How to tell if Al Gore is running for President

Al GoreHow will be be able to tell if Al Gore’s going to run for President? Mick La Salle has the answers:

“An Inconvenient Truth will probably be nominated for an Oscar. It’s the third highest grossing documentary in history and the most successful documentary of 2006. It will probably win. If you see a chubby, happy Al Gore standing next to the producer and director, celebrating the win at the Oscars, forget it, he’s not running. Nothing to do with Hollywood plays well in the heartland… However, if Gore chooses not to be there — if he’s at the spa that day — then you can take it to the bank. Big Al’s running.”

He has a bunch of other reasons, some serious, some not.  For me, I think he should run.  Whether he’d win the race for President, or even the Democratic nomination, I don’t know. 

But Gore today is once again a political heavyweight.  And to see him standing against someone like Hiliary Clinton, or John McCain can only enhance the level of debate in US politics. 

Plus –  these days, with his grey hair and all, he just looks statesmanlike.  And that’s always a good thing. 

Chinese sub tails US aircraft carrier

china sub1.jpgThe Washington Post reports that a Chinese submarine was spotted tailing a US aircraft carrier battler group last month, just off Okinawa. 

Bill Gertz, who breaks the news, thinks its all a bit embarrassing for the US, particularly for the hopes of closer co-operation between the US and Chinese militaries: 

The submarine encounter with the USS Kitty Hawk and its accompanying warships also is an embarrassment to the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Adm. William J. Fallon, who is engaged in an ambitious military exchange program with China aimed at improving relations between the two nations’ militaries.

I can’t really see why, though.  The whole point of a submarine is to travel undetected.  If anything, the Chinese Navy have done their American counterparts a favour, by demonstrating just how vulnerable carrier groups can be to comparatively puny submarines – even the diesel ones that everyone seem to write off these days.

Moving on, the Iowa Voice has posted some background information.  Of particular interest to British readers might be the news that an Argentine submarine – the San Luis – managed to successfully tail the British carrier fleet during the Falklands War.  Only faulty wiring in the San Luis’ missile systems saved them from what could have been a catastrophic suprise attack.  


America’s Socialist Senator

According to the Guardian, America is set to get its first ever Socialist Senator, courtesy of the good voters of Vermont:

[Bernie Sanders] is an unapologetic socialist and proud of it. Even his admirers admit that he lacks social skills, and he tends to speak in tirades. Yet that has not stopped him winning eight consecutive elections to the US House of Representatives.

“Twenty years ago when people here thought about socialism they were thinking about the Soviet Union, about Albania,” Mr Sanders told the Guardian in a telephone interview from the campaign trail. “Now they think about Scandinavia. In Vermont people understand I’m talking about democratic socialism.”

Apparently, the highest vote received by a socialist candidate for the US Senate before was 6%, way back in the 1930s.

I’m not a Socialist, but I think this is great news – not least for the state of American democracy.  It was never particularly unhealthy in the first place, but if Sanders makes it to the Senate he’ll contribute a great deal to enhancing the diversity of political debate in Washington.

And it’ll be fascinating to see what impact his election will have on makeup of the Senate if the Democrats and Republicans are neck and neck after Tuesday’s elections.

NATO takes over entire Afghanistan misson

NATO today took over full responsibility for the troops of all Alliance member states currently in Afghanistan:

Officials say the move will make the force more efficient, as it seeks to secure Afghanistan for reconstruction.

Some 10,000 US troops have come under the command of Gen David Richards from the UK.

The addition of US troops brings the total number of troops under Nato command in Afghanistan to about 31,000.

This is good news, and represents a major step forward for NATO.  A successful mission in Afghanistan (which is still not guaranteed) will boost the organisation’s credibility.

The cynic in me does wonder, though, just how effectively a British general will be able to ‘command’ US troops in practice.  I’m sure many of NATO’s member states will be watching with interest to see how well the US adapts to putting such a large number of its troops – who are currently engaged in combat missions – under the command of a foreign general.

US passes ‘torture’ bill

The US House of Representatives passed an amended bill last night on how they should treat detainees in the US war on terror.  Or, to put it another way – how much they can torture people.

John McCain proposed an amendment which weakened some of the original bill’s more outrageous elements, but it’s still a pretty revolting bill, authorising ‘interrogation methods’. 

