Archive for April, 2005

Traffic Burst

We’ve just had a surge of traffic, for once not entirely associated with Viktor Bout. Metafilter linked to a story, from some time ago, regarding Shanaz Rashid, the grateful Iraqi woman who appeared on stage with Blair at the Labour conference. She had every reason to be grateful, because her husband had been named Minister of Waterways by the IGC. He’s the new president’s brother-in-law. She had also had only limited opportunities to reconsider, having been in London since 1968 and only having returned once for a flying visit to the Green Zone. I flagged this and pointed out the curious similarity of George Bush also appearing with a grateful Iraqi woman who had, ah, other reasons to be grateful.

Interestingly, she has also now appointed herself Permanent Representative of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in the UK, so I take it she won’t be going anywhere near Iraq any time soon.

There’s also been extra traffic from Bout googlers. People seem to be searching pretty constantly for Richard Chichakli…not an unusual statement all things considered, but searches include the Bank of America, American Express, HSBC, a lot of people in Texas, the Spanish Ministry of Defence and the US Department of Justice. “Sir, we’re sorry, but your card has been, ah, declined. In fact, it’s been placed on a trap watchlist lookup table that requires us to cut it up and hold one of your legs as security until the FBI get here..” Yeah, but no doubt he’s in the UAE by now, or some hellridden African state where he married the warlord’s daughter.

The FAZ reports on regions of Germany along the borders with Poland and the Czech Republic. Apparently, despite predictions of a crime wave, it actually fell by 10%.

According to IT Week’s pet blogger, it’s now possible to go to India as a backpacker and work in a call centre handling calls from the UK. For Indian wages, naturally. I’m not sure whether to be amused at the stupidity of literally paying to be exploited, or revolted by the hypocrisy.

It’s been reported this week that the rate of violence in Iraq is now down to what it was in April, 2004, by no less an authority than General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. I thought I’d look up the Ranter for that month and check what was going on.

First we had this “The Black Weekend and the New War”, dealing with the tactics of the Shia uprising and especially its seizure of the symbols of authority. I pointed out that the rising meant the loss of effective authority in a large area of Iraq, and that much of the effort to raise police and paramilitary forces there would benefit the enemy. I suggested that the British army would be called on to for reinforcement, which eventually happened in October. More detail on the 1st Shia Rising was here.

And, of course, there was the lynching of four security guards and the first battle of Fallujah, in which forty people died when a mosque was bombed. At the same time, the shrine city of Najaf was a battlefield and we drove tanks across the sacred cemeteries of Shiism, while helicopters were shot down in droves and the US Marines had to disarm the police in Kut because they were all rebels.

“Although al-Sadr’s militia have apparently permitted Iraqi police in Najaf to return to their police stations, one has to wonder how far that development just represents a legitimisation of Shia street muscle – if the cops are the rebels, it makes sense to put them back in charge”

Well, we certainly did that: the SCIRI now holds the Ministry of the Interior.

For the first time in Iraq, there were hostage-takings. Coalition security control collapsed, with the roads too dangerous to use, bridges were being blown ahead and behind of convoys by men in police uniform,until most troop movement anywhere had to go through Baghdad, and anyone on the roads would be considered anti-coalition forces. Despite PsyOps teams broadcasting taunts into Najaf (“You shoot like a goat herder!”), we still needed to ship in more tanks urgently.

The slick staffers of the Green Zone were reduced to half rations and had to eat compo rations because the MSRs were shut. Ahmed Chalabi was raided by the CIA in an effort to recover the secret police files, and Lord Browne of BP said “Thank you..no” to the prospect of prospecting for oil in Iraq.

To cap the lot, we were caught indulging in torture and rape. And the CPA spokesman Dan Senor told the world we were “listening to the silent majority”.

Against this background of brutal, criminal scuzz, it ought to be no surprise that convicted fraudster, triple agent, thief and liar Ahmed Chalabi has just been named “Temporary” Minister of Oil. Famously, there’s nothing as permanent as the temporary. It should also amuse that Iraq’s new government includes temporary ministers of Defence, Oil, Electricity, Industry and Human Rights. To put it another way, all the ministries that have any meaning remain temporary.

