Heroes and villains of 2017


This video from England says about itself:

March Against Theresa May and DUP – London 17 June 2017

17 June 2017

Today thousands of people marched across the UK to protest the coalition between Theresa May and the DUP. This is a video of the march in London, Whitehall, Westminster. For many people, Theresa May simply needs to resign.

By Ben Cowles in Britain:

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Heroes and villains of 2017

BEN COWLES sorts the good eggs from the rotten scoundrels of the year

VILLAINS

THE ROYAL FAMILY

Much like last year, 2017 has been a bit of a disaster as the seeds sown in 2016 began to bear bitter fruit.

But at least we have the distraction of Harry Windsor and Meghan Markle’s royal wedding, a no-expense-spared shindig that we all get to pay for but aren’t invited to, or even have the day off work for.

This royal extravagance comes at a time when the government continues to decimate public services and stand idly by as homelessness, child poverty and inequality continue to rise.

Elizabeth Windsor got a pay rise this year for doing whatever it is she does, while ever more nurses are forced to feed themselves at foodbanks.

Our blue-blooded head of state has even had her servants stash her taxpayer-funded dosh in offshore tax havens, ensuring that the public purse is bereft of yet more vital funds.

THE TORIES

Yes, it is trite to include the Tories on this list but they really surpassed themselves in 2017.

The fact that the they only managed to form a minority government after a needless snap general election by offering a £1 billion bung to Arlene Foster’s homophobic and misogynistic DUP should have taught them a few things.

Instead of reassessing their lives, the Tories have continued to gut our public services, decimate our environment, fail to tackle corporate tax avoidance, foster inequality, preside over a housing crisis, make a mockery of human rights, cower before US President Donald Trump and sell weapons to and politically support noxious regimes in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel and a host of other countries.

Despite public outrage, the Tories even tried to ignore the scandals involving former international development secretary Priti Patel’s clandestine dealings with Israel, the sexual harassment allegations of former defence secretary Michael Fallon and former first secretary Damian Green’s porn stash.

THE ‘ALT-RIGHT

Fascism is on the rise across the West, no doubt spurred on by the orange man in the White House and his former chief strategist Steve Bannon.

When the so-called “alt-right” marched through Charlottesville, Virginia — armed to the teeth, chanting racist slogans, lashing out at counter-protesters and even killing a 32-year-old woman by running her overTrump didn’t denounce them. In fact, he equated the protesters with the white supremacists.

Unfortunately the US is not the only country dabbling with fascism in 2017. In Britain, we saw the rise of new hate group the Football Lads Alliance.

In France the people were forced to choose between neoliberal favourite Emmanuel Macron or the god-awful Marine Le Pen.

Austria recently made the leader of the fascistic Freedom Party Heinz Christian Strache its vice-chancellor.

In Germany the far-right Alternative for Germany became the third-largest political party.

Poland’s hideously right-wing government has also been busy ripping up the country’s judicial system.

ROYAL BOROUGH OF KENSINGTON & CHELSEA

On June 14 over 70 people died in a blaze in the 24-storey Grenfell Tower block in north Kensington, one of London’s most affluent areas.

Believed to have been caused by a faulty fridge, the fire was fuelled by the cladding wrapped around the building in 2015 at a cost of £8.7 million at the behest of the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation to improve the building’s appearance.

For years, the RBKC ignored the health and safety warnings of the residents. Instead RBKC threatened to sue for defamation and harassment.

After the tragedy the Tory-run council continued to neglect the residents, leaving many of the survivors reliant on volunteers to provide them with the food and shelter that RBKC should have managed.

ANTI-MADURO BLAIRITES

After an inspiring general election in which Labour gained the highest number of votes since 1945, a few bitter and deluded Labour Party MPs took it upon themselves to launch a pointless proxy war on their party’s leadership by joining in the summer’s silly season attack on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s left-wing government and forming the all-party parliamentary group on Venezuela.

John Spellar, Graham Jones, Phil Wilson and David Watts ignored the progressive reforms that Maduro’s and before that Hugo Chavez’s governments introduced.

Their denunciations completely overlooked the the impact of the oil price collapse, the US’s economic interference and the violence perpetrated by right-wing paramilitary groups.

Where were these MPs’ cries for democracy when Michel Temer’s neoliberal coup ousted Brazil’s democratically elected president Dilma Rousseff?

Why have they said nothing about the Mexican government’s woeful response to the spiralling cartel violence?

HEROES

YOUNG LABOUR VOTERS

The turnout for the snap election was the highest it has been in 25 years. Much of the credit has be given to the hard work of the Labour Party’s social media campaigns and volunteers, Momentum, the NUS, campaigning organisations like Hope Not Hate and Bite the Ballot, and even grime stars like JME and Stormzy for galvanising the young to register with the Electoral Commission almost as soon as the election was called and to urge them to turn out and vote on election day.

More than half of 18 to 24-year-olds voted in June and around 60 per cent of them voted for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour.

