Disrupting an Aerodrome

The Stansted 15 – non-violent protesters who stopped an aircraft taking off with deportees to Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone in March 2017 – have joined the ranks of highly motivated people willing to risk jail to stop a perceived injustice. The passengers on the flight included deportees who were subject to the Home Office’s then policy of ‘deport first, appeal later’, which the Supreme Court later ruled to be unlawful. The 15 got through the airport fence and blocked the path of the plane, causing the flight to be cancelled. Some of the deportees subsequently won the right to remain the UK. The 15 were found guilty under the Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990 of ‘disrup[ting] the services of … an aerodrome, in such a way as to endanger or be likely to endanger the safe operation of the aerodrome or the safety of persons at the aerodrome’. They are awaiting sentence. The maximum is life imprisonment, but the question for the court is likely to be whether to give them a prison sentence at all. More »

At ‘Guantánamo North’

It is March 2005. I am nine years old and my father has just been arrested for a crime he did not commit. He had volunteered at various charities that provided relief for civilians in war-torn Bosnia and Chechnya. He collected, sorted and sent food, medicine and clothing. The government says he sent those supplies to aid the enemy. He is charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism. More »

A Singular Disappointment

The two most famous graduates of the Horace Mann School for Boys, class of ’67, were Barry Scheck, of O.J. Simpson ‘dream team’ fame, a lawyer who became expert in the use of DNA evidence in criminal defence cases, and William P. Barr, Trump’s nominee for attorney general. He previously held the post under the late George H.W. Bush.

Barry and Bill at the age of 14 were almost entirely recognisable as the adults one reads about or watches on TV. Both boys, so far as I remember, entered Horace Mann in the ninth grade, as a handful were allowed to do. Most of us started in grade seven. We all were required to wear ties and sports coats and proper trousers. I remember Barry in a tweed jacket, a small-ish boy, my size, carrying around an outsize and packed-to-bursting briefcase. He was very determined, and academically aggressive.

Bill was then, as now, a pleasant-faced, pillowy-looking boy. More »

In the Fog of the Real

As the gilet jaune revolt moves forward and another destructive showdown looks imminent tomorrow in Paris, the government – and the president – have opted for the lesser of two contradictions. The greater: to reduce your national carbon footprint, you set aside progressive fiscal policy and tax rich and poor at the same rate, putting social justice – a grand French aspiration – in parenthesis. That didn’t work. The lesser: to reduce your national carbon footprint, you get alongside low earners and help them through a difficult transition, even though the climate jeopardy of clapped-out diesel UVs is absurdly obvious. But that hasn’t worked either. More »

The Plunder Continues

A fraudulent election one year ago gave Juan Orlando Hernández a second term as president of Honduras. The protests that followed were violently repressed. By the year’s end, 126 demonstrations had been held, leaving 30 people dead, 232 injured and more than 1000 in jail. But on 22 December 2017 the US government congratulated Hernández on his success, referring with no apparent irony to ‘the close election result’ and ignoring a call by the Organisation of American States for a new ballot. More »

When More Means Less

Earlier this year I wrote about the planned changes to mental health provision for students at the University of Essex. The details were murky but the outline was clear enough: yet more cuts and outsourcing. Though seemingly unwilling to give staff and students a clear explanation of what was going to happen, the university was at pains to emphasise one point: that this was to be an ‘expansion’ of counselling provision for students – a 30 per cent expansion, no less. More »

In Memoriam George H.W. Bush

Tony Harrison reads his poem ‘A Cold Coming’ in 1991.

Don’t pretend you can’t see us

Fighting on the Champs Elysées last weekend between French security forces and the so-called ‘gilets jaunes’ led to more than 100 arrests. According to the police, roughly eight thousand demonstrators took part. Barricades were built – and set alight – by what looked from a distance to be groups of rampaging lollipop people in dayglo yellow tops. But the gilets jaunes are not championing pedestrian safety: their revolt has been prompted by a sharp rise in the price of diesel and unleaded petrol at the pump, which they blame on President Macron’s fossil fuel tax. This is a drivers’ movement, at least at first sight, and despite the turmoil on the Champs Elysées, it is deeply provincial. Macron responded on Tuesday not with a U-turn, but with a concession enabling parliament to freeze the carbon tax – which is set to keep rising year on year – when the oil price goes up. A freeze is a very different proposition from a reduction and the gilets jaunes don’t like it. They were out in force again on Wednesday and another big demonstration looks likely in Paris tomorrow. More »

Endgame

At 6.20 p.m. yesterday, Magnus Carlsen queened a pawn and delivered the perfect answer to those who had criticised his decision on Monday to force the World Chess Championship to tiebreaks. His 3-0 trouncing of Fabiano Caruana in a four-game Rapid match confirmed his status as the best human chess player, despite the three-year dip in his tournament results. Afterwards he suggested that the faster forms of the game should have a higher status. More »

Settlers v. Airbnb

On 19 November, Airbnb announced that it had removed from its website around 200 properties in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. The global travel agency explained that it had decided to ‘act responsibly’ after considering the settlements’ ‘disputed’ character and their contribution to ‘human suffering’. More »

  • Recent Posts

    RSS – posts

  • Contributors

  • Recent Comments

    • whisperit on When More Means Less: This has been the main impetus behind changes in mental health provision for some time. In my last job as a mental health nurse, I began by visiting i...
    • David Sharp on Don’t pretend you can’t see us: A good article. The gilets jaunes "have given me back my pride in being French," said the historian-sociologist Emmanuel Todd during an excellent t...
    • kirkmc on Don’t pretend you can’t see us: It's important to understand the context of diesel cars in France. For decades, the French government promoted their use, through much lower taxes on ...
    • Andrew McGettigan on Carlsen’s Fortress: To provide a little more detail for the diagram. The position is taken before White's 67th move. 67 Bd5-c4 would keep the black knight from e2 (and fr...
    • Graucho on Out of Stock: From the late sixties onwards I have witnessed the effects of cannabis smoking on any number of friends, acquaintances and loved ones. At best I have ...

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

Advertisement
Advertisement