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September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 December 2010

30 November 2005
In at number 45 on Blog Top Sites
This blog has just entered the Politics top 50 at Blogtopsites.com. It's at number 45 and I am seriously chuffed about that. Not bad after just over a month's blogging. At the time of writing, 546 blogs are listed under the politics heading.
Americans start talks with Iran & the guerrillas
Do you remember all that axis of evil bollocks? Well, you can probably forget all about it now, as the Americans are sitting down to a nice series of chats with the Iranians. The agenda is likely to involve the Iranians helping the Americans cut and run from Iraq. It seems like only yesterday that Scott Ritter was claiming that the Chimp was going to send his army into Iran, so this is a big sea change in Washington's policy. At the same time, negotiations look set to start with some of the Sunni resistence groups within Iraq. It will be recalled that the Americans used to dismiss the guerrillas as deadenders, who would be quickly mopped up by Uncle Sam's brave boys. How quickly times change.

They have changed because the Iraqis are fighting like tigers and the Americans have realised that subjugating them is not something that they can do with the forces that they have available: and those forces are set to fall next year, anyway. The Shia religious parties look likely to win next month's elections in Iraq, as they won the elections last January. The neocon fantasy of a secular, free-market, Israel recognising Iraq has pretty much gone down the toilet, as indeed have the neocons themselves. Some, such as Count Vulvovitz, jumped ship early and took a cushy number at the World Bank. Others look set to become big boys' boyfriends when the cell doors finally slam shut on them.

So, the idea seems to be to talk to the Iranians, in the hope that they can pressure the Iraqi Shias, and at the same time talk to some of the guerrillas in the hope that they will stop killing Americans. The overall aim seems to be to pursuade enough Iraqis to cool things down so that the Americans can leave without it being quite so obvious that their tails are firmly clamped between their legs. It reminds one a bit of Henry Kissinger's negotiations with the Vietnamese to achieve the same end. Then it was called "peace with honour" and it lasted about two years before the Vietnamese swept down to remove the puppets from whatever power the Americans had allowed them to have. I doubt if the Iraqis will wait that long.
29 November 2005
Why the guerrillas will probably win once the Americans leave.
Juan Cole has a take on why the guerrillas should win any post-occupation conflict:
Readers and colleagues often ask me why a Shiite majority and the Kurdish Peshmergas couldn't just take care of the largely Sunni Arab guerrillas. The answer is that the Sunni Arabs were the officer corps and military intelligence, and the more experienced NCOs, and they know how to do things that the Shiites and Kurds don't know how to do. The Sunni Arabs were also the country's elite and have enormous cultural capital and managerial know-how. Sunni Arab advantages will decline over time, but they are there for this generation, and no one should underestimate the guerrilla leadership. If the Americans weren't around, all those 77 Hungarian T-72 tanks that the new Iraqi military now has would be in guerrilla hands so fast it would make your head spin.
This argument ignores the fact that some Shia groups might join the guerrilla army on the principle that backing winners is better than going down to an inglorious defeat for the Americans and their allies. If that happened, then defeat for the Americans' clients would just come all the sooner.
Blog war
This is good sport, especially since it involves the great Sonic using some some fool as electronic toilet paper.

Basically, an American Wingnut site reproduced an essay which it said was by Christopher Hitchens. The problem is that Sonic, who seems to have read everything that Hitchens has ever written, pointed out to the site's wazzock-in-chief that the piece was actually by one Leo McKinstrey. If someone did that to me I would feel embarrassed that I had made the up fuck, but grateful that some bugger had come along and corrected it for me.

This basic courtesy does not apply as far as wingnuts are concerned, as you can see from this exchange in the comments box, over at Sonic's Hitchens Watch site.

In the meantime, our little wingnut may like to know that Mexicans do not claim that they are hijos de la chingada, and chingada does not mean rape, it means fuck. Yes, I know, some dictionaries claim it means the former, but I suspect that they are being pedantic, because in the old days both rape and sex out of wedlock were seen as synonymous. Both were an insult to the girl's family, and insults like that called for a vendetta. In Mexican culture, if you are a son of la chingada it means that you are a bastard and your mother is a whore.

It is the great insult that gets hurled at someone, just as the tables are kicked away, the bar-girls start running for cover and the pistols come out of the pockets. If any Mexican ever used it about himself he would be doing it in a self-mocking way and only within his circle of very close friends.

Staying on the theme of wingnut stupidity, quoting one of the Chimp's pretty boys as evidence that Hugo Chavez Frias has "little claim to legitimate rule" is very silly indeed. Especially when the pretty boy in question got turfed out by the Spanish electorate, and the new government has just signed a massive arms deal with Venezuela. I know that opinions are like arseholes and we all have them, but an opinion is not a fact. Likewise, saying that Chavez Frias is "wearing a little thin" in the rest of Latin-America and then quoting as evidence a Bolivian regime that is on its way out is hand-shandery of the highest order.

Wingnuts, please don't take my criticisms to much to heart. Please keep pulling your plonkers, always remembering not to spurt all over the monitor when you get to the fast wrist movements.


28 November 2005
A failure of socialism
The year was probably 1967 and I would have been 11 years old on the day in question. It must have been that year because that was when Parliament voted to decriminalise homosexuality. Obviously the bill was making its way through when I heard a snatch of conversation between two men as I walked down a street in Manchester with my parents: "There'll be puffs walking around if this gets through," said one to the other.

I was old enough to know what they were talking about, but too young to have an opinion about it. For some reason that sentence has stuck in my mind all these years. That fragment of a conversation, heard almost 40 years ago, forms the basis of what I believe is wrong with socialism today.

Working class people join unions and vote Labour for economic reasons. What they want from the Labour Movement is basically economic. Economic security comes at the top of the list; control over the work process would probably come in at a close second. Nationalisation is certainly on the list, but it is unlikely to be at the top. British working people are a pragmatic bunch and have shown no desire to proceed to full-blown socialism over the past decades. I think that it is fair to say that so long as our people have a long-term job, with a decent wage and a union to ensure that terms and conditions improve every year, most of them will be happy with that.

The middle class types who join the movement tend to be people who are motivated by social or moral issues, rather than economic ones. Often this leads to some confusion in their little minds because they assume that as they have some issue with state policy, and as working class people also have issues outstanding with that same state, then all those issues are the same. Well, that is not the case because working class people tend to be economically radical and socially conservative. Middle class types tend to be the other way around, and the time has come when this circle can no longer be squared.

It could be squared in the 1960s, which is when I heard that bit of conversation. It could be done then because there were plenty of issues that could be traded off to keep everyone more or less happy. The types got some of the social legislation that they wanted, and we got more holidays, stronger unions and more control at work. We could live with their agenda because more of ours was being implemented.

The problem only came to a head in the early 1980s when government attacks on the unions, high levels of unemployment and a Labour Party that seemed more concerned about social issues all came to a head. Labour began to lose votes in election after election because the party seemed to be trying to copy the American Democratic Party, and had become a party of conflicting interest groups. Rights for this group or that, be they women, minorities, homosexuals or whatever, all became the buzz words of the day, as indeed they are now. Labour still had an economic agenda, but it got drowned out by the caterwauling of middle class types, as they pursued their own agendas.

Now, of course the Labour Movement must support increased rights for working women, that goes without saying. However, assuming that all woman share the same values simply because all woman have vaginas is silly. Working women may want a creche at work for their children, more time off after giving birth, more flexible working hours so that they can juggle home and work. Alternatively, they may not even want to work. Why cannot a wife and mother not stay at home to care for the next generation, and be paid a wage for doing that? These are the issues that strike me as sensible for a working class body to be discussing. Instead, talk is taken up with the "glass ceiling," and similar non-issues. In the case of minorities, we are told that only a few Asians are members of the boards of large companies and no blacks at all are to be found. As if anyone in the Labour Party should care.

