Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hungry? You might have to get used to the feeling

The World Food Crisis
April 28, 2008 By John Nichols

The only surprising thing about the global food crisis to Jim Goodman is the notion that anyone finds it surprising. 'So,' says the Wisconsin dairy farmer, 'they finally figured out, after all these years of pushing globalization and genetically modified [GM] seeds, that instead of feeding the world we've created a food system that leaves more people hungry. If they'd listened to farmers instead of corporations, they would've known this was going to happen.' Goodman has traveled the world to speak, organize and rally with groups such as La Via Campesina, the global movement of peasant and farm organizations that has been warning for years that 'solutions' promoted by agribusiness conglomerates were designed to maximize corporate profits, not help farmers or feed people. The food shortages, suddenly front-page news, are not new. Hundreds of millions of people were starving and malnourished last year; the only change is that as the scope of the crisis has grown, it has become more difficult to 'manage' the hunger that a failed food system accepts rather than feeds.

The current global food system, which was designed by US-based agribusiness conglomerates like Cargill, Monsanto and ADM and forced into place by the US government and its allies at the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization, has planted the seeds of disaster by pressuring farmers here and abroad to produce cash crops for export and alternative fuels rather than grow healthy food for local consumption and regional stability. The only smart short-term response is to throw money at the problem. George W. Bush's release of $200 million in emergency aid to the UN's World Food Program was appropriate, but Washington must do more. Rising food prices may not be causing riots in the United States, but food banks here are struggling to meet demand as joblessness grows. Congress should answer Senator Sherrod Brown's call to allocate $100 million more to domestic food programs and make sure, as Representative Jim McGovern urges, that an overdue farm bill expands programs for getting fresh food from local farms to local consumers.

Beyond humanitarian responses, the cure for what ails the global food system - and an unsteady US farm economy - is not more of the same globalization and genetic gimmickry. That way has left thirty-seven nations with food crises while global grain giant Cargill harvests an 86 percent rise in profits and Monsanto reaps record sales from its herbicides and seeds. For years, corporations have promised farmers that problems would be solved by trade deals and technology - especially GM seeds, which University of Kansas research now suggests reduce food production and the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development says won't end global hunger. The 'market,' at least as defined by agribusiness, isn't working. We 'have a herd of market traders, speculators and financial bandits who have turned wild and constructed a world of inequality and horror,' says Jean Ziegler, the UN's right-to-food advocate. But try telling that to the Bush Administration or to World Bank president (and former White House trade rep) Robert Zoellick, who's busy exploiting tragedy to promote trade liberalization. 'If ever there is a time to cut distorting agricultural subsidies and open markets for food imports, it must be now,' says Zoellick. 'Wait a second,' replies Dani Rodrik, a Harvard political economist who tracks trade policy. 'Wouldn't the removal of these distorting policies raise world prices in agriculture even further?' Yes. World Bank studies confirm that wheat and rice prices will rise if Zoellick gets his way.

Instead of listening to the White House or the World Bank, Congress should recognize - as a handful of visionary members like Ohio Representative Marcy Kaptur have - that current trends confirm the wisdom of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy's call for 'an urgent rethink of the respective roles of markets and governments.' That's far more useful than blaming Midwestern farmers for embracing inflated promises about the potential of ethanol - although we should re- examine whether aggressive US support for biofuels is not only distorting corn prices but harming livestock and dairy producers who can barely afford feed and fertilizer. Instead of telling farmers they're wrong to seek the best prices for their crops, Congress should make sure that farmers can count on good prices for growing the food Americans need. It can do this by providing a strong safety net to survive weather and market disasters and a strategic grain reserve similar to the strategic petroleum reserve to guard against food-price inflation.

Congress should also embrace trade and development policies that help developing countries regulate markets with an eye to feeding the hungry rather than feeding corporate profits. This principle, known as 'food sovereignty,' sees struggling farmers and hungry people and says, as the Oakland Institute's Anuradha Mittal observes, that it is time to 'stop worshiping the golden calf of the so-called free market and embrace, instead, the principle [that] every country and every people have a right to food that is affordable.' As Mittal says, 'When the market deprives them of this, it is the market that has to give.'

John Nichols is a co-founder of Free Press and the co- author with Robert W. McChesney of TRAGEDY & FARCE: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections, and Destroy Democracy - The New Press.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Petraeus, Falling Upwards

Selling the President's General
The Petraeus Story
By Tom Engelhardt

You simply can't pile up enough adjectives when it comes to the general, who, at a relatively young age, was already a runner-up for Time Magazine's Person of the Year in 2007. His record is stellar. His tactical sense extraordinary. His strategic ability, when it comes to mounting a campaign, beyond compare.

I'm speaking, of course, of General David Petraeus, the President's surge commander in Iraq and, as of last week, the newly nominated head of U.S. Central Command (Centcom) for all of the Middle East and beyond -- "King David" to those of his peers who haven't exactly taken a shine to his reportedly "high self-regard." And the campaign I have in mind has been his years' long wooing and winning of the American media, in the process of which he sold himself as a true American hero, a Caesar of celebrity.

As far as can be told, there's never been a seat in his helicopter that couldn't be filled by a friendly (or adoring) reporter. This, after all, is the man who, in the summer of 2004, as a mere three-star general being sent back to Baghdad to train the Iraqi army, made Newsweek's cover under the caption, "Can This Man Save Iraq?" (The article's subtitle -- with the "yes" practically etched into it -- read: "Mission Impossible? David Petraeus Is Tasked with Rebuilding Iraq's Security Forces. An Up-close Look at the Only Real Exit Plan the United States Has -- the Man Himself").

And, oh yes, as for his actual generalship on the battlefield of Iraq… Well, the verdict may still officially be out, but the record, the tactics, and the strategic ability look like they will not stand the test of time. But by then, if all goes well, he'll once again be out of town and someone else will take the blame, while he continues to fall upwards. David Petraeus is the President's anointed general, Bush's commander of commanders, and (not surprisingly) he exhibits certain traits much admired by the Bush administration in its better days.

Launching Brand Petraeus

Recently, in an almost 8,000 word report in the New York Times, David Barstow offered an unparalleled look inside a sophisticated Pentagon campaign, spearheaded by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, in which at least 75 retired generals and other high military officers, almost all closely tied to Pentagon contractors, were recruited as "surrogates." They were to take Pentagon "talking points" (aka "themes and messages") about the President's War on Terror and war in Iraq into every part of the media -- cable news, the television and radio networks, the major newspapers -- as their own expert "opinions." These "analysts" made "tens of thousands of media appearances" and also wrote copiously for op-ed pages (often with the aid of the Pentagon) as part of an unparalleled, five-plus year covert propaganda onslaught on the American people that lasted from 2002 until, essentially, late last night. Think of it, like a pod of whales or a gaggle of geese, as the Pentagon's equivalent of a surge of generals.

In that impressive Times report, however, one sentence has so far passed unnoticed; yet, it speaks the world of General Petraeus, and of how this administration and its chosen sons have played their cards from the moment George W. Bush mounted a pile of rubble on September 14, 2001, at Ground Zero in New York City and began to sell his incipient War on Terror (and himself as commander-in-chief). From that day on, the propaganda campaign, the selling war, on the American "home front" has never stopped.

Here, in that context, is Barstow's key sentence: "When David H. Petraeus was appointed the commanding general in Iraq in January 2007, one of his early acts was to meet with the [Pentagon's retired military] analysts." In other words, on becoming U.S. commander in Iraq, he automatically turned to the military propaganda machine the Pentagon had set up to launch his initial surge -- on the home front.

