Sunday, December 31, 2006

The scandal of Iraq's missing billions.

According to supersleuth Jason Burke of the Guardian, the country was missing billions that Saddam had stashed away for his retirement. Inspector Cluelesso has apparently leafed through ‘official’ UN oil-for-food documents in order to trace Saddam Hussain’s ‘illicit’ fortune. It is just as well that the Mr Burke hasn’t focused his trained eagle eyed gaze on the doings of the US government officials and companies like Halliburton who have misplaced billions in the shorter time span of less than four years (just a few links here, here and here). Hopefully the inspector will be on their case shortly and their time will come but then again it is just too boring writing about the USA stealing Iraq’s oil revenues. Scandalously, the major villains of the piece turn out to be the dastardly Syrians who helped Saddam to bypass the sanctions regime that killed more than a million kids (a price said by Madeline Albright to be well worth it). Perhaps Mr Burke will ensure that when the former president’s ill gotten gains are finally found in secret Syrian bank accounts, that they are used to help the families that lost those children. Allegedly:

‘Saddam had amassed $10.9bn 'through illicit means' between 1990, when sanctions were imposed, and 2003. The dictator [vital to remind people that he was a dictator unlike our current allies in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Uzbekistan and elsewhere] is also believed to have hidden cash in accounts in Switzerland, Japan, Germany and other countries and to have invested in precious stones, possibly diamonds purchased in the Far East.

Wasn’t he also said to have invested heavily in WMD that was ready to destroy the UK in 45 minutes? I am sure I heard that somewhere. I wonder if he personally visited all those different countries to make the deposits and how he managed to make take out cash from the cash machine without people finding out. I mean surely they must have had CIA agents or even spy satellites looking over his shoulder for a PIN.

Another villain is Saddam’s daughter in Jordan, who despite promising to live quietly without carrying out political activities, has been single handedly financing all of the insurgency, according to Iraqi government sources. No doubt a bob or two will turn up in her cookie jar that she was intending to donate to Al-Qaeda to carry out ‘anti-Iraqi activities’. A lot of this information reportedly comes from Barzan Al-Takriti, Saddam’s half brother who was lucky enough to be posted ambassador of Iraq in a country famous for its secret banking facilities and quality watches. Unfortunately time seems to be running out for him too. I am sure when his secret funds are found, they too will be seized and returned to the rightful owners, Halliburton-in-Iraq PLC.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Stop Starving Gaza

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The destruction of the british NHS is in progress

The Guardian of the establishment reckons that the UK government will be embarrassed to see minister Hazel Blears protesting against NHS hospital closures in the North West. That would be a major surprise as New Labour are clearly incapable of this particular emotion. The term has been deleted from their grey robotic minds. Call me cynical, but this is no doubt a move by Blears to protect her seat at the next election. Apparently it is traditional for government ministers to denounce their own policies and hold two totally contradictory positions at once, especially if it will win votes. John Reid also did it in his own constituency and Bliar said he totally agreed with a general who blasted his own policies in Iraq.

I live in one of the many many areas affected by the despicable and drastic NHS cuts. Our town along with others in the region will end up with no maternity ward and no A&E thanks to Tony Blair. Despite bitter and massive protests, the final decision has been taken. Local nurses and midwives in our wonderful maternity ward are in despair and they are not alone. Any pregnant woman about to give birth will have to travel to another town where they are already struggling to cope and do not have the resources available to cope with even the present number of 'customers'. 'Customer care' has become an ironic term. Patient care exists no more.

This is a new labour crime on the domestic front and is affecting hundreds of thousands. Does anybody in their right mind believe the money poured into the coffers of useless private consultants and NHS trust planners was worth it? The shiny new hospital we received only SIX years ago, is being destroyed. It is a staggering and criminal waste of taxpayers money. No surprise really from the government that has delivered numerous multi-billion IT project disasters, the millennium dome, ID cards, not to mention imperial wars that have shed oceans of blood. Tony Blair's policies are not just killing people abroad, soon some of the people of Britain will by paying with their lives because of inadequate or non-available essential core health services. How much more damage can we allow these nutcases to do before we lock them up behind bars?

