Issue #90 November 5th - 18th, 2004
Cocoons and Caterpillars
Places where we shouldn't really be
And the cars drove too fast...
Done Deals - Presidential election rigging methods in 1960, 2000 and 2004
Live review #1: James Yorkston & the Athletes at the Birmigham Academy
Live review #2: The 22-20s at the Brighton Concorde
Cocoons and Caterpillars
Do you remember silk-worms? If you were like me, then you had them too, shoe-boxes and mulberry-leaves and beetroot-leaves and little cardboard cutouts. If your school was like mine, then everyone else had them too, once.
Who knows where they came from? Except, perhaps, for some kid, a classmate blessed with both the right connections and a precocious nose for the entrepreneurial – sniffing, sniffing and then ZAP! “That’s it!”. They’d find some from someone, and fast-track a breeding program. Meanwhile, the marketing starts; it doesn’t matter what is said – this is advertising after all! – but soon, through an underground grapevine of excitedly hushed schoolyard conversations and furtively passed notes in class, silkworms are all the range, and you have to have them!
The supply-line is slow and overstretched; you wait on tenterhooks for your turn to deposit a few cents into a grubby palm and shuffle, like you’d only normally do in the boys’ room line at the museum after that one cool drink too many, as the same grubby paw digs out the spare Tupperware lunch-box, crawling with wriggling little black nuggets of gold. A few are dug out – the exchange rate is fixed – and placed inside a pillbox or empty matchbox, or whatever you could discreetly lay your hands on. For a lucky few – but we looked down on those – there were immediate fat white adult caterpillars. Some of these got lost of course, sad casualties of disgusting feats, by some weird logic designed to secretly impress the very girls they were gleefully intended to repel. But who knew what to do about girls then, anyway?
The rest of the day passed in an unlearning haze, hands rolling the container in your pocket, eyes leaving the indecipherable blackboard to steal secret glimpses at the dainty hoard. Of course, you hadn’t asked your parents if you could have them – you still remember sadly that time with the dog, and your sense of proportion wasn’t all that well-adjusted yet. But soon you’d be home, and nagging your sainted mother for an empty shoe-box. You were surprised that she knew immediately and exactly what it was for, and surprised and delighted that she seemed quite enthusiastic, in fact, about the idea, “which will be a good way for you to learn a little bit about taking responsibility”, she said.
You dash your arms around her neck, plant a quick kiss on her cheek, and run off to your room to fit it out as a suitable home for your little dears, from the simple act of punching jagged holes in the lid, to strategically situating various prized artifacts from your collection, “in order to liven the place up a bit”, you thought. It was only now you realised, of course – being young, you had still to master completely the art of thinking ahead – that you hadn’t anything for them to eat.
Of course you knew what they ate – by this stage everyone at school was an expert silkwormtologist, there had even been time for the fragmentation of an early consensus of learned opinion into several fiercely antagonistic schools of theory, which in turn were further split internally by the fundamental aesthetic watershed: beetroot-leaves for deepest red, or mulberry-leaves for yellowy-white? You had to have a very firm preference here to be taken seriously, and several fledgling friendships had been washed closed to dangerous reefs, but it was now, standing in front of the swarming shoe-box, very proud and somehow very worried, that you were drawn just slightly deeper into the harsh adult world of compromise. You had been a strictly beetroot man, deeply in love with deepest red, with no time for ignorant heretics, and confident in the knowledge of your father’s hitherto incomprehensible love for beetroot salad. But now, it suddenly dawned on you – although you’d known it all along, but you only realised it now – that of course the salad came ready-diced from a bottle, and that the only time you’d seen a beetroot round the house, was when your mom had bought you one once, to show you what it looked like. A frantic raid through the kitchen cupboard confirmed this… and then you turned slowly, determinedly to look through the window at the mulberry-tree spreading over the wall from the neighbours’ garden.
Soon it became a routine – just before bathtime, you’d go out and pick a bushel of the crispest, freshest, greenest leaves you could find, and a couple of mouthfuls of the lovely purple fruit too, for it was the season, and arrange them carefully in the box. It had to be before bathtime, because not only were there the mulberry-stains to contend with – but you knew that rubbing them with yet unripe green mulberries was the best way of getting rid of them – but the tree happened to be right above the compost-heap, and you were still young enough to enjoy, rather than be disgusted by, the soft warmth as your bare feet sank into the rotting vegetable mass. The only problem with this was that you therefore couldn’t harvest before school, and while the other few kids with access to a bush made a killing selling off their excess to the less- fortunate, you had to be content with subsistence-harvesting. You learnt to clean the box at least every second day, and your mom was starting to look at you as if, one day, you might have that dog after all!
You couldn’t quite see them grow, but one day: there they were – thick white greedy adult caterpillars. You watched them scythe away their serrated bays around the leaves, incredibly quickly. Eagerly, you made rough cardboard cutouts, hands shaking with excitement so you couldn’t quite cut straight. But that first brood didn’t spin you any silk – it was then you found out about the voracity of cats. By the time the next batch were ready though, so were you. Cat-proof and ready-cut geometrical shapes. You wanted to make your mom a rectangular bookmark, and there was quite an intricate star you’d cut, because it wasn’t something you’d seen at school and you were hoping to impress them with it. It had taken you an hour and three sheets of cardboard to make.
But slowly, then, the excitement was starting to wear off – you’d had them for a while, and already on the schoolyards and in the notes passed in class, there was talk of yo-yo’s. So it wasn’t that you were too disappointed when the shapes were never quite spun as evenly as you had hoped, or that not a single one of them escaped being stained with a mucky brown spot (not that your mother minded – she still had your bookmark in her bible for years after). Feeding them was no longer as exciting, and the compost-heap faintly repellent, and somewhere along the line you realised that it was becoming a chore like any other, but one that you kept to faithfully, as your mother smiled. For a while you thought about the cat, and planned an inviting “lapse”, but then you couldn’t bring yourself to do it.
One day you saw the first cocoon, beautifully dense, and you wondered why they’d never spun that way for you. Within three days there was not a worm left in the box, and all you could do was wait. There was no more feeding, no more cleaning-out. You even forgot about it for a day or two –okay, more – and then, one day, when you thought to look inside it once again, there were three dead moths, and one still fluttering slightly. The box was pearled with little rows of semi-translucent stud. One of the worms had not managed to metamorphosise at all, and you could see the corruption of his soft body seeping through the once-golden silk. The other cocoons were also soiled and gross, where they had been broken open, obviously by the secretion of some vile brown sap. Before your eyes, the one remaining moth turned a circle-and-a-half on its one wing, vibrated for a moment more, and then stopped moving. You didn’t wait for the eggs to hatch. The shoe-box went out with the next mornings rubbish.
