Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Workers occupying Appledore Shipyard

And blogging whilst they're at it

Appledore Shipbuilders in North Devon is under threat of closure. Receivers were appointed today. For the last few days, the work force has been occupying the yard in a so-called work-in. These are the lot who were demonstrating at the Labour conference yesterday. (Given that the MOD was apparently considering splitting an order for offshore patrol craft between Vosper Thornycroft in Portsmouth and Appledore - one hopes they may be swayed to make a gesture for party unity..) This is now a featured blog. Good luck.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Admin: Archives

The archives are back.

Data Reveal Inaccuracies in Portrayal of Iraqis

Data Reveal Inaccuracies in Portrayal of Iraqis (washingtonpost.com)

Sorry for the Washpost burst, but I feel I should share with you the fact that 55% of Baghdadis have a good impression of France and only 29% have of the US.

Well, it is the cradle of civilisation.

...But they won't give up

Iraq, 9/11 Still Linked By Cheney (washingtonpost.com)

No, "Dead" Dick Cheney won't admit it - he still keeps talking about mystery meetings between Mohammed Atta and Iraqis in Prague even after the CIA, the FBI and Czech intelligence have admitted they had the wrong man. It's a curious feature of the world, but one we see all the time, that a policy or belief is at its most dangerous and offensive after it has been discredited. Once it was believed. Then experts and radical weirdos began to speak out. Now, the world finally accepts it. But this is when the quasi-religious phase, the phase of absurdity, kicks in: those involved now find it necessary to make regular public declarations of belief and to demand it from others. It may only be a matter of time or procedure before change is achieved, but such things tend to be enforced and proselytised more strongly than ever before in this period. Examples - the Stability and (no) Growth Pact - Romano Prodi thinks it should be called the Stupidity Pact, every reputable economist laughs at it, France and Germany ignore it; but the commissioner responsible still finds it necessary to rant about vast fines. The Iraq Survey Group - there's another. Dead ideas are very bad for you, generally - the Conservatives have never got over the idea of somehow having another, little European Union where Britain would be Top Nation and nobody would have to obey any treaties (but the free trade privileges would still be upheld). Although this has been well dead ever since the Nordics joined the EU, the ghost still walks. People like David Heathcoat-Amory nurse Napoleonic fantasies of an anti-Europe Europe of Britain - wait for it - Sweden and Denmark! as well as...er....some of the new members (who have all committed to membership in the EU and the Euro). And this is why Iain Duncan Smith is going to stand up on a platform at the "Rally for a Referendum" next to an obscure Danish woman whose recent pronouncements include "Muslims have a taste for mass rape" (what - even the women?). Great stuff.

And the Iraq story keeps rotting - Washington Post

Bush Aides Say They'll Cooperate With Probe Into Intelligence Leak (washingtonpost.com)

"Wilson said that in the week after the Novak column appeared, several journalists told him that the White House was trying to call attention to his wife, apparently hoping to undermine his credibility by implying he had received the Niger assignment only because his wife had suggested the mission and recommended him for the job.

"Each of the reporters quoted the White House official as using some variation on, 'The real story isn't the 16 words. The real story is Wilson and his wife,' " Wilson said. "The time frame led me to deduce that the White House was continuing to try to push this story."

Well - it couldn't happen in Britain, could it? Could Joseph Wilson, the former ambassador who debunked the stories about uranium from Niger, be Bush's Dr.K?

What the hell?

Of course there was no strategy to belittle Dr. Kelly

STUFT Stuffed: dodginess of ships chartered for Iraq

Link to report

It is reported that many of the ships chartered by the MoD to transport the Army to Kuwait for the war against Iraq were very dodgy indeed - up to and including the one that was detained by coastguards before it could leave on grounds of safety. This is very un-fantastic news: the military have always used chartered transports, going back beyond the Spanish Armada, and there is a word for it - stuft, or Ships Taken Up From Trade.

