Monday, December 03, 2007

Shelf Life 'Endgame' video now online



'Endgame' is Shelf Life's first proper music video. As with the recording of the song, it was shot at Rubber Soul in Kokubunji, Tokyo, and features a cast of many. It also includes footage from a show we did in Ebisu in Central Tokyo, featuring cameo appearances from Ray Dorsey who has toured in a version of The Drifters and Tara Solheim of Taratula.

The song was written as a new anthem for peace, love and understanding in our troubled world. It was partly inspired by a meeting I had with a young Iraqi engineer. He had come to Tokyo to tell people about what was happening in his country and to show that despite all that was going on in Iraq, he still brought a message of peace with him. I was quite amazed that, even though he'd lost members of his family, his home and been taken hostage by both the Americans and 'Al-Qaeda', he was able to do that.

Borrowing vibes from 'Hey Jude' and 'We Are The World', 'Endgame' is a song that appeals to people to be the change they want to see in the world and to recognise their fellow humans as being part of the same family.

The lyrics were partly mine and partly pieced together from various other sources of inspiration, including 'To Kill A Mockingbird', Gandhi, Martin Luther King and some open source software.

The video was directed by esteemed Japanese music video director, Kazuyuki Akashi, who has also worked with the likes of Mika Nakashima and Kumi Koda.

It was quite a mad day, gathering everybody together at Rubber Soul for the shoot - my first time appearing in a pop video. While these things might sound quite exciting, they can end up being pretty tiring or boring too, as you hear your own song repeated ad finitum and you have to do take after take after take, to make sure the editor or director has enough material to choose from when cutting it together. It's all worth it when the finished article appears though.

The track also appears on Shelf Life's debut album release 'Best Before End'.

The video can also here at YouTube.

A huge thanks to everyone who was involved in the making of this film, many of whom gave up half of their day to be with us.


'Endgame'
(Pates/Cheryo)

You'll never know a man,
Until you step into his shoes.
Won't see what's goin' on,
Unless you look through another's eyes.

A friend of mine,
Told me of soldiers on his streets.
Home and family gone,
Yet he learned not to hate.

I am what I am,
Because of who we all are.
An eye for an eye,
Will make the whole world blind – so blind.

We all seek,
Yet rarely find our peace of mind.
We're still building walls,
We should be building bridges instead.

In the end,
It's not the words of our enemies,
We remember,
But the silence of our friends.

I am what I am,
Because of who we all are.
We are the ones,
That we've been waiting for – so long.

I am what I am,
Because of who we all are.
We are the ones,
That we've been waiting for – so long.

You'll never know
Without standing in his shoes
You'll never see
Better look through another's eyes

Yes, he told me
'Bout the soldiers on his streets
His family was gone
He turned his hate around

All looking for
That little piece of mind
Newer, higher walls
But a bridge brings us together

It's not the words
Of our enemies that last
But the silence
Of our friends, so shout it loud


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

'Best Before End' album launch


So much for filling in the gaps on Argentina! It's almost like the moment has passed now - back in Tokyo for a while, life as hectic as ever, juggling a whole stack of things.

My band Shelf Life have been working on our debut album all year. Finally, it's about to be released and I can't wait to get that little silver disc in my hands.

For those of you who will be in Tokyo on December 8th and have a free night, we'll be launching the CD with a party, as usual at Rubber Soul in Kokubunji. We'll be playing live, with support from Takeshi Band.

The album will be on playback throughout the evening and there will be a premiere of the video made for the track 'Endgame'. The video was made by the esteemed Japanese pop video director Kazuyuki Akashi.

'Best Before End' will go on sale at Rubber Soul from Dec 8th, at 1,500 yen. Signed copies will be available at the launch party.

The event will also mark the 5th Anniversary of the opening of Rubber Soul. The party starts from 6pm...be there if you can!


'Best Before End' front cover, artwork by Daniel Evans

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Back from Argentina

Street scene in Caminito, La Boca, Buenos Aires

I am now back in Japan after two weeks in Argentina. It was my first visit to South America and to get there and back were the longest journeys of my life!

Argentina is a wonderful and fascinating place in so many ways. When I can find the time to do so (naturally, being back in Tokyo, life is suddenly rather hectic again), I aim to write a little about the experience here. There will be a few photo galleries going up too, which will also take me a while.

In the meantime however, I thought it would be good to post a few taster pictures from the trip.

Enjoy what you see and bear with me, there's more on the way!

Icons of Argentina's past look down from a Caminito balcony: l-r, Juan Peron, Eva Peron (Evita), Diego Maradona

Christina Kirchner, Argentina's new and first female president, in a Buenos Aires election poster

Sleeping cat and tomb door at cemetery in Recoleta, Buenos Aires

Tango show in Palermo, Buenos Aires

Echoes of Paris in the streets of Buenos Aires

Student sit-down protest outside the University of Buenos Aires

Street sign in Colonia, Uruguay

Uruguayan plant pot, Colonia

Iguazu Falls, on the borders with Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay

View of Iguazu Falls from the river, Argentinian side

Standing at the 'Devil's Throat', Iguazu Falls

View of the Andes from above, en route to Santiago

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

'The Big Lie: Iran Is A Threat' (WN0007)

'Iran has never manifested itself as a serious threat to the national security of the United States...'

Thus begins an article by former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter. In the midst of the threat of the Bush Administration heading towards YET ANOTHER WAR (and one that would undoubtedly be even more disastrous for the world than the Afghan and Iraq misadventures), there are some sane and very knowledgeable voices setting the case against such actions.

Ritter's piece sets out very clearly why Iran poses no threat to the US and contains some very useful background information on the country itself. It should be required reading for anyone that thinks an attack on Iran is necessary.

