Weblog Archives




  Friday   December 29   2006

the military industrial complex

Ike Was Right
by Robert Scheer

The public, seeing through the tissue of Bush administration lies told to justify an invasion that never had anything to do with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 or weapons of mass destruction, now has begun a national questioning: Why are we still in Iraq? The answers posted most widely on the Internet by critics of the war suggest its continuation as a naked imperial grab for the world's second-largest petroleum source, but that is wrong.

It's not primarily about the oil; it's much more about the military-industrial complex, the label employed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower 45 years ago when he warned of the dangers of "a permanent arms industry of vast proportions."

The Cold War had provided the rationale for the first peacetime creation of a militarized economy. While the former general, Eisenhower, was well aware of the military threat posed by the Soviet Union, he chose in his farewell presidential address to the nation to warn that the war profiteers had an agenda of their own, one that was inimical to the survival of American democracy:

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."

Ponder those words as you consider the predominant presence of former Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney in the councils of this White House, and how his old company has profiteered more than any other from the disaster that is Iraq. Despite having been found to have overcharged some $60 million to the U.S. military for fuel deliveries, the formerly bankrupt Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root continues to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in lucrative contracts.


Sheer references Eishenhower's farewell address given on January 17, 1961. Here it is in its entirety. Read it and weep.

Eisenhower's Farewell Address to the Nation

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.


 10:50 PM - link


Bert Teunissen


  thanks to Conscientious

 10:04 PM - link

middle east clusterfuck

A Very Dangerous New Year

The first two or three months of 2007 represent a dangerous opening for an escalation of war in the Middle East, as George W. Bush will be tempted to "double-down" his gamble in Iraq by joining with Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair to strike at Syria and Iran, intelligence sources say.

President Bush's goal would be to transcend the bloody quagmire bogging down U.S. forces in Iraq by achieving "regime change" in Syria and by destroying nuclear facilities in Iran, two blows intended to weaken Islamic militants in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

The Israeli army and air force would carry the brunt of the new fighting albeit with the support of beefed-up U.S. ground and naval forces in the Middle East, the sources said. Bush is now considering a "surge" in U.S. troop levels in Iraq from about 140,000 to as many as 170,000. He also has dispatched a second aircraft carrier group to the coast of Iran.

So far, however, Bush has confronted stiff opposition from the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs of Staff to the plan for raising troop levels in Iraq, partly because the generals don't think it makes sense to commit more troops without a specific military mission.

But it's unclear how much the generals know about the expanded-war agenda which has been discussed sometimes in one-on-one meetings among the principals - Bush, Olmert and Blair - according to intelligence sources.


  thanks to wood s lot

The Great Game on a razor's edge

The accidental killing of Alexander Ivanov, a Kyrgyz fuel-truck driver, by Corporal Zachary Hatfield, a US serviceman, at the Manas Air Base on the outskirts of the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek in December is threatening to snowball into a first-rate crisis for the United States' regional policy in Central Asia.

Manas is the lone US military base in all of Central Asia - close to the Chinese border of Xinjiang. Curiously, this was also how the year 2006 began, as Washington was grappling with the call made by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) for a timeline for the withdrawal of the US military presence in Central Asia.

In a nationally televised address, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev called for reviewing the Manas base agreement with the US. The Kyrgyz Parliament passed a resolution that given the "negative perception of the American image among our country's population", Bakiyev should examine the continuance of the base. The Foreign Ministry made a demarche with the US that Hatfield shouldn't leave until the Kyrgyz due process of law took its course.

This is rhetoric out of Latin America. Yet Bakiyev had only come to power on the crest of the US-backed "Tulip Revolution" of March 2005. But US-funded Kyrgyz "civil society" groups are nowadays arrayed against him on account of his increasingly pronounced foreign-policy leanings toward Russia and China.

They turned rowdyish in November, and humiliated him, forcing on him a new constitution curtailing his presidential powers. That is to say, Washington must now seek Bakiyev's help while backstage it could be funding and instigating political activists bent on overthrowing him. Bakiyev's overthrow may help the US firm up its grip on Manas, but today his helping hand is useful for preserving US interests. Nothing could be more surreal. Nothing would so vividly epitomize the complexities of the geopolitics of Central Asia.


 09:59 PM - link

a zorki standard

My Zorki 1b arrived from Oleg this afternoon. This is for my Leica Standard clone project.

My tiny Leica IIIc towers above it. Oleg had already removed the rangefinder mechanism, which was broken. This made things a lot easier. The only drawback is that I didn't get the rangefinder cover which had the accessory shoe, which I needed.

