Tuesday, April 29, 2008

US involvement in nuclear proliferation

This K. Subrahmanyam article in the Indian Express (via Ram Narayan)

About A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani "Nukes 'R Us":

According to the former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers (a disclosure he repeated during his visit to the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses two months ago), Khan had been allowed to go free by the Dutch authorities, after his arrest twice in 1975 and 1986, on the intervention of the CIA.

The same article on why Iran decided to go nuclear:

Iranian efforts to acquire a clandestine nuclear-weapon capability go back to 1987. At that time, Iran was fighting the last year of its eight-year war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Saddam’s aggression was supported by the United States and many Arab countries. The Muslim Ummah, the world over, did not condemn Saddam’s aggression and his use of chemical weapons on Iran, or the hundreds of missiles he sent raining on that country. The Indian government of that day did not worry about Shia feelings. When Iran took the issue of the use of weapons of mass destruction to the United Nations, the US and European countries sat on their hands and took no action against Saddam. At that stage, Iran approached Khan to help it with the uranium enrichment programme.

Monday, April 28, 2008

This is your brain on TV news

Turn off the TV "news."

Just turn it off. Turn. It. Off. If someone offered you a bowl of writhing maggots soaked in warm sweat, would you say, "Oh, why thank you for the delicious mid-day maggot treat!"

No, but one could be forgiven for thinking you might if you watch the TV news, because you do the same thing to your brain when you consume this audio-visual slop in a tin cup.

Chris in DC

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Maverick is Bull

John McCain talks a good talk, but is one of the most unprincipled and deceptive politicians around.

Here are some examples:

On Torture.

On campaign finance.

Since I had thought McCain was a genuine item until the story in the last link during the 2000 primaries, here is another telling.  

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Moon at 300 mm

The moon at 300mm (cropped).


Friday, April 25, 2008


Meant to be a record of the garden.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Millenial Realignment

The direction of American politics for the next forty years may be determined in the upcoming Presidential election.

In their type of politics, Obama is at the leading edge of the millenial generation - while Clinton and McCain are at the trailing edge of the boomers' generation. Obama, win or lose, may convert the majority of the millenial generation - the largest American generation yet - into committed Democrats.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

On Genetically Modified Crops

Via dkos:
Sunday, 20 April 2008
By Geoffrey Lean

Genetic modification actually cuts the productivity of crops, an authoritative new study shows, undermining repeated claims that a switch to the controversial technology is needed to solve the growing world food crisis.

The study - carried out over the past three years at the University of Kansas in the US grain belt - has found that GM soya produces about 10 per cent less food than its conventional equivalent, contradicting assertions by advocates of the technology that it increases yields.

Professor Barney Gordon, of the university’s department of agronomy, said he started the research - reported in the journal Better Crops - because many farmers who had changed over to the GM crop had “noticed that yields are not as high as expected even under optimal conditions”. He added: “People were asking the question ‘how come I don’t get as high a yield as I used to?’”

He grew a Monsanto GM soybean and an almost identical conventional variety in the same field. The modified crop produced only 70 bushels of grain per acre, compared with 77 bushels from the non-GM one.
This is of course, bad for solving world hunger; but is good for the future liberty of mankind.

Why the gap?

In Bob Herbert's column "Clueless in America" there is the following quote:
Mr. Golston noted that the performance of American students, when compared with their peers in other countries, tends to grow increasingly dismal as they move through the higher grades:

“In math and science, for example, our fourth graders are among the top students globally. By roughly eighth grade, they’re in the middle of the pack. And by the 12th grade, U.S. students are scoring generally near the bottom of all industrialized countries.”

What causes this gap in performance?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Re: Pravda

Read this, too (firedoglake commentary).

And this (Retd Col Lang).

And Glenn Greenwald.

These all represent the view point that the job of the media is to inform and that the government ought not to psy-ops its own citizens. There is a perspective that there is a "greater good" that is served in all of the propaganda, but finding and quantifying that "greater good" is impossible, and I'm not giving that perspective any time here.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


Thanks to David Barstow and the NYT for educating us about the United Soviet States of America: (via atrios)

Regarding TV analysts:

... To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.

The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.

Those business relationships are hardly ever disclosed to the viewers, and sometimes not even to the networks themselves. But collectively, the men on the plane and several dozen other military analysts represent more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants. The companies include defense heavyweights, but also scores of smaller companies, all part of a vast assemblage of contractors scrambling for hundreds of billions in military business generated by the administration’s war on terror. It is a furious competition, one in which inside information and easy access to senior officials are highly prized.

Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse — an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.

Friday, April 18, 2008


Not sure this link is worth keeping, but saving it here for now.

Robert Reich

Eighty percent of Americans know the nation is on the wrong track. The old politics, and the old media that feeds it, are irrelevant now.
- Robert Reich


Tom Engelhardt and William Astore write, that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, we had hoped to become "a normal country in a normal time".

But it never happened. Instead of normalcy, we remained hunkered down in Cheyenne Mountain. We continued to look fearfully out at the world, while arming ourselves to the teeth. We became wedded to the idea of bunkers and barriers, whether fortified fences along the Mexican border, imperial military bases along the peripheries of a burgeoning empire, or, on a micro scale, security gates patrolled by small armies of private guards to keep the "have nots" out of "have" communities. (To these, the ultra-rich have now added "panic rooms" in their mansions – tiny domestic Cheyenne Mountains secured by mini-steel blast doors, monitored by cameras, and stocked with provisions.) After the attacks of September 11, 2001, it was as if we had "buttoned up" and slammed shut the blast doors to Fortress America.

How did the planet's self-proclaimed "sole superpower" in its moment of triumph become such a fearful country? In our endless face-off with the Soviet Union, did we come to resemble it far more than we ever imagined? After all, instead of the USSR, it's now we who are fighting a difficult war in Afghanistan; it's now we who are deflating our currency with massive deficits for weapons of marginal utility; it's now we who put forward unilateral proposals for earth-penetrating, bunker-busting nukes; it's now we who are often seen as aggressors on the world stage.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Worst and Best at ABC

After the "shoddy, despicable" performances turned in by ABC anchors Gibson and Stephanopoulos at yesterday's Democratic Presidential debate, I wanted to remind myself that good work is done there too, e.g., Jan Crawford Greenburg, Howard L Rosenberg and Ariane de Vogue did this story on how the top folks in the Bush Administration are complicit in torture.

Given the subsequent collective inattention from the media to this story, we can safely say that these three bucked serious odds in getting their story to air.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Straight from the camera - resized only:


A crop (original of the crop is 1844 x 1229, but not sure how to get that into flickr)


EXIF doesn't tell the truth because Canon stacked extenders don't register.
300 mm f/2.8 + stacked 1.4x, 2x extenders - equivalent to 840mm f/8
Handheld, 1/60 second!!!! (this is where image stabilization comes into play). Non-enthusiasts may want to know that the old rule of thumb is that for such a focal length, I need to have a shutter speed of 1/840 seconds or faster. My upper arm was braced against my chest, but still, I'm not *that* steady.)

This is simply incredible, amazing technology!

PS: I'm thinking that just like the focal length recorded in the EXIF is no longer correct with stacked extenders, perhaps the shutter speed is also not correct. I'll try without extenders in similar light and see if a f/8 exposure really is 1/60 seconds. Since the sun is already setting, I'll have to try some other day.

Sri Ganesh!

As on a previous occasion, follow the breadcrumbs to see the EXIF data.

Sri Ganesh 2

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ron Paul's Unanswerable Question

Congressman (and former Presidential candidate) Ron Paul:
(emphasis added; and read the whole speech for his other questions)

Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank you for calling this hearing on the current state of affairs in Iraq with General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker. Reviewing the presentations by our panel, I have noted with some concern that they seem more focused on justifying a future attack on Iran than reporting on progress in Iraq. Much of the assertions about Iran in Iraq seem illogical, others seem intended to inflame the situation with little justification.

Particularly, I am concerned about claims that a new enemy in Iraq has emerged with ties to Iran. First we were told that the enemy was Saddam Hussein and his Baathist Party. Then we were told the enemy was the "dead-enders" from Saddam’s former government. Then the prime enemy became "al-Qaeda in Iraq," a prime focus of the presentation by Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus last September. Now we are told that the new enemies are mysterious "Special Groups" that are said to have spun off from al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army.

If this phenomenon of constantly emerging enemies bent on destabilizing Iraq is accurate and our presence in Iraq keeps generating new enemies, perhaps the problem is the occupation itself. If this is the case, doesn’t it make sense that our departure from Iraq may actually have a stabilizing effect?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Paid for by our tax dollars

With Tax Day coming up, it is worth remembering what our tax dollars pay for; rather, what our President gets them spent on.

