Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Plummeting Time

CBS News Poll: Bush Ratings At All-Time Low

First the good news - the Ape Emperor's ratings in his homeland are falling at an all-time low at 34%. Cheney's also right down at 18%. Maybe it's time for the grassroots to emerge. Slate also have questions about Homeland Security and USA Today report that governors of the Western States are tackling global warming themselves despite a White House in denial. Best of all, one of the architects of PNAC (Project for the New American Century) has done a double-turn and reckons the epic plan should be consigned to the dustbin of history. A bit late, but better now than never.

Yesterday's UK report by the independent Power Commission has been rapidly embraced by both Liberal Democrats and Conservatives. Most other small parties too. Embarrassing criticism for the Prime Preacher, it also includes some of the notions that might, or might not, be on the agenda of that leader-in-perpetual-waiting, Gordon Brown. It would be odd to find all parties supporting similar reform come the next election.

In essence, it is claimed that Britain's future as a democracy is dependent on greater voter participation on key issues, more proportional representation, greater parliamentary accountability from the party in government and fully elected membership of institutions like the House of Lords. Although not explicitly, it suggests a future of electronic empowerment for the electorate rather than Blair's apparant vision of electronic state supression. Coverage here in the Independent today and yesterday.


Ever get that sinking feeling? Dubya's diving - see above.
eTV Picture Post

Monday, February 27, 2006

Power to the People - Right on! (Late reprise)

"Parliament has had many of its teeth removed and government is conducted from Downing Street."

Today's Independent features a report from an independent parliamentary "power" commission which claims that Tony Blair has "neutered" democracy and that it needs to be returned, more thoroughly, to the voting public. There are four different pieces on the issue - follow the links on the main page above.

The Scotsman reports on two intruiging drugs issues. Firstly, the military are adapting to the reality of recreational drug use and secondly, a new Conservative policy book suggests The legalisation of all drugs. More feeds here. From the weekend, also a report that MI5 will be paying compensation for mind-control experiments using LSD in the 1950s. If any of the subjects are still alive that is!

Across the water, the Ape Emperor prepares to depart for India this week in a desparate search for A New Best Friend, according to The Times.

As freedom slowly dies in the imperial homeland, one wonders just how long before abortion becomes illegal by decree of the new religious zealots. The Washington Post reports too that the states are lining up to take sides in a battle to outlaw the "morning after" contraceptive pill. An Op-Ed News piece at the weekend also examined the way the neocons are attacking women in the states.

Lots more snippets in "Latest Clicks" - see link on left.

I've also created a new link (left again) to my calender at Yahoo. Since this is not used for much else, I've decided to initiate public entries for events vaguely related to this column. If you want anything posted, email me the details.


Friday, February 24, 2006

The lost shrine. See below.
eTV Picture Post

Heartbreak in Iraq

Baghdad Burning

The above leads to a blog report from Bagdad - an emotional response to the destruction of the shrine and its aftermath. Meanwhile, Op Ed News asks Whose bombs were they anyway? and suggests the paper trail may lead to the White House. Propaganda Matrix wonder about a "black op" too.


Hurrah for the watchdogs

EFF sue Telecoms over NSA collaboration

An interesting piece above reports that the Electronic Frontier Foundation (who monityor and govern affairs to do with the public internet) have issued a lawsuit against US telecoms companies. The gist of it is that the telecoms operators have broken the law and privacy of internet users by illegally colaborating with Amerika's Nation Security Agency for the purposes of wire-tapping and data mining.

The link also includes a download of the full complaint in PDF format.


Thursday, February 23, 2006

A message for our times?
eTV Picture Post

Beware Fifth Columnists

Bush's Mysterious 'New Programs'

Too late for the earlier blog comes the above link to Alternet's Rights & Civil Liberties portal. This in-depth piece condiders the ape emperor's mysterious new programs which include the building of prison camps inside Amerika to possibly house Muslim immigrants (?) and disloyal Americans (?) - scary stuff!

Here in Britain, Prince Charles has procrastinated on Chinese Waxworks and how he fancies himself as a "dissident". Better not plan too many more Amerikan trips then! Truth be told, the Royal Family bring in more money than they cost and I've never been wholly opposed to the. In the case of Charles, anyone who talks to his plants can't be that bad. His recent talk here on "slow food" is infact highly commendable.


