Friday, 30 January 2009

An eel learning to tie a bowline knot

Diagrams still to be added to the eel’s book, amongst other things.

Hard times

The good news is you all get an umbrella . . .

Drawing from the Times Higher Education Supplement, March 1996.

Thursday, 29 January 2009


This is a working drawing done for Nick Willing’s TV adaptation of The Magician of Samarkand, made for the BBC’s relaunch of Jackanory in 2006. Here’s a behind the scenes article (pdf) about the film by Ruth Margolis. More of my work for the project can be found here.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Monday, 26 January 2009

Bounce bounce

The neighbours, at it again.

This drawing is an old one, originally for The Sunday Times.

‘Coffee break’

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Comparing Israel’s occupation with Iraq 2

A story in the New York Times last November, Palestinian Forces Dilute Hebron’s Volatile Brew:
Hebron, the West Bank’s most explosive city, with a combustible mix of hard-line Jewish settlers and Palestinian militants from Hamas and other groups, is undergoing a shake-up through the introduction of hundreds of Palestinian security officers who over the past month have stopped car thefts, foiled drug deals and arrested scores of Hamas gunmen, even seizing explosives and suicide belts. They have also focused on quality-of-life issues like fighting clans and the sales of outdated food and medicine by criminal gangs.

The Palestinian commander, Brig. Gen. Sameh al-Sifi, has dubbed the deployment Homeland Rising. And while that may seem a lofty name for a law-and-order operation, he has a point. The injection of the newly trained security forces into Israeli-occupied Hebron is, both sides agree, a significant step if there is ever to be a Palestinian state.
A necessary policy not without difficulties, as the rest of the article makes clear.

Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes . . .

 . . . head shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes,
and eyes, and ears, and mouth and nose -
head, shoulders, knees and toes!

The image is from a baby book published by Sandvik in 2007.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Signals and noise 2

My earlier post rounding up articles on the upcoming troop withdrawals from Iraq missed out this story on comments by Michèle Flournoy, nominee for undersecretary of defense for policy, at her January 15th Senate confirmation hearing. Those not satisfied with the tidbits in the article could watch the archived webcast of the proceedings, or trawl through the pre-hearing written Q & A. Or you can just take it from me that the key theme I heard on Iraq was “implement the SOFA”.

From Thursday last, Col. Peter Mansoor talking to Mark Ambinder about Gen. Petraeus’s first meeting with Obama since the inauguration:
I think Gen. Petraeus will want to hear, “Mr. President, what’s the mission. What do you want the military forces in the central command area to do.” He probably would rather hear that than “send four brigades to Afghanistan,” or “I want to withdraw from Iraq in 16 months,” or some of these specific things. He would probably rather hear the President say that “it’s my intention to draw down combat forces as quickly as possible while maintaining the ability to train and equip the Iraqi security forces and keep a lid of sectarian violence as the provincial and national elections occur. It’s my intention to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan, reverse the spiral downward and conduct a counterinsurgency campaign in order to reinforce the legitimacy of the Afghan government in Kabul.” And then, in return, the military can say, here are two or three courses of actions, associated with timelines and risks associated of withdrawing more quickly from Iraq and not reinforcement more quickly in Afghanistan.

In The New York Times on Friday, comments by departing US ambassador to Iraq, Ryan C. Crocker:
“I think Iraqi security forces have made enormous progress during my time here, both quantitatively and, more important, qualitatively,” Mr. Crocker told reporters at the new American Embassy in the Green Zone in Baghdad. “There is still a ways to go. And clearly, still a continuing need for our security support.”

“If it were to be a precipitous withdrawal, that could be very dangerous,” he added, “but it’s clear that’s not the direction in which this is trending.”
 Also, BBC News on Ryan Crocker: US envoy against hasty Iraq exit.

A number of links via the SWJ.