I had decided, for the time being, to leave the shutter mechanism exposed. It looks stout enough.

It's kind of fun to watch things rotate and move up and down.

I took an accessory shoe of a broken Zorki 6 and, with some 5 minute epoxy, bonded it on the top of the camera. (I may live to regret this sort term solution. The bonding is reversible, but not easily.) I cut up some gaffer's tape to cover the holes. Voila! It's done. That was easy. I have a hand held rangefinder I can use but it's not really needed with the 35mm Jupiter 12.

I colored and marked some labels in feet to make it easier to focus the J12. The J12 is marked in meters, which I'm not used to, and my old eyes can't make out the distance markings on the lens in low light. I have no problem now. I've already shot a roll with the marked J12 on my Zorki 3M just be estimating distances and it worked very well.

My Zorki Standard joins my Pentax H1a (a pre-Spotmatic meterless model), with the M42 Industar-50 (I got this from Oleg, too.), as my coat pocket cameras that I have with me all the time. Both lenses are great.

Then what? The vulcanite is chipped. If I can chip it some more and remove the vulcanite mechanically, instead of chemically with paint remover, I will replace it with leather. The gaffer's tape will be replaced with leather even if I don't replace the vulcanite. I might have a shutter mechanism cover turned in aluminum like on the Leica Standard. Or not. I will see how the exposed mechanism works out. If I should ever get some money I would love to get a modern Voightlander 35mm brightline finder. And a Voightlander 25mm lens. And a 50mm Voightlander brightline finder for my collapsible Industar-50. I think this, and the Leica Standard, is one of the prettiest cameras ever. Not bad for $25. Of course I could leave it just like it is and be quite happy. But what would be the fun in that?

 09:47 PM - link

more later

 10:46 AM - link


Israel and Apartheid: In Defense of Jimmy Carter

Nothing makes liberal American supporters of Israel more uncomfortable than the comparison between the circumstances it has imposed on the Palestinians and those that the apartheid regime imposed on black South Africans. That’s precisely why it is so important and commendable that Jimmy Carter has tempted the wrath of the Israel lobby and many Jewish-American liberals-in-denial by making that comparison — as he says, it’s time Americans took a look at Palestinian life and history, and as any good person of faith or basic humanity would, treat it as of equal value. The point being that Jimmy Carter had to write this book precisely because Palestinian life and history is not accorded equal value in American discourse, far from it. And his use of the word apartheid is not only morally valid; it is essential, because it shakes the moral stupor that allows many liberals to rationalize away the daily, grinding horror being inflicted Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.


The Ludicrous Attacks on Jimmy Carter's Book
Carter's Real Sin is Cutting to the Heart of the Problem
by Norman Finkelstein

As Jimmy Carter's new book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid climbs the bestseller list, the reaction of Israel's apologists scales new peaks of lunacy. I will examine a pair of typical examples and then look at the latest weapon to silence Carter.


Banality and barefaced lies
Here in America, I stare at the land in which I live and see a landscape I do not recognise
by Robert Fisk

I call it the Alice in Wonderland effect. Each time I tour the United States, I stare through the looking glass at the faraway region in which I live and work for The Independent - the Middle East - and see a landscape which I do no recognise, a distant tragedy turned, here in America, into a farce of hypocrisy and banality and barefaced lies. Am I the Cheshire Cat? Or the Mad Hatter?

I picked up Jimmy Carter's new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid at San Francisco airport, and zipped through it in a day. It's a good, strong read by the only American president approaching sainthood. Carter lists the outrageous treatment meted out to the Palestinians, the Israeli occupation, the dispossession of Palestinian land by Israel, the brutality visited upon this denuded, subject population, and what he calls "a system of apartheid, with two peoples occupying the same land but completely separated from each other, with Israelis totally dominant and suppressing violence by depriving Palestinians of their basic human rights".

Carter quotes an Israeli as saying he is "afraid that we are moving towards a government like that of South Africa, with a dual society of Jewish rulers and Arabs subjects with few rights of citizenship...". A proposed but unacceptable modification of this choice, Carter adds, "is the taking of substantial portions of the occupied territory, with the remaining Palestinians completely surrounded by walls, fences, and Israeli checkpoints, living as prisoners within the small portion of land left to them".

