Monday, September 18, 2006

Oh, the irony....

Oh look. People who have been accused by one nutter of using violence to spread their particular branch of superstition have reacted by threatening to kill people.
So they're not violent.
Laugh? I nearly shat...

Saturday, September 16, 2006

My imaginary friend's better than your imaginary friend...

Ah, children, children - put the toys down, and listen.
It seems that Pope Benedict the whatever (I really can't be bothered looking up his number - somewhere in the teens. Does it matter? Really?) has condemned Islam. And done it rather strongly, quoting a Byzantine Emperor who described Islam as "evil and inhuman". This, remember, is a man who genuinely believes that a small cracker and a cup of watered-down cheap red wine transform into human flesh and blood whenever the correct magical words are spoken over them. Although, oddly, he'll never let said supposedly transformed items be taken away for testing, which could confirm his claim beyond the scepticism of the likes of me. It's also a man who believes that condoms are evil, and it's preferable to let AIDS spread throughout Africa - and lie about the causes of AIDS - than allow consenting adults to wear them whilst having sex. So clearly a sick mind. Some may say an evil mind (however, let's leave that for another blog - I will, some day soon, discuss the case of whether or not there can ever be a "moderate" theist, and whether the word "evil" can be applied to them all... When I can really be bothered.)
However, as is ever the case when superstitions clash, reason can't be brought into the fray - it would undermine both sides equally. So the whole "debate" becomes a matter of name calling - "My god's better than your god", and doesn't get us anywhere (as an aside - a simple way to defeat a theist in an argument: ask them for evidence. They get very confused - you're not supposed to do that...)
Ultimately, then, the whole charade becomes rather laughable. Or it would, were there not large numbers of wealthy and powerful people supporting either side, and large numbers of deluded and desperate people seemingly willing to die for either side. Then the stake becomes the future of the world. And the retreat from reason seems more frightening.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Freedom of speech versus the oil companies...

OK, this is vaguely important. American journalist Greg Palast has been threatened with gaol for filming a refugee camp near an oil refinery in Louisianna (the American equivalent of a refugee camp - full of people made homeless by the broken levees in New Orleans - a thoroughly preventable disaster).
Anyway, visit his website at, and here's the story, in full, in his words, rather than mine:

Palast Charged with Journalism in the First Degree
Published by Greg Palast September 11th, 2006 in Articles

September 11, 2006
by Greg Palast

It's true. It's weird. It's nuts. The Department of Homeland Security, after a five-year hunt for Osama, has finally brought charges against … Greg Palast. I kid you not. Send your cakes with files to the Air America wing at Guantanamo.

Though not just yet. Fatherland Security has informed me that television producer Matt Pascarella and I have been charged with unauthorized filming of a "critical national security structure" in Louisiana.

On August 22, for LinkTV and Democracy Now! we videotaped the thousands of Katrina evacuees still held behind a barbed wire in a trailer park encampment a hundred miles from New Orleans. It's been a year since the hurricane and 73,000 POW's (Prisoners of W) are still in this aluminum ghetto in the middle of nowhere. One resident, Pamela Lewis said, “It is a prison set-up" -- except there are no home furloughs for these inmates because they no longer have homes.

To give a sense of the full flavor and smell of the place, we wanted to show that this human parking lot, with kids and elderly, is nearly adjacent to the Exxon Oil refinery, the nation's second largest, a chemical-belching behemoth.

So we filmed it. Without Big Brother's authorization. Uh, oh. Apparently, the broadcast of these stinking smokestacks tipped off Osama that, if his assassins pose as poor Black folk, they can get a cramped Airstream right next to a "critical infrastructure" asset.

So now Matt and I have a "criminal complaint" lodged against us with the feds.

The positive side for me as a journalist is that I get to see our terror-busters in action. I should note that it took the Maxwell Smarts at Homeland Security a full two weeks to hunt us down.

Frankly, we were a bit scared that, given the charges, we wouldn't be allowed on a plane into New York last night. But what scared us more is that we were allowed on the plane.

Once I was traced, I had a bit of an other-worldly conversation with my would-be captors. Detective Frank Pananepinto of Homeland Security told us, "This is a 'Critical Infrastructure' … and they get nervous about unauthorized filming of their property.

Well, me too, Detective. In fact, I'm very nervous that this potential chemical blast-site can be mapped in extreme detail at this Google Map location:,+Baton+Rouge,+LA

What also makes me nervous is that the Bush Terror Terriers have kindly indicated on the Internet that this unprotected critical infrastructure can be targeted -- I mean located -- at 30º 29' 11" N Latitude and 91º 11' 39" W Longitude.

After I assured Detective Pananepinto, "I can swear to you that I'm not part of Al Qaeda," he confirmed that, "Louisiana is still part of the United States," subject to the first amendment and he was therefore required to divulge my accuser.

Not surprisingly, it was Exxon Corporation, one of a handful of companies not in love with my investigations. [See "A Well-Designed Disaster: the Untold Story of the Exxon Valdez." [nb. this was a hyperlink to this address in the article, but was unavailable when I clicked on it when adding this - Puskas.]]

So I rang America's top petroleum pusher-men and asked their media relations honcho in Houston, Marc Boudreaux, a simple question. "Do you want us to go to jail or not? Is it Exxon's position that reporters should go to jail?" Because, all my dumb-ass jokes aside, that is what's at stake. And Exxon knew we were journalists because we showed our press credential to the Exxon guards at the refinery entrance.

The Exxon man was coy: "Well, we'll see what we can find out…. Obviously it's important to national security that we have supplies from that refinery in the event of an emergency."

Really? According to the documents our team uncovered from the offices of Exxon's lawyer, Mr. James Baker, the oil industry is more than happy to see a limit on worldwide crude production. Indeed, the current squeeze has jacked the price of oil from $24 a barrel to $64 and refined products have jumped yet higher -- resulting in a record-busting profit for Exxon of nearly $1 billion per week.

So this silly "criminal complaint" has nothing to do with stopping Al Qaeda or keeping the oil flowing. It has everything to do with obstructing news reports in a way that no one would have dared attempt before the September 11 attack.

Dectective Pananepinto, in justifying our impending bust, said, "If you remember, a lot of people were killed on 9/11."

Yes, Detective, I remember that very well: my office was in the World Trade Center. Lucky for me, I was out of town that day. It was not a lucky day for 3,000 others.

Yes, I remember "a lot" of people were killed. So I have this suggestion, Detective -- and you can pass it on to Mr. Bush: Go and find the people who killed them.

It's been five years and the Bush regime has not done that. Instead, the War on Terror is reduced to taking off our shoes in airports, hoping we can bomb Muslims into loving America and chasing journalists around the bayou. Meanwhile, King Abdullah, the Gambino of oil, whose princelings funded the murderers, gets a free ride in the President's golf cart at the Crawford ranch.

I guess I shouldn't complain. After all, Matt and I look pretty good in orange.

Saturday, September 09, 2006


Good people rarely get thanked for their selfless turns. So, tonight, I'd like to thank the nice young lady sat next to me on the Northern Line, who kept elbowing me every time I fell asleep, and thus saved me an unscheduled trip to Morden and back.
You are, indeed, one of life's greats.

Friday, September 08, 2006


The things you see. A sign, on a wall in a South London internet cafe:
"You are forbidden to do anything illegal here". Really? I thought, internet cafes were, like, neutral zones, man - anything goes.
And there then followed the three main prohibitions: child porn, financial fraud and terrorism. Followed by a warning that anyone caught using their computers for that would be turned over to the police.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Oh, bollocks....

Oh look. Summer's over (this isn't actually true, as it'll carry on until the autumnal equinox - it just feels over. Always does after the August Bank Holiday). But it still seems far too hot. Wonder why?
Anyway, back. Do my absences get longer? And my spells of actually writing anything get shorter? I have no idea. Wouldn't be suprised, though. I can see the limit case...
Not as if I've missed anything, though is it? Not like there's been more terrorist threats, further attacks on civil liberties and a war in the Middle East, or anything. Pah.
Ho hum. Today's thoughts - privatisation. Does anybody really believe the private sector is more efficient? If so, I would suggest you try making a train journey. I'll grant you, private enterprise is much better at making money - it does this, largely, by simplyfying problems, and then selling you the easy solution. OK if you have software (well, in fact, it isn't, because you'll end up with something that doesn't do what you need it do to, but that's a whole other kettle of badgers), but not as useful for, say, organising a public transport system, or running the NHS.
I could also write about senior managers who have discussions which involve them drawing boxes with the words "outcome", "budget" and "difficulties" written on them, with various arrows connecting them, and then pretending they've done anything other than spend an hour talking bullshit. But that's another topic entirely.
Pah. Blogging. Rubbish.
So, what did you get up to on your summer holidays? I mostly spent mine mainlining heroin, and watching hardcore pornography. Although not talking to myself. I save that for when I write this drivel....