Friday, June 30, 2006

Goatlab Radio

Me and Parasite are back on the digital airwaves! We've got a new show - Goatlab Radio and our first rocking session was last night!!! Check it out - Goatlab! Goatlab!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Has Ashton Court Lost its Way?

I have watched the arguments rage back and forth about the Ashton Court Festival and the sponsorship of the event, the ticket prices and new things like the VIP passes. Ashton Court is an event beloved by much of the city, so it's not surprising to see passion aroused by the event.

The argument of the festival organizers about costs is;

"This year we reluctantly took the decision to put up our basic admission price to £9. This was because we have been hit with two unavoidable cost increases: Firstly, the controversial new Licensing Act has increased our licence fee from about £1,000 to £16,000. Second, new security industry regulations (known as SIA) have added about £45,000 to our costs. In addition, inflation in the industry is running ahead of normal price inflation, and the overall cost of putting on the event this year is going to be in the region of £600,000. Because we are a totally independent organisation we have to find all the money ourselves."

OK – Lets take this apart a little. While the figures seems pretty massive, the sponsorship, including Orange, only generates 22% of the income. Compare this to the report by FilmBUZZ on film festivals where the sponsorship generated is on average greater than the 59% Ashton Court plans to take from tickets; "Festivals make the bulk of their income from corporate cash sponsorships. With a mean of nearly $100,000 annually per festival, the average total corporate sponsorship cash commitment is more than $40,000 higher than ticket sale proceeds, the second highest revenue source."

For a minority cost of the event, Orange has managed to re-brand the name of the event and its decor in their image. Looking at some of the festivals cited by FilmBUZZ, despite a higher proportion of the costs being shouldered, the events are not renamed as part of the sponsorship. In short, I think Orange as getting a bargain and Ashton Court has sold itself cheap.

Now consider the Brighton Festival – the level of sponsorship is is proportionally fairly similar to that of Ashton Court (£799,721 ticket sales vs. £416,924 sponsorship) – also not renamed by its sponsors – now this festival, unlike Ashton Court, does get council funding and their analysis is that this funding reaps a benefit of around £22 per £1 funding in spending by people who attend.

Now the site security costs are the largest proportion of Ashton Court's costs, and judging by last year, this funded an overzealous bunch of pseudo-paramilitaries to swan around in fake body armour and give people a hard time. IMHO, they were not worth the money. Also the staging costs are pretty huge plus a £35K cost for artists. So if the festival costs lots because of all these factors and so needs the sponsorship – why not reduce the overall costs? This could be done by getting back to its roots – no big name acts. I don't think they are needed. People go to Ashton Court because its Ashton Court and not to see The Stranglers or whoever. Come back to it being a show case for local talent. Acts supported by the event who do make it to the big time could be put under obligation to play a benefit gig or play Ashton Court for free as a thank you to the community that helped to make them. All this means smaller staining costs, smaller artist fees and so smaller security costs. With this in place, the case can then be put that, like the Brighton Festival, the council should be putting something in (after all we pay for the council, so its our money and could be our festival.) The council could not only help with money but in-kind stuff such as site hire etc. We could all help to lobby the council for a festival that was ours.

Next you further cut the costs by dropping the traffic management costs. Its a local festival so we could look to transport solutions that do not allow cars into the event without a very good reason. Not only will this save on the traffic management but we could turn the event into a showcase of environmental car-free planning: Armies of volunteer rickshaw drivers to take people to and fro, better bus links to and fro. After all the council (we) subsidies First Bus – lets make them earn it by helping soft the transport out on our festival day.

In short, I think the event has lost its way. It is time to step back and ask when the event is for and why we have it. I don't think its to see a few big names, but as a common place all Bristolians can get together and have fun. For that we all need to think again and I am not sure aping all other corporate sell-out events is worth it.

What is Ashton Court's Unique Selling Point? Its us, not Orange.
Basra: The Non News Story

Basra is the bit of Iraq that the plucky Brits are defending - soft caps and smiles, hearts and minds and all that. The spin to hide what is going on there seems massive. I noted before how the MOD were spinning a jogger as news from Iraq. Now we get this:

Security in Basra 'has improved' - BBC Thursday, 22 June 2006. Its a feel-good story about the Brits and Iraqis working together.

Yet only a few hours Friday 23rd we get:

State of Emergency in Iraq, again - Associated Press on GNN.

As the state of emergency was announced in the capital, a car bomb ripped through a market and nearby gas station in the increasingly volatile southern city of Basra Friday, killing at least five people and wounding 18, including two policemen, police said.

