Ferguson death of Michael Brown and hip hop songs


This music video from the USA is called Dizzy Wright – I Need Answers (Feat. Nikkiya). See also here. It is about the death in Ferguson, Missouri of Michael Brown.

And this music video, dedicated to the people of Ferguson, is Lauryn Hill – Black Rage.

As the media begins to take the spotlight off the embattled area, here’s how you can help make sure coverage of Ferguson continues to be “a part of the national conversation.” And don’t miss what these 7th and 8th grade students from St. Louis had to say about the tragedy in their backyards. [Story, Image via Reuters]

World War I and poppies


This video is called Poppy – Papaver rhoeas.

From Peter Frost in Britain:

The flower of sacrifice

Thursday 21st August 2014

PETER FROST traces the history and symbolism of the poppy

The poppy, Britain’s most colourful weed, is much in the news lately as we mark the centenary of WWI that didn’t end all wars. Over the century that simple flower came to mean all kinds of things to all kinds of people and not always for the best.

We are talking about the corn poppy, (Papaver rhoeas) also known as the corn rose, field poppy, Flanders poppy, red poppy, red weed, coquelicot, and even, due to the strange effect of its curious smell — the headache poppy.

Cascading down the walls of the Tower of London are thousands of ceramic red poppies and they are promised to fill the moat before November 11, Armistice Day.

Members of the public are invited to pay 25 quid to acquire a poppy for themselves. Some of the money goes to a coalition of military charities. The poppies will stay in the Tower until November and then be despatched to those who have purchased them.

There are plenty of poppies to buy — 888,246 in fact — one for each of the brave British tommies who laid down their lives in the blood and gore of the first world war.

The poppies at the Tower are an amazing sight — the thought behind it a noble one. But as you would expect every dodgy politician from the prime minister down, every gung-ho blood and thunder Colonel Blimp is getting in on the PR act.

Even junior royals like Prince Harry, this time not wearing his Gestapo uniform,

Actually, it was an uniform of Adolf Hitler’s Afrika Korps.

and William and Kate are trooping along to the Tower to plant a poppy to ensure a spot on the six o’clock TV news.

It’s too good an opportunity to miss. Wrap a bit of the glorious dead’s glory round you.

Commercial sponsors haven’t been slow to get in on the act either. There’s a Spanish sounding bank, a big city insurance firm and millionaire’s law firm …

Let’s leave this whole pathetic story and take a look at the amazing plant itself.

The poppy has evolved and found itself a unique evolutionary niche. We don’t really know where it originated. North Africa probably, or perhaps ancient Persia.

We do know how it travelled. It hitched a lift in the clay jars of seed corn that ancient traders trafficked all over the known world.

Ancient farmers in Britain, Flanders and just about everywhere else would buy a bushel or so of seed from a passing Phoenician and the free gift would be a bunch of colourful scarlet weeds.

They soon discovered that the poppy seed had plenty of uses in bread and cakes and boiled up in a tea it even possessed magical curative powers.

It had developed its tiny rock hard seed to last a long time before it landed up somewhere it could grow.

Did you know that some poppy seeds found in funereal jars in ancient tombs have been successfully germinated?

That of course is the explanation of the huge flowering of poppies in Flanders. As shells, bombs and trench digging disturbed the soil, poppy seeds that had lain dormant so long got warmth, moisture and sunlight and burst into scarlet flower.

Up to 10 million soldiers were killed in WWI. Estimates of civilian deaths top 1.4m.

As the men returned home, many of them with shell-shock, or what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, they had stories to tell.

Those who had seen such horrors in Belgium and northern France also would tell a much brighter story of the extraordinary beauty, persistence and profusion of the fragile but defiant flower — the blood red corn poppy.

Strangely, it was returning north American soldiers who first adopted the red poppy as an emblem.

Canadian doctor John McCrae had captured the beauty, symbolism and pathos of the poppy in a poem: In Flanders fields the poppies blow/Between the crosses, row on row,/That mark our place; and in the sky/ The larks, still bravely singing, fly/Scarce heard amid the guns below…

This music video by British punk band Siouxsie and the Banshees is the song Poppy Day, based on McCrae’s poem.

US organisations arranged for artificial poppies to be made by women in war-torn France. The money raised went to children who had been orphaned by the war.

British soldiers too came back from the grimness of war to find that life wasn’t “fit for heroes” as they had been promised. Just like today returning heroes found the government off hand and tardy dealing with their problems.

Some organised themselves into ex-servicemen’s societies of various political opinions and of varying degrees of militancy. In 1921 many of these organisations united to form the British Legion.