The article can be read here.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Control K remixes Ryuichi Sakamoto

The first new recording by Control K in two years is finally released, a remix of a Ryuichi Sakamoto song. Constructed over a six month period, 'Rokkasella (New Clear Mix)' is my first venture into remixing.

'Rokkasella' is a radical reworking of a track originally produced by Team 6, comprising of electronic music pioneer Ryuichi Sakamoto (YMO, 'Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence') and US-based Japanese rapper Shing02, amongst others.

Following in the spirit of 'electronic protest music' that inspired the debut Control K album release 'The Front Line (Redux)', this remix builds on the ambient dub vibe that ran through that album. It also draws clear parallels between the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the use of nuclear power, and weaves a narrative of US energy imperialism into the tale.

The track is available for free download from the 'Stop Rokkasho' website, included with the likes of Kraftwerk, DJ Krush and Mick Karn (formerly of 80's band Japan). It is available to listen to at Control K's MySpace page. All remixes in this project are also available for free download from the iTunes Music Store.

*****

The original recording 'Rokkasho' was intended to draw attention to the dangers of Japan's nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in the North of Japan. Japan has previously commissioned reprocessing plants in Europe to reprocess its spent nuclear fuel and then shipped the waste back to Japan, but is now set to resume full scale reprocessing in Japan.

The reprocessing process releases large quantities of radioactivity into the environment. Extracted plutonium can be used in nuclear weapons and reprocessing entails clear environmental, social and safety risks.

An English language petition relating to the reactivating of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Plant that was damaged in the Niigata earthquake of 2007 can be found here.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Shelf Life to play at Ebisu book launch party

Shelf Life will be giving our debut Central Tokyo performance on Sunday October 7th. It will be our first show outside of Kokubunji's Rubber Soul bar, the venue where we formed in 2004 and grew to be what we are now.

The event is a launch party for a new Printed Matter Press title, 'Jungle Crows', an anthology of Tokyo-based expat writers. The collection featured well-known writers such as the esteemed Donald Richie, contributing editor Hillel Wright and Kyoto Journal fiction editor Leza Lowitz. Selected authors will be giving readings at the event. Tarantula (featuring Tara Solheim) will also perform live.

It also includes a little something from me. I contributed the piece 'My Life And Bushido Ghosts', which to my great surprise has ended up as the preface to the collection! It's my first appearance in a book, so I'm very excited about it. Should also end up being a pretty weird night in some ways too, as I'll be an author at the event and the singer in the band. Back in 2000, I performed in two bands on the same night (support and headline acts), but this will be another story altogether as I'll have two distinctly different hats on.

The 'Jungle Crows' launch party will be held at What The Dickens! British pub in Ebisu. Doors open at 16:00, with readings set to begin at about 16:45. Live music begins from around 20:00.

Shelf Life will be performing a set of original material from our forthcoming mini-LP 'Best Before End', due out in December. The following day, we have a video shoot with a well-know J-Pop music video director. I'll be recording the vocal tracks for the album a week later and then the following week I'm off to Argentina for a wedding.

It's shaping up to be a most unusual month!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Robert Newman's 'History Of Oil'

I've often heard of this but not yet seen it. Tonight, I watched in full and it really is a remarkable piece of socio-political comedy. It fully explains why the latest Iraq War happened and how the human race is essentially fucked unless we have a massive, massive effort to sort out the pending energy crisis - now...

...and manages to laugh about it all at the same time!

The full length feature is available from Google Video here. Otherwise, it's available in five parts on YouTube and can be seen below.


Part 1



Part 2



Part 3



Part 4



Part 5


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Trailer for 'The Listening Project'



Keen-eyed readers will remember that back in October of last year, I spent a little time with an American documentary film crew, showing them around parts of Tokyo and hooking them up with some interviewees. The film was to canvas global opinion of the US. I wrote about it here.

I've wondered when I'd hear what happened with the film. As one does, I stumbled back across their website today and found that they've gotten much further than when I last looked back. I'm not sure whether they've managed to secure any distribution for the documentary yet, but they do have a trailer for it available (as seen above).

As they say on the website, they're still listening. If you have something that you want to say about the US, good or bad, you can find a place for your opinions here.

Good luck with getting distribution, guys!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

'Black Balloons' (WN0006)



A very convincing video from the Alliance for Climate Protection, illustrating the contribution each household is making towards climate change.

Monday, August 27, 2007

'The Great Iraq Swindle' (WN0005)


Ever wondered where all the money spent in Iraq went? All those US tax dollars that mysteriously disappeared? The recent edition of Rolling Stone has this story on where it all went.

'In the history of balls, the world has never seen anything like the private contractors George W. Bush summoned to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Collectively, they are the final, polished result of 231 years of natural selection in the crucible of American capitalism: a bureaucrat class capable of stealing the same dollar twice -- once from the taxpayer and once from a veteran in a wheelchair.'

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

'Bush's Brain leaves' (WN0004)


Hard to tell which was better news - Rove's departure or Rumsfeld's? A clear sign nevertheless that the lame duck presidency is now in for the final act of its downward spiral.

The biggest concern however has to be whether Rove knows something very significant that is about to happen - Darth Cheney unable to prevent himself from attacking Iran, for example - that even he couldn't possibly be associated with.

Hopefully though, it's just the crumbling of the Bush Nightmare, at last. What on earth will we be left with when the final curtain has fallen?

Google news sources here.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

'Hiroshima Peace Declaration 2007' (WN0003)


The day after the 62nd anniversary of the dropping of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima and two days before the anniversary of the Nagasaki bomb, today's Web Nugget is Hiroshima mayor Tadatoshi Akiba's 2007 Peace Declaration , given early Monday morning here in Japan.

Taken from Common Dreams, an English translation can be found here.