Bewert at dailykos.com gives us a good start:

The remains are received clad in a white shirt, white pajama type pants, and white
undershorts. Feces covers the clothing from the waist down....There is gauze dressing on the left wrist. No other evidence of medical intervention is noted.... The right chest wall has fractures of ribs three through seven anteriorly and ribs six through twelve posteriorly. The left chest wall has fractures of ribs two through nine anteriorly and ribs seven through twelve posteriorly. There are fractures of the lateral aspect of ribs nine and ten on the left side. There is a horizontal fracture through the mid-portion of the body of the sternum."

(from the final autopsy report of an Iraqi man who died hanging by his cuffed wrists from a door frame, gagged, and beaten to death by his US interrogators.)

There is a direct line from the John Yoo memos arguing that the President has the power to ignore the US War Crimes Act and international treaty obligations like the Geneva Conventions, to the National Security Council's Principals Committee including Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Powell, Tenet that met with the President's knowledge to "choreograph" interrogations, to the result above.

There is a second line of culpability from the Congress that overwhelmingly supported the 2006 Military Commissions Act that in many cases grants retroactive immunity to US government officials for violations of the US War Crimes Act.

Fafblog's Giblets put it this way (on Inauguration Day for the Bush 2nd term)

My fellow Gibletsians! On this day in history! Now is not a time!

Today Giblets is re-coronated Lord High Emperor Giblets of Everything. Long live me! But also: long live Freedom. It is delicious and to my liking and soon Giblets will spread it throughout the world!

Can you doubt the freedom-spreadery of Giblets? Giblets has decreed Iraq to be free and now it is! Oh sure, not in the petty "liberal democracy with equal protection under the law" sense. But in the "infested with terrorists" sense it's as free as they come! Once Iraqis were tortured and killed by an evil dictator. Now they are tortured and killed by freedom! Their genitals are shocked with the electrodes of liberty. They are mowed down by the machine guns of independence!

We are not our fathers, or our fathers' fathers! These truths are self-evident! We the people!

There are good countries and there are bad countries. Good countries are free, like Pakistan and Russia and Afghanistan! Bad countries hate freedom and want to destroy it. Giblets is for turning anti-freedom countries into powerful new Freeocracies bursting with color and vitamins! Stand with Giblets and freedom shall annihilate its enemies!

Freedom is like a woman, or a well-aged cheese, or a monkey. It is available for tasting and purchasing in the lobby refreshment center. There will always be an England!

Freedom is on the march, and it is heavily armed. You cannot stop freedom! It has conquered many lands and grown drunk on the blood of those who oppose it! It will crush its enemies, see it driven before them, and hear the lamentations of the women! With Giblets to lead it, freedom will sweep over the world - no, the UNIVERSE!

Ass, gas, or grass! Three for $3.99! God bless America!

PS- from a comment on dkos:
In regard to cruelties committed in the name of a free society, some are guilty while all are responsible.
- Abraham Joshua Heschel

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Trying to raise the dead

The President admits that he approved of torture - specifically, breaking the US law on war crimes. Most everyone yawns.

Progressive bloggers are outraged, saddened, angered (example).

Don't they know they're trying to resuscitate that which is already dead?

PS: Fafblog, Jan 25, 2006.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Kipling's IF

Copied from here:


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!

--Rudyard Kipling

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Crab Apple

Made a mistake, but here it is anyway.

Crab Apple Blossom

National Lawyers Guild on Yoo


"John Yoo's complicity in establishing the policy that led to the torture of prisoners constitutes a war crime under the US War Crimes Act," said National Lawyers Guild President Marjorie Cohn.

Congress should repeal the provision of the Military Commissions Act that would give Yoo immunity from prosecution for torture committed from September 11, 2001 to December 30, 2005. John Yoo should be disbarred and he should not be retained as a professor of law at one of the country's premier law schools. John Yoo should be dismissed from Boalt Hall and tried as a war criminal.

PS: I wonder what they will say about Powell, Rice, Rumsfeld, Tenet, Cheney, Ashcroft?
From other reports on this story:
The high-level discussions about these "enhanced interrogation techniques" were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed -- down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.

Corporatizing Iraq

From this dkos diary, "Food as a weapon - the rape of Iraq", US Occupation Authority's Paul Bremer issued among other edicts, Order 81 to make Iraq a "model for Genetically Modified or GMO agribusiness." The effect?

If a large international corporation developed a seed variety resistant to a particular Iraqi pest, and an Iraqi farmer was growing another variety that did the same, it was illegal for the farmer to save his own seed. Instead, he is obliged to pay a royalty fee for using Monsanto's GMO seed.

Upon purchasing the patented seeds, farmers must sign the company's technology agreement (Technology User Agreements). This agreement allows the company to control farmers' practices and conduct property investigation. The farmer becomes the slave of the company.

