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  Tuesday   August 1   2006

book recommendations

Kinsey Photographer

Kinsey Photographer: The Locomotive Portraits

Andy Fraser, from London, has excellent taste in books. I wasn't going to post these Kinsey books until the next round of links. I had finished posting what I had planned on posting and was organizing the books that I was going to recommend next. (I'm reading the books faster than I can post them.) Then the mailman came and there was a package from amazon.com to me. That was a surprise. Andy, a regular reader of this blog, bought Kinsey Photographer for me, from my Amazon Wishlist. Thank you thank you thank you!

I bought the Locomotive Portraits book several months ago at Costco. Then, when I saw a mention of Darius at APUG I posted some Darius links. The first link in that post has a number of his photographs. A website customer of mine, David Iles, saw that post and lent me Kinsey Photographer which he had checked out of the Library. I promptly checked it out, read it, and added it to my Amazon wishlist. I had to have it.

Darius' photographs leave me speechless. He photographed in the woods around Puget Sound taking pictures of the loggers and selling them prints. He did this for 50 years. He fell of a stump in 1940 at the age of 70 and never photographed again. The pictures he left are amazing. (Whatcom County Museum has 4,700 negatives and 600 prints of Darius Kinsey.) Most were taken with his 11x14 camera. He started out with glass plates and moved to film around 1913. This was in the age of contact prints. If you wanted a bigger photograph, you used a bigger camera. This was also before the age of light meters. He exposed from experience. His wife Tabitha did all the darkroom work developing the negatives by inspection and making the contact prints. While the logger pictures were the paying pictures he took landscape pictures whenever he could. Not only are the photographs excellent, they also document a way of life that has past. He documented the logging of Washington State's old growth timber. His loggers used axes and hand saws. Both books are beautifully done with lots of supporting text.

Kinsey is at the top of my list of admired photographers. I would have to say he shares top billing with Atget. Darius and Tabitha are buried in the Nooksack Cemetery. I hope to make it up there some day. I'll take a picture with a big camera.

From Amazon on Kinsey Photographer:

A magnificent collection of 206 classic duotone photographs of the Pacific Northwest taken in the first half of the century by renowned photographers Darius and Tabitha Kinsey. A stunning book of photography and a testament to the beauty of the region and the colorful life of its people. Captures the romance and rugged splendor of the Northwest--the glaciers, streams, trees, and loggers. Printed on high-quality matte art paper.

From Amazon on Kinsey Photographer: The Locomotive Portraits:

In the winter of 1970, Dave Bohn found the surviving negatives of Darius and Tabitha Kinsey. Bohn and his colleague, Rodolfo Petschek, initiated a long-term effort to reproduce in book form the magnificent Kinsey archive. Here you’ll find Darius and Tabitha Kinsey’s lifework on display in this volume featuring 53 superb photographs of the logging industry’s steam locomotives, historical essays by John Labbe on each locomotive and the logging operations it served, and excerpts from conversations with some of the oldtime engineers, firemen, and brakemen.

 11:44 AM - link


Of course there wouldn't be a Middle East Clusterfuck if there wasn't oil involved. This Chicago Tribune series is incredible. A must read. It really brings all the threads together. Very well written. Did I say you should read it?

A Tank of Gas, A World of Trouble
What does it take to quench America’s mighty thirst for gasoline? Pulitzer-winning correspondent Paul Salopek traced gas pumped at a suburban Chicago station to the fuel’s sources around the globe. In doing so, he reveals how our oil addiction binds us to some of the most hostile corners of the planet—and to a petroleum economy edging toward crisis.

Last summer, a new gasoline station opened in South Elgin, an old farming village on the Fox River that's now being swallowed by the westward sprawl of Chicago.

As service stations go, it's an alpha establishment. A $3 million Marathon outlet with 24 digital pumps, a computerized carwash, a Goodfella's sandwich shop and a convenience store lit up like an operating room, it sells everything from ultra low sulfur diesel to herbal "memory enhancer" to Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Infrared sensors activate the faucets in its immaculate, white-tiled bathrooms. The coffee kiosk's floor is real hardwood.

