Archive for April, 2015

Dave Green was an active and much loved member of United Valleys Action Group, he sadly passed away last week due to lung cancer aged 74 in poverty. In September Hollywood based, Newport-born actor Michael Sheen visited a United Valleys Action Group meeting as an observer while making his documentary Valleys Rebellion to coincide with the 175th anniversary of The Chartist rebellion.

Dave made a big impression on Mike. Our group set up a fund to pay for Dave’s funeral expenses to stop social services giving him a pauper’s cremation. Michael has helped us and we are extremely grateful.

It has been an incredible few days.

https://discordion.wordpress.com/2014/09/22/actor-michael-sheen-visited-our-united-valleys-action-group-meeting-at-pontlottyn-blast-furnace-inn/

https://discordion.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/10426144_731295250269138_3817533482753736592_n.jpg

Dave Green and Michael Sheen at the Blast Furnace Sept 2014

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-east-wales-32516983

http://www.itv.com/news/wales/2015-04-29/hollywood-star-steps-in-to-fund-valley-mans-funeral/

http://www.express.co.uk/news/showbiz/573742/Michael-Sheen-pays-mining-activist-funeral-penniless

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/hollywood-star-michael-sheen-helps-5601602

http://www.lasvegasnvblog.com/2015/04/michael-sheen-steps-in-to-raise-funeral-funds-for-penniless-mining-activist-who-died-of-cancer/

http://www.southwales-eveningpost.co.uk/Michael-Sheen-helps-raise-funds-Valleys-cancer/story-26406852-detail/story.html

“It’s things like this that really do restore your faith in humanity.” – (my mate Eddy Blanche, vice- Chair, United Valleys Action Group)

The United Valleys Action Group’s fundraising page for Dave’s funeral can be found a http://www.gofundme.com/su6q7c-t

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A Hole in the System

The outrageous, untold story of how big business dumps its costs on us.- By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 29th April 2015

Wrapped up in this story is everything that’s wrong with the way our economy works. Corporations ream the land with giant holes, extract a stack of money, then clear out, leaving other people with the costs. There’s a briefer description: legalised theft.

The-Ffos-y-fran-coalmine-009

This is an account, scarcely mentioned in the national media, of the massive unfunded liabilities emerging from coalfields throughout Britain, that opencast mining companies have been allowed to walk away from.

It’s comparable in terms of irresponsibility to the failure by the nuclear industry to fund its decommissioning costs. And it offers a solid argument, even to those who continue to reject climate science, for keeping fossil fuels in the ground.

As I write, Neath-Port Talbot Council in South Wales is considering a new application for an opencast coal mine. The mine is unpopular, but its proponents argue that it’s necessary. Why?

Because only by digging a new pit, they say, can the money be made to fill in an old one. How could this be true, when millions of tonnes of coal have been extracted? Where did the money go? You think you are inured to the worst of British politics? Read on.

When British Coal was privatised by John Major’s government in 1994, the company that took over in South Wales, Celtic Energy, was granted a 10-year exemption from paying a restoration bond, in return for offering a slightly higher price for the assets. That higher price disappeared into national accounts, doubtless in the form of one of Mr Major’s tax cuts for the rich.

After 10 years, the exemption expired, and Celtic Energy had to start putting up a decommissioning fund.

At East Pit, where the application for new mining is now being considered, the bond now stands at around £4m, while the restoration is likely to cost about £115m.

At another vast pit, Margam, near Bridgend, there is £5.7m in the kitty – against an estimated restoration cost of £56m.

In 2010 Celtic Energy sold the land rights, and the liabilities, at East Pit, Margam and two other mines, to a company in the British Virgin Islands called Oak Regeneration, for £1 per mine. Oak Regeneration then passed the liabilities to Pine Regeneration, Beech Regeneration and Ash Regeneration, none of which appear to have the assets required for restoration. Five senior executives at Celtic Energy walked away with benefits worth more than £10m.

The people involved in this transfer, including two directors of Celtic Energy and the former chief executive of Cardiff City Council, were charged with fraud. But last year the judge threw out the case, saying that, while some might regard their actions as “dishonest” or “reprehensible”, they were not illegal.

So all that is left, the opencasters argue, is to dig more holes. It’s like the old woman who swallowed a fly.