For the Falklands, the navy had to mobilise a huge concourse of merchant shipping ranging from the liners Canberra and QE2, vast container ships like the ill-fated Atlantic Conveyor and oil tankers down to trawlers. The P&O ro-ro ferry MV Elk carried so much ammunition that the effect of a direct hit on her in San Carlos would have been "comparable to a nuclear warhead" in the opinion of the amphibious warfare chief of the time, Commodore Michael Clapp. On the way, the civilian sailors of the merchantmen had to work out how to replenish at sea, unload into landing craft and survive under air attack - Conveyor was refuelled south of Ascension Island by the Fleet tanker Tidepool, a ship almost as huge, with the civilian vessel acting as guide. One has to wonder how well - say - MV Johnny, a Greek owned but Maltese flagged vessel detained by the authorities whilst loading for Iraq for a total of 27 safety breaches would have got on. But as usual, the government found nothing at all wrong with hiring a ship on the coastguards' blacklist and even less wrong with breaching its declared policy of opposing more flagging-out. (Did they tell John Prescott?)

RIP Bar Room Philosophy

One of our partner blogs, the first ever to link to the Ranter, this fine institution has ceased to be. Meanwhile, problems continue with our RSS service. The Confined Space feed still won't update, and our own feed returns meaningless error messages.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Edward Said - and how I fell out with WindsOfChange.Net

It is with disappointment that I have to say that one of the first blogs this one linked too, WindsOfChange.net, is now persona non grata. It was an impressively professional outfit, but their recent and deeply unpleasant attack on Edward Said on the occasion of his death warrants the end of blogging relations.

"Columbia professor Edward Said is dead of leukemia, all praise be to Allah. He was 67. I'd commemorate appropriately by going outside to ululate and fire a Kalashnikov in the air" Link

Well - why? From the tone of Joe Katzman's post, the documents referred to, and the various comments, it was clearly because he said the Palestinians had rights. And it's frankly alarming that anyone writing about him could decide that Arabs are basically barbarians - ululating (like Hollywood Indians) and letting off guns - without apparently feeling any sense of discord with respect to his work on Western perceptions of the East. Nothing could back him up better than outrageous rubbish like this, from one of the blogs WOC referred to:

"Patai's point was that the Sandhurst educated Hussein did not understand that Nassar's straight faced though flowery declarations were not statements of fact, but statements of what he would have liked the facts to have been. Hussein actually believed Nasser was telling "the truth". Had Hussein had a "normal" Arab education, he would have understood that Nassar's statements were not something to be acted upon.


After it became too apparent for denial that the Egyptian air force had been destroyed, it became imperative that it should not have been the Israeli defence forces that had inflicted the blow. Nassar and Hussein calmly discussed by telephone, inconveniently tapped by the CIA, how they would blame this on (non-existent) British and American intervention on behalf of the Israelis, a plot Lyndon Johnson branded "the big lie".

Compared to Nassar's inducing King Hussein to put his forces at risk on the basis of assertions that turned out not to be factual, "Comical Ali's" antics were not comical at all, and not so interpreted by those viewing them through the lens of traditional Arab culture and the meaning it gives to assertive declarations.

And when all is said and done, Edward Said, courtesy of the Irish Times, demonstrates for us that these cultural traits survive a transposition to a professorship at Columbia University. He is no doubt in full earnest in declaring his assertions to be logical and truthful.

Whether we would choose to rely on them as facts is another matter."

So - all Arabs are liars. Got that?

And it just gets better. From Mr. Katzman himself:

". But there is a line for me across which I don't feel constrained by social conventions re: the dead - and Said crossed it.

Chomsky is also someone's college professor relative, and you could say the same of Sendero Luminoso's leader Guzman. So "College professor dad" is not by itself an imprimatur of harmlessness or virtue.

Nor is meeting someone and finding them to be nice. Many Jews commented, in all seriousness and after the Holocaust, on the fact that Adolf Eichmann was a "nice guy" in person. It means nothing.

Now, having established those principles there is a big difference within the comparison set. Guzman and Eichmann killed people, or ordered their deaths. Chomsky and Said do not, confining their activities to trying to prevent others from defending themselves. That is still a moral distinction of significance, and should be acknowledged."

