Saturday, July 26, 2008

With love from me to you

In the eighties I used to do a radio show on a student station… the guy who did the show after me hosted the country music show, he was in my eyes old… and played all his music from cassettes.

Thus I mocked him....

I remember one day he told me that when I to got old I’d be listening to country music to, oh how I laughed.

Well two decades later here I am old… and listening to country music

With this in mind I present to you the first instalment of the:

Anti Folk Discombobulation

Jeffrey Lewis & Diane Cluck – the River
Matt Singer - VHS
Jeffrey Lewis - You Don't Have To Be A Scientist To Do Experiments On Your Own Heart
The Sewing Circle - Sewer Gators NYC
Brooke Pridemore - Snakes on My Brain
Eric Wolfson - Sleeping Is A Sucker's Game
Adam Green – Salty Candy
Jeffrey Lewis & Kimya Dawson – Klutter
Frank Hoier - I Can't Love You Anymore
Paleface - I Don't Think I Like You (As Much As I Used To)
Creaky Boards - I'm So Serious (This Time)
Jeffrey Lewis & Diane Cluck – Travel Light
The Bowmans - The Slumber
Jeffrey Lewis – Punk Is Dead

It is not house but it plays well in the home

Friday, July 25, 2008

I know I'm not alone... being excited about the new batman movie.... opens today here and I'm off to see it at the IMAX theatre

whoop whoop

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Trip to Canberra with Alan Bollard

Oh dear David Haywood makes me laugh, I am a total fanboy :)

Taken from Southery on Public Address a daily stop off of mine. Reprinted like all articles posted here cause I know bugger all people follow links.

A Trip to Canberra with Alan Bollard
Jul 10, 2008 18:12

So anyway, me and Bollard are flying to Canberra for the International Monetary Policy Conference. We're sitting in business class -- which, in my opinion, is basically like being in heaven -- and we're getting well-and-truly plastered.

We start feeling a bit musical somewhere above the Tasman Sea, and when the pilot announces that we're about to land in Canberra, Bollard launches into a tune of his own composition entitled: 'Still Time for Another Vodka.'

I'm providing musical accompaniment by dinging the call-button beside my seat; but when the stewardess finally arrives, she gives us a filthy look, and goes: "I think you two have had enough to drink."

Of course, this totally gets on Bollard's tits, and he's like: "Listen up: I'm the governor of the Reserve Bank. You don't tell me what to do; I tell you what to do." But the stewardess is already walking down the aisle, and Bollard's left talking into empty air like a dick.

So then Bollard's all "Fuck this"; and he's out of his seat and into the kitchenette where they keep the drinks trolley. Thirty seconds later he's nabbed a couple of bottles of Smirnoff, and tosses one of them to me.

A litre of vodka is a lot to put away before we land -- maybe even too much. Next thing I know I wake up on a luggage trolley, and Bollard's pushing me through Canberra airport.

So now I'm asking Bollard what happened, and he's giving me the most incoherent explanation I've ever heard. Telling me how everyone at Air New Zealand is against him, and plotting to get him fired from the Reserve Bank. And then he's like: "You don't remember the fight on the plane? You don't remember when I punched the pilot?"

I never get to the bottom of it -- because as soon as we get outside into the fresh air, about a million flies attack me, and I lose my train of thought. Bollard's getting the same treatment, and we're flapping our arms around like a couple of spastics before Bollard manages to wheel the luggage trolley to a taxi.

Of course, Bollard's all "Fucking Australia -- full of fucking flies." And the taxi driver's like: "Are you disrespecting my country?" And Bollard goes: "What are you gonna do about it, you fucking sheep-shagger?" By this time we've reached the motorway, and Bollard's like: "And why are you driving like such a pussy?" And he grabs the steering wheel, and suddenly the taxi's slewing and skidding all over the road.

Next thing we've been kicked out of the taxi, and we're standing beside the motorway with flies crawling all over us. I just have time to go: "All we need now is for the cops to arrive," and right on cue a police car appears. But then Bollard shows the cop his diplomatic papers, and the cop starts calling him "sir" and everything. And it all turns out fine -- because we ride the rest of the way in the police car for free.

So now we're driving through Canberra, and frankly the whole place looks really lame and embarrassing. It seems like the council's bought a bunch of those big Nazi-type statues from a movie set or somewhere, and bunged them up all over. I'm trying to think of something clever to say, like maybe: "It looks as if Albert Speer had been commissioned to redecorate Ashburton on the cheap" -- but then Bollard hits the nail on the head. He just goes: "Fuck me, it's worse than Palmerston North."

We pull up outside Parliament House, and right on the front lawn is a dead kangaroo with another smaller dead kangaroo sticking out of its bum. So Bollard's like: "What the fuck is that -- some sort of sculpture?" And the cop goes: "Nah, what happens is that a car hits a small kangaroo so hard that it shoots off the road and straight up a big kangaroo's arse and kills him." Of course, we all have a big laugh at this, but I'm still wondering if the cop is kidding, or if that really happens.

