Wednesday, April 30, 2003

The United States of Do-as-your-fu*king-told
I've written about the pathetic excuse for democracy the U$ offers the citizens of its empire and the stories continue to emerge of what it's brand of inclusive government really looks like.....

In the belly of the beast, a friend, meeting for a bite to eat in a cafe is detained by armed police. His crime was to be a South Asian immigrant. An American citizen nonetheless, he makes the mistake of believing he has rights; "We insisted that we had every right to leave and were going to do so. One of the policemen walked over with his hand on his gun and taunted: Go ahead and leave, just go ahead." How about a lawyer? "When I asked to speak to a lawyer, the INS official informed me that I do have the right to a lawyer but I would have to be brought down to the station and await security clearance before being granted one. When I asked how long that would take, he replied with a coy smile: Maybe a day, maybe a week, maybe a month."

The Governor of Britain, Tony Blair, warned the anti-counties camp to fall in line and get rid of any silly notions of creating 'rival centres of power' heedless of the fact that in some places (e.g. Germany) the state actions are democratically mandated (for what its worth!). In Belgian, a lawyer says he is preparing a case that could see the Imperial General Franks, charged under the law for war crimes which allows the prosecution of non-Belgian citizens. Rather than democratically fighting the case in the courts as mandated by a democracy, the U$ is bringing heavy pressure on the lawyers country of origin. The message is clear; behave.

In the province of Iraq, dissenters got a taste of Imperial democracy when 13 people were shot dead at a demo over the U$ troops use of a school as a base. The U$ claimed they were shot at first, which could turn out to be true but the Guardian reporter noted; "No bullet holes were visible yesterday on the school..."

But don't look to the socialist state of Cuba for answers as Castro begins his own egalitarian brand of repression. To me the message is clear; don't look for democracy in a state: Look for it within yourself, defend it in others.

Saturday, April 26, 2003

A Few of My Favourite Things
Lots of stuff I write is very doom and gloom. There is some bad-shit going down int he world and we do need to Let's hear it for Bristol!! Yeah. I'm sitting here writing to this listening to top local hip from Aspects and breakcore by Parasite and its time for me to stop ranting and start saying 'Yay! go Bristol!' So what do I think Bristol has to celebrate? Here's my top 5 (in no particular order!)

- The Local Elections; while Labour, Lib Dems and Tory might hate it, the smaller fringe parties like the Bristolian, Greens, Socialist labour Party and Socialist Alliance and Indy candidates, but especially the Bristolian Party are making this representative democracy far more functional than it has been for years. Sure, as an anarchist, this democracy ain't where I'd like to see it, but it's something to be proud of. (Before anyone posts about the BNP, I have not included the BNP in this list as they are anti-democratic, despite the suits they now wear; fascism is fascism.)

- Stop the War Movement; on the day war broke out, seeing the centre of the city thronged like a new year, with my fellow Bristolians who'd been through arguably the most intense and sophisticated propaganda campaign for some time, and still emerged to say; No. Sure you can argue about what should or should not have happened at demos, about other tactics and so on, but let’s not forget the moment we had and could still have. It shows that here in Bristol, we give a shit what happens in out name. it was inspiring to be at Fairford and hear the Gloucestershire Weapons Inspectors speech remarking that the first time they came to the gates of the U$ Empire Airbase there were a handful of them. Before long there were 10,000 of us. Super-duper-power to the people.

- Ashley Vale Self Build Project; People are doing it for themselves. What once was a derelict building site near St. Wereburg City Farm is well underway to becoming a thriving community. The houses look fantastic, there top eco and community design going on and what's more it's been done primarily with the energy and passion of ordinary people. You go Ashley Vale!

- MacDonalds in Clifton Closed; Ha ha ha. When I first discovered Whiteladies Road, the site was an ethical food shop. Whoever owned the site, made sure that the Sainsbury had no competition be 're-developing' the site and replacing the ethical shop with a MacDonalds. Years later and Maccy-Ds are in financial trouble and the site is burger-less. Ha. Up yours Ronald MacDonald and up yours Jaime Oliver.

- Music, sweet music; The super-clubs are imploding, but does this mean Bristol's music scene is dead? No way. The scenes never were/are created in super-clubs. They are always down to the work of dedicated and passionate groups of people. Some examples? You just have to stroll through St.Pauls on a summers day to hear the most fantastic reggae and ragga drifting out over the streets. Hip-Hop with Hombre Records are doing some top stuff. The Black Swan in Easton is pushing things forward. A shout-out to the Choke music mag people for their top work on the scene. Punk it up for Bristol well-active punk scene organised by loads of people including the bods from Disruptive Element. Plus a final shout-out to Death$ucker records for bring top talent like Venetian Snares and Knifehandchop to play in Bristol. Anyone else; to the indy records shops, to the small venues and the people doing it - you know who you are and you help make Bristol what it is.