Really? An impressive and gracious concession, having found it necessary to compare Said with Eichmann in the first place.

"That said, in terms of their effect on the ground the distinction between being the prime excuse maker, denier, and apologist vs. an active terrorist or agent of genocide is somewhat blurred. The one enables the other, and thereby inherits some of the other's moral taint"

Go! Just go! No more!

Thursday, September 25, 2003

No weapons of mass destruction; war all a mistake!

So, the Iraq Survey Group's report says they have found nothing at all in Iraq. What a shocker! This body was, of course, the super-super wondersquad far beter than any wimpy eurosexual surrender-monkey UN inspectors who would tear aside the veil of excuses and deceit and....something like that anyway. And they appear to agree with Hans Blix's conclusions - Iraq certainly showed an interest in WMD, and had possessed them in the past, but had no actual arms. It's worth pointing out just how crushing the leak is - it's not just the headline, 45 mins to doomsday, stockpiles of smallpox-sarin-and-just-maybe-nukes stuff that they say is rubbish. It's the whole lot - the 3,000 tonnes of precursor chemicals? Er...no. The plan to make a Czech L29 jet trainer into a germ spraying drone? Not a sausage. (And anyway, that was always dodgy - surely, a fast jet of unknown provenance would be detected if aimed at a city? And if it was used on the battlefield, such a craft would be very vulnerable to ground fire, being unable to manoeuvre.)

Before the government cranks up its bullshit machine, let's consider the excuses they are likely to use. Firstly, they will likely say that the leak is from "only an interim report". True, but most of the ISG has now left Iraq. Elvis has left the building and there won't be any more music. The only differences between this one and the final version will come from editing. Far be it from me to suggest that it will be sexed up. Secondly, there's that wonderful crack about "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence". It's not logically possible to prove absence. How do you prove there is no elephant next to you? The ISG weren't sent to find absence, they were sent to find weapons. What is much more important is the utter lack of any evidence of presence. Thirdly, and Jack Straw has already begun this, they will claim that old UN reports "prove" there were weapons. The absurdity of this after all the belittling of UNMOVIC is clear. And this is like believing there is a dog in your garden because the government told you - after searching the garden and finding no dog, not even a dog turd or dog pawprints. The last option will be to claim that the ISG report means the opposite of what it says. This has already begun. The ISG have apparently found documents concerning weapons. This is not good enough! Iraq used to have chemical arms,and tried to make biological and nuclear ones. It is vanishingly, piss-antly obvious, dull, and insignificant that their archives contain papers on this. Equally pathetic is the line that Iraq "could have made" the weapons. So could we. So could Canada or Switzerland or Japan or Brazil - in fact any country with a decent university science faculty and a fair-ish industrial base.

There they are. Don't swallow them. Demonstrate on Saturday in Hyde Park.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Ukrainian invasion of Dumfries & Galloway

BBC NEWS Scotland | Ukrainian marines stop drivers

How amusing....

Admin: Archives down

For your information, the archives have gone missing. I will sort this at the first opportunity. Sorry.

Amusing Hutton facts and Op. IRAQI FREEDOM II

So - the smoking gun is here. It would appear that Jonathan Powell, the No.10 chief of staff, sent an email asking for a statement that Saddam Hussein would only use gas if his regime was under threat to be taken out of the dossier because "it backs up the argument that there is no threat and we will only create one if we attack him". To sum up, so far the inquiry has clearly proven that:

a) the dossier was altered to make it more propagandistically useful

b) Kelly did know about it and had seen both versions

c) senior members of the defence intelligence staff were angry about the stuff put in the dossier

d) Alastair Campbell was involved in the process and asked for anything else that would strengthen the dossier to be sent up

e)that No.10 Downing Street was behind this strengthening

Or to put it slightly differently - "the dossier was transformed by No.10 Downing Street to make it more sexy..." So what's left to argue about? All I'll say is this: remember to turn out for Operation IRAQI FREEDOM II, the national demonstration in London this Saturday. We were right all along.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

