the Disillusioned kid: August 2006
| Email | Home | Linkage | Profile |

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Camping it up for the climate

Drax may sound like a character from a dodgy 1950s B-Movie, but it is in fact the name of a power station located near Selby, North Yorkshire. Drax is noteworthy because it is the largest single electricity producer in the UK, producing around 7-8% of the country's energy needs. It generates this power by burning coal, an infamously dirty process. According to the Times, in 2006 Drax produced 20.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. To put that number into some context, that means it pumps more carbon into the atmosphere than 103 nations each do.

It's for this reason that Drax has this week been the target of climate change campaigners. A "camp for climate action" has opened near the power station and activists have been meeting to discuss the problems we are facing, consider possible solutions and organise actions. While the camp is taking place from August 26-September 4, today (August 31) has been a particular focus, with a day of action intended to disrupt normal business at the plant.

As is now traditional with such events, there has been no central organisation telling people what to do, resulting in a plethora of actions, kicking-off with the occupation of a lighting tower at 7am. Typically, the local constabulary don't think themselves up to the task of defending society against the anarchist hordes and have called in help from seven other forces, including the ubiquitous representatives from the Met. This overwhelming presence is, they claim, "to ensure that residents, power station employees and the demonstrators themselves do not come to harm, and that no laws are broken" (emphasis added).

This selfless concern for the wellbeing of the protesters is also shown by the kind souls at Drax Power Ltd, who earlier this month were granted an injunction "prohibiting trespass" on the site and "restricting the use" of a public right of way running along the site boundary. These measures, they insist are necessary "to ensure that protesters are not exposed to the dangers and hazards inherent to our highly complex industrial site."

According to the Beeb, 38 people have been arrested so far, with the police claiming that the majority of these took place outside the plant. Alleged offences (which Auntie describes simply as "offences") include "criminal damage, aggravated trespass and possession of offensive weapons", although some have campaigners have contended that articles seized on the basis they were weapons include a fork and a penknife (hardly an unusual piece of equipment if you're camping).

The police were predictably unimpressed by the day of action and the number of arrests which took place, resorting to the tired good-protester/bad-protester cliche:
Following the day's first arrests the force's Deputy Chief Constable, Ian McPherson, said: "This is a sad contrast to the sincere and law abiding intentions of the majority"

He said the majority of the protesters were "behaving themselves".

"However we are conscious that within that group there is a hardcore - a number of individuals who have made their aims very clear, see themselves as rising above the law and it's those individuals who I think will undermine what is a serious point."
This is, of course, exactly what you'd expect the Old Bill to say. It was always unlikely that they would base their criticisms on activists' failure to breach their defences in greater numbers. The reality is that everybody involved in the camp knew that illegal actions would take place today, To be sure, not everybody was in a position to risk arrest, but this does not imply an opposition to actions where that is a posibility.

Returning to the Beeb's report, they comment that Drax Power's chief exec Dorothy Thompson "found it hard to understand what the demonstrators hoped to achieve." This seems strnage; the aims are obvious enough, they certainly aren't any great secret: disrupt Drax, raise awareness of the issues and force the Powers That Be to stop talking about climate change and actually do something about it. Today's actions constitute a statement that we (if you'll excuse the entirely unwarrranted royal we) will no longer stand by while our "leaders" play Russian Roulette with the planet's climate. Barry Smith claimed, "There was no disruption whatsoever to the functioning of the power station." That's as maybe. The protest is all over the media, Drax's shares have taken a slide and the police have spent a fortune policing the whole event. This is only the beginning.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Iraq War: A Whole Load of Arse

Osama's new disguise had been even more succesful than he'd anticipated. With the infidels lulled into a false sense of security he prepared to whip out the bazookas.


Life's tough for American marines in Iraq "who deploy for seven months at a stretch, are forbidden to consume alcohol, have no real opportunities for social interaction with the Iraqi population and routinely travel down roads seeded by roadside bombs". Apparently, one of the few upsides is periodic tours by "attractive starlets" like the Purrfect Angelz:
The Haditha Dam is in a hostile stretch of the Euphrates River 140 miles northwest of Baghdad where the marines do battle with insurgents in the oppressive heat. But for a few hours this summer, the chow hall inside the dam was transformed into a theater for five shapely dancers who seemed to embody many a young marine’s fantasy.


For the Purrfect Angelz, it was a stop on a tour that also took them to bases like Al Qaim and Taji. The dancers, former cheerleaders, calendar models and aspiring actresses, have an active schedule in the United States, much of which consists of events for motorcycle riders. By design, the routines at Haditha are a bit tamer than the biker fare.

"We want to make it more about talent than being risqué," said Tanea Brooks. "We are not going to boost every part of the morale." Her credits include a three-year stint as a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, a role in a country music video, "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk" by Trace Adkins, and a turn as quarterback for the New York Euphoria, one of the teams that established the Lingerie Football League, in which models played football dressed in lingerie.
The Angelz, (whose "heavenly website" can be found here) aren't just there as an aid masturbation, they serve a political purpose as well:
A recent show began with an entreaty by a diligent sergeant who saw the event as an opportunity to appeal to the marines to re-enlist. He was loudly shouted down. An announcer who was traveling with the dance group told the marines not to pay attention to news media reports that the American public did not support the war. The nation, she said, was solidly behind them.
Such heartfelt paens to patriotism don't come for nothing: "David Chavez, the president of Pro Sports MVP, which organized the tour, said that it was paid for by the military and that the expenses consisted of travel costs and small stipends." Some killjoys have suggested that taxpayers money might be better spent on body armour, but the marines themselves seem to love it:
Sgt. Dale Gooden, 31, a Marine reservist from Jacksonville, Fla., who is assigned to the dam security unit, saw the show as a sign that the American public had not forgotten about the troops. The most impressive part of the show, he said, was "just the fact that they came out here to see us."
That said, not everybody's so keen: "During the group’s 2005 visit to Baghdad, a female Air Force officer complained that the dancers’ wardrobes and routines encouraged insensitive attitudes toward women in the military." But it's not like we need to worry about US marines holding insensitive attitudes towards women is it?
Post 9-11 Blues by MC Riz (who has the now obligatory MySpace site) has been doing the rounds for a while now, but I haven't seen the video (via) before.

