Weblog Archives




  Wednesday   February 4   2004

global climate change

ak at doctype also sent me this link. This is not a sound bite kind of site. It's a group of scientists (not the faith-based Bush kind of scientists) that have a lot to say about global climate change. There are links to several hours of talks and a 117 page book: "Fossil Fuel CO2 and the Angry Climate Beast". There is some deep shit coming if things go on as they are. Educate yourself. It's critical.

Science Roundtable on Climate Change


On September 23, 2003, a group of earth scientists expert in the study of climate change convened at Minnesota Public Radio headquarters in downtown St. Paul to address the possibility of abrupt climate change and the options for managing its impact through control of CO2 emissions. The group also looked at the steps needed to motivate public institutions to implement conservation measures. Joining the roundtable were independent documentary producers, and journalists from National Public Radio and Minnesota Public Radio.


 12:47 PM - link

bicycle shops

ak at doctype sent me to the first link which sent me to the second.

One on One Bicycle Studio

Revolution Cycles

Both these sites are for businesses that sell bicycles. They are really interested in selling something much more subversive.

From One on One...


Bikes Are Freedom
Get Some



From Revolution Cycles...


Revolution Cycles is more than just a bicycle repair shop. We're a family of bike fanatics that see a truly grand place in the world for the bicycle and it's rider.

We're striving to promote not bicycle consumerism but bicycle culture.


These sites represent some of the reasons that have me excited about riding again. I kind of forgot for awhile.

 12:33 PM - link


Jeffrey Frankel (and Others, Including Me) Lose It and Find Ourselves Off in the Alpha Quadrant


And every single senior Republican economic policy appointee comes out of a look back at the past three years looking very badly. X fails to organize meetings so that the long-run budgetary consequences of short-run policy moves are properly considered. Y pirouettes in midair and transforms from a deficit hawk into a deficit dove so as not to offend White House Media Affairs. Z lowballs the interest rate effects of higher deficits--and manages not to talk about the savings and investment effects at all. W mutters in the privacy of his own office about the importance of maintaining a surplus--but doesn't have the nerve to say "Boo!" to a goose (let alone to George W. Bush) once he steps outside his office door. V remains silent while the clown show that is the Bush economic policy process--a process he cannot view with equanimity--rolls forward. U cuts his own agency staff off at the knees and shows no interest in the very important and interesting work on the long-run fiscal options that they have done. Outsiders like R who assured me back in the fall of 2000 that Bush understood and would tackle the long-run problems of funding entitlements and the social-insurance state manage not to emit a public peep of complaint. Q talks about how much the president wants to reduce the deficit without daring to put his own position on the line within the administration by demanding that words like "deficits are bad" be accompanied by an actual plan to reduce the deficit. Every one. Every single last one.

And it is worth pointing out that it's not just the economic policymakers. The same holds true of all the other executive-branch Republican political appointees: defense, international affairs, science policy, social policy. Is there anybody (with the exceptions of John Donaldson and Mark McClellan) who has emerged or well emerge from this administration like a reputation? And it's all the Republican senators and members of congress as well. People who used to have some claim to respect--paging Pete Domenici, anyone?--have simply rolled over and played dead.

"Is George W. Bush the worst president ever?" is the question that George Akerlof asks. A fish rots from the head, yes. But this fish is rotted all the way down to the tail.


Another Bogus Budget


Well, whaddya know. Even as the Republican leadership strong-armed the Medicare drug bill through Congress, the administration was sitting on estimates showing that the plan would cost at least $134 billion more than it let on. But let's not make too much of the incident. After all, it's not as if our leaders make a habit of faking their budget projections. Oh, wait.

The budget released yesterday, which projects a $521 billion deficit for fiscal 2004, is no more credible than its predecessors. When the administration promises much lower deficits in future years, remember this: two years ago it projected a fiscal 2004 deficit of only $14 billion. What's new this time is that the administration has decided to pay lip service to conservative complaints about runaway spending.


 12:16 PM - link


David Stark Wilson


  thanks to Conscientious

 12:09 PM - link

iraq — vietnam on internet time

United Nations will Decide on Election Mechanism for Iraq


reported of Bush's meeting with Kofi Annan Tuesday that, Kofi said, "The Iraqi Governing Council ... indicated that they would accept the conclusions of the U.N. team, so we do have a chance to help break the impasse which exists at the moment and move forward."
But Mr. Annan said the president pledged to support whatever agreement the United Nations can achieve for elections of a transitional Iraqi government, which the United States wants to take full control on July 1. "We are going to help them work out this problem, and hopefully, they will come to some consensus and agreement as to how to move forward," Mr. Annan said.

