LGBT movement faces big challenges from DUP-Tory alliance, Trump, Brexit

July 6, 2017 at 4:54 pm (campaigning, Europe, homophobia, Human rights, LGBT, posted by JD, Trump, TUC)

By Maria Exall chair of the TUC LGBT committee

AT London Pride this weekend we will see on the streets the diversity of our LGBT+ communities. We will be reminded about the freedom we have.

At the TUC LGBT conference taking place today and tomorrow at Congress House we will be discussing the freedom we have still to achieve, the threats to our equality and the opportunities for us to progress.

On the agenda of the conference are many of the challenges of the year ahead. Up front is the fact that the Conservative government is in power through an alliance with the homophobic DUP.

This is a party that has blocked progressive legislation on same sex marriage using a “petition of concern” when the rest of the UK and Ireland have moved forward.

This is a party is at the forefront of a reactionary fightback against our equality, with bigotry cloaked as the pursuit of religious freedom.

With DUP votes crucial to maintaining this Tory government, it is also worth remembering that the majority of Conservative MPs did not support same-sex marriage in the last Parliament.

We have no guarantee at present that there is a progressive majority in the House of Commons for defending our equality or pursuing future positive change.

More socially liberal Conservatives are conveniently keen to forget the details of their homophobic, biphobic and transphobic recent past and promote the business case for equality — something we as LGBT+ workers know is shallow and ineffective.

This year the TUC has conducted a LGBT+ workers survey which has shown the persistence of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in the workplace.

Prejudice still massively affects our working lives and our private lives. Shockingly many LGBT+ people of all ages still find it hard to be fully out at work.

The progressive social change of the last few decades has not altered the experience of many LGBT+ people in the workplace, of isolation, of verbal and physical abuse, with consequences for our mental health.

Too often we face a choice between being ourselves and being secure at work. The corporate agenda cannot deliver, whether promoting employer-controlled “employee networks” or working with those campaigning groups that do not challenge the economic status quo.

It is only by building up strong working-class LGBT+ organisations supported by the wider labour movement that we can tackle the persistent homophobia, biphobia and transphobia we see in our workplaces and in society.

The international agenda for LGBT+ rights will also be discussed at the conference. We will consider the volatile and hostile approach to our rights in the US under a Trump administration, and the need to pursue a worldwide approach to LGBT+ equality in all the Commonwealth countries as the 2018 meeting of the Commonwealth heads of state in London approaches.

The results of the Brexit negotiations also threaten our future equality. We know the Tories want Brexit so they can undermine workers rights and cut “red tape” on working conditions.

We have to make sure that the “Great Repeal Bill” does not roll back the laws from Europe on LGBT+ employment rights or equal treatment in access to goods and services. We need to ensure we do not fall behind European legal standards.

We need to maintain close relations with those in the European trade union movement who are fighting the same battles for equality at the workplace and defend freedom of movement for LGBT+ workers in Europe.

Last year the TUC LGBT conference met on the day of the Brexit referendum result. There was fear and concern about the future, and one year on many of us have the same concern.

Since then we have seen a massive increase in hate crime against LGBT+ people but also against immigrants and foreigners, against those with disabilities. An injury to one is an injury to all — we need to fight back for our rights and those of all working people.

As a country we appear to be going backwards towards a politics of hate. Our society is more brutal and more narrow-minded.

Whether it be the rise in hate crime, the regular homophobic, sexist and racist abuse on social media and in public and political life, or the passive acceptance of increasing economic inequality with foodbanks, real wages falling, and public sector pay held back.

We need to stand in solidarity when individuals and groups are scapegoated and oppressed, it is through the practice of this solidarity that we show there is another way we can live together in freedom.

At this year’s conference we will be considering a proposal discussed at the TUC Youth Workers Forum.

The Youth Workers Forum recognised that equality and respect have not been successfully embedded in our society. We support their call to have a movement-wide campaign to defend workplace equality rights and advance the case for equality.

The upsurge in support for the Labour Party at the last election gives us grounds for hope, that as a society that can turn its back on the failed austerity of the last seven years and pursue a new deal for working people, one that has equality centre stage. The future is there for us to claim.

  • This article appeared in the Morning Star as Big Challenges lie ahead for the LGBT movement

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Anti-gay purge in Chechnya: torture and concentration camps

April 14, 2017 at 3:35 pm (Andrew Coates, homophobia, Human rights, LGBT, posted by JD, protest, Putin, thuggery)

Hundreds of activists gather outside the Russian Embassy in central London in protest against the treatment of homosexuals in Chechnya.