The ‘history in the making’ type post I had in mind for last week, well, maybe I’ll get it done tomorrow, or the day after. I have made a start you know. Ah well, theres always Martin, and Martin again, and  Jeff, and Bob to read. And Drew Friedman’s painting for the current issue of The New Yorker is their best Obama cover - of many! It grows richer the more I look at it.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Jiri Trnka again

A couple of months ago I pointed to a series of posts by Michael Sporn on the Czechoslovakian animator Jiri Trnka. Now Hans Bacher has been posting some lovely images by Trnka, book illustrations as well as frames from Prince Bajaja and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and behind the scenes photos. And after that there’s the rest of Mr Bacher’s blog archive to explore, a rich visual feast. Below is a sample from Prince Bajaja.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

No, you can’t see the mermaids yet

Gaza: I know whose fault it is

First, some links:

(Earlier by Peter Ryley, Contention and Peace.)
Terry Glavin listens to Paul Brady.
Marko Attila Hoare, comparing to Kosovo, advocates few carrots but sticks for everybody.
(A follow-up discussion here.)
BBC News on the regional impact.
Your Friend in the North, on those for totalitarianism, against democratic socialism.

I now know who’s fault the Gaza war is.
It is the fault of Israel.
And it is the fault of Hamas.
And of Fatah. And of America.

It’s the fault of the kings, presidents, priests, dictators and strongmen of Iran, of Egypt, of Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan.

It’s the fault of Britain, of the United Nations, of the European Union, of the old Soviet Union, of the new Russia.

It’s the fault of the peace movement patsies and their fascist fellow-marchers.

It’s the fault of those who abuse the great power they have, and those who waste the little power they have.

It’s the fault of some of those who lie among the recent dead, and others among the ancient dead, and those who still follow the dead with too little care for the living.

And I know there are a number among the newly dead, and among the long dead, who were not at fault, and their number is terrible.

I’m going to try turning away from the question of fault. I see little if anything to gain there. Instead my question is, where is the potential for positive change? Not just in Israel, and Gaza, and the West Bank, but in Iran, and in Egypt, in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Lebanon?

Under a bushel

Relief for the eyes after all that reading: a detail from my cover design for The Chesterfield Arrangements, a CD of Raymond Scott tunes recorded by The Metropole Orchestra and featuring The Beau Hunks Saxtette. 

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Signals and noise on Iraq troop withdrawal plans

No opinion from me here, just links and excerpts on the upcoming troop withdrawals.

Linked to earlier, the Christmas Eve editorial in the New York Times fretting that the coming withdrawal might not be all they hoped:
The new security agreement with Iraq heralds an overdue end to President Bush’s ill-advised war. But while it calls for American combat forces to be out of the cities by June and all forces to withdraw from the country by the end of 2011, there is disquieting talk in Washington of having tens of thousands of troops stay longer and slyly redefining their missions.

Military commanders are drawing up plans for a faster withdrawal of American troops from Iraq in anticipation that President-elect Barack Obama will reject current proposals as too slow, Pentagon and military officials said Wednesday.

The new plans would provide alternatives to a timetable drawn up by the top American commanders for Iraq to bring troops home more slowly than Mr. Obama promised during his presidential campaign. Those plans were described to Mr. Obama last month.

The officials said that Mr. Obama had not requested the new plans, but that they were being prepared in response to public statements from the president-elect and on the basis of conversations between military officials and members of Mr. Obama’s transition team.
Curiously the IHT online archive has the same version of the story as the NY Times site, but the version in the January 15th print edition, not availabe online, was very different. The headline was “Timetable for Iraq too slow for Obama”, with the subhead “He tells U.S. generals to speed up pace for withdrawal of troops”.

Also on January 15th,  reporting the story differently than either version from the NY Times /IHT, the American Forces Press Service wrote Planners Prepare Options on Iraq, Afghanistan for Obama:
Military planners are hard at work preparing options for drawing down troops in Iraq and moving forward in Afghanistan to present to President-elect Barack Obama after he takes office, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said today.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ discussions with Obama have been “broad in nature” to this point, and the president-elect won’t receive specific options until he is commander in chief, Morrell told reporters. But planners will ensure they’re prepared to give him “the full range of options as soon as he is ready,” he said.

“We will be ready to go when he is ready to go,” he added.

Among the options being explored are ways to withdraw U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months.

