Sunday, February 24, 2013

Truest statement of the week

The loopholes in the constitution were described as a “minefield” by the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, just 15 months ago. The civil war of 2006-2008 was sparked by the explosion of some of these mines, and so were the current demonstrations in the western Sunni provinces. Yet al-Maliki took advantage of the loopholes, shortcomings and vague articles to enhance his personal, extra-constitutional power and to weaken the power of the parliament, the judiciary and independent or civil society bodies.
Ultimately, al-Maliki and his Dawa Party have managed to create a new kind of dictatorship. This is a curse not only to the Sunnis, or the Kurds, or the swaths of Shias, but to the country as a whole.

-- Adnan Hussein, "A new kind of dictatorship" (The New Statesman).

Truest statement of the week II

Iraq remains a troubled place. During my recent visit, I saw little of its restored oil wealth being spent on badly needed social services. The nation, collectively traumatised, has only three child psychiatrists. The ubi­quitous checkpoints and blast walls fail to stop too many bombers. Iraqis complain of rampant corruption. Nouri al-Maliki’s Shia-dominated government is seen as increasingly autocratic and its relations with the country’s Sunnis continue to sour.

-- Caroline Hawley, "Iraq's 'freedom' is still steeped in blood" (The New Statesman).

A note to our readers

 Hey --

Another Sunday.

First up, we thank all who participated this edition which includes Dallas and the following:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

And what did we come up with?

The New Statesman has provided some strong Iraq coverage over the last few weeks.
As noted above.  We wish we could say the same about our own US periodicals.   

Nouri is a thug.  Why is the US government still supporting him?  Why are they still arming him?  There are so many questions that need answering.
Ava and C.I. are going to be at the Academy Awards tonight which is why we're done early.  They told us ahead of time they were only doing one piece and that it would probably be a short one.
To ensure that we finished on time, Dona suggested that we follow their lead.
Ava and C.I. tossed this out as a suggested way to note Curiosity.  Betty covers Curiosity, the Mars Land Rover, at her site.  She tries each week to pitch something and each week it's on the maybe list.  Ava and C.I. pointed that out at the start of the edition and said since tonight is an award show most people will be watching, let's note Curiosity won an award.  Trina was quickly on board and wanted Franco to be the presenter. 
Van Cliburn really needed to be insulted by the State Department last week?  Really?  
Poor Junior, his words come back to bite him in the ass.
Another science piece.   This was really because of the tooth photo.
An Iraq piece.  
A great speech.
War, war, war.  Whatever happened to peace?

Mike and the gang wrote this and we thank them for it.

And that's it, that's all we got this week.  A lot of you are asking for a roundtable and we'll try to fit one in next Sunday.


-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.

Editorial: Look who the White House is in bed with


Friday in Mosul, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's forces began filming the protesters as the photo from Iraqi Spring Media Center documents.  It's a surprise only if you don't know what happened in 2011 or what Nouri had been doing all last week.

Thursday Al Mada reported, on Nouri's attempt to use his military on the people.  They were following the protesters in Anbar Province and Diyala Province in an attempt to intimidate them as well as find out where they lived.  That was the 64th day of continued protest in Iraq. In addition to following protesters, they were also grabbing them and arresting them -- at least 20 in Baquba.

Not only were they attempting to

Nouri tried everything to stop the protests including, as Iraqi Spring MC noted, putting up checkpoints Thursday to prevent people from entering areas in the hopes of defeating the Friday protests.

But Friday saw over three million Iraqis turn out to protest across the country.

In the US, the White House has continued to support thug Nouri.  At the State Department, neocon Victoria Nuland (State's spokesperson) has repeatedly treated the protesters as violent.  Strange, since the eleven people killed during protests were all protesters who were killed n Falluja January 25th by Nouri's forces.  As Human Rights Watch noted earlier this month of that massacre:

Witness statements and media footage indicate that demonstrators threw stones at soldiers and burned an empty army vehicle. Some witnesses said the soldiers could have avoided being harmed without resorting to lethal force. Human Rights Watch spoke with three protesters and a soldier. They offered differing accounts of the clashes, although all agreed that the army fired, hitting members of a crowd of several hundred protesters after the protesters began throwing rocks in the direction of an army checkpoint near the highway.
The protesters said that they outnumbered the soldiers, but threw rocks at the soldiers from a great distance. Witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that although the protesters threw rocks, they were not armed and were not threatening the lives of Iraqi soldiers.

The military is being used against the people.  And the US continues selling weapons to thug Nouri. 

Zarzis Thomas (Al Mada) reported that Nineveh Province Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi responded to complaints about the way the national forces were treating protesters in Mosul by going down to the protests.  After speaking to people and getting names of people who were grabbed by the military, al-Nujaifi attempted to leave but, he states, the federal police attempted to attack his car and his security detail in an attempt to get them to fire guns.

That should alarm the the US government.  The whole thing should.

The US is openly supporting a dictator who tramples free speech and turns the military on the people.  

TV: The Endurance Run

Playing himself in 2002 on the "Bacon and Eggs" episode of Will and Grace, Kevin Bacon demonstrated his sense of humor.  In films like Wild Things, JFK, X-Men: First Class, Diner and Footloose, he's delivered as an actor and entertained many but for every one of those films,  it seems like there are ten Hollow Mans on his filmography.


