October 2004

American politics&British politics&Middle East31 Oct 2004 02:19 am

What remarkable timing. Just as the US elections look too close to call, public enemy number 1 makes a brief cameo after 2 years of silence. What are the chances, eh?

In these crazy times, one might be forgiven for wondering if (a) Bush’s team have contrived to save the tape until the moment when it might make most emotional impact on the electorate, by dredging up the horror of the 3,000 New York dead while simultaneously fading the 100,000 Iraqi dead (plus however many in Afghanistan) into the background; or (b) Osama wants Bush to win because he’s great for Muslim fundamentalist business. It stands to reason that a less rabid president might prove just that little bit too un-hate-able to die for.

Washington asked Al-Jazeera not to broadcast the Bin Laden tape, unsuccessfully. But if the Americans believe they’re on the side of righteousness – which naturally they do – then why censor the speech at all? The transcript’s here, if you fancy a gander: (English version).

Only time will tell how this eleventh hour plot twist will affect the election. (Time and lots of lawyers, to be more precise.) Meanwhile, it’s hard not to imagine more last minute shockers might be pulled out of the bag before Tuesday, particularly if it looks like Bush isn’t in a clear leading position. Some online political debates have centred around whether the beheading of Margaret Hassan (or the revelation of this having already happened) is one possible cliffhanger. This is intolerable even to imagine, but it speaks volumes that there are enough people who feel the world’s governments are capable of sinking to such depths to discuss it openly on public messageboards. Public consciousness has only recently opened to allow this kind of thought, beyond the most vehemently ‘alternative’ thinkers. It’s good that people feel up to questioning authority. But having to contemplate the corruption of power at such length must take its toll on human hope, at its most basic level.

The world is a horror movie right now, and nobody knows how far the madness will extend. All we can do is hope for a swift, conclusive end to the reign of the Bush dynasty, an end to the imperialistic madness of Tony Blair, and a positive new start for us all.

And whatever happens with the US elections, Blair’s pals have just leaked the idea of a quick February election over here. So there might just be time to persuade the Chancellor to oust the PM and salvage what he can of Labour’s democratic credentials.

Middle East28 Oct 2004 08:11 pm

The Lancet has published a study which found that 100,000 additional deaths (over and above the usual number) have occurred in Iraq since the American invasion of 2003. The BBC news site reports on this, saying:

“Before the invasion, most people died as a result of heart attack, stroke and chronic illness, the report says, whereas after the invasion, ‘violence was the primary cause of death.'”

It’s not down to the increased kidnap/terrorism threat either, despite the fact that most mainstream news organisations concentrate only on these practitioners of Iraqi violence. The story adds:

“Violent deaths were mainly attributed to coalition forces – and most individuals reportedly killed were women and children.”

Read the BBC’s version here.

American politics28 Oct 2004 12:36 am

The FBI file on John Kerry has gone public. But nobody’s claimed the file on George Bush. So a Californian activist requested it urgently, under the Freedom of Information Act. The response he received was:

“Based on information you have provided, I have determined you have not demonstrated any particular urgency to inform the public about the subject matter of your requests beyond the public’s right to know about government activity generally.”

Despite the fact that the country’s presidential election takes place next week, the request has been placed in the normal processing queue. According to the FBI, no other requests for the file have been made by any media organisation. Insane and inexplicable, but apparently true.

Read about it here:
Petrelis’ blog

American politics&British politics20 Oct 2004 12:27 am

From the New York Times:

“Mr. Bush is now viewed unfavorably by 45 percent of respondents, compared with 43 percent who view him favorably. Mr. Kerry is now viewed unfavorably by 44 percent of the respondents, compared with 39 percent who view him favorably.”

And yet one of these people will get the job. Guaranteed.

This is democracy?

It’s like being forced to choose between Coke and Pepsi, when what you really wanted was a tractor.

Let’s hope the electorate chooses the lesser of the two evils. And then questions the validity of a system in which only two parties, with almost identical corporation-wooing neoclassical economic and social policies, are serious contenders for the contract.

And then, Britain, let’s do the same.

American politics&British politics&Middle East18 Oct 2004 11:04 pm

The American government wants more British soldiers sent to Iraq. Nothing whatsoever to do with legitimising George Bush’s bloodthirsty campaign a couple of weeks before the election, apparently. Geoff Hoon twittered “We want to make clear that the request is a military request and although it is linked to elections it is not linked to the US elections.” What a wag.

