Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Climate War

Wars happen for all sorts of reasons; resources and religion being the most often cites ones. I would argue that Iraq and Afghanistan and the whole War on Terror (TM) is a resource war with religion playing second fiddle. I would say it is the first resource was of the end of the age of oil. With that in mind, an article in the Guardian pointed to another reason for war - related to resources - the conflict in about which the West seems so 'powerless' to act, yet whos consumor driven system has created; climate change...

Something fundamental has changed in this part of Africa, and it happened within a generation. From a state of sectarian innocence in which the dividing line between Arab and African was meaningless, something made people pick sides, and hardened their new sense of identity into ethnic hatred, all in the past two decades. What changed, the evidence suggests, was the climate....when a ferocious drought and famine transformed Sudan and the whole Horn of Africa. It killed more than a million people and laid waste livestock herds. Whether they maintained their way of life or tried to take up settled cultivation, the pastoralists of Darfur clashed repeatedly with its farmers. A string of conflicts broke out as both sides armed themselves, and those conflicts created the template for today's disaster.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Media Massacre

The media love a good story and nothing gets them going like a bit of human interest and killing. On 16th April 2007 on the campus of the Virginia Tech 32 people were killed and 29 were injured. This was the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history, a big news story.

On the same day in Iraq 35 people were killed and 21 were injured in various acts of murder and violence including a female student being shot by a sniper, two university lectures being shot and 13 Iraq Army soldiers being killed in a single attack on a check point. Now look at the difference in news coverage...

(from IraqSlogger)

Draw your own conclusions about news values.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Target Iran

This article, They Wouldn’t Really Attack Iran, Would They?, is a good analysis of the situation;

"Will they attack Iran sometime this or next year? If I were a betting man, I’d put my money on Washington standing down. It seems like too crazy a proposition even for Bush and Chenet at this point. But who knows? I didn’t think they’d invade Iraq at first and I’m not into prognostication. It’s not about the crystal ball."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Neo-Labour's Local Hypocrisy

I notice that Neo-Labour are trying to get in on the 'Bash Kiely' action over the privatisation of home care. The Neo-Labour Ashley candidate, Ricky Nelson, goes in for a bit of a dig writing in the spring '07 newsletter;

"The LibDems wouldn't listen to massive protests and have decided to to privatise home care. The women 'home helps' get £7 an hour but the Lib Dems don't mind if they get even less in the private sector. Labour wanted this fully debated at Council but they lost the vote..."

First off, the Lib Dems are totally wrong to privatise home care. It is a snide money saving trick that will backfire in the long run. But the CHEEK and audacity of Neo-Labour's propaganda is staggering. Totally staggering.

The first point that needs to be made is that the council tax only makes up about 25% of local government income. The rest comes from business rates and central government. So if the councils need more money the government could give it to them to help out. For example if they had not gone and spent £5 BILLION on the Iraq war – we might have more to spend on local services. Some people try to say that this issue is about local issues and national issues don't count. The reality is that they do. Taxation is a limited pot and when you are spending it on bombs, there is less for home care.

Second, a Neo-Labour complaint that somebody ignores massive protests? This total HIPOCRACY from the party who ignored the largest ever protest in UK history to take us into a genocidal war that has cost well over 600,000 lives and may cost over $2 TRILLION by the time it is done (if it is ever done?). Total hypocrisy.

Third – While the Lib Dems have quietly adopted privatisation, for Neo-Labour it is a front-rank policy. Notice they don't say that are opposed to the plan, only they wanted to 'debate' it some more. Seems to me it leaves the backdoor open for them to do the same if elected. Neo-labour's reign has been marked by mass privatisation of the huge areas of the public sector. Total hypocrisy.

On the subject of the local elections, I chatted to a canvaser from the Green Party in Ashley and he seems confident that they could actually win the seat following their doorstep chats. The Greens at least do openly say that they oppose privatization, although their one councillor abstained on the vote and seems to regret that choice. So he should.