Think of the train of events this way: In January 2007, pummeled in the opinion polls, his Iraq policy in shambles and the Republican Party in electoral disarray, George W. Bush and his advisors decided to launch a last-minute home-front campaign to buy time on Iraq. It was, the President declared in an address to the American people, his "new way forward in Iraq." In Vietnam-era terms, the plan itself involved a relatively modest "escalation" of 30,000 troops, largely into the Baghdad area -- that being all the troops the overstretched U.S. military then had available. It gained, however, the resounding nickname, "the surge." (That word, strangely enough, had essentially been pilfered from the heart of "insurgent," a term previously used to designate the enemy.)

By then, of course, the President himself was a thoroughly tarnished brand, not exactly the sort of face with which to launch 1,000 ships or even 30,000 troops into a self-made hell against the urgent wishes of the American people. Instead, he pushed forward his all-American general -- the smart, bemedaled, well-spoken, Princeton PhD and counterinsurgency guru, beloved by reporters whom he had romanced for years, and already treated like a demi-god by members of both parties in both houses of Congress. He became the "face" of the administration (just as American military and civilian officials had long spoken of putting an "Iraqi face" on the American occupation of that country). In the ensuing months, as New York Times columnist Frank Rich pointed out, the surging Brand Petraeus campaign only gained traction as the President publicly cited the general more than 150 times, 53 times in May 2007 alone. Never has a President put on the "face" of a general more regularly.

Now, let's return to that single sentence from Barstow. Having been put forward by Bush as his favorite general and the savior of his Iraq policies, Petraeus seems to have promptly turned to the Pentagon's favored military "analysts" for a hand. The general's initial surge, that is, was right here at home via those figures the Pentagon had embedded in the media and liked to refer to as its "message force multipliers." Let's keep in mind that one of those figures, retired Army general Jack Keane, a "patron" to Petraeus during his rise in the ranks, was, along with Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute, an "author" of, and key propagandist for, the surge strategy, as well as the head of his own consulting firm, on the board of General Dynamics, and a national security analyst for ABC News. So, in case you were wondering why the hosannas to Petraeus nearly reached the heavens and why the "success" of the surge was established so quickly in this country (despite four years of promises followed by disaster that might have called for media caution), look first to those surging retired generals and to the general who had already established himself as a military brand name.

And let's keep in mind that the Times' Barstow has pulled back the curtain on but one administration program of deception. It is unlikely to have been the only one. We don't yet fully know the full range of sources the Pentagon and this administration mustered in the service of its surge. We don't know what sort of thought and planning, for instance, went into the transformation of any Sunni insurgent who didn't join the new Awakening Movement and become a "Son of Iraq" into a member of "al-Qaeda-in-Mesopotamia" -- or, more recently, every Shiite rebel into an Iranian agent.

We don't know what sort of administration planning has gone into the drumbeat of well-orchestrated, ever more intense claims that Iran is the source of all our ills in Iraq, and directly responsible for a striking percentage of U.S. military deaths there. Recently, according to the New York Times, "senior officers in the American division that secures the capital said that 73 percent of fatal and other harmful attacks on American troops in the past year were caused by roadside bombs planted by so-called 'special groups'" (a euphemism for Iranian-trained groups of Shiite militiamen).

We don't have a full accounting of the many carefully guided tours of Iraq given to inside-the-Beltway think-tank figures like Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution, former military figures, journalists, pundits, and congressional representatives, all involving special meet-and-greet contacts with Petraeus and his top commanders, all leading to upbeat assessments of the surge. We don't have the logs of our surge commander's visitors these last months, but we know, anecdotally at least, that, during this period, no reporter, no matter how minor, seemed incapable of securing a little get-together time to experience the general's special charm.

Put everything we do know, and enough that we suspect, together and you get our last surge year-plus in the U.S. as a selling/propaganda campaign par excellence. The result has been a mix of media good news about "surge success," especially in "lowering violence," and no news at all as the Iraq story grew boringly humdrum and simply fell off the front pages of our papers and out of the TV news (as well as out of the Democratic Congress). This was, of course, a public relations bonanza for an administration that might otherwise have appeared fatally wounded. Think, in the president's terminology, of victory -- not over Shiite or Sunni insurgents in Iraq, but, once again, over the media here at home.

None of this should surprise anyone. The greatest skill of the Bush administration has always been its ability to market itself on "the home front." From September 14, 2001 on, through all those early "mission accomplished" years, it was on the home front, not in Afghanistan or Iraq, that administration officials worked hardest, pacifying the media, rolling out their own "products," and establishing the rep of their leader and "wartime" Commander-in-Chief. As White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card explained candidly enough to the New York Times, when it came to the launching, in September 2002, of a campaign to convince Congress and the public that an invasion of Iraq should be approved: "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August."

Falling Upwards

As a general and a personality, Petraeus fit the particular marketing mentality of this administration perfectly. Graduating from West Point too late for Vietnam -- he wrote his doctoral thesis on that war -- he had, before the President's invasion, taken part only in "peacekeeping" operations in places like Haiti. In March 2003, a two-star general, he crossed the Kuwaiti border as commander of the 101st Airborne Division. After Baghdad fell, his troops occupied Mosul, a relative quiet city to the north, largely untouched by invasion or war. There, he gained a reputation (at least in the U.S.) for having a special affinity for Iraqis and for applying top-notch, outreach-oriented counterinsurgency tactics.

In those early months, he always seemed to have a writer in tow. In 2004-2005, for his next tour of duty -- already with the ear of the President and of Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz -- he returned to Iraq as the Newsweek Can-He-Save-It guy. His giant task was to "stand up" Iraqi security forces. Again, he had writers in tow. The Washington Post's columnist David Ignatius, for instance, twice paid extended visits to the general during that tour, returning from helicoptering around the Iraqi countryside all aglow and writing glowingly of the job Petraeus was doing (as he would again over the years, as so many other journalists and commentators would, too).

The general himself wasn't exactly shy on the subject of his accomplishments. He wrote, for instance, a strategically well-placed op-ed in the Washington Post in September 2004, just as the administration was rolling out another "product," the President's run for a second term. In it, with just enough caveats to cover himself professionally, he waxed positive about the glories of Iraqi soldiers standing up. It was a piece filled with words like "progress" and "optimism," just the sort of thing a President trying to outrun a bunch of Iraqi insurgents to the November 4th finish line might like to see in print in his hometown paper. The general picked up his third star on this tour of duty.

Next came a stint at home where he oversaw the rewriting of the Army's counterinsurgency manual, while touting himself as the expert of experts on that subject, too. And then, of course, in February 2007, a fourth star in hand, he took charge of the U.S. command in Iraq for its surge moment.

Last week, of course, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates appointed him head of the Pentagon's Central Command with responsibility for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for our proxy war in Somalia. His duties will soon stretch from North Africa into Central Asia. The appointment, however, came after the fact. By then, as George W. Bush's personal general, he had already left the actual Centcom commander, Adm. William "Fox" Fallon in the dust. The President dealt with him directly, bypassing the Centcom commander; and, even before Fallon's ignominious resignation, Petraeus was already traveling the Middle East as, essentially, the President's personal representative, engaging in acts normally reserved for the head of Centcom. His appointment was seconded by Presidential candidate John McCain ("I think he is by far the best-qualified individual to take that job…"), signaling the degree to which the Bush administration is now preparing optimistically for McCain's war (or, alternatively, for Obama's hell).

But here's the strange thing when you look more carefully at Petraeus's record (as others have indeed done over these last years), the actual results -- in Iraq, not Washington -- for each of his previous assignments proved dismal. What the record shows is a man who, after each tour of duty, seemed to manage to make it out of town just ahead of the posse, so that someone else always took the fall.