'Dark Side Of The Rainbow'

One of those legendary counter-cultural myths - that Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side Of The Moon' synchs perfectly and eerily well with 'The Wizard Of Oz' - is something that has intrigued me for some years. The synchronicity produced is known as 'Dark Side Of The Rainbow'.

YouTube - the recycle bin of history - turns up that very artefact, presented here in its full glory.

Some of the posters claim the synching to be a few seconds out, but I think you'll find enough bizarre coincidences in this anyway, with or without perfect synch.

Take a look and find out for yourself. Enjoy!



Part 1



Part 2



Part 3



Part 4



Part 5



Part 6



Part 7

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Shelf Life live in Tokyo in July

Shelf Life, my rock 'n' roll band here in Tokyo, have a gig on the 28th of July at Rubber Soul in Kokubunji - way out west on the Chuo Line. We'll be previewing some of the new material from our forthcoming mini-LP, which is due out at the end of the year.

If you're reading this, happen to live in Tokyo and are free on the night in question, come along and check us out! Doors open at 8pm and entry is free. A map of the venue is here.

In order to up the ante, I've set up a webpage for the band now too. That can be found here.



Finally, I've also gone and set up my own YouTube account. This was necessary in order to get a means of embedding the above video into the Shelf Life MySpace page. However, it should be a good means of getting any films that I make in the future up about around.

One of the nice things about having a Mac is how easy it is to make video. I did quite a bit of work with analogue video back in the early to mid 90's, but haven't really returned to it in the digital age. About time I did, really.

The above is a short clip from a cover of a Stones tune, shot at old, old show. I used it to get to grips with the new software. Works kinda nicely as a promo for the next show too, I guess...


Friday, July 06, 2007

'How To Be Happy' (WN0002)

A nice little nugget from the Web for today and a positive one at that.

Taken from WikiHow, it gives a few clear and easy things to do (and some slightly more difficult ones) about how to be happy.

Now don't tell me it's all doom and gloom here at 'Postings From An Edge'!

Read it here.

Monday, July 02, 2007

New feature - 'Web Nuggets' (WN0001)

One of the problems I find with the Web is that the more time one spends on it, the more one discovers what one can do and consequently, the less time one spends time actually doing stuff! As much as I'd like to blog daily, there's just not enough time in the day, particularly as I tend to prefer my postings to have some sort of length and substance to them.

However, sometimes I come across stuff that I think should be shared and don't find the time to put anything up about it.

With this is mind, I've come up with a slight solution. Today sees the launch of a new feature to 'Postings From An Edge', titled 'Web Nuggets'. Anything that I think should go up but that I don't have the time to do anything about, such as interesting articles, pictures or videos will go up as a Web Nugget with a very brief description and a link (or pic, vid, etc).

Today's inaugural Web Nugget is from Common Dreams and is written by Al Gore. It's titled 'Moving Beyond Kyoto', is an easy-to-read call for the need for humanity to tackle the challenges of climate change and comes ahead of this weekend's Live Earth concerts across the globe.

Read it here.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

64 reasons why the War On Iraq is wrong


The third posting on the war/occupation of Iraq this month.

Trawling around on the Net after I came in from work today, I came across the best summing up yet of the vast, vast range of reasons why the war was fundamentally wrong from the beginning, why it continued to be wrong as it morphed into a savage occupation and why it should end now.

The piece republished below was written by David Michael Green, a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. It was published here, where you can also find a string of comments and responses to it, many of which also recommend making copies of the article and passing it on to as many people as possible. I'm doing my bit here by posting the information on this blog.

I would suggest it as highly recommended reading for anyone that still insists that the reasons for going to war were genuine and not based on the most elaborate pack of lies of our times.



* Mesopotamia has long been a playground for great powers. The British invaded the area in 1917, causing a widespread revolt of the Iraqi people. Britain later ruled under a League of Nations mandate that produced the artificial creation of the country Iraq (and Kuwait), and continued to control oil production in the region. Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour said at the time, “I do not care under what system we keep this oil, but I am quite clear it is all-important for us that this oil should be available”.

* Saddam Hussein started his career as a political thug, on the payroll of the CIA during the 1950s and 1960s, torturing and murdering Iraqi leftists whose names were provided by American intelligence, and participating in an armed coup against the Iraqi government.

* In 1972, the United States conspired with Iran and Israel to support a revolt of the Kurdish people within Iraq against their government.

* In 1980, the United States provided encouragement, weapons, intelligence, satellite data and funding for Saddam’s Iraq to invade Iran, launching an eight year war - the longest and probably the bloodiest of the post-WWII era.

* During this war, Ronald Reagan dispatched Donald Rumsfeld to Iraq to improve relations with Saddam. The United States then restored full diplomatic relations with Iraq, despite the administration’s clear awareness that Saddam was using chemical weapons at the time.

* The Reagan administration also knew that Saddam had used chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurds rising up again against Baghdad (this was the incident George W. Bush would later repeatedly invoke, saying of Saddam, “He gassed his own people”), but nevertheless authorized expanded sales to Iraq of highly sophisticated equipment that could be used to manufacture weapons, only two months after the Halabja incident.

* George H. W. Bush equated Saddam to Hitler. But, in the wake of the 1990-91 Gulf War, after the elder Bush had encouraged Kurds and Shiites to rise up against the regime, he abandoned them, leaving them to be slaughtered by Saddam’s military, in many cases right before the eyes of US forces who were ordered not to intervene.

* The senior Bush had a chance after that war to occupy Iraq and topple Saddam. He chose not to because, in his own words and those of his National Security Advisor, Brent Scowcroft, “Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq … would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. … We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. …furthermore, we had been self‑consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post‑cold war world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the U.N.’s mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different - and perhaps barren - outcome.”