The point is obvious: the glass ceiling is not a problem for working women; it is a problem for middle class whores. Blacks and Asians who sit on the boards of companies are clearly not a part of labour's tribe and we should not even pretend to be interested in their desires. The Labour Movement should articulate the aspirations of working class people, and should state quite clearly that the only dividing line is that of social class: working class people on one side and two-legged cockroaches on the other.

Success at this in the early 1960s meant that Smith & Nephew Ltd, could no longer get away with paying the Pakistani workers that they had imported into Nelson, Lancashire, £6-0-0 a week when the white workers were receiving £7-0-0. The unions refused to tolerate it on the basis of class solidarity. That led to the Labour government being pressured into banning that particular management wheeze, which happened as part of the two Race Relations Acts of 1965 and 1968.

The failure to articulate a clear, class-based ideology has led to the indigenous working class losing faith in Labour as the vehicle for their aspirations. When Labour talks about issues that are only of concern to types, the working man loses interest in a debate that is not about him or his concerns. When councils are perceived as doing favours for one ethnic minority at the expense of the rest, all that happens is that many Labour people cease to believe in the party as a whole. The fact that many of these favours consist of middle class jobs for middle class types only makes the situation worse.

How did this unhappy state of affairs come about? There are obviously many reasons, but the main one to my mind is that types are just better at getting their agenda over than we are. Working people tend to respond to a crisis with strikes and/or demonstrations, but if there is no perceived crisis they tend to get on with their lives rather than go to meetings. Leading on from this is the fact that the people who write for newspapers and work on television tend also to be types. It became a kind of vicious circle as midde class types propounded an agenda in the political parties, an agenda that was taken up by the media and sold back not as the desires of a minority, but as the common sense views of everyone. Working class people responded by switching off from a political process that increasingly ceased to articulate their views.

How to get back the lost millions? Well, for that to even begin to happen, NewLab must first lose, and lose badly. The middle class element that has taken over the party should be discredited by this and then encouraged to go off and seek pastures new. The people who will remain within the party will be its labourite and socialist element who know that people like us have no other home but Labour.

Then, Labour must rally the tribe and that tribe will only rally if the old call goes out for jobs, strong unions to protect those jobs and a programme of nationalisation that can be presented as being about strengthening workers' rights still further. A few social issues can be thrown out as table scraps, just so long as those who propound such issues understand that the days when we took a backseat to them are over. The scraps they can have, but the feast will be ours.

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27 November 2005
Chimpism in action
(Click on the cartoon to enlarge the image.)

According to Martin Rowson, the above cartoon got quite a reaction after it was published in The Guardian on the 1st November 2004:
My jovial prophecy - that the election would be a draw, the Republicans would then cheat and that a new US civil war would break out - inspired around 400 outraged Americans to send me abusive email, most of it along the lines of "you'd be speaking German now if it wasn't for us, you limey asshole".

At this point I still thought it my duty to reply to these emails, so again I politely pointed out that if the US hadn't entered the second world war in December 1941 there would have been no D-Day and no second front, the Red Army would have swept through Nazi Germany and into western Europe and that, in fact, I'd now be speaking Russian. And, incidentally, the US would have lost the cold war in about 1958.
What can you say about the Chimp and his supporters? Where would we be without them?
What does Blair have in common with John Major?
Support for the Blair regime has now fallen to just 30% according to a Yougov poll. At the same time 64% believe that "the wheels are starting to fall off" the government. It sounds a bit like John Major's time to me. That government got returned and within weeks its members looked like lame ducks. Strange how history repeats itself.

Members of the 101st Fighting Keyboarders (British Battalion) can cheer themselves up by playing Battle To Baghdad: The Fight For Freedom, a new board game that has just come out in the USA. Then they can sit around like good little boys and while they play nice they can delude themselves into believing that war really is a cakewalk.

Cheers: Antiwar.com
The local talent on display

Here's the deal. You want to promote some aspect of a business that appeals to the male of the species. You hire a couple of girls and a bloke with a sound system that can be heard on the other side of the city. The girls climb onto the bed of a lorry and start dancing to the music. Blokes arrive to admire the talent and have their photographs taken with them. Then you sell them whatever is on offer. In this case its Bardahl oil, as sold by the wife in her care spares' shop.

Mexico has its good points: two of them in this case. . .
26 November 2005
Hand shandery reaches new lows in hypocracy.
This is a gem: the most risible of all the hand shandyists for war has posted an article attacking Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, the former dictator of Chile and good friend to the USA. I suppose he wants to try and prove to gullible readers that he really is a socialist.

Well, my lads if any of you are reading this, once the USA has been left battered, broken and bankrupted by the Iraqis, then a full and final reckoning might come about in places like Chile. It is a fairly unique country for Latin-America in that it has a large, parasitic middle class who supported the coup from the beginning. The Americans may have cheered them on, but it was a local event. I am sure that there are quite few Chileans who feel that it's never too late to pay off an old debt.

Do you see how it works, lads? Defeat for imperialism in Iraq could mean a great wailing and smashing of teeth in Chile, and the removal of that country from capitalism's orbit. As I said, it may not happen, but that is not the point. We will never know unless the Americans are forced back in isolationism, will we?

This message has been brought to you by the Exile, a tolerant soul who seeks to remind mongs all over the globe what socialism is all about.


Blair gets shafted from across the Atlantic
It is tough being an arse-licker as Tony Blair has already found out. It's even tougher when people in the country you arse-licked start shafting you.

According to Joe Wilson, the former ambassador whose wife was outed as a CIA agent, little Tony was duped into supporting action against Iraq on the basis that it was all about disarmament via the United Nations, and not a war of aggression to change the government of a sovereign state. Once little Tony had served his purpose, Wilson said he was "double-crossed," and pretty much left with his dick in his hand to sort things out in London as best he could.

If this account is true then Blair is not just a dupe, he is a dupe who hurried to catch up with his master's new line once it became clear to him what it was. It does not seem to have troubled him that Washington was playing him like a violin: all that mattered was that he kept getting pats on the head from his master. What a good little doggie he is!
25 November 2005
Hand shandyism & neoconservatism are natural allies.
A faintly ludicrous article was published in The Guardian on Monday. The author, one David Clark a former NewLab spinner, argued that the left is in danger of permanent "schism" between pro and anti imperialist factions, unless something is done quickly. He points to the new Henry Jackson Society that has just been launched in London as evidence of this. Jackson was an American Democrat who was liberal on domestic policy, but very hawkish on foreign affairs. He is one of the father figures of the neoconservative movement in the USA. According to Clark:
It is common outside America to regard neoconservatism as synonymous with the Republican right. In fact, its roots lie mostly on the left. The original neoconservatives - also nicknamed Socialists for Nixon - were anti-communist leftists and liberals who became alienated from the Democratic party when it endorsed the anti-Vietnam war candidate George McGovern for president in 1972. Appalled by what they saw as the refusal of liberals to defend their values and confront totalitarianism in the guise of Soviet power, the neoconservatives drifted to the right, contributing to a broader political realignment that swept Ronald Reagan to power.
So what Clark is saying is that we on the left have to kiss and make up with the warmongers, otherwise said 'mongers will go off as their American cousins did a generation ago into neoconservatism. He concludes by saying that:
Efforts to heal the wounds created by Iraq must be a common responsibility of the liberal left. The coming end of the Blair era, together with the eclipse of the Bush presidency, provides an opportunity to disengage from the occupation and take a new direction in the fight against terrorism around which liberals and progressives can unite. To squander it would be to play into the hands of those who want the next era of British politics to be a Conservative one.
There are two issues that need to be addressed here. The first is that there is no split on the left and the second is that neoconservatism is rather more than a bunch of "leftists" who wandered off to the right.

That the left is united in opposition to this aggression against Iraq just happens to be a fact, and facts speak for themselves. Thus there will be no schism or split in socialist ranks because we are more united in opposition to this war than we have been in a long time about any other issue. What has happened is that a small section of the Blairite left has moved away from the rest of us and is already on its way towards neoconservatism. They are so few in number that they can be ignored for all practical purposes. They tend to base themselves around six or so websites, that are read by socialists when they want some free entertainment.

There is no organised, socialist element, here. All we find are a few individuals who have moved so far from the Labour and socialist tradition that one of them can say that he hates "chav culture for its casual violence, its anti-intellectualism, its celebration of mediocrity and conformity, and hatred of individualism". In other words he hates the working class, because "chav" is the word used to describe us by our class enemies these days. He also hates socialism because socialism is a committment to collectivism, rather than individualism. It's nice to get that one sorted out, and it's nice that at least one tosser is willing to admit to his true beliefs.

These hand shandyists for war are little more than middle class political consumers who took up socialism in the same way that they might choose a holiday in France over one in Germany. Being mere consumers they can pick up an object one day and drop it the next. They are not to be confused with the bulk of the Labour Movement who reach socialism because they are sick and tired of economic insecurity. Getting rid of a few of these cockroaches who have no emotional, economic or cultural links to the movement strikes me as an important first step in the recovery of that movement.

Secondly, neoconservatism is rather more than generic "leftism" that went wrong, in spite of what this writer claims. Its roots are Trotskyite and neoconservatism is basically what happens when a middle class Trot loses interest in the economics, but keeps his faith in the bit about permanent revolution that Trotsky was always so keen on. It's consumerism all over again, in other words.

Unfortunately for the rest of us, although Trotsky was an isolated and ignored figure who ended up head butting an ice-pick, his spiritual heirs have the ear of the White House; thus their version of permanent revolution should be taken seriously. If the imperialists win in Iraq, who will be next on the menu? Iran, Syria, Venezuala and Cuba have all come under verbal threat of late. One thing is for sure, armed with this ideology, wars would be a matter of course for us and our posterity. The Labour Movement cannot ally itself with creatures like this.

Neither should the movement allow itself to be blackmailed by them. Let them wander off into the Henry Jackson Society if they wish. Who are they and how many divisions have they got? They are nowt a pound and they count for nowt, is the answer that any decent socialist should give. The movement should bid them a fond farewell.


24 November 2005
Blair is "Bush's lapdog," say parents of dead soldier.
The parents of Sergeant John 'Jonah' Jones, the 98th British soldier to die in Tony Blair's desire to appease a foreign ruler, have spoken out against the war in general and Blair in particular: "Tony Blair should have his kids out there and then he would know how it feels. He is just Bush's lapdog. It was an unjust war to start with. It's going to be like America's Vietnam," said 62 year old Ray Jones, the dead man's father.

As the death toll in Blair's war creeps towards the first one hundred mark, the Stop The War Coalition are preparing to demonstrate in one hundred towns and cities in the UK on the day after this tragic, senseless milestone is reached. On the actual day itself, the Military Families Against The War will mount a protest in Parliament Square.

If you live in the UK your support is needed. The hand shandyists for war must learn that they only speak for a tiny handful of people. They are not the voice of the majority.
Boris Johnson, official secrets & yet another government memo
When I knew him some people were still calling him Alex, if memory serves me right, but to most of us he was Boris. Where the nickname came from I have no idea, but it seems to have stuck to him. He was an old Etonian who went up to Baliol and he could drink the gang of miners, factory workers and a certain cinema projectionist that made up the junior common room at Ruskin College, Oxford, into the ground. We liked him, and we helped get him elected to the presidency of the Oxford Union. Boris Johnson may have been a toff, but in a strange sort of way he was one of us.

I have sought of followed his career over the decades, but I haven't spoken to the man in over 25 years. He is now a Tory MP and the editor of The Spectator. He has also just published what is probably the most defiant call that any journalist has penned in recent memory.

On Monday The Daily Mirror broke the story that the Chimp had planned to bomb the al-Jazeera television station in Doha, the capital of Qatar. He was talked out of this by Tony Blair and a five page memorandum exists of that conversation.

This memo was leaked to a certain Tony Clarke, who was then the NewLab MP for Northampton until the recent election. For some reason this fool gave the document back to the government, and the only good thing that I can say about Tony Clarke is that he is now the ex-MP for Northampton, as he lost his seat back in May. The point is that the story was out. . .

It looks as if The Daily Mirror has managed to get hold of a copy of the actual memorandum, because Tiny Tony has threatened them with prosecution under the Official Secrets Act if they publish further details from it. The Daily Mirror has backed down and agreed not to say any more.

This is where Boris Johnson comes in. For Boris has just announce that if anyone will send him the memo, he will publish it in full in The Spectator, and the Blairites can prosecute away.

He could end up doing some bird for this. He knows it, but he thinks that it is worth it. What can we humble British bloggers do to support this stand? I suggest that we post the memorandum on our sites if and when it sees the light of day. The more people who publish it, the less chance there is that anyone will end up as a guest of Her Majesty.

I feel utterly ashamed that it is a Tory MP that has taken this stand. I repeat what I posted earlier: I want my party back!

Update at 2.30am: This article gives more details about the attitude that the Chimp had towards al-Jazeera. The Battle of Fallujah was taking place and the station was running footage of the slaughter.
23 November 2005
Feeling proud, warmongers?
If you are a warmonger, especially if you are one of those creatures who tries to pretend that he is a socialist, I want you to visit the Today in Iraq site. Scroll down until you get to the 22nd November entries. There you will see a photograph of an Iraqi father holding his dead baby in his arms. The child was murdered by American forces. I can't face posting the photograph here.

When you have done that I would like you to come back here and tell me that the resistence is composed of deadenders, nothing but Baathists, or whatever the latest line is from that shithole of a country that you support. The resistence is Iraq and it is made up of the men who have seen their country occupied and their children killed.

Now, I know that you 'mongers will say that this is what happens in war and that Saddam was far worse, but forget it, because I am not interested. I hope that when Iraq finally gets its act together and drives these aggressors out that all accounts will finally be settled. In the meantime, don't come mithering me about the scum that you support getting blown up on a daily basis.

I remember during the American war against Vietnam, how the USA managed to get some propaganda value out of the TV footage of American POWs being mistreated by their Vietnamese captors. Guess what, lads? I don't think that this will apply in Iraq. I think as far as most of the world is concerned, whatever the Iraqis do to any American they take is fine by us.
Ripping off the tourists in Cuba.
The following essay was first published in The Havana Journal in August 2005. The essay criticises one aspect of Cuba, namely the way in which scams are run with, possibly, official blessing. It is an issue that Cuba needs to address as a matter of urgency.

I thought long and hard about posting it here. I am not really too bothered about the views of right-wingers, but I was concerned that the British trendies may use it to make further attacks on Cuba. Then I thought bollocks to 'em.

This is the second essay about Cuba. The first can be found here.

The guide books advise their readers to see that all their luggage is securely locked prior to flying to Cuba. The baggage handlers at Havana airport are notoriously light-fingered and a few pounds spent on padlocks can make all the difference between getting a complete bag off the carousel or receiving one that has been thoroughly and expertly pillaged. Someone had still taken a shot at one of my suitcases – the one that had a combination lock on it instead of the others that had the more traditional keys. The face of the lock had been neatly wrenched off, but it was still sort of intact. The thief may have been disturbed, or he had run out of time, anyway the bag arrived with all its contents intact. Score one for taking a guide book’s advice. Such a pity they don’t talk about the scams that are run by the hotels as such information might have saved a lot of people a lot of grief…

The queue for the Cubana flight to Mexico City was long at Havana’s airport. It was the middle of the night so hardly anyone looked their best, anyway, but one 30-something woman looked paler and more ill at ease than the rest of us. My wife began to chat to the woman’s husband, who also looked a bit green about the gills, and found out what had happened to the couple.

They had staying at the beach resort of Varadero and their hotel had been stricken with food poisoning. The husband had escaped with a nasty bout of diarrhoea, but his wife had been taken to hospital. Around three hundred people, including a group of Mexican secondary school children, had also come down with this ailment in varying degrees of severity.

The cynic in me was amused to hear that guests at this hotel had been advised not to eat at the privately owned restaurants because, claimed their hotel, the food was often unsuitable for human consumption. Needless to say, and in the best tradition of Latin-America, the person who had thus advised the holidaymakers had made himself scarce once the dash to the toilets was on and had not been seen since.

To make matter worse the hotel had then denied that anything was out of the ordinary as far as their kitchen facilities were concerned and had blamed the outbreak on their guests’ determination to eat at the private restaurants that dot Cuban cities. The fact that nobody in this group had eaten outside the hotel was dismissed with an indifferent shrug.

Adding insult to injury, while all this was going on several guests found that their rooms had been entered and roughly half their money had been stolen. Note that the thief or thieves did not steal all the cash, so when the police were called in they just refused to believe that anything was amiss: they claimed that the complaint was an attempted scam by the tourists.

Exactly what happened at that hotel will probably never be known, but some informed guesses can be made. At the Hotel Nacional de Cuba where we stayed in Havana the breakfasts were delicious one day and terrible the next. Stale bread and dry fruit were the order of every other day, and all complaints were answered with the weary response that Cuba is a country under blockade and everyone has to make sacrifices.

Yes, well, a hotel security guard who had been suitably lubricated with gifts of clothing, soap and Mexican cigarettes confirmed what was already suspected; namely that the hotel’s employees were making one day’s food last for two and were then selling the surplus on the black market.

The hotel’s chambermaids have a little scam all of their own – at least ours did. She would stock the rooms that are occupied with toilet paper from the recently vacated rooms. The day’s supply of soap, shampoo and other toiletries was only ever half met. This wheeze came to light when our chambermaid took her day off and her replacement clumsily left the room fully stocked. The following day, when our regular maid returned, I ensured that we would not continue to be ripped-off by threatening to go and have a chat with the nice Interior Ministry policeman who was stationed outside the hotel. After that we had no problems, but it left a nasty taste in the mouth.

Screwing the guests seems to be an official policy at the Hotel Nacional: how many five star hotels in the world even charge guests for the bottled water that they leave in the rooms, much less the U.S.$2.50 that the Nacional charges for one litre of the stuff? The safe that most of these hotels have in every room is usually provided as a service to guests: not so at the Nacional; there the charge is U.S.$3.00 a day. Given these official scams, is it any wonder that the hotel’s staff decided to run some unofficial ones of their own?

So what happened at that hotel in Varadero? The best guess is that the staff were making the food last more than one day and something went rotten. This is understandable when you remember that even five star hotels suffer from blackouts that can last for several hours. As for the money stolen from the rooms that also suggests a clever, inside operation to only steal half the cash so that nobody would believe that a robbery had occurred. Or maybe it happens regularly and the police are either in on the deal or are under orders to rubbish all the complaints? We will never know.

To be fair to the Cuban government this writer did come across reports of the police running undercover operations to catch hotel criminals in the act, so they must be aware of the problem. However, and here is the big caveat, even assuming that the government has the will to fully tackle this problem there must be some doubt as to how effective their measures can be. Short of arresting every hotel employee in Cuba the scams are going to continue. That is how entrenched it seems to be.

The best advice that I can give to a visitor is, unfortunately, to treat Cuba as any other Latin-American republic and assume that basic criminality is the order of the day – a least as far as the hotels are concerned. Outside things are different as the streets are fairly safe to walk in and violent crime is almost unheard of. However, and sadly for the country’s image, the chances are that if a tourist is going to fall ill or suffer a robbery it will be because of something that happened in his luxurious, government owned hotel.
22 November 2005
Cheney seems to be losing the plot.
Dick Cheney seems to be having one of those days. It could be due to all that time spent in the company of the Chimp, in which case stupidity is catching.

First of all he claimed that:
Those who advocate a sudden withdraw from Iraq should answer a couple simple questions. Would the United States and other free nations be better off or worse off with Zarqawi, Bin Laden and Zawahiri in control Iraq? Would we be safer or less safe with Iraq ruled by men intent upon the destruction of our country.
A short while later, when speaking of the American backed Iraqi armed forces he said:
People who denigrate their competence and capability are flat wrong. They’re making a mistake. They either don’t understand the situation or they’re trying to confuse it, but the Iraqi security forces are well respected by the Iraqi people. They’re doing a very good job.
Now, am I the only one to spot that something is wrong with this line of argument? Either the puppet forces are great, in which case they would see off bin Laden, or they are not, but you can't have it both ways.

Actually, what is likely to happen is that the nationalist guerrillas, who seem quite happy to let the jihadists do their thing so long as the occupation continues, will roll up the other bunch of foreigners once the Americans have been driven out.
Iraq's oil up for grabs
According to a report in today's Independent, Iraq could lose over one hundred billion pounds' worth of oil reserves, if an American plan comes to fruition next year. It seems that the regime that the Americans have installed came under pressure from Washington and London to allow western companies to have a slice of the pie.

I must be honest and say that this bit of the report strikes me as rather silly: you don't pressure puppets. You just give them their orders. They know what will happen to them if they don't toe the line.

Other than that it seems like a classical imperialist grab for resources. Something that we on the left knew was going to happen all along. Only the toy-town leftists ever though that it would be any different.
Iraqi factions accept right to resist
Divided about almost everything, the Iraqi factions that met in Cairo over the weekend managed to hammer out a final statement in which they accepted that "national resistence is a right of all nations". In other words, even the American sponsored puppets have accepted that sooner or later the occupation will end and they had better start talking to the people who will still be living in Iraq after that happens. Time to cut the strings. . .

The interesting thing is that the comunique also condemed "terrorism" which it defined as attacks on Iraqi civilians and the like. Now this is interesting because it suggests that all Iraqi factions are quite happy to sit around and watch American troops get culled.

Given that yet another Iraqi family has just been butchered by American forces, that should not come as a surprise to anybody.
The first month
The first post to this blog was made on the 25th October at just after 8.00pm. Exactly four weeks later, let me share some thoughts with you.

The blog has been visited by over one thousand people. That is amazing, as I was only expecting a few dozen at most. Secondly, these visitors come from all over the world. That also surprised me, given the British slant to the blog: are there really so many solid, old Labourists spread across the globe, or are you all just addicted to reading blogs? Anyway, whatever your motives are in coming here, you are all more than welcome and I hope that you will keep returning.
21 November 2005
Cindy Sheehan's book to be published on Wednesday.
A book by Cindy Sheehan, Not One More Mother's Child, is to be published on Wednesday. The paperback will contain some of her speeches, letters to politicians and a collection of her articles.

Mrs Sheehan will probably go down in history as the woman who gave voice to the millions of Americans who had always opposed this aggression, and who probably created quite a few new opponents of the war as well. For that reason the warmongers tried to smear her in a desperate attempt to divert attention from the searing image of a mother, grieving for her dead son. The smears failed and probably served to turn more people away from this war.

My feeling is that she will be remembered when all the drunken hand shandyists for war are dead and forgotten about.
Support for the war against Iraq continues to fall in the USA.
As casualties climb, war weariness sets in. That was as true in Korea and Vietnam as it is today in Iraq. The difference is the speed with which the American population are rejecting this war. By June 2004, with the war only a little over a year old, just over half the population thought that the war was a mistake. That 50% mark was not reached in the Vietnam era until August 1968, seven years after the war started.
Losing the argument
The Observer carried a report about the maimed and dead who return to America from Iraq. The report should be read in its entirety, especially the section that deals with the way that the Americans massage their casualty figures. Soldiers injured in accidents are not counted as war casualties, unlike their British counterparts.

However, the really interesting thing is the attitude of the pro and anti war demonstrators outside Walder Reed Hospital in Washington D.C. The former only seems capable of hurling abuse at the anti-war crowd and they don't seem capable of answering even simple questions:

On one side of the road stands the anti-war lobby who want the troops home. They are careful to put their case in patriotic terms. 'They're sneaking the wounded in, in the middle of the night', one tells us. 'They don't want people to remember these were real men and women who'd served their country.'
The Bush supporters on the other side of the road jab their fingers towards the opposing group. 'These are a bunch of communists and Marxists. They hate everything about our country, they hate our soldiers,' says one. When I suggest there is no proven link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, another spits 'Moron' at me and stomps away. On this side of the road they are far angrier. That's probably because they are losing the argument.
That is the key to it: the warmongers are losing the argument. So they have to fall back on knuckle-dragging nationalism and howls of rage. Soon they will be looking for scapegoats for their lost war. With luck the USA will be tied up for a generation in this hunt.
20 November 2005
Casualties rise in war against Afghanistan.
Ths is the first time that I have commented on the American war against Afghanistan. This conflict tends to take a back seat, largely because the war has taken a long time to get going. However, slowly but surely, the Afghans are increasing the number of Americans that they cull every year.

In just over three years of war prior to this one, the Afghans only culled 102 invaders. However, during this year alone they have managed to send 94 home in body bags.

The Americans were hoping to hand off Afghanistan to their British poodles, but this plan looks set to run into trouble. Britain cannot fight Afghanistan alone and needs help from NATO. The Dutch now look set to refuse to send more troops because the country is "too dangerous" for them. (*) This means that either Britain will have to make up the shortfall, or the Americans will have to stay.

Needless to say, if the Afghans increase their run rate next year, then the Americans are going to have to send more troops into the country whether they want to or not. Either that or accept that they cannot fight a war on two fronts for long.

The issue in guerrilla war is not how many enemy troops the guerrilla forces can kill. The issue is can the conventional forces suppress the guerrillas? If they can't then the guerrillas usually win because they have the advantage of time on their side. Eventually, even the most enthusiastic imperialist will get sick of seeing his army being picked off by insurgents, as his tax bill rises to pay for it all. That could take decades, but the Afghans certainly have decades and more to spare: they are going nowwhere because Afghanistan is where they all live.

(*) Readers are reminded that The Times and Sunday Times are scab sheets that are produced by non-union labour. Care should be taken with anything that they print.
Supporting American aggression led straight to 7th July
British actions in support of the Chimp led to the attacks of the 7th July 2005, according to a new book by Crispin Black, a former intelligence officer.

He argues that the repeated government claim that waging war on Iraq would not place the UK at any greater risk than normal led the police and intelligence services to "take their eye off the ball". In other words, the government was complacent enough to believe its own guff and everybody else took their lead from that.

Leading on from this, and as a direct result of it, one of the main leaders of the groups that planted the bombs was “. . . able to escape from the country a few days later on the Eurostar after walking past his own wanted poster in Waterloo Station".

However, the main charge that Black makes against the Blair regime is that the war, and the way Britain went to war, led directly to the bombings. That the the government “cooked the intelligence books” with its pretexts for aggression just helped Islamic extremism, he said. “It is not just that many people view the war as unjust and illegal, but they believe it was based on a lie. The enabling atmosphere for Islamist terrorism feeds off the way we went to war as well as the perceived nature of the war itself."

Putting these two factors together, Black concludes: “The intelligence scandals could not have been designed better to cause offence, disaffection and alienation among the Muslim community. The irony is that cooking the intelligence books may well be one of the causes of our current difficulties, and one of the most powerful tools we have against terrorism are our intelligence services – compromised by this cavalier approach.”

Cheers: Antiwar.com
19 November 2005
Like chapel hat pegs. . .

A nice pair for a Saturday evening.
The right to resist
The Guardian has an article today written by a former prisoner of the Saddam Hussein regime. The writer asks why the patriotic forces in Iraq are growing in number and reaches the obvious conclusion that "collective punishment, random arrest and killing are the defining features".

He gives examples of all of these and concludes, "The lesson history taught us in Vietnam, that stubborn national resistance can wear down the most powerful armies, is now being learned in Iraq".

When do you suppose the 'mongers will wake up to this simple set of truths?
Scooter Libby's defence fund
The Scooter Libby Defence Fund has now opened and is awaiting the contribution of warmongers everywhere. Don't be shy, lads, just remember his sterling service in the cause of 'mongery and get those credit cards out. No contribution is too small, so let's see you shelling out some brass.
Fomer CIA head says Dick Cheney is vice-president for torture
The former director of the CIA, Stansfield Turner, has claimed that he is, "embarrassed that the United State has a vice president for torture. I think it is just reprehensible."

You have to love it when thieves fall out. Bill Clinton is on record as saying that the war was "a big mistake," the Congress is stirring and popular support for the Chimp is ebbing away. Even the United Nations is refusing to visit the torture centre at Guantanamo Bay because the Americans are placing too many restrictions on the visit.

My guess is that we will be reading lots more stories like this as people from the American elite try to put distance between themselves, a lost war and a president who has left the USA pretty much isolated in the world.
18 November 2005
One headline covers all.
This front page just says it all, doesn't it? I can almost hear the sphincters clenching in Scumbagland West.

Cheers: The law west of Ealing Broadway
Bill Clinton: War against Iraq "a big mistake"

Bill Clinton has articulated the views of two-thirds of all Americans: the war against Iraq was "a mistake".

Now the floodgates are open as more and more will line up to oppose the war. This is the turning point, and I am only amazed that it happened less than three years into the war. Coming as it does on the heels of the Senate's vote for a "phased withdrawal," we should pretty soon see the Americans fighting amongst themselves. So long as they are doing that the rest of us can rest easy in our beds.

It is not just about the sovereignty of Iraq, is it? Iraq is fighting for all those who oppose globalised capitalism and want to see it destroyed. Iraq is our standard bearer and for that reason the flag of proud, brave Iraq heads this posting.

Push on Iraq! Push on and give them no rest! They will not stand if you push on!
NewLab to raise the pension age: more workers to get screwed.
The NewLab regime looks set to raise the retirement age from 65 to 67. This comes hard on the heels of the recent change that forces women to work until they are 65, anyway. If this happens about 20 per cent of men will not live long enough to claim a single penny of pension money.

When we last had a real Labour government in the UK, I can remember that the debate was about lowering the men's retirement age to that of women. How to do it was the debate. Would it drop straight away to 60 or would it be done in stages? I think that most of us who were rank & file members would have accepted a staged drop - say to 63 or 62 first. However, everybody, whether they were party members or not, fully expected the pension age to be equalised at 60 by the early 21st Century. Instead we have it to 65 and it will probably go up to 67.

To make matters even more laughable, Stephen Timms, the pensions minister, has told us that "people want to work longer". My arse they do. The vast majority of working class people treat work as a necessary evil that is accepted because they they need the money to live. Work is the most obscene four-letter word in any decent working man's vocabulary.

As usual the state's people will still leave at 60, with a nice, fat pension to speed them on their way. That may rise under the new proposals to 65, but they will still have a two-year start over the rest of us. Middle class types with their cushy jobs will also, probably, not have to worry too much. As for us? Work until you drop, folks, that's the NewLab motto.

Where are the protests? I know that Labour has lost its ordinary members, but where are the howls of rage from ad-hoc groups set up to oppose all this? People were silent when women were forced to work another five years: are they going to remain like sheep now?

Le't get Blair out. Let's use the NewLab constitution as toilet paper and let's demand that Clause Four, Part Four, of the old constitution be restored:
To secure for all the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry of service.
Time to get off your knees, you men. The middle class vermin are laughing at you. Let's bring some fear back into their lives.


Toms set to invade Germany during the World Cup
The Germans are expecting an invasion of prostitutes during next year's World Cup. Berlin is waiting to play host to at least40,000 of the little darlings who will service the randy fans: including an estimated 100,000 Englishmen.

This will be great for the English fans, because when the team gets knocked out early by some place that no bugger even knew existed until the end of the Cold War, a bloke can go and rent himself a tom from that country. I hope that every one of them shouts out "Cop this for England," when he gets on the short strokes.

