Saturday, April 29, 2006

Neil Young, whose new album "Living With War" has just come online prior to its commercial release shortly. See below.
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Toward Point Counterpoint?

There are times when I read media from outside the UK and find links to stories about Britain that recieve little interest here. Other times I scan the same sources and find little mention of major British news items at all. Such is the case with the recent fiascos plaguing the Blair government. His health secretary is booed offstage at every turn, his deputy prime minister has been quite literally poking around in the civil service and, to top it all, his home secretary has been presiding over a department that is now in complete disarray. Even the police, the immigration service and the probation service are up in arms about the incompetence. Plus, today, another minister, John Reid has been found with cannabis in his house! Times they need a-changing!

You probably won't need me to tell you that Neil Young's "Living With War" is now up and streaming. All the advance publicity has obviously paid off because Neil's server seems to be straining under an unprecedented volume of hits. Those masses who parttook in the sessions and those others who were treated to the record company previews have had plenty to say about it - so much so that I was expecting all sorts of variety and innovation. Infact, the album is pure Neil Young at his legendary best. Neil's recent brush with mortality seems to have re-awakened his spirit and as a collection of protest songs the work is among his finest. The only unusual aspect to the music itself is the use of massed choir (with gives it a slightly religious feel, possibly to attract an audience prone to anthemic styles) and an acapella version of "America The Beautiful" at the end. The latter will probably offset any attempts to brand him as "un-patriotic". Hear it at Neil's Site.

May 24th will see a Medical Marijuana Rally here in London at Parliament Square. It's an all day midweek event and permission has been obtained to protest in the normal one-mile exclusion zone around Whitehall. A petition will be handed in the Downing Street by "Cannabis Gran" and some MPs will be making facilities available in a Commons meeting room. For more and up-dates, see News Of The Weed (there's a permanent link listed on left).


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Killers freed by Incompetence

Killers freed by mistake

Breaking news (no link yet - it's on the radio) is cause for some seriously "weighty" speculation. It seems our deputy Prime Minister has been having an affair with his secretary. In Westminster, such liasions are seemingly commonplace, but are thankfully no longer resigning matters in this day and age.

Sadly, it seems that more serious matters of mis-management and incompetence are also considered far too lightly as well. If there was ever an issue to resign over, it is the mess Charles Clarke has made of the Home Office - as detailed in the headline link above. An apology, together with a hint of blame on his predecessors, is hardly enough - especially as he was warned of the problem some time back. Like his leader, this man shows a complete disregard for the detail of policies which are ill-thought-out from the start - both men should be removed from the stage at the earliest opportunity - before they destroy the infracstructure of our country beyond repair.

20 years after Chernobyl, Magnum present a highly moving portait of it's legacy. This as both the US and UK engage in building a whole new generation of nuclear weapons. So much for "non-proliferation" treaties - is it any wonder the likes of Iran want to keep up with the race! To think Bliar once supported CND.

An appropriate musical interlude - "20" by master bluesman, Robert Cray. Also a video interview with Neil Young. And on a less serious note - how Mick Jagger (soon to be a sitcom star) won't give up his room for Bush.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Monday, April 24, 2006

Guilty until proven innocent

Blair's plan to drive out criminals draws fresh fears for civil liberties

For some reason this morning's blog didn't get posted properly - so much for push-button publishing. So a quich resume.

The headline link above goes the the Scotsman which reveals Blair's new plans which are a kick in the face to civil liberties as we know them. Dealing with suspected terrorists is one thing, but the Prime Preacher seems to have lost all sense of conscience in extending the tactics to the domestic front. For someone who trained as a lawyer, this is the supreme insult from a dictator who sees himself far removed from the affairs of the common man and woman. What will happen to future generations?

When Margaret Thatcher went batty, her party got rid of her. Is it not time the Labour Party does the same with this shallow-minded incompetant?

Also, headliningat CBS, a top CIA spy speaks out against Bush.


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Guilty until proven innocent?

Blair's plan to drive out criminals draws fresh fears for civil liberties

This link to the Scotsman tells of new restrictions on civil liberties planeed by our Prime Preacher and revealed yesterday. Considering he trained as a lawyer, it seems the Downing Street incumbant has finally lost the last vestiges of any conscience he may once have had. Draconian attitudes to suspected terrorists are one thing, but this proposal is a direct hit on the very notion of "fairness" in Britain's legal system.

When Margaret Thatcher started going this batty, her own party removed her. It's about time the Labour Party did the same with the shallow-headed dictator they too have ended up with.


Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Rumsfeld Strikes Back

New Plans Foresee Fighting Terrorism Beyond War Zones

One might think with the current flack, which now includes young officers in the military, the Amerika's secretary of war might have hunkered (bunkered?) down for a while. No such luck! The headline above leads to the Washington Post where he reveals a host of new "secret" plans for upping-the-ante on imperial agitation. Just as the NSA dissect all the Iraq blunders in public.

The ape emperor does not, of course, oppose all "terrorism". Check out the White House Favourites for more. His enforced interlude with the Chinese leader over, Dubya's headed south for a team up with Arnie. In an attempt to bolster the falling ratings of both mean, they even tried to hijack Earth Day yesterday with some silly energy policies.

An FDA report illuminates the wide divide on marijuana policy and appears to lack so much credibility that that law reformers are those who benefit. More on the controversy in a slide show. It seems Pot is the preferred method of escapism in Iran too. Also on drugs, how to choose your anti-depressant and a piece on handling "TeenScreen".

In the UK the media have been obsessed with Queenie in her birthday suit and the re-christening of HRH Octopussy. An American writer, having visited Britain, suggests that Blair is worse than Bush. The Indpendent offers a bit of history with the Chilling Tales of the Black & Tans.

A couple of plugs. On the blog front we have The Smirking Chimp and old friend Richard Neville is back after the his recent disturbance. Old hippies looking for some fine nostalgia might find some light musical relief here.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Cutting off one's nose to spite one's face? A new meaning where Washington;s own Pinocchio is converned.
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Drunk with power

The decider-in-chief:

"I'm the decider, and I decide what's best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense."
President Bush

The link at top leads to an analysis at Op Ed News. For a slightly more amusing disourse, try the new Bush pop song. Also at Op Ed, a piece on Northern Ireland.

Whilst Rumsfeld isn't for the chop yet, some others are. In a White House domestic re-shuffle, both Scott McClellan and Karl Rove are finally gone. A vain attempt to save the presidential skin perhaps? Try camping it up at Camp David. The FBI are also molesting the family of a dead journalist in order to find ancient leaks which may or may not exist. Maybe we should look at the National Character of Amerika.

Fans of Nils Lofgren might want to listen to his new album, Sacred Weapon, which is streaming in full from AOL for the rest of this week only. Also, more fun and frolics and a guide to internet satire.


Time to start sweating? Blair yesterday.
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Defensive Positions

A Show Is Born

Bush is backing him and so are a few high-salaried employees - the rest of his company and most of the world are not. As the New York Times link above points out, defending himself has now become the full time occupation of Amerika's Secretary of Defense. The daily show has become a political theatre bordering on farce.

Also on the defensive is Britain's Bliar. As everyone points out, never have we seen him so flustered and sweating as he addressed NHS issues yesterday. Whether his distress had anything to do with his failing welfare policies is unclear. Remember that on his return from the Easta break he would have been confronted with 300 police invading both Whitehall and the Labour Party offices as they start investigating the "cash for honours and contracts" scandals. It is quite possible the Prime Preacher himself could have received a caution as part of the process. Enough to get your back up if not as yet up aginst the wall!


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A Suicidal Mistake?

Suicide Bombing Stokes Israel-Hamas Tensions

The weekend attack on Israel is the first to occur since Palestine elected the Hamas government. Sadly, their reaction (as reported above and elsewhere) maybe the first mistake of that fledgling administration. Despite the rhetoric and their idealogical stance against those who occupy their land, they have so far resisted any overtly agressive actions. They were not behind this attack, but they have done themselves no favours by supporting it. If the Palestinian people are forced to resort to violence, it should be defensive - anything else effectively ruins the chances for any kind of diplomacy.

Israel of course will react far beyond the accepted notion of "tit-for-tat" - for every casualty they suffer they will seek to slaughter many in return. Whereas the wrongness of this would be expected to generate sympathy for the Palestinian cause, Hamas' refusal to condemn the event that triggers this response will be seen as antagonism in an era when the tactics of terrorism are strictly reserved for existing superpowers. Unlike Al Qeada, Hamas are not global outlaws. Defending their borders and striving to reclaim occupied lands is a legitimate part of their mandate - supporting acts of agression beyond that remit will simply alienate them further on the world stage.

In the US some say "Neocons are Toast" as the miliary become the new disaffected. Pop star Pink has a go at Dubya and there's more info on Neil Young's forthcoming "Living With War" protest album. For a nifty toon, check out "It's A Secret".


Sunday, April 16, 2006

Pay-off for the Preacher

Police probe 'government contracts for donations'

No sooner has the pay-off for honours business settled down and the matter of Blair's eco-unfriendly travel expenses bill shifted from the highlights, than we get another scandel. 300 police have been assigned to investigate how some private companies have nbeen getting exceedingly lucrative government contract in return for donating to his Labour Party. Applaud once more for the anti-sleaze hypocite! The summary above is in the Scotsman.