Slightly adapted from Tendance Coatesy:

Gay men are being held in “camps” in the Chechen Republic where they are subjected to torture and beatings, human rights campaigners have claimed – these claims are now backed up by a detailed report in today’s Guardian

The claims follow reports last week that 100 gay men had been rounded up and imprisoned in Chechnya, with at least three people allegedly murdered. The allegations were made by a Russian newspaper and human rights campaigners. “In Chechnya, the command was given for a ‘prophylactic sweep’ and it went as far as real murders,” independent newspaper Novaya Gazetaclaimed.

At the time, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s spokesperson denied the claims on the grounds that no one in Chechnya is homosexual. “You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic,” spokesman Alvi Karimov told Interfax (Independent.)

Close the gay concentration camps.

Chechnya has opened the world’s first concentration camps for gay people and they’re as horrific as they sound. Men are being electrocuted, tortured until they reveal other names of gay people, and beaten so badly that some have died.

This is the first time we’ve seen camps like this since the Nazis. It’s both terribly upsetting and infuriating all at once, but we have a plan to stop it.

Avaaz will work with activists on the ground to help rescue the prisoners and set up a safe house, but first we need to show there’s a massive global outcry to end the crackdown. Join the urgent campaign and tell everyone – let’s get to one million.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the Russian embassy in London on Wednesday to protest after reports from human rights groups that up to 100 gay men are being held and tortured in “camps” in Russia’s southern region of Chechnya.

Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported at least three of the men detained had been killed in secret prisons that were branded “concentration camps.”

More hereHundreds protest against ‘gay concentration camps’ in Chechnya outside London’s Russian Embassy.

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Tatchell: ‘gay cake’ verdict is defeat for freedom of expression

October 24, 2016 at 7:35 pm (Christianity, Civil liberties, Free Speech, gay, homophobia, law, LGBT, Peter Tatchell)

Peter Tatchell once again demonstrates his fairness, generosity of spirit and commitment to freedom of expression:

web-gay-cake.jpg
Ashers Baking Company refused to make this cake

The law should not compel businesses to aid political messages

London & Belfast – 24 October 2016

The Appeal Court in Belfast has today ruled that a local Christian-run business, Ashers Bakery, was wrong to refuse to decorate a cake with a pro-gay marriage message.

“This verdict is a defeat for freedom of expression. As well as meaning that Ashers can be legally forced to aid the promotion of same-sex marriage, it also implies that gay bakers could be forced by law to decorate cakes with homophobic slogans,” said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

“It seems that businesses cannot now lawfully refuse a customer’s request to propagate a message, even if it is a sexist, xenophobic or anti-gay message and even if the business has a conscientious objection to it.

“Although I strongly disagree with Ashers opposition to marriage equality, in a free society neither they nor anyone else should be compelled to facilitate a political idea that they oppose.

“Ashers did not discriminate against the customer, Gareth Lee, because he was gay. They objected to the message he wanted on the cake: ‘Support gay marriage.’

“Discrimination against LGBT people is wrong and is rightly unlawful. But in a free society, people should be able to discriminate against ideas they disagree with. I am saddened that the court did not reach the same conclusion.

“The judgement opens a can of worms. It means that a Muslim printer could be obliged to publish cartoons of Mohammed and a Jewish printer could be required to publish a book that propagates Holocaust denial. It could also encourage far right extremists to demand that bakers and other service providers facilitate the promotion of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim opinions.

“What the court has decided sets a dangerous, authoritarian precedent that is open to serious abuse.

“Discrimination against people should be illegal but not discrimination against ideas and opinions,” said Mr Tatchell.

Read Peter Tatchell’s detailed reasoning as to why he changed his mind on the Ashers case (he initially supported the verdict against them) and why he opposes the new legal ruling:

Why I changed my mind on the Ashers gay cake row

The law should not require bakers to aid the gay marriage campaign

By Peter Tatchell

Like most gay and equality campaigners, I initially condemned the Christian-run Ashers Bakery in Belfast over its refusal to produce a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan for a gay customer, Gareth Lee.

I supported his legal claim against Ashers and the subsequent verdict, which last year found the bakery guilty of discrimination. My reasons for supporting Gareth’s claim were:

1. Ashers had falsely advertised their services, saying they were willing decorate their cakes with any message that a customer wanted. They did not say there were any limits on the designs or wording.