We go inside, and the first person we see is Genevieve the Canadian. She's a television journo for TVNZ -- and if there's one thing Bollard hates it's Canadians, and if there's another thing he hates it's television journos. Not to mention that Genevieve the Canadian has done a bunch of stories on the Reserve Bank that basically amount to 'Why is Alan Bollard such a dick?'
Bollard gives her the fingers right off, but she's looking the other way -- which annoys Bollard, but it means we avoid having another slanging match before our tripartite meeting with the Japanese and Australians.

What with being kicked out of the taxi and everything, we're running bit late, and the other two are already talking by the time we sit down. Masaaki Shirakawa from the Bank of Japan is at the head of the table, and he's going: "We have the Yakuza problem in my country. And, of course, crime detracts from the efficiency of the economy. The way I see it, when a criminal organization starts to make an impact on economic performance, it's just the same as if they called me a bitch to my face."

Now he's opening his jacket, and pulling a gun from a shoulder holster. "So that's when my friend here comes in useful. This is the Glock 21 -- weighs about three-quarters of a kilogram, and holds 13 rounds of 0.45acp hollow-points. We go to a love hotel, and wait in a room for the Yakuza and his girlfriend to turn up. When they walk in the door we fire maybe 50 or 100 rounds into them. No more problem from that Yakuza."

I find out later that the Bank of Japan often don't wait for the Yakuza to walk into the room -- they just shoot the door and whoever's behind it full of holes. And sometimes it isn't the gangsters, but a hotel maid or bus-boy. Luckily, however, such people are of no importance in a macro-economic sense, and so no-one cares.

After Shirakawa's speech, the Japanese and Australian delegates give a round of applause, and then Glenn Stevens gets up: "Masaaki's presentation gives me confidence in the approach we're taking at the Reserve Bank of Australia. We've just tooled up with the Walther PPK 7.65 mm. No disrespect to Glock fans, but the Walther PPK's the gun that James Bond uses, and so we feel that it's more of a tried-and-tested solution."

He opens his briefcase, and holds up a PPK so everyone can have a perv. "I haven't actually used this yet, but I've got it all figured out. When I get face-to-face with one of the godfathers from the Aussie Mafia, I'm going to say to him: 'Don't make me pull my PPK -- 'cause if I do, you know I'm gonna shoot you dead.' And then when he tries to pull his gun, I'm going to pull this out real quick, and shoot him first."

There's a big round of applause at this, and then Glenn Stevens looks over at us, and he goes: "So what do you guys pack in New Zealand, Alan?"

Bollard leans back in his chair, and he's like: "Let me tell you a story, Glenn. Anyone gives me any problems, I use this." He taps his forehead.

I assume Bollard means that he dishes out a head-butt (actually, I find out afterwards that this is exactly what he means), but Stevens goes: "That's a cool story, Bollard. You use your brain -- I dig that. But the way I look at it, there's a time you gotta let Mr PPK or Mr Glock do the thinking for you."

So then Bollard's like: "Let me tell you another story, Glenn. The way I look at it, guns are for pussies."

When Bollard says this I'm quite surprised, because I know for a fact that he's been badgering the prime minister for years to have a gun. And apparently Helen Clark is like: "Get fucked Bollard -- you're the last person I'd trust with a firearm." I begin to realize that international diplomacy is more complicated than I'd thought.

Of course, now Shirakawa is starting with the old "Who're you calling a pussy?" line. So I'm on my feet, and I'm like: "I'm afraid that Dr Bollard has another appointment now, so we're going to have to move along."

I get Bollard out into the corridor, and he's totally pissed off. He's like: "Everyone else has a gun, why won't they give me one?" And then he's like: "And I'm the only guy in there with a real Ph.D. -- Professor Shirakawa, my fucking arse!"

Now we're walking down the corridor -- and I'm congratulating myself on having avoided a nasty spot of aggro -- when who do we meet but Toshihiko Fukui, the former Governor of the Bank of Japan. Fukui is a nice polite white-haired old guy, who stops and introduces himself. But the next thing Bollard smacks him in the mouth and sends him flying. Then Bollard moves in and starts giving Fukui a bit of foot-leather.

So I grab Bollard and wrestle him into the lift, and then I'm like: "What did you do that for?". And Bollard's like: "He told me to get fucked in Japanese." And I'm like: "That's just his name, for fuck's sake."

We get to the hotel room, and now Bollard's holding his hand awkwardly. And then he goes: "I think I might have hurt myself." I take a look, and I see that one of his knuckle bones has burst through the skin, and is waving around getting a bit of fresh air.

So now Bollard's all: "Can you push it back in for me?" So I put my finger on the end of the bone and press really hard, and Bollard's like: "Fuck that hurts!" And he jerks his hand away -- and suddenly the knuckle bone comes right out, and pings off into the sink.

I go over and look at the bone, which is all bloody and dripping. And I'm wondering if Bollard's hand will be crippled with a missing knuckle, and whether he might have to have it amputated or something. But then I realize that it isn't a knuckle bone at all, but just one of Toshihiko Fukui's front teeth.

So we open up the mini-bar, and Bollard has a few drinks to sterilize the cut on his hand. And I have a few drinks so that Bollard isn't drinking alone. Then we mooch on down to the conference dinner.