Reality One is that the free market does not support GMO business. It needs government edicts and protections in order to work.

Reality Two is that the list of crimes committed by Bush and his minions is endless.

Reality Three is that Bush & co did not spring out of nowhere. People who think like them occupy high positions in government, in the courts, in the media, in business, in every walk of American life; all supporters of monarchy at home and colonialism abroad. Not in a crude and blatant way, but disguised in blather about "free markets" and "preemptive wars" and "threats to the homeland".

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


This is what I get with 280mm (70-200mm + 1.4x extender):


This is a crop from the above:


Do you think I will benefit from a supertelephoto lens?


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Sony World Photography Awards

Bee provided these links to the Sony World Photography Awards finalists. Some great shots are included in there. Take a look!


Thanks, Bee!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Three Love Stories


One is rather different from Three and Two.

PS: Here's Negative Infinity - none at all.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

America's Disgusting Media

Glenn Greenwald:

1. The media ignores what is important.

Think about it this way: if you were a high government official and watched as -- all in a couple of weeks time -- it is revealed, right out in the open, that you suspended the Fourth Amendment, authorized torture, proclaimed yourself empowered to break the law, and sent the nation's top law enforcement officer to lie blatantly about how and why the 9/11 attacks happened so that you could acquire still more unchecked spying power and get rid of lawsuits that would expose what you did, and the political press in this country basically ignored all of that and blathered on about Obama's bowling score and how he eats chocolate, wouldn't you also conclude that you could do anything you want, without limits, and know there will be no consequences? What would be the incentive to stop doing all of that?

2. Even so, it is biased.

One other point to note about all of this is that these fixations are as skewed as they are vapid. Barack Obama is an exotic elitist freak because he went to Harvard Law School and made $1 million from his book. Hillary Clinton can't possibly have any connection to the Regular Folk because her husband, who grew up dirt poor, became quite wealthy after being President. John Kerry was completely removed from the concerns of the Regular People because his second wife was rich.

By contrast, George W. Bush was a down-home, salt-of-the-earth Man of the People despite being the grandson of a U.S. Senator, the son of a President (who greatly magnified his riches in his post-presidency), and the by-product of an extremely wealthy, coddled life. Ronald Reagan was pure Americana despite spending most of his adult life as a very wealthy Hollywood actor (and converting his post-presidency into far greater riches still). And John McCain is as Regular a Guy as it gets, even though he dumped his first wife (the mother of his three children) after she was disfigured and disabled by a near-fatal car accident so that he could marry his much younger, much prettier, and extremely wealthy heiress-mistress, whose family riches have fueled his political career and sustained a life of luxury for almost three decades (that's how "McCain's Sedona ranch" -- i.e., his compound -- came to be).

It would be bad enough if our political press were obsessed with such trivialities. The fact that they do so in such a Republican-leader-worshiping manner makes it only that much worse, particularly given that it's this dynamic, more than anything else, that has determined the outcome of our elections.

--- As for me, the network channels - ABC, NBC, CBS long departed from my viewing list; CNN, MSNBC, Fox, and maybe I've forgotten some soon followed. Times, Newsweek and the like were casualties long ago. Currently only The New York Times enters my house.


In a generally positive review in the NYT of the Honda Civic Si, "Practicality in a Spicy Sauce", Christopher Jensen writes:
Motor Trend magazine tested the Si sedan and found that it went from zero to 60 m.p.h. in 6.3 seconds, compared with 8 seconds for a regular Civic with a five-speed manual transmission. This may not seem like much difference, but consider: over a few years this could add up to several minutes of saved time.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Human Rights in Bangladesh

John Pilger writes about the world's shameful silence in the face of the unjust incarceration of Moudud Ahmed in Bangladesh.

Asif Saleh replies that Moudud Ahmed is also responsible for the degeneration of justice and human rights in Bangladesh, and that it is the world's silence over the human rights violations of ordinary Bangladeshis that is the real shame.

(h/t J.A.A.)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

If you say so... (2)

Earlier post that examined a statement by Ibn Warraq.

Addition to earlier post:

Photo by Johan Spanner for The New York Times, captioned:

A Palestinian girl held a Koran and a fake rifle at a recent rally organized by Hamas in Gaza.

This and That

This and That means "odds and ends", as in this post by Bee. But in Vedanta, This and That are highly loaded technical terms. This means everything that is perceptible, everything that you can point to; That is everything else. Scientific materialists insist that This is all that exists. The central insight of the Vedanta is "That Thou Art".

All this and that would be lost in mechanical translation.