2. I feared that Ashers actions could open the flood gates to allow sectarian loyalist-republican discrimination and discrimination against women, LGBTs and other minorities – and their points of view.

But I later changed my mind. Much as I wish to defend the LGBT community, I also want to defend freedom of conscience, expression and religion.

While Christian bed and breakfast owners and civil partnership registrars were clearly wrong to deny service to gay people, this case is different. It is about the refusal to facilitate an idea – namely, support for same-sex marriage.

I will continue to oppose the proposed “conscience clause” in Northern Ireland. It is intended to allow discrimination against LGBT people. I do not accept that people of faith should be permitted by law to deny service to LGBTs – or anyone else. Discrimination against people is never acceptable.

The whole saga began in 2014 when Ashers said they were not willing to ice a cake with the words “support gay marriage” and the logo of the equality group, Queer Space; claiming it was contrary to their Christian beliefs to promote homosexuality and gay marriage.

This struck many of us as discrimination based on religious-inspired homophobic prejudice. Ashers believe that the relationships of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are wrong and should not be eligible for the status of marriage. They translated these beliefs into action and declined to make the cake. Ashers would have decorated a cake with a message celebrating traditional heterosexual marriage and promoting a Christian organisation. Surely this was an example of clear-cut anti-gay discrimination?

Gareth Lee’s legal case against Ashers was backed by the Equality Commission of Northern Ireland. It argued that the bakery’s actions breached the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 and The Fair Employment and Treatment (NI) Order 1998, which prohibit discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services on the respective grounds of sexual orientation and political opinion.

A Belfast court last May agreed and found Ashers guilty of discrimination on both grounds; ordering them to pay Gareth £500 compensation.

I profoundly disagree with Asher’s opposition to same-sex love and marriage, and support protests against them. They claim to be Christians and followers of Jesus. Yet he never once condemned homosexuality. Moreover, discrimination is not a Christian value. Ashers’ religious justifications are, to my mind, theologically unsound.

Nevertheless, on reflection, the court was wrong to penalise Ashers and I was wrong to endorse its decision.

For sure, the law suit against the bakery was well intended. It sought to challenge homophobia. But it was a step too far. It pains me to say this, as a long-time supporter of the struggle for LGBT equality in Northern Ireland, where same-sex marriage remains banned.

The equality laws are intended to protect people against discrimination. A business providing a public service has a legal duty to do so without discrimination based on race, gender, faith, sexuality and so on.

However, the court erred by ruling that Gareth was discriminated against because of his sexual orientation and political opinions.

His cake request was not refused because he was gay but because of the message he wanted on the cake. There is no evidence that his sexuality was the reason Ashers declined his order.

Despite this, Judge Isobel Brownlie said refusing the pro-gay marriage slogan was unlawful indirect sexual orientation discrimination because same-sex marriage is a union between persons of the same-sex and therefore refusing to provide a service in support of same-sex marriage was de facto sexual orientation discrimination.

I disagree. Refusing to facilitate a message in support of same-sex marriage is not sexuality discrimination. It is discrimination against an idea, not against a person.

On the question of political discrimination, the judge said Ashers had denied Gareth service based on his request for a message supporting same-sex marriage. She noted: “If the plaintiff had ordered a cake with the words ‘support marriage’ or ‘support heterosexual marriage’ I have no doubt that such a cake would have been provided.” Brownlie therefore concluded that by refusing to provide a cake with a pro-gay marriage wording Ashers had treated him less favourably, contrary to the law.

This may be a case of differential treatment. However, it was not discrimination against views held or expressed by Gareth but against words he wanted on a cake. Moreover, the law against political discrimination was meant to protect people with differing political views, not to force others to further political views to which they conscientiously object.

The finding of political discrimination against Gareth sets a worrying precedent. Northern Ireland’s laws against discrimination on the grounds of political opinion were framed in the context of decades of conflict. They were designed to heal the sectarian divide by preventing the denial of jobs, housing and services to people because of their politics. There was never an intention that this law should compel people to promote political ideas, such as same-sex marriage, with which they disagreed – let alone on a cake.

The judge concluded that service providers are required by law to facilitate any “lawful” message, even if they have a conscientious objection to it.

This begs the question: Will gay bakers have to accept orders for cakes with homophobic slurs? I don’t think LGBT people should be forced to promote anti-gay messages.

