Saturday Matinee 22 – Bush Family Fortunes

I’m sure that like me, you still occasionally wonder how someone like Bush managed to fail upwards for his entire life.

Well, one of the reasons is simply money. This BBC Three documentary from a few years back throws some light on how that family got to be so rich…

The other films in this series are here.

Pronouncing Armageddon

This is not the most important story going on in the world today obviously, but a little thing that has been written about before and I’ve noticed happening with increasing irregularity, is the change in the pronunciation of the word “nuclear”.

Now, the pronunciation of wBHl8CUrCIAAy4uk.jpg largeords changes often, and this comes about over time through usage. Spelling can change to reflect new pronunciations, and the reverse is also true.

With the nuclear example though, something different seems to have been going on.

Bush famously couldn’t seem to pronounce the word New-Cleer and always pronounced it as Nuke-U-Lar, and was of course pilloried for doing so. There was even a Simpsons joke about it. Then, for one or both of a couple of possible reasons that I am about to outline, people started using the Bush pronunciation.

But which people? I noticed it pronounced that way with increasing regularity on Fox News by presenters and by other Republican apparatchiks who, surely, must have known better.

Thinking it through, the possible reasons for this could be…

  1. They heard it on TV/Radio and repeated the pronunciation they heard. Monkey hear, Monkey repeat.
  2. An attempt to cover up the fact that the former president was an ignoramus by rallying round him and using the same pronunciation so that it didn’t seem so bad.

I can’t really think of another reason. Either way, it isn’t very flattering toward people who should know better.

It’s an interesting little case study in how at times reality must be shifted in order to impose a Leader’s view of the world, or at least not make them look silly, and then everyone else must be brought to heel. With the modern echo chamber, it seems that in terms of pronunciation, this can be done faster than ever before.

Letter To Bush

In case you haven’t already come across this letter (originally published on Truthdig) from a dying veteran to George Bush,I thought I’d reproduce it here. It makes emotional reading.

The BBC managed to publish a story about it without mentioning at all that the UK were involved from the start in this disaster.  When you read it, I’d also remind you that Blair and co went along with it all and this could just as easily be addressed to them…

To: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney
From: Tomas Young

I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have destroyed their lives. I am one of those gravely wounded. I was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.

I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost a parent, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries. I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have witnessed, endured and done in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day. I write this letter on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us all—the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.

I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.

Your positions of authority, your millions of dollars of personal wealth, your public relations consultants, your privilege and your power cannot mask the hollowness of your character. You sent us to fight and die in Iraq after you, Mr. Cheney, dodged the draft in Vietnam, and you, Mr. Bush, went AWOL from your National Guard unit. Your cowardice and selfishness were established decades ago. You were not willing to risk yourselves for our nation but you sent hundreds of thousands of young men and women to be sacrificed in a senseless war with no more thought than it takes to put out the garbage.

I joined the Army two days after the 9/11 attacks. I joined the Army because our country had been attacked. I wanted to strike back at those who had killed some 3,000 of my fellow citizens. I did not join the Army to go to Iraq, a country that had no part in the September 2001 attacks and did not pose a threat to its neighbors, much less to the United States. I did not join the Army to “liberate” Iraqis or to shut down mythical weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities or to implant what you cynically called “democracy” in Baghdad and the Middle East. I did not join the Army to rebuild Iraq, which at the time you told us could be paid for by Iraq’s oil revenues. Instead, this war has cost the United States over $3 trillion. I especially did not join the Army to carry out pre-emptive war. Pre-emptive war is illegal under international law. And as a soldier in Iraq I was, I now know, abetting your idiocy and your crimes. The Iraq War is the largest strategic blunder in U.S. history. It obliterated the balance of power in the Middle East. It installed a corrupt and brutal pro-Iranian government in Baghdad, one cemented in power through the use of torture, death squads and terror. And it has left Iran as the dominant force in the region. On every level—moral, strategic, military and economic—Iraq was a failure. And it was you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, who started this war. It is you who should pay the consequences.

I would not be writing this letter if I had been wounded fighting in Afghanistan against those forces that carried out the attacks of 9/11. Had I been wounded there I would still be miserable because of my physical deterioration and imminent death, but I would at least have the comfort of knowing that my injuries were a consequence of my own decision to defend the country I love. I would not have to lie in my bed, my body filled with painkillers, my life ebbing away, and deal with the fact that hundreds of thousands of human beings, including children, including myself, were sacrificed by you for little more than the greed of oil companies, for your alliance with the oil sheiks in Saudi Arabia, and your insane visions of empire.

I have, like many other disabled veterans, suffered from the inadequate and often inept care provided by the Veterans Administration. I have, like many other disabled veterans, come to realize that our mental and physical wounds are of no interest to you, perhaps of no interest to any politician. We were used. We were betrayed. And we have been abandoned. You, Mr. Bush, make much pretense of being a Christian. But isn’t lying a sin? Isn’t murder a sin? Aren’t theft and selfish ambition sins? I am not a Christian. But I believe in the Christian ideal. I believe that what you do to the least of your brothers you finally do to yourself, to your own soul.

My day of reckoning is upon me. Yours will come. I hope you will be put on trial. But mostly I hope, for your sakes, that you find the moral courage to face what you have done to me and to many, many others who deserved to live. I hope that before your time on earth ends, as mine is now ending, you will find the strength of character to stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness.

Tomas Young

The Crucifixion of Tomas Young (TruthDig)

For A’ That 19 – Wholly Rude In Holyrood

For the 19th episode of the For A’ That podcast Andrew and I were joined by Stewart Lochhead of the 3 Men In A Blogblair_kennard_640 site.

This week there was a lot going on down Holyrood way, from the usual shenanigans at First Minister’s Questions to the Iraq war debate and finally the announcement of the referendum date as September 18th 2014.

On the announcement we discussed not any historical significance the date itself may have, but rather the lack of respect in the tone of some of the members of the Holyrood parliament towards the announcement and indeed referendum itself. Andrew gave an example from his own history as to why this tone was a little off.

On the Iraq war debate, we had a think about whether the claims of some members that the whole thing was orchestrated only in order to make the SNP look statesmanlike before the announcement of the date itself. Was it justified to have such a debate?

Finally, we took a look at some of the polls that suggest that a majority wish to have all decisions about tax, spending and welfare made in Scotland. On the face of it, where’s the difference between that and Independence? What would it take just to help people to make that final little jump?

Finally, why do Better Together now have one more reason than the rest of us to dislike Barbara Streisand?

Hope you enjoy…

As usual, this is the direct download link (right click and save as)

You can listen to the show online at its web page

Or you can subscribe with itunes


Michael Greenwell

It’s The Constitution, Darling

So Alistair Darling doesn’t like written constitutions…

“I’m innately suspicious of written constitutions. A written constitution without the resources to back it up is hot air.”

One wonders if he brought up his grave concerns on the matter here…


I’d have some sympathy with him there. These people showed blatant disregard for a written constitution as well, and they were the dear friends of the Government with which Darling was so heavily involved.

Did he bring it up here when he met these people…


That’s him with his chum Barroso by the way, and Merkel of course. I wonder if he warned them about the grave dangers he sees in the idea of a written constitution and sent them home with tails between legs to rip up the documents of their respective countries. Have they seen the light now and mended their ways?

G8+Financial+Ministers+Meeting+Begins+QaRof6IZtAwlDid he take his international mission to Asia? It would have been worth informing the Japanese not to have a constitution that forbids things like nuclear weaponry and torture. I suppose those kind of things would have just gotten in the way of the New Labour project.

Can’t be having governments that have to abide by the rule of law now, can we?

Calm Your Jets (Planes)

When Obama won 4 years ago, a number of people took the huff with me for mentioning these facts that I had found (via Andy Best)…

So, Obama’s in and all us ‘liberals’ are happy.

Just imagine if McCain had won and we saw the following aspects of his campaign carried through:

  • – Continuation of the ‘war on terror’ including more troops into Afghanistan (back to the stone age not enough) and promises to cross borders (invade) others if they ‘don’t comply’ – ie invade Iran and Pakistan.
  • – a promise to take intervention in latin America “further south” ie ‘deal with’ Venezuela and Bolivia
  • – national/single payer healthcare completely off the table.
  • – full support of the Cuba embargo
  • – refusing to be photographed with the mayor of SF so not to appear as supporting same sex unions.
  • – commitment to draconian immigration policies such as the mexico border wall.
  • – penal system and capital punishment off the table as is gun control
  • – 700 billion handout to companies who preach no nationalization and private competition

The thing that I then said of course, which some people took objection to, is that those were things from Obama’s campaign the first time round, not McCain.

Let’s look at the record. In an interview from last year with PBS Frontline programme in the USA, John Rizzo of the CIA who had this to say…

…while candidate Obama “promised a sweeping overhaul of the Bush administration’s war on terror” and “a top to bottom review of the threats we face and our abilities to confront them,” Rizzo explains that, in fact, Obama officials during the transition made clear to the CIA that they intended almost complete continuity.  And Rizzo was joined in this assessment today by Dick Cheney, who — as recounted by his long-time faithful stenographer, Politico‘s Mike Allen — cites this continuity to (once again) claim “vindication”; said the former Vice President, “[Obama] ultimately had to adopt many of the same policies that we had been pursuing because that was the most effective way to defend the nation.”

I’m sure part of you wants to take issue with the last line there, but Change?

Well what about the fighting, Afhganistan? Still there. Yemen, oh, they are there. Libya, been there. Officially troops are out of Iraq, but there are lots of grey areas in that. Change?

George Monbiot puts the lie to notions of any kind of green or progressive climate change policies in this article.

Neither a CIA official nor George Monbiot could be accurately described as the radical left, so what do some of them have to say about Obama? Well, have a look at this list of some of the things he has done…

  • Signed the NDAA into law – making it legal to assassinate Americans w/o charge or trial.
  • Initiated, and personally oversees a ‘Secret Kill List’.
  • Waged war on Libya without congressional approval.
  • Started a covert, drone war in Yemen.
  • Escalated the proxy war in Somalia.
  • Escalated the CIA drone war in Pakistan.
  • Maintained a presence in Iraq even after “ending” the war.
  • Sharply escalated the war in Afghanistan.
  • Secretly deployed US special forces to 75 countries.

Many things in that list concern civil liberties, so what do the American Civil Liberties Union have to say about him…

“The Obama administration has endorsed many of the Bush administration’s national security policies,” says Jameel Jaffer, director of the American Civil Liberties Union – a leading US liberal rights group.

Mr Jaffer says this includes “policies that were regarded three or four years ago as the most extreme of the Bush administration’s policies.”

The most symbolic example is the prison at Guantanamo Bay, which Obama promised to close within a year during his 2008 election campaign, but which continues to detain inmates indefinitely and subject them to military trials, rather than trials in open court.

It may be unfair to blame President Obama for this – he initially tried to close Guantanamo but was ultimately blocked by Congress.

“But the administration does have the ability to fight back against those restrictions,” counters Jaffer.

“The administration does have the ability to go to the American people and say these restrictions don’t make any sense. That’s something that the president could have said and didn’t.”

All I am saying is that after 4 years, quite frankly, not much has changed. The only possible reason there could have been for voting for him was simply that he is not Mitt Romney. The 2 party left-right charade in the USA has been going on for so long and elections there were memorably described by John Pilger thusly…

They are a ritual danse macabre of flags, balloons and bullshit, designed to camouflage a venal system based on money power, human division and a culture of permanent war.

To finish, as was stated before, if you want some change – and this time he won’t have the excuse of needing to be re-elected – how about this for starters

“…if President Obama were serious about hope and change, he’d close the prison tomorrow, apologize to the detainees, and offer them financial reparations. That could be promptly followed up with the immediate indictment of all government officials (including those in Obama’s administration) responsible for supporting torture, secret prisons, extraordinary rendition, extrajudicial punishment, etc. And why not toss in the immediate closing of the US military base at Guantánamo Bay and the return of that land to Cuba? That, I submit, would be a minuscule first step upon which we could build.”


Film Guide (with free films) – Part 3 – Biographies

A few years ago I used to run a biweekly free film showing in the University for anyone who wanted to come along. The films were a mix of documentaries, fiction and  based on true story stuff. I would try to get a guest along to speak too.

I thought I would make the list of films available here with links to where you can see them free where possible.

I’ve divided them into rough groups and posted links to where you can find them online if you want to. The first week I had some films about the media and the second was more economics.

This time we are on to biographies of some of the great and good or not so good.

The Fog of War – Definitely in the not so good category is Robert MacNamara. This documentary about him is very informative and at the end he almost, and I mean almost, shows some contrition. You can watch it online here.

The Most Dangerous Man In America – This film about Daniel Ellsberg, who you might describe as the Julian Assange of his day, is an excellent look at the courage of the man in question.

Bush’s Brain – A documentary about Karl Rove and also about the role of spin doctors in modern politics. It at least tries to explain how such a duffer could end up as president. The trailer is here but I am sure it wouldn’t be too difficult to find on online version of it.


Not In Mine Name

The BBC are reporting that “Landmine use is at its highest since 2004 despite record clearances”.

They get straight on to blaming all the official enemies of the state of Airstrip One and one or two allies whilst neglecting to mention that neither the Bu$h nor Obama administrations would/will sign treaties against their use.

In order to fill the information gap, here is an advert about landmines that most of the TV companies that are supposed to provide free and open information to the public wouldn’t show, even for the same money as normal adverts get…

David Rovics Interview

A couple of years back I interviewed singer David Rovics…


When the G8 circus came to Scotland I was involved in one or two things with spinwatch.org. With a few other people I did some roving reporter sort of blogging for them. At various times through the week I met the man who is now currently the Scottish First Minister, cracked my ribs after tripping over a tent pole in a drunken stupor, then slept in a [cold] field before having to get up and go to a press conference thing and try to speak to George Monbiot and later Scott Ritter

A memorable week indeed, topped off by meeting a nice girl who I went out with for a month or so and with whom I am still friends

Throughout all of this week, the soundtrack was provided by David Rovics who played in and around the G8 alternatives conference which to my knowledge is still the biggest ever political conference ever held in Scotland. I was impressed at how the ‘Scottish’ press managed to almost completely ignore it.

All the things that happened, from the enraging, to the frustrating to the comradely, there seemed to be a Rovics song I had just heard that fit it perfectly.

His songs really worked so well with the events that when I got home I looked him up and found to my delight that all of his music is downloadable for free. Over time I have downloaded more or less all of it and still listen regularly.

So, taking all of this into account, frankly I was f*cking stoked when “the musical version of Democracy Now!” [quote Amy Goodman] agreed to do the ‘Unprofessional Interview’.

I asked my friend who is a musician himself and also likes Rovics’ music what he thought I should ask him and we started making jokes about the kind of music journalism where they describe music as ‘post-noise jazz’ or talk about ‘sonic-soundscapes’ or various other forms of w*nk. That conversation wasn’t helpful, but it was funny.

Thankfully, you will find David Rovics music to be nothing of that sort whatsoever. The folk/political singer who is [definitely] polyamorous and I think vegetarian is not from that kind of scene.

Let’s begin the next Unprofessional Interview.

No, wait a moment. Why did I say that? It’s not like it’s live. Do you think I have the money to be phoning and recording these people? This is all done by email.

Here he is, I have put links to various songs all the way through…

You’ve got one punch. Bush or Blair?

Tough competition, but Bush, for sure.

Have you ever had someone in the audience take serious objection to what you were singing about?

Yes, and it’s almost always a zionist who objects to my support for the Palestinian struggle.

You allow people to download all your music free. Was that  a conscious decision or did you just fall into doing it that way? Do you make enough to support yourself?

It was a conscious decision, made originally because I think it’s the best way to get my music to the widest possible audience (for political reasons).  But it also works financially, in a roundabout sort of way.  For noncorporate musicians (over 99% of the musicians out there) free downloads works like airplay — you get a bigger audience that way.  You may lose some CD sales, but you get audience and gigs (as a result of bigger audience).  most noncorporate musicians make a living (if they make a living) thru doing gigs, not mainly thru CD sales, and most CD sales happen at gigs anyway, and they’re ‘impulse buys’ so it really doesn’t matter if your stuff is online for free anyway (or not), as far as that goes.  Hope that made sense.  I’ve written a lot more on the subject, such as my essay, ‘riaa vs. the world’ which people can read at www.songwritersnotebook.blogspot.com along with the rest of my essays…

Can we expect you to do a Bob Dylan and have your music feature in Starbucks ads while you are playing corporate gigs?


Who is Attila the Stockbroker?

A fucking great guy, an unrepentent communist, and a brilliant punk rock poet and songwriter from the Brighton, England area.

What is the last book you read?

The rise and fall of the third Reich.

Where do you record your music, excepting live performances?

In various small studios, mostly in Boston, but most recently in my new home town of Portland, Oregon.

What is the most bizarre place you have found yourself singing?

There are way too many choices, I have no idea which one to pick.

Is Obama a name change on the empire’s front door or is anything substantive happening?

Obama is a more intelligent, more charismatic and better-looking version of Bill Clinton.

How did you enjoy Glasgow, Edinburgh and Scotland in general around G8 2005 and in subsequent visits?

 I enjoyed it tremendously.  One of the highlights of my career, the g8 protests in Scotland that is.  I always enjoy my visits to Scotland, but it’s always much better when tens of thousands of people are rioting in the background.

Even though the two countries, cultures and musical styles are similar I get angry when people call traditional Scottish music ‘Irish music’. What is the most amusing or despicable misrepresentation of your music you have seen?

It comes from the same sorts of people who would call Scottish music ‘Irish.’  Like the people who say I sound like James Taylor.  These are people who have no knowledge of the genre, and the only acoustic musician they’ve heard is James Taylor, so of course I sound like James Taylor to them.

What music do you listen to?

Usually whatever my roommate, Allegra Ziffle, is playing on her computer or on one of her many instruments.

For your songs about Palestine/Israel have the loon contingent been in touch?

Oh yes, various sorts of them.

Who is the woman you duet with sometimes?

I’ve recorded two CDs with Allie Rosenblatt singing harmony.  She’s a great singer and activist from Hartford, Connecticut, currently getting a law degree.

Do you do requests? Can I convince you to do a cover of this song?

Probably not. Nothing personal, I just don’t have time to remember my own songs and haven’t gotten around to learning new covers in years (to my detriment i’m sure).

What is the next song about?

Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona.  He’s a fascist.

David Rovics’ homepage is here www.davidrovics.org and all of his music is there. I suggest you download it.