Weblog Archives




  Saturday   September 8   2007

book recommendations

This is sort of a N.C. Wyeth festival. N.C. Wyeth was the patriarch of an artistic dynasty. His son Andrew Wyeth being the most famous. N.C. Wyeth was one of the great, if not the greatest, American illustrators of the early 20th century. His most enduring illustrations were for a series of books: Scribner's Illustrated Classics. My dad had a set of these books given to him by his dad. I grew up loving to look at the N.C. Wyeth illustrations. They had a power and magic that was unique. They have a power that has translated into other mediums. What a pirate looks like in Hollywood movies was copied from N.C. Wyeth paintings. Captain Jack Sparrow is a living N.C. Wyeth character. There is another connection. My grandfather knew N.C. Wyeth. My dad used to tell stories of catching rats with Andrew Wyeth in the Wyeth barn at Chadd's Ford. My sister, Madelane, has been going through the microfilm copies of my grandafather's papers that the Smithsonian has. She found a number of letters from N.C. Wyeth to my grandfather giving advice on mural painting and they apparently collaborated on a mural. When I get copies of the letters from Madelane, I will post them.

N. C. Wyeth:
A Biography

by David Michaelis

This is a very interesting story well told. Good enough that I couldn't put it down even when Zoe finished the latest Harry Potter book and passed it on to me. It wasn't that I didn't already know most of the story. A couple of years ago I read The Wyeths: The Letters of N. C. Wyeth, 1901-1945, itself a remarkable book. Aside from my interest in the Wyeth story, reading about his life was also reading about another America. The America of 100 years ago. An America where travel was done by train and horse. It's startling to look at that America and see how far we have come (or sunk as the case may be).

Visions of Adventure:
N. C. Wyeth and the Brandywine Artists

by John Edward Dell, Walt Reed

There a a lot of fine books on the art of N.C. Wyeth. These next three are the best my local library has. N.C. Wyeth was taught by the greatest American Illustrator of his time, Howard Pyle. (Apparently Vincent Van Gogh found inspiration in Howard Pyle's work.) Not only was he a great illustrator at a time that printing technology was starting to be able to capture color paintings at the end of the 19th century but he was a great teacher. He taught a whole generation of illustrators of which N.C. Wyeth was the leader. This book has the best quality reproductions of the three. The color and power of these images just blasts off the page. While most of them are N.C. Wyeth's, there are short sections on Pyle and his other students.

N. C. Wyeth:The Collected Paintings, Illustrations and Murals
by Douglas Allen, Jr.

The focus is on N.C. Wyeth. Too many black and white reproductions but a lot of text that chronicles N'C' Wyeth's development.

The Wondrous Strange:
The Wyeth Tradition

by Theodor Stephen Bruni

This one covers the generations. It starts with Howard Pyle and then covers his N.C. Wyeth followed by Andrew, N.C. Wyeth's son, and James, Andrew's son.

I have my dad's N.C. Wyeth illustrated books. They are worn and the illustrations don't have the vibrancy of modern printing but they are some of my most prized possesions. The illustrations in the new editions are beautiful. I think my grandson needs some of those.

 04:26 PM - link

america the beautiful

The Great American Media Mind Warp
By Joe Bageant

Needless to say, the Middle Eastern doctors accused of terrorism in Scotland may be guilty as hell. Mohammed Asha may be another one of your standard terror wogs who, as we all know by now, relish the idea of prison or perhaps blowing up his wife and baby up for Allah.

But having been in the media business one way or another for almost 40 years, and having watched it increasingly take on a life of its own, I know that nothing of significance in the news is what it appears to be. This is not the result of some media conspiracy, mind you, but rather that the people working in the media have internalized the process so thoroughly they do not even know they are conditioned creatures in a larger corporate/state machine. Put simply, Katie Couric and the dumbshits grinding out your local paper actually believe they are in the news business. In today's system, everybody is a patsy for the new corporate global order of things -- the well-coiffed talking head, the brain dead audience, even the terrorists themselves. All play out their parts in our holographic image and information process.

All Americans, regardless of caste, live in a culture woven of self-referential illusions. Like a holographic simulation, each part refers exclusively back to the whole, and the whole refers exclusively back to the parts. All else is excluded by this simulated reality. Consequently, social realism in this country is a television commercial for America, a simulated republic of eagles and big box stores, a good place to live so long as we never stray outside the hologram. The corporate simulacrum of life has penetrated us so deeply it now dominates the mind's interior landscape with its celebrities and commercial images. Within the hologram sparkles the culture-generating industry, spinning out our unreality like cotton candy.


Let's Dump Prepackaged Class Identities
By Joe Bageant

It never ceases to amaze how American capitalism can sell even our own identities back to us in such tantalizing fashion as to make a profit. Nobody is exempt. As in "Liberal ladies, buy your wardrobe at Target and you too will be a slim sexy humanitarian like Susan Sarandon." My eyeballs are in my lap every time that woman twists her stuff against that orange backdrop. My wife glowers from her armchair: "Buy me a quarter million dollar eye job, chin and butt tuck, and I'll shake all the damned booty you want, Buster." I'm seriously tempted by her offer.