“Our military planners do not live in a vacuum,” Morrell said. “They are well aware that the president-elect has campaigned on withdrawing troops from Iraq on a 16-month timeline. … So it would only be prudent of them to draw up plans that reflect that option. But that is just one of the options that they are drawing up.”

Gates hopes to replicate with Obama the process that he used with President George W. Bush, who received insights directly from top military leaders as well as the secretary, Morrell said.

Earlier last week, on January 13th, an AP story on Vice President-elect Biden visiting Iraq, headlined Iraq official: Biden affirms ‘responsible’ pullout:
Vice President-elect Joe Biden told Iraqi leaders Tuesday that the incoming U.S. administration is committed to a responsible troop withdrawal that does not endanger improvements in security, an Iraqi spokesman said.

Biden delivered the message in talks with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on the second day of his visit to Iraq, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told The Associated Press.

President-elect Barack Obama pledged during his election campaign to withdraw all American combat troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office and shift the focus to Afghanistan to combat a resurgent Taliban and al-Qaida-linked militants.

Since the November election, however, the U.S. and Iraq have signed a new security agreement that provides for all the more than 140,000 U.S. troops to leave by 2012, despite concerns among senior U.S. commanders that Iraqi forces might not be ready by then to ensure stability.

Biden, a Democrat from Delaware who has been a frequent visitor to Iraq as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the agreement sets out a new strategy between Iraq and America, according to al-Dabbagh.

“He said that Obama is committed to withdraw but he wants the withdrawal to be a responsible one. Obama does not want to waste the security gains that have been achieved,” al-Dabbagh said.

The president-elect had said he wanted most U.S. combat troops out of Iraq within 16 months of his inauguration. But late last year, the Bush administration signed an agreement with Iraq that takes a different approach, requiring the removal of U.S. combat troops from Iraqi cities by June, and the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from the entire country by the end of 2011.

It is not clear exactly what orders Obama will give, but he has said he will listen to the concerns of top military officers before making any final decisions.

One of the main concerns he will hear relates to Afghanistan, where the U.S. commander has asked for 14,000 more combat troops and several thousand more support troops. The new president's appointee for Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Michele Flournoy, was asked about that at her Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday. “I actually think the intent of both President-elect Obama and (Defense) Secretary (Robert) Gates is to move as quickly as possible. I have not yet been briefed on the details in terms of what would be required to do that. But I do believe that in principle we should be moving as quickly as possible,” she said.

But Pentagon officials say moving quickly to add troops in Afghanistan means reducing troop numbers in Iraq. General David Petraeus, the former U.S. commander in Iraq who now has responsibility for the entire Middle East and Central Asia region, says he, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and the new U.S. Iraq commander, General Ray Odierno, believe the United States needs to be careful about removing troops from Iraq too quickly. “The ambassador and General Odierno and I have reminded everyone, it is our view that the progress does remain fragile. It does remain reversible,” he said.

Via the Small Wars Journal, the outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Iraq quoted in the Washington Post:
The key to success in Iraq, insists Crocker, was the psychological impact of Bush’s decision to add troops. “In the teeth of ferociously negative popular opinion, in the face of a lot of well-reasoned advice to the contrary, he said he was going forward, not backward.”

Bush’s decision rocked America's adversaries, says Crocker: “The lesson they had learned from Lebanon was, ‘Stick it to the Americans, make them feel the pain, and they won't have the stomach to stick it out.’ That assumption was challenged by the surge.”

Soon, Iraq will be Barack Obama’s problem. And I ask Crocker what mistakes the new administration could make. He answers that he thinks it will avoid these errors, but he lists them anyway: “Concluding that this was the Bush administration’s war, that it’s stable enough now, that we don’t want to inherit it, so we’re going to back away.”

Most of all, says Crocker, policymakers need to understand that this is a long game. A lasting change in Iraq isn’t an on-off switch: “Not this year, not in five years, maybe not in 10 years.” 

Two additional articles which I’ve yet to finish:

Via Abu Muqawama, John Nagl and Brian Burton in the World Policy Journal, Striking the Balance, The Way Forward in Iraq.