There is an anti-privatisation protest on Friday, 20 April, 2pm, on St Marks Rd, Easton, BS5.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Fighting for Freedom?

US forces in Afganistan forced an Associated Press cameraman to delete images of their savage attack on civilians following a suicide bomb. This is a great example of the freedom that is being fought for! Hurah!

"Gaining much less coverage [in the media that the original attack] are the report’s comments on a nearly-forgotten aftermath of the apparent crimes, carried by E&P and other media outlets at the time: the U.S. military’s forced 'deletion' of images taken by Associated Press cameramen and others. A freelance photographer working for The AP and a cameraman working for AP Television News said then a U.S. soldier deleted their photos and video showing a four-wheel drive vehicle in which three people were shot to death about 100 yards from the suicide bombing. The AP lodged a protest with the American military. The military defended their action in a letter to the AP later, stating that images gathered by "untrained people" might "capture visual details that are not as they originally were."

What kind of Orwellian speak is that last part? "untrained people" might "capture visual details that are not as they originally were." 1984? Welcome to 2007.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Fuck Live Earth

Fucking Live Earth. Don't get me wrong, I am a comitted enviromentalist and know we need to change and am doing so in my life and have been for some time....but - Bono, Madonna and the rest telling me about Climate Change. I don't fucking think so. I feel the issue is boing sold down the celibrity river, much as Make Povety History was by the 'celebs.

Grrr Fucking Bono;

"Controversy arose because Bono and U2 were last year involved in lobbying the world's richest nations to give greater help to the developing world. Bono is an experienced campaigner on the issue, and has even set up his own non-governmental organisation, Data (Debt Aids Trade Africa), which was part of last year's Make Poverty History coalition. One of the campaign's main demands was that wealthy economies should donate at least 0.7% of their national income in aid.

The obvious charge against U2 here is hypocrisy. "Having listened to Bono on the necessity for the government to give more money [in] aid ... I am surprised that U2 are not prepared to contribute to the exchequer on a fair basis along with the bulk of taxpayers," said Joan Burton, of Ireland's Labour party.

Another good point;

Sorry to be so cynical, but really: I am not taking any lessons about the perils of fossil fuels from Madonna, James Blunt and good old Johnny Borrell, last seen speeding around Texas on a motorbike he called his "fat fucking ride". Not very George Monbiot, I'm saying.

PS. New radio show is online at

PPS. A fantastic take-down the C4's 'The Great Climate Swindle' and of its director Martin Durkin.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Ashton Court – Will it Sink?

You may (or may not) know that Ashton Court is still mired in debt. At the end of the 2006 event they ended up with a whopping £100,000 in debt;

"In 2006, the extra costs incurred by the new licensing regulations, plus the ₤8,000 bill for graffiti damage and the ₤11,000 bill caused by people vandalising the estate, have left the festival owing over £100,000. As an independent and not for profit organisation we are entirely reliant on sponsorship and gate income to survive, so there is no margin for error."

I would like to know a little more about the figures here. If we take the £19K they say was from damage/graffiti that leaves £81,000 – is that what the licensing regulations cost? Hmmm. Or is there another reason for the debt that they are not telling us? Is there any debt from the alleged lower turn-out to the 2006 event? Does that mean they are getting the mix of the event wrong? How much income (or loss) did they get from the much criticized 'VIP Area'?

I feel there is an element of the chickens coming home to roost. Here's my take on it; if they want my money, I want to know what they are going to do to change? What if people donate all the money and the festival does really well and they make loads of profit? Does it get refunded? What will safeguard the donations people make? Or, what guarantees are there that they will listen to people and not do any stupid things anymore like the ridiculous VIP area? What is there to stop the festival signing another loaded sponsorship deal, like the one with Orange? If they do, there is a danger that all the donations will do nothing more than act as a kind of subsidy to a large corporation. I suggest that in exchange for donations the festival reforms. How about becoming an 'open source' festival – publish the details of the event and the slots on a wiki and let people suggest things to go in it? There are lots of things they could do, but if they want my £20 suggested donation, I'd like to know what Bristol is going to get in return for bailing them out of the mess they have helped to create – and what is going to stop them re-creating it?