On his time in Mosul, former ambassador Peter Galbraith offered this description:


"As the American commander in Mosul in 2003 and 2004, he earned adulatory press coverage… for taming the Sunni-majority city. Petraeus ignored warnings from America's Kurdish allies that he was appointing the wrong people to key positions in Mosul's local government and police. A few months after he left the city, the Petraeus-appointed local police commander defected to the insurgency while the Sunni Arab police handed their weapons and uniforms over en masse to the insurgents."

Mosul has remained a hotspot of insurgency ever since. On his next tour, when it came to all the "progress" training the Iraqi army, let Rod Nordland, the author of that "fawning" -- his retrospective adjective, not mine -- Newsweek cover piece of 2004, suggest an obituary, as he did in 2007:


"[Petraeus] rose to fame not by his achievements but by his success in selling them as achievements. He's first of all a great communicator… Training the Iraqi military and shifting responsibility to them was the mantra Petraeus sold to hundreds of credulous reporters and hundreds of even more credulous visiting CODELs (congressional delegations)… By the time he left, the training program was clearly on its way to spectacular failure. By the end of last year that had become received wisdom; it became convenient for the brass to blame the fiasco on the politically less popular and media-friendless Gen. George Casey. Entire brigades of police had to be pulled off the street and retrained because they were evidently riddled with death squads and in some cases even with insurgents. The Iraqi Army was all but useless, a feeble patient kept on life support by the American military."

Just recently, in hearings before Congress, Petraeus himself introduced two new words to describe the post-surge security situation in Iraq: "fragile and reversible." Take that as a tip for the future. Fragile indeed. The surge landscape the general helped create has, from the beginning, been flammable and unstable in the extreme. It has, in recent weeks, been threatening to break down in Shiite civil strife, even as, under an American aegis, the Sunnis have been rearming and reorganizing for the day when they can take back a Baghdad that was largely cleansed of their ethnic compatriots during the surge months. Americans are once again dying in increasing numbers (though little attention has yet been paid to this in the media), as are Iraqis. It will be a miracle if post-surge Iraq doesn't come apart before November 4, 2008, not to say the end of George Bush's term in January.

The problem is: Putting a face -- that is, a mask -- on something has nothing to do with changing it in any essential way, no matter how you brand it and no matter who's listening to you elsewhere. This August or September, when the general takes over at Centcom, he will leave behind (as he has before) the equivalent of an IED-mined stretch of Iraqi roadside ready to explode, possibly under the coming U.S. presidential election. It remains to be seen whether he will once again have made it out of town in the nick of time and relatively unscathed.

The miracle, of course, was that, so late in the game, the American media swallowed the President's (and the general's) propaganda on the surge campaign which, on the face of it, was ludicrous. Stranger still, they did so for almost a year before the situation started to fray visibly enough for our TV networks and major papers to take notice. For that year, most of them thought they saw a brass band playing fabulously when there was hardly a snare drum in sight.

That result may be a public-relations man's dream, but it was thanks to a con man's art. The question is: Can the President make it back to Texas before the bottom falls out in Iraq? And will the general continue to fall ominously upward?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Short Week

and this shorts wearer is ready for today to be done so he can get on with the weekend

come on clock be my friend

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Tomgram: 12 Reasons to Get Out of Iraq

Unraveling Iraq
12 Answers to Questions No One Is Bothering to Ask about Iraq
By Tom Engelhardt

Can there be any question that, since the invasion of 2003, Iraq has been unraveling? And here's the curious thing: Despite a lack of decent information and analysis on crucial aspects of the Iraqi catastrophe, despite the way much of the Iraq story fell off newspaper front pages and out of the TV news in the last year, despite so many reports on the "success" of the President's surge strategy, Americans sense this perfectly well. In the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, 56% of Americans "say the United States should withdraw its military forces to avoid further casualties" and this has, as the Post notes, been a majority position since January 2007, the month that the surge was first announced. Imagine what might happen if the American public knew more about the actual state of affairs in Iraq -- and of thinking in Washington. So, here, in an attempt to unravel the situation in ever-unraveling Iraq are twelve answers to questions which should be asked far more often in this country:

read the 12 reasons here

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Summer Of Love

Sunday April 20, 2008
The Observer

Twenty years ago acid house and a new drug arrived in Britain's clubs to incite the biggest revolution in youth culture since the Sixties' summer of love. The key members of the scenes in London and Manchester talk DayGlo grins and dancing in fountains with Luke Bainbridge


At the start of 1988, the London club scene was ripe for change. Rare groove and hip hop had dominated for a few years, but a select few DJs and clubs were popularising a new music called acid house. The two formative clubs were Shoom and Future, run by Danny Rampling and Paul Oakenfold, inspired by an infamous trip to Ibiza the previous summer.
Danny Rampling (DJ and founder of Shoom): You will always get people saying 'My mate played "acid house" back in 1984,' and some of the records had been around for a couple of years, but it wasn't until 1988 that it exploded and took the whole country by storm. Myself, Nicky Holloway, Johnny Walker and Paul Oakenfold had a complete revelation in Amnesia the summer before and were totally inspired. I had a crystal-clear vision of what I wanted to create back in England, and I'm sure the others both felt the same.

Carl Cox (DJ): I supplied the sound system for the first two Shoom club nights. Danny Rampling asked me to come down because he knew I was already into the music. It was in a fitness centre on Southwark Street in south London, but what happened in there was like nothing that had gone before. This whole rare groove movement had lasted for years in London but it couldn't really go any further, whereas house music pointed the way forward.

Terry Farley (DJ and founder of Boys Own fanzine): At first you just had little pockets of people who knew about acid house. The very first people to get into it were those from London, Manchester and Sheffield who had been out working in Ibiza in the summers of 1986 and '87 and been exposed to it there.

Pete Tong (DJ): At that stage what we were playing was part acid house, part balearic and part rare groove.

Mark Moore (S'Express): It was a tiny little scene at first and felt really special. It had so much energy. At the time London was really into rare groove and hip hop and some people were saying house music is just not right for London. I remember saying if the drug of choice changes, people will get into the music, because the drug of choice then was weed. And people just laughed at me.

Wayne Anthony (promoter of Genesis raves): I had taken ecstasy in Tenerife the summer before, but it hadn't really done anything for me. Then someone took me to Future one night. I didn't really know what to expect. I turned up in a three grand suit! Everyone looked like they had just come back from Ibiza. I had half an E and was totally euphoric. There was a huge positive energy being given out by everyone and I just knew it was something special. I knew it could change my life.

Originating in Chicago in the early Eighties, house music took its name from a club called the Warehouse. What became known as acid house was characterised by the alien sounds of the 303 synth on tracks such as Phuture's 'Acid Trax', and wasn't a reference to LSD, as some assumed. But the arrival from Amsterdam of a new drug had a huge impact.

Mark Moore: It definitely took ecstasy to change things. People would take their first ecstasy and it was almost as if they were born again. They suddenly got it: 'Oh my God, this is amazing!' You could watch these people walk into the club as one person and walk out as a different person at the end of the night.

We did think: 'Wow, this is going to change the entire universe. We are going to stop wars; we are going to stop people being repressed in other countries. We are going to elevate to a whole new level of consciousness.' There was this very spiritual side to it originally.

Nicky Holloway (DJ): The ecstasy and the music came together. It was all part of the package. People who hadn't done ecstasy didn't really get it, and as soon as they did an E they got it. That may sound a little sad, but there's no way acid house would have taken off the way it did without ecstasy.

Terry Farley: People were evangelical about Shoom. They saw Danny as some sort of acid house Billy Graham figure. I remember one girl telling me she could see his aura as he DJ'd, this glow around his head [laughs].

Phil Hartnoll (Orbital): It definitely came together, the drugs and the music as part of the same package. If you look back through history, new music is quite often associated with a new drug, isn't it?

