can donate $50 you will know that you have paid for one of my articles. Otherwise, a donation of $25 (£20), for example, is just $2 (£1.50) a week — not too much, I hope, for the work that I do, reminding the world on a non-stop basis about the existence of Guantánamo, telling the stories of the men held there, and pointing out the unrelenting need for the prison to be shut down once and for all. However, any amount will be gratefully received, whether it is $10, $25, $100 or $500 — or any amount in any other currency (£5, £15, £50 or £250, for example). PayPal will convert any currency you pay into dollars, which I chose as my main currency because the majority of my supporters are in the US.
So if you can help out at all, please click on the “Donate” button above to donate via PayPal (and I should add that you don’t need to be a PayPal member to use PayPal). You can also make a recurring payment on a monthly basis by ticking the box marked, “Make This Recurring (Monthly),” and if you are able to do so, it would be very much appreciated. I currently have a number of monthly sustainers, and it’s always reassuring to know that some money is guaranteed every month. Read the rest of this entry »
Last week, I was delighted to speak to Chris Cook of Gorilla Radio, based in British Columbia, about life in Donald Trump’s America, and the current situation regarding the prison at Guantánamo Bay. The hour-long show is available here as an MP3, and my interview took up the first 24 minutes.
Chris and I have spoken many times before — generally at this time of the year, to reflect on the situation at Guantánamo around the time of the anniversary of its opening, on January 11. Check out our interviews in January 2014, January 2015 and January 2016.
For this year’s interview, I ran though the dying days of the Obama administration, pointing out how, despite President Obama’s promise, on his second day in office in January 2009, to close the prison, it remained open as he left office primarily because he had persistently failed to prioritize its closure throughout the previous eight years. Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday, I was very excited to put the final touches to my band The Four Fathers‘ second album, ‘How Much Is A Life Worth?’ The album will be available soon on CD and to download on our Bandcamp account, where our existing recordings are still available — our first album ‘Love and War’, the ‘Fighting Injustice’ EP, featuring remixes of three songs from ‘Love and War’ (US and UK versions), and a single, ‘Close Guantánamo.’ Please feel free to like us on Facebook and to follow us on Twitter.
The album features ten original songs — eight by me, as lead singer and rhythm guitarist, and two by Richard Clare (lead guitar, backing vocals), and we recorded it with Pat Collier at Perry Vale Studios in Forest Hill in three sessions from July to November with Brendan Horstead on drums and percussion, Andrew Fifield on flute and harmonica, and Louis Sills-Clare on bass.
My songs include the title track — our most recent song — comparing how white westerners value their own lives compared to the victims of the west’s post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the refugees fleeing the death and destruction in Syria and elsewhere, and the black men — and children — killed with impunity by the police in the US, where the Black Lives Matter movement has been such a powerful force. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve been so busy recently that I’ve overlooked, until now, my last media appearance in the US, during my recent tour to call for the closure of Guantánamo. The show was ‘Loud & Clear,’ an hour-long Sputnik Radio show presented by Brian Becker, which is available here as an MP3.
The show began with an interview with CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, who was jailed under President Obama for exposing details of the CIA torture program, and who was representing 20 US intelligence, diplomatic and military veterans, who, as Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), “signed a statement calling on President Obama to present the proof of allegations that Russia was responsible for hacking during the election.”
As Donald Trump attempts, on as many fronts as possible to remake America in his image, this story now seems like something from another age, as does Guantánamo under President Obama. My segment with Brian starts at 18:40 and ends at 36:00, and I ran through why I was in the US, and Obama’s legacy — his eloquent explanations for why Guantánamo should be closed, but also his failure to prioritize Guantánamo sufficiently so that when Congress raised cynical obstructions to prevent the prison’s closure, he refused to challenge lawmakers as robustly as he should have done, moving so slowly that he ended up releasing men approved for release the day before he left office, and, of course, failed to close the prison, leaving 41 men still held — five approved for release, just ten facing trials, and 26 others eligible for Periodic Review Boards, the latest review process, established in 2013. Read the rest of this entry »
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.
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