More questions than answers and Venue's fawning articles on the issue shead no light.
Jensen/Zerzan Interview

Interesting Interview with with John Zerzan & Derrick Jensen on Mental Health. Sample;

"RD Lang talked about the dynamics that abusive families [have] so they can maintain themselves. He has the three rules of a dysfunctional family, which are also the three rules of dysfunctional culture. Rule A 1. Is don‘t. Rule A.2 is rule A.1 does not exist, and rule A.3 is never discuss the existence of rules A, A.1, or A.2. The point is that, that is crazy making. That’s true in an abusive family and it’s true on a larger scale. And another thing that’s really important, is that everything within an abusive dynamic is set up to protect the abuser. Once again, that makes craziness."

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Bristol Festival of Intelligent Design

Bristol Festival of Ideas starts early next month and I was interested to note that one of the talks was entitled 'Dissent over Descent' by sociologist Stephen Fuller and is his view of how, "Intelligent Design has driven science for 500 years" and about "Evolution's 500 year War on Intelligent Design". If you don't know what Intelligent Design (ID) is, it is "...the proposition that certain features of the universe and of living things can be better explained by an intelligent cause rather than natural processes such as natural selection." In other words, it is trying to put a veiner of pseudo-science over Creationism. So what, you may think – it is the festival of ideas after all. Without even getting into why ID is rubbish as a science; its the bumff written about the talk that is irritating. It says, “Stephen Fuller's revisionist history is essential reading for anyone who wants to gain a deeper understanding of science's most vociferous debate.” ID is not 'science's most vociferous debate', it is not even a debate in science. Science does not even consider it part of the same subject area – science considers ID to be philosophy. To date, not a single ID paper has been published in a recognised scientific journal. ID is not a debate within science, which is why a sociologist is pushing the idea and not, say, a paleontologist or a biologist. It is only a ' vociferous debate' with social conservatives who want to push a religious agenda into our lives. Don't get me wrong, science is not the big know-it-all and I am happy to debate its rights and wrongs, but so-called ID 'debate' is nothing more than a radical US-Christian wolf in sheep's clothing. The flyer could at least label it so.

That said the event does have a few things that look interesting; a screening of Fast Food Nation and Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, the amazing Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell and Billy Brag. See
Bristle 24

Issue 24 of local radical 'zine, Bristle is now out. I recomend it, not least because I have an article in it (excuse the shameless plug) - but is is a very good issue with loads of great articles on 10 years of Neo-Labour. Here's an extract;

...Back to the 1997 manifesto pledge; "There will be no increase in the basic or top rates of income tax." Compare this with old Labour's 1983 manifesto on taxes, “We shall reform taxation so that the rich pay their full share and the tax burden on the lower paid is reduced." It is clear how the party has abandoned its socialist roots in the pursuit of power. Neo-Labour have managed to ditch that old media spun image with one of fiscal prudence, but the reality is they are still a party of tax-and-spend. It's just now its done in a big-business friendly way. Big business has a number of powerful lobby groups to ensure that the government does as it's told. For example a Guardian investigation in 2002 accused the government of giving concessions, not to imposing the correct penalties and not investigating loss of potential taxes of the largest multinational in the UK. This favoritism was estimated to have cost £20 billion in tax revenue – and guess who makes up the shortfall when it comes to buying new bombs for Iraq? Oh yes. Us.

See for info on how to get the mag!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Blogging is 10! A Bristol View...

Blogging is 10! Happy Birthday Blogging! The Guardian reported the anniversary with the first words uttered on the first blog;

"Check this out. Amazing!"

These brief words remind me of another first of communications - the first ever telephone call when Alexander Graham Bell said, "Mr. Watson--come here--I want to see you." Blogging was derided by many, especially in the mainstream media, but people's desire to communicate has pushed it regardless. It is said that one blog appears every 1 second. (Though most don't make it beyond that), the Guardian again;

"But love them or loathe them, bloggers around the world have ensured incredible growth for the medium. Latest figures indicate an estimated 70m blogs in existence, with around 1.5m posts being written every day....'Blogging and other kinds of conversational media are the early tools of a truly read-write web,' said Dan Gillmor, author of citizen journalism bible We The Media. 'They've helped turn media consumers into creators, and creators into collaborators - a shift whose impact we're just beginning to feel, much less understand.'"

I consider blogging to be part of the media democracy revolution that is possible with new media. Sure, bloggers can be wrong, crap and all that. But why should having a say only be for the mainstream media, well-paid columnists and celebrities? Why should us 'ordinary' people not have a say? For freedom of speech to work it has to have a means of expression. Blogging is one of these means.

Bristol is no stranger to the blog and I have compiled a list of the ones I know of; (sorry if I missed you out and you blog....) in alphabetical order...

Anarchist6[zero]6 – Me! Venue described my blog as, “Articulate anarchy-bloke with lots to say about the war on terror, but some nice and occasionally astute, asides about Bristol politics, too.” I blushed.

B52 Blog - Blog of two of the Fairford Protestors. An important case worth floowing.

Blaise School Parent - Occasional but very good blog about everyday life in Bristol

Blogonian – Currently inactive blog about Bristol elections.

Bristol Blogger – Interesting and Independently minded political writings.

Bristol Breakcore Scene – Music group blog by Bristol's breakcore musicians, producers and promoters

Charlile Bloton's Blog – Southville's Green councilor honest blog about local politics.

Gusst Blog – Cool blog by Bristol Musician Dan Gusset

Ian Bone - Founder of Bristolian and co-founder of Class War, Ian Bone's Blog

Love & Rage - Excellent fellow Political Blogger (was called 'the common man')

Nickleberry, Articles and reflections - Good analysis of political events, including local issues.

Stephen Hilton – council guy's blog about eGovernment. Has interesting stuff on it.

Stop the Bristol Arms Trader's Blog - Important issue, good blog.

Solidarity Park - West based political band blogging via MySpace.

Transition Culture - Eco and Permaculture Blog – Not sley Bristol, but lots on South West on the important issue of post-oil communities.

Witenagemont – Interesting and honest blog about issues in Palestine by two Bristol teachers.

A couple of other links...

More about blogging

Media Democracy

Bristol Indymedia's plans to add blogs to the site

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Bristol Airport's White Elephant

A couple of items of news caught my eye recently related to the white-elephant that is Bristol Airport's expansion. First was a survey reported in the Independent that said 22% of people would be prepared to fly less as a response to global warming. Assuming the other 78% are not prepared to give up flying at their current level (two trips per year on average, the article did not mention that they would increase their level of flying)- then where is the market for increased airport expansion going to come from? Next was a comment by a government bod in a debate with George Monbiot on the Today Program where he said they needed to look again at current airport expansion plans. Monbiot was attacking the goverment's lack of real action on the issue. He said that government needed to intervene to stop flying being so subsidised. The government were clearly on the defensive and it got me thinking; Is all the money being spent on planning the expansion going to be wasted by a government who will refuse it (while allowing the go-ahead for bigger airports' expansion) desperate to appear to be doing something about global warming?

Now I know the spods at Bristol Airport will push for expansion regardless of any other considerations – as that is their job – to fiddle while Rome burns, what surprises me is that the local council and the South West Regional Development Agency are backing it. This whole venture is subsidised by their support. That tax money going on this white-elephant that will, in the best case scenario, take people off on holiday away from a region that makes its money from tourism and worse case be an unused patch of concrete where country side that could have attracted tourists once was. Either way there is a heavy carbon cost to pay.

Shame on the 78% not prepared to give up some of their flying. Shame on North Somerset council for spending tax payers money on polluting the atmosphere and shame on SWRDA for a lack of clear forward thinking that will help the region move towards sustainable localised developments.

PS. There is a fundraiser for the anti-expansion campaign on 20th April worth checking out!