Wednesday, 30 May 2007

John Edwards

I like John Edwards. He's a charismatic, intelligent and articulate guy who, with his American media-good looks and Southern accent, instantly makes me think of Bill Clinton back in the day. I suspect he is presidential material, possibly as early as 2008, and I could see him on a ticket with Obama very comfortably.

And yes, he may have cosponsored Joe 'Republican' Lieberman's S.J.RES.46, the Iraq War Resolution, and also later voted for it in the full Senate to authorize the use of military force against Iraq, but having just read this foreign policy speech, I think he's learnt his lesson from that particular mistake - he publicly apologised later.

Here a brief extract from the speech, I think you'll find it both enlightening and very refreshing.

"The war on terror is a slogan designed only for politics, not a strategy to make America safe. It's a bumper sticker, not a plan. It has damaged our alliances and weakened our standing in the world. As a political "frame," it's been used to justify everything from the Iraq War to Guantanamo to illegal spying on the American people. It's even been used by this White House as a partisan weapon to bludgeon their political opponents. Whether by manipulating threat levels leading up to elections, or by deeming opponents "weak on terror," they have shown no hesitation whatsoever about using fear to divide.

But the worst thing about this slogan is that it hasn't worked. The so-called "war" has created even more terrorism—as we have seen so tragically in Iraq. The State Department itself recently released a study showing that worldwide terrorism has increased 25% in 2006, including a 40% surge in civilian fatalities.

By framing this as a "war," we have walked right into the trap that terrorists have set—that we are engaged in some kind of clash of civilizations and a war against Islam.

The "war" metaphor has also failed because it exaggerates the role of only one instrument of American power—the military. This has occurred in part because the military is so effective at what it does. Yet if you think all you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail."

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Upbeat but Still Concerned

Hello all,

As you might have gathered from yesterdays post, I was feeling pretty down about stuff. Feeling a little lonely and a little lost out here; I guess I've been missing home a lot, friends a lot, and struggling to put together in my own mind what I will do next. I'm leaving Sydney soon too, which after more then seven months, really has become my home - heading out into the big open road has got a certain daunting nature to it (not to mention, all the hassle of getting everything ready to go).

Still, I'm feeling better today, so I soldier on as ever. I've just finished reading this great article in the Guardian entitled 'No Fairytales Allowed'; an extract from Gitmo lawyer Clive Stafford Smith's new book, Bad Men. With 36 clients in detention, he has been many times and has a unique insight into just how terrible a place it is. Secrecy in the camp is a disease, and it threatens to poison our entire political culture in the West.

I'm still concerned, just where is the outrage?

Monday, 28 May 2007

Just a Quckie

Ooo-er Missus

Yes, just a quick post before I leap upon the trusty speedster and head off into the dark cold night that is now Sydney at 5.45pm/ Those happy sunny hot days seem but a distant memory to me at the moment, sad as that may seem.

I must confess, still finding things a bit tough going at the moment, what with the cold weather, precious few hours of sunshine and general lack of people around these days. Its obviously not all doom and gloom or anything like that, but at the same time, I'm feeling a bit more homesick then usual. Plagued by that 'what the hell exactly are you doing?' feeling, where your mind insists on pulling up a wide selection of things for you to feel regretful or remorseful about.

I look back, for example, and really, just wish I had never gone to France, never broken my finger, and all the things that seem to have followed on from that one decision, taken so very rashly really, and in so very much ignorance and hubris.

Funny how life pans out like that sometimes.

Al Gore in the Guardian

'The pursuit of "dominance" in foreign policy led the Bush administration to ignore the UN, to do serious damage to our most important alliances, to violate international law, and to cultivate the hatred and contempt of many in the rest of the world. The seductive appeal of exercising unconstrained unilateral power led this president to interpret his powers under the constitution in a way that brought to life the worst nightmare of the founders. Any policy based on domination of the rest of the world not only creates enemies for the US and recruits for al-Qaida, but also undermines the international cooperation that is essential to defeating terrorists who wish to harm and intimidate America.'

You can read the rest from America's Last Best Hope here.

Friday, 25 May 2007

The Governator

Now, I'll admit it, when Arnie won the the race to become Governor of california, the fifth largest economy of the world, I really did think it represented an all time low in American politics, the final dirty triumph of celebrity soundbite and photoshoot politics. I struggled to understand just how the people of California could elect the same man who ran around in a loin cloth and big sword, chopping off peoples heads, pillaging villages and shagging nubile barbarian women. I didn't think it boded particularly well for the future, especially combined with with G. Dubya at the national helm.

