The Berlin Street Market Killings: Reactionary legislation solves hardly anything

December 23, 2016

In the wake of the Berlin market truck killings, some voices are calling for the Schengen open borders policy in the European Union to be scrapped.  This is understandable on a visceral level – Anis Amri, a man who had been on terrorist watch lists, had apparently driven freely all over the Schengen area both before and after the killings – he had managed to travel over 1,000 miles around Europe in spite of an arrest warrant, and he was finally caught and slain by police in Milan, Italy; so he had successfully travelled from Germany to Italy while he was a high-profile murder suspect.  But scrapping the Schengen agreement because of the Amri case would be an example of reactionary legislation that would achieve very little but would pose problems for millions of law-abiding citizens.  Maybe trucks should be banned too?  After all, Amri used one to commit his crimes.

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Anis Amri, the Berlin truck murderer killed by police in Italy

It reminds me of the reactionary gun laws passed in Britain because of “lone gunman” cases: for instance, the Hungerford massacre when Michael Ryan used assault rifles to murder 16 people in 1987 led to a ban on automatic weapons; and the Dunblane atrocity when Thomas Hamilton entered the Dunblane Primary School in Scotland and used pistols to murder 15 children and their teacher caused the government to ban virtually all handguns as well as firearms such as hunting rifles.

These two UK examples of sweeping gun control reform after single atrocities have probably saved few, if any lives.  The assault rifles used by Ryan were extremely rare in any case, and the Dunblane massacre was down to insufficient vetting of Hamilton more than the law that allowed properly-vetted individuals to buy pistols for recreation or competition shooting; because of the post-Dunblane legislation, members of the 2012 British Olympic shooting teams were unable to train in Britain, and £42 million had to be spent on special facilities where the shooting events could take place, at Woolwich Royal Artillery Barracks – facilities that were demolished after the Games. Shooting sports bodies and some politicians argued that the money would have been better spent on the lasting legacy that would be gained by refurbishing and upgrading permanent facilities at the National Shooting Centre at Bisley, which would have cost a maximum of £30 million, and which would allow British competitive sports shooting teams to practice on home soil.

The ultimate irony of these reactionary legislations is that only law-abiding citizens are affected by the laws.  Criminals who want assault rifles or handguns can buy them anyway, on the black market, where they do not have to possess licences.  Any change to the Schengen agreement would have the same effect: stopping countless citizens to move freely in the European zone because of one evil man’s actions.  It is an erosion of rights similar to those we have seen in the USA – except of course in the States guns and bullets are trivial to buy.


Nuclear war with Iran called off… unless Trump gets elected

February 1, 2016

Back in 2007 I predicted that France was going to nuke Iran – Bernard Kouchner, who was French Minister of foreign and European affairs during Sarkozy’s presidential reign, all but push the buton himself, he was so pissed off with Iran.  Luckily level heads held sway at UN security council meetings, with fellow permanent members Russia and China tellin him to chill out before they stuffed the diplomatic version of stinky rugby socks in his big, bitey gob.

Now at last Iran has agreed to play by  the rules (even with spitful swine like the USA, the UK and France stacking the deck against them – the British government apparently “regards the deal as a great opening to the Iranians, to include them in the world and make them a good neighbor“, regardless of the Israeli/American distrust that they are still exhibiting even as companies all round the world bid for a role in repairing and reconstructing Iran’s neglected infrastructure.  Iran has been treated as a pariah for 35 years, and was not allowed to sell its considerable oil reserve wealth.  Now it can, and those other pesky permanent UN security council members Russia and China are up for a contract or two.

The mondoweiss.net piece shows how much hypocrisy and spite is involved in UN politics.  Iran was given the cold shoulder because they felt giving internationaql observers unfettered access was a surrender of their sovereign rights.  Now they have done all that was asked of them… and the USA and Israel still don’t want to play fair.  If I was an Iranian politician I would tell the Israelis and Americans to go screw themselves.  There are plenty of companies ready to relieve Iran of its recently-unfrozen assets.  Fair play, Iran!  Now don’t do anything to scare Israel or the USA.  They say you should never corner a vicious wild animal or it’ll have your hand off.  Israel and the USA are the wild animals in this scenario – please don’t poke Iran with a pointy stick “just to see what happens”.  America loves confrontation and war – it wins elections for hawkish presidents – and if Donald Trump’s attack-wig is let off its leash some serious damage might ensue.  Come on, people of America: there’s been a lot of war in that region for far too long.  Don’t dig yourself a bigger hole.  For fuck’s sake!

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Protest at Israeli drone factory in Birmingham planned for July 2015 – everyone welcome!

June 24, 2015

Activists standing in solidarity with Palestinians will attempt to shut down an Israeli arms
factory in England next month, on the anniversary of Israel’s military operation ‘Protective Edge’, which caused massive  destruction and loss of life in the Gaza strip last summer.  And to counteract the violent nature of the factory, the protest will take the form of “a creative and positive space that meets the needs of justice and solidarity, and not the needs of Israeli multinational corporations that export death for profit.”