The court judgement also leads me to ask: Should a Muslim printer be obliged to publish cartoons of Mohammed or a Jewish one a book that propagates Holocaust denial?

If the current Ashers verdict stands it could, for example, encourage far right extremists to demand that bakeries and other service providers facilitate the promotion of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim opinions. It would leave businesses unable to refuse to decorate cakes, print posters and emblazon mugs with bigoted messages.

In my view, it is an infringement of freedom to require private businesses to aid the promotion of ideas to which they conscientiously object. Discrimination against people should be unlawful but not discrimination against ideas and opinions.

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We need to be honest about the Muslim ‘community’ and homophobia

June 14, 2016 at 12:47 pm (Civil liberties, communalism, culture, homophobia, Human rights, Islam, islamism, LGBT, posted by JD, tragedy, truth)

This article appears in today’s Morning Star:

We need to talk about homophobia

LGBT education is needed now more than ever in the wake of the Orlando shootings, argues RABBIL SIKDAR


FIFTY people killed because of their sexuality in Orlando. It’s clear that though 21st century is here with increasing legislations in support of LGBT people, there is still an entrenched camp of bigots who have nothing but seething hatred for these people.

What struck me the most wasn’t the incident itself. Jihadist violence against innocent people is becoming increasingly common. The appeal of Islamic State (Isis) is far-reaching.

What particularly struck me was the grief and rage of Owen Jones later on Sky News when he was trying to explain this to two heterosexuals.

This wasn’t violence against humanity, as they blindly insisted. It was violence against one of the most viciously oppressed and marginalised groups in the world, who face varying degrees of discrimination, prejudice and violence.

What happened was a terrorist attack, but it was also an attack on LGBT people. The killer’s father would come out and say his son was openly repulsed by the sight of two men kissing.

With any terrorist incident there come the inquests. Why did it happen, the motivations, the factors, who to blame, who not to blame?

Muslims often find themselves dragged into that blame game as the far-right brigade come out in their numbers.

Atrocities become shamelessly hijacked for right-wing propaganda. With the attacks in Orlando, we had Donald Trump praising himself and the EU Leave rightwingers warning about Islamism.

The issue of gun control and the easy access that mentally deranged lunatics and terrorists have to weapons has not been addressed.

It’s a failure of Barack Obama that he has been effectively blocked from gun reforms by an NRA-backed Republican Party.

The country has shifted in its opinion, but Republicans remain firmly wedded to the free access to guns. Even as violence rips through the US, the second amendment is fiercely protected.

But those who place the biggest problem from this at gun reforms are wrong. The biggest problem is homophobia.

It’s still rampant. Within the US, the LGBT community faces immense prejudice and discrimination. The right to marry and adopt is fiercely contested.

Though many states have now legalised gay marriage, the US faces a battle with homophobia.

The Orlando killer was also a Muslim. That doesn’t automatically mark Muslims out as being uniquely homophobic, as many are claiming.

But people need to be honest: the stances towards the LGBT community within parts of the Muslim community are often extremely regressive and troubling.

It’s why gay Muslims rarely come out. In the Muslim world, the punishment for homosexuality is often death.

In Britain, polls have shown that over half of Muslims believe homosexuality is wrong.

And of course at the extreme end of the scale Isis punishes homosexuals by throwing them off towers.

This despite the Koran itself never prescribing a punishment. Homosexuality is often treated as some sort of sin that’s as morally corrupt as murder or rape.

Countries such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have institutionalised and rationalised homophobia rather than showing tolerance.

Within Britain, it’s not talked enough about in households or in schools. LGBT Muslims face huge identity conflicts, fear of being marginalised and treated as freaks, unable to find mosques welcoming them.

Conservative Muslims have insisted that whatever their stance on homosexuality, murder is wrong. But it misses the point.

When you treat homosexuality as a sin and LGBT people as abominations, you strip them of their humanity and empathy and forge a scenario where acts of violence can be inflicted upon them because they are regarded as lesser beings who have strayed wildly.

When the media continuously demonises Muslims or black people, we immediately point out how the antagonist was radicalised by the social environment of hatred and poisonous bile and bigotry towards these people.

Homophobia isn’t exclusive to Islam and, indeed, polls show that overall Roman Catholics tend to be more negative towards homosexuality than ordinary Muslims.

Historically, it wasn’t always the case that Muslim society reacted like this to LGBT people.

Under the Ottoman empire, homosexuality was not treated as a crime. But right now religious authorities have to act.