Say what? W. has pledged essentially to turn decision-making about the shape of Iraqi elections over to . . . the United Nations?

Dick Cheney and Richard Perle must be sitting at some bar on K street, haggard, and throwing back shots. "A year ago, the UN was history," they commiserate. "How did this happen?" (A tip of the hat to blogger Swopa, who was prescient about all this.

When Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani initially slammed the Nov. 15 agreement between the US and its appointed Interim Governing Council, which called for elections based on Coalition-appointed provincial councils, he left himself an out. He said that he insisted that direct elections be held unless the United Nations sent a commission to Iraq to investigate the situation thoroughly and then reported back that general elections simply could not be held. Sistani and his aides later made it clear that they expected the UN commission to recommend something much closer to democratic elections than envisaged by the Americans, in any case.

Paul Bremer's first instinct was to defy Sistani this time. He had the IGC take a vote, which rejected the Sistani plan. When some IGC members brought up the possibility of the UN commission, they reported that the Americans were "deeply offended" that the Iraqis now wanted to bring in the UN. One of the entire points of the Iraq war from the point of view of Cheney and Co. was to demonstrate the uselessness of the UN and authorize American multilateralism. Sistani and the IGC now seemed to be placing that achievement of the US Right in doubt.


 12:05 PM - link

trailer art



  thanks to One on One Bicycle Studio

 11:53 AM - link

Right of Return: Two-State solution again sells Palestinians short


Why is it self-evident that our international legal rights should give way to cement dominance of Jews over Palestinians in Israel? Why is this assumption unquestioned - especially in the U.S., which fought a civil war for the ideal of equal rights under the law? How do claims that are 2,000 years old trump our rights when we have modern deeds in hand? Why should Palestinians pay for a European holocaust? Why do U.S. officials - including our two Democratic senators in this multicultural state - unconditionally support Israel with billions in tax dollars while ignoring glaring contradictions between Jewish exclusivism and truly democratic values? Would Americans tolerate any group placing its religious symbol on the national flag, appropriating the state for some citizens rather than all and pursuing policies systematically giving privileges to its members over others?

Palestinians are prepared to sacrifice for a just and therefore lasting peace, but not to simply formalize our dispossession and exile or our institutionalized subordination in Israel.

Isn't it time to explore a way for Jews to co-inhabit Israel/Palestine without excluding, dominating and oppressing Palestinians? The past cannot be undone - but the future can be. We, Israelis and Palestinians together, should be seeking to form a society founded on tolerance and mutual respect for each other's humanity, a country that would truly be the "light unto nations" that Israel always aspired to be. When title to our home is restored - and the rights of its current occupants have been fully respected - I hope one day to stand in front of it with my family and welcome neighbors and visitors of all faiths and backgrounds, as my grandparents did before 1948.


Photostory: The Wall in Abu Dis, 25 January 2004


As the building of Israel's Apartheid Wall continues, Palestinians living in its path are being cut off from their agricultural lands, their schools and hospitals, and sometimes even from their next door neighbours. In Abu Dis, on the edge of Jerusalem, the Wall has been built right in the center of Palestinian neighbourhoods with no consideration for the residents, creating what one piece of graffiti on the Wall dubbed, "Ghetto Abu Dis". The following photos of the Wall's passage through Abu Dis were taken by the Handala Cultatal Center on 25 January 2004.



Reply to Yglesias on Palestine


Matthew Yglesias, a philosopher who runs a very interesting web site, cited my piece on 2/2/04 about Muqtada al-Sadr's objecting vehemently (and, characteristically, vulgarly) to Iraq selling electricity to Israel. Matt then quoted my last sentence "Most Shiite clerics view Israel negatively because of its treatment of the Palestinians, fellow Muslims" and objected to it.

Yglesias asks, "How reasonable is that, really?" And goes on to ask several more questions.

