About bloody time
Controversial Italian EU Commissioner Rocco Buttiglione has stood down. Why the hell didn't he do this before, and save the ridiculous situation we've had over the last few weeks? God knows...
To be fair, I can see his point - he should not be forced to resign because of his beliefs; but by the same logic we should allow a Hitler or a Stalin to get away with mass murder because they, like Mr Buttiglione, believed that certain other human beings are deserving of contempt.
Unfair comparison? Certainly. But in a job which requires the office-holder to represent all people equally, having someone who is prejudiced against certain social groups was never going to work. It's a conflict of interest, plain and simple.
But since it was announced that Barroso is going to re-jig the Commission, there has been no need to get rid of Buttiglione - if he's not given the Justice brief, then there's no problem.
So why the hell has the Italian waited until now to quit? All this delay has done is provide ammunition for Eurosceptic snipers, while weakening further the Commission's already dodgy reputation. The new commission, which should have been starting on Monday, now has to wait for another month thanks to the stubborness of one man, who had claimed to be working for Europe's best interests.
Is it any wonder people don't think much of the EU? It's a bloody shambles.
Good round-ups of the whole affair are here and here, or have a scan down past topics to the right of this post.
Looks like our old mate Osama bin Laden has opted for telling the truth: America's screwed no matter who the next president is, and Dick Cheney is a liar for suggesting otherwise. (OK, so that last bit was me, not Osama, but still...)
Yep, the West's favourite bogeyman has come out of hiding in a classic October surprise, alongside the massive buildup of US forces outside Fallujah in Iraq (made possible by Tony Blair's love of George) ready for an all-out attack which'll probably hit the news on Tuesday morning.
By telling the US (and the world) that "Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or al Qaeda. Your security is in your own hands," old Osama (may he burn in hell) is basically saying that he's going to carry on no matter what the outcome of the election. Which we all knew anyway.
Al Qaeda's boss-man has some damn good lines: "We had no difficulty in dealing with Bush and his administration because they resemble the regimes in our countries, half of which are ruled by the military and the other half by the sons of kings... They have a lot of pride, arrogance, greed and thievery... It never occurred to us that the commander in chief of the American forces would leave 50,000 citizens in the two towers to face those horrors alone at a time when they most needed him because he thought listening to a child discussing her goat and its ramming was more important than the planes and their ramming of the skyscrapers."
I mean, OUCH... Seems like al Qaeda's been reading some of the more excitable anti-Bush blogs - the rhetoric is almost identical to some of the more over-the-top criticisms of the president. Plus the reminder that bin Laden is still on the loose couldn't come at a better time for the Kerry campaign. Which probably means that the Republicans will spin this as meaning the Democrats are terrorists, which is what they've already effectively stated by starting to attack the Daily Kos...
Oh, and here's a bit more about Republican attempts to pervert democracy... And here's a bit of good news.
As bin Laden says, "arrogance, greed and thievery" - it's the perfect epitaph for the Bush regime. The only trouble is, it's almost certainly going to be weeks before we know for sure that we've seen the back of them. And even then, he'll probably only give it another shot in 2008... Is there any hope?
DISCLAIMER: Nosemonkey would just like to assure any readers who deliberately miss the point of this post (if there is one) that he in no way endorses Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda or terrorism in any way, shape or form. This is largely due to him despising violence (well, except in computer games) and having this naive belief that - just perhaps - the world would be a nicer place if we all just sat around and had a chat over a pint in the pub rather than constantly trying to blow the shit out of each other.
Constitutional changes: what it means
I suppose that if it's not ratified by a referendum (announced for early 2006 by Jack Straw this morning), it doesn't mean much - for the UK at least. But it has been provisionally signed today, so here are the proposed changes it will bring to the way the EU is run:
European Parliament: Maximum number of seats is raised to 750; Minimum number of seats per country - 6; Maximum number of seats per country - 96; Parliament's powers increased - 95 % of European laws will be adopted under the co-decision procedure; Parliament to propose and European Council to adopt a decision by a unanimous vote on the EP's composition before the European elections in 2009
European Commission: One Commissioner per Member State principle maintained until 2014; From November 2014, the number of Commissioners will be reduced to two-thirds of the number of Member States (including both its President and the EU Minister for Foreign Affairs); The Commissioners will be chosen on the basis of equal rotation among the Member States
Create an EU Minister of Foreign Affairs: Merges the tasks of the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the External Relations Commissioner; Will be a member of the Commission; Will chair the Foreign Affairs Council
Council of Ministers: The presidency of the different Council formations will continue to rotate (with the exception of the External Relations Council) on an equal basis, to be decided upon by the European Council
European Council - Becomes an institution; Will be chaired by a President appointed for two and a half years, renewable once
Introduce qualified majority voting: qualified majority is defined as 55 per cent (but at least 15) of the Member States representing at least 65 per cent of the EU's population. A blocking minority can be formed by at least four Member States.