Howard Dunbar's Tanker Truck 6 rolled into the station one chilly night last September. An amiable ex-cop, Dunbar drives for an independent fuel hauler. At 9:25 p.m., he stepped down from the cab, set out the safety cones, hooked up his hoses with a reassuring click, and then proceeded to unload 7,723 gallons of gasoline and diesel into the station's underground tanks.

It took Dunbar 29 minutes to empty his swimming pool-size cargo--a workaday chore that reveals the triumphs of our motorized civilization but also the seeds of its possible end.

The diesel streaked past a tiny glass porthole on the truck's hoses in a smear of pale yellow, like beer, while the premium unleaded ran colorless as vodka. That particular night, according to one industry method of calculating the explosive energy locked away in crude oil, Dunbar dumped the liquid equivalent of 19.2 million hours of physical labor into the Marathon's storage tanks--or the power of a slave army of 2,200 men working around the clock for a year. This bonanza would be sucked dry by customers in 24 hours, a small, stark example of the nation's awesome petroleum appetite at a time when the planet appears to be lurching into an energy crunch of historic proportions.

By now, most Americans realize that something is profoundly awry in the global oil patch.


thanks to The Oil Drum

 10:09 AM - link

movie recommendation


This political thriller came out in 1970. It was one of those movies I've always meant to see but hadn't. Zoe saw it when it came out. She was 15 and quite the activist. When she learned I hadn't seen it she rented it for me to see. I would hope that you wouldn't wait so long. It's still very relevant. From Amazon:

Costa-Gavras's Z, winner of the 1970 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, is a classic political thriller, combining intrigue with raw emotional power. The story turns on the investigation of the assassination of a left-wing Greek politician (Yves Montand), and his government's attempts to cover up the murky circumstances. Montand receives death threats as he prepares to give a speech condemning the government, and is then run down in front of numerous witnesses. Jean-Louis Trintignant (The Conformist) plays the judge assigned to the investigation, who gradually discovers how far the state will go to rid itself of political opposition. As he is warned off the case by his superiors, the judge becomes even more determined to discover the truth, no matter where it might lead. Costa-Gavras (Missing, Mad City) is in familiar territory here, but no one handles this type of material better. Z is a classic of political intrigue and social consciousness.


WHEN I LEARNED the University of San Francisco Law Review was soliciting articles about films every lawyer should see, the first film that came to mind was Z, written and directed by Costa-Gavras and released in 1969. I first saw Z at age sixteen, and it was the first film that I had ever seen in a foreign language. Although I would like to pretend that the viewing of Z was the result of my political awareness and good taste, in fact, my French teacher took our class to see it in the hope of increasing our interest in the language.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, someone who normally sees a film twice by choice. However, during the next year I went back to see Z twice more with subtitles, and twice more when the dubbed version came out. I saw the film a sixth time about ten years ago, and twice more during my writing of this Essay. Z is a powerful film for any audience, and a must-see for lawyers.

My two most recent viewings of the film marked the first time I saw Z as a lawyer. The effect was profound. Writing this Essay about Z helped me to understand why my ardor for social justice - kindled more than a quarter century ago, but remaining relatively dormant for most of my adult life - had suddenly reemerged with a vengeance five years ago. It was as if a voice, perhaps that of Costa-Gavras, had commanded me to go to law school and do some good in the world. Seeing Z again also helped me to understand why I had waited so long to listen to that voice. This film, more than any other, represents to me what it means to be a lawyer.


 09:47 AM - link

the middle east clusterfuck

It's easy to fall into the trap of compartmentalization when trying to keep up with the Middle East. Things are happening in Lebanon, some more things in Iraq, and then there are those pesky Iranians. It's easy to think of them as isolated when, in fact, they are all of one piece. As things keep escalating it becomes clearer as actions in one country ricochet around the Middle East.

A war without borders in the making

A day after killing four United Nations workers, Israel's cabinet has simultaneously called up reservists and announced that there will be no "major offensive" inside Lebanon. This in light of Hezbollah's tough resistance and continued ability to fire rockets at Israel more than two weeks after the latter declared its military objective of finishing off Hezbollah.


