Friday, November 30, 2007

More music and hindsight

How To Destroy A Profitable Industry In Just A Few Easy Steps by Howie Klein
New York's "Vulture" (see wednesdays post) section comes to the correct conclusion about the music biz -- but for the wrong reason. In commenting on the Wired profile of "Universal Music Group CEO/supervillain Doug Morris," the folks at "Vulture" have a yuck-fest over Morris' inability to come to grips with modern technology. I only had one real talk with Morris in my life. The Warners Music Group was in complete turmoil, beginning a really ugly death spiral that he insisted I buy into by going to work for a lackey of his. I refused and Morris was coincidentally fired soon after -- the lackey not long after that. Instead I wound up as president of Reprise Records.

When AOL bought TimeWarner I was one of the only happy campers at the company. Naively, I thought AOL was a visionary technology company which would help us grapple with the problems and opportunities inherent in file sharing. And Steve Case and his cronies were visionaries, but the vision wasn't grappling with anything except how to drain TimeWarner of as much of its value as they could get away with. He got away with a lot.

Meanwhile, some of us at Warner Bros decided to take matters into our own hands and look for our own solution. "Vulture" quotes Morris, who went from heading the Warner Music Group to heading Universal Music, lamely explaining why the music business failed to take advantage of the new technology that was leveling so many music business playing fields. At the time most record company bigwigs had contempt, fear and disdain for computers. Many of my colleagues told me they had never touched one -- the way Judge Judy and Larry King were bragging the other day how they still haven't done so -- and one major record group chairman said a computer is just a newfangled typewriter and that's what secretaries are for.

Years earlier one of my promotion men had helped me out at my little indie label by teaching me the DOS system and showing me how computers could make my life easier. By the mid-90s he was running Reprise's and then Warner Bros Records internet initiatives. He built the first label driven web development team and server farm promoting our artists, which later also led traffic stats for all of Warner's online properties. The Chairman of Warner Bros and I sat down with him and went over what we thought needed to happen to make the Internet a real part of our marketing and promotion strategy. He came up with a system which we brought to our corporate overseers. Here's where the Doug Morris quote comes in:

"There's no one in the record industry that's a technologist," Morris explains. "That's a misconception writers make all the time, that the record industry missed this. They didn't. They just didn't know what to do. It's like if you were suddenly asked to operate on your dog to remove his kidney. What would you do?"

Personally, I would hire a vet. But to Morris, even that wasn't an option. "We didn't know who to hire," he says, becoming more agitated. "I wouldn't be able to recognize a good technology person -- anyone with a good bullshit story would have gotten past me."

Morris may not have known what was going on, but at Warners we clearly understood the value and opportunity of the internet as a marketing vehicle to connect directly with music fans, circumventing the "gatekeepers," particularly MTV and increasingly expensive and corrupt corporate radio. As we were realizing and taking advantage of the huge efficiency and power of this medium, we also clearly observed the beginnings of illegal music file trading and distribution by fans -- and the ramping up of the demand for music delivered over the internet.

We viewed this "threat" as an opportunity. Not an opportunity to sue teenagers and/or their parents, but a new opportunity to let people purchase their music the same way they do at record stores. We didn't assume everyone wanted to be pirates, crooks or wanted to rip off their favorite bands -- we just assumed that fans of new music would be hip to new technologies -- it's kind of inevitable and luddites always lose in the end anyway; people crave convenience.

We proposed to our corporate masters that we sell "unprotected" MP3 singles at a reasonable price-- $1/$1.50. We wanted to experiment and see if this model would stick.

Why unprotected? Because we were already in a vastly successful business of selling unprotected digital files: CDs. If people wanted to get them on the internet -- they should be coming from us... that would be the future of the business: an evolution of the day's success.

The short term test was to give people a choice -- an alternative to piracy.

Our proposal, after lots of corporate headscratching, hummimg and hawing, was denied. The technology people Morris was complaining about said it was "elegant" but that they were "unprepared to set any precedents."

The corporate "expert's" recommendations:

- All digital content needed to be locked down with DRM so people couldn't pirate it. (This made no real sense because the mass-produced digital content on CDs were all out there-- and paying all our the salaries.)

- We needed to wait and try to develop a secure proprietary solution. One that didn't exist yet; one that didn't allow music fans to burn CDs they could listen to on audio equipment; one that talked only to DRM portable devices that didn't exist (or at least have the slightest consumer interest).

- If we did this we would resell the catalog and squash piracy moving forward.

So what happened?

They aggressively sued music fans.

They didn't give connected music consumers any alternative to piracy

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Putting the world on hold

I'm tired, grumpy and hung over

so please come back tomorrow

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Universal Music CEO Doug Morris Speaks, Recording Industry in Even Deeper Shit Than We Thought

In the December issue of Wired, Seth Mnookin sits down with Universal Music Group CEO/supervillain Doug Morris for a pretty excellent profile (which is, tragically, not yet online). In it, Mnookin paints the 68-year old Morris as a crotchety executive who's upset that he can't focus more on simple product and artist development because he's too busy worrying about iPods, MP3s, and his company's digital strategy (which was never really supposed to be part of his job description when he took the gig in 1995). In a way, he almost comes off as cute, like if your grandfather were accidentally hired to run Google (at one point, Morris hilariously compares his embattled industry to a character in "Li'l Abner," a comic strip that stopped running in 1977).

As for his actual digital strategy, it's pretty much what we expected — Morris's singular goal these days is to limit the power of Steve Jobs and iTunes. He puts most of his energy into designing Universal's own Internet music store (Total Music, which is definitely doomed to fail), cutting deals with Apple competitor Microsoft for a piece of those massive Zune profits, and heroically doing all he can to make it even more difficult for consumers to justify paying for music online. But then he says something so ridiculous it sort of blows our minds.

When Morris is asked why the music business didn't work harder, in the early days of file-sharing, to build its own (legal) online presence, there's this exchange:

"There's no one in the record industry that's a technologist," Morris explains. "That's a misconception writers make all the time, that the record industry missed this. They didn't. They just didn't know what to do. It's like if you were suddenly asked to operate on your dog to remove his kidney. What would you do?"

Personally, I would hire a vet. But to Morris, even that wasn't an option. "We didn't know who to hire," he says, becoming more agitated. "I wouldn't be able to recognize a good technology person — anyone with a good bullshit story would have gotten past me."

Even though we shouldn't be, we're actually a little shocked. We'd always assumed the labels had met with a team of technology experts in the late nineties and ignored their advice, but it turns out they never even got that far — they didn't even try! Understanding the Internet certainly isn't easy — especially for an industry run by a bunch of technology-averse sexagenarians — but it's definitely not impossible. The original Napster hit its peak in 1999 — kids born since then have hacked into CIA computers. Surely it wouldn't have taken someone at Universal more than a month or two to learn enough about the Internet to know who to call to answer a few questions. They didn't even have any geeky interns? We give this industry six months to live.

Original Article (go read the comments)
Earlier: Universal Music Group to Challenge iTunes With Inferior Online Store Four Years Too Late

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Target: Iran

Like Bush's invasion of Iraq, an attack on Iran would violate international and U.S. law. The U.N. Charter prohibits the use of military force except in self-defense or with the approval of the Security Council. Iran, which has not attacked any country for 2,000 years, hasn't threatened to invade the United States or Israel. Rather than protecting Israel, U.S. or Israeli military force against Iran will endanger Israel, which would invariably suffer a retaliatory attack.

In making its case against Iran, the administration points to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's alleged comment that Israel should be wiped off the map. But this is an erroneous translation of what he said. According to University of Michigan professor Juan Cole and Farsi language analysts, Ahmadinejad was quoting Ayatollah Khomeini, who said the "regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time." Cole said this "does not imply military action or killing anyone at all." Journalist Diana Johnstone points out the quote is not aimed at the Israeli people, but at the Zionist "regime" occupying Jerusalem. "Coming from a Muslim religious leader," Johnstone wrote, "this opinion is doubtless based on objection to Jewish monopoly of a city considered holy by all three of the Abramic monotheisms.

The confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program has been simmering for more than five years. These are some of the key flashpoints.

August, 2002: Iranian exiles say that Tehran has built a vast uranium enrichment plant at Natanz and a heavy water plant at Arak without informing the United Nations.

December, 2002: The existence of the sites is confirmed by satellite photographs shown on U.S. television. The United States accuses Tehran of "across-the-board pursuit of weapons of mass destruction." Iran agrees to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

June, 2003: IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei accuses Iran of not revealing the extent of its nuclear work and urges leaders to sign up for more intrusive inspections.

October, 2003: After meeting French, German and British foreign ministers, Tehran agrees to stop producing enriched uranium and formally decides to sign the Additional Protocol, a measure that extends the IAEA's ability to detect undeclared nuclear activities. No evidence is produced to confirm the end of enrichment.

November, 2003: Mr. ElBaradei says there is "no evidence" that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons. The United States disagrees.

February, 2004: An IAEA report says Iran experimented with polonium-210, which can be used to trigger the chain reaction in a nuclear bomb. Iran did not explain the experiments. Iran again agrees to suspend enrichment, but again does not do so.

March, 2004: Iran is urged to reveal its entire nuclear program to the IAEA by June 1, 2004.

September, 2004: The IAEA orders Iran to stop preparations for large-scale uranium enrichment. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell labels Iran a growing danger and calls for the UN Security Council to impose sanctions.

August, 2005: Hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is installed as Iranian President as Tehran pledges an "irreversible" resumption of enrichment.

Jan. 10, 2006: Iran removes UN seals at the Natanz enrichment plant and resumes nuclear fuel research.

February, 2006: The IAEA votes to report Iran to the UN Security Council. Iran ends snap UN nuclear inspections the next day.

July 31, 2006: The UN Security Council demands that Iran suspend its nuclear activities by Aug. 31.

Aug. 31, 2006: The UN Security Council deadline for Iran to halt its work on nuclear fuel passes. IAEA says Tehran has failed to suspend the program.

Dec. 23, 2006: The 15-member UN Security Council unanimously adopts a binding resolution that imposes some sanctions and calls on Iran to suspend its uranium-enrichment activities and to comply with its IAEA obligations.

March 24, 2007: The Security Council unanimously approves a resolution broadening UN sanctions against Iran for its continuing failure to halt uranium enrichment. Iranian officials call the new measures "unnecessary and unjustified."

April 10, 2007: Iran's Minister of Foreign Affairs says Iran will not accept any suspension of its uranium-enrichment activities and urges world powers to accept the "new reality" of the Islamic republic's nuclear program.

May 23, 2007: The IAEA says in a new report, issued to coincide with the expiration of a Security Council deadline for Tehran, that Iran continues to defy UN Security Council demands to halt uranium enrichment and has expanded such work. The report adds that the UN nuclear agency's ability to monitor nuclear activities in Iran has declined due to lack of access to sites.

Oct. 24, 2007: The United States imposes new sanctions on Iran and accuses the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps of spreading weapons of mass destruction.

Sources: BBC, Reuters, Financial Times, Radio Free Europe


Target: Iran

Despite continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States has ample air and naval power to strike Iran. In addition to nuclear installations, other likely targets include ballistic missile sites, Revolutionary Guard bases, and naval assets.


Syria: Earlier this year, Israel bombed a site in Syria's Deir ez-Zor region that it suspected was part of a nascent nuclear program.

Osirak: Israel in 1981 had its aircraft bomb Iraq's nuclear reactor before it became operational.

Natanz: Believed to be Iran's primary uranium-enrichment site and a key target of any attack.

In simple terms if the US attacks Iran they (the US) are the bad guys... do we, a western nation, want to support the bad guys?

Friday, November 23, 2007

It would be

A-Spark with support from Bob Daktari, DJ Karim and 1 tbc

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Sitting On the Group W Bench-War and Arlo Guthrie's Thanksgiving

by Ron Jacobs

I first heard “Alice's Restaurant” in 1968 on Washington DC's underground radio station WHFS. The most memorable time I heard it was in May 1970 on the day after the military murders at Kent State when a friend read it in homeroom at the junior high I attended in Frankfurt, Germany. The song's innocence and hope echo today in the empty chambers of our empty culture where the current antiwar movement has yet to find an anthem. For those who don't know this song by Arlo Guthrie, it is the story of a littering arrest that becomes a humorous yet pointed diatribe against the culture of war and conformity. The littering arrest itself took place on Thanksgiving Day in 1965 and the draft was in full swing—filling the growing demands of the war machine and its war of the day.

Guthrie's song was part of a general distrust of authority making its way back into white America after a post World War Two hiatus. It was more than distrust actually. In fact, it was turning quickly into a refusal to go along with said authority. For the most part, this sentiment was most profoundly felt and expressed by the young via their music, culture and politics. In a story told several times over and with an equal number of twists, the youth counterculture of the time was a culture of opposition. Sometimes that opposition took the form of protests and direct action against authority and sometimes it wore the costume of color and danced to music enhanced by sex and drugs. As naïve as its audience and as jaded as its target, Arlo Guthrie's “Alice's Restaurant Massacree” combined all of the counterculture's aspects into a tale of disgust with the corporate status quo, opposition to its desire to classify us all and throw us into war, and some good ol' fun.

What can be more traditional than Thanksgiving, after all? Despite its negative historical connotations in that it celebrates the beginning of the Europeans' ethnic cleansing of the American continent's indigenous peoples, most folks in the United States celebrate it. It's not that they are celebrating their ancestors' massacre of the native peoples; it's that they see it as a time to gather with friends and family and have a good time. Even the homeless shelters take on a bit of a festive air this Thursday in November as merchants and individuals contribute time and money to preparing a traditional Thanksgiving meal for the residents of those often quite dismal places of refuge. Of course, the next day there is no more turkey and stuffing on the table and those without permanent shelter are still without a home. The wealthy, meanwhile, scrape several days worth of poor folks' Thanksgiving dinners into their garbage disposals.

The second part of Arlo's song takes place at the draft induction center formerly located on Whitehall Street in Manhattan, New York. He has received his draft notice and is reporting for the physical and mental exam that was given every inductee before he had his locks shorn and went off to boot camp and a life of military conformity. After going through a number of tests, which are related quite hilariously by Guthrie, he is finally at the last station on his induction, where he is asked, “Have you ever been arrested?” This question naturally brings up Guthrie's entire tale of his Thanksgiving arrest for littering in Massachusetts and the entire trial following the arrest. Because of his arrest, he is sent to the Group W bench with all the other “criminals.” There he is given another form that ends with the question: “Have you rehabilitated yourself?” I'll let Arlo tell the rest of the story...

I went over to the sargeant, and I said, "Sargeant, you got a lot a damn gall to ask me if I've rehabilitated myself, I mean, (with added emphasis and a sneer)

I mean, I mean that just, I'm sittin' here on the bench,

I mean I'm sittin here on the Group W bench 'cause you want to know if I'm moral enough to join the army, burn women, kids, houses and villages after bein' a litterbug."

Guthrie is not drafted because of his record. And his Thanksgivings will never be the same. Neither should ours, even if George Bush shows up for a photo op in Baghdad with a plastic turkey and a couple dozen unarmed handpicked-for-their-loyalty troops. There are thousands of other troops who have deserted because they don't want to go back to Iraq. Protesters have been arrested in Olympia and Tacoma, WA. for blocking military shipments. It's time that those who oppose these dirty little wars join their fellow antiwarriors in the Pacific Northwest on today's Group W bench. Who knows, we might start a movement.

Youtube link (sorry can't embed it so clicky clicky and stop ya moaning).... Arlo performing Alice's Restaurant at the Guthrie Center. July 2, 2005.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Monday, November 19, 2007

Suicide epidemic

Pentagon Cover Up: 15,000 or more US casualties in Iraq War

By Mike Whitney

The Pentagon has been concealing the true number of American casualties in the Iraq War. The real number exceeds 15,000 and CBS News can prove it.

CBS’s Investigative Unit wanted to do a report on the number of suicides in the military and “submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Department of Defense”. After 4 months they received a document which showed--that between 1995 and 2007--there were 2,200 suicides among “active duty” soldiers.


The Pentagon was covering up the real magnitude of the “suicide epidemic”. Following an exhaustive investigation of veterans’ suicide data collected from 45 states; CBS discovered that in 2005 alone “THERE WERE AT LEAST 6,256 AMONG THOSE WHO SERVED IN THE ARMED FORCES. THAT’S 120 EACH AND EVERY WEEK IN JUST ONE YEAR.”

That is not a typo. Active and retired military personnel, mostly young veterans between the ages of 20 to 24, are returning from combat and killing themselves in record numbers. We can assume that "multiple-tours of duty" in a war-zone have precipitated a mental health crisis of which the public is entirely unaware and which the Pentagon is in total denial.

If we add the 6,256 suicide victims from 2005 to the “official” 3,865 reported combat casualties; we get a sum of 10,121. Even a low-ball estimate of similar 2004 and 2006 suicide figures, would mean that the total number of US casualties from the Iraq war now exceed 15,000.

That’s right; 15,000 dead US servicemen and women in a war that--as yet--has no legal or moral justification.

CBS interviewed Dr. Ira Katz, the head of mental health at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Katz attempted to minimize the surge in veteran suicides saying, “There is no epidemic of suicide in the VA, but suicide is a major problem.”

Maybe Katz right. Maybe there is no epidemic. Maybe it’s perfectly normal for young men and women to return from combat, sink into inconsolable depression, and kill themselves at greater rates than they were dying on the battlefield. Maybe it’s normal for the Pentagon to abandon them as soon as soon they return from their mission so they can blow their brains out or hang themselves with a garden hose in their basement. Maybe it's normal for politicians to keep funding wholesale slaughter while they brush aside the casualties they have produced by their callousness and lack of courage. Maybe it is normal for the president to persist with the same, bland lies that perpetuate the occupation and continue to kill scores of young soldiers who put themselves in harm’s-way for their country.

It’s not normal; it’s is a pandemic---an outbreak of despair which is the natural corollary of living in constant fear; of seeing one’s friends being dismembered by roadside bombs or children being blasted to bits at military checkpoints or finding battered bodies dumped on the side of a riverbed like a bag of garbage.

The rash of suicides is the logical upshot of Bush’s war. Returning soldiers are traumatized by their experience and now they are killing themselves in droves. Maybe we should have thought about that before we invaded.

Check it out the video at: CBS News “Suicide Epidemic among Veterans

Of course the really frightening numbers of dead are on the Iraqi side.

Peace in our time, I think not but continue to have my fingers crossed.

Friday, November 16, 2007


Can't believe its been ten years.... wow that makes me feel old.
Woop woop

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Holocaust Denial in The White House

The Turks say the Armenians died in a ‘civil war’, and Bush goes along with their lies

by Robert Fisk, November 14, 2007 (The Independent/UK)

How are the mighty fallen! President George Bush, the crusader king who would draw the sword against the forces of Darkness and Evil, he who said there was only “them or us”, who would carry on, he claimed, an eternal conflict against “world terror” on our behalf; he turns out, well, to be a wimp. A clutch of Turkish generals and a multimillion-dollar public relations campaign on behalf of Turkish Holocaust deniers have transformed the lion into a lamb. No, not even a lamb - for this animal is, by its nature, a symbol of innocence - but into a household mouse, a little diminutive creature which, seen from afar, can even be confused with a rat. Am I going too far? I think not.

The “story so far” is familiar enough. In 1915, the Ottoman Turkish authorities carried out the systematic genocide of one and a half million Christian Armenians. There are photographs, diplomatic reports, original Ottoman documentation, the process of an entire post-First World War Ottoman trial, Winston Churchill and Lloyd George and a massive report by the British Foreign Office in 1915 and 1916 to prove that it is all true. Even movie film is now emerging - real archive footage taken by Western military cameramen in the First World War - to show that the first Holocaust of the 20th century, perpetrated in front of German officers who would later perfect its methods in their extermination of six million Jews, was as real as its pitifully few Armenian survivors still claim.

But the Turks won’t let us say this. They have blackmailed the Western powers - including our own British Government, and now even the US - to kowtow to their shameless denials. These (and I weary that we must repeat them, because every news agency and government does just that through fear of Ankara’s fury) include the canard that the Armenians died in a “civil war”, that they were anyway collaborating with Turkey’s Russian enemies, that fewer Armenians were killed than have been claimed, that as many Turkish Muslims were murdered as Armenians.

And now President Bush and the United States Congress have gone along with these lies. There was, briefly, a historic moment for Bush to walk tall after the US House Foreign Relations Committee voted last month to condemn the mass slaughter of Armenians as an act of genocide. Ancient Armenian-American survivors gathered at a House panel to listen to the debate. But as soon as Turkey’s fossilised generals started to threaten Bush, I knew he would give in.

Listen, first, to General Yasar Buyukanit, chief of the Turkish armed forces, in an interview with the newspaper Milliyet. The passage of the House resolution, he whinged, was “sad and sorrowful” in view of the “strong links” Turkey maintained with its Nato partners. And if this resolution was passed by the full House of Representatives, then “our military relations with the US would never be as they were in the past… The US, in that respect, has shot itself in the foot”.

Now listen to Mr Bush as he snaps to attention before the Turkish general staff. “We all deeply regret the tragic suffering (sic) of the Armenian people… But this resolution is not the right response to these historic mass killings. Its passage would do great harm to our relations with a key ally in Nato and in the global war on terror.” I loved the last bit about the “global war on terror”. Nobody - save for the Jews of Europe - has suffered “terror” more than the benighted Armenians of Turkey in 1915. But that Nato should matter more than the integrity of history - that Nato might one day prove to be so important that the Bushes of this world may have to equivocate over the Jewish Holocaust to placate a militarily resurgent Germany - beggars belief.

Among those men who should hold their heads in shame are those who claim they are winning the war in Iraq. They include the increasingly disoriented General David Petraeus, US commander in Iraq, and the increasingly delusional US ambassador to Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, both of whom warned that full passage of the Armenian genocide bill would “harm the war effort in Iraq”. And make no mistake, there are big bucks behind this disgusting piece of Holocaust denial.

Former Representative Robert L Livingston, a Louisiana Republican, has already picked up $12m from the Turks for his company, the Livingston Group, for two previously successful attempts to pervert the cause of moral justice and smother genocide congressional resolutions. He personally escorted Turkish officials to Capitol Hill to threaten US congressmen. They got the point. If the resolution went ahead, Turkey would bar US access to the Incirlik airbase through which passed much of the 70 per cent of American air supplies to Iraq which transit Turkey.

In the real world, this is called blackmail - which was why Bush was bound to cave in. Defence Secretary Robert Gates was even more pusillanimous - although he obviously cared nothing for the details of history. Petraeus and Crocker, he said, “believe clearly that access to the airfields and to the roads and so on in Turkey would be very much put at risk if this resolution passes…”.

How terrible an irony did Gates utter. For it is these very “roads and so on” down which walked the hundreds of thousands of Armenians on their 1915 death marches. Many were forced aboard cattle trains which took them to their deaths. One of the railway lines on which they travelled ran due east of Adana - a great collection point for the doomed Christians of western Armenia - and the first station on the line was called Incirlik, the very same Incirlik which now houses the huge airbase that Mr Bush is so frightened of losing.

Had the genocide that Bush refuses to acknowledge not taken place - as the Turks claim - the Americans would be asking the Armenians for permission to use Incirlik. There is still alive - in Sussex if anyone cares to see her - an ageing Armenian survivor from that region who recalls the Ottoman Turkish gendarmes setting fire to a pile of living Armenian babies on the road close to Adana. These are the same “roads and so on” that so concern the gutless Mr Gates.

But fear not. If Turkey has frightened the boots off Bush, he’s still ready to rattle the cage of the all-powerful Persians. People should be interested in preventing Iran from acquiring the knowledge to make nuclear weapons if they’re “interested in preventing World War Three”, Bush has warned us. What piffle. Bush can’t even summon up the courage to tell the truth about World War One.

Who would have thought that the leader of the Western world - he who would protect us against “world terror” - would turn out to be the David Irving of the White House?

Robert Fisk is Middle East correspondent for The Independent.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

When ya got nothing throw them a fish

Pseudotropheus daktari is colorful mouthbrooder (is a mouthbrooder like a mouth breather?) native to Lake Malawi in Africa. It was reportedly collected near the southern end of the lake about ten to fifteen years ago. There is an article in the Cichlid Yearbook Volume 3 which contains a few details of the fish and where it was collected. Apparently "daktari" is the Swahili word for doctor, hence the name.

Like most other Mbuna, it is a harem spawning fish. It is best to provide a single male with multiple females.

Pseudotropheus daktari is sure to be a popular fish. It is colorful hardy, adaptable and sexually dimorphic.

Pseudotropheus daktari is no sea monkey thats for sure.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Your new masters are?

Private equity is on the prowl
by Ignacio Ramonet, Le Monde Diplomatique

While critics of the economic horrors of globalisation argue, a new and even more brutal form of capitalism is in action. The new vultures are private equity companies, predatory investment funds with vast amounts of capital at their disposal and an enormous appetite for more (1).

Their names, among them the Carlyle Group, KKR, the Blackstone Group, Colony Capital, Apollo Management, Cerberus Partners, Starwood Capital, Texas Pacific Group, Wendel, Euraze, are still not widely known. And while still a secret they are getting their hands on the global economy. Between 2002 and 2006 the capital raised by these funds from banks, insurance companies, pension funds and the assets of the super-rich rose from $135bn to $515bn. Their financial power is phenomenal, more than $1,600bn, and they cannot be stopped. In the United States, the principal private equity firms invested some $417bn in takeovers last year and more than $317bn in the first quarter of 2007, acquiring control of 8,000 companies. One American in four and almost one Frenchman or woman in every 12 now works for them (2).

France is now their prime target, after the United Kingdom and the US. Private equity firms, mainly American or British, acquired 400 companies in France last year for $14bn. They now manage more than 1,600 French companies, including such famous names as Picard Surgelés, Dim, the Quick restaurant chain, Buffalo Grill, Pages Jaunes (the French Yellow Pages), Allociné and Afflelou, and they are looking at other big names on the French stock market index, the CAC 40.

Predatory funds are not new. They first appeared about 15 years ago but have recently reached alarming proportions, encouraged by cheap credit facilities and sophisticated financial instruments. The basic principle is simple: a group of wealthy investors buys up companies and manages them privately, without reference to the stock exchange and its restrictive rules and without having to answer to shareholders (3). The idea is to get round the fundamental principles of capitalist morality and back to the law of the jungle.

That is not quite how the system works, though. To acquire a company worth 100 units, the fund invests an average 30 units from its own pocket and borrows 70 from the banks, taking advantage of current very low interest rates. The fund spends three or four years reorganising the company with the existing management, rationalising production, developing new activities, and taking some or all of the profits to pay the interest on its debt. It then sells the company on for 200 units, often to another fund which repeats the process. After repaying the 70 units it borrowed, it will come away with 130 units for an initial investment of 30, a 300% return in four years. Not bad (4).

While the directors of these funds make private fortunes, they have no qualms about applying the four great principles of rationalisation to the companies they buy: downsize staff, reduce wages, increase work rates and relocate. With the blessing of public authorities who dream, as they do in France now, of modernising production, and to the detriment of the unions, for which the process signifies the end of the social contract. Some people thought that, with the advent of globalisation, capital was sated. It is now clear that there is no end to its greed.

Translated by Barbara Wilson

(1) See Frédéric Lordon, “High finance – a game of risk”, Le Monde diplomatique, English edition, September 2007.

(2) See Sandrine Trouvelot and Philippe Eliakim, “Les fonds d’investissement, nouveaus maîtres du capitalisme mondial”, Capital, Paris, July 2007.

(3) See Philippe Boulet-Gercourt, “Le retour des rapaces”, Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris, 19 July 2007.

(4) See Trouvelot and Eliakim, op cit.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Impossibility of American Empire

Paris, October 30, 2007 – Since the return of democracy in Spain, Spain’s political leaders and political society have demonstrated an extraordinary determination to start anew, after the crisis-afflicted 75 years that began with what the Spaniards have called “the catastrophe” – the collapse of the Spanish empire under blows from an exuberant and adolescent United States that believed it was coming of age as a world power. It’s evidence that empires end, but nations don’t, and resurrection is possible.

America’s transcontinental expansion following the Civil War and the garish joys of the Gilded Age gave Americans a taste for foreign adventure, whetted by the proximity and vulnerability of Cuba. And if Cuba, why not Puerto Rico, and the Philippines? Admiral Alfred Mahan, America’s prophet of naval power and of the economic necessity of colonialism, offered convincing economic reasons for American colonial expansion, and the failing Spanish empire was at hand.

A blow to it in the Caribbean, and another in Manila Bay, was enough for it to splinter and collapse. The Spanish Caribbean and the Philippines were ours.

Every empire has its day, and Spain’s phenomenal empire had its during the four centuries that followed the expeditions of Columbus, sailing westward. 1492, and the riches of South American gold, led eventually, and one can say inexorably, to failure in 1898. All things come to an end. You live to die, a principle unpopular among Americans.

The Empire of the United States was launched in 1898, and has since traversed a mere century, experiencing increasing ambition, and suffering increasing difficulties. Could it too last 406 years? The current evidence is not reassuring.

Take the capacity to rule. Take the current Republican party candidates for their party’s presidential nomination. The level of intelligence, emotional and intellectual maturity, and simple information about the subjects on which they discourse, would disqualify them from mainstream political rank in any other major democracy.

This is seriously distressing – although in principle a soluble problem, since there are plenty of intelligent people in the United States, as well as great universities and a rich culture. But elected U.S. government has been so debased by the national willingness to submit elections to the values and habits of a medium of entertainment, television, and to the corruptions of money, that it is hard to see that such a nation can indefinitely maintain representative government.

The Bush administration has demonstrated that major groups and forces in American society indeed do not wish that form of government to survive, and are deliberately engaged in destroying the constitutional order, undermining the powers of Congress and of the courts, so as to install unchecked executive power, rationalized by a novel and authoritarian legal ideology, and sustained by national security demagogy.

I have not spoken of the Democratic candidates for president in the same way because the party’s candidates and debate have not descended to quite the abysmal levels of the Republican pre-primary campaign. But the Democratic party is equally complicit in degrading and subverting the electoral debate and practice of the country, since its candidates are unwilling or unable to challenge the American imperial ideology that drives the country’s foreign policy, an ideology of permanent, unchallengeable global military supremacy.

This ideology is plainly written out in the American Defense Department’s periodical statements of U.S. National Security Strategy, in the latest of which the previously stated goal of “security” in space has now become “supremacy” in space (as everywhere else).

The most influential ground force doctrine foresees decades of American asymmetrical war against urban insurgents springing up in radicalized or “failed” states around the world (including Europe, which the authors of this ideology of an unending World War IV predict will soon be reduced to helotry in service to an “Islamofascist” Caliphate). This hysterical American dystopia feeds fantasies of conquest to its Islamic enemies that the enemies themselves could not imagine. Paranoia reigns in some American circles, close to leading Republican candidates.

All this might be taken as reason for American fear of what is to come. But the dystopic future thus described is impossible. What can come is a United States that burns itself out in the attempt to deal with its paranoid fantasies.

The United States already wages two wasting wars that make no sense. It will never, itself, dominate the disintegrative forces in Iraq today. In Afghanistan it will never succeed in defeating a Taliban radicalism that represents a real if obscurantist national affirmation by a 40-million strong Pathan ethnic community that has always been the dominant force in its historical homeland.

It is not a question of whether these American objectives should be done. That is irrelevant, since they can’t be done. They are impossibilities.

The United States government, in its effort to execute its national security strategy of dominating and defeating global radicalism and extremism, is currently directly attempting to manipulate and control the internal political processes of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Hezbollah, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya; and indirectly it attempts to exercise decisive influence on the affairs of Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Yemen, Libya, the Gulf Emirates, and a non-existent Kurdistan – and this is to take only a single zone of the world.

This is what the War on Terror has come to mean. It is an attempt to create a universal empire that exists only in the American imagination, by an effort that, because its aim is impossible to achieve, is unlimited in the damage it could do to Americans and others.

This article comes from William PFAFF

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Iraq war has become a disaster that we have chosen to forget

With the media subdued, governments have not been held to account for the biggest political calamity of our time

By Madeleine Bunting

11/05/07 The Guardian -- -- 'You think you are innocent, but you're not," said the British Muslim suicide bomber in the Channel 4 television drama Britz last week. As the compelling actor Manjinder Virk recited her suicide statement to camera, she went on: thousands of women and children are dying every day in Iraq and Afghanistan, and yet the governments responsible have been returned to power.

Her assertion sticks in the mind because it goes straight to the heart of how we choose to forget, choose not to understand; and how from such choices it becomes possible to imagine our innocence.

That's not to say that her own moral choices were defensible - she blew up herself, her beloved brother, fellow Muslims and plenty of women in the crowd - but the challenge even from such a morally flawed character persists. Can we claim innocence of the chaotic violence of Iraq now normalised into the background of our lives? Suicide bombs have long since become routine radio noise. We're numbed to the atrocities; except for some stalwarts, the initial anti-war activism has been crowded out by other responsibilities. Life goes on, even if in Baghdad it frequently doesn't.
And to accompany the indifference is the creeping denial of responsibility. Government ministers now talk of Iraq as a tragedy, as if it was a natural disaster and they had no hand in its making. There's a public revulsion at the violent sectarian struggles best summed up as "a plague on all their houses", as even the horror gives way to exhaustion.

The irony is that in this great age of communications and saturation media, this is perhaps the most important war to become nigh on impossible to report. Unless the reporter is embedded with the occupation forces, it takes either terrifying courage or extraordinary ingenuity to bring images to our screens of those caught up in the awful maelstrom of this imploded country. Without the human stories that bring people and their suffering so vividly to life, there is little chance of public opinion re-engaging with the biggest political calamity of our time.

The Iraq war represents the end of the media as a major actor in war. In Bosnia journalists stirred western Europe's conscience with their vivid accounts; these were people we came to understand, recognise and empathise with, and public opinion forced recalcitrant governments to take note and act. It was a lesson not lost on the Kosovans: they ensured the media saw every atrocity, and the coverage was used to secure a comparable outcome to Bosnia - western governments were forced to act. But in Iraq the number of journalists killed (now at least 138) means that this war is near private - the images and people who might make the horror of this war real don't reach our screens. It's no longer a war that is accessible to public scrutiny or to democratic engagement.

It may have been Iraqi suspicion of western media that ensured this outcome, but it's one that serves US interests nicely. The indifference, the exhaustion and the difficulty of reporting leaves the US forces with arguably a freer hand than they have had in any field of operations for decades. While the Americans and the British keep trying to persuade their public that the war is over - a habit initiated by George Bush himself when he announced his pyrrhic victory on an aircraft carrier in the Gulf in May 2003 - they can carry on fighting it. And there are plenty of people only too eager to hope their political leaders are right and that the whole problem of a country they never knew much about just goes away.

All of which makes the achievement of the few who do break through this news blackout all the more remarkable - Ghaith Abdul-Ahad on this paper, and the Guardian's Emmy-winning film made by an Iraqi doctor on his Baghdad hospital, for example. This week a book is published by another: Dahr Jamail was a mountain guide in Alaska in 2003 who began to take an interest in US foreign policy and ended up picking up his backpack and swapping American mountains for Baghdad and Falluja, driven by a fierce moral imperative that "as a US citizen he was complicit in the devastation of Iraq". After more than three years of reporting he has post-traumatic stress disorder, but has not lost his conviction that "if the people of the United States had the real story about what their government has done in Iraq, the occupation would already have ended".

What is chilling about Jamail's accounts is the routine destructiveness of the US forces; how they demolish nearby homes after a roadside bomb, leave unexploded munitions in the fields of farmers who don't give information, bulldoze orchards. Livelihoods destroyed, families displaced every day, incubating hatred. One of the worst episodes occurred when Jamail's friend was caught by chance at prayer time in a mosque when worshippers were shot dead, with children trapped in the mayhem: a holy place desecrated in a US operation. We may know nothing of such routine details of the prosecution of this war, but these are the stories filling the Arabic media. Across the Muslim world they are taken as irrefutable evidence of the humiliation and persecution of their Islamic faith. We can only pretend we don't understand.

In the meantime, the biggest human displacement crisis in the Middle East for 60 years is unfolding, the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world. One in six Iraqis has now been displaced, 60,000 a month are leaving the country, spilling into Syria (1.4 million) and Jordan (750,000). In an uncanny magnification of our own anxieties about migration and the strain on public services, the capacities of these two Middle Eastern countries to educate thousands of traumatised children or provide basic healthcare have been swamped. The UN's budget for refugees in Syria for 2007 is $700,000 - less than a dollar per person. But this crisis offers no telegenic vistas - people are crammed into the apartments of friends rather than tents on a windy African plain. So it gets even less attention.

Of these millions, Britain confirmed last week that it will take just 500 refugees with a record of having worked for British forces. It drags its feet over offering any more assistance for dispersal, despite requests from the UN; of 123 from Jordan whom the UN have allocated to Britain on tight criteria of having relatives in this country to provide for them, we have so far accepted only three. Britain washes its hands of the consequences of its invasion with the US. There's a horrible contradiction here: those in power accept no responsibility. Those who might have a sense of responsibility feel utterly powerless.

It can take a generation or more for people to grasp the significance and magnitude of historical events. Facts that are infinitely more bizarre and awful than fiction - as Naomi Klein's book The Shock Doctrine documents - take a long time to be fully absorbed. The Iraq war has been about the abject failure of democracy: governments have not been held to account for a war that has squandered lives, billions in public money and the stability of an entire region with reckless criminality.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Music In China: The inside story

Special Report Want to break into China? Ed Peto reports from the nation where goths adore boy bands, where the major labels created the black market, and where digital looks poised to leapfrog analogue.

How To Do Business In China, China CEO, The New Chinese Consumer... my shelves here in Beijing are stacked full of such books, all trying to throw some light on a country and market of seemingly endless allure to the west. A population of 1.3 billion people has marketeers around the world girding up their loins to do business here, each with a How To Do Business In China book tucked under their arm.

Unfortunately for the western music entrepreneur or artist, these books are helpful in only the most general terms. While there is a slew of practical, detailed advice on how to deal with rubber-ball factories and sales chains, the fledgling music industry here is such a bewildering state of affairs that fully-rounded advice simply isn’t available yet.

Article Here

An interesting read for them that are into the world of the recording industry, hat tip to DJ Handsome Al October for the link.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Music & Politics

Don't mix?


Here's a Labour themed song written and recorded by local icon Chris Knox:

It’s a Better Way with Labour
Chris Knox

We’re a part of the Pacific
Independent, proud and free
And no power on Earth can tell us
What to do or who to be
For we know all must be equal
And - where not - we’ll lend a hand
And if that makes us old-fashioned
That we care - well, understand:

It’s a better way with Labour (x3)
Way better!

We’re a part of one great family
That is several million strong
We’re a multicoloured iwi
Where each singer has their song
Where good hard work will get you there
And knowledge is the way
To make this land a better place
For tomorrow and today

It’s a better way with Labour (x3)

Click here to go to a site where you can download the song. Read the comments they are quite amusing.

Is it any good - well its not his greatest work but its ok.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


We've all seen the LOL Cat and the Walrus Bucket and as all things netlike that are good(ish) and funny(ish) there is LOL DJ.

A amusing few minutes can be eaten up via LOL DJ... I like it.

The internetweb, keeping idle hands and minds amused since ages ago

Monday, November 05, 2007

Greenfield Downgrades Warner Music; Believes Digital Music Should Be Free

By Eric Savitz

Warner Music Group (WMG) shares are coming under pressure after Pali Research analyst Richard Greenfield cut his rating on the stock to Sell from Neutral. Greenfield, in short, thinks the recorded music industry is going to have to find a new business model.

“No matter how many people the RIAA sues, no matter how many times music executives point to the growth of digital music, we believe an increasing majority of worldwide consumers simply view recorded music as free,” he asserted in a research report Thursday morning. “A new model for music consumption must emerge and that model most likely involves DRM-free downloadable music at no cost to consumers, fully supported by advertising.” But as Greenfield notes, “the music industry is not ready to endorse such a move at this point, and even if it was, the economic model transition will be incredibly painful.”

Greenfield notes that he had actually upgraded the stock to Neutral in June as industry trends recovered a bit from a weak first quarter. But he now thinks the fourth quarter will be even worse than the first. And he thinks 2008 will be worse still. Greenfield expects WMG to generate $460 million in EBITDA this year, a tad lower than his old estimate of $469 million. More ominously, he sees EBITDA in 2008 dropping 14% to $398 million; his previous estimate had called for a flat year. He sees revenue this year at $3.44 billion, down from $3.52 billion in 2006; next year he sees another drop, to $3.32 billion.

Greenfield says CD sales will be down 22% in the fourth quarter, and could drop at least 25%, and maybe more than 30%, in 2008. He notes that mass merchants like Wal-Mart (WMT) Target (TGT), Crircuit City (CC) and Best Buy (BBY) have been accelerating their shrinking of floor space devoted to recorded music, with “even more radical reductions” likely in 2008.

In 2007, he says, digital sales are expected to increased 50%, with CDs down 19%; Greenfield says that translates into “album equivalent units” down 8.6%. For next year, he sees 35% growth in digital tracks, combined with a 25% drop in CD sales, to produce a 12% decline in revenues for the industry, “if not substantially greater.” He notes that music industry revenues are likely to be only $10.3 billion in 2007, down from $14.3 billion in 2000.

“Artists make the vast majority of their money on touring and merchandise, not CDs,” he notes. “In turn, it is increasingly logical to believe that artists want to have their music reach the widest possible audience at the lowest possible price…meaning free.” The problem, of course, is that the recorded music business makes most of their revenue from the sale of…duh…recorded music. Greenfield says they need to shift their businesses to artist representation, touring and merchandising. But that will not be easy to do, to say the least.

Meanwhile, Greenfield notes that WMG’s fat dividend - the stock has a 5.1% yield - could be in jeopardy. Without a dividend cut or an improvement in its outlook, he says, the company could run into debt covenant issues by mid-to-late 2008.

And one other thing: Greenfield notes that 75% of the company’s shares are held by private equity firms and other pre-IPO insiders with a very low cost basis - in fact, given previous dividends and distribution, these investors now have a basis of -$3.20 a share, he calculates. Greenfield thinks the private equity investors will likely be itching to get out of the stock, but he sees few options for them other than simply selling blocks in the public market; if that happens, Greenfield warns, it could add pressure to the stock.

Greenfield set at price target on Warner Music of $7.50. Thursday, the stock is down 25 cents, or 2.5%, at $9.93.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Friday, November 02, 2007

Rob Deacon - Pioneering record and CD producer

Rob Deacon - Pioneering record and CD producer at the forefront of new music

Wednesday October 10, 2007
The Guardian

Rob Deacon, who has died aged 42 in a canoeing accident, was a true innovator in the independent music world. He helped break many artists across a vast range of styles and introduced a unique format with his 1990s compilation series, Volume and Trance Europe Express. He worked outside the mainstream, yet succeeded by the sheer force of his creativity, good nature, powers of persuasion and friendship.

Born in Sutton-at-Hone, in Kent, he spent three years in Australia with his family as a small child, before returning to attend a local primary school and Dartford technical college. He completed an apprenticeship with BT, but his true ambition lay in music and visual art. By 17, he had begun publishing his first fanzine, under the title Enzine. Before he was 20, he had released several editions of Abstract, a now highly collectable vinyl album featuring tracks by artists interviewed in an accompanying magazine. With striking artwork, and a quirky line-up of artists from the industrial, independent and 4AD Records scenes - Psychic TV, 400 Blows, Test Department, Wolfgang Press and Colourbox - it prospered.

Next came Sweatbox, Rob's own alternative label, which championed A Primary Industry, Anti-Group, In the Nursery, and most notably Meat Beat Manifesto, who were early pioneers of sampling in the UK music scene.

Rob's idea for Volume was to combine a CD of exclusive tracks with a full-colour CD-sized book of music journalism. In his tiny basement flat in Edith Grove, west London, he had spent months collecting music from the cutting edge. Old favourites, Wolfgang Press and Meat Beat Manifesto, mixed with indie shooting stars, the Shamen and Throwing Muses, and a contingent of dance and electronic-oriented artists, including the Orb, Nitzer Ebb and Consolidated.

Working on one of the earliest Apple computers, paid for by a Prince's Trust grant, he produced Volume One in an atmosphere of enthusiasm and optimism. It hit the shops in September 1991, and sold quickly. Volume Two featured Blur, Definition Of Sound, the Sugarcubes, Bomb the Bass, Nine Inch Nails and Pulp among its 29 tracks. Volume Three had Orbital, Moby, the Breeders, the Charlatans. Volume Four included Suede, the Aphex Twin and the Fall.

By the 1990s the music business had become an impersonal and increasingly money-obsessed place. Rob broke convention, continuing throughout his career to work with artists, contributors and business partners in a spirit of friendship and cooperation. He was changed by the dance music revolution, seeing in its gradual intermingling with rock a new vista of possibilities.

Thus, in 1993, he got together with Helen Mead to launch Trance Europe Express, followed by Trance Atlantic. This groundbreaking series not only defined a musical era but actually inspired it - capturing the emerging genres of techno, electronica and trance before they had been named. The CD-book packages introduced a dazzling array of artists. Sales hit six figures and the company grew rapidly.

Trance Europe club nights proved influential and led to the first-ever dance tent at a UK festival. Rob toured Australia to produce Trance Pacific; and then Japan for the beautifully designed Pacific State. The story of Berlin's Love Parade and Germany's early techno scene were captured in Berlin Unwrapped with Rob taking the photographs. He was never afraid to lavish time and money on even the most outlandish projects. He would not compromise production values. But the sheer extravagance of his compilations eventually became unsustainable in an era when magazines began giving away free CDs, and the company closed in 1997.

He continued with his imprint Deviant Records, releasing electronic works that were at the cutting edge in their field - Pentatonik, Node, Schematix, the Orb, Spooky and Witchman. It evolved into a bestselling dance label after it championed the little-known Paul Van Dyk, now one of the world's most successful DJs, and DJ Sammy, who went on to reach number one.

With the increase in downloads and yet more corporate consolidation in the music industry, Rob decided it was the end of an era, and chose to dissolve Deviant in 2006. He should have had more time to pursue his other enthusiasms - photography, visual arts, Chelsea football club and scuba diving. He is survived by his mother Doreen, father Dudley and sister Heather.

· Robert Andrew Deacon, music producer, born August 6 1965; died September 8 2007


I used to deal with Rob when he was at Deviant, he was cool. RIP

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Civilization Ends with a Shutdown of Human Concern. Are We There Already?

A powerful novel’s vision of a dystopian future shines a cold light on the dreadful consequences of our universal apathy

By George Monbiot

10/30/07 "The Guardian" -- -- A few weeks ago I read what I believe is the most important environmental book ever written. It is not Silent Spring, Small Is Beautiful or even Walden. It contains no graphs, no tables, no facts, figures, warnings, predictions or even arguments. Nor does it carry a single dreary sentence, which, sadly, distinguishes it from most environmental literature. It is a novel, first published a year ago, and it will change the way you see the world.

Cormac McCarthy’s book The Road considers what would happen if the world lost its biosphere, and the only living creatures were humans, hunting for food among the dead wood and soot. Some years before the action begins, the protagonist hears the last birds passing over, “their half-muted crankings miles above where they circled the earth as senselessly as insects trooping the rim of a bowl”. McCarthy makes no claim that this is likely to occur, but merely speculates about the consequences.

All pre-existing social codes soon collapse and are replaced with organized butchery, then chaotic, blundering horror. What else are the survivors to do? The only remaining resource is human. It is hard to see how this could happen during humanity’s time on earth, even by means of the nuclear winter McCarthy proposes. But his thought experiment exposes the one terrible fact to which our technological hubris blinds us: our dependence on biological production remains absolute. Civilization is just a russeting on the skin of the biosphere, never immune from being rubbed against the sleeve of environmental change. Six weeks after finishing The Road, I remain haunted by it.

So when I read the UN’s new report on the state of the planet over the weekend, my mind kept snagging on a handful of figures. There were some bright spots - lead has been removed from petrol almost everywhere and sulphur emissions have been reduced in most rich nations - and plenty of gloom. But the issue that stopped me was production.

Crop production has improved over the past 20 years (from 1.8 tons per hectare in the 1980s to 2.5 tons today), but it has not kept up with population. “World cereal production per person peaked in the 1980s, and has since slowly decreased”. There will be roughly 9 billion people by 2050: feeding them and meeting the millennium development goal on hunger [halving the proportion of hungry people] would require a doubling of world food production. Unless we cut waste, overeating, biofuels and the consumption of meat, total demand for cereal crops could rise to three times the current level.

There are two limiting factors. One, mentioned only in passing in the report, is phosphate: it is not clear where future reserves might lie. The more immediate problem is water. “Meeting the millennium development goal on hunger will require doubling of water use by crops by 2050.” Where will it come from? “Water scarcity is already acute in many regions, and farming already takes the lion’s share of water withdrawn from streams and groundwater.” Ten per cent of the world’s major rivers no longer reach the sea all year round.

Buried on page 148, I found this statement. “If present trends continue, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity by 2025, and two-thirds of the world population could be subject to water stress.” Wastage and deforestation are partly to blame, but the biggest cause of the coming droughts is climate change. Rainfall will decline most in the places in greatest need of water. So how, unless we engineer a sudden decline in carbon emissions, are we going to feed the world? How, in many countries, will we prevent the social collapse that failure will cause?

The stone drops into the pond and a second later it is smooth again. You will turn the page and carry on with your life. Last week we learned that climate change could eliminate half the world’s species; that 25 primate species are already slipping into extinction; that biological repositories of carbon are beginning to release it, decades ahead of schedule. But everyone is watching and waiting for everyone else to move. The unspoken universal thought is this: “If it were really so serious, surely someone would do something?”

On Saturday, for some light relief from the UN report (who says that environmentalists don’t know how to make whoopee?), I went to a meeting of roads protesters in Birmingham. They had come from all over the country, and between them they were contesting 18 new schemes: a fraction of the road projects the British government is now planning. The improvements to the climate change bill that Hilary Benn, the environment secretary, announced yesterday were welcome. But in every major energy sector - aviation, transport, power generation, house building, coal mining, oil exploration - the government is promoting policies that will increase emissions. How will it make the 60% cut that the bill enforces?

No one knows, but the probable answer is contained in the bill’s great get-out clause: carbon trading. If the government can’t achieve a 60% cut in the UK, it will pay other countries to do it on our behalf. But trading works only if the total global reduction we are trying to achieve is a small one. To prevent runaway climate change, we must cut the greater part — possibly almost all — of the world’s current emissions. Most of the nations with which the UK will trade will have to make major cuts of their own, on top of those they sell to us. Before long we will have to buy our credits from Mars and Jupiter. The only certain means of preventing runaway climate change is to cut emissions here and now.

Who will persuade us to act? However strong the opposition parties’ policies appear to be, they cannot be sustained unless the voters move behind them. We won’t be prompted by the media. The BBC drops Planet Relief for fear of breaching its impartiality guidelines: heaven forbid that it should come out against mass death. But it broadcasts a program - Top Gear - that puts a match to its guidelines every week, and now looks about as pertinent as the Black and White Minstrel Show.

The schedules are crammed with shows urging us to travel further, drive faster, build bigger, buy more, yet none of them are deemed to offend the rules, which really means that they don’t offend the interests of business or the pampered sensibilities of the Aga class. The media, driven by fear and advertising, are hopelessly biased towards the consumer economy and against the biosphere.

It seems to me that we are already pushing other people ahead of us down The Road. As the biosphere shrinks, McCarthy describes the collapse of the protagonist’s core beliefs. I sense that this might be happening already: that a hardening of interests, a shutting down of concern, is taking place among the people of the rich world. If this is true, we do not need to wait for the forests to burn or food supplies to shrivel before we decide that civilization is in trouble.