Needless to say, the American press and television largely ignored the appearance of this eminently sensible book - until the usual Israeli lobbyists began to scream abuse at poor old Jimmy Carter, albeit that he was the architect of the longest lasting peace treaty between Israel and an Arab neighbour - Egypt - secured with the famous 1978 Camp David accords. The New York Times ("All the News That's Fit to Print", ho! ho!) then felt free to tell its readers that Carter had stirred "furore among Jews" with his use of the word "apartheid". The ex-president replied by mildly (and rightly) pointing out that Israeli lobbyists had produced among US editorial boards a "reluctance to criticise the Israeli government".


First Settlement in 10 Years Fuels Mideast Tension

Israel announced plans on Tuesday to construct a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank for the first time in 10 years, prompting Palestinian anger and American concern.


I Witness the Israel Lobby in Action

A few weeks back at Columbia, I watched with amazement as the former Israeli soldier Yehuda Shaul, who started the group Breaking the Silence, gave his presentation on the horrors of the occupation to about 75 students in a darkened hall. My amazement had to do with the fact that Shaul's visit was sponsored by a largely-Jewish group at Columbia—Pro-Israel Progressives—and was attended by members of the Hillel chapter at the school. Kudos to them.

After Shaul's speech, representing "my comrades and not just myself," he was bombarded by hostile questions from Israel supporters in the audience. Shaul handled them with strength and ease. (Q. "Do you know of a counterpart organization where Palestinians question their moral decisions?" A. "I really don't care—I am an Israeli who has to raise his children in Israel...")


 10:43 AM - link


Mark Klett used the copies of Muybridge's mammoth plates found here for Yosemite in Time. There are a bunch of stereo and other single photographs. 1954 of them.

Online Archive of California — Muybridge


 10:16 AM - link


It's been almost two months since Riverbend has posted. Since she lives in Baghdad, there is always concern for her safety.

End of Another Year...
by Riverbend

Here we come to the end of 2006 and I am sad. Not simply sad for the state of the country, but for the state of our humanity, as Iraqis. We've all lost some of the compassion and civility that I felt made us special four years ago. I take myself as an example. Nearly four years ago, I cringed every time I heard about the death of an American soldier. They were occupiers, but they were humans also and the knowledge that they were being killed in my country gave me sleepless nights. Never mind they crossed oceans to attack the country, I actually felt for them.

Had I not chronicled those feelings of agitation in this very blog, I wouldn't believe them now. Today, they simply represent numbers. 3000 Americans dead over nearly four years? Really? That's the number of dead Iraqis in less than a month. The Americans had families? Too bad. So do we. So do the corpses in the streets and the ones waiting for identification in the morgue.

Is the American soldier that died today in Anbar more important than a cousin I have who was shot last month on the night of his engagement to a woman he's wanted to marry for the last six years? I don't think so.

Just because Americans die in smaller numbers, it doesn't make them more significant, does it?


Just because Americans die in smaller numbers, it doesn't make them more significant, does it?Sistani foils the occupiers' plot (again)
by Helena Cobban

So now, it appears that not only has Ayatollah Sistani blocked the Bushists' plan to cut off and isolate Moqtada al-Sadr-- but also, the main Shiite party the Bushists were hoping would help them in their plan, SCIRI, has started distancing itself rapidly from it, too...

AP's Qassim Abdul-Zahra is quoting Shiite parliamentarians visiting Najaf as saying that an aide to Ayatollah Sistani today said that Sistani "does not support" a US-instigated plan to construct a new governing coalition that would exclude and isolate Sadr.


What has long been a catastrophic tragedy is also now a horrific farce

Iraq - which for years has been an unmitigated tragedy - has turned into Grand Guignol, and, true to the traditions of that genre, horror and farce combine in equal measure. No doubt we should rejoice that al-Jamiat police station in Basra has been destroyed and its prisoners taken to the relative security of a compound in which detainees are hopefully not routinely tortured. But if a sick satire on an obscure television channel included a sketch about British troops attacking a unit of the police that they established and with whom they had been theoretically working for nearly four years, the outcry would not have been limited to complaints about undermining the morale of our troops under fire. We would have been told that the whole idea was too fantastical to sustain the lampoon.

But that is what really happened on Monday, and although the sound of the exploding bar-mines should presumably be music to the ears of everyone who supports the rule of law, a number of important questions lie unanswered in the rubble of what was, until Christmas morning, the headquarters of the Basra serious crimes unit. A witty military press officer suggested that the name related to what the 400 associated police officers did rather than what they prevented. But he did not make clear how long the British authorities have known that, among their regular activities, they crushed prisoners' hands and feet, electrocuted them and burned them with cigarettes. You will recall that one of the reasons given to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq was the obligation to save the people from that sort of atrocity. It now appears that, at least in al-Jamiat police station, the arrival of what is bravely described as democracy has not made much difference.


