Weblog Archives




  Saturday   June 6   2009


 01:03 PM - link


Tales of Tent City

" "This is the bigger picture," said John Kraintz, with a sweep of his arm, indicating the roughly two dozen remaining tents pitched around him on a muddy, pockmarked field between the city dump and the slow green waters of the American River. Kraintz is a thin man of 57, a former electrician who had lived in Sacramento's parks and riverside lots for seven years. His home had been right here--in Tent City.

"Kraintz had relocated to Tent City's outer boroughs. Its downtown, which briefly attracted camera crews from all over the world--a Third World shantytown in the capital of the richest state in the richest country!--was a couple of hundred yards away. Depending on whom you ask, somewhere between 150 and 300 people lived in Tent City between November and April. But by the third week in April, when I visited, most had already packed up. Some had migrated to this spot to avoid police attention. But the cops came, handing out notices announcing, "It is unlawful to camp in the City of Sacramento" and giving people two days to leave. ("This is not camping--we're living!" yelled one of Kraintz's neighbors.) By the end of the week, everyone had left. Tent City, for that moment at least, had disappeared.

"Few people there, though, doubted that it would be back. Tent City is less a single location than a nomadic but constant phenomenon, a shifting blue-tarped shadow to the glass and steel American metropolis. In good times and bad, Tent City comes and goes, forms and scatters and takes shape again. Despite its momentary dispersal in Sacramento, it is still out there--in Seattle, Portland, Reno, Providence, Fresno, even in the sprawling exurbs of southern California in the small city of Ontario. Tent City existed at the height of the real estate boom too, hidden in plain view, an omen for anyone willing to look."


 12:51 PM - link


In My Mother's Footsteps

"I am proud to present to you an introspective project I did as a Thomas J. Watson fellow, called “In My Mother’s Footsteps.” I used a large format camera and color film to document what I saw as I retraced my mother’s early life during World War II and the Holocaust. This included her escape from Berlin, Germany to Groningen in Holland, and then her eventual Nazi capture. In all, I traveled through four countries, visited five different concentration camps, and followed the path of the “Death March” of winter 1944."


 12:47 PM - link


Mondoweiss keeps becoming better and better at covering Israel/Palestine. Philip Weiss is an American Jew brought up Zionist but has become aware of the reality of Israel/Palestine and is now anti-Zionist. He recently went to Gaza and posted these reports:

Phil's reports from Gaza

They are a must read. So much reporting about Gaza is from people who have never been there. Philip was on the ground in Gaza.

Mondoweiss also has reports from Max Blumenthal that are from Israel and the West Bank.

Max Blumenthal: Feeling the Hate In Jerusalem on Eve of Obama's Cairo Address

"Max Blumenthal writes: On the eve of President Barack Obama’s address to the Muslim world from Cairo, Egypt, I stepped out onto the streets of Jerusalem with my friend Joseph Dana to interview young Israelis and American Jews about their reaction to the speech. We encountered rowdy groups of beer sodden twenty-somethings, many from the United States, and all eager to vent their visceral, even violent hatred of Barack Obama and his policies towards Israel. Usually I offer a brief commentary on my video reports, but this one requires no comment at all. Quite simply, it contains some of the most shocking footage I have ever filmed. Watch it and see if you agree. (Warning: this video contains profanity and material offensive to just about anyone.)"


Censored by the Huffington Post and Imprisoned By The Past: Why I Made “Feeling the Hate in Jerusalem”

"The notion that the racist diatribes in my video emerged spontaneously from a beery void is a delusion, but for some, it is a necessary one. It allows them to erect a psychological barrier against acknowledging the painful consequences of prolonged Zionist indoctrination. And it enables them to dismiss the disturbing spectacle of young Jews behaving like fascist soccer hooligans in the heart of the capitol of Israel and the spiritual home of the Jewish people.

"The people in my video were not white trash, nor were they the “extreme right-wing fringe” as some bloggers have called them. They were the college-educated sons and daughters of middle and upper class American Jews from cosmopolitan metropolises and genteel suburbs. Some had come to Israel on vacation, some had made aliyah, and some told me they were planning to move to Israel in the near future. Many were dual citizens of America and Israel. They may have behaved in a moronic way, but they will not grow up to toil in the custodial arts. Many of these kids will move into white-collar jobs and use their influence to advance Israeli initiatives. Programs like Birthright Israel -- a few of those in my video were on Birthright tours -- exist for the exclusive purpose of indoctrinating American Jews into unyielding, unthinking supporters of Israel. Thus the kids in my video represent at least one aspect of the Zionist project’s future base of political sustenance."