Its purpose was to provide support and to fight for the rights of ex-servicemen, especially the disabled, and their families. In fact what actually happened was it became one of the richest British charities ever.

In 1921 it bought one-and-a-half million of those French made artificial poppies and sold them to the British public raising over ten thousand pounds. Poppy day had been invented.

Soon it set up its own poppy factory, with disabled ex-servicemen making the poppies. Today they produce and sell over 45m lapel poppies, 120,000 wreaths and one million small wooden remembrance crosses.

Not everyone is happy to wear the red poppy. Some see them as glorifying war and militaristic thinking. In many people’s eyes they have become a badge of jingoism and a justification of recent wars.

The British Legion adopted as its slogan: “Honour the dead, care for the living” but even in the week David Cameron and Nick Clegg and various other ministers paraded themselves at the British Legion commemorative church service it was announced that claims for compensation from recently serving military personnel, often wounded in battle, were taking 10 times as long as before the latest Con-Dem round of spending cuts.

The idea of detaching the poppy from a militaristic culture dates back as far as 1926.

The No More War Movement suggested that the British Legion should be asked to imprint “No More War” in the centre of the red poppies instead of “Haig Fund” and failing this pacifists should make their own flowers.

Douglas “Butcher” Haig was the British general who had ordered so many of his troops to their deaths at the Battle of the Somme — one of the worst bloodbaths in British military history.

When it came to lions led by donkeys, Haig was certainly our biggest donkey — two million brave lions died under his orders.

The Legion choose to keep Haig’s name on their poppies until 1994.

In 1933 the first white poppies appeared on Armistice Day, mostly home-made and worn mainly by members of the Co-operative Women’s Guild.

Just a year later the Peace Pledge Union was formed and it began widespread distribution of white peace poppies in November each year.

Just as today, it took real courage and real commitment to wear the white peace poppy.

So which will you wear? My wife Ann always wears a red poppy. She wears it in proud memory of her dad Fred who always wore his red poppy in memory of his own father, another Fred, Ann’s grandfather.

Grandfather Fred died in France in 1917. He had been in France just days and his body was never found. He left a widow and four children including young Fred then aged just six. Fred’s red poppy was the only memorial to his dad he ever had. No wonder he wore it with pride.

This year our 14-year-old grandson, who also has the middle name Frederick, was at Tyne Cot cemetery with his dad and his family to pay tribute to his namesake, five generations before, who made the ultimate sacrifice at the Battle of the Somme.

So wear your poppy, red or white or both with pride. They aren’t about glorifying war and militaristic thinking. They are about the respect each of us feels for those who paid the greatest price in the futility of war.

Save Irish Rathlin island golden hares, petition


This video says about itself:

Rathlin’s Golden Hare, Ireland

22 June 2008

Join Wyllie O Hagan in an evening encounter with Ireland’s Award Winning Wildlife Photographer Tom Mc Donnell.

See Rathlin Island from a photographer’s viewpoint. You will have seen Rathlin Island‘s seals, puffins and bird sanctuary before. Here we share with Youtubers the first video recorded sighting of the Island’s famous “Golden Hare”. Wyllie O Hagan filmed this footage of the hare on Rathlin Island in May 2008.

It was an extraordinary event, and this is the inspiration for O Hagan’s next relief print which will accompany “The Wild Swans at Coole“.

See the artist make the print here.

From the 38 Degrees site, this petition:

Save Rathlin Island Hares

To: Minister Mark Durkan, DOE

Make Rathlin Island into a hare reserve and reintroduce special protection for hares in Northern Ireland.

Why is this important?

This is important because the hare is being hunted out of existence on Rathlin, with a shooter being brought in by local farmers – apparently hares eat too much grass and are considered a pest. This beautiful animal is an integral part of our wildlife and heritage. Rathlin used to be one of its strongholds in Northern Ireland and people still come from all over the world to see these animals, including the rare genetic variant – the Golden Hare. Surely these amazing animals have a right to survival on their island home, where we can enjoy them for years to come. Once they are gone, like in so many other places in Northern Ireland, they are gone. Please help us protect them before it’s too late.

Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem commemorates World War I dead


This classical music video is called Benjamin Britten – War Requiem.

By Gordon Parsons in Britain:

Britten masterpiece fitting reminder of WWI carnage

Tuesday 19th August 2014

War Requiem

Usher Hall

5/5

THERE could be no more fitting work to recognise the centenary of “the war to end wars” than this great pacifist statement by Benjamin Britten on the pity of global conflict. This must be one of the most dramatic of requiem masses.

There is throughout an angry ironic exchange between the words of the conventional Latin Mass for the Dead, with its religious message of damnation and prayerful appeals for salvation, and the interwoven anti-war poetry of the greatest of war poets, Wilfred Owen.

The opening aeternam, a plea for eternal rest, is followed by Owen’s bitterly sad sonnet Anthem For Doomed Youth, with the memorable opening line of: “What passing bells for those who die as cattle?”

Throughout, the poems puncture the complacent profundities of the religious scenario.

Britten’s music, which spine-chillingly captures the Armageddon of battle and the helpless and hapless lament of the senseless slaughter, progressively draws the two worlds together.

It climaxes when the enemies on the battlefield meet in death — “I was the enemy you killed my friend … let us sleep now” — meet with the ethereal voices of boys wishing these martyrs to rest in peace.

Andrew Davis conducts the massed musical ranks of the Philharmonic Orchestra, the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, Scotland’s National Boys Choir and three international soloists in an ascent from a standing start to magnificent heights, while chorus master Christopher Bell induces some stunning choral singing.

German baritone Matthias Goerne and English tenor Toby Spence as the enemy soldiers truly are the voices of suffering humanity while Uzbek soprano Albina Shagimuratova thrills as the voice of the angel. Magnificent.

British journalism and conspiracy theories


This Bob Dylan music video from the USA is called John Birch Paranoid Blues {Live at Town Hall 1963} – Elston Gunn. The lyrics of the song are here.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Chapman Pincher: was he the Sixth Man?

Tuesday 19th August 2014

PETER FROST has a chuckle as he remembers a Grub Street journalist who thought just about everybody was a Soviet spy

IT WAS in the pages of the Daily Express in the late 1950s that I first came across Chapman Pincher.

The Express bylined Pincher as the world’s greatest reporter — and he certainly agreed.

He wasn’t, of course. But he did seem to have some interesting stories and he seemed immune to some of the D-notices and other techniques that the Establishment used in those days to keep so many scandals out of the papers.

Reaching my teenage years in the 1950s and early ’60s I got my ideas about the world and politics and what would be my lifelong love affair with print journalism from all kinds of newspapers.

At home we had the News Chronicle until it stopped publication in 1960, and the left-wing Daily Herald until 1964 when it tragically transmogrified into the Sun.

In 1961 I discovered a scrappy little magazine called Private Eye and also developed a soft spot for the Daily Mirror and its Labour politics.

I would buy an occasional copy of the Daily Worker. It changed its name to the Morning Star in 1966 and by then I was reading it regularly.

But alas I must admit most of the news and analysis in my youth came from some good right-wing Fleet Street Tory rags.

I loved the pre-Murdoch News of the World — then the biggest circulation newspaper in the whole globe.

Salacious stories of defrocked vicars, poltergeists, gangsters and dodgy spiritualists and their ectoplasm. What more could a young teenage boy want?

However, Pincher, in the Express, always seemed to get some of the best, most interesting stories.

Scoops they used to call them, and in Pincher’s scoops there was usually someone, often rich, posh or powerful, accused of being a Soviet spy.

Some were amazing speculations. He believed half the Labour Party and all of the trade union movement were in the pay of the Kremlin. No-one escaped his accusations, including prime minister Harold Wilson.

Most of his stories took him into the murky world of spies and double agents — almost always the world of communism and the Soviet Union, although it is true he wrote about the US atomic bomb before any US newspaper.

I read with amused fascination and a little chuckle when Pincher published stories about the Cambridge Four — or was it Five? — Kim Philby, Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt, all undercover communists who had infiltrated and embarrassed post-war British intelligence so comprehensively.

Then came speculation into the so-called “Fifth Man.” Was it John Cairncross, James Klugman, Victor Rothschild, Guy Liddell or some other suspect?

Pincher came down heavy on former MI5 director general Roger Hollis and seemed to make this search and speculation a full-time occupation. It sometimes seemed to me Pincher was obviously the Sixth Man.

He did some good. As early as 1967, he revealed that British intelligence was reading the cables and telegrams of private citizens. That story is, of course, still unfolding today.

As well as newspaper articles he wrote more than 30 books. Best known is Their Trade is Treachery in 1981.

His sources for this book were the criminal Tory minister Jonathan Aitkin (Eton, Oxford, prison) and Spycatcher author Peter Wright, who himself betrayed and so upset his British intelligence masters.

In his book, Pincher argued that Hollis was a Soviet spy. It was typical Pincher stuff and not unexpectedly several investigations, even one by prime minister Margaret Thatcher, never actually proved Hollis guilty.

What isn’t well known is that Pincher started his own career as a spy. He worked on secret rocket weapons while serving in the British army.

He sold some of this top secret information to an old mate on the Daily Express defence desk. In return the Express offered him a job.

His politics were obviously Establishment and Tory and anti-Labour but that didn’t stop Tory prime minister Harold Macmillan writing in 1959: “Can nothing be done to suppress or get rid of Pincher?”

A more balanced view on Pincher came from ex-communist and famed historian EP Thompson, who in the New Statesman in 1978 described Pincher as “a kind of official urinal where high officials of MI5 and MI6 stand side by side patiently leaking their secrets.”

Pincher loved this judgement from someone he considered a wily old enemy. He said it was his greatest professional compliment.

Pincher, when he died aged 100 earlier this month, turned his own death into a newspaper story.

Announcing his death, his son Michael passed on a last and typical quote from his father — “Tell them no more scoops.”

I guess we should all be grateful for that.

Peter Frost blogs at frostysramblings.wordpress.com.

Actor Bob Hope’s bigamy, other revelations


This 1972 video is called Bob Hope’s Final Vietnam Christmas Tour.

In this video, everything looked like being alright.

Looked. But is wasn’t alright. Around this military base where Bob Hope performed, the bloody Vietnam war raged.

Though it was Christmas, and Bob Hope in the video sang a Christmas song, at the same time the biggest ever bombing campaign by US B-52 aircraft took place. The United States Air Force dropped at least 20,000 tonnes of explosives on North Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. More than 1,000 Vietnamese died.

And everything wasn’t alright with Bob Hope either.

From the Daily Express in Britain:

The shocking truth about Bob Hope the bigamist actor

A SECRET first marriage, countless affairs and a childhood spent behind bars an explosive new book reveals the shocking truth about the Hollywood star.

By: Peter Sheridan

Saturday, August 16, 2014

When Bob Hope celebrated his 50th anniversary with wife Dolores, the legendary entertainer explained the longevity of their union: “I’ve only been home for three weeks in 50 years.” The marriage endured 69 years until Hope’s death at 100 but his quip was painfully close to the truth, according to an explosive new biography.

The British-born star of film, TV and stage kept his marriage alive despite a lifetime of clandestine affairs and was an often-absent husband and father to his four adopted children, claims author Richard Zoglin in Hope: Entertainer Of The Century.

“Bob Hope had affairs with chorus girls, beauty queens, singers and showbiz wannabes up into his 70s,” reveals Zoglin, “He had a different girl on his arm every night. He was still having affairs into his 80s.”

The writer exposes the shocking private life Hope spent decades concealing: his childhood behind bars in reform school, his secret first marriage to a Vaudeville star and his aloof relationship with frequent screen co-star Bing Crosby.

“He was a narcissistic, self-centred man who put career before family,” says Zoglin. “He craved applause and desperately needed to be loved. He could sleep with anyone he wanted, and he did.”

Hope found fame in films including The Cat And The Canary, The Paleface, and opposite Bing Crosby in The Road To Singapore and its five sequels. His TV specials topped ratings for many years and he entertained US troops through the Second World War and conflicts in Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf. He has been commemorated on stamps and had ships, bridges, museums, villages, streets and an airport named in his honour.

His marriage to nightclub singer Dolores Reade was considered one of Hollywood’s most successful and enduring, yet it was founded on a lie and may never have even been a legal marriage, the author discovered.

“Bob and Dolores always claimed that they married in February 1934 in Erie, Pennsylvania. But at that time he was secretly married to his Vaudeville partner Louise Troxell, after three years together on and off,” says Zoglin. “I found divorce papers for Bob and Louise dated November 1934, so either Bob Hope was a bigamist or he lied about marrying Dolores in February that year.

“He’d actually married Louise in January 1933 in Erie when they were travelling on the Vaudeville circuit. When he claimed he had married Dolores in Erie he was actually miles away in New York, on Broadway.

“More intriguing, there is no record anywhere of his marriage to Dolores, if it happened. And there are no wedding photos, either. But he never forgot Louise and quietly sent her money in her later years.”

Hope found fame in films often playing a wise-cracking, girl-chasing, blustering coward: a character bearing more than a passing resemblance to the real Hope.