How the ISC caught Straw and didn't realise

In the Intelligence and Security Committee's otherwise weak and scared report tho other day, there was a minor gem of truth. In the past on this blog, I made the point that the Hutton Inquiry had demonstrated that Jack Straw's excuse to the Foreign Affairs Committee was dishonest. Straw, you might dimly recall, made the lawyerish argument that "deployed" only meant "made available to units" and that the 45 minutes claim was "unremarkable" because "an order to use them would not be given unless they were available". The Hutton papers, however, made it clear that they did indeed mean "fired". And the ISC details state that specifically "some weapons could be fired within 20-45 minutes of an order to do so". So Jack Straw was lying to the FAC. But no-one appears to have noticed. Sadly the performance of both committees suggests that neither group would have been particularly willing to catch a minister fibbing.

Concerning the Home Office (again)

It strikes me, with reference to the ID issue, that this proposal keeps coming back for reasons of bureaucratic ecology. The Home Office's business is control, and any new function or technology or policy that adds to the size and expense of the control business will be loved there - organisations seek first of all their own expansion, as Mr. Parkinson put it.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Liverpool - Car bomb in city centre

Liverpool - Car bomb in city centre

Stereotypes are stereotypes, but this is going too far!

YOUR PAPERS PLEASE! and how the Home Office's mind works

So - it's almost here. David Blunkett is apparently pressing to get a Bill creating national identity cards in the Queen's Speech. And - after all the babble about "entitlement cards" that wouldn't be called ID cards so as to be more cuddly, voluntary schemes and the like - he wants them to be compulsory, universal and requestable by the police. (What was less unpleasant about a card whose sole purpose was to show that you weren't an Evil Bogus Foreigner and therefore could be treated in hospital without offence to the Mail, anyway?) According to today's Guardian, the cards would not be "compulsory in the sense that you would have to carry them in the street" but you could be ordered to produce one. Which makes so much sense.

But why this grey and grim insistence on IDs? One thing about this issue that may please Mr. B is that it never seems to go away - I can barely remember a time when the government wasn't mulling over the idea. Perhaps he is hoping that everyone will be so tired and bored that we won't notice. Howard, Straw, Blunkett - all the last three home secretaries went over the issue of identity cards at tiresome length. This is a common feature of the Home Office, though - it does not invent new policies, it only recycles. The same things come up over and over again. Cutting state support for refugees who haven't registered as soon as a bureaucrat thinks was possible? Yeah, been there before. Watered-down ID cards? Many times. Real ID cards? Yadda, yadda, yadda. "Britishness"? "Citizenship"? Remember John Patten and Michael Howard and their touching belief that more Union Jacks in schools would keep the little buggers from going criminal? My law-enforcement expert (or to be clearer, my dad) is of the view that the only Home Secretary to do anything original with the police since Robert Peel was Roy Jenkins (more cars, personal radios, the beginning of computerisation, breath tests and speed traps). This is not new and not good. After all, let's have a look at why Blunkett wants to number us. His most recent statements on this were on a TV show yesterday - ain't parliamentary democracy great? - when he was asked how many illegal immigrants were in Britain. This is obviously a question with no answer - how do you count people who by definition avoid being counted?
But Blunkers, having conceded this, went on to deliver a paean to identity cards. Apparently he wants to "regain trust on asylum and immigration, and one of those trusts is knowing who is here". One of those trusts? Eh?

Apart from moaning about the English, note that it's not supposed to be about driving refugees away - but about regaining trust. Making the public think that the Home Office is in control - that is to say, doing something in order to be seen doing something. Great. And what a noble cause. Not attempting to convict criminals or detect terrorists, but denying refugees food money more efficiently. For this high goal, we are all to be charged £40 a shot (and you can bet your eyes that this stealth-tax opportunity will not go unnoticed at the Treasury) and individually numbered. What opportunities this will give to the police racists' club. Where once you had to find an excuse to stop and search a black person, now all you need do to amuse yourself on a long shift is to ask a few for their papers (please). This is worrying, and for wider reasons too. Rather like Blair's old back-of-a-napkin job concerning on the spot fines, it will be a breach of the best British policing traditions, an opportunity for corruption, and another move away from investigative policing by consent towards national-security policing of a population assumed hostile.

