Archive | March 2013


UKBA logoSoon to be the late, but definitely not lamented!

My heart lifted yesterday when I heard the news that the “arms length” UK Border Agency (UKBA) is to be scrapped and replaced by two new organisations under the direct control of the Home Office.  (‘UK Border Agency not good enough and being scrapped’; BBC News; 26 March 2013)

Meanwhile former UKBA Chief Executive Lin Homer, currently head of HMRC, is being roundly criticised and hauled over the coals by MPs and others for her “catastrophic failure of leadership” at the “chaotic Border Agency” (‘How did this woman get put in charge of our taxes? MPs attack ‘catastrophic failure of leadership’ by former boss of chaotic Border Agency who was PROMOTED to lead revenue and customs.’; Mail Online; 25 March 2013)

Anyone who has had any dealings with the asylum system over the last few years will be aware just how “not fit for purpose” UKBA was.

This change presents us with a golden opportunity to sweep away the culture of suspicion and disbelief that has greeted the majority of people seeking to exercise their legitimate right to claim asylum in the UK over the last few years.

It remains to be seen whether our government will grasp this opportunity, but the Home Secretary’s promise of a “high-volume service that makes high-quality decisions” certainly strikes the right note.

RWEThis promise is a fitting tribute to my good friend Roger Warren Evans, who has long campaigned for a timely fair hearing and high-quality legal representation for all asylum seekers.

Roger is currently in the process of winding down Asylum Justice , the charity he founded to provide free legal advice to asylum seekers without recourse to public funds across South Wales.  That’s one organisation that will be missed by many.

Here’s wishing you a long, happy and well deserved retirement Roger.


Penclawdd residents reject plans for Coal Gasification in the Loughor Estuary

Whiteford Lighthouse 2At a packed meeting held in the Penclawdd Community Centre on Wednesday evening (13 March), local residents unanimously rejected plans for Coal Gasification in the Loughor Estuary.

Organised by the Llanrhidian Higher Community Council, the meeting saw a presentation by campaign group Frack Off, which outlined the background to the plans and illustrated some of the issues surrounding Coal Gasification.  Local Councillor Mark Thomas also addressed the meeting to confirm that no planning application has been submitted to date.

Representatives of Cluff Natural Resources, the company that holds the exploration licence for the estuary, and the Environment Agency were invited to the meeting but declined to attend at this stage, claiming that the plans are not yet sufficiently developed for them to make any meaningful statements.

Following the presentation and comments from the floor, the residents present at the meeting rejected the proposal, with not a single voice raised in support of the plans.

Keith M Ross of local campaign group Safe Energy Wales said, “It’s a real pity that Cluff Natural Resources declined to attend the meeting to put their side of the argument.  However, it’s clear from the comments made by local residents that they are already well informed and aware of the risks that Coal Gasification poses to the estuary and surrounding area.

“The Loughor Estuary is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, bordered to the south by the Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  The mudflats and salt marshes are home to internationally significant numbers of wildfowl and waders.  The gathering and processing of cockles within the estuary contributes significantly to the local economy.

“Any industrial development in such a sensitive area is likely to have an impact.  Given the information that we heard at the meeting, it’s difficult to understand how this development can go ahead without any impact on the environment, as claimed by Cluff Natural Resources.”


Safe Energy Wales is a Swansea based collective of groups and individuals working together to raise awareness of issues related to energy production across Wales.  You can find us on facebook: ‘Fracked Swansea’




My speech at the Anti-Fascist Rally in Swansea on Saturday 9 March

NFThe instigators of today’s event set the theme as ‘Pride’.

So I thought I would just share a few of the things that I’m proud of with you.

I’m proud that Swansea is a City of Sanctuary, in recognition of all the hard work that has gone on in this city over the years to make it a place of welcome and safety for all.

I’m particularly proud of my personal role in making that happen.

I’m proud of Swansea City Football Club – winners of the Capital One Cup – captained by Ashley Williams; goals scored by Nathan Dyer and Jonathan De Guzman.

I’m proud to be British.

I’m proud to live in a country that, despite the best efforts of government and certain sections of our media, is still renowned the world over as a place that offers a welcome and safety to people from beyond our borders.

I’m proud to number among my friends and neighbours people from many countries; people of all faiths and of none; some of them here in the crowd today.

This is 21st century Britain.  Multi-Ethnic; Multi-Cultural; Multi-Faith.

We’ve had immigration in this country since way before the English arrived.  That’s the way we want it, and that’s the way it’s going to stay.

This is our country.  This is how it is.

If you don’t like it – tough.  Crawl back down whatever hole you came out of and learn to deal with it.  And don’t come back onto our streets until you have.

Swansea City of Sanctuary – Fascists not welcome.



