Saturday, March 29, 2008

Portishead - Machine Gun

Am loving the new Portishead sound...

EDO Bath - How it Went

To follow up on the EDO stories, the top people over at The Bath Bomb have given us a speak preivew of the next issue with a tale to tell of the EDO screening;

"Thats rights folks, last week saw Bath Activist Network illicitly screening a copy of the film the cops tried to ban in that shady den of crime and subversion otherwise known as the Quakers freinds meeting house. The film was 'on the verge', telling the story of a dedicated crew of Brightonians who have nearly succeeded in shutting down a bomb building factory after 4 years campaigning. they have suffered continual police harrasment, with over 40 arrests so far, and the bother didn't stop when they took their new film on tour. Obviously not happy with exposing us to the idea that we have the power to change society, the police have been scurring round the country bullying small venues to make them drop the film (teling one woman they would take away her film screening licence if she disobeyed). The same happened in Bath - the Bell, our original venue got a call from a sweaty palmed worm of a human being named Alan Bartlett. Alan, acting under the orders of his police overlords had threatened the Bell out of showing the film. We managed to find the Quaker meeting house as a backup venue, as places of worship are exempt from film laws. Alan tried the same trick, tactfully stating that being a Quaker wasn't a 'proper' religion (well, Alan should know about things not being proper - his job for example). Never the less, the film went ahead to a packed theatre, numbers doubled due to the contraversy caused by police and council bullying. The film was inspirational and the night was a great sucess. And as for our inept, toady friend Alan, and the wanna be film critics that consitute the thin blue line... i'm guessing they havn'y heard the last of this just yet!"

Good on 'em for fighting the censorship of the cops! Good on Kebele too! It shows that when people who care are faced with repression, they can push forward and overcome. The cops attempted censorship has totally backfired and give the film more publicity that it would have had before.

Bath Bomb - (and check out issue 8!)
Smash EDO -
Bristol Screening -

PS. The Smash EDO people will be hosting a big Carnival Against the Arms Trade in Brighton, meet at 12 noon at The Level, Brighton on Wednesday 4th June - Wear red, bring whistles and drums!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Why We Need Democratic Media: Santa Barbara News-Press

'Cos billionaire owners can push what they think above what we think - how is it freedom of speech if there is nowhere to say it and nobody listening?

"The Santa Barbara News-Press Controversy refers to a series of events starting in 2000 after billionaire divorcee Wendy P. McCaw purchased the Santa Barbara News-Press. McCaw felt that as owner of the News-Press she had authority to choose its content, while the news editors and reporters felt her intervention unduly compromised the neutrality and credibility of the paper. The tensions between McCaw and the newsroom came to a head on July 6, 2006 when five editors and a long-time columnist abruptly resigned. The controversy has continued to the present, without resolution, and has illuminated issues of individual ownership of news outlets by the wealthy but inexperienced, the role of daily newspapers in contemporary communities, the modern role of unions, and the limits of corporate legal restrictions on reporters, employees, competing news outlets, and community members."
The Failure of the Surge

There seems to be more media reports coming out of Iraq about how things are 'turning the corner' or somehow getting better - 'better' being 'lass that loads of people are dying each day'. The problem is that it seems the U$ forces have re-classified how they count their dead and wounded, the Iraqi government also does not count the dead and it is still too dangerous for reporters not surrounded by armed brigades to see what is really going on. But this excellent article tries to get to the root of the matter;

In entering these strongholds, the U.S. military won tactical victories, chasing surviving militia members off the streets or even out of neighborhoods, which, without their local police and defense forces, were suddenly vulnerable to sectarian attack.

This vulnerability was all-too-vividly illustrated in Sadr City, the stronghold of the Sadrist movement. As the home base of the Mahdi Army, this city-within-a-city had not experienced a car bomb attack in two years until American troops sealed it off, set up check points at key entrance and exit points, and began patrols aimed at hunting down Mahdi Army leaders they suspected of participating in death squads and of kidnapping an American soldier. Local residents told New York Times reporter Sabrina Tavernise that the operation had "forced Mahdi Army members who were patrolling the streets to vanish." Soon after, the first car bombs were detonated.

The violence reached a crescendo in November 2006, when a coordinated set of five car bombs killed at least 215 and wounded 257. Qusai Abdul-Wahab, a Sadrist member of parliament, spoke for many residents of the community when he told the Associated Press that the "occupation forces are fully responsible for these acts."

Such events generated immense bitterness among Shia, who took them as proof that the Americans and the Iraqi government were concerned only with attacking the Mahdis, not suppressing jihadist attacks. This encouraged their support of the death squads, which sought to exact retribution on the Sunni communities they believed were harboring the bombers.

Another quote;

As early as May of 2006, Nir Rosen, one of the most informed and insightful journalists writing about Iraq, presciently described the American military's unenviable position in this way: "[T]he American Army is lost in Iraq, as it has been since it arrived. Striking at Sunnis, striking at Shias, striking at mostly innocent people. Unable to distinguish between anybody, certainly unable to wield any power, except on the immediate street corner where it's located… [T]he Americans are just one more militia lost in the anarchy." This description was never truer than today in Baghdad.


Monday, March 24, 2008

Why We Need Democratic Media - The Evening Standard

I feel that most of the media has a vested interest - first and foremost they are businesses whos' job is to make profit. They make profit by generating an audience that advertisers can sell to. They generate an audience by providing interesting and entertaining content. But it is in their interests to promote a climate conducive to business - because they are one. Their position means it is not in their interest to promote awareness in media laws, media monopolies etc unless it furthers their business interests. Here is an example of how the media cannot be trusted with the truth.

We start with a front page from the Evening Standard;

'Militants in Plot to Paralyze Heathrow'

And here is what a ruling by the Press Complaints Commission said about it; that is was 'alarmist' and 'materially misleading';

Evening Standard condemned by press watchdog for coverage of the Camp for Climate Action's Heathrow protest. Claim of fabrication upheld. In a much awaited ruling the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) issued a stinging rebuke against the Evening Standard today. The usually mild- mannered PCC slammed the Standard's coverage of last summer's Camp for Climate Action at Heathrow as 'materially misleading' and 'alarmist'. The Evening Standard will be forced to carry the ruling with due-prominence today.

But is this on the front page like the original article that has done the damage to the environmental group smeared? Nope - it is buried on an inside page and written is such obtuse and legalistic prose as to dilute the meaning.

Or we could talk about the Spectator?

What we need is real Democratic Media - a form of media that is open and accessible, accountable and who's primary aim is truth and democracy not advertisers, corporations and the super-rich. The internet gives us to power to make this a reality.
Police Try to Stop EDO Film Screening

There is a company, EDO, that makes weapons including bomb-release mechanism that are used in places such as Iraq. It has a factory in Brighton, a place that was also named an 'International Peace Messenger City' - a title that was subsequently scrapped due to the EDO factory. In the meantime, a group of people acting for peace and around the idea that; "Every bomb that is dropped, every bullet that is fired in the name of this war of terror has to be made somewhere. And wherever that is, it can be resisted”.. created the campaign group 'Smash EDO' This campaign used various forms of protest and non-violent direct action to achieve its aims. The group, who quote both Gandhi and the Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal following World War II as validity and inspiration to the campaign seemed to be doing quite well in getting the message out. And then the repression against the campaign began. Targets included UK Indymedia who received legal threats from lawyers Reynolds Porter Chamberlain in 2005 over articles posted on the site;

"We act for EDO MBM Technology Limited. Our client has become aware of false and defamatory information about our client that has been posted on your website at
We refer in particular to the statements that our client "war-mongers", is "complicit in the deaths of innocent people" and makes "things to kill children" ...Provided that you comply with our client's requirements, our client will refrain from commencing proceedings against you for libel in respect of your unlawful activities to date, although, of course, our client reserves all its rights in the event of any breach by you of the undertaking."

Indymedia stood its ground and their lawyers ultimately withdrew the writ. There has also been massive police complicity with the bomb-makers with arbitrary arrests and detentions of protesters on flimsy pretenses - until the whole sordid affair began to unravel;

After evidence came to light in the High Court that Sussex Police may have colluded with EDO Corporation to exaggerate the threat posed by demonstrators to the safety of employees, defence solicitors in related criminal cases began to investigate further. Then in what appeared to be a domino effect, the Crown Prosecution Service proceeded to drop all criminal charges, against all protesters, in all related cases, in an effort to protect the confidentiality of internal Sussex police documents which may have helped defendants prove such collusion had taken place.

Complicity that continues to this day. With echos of the whole 'Injustice' film saga, the film made about the protests, 'On The Verge' was canceled after Sussex police pressured the venue. The police denied that they had anything to do with the censorship, then the council confirmed the police had and the police had to scrabble around to make their lies fit the facts. Not only this, but the police have been busy putting pressure on screenings in Bath, Southampton, Oxford and Chichester too!

One of the venue people who had found their planned event canceled remarked;

“I grew up in South Africa and this feels awfully familiar. This has nothing to do with protecting the public - this is nothing but censorship”.

Indeed. This is all against a backdrop of a company that seems to be able to flout the law, gets a personal police censorship service and is still loosing money;

Last week EDO MBM published their 2006 accounts nearly five months late, a criminal offense under the Companies Act.....As a result financial business information firm Creditgate now list the company under a maximum risk credit rating of ZERO and colour code of RED for danger....The 2006 accounts that were signed and ready to file in August 2007 are particularly embarassing for the company as they reveal a year end loss of (£497,000) down from the 2005 profit of £923,000- a plunge of around 150%. A exceptional expense item (£842,000) is blamed on the closure of EDO RUGGED Ltd, a subsidiary of EDO MBM that was closed in 2006, but the cost coincides with a massive unexpected payout by the company when their high court injunction bid against anti-war protesters failed in the same year. However no mention is made of this legal cost in the accounts, while parent firm EDO Corp accounts for the same year refer to legal costs of $2.7million.

As was noted, the screening in Bath got pressured to close, but the Bath Activist Network made alternative plans to fight this censorship and screened the film anyway.

There is a screening due at the Kebele in Bristol on the 27th - will the cops try to close that one too?

Friday, March 21, 2008

5 Years on, Never Forget the South West Politicians Who Took Us to War

"My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators." –Vice President Dick Cheney, "Meet the Press," March 16, 2003

Five years on and the total and utter disaster and complete charnel house that is Iraq is still killing, maiming, breeding terror and eating money like a black hole. So how did we get into this? We must not forget that there are people in our communities who put us there. They must take their share of the guilt and blame for the over a million dead, the millions of refugees, the boost to militant Islam and that they have leached they from the South West - just over £1.2 billion by my calculations.

(I make it £1,232,590,223 - that is the proportional SW cost per person in the UK based around the independent Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz's calculation that the war will cost the UK £20 billion)

There is still, rightly so, so much anger at this clusterfuck, to quote John Harris writing about the failed protest march before the war;

"But the larger tale of what the march and its aftermath say about our estrangement from Westminster still seems bleak. At its heart is a feeling that is still with us: the disorientation that comes from passing through the biggest political rupture in living memory - a matter not just of the disastrous invasion, but the deceit that surrounded it - and beholding a political elite that still wants to keep the public's sustained disquiet at arm's length, and carry on speaking the language of Business As Usual."

Just so we don't forget, this is a list of the South West politicians who voted against the rebel amendment saying there was no moral case for war against Iraq in 2003;


Ms Jean Corston (Lab, Bristol East)
Ms Dawn Primarolo (Lab, Bristol South)
Dr Liam Fox (Cons, Woodspring)


Gary Streeter (Cons, Devon South West)
Hugo Swire (Cons, Devon East)
Ben Bradshaw (Lab, Exeter)
David Jamieson (Lab, Plymouth Devonport)
Mrs Linda Gilroy (Lab, Plymouth Sutton)
Mrs Angela Browning (Cons, Tiverton & Honiton)


Laurence Robertson (Cons, Tewkesbury)


Ian Liddell-Grainger (Cons, Bridgwater)
Adrian Flook (Cons, Taunton)
David Heathcoat-Amory (Cons, Wells)


Michael Ancram (Cons, Devizes)
Michael Wills (Lab, Swindon North)
Ms Julia Drown (Lab, Swindon South)
James Gray (Cons, Wiltshire North)
Robert Key (Cons, Salisbury)

This list is far from exhaustive; there are other ways you could interpret the various twists and turns in the run-up and persecution of the war. There are also plenty of people within big-business and the media of the South West who, either through subtle or blatant policy and editorial helped to push us into war; for example newspaper magnate Sir Ray Tindle’s decision to stop printing anti-war stories. They must also share the blame.

Iraq is not going to go away. It is good to see people looking at the root causes of war; such as the arms trade and how we can stop it, such as the Smash EDO tour. The elites cannot be trusted to stop the killing or with our future. Take the words of Tom Bradby speaking on the ITN Evening News, April 10, 2003;

"This war has been a major success"


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The News Behind the News

You may have heard about the resignation of the Democratic governor Eliot Spitzer; caught in a wire-tap while ordering a prostitute; dodogy and wrong IMHO and he should go, along with the rest of 'em. Its the kind of thing I imagine lots of powerful politicians get up to. However there is another story here, about the right-wing and their continued assault on any and all democratic processes that do not lead to them. It turns out that for every Republican politician investigated, an average of 5.6 Democratic ones are investigated – not only that it seems that the investigations are linked to election cycles. It would appear that the plan of the right, for a permanent hegemony over society also extends into (obviously) politicizing all the functions of government:

However, there is a second tier of questions that needs to be examined with respect to the Spitzer case. They go to prosecutorial motivation and direction. Note that this prosecution was managed with staffers from the Public Integrity Section at the Department of Justice. This section is now at the center of a major scandal concerning politically directed prosecutions. During the Bush Administration, his Justice Department has opened 5.6 cases against Democrats for every one involving a Republican. Beyond this, a number of the cases seem to have been tied closely to election cycles. Indeed, a study of the cases out of Alabama shows clearly that even cases opened against Republicans are in fact only part of a broader pattern of going after Democrats.

For more on the tactics of the right see here and here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Opportunity Cost of Terror

If you have not heard of 'Opportunity Cost' it is a economics term used to look at value that spending your resources in a different place might have brought you. Here is an example from wikipedia;

If a city decides to build a hospital on vacant land it owns, the opportunity cost is the value of the benefits forgone of some other thing which might have been done with the land and construction funds instead. In building the hospital, the city has forgone the opportunity to build a sports center on that land, or a parking lot, or the ability to sell the land to reduce the city's debt, since those uses tend to be mutually exclusive.

So on to the War of Terror. The Neo-Labour regime plans to take money from a landmine scheme and put it into the pockets of the bribery-accused, slush-funding running BAE Systems to service 6 (yes six!) jets used in Iraq.

Money set aside to clear landmines and remove arms from conflict zones is to be raided to pay a private defence contractor to keep Tornado jets flying in Iraq, according to a confidential memo seen by the Guardian. The Ministry of Defence plans to pay BAE Systems from the multimillion-pound Conflict Prevention Fund - which covers projects such as destroying weapons in Bosnia and landmines in Mozambique - to subsidise the £5m-£10m cost of servicing each of the six planes.

This is another opportunity cost - the government could either spend the money clearing landmines or bombing people...hmmmmm...hard choice. You could ask this question in regard the billions spent so far (and to be spent) on what is the best way to stop terrorism. And when you find out that the government has just spent £30 million buying 3 (yes just three!) robot aircraft (or UAVs) for Afghanistan at a cost of £10 million each but the whole contract runs to a billion.

Here is the real cost of this war;

The United Nations has delivered a grim assessment of the conflict in Afghanistan, reporting that violence increased sharply last year and resulted in the deaths of more than 8,000 people, at least 1,500 of them civilians.