We already have a war without borders and the US is the common denominator. I've started reading Robert Fisk's The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East. I could go on and on about this book but I will wait until I finish it and post a book recommendation. It doesn't take long in reading Fisk to understand that the US and Britain are pretty much responsible for the Middle East Clusterfuck. Here are a couple of paragraphs from page 27 of The Great War for Civilisation:

The Taliban had finally vanquished twelve of the fifteen venal Afghan mujahedin militias in all but the far north-eastern corner of the country and imposed their own stark legitimacy on its people. It was a purist, Sunni Wahhabi faith whose interpretation of sharia law recalled the most draconian of early Christian prelates. Head-chopping, hand-chopping and a totally misogynist perspective were easy to associate with the Taliban's hostility towards all forms of enjoyment. The Spinghar Hotel used to boast an old American television set that had now been hidden in a garden shed for fear of destruction. Television sets, like videotapes and thieves, tended to end up hanging from trees. "What do you expect?" the gardener asked me near the ruins of the old royal winter palace in Jalalabad. "The Taliban came from the refugee camps. They are giving us only what they had." And it dawned on me then that the new laws of Afghanistan-so anachronistic and brutal to us, and to educated Afghans-were less an attempt at religious revival than a continuation of life in the vast dirt camps in which so many millions of Afghans had gathered on the borders of their country when the Soviets invaded sixteen years before.

The Taliban gunmen had grown up as refugees in these diseased camps in Pakistan. Their first sixteen years of life were passed in blind poverty, deprived of all education and entertainment, imposing their own deadly punishments, their mothers and sisters kept in subservience as the men decided how to fight their foreign oppressors on the other side of the border, their only diversion a detailed and obsessive reading of the Koran--the one and true path in a world in which no other could be contemplated. The Taliban had arrived not to rebuild a country they did not remember, but to rebuild their refugee camps on a larger scale. Hence there was to be no education. No television. Women must stay at home, just as they stayed in their tents in Peshawar. Thus it was to be at the airport when I eventually left; another immigration officer now, perhaps only fifteen, was wearing make-up on his face--he, like many Algerians who fought in Afghanistan, was convinced the Prophet wore kohl around his eyes in Arabia in the sixth and seventh centuries of the Christian era. He refused to stamp my passport because I had no exit visa--even though exit visas did not exist in Jalalabad. But I had broken a greater rule. I wasn't wearing a beard. The boy pointed at my chin and shook his head in admonition, a child-schoolmaster who knew wickedness when he saw it and directed me towards the old plane on the runway with contempt.

The CIA worked to suck the Soviets into Afghanistan and then supplied the mujahadin with weapons and training. When the Soviets were gone we just abandoned Afghanistan. A recent right-wing opinion piece dates the Iranian war against the US from 1979 and the Iranian revolution but the CIA toppled Iranian democracy in 1953 and installed the Shah who operated a deadly dictatorship. It's all blowback.

 09:14 AM - link

movie recommendation


From Amazon:

Plot Outline: A man is trying desperately to be certified insane during World War II, so he can stop flying missions.

Plot Synopsis: A bombardier in World War II tries desperately to escape the insanity of the war. However, sometimes insanity is the only sane way cope with a crazy situation. Catch-22 is a parody of a "military mentality" and of a bureaucratic society in general.

This is the movie of the book who's title became part of our language. It got mixed reviews but I liked it when it came out and I still do. The movie still holds true. Some things never change. You also might think about reading the book.

 08:35 AM - link


Israel OKs expansion of Lebanon campaign
Hopes dim for quick end to Mideast crisis

  thanks to Huffington Post

'Everything In My Life Is Destroyed, So I Will Fight Them'
By Dahr Jamail

The member of Hezbollah I was interviewing-let's call him Ahmed-has been shot three times during previous battles against Israeli forces on the southern Lebanese border. His brother was killed in one of these battles. It's been several years since his father was killed by an air strike in a refugee camp.