I am going to reply to his points, even though quite frankly I consider it a waste of my time to do so, not because Matt doesn't deserve it (he is bright and thoughtful and dialoguing with him would always be worthwhile) but because the Arab-Israeli stuff is a Black Hole that sucks up time and energy with no obvious positive result, ever. I once compared having anything to do with it to "tangling with the Church of Scientology while living through someone else's nasty divorce." The problem is that everything one says about it is dissected to death until it doesn't mean anything anymore. And, most people in public life have frankly been intimidated into just being quiet about it (including every single sitting member of the US Congress, not one of which ever criticizes any action of the Sharon government (and survives the next election); this is an incredible degree of political intimidation).


 11:45 AM - link

web design

I don't talk much about web design even though that is what I do for a living. But I have been hanging out at a couple of sites that have brought to focus what is really important in designing a great website. It's something that Jeneane Sessum, at Allied refers to as voice. Voice is kind of a squishy term. How do you measure voice? Or is it one of those things that if you see it you know it? Well, I saw it. I've come across two sites, from a "design" point of view, could be classified as amateur efforts. The navigation can be pretty funky, the layout is visually challenged, and the typography would cause a graphics designer to run screaming from the room. Yet I have been spending hours and hours at both of them.

There are two things that keep me coming back — content and voice. We do read how important content is but not much about voice. Both these sites are commercial sites — one is selling bicycles and the other is selling cameras. Both are created and run by individuals. Individuals that are *very* knowledgable about their subject, but the distinctive thing about them is that they are both *very* passionate about what they are doing. And they transfer that passion through their voice. It's very clear that every page was put together by a person that just isn't just interested in selling you a bicycle or a camera but want's to turn you on to something much bigger. Now, if you aren't interested in bicycles or range finder cameras, your mileage may vary. Wander around these sites. But be careful, you may get sucked in.

The first one is put together by Sheldon "Enough?" Brown at Harris cyclery. On his page he states that he wants people to think that he is: independent minded, original, a person with a sense of humor, and somebody who doesn't take himself too seriously. Maybe these are some of the things that contribute to that squishy thing called voice. (Disclosure: Sheldon's web site has convinced me to try fixed gear riding.)

Harris cyclery


They other one is...

Stephen Gandy's CameraQuest


(Disclosure: Stephen is causing me to get the money togther to buy several of his fine products.)

For contrast, here is a little example of the not-voice. It's a very progressive web design house...

37 signals

Here are some quotes, from their site, on how to they make compelling sites.


We can redesign your site
We offer a range of visual interface design services for web sites, intra/extranets, and web-based applications. Our focus on usability will make your customers happy.

We can analyze usability
Our experts (7+ years of experience each) will perform a heuristic analysis of your site's usability and overall customer experience, giving you realistic recommendations and solutions.

We can educate your team
Our popular usability workshops, custom on-site corporate training presentations, and insightful research reports provide you with powerful knowledge you can put to use today.



Not a mention of voice. No mention of passion. Voice — it's hard to quantify and I don't think it can be taught. It happens so seldom that sometimes we are taken aback by it. I wish there was more of it.

 11:29 AM - link


U.S., China Are on Collision Course Over Oil


While the U.S. is absorbed in fighting the war on terror, the seeds of what could be the next world war are quietly germinating. With 1.3 billion people and an economy growing at a phenomenal 8% to 10% a year, China, already a net oil importer, is growing increasingly dependent on imported oil. Last year, its auto sales grew 70% and its oil imports were up 30% from the previous year, making it the world's No. 2 petroleum user after the U.S. By 2030, China is expected to have more cars than the U.S. and import as much oil as the U.S. does today.

Dependence on oil means dependence on the Middle East, home to 70% of the world's proven reserves. With 60% of its oil imports coming from the Middle East, China can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines of the tumultuous region. Its way of forming a footprint in the Middle East has been through providing technology and components for weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems to unsavory regimes in places such as Iran, Iraq and Syria. A report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a group created by Congress to monitor U.S.-China relations, warned in 2002 that "this arms trafficking to these regimes presents an increasing threat to U.S. security interests in the Middle East." The report concludes: "A key driver in China's relations with terrorist-sponsoring governments is its dependence on foreign oil to fuel its economic development. This dependency is expected to increase over the coming decade."

Optimists claim that the world oil market will be able to accommodate China and that, instead of conflict, China's thirst could create mutual desire for stability in the Middle East and thus actually bring Beijing closer to the U.S.

