Weblog Archives




  Saturday   February 5   2005


Allawi faces defeat as Iraqi cleric's team leads the polls

The coalition of Iyad Allawi, the Iraqi interim Prime Minister appointed by the Americans, is heading for election defeat at the hands of a list backed by the country's senior Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, partial results released yesterday indicate.


  thanks to Antiwar.com

Guerrillas Kill 29, Incl. 3 Marines
Sistani List Looks set to Win Big
by Juan Cole

John Burns and Dexter Filkin of the NYT report that initial voting returns now leaking out from Baghdad and some southern, Shiite provinces, suggest that the United Iraqi Alliance, the coalition of Shiite religious parties blessed by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, is getting 72 percent of the vote. It won't get that on a nation-wide basis, since it won't have done well in the areas north and west of the capital. But it certainly will form the next government. Allawi's list is likely to end up with less than 40 seats in the 275-seat parliament.


 11:06 PM - link

art action figures

Parastone Mouseion Collection


  thanks to Coudal Partners

 10:57 PM - link

Why Zionism today is the real enemy of the Jews

Zionism is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people and the state of Israel is its political expression. Israel used to be a symbol of freedom and a source of pride for the Jews of the Diaspora. Israel's mistreatment of the Palestinians, however, has turned it into a liability and a moral burden for the liberal segment of the Jewish community. Some Jews, especially on the left, would go even further by linking Israel's behavior to the upsurge of the new anti-Semitism throughout the world.

Israel's illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories since 1967 is the underlying problem. Occupation transformed the Zionist movement from a legitimate national liberation movement for the Jews into a colonial power and an oppressor of the Palestinians.

By Zionism today I mean the ideological, ultra-nationalist settlers and their supporters in the Likud-led government. These settlers are a tiny minority but they maintain a stranglehold over the Israeli political system. They represent the unacceptable face of Zionism. Zionism does not equal racism, but many of these hard-line settlers and their leaders are blatant racists. Their extremism and their excesses have led some people to start questioning not just the Zionist colonial project beyond the 1967 borders but also the legitimacy of the state of Israel within those borders. And it is these settlers who also endanger the safety and well-being of Jews everywhere.


  thanks to Aron's Israel Peace Weblog

 10:51 PM - link


Yann Arthus-Bertrand


  thanks to The Cartoonist

 10:48 PM - link


The Democratic Party is about to get a new leader with a spine.

A year later, Dean fits leadership role

HOWARD DEAN is about to become chairman of the Democratic National Committee this month because he says convincingly he wants to be build a stronger national party, not try to lead the upcoming fights with President Bush over Social Security or the war in Iraq, or to enforce ideological orthodoxy.

That means that Dean understands the difference between the role he is about to assume in national politics and the roles played by congressional officials like the Democrats' two minority leaders - Representative Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Harry Reid of Nevada.

It also means that his successful candidacy underlines an important distinction that will become more apparent as the next presidential campaign nears.


  thanks to DANGEROUSMETA!

How the weasels were routed

Earth to Jim, the election was fixed, it's just that you didn't fix it. Four men in a room couldn't fix this, unless they planned to raise money on their own. Let's not be coy about this: Howard Dean can raise millions with an e-mail. No one else could. If they had stuck Tim Roemer in there, the party would have been defunded. That internet money isn't free money from the gulliable. They have their demands as well, and that means a party which fights and stops trying to appease people who want to make us irrelevant. The greatest failure of the Dems is that lack of fighting spirit. We've conceded so much ground to he GOP that the retreat has to stop, and Howard Dean is the place to start. The GOP should hate the DNC chairman, they should see him as a major pain in the ass, not someone who sits quietly and begs. They think the Dems made a mistake with Dean. Well, a lot of people thought Grant was a useless drunk in 1863. They didn't think that at Appomattox Court House.


 10:45 PM - link


Kevin Sisemore


  thanks to Conscientious

 10:35 PM - link


free speech zone


  thanks to daily KOS

The CEA Forecasts a *Big* Stock Market Crash

For the past several years U.S. stock prices have averaged something like 60 times dividends--a very high multiple compared to the normal 25-30 or so found in U.S. experience. There are three theories as to what is going on: (i) the equity premium has fallen substantially, and so returns on stocks will average significantly less than the 6.5% per year of the past; (ii) economic growth is about to accelerate, and be noticeably faster than standard models suggest; and (iii) the stock market is about to crash.

The fact that economists are forced to choose from among these three options--for there is no fourth way out--has interesting implications for Council of Economic Advisors, "Three Questions About Social Security," February 4, 2005. That memo denies that the equity premium has fallen. It denies that future growth will be fast. And so we have the CEA forecasting a stock market crash.

The forecast is implicit. But it is very real. With a bounded price-earnings ratio and a bounded share of profits in GDP, stock market capital gains over the long run are equal on average to earnings growth, and the earnings growth on a stock index averages one annual percentage point less than real GDP growth.


 10:31 PM - link

rock art

rock art


  thanks to Marja-Leena Rathje

 10:27 PM - link

end times

No Tomorrow

One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the Oval Office and in Congress. For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington....

Theology asserts propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues hold stoutly to a worldview despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality. When ideology and theology couple, their offspring are not always bad but they are always blind. And there is the danger: voters and politicians alike, oblivious to the facts.

Remember James Watt, President Ronald Reagan's first secretary of the interior? My favorite online environmental journal, the ever-engaging Grist, reminded us recently of how James Watt told the U.S. Congress that protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. In public testimony he said, "after the last tree is felled, Christ will come back."

Beltway elites snickered. The press corps didn't know what he was talking about. But James Watt was serious. So were his compatriots out across the country. They are the people who believe the Bible is literally true - one-third of the American electorate, if a recent Gallup poll is accurate. In this past election several million good and decent citizens went to the polls believing in the rapture index.

That's right - the rapture index. Google it and you will find that the best-selling books in America today are the 12 volumes of the "Left Behind" series written by the Christian fundamentalist and religious-right warrior Timothy LaHaye. These true believers subscribe to a fantastical theology concocted in the 19th century by a couple of immigrant preachers who took disparate passages from the Bible and wove them into a narrative that has captivated the imagination of millions of Americans.

So what does this mean for public policy and the environment? Go to Grist to read a remarkable work of reporting by the journalist Glenn Scherer - "The Road to Environmental Apocalypse." Read it and you will see how millions of Christian fundamentalists may believe that environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but actually welcomed - even hastened - as a sign of the coming apocalypse.


  thanks to Madelane Coale

 10:16 PM - link


Laura McPhee Photography


  thanks to Coudal Partners

 10:12 PM - link

november and blogs

Noblesse oblige in the blogosphere

Perhaps Bertrand Russell can explain November:

The intolerance of eccentricity that I am speaking of is strongest in the stupidest children, who tend to regard the peculiar tastes of clever children as affording just grounds for persecution. When the authorities also are stupid (which may occur), they will tend to side with the stupid children, and acquiesce, at least tacitly, in rough treatment for those who show intelligence. In that case, a society will be produced in which all the important positions will be won by those whose stupidity enables them to please the herd.

Such a society will have corrupt politicians, ignorant schoolmasters, policemen who cannot catch criminals, and judges who condemn innocent men. Such a society, even if it inhabits a country full of natural wealth, will in the end grow poor from inability to choose able men for important posts. Such a society, though it may prate of Liberty and even erect statues in her honor, will be a persecuting society, which will punish the very men whose ideas might save it from disaster.


 10:08 PM - link


Common Eye


  thanks to Conscientious

 10:05 PM - link

global climate change

Global Warming: Scientists Reveal Timetable

A detailed timetable of the destruction and distress that global warming is likely to cause the world was unveiled yesterday.

It pulls together for the first time the projected impacts on ecosystems and wildlife, food production, water resources and economies across the earth, for given rises in global temperature expected during the next hundred years.

The resultant picture gives the most wide-ranging impression yet of the bewildering array of destructive effects that climate change is expected to exert on different regions, from the mountains of Europe and the rainforests of the Amazon to the coral reefs of the tropics.


 10:00 PM - link

alien invasions


So it was with genuine anticipation that I opened the book, curious to know what the people at Little Golden Books believed small children who stick Beeferoni up their noses could absorb about the Inscrutable One.

You cannot imagine my horror, however, when my eyes met pages filled with saccharine, pastel artwork depicting cold-eyed androids that were clearly not of our realm. In a Beautiful Mind moment of schizophrenic clarity I saw the book for what it was: not a gentle introduction to life's most profound curiosity, but a primer for the parasitic offspring of an invisible invasion!


  thanks to Everlasting Blort

 09:57 PM - link

remember enron?

Tapes Reveal Enron's Power Plant Rigging
Transcripts detail how electricity traders conspired to shut down smooth-running generating facilities during the energy crisis.

Enron Corp. traders conspired to shut down a healthy power plant as blackouts rolled across California in early 2001, according to documents released Thursday.

In the brash language that has become a familiar coda to the electricity crunch, Enron traders and others were captured discussing in e-mail messages and telephone conversations how they could profit from the state's problems.

In one transcript released Thursday, an Enron trader identified only as Bill called it "a good plan" to shut down a small Las Vegas power plant on Jan. 17, 2001, under the guise of "checkin' a switch on the steam turbine." Enron employees also suggested that their plans to exploit Western energy markets predated the meltdown of 2000 and 2001, which brought record electricity prices and emergency blackouts.


  thanks to Political Animal

Capitalism at its finest. The bastards!

 09:30 PM - link


Still trying to get going with panoramics. This is the best result so far. I used the recently acquired Flexaret Va and Panavue Image Assembler. The Flexaret uses 12 exposure rolls. A 360 degree panaorama in 12 exposures means rotating the camera 30 degrees for each panel. The lens angle of view is around 36 degrees. Not as much overlap as I would like but I really want to be able to do a 360. This is a 7 panel image, which is about 210 degrees. I looked closely and I can only see one problem area and it's a pretty minor area. This is most encouraging. More tests coming... Click on the link for a large version.

Our back yard

 08:35 PM - link

  Thursday   February 3   2005


This is a very interesting, and unsettling, piece about how our government acts towards the world. And they wonder why they hate us.

McNeill Interview with Noam Chomsky

I mean, serious planners are well aware of this. [Former National Security Advisor under President Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew] Brzezinski recently pointed out that victory and control in Iraq would give the US what he called critical leverage over Asian and European economies, so the US will have its hand on the spigot. I mean it already does to a substantial extent but this will be much greater. In fact, back in the 1940s the Middle East was described as a stupendous source of strategic power, the most strategically important area in the world, and the US remained an oil exporter into the 1970s but still pursued the same policies. You have got to control that massive resource, it is a source of world control. If the US or UK were to shift to renewable energy it would still stick to the same policies. It doesn't really need...I mean it does use the oil but it has other sources and the oil goes on the market anyway so it doesn't matter. But control over it does matter. And the profit from it also matters, and having bases there that allow you to organize the region in your own interests, of course that matters. So this is nothing like Vietnam. It is totally different. In Vietnam the US basically won its major goals.


Steve Bell


  thanks to Information Clearing House

What They’re Not Telling You About the “Election”
by Dahr Jamail

The day of blood and elections has passed, and the blaring trumpets of corporate media hailing it as a successful show of “democracy” have subsided to a dull roar.

After a day which left 50 people dead in Iraq, both civilians and soldiers, the death toll was hailed as a figure that was “lower than expected.” Thus…acceptable, by Bush Administration/corporate media standards. After all, only of them was an American, the rest were Iraqis civilians and British soldiers.


This election will change the world. But not in the way the Americans imagined
by Robert Fisk

Shias are about to inherit Iraq, but the election tomorrow that will bring them to power is creating deep fears among the Arab kings and dictators of the Middle East that their Sunni leadership is under threat.

America has insisted on these elections - which will produce a largely Shia parliament representing Iraq's largest religious community - because they are supposed to provide an exit strategy for embattled US forces, but they seem set to change the geopolitical map of the Arab world in ways the Americans could never have imagined. For George Bush and Tony Blair this is the law of unintended consequences writ large.


"Free" Iraqis Still Waiting for the Wind of Change
"The Only Decent Food We Get is at Funerals"
by Robert Fisk

More and more, we feel this vast, cosmic distance between real Iraq and the fantasy Iraq of Washington and London. I watch Blair talking nervously, his body language defensive, his eyes spiritual, telling us what a stupendous success the election has been. But he chose to keep the extent of the extent of the RAF Hercules tragedy secret from his people when he spoke on Sunday night. So why the surprise when the Americans and British still keep secret the number of Iraqis who are killed here every day?

Twice in the morning, there are huge explosions which roar over Baghdad. I hear a gun battle near Sadr City. But the local Iraqi radio carries no explanation of this.

At mid-morning, two police cars overtake me, sirens squealing, Kalashnikovs waving out the windows at motorists, the cops mouthing oaths at anyone who blocks their way. No reason again. They are the real world, hooded and unidentifiable. Fast and stirring dust.

Like the wind.


What I Heard about Iraq

In 1992, a year after the first Gulf War, I heard Dick Cheney, then secretary of defense, say that the US had been wise not to invade Baghdad and get ‘bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq’. I heard him say: ‘The question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam worth? And the answer is: not that damned many.’

In February 2001, I heard Colin Powell say that Saddam Hussein ‘has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbours.’

That same month, I heard that a CIA report stated: ‘We do not have any direct evidence that Iraq has used the period since Desert Fox to reconstitute its weapons of mass destruction programmes.’


  thanks to DANGEROUSMETA!

Closing in on Vietnam

It is $80 billion and halfway home to Vietnam.

The fresh $80 billion just requested by President Bush pushes the war costs of Iraq and the amazing shrinking asterisk of Afghanistan (Osama been where?) past the $300 billion mark.

The estimated cost of Vietnam in current dollars was $584 billion, according to the Congressional Research Office. Iraq has already cost more in current dollars than either the Civil War or World War I. It is about to pass the Korean War. We are on pace to pass Vietnam in two or three years.


Marine recruiting down

For the first time in nearly a decade, the Marine Corps in January missed its monthly recruiting goal, in what military officials said was the latest troubling indicator of the Iraq war's impact on the armed services.


 02:08 PM - link


I linked to some Michael Wolf pictures a little while ago but here is his site and WOW! Check it all out.

Michael Wolf Photography


  thanks to Coudal Partners

 01:44 PM - link

Time to break the mold
By Gideon Levy

One thing has been proved: The omnipotent IDF and Shin Bet security service cannot do the job; only the Palestinians can do it. Countless punitive and retaliatory operations, liquidation and preemption, demolition and consciousness-burning did not stop Palestinian terrorism. The only thing that did was a clear and sharp decision by their leadership to hold fire. This signals the collapse of the oldest and most rooted conception that has accompanied the war on terror from its inception. The basic assumptions that "force alone" works and that "the terrorist infrastructures have to be destroyed" are revealed to be hollow cliches as it turns out that only political means are effective in the war on terror.


The Stalemate
When a Draw is a Victory for the Weak

All this points to a deadlock. The Israeli army knows that it cannot vanquish the Palestinians by military means. The Palestinians know that they cannot throw off the occupation by military means.

For the Palestinians, a draw is a huge achievement. The inequality between the two sides is immense. If one takes into account only the strength of arms and the size of forces, without considering the moral factors, the Israeli advantage is astronomical. In such a situation, a draw is a victory for the weak.

We should admit this without hesitation. It is not wise to present the Palestinian side as if it were beaten and broken. Not only because this is untrue, but also because it is dangerous. The boasts of the army propagandists, as if Abu Mazen has folded up under Israeli pressure, are at best stupid, and at worst they are intended to demean and provoke the Palestinians to new violence (or to acts of madness). The Egyptian victory at the beginning of the 1973 war set the scene for Anwar Sadat to make peace with Israel. The Palestinian pride in their steadfastness can make it more acceptable for them to keep the cease-fire.

Now, both sides are exhausted. Palestinian suffering is manifest. Israeli suffering is less obvious, but, nonetheless, real. The costs of the occupation amount to tens of billions, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have sunk beneath the poverty line, the social services are collapsing, foreign investment has not recovered, the level of tourism is pitiful. And, more importantly: during the intifada, 4010 Palestinians and 1050 Israelis have lost their lives.


My Interview with the Shin Bet

Recently the Israeli authorities have begun searching for and arresting experienced ISM and international activists. My arrest and attempted deportation is another example of this. Evidently the Israeli authorities find nonviolent resistance and active support of Palestinian rights to be threatening. Despite claims to the contrary, they have adopted an unstated goal of breaking down and eliminating the ISM and other groups using nonviolence to support Palestinian rights.


 01:31 PM - link

commie posters

Old Russian Propaganda Posters


  thanks to Coudal Partners

 01:13 PM - link

big brother

Abandoning Liberty; Gaining Insecurity

Should Americans have to give up the Bill of Rights in order to be "safe" from terrorists? Actually, it doesn't matter what Americans think. The trade has already been made--and without any input from the people. The "democracy" that America is exporting is in fact a Homeland Security State with more surveillance powers than Saddam Hussein.

Americans no longer have any privacy from government. You may not be able to find out about your daughter's abortion or your son's college grades, but neither you nor your children have any secret whatsoever from your government. Banks, airlines, libraries, credit card companies, medical doctors and health care organizations, employers, Internet providers, any and everyone must turn over your private information at government demand.

Government demand no longer means a court approved warrant. A myriad of intelligence, security, military, and police agencies can on their own volition mine your personal data and feed it into data banks. Your democratic government does not have to tell you. Your bank, library, etc., are forbidden to tell you.

The government can monitor you as you use your computer, noting the web sites that you visit and reading the emails that you send and receive. Americans have privacy rights only against intrusions by private individuals and private organizations.


 01:05 PM - link


Pekka Turunen


  thanks to Conscientious

 01:02 PM - link

global climate change

Antarctic ice sheet is an 'awakened giant'

The massive west Antarctic ice sheet, previously assumed to be stable, is starting to collapse, scientists warned on Tuesday.

Antarctica contains more than 90% of the world's ice, and the loss of any significant part of it would cause a substantial sea level rise. Scientists used to view Antarctica as a "slumbering giant", said Chris Rapley, from the British Antarctic Survey, but now he sees it as an "awakened giant".

Rapley presented measurements of the ice sheet at a major climate conference in Exeter, UK. Glaciers on the Antarctic peninsula, which protrudes from the continent to the north, were already known to be retreating. But the data Rapley presented show that glaciers within the much larger west Antarctic Ice sheet are also starting to disappear.

If the ice on the peninsula melts entirely it will raise global sea levels by 0.3 metres, and the west Antarctic ice sheet contains enough water to contribute metres more. The last report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, published in 2001, said that collapse of this ice sheet was unlikely during the 21st century. That may now need to be reassessed, Rapley warned.


  thanks to Politics in the Zeros

 12:57 PM - link

auction lost and light measuring unit found

I've been looking for a large camera bag to carry the 5x7 Burke and James and have been looking at the CourierWare bag and camera insert. I lost an eBay auction last night for a large CourierWare bag because I had to be away from the computer at the end of the auction and it went for $20.50. I started the bidding at $9.99 and my high bid was $20. Mine was the only bid 20 minutes before the end when I had to leave. It was a Super Deluxe bag that sells new for $115. Rats! I think I actually used a harsher term.

It was a mixed loss because after I had made my bid I discovered sources for other courier/messenger bags. Check out the modern messenger bag - a short (and probably somewhat flawed) history. It includes a bag manufacturers page. They can carry a lot of camera gear and they are also handy if you ride bicycles.

But my dissapointment at losing the bag (there are many others) was overcome by scoring a clip-on light meter at Rangefinder Forum. There was a Trading Equipment post that I responded to *very* quickly and my flying fingers on the keyboard secured an old Sekonic L-136 Clip-on Light Meter for three rolls of 120 XP2 ($7.17 from B&H), which I happened to have in my refrigerator.

I asked how accurate it was an this was the reply:
"I checked it against my Sekonic L-158, and it was real close. It also has an adjustment screw on the underside. That way you can zero it. It also has exposure compensation abilities. +-2 And a high and low range. The shoe can be moved to different positions to clear camera parts. Pretty sharp looking little meter. I threw in an extra 675 zinc-air battery."

All the clip-on meters that I know about are selenium cell which are not very good in low light levels. This meter is a battery powered meter and will work well at lower light levels and will look quite nice on my FED 2 and Flexarets. Score! Truly a sweet meter. As a reference, Cameraquest has a battery powered clip-on meter, the only one I know of, for $159.

Blaine told me about some darkroom gear at Senior Thrift that wasn't out on the floor so I went down and picked up a Gray-Lab timer for $18 and a couple of safe lights for $3.50 each. The gathering of darkroom equipment has started.

 12:33 PM - link

  Sunday   January 30   2005

another commie camera arrives

My Flexaret Va (made in Czechoslovakia between 1958 and 1961) arrived yesterday from Cupog. Lovely. It's loaded with XP2 for some tests.

I shot a lot of black and white in the 1970s but never used filters. My Flexaret III had a partial set and a lens hood. I picked up another partial set from Cupog and here they all are with my new Va. Both sets of filters cost about the same as two new filters and I got a camera (IIIa) and a lens hood, too.

It's real handy that the Va has a table of filter factors on the back. It will make learning filters for black and white a lot easier. The camera, filters, and lens hood certainly do not have the build quality of some of the German and Japanese TLRs but the lens is supposed to be excellent and that is what takes the pictures. I'm looking forward to shooting this. I plan on using this primarily for portraits and panoramics. And when I feel square.

 10:30 AM - link