"My home now in Dahaya is pulverized, so Hezbollah gave me a place to stay while this war is happening," he said, "When this war ends, where am I to go? What am I to do? Everything in my life is destroyed now, so I will fight them."


Comments from three Israelis:

The turnabout will come quickly

First they said it would be "a few days." Then "a couple of weeks." Then "by the end of the month." Well, maybe a few months. But at the end of that time, however long that time may be, "victory will be ours." The head of Israel's Northern Command said so today, so it must be true.

Unfortunately for him, things have changed since the last time Israel fought a war. Now there is the Internet, and Israel is an extremely wired country. Even if the military censors and self-censorship of the Israeli press keeps out the scenes of devestation in Lebanon, holds back on the number of Israeli soldiers killed for as long as possible, and exaggerates the military's achievements, ordinary Israelis can see for themselves that their leaders are lying. Olmert can claim world leaders support him, but Israelis can read what ordinary citizens around the world think of this bloody campaign. And so I agree with Meron Benvinisti - the turnabout among Israelis will come quickly. Israel will not stay in Lebanon 18 years this time.


Days of darkness
By Gideon Levy

In war as in war: Israel is sinking into a strident, nationalistic atmosphere and darkness is beginning to cover everything. The brakes we still had are eroding, the insensitivity and blindness that characterized Israeli society in recent years is intensifying. The home front is cut in half: the north suffers and the center is serene. But both have been taken over by tones of jingoism, ruthlessness and vengeance, and the voices of extremism that previously characterized the camp's margins are now expressing its heart. The left has once again lost its way, wrapped in silence or "admitting mistakes." Israel is exposing a unified, nationalistic face.


Who is winning this war?
Q & A With Uri Avnery

On the 15th day of the war, Hizbullah is functioning and fighting. That by itself will go down in the annals of the Arab peoples as a shining victory.

When a featherweight boxer faces a heavyweight and is still standing in the 15th round - that is a victory, whatever the final outcome.


A nice little war
By Uri Avnery

It is the old story about the losing gambler: he cannot stop. He continues to play, in order to win his losses back. He continues to lose and continues to gamble, until he has lost everything: his ranch, his wife, his shirt.


Robert Fisk is one of the finest journalists in the Middle East. He lives in Lebanon. Here is a series of his reports

Smoke signals from the battle of Bint Jbeil send a warning to Israel
By Robert Fisk

Is it possible - is it conceivable - that Israel is losing its war in Lebanon?

From this hill village in the south of the country, I am watching the clouds of brown and black smoke rising from its latest disaster in the Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil: up to 13 Israeli soldiers dead, and others surrounded, after a devastating ambush by Hizbollah guerrillas in what was supposed to be a successful Israeli military advance against a "terrorist centre".


On a Red Cross mission of mercy when Israeli air force came calling
By Robert Fisk

It was supposed to be a routine trip across the Lebanese killing fields for the brave men and women of the International Red Cross. Sylvie Thoral was the "team leader" of our two vehicles, a 38-year-old Frenchwoman with dark brown hair and eyes like steel. The Israelis had been informed and had given what the ICRC likes to call its "green light" to the route. And, of course, we almost died.


Under fire in Beirut
By Robert Fisk

To Sidon. Ed Cody has found a cool, 120-mile-an-hour driver called Hassan - he has a black Mercedes which I nickname "Death Car" (because that will be the fate of anyone who gets in our way) and we zip down the coast road and turn east into the hills at Naameh, where the Israelis have just blown the bridge.


'How can we stand by and allow this to go on?'
By Robert Fisk

They wrote the names of the dead children on their plastic shrouds. "Mehdi Hashem, aged seven - Qana," was written in felt pen on the bag in which the little boy's body lay. "Hussein al-Mohamed, aged 12 - Qana',' "Abbas al-Shalhoub, aged one - Qana.'' And when the Lebanese soldier went to pick up Abbas's little body, it bounced on his shoulder as the boy might have done on his father's shoulder on Saturday. In all, there were 56 corpses brought to the Tyre government hospital and other surgeries, and 34 of them were children. When they ran out of plastic bags, they wrapped the small corpses in carpets. Their hair was matted with dust, most had blood running from their noses.