Mind you, though - one thing it will be is yet another addition to Blair's stack of toxic policies. If it's "suicide to retreat" from foundation hospitals (which both the people who understand them dislike and everyone else hates), tuition fees/top-up fees (which everyone hates), the occupation of Iraq (do you see a pattern emerging?) - then surely this is another suicide project far too vital to abandon! Straight against the wind, right into the seas, heading dead straight for the rocks. Nelson could turn a blind eye - but only because he was right. This lot look more and more like Sir Clowdesley Shovell, who ran his whole fleet onto the Isles of Scilly and got murdered by the locals.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

So who's up for the invasion of Saudi Arabia then?

Which oil-rich Middle Eastern country supported Osama bin Laden?

Which oil-rich Middle Eastern country is run by an alliance of Wahhabi fundamentalists and corrupt princelings?

Which oil-rich Middle Eastern country recently locked up a number of British citizens for no reason at all, subjected them to beatings and sleep deprivation, forced them to make video statements later re-edited to give the police's desired story and shown on national television?Link

Which oil-rich Middle Eastern country is apparently mulling over the acquisition of nuclear weapons? link

Well, none of those questions have the answer "Iraq". The relations between Britain (especially) and Saudi Arabia are something like a satirical exaggeration of those between the West and Arabs generally. Here we see the Western powers propping up the oppressive rule of an utterly anti-democratic elite, in a country afloat on oil but reliant on an underclass of immigrant workers with no rights and a weird gilded-cage world of foreign professionals. Consider the vast Al-Yamamah contract with BAE Systems - or the guns-for-oil deal, as we may call it. (Part of the contract is paid for in oil - hence the value of the deal varies with the oil price.) BAE supply aeroplanes, tanks, spare parts, maintenance and pilot training. Saudi Arabia pays in *oil*. What could put it better?

Except, perhaps, for the recent revelations about BAe's alleged use of money from the Al-Yamamah deal to lavish luxuries upon Saudi dignitaries. Here we see the accident prone arms giant buying properties, whores, yachts, vast restaurant bills and God knows what else for a range of princes - and charging the lot to the Saudi state. Wonderful. It was hardly surprising that the people responsible for this beauty managed to divert quite a lot of cash their way, too. Link

One has to wonder how far all this really supports the interests either of Britain or of Saudi Arabia, as opposed to individual Britons and individual members of the house of Sa'ud. If Saudi goes ahead and - as suspected - attempts to buy nuclear bombs from Pakistan, a horrible precedent will have been set. The deterrent factor of having to build up a considerable industry in order to enrich your own uranium or produce your own plutonium, design and engineer the weapon, support the industry that makes the nuclear machinery etc, will be gone, as will the provision in the Non-Proliferation Treaty forbidding the sale or transfer of nuclear weapons from nuclear powers to non-nuclear states. And we will be living in a world where the means for instant genocide are for sale.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

The BNP and the glam that goes with it

The Guardian reports on recent successes by Britain's favourite mob of semiliterate fascists, the British National Party. Apparently, one BNP councillor had to be "taught what it meant to abstain" at a council meeting last week. Amusing, but there is no place for blatant smuggery when a wannabe politician like the BNP's John West can claim that "refugees tried to sell me a lot of gold and then tried to rob me" - and be believed. The reason for the successes of the thug party is the same, in effect, as the reason the Swedes won't be euro-ing for a while. General disbelief of anything "the government" or "politicians" say combined, paradoxically, with a weird trust in whatever extremists and mob-press editors say. Of course, the Heathrow security alert was nothing but spin! But - the Sun says asylum seekers are eating swans, so that must be true. (Incidentally, did their "police source" ever discover any evidence? Wasn't that a single source, Ms Wade? Or did your man make it up out of whole cloth?)