Germans being Germans, they are offering idiotic advice such as "don't expect a love relationship," from any of the girls. Somebody should point out to the fool who stated the bleeding obvious, that the whole point about renting a tom for a session is so that she leaves afterwards. Thus her punter does not even have to pretend to be interested in her inane prattle. He can go and have a cup of tea. . .
17 November 2005
American general wants to lose yet more troops.
The Met, some dum-dum bullets and one dead Brazilian
Readers will remember Jean Charles de Menezes, a Brazilian national who ended up dead after the police pumped at least five rounds into his head on the 7th July this year. Now, The Daily Telegraph is reporting that the bullets that killed him were "a type of bullet banned in warfare under international convention."

Yes, but they are legal for police use, so what's the point of the story? Could it be, heaven forbid, an exercise in muddying the waters? Turn the story from one about the cold-blooded butchery of an innocent man into one that is about the type of ammunition that the police should carry?
An open letter to British warmongers.
Dear Lads,

I was just thinking about you British based hand shandyists for war. You are a diminishing number and it seems as if every day your numbers decline still further. The sites that I have linked to above are about all that is left in the British world 0' blogs. Like six little lambs, that's all you are reduced to.

It was much better three years ago, I know. Then you could strut around like a dog with two dicks, just panting at the thought of the cakewalk to come. Take Johann Hari as a case in point. Up until about a year ago he was a proud member of the 101st Fighting Keyboarders over at Harry's Place. Then he sort of vanished and now he is posting articles about The use of chemical weapons in Fallujah. That's when he's not posting things like, We must ask Iraqis whether they want the troops out - and now they probably do.

Young Johann is clearly a clever bloke: he can recognise sad-arsed losers when he sees them and he decided to get as far away from you lot as he possibly could. There are no flies on him and he will probably emerge from this disaster with his reputation intact.

What about the rest of you? You have followed every twist and turn of American policy. You started out with the WMD nonsense. Then, when that was shown to be utter bollocks you shifted to the idea of bringing democracy to the benighted heathen. By your support for the aggression you implicity supported all the atrocities that this aggression brought in its wake. Probably that's why only one of you has even addressed the issue of chemical weapons in Fallujah. Having at least had the balls to do that, what did he say? It was sort of: "Ooer, they are not chemical weapons, guv: they're thermic." Yes, I can see how the wretched inhabitants of this city will be very comforted by that news.

The simple truth is that torture, the subjugation of a people and the destruction of their territory are what imperialism is all about. You cannot split them apart and only choose the bits you want. If you want to support imperialism, and you do, then you have to take the whole package.

However, that is not the main issue. The main issue is that imperialism is going to lose, and by staying with the (virtual) colours so long, you are going to lose as well. People laugh at you already - think how much worse it will be when the army is withdrawn and defeat can no longer be spun as victory.

What will you do when the guerrilla commanders are handing out medals to their men in city-centre Baghdad, while the corpses of the collaborators dangle from lamp posts? When Blair has been forced to resign in disgrace amidst howls that he be sent off to the Hague? You don't think that this will happen, eh, lads? Think again - all those ex-warmongers who jumped ship early enough will have to prove that they really are anti-war. They will howl the loudest: just trust me on this one.

It's too late to do anything now, lads. Good thing I'm pro-Iraqi, eh? I would hate to be in the same boat as you lot.

P.S. Did you see this article in The Guardian about bloggers? I was seriously taken with the final sentence of the third paragraph. The one that says that what I call hand shandyism for war "is a line of argument that seems not to have diminished, in stridency or popularity, as the Iraq debacle has worsened."

You have to love the way the stilleto gets slipped between the ribs with those last six words. As for me, I prefer a good old twatting hammer, but it's not important how it gets done. The important thing is that you get laughed at.


16 November 2005
Are the USA & the UK looking for the exits?
The U.S. Senate Resolution that would have set a timetable for American withdrawal was defeated, but the Senate did pass a motion calling for a "phased withdrawal" of American forces.

The point about this is that the war against Iraq is still not quite three years old. In the case of Vietnam the Congress could not pass such a motion as late as 1971, a full nine years after the war against Vietnam had begun. Now the Senate can do something similar in less than three years. It has become a bit of a cliche, but this resolution and the casualty figures taken together really does suggest that this war is Vietnam on speed.

In the case of Britain, Tiny Tony has stopped talking about standing firm in the face of "terrorism" and now the line is that the British will leave next year unless violence prevents this from happening.

Obviously the creature is looking for a face-saving way out of an ever increasing disaster. If the violence can be spun as "acceptable," then the occupiers will leave and let the Iraqis sort things out for themselves.

Yes, well, I can see one big problem here. Tiny Tony's wheeze relies on the Americans staying the course until such time as the spinning is complete. If the casualty figures continue to rise, they may not want to do that. The Chimp will leave office in three years, so there is not much that anyone can do to him. Besides, his people can always say that they greased a few ragheads. A lot of his punters should buy into that one. Blair on the other hand seems to want to hand over control of a Labour government that has a good chance of winning the next election. He needs an orderly withdrawal more than the Chimp because far more of his reputation is at stake. Furthermore, a lot of his supporters still consider themselves to be left-wingers. A "we bashed the sand niggers and left them eating dust" line is hardly going to appeal to them.

What about the Iraqis? They now know that the invaders are looking for a way out. Are they going to allow an orderly withdrawal that would leave the Chimp and his little pet dog with something approaching their reputations intact? Or will they take the opportunity to inflict as many casualties as they can just to pay back old scores while there is still time? As the Duke of Wellington said in another place and time: "Come on Maitland, now's your chance! Up and at 'em!"

Update at 2.30am: Justin Raimundo claims that the dog to watch is not the Senate, but the House. A "bipartisan movement to set a definite timetable for U.S. withdrawal has been percolating for months. . ."
Vicente Fox and Mexico's new foreign policy
As I reported yesterday, the diplomatic spat that began last week at the Summit of the Americas and which saw Mexico President Vicente Fox insult more than one person, has now turned into a war of words between Fox and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. It has left Mexico fairly isolated in the rest of Latin-America, as countries such as Argentina are now taking Venezuela's side in the dispute. Meanwhile, at home, Fox's position looks increasingly lonely. Neither of these situations would have come to pass had Mexican foreign policy not changed to orientate the country towards the USA and away from her traditional friends.

Historically, Mexico's foreign policy aimed at keeping the USA at arm's length and respected the sovereinty of other countries. In return, Mexico expected other countries to recognise its sovereignty with regards to Mexico's internal affairs.

The rare occasions when Mexico left this path can really be counted on the fingers of one hand. The country sent arms to the Spanish government in the 1930s during the civil war, and refused to recognise the dictatorship that was installed afterwards. During this period many thousands of Spaniards sought refuge in Mexico, and they were joined in the 1980s by many more refugees from the American inspired wars that raged in Central America. Given this willingness to accept Hispanic refugees it is small wonder that an unknown Cuban lawyer chose the country as his refuge after a failed attempt to overthrow the government in Havana. Fidel Castro Ruz lived just outside Mexico City in what was then farmland and used the isolation to train his men for the next, rather more succesful, attempt to liberate his country. Probably because of this, and also because Mexico refused to sever diplomatic relations with Cuba during the 1960s, relations between Mexico City and Havana have always been warm. At least until recently that is.

A sign that things were changing came in 2002 at the Inter-American Summit in Monterrey. President Fox asked Fidel Castro to leave the summit before the Chimp arrived from Washington. Fox later denied asking this of Castro, but that wily old bird had recorded the telephone conversation between the two men and played it back to anyone who wanted to hear it. Relations between the two countries were strained for a time, but eventually go back on an even keel. Besides, this problem was as nothing compared to the diplomatic ructions that are going on right now between Vicente Fox and most of South America.

Fox went to last week's summit in Argentina with one thing in mind: he wanted to push forward the Free Trade Area for the Americas (FTAA) plan that has stalled in the face of so much Latin American opposition. The Chimp was expecting oppositon at the summit and seems to have decided to take a back seat: Fox stepped forward and lambasted those countries that opposed free trade.