Monday, December 25, 2006

The Gifted Guardian

The guardian is gifted at spotting political extremism:

'Murdoch, 75, abruptly fired the 53-year-old Regan, who made millions for his HarperCollins publishing arm ReganBooks with such tomes as How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson, Stupid White Men by Michael Moore and dozens of other sexually and politically extreme offerings. She is said to have ranted in a telephone conversation to the HarperCollins lawyer Mark Jackson that a Jewish 'cabal' was 'conspiring' to smear her and ruin her career'
Critics of George Bush become bracketed with soft porn titles and labelled as 'politically extreme'. Of course invading a country by concocting tomes of lies and killing over half a million is not politically extreme is it? It can't be because his holiness St Blair supported it in good faith.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Strategies for dismantling the mass media

Once upon a time, Kings and rulers would have paid handsomely in gold and gifts to couriers to bring them news from foreign lands. No this is not the beginning of a Christmas tale but a post about how we the ordinary punters are now able to receive so much more intelligence on what is going on around the world than any emperor or king that lived before. The problem is that some people long ago realised this and set about using this to their advantage. Hence we are bombarded with filtered, twisted and fabricated news mixed amongst the real stuff, with the aim of constructing an artificial alignment with or sympathy for a particular geopolitical viewpoint. The media became 'free' but at a price. This price was that they were free to report the excesses and negatives of official western enemies and to concentrate on the lower end of the criminal scale without focussing too much on the criminal activities of the ruling elite. Sure we could tolerate the odd mavericks as long as they were suitably framed and restrained. The idea was to project the image of freedom whilst maintaining a tight hold on the reins of power; to institutionalise the appearance of democracy whilst serving the same interest. Towards the latter half of the twentieth century it appears this effort succeeded in totally replacing the old antagonistic left and ironing out dissent within the political system. But unfortunately/fortunately this time also coincided with the rise and rise of the Internet. The mass media have become the loyal and willing servants of power but now their enemies have a tool with which to fight back.

This is an important topic that is currently neglected even amongst the people who are supposed to be looking at it. What strategies can we adopt as the public that can challenge and eventually replace the mass media? This is not a pie in the sky idea. Of course mass media will still be around for a long time but they are weakening and whatever can be done in practical terms to loosen their grip from around the throat of our perceived reality needs to be done. This website considers the practical steps that could be taken to challenged the power of mass media with the aim of promoting a more participatory media and developing alternatives. Here are a few ideas they throw up for discussion:
Here I outline a number of possible strategies, focusing on what can be done by individuals and small groups to challenge mass media and replace them by participatory network media. It would be easy to make some sweeping recommendations about what should be done, especially by governments. But to be compatible with the goal of a participatory communication system, the methods should be participatory too.
  1. Change one's own media consumption patterns
    Many people are such regular and insistent consumers of the mass media--television, radio and newspapers--that it's possible to speak of an addiction. This also includes many of those who are strongly critical of the mass media.

    Cutting down on consumption can be part of a process of imagining and fostering a participatory communications system.

    Some people may object to this recommendation. Surely, they will say, it's quite possible to be an avid mass media consumer--or to work for the media--while still maintaining a critical perspective and also using and promoting alternative media. True enough. Analogously, a factory worker can certainly remain critical of capitalism and promote alternatives.

    My view is not that cutting back mass media consumption is necessary, but that it can be a useful way to change people's consciousness.

    It is similar to animal liberationists reducing their consumption of animal products and environmentalists riding bicycles and composting their organic wastes. Such individual acts cannot by themselves transform the underlying structures of factory farming, industrial society or centralised media: collective action for structural change is needed.

    Nevertheless, changes in individual behaviour serve several important purposes:
    a) they change the perspectives of individuals,
    b) they reinforce concern about the issue and
    c) they provide an example (of consistency) for others.

    Changing media habits can be incredibly difficult.

    Watching the news on television is, for many people, a ritual. For others, reading the daily paper is an essential part of each day. Although Jerry Mander's book Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television has become a classic in alternative circles, no social movement has developed to abolish TV. There are only some small groups, such as the Society for the Elimination of Television, producing a few newsletters.

    One reason may be that--according to one argument--watching television changes one's brain waves, reducing the number of fast waves characteristic of thinking and increasing the number of slow waves characteristic of relaxed states.

    This explains why watching television seems so relaxing: it allows the brain to switch off. It also explains why television is so effective at communicating commercial messages. Images go into the brain without processing; the images cannot be recalled, but they can be recognised, for example in a supermarket. (Source: Fred Emery and Merrelyn Emery, A Choice of Futures: To Enlighten or Inform (Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff, 1976).

    Another reason why switching off the television is so difficult is that it becomes part of the household. It seems voluntary, and it is to some extent.

    Action must begin at home.