History shows the opposite: Superpowers find it difficult to coexist while competing over scarce resources. The main bone of contention probably will revolve around China's relations with Saudi Arabia, home to a quarter of the world's oil. The Chinese have already supplied the Saudis with intermediate-range ballistic missiles, and they played a major role 20 years ago in a Saudi-financed Pakistani nuclear effort that may one day leave a nuclear weapon in the hands of a Taliban-type regime in Riyadh or Islamabad.


 02:33 AM - link


Joerg at Conscientious has links to a photographer I was not aware of — Werner Bischof. Truly a master photojournalist.

Town of Hiroshima. A victim of
the Hiroshima atomic explosion, Japan, 1951

Werner Bischof


Werner Bischof

 02:28 AM - link

remember korea?

To Understand North Korea, Toss Out Old Assumptions


Former chief weapons inspector David Kay's criticism of U.S. intelligence on Iraq underscores the limits of our ability to collect and interpret such data. It should also caution neocons in Washington not to be smug about the depth of U.S. understanding of North Korea.

In early 1998, when I began my North Korea assignment at the State Department, I thought I knew all one needed to know about the country. As a Korean American whose mother was born in what is now North Korea and whose father was born in South Korea, I was a super-hawk on North Korea: The country was totalitarian, evil and weak; the U.S. was strong and, with enough pressure, would put this tiny nation in its place. However, I soon realized I had been viewing North Korea and its people as caricatures and that things were not so black and white.

The key to any confrontation is to know your adversary. As the U.S. contemplates its next steps toward Pyongyang, Bush administration officials should be mindful of the myths that they seem to harbor:


 02:01 AM - link


Les Demoiselles d'Avignon
Conserving a Modern Masterpiece


This Web site is devoted to the conservation of Pablo Picasso's painting Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907), a pivotal work in the development of modern art and in The Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection.


  thanks to Coudal Partners

 01:45 AM - link

  Monday   February 2   2004

global climate change

This is a must read.

The Ice Age Cometh


While global warming is being officially ignored by the political arm of the Bush administration, and Al Gore's recent conference on the topic during one of the coldest days of recent years provided joke fodder for conservative talk show hosts, the citizens of Europe and the Pentagon are taking a new look at the greatest danger such climate change could produce for the northern hemisphere – a sudden shift into a new ice age. What they're finding is not at all comforting.

In quick summary, if enough cold, fresh water coming from the melting polar ice caps and the melting glaciers of Greenland flows into the northern Atlantic, it will shut down the Gulf Stream, which keeps Europe and northeastern North America warm. The worst-case scenario would be a full-blown return of the last ice age – in a period as short as 2 to 3 years from its onset – and the mid-case scenario would be a period like the "little ice age" of a few centuries ago that disrupted worldwide weather patterns leading to extremely harsh winters, droughts, worldwide desertification, crop failures, and wars around the world.


 04:53 AM - link


Friday I posted about singlespeed bikes. I haven't made it down to my bicycle shop yet but I have been googlin'. And I've been reading and rereading Articles about Fixed Gear Cycling and Equipment by Sheldon "Spin" Brown. I definitely want a fixed-gear bike. There some great pictures of these. Here is one of the first ones I found...

Fixed-gear bikes (also fixies or fixes) are so clean. Most don't have a rear brake — you apply back pressure on the pedals and the front brakes do most of the work anyway. The above bike was from a site showing examples of people's fixies...

fixed gear gallery
an incredible collection of fixed gear bicycles from around the world


This fixed gear bike started life as a Sears Free Spirit three speed.
I found it abandoned in a ditch, brought it home and gave it a new life as "Queen Anne's Revenge" (named after Blackbeard's flag ship). The lugged frame may or may not be a Fuji from the early 1970's, and has been stripped of all mounting points and tabs, with the dropouts reshaped both front and rear. The 27" x 1" wheels and tires fit nicely in a frame made for 26 inch wheels, and the frame is satin black- with a skull and cross bones on the head tube. The rear hub is a high-flange Campy track, while the front hub is a Japanese Sunshine duplicate. The 69 inch gear is just about pefect for all of my riding (Thank you, Sheldon Brown!) The rear brake mounting hole has been plugged, but a short-throw Diacompe 500 alloy side pull graces the front fork. This bike tips the scales at something just over 22 pounds, and is an absolute joy to ride. The big surprise for me was how easily and quickly a fixed gear bike climbs hills. Just amazing.
For anyone cruising through the photos in this glalery, here's proof that you can ride a fixed gear bike with upright bars and platform pedals and still have a blast. Now go build one for yourself!




The site has pictures of 652 fixies. I've looked at them all. They range from exotic track bikes to some really strange things. They all have one thing in common. One thing — get it? No? Well, that's OK. Then I ran across some really hard core fixed-gear riders. These guys ride track bikes sans brakes in downtown New York City.

No Brakes -- or, Zen on Wheels



A track bike, no brakes, riding on the street -- you're one with everything.
--Paul Allemby, Graphic Artist

It doesn't coast. That's the thing about it.
--Kent Peterson, from Sheldon Brown's "Fixed Gear Testimonial" web page

No brakes? You'll kill yourself!
--Concerned bystander, 5th Avenue, Manhattan

What They Are

What's so special about a track bike? Bicycle messengers in large cities like them for being simple and ultra low-maintenance. Kevin Bacon rode one all over San Francisco in the movie "Quicksilver." They are used in Olympic velodrome events and the exciting Japanese "keirin" racing, which involves mild jostling and the country's wildest betting. In the early 1900's, track biking was the most popular sport in the U.S.

What really makes these bikes special however, is that they have a direct-drive system. The single rear sprocket is fixed to the back axle and doesn't spin freely. This means that the pedals never coast. Whenever the wheels are moving, the pedals are moving, whether forwards or backwards. It is a fixed-gear system with no slippage and no coasting. The the chain is connected to the large chainring on the front and the small cog on the back. The small cog is fixed to the bicycle's back wheel. Track bikes are also special because they are minimalistic. Originally designed for velodrome racing on glassy smooth banked oval tracks, these bikes are very very light -- they've got no cables or levers or shifters. No extra apparatus at all. Track bikes look like sleek racing bikes, with very thin tires and curvy "drop"-style handlebars. And there are no brakes and no derailleurs! The acceleration, speed, deceleration and stopping are all managed by controlling the spin of th e pedals. Experienced racers can pedal at the rate of 3 or 4 revolutions per second.



This site has lots of links and some videos of riders riding backwards...

Old Skool Track

If you make the pedals go backwards the bike goes backwards. This site has videos of riders doing backwards 360s in New York traffic! Do check out the videos. I rode a track bike once. Back in my days of club racing (road) in the early 70s. I looked for some time for a track bike to put a front brake on, for the road, but never had the money. I got out of racing and spent many years commuting on bikes. Since 1998 I've worked at home and haven't ridden, as demonstrated by certain physical attributes that just seemed to appear around my waist. I called my daughter Katie and she brought up one of my ex-commuters tonight. She had ridden it for awhile, but now had another bike. It's a Nishiki Olympic from the 70s. My plan is to turn it into a fixie with a flip-flop double fixed hub.

Now I really need to get down to my local bicycle shop.

 04:40 AM - link

weapons of mass destruction

WMD: How it went wrong
Since David Kay's bombshell last week, intelligence experts are revealing the truth behind Saddam's threat to the West.


A year ago it seemed so clear. Saddam Hussein's regime, said the politicians and the spies, posed a clear and present danger. It was described most comprehensively on 5 February, 2003, by US Secretary of State Colin Powell in a presentation to the Security Council that laid out the threat in 29 sub-headings.

Twelve months have passed, and now the same intelligence officials who produced the stories that scared the world to war are admitting that they got it very badly wrong. And not only do they admit that the intelligence was seriously flawed, they admit, too, that they have known there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq since the first week of May, a month after Baghdad fell, a secret that has finally lurched into the open

In a series of interviews, senior former US intelligence officers, members of the weapons community and former senior US policy advisers have told The Observer that it was well known in intelligence and senior administration circles by the first week of May that it was extremely unlikely that any weapons would be found.


Kay Questions U.S. Pre-Emptive Strike Doctrine


The former top U.S. weapons hunter in Iraq, David Kay, said on Sunday flaws in U.S. intelligence in prewar Iraq brought into question President Bush's policy of pre-emptive strike against countries deemed a threat to the United States.

Bush based his decision to invade Iraq on what he called a "grave and gathering danger" posed by Iraq's biological and chemical weapons and warranted assertion of his post-Sept. 11, 2001, doctrine of pre-emptive military action to guard U.S. security in the face of new terror threats.