Rather See the Whole Thing..."

"He is now caught between admitting the war was a mistake and his policy has failed, or trying to tough it out," said Joseph Cirincione, a foreign policy analyst at the Center for American Progress, a liberal Washington think tank.

"It looks like the president would rather let the whole operation go down in flames than admit he was wrong." Reuters

Bullheaded. That is the characteristic described above. Persistence and tenacity can be virtues but an unwillingness to adjust to a realization of failed planning and execution is mere stubbornness.

Iraq is not the place Mr. Bush was told that it was. The various Iraqi peoples are not the peoples he was told that they were. The Middle Eastern region is not, etc...


Top Ten Myths about Iraq 2006
by Juan Cole

1. Myth number one is that the United States "can still win" in Iraq. Of course, the truth of this statement, frequently still made by William Kristol and other Neoconservatives, depends on what "winning" means. But if it means the establishment of a stable, pro-American, anti-Iranian government with an effective and even-handed army and police force in the near or even medium term, then the assertion is frankly ridiculous. The Iraqi "government" is barely functioning. The parliament was not able to meet in December because it could not attain a quorum. Many key Iraqi politicians live most of the time in London, and much of parliament is frequently abroad. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki does not control large swathes of the country, and could give few orders that had any chance of being obeyed. The US military cannot shore up this government, even with an extra division, because the government is divided against itself. Most of the major parties trying to craft legislation are also linked to militias on the streets who are killing one another. It is over with. Iraq is in for years of heavy political violence of a sort that no foreign military force can hope to stop.

The United States cannot "win" in the sense defined above. It cannot. And the blindly arrogant assumption that it can win is calculated to get more tens of thousands of Iraqis killed and more thousands of American soldiers and Marines badly wounded or killed. Moreover, since Iraq is coming apart at the seams under the impact of our presence there, there is a real danger that we will radically destabilize it and the whole oil-producing Gulf if we try to stay longer.


What About the Iraqis?

Sometimes there is nothing more gripping than the mundane. Consider "Baghdad Burning," the on-line diary of a young Baghdad woman who goes by the pseudonym of Riverbend. Her story begins in the summer of 2003, almost five months after the American invasion, and by the end of the book version, compiled here in two volumes, she has provided us with the most comprehensive Iraqi view of the war to date. In one entry she describes her tragicomic efforts to battle boredom as she accompanies her brother and cousin on a mission to fill up the family car at the local gas station. (She gives up, she tells us, after the first six hours; the two young men will be forced to stay for another seven.) She documents shopping expeditions on which she takes note of the growing number of women who are covering themselves in hijab, or catalogs the travails involved in coping with daily power outages, such as setting up a bucket brigade to fill the family's rooftop water tank. She offers a primer on how to react when you notice that soldiers are cordoning off your street:

My aunt went into a tirade against raids, troops, and looting, then calmed down and decided that she wouldn't hide her gold tonight: her daughter and I would wear it. I stood there with my mouth hanging open—who is to stop anyone from taking it off of us? Was she crazy? No, she wasn't crazy. We would wear the necklaces, tucking them in under our shirts and the rest would go in our pockets....

We went on with our usual evening activities—well, almost. My aunt wanted to bathe, but was worried they'd suddenly decide to raid us while she was in the bathroom. In the end, she decided that she would bathe, but that E. would have to stand on the roof, diligently watching the road, and the moment an armored car or tank found itself on our street, he'd have to give the warning so my aunt would have time to dress....

Here we were, 10 p.m., no electricity and all fully clothed because no one wanted to be caught in a raid in their pajamas. I haven't worn pajamas for the last...6 months.


 03:17 AM - link

book recommendations

A while back I linked to some articles and interviews with Mark Klett. Mark was someone I kept running across and I wanted to know more. My local library had: Revealing Territory: Photographs of the Southwest, Yosemite in Time: Ice Ages, Tree Clocks, Ghost Rivers, After the Ruins, 1906 and 2006: Rephotographing the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire.