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A real alternative to coal and nuclear

FrackingGordon Triggs sees shale gas as an “alternative” to nuclear or coal-fired power stations. (‘Shale gas is the answer’, South Wales Evening Post, 8 March).

Burning coal and other fossil fuels generates carbon dioxide, which contributes significantly to global warming.

Extracting, processing and burning shale gas will create emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas with 25 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

Extraction of shale gas involves the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).  An average shale gas well requires 3 to 8 million gallons of fresh water over its lifetime.  This water is mixed with highly toxic chemicals, producing millions of gallons of poisonous waste that has to be removed and stored for processing.

Given that use of shale gas will only provide a short-term continuation of ‘business as usual’, where our energy supply continues to involve dangerous, destructive and polluting technologies, it’s difficult to understand quite what definition of “alternative” Gordon Triggs is using.

In contrast, renewable energy requires no fuel extraction, generates no pollution and leaves behind no waste.

That sounds like a real alternative to me.







RIP Commandante Hugo Chavez

(Re-post of an e-mail from David Rovics)

Friends and comrades,

Hugo ChavezI don’t know about you, but I feel a somewhat surprisingly personal sense of loss at the death of President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.  Anything else aside, this man and the popular social movement he has played a huge role in, not only within Venezuela but around the world, has been a massive, positive influence for untold millions of people.  He and the many positive aspects of the transformational process that has been underway in Venezuela and most of Latin America, really, especially since 1998, have changed the lives in a very physical way for millions of our sisters and brothers, and have been an inspiration for those struggling to make the world a better place in every corner of the Earth, very much including within the belly of the imperial beast, here in the USA.

For those of us who have spent much of the past 15 years protesting in one form or another at gatherings of the global elite — meetings of the World Trade Organization, the World Economic Forum, and other such spectacles — there was always one consistent voice within those meetings that denounced these elitist proceedings as eloquently and as firmly as his friends in the streets outside the halls of power.

And as the years have passed since his first landslide election victory in 1998, one after another Latin American country has seen the left come to power, with people like Evo Morales go from leading a union to leading a nation.  I don’t have any idea what those of us in places like the USA would have done over the past 15 years without the example of the Bolivarian Revolution shining its light in what often seems like an otherwise fairly dark room.  An imperfect light, to be sure — I can already imagine some of the emails I’ll be getting by tomorrow from some of my favorite anarchists — but a powerful light nonetheless, and Hugo Chavez has been at the center of it.

One of the most memorable experiences of my life will probably always be December 17th, 2009, on a very cold, cloudy day in Copenhagen, when I had the privilege of being one of the performers to warm up for Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales and other speakers at a large hall a short walk from the house I usually stay at when I’m in town.

Here’s a video someone took of me singing my “Song for Hugo Chavez” at that event, which was broadcast soon thereafter on Venezuelan television.  (I know this because I got emails from both supporters and detractors of the Commandante after it aired, which made reference to this song on the TV.)  On my blog I have a picture taken from the door to my bedroom here in Portland, Oregon.  It’s a tattered poster from that event 4 years ago.

And here is a video from the great Uruguayan songwriter, Daniel Viglietti, which I think sums up the spirit of the Bolivarian Revolution brilliantly, his song, “A desalambrar” (with English subtitles on this video).

I’m sure I’ll have more to say on this subject later, but for now, signing off.  La lucha continua!



David Rovics



The frackers are coming to town

Welsh Government LogoOn Thursday of this week (7th March) the Welsh Government Environment and Sustainability Committee will be hearing “evidence” from representatives of companies involved in shale gas and coal bed methane extraction and underground coal gasification; plus Friends of the Earth, the Tyndall Centre and Natural Resources Wales (the new single body that replaced the Countryside Council, Forestry Commission and Environment Agency in Wales).

Below is a list of Assembly Members who are members of this committee.  If your AM is on this list please take the time to lobby them and tell them why you are concerned about extreme energy extraction in Wales.  No need to do this before Thursday as their deliberations will go on for some time.

Dafydd Elis-Thomas (Chair) – Plaid, Dwyfor Meirionnydd

Mick Antoniw – Labour, Pontypridd

Keith Davies – Labour, Llanelli

Russell George – Conservative, Montgomeryshire

Vaughan Gething – Labour, Cardiff South and Penarth

Llyr Huws Gruffydd – Plaid, North Wales

Julie James – Labour, Swansea West

William Powell – Lib Dem, Mid & West Wales

David Rees – Labour, Aberavon

Antionette Sandbach – Conservative, North Wales

Even if your AM is not on this list, now might be a good time to let them know how you feel about this issue as they will all be asked to vote on it at some time in the future. Read More…

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