Speaking of single sources, Sir Richard Dearlove's appearance at the Hutton Inquiry - or non-appearance, as he was present only in voice - produced the weird conclusion that it's quite alright for MI6 to believe the hearsay report of a single secret source and give it to the JIC, and put it in a dossier, and on the front page of the Evening Standard. But it's unprofessional, evil, mendacious and (if you remember Conrad the Canadian's letter to his own paper) the most serious threat to the state currently in existence for the BBC to report the concerns of a named single source who they had heard from many times in the past.

This is exactly it - the government has withdrawn into its own mental world, which the public sanely recognise as a compendium of nonsense - but they don't extend this sane scepticism to the mental world of people like John West or Richard Littlejohn with their demon refugees and evil gays and public services that improve if you cut their budgets. God knows why.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Times Online - TA in Iraq

Times Online

Interesting report..

Italians at it now!

BB link

So the habit of shooting Iraqi policemen is spreading!

"There has been one death here over the past week - there was a demonstration at the stadium where the Italians are overseeing te payment of stipends (regular money) to the ex-Iraqi Army. The system was bollocks, people complained, stones were thrown, the Iraqi police fired warning shots, Eyeties though they were under attack, and promptly shot one of their own interpreters who was negotiating with the mob. Way to go, Spics. Strangelyt enough, our interpreters aren't happy with the Italians"

Civil defence should be citizens' defence

Preparation for massive terrorist attack has been a major theme of life since September, 2001, and one that governments have been tackling in various ways. The US, of course, has already built a gigantic new bureaucracy for this task (the department of homeland security, and its military twin the US Northern Command). In the UK, things have been rather less visible or expensive - some would say rather less significant. But who would really ask for the dramatic and politically tainted scares that the DHS has repeatedly unleashed? Are the Americans getting value for money? And are we doing the right things?

Some forms of preparation are already noticeable - the recent disaster-response exercise at Bank station, with its uncannily fearsome turquoise chemical suits, the presence of those red Diplomatic Protection Squad cars on the streets in London, procurement of decontamination gear - but much else is invisible by nature. We have no way of knowing how well training, planning, and organising are coming on. And these things will be even more important than chemical suits (turquoise or otherwise) if "Der Tag" comes. One feature which does not augur well is the apparent lack of involvement by anyone outside officialdom. The efforts of volunteers will in all probability be crucial, as will the degree of trust displayed in official instructions, information and action and the degree to which the people resist panic. But the look of current policy is of Government Spokesmen announcing bible truth over multiple radio broadcasts and policemen herding crowds of taxpayers around. Is this going to foster the recovery of social cohesion that we will need to survive? When nobody at all believes a word the government say - will people even comply?
Will official agencies alone be able to provide the skills and manpower needed on the day?

The history of this issue, through the menacing years of the 20th century, shows that we have relied extensively in the past on citizens' organisations to cope with war against civilians. Perhaps the classic example was the Royal Observer Corps, raised in the 1930s as an organisation of citizen volunteers who prepared to provide an aircraft reporting service in the event of war. At the time there was no radar coverage overland, and enemy aircraft could only be tracked beyond the coast visually. The ROC posts set up all over the country were able by the Battle of Britain to give rapid and accurate reports of the type, number, course, speed, position and estimated altitude of suspect aircraft to the air-defence command. It took Germany until 1944 to get anything like it. By the 50s, this role was becoming obsolete, and a new problem had emerged - coping with nuclear attack. The observers re-trained to monitor nuclear events, reporting strikes and fallout to the UK Warning and Monitoring Organisation from small bunkers set up on the old aircraft post sites. It was probably the best system devised for this task anywhere, and it lasted until 1992, when the government decided that with the end of the cold war the ROC was no longer needed and ordered the volunteers to "Stand Down". Doubtless the network of volunteer teams, with their excellent communications system and local knowledge, would have been very useful after a nuclear attack as well. There was also, up to the late 60s, a volunteer civil defence corps, although hardly as well-developed. Could something similar be created now? It is also necessary to think more about the role of the volunteer reserve forces - specifically, but not exclusively the Territorial Army. Plans have already been made to organise part of it in several civil contingencies reaction forces (CCRFs), but could more be done? I've also heard nothing of the arrangements for public information - but you can guess that, the way things are going, it'll be bureaucratic, slightly oppressive, and unhelpful. The nature of a mass terrorist attack is that it will not be amenable to prior planning in the sense of exactly pre-scripted instructions. In fact, too much planning in that sense could be the way to failure. What will make the difference will be decision making, and this is why we need preparation and not planning: selecting the right people, practising the skills and habits of thought, studying the problem, organising for success with decisions devolved to the key people at the scene of the crime. And that is also why the involvement of ordinary people is needed.

At the moment, we are in the position of being talked at by government, being treated as subjects not citizens.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Admin: New Ranter Features

You will no doubt have noticed the Ranter Coverage RSS feeds on the sidebar on your right. I've also just transferred those Blogs of Distinction that have RSS/XML capability to the Coverage section, so we now get their latest stuff. BeirutCalling, however, isn't RSS equipped, so you'll just have to click on the link. Isn't life hard.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Billy Hayes - the weblog

Billy Hayes - the weblog

We are proud to link to Communication Workers' Union leader Billy Hayes's blog. Better yet, you'll notice that it's been added to the news feed under Ranter Coverage.

USS Clueless: A clinical analysis of warblogging

USS Clueless
Well, here we are, at one of Blogstreet's "most influential blogs". It's a routine truth that this usually means a propaganda slot for Bush, but we may as well pay some attention to the 'tothersiders for a while.

1. We may note that they share an obsession with Yasser Arafat as the root of all evil. "In response, Condi Rice said that "no good would be served" by forcing Arafat into exile. I don't agree. I think that a lot would be gained, both in the short term and in the long run. Having him be dead would be even better, but it isn't politically possible for Israel to send troops in to take Arafat away, for a private execution." Well...what do you say to that, except to note with fear that the "politically possible" rarely restrains Ariel Sharon from doing anything vicious and counter-productive.

""President" Arafat was "elected" in a process which was far from honest, and in any case his election was seven years ago. If he were actually anything like a leader of a democracy, he'd have submitted himself to new elections long since. He's promised to do so a couple of times, but there always ended up being some reason or other why the elections had to be cancelled. Usually he found some way to blame the Israelis"

"President" Bush was "elected" in a process that was far from honest. And in any case, why the hell should the Palestinians be told what term limits should apply in their constitution? France seemed to manage with a 7-year presidential term, but let that pass. Exactly how elections under curfew and internal closure could happen is vague. That's an excuse of course.

"He offered the Palestinians an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza, but before that could happen, he insisted on fundamental reform. Part of that was a refusal thereafter to deal with Arafat or with anyone viewed as being a direct representative of Arafat."

This is technically known as spreading democracy, of course. But the whole style of this posting reveals a central point of the Middle Eastern war - neither side are capable of insight. The Israelis constantly bang on about "corruption" in the PA, as if the internal financial arrangements of that body were any of their business, and now the Americans have picked up on this too. (Note the remark that the Palestinians must "institute something akin to honest government".) It's so reminiscent of a violent marriage - the wife beater's eternal moan of "Why do you make me do this?" Equally, the Palestinian leadership are terribly good at saying - Who, me? Terrorists? Never! Neither side are at all capable of perceiving their own responsibility. This lack of insight is visible here, too.

"Thus the point of the Road Map was that only Palestinian accomplishments would be rewarded, and they had to deliver first"

Indeed, and this is why it failed. The Palestinians were ordered to risk civil war in exchange for vague promises of change. Israel did not remove the checkpoints, end the economic blockade or cease work on the wall - but the bombings did stop until Israel initiated another round of warfare. If you are serious about making a deal, you pay cash. But the sentence quoted is considered in a positive light here. Finally, let us examine another quote:

"What this is about is changing the Palestinians themselves"

Or as Bertholt Brecht put it, after the brutal repression of the East German workers in June, 1953 - "Would it not be better if the government dissolved the people - and elected another?"

The RSS feed will be added to Ranter Coverage for purposes of further monitoring....

But mind you....