None of this means that Fox is an American puppet - he cannot be compared to Tony Blair in that respect. During the run-up to the war against Iraq, Mexico held one of the non-permanent Security Council seats and the country came under enormous pressure to vote for the second resolution that the Anglo-American axis wanted. It is to the great credit of Vicente Fox that he instructed the Mexican ambassador to vote against this resolution. Once the putative aggressors realised that the measure would not pass it was withdrawn. Furthermore, a puppet would not have signed up to the International Criminal Court. In doing so Mexico went up against some strong American pressure, but the country ratified the court. Whatever else Vicente Fox is, an American puppy he is not.

What seems to be happening is that Fox is a true believer in the cause of free trade. It is the panacia for all the ills of the world and anybody who objects must be brushed aside with the irritation that he demonstrated last week. According to one writer, he is "a member of the one true church, on a mission to spread the gospel" of free trade and open markets. If Fox does see himself in this light, then his attitude becomes more understandable: he was speaking to heretics who needed to be opposed at every turn.

Aside from alienating most of Latin America, Fox has now found himself isolated at home. Only his own party has rallied to his cause - and they are a minority in the Congress. All the others have blamed Fox for the dispute, and claims that Mexico's isolation leaves the country further dependent on the USA are gaining ground.

It is possible that Fox, aware that he only has a little over eight months left in office, wanted to ensure his place in Mexican history by getting Latin America to sign up to the FTAA accords. If that is so then he has failed, and failed badly. Opposition has grown, not diminished and the chances of any FTAA agreement being reached in the forseeable future seems to be about nil.

Update at 12.45am: It looks as if Fox is slowly backing down, at least as far as the dispute with Venezuela is concerned.
15 November 2005
Blair abolishes elections
"We cannot risk changing course now", Tony Blair said today, as the government published proposals to cancel parliamentary elections. . .

Mr Blair said that the police had advised him that elections would be dangerous. "They would divert attention from the war on terror", he said. "If the public chose a new government, that would be a victory for terrorism. We must not take that chance. Holding elections would be contrary to the strong advice given to us by our security services and our police, and I am simply not prepared to do it."

Don't believe this? Neither do I but it's a damn good spoof on Blair and a good two fingers up to the hand shandyists who support him. Get over there now before someone orders it taken down.

Cheers: Rachel in North London.
Today is going to be one of those days.
Today is my eldest son's 12th birthday. He got his present on Sunday; a thing called an I-Pod, whch is basically a glorified Walkman, but which is the size of a cigarette packet. You download music in MP3 format from the web and load it into the 20 gig hard drive on the I-Pod. Not bad for about a hundred quid, I suppose.

The problem is that I was given a list of songs that son wants for tomorrow and I am downloading them now from a file sharer thingie. On a dial-up connection, which is all I have, I reckon I will be at this most of the night: and then some more when I get out of bed.

To make matters worse, the "music" is by people that I have never heard of and who can barely sing. Names such as Gorillas, Hilary Duff and Sean Paul are as alien to me as the man on the moon. To make matters worse, when I uploaded some decent Simon & Garfunkle, James Taylor and Willy Nelson stuff to his new toy, all hell broke loose. My actions were double-plus ungood and didn't I know that everyone at school would laugh at him if he played old shit like this? Would I please remove it or he would go and speak to his mother? I did as I was bid, but took the opportunity whilst his back was turned, of uploading some Dubliners tracks as a nice surprise for when he wakes up tomorrow.

Normal service will be restored when I can stand this no longer. . .
Venezuela withdraws her ambassador from Mexico.
Venezuela has withdrawn her ambassador from Mexico and Mexico has followed suit by pulling her senior diplomat out of Caracas. This came after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez addressed Mexico's Vicente Fox directly via a televison programme, in which he said: "Don't mess with me, sir, because you'll get stung."

The semi-official daily el Universal is blaming Fox for this diplomatic spat, saying that the Mexican President started the slanging match at the recent Summit of the Americas when he charged that President Néstor Kirchner of Argentina was only pandering to public opinion in his country. Fox also warned the former footballer, Diego Maradona, not to get involved in politics. Presumably Pres. Fox felt that his past life as a Coca-Cola executive left him fully prepared to get involved in politics himself.

Chavez simply added his insults to the mix. First by describing fox as a puppy of the Americans, and now with this.

The two countries will now sneer at each other for a while, and then relations will be all smiles again. Such is life in Latin-America.
14 November 2005
Reckless spending rises in Britain
Yet another Little Nell moment has come to our notice. People who cannot pay their debts, and the average debt is some £60,000, are people who "assume that because lenders are prepared to offer them the credit they must be able to repay it. They don't stop to think. It is irresponsible borrowing, not irresponsible lending," according to one recently conducted study. So in simple English they are knobs - it's nice to have that one cleared up.

Not only are they knobs, but they are the type of knob who thought that they could finance the lifestyle they aspired to with credit. They, more than any other group, are the ones responsible for Thatcher and Blair and I do not have any sympathy with them whatsoever. Reproletarianisation is a nasty business for the people concerned, but good sport for the rest of us.
British ways to ensure more convictions
First it was the Tories who removed the right to silence of an accused and then introduced majority verdicts at their trials. (*) Then, about a year ago, Labour introduced the notion that a person who has been aquitted once of a crime can then be tried a second time.

I don't believe that any of these "reforms" have anything to do with anything that can be called justice. Mainly they are about appeasing the denizens of Britain's nastier suburbs. I can understand the Tories doing this - after all they are the party of If you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour, but what's the Labour Party's excuse for following them down this path?

In the short term it may bring in a few nasty votes from a few nasty people, but the Tories can always out do Labour in the authoritarian stakes when they put their minds to it. Trying to compete with a party that is as nasty as it is stupid is, well, not what Labour is about.

(*) Actually, it was the Tories who abolished peremptory challenges to prospective jurors and then scrapped the right to silence. Majority verdicts came in much earlier. My thanks to "Vol-in-Law" in the comments box who pointed this out.
13 November 2005
Anti-Popery & anti-Islam

The 12th November 2005 edition of The Spectator is pretty much devoted to bashing the Mussies. Reading it online I was struck by how much of the anti-Muslim fears match, and are a reworking of, the old anti-Papist rants that were common currency from about 1850 to well within living memory. Well, living memory if you were born in the 1950s, as I was. The Papes are trying to take over England, they take orders from their priests and cannot think for themselves, they are ignorant. All these arguments were put forward a century ago against the Catholic population just as they are put forward today against the Muslims.

By the mid-Nineteenth Century Roman Catholicism had been tolerated for many years, but it had lacked adherents. In 1850, for the first time since the Reformation, the Roman Church was able to establish an archdiocese at Westminster and 13 sees to cover the whole country. Irish immigration meant that England could then justify a full hierarchy on a par with that of the Catholic European countries. The Times responded that the choice of Westminster was "one of the grossest acts of folly and impertinence which the Court of Rome has ventured to commit since the Crown and the people of England threw off its yoke." For their part, the Catholic hierarchy engaged in a spot of gloating, which only made the situation worse, not better. Dr. Nicholas Wiseman, the new cardinal and Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, wrote "We govern and shall continue to govern the counties of Middlesex, Hertford, Essex, as ordinary thereof, and those of Surrey, Sussex, Kent, Berkshire, and Hampshire, with the islands annexed, as administrator, with ordinary jurisdiction." It is said that Queen Victoria responded by asking, "Am I Queen of England, or am I not?"

One is reminded here of the ravings of various Mullahs and their fantasies that England will become an Islamic state. At root both sets of utterences look like the fantasies of a small, economically marginalised group who feel that one day, one day in the future, they will reach their nirvana, if only they have faith. England today is not a Catholic country and there is no evidence, in the form of mass conversions, say, to suggest that it will ever be Islamic - in spite of dreams to the contrary.

That Catholics were answerable to their priests and were, therefore, ignorant was an old charge that lasted until well into the Twentieth Century. Robert Roberts was born in 1905 in Salford, and his memories of his early life were published as The Classic Slum many years later. In them he recalls that people would say that "the Murphies" were so ignorant that they didn't know that food had to be cooked until they came to live in England. He also remembered how people would mock the Catholics for their reliance on their priests. Fifty years later I can remember my mother, a staunch low-Anglican, tut-tutting to her friends whenever a Catholic butcher or grocer gave free supplies to his parish priest. The standard explanation was that they had to do this, even though the reason was a matter of some debate amongst the woman of the area. Some held that they could not get absolution if they refused, others that the priest was a sort of god. Still more argued that they wanted special prayers saying, and this usually led to the bald statement being made that if only they knew that no earthly power could stand between a man and his God how much more liberated they would be. My mother just thought that they were mugs. Alien, un-English mugs, and she pitied them for their stupidity.

Magazines such as The Reformation Journal had helped to stoke this belief in Catholic ignorance and priestly control. Thus in Catholic Europe:
The ubiquitous priests and monks furnish a constant memento that conscience is under the yoke, and that no freedom of judgement is allowed. The armed police announce that a watch is placed over every movement, that speech must be restrained, and that the press is under strict censorship. The development of mind is thus painfully cramped, and the range of mental acquirements is contracted within a narrow compass
Here we pretty much have the anti-papist argument in a nutshell, and it is also the one that is used today against Islam. The countries that are under its sway are backward, ignorant and controlled by a clerical police-state. Now, it may actually be true that Papal States of over a century ago and Iran today are fairly odious examples of what happens when religious figures gain temporal powers, but to what extent is this important? We are not talking about the internal affairs of Iran - they can do as they please with their country - we are talking about the United Kingdom.

Put simply, the Papacy may very well have dreamed that Catholic Europe would sweep aside the Reformation, aided by Irish 5th columists in England, but Catholic Europe was too backward to even think about doing anything of the sort. England was safe from the threat of another Armada, just as she is safe today from Arabian threats. Arabia cannot even unite, let alone build the armed forces necessary to take on any of the developed countries of the world. Flying aircraft into tall buildings is one thing; having the wit to be able to create a modern economy that can build and maintain modern armed forces is quite another. As with the Catholics of the past who rattled their rosary beads and prayed to their god, so it is with the Islamists today who stick their noses in the dirt and their bums in the air. Only when a people leave behind such superstition can they begin to progress. Catholic Europe did it and ceased to be Catholic Europe in the process. The Islamic world is still stuck in the past and until it changes it will not be able to threaten anyone. If it does change, it may find that it no longer wishes to.

What we have here are examples of fear and the similar ways in which those fears manifest themselves. It is dificult to asimilate a backward, primitive people who are forced to rely on clerics because they are unable to cope alone in a modern society. It took over a century for anti-Catholic feeling to finally die in England; but die it did as the descendents of Irish immigrants finally joined the great post-Christian mass of the population. It may take another century before the descendents of Pakistani imigrants do the same, but if past performance is anything to go by, England has little to seriously worry about.
12 November 2005
Great minds of the new century
"Does anybody know where the Cannes Festival will be held this year?"
Christina Aguilera

"I've not travelled to Japan lately because they eat a lot of fish over there, and I don't like fish. That's why I don't like travelling much to that part of Africa."
Britney Spears

Well, as an old friend of mine once remarked about some bimbo or other, "Good to fuck; good for fuck-all else."

Cheers: Cuidad de Mexico
It seems to be official: the Chimp is as thick as a brick
It's hard to believe it was only one year ago that George W Bush was re-elected President. Since then he seems to have lost almost every single friend. Even his own family.

One Popbitch reader was at a Texas dinner party recently and sat next to a friend of Barbara Bush, Dubya's mother. Over the meal she confided that the Bush family only ever called the President by his rather patronising family nickname, "Junior". And that on a recent hunting trip she'd asked Barbara what George was like.

"Junior? Hmmmm..." Barbara apparently sighed. "He's not like the rest of us."

Mrs Bush's friend leant towards our source to explain. "Here in Texas... that means he's stupid."

Is this tale true or not? Who cares, spread it around.

Cheers: popbitch.com
Jack Straw admits that war may last ten years
Jack Straw has been quoted by the Daily Telegraph as saying that the war against Iraq could still be going on in another decade. He doesn't think it will, he seems to hope that it won't, but "you can't be absolutely confident," he concluded.

Preparing the ground for withdrawal in the face of defeat? I doubt if the British public will tolerate another three years of this criminality, let alone ten of them. What other explanation is there?
New Labour, the police & 90 days' detention without charge
It turns out that we were all wrong about this one. The police only lobbied to get the Commons to vote for a 90 day detention without charge because Charles Clarke asked them to do it. He knew on the 3rd November that the government was likely to lose the vote, so he asked the chief constables to help out.

This one is just going to backfire, and what is left of Labour's membership are going to be outraged. It is not all that long ago that Labour canvassers were getting harrassed in some areas by the police. The industrial wing of the movement has a whole catalogue of instances where the police have acted as an escort agency for scabs, and ordinary people will be able to chip in with tales of kids harrassed, fathers picked up on spurious charges and homes left wrecked as the police conduct their "search for evidence". The police are not the friends of the Labour Movement and we all know that. At best they are a necessary evil, but one that we want kept well away from us.

Funnily enough, the Daily Telegraph has come up with the notion of directly electing the High Sheriffs of each county, and both Tory candidates for that party's leadership support the idea. I can remember when the South Yorkshire police were turned loose on striking miners and the local police committee tried to reel them in by refusing to vote money to buy new police equipment. The then chief costable went to the courts and got an order forcing the county to give him the money. If an elected High Sheriff could put a stop to events like that, then I am all for elected High Sheriffs. Of course, middle class areas will probably do things differently, but who cares? We don't live in West Scumbagland, do we?
Armistice Day
My mother's great uncle, photographed about 1901 during his service in the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902.

My father, a gunner in the Royal Artillery, photographed in 1941. He hand-painted the black and white image and sent it to my mother.

My mother's aunt, uncle and cousin. The photograph was taken in 1915 as my great-uncle went off to war. My maternal grandfather never returned from the trenches and this family became my mother's parents after her own mother died of influenza in 1920.

I have literally dozens of photographs from both sides of my family that were taken during the various wars that Britain waged. The earliest is a Daguerrotype taken shortly after the Indian Mutiny. They were all volunteers, except for my father who waited to be conscripted. Joining the army was a way to avoid the poverty of industrial Lancashire, and many of them took the option.

I was lucky to be born in the 1950s when working men had plenty of job oportunities and the standard of living for me and mine rose every year. We did not have to go off and fight the bosses' wars - we were the lucky generation.

Late last year I went back to Manchester for the first time in many years. Ancoats, Miles Platting and Newton Heath are as depressed and dead as they were when I left over a decade earlier. Now the choice is the dole, a Mickey Mouse training course or the army. The hand shandyists for war, some of whom have the temerity to place images of poppies on their sites, and others who talk glibly of fighting yet more wars, should be well pleased: we are back to the pre-war years in terms of economic security and they will have plenty of volunteers for their future wars.

I have had two operations in just over a year and my lungs are riddled with fibrosis. I will be lucky to reach pension age, always assuming that NewLab has not scrapped such things as mandatory retirement. Well, guess what, you cockroaches: I have three fine, strong sons and two of them are the great-grandsons of a man who rode with la division del sur during the Mexican Revolution. That's right, boys, he was one of Zapata's men. The two that live with me know what you are like because I have told them stories of my own life and stories that came down to me from my parents. They will live to see the day when your daughters are reduced to sucking dick on street corners for the price of a meal.
11 November 2005
Chavez & Fox spat
The Mexican government plans to summon the Venezuelan ambassador to explain President Hugo Chavez's recent remarks. In case you missed it, he called President Vicente Fox of Mexico a puppy of the USA. Not a dog, mind you, just a puppy. By all accounts Fox is fuming.

Not that anybody else cares, mind you. Pres. Fox will leave office next August and his people are cheerfully looting anything that isn't red hot or nailed down. You have to make your money while you can and this is the last chance many of them will ever have to do a thorough pillage. The chances of PAN getting elected to the presidency ever again are about nil - at least in my lifetime.