Saturday December 25 2004
peace on earth, good will towards men
Empires prefer a baby and the cross to the adult Jesus
From Constantine to Bush, power has needed to stifle a revolutionary message
Every Sunday in church, Christians recite the Nicene Creed. "Who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven. And was incarnate of the Holy Ghost and of the Virgin Mary and was made man; was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and was buried; and the third day rose again according to the Scriptures." It's the official summary of the Christian faith but, astonishingly, it jumps straight from birth to death, apparently indifferent to what happened in between.
Nicene Christianity is the religion of Christmas and Easter, the celebration of a Jesus who is either too young or too much in agony to shock us with his revolutionary rhetoric. The adult Christ who calls his followers to renounce wealth, power and violence is passed over in favour of the gurgling baby and the screaming victim. As such, Nicene Christianity is easily conscripted into a religion of convenience, with believers worshipping a gagged and glorified saviour who has nothing to say about how we use our money or whether or not we go to war.
Christianity became the official religion of the Roman empire with the conversion of the emperor Constantine in 312, after which the church began to backpedal on the more radical demands of the adult Christ. The Nicene Creed was composed in 325 under the sponsorship of Constantine. It was Constantine who decided that December 25 was to be the date on which Christians were to celebrate the birth of Christ and it was Constantine who ordered the building of the Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem. Christmas - a festival completely unknown to the early church - was invented by the Roman emperor. And from Constantine onwards, the radical Christ worshipped by the early church would be pushed to the margins of Christian history to be replaced with the infinitely more accommodating religion of the baby and the cross.
thanks to Bad Attitudes
Ho ho ho
thanks to Politics in the Zeros
No depressing links until after Christmas. My Christmas will be spread out this year. My son-in-law, William, is in Ramadi. He leaves Iraq in three days for a 15 day leave. He will probably be hear around New Years Day. My family is waiting for his return to have our Christmas. William may be a little late for Christmas but his return will be the best Christmas present I could have.
Wednesday December 22 2004
Scared of Santa photo gallery
Nothing says Happy Holidays like a photo of sweet little toddlers screaming at Santa. The first 25 photos in this gallery are from the Chicago Tribune's "Scared of Santa" contest in 2003. All the rest of the photos were submitted by SouthFlorida.com readers this year. Enjoy!
thanks to J-Walk Blog
Mosul attack kills 24, wounds 64; local reporters on scene
A deadly precise rocket attack killed 24 and wounded 64 in a dining hall tent inside a U.S. military compound outside Mosul today.
Westerner beheaded on Mosul street as American forces lose control of key city
Gunmen raked a car with machine-gun fire in the northern city of Mosul yesterday, killing three foreigners and their driver. They then cut off the head of one of their victims.
The killings show that at the same time as the US was recapturing Fallujah in a heavily publicised assault it largely lost control of Mosul, Iraq's northern capital. Though US troops launched a counter-attack, their grip on the city remains tenuous. The four men who died yesterday were travelling in a white sedan when it was attacked with automatic weapons and set on fire at a traffic intersection in Mosul.
thanks to Antiwar.com
The US's failure in Fallujah
The chilling reality of what Fallujah has become is only now seeping out, as the US military continues to block almost all access to the city, whether to reporters, its former residents, or aid groups such as the Red Crescent Society. The date of access keeps being postponed, partly because of ongoing fighting - only this week more air strikes were called in and fighting "in pockets" remains fierce (despite US pronouncements of success weeks ago) - and partly because of the difficulties military commanders have faced in attempting to prettify their ugly handiwork. Residents will now officially be denied entry until at least December 24; and even then, only the heads of households will be allowed in, a few at a time, to assess damage to their residences in the largely destroyed city.
“My list is now 32,” says Salam as he arrives at the hotel, “Now 32 of my friends have been killed.”
He still has tears in his eyes, even though he’s being stoic. Another of his friends has been shot and killed.
“You know I feel like shit every time I add someone to my list. Sometimes it feels like it is every day,” he says.
Welcome to Iraq. Where the news gets better with each passing day.
roads? what roads?
by Steve Gilliard
A major victory for the resistance.
They now largely control the roadnet. American units have to rely upon air resupply or heavily guarded convoys. It also means that they can't do anything about securing said roadnet.