Colonel Robert Killebrew in the SWJ, Transition in Iraq, Withdrawing the BCTs.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Is that the time?

. . . off to bed then. One of these years I ought to reset the clock on this blog to London time.

The image is from a baby book published by Sandvik in 2007.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Things to do on long winter nights

Well, you could rearrange the pictures in the front room:

Image copyright © Indivisible Remainder.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Targeting civilians in Odense 2

Following the attempted murder of two Israelis running a stand selling beauty products in Odense, Denmark, George Galloway has called for similar “Israel shops” in the UK to be “shut down”. More at Harry’s Place.

Also, as mentioned in the comments, Slugger O'Toole reports on the targeting of one of these stands in Belfast.

Related, 13 Jan, from Your Friend in the North: Left-wing fascism, an infantile disorder.

Sunday, 11 January 2009


Above, from an incredible set of images, NC Wyeth’s illustrations for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped. See the complete set at Golden Age Comic Book Stories.

Comparing Israel’s occupation with Iraq

The New Centrist points to a piece by John Bolton arguing for the return of the West Bank and Gaza to Jordan and Egypt. My primary problem with Bolton’s proposal is that the countries he’s suggesting take over the occupied territories are not democratic. I don’t believe that long-term security would be enhanced by this. Al Qaeda’s roots lie in part in the prisons of Egypt.

Were Egypt to be persuaded to take over control of Gaza, there is no reason to suppose they would be in a position to eliminate Hamas, particularly as they have already been ineffective in preventing Hamas smuggling arms through Egyptian territory. It’s easy to imagine a scenario where Hamas launch attacks from an Egyptian-controlled Gaza, and Egypt is faced with violently suppressing Hamas and thereby igniting radical Islamist forces in Egypt proper, or doing nothing, which would lead to Israeli strikes on Egyptian-controlled territory with a similar result. The dangers of an undemocratic Egypt thereby becoming increasingly vulnerable to Islamist revolution seem pretty obvious to me.

(Update Jan 11th, a New York Times analysis on why Egypt doesn’t want responsibility for Gaza.)

The contrast which strikes me this New Year is between Israel’s occupation and Iraq, in one case unresolved after over forty years, in the other a complete handover of sovereignty to a democratic government within five years of invasion. Obviously there are massive differences, but perhaps making the comparison and looking at the differences in detail might be helpful.

Any description of Iraq as a success is pushing uphill against the popular perception of the war as a disaster, but comparing it to Israel’s occupation makes it seem a miraculous achievement, given a vastly larger territory, a much larger, more diverse, and more divided population, and a much more bloody and less cohesive insurgency.

The major difference between Israel in the occupied territories and the US in Iraq is that the US has no emotional attachment to Iraq, and no popular desire for a long-term presence, rather all the political pressure has been for withdrawal at the earliest opportunity. This has led to greater clarity on the need for the most economically effective strategic approach than in the Israeli case.

Under Sharon, Israeli strategic thinking evolved to the point of recognising that indefinite occupation was not sustainable, but the failed attempt to withdraw from Gaza has shown that just retreating behind a wall won’t work either. For Israel to achieve long term security it needs the successful establishment of stable democracies in the surrounding territory. (I see the failed withdrawal from Gaza as a rebuttal to those who argued for premature withdrawal from Iraq, or for the old cut-price solution of an “acceptable dictator” in Afghanistan.)

A strong policy of building democracy over the period of occupation could have disempowered the terrorist threat, and by now have led to an independent Palestinian state in the spirit of Resolution 181. It might even have enabled Jews to live on the West Bank and in Gaza without the need for military protection. On the face of it this may sound foolish, but considering what has been achieved in Iraq in under five years one would think that so much more could have been achieved in the occupied territories in over forty years had the right policies been in place.

The failure to establish stable democratic institutions over such a long period of occupation is a massive strategic failure by Israel, a failure not lessened by the mirrored failure by the Palestinian population to establish a non-violent democratic resistance to the occupation, despite the available precedents. (The main problem with non-violence is that it is a massively difficult and dangerous, even fatal, course to take against murderous totalitarian states, but its effectiveness against oppressive policies by democracies had been demonstrated in both India and the US prior to the 1967 war, and it was therefore a proven option available to resist occupation by a democracy such as Israel.)

