Thursday December 30 2004
happy new year!
This will probably be my last post of the year so I would like to wish all my readers a happy new year. My new year present will be arriving a day or two early. My son-in-law, William, might be here tomorrow. He is arriving from Ramadi. Unfortunately he will be here for only 15 days before heading back to Iraq. We will make the most of those 15 days.
MAGINOT MINDS IN WASHINGTON GLOSS OVER THE TRUTH IN IRAQ
On the eve of World War II, the French depended confidently upon their huge and famous Maginot Line. Its enormous defensive fortresses, created almost as a necklace of cities in themselves, lined the entire border between France and Germany -- this time, the Germans would never pass!
But all the Germans had to do was to march around through Belgium to invade France. By May 1940, the vaunted Maginot Line was pitifully useless against such innovative resolve.
Today in Iraq (news - web sites), American officials are having to face their own verbal and rhetorical Maginot Lines. Our "answer" has been that we can get out when Iraqi forces are trained, when elections are held, and when Iraqis themselves win back the country from the "insurgents" or "terrorists" or "guerrillas" (or whatever we finally determine they are).
But in only the last two weeks, American generals and civilian officials are, in fact, admitting that they have their own similar Maginot Line problems. In Mosul, the Iraqi police force has "faded away." American generals speak of a "virtual connectivity" of the insurgents never seen before, as they use the Internet to pass along techniques, tactics and advice to one another. American generals now admit that almost all of them are Iraqis; we have created the Iraqi terrorists who were not there before.
thanks to Juan Cole
Iraq 2004 Looks Like Vietnam 1966
Adjusting body counts for medical and military changes.
Soldiers have long been subjected to invidious generational comparison. It's a military rite of passage for new recruits to hear from old hands that everything from boot camp to combat was tougher before they arrived. The late '90s coronation of the "Greatest Generation"—which left many Korean War and Vietnam War veterans scratching their heads—is only the most visible cultural example.
Generational contrasts are implicit today when casualties in Iraq are referred to as light, either on their own or in comparison to Vietnam. The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, for example, last July downplayed the intensity of the Iraq war on this basis, arguing that "it would take over 73 years for U.S. forces to incur the level of combat deaths suffered in the Vietnam war."
But a comparative analysis of U.S. casualty statistics from Iraq tells a different story. After factoring in medical, doctrinal, and technological improvements, infantry duty in Iraq circa 2004 comes out just as intense as infantry duty in Vietnam circa 1966—and in some cases more lethal. Even discrete engagements, such as the battle of Hue City in 1968 and the battles for Fallujah in 2004, tell a similar tale: Today's grunts are patrolling a battlefield every bit as deadly as the crucible their fathers faced in Southeast Asia.
thanks to daily KOS
Here are two must read posts. They are by posts by Stirling Newberry with comments by Steve Gilliard. The short version — we're losing.
Not getting better
1. The current loses in the elite warrior pool in Iraq are unsustainable as a permanent occupation, and the loses by the Iraqi security forces mean that there is no "hand over" or end game. The US is also sustaining losses in ground transport which are creating a vulnerability in the ability to supply forces in Iraq, and await only a rebel force which is capable of striking at US air facilities to paralyze the occupation forces. While the insurgents are losing well underneath their replacement rates for ground infantry, and have little in the way of skilled personnel to replace other than bomb builders.
2. The United States is within 18 months of a crisis point in the occupation, where the Iraqi rebellion will be sufficiently advaned to execute shatter attacks at the vulnerability points, and the United States will no longer be able to replace the crack troops that are being lost in ordinary opperations in Iraq. At this point the ability of the US to engage in "chomp and stomp" operations to slow the spread of the rebellion will dwindle, and the insurgency will be able to openly take control of more and more of Iraq itself. Morale is dropping and dissent within the pro-war military community is growing.
The tale of the numbers
The Mosul attack, while a tactical defeat for the guerillas, points to a troubling underlying truth: it is only with fortifications, superior armor and close air support that the US maintains military superiority on the ground over the insurgency. The insurgency is close to being able to mount successful shatter attack on fortified US positions.
These very factors are creating a vulnerability. Until now, US air support could be well out of reach of insurgent ability to counter attack. In order to execute close air support, greater vulnerability of air forces to ground based SAM and small arms fire will occur, which opens high value, both in equipment and personnel, casualties more likely. Given the past ability of the rebellion to exploit vulnerabilities, it is a question of when, not if, they will learn to execute on aircraft as they have against M-1 tanks.
Falloujans Get an Unsettling Look at Their City
Refugees eager to return change their minds after seeing the ruin. Will balloting be feasible?