Within the Muslim world, Muslims who are politically, culturally or sexually different from others are treated as deviants and heretics. Their punishment is often execution.

LGBT people still have to live in fear of being who they are. Homophobic attitudes are harder to defeat in later stages of life. So start early. LGBT education is needed now more than ever.

And acknowledging that there are huge swathes of the Muslim community that do not tolerate homosexuality, peaceful though they may be, is one of these tasks.

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Owen Jones attempts to have rational discussion on Orlando atrocity

June 13, 2016 at 9:01 am (crime, homophobia, islamism, Jim D, LGBT, media, murder, tragedy, United States)

I’m not Owen Jones’s biggest fan, but on this occasion I can completely understand his anger and frustration at the refusal of Sky News presenter Mark Longhurst to recognise this as a homophobic attack. Longhurst told him “you cannot say this is a worse attack than what happened in Paris”, which Jones did not say. Eventually, Jones walked out, and good for him:

The US Socialist Worker (no longer related to the UK organisation/paper of the same name) at least makes an attempt at a serious analysis, but is not entirely coherent and verges, towards the end, on a version of “blow-back”.

Donald Trump is all too predictable … and loathsome.

Owen Jones explains himself at greater length here

Leave.EU has wasted no time in cashing in:

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Ck1HGLZWsAAXwdt.jpg:large

 

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The Guardian’s Adams continues to squirm and obfuscate over ‘Trojan horse’

April 17, 2016 at 8:58 pm (anti-semitism, apologists and collaborators, Brum, Champagne Charlie, children, communalism, Education, Guardian, homophobia, islamism, media, misogyny, Racism, relativism, religion, sexism, SWP)


Above: Adams

By Champagne Charlie

Last Friday’s Guardian carried a piece by Education editor Richard Adams headlined “Ofsted Inspectors upgrade Birmingham school in ‘Trojan horse’ scandal to good”.

The piece begins “The school at the centre of the Trojan horse scandal has been given a clean bill of health by Ofsted inspectors, two years after allegations of an Islamist plot to infiltrate education made national headlines.”

The inattentive reader could be forgiven for thinking that it has now been shown that there was no Islamist plot and the allegations against senior teachers and governors at the school have been disproven. It is only when you read on, that it becomes apparent that Adams is writing about the school as it now is, under a new leadership team, the previous Islamist leadership having been removed. Even so, Adams feels it necessary to throw in one of his typical weaselling half-truths: “allegations of a city-wide plot were never substantiated and are thought to be a hoax.”

It’s time the facts of the ‘Trojan Horse’ affair that have been established beyond reasonable doubt (sources can be checked on Wikepedia, from which I’ve drawn extensively) were set out clearly, if only to counter the torrent of downright lies, half-truths and obfuscation that continues to emanate from Mr Adams, the SWP and elements within the NUT.

The ‘Operation Trojan Horse’ letter was leaked to the press in early March 2014. It is an anonymous document, purporting to be from an Islamist in Birmingham, advising a fellow Islamist in Bradford, on how to take over schools and impose an Islamist agenda. Early on, most informed commentators expressed the opinion that the letter was probably a fake, created by someone who wished to draw attention to alleged Islamist influence in Birmingham schools.

The author of the letter claimed responsibility for installing new headteachers at four schools in Birmingham, and identified 12 others in the city which would be easy targets due to large Muslim attendance and poor inspection reports. It suggests encouraging parents to complain about a school’s leadership with accusations of sex education, forced Christian prayer and mixed physical education, with the aim of obtaining a new, Islamist, leadership. It was also suggested that once successfully taken over, schools should apply for Academy status so as to have a curriculum independent of the Local Education Authority. The author described the plan as “totally invisible to the naked eye and [allowing] us to operate under the radar”.

Despite widespread doubts about the provenance of the letter, Birmingham’s education commissioner Sir Mike Tomlinson stated his belief that what the letter described was happening “without a shadow of doubt”. Read the rest of this entry »

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The liar, cheat and friend of criminals Johnson takes the Tories to new low over London mayoral election

April 11, 2016 at 4:42 pm (Asshole, Beyond parody, crime, homophobia, Jim D, London, Racism, Tory scum)


Above: Johnson’s lies on the EU exposed by fellow Tory Andrew Tyrie

The liar, cheat, hypocrite and malevolent clown Boris Johnson has done something many observers would have thought impossible: taken the Tory campaign against Labour’s Sadiq Kahn in London down to new depths of filth, thinly-disguised racism and mendacity.

