Friday, September 21, 2012

Hillsborough – a disaster forged in ruling-class hate

Twenty-three years too late, the real truth is finally being told about the Hillsborough disaster of April 15, 1989, which killed 96 football fans and injured hundreds more.

A new 354-page report, released by the Hillsborough Independent Panel after accessing over 400,000 pages of secret documents, has implicated the police, media and British government in what has been described as “the biggest cover-up of British legal history”.

Importantly, it has also cleared Liverpool fans of the vile accusations that the media, police and politicians have thrown at them for over two decades, and has opened the way for justice to finally be won.

On April 15, 1989, Sheffield’s Hillsborough football stadium played host to the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool FC and Nottingham Forest.

At 2:52pm, Chief superintendent David Duckenfield directed South Yorkshire police to herd thousands of Liverpool fans into an already dangerously over-packed part of the stands on the Lepping’s Lane end of the ground.

As they surged forward, those being crushed at the front sought to have the gates opened to the nearly-empty neighbouring stands, and tried to climb over the high fences to safety.

The police refused to open the gates or help fans. Instead they beat them with truncheons back into the deadly crush.

As the bodies of the injured and dying began to pile up on the field, police lined up three rows deep to keep fans off the pitch, calling in dog-handlers, and assaulting and arresting those trying to give first aid to the injured.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Germany: Free marketeers made to walk plank, Pirates gain

Elections in the German state of Saarland on March 25 have dealt a heavy blow to the federal coalition government of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) retained its 12-year hold on power, holding steady at 35.2% of the small state’s voters. But Merkel's allies at a federal level - the neoliberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) - were wiped out at the state polls.

The FDP’s share of the vote dropped from 9.2% in 2009 to a tiny 1.2%, well below the 5% required to enter parliament.

Nationally, the FDP is polling at barely 3% - down from a high of 14.6% at the last federal elections. It was booted out of five state parliaments last year, a trend that seems set to continue.

The centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) increased its vote by 6% to 30.6% - not enough to dislodge the CDU from government, but enough to force it into a power-sharing “grand coalition”.

The vote for the anti-capitalist party Die Linke (“The Left”) dropped from 21% to only 16.1%, giving it 17 seats in parliament.

This relatively poor result came despite Saarland being home to Die Linke’s popular and outspoken former leader Oskar Lafontaine, once dubbed “the shadow Chancellor” for his ability to influence German politics.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Germany's presidency: corrupt incumbent out - obnoxious right-wing ideologue in.

German President Christian Wulff resigned on February 17 after prosecutors applied to have his presidential immunity stripped in a corruption scandal.

Wulff has been accused of having received a series of kickbacks from businessmen, including a home loan of 500,000 euros (paid via an anonymous bank cheque) in 2008.

He is also accused of receiving favourable car deals, free hotel-stays, free airline upgrades and other perks during his time as premier of the state of Lower Saxony.

When German tabloid Bild threatened to publish the allegations, Wulff left voice messages on the editor's phone threatening "war".

As more corruption accusations surfaced, prosecutors in Hannover, capital of Lower Saxony, asked the Bundestag (federal parliament) to lift Wulff's presidential immunity.

Faced with the destruction of his credibility, Wulff resigned. He now faces possible charges and the loss of his parliamentary pension.

Under the German system, a new president must be elected within 30 days of the resignation of his predecessor.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Lift Redfern Station Campaign

Redfern Railway station is one of the busiest stations in the country, with over 40,000 people passing through its gates each day, yet it doesn't have a single lift.

Never mind the residents nearby with children, disabilities or heavy luggage; never mind the elderly, frail or unwell; never mind the thousands of students of diverse backgrounds and needs who use the station on a daily basis.

No, if you want to catch or get off a train at Redfern, you have to climb one of the steep concrete staircases, or - if you're lucky - catch an equally steep escalator to the underground platforms.

For many people, this challenge is simply too difficult - or too dangerous - to seriously contemplate, and they are effectively excluded from relying on rail transport to get around. This is an outrage, and is totally unacceptable.

It is, of course, nothing new, nor is the empty government rhetoric about 'reviews' and 'plans' for upgrades. Successive governments have been making - and breaking - promises to fix the situation since at least the 1990s.

So, in January this year, the people of Redfern launched the broad-based Lift Redfern campaign to get the NSW government to pull its finger out.

Germany: Spies target left-wing party

Germany’s domestic spy agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), has been exposed for spying on left-wing MPs.

German magazine Der Spiegel said on January 23 that the BfV spied on MPs from Germany's biggest left-wing party, the socialist Die Linke ("The Left").

Der Spiegel said the intelligence agency had 27 of Die Linke's members in the Bundestag - more than one third of its federal MPs - and a further 11 members of state parliaments, under surveillance, costing 390,000 euros a year.

The BfV spends about 590,000 euros a year on surveillance of the neo-Nazi German National Party (NPD), linked to violent racist terror groups.

Unlike the marginal NPD, Die Linke is Germany's fifth largest party, with representation in almost every state parliament and in the national Bundestag.

The individuals being spied on weren't "fringe" members either, but leading party members and MPs ― many are in the party’s “moderate” wing.