The coalition casualties have not been going down. The trend seems be be they average out. Last month they were at 2.55 per day. The month before they were at 2.73 - which was the highest since November last year.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Go Home Bliar

Following on from getting an egg thrown at him in Southville, Bliar arrived at the Wills Memorial Building at the top of Park Street to a noisy protest. People from Bristol Stop the War, Bristol No2ID and others staged a spirited rally to show Bliar that he was not welcome with chants like, "Blair out of Bristol, troops out of Iraq."

The protest gathered on one side of the road, while on the other members of the hand-picked invited audience queued to be searched and enter the building. Alongside the invited guests was a line of police. What was interesting about the two 'sides' was there was no sense of defense of defiance from the guests. They just stood around looking at their feet and shifting nervously as the waves of chants about war crimes and complicity in torture washed over them. Normally at a protest with 'sides' you get angry exchanged across the divide. Here is was all one way.

Its a sign of the popularity of Bliar that his visit has to be so secret. One may argue that this security is about terrorism, but the policing on show with its choppers and Forward Intelligence Teams (FIT – the coppers with cameras) was more geared to crowd control than anti-terror. The venue was kept unannounced (though word had been leaked out before) and the audience had to be selected. Even the 50 'public' who attended via an application to the evening post were diluted down the the hundred or more neo-labour supporters to dilute the possibility of people who are not 'on-message' spoiling the plans to spin crime as a method of distracting the public from the mess that is Iraq and in particular Basra.

Iraq is a mess. In Basra, guerrillas fired mortar rounds at official buildings, but they missed and wounded 9 Iraqi civilians. Just north of Basra, gunmen invaded a school and assassinated its principal. Al-Zaman [an Arabic newspaper] says that security is collapsing again in Basra – and this is despite the big security operation the Iraqi army have mounted. There are more bombings and shootings there than listed. But that gives a flavor.

The hypocrisy of Bliar to talk 'tough on crime' while flouting international law with his complicity in war in Iraq (aka crimes such as mounting a war of aggression, use of illegal weapons such as depleted uranium and phosphorus shells ), extraordinary renditions (aka kidnap and torture), Guantanamo (aka illegal detentions without trial and more torture). The list goes on.

As one protester shouted, "Arrest Blair!". Indeed - we need to be tough on Bliars and tough on the causes of Bliars.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Media War

I have said a couple of times that the media battle is the main battle here in the West - a view shared by others;

"The defining issue of our time is not the Iraq war. It is not the 'global war on terror.'...The defining issue of our time is the media....What we meant by that, but didn't fully explain, was that more than any other issue, the media affect everything else. The Iraq war, for obvious reasons, is incredibly important, but it has little impact on outsourcing. Global warming may be among 'the biggest moral challenges facing our global civilization,' with dire consequences for the survival of the planet -- but we won't face that challenge as long as the media continue to falsely portray global warming as a matter of serious scientific debate.

...the weblog Think Progress has noted, "Science Magazine analyzed 928 peer-reviewed scientific papers on global warming published between 1993 and 2003. Not a single one challenged the scientific consensus the earth's temperature is rising due to human activity" -- and yet a recent study found that the majority of news stories about global warming are 'structured on the journalistic norm of balanced reporting, giving the impression that the scientific community was embroiled in a rip-roaring debate on whether or not humans were contributing to global warming.'"

A-men to that.

Time to become the media.

The full essays are here: 1,2 and 3.

Friday, June 16, 2006

The Non-Negotiable Right

Daily Hate (aka Mail) commentator Melanie 'The End is Nigh' Phillips writes: "They [Muslim terrorists] are fuelled by an ideology that itself is non-negotiable and forms a continuum that links peaceful, law-abiding but nevertheless intensely ideological Muslims at one end and murderous jihadists at the other." Hmmm. I don't see the difference between that point and the Right wing Judeo-Christian spectrum of ideology she is part of. "They [the right] are fueled by an ideology that itself is non-negotiable and forms a continuum that links peaceful, law-abiding but nevertheless intensely ideological conservatives at one end and murderous fascists at the other."

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Be Afwraid, Be Very Afwraid...