Of course, Genevieve the Canadian is standing outside the restaurant, and she's all over Bollard with a microphone: "Can you tell me about the altercation between yourself and Toshihiko Fukui?" But Bollard just goes: "Why don't you Fukui yourself, Genevieve" -- and walks straight past her.

The conference dinner is long and dull. They're only serving Australian beer, which if you ask me tastes like normal beer, but with sugar in it. Fukui is a real downer all night: sitting at his table feeling sorry for himself with a black eye, swollen nose, no front teeth -- and everyone keeps staring at us like it's our fault. Later on, I hear Bollard explaining to Svein Gjedrem from the Bank of Norway: "Someone tells you to get fucked in Japanese, you can't just stand there and take it, can you?"

After dinner, Bollard and Gjedrem ask me along to a pub they've heard has half-price non-Australian beer after midnight. But I'm tired after a long day, and waking up on a luggage trolley and everything, and so I head back to my hotel room.

Next morning, first thing I hear is a bunch of police sirens, and naturally I'm thinking: "What's Bollard done now?" I try to get to his hotel room, but the police have blocked off the whole floor. So I head downstairs to the lobby, and to my surprise there's Bollard in the restaurant -- scoffing down bacon and eggs, and looking chipper. I give him a "hello", and sit down and order breakfast myself.

Now Bollard's telling me the events of last night. He goes: "So anyway, I'm just having a quick slash before we go to the pub, and I see Toshihiko Fukui talking to the economists from the Bank of Japan, and suddenly they're all getting out their Glocks and checking the magazines. Of course, I don't think anything about this at the time -- but when I get back, I start wondering if maybe they're waiting in my hotel room to fill me full of hollow-points like they do with the Yakuza.

"So I figure: better safe than sorry. I phone Genevieve the Canadian, and I'm like: 'Sorry I told you to get fucked earlier tonight, Genevieve . It's just that I've got cancer of the balls, and it's making me bad-tempered. Maybe you could do a story on it -- Bollard's Brush with Bollock Cancer -- that sort of thing. In fact, I think I might even cry on camera. Perhaps you should get your film crew and come up to my room?'"

Just then Bollard is interrupted by a group of cops carrying three stretchers down the stairs. Looking over, I see that the dudes on the stretchers aren't feeling too well -- they've got sheets tucked over their heads, which is generally a pretty bad sign.

Next thing a cop stumbles, and one of the corpses plops off the stretcher onto the floor -- and blow-me-down it's Genevieve the Canadian. Mind you, I can only tell from her dress because the rest of her is just strawberry jam. It makes me feel quite ill for a couple of seconds. But then breakfast arrives, and it smells so good that luckily I regain my appetite.

So now I'm turning back to Bollard, and I'm like: "Then what happened?"

At that moment, a bunch of New Zealand television journos come rushing into the lobby, and they're all fighting each other to get a good photo of Genevieve the Canadian's corpse. Then one of them sees Bollard and now they're scrambling over to our table shouting: "How do you feel, Dr Bollard?"

Well, you've gotta hand it to Bollard -- he can turn on the old gravitas. He just clears his throat, and he's all: "This morning, in deeply tragic circumstances, New Zealand television journalism lost its brightest star..."

Note:David Haywood is a close personal friend and spiritual advisor to Alan Bollard. He is willing to sell the exclusive rights to this true story to New Idea, Investigate Magazine, or as a cover story for The New Zealand Listener.

More of David's exploits with Alan Bollard can be found here.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bambi You're Next

The Bush administration has announced it is taking Nelson Mandela off its terrorist list.

Who is next?

The late Mother Theresa?

Princess Di?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Why Cheney Won't Take Down Iran

Reality Bites BackWhy the U.S. Won't Attack Iran
By Tom Engelhardt

It's been on the minds of antiwar activists and war critics since 2003. And little wonder. If you don't remember the pre-invasion of Iraq neocon quip, "Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran..." -- then take notice. Even before American troops entered Iraq, knocking off Iran was already "Regime Change: The Sequel." It was always on the Bush agenda and, for a faction of the administration led by Vice President Cheney, it evidently still is.

Add to that a series of provocative statements by President Bush, the Vice President, and other top U.S. officials and former officials. Take Cheney's daughter Elizabeth, who recently sent this verbal message to the Iranians: "[D]espite what you may be hearing from Congress, despite what you may be hearing from others in the administration who might be saying force isn't on the table... we're serious." Asked about an Israeli strike on Iran, she said: "I certainly don't think that we should do anything but support them." Similarly, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton suggested that the Bush administration might launch an Iranian air assault in its last, post-election weeks in office.

Consider as well the evident relish with which the President and other top administration officials regularly refuse to take "all options" off that proverbial "table" (at which no one bothers to sit down to talk). Throw into the mix semi-official threats, warnings, and hair-raising leaks from Israeli officials and intelligence types about Iran's progress in producing a nuclear weapon and what Israel might do about it. Then there were those recent reports on a "major" Israeli "military exercise" in the Mediterranean that seemed to prefigure a future air assault on Iran. ("Several American officials said the Israeli exercise appeared to be an effort to develop the military's capacity to carry out long-range strikes and to demonstrate the seriousness with which Israel views Iran's nuclear program.")

From the other side of the American political aisle comes a language hardly less hair-raising, including Hillary Clinton's infamous comment about how the U.S. could "totally obliterate" Iran (in response to a hypothetical Iranian nuclear attack on Israel). Congressman Ron Paul recently reported that fellow representatives "have openly voiced support for a pre-emptive nuclear strike" on Iran, while the resolution soon to come before the House (H.J. Res. 362), supported by Democrats as well as Republicans, urges the imposition of the kind of sanctions and a naval blockade on Iran that would be tantamount to a declaration of war.

Stir in a string of new military bases the U.S. has been building within miles of the Iranian border, the repeated crescendos of U.S. military charges about Iranian-supplied weapons killing American soldiers in Iraq, and the revelation by Seymour Hersh, our premier investigative reporter, that, late last year, the Bush administration launched -- with the support of the Democratic leadership in Congress -- a $400 million covert program "designed to destabilize [Iran's] religious leadership," including cross-border activities by U.S. Special Operations Forces and a low-level war of terror through surrogates in regions where Baluchi and Ahwazi Arab minorities are strongest. (Precedents for this terror campaign include previous CIA-run campaigns in Afghanistan in the 1980s, using car bombs and even camel bombs against the Russians, and in Iraq in the 1990s, using car bombs and other explosives in an attempt to destabilize Saddam Hussein's regime.)

Add to this combustible mix the unwillingness of the Iranians to suspend their nuclear enrichment activities, even for a matter of weeks, while negotiating with the Europeans over their nuclear program. Throw in as well various threats from Iranian officials in response to the possibility of a U.S. or Israeli attack on their nuclear facilities, and any number of other alarums, semi-official predictions ("A senior defense official told ABC News there is an 'increasing likelihood' that Israel will carry out such an attack…"), reports, rumors, and warnings -- and it's hardly surprising that the political Internet has been filled with alarming (as well as alarmist) pieces claiming that an assault on Iran may be imminent.

Seymour Hersh, who certainly has his ear to the ground in Washington, has publicly suggested that an Obama victory might be the signal for the Bush administration to launch an air campaign against that country. As Jim Lobe of Inter Press Service has pointed out, there have been a number of "public warnings by U.S. hawks close to Cheney's office that either the Israelis or the U.S. would attack Iran between the November elections and the inaugural of a new president in January 2009."

Given the Bush administration's "preventive war" doctrine which has opened the way for the launching of wars without significant notice or obvious provocation, and the penchant of its officials to ignore reality, all of this should frighten anyone. In fact, it's not only war critics who are increasingly edgy. In recent months, jumpy (and greedy) commodity traders, betting on a future war, have boosted these fears. (Every bit of potential bad news relating to Iran only seems to push the price of a barrel of oil further into the stratosphere.) And mainstream pundits and journalists are increasingly joining them.

No wonder. It's a remarkably frightening scenario, and, if there's one lesson this administration has taught us these last years, it's that nothing's "off the table," not for officials who, only a few years ago, believed themselves capable of creating their own reality and imposing it on the planet. An "unnamed Administration official" -- generally assumed to be Karl Rove -- famously put it this way to journalist Ron Suskind back in October 2004:

"[He] said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors.... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'"

A Future Global Oil Shock

Nonetheless, sometimes -- as in Iraq -- reality has a way of biting back, no matter how mad or how powerful the imperial dreamer. So, let's consider reality for a moment. When it comes to Iran, reality means oil and natural gas. These days, any twitch of trouble, or potential trouble, affecting the petroleum market, no matter how minor -- from Mexico to Nigeria -- forces the price of oil another bump higher.

Possessing the world's second largest reserves of oil and natural gas, Iran is no speed bump on the energy map. The National Security Network, a group of national security experts, estimates that the Bush administration's policy of bluster, threat, and intermittent low-level actions against Iran has already added a premium of $30-$40 to every $140 barrel of oil. Then there was the one-day $11 spike after Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz suggested that an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities was "unavoidable."

Given that, let's imagine, for a moment, what almost any version of an air assault -- Israeli, American, or a combination of the two -- would be likely to do to the price of oil. When asked recently by Brian Williams on NBC Nightly News about the effects of an Israeli attack on Iran, correspondent Richard Engel responded: "I asked an oil analyst that very question. He said, 'The price of a barrel of oil? Name your price: $300, $400 a barrel.'" Former CIA official Robert Baer suggested in Time Magazine that such an attack would translate into $12 gas at the pump. ("One oil speculator told me that oil would hit $200 a barrel within minutes.")

Those kinds of price leaps could take place in the panic that preceded any Iranian response. But, of course, the Iranians, no matter how badly hit, would be certain to respond -- by themselves and through proxies in the region in a myriad of possible ways. Iranian officials have regularly been threatening all sorts of hell should they be attacked, including "blitzkrieg tactics" in the region. Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari typically swore that his country would "react fiercely, and nobody can imagine what would be the reaction of Iran." The head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, Mohammed Jafari, said: "Iran's response to any military action will make the invaders regret their decision and action." ("Mr. Jafari had already warned that if attacked, Iran would launch a barrage of missiles at Israel and close the Strait of Hormuz, the outlet for oil tankers leaving the Persian Gulf.") Ali Shirazi, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's representative to the Revolutionary Guards, offered the following: "The first bullet fired by America at Iran will be followed by Iran burning down its vital interests around the globe."

