Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Birds Of A Feather

This is one of these stories that make you feel as if you need to take a shower after you've read it. It involves two of the slimiest human beings on the planet, who've now had a meeting of the minds over a common racist agenda. But, in the world of "politics makes strange bedfellows" it's hardly surprising that an American white supremacist would find an ally in an Arab head of state. After all, it's not the first time an Arab leader and an avowed Nazi have rallied behind the same cause. Something about the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Adolf Hitler seems to ring a bell.

White Supremacist Holds Rally in Syria

David Duke tells Syrian crowd: "My country is occupied by Zionists, like the Golan Heights."

By Yaakov Lappin
YNet News
November 28, 2005

The notorious Louisiana-based white supremacist leader, David Duke, has visited Syria last week, where he delivered an anti-Semitic speech attcking "Zionists occupying New York" and the State of Israel. The speech was carried by Syrian state television.

Television footage of the rally has been made available by the Arabic translation service, MEMRI at:

http://mideasttruth.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3418

Duke, who was once a "Grand Wizard" of the Ku Klux Klan, addressed a cheering crowd waving Syrian flags, saying: "I come form the peace-loving people in Ameica to the peace-loving people of Syria."

"It is only in America and around the world, it is only the Zionists who want war rather than peace," Duke said in a speech which seemed to illustrate the convergence of white supremacist ideology with the rhetoric of radical voices in the Arab world.

'It hurts my heart to tell you that part of my country is occupied by Zionists, just as part of your country, the Golan Heights, is occupied by Zionists. The Zionists occupy most of the American media and now control much of American government," he said.

Duke said that "It is not just the West Bank of Palestine, it is not just the Golan Heights that are occupied by the Zionists, but Washington D.C. and New York and London, and many other capitals in the world."

"I bring you a message from many Americans; from many people in Britain, and around the Western world. We say in unison: No war for Israel," he concluded.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, in an article entitled "The Black Plague," Duke once wrote in an editorial: "A black...gets a job with a white-owned company. He is the only black at the firm. He works hard, but he's fighting a losing battle against his genes."

Duke's latest website entry contains a pro-Holocaust denial message in which he laments the "Zionists who use the Holocaust as the sword and shied of the racial-supremacist state of Israel."

His website carries a qote by Syrian parliament member, Muhammad Habash, in which Habash welcomed "Duke's wonderful visit."

Habash is reported to have added: "He has given us a new and very positive view of the average American."

It'll be interesting to see what sort of spin the far left will put on this event. But, not to worry. I'm sure they'll find a way to gloss over the fact that one of their favorite Arab despots has gotten into bed with one of their favorite bogeymen.




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Monday, November 28, 2005

Winging It Back West

Flying back to California today. Something about the East coast though... I miss it terribly when I'm gone. Granted the frozen temps when I arrived reminded me why I can tolerate where I live now but as I leave, the temps have inched their way up into the 60s... making me sad to depart. Some day I will return for good. Or at least for a while, I think.


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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Feel Inspired And Have A Good Cry

My second friend who went to help the animal victims from Hurricane Katrina sent me the following link with updates from the field. I've read the first few and am quite touched and teary.

PS: Happy Birthday Big Sister, who is doing reasonably well post-Cancer, though the preventative chemo she's on isn't the most fun she's ever had.


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Friday, November 25, 2005

If You Thought Bill Was Bad...

Granted, Chris Matthews isn't a former president, but he still carries a good deal of journalistic weight in this country, so it was pretty disturbing to read what he had to say in a speech at the University of Toronto recently.

Edmonton Sun
November 21, 2005

Bush Wanted "Big Bang" - TV Host

TORONTO - Years after 9/11 and the "crazy Zeitgeist" that permeated the United States, Americans have still not learned to know their enemies instead of just hating them, said American political journalist Chris Matthews yesterday.

In a speech to political science students at the University of Toronto, the host of the CNBC current affairs show "Hardball" had plenty of harsh words for U.S. President George W. Bush, as well as the political climate that has characterized his country for the last few years.

"The period between 9/11 and (invading) Iraq was not a good time for America. There wasn't a robust discussion of what we were doing," Matthews said. "If we stop trying to figure out the other side, we've given up. The person on the other side is not evil. They just have a different perspective."

"The smartest people understand the enemy's point of view, because they understand what's driving them."

He said Bush squandered an opportunity to unite the world against terrorism and instead made decisions that built up worldwide animosity for his administration.

"We had strong international unity coming out of 9/11. The world was never so united against terrorism and we lost that," Matthews said. "That is the great tragedy of the Bush era."

When asked what caused the U.S. to invade Iraq, he said it was a combination of factors.

"I think the father-son relationship with the Bushes is part of it. I think the oil thing is part of it," Matthews said of the current president and his father, George Bush Sr., who was president during the Gulf War more than a decade ago.

"Our friendship with Israel (is part of it) and 9/11 created a kind of crazy Zeitgeist in the country. Bush wanted to do something big. It couldn't just be tracking down al-Qaeda. He wanted a big bang. I think it's a mixture of these things."