There's more, loads more I could include and I’m proud of in our fair city; but I want to get out and enjoy it! None of it will be in the 'City of Culture 2008' propaganda attempt to ethnically and politically erase the non-corporate aspects of the city, but all of it and more make Bristol a top place to live. Bring it on Bristol.

Friday, April 25, 2003

As the Evening Post speculated on an interview between the editor of the Bristolian and Jerramy Paxman, I wondered how one between the Evening Posts editor Mike Lowe and my version of Paxman, aka Paxman606 might go...

[fade in]
Paxman606: Good evening. I'm speaking with Mike Lowe, the editor of the Bristol based local newspaper 'The Evening Post'. Mr. Lowe, if I can start by asking you a little about the past history of the news group you work for. In the 1930s they were very supportive of Hitler and the rise of fascism weren’t they.
Lowe: That's past history and I don't think relevant in the 21st century.
Paxman606: I see, but recently you attacked the editor the only rival newspaper 'The Bristolian' on his past, as I recall from the 80s, which is also not in the 21st Century?
Lowe: That article was a legitimate piece of journalism on the political arena in Bristol.
Paxman606: Speaking of politics, your newspaper totally failed to report that Sir Nicolas Hood, a major figure in the disgraced Enron corporation was the go-between for the now bankrupt company and Prince Charles, why cover one political event and not another?
Lowe: If I can just answer that by talking about..
Paxman606: Please answer the question Mr.Lowe.
Lowe: I don't think there is enough evidence for such charges against Sir Nicolas.
Paxman606: [raises eyebrow] So your investigative reporters, looking at the millions spent on a failing private project, @Bristol, with Sir Nicolas Hood on the board uncovered nothing?
Lowe: I can't say what we did or didn't find.
Paxman606: Did you investigate it at all?
Lowe: I can't say.
Paxman606: Hmmm. If I can ask you Mr.Lowe if the purchase of your company of the only other news source in the area, Venue, is good or bad for democratic accountability?
Lowe: Good, we bring valuable resources to the magazine.
Paxman606: Prior to your take over, Venue did run stories that ran counter to yours, how ever, now you both seem to be going in the same direction?
Lowe: I refute that. What evidence do you have?
Paxman606: I'll give you two examples; before being owned by you Venue ran a story about how a homeless man featured on your front page felt he'd been unfairly duped. Whereas now both you and Venue seem to be attacking the 'Bristolain' Party.
Lowe: Our defence is in our loyal readership.
Paxman606: Is that why your sales figures are dropping? I repeat the question you've been ducking; how does all the print media being in one set of hands impact on the local democratic process?
Lowe: Media ownership is a question for the government, not me.
Paxman606: A government who's local election chances are aided by your attacks on the Bristolian Party?
Lowe: I refute that.
Paxman606: Right. [looks despairingly to camera] Now, the most damming evidence you can level at the editor of the Bristolian is that he once wrote a controversial piece of fiction, are you planning to also expose other political parties shady past. I’m thinking for example the fact that the Tory party grandee Kenneth Clarke makes money in conjunction with the brutal military dictatorship in Burma?
Lowe: That is a national issue and not a local one.
Paxman606: What about reporting on the fact that the Labour and Tory party councillor passed a £500 million development in an astonishingly short amount of time despite widespread local opposition?
Lowe: I don’t think our readers want to be bored with planning issues.
Paxman606: Hmmm. Well, Mr. Lowe, thank you for your time. Next on the program we take a look new research that shows how local economies can be undermined by corporate development. I’m joined by..[fade out]

Thursday, April 17, 2003

This is What Democracy Looks Like

To be fair to the US, they said they would bring democracy to Iraq and they are in the process of doing just that; democracy western style aka democracy-lite or I-can't-believe-its-not-democracy. This means that the population can do all the chanting and moaning they want, provided they don't interfere with the business of...well, business.