Let's take a moment to imagine just what some of the responses to any air assault might be. The list of possibilities is nearly endless and many of them would be hard even for the planet's preeminent military power to prevent. They might include, as a start, the mining of the Strait of Hormuz, through which a significant portion of the world's oil passes, as well as other disruptions of shipping in the region. (Don't even think about what would happen to insurance rates for oil tankers!)

In addition, American troops on their mega-bases in Iraq, rather than being a powerful force in any attack -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has already cautioned President Bush that Iraqi territory cannot be used to attack Iran -- would instantly become so many hostages to Iranian actions, including the possible targeting of those bases by missiles. Similarly, U.S. supply lines for those troops, running from Kuwait past the southern oil port of Basra might well become hostages of a different sort, given the outrage that, in Shiite regions of Iraq, would surely follow an attack. Those lines would assumedly not be impossible to disrupt.

Imagine, as well, what possible disruptions of the modest Iraqi oil supply might mean in the chaos of the moment, with Iranian oil already off the market. Then consider what the targeting of even small numbers of Iranian missiles on the Saudi and Kuwaiti oil fields could do to global oil markets. (It might not even matter whether they actually hit anything.) And that, of course, just scratches the surface of the range of retaliatory possibilities available to Iranian leaders.
Looked at another way, Iran is a weak regional power (which hasn't invaded another country in living memory) that nonetheless retains a remarkable capacity to inflict grievous harm locally, regionally, and globally.

Such a scenario would result in a global oil shock of almost inconceivable proportions. For any American who believes that he or she is experiencing "pain at the pump" right now, just wait until you experience what a true global oil shock would involve.

And that's without even taking into consideration what spreading chaos in the oil heartlands of the planet might mean, or what might happen if Hezbollah or Hamas took action of any sort against Israel, and Israel responded. Mohamed ElBaradei, the sober-minded head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, considering the situation, said the following: "A military strike, in my opinion, would be worse than anything possible. It would turn the region into a fireball..."

This, then, is the baseline for any discussion of an attack on Iran. This is reality, and it has to be daunting for an administration that already finds itself militarily stretched to the limit, unable even to find the reinforcements it wants to send into Afghanistan.

Can Israel Attack Iran?

Let's leave to the experts the question of whether Israel could actually launch an effective air strike against Iranian nuclear facilities on its own -- about which there are grave doubts. And let's instead try to imagine what it would mean for Israel to launch such an assault (egged on by the Vice President's faction in the U.S. government) in the last months, or even weeks, of the second term of an especially lame lame-duck President and an historically unpopular administration.

From Iran's foreign minister, we already know that the Iranians would treat an Israeli attack as if it were an American one, whether or not American planes were involved -- and little wonder. For one thing, Israeli planes heading for Iran would undoubtedly have to cross Iraqi air space, at present controlled by the United States, not the nearly air-force-less Maliki government. (In fact, in Status of Forces Agreement negotiations with the Iraqis, the Bush administration has demanded that the U.S. retain control of that air space, up to 29,000 feet, after December 31, 2008, when the U.N. mandate runs out.)

In other words, on the eve of the arrival of a new American administration, Israel, a small, vulnerable Middle Eastern state deeply reliant on its American alliance, would find itself responsible for starting an American war (associated with a Vice President of unparalleled unpopularity) and for a global oil shock of staggering proportions, if not a global great depression. It would also be the proximate cause for a regional "fireball." (Oil-poor Israel would undoubtedly also be economically wounded by its own strike.)

In addition, the latest American National Intelligence Estimate on Iran concluded that the Iranians stopped weaponizing parts of their nuclear program back in 2003, and American intelligence reputedly doubts recent Israeli warnings that Iran is on the verge of a bomb. Of course, Israel itself has an estimated -- though unannounced -- nuclear force of about 200 such weapons.

Simply put, it is next to inconceivable that the present riven Israeli government would be politically capable of launching such an attack on Iran on its own, or even in combination with only a faction, no matter how important, in the U.S. government. And such a point is more or less taken for granted by many Israelis (and Iranians). Without a full-scale "green light" from the Bush administration, launching such an attack could be tantamount to long-term political suicide.

Only in conjunction with an American attack would an Israeli attack (rash to the point of madness even then) be likely. So let's turn to the Bush administration and consider what might be called the Hersh scenario.

Will the Bush administration Attack Iran If Obama Is Elected?

The first problem is a simple one. Oil, which was at $146 a barrel last week, dropped to $136 (in part because of a statement by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissing "the possibility that war with the United States and Israel was imminent"), and, on Wednesday rose a dollar to $137 in reaction to Iranian missile tests. But, whatever its immediate zigs and zags, the overall pattern of the price of oil seems clear enough. Some suggest that, by the time of any Obama victory, a barrel of crude oil will be at $170. The chairman of the giant Russian oil monopoly Gazprom recently predicted that it would hit $250 within 18 months -- and that's without an attack on Iran.

