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.


Friday, September 05, 2008

Friday Graffiti Share

I have been snapping images of graffiti with my phone for some time now. About time I did something with them; so I have!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Voting for God

More on the fundamentalist nut-bags in the US;

God wants to build a pipeline;

"God's will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that" Says Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin - and like the Blues Brothers, we are on a mission from God, but not to save an orphanage but wage war in Iraq.

And the scary/funny - The fundamentalist formula for electoral success.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Joel's Army: Crazy/Scary Christians

Oh. My. God. (Not). Check these lot out - it would be funny if it were not so scary. The next threat to democracy is not Islam - it's Christianity!;

Tattooed across his sternum are military dog tags that read "Joel's Army." They're evidence of [preacher Todd] Bentley's generalship in a rapidly growing apocalyptic movement that's gone largely unnoticed by watchdogs of the theocratic right. According to Bentley and a handful of other "hyper-charismatic" preachers advancing the same agenda, Joel's Army is prophesied to become an Armageddon-ready military force of young people with a divine mandate to physically impose Christian "dominion" on non-believers.

And they are busy-bees;

This also means that the US military has become an increasing target for infiltration. The very paramilitary training camp noted above has gotten quite official sanction by the general in charge of most of the US Air Force's military recon and IT security. This effort has become disturbingly successful; no less than two of the primary parties involved in the Abu Ghraib scandal including policymaker William Boykin are directly involved in the Assemblies and the "Joel's Army" movement within the denomination, and in many cases the US government has literally been paying for packing the chaplaincy of the US Army and Air Force with "Joel's Army" promoters. (Boykin is especially interesting in this regard; he has quite explicitly referred to Joel's Army theology in speeches to his fellow soldiers.) One of the major groups involved in infiltration of the military, Campus Crusade for Christ, has been known to promote this sort of theology as well.

Increasingly, though, these groups aren't restricting themselves to infiltrating the military (or political parties, for that matter) or having their kids play soldier in "Bible boot camps". Increasingly, "Joel's Army" theology is leaking into real world violence--including the neopentecostal dominionist hategroup "Watchmen At The Walls" (which has received official support from the Assemblies of God as a whole) as well as domestic terrorism (such as targeted assassinations of women's clinic workers and bombings of not only women's clinics but adult bookstores and LGBT nightclubs).

Holy. Fuck.
Britian and US Run Deathsquads

It is no surprise in the moral swamp of the War of Terror, but British and US special forces have been running death-squads in Iraq, aka State Terrorism;

More than 3,500 insurgents have been "taken off the streets of Baghdad" by the elite British force in a series of audacious "Black Ops" over the past two years.

It is understood that while the majority of the terrorists were captured, several hundred, who were mainly members of the organisation known as "al-Qa'eda in Iraq" have been killed by the SAS.


Senior sources denied that the SAS was taking part in "extra-judicial killings" and added that any incident which appeared to be in breach of the British Army’s rules of engagement would be investigated internally by the unit and by the Royal Military Police if any wrongdoing was suspected.

The source said: "There is no shoot-to-kill policy in Iraq, but there are only a few ways of stopping a suicide bomber. A British lawyer is present during the planning stages of every operation and our troops operate under British rules, not American rules."

Right - not like the shoot-to-kill in Northern Ireland, Vietnam and Kenya in the 1950s and so on. This is sadly just standard counter-insurgency in action.