"If you cannot rely on good, accurate intelligence that is credible to the American people and to others abroad, you certainly can't have a policy of preemption," Kay said on Fox News Sunday.


  thanks to The Agonist

We Had Good Intel—The U.N.'s
The inspectors were 'HUMINT.' They were far more accurate, it turned out, than billions of dollars of satellites


"We were all wrong," says weapons inspector David Kay. Actually, no. There was one group whose prewar estimates of Iraqi nuclear, chemical and biological capabilities have turned out to be devastatingly close to reality—the U.N. inspectors. Consider what Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the U.N. nuclear agency, told the Security Council on March 7, 2003, after his team had done 247 inspections at 147 sites: "no evidence of resumed nuclear activities ... nor any indication of nuclear-related prohibited activities at any related sites." He went on to say that evidence suggested Iraq had not imported uranium since 1990 and no longer had a centrifuge program. He concluded that Iraq's nuclear capabilities had been effectively dismantled by 1997 and its dual-use industrial plants had decayed. All these claims appear to be dead-on, based on Kay's findings.


  thanks to The Agonist

Pop Quiz


Who said this:

Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion ... and you allow him to make war at pleasure ... If today he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada to prevent the Canadians from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, “I see no probability of the Canadians invading us”; but he will say to you, “Be silent: I see it, if you don’t."

A.) Howard Dean
B.) Noam Chomsky
C.) Gore Vidal
D.) Michael Moore
E.) None of the above


Baghdad Is Bush's Blue Dress


Now, can we talk of impeachment? The rueful admission by former chief U.S. weapons inspector David Kay that Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction or the means to create them at the time of the U.S. invasion confirms the fact that the Bush administration is complicit in arguably the greatest scandal in U.S. history. It's only because the Republicans control both houses of Congress that we hear no calls for a broad-ranging investigation of the type that led to the discovery of Monica Lewinsky's infamous blue dress.


 03:23 AM - link

bicycle art

Bicycle Paintings & Custom Bicycle Portraits


I found this site while searching for fixed-gear links. It's amazing. I love looking at bicycles. There is a simple and elegant mechanicalness about them. There are also very personal elements about bicycles such as color or type of bicycle. Looking at bicycles also brings back the very physical feelings of riding a bike. These paintings capture all of that. These bicycles are in repose, but that is just temporary. They are just waiting to be ridden.

Taliah also does something I've never seen before. She post pictures of works in progress so you can see the piece develop. This is so cool!

January 14, 2004

The bars have me thinking of an infinity sign.

I might add that Taliah also has the distinction of being the 2000 NY State Champion, Women's Match Sprint - Track. No mean feat.

 02:55 AM - link

All of today's Israel/Palestine links are from Aron Trauring's Aron's Israel Peace Weblog. His site is much more than links. He has written about his experiences in the IDF in the first Intifada. You can start reading them with this three part piece: The City of the Dead - Introduction, The City of the Dead - Part 1, and The City of the Dead - Part 2.

This is one of the best pieces on Israel/Palestine that I have read in some time. Please read it now.

Too late for two states?
More than three years into the intifada, the Palestinian situation seems worse than ever: the weekly death toll, the poverty and now the wall. So has the uprising failed? And how can suicide bombings ever be justified? Seumas Milne had exclusive access to leaders across the political spectrum - from president Yasser Arafat in his devastated compound to the underground strategists of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. He found an unprecedented willingness to compromise - but a growing belief that the wall will scupper the best ever hope for peace


The Islamist group is often regarded as the most extreme of the Palestinian armed resistance organisations, notorious for suicide attacks against Israeli targets, both civilian and military. But in his manner at least, Azzam turns out to be the image of bookish moderation, as he reflects on the failure of the Palestinian armed factions to agree a new ceasefire - or hudna. "We want to minimise the suffering of our people, avoid internal Palestinian conflict and demonstrate that we are not an obstacle to achieving a settlement." But, referring to the breakdown of last summer's two-month unilateral Palestinian ceasefire after repeated Israeli killings of activists, he adds: "Israel violated and abandoned it. This time we asked whether there were any guarantees on offer from the other side and were told no. So it was very difficult to expect us to agree a hudna for free. We know the balance of power is not in our favour, but we will not allow that to force us to surrender."

When challenged to justify attacks on civilians, Azzam seems almost apologetic, citing a string of Israeli massacres and killings of civilians - from the slaughter of the villagers of Deir Yassin in 1948 to the shooting of 12-year-old Muhammad Durrah in his father's arms at the beginning of the current al-Aqsa intifada in 2000. "We are never happy about the death of any innocent human being, regardless of their religion, but Israel initiated these killings. Palestinians were pushed into such operations in an effort to stop Israel killing our civilians. A year ago, Islamic Jihad proposed that both sides avoid civilian targets - and that was recently repeated by Hamas - but the Israelis have not responded positively."

The Hamas leader is more outspoken than Azzam - a natural politician, restless and sharp-tongued. He pulls up his left trouser leg to reveal a livid red scar running up his calf to his thigh, where his artery was severed in last June's attack. Rantissi was being driven through Gaza by his son and a bodyguard when their Jeep was attacked by two Israeli helicopter gunships with a barrage of missiles. The bodyguard was killed, along with a woman and her eight-year-old daughter passing by. His son was left paralysed in every limb and 25 bystanders were wounded. But Rantissi staggered free, as he puts it, "through a sea of blood" - convinced that his son's precaution of not stopping at junctions and red lights ("the police always wave us through") had saved his life.

Behind the scenes, Palestinian leaders have for months been trying to draw Hamas into agreeing a common national platform. But Rantissi - who has spent more than two years in Palestinian jails, as well as seven in Israeli prisons, for his role as a Hamas leader - warns that his organisation will be offering no more comprehensive ceasefires without a full Israel withdrawal. "We are resisting because we are under occupation," he declares, "not because we are being hit by Apaches or F16s. The enemy must withdraw or they will continue to bleed. But if the occupation ends, there will be no need for resistance."


Too late for two states? Part II


It was Ariel Sharon's walkabout at the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem that triggered the intifada, but - coming in the wake of the failure of the Camp David talks - it was in one sense a revolt against the Oslo process, which had delivered so little to Palestinians in their daily lives, while Israel forged ahead with settlement expansion and land confiscations. Since then, more than three times as many Palestinians have been killed as Israelis (2,648 to 842) - five times as many when it comes to children. As the former US senator George Mitchell reported in 2001, there was no plan by the Palestinian leadership to launch a "campaign of violence" - even if some tried to ride the tiger of popular anger - and the bloodshed was unleashed by Israeli troops repeatedly using live ammunition against stone-throwing demonstrators. In the first 10 days after Sharon's visit, 74 Palestinians were killed as against five Israelis. Even then, the character of the intifada as a mass popular movement against occupation continued and it was not until the early months of 2001 that the suicide attacks began.

The experience of Zakaria Zubeidi is typical. In a secure house in Jenin refugee camp, the 27-year-old local leader of the Fatah-linked al-Aqsa Brigades, recalls how he and other activists demonstrated at the main Israeli checkpoint outside the West Bank town during the first weeks of the intifada. "Almost every day, one of the demonstrators was shot dead. Eventually, we gave up throwing stones and in the same place where the Palestinians had been killed, we killed an Israeli soldier." Zubeidi, who still believes the Oslo agreement was a "good step", helped run a "peace theatre" with Israelis in the 1990s. Now he is a hunted man whose mother was shot dead at her window by an Israeli sniper last year and whose brother was killed in the 2002 siege of Jenin. As we talk, he and his bodyguards leap to their feet every time a car accelerates down the alleyway outside - raids by Israeli hit squads are commonplace. Although the Brigades were drawn into launching suicide attacks in Israel at the height of the conflict, Zubeidi insists they are "against operations inside Israel unless the Israelis exceed certain limits, such as assassinating our leaders. We are here to defend our people and fighting without a political vision goes nowhere - our work should improve the position of the negotiators."

But even though the Palestinian bombing campaign in Israel has subsided, the Israeli military onslaught on the occupied territories has pressed relentlessly on. While no civilians were killed in Israel in the three months from early October until at least the middle of this month, both Palestinian civilians and fighters are shot dead in attacks every week - in Nablus alone, 19 were killed in a three-week period over the new year. Given the scale of Palestinian suffering, there are those - including some around the leadership of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority - who now regard the intifada as a mistake that gave Israel an alibi to seize more land. One senior Palestinian security official argues: "The militarisation of the intifada led us down a blind alley. Fatah allowed itself to be drawn into a competition with Hamas and by doing so legitimised violence in Palestinian society and alienated public opinion in the west and Israel. And the violence is out of our control." Hanan Ashrawi, the prominent Palestinian legislator and academic, is guarded, but more critical. "The intifada has been very costly and has distorted the nature of our struggle," she says, leaving towns and villages in the hands of "armed gangs and militias".


We Refuse to Take Part in the Occupation
The following is the text of a speech by Yonathan Shapira, a former Blackhawk pilot and signer of the Pilots’ letter refusing to serve in the Territories. The speech was given at a symposium in the Department of Politics and Government at Ben Gurion University on January 18, 2003. Shapira and Prof. Asa Kasher from Tel Aviv University presented opposing views


I am Yonathan, one of the initiators and signatories of the pilot’s letter. Until some weeks ago I was a pilot and active leader in a squadron of “Blackhawk” helicopters in the air force. On the eve of last Yom Kippur I was called for an interview with the commander of the air force, wherein he told me that I was dismissed and that I was not a pilot anymore in the Israeli air force and all this because I announced that I will not agree to take part in obeying illegal and immoral orders


The aftermath of the Nablus invasion
by Gideon Levy


Nablus, West Bank - The knafeh here is still the best in the world, living up to its reputation. In the early evening, Abu Salha's pastry shop, by the side of the road that climbs to the Refidiya neighborhood, is deserted, the shelves almost empty. A salesperson wearing transparent gloves slices the traditional sweet oriental hot cheese delicacy, the taste of which is the only thing that remains unchanged in this beaten and battered city.

From one visit to the next, one sees Nablus declining relentlessly into its death throes. This is not a village that's dying behind the concrete obstacles and earth ramparts that cut it off from the world; this is a city with an ancient history, which until just recently was a vibrant, bustling metropolis that boasted an intense commercial life, a large major university, hospitals, a captivating urban landscape and age-old objects of beauty.

An hour's drive from Tel Aviv, a great Palestinian city is dying, and another of the occupation's goals is being realized. It's not only that the splendid ancient homes have been laid waste, not only that such a large number of the city's residents, many of them innocent, have been killed; the entire society is flickering and will soon be extinguished. A similar fate has visited Jenin, Qalqilyah, Tul Karm and Bethlehem, but in Nablus the impact of the death throes is more powerful because of the city's importance as a district capital and because of its beauty. A cloud of dust and sand envelops the city, which gives the impression of being a combat zone during a cease-fire; its roads are scarred, its electricity poles and telephone booths are shattered, government buildings have been reduced to heaps of rubble. But the true wound lies far deeper than the physical destruction: an economic, cultural and social fabric that is disintegrating and a generation that has known only a life of emptiness and despair. More than any other place in the territories, a state of anarchy is palpably close here.


 02:12 AM - link


simon a smith - photography


  thanks to Conscientious

 01:48 AM - link

iraq — vietnam on internet time

This is not good on so many different levels.

They came to celebrate. Minutes later, 70 were dead and Kurdistan was in turmoil
Suicide bombs at party offices drag region into heart of insurgency


At the offices of the region's two main political groups, the Kurdistan Democratic party and its rival the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, celebrations were also in full swing.

But the seasonal greetings being exchanged between hundreds of party faithful and other well-wishers were about to be shattered.

Shortly before 11am two men, apparently wearing Kurdish dress, suicide belts wrapped around their waist, slipped past the normally tight security at the party buildings to deliver their own Eid message. In explosions that appeared to be carefully synchronised, they killed at least 70 people and injured more than 200 .


Juan Cole has some comments...

At least 56 dead, over 200 Wounded in Irbil Blasts


When I think "suicide bomber" and "Kurdistan", I think Ansar al-Islam, the small, shadowy Kurdish radical group, some members of which have ties to al-Qaeda. They desire to punish the two major Kurdish parties for supporting the US presence in Iraq, and to take revenge for the destruction of their headquarters and their marginalization in Kurdistan.

Close observers of Kurdistan were speculating that the incident, which killed a number of important Kurdish politicians, would bring the two main parties closer together; and might stiffen their insistence on greater autonomy within Iraq.


 01:39 AM - link


Bobby Neel Adams Photographer


  thanks to cipango

 01:24 AM - link