Clearly the party’s For the Many Not the Few manifesto spoke to a generation the Tories have tried to screw over these past seven years.

This video from London, England says about itself:

Laura Pidcock MP – 27.06.2017, House of Commons Maiden Speech

Newly elected Labour Member of Parliament for North West Durham giving her maiden speech today in the House of Commons.

The article continues:

LAURA PIDCOCK

Since her maiden speech in the Commons, in which the 30-year-old pointed out the intimidating and confusing nature of Westminster, which was built “at a time when my class and my sex were denied a place within it because we were deemed unworthy”, the Labour MP for North West Durham has ruffled the feathers of the Tories and the Establishment with her unflinching commitment to her constituents and her class.

She has used her time in Parliament to call out the Tories’ callous attacks on the poor and their rolling back of the state.
As PIP began its disastrous rollout, she asked the Prime Minister whether the programme’s faults were a matter of “gross incompetence or calculated cruelty.”

GRENFELL TOWER SURVIVORS

Abandoned and left to fend for themselves, the Grenfell Tower survivors refused to remain silent about the tragedy which killed over 70 people.

Having been denied a voice in the public inquiry, residents of the tower block have taken their struggle to the streets and organised to not only highlight the blatant inequalities the Tories have fostered these past seven years, but also bring Britain’s housing crisis into the light.

MCSTRIKERS

McDonalds’ Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) members took on one of the world’s biggest and most pernicious companies this year and won.

The fast-food staff, who voted 95.7 per cent in favour of taking industrial action this August, went on strike over zero-hours, the living wage and trade union recognition.

The burger chain caved in to the strikers’ demands and confirmed its restaurants would offer fixed-hours contracts in all its restaurants.

The strikers drew in widespread support from across the labour movement, Jeremy Corbyn and shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey, as well as hundreds of thousands of progressives online.

FEMINISTS

From the women’s marches all across the world in the wake of Trump’s inauguration, to the #MeToo social media campaign in the wake of the disgusting Hollywood and Westminster sexual harassment allegations, the solidarity feminists showed this year was phenomenal.

En masse, ordinary women came together online to share their experiences of sexual harassment by rich and powerful men. Here in Britain it looked for a moment as if the Establishment was about to collapse as a slew of male MPs either resigned in shame or were suspended from their parties.

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British secret police plans to murder Irish Prime Minister


This video says about itself:

MI5 asked loyalists to kill Irish PM, documents show

29 December 2017

A loyalist paramilitary group sent a letter to the Irish prime minister claiming MI5 had asked them to assassinate him, newly released documents claim.The missive – supposedly written by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) – was addressed to Taoiseach Charles Haughey in 1987.

From daily The Independent in Britain today:

MI5 ‘asked paramilitary group to assassinate Irish prime minister’, newly disclosed documents reveal

‘We are not going to carry out work for the Dirty Tricks Department’, declassified letter to Charles Haughey says

Harry Cockburn

A protestant paramilitary group wrote to former Irish Prime Minister Charles Haughey to warn him that MI5 had asked them to assassinate him, according to newly disclosed documents.

The Ulster Volunteer Force – a loyalist group classified as a terrorist organisation by the UK – contacted Haughey during his third term as Taoiseach in 1987, claiming that two years earlier, an MI5 agent had provided information about his home, his cars and the yacht he used to reach his private island, and encouraged them to assassinate him.

The previously classified government documents were released under the thirty-year rule.

“In 1985 we were approached by a MI5 officer attached to the NIO [Northern Ireland office] and based in Lisburn, Alex Jones was his supposed name,” the UVF letter said. “He asked us to execute you.”

The UVF letter says they turned down the request, because they did not want to do the work of the UK’s “Dirty Tricks Department”.

In the letter to Haughey they wrote: “We refused to do it. We were asked would we accept responsibility if you were killed. We refused.

“We have no love for you but we are not going to carry out work for the Dirty Tricks Department of the British.”

The agent was said to have provided extensive information about Haughey’s vehicles, along with photographs of his home, details of his trips to Kerry airport, and pictures of the plane he used.

The threat was taken seriously at the time, and scuba divers were used to search the hull of Haughey’s boat for explosive devices.

The UVF letter said they believed the MI5 plot was designed to destroy the Irish economy, and also said the British planned to provide them with anthrax, and also the means of spreading foot and mouth disease, fowl pest, and other animal diseases.

The declassified papers also show that Ireland’s embassy in Australia received threatening and abusive calls after a statue of Queen Victoria which had been in storage for 40 years was given as a gift to the city of Sydney.

The embassy wrote to the Irish government in December 1987 to warn that the gesture had not been received well by some.

The message said: “In the days preceding the unveiling, you should be aware that the embassy received a number of threatening and abusive phone calls about the propriety of an Irish government giving a statue of Victoria as a gift.

“The callers demanded to know the name of who was going to represent the Irish government at the ceremony and to warn him/her to stay away.”

See also here.

British Big Garden Birdwatch, 27-29 January


This video from Britain says about itself:

26 December 2017

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2018 is taking place from the 27th to the 29th January. Visit www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch for your free pack!

British, Dutch governments spying on citizens


This 2014 video is called NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden says UK surveillance law “defies belief” | Guardian Interview.

By Julian Vigo in Britain:

British and Dutch states challenged on snooping

Thursday 23rd November 2017

As Liberty in the UK and Sleepwet in the Netherlands challenge the extent of state surveillance, JULIAN VIGO calls for public advocacy and local activism to protect the rights of privacy

The UK’s new web spying rules are taking shape despite the legislation governing it, the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA), having become law late last year. There is so much left unresolved about what this Act represents.

For instance, the IPA, also known as the “snoopers’ charter”, represents a massive extension of the surveillance power of the state. It requires internet companies to keep customers’ web traffic history for 12 months.

It also gives spying agencies and police powers the ability to conduct the mass hacking of IT infrastructures, personal computers, smartphones and any electronic device.

Just a year ago, National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden labelled this as “the most extreme surveillance in the history of Western democracy. It goes further than many autocracies.”

So why are the British not reacting?

The Dutch are set to have a national referendum about similar mass-surveillance after opponents of this “dragnet law,” or Sleepwet, gained enough signatures to demand a public vote.

According to Dutch law the government must hold a non-binding referendum on any issue if the country’s voting commission receives 300,000 signatures in request of such a vote. The campaigners of Sleepwet got over 417,000 signatures of which, the commission said, 384,126 were valid.

The regulator recommended in October that the referendum should take place on March 21 in order to coincide with municipal elections.

In July of this year, the Dutch senate cleared the Intelligence and Security Agencies Act which is quite similar to the UK’s Investigatory Powers Act.

It expands the governments’ powers to monitor all the data which moves through the country’s internet infrastructure.

Like the IPA, this law would also grant the government broad device-hacking powers, which means, practically speaking, that the government would have the legal authority to hack an entire town if it so chooses.

The organisers of Sleepwet claim that they are not trying to abolish the law, but they insist that there needs to be a legal basis for any targeted surveillance and they worry about the infringement of the basic rights to privacy and security.

As in the UK, one of the major concerns is the “untargeted interception of cable traffic and automated analysis of that data, which is basically mass surveillance,” according to Nina Boelsums, one of the five university students who initiated the call for a referendum.

Boelsums also calls into the question the hacking of third parties which she calls “an incentive for the intelligence agencies to collect zero-day vulnerabilities,” adding, “security experts are worried that that will actually make us less secure.”

What this also means is that data from all personal social media accounts, banking details, online purchases, social media, and personal information (ie sexual preferences, where your children go to school, etc) will be accessible to the government.

Like Sleepwet in the Netherlands, Liberty in the United Kingdom received more than 200,000 signatures on a petition calling for the repeal of the IPA after it became law last year.

Liberty has launched a legal challenge against the British government and this summer received the go-ahead from the High Court to challenge part of the government’s extreme mass surveillance regime with a judicial review of the IPA.

While groups like Amnesty International have called for an end to such legislation in the UK, they have been equally active in the Netherlands where the referendum was welcomed as a victory, albeit temporary, over the mass surveillance of people who pose no threat to national security.

The outcomes of Liberty’s lawsuit in the UK and Sleepwet’s referendum in the Netherlands are yet to be seen. But it will take public advocacy and local activism if we are to protect the basic rights of privacy and freedom from surveillance.

Stop British government’s wars


This 2015 video from Britain says about itself:

Veterans For Peace UK is a voluntary ex-services organisation of men and women who have served in every war that Britain has fought since WW2.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Activists declare: Britain’s foreign policy has failed

Thursday 16th November 2017

BRITAIN’S foreign policy has failed — we needs a change of direction and an anti-war government, campaigners declared yesterday.

The Stop the War Coalition launched its latest briefing, bringing together MPs, trade unionists and peace campaigners in Parliament, with Labour’s Chris Williamson in the chair.

Despite government denial over its military interventions, Britain is involved in seven theatres of war, Stop the War said, adding that the by-products have been an increased threat of terror attacks and a rise in racism.

The meeting heard how women have not been liberated 16 years after the war on Afghanistan despite it being one of the declared aims of the British and US invasion.

And, as a result of the war, 36 per cent of the population are on the poverty line and only 27 per cent have access to safe drinking water.

And British arms sales are being put above human rights with a 500 per cent increase in trade of missiles and other weapons with the Saudi regime since its bombing of Yemen began over two years ago.

The panel heard how Britain had been involved in “war after war after war” and due to US President Donald Trump’s belligerence the world has been brought to the brink of nuclear war.

The briefing explains how the century has been marked by a series of wars from the Balkans and Iraq to Afghanistan and the disaster of Libya.

The briefing aims to provide information for trade unionists, students and activists to win the arguments against the government’s drive for wars and argues for a “radically different foreign policy.”