But since then you’ve had reason to be glad for that time, and I don’t mean just the dog that was your best friend all through the lonely high school years in another town, but your experience of cocoons came in handy too. At last count you had written three poems mentioning them, though you knew they were too bad to ever show to anyone. But mostly, you were glad that you had learnt to spin yourself up in one, whenever the disappointment and the fear became too great. You knew you would be safe there, in a warm and dark place that looked appealing to the outside world – clothed in raiment of finest gold, you looked like a star, but inside you were all by yourself in the dark, changing slowly but violently. Once you almost didn’t emerge, but even then, the memory of drifting softly off to sleep and thinking, this was it, this was the last time you’d be thinking and feeling at all, was nice. You never felt that peaceful again.
But mostly, you knew the time to emerge, and for a while you could soar on wings, powerful, majestic. Unless you were forgotten too, and no-one ever came to look. And one day, when they did, all the strength you had left went into waving one last goodbye, with one wing, and then a drunken dance. Then the darkness came…
… but always there were little bead of semi-transparent pearls that you left behind too, little beads that would hatch, and perhaps see a better day. Little beads that might make an as yet unborn child oh so excited.
You always hope that somehow, somewhere, this might be so.
Places where we shouldn't really be
At nights Athens glimmers and shines. It's the combination of clear skies, orange lights and ugly buildings on which the lights reflect that does it, mostly, though there's the occasional pretty detail here and there too. A neoclassical house reminiscent of the courtly beauty the city once was; the view of a green checkered fence that frames and divides some ancient ruins and the grass growing around them; a pretty pattern in the rusty railings of a run-down house. In a way it's all the better that this beauty is rather rare because it makes more of an impression on you when you come across it.
Last Friday I got a phonecall at five to midnight. I noticed the time so that I could point it out to my boss in the not-so-unlikely case that it was him on the phone. It wasn't - it was a friend, who, after being all apologetic for calling at this time asked me if I felt like going out. "I should go home really" he said, "but it's such a beautiful night." I hadn't noticed it was a beautiful night but suddenly I was all eager to find out, so I agreed to meet him on a bridge above the tracks a little way from here and I rushed all the way there.
Can you picture a summer night in late October? That's what it was like, because that's what it was. We took turns to talk a lot as we walked away, bought some beer after pretending to consider a bottle of champaign and disappeared into the small streets. You can't get drunk just by looking at a bottle of beer but I felt drunk already, dissolving into the streets and the crowds and the night air. And as we walked on trying to sustain a conversation in all the commotion, half-oblivious to the world around which was made of old tatty shops and all sorts of cars and new theatres and bars and clubs and restaurants that spread their tables and chairs all over the pavements and a tiny square, and people, all mixed up in that distinctive way Athens has of throwing incongruous things together and not giving a second thought I had the feeling we were walking through a village fete - or maybe that we were playing out. This impression was only made stronger by the fact that I hardly had any idea about what direction we were going in.
So when we came to a quiet bit and found a bench to sit on it seemed like magic. We talked of the weather -of autumn, which we think used to come when we were young, though we're not sure-, half-nostalgic and half-thankful. Because really, it was such a sweet night and sweet nights, just like sunny days, are quite uplifting even when taken in really big doses. And it was good that we were able to walk around in short sleeves and feel the air on our skin, and that the bench wasn't too cold to sit on and that the air wasn't too cold to sit in and that the stars were shining down on us so gently; and for these things we were thankful, even though they weren't supposed to be there -not so late in the year- and we weren't supposed to be there either, remember?
But once you've started it's hard to stop so we walk past a certain bar on our way home, which thus takes an hour and a half longer than necessary. There my friend found a friend of his and they embarked on a conversation on each and every Beach Boys record you can't name off the top of your head (there are more than you think) while I wandered around and bumbed into a girl who seemed happy to see me and offered me a few ships off her drink, and together we fell over laughing a couple of times - and even though those were small things that changed our lives in tiny ways, they must have changed them for the better fos as we walked away we decided it was lucky we hadn't spend the night where we were supposed to spend it (and resolved to go out more.)
Oh and by the middle of the following week the weather had changed -winter came over Athens, and I'd think this time it's here to stay- which makes that night the last summer(ish) night for quite a while; which, in its turn, just makes me happier I spent it this way.
And the cars drove too fast...
Each day at approximately 8.42 Mrs Gibson leaves the house with her two children, Emma and Rebecca. Armed with multicoloured lunchboxes the trio routinely march down the street towards the local primary school. Between the zebra crossing and the phone box they pass Mr Richardson a married man who works at the local solicitors two doors down from the primary school. On occasions Mr Richardson will nod his head as he passes, but more often than not they will pass without a hint of recognition. At about this time on the opposite side of the road Stephanie Price hurries to work she doesn't notice either Mr Richardson or Mrs Gibson or Emma and Rebecca as she is 10 minutes late for work. There are too many cars and Stephanie waits impatiently to cross the road at the same time that Simon Wright enters the newsagents to buy a newspaper. Simon is not rushing for work, he is not rushing for anything, but he simply likes the routine of buying a paper each day before setting out on his daily business.
At 5.17, after picking her two children up from her sister's house Mrs Gibson returns home. The children play noisy colourful games and she sits in a chair with her feet up telling her husband about her day. Shortly afterwards Mr Richardson returns home to his wife and gives her a well-practised kiss on the cheek. Stephanie returns home at 5.45 and is greeted by a hungry dog. She spends minutes preparing a tescos ready meal for one then flicks through her CD collection until she finds a CD to listen to which is in its correct box. Simon Wright, who returned home at 2.30, also likes to spend his evenings listening to music. He thumbs through his alphabetised CD collection until he finds the exact record to fit the mood of the day. He throws a microwavable meal in the microwave and settles down for a night of musical appreciation.
Things did not happen like this on the 4th of November 2004. Instead at the very moment that Mrs Gibson passed Mr Richardson, and Stephanie stood waiting to cross the road, and Simon re-emerged from the newsagents, things changed with a bang. And a screech, and a honking of horns.
Mrs Gibson jumped, Mr Richardson flinched, Stephanie awoke from her dream and Simon dropped his newspaper. Then they looked up at the red car which had just pulled out of the junction too quickly and was squashed into a blue car which was travelling too fast. Glass was scattered on the road, steam was appearing from the squashed car bonnet, and a hubcap rolled to an unsteady halt. The drivers emerged from their respective vehicles shaken and angry.
Before any cross words could be spoken Mr Richardson, a solicitor took charge of the situation.
"First things first," he said
"Is anybody hurt?"
The unsteady drivers seemed to welcome the authoritative presence of Mr Richardson and shook their heads.
"Yes you are! Look at her head! She's bleeding!" The maternal instincts of Mrs Gibson kicked in and she took pity on the young female driver of the red car. The girl touched her head and appeared incredibly surprised to see blood on her fingers then ever so daintily fainted.
By the time she had been revived and the police were rung, Mrs Gibson had discovered one of her daughter's was in the same class as Mr Richardson's son, Stephanie had questioned Simon about a badge he had been wearing and discovered that they shared a love of a certain band, and a gust of wind had blown hundreds of yellow and orange leaves swirling into the air before falling like a rainbow coloured snowstorm onto the scene.
The initial shock passed and the drivers began to debate the accident. Voices were raised and arms were shaken.
"Perhaps we should wait with them until the police arrive. They might need witnesses or something," suggested Stephanie hopefully. Before anyone answered she had already calculated that this could provide her with at least an hour off work.
"I don't mind waiting" Simon shrugged uncommittedly.
"Me neither" Said Stephanie a little too eagerly.
" Well, I have a meeting with a client in 10 minutes time. If you are sure you don't mind waiting here until the police arrive I'll leave you my address and telephone number just in case they need any extra witnesses."
"Actually," Said Mrs Gibson "I really should be getting the girls to school, they are late enough as it is. It will only take me 5 minutes and I can come back and wait if either of you need to get away?"
Phone numbers were exchanged, and the party disbanded.
"If you need to get into work go ahead. I'm sure the police won't need to speak to both of us"
"No, honestly, I'm happy to wait" Stephanie looked at Simon and smiled. Simon smiled back. It wasn't with a bang or a screech, or a honking of horns but at that moment things changed.
The police arrived 20 minutes later and soon the only reminder that the incident had taken place was a stray hubcap. That, and the fact that from then on, at approximately 8.42 each morning when Mrs Gibson left the house with Emma and Rebecca, she smiled and waved when she saw Mr Richardson and Stephanie Price who had started to hold hands with Simon Wright.
Introduction - New Methods of Playing Old Tricks
Making the Money and Contacts
'Don't buy a single vote more than necessary. I'll be damned if I'm going to pay for a landslide' John F Kennedy 1960, to his campaign managers, including mafia boss Sam Giancana
“ Columbus (Ohio) …. Franklin County's unofficial results had Bush receiving 4,258 votes to Democrat John Kerry's 260 votes in a precinct in Gahanna. Records show only 638 voters cast ballots in that precinct.”
In 1960 John F Kennedy and Richard Nixon fought one of the closest Presidential elections in America's history. With the help of his father's fortune to buy ownership of newspapers, bribe voters and election officials- and an alliance with Chicago's mafia godfather Sam Giancana - Kennedy won first the Democratic party candidacy and then the Presidency. Much of the money used to bribe election officials in the Democratic primaries came from the Mafia according to FBI records. In the Presidential election itself Kennedy had the Electoral College votes of Illinois and Texas delivered to him by money and the mob - with electoral fraud on a massive scale. The Mafia were again heavily involved in fraud in Chicago, Illinois - Sam Giancana informing Kennedy's mistress Judith Campbell that 'if if wasn't for me your boyfriend wouldn't even be in the White House' (Johnson 1997 710-713; Hersh 1997). Kennedy was fully aware that money was the decisive factor - instructing campaign managers 'Don't buy a single vote more than necessary. I'll be damned if I'm going to pay for a landslide' (Robbins,2002,17). When Robert Kennedy as Attorney-General began to investigate and act against the Mafia they therefore considered this a betrayal. Both John and Robert went on to be assassinated for their 'betrayal' of wealthy mobsters. Johnson's career , culminating in the Presidency after Kennedy's assassination , also owed much to Mafia fund-raising (Denton & Morris 2001). Not that Nixon’s 1960 campaign was ‘clean’ – he was allied to Jimmy Hoffa, who had effectively turned the ‘Teamsters’ trade union of lorry drivers and dock workers into a business partnership with the Chicago mafia – not to mention the cheque for $100,000 which Nixon took in 1952 from the Romanian fascist industrialist Nicolae Malaxa - who by this time was reconciled with the Romanian Communist regime but had previously funded the pro-Nazi Romanian Iron Guard while it massacred 7,000 Jews in Bucharest during the war (Hersh 1997, 145-161). This was something Malaxa had in common with G W Bush’s grandfather Prescott Bush – who secured considerable investment from the American Union Banking Corporation to German steel and armaments firms in the 1920s and 1930s – as well as subsidies to pro-Nazi newspapers in the US.In October 1942 the US Federal government siezed the Union Banking Corporations assets on the charge of trading with the enemy
In the year 2000 the Bush campaign's methods for securing the Republican candidacy and the Presidency similarly owed as much or more to money and electoral manipulation than to democratic persuasion.
JFK's Presidency was secured by his father Joe Kennedy's amassing of a vast fortune by questionable methods - the Bushes' prominence in American politics has a similar basis (Johnson 1997 , 708). George Bush senior amassed a considerable fortune and many contacts which were to help propell George W into the White House. Journalist Greg Palast did an extremely interesting investigation into the sources of this fortune (Palast , 2002 , Ch2). In 1992 , just before losing the White House to Clinton , George Bush senior sold Federal government properties containing $10bn of gold to the well-named Barrick Goldstrike company for $10,000. Barrick donated $148,000 to the Republican party , and put ex-President Bush on their payroll from 1992 till 1999. Bush senior also successfully lobbied Kuwait’s dictators on behalf of Chevron oil – resulting in a donation of over $600,000 dollars by Chevron to the Republicans ; and got Carlos Menem’s government in Argentina to grant the Mirage corporation a license for a casino in Buenos Aires – Mirage later donating $449,000 dollars to the Republicans.