Revealing Territory:
Photographs of the Southwest

by Mark Klett

Mark first made his mark (I'm sorry, I couldn't resist.) with the Rephotographic Survey Project where he, and others, rephotographed photographs made by the photographers of the Western surveys in the 1860s and 1870s. The determined the exact location, time of year, and time of day to retake the photographs. This was done in the 1970s and produced a book that is long out of print. Revealing Territory, unfortunately, is also out of print. Mark is a large format landscape photographer with a twist. His landscapes of the American Southwest are not absent of people. Hopefully your library has one (Mine does!) or there are used ones to be had. It's worth searching out.

Yosemite in Time:
Ice Ages, Tree Clocks, Ghost Rivers

by Mark Klett, Rebecca Solnit, Byron G. Wolfe

Rebecca Solnit's River of Shadows was a biography of Eadweard Muybridge, noted for his ground breaking motion studies. It turns out that Muybridge also did a series of mammoth plate (20x24 inches) photographs of Yosemite. (No, Ansel wasn't first in Yosemite.) Rebecca contacted Mark Klett on rephotographing Muybridge's mammoth plate photos. This book is the result. It grew to also include rephotographing photographs by Saint Ansel and Big Ed Weston. They also carried their rephotography in some different directions by including the original images in current panel panorams. Wonderful juxtapostions with a modern Yosemite that actually has people. Actually, it always has, only the first ones were Indians and they didn't seem to count with the early white inhabitants. Not only that but those Indians are still around. Rebecca writes about them, too.

by Rebecca Solnit

Rephotographing Eadweard Muybridge's extraordinary 1872 mammoth-plate pictures of Yosemite was only the first reason Mark Klett, Byron Wolfe, and I went to Yosemite in the summer of 2001 and returned for four more expeditions. We were interested in Muybridge, and rephotography was a uniquely compelling way to investigate his wanderings across the steep topography of the Sierra. But we were interested in Muybridge because we were interested in time as photography freezes it, represents it, and questions its nature.


After the Ruins, 1906 and 2006:
Rephotographing the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire

by Mark Klett, Michael Lundgren, Philip L. Fradkin, Rebecca Solnit

Mark was then asked to rephotograph the San Francisco earthquake and fire. From Amazon:

How exactly has San Francisco's urban landscape changed in the hundred years since the earthquake and cataclysmic firestorms that destroyed three-quarters of the city in 1906? For this provocative rephotography project, bringing past and present into dynamic juxtaposition, renowned photographer Mark Klett has gone to the same locations pictured in forty-five compelling historic photographs taken in the days following the 1906 earthquake and fires and precisely duplicated each photograph's vantage point. The result is an elegant and powerful comparison that challenges our preconceptions about time, history, and culture. "I think the pictures ask us to become aware of the extraordinary qualities of our own distinct moment in time. But it is a realization that a particular future is not guaranteed by the flow of time in any given direction." So says Mark Klett discussing this multilayered project in an illuminating interview included in this lavishly produced volume, which accompanies an exhibition at The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Mark actually considers Yosemite in Time and After the Ruins to be numbers two and three of a trilogy. Mark was involved with another Rephotographic Survey, done between 1997 and 2000, where they rephotographed the rephotographs of the 1970s Rephotographic Survey. These are in a book titiled Third View. My library doesn't have it but I've requested that they purchase it.


 02:24 AM - link

  Thursday   December 28   2006


Why did Russia and China vote to sanction Iran?

In the aftermath of the Dec. 23 United Nations Security Council unanimous vote imposing sanctions or Iran for failing to suspend uranium enrichment (see text of resolution here), one has to wonder: why did Russia and China go along with it?

Iran's pursuit of uranium enrichment for civilian nuclear purposes is allowed by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the IAEA has found no indication that Iran has diverted any nuclear material to military purposes. While Russia may prefer for its own reasons that Iran not enrich uranium, it fully recognizes that Iran's pursuit is legal under international law. Furthermore, as Western news media constantly emphasize, Russia and China have extensive commercial ties with Iran, hence it is not in their interest to antagonize Iran. Their support of UNSC1737 doesn't seem to make sense.

The UNSC vote is ominous because it allows Bush to cut and paste from his March 17th 2003 speech on the impending Iraq attack, substituting "q" for "n":


 07:18 PM - link


There is a very interesting discussion going on over at The online photographer. It revolves around printing public domain images from the Library of Congress. Mike Johnston started out by offering archival inkjet prints, for a reasonable price, of one of photography's iconic images.

