Toes Are Curling

Phew! Good news Nulabour peeps Mandy’s back, I bet for a minute there you thought they were just rearrangng deckchairs on the Titanic.

But like srsly, please meet this weeks nomination for oxygen thief of the week-

The trouble with America’s $700bn bail-out is the “B” word itself – bail-out, say advertising chiefs. Branding expert Jonathan Gabay considers how a little creative story-telling could have saved a whole lot of financial turmoil. It has, according to some of the sharpest advertising minds in. America, a “failure of branding”. Had President George Bush concentrated on the word “rescue” when selling the $700bn “bail-out” package, say ad chiefs, the plan might have sailed through Congress rather than first being rejected.

The comments on the page are uniformly aghast and condemnatory of this appalling corporate whore’s debasement of democratic deliberation (quite an achievement for BBC threads, which usually attract retarded bigots swapping BNP code words like flies on shit). I’ll concede he’s right insomuch that if you sell crap well a certain number of rubes will buy it, that’s the one thing our culture is successful at- producing gullible consumers bereft of critical thinking skills and individuality. However it is not any achievement or something to base your life on- shilling tat to morons. You can see them anywhere, wearing disposable fashion that one month ago was on a container ship from China (yes even the expensive designer labels snobbos, a gilt edged sheep’s still a fucking sheep) their tastes are what were decided in corporate design meetings 12 months ago, they keep buying the same items just in a different package, different colour palette and capitalism lumbers on. But this bullshit scam, the opposition is real from the street on up, no atsroturfing. Genuine outrage from people who know a shiny suited con when they see it. No branding would change that but thanks Mr. Gabay for taking such a principled & arrogant stance in support of disaster capitalism, I’m sure you think you’re not like Dick Cheney, however- FAIL. And now because clearly he has neglected to take Mr Hicks advice (and he really fucking should) here it is again-

By the way if anyone here is in advertising or marketing… kill yourself.

No, no, no it’s just a little thought. I’m just trying to plant seeds. Maybe one day, they’ll take root – I don’t know. You try, you do what you can. Kill yourself.

Seriously though, if you are, do.

Aaah, no really, there’s no rationalisation for what you do and you are Satan’s little helpers. Okay – kill yourself – seriously. You are the ruiner of all things good, seriously. No this is not a joke, you’re going, “there’s going to be a joke coming,” there’s no fucking joke coming. You are Satan’s spawn filling the world with bile and garbage. You are fucked and you are fucking us. Kill yourself. It’s the only way to save your fucking soul, kill yourself.

Planting seeds. I know all the marketing people are going, “he’s doing a joke…” there’s no joke here whatsoever. Suck a tail-pipe, fucking hang yourself, borrow a gun from a Yank friend – I don’t care how you do it. Rid the world of your evil fucking Read the rest of this entry »

HAL’s Feeling Old, Annoyances

Tedious Whine Warning!-
My 2001 vintage PowerMac was pretty state of the art then, now however, a tad slow. Which is to say some features on the web I cannot indulge in, some video players some websites, worse though is advertising that because of lush flash presentations or movie loops suck up all ones resources when all you want to do is read text. Ok so the ads support the site…but this is subtle digital divide, have an old machine and you are slowly being excluded from the full panoply of the web. The worst offenders are any promotional sites for bands or films (and myspace, shudder), not that I would visit them much anyway, but I avoid them now because of their hefty presentations. It’s also annoying how a lot of sites spread articles over 2 or more pages, not because they are long, but to get 2 page views and thus increase revenue and ok so the ads support the site and I’m not paying for it so can I really complain? I always look for view on single page or choose the printable option to avoid the multi page or ad nuisance. Yes I know there are plug ins to block ads but they take some resources and they are not perfect. I’m roughly on course to have enough to get a new mac within a year at which point I will laugh at all the losers with old slow machines now that I am in the shiny new fast machine elite, hahaha!!!

Except, the point remains, that advertising is a given but as it becomes more intricate it excludes users with older gear from accessing some sites, a slow evolution of a tiered, class stratified web. Not forgetting the vast majority of people don’t have any access at all, will they all suddenly get the very latest laptops then replace them each year? Websites are often designed with only the newest fastest machines in mind, so I suppose this is a design issue, should not one look to be inclusive as well as innovative? There is often a tension between the two in any technological medium, but for those of us who devour reams of text via the web we aren’t too bothered about shiny, flashy accoutrements and it would be a shame if those extravagances begin to rob people of access to worthwhile information presented in the the very boring yet somehow still relevant words-on-a-page format. Design wise I am continually reminded of the Simpsons episode where Homer builds his homepage and simply includes every annoying animation & sound from the web, as if current design theory is simply- and the kitchen sink, awesome! And to show what a huge hypocrite I am, here’s a youtube player that has Homer’s homepage!

Well youtube is ok, it isn’t too bad for slow loaderingly-ness or machine stutter syndrome (if I’m lucky). I suppose it is also because I am a very bad consumer (plus y’know I’m like poor-ish), I don’t buy shiny shit I see advertised (I also try to keep in mind- reduce, re-use, recycle). If I need something or can no longer quell the desire to have something I research then find the best ‘thing’ for the best price then wait, then try to resist, then give up and buy it. Gaudy intrusive ads if they do anything create resentment in me towards the thing/service advertised. I don’t like psychic trespassers or rampant sheeplike consumerism (I’ll resist adding the youtube clip of Bill Hicks giving sage advice to those working in marketing -so have a link instead- you know the one).

