December 2004

British politics15 Dec 2004 06:19 pm

Amid new allegations of visa string-pulling, the Home Secretary has “reluctantly quit”.

It’s the first time I’ve ever been able to do a ‘breaking news’ bit on here. Ha.

No confirmation as yet that he’s taking his preposterous ID card scheme with him, but here’s hoping.

Self14 Dec 2004 04:38 pm

Who’d have thought it? The same day I reveal that half my readers think I’m female, my latest comments are dismissed as “emotional” by one of the bloggers who previously assumed I was male.

unresolvable Iraq debate episode 483

I find that interesting.

American politics&British politics13 Dec 2004 06:45 pm

We Europeans don’t think much of Bush. Plenty of Americans like him. But, as you already know, he’s not widely trusted outside his own country.

That’s why Blair’s supporters were dreading the idea of Bush visiting Britain in February. Some Parliamentary sources even suggested that the general election was being moved back to May to allow time for the negative effect of Bush’s visit to wear off. It’s acknowledged that whenever Blair appears in public with Bush, his popularity at home drops dramatically.

So Blair will be breathing a huge sigh of relief tonight. Because it’s been agreed that Bush will not visit Britain after all. Aware that his mere presence would lose the Labour party seats, he’s agreed to stay away until his cohort Blair has the election in the bag.

Let’s think about that for a moment.

Rather than take notice of the opinions of his electorate, which largely detests Bush’s policies and Blair’s obsequious role as key supporter, Blair’s only priority is to minimise public outcry during the period in which that anger could affect the renewal of his employment contract. It wouldn’t do to have another 2 million marchers on the streets at that critical time. Instead of listening to the voices of the majority of his people, Blair chooses to circumvent the issue by heading Bush off until his job is safe once more. Rather than reassess his own policies in light of his people’s opinions, and change them accordingly, his only concession is to take defensive action to protect his own position. That way, he needn’t alter a single Bush-wooing, corporate-friendly policy.

And hey, Bush isn’t offended at being uninvited. He needs Blair re-elected so he can mask America’s dangerously isolationist policies beneath the veneer of international consensus.

If any British readers wish to write to their MPs to express disgust at the idea of elected representatives ignoring their constituents’ wishes, as though Britain was officially a dictatorship and not the democracy it purports to be, is a convenient one-stop shop.

Europe13 Dec 2004 04:29 pm

It’s been confirmed – as though there was any serious doubt – that Viktor Yushchenko’s dramatic physical changes are due to poisoning.

Before confirmation was made public, his opposing politicians and their publicists blamed Yushchenko’s disfigurement on anything from consumption of unpatriotic food (sushi and cognac, rather than pork and vodka) to plain old stress.

The fact that Yushchenko had dined with the chairman of the Ukrainian Security Service and his deputy, just before falling ill, was glossed over.

before after

I wonder if we would have witnessed such public confirmation of what was originally termed a “conspiracy theory” if the victim had been an anti-West candidate?

Who knows.

Incidentally, the most interesting report I’ve read on the Ukraine election scandal is the one on the Schnews site. Click the cartoon below for the full story.

Audience participation&Self13 Dec 2004 01:32 pm

Thanks to everyone who voted in the recent “Is the urban fox male or female?” poll. Here are the results.

Male = 47.5%
Female = 52.5%

I am therefore androgynous. It’s official!

American politics&Global politics&News media08 Dec 2004 01:35 pm

A former Wall Street Journal associate editor writes:

Who’s behind the oil-for-food scandal?, Murdoch, Conrad Black and the Neocons

“It may be there is no scandal at all. Just another trick of the neo-conservatives to blow away anyone who gets in the way of their plans for a global empire.”

Pop culture&Race07 Dec 2004 05:36 pm

It’s been a good few days for laughing at other people’s misfortune. As long as those people are pompous bigots who make a living promoting hatred.

First came the news story ‘Robert Kilroy-Silk attacked with slurry’. I haven’t enjoyed a headline that much since ‘Archer Jailed’. (For non-Brits: RSK is an egomaniacal ex-TV presenter who was sacked and disgraced for writing an anti-Arab tirade in a newspaper column. He subsequently joined the UK Independence Party in order to maintain a public platform for his xenophobic, nonsensical views and delusions of charisma. His face emits an otherworldly fluorescent orange glow.)

Today we learn that the BNP (for non-Brits: this is a gang of exceptionally stupid, racist thugs masquerading as a political party) accidentally booked a black DJ for their Christmas party. Some of them walked out. “He sounded white on the phone!” bleated one dunce.

Now I’m all for peace on earth and goodwill to all. But where those who disagree with that fundamental premise are concerned, I see nothing wrong in a little uncharitable giggling.

‘Tis the season to be jolly, after all. Ho ho ho.

Arts&Middle East07 Dec 2004 03:49 pm

Just been made aware of a film called About Baghdad. No idea why I hadn’t heard about it before.

It was made by an exiled Iraqi writer called Sinan Antoon, who returned to Baghdad in July 2003 to see what had happened to the city since the outbreak of the latest war. So far, I’ve only seen the 15 minute trailer (downloadable from the official website) and it’s compelling viewing. It’s been nearly 18 months since the film was made, so things must’ve changed a lot since then. Anger has no doubt increased in the months following the film’s production. But its contents still give a rare, important insight into the opinions of those in the war-torn city. Mainstream news isn’t exactly packed with Iraqi primary sources. But you know that already.

If you have 15 spare minutes, take a look at the trailer (MP4 format) and let me know what you think of it.

American politics&British politics&Corporate&Global politics&Middle East05 Dec 2004 04:14 pm

Last April, human rights journalists and protesters Ewa Jasiewicz and Pennie Quinton forced their way into the Iraq Procurement 2004 conference.

The official conference website announced it would “bring to life the enormous trade and investment potential of Iraq making it the event for any forward thinking business looking to secure contracts, establish trade partnerships and explore the numerous investment opportunities available within the region”.

Jasiewicz and Quinton took disruptive action because they claim the government-approved pillage and privatisation of post-war Iraq by Western big business is illegal. They are not alone in believing such activity is theft.

This protest successfully led to the evacuation and suspension of the conference. Jasiewicz and Quinton were arrested for aggravated trespass.

But recently, the Crown Prosecution Service made the surprising decision to drop charges against them. This decision was seen as politically-motivated. So Jasiewicz and Quinton are opting to take the government and the organisers of the conference to court anyway. Under Section 23 of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985, they are entitled to do so.

As if any more proof were needed that “war is a racket” (as Major General Smedley Butler puts it), take a look at this:

Bet On Iraq

I’ve read this page several times and my jaw drops further each time. See what you think.

The site’s tagline is “Because liberty breeds prosperity.” It sets out the case that Americans should buy the Iraqi dinar now, while it is devalued by the destruction of the country, in order to profit later when it is rebuilt to the pattern of American democracy.

The people who set up the site call themselves “freedom loving Americans that believe a liberated, resource rich Iraq can become a force in the world economy”. Read the site and you’ll see just what kind of “freedom” they love.

It says “After years of trade sanctions, and rampant counterfeiting, the Iraqi Dinar has plummeted from its pre-Gulf War value of over USD$3, to mere fractions of one US cent.” No moral position is taken on this. Americans are not asked to reflect on the devastation their country’s actions have wreaked on Iraq, just to keep in mind the possibility of profiting from it.

Or, in their words, ” We simply trust that the seed of freedom, implanted more than a year ago with the fall of Saddam’s regime, has germinated in the hearts of the majority of the Iraqi people. We see this as a wondrous thing, with tremendous possibilities.”

Possibilities for whom? Americans, of course.

The “freedom” the site talks about is the freedom of Western corporations and Western currency speculators to colonise Iraq’s economy. It makes no allowances for the “freedom” of Iraqis to decide how they want their post-Saddam country to work. According to this site, economic prosperity for Iraq equals market capture by Western corporations, offering only a Western-style lifestyle, in a Western-style capitalist democracy. Iraqis apparently have access to no “possibilities” beyond these.

Here is their chilling guide to future markers of prosperity:

“You see people drinking locally bottled, genuine Pepsi Cola; not the ersatz they’d been consuming for years. They are buying their cars from Baghdad Mitsubishi.

Their highly educated engineers, no longer waiting tables or driving cabs, are engineering. The world’s 2nd largest oil reserve is producing more efficiently. Higher quality crops are being harvested, in larger numbers.”

According to this, prosperity will come as a result of Iraq’s own Muslim culture being subdued and Western consumerist culture being imported. Its oil production will presumably be subjected to the sort of “effiency” measures which allow America first rights of access, and price each barrel in dollars, not (Saddam’s preferred) euros. And Iraq’s pre-sanction level of prosperity is edited out of history. The site admits UN sanctions destroyed the economy, hence the devalued dinar, but somehow still fails to join the dots. Saddam’s dictatorship is apparently responsible for all Iraq’s problems, even the problems the international community created.

And where did the “engineers… waiting tables or driving cabs” story come from? Iraq had a thriving professional class before the war, and hopefully some of them will survive it. Are the people behind the Bet On Iraq site assuming nobody in America really knows what Iraqi life was like before US-led wars?

Well, yes they are.

But even if you buy into this myopic, xenophobic “there is no way but our way” belief system, there’s another problem. Aren’t Iraqis fighting to the death to rid their country of the pirates who seek to plunder their resources and crush their society into a mirror image of the West? Isn’t that what the “insurgents” are doing right now?

No, don’t be silly. They’re just trying to clear room for the Fallujah branch of Starbucks. See:

” This is no pipe dream. This is a genuine possibility, with remarkable ramifications. Organizations like Operation Iraqi Children working with the US military, are helping to shape a new generation of freedom loving Iraqis. It won’t be long before these kids take their place in society. They will recall their childhood as the time when powerful Americans released them from the grip of a bloodthirsty madman, and gave them the tools and support to build a peaceful, prosperous society to call their own. Evidence suggests they will run with it.”

May I draw your attention to the use of the phrase “to call their own”? Orwellian doublespeak doesn’t come much purer than that.

In case you were in any doubt, the site also shows a cute picture of an Iraqi girl in a headscarf smiling while holding an American flag aloft. That proves the Iraqi people really don’t mind America and Britain bombing and looting their homeland. Phew, what a relief!

You can order your Iraqi dinars directly through the Bet On Iraq site. Good luck with the whole sleeping at night thing.

Audience participation&Self03 Dec 2004 01:49 pm

I don’t normally write personal posts, so this is a first. And possibly a last. Who knows.

The thing is, I don’t offer much personal information at all in this blog. It’s probably not surprising that some people’s comments and blog entries refer to me as “he” and some refer to me as “she”. But it’s interesting to note how different people receive different impressions from the same sources.

So, kind reader, I’d like to address you directly. Do you think I’m male or female?

Would it change your interpretation of this blog if you discovered I was the opposite of whichever you think I am?

It’s not a trick question. It’s not all about me either. I’m curious about whether you believe it’s possible to read someone’s sex from their writing. What do you think? Views welcomed.

There’s a poll in the sidebar, so please cast a vote if you have an opinion. It’s not reality TV, so there’s no premium rate phone number. And no evictions. And it’ll be back to the usual indignant carping afterwards, promise.

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