For those eager to launch a reasonably no-pain campaign against Iran, the moment is already long gone. Every leap in the price of oil only emphasizes the pain to come. In turn, that means, with every passing day, it's madder -- and harder -- to launch such an attack. There is already significant opposition within the administration; the American people, feeling pain, are unprepared for and, as polls indicate, massively unwilling to sanction such an attack. There can be no question that the Bush legacy, such as it is, would be secured in infamy forever and a day.
Now, consider recent administration actions on North Korea. Facing a "reality" that first-term Bush officials would have abjured, the President and his advisors not only negotiated with that nuclearized Axis of Evil nation, but are now removing it from the Trading with the Enemy Act list and the State Sponsor of Terrorism list. No matter what steps Kim Jong Il's regime has taken, including blowing up the cooling tower at the Yongbyon reactor, this is nothing short of a stunning reversal for this administration. An angry John Bolton, standing in for the Cheney faction, compared what happened to a "police truce with the Mafia." And Vice President Cheney's anger over the decision -- and the policy -- was visible and widely reported.

It's possible, of course, that Cheney and associates are simply holding their fire for what they care most about, but here's another question that needs to be considered: Does George W. Bush actually support his imperial Vice President in the manner he once did? There's no way to know, but Bush has always been a more important figure in the administration than many critics like to imagine. The North Korean decision indicates that Cheney may not have a free hand from the President on Iran policy either.

The Adults in the Room

And what about the opposition? I'm not talking about those of us out here who would oppose such a strike. I mean within the world of Bush's Washington. Forget the Democrats. They hardly count and, as Hersh has pointed out, their leadership already signed off on that $400 million covert destabilization campaign.

I mean the adults in the room, who have been in short supply indeed these last years in the Bush administration, specifically Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen. (Condoleezza Rice evidently falls into this camp as well, although she's proven herself something of a President-enabling nonentity over the years.)

With former Carter National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, Gates tellingly co-chaired a task force sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations back in 2004 which called for negotiations with Iran. He arrived at the Pentagon early in 2007 as an envoy from the world of George H.W. Bush and as a man on a mission. He was there to staunch the madness and begin the clean up in the imperial Augean stables.

In his Congressional confirmation hearings, he was absolutely clear: any attack on Iran would be a "very last resort." Sometimes, in the bureaucratic world of Washington, a single "very" can tell you what you need to know. Until then, administration officials had been referring to an attack on Iran simply as a "last resort." He also offered a bloodcurdling scenario for what the aftermath of such an American attack might be like:

"It's always awkward to talk about hypotheticals in this case. But I think that while Iran cannot attack us directly militarily, I think that their capacity to potentially close off the Persian Gulf to all exports of oil, their potential to unleash a significant wave of terror both in the -- well, in the Middle East and in Europe and even here in this country is very real… Their ability to get Hezbollah to further destabilize Lebanon I think is very real. So I think that while their ability to retaliate against us in a conventional military way is quite limited, they have the capacity to do all of the things, and perhaps more, that I just described."

And perhaps more… That puts it in a nutshell.

Hersh, in his most recent piece on the administration's covert program in Iran, reports the following:

"A Democratic senator told me that, late last year, in an off-the-record lunch meeting, Secretary of Defense Gates met with the Democratic caucus in the Senate. (Such meetings are held regularly.) Gates warned of the consequences if the Bush Administration staged a preemptive strike on Iran, saying, as the senator recalled, 'We'll create generations of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling our enemies here in America.' Gates's comments stunned the Democrats at the lunch."

In other words, back in 2007, early and late, our new secretary of defense managed to sound remarkably like one of those Iranian officials issuing warnings. Gates, who has a long history as a skilled Washington in-fighter, has once again proven that skill. So far, he seems to have outmaneuvered the Cheney faction.

The March "resignation" of CENTCOM commander Admiral William J. Fallon, outspokenly against an administration strike on Iran, sent both a shiver of fear through war critics and a new set of attack scenarios coursing through the political Internet, as well as into the world of the mainstream media. As reporter Jim Lobe points out at his invaluable Lobelog blog, however, Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Gates's man in the Pentagon, has proven nothing short of adamant when it comes to the inadvisabilty of attacking Iran.
His recent public statements have actually been stronger than Fallon's (and the position he fills is obviously more crucial than CENTCOM commander). Lobe comments that, at a July 2nd press conference at the Pentagon, Mullen "repeatedly made clear that he opposes an attack on Iran -- whether by Israel or his own forces -- and, moreover, favors dialogue with Tehran, without the normal White House nuclear preconditions."

Mullen, being an adult, has noticed the obvious. As columnist Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Constitution put the matter recently: "A U.S. attack on Iran's nuclear installations would create trouble that we aren't equipped to handle easily, not with ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, drove that point home in a press conference last week at the Pentagon."

The Weight of Reality

Here's the point: Yes, there is a powerful faction in this administration, headed by the Vice President, which has, it seems, saved its last rounds of ammunition for a strike against Iran. The question, of course, is: Are they still capable of creating "their own reality" and imposing it, however briefly, on the planet? Every tick upwards in the price of oil says no. Every day that passes makes an attack on Iran harder to pull off.