Last year, news of the Israeli attacks on Gaza led to demonstrations such as nine activists who occupied the roof of he UAV Engines Ltd factory in Shenstone, near Birminham, which is owned by the Israeli arms company Elbit Systems. They shut down the drone engine factory for two days costing the company more than £180,000.

Rooftop protest at Elbit Systems last year.  This year's planned even will be far more peaceful and suitable for all the family.

Rooftop protest at Elbit Systems last year. This year’s planned even will be far more peaceful and suitable for all the family.

This year, on 6 July (the anniversary of the start of the onslaught on Gaza), a more organized demonstration  at Shenstone is planned.  “Block the Factory” will “be transforming the space around the arms factory, converting it from a site of destruction into a fun, creative and child-friendly environment”.

Elbit Systems makes engines for drones, surveillance equipment for the militarized USA/Mexico border and the Israeli Separation Wall, which breaches international law and stretches for hundreds of miles, dividing families and confiscating large swathes of fertile Palestinian land as it goes.  Elbit Systems is just one part of the massive arms industry that makes Israel  the largest per capita arms exporter in the world. Israel is the world’s second largest exporter of military drones, selling thousands all over the world.  And who makes the engines for the drones?  UAV Engines Ltd, whose factory is in Shenstone, near Birmingham.

From Mondoweiss.net:

‘Block the factory’ aims to turn the space around the factory into a fun, creative and inspiring place, rather than one associated with death, destruction, and injustice. Whether it’s by telling stories or holding workshops, making art or flying kites (not drones), playing music or sharing food together, it will be a space for activists to build support networks, find new allies and make new friends.

This mass action is part of the wider Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions  campaign (BDS) and the Stop Arming Israel Campaign, which call on the UK to end its extensive collaboration with the Israeli weapons industry and to institute a two-way arms embargo.  Many groups are involved in the day so far, including:

Boycott Israel Network, NUS Black Students’ Campaign, West Midlands PSC, Drone Campaign Network, Coventry Friends of Palestine, Smash EDO, Manchester Palestine Action, Glasgow Palestine Action, Campaign Against Arms Trade, Stop The Arms Faircoalition, War on Want, and London Palestine Action

The organisers want to make this an inclusive and family friendly affair, believing that diversity makes us better and stronger. So, whether you have never been on a protest before or are a seasoned activist, whether you are disabled, an older person, a younger person, whether you have five children or none, you are encouraged to come and help make this the biggest, most beautiful action yet at an arms factory in the UK.

Better still, there are ways to get yourself or your group actively involved. That could be running a workshop or a creative space, playing music or organising food, or even creating an activity session for children. The organisers stress that the action is what people make it, and welcome ideas and input.

Getting to the demo

Shenstone is a small village outside Birmingham, accessible by National Rail trains. If you are coming from outside Birmingham, this generally means travelling to Birmingham New Street and changing there.

Trains run roughly every 20 minutes from Birmingham New Street, and tickets cost around £4.50. Earliest trains are at 06:01 and the last train returning to Birmingham is at 23:32.

More info at www.blockthefactory.org.

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US drone attacks are war crimes claims Amnesty International

October 22, 2013

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have released a report claiming that US drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen are war crimes.  The report is issued in conjunction with an investigation by Human Rights Watch detailing missile attacks in Yemen which the group believes could contravene the laws of armed conflict, international human rights law and Barack Obama’s own guidelines on dronesAmnesty International has highlighted the case of a grandmother who was killed while she was picking vegetables and other incidents which could have broken international laws designed to protect civilians.

The reports are being published while  Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif,, is in Washington. Sharif has promised to tell Obama that the drone strikes – which have caused outrage in Pakistan – must end.

Drone strikes are being launched by the CIA into the contentious Pakistani border tribal areas, where it is very difficult to get info.  There are numerous militants in these areas. (How  secret now eh!) People are often terrified of speaking out, fearing retribution from both militants and the state, which is widely suspected of colluding with the CIA-led campaign.  But, from the Guardian:

Amnesty mounted a major effort to investigate nine of the many attacks to have struck the region over the last 18 months, including one that killed 18 labourers in North Waziristan as they waited to eat dinner in an area of heavy Taliban influence in July 2012. All those interviewed by Amnesty strongly denied any of the men had been involved in militancy. Even if they were members of a banned group, that would not be enough to justify killing them, the report said.

When Obama was running for the office of president, he wooed voters with promises that military action in the Afghan/Pakistan area would be wound down. But the attacks go on. He promised to close the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay. But it’s still up and running, regularly subjecting inmates to “rigorous interrogation” (torture to you and me); and of course there are the secret CIA prisons worldwide, where we don’t know the inmates, the charges, the evidence, nothing. And the secret courts, where suspects are convicted on the basis of secret evidence that the defence can’t even look at.

