Tuesday, December 30, 2003

First we take Manhattan, then we take Bristol
Here comes 2004. The 21st century. What does the next year hold for the people living in the Imperial fiefdom of Bristol? I'm posting a few suggestions for New Year resolutions because there is a group of people who have very definite plans for Bristol's wealth - the American right wing, who are running US foreign policy following Bush's coup d'état. You might think that this does not have much to do with us here in the West Country, but make no mistake - in 2004 they will be pushing for more of the wealth we generate to be put to use not for us, but to ensure their agenda is met.

First up, their plans consist of keeping us in Iraq. The US right wing think-tank, the Heritage Foundation's British expert Nile Gardiner had this to say; "The President should encourage Prime Minister Blair to continue his long-term military commitment to the future of Iraq."

OK. So far (till October 2003) that commitment has cost Bristol over £8 million (figure from total cost of war divided by UK population, multiplied by Bristol population).

That's £8 million not going into hospitals, schools or housing. So what is it going for? Well the same people who want us in Iraq are pretty clear on their aims for our money, "Heritage research focuses on building constructive partnerships with our European allies while keeping America's interests foremost."

It's all about keeping the US as number one. You see, in all the debate on the war, the mainstream media did a great job of ignoring what it was really about - keeping the US as the world's number one superpower; "America's grand strategy should aim to preserve and extend this advantageous position as far into the future as possible." That £8 million is going towards the US neoconservative grand strategy.

That £8 million is wealth we Bristolians have worked hard for. I, for one, am pissed off that we should be footing the bill for the expansion of the US empire and that our politicians are supporting this wealth transfer from Bristol to the US imperial plan. For example, those in Bristol South have been represented in parliament by Dawn Primarolo who has voted for the war that is costing us money. In 1990 Dawn's views were very different, "I feel horrified about the way in which we are being dragged towards the inevitability of war and that the world community, with all its resources, cannot find ways to make Saddam Hussein get out of Kuwait without war."

Now she's Paymaster General, all that 'red' sentiment has been forgotten in favour of power. The power to collude in spending our money so as to allow the US to dominate the world financially and militarily. I do wonder if Dawn has read the plans of those she has colluded with? Is she supporting the US imperial plan out of ignorance or with full knowledge of what they aim to do, and is so gung-ho herself, that she is totally on board? "It is a coalition between conservative thinkers and their pro-war, pro-intervention counterparts who hailed from the left. This new breed of militarist Blairites believes it is in the vanguard of a progressive new foreign policy.....They see the future as theirs."

They also seem to see our wealth as theirs. If this makes you angry. If all the lies and bullshit over WDMs piss you off. If you're tired of politicians who say one thing then do the opposite. If you are sick of the privatisation, privatisation, privatisation being offered by all the political elite from local council level to number 10, then make your new years resolution this: "Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine."

If you're already doing stuff, then rock on! All power to you! If you're standing on the side lines then here's a few possible routes to start:

-Support Independent Media
Over the last year lots of you already have, and that's cool. It's important to remember that indy media is the lifeblood of grassroots ideals. So take this support up a level: Get involved in Bristol Indymedia (open meeting on 14th Jan), buy the latest copy of Bristle, subscribe to Freedom or Schnews and so on. Make an active contribution!

-Boycott Bush
I know that boycotting alone will not change the world, but that doesn't mean you can't limit the supply of cash that the bastards have to use in their Dr.Evil-like plans. Bristol is full of businesses who given money directly to Bush and his henchmen. Avoid them like the plague on our city that they are! Starbucks gave them cash. Also boycott ASDA (aka Walmart), AOL, Esso (aka Exxon Mobil) and there are more. Fortunately the top BoycottBush.net website will help you hone your anti-bush shopping skills.

-Localise, localise, localise
So as you're not going to go to Asda, why not go to the farmers market in town on a Wed? That's just one example of the non-corporate small ventures you can support. Supporting local trade is a valuable buffer against global economic recession and is a far more long term investment than the 'quick-fix' that corporate investment offers regions (especially as they will go on to suck wealth from an area until economic conditions change when they'll get the fuck out with the loot.)

-Get Active
While where you spend your cash is important - it is nothing without action. Think about being more than an informed consumer. Get active - there are loads of groups from anti-war to pro-ecology. Make a resolution to do something about the shit we're in. If there is no group who share your ideas - form one. If you don't want to do direct action (like Earth First!) then support those who do (like Bristol ABC). Things are only going to progress when we force them too.

< Rant over > I hope you all have a good new year. I’ll raise a glass of local cider to Bristol in 2004. I’ve had fun here in 2003 and looking forward to 2004.

"Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine." (Henry David Thoreau)

"We are not in the least afraid of ruins. We are going to inherit the earth. There is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie might blast and ruin its own world before it leaves the stage of history. We carry a new world, here in our hearts. That world is growing this minute." (Durutti)

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Here comes the Yuppie House Implosion
I'd already outlined in an earlier article about why the housing market in Bristol is heading for an implosion. I think you'll start to the beginning phase of the implosion in 2004. I'm no economist, so there is a pretty healthy margin for error in my interpretation of what is going on, but the signs are here.

The big housing companies are shying away from the higher-end of the luxury market. Witness the words of a Wimpey spokesman (UK biggest housebuilder): "The UK housing market continues to be underpinned by a shortage of supply, caused by continuing planning delays, and good affordability. We will continue to focus on operating margins by managing costs and buying land on better terms, and limiting our exposure to higher priced markets." (Before you think they are going for lower values markets in your price range, they're not. They are looking to move away from £500,000+ and more towards the group average selling price of £160,000.) This statement does show that the bottom is starting to slip from the uber-luxury house, of the kind that The Point has a few showcase apartments.

The Financial Times reported on 22nd December, "Asking prices for houses in London slipped this month, speeding up the length of time it took to sell a property..." which is bad news for those seeking to sell Bristol's surplus luxury housing stock off in London. In 2002 the property consultants Frank Knight said of Bristol; "...consumers are really appreciating just how affordable it is to own their own home, or to trade up. In Bristol’s case and especially in the city centre, this has been the case, with comparative values for well specified apartments and town houses lagging some way behind that of other centres across the UK, which are further along their evolutionary paths." Which is saying that they are seeing yuppies trading up in London to relocate in Bristol, with cash to spare. However, you can't rely on that happening if the prices in London 'aint trading up as expected. (NB. For 'affordable' read 1 bedroom flat starting a £100,000, houses starting at £300,000) It is also interesting that Frank Knight stated in this same report, that those who took advantage of the lower (when compared to other 'evolved' cities) prices were going to be doing very nicely – further proof that those fueling the yuppie flat bubble are speculators, doing nothing to solve Bristol's housing problems and everything to exacerbate them.

While cry of 'From Each According To Their Ability, To Each According to Their Needs' has been shouted in the streets for over a hundred years from Paris to Bristol, now, more than ever do we need to re-examine the roots of a system that rewards those who exacerbate housing problems with exploding profits and punishes those who, while performing the essential services that keep the city moving, are not deemed valuable enough to have a stable roof over their head.

Friday, November 28, 2003

An Indymedia user has dubbed the current consultation exercise a ‘con-sulation’ and they are 100% right. It is. Make no mistake about it, the ‘Big Conversation’ is nothing more than a big scam, not only is it a big scam but it is profoundly anti-democratic and immoral. It’s spin in its purest and most cynical form. How do I know this? From the political landscape against which this idea emerged and a brief look at the recent history of Neo-Labour’s other con-sultations.

This is the third con-sulation of recent times. The other two notable con-sulations being the GM debate and ID Cards. Bristol has a strong anti-GM population and it was mobilised into the governments so-called consolation on the issue, GM Nation. On this major topic of national interest the government initially allotted a pathetic £500,000 of funding. Sounds a lot but when you consider this works out at less then 1p per person in the UK. One single penny to promote, co-ordinate, involve and collate the views of each citizen of the UK. Was Neo-Labour ever going to listen to the outcome of the results? No, it never mattered what the public said, Tony wanted GM and nothing was going to change that. Not even a con-sulation. So if it was never going to change policy, what was the point of it?

Next up was the con-sultation on ID cards. This was another sham. The majority of people who responded were against having ID cards. The government claimed the majority were in favour but only after they doctored the results removing half of the responses because they came from an organised campaign. Let me repeat that – THEY REMOVED HALF THE VOTES BECAUSE THEY CAME FROM A ORGANISED CAMPAGIN. What else is democracy based on but the organisation of like minded people? The government did not remove the votes that were organised by lobby groups who stand to gain from the contracts to be handed out – they removed the votes of citizens to took part in a legal, open and transparent political campaign. Then they commissioned their own research that purported to show that people wanted ID cards then made plans to introduce ID cards anyway. Con-sultation.

The idea of the big-conversation’ comes from political landscape of the US. But far more important is another US import – it comes form the mind of Republican master strategist Frank Luntz and I would bet that it is far more influential in government thinking than anything else. Luntz’s theory is simple – you don’t have to change policy at all to win votes – just change the way you present existing policy. So how does Neo-Labour change the presentation of policy (because as has been said time and time again, Blair won’t change the direction of policy)? Simple – get a huge state-sponsored focus group exercise going (aka ‘The Big Conversation’) then use the results to spin what you were going to do anyway in a better light. Welcome to politics Republican style. Welcome to politics Blair style. Welcome to politics empire style – a veneer of democracy with a core of fascism – and I mean that with the definition Mussolini used; "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power."

Monday, November 24, 2003

Doormouse attacks Bristol
Every now and then you go to see a gig and get blown away. This is why live music is so important. This is why live matters most. I went to see Doormouse play in the Take-Five café and got blown away. Doormouse, aka Dan Martin a Miami based breakcore music-maker who gained UK exposure after his album Broken (on Planet Mu) was featured amongst John Peel’s record box favs for September 2002.

2003 sees him touring the UK with a new release, Method (on Violent Turd), a tour which included one stop in Bristol alongside local acts Sheriff Rosco, Gusset & Parasite.

I'll get to being blown away in a moment, first it is worth addressing the climate across the UK the gig was held during, as it was hard to escape. Bush as also in the UK, and so there I am, late Thursday night, watching the equipment being assembled and wondering what Dubya and Blair are unto. I know they're at the American ambassadors house where GW has got the queen and all that over for dinner. I'm guessing that Blair is there, and maybe they retired after the food for port and cigars (except Dubya don't drink no more) and they're exchanging old war stores, George is telling how he dodged Vietnam and Blair is saying about how he dodged socialism...so here I am, also with an American who is visiting the UK, but where we are and where they are is a world apart. Doormouse isn't protected by a £5million security operation. We're all cramped into a basement under the Take 5 Cafe and Mr.Mouse is rocking the house.

Prior to the gig I'd not heard any Doormouse, I kind-of knew what sort of thing to expect. Prior to playing, he had solid support from Sheriff Rosco, Gusset and Parasite, so the crowd was hyped and ready. The set-up looked interesting; a laptop, mic and sequencer thingy and a mixer. When the time came, Doormouse was poised, not on a stage elevated above the crowd, but in the pit with the rest of us. Poised in his white socks and Bermuda shorts and t-shirt. Given its winter here, this clothing is either a statement of intent ("It's gonna get hot.") or a statement from home ("I from Florida."). The former is the truth; Intent. It got hot. What followed was a blistering assault of talent that proved beyond any doubt that the breakcore scene is one of the most dynamic, innovative and uncompromising happenings of today. Dynamic because Doormouse's sound was electric, dirty and raw. Innovative as he jumped from a Michael Jackson done at 720bpm to playing sampled crowd noises back at the crowd. Innovate as he flipped from rap to punk to death-metal. Uncompromising as he did what he wanted to do, from the 'fuck Bush' lrycis to all-out gabber assault drum beats. You were left in no doubt that this was his sound, done his way - like it or lump it. I liked it so much I brought the CD. Doormouse live is a five star, thumbs up recommended event.

You can see pictures of the event at Gusset's website. To find out more about Doormouse, visit Addict Records.

PS. Another funny IRC exhange from Bash.org:
<@minion> i think abortion is a time travelling alien's plot to stop us from advancing
<@NrK> no
<@NrK> conservitives are

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Bristol's Housing Time-Bomb
Bristol is facing a housing time-bomb and yet the people in a position to do something about it as simply adding more explosives to the pile. Why is Bristol facing a housing time-bomb? Because of the raft of luxury housing developments that have permeated the city and represent the vast majority of the housing being built. Why is this a time-bomb? The answer to this will take a bit more explaining...

To understand what is going on requires a little understanding into how the market is functioning. What is happening is that private capital is being poured into a large number of high-profit housing ventures. To be high-profit they must be luxury, as while you can make money from building affordable housing, you can make a whole lot more from luxury projects. To build anything significant, you require planning permission from the local authorities. They then act as a regulator of housing to ensure that what is being built matches the plans for the area and so, theoretically at least, benefits Bristol and it’s people.

However, that regulatory role seems to have been overlooked in a rush to attract investment into the city. Without any form of regulation, the property developers are naturally going to choose the high-profit ventures of luxury housing. As such the city has a raft of luxury developments as various private contractors and finance groups seek to profit from Bristol's wealth.

Normally in a capitalist economy, competition drives the market. But competition needs a degree of regulation to ensure the market is a level playing field. Housing is a necessity and driven by insecurity in the rented market, most people seek the security of their own home.Competition without regulation results in a twisted market, which is unstable and prone to collapse. In this case the market that is twisted and prone to collapse is the economy of our city and the people who live there; us.

So the lack of a level playing field and any serious regulation means a huge amount of luxury housing becomes almost the whole housing market. This is where the time-bomb develops. Lack of housing in the affordable sector combined with cheap credit means people buy properties beyond their means. In a low-interest rate environment they are already living on the edge. Too much housing in the luxury sector means housing units are left unsold, but key workers such as nurses and teachers still don't have good stable housing. The developers are unwilling to loose out on profits by significantly lowering the price, so they sell the housing in other cities such as in London, which does nothing to address Bristol’s housing issues.

When the economy takes a down-turn, as surly one day it will, interest rates will rise and jobs will be lost. Then the time-bomb explodes. Those morgaged to the hilt will loose their homes. Those without their own homes in rented property will find their rent rising to meet the morgage costs. The already strained housing sectors, despite having the space to house us all will, because of economic factors out of our control, begin tearing a the fabric of the city. Developments will lay derelict, monuments to lost opportunities. The global investors will move out of our city, happy to wait until the market bounces back to realise a return on their investments. We’ll be picking up the pieces while they move their attentions to profitable opportunities elsewhere.

But then I’m just some faceless pleb, I bet you are thinking that the global investors in such schemes know more about this subject than I do? Yes they do and their plans on making a profit rest on taking wealth from Bristol, not living here with the results of their schemes. And the argument I’m making is based on the writings of Noble prize wining economist Joseph Stigliz, who as a former chief economist to the World Bank, knows a thing or two about money.

And what of our councillors, what are they doing to defuse the time-bomb? They are busy bending over backwards to accommodate another luxury housing development at Broadmead. Even though the luxury housing already built has not been sold, the council persists in pushing a policy of 'give me luxury housing of give me death!'.

Yup, the luxury housing is not selling. Don't take my work for it, see for your self. Take a stroll around the Point, by the SS Great Britain at night and see how few flats look habited. Stoll over the river to Hotwells and see the blazing banners for the showhomes – a sure sign that all is not sold. Workers in the docks area speak of seeing the same kids bike and balcony furniture being moved from vacant balcony to vacant balcony in a desperate attempt to weave the illusion of habitation. This glut of unsold luxury housing combined with a lack of affordable housing is the winding of the timer. The time-bomb is being set.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

Monday, September 29, 2003

The Land of Milk and Money
The faceless management drones behind BAE Systems, partly based at Filton, must really hate democracy. In common with the Taliban, they must really detest and loathe the democratic process. That’s not to say they don’t love the state – because they do. The state is the cow from which they suckle. They love the money the state has to spend on guns and the subsidies it offers for the sale of more guns. What they don’t love is the idea that the same people whose labour that produces the milk from which they suckle should have a say in where the milk goes. Revelations have come to light that BAE has been spending thousands and thousands of pounds on covert surveillance of anti-arms trade activists. They been employing people to infiltrate and evaluate; gather bank details, private correspondence, addresses, phone numbers and personal dairies on hundred and hundreds of peace activists, environmentalists, pacifists and anyone else who was interested in the stupid notion that we can have a say in where our taxes go.

So if you’re a peace activist you get the pleasure of being spied on twice. Once by BAE Systems and once by the police forward intelligence teams. What gets worrying then is the thought that the two then collaborate with one another thus creating a mergers of corporate and state interested, which is the very essence of what Benito Mussolini defined as fascism; or maybe that is exactly what BAE would prefer?