A Nato-led force would be in Israel's interests, but not Lebanon's
Every foreign army - including the Israelis - comes to grief in Lebanon.
By Robert Fisk

So, how come George Bush and Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara - after their inevitable disasters in Afghanistan and Iraq - believe that a Nato-led force is going to survive on the south Lebanese border? The Israelis would obviously enjoy watching its deployment - it will be time for the West to take the casualties - but Hizbollah is likely to view its arrival as a proxy Israeli army. It is, after all, supposed to be a "buffer" force to protect Israel - not, as the Lebanese have quickly noted, to protect Lebanon - and the last Nato army that came to this country was literally blasted out of its mission by suicide bombers.


What is Hizbullah?
by Juan Cole

Western and Israeli pundits keep comparing Hizbullah to al-Qaeda. It is a huge conceptual error. There is a crucial difference between an international terrorist network like al-Qaeda, which can be disrupted by good old policing techniques (such as inserting an agent in the Western Union office in Karachi), and a sub-nationalist movement.


Some of the best commentary has been coming from Billmon:

The Clock is Running
by Billmon

And it may not leave the Israelis much time to finish taking down the Lebanese Hitler (or whatever the propaganda phrase of the moment happens to be).


Big Muddy
by Billmon

Twelve days in, and even Ralph Peters thinks the Israelis are losing:

Israel is losing this war. For a lifelong Israel supporter, that's a painful thing to write. But it's true. And the situation's worsening each day.


The Debacle
by Billmon

If the Israelis truly are contemplating "solving" the problem with artillery they can certainly reduce Bint Jbeil to a collection of destroyed or half-destroyed buildings. Unfortunately, the history of urban warfare shows that destroyed and half-destroyed buildings usually make even more effective fortifications than the intact variety -- particularly if the enemy has had time to build underground bunkers and fire positions and connect them with trenches and/or tunnels.


The Definition of Losing
by Billmon

It is in that sense -- the sense Clausewitz used -- that Israel is losing, and has probably lost, this war. There's always the possibility that the IDF will dream up a bold, imaginative stroke to redress the balance, like the brilliant '73 counterattack that trapped an entire Egyptian Army on the banks of the Suez Canal. But this IDF isn't showing that kind of creativity and daring. It's also not clear what kind of a stroke against a guerrilla army like Hizbullah could give Israel the smashing success it needs in the limited time left. And in lunging hastily for a badly needed victory, the IDF could stumble into an even greater defeat. It's happened many times in many wars, although not to the Israelis.


The Show Must Go On
by Billmon

A few days ago a friend of mine -- the same one who gave me this little briefing last week -- predicted that if the Israelis continued their semi-discriminate air attacks on Lebanon, at some point they would make a big mistake, kill a bunch of innocent civilians and bring the war to a grinding halt. Even the United States would have to call for an immediate cease fire in place.


For the Sake of the Children
by Billmon

"Today's actions in the Middle East remind us that the United States and friends and allies must work for a sustainable peace, particularly for the sake of children.

George W. Bush
President Attends Tee Ball Game
July 30, 2006

A civil defense worker carries the body of Lebanese child recovered from the rubble of a demolished building that was struck by an Israeli airstrike at the village of Qana near the southern Lebanon city of Tyre, Sunday, July 30, 2006. (AP)


 03:28 AM - link

book recommendation

In the Belly of the Green Bird:
The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq

by Nir Rosen

The long review (from Amazon):

Nir Rosen has been hailed by The New York Review of Books as the reporter who managed to get inside Fallujah "at a time when it was a death trap for Western reporters," and as one of the few Western reporters able to report the truth from Iraq. Still in his twenties, a freelancer who has written for The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, and Harper's Magazine, Rosen speaks Iraqi-accented Arabic and has managed to report from some of the country's most dangerous locales. Even The Weekly Standard notes that "he probably has more sources in the insurgency than any other American reporter."