How does this work on a local level? Here in Bristol, you can march in the streets and chant 'No War' but if you try to enter a building you pay for with your taxes (e.g. the Council House, Army Recruiting Centre etc.) you are stopped, with as much force as is necessary and often a bit more for good measure. Ah! You might argue, in a democracy both sides must be heard; the army has a right to recruit and you have a right to protest it. Ok, do anti-war protests have a multi-million dollar budget to put adverts in Bristol cinemas encouraging people not to join the army? No. Not that balanced then is it? Do the state protect the rights of it’s citizens? Only if you’re not a threat. Ask Pat Finucane, murdered by the state. The military can and do ignore the laws of the democracy they claim to uphold. Look at how many people have been brought to justice for the direction of terrorist action of Northern Ireland. None, and don't hold your breath waiting. Locally, the police can ignore the laws of a democracy to protect the status-quo (not the band!?) as we've seen at anti-war demos where the police did the all rioting; how many cops have been brought to justice for this? None, and don't hold your breath waiting.

In a parallel of stunning irony, the US meets with chosen Iraqi 'leaders' to carve up Iraq's resources protected by a ring of soldiers. The Iraqis can protest outside (democracy) and chant 'No to Saddam, no to America' but they can't go into the meeting (democracy-lite) ie. they can't change anything meaningful. At the same time, the EU leaders meet in Athens to rubber stamp another super-state with chosen 'leaders' protected by a ring of cops and soldiers. The citizens of the EU can protest outside (democracy) and chant but they can't go into the meeting (democracy-lite) so that they can't change anything meaningful.

Ah, you say, but these leaders are elected! In part; I'd love to hear a convincing argument of how Italy's Berlusconi, with a personal media empire was 'democratically' elected. The difference between Tony Blair other Tory alternative is to elect another goon with different spin machine who'll do the same free-market neo-liberal policies. You choose elect Pinky or Perky to the parliament of democarcy-lite.

The idea of a representative democracy is for the voters to weigh up the candidates and choose the one they most identify with. But if the media ignore anyone but the business-as-usual candidate (as locally has been the case with the Bristolain Party, the Greens, the Socialist Alliance and the Socialist Labour Party) then how can people even be aware of alternatives, let alone vote for them? So far the only 'fringe' party to get any serious coverage has been the BNP, which are being used by the Labour Party as a stick to beat voters; "...the Bristolian lumbers on increasing the chances of a BNP victory every day." It has echoes with the words of the anarchist Buenaventura Durruti; "No government in the world fights fascism to the death. When the bourgeosie sees power slipping from its grasp, it has recourse to fascism to maintain itself..." Democracy-lite, enforced down the barrel of a gun.

Friday, April 11, 2003

Weapons of Mass Media
Our local (Bristol, UK) rag, the Evening Pest, is typical of the fantasy rolling war-war-war coverage that had very little fact. Take the Tuesday 8th April headline 'Saddam Hussein is Dead', not wishing to bother with journalism and finding out if it was true or more coalition spin, hey launched a front page blitz. The next day most of the papers reported that the 'intelligence' services think they missed Saddam when they bombed a Baghdad suburb. Then, when something news-worthy actually happens - they missed it: So when Baghdad falls, the Evening Pest's front page is a story about Concorde being phased out. Whoops. Maybe they should let the national press do Iraq, and stick to Bristol?

Ever since the much touted pulling down of statues of Saddam, there have been rumours that some of events were staged. A typical example would be Voxfux ranting about this, "Reminiscent of the staged mock pro war rallies here in the United States, the CIA with their public relations giants staged a patently mock liberation rally. If it wasn’t so phony it would be laughable, but it was disgusting - It’s a lie." I had been dismissing this stuff as people who said that the Iraqis would not welcome the US, clutching at straws....

...and then I saw a piccy of an overhead shot of the scene Nasiriyah on And photos of a jubilant Iraq who's part of the pulling down of the state, and he bears an uncanny resemblance to once of the bodyguards of Iraqi National Congress founder & wanted fraudster Ahmed Chalabi, the Pentagon's man. Not that this is conclusive proof, but is making me think...

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Well they are saying the war is all but over. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. I hope it is and the bombing can end. But once the war ends those of us who opposed it will be subject to the 'yah-boo you were wrong' type attacks from the pro-war lobby. Get ready for the 'you were wrong about Afghanistan and you were wrong about Iraq' media assaults.

Some suggested that Iraq might become a Vietnam. It might yet still. After initial large scale combat, were the North Vietnamese Army was soundly beaten in conventional war by the massive US firepower, most of the Vietnam war descended into drip-drip guerrilla warfare. The US could boast they controlled the cities, but the jungles were closed. In an attempt to open them up chemical weapons such as the defoliant 'Agent Orange' were employed. While in the cities the constant guerrilla attacks were met with increased ferocity by US forces towards the civilians. Which in turn recruited more guerrillas. Drip. Drip.