I still don’t see that the need for an in-depth policy of encouraging democracy has been fully understood by Israel’s leaders, for example in the approach taken during the last war in Lebanon. Leaving such efforts to the care of the US and the EU is short-sighted and not in Israel’s national interest. Such an aim needs to be integrated into all aspects of Israeli policy towards the occupied territories and towards established neighboring states. This needs to be more complex than the simplistic language of carrots and sticks. It requires a strategy of enlightened self-interst, of mutual benefit not just for the leaderships on all sides, but for the populations.

Update 25 January: Follow up post here.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Playing with matches 6

In the New York Times: US Rejected Aid for Israeli Raid on Iranian Nuclear Site

The primary reason, vulnerability of the Iraq project:
Early in 2008, the Israeli government signaled that it might be preparing to take matters into its own hands. In a series of meetings, Israeli officials asked Washington for a new generation of powerful bunker-busters, far more capable of blowing up a deep underground plant than anything in Israel’s arsenal of conventional weapons. They asked for refueling equipment that would allow their aircraft to reach Iran and return to Israel. And they asked for the right to fly over Iraq.

Mr. Bush deflected the first two requests, pushing the issue off, but “we said ‘hell no’ to the overflights,” one of his top aides said. At the White House and the Pentagon, there was widespread concern that a political uproar in Iraq about the use of its American-controlled airspace could result in the expulsion of American forces from the country.

Previously, Playing with matches 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
Follow up: 7.

Friday, 9 January 2009

“Death to everyone!”

Azarmehr on some over-enthusiastic demonstrators.

BBC headline: Israelis snub UN ceasefire call

And down in paragraph seven: 
Hamas has also dismissed the UN ceasefire call.

Ayman Taha, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said: "Even though we are the main actors on the ground in Gaza, we were not consulted about this resolution and they have not taken into account our vision and the interests of our people."
Ahh, I see . . . full story here.

Update! One for the ‘Oops, what am I saying’ Dept. Fifty minutes later, they’ve corrected the headline. The position of Hamas still don’t get a look-in until the seventh paragraph, though paragraph one does mention that it’s a conflict “involving Hamas militants”. Considering that Hamas claim to be “the main actors on the ground” they must be pretty miffed at the lack of regard shown to them by the BBC.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Sietske on the ski lift

From a conversation on the ski lift: “But how come you do not wear a veil?” asked the Christian lady, surprised.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009


Further to my earlier post, there’s currently a discussion of the problems of tyrannicide on Lester Hunt’s blog.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Targeting civilians in Odense

Two Israelis were shot in Odense, on the Danish island of Fyn, New Year’s Eve. The english-language version of this story on the Politiken website is rather anæmic, as is the BBC version. Later follow-ups in danish give more detail:

Politiken, 3 January 2009
One of the Israeli victims of a Palestinian’s assassination attempt in Odense tells of week-long harassment prior to the shooting.
By Søren Astrup and P.C. Poulsen

(This translation is my own. I have tried to be as literal as possible, rather than elegant. Note that the victim was originally interviewed in english, so this is a translation of a translation, and can’t be 100% accurate.)

“In the last days before the shooting, I had a feeling that something was going to happen. It was only a question of days, I felt.”

That is how the 26 year old Itai from Israel describes the meeting with a group of young Palestinians in the Rosengård Centre in Odense, which came close to costing him and his comrade their lives.

“Perpetrator wanted to murder us”
On the day of New Year’s Eve, a 27 year old Fyn resident of Palestinian background [in other reports a Danish citizen originally from Lebanon] attempted to murder the two, firing a salvo of nine millimeter projectiles at them in the big shopping centre.

“The motive was political. And the shots were intended to kill us,” he explains of the attempted assassination, which followed after a week-long harassment from the local residents. They had amongst other things gathered in front of the two Israelis’ stand in the shopping centre and waved the Palestinian flag.