Rosen knows better than anyone how much the Americans are hated, and how deeply the Sunni Iraqis hate the Shias and vice versa. He has listened to the insurgents, and he knows that they will never rest until the Americans are gone. Too many Sunnis and Shias are willing to use violence for Iraq to ever have peace. The overthrow of Saddam has proved to be nothing less than a triumph for the martyrs who use violence at every turn.

Ever since the fall of Saddam's regime Rosen has been in and out of Iraq, from north to south, listening to Friday sermons in mosques, breaking bread with dangerous men, interviewing political henchmen, joining Shia pilgrims, and listening to ordinary Iraqis who face American soldiers on raids in the Sunni triangle. He has had to plead for his life at times, and he has received more than one death threat. He has been pres-ent when bombs were detonated, and he has sat in meetings of insurgent leaders as they made policy decisions about territory they controlled. He has heard the double messages of Iraqi leaders -- the careful English messages for Western ears and the unvarnished hostility in Arabic -- and he has interviewed politicians and imams and seen how the insurgents and gang leaders create militias, private courts, prisons, security services, and more.

In the Belly of the Green Bird is a searing report, unlike any other book about the American experience in Iraq. Almost everything covered in the Western media has been at least one or two steps removed from the minds and acts of the people who will determine the future of Iraq. Some of them are peaceful, some are violent. Some of them hate one another with the intensity of ancient enemies. The depth of discord between Sunnis and Shias is difficult to fathom without listening to them. Their anti-Americanism is much more recent, but not much less intense. The divisions within this cobbled-together country, much like those within Yugoslavia after Tito, are simply too intense to contain.

The short review: We're fucked.

 02:30 AM - link


Qana Massacre...
by Riverbend

Although the sun is blinding this time of year in our part of the world, the Middle East is seeing some of its darkest days…

I woke up this morning to scenes of carnage and destruction on the television and for the briefest of moments, I thought it was footage of Iraq. It took me a few seconds to realize it was actually Qana in Lebanon. The latest village to see Israeli air strikes. The images were beyond gruesome- body parts and corpses being hauled out from under tons of debris. Wailing relatives and friends, searching for loved ones… So far, according to humanitarian organizations, 34 were children. They killed them while they were sleeping inside their bomb shelters- much like the Amriya Shelter massacre in 1991.

We saw the corpses of the children on television, lifeless and twisted grotesquely, what remained of their faces frozen in expressions of pain and shock. I just sat there and cried in front of the television. I didn’t know I could still feel that sort of sorrow towards what has become a daily reality for Iraqis. It’s not Iraq but it might as well be: It’s civilians under lethal attack; it’s a country fighting occupation.


Losing an Army

In other words, in the event of a real world war -- as opposed to the kind that pundits pontificate about on Fox News -- Centcom would either have to "pacify" the transportation routes through southern Iraq quickly and ruthlessly (which might not be possible, given the troops available and the possibility some Iraqi units might turn on their putative allies) or try to evacuate some or most U.S. forces from Iraq, either by air or ground.

We're talking, on other words, about a potential debacle -- the worst U.S. military defeat since Pearl Harbor. Not because the Iranians are brilliant strategists or tough fighters (although they may be; we really don't know) but because the Iraq occupation has left the U.S. Army dangerously overextended, given its massive supply requirements.

Way back at the beginning of this war, I remember reading a quote from Air Force Col. John Warden, who fretted that the invasion and occupation of Iraq would leave the U.S. military holding "a very narrow beachhead in the midst of a billion undefeated Muslims." You don't have to buy into Warden's grandiose clash-of-civilization rhetoric to see how relevant his point may be now.


The vulnerable line of supply to US troops in Iraq

American forces in Iraq are in danger of having their line of supply cut by guerrillas. Napoleon once said that "an army travels on its stomach." By that he meant that the problem of keeping an army supplied is the prerequisite for the very existence of the force.