Hot on the heels of the forest gate terror raids to find a chemical bomb that netted...nothing but did dismantle a house and shoot one guy, so that's worth somthing. Same shit is going down in Canada.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Iraq Trap

Just finished reading Loretta Napoleoni's book 'Insurgent Iraq: al Zarqawi and the New Generation' – Its a very good read and I'd highly recommend it. It chillings records the trap that Iraq is. When, in 2003, Colin Powell went to the UN to declare that al Zarqawi was the link between Saddam and al Qaeda as a pretext for war, he was wrong. Yes al Zarqawi was in Baghdad, but not to hang out with Saddam, rather to built a network for the coming trap that he (correctly) believed Iraq would become for the US. He saw in 2001 that the US would end up in Iraq and got to work preparing. He saw (correctly) that a unified nationalist resistance of Sunni and Shiite would push his jihadists out and so they would miss the change to enlarge the war beyond Iraq. He saw (correctly) that the US would come to rely on local death squads (aka 'The Salvador Option') so driving the country towards civil war. He was always thinking global, thus he was not the head of 'al Qaeda in Iraq' – this is a mistranslation – he was emir of 'al-Qaeda in the Land of Two Rivers' – a reference to the larger Islamic state they wish to create.

After reading the book it made me think they Bliar and Bu$h have both been following a script without either checking who wrote it or how it ends. Iraq was a baited trap that began on September 11th 2001, who's metal jaws clamped shut when the coalition of the few invaded.

The book has the following statement, "Even if he is caught and killed, the insurgency will not stop. On the contrary, his capture or death would enlarge his myth and strengthen his legacy."

The bombing has completed his circle.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Uncovering al Zarqawi

Here's a few good sites for more information from the wires...

The "Elimination" of Zarqawi: A New Episode of the Media War
"Timing is everything. To the managers of the Iraq War, perception has always trumped reality. From the beginning it was a war of media stunts - the attempt to assassinate Saddam with 50 cruise missiles before the invasion, the Shock and Awe, the bringing down of the statues, Jessica Lynch, Saddam in the hole, the purple-fingered Iraqi voters and many other events staged for media consumption."

Zarqawi Killed in Baquba
"...that groups in Fallujah have launched attacks on Zarqawi followers there after the latter attacked the al-Husain Mosque in the Askari quarter two days ago, destroying the tomb of the founder of the mosque within it. (Salafis influenced by Saudi Wahhabism despise attendance at saints tombs, insisting on a Protestant-like elimination of all intermediaries between human beings and God. Many Islamists in Fallujah are actually Sufis, who value saints in the way rural Catholics do.)"

Al Zarqawi reported killed (Again)
"Despite his reportedly having been killed at least twice in the past it is being reported by major news sources that Al Zarqawi has been killed by a US airstrike in Baghdad. This time the reports have Zarqawi’s death as 'for sure' and 'definitely' confirmed. It has yet to be seen if Zarqawi will rise from the dead again, as he has in the past, further exercising the magical powers..."

Zarqawi's end is not a famous victory, nor will it bring Iraq any nearer to peace (not a free article, but good!)
"So, it's another 'mission accomplished'. The man immortalised by the Americans as the most dangerous terrorist since the last most dangerous terrorist, is killed - by the Americans. A Jordanian corner-boy who could not even lock and load a machine gun is blown up by the US Air Force - and Messrs Bush and Blair see fit to boast of his demise. To this have our leaders descended. And how short are our memories."
The remains of one war, the nature of another.

Bombs were very much in the frame yesterday. In Bristol workers uncovered what is suspected to be an old World War 2 bomb in Broadmead. In Iraq the US dropped two bombs on a house to eliminate al-Zarqawi. The remains of one war, the nature of another. The bomb the US dropped were 500lb bombs. You can see the size of the blast on the TV footage. Five other people were killed in this blast – a woman and child included. The bomb in Bristol is probably a 'Sprengbombe Cylindrich' or general demolition bomb as this is what most of the bombs dropped on the UK during WWII were. This means its anything from 110 lb (50kg) to about 4000lb (1800kg nicknamed 'The Satan'). I hope it does not go off - you can see the size of the blast it might have from the TV footage in Iraq.

The remains of one war, the nature of another. The Bristol bomb has disrupted the Broadmead development. The Iraq bombs, it is hoped, signal the beginning of the end for the insurgency. We can understand the Bristol bomb – where it came from, how it will be dealt with. The police have cordoned off the area, and bomb disposal people move in to make it safe. Great length have gone into making it safe. This is done because we don't want to die nor see other die.

