Saturday, March 22, 2003

Just got back from London, where I was at today's Stop The War protest. The news is reporting an estimate of 100,000 people there, which I think was a little low. Even if you go with the official figure of 750,000 people that were there on February 15th, there seemed to me to be a lot more than one-seventh of the people then there today.

One thing I did see in Hyde Park was a veteran of the International Brigades, which reminded me of that old recruiting slogan they used, later turned into a Manic Street Preachers song: If You Tolerate This, Your Children Will Be Next

Anyway, I took photos, and you can see them by clicking here.
Margaret Atwood has an interesting article in today's Guardian about the adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale into an opera. I'm not a big fan of opera, but I might either go to see this or get a CD of it, because it's such a fantastic book, and reviews I've read of the opera itself have been very good.

For a fuller summary of my views on The Handmaid's Tale, I wrote a Bartcop Books recommendation of it last year.
To Whom It May Concern
(Adrian Mitchell)

I was run over by the truth one day.
Ever since the accident I've walked this way
So stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

Heard the alarm clock screaming with pain,
Couldn't find myself so I went back to sleep again
So fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

Every time I shut my eyes all I see is flames.
Made a marble phone book and I carved out all the names
So coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

I smell something burning, hope it's just my brains.
They're only dropping peppermints and daisy-chains
So stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

Where were you at the time of the crime?
Down by the Cenotaph drinking slime
So chain my tongue with whisky
Stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

You put your bombers in, you put your conscience out,
You take the human being and you twist it all about
So scrub my skin with women
Chain my tongue with whisky
Stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.
Peacenik vs Warmonger, from Indymedia. (Link from Burnt Toast)

Friday, March 21, 2003

I'd like to apologise to Donald Rumsfeld. In the past (though not on this blog, as far as I remember) I've referred to him as Dr Strangelove. It's now clear to me that he is not Dr Strangelove but rather, General Buck Turgidson. 'Mr. President, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed.'

The part of Dr Strangelove will now be played by Richard Perle. 'Mein Fuhrer! I can walk!'
Couple of interesting and related links: The Wall (originally spotted by Boyd from Green Fairy's comments):

"Fifty Eight Thousand Two Hundred And Twenty Nine. Every one of them a son; a brother, or a father, a husband, a cousin, a lover, a neighbor, a friend. Fifty Eight Thousand Two Hundred And Twenty Nine boys brought home in boxes. For what? For fuckin' nothing. And now the bastards are gonna do it again."

And also, Veterans Against Iraq War:

While others pontificate and theorize about war, veterans know about its realities. The present Administration is led by men and women who chose not to go into the military and today have little understanding of war and no comprehension of its consequences. They do not know what you know, or feel what you feel. For all too many of them, war is little more than an abstract exercise in geopolitics.
A Citizen's Declaration: (organised by MoveOn)

As a US-led invasion of Iraq begins, we, the undersigned citizens of many countries, reaffirm our commitment to addressing international conflicts through the rule of law and the United Nations.
By joining together across countries and continents, we have emerged as a new force for peace. As we grieve for the victims of this war, we pledge to redouble our efforts to put an end to the Bush Administration's doctrine of pre-emptive attack and the reckless use of military power.

You can sign it by clicking here. Although I think it will be there for some time to sign, please try and find the time today as they're announcing it at a press conference later today and want as many signatures as possible by then.
1000 people arrested at an anti-war protest in San Francisco (via Atrios)

I went to the protest in Colchester last night - 400 people gathered outside the Town Hall, blocking the High Street and Stockwell Street, for around an hour, then marching down to the War Memorial. What was interesting was that yes, the Trots were there, but as they have been throughout this anti-war movement, they've been outnumbered and outargued. They were trying to say that everyone should stay blocking the roads all night to which they were basically told to sod off.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

As has been noted in the comments on PolitX recently, Peter Cuthbertson of Conservative Commentary has been turning into a parody of himself over the last few weeks and now, with this rather deranged attack on the Liberal Democrats, he's gone totally off into the realms of the barking insane. Which should do no harm to his prospects of writing for the Daily Mail in future years, no doubt.

I could do a complete analysis of the errors, lies, smears and general paranoid insanity of the post, but life is really just too short to spend all that time, so just to concentrate on a few points. I did make some of these in a comment on his site, but strangely it seems to have disappeared...

First, on the point that America is Britain's 'natural ally' I refer you to this post of Gert's on Mad Musings of Me which makes the point that while we seem ready to stand by America whatever they do, they don't really feel much need to reciprocate.

Having titled his article 'It's Britain they hate' Peter goes on to say 'The Liberal Democrats cannot stand Britain as a country' without providing any evidence to back up this rather startling assertion. There's a saying that 'extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof' and Peter provides no proof.

As I said in my deleted comment, come over here and say that. Then, tell all of my friends who are members of the Liberal Democrats that. See how long it takes them to laugh in your face. Then, go to each of the party's MPs and councillors and tell them that. I'd especially like to see the reaction of Lembit Opik, whose family struggled to get to this country and make new lives for themeselves, to his assertion. When he's done that, perhaps he might like to tell Paddy Ashdown, who has spent almost all his adult life either serving or representing his country, that he hates Britain and his vision is 'not compatible with any notion of patriotism'.

Finally, Peter comes out with "I don't use the word "traitor" lightly, and I will not use it here." Except, of course, by not using it, he manages to bring it into play without actually calling people traitors. They're weasel words, Peter, used by someone who wants to make a smear but doesn't have the courage to stand by it. In the same spirit I would like to state that I don't use the words 'Peter Cuthbertson is a drug-dealing Nazi who regularly pimps member of his immediate family to pay for his crack habit' lightly, and I won't use them here.

To paraphrase Evan Dorkin: I'm sure I could devastate you with some oh-so-cutting bon mot, but why bother when 'Fuck you, Tory Boy' gets right to the point?
What now? Max Sawicky makes some good points here and here, as does No More Mister Nice Blog. The Rittenhouse Revew spots the start of the 'First Baghdad, then...' arguments that Matthew Turner mentioned yesterday. Atrios keeps watching and reading everything, Bartcop stays mad as hell and the Head Heeb remembers that there's a lot more going on in this world.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Matthew Turner has an interesting suggestion today - watching the number of times 'North Korea' and 'Iran' appear in blogs over the coming weeks and months as the Neocons start looking for their next target. He also links to a National Review article that provides an interesting test - how long can you read it for before thinking 'you're completely batshit crazy!'?
This has to be a joke, right? (Link from No More Mister Nice Blog)

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

War, famine, pestilence...

Come and see...

I'm glad I'm an atheist, you know.
In between listening to the news, I've been listening to Roger Waters this morning.

You have a natural tendency to squeeze off a shot
You're good fun at parties, you wear the right masks
You're old but you still like a laugh in the locker room
You can't abide change, you're at home on the range
You open the suitcase behind the old workings
To show off the magnum, you deafen the canyon
A comfort a friend only upstaged in the end by the Uzi machine gun
Does the recoil remind you, remind you of sex
Old man what the hell you gonna kill next
Old timer who you gonna kill next

I looked over Jordan and what did I see
Saw a US Marine in a pile of debris
I swam in your pools and lay under your palm trees
I looked in the eyes of the Indian who lay on the Federal Building steps
And through the range finder over the hill
I saw the frontline boys popping their pills
Sick of the mess they find on their desert stage
And the bravery of being out of range
Yeah the question is vexed
Old man what the hell you gonna kill next
Old timer who you gonna kill next

Hey bartender over here, two more shots and two more beers
Sir turn up the TV sound, the war has started on the ground
Just love those laser-guided bombs, they're really great for righting wrongs
You hit the target and win the game from bars three thousand miles away
Three thousand miles away
We play the game with the bravery of being out of range
We zap and maim with the bravery of being out of range
We strafe the train with the bravery of being out of range
We gain terrain with the bravery of being out of range
With the bravery of being out of range
We play the game with the bravery of being out of range

(from Amused to Death, lyrics copied from here)
I can't work out why the Guardian have employed David Aaronovitch - surely it would just be cheaper to give Alastair Campbell his column instead?

He writes today: Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs should forget axiomatic wisdom this week, and think like Iraqis.

Well, David, maybe they're thinking like this Iraqi.
Robin Cook has an article in The Guardian that covers most of the same points as his speech yesterday. It may be an actual transcript, but it's not flagged as such.

And there's a full transcript of Bush's speech as well, if you're not feeling scared enough this morning.

I think I'm going to spend most of the next week drunk...
SETI are beginning their look at the 150 best signals from SETI@Home in Arecibo today. With everything else that's going on in the world, I'm not sure it's the best time to be getting in touch with the aliens...that old SF cliche of destroying us to protect the rest of the galaxy seems far too likely.

Monday, March 17, 2003

Just listened to Robin Cook's resignation speech on Five Live and had a moment of confusion at the end as I tried to work out what the sound was, before I realised that he was getting a standing ovation. As the commentators are noting already, it's the first time that's happened in the House of Commons for years.

The speech itself was very impressive - I'm trying to find a transcript to get some quotes, but there don't seem to be any available just yet. However, he asked some important questions and raised big issues that I expect will get a full airing in the Commons debate scheduled for tomorrow. Before the resignation, British Spin raised the issue of political 'discounting' - because the prospect of Cook resigning was already on the table, its actual impact was lessened. However, the wild card in any of these issues is the resignation statement and what effect it will have. Like Geoffrey Howe in 1990, Cook has used it to maximum effect, and it may well have strong repercussions further down the line.

Update: Further coverage from the Guardian with quotes
That lovely woman they call the Vodkabird is doing a series of entries this week on the city of Birmingham. I'm not actually from Birmingham, but as people who come from my home town (Redditch) tend to forget it even exists, it's easier to tell strangers that I'm from 'near Birmingham', which, living where I do now among the Essex sense of geography gets me called a 'Northerner'. And, of course there's no way to annoy someone from the Midlands more than calling them either a northerner or southerner - not that we have anything against the people from those lesser areas, it's just that they tend to forget we exist a lot of the time in their division of the country into North and South.

Oh, and one common error Vicky doesn't make, which I've seen a couple of times recently is assuming that Birmingham is part of the Black Country. That manages to offend people from Birmingham and the Black Country at the same time - but at least all can agree they're glad they don't live in Coventry.
Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks would like to apologise for criticising President Bush:

I hope everyone understands, I'm just a young girl who grew up in Texas. As far back as I can remember, I heard people say they were ashamed of President Clinton. I saw bumper stickers calling him everything from a pothead to a murderer. I heard people on the radio and tv like Rush Limbaugh, Pat Robertson, Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott bad mouthing the President and ridiculing his wife and daughter at every opportunity.

I heard LOTS of people disrespecting the President. So I guess I just assumed it was acceptable behavior.

But now, thanks to the thousands of angry people who want radio stations to boycott our music because criticizing the President is unpatriotic, I realize it's wrong to have a liberal opinion if you're a country music artist. I guess I should have thought about that before deciding to play music that attracts hypocritical red necks.

I also realize now that I'm supposed to just sing and look cute so our fans won't have anything to upset them while they're cheating on their wives or getting in drunken bar fights or driving around in their pickup trucks shooting highway signs and small animals.

(From The Specious Report, via Bartcop)
Robin Cook has resigned from the Cabinet over Iraq. I'm not near a TV, so I haven't seen if he got to do the purposeful walk along Downing Street like Heseltine over Westland. However, The Guardian reports that he'll make a resignation statement to the Commons after Jack Straw's statement tonight.

So, Jack Straw's making a statement to the House of Commons at 7pm tonight, followed by Bush's speech at 1am UK time. All seems to indicate that we're looking at war within 24 hours...

Hmm...weren't MPs meant to get the chance to vote on whether we went to war?

Update: Nick Assinder has a rather speedily-produced analysis of the Cook resignation on BBC News. This is the interesting part:

To state the obvious, this is seriously bad news for Tony Blair. The MP will become far and away the most serious and senior dissenter on the backbenches - and his attacks will not be confined to this war. Once this is all over he has the potential to be a real and powerful threat to Tony Blair, sniping at any number of policies from Lords reform to foreign policy. Indeed, his influence may prove to be less important over the war crisis than it will be later when politics returns to what will then count as normality.
Random thought: What if terrorists have got hold of a Dirrty Bomb that makes everyone within the blast radius want to impersonate Christina Aguilera?
Chris Patten has been announced as the new Chancellor of Oxford University. Quite a comfortable victory for him in the end, but interesting that the supposed 15-20,000 voters turned into just 8,000. Or did a lot of people turn up intending to vote then meet their old friends and just spend the day reliving some of the excesses of their student days?
Are some of the Democratic Presidential candidates following the advice of Jon Stewart and getting themselves some nutsack?

Howard Dean: "I want my country back! I don't want to listen to fundamentalist preachers anymore!"

John Kerry: "There is a much cheaper way, less complicated way to bring Saddam to its knees: - send the Bush economic team over there and let them run the country."

(Quotes from Bartcop)
Had to travel up to Bury St Edmunds for the nearest part of the Global Vigil to me - at least, I hadn't heard of one nearer to me - but quite a lot of other people had. There were around 100 people gathered in silence and candlelight round the War Memorial near the Cathedral. Of course, I'm sure the usual suspects will say everyone involved was either a 'Trotskyite' or 'Islamofascist' but you can see the pictures I took for yourself and make up your own mind by clicking here.

Update: MoveOn have a selection of pictures from vigils all round the world

Sunday, March 16, 2003

The end of the world is predicted by a Hebrew speaking carp in New York.

According to two fish-cutters at the New Square Fish Market, the carp was about to be slaughtered and made into gefilte fish for Sabbath dinner when it suddenly began shouting apocalyptic warnings in Hebrew.

I'd comment, but what can you add to this story?