Carnival of the Green #42

Welcome one and all to this week's Carnival of the Green, brought to you by the letters D and k and the number 42.

The Carnival of the Green is a digest of the best environmentally minded posts from around the blogosphere, which appears on a different blog every week. The carnival was kicked off by City Hippy and Triple Pundit and is now booked up until March 2007! If anybody's interested in hosting sometime thereafter it's those guys you need to get in touch with. I'm sure they'd be delighted to hear from you. If you just want to submit a post for consideration, then you can wing your submissions in the general direction of and the interweb will do the rest.

As I said, the carnival is a digest of posts from around the blogosphere which is a pretty big place. Humungous, in fact. As such, there's a lot of green bloggery out there. The sheer volume of material behooved me to try and force the hugely diverse array of submissions into some kind of structure. Coming up with something sensible, coherent, useful and interesting wasn't as simple as I'd initially thought. The following is the compromise that I settled on, for better or worse. So, with no further ado, let's get on with it...

Paint Me A Picture

There's a lot of stuff about the world that many of us think isn't quite right. If we want to do anything about that - and if you don't, I question why you're wasting your time here - then we first need to understand exactly what's wrong. This is exactly (which is to say, moreorless) what the posts in this section do.

Tena Rubio (National Radio Project (NRP) and the Greener Magazine Network) hosts a radio discussion looking at the world's depleting water resources and the increasing difficulty experienced by many people in accessing potable water.

Joel Makower (WorldChanging) points out that one of the ironies of current concerns about water scarcity is that it isn't just hitting the poor, increasingly the rich are going thirsty as well.

Environmentalists have long warned that as water becomes scarcer we can expect to see a consequent upsurge in conflict, which brings us to Jason Godesky (The Anthropik Network), who has a compelling post arguing that, contrary to the claims of Israeli propagandists and most "commentators," the recent assault on Lebanon wasn't about self-defence, but rather the latest Israeli water war.

Sticking with the Middle East, that handsome, charming Disillusioned kid returns to the environmental consequences of Israel's decision to bomb the Jiyyeh power station in Lebanon and surveys the incipient efforts to clear up the mess.

When Katrina hit New Orleans last year it was "the eleventh named storm, fifth hurricane, third major hurricane, and second Category 5 hurricane of the 2005 Atlantic season." This year, the National Hurricane Centre in the US is currently tracking Debbie, only the fourth storm deemed worthy of a name in 2006. Which poses the question, where are the hurricanes? Dave Cohen (The Oil Drum) does some research and concludes their holidaying in the Pacific.

Not so long ago, it seemed that being a climate change "sceptic" was quite trendy. Fortunately, it seems that's not longer the case. Calvin Jones (Climate Change Action) lists some of the prominent sceptics who've seen the (solar-powered) light.

Jbruno (The Voltage Gate) deals with the mess more commonly referred to as the Chesapeake Bay.

Inexplicably, not everybody appreciates environmentalists' good looks and charming demeanour. Karli, a member of Greenpeace's Defending Our Mediterranean team, documents the Rainbow Warrior's run-in with a few irate tuna fishermen.

Will Potter (Green is the New Red) muses on the impact of "eco-terrorism" rhetoric on and within the environmental and animal rights movements.

Our Glorious Leaders

As green issues have become increasingly trendy in the UK, the people who regard themselves as our "leaders" have found that not only are there costs to ignoring such concerns, but that it might actually be in their interests to jump on the (bio-diesel-powered) bandwagon. All too often, however, such new found commitment to the ecological cause is (recycled) paper-thin. Elsewhere, their counterparts don't even feel the need to pretend they care. Whichever side of the fence your "representatives" come down on, their impact on the environment - whether for good or ill - can be considerable.

Riversider (Save the Ribble) has a look at some promises made by local councillors and seems less than overwhelmed.

As LibDem leader Menzies Campell gets caught with his pants down over low-energy lightbulbs, Michael G. Richard (Treehugger) wonders if we might be moving into the era of the "eco-scandal".

Over the other side of the pond, Odiyya (The Conscious Earth) reports that the Conservative Government in Canada are "rewriting history and removing all mentions of Kyoto and global warming from federal websites."

Just over the border in the Good Ol' US of A, David Roberts (Grist Magazine), notes that the Bushies have finally gotten around to introducing their first energy efficiency measures, but doesn't think they've gone far enough. He also suggests that energy efficiency is an issue "enviros" (that's us) should make more of a fuss about.

More encouragingly, Sally (Veggie Revolution), brings news that legislators in Chicago have decided to ban foie gras, because of the cruelties inflicted on geese and ducks in order to produce the stuff.

Predictably, not everyone agrees that the ban is a good idea. Eric (An Animal-Friendly Life) isn't particularly impressed by Time's response and even suggests something to do about it.

The Blogs They Are A Changin'

Having established what's wrong and established where are leaders position themselves vis-a-vis the salient issues, there is a widespread perception that the daily assaults on our environment behoove us to take action. The question is what and how? As with everything else nowdays, bloggers are at the forefront of these debates. If you don't believe me, take a look at some of the posts below.

The guys over at Real Climate have been looking into the results of a recent Zogby poll on public attitudes in the US to global warming and the linkages between the phenomenon and severe weather. They draw some interesting conclusions about what scientists should take from the poll which are likely to be of interest to environmentalists as well.

As if to prove my point, Jeff McIntire (Sustainablog) reflects on the Real Climate post and ponders on how far environmentalists should concern themselves with promoting "the finer points" of global warming.

Aaron Newton (Groovy Green) wonders whether peak oil and the laws of economics might be incompatible and when - or if - somebody's going to do something about it.

Nick Aster, the purveyor of Triple Pundit (0ne of the co-conspirators in the inception of the carnival in front of you), explains why he thinks that repairing the Hetch Hetchy resevoir (the construction of which submerged a beautiful and pristine valley) shouldn't be at the top of environmentalists' wish lists right now.

Morgen Jahnke has a "guest article" at Interesting Thing of the Day (which may or may not strictly speaking be a blog) in which she explains that in 1972, the king of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck decided that his country wasn't going to follow the crowd and measure Gross Domestic Product (GDP) like everyone else. Instead they would measure Gross National Happiness (GNH). Apparently - and who am I to say otherwise? - this has had benefits for the country's population and environment. Could the same thing work elsewhere?

It's often said that, given the size of its population, that China could cancel out any efforts made by the rest of the world to confront climate change. It is heartening therefore to read Nathan Wyeth (It's Getting Hot in Here) reports from Bejing where he has had the opportunity to meet with students concerned about global warming and trying to do something about it.

Ricardo (Ricardo's blog), considers the possibilities of using ethanol as a fuel. Apparently, the idea's really taking off in his native Brazil.

Encouraging people to enjoy woodland has got to be a good thing, right? Not neccesarily. Carel Brest van Kempen (Rigor Vitae) is sceptical about the establishment of "open spaces" which seek to do this, arguing that while their may be benefits, there are also costs and that building an asphalt path through a forest may be many things, but it certainly isn't conservation.

The Personal is Political

The phrase/slogan/truism "the personal is political," was popularised by the feminist and women's liberation movements who were seeking to break down the barriers errected by patriarchy between conventional conceptions of "politics" and the oppression women experienced in day-to-day life. To a considerable extent the concept, if not the phrase itself, has also taken hold within large swathes of the green movement, with advocates articulating steps which individuals can take to respond to the destruction of our environment. Blogging being a predominantly solitary activity, it shouldn't be surprising that such ideas have considerable currency within the green blogosphere.

Al (City Hippy), poses his usual weekly thought-provoking question and this week he wants to know which one green action you would do whilst forsaking all others? Some of the posts in this section have some interesting things to say on this point so don't rush to answer just yet.

Its axiomatic that air-travel isn't very green, but how many of us would be prepared to go as far for our commitment to the environment as Barbara Haddrill who works at the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) and is travellingthe 3,608 miles from Cardiff to Australia to be a bridesmaid at her friend's wedding by land and sea? Not many I would suggest. You can follow her adventures on her blog Babs To Brisbane (And Back).

Roger B (Words & Pictures) discusses how people react when they discover he doesn't have a car.

Sticking with cars, John Rozewicki (Supreme Narcissism) explains why hybrid cars are for losers (because electric cars are for winners, apparently).

Moving away from transport for a moment, Tracy Stokes (The Eco Street) has a round-up of off-the-peg ecologically friendly homes in the UK.

Environmentalism and alcohol, what more could you ask for? Frank (Sludgie) explains all, including how he got attacked with garlic while discovering the linkages.

One of the easiest ways individuals can feel they're doing something about the problems of the world. Elisa Camahort (The Hip and Zen Pen) has discovered a site purporting to tell you the financial health of charitable organisations, encouraging you to give to those they deem financially healthy, but should that be the only criteria people consider before giving? Elisa thinks not.

Of course, as Steve Ballogh (Groovy Green) points out, going green isn't really the challenge. It's staying green that's difficult.

While nobody's questioning the sincerity underlying many of the efforts outlined above, not everybody thinks that focussing on personal choices is an entirely sound basis for environmental politics. Lenin (Lenin's Tomb), for instance, isn't very keen on a new TV ad produced by Greenpeace to discourage people from using 4x4s for precisely that reason.

Assorted Miscellania

Some things just don't fit into neat and tidy categories. Those things go here.

Jacob (Salamander Candy) has been busy reading Jared Diamond's, Collapse: How Societies Chose to Fail or Succeed and he's been kind enough to pen a review in case anybody was thinking about doing the same thing, but wasn't sure if it was going to be there cup of (fairtrade) tea.

Following the terrorist alert earlier this month, a plethora of new rules were brought in about what could and couldn't be taken onboard planes as hand luggage. This not only created a great deal of confusion, but generated a large quantity of waste, as people dumped stuff they couldn't take with them. Amy Stodghill (It's The Environment Stupid) reveals that some conscientious souls in Eugene, Oregon decided they weren't going to see all this unused produce go to landfill and went dumpster diving for shampoo and shaving cream, in order to distribute it at a local family centre.

Starre (Eco-Chick) has a gander at some of the celebrities getting involved in this environment thang by means of an introduction to the new Ecorazzi site which promises "the latest in green gossip".

Don Bosch (The Evangelical Ecologist) offers a post full of "fact and faith filled links" which must surely have been written with the intention of getting into the miscellania section. How can you resist the allure of "psycho killer racoons"?

And finally... Wiseman (be sustainable) provides some light relief courtesy of Al Gore and Bender the robot.

The Obligatory Bit at the End

Well that's about all we've got time for. It only remains for me to thank those who have written posts for the carnival, those of you kind enough to send me submissions, City Hippy and Triple Pundit for kicking the carnival off way back when and, of course, those of you who've taken the time to read the foregoing. I trust it wasn't too painful

The carnival will be back, same time(ish) next week over at LA Green Living. If you've developed a taste for this carni malarkey, why not check out last week's episode at Frugal for Life or any of the previous efforts helpfully listed here. If you're really fastidious you might care to check out The Carnival of Empty Cages which is focussed on animal rights and veganism , the self-explanatory Carnival of the Feminists or indeed any of the ridiculous number of carnivals out there.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Qatar is the New Black

Regular readers may be aware that the US base on Diego Garcia (which I've only just noticed has been dubbed -without a trace of irony, given the plight of its indigenous inhabitants - "the Footprint of Freedom") has been a crucial staging post for bombing runs against both Iraq and Afghanistan since the commencement of the "War on Terror". Now, however, acording to the Air Force Times (via) the US has decided to move its deployed B-1B Lancer's from Diego Garcia to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar:
The change puts the bombers several thousand miles closer to Afghanistan. The shorter flight times are expected to save the Air Force $132 million annually, a spokesman for Central Air Forces said.

The move will also lessen demand for tankers. Round-trip flights out of Diego Garcia required three aerial refuelings, while the current missions need one.

The move was phased in during the summer and became official Aug. 16.
Unfortunately this doesn't mean that the air force is leaving Diego Garcia anymore than it portends the closure of the base there. "A small contingent of airmen will keep the base ready for another influx of planes and personnel, if needed." Presumably such a need would arise in the event of an attack on Iran.

Quite apart from the interest it holds for Diego Garcia watchers, the article also serves as a reminder that the US is still bombing Afghanistan, almost 5 years after it was supposed to have been liberated.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

I'm not usually that interested in online comics graphic novels, but Shooting War (via) is worth making an exception for. It tells the story of Jimmy Burns, a Brooklyn-based video blogger who finds himself catapulted into the world of video journalism and shipped-out to a near-future Iraq gone very, very wrong. The real joy, however, is the story's all-pervading, take-no-prisoners cynicism. Definitely worthy of the Dk Seal of Approval.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Beirut before and after (via).

Remember Iraq

Lenny has picked up on an interesting BBC backgrounder on violence in Iraq, which includes this illuminating graph:

As Lenny notes, these figures completely undermine the propaganda we have been fed about the resistance being first and foremost a sectarian exercise of power. As this graph shows, attacks have been overwhelmingly targetted against the occupying forces forces. It is possible that part of this difference can be accounted for by more comprehensive accounting on the part of the coalition, but it seems unlikely that this explains the sheer scale of the discrepancy.

The Beeb qualify the graph, noting, "Although about 80% of insurgent attacks are targeted against coalition forces, the Iraqi population suffers about 80% of all casualties, according to US officials in late 2005." Presumably this is a reflection of the fact that while the coalition drive around in armoured vehicles and armed to the teeth, the average civillian has only their wits to turn to in the event of an insurgent attacks.

While the Beeb point out several major events to help contextualise the graph (adding, in the commentary, that attacks on civillians have risen since the bombing of a Shia mosque in Samarra in February), there are many which have been left out. Note, for instance, the sudden increase in attacks in April 2004, following a relatively steady rise since the preceding December. I note with interest that this appears to to be contemporaneous with the first US assault on Fallujah. There is also a major peak in November of that year which correlates with the second assault.

The backgrounder also examines the prevalence of sectarian killings, noting that "gruesome finds of groups of corpses, often showing signs of execution or torture, have become increasingly common." A thorough study of this pehenomenon is complicated by difficulties in distinguishing between sectarian and criminal killings (recall that Iraq is the world leader in the kidnapping business). While "a large proportion of these killings can be identified as sectarian because of the style of killing, the identities of the victims or the context of the deaths", available figures do not differentiate. In lieu of anything more helpful, the Beeb turn to "the numbers of bodies processed by Baghdad morgue, which deals only with those who died violent or suspicious deaths, [which] are a widely-used guide":

While these figures alone show a compelling increase in mortality and portend a wider crisis in Iraq, the Beeb caution, "Correspondents say the actual toll may be much higher as many bodies are not taken to the morgue."

Also of value, is the information on Iraq's burdgeoning population of displaced people, surely one of the great under-reported (if not unreported) stories of the occupation. The Beeb cite figures from the International Organisation for Migration which "reveal a pattern of families leaving homes in mixed areas to parts of the country dominated by their own ethnic or religious group." While it is hard to tell much from the raw figures they provide, it is clear that the numbers of people fleeing is increasing at a perturbing rate:
  • 15 Aug 06: 137,862
  • 28 June 06: 110,000
  • 2 June 06: 98,000
  • 13 April 06: 65,000
  • 30 March 06: 30,000
Bear in mind this figure only includes the internally displaced and not those deemed refugees by virtue of their having crossed a national frontier. As early as February 2005, Syrian officials claimed that as many as 700,000 Iraqis had arrived since the US-led invasion. It doesn't seem unreasonable to assume this figure has only gone up. While both migrations have been attributed to sectarian violence, it seems perverse to ignore the likely impact of ongoing coalition military campaigns.

In fact this blinkered view of violence in Iraq which refuses to countenance the possibility of Anglo-American culpability in the bloody toll, is a recurring flaw in the Beeb's analysis as Lenny notes. While entirely predictable, the oversight (if one can call it that) is likely to seriously skew interpretations of the situation on the ground. Long-time readers (if such people exist) may recall a report released in July 2004 by Iraq Body Count (once excluded from decent conversation for having the temerity to give a damn about Iraqi lives, but now regularly cited in the mainstream media, often to pooh pooh the evil Lancet report) examining data on the 25,000 Iraqis reported killed in the first 2 years of the occupation. This presented the following breakdown of responsibility for those deaths:
  • US-led forces killed 37% of civilian victims.
  • Anti-occupation forces/insurgents killed 9% of civilian victims.
  • Post-invasion criminal violence accounted for 36% of all deaths.
The report noted that "killings by anti-occupation forces, crime and unknown agents have shown a steady rise over the entire period" so one would expect that the gap between insurgents and the coalition to have closed somewhat. Nevertheless, given the overwhelming military superiority of the latter it is hard to believe it will have disappeared entirely.

All of which, is to say nothing of the fact, patently obvious to all but the most comprehensively indoctrinated that the majority of Iraq's problems stem from the occupation. That is not to say that Iraq was some kind of paradise prior to March 20, 2003, but the presence of foreign troops and the machinations of their governments (playing different factions against each other, allying with reactionary forces, laying off the army, selling-off the economy etc.) has decimated the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, given birth to the insurgency and fanned the flames of religious fundamentalism. There isn't much to suggest that things are going to get better anytime soon. Until we face up to the reality of what we have unleashed it isn't going to.

Note: Edited following some perceptive comments pointing out a few errors on my part.

Monday, August 21, 2006


Those of you fortunte enough to be blessed with memories lasting longer than a fortnight may recall my post about the oil slick unleashed by Israel's bombing of the Jiyyeh power station in Lebanon. If so, you may be interested to hear that an impressively monikered International Assistance Action Plan has been prepared by the Experts Working Group for Lebanon under the supervision of the UNEP-MAP's Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Centre for the Mediterranean Sea (REMPEC) and the Minister of the Environment of Lebanon.

The plan was discussed and agreed "at a meeting in Greece attended by Lebanon, Syria, Greece, Turkey and the EU." It is estimated that the clean up will "cost 50m euros (£34m), with more funds required next year." The plan was agreed on the 17 August, over a month after the power station was bombed on July 13 and 15. Despite the length of time which had passed, the conflict had prevented a thorough assessment of the situation and there are widely differing estimates about just how much oil there is in the water. As a result, the first priority appears to be working out just how bad the mess is. Therefore, "the Action Plan recommends that immediate, helicopter-based aerial surveys with a trained independent observer, be conducted to resolve the issue."

Whatever, the boffins conclude, there is little question that the bombing has greated a hell of a mess. The Beeb's High Sykes, visited Byblos, an ancient port which escaped the Israeli bombardment, but which is now suffering the effects of the slick. Byblos has certainly been hit hard. Berj Hatjian, a senior civil servant at the environment ministry measured the oil in the harbour and discovered that it was more than 2cm thick. Sykes suggest that clearing the harbour will be relatively straightforward, but that cleaning the rocks and beaches into which it is seeping will be much harder, perhaps even impossible.

One beach has been cleared by bulldozing the oily sand to the side, but more serious impacts, such as the introduction of carcinogens into the food chain as whitebait feed in the shade provided by the slick, absorbing many of the poisons it contains, cannot be so easily brushed under the carpet. The impact of the oil and the conflict has decimated tourism in the area. Sykes reports that he was the only guest at the Byblos-sur-Mer hotel and the first visitor to the Crusader castle and Roman ruins in tow weeks, despite the fact that they usually attract between 500 and 1,000 tourists a day in the summer. Not without reson, some local residents wonder if this wasn't Israel's intention. Hatjian argues that the bombing of Jiyyeh was intended as a form of collective punishment: "It has nothing to do with Hezbollah," he said. "It is just hitting the economy of Lebanon - of ancient Phoenicia."

Understandably, the focus in coverage of this conflict has been on the human impact and the environment has falllen by the wayside. Nevertheless, the envrironmetal impacts should not be dismissed as a diversion. Indeed, they have impacts on the local population which may in the long run be just as serious and even more insidious, witness concerns about the release of carcinogenic and their impact on those in the area of the power station or the likely effect on the local economy as fishing and tourism are affected. Whether Israel intended it or not, this may well prove to be yet another way for them to make the Lebanese suffer. Unsurprisingly, nobody (that is to say nobody of consequence) seems to have the cojones to suggest they be made to pay for the clean-up.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

My post on the environmental consequences of Israel's ongoing assault on Lebanon has made it into this week's Carnival of the Green, which reminds me that I'm hosting the aforementioned carnival on August 28. It'd be cool if I got some submissions from people who don't usually write about the environment (like myself, I s'pose) and a few radical/lefty/anarchist posts wouldn't go amiss, so get thinking. You can either send submissions to or bung a link in the comments box. Go on, you know you want to.

Less lethal than a bullet in the head. Sorta.

The International Midle East Media Centre (IMEMC) report (via):
The Israeli army and Border Police prevented Bil’in’s weekly Friday non-violent demonstration, by firing rubber bullets and sound grenades on protestors as they marched through the village on their way to the Apartheid wall.

Fourteen people from Bil’in, Israelis and internationals, have been injured, including an Israeli in critical condition who was shot on neck and just above his right ear with 3 rubber bullets at close range. He has had surgery at Tel Hashomer hospital to remove a rubber bullet that was lodged in his skull. Currently he is in a medical induced coma in moderate but stable condition, but has sustained brain damage of unknown severity. Today his condition is listed as stable but serious since the doctors do not know the extent of brain damage that has occured.
Rubber bullets fall into that mendacious category of "less lethal" weaponary alongside such lovable, cuddly accoutrements as tasers, "bean bags" (which bear little resemblance to the ones you may remember from school PE lessons) and a giant microwave-cum-heat-ray currently being developed in the US. Sure, these multitude devices may not be as immediately life-threatening as the old-fashioned volley of hot lead, but, the risks are very real and as I have argued previously, the "less lethal" appellation (or its "non-lethal" antecedent which has now fallen from favour) will serve to lower the threshold imposed on the use of force. Incidentally, this is an assessment which seems to be backed up by video footage of Friday's (entirely one-sided) violence.


From the front page of yesterday's edition of The Daily Star. (via)

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Peace Four Weeks Ago

Israel's decision to mark the UN Security Council vote on a resolution to end the conflict in Lebanon by tripling its forces in the south of the county does rather seem to confirm some of the more cynical assesments of the deal. This extension of the war is unlikely to go down well with many and may hasten the apparent reduction in support for the offensive within Israel.

According to the Beeb's Bethany Bell, while a poll in Yedioth Aronoth (apparently Israel's most widely read mpaper) shows that "64% of Israelis (71% of Jewish respondents) support sending troops deeper into Lebanon, up to the Litani River," another poll in "the more leftwing Haaretz newspaper suggests that only 39% of Israelis are in favour of an expanded ground offensive." Bell, believes that these polls portend the beginnings of a shift against the war and presents as further evidence for this position, the first Peace Now protest against the conflict, organised in conjunction with opposition party Meretz.

Peace Now was established in 1978 during Israeli peace talks with Egypt and following the First invasion of Lebanon in 1982 it became one of the most prominent organisers of anti-war demonstrations, including Israel's largest ever, attended by some 400,000 people. The organisation has a long association with the Labor Party, but in recent times seems to have lost its way somewhat, supporting Israel's campaigns in both Gaza and Lebanon. "No one epitomises the degeneration of the peace movement more clearly," notes Jean Shaoul, "than Amir Peretz, the former left-talking trade union leader and current Labour Party leader, who is now the minister of defence." Peretz was one of the first Peace Now members and was elected to the head of the Labor Party a year ago on the promise of peace negotiations with the Palestinians and efforts to tackle growing inequality. Now he is the man in charge of the military campaign in Lebanon.

Despite hitherto supporting Israeli operations against Lebanon, Peace Now seems to have decided that things have gone to far and on Thursday they demonstrated this by protesting outside the Defence Ministry in Tel Aviv. Yariv Oppenheimer, the organisation's General Director stated, "At the start we supported the war, but it has become clear that the government is not making enough effort in order to finish the war, and instead is is embarking on a dangerous and unnecessary adventure." An announcement of the demonstration described it as "a Zionist demonstration for all those who supported the war to date and now are requesting an end to the violence and destruction." Meretz chairman Yossi Beilin, whose party had also previouslt supported the war averred that the cabinet's decision on Wednesday to expand the ground operation "was the straw that broke the camel's back."

Hecklers greeted their protest with the usual witticisms, accusing demonstrators of being traitors, expressing a hope that they become the victim of Hezbollah weaponary and, no doubt, questioning their parentage. Nevertheless, former Member of the Knesset Yael Dayan, one of the organisers, expressed an intention to continue protest activities and predicted that the next protest slated for the PM's residence in Jerusalem would be considerably larger.

It would be easy at this juncture to comment on the naivete of those who accepted Israel's transparent propaganda about self-defence, but it is almost axiomatic that support for wars starts off high and then falls away when reality sets in, even amongst those who should know better. We have seen in the UK also just how tempting it is for those who position themselves on the left to support the military adventures of our leaders on the basis of some supposed principle, particularly if they get offered a ministerial position.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Happy holidays

It's clearly not a good idea to travel when my parents go on holiday. Last year they visited Canada and only days after they touched down in Toronto, a plane landing at the same airport overshot the runway and burst into flames. Earlier this year, while they visited Budapest, Hungary was racked by some of the worst flooding in years. This year, they'd decided to visit the States and what happens on the day they fly out? That's right, all hell breaks loose.

As you willno doubt be aware, unless you've trapped in a steel box on top of a mountain somewhere, security at airports across the country has been stepped up following police anti-terror raids. Apparently, those arrested intended to blow up planes on their way from the UK to the US. As you can imagine, this was a distinctly discomforting revelation (although it appears that my parents are now on their way, albeit two and a bit hours behind schedule).

Bizarrely, reports suggest that the plan involved liquid explosive and that the alleged terrorists would have "smuggled it on board hidden in drinks, electronic devices and other 'common objects'." Deputy Commissioner Paul Stephenson reassured people that there was no need to worry, commenting, without a whiff of hyperbole, "Put simply, this was intended to be mass murder on an unimaginable scale."

This all strikes me as slightly bizarre and I can't help recalling earlier threats from other terrifying tools in the terrorist arsenal such as ricin and red mercury. I wouldn't be surprised if this supposed threat is forgotten about pretty quickly, who now remembers the tanks patrolling Heathrow? Then again, maybe I'm just being a cynical whatnot and this time it's for real. Wherever the truth lies, I'd rather my parents weren't blown up because the government have cried "wolf" so many times people don't know whether to believe them or toss them the finger.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Laughing at Americans is something of a national pastime and when it's this much fun (via), who am I to argue? (Not recommended for hypochondriacs.)

What they've got to say

The following is a statement released by Al Badil al Chououii al Taharruri (Libertarian Communist Alternative), a Lebanese anarchist group, on the current situation. Dated July 17, matters are, if anything, worse now. I don't normally present these sorts of things verbatim, but I think it is an interesting perspective you're unlikely to encounter elsewhere and if it peeves you that much I figure you can always go elsewhere:
Once again, Lebanon is deeply engaged in a war which nobody can see the end of. On 12th July, the Lebanese Hezbollah, a political and religious Shiite movement, kidnapped two Israeli soldiers behind the South Lebanon border, killing eight Israeli soldiers. Israel did not need more than this in order to put its plan of attack into action, a plan that was prepared much earlier, exactly in the same way as in 1982, when Israel invaded Lebanon using a shabby assassination attempt against the Israel ambassador in London as pretext.

But this time the Isba attack was on an unprecented scale, that nobody had ever seen in Lebanon. It is worse than a Lebanon invasion because it consists of aerial and naval attacks everywhere in Lebanon. And we mean everywhere: the airport, the southern suburban districts of Beirut, a Hezbollah bastion, the main roads that link the towns and regions of the country, the ports, the residential districts, etc. The aim is to totally paralyse the country and spread fear, which cannot be done without killing civilians, 180 so far, eight days after the start of the war. Many signs show that the conflict is not about to end, since the Western countries are contacting the USA to ask the Israelis (!) to allow their citizens to be evacuated, something which did not happen with such haste even during the 1975 civil war...

This attack must be analyzed as part of a wider scenario. In our opinion, it arises in the context of the American plan for a Great Middle East. George W. Bush wants to create a large area that would be favourable to him and which would include Arabic countries and Israel, leading to the end, in one way or another, of conflict in the Near East. Iran and Syria are opposed to this project, which is obviously a good thing. But the bad thing is that Syria and Iran, who support Hezbollah and who fight against the plans of Bush and the Israeli government, are clearly totally reactionary countries, from all aspects.

Furthermore, Hezbollah (the Party of God!!) is a party that, despite all it has done in order to drive Israel from Southern Lebanon and despite the large number of martyrs sent to carry out their religious duty, a one-way ticket to a paradise of honey and houris, has not satisfied Lebanese expectations for many years. The "Party of God", under Iranian control, is clearly and obstinately anti-freedom. It is simple: it is not possible to live in the Hezbollah areas. In the villages where it is preponderant, one is advised to keep the volume of music down and not to play songs suitable for belly dancing. Once a party of resistance and scarifice, the "Party of God" has become unbearable: women are more or less forced to machinations (corruption, Syrian infiltration of all Lebanese institutions, etc.).

That is the way Hezbollah has provoked a strong popular reaction against itself. For several months, Lebanese political leaders have been meeting in Parliament ("Meetings for a national dialogue") in order to find a solution to the country's crucial problems, including Hezbollah arms. Hezollah, in fact, is refusing to give up its weapons to the Lebanese army, effectively forming a State within the State. And in a tremendous show of arrogance, the Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, broadcasts his violent, mediaeval threats (calls to chop off heads, arms...) against all those who would try to take their weapons. But it has not done anything against Israel for several years, except for re-stating the Lebanese identity of the Shebaa farms. Hezbollah can be frightening because of its fanatism but also because of the popularity it enjoys in some sectors of Lebanese society, that comes from its promotion of the policy of "martyrs for the nation". But without Syria and Iran (and in particular Iranian financing), there would be no Hezbollah.

Since Syria's humiliating retreat from Lebanon, two large political trends have developed: the 14th March current (the date of the huge demonstration that took place after the assassination of ex-Prime minister Rafik Hariri), and the pro-Syrian 8th March current, which has been joined by the Christian supporters of General Aoun, since he was promised the presidency of the Republic. We believe that the 14th March camp constitutes a relatively "revolutionary" current, in comparison with the 8th March current which comprises corrupt elements under Syrian control and nostalgics of Lebanon's dark past. The behaviour of the Lebanese Communist Party is nothing short of scandalous. Together with a few others, most of whom nostalgic for Arab Nasserism, it makes up a very weak third camp with little or nothing to offer. There has, however, been a split within it (Communist Intifada), which Al-Badil is close to.

Finally, once again, the political position we must take with regard to these events has to be clear, beyond a simple denunciation of the Israeli attacks. We say NO to Hezbollah as a reactionary, religious, pro-Iran party; NO to Bush, Blair and Chirac, who consider these disproportionate attacks (the destruction of Lebanon to obtain the release of some soldiers) as a legitime form of self-defence by Israel; NO to the UN Security Council’s timid and ambiguous behaviour; NO to the Lebanese government which is incapable, weak and contradictory, wasting its time begging for help, counting the casualties and hoping in the international tribunals.

A wide coalition of the new left that has begun to take shape within the 14th March camp, is the only way, in our opinion, to advance the situation. But in the meantime, we must find food and especially medicines for about one million Lebanese people who have been displaced since the beginning of the war. In the meantime, we need forces that can intervene in support of a ceasefire, now indispensable, that can only be obtained with pressure being put on both sets of belligerents, and to whom everyone is now crying: we don’t like you!
(Picked up on the Lenton Anarchist Forum email list.)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Other Israel

Polls show, pretty conclusively, that the majority of Israelis support the ongoing assault against Lebanon, indeed many believe they should actually step up their attacks. Nevertheless, a majority by definition isn't the same as unanimity, and there are increasing instances of resistance.

The Palestinian news agency Ma'an reports that at least one Israeli artillery officer has refused to bomb Lebanese villages:
Israeli press sources have stated that Corporal 'Umri Zaid, from the Israeli city of Safad, who serves as an artillery soldier in the occupied Golan Heights, had refused orders to launch more than 150 shells onto the Lebanese village of Al-Jdairah.

The sources have reported that the soldier told his comrades that he wasn't ready to serve in an army that is professional in shelling civilians in their villages and cities. He packed his belongings and headed to his home.
Ma'an describe this as the "the first refusal since the invasion of Lebanon," but this appears to be erroneous. Refusenik support group Yesh Gvul report that Captain Amir Pasteur, First Sergeant Shapira Itamar and another unamed soldier have all been imprisoned for refusing to participate in the operation, while Ha'aretz describe Staff Sergeant Itzik Shabbat as the Second Lebanon War's "first conscientious objector". Ma'an indicate that Zeid may well end up joining his incacerated predecessors behind bars as "the deputy head of the artillery brigade has announced that he will take the soldier to court." Ma'an also suggests that Zaid's actions have "aroused discussion among other soldiers," quite what this means is unclear, but the implication seems to be that some of them might not think it's such a bad idea.

Meanwhile, the anarchists are making their presence felt (via) in the nascent Israeli peace movement in their inimitable fashion:
Yarkon Region Police arrested two anarchy activists who got out of hand during a march held in Tel Aviv in protest of IDF operations in Lebanon.

The police reported that about 60 anarchists began to dance on Allenby Street, refusing to evacuate the area. According to the police, the demonstrators threw bags of feces at the police.
Elsewhere the debate seems to be similarly heated:
Dozens of people protested opposite the US Consulate in east Jerusalem against the war in Lebanon and America's policy on the issue. During the protest clashes broke out between police and protesters. Five people were arrested for suspicion of attacking police officers
Anybody who was involved in the movement against the invasion of Iraq will remember the rapid fall-off in support which followed the commencement of hostilities. People inexplicably become much more reticent about opposing militarism and imperialism once it is actually underway than they are when it is strictly hypothetical. In Israel the war is much closer to home (indeed many people have been forced to flee their homes) and as such the effect of this phenomenon is greatly increased. The peace movement has a big mountain to climb and at the moment one might even argue if it has reached the foothills, nonetheless I think its very existence is a glimmer of hope in an otherwise relentlessly dark moment. (Cliched?! Moi?!)

Update 8/8/06: More illuminating mountaineering here.
I've been thinking about writing something intelligent about Hezbollah for several days, particularly influenced by the prevalence of "We Are All Hezbollah" placards on Saturday's Lebanon demo. Unfortunately, I've had some difficulty articulating these thoughts in a manner which moves beyond the vacuous. Fortunately, others have done the job for me. That's not to say I neccesarily agree with everything they say, but I think they're at least asking the right questions. Comments welcomed.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Just Say No

According to refusenik support group Yesh Gvul, Capt. (Res.) Amir Pasteur has the dubious honour of being the first refuser of what they have dubbed the Second Lebanon War to be imprisoned. Pasteur "an infantry officer and student at Tel Aviv University, has been sentenced to 28 days in military prison for refusal to take part in the current Lebanon campaign."

At his trial, Pasteur stated that "taking part in this war runs contrary to the values upon which he was brought up". Apparently he is not alone in this assesment Yesh Gvul "spokesman Ishai Menuchin reported contacts with about a dozen reserve officers and soldiers who have received emergency call-up and plan to refuse to take part in the Lebanon operation."

This is a positive sign and it is to be hoped that Pasteur's bravery - if not his punishment - inspire others. There is certainly a commendable precedent for such a development. Yesh Gvul originally emerged to support Israeli refuseniks during the First Lebanon War in 1982 when Israel invaded in the hopes of routing the PLO. Widespread refusal was also prevalent during the First Intifada in 1987 and the burdgeoning movement which emerged following the Second Intifada in 2000 has received considerable international attention.

The impact such refusal has on Israel's ability to conduct war is difficult - if not impossible - to measure. Nevertheless, it is an embarrassment to the Powers That Be and has the potential to serve as a shot in the arm for the Israeli and international peace movements. Whatever its significance it's clearly a good thing and to be encouraged.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Green Line

Understandably, much of the coverage of the Israeli assault on Lebanon has focussed on the human toll: the dead, dying, injured, displaced. There is, however, an environmental cost to Israel's actions which could have long-term repercussions.

The starkest and most serious example of this is the oil slick caused by by Israeli bombing of the Jiyyeh power station (which is a legitimate target in an anti-terrorist campaign for reasons beyond myself). The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report that satellite imagery now shows the resulting slick covering 80 km of Lebanese coastline and having reached Syrian waters. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO), who estimate that "some 10000 tonnes escaped and there is potential altogether for up to 35000 tonnes to be spilt," note that the slick has now affected around a third of Lebanon's coastline.

The Beeb's Richard Black underlines the severity of the incident, suggesting that the bombing may have resulted in as much oil entering the water as during the infamous Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989. A group of local NGOs, declare that the slick was "definitely one of the worst environmental crises in Lebanese history." They express particular concern about the impact upon sea turtle nesting, particulalry endangered green turtles:
During the month of July, turtle eggs start to hatch and all baby turtles will need to reach deep waters as fast as possible. With the oil slick in their way baby turtles will have no chance of making it. Also, Blue Fin Tuna, which is a very important commercial species in the Mediterranean and which has been under severe stress from over-fishing, are present in the Eastern Mediterranean coastal water in this period of the year. The oil spill, of which part of it has settled on the sea floor, will threaten the blue fin tuna and other fish species spawning areas.
It goes without saying that this isn't just bad for the ecosystem, but also for those people (like fishermen) whose lives depend upon it.

Although Black notes that attempts to contain the spread are underway with "the UN and other international organisations... assisting the Lebanese government as it attempts to contain thousands of tonnes of oil." The inference I draw from the UNEP and IMO press releases, however, is that efforts are only at the most preliminary of stages. In any case, attempts to deal with the problem will inevitably be impacted upon by the ongoing Israeli assault. Both UNEP and the NGO press release cited above descibe an immediate ceasefire as vital to enable an effective clean-up operation.

Ghassan Makarem of the Samidou network suggests in an article for Socialist Worker (via) that the Lebanese population are becoming increasingly radicalised by the Israeli bombardment, claiming, "Young activists, environmental campaigners, human rights groups, religious organisations - they’re becoming radicalised by what’s happening." When I first read this, the inclusion of environmentalists seemed a little incongruous. (In part this is perhaps due to my unconscious acceptance of the assumption that environmentalism is a predominantly western concern, but that's a point for another post.) Given the environmental consequences of the assault, however, it shouldn't suprising, to say nothing of the anger unsurprisingly elicited when one finds oneself under attack by another country.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Z-Net has an illuminating Hezbollah backgrounder. Check it y'all.

Side Projects

Carnival of Anarchy
The Peace Pipe
UK Watch Blog


Against the Current
Culture hits and gendered bits
Daniel Randall
In The Water
Mike Wood
On The Barricades
Pizarro's Sword
Space Cat Rocket Ship
Surveillant Assemblage
TashCamUK FotoPage
The Naked Lunch
The Peace Pipe
The World of the Dynamite Lady


Anarchoblogs Blog
Arte & Lingua
Barker in Valencia
Blood & Treasure
Bombs and Shields
Born at the Crest of the Empire
Chase me ladies...
Chicken Yoghurt
Craig Murray
Dead Men Left
Disreputable Lazy Aliens
Empire Notes
Friends of Al Jazeera
Global Guerillas
Guerillas in the Midst
I Blame the Patriachy
Informed Comment
Janine Booth
Lenin's Tomb
Life of Riley Blog
Media Watch Watch
Neil Shakespeare
NO2ID NewsBlog
One Hump or Two?
Otto's Random Thoughts
Pitch In For Uzbekistan
Run over by the truth
Solidarity With Iraqi Workers
Shut Up You Fat Whiner!
Sudan: Passion of the Present
Talk Politics
The Anthropik Network
The Daily (Maybe)
The Devil's Kitchen
The Disillusioned
The f-word
The Head Heeb
The Killing Train
The Revenge of Winston Smith
The Socialist Unity Blog
The Wicked Truth
Theory of Power
Things I Don't Have Time For
This (Fresh) Gringo
This Is My Truth
Thumping the Tub
Time The Dreaded Enemy
UK Watch Blog
UK Poli Blogs
Under The Same Sun
What Fresh Hell Is This?
Where is Raed? (RIP)
Who Are You to Accuse Me?
Words and Rocks
Z-Net Blog


Asbo Community Space
Eastside Climate Action
Faslane 365
No Borders
Nottingham Student Peace Movement
Refugee Forum
Stop the War
Sumac Centre
The Demo Project

Ivory Towers

Anarchist Studies Network
Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice
Postanarchism Clearinghouse


Anarchist FAQ
Chagos Discussion List
Chagos Support Forums
Electronic Intifada
Future of Iraq Portal
Index of Political Blogs
Indymedia UK
Iraq Occupation Focus
Refuser Solidarity Network
Socialist Unity Network
The New Standard
UK Chagos Support Association
UK Watch
Weekly Worker

The Progressive Blog Alliance

Register here to join the PBA.