The Everlasting Phelps

TRIGGER WARNING: This entire site will cause massive butthurt in any precious snowflake that needs a trigger warning for anything.

Two Things

August 29th, 2006

Two things from my walk back to the office from lunch today. First, I noticed another disturbing trend. Dallas has started putting very dark (illegal for civilians) window tint on its marked patrol cars. Not unmarked cars. Not detective’s cars. Patrol cars. This is pretty ominous in my view. Police across the country seem to be forgetting that they are part of the community and enjoy thier powers at our consent. It will be bad if we are forced to remind them of that.

Second thing is that I saw the ugliest woman in my life walking down the street. She looked like a 50 year old Tiny Lister in a wig. Chewing on lemon peels that had been soaked in turpintine. With a nose ring. (Not that I’m dissing Tiny Lister, but I think he would agree that he would not make an attractive woman. I wouldn’t either. Plus, he could probably beat me to death, and shooting him in the process would only make it take longer.)

Bridges

August 9th, 2006

Power Line wirtes about “A Bridge Too Weird” where he has a hard time matching up some photos. As someone who has done a lot of photo interpretation in litigation, I have some skill at this, and I think that at least four are from the same scene, as I will demonstrate, and it isn’t beyond a reasonable doubt that the last is as well. This doesn’t, however, detract from the main point, but reinforce it. These are more staged photos. The same guys are running away/to/from/around the same attack like there are bullets whizzing around, when in fact the attack is long over, and the place is swarming with media, including TV cameramen.

I’m going to start with this photo, because it contains all the elements that tie these photos together. This photo was taken with an extremely long focal length lens in bright sunlight, which gives it an enourmous depth of field and makes it look like these things are much closer together than they are.

Hajj1245-new.jpg

I’ve used red lines to outline what I’m calling “aerial and palm”. This is a distinctive aerial standing in front of a palm tree stand. This aerial is sheathed in concrete at the base, and should not be confused with another aerial that we will see in the foreground of later pics. In blue is the “building block”. This is in the standard ugly concrete Lebanese design, but it is the only intact building in the photos. In orange is the “Intact Sedan” on the other side of the bridge (not the one on its roof) and in green are some short traffic control “Pylons” that are useful for orienting which side of the street you are on.

Hajj3456-new.jpg

This is another photo taken with a more normal lens. The distortion from the earlier photo makes it harder to see the perspective here. There are the edges of a few pylons (green) showing that we are on the same side of the street, and in the distance, Aerial and Palm (red) are visible across the street from Building Block (blue). I think I see Intact Sedan, but I didn’t mark it because I wasn’t reasonably certain.

Hajj1234-new.jpg

Here is where some stagecraft comes in, as our boys are now running away from, uh, the truth. We are now on the other side of the street (note the Pylons in green) and the Aerial and Palm (red) and Building Block (blue) with intact sedan (orange) are where we expect them to be. The bombed out car should be off the frame to the left.

Hajj2345-new.jpg

Now we are looking up past the bombed out car. Building Block (blue) and Intact Sedan (orange) are visible across the bridge, and if we had a little more angle up and to the left, we would be able to see Aerial and Palm.
Hajj4567-new.jpg

This photo causes problems. We see a Building Block and Intact Sedan, but they do not appear to match up with the others. The Building Block features some aerials that do not appear in the earlier photos, and the Sedan is facing the wrong way. In addition, the banks of the river don’t show the same terrain (one wooded, one weeds.) It is possible that we are seeing another bridge just down from those and this is a new angle of Bulding Block and Intact Sedan, but I am far from convinced. Also, the damage is not consistant with this being the same bridge at all, even at different stages of destruction. The rebar reinforcement on this bridge seems to have been sheared cleanly, while in all the other photos, the rebar was stretched and torsioned until it rubbled the surrounding roadway.

Whether the last photo matches up or not, however, they people in the foreground are obviously hamming for the camera. They aren’t in any immediate danger (the bridge has already been destroyed) but are still out running around for the cameras. I really don’t fault them for it (I’m sure it’s fun) but I do fault the photojournalists for going along with it.

Hezbollywood

August 9th, 2006

You really can’t believe any of the reporting you are getting from Lebanon. Fraud is rife in the photography portion of the reporting, with everything from blatently photoshopped images, to blatently false captions, to blatently staged propoganda, to outright lies. Hezbollah is in complete control of the media, and not just inside Lebanon. The editors still toe the line thousands of miles away. Why?

Zombie suggests four theories, with the last being

Theory D: Reuters photographers and editors are intimidated by Hezbollah, and publish Hezbollah’s propaganda out of fear for their lives.