Across the atlantic, in a bid to boost the anti-abortion movement, it is now suggested that sperm have rights. We really are entering the realm of the absurd!

A quick plug for three good blogs - Hooterville, Down with Tyranny and My Left Wing.

Scots police have called for the legalisation of all drugs. The scots government side-steps the issue saying it's a matter for Whitehall. So much for devolution!


Friday, April 14, 2006

Silent Death of Freedom

Freedom dies quietly

This links to a short but pertinent article by John Pilger about the state of the surveillance state in Britain. At least Blair has been forced to back down on the "dictatorship" bill and an aide has been arrested. Others are due to get busted after Easter whilst the courts have declared some anti-terror provisions void.

On globalisation, read A Tale of Two Summits and on civil rights, 40 years and still counting.


Thursday, April 13, 2006

A doctor serving with the RAF, Malcolm Kendall-Smith has been sent to jail for 8 months for refusing to serve in Iraq. A veteran of two Iraq tours and another in Afghanistan, Kendall-Smith found evidence that the war was illegal and he would therefore be breaking the law by taking part. He also criticised Amerikan forces for behaving "like Nazis" in the occupation. His defense was not allowed by the Court Martial and his sentence was imposed on the ratter more simplistic grounds that he "dis-obeyed orders".
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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Rapidly drowning in Downing Street ?

Error forces rethink on bird flu risk zone

The report above in today's Scotsman reveals that the government mis-diagnosed the identity of the swan infected with Bird Flu and that the danger zone may now have to be extended to other areas of Britain. Another beaurocratic cock-up that doesn't bode well for the future.

The scandal about selling off seats in the House of Lords was offset slightly by the fact that all political parties are up to it - notwithstanding the fact that Blair pledged to reform the system way back in the days of his opposition. Last night's revelations that he has been "appropriating" large amounts of taxpayers' money to pay for private flights on personal holidays, party business and other suspect activities is altogether another matter. This particular abuse of power is only available to those actually in government and should rightly be condemned by other parties. The use of public money for such activities is bad enough, but the other stink comes from the wastage of fuel by a government supposedly concerned about emissions and global warming. Even the environment secretary herself has been using a private military shuttle service for her trips to Brussels. Hypocrisy certainly - some of us would say "theft" too!

Iran have announced the minor enrichment of some Uranium. This of course means they can effectively claim to be part of the "nuclear club" of nations and the intent seems to be in the demand they be treated as equals in negotiations. It looks like more of a PR ploy than any serious change in their ability to manufacture weapons. Read on here.

My apologies for the slowdown in this blog. The weekend meant being offline for a massive back-up of my proxy server and a reboot of my workstation resulted in some cantankerous behaviour until the beast warmed up again. I may not be daily again until after the holiday weekend - there's a lot to catch up on. "Latest Clicks" will update as normal.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

A government just gagging for the gagging order

Independent Online Edition

Today's lead at the Independent above concerns the plight of two protesting grandmothers from Yorkshire. More importantly, it indicates just how much draconian legislation has managed to slip by uncontested recently. Maybe they hope to solve their pensions crisis by incarcerating all independent-minded persons above a certain age!

The first bird flu case in Britain has been reported from Fife. The offending beast has been dead a while and may have been partially eaten by other animals, which makes it sound like the authorities have been rather slow off the mark. We keep our fingers crossed.

Sad to say, Amerika has decided that "democracy" is no longer its priority in Iraq and that scientists must no longer express their views on global warming and climate change. Meanwhile, the Coast Guard have gone to war with the FBI - the latter now described as "The Federal Bureau of Luddites " by Slate. The Government Accountability Office reckons just about all the federal agencies are currently in breach of privacy rights law anyway.

On a more optimistic note, an article at Ode magazine concerns The Most Hopeful Court in the World - namely the European Court of Human Rights.


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

An enevitable execution or a suspicious hi-jack?

Sinn Fein man who spied for British is found shot dead

The above leads to a report in the Scotsman.

When, some months back, Sinn Feinn's Denis Donaldson was revealed to have been a former British spy within the IRA my first thought was that he had become a "marked man". Unless he disappeared or moved into protection on the UK mainland, his execution would be inevitable. After all, to the IRA, he would be perceived as a traitor in wartime and as such, despite a new era of de-militarisation, would need to be held to account. Strangely however, Donaldson retired to his home in the north of Ireland and no secret was made of his whereabouts - it was if he was inviting retribution.

His execution yesterday comes a no surprise - but, as a matter of timing, it is very curious. As the UK and Ireland prepare to re-institute a power-sharing government for Northern Ireland, Donaldson's killing at this moment serves nobody except those whose aim is to disrupt that process - namely the Unionist movement whose modus-operandi seems to forever discount any reconciliation with any part of Irish republicanism. They have used the last 24 hours to great advantage by making political capital of the events.

In a process started by John Major, Blair's early government made major inroads in bringing about a preace process in Northern Ireland - largely due to the impartial approach of the late Mo Mowlam, the influence of Bill Clinton and, one suspects, some guidance on catholicism from Blair's wife Cherie. Certainly, the IRA were persuaded that sectarian warfare, especially when reduced to the method of terrorism alone, held no future in an age of globalism where both Britain and Ireland were also partners in the European Union. Any reservations were probably wiped out completely with the rise of international Islamist terrorism which made the traditional inter-Christian battles of the Irish island seem petty by comparison.

Donaldson's death will presumably be treated as murder and become a matter for the police. How far they are able to persue the evidence remains to be seen. It is not an issue that should be allowed to disrupt the governance of Northern Ireland, the basis for which is already sound and the only obsticle being the inability of those living in the past to adapt. It will be a shame if they suceed in blocking renewed progress this week.

In Italy politics are reduced to "testicles" and in the US the government's own accountability office says that it's agencies are breaching privacy rights. The good news is that after 20 years, life returns to Chernobyl once more and someone has got Windows running on a new Intel Macintosh.


Monday, April 03, 2006

The odd couple reach the anti-climax
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The Jack & Condi Show

Rice, Straw Press to Forge Unity

Given the complexities of international time zones, it has taken a while for the weekend hoaxes to settle down. One can assume most of the news is now back to normal.

It was a tough weekend for the Rice-Straw tour. A volatile reception greeted the couple in Northern England and any hopes of a quiet weekend were dashed. So much so, that they sought to escape to Iraq. Sadly, Condi's plane cabin wasn't quite big enough for both of them and she ended up sleeping on the floor. The arrival in Iraq was pretty rough too and telling the local Prime Minister he should step down probably didn't enhance the atmosphere either. It's all in the report at top.

Today we see the launch of Britain's version of the FBI as Blair arrives back from down-under to try and take control of things again. Doctors are demanding a complete rethink of the Health Service while secret government documents suggest we may be in for a huge death toll if Bird Flu strikes. If you are planning to stock up on supplies, bear in mind that cheques are no longer acceptable. The British public have been coming up with suggestions to tackle climate change, some of which go beyond the courage of the government to implement.

In Amerika, the Ape Emperor has accidently signed the wrong bill into law and can't find anyone to take the FEMA job as the evangelical masses adopt U2's Bono for religious marketing. Amidst all the other corruption and lobbying scandals, an item in the Washington Post suggested The Effect of the Israel Lobby is distorting history. So today, the Dean of Harvard's Kennedy School loses his job.

If you are reading this at you can find more stories listed under "Latest Clicks" in the left column. As my obsessional oversight committee (that's you lot!) point out, now this column is available as a syndicated feed elsewhere the links bar doesn't get included. I'll try to aviod referencing it so much.


Saturday, April 01, 2006

In the realm of the senseless

Clock running out of time, space

More fool you - more fool me. Some months back I planted a fake event in my calender (see left) and when the alert came from Yahoo I was, in my forgetfulness, taken aback. Like the previous post (filed at midnight, UK Time) it was of course a hoax for April Fool's day. Convention has it that such pranks expire at midday, so it's all over on this side of the Atlantic.

I wasn't alone in my jesting. The radio news is now revealing a more than usual profusion of jokes. Whether this headline link is one of them I'm unsure. It seems the New York clock that monitors US debt is rapidly running out of digits.

Over here, a very red-faced foreign secretary must be wishing the last 24 hours were a light-hearted prank too. Getting Condi over for a quiet weekend up north has gone somewhat less than according to plan. Topping it all, the performers at last night's concert suddenly changed the tune. At least Condi had the decency to admit to "tactical errors" - a few thousand of them actually!

It's not over yet, but last week's ping-pong game between the houses of Lords and Commons over the ID cards bill seems to have fizzled out with only a few compromises by the Blair administration. Richard Sheperd MP said: "One day, this Government will experience the wrath and indignation of a country that understands that this is not a small social measure; it is in fact a declaration by Government that the centralised state is more important and greater than the sum of every individual free citizen of the country that we were sent to represent." Would that that were a joke!

Talking of ID details, the US government has managed to mislay 94,000 of them in a Los Angeles garage.

For a whole host of recent links, check "latest clicks" at left. For the most part, it contains real news!