The Nether-World

January 30, 2007

The Blair Crime Family Expands Its Gambling Operation

Filed under: Bliar, Cash for Honours, Nu Labour, Sleaze, UK Politics — netherworld @ 3:23 pm

Not content with its usual rackets of selling honours, halting or tampering with police investigations, arms dealing, bribery and assassination, the Blair crime organisation (also known to be operating under the name of NuLabour) has expanded its operation into gambling. Britain’s biggest criminal organisation, dominated by its boss ‘Teflon’ Tony is about to open the country’s largest and swankiest gambling joint in the city of Manchester.

There was some confusion as to where the location for this new venue was going to be. Some thought it would be in Blackpool which has aspirations to be another Atlantic City. Others thought the location would be in London in a spot famed for a failed diamond heist by an unaffiliated local gang. However this might have attracted too much heat after the negotiations with an American billionaire conducted by the under boss John ‘Cowboy’ Prescott were exposed.

The move into gambling is happening under the leadership of capo regime Tessa ‘Under-Bus‘ Jowell who has been urging the family to stake a claim in the lucrative gambling racket for some time. She is known to have links with the famous Don Berlusconi in Italy who is currently awaiting trial for corruption and perverting the cause of justice along with her husband.

This audacious move is happening as the police get ever closer to busting the family for its peerages racket. It is thought that even ‘Teflon’ Tony might not escape justice this time and he is said to be handing control of the family business over to his associate Gordon ‘One Eye’ Brown. The crime syndicate is so worried about police attention after the recent arrests of other senior members including consiglieri Michael ‘Cash Point’ Levy a.k.a. Sleazy, that it is thought that even ‘Machine Gun‘ Blunkett can’t save them.

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January 28, 2007

A Quick Question

Filed under: Iraq, Media, Protest — netherworld @ 6:05 am

Has anyone else wondered why the BBC would spend so much time covering the anti-Iraq war protests in Washington when they give minimal coverage to anti-war protests here in the UK? I only ask because I’ve been watching their coverage and it seems much better than what they report of UK protests. They made it the first piece on their News 24 hourly bulletin with a clips of Jane Fonda and a member of Congress speaking. I don’t recall the BBC giving such attention to the numerous similar anti-war protests held in Britain since 2003 when over a million people marched. Is it because it is deemed unusual for Americans to protest against the war (it isn’t incidentally) or is the BBC prevented from adequately covering UK protests but free to report what happens in the USA? I genuinely don’t know the answer.

Last week the Iraq war was debated in Parliament for the first time since 2003 (Tony Blair didn’t seem to have the courage to attend despite his stated eagerness to debate these issues). Outside Parliament was a small group of protesters. No coverage was given to this. But for those brave enough to attempt to use the frankly awful search function on the BBC News website, you can find news of peers protesting outside Parliament about, erm… the right to protest outside Parliament (I don’t remember that being broadcast), something a bunch of us have been doing for some time.

Hopefully this new-found eagerness to report on anti-war protests will mean some of these coming events will get some coverage but somehow I doubt it.

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January 25, 2007

Bush: Give War A Chance – Fisking The State of The Union Speech

Filed under: Bush, Iran, Iraq, US Politics — netherworld @ 6:50 am

George Bush’s State of The Union speech smacked of desperation. He had to plead with congress to support his plans to escalate the war in Iraq. Right from the start of his speech there were references to Iraq and Iran. I’m not going to fisk the whole speech, that would take too long (easy though it is). No, I’m just going to fisk the part that deals with the escalation of his war, and that happens to be most of his speech. The much-heralded change of direction on the environment and global warming was about three short paragraphs inserted to throw a bone to the new Democrat congress. From environmental issues Bush went on to “stable supply of energy” which inevitably led him into his favourite subject, war.

Extending hope and opportunity depends on a stable supply of energy that keeps America’s economy running and America’s environment clean. For too long our nation has been dependent on foreign oil. And this dependence leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes, and to terrorists — who could cause huge disruptions of oil shipments, and raise the price of oil, and do great harm to our economy.

He might just as well have said “And this dependence leaves foreign regimes more vulnerable to the hostile USA“. In the end his new energy policy was nothing of the sort, just some non-specific statements of his plans to cut the use of petroleum by 20 percent in ten years, encourage more use of ethanol and bio diesels and rely on technology to get him out of the mess he’s in. It also probably means redoubled efforts to destroy the pristine environment in Alaska.

Once again Bush invoked the memory of 9/11 before launching into the main thrust of his speech. In fact he referred to September 11 no less than six times.

With the distance of time, we find ourselves debating the causes of conflict and the course we have followed. Such debates are essential when a great democracy faces great questions. Yet one question has surely been settled: that to win the war on terror we must take the fight to the enemy. (Applause.)

I don’t recall that issue being settled Mr Bush. Taking the fight to the enemy, as you put it, has devastated a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 and filled it with terrorists when previously there were none.

From the start, America and our allies have protected our people by staying on the offense. The enemy knows that the days of comfortable sanctuary, easy movement, steady financing, and free flowing communications are long over. For the terrorists, life since 9/11 has never been the same.

Life has never been the same for most of the people Iraq since its destruction. As for protecting your people, well the families of over 3,000 soldiers might not agree.

Our success in this war is often measured by the things that did not happen [like victory]. We cannot know the full extent of the attacks that we and our allies have prevented, but here is some of what we do know: We stopped an al Qaeda plot to fly a hijacked airplane into the tallest building on the West Coast. We broke up a Southeast Asian terror cell grooming operatives for attacks inside the United States. We uncovered an al Qaeda cell developing anthrax to be used in attacks against America. And just last August, British authorities uncovered a plot to blow up passenger planes bound for America over the Atlantic Ocean. For each life saved, we owe a debt of gratitude to the brave public servants who devote their lives to finding the terrorists and stopping them. (Applause.)

Those successes of course cannot be attributed to the war in Iraq. In fact they can’t all even be properly verified. To mention the alleged plot to blow up planes with baby milk, shampoo and hair gel is ridiculous. That so-called plot is looking like a bit of a damp squib and shameless fear-mongering.