“He had women in every port,” says Zoglin “He had affairs with Ethel Merman and Doris Day but usually it was not his co-stars but starlets that he bedded. His team of writers remember an orgy in his New York hotel room one night, with naked bodies everywhere. But some lovers were more long-term. Marilyn Maxwell became his lover in the 1950s and was with him so often people called her Mrs Hope. She wanted to marry him but Dolores wouldn’t give Bob a divorce.

“In the 1960s his lover was Welsh beauty queen Rosemarie Frankland, Britain’s first Miss World. He moved her to Hollywood, paid for her apartment and told friends she was the love of his life. Their affair lasted more than 30 years. Even in his 80s he had a long-term affair which must have been serious because his lover later sued for breach of contract claiming that Hope had promised to support her for life. The case was settled out of court.

“Dolores came to an understanding with Hope. He could play around as long as he never brought his mistresses home and never embarrassed her publicly.

“It was actually a very good marriage, except for his serial infidelity.” Yet Hope’s womanising may have been a result of a love-starved, impoverished childhood with a boozing absentee father and a mother struggling to cope with seven sons.

“His father was a neglectful alcoholic who wasn’t there much and money was tight,” says Zoglin. “He was born Leslie Townes Hope in Eltham in south-east London but the family moved to Weston-super-Mare, then Bristol, to smaller and smaller houses, until they moved to America when Bob was four.”

It was a troubled upbringing. He sleepwalked through city streets, so his mother tied his feet to his older brother each night. After brushes with the law, Hope dropped out of school at 15.

“He had a tough childhood, was arrested for shoplifting, branded a ‘delinquent’ and sent to reform school for seven months. He got out but broke his probation and was sent back for another year. Yet he never mentioned it in his memoirs. At 19 he was stabbed in a fight, supposedly defending a local girl from a gang. He needed a blood transfusion and stitches but never spoke about it.”

After doing a series of jobs, ranging from shoe salesman to butcher and boxer to dance instructor, Hope landed in Vaudeville, dancing with Siamese twins and in hard times on street corners for pennies, before winning his big Hollywood break in 1938. Yet with fame came more travel, keeping him from his four adopted children.

Hope’s nephew Tom Malatesta told the author: “Everything else in his life was not as important as what he was doing for a living.”

Says Zoglin: “It was hard for all his children. They felt his absence. He just wasn’t home much. And when he was home, it felt like a star visiting, rather than a loving father. He was always emotionally detached and insular. He’d never admit a mistake or say he was sorry. Fame and travel made him even more distant.”

Despite Hope making six movies with Bing Crosby, Zoglin reveals: “They were not close friends and even when living nearby they rarely socialised. Bob told a friend he simply didn’t like Bing very much.”

Dorothy Lamour, who got second billing after Crosby and above Hope in their first Road movie in 1940, came to detest both co-stars, who reduced her role in each successive film.

“Bob and Bing formed a production company in 1947 to produce sub sequent Road movies and didn’t include Lamour in the deal,” says Zoglin. “She was very upset. When the last Road movie was filmed in 1961, Bob and Bing decided Lamour was too old, even though she was younger than both of them, and hired Joan Collins instead, giving Dorothy just a small cameo. She was outraged.”

And Hope was a tough boss. “His team of writers loved him but they were on call 24/7 and had no lives of their own,” says Zoglin.

One writer had to give up his home on occasions to allow for Hope’s illicit trysts. His co star Katharine Hepburn called him “the biggest egomaniac”.

A shrewd investor, Hope owned vast land holdings, television stations, ranches, oil wells, and his own production company, making him one of America’s wealthiest men.

However, Zoglin explains: “Growing up in the Depression left him extremely tight fisted. He watched every cent. When relatives stayed at his home he sometimes charged them for using his phone.”

Hope hit his movie heyday in the 1950s and ruled over American TV for another three decades but by the 1980s his act was looking dated. Hope’s unquestioning patriotism that had won millions of American hearts when he was entertaining troops during the 1940s and 1950s earned him a legion of enemies in the 1970s as he supported the Vietnam War and poked fun at hippies and anti war protesters.

“Bob lingered too long in the limelight, continuing to make TV specials in his 80s even as his eye sight and hearing faded and he became doddery,” says Zoglin.

“He showed signs of dementia, repeating himself and asking the same question over and over. It damaged his reputation and his family had to persuade him to step down.

“But he found it hard to let go of the applause and adulation. He felt his life had no meaning without it. He’d grown up insecure in an unstable home and needed public affirmation to survive. Perhaps his womanising was a reflection of that need to be loved.”

If Hope’s infidelities were a weight on his wife’s mind, you wouldn’t know it from her golden anniversary gift to him – though it may have contained a subtle barb. Dolores gave Hope a paperweight, with the inscription: “Don’t think these three weeks haven’t been fun!”