The Tory candidate, Zac Goldsmith has put out a leaflet calling Khan “radical and divisive”, obviously with the implication that Khan is linked to radical Islamism and perhaps even to terrorism. In another leaflet, directly mailed to people Goldsmith’s team considered likely to be of Indian or Sri Lankan backgrounds (based on their names), Goldsmith has suggested that Khan would tax “family jewellery”.

In fact, Khan is a socially liberal Muslim who has been outspoken in his support for gay rights (including gay marriage), womens’ rights and opposition to anti-Semitism. He has even criticised the present Labour leadership for (in his view) not tackling anti-Semitism with sufficient vigour.

And yet Johnson, writing in today’s Daily Telegraph has the audacity to try to brand Khan an anti-Semite by association: there are some anti-Semites in the Labour Party and Khan is a member of the Labour Party – ipso facto Khan is an anti-Semite, or at least tainted with it. Johnson does, in fact, begrudgingly acknowledge that Khan has spoken out against anti-Semitism in the Party (or, as Johnson puts it, has “belatedly admitted that Labour is afflicted with anti-Semitism”) before going on to accuse Khan of “sharing platforms with some of the most backward and sectarian forces in Islam” … without mentioning the fact that Khan has often used those platforms to criticise such people to their faces.

Oh yes, Johnson mentions that one of the Islamists Khan shared a platform with, Sulaiman Ghani, has “denounced gays.” Johnson, it seems, is a great defender of gay rights. These days. According to himself.

Tory ex-MP Matthew Parris (who has been openly gay for many years) recently (March 26) wrote a scathing attack on Johnson, in The Times (unfortunately, Murdoch’s pay-wall prevents me from linking to it beyond the opening sentences, here). Parris begins his piece thus:

Parody is now extinct. Boris Johnson has killed the distinction  between reality and satire. Remember the Tory who as a wannabe MP called Labour’s repeal of Section 28 “appalling”, who joked about “tank-topped bum-boys”, who sneakily rowed back from homophobia by asking “what’s not to like?” about gays who leave the field of available women clear for straight men? He is now urging gay men to vote Leave because, he says, some Eastern European countries have legislation that represses them

“It was us” he burbles on a new Out & Proud video, “the British people, that created [an] environment of happiness and contentment for LGBT people. It may well have been us. It ruddy well wasn’t him. But now, even into gay saunas creeps the smell of his damp tweed.

Parris’ entire piece is well worth reading and sometime in the future I may well risk the wrath of Murdoch’s lawyers by republishing the whole thing. But for now, I’ll content myself with republishing the transcript (again, brought to us courtesy of Parris in The Times) of Johnson giving his criminal friend Darius Guppy the details of a journalist Guppy wanted beaten up. Johnson was concerned about how badly the journalist would be injured, because the assault might be linked to himself:

Johnson: “I really want to know …”

Guppy: “I guarantee you he will not be seriously hurt.”

Johnson: “How badly will he…”

Guppy [interrupting]: “He will not have a broken limb or broken arm, he will not be put into intensive care or anything like that. He’ll probably get a couple of black eyes and a cracked rib or something.”

Johnson: “Cracked rib? If I get trouble, if I get…I got this bloody number for you. OK Darrie. I said I’d do it. I’ll do it. Don’t worry.”

And this creature, Boris Johnson, has the nerve to write that Sadiq Khan is unfit to be Mayor of London because he, Khan, is – on the basis of no evidence whatsoever from Johnson – “pandering to the extremists”! Johnson is not (as even some on the left seem to think) an amusing buffoon: he’s a filthy, racist hypocrite and scumbag.

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Putin: a murderous authoritarian beloved of the far-right (and some on the “left”)

January 28, 2016 at 5:52 pm (apologists and collaborators, grovelling, Guardian, homophobia, Human rights, imperialism, murder, populism, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Russia, stalinism, Stop The War, thuggery, Ukraine)

seumas milne at rally

Seumas Milne: Putin apologist (Image: Copyright 2014 Mark Kerrison)

Opposition to Putin and his ultra-reactionary regime ought to be second nature for self-proclaimed leftists. Unfortunately, it isn’t: the Morning Star and former Guardian columnist (now a senior adviser to Corbyn) Seumas Milne, for instance, have a long record of defending and justifying Putin, especially (but not only) with regard to Russian imperialism in Ukraine.