Mindless rape of art and culture

Iraq heads for civil war

The above leads to an in-depth article in today's Independent on the looming civil war following yesterday's attack on the Shia shrine in Iraq. Some are blaming the US for covert engineering, others blame Sunni insurgents who have infiltrated the police force and others still are blaming Islamist outsiders trying to ferment sectarian violence. The only sure thing is the greater tragedy to heritage.

Personally, I harbour a secret desire to see all organised religion relegated to history. There is no place for it in the modern world. Faith is something for the individual to find - subscription to a doctrine devised by others (often those long dead and of archaic times) is the same symptomatic denial of freedom practised by those who would blindly fall into the prison of the totalitarian state. The latter is the unthinking, uncaring attitude of the pack animal - not the intelligent human species.

When Blair joined Bush to invade Iraq the first thing to be spun was the "collateral damage" - finding the right presentation to excuse the slaughter of thousands of innocents. Of less concern was the destruction of art, culture and heritage forever lost to future generations. Works of art, outstanding architecture and all manner of public treasures were lost, damaged, looted or otherwise corrupted. The Saddam icons may have perished, but so too did a wealth of cultural history unrelated to his regime.

The shrine destroyed yesterday is a true crime for reasons wholly unrelated to religion and sectarian conflict. Although born of the desire for what I consider unwelcome collective faith, it was also a work of art and a cultural symbol. It's destruction denies future generations (in what one hopes may be a more rational time) from experiencing a heritage of creativity. Even archeologists will have trouble picking up the pieces. A hint of what is lost can be found at this slideshow from the New York Times. Iraq has always been home to some of the earliest historical examples of civilisation and the rape of that land in a deparate attempt to grab the world's dwindling oil resources is almost a rape of culture itself. A lasting tragedy.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Ports of a strange call

The President and the Ports

I have been some befuddled as to why Arab companies should be taking over the adminstration of Amerika's ports - especially given the supposed terrorist threats from that region. Mind you, with the likes of China buring up chunks of the industrail infrastructure too, it may be no surprise. That Bush has annouced he will veto any opposition to the moves that a financial agenda is at work here to the detriment of security.

The above link leads to today's editorial at the New York Times and is surprisingly cricital. It also reveals something I didn't know - namely that the ports in question are currently administered by British companies. Maybe this weird turn of events can be better seen as yet another snub to the UK by the Ape Emperor and his minions.


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Want history? Get it while you can!

U.S. Reclassifies Many Documents in Secret Review

We all know the Ape Emperor wants to redefine life, the universe and everything in his own image but this one takes the ticket. The above link points to revelations in the New York Times which indicate the Amerikan intelligence community has been set the task of re-classify previously public information from the national archives.

The fact that historians have already sourced and copied the items in question does not seem to have occurred to them - save possibly for the fact that those who otherwise innocently possess such information could, if deemed necessary, charged with espionage.


Monday, February 20, 2006

As the rich get richer ... See below.
eTV Picture Post

Toward a Third World Britain

Taxes and Bills beyond the poor

The above link leads to The Times where they have conducted a survey of local tax increases. They are rising at over double the rate of inflation and have more than doubled since the Blair government came to power.

This comes in concert with rises in domestic energy costs which are also well beyond the scale of inflation by which our standard of living is measured. In London, an additional flat burden of increases by the mayor to pay for olypmic develoipment and infractsture changes to transport and the like adds insult to injury. The latter doesn't even take personal wealth into account since it is a contribution unrelated to property prices.

Pensioners and other recipients of fixed incomes receive yearly increases amounting to mere pennies - calculated by the rate of inflation which includes luxury goods they cannot afford anyway. Proportionately to the income of the still-working population this means that in real terms their standard of living falls annually.

The new cost of energy and local taxes will now cripple all low income sectors of our population. They will not receive anything like the welfare or minimum wage increases needed to cover this expense. Nor are they equipped to make personal cutbacks - it is a breadline existence already.

