Friday, October 31, 2008

Blairwatch Exclusive: Why the Economist backed Barack

Quarsan has the Economist's David Rennie on MP3 explaining the Economist's endoresemt of Obama, followed by Gerald Loftus, Democrat Abroad with campaign insights and what Obama will do in office, if elected.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Well, here it is: the Obama 30 min ad

I'll review it, and update response to it when I've watched it.

update: rippling corn, long roads, anxious yet smiling faces in crowds, flags waving, kids, parents...woman who can't afford healthcare...and the ad keeps stopping. Argh.

Obama in suit, making speech at DNC, talking about waitresses dependent on tips who need to take day off to care for sick child... cut to him in West Wing-looking study.

'Country in trouble, one month ago bottom fell out, worst economic crisis since Depression, final verdict on 8 years of failed policies...the financial rescue plan was 'a step in right direction' and as President I'll ensure you, the tax payers are paid back first...but we need a rescue plan for middle class families..right now...cut taxes for every working family earning less than $200k a year ( so we've dropped $50k and now it's families, not individuals - RN)

...businesses get tax credits for new employees taken on right here in the US...drop tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas...freezing foreclosures for home owners making 'good faith' efforts for 90 days ( this is all very politician-ish/lawyerly, I can sniff the loop holes now but fair enough as January 20th is a while away and God knows what'll happen in the next few months...planning the budget right now is impossible - RN)...low cost loans for small businesses...( 'just like after 9/11') keeps economy going..restores fairness...fulfils commitment to US people.

Pensioner, in an audience of seniors, says to Obama 'Help me'. Explains he is getting $379 a month, his pension should be $1500 a month. 'You earned your pension...that wasn't a gift. You gave up money from your wages, to set aside for your retirement' says Obama. He says 'time and time again we see companies who owe their workers...shedding those obligations, and when you make a commitment, to workers...those aren't idle promises...those are promises that should have the force of law.'

'Thank you' says the pensioner, with dignity. It's poignant.

Obama to camera. Americans don't expect Government to solve problems. Not looking for a handout. ( See! Not a socialist indulging parasitical layabouts with your hard-earned cash, voters! - RN). He shakes hands with workers in hard hats, says they should be able to retire with some dignity and respect.

Ted Strickland, Ohio Gov. says Obama is going to be 'a Democrat in the Presidency who actually cuts taxes' for those who need it, struggling families. Reiterates point about 'holding accountable' companies who 'take advantage of tax breaks' by sending jobs offshore. Governor of Kansas talks about 'common-sense, mid-western way' of getting things done and talks of Obama's Kansas roots. (Boy, are they ever pressing every button - this is extremely well done - RN). Massachusetts Governor talks about 'big challenges...we need big thinking' as Obama walks down a corridor, into an outdoor rally'. 'A problem solver who thinks big, a once in a generation kind of leadership' explains the Gov. Blimey.

It keeps crashing, so I'm giving up, will try again tomorrow.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

This Obama 30 min primetime informercial.... really worrying me. ( See HuffPo for latest details, or ABC Newsblog)It's total overkill. For starters, it's delaying ball game coverage for half an hour, which is going to really irritate sports fans on principle, Obama fans or not. I can just see it playing in sports bars, and fans jeeringly chucking peanuts at the screen ( and Fox gleefully filming it all). It cost millions, when money is tight for everyone and the economy is in freefall. It feeds into Obama's opponent's mocking narrative of 'The One', the vainglorious, spooky cult leader, who has the media in the palm of his hand. It looks grandiose, and however marvellous the content, it is hard to override the negative message that the audacious act of taking over most of the major channels simultaneously sends out.

When you have closed the deal and are in the lead, you shut up and stop selling.

I remember how this used to happen with brand managers when I worked on ad campaigns; they would get overexcited and make the mistake of thinking everyone is as into their product as they were and wanted endless nth degree detail, but the truth is, the consumer isn't, and only gets suspicious and irritated if you over-evangelise.

The converted don't need this, the curious already know how to find out about Obama, the racists and wingnuts who think he's the antichrist will only hate him even more, the committed GOP-pers will vote GOP as they always do, and the rest, the floaters, the independents, rightist by inclination but currently furious with Bush and anxious about their jobs and futures, just need to sidle towards the normally-riskier but just-now seemingly safer bet, lips tightened, fingers crossed - without fanfare and drama.

They are not going to vote joyfully, feeling part of a Change revolution. They are making what used to be called a 'distress purchase', considering the 'least worst option'. Of all the voters, these are the ones who are likely to be most sensitive to anxieties about Obama's Otherness - and any character flaws like perceived arrogance or elitism. They want to be reassured, vote and get it over with, hoping for some better news as a reward for what they still think of as a scary jump into the unknown.

I can understand what may have been the original thinking behind the media purchase of 30 minutes multi-network prime time; give these people 30 minutes cosy TV time with Obama and they will see that he's normal, understands them, has a good economic plan, reaches out to People Like Them...

But this staggering ad buy is just too much. It's far too easy to stoke unease by portraying Obama as some arrogant show-off who's already measuring the Oval Offfice drapes, who is hubristically fascinated by his own message and assumes everyone else is too. This is unfair, as Obama is the least narcissistic politician I have seen in years, but that won't stop the chronically narcissistic McCain and Palin, who can't understand him as he is so unlike them, throwing all their jealous, angry scorn at him. Projection, the GOP's story of this election.

Primetime TV is a 'push' medium: the consumer sits on his sofa and passively recieves it, expecting to be entertained. The internet is a 'pull' medium: people choose to log on and actively search out stuff, pulling information towards themselves. Party political broadcasts are always a turn off, however slick, however sympathetic, however much they flatter and cajole their intended audiences.

Nobody likes to be pushed too hard: half an hour of some politician guy advertising himself - in person or via testimonials from celebs, worthies and ordinary Joes - is not what people really tend to tune in for on a Wednesday night - and I think this is going to backfire badly.

Gah. I hope I'm wrong and this isn't the worst own goal ever.


If I were President...

The American Civil Liberties Union has released a document today called Actions For Restoring America. It is a set of detailed recommendations on steps that the new president should take to 'clean house,' renew freedom, and restore the nation's reputation, actions that the executive branch could take on its own.

''On Day One, the next president should, by executive order, direct all agencies to prohibit the use of torture and abuse; direct the new Attorney General to appoint an outside special counsel to investigate, and, if warranted, prosecute any violations of federal criminal laws; close down Guantánamo and either charge and try detainees in criminal or traditional military courts or transfer them to countries where they won't be tortured; and end the practice of extraordinary rendition.
"In his first 100 days, the president should take actions, as detailed in the ACLU document, to end illegal spying and surveillance, to protect Americans from privacy violations and discrimination, to end the federal death penalty, and to increase government transparency."

Inspiring stuff, and as far as I could see, actually do-able.

I would limit all campaign donations to $10,000 and reform the lobbyist system; whilst reforming it I would make those funded by lobbyists wear boiler suits with the brand names of their sponsors sewn on as patches like F1 drivers.

I'd repeal Bush's tax cuts, and repeal immunity for US oil companies in Iraq. Throw myself into providing universal healthcare and call an urgent environmental summit, whilst signing Kyoto as a first step. Tax breaks for car-sharing, invest in public transport, allow stem cell research and sign up to the International Criminal Court.

And take Bush and Cheney's passports away whilst a criminal investigation was launched.

I'm still learning about the finer points of US politics. There's lots I don't know enough about it but I've loved learning as much as I can during this long election process.

What would you do if you were President?


Monday, October 27, 2008

October surprise: attack Syria?