* The younger Bush, George W., never asked his father for advice on Iraq. Instead, he said: “You know he is the wrong father to appeal to in terms of strength. There is a higher father that I appeal to.” Bush has also stated, “I’m driven with a mission from God. …God would tell me, ‘George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq…’ And I did.”

* George W. Bush gave twenty interviews in 1999 to Mickey Herskowitz, a friend of the Bush family contracted at the time to ghostwrite his autobiography. Bush was thinking about invading Iraq at that time, saying “‘One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander‑in‑chief. My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it. If I have a chance to invade, if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it. I’m going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I’m going to have a successful presidency.” Herskowitz said that Bush’s beliefs on Iraq were shaped by Dick Cheney’s ideas, based on the power and glory Margaret Thatcher earned from her Falklands War: “Start a small war. Pick a country where there is justification you can jump on, go ahead and invade.” Herskowitz also reports this interesting note from his interviews with Bush: “He told me that as a leader, you can never admit to a mistake. That was one of the keys to being a leader.”

* During the presidential campaign of 2000, candidate Bush said very little about Iraq, and certainly never suggested the need for urgent action. Somehow, though, in just two years time - during which, if anything, Iraq actually got weaker, not stronger - Saddam and his country became a perilous and imminent threat that had to be addressed immediately.

* Former members of his own cabinet have revealed that Bush planned to invade Iraq from the very beginning of his administration, well before 9/11. All discussions were about the how of doing it, never about the why, the justification, the costs or the wisdom.

* Bush claims he is fighting a war on terror in response to 9/11. But in the first eight months of his administration, his own top terrorism advisor, Richard Clarke, could not get a meeting of cabinet-level security officials to discuss terrorism. They finally met, one week before 9/11, and then the meeting was ‘hijacked’ into discussing Iraq instead. In 2004, Clarke said “Frankly, I find it outrageous that the president is running for re‑election on the grounds that he’s done such great things about terrorism. He ignored it. He ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something to stop 9/11.” Clarke is a Republican who voted for Bush in 2000, and also served in the administrations of Bush’s father, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

* Right after 9/11, according to Clarke, “The president dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut the door, and said, ‘I want you to find whether Iraq did this.’ Now he never said, ‘Make it up.’ But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this. I said, ‘Mr. President. We’ve done this before. We have been looking at this. We looked at it with an open mind. There’s no connection.’ He came back at me and said, ‘Iraq! Saddam! Find out if there’s a connection’. And in a very intimidating way. I mean that we should come back with that answer. We wrote a report. It was a serious look. We got together all the FBI experts, all the CIA experts. We wrote the report. We sent the report out to CIA and found FBI and said, ‘Will you sign this report?’ They all cleared the report. And we sent it up to the president and it got bounced by the National Security Advisor or Deputy. It got bounced and sent back saying, ‘Wrong answer. … Do it again’.”

* Iraq was not in league with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, whom the administration blamed for the 9/11 attacks. As Richard Clarke put it, “There’s absolutely no evidence that Iraq was supporting al Qaeda, ever”. Indeed, the opposite is true. Al Qaeda is a Muslim fundamentalist organization dedicated to the violent overthrow of the secular regimes ruling Islamic countries, precisely what Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was. Indeed, even the highly religious Saudi Arabia (from which 15 of the 19 alleged hijackers came, none of them being Iraqis) is under violent pressure from al Qaeda for not being theocratic enough.

* Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. Even George Bush has now admitted this. However, over the last six years, and still to this day, Bush constantly conflates the two in almost every speech he gives, to the point where in 2003 sixty-nine percent of Americans came to believe that Saddam had been behind the 9/11 attacks. There can be little doubt that the administration used 9/11 to justify the invasion of Iraq, though they had nothing whatsoever to do with each other.

* According to the internal top secret documents later leaked as the Downing Street Memos, we know that the administration itself realized that “the case was thin” for war against Iraq, because “Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.”

* Nevertheless, the administration made an internal decision that the war would be marketed around the supposed WMD threat, despite knowing it was false. The allusions to mushroom clouds, centrifuge tubes and all the rest were gross exaggerations and outright lies, and were known to be at the time by the people making them. As the Downing Street Memos reveal, a decision for war had already been made, and the public case for it was fabricated afterwards: “The intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy”.

* The president claimed in a state of the union speech that Saddam had gone to Africa to get uranium, seriously alarming the American public. Before the speech, the CIA had told the White House to remove that comment because it was transparently false, based as it was on a crude forged letter. Ultimately, the ‘mistake’ of including this lie was blamed on Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, who was later punished for this grave ‘error’ by being promoted to National Security Advisor. His former boss, Condoleeza Rice, was punished by being promoted to Secretary of State.

* When Joseph Wilson came home from a trip to Niger and told the truth about the forged letter, the administration revealed the identity of his wife, undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame, thus potentially jeopardizing the lives of all her contacts overseas. Eight witnesses recalled nine conversations with Vice President Cheney’s Chief of Staff, Scooter Libby, in which Libby blew Plame’s cover - an act of treason - in order to punish a political ‘enemy’ for telling the truth. Libby claimed not to remember these nine conversations. Both the jury and the judge in the case thought Libby was unquestionably lying and convicted him of obstructing justice, with jurors commenting that they felt sorry for him because he was obviously taking a fall for Cheney.

* The case regarding Saddam’s chemical weapons capability was similarly trumped up. It was based on the rantings of a single source, code-named “Curveball”, whose handlers in the German intelligence service had repeatedly warned the administration that he was a drunk and a liar.

* The administration continually relied upon Iraqi exiles, many of whom had not set foot in the country for decades, as sources for information about Iraq and as mouthpieces to justify the invasion. But it is unclear who was using whom. Ahmad Chalabi, the most prominent of these, intended to use the US military as a vehicle to become leader of Iraq. Despite being wanted for massive bank fraud in Jordan, Chalabi convinced neoconservatives that he was the “George Washington of Iraq”. His Iraqi National Congress was the primary source for Bush administration claims that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and ties to al Qaeda, neither of which was true. Chalabi gloated about how his influence led the Bush administration to war, and the Pentagon immediately flew him into Iraq following the invasion. The army of followers that he had promised would rally around him never materialized, and his party won zero parliamentary seats in the December 2005 elections. Ultimately, the United States accused him of providing intelligence secrets to the Iranian government and raided his offices.

* Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN Security Council sealed the deal for most Americans regarding the case for war. It later became apparent that almost everything Powell said that day was false, and he has described this episode as the low point in his career.

* The Downing Street Memos reveal that the purpose of authorizing UN weapons inspectors to go to Iraq was never actually to assess the threat and destroy any weapons found. Instead, the purpose was to “wrongfoot” Saddam by getting him to reject the inspectors, thus giving the American and British governments a pretext for war. Tony Blair said “It would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors. If the political context were right, people would support regime change.”

* To this day Bush claims that Saddam kicked out the inspectors. That had been true five years previously, but not before the war. Hans Blix, the head of the 2002-03 weapons inspection team reported that they were getting good cooperation from the Iraqis, despite the fact that - as revealed by one of the former team members - the US had inserted American spies into prior international weapons inspection teams in Iraq.

* At the time of the invasion in 2003, the weapons inspectors were nearly done with their work, and only asked for a month or two more to finish. The Bush administration claimed that the threat of Saddam and his WMD was too grave and too urgent to wait. Bush’s claim that Saddam kicked out the inspectors is not only false, but masks the actual truth, which is that the administration told the inspectors to leave because of the looming attack, before they could finish their work and by so doing remove the rationale for that attack.

* As war loomed, Iraq made broad overtures to the United States to prevent an invasion, offering to allow full, on-the-ground, American weapons inspections, anti-terrorism cooperation, oil concessions, and even backing for the US position in an Israeli/Palestinian peace plan. The only thing Saddam balked at was regime change, but even then he offered to hold elections within two years’ time. The Americans were also informed by the Iraqis at the time that there were no existing WMD. The Iraqi representatives “could not understand why the Americans were focused on Iraq rather than on countries, like Iran, that have long supported terrorists”. The Bush administration rejected their offer, despite that it met every demand that Bush was publicly making.

* Saddam had never attacked the United States, nor even threatened to do so.

* In March of 2003, when the invasion was launched, Iraq was a gravely weakened military and economic power which could not seriously threaten its neighbors, let alone the United States. International sanctions had seriously damaged its economy and killed vast numbers of its citizens, including about 500,000 children. It had no serious weapons capability. It had lost control over two-thirds of its own airspace to American and British flyers.

* In November of 2002, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1441, requiring that Iraq declare its WMD, disarm, and allow inspections to verify that this has occurred. One week later Iraq announced that it would accept the resolution, and the weapons inspectors were simultaneously deployed.

* Iraq submitted a report to the UN, as required, indicating that it possessed no weapons of mass destruction. The Bush administration immediately and definitively asserted that Saddam was lying. In fact, since Iraq had no WMD, and since Bush claimed that Saddam was unquestionably lying in saying so, it was Bush who lied, not Saddam.

* Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said of the supposed Iraqi WMD, “We know where they are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat”. But the United States government had never informed the UN weapons inspectors - a team that Bush had demanded be sent - of where to find those weapons.

* Two subsequent reports from teams sent to Iraq by the Bush administration itself revealed that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, though some people continue to this day to say there were some found there. Moreover, these teams scientifically confirmed that such weapons are neither missing nor hidden nor deported, but never existed after the mandated weapons destruction which followed the Gulf War.

* At one point Bush claimed that two small trailers found in the desert were mobile “biological laboratories” and thus declared, “We have found the weapons of mass destruction”, seemingly vindicating his decision to go to war. But even before he spoke, it was known by the Pentagon that these trailers had nothing to do with WMD production, and that fact was reported to Washington two days before the president’s statement. Bush and other administration officials continued to make the claim for nearly a year, despite an unequivocal report filed from the field stating that the trailers were not, and could not be, weapons labs. Scientists and engineers on the investigating team referred to the trailers as “”the biggest sand toilets in the world”.

* Added all together, what emerges from the above-listed facts is that all the carnage and destruction that has ensued was based on the case that Iraq was so imminent a threat - despite in fact being a very weak military power - that America could not wait four to six more weeks for the weapons inspectors to finish their work and reveal that it was no threat whatsoever.

* All the world, including the Bush administration, clearly understood that Security Council Resolution 1441 did not authorize an invasion of Iraq. Thus, in March 2003, the US drafted a second resolution which would explicitly do so. It needed nine out of fifteen votes, with no permanent member vetoes, to pass. In a press conference, Bush was asked whether he would call for a vote regardless of anticipated outcome. He responded, “No matter what the whip count is, we’re calling for the vote. We want to see people stand up and say what their opinion is about Saddam Hussein and the utility of the United Nations Security Council. And so, you bet. It’s time for people to show their cards, to let the world know where they stand when it comes to Saddam.” But after extensive American pressure, lobbying and even spying on Security Council members, only four countries were prepared to vote in favor of the resolution, with three of the five permanent members opposing. The president quietly withdrew the resolution he had promised “no matter what”.

* To this day Bush says in his speeches that Saddam did not comply with the UN, that Saddam kicked the inspectors out of Iraq, and that Bush had Security Council authorization to invade. None of those statements are true.

* In 2004, after saying that the Iraqi threat of WMD was urgent, Bush was asked by a reporter whether he had concerns about North Korea’s nuclear weapons development program, which - unlike Iraq’s - was quite real. In response, the president just opened his palms and shrugged. North Korea has since actually tested a nuclear warhead. Yet there is little expressed concern, the president almost never mentions it, there is no invasion being planned and no war drums being beaten.

* For that matter, there never was when the Soviet Union had more than 20,000 nuclear warheads mounted on ballistic missiles targeted on the US and set to a hair trigger. Bush never explained why nuclear deterrence worked against the Soviets with all their weapons for forty years, but couldn’t have had the same effect against Iraq today.

* Bush also never explained why Iraq had to be invaded, even though more than thirty countries had greater WMD capability at the time.

* When the WMD and al Qaeda link rationales for the war were exploded, the administration began arguing that its central purpose in invading Iraq was to bring democracy to the country and to the Middle East. At the same time, however, it has done next to nothing about Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have been murdered in a clear case of ongoing genocide. Since the first requisite for being able to vote is to be alive, it is unclear how invading Iraq in the name of democracy could be so urgent, yet saving lives in Darfur of little concern and no action.

* The administration was told in advance by American intelligence agencies that there was a very high danger that Iraq could explode into ethnic chaos following an invasion. It chose to attack anyhow.

* According to former US diplomat Peter Galbraith, Bush was startled to learn - in January 2003 - that there was a difference between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Responding to the three Iraqi exiles whom he had invited as guests to the Super Bowl, Bush looked at them and said, “You mean…they’re not, you know, there, there’s this difference. What is it about?” As Bush often likes to brag, he governs based on gut feelings, not on intelligence or analysis. Those who know him state that he doesn’t read books, and he himself admitted he doesn’t read newspapers.

* Before the war, General Eric Shinseki testified to Congress that several hundred thousand troops would be needed to govern this country of 25 million people during a post-war occupation. But since the administration was insisting that the war could be handled with far fewer troops and at far less expense, General Shinseki and at least one other general who made the same argument were publicly humiliated and had their long and prestigious military careers terminated for political reasons. Four years later, Bush is now ‘surging’ in Iraq by adding troops to the 140,000 or so that were already there, in addition to the 80,000 or so highly expensive mercenaries the taxpayers are funding. With the total now nearing 250,000 soldiers occupying the country, it is still transparently not enough to keep the peace.

* To say that there was never a plan for the post-war occupation of Iraq is technically incorrect. There was an extensive plan which the State Department had put together, working with experts and Iraqi exiles. But Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld didn’t want the State Department to have the credit and control for the occupation, so he and Bush threw State’s document in the garbage. Then there was no plan.

* Most of the Americans sent to staff the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) had no technical or professional training or experience in the work to which they were assigned. Rather, they were chosen because they were Republican Party loyalists.

* One of the most significant blunders the United States committed during the occupation was to dismiss the entire Iraqi Army, sending them home unemployed and armed, along with anyone associated with the Ba’ath Party, despite the fact that everyone who wanted to work at a professional level anywhere in Iraqi society had been forced under Saddam to join the Party. The first Chief Executive of the CPA, General Jay Garner, refused to purge all Ba’athists from Iraqi governing institutions, and instead sought to maximize Iraqi control of the post-war government as much as possible. He was quickly fired.

* As a result of this war, over 3,500 Americans are dead, and perhaps 20,000 or so are gravely wounded. Americans have not been allowed to see the caskets returning to Dover Air Force Base.

* The best, most scientific, and least politicized estimate of Iraqi dead suggests that probably close to one million have now perished in the country’s post-war chaos, out of a population of 25 million.

* Nearly four million Iraqis have been forced to leave their homes as refugees from the violence, flooding Jordan and Syria, especially. The United States allowed all of 202 refugees - many thousands of whom have been targeted for death for having cooperated with the US occupation - to settle in America in 2006. America’s major ally in the region, Saudi Arabia, is building a wall to keep them out.

* The United States has spent half a trillion dollars on the war, so far. Estimates suggest that the number could rise to two trillion dollars before the war is over and the continuing costs of medical care and economic displacement are fully accounted for.

* America’s army has been described by Colin Powell as “broken”. Almost all our land forces are deployed in Iraq - a war of choice - leaving none for use in a real foreign crisis.

* Similarly, our National Guard and Reserve troops have been used in ways that were never intended to fight this war - along with about 80,000 highly expensive mercenaries - so that the president could avoid an unpopular draft. This means that Guard and Reserve troops and their equipment are unavailable for use in national emergencies such as Hurricane Katrina.

* As a result of the war, America is far more hated today throughout much of the world, especially the Mid-East, and is seen as a imperialist power. The Iraq invasion thus played directly into the hands of Islamic radicals like Osama bin Laden.

* America’s own intelligence agencies concede that Iraq has become a giant factory for the minting of new terrorists, where almost none existed prior to the invasion.

* Terrorist incidents worldwide have gone up seven-fold since, and largely because of, the invasion of Iraq.

* Iran, a country whose government truly does despise the United States, has been an enormous beneficiary of the war. Prior to 2003, Iran was a natural check on Iraq among Middle East powers, and vice versa. Now Iran is enormously influential in Iraq and throughout the region, its growth in power alarming its neighbors.

* A very real possibility exists that the civil war now raging within Iraq will become a regional war, perhaps drawing in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Jordan, Syria, Israel and others.

* Gas prices have doubled since the war began. The potential also exists for a global depression should further conflict limit the flow of oil to industrialized countries, just as these economies were damaged by OPEC doing the same thing in the 1970s.

* To this day, American troops in Iraq do not have sufficient body or vehicle armor, leading to hundreds of unnecessary deaths. Communities across America have literally held bake sales to raise funds for purchasing armor for their own kids. When confronted by a soldier about this, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld replied, “You go to war with the Army you have. They’re not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time”.