On this subject, panic may be everywhere in the world of the political Internet, and even in the mainstream, but it's important not to make the mistake of overestimating these political actors or underestimating the forces arrayed against them. It's a reasonable proposition today -- as it wasn't perhaps a year ago -- that, whatever their desires, they will not, in the end, be able to launch an attack on Iran; that, even where there's a will, there may not be a way.

They would have to act, after all, against the unfettered opposition of the American people; against leading military commanders who, even if obliged to follow a direct order from the President, have other ways to make their wills known; against key figures in the administration; and, above all, against reality which bears down on them with a weight that is already staggering -- and still growing.

And yet, of course, for the maddest gamblers and dystopian dreamers in our history, never say never.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

It's the Oil, stupid!

By Noam Chomsky

08/07/08 "Khaleej Times" --- - The deal just taking shape between Iraq's Oil Ministry and four Western oil companies raises critical questions about the nature of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq — questions that should certainly be addressed by presidential candidates and seriously discussed in the United States, and of course in occupied Iraq, where it appears that the population has little if any role in determining the future of their country.

Negotiations are under way for Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP — the original partners decades ago in the Iraq Petroleum Company, now joined by Chevron and other smaller oil companies — to renew the oil concession they lost to nationalisation during the years when the oil producers took over their own resources. The no-bid contracts, apparently written by the oil corporations with the help of U.S. officials, prevailed over offers from more than 40 other companies, including companies in China, India and Russia.

"There was suspicion among many in the Arab world and among parts of the American public that the United States had gone to war in Iraq precisely to secure the oil wealth these contracts seek to extract," Andrew E. Kramer wrote in The New York Times.

Kramer's reference to "suspicion" is an understatement. Furthermore, it is highly likely that the military occupation has taken the initiative in restoring the hated Iraq Petroleum Company, which, as Seamus Milne writes in the London Guardian, was imposed under British rule to "dine off Iraq's wealth in a famously exploitative deal."

Later reports speak of delays in the bidding. Much is happening in secrecy, and it would be no surprise if new scandals emerge.

The demand could hardly be more intense. Iraq contains perhaps the second largest oil reserves in the world, which are, furthermore, very cheap to extract: no permafrost or tar sands or deep sea drilling. For US planners, it is imperative that Iraq remain under U.S. control, to the extent possible, as an obedient client state that will also house major U.S. military bases, right at the heart of the world's major energy reserves.

That these were the primary goals of the invasion was always clear enough through the haze of successive pretexts: weapons of mass destruction, Saddam's links with Al-Qaeda, democracy promotion and the war against terrorism, which, as predicted, sharply increased as a result of the invasion.

Last November, the guiding concerns were made explicit when President Bush and Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki signed a "Declaration of Principles," ignoring the U.S. Congress and Iraqi parliament, and the populations of the two countries.

The Declaration left open the possibility of an indefinite long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq that would presumably include the huge air bases now being built around the country, and the "embassy" in Baghdad, a city within a city, unlike any embassy in the world. These are not being constructed to be abandoned.

The Declaration also had a remarkably brazen statement about exploiting the resources of Iraq. It said that the economy of Iraq, which means its oil resources, must be open to foreign investment, "especially American investments." That comes close to a pronouncement that we invaded you so that we can control your country and have privileged access to your resources.

The seriousness of this commitment was underscored in January, when President Bush issued a "signing statement" declaring that he would reject any congressional legislation that restricted funding "to establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq" or "to exercise United States control of the oil resources of Iraq."

Extensive resort to "signing statements" to expand executive power is yet another Bush innovation, condemned by the American Bar Association as "contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional separation of powers." To no avail.

Not surprisingly, the Declaration aroused immediate objections in Iraq, among others from Iraqi unions, which survive even under the harsh anti-labour laws that Saddam instituted and the occupation preserves.

In Washington propaganda, the spoiler to US domination in Iraq is Iran. U.S. problems in Iraq are blamed on Iran. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sees a simple solution: "foreign forces" and "foreign arms" should be withdrawn from Iraq — Iran's, not ours.

The confrontation over Iran's nuclear programme heightens the tensions. The Bush administration's "regime change" policy toward Iran comes with ominous threats of force (there Bush is joined by both US presidential candidates). The policy also is reported to include terrorism within Iran — again legitimate, for the world rulers. A majority of the American people favours diplomacy and oppose the use of force. But public opinion is largely irrelevant to policy formation, not just in this case.

An irony is that Iraq is turning into a US-Iranian condominium. The Maliki government is the sector of Iraqi society most supported by Iran. The so-called Iraqi army — just another militia — is largely based on the Badr brigade, which was trained in Iran, and fought on the Iranian side during the Iran-Iraq war.

Nir Rosen, one of the most astute and knowledgeable correspondents in the region, observes that the main target of the US-Maliki military operations, Moktada Al Sadr, is disliked by Iran as well: He's independent and has popular support, therefore dangerous.

Iran "clearly supported Prime Minister Maliki and the Iraqi government against what they described as 'illegal armed groups' (of Moktada's Mahdi army) in the recent conflict in Basra," Rosen writes, "which is not surprising given that their main proxy in Iraq, the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council dominates the Iraqi state and is Maliki's main backer."

"There is no proxy war in Iraq," Rosen concludes, "because the U.S. and Iran share the same proxy."

