Monday, August 29, 2005

Naked Truth: the Return to Hanlan's Point

Last week, I visited the nude beach at Hanlan's Point with my friend Dave, visiting from Rochester. I kind of casually asked my buddy P-Doug if he wanted to go down there this weekend just past, and to my surprise, he did. We made plans for Saturday morning, but when I noticed (thanks to an NOAA java applet P-Doug sent me) that Lake Ontario was actually at his warmest about 9 PM, and that that would let us take some fantastic sunset shots to boot, he agreed we should head down in the evening instead. As it turned out, Saturday had lousy weather, so we postponed to Sunday evening.

Winner 2005 Worst Poster Design

We parked downtown at a cheap lot P-Doug knows and took the subway the rest of the way to Union Station. Opposite us was this TTC poster about new buses, that someone had deemed "Winner 2005 Worst Poster Design". If you agree, you can (according to the sticker) register your accord at

City from the water

City from the boat

We caught the ferry at the terminal just as it was heading out. Actually, our timing was split-second and impeccible the whole evening, though we were forever under the gun. These are a couple of shots looking back at the downtown as we departed. Most notable are Skydome and the CN Tower.

Approaching Hanlan's Point

I'm right behind you, Ned

About the first thing you encounter on arriving at Hanlan's Point on Centre Island is the statue of Edward "Ned" Hanlan himself. He was a champion sculler of of the 19th Century, possibly the greatest ever. He was born, lived, and died in Toronto, and was, for a time, one of its aldermen. His family lived on the island roundabout the point that subsequently carries their name.

The Dream Shot

Last time I went to the nude beach, neither Dave nor I had our cameras. On our way back, we both stopped simultaneously and spontaneously at this spot, struck by the framing of the CN Tower in the trees. I swore that the next time I made it back, I'd take this shot, and here it is.

Wow, they're naked!

They're still naked

When we arrived at the beach, it was about 6:30 PM or so. There were two or three dozen sunbathers still down there, but their numbers thinned out relatively quickly. I stripped immediately, took a couple of shots, and then made a beeline for the water. It was far warmer this time than it was last, when Dave could not bring himself to indulge. At some points between the shore and the first sandbar, it literally felt like a lukewarm bath. It was absolutely wonderful.

Dog day ending

Goodnight, sun

Silver sunset #1

Silver sunset #2

...Breathes an air of gathering gloom...

Seeing as we both had cameras, P-Doug and I took turns splashing around and sitting with our belongings. During one of my swims, the sun really began to set. I came in, and we photographed a really beautiful sunset over Mississauga to the west. P-Doug headed back into the water while I stayed ashore and experimented with some moody black and white shots. For all of these, I attached P-Doug's polarizing filter to my lens. It really brought out the contrast in the sky. I'm really pleased with these shots.

Caught in flight

At one point, a large flock of seagulls passed around me, wheeling and cutting through the air. I did my best to follow their motion, and was rewarded with a couple of nice shots of the birds in flight. This is my favourite of the bunch.

The Cruel Sea


While P-Doug was swimming around, I decided to take a risk with my new camera and waded out about waist deep. I wanted to get some really dramatic water shots. I got some really nice stuff, but ironically, the shots I like best were ones I took right at the water's edge.

Garbed in an anklet — as a hedge against nudity

The lone primate in his natural state... as much as I'm willing to inflict upon you, at any rate. Probably more than you wanted to see as it is. :)

The Edge of Night

The first ferry back after the sunset was at 9 PM, so that was our target. Since neither of us was actually wearing a watch most of the time, we had no firm idea of the time. At one point when there were only about a half-dozen others left on the beach, I chanced our stuff being stolen and went in to join P-Doug in the water. When I asked, he reckoned the time to be about 8:20. About ten minutes later we went ashore, only to find it was actually 8:45. We dressed and really hustled to catch the ferry, making the trek in a mere ten minutes. Both in keeping with my habits this summer and to speed the journey, I went barefoot. P-Doug was concerned for me, since the path is asphalt, but I've taken several four-mile walks on streets and sidewalks to the East Don Parklands this summer, so this was nothing to me. Besides, I could never have run the last hundred yards or so in my sandals; they have no ankle bracing. We made the ferry with just moments to spare, and I spent my time at the bow, photographing the city. I was taking shots at 1/5 of a second at ISO 800. Most of them are shaky and worthless, but this one came out spectacularly, I think. It reminded me of the title card to the old soap opera The Edge of Night, so that's what I've called it. I think the purple-lit rim of the Skydome is what really makes the shot.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Today I Am a Yank

...Well, sort of.

You Passed the US Citizenship Test

Congratulations - you got 10 out of 10 correct!

Friday, August 26, 2005

My trip to a real hole

A week ago, a big, powerful storm blew through the GTA. One of its little effects was to tear a hole right across Finch Avenue in the west end of North York, between Jane and Keele Streets.

I've seen some photos of this, but I thought I'd go out there and see for myself. I set out about 1 in the afternoon. Funny how a ten-yard gap can complicate things... took me most of 20 minutes just to get to the far side to photograph it from the west as well. Here are a few shots to show you what it looks like a week later (projections are it'll be winter before the road is contiguous again)...

Finch Avenue west of Keele Street, looking west

Looking west towards the gap

From the north, looking south along a footpath also bisected by the flood

From the north, looking south at the gap in Finch Avenue

East of Jane Street, looking east back towards Keele Street

Word verification for comments

Just disallowing anonymous comments doesn't seem to be enough anymore. Now there are bots with accounts clogging our blogs. Well, Blogger's got an answer to that, too: turning on word verification for comments. It's a minor inconvenience to commenters, but will save us from having to delete the inconsiderate ad-crap some people are loading on our backs. I don't care if someone wants to advertize, but not in my notebook.

Wheat and chaff

I've been taking the Fridays off this summer, which has presented me with a lot of good late night opportunities on Thursday nights. I know that sounds creepy, but it's not. Mostly what I mean is the chance to just get out and stroll without distraction or interruption, do things I'd been too shy to do in daytime, like wade or skinnydip in the river, photograph graffiti, and things like that. Nothing like lurking or peeking in windows or that kind of thing. :)

One thing it's enabled me to do is really start taking some of the low light photos I've always wanted to take, especially of the nighttime sky. Finding the park around Old Cummer bridge has been a real boon for this. It's a deep, flat pan, sheltered by trees along the ridge, blocking out a fair amount of light pollution... giving me the chance to actually see a few stars, right here inside the city.

I wanted to go out last night and see what I could get. Around 10, it was really overcast, so I decided to nap and see about waiting it out. Midnight, still occluded. 1 AM, still pretty patchy. I decided to give up. But as it happened, I woke up again of my own accord just about 3 AM on the dot. I looked out, and the sky was clear! I thought it over and decided, what the hell. But instead of walking, I decided to drive.

I made my way down into the park and set up the camera on the tripod. It was surprisingly chilly down there for August, especially to my hands and feet. But I was on a mission! I decided to experiment a little with the ISO settings... see what they'd yield. ISO 400 gives a good picture without much noise, but it's a slow film. You need a really long exposure just to see anything at night... several minutes, really. During an exposure that long, the stars move perceptibly (or rather, the Earth does). There's no getting around it. And while star trails are kind of interesting, if you really want a nice shot of a constellation, it's a little frustrating. ISO 800 wasn't bad, but again, I was getting short streaks of light instead of pinholes. So, back to ISO 1600.

I happened to notice Orion was just rising. It's one of about a half dozen constellation I can actually recognize. I'd forgotten how big it was, seen on the horizon. It was impressive... a little bit unnerving, I have to say, when you're alone in the dark. It was almost like a presence. I turned the camera on it, and for the 45 minutes or so I was down there, took a number of shots of it.

When I got home, I downloaded the shots to my computer and looked at them. While none of them are what I'd consider bad or wasted, virtually all of them are boring, unremarkable, or feature long streaks for stars. But one really worked nicely. It was 43-second exposure at f22, ISO 1600. Right now, BloggerBot is offline, but I intend to upload the photo as soon as I can. It's been reduced to 960 pixels across, and retouched in Photoshop (I added a Hue/Saturation layer, blending method "Color", that colourizes it blue and forgives some of the graininess. I'm really pleased with this one shot.

So there you go. Forty-five minutes at about 4 in the morning, 26 exposures, and one decent shot out of the bunch. Today I am a real photographer. :)

Orion rising

Of Cherries and Ferries

I meant to blog about this but I never got around to it. Sunday P-Doug and I went down to Cherry Beach. It’s not a nude beach; it’s a “fabric” beach. Neither of us went down there really prepared; we were both just in shorts. P-Doug was even in sandals, which makes no sense to me on a beach… hey, if you won’t even go barefoot on a beach, give it up. :) But I’ll admit, the waterline is rocky, and we did wade in knee deep. The water was just perfect. I was wishing it was the nude beach; we could have gone right in.

Looking west down Cherry Beach

We watched some windsurfers… one guy with a green board and sail was just like lightning out there. I can only guess how fast he was going; from where we stood, it looked like 30 or 40 mph. He was leaving the rest in the old wet dust.

Panorama from the Eastern Channel

We wandered around a little, watched noisy habour cruisers come in and go out, sailboats skate around, and a huge lakeboat (think Edmund Fitzgerald) leave the port.

Lakeboat departing

I commented that it was too bad the ferry to Rochester wasn’t in so I could take shots for my friend who’d gone home just hours before. We went to the terminal and saw that the feds had spruced it up a little. Checked the schedule and realized the ferry would be in in about an hour. So, we decided to settle in and wait. She came in fast; about five minutes after we first saw her, she was in dock. The Spirit of Ontario, she’s called, after the lake Toronto and Rochester share.


The Cat and the City

The Spirit docking...

Maybe I shouldn’t be the one to say this out loud, but I’m puzzled by the ferry. In a reversal of the usual trend, it’s been a big deal in the States and nearly ignored in Canada: in Toronto, it barely got any notice. Rochester’s been pushing for it for a while; it’s been front page news there. When it went broke last year, the City of Rochester bought it and put it back in service. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why. I’m not trying to be jingoistic here when I say these things, just stating facts… Toronto is much larger than Rochester. The US dollar goes further here. There are more amenities, more shopping, major league sports, attractions, major festivals (Pride Parade, Caribanna)… for Rochester to forge a direct link to Toronto is, to my mind, open a vein in upstate NY and offer the blood to the GTA. This can’t be good for business in Rochester. While we were at the terminal, we overheard one of the workers say only 40-50 people each trip are Canadians heading to the States. Everyone else is an American coming here… to eat, shop, stay over, blow money… and then going home. How does this help Rochester? As P-Doug has pointed out to me a few times, has anyone seen any ads for Rochester on TV, billboards, on the radio here in the GTA? What is there to do in Rochester? The city fathers sure aren’t getting the word out to the Great White North. They’re not lighting any fires under us to get us to get on that thing southbound. Canadian dollars at par days at the malls, attractions, historical sites… something. But not a peep. How long can this last?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Na na na na na na na na... Asshoooooole!

"Commissioner! It's too quiet tonight!"
"You're right, Chief... time for the Asshole!"
And so the Asshole Signal was beamed onto the moon.
"Oh, dear," said the butler, catching sight of the call for help. "I'd better alert the Master at once."
In the dark depths of the valley, the door to the Asshole Cave opened, and like a streak of overpriced light, the Assholemobile shot out into the night, forcing one or two other cars off the road as it merged, without signaling, at breakneck speed.
.. And what kind of car was it? Why, a Nissan Murano, of course!

I've seen a lot of assholemobiles over the years... Z-28s, minivans, pick-up trucks with four rear wheels... but for so many reasons, I have to give the nod to the Morono... I mean, Murano. In the past week, I've had dealings with three of these things, and all of them bespeak the same casual disregard for the rights and safety of others combined with an overt flair for conspicuous consumption that, combined, can only indicate narcissistic tendencies that verge on pathological.

First, the personal experience. Yesterday I watched one weave in and out of stop-and-go highway traffic that everyone else was patiently and carefully negotiating. Not a single signal to indicate lane changes or prevent heart attacks in others. No space was too small, even it was too small, and meant someone else had to slam on the brakes — them's the breaks, I guess, ha. Last week, though, was the incident that really brought them to the forefront of my attention. I was up north driving a road where the right hand land dropped off after an approaching intersection. The light was about to change. The Murano on my right, who didn't risk passing me and running out of blacktop, stopped for the light, but I went through. By the time I got to the next concession road, 7/8 of a mile away, the guy in the Murano had driven like a bat — excuse me, I mean, an asshole out of hell to catch up with me, and, without ever signaling, pass me illegally, crossing the solid line. When you think of the speed this took on an uneven road surface, and the risks of crossing the line under such conditions, all to show up a total stranger, a person he doesn't even know and will likely never encounter again, all I can say is, I don't care if he's hung like John Holmes... psychologically, he's hung like Topo Gigio.

Go out on the web and have a look at the thing. It doesn't even have the excuse of being an SUV or something. There's no real space in this lardbucket to haul any sports equipment. All it is is a huge, overblown, fatass version of a sedan, with the trunk space shoved up into the air, and a massive cabin for two 250 lb. adults and their brood of three 150 lb. 8-12-year-olds. God bless (North) America. What does this get, seven yards to the gallon? It's wasteful extravagence like this that has brought us to Peak Oil in the 2000s instead of the 2020s. Way to go, you selfish pricks. Enjoy the ride at the pumps.


Update: I was out driving around at lunch time and what did I find myself behind but the ugliest blue Murano. I kept an eye on the guy, and sure enough, in under a minute, he drifted over into the other lane... no signal, just the typical "read-my-mind/kiss-my-ass" attitude. Maybe it's genetic.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

It's official: the US is too big for its breeches

From the Guardian:

Evangelist tells 7m TV viewers: US should kill Venezuela's president
Julian Borger in Washington and Duncan Campbell
Wednesday August 24, 2005

America's leading televangelist appeared to take Christian fundamentalism into uncharted territory yesterday when he called for the assassination of Venezuela's president, Hugo Chávez.
Speaking on his own channel, the Christian Broadcasting Network, Pat Robertson said President Chávez should be targeted because he was a "terrific danger" whose country, a big supplier of oil to the US, was "a launching pad for communist infiltration and Islamic extremism all over the country".

Furthermore, killing the Venezuelan leader would be "a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability."

...In his remarks, Mr Robertson called Mr Chávez a "dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil, that could hurt us very badly".

He added: "This is in our sphere of influence, so we can't let this happen. We don't need another $200bn war to get rid of one strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

Read the rest of the article here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Putting a fine point on it

I just read the sharpest assessment on CounterPunch. Diana Christian blows all the fluff off the self-serving, exceptionalist arguments of the West in general and the US in particular, and neatly equates what we do with what everyone else does...

Like much Iraq history which looked to the lugal or big strongman, Americans mostly elect presidents willing to kill, who uphold the death penalty and preach strong defense for the country... Americans have not only sought politicians who support the death penalty and are willing to wage war or at least to threaten it, they also approve political assassination. Just as most advanced societies move away from the death penalty and seek to avoid war, America's current political climate permits the death penalty and embraces war as its duty...

...Truth is, life precedes liberty. You cannot be free unless you're alive. So the politics of death are always at odds with the ideal. Great energy is expended to fudge this. The Battle Hymn of the Republic is a fine example:"As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free." The stirring analogy is faulty and confuses agency. Christ who would not kill and suffered death is equated with the soldier charged to kill and slain for national goals. The killing part-Christ doesn't, the soldier does-completely disappears. It merges via death into noble self-sacrifice and messianic divinity. The Battle Hymn of the Republic asks the same willing life sacrifice that bin Laden asks of his suicide bombers. Both ask warriors to kill and be killed for a cause.

Read the rest of this BS-busting article here.

Beaver bites

Seems like a lot of Canadians besides just me see the key to getting the US to take NAFTA seriously is to ignore the energy provisions of the agreement and scale back our petroleum exports to them, as Doughbot suggests on his blog...

Saturday, August 20, 2005

You know those dreams where you're naked in public?...

Well, I was today, but it wasn't a dream. But don't get too scandalized. I was on a nude beach.

I have a friend visiting me from Rochester. He's a nudist, and he's been wanting to visit Hanlan's Point out on the Toronto Islands. So, today we caught the subway down to Union Station and walked to the ferry terminal, and caught the Hanlan's Point ferry. It was a quick passage; about five minutes. Then we wandered through the trees and grass to the sandy beach on the outer port side of the island, made our way to the clothing optional part of the beach, and got set up.

As we entered, we met a guy leaving, and I asked him how the water was. I meant the temp, but he mentioned that yesterday's storm had coated the shoreline with debris (it had; about a yard of it along the water's edge, mostly driftwood). He clarified that the water was cool, but warm enough to swim in.

Getting naked right out in the open was a lot easier than I expected. There were somewhere between one and two dozen people on the beach -- it was overcast and not great tanning weather -- and I didn't feel strange at all stripping off. I headed for the water nearly immediately. That was the real attraction for me. The water was a bit warmer than an unheated pool, but not much. Once it got up to, ah, pendulous areas, the going was a bit tougher. I always find it's gut level that's the real show-stopper. But I soldiered on out past the first sandbar, and very quickly grew accustomed to the water (my friend never did, turning back well before knee-deep). I splashed around out there for most of an hour. It was fantastic. It reminded me of my childhood summers in the August Atlantic swells. I launched into the air, yelling "Mombassa!!" like Hunter in Father of the Pride, getting in touch with his own instincts, and came down laughing. After half an hour or so I saw my friend waving to me, so I briefly came ashore. He wanted to express his concern about the sprinkling rain, which was only delighting me... not much for water, I guess, him. I went back out again for another little while, and finally waded ashore to rejoin him. I stretched out on my blanket and he and I talked for a while. After a bit, I got silly, and decided to build a sand castle. The sand didn't stick together so really, all I got was a sandpile. While I was trying to shape it, I was quoting Richard Dreyfuss from Close Encounters of the Third Kind: "Damn it, I know what this is!"

About that time, two women, still dressed, came by, greeting us. One was in her 30s and the other somewhat older with an English accent; perhaps mother (or mother-in-law) and daughter. It was a new, but not daunting, sensation to be sitting naked in the sand having a perfectly casual conversation with two summer-dressed women. In the course of it, they told us they were from Stoney Creek and had sailed across the lake (not the US; Stoney Creek's in Ontario, but on the Niagara Peninsula), and it was their first time at Hanlan's Point. I said, "Me too." We exchanged a few observations about all the debris that had washed up, then wished each other a good day, and they moved along.

Eventually we decided we should go, so I waded back out into the water to indulge myself for another 10 or 15 minutes. I came back, dried off, and we dressed and headed back to the ferry. It was just arriving as we got to the dock, which was great because it only sails every half hour. All in all, we were down there just a little under two hours. I had a great time. I'm so happy this kind of thing is normal, possible, and even no-big-deal in this town. I have to do this again.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Iran, China, and the petroeuro

This remarkable article is a must-read for anyone still puzzled as to the whys of the current situation in Iraq, and the puzzling, seemingly spontaneous bellicosity of the US administration to Iran. I quote it here in its entirety because it's so important, I don't want to chance the target of the link may evaporate. This might be the most cogent article you read for many months about likely events over the next couple of years, with significant indicators for you to watch for.


Petrodollasrs, Iran, & War

William R. Clark, 08/13/2005
Media Monitors Network
August 5, 2005

—"This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous . . . Having said that, all options are on the table." — President George W. Bush, February 2005

Contemporary warfare has traditionally involved underlying conflicts regarding economics and resources. Today these intertwined conflicts also involve international currencies, and thus increased complexity. Current geopolitical tensions between the United States and Iran extend beyond the publicly stated concerns regarding Iran's nuclear intentions, and likely include a proposed Iranian "petroeuro" system for oil trade. Similar to the Iraq war, military operations against Iran relate to the macroeconomics of 'petrodollar recycling' and the unpublicized but real challenge to U.S. dollar supremacy from the euro as an alternative oil transaction currency.

It is now obvious the invasion of Iraq had less to do with any threat from Saddam's long-gone WMD program and certainly less to do to do with fighting international terrorism than it has to do with gaining strategic control over Iraq's hydrocarbon reserves and in doing so maintain the U.S. dollar as the monopoly currency for the critical international oil market. Throughout 2004 information provided by former administration insiders revealed the Bush/Cheney administration entered into office with the intention of toppling Saddam.[1][2] Candidly stated, 'Operation Iraqi Freedom' was a war designed to install a pro-U.S. government in Iraq, establish multiple U.S military bases before the onset of global Peak Oil, and to reconvert Iraq back to petrodollars while hoping to thwart further OPEC momentum towards the euro as an alternative oil transaction currency ( i.e. "petroeuro").[3] However, subsequent geopolitical events have exposed neoconservative strategy as fundamentally flawed, with Iran moving towards a petroeuro system for international oil trades, while Russia evaluates this option with the European Union.

In 2003 the global community witnessed a combination of petrodollar warfare and oil depletion warfare. The majority of the world's governments — especially the E.U., Russia and China — were not amused — and neither are the U.S. soldiers who are currently stationed inside a hostile Iraq. In 2002 I wrote an award-winning online essay that asserted Saddam Hussein sealed his fate when he announced on September 2000 that Iraq was no longer going to accept dollars for oil being sold under the UN's Oil-for-Food program, and decided to switch to the euro as Iraq's oil export currency.[4] Indeed, my original pre-war hypothesis was validated in a *Financial Times* article dated June 5, 2003, which confirmed Iraqi oil sales returning to the international markets were once again denominated in U.S. dollars — not euros. The tender, for which bids are due by June 10, switches the transaction back to dollars — the international currency of oil sales — despite the greenback's recent fall in value. Saddam Hussein in 2000 insisted Iraq's oil be sold for euros, a political move, but one that improved Iraq's recent earnings thanks to the rise in the value of the euro against the dollar. [5]

The Bush administration implemented this currency transition despite the adverse impact on profits from Iraqi's export oil sales.[6] (In mid-2003 the euro was valued approx. 13% higher than the dollar, and thus significantly impacted the ability of future oil proceeds to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure).Not surprisingly, this detail has never been mentioned in the five U.S. major media conglomerates who control 90% of information flow in the U.S., but confirmation of this vital fact provides insight into one of the crucial — yet overlooked — rationales for 2003 the Iraq war.

Concerning Iran, recent articles have revealed active Pentagon planning for operations against its suspected nuclear facilities. While the publicly stated reasons for any such overt action will be premised as a consequence of Iran's nuclear ambitions, there are again unspoken macroeconomic drivers underlying the second stage of petrodollar warfare — Iran's upcoming oil bourse. (The word bourse refers to a stock exchange for securities trading, and is derived from the French stock exchange in Paris, the Federation Internationale des Bourses de Valeurs.)

In essence, Iran is about to commit a far greater "offense" than Saddam Hussein's conversion to the euro for Iraq's oil exports in the fall of 2000. Beginning in March 2006, the Tehran government has plans to begin competing with New York's NYMEX and London's IPE with respect to international oil trades — using a euro-based international oil-trading mechanism.[7] The proposed Iranian oil bourse signifies that without some sort of U.S. intervention, the euro is going to establish a firm foothold in the international oil trade. Given U.S. debt levels and the stated neoconservative project of U.S. global domination, Tehran's objective constitutes an obvious encroachment on dollar supremacy in the crucial international oil market.

From the autumn of 2004 through August 2005, numerous leaks by concerned Pentagon employees have revealed that the neoconservatives in Washington are quietly — but actively — planning for a possible attack against Iran. In September 2004 *Newsweek* reported: Deep in the Pentagon, admirals and generals are updating plans for possible U.S. military action in Syria and Iran. The Defense Department unit responsible for military planning for the two troublesome countries is "busier than ever," an administration official says. Some Bush advisers characterize the work as merely an effort to revise routine plans the Pentagon maintains for all contingencies in light of the Iraq war. More skittish bureaucrats say the updates are accompanied by a revived campaign by administration conservatives and neocons for more hard-line U.S. policies toward the countries . . . administration hawks are pinning their hopes on regime change in Tehran — by covert means, preferably, but by force of arms if necessary. Papers on the idea have circulated inside the administration, mostly labeled "draft" or "working draft" to evade congressional subpoena powers and the Freedom of Information Act. Informed sources say the memos echo the administration's abortive Iraq strategy: oust the existing regime, swiftly install a pro-U.S. government in its place (extracting the new regime's promise to renounce any nuclear ambitions) and get out. This daredevil scheme horrifies U.S. military leaders, and there's no evidence that it has won any backers at the cabinet level. [8]

Indeed, there are good reasons for U.S. military commanders to be 'horrified' at the prospects of attacking Iran. In the December 2004 issue of the *Atlantic Monthly*, James Fallows reported that numerous high-level war-gaming sessions had recently been completed by Sam Gardiner, a retired Air Force colonel who has run war games at the National War College for the past two decades.[9] Col. Gardiner summarized the outcome of these war games with this statement, "After all this effort, I am left with two simple sentences for policymakers: You have no military solution for the issues of Iran. And you have to make diplomacy work." Despite Col. Gardiner's warnings, yet another story appeared in early 2005 that reiterated this administration's intentions towards Iran. Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh's article in the *New Yorker* included interviews with various high-level U.S. intelligence sources.Hersh wrote: In my interviews [with former high-level intelligence officials], I was repeatedly told that the next strategic target was Iran. Everyone is saying, 'You can't be serious about targeting Iran. Look at Iraq,' the former [CIA] intelligence official told me. But the [Bush administration officials] say, 'We've got some lessons learned — not militarily, but how we did it politically. We're not going to rely on agency pissants.' No loose ends, and that's why the C.I.A. is out of there. [10]

The most recent, and by far the most troubling, was an article in the *American Conservative* by intelligence analyst Philip Giraldi. His article, "In Case of Emergency, Nuke Iran," suggested the resurrection of active U.S. military planning against Iran — but with the shocking disclosure that in the event of another 9/11-type terrorist attack on U.S. soil, Vice President Dick Cheney's office wants the Pentagon to be prepared to launch a potential tactical nuclear attack on Iran — even if the Iranian government was not involved with any such terrorist attack against the U.S.: The Pentagon, acting under instructions from Vice President Dick Cheney's office, has tasked the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) with drawing up a contingency plan to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States. The plan includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons. Within Iran there are more than 450 major strategic targets, including numerous suspected nuclear-weapons-program development sites. Many of the targets are hardened or are deep underground and could not be taken out by conventional weapons, hence the nuclear option. As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States. Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are doing — that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack — but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objections. [11]

Why would the Vice President instruct the U.S. military to prepare plans for what could likely be an unprovoked nuclear attack against Iran? Setting aside the grave moral implications for a moment, it is remarkable to note that during the same week this "nuke Iran" article appeared, the *Washington Post* reported that the most recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of Iran's nuclear program revealed that, "Iran is about a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon, roughly doubling the previous estimate of five years."[12] This article carefully noted this assessment was a "consensus among U.S. intelligence agencies, [and in] contrast with forceful public statements by the White House." The question remains, Why would the Vice President advocate a possible tactical nuclear attack against Iran in the event of another major terrorist attack against the U.S. — even if Tehran was innocent of involvement?

Perhaps one of the answers relates to the same obfuscated reasons why the U.S. launched an unprovoked invasion to topple the Iraq government — macroeconomics and the desperate desire to maintain U.S. economic supremacy. In essence, petrodollar hegemony is eroding, which will ultimately force the U.S. to significantly change its current tax, debt, trade, and energy policies, all of which are severely unbalanced. World oil production is reportedly "flat out," and yet the neoconservatives are apparently willing to undertake huge strategic and tactical risks in the Persian Gulf. Why? Quite simply — their stated goal is U.S. global domination — at any cost.

To date, one of the more difficult technical obstacles concerning a euro-based oil transaction trading system is the lack of a euro-denominated oil pricing standard, or oil 'marker' as it is referred to in the industry. The three current oil markers are U.S. dollar denominated, which include the West Texas Intermediate crude (WTI), Norway Brent crude, and the UAE Dubai crude. However, since the summer of 2003 Iran has required payments in the euro currency for its European and Asian/ACU exports — although the oil pricing these trades was still denominated in the dollar.[13]

Therefore a potentially significant news story was reported in June 2004 announcing Iran's intentions to create of an Iranian oil bourse. This announcement portended competition would arise between the Iranian oil bourse and London's International Petroleum Exchange (IPE), as well as the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX). [Both the IPE and NYMEX are owned by U.S. consortium, and operated by an Atlanta-based corporation, IntercontinentalExchange, Inc.]

The macroeconomic implications of a successful Iranian bourse are noteworthy. Considering that in mid-2003 Iran switched its oil payments from E.U. and ACU customers to the euro, and thus it is logical to assume the proposed Iranian bourse will usher in a fourth crude oil marker — denominated in the euro currency. This event would remove the main technical obstacle for a broad-based petroeuro system for international oil trades. From a purely economic and monetary perspective, a petroeuro system is a logical development given that the European Union imports more oil from OPEC producers than does the U.S., and the E.U. accounted for 45% of exports sold to the Middle East. (Following the May 2004 enlargement, this percentage likely increased).

Despite the complete absence of coverage from the five U.S. corporate media conglomerates, these foreign news stories suggest one of the Federal Reserve's nightmares may begin to unfold in the spring of 2006, when it appears that international buyers will have a choice of buying a barrel of oil for $60 dollars on the NYMEX and IPE — or purchase a barrel of oil for 45-50 euros via the Iranian Bourse. This assumes the euro maintains its current 20-25% appreciated value relative to the dollar — and assumes that some sort of US "intervention" is not launched against Iran. The upcoming bourse will introduce petrodollar versus petroeuro currency hedging, and fundamentally new dynamics to the biggest market in the world — global oil and gas trades. In essence, the U.S. will no longer be able to effortlessly expand credit via U.S. Treasury bills, and the dollar's demand/liquidity value will fall.

It is unclear at the time of writing if this project will be successful, or could it prompt overt or covert U.S. interventions — thereby signaling the second phase of petrodollar warfare in the Middle East. Regardless of the potential U.S. response to an Iranian petroeuro system, the emergence of an oil exchange market in the Middle East is not entirely surprising given the domestic peaking and decline of oil exports in the U.S. and U.K, in comparison to the remaining oil reserves in Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. What we are witnessing is a battle for oil currency supremacy. If Iran's oil bourse becomes a successful alternative for international oil trades, it would challenge the hegemony currently enjoyed by the financial centers in both London (IPE) and New York (NYMEX), a factor not overlooked in the following (UK) *Guardian* article: Iran is to launch an oil trading market for Middle East and Opec producers that could threaten the supremacy of London's International Petroleum Exchange . . . Some industry experts have warned the Iranians and other OPEC producers that western exchanges are controlled by big financial and oil corporations, which have a vested interest in market volatility. [emphasis added] The IPE, bought in 2001 by a consortium that includes BP, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, was unwilling to discuss the Iranian move yesterday. "We would not have any comment to make on it at this stage," said an IPE spokeswoman. [14]

During an important speech in April 2002, Mr. Javad Yarjani, an OPEC executive, described three pivotal events that would facilitate an OPEC transition to euros.[15] He stated this would be based on (1) if and when Norway's Brent crude is re-dominated in euros, (2) if and when the U.K. adopts the euro, and (3) whether or not the euro gains parity valuation relative to the dollar, and the EU's proposed expansion plans were successful. Notably, both of the later two criteria have transpired: the euro's valuation has been above the dollar since late 2002, and the euro-based E.U. enlarged in May 2004 from 12 to 22 countries. Despite recent "no" votes by French and Dutch voters regarding a common E.U. Constitution, from a macroeconomic perspective, these domestic disagreements do not reduce the euro currency's trajectory in the global financial markets — and from Russia and OPEC's perspective — do not adversely impact momentum towards a petroeuro. In the meantime, the U.K. remains uncomfortably juxtaposed between the financial interests of the U.S. banking nexus (New York/Washington) and the E.U. financial centers (Paris/Frankfurt).

The most recent news reports indicate the oil bourse will start trading on March 20, 2006, coinciding with the Iranian New Year.[16] The implementation of the proposed Iranian oil Bourse — if successful in utilizing the euro as its oil transaction currency standard — essentially negates the previous two criteria as described by Mr. Yarjani regarding the solidification of a petroeuro system for international oil trades. It should also be noted that throughout 2003-2004 both Russia and China significantly increased their central bank holdings of the euro, which appears to be a coordinated move to facilitate the anticipated ascendance of the euro as a second World Reserve Currency. [17] [18] China's announcement in July 2005 that is was re-valuing the yuan/RNB was not nearly as important as its decision to divorce itself form a U.S. dollar peg by moving towards a "basket of currencies" — likely to include the yen, euro, and dollar.[19] Additionally, the Chinese re-valuation immediately lowered their monthly imported "oil bill" by 2%, given that oil trades are still priced in dollars, but it is unclear how much longer this monopoly arrangement will last.

Furthermore, the geopolitical stakes for the Bush administration were raised dramatically on October 28, 2004, when Iran and China signed a huge oil and gas trade agreement (valued between $70-$100 billion dollars.) [20] It should also be noted that China currently receives 13% of its oil imports from Iran. In the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, the U.S.-administered Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) nullified previous oil lease contracts from 1997-2002 that France, Russia, China and other nations had established under the Saddam regime. The nullification of these contracts worth a reported $1.1 trillion created political tensions between the U.S and the European Union, Russia and China. The Chinese government may fear the same fate awaits their oil investments in Iran if the U.S. were able to attack and topple the Tehran government. Despite U.S. desires to enforce petrodollar hegemony, the geopolitical risks of an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities would surely create a serious crisis between Washington and Beijing.

It is increasingly clear that a confrontation and possible war with Iran may transpire during the second Bush term. Clearly, there are numerous tactical risks regarding neoconservative strategy towards Iran. First, unlike Iraq, Iran has a robust military capability. Secondly, a repeat of any "Shock and Awe" tactics is not advisable given that Iran has installed sophisticated anti-ship missiles on the Island of Abu Musa, and therefore controls the critical Strait of Hormuz — where all of the Persian Gulf bound oil tankers must pass.[22] The immediate question for Americans? Will the neoconservatives attempt to intervene covertly and/or overtly in Iran during 2005 or 2006 in a desperate effort to prevent the initiation of euro-denominated international crude oil sales? Commentators in India are quite correct in their assessment that a U.S. intervention in Iran is likely to prove disastrous for the United States, making matters much worse regarding international terrorism, not to mention the potential effects on the U.S. economy. If it [ U.S.] intervenes again, it is absolutely certain it will not be able to improve the situation . . . There is a better way, as the constructive engagement of Libya's Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has shown . . . Iran is obviously a more complex case than Libya, because power resides in the clergy, and Iran has not been entirely transparent about its nuclear program, but the sensible way is to take it gently, and nudge it to moderation. Regime change will only worsen global Islamist terror, and in any case, Saudi Arabia is a fitter case for democratic intervention, if at all. [21]

A successful Iranian bourse will solidify the petroeuro as an alternative oil transaction currency, and thereby end the petrodollar's hegemonic status as the monopoly oil currency. Therefore, a graduated approach is needed to avoid precipitous U.S. economic dislocations. Multilateral compromise with the EU and OPEC regarding oil currency is certainly preferable to an 'Operation Iranian Freedom,' or perhaps another CIA-backed coup such as operation "Ajax" from 1953. Despite the impressive power of the U.S. military, and the ability of our intelligence agencies to facilitate 'interventions,' it would be perilous and possibly ruinous for the U.S. to intervene in Iran given the dire situation in Iraq. The Monterey Institute of International Studies warned of the possible consequences of a preemptive attack on Iran's nuclear facilities:An attack on Iranian nuclear facilities . . . could have various adverse effects on U.S. interests in the Middle East and the world. Most important, in the absence of evidence of an Iranian illegal nuclear program, an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities by the U.S. or Israel would be likely to strengthen Iran's international stature and reduce the threat of international sanctions against Iran. [23]


It is not yet clear if a U.S. military expedition will occur in a desperate attempt to maintain petrodollar supremacy. Regardless of the recent National Intelligence Estimate that down-played Iran's potential nuclear weapons program, it appears increasingly likely the Bush administration may use the specter of nuclear weapon proliferation as a pretext for an intervention, similar to the fears invoked in the previous WMD campaign regarding Iraq. If recent stories are correct regarding Cheney's plan to possibly use a another 9/11 terrorist attack as the pretext or casus belli for a U.S. aerial attack against Iran, this would confirm the Bush administration is prepared to undertake a desperate military strategy to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions, while simultaneously attempting to prevent the Iranian oil Bourse from initiating a euro-based system for oil trades.

However, as members of the U.N. Security Council; China, Russia and E.U. nations such as France and Germany would likely veto any U.S.-sponsored U.N. Security Resolution calling the use of force without solid proof of Iranian culpability in a major terrorist attack. A unilateral U.S. military strike on Iran would isolate the U.S. government in the eyes of the world community, and it is conceivable that such an overt action could provoke other industrialized nations to strategically abandon the dollar en masse. Indeed, such an event would create pressure for OPEC or Russia to move towards a petroeuro system in an effort to cripple the U.S. economy and its global military presence. I refer to this in my book as the "rogue nation hypothesis."

While central bankers throughout the world community would be extremely reluctant to 'dump the dollar,' the reasons for any such drastic reaction are likely straightforward from their perspective — the global community is dependent on the oil and gas energy supplies found in the Persian Gulf. Hence, industrialized nations would likely move in tandem on the currency exchange markets in an effort to thwart the neoconservatives from pursuing their desperate strategy of dominating the world's largest hydrocarbon energy supply. Any such efforts that resulted in a dollar currency crisis would be undertaken — not to cripple the U.S. dollar and economy as punishment towards the American people per se — but rather to thwart further unilateral warfare and its potentially destructive effects on the critical oil production and shipping infrastructure in the Persian Gulf. Barring a U.S. attack, it appears imminent that Iran's euro-denominated oil bourse will open in March 2006. Logically, the most appropriate U.S. strategy is compromise with the E.U. and OPEC towards a dual-currency system for international oil trades.

—Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes . . . known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few . . . . No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare. — James Madison, *Political Observations* (1795)

—William R. Clark has received two Project Censored awards for his research on oil currency conflict, and has recently published a book, Petrodollar Warfare: Oil, Iraq and the Future of the Dollar (New Society Publishers, 2005). He is an Information Security Analyst, and holds a Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in Information and Telecommunication Systems from Johns Hopkins University. He contributed this article to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from Maryland, USA.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Same old double standard

I'm glad Israel's moving the settlers out of the Gaza Strip, but author Jennifer Loewenstein has a point...

On ABC's Nightline Monday night, a reporter interviewed a young, sympathetic Israeli woman from the largest Gaza settlement, Neve Dekalim - a girl with sincerity in her voice, holding back tears. She doesn't view the soldiers as her enemy, she says, and doesn't want violence. She will leave even though to do so is causing her great pain. She talked about the tree she planted in front of her home with her brother when she was three; about growing up in the house they were now leaving, the memories, and knowing she could never return; that even if she did, everything she knew would be gone from the scene. The camera then panned to her elderly parents sitting somberly amid boxed-up goods, surveying the scene, looking forlorn and resigned. Her mother was a kindergarten teacher, we are told. She knew just about all of the children who grew up here near the sea.

In the 5 years of Israel's brutal suppression of the Palestinian uprising against the occupation, I never once saw or heard a segment as long and with as much sentimental, human detail as I did here; never once remember a reporter allowing a sympathetic young Palestinian woman, whose home was just bulldozed and who lost everything she owned, tell of her pain and sorrow, of her memories and her family's memories; never got to listen to her reflect on where she would go now and how she would live. And yet in Gaza alone more than 23,000 people have lost their homes to Israeli bulldozers and bombs since September 2000 -- often at a moment's notice ­ on the grounds that they "threatened Israel's security." The vast majority of the destroyed homes were located too close to an IDF military outpost or illegal settlement to be allowed to continue standing. The victims received no compensation for their losses and had no place waiting for them to relocate. Most ended up in temporary UNRWA tent-cities until they could find shelter elsewhere in the densely overcrowded Strip, a quarter of whose best land was inhabited by the 1% of the population that was Jewish and occupying the land at their expense.

Where were the cameramen in May 2004 in Rafah when refugees twice over lost their homes again in a single night's raid, able to retrieve nothing of what they owned? Where were they when bulldozers and tanks tore up paved streets with steel blades, wrecked the sewage and water pipes, cut electricity lines, and demolished a park and a zoo; when snipers shot two children, a brother and sister, feeding their pigeons on the roof of their home? When the occupying army fired a tank shell into a group of peaceful demonstrators killing 14 of them including two children? Where have they been for the past five years when the summer heat of Rafah makes life so unbearable it is all one can do to sit quietly in the shade of one's corrugated tin roof -- because s/he is forbidden to go to the sea, ten minutes' walking distance from the city center? Or because if they ventured to the more open spaces they became walking human targets? And when their citizens resisted, where were the accolades and the admiring media to comment on the "pluck," the "will" and "audacity" of these "young people"?

Read the rest of the article here.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Free admission

I happened to look out the window this evening and there was an amazing sunset going on. I grabbed the new camera to see if I could get anything dramatic. The sky was an amazing display of orange for four or five minutes. I was reminded of the lyrics of a song by The Cars, "Bye Bye Love".

It's an orangy sky...

Always, it's some other guy...

It's just a broken lullabye...

Douglas Hurd for Prime Minister

When I was 19 or 20, the CBC was broadcasting the hilarious and iconoclastic British standard Spitting Image on late night Saturday TV. This was during the the Thatcher government. The one Tory cabinet minister who didn't routinely come off as a brainless sleazedball was Douglas Hurd, who was first Home Secretary and later Foreign Secretary. He was typically portrayed as the only voice of conscience among Margaret Thatcher's band of yes-men, though he was always defeated by her steamrolling, bullyish ways. What little I know of the man outside the broad strokes of that TV show, though, has been recently enhanced and re-enforced by articles like this one. I will quote it here because I don't know how dependable links to The Independent may turn out to be. This shows that even the Tories, there are people of conscience far more honest and humane than such supposed leftwing 'softies' like Tony Blair.

Douglas Hurd: You cannot divorce Iraq from the terror equation
We removed a cruel dictator and substituted a scene of carnage and anarchy
Published: 28 July 2005

Each time ministers dream that they have escaped from the Iraq question, it surfaces again and hits them hard on the back of the head. For a couple of days after the bombings in London, it was thought bad taste to mention Iraq. Then, first Charles Kennedy and then the Chatham House think tank broke the unnatural taboo. Now the subject is out of the box and the Prime Minister, despite his efforts this week, cannot put it back in again.

No sane person is making excuses for the London bombers. No one is saying that the al-Qa'ida brand of terrorism started because of the invasion of Iraq. No one is saying we could make ourselves safe by pulling our troops out of Iraq. The point being made is obvious and true, however unwelcome to ministers. The likelihood of young Muslims, whether in Britain or elsewhere, being attracted to terrorism was increased by our action in Iraq.

We attacked a Muslim country on grounds which turned out to be empty. We broke international law. We faced no serious threat from Saddam Hussein and received no authority from the Security Council. We brought about the death of thousands of innocent Iraqis.

The Downing Street spokesman airily dismisses this by saying that nowadays Muslims in Iraq were killing Muslims. Yes, indeed, as a direct result of our invasion and the situation which we created. We removed a cruel and wicked dictator and substituted the scene of carnage and anarchy in parts of Iraq today. We created in Iraq a new base for terrorism, and the world including Britain is less safe because of that.

There is a danger that our ministers will be so busy defending the war they started that their judgement on what needs to be done now will be blurred. There is no case for immediate withdrawal of British and American troops. That would almost certainly make a bad situation worse. The present Iraqi government, though weak and facing increasing charges of corruption, is at least the result of reasonably fair elections.

But it is not enough simply to repeat, as the Prime Minister does, that we will stay until the job is done. By that, he presumably means until we have trained enough Iraqi police and soldiers to protect Iraq against the insurgents. But this is not as simple a policy as it sounds.

Just as it is impossible to wage war without killing innocent people, so it is very difficult to occupy a country without making militants and using force in a way which will do more harm than good. Occupation can sometimes be almost as hard for the occupiers as for the occupied, as we learned long ago in Cyprus and Palestine. Even in the south of Iraq where Saddam's downfall was welcomed most enthusiastically, British troops operate among people for whom foreign occupation is a humiliation. In central cities like Fallujah, the American presence is already part of the problem, not of a solution.

We cannot now take back from the Iraqi government the authority which we have given them. Because oil production is falling way below what was planned, Iraq will continue to need plenty of American and other financial help. But in return, it is reasonable for us to ask the Iraqi government to carry out their duty. The elections which brought them to power were not universal. Most of the Sunni fifth of the population stayed away.

This was a mistake by the Sunnis, but also a disaster for Iraq as a whole, because without Sunnis in government there can be no stability. There has to be a peace process, which means a serious effort to isolate the murderers, many of them foreign, and negotiate with Sunnis who are fed up with violence and anxious to find a way into politics. The peace process in Ireland has never been tidy and still looks messy today. But at least it has stopped the terrorism and enabled Northern Ireland to achieve European standards of prosperity.

The parallel is not exact, but the broad lesson is the same. Our willingness to keep troops for the time being in Iraq should depend on the willingness of the Iraqi government to make that effort of reconciliation. They are trying now to agree a constitution. Good luck to them - but the urgent need is to negotiate an end to the violence, not with the suicide bombers, but with those on whom the bombers rely for support.

Iraq will never be the shining example of capitalist democracy which President Bush imagined in his first term. The attempt to achieve this with British and American tanks and missiles was bound to fail. But if we learn from our mistakes, Iraq could still become a decent Middle Eastern state in which Kurds, Sunni and Shia live together harmoniously and use their country's wealth for the common good.

The author, who was Foreign Secretary, 1989-95, is currently working on a life of Sir Robert Peel

Saturday, August 13, 2005

In a language they understand

Fairness is not a language understood by officialdom in the United States; I don't think it ever was. This is a land infuriatingly self-assured that it knows what is best for other countries better than they themselves know; moreover, that it is above or outside the rules of common international intercourse, even those ones it has official agreed to, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement.

How many times now have various bodies told the United States that Canada's lumber policies do not constitute dumping, and ruled that the US must admit our lumber and return the duties? And yet, time and again, the US, supposedly our best friend and closest neighbour, flouts the rules and ignores the rulings, and has announced it has every intention of doing so once again.

Clearly, no agreement concluded with the United States is worth the paper upon which it is printed. And so...

It's time we got out of NAFTA.

Call up Washington, and give notice. Start diversifying our trade. I, as I've expressed previously, am of the opinion that greedheads in the US have allowed the American economy to be hollowed out... jobs, technology, expertise, production... they have all been leeched off to other countries, particularly China and India, over the past 15-20 years. I believe that China, which holds huge amounts of US currency in reserve and a vast share of US foreign debt, will eventually lower the boom on the US when the time comes to humble it as a rival. The weapon has been placed in their hands by the Americans themselves. We need not be standing any closer to them than necessary when it goes off.

Secondly, it's time to start talking with some teeth. None of this nonsense about countervaling duties on breadcrumbs and swizzlesticks. Enough of that. It's time to place an embargo on the US. Deny them our oil. China wants it, desperately. Let's sell it to them instead. If they want to get tough with us, they'd better remember we're in NATO, and anything above and beyond would shatter the Atlantic alliance and truly and finally utterly isolate the United States. We are also in NORAD. Their secrets are, by and large, our secrets...

It'll be hard, but I think the time has come. If Canada is to survive the coming collapse of the US as the preeminent power in the world, we need some distance, at least economically. We're dependent on a guy who's due a massive heart attack. We better start finding other patrons. And also reminding him we're a friend due respect and due process.

There are a lot of fine people in the United States. But unfortunately, they're not calling the shots. They're not the ones who need the message we have to send.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Blair concedes: terrorists win

It appears Governor Blair is taking another page from Washington. It occurs to me when the (British) Human Rights Act, the Writ of Habeas Corpus, and Magna Carta are all documents of paper, it may be unwise to let boys like Tony play with scissors and matches.
Ordinarily I don't directly comment on these pieces, but some of the points here provoke me. My comments in red.

"Should legal obstacles arise, we will legislate further, including, if necessary amending the Human Rights Act, in respect of the interpretation of the ECHR. In any event, we will consult on legislating specifically for a non-suspensive appeal process in respect of deportations. One other point on deportations. Once the new grounds take effect, there will be a list drawn up of specific extremist websites, bookshops, centres, networks and particular organisations of concern. Active engagement with any of these will be a trigger for the home secretary to consider the deportation of any foreign national. As has been stated already, there will be new anti-terrorism legislation in the autumn. This will include an offence of condoning or glorifying terrorism. The sort of remarks made in recent days should be covered by such laws. But this will also be applied to justifying or glorifying terrorism anywhere, not just in the UK."

Glorifying terrorism? Tony, you do this in your each and every appearance at the microphone. It'll never happen, but I can't help wondering what account you would give of yourself when you stand in the dock at Nuremburg. What can you possibly say? You weren't even following orders, you were issuing them. And they were bullshit. And you knew it. And we know it. What would you say, Tony, as the ghosts of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi men, women, and children, none of whom represented the slightest threat to any British citizen, stare down at you in mute accusation? Turn Catholic, Tony. Purgatory's your only hope of escaping hell.

"Parliament must be supreme. Aggressive judicial activism will not only undermine the public's confidence in the impartiality of our judiciary. It could also put our security at risk - and with it the freedoms the judges seek to defend. That would be a price we cannot be expected to pay."

In a way, I'm glad your conscience is a guilty as it must be for you to propose banning criticisms of your actions... and let's be honest; that's all this really is. But you do really suppose you can hide your guilt by forcing it off the streets to be whispered under the stairs and in dark alleys? And so while the man in the street who says, "We attacked Iraq, what did they think will happen?" might not actually go to jail, he could still be arrested, and endure defending himself at great expense. Moreover, at this late date in history, you're tempted to resurrect the great British tradition of gutlessly suspending habeas corpus whenever the going gets tough for the government of the day. You put the lie to fighting for democracy, Tony, when it dies on your own sword at home. So, at least, let's hear no more about how the war is being fought to "defend our values" and "our way of life" when you're the only one with a hope of destroying them, and indeed seem content to.

And you're wrong, Tony, when you say "Parliament must be supreme". The law must be supreme. Not even the institution that makes it is above it. It should not be permissible, or at least very easy, for a legislature to, for the sake of its own expediency, break the constitutional limits that restrain its fiats. Governments come and go. Regimes pass with time and are replaced. Even nations, languages, and cultures rise and fall and fade from memory. The only constant is humanity, and the inherent dignity and regard owed every one of us. Even the Iraqis who die at your whim, whose great crime is living too close to oil.

Read the article here.

A day of wild contrasts in the city in the trees

Yesterday was indeed a day marked by a broad range in the little enjoyments to be had at this time in history and this place in the world.

At lunch time, I decided to take a quick jaunt to a wilderness park not far from work. On arrival, I changed into light clothing and set forth on one of those barefooted forest hikes of which I'm fond. In the course of it, I came upon a lovely, inviting spot. For a quarter of an hour, I sat on the cool, moist forest floor, cross-legged and naked, nestled in the embrace of the upturned roots of a fallen giant, staring up through the leaves and branches as the sky, eternal and dispassionate, rolled above me with the most magnificent calm. The warm breeze brushed over my body, scented with pine, and evocative of Christmas morn.

Half an hour later found me once again clad in business casual, standing in a cramped, air-conditioned kitchenette, waiting for a metal box to issue me a cup of what a friend of mine lovingly refers to as "machine urine"... you might know it better as coffee. I'd certainly like to, at any rate. But at least it's free.

A further half hour; I was in the parking lot of the building, rollerblading with co-workers, passing a ball back and forth with a hockey stick. Where an hour earlier had seen me pressed to the soft, natural body of the Earth, I now hurtled over the unforgiving charcoal roughness of the cement, bristling like a porcupine at every stumble.

Ten hours passed, and again I was to be found in the forest, this time in the company of a friend. We had ventured to a broad river plain not far away, sheltered from the lights of town, in the hopes of photographing the Perseids as they streaked across the sky. Unfortunately, it was the first overcast night in many days, and there was nothing to be seen or recorded. So, instead, we stripped and spent over an hour wading in the river, graced now and then by a gentle rain... marveling at the velvet of the silt beneath us, listening to the insect symphonies on the banks to either side of us, talking about our friends, movies, and the lousy seeing in the sky on such a rare night. The water was delightful; the temperature of any unheated municipal pool, rolling past us like silk. At last we decided to leave, and having no towel, simply elected to air dry as we walked along the path, undisturbed and forgotten, it seemed, in the depths of night. It was as though we had somehow stepped aside from the ordinary world into a pocket one, some twilight universe with us as the only inhabitants, until at last we climbed back into the world of light.

And so twice in the course of the day I was in the forest as any of our remote ancestors might have been; unprotected and natural, a part of nature myself instead of apart from nature. And in between, swathed in synthetics; enclosed in polymers, glass, and steel that hurtles faster than natural man ever ran or even fell; closed in spaces of precise straight lines where heat is banished and darkness outlawed. And for all that, still, the clouds could deny the stars; now, as then.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Different kinds of nukes for Iran and China...

...As a result of the influence of Israel's neoconservative supporters and evangelicals expecting The Rapture, conservatives and Republicans are focused on the Middle East. They are apoplectic over Iran's nuclear power program. If Iran has a nuclear power program, Iran might be able to produce a nuclear weapon in ten years. Vice President Cheney has ordered a plan for the US to use tactical nuclear weapons to take out Iran's capability should an excuse arise.

That would be the third Islamic country the US would have attacked in as many years. All hell would break loose. Meanwhile, the chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has announced that the Commission will approve Westinghouse's sale of two nuclear reactors to China.

Conservatives and Republicans think this is a good idea. Vice President Cheney has lobbied in behalf of the sale. It is good for private business. It means $2.4 billion in revenues for Westinghouse Electric Company.

Iran will never again be a world power, even if it has a few nukes. Persia was a power in ancient times, not today. If we don't bother Iran, Iran won't bother us.

China is a different matter. China already is a world power. China holds enough US government debt to have the dollar and US interest rates in its hand. Last month in an official briefing a top Chinese general, Zhu Chenghu, said that if the US messes around with China or tries to interfere with China's reunification with Taiwan, China will nuke the US: "If the Americans are determined to interfere, then we will be determined to respond. We Chinese will prepare ourselves for the destruction of all the cities east of Xian. Of course, the Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds of cities will be destroyed by the Chinese."

VP Cheney and the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission want to make sure China has what it takes to do the job.

Read the rest here.

Grenades for the hothouse flowers

This morning I was reading the latest issue of National Geographic. There's an article in it about how we will power civilization in the coming years, called After Oil. It makes it plain that there are rough times ahead, but we have some solutions in the works. One of them, probably the one with the best short-term potential, is wind power. The technology already exists. All we have to do is build it.

What amazes me was that there is opposition to it. People in England kvetching that the windmills will spoil the view. Same in Massachusetts. I've heard the similar noise about the handful of ones we have here in Toronto, mostly from the condo crowd... people downtown moaning about how a bank of offshore windmills will spoil the natural view. Pardon me, but aren't these some of the same self-satisfied hothouse flowers who sneer at cars and freeways as they rollerblade to the bike shop so they can go further afield ecologically for their special little coffees and quaint bookstores that only stock tomes printed on hemp? You know, the narcissistic douchebags who think airplane noise is something for other people to suffer as they nix a 50-foot fixed link to the Island Airport while continuing to demand a rapid transit line all the way from Union Station to YYZ? They charge suburbia with being the problem and that the rest of us have to give up our cars and live like ants. But when part of the solution means even a minor inconvience to them, they don't want to be part of it, either. You know, I don't mind the suggestion that my lifestyle is wrong and, in the long run, needs adjustment to some real level of sustainability, half as much as I despise this self-serving, duplicitous hypocrisy. If I eventually have to return to that miserable fucking public transit slog to school and work I endured for ten years, then you assholes can goddamn well put up with a few dozen graceful white pinwheels on the horizon, you know?

We can have a future of wide expanses of solar power harvesters and fields and shorelines gathering the wind, with some minor impact on the vista, or else one where an increasing dependence on dwindling fossil fuels impoverishes us while it devastates those views, until at last our civilization collapses and humans return to lives of subsistence farming, with little or no time to waste looking up at the pretty view. Pick one. You can't have both.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

"He's not lost, he's dead."

[Cindy Sheehan] told the audience of veterans from World War Two to today’s war in Iraq, that the two main things she plans to tell the man she holds responsible for son Casey’s death are “Quit saying that U.S. troops died for a noble cause in Iraq, unless you say, ‘well, except for Casey Sheehan.’ Don’t you dare spill any more blood in Casey’s name. You do not have permission to use my son’s name.”

“And the other thing I want him to tell me is ‘just what was the noble cause Casey died for?’ Was it freedom and democracy? Bullshit! He died for oil. He died to make your friends richer. He died to expand American imperialism in the Middle East. We’re not freer here, thanks to your PATRIOT Act. Iraq is not free. You get America out of Iraq and Israel out of Palestine and you’ll stop the terrorism,” she exclaimed.

“There, I used the ‘I’ word – imperialism,” the 48 year-old mother quipped. “And now I’m going to use another ‘I’ word – impeachment – because we cannot have these people pardoned. They need to be tried on war crimes and go to jail.”

As the veterans in Dallas rose to their feet, Sheehan said defiantly, “My son was killed in 2004. I am not paying my taxes for 2004. You killed my son, George Bush, and I don’t owe you a give my son back and I’ll pay my taxes. Come after me (for back taxes) and we’ll put this war on trial.”

Read the rest here.

Shots for the Asking

I mentioned to James that the EFS 18-55mm lens was capable of shots tight enough to detail a human hand at far less than full extension. Here's the proof... Self-portrait; one of the Lone Primate's bare paws.

The EFS 18-55mm lens comes in handy.

No diamonds, no Lucy, just sky.

Now Toronto is, after all, the city in the trees. Bruce's Mill Conservation Area is, after all, part of the Greater Toronto Area. So here you go. I love this picture. It's dark, moody, and yet happy and hopeful. This shot was taken in black and white (no duh) with the red filter setting.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


I offer the following without comment, except to say I photographed it not with my Rebel XT but my little dinky Aiptek DV-II, which I carry with me on my fannypack. I took this shot in the parking lot of the Bayview Village Shopping Centre where I was picking up Black Seal rum at the LCBO and soy sauce at Lablaw's. What is in this guy's mind when he's on the road?

War War!

What is your legacy?

Suppose, for a moment, our civilization will end tomorrow. You can leave three books that will, through the miracle of City In the Trees Magic, be unambigulously understood by our successors... be they other humans in a thousand years, or lemurs, raccoons, foxes, or rats in several millions. What would they be?

So as not to prejudice you, I will post my own selections in a reply to this post.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Hi, thanks for coming out...

This has to be the ultimate "welcome to Toronto" photo I've ever seen. I love "daily dose of imagery". :)

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Adventures with a new camera

Thought I'd report on how it's going with the Rebel XT, particularly since James left a comment to the effect that he was interested, since he is considering getting a new camera himself.

First portrait victim: Bonnie.

This is one of my cats, Bonnie, a sweet tortie. She patiently endured about a half-dozen camera flashes in order for me to secure a shot I liked.

Second victim: Max.

Max, my other cat. This shot was taken with the Tamron 70-300mm telephoto/macro lens that came in the camera bundle deal. It was set on macro, obviously.

Product placement?

A no-name brand of diet cola, if you're curious. I've wanted to take shots like this for years. Across the span of just a couple of inches, the image is out of focus, comes into focus, and goes out of focus again. Look at the detail... you can see the etching of the brushed aluminum. This shot was also taken with the Tamron lens, at a distance of about three feet from the can.

Tribute to Jody.

Jody is a net friend I had for ten years, first in Albuquerque and later in Dallas. He died fourteen months ago today. We never met face to face, but I talked to him just about every day, and he came to be something like a brother to me. Unfortunately for so many people, a rare form of cancer came into his life a few years ago, and finally ended it. The little cedar chest holds a small share of his ashes, given to me by his roommates when I went to Dallas for his memorial. The cheetah figure is meant to be iconic of him, and was sent to me by a young woman he went to college with. The portrait behind is, as you might guess, a picture of Jody himself in happier times.

Big Dipper, little plane, dark field.

Friday night I decided to test the camera's nighttime abilities. Even with my still very limited knowledge, I got some shots I was happy with. I went out to the flood plain where Old Cummer bridge is (if you remember it from an earlier posting; the bridge is about 30 yards away, just off to the right in this shot). This picture was taken at a crook in the East Don River, which is just behind me, as is the beaver dam that diverts its course. This view faces north, and was taken from a tripod; a 17-second exposure at f3.5/ISO 1600. The one thing I bought with the camera that wasn't bundled with it was a $29 infrared remote. With the camera set on "bulb", one click on the remote would open the shutter, and the next would close it again. What I was trying to do was see if I could actually photograph the constellations, down in valley where the light pollution is minimal. What you see here is the Big Dipper — so happily, the answer is yes, it can photograph the skies. The streak near the bottom is a plane, travelling right to left, for the 17-second duration of the shot (basically, I closed the shutter when it reached the tree).

Today, I went out with my friends P-Doug and G to the east end of the GTA, partly to continue putting the camera through its paces. In Uxbridge, there's a gorgeous mausoleum build by, and for, Thomas Foster, one-time federal MP and Mayor of Toronto in the 1920s. It resembles the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

Approaching the Thomas Foster Mausoleum.

Here is G approaching the entrance to the mausoleum.

Beneath the entrance.

An up-shot from the lower right. I decided to shoot this in black and white, red filter, to make it a little moodier and more dramatic.

Floor detail of the mausoleum.

This is directly under the dome. I was invited by the curators to lie down on this spot to photograph the dome... which I did.

The dome of the mausoleum.

...And this is the result. I couldn't get all this in one shot; this is actually two photographs, mated in Photoshop. The colour quality and lighting were so consistent between them that this took only a couple of minutes to stitch.

If you can't read the gold lettering, it says, "Take this my body for it is done and I have gained a new life glorious and eternal."

Wall detail.

The tile work in the mausoleum is truly beautiful; intricate and a real credit to whomever the artists were who inlaid it.

The pretentious NYC condos at Bayview and Sheppard.

And, just as a change of pace to wrap things up, here are the NYC condos to be seen as one drives along the 401 between Bayview Avenue and Leslie Street. This shot was taken at a mall exit on Sheppard Avenue, just east of Bayview, and faces south. The buildings occupy the narrow strip between Sheppard and the 401.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Rex mortuus est, vivat rex!

For years and years now I've been pining for the day we'd finally have affordable digital single-lens reflex cameras... not these little point and shoot toys that are more often used these days by people to make little AVIs of their grandchild singing the alphabet or the dog chasing a stick. Years ago I actually had a decent SLR camera, but that was the days of film. That meant paying to buy the film. Paying to develop the film. Paying to print the shots. And never knowing if they were any good at all till all this expensive nonsense was out of the way.

When digital cameras started coming out in the mid-90s, I was a quick adopter. I got a Kodak DC25 in February of 1997. It was just this tiny little thing; had a built-in flash, an LCD review, and held 17 or so 320x240 shots of low quality. But it was digital! No more buying film or getting it developed! I was hooked.

In fairly short order I blew through Kodak cameras (and money), moving on to the DC40 (held 24 good shots), the DC50 (had a zoom and you could plug in extra memory), and finally, about four years ago, the DC4800 I've been using ever since.

The outgoing king, the Kodak DC4800. Photographed using the Canon 350D.

The DC4800's a good camera. With a 256MB card in it, it produced about 260 decent photos at 3.1 megapixel size. It's been a superlative camera for capturing casual shots of places I've been. But I want to start experimenting and taking some shots that are outside the ordinary and the everyday, like the ones you'll see on daily dose of imagery. And so, today, I acquired the Canon 350D Rebel XT, the camera that takes the shots on that site. I don't mean to suggest I have that photographer's eye, and I certainly don't have his experience, but now I mean to start learning. From here on in, the shots you see here will be taken with the Rebel XT.

For you sentimentalists, fear not. The DC4800 is going to a good home; that of my friend P-Doug, who worked as a photographer and developer for 25 years before becoming an archivist; in exchange for a 1G CF card for the Rebel XT.

The incoming king, the Canon 350D Rebel XT. Photographed using the Kodak DC4800.