That was then and this is now. There were other questions we had that have not been answered; what about depleted uranium? What about the future of Iraq? What about the anger in the Muslim world? The damage to international institutions? On some things we were wrong about; there were less civilian casualties than in Afghanistan (so far) and the oil fields were not set ablaze. But was it our fears for these that led the US/UK forces to ensure we were wrong on this issue?

Were we wrong about Afghanistan? Not yet. It has not stopped terrorism, the victims of the Bali bombing can attest to that. It has not stopped the heroin trade as Blair said it would, in reality it lead to a opium production explosion. Has it stopped the Taliban? No, they are still going and the new government has re-opened the Ministry of Vice and Virtue. US forces are virtually contained to barracks unless fully-tooled up and attacks on them continue even to this day.

And in the US Military base at Bagram airport two 'suspect terrorist' die under interrogation. Beaten to death by the forces of democracy.

And in Colombia, another US oil war - this time invisible to the west - plays out it's deadly path.

And still alive today are the victims of ‘Agent Orange’. There will be no CNN/NBC/Fox news special on their plight.

And the big questions. Of Imperial Power. Of money. Of oil. The pro-war media hasn't even figured out that these are the real questions behind all this yet. The hawks who planned this war know that these are the real questions, which is why they went to war. They also know, that we know, which is why they will try to silence us. Drip.

Monday, April 07, 2003

No blood for oil??
Is this a war for oil? The Washington Post's Thomas W. Lippman doesn't think so and he's outlined why not. Its a pretty poor argument and to prove it so I'm setting myself the challenge to refute his articles main points, with references, in 10 minutes. It's 10.48pm, so here goes...

Lippman: “First, if the United States felt compelled to increase its access to oil from Iraq, it could do so by getting the U.N. Security Council to lift the economic sanctions that restrict Iraqi output -- no bloodshed necessary....”

An easy one. As Iraq has started selling it's oil in Euros, it's the issue of what currently the oil is sold in as much as how much is sold - Geoffrey Heard; "This debate is not about whether America would suffer from losing the US dollar monopoly on oil trading -- that is a given -- rather it is about exactly how hard the USA would be hit."


Lippman: "Then assume the worst in Saudi Arabia: Militant anti-American extremists seize control of the government. Such rulers might refuse to sell oil directly to the American customers.... United States could shift its Saudi purchases to those other suppliers."

Not if the Saudis started selling the oil in Euros, as Iraq was doing! Without the petro-dollar, the US can't switch purchases because the basis of its purchasing power has been undercut - Heard again; "The dollars the USA has printed, the 'cheques' it has written, would start to fly home, stripping away the illusion of value behind them. The USA's real economic condition is about as bad as it could be; it is the most debt-ridden nation on earth, owing about US$12,000 for every single one of it's 280 million men, women and children."


Lippman: "Moreover, the record shows that even countries whose rulers are hostile to us are willing to sell us oil because they need the money."

True, but at what price? As the US is now a net importer of oil, the price of that incoming oil is important. If a war in Iraq were to break the OPEC cartel, that would be something worth spending billion$ on a war for..Michael C. Ruppert; "Taking over Iraq and placing the Saudi oil fields under U.S. protection would break OPEC and establish the U.S. as the premier energy broker in the declining days of oil."


Lippman's last shout: "Finally, an American takeover of Iraq would not, in the long run, give the United States guaranteed access to Iraqi oil. A democratic Iraq might well decide that its future prosperity would be best served by a supply relationship with, say, China, now an importer of oil with rapidly growing demand."

It might, but the US has plenty of experience in influencing 'democratic' regimes. A good and oil related example would be Venezuela and it's recent coup attempt. An Iraq under Saddam and without sanctions would, as its already abandoned the dollar, probably do just this. So what's the only was the US can avoid the removal of sanctions and keep control - regime change, under US terms - Scott Ritter: "Unfortunately, on-site inspections have been tossed into the garbage heap by those U.S. policy-makers who seek not the disarmament of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction but rather the removal of Iraq’s president."


Okay, so I was a minute over. But you get the point. If I can construct such an argument in 11 minutes, I think it shows how flimsy the 'it's not about the oil' argument is. Give me an hour....

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Media War and the War
Well our local rag, the Evening Post (part of the embedded Daily Mail Propaganda Unit) is, day after day, giving us a diet of breathless war pie with side helping of war. Take the current online headlines; 'No Escalation of Conflict - Blair', 'Allies Can see Capital Skyline', 'PoW Arrives' and so on. It's only by the forth story that we get anything locally related (and even that’s a call for a pro-war rally). Yes - remember us, the people of Bristol? The ones who live within your news area? We've got an election going on, the BNP trying to move in and a council trying to bring in a £170,000 CEO for the city. I know the war is big news but all the Evening Pest is doing is covering the same stuff as every other western media outlet, indeed the Daily Mail headlines from the same time are eerily similar 'US forces see Baghdad skyline' etc..