I don't think we understand the Iraq bombs - al-Zarqawi was not afraid of death, it was his currency, all he sought is lot of it and for it to be spectacular. His death at the hands of such a mighty dose of firepower is propaganda for his cause; that it took not just one – but two devices to stop him. The military force being used in the war on terror is being turned into propaganda that is part of it. The remains of his war, the nature of his jihad. Killing al-Zarqawi along with the 'collateral damage' of a woman and child is simply closing the circle of his jihad. You cannot bomb your way to peace and peace will not follow the bombs. Indeed how and when will the Iraq war and civil war end? Is the war on terror simply a war without end?

The Bristol bomb shows how long the legacy of war remains. The remains of one war, the nature of another.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Iraq War is Lost

So say the soliders on the ground:

"Military commanders in the field in Iraq admit in private reports to the Pentagon the war 'is lost' and that the U.S. military is unable to stem the mounting violence killing 1,000 Iraqi civilians a month. Even worse, they report the massacre of Iraqi civilians at Haditha is 'just the tip of the iceberg' with overstressed, out-of-control Americans soldiers pushed beyond the breaking point both physically and mentally."

This should be front page news, but it won't be. It reminds me of an account in Peter Taylor's book 'The Provos: IRA and Sinn Fein' when he writes about the secret reports where UK intelligence basically told the government that they could not win the war, but neither could the IRA. The state could weaken the IRA very severely, but never fully kill it off. There had to be a political solution. When you can't win, it just means you've lost (but slowly). The problem is that I would guess that lots more people will have to die before the politicians catch up.

There are other places where the War on Terror is coming unstuck; US backed forces in Somalia just lost control of the capital to the Islamic militia:

"Islamist militias fighting American-backed warlords in Somalia were in control of the capital Mogadishu last night, as fighting started to spread to other parts of the country. The development came after three months of fierce clashes in which hundreds have been killed and injured and thousands more forced to flee their homes. Last night the warlords' militias had retreated from Mogadishu with Islamist forces in hot pursuit. The UN began pulling staff out of neighbouring areas in anticipation of the growing conflict."

In Colombia reports are that 'Plan Colombia' is falling apart:

"[Department of Justice attorney Thomas M. Kent]'s memorandum [A document obtained recently by Narco News] contains some of the most serious allegations ever raised against U.S. antinarcotics officers: that DEA agents on the front lines of the drug war in Colombia are on drug traffickers’ payrolls, complicit in the murders of informants who knew too much, and, most startlingly, directly involved in helping Colombia’s infamous rightwing paramilitary death squads to launder drug money."

Sill there is always the world cup or a so-called terror raid to keep our minds on other things...

On the subject of terror, state-backed terror this time that won't get written about - the killings go on in Colombia. There are two brave people visiting Bristol today: Jorge Aramburo, Arcenides Candelo & Maria Valencia from Proceso de Comunidades Negra, Colombia (Black Communities Process) This isa chance to hear the reality of the war on terror from the terrorised:

7.00pm Wednesday 7th, June. Kuumba Arts & Community Resource Centre, 20-23 Hepburn Road, St Pauls, Bristol BS28UD.
Venn Festival High'n'Lowlights

Venn Highlights:

Team Brick playing (what looked like) a CD rack – Gotta love the experimental, after all this is Venn. While this is was never going to end on Top of the Pops or being feted by NME, it was a glorious mash-up of noise and great fun. Its free jazz without the jazz and pomposity. Its Frank Zappa with tourette's. Its bash'n'roll. I'd just like to see somebody book Team Brick for a wedding...

Vialka – Where the f**k do they find these people? When they arrived, there was this crazy tattooed guy and this demure, awkward looking woman that I assumed was the girlfriend of a performer. Then they got on stage and...well fuck me if she's not one of the most amazing drummers and performers I've seen. They play this kind of random rock, which was pretty good, but she was the star. She played the drums with her whole body, smashing the thing for dear life. Suddenly she would jump up, off the stage and start to play the crowd with her whole body. Pretty amazing stuff.

Venn Lowlights:

Immigration Service – Not a band but the actual Immigration Service; the fucking bastards deported a third of DJ Rupture project, Nettle. Thanks a fucking bunch.

Cobra Killer – This was the main act I wanted to see. Should have been Digital Hardcore fun, but instead the band threw a hissy fit over the hotel accommodation (apparently they don't do two star) and then fucked off after the sound check. Credit to Exile who filled in and did a great set. Warm sloppy poo to Cobra Killer for throwing their toys out of the pram; where's the fucking soul people? I thought the show had to go on? Apparently fucking not.

Venn Gutted I Missed:

Sgure - Binray told me about this trio. He said black metal on a laptop. I listened to the stuff on their site and I say, gutted I missed it.