Category Archives: Politics

Andrew Mwenda – making a stand against anti-gay law…

In February 2014  Uganda’s president President Yoweri Museveni signed off a bill toughening anti-gay laws allowing those convicted of homosexuality to be imprisoned for life.    The anti-homosexuality bill passed through parliament in December after its architects agreed to drop a death penalty clause. The legislation requires those found guilty of repeat homosexuality to be jailed for life.

Andrew Mwenda spoke to NTVUganda’s Newsnight programme and maybe it’s my own ignorance but I really didn’t expect him to say what he did.  I was just used to the anti-gay sentiments that have been reported from Uganda. Andrew’s interview was galvanising and reminded me that I too – should not judge all Ugandan’s as I had done previously – not everyone is the same!

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Taming the Russian Bear

Map of Crimea

If the Crimean crisis has taught us anything about how we deal with Russian’s, it is that they don’t seem to react positively to considered and measured negotiations or weak and insignificant threats.  The Russian bear is not for hugging.

To deal with the Russian’s you have to be blunt but meaningful.  There is only one way to deal with the Russians…

a) kick them in the bollocks
b) know that they WILL kick you right back

When you next resume negotiations – not only will you have their respect, strange as it might seem – they will greet you, listen and come to a mutually agreeable settlement.

So PM David Cameron – the next time you meet President Putin you know what to do?

Just a thought.

 

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Go on David…get one in quickly!!

Russia Today Anchor Liz Wahl Quits

Russian President Putin speaks on state funded Russia Today
Russian President Putin speaks on state funded Russia Today

Another Russia Today journalist Liz Wahl has spoken out over the ‘ethical’ and ‘moral’ challenges she faced as a presenter on the state funded news network and went further than her colleague Abby Martin by resigning.

It all started on the 4th March at the end of the show “Breaking the Set”  when Abby said she “wanted to say something from my heart about the ongoing political crisis in Ukraine and Russia’s military occupation of Crimea” and that “What Russia did is wrong” and “military intervention is never the answer”.    She returned to the air the following night and according to RT wasn’t reprimanded.

Abby’s statement is below.

Of Liz Wahl’s statement and resignation, RT America commented on their youtube video page  “When a journalist disagrees with the editorial position of his or her organization, the usual course of action is to address those grievances with the editor, and, if they cannot be resolved, to quit like a professional. But when someone makes a big public show of a personal decision, it is nothing more than a self-promotional stunt”.

You can judge for yourself!

Wahl went on to CNN and spoke to their journalist  Anderson Cooper  “RT is not about the truth; it’s about promoting a Putinist agenda.”  Liz went on to say “And I can tell you firsthand, it’s about bashing America.”

Democracy Rules the waves

Gay Rights Flag

The right of someone to love another of the same sex has progressed exponentially over the past 50 years in the United Kingdom, Europe and America.  In the UK, it was the Buggery Act 1533 which outlawed homosexuality which was punishable by death – defined as “unnatural sexual act against the will of God and man”.

Hangin_outside_Newgate_Prison

This Act remained on the statute books until being repealed and replaced by the Offences against the Person Act 1828, with buggery remaining a capital offence until 1861.  It was not until the Sexual Offences Act 1967 that homosexuality was decriminalised – sort of…there were a couple of caveats:

1) it had to be consensual
2) take place in private
3) only involve people 21 years or older

Sitting in 2014 – with all the comforts that modern living brings with it – including a feeling of security and state protection, it’s difficult to fully comprehend what my life would have been like had I not been born in the late 1970s.

Well, kind of.  We need to look no further than Africa or Russia to see how a government and the people within it – can persecute and harass minority groups who pose no threat to them or their way of life – other than a dislike of their practice.

Gay rights campaigner arrested in Russia
Gay rights campaigner arrested in Russia

But lets be reasonable, the maltreatment of minorities – in whatever form it be, is not new; is not limited to sexuality and does not seem likely to end any time soon.

Listening to Radio 4’s serialisation of the book/turned film “12 Years a Slave” today, I was reminded that as human beings, we have a history of being horrible to each other.  There appears no end to our nailing, hanging, whipping, stabbing, slapping, dicing or slicing each other.  In the book Solomon Northup regales such horrific tales of torture and enslavement – you cannot read those events without deep feelings of enragement and pity.  Pity for those humans enslaved and the human race for all our inadequacies that allow us to do horrible things to other people.

Solomon Northup
Solomon Northup

That so much progress can be made in one part of the world whilst rescinded in another is heartbreaking.  But the curbing of minority rights in countries such as Uganda or Russia should be seen in their totality.  The Russian state has been curbing any kind of dissent – especially that which highlights corruption at a local or national level.  Russia is a hostile place to live if you want to be critical or outspoken about the Putin’s government.

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Reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch highlighted “In the year since Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency in May 2012, the Russian government has unleashed a crackdown on civil society unprecedented in the country’s post-Soviet history.  The authorities have introduced a series of restrictive laws, harassed, intimidated, and in several cases imprisoned political activists, interfered in the work of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and sought to cast government critics as clandestine enemies, thereby threatening the viability of Russia’s civil society.”

However, it is not the state acting alone, especially when it comes to homophobia.  Data which has been published by the Pew Research Centre shows that nearly three quarters of Russians believe that homosexually is morally unacceptable.  The Russian Orthodox Church has been very vocal in its anti-gay rhetoric .

In 2013, ahead of a vote on the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” bill, gay rights activists attempted to hold a “kissing rally” outside the Duma, the Russia legislative building in Moscow.  CBS News reported that the activists “were attacked by hundreds of Orthodox Christian activists and members of pro-Kremlin youth groups. The mostly burly young men with closely cropped hair pelted them with eggs while shouting obscenities and homophobic slurs.”

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In Uganda, political corruption is rife and government spending out of control.  There is a  HIV/AIDS epidemic with more than 1.1 million people, or 4% of the population living with AIDS; leading to high mortality rates, high infant mortality rates with the overall standard of living decreasing.  In Uganda there is only one political organisation that is allowed to operate without any restrictions.  Literacy rates are low with only 56.5% of females and 30.7% of males having any form of literacy.  With religion playing such a crucial role in the country – daily preachings from the pulpit denouncing people who are gay –  no wonder the population are suspicious. So, don’t blame the people – blame the government and blame religion.

The Russian’s think we in the West are all Fascists and many Africa states think that we are still trying to impose our old colonial ways and dictate how they live and think.

Frankly, the homophobia that spills out from the governments of these countries is endemic of places that are in the midst of turbulent times where the value placed on life is low and individuality a sign of disobedience.  We in Britain are lucky. We have a functional government and although we moan and complain about our politicians – I have no doubt that they and our leaders do have our interests at heart.  Whether it be David Cameron, Ed Milliband or Chris Smith of the Environment Agency – when confronted by angry members of the public – the only thing hurt is their ego.  We should be pleased about that.

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Chris Smith gets grilled

Slippery Salmond – would you trust this man?

Union Jack and The Flag of Scotland
Union Jack and The Flag of Scotland

I came across this video today and it’s not only informative but also pretty humour too.  I cannot not vote in the Scotland referendum to break with the United Kingdom but if I could vote…I’d vote no.

This referendum is merely a vanity project and it is a shame that so much money is being spent on it at a time when real and substantial cuts are being made to public finance.

First Minister Alex Salmond
First Minister Alex Salmond

So, why I think we should NOT have an independent Scotland?

1)     The country can barely manage to muster an international football team – what hope of an army and navy?

2)     What was the last thing Scotland ever won as a nation? (outside of the commonwealth games – which had the help of the London Olympics team bidders)

3)     Who will pay for Scotland’s healthcare?
The 2011 Census showed that the number of people aged 65 and over was higher than the number aged under 15. The number of over-65s has increased by 85,000 (11%) since 2001, and now represents some 17% of the total population.   There were 230,000 people aged 80 and over in 2011, an increase of 19% on the figure of 193,000 in 2001.

4)     Who will pay for Scotland’s pensions? If you think the cost of the NHS is bad – just wait until they have to fund their own pensioners!

5)     Who will pay for the defence of Scotland? Truth is, Scotland can only afford a “token” army – so, if ever the chips were down…we’d jump back in bed with England

6)     What currency will Scotland choose?  As can be seen from the video – at first, Alex Salmond wanted to get rid of the Sterling shackles and opt for the Euro currency.  NOW, that the Euro is in meltdown – he wants to stay with England’s currency….hardly a credible response.  In a speech in Edinburgh George Osborne has said that England will NOT share the pound with Scotland.  Anyway, some argue that a reliance on Sterling would likely consign Scotland to an even weaker position that it has today.  “No currency and you simply become a colony of the Bank of England”.

7)     What about the UK’s national debt?   As pointed out by this Guardian article Scotland contains around 5.1 million of the UK’s 62.2 million people,  its share of the debt could be £81bn or greater.  Scotland’s net borrowing would be a parlous £19.3bn in 2009/10 – around 17% of GDP (oh & North Sea oil is not the answer)

8)     People would have to pay more taxes.  It is as simple as that.  The people of Scotland would have to pay more – to get less than they get right now (Salmond wants to keep the BBC – but why should he?)

9)     Could it join the EU?  Not according to the President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso who said it would be “extremely difficult, if not impossible” to get the agreement of all existing EU members in order to become a new state.

10)    “Scotland would be better off alone”…that is according to Alex Salmond who I honestly believe has set about on this vanity project which is more about trying to get his name scribbled into a history book – than it has to do with what is best for Scotland and it’s people.  Already he has used what I would see as anti-English sentiments claiming   ‘People do become sick and tired of the succession of day-tripping Conservative ministers flying up to Scotland to deliver lectures and then flying back to Westminster again’.  Why shouldn’t George Osborne deliver a lecture in Edinburgh?  It’s ONE country! Worst of all the crap that comes out of Alex Salmond’s mouth is the drip dripping of anti-English sentiments.  It is a sure sign that he doesn’t think he win the vote purely on the basis of facts – so, he’s going to try and get people’s “yes” vote by anti-English racism.  There is already evidence that racism is on the rise in Scotland.

Finally, I have found an actual voting card that could be used in the referendum due to take place

Scottish Independence voting card
Scottish Independence voting card

An End To Benefits Street

james turner street
AKA Benefits Street

And so it came to pass that a programme which told it’s participants they were recording a show about “community spirit” and how individuals “were working together and helping each other in tough times” finally ended.  The fact that the programme makers lied to the participants (they filmed lots of working people and community events over 18 months that was just dumped) – doesn’t seem to matter as they would have been made to sign contracts waiving any rights to what material was used and how the show was edited (under the guise of – we are programme makers – we understand this process – you are poor and stupid…errr you are in need of some well deserving attention brought upon you and (fairy dust sprinkle) (annoyingly enthusiastic voice) – we can make it happen.

The series ended with a ‘live’ debate, involving  the participants and other interested parties including MPs and journalists who written some nasty stuff – about these benefits scum…I mean those people who claim additional financial support from the state.

Two of the documentary participants
Two of the documentary participants

Mass hysteria had been whipped up in the press and from commentators about the fairness of the welfare system and this programme was all the evidence they needed.  “It’s not fair that people should sit about all day doing nothing and then get paid money for it” they shrieked!!  Really?   so what do these so called commentators do with the rest of their 37 hours after they’ve spent just 3 slagging off lazy, idle, work shy scroungers into 500 words?  Does yet another afternoon lunch with Sebastian and Felicity for a skinny Mocha -chocca-latte -chino-frappo crapo chato – followed by attending yet another pretentious “must see” exhibition at a tiny art gallery – quaffing free champaign – really count as work?

The truth is, seeing laziness in others is easy.  Seeing it in ourselves – when we spend so much time flapping and “frapping” about from one “rendezvous” to another….not so.  And therefore I don’t rush to criticise nor condemn the people that channel 4 made minor celebrities out of.

Actually, I think on the whole they came across ok.  There are much worse streets out there where the people aren’t full of witty remarks and camaraderie – but nasty and truly awful to each other – where stealing from their neighbour is just as commonplace as stealing from the state.  Streets where the police only go when required and for whom society and it’s morals might as well be on another planet.

And then, like the benefits themselves – it all finished.  I’m hard pressed to come to a conclusion about what the merits or otherwise of watching the programme had on me – or for that matter, the general debate on welfare.  In the first episode I learned that if you want to try and shoplift something – try wrapping kitchen foil in the bottom the bag – as it stops…something….from doing…something… or something like that?  Then in the second episode I learned that gangs of european men come over here on a promise of easy work and easy money – only to find themselves in squalid conditions, working 12 hour days and only receive token payments for their labour.  When they try to report the dodgy gang master who is not paying them money  – and our police and state seem impotent in it’s ability to deal with the situation…”go after the bloody businesses where these men work and are being exploited” I shouted at the TV screen.  Nothing happened.

There were of course other characters:  the rather annoyingly chirpy church woman who is keen to transform James Turner Street from a rather downtrodden, ugly, messy street into a downtrodden, ugly clean-ish street; the guy who knocks on people’s doors selling things for 50p – hence why he is known as the “50p man” – but doesn’t have much luck and (capitalists look away now) seems to take pity on every other person he meets – and gives them stuff from his bargain box free.

Deirdre Kelly or White Dee on Benefits Street
Deirdre Kelly or white Dee on Benefits Street

Finally, we got to the “Live Debate” – hosted by Richard Bacon and stuffed full of people I think I’d heard of and faces I think I recognised.

This mass-debate was pretty poor – lots of uncoordinated shouting or cheering – depending upon what point was ineloquently made.  White Dee (it seems she prefers to be called Dee – real name Deirdre Kelly) was the only human from the programme that was allowed (or trusted) to speak more than one sentence.

There was the Minister for Work and Pensions – whose name I forget, but who used to be a fireman in a previous life (told us twice) and whom at one point, if I heard correctly, made a joke about shagging white Dee’s mum??  The Minister’s shadow Minister (do try and keep up) had been too busy to watch the programme (too many functions with free booze & cold sandwiches to attend) and so watch 3 of them that day and was appalled by stuff that I can’t remember and don’t care to regurgitate.

One of the interesting angles that came out of this debate for me was seeing those hard nosed columnists, who normally write whilst cocooned in the safety of their middle class homes – their venom slowly dripping onto the page – come face to face with those people whom they’d slagged off.  Being people on benefits – of course they had actually read any of the articles and so weren’t offended in the least – but Mr Bacon did try and get a bit of a confrontation going – alas there was nothing to bite.  The columnists didn’t want to say things such as “I wish you hadn’t had any children you couldn’t afford” or “I have not met such nasty dole-scum since one traveled on a train in London”.  More of this – commenter -v- commentee would be interesting.

James Turner Resident Dee Roberts (Black Dee)
James Turner Resident Dee Roberts (Black Dee)

The debate only had Richard Bacon as it’s thread and I didn’t feel he really managed to weave it together very well and generally it seemed the pre-production of it had been sloppy and lazy at best.  So, basically, it couldn’t have finished better.

Accused of genocide? Better get here quick….

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We have a peculiar set up in 21st century Britain whereby If I was to say or write something derogatory about someone in another country – if they were to protest and take me to court – chances are I’d be hauled in front of a Judge to defend my words.  It seems, however, if someone abroad commits horrendous acts of slaughter, rape or genocide and then flees to our country, our Government is rendered incapacitated to extradite them back to their country of origin by our Courts – in case to do so leads to their torture or death.

And so, they flood here, knowing that our strong humanist beliefs will shelter them from their past indiscretions and enable them, sometimes people who have killed many, to share the same bus or restaurant as our unsuspecting non-murderous citizens who’d be affronted if they knew the true unpleasant history of the person(s) that shares their space.

We wonder why our country has such a bad reputation the further East one sails – we are seen to espouse standards and export morals that we ourselves do not abide by.  If you live in Africa, Iran, Afghanistan or Iraq and know, or even simply suspect, that a man who’d killed, tortured and maimed many people – including some of your own relatives, was walking free and protected by England and English law you’d be sick to your stomach.  You’d wonder at the double standards that doesn’t allow this man who’d brutalised your friends, neighbours, your children to be brought back to your country and account for the crimes committed.

And they are right.  We often condemn Russia for protecting known hitmen and I’m sure there would be absolute outrage in this country if a person killed hundreds of our citizens, fled to Iran and was then protected by the state.  Yes, you can argue that once returned we would not torture and we would not executed. However, with regard to the latter these are our standards that are not universally excepted.

Human rights are crucial and come from one of the worst moments in our history on this planet – Hitler and the Nazi’s.  We must not forget the circumstances that brought in these laws, however, must not allow the continual reinterpretation between different generations of judges and lawyers to decimate credibility in what is about protecting the innocent – not harbouring the guilty.