A move to TV must have seemed like a no-brainer after his wife, Kyra Sedgwick, found immense success with TNT's The Closer, winning both the Emmy and a Golden Globe as she carried the show over seven seasons.  The Following airs Mondays on Fox and his character, Ryan Hardy, is complicated.  We'll come back to that.

 Ryan was a top FBI agent.  Ten years ago, he tracked down a serial killer who was obsessed with Edgar Allen Poe.  Or maybe the proper wording there is: He stumbled upon the serial killer.  It was college professor Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) and not only was Ryan in love wtih the professor's wife Claire (Natalie Zea), he even sought help from the professor.  It was only when the serial killer was in the process of killing a college student that he discovered Joe was the killer.

It was during that attack that Joe stabbed him in the chest.  As a result, Ryan now has a pacemaker.  As a result of whatever the relationship was with Claire, he's no longer with the FBI.

But ten years later, Joe breaks out of prison.  The FBI needs Ryan.  And Ryan catching Joe doesn't change that need.  It turns out Joe's been building a cult over the last years.  And one of them, the nanny for Joey -- Joe and Clarie's son, kidnaps Joey.

Claire is where the show's at its best.  Zea's at the stage that amazingly beautiful people reach where they only look more beautiful when you try to dress them down or try to make them look tragic.  That's not taking anything away from her acting, Zea's a wonderful actress and we've praised her talent before. But she's reached a moment -- one that usually doesn't last long -- where her beauty enhances every gesture, every emotion.  The written page doesn't really matter at this point.  Claire's supposed to be haunted and Natalie Zea's making her haunting. 

That's the show at it's best.  At it's not so good?  Remember we said Ryan was complicated?  He is complicated and dark and tortured and brooding.  With a difficult past.  So naturally, he doesn't want to talk about it -- especially not to FBI agent Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore).

Mike doesn't know how lucky he is.  In a flashback (in episode four), Ryan was more chatty in bed with Claire  after the two had made love.

Claire:  C'mon, Ryan, just talk to me.

Ryan:  It's kind of a downer.

Claire: I don't care.

Ryan: Alright.  You asked for it.  Uh, my mom got sick when I was a kid.  Leukemia.  And she fought for years but it got her.  And then she died when I was 14.

Claire:  Ryan, I --

Ryan:  My dad, uh, was a street cop.  Albany PD his entire life until he retired.  Then one night, he walked into the wrong corner store at the wrong time and he tried to be a hero.

Claire:  Ryan, I'm -- I'm so sorry.  So it's just you and Jenny.

Ryan:  We had an older brother. Ray.  New York fireman. 

Claire:  Oh, God, if you say 9-11 --

Ryan:  Okay, I won't say it.  Told you it was a downer.

Downer?  As Thelma Ritter says in All About Eve, that story had "everything but the bloodhounds snappin' at her rear end."

And that's the major problem with the show.

 The overkill.

Bacon, Zea, Ashmore and Annie Parisse are great actors.  A cast like that is one you want to spend time with.  Which is why the bits and pieces, starts and stops and false-starts are so maddening.

Years ago, before TV, there were movie serials.  There were sci-fi serials (Flash Gordon), super heroes (Batman), westerns, Pearl White's The Perils of Pauline and so much more.  They weren't the main attraction.  They were shown before the main attraction. They were weekly chapters of a serial.  To hold your interest, they would end with a cliffhanger that would make you want to catch the next instalment.

You could argue it was like a TV show and that's true if a TV series just lasted 13 or so episodes.  We're not even sure you can take ten episodes of The Following.

Everything is too much.  Ryan's personal tragedies are only the tip of the iceberg.

For example, in the first episode, Joey was kidnapped.  It appears that episode six will find Joey rescued.  In the meantime, episode five saw Joey's mother Claire kidnapped.

The roller coaster never ends.  And that can be great for a soap but The Following wants to mess with your head, wants to put you in the place of the victims, you're supposed to identify.  So it's all just too much.  The writers never insert breathers where the audience can catch a breath.

It's not entertainment, it's an onslaught.

And the winner is . . .



JAMES FRANCO walks up to the podium.

JAMES FRANCO:  The Goddard Trophy is a prestigious award, one that recognizes a team for significant contributions.  A team working together.  Dr. Robert Goddard built the world's first liquid-fueled rocket.  An engineer and a theorist, Dr. Goddard's work has had a lasting impact.  So it's only fitting that the award named after him should go to those who are leaving a lasting impression.  Past receipiants have included the Apollo 11 Astronauts -- Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins -- and, last year, the folks behind the GPS.  This year's winner is . . . Team Curiosity!  


JAMES FRANCO (Con't):  The Curiosity/Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Team! The team is honored for their significant contributions to the development of the most capable deep space mission ever developed and the initiation of the most ambitious science mission ever conducted on the surface of another planet! 

We love the Academy Awards.  But science matters too.  And the land rover Curiosity is discovering so much on Mars.  It has won the Goddard Trophy -- ceremony is March 22nd -- and it's done so much more.