As the unthinking Blair administration continue to pursue their ideal of a totalitarian surveillance state, they remain blind to the consequences of their actions. The kind of poverty that forces people to fight for their survival is at the root of increasing social unrest and a disregard for laws and etiquette that become unacceptable in the face of desperation. Ironically, it is this disenfranchised part of the population whose lack of economic clout prevents them subscribing to the consumerist "norms" - so, as such, they exist outside the mainstream of general society.

A large part of the surveillance state depends on the ability of government and its corporate paymasters to "hookwink" us into paying for the technological trinkets by which it is to be enforced. Those unable to subscribe to the consumerist masquerade may end up being those who escape the Orwellian nightmare longest, de-stabilising the civil infrastructure in the process. The gap between rich and poor widens to the extremes that were the very thing the original Labour party sought to oppose. Blair's cosmetic repackaging of the worst aspects of Thatcherism is a betrayal of his party's legacy and his own legacy is more than likely to be that of sowing the seeds for disruption to come.

Trade unions are stirring, religions and ethnic cultures are becoming ever more polarised, a flu pandemic looks more likely then ever and power cuts are predicted. Maybe that disruption will come sooner rather than later. Time will tell.


Sunday, February 19, 2006

Britain is ther world leader in the density of surveillance cameras - more infact than operatives to watch them. But with face recognition software online and the new moves to log the DNA of anyone detained (not necessarily arrested and charged) by police, the introduction of ID cards may be the tip of a virtual iceberg. More below.
eTV Picture Post

Imprisoned in the Database State

We Want Information

The above link leads to more on ID cards in the UK and the like, illustrated with pictures from the 60s classic "prisner" show.

The bird flu scares have now got as far as France. The UK goes on alert but reports suggest we are less prepared than other countries. If it hits before Spring comes, things could get very bad indeed.

Meanwhile in the heart of empire, Bush protects big business from lawsuits and some questions you shouldn't ask about 911.

For some nice art by Nik Ainley, thankfully of a wholly unpolitical nature, click here.


Saturday, February 18, 2006

It's not a done thing yet! The campaign against the introduction of ID cards in Britain continues. See below.
eTV Picture Post

Toward the Database State

Stop ID cards and the database state!

The above link is a quick plug for the "No 2 ID" campaign and provides more news on last week's vote. Just in case you've been asleep - the campaign is far from over.

If you have been asleep, hopefully this will wake you up. An entertaining musical featuring Charles Clarke and a cast of thousands.

For all the rest of today's links and more, go here direct (You may have to close an intrusive pop-up window but it's usually worth it).


Friday, February 17, 2006

Basking in the glory of the vague

Blair facing Lords stand-off over ID cards and 'glorifying' terrorism

I said it was a busy week in parliament but I've been buried in wires (the untappable kind) - hence the short absence.

We now have yet another bill gone though - this time on the "glorification" of "terror". As the above link points out, we can now expect a game of ping-pong as the House of Lords re-examine both it and the ID card proposals yet again. Could be fun, since the proposed legislation has not actually defined either "glorification" or "terror". An early definition of "glorification" by the government included a reference to as yet undefined "terror" within itself and was subsequently dropped before the Wednesday vote. The vote was hardly meaningless but on paper looks set to cause great confusion.


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

From a smoke filled room

That's right - yours truly is "fuming", constantly literally and frequently metaphorically. If parliament has its way here in the UK, this room will probably be the only place I can continue to do so.

It is a big week here for the British parliament, with umpteen bills for future legislation under debate. Votes on Monday and yesterday have already gone through with regard to ID cards and smoking in public places. Both have implications for individual rights and both give rise to conflict in the mind of this author.

When, way back last century, the idea of "smart-cards" came to the fore I was a supporter. The convenience of a picee of plastic which would replace beaurocracy and countless paperwork was appealing, but that was before isometrics and the extreme miniturisation of transportable microchip technologies. I still long for a portable identity in the same way I like mobile organisers and such, but not if the price to be paid infringes upon my privacy and civil rights. The information held on these cards and its inter-connectivity will be an insult to the notion of freedom.