They've appeared on my new RSS feed (NEW TOY!). Thanks to Blogstreet.com

Arse awful Blogger performance

So, almost exactly 24 hours after I posted the last three items to this blog - Blogger still hasn't motivated itself to publish them. Push-button publishing, my arse.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Campbell, Tony Blair, and the Rolling Stones

Alistair Campbell's resignation last week was universally considered a key moment in British politics. The reason why, was this: he provided a number of personality traits that Tony Blair never had and never will have, with the advantage that being an appointee rather than a civil servant or minister, he could be disposed of more easily. If there is one thing that Blair will never be described as, it is macho. I wasn't at all surprised to read on the day after Ali C's departure that Blair's nickname at school was Emily. In fact, I was reduced to embarrassing fits of laughter, but I wasn't at all surprised. All that pastels-and-church-and-babies-and-I'm such a nice and caring guy y'know kitsch. All the grinning. The attraction was clear - Blair to do the direct appeal, pressing the flesh, gurning on tv, Campbell to browbeat the crumpled suit hacks. He would provide the mach, but there is more to this than political tactics. Tony Blair is a very specific type of middle-class Englishman. The type I mean pops up frequently in the culture; educated, liberal, rather apologetic about their nice middle-classness because the fear it somehow detracts from their masculinity. Martin Amis's books are laden with them (in fact, he is another dead fit for this label) - the impotent writer in The Information, John Self's various targets in Money, very probably the bloke with a funny name in the new one. And the story about shitting in your flares in Experience. Is this why literary people (a hotbed of the breed) have such tiresome rows?

A basic feature of this condition in severe cases is the need for reinvention - searching your background for grit, taking up aggressive sports, leaving the country - anything to claim a spot of the mach. And one of the classics of this is rock and roll. British bands have always been littered with them ever since the Rolling Stones - Mick Jagger of LSE is their God - especially because rock tradition permits a certain degree of mystery about your past to be maintained. Blair fits the profile beautifully, from the story about watching Jackie Milburn playing for Newcastle and the one about running away to Jamaica (or perhaps only Heathrow) via being called Emily at Fettes College to working in a bar in Paris and - what else? - forming a band. Called Ugly Rumours - note the striving for dirt in the name. Another characteristic is a need for approval from the kind of men they think they want to be, which shows in Blair's attachment both to Ali C and to the various intelligence spooks who now form the inner circle.

Stafford Beer

A sample of Professor Beer
Having read Andy Beckett's article about Chile yesterday, I thought I'd look up the British cyberneticist, management expert and Marxist on the net. Here is one of his papers, World in Torment.

US Reservists to serve longer in Iraq

Reserve Tours Are Extended (washingtonpost.com) The Washington Post reports that US Army reservists and National Guardsmen in Iraq will have their mobilisation extended to a year. Well, it's one way of filling up those gaps. Meanwhile in Ukland, the British force is to be reinforced. 1 Royal Green Jackets and 2 Light Infantry to go out asap. (2LI had got off the mark before Geoff Hoon even stood up in the house yesterday, deploying one of their companies the night before.) No surprises in the selection, as the Jackets are the army spearhead unit at the moment and the Light Infantry are the duty battalion in Cyprus. But what does this mean for the future level of British forces?

After all, reserve call-outs are soon to begin for Operation Telic 3, the next rotation of British troops in Iraq. This is planned to take the 20th Armoured Brigade out there to take over in December. As with the 19th Mechanised Bde, the current force in Basra, they will need about 1,900 Territorials, relieving most of the 2,600 weekend warriors there at the moment. Hoon said that the reinforcements were going until November in the first instance - but it hardly seems plausible that things will have improved that much by then. Overstretch would be bad enough just swapping the 20th for the 19th, but if they have to find two more infantry battalions...the same sort of headline could be coming here soon. Operation Telic - the invasion of Iraq - was said to stand for Tell Everyone Leave Is Cancelled, and before that it was supposedly Op. Deny Christmas. So that'll be Op. Deny Christmas II then?

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

This is hilarious...

Alleged Army LSD test video

Sorry no updates lately..I've been working...promise to do better...

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