In a paper commissioned by the Welsh government, I was struck by the mention of the Ffos-y-fran opencast coal mine, on which I reported in 2007. This pit was justified as a “restoration scheme”, which would remove the old adits, shafts and spoil heaps left behind by deep mining. Local people were sceptical: one of them told me “you don’t go down 600ft and blast 5 days a week to reclaim an area.”

But the report finds that the bond laid down by Ffos-y-fran’s operators, £15m, “falls well short of a worst case restoration cost which could be in excess of £50m”.

The “restoration scheme”, this suggests, cannot fund its own restoration.

In some cases, villages and towns find themselves perched on the edge of sheer drops, overlooking running black sores sometimes hundreds of metres wide.

At Margam, for example, the pit is some 2km across and, according to the latest estimate I’ve seen, the water gathering there is 88m deep. In East Ayrshire, in Scotland, 22 giant voids have been abandoned by their operators. Restoration work there would cost £161m, but just £28m has been set aside. As the local MP explained, “they are so large they cannot be effectively secured from trespass… unstable head walls and extremely deep water bodies with vertical drop-offs make for dangerous playgrounds.”

An independent report found that the collection of restoration bonds by East Ayrshire Council officials was “wholly deficient and defective”, while the failure to appoint independent assessors was “completely inexplicable”. While officials took their eye off the ball, East Ayrshire councillors took gifts and hospitality from the coal operators, including a trip to watch Celtic play Barcelona in Spain, premier league tickets, lavish meals, food hampers and nights in hotels. When the two companies running the pits went bust, the council was left in a gigantic hole.

Nationwide, the unfunded liabilities counted so far amount to £469m. That’s likely to be just the beginning.

This is a price we pay for limited liability. Why should the people who own and run these companies be allowed to walk away with millions, while shrugging off the costs they leave behind? Limited liability is one of our social silences: a giant gift to corporations that we won’t even discuss.

And why are we digging coal anyway, when we cannot afford to burn it? Climate breakdown is the greatest unfunded liability of all, for which future generations will have to pay.

Yet in 2013, the latest year for which figures are available, the amount of coal for which companies in Britain have permission to dig rose from 12m tonnes to 24m.

Eight new opencast pits were approved in that year, and only three rejected. In which parallel universe is this compatible with the commitment to limit climate change?

Last week, lost in the election turmoil, the Welsh Senedd did something remarkable. It voted, by 30 votes to zero, for a moratorium on opencast coal mining. With the Welsh ban on fracking, this could have meant that Wales was the first nation on earth to keep its fossil fuels in the ground.

But the Welsh government refused to accept the decision, using the restoration argument. Past crimes are used to justify new ones.

Fire and forget: that’s the psychopathic business model we confront, and the forgetting is assisted by the press and political leaders.

To them, the victims are non-people, the ruined landscapes non-places. All that counts is the money.

www.monbiot.com


http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/hollywood-star-michael-sheen-steps-9138636

Anti Opencast Protester Dave Green (left) with Actor Michael Sheen
Anti Opencast Protester Dave Green with Actor Michael Sheen, picture by Ian Pritchard, 2014.

Hollywood star Michael Sheen has helped raise funds for a proper funeral for a penniless campaigner he met during the filming of his BBC documentary Valleys Rebellion.

Anti opencast mining activist Dave Green had died of lung cancer aged 74 and was set for a state-funded pauper’s funeral.

Newport-born Nixon star Sheen stepped in after being made aware of it by the United Valleys Action Group he had met while filming his programme on the Chartist Uprising.

‘He made a big impact on me’

He both helped publicise the fund-raising campaign by the group so the campaigner from Pontlottyn in the Rhymney Valley could have a proper funeral and donated an undisclosed sum himself.

After hearing the news, Sheen asked his 230,000 Twitter followers to help.

He added a fourth post with a link to the fundraising page, saying it was his “honour” to help.

Two days later, on Sunday, he thanked everyone who had helped raise £1,000 and added another plea for donations.

( Related: Hollywood star Michael Sheen gets really, REALLY serious when it comes to democracy )

Eddy Blanche, Vice Chairman of the United Valleys Action Group, had initially contacted the US-based star and said that Mr Green should be “buried with the dignity he deserves”.

Mr Green was an active campaigner for the United Valleys Action Group who campaigned tirelessly to stop the proposed opencast mine in Rhymney, even after being diagnosed with lung cancer.