I don't have a current passport, so if I want to leave the UK again I will need a new one. One of the crucial aspects of Monday's vote is that not only will that passport now be a high-tech version but that I will also be immediately be issued with an ID card at the same time. The expression "voluntary" becomes dubious indeed. Maybe I won't be "required" to use it - at least not yet! But how long before it becomes an indispensible accessory for negotiating dealings with all state authorities? Compulsion will come through the back door when citizens effectively can't survive without one.

Tuesday's vote was on government legislation designed to curb cigarette smoking, not only in the workplace but most other indoor venues. There were to have been exceptions but, presented as an open vote to parliament, it took on a life of its own and the ban has gone through without limitations at all. It was passed with such an astonishing majority that one wonders if the MPs had bothered to address the concerns of their constituents at all. The effect on business in the social and entertainment sectors will be profound as people resort to staying within their own homes where they can still smoke freely for now. Unless, of course, they choose to smoke non-approved products!

There is one interesting exception to the ban. Smoking will still be permitted in the Houses of Parliament! Hypocrisy or what? In the midst of endless propaganda about passive smoking, little attention is paid to the harm done to our lungs by the inhaling of motor vehicle fumes and industrial emissions - largely invisible pollutants that are killing us all slowly and the planet to boot. Nothing is being done to ban those! More hypocrisy.

When I was young, smoking was actually encouraged. Forty years on I admit I am an "addict" and rather wish I wasn't. The moves to discourage smoking are welcome, but draconian measures to reverse some people's habit of a lifetime are not. Taxes on the product itself are currently more than enough to counter-balance the healthcare costs, although ironically the government will be deprived of this extra income if the strategy to "outlaw" smoking is achieved.

Today's Independent has an insightful article on the way Blair has used the politics of fear to manipulate other recent legislation and policy in this country. I said it was a busy week, as I write we are awaiting yet another vote - this time on whether there will be a new offence for "glorification" of terrorism. Although the "religious hatred" bill was defeated recently, this one is limited to the advocation of methodology - I suspect that its interpretation, if passed, will remain a vague point for many and lead to even more contentious prosecutions.

In Amerika, all the headlines remain obsessed with Cheney's attitude to the gun and therein the parallel with the state of play practised throughout the world by the Imperial Court itself. See here for comment. Good news is that some republicans are starting to defect to the democrats, but most progressives seem to think the real future now lies in a new party born outside of the corporate payrolls altogether. Others want to help the Bush administration self-destruct of its own accord.


Monday, February 13, 2006

Trigger happy. Today's quote: "I don't know whether there's anything more to say about the fact that Vice President Cheney sprayed a fellow hunter with shotgun shot than that it is a decent analogue to the recent management of the country". What a dick, Dick!
eTV Picture Post

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Anticipating a "Cyber Storm"

'Cyber Storm' Tests U.S. Web Defenses

The short report above covers the conclusion of a US government "wargames" excercise. It's hard to fault the need for such simulations as a purely defensive measure against future attacks but there is some surprise that we humble bloggers have been targeted as possible providers of misinformation and activist rally-calling. Given that Britain and other selected countries were also involved, one has to balk at the global reach of this endeavour.

The state of current electronic defenses is said to be inadequate, but the results of this test won't be known for a while - if, indeed, they are ever made public at all. Of more concern is the extent to which possible defense strategies might be incorporated into the surveillance state increasingly being imposed on both the Amerikan and British civilian population. Unauthorised domestic wire-tapping by those in government is illegal and an infringement of civil liberties on both sides of the Altantic, despite the designs of the Ape Emperor and his Prime Preacher. The grey area of that issue and that of military defense and response needs to be watched very carefully.

Drunken US pilots not with-standing.


Saturday, February 11, 2006

Cartoons as the future of propaganda

Hey, Kids: Spying Is Fun!

The link to Alternet above concerns cartoons again, but this time it has nothing to do with the ones causing so much Islamic unrest.

Instead, what we have here is a concerted effort by the US intelliegence community to indoctrinate today's kids into the surveillance state they will experience as adults. Presumably, if a future generation perceive "Big Brother" as the norm, all activity (including dissent) will be conducted in a 'by-then' almost invisible framework. Scary stuff.

There's now a good reason to get arrested in Scotland. It seems that the only place left to light up a cigarette is the back of a police car. Or maybe law enforcement is seen as a good career move for smokers. One wonders that if the act of smoking becomes increasingly proscribed, maybe less attention will be paid to exactly which products are being smoked in the few santuaries left to for those who do.


