Weblog Archives




  Saturday   January 29   2005


Seymour Hersh: "We've Been Taken Over by a Cult"

On the other hand, the facts -- there are some facts. We can’t win this war. We can do what he's doing. We can bomb them into the stone ages. Here's the other horrifying, sort of spectacular fact that we don't really appreciate. Since we installed our puppet government, this man, Allawi, who was a member of the Mukabarat, the secret police of Saddam, long before he became a critic, and is basically Saddam-lite. Before we installed him, since we have installed him on June 28, July, August, September, October, November, every month, one thing happened: the number of sorties, bombing raids by one plane, and the number of tonnage dropped has grown exponentially each month. We are systematically bombing that country. There are no embedded journalists at Doha, the Air Force base I think we’re operating out of. No embedded journalists at the aircraft carrier, Harry Truman. That's the aircraft carrier that I think is doing many of the operational fights. There’s no air defense, It's simply a turkey shoot. They come and hit what they want. We know nothing. We don't ask. We're not told. We know nothing about the extent of bombing. So if they're going to carry out an election and if they're going to succeed, bombing is going to be key to it, which means that what happened in Fallujah, essentially Iraq -- some of you remember Vietnam -- Iraq is being turn into a “free-fire zone” right in front of us. Hit everything, kill everything. I have a friend in the Air Force, a Colonel, who had the awful task of being an urban bombing planner, planning urban bombing, to make urban bombing be as unobtrusive as possible. I think it was three weeks ago today, three weeks ago Sunday after Fallujah I called him at home. I'm one of the people -- I don't call people at work. I call them at home, and he has one of those caller I.D.’s, and he picked up the phone and he said, “Welcome to Stalingrad.” We know what we're doing. This is deliberate. It's being done. They're not telling us. They're not talking about it.


  thanks to Yolanda Flanagan

Water Anxiety...
by Riverbend

I have to make this fast. We have about two hours of electricity- hopefully. The water came back yesterday evening. It's just a little drizzle but it's certainly better than nothing.

E. was the first to hear it. We were sitting in the living room and he suddenly jumped up, alert, "Do you hear that?" He asked. I strained my ears for either the sound of a plane or helicopter or gun shots. Nothing... except, wait... something... like a small stream of... water? Could it be? Was it back? We both ran into the bathroom where we had the faucets turned on for the last eight days in anticipation of water. Sure enough, there it was- a little stream of water that kept coming and going as if undecided. E. and I did a little victory dance in front of the sink with some celebratory hoots and clapping.

This was followed by a lot of work. We spent the rest of the evening filling anything that was fillable- pots, pans, cups, bottles and buckets. The formerly empty area under the staircase is now filled with big pots of water covered with trays and mismatching pot covers to keep out stray bugs and dust.


Here comes “The Freedom”
by Dahr Jamail

My friend from Baquba visited me yesterday. He brought the usual giant lunch of home cooked food he always brings when he comes to see me. I’m still eating it, actually. I had it again for dinner tonight. Ah, the typical Iraqi meal.

He owns four large tents, and rents them to people in his city to use at funeral wakes, marriage parties, tribal negotiation meetings and to cover gardens, among other things.

During the Anglo-American invasion of his country back in the spring of 2003, when refugees from Baghdad sought shelter from the falling bombs, many of the families inundated his city. After his house was filled with refugees, he let others use his tents, for free of course.

Refugees from Fallujah are using them now.


Criminals the lot of us
The invasion of Iraq was a crime of gigantic proportions, for which politicians, the media and the public share responsibility

But, through the invasion of Iraq, a crime of gigantic proportions has been perpetrated. If history has taught us anything, it is that it will condemn both the individuals and respective societies who not only perpetrated the crime, but also remained blind and mute while it was being committed.


"A military in extremis"
Still living in a fantasy world, the administration has no strategy for maintaining the current number of U.S. forces in Iraq for two more years.

The most penetrating critique of the realism informing President Bush's second inaugural address, a trumpet call of imperial ambition, was made one month before it was delivered, on Dec. 20, 2004, by Lt. Gen. James Helmly, chief of the U.S. Army Reserve. In an internal memorandum, he described "the Army Reserve's inability under current policies, procedures and practices ... to meet mission requirements associated with Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. The Army Reserve is additionally in grave danger of being unable to meet other operational requirements and is rapidly degenerating into a broken force." The memo continues: These "dysfunctional" policies are producing a crisis "more acute and hurtful," as the Reserve's ability to mobilize troops is "eroding daily."

The U.S. force in Iraq of about 150,000 troops is composed of a "volunteer" Army that came into being with the end of military conscription during the Vietnam War. More than 40 percent are National Guard and Reserve members, most having completed second tours of duty and been sent out again. The force level has been maintained by the Pentagon only by "stop-loss" orders that coerce soldiers to remain in service after their contractual enlistment expires -- a backdoor draft. Reenlistment is collapsing, by at least 30 percent last year. The Pentagon justified this de facto conscription by telling Congress that it is merely a short-term solution that would not be necessary as Iraq quickly stabilized and an Iraqi security force filled the vacuum. But this week the Pentagon announced that the U.S. force level would remain unchanged through 2006.

"I don't know where these troops are coming from. It's mystifying," Rep. Ellen Tauscher, a ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, told me. "There's no policy to deal with the fact we have a military in extremis."


  thanks to Antiwar.com

Much Bigger Military Is Called For

The Bush administration is facing new calls from Democrats and Republicans, including some of its staunchest allies, to expand the size of the Army and Marines by tens of thousands of active-duty troops over the next several years.


  thanks to Information Clearing House

Here we go again
by Steve Gilliard

I'm watching Nightline's town hall on Iraq and it's the same shit in a different day.

Sen. George Allen (R-VA) should never be in a room with a serious thought. Thankfully he talked so much that Richard Perle had to keep his mouth shut. Joe Wilson kept talking about "internationalization" as if any European government could survive such a vote. Marty Meehan (D-MA) made some sense about setting a time table for leaving Iraq.

Two years later, it's like watching a debate frozen in amber.


Talk Of Pulling U.S. Troops Out Of Iraq Simmers In Congress

Talk of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq is simmering on Capitol Hill.

It's mostly from Democrats -- Edward Kennedy on Thursday became the first senator to say "we must begin" withdrawal -- but Republicans, too, expect the discussion to increase as an Iraqi government takes shape and Congress considers more billions of dollars for the war.


  thanks to Antiwar.com

 12:06 PM - link


Cowboy Photographer: Erwin E. Smith

Erwin E. Smith (1886–1947) always wanted to be a cowboy and an artist. When he was a boy growing up in Bonham, a town in Fannin County in North Texas, the era of the great trail drives was over, and he feared that the old ways of the cowboy were disappearing. However, the legend and myth of the cowboy was just beginning. Popular literature, art by Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell, and the fledgling film industry promoted a romantic, yet often inaccurate, image of the cowboy. For his part, Smith resolved to honor the life of the cowboy by presenting as true a portrayal as possible.


  thanks to wood s lot

 11:30 AM - link


USAF playing cat and mouse game over Iran

The U.S. Air Force is playing a dangerous game of cat and mouse with Iran's ayatollahs, flying American combat aircraft into Iranian airspace in an attempt to lure Tehran into turning on air defense radars, thus allowing U.S. pilots to grid the system for use in future targeting data, administration officials said.


How can Iran see this as anything but an agressive act that is a prelude to much more agressive acts? What do you think Americans would do if Iran did the same thing to us? The USAF would shoot them down and then all good Amerikans would rant on about the sanctity of soveriegn territories. Fucking hypocrites.

 10:52 AM - link


Linda Broadfoot


  thanks to PJ's Photo Blog

What is not evident when viewing these pictures on the web is how big they are — these are 20"x24" Polaroids. More acurately, they are 20"x24" Polaroid transfers. There are not that many 20"x24" Polaroid cameras around. Most of them are in rental studios such as where these pictures were taken — POLAROID 20X24 STUDIO WEST

 10:43 AM - link

Don't call him a collaborator

After the death of Yassir Arafat and Abu Mazen's election, I was still relatively pessimistic. At the first sign of trouble, Sharon immediately cut off contacts and resorted to his usual macho blustering. And Abu Mazen himself has a very gray and slightly shady past. I thought we were just going through another repetition of the usual up and down cycles.

Recent events however, have changed my mind. I am now on the "cautiously optimistic" side of the fence.

From the moment he took office, Abu Mazen has acted like a man with a plan. Oblivious to Israeli blustering, he has followed the principles he clearly laid out in his election platform. Curb all Palestinian violence to pave the way for negotiations with Israel on an equal footing.

One can't ignore the political integrity and ingenuity of Abu Mazen's actions. He is calling Sharon and Bush's bluff. He is taking control, deploying security forces, curbing violence, doing everything the U.S. and Israel have demanded the Palestinians do as a pre-requisite for negotiations. Equally important, no matter how flawed the process, he was put into power by an election that Bush himself is holding up as an exemplar of democracy in the Middle East.

By his actions and election, it seems now that the day is not far off when Abu Mazen sits down to the negotiating table with Sharon. And since he has already shown himself a man of his word, he will lay out the basic Palestinian demands he declared as part of his platform: Israel's return to the '67 borders with minor adjustment, East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, and recognizing the right of return as a moral principle. When he does, what can Sharon, or more importantly Bush, say then? They can't accuse him of being an extremist. They can't accuse him of being a despot. They can't deny that he is working for peace and an end to violence. Their hemming and hawing will lay bare the moral bankruptcy of their positions. People often say Sharon is a tactical genius. It looks like the wiley old man may have finally met his match.


 02:03 AM - link


Colours on the road:
Truck painting in Pakistan


  thanks to J-Walk Blog

 01:56 AM - link


Sinking Dollar Dominates Davos Debate

Two things were as clear as the Alpine air on the opening day of the World Economic Forum on Wednesday: The relentlessly sinking dollar is Topic A, and anyone hoping for an answer to when it will stop dropping is likely to come away disappointed.


  thanks to Bad Attitudes

The US dollar fails the Chinese test

So China wants to adopt a basket peg because it no longer thinks the dollar is a stable store of value.

To quote Mr. Fan, Director of China's National Institute for Economic Research:

The U.S. dollar is no longer -- in our opinion is no longer -- (seen) as a stable currency, and is devaluating all the time, and that's putting troubles all the time," Fan said, speaking in English.


  thanks to The Agonist

 01:53 AM - link

boat pathologies

I didn't mean to but...

I didn't mean to but...I bought a big, old boat. This is the ongoing saga of Lady Jane, a steel hulled fishing trawler, built in 1963, which I bought in July 2004.


  thanks to J-Walk Blog

 01:48 AM - link


The Parrot In The Bathroom
Our dog-loving columnist finds the bird life surreal indeed. And you thought your cat was strange
by Mark Morford

It's a terrifically odd and slightly disconcerting moment when you're at one end of the long narrow San Francisco hardwood-floored hallway and you hear a soft click click click of tiny taloned feet and you stick your head out of the kitchen and look down the hall, and you see this bird.

You see this one-foot-tall grey parrot, actually, tiny and delicate and uncommonly dwarfed by the high, arched 14-foot ceiling, just calmly walking down the hall and seeking you out and you just stand there and smile and watch as you get this strange and slightly unnerving sensation that says, whoa, wait wait wait, that's a bird. In my house. Walking toward me. On purpose.

This particular parrot is young, nine months of age. This particular parrot is still developing her personality and she has yet to speak a single word but odds are she will, oh will she ever, African Greys being, we know, the most intelligent and talkative and sentient of all the parrot species, armed with the strongest potential vocabulary and most uncanny ability for mimicry, and studies have shown that this particular species can actually understand and use human language (as opposed to merely, well, parroting it).

But for now it's just a symphony in warm-up a few times a day, all manner of preparation sounds, gurgles and chirps and clicks, grunts and scratches and long, low burps, sing-songy whistles and monkey hiccups the likes of which make you laugh out loud and look on in amazement at this creature's tiny throat and tiny brain and wonder, what the hell is in there?


 01:43 AM - link

camera bag

I took these pictures tonight with my digital camera as sort of a proof of concept. Next I will do it on film for some quality. Zoe gave me this little leather bag for my FED 2. It's called a Travelon and it's sort of a mini courier bag into which I've stuffed my rangefinder kit. The bag only measures 7" x 8" x 4.5" and doesn't look like a camera bag. Small enough to carry it with me where ever I go. That is sort of the idea behind 35mm cameras, or at least what I think a 35mm camera should be used for.

As you can see there is a little pouch at the base of the easily adjustible strap that is probably for those little cell phones but also fits two rolls of 35mm film.

The front flap opens to reveal a mesh pouch where I have lens hoods for all my lens except for the self-hooded Jupiter 12.

The bag has two main pockets. The front, and slimmer pocket, has side zippers to give it a bigger opening to make it easier to get stuff out. The main pocket has side zippers that let the bag expand.

In the front pocket there is room for another four rolls of film, a Universal Finder that I keep in a small leather pouch, and a Luna Pro light meter. I usually also keep a lens pen in this pocket but it was temporarily missing.

At the bottom of the main pocket is a Jupiter 12 35mm f2 lens in a nice bakelite lens case and a Jupiter 8 50mm f2 lens in a similar plastic lens case. Above them, in a padded lens wrap, is a Jupiter 9 85mm f2 lens. At the top of the heap is a FED 2e with a collapsible Industar-50 50mm f3.5 lens/body cap. The collapsible Industar-50 makes a nice thin package that will fit in the narrow pocket. The whole thing weighs about 5 to 6 pounds. I really like this kit.

 01:23 AM - link

  Wednesday   January 26   2005

america the tarnished

Dream On America
The U.S. Model: For years, much of the world did aspire to the American way of life. But today countries are finding more appealing systems in their own backyards.

Not long ago, the American dream was a global fantasy. Not only Americans saw themselves as a beacon unto nations. So did much of the rest of the world. East Europeans tuned into Radio Free Europe. Chinese students erected a replica of the Statue of Liberty in Tiananmen Square.

You had only to listen to George W. Bush's Inaugural Address last week (invoking "freedom" and "liberty" 49 times) to appreciate just how deeply Americans still believe in this founding myth. For many in the world, the president's rhetoric confirmed their worst fears of an imperial America relentlessly pursuing its narrow national interests. But the greater danger may be a delusional America—one that believes, despite all evidence to the contrary, that the American Dream lives on, that America remains a model for the world, one whose mission is to spread the word.

The gulf between how Americans view themselves and how the world views them was summed up in a poll last week by the BBC. Fully 71 percent of Americans see the United States as a source of good in the world. More than half view Bush's election as positive for global security. Other studies report that 70 percent have faith in their domestic institutions and nearly 80 percent believe "American ideas and customs" should spread globally.

Foreigners take an entirely different view: 58 percent in the BBC poll see Bush's re-election as a threat to world peace. Among America's traditional allies, the figure is strikingly higher: 77 percent in Germany, 64 percent in Britain and 82 percent in Turkey. Among the 1.3 billion members of the Islamic world, public support for the United States is measured in single digits. Only Poland, the Philippines and India viewed Bush's second Inaugural positively.

Tellingly, the anti-Bushism of the president's first term is giving way to a more general anti-Americanism. A plurality of voters (the average is 70 percent) in each of the 21 countries surveyed by the BBC oppose sending any troops to Iraq, including those in most of the countries that have done so. Only one third, disproportionately in the poorest and most dictatorial countries, would like to see American values spread in their country. Says Doug Miller of GlobeScan, which conducted the BBC report: "President Bush has further isolated America from the world. Unless the administration changes its approach, it will continue to erode America's good name, and hence its ability to effectively influence world affairs." Former Brazilian president Jose Sarney expressed the sentiments of the 78 percent of his countrymen who see America as a threat: "Now that Bush has been re-elected, all I can say is, God bless the rest of the world."

The truth is that Americans are living in a dream world. Not only do others not share America's self-regard, they no longer aspire to emulate the country's social and economic achievements. The loss of faith in the American Dream goes beyond this swaggering administration and its war in Iraq. A President Kerry would have had to confront a similar disaffection, for it grows from the success of something America holds dear: the spread of democracy, free markets and international institutions—globalization, in a word.


 11:44 PM - link


Singapore: Changi Point and Pulau Ubin

The photos in this gallery are the results of two years of work that I have done on Changi Point and Pulau Ubin. Changi Point is at the eastern tip of Singapore. It has one of the smallest residential area in Singapore in the shape of Changi Village, well known for its good food and old shops.


  thanks to RangeFinderForum.com

 11:41 PM - link

america the dispensible

Failed Bush world leadership

In a second inaugural address tinged with evangelical zeal, George W. Bush declared: "Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world." The peoples of the world, however, do not seem to be listening. A new world order is indeed emerging - but its architecture is being drafted in Asia and Europe, at meetings to which Americans have not been invited.

Consider Asean Plus Three (APT), which unites the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations with China, Japan and South Korea. This group has the potential to be the world's largest trade bloc, dwarfing the European Union and North American Free Trade Association. The deepening ties of the APT member states represent a major diplomatic defeat for the US, which hoped to use the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum to limit the growth of Asian economic regionalism at American expense. In the same way, recent moves by South American countries to bolster an economic community represent a clear rejection of US aims to dominate a western-hemisphere free trade zone.

Consider, as well, the EU's rapid progress toward military independence. American protests failed to prevent the EU establishing its own military planning agency, independent of the Nato alliance (and thus of Washington). Europe is building up its own rapid reaction force. And despite US resistance, the EU is developing Galileo, its own satellite network, which will break the monopoly of the US global positioning satellite system.

The participation of China in Europe's Galileo project has alarmed the US military. But China shares an interest with other aspiring space powers in preventing American control of space for military and commercial uses. Even while collaborating with Europe on Galileo, China is partnering Brazil to launch satellites. And in an unprecedented move, China recently agreed to host Russian forces for joint Russo-Chinese military exercises.

The US is being sidelined even in the area that Mr Bush identified in last week's address as America's mission: the promotion of democracy and human rights. The EU has devoted far more resources to consolidating democracy in post-communist Europe than has the US. By contrast, under Mr Bush, the US hypocritically uses the promotion of democracy as the rationale for campaigns against states it opposes for strategic reasons. Washington denounces tyranny in Iran but tolerates it in Pakistan. In Iraq, the goal of democratisation was invoked only after the invasion, which was justified earlier by claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was collaborating with al-Qaeda.


 11:12 PM - link


Hanoi Panorama
Thinh Le


  thanks to consumptive.org

 11:08 PM - link


Odd Happenings in Fallujah
by Dahr Jamail

“The soldiers are doing strange things in Fallujah,” said one of my contacts in Fallujah who just returned. He was in his city checking on his home and just returned to Baghdad this evening.

Speaking on condition of anonymity he continued, “In the center of the Julan Quarter they are removing entire homes which have been bombed, meanwhile most of the homes that were bombed are left as they were. Why are they doing this?”

According to him, this was also done in the Nazal, Mualmeen, Jubail and Shuhada’a districts, and the military began to do this after Eid, which was after November 20th.

He told me he has watched the military use bulldozers to push the soil into piles and load it onto trucks to carry away. This was done in the Julan and Jimouriya quarters of the city, which is of course where the heaviest fighting occurred during the siege, as this was where resistance was the fiercest.

“At least two kilometers of soil were removed,” he explained, “Exactly as they did at Baghdad Airport after the heavy battles there during the invasion and the Americans used their special weapons.”

He explained that in certain areas where the military used “special munitions” 200 square meters of soil was being removed from each blast site.

In addition, many of his friends have told him that the military brought in water tanker trucks to power blast the streets, although he hadn’t seen this himself.

“They went around to every house and have shot the water tanks,” he continued, “As if they are trying to hide the evidence of chemical weapons in the water, but they only did this in some areas, such as Julan and in the souk (market) there as well.”


Low Fuel, High Violence
by Dahr Jamail

Last night I peered out my hotel room window into the vast darkness of Baghdad. Aside from random lights powered by generators, the blackened capital city seemed to lay dormant under high winds and a cold, driving rain.

This morning as we’re driving under clear, crisp skies on the harrowing streets Abu Talat tells me, “We have had neither water nor electricity at our house since 9am yesterday morning. It is as if we are camping in our house!”

He laughs his usual deep laugh as I shake my head. I noticed he hadn’t shaved in a couple of days.

Sirens wail in the distance as Apaches rumble low overhead and we make our way to our interviews. Looking out the window I see a rough looking man wearing a black leather jacket ambling along the street. He wears a wide leather belt with a pistol strapped on his right side, and a knife which runs down to his middle thigh on his left. Welcome to occupied Baghdad.


U.S. Military May Face Reservist Shortage

The strain of fighting a longer, bloodier war in Iraq than U.S. commanders originally foresaw brings forth a question that most would have dismissed only a year ago: Is the military in danger of running out of reserve troops?


  thanks to Steve Gilliard's News Blog

Walking Wounded
Old soldiers don’t fade away

In 15 years in Washington, I knew many, many reporters and intellectuals and educated people. Almost none had worn boots. So it is. Those who count do not have to go, and do not know anyone who has gone, and don’t interest themselves. There is a price for this, though not one Washington cares about. Across America, in places where you might not expect it—in Legion halls and VFW posts, among those who carry membership cards from the Disabled American Veterans—there are men who hate. They don’t hate America. They hate those who sent them. Talk to the wounded from Iraq in five years.


  thanks to Cursor

Army Plans To Keep Iraq Troop Level Through '06

This Plastic Moment
Getting out of Iraq: it's now or never

They're finding their own voice in Iraq, but will they use it to ask U.S. troops to leave? This piece in the London Times would seem to answer that question in the affirmative. It looks like Mr. al-Hakim, who heads up the Shi'ite election list endorsed by the Ayatollah Sistani, is going to be in charge after next week's elections, and there's lots more on his agenda that isn't going to please the Americans:


Coming Unglued

As I pondered what theme would be appropriate for this 100th "On War," one of Col. John Boyd's favorite phrases popped into my mind: "coming unglued." As the column's primary purpose is to view events through the prism of Fourth Generation war, and 4GW is both a sign and a further cause of many things "coming unglued," the phrase seemed apt.

Nowhere is it more so than with regard to America's grand folly in Iraq, where our invasion destroyed a state and created in its place a vast new breeding ground for Fourth Generation forces. In an interview with The Associated Press in December 2004, the European Union's counterterrorism coordinator, Gijs de Vries, said, "There are some who have gone to Iraq [from Europe], as indeed there have been youngsters from outside Europe, from Arab countries, who have gone there to receive military training." We invaded Afghanistan to eliminate terrorist training camps, then created new terrorist training camps by invading Iraq.


Record '05 Deficit Forecast
War Costs to Raise Total to $427 Billion

 10:56 PM - link


The Writer's Place


 10:38 PM - link


Iran approaches a flashpoint

For what might my draft-age son be fighting? For whom will the bells toll this time?

Seymour Hersh's article "The coming wars" in The New Yorker magazine should not have surprised anyone. Iran has been in the crosshairs, and remains there, ever since it was crowned as the biggest threat to international peace and security by the Bush administration soon after September 11, 2001.

President George W Bush, in his State of the Union address in January 2002, lumped Iran together with Iraq and North Korea as members of an "axis of evil", to be confronted in the United States' "war on international terrorism".

The real enemy, or the source of threat against the security of the United States, was reconfirmed to be the al-Qaeda camp, headed by Osama bin Laden, masterminding its operations from Afghanistan's mountain strongholds. However, the September 11 attacks provided an unexpected and highly welcomed opportunity for dormant power centers to come together and join forces with a common agenda. The target was broadened almost immediately to encompass the entire Middle East, and later Islam as a whole, called militant Islam, of course, for political correctness.

Organizations and think-tanks such as the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the Middle East Forum, as well as many hardcore evangelicals, found in the national tragedy the catalyst that brought them together in a crusade against a common enemy. A true national tragedy was thus hijacked.


 10:33 PM - link


John Humble


  thanks to Conscientious

 10:09 PM - link

Will you kill and also take possession?

The title of this piece comes from the Biblical book of Kings I, Chapter 22, verse 19. Ahab was a rich and powerful Israelite king, who coveted the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite. Naboth refused to sell his only possession to the King, for he was greatly attached to his family plot. So Jezebeel, the King's wicked wife, set Naboth up. She bribed some wicked men to accuse Naboth of a false crime, for which he was stoned to death. Then Jezebel told Ahab to take possession of the dead man's vineyard.

In those days there was a God who cared about justice, so he sent his prophet Elijah to rebuke Ahab: "Will you kill and also take possession? Thus saith the Lord: In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, shall dogs lick your blood as well..."

This sentance is often used in modern Hebrew as a phrase to rebuke particularly egregious crimes. It came to my mind today, when reading about the latest actions of the Israeli government.

First, the news from yesterday's new York Times:

"The Israeli government secretly approved a measure last summer that says it can seize land in East Jerusalem owned by Palestinians who live elsewhere, the government and a lawyer for the Palestinians said Monday."


 10:05 PM - link


Fair of Senses
Marcelo Correa

Fair of Senses is an investigation of the use of color in photography through the genuine Brazilian culture. The project is an experience that explores the colors in São Cristovão Fair, a show of Brazilian northeast regional traditions in the heart of Rio de Janeiro. São Cristovão Fair is a big celebration of Brazilian northeast culture through their music, regional dance, food, typical products and environment. This project has granted the 2004 Vitae Foundation Scholarship


 09:58 PM - link


Global warming is 'twice as bad as previously thought'

Global warming might be twice as catastrophic as previously thought, flooding settlements on the British coast and turning the interior into an unrecognisable tropical landscape, the world's biggest study of climate change shows.

Researchers from some of Britain's leading universities used computer modelling to predict that under the "worst-case" scenario, London would be under water and winters banished to history as average temperatures in the UK soar up to 20C higher than at present.

Globally, average temperatures could reach 11C greater than today, double the rise predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the international body set up to investigate global warming. Such high temperatures would melt most of the polar icecaps and mountain glaciers, raising sea levels by more than 20ft. A report this week in The Independent predicted a 2C temperature rise would lead to irreversible changes in the climate.


  thanks to Drudge Report

 09:52 PM - link

burke & james undone

I went down to the dungeon last night (that's where my little workstation is) and started cleaning my 5x7 Burke & James. I lost control and it's now all apart (not that there is much to take apart.) It was kind of a dirty green color when it should have been gray. I started with windex but it turns out that steel wool was the answer. I clean it with a #1 or #0 (I can't remember which and I'm not going down to the dungeon to find out) and then finish with #0000. It takes off a little of the loose paint off but it is now becoming a nice gray again. There are a few screws loose and a few screws missing (I can relate to that) that I need to take care of. It will need a new handle and a latch for the folded frame. The "new" 5x7 back came in. It needs a little fitting and repair work but I want to focus first on getting the 4x5 Graflok back mounted on the extra back. I've got plans for this camera!

 09:47 PM - link

  Sunday   January 23   2005


The road to a draft goes through an unwilling Army

If you're the U.S. Army, how do you say, "Hell No, We Won't Go?"

By proclaiming, loud, clear and often, your opposition to the draft.

Put bluntly: The U.S. Army has no desire to be large enough to implement the Bush/neocon agenda of "cauldronizing the Middle East" or anywhere else, and it will oppose by every means at its disposal, any attempt to so enlarge it.

And it is right to do so -- militarily, politically and morally.

According to an oft-documented Vietnam legend, an anonymous Army general vowed: "I'll be damned if I permit the United States Army, its institutions, its doctrine, and its traditions, to be destroyed just to win this lousy war." In Iraq, the destruction is already well under way. But if the Army is not prepared to lose in Iraq to save itself, it is ready to remain a force that cannot prevail there, let alone invade anywhere else.


  thanks to Madelane Coale

 08:55 PM - link

heeeeere's johnny!

I haven't watched television regularly in years but there was a time, BC (before cable), that television shows were a shared activity and Johnny Carson was part of that experience. He was good.

Johnny Carson, Low-Key King of Late-Night TV, Dies at 79

Johnny Carson, the droll, puckish, near-effortless comedian who dominated late-night television for 30 years, tucking millions of Americans into bed as the host of the "Tonight" show, died yesterday in Los Angeles. He was 79.


 08:48 PM - link


Bleak Eid...
by Riverbend

It's the third day of Eid. Eid is the Islamic holiday and usually it’s a time for families to get together, eat, drink and celebrate. Not this Eid. This Eid is unbearable. We managed a feeble gathering on the first day and no one was in a celebratory mood. There have been several explosions- some far and some near but even those aren't as worrisome as the tension that seems to be growing on a daily basis.

There hasn’t been a drop of water in the faucets for six days. six days. Even at the beginning of the occupation, when the water would disappear in the summer, there was always a trickle that would come from one of the pipes in the garden. Now, even that is gone. We’ve been purchasing bottles of water (the price has gone up) to use for cooking and drinking. Forget about cleaning. It’s really frustrating because everyone cleans house during Eid. It’s like a part of the tradition. The days leading up to Eid are a frenzy of mops, brooms, dusting rags and disinfectant. The cleaning makes one feel like there's room for a fresh start. It's almost as if the house and its inhabitants are being reborn. Not this year. We’re managing just enough water to rinse dishes with. To bathe, we have to try to make-do with a few liters of water heated in pots on kerosene heaters.

Water is like peace- you never really know just how valuable it is until someone takes it away. It’s maddening to walk up to the sink, turn one of the faucets and hear the pipes groan with nothing. The toilets don’t function… the dishes sit piled up until two of us can manage to do them- one scrubbing and rinsing and the other pouring the water.

Why is this happening? Is it because of the electricity? If it is, we should at least be getting water a couple of hours a day- like before. Is it some sort of collective punishment leading up to the elections? It’s unbelievable. At first, I thought it was just our area but I’ve been asking around and apparently, almost all of the areas (if not all) are suffering this drought.


Analysis: Iraqi insurgency growing larger, more effective

The United States is steadily losing ground to the Iraqi insurgency, according to every key military yardstick.

A Knight Ridder analysis of U.S. government statistics shows that through all the major turning points that raised hopes of peace in Iraq, including the arrest of Saddam Hussein and the handover of sovereignty at the end of June, the insurgency, led mainly by Sunni Muslims, has become deadlier and more effective.

The analysis suggests that unless something dramatic changes - such as a newfound will by Iraqis to reject the insurgency or a large escalation of U.S. troop strength - the United States won't win the war. It's axiomatic among military thinkers that insurgencies are especially hard to defeat because the insurgents' goal isn't to win in a conventional sense but merely to survive until the will of the occupying power is sapped. Recent polls already suggest an erosion of support among Americans for the war.


  thanks to Antiwar.com

White House Scraps 'Coalition of the Willing' List

The White House has scrapped its list of Iraq allies known as the 45-member "coalition of the willing," which Washington used to back its argument that the 2003 invasion was a multilateral action, an official said on Friday.

The senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the White House replaced the coalition list with a smaller roster of 28 countries with troops in Iraq sometime after the June transfer of power to an interim Iraqi government.

The official could not say when or why the administration did away with the list of the coalition of the willing.


  thanks to Antiwar.com

 08:00 PM - link


It's been some time since I've read Murakami. Maybe it's time again.

Master of the ordinary
Haruki Murakami's latest novel unveils a world in which the fantastic is trite and the everyday profound.

For all the fantastic and farcical happenings in Haruki Murakami's "Kafka on the Shore" -- amnesia that renders the one who suffers it capable of talking with cats; an evil spirit building a flute of stolen souls, both human and animal; another spirit, this one a benevolent pimp, disguised as Colonel Sanders; a woman whose longing for the lost love of her youth gives rise to a ghost of her younger self; fish and leeches raining from the sky; two Japanese soldiers from World War II standing guard in a forest at the gates to the afterlife -- it's the most ordinary things that attain poetry and weight. I came fairly late to Murakami (and still haven't caught up) because I confess to being one of those readers who, hearing that a novel contains elements of fantasy and the surreal, imagine something that's impossibly arch while straining to inspire wonder. Even those of us who are turned off by the drabness of much contemporary realist fiction don't particularly want to read books about spouses that become pets, or goldfish who are really the Buddha, or gardens that contain entrances to subway stations.


 07:16 PM - link

coronation of the godking

God Bless America...We’re gonna need it.

What is one to say about today? To the horror of its well-wishers across the world, the United States—once the “last, best hope of mankind”- is re-inaugurating the worst president in its history; one who has exploited an attack, the success of which its own incompetence helped enable, in order to execute an extremist agenda that is killing thousands, costing trillions and leaving all of us far more insecure than when it began. Before November 2, we could argue it was all a mistake; the guy ran as a “compassionate conservative,” misrepresented his record, Nader screwed everything up, and we actually voted for Gore anyway. It took the Republicans on the Supreme Court—two of whom were appointed by the guy’s dad—to stick the country with this regime filled with ideological fanatics and corrupt incompetents. Now, what are we to say? Fifty-nine million members of our nation do not mind that we were deliberately misled into a war that has drained our blood and treasure to create nothing but hatred and chaos; and that the very people who were at fault have been rewarded and promoted, encouraged to look for new targets to spread their hubristic malevolence. It defies all logic and truthfully, my ability to explain or even fully understand it. One thing is for certain: Based on an virtually unanimous unwillingness to consider its past mistakes and learn from them, things are going to get far, far worse before they get better. Thousands more will die. (Twenty six yesterday.) Trillions more will be squandered. Millions more will grow to hate and revile the name of the United States of America and prepare to attack us in ways for which our government is resolutely unwilling to prepare. Avoidable catastrophe awaits this nation and its victims during the next four years as we will undoubtedly reap what we have sown.

One thing’s for certain, none of this would have been possible without the enthusiastic cooperation—if not cheerleading—of the nation’s mainstream media. Thomas Friedman, considered a liberal opponent of the Bush administration who nevertheless advocated for its mendacious arguments vis-à-vis Iraq and then explicitly excused its willingness to lie because, after all, Hussein was a vicious dictator, cannot help but recognize the damage the administration has done to the nation’s good name the world over. Still, he once again chooses to empower its worst instincts vis-à-vis yet another abominable adventure in Iran by finding what? A single Oxford student in Paris. And pronouncing on the basis of this intrepid bit of investigative reporting that Iran is a “Red state” by extension, would welcome an American invasion of the type outlined by Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker. Four years from now we will be assessing the fallout from that catastrophe undoubtedly in dead Americans, Iranians and additional hatred—and terrorists—bred the world over. God Bless America. We are going to need all the help we can get.


By the Numbers: The U.S. After 4 Years of Bush

Poverty Rate
2000: 11.3% or 31.6 million Americans
2003: 12.5% or 35.9 million Americans

Stock market
Dow Jones Industrial Average
1/19/01: 10,587.59
1/19/05: 10,539.97

1/19/01: 2,770.38
1/19/05: 2,073.59

S&P 500
1/19/01: 1,342.54
1/19/05: 1,184.63

Value of the Dollar
1/19/01: 1 Dollar = 1.06 Euros
1/19/05: 1 Dollar = 0.77 Euros

2000 budget surplus $236.4 billion
2004 budget deficit $412.6 billion
That's a shift of $649 billion and doesn't include the cost of the Iraq war.

Cost of the war in Iraq
$150.8 billion

American Casualties in Iraq
Deaths: 1,369
Wounded: 10,252

The Debt
End of 2000: $5.7 trillion
Today: $7.6 trillion
That's a 4 year increase of 33%


Life in the Second Bush Administration

Throughout the last forty years a legitimate Revolution was taking place in this country. It was quieter and more clandestine than the Socialist revolutions of the 60's, growing from within, from the grassroots upward. It was by the Right, and they now have control of the nation. Orwell may be spinning in his grave, but Barry Goldwater is cackling like a madman in his.


  thanks to wood s lot

Inauguration: Lifestyles of the Rich and Heartless

Due to $17 million worth of inaugural security - paid for by the city of Washington, D.C. - the Progress Report is unable to access its office. Never fear - it takes a lot more than that to keep us down. We put this list together for you ahead of time. Your regularly scheduled Progress Report returns tomorrow.

A look at this week's festivities by the numbers:

$40 million: Cost of Bush inaugural ball festivities, not counting security costs.

$2,000: Amount FDR spent on the inaugural in 1945 - about $20,000 in today's dollars.

$20,000: Cost of yellow roses purchased for inaugural festivities by D.C.'s Ritz Carlton.

200: Number of Humvees outfitted with top-of-the-line armor for troops in Iraq that could have been purchased with the amount of money blown on the inauguration.


  thanks to Yolanda Flanagan

 07:02 PM - link


This is the best piece on film vs. digital that I've seen.

Film vs. Digital Cameras

One first needs to define just what one is going to do with the photographs. For most things digital is far more convenient if you're shooting hundreds of images, making prints smaller than a few feet on a side and posting on websites and email, and for other things like landscape photography for reproduction and large fine prints film is better.

Ignore me. Just look here for why a magazine like Arizona Highways simply does not accept images from digital cameras for publication since the quality is not good enough, even from 11 megapixel cameras, to print at 12 x 18."

Film and digital do different things better and complement each other. Neither is going away, although film will decline in areas where digital excels, like news. Film has already disappeared from professional newspaper use a year or so ago, although small town papers may still use it, and likewise, no digital capture system has come anywhere near replacing 8x10" large format film for huge exhibition prints that need to be hellaciously detailed.

When radio became popular in the 1920s people knew that newspapers would evaporate, when FM radio became common in the 1960s everyone knew AM was doomed, and when TV became practical in the 1950s everyone knew movie theatres were history, too. Wisdom shows us that every time a new medium, like digital cameras, is invented that the older media survive continuing to do whatever they do best and get better at it, although the older media may no longer be dominant. Even awful media like LP records still have their followers.

Digital and film are completely different media, just as oils differ from watercolor, macrame, Prismacolor or bead art. Non-artists misguidedly waste their time comparing meaningless specs like resolution and bit depth when they really should just stand back and look at the images.


  thanks to Photoethnography

It really isn't an either/or situation. I shoot film for most everything. I shoot a little digital for the web but if I could afford a good digital camera I would shoot a little more. However, I scan the film and then my workflow is digital. This will change when I get my large format going and then some of that will be film to wet darkroom only but sometimes I can see that it would be film to digital to digitally printed negative to a wet darkroom print. There are a lot of possibilities. To look at only one or the other is pretty limiting. The above piece is from an amazingly informative site that, if you are into photography, you must check out...


 06:38 PM - link


Tomgram: Auerback, a tour of economic disaster, 2005-style

In his 1849 novel, Les Guepes, Alphonse Karr penned the classic line: "The more things change, the more they stay the same." In the case of the United States in 2005, however, the opposite might be true: The more things stay the same, the more they are likely to change…for the worse. In that regard, compiling a list of potential threats to the U.S. this year has a strangely déjà-vu-all-over-again feeling. After all, such a list would represent nothing more than a longstanding catalogue of economic policy-making run amok. Virtually the same list could have been drawn up in 2004, or 2003, or previous years.

Such threats would include: a persistent and increasing resort to debt-financed growth and a concomitant, growing imbalance in the trade deficit, leading the U.S. ever further into financial dependency and so leaving it dangerously indebted to rival nations, which could (at least theoretically) pull the plug at any time. This, in turn, is occurring against the backdrop of an increasingly problematic, Vietnam-style quagmire in Iraq, against imperial overstretch, and against a related ongoing crisis in energy prices, itself spurring an ever more frantic competition for energy security, which will surely intensify existing global and regional rivalries.

Just as a haystack soaked in kerosene will appear relatively benign until somebody strikes a match; so too, although America's longstanding economic problems have not yet led to financial Armageddon, this in no way invalidates the threat ultimately posed. For economy watchers in 2005, the key, of course, is to imagine which event (or combination of them) might represent the match that could set this "haystack" alight -- if there is indeed one "event" which has the capability of precipitating the bursting of a historically unprecedented credit bubble.


 04:36 PM - link


I started, some time ago, to get back into doing portraits. I'm using family as guinea pigs. I did one of my son Robby and then, when I tried shooting my oldest daughter, Jenny, I sort of hit a wall. I really didn't like how the shooting went and part of that was using the rectangular 6x9 format on the Mamiya. So things sort of stopped for awhile until I rediscovered the 6x6 square format when I started using a twin lens reflex. It seemed like it was a much better format for portraits. Here is a series of the Valdez family. Jenny is my oldest.

The Valdez Family
Jenny (my oldest), William (back in Ramadi), Robyn, and Evan

It was so much easier shooting square. It was hard to pick out one that was the best of all four and, after looking at them all, I liked the whole series. So here it is. The link goes to a larger version. Still a work in progress.

 04:11 PM - link

The Threat of Peace
After Arafat

As Oscar Wilde once said, there are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it. Israel is now facing the latter tragedy. For years on end, we knew what we wanted: we wanted Arafat dead. Not that we just sat and waited for it: we used ceaseless incitement to prepare world opinion for his proactive elimination; we even endorsed a government decision to get rid of him, and we held the old man prisoner in his destroyed headquarters under conditions that would sooner rather than later kill the healthiest senior (the Palestinians missed a good point by propagating the legend that Arafat was poisoned, as if his incarceration by Israel was not enough to kill him). Anyway, Arafat is now dead, we got what we wanted, and we are not happy.

On the contrary. Together with Arafat, Israel buried its best excuse for perpetuating the occupation. How long can you blame the dead for terrorism? How long can you refuse to negotiate with the dead, to meet with him face to face? Not very long. More than two months after Arafat's death, even anemic Europe understands: "the 'Arafat excuse' no longer exists" (Jean Asselborn, president of the European Union Council of Ministers, Ha'aretz, Jan. 18, 2005). And what is worse: the Palestinians have now got a new leader who was elected democratically (goodbye to "ruthless dictator"), and, on top of all that, a leader who consistently and openly – in English and in Arabic – renounces the armed struggle against the occupation. On the other hand, Abu Mazen still demands complete Israeli withdrawal from all Palestinian lands, and an independent Palestinian state. This, of course, is in total harmony with international law, with UN Security Council resolutions, even with President's Bush Road Map: in short, it is totally unacceptable for Israel.


 01:51 PM - link

another package arrived

The Jupiter 9 (85mm f2) lens for my FED arrived.

There are a few cleaning marks but it otherwise looks very nice. 1958 vintage. The focus is stiff and there is some question as to whether it is calibrated correctly so it will go off to Oleg in the Ukraine for a clean, lube, and adjust. He is the master. He quoted $20 to $30 with $10 return shipping. I traded film that I paid $13.10 for so it will be a nice lens for a very reasonable price. I've never used a telephoto lens before so I'm looking forward to this. And it's a fast one at that.

This completes the lenses I want for 35mm — Jupiter 12 (35mm f2.8), Jupiter 8 (50mm f2 for available darkness), collapsible Industar-50 (50mm f3.5 for carrying in coat pocket), and the Jupiter 9 (85mm f2.) I'm tempted with wider lenses but there aren't any cheap Russian ones and a wider lens would be more useful for landscape or architecture and I would use medium format or large format for that. And 85mm is about as long a lens that works on a rangefinder, so no 135mm, although there is the Jupiter 11...

I've been sidetracked with medium format and large format and need to finish taking care of the Russian rangefinder bodies. This FED 2 body is working just fine but I have another FED2 that has some problems and a Zorki 6 that has more problems. I still haven't decided if I want a low speed camera. The FED 2s and the Zorki 6 only go down to 1/30 sec. I only plan to hand hold these cameras so that may be enough. I need to do more shooting in available darkness with faster films and see if that works. If I really need the slower speeds, I will get a FED 3a. Right now it looks like I just may CLA the other FED 2 and just use the two FEDs. I really love these little cameras!

 01:09 PM - link