Thursday, October 26, 2006

Cheney on torture

According to the US TV program "Democracy Now!"

"Vice President Dick Cheney has apparently confirmed US interrogators engage in water-boarding – an outlawed practice that creates the sensation of drowning. The admission came during an interview on a right-wing North Dakota radio program on Tuesday. Cheney said he agreed with a listener’s comment that terrorists should be dunked under water if it could save American lives. Cheney added: “that's been a very important tool that we've had to be able to secure the nation." A spokesperson denied Cheney had endorsed waterboarding and said he was referring to broad interrogation procedures. Water-boarding is barred under international treaties that prohibit torture."

Water boarding is a technique the CIA have directly copied from the Gestapo. Don't it make you proud?

Friday, October 20, 2006

An Excellent Mystery

Although I don't usually review "whodunnits" (and look away now if you don't want to know!) Ellis Peters' books are interesting as an insight into aspects of medieval life - not least into the monk/pharmacist Cadfael's extensive knowledge of herbs.

The restrictions on Cadfael's knowledge which would come of him being a medieval monk are circumvented by his earlier life as a crusader and as a sea captain.

The only drawback in this novel is that everyone is just too nice to be true - even the villains. The way Peters deals with homosexuality in the monastery is at least sensitive although there is a bit of cheating (no I really will try not to give the plot away here).

However the book passes the test: it keeps the reader guessing (and wasn't I smug that I guessed aright!) and it is written with the economy of words which makes it readable but enough detail to make me want to read more Ellis Peters books.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


School Teachers Opposed to Performance Pay has been relaunched in view of the government's intention to tighten the pay regime in schools so that teachers who are "merely satisfactory" are not to get annual increments. They do mess around with the language don't they. Satisfactory is a grade you would give to someone who was doing OK not to someone who ought to be penalised.

Apparently stopp also stands for Society of Texans Opposed to Private Prisons! We're with them!

General Dannatt

I was wondering about sending General Dannatt an invitation to join the Stop the War Coalition. He is saying what everybody else is saying - we are doing more harm than good in Iraq now - bring the troops home before any other mother has to mourn the loss of her child.

Of course the General is most concerned that British Imperialism should still have an army intact and he would probably support other colonial wars if the casualties were "acceptable".

Nevertheless his remarks give the lie to the current spin from Downing Street which boils down to "forget the lies we told to get into this war - we need to stay now or there would be a bloodbath". The General thinks otherwise.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Static by Amy and David Goodman

Government Liars, Media Cheerleaders, and the People Who Fight Back
By Amy and David Goodman
ISBN: 1401302939
Published by Hyperion Books

Amy Goodman hosts the radio, TV program and website Democracy Now! which provides a platform for the voices of dissent in the United States. David Goodman is an award-winning investigative journalist.

I have to warn you that the first half of this book is worse than a nightmare because the stories it tells are true. Like the story of Maher Arar who was abducted by the FBI at JFK Airport on his way home to Canada, sent to Syria where he was put in a cell the size of a grave and tortured repeatedly and brutally.

Ironically when he was released without charge a year later, Bush made a speech denouncing the “Dictators in Iraq and Syria and their legacy of torture, oppression, misery and ruin.”

Horrific though it is, this is an excellent book for socialists to have to hand. It is full of facts and figures about issues from the systematic use of torture by the United States, media manipulation, the illegal surveillance of US citizens, the profiteering from war, denial of free speech and of course the horrors of the Iraq war itself.

However the second part of the book is inspiring. Beginning with Sindy Sheehan who set out to find out for what “noble cause” her son had died in Iraq the book gives example after example of people fighting back.

These are not always people with a fully-rounded political program. Many start out as pro-war until they see the realities for themselves. One was a man who joined the Marine Corps in 1999 as an artilleryman “to blow things up.” Now he leads anti-war protests.

Both as a source of facts and a source of inspiration this book is well worth buying. Or get your local library to get a copy so other people can share it.