Friday, February 10, 2006

Some counter-balance for the Toon Wars.
eTV Picture Post

To face the music, perchance?

Foreign Affairs - Intelligence, Policy,and the War in Iraq - Paul R. Pillar

Today's first link, above, leads to a newly published and well-informed article that suggests Amerika's intelligence community are less than happy about their use by Bush for political ends. Parallels with Britain where the security services have also objected to manipulation by Blair. Curiously too, following yesterday's proclamation by Bush about a foiled terrorist attack on Los Angeles, counter-terrorism experts are jumping up to rubbish the suggestion. See here.

Back here in the UK, there has been an astonishing bi-election victory for what many had perceived as a troubled Liberal Democrat party. Without even a current leader (voting is still underway on that), Britain's 3rd principal political party has ousted Blair's labour and snubbed fledgling Conservative leader Cameron to boot. Blair's weakened house majority is now cut by one more MP and the Lib Dems have gained a seat. If this can happen despite the calamities befalling both their previous leader, an ex-new-leader candidate and one of the current leadership candidates, maybe we have cause to see light at the end of the tunnel.

Our current Prime Preacher is also backing down rapidly on proposed policy changes - most significantly the education reforms. Obviously anxious to suffer no more defeats before his time runs out he is increasingly seem as hanging on until the 10th anniversary of his election to office. That will be Spring next year and rumour has it he has agreed to hand over to Chancellor Gordon Brown at that time. The problem is that this new Lib Dem victory is even more of a snub to Brown as it is the Blair. Brown lives in the constituency and spent an awful lot of time up there recently campaigning for the loser.


Cartoon Psy-Ops? But whose?

No outrage when Egyptian publication headlined drawings on Ramadan cover

A late posting of the link above which I forgot to put in the earlier piece. The unfunny aftermath of the wandering funnies gets grimmer with each report but this one takes the ticket. An Islamic newspaper first reprinted those pictures in Egypt during Ramadam last year - before the Arab summit and well before the reprints in Denmark and Europe. They can't be that offensive!

The riots are playing both ways here. They will provide the excuse for the likes of Bush and Blair to take a tougher stance and further stigmatise Muslim populations at home and abroad. They also provide the excuse for militant Islam to capitalise on increasing anti-western sentiments and further promote violence and possible terrorism. The real question must be that if psy-ops are in play here, which side is using them?

The cartoons may well have been missed on their original Danish publication, but this Egyptian reprinting would hardly have gone unnoticed in the Muslim world. So why all the fuss now after the silence of intervening months? There is clearly orchestration in the current international uprising. For Al Qaeda and the like it must be good PR, but for Amerika it is helping contribute to a volatile scenario they need to justify action against Iran and maybe Syria too.

As moderate mainstream Islam demonstrates against the demonstrations themselves here in London on Saturday, it would be nice to think the tension could fade away a bit. Sadly, it looks like it may run and run - a harbringer for darker things to come. As Bush today revealed another "alleged" terror strike was aborted in California just after 9/11, it sounds like he is "upping-the-ante" in preparation for actions to come. As suspicions increasingly abound that 9/11 itself was a PNAC-engineered "own goal", we are reminded that, in a climate of fear, a trigger is always close to hand.

These conflicts of ideaology could so easily be turned into a fully-fledged religious war. Insolvent, addicted and greedy, Amerika has little left to lose. But the rest of the world has! Civilised nations should relegate religion to the domain of private mythological pursuit and organise society around freedom of speech, thought and opinion. Of dialogue and accomodation is born our human capacity for creativity and progress. Of its absence, the stuff of medieval nightmares reborn in a nuclear age.

You may have noticed it's getting late.


Thursday, February 09, 2006

Taking the piss gets serious. A cartoon from Slate about cartoons.
eTV Picture Post

Toon Wars stirring

'Toon Trouble

Today sees cartoonist Mark Fiore bring his take on the cartoon controversy itself. Follow the link above. The subject has taken on epidemic proportions on the blogs, not to mention in the real world. Richard Neville's piece mentioned yesterday is now updated and fully illustrated at his blog here while an article at Slate asks Whose God can you draw anyway?