So in summation (& with counter argument helpfully included)- whiny old computer having loser complains he can’t keep up with the super duper interwebs. Boo-hoo-hoo, it’s called survival of the fittest/richest, deal with it!

Well whatever (God bless Thatcher’s/Reagan’s children!), but I really don’t think a swanky flash animation of trees makes a car anymore environmentally friendly or air travel any less of a privilege that is destroying the planet. However getting a new computer every so often is way cool and totally sound, ahem.

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Booze New World

From my purely anecdotal research based on casual field observations (I had to go shopping today briefly) I can state with authority that an awful lot of people are planning to get completely shit faced tonight. Now as an occasional blow out this is fine, but let’s not pretend Britain doesn’t have a cultural alcohol problem. However the urge to drink to escape a mundane, perhaps painful reality has a pretty powerful case in just two stories quickly grabbed from the lands of the RSS, both give ample motive to the oblivion seeking booze fan-

Britain, the country with the world’s biggest network of surveillance cameras, has the worst record in Europe for the protection of privacy…The UK is billed as “an endemic surveillance society” alongside Russia, the US, Singapore and China in the survey of 47 countries by Privacy International (PI). Britain is bottom in Europe because of its cameras, ID card plans and lack of government accountability.

The report concludes that the 2007 rankings “show an increasing trend among governments to archive data on the geographic, communications and financial records of all their citizens and residents. This trend leads to the conclusion that all citizens, regardless of legal status, are under suspicion. “The impact was worst in the US and across the EU as governments boosted surveillance and information gathering in the name of security and protecting borders.” The US performed worst among democratic countries in terms of “statutory protections and privacy enforcement”.

And after ten years of the supposedly left wing government another sign of their true conservative reality, pointed out by…the Conservative party (who only use it to attack NuLab while offering only more extreme versions of the causes of the fracturing)-

Children from the most deprived areas of England are falling further behind in school compared to more affluent pupils, say the Conservatives. There is a 43 percentage point gap in the proportions of wealthy and deprived pupils achieving five good GCSEs including English and maths in 2007. In 2006, this gap in favour of the wealthiest was 28 percentage points.

So yeah drug induced escape does seem fairly attractive, sorry ‘celebrating’. But alcohol is a bad drug and it does little to encourage creativity, imgination or change, that is why it is the allowed drug of choice for industrial capitalist cultures. It reinforces the established order with licensed transgression, a simulacrum of wild abandon that never really threatens to overcome rigid societal customs, all factored into the better management of populations under a ruling class. Or put another way, you’re being played, it’ll be the same work in a few days and you’ll be refreshed after the holidays which actually helps make you a better submissive, the slow accruing of resentment released through the pressure valve of excess. Mushroom soup baby, cue the clichés-

  1. If you put a frog into a pan of boiling water it will jump out (don’t try this at home kids, the frog will be badly hurt). But if you place a frog in a pan of cold water then gently heat it the frog will remain and be boiled to death eventually (also don’t try this, what is wrong with you people?).
  2. Treat the people like mushrooms, keep them in the dark and feed them on shit.

I don’t even know if the frog thing is true and as a vegetarian I don’t recommend any research in this area. But it is a metaphor for how incrementally small changes over time will go unnoticed while radical change will be seen and perhaps fought against. The lesson for the canny politician is- to achieve your ends, do it slowly. The mushroom joke shows how secrecy is also to be employed to mislead and manage the populace. Combine these two together and you get Mushroom Soup. That’s how they want us, uninformed, lied to and unaware of the creeping changes that are happening until it is too late. It is the opposite of the Shock Doctrine I suppose and is how things proceed when no catalysing catastrophe has happened/been engineered. Between the two tactics the old strategy can be endlessly pursued- fuck you, it’s all mine.

Best Of Both Worlds

GARLAND, Texas (AP) — An essay that won a 6-year-old girl four tickets to a Hannah Montana concert began with the powerful line: “My daddy died this year in Iraq.” While gripping, it wasn’t true — and now the girl may lose her tickets after her mom acknowledged to contest organizers it was all a lie. The sponsor of the contest was Club Libby Lu, a Chicago-based store that sells clothes, accessories and games intended for young girls.

The saga began Friday with company officials surprising the girl at a Club Libby Lu at a mall in suburban Garland, about 20 miles northeast of Dallas. The girl won a makeover that included a blonde Hannah Montana wig, as well as the grand prize: airfare for four to Albany, N.Y., and four tickets to the sold-out Hannah Montana concert on Jan. 9. The mother had told company officials that the girl’s father died April 17 in a roadside bombing in Iraq, company spokeswoman Robyn Caulfield said.

“We did the essay and that’s what we did to win,” Priscilla Ceballos, the mother, said in an interview with Dallas TV station KDFW. “We did whatever we could do to win.”

There is no part of that story that does not tell you about a culture in deep trouble; celebrity obsession, sexualising children, a grasping acquisitiveness that uses war simply as a means to gain what you desire, herd instinct amplified by corporate- fashion, trends, pop culture. Texas eh?