* Companies like Halliburton, meanwhile, in which the Vice President still maintains financial interests, have received multi-billion dollar contracts for work in Iraq, without having to competitively bid for them, and with the internal influence of Cheney’s office in winning the assignments. Numerous scandals have emerged from these contracts, including billing for work never completed. Eight billion dollars in cash, entrusted to the Coalition Provisional Authority, has gone missing in one incident alone.

* Before the war, when they were marketing it to the public and Congress, administration officials hinted that it would be quick, easy and cheap. After the invasion, George Bush declared, under a “Mission accomplished” banner, that fighting had ceased before the war had really even begun. It has now lasted longer than America’s involvement in World War Two, and the administration has begun to talk about Iraq using the Korean model of a fifty-year occupation.

* The invasion of Iraq was supposedly part of an American ‘war on terrorism’. But, today, the United States is protecting Luis Posada from extradition to Venezuela or Cuba, despite that Posada has bragged about blowing up an airliner and killing seventy-three people on board, as well as a string of other bombings of Cuban hotels and nightclubs. The government claims that Posada cannot be extradited to Venezuela because he might be tortured, even though Venezuela has no such reputation - but after Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib and the Attorney General’s renouncing of the Geneva Conventions, the United States now does.

* None of the principals who decided to go to war in Iraq had ever seen combat themselves. George W. Bush used his father’s influence to avoid service in Vietnam. John Ashcroft got seven draft deferments. Dick Cheney got five deferments, and later said “I had better things to do in the Sixties than fight in Vietnam”. Neither Paul Wolfowitz nor Richard Perle nor Condoleeza Rice ever served, and Donald Rumsfeld never fought in a war. The only senior member of the administration who had was Colin Powell. Powell advised Bush to be cautious about invading Iraq, and was thus sidelined from discussions leading up to the war. George Bush’s Secretary of State was not informed of the decision to invade Iraq until after Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador, had been told by the president.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

War Made Easy - Watch These Films

Following are the trailer and extracts from the new documentary film 'War Made Easy: How Presidents And Pundits Keep Spinning Us To Death', based on the book of the same title by Norman Solomon. The extracts were aired on Democracy Now.

"War Made Easy reaches into the Orwellian memory hole to expose a 50-year pattern of government deception and media spin that has dragged the United States into one war after another from Vietnam to Iraq. Narrated by actor and activist Sean Penn, the film exhumes remarkable archival footage of official distortion and exaggeration from LBJ to George W. Bush, revealing in stunning detail how the American news media have uncritically disseminated the pro-war messages of one administration after another." (from the official website)

'War Made Easy' - Trailer



'War Made Easy' - Part 1



'War Made Easy' - Part 2



'War Made Easy' - Part 3



'War Made Easy' - Part 4



'War Made Easy' - Part 5


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Questions for the peace movement...or how to end the war/occupation?

A short(ish) posting here while I gather some thoughts, join some dots and ask some questions...

The new US Embassy in Iraq will be the world's largest and most expensive foreign mission. The $592 million facility, built on 104 acres (the size of 80 American football fields) and set to open in September, is expected to employ over 1,000 people in a 21 complex housed behind high, blast-proof walls.

Meanwhile, the US administration has begun talking about the 'Korea model' (1, 2) for the US presence in Iraq. US troops have been stationed in Korea since the end of the Korean War in 1953, and in Japan since the Second World War ended in 1945. Defense Secretary Robert Gates last month described how the US was looking for a 'long and enduring presence' under arrangement with the Iraqi government.

Although this may have been obvious to many people for a long time, it is looking increasingly like there is no intention whatsoever for US withdrawal from Iraq. The assumption has to be that they are hoping to quell the violence sufficiently over time in order to be able to get on with the business of the oil.


The difference between Pax Americana and the other Empires that preceded it is that the United States doesn't admit to being an empire. It has become one by stealth, perhaps because after WWII and the end of the Cold War, the very concept of imperialism, grabbing resources and territory by force had become discredited.

If however we accept that the US is indeed acting as an empire and has no intentions of leaving Iraq perhaps within any of our lifetimes, what position or actions should the peace movement take when working to end the war/occupation there?

To end a war is in itself a Herculean task, and historically has tended to happen either when victory is declared or the invading army is forced to concede defeat and withdraw. To end an empire (and extend the Ancient Greek metaphor) can be seen as a Sisyphian task.

I do not pretend to have answers to this crucial question, but feel that it is vital that it is asked. What can be done to end this madness in the Middle East?

In the long term, it is something that requires the will and participation of millions, billions even, with the strengthening of existing and the building of new international institutions that truly outlaw war and militarism. It requires perhaps the encouragement and development of a multi-polar world to counter the dangers posed by a uni-polar one. It also demands the rousing of a new consciousness amongst the peoples of the world to encourage a vision of a future where resources are fairly traded as opposed to taken by force and disputes are settled by means other than military ones.

In the short term, if the US is to insist on acting as an empire and to return to the question, how is the war and occupation of Iraq to be brought to an end?

Answers on a comment posting please!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Dancing for peace in a Japanese mountain forest


Peace Not War Japan was recently asked to provide a speaker for a peace workshop at a festival near Hamamatsu, in Shizuoka prefecture. We were also invited to come down and check out the event, known as Dance For Peace Japan (DFPJ), for ourselves.

DFP was started in Bali in 2002, in response to the nightclub bombings on the Indonesian island. More recently, they've also set up events in Japan and it was the most recent one that PNWJ was invited to take part in. I was also asked to perform a live set as Control K. Unfortunately the timing didn't quite work as we all had to get back to Tokyo, so I missed my live debut as an electronic artist!

Tokyo rarely stops for anyone and I'm no different, but it was great to get a little time out of the city and to have the chance to breathe some pure mountain air. It was my first time out of Tokyo this year and I think that I must have really needed it. DFPJ was also my first experience of hanging out with real Japanese hippies and getting a feel for some of this country's communities on the outside of the mainstream.