Dave Green on a protest march in Cardiff Bay
Dave Green on a protest march in Cardiff Bay

Mr Blanche said:

“We will make sure that Dave’s final farewell will be a fitting one for someone who spent so much of his latter years selflessly campaigning and helping others.”

Eddy said he was “Completely blown away by the support, both locally and even from people who had never met Dave.

“It’s things like this that really do restore your faith in humanity.”

The United Valleys Action Group’s fundraising page for Dave’s funeral can be found at  www.gofundme.com/su6q7c

Guernica, Pablo Picasso.

Guernica, Pablo Picasso.

On April 26, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, the Nazis tested their new air force on the Basque town of Guernica in northern Spain.

One-third of Guernica’s 5,000 inhabitants were killed or wounded. Pablo Picasso exposed the horror of the bombing in his famous painting called Guernica.

If he were alive today would he be painting Gaza or Mosel?

PLEASE SHARE THIS IF YOU VALUE OUR NHS!!!

This Peter Bone was the same crackpot who was trying to get his Bill for National Service through in 2013/14, luckily it was absolutely crushed on the second reading. My surprise is he hasn’t defected to the UKIPS yet, his views are so extreme right wing he would fit right in.

Pride's Purge

(not satire – it’s the Tories!)

A confidential email from a Tory MP shows how local hospital closures are being kept secret from the public until after the election in order to avoid ‘sensitive’ issues arising during the election campaign.

The leaked email from Wellingborough Tory MP Peter Bone to a member of the Board of Directors of the local NHS Clinical Commissioning Group shows how police and fire station closures are also being secretly delayed until after the election:

From: Bone, Peter <peter.bone.mp@parliament.uk>
Date: Wed, Apr 8, 2015 at 3:16 PM
Subject: Proposed relocation of services consultation
To: “Rees, Stuart”

Dear Stuart,

Thank you very much for your telephone call earlier today regarding the proposed consultation with regards to the possible relocation of services from the Isebrook Hospital site. Whilst a huge supporter of the Isebrook site during my time as MP, I appreciate that the CCG has difficult decisions to make in…

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Coal, Capitalism, John D. Rockefeller Jr., and the massacre of Two hundred Miners, Women and Children.
Today is the 101st Anniversary of America’s own “Chartist” type atrocity – The LUDLOW MASSACRE.

Woodie Guthrie – The Ludlow Massacre


http://www.upworthy.com/have-you-ever-heard-of-the-ludlow-massacre-you-might-be-shocked-when-you-see-what-happened?c=ufb3

The early 1900s were a time of great social upheaval in our country. During the years leading up to the Ludlow Massacre, miners all around the country looking to make a better life for themselves and their families set up picket lines, organized massive parades and rallies, and even took up arms. Some died.

Coal Country, Colorado

100 years ago, the Rocky Mountains were the source of a vast supply of coal. At its peak, it employed 16,000 people and accounted for 10% of all employed workers in the state of Colorado. It was dangerous work; in just 1913 alone, the mines claimed the lives of over 100 people. There were laws in place that were supposed to protect workers, but largely, management ignored those, which led to Colorado having double the on-the-job fatality rate of any other mining state.

It was a time of company towns, when all real estate, housing, doctors, and grocery stores were owned by the coal companies themselves, which led to the suppression of dissent as well as overinflated prices and an extreme dependence on the coal companies for everything that made life livable. In some of these, workers couldn’t even leave town, and armed guards made sure they didn’t. Also, if any miner or his family began to air grievances, they might find themselves evicted and run out of town.

Union Parade, Trinidad, Colorado, 1913

The Union

The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) had been organizing for many years in the area, and this particular company, Colorado Fuel and Iron, was one of the biggest in the West — and was owned by the Rockefeller family, notoriously anti-union.

Put all this together, and it was a powder keg.

The Ludlow Colony before the massacre, 1914

Strikers, Ludlow Tent Colony, 1914

Strike!

When a strike was called in 1913, the coal company evicted all the miners from their company homes, and they moved to tent villages on leased land set up by the UMWA. Company-hired guards (aka “goons”) and members of the Colorado National Guard would drive by the tent villages and randomly shoot into the tents, leading the strikers to dig holes under their tents and the wooden beams that supported them.