NASA notes Curiosity's accomplishments, "NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has relayed new images that confirm it has successfully obtained the first sample ever collected from the interior of a rock on another planet. No rover has ever drilled into a rock beyond Earth and collected a sample from its interior."

But we really think Betty's said it best:

If it helps you, think of Curiosity as an avatar of sorts.  And she's up on Mars finding out all this information that we would otherwise never know.
Curiosity is an extension of ourselves, our limbs and our dreams.  I really think it was the story of 2012 and is shaping up to be the story of 2013. 

For more information, NASA has a web page about Curiosity's mission -- regularly updated -- and a Facebook page and a Twitter account.

Oh, the bitchery . . .

 van cliburn

In March 2011, US President Barack Obama presented pianist Van Cliburn with the National Medal of Arts.  It's a great honor to be presented with a National Medal of Arts.

The National Endowment of the Arts noted of Van Cliburn:

Van Cliburn has been hailed as one of the greatest pianists in the history of music as well as one of the most persuasive ambassadors of American culture. Cliburn entered the Juilliard School at age 17.  At age 20, he won the Leventritt Award and made his Carnegie Hall debut. In 1958, Cliburn’s victory at the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow at the height of the Cold War propelled him to international fame.
Cliburn has received Kennedy Center Honors and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He received the Order of Friendship from President Vladimir Putin in 2004, and in 2003 President George W. Bush bestowed upon him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

So it was a little strange last week to hear the State Department decide to weigh in on the pianist.

Assistant Secretary Frederick Barton:  It reminds me of a Van Cliburn concert.  The guy looks great.  He's got the tails.  He can play the whole keyboard.  But at the end, you haven't necessarily settled on what needed to be done the most.  And the US can't afford to be Van Cliburn in these cases.  We have to be much more focused, much more targeted.

Though Barton chuckled at his own bitchery, no one else present was laughing.

Those were tacky remarks to make and had us wondering if bitchery was going to replace diplomacy at the State Department?

Jesse Jackson Junior Cries for himself

 Remember Jesse Jackson Junior's one moment of fame?  Anyone?

Not in response to voters -- not in response to Katrina, not in response to other issues that have devastated the American people, the war in Iraq, we saw tears in response to her appearance. So her appearance brought her to tears, but not Hurricane Katrina.

Barack Whores like Bill Moyers loved that.  Moyers aired it on his no-longer in production Bill Moyers Journal.  

Is that how Junior wants to be remembered?

felon junior

"PROUDLY SERVING THE SECOND DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS" his website used to boast, his Congressional website.

Of course, he's not a member of Congress now, is he?

As Marcia's "Junior gets spanked" and Betty's "Bye-Bye Junior" pointed out, he's not just out of Congress. No, he entered a guilty plea of swiping $750,000 in campaign funds to spend on himself -- to buy watches and fur capes and other junk.

And he cried, in court last week, like a little baby.


He cried like a little baby.

Or, to put it in Junior's language:

Not in response to voters -- not in response to Katrina, not in response to other issues that have devastated the American people, the war in Iraq, we saw tears in response to Junior admitting his guilt.  So his guilt brought him to tears, but not Hurricane Katrina.

Where the dinosaurs were

Comanche National Grassland in Colorado is where the Ceratosaurus tooth, bigger than a human being, was discovered last October.

dino tooth
The discovery is not surprising.  Dinosaur bones are so common there that dinosaurs are the third topic in the  "Frequently Asked Questions" which notes, "The Comanche National Grassland has the longest set of dinosaur tracks in North America."  The banks of the Purgatoire River has more than "1300 prints in 100 separate trackways."  Due to the many dinosaur fossils found in the Comanche National Grassland, the United States Department of Agriculture notes, it's being called the "tossed salad of dinosaur parts."

The popular interest in dinosaurs is strong enough to support not only the Jurassic Park film franchise, and Jim Henson's Dinosaur Train but also assorted rip-offs and homages.  Bob Strauss ( tries to explain children's fascination with dinosaurs:

The most likely explanation for why kids love dinosaurs is that these huge, dangerous reptiles went extinct over 65 million years ago (though that might as well be 65 years from the perspective of your average pre-schooler). The fact is, most kids don't worship at the altar of lions, tigers or timber wolves, probably because these fierce carnivores can easily be seen (either at the zoo or on TV) stalking their prey and ripping into freshly killed antelopes. Children have vivid imaginations, meaning it's a short step from witnessing a hyena demolishing a wildebeest to picturing themselves on the lunch menu.

So kids "love dinosaurs" because they've been extinct for millions of years?  Really?  Because Strauss starts his info-tour by explaining that a child "as young as two or three" can sometimes pronounce "tyrannosaurus' before he can wrap his mouth around 'please' or 'thank you'."  And a two or a three-year-old is not someone who can understand 'extinct' -- a million years ago or 60 seconds ago.  Whatever the reason for the fascination, it's more complicated than 'because the dinosaur is extinct.'

