On Wednesday, the coalition government delivered a dud Queen’s Speech demonstrating that they have run out of ideas, apart from insisting, like deranged automata, that their inflexibility and lack of vision is actually helpful. In the House of Commons, David Cameron claimed that the Queen’s Speech was “about a government taking the tough, long-term decisions to restore our country to strength, dealing with the deficit, rebalancing the economy and building a society that rewards people who work hard and do the right thing.”
That is ridiculous, of course, as the Tory-led government’s mania for austerity has pushed Britain into a double-dip recession, and rewards are the last thing being visited on “people who work hard and do the right thing.” Instead, the ordinary hard-working people of Britain are being squeezed financially and besieged by ministers whose only message seems to be to tell people to be permanently insecure, while the only people who really matter to those in power — those rich enough not to feel the squeeze — continue to get richer through their dubious investments in property, their exploitative ventures around the world, and their shareholding in private companies profiting or preparing to profit from the destruction of the state (as with the NHS, for example).
In the Guardian, Simon Jenkins did a good job of kicking the government, as they deserve to be kicked, in an article entitled, “George Osborne’s growth policy is turning British cities into Detroit UK.” Jenkins began by noting, with reference to the pan-European obsession with austerity over the last two years, that “Europe’s collective response to the 2008 credit crunch ranks with the treaty of Versailles and German reparations among the great follies of history.” Read the rest of this entry »
May 1, which is celebrated as International Workers’ Day in numerous countries worldwide, has long been marked by workers’ groups in the UK, and, before the great distraction of the “war on terror,” was a focal point for dissent during the international anti-globalization movement that sprang to life in London and Seattle in 1999, and became such a huge force that the authorities began responding to it with murderous violence (in Genova in 2001, for example), setting a precedent that enabled police in London in 2009 to kill a passer-by, Ian Tomlinson, during a violent suppression of peaceful demonstrators at the G20 Summit.
As I mentioned last year in an article, The Year of Revolution: The “War on Tyranny” Replaces the “War on Terror”:
The J18 [the protest in the City of London on June 18, 1999] drew on a long tradition of protest dating back to the 1960s, but with particular reference to the anti-road protests, the Reclaim the Streets movement, and the protests against the Criminal Justice Act, which had galvanized dissenters in large numbers from the early 1990s, and which, in turn, were influenced by the travellers’ movement in the 1970s and the 1980s, and the anti-nuclear protests focused on Greenham Common and Molesworth.
After a boisterous May Day in 2000, featuring “guerilla gardening” in Parliament Square, the placing of a green Mohican, made of grass, on the statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square, and the sacking of a branch of McDonald’s, the Metropolitan Police introduced kettling for May Day 2001, which they used to detain hundreds of people in Oxford Street and Regent Street, including many, completely unconnected to the protest, who had, for example, just left their office to get a sandwich, but who found themselves held for hours. Read the rest of this entry »
Today, the Occupy movement, which grew out of Occupy Wall Street last October, and swiftly established itself across the US and around the world, is holding May Day events, or joining existing worker-based events, in numerous countries.
As the movement signals its reappearance, many observers have been wondering where its focus will be. In fact, even before the coordinated wave of evictions of Occupy camps across the US last November, and the later eviction of Occupy London outside St. Paul’s Cathedral, questions had been raised about where the movement should direct its attentions next, and empty property had arisen as a regular focus.
In the US, activists began to examine the foreclosure crisis, and the disgraceful situation whereby a vast number of houses are empty because those living there and paying mortgages couldn’t keep up with their payments or were swindled by unscrupulous lenders, even though there are no buyers for most of these properties, and homelessness is reaching epidemic proportions. In December 2011, Amnesty International reported that “approximately 3.5 million people in the US are homeless, many of them veterans,” and, “at the same time, there are 18.5 million vacant homes in the country.” Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve known about the Occupy movement’s May Day General Strike for ages, ever since a good friend, an activist in Denver, posted an excellent promotional poster back in the middle of February (see the bottom of this article), and while I didn’t need any reminding about the date, as I’ve been a May Day supporter for my whole adult life, I had intended to post something about it sooner than the day before.
However, I’m sure you know all about what can happen to the best-laid plans — and it’s not like I haven’t been busy! — so here, just in time, is my supportive message for all workers — the employed and the self-employed — to down tools tomorrow, along with everyone else who is part of the 99 percent — parents, children, the unemployed and the disabled, as well as those who have retired — to let the 1 percent who still lord it over us from their tax havens and gated communities, and in board rooms and parliaments, know that the inequality that caused the Occupy Wall Street movement to spring to life last September and to become an international phenomenon last October has not diminished in the last seven months.
Governments may have acted to shut down the extraordinary Occupy camps in public spaces, in coordinated raids across the United States at the end of last year, and by various means elsewhere, but it remains as true now as it was last year that you can”t kill an idea, and also that, if you’re part of the 1 percent, you can’t get away with presiding over a program of endless enrichment for those who are already rich — when doing so involves increasing unemployment and destroying the middle class — without some people deciding to fight back, and others waking out of a slumber of self-obsession and materialism to realize that all is not well with the world, and that those who claim to be in charge bear the lion’s share of the blame that they’re trying to shift onto us instead. Read the rest of this entry »
Since March 2006, I have been researching and writing about Guantánamo and the 779 men (and boys) held there, first through my book The Guantánamo Files, and, since May 2007, as a full-time independent investigative journalist. For three years, I focused on the crimes of the Bush administration and, since January 2009, I have analyzed the failures of the Obama administration to thoroughly repudiate those crimes and to hold anyone accountable for them, and, increasingly, on President Obama’s failure to charge or release prisoners, and to show any sign that Guantánamo will eventually be closed.
As recent events marking the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo have shown, this remains an intolerable situation, as Guantánamo is as much of an aberration, and a stain on America’s belief in itself as a nation ruled by laws, as it was when it was opened by George W. Bush on January 11, 2002. Closing the prison remains as important now as it did when I began this work nearly six years ago.
Throughout my work, my intention has been to puncture the Bush administration’s propaganda about Guantánamo holding “the worst of the worst” by telling the prisoners’ stories and bringing them to life as human beings, rather than allowing them to remain as dehumanized scapegoats or bogeymen.
This has involved demonstrating that the majority of the prisoners were either innocent men, seized by the US military’s allies at a time when bounty payments were widespread, or recruits for the Taliban, who had been encouraged by supporters in their homelands to help the Taliban in a long-running inter-Muslim civil war (with the Northern Alliance), which began long before the 9/11 attacks and, for the most part, had nothing to do with al-Qaeda or international terrorism. Read the rest of this entry »
As was revealed in summer, when Tea Party Republicans were prepared to see America’s credit rating downgraded from AAA for the first time in its history rather than reaching a budget agreement with the administration (an act that ought to have counted as economic treason), the possibility of a bipartisan group reaching an agreement to reduce America’ s deficit has to be regarded as something close to impossible.
That, however, is what the deficit super committee, which has been meeting in August, is supposed to do by Wednesday, although, as the Guardian reported on Sunday, the committee, tasked with cutting $1.2 trillion from America’s $15 trillion budget deficit “looks close to admitting defeat as its deadline looms,” even though failure “will trigger automatic cuts to defence and social welfare programmes starting in 2013.” And today, as this article was published, the prognosis was no less gloomy. “‘Super-committee’ on brink of US deficit failure,” the BBC reported at 10 am Eastern time.
As the Guardian also noted yesterday, “Economists warned on Friday that failure by the ‘super committee’ could have dire consequences for the US and lead to another downgrade of its credit rating,” but, typically, Republicans are “refusing to budge on Bush-era cuts that provide tax breaks for wealthier Americans and expire in 2012,” which they want to extend, Democrats are “refusing to budge on cuts to ‘entitlement’ social welfare programs.” Read the rest of this entry »
Last night, defiantly responding to Tuesday’s eviction of the Occupy Wall Street encampment in Zuccotti Park by New York’s billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, tens of thousands of protestors took to the streets of New York and filled Brooklyn Bridge, chanting, “Bloomberg, beware: Zuccotti Park is everywhere.”
As Occupy Wall Street noted on its website, the NYPD estimated that, at the culmination of the #N17 day of action, there were 32,500 people, and that thousands more “mobilised in at least 30 cities across the United States,” and demonstrations were also held in other cities around the world.
Beka Economopoulos, who was involved in the Zuccotti Park occupation, said, “Our political system should serve all of us — not just the very rich and powerful. Right now Wall Street owns Washington. We are the 99% and we are here to reclaim our democracy.”
