Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Gaza: Israel Does What Bin Laden Failed to Do - Unite Arab Word

Bin Laden has a vision of a united Arab world. He has failed utterly (thankfully) to achieve his vision over the last 10 years or so of fighting. However Israel has managed a united vision in just days thanks to its bombings as bitter enemies take time out to condemn Israel: Iran and the Taliban, the warring factions in Iraq, Hezbollah and Egypt. The action has also suspended peace talks mediated by Turkey. Not doing much for peace, this bombing.

Other points of note; Helena Cobban writes of how the response to this crisis shows the US has lost it's veto power and Norman Soloman writes of the Biblical 'eye for an eye' of this bombing; '100 eyes for an eye' and the propaganda war goes digital.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Gaza's Asymmetric War

I have posted (1,2) about the political perspective on the bombings; now for the military. This action is a classic response in an asymmetric war. So how will it pan out?

First reports suggest that the attacks were planned in advance by Israel and they struck when they knew Hamas personal to be at their posts. The same reports suggest that the attacks have delivered a blow against Hamas's hidden cache of weapons.

This matters because it has been suggested that Hamas have been modelling themselves on Hezbollah (following their 2006 kicking of the IDF) so says the noted war reporter David Axe;

If Israel ground forces were to roll into Gaza, they would face 15,000 fighters who have absorbed the lessons of the Lebanon War, Haaretz claims. "For two years Hamas, with Iranian assistance, has been working hard on developing its military power, using Hezbollah as a model."

Hamas' forces reportedly feature:

* A large stockpile of rockets and mortars
* Anti-tank weapons capable of targeting helicopters
* An extensive network of defensive bunkers, tunnels (pictured here) and booby traps

The heart of the force is the 1,000 elite Iz al-Din troops who "undergo rigorous military training as well as participating in ideological classes held in mosques."

Now there are reports that the Israeli's are massing ground forces for a possible incursion/re-occupation. However what they must be thinking is; are Hamas ready for this? Cast your mind back to 2006 and that time Israel vs Hezbollah;

But as you may recall, those tanks got a real different reception when they chased Hezbollah's raiding party back into Lebanon after the Hezzies killed three IDF soldiers and kidnapped another two. The IDF mid-ranking commanders had to act fast because the Gaza command was taking heat for not pursuing Shalit's kidnappers fast enough. So they shouted, "Charge!" and the first Merkava steamed over the border.

Guess how far it got. Ten meters. Ten goddamn meters. Then KABOOM! A Hezbollah mine or shaped charge turned it into a very expensive oven, with four crew killed. Another IDF soldier died trying to rescue them. So within a few minutes the IDF had lost eight men. As far as I know, Hezbollah's losses were zero.

So now the chess pieces are in-place. The questions are; has Hamas anticipated (indeed wanted) a ground incursion? Will the Israeli's give it to them.

Not only that - but if the IDF marches into Gaza and Hamas can give it a kicking - the reputation of the IDF is going to be very low indeed and the gamble will have failed (or back-fired).

More Gaza Bombing Links

Indymedia UK has some good coverage of events and of UK protests over the bombings which include London, Edinburgh, Sheffield, Leeds and Bristol.

Other articles worth reading;

The dead-end of militarism in solving problems.


Robert Fisk writes; "Yes, Israel deserves security. But these bloodbaths will not bring it. Not since 1948 have air raids protected Israel. Israel has bombed Lebanon thousands of times since 1975 and not one has eliminated "terrorism". So what was the reaction last night? The Israelis threaten ground attacks. Hamas waits for another battle. Our Western politicians crouch in their funk holes. And somewhere to the east – in a cave? a basement? on a mountainside? – a well-known man in a turban smiles."

Juan Cole writes; "What I can't understand is the end game here. The Israelis have pledged to continue their siege of the civilians of Gaza, and have threatened to resume assassinating Hamas political leaders, along with the bombardment. The campaign of brutal assassinations launched by Ariel Sharon earlier in this decade were, Sharon, promised us, guaranteed to wipe out Hamas altogether. Do the Israelis expect the population at some point to turn against Hamas, blaming it for the blockade and the bombardment? But by destroying what was left of the Gaza middle class, surely they a throwing people into the arms of Hamas."

Understanding The Airstrikes

First a little bit of history. Remember our brave and visionary leader Mr Tony Bliar? Back in 2003;

Tony Blair, in an attempt to convince critics at home that his "special relationship" with the United States President is not a one-way street, will tonight urge George Bush to keep up maximum pressure for a Middle East peace settlement.

How well did that go? A disaster. Since the axis of Bu$h/Blair the middle east has been worse than ever; over a million dead in Iraq, the ongoing Turkey/Kurdish conflict, Israel/Hezbollah, Lebanon in ongoing various states of turmoil. And Tony 'peace' Bliar is doing such a great job as peace envoy using his 'special relationship' with the US to broker peace (not). What a fuck-up. There are things we can do from here to promote justice in the Middle-East and one thing is to make sure we never forget the shameful complicity of the Neo-Labour party in the ongoing violence, corruption and death.

So how are we to understand the broader context of what is going on? So here are a few links of interest;

The excellent Helena Cobban writes;

The casualty rate is tragic, tragic-- for Palestinians and for all of humanity. ... But at a cynical, Realpolitik level, these casualty levels are not, actually, all that bad for Hamas and its attainment of its political goals. They severely undermine Abu Mazen, Hosni Mubarak, and all the other cast of corrupt and US-supported leaders in the region. These raids will also not succeed in snuffing out Hamas, a movement which is as much an idea of religiously-buttressed resistance, as it is an actual political party. You can't snuff out such a movement simply by killing even hundreds of its members or supporters, or scores of its leaders. Israel pursued the leadership-decapitation strategy through much of the 1990s and early 2000s. It killed three or four successive generations of Hamas leaders with its broad strategy of assassinations-- but the movement as a whole only dug in deeper.

So what does it feel like to have loved ones in the bombing zone?

A little later I called my mother, only to hear her crying on the phone. "The planes are overhead" she cried "the planes are overhead". I tried to calm her down- planes overhead mean the "target" is further away. But in such moments of intense fear, there is no room for rationality and logic. There is you, and there are war planes; and nothing in between, besides orders and a video game screen.

And now we have right-wing US pundits using the same logic Bin Laden used to justify attacks on civilians to cheer-lead these airstrikes;

The question is whether the Palestinian people are educable. Which brings me back to the first point: the Palestinians voted to put in power — i.e., vest with the power of a quasi-sovereign government — a terrorist organization which thinks legitimate governing consists of bringing about the annihilation of its sovereign neighbor and, meantime, targeting the said neighbor’s civilian population with bombing attacks. When you do that, you make yourself a target.

and wingnut Bin Laden;

The American people are the ones who choose their government by way of their own free will; a choice which stems from their agreement to its policies. ...This is why the American people cannot be not innocent of all the crimes committed by the Americans and Jews against us.

Scary how wingnut propagandists will always find a reason to justify killing civilians.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

RIP Pinter

The Nobel prize winning writer and outspoken activist, has died. Rest in peace.