And dinosaurs weren't even the first extinct beings the public grew fascinated with.  Keith Thomson (American Scientist) observed:

They were not the first prehistoric creatures to gain wide attention. In 1801 Charles Willson Peale, a talented artist, showman, and inventor of the modern natural history museum, excavated the remains of three large mastodons from Newburgh, New York. The display of one of Peale's mastodons in Philadelphia helped start the public fascination with fossils.

The US Forest Service notes many discoveries have been made at Comanche National Grassland,  "Recent work at the river view quarry has produced numerous dinosaur bones including shed teeth of carnivorous dinosaurs. Like sharks, dinosaurs continually shed teeth, which explain why the river view deposit is full of scattered and incomplete bones, some bearing actual bite marks." 

That sad MSM

If you ever doubt just how ineffective the mainstream media has become in the west, grasp that everyone else is noting.

For example, Iraqi Spring MC and The BRussells Tribunal observed last week,  "It continues to amaze us. Who is only informed by the mainstream media, has usually not heard, not seen or not read about the weekly Friday demonstrations in Iraq. There is however massively demonstrated: against the Mailiki-government, against the occupation and for a free and united Iraq. Find here some pictures of the demonstration in Iraq on Friday February 15."

From Musol من الموصل

[Iraqi Spring Media photo of the Tuesday Mosul protest.]

It really is something as over 10% of the Iraqi population is now participating in the protests and the western media isn't even interested.

Or worse, they're getting the story wrong.

If any other reporter did what Jane Arraf did on Friday, we'd call them a liar.  We'll give her the benefit of the doubt this time and just assume that, speaking so many languages, she's forgotten English.  

Labour needs to apologize for the Iraq War

Natalie Bennett is the leader of the Green Party of England and Wales  and spoke Friday at the party's conference:

"Thank you….  It’s great to be in Nottingham, just up the road from Leicester, where the remains of the last English king killed in battle, Richard III, were recently found underneath a council carpark. Not one of our favourite kings, and man who today sounds particularly unwise in crying “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!” About as unwise as George Osborne crying “Plan A, Plan A, Always Plan A for Austerity.”

Last time I was addressing conference, I had been leader of the Green Party for four days, and those four days had been such a media whirl that I tended to end conversations by saying "right, where's the next journalist?"

The five or so months since have been a similar, if more varied, whirl.
I have been to Bristol to support our excellent mayoral campaign there. 
In  Lancaster I spoke at  the University of Lancaster at lunchtime and the University of Cumbria in the evening.

I was delighted to be in Margate helping the Isle of Thanet Green Party get off the ground at a rousing 70-strong meeting in the memorable Walpole Bay Hotel.
In Manchester I was interviewed on community radio just before they switched to their weekly slot out of Jamaica, and in Oxford to open their spectacularly good festive Green Fair.

Last week I was in Cambridge at a 50-strong public meeting on a winter's Friday night, and another evening enjoying a lovely Indian buffet with the Surrey Greens.

There's been a wide range of media too. The Any Questions Buckinghamshire audience, which cheered roundly at everything from the living wage and decent benefits to my simply saying "I am a feminist", was a delightful surprise.

On The Andrew Marr show, I got four minutes to explain how we'd deal with Britain's economic and environmental crises, before Jeremy Hunt got 30 on the NHS. I would have loved to swap that around!

All of that travelling has left me with one certainty – that whenever and wherever I give a speech calling for renationalisation of the railways, I’ll get a great response from the audience – and I’ll have no problem filling in the bit of my speech that reads “insert today’s travel disaster story here”.

Some have suggested that the travelling and speaking sounds glamorous - I have to reply that it often isn't. This week I was having a quick chat with BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire drivetime, in between my train getting into Coventry and a talk at the University of Warwick.

I needed somewhere quiet - which is how I came to be crouched between two buildings in the Transport Police Car park, using them to block out the sounds of the trains on one side and the buses on the other. Glamorous it wasn't. It probably looked quite suspicious!

We are, however, going to have some glamour at this conference, at a grand party tomorrow night. You might have noticed, in the Guardian on Monday, or from your conference pack, that this conference marks the Green Party's 40th birthday.

In fact, Elisabeth Whitebread and her team of volunteers are organising a whole year of celebrations - do talk to them if you've got some colourful memories to record for posterity. And don't miss tomorrow night's party - our own Darren Johnson has been selecting the soundtrack, although I do suspect he might also be taking to the dance floor himself - and this time without a certain Boris to spoil the pictures.

That anniversary left me with an obvious temptation today -to speculate about where the Green Party might be in 40 years' time, when I hope to come along as a proud retired spectator, leaning on my walking stick, watching our latest Green prime minister outline how Britain, having long cut carbon emissions to less than 10 per cent of 2009 levels, is exceeding its targets for cutting other resource use, is vastly improving its soil, air and water quality, how inequality has reached new record lows, with top  salaries for every organisation in the country at no more than five times the lowest paid staffer. And they are staffers now, the failed neoliberal experiment of outsourcing having ended, with enforcement of the decent minimum wage and contract standards ending the obscenity of zero-hours contracts and long-term casual employment...

 I could go on, for it is important that we present a positive image of how we want to reshape Britain in a jobs-rich, low-carbon future.