The photos shown here were all taken from the event. Above, people gradually applaud the appearance of a rainbow.


Yamakita-san, the percussionist we shared a ride with from Hamamatsu station.


Gathered round a camp fire.


The fire I built, at night.


Night-time festival scene, with stage, sound desk and camp fire.


Candles around the paddling pool.


Wood, light and dark - a classic Japanese image.


Kaori Aizawa, the speaker from Peace On.


Listening to the workshop and tales from Iraq.


Backstage.


Horse man juggles with sticks.


Building a fire in the rain.


Two members of Koh Tao, a band who first met on a small southern Thai island.


Horse man gives a ride.


Site view.


Preparing delicious deep-fried bread snacks.


Bungalows in the forest; a place to stay at night.


Lord Ganesh, from wall hanging.


I missed the name of this band, but they were certainly relaxed.


Teepee display.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Blair to step down on June 27


Well that certainly brings the end of an era. Find a clip of the resignation speech here.

Trust me to be out of the country when it happens too!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

New Zealand groovers live in Tokyo



Any of you in town on Thursday June 7th? Up for a great night of getting down with Aotearoa's funkiest? Then you might want to check out Rhombus at Super-Deluxe in Roppongi...

I was originally supposed to be organising some of the support acts for this show, but simply ran out of space in my head and schedule to fit something else in. I'll be doing something at smaller shows with them on the days before, but had to blow this one out. Least I could do was post their video ad here instead!

If you're not in Japan and are a lover of deep grooves, soused in dub and with lashings of hip-hop on top, at least take a look at their website and dig the tunes you find there.

Hope to remix one of their tracks someday too, when a rare window of opportunity presents itself...

Monday, April 30, 2007

Literary compliments

Last night, I went to an Open Stage event at Ben's Cafe in Takadanobaba (try and say that with your mouth full!), downtown Tokyo. An American author, Eric Shade, was reading from his short story collection 'Eyesores', and there was then an open platform for other fiction writers to take to the stage and read from their own works. The event, a regular one known as 'Fifth Sunday Fiction' was hosted by a Canadian expat novelist and editor named Hillel Wright.

It was my first time at such a thing, although I've been to musical open mic nights before. My stage debut, way back in the day, was at some Cardiff back alley joint where I was convinced after about eight pints to go up on the stage and attempt a version of 'Get Off My Cloud' with the house band. As I remember it, everybody who went up that night was applauded for going up, even the woman who was described as 'the Welsh Janis Joplin' and proceeded to murder 'Blowin' In The Wind' and 'House Of The Rising Sun' in ways I never thought possible! Still, whatever the quality of my undoubtedly shoddy performance at the time, it was a rush that I've been chasing ever since.

The rush one gets from a literary reading on stage is much milder than that of a rock 'n' roll show, but it also expends a lot less energy too so that's to be expected.

At the place I work, I've been hosting a weekly Book Club with my students and have got quite used to public reading. To the surprise of many, we've tackled a handful of really challenging titles, such as 'The Odyssey' and 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest' - not bad going for a class that started out as 'Harry Potter Club'! I digress...

Anyway, I took along a story I wrote a couple of years ago about an integral part of the Tokyo social landscape entitled 'My Little White Box'. Got up, did my thing, got the applause like all the other readers, then sat back down again with my gang and a beer.

To my joy, the host approached me during the intermission and paid me perhaps the highest compliment I've ever received about my writing. First up, he told me that people wearing iPods had always really bugged him, but that my story had made him look at them in a totally different light. He then said that my writing reminded him of Douglas Coupland and Haruki Murakami! I've read Coupland's 'Generation X' and dug it, but Murakami, particularly since I moved to Japan, has become one of my favourite writers.

I was then told that he was compiling an anthology of expat writers and asked if I would be interested in having a story appear in it. Naturally, I was delighted at the offer and agreed straight away - my first appearance in a book!

Excuse the blowing of my own trumpet here, but sometimes a compliment comes along that you just have to share with somebody.

The story can be read here, at my yet-to-be-completed-or-launched collected writings blog.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Branded by the bush


I'm averaging about a post a month on this blog. It would be great to be able to post more often than that, but as I'm juggling multiple commitments here in Tokyo at the moment, I just don't seem to find the time to put in. To my surprise, I got a comment from a reader yesterday that I'm not writing regularly enough! There's good reasons for that, but I'm happy to know that I have readers out there anyway.

With that in mind, I thought it was time to throw up another posting - a bit of a news item this time. I was going to write about the recent visit by the Chinese Premier to Tokyo and may still do. However, that requires a little more time than is on hand write now so I'll mention the publishing of a short story instead.

Since early this year, I've been writing a monthly column on Tokyo-based bands with MySpace pages for a publication called Asia Player. It's a bit of a lads mag covering more of the 'seedier' side of Japan (which is not the kind of thing I might once have envisaged myself writing for), but sometimes one takes publication where one can get it. After all, having appearing in The Sun with my old band a few years back, I've already fed from the Murdoch hand!

Their April edition contains an article from me on the experience of getting stranded in the bush in Tanzania during my last visit back in 2005. It was during my first ever safari and led to me coming about as close to truly wild nature as I've ever come when the car we were driving sank into a dry river bed.

It was a worrying situation to find myself in to say the least, but exciting in an adventurous sort of way too as it gave me my first 'safari survival story'. We stayed at the Saadani Safari Lodge, possibly the most relaxed place I have ever visited on Earth, and slept in a hut that opened out onto the Indian Ocean. A few trips out into the bush to observe the wildlife, a boat trip down a nearby river, and we were almost on the way home when we got stuck.

If you want to know what happened, you'll have to read the story - click here...