This sets a better example, wonder when his series on the Disney channel will start-

In his letter, [“It was with sadness that I signed my name this grey morning to a letter resigning my commission in the U.S. Navy,” ] Williams [a former naval Lieutenant Commander and member of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG)] likened the use of torture by the United States to techniques used by the Spanish Inquisition, Nazi Germany and the Khmer Rouge. He also wrote that he hopes “the truth about torture, illegal spying on Americans and secret renditions is coming out.” 

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At Home With The Polluters- Air Fresheners

I’m not really asthmatic but plug in air fresheners, odour eliminating/spray cans, in general- chemical cocktail air polluting things whether fragranced or supposedly to remove odours seem to give me symptoms of asthma. I mooched around the web quickly and found I am not completely alone and mad on this (although as this is a new area of research there are not a lot of studies, but certainly something is afoot). It looks like what goes into these things has yet to be fully assessed for their combined impact on the people who willingly buy the things then slowly gas themselves in their own home-

A 2006 study at the University of Colorado and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston in which it was concluded that air-freshening chemicals may lead to the formation of cancerous cells by suppression of the enzymes that are essential for regulating normal cell death…Air fresheners and plug-ins don’t actually freshen the air or eliminate odors. Rather, they permeate the air with a powerful synthetically derived chemical fragrance to cover up odors. They also contain chemicals designed to numb our sense of smell by deadening our nerves.  

“The study assessed scented sprays, gels, and plug-in air fresheners. Independent lab testing confirmed the presence of phthalates, or hormone-disrupting chemicals that may pose a particular health risk to babies and young children, in 12 of the 14 products—including those marked ‘all natural.’ None of the products had these chemicals listed on their labels.” 

Scented sprays, gels and plug-in fresheners offer no public health benefits yet contain harmful chemicals linked to breathing difficulties, developmental problems in babies and cancer in laboratory animals, according to the petition sent to the two federal agencies. The environmental groups commissioned independent lab tests of some popular brands and also cited health studies that call into question the safety of some chemicals found in the air freshener.

A study recently published in American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, found the regular use of sprays increased the risk of asthma by 30 to 50 percent. The study was done by the European Community Respiratory Health Survey, and followed 3,500 people in 10 European countries. 

Overall, 42 per cent of those surveyed used the sprays on at least one day a week. One in seven cases of asthma could be accounted for by exposure to cleaning products, according to the study’s lead author,Jan Paul Zock, of the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology at Institute of Medical Research in Barcelona. 

Oust is made by S.C. Johnson & Son, In- For Asthma and Allergy Sufferers, consult your Dr. before using this product in your home. It is recommended that before you use Oust in several rooms of your home, you should test it in only one room and wait 24 hours to see if anybody will have a physical reaction to it.

Jeebus, I might as well have continued smoking, at least I’d look cool while I died (Don’t smoke kids, it does not make you look cool, ok it totally does, but it’s really bad. I know I stopped). Hmm, so they recommend you test ‘Oust’ to see if it affects people, what do they know they are not telling us? Of course it could be a genius scam, radical Malthusians and genocidalists get consumers to voluntarily gas themselves, paying corporations who make this stuff for the privilege (plus all the money from medications for the ill effects before they croak, damn they’re cunning). But seriously, they certainly fuck up my respiratory processes so beware. Look at this, public health advice and everything. *Wheeze*

It’s Worse Than I Ever Knew

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MET Police- Too Busy Shopping To Frame People

Britain’s existing 28-day limit on holding terror suspects without charge is already far longer than that for any comparable democracy…the four-week maximum in Britain outstrips limits in countries that have also suffered al-Qaida inspired terrorist attacks in recent years, including the United States, Spain and Turkey.

The human rights organisation acknowledged that comparisons with other common law systems such as in Canada, New Zealand and Australia were more straightforward than those with inquisitorial civil law systems such as France and Germany, but said it had asked legal experts in each country to identify the closest equivalent to pre-charge detention. “We found that the closest equivalent to a charge must happen within a matter of days, not months or years as Sir Ian Blair and others have suggested,” the Liberty study concludes.

But you see the thing is many coppers can’t do the questioning so quickly as they are all probably queuing for new iPhones-

The Metropolitan police last night confirmed that it has launched an investigation into reports that millions of pounds in police expenses have gone missing. Two detectives have been arrested…Yesterday it emerged that anti-corruption officers will check the records of hundreds of detectives, amid claims that the cash may have been spent on luxury watches, flatscreen televisions and holidays. A Scotland Yard spokesman said: “The director of professional standards is currently conducting a review around the issue and usage of the Met’s American Express cards.”…£2m of unaccounted for spending was initially identified, and has now been largely accounted for. However, at least a further £2m is still unexplained.

So- murdering, corrupt, oppressive, why would Blair be sacked it’s a police state hatrick!