Danny Rampling: The people who had been in Ibiza had brought back a bit more of a hippy-ish look - and the clubs were so hot because a lot of them were in smoky basements full of strobe lights. So, naturally, people changed their dress sense and started weating baggier clothes.

Nicky Holloway: There was no game plan, everything just seemed to come together in a way that it never has since really, from the music right down to the dress sense. Nothing like this 'new rave' scene now, which no one can pretend is really anything apart from what journalists write. There's no scene there.

Pete Tong: It was all one love, everyone together. Anyone can dance all of a sudden, freedom of expression. Dress down, not up. Converse trainers, smiley T-shirts - a sort of tribalism took over. Everyone was happy to be the same.

In the north of England, DJs were also spreading the acid house word, not least in Manchester.

Mike Pickering (T-Coy, M-People): There was quite a north-south divide at the start. People were dancing to house music for a year in Manchester before they were in London, because London was so steeped in the rare groove scene. The initial northern house movement was basically Graeme Park at the Garage in Nottingham and me at the Haçienda. I remember I did an exchange with a DJ called Simon Goth, who had a club called Fever at the Astoria. I came down in January 1988 and I distinctly remember playing [Derrick May, aka Rhythim is Rhythim's] 'Strings of Life' and getting booed. People were standing with their arms folded and someone passed me this note saying 'Why are you playing this Chicago homo music?'

Jon Da Silva (Haçienda DJ): It was still quite rare to hear the music then. If you heard someone playing acid house in a car, you would cross the street to hear it, and if you heard it coming out of someone's house, you'd want to know who lived there.

Dave Haslam (Haçienda DJ and author): In January 1988, I bumped into Tony Wilson in Manchester. I'd been in Piccadilly Records and he asked what I'd bought and I said, 'Acid house', and he picked up on the drug reference and asked, 'Is it music people take drugs to listen to?' and I said, 'No, not necessarily.' But if he had asked me the same question in March I would have said, 'Yes, usually.'

Manchester has always had a big drug-taking music community and ecstasy use had spread through 1987, but it was in the first few months of 1988 that it just swamped the Haçienda.

Graham Massey (808 State): For the first few months of 1988, it still felt like there were just a few of you doing this new thing. Me and [A Guy Called] Gerald [original member of 808 State] would get the National Express to go to Aberdeen Art College or somewhere to play live and they would project porn on to you. We didn't quite fit in just yet. Then we started to get booked at soul all-dayers and we'd always be on the bill with Adamski and Guru Josh.

Mike Pickering: Nude was the first big night for acid house at the Haçienda. It had started in 1986 and I gradually introduced some acid house. By 1988 we had about 1,600 people in there and when ecstasy hit it was like a Mexican wave that swept through the club over a three-week period. Suddenly everyone was on ecstasy. I could just stop a record and put my hands in the air, and the place would erupt. The whole club would explode.

John McCready (DJ and journalist with The Face): It wasn't like anything you'd ever experienced in a club before. The clubs we'd been to previously were full of apprentices in pressed white shirts on the pull. Girls were huddled in groups like disorientated wildebeest. At the Haçienda it was almost as if a generation breathed a sigh of relief, having been relieved of the pressure of the chase. The baggy clothes desexualised the whole environment. The rising heat from 2,000 people dancing, even at the bar, in the queue for the toilets, damped down everyone. We all looked crap. If you held onto on the handrail on the balcony above the dancefloor, your palms would be dripping in accumulated human sweat. Many of the records talked about dancing as working, like 'Work it to the Bone', and suddenly the original intentions of the music started to make sense. You could feel the down when the music stopped. The room quickly went cold as all the exit doors were thrown open and we were herded out. Back to forbidding reality. Until next Friday. The whole experience was always far more addictive than the drugs. You started wanting it all to go on for ever.

Dave Haslam: Ecstasy intensified the experience and also meant the crowd were pretty responsive to dancing to music they had not heard before, which was very liberating. Although sometimes I think you could have played a recording of a Hoover and 2,000 people would have screamed with joy. Mostly when you DJ you're faced with a crowd waiting to be entertained and it's your challenge to whip them up into a frenzy. In that era it was different; you were faced with 2,000 baying people on the verge of their heads exploding. It was more like you had to hold them back, like someone trying to guide wild horses.

Danny Rampling: A lot of the old London crowd hadn't got it at first. When I played gigs in regular clubs, people were like, 'He's lost his mind! What's going on here? This is the work of the devil, I don't want anything to do with it!'

So many people dissed it in the early stages, at the tail end of 1987, and then, all of a sudden, people's enthusiasm for the whole experience just exploded in a matter of weeks. I can still see the faces of people in some of the clubs, the look of bewilderment was just astonishing. It was like, 'God, you don't know what we're experiencing here, you don't know what you're missing out on.' Subsequently, a lot of those people joined the party, around the late summer of 1988, particularly a lot of the old rare groove and funky crowd. They weren't going to miss out on the greatest thing that had come along in years.

Having run Future in the back room of Heaven, in early April, Paul Oakenfold opened a new club called Spectrum in the main room of the club, one of the largest club venues in central London at the time. Some viewed it as over-ambitious, but it was an almost instant success, the clearest demonstration of how quickly the acid house scene was exploding.

Mark Moore: When Paul Oakenfold opened Spectrum on a Monday night, everyone laughed and thought it would never get off the ground. But the first night 200 people came and had a brilliant time and within weeks there were queues around the block.

Paul Oakenfold: I think the moment we moved to Spectrum in the main club was when we realised just how big this thing was going to be.

Fabio (Radio One DJ): My first proper exposure to acid house was at the first night of Spectrum. Steve Jackson, the DJ, had told us about it, but when we got down there it was pretty cold and there was a massive queue and we couldn't get in for hours. In the end Steve Jackson said to the bouncer 'Don't you know who I am?', and the bouncer said, 'Someone call a doctor, this guy doesn't know how he is.' But they let us in, and I was just completely blown away. I was a soulboy really, and I'd been through the rare groove thing, but this was something completely different. I couldn't believe the power of it. [Paul] Oakenfold was up there like a God, DJing surrounded by lasers and things, and everyone was off their heads. It was like stepping into another world. After one night I was completely and utterly hooked.

30 April: S'Express scored 1988's first acid house hit single, reaching No. 1 with 'Theme From S'Express'.

Mark Moore: I wrote the song about six months previously. I just thought they'd play it at Shoom and Future and it would be a cult record. We sent out promos but couldn't get it on the radio; Radio 1 refused to play it. Then the first week it came out it went to number 27 or 28, then the next week it went to three and Radio 1 went 'Uh-oh, we're going to look really stupid if this goes to No. 1,' so they started playing it. And it went to No. 1.

Graham Massey: It did feel like a clean page in music, like the board had been wiped clean. We managed to get some very odd-sounding records in the charts as well. The music sounded very automatic, as if the music was making the music, rather than people. You can see that in some of the early 808 State stuff like Newbuild

4 June: Nicky Holloway opened the Trip at the Astoria, in London's West End, the first big legal Saturday night acid house club.

Nicky Holloway: I was offered the chance to do something at the Astoria, because they had a seven-week gap in their diary when someone cancelled. So I thought if we could close off the upstairs we could maybe fill the downstairs part of the club, which was 600 people. But on the opening night we had 1,200 people.

We called it the Trip and the first night was 4 June 1988. It was just really lucky timing really. The only two style magazines at that time were i-D and the Face, and they both had huge features in their June issue on acid house, which came out the week before we launched the Trip. I had no idea they were coming out, but it couldn't have been better timing for me. It meant we were full from day one.