    It is easier to oppose "alien" technologies such as nuclear power, which are not part of people's everyday lives. Challenging technologies that are personal possessions, used routinely--such as television and cars--is far more difficult.

    Except for some people who must monitor the media as part of their work, mass media consumption is, from a time management view, quite inefficient. Think back on all the television you watched during the past ten years. How much of it was genuinely necessary to be fully informed, or was even genuinely informative? A similar calculation can be made for reading newspapers.

    But what if the aim is not efficiency but simply enjoying life and occasionally learning something along the way? This brings the discussion back to lack of participation. Most people have been turned into passive consumers of the media. This will not change until some people take the initiative to break the pattern.

  2. Learn how the media construct reality
    If it is essential to consume products of the mass media, a useful antidote is to learn how these media products are created. It is illuminating to spend time with a television film crew or in a newspaper office. It quickly becomes apparent that of the many possible things that could be treated by the media, and of the many possible ways that this could be done, only certain ones actually are chosen.

    It is also useful to gain some experience on the receiving end of media construction of reality, by joining a rally or media conference and seeing how it is reported, or by being interviewed oneself.

    Another way to gain insight into media construction of reality is to undertake a detailed study of some topic, whether it is child rearing, banking, crime or East African politics. This could involve reading books and in-depth articles, investigating alternative viewpoints and consulting with experts and concerned groups. With a good grounding in a range of perspectives and an ability to think confidently about the topic, it is then possible to make an informed assessment of mass media treatments, including biases and omissions.

    It is important to be aware of how the media constructs reality, but that alone does not change the dynamics of the media. Therefore it is valuable to communicate what one learns about media constructions to others............

Friday, December 15, 2006

Terror in Kashmir

This is a must read special report by the brilliant Arundhati Roy in the Guardian today. It illustrates perfectly how the whole state of Kashmir has been shitted on and pissed on by the indian establishment... I post some extracts here:

The world watched with bated breath as the subcontinent was taken to the brink of nuclear war. All this cost India an estimated pounds 1.1bn of public money. About 800 soldiers died in the panicky process of mobilisation alone..........

To see through the prosecution's case against Geelani was relatively easy. He was plucked out of thin air and transplanted into the centre of the "conspiracy" as its kingpin. Afzal was different. He had been extruded through the sewage system of the hell that Kashmir has become. He surfaced through a manhole, covered in shit (and when he emerged, policemen in the Special Cell pissed on him. Literally.) The first thing they made him do was a "media confession" in which he implicated himself completely in the attack. The speed with which this happened made many of us believe that he was indeed guilty as charged. It was only much later that the circumstances under which this "confession" was made were revealed, and even the supreme court was to set it aside, saying that the police had violated legal safeguards.

Afzal describes how, in the months before the attack on parliament, he was tortured in the camps of the STF - with electrodes on his genitals and chillies and petrol in his anus. He talks of how he was a constant victim of extortion. He mentions the name of Deputy Superintendent of Police Devinder Singh, who said he needed him to do a "small job" for him in Delhi. (Singh has subsequently admitted on record to having tortured Afzal in exactly the ways Afzal has described.) Afzal has also said that from the time he was arrested up to the time he was charged (a few months), his younger brother Hilal was held in illegal confinement in a police camp in Kashmir. As ransom...............

Singh has been talking a lot these days. He has done recorded interviews, on the phone as well as face to face, saying exactly the same shocking things. Weeks before the sting operation, in a recorded interview with Parvaiz Bukhari, a freelance journalist, he said, "I did interrogate and torture him [Afzal] at my camp for several days. And we never recorded his arrest in the books anywhere. His description of torture at my camp is true. That was the procedure those days and we did pour petrol in his ass and gave him electric shocks. But I could not break him. He did not reveal anything to me despite our hardest possible interrogation ... He looked like a 'bhondu' [fool] those days, what you call a 'chootya' [idiot] type. And I had a reputation for torture, interrogation and breaking suspects. If anybody came out of my interrogation clean, nobody would ever touch him again. He would be considered clean for good by the whole department."

Singh has a formidable reputation for torture in the Kashmir Valley. On TV, his boasting spiralled into policy-making. "Torture is the only deterrent for terrorism," he said. "I do it for the nation." He did not bother to explain why or how the "bhondu" that he tortured and subsequently released allegedly went on to become the diabolical mastermind of the parliament attack. Singh then said that Afzal was a Jaish militant. If this is true, why was the evidence not placed before the courts? And why on earth was Afzal released? Why was he not watched?...................

