Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Here There Be Tygers

I am loathe to praise the president for anything, but amid all his foreign policy fumblings, he may be striking the right posture on Iran. It still doesn't excuse his morally repugnant abandonment of the Iranian uprising, but anyway, Leslie Gelb explains:
Those who can’t wait to start a war with Iran tell us that Tehran is within three seconds, three months, or a year of developing a nuclear weapon. I promise you they don’t know this for anything near a fact.
Now, are these activities something to worry about? Absolutely! But it is not a basis for going to war now or soon. It is a basis for Americans, Israelis, and others to find out more as quickly as possible through better intelligence and diplomacy. Yes, diplomacy, because we can argue forever about exactly what the Iranians have and intend, but making diplomatic proposals allows us to test our hypotheses. If Tehran rejects reasonable proposals, then there are grounds for raising suspicions and waving the war wand. (Leslie Gelb – The Dangers of Warmongering)
With memories still fresh of the Bush Administration’s na├»ve swallowing whole Achmed Chalabi’s tales of 1001 Iraqi Nights, we should be dubious of any claims made by those who want to bomb Iran now.

Mr. Gelb also cautions against getting involved in Syria, and he provides sound reasoning. We don’t know who the Syrian rebels are; we could be arming and aiding Al Qaeda. What if they win? Will they press on to threaten allies Jordan and Israel? There are too many unknowns and a furious fusillade of unintended consequences await.

Bomb Syria

I respect these worries, but I find myself leaning towards a Libya-like involvement in Syria if for no other reason than to cut off Iranian access to The Levant and the greater Middle East. Without Syria, Iran is isolated, and their proxies like Hezbollah in Lebanon and other places are isolated as well. It would deal a punishing blow to Iran without firing one shot at them.

Yes, it could unleash other furies, but the involvement of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and small but mighty Qatar could help contain them. One thing that would certainly have to be done would be a guaranteed safe enclave for Christians, Alawites and other minorities. This is key to peeling Alawite support away from Assad. They are literally fighting for their lives, being a small minority that has been oppressing the Sunni majority. The Alawites are an off-shoot from the bigger offshoot, the Twelver Shia. So even among heretics, they are heretics.

Regardless of how you come down on these issues, Leslie Gelb has some sage advice concerning warmongering “experts”:
Americans need protection from these snake-oil salesmen, and that protection depends almost entirely on Congress and the media. They have got to be much tougher with the experts, pin them down on what they know and don't know and what facts their views are based on. They've got to demand real answers, and not let the experts escape with slogans like “lead” and “take action,” or “that will all work out.”
Beware those beating wardrums who have never been to war -- Kurt Silverfiddle

David Warren - Iran Won't Go Away


Anonymous said...

We need to put a large 10' x 10' box outside of the border of Iran and tell the Iranians that the moment they threaten anyone with any kind of nuclear weapon, this box will detonate.

Passive-aggression at its best. A little psy-ops never hurt.

Always On Watch said...

Does not Syria have substantial military might?

Syria ain't Libya, you know.

The question man said...

President Obama is not the biggest obstacle for Israel. Israel’s hypocrisy is the biggest obstacle. The fact that Israel IS NOT a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Agreement, while Iran is a signatory makes it hypocritical for people to ask Iran to turn away from enriching uranium. The fact that Israel took the same sneaky path to obtaining nuclear weapons, of which they now accuse Iran is also hypocritical.

Anyone who thinks President Obama is a “Marxist” doesn’t know what a Marxist is.

This is your brain on Rush.

Well done, dittohead racist.

Silverfiddle said...

Question man: Put down the crack pipe. I think you staggered into the wrong blog. I didn't call the president a Marxist and I'm probably in disagreement with Rush on this, although I haven't gotten today's orders from him yet, and I szid nothing racist.

You should get the voices in your head checked, but thank you for stopping by and showing us what a puking pile of idiocy modern-day liberalism is!

Silverfiddle said...

AOW: Yes, Syria has some good air defenses, but not impenetrable. Start raining down fire and steel on their army, and they will crumble and defect.

Still, I am torn. There are no magic bullets. All options bring good and bad.

Anonymous said...

I also agree with these comments and would go a bit further when it comes to Iran.

An interesting take from Farid Zakaria the other day was interesting. I like his foreign affairs take though question some of his economics, in this case his arguments were sound.

We argue that Iran may have nukes and somehow it is worth attacking them over it yet we allowed North Korea, India and Pakistan to build them without any threat. Israel has an even larger quantity then the others put together (around 200 warheads) and yet it is "not an issue" (and from my point of view, in fact stole the techology, though that is another matter).