Then there was George W’s income from some deals done as Governor of Texas. One little earner was the privatisation of Texas’ mental asylums - some of which, by pure co-incidence , were bought up by GW’s business associate Richard Rainwater. By skilful financial management – meaning hiring too few unqualified staff – the privatised asylums of the Charter Behavioral Health Systems corporation made a healthy profit. There were 3 or more deaths of patients restrained by several staff at once with towels stuffed into their mouths until they suffocated – including a 16 year old boy and a 15 year old girl. Of course Bush’s shares were not in Charter , they were in its parent company Crescent - and he had sold all his shares for the sum of $114,000 long before the Presidential election campaign began , but after the Federal investigation into Charter which closed the company down. So everything was quite legitimate
Then there were the investments from Salem Bin Laden (yes – Osama’s half-brother) via William R. Bath that funded Bush’s first oil firm Arbusto – and the Bush and Bin Laden families' investments in the Carlyle Group – a CIA front company which, logically enough, employs Bush senior (the former head of the CIA) as its roving ambassador – and has also provided employment to G W Bush through its subsidiaries in the past. Former British Prime Minister John Major is also on the Carlyle payroll, as are James Baker – a member of the Bush senior administration – and Frank Carlucci – Defence Secretary under Reagan. Under Bush senior as CIA director in the 1980s Osama Bin Laden could report from the Afghan border that ‘volunteers were trained by Pakistani and American officers. The weapons were supplied by the Americans, the money by the Saudis’(Rashid 2000,132). Subsidiaries of Halliburton - of which Cheney was CEO - operated in Iraq despite US sanctions on Saddam in the 1990s. Rumsfeld before 2000 was on the board of a firm selling nuclear technology to North Korea – and before that was providing anthrax and chemical weapons to Saddam as Reagan’s envoy in the 1980s. Like Prescott Bush in World War Two the current Bush administration have traded with and been funded by the enemy – and used American taxpayers’ and firms’ money to finance the enemy.
In 2000 the Republican party candidacy was first secured for George W by vast spending on advertising praising Bush and denigrating his rival for the Republican Presidential candidacy John McCain. This was supplied by various Texan millionaires. The Republican party machine also ensured that polling stations in more liberal districts were closed during primary elections - while those in more conservative areas were fully manned , helping ensure a victory for Bush as the more right wing of the two. This polling station differential would appear again in 2000 and 2004 (Independent on Sunday , 12 March 2000 ).
The 2004 Presidential election may have given Bush an overall popular mandate (whether his electoral college mandate is as sound is less certain as we’ll see) – but it also saw a refinement of the methods used in 2000 , and their extension across swing states across America. Much as in British elections there are ‘safe seats’ where you could put a monkey up as the candidate as long as they’re the candidate for the dominant party there and they’d win there are ‘safe’ states in the even more bizarre and anachronistic elcectoral college system used to elect American Presidents. Then there are ‘swing’ states, like the British ‘marginal constituencies’ – which no party is guaranteed a win in.
The 2000 Presidential Election – Florida and the Supreme Court
'The popular vote is really not an issue’ Barry Richard , Lawyer for the Bush Presidential campaign , BBC News 24, 10th November 2000 , 06:25 am GMT
‘Given a new President , and what we accomplished in Florida , we expect to roll across the nation’ - An employee of the Choicepoint company , on their prospects for expansion after 2000 (Observer 10 Dec 2000)
The notorious events of the 2000 Presidential election took place in the swing state of Florida.
Jeb Bush , GW’s brother , and governor of Florida , was the head of the Republican administration in that key state.. Greg Palast , Mother Jones magazine and the Washington Post discovered much of the work of Republican electoral entrepreneurs who would otherwise be the unsung heroes of the 2000 elections.
Actually it’s unfair to hand all the credit for this part to Jeb , because a lot of other people put in a great deal of work. Foremost was Governor Jeb Bush's Secretary of State , and co-campaign manager of the Bush 2000 Presidential campaign in Florida , Ms Katherine Harris.
By a co-incidence state officials in Texas had been compiling a list of ex-felons who lived in Florida. There were about 8,000 of these – none of them actually happened to be ex-felons – but by another co-incidence many of them were black or poor whites. Coincidentally polls showed that 90% of black voters intended to vote for Gore and that the majority of poor whites would as well (Observer 10 Dec 2000 and Mojo Wire 8 Nov 2000).
Katherine Harris knew that as Secretary of State for Florida it was her duty to ensure that the state’s electoral registers were up to date. Reasoning, no doubt, that she should choose someone completely independent and non-partisan for this task she used Floridian taxpayers’ money to hire the Database Technology Company to update them. DBT is a division of the Choicepoint company, which was already under investigation for misuse of state data , and whose founder , Rick Rozar made a donation of at least $1mn to the Republican party. Choicepoint happened to be given the list of 8,000 supposed ex-felons and passed them on to DBT who passed them on to Katherine Harris , who told state officials to strike those names off the electoral registers (Observer 10 Dec 2000 and Mojo Wire 8 Nov 2000).
When county officials queried the list Harris got a new, supposedly more accurate list , of 94,000 names , to add to the first. Around 15% of the people on this new list of ex-felons weren't actually ex-felons and should have been allowed to vote , but Choicepoint point out that that means they were 85% right – so only 7,000 more people would be illegally denied the right to vote. (Observer 10 Dec 2000 and Mojo Wire 8 Nov 2000).
Also among Choicepoint's 94,000 were people who had committed crimes in other states which did not take the right to vote from ex-felons. Of course technically, strictly speaking legally , they should have been allowed to vote under Florida law as their crimes were committed in another state – but due to another error , which was doubtless beneficial to Bush's campaign purely through fortunate coincidence , their names were taken off the electoral register and they were denied the right to vote (Observer 1 July 2001).
About three quarters of the 94,000 complained and went through bureaucratic procedures to get their names back on the electoral register. Around 20,000 of these people - did not have their names on the register on the day of the election and could not vote (Observer 10 Dec 2000 and Mojo Wire 8 Nov 2000).
In many parts of Florida policemen were sent to tell black voters that polling booths were closed in some counties , and refuse them entry to polling stations. By another co-incidence poor and black areas had the least staff and most outdated polling systems in their polling stations , and the polling stations in those areas tended to open later and close earlier than in richer areas. As a result less poor and black voters - who tend to vote Democrat - could vote than in affluent and white areas. Black voters were also allegedly turned away from some polling stations(Independent 15 Dec 2000 ; Washington Post 3 Dec 2000; Guardian 10 Nov 2000; Guardian 4 Dec 2000).
GW Bush won Florida and confirmed that his brother Jeb had phoned to say it was a ‘ done-deal’ - a term which soon became the common one world-wide for a fait-accompli. .