If it is supposed to be 'a message', it is rather hard to work out what the message is supposed to be. A parting shot by the White House, toys, prams, and so on? Juan Cole, who I always rush to look at when something like this happens thinks it might be to prevent an Al Qaeda in Iraq assasination or bombing 'spectacular' that would hurt McCain and help Obama, ( me: did they think they'd got a chance of hitting al-Masri or someone like him?) and also that the US administration has for the first time pledged to help Iraqui refugees - most of whom have fled to Syria - but the administration wanted that 'kept off the front pages this fall'. He also says that every single thing they are doing in the White House, from raiding Pakistan to sending special forces helicopters over the border into Syria is 'intended in some way to help the Republican party in the elections' The BBC think it's suspicious timing as well. I wonder if Admiral Mike Mullen's recent high-speed tour round world military officials had anything to do with it? Syria have called it a 'terrorist act' and an 'act of aggression' but I think - I hope - that they are too wily to overreact when the Bush administration is in its last days and so much effort is going on to get Damascus to the negotiating table.

I can't see how it can derail what is looking like an increasingly sewn-up election, in terms of headline-grabbing, or deflect from the economic woes, though I continue to worry about dirty-trick vote suppression. I continue to worry about lots of things, to be fair; I have never been as emotionally invested in any election, in any country, in my entire life. 'I can't wait til all this is over.

Fellow-election nerds, how are you bearing up?


Troy Davis has had a last-minute execution reprieve. His attourneys have 15 days to prove they can meet stringent requirements to continue his appeal process.

The US Election may yet be stolen by the Republicans with vote-suppression tactics. It is starting to make US mainstream media with CNN covering instances of voting problems.

I have now been ill for eight days and am sick to death of it.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

McCain vs. Obama - DANCE OFF

wassup? 2008


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Reasons why McCain should have picked Paris Hilton

She's smarter.
She's prettier.
She's a highly-effective businesswoman.
She already has clothes.


URGENT: Worldwide day of action for Troy Davies

Have you got 5 minutes to try to stop a death row execution? If so, thank you and please read on.

Troy Davis is scheduled to be executed in Georgia at 7pm local time on 27 October. He has been on death row for 17 years for a murder he maintains he did not commit.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles has already rejected clemency for Troy Davis, and has indicated that it will not reconsider its decision. It has sole authority to grant executive clemency in Georgia capital cases.

Click here and scroll to the bottom to send an email asking for clemency

Troy Davis was convicted in 1991 of the murder of 27-year-old Officer Mark Allen MacPhail, white, who was shot and killed in the car park of a Burger King restaurant in Savannah, Georgia, in the early hours of 19 August 1989. Davis was also convicted of assaulting Larry Young, a homeless man, who was accosted immediately before Officer MacPhail was shot.

At the trial, Troy Davis admitted that he had been at the scene of the shooting, but claimed that he had neither assaulted Larry Young nor shot Officer MacPhail. There was no physical evidence against Troy Davis and the weapon used in the crime was never found. The case against him consisted entirely of witness testimony. In affidavits signed over the years since the trial, a majority of the state’s witnesses have recanted or contradicted their testimony. In addition, there is post-trial testimony implicating another man, Sylvester Coles, as the gunman.

In March 2008, the Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, joined by two other Justices on the Court, wrote that,:
"In this case, nearly every witness who identified Davis as the shooter at trial has now disclaimed his or her ability to do so reliably. Three persons have stated that Sylvester Coles confessed to being the shooter. Two witnesses have stated that Sylvester Coles, contrary to his trial testimony, possessed a handgun immediately after the murder. Another witness has provided a description of the crimes that might indicate that Sylvester Coles was the shooter."

The Chief Justice wrote that, "the collective effect of all of Davis's new testimony, if it were to be found credible by the trial court in a hearing, would show the probability that a new jury would find reasonable doubt of Davis's guilt or a least sufficient residual doubt to decline to impose the death penalty".

When it had stayed the execution on 16 July 2007, the Board stated that,
"the members of the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles will not allow an execution to proceed unless and until its members are convinced that there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused". Find out more about this stay

This would suggest that at least a majority of its members have now been persuaded of Troy Davis's guilt. Amnesty International believes that in the interests of transparency and public confidence in the justice system, the Board should reveal how it came to its conclusion.
Prior to the decision, the chairman of the State Bar of Georgia's indigent defence committee was quoted as saying that:

"It is important to the public's confidence in Georgia's criminal justice system that no person's life is taken by the state except in circumstances where their constitutional rights to a fair trial have been fully respected. With so many witnesses recanting their testimony, there just seems to be too many doubts to move forward with this execution."

After the Board's decision, Troy Davis's lawyer said that an emergency motion for a stay of execution would be filed with the US Supreme Court. He said, "the hardest thing I've ever had to do was to tell Troy we're denied" by the Board.

The head of the Georgia-based Southern Center for Human Rights, Stephen B. Bright, a law professor at Yale University, called the Board's decision "shocking". He said that "For somebody to be executed, we really should be sure beyond doubt that the person is guilty." International standards prohibit the execution of anyone whose guilt is in doubt.

Amnesty International opposes Troy Davis's execution unconditionally, regardless of questions of guilt or innocence, as it does all use of the death penalty.

For a full report on this case, see USA: ‘Where is the justice for me?’ The case of Troy Davis, facing execution in Georgia, February 2007
Find about Amnesty's campaign to stop the use of the death penalty

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hurray for Sir Ken and Dame Stella

'We must not degrade our liberties in the name of defending them' writes the outgoing Director of Public Prosecutions, decrying the giant database plan as the paraphenalia of paranoia. The Telegraph is in full agreement.More reporting from the Times and elsewhere

As the Independent blogger Archie Bland points out

' ... the really startling chorus of opposition to the raft of illiberal policies that has characterised this government is that which has emerged from the security establishment.
It's former MI5 heads Stella Rimington and Eliza Manningham-Buller speaking out against 42 days, and senior members of the Association of Chief Police Officers saying the same thing. It's former Prison Service director general (now Barnado’s Chief Executive) Martin Narey decrying the rate at which we incarcerate children, or Prison Governors Association president Paul Tidball on the government's decision to build Titan prisons 'in the face of unanimous opposition from professional and expert groups'. And it's Brian Gladman, a former director of strategic electronic communications at the Ministry of Defence and US government security consultant, saying that ID cards would be a disaster.
The list goes on. These people are not partisans. They're professionals. They're experts. If anyone is going to have sympathy with the impulse to 'go quite a long way' in undermining freedom to stop terrorism (another Hoonism) and crime and benefit fraud, it is surely them. And if even these people think the government has got it wrong, one has to ask: who on earth does the government consult when it formulates this stuff?'



True Americans

A thoughtful, interesting site, worth checking out.

Guest conspiracy theory of the month, Admiral Mullen's busy diary and whither the 'October Surprise'?

And that's my longest blog post header ever. Pre-election jitters, October surprises, it's speculation time so here is my guest conspiracy theory, the third in an occasional series. Props to me if I'm right but I'd much, much rather not be.

I note that, over the weekend, Admiral Mike Mullen - Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff - had a secretive meeting in Lake Placid with Europe's military top brass. Attendees were: Sir Graham Stirrup of Britain’s Royal Air Force, German Army Gen. Wolfgang Schneiderhan, French Army Gen. Jean-Louis Georgelin and Italian Air Force Gen. Vincenzo Camporini.

I can find only 2 media mentions of this, both in very obscure publications. The Plattsburgh Press Republican writes' The day after the planes had left, Capt. John Kirby, a special assistant to Mullen, confirmed that the top military leaders from five countries met in Lake Placid to discuss mutual security issues, including Afghanistan.
“I’m not at liberty to go into the details that was discussed, but they went through a wide range of security issues that are common to all five nations,” Kirby said.
“They discussed, in broad terms, progress in Afghanistan and where we’re heading with regard to Afghanistan, particularly the NATO mission there. And they discussed other mutual issues of security concerns.”

On Monday 20th October, Admiral Mullen met Serbian president Boris Tadic, and the Serbian Chief of Defence in Belgrade, and discussed ways the two countries' militaries could work together, two weeks after the US Defence Secretary had flown to Kosovo to voice US support for its territorial integrity. Which is pretty extraordinary.

On Tuesday 21st October, Admiral Mullen met with his Russian counterpart, at the Russians' request, apparently, in Helsinki. The first meeting since Russia invaded Georgia. This has been much more widely reported. NYT writes 'The admiral said he and General Makarov had discussed American disquiet over the war in Georgia — Russia’s first post-Soviet offensive outside its soil — as well as Russian unhappiness with the arrival of American warships in the Black Sea with humanitarian aid for Georgia. Other topics included NATO’s relations with Russia and how to improve cooperation on countering terrorism, halting the proliferation of unconventional weapons and stemming narcotics trafficking'.

Also on Tuesday, Mullen was in Riga, Latvia warning Iraq that 'time was running out' for Iraq to approve a bilateral agreement with the US to extend US military operations after December 31st, the expiration date of the UN Security Council agreement for the US military to be in Iraq. Mullen also made some strongly-worded references to Iran 'meddling'.

Ho hum. Busy, busy, busy.

Now for all I know, Admiral Mullen has these sorts of high-level, high-security international top brass meetings all the time, and his recent round of meetings in such quick succession is nothing special. I am merely flagging this up because I think it is interesting timing, less than 2 weeks before an election and with no 'October Surprise' having *cough* hoved into the erm, airspace yet.

It is no secret that the imploding economy is proving catastrophic for the Republicans' election campaign, and they are desperate to change the channel to foreign policy/war on terror stuff where they percieve their Presidential candidate to have an advantage.

So if an international incident suddenly pops up... an 'October surprise' which proves an election is worth remembering Admiral Mullen's busy 4 days meeting key defence chiefs from Europe, Russia and the Balkans from 18th- 22nd October.

Random speculation time: Barry Cooper, a Professor of political science, writes about a possible Russian October surprise in the Calgary Herald. Russia stirring up trouble in America's back yard? Cooking up a storm in Nicaragua, Cuba, or Venuzuela, retaliation for NATO's approaches up to its borders? So I say, hmmm, what about Venuzuela's planned naval base in the Caribbean, from whence their Russian friends can gaze beadily at the US? Ostensibly the base is to help fight narcotics trafficking. Narcotics trafficking being something Mullen and the Russians discussed on Tuesday, as you'll recall.

A spot of arms-dealing, some circling warships...a Cuban Missile Crisis part 2? A civilian airliner or military aircraft shot down by rocket launchers? God knows, and we certainly could drive ourselves all wild by guessing.

Joe Biden certainly seems to think something is afoot, in the next six months, mentioning Russia and the Middle East, telling people to 'gird their loins' and making Kennedy comparisons. Biden said, somewhat unguardedly, at a fund raiser

'It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy."

War is of course what saved the US economy in the early days of Bush's administration, following the Enron scandal. I really hope they don't intend a war with Iran. We've had enough energy-related military interventions for a while, don't you think?

That last sentence of Biden's, by the way, was really asking for it. Conspiracy theorists will have an absolute field day when whatever it is happens, saying it was 'generated'. And something will happen, because it always does - that's the nature of international politics, and testing times during new administrations.

Just look at what's going on in Pakistan under its new cash-strapped government, as the country faces economic collapse and the loss of its western regions to militant extremists, criminals and tribal warlords. It's close to chaos, and America roaming about in the militant strongholds and tribal badlands bombing villages, ostensibly in search of Bin Laden, isn't helping. It's also making a vengeful terrorist strike on UK or US soil more likely as well. As the Americans (and everyone else) damn well knows.

You have to wonder if they'd be that cynical as to practically provoke one for election-winning, I'm not going there. Pakistan, meanwhile is awash with conspiracy theories of its own.

I'm not surprised, they bloom like mould during tense times like these. They don't help, they just make people freaked out and fearful, and that is why I don't give them airtime very often. I have a temperature and am feeling pretty ill today, which probably explains why I've started rummaging through international geo-economic-politics and spooking myself out.

Re-reading Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine, which isn't very soothing either. It remains essential reading though, now more than ever.

Thank God there's less than 2 weeks til the US elections, though I suppose all the legal wrangling will delay the result, unless there's a landslide. These bastards really, really don't want their party to end, nor judgment day to ever come.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

ACORN - the truth

Much huffing and puffing about 'voter fraud' as McCain's campaign falls over. For those interested....

Now watch this. Republicans are demonising ACORN - but the real vote suppression culprits are not ACORN at all.

Steal Back Your Vote! from Greg Palast on Vimeo.

Newsweek has an analysis from

'The McCain-Palin campaign accuses ACORN, a community activist group that operates nationwide, of perpetrating "massive voter fraud." It says Obama has "long and deep" ties to the group. We find both claims to be exaggerated. But we also find Obama has understated the extent of his work with the group.
Neither ACORN nor its employees have been found guilty of, or even charged with, casting fraudulent votes. What a McCain-Palin Web ad calls "voter fraud" is actually voter registration fraud. Several ACORN canvassers have been found guilty of faking registration forms and others are being investigated. But the evidence that has surfaced so far shows they faked forms to get paid for work they didn't do, not to stuff ballot boxes'.

In other words, ACORN has been defrauded, by a few of its employees, who've been paid after they filled in voter registration forms with the names of Dallas Cowboys stars and Disney characters, rather than bother to go out and register real people. Filling in forms falsely is not the same as fraudulent voting. It would only be fraudulent voting if Micky Mouse and the Dallas Cowboys turned up and repeatedly voted.

This diary from Daily Kos shows how those most likely to vote Democrat - young people, students, first time voters, poor people, ethnic minorities - are being systematically disenfranchised, especially in swing states, as part of a Republican strategy to remain in power.

When people make outrageous accusations - it's quite often the case that they are guilty themselves of what they accuse you of. The person calling 'fraud! liar! bully!' may well turn out to be the fraud, liar and bully themselves for example. So we see the Republicans cry 'vote fraud!' and 'foul', or complain that the Democrats are running a negative campaign, or whatever, it is enlightening to see what they are up to. Projection, projection. Normal people are most likely to use projection when feeling threatened; the narccisistic or sociopathic personality type employs it most of the time.

I can see why the Republicans feel threatened; they have been outgunned by a passionate army of networked enthusiasts, who have raised far more money and registered far more voters. And they are also at the mercy of financial world events. All they have left is fear-mongering and muck-chucking. I want them to implode spectacularly. Because of their relentless lies, their sociopathic disregard for anything other than profit, and their relentless human rights abuses including the widespread use of torture. There needs to be a landslide, big enough to smash through the attempts at vote fraud, an avalanche of votes and voices to sweep away the stench of blood and oil and corruption and to send a message out: no more, this is not America, you are not us. And then maybe conservative Americans can rebuild their party, shorn of free-market extremists and theocratic fascists

Meanwhile, thankfully, someone has been arrested for real, proper voter fraud. A Republican. Will this shut up the ACORN nonsense McCain's campaign is spewing ? No, of course not. But the message is getting out; CNN showed voting machines that switched to 'McCain' when you pressed 'Obama' last night. Armies of lawyers are assembling. This time, the vote will not be stolen, and the people will speak and be heard.


Passports needed to buy mobile phones....

...and 248 Times readers pile in to point out why this is a stupid idea. Ha.
Caring about the erosion of civil liberties, voicing angry dissent at State intrusiveness, everyone's at it these days. No wonder the Home Office want to police the internet.

On the subject of citizens making their thoughts known and challenging politicians pronouncements, check Huffington Post on why the internet is hampering the old lie-and-smear political campaigns.

I am ill with some stupid virus that is going round; every time I lie down or try to talk, I cough uncontrollably and sound like a sea lion, and I'm always too hot or too cold so spend the time taking jumpers on and off. I am fighting the bug with lots of onion and garlic in soups and stews, and distracting myself with the US elections, of which more later.


Monday, October 20, 2008


John Cleese has got a blog! Hurrah!Well worth popping over to hear his thoughts on Palin the parrot and read about silly interviewers.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

The US elections in pictures, and words, an occasional series


Excerpt follows from Colin Powell interview transcript, October 19, 2008

'Now, I understand what politics is all about. I know how you can go after one another, and that's good. But I think this goes too far. And I think it has made the McCain campaign look a little narrow. It's not what the American people are looking for. And I look at these kinds of approaches to the campaign and they trouble me. And the party has moved even further to the right, and Governor Palin has indicated a further rightward shift. I would have difficulty with two more conservative appointments to the Supreme Court, but that's what we'd be looking at in a McCain administration. I'm also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, "He's a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists." This is not the way we should be doing it in America.'

'I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards--Purple Heart, Bronze Star--showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross, it didn't have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life. Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourself in this way. And John McCain is as nondiscriminatory as anyone I know. But I'm troubled about the fact that, within the party, we have these kinds of expressions.

'So, when I look at all of this and I think back to my Army career, we've got two individuals, either one of them could be a good president. But which is the president that we need now? Which is the individual that serves the needs of the nation for the next period of time? And I come to the conclusion that because of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities--and we have to take that into account--as well as his substance--he has both style and substance--he has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president. I think he is a transformational figure. He is a new generation coming into the world--onto the world stage, onto the American stage, and for that reason I'll be voting for Senator Barack Obama.'

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Told ya

said so on Wednesday

nearly right eh? 4 days out. Powell 4 Obama/Biden O8


Saturday, October 18, 2008

100,000 strong - Obama breaks records in St Louis

Native son Chuck Berry seems appropriate: you can't catch me.I will write a post soon on why this election is so god damn personal, why I dream about this election most nights, why I have never been so obsessed with an election in my god damn life.
But for now. Cheers. And God bless St Louis. ( 'world turned upsidedown' - NYT)


Saturday night doomed romance

J has arranged to go out and watch the rugby with his best mate, then hit the pub. I have a sore throat so I leapt at the chance to stay in and watch dance all night long. Can't remember when I last had a chance to have the TV to myself on a Saturday night. I have been indulging myself watching Carlos Acosta, the best male dancer of the last decade, in the best Romeo and Juliet since Alessandra Ferri and Wayne Eagling. It is the morning after the lovers' wedding night. Romeo has killed Juliet's cousin, and has been banished on pain of death. It will be the only night they spend together; they will never see each other alive again.
Oh, I love this. *pours wine, peels mango, luxuriates *

Seven years and one day ago.....

Friday, October 17, 2008


Paedo terrorist rapist jihadists are using teh internetz to spread filth and evil! OMG WTF!!11 !!
Or How the Internet Must be Controlled, by Jacqui Smith and Geoff Hoon.

After last week's humiliating failure of the government's latest 'anti-terror' strategy, which resulted in them dropping their plans to hold people for 42 days without charging them, and to hold secret inquests in State-implicated deaths, Jacqui Smith and Geoff Hoon came back with their giant database plan. They want access to absolutely everyone's mobile and web records, including social networking sites like Facebook. Why? Because ' terrorists use such communications'.

Not monitoring this traffic is 'giving terrorists a licence to kill people', Hoon actually had the brass neck to say. He confirmed that the government is prepared to go 'quite a long way' with removing civil liberties 'to stop terrorists killing people'.


Terrorists also wear clothes, Geoff, which might conceal bombs. They live in houses, which have blinds and curtains, which can be drawn to conceal their nefarious terrorist activities therein. Ban window coverings! Get your kit off! If you've got nothing to hide you've got nothing to fear!

Anyway, today, as if by magic, we get three full pages in the Times about 'Links between child porn and Muslim terrorists' and 'dangerous and depraved: Paedophiles unite with terrorists online.'

Paedophiles and child porn and terrorists and Muslims and the internet all in one story! I don't think I've ever seen quite so many memes working in concert before: it's like the Chinese State Circus act I saw once when a dozen people all managed to balance on one bicycle and whizz round and round at high-speed whilst we all gasped and applauded.

I decided to take a closer look at the Times story. I note that it has

10 mentions of 'Muslim'
6 mentions of 'Islam'
5 mentions of 'Islamic'
8 mentions of 'Mosque'
8 mentions of 'Jihad'
6 mentions of 'Jihadi'
29 mentions of 'Terrorist'
15 mentions of 'Terrorism'

So what evidence have we got for all this?

a) An East-end rapist, who got seven friends to lie for him and give a false alibi that he was giving a sermon on repentance at a mosque during Ramadan when the attack took place. He was caught after being investigated by police over suspected links to a 'jihadi gunrunner'. DNA taken after he was arrested proved he was wanted for the vicious rape a year earlier. His computer was seized and found to contain child pornography downloads. He has never been convicted of terrorism offences.

b) Another suspected terrorist - also calling himself a Muslim - who was also found to have hard-core child porn when raided in a different investigation.

c) Hard-drives found at a Milanese mosque allegedly used by Islamist militants, which contained images of children being sexually abused that were also encoded with messages as 'a clandestine method of communication'. An Italian 'anti-terror magistrate' (a what?) said that pornographic images were being used to camouflage 'messages of quite a different content', and remarked to the Times that the men did not have 'paedophile tendencies', but 'in many parts of the Arab world - wives are often very young girls of 11, 12 or 13 who because of family negotiations are given in marriage to men much older than them...' . He then added, 'But that is not paedophilia, it is a question of Arab culture'.

(That last statement is utter rubbish by the way. The average age for marriage in Arab countries in in the 20's and rising. You can read a full report into marriage in the Arab world here. Even in Yemen, which has the youngest wives, the percentage of married women aged 15-19 has declined from 27% in 1997 to 17% in 2003.)

The person who ran the mosque was sentenced to 8 years for terrorism offences, in absentia.

Any more evidence for the CHILD PORN INTERNET MUSLIM TERRORIST thing?

Well, there's this.

d) The Times found 'a case in Spain where an Islamic terror suspect is accused of downloading child porn'. It's still before the courts. The case concerns an alleged terror cell broken up in 2007. Spanish police say thousands of hardcore child porn images were found on home computers.

e) There's an Algerian awaiting trial who is accused of incitement to jihad via the internet and of sending money to prisoners belonging to a banned Islamic group accused of killing 45 people in Casablanca in 2003. He is also accused of downloading child porn.

f) And a case in Yorkshire where child protection officers 'stumbled upon a nail-bomb terror plotter'. He was white, and making bombs to attack Black, Asian and Jewish people. He was not a Muslim, in fact, he was an anti-semitic Islamophobic nazi loon. He had 39,000 child abuse images.

g)Also a Salford chemistry student nabbed for looking at explosives websites and downloading 7 child abuse images. He was 21 years old, also white and non-Muslim. He was jailed for explosives offences, not terrorism.

And er, that's it.

I can't see that these few cases - from all over the world - justify the number of mentions of Islam, Muslim, terrorist and all the rest of it in the copy.

I really can't.

Nor can I see how the fact that some men - some nasty pieces of work - are into extremely horrible sex and violence - online and offline - in any way justifies the government wanting to spy on everyone's emails and phone calls and web use.

If anyone would like to have a go at explaining it in the comments, please feel free.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

The US elections in pictures, an occasional series

Pictures from last minute of the final Presidential debate ( different angles, same moment)
And check out this amazing clip which shows exactly where McCain campaign insiders have been getting all their tactics and strategies from. Spooky!


Over to the Guardian for Presidenty-live-bloggy-fun....

Thank God this is the last one. My nerves are shredded.
Here we are, liveblogging and commenting. Go Oliver Burkeman! Hi Creekwhore!
As we're on the final furlong, it's going to have to be the posh red wine.



Monday's speech

'Thank you very much to Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International, and to all the Amnesty team for the invitation to speak tonight at this protest against the government's latest counter-terrorism bill which includes the plans to detain terrorism suspects for up to 42 days without charge. It's a privilege and an honour to be here, and it is great to see how many people have come out on a cold Monday night in their dressing gowns to show that they are passionate about defending their liberties and to show that they will not sleepwalk into giving up essential rights and freedoms.

We have a long and honourable tradition of freedom in this country - an idea of freedom and democracy that we have shared all over the world. One of the most important freedoms we have is the ancient right of habeas corpus; the right not to be detained without being charged, and to be brought before a court who have the authority to say whether you are being lawfully held and why you are being charged.

Over the years, millions of men and women have made great sacrifices to preserve our freedoms against enemies who wanted to destroy them. Older generations have fought and died in terrible wars. Not so very long ago, hundreds of thousands of people said goodbye to their loved ones and friends, not knowing if they would return alive or badly injured. Parents evacuated their young children to live with strangers, hoping they would escape the dangers of aerial bombardment from the weapons of mass destruction of the time. People undertook war work – usually hard and boring, sometimes dangerous. The fight to defend our nation's freedom from our enemies' threats was something that was an inescapable part of everyone's daily lives.

Why am I going on about the second world war in 2008? To make the point that the threat we face now is not anything like the daily threat our grandparents and great-grandparents faced. It is shameful that when others risked so much and gave so much to preserve our freedoms, we seem to barely notice as they are taken away.

Many of the men and women debating the terrorism bill in the House of Lords today are old enough to remember a real war of terror, very different to a 'war on terror'. They remember that out of the horrors of that war came the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention concerning the treatment of prisoners of war and prohibiting torture and inhumane treatment. The nations of the world came together after that terrible war to focus on human rights; to say 'never again'.

Human rights are precious. History teaches us what happens when a political party, or a charismatic leader begins to spread the lie that not every person deserves human rights...that some kinds of people are 'different' and the normal rules do not apply...
We all deserve the right to be treated as fully human and accorded full human rights. Yes, even the suspected terrorist. Especially the person suspected of terrorism, in fact.

These last few days in America, we have seen a politician giving a speech to a large and excited crowd of people, and we have heard voices in that crowd begin shouting 'Terrorist! Kill him! Behead him!'
The person that crowd suspected of being a terrorist is the Democratic Presidential nominee, Senator Barack Obama. Meanwhile, also last week, the government of Iceland were very surprised and upset when they found out that the UK government were using terrorism laws to seize the UK assets of Icelandic banks last week.
Do you see my point? Look at who is being suspected of terrorism. A potential President? An Icelandic banker? Is this what 'suspected of terrorism' really means? In fact, UK terrorism laws have recently been used to arrest pensioners and protesters, parents and poets and priests – all sorts of people – people like you and me. Terrorism laws have been used by councils to spy on barking dogs and noisy children and muddled recyclers and people parking in disabled spaces without the right badges and even people 'selling unauthorised pizzas'. It's crazy. It would be funny, except it isn't funny at all.

Since 9/11, 1228 people have been arrested under UK terrorism laws – only for 669 of them to be released later as entirely innocent. That's more than half of them.

We can be sure of something. If you give State officials powers, they will use them.

We can also be sure of another thing: giving up freedom doesn't make you more free. Nor does it make you particularly safe.
In fact many distinguished people whose entire career has been about keeping us safe from criminals and terrorists, and prosecuting those who mean us harm, have said that legislation like the 42 days clause is counter-productive and actually dangerous.

Here's another thing we can be sure of in uncertain times. Giving up your freedoms does give the State a lot more power over you – not just now, but in the future as well. And we do not know what the future will bring. We can only, as I said, look to the lessons of recent history.

Over the last week, we have seen 'suspected terrorist' be used in a very strange way. It has been used to mean 'someone we, the party in power don't like the look of, doing something we don't approve of.' It has been used to ratchet up fear for political reasons. It has been used to look tough.

Well, we know politicians find it useful to look tough and in control, especially when events are changing fast and they are not in control as much as they would like. Events can change things very suddenly, as we have seen with the recent pandemonium in the world economy. Politicians can come and go, financial markets can be gripped with panic and spiral out of control and none of us can predict the future.

What we can do is protect the human. We can protect ourselves and each other by choosing to focus on our freedoms, not our fears. We can stand up, as we did today, shoulder to shoulder, and show that we will not sleepwalk into a very different future. We can learn the lessons of the past about our better and worse natures, and remember how a war-torn world came together to say that human rights must be protected and preserved for all time, that the dignity of all human people is the foundation of justice and peace in the world; that freedom of speech and belief, freedom from fear and want are proclaimed as 'the highest aspiration of the people'.

Nothing has changed in the last sixty years to change that. Nothing ever will.

Human rights and freedoms remain something worth cherishing, worth loving. Worth living for. Worth dying for.

Thank you, all of you, for standing up to protect and preserve freedom today, tonight, and always.'

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A prediction

Colin Powell will endorse Obama tomorrow, after the third and final Presidential debate.
And Obama will ask him to serve in his cabinet.

Anyone else want to talk crystal balls in the comments?
Cool picture from the Guardian


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The '7/7 conspiracy to cause explosions' retrial starts 13th January 2009

Just in case anyone was wondering.


Secret inquests dropped as well.

42 days: government loses the argument

Hurrah for the House of Lords who threw out 42 days last night. Resoundingly, and thumpingly, in one of the biggest votes against the government ever. Normally this would be big news, especially after all the political capital invested in it by Gordon Brown but Bankmageddon drew the fire.
UPDATE: Great piece from Shami who has done more than perhaps anyone else to nail this.

I was up in Leeds with Kate Allen and the campaign team from Amnesty when I heard, at the launch of their new film. On the train back, Davide from Blairwatch filled me in on Jacqui Smith's live reaction, holding the phone close to the TV so I could hear her.

It sounded like a lot of petulant squawking to me. We toasted the 42 days demise with relief.
On closer examination, the Home Secretary's speech was even more awful than it sounded.
It is ludicrous to say that people like Eliza Manningham Buller, recently-retired head of M15, the director of public prosecutions Ken McDonald and the former Labour attourney general Lord Goldsmith are people who are 'prepared to ignore the terrorist threat'. In fact it was their extremely detailed knowledge of the terrorist threat that led them to point out that the bill was dangerous and counter-productive.

And to prove that this is all about using fear to play politics, now there's a one-pager to be whipped out if there's another terrorist attack, described by the shadow home secretary as 'one of the most bizarre things I have ever read'.

42 days won't go through when people are calm and rational and have time to think about it, so we'll stuff it away for now only to shove it through when everyone's in a highly emotional state instead. Classy.

Guardian's timeline of 42 days detention and editorial
BBC 'have your say' reaction (most recommended)
BBC - Campaigners hail 42 days defeat
Spectator - 'a good day to bury bad legislation'
Chicken Yogurt '42 days: Stick a fork in it'

However, 42 days is not the only dodgy and disturbing part of the counter terrorism bill.
See Marcel Berlins on secret inquests.

When I enquired about this, I was told by an insider that the motivation for this part of the bill is so that wiretap evidence or evidence which could not be used in public court because it would endanger, or identify, say, a security services officer working undercover could be shown to the family of the deceased, privately.

I can see the point of this, but unfortunately good intentions are no excuse for bad law. The Lords will debate the rest of the bill on 15th and 21st October.
I was against 28 days, by the way. Hopefully we can get some traction to repeal that next.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

The economic crisis in pictures, an occasional series

Apologies for the language, but I had to share it.
Via several people, via email.

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BBC news, Yorkshire Post, Independent, Indie leading article, InTheNews
Amnesty press release and see also PROTECTTHEHUMAN.COM
The ‘mass sleepwalk’ starts at 7.15pm on 13 October at the Unitarian Chapel on City Square, Leeds and the film screening is at the Hi Fi Club, Central Road at around 7.45pm.Wear pyjamas/dressing gowns/carry pillows. More detail on march here. Sign the petition here.
Blog recommendations: Richard Wilson, Chicken Yogurt.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Freedom reading

Tomorrow, 42 days and the anti-terror bill is to be debated in the House of Lords. Liberty asked 42 writers, including Philip Pullman, Julian Barnes, Monica Ali, Ian Rankin, Alain de Botton, Ali Smith and AL Kennedy for their thoughts. See 42 authors slam 42 days ( Observer) , Huffington Post

You can read all 42 contributions here on the Liberty site.

Meanwhile over at the Telegraph, Shadow Home Secretary, Dominic Grieve says 42 days is unworkable and unnecessary. I wonder if he has signed the Amnesty petition against 42 days yet? It only takes 5 minutes. Pass it on.

Links: Vanessa at Fidra Books, Huffington Post

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Are we all suspected terrorists now?

This week we learned that if you've ever had professional contact with someone who had a radical past - such as a direct-action anti-Vietnam-war protester who used explosives to attack government buildings in the 1960s - then you can be called a 'terrorist' yourself and an angry mob can call for you to be beheaded, blown up or otherwise killed, whilst someone who is running for the position of US President or Vice President smiles and says little, or nothing at all.

Even if, when the explosives were set off, you were eight years old, and the guy they're talking about as a 'terrorist' is now a middle-aged professor who used to sit on an education board with you at the start of your career. Yes, this week we learned that to large swathes of people, Senator Barack Obama, the likely next President of the US, is a suspected terrorist.

(Hmmmm, angry mobs, right-wing 'country first' political rallies, economic downturns, hateful and false propaganda - should we be concerned? Any historians in the house fancy a crack at that one?)

So, Senator McCain and lying religious extremist Governor Palin have been inciting hate and violence this week against someone whose politics they don't agree with. (Which, ironically enough in this country would make them suspected terrorists.) Meanwhile, the UK Government has been invoking anti-terrorist legislation against an Icelandic bank whose (admittedly awful) fiscal behaviour they don't agree with.

Seems like the unlikeliest people can be painted as terrorists ,and terrorism laws can be used against the wierdest targets these days. And every week that goes by, the meaning of suspected terrorist seems to get a little stretchier.

Hmmm, you think. Well, I'm solvent, and I'm not running for US President. I should be ok. I'm just an ordinary British person, with a normal everyday life.

But terrrism laws are already being used to spy on ordinary people.

Such as people with barking dogs and noisy children. People who drop burger wrappers and don't scoop up their dog's poo.

Well, you might say to yourself, I'm not antisocial. In fact, if there was a neighbourhood demonstration against tearaway youths and litterbugs and dog poo, I might very well pop along. The local park is becoming a right mess. In fact, I support several environmental campaign groups which are against dumping waste - on a small or industrial scale.

Careful. If you've ever wished you could 'seriously alter a country's political, economic or social structures', as an individual or a group - or thought about attaching a protest sign - or even yourself - to the park railings - you'd better have a read of the new EU law on terrorism before you consider any protest or dissent to that effect.

What about if you were quite happy with the UK's political, economic and social structures - but your friend sent you something suspect by email? Like an Al Qaeda training manual, that he was looking at as part of his studies for his politics PhD, and wanted you to print out for him?
A manual that is available as a free download from a US government website, by the way.
A document you didn't even know he'd emailed to you.

Well, you might find yourself being arrested, repeatedly interrogated and detained in solitary confinement without knowing why, whilst your home is raided and your friends and colleagues questioned about every aspect of your professional and personal life and your parents become frantic with anxiety.

It's distressing, scary, and unfair to be labelled a suspected terrorist when you are a completely innocent person. But at least, in this country, at the moment, under the current government, the police let you out eventually, if they can't find something to charge you with. They have to, after four weeks. You might have lost your job, your relationship, your reputation, your solvency and your sanity, but at least you'll still be alive to pick up the pieces and start again.

As you probably remember, the UK government wanted the power to hold people without charge for 3 whole months, but they weren't able to get enough votes in the Commons. They're currently trying again, this time for 6 week detention period. They did manage to get just enough Commons votes this time, but the House of Lords is fighting the bill on Monday. (The noble Lords had better be careful that they're not all labelled 'suspected terrorists' in a few years' time. After all, no-one elected them and they're arguably being very disruptive at the moment.)

Of course, if the Bush administration thinks you are a suspected terrorist, and manages to catch hold of you, you can be locked up without charge and tortured - even into madness - with no legal protection at all, for as long as the US government want to keep you locked up.

Over here in the UK, if the latest anti-terror laws go through, it will be the case that if you die at the hands of the State - by accident or design - the inquest into your death can be held without a jury, without a coroner, presided over by someone appointed by the government, and closed to the public and the media. Secret inquests. That's a complete violation of open justice, but with so many other basic rights being shredded, without much public reaction, who cares anymore?

Yes, its starting to look as if almost anyone could be a suspected terrorist these days.
It's almost as if being a suspected terrorist is starting to mean 'someone we in power don't like the look of', doing something we don't approve of.'

Like owning a naughty or incontinent dog. Or having the wrong kind of political acquaintances. Or looking like you might win a popular election on a more liberal ticket by a landslide.

Or being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Being annoyed about the terrorism laws being misapplied and protesting about it might, one day, make you a suspected terrorist. At this rate, who knows where that will end?

Fortunately, there's still time to do something about all this lunacy.

If you have a seat in the House of Lords, you can vote against the latest anti-terror bill.
If you live in the UK, you can talk to your friends and family, write to your MP, sign and pass on the petition and generally exercise your right to protest about it.

If you're Barack Obama, you can ignore it and carry on campaigning to get yourself elected.

I can only wish everyone the very best of luck in their endeavours.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Inside Palin's Church

I wrote about the hate-mongering liar, religious extremist Governor Sarah Palin last week. The 'spiritual warfare' against 'demons', 'evil spirits' and 'witches'. The charging for rape kits to victims, the ban on abortion and the morning after pill even for victims of rape and incest, and all the rest of it. Think it all sounds too unbelievable to be true?
Here is a video, shot in Alaska, at her church and with people who know her, confirming it all.

The polls show that McCain and Palin are behind Obama - but this article about criminal election fraud should halt any premature celebrations. Hat-tip - Gridlock.
We'll see if the people of America choose hate or hope come November. I hope they remember they're supposed to be the land of the free and home of the brave.
Final thought: Jesus was a community organiser. Pilate was a Governor.

UPDATE: BBC Palin guilty of abuse of State power.
Ha ha ha ha ha. Give a medal to Mudflats, the small Alaskan political blog that became a national sensation, doing the vetting on Palin that McCain didn't - and thus helping to save America and the world.


42 days - Liberty film 'Imagine'

LIBERTY has more information. See also post below for the SLEEPWALK protest in Leeds organised by Amnesty. Petition here.

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42 days - get ready for Monday - SLEEPWALK

42 days has been reported as, if not a dead parrot, certainly a very poorly one.
Monday sees the House of Lords, our unelected saviours of democracy, debating the bill. And ripping it up into little bits and jumping on it, one hopes.
However, it is not dead yet and it is both a moral duty and a pleasure to point out to the government what a disgraceful thing it is, that they should even think about trying to lock up men and women for six weeks without charging them with any crime.
And it would well behove us as proud British citizens if a mighty roar could be raised in protest at this undemocratic, appalling erosion of our rights and freedoms in the name of 'terrorism'.

Amnesty is encouraging you to come to Leeds to show that you do not want to sleepwalk into a very different world, where you are no longer free - or protected from human rights abuses.
I'll be there, making a speech, and if you can make it, it would be great to see you there too.

A “mass sleepwalk” will take place through the streets of Leeds on Monday (13 October) as Amnesty International launches its new film, ‘Sleepwalk’, heralding the next phase of the organisation’s campaign against UK government plans to extend detention without charge to 42 days. The film, by Oscar-shortlisted directors DarkFibre, features an exclusive new soundtrack by The Orb and a voiceover by actor Christopher Eccleston.

Amnesty is concerned that civil liberties are still under attack in the Counter-terrorism Bill and warns that people in the UK may be sleepwalking into an assault on their basic human rights. Political rumours that the plans will be dropped cannot be relied upon and the 42-day proposals must be defeated once and for all, Amnesty says.

The film accompanies a new online petition at , urging MPs to oppose the 42 days proposal. Amnesty is specifically calling on MPs who did not support previous proposals for 90 days pre-charge detention, but did vote for 42 days in June, to oppose 42 days this time round.

The ‘mass sleepwalk’ starts at 7.15pm on 13 October at the Unitarian Chapel on City Square, Leeds and the film screening is at the Hi Fi Club, Central Road at around 7.45pm.

Wear pyjamas/dressing gowns/carry pillows.

If you can't march, please SIGN and pass on.

More news on 42 days fightback coming soon....

PS. If you haven't read this already, please do. It's terrifying. And it shows you what we are up against and why it is important to make a fuss about liberty and freedom now, whilst we still have it.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Presidential debate drinking game

All the way from London! It's the Obama-McCain debate drinking game! A drinking game for the Presidential debate! Can't vote, can drink!

The voter questions, 'town hall' format makes it hard for the two candidates to get snarky and dish zingers. Voters, we hear, don't like it when candidates indulge in ad hominem attacks and get angry.

So despite the recent fetid tsunami of lies, smears, insinuations, half-truths, racism, and more lies as the audacity of hope battles the mendacity of fear, we probably won't see any bloody noses tonight.The strategy will be to connect, empathise, feel voter's pain, understand, care and if either of them can summon up a tear, or a chokey voice, even better.

But really, all voters want to hear about is the economy. In six months time, will they still have jobs? Pensions? Houses? It will go down to who sounds like he can deliver a plan to stop everyone having to eat roadkill and live in cardboard boxes. That's it. The rest is just bollocks.
Time for a drinking game.Drink when you hear

'My friends'
'Wall Street/Main Street'
'middle class'
'Just doesn't get it'
'reach across the aisle'
'this great nation'
'difficult times'
'affordable healthcare'
'eco-narmic 9/11'
'Fannie and Freddie'
'together we can do it'
'faith in our country and each other'
'with all due respect'
'you lying bastard'
'your mom'

If they hug at the end, drink everything in sight

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Monday, October 06, 2008

42 days is toast (probably)

Sean O'Neill, the crime and security editor at the Times has been on a bit of a roll recently - breaking the story of Sir Ian Blair's departure a month before it happened.
Today he broke the story about 42 days being dropped as 'unworkable', which has been picked up by Nick Robinson, the BBC's political editor and by several other newspapers.
The jig was well and truly up when the loquacious Andy Hayman, previously assistant commissioner for special ops at Scotland Yard wrote in a column for today's Times

'the Government's current proposals are not fit for purpose:

they are bureaucratic, convoluted and unworkable'

which has been blindingly obvious for several months. Hayman makes the point about 'playing politics' and 'games' several times. And of course that is exactly what all this was always about.

The government have already denied that they have dropped 42 days. They will drop it of course - they'll have to, next week, when the Lords absolutely savage it. It stank from its inception and the way it was bribed and bullied through the Commons was not only dishonourable but a complete waste of time. I was very pleased when my MP, Diane Abbott made a thunderous speech decrying it and when David Davis resigned as Shadow Home Secretary in protest at it.

The coup de grace to 42 days was administered by the previous head of M15, the newly-minted Baronness Eliza Manningham Buller, in her sensational maiden speech in the Lords. She was, let us not forget, in charge of M15 during the 7/7 bombings and served 33 years in the security service - so can hardly be accused of being a dewy-eyed idealist in denial about the true nature of the threat from terrorism. At that point, it was dead in the water, and rightly so. Just for good measure, another former spy chief Stella Rimington poured cold water on it last week as well.

However, the bad news is that the 'secret inquests without juries' clause is still in the counter -terror legislation, and with recent news that the government wants to spend £12 billion
a database to store every email, phone call and text we send, plus the
insane waste of money that is ID cards, it is very clear that the fight to
preserve our freedoms is more important than ever.

Worth bookmarking....


UPDATE: It turns out that that the Council of Europe ( click here for an explanation of what they are) have pointed out this week that locking people up for six weeks in a police cell without actually charging them with any crime at all is quite possibly incompatible with European human rights legislation. Meanwhile, the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture also published a damning report.
Still think it's a fuss over nothing and you can't be too careful? A 23-year old student detained under the anti-terror legislation confirms 'it really is psychological torture'

Remember this: More than half of the people in the UK arrested for terrorism offences have been innocent and later released without charge, by the way. Yes, really. Go and look at the Home Office website if you don't believe me.
From September 2001 to March 2007 1,228 people were arrested under the terrorism laws.
669 were later released without charge.
Of those charged, only 41 were actually convicted under the terrorism act, and 183 were convicted under other legislation. ( murder, firearms, fraud, conspiracy to cause explosions and so on. Laws which we've had kicking about the statute books for a very long time)

And 114 people are at, or still awaiting trial.
It's probably more by now.

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Miff update: she has caught a mouse! A small headless corpse was found on the sitting room floor. Well done Miff.

However, she is now being bullied by a very ballsy squirrel. I came out into the garden and discovered Miff hiding behind a large pot of cyclamen whilst the squirrel glared menacingly at her. The stand-off lasted two and a half minutes, then Miff bolted. The squirrel sauntered right past me, paused to jiggle its tail before bounding neatly onto the garden table.
It looked to me as if it was smirking.
UPDATE: The little bastard has been helping itself to my tulip bulbs. It will rue the day.
Weather update: Dire. We're all going to drown.
I have noticed a correlation between depressing economic and meterological news and having the urge to make enormous hearty casseroles.

Does anyone else do this or is it just me?

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That debate

As you may have noticed, the omnipresence of religious extremist pop cultural sensation Sarah Palin has been really getting to me.