So it was a welcome development when Guardian columnist Owen Jones recently admonished certain (unnamed) sections of the left for remaining silent about the reactionary nature of Putin’s regime. Even so, Jones’s piece was hedged about with embarrassed apologetics designed to appease the pro-Putin “left” and to excuse in advance his own half-hearted apostasy:

“Yes, there is something rather absurd about the baiting of the anti-war left for not protesting against, say, Putin or North Korea. The baiters are always free to organise their own demonstration (I would be happy to join), and protest movements can only realistically aspire to put pressure on governments at home, whether it be on domestic policies or alliances with human rights abusers abroad (whether that be, say, the head-chopping Saudi exporters of extremism, or Israel’s occupation of Palestine). In democracies, protests that echo the official line of governments are rare. If the west was actively cheering Putin on and arming him to the teeth, we might expect more vociferous opposition.”

Anne Field, writing in the present issue of Solidarity, is more straightforward:

Putin: a model of reactionary politics

The report of Britain’s official Owen Inquiry into the 2006 murder of former Russian security service agent Alexander Litvinenko was published on 21 January. It attributed responsibility for the murder to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

Putin ruled Russia as its President from 2000 to 2008. Barred by the constitution from seeking a third successive term of office, Putin was nominally Prime Minister between 2008 and 2012. In reality, he remained the ultimate source of authority in Russia. Amid widespread allegations of ballot-rigging, Putin was re-elected President for six years in 2012. (The presidential term of office had been increased from four to six years while Putin was Prime Minister). He is already on record as saying that he will seek re-election in 2018.

From the outset Putin’s rule has been based on “siloviki” (strongmen): former KGB agents and serving agents of the police and the FSB (the Russian successor to the KGB), and former and serving military commanders. According to a survey carried out by Olga Kryshtanovskaya in 2004, “siloviki” constituted around 25% of Russia’s political elite, and over 50% of Putin’s inner circle. Their influence has continued to grow since then. Putin himself is a former KGB agent. But, as Kryshtanovskaya wrote: “Putin brought ‘siloviki’ with him. But that’s not enough to understand the situation. The whole political class wished them to come. There was a need of a strong arm, capable from point of view of the elite to establish order in the country.”

One of Putin’s first acts was to incorporate Russia’s 89 regions into seven new federal districts. The districts are run by appointees personally selected by Putin as his representatives. They have control over the armed forces, the budgets and activities of the regional governors in their districts.

Five of the first seven appointees were “siloviki”. At the same time Putin weakened the powers of the Federation Council, the upper chamber of the Russian Parliament with representation from the country’s different regions. Putin also scrapped the election of regional governors (they too were to be personally appointed by Putin) and empowered local legislatures (dominated in practice by Putin’s supporters) to sack popularly elected mayors. Over the past decade and a half potential sources of opposition to Putin’s rule in civil society have been attacked, one after another. The media empires run by the oligarchs Vladimir Gusinsky and Boris Berezovsky were both effectively taken over by Putin and their owners forced to flee Russia. Dissident journalists have been sacked, programmes critical of Putin have been taken off the air, and attempts to create independent television channels blocked by the government. The only surviving independent channel is now run from an apartment in Moscow.

Under a law signed off by Putin in 2014, international organisations, foreigners and Russians with dual citizenship will be banned from owning mass media outlets by the end of 2016. Its main target is Vedomosti, jointly published by the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal. The internet in Russia is controlled by the government agency Roskomnadzor, created in 2012. Russian bloggers with 3,000 or more visitors a day have to register with Roskomnadzor, reveal their identities, and verify the accuracy of their blogs. Roskomnadzor can also block websites which “refuse to follow Russian laws”, which carry “extremist” political content, or which “encourage illegal activities and participation in public events held in violation of the established order.” Foreign-funded non-governmental organisations (NGOs), described by Putin as “jackals” and “Judases”, have been singled out for repressive legislation. They are required to register as “foreign agents”, submit quarterly reports on their funds and resources, and submit six-monthly reports on their personnel and activities. They are also subject to mandatory audits and can be fined for publishing anything not described as having been published by “a foreign agent”.