Blumenthal's video is a reflection of Lieberman's Israel

"Others have drawn a parallel to Sacha Baron Cohen’s 2006 movie “Borat,” in which a group of inebriated fraternity brothers from the University of South Carolina yuk it up about Jews, blacks and slavery. It wouldn’t be fair to call them representative of American society, the thinking goes, so why should we read anything more into what a handful of boozy Israelis and American Jews in Jerusalem say?

"Well, I have one suggestion why we should: because the man who is Israel’s new foreign minister, and who very nearly became its new prime minister this spring, is an absolute, unqualified bigot. Avigdor Lieberman’s rise (along with Benjamin Netanyahu’s resurgence) is confirmation that the mood in Israel (and among its ardent American supporters) toward the Arab and Muslim worlds has darkened dramatically. His rhetoric is as nakedly racist as George Wallace’s was in America 40 years ago—and he is now Israel’s ambassador to the world.

"I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that the basic attitudes and instincts that the ignorant, drunk racists in the video express are products of the same culture—in Israel and among its American backers—that has given rise to Lieberman, a culture that de-humanizes Arabs and Muslims and vilifies anyone (especially a black American with a Muslim middle name) who would dare challenge the dominant “Israel good/Arabs bad” narrative. Their parents’ and grandparents’ generations mask the rawness of these attitudes with sterile-sounding terms like “demographic problem” and “security fence,” but beneath it all is the same basic de-humanization that these kids are expressing. I suspect this video is a symptom of that culture."


Mondo Exclusive - Gambling with Conflict: How a neocon casino king from California funds the Israeli settler movement

"By Max Blumenthal

"The Israeli government has repeatedly announced plans to forge ahead with plans to expand settlements in the occupied West Bank in direct opposition to President Barack Obama’s demand for an absolute settlement freeze. On May 27, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leveled strong criticism at Israeli policy, telling reporters that President Barack Obama “wants to see a stop to settlements - not some settlements, not outposts, not 'natural growth' exceptions.” Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev responded by declaring that “normal life” in the settlements would continue, using a phrase that is code for continued construction.

"With neither side exhibiting willingness to back down, the stage is set for a contentious clash between Israel and the U.S. over settlement policy. At the center of the maelstrom is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the hawkish Likud Party, who has highlighted his unique understanding of the United States – he is MIT educated and speaks flawless English. Supporters of the settlement movement are an integral part of his governing coalition. How Netanyahu navigates between his far-right constituency and increasingly insistent demands from Obama will not only determine the fate of his government, but also the fate of Israel’s “special relationship” with Washington.

"A gathering of the settlement movement’s leading figures in Jerusalem on May 22, documented in this exclusive Mondoweiss report, revealed the unprecedented influence of the settlers on Israeli policy. The event, a ceremony for the presentation of the Moskowitz Foundation Prize for Zionism, was organized and bankrolled by one of Netanyahu’s closest confidants and backers, the American casino tycoon Irving Moskowitz. For over a decade, Moskowitz has funneled millions in profits from his California-based Hawaiian Gardens casino, where he has been sued for exploiting undocumented workers, into settlement construction projects in the West Bank, including Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. He has also funded several neoconservative think tanks including a research center named after Netanyahu’s brother, Yonatan, who was killed while leading the Entebbe rescue raid in 1976. Moskowitz and Netanyahu have remained close since he established the center."


 12:41 PM - link

the beast is back

I've been resurrecting my Mamiya Press kit. I had stopped using it because of shutter problems with my lenses. I'm starting to get my lenses fixed.

One of the things that also got me back to the big Mamiya was that it can shoot Polaroid pack film full frame. Polaroid has ceased production but Fujifilm still makes peel apart pack film. Not only that but reports were that the color was better. The picture above is my Universal with a Polaroid back. My first pack is a pack of ISO 100 color film.

I'm really liking how it renders color. More at my Flickr set: Fujifilm instant film. I'm almost done with the pack of color film. Next I have two black and white packs of ISO 100 and ISO 3000 film. I was asked what for? Here was my answer:

What for? That's a very good question. I'm not totally sure yet. Part of it is that I like the small instant film print. I finally bought an SX-70 to play with about a year ago. Just before they ceased production of the 600 film. I liked it but no more film. I didn't think of the pack film because I had used the Polaroid film several years ago for lighting tests but I never really liked its color. Only recently did I realize that Fuji pack film was still in production and that it seemed to do color better. I'm very happy with the way the Fuji instant pack film renders color. It has it's own look. Shooting small instant film prints is something I want to explore. They are little jewels.

Having said that, I also want to explore enlarging them with a scanner. There is a limitation there because of the paper resolution but I'm sure it can be enlarged some. I need to do some testing on that.

But wait! There is more!

The first lens I had fixed is my 50mm/f6.3. It is a 21mm equivalent with a 6x9 back. I'm also trying out some Kodak Extar 100. It is a very new, very fine grain color negative film. More pictures of the camera at my Flickr set: My Mamiya Press kit.

 12:14 PM - link

  Sunday   May 31   2009


This is a link to a page with an audio clip. I heard it on my car radio. It's nice that neat things like this are archived. Take a listen.

The Fascinating World Of The Dung Beetle

"Underneath the cow patties in the pasture — and the monkey dung in the jungle — there is a miniature world of sex and violence.

"Here, ornately decorated beetles armed with horns fight for survival and sexual dominance. Douglas Emlen, a professor of biology at the University of Montana, studies them.

"Emlen is an expert on the evolution and development of bizarre or extreme shapes in insects, and he is particularly interested in insect weaponry.

"Much of his work takes place in a lab, but he has also had some wild adventures collecting different families of dung beetles from around the world.

"Emlen joins Fresh Air host Terry Gross to talk about those adventures — and the surprisingly interesting creatures at the center of his research."


 04:26 PM - link


The Writing on the Wall for Obama’s ‘Af-Pak’ Vietnam

"There was something almost painful about watching President Barack Obama last week reprising a track from his predecessor’s Greatest Hits when he hosted the leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Just like Bush, Obama invited us to suspend well-grounded disbelief and imagine that Hamid Karzai and Asif Ali Zardari have the intent, much less the capability, to wage a successful war against the Taliban. Then again, there had been something painful even earlier about watching Obama proclaim Afghanistan as “the right war” and expanding the U.S. footprint there, reprising the Soviet experience of maintaining an islet of modernity in the capital while the countryside burns.

"It requires a spectacular leap of faith in a kind of superheroic American exceptionalism to imagine that the invasion of Afghanistan that occurred in November 2001 will end any differently from any previous invasion of that country. And it takes an elaborate exercise in self-delusion to avoid recognizing that the Taliban crisis in Pakistan is an effect of the war in Afghanistan, rather than a cause — and that Pakistan’s turmoil is unlikely to end before the U.S. winds down its campaign next door.

"The Obama Administration has linked the fate of its campaign in Afghanistan to its efforts to persuade Pakistan to fight the Taliban on its own soil. That was always a risky bet. Pakistan’s military swung into action last week — in its own inimitable way, relying on artillery as a counterinsurgency weapon, with predictable “collateral damage” and massive displacement of civilians — following weeks of hysteria in Washington about the country falling to the Taliban, nukes and all. That was nonsense, of course, and you’d have expected better from a Secretary of State who had once chided her President for his “inexperience” than to be babbling about the Taliban’s gains in Pakistan as representing a “mortal threat” to global security, demanding that the Pakistani army go to war on its own soil."


Understanding the Long War

"The concept of the "Long War" is attributed to former CENTCOM Commander Gen. John Abizaid, speaking in 2004. Leading counterinsurgency theorist John Nagl, an Iraq combat veteran and now the head of the Center for a New American Security, writes that "there is a growing realization that the most likely conflicts of the next fifty years will be irregular warfare in an 'Arc of Instability' that encompasses much of the greater Middle East and parts of Africa and Central and South Asia." The Pentagon's official Quadrennial Defense Review (2005) commits the United States to a greater emphasis on fighting terrorism and insurgencies in this "arc of instability." The Center for American Progress repeats the formulation in arguing for a troop escalation and ten-year commitment in Afghanistan, saying that the "infrastructure of jihad" must be destroyed in "the center of an 'arc of instability' through South and Central Asia and the greater Middle East."

"The implications of this doctrine are staggering. The very notion of a fifty-year war assumes the consent of the American people, who have yet to hear of the plan, for the next six national elections. The weight of a fifty-year burden will surprise and dismay many in the antiwar movement. Most Americans living today will die before the fifty-year war ends, if it does. Youngsters born and raised today will reach middle age. Unborn generations will bear the tax burden or fight and die in this "irregular warfare."

"There is a chance, of course, that the Long War can be prevented. It may be unsustainable, a product of imperial hubris. Public opinion may tire of the quagmires and costs--but only if there is a commitment to a fifty-year peace movement.

"In this perspective, Iraq is only an immediate front, with Afghanistan and Pakistan the expanding fronts, in a single larger war from the Middle East to South Asia. Instead of thinking of Iraq like Vietnam, a war that was definitively ended, it is better to think of Iraq as a setback, or better a stalemate, on a larger battlefield where victory or defeat are painfully hard to define over a timespan of five decades."


My son-in-law William is now in Afghanistan.

 04:05 PM - link