I was watching the debate early Friday morning and contributing to the comments thread in Oliver Burkeman's liveblog.We were playing Palin Bingo. Hells bells, anyone who had the word 'maverick' on their card had a shocking headache yesterday.

For an ex-TV presenter, small-town mayor and recently-appointed governor of an Arctic state, who'd been suddenly swooped upon by Karl Rove's henchmen, and stuffed full of factoids - then thrust onto the international stage, she did marvellously.

But as a potential VP - or God help us, President - she was quite obviously not up to the job. Media furore aside, 45% of US households watched the VP debate live last night. So they had 90 minutes to make up their minds about her. And the snap vote came in with Biden clearly in the lead.

Thank heavens. The whole faux-folksy winkin' not blinkin' thing was patronising bollocks.
This is not a gosh-darn Sandra Bullock movie.

Wrinkling her nose, memorising scripted soundbites in short order, and twinkling chattily straight to camera 2 are skills that will stand her in great stead when she gets signed for millions to host her own networked FOX talkshow, mind you.
UPDATE: Doggone - say it ain't so - secret instant message transcript post-debate between McCain, campaign manager and Palin!
UPDATE 2: Laceratingly righteous lambasting of Palin from Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi, hat-tip Geoff


Friday, October 03, 2008

Get the latest news satire and funny videos at

Thursday, October 02, 2008

42 days is back. Sign the petition

Amnesty has a petition which takes 5 minutes to sign.

Go here

Liberty has some good detailed info and more suggestions about how you can get involved.

Stand by for more ways to get involved coming soon.

Thanks to everyone who has joined the fight-back so far...


Sarah Palin is not a joke

Sarah Palin is bloody dangerous.

Oh, I know we all laughed at the incoherent Katie Couric interview, so lethally lampooned by Saturday Night Live.

And yep, Palin is the gift that keeps on giving for satirists. It does indeed seem like a so-cheesey-bad-it's-good Sunday afternoon TV movie at times. Grab the popcorn...

But running under the hood of the satire is real anger. Not wussy castrated liberal fear of a lipsticked attack-dog, a perma-perky, super-snarky, moose-huntin', wolf-shootin', elbows-out charismatic right-winger, but genuine outrage at her beliefs.

I said 'beliefs', not her politics. For Sarah Palin is a fundamentalist belief-centred politician whose supporters think she is on a mission from God. And Palin is expected to put her beliefs into action if (actually *when*, according to the GOP evangibase) - she ascends to the highest office

Never mind all the snippy stuff that bloggers unearthed within moments of the VP announcement: Palin trying to quash the 'Troopergate' scandal which threatens to expose her petty, vindictive abuses of power for personal reasons; never mind the undue influence of her husband Todd, unelected but copied into State business emails as a matter of course. Never mind the repeated shameless lies about rejecting the multi-million dollar 'Bridge to Nowhere' project out of fiscal high-mindedness - when in fact she supported it until it turned into a Millenium-Dome-like moneypit - and then kept the money earmarked for it anyway. Never mind the fact that she left the town where she was mayor over $19 million in debt, having started debt-free. All that is just run-of-the-mill small town politics stuff, and whilst disappointing, hardly unexpected.

No, it's the hard-wired don't-blink religious extremism, and how it drives her political actions that's so scary. McCain is 72 and a survivor of a virulent form of cancer that recently returned for the fourth time. His face is still swollen and scarred from the operation to cut it out - hence the $5000 make-up artist he hired. He has a poor diet, high blood pressure, a fierce temper and, as his aides constantly remind us, he underwent years of torture and imprisonment as a POW. This has led many bloggers to wonder whether he is still experiencing PTSD symptoms, even decades on. His medical records, reluctantly-released to 3 journalists for 3 hours, are over 1300 pages long. His father and grandfather both died of heart attacks before reaching the age of 73.

So the 'heartbeat away' issue is pertinent and pressing.

What bloggers have dug up about Palin's religious background is the real kicker. Palin was baptised a Catholic when an infant, but re-baptised aged 12 with her whole family at the Wasilla Assembly of God, in the small town of Wasilla, Alaska,where she later became the town's youngest-ever mayor. That church is part of a breakaway movement of extreme neopentecostalists, a movement so out-there that most charismatic evangelicals and pentecostalists think of it as heretical.

Although Palin moved to a nondenominational, less controversial evangelical church in 2002 when she ran for public office, she retains strong links with the Wasilla Assembly of God. She was publicly blessed in a laying on of hands ceremony in front of a crowd of 6000 at a church prophesying rally as recently as June 2008.

It turns out that the Wasilla Assembly of God is deeply involved with the Third Wave movement and frankly, it's into some really weird stuff. Speaking in tongues, healing, yeah, whatever, no biggie. Lots of evangelical churches go in for all that.

But...a belief in demonic spirits possessing geographic territories - actual cities, towns? Yep. Chasing out those demons with strategic level spiritual warfare? Casting out witches? Breaking inter-generational curses? Indeed. Battling Satanic Mind Control? Hell, yeah! How about an Armageddon-ready military youth army with a divine mandate to assert dominion over unbelievers? It's all linked in and part of the package which Palin's church and pastor-adviser subscribes to. And for Palin it's all familiar since childhood.

Then you have the belief - which Palin apparently subscribes to - that life starts when sperm meets egg - which makes contraception - the pill, condoms with spermicide, anything that prevents implantation of the egg - 'abortifacient', apparently. Hence abstinence-only policies for the unmarried ( poor Bristol) and hence Palin's truly abhorrent and disgraceful policy as Wasilla Mayor of charging rape victims up to $1200 for rape kits ( swabs etc used in evidence gathering for prosecution). The rape kits contained emergency contraception pills as well as antibiotics.

Alaska has the highest rate of rape and violence against women in the USA by the way.

Palin is anti-abortion; she has famously said that she thinks even pregnant rape and incest victims should not have abortions. Okay. It's one thing to have that as your personal belief; it's another thing entirely to deliberately limit access to the morning-after pill for rape victims as Mayor because of your personal faith, isn't it? But that is what she did.

And that's the problem, the big, scary problem. Palin has been anointed by a powerful lobby who are actively working for a theocracy. They see her as a second Esther, someone who will do the Lord's work, and translate religious belief into of political action. A pray-er and a do-er. Battling Satan, with real guns and bombs and missiles. The Lord is behind the chosen people, how can they fail?

They think we are in the Last Days, these 19%. They want Armageddon to hurry up and arrive. They even see the global financial meltdown as part of God's plan. They are packed and armed and ready for Rapture, for violent struggle and for righteous all-out holy war. They are itchy twitchy with the hair-trigger. They don't listen to naysayers; if you're not with them, you're against them. You're an evildoer, letting Satan mind-control you away from executing God's plan. Stay wired. No blinking. Let's roll.

And the Republican party courted these votes, and is now well and truly infiltrated by these zealots. And Palin was the price these nutters demanded for their money, their votes, their support.

We see a lot of scary news most days about religious fundamentalists with home-made IEDS.
We could see the elevation of a religious fundamentalist with access to the nuclear codes, and the world's most expensive army, who thinks Jesus will return to earth in her lifetime and who is geared up for Babylon (which was sited in modern-day Iran) to attack the Holy Land - and to pile right in atcha. Ka-pow! Take that, Satan! Boom!

For God's sake.

That's not funny at all.

Further reading

New evidence Palin had direct role in charging rape victims for exams
A Palin Presidency may have literal apocalyptic consequences
Sarah Palin's links to the Christian Right
Troopergate, rapekitgate and Joel's armygate
Palin's churches and the Third Wave
Wasilla book-burning
The CNP Dominionists who vetted Sarah Palin
Theocratic sect prays for real Armageddon