In the spring of 2013 alone, 2,000 NGOs, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, were raided by government authorities. After a wave of protests at Putin’s decision to seek re-election as President in 2012, he increased fines for taking part in unauthorised protests to 300,000 rubles, and fines for organising such protests to a million rubles. In 2014 Putin ramped up the penalties yet again. Repeated participation in unauthorised protests now attracts a penalty of up to a million rubles and up to five years of forced labour or prison. A law passed in 2013 banned the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships to minors”. Breaches of the law could result in fines or imprisonment. The following year another law banned all swearwords in films, on television and in theatre performances. And last year new rules for licencing the showing of films were introduced, banning films which “defile the national culture, pose a threat to national unity, and undermine the foundations of the constitutional order.”

Other laws have obstructed the registration of “non-indigenous religions” and prevented them from acquiring land and building permits. This has benefited the religious monopoly enjoyed by the Russian Orthodox Church, described by Putin as one of the two “pillars” of national and state security. The other “pillar” is nuclear deterrence. Reflecting Putin’s own views on Stalin (“his legacy cannot be judged in black and white”), Russia adopted Stalin’s national anthem (with different lyrics) in 2000, and Russian textbooks now explain that while the Stalinist and post-Stalinist USSR was not a democracy, it was “an example for millions of people around the world of the best and fairest society.” Putin has also regularly contrasted his authoritarian conservatism with western “decadence”, denouncing the west as “genderless and infertile” and guilty of “the destruction of traditional values from the top.”

This has provided a basis for political alliances between Putin and parties of the European far right: the French National Front, the Hungarian Jobbik, the Bulgarian Attack, the Slovak People’s Party, and various far-right parties in Germany. Putin’s endorsement of Donald Trump for US president last month was only a logical development of his support for political reaction at an international level. Putin’s record since 2000 has not been one of a failed attempt to establish a functioning democracy after the chaos and corruption of the 1990s. It is a record of success in establishing an authoritarian regime which has promoted itself as a model for far-right movements and regimes round the world. And it is a record regularly punctuated by the physical elimination of Putin’s critics and opponents: the journalist Anna Politkovskaya, the anti-corruption campaigner Sergei Magnitsky, and the opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, as well as Litvinenko.

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Greece legalises same-sex civil partnerships – guess who opposed it?

December 28, 2015 at 10:19 am (Civil liberties, gay, Greece, homophobia, Human rights, Jim D, LGBT, stalinism)

Reuters (23 Dec) reported:

Greece late on Tuesday enacted a human-rights’ bill which allows civil partnership agreements between same-sex couples despite protests and opposition from political parties and the powerful Orthodox Church.

A growing number of European countries have established legislation allowing registered partnership rights for same-sex couples, including Britain, Spain and Cyprus, but the issue remains contentious in many other EU states.

Although Greece allowed such agreements for heterosexual couples in 2008 it excluded homosexual couples, a move which the European Court of Human Rights ruled discriminatory in 2013.

On Tuesday, 193 lawmakers in the 300-seat parliament voted in favour of similar rights for gay and lesbian couples.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who has promised social reforms to mitigate the negative impact of an EU/IMF bailout, said the bill closed “a circle of embarrassment for the state”.

“This is a great moment, not only for the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) community, but also for legal equality in Greece”, Vasiliki Katrivanou, a lawmaker with Tsipras’ leftist Syriza party, told parliament.

“But what is worth discussing is … that it took us so long, that it took all these struggles”, she said adding the bill should pave the way for same-sex couples’ civil union, which has been Syriza’s pre-election promise.

As for who opposed it…

see: http://neurope.eu/article/greek-lawmakers-finally-approve-same-sex-civil-partnerships/

and: http://www.sigmalive.com/en/news/greece/139141/pm-bill-on-civil-unions-ends-the-backwardness-for-greece

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Amnesty marks International Women’s Day

March 8, 2014 at 8:45 am (Civil liberties, democracy, homophobia, Human rights, misogyny, posted by JD, rights, sexism, women)

My body my rights

Being able to make our own decisions about our health, body and sexual life is a basic human right. Yet all over the world, many of us are persecuted for making these choices – or prevented from doing so at all.

A woman is refused contraception because she doesn’t have her husband’s permission. A man is harassed by police because he’s gay. A teenager is denied a life-saving termination because abortion is illegal in her country. Whoever you are, wherever you live, you have the right to live without fear, violence or discrimination. It’s your body. Know your rights. Act now.

                                        

Unnecessary burden

Stand with Nepali women and girls to defend their rights.

                                                                                  

Tell world leaders: protect sexual and reproductive rights now and for the next generation!

Around 1.8 billion young people worldwide are at risk of having their sexual and reproductive rights ignored. Call on world leaders today.

                                                   

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