Why did the union call for a strike? The workers wanted:

  1. Recognition of the union as bargaining agent,
  2. An increase in tonnage rates (equivalent to a 10% wage increase),
  3. Enforcement of the eight-hour work day,
  4. Payment for “dead work” that usually wasn’t compensated, such as laying coal car tracks,
  5. The job known as “Weight-checkmen” to be elected by workers. This was to keep company weightmen honest so the workers got paid for their true work,
  6. The right to use any store rather than just the company store, and choose their own houses and doctors,
  7. Strict enforcement of Colorado’s laws, especially mine safety laws.

The “Death Special,” an improvised armored car (with machine gun) built by the coal company’s private security

Cavalry charge on striker women in nearby Trinidad

Militia and private detectives or mine guards, Ludlow

The Powder Keg Explodes

The attacks from the goons continued, as did the battles between scabs (strikebreakers) and the miners. It culminated in an attack on April 20, 1914, by company goons and Colorado National Guard soldiers who kidnapped and later killed the main camp leader and some of his fellow miners, and then set the tents in the main camp ablaze with kerosene. As they were engulfed, people inside the tents tried to flee the inferno; many were shot down as they tried to escape. Some also died in the dugouts below the burning tents. In the first photograph below, two women and 11 children died in the fire directly above them. A day that started off with Orthodox Easter celebrations for the families became known as the Ludlow Massacre.

The “Death Pit”

Rear view of ruins of tent colony

Funeral procession for Louis Tikas, leader of Greek strikers

The 10-Day War

The miners, fresh off the murders of their friends and family members, tried to get President Woodrow Wilson to put a stop to the madness, but he deferred to the governor, who was pretty much in the pocket of the mine companies.

So the miners and those at other tent colonies quickly armed themselves, knowing that many other confrontations were coming. And they went to the mines that were being operated by scabs and forced many of them to close, sometimes setting fire to the buildings. After 10 days of pitched battle and at least 50 dead, the president finally sent in the National Guard, which promptly disarmed both sides.

Union Victory

While close to 200 people died over the course of about 18 months before and after the battles at Ludlow and the union ultimately lost the election, the Ludlow Massacre brought a congressional investigation that led to the beginnings of child-labor laws and an eight-hour workday, among other things.

But it also brought national attention to the plight of these miners and their families, and it showed the resilience and strength that union people could display when they remained united, even in the face of extreme corporate and government violence. Historian Howard Zinn called it “the culminating act of perhaps the most violent struggle between corporate power and laboring men in American history.” And the primary mine owner, John D. Rockefeller Jr., received a lot of negative attention and blame for what happened here.

The UMWA is still a solid union today, and there is a monument in Colorado to those who died in the Ludlow Massacre.


"Intolerant Bastards: if this is Man, then what?" - Discordion, 2014.

“Intolerant Bastards: if this is Man, then what?” – Discordion, 2014.

These Tory quacks and charlatans are beyond belief


For some time now, Conservative strategist Lynton Crosby has been reassuring his adopted party they will reach “crossover”. This is the term he’s been using to describe the moment when they take over the lead from Labour in the polls and push ahead.

The date of crossover, rather like the rapture, keeps being pushed back. It was meant to be Christmas last year, but nothing of significance happened then apart from a particularly good Dr Who special. January was also disappointing, February was frigging desolate and March passed without a squeak.

Now we’re in the middle of April, what TS Eliot described as “the cruellest month”: for the Tories that’s proved true, with Labour and Conservative still stuck on more or less 33%.

It would be easy then for David Cameron to give up on Mr Crosby and his promise of good polls ahead; except, he can’t. Lynton Crosby is his Designated Bastard, the man his party has paid fistfuls of money to order all of them about and get them to do whatever it takes to win. It’s the stuff of tradition for Tory governments to get in an expensive Designated Bastard at election time; it’s the line of life, a cycle of comfort. The Designated Bastard arrives, tells them not to be pussies, puts up posters about Labour’s tax bombshells, flashes up cartoons of the Labour leader in the pocket of someone, or being the poodle of someone, sitting on someone’s lap, wearing someone’s hair, or being stuck up someone’s arse.

Usually, the party pays devoted attention to the Designated Bastard.

First, because he’s so expensive but really because he’s such a Bastard. He gets them to do things they’ve spent the past five years being ordered not to under any circumstances. For five years, they’ve been clenching their teeth and talking about partnership and coalition. They’ve been pushing Big Societies and feeling everyone’s pain by sobbing that we’re all in it together.

Except, this time, it seems not to be. Lynton Crossover hasn’t worked.

And that’s a problem, since there is no plan B.

The Tories believe in tradition and the tradition has always been that being a Bastard works.

So panic sets in. Once panic starts, rational political behaviour falls apart. Hence the true “crossover” we got last week – the much commented on swapping of clothes brazenly taking part in the Labour and Conservative manifestos.

Labour painted themselves as the party of fiscal rectitude, while the Tories went crazy on uncosted spending commitments. In this crazy looking-glass politics, Labour turn out to be the party with the most conservative financial commitment to the NHS, while the Conservatives are the most profligate.

This muddle has been a long time coming. For decades now, each main party has been defining itself on how similar it is to the other and how different it is from its own past. New Labour stole Thatcherite prudence and Cameroonian Conservativism detoxified its nasty image by going green and socially aware. Like two galaxies drawing closer to each other, it’s no wonder they ended up in a massive swirl of confusion.

The spinning can’t be stopped: if anything, it gets faster and faster until you can’t tell which one is which.

Labour’s paranoia about looking like Old Labour I can understand: battered for so long by a mostly rightwing press, it still clings to a suspicion that even in this digital age the old tabloid headlines still affect people’s opinion.

The Tory volte-face I find truly extraordinary, though. Normally, this type of trickery is done with just words. Last election, it was the verbal gymnastics contained in such slogans as “Vote Blue, Go Green” or that most perfect of semantic paradoxes, “Vote for Change: Vote Conservative”. It’s a basic trick with words, in which you take a word and insist it means its opposite. The more you insist, the greater chance people will believe you. (We know it as Orwellian double-speak)

This time round, though, there is something desperate about the trick.

  • They will “spend” on the NHS more than Labour, but that spending will be funded by carrying on with their “track record” on the economy.
  • They’ll block Scottish MP’s voting on certain tax laws but that will somehow keep the UK united.
  • They will rail against recklessness, but concede a European referendum (to stave off a threat to their support)
  • and pledge billions in public spending based on no more than an inkling the economy’s going to keep growing.

All this time, they’ll muffle this panic with words such as “steady” and “on course”, words used to conceal an unsteady veer away from stability.

They’re like bad magicians who, at the moment of subterfuge, simply shout: “What’s that?” and point to the other side of the room in the hope we’ll turn away.

This isn’t wordplay – this is charlatanism pure and simple.

David Cameron is indulging in basic quackery, trying to sell you stuff he knows doesn’t work. He’s doing it with our money and he’s conjuring with people’s lives.

We know there’s no magic; the money will come from the cuts and deficit reductions and benefit targets and financial squeezes on those Cameron knows won’t be voting for him anyway.

It’s the bastardly misuse of the public purse and the final proof, if any were needed, that he is unfit to lead his country and his party unfit to govern.


Mark McGowan

Katie Hopkins is the typical private school toff.

Her parents never cared about her much, never said they loved her, and packaged her off to some boarding school aged 7. She’s a twisted victim of her upbringing. She sees the world as cold and loveless as her childhood and realised a great way to get attention is to spit bile and vitriol and draw shocked reactions to her attention seeking. She should be in a psychiatrist chair not on tv and in newspapers. She is mentally unstable, possibly sociopathic, and is being exploited by Murdoch media for entertainment.


I still Don’t care” is the ideology of David Cameron and Katie Hopkins, it is the message of our time.


The David Clapson story  – David Cameron left furious after the Andrew Marr interview

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/david-cameron-left-furious-andrew-5551652

David Cameron was left fuming today after being grilled on live TV over the death of a diabetic ex-soldier whose benefits had been stopped.

The angry Prime Minister’s “lips went thin” with rage after he was quizzed about tragic David Clapson, according to witnesses.

Downing Street did not deny the PM was angered by the questions but rejected suggestions he “stormed out” of the studio after filming finished.

The Mirror told last summer how David, 59, died with just £3.44 in his bank account after his £71.70-a-week Jobseeker’s Allowance was axed because he missed an appointment .

Tests show he died from diabetic ­ketoacidosis – caused by not taking his insulin.

His devastated sister Gill Thompson said he may have stopped injecting himself with the lifesaving drug after becoming so desperate over his lack of cash and work.