Truth, in Kashmir, is probably more dangerous than anything else. The deeper you dig, the worse it gets. At the bottom of the pit are the Special Operations Group and Special Task Force (STF), the most ruthless, indisciplined and dreaded elements of the Indian security apparatus in Kashmir, which play a central role in the Afzal story. Unlike the more formal forces, they operate in a twilight zone where policemen, surrendered militants, renegades and common criminals do business. They prey upon the local population, particularly in rural Kashmir.

Roy raises some important questions about the nature of Indian operations in Kashmir and the way they produce terrorist suspects almost at will. How many incidents are created by the authorities themselves using blackmail and extortion? Afzal's story is not unique. Hundreds of thousands of Muslim Kashmiri families will testify to that. The rape and exploitation of Kashmir has to stop.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Readers indigestion exposes the bomb deniers

Zionazi Ehud Olmert has allegedly made a major gaffe by admitting something that the whole world knew about anyway. Poor Ehud let it slip that Iran was attempting to join the nuclear club that includes Israel. Afterwards Olmert rapidly backtracked saying:
"Israel has said many times - and I also said this to German television in an interview - that we will not be the first country that introduces nuclear weapons to the Middle East," Mr Olmert insisted. He added: "That was our position, that is our position - nothing has changed."
The critics were furious. Having invaded Lebanon and destroyed half the country without removing Hezbollah, he was not exactly popular anyway. This 'gaffe' leads to other zionazis from the righteous state condemning him for 'causing great harm'. Apparently the world did not believe Mordechai Vanunu who exposed the Israeli bomb decades ago and then spent 18 years in the slammer, after being abducted by Mossad.

In a hilariously comic turn of events Olmert's spokesperson, Miri Eisin said this did not mean Israel possessed or wanted to acquire nuclear weapons.
"No, he wasn't saying anything like that."
No. What he [Olmert] meant was the Israel had applied for membership of the club and got it without actually bothering to create a weapon. What a brilliant idea! Give the man a Nobel Prize [even one for peace so he could join other warmongers who have it]. Why go to the expense and the trouble of acquiring and building nuclear bombs, when you could just fill in the membership form and hey presto you have membership of an exclusive club. You are guaranteed that the IEAE inspectors will not visit because the USA has not asked them to. You will also be guaranteed billions of dollars in aid and weapons each year for putting down the natives. Each year the club will send you an automatic renewal notice and take your membership fee by direct debit to save you the trouble caused by forgetting to renew. Best of all each month you get a brand spanking new catalogue direct from Washington filled with the latest in fashion for weaponry and full of vouchers. I hear they have a good deal on bunker-busting mini-nukes this year. Auntie Maureen [Lipman] would love one of those for her birthday. The Russians have launched their own publication too, which is free to all subscribers. Polonium Weekly has been seen at the swankiest restaurants in London and joined the in-flight magazines of several airlines.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Ethnic cleansing now unreported by media

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Post-mortem number 3,000,000,000

650,000 bodies later, the post-mortem on operation Iraqi Oil Release, continues today in the gruniad. Tim Pritchard rehashes the analyses and says that lessons should have been learnt from the key battle of Nasiriya, which took place during the initial invasion. Unfortunate then that he begins by acknowledging joyous spontaneous scenes of Iraqi celebration in tearing down Saddam's statue in Firdos square. This act is well known to have been orchestrated by a US marines psyops unit together with a few dozen Chalabi supporters. I think he rightly argues that the invaders intelligence missed the vital signs about a nascent insurgency that would nucleate and form the basis of the current crisis. That was not the worst of their crimes though.

What he does not write about is the sheer brutality of US forces in their engagement with Iraqi people all over the country. The Iraqi people were not treated as if they were being liberated, but as potential and actual targets who were expendable. They would either serve the occupation or die. Anybody driving near a checkpoint or near jumpy troops, would soon find that out and that included Italian intelligence officers. The problem for any invading army is always that the troops are mostly young and new to battle, rather than veterans. The constant physical and psychological stress takes it's toll, no matter how good the preparation. The racist stereotypes/nicknames propagated by officers such as ragheads, sandniggers and hajjis help to make killing easier for their troops but also serves to dehumanise the population. The bombing of civilian areas, the torture, the rapes, the random killing of military age men, are just the first few in the list of crimes against humanity, committed by the invading occupiers. No need to rake over the filthy tale of Abu Ghraib or other more secret torture camps run by the US intelligence agencies. Brutality and evil oft have good messengers. The message has travelled far and wide. The mask briefly slipped but was gripped by the media and restored. Time along with fading memory restores the facade. After a few scapegoats are punished, the episode is glossed over and relegated to history.