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Top 25 Censored Stories

The US project censored has made their list for 2008 (I know it isn’t 08 but everyone seems to do this , like mags that have their December issues out now, silly) anyways, here they are carefully counted up like a groovy hit parade of non-trivial news, I have taken each story and put in a brief excerpt, full details and citations at the link here

  1. No Habeas Corpus for “Any Person”– While it is true that some parts of the MCA target non-citizens, other sections clearly apply to US citizens as well, putting citizens inside the same tribunal system with non-citizen residents and foreigners.
  2. Bush Moves Toward Martial Law– The John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007, which was quietly signed by Bush on October 17, 2006, the very same day that he signed the Military Commissions Act, allows the president to station military troops anywhere in the United States and take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the governor or local authorities, in order to “suppress public disorder.”
  3. AFRICOM: US Military Control of Africa’s Resources–  The most significant and growing challenge to US dominance in Africa is China. White House announced the formation of the US African Command (AFRICOM), a new unified Pentagon command center in Africa, to be established by September 2008. This military penetration of Africa is being presented as a humanitarian guard in the Global War on Terror. The real objective is, however, the procurement and control of Africa’s oil and its global delivery systems.  
  4. Frenzy of Increasingly Destructive Trade Agreements– The Oxfam report, “Signing Away the Future,” reveals that the US and European Union (EU) are vigorously pursuing increasingly destructive regional and bilateral trade and investment agreements outside the auspices of the WTO. These agreements are requiring enormous irreversible concessions from developing countries, while offering almost nothing in return.
  5. Human Traffic Builds US Embassy in Iraq– The enduring monument to US liberation and democracy in Iraq will be the most expensive and heavily fortified embassy in the world—and is being built by a Kuwait contractor repeatedly accused of using forced labor trafficked from South Asia under US contracts.
  6. Operation FALCON Raids– Under the code name Operation FALCON (Federal and Local Cops Organized Nationally) three federally coordinated mass arrests occurred between April 2005 and October 2006. In an unprecedented move, more than 30,000 “fugitives” were arrested in the largest dragnets in the nation’s history.
  7. Behind Blackwater Inc.– The company that most embodies the privatization of the military industrial complex—a primary part of the Project for a New American Century and the neoconservative revolution is the private security firm Blackwater. Blackwater is the most powerful mercenary firm in the world, with 20,000 soldiers, the world’s largest private military base, a fleet of twenty aircraft, including helicopter gunships, and a private intelligence division. The firm is also manufacturing its own surveillance blimps and target systems.
  8. KIA: The US Neoliberal Invasion of India– Farmers’ cooperatives in India are defending the nation’s food security and the future of Indian farmers against the neoliberal invasion of genetically modified (GM) seed. As many as 28,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide over the last decade as a result of debt incurred from failed GM crops and competition with subsidized US crops
  9. Privatization of America’s Infrastructure– We will soon be paying Wall Street investors, Australian bankers, and Spanish contractors for the privilege of driving on American roads, as more than twenty states have enacted legislation allowing public-private partnerships to build and run highways. Investment firms including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and the Carlyle Group are approaching state politicians with advice to sell off public highway and transportation infrastructure.
  10. Vulture Funds Threaten Poor Nations’ Debt Relief- In one recent case, the poverty-stricken nation of Zambia was negotiating with Romania to reduce a $40 million debt still owed from a 1979 loan to buy Romanian tractors. In 1999, Romania had agreed to liquidate the entire loan for $3 million. Zambia planned to use the debt cancellation to invest in much-needed nurses, teachers, and basic infrastructure. Just before the deal was finalized however, investors at the England-based vulture fund Donegal International convinced the Romanian government to sell them the loan for just under $4 million—not much more than Zambia had offered. Donegal then turned around and sued Zambia (where the average wage is barely a dollar a day) for the full $40 million.
  11. The Scam of “Reconstruction” in Afghanistan– Action Aid reveals that much of the US tax money earmarked to rebuild Afghanistan actually ends up going no further than the pockets of wealthy US corporations. “Phantom aid” that never shows up in the recipient country is a scam in which paychecks for overpriced, and often incompetent, American “experts” under contract to USAID go directly from the Agency to American bank accounts. Additionally, 70 percent of the aid that does make it to a recipient country is carefully “tied” to the donor nation, requiring that the recipient use the donated money to buy products and services from the donor country, often at drastically inflated prices.
  12. Another Massacre in Haiti by UN Troops– Eyewitness testimony confirms indiscriminate killings by UN forces in Haiti’s Cité Soleil community on December 22, 2006, reportedly as collective punishment against the community for a massive demonstration of Lavalas supporters in which about ten thousand people rallied for the return of President Aristide in clear condemnation of the foreign military occupation of their country. According to residents, UN forces attacked their neighborhood in the early morning, killing more than thirty people, including women and children. Footage taken by Haiti Information Project (HIP) videographers shows unarmed civilians dying as they tell of extensive gunfire from UN peacekeeping forces (MINUSTAH).
  13. Immigrant Roundups to Gain Cheap Labor for US Corporate Giants– The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) flooded Mexico with cheap subsidized US agricultural products that displaced millions of Mexican farmers. Between 2000 and 2005, Mexico lost 900,000 rural jobs and 700,000 industrial jobs, resulting in deep unemployment throughout the country. Desperate poverty has forced millions of Mexican workers north in order to feed their families. In the wake of 9/11, Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) has conducted workplace and home invasions across the country in an attempt to round up “illegal” immigrants. ICE justifies these raids under the rubric of keeping our homeland safe and preventing terrorism. However the real goal of these actions is to disrupt the immigrant work force in the US and replace it with a tightly regulated non-union guest-worker program. This policy is endorsed by companies seeking permanent low-wage workers through a lobby group called Essential Worker Immigrations Coalition (EWIC). EWIC’s fifty-two members include the US Chamber of Commerce, Wal-Mart, Marriott, Tyson Foods, American Meat Institute, California Landscape Contractors Association, and the Association of Builders and Contractors.  