Yasser Abbas Atiya swore he'd sooner sleep on the streets of his beloved hometown of Fallouja than spend another night in the squalid Baghdad shelter where his family had been squatting.
Thirty minutes after he returned home this week, however, Atiya had seen enough. He left in disgust and had no plans to go back.
"I couldn't stand it," the grocer said. "I was born in that town. I know every inch of it. But when I got there, I didn't recognize it."
Lakes of sewage in the streets. The smell of corpses inside charred buildings. No water or electricity. Long waits and thorough searches by U.S. troops at checkpoints. Warnings to watch out for land mines and booby traps. Occasional gunfire between troops and insurgents.
"I thought, 'This is not my town,' " Atiya said Tuesday after going back to the abandoned Baghdad clinic his family shares with nearly 100 other displaced Falloujans. "How can I take my family to live there?"
Militant Groups Warn Iraqis Not to Vote
Three militant groups warned Iraqis against voting in Jan. 30 elections, saying Thursday that people participating in the "dirty farce" risked attack. All 700 employees of the electoral commission in Mosul reportedly resigned after being threatened.
The Georgian Museum of Photography
thanks to wood s lot
when is a human disaster not a disaster — when americans do the killing
Tsunami Disaster Highlights Corporate Media Hypocrisy
The terrible earthquake/tsunami disaster, along coastlines of the Indian Ocean, left tens of thousands dead and many times more people homeless and weakened. Front pages news stories swept the US corporate media -12,000 dead, 40,000, 60,000 and 100,000 made progressive day by day headlines. Twenty-four hour TV news provided minute by minute updates with added photos and live aerial shots of the effected regions. As the days after unfolded, personal stories of survival and loss were added to the overall coverage. Unique stories such as the 20 day old miracle baby found floating on a mattress, and the eight year old who lost both parents and later found by her uncle, were human interest features.
The US corporate media coverage of the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster, for most Americans, was shocking, and emotional. Empathic Americans, with the knowledge that a terrible natural disaster of huge significant to hundreds of thousands people had occurred, wanted to help in any way they could. Church groups held prayer sessions for the victims, and the Red Cross received an upsurge of donations.
The US corporate media coverage of the tsunami disaster exposes a huge hypocrisy in the US press. Left uncovered this past year was the massive disaster that has befell Iraqi civilians. Over 100,000 civilians have died since the beginning of the US invasion and hundreds of thousands more are homeless and weakened. In late October 2004 the British Lancet medical journal published a scientific survey of households in Iraq that calculated over 100,000 civilians, mostly women and children, have died from war related causes. The study, formulated and conducted by researchers at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at the Johns Hopkins University and the College of Medicine at Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, involved a complex process of sampling households across Iraq to compare the numbers and causes of deaths before and after the invasion in March 2003. The mortality rate in these families worked out to 5 per 1,000 before the invasion and 12.3 per 1,000 after the invasion. Extrapolate the latter figure to the 22 million population of Iraq, and you end up with 100,000 total civilian deaths. The most common cause of death was aerial bombing followed by strokes and heart attacks. Recent civilian deaths in Fallujah would undoubtedly add significantly to the total.
Views of Japan a Hundred Years Ago
thanks to Life In The Present
Neocons take complete control
George W. Bush continues to purge his administration of those who advised caution in Iraq, while Dick Cheney wrests power from a wobbly Condoleezza Rice.
The transition to President Bush's second term, filled with backstage betrayals, plots and pathologies, would make for an excellent chapter of "I, Claudius." To begin with, I have learned from numerous sources, including several people close to Brent Scowcroft, that Bush has unceremoniously and without public acknowledgment dumped Scowcroft, his father's closest associate and friend, as chairman of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. The elder Bush's national security advisor was the last remnant of traditional Republican realism permitted to exist within the administration. But no longer. At the same time, Vice President Dick Cheney has imposed his authority over Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice, in order to blackball Arnold Kanter, former undersecretary of state to James Baker, and partner in the Scowcroft Group, as a candidate for deputy secretary of state.
"Words like 'incoherent' come to mind," one top State Department official told me about Rice's effort to organize her office.
Karen Nakamura has a wonderful site with information on classic, and not so classic, cameras at Photoethnography.com. Now she has a blog...
Weekly notes on issues related to photoethnography, fieldwork in Japan, classic cameras, digital photography, and other topics related to visual anthropology. Sponsored by Photoethnography.com
thanks to RangeFinderForum.com
Japanese classic camera market shrinking
Classic mechnical cameras have always been very popular in Japan. For example, a good condition Leica M3 could usually fetch over ¥200,000. There has been a renaissance of mechanical cameras as well in the past ten years, with cameras such as the Nikon F, Nikon SP, and Leica M3 leading the way.
However, I've recently noticed that the Japanese classic camera market appears to be shrinking rapidly with prices falling quickly. Many stores are now listing "good" condition M3s for about Y90,000 which is around $900. This is about the same price as american used prices. Nikon F prices have plumettted. The only camera that appears to be resistant to falling is the Nikon SP rangefinder, which is still listing for about Y1,000,000 in black/excellent condition (about $10,000).
If falling prices aren't enough, many stores are also shrinking. Leica retailer Lemon Camera has recently closed its two stores in the Osaka area. The used camera division of Camera no Kimura in Shinjuku has retreated to a smaller store located further away from the station.
These are all bad signs. People are moving rapidly to digital and dumping their classic mechanical cameras while they still have value. Now's a good time to buy (if you just want to use the cameras), but a terrible time to sell.
Bad signs? For those of use that use film, this is great news!
what happens when you cut taxes
Steinbeck's hometown to close libraries
Mary Jean Gamble organized the John Steinbeck historical archives, supervised the Steinbeck literature collection and ranks as an authority on Salinas history and genealogy.
After nearly 23 years with the Salinas Public Library, she may know more about the "Grapes of Wrath" or "Cannery Row" than anyone else in the author's hometown.
So how would Steinbeck have reacted to the news that the cash-strapped city is closing its libraries in the spring?
thanks to DANGEROUSMETA!
Graphic Design in the Mechanical Age
thanks to The Cartoonist
Tomgram: Rebecca Solnit on Hope in the Shadows
The U.S. is in many ways the world's big problem; South America is one place that looks like it's coming up with solutions. In Chile, huge protests against the Bush administration and its policies went on for several days, better than any we've had at home since the war broke out. Maybe Chile is the center of the world; maybe the fact that the country has evolved from a terrifying military dictatorship under General Augusto Pinochet to a democracy where people can be outspoken in their passion for justice on the other side of the world matters as much as our decline. Despair there in the Pinochet era was more justified than here under Bush. And as longtime Chile observer Roger Burbach wrote after those demonstrations, "There is indeed a Chilean alternative to Bush: it is to pursue former dictators and the real terrorists by using international law and building a global international criminal system that will be based on an egalitarian economic system that empowers people at the grass roots to build their own future."
In Venezuela this August, voters reaffirmed "Washington's biggest headache," anti-Bush populist Hugo Chavez, in a US-backed referendum meant to topple him. This spring, Argentina's current president, Nestor Kirchner, backed by the country's popular rebellion against neoliberalism, defied the International Monetary Fund; Uruguayans voted against water privatization; Bolivians fought against water and natural gas privatization so fiercely they chased their neoliberal president into exile in Miami in October of 2003.
Which is not to say, forget Iraq, forget the U.S.; just, remember Uruguay, remember Chile, remember the extraordinary movements against privatization and for justice, democracy, land reform and indigenous rights in Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, and Venezuela. Not one or the other, but both. Latin America is important on the face of it because these communities are inventing a better politics of means and of ends. That continent is also important because twenty years or so ago, almost all those countries were run by violent dictators. We know how the slide into tyranny and fear takes place, but how does the slow clambering out of it unfold? That's something we are going to need to know, because Bush is halfway through an eight-year reign, not at the start of a thousand-year Reich, so far as we can tell.
thanks to Conscientious
Cindy Sheehan - Whose Son Died in Iraq - Responds to Time Magazine's Choice for "Man of the Year"
Dear Time Editors:
My son, Spc. Casey Sheehan was killed in Iraq on 04/04/04. This has been an extraordinary couple of weeks of "slaps in the faces" to us families of fallen heroes.
First, the Secretary of Defense—Donald Rumsfeld—admits to the world something that we as military families already know: The United States was not prepared for nor had any plan for the assault on Iraq. Our children were sent to fight an ill-conceived and badly prosecuted war. Our troops were sent with the wrong type of training, bad equipment, inferior protection and thin supply lines. Our children have been killed and we have made the ultimate sacrifice for this fiasco of a war, then we find out this week that Rumsfeld doesn't even have the courtesy or compassion to sign the "death letters"—as they are so callously called. Besides the upcoming holidays and the fact we miss our children desperately, what else can go wrong this holiday season?
Well let's see. Oh yes. George W. Bush awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to three more architects of the quagmire that is Iraq. Thousands of people are dead and Bremer, Tenet and Franks are given our country's highest civilian award. What's next?
Fallujah: Little Stalingrad
According to people who have been there, Fallujah is not a very big city. You can walk across it in half an hour. Yet when the history of this miserable war is written, I suspect it may loom large. Like Stalingrad, it will mark the point where the war turned against the invader.
You may recall that the U.S. Marine commanders on scene declared some weeks ago that the battle was won and Fallujah was ours. It now appears they were Panglissading through reality, in a way that seems universal among American generals. Fighting still continues in Fallujah. Far from fleeing, resistance fighters are now infiltrating back into the city. Sectors we have "pacified" spring back to life in IED attacks and ambushes. There is talk about letting a few civilians return to Fallujah's ruins, but only under conditions that would make normal civilian life impossible.
Of course, Fallujah itself was largely destroyed in the American assault. The American military did the only thing a Second Generation military can do: it put firepower on targets. 2GW armed services are one-trick ponies: they only have one act, and they perform it regardless of whether it fits the circumstances or not. In Fourth Generation war, the usual result is what has happened in Fallujah: a moral victory for the other side. As Colonel Boyd argued, and as this column has pointed out time and time again, the moral level of war is the most powerful, the physical level the least powerful.
Correspondent Patrick Cockburn, who is in Iraq, reports another result of Fallujah:
"[J]ust at the moment that the US troops were moving into Fallujah, suddenly, most of Mosul – a city in the north, which is at least five or six times the size of Fallujah – fell to the insurgents…. This is far more important in some ways that what's happened in Fallujah."
So they were in a big white tent
by Steve Gilliard
They just blew up your mess hall, you fucking nitwit. How the fuck are you going to have elections when you can't protect a fucking mess hall on a US base, surrounded by a couple of fucking battalions. This wasn't some backwater. David Petraeus ran around for a year pretending he was making progress. The 101 ABN had the occasional IED, but everyone accepted his word. Now, it sounds like stories from the Central Highlands, 1967. Daily rocket and mortar attacks.
The begining of the end?
by Steve Gilliard
Blame? The US military still thinks because that Iraqis smile in their face and let them play with kids that they like them. I would bet that suicide bomber was well liked by his American bosses.
A rocket attack is bad, but you can't control rockets. This? You are supposed to prevent this. But it's not the worst yet. A suicide bomber is not a military success. It may be a political victory, but my concern is an outright military victory where a US unit is trapped and destroyed like GM 100.
Send your son to Iraq
OK, so planning on sending your children to die in Iraq? If you think we should proceed in Iraq, send your teenagers there. After all, you're asking other people to do the same. I mean, yank them out of college and send them to the recruiter. Otherwise, you're full of shit. All those "security moms" want security to be provided by other people's kids. Well, your turn is coming. When they take the class of Duke 2006 and ship them to Iraq, see how much you support Bush then.
When people say Kerry should have run against the war, this is what he would run into, American stubborness. People think we "have" to win. Tell them we're losing, and they look at you like you're crazy. They don't get that the US is losing and there is no easy solution, like more allied troops. Kerry wasn't going to get them and Bush will be told to piss off. Who joins a losing war? You think anything short than a full corps of Egyptian and Pakistani units would do any good? And they aren't coming because the leaders of those countries are allegric to plastic explosives in their cars.
Mosul attack 'an inside job'
The deadly suicide attack on a US military base in Mosul this week was an "inside job" carried out by insurgents who are part of the Iraqi armed forces, Asia Times Online has been told.
Triumph of the Egg
thanks to wood s lot
Fashion/Glamour, Fine Art
Paul Outerbridge Jr.
The Mountain and the Mouse
Ariel Sharon’s speech at the “Herzliya Conference”, an annual gathering of Israel’s financial, political and academic aristocracy, proved again his wondrous ability to conjure up an imaginary world and divert attention away from the real one. Like every successful con-man, he knows that the audience desperately wants to believe good tidings and will be happy to ignore bad ones.
It was an optimistic message, as the bewitched commentators proclaimed. According to him, we are on our way to paradise, 2005 will be a year of tremendous progress in all fields and all our problems will be solved.
Most of the speech was devoted to his fabulous achievements since he launched, at the same conference a year ago, the “Unilateral Disengagement Plan”.
This (in my own free translation) is what he said: America is in our pocket. President Bush supports all of Sharon’s positions, including those that are diametrically opposed to Bush’s own former positions. Europe has resigned itself to him. The Great of the World are standing in line to visit us, starting with Tony Blair. Egypt and the other Arab states are cosying up to us. Our international position has improved beyond recognition. The economy is advancing by leaps and bounds, our society is flourishing. Apart from the right-wing lunatic fringe, there is no opposition left. The Labor Party is joining the government and will support all its steps. (He somehow forgot to mention Yossi Beilin’s Yahad party, which, too, has promised him an “iron bridge”.)
Sharon has achieved all this solely by talking. His words have not been accompanied, up to now, by even one single action on the ground. There is no certainty that Sharon really intends to implement the “disengagement” at all.
thanks to Aron's Israel Peace Weblog
photographic reflections on glass and china
a military out of control
Shopping for War
by Bob Herbert
You might think that the debacle in Iraq would be enough for the Pentagon, that it would not be in the mood to seek out new routes to unnecessary wars for the United States to fight. But with Donald Rumsfeld at the apex of the defense establishment, enough is never enough.
So, as detailed in an article in The Times on Dec. 19, Mr. Rumsfeld's minions are concocting yet another grandiose and potentially disastrous scheme. Pentagon officials are putting together a plan that would give the military a more prominent role in intelligence gathering operations that traditionally have been handled by the Central Intelligence Agency. They envision the military doing more spying with humans, as opposed, for example, to surveillance with satellites.
Further encroachment by the military into intelligence matters better handled by civilians is bad enough. Now hold your breath. According to the article, "Among the ideas cited by Defense Department officials is the idea of 'fighting for intelligence,' or commencing combat operations chiefly to obtain intelligence."
That is utter madness. The geniuses in Washington have already launched one bogus war, which has cost tens of thousands of lives and provoked levels of suffering that are impossible to quantify. We don't need to be contemplating new forms of warfare waged for the sole purpose of gathering intelligence.
I first saw Frederick Sommer's large format black and white pictures of chicken entrails over 30 years ago. I long ago forgot Sommer's name but not those images. Now I know his name again. He did a lot of other interesting images.
Art is not arbitrary. A fine painting is not there by accident; it is not arrived at by chance. We are sensitive to tonalities.
The smallest modification of tonality affects structure. Some things have to be rather large, but elegance is the presentation of things in their minimum dimensions
thanks to consumptive.org
Nouriel Roubini makes me look like a real optimist.
I don't see any possibility of a severe crisis for the U.S. as long as our foreign debt is denominated in dollars or consists of equities. The dollar falls steeply, interest rates rise, the U.S. has a slowdown and (likely) a recession as eight million foreign-funded jobs in construction, investment, and consumer services vanish and the workers have to find new jobs in export and import-competing industries--but the big problems all all abroad. Foreigners and their central banks take huge capital losses on their dollar-denominated assets and find the U.S. market for their exports drying up. It's our currency, but it's their problem.
Nouriel, however, sees a very, very different scenario as likely:
thanks to J-Walk Blog
Coming next from Michael Moore: Sicko, the film
He doesn't do undercover. And he is not someone who easily melts into the background.
But when an industry thinks it is about to become the latest target of the film maker Michael Moore, precautions have to be taken.
According to the Los Angeles Times, at least six of America's largest pharmaceutical firms have issued internal notices to their workforces warning them to be on the lookout for "a scruffy guy in a baseball cap" who asks too many questions.
Rotund and amiable he may seem, but this could be Moore, digging for dirt for his new movie, provisionally entitled Sicko.
thanks to Drudge Report
more bottom feeder cameras
I've been cleaning up the Meopta Flexaret III. I was a little dissapointed when I first saw it but it's grown on me. This was my three TLR order where the Minolta Autocord was trashed and I got a refund. It included a Welta Reflekta which was thrown in with the Autocord considering the very low value of the Welta but it has such a neat name! The Flexaret is pretty nice for a camera made from 1948 to 1950, with it's Art Deco styling.
This one has the Meopta Mirar 80mm f3.5 lens which is a Cooke Triplet and not a four element Tessar design as is the later Meopta Belars. I hope it's sharp enough, although one of my reasons for a TLR is for portraits and blazing sharp may not be a plus. At least I hope it's better than the Pearl River. The glass is pretty clean and cleaning up the mirror and the ground glass really improved the focusing. I tested the Prontor shutter and it is consistently 2/3 of a stop slow which I can deal with. It came with a neat lens shade and a set of filters.
It's uses a crank advance which apparently isn't too reliable. It seems fine — the film advances but we will see if advances correctly. There is always the red window.
The filters were the clincher. If nothing else I will be able to see what the different filters do for black and white for a cost of $30.50. I still need a green filter for portraits so I looked at Cupog's on eBay. He's from Slovakia and often has the Flexarets. He has an excellent reputation, too. Not only does he have a filter set but also a Flexaret Va with the better Tessar lens. I'm starting to forget the Minolta.