And yet, in spite of all that initial misgiving, I can only say that I'm deeply impressed by the man. Whilst nominally a Republican, he's a Californian first and foremost, and that means liberal with a small L. He's pro choice and pro gay rights, and in July this year even signed a further $150m to stem cell research after Bush's veto of a bill that would allow federal funding. He's raised the minimum wage from $6.75 to $8.50, and perhaps most importantly for me, behind the image of the cigar smoking Hummer driver, someone who is really actually rather radically green in his agenda.

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For example, just today Schwarzenegger and fellow Republican Gov. Jodi Rell of Connecticut accused the U.S. government on Monday of "inaction and denial" on global warming.

"It's bad enough that the federal government has yet to take the threat of global warming seriously, but it borders on malfeasance for it to block the efforts of states such as California and Connecticut that are trying to protect the public's health and welfare," the governors wrote in The Washington Post.

California is leading the US now on climate change issues, and where it goes, the rest of the country tends to follow. In September, he signed a bill to reduce the states greenhouse gas emissions by 25% over the next 20 years, stating that "We simply must do everything we can in our power to slow down global warming before it is too late... The science is clear. The global warming debate is over."

So whats going on here? Well, it seems clear, when you strip away the Hollywood persona, that Arnold is no chump. Here is a guy who was born into a small backward Austrian town, to a drunken Nazi father, and used body building to get to America, won Mr. Olympia six times in a row, and became probably one of the biggest film stars of the last couple decades. Behind the muscles, chiseled jaw line and thick accent, there is a shrewd business man and entepreneur, and one who, it seems, has a great deal more awareness, foresight and vision then anyone, including this humble fan, gave him credit for.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Al Sharpton vs Christopher Hitchens

In case you hadn't heard, Christopher Hitchens has recently just released a new book, provocatively entitled 'God is Not Great: Why Religion Poisons Everything'. It looks to be a fantastically cracking good read, because love him or hate (and a lot of people do fall into both camps), he is a brilliant polemicist. His dry, sarcastic delivery is razor sharp, and he cracks me up - he once argued against sainthood for Mother Teresa, complaining that 'the old bitch got it anyway'. Gotta love it.

Of course, he's pretty controversial, having gone from a former Trotsyist to an unapologetic champion of the Iraq War. He continues to stress the danger from fundmentalism with the rather ridiculous and vacuous Daily Mail terminology of 'Islamofascism', whatever that means. And yet, whilst I disagree with him on a lot of issues, I admire his intellectual rigor and shear balls in the way he openly confronts those he disagrees with - his smack down on Sean Hannity for his complete intellectual ignorance about arguments for atheism, and his brutal eulogizing for Jerry Farwell ('a disgusting little toad' were his words I think) are a joy to watch :)

Anyway, heres a really interesting debate between him at Al Sharpton, which I highly recommend you check out. I'm also, incidentally, really rather impressed with the hosting site, - nice flash stand alone player, nice streaming, very professionally done - I'll be checking it out again for sure - I can see interviews with Henry Kissinger, debates on Buddha and 'New trends in Global Jihadi Terrors'. Heck, you can even download the programmes in Ipod format! woo hoo!

Anyway, as ever, let me know your thoughts!

Wednesday, 23 May 2007


Evening all,

Well, I continue my love affair with my video Ipod, and have become completely addicted to the various podcasts going around - I've now got far far too many to try and watch or listen - its a full time job!

My particular favourite right now is Frederator - its a brilliant concept, people submit short cartoons and animations, of all different styles and contents, and then it magically gets beamed out to you via the wonder of the internet.

I highly recommend you check it out - I found this really weird, but really good, little set of cartoons through it... let me know what you think ;)

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Iraq for Sale

Evening dear readers,

Well, now that my blog is back up and running properly, I'm determined to try to keep it up to date a little bit more regularly, as I know your all such keen readers ;)

It's 8pm here in eBay Towers Sydney, and I'm just pottling along through my design work for LightHouse, and I'm watching this fantastic documentary called 'Iraq for Sale' by Robert Greenwald - it looks at the role that civilian contractors (and private profit) have been behind a huge number of scandals in the Iraq war - most notably in the infamous abuse at Abu Ghraib. These massive 'security contractor' (read: mercenary) firms have about 120k men in Iraq - basically doubling the US military presence, yet they are specifically exempt from Iraqi law, and the US military code of justice. This is the real privatisation of war for pure profit.

I mean, every time these 80k trucks broke down, they didn't order replacement parts -or even spare tires- they BURNT them, and just billed the government for another on a cost plus system. It's totally insane.