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I know I’ve said I’m tired of all the drone shit in the news nowadays, and that I would try to avoid going on about them. But I saw this story and knew I had to share it. This demonstrates that Obama’s “anti-war” sentiments when he ran for presidential office were a bunch of bullshit. He loves fighting wars (not in person, of course, the cowardly custard tart), and semi-autonomous, remote controlled drones are perfect for him: they can carry out airstrikes and assassinations without running the risk of more soldiers come home in body bags. FFS America, why do you want this moron “ruling the free world”? Every drone strike causes anti-American sentiment to grow more and more. Get rid of your president – I don’t really care how, buy you have to do something!

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US want to extradite UK citizen for *not* breaking the law!

March 30, 2012

This is one crazy story, but I swear it’s true – have a look at http://juliasblog-the-fight-of-our-lives.blogspot.co.uk/ if you don’t believe me…

Basically, British citizen Richard O’Dwyer, who lives in Britain and hasn’t been to the US since a trip to Disneyworld when he was five, has been running a website where he provides links to various TV shows and movies. Remember that: he doesn’t host the video files himself, he merely provides links to other sites, which he has no connection with. He was arrested for this in the UK, but not taken to court because, basically, he has not broken the law in the UK, and any trials based on providing links have failed.

But that’s not good enough for the US government. They are trying to extradite Richard to America to put him on trial… even though it’s not clear that his actions are criminal in the USA! Bsically, they want to bang him up in a hellhole of a federal prison and force him into some kind of plea-bargain. And this is all too possible, as we have an insane extradition treaty with the USA, hurried through parliament after the 9-11 thing. According to the treaty, UK citizens can be extradited to the US on the flimsiest charges, whereas there’s no way at all that America would extradite their citizens here for such a ridiculous “crime”.

I swear, this is all true – check out the blog I linked to above, and also have a listen to the 28 March episode of the radio show Off The Hook, which is available as a podcast at www.2600.com. Absolutely crazy…

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UK citizen to be extradited to USA for “copyright infringement”.

March 14, 2012

Full story here

I’m really angry about the lopsided extradition agreement with the USA.  A UK citizen allegedly commits a crime, in the UK, and the USA can have the person gift-wrapped and delivered to America, where Richard O’Dwyer could be sent down for ten years; but it doesn’t work the other way: no way would the US extradite a US citizen to the UK when that suspect has not allegedly committed a crime on UK soil.

I think that the extradition treaty should be scrapped.  Screw our “special relationship” with the USA.  What has the US done for us lately?  Oh yes, they’ve made British troops in Afghanistan even more a target by allowing a drunk, mentally-unstable soldier to leave his base after curfew and murder several women and children.  Thanks, USA.  And I almost believed that the USA would improve with Obama supposedly at the helm…

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Even those yanks with their Gitmo crap can get it right now and then… so how come us Brits consistently get it so wrong?

February 29, 2012

I got my monthly EFF newsletter email earlier today, and a couple of things caught my eye. Some pretty important stuff, so I’m gonna tell you about it here:

1. Appeals Court Upholds Constitutional Right Against Forced Decryption. Basically, the FBI seized laptops and disk drives of this guy, but couldn’t access the data thereon because it was encrypted with Truecrypt. A grand jury ordered the man to produce the unencrypted contents of the drives, but he refused, invoking his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. The court held him in contempt and sent him to jail. But the EFF filed an amicus brief, arguing that the man had a valid Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, and that the government’s attempt to force him to decrypt the data was unconstitutional. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, ruling that the act of decrypting data is testimonial and therefore protected by the Fifth Amendment. Score one for Freedom, right? Well, it’s good for the Americanos: but unfortunately, since 2007, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act in the UK (RIPA) has allowed a person to be compelled to reveal a decryption key. Refusal can earn someone a five-year jail term. How in hell can a country that keeps uncharged prisoners in Gitmo for over 10 years and gasses its own citizens on a regular basis embrace liberty better than us Brits? Please, answer me in Comments. It’s like that film Brazil, or a Franz Kafka story.

2. This one paints us Europeans in a better light (I say us Europeans, because unfortunately us Brits will do whatever America and the rich want us to do, including embarking on illegal wars that lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians and leave Middle East countries unbelievably unstable and wrought with sickening sectarian violence). This particular happy story is about the European Court of Justice’s decision that

social networks cannot be required to monitor and filter their users’ communications to prevent copyright infringement of music and movies. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) found that imposing a broad filtering obligation on social networks would require active monitoring of users’ files in violation of EU law and could undermine citizens’ freedom of expression.

The ECJ found that forcing an ISP to install a filtering system that would identify and prevent its users from making available any potentially copyright infringing files would require “active observation” of the ISP’s users. Implementing such a system would fall afoul of the key principle in Article 15 of the EU e-Commerce Directive, which prohibits EU member states from imposing a general obligation on ISPs and hosting services to monitor information they transmit or store, or to actively seek facts or circumstances that indicate illegal activity.

The EFF note that the dreadfully-nigh ACTA, a wide-ranging treaty that will force laws on us in a backroom-dealing way that bypasses democracy, also seeks to make Article 15 meaningless. Will the ECJ decision affect at all the approaching behemoth? Or will our governments, all round the world, continue to obey the dictates of commerce rather than the wishes of their electorates? I think I know the answer already; but your Comments are, again, truly welcome.

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