  14. Impunity for US War Criminals– A provision mysteriously tucked into the Military Commission Act (MCA) just before it passed through Congress and was signed by President Bush on October 17, 2006 (see story #1), redefines torture, removing the harshest, most controversial techniques from the definition of war crimes, and exempts the perpetrators—both interrogators and their bosses—from prosecution for such offences dating back to November 1997. Author Jeff Stein asks, “Who slipped language into the MCA that would further exempt torturers from prosecution?” The White House denies any involvement or knowledge regarding the insertion of such language, leaving the origin of adjustments to this significant part of the MCA a mystery.
  15. Toxic Exposure Can Be Transmitted to Future Generations on a “Second Genetic Code”– Research suggests that, contrary to previous belief, our behavior and our environmental conditions may program sections of our children’s DNA. New evidence about how genes interact with the environment suggests that many industrial chemicals may be more ominously dangerous than previously thought. It is increasingly clear that the effects of toxic exposure may be passed on through generations, in ways that are still not fully understood.
  16. No Hard Evidence Connecting Bin Laden to 9/11–  Rex Tomb, Chief of Investigative Publicity for the FBI responded, “The reason why 9/11 is not mentioned on Osama bin Laden’s Most Wanted page is because the FBI has no hard evidence connecting bin Laden to 9/11.” Tomb continued, “Bin Laden has not been formally charged in connection to 9/11.”
  17. Drinking Water Contaminated by Military and Corporations– Water is essential to life, contributing to blood circulation, digestion, metabolism, brain activity, and muscle movements. Yet reliably pure water is growing scarce, even in the United States. Despite the federal government’s avowed commitment “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters,”1 corporations, municipalities, and the US military pollute our waters—often with little or no accountability.
  18. Mexico’s Stolen Election– Overwhelming evidence reveals massive fraud in the 2006 Mexican presidential election between “president-elect” Felipe Calderón of the conservative PAN party and Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the more liberal PRD. In an election riddled with “arithmetic mistakes,” a partial recount uncovered evidence of abundant stuffing and stealing of ballots that favored the PAN victory. Meanwhile, US interests were significantly invested in the outcome of Mexico’s election. Though neither candidate had any choice but to cooperate with the US agenda, important differences existed around energy policy, specifically with regard to foreign privatization of Mexican oil and gas reserves. 
  19. People’s Movement Challenges Neoliberal Agenda– The US Free Trade model is meeting increasingly successful resistance as people’s movements around the world build powerful alternatives to neoliberal exploitation. This is particularly evident in Latin America, where massive opposition to US economic domination has demanded that populist leaders and parties take control of national governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, Brazil, Nicaragua, and Uruguay.
  20. Terror Act Against Animal Activists– The term “terrorism” has been dangerously expanded to include acts that interfere, or promote interference, with the operations of animal enterprises. The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA), signed into law on November 27, 2006, broadens punishment present under the Animal Enterprises Protection Act (AEPA) of 1992.
  21. US Seeks WTO Immunity for Illegal Farm Payments–  On July 24, 2006, after nearly five years of global trade negotiations, talks at the meetings of the World Trade Organization collapsed—perhaps permanently, say some economic analysts. In January of 2007, trade ministers from the United States, the European Union, Brazil, India, Japan, and Australia said they remained hopelessly stalemated, mostly on the contentious issue of farm trade. Of utmost importance to the Bush Administration was that the US receive immunity from lawsuits by poor countries before Bush’s special “fast track” trade negotiating powers expired at the end of June, 2007.  
  22. North Invades Mexico– Author Mike Davis points out that, in a “reality stood on its head,” few people—at least outside Mexico—have bothered to notice that while all the nannies, cooks, maids, and gardeners have been heading north to tend the luxury lifestyles of irate republicans, the Gringo masses have been rushing south to enjoy glorious budget retirements and affordable second homes in Mexico. The number of North Americans living in Mexico has soared from 200,000 to 1 million (one-quarter of all US expatriates) in the past decade. 
  23. Feinstein’s Conflict of Interest in Iraq– Dianne Feinstein—the ninth wealthiest member of congress—has been beset by monumental ethical conflicts of interest. As a member of the Military Construction Appropriations Subcommittee (MILCON) from 2001 to the end of 2005, Senator Feinstein voted for appropriations worth billions of dollars to her husband’s firms.
  24. Media Misquotes Threat From Iran’s President– Across the world a media story has spread that Iran’s President Ahmadinejad has threatened to destroy Israel, by saying that, “Israel must be wiped off the map.” Contrary to general belief, this statement was actually a misinterpretation. However, it was the Islamic Republic News Service in Iran that first mistranslated the quote. Iran’s Foreign Minister attempted to clarify the statement, but the quote ended up having a life of its own in the corporate media. Amid heated wrangling over Iran’s nuclear program and the threat of preemptive strikes by the US, the quote has been continually used to reinforce the idea that Iran is being run by extremists seeking the total destruction of Israel. 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.”
    Rezhim-e 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 landmass, but the Israeli regime. This is a vastly significant distinction, as one cannot wipe a regime off the map. Ahmadinejad did not even refer to Israel by name, he instead used the specific phrase “rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods” (regime occupying Jerusalem). A similar statement by Ahmadinejad in December 2006, “As the Soviet Union disappeared, the Zionist regime will also vanish and humanity will be liberated,” has also been misinterpreted. 
  25. Who Will Profit from Native Energy?– Energy on Native American land is becoming big business. According to the Indigenous Environmental Network, 35 percent of the fossil fuel resources in the US are within Indian country. The Department of the Interior estimates that Indian lands hold undiscovered reserves of almost 54 billion tons of coal, 38 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 5.4 billion barrels of oil. Tribal lands also contain enormous amounts of alternative energy. The questions to be answered now are: what sort of energy will Indian lands produce, who will make that decision, and who will end up benefiting from the production?