Watch for the Strela teams to return. More planes mean more missle attacks. They've already preculded large scale airmobile operations.
Let's see, in the last quarter, the resistance shut down the airport road, ambushed convoys on a daily basis, murdered a couple of hundred National Guardsmen, trapped the US in Fallujah and kidnapped Allawi's relatives.
Despite the hype, the US needs access to roads, aircraft can't do it alone. Every plane hauling trash can't haul troops and increases wear and tear in a very wear and tear prone theater.
I don't think we're winning this war.
Dying for Consumption
To the owner of the Ford Excursion who implores us to "Support Our Troops" I say this:
You, sir (or madam), are a monumental jackass. At this moment, American troops are risking their lives to protect your inalienable right to live your life in an impenetrable fog of selfishness and stupidity.
If not for the need to service this grotesque monstrosity on which you squander your money and that of the taxpayers who subsidize your comfortably numb life, those troops you support would not be getting killed and maimed in a country I doubt you could find on a map.
I sometimes wonder if anything short of dynamite can shatter your complacent fantasy that the Iraq war is about bringing democracy to the Middle East. The truth is that every Arab from Casablanca to Khartoum could be cutting his brother's throat, and yet this would remain a matter of indifference to our government if not for the need to ensure that you will be able to fill your Excursion with cheap gasoline.
thanks to Yolanda Flanagan
Purple Hearts: Back from Iraq
"I'm this great picture of the Army."
SPC. JOSE MARTINEZ, 20, 101st Airborne, was injured April 5, 2003 in Karbala when the humvee he was driving hit a land mine. Martinez was trapped in the explosion and suffered massive burns to his face, head and body. He has spent the last year in surgery and recovery at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas. Photographed April 3, 2004 at his home in Dalton, Georgia,while on a brief hospital leave.
Israelis hasten land grab in shadow of wall
Bulldozers go in as expansion of settlements continues
Sharif Omar has been waiting two years for the bulldozers, ever since Israel's steel and barbed wire "security fence" carved its way between his village and its land. Last week the excavators and diggers finally arrived on the outskirts of Jayyous to lay the foundations for an expansion of the nearby Jewish settlement of Zufim, fulfilling the fears and warnings of its Palestinian neighbours.
The bulldozers were preparing the ground for hundreds of new homes, despite the Israeli government's claim that it is not expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Like other building work along the route of the barrier, it seems to be an attempt to ensure that the land between the fence and the 1967 border remains in Israeli hands in any final agreement with the Palestinians.
"When they built the fence, we said they would use it to build a much bigger settlement, and they would take our land to do it," said Mr Omar, whose olive and citrus groves are now encircled. "It is very clear to us, they are planning to confiscate all of our land and drive us from here. They came and told us to finish harvesting because they were going to begin building 80 houses. They are beginning with my neighbour's land but if they do it there they will do it on mine."
At least five other sites along the barrier have settlement work in progress. Israeli human rights groups say the government appears to be racing to fill in the gap between the barrier and the Israeli border before a US team arrives next year to mark out the final limits of settlement expansion.
Have Arabs or Muslims always Hated Jews?
by Juan Cole
But what if Arabs and Muslims were human beings like everybody else? Wouldn't it be the case that if you punched one in the nose, he would try to punch you back? And if you didn't punch him out, he'd be more likely to greet you politely? And if you tossed his distant cousin out of his house, wouldn't he mind that? Actions have consequences.
What are the facts?
Living as a minority in any society is seldom a picnic, but in fact Jews before the Napoleonic emancipation were substantially better off living in Muslim societies than in Europe.
Medieval Christianity had no category for non-Christians in society. They completely kept Muslims out of Christian-ruled domains for the most part. Whereas perhaps a third of Egyptians in Egypt in 1400 were Christians, no British, French, Germans, etc. were Muslims. The Muslim trading diaspora threw up communities in Hindu Indonesia and Confucian China, and they were perfectly capable of pursuing opportunities in Europe had they been allowed to. They were not allowed to, in some important part because of the Inquisition. (Valencia in medieval Spain; Russia from Catherine the Great; and some post-Ottoman Balkan principalities are exceptions here, in allowing more tolerance for, or at least having to put up with the presence of, Muslims.)
thanks to J-Walk Blog
It's the Republican's plan to destroy Social Security. There is little wrong with it that can't be easily fixed in about 30 years. Do pay attention to this one.
Buying Into Failure
by Paul Krugman
As the Bush administration tries to persuade America to convert Social Security into a giant 401(k), we can learn a lot from other countries that have already gone down that road.
Information about other countries' experience with privatization isn't hard to find. For example, the Century Foundation, at www.tcf.org, provides a wide range of links.
Yet, aside from giving the Cato Institute and other organizations promoting Social Security privatization the space to present upbeat tales from Chile, the U.S. news media have provided their readers and viewers with little information about international experience. In particular, the public hasn't been let in on two open secrets:
Privatization dissipates a large fraction of workers' contributions on fees to investment companies.
It leaves many retirees in poverty.
Why Social Security
by Stirling Newberry
Originally, social security was framed as saving. At the time that is how insurance was sold "saving plus security". That is not how insurance works or is sold now, because now people have direct access to investment.
The underlying reality is that Social Security is going to be repealed, they will call it something else, but that is, in fact what is happening. What they want to convince people of is that they can make money by renting money to the future.
It's also a marker - that the constitutional crisis point is reaching its critical stage.
Talking Points Memo
It seems most advocates of phasing out Social Security let out a squeal worthy of Deliverance when you insist they own up to naming their plan for what it does: namely, end Social Security. Yes, I know, many of them only want to 'partially' end the program. But anybody with the fiscal roadmap in front of them and a decent handle on policy geography can see that the 'partial' pretty quickly leads to the total.
I've been playing with using the tilt-all back on my Mamiya Super 23. I've been using my FEDs as test subjects. My first FED is dialed in but I haven't had time to really take it out. My second one still needs a little more adjustment. This pictures were shot on color tungsten film (Fuji NPL) but I'm becoming enamored of black and white again and so black and white they are. Shooting close in with a 100mm lens means shallow depth of field but I can tilt the back to bring out of focus areas into focus. This is something I've read about for years but never did. I need a view camera.
FED 2e with Industar-50 50mm/f3.5 copllabsible.
Great for sticking in a coat pocket. Now I need to get a coat with pockets.
FED 2e with Jupiter 8 50mm/f2.
A sharp lens that can be used for available darkness.
FED 2e with Jupiter 12 35mm/f2.8.
A wide angle street shooter.
war against some terrorists
You think we've progressed from sending Americans of Japanese descent to concentration camps? We aren't that far away.
Poll shows U.S. views on Muslim-Americans
Nearly half of those surveyed say some rights should be restricted
Nearly half of all Americans believe the U.S. government should restrict the civil liberties of Muslim-Americans, according to a nationwide poll.
The survey conducted by Cornell University also found that Republicans and people who described themselves as highly religious were more apt to support curtailing Muslims’ civil liberties than Democrats or people who are less religious.
Researchers also found that respondents who paid more attention to television news were more likely to fear terrorist attacks and support limiting the rights of Muslim-Americans.
First they came for the Muslims...
bottom feeder camera extravaganza
Life has been overlyfull lately what with Christmas and getting a new website done. The new website has brought a small infusion of cash so that, a couple of nights ago, I experienced a twin lens reflex buying orgy.
I've been wanting a Minolta Autocord. I found one that was a later model and was somewhat dusty so I figured it would go for a low price, which was the kind of price I could afford. This one had a second camera thrown in — a Welta Reflecta. The Welta is an East German camera of low pedigree but it has a wonderful name and I couldn't resist. I got the two of them for $56.77.
Then I made the mistake of checking out the sellers other items and he had a Czechoslovakian twin lens reflex, a Meopta Flexaret III, which has many design features that Minolta used in the Autocord. I lost control. It had a pretty complete set of black and white filters and a lens hood. $30.50 later and it was mine.
After the fact, the seller was kind enough to combine shipping so there was essentially no shipping on the Flexaret. The Minolta, when all is cleaned up, should be as good as a Rolleiflex. If there are problems, I know of a good repairman. The Welta Reflecta is probably not to far above a Holga and would not be a serious camera but who knows? The Flexaret could be nice. It appears I'm set for TLRs. They should arrive in the next day or so. Then I will know. It's the Autocord that I'm most interested in.