But it’s also pressing to highlight just how wrong the current direction of the Coalition government is, and how the Labour party is failing to be the effective opposition that the country desperately needs.

Before I do that, however, there’s another, tragic, anniversary I have to highlight – a 10-year anniversary. For it is a little more than 10 years since the great, 2-million strong anti-war protest took to the streets of London, and a little less than 10 years since the Labour Government utterly ignored the views of those people, and millions of others, and started the Iraq war.

A Guardian survey last week showed that 55 per cent of Britons agree that "the London marchers were right", because "a war sold on a false prospectus delivered little but bloodshed". And the Iraqi people are still struggling, and dying, as a result of the consequences of that war.

Yet Ed Milliband, who HAS apologised for the Blair government’s immigration policy, has failed to apologise for the decision to take Britain into an unjustifiable war.

We’re still waiting for Sir John Chilcot’s report into the war. That’s one landmark that we can expect future historians to look back on this year.

Another may well be even bigger – a turning point. What I’ll hazard a guess the historians might say “the year the British people said ‘no more’”.

Up and down the country, as I’ve travelled around, I’ve founds groups and individuals saying “no more”.

“No more” to poverty wages – people working fulltime, yet unable to meet the cost of even the basic necessities. Or stuck in a part-time job they can’t survive on, unable to get any more hours.

“No more” to child poverty – children who go to school hungry, children who don’t have a proper winter coat, children who can’t go on the school trip their peers will be talking about for weeks.

“No more” to shivering pensioners shivering under layers of quilts in drafty, cold homes they can’t afford to heat.

People increasingly are saying “no more” to zero-hours contracts, which trap workers in continuous uncertainty – will they get four hours’ work this week or 40? Will they be able to pay the rent? Will they be able to buy food?

“No more” to workfare - the unemployed being forced into such alleged "educational" roles as stacking for Poundland for not just low wages, but no wages at all.

And people are increasingly saying “No more” to the demonisation of benefit recipients. They recognize that nearly all of us are only one medical incident, one traffic crash, away from disability, from depending on the support of the state.

None of us can be sure that employment is certain, that we won’t find ourselves applying increasingly desperately for jobs where employers, faced with hundreds or thousands of applications, don't even reply to all applicants.

One group of people who are very firmly saying “no more” are the Occupiers at the University of Sussex in Brighton, who I visited this week. People in the front rows can see that I’m wearing a yellow ribbon – that’s the symbol of support for the Occupation – and it was great to see larger yellow squares in windows of offices and accommodation all around the university.

We’ve seen thecomprehensive failure of the outsourcing model – the dreadful litany of A4E, G4S, and the awful Atos – yet somehow the university administration thought they could sneak through a privatisation. Well done to the student occupiers for saying “no more”.

Another group saying “no more” to great effect is UK Uncut. I’m sure many people in this room took part in their action against Starbucks, the fast growing but mysteriously totally unprofitable coffee chain that infests our high streets like a particularly pernicious weed.

And another group saying “no more” are the bee campaigners. Just yesterday I was at Defra, helping to hand in a 41,000-strong petition against pesticides from They are saying no more to putting the profits of the chemical companies before the health of an essential link in our ecosystem - and our food growing.

So many people and groups are saying “no more”.

But sadly, mysteriously, one group that isn’t saying “no more” is the Labour Party.

Well, maybe it isn’t so mysterious…. They’re only offering more of the same that we had for 13 years under Blair and Brown.

We know that it was Labour who championed the “light touch” regulation of the financial industries that the Tories have only continued, Labour who abandoned all interest in supporting manufacturing and farming and was content to allow the jobs, the cash, the people of Britain to concentrate more and more in the south east corner of the country.

We know that it was Labour who started the marketisation of the NHS, that's become the privatisation of the NHS, it was Labour who championed the undemocratic Academy schools that have morphed into Michael Gove’s Free Schools, it was Labour who dotted the country with immensely expensive, but immensely profitable, PFI schemes that today's babies will still be paying for when they are parents.

And we know that Labour is failing to challenge the government’s deeply divisive, deeply corrosive, deeply dishonest “strivers versus shirkers” rhetoric.
We are living too in a Britain in which the mistakes, the great errors, of the past, have not been properly acknowledged, let alone dealt with, even though they are glaringly obvious.

We know the neoliberal model of a globalized economy in which we specialize in casino banking, arms sales to human-rights-abusing regimes and pharmaceuticals, while leaving it to the rest of the world to make our goods and grow our food, has hit the buffers: hit the buffers economically, and hit the buffers environmentally.

We know that we can’t keep living as though we’ve got three planet Earths to exploit.

Yet the Labour Party is content to mutter empty platitudes about being “one nation”, keep its head down, not apologise for the mistakes of the past, and not offer any change in direction, just hope that the incompetence and economic failings of George Osborne’sPlan A of austerity will deliver government back to them in 2015.

And the Labour Party is failing to speak up on the environmental issues that so desperately need attention. 

Indeed, when Ed Miliband gave his Autumn Conference speech, he entirely “forgot” to mention the environment. It’s so important to him, that after he’s spent weeks carefully memorizing it all, that that was the part – the entire topic of the environment – that slipped his attention.