Friday! Fergie: Glamorous

What? Ok the whole song/video is a risible hymn to consumerism and the American Dream Nightmare (and one line claiming money isn’t important while everything else yells it is does not convince) it sort of follows on from the last post. As a cultural artifact it tells you something about a decadent empire whose luxuries are reliant on the subjugation & slaughter of millions yet still pumps out fantastical fantasies of corporate wealth. Fantasises that are eulogised in pop, the performers are encouraged to see this wealth as a paradise (at least they do something to earn it rather than inherit or steal it) but the drug ravaged zombies you see in celebrity mags tell another story. Like the small mention of money not being important there is some allusion to knowing this is all ephemeral nonsense but you have to dig through layers of pornographically fetishised opulence for that meaning. Although the visual storyline of the video is less capitalist-tastic when rotated on music channels what you mostly see is executive jets and shiny things, so if this is a sneaky refutation of decadent consumer values its context is robbing it of that. It’s sort of like the pop video incarnation of Bratz dolls and yes, I have had to watch the Bratz movie, sigh.

But…if you spend any time with children (and particularly tweeny nieces) this kind of stuff- the Disney Channelfication of existence- seeps into your mind and out of all the crap I have to admit I enjoy this slice of idiotic pop. Its redeeming features are a lush production, hilarious rap interludes and a catchiness I like rather than find annoying. So to summarise- shame on me it’s rubbish, but I don’t care let’s dance and be silly. Who said this blog wasn’t G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S!

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Instant Asshole: Just Add Money

hirstskull

People huh? I mean if you match common sense to wealth it looks like many people are shit over the limit with a twenty in their hand-

His younger brother, Jefri, whom the Sultan introduced to polo, has for decades been one the world’s most notorious playboys…He once owned a 50-metre yacht called Tits, replete with tenders named Nipple 1 and Nipple 2.

…the 61-year-old Sultan spent £7.3m and £6.59m on two house supervisors, and £5.86m on each one of his five public relations officials, named Janet, Prall, Shelly, Vicky, and Yoya. He also spent £1.26m on a badminton coach and £1.25m on masseuses and acupuncturists, as well as £48,859 on the guards for his exotic bird cages.

But won’t someone think of the supermodels? London fashion week has to ensure their good health yet violent eating disorder enabling emetics are even now being considered for the marketplace-

Tony Blair has signed a deal to write his memoirs of life in Downing Street,…Mr Blair has strong ties with Random House: its UK wing is headed by Gail Rebuck, who is married to Mr Blair’s close ally and former pollster Lord Gould. Both the publisher and Mr Blair’s spokesman refused to disclose his fee. But publishing experts suggested the deal was worth as much as £5m. The single volume memoir will be published under the Hutchinson imprint in the UK.

Oddly though he was the only Prime Minister (Gordon Brown and two former PM’s – Baroness Thatcher & Sir John Major- Sir? Baroness? Give me fucking strength, can’t wait for Grand Poobah Wizard Duke Oberlieutenant Blair) missing from the unveiling of a Lloyd George statue-

Harold Pinter, along with the campaigning journalist John Pilger and former UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Iraq Denis Halliday, had crticised the decision to honour Lloyd George – the Welshman who served as Prime Minister from 1916 to 1922 – because he had ordered British troops to bomb Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran and Iraq during the First World War.

Lloyd George’s record of selling honours to boost party funds, which led to the introduction of the 1925 Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act, may also have made some people at the unveiling in Parliament Square feel uncomfortable. That legislation led to the abortive “cash for honours” investigation of Tony Blair and his aides.

Oh, still it’s not like they took bribes from arms dealers…oh-

A Labour peer has admitted taking money to introduce an arms company lobbyist to the government minister in charge of weapons purchases.

But it’s not like the representatives of the people are a wealthy elite whose privileged financial position insulates them from the real life concerns of us people (yeah, no points for guessing what’s coming next, not an entirely subtle comedic conceit is it?)-

The total payments of £87,622,957 in 2006-07 were in addition to the £60,675 annual salary received by MPs, bringing the average cost to the taxpayer of a member of the House of Commons to almost £200,000. Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, who was paid £157,076. He and his wife, Yvette Cooper, the Housing minister, claimed between them more than £307,000, including a combined £32,000 for the London home they share. They have been accused of breaking the spirit of the rules by using allowances to buy property in the capital.