At this point there was controversy over an extremely confusing ballot paper in Palm beach county in Florida, designed by election officials who were also Republican party members . This ballot paper managed to get many elderly Jewish voters to vote for the rabid anti-Semite Pat Buchanan – a fact which to his credit Buchanan admitted as well as saying that he did not want votes which weren't his. The Democratic campaign demanded a recount at this point(Guardian 10 Nov 2000 ; Guardian 1 Dec 2000). Secondly there was a dispute over the form of ballot papers throughout Florida. In poor and black neighbourhoods voting machines tended to be antiquated hole-punching machines - and there were disputes over whether the 'chads' - the squares of paper pushed through on ballot papers when voters marked their choice - were being pushed through properly by these machines. Specifically there was a dispute over whether a vote counted if the chad was not cut free on three sides. The reason for choosing these issues rather than more serious instances of fraud was probably fear of revealing similar fraud in other states by the Democratic party machine. However it was electoral manipulation by the Bush campaign - and the fact that Republican party officials like Katherine Harris were allowed to double as 'impartial' election officials and contract electoral registration work to private firms which was decisive in this election. The Palm beach ballot and 'dimpled chads' were however the issues on which the Democrats sought to contest the manipulation of the election in Florida. .
This , as anyone could see , was an outrageous attempt by the democrats to steal the election. They were ‘trying to re-write history’ as GW put it. They should ‘respect the will of the people’ said his running mate Dick Cheney. .
Luckily Katherine Harris , as utterly impartial as she had always been , was there as secretary of state to rule that the re-counts should not go ahead. That would be against Florida law. It would be best to forget the clause of Florida law which allowed recounts beyond a fixed time limit ‘in exceptional circumstances’. .
The Democrats appealed to the Florida courts, and eventually the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the recounts should go ahead. In another of life’s co-incidences a majority of them had been appointed by Jeb Bush’s predecessors – who were Democratic party governors. .
The Republicans appealed to the Federal Supreme Court - which was unusual given their belief in State’s rights to make decisions independently of the federal government. The majority of the 9 Justices who sat on the Supreme Court bench had been appointed by Republican Presidents. One of them - Antonio Scalia - had told The Washingtonian Magazine in an interview some months before that he had ambitions to be Chief Justice , but that if Gore won he would not get that post and would retire. He was one of the justices to rule in Bush’s favour not once but twice. Florida law put a time limit on holding recounts - and it happened that Scalia found that it took him a long time to make up his mind – but after a couple of days the entire court ordered the Florida supreme court to reconsider. The Florida supreme court, good Democrats just as the Federal supreme court were mostly good Republican appointees, said the recounts were to go ahead (New Statesman 18 Dec 2000). .
The Republicans appealed to the Federal Supreme Court again.
Scalia , another supposedly firm believer in State’s rights to make decisions independently of Federal interference , led the Federal supreme court in another very long deliberation , which came to the conclusion that the recounts should not go ahead , and that there was no time left for them to go ahead anyway. By another co-incidence one of Judge Scalia’s sons is a partner in the law firm of Ted Olson – who represented GW Bush in his two appeals to the Supreme court. Justice Antonio Scalia , and John O’Connor – husband of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor - are members of the Bohemian Grove Club – a ‘male bonding’ club – as are George Bush Senior. Antonio Scalia , Sandra Day O’Connor and Clarence Thomas were all appointed to the Supreme Court by President Reagan. Thomas was also working for the rightwing Heritage Foundation Pressure Group to recruit members for a future GW Bush Presidency. No conflicts of interest there then. .
Gore conceded , Bush became President elect , Scalia went on to become Chief justice. .
The Washington Post used their right to freedom of information to gain access to voting records and began its own recount which showed that Gore had won Florida – and therefore its 25 electoral college votes and the election – by thousands of votes (Guardian 29 Jan 2001). .
Thinking their representatives might be interested in representing them and protecting their right to vote thousands of people denied the right to vote in Florida by one of the above methods went to their Democratic representatives with a petition demanding a full investigation of the events in Florida in 2000. Several congressmen and women did indeed sign the petition and asked to present it to a joint session of both houses of congress which was then convened. Not one Democratic senator would sign their petition , it was rendered invalid and no congressional inquiry took place as a result. Apparently the Democratic party leadership didn’t want to look like ‘sore losers’ – they preferred losing despite the fact that by rights they’d won. Most Democrat senators went on to support war on Iraq. Tom Daschle, the Democrat leader in the senate lost his seat in the Senate elections that accompanied the 2004 Presidential election. So much for his ‘Republican lite’ election strategy - but he wasn’t sore about it. Maybe it was just a career to him. After all his children weren’t Iraqis or American soldiers in Iraq. .
The Republican party responded by calling for the Florida ballots to be sealed for 10 years – a suggestion echoed by a reporter of the impartial Fox TV network which happens to be owned by Rupert Murdoch , who happens to have American citizenship and so pay income tax in the U.S. He would , by co-incidence , get a huge tax cut from a Bush presidency – as would Fox Network reporters and executives. .
So the NAACP and other civil rights groups continued class action legal actions against the State of Florida for denying thousands of Floridians their right to vote (Independent 15 Dec 2000). In August 2002 Associated Press reported that the State of Florida had quietly agreed to a settlement to avoid more publicly losing the case. And Katharine Harris ? She's a Republican Senator now. DBT technologies merged into their parent firm Choicepoint which specialises in , among other things , 'fraud prevention' according to its website.
The 2004 Election
‘Get on the next plane out of the United States’ Republican congressman Jeff Miller of Florida , to International Election Observers during the 2004 Presidential election
The methods used in 2004 drew on those employed in 2000 but also included new methods , and the extension of old ones across the entire country – and particularly to all key swing states.
You’ll see the first hints of what’s going on in the mainstream media. For instance CNN Reports an AP story as follows
“ Columbus (Ohio) …. Franklin County's unofficial results had Bush receiving 4,258 votes to Democrat John Kerry's 260 votes in a precinct in Gahanna. Records show only 638 voters cast ballots in that precinct.”
The headline describes this as a ‘glitch’ - more like the tip of the iceberg.
Method 1 – Illegally removing people from the electoral register – or falsely informing them they have been removed from it
Using Republican political appointees to illegally remove voters from the electoral register – Katharine Harris style - was a method widely employed across the swing states from Colorado to Ohio in 2004. Jeb Bush , the Governor of Florida (yes his brother) and Glenda E. Hood , the new Secretary of State for Florida , tried to repeat the tactic there – they remain evasive on whether the dodgy 'ex-felon' list of 2004 was used to take away peoples' right to vote again.
What’s more many of these ‘ex-felons’, as in Florida in 2000 , have no criminal record whatsoever. In Franklin County , one of the largest counties in Ohio , the County election official Matthew Damschroder sent out 3,500 letters to ‘ex-felons’ which informed them that “The purpose of this letter is to notify you that your voter registration status has been canceled due to your conviction and incarceration, …”. A felon under Ohio law is someone who has been convicted of a serious offence – yet many of those receiving such letters had only been charged with minor misdemeanours. What’s more under Ohio state law only ex-felons who are in jail or on parole should be removed from the electoral register – yet many of those who received these letters in 2004 had committed their offences as long ago as 1998. Damschroder has stated that the decision to send the letters was due to a directive issued by Kenneth Blackwell – Republican Secretary of State for Ohio. Damschroder himself is the former Executive Director of the Franklin County Republican Party.
Overall the number of people illegally removed from electoral registers this time is around 1 million. That certainly beats the 94,000 removed in Florida in 2000. Now Bush’s majority in the popular vote (without provisional , absentee , overseas and military ballots counted ) is estimated at 3.5 million. However consider the fact that these 1 million votes are concentrated in the swing states and that Presidential elections are decided by these states. The victory margin in Ohio was under 150,000 votes (probably much less once the uncounted votes are counted). A few tens of thousands of votes in each of the swing states could turn the whole election.
It is true that there were a handful of amateur and small scale instances of attempted electoral registration fraud among Democrats, the Nader campaign, and non-partisan campaigns to increase turn-out . There was a single instance of a campaign for voter registration resulting in a single list of voter names returned by one paid worker – a crack cocaine addict - which included Mary Poppins. However unlike the Bush campaign’s country-wide machine these were small scale, amateur and easily seen through and prevented. They were mainly the result of the unwise practice of hiring or paying people to register voters. On the Republican side entire firms were hired and told prospective employees that they didn’t want any Democrat registrations coming back in.
Method 2 – Differential Vote Spoilage
‘Spoiled’ and uncounted votes were , as in 2000 , disproportionately found in black and poor districts , where older and less reliable machines were the only ones provided. This had a considerable impact on the result
Method 3 – Who Controls the Voting Machines controls the results
Then there were the electronic voting machines introduced supposedly to end the kind of problems encountered in Florida in 2000. They did that alright. The dispute in Florida was over a recount of disputed ballots which was prevented – later investigations by the Washington Post and the Miami Herald finding that a recount would have led to a President Gore. The new electronic voting machines don’t permit any recount at all. Those used in 16 voting districts of Florida produce no paper ballots. In the UK all ballots have to be paper so that they can be counted in public and a public recount of any disputed result can take place. When the final results came in for some of the districts with the highest Democrat votes in Florida in 2000 the results gave 80% of the vote in these districts to Bush
Ever since 2000 strange mayoral, sheriff , and senate elections had been taking place using such machines across America involving the same electronic voting systems designed by Seq. Elections were always ‘too close to call’ – but the Republican always ended up winning. Results changed from Democrat wins to Republican ones after the vote had taken place. Candidates were refused the right to be present as the vote tally was declared.
Four companies provided most of the voting machines used in the 2000 and 2004 Presidential elections – whether punch card, optical scan or touch-screen. They are Danaher, Election Systems and Software (ES&S), Diebold , Sequoia.
Franklin County in Ohio – where CNN reported a district with a few hundred registered voters delivering 4,000 votes for Bush was using Danaher Controls voting machines. Here’s some information about past problems with these machines. Danaher is a firm which set up by Mitchell and Rales. Their brother Josh Rales was considered as a Senate candidate by the Republicans in Maryland for the 2004 election and holds shares in Danaher.
Cuyahuga County in Ohio was using ES&S machines. Cuyahoga County Election Board provide figures which show that ( as this poster first pointed out) there were at least 24 voting districts of the county where far more votes were cast than people were on the electoral register. For instance in Highland Hills District 8,822 ballots are recorded as cast – but there are only 760 registered voters. The total discrepancy for this one county was over 77,000 votes. Now of course we don’t know – yet – whether the discrepancy favoured Bush or Kerry – but the official figures show Kerry losing Ohio by under 150,000 votes.
The Chief Executive of ES&S until 1996 was Chuck Hagel – who stepped down in 1996 to run for the Senate as a Republican in Nebraska – and was elected by ever increasing majorities in previously safe Democratic districts. He still held large numbers of shares in both ES&S and its parent company McCarthy Group Inc. – and the new CEO of McCarthy Group was the treasurer for his Senate campaigns. He was re-elected – by the same machines – in 2002.
Diebold is another firm whose voting machines were used by voters across America in 2000 and 2004. Walden O’Dell is one of two Diebold directors who is a Bush ‘Pioneer’ (fund-raiser) who has raised over $600,000 for the Bush campaign. In 2003 he sent out a letter to potential Bush donors stating that he is “committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year." – and he still remains “proud” of this link, seeing no conflict of interest. Republican Secretary of State for Ohio Ken Blackwell went ahead and approved the decision of at least 35 counties decision give Diebold the contract to provide voting machines in Ohio in 2004.
The fourth company to get a large share of contracts to provide voting machines is Sequoia. Sequoia is largely owned by De La Rue - a London based printing company, which in turn is owned by the Madison Dearborn private equity firm - which is a partner of the Carlyle Group - current employers of former President George H W Bush and many other former conservative politicians and CIA men - and former employer of the current President himself via some Carlyle subsidiaries. Sequoia provided many of the touch screen machines in the 2004 elections. Their use was discontinued in California after serious problems with them were proven in 2004.
David Dill , a Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University in California is one of the members of the Verified Voting program which warns of the ease with which results from all types of voting machines invite can be manipulated. of electoral malpractice across the country and has a database of so far over 20,000 instances each affecting from one voter to everyone voting at that polling station so far on their website.
Yet what’s best about all these machines from the point of view of someone wanting to rig an election – as author Bev Harris has shown - is that no matter what kind of machine is used all voting machines send data to central 'tabulators' on which all votes are counted – which you would think would be highly secure. In fact they are nothing more than a PC running Windows software connected to the internet – and as anyone can tell you that’s not exactly secure from data hacking. Without paper ballots counted by hand in public election rigging is quick, easy and leaves no paper trail. Thats probably why Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell thinks paper ballots would 'derail' the process of 'electoral reform' - but then what he means by 'reform' seems to be more an extension of what happened in 2000 than an end to it.
Method 4 – Everything and Anything - General Scare Tactics , Switching off the machines , asking for 13 forms of ID ,
The Verified Voting Foundation has recorded over 20,000 instances of various forms of electoral malpractice across the country each affecting from one voter to everyone voting at that polling station so far on a site run by a team including Professor David Dill of Stanford University in an online map database.
Over 1,600 of these - each affecting from one potential voter to entire polling stations - were recorded in Ohio.To give a few examples from the Verified Voting Foundation’s database on incidents in Delaware county in Ohio electoral irregularities included -
- Disabled people being refused access to vote;
- All the machines at 5 different polling stations being out of order or switched off with people told to go home and that they’d be phoned when the machines were working – the calls never came ;
- People with ‘Vote or Die’ t-shirts being turned away at the polls ;
- Voters being refused provisional ballots; ;
- egistered voters who were still at the same address they were on in 2000 being told they weren’t on the register ;
- Elderly voters being physically intimidated by Republican ‘challengers’.
Other more methods reported to have been used across the country include the following –
- Voters were informed before the election and even in at least one case in Ohio by Republicans with loud-speakers that anyone turning up to vote who had any outstanding fines for parking or other minor offences would be arrested.
- In some polling districts up to 13 different forms of ID were demanded from some voters – and if they failed to produce all 13 they were turned away.
- Absentee ballots were sent out without Kerry’s name even appearing on them.
Method 5 – Set up internet voting – then control it
An online firm – Election.com - given a contract to organise absentee voting for U.S troops voting overseas had a controlling stake in it bought up last year by un-named Saudi Arabian or Yemeni investors according to Newsday and Newsmax. This is intriguing given that the company would not divulge the identity of the investors and the Bin Laden family - who also invested in the Carlyle group along with the Bushes - are based in those countries.
With media coverage the mysterious middle eastern investors ran for cover - and Accenture then became the major shareholder in Election.com. Freelance journalist Lynn Landes has discovered the following about Accenture. Accenture was formerly Arthur Anderson - Enron's accountants - took over. Accenture are business partners of a Halliburton (former CEO Dick Cheney) subsidiary and Halliburton's Chief Executive is a former Arthur Andersen employee. A report by the Polaris Institute of Canada found Accenture guilty of a string of corporate malpractices - including involvement in likely electronic vote rigging in Canadian elections.
The Pentagon has also admitted blocking the reception of emailed and faxed civilian overseas absentee votes
Method 6 – Prevent Effective International Observation , Accuse the opposition of being the election riggers
You would think one of the oldest, wealthiest democracies in the world would have the highest electoral standards, and would be proud to let the world observe their electoral process as a model for others. Far from it. International Election Observers told the International Herald Tribune that ‘they had less access to polls than in Kazakhstan, that the electronic voting had fewer fail-safes than in Venezuela’ . One of the states where they were prohibited from observing the election was the swing state of Ohio – where ‘by law’ they could not be present , yet strangely enough , the courts ruled that Republican party representatives could be present at the vote. Another was Florida
Jeff Miller, a Republican congressman from Florida, wanted the rest of the world to be able to see how fair Florida’s elections so much that he told international observers they weren’t welcome and should ‘get on the next plane out of the United States’. Tom DeWeese, president of the conservative American Policy Centre suggested international observers might 'corrupt the electoral process'. This is the golden rule of voting fraud - if you're going to rig and election make sure to accuse your opponents of trying to rig it.
Method 7 – Election by Media
So why have most of the American media been so quick to declare Bush the victor before all the votes are counted and before all these wild irregularities are investigated ?
The simple answer may be tax breaks for the very wealthy who own and manage the big media conglomerates and their desire for de-regulation of media ownership so they can expand their businesses further by taking over or merging with competitors.
As Sumner Redstone , the CEO of Viacom , of which CBS News is a subsidiary put it in Hong Kong in September
“I don’t want to denigrate Kerry …but from a Viacom standpoint, the election of a Republican administration is a better deal…the Republican administration has stood for many things we believe in, deregulation and so on…”
Other major media firms include right-wing billionaire Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp International. Fox News, an American TV News subsidiary of News Corp, claims to be “fair and balanced” despite using almost entirely Republican and conservative sources and interviewees and habitually misrepresenting and omitting facts. Fox News argued in one court case that the First Amendment of the US constitution – freedom of speech – gives them the legal right to lie , distort and misrepresent facts. Fox News then reported to their viewers that the appeal court ruling meant they had been “totally vindicated” – without mentioning they had won the right to lie to them. Fox was the first station to report that Bush had won Florida in both 2000 and 2004 – and Ohio in 2004 - in every case before all the votes were counted and before electoral irregularities were investigated .
Bush’s tax breaks in his first term increased the personal fortunes of the 400 richest Americans by 10%. Among them is Rupert Murdoch who has American citizenship. Murdoch commented in October that if Bush was re-elected “you'll get continuation of his tax reduction program which will help”.
“A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles.”
Thomas Jefferson 1798
In the face of all this it would be easy to despair or be over-taken by rage. Even now British and American soldiers and Iraqi civilians are being killed across Iraq - and especially in Falluja. What is needed though is greater determination. It may or may not be that Bush would have won even without the electoral register tampering , vote rigging, and voter suppression. Whats certain is that if all these methods are not challenged and challenged till they’re changed by Americans across the US they will keep being used on a larger and larger scale at every election. So here’s what you can do.
If you are an American there are several things you can do.
First you can report election incidents to and spread the contact details of the www.verifiedvoting.org including their hotline number - 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683) , their online database of election incidents at this address and their online election incident reporting system.
Campaign for a reform to the voting system - paper ballots marked in a private booth by the voter with a single cross beside their chosen candidate’s name at public polling stations kept open from 7am till 11pm on polling day and publicly counted by hand - not by machines - with anyone and everyone legally allowed to be present to witness counts and recounts. This works perfectly for the UK - a country of 55 million. It can work for a country of 200 million plus too.
Support campaigns for news coverage which actually investigates the facts rather than coming out with the ‘both sides are lying’ cliché. These include Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.
You can also support or set up your own websites, mailing lists and magazines. Polls showed 57% of Bush voters in 2004 still believed Iraq was involved in September 11th and more than half believed Iraq had possessed WMD.
Demand investment in public schools and funding for education for all – election results show more educated voters have tended to vote Democrat. The extreme right rely on disinformation and ignorance as much as on fraud to get into office.
If you aren’t an American then vote for parties which oppose any involvement – whether political or financial support or sending troops – for American military operations such as the invasion of Iraq. In the 2004 Presidential debates Bush was able to respond to Kerry’s charges that the US was isolated by shouting ‘tell Tony Blair we’re isolated’. In the UK any MP that supports Tony Blair or British troops remaining in Iraq has to go. More Iraqi, British and American are killed daily in an occupation involving as much massacre , torture and propping up of puppet governments as Vietnam.
Poland is another country where a change of government could both save Polish and Iraqi lives and isolate Bush to make it more difficult for him to invade any other country – and in every country in the world whether your government changes to pro or anti Bush administration males a difference.
Above all don’t despair. The only real constant in history and life is change.
As Thomas Jefferson put it in 1798.
“A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles. It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt , ......If the game runs sometimes against us at home we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at stake.”
Thomas Jefferson, 1798, on Kentucky's plan to secede.
Palast , Greg (2002) , ‘The Best Democracy Money Can Buy’ , Robinson , London , 2003 , esp Chapters 1&2
Hersh , Seymour (1997) , ‘The Dark Side of Camelot’ , HarperCollins, London , 1998
Johnson , Paul (1997) ‘A History of the American People’ , Harper-Collins , New York , 1997
Robins , Stephen (2002) ‘The Ruling Asses’ , BCA , London , 2002
Denton , Sally & Morris , Roger (2001) , ‘The Money and the Power’ , Vintage Books , New York , 2001
Rashid, Ahmed , (2000) , ‘Taliban’ , Tauris , 2000 and Pan MacMillan , London , 2001 , esp p132
copyright© Duncan McFarlane 2004
James Yorkston & the Athletes at the Birmigham Academy
Arriving at the venue fairly early, the sparseness of the crowd is slight cause for concern. Luckily, the nature of the evening doesn't call for a loud atmosphere, and the few present are in for a treat.
First up is Sam Huxley, a very young-looking singer-songwriter whose acoustic guitar is accompanied by a companion on an electric. After a spot of trouble sorting some levels out, he runs smoothly through a set that seems all the more accomplished given that all he has to offer is a mailing list to sign up for, "for news of when the website might get up and running." A floppy-haired troubadour in a My Bloody Valentine t-shirt, then; one to look out for in the future.
Next comes the more varied offerings of Jim Moray, who begins with a computer box of tricks, sampling his own voice for use as backing, moves onto an electric guitar, and ends up at a keyboard. The early experiments prove successful, but end all too soon, to be replaced by more earnest, traditional fare. It isn't bad, but the final piano ballads outstay their welcome a little.
Finally, the now-not-so-sparse-but-still-not-very-full crowd welcomes on stage four plain-looking blokes in scruffy shoes. One sits on the chair at the front and picks up an acoustic, another picks up the double bass at the back, another hauls an accordion onto his lap, and the fourth ventures to the side, to be surrounded by drums, zithers, tambourines and various other instruments. These are, it seems, James Yorkston and the Athletes.
Looking rather pensive, they begin. The pace starts at gentle, and stays there. This is music for long days in the countryside, floating along down a quiet river. This is daydream music, where urgency is brief and unwelcome, and everything flows naturally. Yorkston's gentle tones are perfectly suited; not so weak they're lost, but not so strong they intrude.
The set winds its way through a decent share of Yorkston's back catalogue, including plenty from the acclaimed 'Moving Up Country' as well as new 'Just Beyond The River'. There's room for traditional folk song 'Rosemary Lane', and the introduction of a King Creosote cover gives an indication of the audience Yorkston is expecting: "This is a King Creosote song. He was on tour with us until yesterday, but he had to go home to look after his kid."
In contrast to the relaxed, laid-back tunes, Yorkston seems ill at ease between songs, nervously trying some banter. There's an amusing anecdote about playing a nu-metal club in Peterborough (including Reuben, the accordion player, being called cool because of a supposed resemblance to Robert Plant) but, by and large, he wisely lets the music do the talking. As a reward, near the end he receives a temporary Daniel O'Donnell tattoo from a crowd member for his efforts.
And then, all of a sudden, someone mentions that it's curfew time. The crowd murmurs disbelief that an hour and a half has passed so quickly, whilst Yorkston sharply assesses how many more songs he can get away with. The group squeeze in a couple more, but a shaking sound desk head brings groans from the audience: this, it seems, is it. Trying to wriggle around the rules, Yorkston steps away from the microphone, unplugs his guitar and gets his associates to sing chorus harmonies on one final tune. The first verse is interrupted by the crackle of a radio, the second by the switching on of the lights, and the end is greeted by a resounding round of applause from a small but very satisfied audience.
The venue staff, though, are keen to get off home, so there's only time for the briefest of trips to the merchandise stall before being ushered out to begin the journey home. A journey made all the more pleasant by the realisation that there are still people who will play until they aren't allowed to, who are completely free of ego, and who make music as wonderful as this.
The 22-20s at the Brighton Concorde
There seems to be a major resurgence in British bands at the moment. For the past couple of years it has been all about our cousins across the pond. Recently however, The Libertines have been holding the torch for the UK music scene, they have influenced many kids to pick up guitars and form bands. There is a wave of great new bands around at the moment and it warms my heart that they are all British. With the art rock kids dancing to the Futureheads and Franz Ferdinand; and bands like Bloc Party and The Rakes becoming darlings of the London Indie scene, it has never been a better time to be a music fan.
The 22-20's are on the front line of this new band revolution, its not that they aren't playing exciting music and exciting music critics. Last year before they signed a deal with Heavenly/EMI, a gig in Camden literally became an A&R scrum with record label managers itching to sign them. Rumours of label bosses climbing through the windows of the gig to see them may have been exaggerated by the music press. But this sell out tour shows the bands potential and it's only their first headlining tour. The band pulled into Brighton to promote their eponymous debut album.
The venue which is nicely located near the beach was packed full of people. Sadly we arrived late and missed both the support acts and therefore had to stand at the back of the venue, so we had a great position for the bar but not much else sadly. The band came onstage to riotous cheers from the front, and a bloke ordering a pint of bitter next to me.
The band played songs from their album and seemed to be in buoyant mood loving the adoration from the audience. Each and every song was delightfully received by dancing and the people at the bar nodding their heads in appreciation. I had seen them earlier in the year playing in Camden, that night they only played for twenty minutes; on Saturday they doubled the set length to 40 but both times they ended the set with a rousing version of an old blues song called "King Bee".
If the 22-20's don't make it huge in 2005 then I will eat my hat. English bands right now are surfing on the crest of a wave and the 22-20's are the dark black storm clouds ready to rain on the parade.