Yet we only have to look around us here in Britain, look at the statistics, look at the fields, look at the woods, to see that this “green and pleasant land” is groaning under the strain of human exploitation.

Scientists tell us that hedgehog numbers declined by over a third in just the past decade. Moths are fast disappearing – three species extinct in Britain this century after 62 last century. And sparrows – remember city sparrows? Those of you who are too young to remember them might want to ask your elders about them.

And of course the immediate environmental degradation that we see all around us in Britain is only a tiny part of a much bigger story – the despoliation of the earth, the threatening of our very future by human-caused climate change.

It is no longer any question to any sensible, unbiased person that climate change is here – traditional conservatives on the issues, from the International Energy Agency to the World Bank – are thoroughly convinced it is real.

It is just about one thousand days until COP 21 – the  21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. That’s when we’re supposed to have an agreement to replace Kyoto, to come into effect by 2020.

Yet we know that we must act today, tomorrow and the day after – take immediate, direct, swift action.

In practical terms in Britain we know that we must now pass a fit-for-purpose Energy Bill, one that gets serious about energy conservation, and provides policy certainty for the big investment in renewables that we urgently need - decarbonisation by 2030 is the important aim - one for campaigners to really push for.

And we must abandon the mad idea of fracking – smashing the very ground under our feet, using vast quantities of water and chemicals to pollute our water tables, creating 1,000s of lorry movements across our countryside.

The independent Committee on Climate Change tells us we can’t frack and meet our legally binding emissions targets – but we also can’t afford to ruin our countryside, damage tourism and farming, and our quality of life – for this anyway uncertain prospect.

In British politics it’s only the Green Party that gets climate change – has the ideas, the plans, the vision, to create a low-carbon, jobs-rich economy. And in the coming three years we have the chance to convince voters that we can fix our economic and environmental crises together – that this isn't an either-or choice, but an essential pairing.

First in May, on the 2nd of May, just 10 weeks away from today, we have the council elections. This is a real chance to grow the number of Green councillors up and down the country.

And that's a good in its own right - I will get later to a short account of the many achievements of Green councillors around the country.

But it is also a chance for many more people to have local elected Green representatives.

Then in 2014, about 15 months away we've got the European elections - Britain's one and only nationwide fair - that is proportional representation - election. 
That's a big opportunity. It would take only a net swing of 1.6 per cent for us to treble our number of MEPs, to six - and the Scottish Greens are also feeling pretty confident so it could be seven overall.

That will mean many more people across Britain will have elected Green representatives all around them - will come to think of Green as one of the choices just normally available on the political smorgasbord.

We can combine with that the growing Green track record across the country and at levels of government….

I can start with Caroline Lucas, our immensely effective Green MP. When David Cameron says, as he did just recently at Davos, that he wants to make multinational companies pay their taxes, we can tell him: 'Caroline's already shown you how'.

In the Tax and Financial Transparency Bill of 2011, she set out how companies could be made to declare their earnings, profits and staff in every country in which they operate - exposing to scrutiny those curious Cayman Islands and Delaware subsidiaries that somehow on 1.5 staff members and an office dog scoop up 20per cent profits for multimillion pound trades.

Caroline, in her Land Value Tax Bill, now before parliament, has shown how Britain's profoundly regressive, profoundly damaging system of council tax could be replaced by a far more equitable land value tax, which would also help rationalise land use and deal with our housing shortage.

And she’s a leader on drugs policy - generating a debate about how we can replace the failed war on drugs with a different approach. She just launched an e-petition calling for a full review and cost benefit analysis of the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act.

In Brussels, we have two hardworking and highly effective MEPs. Jean Lambert and Keith Taylor. There the Greens have done great work with the recent adoption by Parliament of the “youth guarantee”, which would ensure a job or genuine training opportunity for every young person who’s been unemployed for four months. And there’s the widely publicised changes in fisheries policies, in which the Greens played a big part.

Then we can move on to our first Green council, in Brighton and Hove. Despite the pressures of running a minority administration, and with particularly savage funding cuts from the national government, Brighton has, to pick just three achievements

- Introduced the Living Wage for all council staff and have reduced high/low pay ratio to 10:1
- approved and are rolling out a city-wide twenty miles per hour speed limit
- protected eligibility criteria for social care, kept all branch libraries and children's centres open and protected funding for the third sector.
Then up and down the country, we can point to smaller groups of Green councillors and even individual councillors making big differences to their communities.

In St Albans where we have just one Green Councillor, Simon Grover got 11 asks included in the Council's budget this month, the second year in a row that he's had significant impact on the budget.  His measures from last year have already seen an expanded market in the city and hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of solar panels fitted to Council buildings.  In the next 12 months, St Albans hopes to see a new youth centre, a cycling action plan and a procurement policy for the Council, which supports local businesses first. That's what just ONE Green Councillor is achieving.

In Kirklees, when the principal of a newly formed High School Academy threatened a much loved middle school system by extending their intake to cover years 7 and 8, they had the misfortune of being in an area covered by Green Party-led Kirkburton Parish Council. Green councillors threatened a Parish Poll. The very next day, realising they would lose, the Academy dropped their plans and the middle school system, which was so important to local people, was saved."

After the County Council cut local bus services in Suffolk, Green Parish Councillor Robert Lindsay, fought hard to ensure a bus service was reinstated on market days serving local villages to en route to Sudbury.  With 15,000 households without access to a car in rural Suffolk, Robert was ensuring they weren’t left stranded.

By 2015, when we expect a general election, we'll be able to put that record - and by then much more - before voters. And whereas in 2010 we had to work very, very hard indeed to convince the voters of Brighton Pavilion that we could beat the first past the post system (that they could elect a Green to Westminster) this time, up and down the country, from Bristol to Lancaster, Norwich to Huddersfield, we'll be able to say to voters "Brighton Pavilion did it; you can too!"

Of course that's a big ask, and doing more than returning Caroline in 2015 is a huge challenge.

 But it is important to remember the message that appears on billboards advertising financial products - "past performance is no guarantee of future returns" - also applies to politics. It's important to remember that, not just if you want to keep your cash out of the hands of the casino bankers, but important too if you think about politics.
We are heading into new times. Past political performance is no guarantee about the future.

 Green Party campaigners up and down the country are working with anti-cuts campaigners - defending local libraries, defending local youth clubs, defending local Sure Start centres. And that’s a critically important part of our work.
But it’s important that we stress that simply being anti-cuts isn’t enough – it isn’t radical enough – it isn’t going to deliver the radical change in our society that we must make NOW. We don’t just want to go back to 2006 – back to when under a Labour government more than a quarter of children and a quarter of pensioners were living in poverty, when the minimum wage was, as it still is, greatly below a living wage.

 It doesn’t have to be like this: the increasing number of people saying “no more” have it right.

The Green Party has a positive alternative vision, of a country where the minimum wage is a living wage, where benefits are set at a level allowing a decent life and granted ungrudgingly to all who need them, where there are warm, comfortable low-carbon homes for all, including the 1 million empty homes now found in parts of the country blighted by the unbalanced overdevelopment of the South East. A country living within the limits of our one planet. 

A country with a jobs-rich, low-carbon economy, with orchards and richly growing fields, vibrant manufacturing industries, and strong local economies built around small businesses and cooperatives. A country fit for the 21st century - and a country that can look forward to a stable, comfortable 22nd.
That was the kind of vision the founders of the Green Party began with forty years ago. I congratulate all of you for carrying on that vision … and I look forward to working with you over the next four days as we hone and polish that vision, and the ways in which we can deliver it.

Thank you."

US anti-war movement to discuss Mali (WW)

Repost of Workers World:

U.S. anti-war movement to discuss imperialist aims in Mali

By on February 22, 2013 » Add the first comment.
The United National Antiwar Coalition will host an educational conference call on Feb. 24 to discuss the current situation in the West African state of Mali. France invaded Mali on Jan. 11 supported by the United States, Britain and other NATO members.

Under the guise of carrying out a humanitarian mission to prevent so-called “al-Qaeda” affiliated groups from overrunning Mali, the French military — along with sections of the national army and regional troops from several West and Central African states — has entered cities and towns in the central and northern sections of the mineral-rich territory.

Reports from Mali say that the former colonial power’s aggressive ground offensive and aerial bombardments have killed and injured hundreds of people and led to gross violations of human rights.
Since the military coup in Mali on March 22, 2012, hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced both inside the country and around the region. Humanitarian organizations have said that due to France’s military operations there are acute shortages of food, water and medical services for civilians.

Discussion in U.S. movement

The UNAC call will feature Ana Edwards, a leader in the Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice and Equality and a member of the Friends of Mali in Richmond, Va. Edwards was in Mali at the time of the intervention and witnessed Pentagon transport planes flying in French troops and arms used in the war.

In addition to Edwards, Glenn Ford, executive editor of Black Agenda Report, will present this influential media outlet’s perspectives on the French and U.S. role in Mali. The author of this article will be the third presenter. The presentations will be short to allow most of the time for questions, answers and political discussion.

This conference call comes after UNAC released a statement opposing French and U.S. intervention in Mali and Africa as a whole. Under the title “France and the U.S. out of Africa Now! No Resource Wars for the Profits of the 1%! Not One More Cent for the New Scramble for Africa!” the national anti-war organization is calling for broad-based support in the campaign against the Pentagon-NATO onslaught on Mali and the entire African continent. The White House recently announced the deployment of 3,500 troops to nearly three dozen African countries.

“The recent French military intervention and the U.S. military and intelligence operations in the region must be opposed by all those who stand in favor of self-determination for African peoples,” writes UNAC. “Contrary to the self-serving claims of both France and the U.S. that they are out to defend democracy, both nations’ military operations in the Sahara-Sahel are in defense of their access to Africa’s minerals, oil, gas, and arable land at bargain basement prices.”

In March 2012, a U.S.-trained army officer in Mali staged a military coup against the elected government of President Amadou Toumani Toure. Since the coup, the security situation inside Mali has worsened. Both the coup government and the interim government that followed it have been unable to stabilize the north of the country. There, a local Tuareg separatist movement and other forces with a reactionary social program similar to al-Qaeda’s have been in conflict with the central government in Bamako.

UNAC continues, “The invitation for a French military attack by a Malian coup regime armed by Washington is but a fig leaf for an escalation of already existing efforts to protect the 1% plunder of Nigerian uranium, Malian gold, Nigerian oil, Algerian natural gas, Western Saharan phosphates, Cote d’Ivoire’s plantations, and more. Africanists liken the current situation to the period in the late 19th and early 20th century when the European countries carved up Africa between them.”

The anti-war organization stresses, “In the new ‘Scramble for Africa,’ Europe and the United States are competing for petroleum, minerals, and land to the detriment of the economic well-being of the African peoples.” The statement is followed by a factsheet which addresses the impact of the war on Mali in the areas of ecological disaster, national oppression, austerity, resource theft, the fraudulent “war on terrorism,” rivalries among the elites and the domestic war against the people of the U.S. fostered by the Pentagon’s militarism.

U.S., NATO’s long-range plans

Although both the French and U.S. governments say their involvement in Mali is not to seize resources, and will be of a short duration, statements and actions by officials indicate otherwise.
A delegation of four from the U.S. Congress visited Mali on Feb. 18 in a so-called fact-finding mission headed by Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware. Coons is the Democratic Foreign Relations subcommittee chairperson on African affairs. He expressed confidence in the French intervention in Mali but urged caution, particularly in the aftermath of clashes in the city of Gao. There has been evidence of continued fighting against the French-led forces.

Coon told the Associated Press that the intense fighting in Gao “suggests a level of jihadist militancy that doesn’t reflect the confidence that I heard from the French — that the jihadists are not from here, are not supported here, and have been driven away.” (Feb. 18)

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on Feb. 14. There, he outlined the Obama administration’s position on Mali. Carson said, “Neutralizing the full scope of the terrorist threat in Mali … is a long-term effort.” (Washington Times, Feb. 14)

Carson failed to mention that the U.S. Africa Command had already trained and equipped Malian military units and that this earlier intervention by the Pentagon has objectively weakened the capacity of Mali’s national army and government to handle its own national security.

The European Union on Feb. 18 launched another training program for the Malian military. The EU had already deployed 70 so-called advisers to the capital of Bamako.

According to the same Associated Press article, “The decision by the foreign ministers of the 27 European Union countries meeting in Brussels authorizes the deployment of about 500 people to Mali for 15 months at an estimated cost of $16.4 million. About 20 EU countries will participate in the mission, which officials say will not be involved in any combat.”

Consequently, given these long-term commitments, it is essential that anti-war and other social justice organizations and coalitions inside the U.S. focus more attention on the burgeoning imperialist role on the African continent. Africa is becoming even more significant in regard to the supply of strategic resources that are indispensable to the world capitalist system.

Anti-war activists interested in participating in the UNAC educational conference call on Feb. 24 beginning at 9 p.m. EST should call 218-339-3600. The access code is 342310. The UNAC website is, and its email is

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This piece is written by Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Kat of Kat's Korner, Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, Ruth of Ruth's Report, Marcia of SICKOFITRADLZ, Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends, Ann of Ann's Mega Dub, Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts and Wally of The Daily Jot. Unless otherwise noted, we picked all highlights.

"The VA's continued lack of accountability" -- most requested highlight of the week.

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Serial Cheaters" -- Isaiah notes Barack's fondness for serial cheaters.

"Iraq snapshot" -- C.I. covers a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.

"Beans with a Kitck in the Kitchen" -- Trina shares a way to spice up a staple.

"Whitney,"  "Neighbors,"  "Whitney," "scandal," "you have to hurt," "Nielsens," "Whitney,"  "Arrow,"
"Nikita: Black Badge," "more revenge," "Body of Proof becomes Whiter and bitchier,"  "Smash,"
"Rachel Maddow's White Entitlement," "revenge," "The Good Wife" -- Betty, Ann, Rebecca, Kat, Mike, Stan and Elaine cover TV.

"We got the drone base" and "Killer has ulterior motives" and "THIS JUST IN! DRONE ON KILLER!"-- Mike, Cedric and Wally cover The Drone War.

"Curiosity and Team sweep the Space Club awards" -- Betty continues her coverage of land rover Curiosity's trip to Mars.

"That's a teacher?" -- like Ann, we wonder that too.

"Junior gets spanked" and "Bye=bye Junior" -- Marcia and Betty covers Jesse Jackson Jr.'s guilty plea.

"There is no third term" -- Trina on the economy.

"Naomi Wolf, shut the f**k up" -- Ruth offers some advice to Naomi Wolf.

"No Nukes" -- nuclear plants are neither 'clean' nor safe.

"Agatha" and "Skyfall" and "Side Effects is a bad movie" -- Stan, Mike and Ruth go to the movies.

"THIS JUST IN! THEY ARE AS CORRUPT AS HE IS!"  and "They'll accept almost anything"  -- how can the press hold anyone accountable?

Prizes." -- Isaiah dips into the archives.

"My encounter with a Cult member"
"Well why the hell not?"
"The Good Wife"
"Wednesday morning"
"We got the drone base"
"Killer has ulterior motives"

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