A 21st-century military force "burns up" a tremendous volume of expendable supplies and continuously needs repairs to equipment as well as medical treatment. Without a plentiful and dependable source of fuel, food, and ammunition, a military force falters. First it stops moving, then it begins to starve, and eventually it becomes unable to resist the enemy.


  thanks to Whiskey Bar

U.S. military confirms sharp rise in attacks

Bombings and shootings soared by 40 percent in the Baghdad area in the past week, the U.S. military said Thursday. An American general said extremists were preparing “an all-out assault” on the capital in a decisive battle for the future of Iraq.


Hagel: The Iraq War Is ‘An Absolute Replay Of Vietnam’

[Hagel] said that in the previous 48 hours, he had received three telephone calls from four-star generals who were “beside themselves” over the Pentagon’s reversal of plans to bring tens of thousands of soldiers home this fall.

Instead, top Pentagon officials are suspending military rotations and adding troops in Iraq. The Pentagon has estimated that the buildup will increase the number of U.S. troops from about 130,000 to 135,000.

That isn’t going to do any good. It’s going to have a worse effect,” Hagel said. “They’re destroying the United States Army.


  thanks to Huffington Post

 02:04 AM - link


Магистраль между Пекином и столицей Тибета Лхасой


  thanks to Coudal Partners

 01:51 AM - link


Afghanistan close to anarchy, warns general

The most senior British military commander in Afghanistan today described the situation in the country as "close to anarchy" with feuding foreign agencies and unethical private security companies compounding problems caused by local corruption.

The stark warning came from Lieutenant General David Richards, head of Nato's international security force in Afghanistan, who warned that western forces there were short of equipment and were "running out of time" if they were going to meet the expectations of the Afghan people.

The assumption within Nato countries had been that the environment in Afghanistan after the defeat of the Taliban in 2002 would be benign, Gen Richards said. "That is clearly not the case," he said today. He referred to disputes between tribes crossing the border with Pakistan, and divisions between religious and secular factions cynically manipulated by "anarcho-warlords".


  thanks to Steve Gilliard's News Blog

Benign?! How could they believe that unless they were totally ignorant of Afghanistan and it's history?

Death trap
Christina Lamb has spent 20 years covering Afghan wars and was lucky to escape with her life after a firefight 10 days ago. Afghanistan is littered with the debris of invading empires – so why do we refuse to learn from history?

When you twice stare death in the face in ditches in southern Afghanistan, first with Afghans and then fighting Afghans, you start to wonder what it is about this country that keeps drawing us back.


  thanks to Talking Points Memo

 01:37 AM - link

book art

Fore-Edge Painting

A fore-edgE painting is where the page block is fanned and an image applied to the stepped surface. If the page edges are themselves gilded or marbled, this results in the image disappearing when the book is relaxed. When refanned, the painting magically re-appears.


 12:51 AM - link


The military’s problem with the President’s Iran policy.

On May 31st, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced what appeared to be a major change in U.S. foreign policy. The Bush Administration, she said, would be willing to join Russia, China, and its European allies in direct talks with Iran about its nuclear program. There was a condition, however: the negotiations would not begin until, as the President put it in a June 19th speech at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, “the Iranian regime fully and verifiably suspends its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities.” Iran, which has insisted on its right to enrich uranium, was being asked to concede the main point of the negotiations before they started. The question was whether the Administration expected the Iranians to agree, or was laying the diplomatic groundwork for future military action. In his speech, Bush also talked about “freedom for the Iranian people,” and he added, “Iran’s leaders have a clear choice.” There was an unspoken threat: the U.S. Strategic Command, supported by the Air Force, has been drawing up plans, at the President’s direction, for a major bombing campaign in Iran.

Inside the Pentagon, senior commanders have increasingly challenged the President’s plans, according to active-duty and retired officers and officials. The generals and admirals have told the Administration that the bombing campaign will probably not succeed in destroying Iran’s nuclear program. They have also warned that an attack could lead to serious economic, political, and military consequences for the United States.