Israel and others call it a deterent and why is it not still such a case when it comes to Iran? Since Israel got the bomb there has been no full-on war with that country. India and Pakistan have never gone back to war since they have the nukes. Additionally, with the experience of attacks, the chances is that Iran can and will produce a bomb and also, more than likely if believed to be under threat.

The arguments that an Iran with nukes would start a local arms race fails, South Korea and Japan did not start because North Korea got them.

The point here is that it will not be the threat of attack that will stop Iran nor in fact will the arming of Iran make a larger danger. They most certainly will build a bomb anyway and with such an investment it will not be to give them away to terrorist gangs or even to pre-empt. Even the most hawkish experts consider Iran's government to be "sane" and "calculating" - they are not the Taliban.

Thus what is the solution? The solution that works has always been constructive engagement, keeping diplomatic channels and in fact the most potent changes to Iran have been through trade and commerce in general. By being normal, by trading and good economy, the financial sector and the growing wealth of the lower and middle-classes puts the ultimate pressure on a government such as Iran has. That was the cause of the demonstrations last time and isolationism only works to the benefit of their govenment.

D Charles

Anonymous said...

Syria is not Libya in any fashion.

Airpower will work but at the cost of losing some aircraft and personnel because of the recently upgraded Russian made anti-air missile systems in place. That already makes it different than Libya, it will cost lives.

Also Syria has a well imbeded medium range missile capacity that will be hard to take-out as they are built on the assumption of a conflict with Israel. Such missiles will almost certainly attack Israel because that is the Arab-Nationalist throw-back that is done in desperation. Assuming Turkey is involved as a NATO member, they will be targetted by these missiles and as a result, Turkish troops will spill over the border and a genuine invasion will occur.

Syria is a mess and as with all countries in that area, history, politics, religion, ethnicity and economics all play a part. We obviously should not stand and watch the people get slaughtered but we also must realize the costs and the long-term results.

Damien Charles

jez said...

twoguys: That kind of nonsense can get out of hand: if you haven't, read Peter George's Red Alert, or watch Kubrik's Dr. Strangelove.

Anonymous said...

It's long past time the United States of America stopped letting herself be used as a CAT'S PAW to enhance the profits of the War Materiel Industry and to serve the needs and desires of dubious allies who have effectively bribed a signifiant segment of the U.S. Congress AND the White House.

These Enemies Within have doubtless made "business deals" with American International Industrialists whose loyalty is more to The Bottom Line and the aggrandizement of their Personal Power and Privilege than anything else.

I have come to believe The U.S. State Department is in no way loyal to the country it purports to serve. More often than not the State Department works against the best interests of the American People in order to serve those of FOREIGNERS.

Is this a "conspiracy?"

Of course not.

It's just the way things have evolved, developed -- and been allowed to drift -- by those in charge who have gained huge short -term benefits from their greedy, selfish, unprincipled behavior.

As the saying goes, SHIT HAPPENS!

But it's always The People who must clean up the mess with which others have befouled their lives.

Wouldn't it be nice if "The People" were able to take charge of their government --as the Founders intended?

Trouble is that our DEMOGRAPHICS have changed so radically since 1776.

During the Great Migration at the latter part of the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, alarmed native-born Americans felt "Europe is vomiting on our shores."

Perhaps they had a point?

We asked for the "tired, poor huddled masses," and we sure GOT 'em. ;-)

~ FreeThinke

Ducky's here said...

Seems there always has to be a bogeyman - good for business.

What bugs me here is that Iran has never attacked us and doesn't have much of a history over the last 150 years or so of attacking anyone.

It does have a desire to be a regional power but we are being pushed into a confrontation by Israel and Saudi Arabia who have always used us as their muscle.

Nothing to do with our own self interest.

Besides, Iran is one of the great world film making nations. In fact if you watch their films you see a very thoughtful, cultured nation. But our "friends" in Israel and Saudi want to jam so we get stupid and play idiot's delight.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Obama appears to be on TV right now, speaking of going to Syria or jumping into that situation.


Anonymous said...

"Iran...a very thoughtful, cultured nation."

Only you believe this, Ducky. Do any of us need to bring up their human rights atrocities and Sharia Law savagery?

Tedious, Ducky. Soooo tedious.

Ducky's here said...

No twoguys2012 we don't have to be reminded that there are atrocities in Iran (just as there are everywhere) and your knowledge of the country is limited to what you learned jacking off to Glenn Beck.

Open your mind.

Jim at Conservatives on Fire said...

Diplomacy is a lost art form.

Lisa said...

Ted Kennedy left Mary Jo Kopechne to die a scary death,but he advocated for health care so I guess that makes him thoughtful and cultured.

Bunkerville said...

But who will take over the governance? More tribal warfare, and no doubt a group that has little love for the West. Egypt just declined a Billion bucks from us because we would not turn over our Cabinet member's son. They are not of our world, and we need to acknowledge it.

Ducky's here said...

Why must they love the west?

Have we given them much reason to?

Like Lisa, should we become incapable of nuanced thought? It's all B&W. The noise machine says Iran is completely evil so that's as it must be.
Israel wants us to do their dirty work so we get on our knees.


Jersey McJones said...

I've known a few Iranians, twoguys, and I think you're reading way too much into the negative press from over there. Yes, there is a radical religious right in Iran and it has been able to commit atrocities thanks to it's power in government. But the vast majority of the Iranian people are educated, urbane, cultured people, rather Western in outlook, and would love to throw off the yoke of the mullahs.

However, contrary to Silver's simplistic understanding of Obama's "morally repugnant abandonment of the Iranian uprising," we have to be careful how we deal with all this. There is and was no uprising in Iran capable of toppling the regime, and certainly what uprising there was did not want to be tarred as an American conspiracy as was the the real conspiracy in 1953 that eventually led to the rising of the mullahs ion the first place!

Syria is different. It took the regime more than two weeks to secure one urban neighborhood in Homs. That shows a weakness of the Assad regime and a strength of the Syria uprising. There we could help, but that help will have to be unique, as Syria is not Libya either.


Silverfiddle said...

Jersey: We agree!

But the vast majority of the Iranian people are educated, urbane, cultured people, rather Western in outlook, and would love to throw off the yoke of the mullahs.

Then you went and blew it.

There were all kinds of very benign things Obama could have said and did. Now he's going nuts with sanctions over nukes that may or may not exist. So you support that? But not sanctions for human right violations and regime murders?

Talk about simplistic...

And please enlighten us. How did the 1953 conspiracy lead to the Mullahs taking over in 1979? I can't wait for you answer.

Ducky's here said...

Good point, Silver. The administration's foreign policy is strictly hit or miss.

Now, are they inept diplomats or too tied to the public opinion polls.

An informed public can help if it's the second.

Anonymous said...

SF, in this case JMJ is to a degree correct. It is well documented and even admitted by some involved that the CIA in the plot to get rid of the Iranian Prime Minister Mosaddegh at under the name of Operation Ajax. Basically the Shah did not like the guy as well and since it was a democracy, he had no choice. This event was called the Shah's White Revolution and the result was Khomenei did not approve of the increse of power given to the Shah and started demonstrating against it. He was sent into exile at that point and the rest is history.

What is important is that the Shah was not only supported but in fact literally kept in power by the US and that was not forgotten by many of the Shah's critics and victims. The Shah was brutal in every aspect and squandered money to no end whilst many Iranians remained dirt poor. During his first imprisonment, exiles in Turkey and even Iraq (before going to France), Khomenei wrote most of his treaties and difined his power base and support which included targetting the US for direct interference.


Damien Charles

Mark Adams said...

"we can argue forever about exactly what the Iranians have and intend"
Well since a majority of their nuke facilities are buried deep underground, they sure as hell are not using nuclear technology for medical isotopes and electricity, as they claim. If so, why bury it?

Leticia said...

In all honesty, I think it's time that United States starts focusing on her internal problems and protect Israel at all costs.

However, in light of what has been happening in Syria, I am not sure we will be able to stay out of. Iran is threat and that is the truth.

I honestly have not kept up with the Syrian conflict so, I am not about to comment further.

Anonymous said...

Leticia, with all due respect, Israel is NOT one of our "internal problems," except in the sense that we have been bamboozled into thinking the survival of Israel is somehow vital to our best interests.

I am not AGAINST Israel at all, but I am very much against OUR continuing to act as though we OWED Israel anything more than we owe anyone else. Israel is NOT our 51st state, nor does she feel any particular loyalty or gratitude toward us.

Look at the callous fashion in which George W. Bush abandoned Taiwan. If Israel deserves to survive and deserves our protection, why doesn't Taiwan? Are the Taiwanese less human the the Israelis?

And what about the suffering millions in Africa who are cutting each other to ribands? Why don't we owe THEM blood sacrifice too?

All of this is tremendously out of balance.

Maybe we can't afford to be islolationists, more's the pity, but we need to come to grips with reality.


~ FreeThinke

Silverfiddle said...

Charles, agreed, but it's deeper than that. The Mullahs hated Mossadegh. We are playing checkers, they are playing 3D chess.

Any bad thing we do in that area will be used as a pretext, and not always without reason, but the "why they hate us" argument is a dead horse at a dead end.

Ducky: I have been very disappointed in our state department going back decades, and across all parties. Why do we suck so badly at diplomacy?

Anonymous said...

FT, well put regarding Israel.

That nation has every right to defend itself, grow, prosper and have a happy life for its chidlren. Having said that, no more or less than any other nation and not at the expense of any other. Israel has proven itself time and time again to consider its own interests first above even the US and rightly so, thus proving the point further.

We all know, though, that the large and well organised Jewish community back at home milks America on behalf of Israel and ensures that the Holocaust and anti-Semitism card is used to the maximum and that, in my opinion, is crossing the line. Sure, the US has used Israel as a platform to ensure its own politics was played to the maximum in that region - but those days have gone.

Obama was right in leveling/balancing the palying field. Israel will always have a close relationship to the US, simply because of the immigrant population and close social links - but that should not be exceptional, exclusive or to the detriment with its relations to others.


Damien Charles

Anonymous said...


I do not think it is your State Department that is bad. I have a good many friends in your foreign service and they work hard. From what I gather it is the political, military and trade elements that have for so long ruined it.

Politics in the side of State being run by the politics of the Administration (GWB being a great example) and by interest groups using State as a cover to push agendas - such as ramming "democracy" down the throats of countries that neither want or need it (or should not have it in that format). Morocco is a great example of a country with an orderly growth of democracy and great loyalty towards its King and I remember watching Sec Rice talking about democracy to his face. Aaargh!

The military, well that is a story in itself - a lot honestly is the problem with being a powerful nation - you get all the responsibilty and none of the support and thus all the criticisms. Once you take over a land, your responsible for every hiccup.

Trade - that is the perception, and to a degree the reality, of having a big economy and cash. The US has a capacity to subsidise farmers and the like to a point that they can out do the price of friendly nations like Canada, India or Australia. The latter has suffered the most. In the past the US would, for example, tell the Japanese to buy American rice or suffer having imported cars being taxed 2 per cent more. The Japanese prefered Australian rice as it was closer to their high quality - but they could not afford the restriction and they purchased American rice. It was the same over bananas, wheet and beef exports.

One other side to State which is different to many countries. The US actively promotes business via State at levels other nations do not. Almost pushing it as part of diplomacy and thus US business gets the image of being forced down the throat of many countries. That pisses-off business in those countries who do not get a fair hearing and most certainly do not get that level of influence when they go to America.

Obama is certainly trying to change that and interestingly enough, under Hilary Clinton's stewardship, ironic since Bill Clinton did not make that much of an inroad as the Obama Presidency is (in changing it).

Just my two cents worth. Do not get me wrong, I am not bashing the US, but I am pointing out what I believe is some self-inflicted handicaps, and some automatic ones for being the biggest guy on the block.


Damien Charles

Finntann said...

Damien, I agree with your analysis over the short term, but would have to argue that the root cause of the problems from the Balkans through the Middle East all the way to India stem directly from European colonialism and the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire.

"The most arbitrary and distorted borders in the world are in Africa and the Middle East. Drawn by self-interested Europeans (who have had sufficient trouble defining their own frontiers), Africa’s borders continue to provoke the deaths of millions of local inhabitants. But the unjust borders in the Middle East — to borrow from Churchill — generate more trouble than can be consumed locally."

It is an interesting thought experiment and article, redrawing near and middle eastern borders along ethnographic lines. The maps can be found here:

Adding a Kurdistan carved out of Turkey and Iraq, and a Baluchistan carved out of Pakistan and Iran, to the map, splitting what's left of Iraq into Sunni and Shia states, expanding Lebanon, Jordan, and Yeman.

SF asked "Why do we suck so badly at diplomacy?"

Because it is impossible to have a coherent and strategic diplomatic policy when it changes every 4-8 years... the downside of Democracy.


Z said...

Kurt, I agree with you re Syria; treating it like Libya. I don't think Obama stumbled there. As long as we're giving him kudos (gag), I'd like to compliment him for having said our soldiers are under a LOT of pressure (in re to the shooting the other day)..finally giving them some credit after he'd said the soldier had to be held accountable even before we knew he'd had brain problems. having said that....

I can't agree with the rest, though I'd love to. I think the holes in Gobe's advice are myriad and enormous; if we'd had better intel and diplomacy, we'd not have gone into Iraq. Remember our president was told they could get Saddam and that's was that...
We were told there were WMD (I still believe there were and I think 300,000 Kurds indicate some kind of MASS DESTRUCTION), and we're now told there weren'ta and Bush has been made a laughing stock for having believed our intel...etc etc
As far as diplomacy..what, more weak sanctions?

I would HATE to go to war with Iran...or see Israel have to pound the #($*& out of Iran, but the longer everyone waits and 'does diplomacy' and keeps quiet when Iran tells the IAEA they can't know what they're doing, etc., they're buying time. They've got homegrown rods now..they're very close.
Once they have nukes and a way to shoot, then it's too diplomacy, no amount of intel will help; they'll be non negotiable and they know it.

Silverfiddle said...

I don't have you wrong Charles. Being 10 feet tall and bulletproof can make you sloppy.

Jersey McJones said...

Silver, and all else, YES, Obama does enforce the policy you guys want (he's your guy on this one!) - unregulated free trade, without regard to national or ally security. How do you think the Iranian regime, and now Syria's regime, have been able to undermine their respective uprisings? It takes patented technology for that kind of strategy. And it takes libertarian idiocy to make it available to bad actors.

So, congratulations! Between your "deep" concern for Israel, your lust for our hegemony in the Middle East, and your ostensible belief that we Americans are somehow in danger from far-off lands, lay the real cause of your concern - the "liberty" and "freedom" to do bad things for profit. Good for you. I hope your maker sympathizes with the traumatic depth of your sociopathy.


Ducky's here said...

@z -- I'd like to compliment him for having said our soldiers are under a LOT of pressure

Is the Pentagon also going to admit that the facility that treated his head injury has a history of downgrading severity in order to save money on treatment.

PS. z, the last time Israel tried to pound the shit out of anyone but unarmed Gazans, Hezbollah gave it to them up the ass.
We sure are showing those Afghans though, aren't we.

Silverfiddle said...

So IT companies helping China, Iran, Syria and other brutal regimes is my fault?

No. I believe in personal responsibility. Those who did business with those regimes are the ones who will have to sort it out with their maker.

Consistency check: I trust you also roundly condemn those Europeans who were violating sanctions by backdoor dealing with Saddam while he was killing Shia and Kurds.

beamish said...

I would just wonder if sanctions do not in turn raise the price of oil and natural gas to create larger profits for Iran to invest in its nuclear weapons programs.

Finntann said...

"It takes patented technology for that kind of strategy"

Absolutely Correct!

It's a good thing ole King George couldn't turn off our cell phone service, else Paul Revere would never have been able to text "The British are Coming! The British are Coming!"

What in god's name are you talking about Jersey?

"Hezbollah gave it to them up the ass.", must have missed that one... I'll have to look for it on the porn channel next time I'm in a hotel.

"Is the Pentagon also going to admit that the facility that treated his head injury has a history of downgrading severity in order to save money"

Not disputing what you're saying, just asking if you have any references to it. So far in the media I've seen:

The soldier suffered some minor traumatic brain injury in a rollover in Iraq in 2010, but that part of his medical history does not appear at this point to be a factor, according to the officials. They also said the man has a clean medical and behavior record.

Defense officials told NBC News that investigators have reason to believe that alcohol "may" have been a contributing factor in the shooting spree.

Officials said they’ve received reports that the soldier was having marital problems and had recently received a troubling letter or email from his wife.

I smell flounder!


Z said...

beamish, I think you make an excellent hypothesis.....
Did you see my piece on Ogallala and the truth about the pipelines there already?

Ducky, I hear that might be the case but it hasn't been proven yet (about the soldier's head injury) probably IS true and it's sad that they really have no way of measuring what COULD happen from a brain injury in the future, but they need to be more careful.

You said "PS. z, the last time Israel tried to pound the shit out of anyone but unarmed Gazans, Hezbollah gave it to them up the ass. by the way?"

Ducky, I think they'd pound Iran with a little different stuff than pounding Gazans (please link on that...totally unprovoked? I don't think so, you just don't listen to media that tells what's happened to Israel)

Jersey McJones said...

FT, are you mixing up comments?


Ducky's here said...

If anyone wants to bust my chops, I posted some of my recent photos on Flickr under the name "breathless400" (easy to figure out.

I haven't done any post processing but fire away anyhow.

Z said...

Breathless, the last thing I expected was waste treatment tanks and water towers. Still, I see it's the geometry of them that's captivating. And the color.
I'm a huge Whistler fan and have written poetry about his paintings, so I love that one.
And, of course, YOU'D have one with 'acorn' in it :-)
"eggs"...excellent title for 'the eggs'..
The steps against the white are very, very nice.

maybe people can use that link? it gets you right in, IF I found the right photos? Let me know did have breathless400 on it, so I guess so. I just didn't expect the subject matter, which I know is NOT the point of your photographs, but still...

nice work, Ducky. I absolutely love the steps against the white...really nice.

viburnum said...

Not bad at all Ducky!!!

I particularly like the "eggs", and the B&W's from the beach. The longer of the views of that stairway is pretty cool too.

viburnum said...

Ducky: Still uploading I see. Add that forlorn little green shed to the list. Gone from Whistler to Wyeth with that one ;-)

Ducky's here said...

Gone from Whistler to Wyeth with that one ;-)

Thank you

Ducky's here said...

The "eggs" is the name commonly used for the methane tanks at Deer Island. The place is a treasure trove.

There are quite a few up on Flickr but I went in a lot tighter than others. Always trying to abstract and remove context, I am.

Always On Watch said...

I'm not much into abstract photos. However, I do like "Salisbury Beach" and "Winthrop."

BTW, a friend of mine has lots of photos online. You might want to take a look.

Always On Watch said...

My friend does create some abstracts. See THIS, for example.

Ducky's here said...

Yes, I enjoy that type of shot.

Down to just shape and color.

Z said...

Ducky, then I'd go tighter because it does take one out of the photo to be considering "water tanks?"'ve got a great start there already, geometrically and color-wise, texture, etc....get even closer; I'd love to see those.
I'd leave that last one with the steps as is,'s fabulous.

Ducky's here said...

I have, on some z. AOW got me thinking about a more critical question.

Why minimalism? You may call it abstraction and if you said the difference is only formal I wouldn't put up much of an argument but there I am.

The question becomes religious. I am a lot like Fox Mulder, I want to believe. However, I find it impossible to know the nature of God. Others don't have this difficulty but I do and I don't want to be forced into acceptance of a view that hasn't come naturally to me.

Minimalism is where I come closest to transcendence. The argument by design works best for me when the design is simple and I just "am". Reducing the world to it's rather glorious simplicity (although that process isn't easy).
A simplicity we've allowed greed to corrupt.

Anyway, now that I'm semi retired and using the still camera more and more I'm going to hunt for it and frankly it seems to me a way to be less apart from others who have found a more baroque, if you will, understanding.

Also isn't it interesting that we become more human and civil when we talk about the important things like art and food and forget the political bullshit, which is almost always the powerful running nuts(left or right) at its base.

Z said...

Shape and Color's all there is....Though I love black/white, too.
I didn't know who Fox Mulder was till I googled. I still don't really know who he is!

Black/white photography is so much more difficult than I thought it would be...when we moved to Paris, I couldn't wait to start taking pictures of Paris in black/white...I felt I got nothing and was quite discouraged and disappointed in myself. WHen I switched to color again, I have marvelous photos of Paris windows, etc. They're not minimalist, they're windows after all, but they're JUST the window. And my favorites are a very old window with a scruffy orange geranium sticking out of a crude pot on the window's ledge...just grey/beige walls, dirt,...and that one geranium of color.
I have far FAR more beautiful windows but that's my fave.
I wonder if that's sort of what you're talking about?

As for the nature of God, it's in the Bible..everywhere. You know that. We just don't want to believe it. You're not alone.

Yes, I like talking to you about this stuff about 239423498723498% more than politics.!

Ducky's here said...

The scruffy orange geranium reminds my of an Elizabeth Bishop poem:

Filling Station

Oh, but it is dirty!
--this little filling station,
oil-soaked, oil-permeated
to a disturbing, over-all
black translucency.
Be careful with that match!

Father wears a dirty,
oil-soaked monkey suit
that cuts him under the arms,
and several quick and saucy
and greasy sons assist him
(it's a family filling station),
all quite thoroughly dirty.

Do they live in the station?
It has a cement porch
behind the pumps, and on it
a set of crushed and grease-
impregnated wickerwork;
on the wicker sofa
a dirty dog, quite comfy.

Some comic books provide
the only note of color--
of certain color. They lie
upon a big dim doily
draping a taboret
(part of the set), beside
a big hirsute begonia.

Why the extraneous plant?
Why the taboret?
Why, oh why, the doily?
(Embroidered in daisy stitch
with marguerites, I think,
and heavy with gray crochet.)

Somebody embroidered the doily.
Somebody waters the plant,
or oils it, maybe. Somebody
arranges the rows of cans
so that they softly say:

to high-strung automobiles.
Somebody loves us all.

Elizabeth Bishop

Anonymous said...


Yes I also agree that in many areas the borders and the left-overs from the colonial days is the cause of a great many problems. Do you remembe the debate over the dispute between Kuwait and Iraq with the border? It came down to a mistake because of the thickness of the guy doing the mapping - a fellow Brit of course.

We should not forget that the miserable state of old borders was a result of old bais, bigotry or deals with other nations over a cup of tea between Prime Ministers and even royalty. A great example of that is the existance of the Congo (Two countries, the Dem Repub... and Rep of...) One has Kinshasa and the other has Brazaville as their capitals. The Congo - or Zaire was the Belgian Congo - simply because the poor old King Leapold, a nephew of Queen Victoria did not, like all the other "super powers" of the time, did not have a colony, so they made it. Germany, being the bad boy, was not given one so they attempted to force themselves on what is now Uganda.

So we now have to deal with demarcation, division and the setting up of subserviant elitists whom later became dicators and the corrupt class. Tutsis and Hutis massacering each other because one was disenfranchised during the colonial days. How about Zimbabwe being created on the back of Cecile Rhodes mining colony?

Someone said, and it is true, the worst thing that ever happened to Africa was a thing called "democracy". They neither needed it, asked for it and have suffered ever since being forced to take it.

Kurds - the most disenfranchised population on the planet second to Tibetans. Kurdish land is mostly in Turkey, some in Syria, more in Iran, only slightly independant in Iraq and a large bulk of the population is actually far away in Lebanon and France!

Got to love the leftovers we all have to live with..... says a resident of Gibraltar!


Damien Charles

Anonymous said...


"It came down to a mistake because of the thickness of the line drawn by guy doing the mapping actually represented a two-mile width! - a fellow Brit of course.

Silverfiddle said...

Damien: I have crossed that line between Kuwait and Iraq many times, and I can attest that it is razor wire thin... ;)

viburnum said...


"mistake because of the thickness of the guy doing the mapping"


"mistake because of the thickness of the line drawn by (the) guy doing the mapping"

I think you were right the first time ;-)

Z said...

good one, Ducky.

SF...I guess it would be bad taste to mention how many people from Africa I've met who said their families were better off when they were colonized, huh?

Silverfiddle said...

Z: We can't be injecting any real-life anecdotes into the conversation... Wouldn't be fair ;)

Anonymous said...

Very good poem by Elizabeth Bishop.

"A big dim doily"

"A big hirsute begonia


A superb evocation of the absurd juxtaposition of violently conflicting elements that make up modern life.

Reminiscent of Sandburg's "Clean Curtains."

~ FreeThinke

Anonymous said...

"We can't be injecting any real-life anecdotes into the conversation... "

I wouldn't take it for granted that such anecdotes are any more real than anything else we see around these here parts, SF.

An offering of Rhetorical Reality would be my guess. };-)>

~ FreeThinke

jez said...

Anecdote is fine, so long as we remember that its plural is not "data".

Anonymous said...

The singular of DATA is DATUM, is it not?

I wonder why we never hear anyone refer to a single fact as "The datum?"

It would sound queer, wouldn't it? Correctness often sounds bizarre in this militantly slapdash world we live in, doesn't it?

By the way I have a longstanding bone to pick with "popular usage."

DATA is properly pronounced DAY-tuh, yet we hear DATT-uh all the time on TV and elsewhere.

Americans have an uncanny knack for adopting WRONG pronunciations, and making them stick through endless repetition. What happens is this: Wrong become "right" by default and "right" sounds "snobbish," "affected," and "archaic."

A lot of this is born of plain ignorance, but a lot of it has happened because of the fierce assertions of Political Correctness and a demented determination to legitimize and even glorify gutter English as a sop to the lower classes.

I suppose COCKNEY will become the New Standard in Britain any day now, and Oxford English will be officially retired as an "Emblem of Outmoded, Discredited Snobbery." Isn't that right, Jez?

"Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain made low, the crooked straight and the rough places plain."

Imagine the atheistic left as aggressive champions of a literal interpretation of Holy Writ!

Life is so full of ironies, I often wonder if there's any room at all for simplicity and straight-forwardness anymore?

~ FreeThinke

jez said...

We tend to use "data" as an uncountable, in which case it's already grammatically singular. (I always say "data is ...", never "data are ..."). But if we were to enforce "data/datum" we would often disagree about when "a datum" becomes "some data". one record (eg. one person's whole medical history)? one measurement (eg. one person's weight on a given date)? one "bit" (as in information theory) of information? There's no obvious answer that works for everyone.

"legitimize and even glorify gutter English as a sop to the lower classes."

an upper class drawl is just as wrong in its own way as a glottal stop. The most desirable vocal characteristic is clarity, anything beyond that is pure taste.

"Oxford English will be officially retired as an "Emblem of Outmoded, Discredited Snobbery.""

Language has always been in flux, the OED included. In fact, gradual drift is vital to its business model.

Meanwhile, tasteful writers seek to avoid affectation, high-wire act though it may be.

Anonymous said...

"Language has always been in flux, the OED included. In fact, gradual drift is vital to its business model."

Don't know what you mean by "the business model," since I much prefer what-might-be-called The Literary Model," myself.

Certainly agree about change that occurs by "drift." What I strenuously object to, however, is change that is more or less forced on society by agenda-driven design.

The tragic abandonment of a huge percentage of our once-active vocabulary in favor of quasi-Orwellian NewSpeak has occurred because of the machinations of "Social Engineers" determined to cast down the proud, discredit the erudite, scorn elegance and complexity in language, lower public taste to abysmal levels, etc. in order to create some sort of level society.

I've been around a long time. and became "socially conscious" at a very early age. I was taught to aim high, and to respect and strive to emulate our betters, and that one's reach ought always to exceed one's grasp.

What has happened to Public Taste, standards of good conduct, and our general levels of aspiration ought not to have happened to a rabid dog.

~ FreeThinke

Anonymous said...

" I didn't call the president a Marxist "

Ah, but the president IS a Marxist. Why avoid acknowledging that obvious truth, SilverFiddle?

~ FreeThinke

Anonymous said...

Please tell me why anyone would make the mistake of calling the President a Marxist or even a Socialist.

Coming from the home of Marxism and Socialism, I can tell you that Obama is not and not even close.

Me thinks a bit of election fever hath clouded your minds.....

Damien Charles

Anonymous said...

Being British I am the first to concede two things.

1. English is a leech, not just a language. It thrives and grows by taking vocabulary from others. That, in fact, is its' strong point.

2. As English is also the language of a number of important colonies that grew into important nations in itself, the language has grown into varients that no longer represent the "King's English" back home. That is, also, very normal and expected. American, Australian, Indian and even Fijian English is unique in its own format. Hell, Gibraltarian English is a composite of mostly Kings with a large element of Spanish and hints of Grand Canary Islander and Arabic.

The Dutch language suffered the same fate. With Belgium independance and control by the French, the Flemish in the north ensured the old-language did not change. Whilst Flemish (Vlaams) chose not to change and grow, Dutch (Nederlands) had no need to protect itself and grew. Ironically, modern Nederlands incorporated French whilst that would have been the last thing possible in Vlaams. Afrikaans (the Dutch-South African language) grew into something different but because the nation was run by us Brits, the grammar is English but the language is Dutch. I am told it is like speaking backwards.

American English does make me sometimes cringe, I will admit. Nothing more that the miss pronounced word Leisure and the opening satement of "how are you doing?".

Having said all that, nobody mispronounces their maternal mother language of English more than Australians. I have some good friends that have a daughter in Australia. When they had their first grand-child the daughter called their new son Vadim (husband is Polish in origin) - a name we all assumed cannot be mispronounced in the typical Aussie touch. She called her daughter and said it turned from "vaaDEEM" into "VAD-UM" instantly by hospital staff. Go figure!

D Charles

Z said...

Damien, taking from those who've worked hard only to give to those who haven't or are in need, forcefully, is a type of socialism no matter what country you are from, trust me.

As for English and colonies; it might be the only thing that's even brought colonies along THIS far, considering they were obviously not ready for the colonizers to leave.
I have never met an African who didn't say that they at least had food and some order during colonial times.
Am I advocating the domination of AFrican societies? Of course not, but that domination is clearly not as bad as the domination from their own in very many cases.
At least many speak English and that's helped them deal with countries which could further their trade, educate their now English speaking children, etc.
Odd...I lived in Paris for 4 years, in the toniest area in the city, and the nicest embassies were from the poorest of African countries. Or is it odd?

Anonymous said...

Z, I thought like you for a long time as well until I travelled and worked in developing countries. It is a balance between realising that history has already happened and you cannot change it - thus accepting that it forced steps forward, and contrasting that with what has gone wrong ever since.

The majority of views from those that I have asked is that those that have benefited the most are those that were a "part of the colonial government" and the rest simply suffered and now suffered even more.

Sure there are success stories but the failures I think outway and are huge tragedies that are still unfolding. Apart from borders, entire tribes that are seething in anger and revenge against those that benefited, the story of corruption multiplies it all ten fold.

You did touch on an interesting remark though - the subject of the strong-man - or workable authority. My view is that what is needed is simply: whatever works the best and gets the support. People get to eat, people get to go to school and hopefully it is a larger segment of society with not so many disenfranchised.

Damien Charles

Anonymous said...


To Robert Mugabe, et al.

When'er the Brits are driven away
Black tyrants often come to stay.

When White Men let their burden down
Savages will take the crown

Place it on their nappy heads
Throw themselves in with the Reds

Rule their folk with iron hand
Wreaking havoc o'er the land.

When blacks rule blacks, no one is free
Their nature turns to tyranny.

How much blood might have been saved
If they'd stayed happily enslaved!

~ FreeThinke

jez said...

Hmm. I came back here to leave a fascinating link about linguistic drift, but this last comment is the equivalent of treading in something horrible. Excuse me while I wipe my feet. No don't apologise, I was thinking of having these shoes incinerated anyway so it's no bother.