And of course that’s just what we pay them, not their total income including directorships, consulting etc. y’know- bribes. Thing is, even crooks aren’t bothering anymore, it’s more profitable to use the capitalist system as it now operates than buck it with old school mafia shit-

The Mafia, memorably described as “bigger than U.S. Steel” by mob financier Meyer Lansky, is more of an illicit mom-and-pop operation in the new millennium…Things are so bad that mob scion John A. “Junior” Gotti chose to quit the mob while serving five years in prison rather than return to his spot atop the Gambino family.

Still it’s not like a vicious system of capital based filters is stopping people from attaining their potential-

If you are wondering which university is the cheapest in the United Kingdom, you now have your answer. It is Bradford University in Yorkshire, where students pay an average of only £40.51 a week for rent, according to a cost-of-living index survey published exclusively in The Independent today. The most expensive is the Royal Academy of Music in London, on Marylebone Road, a stone’s throw from Madame Tussaud’s, where accommodation costs a staggering £147.07 weekly.

Well over three times the weekly rent, should keep those northern types out of the lovely rich peoples places in the south, after all if you educate clever people they’ll stop worshiping, aspiring and realise rich people aren’t like us, they are way, way bigger assholes and then pull down the whole sorry corrupt mess. Or…they’ll just watch Pop/X/Big/Dancing/Factor/Idol and find paying to vote on who gets to be exploited by corporations the most satisfies their atrophying desire for self determination. One of the two…

War On Democracy- Del Monte (Produce) & Guatemala

Masked gunmen dumped a Guatemalan banana picker’s bullet-ridden corpse yards from fields of fruit bound for the United States, a grim reminder of the risks of organizing labor in the Central American country. Marco Tulio Ramirez, killed last month, was the fifth Guatemalan labor leader murdered this year.Activists say the deaths show promises to protect labor rights under a U.S. trade pact have changed little at a time President George W. Bush is pressing for similar deals in other Latin American nations with bad labor records. The Central American Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA, was approved by the U.S. Congress in 2005 after a tough battle with Democrats who argued that worker safeguards in the agreement were too weak.

Since Ramirez’s death, suspicious cars have followed union members on and off the company’s property, his brother said. Hundreds of union members were murdered or ‘disappeared’ by state security forces during the country’s 1960-1996 civil war between the army and left-wing rebels.

The war began after a coup backed by banana company United Fruit, now known as Chiquita Brands International. United Fruit sold many of its plantations, including the ones where Ramirez worked, to Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. Representatives from the Fresh Del Monte Produce subsidiary Ramirez was employed by said they have nothing to do with his killing and urged authorities to conduct a full investigation. (h/t commenter at Lenin’s Tomb)

And of course Chiquta were a paragon of non-criminal non-terrorism supporting behaviour, oh except they had to plead guilty to that in court. Del Monte’s statement calling on the government is sickly disingenious, the govt. works with them in the intimidation-

The company refused to agree to one of the union’s primary demands, the reinstatement of 900 workers illegally fired in violation of the union’s collective bargaining agreement. The workers were fired when Del Monte abruptly shut down three of its Guatemalan plantations in September.

Meanwhile, the Guatemalan government has not moved to arrest any of the 200 armed men who forced the union leadership to resign at gunpoint and flee for their lives on October 13, 1999. National Police investigators finally interviewed the union leaders officially on November 3. The government had previously known the names of at least 40 people who had been cited by the union for participating in the violent intimidation, but the government said it needed an official complaint to move forward, which the union said it would give as soon as the government provided security to them and their families. The security was eventually provided but it took another week before National Police investigators conducted the interviews.

On the question of Del Monte-

In 1989, the Del Monte Corporation split into two separate corporations, Del Monte Tropical Fruit and Del Monte Foods. The former changed its name in 1993 to Fresh Del Monte Produce, while the latter still exists as a separate entity. However, the “Del Monte Shield” mark is still used by both companies. Fresh Del Monte Produce is based in George Town, Cayman Islands. The current chief executive officer is Mohammad Abu-Ghazaleh.

So a tax dodging corporation supported by US trade pacts where labour organisers wind up dead…just an isolated incident, right?

The Church Of The Free Market: Larry Summers- Convert…& Die

Or: Capitalism- Paragon of Humanitarianism. Because you might not have read this at Lenin’s Tomb, or you may already have seen this (it is old news, but hey I can’t know everything) a memo from Lawrence Summers in ’91 then chief economist at the world bank-

DATE: December 12, 1991
TO: Distribution
FR: Lawrence H. Summers
Subject: GEP

‘Dirty’ Industries: Just between you and me, shouldn’t the World Bank be encouraging MORE migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs [Less Developed Countries]? I can think of three reasons:

1) The measurements of the costs of health impairing pollution depends on the foregone earnings from increased morbidity and mortality. From this point of view a given amount of health impairing pollution should be done in the country with the lowest cost, which will be the country with the lowest wages. I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.

2) The costs of pollution are likely to be non-linear as the initial increments of pollution probably have very low cost. I’ve always though that under-populated countries in Africa are vastly UNDER-polluted, their air quality is probably vastly inefficiently low compared to Los Angeles or Mexico City. Only the lamentable facts that so much pollution is generated by non-tradable industries (transport, electrical generation) and that the unit transport costs of solid waste are so high prevent world welfare enhancing trade in air pollution and waste.