Next We Take Tehran

President Bush may or may not order a massive aerial bombardment of Iran later this year. Or he may wait until 2007. Or he may simply escalate a risky confrontation with Iran through covert action and economic sanctions. But whatever the next act in the crisis, don’t be fooled by the assertion that the problem is Iran’s pursuit of nuclear arms.


  thanks to Antiwar.com

 12:45 AM - link

movie recommendation

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

When my kids were much shorter we would go camping and I would read Roald Dahl books to them. Now they are in their mid 20s and they still want me to go camping with them and to read Roald Dahl books to them. Dahl's books are dark and subversive and absolutely wonderful. Children's books that have much to recommend for adults, at least dark and subversive adults. Read them all. Roald Dahl hated Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka. It's hard to say what a dead man would have liked but I think Burton and Depp's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory would have been much more to Roald Dahl's liking. It certainly was to mine.

 12:33 AM - link

how are fearful leaders are screwing everything up

Tomgram: Playing the Destabilization Card at Home and Abroad

The administration's destabilization strategy, as convincingly laid out by Cohen, was not, however, limited to Russia. The ambitions of top administration officials and their supporters, after all, were world-spanning. (It wasn't for nothing that the neocons and allied pundits began talking about us as the planet's New Rome back in 2002, while we were tearing up treaties, setting up secret prisons, and preparing to launch our first "preventive" war.) In retrospect, it seems clear that destabilization was their modus operandi. Despite what some have argued in relation to Iraq (and elsewhere in the Middle East), they were undoubtedly not voting for chaos per se. What they were eager to do was put the strategically most significant and contested regions of the planet "in play," using the destabilization card, always assuming in every destabilization situation that the chips would fall on their side of the gaming table, and that, if worse came to worse, even chaos would turn out to be to their benefit.


 12:12 AM - link

  Monday   July 31   2006

analog recording device

If one uses an analog storage device then one should have an an analog recording device to write in it.

Before I started using Moleskine notebooks I used a Pilot G2 07 pen. But, when I discovered Moleskine notebooks I also rediscovered pencils. Over the past several months I've accumulated several fine pencils. First on the left is a Mirado Black Warrior. These are one of the nicer pencils you can find at the OfficeMaxes of the world. Not dark enough for me. though. Ken Smith sent me some Dixon Ticonderogas. Good pencils. He also sent some Tri-Conderogas which are larger and triangular shaped but difficult to get a good point. My favorite pencils are from Pencil World: Forest Choice, Golden Bear, and Spangles. My favorite is Pencil Worlds Palomino but I used mine up and, last Christmas when I ordered some color pencils for Zoe, the sent me three dozen Spangles which sharpen beautifully and are reasonably dark. It's fun to uses these distinctly different pencils. When I run out of Spangles I will order some more Palominos. While it's now easy to get some very fine pencils I had a harder time getting something to sharpen them with.

My first sharpeners were from local stores. The blades dulled pretty quickly. In my sharpener research I found that Kum sharpeners had replaceable blades but I couldn't find a place that sold single sharpeners. The Ticonderoga pencils Ken sent came with a sharpener that sharpened both sizes and had German blades that did very well but it seems to have vanished. The Pencil Things opened up and they have everything pencil including a wide selection of Kum sharpeners. The two sharpeners on the left are Kum sharpeners I bought from Pencil Things. Both are excellent sharpeners. The blades are still sharp. I prefer sharpeners that will contain the shavings since I don't always have a trash can handy. The only problem was that they sharpened to a short point. Pencil World now has the Kum Palomino long point sharpener. (I think Pencil Things has a version, too.)

It uses a two stage sharpening and comes with an extra set of blades.

The first stage sharpens the wood only and leaves a long unsharpened lead. You just keep sharpening until the unsharpened lead hits the stop. It leaves a wonderful continuous shaving, particcularly with Pencil World's Spangles.

The second stage just sharpens the lead. It sharpens to a fine point without oversharpening. The container doesn't hold a whole lot of shavings but it's big enough. The openings also don't close. They remain open but the design of the sharpener keeps the open holes up when in my pants pocket. I will have this one for a long time. Unless I lose it, of course. But, thanks to Pencil Things and Pencil World, there is a wonderful choice of pencils and sharpeners.

 12:23 PM - link