Early in the invasion there was a photograph published on the front page of British newspapers of Tony Blair kissing the cheek of a little Iraqi boy. 'A grateful child,' said the caption. A few days later there was a story and photograph, on an inside page, of another four-year-old boy with no arms. His family had been blown up by a missile. He was the only survivor. 'When do I get my arms back?' he asked. The story was dropped. Well, Tony Blair wasn't holding him in his arms, nor the body of any other mutilated child, nor the body of any bloody corpse. Blood is dirty. It dirties your shirt and tie when you're making a sincere speech on television.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Climate Creationism

I blogged about the similarities between climate change denialism and creationism; and the evidence that these two ideologies are two-sides of the same coin keeps mounting up...for example a new law called the 'Louisiana Science Education Act 2008' which claims to be about supporting academic freedom has in the details the finger-prints of the ideological lobby groups who are pushing for it. In summary it has nothing to do with academic freedom (which I am all for) and is a trojan horse for right-wing ideological propaganda;

"The real purpose of the law—as opposed to its ostensible support for academic freedom—becomes evident on analysis. First, consider what the law seeks to accomplish. Aren’t teachers in the public schools already exhorted to promote critical thinking, logical analysis and objective discussion of the scientific theories that they discuss? Yes, indeed: in Louisiana, policies established by the state board of education already encourage teachers to do so, as critics of the bill protested during a legislative hearing. So what is the law’s true intent? That only a handful of scientific topics—“bio­logical evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning”—are explicitly mentioned is a hint." (my emphasis)

Oh yes - so not only are the tactics and strategies used by creationists and denialists the same, not only are the funding organisations the same - and some of the 'experts' who deny both evolution and climate change are the same.

Thus a new term of the denialists is born that more accurately reflects their 'intellectual heritage' and public relations strategies; Climate Creationism.

Some News Updates: Afganistan, Bristol, So-Called 'Eco-Terror' and Bristol

A few quick links that might be of interest updating some news I have been blogging about;

I blogged about the drug-wars of Mexico: things have got even worse since then. Recently the severed heads of 8 soldiers were found in a bag with a warning. A former DEA agent is claiming that elements in the US law enforcement are on the cartel's payroll;

One of Celerino [“Cele” Castillo III is a former DEA agent]'s discoveries, in particular, likely incurred the wrath of a particular federal agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco (ATF), Castillo claims. As part of his part-time work as a consultant on criminal cases, Castillo contends that he uncovered evidence that two ATF agents “were on the payroll of a Mexican cartel.” That “cartel,” Castillo asserts, is a paramilitary offshoot of the Mexican military that is being supplied with U.S. weapons, some only available through the U.S. military, by operatives on the U.S. side of the border.

Now the Guardian article above claims the army are seen as 'cleaner' than the corrupted and compromised cops. But are they?

But several other federal law enforcers who spoke with Narco News, on the condition their names not be used, don’t find his analysis to be far-fetched. “The Mexican military and government are corrupt,” one law enforcer says. “The Military escorts smugglers to the border. It’s a daily occurrence. The video cameras at the El Paso Intelligence Center have it all on video, filed away. If we report the suspicious activity to our superiors, nothing ever happens. It’s just covered up. “The Mexican military cartel has taken over Juarez. Our government knows it; they’re not stupid, but they’ve made some backroom deal with the Mexican government.”

It's a fuck-up. And from one fuck up to another: Afghanistan. Check this quote:

"The problem is the British. They support the Taliban." Why? "Because they want to control Afghanistan. They want us to stay fighting forever. The British only kill the innocent, they don't kill the Taliban."

And that's from a fucking police man! Yes, there are Afgan coppers who think the UK military are there to facilitate the drugs trade. Here's another one;

Crossing his long fingers, and speaking quietly, the uncle explained his trade. "If we smuggle 40kg, we give the Taliban 4kg. We pay the 10% as a zikat [Islamic tax] to the Taliban. And we pay another 10% to the government officials and the police.

Yup - both the Taliban and the cops are on the take. While the government, police and army of Afghanistan are so corrupt - and they are - the war there can never be won. UK soliders and cash are being used to prop-up a dysfunctional, corrupt and dead-end narco-state (like Mexico?).

And from one dead-end to another - so-called Eco Terrorism; Monbiot has weighed into the issue that us bloggers have been on for a while now;

Just as the misleading claims of the security services were used to launch an illegal and unnecessary war against Iraq, [National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit]'s exaggerations will be used to justify the heavy-handed treatment of peaceful protesters. In both cases police and spies are distracted from dealing with genuine threats of terrorism and violence.

And while NETCU were busy helping out polluters and corporations under the guide of 'fighting terrorism' this is what they should be doing;

A right-wing extremist who wanted to "secure a future for white children" and kept explosives at his Yorkshire flat was convicted on terrorism charges on Tuesday. Martyn Gilleard, 31, from Goole in East Yorkshire, was found guilty at Leeds Crown Court of the preparation of terrorist acts and of collecting information useful for an act of terrorism. He had pleaded guilty at earlier hearings to possessing live ammunition and 39,000 indecent images of children. Police conducting a child pornography raid last October had discovered racist literature, home-made bombs, knives and a rifle at Gilleard's flat.

Finally another shout-out to the protesters in Bristol taking on Raytheon. Great work people!

Monday, December 22, 2008

An Xmas Message

Well happy christmas/solstice or whatever you want to call it. I hope you have a good 'un. I would like to send a few shout-out with xmas best wishes;

to the protesters trying to kick Raytheon out of Bristol and spending the period on a roof - a big thanks you and best wishes for your tenacious and inspiring actions.

Second a big well-done to the Bristol Blogger and other local bloggers for the plaudits achieved and recognition gained, it is well deserved, even if it does come from the old-media-in-eclipse.

Third a 'well done' to the new AnarchoBlog's new aggregator. Looks cool!

Fourth to the denialists of global warming, who along with the creationists, give me much enjoyable reading on the net. Sadly the quality of their debate has degenerated of late in to simply making claims without even the pretence of evidence. But I guess that was inevitable as the evidence for their 'cause' is simply no longer there. I did write about the similarity between the two before and I'm not the only one who thinks so....

Inhofe's list of 650 scientists that supposedly dispute the consensus on AGW reminded me of another list: The Discovery Institute's list of scientists who dissent from Darwinism, so I thought I'd compare the two lists.

First, numbers. The Discovery Institute's list has 751 names, while Inhofe's has only 604. (Not "More Than 650" as he claims -- there are many names appearing more than once.)

Second, how do you get on the list? Well, you have to sign up to get on the Discovery Institute's list, but Inhofe will add you to his list if he thinks you're disputing the global warming consensus and he won't take you off, even if you tell him to do so. Yes, there is someone less honest than the Discovery Institute.

Third, what sort of scientists are on the lists? Well, the Discovery Institute list has a distinct shortage of biologists, while Inhofe's is lacking in climate scientists. It does have a lot of meteorologists, but these are people who present weather forecasts on TV, not scientists who study climate.

Fourth, who is on both lists? There are five names, and two are from the University of Oklahoma.

Both are ideologies that have a set conclusion they then seek to 'prove' (the opposite of what science should be) both are pointless to argue against as they can never admit they are wrong and there is no evidence you can present that will sway them (see previous ideological point), both fight their battles with obfuscation 'cos they cannot win with the science, both claim there is a real debate to be had (there is just not where they are...) and both are funded by right-wing think tanks. Separated at birth? I think so.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Between the Lines: Hardline Jewish Settler Violence Against IDF Has Alienated Many Israelis

This came to me via email. It's an interesting interview from Between The Lines; I have read a number of articles in the past suggesting an increasing de-politicisation of Israeli youth, even though they are conscripted into the army. On the other hand the ultra-orthodox Jews are exempt. This seems to me to build the tension where a secular section of the country is being asked to enforce the religious view. Anyway, judge for yourself...

Hardline Jewish Settler Violence Against IDF Has Alienated Many Israelis
Interview with Hagit Ofran, director of the Settlement Watch Project of Peace Now, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

In early December, members of the Israeli Army, known as the Israel Defense Forces or IDF, forcibly removed a group of radical right-wing Israeli settlers from a building they were occupying in the West Bank city of Hebron, following violent attacks by the settlers on both the IDF and on Palestinian civilians. About 600 settlers, living under the protection of the Israeli army, reside in the middle of Hebron, a Palestinian city of 130,000. This is one incident among several that have recently caused some Middle East watchers to conclude that relations between Israelis and Palestinians are deteriorating even below their formerly abysmal level. This week, outgoing President Ehud Olmert described the settlers' treatment of Palestinians as a "pogrom," a word used historically to describe organized violence against Jews.