There is a good case for it. The reporters still in Lebanon are hostages. The editors have to toe the Hezboline, or the reporters still in country will have “an accident.” One of the strings of photos is “no shirt baseball cap man” who goes from climbing over wreckage in a series of photos to being one of the bodies in the last.

The photographer had to be in on the staging. There is no way for him to not know what is going on. The photographer is one Tyler Hicks with the New York Times. Hicks has done war reporting before, from Iraq. What did he say about that?

Over the period of three trips beginning in October, I worked in Baghdad as a photographer for The New York Times. When I first arrived the constant paranoia of our government appointed “minders” was nothing more than an annoyance, or an aspect of the job which simply frustrated those of us working here. I soon learned that their fear was valid. I blame my initial non-acceptance in part on my personal reluctance that such repression of the human spirit was still exercised with such widespread force.

I soon found myself falling into another form of the same fear and behavior of those around me whom I had become increasingly annoyed with. Our intention was to lead the regime to believe we were playing by the rules, that our presence was a benefit to them, essential to our continued stay in the country. If a journalist or photographer broke the rules it might result in being kicked out of the country, or for a visa not be extended to remain in Iraq. For an Iraqi the consequences would mean prison, torture or even execution. During the regime, to photograph in the direction of a police station, government building or presidential palace would likely result in arrest of a foreigner such as myself. Several journalists and photographers were arrested and imprisoned during the war for trying to do their job, and were fortunate to have been released in the final days as the Americans approached and many other prisoners were being executed.

Hicks has agreed to play the game. He knew what the game would be when he went over there, having played it in Iraq, and agreed to go anyways. I’m not going to judge what that says about Hicks as a person, but I know that it means that I will never believe a photo that is published under his byline while he is still in the country in question.

Israel is Winning

August 1st, 2006

Winning is, at its heart, achieving your objectives. There are lots of nice things that can happen or not happen at the same time, but the objectives are what matter. Right now, I see Israel’s objectives as this:

  • Destroy Hezbollah as an effective terror force
  • Remove the northern border as a front that has to be defended with large troop units, freeing those forces up to concentrate on Gaza and the West Bank

Winning Lebanese opinion is not an objective. It would be nice if Lebanon liked Israel, but it isn’t something that Israel needs to survive. In fact, it would probably be so expensive that it would not be worth having. Israel has written Lebanon off as an ally. They have had 15 years as a “democracy” and six years of cease-fire to do something. In that time they have done nothing. There can be no more waiting.

Stopping the rocket attacks is not an objective. In fact, I would say that Israel desperately wants to rocket attacks to continue. Everything Israel does suggests this. “Amatuers talk tactics; professionals talk logistics.” Israel has cut Hezbollah off from rocket resupply. That was the point of bombing the airport and seaport, and why Israel is destroying vehicles coming from Syria to Lebanon. No new rockets.

The problem Israel is faced with at that point, then, is the rockets that are already in Lebanon. Israel could stop the rocket attacks. It would be trivial for them to destroy all the launchers. Instead, they have destroyed some of the launchers. These things are WW2 technology that fires a missile which is easily tracked on anti-artillery radar, and the Israelis have such good radar that we base our technology on thiers. Once you have the track, it is trivial to trace it back to its ballistic origin. (That’s the whole point of anti-artillery radar.) Israel knows exactly where every launcher is as soon as it fires. They choose to destroy the ones that can hit vital Israeli infrastructure, and leave the ones that can only cause minor damage. Israel is even warning people not to go to the areas that Hezbollah can still hit from the launchers that remain.

Look at the numbers. How many Israelis have been killed by these rocket attacks? Zero. None. How many injuries do we have after over 2000 rockets? About 1700 people, mostly panic attacks? We get back to logistics. A Katshuya rocket has about 50 pounds of high explosives in the warhead. Israel thinks they have about 2000 of them left. That a half a ton of explosives. If Israel removes Hezbollah’s ability to fire them (ineffectively) into Israeli territory, Hezbollah will retask those explosives. Into roadside bombs. Into backpack bombs. Into suicide vests. Into methods of delivery that are horribly, terribly effective. Right now, Hezbollah is wasting all of those explosives, and Israel is not going to stop them.

Sun Tsu wrote:

19. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.

20. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him.

Israel is no worse off than when they began. Hezbollah thinks that they are hurting Israeli, when in fact they are hitting only what Israel allows them to hit (seeming near when far away). They seem to be unable to stop the rocket attacks, when in fact they are directing them by removing the dangerous launchers and leaving the rest (using the force but seeming inactive.) They are holding out northern Israel as a bait, and when Hezbollah has run out of rockets, and when Syria and Iran are no longer willing to risk aiding them (and they are very close) Israel will crush them.

The Everlasting Phelps

TRIGGER WARNING: This entire site will cause massive butthurt in any precious snowflake that needs a trigger warning for anything.