The riots have not gone unobserved in the imperial court. Bush reckons they are "bad" but doesn't comment on the toons themselves. Henchwoman Condi is blaming it all on Syria and Iran - great fodder for the department of war-mongering. The New York Times dives in further and suggests that the whole affair began last December when Arab leaders met in Mecca.

The French rub it all in by reprinting the offending items once again and commissioning a new one to boot! Israel's contribution to the tension is to tear down a Muslim cemetery so it can build a so-called "Museum of Tolerance". Come again?

Real humour meets the real world as Alternet publish an interview with comedian and left-winger Al Franken. Probably safe enough - it's not illustrated! Something that is illustrated, here, is the Guantanamo Chair (my name).

In the UK, a nuclear plant has "lost" some of its enriched uranium (government blame the paperwork!) and Blair may cancel next year's elections while he "reforms" the process. Wish that both of these items were actually cartoons.


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

More on pictures that shake the world

Richard Neville

No sooner have I posted the last blog than an old "comrade-in-charms" comes up with his own take at OpEd News - link above.

As editor of the sixties magazine, "Oz", Richard knows all about this. Both his Australian and British editions ended up in the courts as a direct result of published, you guessed it, cartoons. For more about "Oz" follow the link left to my Homepage" then pursue "Counterculture" for history.

Richard's article also includes a link to this gallery. Full of artwork depicting the prophet, some of them downright rude and of Islamic origin, it proves what I said earlier - Islam itself has not always proscribed religion in artistic expression.


Faces in the crowd. An unusual situation for former, present and possible future presidents as they attend the funeral for Coretta Scott King yesterday. Bush read something the copywriters prepared. Clinton ad-libbed and stole the show. Bush then had to sit through six hours of cememony while almost everyone taking the platform lashed into his policies and legacy. About time too!
eTV Picture Post

Playing the wrong toons?

A Startling New Lesson in the Power of Imagery

The link above leads to the critic's notebook at New York Times and takes a deeper look at the power of pictures. As someone with a history in the area of comics and cartoons I could not resist downloading the offending items to satisfy my curiousity over what all the fuss was about. I won't reprint them here - not only to avoid "fanning the flames" (as certain students in Cardiff did yesterday) but also because they are poorly rendered and have no editorial merit whatsoever.

In so far as I can tell, there is nothing in Islam that directly prohibits portrayal of their prophet, but there does seem to be a tradition in most of its branches that is opposed to iconography. Whether this is due to a desire for maintaining an abstract interpretation of the prophet or an actual fear of a possible "iconoclasm" in the face of such interpretation is unclear, but it is undoubtably a sensitive issue. Were such images permitted however, their use in satire (like those in christianity and elsewhere) would be certain to upset the devout. So the problem resides with the artistic expression.

I balk at the thought that one of my favourite artistic mediums has given rise to the astonishing level of unrest and violence we are now seeing worldwide. In reality, I suspect the cartoons have simply acted as a focus to trigger tensions that have been building between Islam and the west since the advent of Bush and his imperial policies.

The "cartoons" in question are, for the most part, not even that. They look like editorial illustrations which need a written article to provide any real context. The frequently cited one featuring a figure in a turban with a bomb is a case in point. Were there an essay on "Islamist" extremeists and terror tactics the picture might just have justified itself as poor quality decoration, but it has no message on its own. All it depicts is a Muslim archetype, an insult in itself, in a situation of suicidal intent for no purpose whatsoever. Moreover, one has to ask, if depiction of the prophet is forbidden, by what reference point is this assumed to be the prophet? To my mind it could be anyone at all. The controvsery has little rational basis but that is ignored as religious extremists are rallied to a cause fueled with anger and with a mind of its own.

Today, Iran has renamed "Danish Pastries" as a snub to Denmark, who of course originated the pictures in question. Yet they haven't stopped eating them. An Iranian newspaper has also launched a cartoon competition of its own - this one asking for entries concerning the "holocaust". Although portrayed as a political hub of disenfranchised Islam, Iran seems to be playing a tune of "brinkmanship" - as with the nuclear issue, insisting on keeping the scales balanced without tipping the weights too far from the position of equality. More worrying is the unrest the issue has caused in regions with fledgling democracies and less awareness of governance and international diplomacy. More worrying still is that the distinction will also be lost altogether in the Imperial Court across the atlantic.


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Yo, Sir Mick. Wotcha mean, button me lip? He may still be strutting but there ain't no more of that metaphorical rutting. See below.
eTV Picture Post

Cocks don't come for Jagger's superbowl

Jagger is lost for words as Superbowl plays it safe

Two awkward gaps marred the Rolling Stones' short performance at Amerika's equivilent of a football cup final censored seemingly with the band's permission. See report link above. The offending words, "cocks" and "come" were not even used out of their conventional context and their exclusion was simply over-sensitive pandering to the minions of a vacant-minded imperial homeland.

More's the shame. If Jagger and company had any real spirit left they'd have played "Sweet Neo-Con" from the new album and reprised "Highwire" - the latter being a single released (not on any album and one of their best ever rock tracks) at the height of the first Gulf War. Closing with "Sympathy for the Devil" would also have provided a suitable anthem for the land of Bush.

As the Strolling Bones gather considerable age, where is the spirit of rock and roll?


Monday, February 06, 2006

More big bother for freedom and privacy

UK news from The Times

Britain's "Child Support Agency" exists for one purpose - to chase down absent parents who are not paying for the upkeep of their children. The original intention was to save the government untold millions in benefit payments, but since its inception a few short years ago the agency has been plagued with problems and incompetence. It's draconian pursuit of "offenders" is dictated by numbers, with little concern for individual circumstance and the real welfare of the familiies concerned. It is also claimed that the operations costs more to administer than the the savings made in the collection of maintainance payments.

In the absence of common sense, enter Big Brother. As the above link reveals, government wants to pass legislation that will futher empower this inept department by allowing financial and lifestyle surveillance on virtually everyone on its lists. The danger, as usual, is that you don't need to be a parent, let alone an absent one, to be worried about the implications of this. It is yet another state database, this time directly linked to those in the private sector. Once the system is in place, it will be child's play to extend it to cover all benefit recipients and eventually every taxpayer.

Even those who promote the surveillance society should be concerned. The mismanagement of this department, like that of the agency administering "tax credits", suggests we will experience appalling abuse of the machine by the legion of incompetent beaurocrats in charge of it.

Across the Atlantic, here are some other good reads. "The Pestilent President" is a virtual epic. "The Tyranny that follows Economic Collapse" is insightful. Both are from OpEd News - for a full headline listing see the daily feed now published here on the left.


Friday, February 03, 2006

How corporate Amerika intends to hijack the web

The Shackles Of The Net

The link above is an informative report from last night's late edition at CBS news. It has the obvious Amerikan slant but the message is something we in Britain sould be concerned about too.

Telecommunications and cable companies are not the only ones involved here, but they are the front-runners in this new race powered by corporate greed. It is already almost impossible to access the web for free anymore and with broadband many providers are also limiting bandwidth use. Talk about their precious "pipes" is a nonesense - having invested in the infrastructure the ISPs are "service providers" and recoup their money from just that. Limiting access the way they envisage is not direct censorship, but by proclaiming themselves "content providers" too they are effectively seeking to control our use of the web. Only the wealthy will be able to afford the bandwidth time and width to use the electronic highway properly and even they will suffer the onslaught of preffered advertising that will garner vast sums of additional revenue for the corporates concerned.

It is websites themselves who are the content providers on the public internet and the democratic nature of the web is further threatened if audience exposure is limited to those who join up and subscribe to a system of inter-corporate hierarchy. Contractual obligations would either stop or severely hinder our access to sites and materials that were not themselves woven into the fabric of services available from any individual ISP, with small organisations and businesses relegated to the depths of a no-doubt highly customised interface. The obvious parallel is the giant supermarket chains that have all but obliterated the independent retail sector and the service once provided by local shops.

I said that this is not direct censorship, but it is censorship in a subtle form. More importantly, it plays into the hands of those who would impose direct censorship. Totalitarian-minded government will always find a way to harness the vast corporate databases and tracking systems when it is deemed they need it.

Nor is the threat only one that affects internet users. Digital convergance means that the web is joining up with television and all other home electronic delivery systems. Those "pipelines" are supply are no longer luxuries - they are essential for all contemporary communication and our access to knowledge. Information is power and the price is set to render it available only to the affluent elite. Ironically, even they will probably find themselves fed a version of truth and reality defined by advertisers and the propaganda machine. Only those at the very top of the pile will really have uncluttered access to everything without distraction and there will be nothing democratic or publicly well-intentioned in those circles.

The CBS piece also contains some very useful links. Pursue them while you can!


Thursday, February 02, 2006

We're off to war - period

Bush told Blair we're going to war

For an advance look at what will probably appear in tomorrow's Guardian - follow the link above. It's more on the White House leak. I wonder if Blair is wishing he'd done an absentee job on that one too!

America has now picked up on it in the progressive press, as you can see here. We'll see if it hits the mainstream tomorrow.


The cover of today's France Soir with its reprint of one of the contentious cartoons upsetting Islam. This one is probably the better of the set - the "forbidden" iconic image of Muhammed is accompanied by those of Christianity, Judeaism and either Hindu or the Budda. The detail is unclear. In a modern world such cricticism, albeit through characture, should be a matter of open discussion. The fact that most of the cartoons in question happen to be of poor editorial quality is another issue entirely. Altogether, a lot of fuss about virtually nothing. Of more concern should be the aquittal in court today of the BNP leaders who were clearly guilty of promoting intolerance and cultural agitation.
eTV Picture Post

Scholars Call Hoax

Press Release

This is the real link for the 9/11 allegations mentioned in the last blog. I accidently keyed the wrong one - interesting though it was.

For even more intel, follow the link left for Burnsite and look for the link marked "Cyberstation". It's full of undercurrents.


White House Meeting Memo implicates Blair in Bush plans for Iraq

White House Meeting Memo

A short link for late in the day - UK chnnel 4 television news (link above) have hust broken dome rather incriminating news.

Pre-iraq invasion it is suggested that Bush had already decided on 10th March to act and only agrees to Blair's request to obtain a second security council resolution as a diversion. Blair agreed to follow Bush to war regardless of whether they obtained the resolution or not. As we know, it wasn't. More importantly, both leaders appeared to realise that Saddam Hussein was not actually in breach of conditions or an immediate threat - Bush seems more concerned with fabricating an incident which can be blamed on Iraq, in particular by disguising his own aircraft in United Nations colours and flying them low enough to be shot down.

It reminds us suspicions that the 9.11 attacks were "allowed" to take place to provide the "new Pearl Harbour" heralded by PNAC (Project for a New American Century) as suitable auspices for American imperial pursuits and agression. See recent report here.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Cindy Sheeham didn't get a seat but this canine veteran did. Presumably the idea was to get an audience dumber than Dubya for the state of disunion address, but even Rex looks less than impressed.
eTV Picture Post

Protesters outside the UK House of Commons last night. They got their way thanks to Blair himself. See below.
eTV Picture Post

The Day the Preachers lost their plots

Times Online - Crash Bang Wallop

This morning's Times is the first to report on the amazing mess of last night's parliamentary vote here in the UK. The religious hadred bill was always highly suspect but rather less contentious than other legislation Blair has planned. It was expected to pass through parliament relatively smoothly so imagine the surprise when it didn't. For the second time now, the government have been defeated in the House of Commons, but the biggest farce is that they only lacked one vote. Whose vote? Well there are quite a few candidates, but the most notable absentee was the Prime Preacher himself. Absurd or what?

By all reports, the Ape Emperor suffered too as he tried to address the hordes of the Amerikan homeland. None seem to have been impressed by the speech and most seem to have been decidedly unimpressed. Probably too self-confident have successfully got his high court appointment through, he had the audacity to use the death of Martin King's wife for a "look good" introduction. The fact that she stood for the exact opposite of his own policies was clearly loast on Bush.

Alternet are first off with the analyses - Dead Man Talking and Splicing & Dicing the Union are good reads. They are also releasing podcasts of The Alternative State of the Union today, so click to download the MP3s.

Aghast I am.