The situation is extremely volatile, as Israelis will soon be holding national elections, which the far-right Likud party candidate, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is favored to win. The U.S. -- Israel's strongest and most uncritical supporter -- will also inaugurate a new president in January.

Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus spoke with Hagit Ofran, director of the Settlement Watch Project of Peace Now. She keeps track of developments among the 276,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank and 180,000 living in Palestinian East Jerusalem. She explains what happened in the Hebron conflict and the possible ramifications.

HAGIT OFRAN: The situation is that a group of settlers broke into this building a year and a half ago by force, and only then did they ask a permit to go in. And when they were denied to have this permit, they started a list of petitions to all the courts they could in order to force the government to let them stay in this building. All of that failed, and two weeks ago, there was a decision by the Supreme Court saying that they should leave the house in three days and that the government has the right to evacuate them after those three days. Of course, they were not leaving, and it actually made many young settlers come to the place in order to protect it from evacuation, and when they had rumors where the IDF (was) about to evacuate them, they started to attack mainly the Palestinians around. And I think that the violence that took place by the settlers against the Palestinians and also against the security forces of Israel, made our minister of defense, Ehud Barak, decide to kick them out of the house because of the severe violence that took place. So it was counter-productive for the settlers to be so violent in terms of public opinion in Israel and the opinion of Ehud Barak. I believe if they weren’t so violent, he wouldn’t have touched them, because this is the way he is acting since he became a minister -- not to evacuate any settlers, to get to as many agreements with them and avoid any potential clash with the settlers.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Based on what you just said, it sounds like the aggressive removal of settlers in this case is more of an anomaly than the start of a new Israeli policy. Does it mean anything, do you think?

HAGIT OFRAN: I think it might have meaning. The IDF didn’t do anything until today. I think what made the change is the fact that the settlers started to attack the IDF itself. This is something really hard for the Israeli public because the army is everybody, and when there is a group fighting against the army, people say, why do I send my child to protect those horrible people that attack him? Because the soldier is there to protect the settlers, and now he’s being attacked. So, this is like a red line that has been crossed by the settlers in the last few months, and this has made, I think, a slight change in the IDF’s attitude toward the settlers. However, it’s very far away from law enforcement or taking care of all the violations going on in the West Bank.

BETWEEN THE LINES: There’s been continued settlement in the West Bank in recent years. Where does that stand now?

HAGIT OFRAN: Yes, unfortunately, despite all the political process that has been going on –(at) the Annapolis summit last year -- we see that construction is still going on almost everywhere in the West Bank. Some of it has gone on unofficially without any permits from the government, but without any reaction or any tries to enforce the law. And in some places, it is initiated by the government, especially in those places where the government thinks that in a future agreement it will be swapped by equivalent land to the Palestinians, that Israel might annex those settlements that are closer to the Green Line, that are most populated, and in return will give land from the lands of Israel to the Palestinian state-to-be. So they take it for granted that we can build in those places as if there was already an agreement, and we in Peace Now think that one of the biggest obstacles today, facing the Israeli chances to get to peace, is the settlement activity.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Opinion seems to be changing slowly in the U.S., away from uncritical support for the Israeli government to at least some skepticism about its role, especially regarding the occupation. How important do you think this change might be for the Israelis and Palestinians being able to reach some kind of resolution?

HAGIT OFRAN: It could be conducive to an agreement. The lack of criticism by the United States in the last, let’s say, at least eight years, made it possible for Israel to do the most horrible things for the Israeli interest. I always say if you’re a good friend of mine, don’t let me drive while I’m drunk. What the U.S. did, in general, was letting us drive while we’re drunk. We should have been more criticized in not letting us destroy our own partner -- the only side in the Palestinians' that we can build on -- in terms of building some kind of an agreement and stop the bloodshed. But in the past eight years we were in an enterprise to prove that all the Palestinians are the same, that they all want to kill us, and we destroyed our own partner, and I think it was pretty much supported by the last [U.S.] administration, and maybe the public opinion also in the United States.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's All Greek to Me

As you might have noticed, the murder of a 15 year-old by Greek cops has trigged a mass uprising. Where can you find out more? Hat-tip to Huw for this info:


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Enduring Freedom by Supporting Tyranny

So as reported, the attacks of the Taliban on NATO supplies has reached crisis point. So what will they do about it?

Nato is negotiating with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to allow supplies for Nato forces, including fuel, to cross borders into Afghanistan from the north. The deal, which officials said was close to being agreed, follows an agreement with Moscow this year allowing Nato supplies to be transported by rail or road through Russia.

So in the continuing war for freedom NATO is now striking deals with;
- Russia - a 'managed democracy', i.e. not one.
- Turkmenistan - until December 2006 it was a dictatorship, has has elections of a sort but does not respect human rights.
- Uzbekistan - Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, as well as United States Department of State and Council of the European Union define Uzbekistan as "an authoritarian state with limited civil rights"
- Tajikistan - A corrupt, despotic democracy; "The latest parliamentary elections occurred in 2005 (two rounds in February and March), and as all previous elections, international observers believe them to have been corrupt, arousing many accusations from opposition parties that President Emomali Rahmon manipulates the election process."

Nice. That's what I call enduring freedom!
New GoatLab Show!

Check it out...

Download the show here: Goatlab Radio with Anakissed, Parasite & Dan Breakwhore - December 2008


1. B.I.N.T. is P.L.U.R.
2. Wet Dog - Fuk you you fucking cunt bastard fuker 2 with stepverb
3. Schlachthofbronx ft. Jah Dan & 77Klash - Brooklyn Anthem (Parasite Mashup)
4. Breakwhore - Get Your Log Out
5. Plain Jane - I Love You Like I Love Myself
6. Shitmat - Sniffer Dogs
7. General Disarray - Intergablactic
8. Mahalia Jackson - I’m Gonna Live The Life I Sing About in My song
9. Miriam Makeba - Pata Pata
10. Microphyst - Idiot Sound Dat
11. Raxyor - Unknown
12. Dorothy Dandridge (from Carmen Jones) - Dere’s A Cafe On De Corner
13. Twice19 - Here I Wait
14. Gizmode - Techsik Duncehall


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Bonkers Logic From The Right

I'm reading Al Franken's book 'Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right' - it is very US-centric (as you'd imagine as he is writing about US politics) but funny and the examples of logical and intellective dishonesty are staggering. Now I'm not pretending that dumb thinking is the preserve of the right, far from it, (witness examples of so-called progressives defending the Neo-Labour party) but sometimes - sometimes, well, it takes your breath away. Witness this example from singer and evangelical nutter, Pat Boone;

What troubles me so deeply, and should trouble all thinking Americans, is that there is a real, unbroken line between the jihadist savagery in Mumbai and the hedonistic, irresponsible, blindly selfish goals and tactics of our homegrown sexual jihadists [protesting for the rights for marrage for gay couples].

I spluttered tea everywhere when I read that. Duh!!! Is there not common ground between the Muslim jihadists and the Christian right in that they are both anti-gay (to say the least) and both very conservative about sexual issues? If so there is not an unbroken line between struggles for sexual liberation and jihadist savagery in Mumbai at all as they are on opposite sides of the issue. Now the question becomes, is there an unbroken line between Ronald Regan's support from jihadists in the 1980s and jihadist savagery in Mumbai?
Here's a Dubstep big-up for Bristol!!!

If you'd not heard, dubstep is pretty big in Bristol and not the city's newest music scene gets a bit of a national big-up as Radio 1's Mary-Anne Hobbs explores the scene!

Dubstep is a genre of electronic music that has its roots in London's early 2000s UK garage scene. It is distinguished by its dark mood, sparse rhythms, and emphasis on bass.

Nice one, people!


Monday, December 08, 2008

The Drug Wars in Mexico

A shocking and very interesting read is 'Day of the Dead' about the drug-wars in Mexico;

The cartels, meanwhile, 'have replaced the old pyramidical chain of command with the same concession or franchising system as any other commodity,' he says. 'Drug trafficking has become more democratic in the modern, capitalist sense, outsourced and opportunistic.' It takes a moment to realise how disdainfully funny Alvarado is being about the 'legal' economy, as well as the killers: 'The cartels don't need to control the streets, because they cannot, so they franchise them, get other people to kill and die, and collect the taxes and commissions. All they need to control is the corridors across the border, because Juárez is the one place from which you can reach any part of the United States.' This 'outsourcing' has been a speciality of the Sinaloa cartel: to franchise use of its corrupted officials and even tunnels under the border equipped with ventilation, lights and rails, in return for 'taxes' and commissions from sub-contracted traffickers.

It mentions the 'House of the Dead' scandal, which has been excellently covered by NacroNews;

The House of Death murders took place more than four years ago, before Mexican President Felipe Calderon escalated the drug war by ordering the military into Juarez, before the U.S. government authorized millions of dollars to further arm the hunters via Plan Mexico and before the narco-traffickers lost control of the killing fields.

But even four years ago, as a U.S. government informant assisted narco-traffickers and Mexican cops in carrying out the torture and vicious murders of a dozen people, the signs of the break down of civil society — on both sides of the border — were all there in front of us.

The informant, Guillermo Ramirez Peyro, was employed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — and was paid more than $200,000 for his work via U.S. taxpayers. The narco-trafficker who ordered the murders, Heriberto Santillan Tabares, employed a goon squad composed of Mexican cops led by a Mexican state police commander named Miguel Loya.

Worth reading.
The Mess of Afghanistan

I have blogged quite a bit about the mess of Iraq. It is a total and utter fuck-up, to put it bluntly. While I have written a bit less about Afghanistan. It is also a total and utter fuck-up, but as the total number of troops and insurgents involved is less, it features on the media radar a lot less (unless you can get a member of the Royal family over there). However the Taliban (or allied forces) have just scored a major victory;

Unidentified militants attacked a NATO forward storage center at the ring road (beltway) of the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on Sunday morning. They destroyed some 150 trucks loaded with materiel and supplies, including humvees, intended for NATO troops in Afghanistan.

The Taliban figured out that the supply lines to NATO forces was a major weak-point and have been hammering there. A mix of ambushes, IEDs and looting supplies have proven a very successful strategy. This is classic guerilla strategy stuff. Running parallel with this is the Taliban moderating its stance. This is also starting to pay dividends as all NATO (and allied forces) is offering (to the average Afghan) is a mix of death-from-above in massive air-raids and arbitrary detention. Both of which have been shown to push the civilian population into the hands of the Taliban.

In short, it's a fuck up.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Neo-Labour: no justice and no peace for them

Watching the very enjoyable and informative Taking Liberties last night, it brought a surge of fresh anger towards the apparatchiks of the Neo-Labour party; watching Jack Straw and Tony Bliar deny that the UK was involved in extraordinary rendition (aka kidnapping) only to be shown they were wrong. Hard to believe they didn't know - hard to believe they were not lying though their teeth when they denied it. Seeing the non-existent Ricin plot used the Bu$h and Colin Powel to justify the genocidal war in Iraq and so on and so on. While these lies and deceptions remain un-atoned by the party there can be no justice and no peace for them. Ever.

On the subject:

Torture, far from saving lives is costing them says one of the men who used to do the torturing;

I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. … It’s no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me — unless you don’t count American soldiers as Americans.

Should be front page news.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Eco-Terror Rubbish Story Withdrawn

I blogged about a rubbish story by the Observer on so-called 'Eco Terror' and why it was complete rubbish and looks more like a strategy to soften the public up for mass arrests of environmentalists. Well, after much online pressure and research by bloggers, the Observer has withdrawn the story!

Environmentalist Keith Metcalf explained that Earth First! supported direct action against property, but not against people. He believed that the debate around sustainable population size had been twisted to imply that environmentalists wished to kill people.

He also repeated the belief of several others that Nectu [the police agency who was the source for the dodgy allegations of eco-terror] was briefing in this manner in order to make prosecutions easier and to boost its funding, which is at risk owing to the decline in animal rights campaigns. I can't verify that or the fears about mass murder because, despite repeated requests, Nectu won't respond. Accordingly, The Observer has decided to withdraw the story.

Hat-tip to Ian Bone's blog for this.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Some Events Worth Checking Out...

Am away this Thursday, bummer as...


By Kurt Vonnegut Adapted and directed by Bill Scott. The future is an accident waiting to happen!

This will be the first UK theatre adaptation of the seminal 60's novel by Kurt Vonnegut [1922-2007]. A brilliant satire, full of bizarre but all-too-human characters, based on the ironic premise that modern science, while promising progress, is actually hastening the cataclysmic end of the world.

Cat's Cradle became an instant best-seller when it was published in 1963. After helping develop the atomic bomb, a fictional scientist (Felix Hoenikker) creates Ice Nine, a chemical that can turn water solid. Hoenikker keeps Ice Nine a closely guarded secret but, on his death, makes the big mistake of dividing the only existing sample between his three dysfunctional children. This sets in train a series of hilariously funny and improbable events, resulting in a rather low-key Armageddon!

Like Vonnegut, Miracle Theatre's adaptation of Cat's Cradle explores serious themes through laughter and is a perfect vehicle for Miracle's blend of physical theatre, comedy, film and music. Recommended age 12+.

Vonnegut is a great writer and this story of his rocks. Then next week:

Bristol Indymedia Film Night: Taking Liberties, Introduced by Bristol No2ID

Monday 1st December 2008 8pm @ Cube Cinema, Stokes Croft, Bristol. "...thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile docu-blast against Tony Blair's insidious diminution of native British liberties..Atkins captures pungent moments of low comedy." Guardian

Taking Liberties is BAFTA nominated director Chris Atkins's film that uncovers the stories the government don't want you to hear so ridiculous you will laugh, so ultimately terrifying you will want to take action. Teenage sisters detained for 36 hours for a peaceful protest; an RAF war veteran arrested for wearing an anti-Bush and Blair T-shirt; an innocent man shot in a police raid; and a man held under house arrest for two years, after being found innocent in court. Law-abiding citizens being punished for ordinary activities, after a decade of dangerous laws have demolished the rights which we fought for over centuries. The film will be introduced by by Dave Gould of the Bristol No2ID campaign. More...

Important issue and funny film - everyone's a winner! Then...

You Have No Rights: A Talk On ‘The Terrorisation Of Dissent’

Wed 3rd December 7:30pm @The Kebele Social Centre Robertson Road, Easton, Bristol

With exerts from the film ‘Terrorizing Dissent’
and a speaker from the campaign to support RNC
protest arrestee Dave Mahoney. More...

Nuff said!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ooops - BNP Membership Leaked

Bit of a (hahahahaha) fuckup for the racist bonehead BNP as their entire over 10,000 people membership list leaked online:

Yes indeed, somebody now knows every member in Bristol, the South West - and the UK! The leak included full names (and former names where there have been changes for any reason), addresses, contact numbers, email addresses and in many cases the member's age, particularly where those members are under eighteen. Yes, that's right. This list includes members as young as fourteen, male and female.

List list includes 22 former or serving coppers - something illegal for the serving coppers. The wing-nuts are going mentalist on of the their allied forums;

Jesus H Christ! Its true, I've just seen my details. Who in the BNP has done this?

Fuck me, the reds have the list now.

OMG have you seen what has been written by LUAF? What if they give the list to ANTIFA?.....

Will be interesting to see the fall out of this. Some postings on sites are already giving interesting information on occupation of members (cops, soldiers etc.) and numbers;

The list contains 12,215 names (not including family members under 18). By my reckoning of those in the Lancaster area, far more than half were lapsed members by 2007 and do not have a rejoining note attached to their details (ie. they’re still lapsed). There is no reason why the Lancaster area is any different from any other, so as of August 2008 we had only about 6000 paid up members! And this is not an old membership list, the latest entry is dared July 2008. When Griffin claimed (at the EGM) in August this year that the membership was approaching 10,000 he was lying, it’s that simple.


Monday, November 17, 2008

New Radio Show

Parasite has done a new site for TheGoatlab, which looks cool and myself and Dan Gusset have just posted a new radio show!

Update on 'Eco-Slur' Article

I posted an article Police Soften Up Public for Clampdown on Environmental Activists...

And looks like I was not the only one to smell a rat with the article;




And others wrote in to complain;

It was very disappointing to see the label 'eco-terrorist' used to slur environmental campaigners ('Police warn of growing threat from eco-terrorists', News, last week). Neither in Britain nor in the US have even the most radical environmental activists attacked people rather than property.

Your article is misinformed on a number of points. Rather than a single, centralised organisation, Earth First! is an identity adopted by various informal networks, with quite different histories in Britain and America. The story speaks of links between US and UK campaigners and the Earth Liberation Front, but our research showed that the ELF never took off in the UK. Research on environmental direct action taken in the name of Earth First! in the past 16 years shows that activists are overwhelmingly committed to nonviolence, and are not using terrorism, violence, or any other direct action to seek to reduce the Earth's human population.

When, in the late 1990s, some American politicians and media started to call activists 'eco-terrorists', it was the start of a concerted campaign which prepared the way for repressive policing and new laws curtailing fundamental civil liberties. Is the same thing about to happen here?

Indeed. Either shoddy journalism, or the start of a Green Scare here.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Militarized Media

First the had the under-reported scandal of the Pentagon placing 'independent experts' into the media to push the Bu$h administration's case for war as 'message force multipliers';

Brig. Gen. David L. Grange doesn't wear a star on his shoulder much since his retirement in 1999. But he's on the list of retired officers the Pentagon has cultivated in an effort to influence domestic news coverage of military matters....In fact, Grange, a CNN analyst, was tagged as the most visible shill for the Pentagon since 2002....When Grange appeared again on CNN late last week, host Lou Dobbs made no mention of Grange's previous participation in the Pentagon program...But a Pentagon memo called them "message force multipliers." The Defense Department often paid their travel expenses and hired a private defense contractor to monitor everything the analysts said in public.

We know the military also have a liaison with Hollywood to 'promote' the military view;

To keep the Pentagon happy, some Hollywood producers have been known to turn villains into heroes, remove central characters, change politically sensitive settings, or add military rescues to movies that require none. There are no bad guys in the military. No fraternization between officers and enlisted troops. No drinking or drugs. No struggles against bigotry. The military and the president can’t look bad (though the State Department and Canada can). “The only thing Hollywood likes more than a good movie is a good deal,” David Robb explains, and that’s why the producers of films like “Top Gun,” “Stripes” and “The Great Santini” have altered their scripts to accommodate Pentagon requests. In exchange, they get inexpensive access to the military locations, vehicles, troops and gear they need to make their movies.

Now the CIA is doing the same thing to make sure in the movies, they look good;

But the past 12 years of semi-acknowledged collaboration were preceded by decades in which the CIA maintained a deep-rooted but invisible influence of Hollywood. How could it be otherwise? As the former CIA man Bob Baer - whose books on his time with the agency were the basis for Syriana - told us: "All these people that run studios - they go to Washington, they hang around with senators, they hang around with CIA directors, and everybody's on board."


Again, that's why we need democratic media....

Monday, November 10, 2008

Some Election Comments

Obviously there has been an election and lots has been written. It was historic and I was impressed by Obama's speech on the night. Here's a few bits I found of interest to share with you. Here is an image of the voting pattern where the colours are the opposite to the parties here with blue being Democrat/left-of-centre and red being Republican/right-crazies;

Now the same data but adjusted to display population not geography:

Very interesting. Taken from Pharyngula.

Also: Obama's designated a--hole - article about the powerbroker who helped turn the fortunes of the Democratic party.

How Obama learned from past campaigns and used the net to great effect.

And the Republican's turning on each other. Such fun;

As the implosion of the defeated Republican campaign continued yesterday, the landscape of American conservatism was dotted with signs that these were very strange times indeed. Rush Limbaugh, behemoth of rightwing radio, took to the airwaves to declare war on two enemies: Barack Obama and the Republican party. Bloggers at, an internet hub for conservatives, announced a boycott of Fox News and John McCain's aides fell over one another to leak embarrassing details about the campaign to the press.
Police Soften Up Public for Clampdown on Environmental Activists

You can see the beginning stages of a campaign by police to soften the public up for a repression of environmental protesters as campaigns around global warming hot up. As it looks possible for the government to push forward/allowing a number of massive carbon-white elephants, from locals schemes like the Bristol Ring Road or Bristol Airport Expansion to national projects like Heathrow or more coal fired power stations. There is a long tradition of non-violent direct action in the country from opposition to slavery, for universal suffrage to stopping apartheid. However the power-that-be don't seem to want to see it this way. This article shows how the cops have been briefing the media;

Police have warned of the growing threat of eco-terrorism after revealing they are investigating a group which has supporters who believe that reducing the Earth's population by four-fifths will help to protect the planet....Officers from a specialist unit dedicated to tackling domestic terrorism are monitoring an eco-movement called Earth First! which has advocates who state that cutting the Earth's population by 80 per cent will ease pressure on other species. Officers are concerned a 'lone maverick' eco-extremist may attempt a terrorist attack aimed at killing large numbers of Britons.

rIIIGHT. A lone maverick would be just that - a lone maverick outside any group. This could and sadly does happen anyway with or without the ideology of environmentalism. Interesting how the article then links the lone maverick to various groups like Earth First! who use non-violent direct action. This is lazy journalism to take the cops story at face value, for there have been a couple of people wounded by a bomb related to Earth First!....but those wounded (Judi Bari & Darryl Cherney) were from the group itself and while initially the cops tried to frame them for the bomb that nearly killed the activists themselves. A court case subsequently decided that the cops never bothered trying to find out who really did it, but were intent on framing the environmentalists and gathing more data about the protest movement. The jury in the case awarded the pair $4.4 million total damages for the illegal police actions;

The jury unanimously found that six of the seven FBI and OPD [Oakland Police Department] defendants framed Judi and Darryl in an effort to crush Earth First! and chill participation in Redwood Summer [protests].

We have seen this type of media operation before; All the major summits have a pre-ceding media campaign where the police express their 'fears' of violent protesters. For example in Genoa the police even uncovered actual weapons! However it turned out they were planted by the cops. The police who battered protesters without provocation turned out to the the real purveyors of violence. Another good example comes from Donson et al's 2004 research;

This paper argues that we are currently witnessing the development of a new type of folk devil...The paper examines the way in which anti-capitalist activists are constructed as a new class of folk devil through the media portrayal of protests and the associated political and expert comment. In this process prominent politicians and senior police officers identify activists as 'violent', 'mindless thugs', views widely reproduced in print and broadcast media. The reasons for, and results of, this construction are varied but it is argued that primary amongst these is the ability to trivialise and dismiss activists through a rejection of their behaviour as simply destructive and dangerous. This then facilitates a silencing of these alternative voices in terms of both wider debates on the pros and cons of citizens rights to protest within neo-liberal capitalist democracy and wider contested issues of social and economic justice.

