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.

anis-amri

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.


The killer bees have been saved… hold on, shouldn’t that be “vanquished”? No, apparently it’s good news that we are at the mercy of giant killer bees or something

May 2, 2013

Remember I told you I’m in a few online action groups? No? Then clear that beeswax outta your ears and listen up! And you at the back, put that cellphone away or I’ll confiscate it…

Where was I? Oh yeah, online action groups. There’re not (all) useless circle jerks, some actually achieve stuff! One group, avaaz.org, sent me an email saying:

HUGE WIN ON BEES!
Dear amazing Avaaz community,

We did it — Europe just banned bee-killing pesticides!! Mega-corporations like Bayer threw everything they had at this, but people-power, science and good governance came out on top!!

Vanessa Amaral-Rogers from the specialist conservation organisation Buglife, says:

“It was a close vote, but thanks to a massive mobilisation by Avaaz members, beekeepers, and others, we won! I have no doubt that the floods of phonecalls and emails to ministers, the actions in London, Brussels and Cologne, and the giant petition with 2.6 million signers made this result possible. Thank you Avaaz, and everyone who worked so hard to save bees!”

Bees pollinate two thirds of all our food — so when scientists noticed that silently, they were dying at a terrifying rate, Avaaz swung in to action, and we kept on swinging until we won. This week’s victory is the result of two years of flooding ministers with messages, organizing media-grabbing protests with beekeepers, funding opinion polls and much, much more. Here’s how we did it, together:

Keeping France strong. In January 2011, 1 million people sign our call to France to uphold its ban on deadly neonicotinoid pesticides. Avaaz members and beekeepers meet the French agriculture minister and fill the airwaves, pressing him to face down fierce industry lobbying and keep the ban, sending a strong signal to other European countries.

Tackling industry head on. Bayer has faced Avaaz and allies protesting at its last three annual meetings. The pesticide giant’s managers and investors are welcomed by beekeepers, loud buzzing, and massive banners with our 1 million plus call on them to suspend use of neonicotinoids until scientists reviewed their effect on bees. Avaaz even makes a presentation inside the meeting, but Bayer says ‘no’.

Making the science count. In January the European Food Safety Agency finds that three pesticides pose unacceptable risks to bees, and we jump in to ensure Europe’s politicians respond to their scientific experts. Our petition quickly grows to 2 million signatures. After many talks with EU decision-makers, Avaaz delivers our call right to the EU HQ in Brussels. Later that same day, the Commission proposes a two-year ban!

Seizing our chance. The battle to save the bees heats up in February and March. Across the EU, Avaaz members are ready to respond as all 27 EU countries decide whether to welcome or block the proposal. When farming giants UK and Germany say they won’t vote yes, Avaaz publishes public opinion polls showing huge majorities of Brits and Germans in favour of the ban. Avaaz members also send almost half a million emails to EU Agriculture Ministers. Apparently afraid of dealing with citizens rather than industry lobbyists, UK minister Owen Paterson complains of a “cyber-attack”, which journalists turn into a story in our favour! And then comes Bernie — our 6 metre bee in Brussels — a powerful visual way to deliver our petition as negotiations enter the final stages. Journalists flock to Bernie, and we hear we’ve helped get the Spanish ministry to look harder at the science and shift position . But we didn’t get the majority we needed to pass the ban.

Turning the red light green. In April the bee-saving proposal is sent to an Appeals Committee, giving us a glimmer of hope if we can switch a few more countries’ positions. In the final sprint, Avaaz teams up with groups including Environmental Justice Foundation, Friends of the Earth and Pesticides Action Network, plus beekeepers and famous bee-loving fashion designers to organise an action outside the UK Parliament. In Germany, beekeepers launch their own Avaaz petition to their government, signed by over 150,000 Germans in just two days and delivered in Cologne soon after. More phone calls rain down on ministries in different capitals as Avaaz responds to a last-minute wrecking amendment by Hungary, and positions Bernie the bee again in Brussels. Pesticide companies buy adverts in the airport to catch arriving officials, and take to the airwaves suggesting other measures such as planting wild flowers. But their slick messaging machine is ignored, first Bulgaria then — the big prize — Germany switch their stances and this week we win, with over half of EU countries voting for the ban!

It’s been a long haul, to get this win, and it wouldn’t have been possible without scientists, specialists, sympathetic officials, beekeepers and our campaign partners. We can be proud of what we’ve helped to accomplish together.

One strong bees advocate, Paul de Zylva, head of the Pesticides and Pollinators Unit at Friends of the Earth said:

“Thanks to millions of Avaaz members who mobilised online and in the streets. Without a doubt Avaaz’s massive petition and creative campaigning helped push this over the edge, complementing our work and that of other NGOs.”

It’s time to celebrate this breathing space for one of the earth’s most precious and important creatures. But the EU ban is only in place for 2 years pending further review. And around the world bees continue to die from the pesticides which weaken and confuse them, as well as from loss of habitat as we plough up and build over the countryside. In Europe and across the world there’s lots of work to do to ensure sound science guides our farming and environmental policies. And we’re just the community for the job. 🙂

With hope and happiness,

Ricken, Iain, Joseph, Emily, Alex, Michelle, Aldine, Julien, Anne, Christoph and the rest of the Avaaz team

So, proof positive that a lot of little emails can join together into a huge swarm of killer emails that kills all in its path… Hmmm, maybe not the best metaphor, but you get the meaning, right? Right? RIGHT? Hey Dave, is this thing working?

Well, that’s all I have to say right now. Oh, I nearly forgot! You can join Avaaz.org, give ’em your credit card details and whatever at https://secure.avaaz.org/en/. And all the other groups, like 38 Degrees (who also participated in the bee thing), the Open Rights Group, and any I failed to mention (sorry guys!)… these things don’t work by perpetual motion or cold fusion… they need money. Just a couple of quid’ll do; if everyone sent these groupd £2, that’d add to… I dunno, a big heap of £2 coins I suppose.

Anyway, that’s the message of the day: we saved the bees! Hooray!!

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