And here is why they are willing to spend, spend, spend our money in pursuit of their aims;

The strategy behind these operations is what the Neoconservative advisers to President Bush have called “the Long War.” A leading member of the Neoconservatives, James Woolsey, a former director of the CIA, said he hopes it will not last more than 40 years. The cost of such a generational conflict has been estimated at more than $17 trillion dollars.....But we should be aware that what Woosley and others have discussed is not just rhetoric or speculation – it is given substance by operational plans, dedicated military personnel, operating from 737 – I repeat seven hundred and thirty seven -- existing bases worldwide, with already constructed and positioned weapons, and sustained by an already allocated budget.


Saturday, March 08, 2008

Medals as Propaganda

I read recently about medals being given out for the wars of terror. While I can appreciate that they are supposed to celebrate individual acts of valor, they also help the military PR machine pass out some news that has a positive spin. This is particularity important for countering the reality of a very bloody and unpopular (not to say expensive and seemingly unending) wars. In the face of falling recruitment and some public friction to the military it is little wonder the military is dreaming up PR stunts like 'Prince Harry fighting Terry Taliban' and possibly medals being bigged-up to the media? After all the military are happy to lie for propaganda at home... Over in the US there is the noted phenomena of 'medal inflation' where it seems more medals and ribbons are being handed out willy-nilly. Take these examples;

Here is General George C. Marshall, a five-star general of WWI and veteran of WWI. He has an impressive row of three ribbons;

And click here to see an image of Lynndie England who also has three rows of ribbons and was one of the soliders court-marshaled for torture in Abu Ghraib...

A quote;

Consider what a retired Air Force officer, Lieutenant Colonel William Astore, has to say on the subject: "Those medals and militaria that our commanders wear are a kind of evidence. Our military, they indicate, is so busy patting itself on the back that its medal-bestowing has come to resemble those Little League tournaments where every kid gets a trophy, win or lose. We're so busy celebrating how great we are that we're failing to face reality. Not all problems can be solved by applying more elbow grease and shouting 'Hooah.'"

Friday, March 07, 2008

The War of Terror Goes Nuts: The Liberty City 7 Trial

I don't know if you are heard of the 'Liberty City 7 Trial' I had not, but it has echoes of the terror-scare stories past in Britain, the US and in Europe where a so-called threat is postulated by a government and the media jump on-board to whip the whole thing up into a civil-liberties-beating frenzy. The politicians can then take away our rights and justify more resources going into the military-industrial complex. Simple really. This one, the Liberty City 7 Trial, takes the biscuit though. The FBI set up a sting operation, pay thousands of dollars to seven homeless and semi-homeless guys then mount a huge paramilitary raid on them and claim they were, "prepared to wage a full ground war against the US."

Do you know what weapons the raid turned up? One single handgun. A full ground war? It's a fucking joke, except it's not:

It was a classic case of entrapment. The government recorded over 1500 hours of conversations, primarily between their guy Assad and Batiste [two of the defendants] - but the most they got was Batiste implying that to disrupt things in the US one would have to attack targets like the Sears Tower, yet never saying that he himself was planning to blow it up.

Batiste admitted during his trial that he was working a con and that he realized that these two Arabs [FBI agents] had money and he was trying to get some of it. "I was behind a couple of months on the rent, the children had no clothes," explained the father of four. "There was no food for a couple of days. There was a lot of pressure on me at the that time." Most of the others were homeless and were sleeping in their little warehouse.

And upon their arrest the U$ government claimed they were, "prepared to wage a full ground war against the US."

This is part of the same administration that tried to force a coup against Hamas in Gaza (even though the were democratically elected and 'we' are supposed to be fighting for 'democracy') that backfired and put Hamas firmly in power;

After failing to anticipate Hamas’s victory over Fatah in the 2006 Palestinian election, the White House cooked up yet another scandalously covert and self-defeating Middle East debacle: part Iran-contra, part Bay of Pigs...President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and Deputy National-Security Adviser Elliott Abrams backed an armed force under Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, touching off a bloody civil war in Gaza and leaving Hamas stronger than ever.

It's a fucking joke, except it's not.

PS. Neo-Labour, caught once more being the bunch of hypocrites they are.
PPS. Big-up to campaigners in Gloucester who scored a victory over airport expansion.
PPPS. Next GoatLab - April 18th: Syntheme's Bristol Debut!