I've not written anything about WikiLeaks recently because I've found the whole circus surrounding Julian Assange rather dizzying. Reading the commentariat on Guardian Cif has hardly helped my feverish state of mind over the last few days and I must admit that I found myself beginning to loathe my fellow man for a moment. That moment has passed, I'm glad to say.
Suffice to say, I do think that Julian Assange should probably answer these charges in Sweden, but I also have the feeling that this is indeed part of an obvious and concerted campaign to 'get him'. None of this dizziness, however, takes away from the fact that WikiLeaks has been serving up some interesting, if hardly surprising, morsels in the diplomatic cables episode [this blog referenced WikiLeaks a couple of years back regarding the leaked BNP membership list - much more exciting]. Hearing that China isn't a monolithically stupid country convinced that the People's Democratic Republic of Korea is a bastion of like-minded souls against the world didn't take my breath away. Nor did the revelation that Putin's as corrupt as the Church, or that pressure was brought to bear on Spain regarding the Jose Couso case. Sadly, these are slightly depressing truths that we all kind of knew already, just confirmed in dull, bureaucratic language.
To cheer myself up, I've been thinking of some things WikiLeaks could reveal in the future. Here are mine. You can share yours in the comments…
- Memos that prove me right about there being little or no evidence of WMDs in Iraq prior to the war, and that Blair misled parliament.
- Stuff about the banks and how they're all bastards. Ideally some memos proving that they laugh at the rest of us for funding their rescue. Because I'm sure they do.
- Something about alien life. I'm not a conspiracy nut, but after the important-but-nowhere-near-as-exciting-as-it-might-have-been NASA announcement last week, it would be great to read.
- Categorical confirmation that Aznar and the PP intentionally misled the country over 11M.
- Anything that makes Dick Cheney look even madder than he already does (like, he picked out crowns for himself and Bush or something).
- Clear evidence of corruption in FIFA, UEFA and European leagues.
- Anything they have on Dr. David Kelly. I more or less accept the suicide story but the whole case stinks.
- Proof that 9/11 'truthers' are led by a 7-foot lizard.
- Material covering the huge increase in opium crop since the beginning of the Afghanistan war, which companies are profiting and by how much.
- Anything at all to do with Catalan politics. Just so we can see how special they feel.
How about you? What would you like to see revealed by WikiLeaks?
This week's general election in the UK has, according to most sources, turned out to be more interesting than was expected. The arrival of live televised debates (coming something like 50 years after the USA started with them), while rightly criticised for increasing the presidential X-Factor feel of the whole thing, has catapulted the Liberal Democrats into a likely 'kingmaker' role. Nick Clegg, a man for whom I have very little time, seems to have won over a large number of voters by pretending that his party is somehow offering 'real change' as opposed to the 'change to old times' of the Tories and the 'perpetual change' of Labour.
And the truth is that as something of a politics junkie, I've been interested to see just how this electoral race will pan out. But I'm simultaneously conscious of one glaring fact: despite still being English, I've been living away from the UK for nearly eight years. I visit the place, but should I really still be entitled to vote there? I reckon that as long as the next British government lasts for a couple of years, I'll probably be a Spanish citizen by the time the next election takes place. And then, however much I'll remain English and a citizen of the UK, I'll have formally accepted that Spain and Catalonia are now my home and perhaps I ought to forfeit my right to vote in the country where I grew up.
This time, I will vote. I've asked my proxy (my beloved mother) to vote Labour for me – though as it will be cast in the South West Devon constituency, the vote itself is more of a gesture than anything else. I enjoy taking part in the democratic process and I genuinely long to be able to do so in Catalan and Spanish elections.
My hope is that should a socialist revolution fail to occur in the UK, a Lib-Lab coalition can be elected to reform Britain's electoral system and the House of Lords, while trying to protect public services. Get that done and I may even vote again…
The skies over London and most of the rest of northern Europe are quiet this weekend. Eyjafjallajökull's ash stopped my poor sister from going to New York (a trip she'd been looking forward to for months) and has stranded several friends and colleagues. After the initial 'wow, they're really stopping all the flights!' reaction, the press has now reverted to their usual scaremongering. Apparently, the UK might soon suffer shortages of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Sorry, I'll say that again: the UK is apparently at risk of fruit and veg shortages. This is the UK, which has some of the finest and most fertile farmland in Europe. Obviously, it has been a pretty tough winter but to me this is a symptom of everything that has gone wrong in our modern world: we've stopped growing and eating the vegetables we can produce in March and April in England and instead we fly pineapples in from Ghana and baby sweetcorn from Thailand. This links in to everything: we're no longer in anyway self-sufficient, we encourage poorer countries to produce food for foreign markets instead of their own, and we fly food in from all over the world: wrong, wrong, wrong.
It's likely that the volcano's influence on Britain's supermarkets won't last too long. But that doesn't mean things will be fine forever and ever. With the US military warning that we'll have passed peak oil production by 2015 (though we must bear in mind that this might just be some kind of move in a game we can't see, like trying to invade Iran or something) – it seems to be totally undeniable that we're all going to have to accept some pretty significant changes to the way we live.
Whereas in recent years, eating local, seasonal food cooked slowly has been a sort of retrospective pleasure of the wealthy middle class food snobs in Europe, I reckon that in a few years, that'll be basically the only way to eat. We might have to accept too that baby sweetcorn and pineapple become birthday treats to be longed for and savoured. What we can't grow fairly locally, or ship in the old fashioned way, we shouldn't be eating.
But that's not the only change I can see happening. As it'll become more difficult and expensive to transport goods, most European countries will need to start looking once again to local manufacturing and industry. We'll have to rely less on plastics and other polymers which are also sourced from the petrochemical industry: look around you right now and see if you can identify any item from the last 50 years which definitely didn't rely on petrochemicals at some point in its production. We'll have to accept changes in the quality and the quantity of goods that are available.
OK so this post may well sound a little paranoid and rambling. I suppose I'm still trying to organise my thoughts. But my point is that I think it's very likely that we'll all have to accept some pretty massive changes to our lives over the next few years and decades. In a way, this volcano is something of a gift because it can remind us of how unsustainable our happy European lives have become.
South of Watford has a post today about an incident that I was planning to write about. Apparently, the British fascist party, the BNP, attended a meeting in Madrid on the 21st. Also present at the meeting were the Spanish fascist party, Democracia Nacional and the Italian fascist group Forza Nuova.
The meeting was nearly interrupted by another Spanish far-right group, the Movimiento Patriótico Socialista, 28 of whom were apparently arrested. The BNP issued a statement, claiming the MPS represents a 'neo-Nazi' agenda and are 'aligned to the English Defence League', a group of militant fascists which the BNP claims to disown entirely.
Now, on first sight, this might be a simple dispute between different factions of the far-right, doing a sort of 'People's Front of Judea' style bit of in-fighting. And that would be very amusing.
I'm not so sure that it's so simple. There are several problems here: first of all, it's very difficult indeed to find any information about the MPS. That's unusual because as any fule know, the very first thing any political group does these days is set up an atrociously badly designed and unusable website full of conflicting political statements. The MPS doesn't have one and they've been around since at least March.
Democracia Nacional claim that the attackers weren't the MPS but rather came from the Movimiento Social Republicano, a relatively well known neo-Nazi group (at least it is if you've ever spent any time browsing through fascist websites). MSR are in turn linked to the Italian fascist group Fimma Tricolore, which was in alliance with the Forza Nuova as recently as 2005.
The EDL themselves have been noisy this year, holding small-scale aggressive 'protests' in a few British cities, normally in the name of opposing 'Radical Islam'. The BNP has said several times that it doesn't support the bully-boy tactics of the EDL but at the same time various EDL organisers are known members of the BNP.
To me, this 'split' in European fascism could be one of two things: it's either a genuine split caused by a sense of dissatisfaction among the more openly violent factions of the far-right, who have decided to 'go it alone' and fight in the streets. Or it's a cosmetic split, designed to allow the 'mainstream' fascist parties to orchestrate street violence and then condemn it, satisfying their two main goals: appearing to be mainstream and beating up Muslims. And they all get press to boot.
If you haven't seen last night's Question Time, you probably should. You can find it all on YouTube (UK residents, look on BBC iPlayer). Nick Griffin (whose ancestors were apparently travellers, not that that matters), was shown to be not the cunning demagogue that some feared, but rather the slippery, dissembling, sweaty fascist you and I already knew he was. I don't think the BNP deserves a platform on primetime TV but I imagine the BBC got good viewing figures.
Over at Vice, there's a bit of video about the Welsh Defence League marching in Swansea. I can't embed the video, but you can see it here. The WDL/EDL are the street thugs of the BNP. Performing Nazi salutes, shouting racial threats and promising violence, these people are the real face of the BNP's politics.
As a side note, it's nice to see Andrew Fitton, SWP and Unite Against Fascism organiser in Swansea, on the video. I haven't really thought much about Andrew or any of the other SWP activists since I left Swansea more than seven years ago… but seeing him on that video reminds me of both the joy of discussing and marching for something I believed in, and the bitter-sweet frustration that comes from being involved in a small political group. Seeing Swansea UAF on video reminds me that I need to get back to that kind of direct action right now.
So thanks, Vice, for that.
While at work the other day, I stumbled upon a Facebook application called simply "I am British". Emblazoned with a Union Jack, the app's homepage shows that it has over 90,000 'fans'. So I had to install it and see what all the fuss is about.
The "I am British" app was produced by i2we, a San Francisco based app developer that has come up with dozens of similarly named apps like "I am soccer / futbol", "I am lesbian" and "I am childbirth professional". What these apps seem to allow you to do is (a) define yourself by your nation, sport or profession; (b) earn points by saying you're doing stuff connected with your chosen app (like "I am toast and marmite" or "I am binge drinking"; and (c) socialise with like-minded people. So far, so stultifyingly dull.
But what really interested me about this app is what users of "I am British" say about the app and themselves. The app reviews are enlightening. They range from slightly confused but determined calls to preserve Britishness:
Must keep up our heritage remember the little things fish n chips on a friday,bacon butties fof breakfast.Support the local harvest festival.Donate to your local church.Most of all dont tarmac or blockpave over you gardens,people who do this are killing our green pastures our HERITAGE.
…to barely literate threats:
Born n bred british
i die 4 this fuckin country
so if u dont like it here fuck off i aint dying 4 u
…and there are even some opposing views:
You should be proud of what you achieve, not what you are. Saying you're proud of your heritage is as stupid as being proud of your eye colour.
When one young guy says that he was "Givin shit to pakis " – he receives a high five. Someone else comments that he's "Sick to death of the vile infection of freeloading scum washing up on our shores for a free handout!!!!:(" – which leads to a "Hear hear" and a further clarification from the original poster that:
At Present I find myself unemployed,All I
need to help fix this problem is a Gun and
an ammunition supplier that can keep up
with the demand for bullet's.
I like how a vague threat of terrible violence is rendered fluffy by the inclusion of a smiley.
The problem with "I am British" is that racist opinions aren't in the minority. Most reviews and many wall posts seem to espouse pure BNP ideology, though not couched in that party's flowery language.