Viktory

The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has at last added a whole wedge of Viktor Bout’s companies to its asset blacklist. Not only that, but the key management including his brother Sergei, Richard Chichakli, Sergei Denissenko and Valery Naydo are on there too. It’s not as comprehensive as I might have liked, but the core group is there: Air Cess, Air Bas, Centrafricain, San Air, Santa Cruz, Transavia, Irbis and Moldtransavia are in the list, as are the key holding companies CET Aviation and Southbound Ltd. There are also a few others I wasn’t aware of (Air Zory, Business Air) and a couple I was suspicious but uncertain of (Gambia New Millenium).

As a bonus, a nine-pack of companies using Richard’s address were zapped, as were a bunch of shellcos I’d never heard of in Gibraltar, Bulgaria and Delaware. Though imperfect, it’s action, and would be worth a pint if I hadn’t missed out through stumping the streets for Charles Kennedy. In the OFAC press release, there’s a nice police-flick organisation chart I’ll post here when I find a moment other than now.

Now, can I get away with putting a little Antonov 12 silhouette on the side of my computer for each company?

Via BoingBoing, across the wires the electric message comes that some random geek surfing Usenet has discovered what appears to be a 30 minute news bulletin on a major terrorist assault on the US, with plague, chemicals and crashing jets. All the stuff Mahmoud Abu Rideh would be getting up to, if he wasn’t confined to his house during the hours of darkness only.

Reading the description, it seems that the video (which BitTorrent users can obtain here) was prepared as part of the TOPOFF3 (in the US) or ATLANTIC BLUE (in the UK) joint antiterrorist exercise carried out a few weeks ago. The scenario, at any rate, is identical.

This reminded me of the spectacular media fart committed a few years back by Sky News when they falsely reported the death of a Royal (I forget which). As I recall, an Australian working in the Osterley Park spaceship that holds Sky’s network centre accidentally encountered a practice run of the prepared broadcast and immediately called home. Either they, or the person they spoke to, then contacted an Aussie radio station, which ran with the story. The thing then went non-linear and spread like wildfire across the world media, until the rebuttals got it.

Strangely, it was difficult to trace the story on the net, until I found a reffo on the Guardian’s website. It was the Queen Mother, and it occurred in August, 1993: just before the web, really.

Meme.

Now, I know I’ve been seriously remiss here, but I hope this will satisfy both Chickyog and also Yorkshiresoul, who have both seen fit to demand that I answer five questions about books.

You’re stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?

Well, I was tempted to say John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, but that is far too pompous and over close to the Ranter’s stereotype. Or alternatively something like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which would have been purposelessly provocative. I’m going for Shakespeare, and in particular Richard II – a fantastic, subtle lesson about politics, power and integrity, and not a bad thriller as well, even if the edition we had at school footnoted Act V as follows: “The badness of some passages has led certain scholars to suggest this was added by some other author”.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

No.

The last book you bought is: Hunter Thompson, Kingdom of Fear. His last book and possibly worst, a shaggy and disjointed ramble of a memoir that now reads like a suicide note.

The last book you read: Bob Dylan’s memoir, Chronicles. I enjoyed it less that I thought I might – it felt strangely like something a gifted trickster might write and pass off as Dylan’s work. Which itself is slightly Dylanish..

Five books you would take to a desert island.

Ernest Hemingway, The First Forty-Nine Stories. Economic, tense, and humming with wonder at the world. Unlike his novels, in which his bullshit filter failed about 1941, the short stuff always remained as clear as metal.

J.G. Ballard, Complete Short Stories. Shorts again! This bricklike tome races through an unique world of ideas from 1962 to the present. Ballard’s novels, again, although they can be brilliant, can also drag – the ever-present danger of the novel of ideas is that there isn’t enough plot to propel the thing along. (A bit like the difference between a hobby website and a blog.) I can’t imagine taking The Day of Creation to a desert island, for example, and anyway it’s too weird to reread. I can’t see why I’d want to read Crash on a desert island, or any of the other Ballardian hard stuff – it’s entirely part of a crowded world…

But I will also take The Kindness of Women, the other half of his semiautobiography and ten times better than Empire of the Sun, which is very much the Ballard that exam boards like. Presumably the annual school sales keep him in Scotch.

I think I’ll want science, so I’m going to cheat and ask for the complete works of Richard Feynman.

And finally, another cheat – Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour Trilogy, about the struggle for integrity, the effort of being a decent person, and also extremely funny. Oh yeah, and Penguins used to publish it as one volume.

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why?

Charlie, because he’s a real live writer.

Laura Rozen, out of curiousity.

Georg of Ostracised from Österreich, because this has to break out of the Anglosphere.

Soizick says:

1: Dylan Thomas; Portrait of the Artist as a young Dog
2: No
3: Sigmund Freud; L’homme Moise et la religion monothéiste
4: Sigmund Freud; The joke and its relation to the Ucs
5: J.Stiglitz; The roaring nineties
6: F. Kafka; The Castle
F.Kafka: Diary
M.Proust: A la Recherche du Temps perdu
Sophocles; Tragedies
W.G.Sebald; The rings of Saturn

…I became withdrawn. The only thing I knew how to do was to keep on keepin’ on, like a bird that flew.

Well, that’s enough Bob Dylan. The original advice issued by Lord Goldsmith on the legality or otherwise of an invasion of Iraq, the one issued before the infamous “page of A4″, the one Blair has struggled with all the mandarinate’s considerable resources of evasion and secrecy to suppress, the one whose very existence was denied by the head of the civil service to Parliament..it’s been leaked to the Daily Mail. Go and read it, before they lock it in the subscription ghetto.

Now, I bet you never thought you’d see a link to the Daily Hell on this blog. But this is a hella hella scoop, frankly one that puts anything the lionised Trevor Kavanagh has ever done in the shade.

Incredibly, in a matter of days, the prime minister has been caught lying again about Iraq and also has been shown on national television admitting that he did disclose Dr. David Kelly’s name to the press. But, apparently, he just intends to keep on stumping like nothing had happened. After all the inquiries and investigations and demonstrations, he’s still there. It must be difficult to realise, to internalise a real shock like this; hence the Dylan at the top of the post.

There are others, too. Remember this? And what, indeed, about the head of the civil service? He told a parliamentary select committee that there was no full legal advice issued prior to the one-page summary. He lied. This should be a resigning matter, but don’t hold your breath.

Al-Jaz has got hold of a confidential forecast by some French investment bankers that suggests the oil price may reach $380 a barrel by 2015. Now, there seems to be something of a competition among bankers at the moment to see who can do the most terrifying Oil Price Deathwatch, what with the Goldman Sachs boys predicting a “super-spike” above $100. But perhaps it’s good news that the cash people are suddenly aware of The Issues. (By the way, that price does include 2.5% inflation annually, so it’s not quite as scary as it looks.)

A brief point: you hear a lot of people on the net who say that everything is going to be all right because “the market will adjust”. Indeed it will. But all the things flobbering lefties advise (public transport, local production, taxes on aviation fuel, smaller cars) are going to happen too – because they are the market adjustment to $100+ oil prices. If something gets too expensive you use less of it (except for a couple of bizarre lab flowers known as Giffen goods).

Why can’t they just play nicely? A maritime incident has occurred in the Aegean, where Greek and Turkish coastguard vessels confronted each other after a Greek fishing boat allegedly infringed Turkish territorial waters. At the same time, a Turkish general announced that certain confidence building measures might be suspended after a Turkish flag was defaced. Bizarrely, the flag incident took place at the Greek Military Academy, whilst Greek and Turkish delegations were discussing an agreement on the prevention of aerial incidents. According to the report, the flag was left in a room used by the Turks: so whodunnit?

The aerial incidents hotline doesn’t seem to help very much: yesterday, there were 22 airspace violations involving as many as 34 Turkish aircraft. It isn’t clear from the source whether this is a count of the aircraft involved or the number of sorties, but 34 sorties in a day on one sector is quite an effort anyway. This has been going on for some time, as well.

Grow up.





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