The Observer article is a big 'un - almost 1000 words to drive the message home. Compare this with less than 100 words written about the arrest of a man accused of carrying a Waffen SS UK Members Handbook and two improvised explosive devices last week. The Observer article have this classic statement;

Reports on the Earth First! Journal website, which tells users how to send encrypted emails, reveals connections to the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) which has been linked to a series of violent attacks in the US. ELF was classified as the top domestic terrorism threat in the US by the FBI in March 2001.

I would contest the use of the term 'violence' - and there are a couple of good debates about this issue on Bristol Indymedia (1,2)- no people were hurt by Earth First! only property. So that would be the March 2001, 6 months before radical Islamic terrorists crashed planes into the twin towers and killed thousands and the FBI failed to stop them? Oh the irony: perhaps they were too busy looking in the wrong place?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Straw Dogs

I read the excellent Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia by John Gray. It takes a savage swipe at a number of core political (and religious) beliefs from Non-conservatism to Bliar's Liberal Humanism (and also anarchism and communism, more food for thoughts.) Anyway, following that I took on Straw Dogs next;

Over the past 200 years, philosophy has shaken off Christian faith. It has not given up Christianity's cardinal error – the belief that humans are radically different from all other animals.

I is also good reading and challenges lots of core assumptions. Reading a letter in the paper;

Moral outrage costs nothing and it changes nothing.

Anyway - both books are worth reading - and that quote from the letter makes me think of lots of debates I have seen happen...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

When is a Terrorist not a Terrorist?

One of the insanities on the war of terror is the idea of stopping terror, a dumb concept as I bet most people can't agree on what is and is not a terrorist - freedom fighter/insurgent/terrorist - depends on your point of view. The Nazi's called the French resistance fighters 'terrorists' - I'd call them freedom fighters. On this subject:

Two white supremacists allegedly plotted to go on a national killing spree, shooting and decapitating black people and ultimately targeting Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, federal authorities said Monday....It's a horrible and sordid story of idiots with guns, but in scanning the various news sources, there is a curious but obvious word missing — a word that normally our media and government fling about with unscrupulous abandon.

Indeed. I would apply the same logic to the UK and US use of extra-judicial killings in Iraq and beyond - state terrorism. This is also interesting - that Sarah Palin refused to acknowledge the existence of right-wing domestic terrorists in her NBC interview that aired last night.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Expanding (and Failing) War or Terror

As the twilight of the failed Bu$h presidency comes to a close, the war of terror that is his legacy is spinning out of control. We can see cross-border raids, counter to international law in Syria (and analysis);

The Bush administration seems to be ratcheting up action against Syria during its last days in power. The cross border raid undertaken on Sunday, which killed eight people, seems to fit into a broader pattern of the Bush administration initiating cross boarder attacks into countries that it is not officially at war with.

In Pakistan, in an attempt to prop-up the failing war in Afghanistan;

[In] Afghanistan another 33,000 embattled American troops (and tens of thousands of NATO troops), suffering their highest casualties since the Taliban fell in 2001, are fighting a spreading insurgency backed by growing anger over foreign occupation. The disintegration seems to be proceeding apace in that country as the Taliban begins to throttle the supply routes leading into the Afghan capital of Kabul, while the governor of a province just died in an IED blast. "President" Hamid Karzai was long ago nicknamed "the mayor of Kabul." Today, that tag seems ever more appropriate as the influence of his corrupt government steadily weakens....In the meantime, in Pakistan, a new war, no less unpredictable and unpalatable than the last two, develops, as American strikes fan the flames of Pakistani nationalism. Already the Pakistani military may have fired its first warning shots at American troops. Part of the horror here is that much of the present nightmare in Afghanistan and Pakistan can be traced to the sorry U.S. relationship with Pakistan's military and its intelligence services back in the early 1980s.

Possibly in Iran:

I think it is too late now for the 'bomb Iran' networks that are deeply dug into various portions of the US political elite to launch an 'October surprise,' i.e. a military action against Iran designed to escalate tensions in the Gulf region-- and also, crucially, toincrease the climate of fear within the US in a way that would push voters to rally round John McCain....However, it is not too late for an 'inter-regnum surprise', that is, a military attack against Iran designed to escalate tensions in the Gulf region to the point that that region and the whole world system become a chaotic stew of catastrophe that would then be handed to President-elect Barack Obama to deal with, come January..

All this in the face of the former head of MI5 pointing to the war in Iraq bringing MORE nor LESS security:

She challenges claims, notably made by Tony Blair, that the war in Iraq was not related to the radicalisation of Muslim youth in Britain. Asked what impact the war had on the terrorist threat, she replies: "Well, I think all one can do is look at what those people who've been arrested or have left suicide videos say about their motivation. And most of them, as far as I'm aware, say that the war in Iraq played a significant part in persuading them that this is the right course of action to take." She adds: "So I think you can't write the war in Iraq out of history. If what we're looking at is groups of disaffected young men born in this country who turn to terrorism, then I think to ignore the effect of the war in Iraq is misleading."

All this while the media are busy with the financial crisis made in part by the cost of the war of terror and the leaders who fostered it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

For God's Sake...

The religious right in the US, unbelievable....

Minutes ago I spoke with friend Dr. Norman G. Marvin, M.D. and he is so concerned at what he has learned about Barack Obama's family in Kenya that he is calling a special prayer meeting in his home to pray against the witchcraft curses attempted by them against John McCain and Sarah Palin.

Riiight - the witchcraft curses, well known political ploy. Now I did have to go to church a bit as a kid, but I don't seem to remember the bit in the Bible where Jesus advocates terrorism. You could not make this shit up...

A friend recently sent me this article about a "gay-friendly" high school. If we were living in a biblical society, homosexuality would be punishable by death so such a school would be unnecessary. Although I'm against the special accommodations, perhaps this new trend of segregation will protect straight kids from these predators. With any luck, some radical will blow up the gay school. No, I'm not condoning vigilantism--I'm merely saying that it would be poetic justice.

So who would Jesus bomb? The gays apparently. Idiots. But wait - there's more!

Oh. My. God. Says everything really - and it seems to be this is thinly veiled racism - can't vote for the guy 'cos he's got a funny name. Idiots.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Funny Money

As it all melts away, this story made me laugh...

The boss of a successful US hedge fund has quit the industry with an extraordinary farewell letter dismissing his rivals as over-privileged "idiots" and thanking "stupid" traders for making him rich.

Andrew Lahde's $80m Los Angeles-based firm Lahde Capital Management in Los Angeles made a huge return last year by betting against subprime mortgages.

Yesterday the 37-year-old told his clients that he had hated the business and had only been in it for the money. And after declaring he would no longer manage money for other people, because he had enough of his own, Lahde said that instead he intended to repair his stress-damaged health; he made it clear he would not miss the financial world.

"The low-hanging fruit, ie idiots whose parents paid for prep school, Yale and then the Harvard MBA, was there for the taking," he wrote. "These people who were (often) truly not worthy of the education they received (or supposedly received) rose to the top of companies such as AIG, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and all levels of our government," he said.

"All of this behaviour supporting the aristocracy only ended up making it easier for me to find people stupid enough to take the other side of my trades. God bless America."

A perspective I had not considered - that moneyed elites giving jobs to the boys were taken for a ride by smarter traders...
Afghanistan on the Slide

Ooops - Afghan fighters, trained by the infamous Blackwater security/mercenary company have been taking their weapons and defecting to the Taliban...


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Climate Change Update

Here is a good round up of the latest news. The met office has broken ranks to declare that global warming deniers have 'their head in the sand'. I agree. This view poses a great threat, and Jeffrey Sachs draws a line between this, failure in Iraq and the Republican view;

By anti-intellectualism, I mean especially an aggressively anti-scientific perspective, backed by disdain for those who adhere to science and evidence. The challenges faced by a major power like the US require rigorous analysis of information according to the best scientific principles. Climate change, for example, poses dire threats... that must be assessed according to prevailing scientific norms... We need scientifically literate politicians adept at evidence-based critical thinking to translate these findings and recommendations into policy and international agreements.

On this subject, why does climate change not push our buttons in the way, say terrorism does? I question I have pondered. Now there is an answer... I recommend both of these videos that look deep into human psychology and understand how we understand threats; Part 1 & Part 2.

Plus on the lighter side...

It’s disappointing that Crikey, like others in the liberal media, have fallen for the nonsensical line that the so-called "financial crisis" is either real or requires urgent action. Anyone who disputes this claim, which is advanced with evangelical fervour by its advocates, is howled down as a heretic and a "denialist". The days of the witch-hunt are truly back.

Put simply, there is no evidence of a human-induced financial crisis, regardless of the hysterical claims advanced in trendy films like Al Gore’s Inconvenient Loot. The financial environment moves through cycles unrelated to human activity. Financial records from the distant past demonstrate that key indices have previously been much lower than they are today, and move up and down of their own accord. Man’s contribution to these movements is dwarfed by the natural rise and fall of markets....


Monday, October 13, 2008

Afghanistan Falls Away

I was listening to Start the Week this morning and they had Christina Lamb on - she has been reporting from there for almost 20 years. She reports how the situation there is getting worse and not better. One interesting point she made was that the British have been pursuing a strategy of killing senior Taliban commanders, however this 'decapitation' strategy had resulted in the replacement (by death) of commanders who were focused on Afghanistan with new commanders from Pakistan focused on the global jihad. Ooops. Sounds to me like what happened in Chechnya where the killing of moderate commanders by the Russians pushed the command to ever more hardline Muslim jihadists. The Russians have had to use former rebels (combined with massive destruction of the cities) to keep a modicum of control (though I checked the news to see how it is going, and one solider and one fighter killed over the last couple of days, so it is still a low-intensity conflict).

The thought also occurs, that in the jihadist mindset where everything that happens, happens because 'god wills it' - does this mean that they see the collapse of the global economy as god's will? While I don't believe in god at all, from a tactical point of view, the way the insurgents will win is to force the occupying forces to retreat - and one of the ways of doing that is to bankrupt them. For the occupying forces fighting half-way around the world, the most minor things costs a huge amount. Could the empting of the treasuries of the west force them from the fight?

Monday, September 29, 2008

More Bailout Info

A bit of recommended reading on the bailout;

Article by John Gray, author of the excellent Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia;

Ever since the end of the Cold War, successive American administrations have lectured other countries on the necessity of sound finance. Indonesia, Thailand, Argentina and several African states endured severe cuts in spending and deep recessions as the price of aid from the International Monetary Fund, which enforced the American orthodoxy. China in particular was hectored relentlessly on the weakness of its banking system. But China's success has been based on its consistent contempt for Western advice and it is not Chinese banks that are currently going bust. How symbolic yesterday that Chinese astronauts take a spacewalk while the US Treasury Secretary is on his knees.

and Chalmers Johnson's piece, We Have the Money If Only We Didn't Waste It on the Defense Budget;

There has been much moaning, air-sucking, and outrage about the $700 billion that the U.S. government is thinking of throwing away on rich New York bankers who have been ripping us off for the past few years and then letting greed drive their businesses into a variety of ditches. In fact, we dole out similar amounts of money every year in the form of payoffs to the armed services, the military-industrial complex, and powerful senators and representatives allied with the Pentagon.

And finally...700 billion dollars is enough to give all 1 million defaulting mortage holders $700,000 dollars each.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Cabot Circus Shows Us That We are Now the Real Media

I was going to title this article 'Bread and Cabot Circuses' but the excellent Evening Post Watch website go there first. This is a key moment in the landscape of Bristol - remember this day - not for the opening of another unimaginative shopping centre - but the moment the free press overtook the corporate press as the real purveyors of news in the city. It has been coming for some time. Huge stories such as the trial of the Fairford Five, or the inability of the local press to cover the National Union of Journalists action at the evening pest, have been unreported locally. The Daily-Mail come "and-finally..." quality of much of the local news output and now descended to the point where they serve little purpose other than to re-wrap press releases, not journalism but churnalism. Sure, a major development like Cabot Circus needs covering, but the slavish it's-all-good nature of the coverage leaves no room for journalism - i.e. finding the real stories. I have no doubt there are journalists who would like to investigate what is happening, but commercial consideration seems to be number one, two and three here. This is why this is an important day, because for real news - the watershed has been crossed. We are now the news and they are PR machines.

I don't make this claim lightly but look at a few of what the press has been doing;

Green Bristol Blog: "Bristolians are being subjected to unprecedented levels of hype in advance of the opening of the new shopping mall at Broadmead, or rather Cabot Circus as all loyal Bristolians must now call it. The Evening Post can barely contain its enthusiasm for this £500 million development, complete with car parking for over 2,600 cars, due to open its doors in just a week's time."

Evening Post Watch; "So, the love affair with our new shopping centre Cabot Circus continues ahead of Wednesday and Thursday’s openings; no surprise there. And whilst ordinary Bristolians face rising food prices, pay cuts, huge fuel bills, house repossessions and job loses, the Post uses another front page to promote a shop for the rich."

Bristol Blogger; "Yes, that’s right. Our local public service broadcaster who, according to their own portentous editorial principles, must not endorse or appear to endorse any other organisation, its products, activities or services and should not give undue prominence to commercial products or services, appears to be brazenly promoting Harvey Nichols and a load of corporate brands on their website."

Crunch Cabot on Bristol Indymedia; "This rupture with the Alliance’s image and ethos – where ‘retail therapy’ has replaced community contact and our social interactions are increasingly channeled through monetary transactions and materialist consumption – serves as an exclamation. This is a call for further and sustained action against this odious symbol of aggressive global capitalism and the gentrification that is seeping into our city."

And what of the real stories the so-called 'local media' has missed? Yes the free press steps in to tell us the truth behind the PR;

How great is the new development? "What neither of these sites remember to mention is that around 40 of these so called "new" stores already exist in Bristol, many will simply be moving up the road leaving empty shells in Broadmead and yet more in the Galleries, as yet some of the spaces that will be created still have not been filled. Another issue conveniently neglected is that on the day of the grand opening one third of the new units in Cabot Circus will stand empty as branches will not have moved in and contracts still have not been signed." (George Nonbio on Bristol Indymedia)

What is the real benefit to the local economy? "The priciest item instore is an Alligator Clutch bag, by Kara Ross, at £3,170....The simple fact is that at least £1,000 of the cost of that bag goes straight across the Atlantic to Kara Ross who’s based in New York not Bristol. Another £1,000 goes on Harvey Nichols’ overheads - that’s rent to the Bristol Alliance (from Birmingham), admin costs to run the plc based in London, marketing costs (again all based in London) and salaries across the whole group - most of whom are based in London. Then a small percentage - unlikely to be even 5% - goes to some Bristol-based shop assistants.The remaining £1,000-odd pounds goes directly into the pockets of shareholders who tend to be global corporations." (Bristol Blogger)

And the jobs it creates? "We are told that there are 4000 jobs being created by Cabot Circus and how this is bucking the national trend for job cuts. But we are not told how many jobs will be cut as trade is lost from other shopping districts. We are also not told how many ofEP - Harv Nicks 3 these new jobs are just being transferred from branches closing in other parts of the city. And what kinds of jobs are these? Retail, catering, security, cleaning; some of the lowest paid, least secure jobs going. Minimum wage McJobs. Is this the best our kids, our graduates, our unemployed can expect?" (Evening Post Watch)

What about the impact on existing shops, as has been alluded to? Friends of the Earth found, "About eight independent shops close every day. Small independent shops cannot compete with the big multiples." So what more will Cabot Circus cost us? St Nicks Market? The Farmers Market? Gloucester Road? More? I guess it is down to us ordinary people to answer such questions, 'cos the media ain't working for us any more. They for for them.

PS. But, it's all good - the £500 million development has created 23 units of social housing. So that's ok then? And it's ok for the council to use a full page of it's door-to-door PR paper promoting Cabot Circus AT OUR EXPENSE! Thanks, council!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Big Bust

So Brown, the 'man of the people' is backing the $700 billion payout to Wall St, i.e. Wall Street took the risk and got to keep the losses and the taxpayer (here or in the US) covers the losses. Before anyone thinks this plan is a complex one drawn up my the greatest economic minds, here is how they arrived on the figure;

“It’s not based on any particular data point,” a Treasury spokeswoman told Tuesday. “We just wanted to choose a really large number.”


Friday, September 19, 2008

Afghanistan: Stalemate

News reports since the fall of the Taliban in 2001 often seem to have an upbeat quality where victory is 'just around the corner' as the coalition/NATO win victory after victory. Let me give you a few examples;

Dec 06: British jubilant as Taliban leader in south Afghanistan killed in air strike
May 07: Death of Taliban commander boosts Coalition forces in Afghanistan
Dec 07: Taliban Suffers "Huge Defeat"
Aug 08: Canadian military claims major victory in offensive

Wow! Sounds like they are winning! Then this;

Officials and military commanders in Afghanistan say the Taliban and other insurgent groups are in control of more and more territory and that at best the battle against them has reached stalemate.

So lets get this straight - NATO, the combined forces of the most advanced military forces in the World vs a guerilla army and the best that can be achieved is a stalemate.

Or to put it in numbers;

There are now some 62,000 foreign soldiers in Afghanistan , including 34,000 U.S. troops, and some 150,000 Afghan security forces. They face an estimated 7,000 to 11,000 insurgents.

212,000 vs 9,000 = stalemate. And the cost of this stalemate? Don't worry, it has onyl cost around $126 Billion. Bargain really.

Oh, and we are also seeing signs that far from stopping terrorism, the Iraq war (the other one) is spreading it;

The use of two vehicle bombs — one to breach the perimeter of a compound, a second to drive inside and explode — is a tactic used by the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq. […]

He said a new, less-compromising generation of al-Qaeda leaders emerged, many of them moving into action after escaping from a Yemeni prison that year, he said.[…]

The new leaders have found followers among al-Qaeda fighters returning from Iraq. “The quieter it is in Iraq, the more inflamed it is here,” as Yemeni fighters travel back and forth, said Nabil al-Sofee, a former spokesman for a Yemeni Islamist political party who is now an analyst.

Those who have been following the Iraq debate might remember “flypaper theory,” which was one of the earliest exponents of the “incoherent post hoc justifications for the Iraq war” genre. The idea was that there was some limited number of terrorists in the Middle East, and the presence of an occupying U.S. army would lure them to Iraq, whereupon they could all be conveniently killed, presumably as soon as they stepped off the bus.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

New PostWatch Blog

Bristol Evening Post Watch - really good read!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

War of Terror: 7 Years On

Well here we are again, another anniversary of the co-called War of Terror's start on September 11th. Also known as Bush's Crusade, The Long War and the Endless War. I had calculated that the War of Terror - just the Iraq bit - had cost the South West £1.2 billion. Yes folks - £1.2 billion. Add Afghanistan and all the other war related costs (such as the hike in the oil price) and it must be up to £2 billion. Yes folks, the War of Terror has cost us in the South West around £2 billion. We keep getting told about great victories in Afghanistan - important strategic victories that have broken the resistance, the killing of hundreds of militants, capture of key towns - and yet victory itself is elusive and always just around the corner. How many more wedding parties will we need to bomb before we have won?

So on another anniversary of September 11th here is a few suggested bits of reading and stuff;

Ending Occupations to End War

While counter-terrorism activities can be usefully pursued in these three areas, it is clear that the local perception of foreign occupation is part of the problem, and a long-term occupation is likely to exacerbate the violence rather than reduce it.

Afghanistan: The Value of None

We have no idea just how many civilians have been blown away by the U.S. military (and allies) in these years, only that the "collateral damage" has been widespread and far more central to the President's War on Terror than anyone here generally cares to acknowledge. Collateral damage has come in myriad ways -- from artillery fire in the initial invasion of Iraq; from repeated shootings of civilians in vehicles at checkpoints, and from troops (or even private mercenaries) blasting away from convoys; during raids on private homes; in village operations; and, significantly, from the air.

The Failure of the Iraq War

A few weeks [after Bush got into power in 2000, his] speechwriter David Frum offered an even more exuberant version of the same vision to the New York Times Magazine: "An American-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein, and the replacement of the radical Baathist dictatorship with a new government more closely aligned with the United States, would put America more wholly in charge of the region than any power since the Ottomans, or maybe even the Romans."....[Yet - here we are in 2008] The respected Iraqi newspaper Azzaman pointed to one of these forces in a recent editorial: "Iran has emerged as the country's top trading partner. Its firms are present in the Kurdish north and southern Iraq carrying out projects worth billions of dollars. Iranian goods are the most conspicuous merchandise in Iraqi shops. Iraq, though occupied and administered by America, has grown to be so dependent on Iran that some analysts see it as a satellite state of Tehran."

And a couple of vids;
McCain the Warmonger -
Resisting the Republicans -

Monday, September 08, 2008

Victory in Iraq! (for Iran)

With Iraq a major issue in the U$ election, McCain is trumpeting the success of the surge and looking forward to victory. But has the U$ won? It is hard to see how; this great article argues that Iran are the real winners and has the revelation that the Bu$h regime have been spying on the Iraqi government.

On the subject - an interesting point in the letter to the Guardian;

Your list of the reasons why only Britain is facing recession (The question, G2, September 4) makes no reference to the huge cost of the attack on Iraq and subsequent involvement in Afghanistan. In February the economist Joseph Stiglitz estimated the cost of the Iraq adventure as $3tn to the US and a similar cost to the rest of the world; Britain was a leading player in the use of human and financial resources. I find it interesting that virtually no one refers to the massive opportunity cost of our involvement in Iraq and its inevitable impact on the state of our economy.

Good point.
Denialism Goes Mental

The latest data on the Arctic ice melt is now out and it is very scary;

Following a record rate of ice loss through the month of August, Arctic sea ice extent already stands as the second-lowest on record, further reinforcing conclusions that the Arctic sea ice cover is in a long-term state of decline. With approximately two weeks left in the melt season, the possibility of setting a new record annual minimum in September remains open.

And a comment on this;

It's now pretty clear that the Arctic will be ice free within a decade or so — more than half a century earlier than most climate models predicted. The time to act is yesterday.

However the denialist take on the same data is a mind-blowing 180-degree reversal;

Arctic Sees Massive Gain in Ice Coverage

Data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) has indicated a dramatic increase in sea ice extent in the Arctic regions. The growth over the past year covers an area of 700,000 square kilometers: an amount twice the size the nation of Germany. With the Arctic melting season over for 2008, ice cover will continue to increase until melting begins anew next spring.

If that was not enough here is another denialist adding a strong dose of racism alongside their wilful misreading of science, from Republican candidate Barb Davis White;

...I think global warming is a scam. I think it’s a scam to put taxes — more taxes on us, and it’s called carbon taxes. Our environment has never been so clean, and if we want to push global warming, let’s push it on China, where the smog is so thick that you almost need a helmet to breathe. Let’s push it on Africa and see how they adapt to it, because they’re not going to.