Where the Council acts on its own initiative, an initiative of a Member State or on a recommendation from the Commission or the European Central Bank, qualified majority voting will be defined as 72 per cent of the Council's members representing 65 per cent of the EU's population. This occurs notably in the fields of justice and home affairs, common foreign and security policy, economic and monetary policy and in a possible future case of suspension or withdrawal of a Member State.
Retained unanimity: Unanimity will continue to apply in the field of taxation, partially in the field of social policy and a number of areas in the area of foreign, security and defence policy. Laws on own resources, the financial perspectives and future revisions of the Constitution itself will have to be adopted unanimously. The new voting system is due to take effect from 1 November 2009.
Defence: 'Permanent structured co-operation' will be put in place in the area of defence enabling a group of Member States to build closer co-operation and to jointly undertake more complex military tasks. In the area of common foreign and security policy, Member States will be able to build 'enhanced co-operation' conditional upon a unanimous decision of the Council.
Economic and Monetary Union: Members of the euro area will be equipped with more power to make decisions under the Constitutional Treaty. It will be up to the 'Euro-Ecofin Council' (Concil configuration comprising members of the eurozone) to adopt recommendations made to Member States that are part of the euro area as well as to approve measures related to excessive deficits. The Euro-Ecofin Council will have the first say on the accession of new countries to the EMU. Members of the euro area will have a unified representation in international financial institutions.
Legal matters: Qualified majority voting will apply to a majority of areas, including the areas of asylum, immigration and judicial co-operation in criminal matters. However, 'emergency brakes' have been inserted (by the UK) allowing a Member State to appeal to the European Council if it feels that its national interests are at stake. The Constitutional Treaty enables the Council to set up the office of the European Public Prosecutor by means of a unanimous decision. The remit of the Prosecutor will initially be limited to 'combating crimes affecting the financial interests of the Union'. This can later be extended to include 'serious crime with a cross-border dimension'.
Transparency: ne million signatures by citizens from a significant number of Member States can invite the Commission to submit an appropriate proposal to the legislator. Council proceedings, when exercising its legislative funcion, are to be open to the public. National parliaments will be informed about all new initiatives from the Commission. If one third of them consider that a proposal does not comply with the principle of subsidiarity, the Commission must review its proposal.
Misc: For the first time there is an exit clause so that a member state can leave the Union if it wants and a solidarity clause committing member states to help when another in the bloc is under terrorist attack.
The road to federalism?: In all other areas covered by the Constitution, the Member States that wish to co-operate more closely together should request the Commission to submit a proposal to the Council specifying the scope and objectives of the co-operation. The Council grants authorisation via a European decision and after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament. Enhanced co-operation is becoming a possibility for members of the euro-group which will be able to implement common tax policies (eg for turnover taxes or VAT harmonisation) by means of qualified majority voting.
What if it isn't ratified? See here.
Where can I get more info? Try here and here.
Where can I read the full constitution? PDF download here - but be warned, there are over 300 pages, and it is a very, very, VERY dull read...
A message for Iowa (and all of America)
Manic's done it again.
Spot on, and to be watched in full.
Update: Oh, and while you're at it, check out American Politics 101 - the facts, ma'am, and nothing but the facts...
Update 2: Let's keep a positive mental attitude.
Get your Clinton - on
E-day minus 4 and it's the home straight for BC and KE '04. Kerry looks worried, dragging former President Clinton from his hospital bed. However, despite the infamous wolves ad, which leapt out of the GOP camp last week, Bush is under a suprising amount of pressure.