Mike Pickering: Nicky Holloway booked me to DJ and T-Coy to play at the Trip. This was only six months after I got booed at the same venue, but when I came back down the crowd were all in bandanas and smiley T-shirts, trance dancing... and I played what was probably 70-80 per cent of the same records, and they went mental.

Nicky Holloway: At the Trip, people would refuse to go home at the end of the night. The roads would all be blocked, and people would be dancing in the fountains at the bottom of Centrepoint . The police would just be laughing because they had absolutely no idea what was going on. They didn't know what ecstasy was at this point, so they just couldn't understand. They just thought it was funny, because they could see that no one was hurting anyone else.

Fabio: It wasn't just the drugs. I think the timing and the social aspect was just as important as the drugs. It's difficult to remember now what Thatcher's Britain felt like. A lot of people were unemployed and bored, and felt very distant from everything else that was going on in society. A lot of people were searching for something, for a way out. It's difficult to recall how drab things were at the time.

Nicky Holloway: I remember standing in the club at its peak and thinking it is never going to get better than this, and it never did really, not for me. For the first time in my life I was not only DJing at the biggest and best club night, I was running it. I had to pinch myself. It was just mad. Everyone just went nuts. We all knew it was our Woodstock, our Sixties thing. We knew we were part of something that people would be talking about 20 years later, and here we are. It's amazing that most of the people who were part of the scene then are still making a living out of it now.

Fabio: Even when it really began to take off in the summer it still felt like there was only a few thousand people who were in on it. Most young people didn't have a clue. You would come out of all-night parties and bump into people in the petrol station who were on their way to work, and they would look at us like we were zombies!

13 July: The Ibiza-themed Hot night launched on Wednesdays at the Haçienda, with a swimming pool on the dancefloor and free ice pops.

Paul Cons (promoter at the Haçienda): Tony Wilson used to pay me to go to New York for a month each year for 'research' purposes, and the previous year I'd basically spent it all in the Paradise Garage on ecstasy, so I knew what was coming, and just had this idea to launch the new night with a summer beach party theme.

Paul Mason (Haçienda manager): Myself and Fred, the maintenance manager, erected this huge pool and connected all the hosepipes up we could find to the sinks behind the bars, then went to the pub for a few pints of Stella. We came back three hours later and there was just this puddle in the bottom of the pool. We ended up having to get someone to connect us up to the main water supply. Of course the next morning we then had this swimming pool full of tonnes of water in the middle of the dancefloor and we had a bloody gig that night so had to empty it quickly somehow. Peter Hook [from New Order] turned up in the afternoon and said, 'I know what to do, my kids have got a paddling pool which is the same design, just smaller. You just take one of the panels out - it's much quicker that way.' But we lost control of it and tonnes of water burst out of the cargo doors of the club. This little old dear was walking past the club pulling her shopping trolley and it washed her about 300 yards down the road.

Jon Da Silva: The first couple of weeks of Hot were reasonably 'normal', but from the third week it was mayhem. It was almost scary. I came out of the DJ booth and there was this guy with dreadlocks who was almost hysterical, crying and laughing at the same time, just blown away by the atmosphere. You almost felt like you were missing out by DJing, you wanted to be on the floor.

Hana Borrowman (Haçienda regular): I'd just turned 16 and left school when I first went to the Haçienda. It just turned everything upside down. Within weeks I'd left home and ducked out of college for a year to take it all up full-time. At £25, though, ecstasy was pretty prohibitive for us, so we all dabbled in halves and even quarters.

Dave Haslam: I was DJing at the Haçienda one evening and a girl came into the DJ box, lay down and took all her clothes off. She was naked, and started pulling at my trousers. I was wise enough to know it was E taking effect, rather than anything to do with me, but it was just one of those things; there was a lot of craziness in the air.

Hana Borrowman: The clubs soon became just the warm-up for the evening's events. Most of the real 'rave' experiences came after - at the after-hours parties in the makeshift venues and shebeens, like the Kitchen in Hulme. At 16, on small does of strong ecstasy, climbing piss-stained staircases towards the barely muffled basslines of massive speakers and entering the neon gloom of a barely lit council flat was like entering a futuristic fantasy. We used to dress in Converse booties, baggy sweats, Kickers, baseball caps and rucksacks stuffed with whistles, sweets and toys to entertain our fellow hallucinating party-goers. You would end up sitting cross-legged on the concrete floor of a car park, falling in love, staring pupil-to-dilated pupil into the eyes of boys with bowl haircuts.

Mike Pickering: That whole period just felt so special because no one had a clue what we were doing. The authorities didn't have a clue. We used to come out of the Haçienda when it finished and go back to the Kitchen in Hulme, which was just two old council flats knocked together. Funnily enough, I bumped into Noel Gallagher recently and we were reminiscing about the Kitchen and saying hardly anyone mentions it.

One of the first big raves in Manchester was put on behind Piccadilly Station by Chris and Antony Donnelly. Bizarrely, it was directly opposite what is now, 20 years on, the Warehouse Project. The coppers didn't turn up until about 9am when we were sweeping up, and it was just piles of water bottles. The police were like, 'What's been going on here?' and we said, 'We've just had a private party, officer, but as you can see there was no alcohol, and Tony Wilson from Granada Reports came down as well,' and they were like, 'OK, fine.' They didn't have a clue.

Jon Da Silva: 'Voodoo Ray' was the sound of the summer of 1988 for Manchester. One of the other DJs, Dean Johnson, had told me about this music [A Guy Called] Gerald was making which sounded incredible, and I'd actually driven round Moss Side looking for him and his studio to hear it. Then one night at Hot he appeared behind the DJ booth with a 12-inch of 'Voodoo Ray'. I stuck it straight on, which you would never do, and it was just amazing.

In August, Tony Colston-Hayter hosted one of the first big warehouse raves at Wembley Studios in London, under the name Apocalypse Now, and let ITN News film the event, the first time news cameras had been let into a rave. On 17 August, the Sun published a story about drug-taking at Heaven, owned by Richard Branson, claiming that 'junkies flaunt their craving by wearing T-shirts bearing messages like "Can You Feel It?" & "Drop Acid Not Bombs"'. Branson gave an interview to ITN denying any link between the music and drug taking, although he referred to it as 'acid rock'.

Danny Rampling: It was a bit of a worrying time really. All of a sudden, it was horror stories all round - 'This is going to be the death of our children. Who are the people responsible?' - and, of course, I was responsible for it, with a handful of other individuals. My wife at the time, Jenni, said, 'No matter what you do, do not become a spokesperson for this movement, because you will just get nailed,' and she was so right. Tony Colston-Hayter became a spokesperson and ended up with MI6 on his tail and his phone was bugged. It was a pretty frightening time.

Paul Oakenfold: As usual, the tabloids blew everything up and sensationalised it. They even tried to use the drugs issue, which was fabricated, to put pressure on Richard Branson to close down Spectrum, but, to his credit, he wasn't having any of it.

Despite, or perhaps because of the tabloids' interest, acid house parties got bigger and bigger. On 10 November, Wayne Anthony held the first Genesis warehouse party in Aldgate, east London.

Wayne Anthony: I had already worked in the music business with Mel & Kim, and, once I'd been to a few acid house parties and saw it was just a sound system and a few lights, could see there was an opportunity for someone to do it properly. A lot of the parties were in derelict buildings and quite unsafe, so I thought there was a gap to do this a bit safer. The police didn't have a clue, so once you knew how to placate them it was quite easy. We would look for a warehouse that was up for let and in decent condition, and then we would break in. The only other promoter who was trying to do it on the same scale as us was Tony Colston-Hayter and his Sunrise outfit. Our first party was a couple of hundred people and then the second, a week later, was over a thousand people - and it was amazing.

Danny Rampling: When it exploded it was taken out of the hands of the original people, which caused a funny Animal Farm-type situation. Previously it had all been 'We're all equal, love and peace' and all of a sudden, there was a bit of snobbery and people taking the mick out of these newcomers who didn't quite get it, and calling them Acid Teds and Acid Sheep. People were pissed off that they didn't have control over it any more, but you can't control these things once they explode.

Mark Moore: When the big raves started the elite would be like, 'Oh, my God, you didn't go there, did you?' They really looked down on it; they thought they were just full of the hoi polloi. But if you look back at footage of those first raves everyone is completely off their heads but looks so innocent and natural. It was beautiful and I thought, 'This is a great atmosphere, there's nothing wrong with this.'

Wayne Anthony: Within a matter of weeks we had become the biggest promoters. We found this amazing warehouse venue in Hackney, and on Christmas Eve we had nearly 1,000 people in there. I was up all night and went round to my Mum's for Christmas dinner, but didn't end up eating much. Then we had another one on Boxing Day and 2,000 people turned up. We had quite a few celebrities that night, including Matt Dillon, Milli Vanilli and Boy George. Some of the West End's biggest club owners came down to, in their own words, 'see what all the fuss is about'. They'd come to see where all their punters had disappeared to and were gutted to find they'd lost them to a party in a warehouse on a back street in east London.

We then joined forces with Tony and Sunrise for New Year's Eve in the same venue, which was the biggest and best acid party yet.

As the party continued into 1989, the focus switched more towards large-scale parties, sometimes involving 10,000 revellers, held in either warehouses or fields. Many took place around the M25, and thus became known as Orbital raves (from which Paul Hartnoll and his older brother, Phil, took the name of their band). In the north, similarly, the emphasis moved towards large raves, most famously in Blackburn. But for many of the founding fathers of the scene, nothing would ever quite recapture those heady early days.

Phil Hartnoll: The thing I remember about the time was just jumping around with excitement about the whole scene really. Just loving it. I had never really wanted to be in a band. I was just plodding along with my brother and really interested in synthesisers as a hobby. Then we thought, 'Shall we try and put a track out on record?' And we've never looked back really. I still can't believe my luck.

Liam Howlett (the Prodigy): I remember bumping into an old school friend on the train and he was like, 'You've got to come to one of these acid house parties,' so I went down to one late in the summer of 1988, but it didn't really grab me. I'd come from a hip hop background and the music was a bit too trancey for me; I was more into beats. Also, someone had told me that if you had allergies then you should stear clear of ecstasy. I don't know where the hell they got that from, but I had hayfever so that put me off taking ecstasy for a bit, which probably didn't help. To be honest, I was more into the rave scene that exploded the year after - that made much more sense to me.

Mark Moore: I don't think kids nowadays quite get how revolutionary and countercultural it felt. It changed, and stopped being about a holy sacrosanct where you knew you were going to go out and expand your consciousness and also have a fucking brilliant time. It became about just getting off your head, which was sad really.

Dave Haslam: Breaking down social and musical barriers was an important part of what was achieved. In the late Eighties, courtesy of Thatcher, communities had been fragmented, ghettoised, marginalised; but on the Haçienda dancefloor those divisions, that horrible selfishness, seemed to melt away. The best music revolutions have always been about synthesis. That's been the case ever since the birth of rock'n'roll; Elvis bringing together white country music and black rhythm and blues. We had that synthesis; influences, people, coming together.

Danny Rampling: It changed a lot of people's lives for ever. The strength of the whole experience was more than just going to a club and listening to music. It changed a million mindsets. It had a profound effect on anyone who experienced a night in a warehouse, a field, a basement or a club. And people have enduring memories to this day, quite rightly so. It was an absolutely amazing experience for a whole generation. It completely deconstructed the way we were thinking back then. If you look at youth culture now, it's just gang culture and violence and knives and just wasting that youthful energy. If only we could have it all again, because youth culture is screaming out for positive change. It really is.


Acid house essentials

Smiley faces

Danny Rampling: I picked up on the smiley face logo from a fashion designer called Barnsley. I ran into him one night when he was covered in these smiley face badges and I thought, 'Wow! That's it! The smiley face completely signifies what this movement is all about - big smiles and positivity.' I think we first used them on the flyer for the third Shoom, and everyone picked up on it.

Lucozade and water

Danny Rampling: Everyone would just drink water and Lucozade. Unbeknown to Lucozade, the rave scene had taken their drink and used it as the drink of choice.

Dave Haslam: I remember DJing one New Year's Eve at one club and it was full, and everyone was in there for five, six hours. Afterwards the bar manager told me he'd sold just one pint of lager despite the amount of people present in the club.

Ice pops

Hana Borrowman: At the Haçienda, Hot were really good about little details. Just when the hallucinogens were kicking in and the dancefloor was so full with smoke you couldn't see or breathe, they'd hand out ice pops to everyone.

Mark Moore: Jenni and Danny Rampling used to hand out ice pops at Shoom with gay abandon to the parched and needy.

Dungarees and baggy clothes

Danny Rampling: A new dress sense was created simply in reaction to the fact that the heat was so sweltering inside the clubs, so people started wearing baggy clothes like big T-shirts and dungarees to cope with the heat. It was more about practicality and comfort than a styled look - dungarees, larger T-shirts and more ethnic clothes. It was quite anti-style because London was quite high fashion at that time.

Whistles

Hana Borrowman: Instead of jewellery, our accessories were toys and other playthings. Whistles on a string, lollipops and a Vicks Sinex. One girl always used to wear a dummy around her neck.

Jon Savage selects the definitive acid house tracks



1 Fingers Inc. Mystery of Love (club version), 1986

One of the very first house records, this is one of the very greatest. Over six and a half minutes of syncopated bass, spectral handclaps, percolating bongos and the simplest of synthesiser melodies, Robert Owens whispers the new gospel: 'Love love love, love love love.' It sounded like nothing else in spring 1986, and it still seduces, 22 years on.

Fingers Inc - Owens, Larry Heard and Ron Wilson - released a string of brilliant records under a variety of names during the late Eighties: the vocal 'Can You Feel It', which became an acid staple, 'Donnie' as the It, and 'Washing Machine' as Mr Fingers. Some of these were collected on two essential albums, Another Side and Ammnesia, while Robert Owens had a solo hit with 'I'll Be Your Friend'.

2 Sleezy D I've Lost Control, 1986

With the incessant burbling of the Roland TB 303 bass synthesiser underpinning a heavily treated vocal, this Marshall Jefferson production helped to define the intense acid sound. An uncannily accurate depiction of a bad trip, it ushered in a new age of dark side psychedelia.

3 The Children Freedom, 1987

Beginning with a yell, this classic track features a stonking bassline before settling into an impassioned gay rap: 'We need to come together, I'm sure it can be done. Divided as individuals, united as one.' The deep anger is all the more impressive because it's so restrained.

4 Phuture Your Only Friend, 1987

On the flip of the track that gave acid its name - the 12-minute-long 'Acid Tracks' - is this bad drug nightmare. 'Cocaine speaking,' announces the treated voice, 'I can make you do anything for me.' Like many early acid tracks, this is severely minimal.

5 Maurice Joshua I Got a Big Dick, 1988

If you've got it, flaunt it, and the only words to be heard over the chattering percussion and rising bassline are the four words of the title: cut up, phrased and stretched to the limit. Well, what else do you need to know?

6 Jamie Principle Baby Wants to Ride, 1988

This club hit was greatly enhanced by a monstrous nine-minute 'sex mix', which laid down this secular 'revelation' in true testifying terms. Oscillating between breathy raps and Prince-like squeals, Jamie gets down and dirty at around five minutes and doesn't stop: 'I wanna fuck you all night long.'

7 A Guy Called Gerald Voodoo Ray, 1988

Gerald's enduring work of genius by itself justifies the whole Madchester hype and remains one of the greatest records to ever come out of that city. Featuring trance-like female vocals and clonking synthesisers, 'Voodoo Ray' was melodic enough to enter the Top 20. Smash Hits even printed the lyrics.

8 Black Riot A Day in the Life, 1988

Black Riot was only one of Todd Terry's aliases, and his funky, sampled breaks with a strong Latin flavour defined the New York sound of the time. 'A Day in the Life' has the most brutal synth riff possible, and snatches of Manu Dibango's 'Soul Makossa' that hark back to the earliest days of disco.

9 Pet Shop Boys The Sound of the Atom Splitting, 1988

The flip of Top 5 hit 'Left to My Own Devices', this was the Pets at their weirdest. A jam on the 'Devices' line - 'Che Guevara and Debussy to a disco beat' - it boasted a memorably creepy vocal sample, its hissed lyrics catching the mood of the time.

10 Baby Ford A Place of Dreams and Magic, 1990

Ford made his name in 1988 with two of the earliest UK acid records, 'Oochy Koochy (F.U.Baby Yeh Yeh)' and 'Chikki Chikki Ah! Ah!'. This is the lead track from his first album, The World of Baby Ford, and a proper song it is too, with Ford's voice pitched between wonder and ecstasy.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Daylight Saving

Sure doesn't feel like I'm being saved this morning...


It's dark, its chilly and I want to go back to bed


Friday, April 04, 2008

It would indeed be...

Featuring Bn1 (BMP and Brooke Casey

I really like RudeNot2, the booze is cheap by usual inner city standards, you can sit outside (and smoke), the people are varied and friendly, the music is varied and interesting and there's a BBQ....

Last one for the season, which indicates our changing weather and season :(

After RudeNot2 is the Dubstep Weekly... which depending on ones booze intake (ie how long I stay) is damn fine too. Me likes the Dubstep styles... interesting they be.

Shame the supper club has a crap sound system - the only bugger of the place/evening

Whoop whoop

Thursday, April 03, 2008

May the force be with you

Last night I was watching The Family Guy Presents Blue Harvest (good but not great), cheers Scott, and wondering what song I should share with you today... then it came to me... The Droids

Fabrice Cuitade was a young label manager at Barclay in the seventies. He founds Egg Records as a side project with a view to compete with Virgin (first artist signings include Heldon among others). Right after seeing "Star Wars" for the first time, he decided to make a concept album out of it.

From their album Star Peace comes part one of (Do You Have) The Force

Download

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

In Comedy timing is everything

This article if I'd recieved it yesterday morning would have been gold... today it lacks the punch of April 1st

Amusing it is anyways

Apple Buys Universal Music
Bob Lefsetz


"With the Net ablaze with talk of Jim Griffin's P2P licensing scheme, Steve Jobs has worked in secret to pull off the staggering, mind-bending, game-changing acquisition of Universal Music.

Despite Vivendi's public vote of confidence in its music operation, the brass of the conglomerate has been trying to unload its music asset for years. The constant acquisitions, of Sanctuary and publishing companies, was only window dressing. A paint job to make Universal appear to be a Goliath, when really it's a shrinking operation completely unprepared for the twenty first century.

You can't second-guess Vivendi here. There was no strategic fit. There's no synergy between water and music. And CD sales keep tanking. And despite Doug Morris' efforts to corner and disable Apple, only the opposite has occurred. The Cupertino company has gained in strength. So, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

As for Apple... The old saw was content is king. But savvy observers know that distribution is king. Which is why the major labels are screwed, for they no longer have a stranglehold on distribution. But if one owns both the content AND the distribution, one truly is king. It's akin to Terry McBride's concept of collapsing the copyrights. If you control everything, you don't have to ask for permission, you just act!

And starting April 15th, all Universal tracks at the iTunes Store will be fifteen cents. Steve wanted the price to be lower, rumor has it as low as nine cents, but he couldn't convince Marty Bandier and the rest of the publishers to lower their share, so fifteen cents it is.

Yes, while the labels have been clamoring for Apple to raise prices, Steve Jobs has accused the industry of greed, and has insisted on low uniform pricing, so as not to confuse the customer. Apple will continue to sell the other labels' wares for ninety nine cents, but Guy Hands has already signaled he's ready to join hands with Jobs, and although an announcement won't be forthcoming for a few weeks, it is believed EMI tracks will be fifteen cents by May 1st. As for Warner and Sony BMG... The fact that Edgar Bronfman has stopped pillorying Apple and his testified to Jobs' genius indicates he will go along with the price drop. But wonderers are wondering if Thomas H. Lee, et al, will bail on the company before this transaction is complete. With the stock tanking and the market in the crapper it might be time for them to pull the plug. Some analysts believe Bronfman and Lyor Cohen have already been informed of this sale. The renewal of their contracts at rich prices was their final reward, and purchased their silence. Actually, Warner tried to sell directly to Apple, but Steve said no. Warner's market share was not large enough, and Steve questioned the ongoing functionality of the company. Bronfman enlisted Jimmy Page to call Jobs, to plead for a deal, but Jimmy crossed Edgar by not agreeing to deliver a new Zeppelin album. And, Jobs is a Dylan fan anyway.

Which brings us to Sony BMG. Clive Davis had Charles Goldstuck type up an e-mail for the press, Clive being unable to operate a computer himself. Said statement indicated the soon to be octogenarian was thrilled to be in business with Mr. Wozniak. And offered a record deal for Steve's girlfriend, Kathy Griffin. The wrong Steve was too busy playing Segway polo to respond, but the Internet is ignoring Mr. Davis' faux pas the same way he ignores the Internet. As for Sony, Charlie Walk has indicated that the future of music is Verizon Wireless. That he's got a deal for Wyclef and Shakira to do a video a year for the mobile company. That he's the true innovator, and being younger than Jobs, he's planning to outlast him, just like Charlie outlasted Tommy Mottola, Michele Anthony and Donnie Ienner. Rick Rubin has not issued a statement. He can't be found. Rumor has it he's out of cell range, cutting Metallica's album for Warner. And the future is subscription anyway, righ t?

Maybe.

You will be able to buy tracks at iTunes for fifteen cents. But, you will also be able to acquire everything in the store for ten dollars a month, assuming you commit to a one year contract. Jobs is not convinced subscription is the future, but he does not want to appear a Luddite, so he's dipping his toe. There is truth to the rumor that TicketMaster insisted on doing the billing, charging convenience, facility and download at home fees, but Jobs stood firm. Jobs wants to usher in a new era, sans the intimidation and manipulation of the historical music business.

And that being the case, for the next twelve months, there will be a moratorium on lawsuits regarding the use of Universal music online. That's right, use U2 in your YouTube video. MySpace can stream entire tracks. Build your business on music's back. Jobs believes this unfettering of the assets will ultimately drive more income. He wants to dissociate the company from the Doug Morris era, when the old aphorism "If there's a hit, there's a writ.", ruled.

As for Mr. Morris, he has resigned from Universal effective immediately. He has purchased an interest in the Trans World retail operation and plans to buy radio stations from CBS. Still believing in the old game, Mr. Morris is looking to go back to his roots, researching radio records in secondary markets and blowing them up at physical retail.

Jimmy Iovine's resignation is also effective immediately. He's been out of the building mentally for over a year now anyway. What with hands in the movie business and Vegas. Jimmy tried to do a deal with Jobs, but Steve couldn't understand why he should pay Jimmy so much money if the behatted one's got so many side projects that Apple would not share in the revenue of.

Zach Horowitz didn't even do the deal. That was left to Bert Fields. Fearing being called to testify in the Pellicano trial and the decimation of his reputation, Bert wanted one big victory before he went to the Big House, if not in fact, then in Hollywood's mind. Bert lobbied Vivendi directly, squeezing Zach and the rest of the Universal bosses out completely. Furious about being left out of the deal, the executives felt humiliated, the same way David Geffen did when MCA kept him out of the loop in its sale to Matsushita.

So where does this leave Live Nation?

Live Nation has desperately been trying to sell itself. But it can't find any takers. Jobs laughed. He doesn't see any superstars on the horizon, no one to fill arenas, he wasn't biting. That's why Live Nation announced its deal with U2 on Monday, to try and remove some of the sting from being rebuffed, to try and win the press war. A likely story, Michael Rapino triumphing over Steve Jobs. Or should we say Michael Cohl...since he really runs the operation.

Madonna is furious. She lobbied Jobs directly to do a deal with Live Nation. Wanting to recover the fifty cents on the dollar she lost when Live Nation's stock tanked right after she signed her contract. She flew into Silicon Valley on a Gulfstream and insisted that Steve's kids play with Lourdes, which went fairly well, but when Madonna cued up a backing track and started to sing, Steve's progeny put their fingers in their ears and began crying. Saying they wanted the old lady to stop. That killed the deal right there. Although while exiting, the Material Girl shouted good luck getting Iggy Pop to do any commercials. But Steve didn't get the reference, having paid no attention to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, just like the rest of America.

Phil Anschutz has not contacted Jobs. AEG has stayed away. Anschutz is anti tech ever since Qwest. He doesn't want any prying eyes.

Jimmy Dolan tried to buy his way in, offering up Fuse and Knicks tickets, but Jobs said the Knicks sucked, and he's only be interested if Isiah was history. Offended, Dolan shook his fist and warned Jobs that when Cablevision merged with Comcast, he'd have the last laugh, throttling the iTunes Store's bandwidth. This is no idle threat, so it is believed Jobs will offer Dolan something. Starting with a Friday beer blast appearance for JD & The Straight Shot at 1 Infinite Loop.

But can Cablevision and Comcast merge? What about the FCC? What about antitrust? With the XM/Sirius merger approved, belief in business circles is all mergers will pass muster. That there's no barrier to entry, that consolidation is good for the consumer. Nothing is stopping you from recording your own music and establishing your own social networking site. You won't get on the homepage of iTunes, but you can build your own music storefront.

Or maybe you can't. Just like Jobs has refused to license OS X, effective June 1st, all online resale licenses for Universal music will be pulled. Amazon will immediately crater and Apple will rule the landscape. Steve will cloak this decision in some gobbledygook the public will buy, but all this power in one entity can't be good. Then again, are record labels going extinct? Could be. Since the price for Universal is rumored to be significantly under five billion dollars, indicating a fire sale. Guy Hands may believe there's a future in recorded music, but Vivendi certainly does not."

more here

Lefsetz: Apple Buys Universal Music Group Listening Post from Wired.com

The real funny thing would be if it was to happen anyways - it makes more sense than the current reality facing the recording industry thats for sure...

...and you know musicians and music fans would be better off

Sory again

The SonyBMG story reminded me of this....

Lawsuit Could Force RIAA to Reveal Secrets
By Eliot Van Buskirk March 06, 2008 1:00:04 PM

wired.com

Things will get very ugly over the next few months for the RIAA, if one disgruntled file sharing lawsuit victim gets her way.

Tanya Andersen, the single mother who filed a countersuit against the RIAA after the organization mistakenly sued her for sharing music online, attempted to hold it responsible for all sorts of heavy infractions ("RICO violations, fraud, invasion of privacy, abuse of process, electronic trespass, violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, negligent misrepresentation, the tort of 'outrage,' and deceptive business practices").

According to Mike Ratoza, a copyright lawyer with Bullivant, Houser and Bailey who teaches at the University of Oregon, Andersen is close to forcing the RIAA into the discovery phase of her countersuit, after having her original complaint dismissed on Feb. 19. Andersen's amended complaint, due March 14, will not be a layup, and there are no guarantees in litigation. But assuming her lawyer is able to craft the pleading to the judge's specifications, Andersen will have another chance to tilt at the RIAA windmill, with the case proceeding into the discovery phase. If that happens, the RIAA could be forced to release potentially incriminating details about its techniques for investigating alleged file sharers.

This information would likely be held under a confidential seal, but if lawsuits over mold, tobacco, and asbestos are any indication, the RIAA's secrets will likely leak out into the legal community at large, potentially culminating in a class-action lawsuit.

Once Tanya Andersen files her amended Complaint, which the RIAA is barred from contesting this time around, the organization could have to explain the following details by producing documents and allowing major-label anti-piracy executives to be deposed:
- How much the RIAA's lawyers make- Why the average file sharing settlement fee is $4-5K- How it decides which file sharers to sue, and which ones not to sue- Where the settlement money goes (i.e. whether any of it makes it to the artists)

If it turns out that the RIAA is paying its investigators (such as MediaSentry) a percentage of the settlements that result from their investigations, it is in even more trouble. That's illegal in many states, according to Ratoza, including New York.

Things could get even worse for the RIAA. Andersen isn't likely to be granted class action certification for her suit, because federal courts (where copyright-related proceedings take place) are not friendly to class-action suits. But another RIAA lawsuit victim could use the information divulged in Andersen's case to countersue the RIAA for specific allegations (fraud and RICO violations) in a state court, where class action certification is more likely.
Even without a class action lawsuit, the RIAA nutshell is likely to split wide open after Andersen's case hits the discovery phase, causing problems in subsequent cases. Ratoza expects the discovery phase in Andersen's case to start in about 90 days, and said it will last 4-6 months. The judge isn't likely to rule until early next year, but the RIAA's secrets could leak out a lot sooner.

Sony BMG's ahoy me hearties

"Sony BMG is no stranger to piracy. As one of the most vocal supporters of the RIAA and IFPI antipiracy efforts, the company has some experience hunting down and punishing consumers who don't pay for its products. The company is getting some experience on the other side of the table, however, now that it's being sued for software piracy.

PointDev, a French software company that makes Windows administration tools, received a call from a Sony BMG IT employee for support. After Sony BMG supplied a pirated license code for Ideal Migration, one of PointDev's products, the software maker was able to mandate a seizure of Sony BMG's assets. The subsequent raid revealed that software was illegally installed on four of Sony BMG's servers. The Business Software Alliance, however, believes that up to 47 percent of the software installed on Sony BMG's computers could be pirated.
These are some pretty serious—not to mention ironic—allegations against a company that's gone so far as to install malware on consumers' computers in the name of preventing piracy.

While PointDev is claiming €300,000 (over $475,000) in damages in its suit against Sony BMG, Agustoni Paul-Henry, PointDev's CEO, says (from a Google translation of a French report) that this is more about principle than money: "We are forced to watch every week if key software pirates are not [sic] on the Internet. We are a small company of six employees. Instead of trying to protect us, we could spend this time to develop ourselves." "

Sony BMG's hypocrisy: company busted for using warez


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A return of sorts

Its been quite sometime between visits and last night in a fit of boredom I fired up google earth after at least a year, did the updates and got down to some serious planet earth porn

Wow our planet is amazing

Or at least to these eyes

Places of interest the daktari's virtually visited:

China
Cambodia
Iraq
Stewart Island (New Zealand)
France
Canada
USA (mid west)
The southern oceans

I revisted all my old bookmarks, of which there aren't many and they include various places I've lived and some eye candy (air craft carriers etc)

No doubt I shall return in another year to check out some other places

In short Google earth rocks