Teheran is presumably pleased to see the United States institute and sustain a government in Iraq that's receptive to their influence. For the Iraqi people, however, that government continues to be a disaster, very likely with worse to come.

In Foreign Affairs, Steven Simon points out that current US counterinsurgency strategy is "stoking the three forces that have traditionally threatened the stability of Middle Eastern states: tribalism, warlordism and sectarianism." The outcome might be "a strong, centralised state ruled by a military junta that would resemble" Saddam's regime.

If Washington achieves its goals, then its actions are justified. Reactions are quite different when Vladimir Putin succeeds in pacifying Chechnya, to an extent well beyond what Gen. David Petraeus has achieved in Iraq. But that is THEM, and this is US. Criteria are therefore entirely different.

In the US, the Democrats are silenced now because of the supposed success of the US military surge in Iraq. Their silence reflects the fact that there are no principled criticisms of the war. In this way of regarding the world, if you're achieving your goals, the war and occupation are justified. The sweetheart oil deals come with the territory.

In fact, the whole invasion is a war crime — indeed the supreme international crime, differing from other war crimes in that it encompasses all the evil that follows, in the terms of the Nuremberg judgment. This is among the topics that can't be discussed, in the presidential campaign or elsewhere. Why are we in Iraq? What do we owe Iraqis for destroying their country? The majority of the American people favour US withdrawal from Iraq. Do their voices matter?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Climate Chaos Is Inevitable. We Can Only Avert Oblivion

By Mark Lynas The Guardian

24/06/08 Sometimes we need to think the unthinkable, particularly when dealing with a problem as dangerous as climate change - there is no room for dogma when considering the future habitability of our planet. It was in this spirit that I and a panel of other specialists in climate, economics and policy-making met under the aegis of the Stockholm Network thinktank to map out future scenarios for how international policy might evolve - and what the eventual impact might be on the earth's climate. We came up with three alternative visions of the future, and asked experts at the Met Office Hadley Centre to run them through its climate models to give each a projected temperature rise. The results were both surprising, and profoundly disturbing.

We gave each scenario a name. The most pessimistic was labelled "agree and ignore" - a world where governments meet to make commitments on climate change, but then backtrack or fail to comply with them. Sound familiar? It should: this scenario most closely resembles the past 10 years, and it projects emissions on an upward trend until 2045. A more optimistic scenario was termed "Kyoto plus": here governments make a strong agreement in Copenhagen in 2009, binding industrialised countries into a new round of Kyoto-style targets, with developing countries joining successively as they achieve "first world" status. This scenario represents the best outcome that can plausibly result from the current process - but ominously, it still sees emissions rising until 2030.

The third scenario - called "step change" - is worth a closer look. Here we envisaged massive climate disasters around the world in 2010 and 2011 causing a sudden increase in the sense of urgency surrounding global warming. Energised, world leaders ditch Kyoto, abandoning efforts to regulate emissions at a national level. Instead, they focus on the companies that produce fossil fuels in the first place - from oil and gas wells and coal mines - with the UN setting a global "upstream" production cap and auctioning tradable permits to carbon producers. Instead of all the complexity of regulating squabbling nations and billions of people, the price mechanism does the work: companies simply pass on their increased costs to consumers, and demand for carbon-intensive products begins to fall. The auctioning of permits raises trillions of dollars to be spent smoothing the transition to a low-carbon economy and offsetting the impact of price rises on the poor. A clear long-term framework puts a price on carbon, giving business a strong incentive to shift investment into renewable energy and low-carbon manufacturing. Most importantly, a strong carbon cap means that global emissions peak as early as 2017.

This "upstream cap" approach is not a new idea, and our approach draws in particular on a forthcoming book by the environmental writer Oliver Tickell. However, conventional wisdom from governments and environmental groups alike insists that "Kyoto is the only game in town", and that proposing any alternative is dangerous heresy.

But let's look at the modelled temperature increases associated with each scenario. "Agree and ignore" sees temperatures rise by 4.85C by 2100 (with a 90% probability); for "Kyoto plus", it's 3.31C; and "step change" 2.89C. This is the depressing bit: no politically plausible scenario we could envisage will now keep the world below the danger threshold of two degrees, the official target of both the EU and UK. This means that all scenarios see the total disappearance of Arctic sea ice; spreading deserts and water stress in the sub-tropics; extreme weather and floods; and melting glaciers in the Andes and Himalayas. Hence the need to focus far more on adaptation: these are impacts that humanity is going to have to deal with whatever now happens at the policy level.

But the other great lesson is that sticking with current policy is actually a very risky option, rather than a safe bet. Betting on Kyoto could mean triggering the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet and crossing thresholds that involve massive methane release from melting Siberian permafrost. If current policy continues to fail - along the lines of the "agree and ignore" scenario - then 50% to 80% of all species on earth could be driven to extinction by the magnitude and rapidity of warming, and much of the planet's surface left uninhabitable to humans. Billions, not millions, of people would be displaced.

So which way will it go? Ultimately the difference between the scenarios is one of political will: the question now is whether humanity can summon up the courage and foresight to save itself, or whether business as usual - on climate policy as much as economics - will condemn us all to climatic oblivion.

· Mark Lynas is the author of Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet