Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Downward Spiral of the War on(of) Terror

I guess you will have heard the news of the murder of Benazir Bhutto. It is a sad day but, unfortunately, just one more unravelling part of the war of terror. The U$/UK administrations, flush with military power and dreaming of a neo-liberal compliant Middle East have set about doing everthing they could to make a bad situation worse. The War of Terror is a monumental cock-up of conspiratorial levels:

Pakistan: "The Pakistani authorities are blaming Muslim militants for the assassination. That is possible, but everyone in Pakistan remembers that it was the military intelligence, or Inter-Services Intelligence, that promoted Muslim militancy in the two decades before September 11 as a wedge against India in Afghanistan and Kashmir."

Afghanistan: "The Americans have a way of painting this black and white," said one European official. "For them it's like a cowboy film - you're either a good guy or a bad guy. But anyone with any experience in this country knows it's not that simple."

Somalia: The Islamic Courts Union driven from power a year ago by Western-backed troops is regrouping and planning a large-scale attack and the government can do little to stop it...

Palestine: "Are you wondering about the Annapolis meeting that will open this week? Will the meeting exceed the low expectations that now embrace it? The confab has already been downgraded from a 'conference' to just a 'meeting.'"

Iraq I: "The rate of attacks in Iraq (for all types) has stabilized at the levels of 2004/2005, which were prior to the bombing of Askariya. During this earlier period, Iraq's open source insurgency was highly decentralized. A good way to quantify this is through the analysis of Oxford's Neil Johnson, who plotted the number of attacks against casualties per attack. He found that the equilibrium point for Iraq's conflict (as well as the long running war in Colombia) was a power law with a coefficient of 2.5 . A conflict with a coefficient of 2.5 looks more like intensive terrorism than conventional warfare. It is also likely, given Colombia's experience, a level sustainable over decades of conflict."

Iraq II: Myth: The Sunni Arab "Awakening Councils," who are on the US payroll, are reconciling with the Shiite government of PM Nuri al-Maliki even as they take on al-Qaeda remnants. Fact: In interviews with the Western press, Awakening Council tribesmen often speak of attacking the Shiites after they have polished off al-Qaeda.

Still, one bright spot, one the Native American nations is planning to go independent of the US; reminds me of what Ward Churchill said, that for the whole planet to survive we need to first end the US occupation of America.

PS. Bristol Indymedia has a review of 2007 online....

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Iraqi Resistance on YouTube

There is a good report from Aljazeera on the Iraqi resistance groups who are not al-Qaeda. The report contains lots of very staged footage, but makes some good points about the nature of these groups. Firstly the staged video shows a pretty good degree of media sophistication and secondly the report highlights how these groups recruit people - via the US abuse of detainees; a vicious circle.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Split in the BNP?

Looks like the skull-duggery that defines the far-right is being turned in upon themselves...

Open rebellion is being threatened against the leader of the British National Party, Nick Griffin, from dozens of senior activists. The party has retaliated by expelling two senior members, who it accuses of plotting a coup. BNP officials Sadie Graham and Kenny Smith were kicked out after they were critical of Mr Griffin's style. They have now set up a rival faction, supported by up to 60 senior members. The BNP leadership denies it is split. The row centres on the activities of Ms Graham, the BNP's former group development officer, and Mr Smith, former head of administration. They were accused of "gross misconduct" after it came to light the party said that they were masterminding a blog site critical of Mr Griffin and demanding the sacking of senior officials Mark Collett and Dave Hannam.

also see:

Bunch of bone-heads.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Bali's Hot Air & Cold Hope

Now its all over, time for reflection. Yes the spin-fest that was the Bali United Nations Climate Change Conference has ended with very little to show. Waste of time and carbon. A guess what Neo-Labour did? Yes the war-mongering, big-brother, big-business, hypocritical, shit-pant Labour Party sold us down the river...again;

EU sources told The Independent on Sunday that Britain had unilaterally helped the US to get the figure relegated to a footnote after a telephone call from the White House to Downing Street, but Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary, denied that the Government had strayed from the united European position.

On the subject, this well reasoned video (unless your climate-crank or in serious denial, that is) is doing the rounds (I've seen it on Bristol Indymedia & Charlie Bolton's Southville blog)

But Paul Kingsnorth puts it better than I ever could...

You might be expecting me to be furious about the outcome of the latest climate change shindig in Bali. Furious about the whole thing, perhaps: 15,000 people fly to this sunny little island from all corners of the world, emitting as much carbon dioxide to do so as Mali emits in a year. They spend a week yakking about the biggest threat to the world since humanity walked on all fours; they get right down to the wire; then they announce ... a 'breakthrough!'..And the plan is ... well, the plan is to agree that at some stage in the future we will set some targets to slightly reduce our emissions at some stage after that, if at all possible...Still, I am not depressed. Why? Because I have given up expecting better. I am cultivating an almost Buddhist detachment....What will save us? Who knows if we even need 'saving'? I know it's Christmas, but we don't have to think like fundamentalist Christians all the time - don't have to keep worrying that apocalypse is around the corner. Even if it is, there's nothing Gordon Brown and Greenpeace can do about it. What will save us? Digging our garden, being in love, writing poems, standing up for our inevitable place, belonging, fighting off the encroachment of corporate culture, walking in the woods, knowing who we are, grounding ourselves - and not believing the talk of those who expect the suits and the bankers and the big-picture thinkers to get us out of what they so long ago dragged us into. This system has its own momentum now. This tide will not turn until it is ready. And us? We have to ride it. And you know what - I am beginning to believe that we can.

This is akin to Derrick Jensen's POV too:

Frankly, I don’t have much hope. But I think that’s a good thing. Hope is what keeps us chained to the system, the conglomerate of people and ideas and ideals that is causing the destruction of the Earth...To start, there is the false hope that suddenly somehow the system may inexplicably change. Or technology will save us. Or the Great Mother. Or beings from Alpha Centauri. Or Jesus Christ. Or Santa Claus. All of these false hopes lead to inaction, or at least to ineffectiveness. One reason my mother stayed with my abusive father was that there were no battered women’s shelters in the ‘50s and ‘60s, but another was her false hope that he would change. False hopes bind us to unlivable situations, and blind us to real possibilities.

A WONDERFUL THING happens when you give up on hope, which is that you realize you never needed it in the first place. You realize that giving up on hope didn’t kill you. It didn’t even make you less effective. In fact it made you more effective, because you ceased relying on someone or something else to solve your problems—you ceased hoping your problems would somehow get solved through the magical assistance of God, the Great Mother, the Sierra Club, valiant tree-sitters, brave salmon, or even the Earth itself—and you just began doing whatever it takes to solve those problems yourself.

Time to have a re-think, I think...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Caught in the Crossfire

Finally got round to listening to the Arnolfini Journalism 2007, by Andrew Gilligan, and it is a good listen and well worth the effort. Sample quote;

Over the question of Iraq, the most serious question you could possible imagine, the coming of our troops to war against a country that had offered no provocation to us; nearly all the democratic institutions that were supposed to protect us, failed. The civil service in the person of John Scarlet of the joint intelligence committee became Alistair Campbell's co-conspirator. Parliament, in the form of the Foreign Affairs Committee became more concerned with humiliating David Kelly than getting to the bottom of the dossier business and the Judiciary, in the form of Lord Hutton, well I just don't know what happened to Lord Hutton. Not only did the institutions fail; they have failed to acknowledge that their failures and they continue to present that all is well.

Another point he raises is what he calls 'anti-jounralists' or PR people, whos job is to obfuscate and manipulate the news agenda. Link to the MP3 is here.

(PS, on the subject of Iraq & David Kelly - also check out the lecture on the death of David Kelly by the Lib Dem MP Norman Baker)

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Failure of the Democrats

In the U$A, the Democrats, despite riding a tide of popular anti-war sentiment, are as lame as Bu$h: too cosy with the corporate lobby, too cowed by the corporate media - but most importantly - don't want to face the reality the the right don't take prisoners, they don't give ground and don't give a shit for anything except winning (link);

[Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House and sort-of current leader of the Democrats] appears to have thought that [the Republicans] had mostly turned against the war in their hearts, and would become allies of the Democrats in ending it....But for all the Caesar-like power that Bush claims for his imperial executive, he could not have steam-rollered the country into war if he had not had enablers in the then Republican-controlled Congress...That might help explain why Pelosi did not initially believe that her Republican colleagues could possibly be so short-sighted or venal as to actively support the war.

But you just have to contrast the way that the Republicans took power in the House in 1994 with a disciplined plan that shifted resources radically to the Right and took no hostages among their foes. They even dared impeach (in the lesser sense) a very popular Democratic president, as a way of making sure Al Gore never became his successor. In other words, they came to town as ravenous as a horde of marauding Mongols and as mean as a canyon full of rattlesnakes....And now a year after the Dems took the House back for the first time in 12 years, the Democratic Speaker suddenly realizes that she is facing a phalanx of determined warmongers.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Iraq: It's Sadr Time

So the shootings are down - lots of people suspect this is because the Sadrists are (sort of) holding back; but for how long?

"There is just bound to be another war as long as the occupation remains. Our main enemy is America."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Global Warming Nutters

Like to Dodo, you'd think, because most of us have moved-on, that the global warming-deniers had gone away, but no, in a new book called 'Scared to Death' two prominent deniers try to point to sun as the issue but in a cutting review, Robin McKie takes the book apart;

First cut:

"..astronomers have known for years that temperatures are rising on our sister planets but have failed to pass on the news, we are told. This is a cosmic conspiracy - for if Jupiter and Triton are heating up, then the cause cannot be human....So forget carbon emissions. Blame rising solar radiation for all global warming....The authors outline six sources and then wrap up their argument with quotes from a scientist whose solar research they clearly feel is unimpeachable. First, those sources: items from ABC News, USA Today, National Geographic, an MIT press release and links to websites of Nasa and a media group, None is a primary source. All are interpretations, by others, of astronomical research"

So the reviewer get a primary source;

Oxford's Prof Peter Read, who has worked on several robot missions to Mars. 'Take the melting of the ice cap on Mars's south pole. There is no evidence of warming happening elsewhere on the planet. The effect is most probably some local climatic phenomenon. So is the solar system in the grip of global warming? No, it isn't.'

But shockingly, the central claims of the book are based on an interview with Cambridge astrophysicist Nigel Weiss in Canada's Financial Post - that never happened!

Except that Weiss never said any such thing. He never even gave an interview to the Post, which long ago posted a retraction and an apology, under legal threat from Weiss who was infuriated such claims had been falsely attributed to him. 'I don't believe solar radiation is the main cause of global warming and I never said so to the Post, as the authors of this book would have discovered if they had asked me,' says Weiss.

Ooops! Final cut:

They accuse other journalists of 'unthinking credulity' but commit egregious errors that would shame a junior reporter...Then there is this year's Royal Society report by physicists Mike Lockwood and Claus Frohlich, who surveyed radiation records for the past 40 years and who concluded, unambiguously, 'that the observed rapid rise in global mean temperatures seen after 1985 cannot be ascribed to solar variability'. Incredibly, this is dismissed by the authors because of its careful selection of evidence!

Suffice to say, it's not on my Christmas list.
An Iraq Update

You may have noticed that there have been a steady trickle of 'good' news from Iraq - not good in the sense it is now all the Land-of-Milk-&-Honey but good in the sense that less people are being brutally murdered that the most recent high. Does this mean we have 'turned a corner' and victory is in sight? I don't see how...the first sign that things are far from good the all the 'surprise' visits. 'Surprise' is a good word as in surprise party, but what they mean here is that the government does not announce in advance that they plan to visit the country as is the normal diplomatic protocol. This is because the place is still so violent that to announce in advance that you are going to be there is to invite an attack. IMHO If Brown and Bu$h can't announce in advance their schedule, then it's not classified as safe. The war-mongers behind the Iraq war got a huge shock back in 2003 when Neo-Con Wolfowitz was nearly hit in a rocket attack. Seems to me that after that all the visits became 'surprise' or 'unannounced'. So where is the war now? Juan Cole is not optimistic:

Guerrillas differ from conventional armies in that they typically avoid direct, conventional engagements on the battlefield. They melt away before a conventional army's advance, and then reemerge to engage in sniping, sneak attacks, and bombings from an unexpected quarter. The advantage of Fred Kagan's troop escalation or "surge" is that it allowed a tamping down of violence in Baghdad through a US campaign to disarm the Sunni Arabs there. There were two disadvantages of it. First, it allowed the Shiite militias to take advantage of the disarming of many Sunni Arabs, and to ethnically cleanse hundreds of thousands of Sunnis from the capital during the past six months. As a result, Baghdad is virtually a Shiite city now, like Isfahan or Shiraz. Second, the Sunni guerrillas melted away in West Baghdad, either laying low or relocating to other provinces, so that the violence was displaced to the provinces. Very likely when the extra US troops are removed, the guerrillas will reemerge in the capital, though their loss of so many Sunni neighborhoods to the ethnic cleansing may put them at a disadvantage now.

While helena Cobban seem the groundwork being laid for a withdraw:

If Petraeus is to have any hope of executing an orderly or near-orderly drawdown of US forces from Iraq, he will need forces in both the Sunni and Shiite community who are prepared to (a) cooperate somewhat with each other, and (b) gain substantial control over most of the Arab-majority parts of the country, so that the US troop drawdown is not a rout-- and to prevent as much as possible the direct military intervention of Iraq's neighbors in the country as the drawdown occurs.

Which just reminds me of the ignominious British retreat withdrawal from Basra, a low-key claim of (a very pyrrhic) victory and hope nobody notices the rampant violence and fighting because it is too dangerous for reporters.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Couple of Links

One from 'The God Delusion' while Islam is in the news;

We are ex-Muslims. Some of us were born and raised in Islam and some of us had converted to Islam at some moment in our lives. We were taught never to question the truth of Islam and to believe in Allah and his messenger with blind faith. We were told that Allah would forgive all sins but the sin of disbelief (Quran 4:48 and 4:116). But we committed the ultimate sin of thinking and questioned the belief that was imposed on us and we came to realize that far from being a religion of truth, Islam is a hoax, it is hallucination of a sick mind and nothing but lies and deceits.

And from The Bristol Blogger who is on a roll with the local Neo-Labour party and some dodgy money;

It seems that the Bristol Labour Group - an unincorporated association [the Bristol Labour Group] registered at the Council House - made two donations amounting to exactly £10,000 to the Bristol North West Constituency Labour Party this year....As an unincorporated association, the Bristol Labour Group - which presumably consists of Bristol’s Labour councillors - does not have to present any public accounts. We therefore have no way of knowing the origin of this £10,000. Hardly the best example of Helen’s Holland’s new “open and transparent” regime is it?...You also have to wonder how this £10,000 cash donation is being accounted for and by who? The paper trail so far leads directly to a publicly owned office staffed by public servants....Gotcha! Yesterday we mentioned a city council officer - Roger Livingston - who works for ‘the Bristol Labour Group’ in an office at the Council House where tens of thousands of pounds worth of apparently anonymous donations to the Labour Party are being administrated...And what a revelation it is! Despite clear rules forbidding Roger, as a council officer, from engaging in any party political activity whatsoever, it appears that part of his job is to make, er… Party political enquiries regarding members of the public that contact Bristol Labour councillors!

While on the subject of Neo-Labour, the book is utterly (and rightly) scathing of Tony Blair and Neo-Labour's policy of 'City Academy' where for around 10% (or less) of the costs, private institution can get control of a school and warp it to their agenda, for example by promoting creationism.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Xmas - A Time for No God

I have just finished reading the controversial Richard Dawkins's 'The God Delusion' - and its a fantastic read. It is very polemic, full-on and cuts no corners in its assault on organised religion. He presents the argument as to why there is almost certainly no god, how religion may have evolved within humanity and examines morality and its roots within humanity, scripture (he says anyone promoting the bible as a source of moral guidance has clearly not read it cover to cover!) and life. I was reading this as the whole furore over the teacher in Sudan who named the toy bear 'Mohammed' and found her self the victim of calls for her execution for it. Crazy - as the book said!

You can see Dawkins in Lynchburg VA, USA reading from and answering questions on 'The God Delusion' Part 1 and 2.

You may also have read that Turkey is considering whether or not to prosecute the books local publisher! Crazy and making the books point clear!