As Occupy Wall Street explained, “New York led the charge in this energizing day for the emerging movement,” and, following the eviction, “the slogan ‘You can’t evict an idea whose time has come’ became the new meme of the 99% movement overnight.” Read the rest of this entry »
When Occupy Wall Street began in September, its great innovative strength — and what enabled it to be picked up on and repeated across America, and around the world — was that it broke with the tired old model of one-day protests, with their limited opportunities for creating bonds and exchanging ideas, and, as I saw it, specifically involved young people, who were educated, but in debt and unemployed, refusing to be the atomized collateral damage of a capitalist system that is discarding more and more of its own people, taking to the streets and public spaces (or “private” spaces that can be claimed by the public), and refusing to go home.
With yesterday’s eviction of Zuccotti Park, in New York, and the ban on protestors camping there in future, part of the “Occupy” movement — the geographical part that involved physically occupying a location — may have been broken, but the impulse that drove large numbers of people, let down by society, to refuse to stay at home and self-medicate in silence and isolation, was not.
Moreover, the boot of authority — wielded, appropriately, by New York’s billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg — that crushed the encampment in Zuccotti Park, may, we hear, have also been the spearhead of a national campaign to rid America of its myriad other untidy occupations, with Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, explaining, in an interview with the BBC shortly before a wave of raids broke up “Occupy” encampments across the country, “I was recently on a conference call with 18 cities across the country who had the same situation,” and an anonymous Justice Department official apparently also explaining that “each of those actions was coordinated with help from Homeland Security, the FBI and other federal police agencies.” Read the rest of this entry »
So the billionaire bully and coward Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York, waited until the middle of the night to spring a surprise eviction on the occupants of Zuccotti Park, the home, for the last two months, of the Occupy Wall Street movement that has spread across the US and around the world (see here for my archive of articles).
Shortly after 1 am, police began clearing the park, and the disdain for the occupiers and their possessions was palpable. Despite promising that residents would be able to retrieve their possessions from the city sanitation department, everything was destroyed. People’s possessions — and the entire 5,000-book OWS library — were all tossed in the back of garbage trucks. In addition, journalists were prevented from having access to the park, and some were attacked by the police, which was a troubling development.
It was, no doubt, not coincidental that the eviction came just two days before a planned day of action to mark two months since Occupy Wall Street was established, but it is difficult to see how such a dark and underhand move by the Mayor was supposed to crush the spirit of the Occupy Wall Street protestors. In a statement, the Mayor said that he had “become increasingly concerned — as had the park’s owner, Brookfield Properties — that the occupation was coming to pose a health and fire safety hazard to the protestors and to the surrounding community.” He also said that yesterday, as the New York Times described it, “Brookfield asked the city to assist in enforcing ‘the no sleeping and camping rules,’” but he added, “Make no mistake. The final decision to act was mine and mine alone.” Read the rest of this entry »
Since protestors in Egypt inspired the world back in January and February, risking their lives — and sometimes losing their lives — in Tahrir Square and elsewhere in Egypt to topple the hated Western-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak, and to demand fundamental political change, I have not devoted as much time as I would have liked to following up on the Egyptian story.
I reported with great pleasure the extraordinary invasion of State Security buildings in March, when torture cells and shredded documents were discovered, as Mubarak’s torturers fled, and in June and August I reported how former Guantánamo prisoner Adel al-Gazzar, who had returned to Egypt from his temporary home in Slovakia, was, sadly, imprisoned on his return. I also reported the first day of the trial of Hosni Mubarak, which enabled me, for the first time, to note how Egypt’s revolution had been hijacked by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Mubarak’s former allies, who took over when he was toppled, but who have proven unwilling to manage a swift transition to democracy, and, along the way, have held thousands of unjust and largely arbitrary military trials — more, ironically, than took place under Mubarak.
In picking up on this story that I have sadly neglected, I am delighted to cross-post a call for international support from activists in Egypt (published on the website, No Military Trials for Civilians), who, as the Guardian explained last week, have “called for an international day of action to defend their country’s revolution, as global opposition mounts towards the military junta.” In their statement, “appealing for solidarity” from the worldwide Occupy movement that has followed the example of the Egyptians and “taken control of public squares in London, New York and hundreds of other cities,”the Egyptian activists point out that “their revolution is ‘under attack’ from army generals,” and that they too are fighting a 1 percent elite “intent on stifling democracy and promoting social injustice.” Read the rest of this entry »
Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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