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30 October 2004

What I struggle to say is articulately stated

What I struggle to say is articulately stated by John Pilger. What will be the aftermath of this surreal election? I can see one of two scenarios, and both are equally violent, though one is far preferable. They actually do not depend at all on who wins the election, but on the state of consciousness of the American electorate. The metaphor of sleeping giant is often used about America, but it's usually used mistakenly. Pilger gets it right when he nails our previous waking up episodes as the civil rights campaign and the ultimate revulsion against our actions in Vietnam. The question is - will there be such a waking from the slumber on the 3rd of November? If Bush is re-elected and such a reaction does occur, it will be inevitably violent, because of the instant repression of the triumphant administration. If Kerry is elected and the anti-war crowd try to hold his feet to the fire, and it turns out that his wimpy pronouncements about the war are what he really believes and not just what he said to get elected, well, that could go almost any way.
The less preferable outcome, and the one I fervently hope is not inevitable, is that whether it is Bush or Kerry who is elected, it means that the majority, slight though they may be, actually support this imperial project that both candidates tout, only pausing to criticise each other's competence as a warlord-emperor. And then as Pilger says, we will see the American war on Terra unleashed.

28 October 2004

Send in the clones


The above is from a real Bush-Cheney '04 advert. (Except without the circles and arrows, in case you don't see the obvious cloning.) Read all about it at Daily Kos, mostly.

27 October 2004

Fear and Loathing in modern global history

I just finished watching part two of a three-part documentary on BBC2 called The Power of Nightmares. It is about phantom enemies, extremism, idealism and fantasy futures fueled by imagined triumphs. My own unfulfillable fantasy is that this show could be screened on American television. Somehow, I doubt that that will ever happen, and that is very depressing. This show is a masterpiece of subtle analysis and adroit connecting of the seemingly random dots in the news stories of the last decade. Watching it, I was overwhelmed by a cascade of "aha!" moments, as bits of knowledge were imparted that comprised missing pieces of the moral puzzles of modern life. I got answers (or at least possible answers) to such questions as: What was the real purpose of the Clinton wars? (Not its avowed purpose.) What is going on inside the world of Islamic political philosophy? (A lot more than you'd ever guess from watching the western media.) Is there any hidden meaning to some of the terrible violence that happens in the middle east? (Yes, but not really hidden, just ignored due to some clever misdirection.) Who really won the Cold War? (It wasn't really a war, and nobody won anything. A rotten government collapsed, and thus some other people were able to change their governments for better ones, but that's part of the cycle of history and was more due to the "cold warriors" looking temporarily in another direction.) Who is John Galt? (Apparently he is this creepily insightful guy named Leo Strauss.)

I will probably have more to say on this later. This was one of those things (films, books, programs) that makes you think, and all the things you think don't come to you at first, but over days and weeks of slow rumination. If I can find the time, I need to do some research on the two prime movers behind today's ascendancy of nightmare: America's neo-cons and Arabia's extremist Islamists. It seems I know a lot less about these guys than I thought I did.

Do ye ken John Peel?

Possibly very few of my American readers will know of John Peel, born John Robert Parker Ravenscroft, even though he began his career in Dallas. He was well-known and loved here, a BBC radio host and former "pirate" DJ (although the BBC tribute conveniently leaves out that part of his CV). In fact at least one newspaper called him the Godfather of British pop music. He died yesterday while on a working holiday in Peru. He was a titan amongst DJs, a unique voice on the radio and from all accounts, a really nice guy too.

23 October 2004

Hollow Victory

Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos and Our Congress, writing in the Guardian on 20 October, has a rundown of some of the low points of voter registration fraud, obviously a centrepiece of the US elections of 2004.

21 October 2004

Back to Iraq 3.0: Bugged Out

Yes, I'm still here; it's been six days since my last post and I am feeling classic blogger's guilt. It's my job, mostly. Also in personal news, I was going to go to a weblogger meetup at the Trip to Jerusalem pub in Nottingham, but at the last minute I declined because it didn't look like it was going to happen (no RSVPs). Too bad.
Meanwhile, Christopher has had to leave Iraq. As you may have noticed, I have my favourite sources for news on various fronts and my best sources in Iraq lately have been Riverbend and Back to Iraq 3.0, Christopher's blog. He also mentions and links to the kidnapping of Margaret Hassan, which has caused a minor groundswell of grass-roots outrage here in Britain, along with stiff opposition to the idea of sending British troops deeper into the American quagmire in Iraq.

15 October 2004

Ramadan - under siege

Christopher of Back to Iraq 3.0 tells about the realities of journalism in Iraq. You can't go into the Green Zone without a pass, and passes are only issued in the Green Zone. And they're all afraid to go out, anyway. And it's the first day of Ramadan.

14 October 2004

Don't you just love Spam?

No, not the strange pink meat-like substance. those anonymous, plaintive, almost poetically subject-lined missives that appear in your inbox, first in twos and threes, then in dozens, scores, maybe even hundreds. Today I got a particularly charming collection of subject-lines:
1Million People Anxiously Sending you $40 Each!
Permit bank rival for your credit
Save much on latest soft names
A Thinking of You Card for you (from Plumping G. Gustav)

13 October 2004

"Furious George"

In a welter of shameless name-dropping, Deborama wants to thank Pete of the Whole Wide World of Fat Buddha for linking to Markos of the Daily Kos, who is now writing a column in Guardian Unlimited. This one is titled "The Madness of George" and it is pretty good news for those who have long suspected that there was something a bit undisciplined, unpredictable and well, frankly un-presidential about the Shrub, now to be known as the Burning Bush.