Print Offer: Dorothea Lange's "Migrant Mother"

This is not in any sense an "original print" of this iconic photograph, said to be the most widely disseminated and most recognized American image in the history of photography. Prints with actual provenance are essentially out of circulation, even to big-bucks collectors.You can buy a fiber-based print from the LoC for as little as $90, and they're not bad, but they look a little too much like what they are: prints produced in large numbers from a copy negative.


Many photographers have major problems with someone printing another photographer's negatives and making money off of them. However, these negatives were done for and paid by the US government. That means there is no copyright protection. They belong the the citizens of the US. The Library of Congress makes high quality digital files available for download. You can order prints from them but a good printer, with Photoshop to clean it up and a good pigment printer, can make a much better print and that is what Mike Johnston did. The post has some interesting comments. Today Mike posted more on this issue.

On Printmaking

There was a tiny little controversy—not even as much as a tempest in a teapot—over my decision to offer a fine print of Dorothea Lange's "Migrant Mother" two weeks ago. A few people worried it might not be legal (it is) or ethical (it is) and a few others opined that it wasn't quite the right thing to do anyway (I disgree, but hey, fine, they're entitled).

The thing is, pace Ansel Adams, a print really is a performance. Take a look at this pair of pictures. The photograph is by John C. H. Grabill, and it's entitled "Red Cloud and American Horse, the Two Most Noted Chiefs Now Living." That was in 1891. Ansel said the negative is the score; in this case, the score is a TIFF filed downloaded from the Library of Congress website, which is on the right. On the left is a small JPEG of an in-progress file I've been working on to make a print out of. It's not finished yet. It may not get finished, either: the TIFF file is a so-so scan of an old, damaged print. The print, like most photographs, was not particularly well-made in the first place, and it shows all sorts of defects: water damage, metalizing, discoloring, fading, and a maddening number of flaws—some in the original negative, some in the original print, some in the scan, some not showing up except in my contrast-enhanced rendering of the scan. I worked on and off for two days on spotting the #$%! thing. There's still some left to do.

Now, I suppose, one could ask just what the heck it is I'm doing, and what it is I'm making. It's not an original anything, certainly. A restoration? A pointless little prettied-up pictorial simulacrum of the original? Maybe you like the charms of the original in all its damaged glory—fine, but remember, you can't have the original. It's in the Library of Congress collection. All you can have is a digitized TIFF, or a reproduction print made from something like the version on the left, whether you let me do all the dirty work or you do it yourself. So would you make an inkjet print of the file on the right and hang it on your wall? I don't think I would. (I might hang the original, if I could.)

What I think I'm doing, anyhow, is this: printmaking. I like printmaking. I like it because I like to look at prints. If I spend five hours of my life re-working a nasty old TIFF from the LoC, it's because I like the picture and want to look at it more often, that's all.


Be sure and read the posts and all the comments. Very interesting. This is actually something I've been considering doing since I discovered the treasure trove that the Library of Congress has. By the way, I feel the same way as Mike.

 07:06 PM - link

saudia arabia

Battle for the soul of the Saud family's kingdom
by Helena Cobban

I think Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world named after a single family? [Subsequent correction: More precisely: SA is one of two countries currently named for their ruling families, with the other being the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. (Same general point about the importance of "family" relations to politics and governance. But thanks to Jefferson for pointing this out.) ~HC.] And now, a battle "royal" is being waged in Saudi Arabia for the ear of King Abdullah ibn Abdul-Aziz-- and indeed over the entire direction of the country's policies.

On one side: Abdullah's nephew the former ambassador to Washington Prince Bandar ibn Sultan ibn Abdul-Aziz-- and presumably also Bandar's father Crown Prince Sultan, Sultan's other sons, and perhaps also most of Sultan's full brothers from the "Sudairi" wife of the notable (very) late King Abdul-Aziz al-Saud.

On the other: another nephew, recently departed ambassador to Washington Prince Turki ibn Faisal ibn Abdul-Aziz, along with his brother the ailing Foreign Minister Prince Saud ibn Faisal, and other sons of the late King Faisal (but presumably not Faisal's daughter Haifa who is married to Bandar.)

The core issue being disputed: should the Kingdom align itself with the US and Israel, in particular, in an attempt to roll back a large perceived expansion of Syrian and Iranian power in the region (the position that, reports from several experienced observers agree, is being espoused by Bandar's group)? Or, should it continue to pursue the discreet alliance with Syria that has long been a hallmark of Saudi diplomacy while also continuing to, at the very least, pursue normal diplomatic relations with Iran (the position reportedly espoused by Turki's group)?

It is this dispute, and a lot of related skulduggery by, in particular, Bandar that apparently lies behind Turki's recent, extremely hasty departure from Washington.


 02:33 AM - link


A couple of days before Christmas I saw a rat bike. I hadn't seen a good one in a long time. Rat bikes are motorcycles that are kept running without regard to the original design or esthetics. Well, they have their own esthetic. This one looked like it had a Harley hardtail frame (no rear suspension), a Harley tank but the motor and front end were from a Japanese sport bike with upside down forks. The seat was a pillow held on with a bungee cord. the predominant color was flat black. The main thing about rat bikes is that very little money is spent on them. They can be scary looking but they aren't dull.

Rat Bike Zone

Rat Bikes Are No-Nonsense.
Motorcycles? Sure - they use less fuel than cars, and motorcycles are easier to maneuver, park etc. But, deep down, the True Secret is: Motorcycles Are Fun. That's it! That's why we ride them, all the rest is just so much rationalizing. And Ratbikes are the ultimate distilled evolution of motorcycling: No Bullsh*t involved. Just do the minimum to keep them healthy and Ride. Let your bike wear it's visual history with pride. No time consuming cleaning, washing, polishing, adding shiny parts that do nothing. None of that, forget about it! Embrace The Pure and Essential Essence of Riding - Ride A Ratbike!


It was funny seeing one because I've been thinking about rat bikes. Actually, I've been thinking about applying the rat bike esthetic to my Zorki 1 that should arrive any day now. It has a broken rangefinder and I plan on making it into a camera much like the Leica Standard. It would be a Zorki Standard. I had been thinking about removing the rangefinder, filling in holes, painting it, making a housing around the shutter mechanism, and putting on new leather. It would look quite nice but wouldn't take any better pictures than if I covered up the holes in the top plate with black gaffer's tape and left the shutter mechanism exposed and I would be taking pictures a lot sooner. For no extra money. It'll be a rat cam. Stay tuned.

 02:30 AM - link


A U.S. military 'at its breaking point' considers foreign recruits

The armed forces, already struggling to meet recruiting goals, are considering expanding the number of noncitizens in the ranks, including disputed proposals to open recruiting stations overseas and put more immigrants on a faster track to U.S. citizenship if they volunteer, according to Pentagon officials.

Foreign citizens' serving in the U.S. military is a highly charged issue, which could expose the Pentagon to criticism that it is essentially using mercenaries to defend the country. Other analysts voice concern that a large contingent of noncitizens under arms could jeopardize national security or reflect badly on Americans' willingness to serve in uniform.


  thanks to Huffington Post

This is so wrong. Americans vote for a war that they can't be bothered to fight so they hire non-Americans to fight for them. Talk about a failing empire.

 02:03 AM - link




I'm sure there are easier ways to do panos but this is a pretty nice solution for you metal workers out there. Very nice.

  thanks to consumptive.org

 01:58 AM - link

global climate change

Warmer winters change Washington foliage

Fifteen years of warm winter weather is beginning to change the Washington area's landscape — with Southern species like crape myrtles having an easier time and northern types feeling less welcome, according to findings by the National Arbor Day Foundation.

The foundation has revised its map of "hardiness zones" — with each of the nine zones showing a range of average annual low temperatures that help serve as a guide for gardeners and others.

One big change was that the entire Washington area was reclassified in the same zone as parts of Texas and North Carolina. In 1990, according to the U.S.
Department of Agriculture, the region sat on the border of the northern and southern zones.


  thanks to Huffington Post

Dire Warnings from China's First Climate Change Report

Temperatures in China will rise significantly in coming decades and water shortages will worsen, state media has reported, citing the government's first national assessment of global climate change.

"Greenhouse gases released due to human activity are leading to ever more serious problems in terms of climate change," the Ministry of Science and Technology said in a statement.

"Global climate change has an impact on the nation's ability to develop further," said the ministry, one of 12 government departments that prepared the report.

In just over a decade, global warming will start to be felt in the world's most populous country, and it will get warmer yet over the next two or three generations.


 01:42 AM - link


Robert van der Hilst


  thanks to Luminous-Lint

 01:37 AM - link

  Sunday   December 24   2006

a-waffling we will go

We had family and friends over this afternoon for Christmas. My mom, brothers, sister, and myriad nephews and nieces get together at noon on Christmas day for a brunch and gift exchange. My kids have always spent Christmas eve with their mom. Trying to see my kids Christmas morning before going over to see my family means geting up way too early so, last year Zoe came up with having the kids over late afternoon on Christmas eve. It worked out great last year so everyone came over around 2 to leave lots of time to be together before they went to their mom's. This year was without Jenny and William. William is in Baghdad and Jenny is staying home, which is Fort Carson, CO. We missed them. Zoe and I were up late wrapping packages and cleaning. I had to make an emergency run this morning to get more wrapping paper. All was finished on time.