3) The demand for a clean environment for aesthetic and health reasons is likely to have very high income elasticity. The concern over an agent that causes a one in a million change in the odds of prostrate cancer is obviously going to be much higher in a country where people survive to get prostrate cancer than in a country where under 5 mortality is is 200 per thousand. Also, much of the concern over industrial atmosphere discharge is about visibility impairing particulates. These discharges may have very little direct health impact. Clearly trade in goods that embody aesthetic pollution concerns could be welfare enhancing. While production is mobile the consumption of pretty air is a non-tradable.

The problem with the arguments against all of these proposals for more pollution in LDCs (intrinsic rights to certain goods, moral reasons, social concerns, lack of adequate markets, etc.) could be turned around and used more or less effectively against every Bank proposal for liberalization.

{Mr. Summers, was appointed the U.S. Treasury Secretary on July 2nd, 1999, and served through the remainder of the Clinton Admistration. Afterwards, he was named president of Harvard University.}

He also thinks women are inferior to men, backed the shock treatment in Russia and ain’t so keen on black academics. So a great big pustulating cretin, and he is richer and far more powerful than almost all of us. Let that inform you of the nature of our ruling classes. We are a herd to be used…and culled.

US Must Reduce Emissions By At Least 80%

Oh dear-

 By 2050, the United States must cut its emissions by at least 80 percent below those created in the year 2000 if the world is to avoid potentially dangerous impacts of human-induced climate change, according to a report released today by Texas Tech University, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and Stanford University.

To avoid the most severe effects of climate change, the world must stabilize the concentration of heat trapping gases in the atmosphere at no more than 450 parts per million, said Katharine Hayhoe, an associate professor of geosciences at Texas Tech University who performed the emissions-reduction calculations for the joint report.

This 450-parts-per-million limit aims to avoid a temperature increase exceeding 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit in a global average temperature above pre-industrial levels – a temperature-change benchmark which Hayhoe and other scientists believe could wreak increasing havoc on the environment as it is exceeded.

“The study assumes both developing and industrialized countries would have to converge to equitable per-capita emissions to stabilize the world’s climate,” she said. “However, even with other countries taking aggressive action, since the United States is responsible for nearly one-quarter of global emissions, it must act now to achieve the deep cuts in its energy consumption that will be required to meet this target.”

The cost of delaying U.S. emission reductions could be high, said Michael D. Mastrandrea, a research associate at the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University.

“If we wait until 2020 to start emission reductions, we’ll have to cut twice as fast than if we start in 2010 to meet the same target,” Mastrandrea said.

While an 80 percent reduction sounds daunting now, Hayhoe said that the sooner we start, the greater our chances of successfully meeting that target.

“We’ve got 40 years to radically increase the efficiency of the way we use energy,” she said. “It’s also time to start considering more extensive ways to harness renewable energy sources through solar panel arrays and wind farms, for example. It’s worth it to put in the effort now to reduce our emissions. If we don’t, there will be a lot more work to do just to adapt to the impacts of climate change in the future.”

More detail at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) site here and here.

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The Shock Doctrine In Bookshops Now!

I saved this (because when I saw it you couldn’t buy the book, so I waited until it was available), then I forgot, now I’ve remembered!

“When I finished The Shock Doctrine, I sent it to Alfonso Cuarón because I adore his films and felt that the future he created for Children of Men was very close to the present I was seeing in disaster zones. I was hoping he would send me a quote for the book jacket and instead he pulled together this amazing team of artists — including Jonás Cuarón who directed and edited — to make The Shock Doctrine short film. It was one of those blessed projects where everything felt fated.” – Naomi Klein

Spot The Difference- Congo Edition

Ndumba said techniques employed include: stripping inmates and beating them on the buttocks with an electric cable; bludgeoning them with a rubber baton until the skin becomes raw on the back and the soles of the feet; leaving prisoners in handcuffs so tight they cut into the skin, with hands tied either in front of them or behind their backs for up to three days; and forcing prisoners to drink large quantities of water before beating them on the stomach until they vomit blood.

Or-

The UK government has argued DRC is a safe place to return failed asylum seekers and other migrants despite a warning on the Foreign Office website of a range of human rights abuses which include ‘frequent reports of summary executions, widespread rape and sexual violence, banditry and forced labour’.

The thing is Ndumba would be the one to know, he used to a secret policeman who perpetrated the torture!

Tomorrow will see the resumption of a court case, heard in camera at the immigration appeal tribunal, to determine whether it is safe to remove failed asylum seekers to DRC or whether all removals should be suspended because of the dangers to them.

The decision to hear the case in private was taken because of the perceived danger to witnesses who will be giving evidence about their experiences of torture. Three of the witnesses have received anonymous death threats since agreeing to give evidence. The Home Office, however, remains upbeat about the prospects for returnees to DRC although they acknowledge some individuals can demonstrate the need for greater protection.

All to please racist voters shitting themselves over immigration, bet they all have mobile phones, guess where the essential cobalt for batteries in those came from? A demand that has enriched the oppressive wealthy few and helped fuel a huge war costing 3 million lives. Ain’t ignorant consumerism grand?