Seriously, I'm just shocked at how fucked up this all is, and basically, no one is going to go down for any of this. Instead, fat cat CEOs and retired military personnel will all be heading home with fat pay cheques, and this whole clusterfuck of a war will just keep on rolling along...

Watch it.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Greetings devoted world readers!

Yes indeedy, good evening, good morning and good afternoon to my veritable army of global readers - I notice today that I've even had a viewing from southern India - who are you?! As ever, I'm excited to collect little red dots from around the world on my ClustrMap.

So, as someone of you might have noticed, I've been sadly absence from the old blogging for a while now. Well, for some reason my access here at eBay Towers was having all kinds of strange and mysterious error messages whenever I tried to access any blog pages. Well, it seems to have resolved itself for now, so I'll try to give you all an update.

Well, first and foremost, I'm still in Sydney, still living in Paddington and still working away doing Magellan/ Ligthhouse work for eBay (that will mean almost nothing to most of you, but trust me, its really not that interesting, but at least the money is good). I'll be working until the end of June, and then I'll have finally done my time and will be free to hit the big open road and explore Australia - and whilst I'm actually crapping myself at the thought of actually having to drive after, ooooh, about four years, I know it will be a fantastic experience.

Life in Sydney continues to pottle along, though I'm sad to say that most of my friends here have finally moved on to travel to pastures new and green (Funk House Crew, R.I.P.) But, as they say, such is the life of the traveller, and the challenges of the modern day nomad. I can't really complain anyway, there are still enough good people around to keep things interesting, and I'm determined to throw myself into my work for the remaining time to make sure its a well done job.

I've been trying to keep myself busy too. My music collection continues to grow ridiculously through a number of different free dj hosting sites I've found (do message me if your interested, I can put the links up) to the point that I've now got over 105gb of music on my external harddisk (thanks so much for bringing that over Dave, life saver). My love affair with my 80gb Ipod continues without end, and I can't quite get over how long I held out on getting one - I should have invested in it years ago! My head continues to overflow with a ridiculous number of blogs and podcasts on current affairs that I try to read and listen to at work, to the point of overload sometimes I must confess. Whilst I miss the UK, England, my friends and my family a lot, I'm fascinated by just how easy it is to keep a finger on the pulse of British life through various online things - the Newsnight pod cast being probably my single favourite flavour from home - Jeremy Paxman rules :)

I'm a bit down at the moment because my finger basically still isn't really improving at all, and despite all the exercises and therapy (and money) I keep throwing at the problem, there doesn't really seem to be any realistic prospect of improvement. So its a little depressing at times to think that I'm going to have this constant pain in my hand for, oh,, the remainder of my natural life (another 60 odd years?). I try to not let it get to me, but sometimes its really tough to control the frustration. As ridiculous as it sounds, I've started to read some texts on Buddhism, and I think there is a tremendous amount of truth and wisdom in it, which I'm finding very helpful in exploring this side of life, and crafting some meaning out of something that continues to weigh so heavily on my shoulders.

Anyway! That sounds kind of bit too down, so lets catch up on what I've been doing. Well, most recently and excitingly, I did a five day trip to Tasmania to check it out. Me and my house mate Florent, plus two additional Frenchies, Jean-Mi and Guillaume, flew into Hobart and hired a car to explore this very wild and rugged bit of Australia. I'll post a few pictures below for you to get a taste, but you can check the full collection of the trip in Facebook, here, here, and here. In many ways, the place reminded me of parts of Scotland, the Lake District, Ireland and New Zealand. Its a pretty remote place, and we stayed in some really very small and remote places - the main thing you do out here is go hiking and walking in the national parks, and we certainly got our fair share of that done - we did a minimum of 3-4 hours a day, and even managed an epic 6 hours of hiking on the final day in the amazing Cradle Mountain National Park (see the final pictures - it only gets 1 day of sunshine out of 10, so we were pretty pleased to get such great weather!). Besides all the walking (and driving) we got to eat a whole lot of very good fresh fish and sea food, which was obviously a great treat - and whilst I'm still not too keen on the whole oyster thing, the fish was excellent and I'm always game to try something, if only once. We also managed to find a great little whisky distillery, which me and Jean-Mi made good use of in trying a whole range of different spirits.

In all, it was a great trip, and I'd thoroughly recommend it - though maybe more in the summer time, when you might get some sunshine :) Still, I can't complain at all! Okay, well its 7.11pm, so I think I'll make a move and head on home now, but I'm thinking of you all, wish I could be with you for just a while, or you here to share some of the great things I love about Australia and this city, so get in touch, drop me a message, an email or a text and tell me what your up to!

p.s. Dave, sign up to Facebook. Don't argue about it, just do it. And no, its not Myspace for old people.