Or we can gas up the car, drive to the suburban Cineplex and pay ten bucks to see Al Gore tell us to save energy by hanging your clothes outside on lines in An Inconvenient Truth, thereby striking a blow as an environmentalist. Never mind ole Al's 10,000-square-foot, 20-room, eight-bathroom Nashville mansion and its $20,000 annual energy bill. Or his 4,000-square-foot home in Arlington, Virginia, or that rolls rural estate in Carthage, Tennessee. Al and Tipper remind us that, because it was the despicable (which it is) Hoover Institute which plastered that inconvenient truth across the pages of USA Today, the houses do not count. They may not count, but their images seem to have been yanked off the Internet.

Meanwhile the Dub and Laura have gone green too, and are unashamedly shopping for a gasoline powered windmill for the Crawford Ranch. "We're doin' our part," the president waves from his custom Silverado HD 3500 long box truck with the matching green 6,700 pound hauling capacity and the matching air conditioned gooseneck trailer. It's a "green" ranch, green being the official color of the Crawford spread. They say even the pistol shooting range in the basement has green carpet (no shit!)

But country music has got to be the supreme example. People work like dogs, have few or no educational opportunities, live surly lives of struggle just trying to get by, get their cods shot off for the amusement of Cheney and Condi, yet, the country music industry sells even that identity back to the very people who are being screwed and should be pissed as hell about it but aren't because of the cultural ghetto we poor whites are raised in. As the old Johnny Russell song says, "There's no place I'd rather be than right here, with my red neck and white socks and blue ribbon beer." And so the nine-buck-an-hour skidder operator with the double hernia and no health insurance listens to the song and says to himself: "Hey! That's my life! And he's a star and he's singing a hit about it, so other people must be satisfied with it. I reckon there's no place I rather be than right here! That was true in 1973 when Johnny Russell won a Grammy for the song and it's still true. It's a damned good song. I'm still playing it.


Joe Bageant also has an inverview in ColdType (Scroll down to Issue 17), and don't forget to read his book Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War

Crunch Time
by Jim Kunstler

I think we are in trouble with all these things. But I doubt we can give up our current behavior without going through a convulsion. The psychology of previous investment is, for us, a force too great to overcome. We will sell the birthrights of the next three generations in order to avoid changing our behavior. We will blame other people who behave differently for the consequences of our own behavior. We will not understand the messages that reality is sending us, and we will drive ourselves crazy in the attempt to avoid hearing it.


Post-Mortem America: Bush's Year of Triumph and the Hard Way Ahead

Tomorrow is here. The game is over. The crisis has passed -- and the patient is dead. Whatever dream you had about what America is, it isn't that anymore. It's gone. And not just in some abstract sense, some metaphorical or mythological sense, but down in the nitty-gritty, in the concrete realities of institutional structures and legal frameworks, of policy and process, even down to the physical nature of the landscape and the way that people live.


  thanks to Yolanda Flanagan

 12:29 PM - link

John Fahey - 1969 - Part 1

John Fahey - 1969 - Part 2
John Fahey - 1969 - Part 3
John Fahey - 1969 - Part 4

I haven't listened to John Fahey for a while. I heard one of his songs recently and have the urge to listen to all his music again. One of the great American guitar players. The video is from 1969. There are later YouTube performances as well as a host of John Fahey wannabees: John Fahey

John Fahey
american primitive guitar

I originally joined eMusic because they had most of his discography:

John Fahey
Born:Feb. 28, 1939 in Takoma Park, MD
Died:Feb. 22, 2001
Years Active: 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s

One of acoustic music's true innovators and eccentrics, John Fahey was a crucial figure in expanding the boundaries of the acoustic guitar over the last few decades. His music was so eclectic that it's arguable whether he should be defined as a "folk" artist. In a career that saw him issue several dozen albums, he drew from blues, Native American music, Indian ragas, experimental dissonance, and pop. His good friend Dr. Demento has noted that Fahey "was the first to demonstrate that the finger-picking techniques of traditional country and blues steel-string guitar could be used to express a world of non-traditional musical ideas -- harmonies and melodies you'd associate with Bartok, Charles Ives, or maybe the music of India." The more meditative aspects of his work foreshadowed new age music, yet Fahey played with a fierce imagination and versatility that outshone any of the guitarists in that category. His idiosyncrasy may have limited him to a cult following, but it also ensured that his work continues to sound fresh. Fahey was a colorful figure from the time he became an accomplished guitarist in his teens. Already a collector of rare early blues and country music, he made his first album in 1959, ascribing part of it to the pseudonymous "Blind Joe Death." Only 95 copies of the LP were pressed, making it a coveted collector's item today. (In the 1960s, Fahey would re-record the material for wider circulation.) In college, he wrote a thesis on Charley Patton (an exotic subject at the time). Yet Fahey did not perform publicly for money until the mid-'60s, after his third album. Fahey's early albums for Takoma in the mid-'60s laid out much of the territory he would explore. His instrumentals, filtering numerous genres of music into his own style, evoked haunting and open spaces. At times they could be soothing and plaintive; at other times they were disquieting, even dissonant. The more experimental aspects of his material even foreshadowed psychedelia in their lengthy improvisations (some cuts lasted as long as 20 minutes), use of Indian modes, unpredictable stylistic shifts, and overall eerie strangeness.


