Friday, March 24, 2006

Iraq in Flames
While Bliar and Bu$h try to say things are on course in Iraq, the reality is the Shiite and Sunni fighting each other, the Kurds fighting the Sunnis, Kurds shooting civilains, insurgents fighting the police, al-qaeda seemly fighting everyone and now... the US troops are fighting the Iraqi police: "It’s like this thing we keep saying here about all the new people we’ve recruited for the iraqi police. It leaves out the fact that my platoon was in a 40 minute gun fight with the iraqi police. So you recruited more of them … awesome!" says a US solider serving in Ramadi right now.


Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Circus is in Town!
Blackmail, seduction, dirty tricks, break-ins, theft, subversion and espionage! Sounds like a new Hollywood thriller, but in fact is a riveting account of a Circus company's war against animal rights and accountability.

Monday, March 20, 2006

If This Is Not Civil War, Then What Is?
So says Iyad Allawi, the former interim prime minister of Iraq, "It is unfortunate that we are in civil war. We are losing each day as an average 50 to 60 people throughout the country, if not more....If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is."

Plus have a look at the top ten catastrophes in Iraq.
The Iraqi Civil War
The third anniversary of the Iraq War is here and rather than celebrating the birth of a free-market wet-dream as the Neo-Cons and Neo-Labour had hoped, all indications are that we are instead to look back on this date at the beginning of the Iraqi Civil War. So does the beginning of a civil war look like? The English Civil War began with the raising of the King's standard in Nottingham in August 1642. As there was no mass media, many people would not have known the civil war had come until it affected them personally – for example Bristolians would have had no doubt that civil war had arrived as by 1643 the Royalist had captured and occupied the city. In Iraq various militia, insurgent and terrorist groups have been raising standards in one for or another since before the US/UK forces began their occupation. I think it would be a reasonable assumption that given the rate of killing of civilians in the country, that most people in Iraq have been affected personally by the loss on friends or family. For example John Pace, the former United Nations human rights chief in Iraq, said: "The Baghdad morgue received 1,100 bodies in July alone, about 900 of whom bore evidence of torture or summary execution. That continued throughout the year and last December there were 780 bodies, including 400 having gunshot wounds or wounds as those caused by electric drills." But Bush says he is pleased by the progress being made in Iraq while the the Iraqi occupation government are putting enormous pressure on morgue officials not to talk. Robert Dreyfuss, author of 'Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam', says that the civil war is here because it looks a lot like a more recent war; Lebanon’s civil war; "In Lebanon, a kaleidoscopic mix of Maronite Christian militias, Sunni warlords, Shiite militia, Palestinian guerrillas and others formed shifting alliances with each other over fifteen long years. Some parts of Lebanon were relatively stable and quiet, while Beirut, Lebanon’s seaside capital, and towns and villages surrounding it became bloody battlegrounds. Barriers, checkpoints, red lines and green lines divided the capital and its suburbs. There were scores of ceasefires which later collapsed. Throughout it all, there were elections, and Lebanese governments came and went. Presidents were assassinated. As the fighting raged in Beirut, all sides drew on the resources of their twin hinterlands. The first 'hinterlands' were the ethnic and national enclaves, which were like armed camps, who provided the troops, arms and supplies for the main fighting. The second hinterlands were the foreign powers who supported various sides in Lebanon. Above all, that meant Syria and Israel, but it included Iran, Iraq, Libya and others." That seems a pretty good parallel to whats going on in Iraq to me. Elections have come and gone, politicians, officials and clerics have been assassinated. Syria and Iran are reportedly involved in supplying bombs and triggers to various factions. Israel has clandestine special forces in Kurdistan training the Peshmerga there as a buffer to the chaos.

Iraq is in the midst war. The bungled US/UK war was the trigger.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Road to Guantanamo & The Tipton Three
I went to the the Watershed showing of 'The Road to Guantanamo' yesterday. The film was excellent and did not suffer from the what many 'worthy' films do – in being either too preachy or dull. The main thing that comes across from the film is the humanity of the three Brummies caught in the middle of global events and the inhumanity of the US/UK military machine. Typical interrogation exchange went something like:

US Intelligence Officer: Is that not you in this video at a rally with Osama Bin Laden?
(Points to grainy video)
Brummy Lad: Thats not me. It looks nothing like me.
US Intelligence Officer: No, that is you.
Brummy Lad: That date on the video? Its says 2000?
US Intelligence Officer: Yes, that was the date it was shot.
Brummy Lad: That can't have been me, I was working in Currys then.

Either the intelligence people are playing a game of double-double bluff or they are so ill-informed of their charges that they make such simple and provably wrong mistakes. The above exchange is typical of the integration scenes shown and would be laughable for the ineptitude and Kafkaesque methods of questioning, if so much were not at stake. They were told to write home and get proof of where they were in summer 2000 and yet refused pen, paper, stamps or envelopes. They only way they could extract anything from them, as there was no proof, was via torture. To quote former POW and now Republican senator John McCain, "...subjecting prisoners to abuse leads to bad intelligence, because under torture a detainee will tell his interrogator anything to make the pain stop." Lets not forget this is the same system that told us Saddam has WDMs and that the war in Iraq would help fight terrorism, rather than create more.

Most of the guards at Guantanamo, working under the motto 'Honor Bound to Defend Freedom' seems more like Gruppenf├╝rers; "NO PRAYING! NO PRAYING!" they scream at people in cages and some seem to delight in torturing and intimidating their charges. The American dream in action.

Following the film the Tipton Three themselves spoke. As they arrived on stage, they were greeted to a standing ovation. It seemed to me this was a mark of respect for these very ordinary people who had survived an extraordinary experience and kept their dignity. There are still people trying to smear them and they talked about the death threats they and their families get from BNP-type far right nutters. I believe this is fueled by sections of the press who refuse to let go of guilt by association. Some find it had to believe that three twenty year olds could be a big reckless or foolhardy, that something else must have happened. Well newsflash; twenty year old lads can be reckless and foolhardy. Shit happens, but that does not justify torture and kidnapping and detention without trial. One questioner asked the three if they had any hate or anger over what had happened. The reply was; "No, I just want to get on with my life. I left my hate in Guantanamo".

Sunday, March 12, 2006

I Wont Wear the Union Jack
The GM Unplugged gig was undoubtedly a success – packed out with people and the music was amazing. I am trying to think of a category to put the music in; yes it was acoustic and I guess kind of folky, but that feels a little constraining, in the context of the gig, with a rapt audience, it was just powerful and intimate music. That was its genre.

The Blue Sequoias went first and the duo really do create an amazing harmony. The band are two women, one with guitar and one swaps between fiddle and piano. Their songs are sometimes funny, sometimes sad and all were engaging. The harmonies just picked you up with them and carried you along. Well worth the journey. Superb.

Next up was Tracey Curtis. I am a fan of David Rovics and I knew that Tracey has played with him, so I guess I was expecting a similar standard of music and lyrical excellence. I was not disappointed. She was amazing. One song of hers, 'I Wont Wear the Union Jack' particularly grabbed me. I had an small argument with a family member about a year ago that got heated when I said I didn't support England in the football. Its not that I support any other team; just that I don't care who wins. I am not proposing to be a killjoy over football, I am glad that people enjoy it. It is just that it does not interest me at all and so I don't see any reason why I should suddenly take an interest in a game that bores me just become England are playing. In this argument was trying to convey that while I am proud of my community and would seek to defend it, I can't expand that idea to the country because at that level it becomes abstract and not that dissimilar from a religion. At a national level; what does patriotism mean? Love the government? 'Cause I don't. I voted tactically against them. Love the democratic system we have? 'Cause I don't, its not a democracy in any sense of the word I understand. Love the works of Shakespeare? Its great stuff, but I am personally no more linked to its creation than I am to the works of Goethe or Flaubert. Anyway, this is my point; Its not easy to encapsulate anti-patriotism without people getting upset you are anti-them. Tracey's song makes this point really well (and very beautifully); "I can't be proud of a country that is causing pain, and we've done it again and again...I love our rivers, love our coastline, what's left of out green, but I won't wear the Union Jack..."

At the gig one of the Shepton Mallet protestors fighting the Tescopoly told me that the new store would destroy the area where the first world war soldiers from the town marched off. If anything is anti-patriotic, I guess this must be it – the burying of a common culture under a bland identikit (not to mention pointless) supermarket. The protestors chances of winning this battle are not good, but we can still win the war, as long as people still care about the land more than they care about three for two offers. It is in the fighting that we stop them from winning.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Living Beyond the End
This is the working website of a handbook in progress. The writings here are based on the premises that industrial civilization is unsustainable, and that its collapse is inevitable. Industrial civilization is systematically destroying the biosphere and exploiting the inhabitants of this planet. It is reducing the long-term prospects of living creatures in general, and the sooner it is gone the better off we'll be. If we wait until civilization destroys so much of the biosphere that it collapses itself then our situation will be even worse.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Problem With Tessa
The Tessa Jowell thing has had lots of comment and verbage pured over it during the last few days. While I would consider the revelations over death squads in Iraq or the growing rebellion in the Philippines to be far more deserving of the column inches and airtime, there is something about the who thing that draws you in. Tessa's posse were on the today program defending her talking about a media witch hunt and how she has shown to have done nothing wrong. She may not have within the rules, but the spirit of what she has done shows the Labour Party for what it has become. Where the party was once the people who took a rent strike from a few streets to a city wide protest; "Private enterprise has broken down in its attempt to meet the needs of the people" to today where the party consists of a sizable number of MPs with property portfolios who receive hundreds of thousands of pounds in 'gifts' from right wing politicians. (Speaking of payments; some poor guy in the US pays his credit card bill and gets reported to homeland security!) The party is one of a business class pleading the case for soft management of the proles and no longer has any connection to reality. They have become the political version of Sting sings songs about being ripped off by his accountant; songs that no longer speaks to the masses.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Fresh Shoots
I came across this new magazine, Bulb, recently. It looks like an attempt to merge radical and eco issues with a kind of Face/Edge style design and look. In fact the whole thing looks like a radiohead cover with words on. Not that that's a bad thing. I always think radiohead covers look very odd-cool.

It also reminds me (content-wise) of the Year Zero thing that Adam Porter did. I did buy a few copies of Year Zero, but it had too much football for me.

Still Bulb looks good and from a glance, should do what needs to be done in-terms of getting a radical message to a wider audience. Nice.

PS. A great quote about the Iraq war: "Because, let's be clear: an aggressive war without UN sanction, whether marketed on a mountain of lies or not, is a crime and the legal equivalent of mass murder." (from

PPS. Discovered a new Venetian Snares site. Uses crappy frames, but has great content. Check the live @ die Werft set and an amazing video of Szamar Madar from the sublime album Rossz Csillag Allat Sz├╝letett.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Private PsyOps
What is this:
"Engender support within the national community for proposed military action..."
"develop national resilience and behavioural compliance for homeland security issues..."
"launch a powerful psyop campaign against an engaged enemy...."

Sounds like some KGB-esque plan? No, its 'democracy promotion'; "With the Pentagon launching a revamped psy-ops campaign, the State Department funding new 'democracy promotion' strategies and the ever ready Blair government to pay public money to private propaganda companies, the means of deceiving entire nations has rarely been more accessible, or profitable."

Its 1984++
GM Unplugged

GM Unplugged Event 11th March 8pm till 11pm @ The Plough, Easton Rd, Easton

Gig Info: This gig is to support the Sainsbury's Six - protesters arrested during a blockade of the Bristol distrubution depot of the supermarket to highlight the issue of untested GM fed animal milk in the human food chain. Suggested donation £3, nobody turned away for lack of funds.

**Tracey Curtis**
Sublime Singer/Songwriter who has toured alongside anarcho-folk popsters Chumbawamba and renowned US folk singer David Rovics. "We are, I hope, going to hear a lot more from Tracey Curtis" (Folk London, March 2005)

**Blue Sequoias** Easton Music Legends
Fiddle and piano Music Legends

For issue info


More info:

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Shock and Awe
Robert Fisk - the multi-award winning journalist wrote an opinion peice in the Independent on Sunday that had an interesting aside burried in it:

A British scientist, Chris Busby, has been digging through statistics from the Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment which measures uranium in high-volume air samples. His suspicion was that depleted uranium particles from the two Gulf wars - DU is used in the anti-armour warheads of the ordnance of American and British tanks and planes - may have spread across Europe. I'm not a conspiracy theorist but here's something very odd.

When Busby applied for the information from Aldermaston in 2004, they told him to get lost. When he demanded the information under the 2005 Freedom of Information Act, Aldermaston coughed up the figures. But wait.

The only statistic missing from the data they gave him was for the early months of 2003. Remember what was happening then? A little dust-up in Iraq, a massive American-British invasion of Saddam's dictatorship in which tons of DU shells were used by American troops. Eventually Busby, who worked out all the high-altitude wind movements over Europe, received the data from the Defence Procurement Agency in Bristol - which showed an increase in uranium in high-volume air sampling over Britain during this period.

Well, we aren't dead yet - though readers in Reading will not be happy to learn that the filter system samplings around Aldermaston showed that even they got an increase. Shock and awe indeed.

Scary stuff. This means that the fall-out of the resource wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are having in impact beyond the lives and money, right into the air we breathe. It is as if this system, not content with pitching us to fight one another for the ever declining stock of oil, is content for the fall out of the fighting to infect the bodies of the globe and into future generations - it is as Cheney says, a war that will not end in our lifetimes...