My son Robby, his partner Hannah, my daughter Katie, her son Mike, her boyfriend Colby, and our good friends Kim and Doug all arrived for our traditional Christmas waffles. (Actually, this is the first year of the tradition. Traditions have to start sometime.)

Zoe took the first two pictures and also reminded me that there is a Christmas carol about waffles.

The Waffle Song

Here we come a-waffling
Among the leaves so green,
Here we come a-wand'ring
So fair to be seen.
Love and joy come to you,
And to you your waffle, too,
And God bless you, and send you
A Happy New Year,
And God send you a Happy New Year.

Here is a link to the rest of the words: The Waffle Song. They misspell waffle, though.

We then started opening presents.

Finishing up the presents

We gave Robby a little laser light show. It's nice to have kids and friends that are easily amused. Kim was laying on the floor watching it. A good time was had by all. Doug and Kim left to visit their landlord, Katie and Robby, with entourage, went to see their mom. Zoe has crashed and I'm making bread for tomorrow. Here are a couple of Christmas stories from Joe Bageant.

Childhood in an English children's home

Dear Joe,

I have been reading your web site for a number of months and have really enjoyed reading work by an intelligent American. Forgive me if I sound patronising, but from my side of the Atlantic it often feels like all Americans are Bush. I leave the door wide open for you to attack my very own poodle leader Tony Blair!

am writing to you because I wanted to tell you about my childhood almost a half-century ago in the late fifties and early sixties. I had the great good fortune to be brought up in a small children's home in Hertfordshire, England. The first three years of my life were, apparently, coloured by deep poverty and neglect and when my father was finally imprisoned for grand larceny (lovely quaint offence, don't you think?) in Wormwood Scrubs at Her Majesty's pleasure, and my mother showing not the slightest interest in having me join her and my other illegitimate siblings, the decision was taken by the London County Council to take me into its "care".

The social workers decided that it was very important for them to move me out of London and also out of my father's violent reach, or perhaps it was because they thought a little girl shouldn't be left with a lone father. I was to go to Boxwood, a rather lovely red brick former shooting lodge owned by Mr & Mrs White.

When I arrived in 1958, I remember being given a bag of sweets by my accompanying social worker, "to share with your new friends". I was so happy because I don't think I had previously ever been given a whole bag of sweets in my life. Mrs White was known as "Ma" and she completely ignored me, as "my new friends" descended not so much on me as on my bag of sweets! Ma walked away and left me to it. I don't think my "friends" had ever had a whole bag of sweets either, since I believe I only managed to save one sweet from the bag.

That memory is probably my earliest memory, but I know from that moment until I was 14 I never knew fear again. Ma and Pa always ignored new children. They believed that kids are usually scared of unknown situations, so they would wait until each child trusted them and the child would approach the adult.


Prince of a Different Peace
by Joe Bageant

In an ancient rural county in West Virginia on Christmas morning, a bent old man with a face like gentle twisted wildwood will raise the American flag in the frost. Then he will go back indoors, sit down quietly amid the smells of cooking, light his pipe and dream.

My Uncle Nelson raises the flag every morning at the secluded nursing home in the hills of Morgan County, West Virginia. If anyone in this world should have that right, it is he. Because Uncle Nelson, whom we called Nels, never left Morgan County in his life. Not even once.

You see, when he was born a deaf mute over 80 years ago on that lonesome Blue Ridge Mountain farm, there were not handicapped programs available as there are today.

So, my grandparents kept him at home in the belief that was the safest, best path for Nelson's happiness. He grew up splitting wood, gardening, watching the turning of three-quarters of a century of Christmases with a purity of heart I've never seen in another soul. Limiting as their decision may sound today, it was apparently the right one. Because for more than two decades after they were gone, he lived a free, independent and rich life on that farm.


Tomorrow we go over to my brother's to celebrate Christmas with the rest of my famly. A good time will be had by all. We will miss my daughter Jenny and her kids Robyn and Evan but they will be together in Colorado. But Jenny's husband William is in Baghdad. We love you and miss you, William. We will be having waffles next Christmas eve. You get the first Christmas waffle.

 10:19 PM - link