You see BAE Systems loves dictatorships. In common with the Taliban, they love people who rule with the iron fist. They love 'em because firstly they can sell them more iron fists and secondly because they don’t have to worry about the pesky involvement of the ordinary people. Ordinary people, if left without a regular pounding from a BAE supplied iron fist, end up taking an interest in thier country and then force the BAE to spend its valuable profits on spying. You name a brutal regime and BAE are there wining a dining the killers, dictators, tortures and despots. All subsidised by our taxes. You see its also come to light that BAE operated a slush fund to purchase houses and other perks for corrupt despots to ensure the milk flowed freely. Dictatorships like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Indonesia are to BAE Systems, lands of milk and honey.

In fact BAE Systems; the arms dealer, peeping tom, slush fund operator and all round opponent of democracy is a fitting sponsor of @Bristol, proudly standing alongside fellow dodgy companies; baby killers Neslte and earth rapers Rio Tinto Zinc.

However it should be pointed out that not everything is going BAE's way. The war in Iraq, which was supposed to be paid for from the oil revenue, is not going according to plan. As such the US has demanded Britain stump-up more cash – which has squeezed the military budget and so is causing the MOD to review a number of proposed contracts with BAE.

PS. A big-up to the courageous Israeli pilots who have refused to fly 'Targeted Killing ' missions (i.e assassinations via air-to-ground missile) because to the civilian deaths that have resulted from such missions. A humane action in a world gone mad.

Monday, September 15, 2003

The Material Guru
Madonna of singing pop-tunes fame has written a kids book aimed at passing on her superior moral vision to us plebs. Thanks Madonna! Thanks for providing us with the moral vision we so desperately need to move forward towards a state of peace and harmony…NOT.

C’mon Madonna you’ve just done adverts for the fucking Gap for crying out loud! Here you are preaching moral values while hooking up with a corporation who submits its sweatshop workers to beatings, verbal abuse, sexual harassment, and harsh repression of union organizing. Should we turn a blind eye to this or is this moral? Help us O great celebrity guru see the wisdom in your all-knowing vision! Help us see that the Fisher family (who own the Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy Stores) are not being immoral as they busy themselves destroying the last of the ancient redwood forest in northern California and are driving endangered species to extinction, including the Coho Salmon, the steelhead trout, the marbled murelet and the spotted owl. Guide us O guru!

Madonna spake and said thus: "I'm not interested in being recognised as a writer, I'm interested in getting the message out there. The book deals with jealousy, envy and being covet of what other people have and what a waste of time that is." So wise guru, what you are saying is that we should not be jealous of the vast wealth that you and the Fisher family have accrued, for to do so is morally wrong? Yes? That we should be content with what we have, even if we are an impoverished Gap contract worker who’d have to work for weeks to buy your £12.99 book? Will your next book deal with the other moral values your business deals support? Profit over people and the environment. Or the spiritual superiority of your past advertising deals with Max Factor owned by the moral-beacon that is Procter & Gamble. By your example we should not consider their polluting, animal testing, low pay scandals, working with the military dictatorship of Burma and other activities as wrong. No, no no! If we look closer we see they have rewarded their CEO with pay (in 2001) of $1.14 Million….ah there is the moral lesson – we should not covert his wealth. Yes? I feel spiritually refreshed already! Thanks material guru!

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

The Harvesters of Skulls: A Reflection on S11 and Beyond

Two years ago tomorrow, on September 11th 2001, fired by religious fanaticism, Osama Bin Laden’s group laid 2807 skulls at the altar of their God. In response to this gruesome offering, the leaders of the 'civilized' world promptly arranged another sacrifice of around 3,400 Afghani skulls at the altar of their God. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

Bin Laden and his protégés were not to be outdone and responded by the offering of more skulls harvested from Bali, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and North Africa. Pushing the toll ever higher, Bush and Blair arranged the sacrifice of around another 7000 skulls in Iraq. I say approximately because they never received word from their God that they should bother to stop and count the bones, just to keep piling them high. Bush's religious henchmen obviously considered themselves the biblical word made flesh, the Alpha and the Omega. Bin Laden also sees the end-time coming; the first and the last, the beginning and the end.

Pile the skulls high, high enough so that the shadow cast by the offering of skulls is a monolith to their God of War. A gruesome tower of Babel who's shadow eclipses the sun so casting the world into a perpetual darkness. A darkness under which they can both muster their troops and bombs for the coming armageddon. Amen.

Bush, Blair and Osama are no doubt planning new alters of sacrifice for their respective Gods. We know that both are, theoretically, are piling their altars of bone high to the same God. The same God of Abraham and Jesus, a God presumably who has no compunction about their killing? At least that seems to be the jist of what Blair, Bush and Bin Laden think. They alone have discovered hidden clauses in the sacred words that apply only them as the forces of the righteous. The angels of death. The three share many believes in common; they are driven by their unshakable faith, see conflict as the solution, they all claim to be the real voice of their peoples, believe in authoritarian state rule and they all bow down to capitalism as their preferred method of exchange.

They might disagree of whom to bomb, but they don’t disagree on bombing.

So what has this got to do with wherever you live? If you live in New York, quite a lot, but then you already know that. If you live elsewhere within the borders of Pax Americana, quite a lot too but you might not have thought about that. However, we need to start thinking about it. The wealth of your region, in my case the South West is to be leached away to pay for the perpetual darkness of the War-Without-End. Schools in the region will suffer to pay for ever more elaborate methods of harvesting skulls. Social services will be slashed to pay private mercenary firms to pick clean the flesh from the bones. Everyday and in every way thay aim to take our labour, our resources and our land to pay for their wars. The war on terror will never be won, because it IS terrorism. The trinity of Bush, Blair and Bin Laden are a snake biting it's own tail - a perpetual cycle of misery and death to build the skull throne higher and higher. If left to build their monoliths unchecked they will eventually collapse and the whole world will be consumed in the rubble.

But there is hope.

Here in Bristol we've seen a highly effective grass roots anti-war campaign. We've seen the growth in community groups opposing the asset stripping. We’ve seen people with their moral compass intact point to the local arms dealers and saying; "These are the providers of the skull harvesters. These are the makes of the grinders for the corpse machine."

No more. We have borne witness time after time, since and before September 11th to the cost of the skull harvesters and the corpse machine. We'll feed it no more. The fight back continues. Here in Bristol, the resistance pledges by its organising and actions, to continue to build for a just and sustainable world. One day, and soon I hope, we'll dismantle the arms factories, the nuclear plants, the corpse machine and their sacrificial altars. We'll give the bones of the harvested a proper burial. In place of their thrones of skulls we'll erect a monument to the unknown human. The everyman/woman and child who've perished in the name of their gods and their mammon.

Then we'll start to build; "We are going to inherit the earth. There is not the slightest doubt about that. The rich might blast and ruin their own world before they leave the stage of history. We carry a new world here, in our hearts and that world is growing in this minute."

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Protecting the Protection Racket

You gotta laugh, because it you didn't you'd cry. Here's snippets from a mainstream media report about the Disarm DSEi protests upcoming (6th till 10th Sept). Lots of people from my stomping ground of Bristol will be attending the protests and the South West is home to lots of arms companies. Even the moral vacuum that is @Bristol gets money from an arms company! My comments are also included for the sake of being fair and balanced:

More than 3,000 security guards and police officers will be deployed in London next week to protect Europe's biggest arms fair amid warnings of potentially violent protests.

Protect an arms fair! Haha, the irony. Life imitates art. For those who’ve seen Dr.Stangelove it's a repeat of the scene where the President berates squabbling generals with the rebuke; You can't fight in here, this is the War Room!

The Met said: "It's a big event, very high-profile and seen as controversial, so we expect it to attract a large number of demonstrators…."

SEEN AS CONTROVERSIAL? It's not seen as controversial, it IS fucking controversial. This is where people buy weapons to fuel conflict. Still you’d expect the police to be seen as having no moral compass.

"… We have been planning this for a year because of the high level of protest expected, including plans for a day of direct action."

Pity you could not have spent all that time doing something about the drugs problem that ripping our inner cities apart. But then the police do have to be seen as having priorities. Anyhow, who pays for all this policing?

An MoD spokesman said its involvement in the exhibition was part of its support for the legitimate British arms industry.

Is it seen as legitimate? And if so by whom? The arms industry is nothing more that a massively public subsidised protection racket. Strange how the normal rules of capitalism will apply to the workers in Dyson factories but don’t apply to the arms industry.

A spokesman for the organiser of the arms fair, Spearhead Exhibitions, based in Surrey, said it was "100 per cent" confident that police would ensure the security of the exhibitors and visitors.

So who's going to ensure the safety of the civilians in Sierra Leone or any other Warzone where these arms will end up? The Met? No. We live in a society where the sellers of weapons are legitimate and those trying to stop them are labelled as violent.

World turned upside down.

Friday, August 15, 2003

Checkmate in Saudi Arabia
On the stage of history, the definition of events carries great importance. For the definition informs the words and phrases that document. The documents of events carry the news beyond the immediate area of influence into the wider world and so inform the response. In Saudi Arabia we are told that there is a terrorist threat. That word 'terrorist ' carries the connotations of a tiny group of extremists struggling using the weapons of fear and destruction to get their message out, to lash out at the society they perceive is corrupt or attacking them. This is the definition of the violent events in Saudi Arabia; terrorism. And while in one respect I can agree with the term, there certainly was terrorism ongoing in King Fahd’s realm; I think were being fooled if we still think it just terrorism.

The definition of events carries great importance, and what is happening in Saudi Arabia needs redefining; for terrorism now read insurrection, guerrilla conflict and a looming civil war. The small explosive devices targeting westerners in the past have given way to massive car bombs intended to destroy whole complexes. The random targeting of infidels has given way to targeted military strikes. A good example would be the bombing of the 12th May bombings of expatriate compounds. Research by From the Wilderness uncovered information that the target of the bombing was anything other than a random release of pent-up fury towards the west. The bomb targeted the employees of the Vinnell Corporation (now a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman). The corporation is considered one of the best paramilitary training enterprises in the world and is linked to other mercenary firms as well as the CIA. There are in the Gulf to train the Saudi Gestapo. From a military perspective this action has many historical parallels in the annuals of insurrection, such as the (original) IRA killing 14 British Officers of the Secret Service during the Irish war of independence against the British in 1920. When you are stepping up for a war, you need to blind your enemy; Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese strategist put it succinctly, "Intelligence is the most important work, because the entire force relies on it for every move."

While granted, in the past the tactics of Bin Laden's people have been to hold to ransom the Saudi sate, in hind sight this seems to be been nothing more that the preparation time. As Saudi Arabia (with the US and Pakistani states) funded the militant Islamic fighters during the 1980s, they were unwittingly busy building the forces who would one day be turned against them. The corrupt Saudi royal family was always the target and being cunning, the Islamic militants used the decade of electro-pop to get armed, experienced, motivated and effective; at the expense of their target. Sun Tzu, also noted this strategy; "Clever leaders endeavour to use their opponent's resources."

An unexpected hiccup in the plans to overthrow King Fahd was the presence of a US military garrison placed in the country during the first Gulf War. Bin Laden raged against his former allies over the infidel troops on holy soil. In religious terms he might have found the infidels presence a abominations, but militarily it must have been a disaster. Without the removal of the US troops, he could not make his move. Thus he set about forming an international group, but with a covert localised aim; the removal of foreign troops from holy soil. Into this fight he recruited others of like mind. The events of September 11th, whether deliberate or not, has seen the US troops being pulled out of Saudi Arabia. What began as a terrorist campaign is now going guerrilla; typical example is on the day I write this 5 Saudi security forces being killed in a shootout. Three days prior to this, four policemen and a Muslim militant were killed in clashes in Riyadh. I believe the evidence points to this being the opening stages of a civil war , ask Sun Tzu; "Those who are victorious fight like pent-up waters that seem to burst down a gorge from high above. Such a position can defeat any opposing force." Thus is the war of states the fuel for the war within states. In the global game of chess Bin Laden has got the Saudi’s in check.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Hot Hot Summer
Its hot, but I'm still on the net (why??!)....couple of things that are interesting and I’ve come across on the web. First is a really interesting radio show on Slave Revolt Radio where the hosts, two genial former Black Panthers chat with some people from NEFAC (North Eastern Federation of Anarcho-Communists) – it’s a kind of old-school revolutionary theory of Marxism meets the new(ish) generation of Anarchists. Unlike many meetings of Marxists vs. Anarchists is genial and informative affair and makes interesting listening. The shows two hosts come out with top-sound bite after top sound-bite (“I don’t care who you are, the book is your friend”).

I like. Listen to it on Radio4All.net

Plus I notice that 'The Terminator' is standing for office in California. I wonder if all the right-wing commentators who lambasted actors like Suzan Sarrendon & Martin Sheen for his anti-war stance, declaring that "actors should stay out of politics" are now going to turn on right-winger Arnie? We'll see, but a doubt it - still they can at least claim that Arine is not an actor and so they're not being hypocritical....

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Die-Hard Drug Policies
Finally there is some movement on the ineffective drug policy pursued for so long – and yet again the old-skool political has-beens are once again rattling their chains.

The Independent are reporting that the National Lottery's Community Fund has awarded a £500,000 grant to fund a scheme that will provide drug addicts with heroin. To me this seems a positive step; "If the results are positive, the trial could encourage the Government to adopt a system of clinics where drug users would be able to obtain and inject free heroin. Researchers hope that the trial will prove effective in treating long-term addicts, who cost society an estimated £35,000 a year each through crime, welfare and health care.” But unsurprisingly the knee-jerk Tories are up in arms; Greg Knight, the Tory spokesman on Culture, said: "The National Lottery is there to help the original good causes of heritage, arts and sporting charities. If this grant goes ahead, it will serve as another example of the Government's failure to keep the lottery focused on these original good causes."

Yeah well Greg, a brief message – get lost. I checked out your appallingly designed website to see what qualified you to comment on drug issues, and while some my disagree, I personally don't think that being legal representative to Showaddywaddy and an enthusiastic advocate for the car industry qualify you to stick your nose into the issue of drug use.

And before any Neo-Labour people start patting yourselves on the back over drugs issues; don't. Your murderous government just OK-ed giving money to the Colombian government, which will help fund the narco-terrorist traffickers known as the AUC; "Blair has orchestrated an international breakthrough on behalf of Colombia's ultra-right Uribe government. The UK has opened the door for the worst human rights offender in the Western hemisphere to receive a new round of international loans."

Nb. Bush, Bertisconi and now Uribe; what is it that compels Das Blair to join with the far-right?

Friday, July 25, 2003

The Growth and Growth of Bristol Indymedia
This article is being written from the perspective of an Indymedia volunteer, a reader of the site and a writer on the site. This gives a perspective from inside and from the outside of which to write about and comment upon it.

Bristol Indymedia was founded by local activists with help from the London Indymedia collective. It's been going for over a year now and has a very definite local agenda. This direction was established at the initial public meetings that established the site. The discussion centered on the idea that for the site to truly be called 'Bristol' it had to reflect Bristol and the surrounding area. Great strides are made to moderate and manage the site so as to ensure that local voices are the loudest. That's not to say the site does not feature news from outside the area, but always we encourage contributors to seek a local angle on international events. A critic might say that this would leave us as nothing more than an online version of a local paper; but we believe we are far from it. To illustrate this it is worth pointing to some of the successes of the site:

Bristol Indymedia gave an open forum to anti-war voices during the recent conflict. Bristol's media outlets; Evening Post, Western Daily Press and Venue are all owned by Northcliffe Newspapers, as in line with the group editorial position, devoted most of its war coverage to International events from the Gulf. Coverage of anti-war voices was marginal at best. Events such as the historic 10,000 people at Fairford or the blockading of Bristol city center on the day war broke out were covered extensively by the people who attended and so the site reflected far more coverage that was allotted in the mainstream media.

Coverage and debate of the drugs/crime issues has been extensive on the site, which again, reflects the reader/writer concern. In the main this coverage has been written by the people who live in the areas affected by the crack epidemic within the city and so the voices have had an immediate authenticity not found elsewhere.

Local media has also come under scrutiny. It is interesting to note that the site is frequently visited by the local mainstream media as well as other institutions such as the police and council; indeed the police have been known to post articles on the site. It is arguably inevitable that local media would come under such scrutiny given its one-way consumption method. As such lively debate frequently explodes on the accuracy, impartiality and quality of the mainstream media. The most notable of these debates was local opposition to HTV's 'Currie Night' TV program, which engendered a lively debate between the site users and the HTV management.

Once other important development that must be afforded space is Al-MuaJaaha, the Iraq Witness. Here we see grass roots inter-community organizing at its best. The Indymedia software and tech-know-how, fund-raising, combined with Bristol anti-war activists and Iraqis, living both in the UK and in Iraq, together have created what is arguably Iraq's first ever truly open, free and democratic media outlet. Without a strong community and support base here in Bristol, the project could not have happened. Without the international peace movement and its links and without dedicated Iraqi writers on the ground in Baghdad, the project would never have happened. The project has happened and goes from strength to strength!

Recently the site's volunteers have been pushing further the local nature of the site and to date it seems to be paying off; there has been a marked increase in comments, local groups using the site and exclusive local coverage of events. The future also looks bright as the addition of a calendar system is allowing the site to respond to user requests for a forum for publicizing events. Bristol Indymedia also organized the 'Communtiy Media Day' in June 2003, which was a huge success in bringing together local media outlets such as The Spark, Bristle and plugincinema.com as well as national groups such as Undercurrents and Talkiokie. The event both was platform for debate on independent media as well as a skill sharing opportunity which allowed everyone to pickup some media skills; this being the greatest success of the local and international Indymedia movement - the blurring of the line between consumer and producer. It allows ordinary people the opportunity to cease being a passive participant in the forces that shape their community, and start being an active voice.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Quick update..some things worth checking out!

First up is rightwing US Shock-jock Alex Jones taking on neo-con Ann Coulter. Sure it’s rightwing vs. rightwing and I don’t endorse all of what Alex Jones says and believes in but he at least does have the integrity to not be hypocritical; if he attacks the Democrats for something he disagrees with, he will also attack the rightwing if they indulge in what he sees as wrong. As an example of how the hypocrisy within an ideology can be used to destroy an argument, it’s fine listening.

Second is the cost of war in Iraq – in real time! A top site that simply shows how much it costs. A simple and powerful message: costofwar.com

Third, don't forget the Thessaloniki prisoners. There is shocking footage of UK activist Simon Chapman being framed by the Greek cops. Support all anti-capitalist prisoners!

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Drugged Out.
The issue with drugs is obviously one that motivates people, judging by the feedback on the issue. I’ve read comments people posted on Bristol Indymedia about the whole issue and getting bogged down on the issue of racism and stuff. Here’s my two pennies on the matter; We can’t blame nationalities for the drug problem. On the streets of St.Pauls most of the dealers might be Jamaican, but most of the junkies are British. Both are needed to create a drug problem. It’s people doing it, irrespective of their origin.

So who’s fault is it?

The police?

Ironically, because of the laws of supply and demand, the better the police become at interrupting the supply the better the price the dealers get for their drugs. As less reaches the streets and as the demand has not changed, the more the dealers can charge. In addition, the police generally get the least efficient dealing crews as they are caught easier, so weeding out the competition and acting as a kind of gang-related natural selection. The police are not to blame for this problem.

The Yardies?

While at the moment they might be in the frame in St.Pauls, they are just the latest in a long line of groups aiming to make money from the trade. I am aware to those who’ve been the victim of Yardie crime this is no comfort, but Britain can and does breed it’s own gangs and if the Yardies weren’t in St.Pauls then somebody else would be. Capitalism abhors a vacuum. Because of the drugs illegal status, the only enforcement comes from violence both to control the inner gang hierarchy and the payment from junkies. In a world were violence is the only form of negotiations, its little wonder the rest of the community suffer the fallout. The Yardies are a nasty symptom of a systemic disease.

The Junkies?

To any resident of St.Pauls, pasty-faced junkies roaming the streets like a zombie film out-take is a common sight. It only takes a few junkies, with their constant demand for fixes, to create a problem totally out of proportion to their numbers. The area is dotted with half-way houses, homeless shelters and hostels. All a ready base for the demand side of the drugs equation. (I doubt Clifton has many such places). Are they to blame? Like the dealers, they are in the frame, but every society in history has a mind-altering substance ingrained in the culture and there will always be those who succumb to it. Their reasons for addiction might be legion, but the end result is the same. It is how we choose to deal with this inevitable human trait that is the important issue, as we can never rid ourselves of it.

The Politicians?

I’d say yes and no to blame. Yes, their lack of thought and action on the problem has partly lead to our current problems. They have presided over a system that for over 50 years has (with slight variations) enforced prohibition and today, after all that exertion, drugs are cheaper and more accessible than ever before. (You can’t help but wonder if their new found zeal for drugs is motive by the news that the middle class are now getting addicted to crack too?) On the one had they shake the hands of people like Colombia’s president Alvaro Uribe dismissive of their collusion with the very drug dealers he’s supposed to be stopping. Indeed, many government intelligence agencies actually become dealers themselves, and do the politicians bring them to book for being part of the problem and not the solution? No - they either can’t or wont. Ultimately, the politicians with a nod-and-wink to the countries supplying the drugs and the total failure to grasp the nettle, are only allowed to be so incompetent because we let them get away with it.


The problem and solution rests with us and getting there will not be easy. But then living in a dealer-junkie hyper-market is not easy either. If you hate the drugs problems in your area and you’re not involved with a community group then this lack of action only helps the dealers. If you don’t do something more than complain, then your absence is the junkies invitation.

I’d like to see all drugs decriminalized, to wipe the dealers business model away at a stroke. I’d like to see community drug centers were the junkies in our areas get free crack and heroin. (I’d rather they got it for free than mugged someone to pay). These centers aimed at both treatment and rehabilitation would be community run , employing local people and be situated all over the city (yes in Clifton too). I’d like to see strong autonomous community organizations working together to fight the causes of the crime.

What would you like to see and what are you doing about it? It’s time we faced the reality that after over 50 years of failure, looking to the same tired old solutions is a dead-end road. We’re the ones who live with the problems day in day out, we’re ultimately the only ones who can solve them.

Sunday, July 06, 2003

5th July: Independence for St. Paul's!
St. Paul's carnival was everything a street festival should be; it was meandering, chaotic and packed with energy. While there were the inevitable bits of corporate sponsorship (this year it was Western Union money transfer, as even with poorer immigrant communities; there's money to be made! And before anyone complains about how useful their support is, I know the arguments about corporate citizenship, I'm just making an observation.) In my eyes, as a St. Paul's resident, the event was a success, there was much autonomy and spontinaety about the festival that embodies the direct spirit of the place the event's namesake. On the main street of the event, Grosvenor Road there was a vast array of stalls selling everything from Malcolm X posters to Goat Curry. At the head of the road was a large festival stage, on the green, where one of the youngest MCs I have ever seen got the crowd moving with a display of very youthful talent and confidence. Big-up to him! Further down, next to the Inkerman pub, we had the Ghetto Force sound system, which if you just passed by sounded overly distorted and strained, but if you'd stopped to take it in and moved off the road into the path of the speakers, you'd have heard the sound as it was intended; full-on and ragga. The sounds were a tidal wave of records with frequent punctuations of MC commentary to get the crowd motivated and moving.

Meanwhile, St. Agnes park hosted a BBC car and a whole host of kids activity as the place hummed with activity from the tiny-tot army who were busy bouncing, dancing, yelling and painting. Here was also more jerk chicken and more ginger beer and wood carving.

To anyone taking the scene in, there were also stories to be gleaned; the petition of Mr. Selburn Watson, a pensioner who's now living in a tent after being kicked out of his home in Denbigh Street. He was sitting in a tree watching those signing for action from the council on his behalf. There was the return of the well loved techo-crew Species blasting-out in the car park of Malcolm X centre, the talk was that the crew were rumored to triumphantly returning to play a gig at the newly re-opened New Trinity.

Over in the community erected stone circle by Dutty Ken's pub, the Star & Garter, there was a 'Disinformation Tent' where the public could announce; "Could people please refrain from sitting on the grass." The speaker gravely announced this to the hundred or so people sitting on the grass. Fortunately, having been rendered immune to disinformation during Gulf War II, most of the people didn't move, though the announcement that tickets were needed to use the toilets in the pub caused some mirth and panic in equal measure.

The autonomy of the community was inspiring to see; the local residents selling food, drink and clothing to the thronged crowd of newcomers, indulging it a little redistribution of the wealth from Clifton to St. Paul's. Davy Street residents had turned the whole road into one giant party for the day and up and down the area people created their own spaces to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts; blasting gabba in the driveway on Ashley Road, the plant sale to raise money for the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan in Lower Cheltenham Place (find more out at http://rawa.false.net/index.htm as they are warning that the US is negotiating with the Taliban with the view to controling the country by returning them to power!)

Yup, St. Paul's carnival was just that; the flavor of St. Paul's with all it's diverse glory and the day we see a Starbucks or McDonalds stall replacing the jerk chicken kitchens at this event, is the day the event looses the St. Paul's bit and becomes just another calender event. Long may it stay!

Monday, June 23, 2003

One Rule for Them and another for Us.
In all the fake media hysteria surrounding the infiltration of Aaron Barschak - the comedy terrorist' there are a few base issues that have been, as usual, totally ignored by the feeding-frenzy of royal correspondents. And it pisses me off. Here is a crystal clear example of the ‘one rule for them and another for us’ ideology that all states perpetuate. What do I mean. Two examples of gross police malpractice have recently come to light. In once case, 2 local men are fitted-up for murder and serve 14 years in prison despite being innocent. Do the police apologize? Do they, fuck. Is there an enquiry in the this miscarriage of justice? Is there, fuck.

In another case some stand-up comedian gatecrashes a party and within a day there are investigations all over the place. There is a full and unreserved apology and much groveling and scraping from the police. Why is it that if you are a royal, then the police fall over themselves both to admit mistakes and investigate? Why is it that if you’re a working class prole from Gloucester, not only do the police not give a fuck; but they can fit you up with impunity.

Gary Mills and Tony Poole were innocent but served 14 years inside, detained at Prince Willaim’s Gran’s pleasure. This is the scandal that should be all over the front pages. Prince William is elevated to a status above us by no other virtue that the family he was born into. That accident of birth splashes him all over the media. He receives the fawning attention of the police while his subjects; people like Gary and Tony, the family Stephen Lawrence and the thousands of others fitted up and locked up and dumped on by the state have to struggle year after year, uphill for even a semblance of justice. This is a symptom of a system that is rotten to the core and when he assumes the throne, William will be the living embodiment of that putrid husk.

Friday, June 13, 2003

The Parallels of History
"Missiles Flying in the Third World, from Hanoi to Wounded Knee. Bombs falling over Baghdad, and each one cries 'Democracy'." David Rovics.

Those who do not understand their history are doomed to repeat it. The system that has rained destruction on Iraq and threatens nuclear, biological and environmental armageddon to the world learns its lessons well. Maybe this is because their view of the future is so short term? Either way, those of us opposing the corpse machine also need to learn from history.

So it was as I read the excellent book by Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall; 'Agents of Repression'. Among other things, the book documents an incident in 1973, where the FBI and allied forces laid siege to a gathering of Native Americans encamped at Wounded Knee. These people were members of AIM - the American Indian Movement and they have come to the site of the 1890 massacre of their people to re-assert their civil rights and culture. As I read the account, I was struck by the similarity of the tactics used there and the parallels with the Fairford Peace camp established this year to witness the forward operating base for the bombing of Iraq.

I’m certainly not claiming that the severity or context of the two events were similar, but the tactics of repression were. Fairford was a peace camp while at Wounded Knee, a siege developed as the FBI attempted to isolate and destroy the American Indian Movement. By the end of the 68 days siege where the US Federal forces had deployed an arsenal including at least 130000 round of M16 ammo, 41000 rounds of M1 ammo and 600 cases of CS gas. There would be dead on both sides but mainly of AIM people. There would be 1200 arrested and the net result would be the US government again ignoring the legitimate demands of the true inheritors of that land.

Why so much force over such a small areas of land? Many years ago the US state had shrunk the Native American population into tiny areas of land considered worthless. When that land turned out to hold vast deposits of valuable minerals such as uranium and bituminous coal, the control of this land was an issue of vital economic and so political importance. The Siege of Wounded Knee was the opening salvoes in a war to ensure that these valuable resources was firmly in the hands of the state. The siege was characterised by the lines drawn; Inside the tiny village of Wounded Knee you had around 500 residents, AIM people and other tribal groupings such as the Independent Oglala Nation. Surrounding them were the combined forces of the US state including the FBI, the Federal Marshals and the Bureau of Indian Affairs Police. The was a clear desire on behalf of the state, not to stick to the law of the land, but to use any and all means necessary to ensure an favourable outcome; namely the destruction of Native American rights and power.

Fairford Air Base, situated in sleepy Gloustershire, England represented an asset of vital military and so political importance. Based here was a fleet of B52 bombers with sufficient reach, because of the bases strategic location, to cover a wide range of possible targets from Libya to Iran to the Sudan and of course; Iraq. As the peace movement focused on the base and established a peace camp, the clear aim of the state became to ensure that, regardless of the law of the land, the continued maintenance of USAF range and power.

Both battles for control were waged using a host of techniques on the part of the US state:

>>>Military Intervention in Civil Matters
Wounded Knee: Despite the constitutional prohibition of the involvement of the US army in domestic affairs; "General Alexander Haig, then Vice-Chief of Staff at the Pentagon, dispatched Colonel Volney Warner of the 82nd Airborne and Colonel Jack Potter of the 6th Army to Wounded Knee. For the first time in their careers they were ordered to wear civilian clothes while on duty."
Fairford: On the 11th March, despite the lack of any legal jurisdiction the US troops were engaged in forcefully moving the peace camp; "Acting totally outside of their juristiction Americans from USAF Fairford illegally forced the G10 Bomber Watch to move camp whilst police stood by."

>>>Physical Isolation of Activists
Wounded Knee: The US state went to huge lengths to block access to the area and so starve the defenders of food and medical supplies. While this may have been done under the pretense of stopping weapons supplies, overt food convoys were routinely intercepted and confiscated and as such those inside the village ended up on one meal per day.
Fairford: "[The peace camp] is now subject to an embargo of certain essential items. Campers and visitors are not allowed to bring firewood, essential camping equipment such as sleeping bags, blankets, clean clothes or toiletries like toothbrushes to the camp." The area was also subject to Section 44 of the Terrorism Act, allowing the police to stop and search any traffic and (often illegally) turn people back from the area.

>>>Vigilante Attacks
Wounded Knee: Some of the most brutal attacks on Native American activists, including fatal shooting were carried out by a squad of vigilantes known as the GOONs (a federally funded paramilitary force), while they had no real authority to act as they did and were so out of control some members were even arrested by the US Marshals on the scene, as they ached on the side of the state, they were protected and even armed by the FBI. As a result none were ever convicted of wrong doings. Despite over 150 civil rights complaints being brought to the attention of the government, only 42 were ever investigated and 0 brought to court.
Fairford: the peace camp was subject to attacks; "At 10pm last night (19/Feb/2003) as the peace campers were retiring to bed the camp was attacked by six men dressed head to foot in black." To date the police have arrested or charged nobody for these attacks.

>>>Police Harassment
Wounded Knee: Needless to say before, during and after the FBI and local police forces subjected, at every possible turn, the activists to massive harassment. A typical example would be the incident of Frank Clearwater, an AIM activist shot in the head. The US state ensured a lengthy protraction before agreeing to medical aid for the victim but nonetheless eventually it was agreed that Frank and his wife could pass though the siege lines. As soon as they reached the police area, she was arrested and thrown in jail. Frank died on the 25 April 1973.
Fairford: Where were also legion of incidents in the sleepy Gloustershire village. A typical example was the pre-emptive detention without provocation of the WOMBLES civil disobedience group by police at the 22nd March demo.

>>>Media Disinformation & Complicity
Wounded Knee; Consistently the highly experienced FBI disinformation machine put out lies to the press, but the combination of the isolation tactics and complicity in many media outlets meant that the AIM activist could be painted as unrepresentative and dangerous militant to destroy their support base. Typical examples include the FBI telling the press that Father Paul Manhart, from the local church who was at the time were inside the besieged Native American village, was being held as a 'hostage'. Yet when two Senators arrived to negotiate his and 10 others release, they 'hostages' refused to leave because they did not consider themselves as hostages as one remarked; "The real hostages were the AIM people".
Fairford: The authorities tried to force journalists to 'make an appointment with the police before they visit the camp' and also refused entry to some journalists. Here's a typical example of the state-spun story where the anti-war movement is categories into two camps; the well-behaved (i.e. no threat to the war machine) and the Fairford protestors; "Scotland Yard expects a peaceful mass demonstration by 100,000 marchers at Hyde Park in London after extensive negotiations with the organisers. Anarchist and militant groups are concentrating instead on launching a two-pronged attack on the US military presence in Britain. The spy base at Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire is being branded by campaigners as the 'brains' of the American war effort and RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire the 'body'."

So What is Your Point?
The first point is to learn from history. We are engaged in a long struggle and we need to read our shared past; because you can bet the state is learning from and refining its tactics whether we do or not.

