Weblog Archives




  Friday   December 1   2006

iraq death spiral

What more can you say about Iraq? The terror being inflicted on Iraq is equalled only by the delusions of our leadership that think they have something to say about what happens there. If we don't get out now we will be fighting our way out.

David Horsey


Saudis Threaten to Back the Baathists (Again) in a New Iraq Proxy War

Never mind the report of James Baker’s Iraq Study Group, whose primary purpose appears to be achieving national unity in Washington, and whose broad recommendations for a slow drawdown of American troops and a new focus on regional diplomacy may already have been eclipsed by events, and will almost certainly be mangled by an Administration still wedded to too many of its most damaging illusions. The most important documents to surface in Washington this week were, instead, the memo by Bush’s national security adviser Stephen Hadley leaked to the New York Times, and an extraordinary op-ed in the Washington Post by a well-known senior adviser to the Saudi regime that threatened, among other things, that the Saudis would provide financial and military support to the Sunni insurgency if the U.S. begins a phased withdrawal from Iraq.


Sword of the Shia
He can deal out death through his black-clad followers and roil the government any time he chooses. Why Moqtada al-Sadr may end up deciding America's fate in Iraq.

One way to understand Moqtada al-Sadr is to think of him as a young Mafia don. He aims for respectability, and is willing to kill for it. Yet the extent of his power isn't obvious to the untrained eye. He has no standing army or police force, and the Mahdi Army gunmen he employs have no tanks or aircraft. You could mistake him—at your peril—for a common thug or gang leader. And if he or his people were to kill you for your ignorance, he wouldn't claim credit. But the message would be clear to those who understand the brutal language of the Iraqi Street.


A terrible legacy of hatred and death
This is the hell we have bequeathed to the Arab peoples of Iraq
by Robert Fisk

So the Ministry of Fear now has a Dowager of Fear, the good Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller who has discovered in the sanctum of MI5 another 30 "terror plots" to terrify us - and an entire generation of plots before the show is over. And how Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara admires her. "I think she is absolutely right that it will last a generation," he announces. Absolutely, indeed. The favourite Blair adverb, always trotted out when he really, truly and of course absolutely believes he is right; which is not the same at all, of course, as actually being right, which needs a lot more than belief to support it.


"Go Big" Sure, but with what?

So --- If you really want to do what is talked abut in terms of augmenting strength in the war zones, then you are going to need MUCH LARGER ground forces with many more brigade and regimental combat teams. To achieve that will require the existing units to be "cadred" (tapped) for leaders for the new "pyramids." The officers and senior NCOs will like that. It would mean rapid promotion. Where would you get the privates, the basic raw material? Think about it creatively.

In any event the creation of each new brigade combat team/regiment would take about a year and a half at the least. Listen up augmenters! Better get started now if you want this idea of yours to be more than a pipe dream.


 03:10 AM - link


I get so easily distracted. When I posted about Luminous-Lint I made the mistake of rummaging around in it and found a link to this site on photogravure. But first, you may not know what photogravure is. From Wikipedia:


Photogravure is a type of intaglio printmaking developed in the 1830s by Henry Talbot in England and Nicephone Niepce in France. These were the first photographs, pre-dating daguerrotypes and the later silver-gelatin photos. Photogravure was used for both original fine art prints and for reproduction of works from other media such as paintings. Photogravure is distinguished from rotogravure in that photogravure uses a flat copperplate etched rather deeply and printed by hand, while in rotogravure, as the name implies, a rotary cylinder is only lightly etched, and is a factory printing process for newspapers, magazines, and packaging. Due to an unfortunate confusion of terms, searches for "photogravure" on the web often turn up industrial machinery designed for rotogravure.

Photogravure registers an extraordinary variety of tones, through the transfer of etching ink from an etched copperplate to special dampened paper run through an etching press. The unique tonal range comes from photogravure's variable depth of etch, that is, the shadows are etched many times deeper than the highlights. Unlike half-tone processes which merely vary the size of dots, the actual quantity and depth of ink in a photogravure etching are varied. Photogravure practitioners such as Peter Henry Emerson and others brought the art to a very high standard of expression in the late 19th century, which continued with the work of Edward Steichen in the early 20th century. But the speed and convenience of silver-gelatin photography eventually displaced photogravure, which fell into disuse after the Curtis gravures in the 1920s. Fifty years later, photogravure experienced a revival in the hands of Aperture and Jon Goodman, who studied it in Europe. Photogravure is now actively practiced in several dozen workshops around the world.


This site as is a great resource on photogravure.

The Art of the Photogravure

Celebrating the beauty and history of the photogravure process and the important role it has played in the evolution of fine art photography. This site contains a unique and extensive overview of photogravure as well as many resources to aid in the study of this all but forgotten art.


Not only does Art of the Photogravure have everything you've wanted to know about photogravure, but were afraid to ask, it has quite a collection of photogravures for your viewing pleasure, like the one above. It's done by Paul Strand from his The Mexican Portfolio. I'm interested in this particular image because I own one. I bought it back in the 1970s. The online image doesn't begin to show the subtleties of the print. But don't let that stop you from looking at the online images. Wonderful.

 02:40 AM - link


The checkpoint generation
By Amira Hass

At the Samaria Brigade, they are still investigating what happened that day at the fortified and isolated Asira al-Shmaliya checkpoint, through which only the inhabitants of several villages are permitted passage. However, according to testimonies taken by a researcher for B'Tselem - The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, it emerges that Yassin had irritated the soldiers. He dared to suggest to them that their demand of women to feel their own bodies to carry out a "security check" was inappropriate. So annoying was he that a soldier shoved him.

Yassin, who had returned from overseas a few months earlier, had apparently not yet internalized the fact that it is dangerous to remind a soldier that a Palestinian is a human being. When the soldier shoved, Yassin shoved back. The soldier, according to the testimonies, started to scream and curse and hit. He quickly received reinforcement from two other soldiers, who fired into the air and at the ground. Even though Yassin fell to the ground after the shooting, the soldiers, relate the witnesses, threw him onto a concrete block, handcuffed him and kicked him. They also kicked him in the head, according to the testimonies, and beat him with their rifles.

The truth is that even the soldiers' parents should not be interested in these explanations. They should, however, be very worried about their country sending their sons and daughters on an apartheid mission: to restrict Palestinian mobility within the occupied territory, to narrow the Palestinian expanse in order to enable Jews to move freely within that same occupied territory and in order to increase their expanse within it. In order to carry out this mission in full, facing the natives, the soldiers must feel and act like "superiors."


Gaza: Home demolitions, nonviolent resistance, HRW, etc
by Helena Cobban

The Israeli government's assault on the rights and the physical security of the 3.2 million Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza continues.

Today, the NYT made a good big splash with an article by Steve Erlanger about the report issued by the Israeli "Peace Now" organization that calculated that some 40% of the land on which Israeli settlements have been (and still are being) built in the West Bank is privately owned by Palestinians.


Rights-less in Gaza (or not even in it yet)
by Helena Cobban

To understand somethng of how it feels to be a Palestinian, go read Laila el-Haddad's account of her (so far unsuccessful) attempt to return with her son and her parents to her home-city, Gaza.

The Israelis claim to have withdrawn from Gaza in september 2005. But they still control all its means of contact with the outside world, including the tiny strip of internatinal border that Gaza shares with Egypt.

That's where Laila-- along with, apparently, several thousands of other Gaza Palestinians-- is trying to cross.


Women's activism in Hizbullah and Hamas

In this piece, Lara Deeb looks at the changing way in which, since the 1970s, women's roles have been portrayed in the annual Ashura rituals that are an important feature of Shiite community life in Lebanon (and elsewhere); and she tracks these shifts with the increased role that Lebanese Shiite women-- primarily, I think, Hizbullah women-- have been playing in public life.


Palestinian Solidarity in a Time of Massacres
What is to be Done?

Let's face it; while the Palestinian and Arab resistance evolves into an absolute example of the ultimate heroism and collective patriotism, the Palestinian solidarity movement in the UK and around the world is not exactly what could be called a profound success story. In fact, it would be erroneous to state that this is really the fault of those who dedicate their time and energy to it. Supporting the Palestinians is a complicated subject. Though the crimes against the Palestinians have taken place in broad daylight and are not some well-kept secret, the priorities of the solidarity movement are far from being clear.

When thinking about Palestinian society we are basically used to thinking of some sharp ideological and cultural disputes between the Hamas and PLO. Not that I wish to undermine that staunch disagreement, but I am here to suggest an alternative perspective that perhaps could lead towards a different understanding of the notion of Palestinian activism and solidarity both ideologically and pragmatically.

I maintain that Palestinian people are largely divided into three main groups and it is actually this division that dictates three different political narratives, with three different political discourses and agendas to consider:


No Peace, No Place For Palestine

Finally. Someone has noticed what is going on in the Middle East. The UK Telegraph reports that Britain is "furious" with Israel because of the damage it is causing in Gaza. Is it because of the wholesale slaughter of innocent Palestinians -- the bombing of a Gaza beach that turned the entire family of 12-year-old Huda Ghalia into a smoking pile of human flesh and scattered body parts? No? Then, perhaps it is using innocent Palestinians as human shields, gunning down children as they scurry fearfully to school, burying the wounded alive Jenin-style...


Swedish human rights worker viciously attacked by Jewish extremists in Hebron

A 19-year old Swedish human rights worker had her cheekbone broken by a Jewish extremist in Hebron today. Earlier the same day at least five Palestinians, including a 3-year-old child, were injured by the settler-supporting extremists, who rampaged through Tel Rumeida hurling stones and bottles at local residents. Palestinian schoolchildren on their way home were also attacked. The Israeli army, which was intensively deployed in the area, did not intervene to stop the attacks.

Tove Johansson from Stockholm walked through the Tel Rumeida checkpoint with a small group of human rights workers (HRWs) to accompany Palestinian schoolchildren to their homes. They were confronted by about 100 Jewish extremists in small groups. They started chanting in Hebrew “We killed Jesus, we’ll kill you too!” — a refrain the settlers had been repeating to internationals in Tel Rumeida all day.


 02:11 AM - link


Bill Jay had this in his recommended links. It's a bit overwhelming. So much. New and old. Changes all the time.

for Collectors and Connoisseurs of Fine Photography

Clarence H. White
The Orchard


 01:47 AM - link

  Thursday   November 30   2006


CIA analysis finds no Iranian nuclear weapons drive: report

A classified draft CIA assessment has found no firm evidence of a secret drive by Iran to develop nuclear weapons, as alleged by the White House, a top US investigative reporter said on Saturday.


  thanks to The Agonist

Is a damaged Administration less likely to attack Iran, or more?
by Seymour M. Hersh

A month before the November elections, Vice-President Dick Cheney was sitting in on a national-security discussion at the Executive Office Building. The talk took a political turn: what if the Democrats won both the Senate and the House? How would that affect policy toward Iran, which is believed to be on the verge of becoming a nuclear power? At that point, according to someone familiar with the discussion, Cheney began reminiscing about his job as a lineman, in the early nineteen-sixties, for a power company in Wyoming. Copper wire was expensive, and the linemen were instructed to return all unused pieces three feet or longer. No one wanted to deal with the paperwork that resulted, Cheney said, so he and his colleagues found a solution: putting “shorteners” on the wire—that is, cutting it into short pieces and tossing the leftovers at the end of the workday. If the Democrats won on November 7th, the Vice-President said, that victory would not stop the Administration from pursuing a military option with Iran. The White House would put “shorteners” on any legislative restrictions, Cheney said, and thus stop Congress from getting in its way.


  thanks to War and Piece

Israel’s Domestic Politics Raises the Danger of a U.S.-Iran War

Even if the Democrats could be relied on to hold the line against insane military adventurism against Iran — and, frankly, listening to their leading lights I have my doubts — that’s unlikely to make any difference to the question of whether or not Iran is attacked. That’s because nobody even among the hawks is talking about a full-blown ground invasion; they’re talking about a series of air strikes that will supposedly destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities. And you only have to go back to President Clinton’s 1998 cruise missile strikes on an aspirin factory in Sudan and a patch of dust Afghanistan to remember that the first Americans hear about such attacks will be after the fact.

By then, of course, it will be too late. U.S. intel and even the Israelis know that the best such strikes can hope to achieve would be to delay Iran’s nuclear program by a year or two. But it will also prompt a chain of events throughout the Middle East that will plunge the region into a war that leaves U.S. influence — and Israel’s prospects of survival — diminished. The Iranians will hit back, of course, in Iraq, and elsewhere. And the U.S. will be compelled to hit back, creating the pattern for a long war of bloody attrition.

One reason it won’t be debated publicly because it’s based on a fallacy promoted by a calculated campaign of hysteria by Israel’s leadership. Iran, right now, has no nuclear weapons program that anyone knows of — the Israelis however have opted to paint the very idea of uranium enrichment in Iran, quite legal under the NPT, into the first stanza of a new Holocaust. Israel’s demand that Iran be stopped, by force if necessary, from establishing the nuclear fuel cycle allowed under the NPT is untenable, I’ve argued elsewhere — the idea that any nation in the Middle East that creates the infrastructural capability to challenge Israel’s nuclear monopoly in the region (creates the infrastructure that would allow this choice rather than actually pursue weapons) must face military sanctions is absurd and unsustainable. The only way to resolve this problem is to normalize relations in the region to create a basis for stability. But that’s not the way the Israeli or U.S. leadership sees it, which is why we’re heading for confrontation despite the U.S. election results.


Revolutionary Guards Head: 'US Forces in Middle East 'Extremely' Vulnerable
by Juan Cole

The commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps has said: If America attacks Iran, its 200,000 troops and 33 bases in the region will be extremely vulnerable, and both American politicians and military commanders are aware of it.


 11:17 PM - link

an addition

The rains have returned and the snow is mostly gone. I am even getting caught up with work. I've added a new version of a hit counter towards the bottom of the left column.

It's ClusterMaps. Zoe found it. I've tried various ways to see where my readers come from but this is the best. It captures the IP address of the viewer and puts a dot on a map. When the dots are close together, it makes a big dot. I started mine November 11.

When you click on the small map you get sent off to ClustrMaps and a larger map. It's a free service but if you pay ($.99 a month or $9.99 a year) you dispense with the ads and get to zoom in.

I couldn't resist. It's supposed to update every day but it seems to be a little longer than that. It's pretty mind blowing to see that someone is actually reading this other than my family and friends. Pretty amazing. Hi everyone!

 10:54 PM - link

  Wednesday   November 29   2006


My son-in-law William is in Iraq and he sent some pictures.

If you would like to send a package to William, or any other soldier in Iraq, you can use:

William's TFT ID is 1862195 and his last name is Valdez if you want to send a package to him.

 03:22 PM - link

winter wonderland

Winter wonderland isn't so fucking wonderful anymore. We didn't get anymore snow Monday night/Tuesday morning but it was what we didn't get -- electricity. The power went out sometime early Tuesday morning. It didn't come back until almost noon today. A day and a half without computers or heat. It got cold inside. We have a propane fireplace for heat when the power goes out but I should have checked the propane levels a few days ago when Zoe asked me to. The propane ran out the same time the power did. It has been fun watching people trying to drive up the hill outside our house. The snowplow did show up for the first time yesterday plowing and sanding, but it is icy out there. There have been flurries of new snow. There is supposed to be more snow then it's supposed to rain later tonight, hopefully. We aren't driving anywhere on these roads. Fortunately, there hasn't been any reason to go out.

 02:50 PM - link

  Monday   November 27   2006


I've been reading Bill Jay in for some time in Lenswork (when I can afford it). He was always interesting. Now I find him on the web where he is putting his decades of writing about photography. How cool is that? He also has taken some very nice pictures of some photographers. Don't just look at the pretty pictures. Read the articles!

Bill Jay On Photography

Andre Kertesz at home in New York, 1968


  thanks to alec soth - blog

 11:57 PM - link

dead kennedys

Did the CIA kill Bobby Kennedy?
In 1968, Robert Kennedy seemed likely to follow his brother, John, into the White House. Then, on June 6, he was assassinated - apparently by a lone gunman. But Shane O'Sullivan says he has evidence implicating three CIA agents in the murder

At first, it seems an open-and-shut case. On June 5 1968, Robert Kennedy wins the California Democratic primary and is set to challenge Richard Nixon for the White House. After midnight, he finishes his victory speech at the Ambassador hotel in Los Angeles and is shaking hands with kitchen staff in a crowded pantry when 24-year-old Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan steps down from a tray-stacker with a "sick, villainous smile" on his face and starts firing at Kennedy with an eight-shot revolver.

As Kennedy lies dying on the pantry floor, Sirhan is arrested as the lone assassin. He carries the motive in his shirt-pocket (a clipping about Kennedy's plans to sell bombers to Israel) and notebooks at his house seem to incriminate him. But the autopsy report suggests Sirhan could not have fired the shots that killed Kennedy. Witnesses place Sirhan's gun several feet in front of Kennedy, but the fatal bullet is fired from one inch behind. And more bullet-holes are found in the pantry than Sirhan's gun can hold, suggesting a second gunman is involved. Sirhan's notebooks show a bizarre series of "automatic writing" - "RFK must die RFK must be killed - Robert F Kennedy must be assassinated before 5 June 68" - and even under hypnosis, he has never been able to remember shooting Kennedy. He recalls "being led into a dark place by a girl who wanted coffee", then being choked by an angry mob. Defence psychiatrists conclude he was in a trance at the time of the shooting and leading psychiatrists suggest he may have be a hypnotically programmed assassin.

Three years ago, I started writing a screenplay about the assassination of Robert Kennedy, caught up in a strange tale of second guns and "Manchurian candidates" (as the movie termed brainwashed assassins). As I researched the case, I uncovered new video and photographic evidence suggesting that three senior CIA operatives were behind the killing. I did not buy the official ending that Sirhan acted alone, and started dipping into the nether-world of "assassination research", crossing paths with David Sanchez Morales, a fearsome Yaqui Indian.


 11:36 PM - link

book recommendation

Civil War Stories
by Ambrose Bierce

I actually recommended this back in March, 2001. I was looking through my referrer logs to see where people might be coming to this site from and found this: Bierce Works Online. I was surprised. I didn't see any link to my blog. I'm a big fan of Ambrose Bierce. The Bierce Works Online had links to Bierce's works online. (Duh!) I clicked on the top one and it linked to a page of mine. I had forgotten that I had put one of his stories up. The story is from Civil War Stories and is titled The Affair at Coulter’s Notch. Check it out. It's typical of The stories in this little book. An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge is also in the book for you serious film fans. These stories are not to be missed. It was $1.35 in 2001. It's gone up to $1.50. Go for it. Be extravagant.

 11:26 PM - link


Bush's Cedar Revolution Collapses in Yet Another Policy Failure
by Juan Cole

The assassination of Lebanese cabinet minister Pierre Gemayel on Tuesday has thrown that country further into yet more turmoil.

The crisis is a further testament to the bankruptcy of George W. Bush's Middle East policy. Under the dishonest rhetoric of 'democratization,' what Bush has really been about is creating pro-American winners and anti-American losers in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon. Bush's vision is not democratic because he always installs a tyranny of the majority. The vanquished are to be crushed and ridiculed, the victors to exult in their triumph. It is like a Leni Riefenstahl film.


Civil war In Lebanon
by Robert Fisk

Civil war - the words on all our lips yesterday. Pierre Gemayel's murder - in broad daylight, in a Christian suburb of Beirut, his car blocked mafia-style by another vehicle while his killer fired through the driver's window into the head of Lebanon's minister of industry - was a message for all of us who live in this tragic land.


Dragons of Lebanon's past emerge for Gemayel funeral
By Robert Fisk

Amin Gemayel wept and swooned in front of us. The tens of thousands of Christians and Muslims burst into applause before the improvised stage. Gemayel - a foppish man with little charisma when he was President of Lebanon - held up his right hand and suddenly became a symbol of nobility, still swaying on his feet, his left arm supported by the tall, far younger figure of Saad Hariri. Only two days earlier, Gemayel's MP son, Pierre, had been blasted to death by gunmen in Beirut; his body still lay in the Cathedral of St George a few metres from where we were standing. But nothing became Gemayel like his courage yesterday as he told the vast mass of Lebanese in front of him that, yes, there would be a second revolution in this country which would end only when the pro-Syrian President had been removed.


 10:48 PM - link


How do you get this…

We’re back in time a little over 50 million years. The dinosaurs have been gone for only 13 or 14 million years. Gone too are the great marine lizards. Along the shoreline of the shallow Tethys Sea, on the south coast of the landmass of Eurasia, mammals are turning their interest to an abundant realm long denied them. In nature, no available resource is ever ignored for long, and a coyote-sized animal named Pakicetus is taking the first tentative steps into the warm waters of streams and deltas in its (uppermost middle) Eocene world.


  thanks to Pharyngula

 10:42 PM - link

winter wonderland

It's been snowing the past two days. Normally we get one or two snowstorms a year in Puget Sound. Some years none at all. Two to three inches is a big snowfall around here. When I took these pictures around 3 this afternoon we had 4 1/2 inches. I checked a little while ago and it's up to 6 inches. We expect another 3 to 4 inches tonight. A veritable blizzard.

The snow covered biomass leaning up against my car is not normally there. Those branches came down this morning. My daughter Katie drove the 5 miles out and back to Baby Island to see her mom. It took 3 hours. Trees down everywhere. She counted 9 trees leaning on power lines. My son Robby had a branch puncture the roof above his bed. All is frozen so he and Hannah aren't worried. Until it thaws. We still have power but the south end of the Island is out.

That little truck tried to make it up the hill yesterday. The driver came to her senses and parked it.

Our back yard. It really is pretty. I was off to shake the branches on the little maple to get the snow off.

Apparently Seattle is just starting to get snow. This is a picture I've never seen. The Seattle Seahawks playing in the snow at home tonight on Monday Night Football. They beat Green Bay. Green Bay must not be used to snow.

 09:32 PM - link

  Sunday   November 26   2006

iraq gets personal

First it was recovering from the excesses of Thanksgiving. Now it is catching up on work. Yesterday my oldest, Jenny called. Her husband, William, is in Iraq right outside of Sadr City. Maybe you've heard of it? It's in eastern Baghdad. She is living at Fort Carson, Co. She was telling me the story of coming back on base after getting her hair done. She had Evan and Robyn with her. She was picked for a random inspection coming through the gate. They wiped a cloth over her steering wheel and ran it through a magic gizmo which told the MPs that Jenny was a bomb maker. The checked three times. Then they closed the gates and all the local cop and MP cars, with their lights flashing, arrived. The MPs tried to get the local bomb sniffing dog to come but he must have been taking a nap. After an hour they let her go. She told them it was probably something from getting her hair done. Then to make the day perfect she took the kids to see a movie -- Happy Feet. They had planned on this but the bogus bomb scare put them late for the movie. Robyn really wanted to go so they went half way through it. The got in and had to sit in the first row. Then Evan dropped the popcorn and then crapped his pants. It made for a fragrant movie. When she got home there was a message from William that ended with "There is a big explosion. I've got to go."

Fighting rages as Iraq leaders seek calm

Two mortar rounds hit a U.S. military post in eastern Baghdad, setting it on fire and leaving a dark cloud of smoke above the Baladiyat neighborhood, police and witnesses said. Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, a U.S. military spokesman, confirmed that "indirect fire rounds" hit the area, but declined to provide details. No casualties were reported.


William got hold of Jenny today and he's fine. The mortars apparently hit the motor pool.

And the war in Iraq has lasted longer than WWII. We beat Hitler, Mussolini, and Japan in less time that it will take to lose in Iraq. The people at the top should go to jail for this.

 11:15 PM - link