So while our (supposed) local rag concentrates on repeating the same BBC-CNN-ITV-MSNBC blah blah blah that you can get everywhere, our saving grace is our own media and the net. Locally we have Bristol Indymedia, BS3 and The Bristolain. Tops sites all three.

Internationally, one of the most remarkable sites I've come across in this vein is, a Russian site that claims to be, "..created recently by a group of journalists and military experts from Russia to provide accurate and up-to-date news and analysis of the war against Iraq." They claim to intercept military communications and use this data to discover what really going on. I don't know how authentic it is, but if even half true its a massive amount of data and paints a very different picture of what's going on. Take a bit of the 2nd April report as an example; "Rough estimates show that the territory 'captured' by the coalition forces still contains at least 30,000 Iraqi regular troops and militia engaged in active combat. Military experts are already warning the US command about the danger of underestimating the enemy: doing so may seriously complicate the situation of the attacking forces and foil the coalition's very optimistic plans.....On the other hand, the Iraqi command is being forced to withdraw its troops under the protection of towns. Iraqis are also forced to minimize all active combat operations outside the city limits as the desert terrain maximizes the enemy's advantage in aviation and its technological superiority in reconnaissance and targeting systems. This robs the Iraqis of their mobility and forces them to resort to 'fortress-like' type of warfare, which, clearly, is significantly reducing their combat effectiveness."

If even half this stuff is true then we are being lied to about how well it's going and things are really quite touch and go. Now wouldn’t that be a surprise; to find out that the government has been lying to us?

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

The Cost of Taking Iraq
We all know that this war is costing a lot of our cash, but have you stopped to think about what it all really means? On 1st April ITN stated that the 23 Storm Shadow missiles so far fired on Baghdad by the RAF costs £600,000. Per missile. No joke. For that you could fund the five year Bristol based research program to screen for compounds which can be developed into drugs for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease (£450,000) and fund the University of Bristol three year project into hearing loss (£150,000) and have £50,000 change to spend on local community projects. You plan what you could do with 23 x £600,000. But the pro-war camp would then argue that 'what price can you put on freedom?'

But lets assume they are right and follow their method that this is a war of liberation and a war to save lives in the future. You see, Blair fears that; "....we wake up one day and we find either that one of these dictatorial states has used weapons of mass destruction ... or alternatively these weapons ... fall into the hands of these terror groups." Ok. So how many people can we expect to save by supporting this war? Obviously it's impossible to say. But say, worst case scenario is in one year; another ten September 11ths (40,000 people), a couple of nukes going off and killing say three times the death toll of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined (600,000) and say 4 or 5 anthrax attacks (615,000).

Sound a bad enough case scenario? Thats a total of 1,255,000 people killed. Lets round it up to 1.5 million by adding another 245,000 lives (or another 49 Halabja chemical gas atrocities). The axis of Bush is taking us to war to save a possible one and a half million deaths. Wow. That must be well worth the $150 Billion for the war.

But if I put my capitalist head on for a minute or two: Is that value-for-money at a cost of $100,000 per life saved? If I were to subcontract the life saving of 1.5 million people out to another group who chose to invest it in providing clean drinking water worldwide rather than invading Iraq, they could save 1.5 million lives for only $7.5 billion. Thats a cost of $5000 per life saved. This is a facetious way of saying that for the same price as the war in Iraq, you could give clean drinking water to every single person on the planet for 6 years and thereby save 30 million lives. A far more cost-effective life saving method, plus it would create quite a few jobs. To see the amount of money being spent to 'free' Iraq and still think it is all about terror or WMDs or freedom then you have to believe that our leaders are not at all capitalists but instead are so committed to democracy there is no financial price they are not willing to pay to install it. Before your believe that you have to accept that Bush believes in democracy so much he fought tooth and nail for a re-vote in Florida and Blair is a socialist fighting to put lives over profit. Does not compute.

No, when you look at the figures, you cannot but come to the conclusion that there is a greater financial prize at stake here; Given that (at current market value) the oil of Iraq is worth $3125 billion, doesn't it make much more sense that here is where the $150 Billion for the war is really being invested. Plus it has the added bonuses that once the US privatizes the Iraq oil industry, the multi-nationals who will make this money will have the investment secured at the expense of the tax payer. Who says that crime does not pay?