Every success against the terrorists is a reminder of the shoreless ambitions of this enemy. The evil that inspired and rejoiced in 9/11 is still at work in the world. And so long as that’s the case, America is still a nation at war.

This might be a good time to remind ourselves that 15 of the 19 hijackers of the 9/11 came from Saudi Arabia and the plot was launched from Afghanistan which was ignored by you after its invasion so you could focus on Iraq which had nothing to do with 9/11. I can’t help noticing that you haven’t caught Bin Laden yet.

In the mind of the terrorist, this war began well before September the 11th, and will not end until their radical vision is fulfilled. And these past five years have given us a much clearer view of the nature of this enemy. Al Qaeda and its followers are Sunni extremists, possessed by hatred and commanded by a harsh and narrow ideology. Take almost any principle of civilization, and their goal is the opposite. They preach with threats, instruct with bullets and bombs, and promise paradise for the murder of the innocent.

“In the mind of the terrorist”? Which terrorist? Are you suggesting that disparate factions in Iraq think that the war began before September 11? Okay another reality check. Al Qaeda is about three percent of the insurgency in Iraq. Perhaps it might be an idea to focus a bit more on the other 97 percent of your enemy.

Our enemies are quite explicit about their intentions. They want to overthrow moderate governments, and establish safe havens from which to plan and carry out new attacks on our country. By killing and terrorizing Americans, they want to force our country to retreat from the world and abandon the cause of liberty. They would then be free to impose their will and spread their totalitarian ideology. Listen to this warning from the late terrorist Zarqawi: “We will sacrifice our blood and bodies to put an end to your dreams, and what is coming is even worse.” Osama bin Laden declared: “Death is better than living on this Earth with the unbelievers among us.”

Some, of course, just want you and your forces out of their country. Overthrowing moderate governments is something the USA has been doing for decades; Chile and Iran (with Britain) spring instantly to mind. Saddam’s regime can hardly be described a moderate but Iraq was in much better shape before it was visited by “the cause of liberty”. Zarqawi’s notoriety was, as we know, a product of the invasion. Before that he was just a common al Qaeda thug.

These men are not given to idle words, and they are just one camp in the Islamist radical movement. In recent times, it has also become clear that we face an escalating danger from Shia extremists who are just as hostile to America, and are also determined to dominate the Middle East. Many are known to take direction from the regime in Iran, which is funding and arming terrorists like Hezbollah — a group second only to al Qaeda in the American lives it has taken.

So was Iran this powerful before the destruction of Iraq, or is this phenomenon too a result of your invasion? As for Hezbollah, well its not universally recognised as a terrorist group. It holds seats in the Lebanese Parliament

The Shia and Sunni extremists are different faces of the same totalitarian threat. Whatever slogans they chant, when they slaughter the innocent they have the same wicked purposes. They want to kill Americans, kill democracy in the Middle East, and gain the weapons to kill on an even more horrific scale.

What Shia and Sunni resistance groups share is a desire to get Americans and their allies out of their country where they have no right to be. Whether or not they want democracy or dictatorship is no business of America and the sectarian violence between these factions is again the result of the invasion. And a real democracy cannot flourish under occupation anyway. If you hadn’t invaded innocents wouldn’t be slaughtered on this scale. Before going on about weapons yet again wouldn’t it be better to get at least some credible evidence. This situation in Iraq is much more complicated than a simple Sunni Shia divide.

In the sixth year since our nation was attacked, I wish I could report to you that the dangers had ended. They have not. And so it remains the policy of this government to use every lawful and proper tool of intelligence, diplomacy, law enforcement, and military action to do our duty, to find these enemies, and to protect the American people. (Applause.)

And every unlawful and improper tool as well. This strategy will only create more extremists. It’s a vicious circle that is being exacerbated.

This war is more than a clash of arms — it is a decisive ideological struggle, and the security of our nation is in the balance. To prevail, we must remove the conditions that inspire blind hatred, and drove 19 men to get onto airplanes and to come and kill us. What every terrorist fears most is human freedom.

If you really wanted to “remove the conditions that inspire blind hatred”, you’d get out of the region or at least be a balanced broker in the Israel/Palestine conflict.

— societies where men and women make their own choices, answer to their own conscience, and live by their hopes instead of their resentments. Free people are not drawn to violent and malignant ideologies — and most will choose a better way when they’re given a chance. So we advance our own security interests by helping moderates and reformers and brave voices for democracy. The great question of our day is whether America will help men and women in the Middle East to build free societies and share in the rights of all humanity. And I say, for the sake of our own security, we must. (Applause.)

This seems like a false argument to me. In fact the same statement could be used to argue the case for America’s withdrawal. Newsflash – America is not helping, its making matters far worse for the inhabitants of the region and for American security. When you say “Free people are not drawn to violent and malignant ideologies“, how do you explain the neo con ideology which is steeped in blood?

In the last two years, we’ve seen the desire for liberty in the broader Middle East — and we have been sobered by the enemy’s fierce reaction. In 2005, the world watched as the citizens of Lebanon raised the banner of the Cedar Revolution, they drove out the Syrian occupiers and chose new leaders in free elections. In 2005, the people of Afghanistan defied the terrorists and elected a democratic legislature. And in 2005, the Iraqi people held three national elections, choosing a transitional government, adopting the most progressive, democratic constitution in the Arab world, and then electing a government under that constitution. Despite endless threats from the killers in their midst, nearly 12 million Iraqi citizens came out to vote in a show of hope and solidarity that we should never forget. (Applause.)

As soon as the Syrians left Lebanon, the Israelis moved in… funny that. Now Lebanon is on the brink of civil war as well, largely thanks to your refusal to swiftly end last Summer’s war. The elections in Iraq were fought on sectarian lines resulting in the current increase in violence. We’ve recently seen the new democratic Iraq lynching, torturing and murdering in the same way Saddam did. Women are more oppressed than ever. Way to go Bush. Remind me again why we invaded.