 12:06 PM - link


The Predicted Financial Storm Has Arrived

Contradictions now wrack the world's financial system, and a growing consensus exists between those who endorse it and those who argue the status quo is both crisis-prone as well as immoral. If we are to believe the institutions and personalities who have been in the forefront of the defense of capitalism, we are on the verge of a serious crisis-if not now, then in the near future.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Bank for International Settlements, the British Financial Services Authority, the Financial Times, and innumerable mainstream commentators were increasingly worried and publicly warned against many of the financial innovations that have now imploded. Warren Buffett, whom Forbes ranks the second richest man in the world, last year called credit derivatives-only one of the many new banking inventions-"financial weapons of mass destruction." Very conservative institutions and people predicted the upheaval in global finances we are today experiencing.

The IMF has taken the lead in criticizing the new international financial structure, and over the past three years it has published numerous detailed reasons why it has become so dangerous to the world's economic stability. Events have confirmed its prognostication that complexity and lack of transparency, the obscurity of risks and universal uncertainty, especially regarding collateralized debt and loan obligations, will cause a flight to security that will dry up much of the liquidity of banking. "…Financial innovation itself," as a Financial Times columnist put it, "is the problem". The ultra-creative system is seizing up because no one understands where risks are located or how it works. It began to do so this summer and fixing it is not very likely.

It is impossible to measure the extent of the losses. The final results of this deluge have yet to be calculated. Even many of the players who have stakes in the countless arcane investment instruments are utterly ignorant. The sums are enormous.


 11:25 AM - link

book recommendation

Good Muslim, Bad Muslim:
America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror

by Mahmood Mamdani

This is one of those books that takes facts that I already know and ties them together to provide a larger picture that should have been obvious. Mamdani provides a history of political Islam but it's his history of terrorism that takes center stage. Terrorism that was started by the US. The loss in Vietnam drove America's imperial wars underground. The loss of public support forced the CIA and Pentagon to wage proxy wars that wouldn't be answerable to Congress and the American public. It started in Africa and then moved to Central America. (Remember the Iran-Contra affair.) These proxy wars were characterized by their use of terror on civilian populations funded by drug money. The proxy war reached it's peak with the creation of the Mujahideen by the CIA in Afghanistan. The use of terrorism by Muslims has been in reaction to the terrorism instigated by the CIA. And people wonder why they hate us. The final two paragraphs of Good Muslim, Bad Muslim:

But if the same Iraqis who yesterday welcomed the overthrow of Saddam Hussein today see American troops as an occupying force, is it not time to question the simplifying assumption that the problem lies with bad as opposed to good Iraqis? If good and bad Iraqis—and good and bad Muslims—are really quasi-official names for those who support and oppose American policies, is it not time to go beyond the name-calling and review policies that consistently seem to erode support and generate opposition? Whether in America, Iraq, or elsewhere, the revitalization of democracy in the era of globalized American power requires no less.

Herin lies the continuing relevance of Vietnam. The lesson of Vietnam was that the battle against nationalism could not be won as a military confrontation: America would need to recognize the legitimacy of nationalism in the era of imperialism and learn to live with it. Just as America learned to distinguish between nationalism and Communism in Vietnam, so it will need to learn the difference between nationalism and terrorism in the post-9/11 world. To win the fight against terrorism requires accepting that the world has changed, that the old colonialism is no more and will not return, and that to occupy foreign places wil be expensive, in lives and money. America cannot occupy the world. It has to learn to live in it.

Here is an article by Mamdani and and interview with Mamdani that covers themes in the invaluable book.

Good Muslim, Bad Muslim - An African Perspective

Ever since September 11, there has been a growing media interest in Islam. What is the link, many seem to ask, between Islam and terrorism? The Spectator, a British weekly, carried a lead article a few weeks ago that argued that the link was not with all of Islam, but with a very literal interpretation of it. This version, Wahhabi Islam, it warned, was dominant in Saudi Arabia, from where it had been exported both to Afghanistan and the US. This argument was echoed widely in many circles, more recently in the New York Times. This article is born of dissatisfaction with the new wisdom that we must tell apart the Good Muslim from the Bad Muslim.



To understand terrorism, we need to go beyond self-defense, beyond the violence of liberation movements, beyond the violence of anti-colonial struggles and liberation movements. To understand non-state terror today, we need to understand the historical relationship between state terrorism and non-state terrorism. There is a clear and discernible historical dynamic: during the Cold War, state terror has been parent to non-state terror and, having given rise to non-state terror, it has then proceeded to mimic it - as, for instance, in the "War against Terror".


 11:14 AM - link

  Friday   September 7   2007


Mearsheimer, Walt and the Erudite Hysteria of David Remnick

To cut bluntly to the chase, there is scarcely a single politician in the Arab world willing to endorse Washington’s definitions of the problems or the solutions when it comes to Israel’s impact on the region — and that even among the autocrats with whom the U.S. prefers to work, much less that rare breed that Maliki represents, i.e. a democratically elected leader. It is the U.S. leadership that is in denial about what is needed to create security in the region.

Indeed, the grownups in Washington know this better than anyone. In response to the same crisis in Lebanon, former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft wrote:

Hezbollah is not the source of the problem; it is a derivative of the cause, which is the tragic conflict over Palestine that began in 1948.

The eastern shore of the Mediterranean is in turmoil from end to end, a repetition of continuing conflicts in one part or another since the abortive attempts of the United Nations to create separate Israeli and Palestinian states in 1948.

But nobody in power listens to Brent Scowcroft any more. Washington’s Israel bubble so detaches it from an objective view of the Middle East that Howard Dean’s 2003 call for the U.S. to adopt an “even-handed” position between Israel and the Palestinians has longsince entered the U.S. political playbook as an example of foot-in-mouth campaigning. (See my earlier entry on how well Barack Obama has learned this lesson.)

Like the tech-bubble and real estate-bubble, Washington’s “Israel bubble” is unhealthy and dangerous — in fact, it not only jeopardizes U.S. interests throughout the region and beyond (by serving as Exhibit A for any anti-American element anywhere in the Islamic world to win the political contest with America’s friends), but it is also exceedingly bad for Israel: Particularly over the past decade, the U.S. has essentially enabled Israeli behavior so self-destructive that it may have already precluded any chance of it being able to live at peace with its neighbors.

It is the lancing of this Israel bubble — in the best interests of the United States, the Arab world, and Israel’s own prospects for peaceful coexistence with its neighbors — that John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt have dedicated themselves, first in last year’s London Review of Books essay and now in a new book, titled “The Israel Lobby.”


The Great Middle East Peace Process Scam

In fact, all previous peace initiatives have got nowhere for a reason that neither Bush nor the EU has had the political courage to acknowledge. That reason is the consensus reached long ago by Israel’s decision-making elites that Israel will never allow the emergence of a Palestinian state which denies it effective military and economic control of the West Bank. To be sure, Israel would allow – indeed, it would insist on – the creation of a number of isolated enclaves that Palestinians could call a state, but only in order to prevent the creation of a binational state in which Palestinians would be the majority.

The Middle East peace process may well be the most spectacular deception in modern diplomatic history. Since the failed Camp David summit of 2000, and actually well before it, Israel’s interest in a peace process – other than for the purpose of obtaining Palestinian and international acceptance of the status quo – has been a fiction that has served primarily to provide cover for its systematic confiscation of Palestinian land and an occupation whose goal, according to the former IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon, is ‘to sear deep into the consciousness of Palestinians that they are a defeated people’. In his reluctant embrace of the Oslo Accords, and his distaste for the settlers, Yitzhak Rabin may have been the exception to this, but even he did not entertain a return of Palestinian territory beyond the so-called Allon Plan, which allowed Israel to retain the Jordan Valley and other parts of the West Bank.

Anyone familiar with Israel’s relentless confiscations of Palestinian territory – based on a plan devised, overseen and implemented by Ariel Sharon – knows that the objective of its settlement enterprise in the West Bank has been largely achieved. Gaza, the evacuation of whose settlements was so naively hailed by the international community as the heroic achievement of a man newly committed to an honourable peace with the Palestinians, was intended to serve as the first in a series of Palestinian bantustans. Gaza’s situation shows us what these bantustans will look like if their residents do not behave as Israel wants.

Israel’s disingenuous commitment to a peace process and a two-state solution is precisely what has made possible its open-ended occupation and dismemberment of Palestinian territory. And the Quartet – with the EU, the UN secretary general and Russia obediently following Washington’s lead – has collaborated with and provided cover for this deception by accepting Israel’s claim that it has been unable to find a deserving Palestinian peace partner.

Just one year after the 1967 war, Moshe Dayan, a former IDF chief of staff who at the time was minister of defence, described his plan for the future as ‘the current reality in the territories’. ‘The plan,’ he said, ‘is being implemented in actual fact. What exists today must remain as a permanent arrangement in the West Bank.’ Ten years later, at a conference in Tel Aviv, Dayan said: ‘The question is not “What is the solution?” but “How do we live without a solution?”’


  thanks to Rootless Cosmopolitan

The Sorrows of Occupation
Life in the West Bank

Despite conscientious medical practitioners, much care that is standard in Israel is unavailable. Ordinary supplies are limited, current medical publications are scarce, EKG machines and respirators are antiquated, and modern intensive care is rare. Sanitary conditions and staffing levels at government hospitals are poor. A U.S.-based agency, the Palestine Children's Relief Fund, has to send physician teams to the West Bank and bring many injured children to the United States for care.

The Palestinians we met react to this life of deprivation, fear and humiliation with quiet resignation, saying, "The situation is very bad, and this is how we must live." Many seem clinically depressed. Were it not for strong family ties and support, they could not manage. Despite their hardship, they treated us with overwhelming kindness and generosity. We never felt threatened or afraid.

Israeli policies in the West Bank seem designed to eliminate Palestinians by making life so difficult for them that they leave. A Palestinian Red Crescent official told us that Israel discourages foreign humanitarian workers from coming to the West Bank because "they don't want the world to see what they are doing." Our experiences amply support President Carter's description of Palestine as an "apartheid" state. In pursuit of its self-defense, Israel should not be permitted to act at the expense of the basic human rights, dignity and survival of the Palestinians.

In the words of a noted Israeli physician, Dr. Zvi Bentwich, "When Israelis ask me about the Palestinians, I tell them they live like us, they suffer like us, they laugh and cry like us. They are just like us, but they suffer more than us."


 09:25 PM - link

book recommendation

Kabul Beauty School:
An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil

by Deborah Rodriguez, Kristin Ohlson

Zoe found this book. It gives a unique look into the culture of Afghanistan. An important look. From Amazon:

In 2002, just months after the Taliban had been driven out of Afghanistan, Rodriguez, a hairdresser from Holland, MI, joined a small nongovernmental aid organization on a mission to the war-torn nation. That visit changed her life. In Kabul, she chronicles her efforts to help establish the country's first modern beauty school and training salon; along with music and kite-flying, hairdressing had been banned under the previous regime. This memoir offers a glimpse into a world Westerners seldom see–life behind the veil. Rodriguez was entranced with the delightful personalities that emerged when her students removed their burqas behind closed doors, but her book is also a tale of empowerment–both for her and the women. In a city with no mail service, she went door-to-door to recruit students from clandestine beauty shops, and there were constant efforts to shut her down. She had to convince Afghan men to work side by side with her to unpack cartons of supplies donated from the U.S. The students, however, are the heroines of this memoir. Women denied education and seldom allowed to leave their homes found they were able to support themselves and their families. Rodriguez's experiences will delight readers as she recounts such tales as two friends acting as parents and negotiating a dowry for her marriage to an Afghan man or her students puzzling over a donation of a carton of thongs. Most of all, they will share her admiration for Afghan women's survival and triumph in chaotic times.

Kabul’s Silent Revolution Begins at the Beauty Salon

When Deborah Rodriguez arrived in Kabul in 2002 as part of a charitable aid mission, what she saw appalled her. Years of bloody conflict and oppressive rule by the Taliban, driven out in 2001, had stripped Afghanistan of its beauty infrastructure. It was a land of bad haircuts, poorly applied makeup and no styling gel. To Ms. Rodriguez, a Michigan hairdresser with a can-do attitude, task No. 1 was obvious: get these poor people some beauty salons.


Interview With Deborah Rodriguez

I believe that beauty salons and beauty schools are sanctuaries for women everywhere in the world–in that sense, the Kabul Beauty School is no different. In every salon and school, the beauticians are there to take care of women. The customers let their hair down, quite literally! Lifelong friendships develop.


But all is not well in Kabul.

Subjects of 'Kabul Beauty School' Face New Risks

The book Kabul Beauty School has given millions of readers a window on the lives of women in Afghanistan. But it has also exposed the women to risks. And they are upset with author Deborah Rodriguez, who has since left the country.

Kabul Beauty School deals with some of the strictest taboos in Afghan society. In it, Rodriguez describes how she helped one of her students fake her virginity on her wedding night. And she writes of how some of her students were forced into loveless marriages, one of them when she was barely 14.

Although the book isn't available in Afghanistan, word of it has leaked out there.

The book, currently No. 28 on The New York Times bestseller list, made an overnight sensation of Rodriguez, a flamboyant beautician from Michigan, when it was published by Random House in April. The book is also slated to become a movie, with Sandra Bullock playing the lead.

But back in Afghanistan, the subjects of her book say Rodriguez and her newfound fame have put their lives in danger. They say they've seen none of the money or help to get them out of Afghanistan that Rodriguez promised them in exchange for having their stories appear in the book.


 08:26 PM - link

middle east clusterfuck

Robert Fisk: Strange goings-on here in Lebanon ...

So what else do the Americans have up their sleeve for us out here? Well, an old chum of mine in the Deep South – a former US Vietnam veteran officer – has a habit of tramping through the hills to the north of his home and writes to me that "in my therapeutic and recreation trips ... in the mountains of North Carolina over the last two weeks, I've noticed a lot of F-16 and C-130 activity. They are coming right through the passes, low to the ground. The last time I saw this kind of thing up there was before Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan".

That was in early August. Two weeks later, my friend wrote again. "There were a few (more) C-130 passes... I know that some 75th Rangers have just moved out of their home base and that manoeuvres have gone on in areas that have been used... in the past before assaults utilizing [sic] aircraft guided by small numbers of special operations people."

And then comes the cruncher in my friend's letter. "I think that the Bush administration is looking for something to distract Americans before the mid-September report on progress in Iraq. And I believe that the pressure is building to do something about the sanctuaries for the Taliban and foreign fighters along the Pakistan/Afghanistan border..."


  thanks to The Agonist

 07:53 PM - link


johannes twielemeier


  thanks to Conscientious

 07:35 PM - link

global climate change

Ice-free Arctic could be here in 23 years

The Arctic ice cap has collapsed at an unprecedented rate this summer and levels of sea ice in the region now stand at a record low, scientists said last night. Experts said they were "stunned" by the loss of ice, with an area almost twice as big as Britain disappearing in the last week alone. So much ice has melted this summer that the north-west passage across the top of Canada is fully navigable, and observers say the north-east passage along Russia's Arctic coast could open later this month. If the increased rate of melting continues, the summertime Arctic could be totally free of ice by 2030.

Mark Serreze, an Arctic specialist at the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre at Colorado University in Denver which released the figures, said: "It's amazing. It's simply fallen off a cliff and we're still losing ice." The Arctic has now lost about a third of its ice since satellite measurements began 30 years ago, and the rate of loss has accelerated sharply since 2002.

Dr Serreze said: "If you asked me a couple of years ago when the Arctic could lose all of its ice, then I would have said 2100, or 2070 maybe. But now I think that 2030 is a reasonable estimate. It seems that the Arctic is going to be a very different place within our lifetimes, and certainly within our children's lifetimes."


 06:37 PM - link


half awake and half asleep in the water


Great minds run in the same sewers. I've been thinking about pictures taken half in the water and half out for a long time. I've not had an underwater camera to do something like that. Then Greyhoundman found the Mako Shark underwater camera.

It's based on the Brownie Hawkeye, which is a bakelite box camera with a meniscus lens. They show up on eBay and usually go for around $60 to $70. Sometimes more. One just went for $28 when I had no money. Some day money and an available camera will happen at the same time.

 06:33 PM - link

  Thursday   September 6   2007


U.S. Staging Nukes for Iran?

Why the hubbub over a B-52 taking off from a B-52 base in Minot, North Dakota and subsequently landing at a B-52 base in Barksdale, Louisiana? That’s like getting excited if you see postal worker in uniform walking out of a post office. And how does someone watching a B-52 land identify the cruise missiles as nukes? It just does not make sense.

So I called a old friend and retired B-52 pilot and asked him. What he told me offers one compelling case of circumstantial evidence. My buddy, let’s call him Jack D. Ripper, reminded me that the only times you put weapons on a plane is when they are on alert or if you are tasked to move the weapons to a specific site.

Then he told me something I had not heard before.

Barksdale Air Force Base is being used as a jumping off point for Middle East operations. Gee, why would we want cruise missile nukes at Barksdale Air Force Base. Can’t imagine we would need to use them in Iraq. Why would we want to preposition nuclear weapons at a base conducting Middle East operations?

His final point was to observe that someone on the inside obviously leaked the info that the planes were carrying nukes. A B-52 landing at Barksdale is a non-event. A B-52 landing with nukes. That is something else.


Test Marketing

If there were a threat level on the possibility of war with Iran, it might have just gone up to orange. Barnett Rubin, the highly respected Afghanistan expert at New York University, has written an account of a conversation with a friend who has connections to someone at a neoconservative institution in Washington. Rubin can’t confirm his friend’s story; neither can I. But it’s worth a heads-up:

They [the source’s institution] have “instructions” (yes, that was the word used) from the Office of the Vice-President to roll out a campaign for war with Iran in the week after Labor Day; it will be coordinated with the American Enterprise Institute, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, Fox, and the usual suspects. It will be heavy sustained assault on the airwaves, designed to knock public sentiment into a position from which a war can be maintained. Evidently they don’t think they’ll ever get majority support for this—they want something like 35-40 percent support, which in their book is “plenty.”

True? I don’t know. Plausible? Absolutely. It follows the pattern of the P.R. campaign that started around this time in 2002 and led to the Iraq war. The President’s rhetoric on Iran has been nothing short of bellicose lately, warning of “the shadow of a nuclear holocaust.” And the Iranian government’s behavior—detaining British servicemen and arresting American passport holders, pushing ahead with uranium enrichment, and, by many reliable accounts, increasing its funding and training for anti-American militias in Iraq—seems intentionally provocative. Perhaps President Ahmedinejad and the mullahs feel that they win either way: they humiliate the superpower if it doesn’t take the bait, and they shore up their deeply unpopular regime at home if it does. Preëmptive war requires calculations (and, often, miscalculations) on two sides, not just one, as Saddam learned in 2003. When tensions are this high between two countries and powerful factions in both act as if hostilities are in their interest, war is likely to follow.


  thanks to Talking Points Memo

Pentagon ‘three-day blitz’ plan for Iran

THE Pentagon has drawn up plans for massive airstrikes against 1,200 targets in Iran, designed to annihilate the Iranians’ military capability in three days, according to a national security expert.

Alexis Debat, director of terrorism and national security at the Nixon Center, said last week that US military planners were not preparing for “pinprick strikes” against Iran’s nuclear facilities. “They’re about taking out the entire Iranian military,” he said.


When Bush Comes to Iran
The view of American tough talk from Tehran+

My cousin Kamran is a successful software engineer in Tehran with a house, a thriving business of his own, and a brand new Peugeot, which he likes to show off by careening through the city's clogged streets at maniacal speeds. Like most of Iran's young and highly educated population, he must rely on other means to make ends meet. So, in addition to running his software business, Kamran tutors neighborhood children, raises chickens on his aunt's farm, hires himself out as a guide and translator for tourists, dabbles in real estate, and occasionally sells imitation designer handbags out of the trunk of his car.

"What kind of life is this?" he confides in me. "I have a master's degree. I fought in the Iran-Iraq war. I have my own business. But here I am forced to sell purses out of my car to feed my family?" He laughs to hide his shame. "I tell you, when Bush comes, things will be different."

When Bush comes. It is a popular joke in Tehran, akin to saying, "when pigs fly." Of course, behind every joke lurks a genuine sentiment. Sure, Kamran laughs when he says it. But then he grips the wheel and, for a brief moment, glances up at the sky, as though expecting an American fighter jet to zoom overhead.


  thanks to Antiwar.com

 10:10 PM - link

skin art

Science Tattoos

On my blog, The Loom, I asked whether scientists wear many tattoos of their science. The answer was yes. I've posted all the tattoos people sent me here on Flickr.

"The tattoo is sort of a telescoping view of the contents in a cell (many contents omitted, obviously). This came about from a very vague idea of something I wanted, and the artist (Chris Adamek, Immortal Ink, Clinton, NJ) really ran with it. He has no scientific training but came up with some really amazing artwork. He was so enthusiastic and wanted to know all about what it all meant and how it works. I enjoyed the experience of sitting with him for three days as much as I enjoy the result. The DNA doesn't code for anything (at least not intentionally)."--An anonymous biochemist


 09:50 PM - link


First the good new. Riverbend is alive. Now the bad news. She is a refugee.

Leaving Home...

Two months ago, the suitcases were packed. My lone, large suitcase sat in my bedroom for nearly six weeks, so full of clothes and personal items, that it took me, E. and our six year old neighbor to zip it closed.

Packing that suitcase was one of the more difficult things I’ve had to do. It was Mission Impossible: Your mission, R., should you choose to accept it is to go through the items you’ve accumulated over nearly three decades and decide which ones you cannot do without. The difficulty of your mission, R., is that you must contain these items in a space totaling 1 m by 0.7 m by 0.4 m. This, of course, includes the clothes you will be wearing for the next months, as well as any personal memorabilia- photos, diaries, stuffed animals, CDs and the like.

As we crossed the border and saw the last of the Iraqi flags, the tears began again. The car was silent except for the prattling of the driver who was telling us stories of escapades he had while crossing the border. I sneaked a look at my mother sitting beside me and her tears were flowing as well. There was simply nothing to say as we left Iraq. I wanted to sob, but I didn’t want to seem like a baby. I didn’t want the driver to think I was ungrateful for the chance to leave what had become a hellish place over the last four and a half years.

The Syrian border was almost equally packed, but the environment was more relaxed. People were getting out of their cars and stretching. Some of them recognized each other and waved or shared woeful stories or comments through the windows of the cars. Most importantly, we were all equal. Sunnis and Shia, Arabs and Kurds… we were all equal in front of the Syrian border personnel.

We were all refugees- rich or poor. And refugees all look the same- there’s a unique expression you’ll find on their faces- relief, mixed with sorrow, tinged with apprehension. The faces almost all look the same.

The first minutes after passing the border were overwhelming. Overwhelming relief and overwhelming sadness… How is it that only a stretch of several kilometers and maybe twenty minutes, so firmly segregates life from death?

How is it that a border no one can see or touch stands between car bombs, militias, death squads and… peace, safety? It’s difficult to believe- even now. I sit here and write this and wonder why I can’t hear the explosions.

I wonder at how the windows don’t rattle as the planes pass overhead. I’m trying to rid myself of the expectation that armed people in black will break through the door and into our lives. I’m trying to let my eyes grow accustomed to streets free of road blocks, hummers and pictures of Muqtada and the rest…

How is it that all of this lies a short car ride away?


We have created a hell on earth in Iraq and our government is more concerned with covering it's collective ass. The delusions are monumental. The death spiral continues unabated.

Nir Rosen vs. Pollack & O'Hanlon & Petraeus & Bush

FOREMAN: Nir, based on what you are saying though the problem is there is no credible alternative is there?

ROSEN: There is no government to begin with. It's a collection of militias. And indeed, there is no alternative. The whole focus on the government in Baghdad is the -- problem is that -- in everybody's approach. In Iraq it used to be you could have a coup replace the government and the whole country followed. But now Iraqi is a collection of city states, Baghdad, Tikrit, Kirkuk, Mosul, Basra, Erbil, each one with its own warlords. They don't answer to Baghdad. Baghdad has no control over them. When we overthrew Saddam, we imposed one dictator after another. We didn't like Prime Minister Jaafari so we got rid of him and we put in his close ally, Maliki. And now the occupier is once again upset that the occupied people are not being sufficiently obedient. But it doesn't matter. We are past that stage. Iraq doesn't exist as a state anymore. The government has never existed. It has never brought in any services. Even the most fundamental service the government can provide, a monopoly over the use of violence, it doesn't provide that because it has never controlled the militias and militias are the ones that control the police and the army.

FOREMAN: So Nir, we keep hearing reports, though, nonetheless out of Baghdad. People saying that give us time, we are trying to get this government worked out. We are going to make some progress. Do you see any way that can happen?

ROSEN: No. This has been the case for the past would two years at least. There is no hope. There is no government. Neither side is interested in compromise and why should they? The Shias control Baghdad. They have removed the Sunnis from Baghdad, from Iraq's political future.


Baghdad's New Owners
Shiites now dominate the once mixed capital, and there is little chance of reversing the process.

It was their last stand. Kamal and a handful of his neighbors were hunkered down on the roof of a dun-colored house in southwest Baghdad two weeks ago as bullets zinged overhead. In the streets below, fighters from Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army fanned out and blasted away with AK-47s and PKC heavy machine guns. Kamal is a chubby 44-year-old with two young sons, and he and his friends, all Sunnis, had been fighting similar battles against Shiite militiamen in the Amel neighborhood for months. They jumped awkwardly from rooftop to rooftop, returning fire. Within minutes, however, dozens of uniformed Iraqi policemen poured into the street to support the militiamen. Kamal ditched his AK on a rooftop and snuck away through nearby alleys. He left Amel the next day. "I lost my house, my documents and my future," says Kamal, whose name and that of other Iraqis in this story have been changed for their safety. "I'm never going back."


  thanks to Antiwar.com

Basra crisis is Iran's opportunity

In his surprise visit to al-Anbar province in Iraq on Monday, US President George W Bush boasted of coalition troops' accomplishments in bringing stability and uprooting the al-Qaeda menace with the help of Sunni tribes. At the same time, the last British soldiers were vacating Basra in the south in what a British paper described as "ignominious defeat".


Report Finds Little Progress On Iraq Goals
GAO Draft at Odds With White House

Iraq has failed to meet all but three of 18 congressionally mandated benchmarks for political and military progress, according to a draft of a Government Accountability Office report. The document questions whether some aspects of a more positive assessment by the White House last month adequately reflected the range of views the GAO found within the administration.


Out of Iraq, but ‘in the neighborhood'?
Senate GOP leader signals a way to reduce Iraq deployment

Senate GOP leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky signaled Tuesday that he is looking for “a bipartisan agreement that we need a long-term deployment somewhere in the Middle East in the future” — but he pointedly did not say that accord had to entail maintaining the U.S. deployment in Iraq itself.


"Somewhere in the Middle East." What a delusional crock of shit. These people are so out of touch. It would be laughable if so many people weren't dying because of this insanity.

 10:08 AM - link

i just hate reality

That reality thing has been getting in the way of posting here. Last week Zoe and I, with major help from our friend Kim, I did some major rearranging of furniture, and my office, to accomodate the expected arrival of an Epson 3800 printer. But it was not to be. Don, the photographer who was getting it for me to print for him, was having his sister buy it. His sister's boyfriend had done some printing for Don a few years ago on an Epson 2200. He is very busy and didn't have the time to print for Don until he saw the new printer. Now he wants to do the printing. Don is not a happy camper since his sister's boyfriend is not a photographer and doesn't really know what he is doing. But she is putting up the money and is family. Don hopes that the printer will still come my way when the newness wears off and his sister's boyfriend finds out that printing is work. Very frustrating.

 09:28 AM - link