see if u look above there no black in the flag so is our country overrun with blacks
i work for livin an pay ma taxis unlike these fukin imagrantes thats what makes u british.this country is gettin raped
I no that many people class them selves British even the ones who was born in this country but i kida disagree because if you was born in England then you are English. Government wants us to call our self's British even when we are totally the opposite. If the foreigners get to choose if they are Asian or any other race but we cant call our selves English. Personally i think it is terrible the why the foreigners get everything and we get nothing when we are the true citizens. I think there is going to be a big riot if the government dont do nothing because we are getting sick of all of it. Soon the white race will be gone if we dont do nothing. We aint racist we are realists. Bring back England
ME COME TO ENGLAND POOR AND BROKE. GO DOWN DOLE SEE SOCIAL BLOKE, FILL IN FORM STAND AROUND KIND MY GIVE ME PLENTY POUND,ALL IS NICLEY SETTLED DOWN NICE BIG HOUSE IN ROTHERHAM TOWN ,ME THINK ENGLAND DAMN FINE PLACE MUCH TO NICE FOR WHITE MAN RACE AND IF YOU DONT LIKE COLOURED MAN THERS PLENTY ROOM IN PAKISTAN! [This post comes from a chap who appears to be a British soldier]
I know I shouldn't be surprised by this sort of thing. But with Modbury suddenly flying multiple England flags and Union Jacks, I'm concerned that Britain is seeing an increase in a type of patriotism that seems to be predominantly based on race hate. Maybe I should "leave the country" (that won't be difficult)? Or maybe I'm just over reacting and nothing has really changed.
These posters can be seen all around London. I rather like the design, though only because it appears that the designer must have intentionally lampooned the surveillance society. If the Nineteen Eighty-Four reference was unintended, then maybe I don't like it quite so much.
Does anyone know anything about the designer?
This was on the Today programme yesterday morning. The BBC are considering allowing atheists to offer their thoughts in the Thought for the Day section. Currently, only religious people are invited to do the slot. In the clip, Christina Rees attacks this idea with the strongest weapon in her armoury: unreason.
Thebadrash.com = quiet of late. Coming soon: petitions, photos, music, corruption and maybe even a new poll.
If you haven't seen it, this is the ad that Charlie Brooker wrote about in his column on Monday. It has to be the worst conceived, most amateurish political ad I've ever seen done in earnest. Oh, and "Don't turn it off!" is such a David Brent way of starting it (not that he'd have ever voted for them, seeing as he wanted the world to be 'colour blind'). The comments on the YouTube page are also well worth a look – they're mostly mocking. Sadly, we can no longer leave comments… funny, that.
Anyway, here's the ad:
Contrast that rubbish with the SWP's latest poster campaign and we see that the left are still far better at humour, taste and design.
…well, he didn't say as much but what other explanation could there be for this?
Think about it: if the BNP and UKIP do well at the expense of Tories (and Labour), the result will probably be a rightward shift from the Conservative party, who are already confident of victory in the next general election anyway. That way, Tebbit wins. Grotty little man.
Every year, on April 21st, I receive a text message from Vodafone España (my mobile operator) that reads as follows:
VF Publi: Hoy, dia nacional de Reino Unido, date de Alta GRATIS en Mi Pais marcando *189# y llama por 18 cent/min ese dia (20,88 IVA inc).+info:www.vodafone.es
Now, I'll leave out any criticism of a deal that costs me 18 cents a minute to call the UK ("€20,88 included").
What first amused me about this piece of text-spam was the bit about the UK having a 'national day'. At first, I thought they must have sent the message a couple of days early and were wrongly assuming that they could get away with calling St. George's day 'the UK's national day'. But no… the truth is that they made an even bigger mistake: Vodafone thinks that the Queen's birthday (she was born on April 21st 1926) is some sort of national fiesta that we all celebrate and that I'd probably want to call my mum to wish her "Happy Queen's birthday, Mum!".
Yes, silly Vodafone.
Or rather, silly Tom. Because after some deep investigation (well, putting 'Queen's Birthday' into Wikipedia), I divined that the Queen's "official birthday" actually is Britain's national day. It's just that no-one told us about it. The official birthday happens one Saturday in June (no one knows when), and so is never made a public holiday.
So, silly United Kingdom for having a Queen who has two birthdays. And silly me for not knowing we had a national day to sullenly ignore. And silly Vodafone for sending me their spam on the wrong birthday. Idiots.
Not that I'd want to defend a Labour spin doctor… BUT, lest we forget: