I've just heard that Benazir Bhutto has been assassinated at a rally in Pakistan. This is obviously sad news for a country that stands on the brink of either democracy or disaster. While it's unlikely to be revealed one way or another, I've heard that President Musharaff and the military intelligence service of Pakistan are often accused of being behind terrorist attacks and assassinations. Is it really possible that the state would do something like this? I hope not, for everyone's sake.
Yes, it's that time of year again. As no one should ever write a blog post explaining why they haven't written any blog posts, I shan't. I've got a couple of drafts I'm half way through and I'll either post them or junk them some time over the next week or two.
In the meantime, I'm looking forward to the sort of relaxing holiday which can only be achieved by staying up until 5 in the morning singing:
Ande, ande, ande la Marimorena
Ande, ande, ande que la Noche es buena
Happy Festivus to you all. Now, it's time for the Airing of Grievances and the Feat of Strength!
I saw this bottle at a family friend's house today. He's got quite a decent Rioja cellar and was apparently given two of these some years back. I'm not sure what the origin of the wine is (though I guess it's from some time shortly after the dictator's death) and I didn't ask to taste any. Something tells me it would have upset my tummy.
As yet another useless and wasted environmental summit draws to a close, I'm yet again asking myself why we'll have to wait another two years before anything gets done. In a completely unsurprising move, the United States has pretty much wrecked any chance of a workable agreement by deciding to propose that everything agreed on be 'voluntary' rather than binding. In treaty terms, in case you hadn't guessed, 'voluntary' agreements count for fuck all.
As the years roll on, with the climate becoming increasingly unstable and scientists' predictions racing towards us at the speed of light (2015 now seems quite close), there comes a time when you have to accept that our elected leaders just will not do what is required of them. Citizens need to stand up and vote for parties and candidates which are genuinely committed to effective change in carbon output, oil dependency and new power solutions.
Incidentally, for those of you still 'unconvinced' by the evidence (the word for you is 'luddite' or 'member of the Flat Earth Society'), you need to understand that the vast majority of scientists studing the climate agree that this is happening and that humans are causing it. Clinging to the chance that a few controversial studies paid for by Exxon and Shell might be right is as absurd as maintaining that Dick Cheney planned the 9/11 attacks. Get over it.
Actually, the only reassuring thing I've heard this week was the US chief scientist, John Marburger speaking on BBC Radio 4 the other day. He said that climate change is a reality and that we're to blame. Right so we're all agreed on something we agreed on 15 years ago!
This is our joint Christmas present, the Pentax K100D Super. It's absolutely gorgeous and we're really happy with it. As our first move into the world of DSLRs, it may take a little time before we get used to it… but as soon as we're up to speed, we'll try to put together a nice album of photos of winter in the Collserolla & South Hams or something like that.
Those of us on the left who've ever had any interest in party organisation will be all too aware how often splits can occur. The recent wrecking behaviour of Galloway supporters in Respect is a classic example. So it is great to see that a potentially much more serious split is taking place in Britain's main fascist party, the BNP.
Two key activists in the party, Kenny Smith and Sadie Graham were purged from the party after they attempted to maneuver against Mark Collett, the party's publicity officer. Collett seems quite unpopular and general opinion among many activists appears to be that he is being protected by leader Nick Griffin. I remember Collett's appearance in a couple of TV documentaries which showed him to be a particularly unpleasant neo-Nazi.
Now, many organisers and party officials seem to be resigning in protest at Griffin's betrayal of the party for personal reasons. This is great news, of course, because a party in disarray is an unsuccessful party. Griffin's authority is now being directly challenged and it looks like he'll either have to get rid of his chum Collett or face more resignations. It all stems from various dark accusations of nefarious acts connected with Collett, as well as a claim that the BNP's 'intelligence team' have hacked into blog sites and deleted posts.
Read the Lancaster Unite Against Fascism post for a more coherent explanation of what has gone down, and how grave the BNP's problems appear to be. I'm going to have a celebratory cigarette.
The story of a man who went missing after a solo canoe trip five years ago has become a fascinating tabloid story. John Darwin turned up alive a few days ago, presenting himself as a missing person at a London police station and claiming amnesia. My interest was first piqued by the revelation that his wife, Anne, had recently sold their two homes in the UK and had moved to Panama. She had also claimed John's life insurance, 'in good faith'.
Next came a photograph which purported to show John and Anne in Panama, a year ago. Shortly afterwards, John Darwin was arrested for fraud. Anne has since admitted that the photo of them is genuine.
So it seems that this guy feigned death, and lived it up in Panama, all the while leaving his sons, father and other relatives believing he was dead (unless they were in on it: the sons have now said that they don't want to speak to their parents, claiming that they knew nothing… it could be an elaborate new side to the scam but it sounds genuine).What kind of person can do something like that? Can money really be enough of a motivator to make you convince your own sons that you're dead?
The BBC had some scum sucker of an extradition lawyer who defended Pinochet during his tea parties with Thatcher, and he said that if she wanted to, she could delay the extradition by 14 months (Anne Darwin, that is, not Margaret Thatcher). I kind of think that if they can give the money back they should just be let off. They've pulled an incredible scam and the loss of their family should be enough punishment.
In other news, there was yet another mass shooting in the United States. Robert Hawkins shot 13 people with an AK-47 in an Omaha shopping mall, killing 8 (and then himself). Apparently, he split up with his girlfriend, lost his job and then just went berserk. I expect John at Iberian Notes to link back to his previous post about how these things happen elsewhere too. He does that whenever there's a mass shooting in the United States.
On a happier note, we had a great day in Premià de Mar today (it's a public holiday today as well as Monday: most Spaniards have a productivity-destroying week off, just 3 weeks before Christmas!). We're thinking of relocating there as we're not massive fans of the Vallès Occidental comarca where we currently live in a small flat. Gemma also grew up around here and I think that she'd actually rather move to Thailand or something. Premià might just be enough of a compromise. It's a nice town, with a pretty 'village' feel to it, probably because it's one of the few costal towns with almost no tourist accommodation. The flat we looked at had spectacular views of the Mediterranean (it was 'primera linea' – the first row of construction from the coast), and I could easily picture myself sitting out on the balcony as the sun sets, watching the boats come and go from the little marina. Well, we'll see: at any rate, we're in the market for a beach-front house. Any kind donors, please feel free to contact me.
US intelligence agencies undercut the White House yesterday by disclosing for the first time that Iran has not been pursuing a nuclear weapons development programme for the past four years. The secret report, which was declassified yesterday and published, marked a significant shift from previous estimates. "Tehran's decision to halt its nuclear weapons programme suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005," it said.
In a startling admission from an administration that regularly portrays Iran as the biggest threat to the Middle East and the world, the NIE said: "We do not know whether [Iran] currently intends to develop nuclear weapons." That contradicts the assessment two years ago that baldly stated that Tehran was "determined to develop nuclear weapons". [The Guardian]
Oh shit, looks like we'll have to find another reason for bombing the fragile democracy. It's worth noting that The Guardian (so called 'far left' by plenty of Americans with no centre to their political spectrum) has been actively involved in disseminating anti-Iran propaganda of late. Julian Borger, the paper's diplomatic editor, recently wrote a very unusual story which completely misrepresented the contents of the IAEA's last report into Iran. Specifically, he mentioned that a nuclear warhead could be put together 'in one year', a claim that was mentioned nowhere in the IAEA's report. Suspicious that he had been 'briefed' (or 'prepped') by some sort of government official, I wrote to him to ask him about his source for the claim. No response, as yet, but one thing is clear: his source wasn't the IAEA report.