Spanish dictator Franco’s mass graves uncovered


This video says about itself:

Exhumations, Memory, and the Return of Civil War Ghosts in Spain

21 May 2014

Francisco Ferrandiz, Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

Since 2000, the exhumation of mass graves from the Spanish Civil War and the Post-War years, mostly involving the largely abandoned graves of civilians killed in the Francoist rearguard by paramilitary groups, has become a central element in contemporary social and political debates in the country about the nature of the armed conflict and the dictatorial regime following it. Although exhumations have become a crucial tool for symbolic reparation and have triggered claims for justice for the crimes committed and now unearthed, the social process unleashed by their opening is way larger, and relates to the emergence of a fragmented and heterogeneous political culture focused on the memory of the defeated in the war. This emergent political culture is expressed in multiple acts of ‘memory recovery’ and ‘dignification’ of the diverse victims of Francoism beyond exhumations, in political acts such as concerts, homages, book publishing, street renaming, battleground tourism, pressure over Francoist monuments, or even academic conferences.

In this talk, the complexity and dynamism of this process is analysed, including from political and legal initiatives of great social and media impact to local actions on the ground, at times failed, ephemeral or almost imperceptible, but no less crucial. Regional differences, associated to uneven public memory policies, will also be considered. In the last few years, the politics of dignification of those defeated in the war is increasingly incorporating elements drawn from international law, such as the concept of ‘crimes against humanity’ or the category of ‘forced disappearence.’ This revitalization of the memory of the defeated in the Civil War has also been accompanied by a resurgence of winners in the war, which have inaugurated an active brand of neofrancoism.

Dr. Ferrandiz is a staff researcher interested in the anthropology of the body, violence and social memory (in Latin America and in Spain), with focus on the analysis on the current process of exhumation of mass graves from the Civil War (1936-9). To cite only a few, his ranging interests include cultural memory, human rights, forensic archaeology, forensic anthropology, to crimes against humanity.

Session 8 in the public, one-credit course Reframing Mass Violence: Human Rights and Social Memory in Latin America and Southern Europe.

Organized by the IAS Reframing Mass Violence Research Collaborative. Cosponsored by the Human Rights Program, and the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. This talk occurred on May 8, 2014, from 3:00-4:30pm in 1-109 Hanson Hall.

By Alejandro López in Spain:

Mass graves from Spain’s civil war uncovered

18 August 2014

The Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory has found mass graves in the Estépar Mountains on the outskirts of the Spanish northern city of Burgos.

A team consisting of 50 Spanish archaeologists, anthropologists and forensic scientists estimates that four mass graves could include between 300 to 400 corpses.

Archaeologist Juan Montero told El Diario, “We have managed to contact sixty families. Everyone is well aware that given the large number of mass graves and the lack of economic resources, due to there being zero government involvement, the tasks of identifying the victims are going to be tremendously complex.”

This music video from Spain is called Ave Maria, Antonio José, BURGOS 2012 03 10.

Among those who are said to be buried there are the composer Antonio José Burgos and his brother Julio, and the father of the writer Francisco Ayala, the last representative of the poets and writers of the Generation of 1927. …

According to local historian José Ignacio Casado, most victims come from those who were arrested and then released. Waiting for them were Falangists, soldiers and members of the Guardia Civil, who would execute them in what were known as “sacas” or “paseos” (“strolls”). Many of these prisoners were released from jails and concentration camps, driven to isolated places at dawn and shot.

The number of bodies in each grave matched the number of released prisoners who stayed in Burgos prison. Ignacio explained to El Diario, “I can tell you that it is those who left prison on September 29 and 30, 1936. Some cases may vary, but we can know who they were by identifying them and their ages with the documentation on those released from the prisons.”

Witnesses described to the Internet daily Público how the victims were executed. After being arrested, and to prevent them from cheering liberty and republic, they were gagged with straps, which were then washed in vomit and saved for the next execution. The executioners forced them to dig their own graves. They were shot at close range, and finished off with rifle butts.

Burgos witnessed one of the most notorious repressions during the Civil War. It is estimated that 2,500 people were executed, mainly consisting of members of the trade unions UGT and CNT, local politicians and mayors of Izquierda Repúblicana, and members of the Socialist Party (PSOE), and in some cases peasants and workers whose crime had been to claim unpaid wages.

According to Paul Preston’s The Spanish Holocaust, 200,000 people were executed between 1936 to 1945 by the fascists.

The regime of General Franco and post-Franco revisionist historiography have justified the repression as a response to the “red terror”. In fact, the fascist repression was planned well in advance, targeting the organised working class and any whom they deemed oppositionists.

In May 1936, two months ahead of the coup, General Mola, in charge of the northern sector, passed instructions to the military bases: “The action must be extremely violent as soon as possible to reduce the enemy, which is strong and well-organised. Of course, we will arrest all the leaders of the political parties, associations or unions that are not affiliated with the [National] movement, applying exemplary punishment to those individuals in order to strangle rebel movements or strikes.”

On July 19, two days after the coup, Mola sent another order: “It is necessary to spread terror, eliminating without scruples or hesitation all those who do not think as we do…. All those who oppose the victory of the movement to save Spain will be shot.”

Since the death of Franco and the end of the fascist dictatorship in 1978, successive governments have attempted to cover up the crimes of fascist regime.

After its election in the 2011, the Popular Party (PP) government of Mariano Rajoy reduced by 60 percent the budgets dedicated to the Law of Historical Memory (LHM), passed by the previous Socialist Party government, and abolished the Office of Victims of the Civil War and the Dictatorship, which coordinated the exhumation of the remains of those that disappeared. For 2013-2014, the budget for LHM ceased to exist, forcing the associations dedicated to recovering the remains to rely on donations.

Last September, the Popular Party government refused to extradite four fascists indicted by Argentinean judge María Romilda Servini, who declared that under universal jurisdiction they could be charged under international law if the Spanish judiciary did not carry out prosecution.

This came four years after judge Baltasar Garzón, who began an investigation into Franco-era crimes, was subjected to an intense campaign of vilification that led to his prosecution and being barred from practising as a judge for 11 years.

Against Servini, the PP and the opposition PSOE closed ranks in defence of the 1977 Amnesty Law, passed during the transition from fascism to bourgeois democracy following Franco’s death in 1975, which prevents any reckoning and investigation into the crimes committed during the Spanish Civil War and the dictatorship. In response, the former leader of the Stalinist-led United Left, Gaspar Llamazares, called for a mere modification of the law.

The government has remained completely silent on the latest list of recommendations sent in July by the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, which call for a “schedule indicating the measures that will be taken.”

While the recommendations are not binding, Madrid has an obligation to reply.

The efforts to conceal the past crimes are not motivated only by historic concerns. Under conditions where the economic crisis and austerity have caused 21 percent of the population to be classified as poor, where 2.3 million children—27.5 percent of the total—live under the poverty line, and where 25 percent of workers are unemployed, the same conditions that led to the revolutionary explosions of the 1930s and the ruling class’s pre-emptive counter-revolution, are being created.

The ruling class sees the need to justify past dictatorships in order to set up a new one and to smash any opposition to austerity and imperialist war.

Anti-Iraq war protests, new film


This video from Britain is called We Are Many: the day the world said no to Iraq war.

By Marienna Pope-Weidemann:

‘If only they listened’ — world’s largest anti-war protest captured in doco

Thursday, August 14, 2014

We Are Many
Directed by Amir Amirani
June 2014

February 15, 2003. We know it was the biggest protest in world history. We know that millions of people who’d never before felt like they could make their voices heard by taking action, marched in the streets of 800 cities to say “Not In Our Name”; that they dared hope for peace, but were committed by their governments to a bloody and illegal war.

As it became apparent that public opposition to the Iraq War just wasn’t enough, the hollow nature of our political democracy unveiled itself for the nation.

The one solution was escalation. If all those people had kept coming back, if mass civil disobedience and strike action had followed, who knows what might have become possible.

But instead of an explosion in political consciousness, as the body count kept rising and the lies kept coming, defeatism settled like snow over many, for whom the movement born in the shadow of 9/11, died in March 2003.

Amir Amirani’s We Are Many tells the other story — of those who believed, as Damon Albarn puts it, that “if you keep coming back, you will make the change”.

February 2003 anti-Iraq war demonstration in McMurdo, Antarctica

From the scientists fired for protesting in Antarctica and the guys who painted “NO WAR” on the Sydney Opera House, to the eruption of the Egyptian revolution and what was almost our war on Syria, this film — a ground-breaking documentary with the feel of an epic saga — joins the dots beautifully.

Through a patchwork of interviews with campaigners from Britain, the US, Europe and Egypt, it gives voice to the enduring hope and outrage that still today finds no expression in establishment politics.

Punctuated with breathtaking shots of some of the most momentous mass demonstrations of the past decade, these interweaving narratives never shrink from reflecting the anguish and despair of 2003, which makes for an honest and deeply moving film.

But they build on each other like an orchestral performance guaranteed to blast the cobwebs off anyone’s political will. Amirani’s uncompromising honesty is matched only by his unbridled appreciation for what he describes as that “mass, heroic act”.

Made real by 30 million people in 57 countries — numbers sufficient to inspire even without the artistic cinematography — we hear how this unprecedented outburst of public opposition “followed the sun” that day: starting in the South Pacific, then in north Asia, then south, onwards through India, Russia, down into Africa, across Europe and then, finally, America.

For Amirani the beauty of that historic moment remains untouched by the destruction that followed.

We Are Many speaks with particular power, I think, to my own generation, many of whom were radicalised in part by the Iraq War.

I was 12 when I watched February 15 march on TV. It felt for a moment like anything was possible and was the first time, really, that I felt conscious of a great mass of likeminded people in society who were actively trying to change the world.

After that, mine was the first generation to grow up as an audience to televised warfare. We understood war in a new way because we saw its the harrowing consequences played out on our screens; and while the outrage was immediate, so too was the disaffection — I could never understand why my grandmother kept writing her eloquent anti-war letters to No. 10 when it seemed so self-evident that they would never listen.

But while the government may not have been listening, there were plenty of others who were and while the world wasn’t watching, they never stopped mobilising. February 15 played a catalysing role for the Egyptian movement, to name one example.

In the film, Egyptian activists chart their course from 2003 right to the 2011 uprising in Tahrir Square. More than anything, and certainly when viewed in the context of all that’s happened since, We Are Many is a testament to their daily refusal to give up and go home.

Those who know the story well will see much that is missing from the subsequent struggles of the anti-war movement, but that is to be expected from a film of this length.

These unavoidable editorial decisions were taken with intelligence, and give the latter part of the film the space to highlight what happened here in Britain: the sustaining of Stop the War Coalition throughout those years, right into the build up to war against Syria.

The film creates a powerful sense of what it had taken to promote a counter-narrative about British foreign policy throughout the years of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan, the bombings elsewhere and a “war on terror” at home.

Despite the rhetoric of politicians and the corporate media, and despite historic disaffection with politics generally, it brought the true cost and futility of these wars into the light of day.

As the footage shows, the strength of public opposition and the memory of being “duped” over Iraq surfaced time and again during the parliamentary debate on Syria. But as we all know, politicians have short memories of their crimes unless there is a relentless collective effort outside the halls of power not to let them forget.

On the night of its screening at the Soho Hotel in London, several audience members who have withdrawn from activism since 2003 spoke afterwards of how their memory of February 15 had been completely coloured by watching this film.

They felt a decade of despondency being dispelled. That is the greatest testament to the film, a reflection of its purpose and an illustration of why hosting screenings should be an organisational priority for local activist groups.

Today, with Iraq in flames, Gaza under attack and growing instability throughout Africa and the Middle East, we need this movement to keep growing into something stronger, for which no demonstration is ever the end-game and every defeat is a renewed call for action.

Telling this story is essential to making that case because power will never confess that its arm has been bent by the people; if we as a movement don’t preserve and celebrate our history, they will happily erase it.

What I was left with after the screening was an overwhelming sense of pride, conviction and a renewed respect for everyone I know who helped build the biggest protest in world history, sustained that movement for a decade and ultimately made a decisive contribution to world history by giving people the awareness and the confidence they needed to give a resounding “no” over Syria.

This cost British Prime Minister David Cameron a parliamentary vote for war for the first time in 200 years.

For Amirani, We Are Many is an attempt to “give something back” to the anti-war movement and it really is a remarkable gift.

It reunites all those who participated in the making of that day and connects all their contributions to, as the late Tony Benn famously put it on the day, “starting something really big”.

The film is a powerful reminder that it was bigger than many of them realised. I have no doubt that next time we come together, we’ll see faces in the crowd not seen for eleven years because of it.

[Reprinted from the British Stop the War Coalition. We Are Many is also working to re-build this global network by creating an online community and digital archive where you can connect, share your February 15 story and help raise money for the project.]

Bird songs and visual arts


This August 2014 video says about itself:

Nightingale and Canary

Australian artist Andy Thomas specializes in creating ‘audio life forms’: beautiful abstract shapes that react to sounds. In this animated short, he visualizes two recorded bird sounds from the archives of the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision [beeldengeluid.nl] in Hilversum.

This video, from Victoria, Australia, also by Andy Thomas, is called Whip Bird Sound Sculpture test 1.