An early video has been unearthed of Bush preparing for a broadcast in a somewhat unconventional way. The usually grey and starched Economist magazine has come out in favour of Kerry. It seems that Bush's huge crowds as portrayed in election broadcasts may not have been composed of real people. More seriously 58,000 absentee votes have gone missing in Florida - where, lest we forget, the election was decided by a mere few hundred votes four years ago. Finally there is the matter of missing explosives in Iraq, an issue that Bush is only now responding to... with a a tirade of abuse aimed at Kerry.
This last issue could be more important than it seems (politically). It plays into Kerry's accusations that this administration's military ventures have been conducted in a haphazard and harmfully gung-ho manner, without the necessary follow-through in terms of securing installations and restoring the peace. The other revelations are somewhat less damaging, though the missing ballots story raises the depressing prospect that this election could be even more bitter, divisive and exhausting than 2004.
The First Amendment
"What you say on the Internet can affect your real life. Due to what I said online, I now have an FBI file. And due to certain policies that a certain administration has instituted, I could now be placed on the government's "no-fly" list, could be subject to random searches of private property without my knowledge or permission, and could be subject to wiretapping surveillance. I doubt that any of these things will happen (except with the "no-fly" list – according to my attorney, that's a strong possibility and is something we are looking into), and I could just be being paranoid, but after the Secret Service showed up on my doorstep, I think I'm entitled to a little paranoia. Because shit, I never thought THAT would happen, either. So be aware."
Hooray for the land of the free!
(I wonder if Charlie's had a visit yet?)
Update: Just found the offending post via Google's cache. I shall whack it in a comment beneath this, if you're interested. Oh, and for any FBI / CIA types out there - I'm really not stupid enough to want Bush dead. A Cheney presidency is the last thing we need...
Florida: fuck-up or fraud?
Yep, 58,000 postal votes in Florida have disappeared. That's FIFTY-EIGHT THOUSAND. In a state which was won in 2000 by just 537 votes.
The US postal service inspectorate has said they find it "highly unlikely" that so many could simply get lost. Even if it was Royal Mail in charge, it would indeed seem well-nigh impossible for such a glut of post to simply vanish.
But Florida is accepting no blame:
"The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said it investigated and found no criminal violations.
"The county blamed the U.S. Postal Service. 'That is something beyond our control,' Deputy Supervisor of Elections Gisela Salas said. 'We really have no idea what's going on.'"
Well THAT's reassuring for all those who posted their absentee ballots on October 7th-8th (the dates from which the post has gone).
So Florida is scrambling to replace the missing ballotts in time. In Broward County, 78,000 new ballots have been sent out: only 50,800 of the requested 127,320 absentee votes in the county have been returned.
The whole thing is naturally leading to suspicions of electoral fraud:
"Did Karl Rove hire Charles Colson and G. Gordon Liddy to break into the Fort Lauderdale post office?
"Did Jeb Bush bring in Oliver North and Fawn Hall with paper-shredders in the middle of the night?
"Did Tillie Tooter drive them into a canal? Did Sheriff Ken Jenne make them exceptionally disappear? Did Col. Mustard lock them in a cabinet in the drawing room?
"No one has a clue."
But this isn't all - the wonder that is the president's brother, Governor Jeb Bush of Florida, has formally given his backing to Republican voter-challenging tactics, stating that "I don't think it will cause problems... I do think that people who are not eligible to vote shouldn't and the people who are should." The Democrats are unsurprisingly not amused: "It's despicable... Their goal is to harass people enough that they'll give up their right to vote or not go to the polls."
"'We made sure we are prepared for ugly tactics,' said Christine Anderson, spokeswoman for the combined Democratic campaign. 'It seems to us the Republicans are making a very proactive and blatant strategy to discourage turnout and deny citizens the right to vote.'"
More Florida fun:
- In Pinellas County, officials acknowledged that nearly 300 St. Petersburg voters received absentee ballots that were missing the second of two pages.
- Long lines at early voting precincts were reported throughout the Tampa Bay area and the state. Hillsborough reported 43,000 early voters as of Tuesday. Early voters in Pinellas reported lines of more than two hours in some locations.
- There have been reports of illegal campaigning at early voting sites.
- Computers used to check voter registrations were slow or malfunctioning in Broward, Duval and Hillsborough counties. On Tuesday, Hillsborough County's registration network went down for about 30 minutes.
The delight of this, of course, is that no matter what the outcome of this election, the next president of the United States is going to have to live with the same cloud hanging over him as Bush has for the last four years - the suspicion of the losing side that he was not duly elected.
Whether you're a Republican or a Democrat matters not a jot: this whole shebang is not healthy for democracy, and is not healthy for America.
More voting problems - Colorado watch
Colorado, with 9 electoral college votes, is another closely-fought swing-state, which makes these reports of voting problems rather worrying:
"People in several of the most populous counties in Colorado (Arapahoe, Denver, El Paso and Jefferson) will be voting on touch-screen, computer-based voting machines next week. These machines do not provide a paper trail. Most other counties will be counting the votes on computer-based counting machines."
"many absentee ballots are being returned to senders for lack of postage. They require two stamps, not one. This is not a problem for those getting their ballots in early. But anyone waiting until the last minute may be in for a surprise if their ballot is returned to them for more postage, unopened, after the election."
Then there's also the fear that some voters have been registered twice.
It is also worth noting that the Denver Post, where these stories have come from and which is one of the state's biggest-selling papers, has recently come out for Bush. This is despite being renowned as a left-leaning rag from a largely Democratic city, and despite the fact that the Post backed Gore in 2000. Even the endorsement acknowledges that Colorado is worse off now than it was before Bush came to office.
So why the volte-face? Could it be anything to do with the fact that the paper is owned by William Dean Singleton, a friend and advisor of George W Bush and contributor to the Bush/Cheney campaign? Has he forced the editorial team's hand to help try and swing a state in which there is only 2 points between the candidates?
The readers have responded with anger:
"I live in Denver because I find it to be a progressive, forward-thinking city. It represents my values. I read The Denver Post because it used to represent my city. By endorsing Bush, The Denver Post divorced itself from me, my city and my values."
So much for Singleton's claims that the strength of the paper is that "We don't just reflect the community. We don't just report on the community. We are a part of it." Sounds about as believable as Rupert Murdoch's claims that Fox isn't biased for Bush...
Oh, and just to add to the joys of American press freedom and the US's encouragement of free speech and democracy around the globe, the official website of President Bush's campaign is now blocked to anyone trying to access it from outside the United States. (Site stat evidence here.)
Commission vote postponed (and yet more Kilroy twattishness)
Well that's going to improve people's faith in the EU isn't it? The system is, in any case, a bad one, and this is just going to underline the point further.
More on this whole sorry affair here, here, here, and here.
But on a lighter note, Robert Kilroy-Silk is a twat - AGAIN. (More here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.)
Why I believe in our president
I believe in President George W. Bush. I've always believed him.
I believe the president invaded Iraq to secure liberty and democracy for the Iraqi people. I believe he had compelling evidence that Iraq was a significant threat to America and the world, and presented that evidence in a complete and balanced manner. Like 42 percent of Americans – and 62 percent of Republicans – I believe Saddam Hussein was involved in the September 11 attacks.
I believe we have enough troops on the ground in Iraq to ensure stability. I believe the rising American fatality rates, the rising casualty rates, and the rising American share of those coalition fatalities and casualties testify to the undeniable progress we're making there. I believe it is inappropriate and traitorous, however, for the media to broadcast pictures of American flag-draped caskets returning from Iraq.
I believed then-candidate Bush when he said during the 2000 campaign that America should not nation-build, and believe him now when he says our nation was divinely chosen for this task. I believe, as the president claims, that "free societies are peaceful societies," but that the political and civil rights in oppressive, undemocratic countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are exempt from this standard. I believe Iraqis view Americans as liberators, and that once this swift, cheap war concludes the world will be more stable, our allies more cooperative, and our enemies fewer and less threatening.
By Thomas F. Schaller - read the rest of his article here.
(via Bloggerheads - hyperlinks Nosemonkey's own - I would go through footnoting the rest, but I've got proper work to do...)
Another Bush flip-flop (oh, and something about justice)
Bush says His Party is Wrong to Oppose Gay Civil Unions. Oh, sorry - that must have been another US President George W Bush who wanted to amend the US Constitution to ban this then... (Yes, I know that technically marriage and civil unions are different, but then again, the 2nd amendment was meant to provide for an effective militia in time of war, and has been distorted by the likes of the NRA to mean everyone should be allowed to carry assault rifles... An amendment banning Gay marriage would quickly be distorted by the homophobes into banning all gay unions.)
In other news, the concepts of "human rights", "the right to a lawyer" and "the right to a fair trial" seem increasingly to be on the out in the US:
First up, the former defence lawyer of a now-conviced terrorist is being accused by the government of being a terrorist conspirator for fulfilling her duties as an attorney.
Next, the Bush administration has formally announced that the Geneva convention doesn't apply to prisoners they don't want it to apply to.
Ah! The Land of the Free, the Home of the Brave!
Why can't all these self-proclaimed US patriots who are planning on voting for Bush see that he is destroying the very foundations of the country they profess to love so much?
Meh - I'm just being silly. We should all be more patriotic. (Hat-tip to Manic for the link)
$767.85 for every US citizen
According to the Washington Post, the Bush administration is planning on asking for an extra $70 billion to help fight the "war on terror" should they be voted back into office. This would push the total cost of the war to $225 billion.
If the CIA's figures for the US population are correct - 293,027,571 - that would mean that the US has spent $767.85 for every single US citizen.
Vote early and vote often
Via blogging newcomer Cruella, a case study of what everyone feared would probably happen:
"Kim Griffith voted on Thursday— over and over and over.
"She's among the people in Bernalillo and Sandoval counties who say they have had trouble with early voting equipment. When they have tried to vote for a particular candidate, the touch-screen system has said they voted for somebody else...
"She went to Valle Del Norte Community Center in Albuquerque, planning to vote for John Kerry. "I pushed his name, but a green check mark appeared before President Bush's name," she said...
"She again tried to vote for Kerry, but the screen again said she had voted for Bush. The third time, the screen agreed that her vote should go to Kerry.
"She faced the same problem repeatedly as she filled out the rest of the ballot. On one item, "I had to vote five or six times," she said."
Meanwhile, PoliticalStrategy.org expresses more fears that this election has already been cast into doubt. Minority voter turnout being suppressed, voter registration irregularities, attempts to invalidate registration documents, voter intimidation squads at polling booths, insufficient numbers of ballot papers, rumours of bogus officials collecting early ballots, reports of huge queues and chaos at early polling stations in Palm Beach, Florida, and now doubts over touch-screen voting accuracy.
It all sounds like shades of 2000. And we all know how well that worked out for America and for the world...
The following states are offering early voting. If you are American and you live in one of these (whether voting for Bush or Kerry), it might be an idea to start trying to fulfil your democratic right and duty sooner rather than later, lest your vote be discounted or given to the wrong guy on the day:
Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma (Begins Oct 29), Oregon (by mail), Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia.
Let us pray...
Via Manic, back from his hols and putting on a last week burst at Bloggerheads comes PoliticalStrategy.org's Top 35 trends that say Kerry will take the White House in November. Dear God, let this not just be yet more wishful thinking...
Oh, and in case you missed it, The Washington Post has come out for Kerry.
In other good news, GTA: San Andreas is out on Friday, along with the fancy-looking new-style PS2 k-chassis (as my mate at Sony insists is its real name, despite what Google says). So if Bush does win, at least I'll be able to take out my rage on innocent pedestrians.
The only slight worry is that the student vote in the US will be too busy playing the damn thing to go out and vote for Kerry...
A lesson for our blogging times
Charlie Brooker, TV scheduler of choice, writes a rather near-to-the-bone TV review in The Guardian's A5, throwaway listings mag, The Guide. It's astonishingly insulting and very funny. Only this week's column's musings on George Bush - "John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr - where are you now that we need you" - gets him picked up on the bleeding Drudge Report as The Guardian advocating assassinating the President. Rightwingers start discussing exactly what they should do about Mr Brooker. I'm guessing his email inbox is going to keep him in fresh new insults for months.
Of course, The Guardian is well aware that it has a substantial American readership via the internet. It brags about it often enough. Its Operation Clark County articles were much noted and the coverage in the paper entirely predictable (it's fairly obvious that they always wanted the idiot email responses: it helps fill up the paper printing them). The Manchester Guardian left its provincial moorings behind in the wake of the Suez Crisis to become metropolitan. Now another criminally stupid foreign adventure - one actually far worse than Suez - is turning the paper cosmopolitan.