12 October 2004

Jeanne of Body and Soul

. . .has a great quote in her post titled More smart people who don't like Bush:
Maybe this isn't the best timing, but I can't help but remember the famous Stevenson story: During his 1956 presidential campaign, a woman called out to Adlai E Stevenson 'Senator, you have the vote of every thinking person!' Stevenson called back 'That's not enough, madam, we need a majority!"

Christopher Reeve, 1952-2004

Journalist Penny Wark remembers Christopher Reeve: "the most unforgettable person I have interviewed."
As do many others, I mourn the untimely death of Christopher Reeve, a great actor who became a great man in the face of the terrible indignity of being paralysed and virtually helpless. I read through a lot of articles and tributes before selecting this one as being the best at giving a sense of what the man must have been like (as opposed to the celebrity or the "hero").
If you are an American, and you want to do something to honour the memory of Christopher Reeve, be sure and vote on election day, especially if you support Reeve's work to ensure the legality of stem cell research in America. I must admit that one of the first things to cross my mind after hearing of his death, after the initial shock and sadness, was "I wonder if he voted by absentee ballot?" because otherwise his vote is lost, which is one more in the list of terrible ironies of his life.

Save Marriage! It's all the fault of the homos ...

This website was included in an official Oregon pamphlet to help voters consider the issues on the ballot. It is unclear whether election officials knew that it was satire.

08 October 2004

Election day today

For me, that is. I received my absentee ballot a few days ago, and I have decided to vote tonight and go to the post office Saturday morning to get the postage put on, taking no chances that I get it wrong. I didn't vote in 2000. First general election I have missed since 1972 and look what gets in! Ralph Nader, by the way, is listed in the "Better Life" party. His running mate (in case you aren't following the campaign that closely) is Peter Camejo, noted former leader of the Socialist Workers Party. I won't say ex-Socialist Worker, because I believe Trotskyism is sort of like Catholicism in that you can lapse but never really leave. Here is an interview with Camejo and his defence of the Nader campaign.

03 October 2004

Supporting Kerry Anyway...

Although I seem to be developing an election theme here, and I do hope it doesn't continue unbroken right up to the election, I had to mentionJohn Perry Barlow's views on how we elect our Presidents and how that needs to improve. Or as he so cogently puts it:

We all need to get a grip and quickly. Whatever it has been traditionally, this Presidential race should not be a personality contest. I say this as much to myself to myself as I do to you. I have to snap out of it and remember we are not electing our new best friend here. We were electing a set of ideologies, cultural predispositions, policies, practices, and beliefs - many of them religious - that may literally affect the fate of life on earth. And one thing I will say for George Bush, he has disabused me of my old belief that it doesn't really matter who's President.

George Soros enters the fray . . .

GeorgeSoros.com is a new site with an associated blog which is dedicated to the proposition that "President Bush is endangering our safety, hurting our vital interests and undermining American values". The WaPo says: "Soros is a figure whom Republicans should extol -- arguably the world's most effective capitalist anti-communist. He made his money the old-fashioned way, on Wall Street." And the LA Times Book Review says of his book The Bubble of American Supremacy: "Soros' intensely polemical but also succinct and well-reasoned book ought to provide a welcome template for how the candidates might begin to think their way through to a more coherent view of America's place in the world." And Booklist's reviewer says (briefly and to the point): "This may be the one anti-Bush book that reaches an audience beyond the Democratic amen corner."

Guantánamo has 'failed to prevent terror attacks'

Following directly on from the story below, the Observer today has this piece about a number of retired or serving military officers and experts who are now coming forward to blow the whistle on the dubious intelligence value of Camp Delta interrogations. I wonder if it is because Bush is just now beginning to appear like a lame duck after his poor showing in the debate? Or is it just a coincidence in timing? Whatever the reason, this week will see the publication by British journalist David Rose of "Guantánamo: America's War on Human Rights" which contains the testimony of Ret. Lt. Col. Anthony Christino and three other intelligence officials against Bush and Rumsfeld's pursuit of the war on terror. Among other things there are charges that "the 'screening' process in Afghanistan which determined whether detainees were sent to Guantánamo was 'hopelessly flawed from the get-go'" and that "General [Geoffrey] Miller [former commandant of Camp Delta and now running Aby Ghraib prison] had never worked in intelligence before being assigned to Guantánamo, and his system seems almost calculated to produce entirely bogus confessions."

01 October 2004

Jeanne tells of fairy tales

Caution: Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo content.
A few days ago, Body and Soul posted this excellent post about Seymour Hersh's book Chain of Command and a fairy tale that she was reading to her daughter called Ella Enchanted. This may seem like an odd juxtaposition but it is not. And it gave rise to this beautiful bit of prose from Jeanne:

The idea that evil is stupid is comforting in a children's book. It is not comforting in Hersh's.
I haven't gotten very far into Hersh's book, but so far, this is what I know: Within a few months of the Guantánamo Bay prison's opening, three things were obvious:
1. The Bushies wanted prisoners treated harshly in order to extract information quickly.
2. Treating prisoners harshly wasn't going to extract information -- quickly or otherwise.
3. The vast majority of Guantánamo prisoners had no information to give.
Bush and Company believed so firmly in the first point that the easiest way to kill a career was to mention the second or third points. Not that some people didn't try -- but they failed to have any influence. To have any interest in facts, any connection to reality, was to be branded soft on Al Qaeda.
Some of the Guantánamo prisoners were mentally ill old men. Under different circumstances, they might have had promising civilian careers in the Pentagon.

The Lone Star Iconoclast endorses Kerry

All of us in Liberalbloggerland are very excited about this Crawford Texas publications high-profile endorsement of Kerry for President.

Why Bush Left Texas

Finally someone (and I'm not surprised it's someone at The Nation) is doing some serious journalism about the AWOL issue.

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