These methods include sleep depravation, exposing inmates to extreme temperatures and simulated drowning – also known as ‘waterboarding’. 

Waterboarding, as The Agonist points out, was one of the ‘war crimes’ that were cited in convicting Japanese prisoners at the end of World War Two.  The irony seems to have completely passed by the members of the House of Representatives. 

Many Democrats were content to support this bill.  Sean Paul, a longtime Democrat supporter, isn’t impressed:

All we heard we arguments why it was politically damaging to argue against the McCain compromise, or whatever. It really doesn’t get any more craven than that. I don’t care what anyone says, or how they justify varying levels of torture. Torture is torture and what the Senate did is a betrayal of our fundamental human values.

Neither am I.  Aside from the pure repulsiveness of this bill, it’s suffers from being just plain dumb.  This bill does nothing more than hand a spectacular propaganda victory to the United States opponents. 

Clinton goes into lions den and fights

Right wing US news channel Fox News threw down the gauntlet to Bill Clinton, inviting him to an interview to discuss his ‘failure’ to catch Osama Bin Laden.  Clinton went into the interview with the intention of bloodying a few noses and, judging by the transcripts, seems to have succeded:

WALLACE: Do you think you did enough sir?

CLINTON: No, because I didn’t get him.


CLINTON: But at least I tried. That’s the difference in me and some, including all the right wingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try and they didn’t…I tried. So I tried and failed. When I failed I left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy and the best guy in the country, Dick Clarke… So you did FOX’s bidding on this show. You did you nice little conservative hit job on me. But what I want to know..

WALLACE: Now wait a minute sir…


WALLACE: I asked a question. You don’t think that’s a legitimate question?

CLINTON: It was a perfectly legitimate question but I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked this question of. I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked: Why didn’t you do anything about the Cole? I want to know how many you asked: Why did you fire Dick Clarke? I want to know…

Clinton certainly has very little to be defensive about.  Prior to 2001, terrorism just wasn’t a global issue.  It maybe should have been, but when virtually no ‘experts’ around the world managed to identify terrorism as a major threat, it would be unfair to condemn the previous US administration for not pouring resources into fighting it.

The full interview airs tomorrow on Fox.  I’m sure it’ll be available on the internet within minutes, so we’ll see how he performed in the context of the entire interview.

Interrogation techniques

The Guardian has obtained a list of “interrogation techniques” that the CIA intends to use.  One such technique is:

…the “attention slap” or open hand slapping that hurts but does not lead to physical damage

If, during the course of an interrogation, a prisoner slaps his questioner – frustrated that he is not asking the ‘right’ questions – would he be charged with assault? 

Suing Starbucks for nothing

A Starbuck’s customer has decided to sue the coffee giant for $114 million – all because she didn’t get something for free.

The company originally e-mailed the offer to employees in the south-east of the US, with instructions to forward it to family and friends.

When Starbucks realised how many people were coming in for their free drink, it rescinded the offer.

But one customer in New York city felt so betrayed she approached a lawyer.

Call me a lackey for big business if you like, but I’m firmly on the side of Starbucks here. 

Customers who complain that they didn’t get something that was free are nothing but gold-diggers.  It would be different if people had to buy something in order to get their free drink, and were turned away after buying their coffee, but there were no strings attached to this deal – people just had to turn up to get their free drink.

Essentially, this mystery customer, is upset because Starbucks wouldn’t give her something for free.

Remembering 9/11

I think the 2996 project, remembering and celebrating the lives of those who were killed on 9/11, rather than their killers is a magnificent way of remembering the events of five years ago (although, sadly, as I write this, their server has crashed under the load). 

Equally important is to remember the many who have died since then in terrorist attacks.  The Guardian had an informative graphic today, showing that more than 4,000 innocent people have died in terrorist attacks around the globe in the past five years – and that’s before Afghanistan, Iraq and Israel are taken into account.

We should all stop to reflect on both of these figures, and to remember those who died.

But terrorism isn’t just a weapon of death and destruction – it is a weapon that thrives on publicity, and fear.  

One of the finest tributes that we can pay to those who have died in terorrist attacks, and perhaps the most pro-active way that most of us can fight terrorism, is to also take the time to move on with our lives and to refuse to surrender to fear.