Secondly there is a validation of the part of the path chosen at Fairford. Ward Churchill, the AIM activist and writer remarked; "So whatever it is that is that will be state approved is exactly what you ought not want to be doing. Whatever it is they tell you, that you absolutely cannot, ought to be an indicator that maybe you ought to look at it seriously." Clearly, though the evidence presented here, the state did not want people at Fairford. It was happy for them to be in London, out of harms way. With such information and the evidence presented of the extraordinary lengths the US/UK state has gone to in both cases, I cannot but conclude that Fairford was the right place to be. I only wish others in the anti-war movement had also realised this and not squandered their energy in repeated state sanctioned marches.

Friday, June 06, 2003

Spinning Out of Control
I've just seen a Channel4 documentary 'The War We Never Saw' showing another side to Gulf War II. If I could watch al Jazeera then I already know much of this and, to be fair as an opponent of the war, I knew much of what was happening anyway, in theory, but some times you've just got to see it.

A little boy, he looks about 6 and winces and cries as shrapnel from a cluster bomb is removed from his leg. It makes me angry. He should not have this happen to him. He's not responsible for Saddam, he wasn't even born during Gulf War I. There should not be cluster bombs. But there are.

I saw pictures on the news of governor Blair on PMs Question Time grinning as he laughs off a question about sustainable forests. Grinning like a skull. He's a religious man. A man with principals and authority. He ordered the strike on Iraq that dropped the cluster bomb that put shrapnel into the little boy's leg.

A bomb with no military value in a war with a army whop offered no military threat. A war dreamed of for years by armchair Neo-Con Chickenhawks. Pax Americana. Pax Britiania. Pax Cluster Bomb.

They offered this was on September 12th. It was a good day to buy bad news. Bad news for a 6 year old living in Baghdad. A Good day for ExonMobil, Bechtel, Carline Group, Haliburton. A war without end. Pax NASDAQ.

I am smoldering with rage at what has been done in my name with my money. Governor Blair, the ginning skill, the grinning murderer. This was not self-defense, there were no WMDs to threaten us. This was a corporate acquisition. A hostile takeover. The cries of 6 year olds were just part of the downsizing process. Pax Britannia.

You see I remember 1991. I remember the uprising against Saddam. I recall not understating why Bush the First and Powell gave permission for Saddam to move his forces and to crush the freedom fighters; "We couldn't support the rebels without knowing if they would support US policy." I'm not the only one who remembers. In the Channel4 documentary at a protest in Baghdad, a wiry 17-year old-ish lad confronts a burly US solider:

Iraqi: "Out Iraq, you. I am sure."
Solider: "I am here is the reason you're able to speak freely."
Iraqi: "I don't need you."
Solider: "You leave or we take you away."

For many Iraqis it seems that operation Iraqi Freedom does not end with the signing of oil concessions to Haliburton, but freedom. This might be uncomfortable for the subjects of Pax Americana to hear, but they want blood. They remember 1991. They remember Rumsfeld's visit in 1983. They remember the British occupation of 1914. Picture the scene, a firefight on the streets of Baghdad, 1st June 2003. As the camera records US forces battling with unidentified gunmen, a civilian sheltering in a shop turns to the camera and grins. His grin of death says; "We see them kill three soldiers American. And the Iraqi people kill every solider of America."

He might be a Saddam loyalist. He might have lost family in the bombing. In 1991, in 1983. Who knows? But what is clear is that the writing is on the wall. In Washington DC it says 'Pax Americana' but in Baghdad it says 'Romans Go Home'

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

War on Drugs
Bristol is a front line in the ongoing global war on drugs. Our streets are battle lines, our parks - bunkers and our poverty is ammunition. Drugs have been part of human society since time immemorial and yet were fighting them, and by all accounts - loosing. Some claim that this is a war of moral values for the soul of our society. Some even claim its a winnable war and yet 50 years later and over 1 trillion pounds of resources and drugs are cheaper, easier to get and more widespread than ever before.

I for one am sick and tired of walking past junkie and dealers, day after day. Thanks to the actions of local residents, our local park is now mainly used by kids to play it rather than junkies to fix in. However thanks to the council, the park is once more a battle ground. For those who don't know, the notorious 'Frontline' of St.Pauls, the renowned centre for crack dealing in the South West has now got CCTV cameras up. A blow struck in the war on drugs?

Nope - all its done is move the drugs from one area to another. I'm still tired of walking past junkies and dealers it just that I see them in different areas now. Here is a war the state cannot win - for the very fundamentals of our system - of supply and demand mean it cannot be won. If the police 'close down' and area, it simply re-appears elsewhere because stopping supply does not change demand. Indeed, successful police seizures will reduce the available supply, up the demand and so force the price and so profits of the most cunning and ruthless gangs up and up.

Of course the other side is the vast paramilitary police state that comes crashing down on the not-so-organised crime; a kid with a reefer, a student avoiding loans with a bit of dealing on the side or the stoners with a few plants in the window box - easy to find and good for crime figures.

So why are we fighting this war? Stay with me as I going to go round the houses, but it will all re-connect: In the US, the largest consumer of drugs in the world, their anti-drugs propaganda tells us all about it on the state-run freevibe.com website:

Most people know that doing drugs will have negative consequences on their health, but they may not realize the harm they cause the environment.

Good point, Mr Bush. I suppose it never entered your head when you were stuffing your nose with coke? But do go on.

The U.S. consumes nearly 260 metric tons of cocaine every year, which is grown and processed in the fragile environments of South America....Each year, millions of pounds of chemicals are used to process coca and then dumped into waterways or onto the ground in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia.

Of course you don't mention the millions of tones of toxic defoliant your government sprays on Colombia to destroy the cocoa crops. A pesticide made by Monsanto and delivered by private defence corporations in contracts worth billion$. Do go on.

The loss of rainforests also contributes to changes in the global climate...

Sorry? I am hearing you right? The man who tried to wreak the Kyoto treaty is now using climate change as a reason for the war on drugs? Hypocrisy, you'd think he was high or something.

Now cast you minds back to October 2001, the 51st State Governor Tony Blair declared that one of the reasons why we should bomb Afghanistan was drugs; "The biggest drugs hoard in the world is in Afghanistan, controlled by the Taliban. Ninety per cent of the heroin on British streets originates in Afghanistan." Well, now we've bombed Afghanistan Britain has drug free streets!? Does anyone want to explain that since the Taliban were removed we've had armed police on our streets, armed drug gangs taking shots at each other (and anyone unlucky enough to be in the way) and the amount of Heroin coming from Afghanistan has rocketed. They have lost the war on drugs; they just don't want to admit it because it works well for them. How did it come to this?

Bristol, as we know has a huge drugs problem. It's a transit point for groups into South Wales as well as a distribution point to cities further North. Drugs are probably Bristol's biggest export. Drugs mean money. Supply and demand. And still they peruse the same policy of war. Ever wondered why? I have; "In late June, numerous news services reported that Chairman Grasso [Chair of the New York Stock Exchange]...flew to Colombia to meet with.....the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC), the country's largest leftist rebel group. The purpose of the trip was 'to bring a 'message of cooperation from U.S. financial services' and to discuss foreign investment and the future role of U.S. businesses in Colombia......We can deduce from this incident that the liquidity of the NY Stock Exchange is sufficiently dependent on high margin cocaine profits that the Chairman is willing for Associated Press to acknowledge that he is making 'cold calls' in rebel controlled peace zones in Colombian villages."

Grasso meets the FARC

Unfortunately for Grasso, the FARC told him to, well to FARC-off and a few months later the US and the EU (yup - you're helping to pay for it) started 'Plan Colombia' to wipe the FARC from the face of the earth, even though they don't control the majority of Colombia's drugs trade. Where is Bristol in all this? On our streets you can buy Heroin from Afghanistan and Crack from Colombia. Drugs are the best example yet that we live in a global world. So, it's time to 'think global, act local' as the lefties say. We must start to realise that the cops or the usual political suspects can not or will not solve the drugs problem; it time for us to act. I for one am sick of walking past junkies and dealers: I don't have the answers, but I do knew the war on drugs is a sham and a farce that costs in lives, families and money and worst of all - it does not work

We need new answers. The war on drugs only benefits the state. I don’t want to have to navigate my way past junkie when I leave the house, I don’t want some Colombian villager murdered in my name. I don't want drug problems shifted from one poor area into another. I don’t want two-faced financial institutions who benefit from the money generated either by the drugs trade or fighting it.

We need new answers.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

The First Casualty of War & Peace.
Media activists based Bristol, UK working alongside Iraqis also based the city and with the support of peace campaigners - have set up what is arguably the first truly uncensored and democratic media outlet since Saddam's Ba'ath Party, with the aid of the CIA, brutalised its way into power. Their collective efforts have created 'Almuajaha.com, the Iraq Witness', a way for the people of Iraq to write and comment on their own experiences and share this information with the world at large. Al Muajaha is an open access news website based on the Indymedia technology system. For those that are unaware of the Indymedia movement (IMC), from its beginnings in the Seattle protests in 1999 the model and its underlying technology has grown to encompass every continent on the globe, where it allows anyone to post writings, news stories, comments, films and photos. So successful has it become as a democratic source of information that activists involved with it have often been on the blunt end of a states unhappy with such information freedom, most notable being the raids on the IMC Genoa centre and CIA tailing of the IMC Prague activists during the NATO 2002 summit.

Truth is a tricky thing to pin down and in times of war its virtually impossible. Years after each war, and once the patriotic shrink-wrap has been removed, the historians begin picking it apart and we start to discover the surprising and often unpalatable truths of the conflict. But with more wars on the horizon, the spectre of Depleted Uranium and the death toll from both state and private terrorism rising, we cannot wait. Finding out what really happened, who it really happened too and why - this process must begin now. Part of this means the people of Iraq need their own free media, and the activists helping with this area are showing practical mutual aid in the fullest of effects. The US is already making moves to colonise the post-Saddam media landscape; "We have every right as an occupying power to stop the broadcast of something that will incite violence," remarked Maj. Gen David Petraeus of the Army 101st Airborne Division as he assumed 'editorial control' of the only TV station in Mosul because it was showing Al-Jazeera; "Yes, what we are looking at is censorship but you can censor something that is intended to inflame passions." Iraq doesn’t have a 1st Amendment, though as journalist Greg Palast noted, maybe they could borrow the American one as they aren’t using it much these days. There are also $64 million worth of plans the first-ever 24-hour Arabic-language satellite television network - as the planners say; "The aim is to provide the Middle East's tens of millions of viewers with an alternative to their usual viewing diet of unremediated anti-American propaganda.." by replacing it with unremediated American propaganda. Yeah-ha, can’t wait till they graffitiAnn Coulter sound-bites on the 6000 year old ziggurat next to the US Marine Corps slogan; Always Faithful.

Just before Gulf War II the writer and activist and writer Arundhati Roy gave a speech to the Porto Alegre social forum where she exhorted us to; "...turn the war on Iraq into a fishbowl of the U.S. government's excesses." Media activism is part of this process, and not just of the US government, but of all governments, of all organisations who kill, destroy and oppress to maintain their privileged positions. To all those we have a message - welcome to the fishbowl, the world is watching.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Freedom of Speech, Rightwing Stylee!
One of the forums I post to, the progressive-leaning guerrillanews.com, had an interesting thread where a few members from the site tried to join the rightwing forms at freeconservatives.com...its an interesting tale and arguably a microcosm of the larger ideological battles that are on going the world over.

The first scary thing was the amount of trouble the 'free' conservatives went to in order to ensure they had control of the forums; it was not an easy task to join with obvious searches against any new members in a petty McCarthyist display of censorship and paranoia.

Even when a couple of people did manage to join, there was no debate only insults. Any sources of information not from sites or publications they subscribed to the ideology of, were dismissed and derided. It could be the case that the sources they so hated were wrong, but analysis and references as to why they were wrong were virtually absent. In the Borg-mind of so-called conservative ideas there could be no exceptions and it reminded me of a Stalinist state with an information ministry.

So how were dissenters treated in the forum-of-the-free? Well they were utterly persecuted. I assume they are going on the 'attack is their best form of defense' approach, which is cool in warfare, but with ideas? Insipid. Here's a few choice quotes from the attack on one of the GNN crew. First up is Large_Al replying to investigations as to the back ground of the new members and suspects of the forums:

So I was correct after all he was a drug induced Anarchist (teenager). At least a teenager in maturity level and intellect....And as he gazes out his window at the beautiful NZ landscape with the rolling hills with lush vegetation and thousands of sheep almost looking like clouds against a green sky. He'll stop and think! Then he'll say to himself. So Many Sheep and so little time!!

I'm sorry! Did Large_Al use the words 'maturity level' and teen based animal-sex insults in the same post? He did. Ah. Still, Large_Al has his own definition of 'the land of the free'...

It's a shame we can't hang these two from the big oak tree in the entrance of our community. You know like in the old west. We could put a sign on their bodies that reads "This is what happens to Weak Minded Individuals who come to our town and start trouble."

Indeed Large_Al, kinda makes me hope Bush visits your ranch. After that, the rest of the forum join in the sheep/New Zealand jokes until the moderator Warlady injects a little sense into the intellectual debate:

All those two trolls succeeded in was proving how immature and what a bunch of liars the left are. Grow up children. It's much more fun being an adult.

Thanks Warlady! So there you have it; elitism, American exceptionalism, immaturity, McCarthyism and pure basic intolerance. If this is being rightwing; you can keep it. The scary thing is that people like these are in control of the largest military force in history. But if this is a sample of the strength of their ideas, the the future belongs to us. There are the willing cannon fodder of a system that does not care for them any more than it cares for me or you, its just that i'd like to think that I'm under no illusions. Still, it makes me realise why most people are turned off by arguments of the 'left' or 'right' - both are historically bankrupt ideologies whos time has come. I'll leave you with this comforting thought; when the rubble of their arguments is matched by the rubble of their empires, maybe we can really have the American ideals of all being created equal and the free speech the world over.

Friday, May 09, 2003

Clear Channel's Media War
Walking along the M32 I noticed the interesting change in the billboards that clutter the road into Bristol, normally I check out the adverts admiring the work of the subvertisers, but this time there was something new that caught my eye; the 'Adshel' logo under each board has bean replaced with the name of the new owner - Clear Channel. The arrival of Clear Channel means there is a storm coming...

Most people in the UK won't know the name, but in the US they are well known with 1,225 radio stations, 37 television stations and 776,000 billboards. They are a major player in the music business where their stations can promote a band, their ticket agencies can sell you tickets to see them play in venues they control. But there's nothing new about a media empire? Well remember the Bond film 'Tomorrow Never Dies' where media mogul Elliot Carver decides the best way to get ratings is to make the news rather than simply report it? Well the department of life-imitates-art can report that Clear Channel as doing a similar thing. In the US, the corporation has been using its 1225 radio stations to promote pro-war rallies by a group called 'Rally for America(tm)'. Notice the trade mark? The protest group are owned by Clear Channel. Yup, clear channel was making the news it was then reporting. Why? Well its pretty clear (pun) as the corporation about as big as it can get in the states without changes to the rules. So who makes the decision on the rules? Secretary of State Colin Powell's son, Michael Powell who’s the head of the Federal Communications Commission and being pro-war ain't gonna harm their case is it?

So what has that go to do with the UK? Well Clear Channel have been busy shopping and came home with lots of goodies including advertising firms Adshel, More and Taxi Media, the billboard arm of Scottish Radio Holdings. Its entertainment division SFX also manages live event arenas such as the Edinburgh Playhouse theatre and also promotes footballers Alan Shearer, Michael Owen and David Beckham. And that's not all. As the government plans to allow overseas companies to own UK media companies, Clear Channel boss Mays remarked that, "...nothing would give me more pleasure than to be able to bring one of the leading UK radio groups into the Clear Channel family..."

Remember the furore over the Dixie Chicks comments and backlash against their right to free speech? Well Clear Channel was the cheerleader of that particular hate campaign, which hasn't stopped the band selling out their shows, but has lead to allegations of censorship.

Remember allegations of bias in reporting the war? In a leaked memo on war coverage, the company listed pundits it could interview and at the bottom of the list of 33 suggestions are 'Anti-war types'. Yup, if you were against the war then your views rank well below that of Terrorism experts, Chemical/Biological warfare experts, High ranking local, military or ex-military officials, Military History professors, Former G-Men, Veterans of Desert Storm or the recent Afghanistan Conflict, Local families with loved ones currently in the Middle East and so on.

So get ready for the next war, 'cause when the War On Terror (tm) Axis of Evil (tm) round-two occurs the streets might be full of protestors from 'Rally for Britain(tm)' calling for the bombing of Iran organised by your local radio stations in your name!

But there is an alternative. Bristol has a burgeoning indy media scene and it is fast becoming the only bastion of grass-roots democracy; so buy the current issue of Bristle, support the Indymedia fundraiser of the 16th May at the Black Swan and the community media day; because the only people who benefit from a free and objective media are us and the best way to ensure that is to create our own media.