In the face of increasing international disgust, the recent withdrawal of Spain’s troops and the very real option that George Bush may be booted from power on 2 November (oh please), is Blair really foolhardy enough to put all his eggs in this particular basket? Er, yes he is actually. Let’s start our emigration plans now.

Dear World: We Brits apologise unreservedly for the idiocy of our deranged, egomaniacal prime minister. The Labour party will probably oust him in favour of someone with a shred of decency, as soon as the opportunity arises. In the meantime, please be aware that we are just as angry with his genocidal lapdog behaviour as you are.


American politics&British politics&Europe&Middle East14 Oct 2004 09:48 pm

The Health Protection Agency has today issued a warning about Spanish eggs, claiming they are spreading salmonella and advising the public to be wary of them. A spokesperson for the British Egg Industry Council exclaimed “It is now time for the government to ban Spanish eggs”.

What have Spain done lately to annoy the British government? Could it be anything to do with Spain removing its troops from Iraq earlier this year, then not inviting US soldiers to join the National Day military parade on Tuesday, while allowing French and German troops to participate as usual? It’s anyone’s guess.

American politics&British politics&Middle East&News media13 Oct 2004 11:31 pm

Tony Blair was really angry in the House of Commons today. Really angry. I’ve never seen him so riled. Michael Howard and Charles Kennedy were prodding him about his handling of the Iraq debacle, and he was literally shaking with defensive rage. Not ideal for a man with a heart condition. Then again, a guilty conscience can’t help either.

Luckily for Blair, and presumably courtesy of his good friends at Team Bush, the Kurd mass graves story was released to newsrooms today. If that hadn’t been made public, the British and American public might have been in danger of concluding that their governments’ unilateral Iraq campaign is a monstrous illegal occupation, initiated purely for commercial and empire-building reasons and nothing whatsoever to do with ‘freedom’ or ‘liberation’ of its people. But now we can all breathe a huge sigh of relief and be reassured that Saddam really was an evil genocidal tyrant, worth deposing by any means necessary. Perfect timing, guys. The graves have been around since 1988 but I guess the US army were just waiting for the right time to break it to us.

PS: The BBC news site is currently running ‘Blair under fire for Iraq claims’ as its top story. The Murdoch-owned Sky News site is running the David Beckham ‘sorry for foul’ story as theirs, with the Blair story as a smaller lead under the headline ‘Blair stands firm’. What does this tell us about the agendas of each corporation? I think we know already.

American politics&British politics&Europe&Human rights&Middle East&Strangeness13 Oct 2004 02:48 am

I just don’t understand it. Our generation is desensitised by a million violent horror films, this we know. But to the extent that they’re able to download and watch a real life snuff movie, a human being hacked to death in real time? Without vomiting, fainting or being traumatised for life? It is just… staggering.

Death is pretty repulsive pornography, thrillseekers. And the most indecent invasion of privacy imaginable. Can’t imagine how it would feel to be part of a dead hostage’s family, knowing their relative is being slain over and over again on computer screens worldwide.

Sorry to go all moralistic, I don’t normally. But this is just repulsive.

American politics&British politics12 Oct 2004 02:32 am

The British independent news site Indymedia – www.indymedia.org.uk – has had its servers confiscated, following a subpoena in America. Not sure quite how a US court order is enforceable in the UK. Is this a dangerous new precedent? Are we to conclude that the government thinks freedom of speech is oh so passé? Is censorship the new poncho? It’s not good news for independent thinkers.

The (US-owned) hosting company which gave up the equipment made a statement announcing that they were merely complying with “a court order pursuant to a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT), which establishes procedures for countries to assist each other in investigations such as international terrorism, kidnapping and money laundering.” Er, hang on a minute – terrorism, kidnapping and money laundering? Indymedia’s full of indignant editorials and left wing protest, but calling the US president names on a website surely doesn’t breach any international laws. Or does it? I’ve written to my MP to ask: www.faxyourmp.com

So far, Indymedia haven’t been told why the equipment was taken. Seems to be up and running again, but it strikes a chill into the heart of anyone who believes in freedom of speech and the right to political dissent. It feels more like 1930s Europe every day.

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