Pritchard finishes by saying that the next move by the occupation 'should be handled with less haste, more care, more sensitivity, and more humility'. Unfortunately when you have finished violently raping your victim, treating her with more sensitivity and covering her up with a nice dress, does not do much to lessen the impact of your crime. The only workable solution is justice for the victims. Reparation for crimes that cannot be undone. The perpetrators need to be seen to be dealt with, for a whole set of heinous war crimes. Appealing to neighbouring countries/witnesses (whom you have already verbally abused), to clear up the mess, will not suffice.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Death of a Community Foretold - Part 2 of 3

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Death of a Community Foretold - Part 1 of 3

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Cracking down on classroom terror

The fastest U-turn in history, seems to have made a few heads spin. The government went from demanding 25% pupils in any faith school be from other faiths or non-faith, to caving in and accepting a voluntary agreement. Catholic schools pointed out that they already take 30% of their pupils from non-catholic families. However, the mutterers in government have confirmed that the real target was not the catholic schools at all. They were actually targetting the eight state-funded muslim schools, rather than the 2000+ catholic schools. This BBC article in true BBC style, does not neglect to mention the London bombings of 7/7 or the alleged controversy cooked by ministers over the non-issue of the veil. The muslim schools are quite open to the idea of non-muslims attending the schools, but with the rest of the community rather reluctant to expose their children to this ‘alien’ [i.e. non-white and non-christian] faith with its strange bearded teachers, things are not going quite to plan. The power of the catholic lobby was strong enough to resist the imposition of actual legislation. Apparently the problem is enforcing the integration of muslim and non-muslim pupils rather than pupils of any faith with pupils from atheist families. Quite where the evidence is, to suggest that muslim pupils are not integrated or that integration is more desirable for them, because they are rather more prone to terrrorism, I am not sure. That is the sort of question, we can trust the BBC to not consider, because of it’s simply not cricket to imply that the basic assumptions are racist and bigoted assumptions. That issue is conveniently and firmly swept under the carpet. In Challinoresque terms, the excess muslimity is deemed a threat to integration and this premise must not be questioned. “Like it or not, faith groups retain a considerable grip on schools” says the Beeb forgetting to mention which faith in particular. Strangely they also forgot to mention Jewish schools at all. But then again they are not prone to the exploding of suicide bombs on school premises, unlike muslim schools. We must ensure somehow that the bearded ones are not giving direct instructions on bomb-making or aircraft hijacking in class, contrary to the national curriculum.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Media lies on Islamic terrorism

An international group of experts has condemned the portrayal of Islamic terrorism in the media, demanding a more accurate and less biased approach. Dr Richard Jackson from the University of Manchester said:

“There's a real concern that the study of terrorism is locked into myths which result in poor policies from Governments. For example, the assumption from many Government and media commentators that Islamic extremism is a cause of terrorism is extremely damaging….It colours people's attitudes towards the Moslem community, even though there is no empirical evidence for any such direct link at all….We want to bring differing perspectives on the study of terrorism to the public so they can be more questioning of what they might hear and see in the media….A full and in-depth public debate about how to respond to the threat of terrorism is desperately needed but extremely difficult in a climate dominated by so many myths and misunderstandings”.

The Pape study from the University of Chicago looked at all suicide bombings from 1980 to 2003. Less than half of the bombers were found to be religious. Many were Tamil Marxists. Of the 41 Hezbollah bombers, only eight were muslims. The biggest group were socialists (27) [that is not a condemnation of socialism on my part, simply a stated fact]. The Sageman study from the FRPI, Philadelphia, showed that jihadists initial involvement had nothing to do with religion.

If truth be told, even academic experts in the field are reluctant to acknowledge the role of the government in promoting Islamaphobia and put it solely down to the media distortion. In actuality, the government ministers pander to and feed the articles published by the media. Pronouncement upon announcement from government ministers as to how the muslim community should behave and police itself, is ample evidence of that. The constant stream of bile from the right wing rags is not surprising but government involvement to promote this bigotry is outrageous. It is scandalous that some of the Muslim ‘business community’ continues to back labour candidates for official labour seats. The war in Iraq caused carnage and is now followed by a campaign of bigotry. Apparently even this is still insufficient criminality, for these parasites who would sell won their mother for a seat or peerage.