“They had several times in the weeks before formed a ring around us, and just before it happened some of them took pictures of us with their mobile phones. Their look was hateful,” tells Itai of the meeting.

Shower of projectiles
Finally the group from Fyn withdrew from the shopping centre.

“When they left it was with a disdainful greeting in english: ‘Nice to meet you, happy new year’. And then only a few moments went by before he showed up and shot at us,” says the shooting victim to Politiken.

“That is why I am convinced that it was planned,” he adds.

“I am certain that he shot to kill, because if it only had been to wound us, then one would only have shot two shots. One at each of us. But here the police found ten cartridge cases after the shooting.”

Warns that it is happening in Denmark
The two Israelis sold shampoo and other beauty products from the Red Sea. The owner of the little booth was in the shopping centre when the Palestinian opened fire - and she is shaken over what she witnessed.

“I saw Palestinians in the centre who were clapping. I saw two Palestinian women with headscarves nearby. They were also clapping. This must and shall affect you, that it can happen in your country,” warns Hila Kiron.

Jail after the shooting
The presumed perpetrator - previously known to the police - has been taken into custody for attempted murder, but denies the charge.

The preliminary court hearing was held behind closed doors out of consideration to foreign powers.

The case is being closely followed by the Police Intelligence Service.

There is a TV report from DR1, the Danish state broadcaster, from 1st of January, on YouTube. It’s in danish, but the poster Henrik R Clausen has included an accurate english translation in the info box. It includes an interview with two anonymous youths from the neighborhood where the accused lives.
“You should have seen yesterday, a great party we threw because of this. We really, really hope everyone will support him.”
Another TV report on YouTube courtesy of HR Clausen is from TV2 on the 3rd of January. No translation from him this time, I’m afraid, and I can’t face up to the task either, but the clip includes one of the victims speaking in english, ridiculing a claim by the brother of the accused that the incident was not political. This report says that the harassment prior to the attack had been ongoing for months. 

Via Noga here and here, whose posts lead to more links, including to the story of Olav Nielsen, the school principal who is busy telling Danish media that he would discourage Jewish parents from sending their children to him out of fear that they might have “serious problems amongst the Arab children” in his school. Now, this wouldn’t seem to be such an immediate problem, as no Jewish parents have ever actually approached the good headmaster with such a notion, but as he hasn’t heard from them, he’s making sure they hear from him.

This well-meaning humanitarian is a supporter of the Boycott Israel Campaign in Denmark.

Update 6 Jan: some background from Francis Sedgemore.

Update 13 Jan: similar shops made targets of intimidation in London and Belfast.

For Want Of An Actually Existing Anti-War Movement . . .

Terry Glavin writes:
For Want Of An Actually Existing Anti-War Movement, Palestine’s Agony Deepens
. . . I do regret to having concluded that another good left-wing analysis raises serious questions about whether simply stopping the attacks Israel is currently carrying out in Gaza will do much good in the long run. That analysis comes from the trade unionist Eric Lee, and his argument is convincing: “Israel is today being accused of over-reacting, of applying disproportionate force to what is essentially a defeated and weak enemy. Actually, Israel is doing what is necessary to bring the long war to an end.” 

I mean it when I say I regret it, because I do tend to place my hopes in the capacity of Palestinians of good will to “resist” the Hamas tyranny (and elected or not, it is a tyranny) even in the absence of effective solidarity and support from a global anti-war movement, and despite that same movement's tendency to make excuses for the worst Islamist enemies of the Palestinian people.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Fascism in America


Thursday, 1 January 2009

Iraq’s Day of Sovereignty

On BBC News, the end of the UN mandate in Iraq:
“I’d like to congratulate you and the Iraqi people on this day for which we have waited for more than 17 years,” Mr Maliki said at the handover ceremony at the Presidential Palace, the former home of ousted leader Saddam Hussein.
“We have the right to consider this day as the day of sovereignty and it is the beginning that Iraq will regain every particle of its soil as well as all of its will and sovereignty.”
See also VOA, the New York Times and Washington Post
And from Reuters, looking back.

Happy New Year!