A thinking enemy watched all of these scenes, adjusted their tactics, and in 2006 they struck back. In Lebanon, assassins took the life of Pierre Gemayel, a prominent participant in the Cedar Revolution. Hezbollah terrorists, with support from Syria and Iran, sowed conflict in the region and are seeking to undermine Lebanon’s legitimately elected government. In Afghanistan, Taliban and al Qaeda fighters tried to regain power by regrouping and engaging Afghan and NATO forces. In Iraq, al Qaeda and other Sunni extremists blew up one of the most sacred places in Shia Islam — the Golden Mosque of Samarra. This atrocity, directed at a Muslim house of prayer, was designed to provoke retaliation from Iraqi Shia — and it succeeded. Radical Shia elements, some of whom receive support from Iran, formed death squads. The result was a tragic escalation of sectarian rage and reprisal that continues to this day.

So you are implying that the Taliban, Syrians, Iranians, al Qaeda, Hezbollah and other assorted Shia and Sunni groups in Iraq are in fact all the same enemy with the same objectives and motivations. It stretches credibility somewhat. Another newsflash; the new democratic Iraqi government that you installed also has death squads. You seem to be blaming the region-wide chaos on everyone but yourself. Of course the killers bear much of the responsibility but don’t you think it’s a bit of a coincidence that when America interferes with a state chaos invariably ensues?

This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we’re in. Every one of us wishes this war were over and won. Yet it would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned, and our own security at risk. (Applause.) Ladies and gentlemen: On this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle. Let us find our resolve, and turn events toward victory. (Applause.)

The fight you’re in is the one everyone with any sense predicted you’d be in. I’m afraid it would be like you to leave your promises unkept and your friends abandoned. That’s what happens when you lose wars… remember Vietnam? Oh yes, you avoided that conflict. And don’t kid yourself, you lost this war a long time ago. The sooner you recognise that the more lives will be saved.

We’re carrying out a new strategy in Iraq — a plan that demands more from Iraq’s elected government, and gives our forces in Iraq the reinforcements they need to complete their mission. Our goal is a democratic Iraq that upholds the rule of law, respects the rights of its people, provides them security, and is an ally in the war on terror.

No you’re, not your carrying on with the same failed strategy of before and making impossible demands on a weak puppet government to disguise your own ineptitude. Your stated goal is absolutely unrealistic and unobtainable. The best you could manage at this stage is an exit with a modicum of dignity. Iraq is wrecked and I doubt it can be fixed with any strategy let alone one that’s already proved to be a failure.

In order to make progress toward this goal, the Iraqi government must stop the sectarian violence in its capital. But the Iraqis are not yet ready to do this on their own. So we’re deploying reinforcements of more than 20,000 additional soldiers and Marines to Iraq. The vast majority will go to Baghdad, where they will help Iraqi forces to clear and secure neighborhoods, and serve as advisers embedded in Iraqi Army units. With Iraqis in the lead, our forces will help secure the city by chasing down the terrorists, insurgents, and the roaming death squads. And in Anbar Province, where al Qaeda terrorists have gathered and local forces have begun showing a willingness to fight them, we’re sending an additional 4,000 United States Marines, with orders to find the terrorists and clear them out. (Applause.) We didn’t drive al Qaeda out of their safe haven in Afghanistan only to let them set up a new safe haven in a free Iraq.

20’000 new troops will make little or no difference. This terrorist hunt is a fools errand, you may get one or two but they will be replaced and the rest will melt away only to reappear again later. That’s the problem with this kind of asymmetrical war, you can’t win it in the conventional way. All you’re going to achieve is more resentment and more violence.

The people of Iraq want to live in peace, and now it’s time for their government to act. Iraq’s leaders know that our commitment is not open-ended. They have promised to deploy more of their own troops to secure Baghdad — and they must do so. They pledged that they will confront violent radicals of any faction or political party — and they need to follow through, and lift needless restrictions on Iraqi and coalition forces, so these troops can achieve their mission of bringing security to all of the people of Baghdad. Iraq’s leaders have committed themselves to a series of benchmarks — to achieve reconciliation, to share oil revenues among all of Iraq’s citizens, to put the wealth of Iraq into the rebuilding of Iraq, to allow more Iraqis to re-enter their nation’s civic life, to hold local elections, and to take responsibility for security in every Iraqi province. But for all of this to happen, Baghdad must be secure. And our plan will help the Iraqi government take back its capital and make good on its commitments.

Yes, the people of Iraq do want to live in peace so why not let them. Their weak puppet government will collapse. You might delay the collapse but you can’t prevent it. The pledges this government has given you are pledges they have given before and failed to deliver on. It is incapable of performing in the way you want it to. A sectarian government will behave in a sectarian way. And as for oil revenues, well, we know where they’re going don’t we?

My fellow citizens, our military commanders and I have carefully weighed the options. We discussed every possible approach. In the end, I chose this course of action because it provides the best chance for success. Many in this chamber understand that America must not fail in Iraq, because you understand that the consequences of failure would be grievous and far-reaching.

No George, you replaced the military commanders who (like most people it seems) disagreed with your plan. You chose this course of action because you want to retain control of Iraq and either you are so deluded that you have convinced yourself that you know better than the experts or you are so arrogant that you cannot admit that you are utterly wrong (it’s probably both). America has already failed in Iraq, the country is utterly wrecked and likely to fragment along ethnic, tribal and religious lines. If you haven’t already, you will soon be seeing the “grievous and far-reaching consequences” of your failure.

If American forces step back before Baghdad is secure, the Iraqi government would be overrun by extremists on all sides. We could expect an epic battle between Shia extremists backed by Iran, and Sunni extremists aided by al Qaeda and supporters of the old regime. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country — and in time, the entire region could be drawn into the conflict.

This is what is happening now. Many people predicted this would happen but they were sidelined just as the people warning you about the current escalation have been sidelined. The presence of American troops in Iraq is only making matters worse. It can’t be fixed, that’s the tragedy and that’s why you shouldn’t have invaded.

For America, this is a nightmare scenario. For the enemy, this is the objective. Chaos is the greatest ally — their greatest ally in this struggle. And out of chaos in Iraq would emerge an emboldened enemy with new safe havens, new recruits, new resources, and an even greater determination to harm America. To allow this to happen would be to ignore the lessons of September the 11th and invite tragedy. Ladies and gentlemen, nothing is more important at this moment in our history than for America to succeed in the Middle East, to succeed in Iraq and to spare the American people from this danger. (Applause.)

And who caused this chaos? If chaos is the greatest ally of your enemies, why create it? What evidence do you have to support your assertion that Iraq had any intention or capability of harming America before the invasion? If one of the lessons of September 11 was not to allow failed states to emerge, you have shown how much you have learned from 9/11 by turning Iraq into a failed state when before it was merely another brutal dictatorship supported by America.

This is where matters stand tonight, in the here and now. I have spoken with many of you in person. I respect you and the arguments you’ve made. We went into this largely united, in our assumptions and in our convictions. And whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure. Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq, and I ask you to give it a chance to work. And I ask you to support our troops in the field, and those on their way. (Applause.)

You are not pursuing a new strategy in Iraq, you are pursuing the same failed strategy as before and ignoring the findings of the Baker Hamilton report which at least offered a more sensible alternative. You ask to be given a chance for your plan to work… you’ve had four years to make it work and the situation in Iraq gets worse every day. The best way to support your troops is to bring them home rather than sending in any more.

The war on terror we fight today is a generational struggle that will continue long after you and I have turned our duties over to others. And that’s why it’s important to work together so our nation can see this great effort through. Both parties and both branches should work in close consultation. It’s why I propose to establish a special advisory council on the war on terror, made up of leaders in Congress from both political parties. We will share ideas for how to position America to meet every challenge that confronts us. We’ll show our enemies abroad that we are united in the goal of victory.

Hang on a minute, at the beginning of your speech you said: “…To extend this nation’s prosperity; to spend the people’s money wisely; to solve problems, not leave them to future generations“. Now you’re saying that future generations will have to clear up the mess you’ve made. It doesn’t matter what new advisory councils you create, we’ve already seen that you ignore advice that doesn’t fit in with your world view. If one thing out of all this should be clear to you it is that America is deeply divided and if it does come together it will unite against you and your agenda if it hasn’t already.

And one of the first steps we can take together is to add to the ranks of our military so that the American Armed Forces are ready for all the challenges ahead. (Applause.) Tonight I ask the Congress to authorize an increase in the size of our active Army and Marine Corps by 92,000 in the next five years. (Applause.) A second task we can take on together is to design and establish a volunteer Civilian Reserve Corps. Such a corps would function much like our military reserve. It would ease the burden on the Armed Forces by allowing us to hire civilians with critical skills to serve on missions abroad when America needs them. It would give people across America who do not wear the uniform a chance to serve in the defining struggle of our time.

How long before you are forced to re-introduce the Draft? People aren’t exactly falling over themselves to join the military these days are they? Your plans to hire non-military citizens to join in your “crusade” seems pretty close to a draft of sorts, or if not a draft then a mercenary army. What if they decline your generous offer to “serve in the defining struggle of our time“?

Americans can have confidence in the outcome of this struggle because we’re not in this struggle alone. We have a diplomatic strategy that is rallying the world to join in the fight against extremism. In Iraq, multinational forces are operating under a mandate from the United Nations. We’re working with Jordan and Saudi Arabia and Egypt and the Gulf States to increase support for Iraq’s government.

America is increasingly isolated and everyone knows that. Even the British are trying to extricate themselves from this quagmire. Your “coalition of the willing” is dwindling to the point where it will consist of just the USA. The United Nations, which you ignored in order to launch this illegal war, does give a limited mandate for occupation thanks to the bullying of member states and a desire to try and sort out the appalling mess. Soon it too will come to the conclusion that America is part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are all worried about sectarian violence spilling over into their territories and the marginalisation of Sunnis. Their support is qualified to say the least.

The United Nations has imposed sanctions on Iran, and made it clear that the world will not allow the regime in Tehran to acquire nuclear weapons. (Applause.) With the other members of the Quartet — the U.N., the European Union, and Russia — we’re pursuing diplomacy to help bring peace to the Holy Land, and pursuing the establishment of a democratic Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel in peace and security. (Applause.) In Afghanistan, NATO has taken the lead in turning back the Taliban and al Qaeda offensive — the first time the Alliance has deployed forces outside the North Atlantic area. Together with our partners in China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea, we’re pursuing intensive diplomacy to achieve a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons. (Applause.)

The CIA has found no evidence that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon. Are you going to launch another war on faulty intelligence and lies? It certainly looks that way at the moment. You have done nothing so far to help the creation of a Palestinian state. What you have done is allow Israel to continue to build illegal settlements on Palestinian land. You have also starved the Palestinian people, a collective punishment on them for democratically electing a government that you (and Israel) don’t like. Until that is put right there is no chance of security for Palestinians and Israelis. In Afghanistan the Taliban is resurging and looking impossible to completely defeat. By attacking Iraq you took your eyes off the ball. And as for your efforts to achieve a “Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons“, well, I seem to remember North Korea testing a nuclear bomb not too long ago… yet another miserable failure Mr Bush.

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January 23, 2007

Playing Fair In Blogland

Filed under: Blogging — netherworld @ 9:26 am

Over the last week or so I’ve been following the recent spat between Tim Ireland and Guido Fawkes. I haven’t commented up until now because I wanted to follow the argument rather than contribute to it and make my own mind up before commenting instead of just wading into a flame war. There have been some very good posts on the issue, notably from Justin, Septicisle, Nosemonkey and Unity as well as Tim of course and I’m glad I read them before commenting as they all make very good points. Strangely, apart from some witticisms there has been little substantial counter-argument from Guido who has left his acolytes to attack Tim.

Why comment? I think the issues Tim raises are important and worthy of debate. I broadly agree with Tim and tend to fall on his side of the argument, but I do read Guido’s blog from time to time and occasionally link to the odd good story and I’ll probably continue to do so. The dichotomy for me is balancing the freedom of the Internet which, obviously, I support, with a need for honesty, accountability and the freedom of others not to be abused (unless of course they’re asking for it), as well as plain good manners. What made me decide to comment however, wasn’t so much Tim’s post but this piece by Unity which for me shows that Tim has a very valid point. It highlights an outrageous abuse of someone’s on-line identity.

Although I wouldn’t call myself a ‘newbie’, I have nothing anywhere near the level of technical expertise of Internet veterans like Tim and Unity. I am however somewhat familiar with ‘netiquette‘ (a term I knew about long before I started blogging) and on the whole I’ve always tried to adhere to those protocols that I was aware of. They are basically common sense and tend to make life more civilised for on-line communities. I don’t feel that netiquette restricts me in any way, I still say whatever I want to say.

Unlike many bloggers I choose to write under my own name whether I’m posting or commenting. I understand the reasons why some people choose to write under pseudonyms or remain anonymous, but I wanted to be completely open and avoid any possible ‘outing’ later (also I tend to get tired of a pseudonym after a while and want to change it). The main issue that Tim raises (as far as I’m concerned) is the one of ‘sock puppets‘, where some people leaving comments take advantage of a flaw with Blogger.com and easily assume someone else’s identity. Needless to say, for the person whose identity has been hijacked this is annoying at best and harmful at worst. Anyone familiar with Guido’s site will know that the comments section of his posts are full of such identity thefts.

This raises the thorny issue of comment deleting. I don’t like deleting comments or making it tricky for people to leave comments. On this blog apart from the odd bit of spam I’ve only deleted a few comments. The last time I did it was when an obnoxious stalker of Rachel tried to reveal her ‘real’ identity. My policy is to allow as many comments as possible even if they consist of little more than ad hominem attacks and I have on occasion come under attack from bullies. A main motive for blogging is to engage in debate and on this blog I’ve been fairly lucky, commenters tend to stay on-topic and this blog isn’t exactly huge so there are usually few comments anyway. However there are times when it is wise to delete comments. I think one of those times is when sock puppets are used. I strongly believe in freedom of speech (unless it infringes on the freedom of others) but the owner of a blog has an on-line reputation and inappropriate comments can adversely affect that reputation and thus their freedom. An example of this can been seen at the NO2ID site where the administrators are trying to raise a very serious issue which became diluted by visitors posting comments on their pet 9/11 or 7/7 conspiracy theories. There was a danger that the site’s message would be taken less seriously by the influential people who read it so those comments had to be moderated. Over at Blairwatch we had a similar problem (involving in some cases the same conspiracy theorists posting off-topic comments).

Of course the owner of a blog also has the right to allow or delete comments as he or she sees fit, but deleting comments that disagree with their point of view or that expose inaccuracies in their post, whilst at the same time allowing comments that make unsubstantiated accusations or hijack someone else’s identity, says something about the blogger. And if that blogger also deletes an offending comment and replaces it with an edited version under the original name or pseudonym without indicating that the comment has been edited, that says even more about that blogger.

These are the issues which I consider most important. If a blog is merely a repository of gossip or holds views that I and others find offensive or goes on ad nauseam about its stats, I don’t really have a problem with that. I have the choice to read it or ignore it just as I choose not to read The Sun or The News of The World. On Tim’s point that Guido’s blog might attract legislation that restricts all bloggers, well, maybe, but I think that considering the antics of the shower in power at the moment, further legislation affecting freedom of speech might well come anyway with or without Guido. I don’t believe he’s as influential as he makes out (I don’t think any one blog can have that much influence). What is more likely attract legislation against us is the constant exposure of government dishonesty, corruption and sleaze by political bloggers of both sides of the political divide and I hope that continues.

For the moment I’ll leave my comment settings as they are. They are already time and date stamped and I want it to be easy for people to leave comments and engage in discussion. However as soon as I suspect that sock puppets (or IP spoofers) have being commenting, I’ll reconsider that decision (because I’m not much of a techie the only way I’ll be able to decide is if the comment is obviously different from the usual views of the person). I’m aware that by writing this I might well be inviting such an attack, but if some unscrupulous bastard tries to hijack my identity, at least my real views are recorded here as a guide for others (another motive for writing this). I agree with Tim that this really is something that Blogger.com should sort out, and it’s another good reason for getting a domain name and moving over to WordPress. Tim’s taken a lot of flak from Guido wannabes and acolytes for exposing these deceits. I know he can take it but I wanted to show my support. Tim and Unity have done bloggers a huge favour be exposing these dangers.

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January 21, 2007

Spot The Obstacle to Peace

Filed under: Bush, Iran, Iraq, israel, Syria, US Politics — netherworld @ 9:54 am

Amidst all the turmoil in the Middle East, there are some attempts being made in certain diplomatic circles to try and stabilise the region. One country however seems to be doing its level best to scupper these small efforts. No prizes for guessing who it is.

DUBAI (AFP) – Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is urging the United States to talk with Syria, claiming in an interview that Damascus “supports” Iraq in fighting the insurgency.
Source

DAMASCUS (Reuters) – Syria on Saturday condemned insurgent attacks on the U.S.-backed Iraqi army and security forces, describing them as “terrorism”, in another shift in the Damascus government’s position toward its neighbour.
Source

BERLIN (AFP) – US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has reiterated Washington’s opposition to talking to Syria or Iran to get their help in easing unrest in Iraq.
Source

Here’s some other examples that I referred to obliquely in a previous post.

Israeli officials have confirmed that the Foreign Ministry knew about a series of peace talks that have taken place in Europe between Syrians and an Israeli team headed by a former senior diplomat. The teams discussed Israel handing back the Golan Heights, which it has occupied since the Six Day War in 1967, to Syria under a formula providing for President Bashar Assad to stop giving support to Hamas and Hizbollah and to distance his regime from Iran.
Source

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The White House denied media reports that Israelis and Syrians reached understandings for a peace treaty in secret unofficial talks over the past two years.
Source

Oh, and there’s this.

Iran offered the US a package of concessions in 2003, but it was rejected, a senior former US official has told the BBC’s Newsnight programme.

Tehran proposed ending support for Lebanese and Palestinian militant groups and helping to stabilise Iraq following the US-led invasion.
Source

And these are just examples of what has been happening on various diplomatic fronts. Only a lunatic would want the various wars in the Middle East to continue, only a lunatic could think that a disastrous policy can be put right by repeating it, and only a lunatic would want to start yet another war in the region. Unfortunately, a lunatic is running the United States of America.

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Computer Virus Warning – Attention Bloggers

Filed under: Blogging, Media, Not Politics — netherworld @ 12:38 am

I don’t usually post about anything about computer viruses and worms, but this should be of interest to anyone who receives news alerts via e-mail. Many bloggers are likely to be affected by this malware. There is a nasty virus going about which comes in e-mails with fake news headlines in the subject line.

Storm chaos prompts virus surge

E-mails claiming to contain details of the storms that battered Europe contain a malicious virus, security firms warn.

The e-mails with the subject line “230 dead as storm batters Europe”, can leave computers vulnerable to attack.

The messages were first detected as the storms, which have killed at least 28 people, continued to rage.

Fortunately for me I don’t often blog about the weather and I use a product called Mailwasher Pro to check my e-mails before I download them. However, no system is completely foolproof. I receive a lot of news articles via email and it would be easy to accidentally download a virus or worm if the subject line was different. Today I deleted an e-mail from an unknown source entitled “Russian missile shot down USA aircraft”. That is the sort of thing I’m likely to download and it was only the sender’s e-mail address that made me suspicious. A quick look at the source code confirmed my suspicions, it contained an attachment called Full News.exe.

The new virus, called Small.DAM, was spread through emails with a variety of subject lines purporting to be news. Other variants included “British Muslims Genocide” and “U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza…”

The virus is a trojan – a program or message that look benign but contains malicious code – that is installed when a user opens the e-mail and clicks on an attachment. The attachment could be called Video.exe, Read More.exe, Full Clip.exe or Full Story.exe.

So this is just a word of caution to bloggers and other news junkies. Be careful what e-mails you download and keep your anti-virus software up-to-date (I’m sure most of you do).

*UPDATE*

The Register has more.

 

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January 20, 2007

Did Israel Try To Carry Out Its Plan To Nuke Iran?

Filed under: Bush, Iran, israel, Syria, US Politics — netherworld @ 8:40 am

I posed the title of this post as a question because I have no idea if this is true or not and I don’t know how to verify it. It seems so outrageous that I can hardly believe it but with everything else going on around Iran at the moment and the recently revealed Israeli plans for a nuclear attack on Iran (since denied), maybe there is some truth in this.

Israeli Nuclear Strike On Iran Turned Back

A recent strike by nuclear-armed Israeli Air Force fighter-bombers bound for targets in Iran was turned back after being intercepted by U.S. fighters over Iraq, this reporter has learned.

Two sources have independently confirmed the encounter, which took place on January 7, 2007. Though the first informant offered few details beyond an initial tip, a second source long-known by this reporter to have well-placed U.S. and “non-U.S.” military and government contacts provided specific information regarding the raid, which was aimed at the radical religious ayatollahs holding ultimate power in Iran.

Israeli nuclear strikes are not unprecedented. Soon after Desert Storm, U.S. Navy pilots told this reporter in Kuwait how in late 1990 Israel made good on its pledge to respond in kind to WMD attacks by launching nuclear-armed aircraft against Baghdad following a lethal assault on Tel Aviv by Scud missiles tipped with chemical warheads. That air strike was called off when the Americans refused to provide the vital IFF codes needed to fly through U.S.-controlled airspace.
Read on

As I said, I can’t verify the source and I don’t know much about American and Israeli military protocols, but it’s certainly a scary article. There are however plenty of other reports about Iran which suggest that war could break out very soon indeed.

Tensions between the USA and Iran have been mounting alarmingly since the recent kidnapping of Iranian diplomats and consular workers and the raid on a consular office in northern Iraq. Some of this has been widely reported, the sending of another American aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf, National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley refusing rule out the possibility of US forces striking across the border or the Russian delivery of state-of-the-art anti-aircraft missiles to Iran for example. Other news items are appearing on less well known news sources. For example, in recent days, there have been reports that Iran shot down an American pilotless spy drone. America has also denied that there was an Iranian missile strike on a US warship in the Gulf.

Whether these stories are true or not, one thing seems certain and that is that the crisis is escalating to a point where any small incident could kick off a huge conflict. In other words a war could soon be unstoppable even if America and Iran did try to row back, something neither party is showing any signs of doing. There have been several reports saying that America will have all its pieces in place some time in February and that there is a plan to attack Iran from the sea as early as April this year.

KUWAIT CITY: Washington will launch a military strike on Iran before April 2007, say sources. The attack will be launched from the sea and Patriot missiles will guard all oil-producing countries in the region, they add. Recent statements emanating from the United States indicate the Bush administration’s new strategy for Iraq doesn’t’t include any proposal to make a compromise or negotiate with Syria or Iran. A reliable source said President Bush recently held a meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Dr Condoleezza Rice and other assistants in the White House where they discussed the plan to attack Iran in minute detail.

When you couple news like this with news of America’s rejection of Iranian concessions as far back as 2003, and ofAmerica’s dismissal of the widespread reports of possible peace talks between Israel and Syria which would do much to ease the tensions in the region, you have to wonder what bush is planning. It looks like the planned attacks are not going to be “surgical strikes” as was previously suggested, but a whole scale war which would devastate the region.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. contingency planning for military action against
Iran’s nuclear program goes beyond limited strikes and would effectively unleash a war against the country, a former U.S. intelligence analyst said on Friday.

“I’ve seen some of the planning … You’re not talking about a surgical strike,” said Wayne White, who was a top Middle East analyst for the State Department’s bureau of intelligence and research until March 2005.

“You’re talking about a war against Iran” that likely would destabilize the Middle East for years, White told the Middle East Policy Council, a Washington think tank.

When you put all these different reports together, a very frightening picture emerges. What we are hearing far less of are diplomatic moves in the UN or effective restraining of Bush and his insane neo con agenda from the Democrat dominated Congress. The US Congress seems like the only force able to prevent the coming devastation, but have the saner voices in both parties got the strength, courage and will to do what is necessary?

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A Roundup of This Week’s Political Corruption, Sleaze and Hypocrisy

Filed under: Bliar, Cash for Honours, Nu Labour, Sleaze, UK Politics — netherworld @ 4:42 am

As the Middle East situation goes from bad to worse, the British Government has a few problems closer to home to deal with. These problems reflect Tony Blair’s loss of authority and the decline of New Labour as we enter the last months of his Premiership. Let’s start with the continuing BAE scandal. If Blair thought that by halting the SFO investigation into BAE’s corrupt dealings with the Saudi government over the Al Yamamah arms deal the problem would go away, he was sorely mistaken. Now instead of the original corruption being investigated, the focus is firmly on Blair’s misguided decision. As pressure on Blair mounted to reverse his decision from 130 campaign groups, the Prime Minister reverted to the defence we’ve seen so often:

“The Attorney General set out the reasons for the decision on that and I have nothing further to add,”

Lord Goldsmith’s reason for dropping the inquiry was, we were told, national security and he told Parliament on December 14 that the security services agreed with his assessment. Unfortunately the newly knighted John Scarlett. head of MI6 was reading from a different script.

Whitehall sources have told the Guardian that the statement to the Lords was incorrect. MI6 and MI5 possessed no intelligence that the Saudis intended to sever security links. The intelligence agencies had been merely asked whether it would be damaging to UK national security if such a breach did happen. They replied that naturally it would.

Later the Foreign Office issued a statement which stated that:

“Contrary to the Guardian article, SIS (MI6) shared the concerns of others within government over the possible consequences for the public interest of the SFO investigation.”

Obviously furious at having their investigation halted, the SFO leaked the names of top BAE officials involved in more corruption in South Africa.

BAE’s chief executive, Mike Turner, is named along with the former chairman, Sir Dick Evans, and two other executives, in a document dated June 26 last year.

The document is a request for mutual legal assistance sent from the SFO in London to authorities in South Africa, where a £1.5bn aircraft deal with Britain is under investigation. The SFO’s dossier says: “There is reasonable cause to believe that all the above-named persons and company have committed offences of corruption.” It was leaked to the Mail & Guardian, a Johannesburg newspaper.

The closing of the Al Yamamah inquiry is now being investigated by The Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which has condemned the closure and says Britain may have reneged on its promise to combat corruption in the developing world. It isn’t just Saudi Arabia and South Africa involved in corruption with Blair and BAE Systems. There’s another scandal, this time in Tanzania. Tony Blair personally backed a plan to sell Tanzania a military air traffic control system which was ten times more expensive than anything that country actually needed. Tanzania, one of the world’s poorest countries which had just had its debt written off, has only eight military aircraft. In order to push through this sale, Blair, with the support of Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon went against Gordon Brown, Clare Short and the World Bank which condemned the deal as a complete waste of Money. Now it turns out that BAE used a $12, million bribe to get the deal.

The UK’s biggest arms supplier secretly paid a $12m commission into a Swiss account in a deal which led to Tanzania, one of the world’s poorest countries, buying a controversial military radar system.

A Tanzanian middleman, who has a long-standing relationship with military and government figures, has admitted that the sum was covertly moved to a Swiss account by BAE Systems, which is under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.

The SFO are now investigating this case and are going through BAE’s Swiss bank transactions with Tanzania. It remains to be seen whether or not Blair will decide that this investigation too is a threat to national security and close it down as well.

The disaster that is Iraq has caused some Government Ministers to try to distance themselves from the foreign policy they previously supported and Blair’s close relationship with George Bush. Hilary Benn, James Purnell, and Yvette Cooper are all now criticising the decisions that were made. Most interesting of all though, was Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain’s outburst in The New Statesman:

“The neo-con mission has failed … It’s not only failed to provide a coherent international policy, it’s failed wherever it’s been tried, and it’s failed with the American electorate, who kicked it into touch last November. The problem for us as a government … was actually to maintain a working relationship with what was the most rightwing American administration, if not ever, then in living memory.”

Peter Hain, who voted strongly for the Iraq War and strongly against investigating the Iraq war, is of course launching his bid to become Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. If you thought Ruth Kelly was a hypocrite, take a look at this and this and this:

There is vigorous public debate about Britain’s support for UN sanctions on Iraq. I have no intention of ducking this debate, because I am convinced Britain’s policy is right.

This week also saw another development in the cash for honours scandal. A fourth arrest has been made in the investigation and this time it is a senior Downing Street political adviser. Ruth Turner was arrested 6:30am on Friday, she is first salaried government official to be arrested. She was later released without charge. What is interesting is that she was questioned not only about cash for honours but also about perverting the cause of justice which suggests that the police suspect that attempts at a cover-up have been made. As you’d expect, Ruth Turner denies any wrongdoing and is expressing her willingness to co-operate fully with the police.

“I have already given the police two lengthy interviews and made it clear to them that I was happy to speak to them again at any stage. I have been completely open with the police throughout and will continue to co-operate with them fully . . . I absolutely refute any allegations of wrongdoing of any nature whatsoever.”

So far, Blair is still supporting her. That might well change if she decides to spill the beans.

“Ruth is a person of the highest integrity for whom I have great regard and I continue to have complete confidence in her,” said the prime minister.

There is more than a hint of nervousness at Downing Street now and the previously cordial relations between the police and Downing Street have cooled significantly. I was amused by a statement by Lord Puttnam who was himself ennobled by Tony Blair after donating money to the Labour Party:

“What about turning up at 9 o’clock, or what about phoning and saying: ‘I wonder if you’d mind coming into the police station, we’d like to talk to you’? Why do you send four policemen at 6.30 in the morning to arrest a perfectly nice woman? It’s ludicrous. I think they’re into theatrics.

Hmmm, theatrics. That sounds familiar. My guess is that the police will now want to interview her boss Jonathan Powell again… possibly under caution this time. And I suspect Lord Levy might well be contemplating another trip to the Middle East. As for Blair, well we’ll have to wait and see but I doubt he’s sleeping that easily.

Anyway that concludes this week’s roundup of sleaze and corruption. I wonder what next week will bring.

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January 18, 2007

More On The “Wiped Off The Map” Garbage

Filed under: Iran, Media — netherworld @ 5:50 pm

Earlier this month I wrote about Israel’s threat to attack Iran with nuclear weapons. In the preamble on that post I mentioned how Western politicians and the media have been using an alleged statement from President Ahmadinejad in which he supposedly said that “Israel must be wiped off the map”. I pointed out that this was an inaccurate translation of what he actually said which was more like:

The Imam said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time

I also lamented the fact that that this mistranslation has been used as a pretext to apply heavy military and diplomatic pressure on Iran and that no media outlet (to my knowledge) has attempted to correct this error. As I said in my original post, it was an extraordinarily effective piece of propaganda.

Up until now the only reporting I have seen on this error has been in blogs. However, I have now seen a news source deal with this issue. Not a major news source unfortunately, but what appears to be a news source nonetheless, and it tackles the subject in some detail.

Here are some extracts from the article:

Across the world, a dangerous rumor has spread that could have catastrophic implications. According to legend, Iran’s President has threatened to destroy Israel, or, to quote the misquote, “Israel must be wiped off the map”. Contrary to popular belief, this statement was never made, as this article will prove.

[…]

So what did Ahmadinejad actually say? To quote his exact words in farsi:

“Imam ghoft een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad.”

That passage will mean nothing to most people, but one word might ring a bell: rezhim-e. It is the word “Regime”, pronounced just like the English word with an extra “eh” sound at the end. Ahmadinejad did not refer to Israel the country or Israel the land mass, but the Israeli regime. This is a vastly significant distinction, as one cannot wipe a regime off the map. Ahmadinejad does not even refer to Israel by name, he instead uses the specific phrase “rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods” (regime occupying Jerusalem).

So this raises the question.. what exactly did he want “wiped from the map”? The answer is: nothing. That’s because the word “map” was never used. The Persian word for map, “nagsheh”, is not contained anywhere in his original farsi quote, or, for that matter, anywhere in his entire speech. Nor was the western phrase “wipe out” ever said. Yet we are led to believe that Iran’s President threatened to “wipe Israel off the map”, despite never having uttered the words “map”, “wipe out” or even “Israel”.

I’m sure anyone who follows current events could not have failed to notice top politicians and reputable news sources like the BBC quote this misquote and see the current danger there is of a conflict with Iran. This does not mean that President Ahmadinejad is not anti-Semitic and hostile towards Israel, or that his regime is a bastion of democratic liberty. Despite Iran still having the largest Jewish community in the Middle East outside of Israel, the Jewish population has dwindled from about 80,000 before the 1979 revolution to about 30,000 today. While there isn’t much overt persecution of Jews, they do seem to be second class citizens in their own country and the remaining Jews seem to live in fear. However, to say that Ahmadinejad wanted Israel ‘wiped off the map’ is a lie and the mainstream media has a duty to correct it.

*UPDATE*

It turns out that someone in the mainstream media has written about this mistranslation. Jonathan Steele in the Guardian wrote a comment piece about it which I obviously missed. Many thanks to Septicisle. from Obsolete for pointing that out to me (I wonder how many others I missed). It’s a pity the article hasn’t made news outlets and politicians more cautious about using the quote.

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January 16, 2007

An Opportunity Missed

Filed under: Uncategorized — netherworld @ 3:49 pm

Here’s another first for this blog, a film review (or rather, a rant about a TV show). Since I saw it advertised on More 4, I had been waiting impatiently to watch “The Trial of Tony Blair“. The trailers looked great and I’ve liked Robert Lindsay as an actor since “Citizen Smith” back in the 70s. I thought the idea for this programme was a good one; to see Tony Blair (a fictional one unfortunately) on trial at the Hague for war crimes relating to the illegal Iraq war. What a disappointment it turned out to be!

My main gripe is this: How can you have a programme called “The Trial of Tony Blair” without erm… a trial? We only see Blair in the dock once, and that is for the extradition hearing. For me this spoiled the entire show. I was looking forward to seeing Tony Blair answer a well presented case by the prosecution with his defence (whatever that might be). Instead the film finishes as he is bundled off in a prison van to the airport and what we are presented with instead is a series of mildly amusing but not very credible gags which would have been more at home on the “Bremner, Bird and Fortune” show. Because of this the film packs less punch than a newspaper cartoon. Perhaps the film would have worked better as a docudrama, starting in the Hague with pertinent episodes dealt with as a series of flashbacks

Robert Lindsay does look the part but nevertheless fails to convince as Tony Blair. He seems to have borrowed from his performance as the fictional manic Labour councillor Michael Murray in the excellent “G.B.H“. Tony Blair’s deluded character is dealt with far too obviously. Yes, of course Blair is deluded, but the film fails to portray his talent at spin and presentation. This clumsiness was shown in the scenes where he is writing his book and keeps using the soundbite “I felt the hand of history on my shoulder” over and over again, a good gag, just not very believable. One thing about Blair is no matter how cringe-makingly messianic his speeches are, they are well presented; it’s one of the reasons he’s so dangerous. I wasn’t convinced by Phoebe Nicholls portrayal of Cherie Blair either. Peter Mullan did manage to capture the voice, mannerisms and general awkwardness of Gordon Brown but I think all the actors were let down by the script.

Unfortunately this was an opportunity missed. The chance for putting the possibility of Tony Blair being tried for war crimes into the public conscience degenerated into cheap satire. Now that the film has been made and well-received, there is little chance of another one being made covering the same topic. Unless of course the real Tony Blair is carted off to the Hague, but I’m not holding my breath.

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