Matthews said the current president is guilty of not knowing enough about the world and not keeping up with current events, as was evident in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina and the slow reaction to the crisis in New Orleans.

Notice how Matthews conveniently neglects to mention anything about Saddam Hussein's unspeakable atrocities when asked about what caused us to invade Iraq. But, I have to say that, for me, he lost any semblance of credibility when he made what was arguably the most asinine statement I had ever heard from someone in the journalistic profession. It happened a number of years ago, and I've since forgotten most of the details, but his comment became indelibly etched in my memory, and I've had absolutely no respect for him ever since. What happened was, during a TV interview, he was asked a question about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and his response was that he sometimes feels that "these people enjoy killing each other." At that moment, I was overcome with an insatiable urge to throttle the damned idiot. So, maybe that's why, as infuriating and inappropriate as his speech in Toronto was, I can't say I was surprised.



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Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!

I want to wish everyone Happy Thanksgiving. Hat tip to Mr. Beamish for this hysterical Thanksgiving card.


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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

You Can Go Home Again

Although the disengagement was probably one of the most wrenching and divisive events in Israel's history, it has brought about a few positive changes in Israel's relations with some countries in the Arab world. Certainly, it can be argued there's a definite downside to the pullout from Gaza and even more so if, as some have predicted, al-Qaeda sets up shop in what used to be a flourishing Jewish community. But, for the moment, I'd like to put that aside (admittedly not an easy thing to do) and focus on what I think is a rather fascinating human interest story.

"Hearty Shalom In Tunisia For Israeli Minister"

New York Post
Uri Dan
November 18, 2005

TUNIS, Tunisia - Silvan Shalom, the Israeli foreign minister, was welcomed back in his homeland this week - and that's remarkable because his homeland is Tunisia, the former base of the PLO and a target of long-range Israeli commando raids.

Shalom, born 47 years ago in the Tunisian desert town of Gabes, was attending an international conference this week as a guest of the Tunisians, the first time a senior official has visited this country.

Tunisian officials called it a "historic visit" and their president, Zayen Bin Ali, joked about hosting Shalom. "Well, there are two Tunisian foreign ministers," he said. "Mine and Israel's."

How did this change come about? After all, Yasser Arafat and his gunmen fled to Tunis in 1982 after being besieged by Israeli forces in his Beirut hideout. And that was after Saudi Arabia helped pave the way by giving millions of dollars to Vasilia Bourghuiba, wife of Tunisian President Habib Boughuiba, to get them to accept Arafat as their country's guest.

Shalom says the recent change in Tunisia-Israeli relations is one of the benefits of Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip last summer.

The United States - which also helped find Arafat his temporary home in Tunisia 23 years ago - is now trying to convince other nations to change their stance with Israel.

"No doubt the [Gaza] disengagement added to the Israeli gains in strengthening relations, officially or unofficially, with Arab and Muslim countries," Shalom told The Post.

The change was underlined when he visited a beautiful section of Tunis, overlooking the Mediterranean.

Members of his security details recalled that Israelis had been there before - in 1988, when a commando team killed Arafat's No. 2 man, Abu Jihad, for masterminding the Palestinian intifada uprising.

After Israel began the peace process with the Oslo Accords more than a decade ago, Arafat left for the West Bank - and the Tunisians were happy to see him leave.

Who knows? Maybe the next such visit to take place will be the one where both the Israeli president and the Israeli defense minister return to their land of their birth...Iran.

No, I'm not holding my breath either.



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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Winging East For Turkey Day

I'm afraid posting will more than likely be sporadic over the next week as I fly to the east coast for Thanksgiving. BUT, I will have my computer, wireless DSL at my folks, so if something motivates me, there's a good chance some mischief could be had here at OTB. I'm also working on a fun computer/movie project for a pal, so any computer time I do have might be spent on that. Just wanted you all to know we (I think I can speak for Rory and Squirt) wish you a safe, healthy and happy holiday (whether you celebrate our holiday, your own or it's just another week for you). And know we're grateful for all of you visiting our little corner of cyberspace here... outside the blogway.


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Monday, November 21, 2005

OTB Adds Another

Spurred on by Mr. Beamish and his recent adoption of scrap iron, I've adopted a new member for the OTB family -- Squirt. He gets dizzy easily and isn't very good at staying on his ice float. You can probably pick at him and knock him off. Give it a shot. He lives at the bottom of the right nav bar.


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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Who Says We Don't Have Seasons In Los Angeles?

Cause this looks like fall to me. Picture taken last year on my neighbor's lawn with my old digital camera.


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Saturday, November 19, 2005

How Stupid Does Al-Zarqawi Think Muslims Are?

He said he wasn't targeting Muslims with the bombings in Jordan, but rather he was trying to get what he thought were the US and Israeli intelligence offices. He said his target wasn't Muslims. Oh really? Since when? Who is he killing every day in Iraq? I hate to break it to him but Shiites are Muslim.

I hope the people of Jordan don't fall for his baloney. It isn't Halal, after all.


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Friday, November 18, 2005

Serenity Now!

My friend on Maui, sad I never got a good sunset while I was there, sent me a shot she took. Not bad.

Now normally I'd sweeten this in Photoshop but I'm too lazy to email this to myself so I can open it on my PC (which has the program) and fix. So hopefully... it'll do to upload it as is.


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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Hypothetical Dilemma

What would you do?

Stay at a job where you make a comfortable living, short commute, great friend working with you...but work that you don't really like and the boss drives you nuckin futs...

OR

Take a leap of faith, go to a job where you're doing things you only dreamed you'd get to do one day, but work for a small company with no benefits, not the greatest commute and almost half the pay of above job (tho room for growth based on performance)?


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Bill -- No Need For You To Come Back

How disgusted am I? Very. At what, you ask? Uncle President has once again decided to be an ass: Bill Clinton Calls Iraq ‘Big Mistake.’ But wait – like a Ginsu knife – there’s more! He didn’t have the balls to say it in this country. Nope. He said it where? In Dubai, United Arab Emirates!

I hate when ex-presidents bag on sitting presidents. And I really hate when people say crap about our country when they are overseas. Clinton is such a freakin’ Dixie Chick. Can't believe I voted for him. Twice.


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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The More Things Change...

As far as I'm concerned, the term "Arab ally" has frequently been an oxymoron. After all, one would think that "ally" would imply some degree of shared values in addition to the issues of realpolitik. But probably nowhere is the chasm between our values and theirs wider than in the case of Saudi Arabia. And now another stomach-turning example of how different we are has come to light.

"Saudi Court: 750 Lashes For Praising Jews"
Teacher sentenced to 40 months in jail and 750 lashes for praising Jews; suspect will be flogged in public.

Reuters
November 15, 2005

A court in Saudi Arabia sentenced a teacher to 40 months in jail and 750 lashes for "mocking religion" after he discussed the Bible and praised Jews, a Saudi newspaper reported Sunday.

Al-Madina newspaper said secondary school teacher Mohammad al-Harbi will be flogged in public after he was taken to court by his colleagues and students.

He was charged with promoting a "dubious ideology, mocking religion, saying the Jews were right, discussing the gospel and preventing students from leaving class to wash for prayer" the newspaper said. It gave no more details.

Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, strictly upholds the austere Wahabi school of Islam and bases its constitution on the Koran and the saying of Islam's prophet, Mohammed.

Public practice of any other religion is illegal in Saudi Arabia.

A U.S. State Department report criticised Saudi Arabia last week, saying religious freedoms "are denied to all but those who adhere to the state-sanctioned version of Sunni Islam."

The newspaper said al-Harbi will appeal against the verdict.

Now don't you just love the way Reuters (or "al-Reuters" as Patrick at Clarity & Resolve calls them) describes Wahabism as "austere?" I'm sorry, but any religion that would thrash a man to within an inch of his life for having the temerity to try to foster respect for all religions can hardly be described as merely "austere." Actually, primitive, barbaric and murderous are terms that come to mind. But as long as they have the oil, and we have the sycophantic State Department issuing lukewarm condemnations, while putting a happy face on the House of Saud, this dysfunctional relationship won't be ending any time soon.

Good luck, Mr. Harbi. I hope your appeal is successful.


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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Brave Survivors of New Orleans

Yet another friend was down in New Orleans helping out animal rescue organizations. This one went for a month or two. She wrote me yesterday and sent me the following link that will break your heart that she wanted passed on -- a tribute to the wonderful souls of New Orleans with the will to survive. It's worth watching.


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Monday, November 14, 2005

Five Questions Non-Muslims Would Like Answered

Hat tip to Naomi Ragen for this article in the LA Times by Dennis Prager. It is called Five Questions Non-Muslims Would Like Answered. Now I realize I rarely reprint an article in its entirety, but I feel it is worth it this time.

Five questions non-Muslims would like answered

By Dennis Prager

THE RIOTING IN France by primarily Muslim youths and the hotel bombings in Jordan are the latest events to prompt sincere questions that law-abiding Muslims need to answer
for Islam's sake, as well as for the sake of worried non-Muslims.

Here are five of them:

(1) Why are you so quiet?

Since the first Israelis were targeted for death by Muslim terrorists blowing themselves up in the name of your religion and Palestinian nationalism, I have been praying to see Muslim demonstrations against these atrocities. Last week's protests in Jordan against the bombings, while welcome, were a rarity. What I have seen more often is mainstream Muslim spokesmen implicitly defending this terror on the grounds that Israel occupies Palestinian lands. We see torture and murder in the name of Allah, but we see no anti-torture and anti-murder demonstrations in the name of Allah.

There are a billion Muslims in the world. How is it possible that essentially none have demonstrated against evils perpetrated by Muslims in the name of Islam? This is true even of the millions of Muslims living in free Western societies. What are non-Muslims of goodwill supposed to conclude? When the Israeli government did not stop a Lebanese massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Chatilla refugee camps in Lebanon in 1982, great crowds of Israeli Jews gathered to protest their country's moral failing. Why has there been no comparable public demonstration by Palestinians or other Muslims to morally condemn Palestinian or other Muslim-committed terror?

(2) Why are none of the Palestinian terrorists Christian?

If Israeli occupation is the reason for Muslim terror in Israel, why do no Christian Palestinians engage in terror? They are just as nationalistic and just as occupied as
Muslim Palestinians.

(3) Why is only one of the 47 Muslim-majority countries a free country?

According to Freedom House, a Washington-based group that promotes democracy, of the world's 47 Muslim countries, only Mali is free. Sixty percent are not free, and 38% are partly free. Muslim-majority states account for a majority of the world's "not free" states. And of the 10 "worst of the worst," seven are Islamic states. Why is this?

(4) Why are so many atrocities committed and threatened by Muslims in the name of Islam?

Young girls in Indonesia were recently beheaded by Muslim murderers. Last year, Muslims - in the name of Islam - murdered hundreds of schoolchildren in Russia. While
reciting Muslim prayers, Islamic terrorists take foreigners working to make Iraq free and slaughter them. Muslim daughters are murdered by their own families in the thousands in "honor killings." And the Muslim government in Iran has publicly called for the extermination of Israel.

(5) Why do countries governed by religious Muslims persecute other religions?

No church or synagogue is allowed in Saudi Arabia. The Taliban destroyed some of the greatest sculptures of the ancient world because they were Buddhist. Sudan's Islamic regime has murdered great numbers of Christians.

Instead of confronting these problems, too many of you deny them. Muslims call my radio show to tell me that even speaking of Muslim or Islamic terrorists is wrong. After all, they argue, Timothy McVeigh is never labeled a "Christian terrorist." As if McVeigh committed his terror as a churchgoing Christian and in the name of Christ, and as if there were Christian-based terror groups around the world.

As a member of the media for nearly 25 years, I have a long record of reaching out to Muslims. Muslim leaders have invited me to speak at major mosques. In addition, I have
studied Arabic and Islam, have visited most Arab and many other Muslim countries and conducted interfaith dialogues with Muslims in the United Arab Emirates as well as in the U.S. Politically, I have supported creation of a Palestinian state and supported (mistakenly, I now believe) the Oslo accords.

Hundreds of millions of non-Muslims want honest answers to these questions, even if the only answer you offer is, "Yes, we have real problems in Islam." Such an acknowledgment is infinitely better - for you and for the world - than dismissing us as anti-Muslim.

We await your response.


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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Washing Away Negativity

I started to do another post on the Jordan bombings, but my thoughts were so vile, so negative, I was ticked at myself for losing my humanity. In an attempt to not let those thoughts fester, I decided to put this picture up. I was bummed that huge cruiseship decided to anchor right smack in the middle of a scene I've photographed a dozen times but in the end, I guess it's okay. That's Lanai, the pineapple island, in the background -- taken from a window at Cheeseburgers In Paradise in the town of Lahaina.


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Friday, November 11, 2005

Veteran's Day



Thank you.


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Thursday, November 10, 2005

I Wonder If Jordan Was Bombed Because...

Terrorists didn't want the king, Abdullah, to go through with his planned visit to Israel? I ask this because there is a story in Haaretz discussing how King Abdullah has now cancelled the trip to Israel because of the three suicide bombings in his country that claimed at least 57 lives, including an American, an Israeli and apparently two high-ranking Palestinian security officials. My mind keeps going back to all the times Ariel Sharon was scheduled to visit Bush. The trip would be cancelled due to a suicide attack at home. These guys know how to derail things. Or am I just a conspiracy nut?


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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Hell Must Have Frozen Over And No One Told Me

At least that's what I thought when I saw the following headline at ynet:

U.N. wants Israeli peacekeepers

Really?! I mean, really really? According to Itamar Eichner, author of the article, "World body approaches Israel with request for troops, military equipment; Jerusalem considering offer." So despite being treated like dirt for its entire existence -- which only happened because Ben Gurion more than likely blackmailed some countries into voting for giving the remaining Jews who weren't exterminated by Hitler a state -- Israel is entertaining helping them. If that doesn't prove what amazing people the Israelis are, I don't know what could.

Then again, I wonder if they're asking them to send troops to troubled spots around the globe is with the hope that many will die because of that, but that's just the cynic in me. I'm sure they meant well by it.

So do they really mean dangerous places?

Haiti, Kosovo, Congo, and Liberia are among the proposed destinations Israel’s leading newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported Tuesday.

OK, yep, that answers my question. Very dangerous places indeed. Yet it's not surprising they'd want Israel. Her troops and rescue efforts are probably the best in the world.

The U.N. has specifically asked for Israeli military medical units equipped with helicopters to serve in one of these hotspots. The world organization is also interested in purchasing advanced Israeli-made military equipment including night vision and telecommunication equipment.
 
News of talks between Israel and the U.N. broke out when a memo drafted by Ronny Adam, the U.N. Department head at the Foreign Ministry, was made public.
 
Adam recommended Israel heed the U.N.’s request and presented the memo to Foreign Ministry Director-General Ron Prosor, who gave the green light to negotiations with the world body.


"Recommended" they "heed the U.N.'s request"? Interesting wording. Those charmers of Kofi's. So what's in it for Israel?

Adam reported that the U.N. has offered to purchase military equipment from Israel in return for Jerusalem agreeing to send IDF soldiers to its peacekeeping force.  Soldiers from third world countries, who account for the bulk of peacekeeping troops, usually lack adequate advanced equipment, and western countries in possession of advanced military technologies only send few recruits to the U.N. peacekeeping force.

So they want Israel to be different than other western countries -- I guess that's the price of the U.N. deeming to be appearing civil to Israel after the plethora of resolutions they've passed condemning the small country.

If a deal eventually comes to light the recruitment of Israel Defense Soldiers to missions outside the frame of defending the State of Israel will require a special parliamentary bill.
 
Adam has recommended the government initiate the necessary legal procedures to pave the way for a new leaf in relations between Israel and the United Nations.


Yeah, I just bet he did. Still, this is pretty wild.


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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Help the Marines/Navy

Reposting this to remind you guys. MaxedOutMama has a great post for the Marines. Please check it out. Seawitch has one for the Navy.


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Saudis - 1, America - 0

There are so many troubling aspects to our relationship with Saudi Arabia, and one that doesn't always get much attention is the fact that there's a cabal of public relations firms using former diplomats and other State Department employees to act as paid mouthpieces for some very problematic Middle Eastern regimes. Saudi Arabia is probably the most notable, but even the execrable Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority had Americans on its payroll working to burnish their image. And as insufferable as that might be to some of us, it becomes particularly problematic when these p.r. flacks are able to block efforts by our government to explore some very important issues.

"Diplo Won't Testify In Saudi Probe"

New York Post
November 7, 2005

The State Department abruptly pulled a top official from testifying at a Senate hearing on Saudi links to terrorism today amid a massive lobbying campaign by Saudi agents to discredit the proceedings The Post has learned.

A State Department spokeswoman confirmed that Alan Misenheimer, the department's director of Arabian Peninsula and Iran Affairs, had bowed out of testifying at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing exploring whether Saudi Arabia was a friend or a foe in the war on terrorism.

Other officials said Misenheimer's appearance was scrapped due to concerns about offending the Saudis ahead of a scheduled trip by Secretary of State Condoleez Rice to Riyadh.

But the Justice Department has also declined to send a representataive to the hearing, leaving Daniel Glaser, deputy assistant Treasury secretary for terrorist financing, as the sole Bush administration representative.

The moves come as Saudi lobbyists step up a campaign to blunt the impact of expected testimony.

The Loeffler Group, the powerful firm hired to lobby for the Saudis, has given senators a 70-page Saudi-friendly position paper, and several paid experts have written op-ed pieces in the Arab media denouncing scheduled witnesses.

"They are pulling out all the stops against this hearing because the truth hurts," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), a member of the panel.

Doesn't this just make your blood boil?


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Monday, November 07, 2005

One Last Note From Alex's Mom From Louisiana

This is the last email my friend, who is volunteering to help Hurricane Katrina victims, is able to send since she's expecting the next place to not have computer access:

Leaving LA

Don't panic. I'm about to leave "LA" the state - Louisiana, not Los Angeles. I haven't changed that much! I'm getting ready to head out to Mississippi, and as much as I'm anxious to get to the animal rescue camp, it's very hard to leave here.

We had a group from Huntsville, Alabama leave early this morning - around 15 of them, all related - cousins, aunts/uncles, sister-in laws, etc. - and another group headed off to the local Church of Christ, so the camp is pretty empty - and the computers were free! So, I decided to check in one last time before I go.

Every night at the after dinner meeting, there's a little ceremony for those leaving the next day. When they first opened up the camp here and had yet to get the kitchen up and running, all there was to eat were MREs - the military ready-to-eat meals. Thankfully, they were a thing of the past before I arrived, but they have cases left, so everyone gets an MRE as a going away gift. So I'll be bringing mine home - I guess I can put it in the earthquake kit :-) Then you make a little speech about what being here has meant to you. I told them that prior to this, my idea of camping was a hotel with no room service - then some mushy (but absolutely true) stuff about how I have gotten so much more than I've given - and then finished by staying that, in the words of my state's esteemed governor, I'll be back.

Then about 18 of the volunteers, my camper-mates and those from the crews I worked on, took me out to Chilis for drinks (there's just no drinking allowed in the camp) and a celebratory send off. In the words of Hurricane Jack: We work hard, we play hard - and when we think... we sleep."

Some things I've forgotten to tell you: You can check out the camp at "hilltoprescue.org" The organization I was with here is Hilltop Rescue and Relief.

There is a really nice couple here, who have a fairly large house on six acres of property, and they have turned it over to Hilltop for the camp. There is a big guesthouse (about 2,000 square feet) that has become the office/command center and the kitchen. They were far enough from the lake to not have been hit by the wave, and the guesthouse had more flooding than the main house just from the torrents of rain, so it has cement floors (the carpet was ripped up) and is fairly see-through, as a lot of the drywall has been removed, but it's in pretty good shape.

It is amazing, in the two months since the camp was established, how much they have done here. They have built a building with 4 toilets (the real, flushing kind, not port-o-potties) on one side, and 4 showers on the other. It's not much to look at, the inside walls aren't sheet rocked or finished or anything, but they work, and that's all that matters. The attached garage has been extended out to form the mess/meeting area. A free standing garage has been turned into what I call "Costco" - the warehouse for all of the donated food and supplies. Enough RVs and campers have been donated or loaned to them that everyone is out of tents - a goal they had for the winter - and through a complicated maze of extension cords, the campers have power! And there's a big tent (kind of like they put up for parties), with a raised plywood floor that has 8 washers and 8 dryers. There is even wireless internet throughout the camp. Who knew? I never even thought to bring my laptop. But now you'll know to bring yours when you come back with me :-)

While they love (and need, and never have enough of) people like me, who can do all the "grunt" work - and when they get calls from someone saying, I'm a doctor, or I'm a lawyer, or another professional, and asking if they can help, they're asked "How are you with a hammer/shovel/chainsaw/whatever." But anyone calling who's a plumber/electrician/carpenter/mechanic/truck driver/etc. - boy, do they get excited. Those guys are the kings of the camp! And don't worry - if mucking houses and hauling logs and wielding chainsaws isn't your thing, there are plenty of things to do in the camp - cooking, laundry, office work.

Someone asked about the food - it's good. Home cookin'. There are always 3 or 4 ladies who volunteer to cook, and we have 3 good meals a day. Plenty of fresh fruit and veggies, plus good meals.

Here's a thumbnail sketch of life here: The wake up bell rings at 7 - but several volunteers have been up long before that. Hurricane Jack's wife has taken it upon herself to get up at 6 every morning and clean the toilets and showers. By 7, two huge coffee pots are ready, and breakfast is being served. People straggle in as they get up and dressed. We all brush our teeth at the communal sink in the laundry tent. Then at 8, we have the morning meeting, everyone gets their crew assignments, and off we go. Back for lunch around 12:30, then back to the job sites until dark (thank God for daylight savings time!), then back to the camp for showers, dinner, the evening meeting, and pretty much off to bed, as everyone is so exhausted - except for the occasional night out like last night.

As I sit here, a group of 5 have just arrived from Toledo, Ohio - and it's their second time. I think more than half of the people here are here for at least their second time, and it is now so easy to understand why.

Well, it's time to hit the road. As I said, this is really hard. I'm off to make the rounds -- saying good-bye is going to be tough.

Signing off from Slidell.


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Sunday, November 06, 2005

Alex's Mom Checks Back In

Another e-mail from my friend volunteering to help Katrina victims in Louisiana:

There was a sign in front of a church we passed today that said "It's just stuff." That's true, but it's tough when it's your stuff, and it's all gone.

I wasn't aware that there had been sort of a mini-tsunami here. Lake Ponchatrain (not sure if that's really how you spell it) was 7 miles from the neighborhood we were in today, but a huge storm surge, whipped up by 175 mile an hour winds, sent a 7-foot-tall wave about 10 miles inland - and the wave was like 20 miles long. These people never dreamed they were in danger of flooding, being so far from the lake, so needless to say, most don't have flood insurance. Trees with root balls the size of cars were just uprooted.

I "mucked" today -- and it sucked! (But not for the reasons you might think - read on) Imagine a house that, at one time had 4 to 5 feet of standing water, not to mention now in it's ninth week with no power or water - think about what nine weeks with no power can do to the contents of a refrigerator and freezer. As one of the guys said tonight, "I smelled smells that no one should ever have to smell." The standing water was now gone, but the dampness was there, and the mold was growing up the walls. The mattresses and upholstered furniture were still soaked, and the dresser drawers were stuck closed, but full of water! Standard operating procedure with the refrigerators is to duct tape them closed - very well - and then haul them out. And you have no idea how heavy a soaking wet sofa bed is. First we carried everything out to the side of the road. You just pile the stuff up and eventually FEMA comes and picks it up. It took hours to empty the house - there was little to nothing we were able to salvage. But it wasn't so much the smell, or the dirt, or the heat, or the hard work that made it such a hard day - not that any of that was any fun - it was that Miss Helen, the homeowner was there, having just come back after being evacuated to her daughter's, and saw her house for the first time. She is 82 years old, has lived in the house for 40 years with her husband who just passed away last year. She was outside, watching her entire life being carried by her and thrown out into the street, saying things like "That was my Mama's buffet," and "My Daddy made that table." We tried to save some things for her, pictures that were up in the top of closets, etc. She had asked us to find the flag that was presented to her at her husband's funeral, and you have no idea how hard we all looked, but we never found it. However, we had a Marine volunteering with us today. She's stationed in New Orleans, and this was her first day off in over two months, and she drove up here to help us - and she is going to arrange for some Marines to deliver a new flag. Miss Helen finally left after the contents of the house after it was emptied - then we started tearing out all the carpet, and ripping out all of the drywall, down to the studs.

That was just the story of one woman and one house, but it's being repeated tens of thousands of times down here.

Yesterday, we were at the home of a young couple with 4 little kids. They got out of town the Saturday before Katrina hit, went to Texas, then had to evacuate again when Rita hit. They finally came back a week ago, to find two big trees on their house, one of them through the roof - and what the water didn't ruin, the mold did. Other than what they had taken with them, they lost everything. Although I was on the tree crew, it was still touching watching the muckers carrying out all of the baby stuff, and little kids toys, and all of their belongings. At least in this case, the home owners were only there for a little while, and were just amazed at how much we'd gotten done.

I have so many stories to tell. We heard at dinner tonight about a young couple (in their 30's - young for most of us) who came in today. They have 3 little boys, 9, 7 and 2, and she was 9 months pregnant when the hurricane hit. During the evacuation, she lost the baby. They finally got back yesterday - 3 trees through their house. The only room in the house with no damage is the nursery they had set up for the new baby. June in the office says she was sobbing with both of them. He has lost his job because of the hurricane. They said they didn't know what to do, and June said: We will help you.

We have a great volunteer nick-named "Hurricane Jack." He was a farmer all his life, and sold his farm last year - he's in his sixties, long gray ponytail, rarely without his straw cowboy hat. He and his wife have been here about a month. On his way driving down here in his big truck, loaded with donated supplies, he heard that they were desperate for skip-steers or bob-cats, so he stopped somewhere on the way and bought 2 and a trailer to haul them on - and you should see him picking up whole huge trees with those things. Anyway, it was also mentioned at dinner tonight about another woman in her 80's, whose husband died four months before the storm, who lost so much, but one of the things she had told us was that right before the storm her washer and dryer went out, and she had just bought new ones (financed), and she is still making payments on those but they're ruined, and now she has to buy more - and Hurricane Jack stood up and said he would buy her a new washer and dryer. That's the kind of people who are here.

I could go on and on, but I will tell you lots of other stories and show you pictures in person.

There is a fear here that as the months go by, the volunteers and the support will dwindle along with the news coverage - but this is a situation that it is going to take years to recover from. I'm here 9 weeks after, and can't imagine what it was like immediately after the storm it's still so bad now. Instead of looking to come back between Christmas and New Years (the airfares are too expensive, and actually, they have plenty of help over the holidays - Thanksgiving and Christmas - because a lot of people have off, college kids are on break, etc.) I'm thinking of looking into coming back around mid-January, and I would love to come with a "crew." It's only about a 3 hour flight to New Orleans from either coast. You have to get yourself here (but your plane ticket is tax-deductible), but it really won't cost you much other than that. Even if you can only come for a long weekend, maybe fly in late Thursday and leave late Sunday or on Monday. I'm telling you, the return on your investment will be a thousandfold - maybe more. If anyone is interested, let me know - trust me, the strong-arming will continue, so you might as well just give in now - and we'll start discussing dates that might work for everyone.

I am off to a much more primitive camp tomorrow - the Best Friends Animal Rescue camp in Tylertown, Mississippi - I don't know if there will be computer access, so you may not hear from me until I get back next weekend.

Please keep everyone here in your thoughts and prayers.


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Saturday, November 05, 2005

The "Why I Wasn't Around Friday" Report

I had to leave for work at 6:30AM. After work, I had to head home, drop a few things off and then leave for my boyfriend's office because we needed to drive (it took 2 hours for 26 miles--ugh!) down to Anaheim because we were going to see The Rolling Stones -- floor seats, VIP hospitality suite for FREE, thanks to a friend of his! Didn't get home until 1:30AM. Took a half hour to get out of the parking lot! Let me tell you all about this amazing evening.

First things first, we were to head to the VIP Ameriquest Club (they sponsored the tour). It was positioned sort of like a sky box but it was an entire bar/seating area with a buffet. There was a coconut crusted salmon, which was delicious and I'm not even a salmon fan, and there was chicken marsala, one of my favorite dishes except not their version. Oh well. Fifty percent isn't bad.

While we were eating, the opening act came on at 7PM on the nose. Toots and the Maytals, the original Ska band, even pre-dating Bob Marley, performed and they were terrific. After we were done eating, we headed to our seats. I've never had floor seats at a stadium concert. Very wild to be that close. When the Stones finally came on, around 9PM, they immediately got the house jumping with "Start Me Up." For a bunch of old men, those guys can really rock out. I always wondered how Mick could remain so lanky and thin. I don't really know any guys over 30, never mind 60, who are like that. After the concert ended, I finally understood. Man does he have energy! But back to a few concert highlights.

Their stage was really impressive. At first, we thought it was simply part of Angels Stadium. Then at one point, I think it was during "Sympathy for the Devil," fire came out the very top of it -- so much that it warmed us there on the floor. The crowd went nuts.


At one point, part of the stage traveled something like 200 feet into the audience. While they were there, they did a couple of songs. When it headed back, there was a huge Stones' mouth/tongue balloon type thing that was green with flowers. Hilarious. They got rid of it quickly and the stage went back to normal position.

For those who know me, I pretty much sit during concerts. It's very rare I stand up and dance. I'm just a sitter. Love sitting. I think I was up and dancing for almost the entire show. Just a great, rip roaring night. By the way, I'm not even a Stones fan. Imagine how much I'd have liked it if I was.

The set list consisted pretty much of the following, as much as I can remember:

Start Me Up
You Got Me Rocking
It's Only Rock 'n' Roll
She's So Cold
Tumblin' Dice
Oh No, Not You Again
Night Time (by Ray Charles)
Slipping Away (Keith Richards solo --ugh; there was another but we don't remember what the heck it was)
Miss You
Rough Justice
Bitch
Get Off My Cloud
Honky Tonk Woman
Sympathy For The Devil
Painted Black
Brown Sugar
Satisfaction

Encore:
You Can't Alway Get What You Want
Jumpin' Jack Flash


Simply amazing.


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Friday, November 04, 2005

Hello from Hurricane Land

That was the title of the email I received from Alex's mom. You all remember my friend who lost her doberman, Alex? Well, the amazing person that she is, she has flown down to Slidell, LA with Hill Top Rescue & Relief to volunteer and help people hit by Hurricane Katrina. Here is the wonderful note she sent me and her other friends whose email addresses she could remember. I thought my readers would appreciate it.

Hey, everyone -

I'm checking in from Slidell, LA - there's a computer in the office that we can use for email, but it has to be shared among a lot of volunteers, so I'm not sure how regularly I'll be on-line. I have been here three days now, and am now an expert part of the "chainsaw crew," cutting trees off of houses. In some cases, the people haven't been able to get back inside until we remove the trees. I have yet to be assigned to the dreaded "mucking crew," but am sure that is coming - maybe tomorrow. The muckers are shoveling feet of mud out of houses, tearing out carpet and drywall, dragging out ruined appliances. It's very sad, because in some cases, the people have lost everything, all of their family treasures, everything, but they are so appreciative of the help, and some are so shocked when they ask how much it will cost and are told "nothing." We're making people cry right and left.

The volunteer camp is wonderful - very clean, very safe - and full of the nicest people (with the exception of those receiving this email, of course). Since I had no idea I would have computer access, I can only email those of your whose email addresses I remember. There are people here from all over the country, of all ages, and from all walks of life. Although the rescue group is a Church of Christ group, there are people from all religions here. My chainsaw crew has me, the catholic, Abe, who's Jewish, Tiffany and Ealer, both from the Church of Christ, and Bob, who's of no organized religion. It's very interesting that most of the rescue and relief groups down here are church based, and are accomplishing what the government is failing to do. And yet, I have yet to see any ACLU crews out there working, as they're so determined to remove religion from everything :-). Although we end our morning and evening meetings with a quick prayer (usually along the lines of "bless those we have yet to help, and keep everyone safe), this is not about religion.

However, as all of you know because you know me so well, I may have a hard time sticking to the rules of the camp: No drinking and no swearing.

I am here until Sunday, when I drive 100 miles to Mississippi and spend the rest of my time at the Best Friend's Animal Rescue site. I am looking forward to that, but am loving it here. I am already trying to figure out when I can come back - maybe between Christmas and New Year's.

This is the greatest experience. I urge you all to pack your bags and come on down. I am working like a dog, eating like a horse, sweating like a pig, and sleeping like a log - but I'm loving it. By the time we finish for the day, I think even my hair hurts - this is 1,000 time a better workout than any gym!

Well, both the lunch break and my computer time are over, so I must go. I will try to check in on-line again if I can.


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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Gotta Love Those Italians

People in Rome have scheduled a pro-Israel rally outside the Iranian embassy, according to Haaretz.

The demonstration was called by Il Foglio, a small conservative newspaper close to Premier Silvio Berlusconi, "to defend the right of Israel to exist."

The paper has said that more than 500 prominent Italians, including politicians from right and left, have backed the demonstration.


Italy’s foreign minister, Gianfranco Fini, released a statement saying that his presence at the torch-lit demonstration could damage Italian national interests. In the article, it wasn’t completely clear to me whether he plans to still attend. Regardless, the article had more good news.

A wave of demonstrations in support of Israel swept across Europe Wednesday evening, with protestors gathering in front of Iranian embassies in a number of capitals.

Fini does seem to get it though. He said the international community needs to maintain a “firm line” against Tehran.

"The problem of security doesn't only concern Israel, because if Tehran equips itself with a nuclear arsenal, the problem would concern the whole international community," he told reporters.

Iran, on the other hand, is displeased by all of this. Bummer. I so hate when they’re upset.


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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

When Will My Ship Come In?

Yes, I'm blank again today but that means you get another picture from Maui. This one was taken near sunset at the marina in Lahaina. If I'm not mistaken, this ship is actually a museum now. It has always struck me as beautiful -- since the first time I laid eyes on it in early 1987. I hope you like it.


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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Iran: Same Old, Same Old?

Daniel Pipes's latest article, Iran's Final Solution Plan, makes many valid points that this dangerous anti-Semitic rhetoric of "death to Israel" from Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is merely restating their position of the last quarter century. But the reaction from the world is what seems different.

While Kofi Annan could only muster "dismay" at the statements, Turkey, Russia and China all condemned it. But they weren't the only surprising additions to the usual allies... there was a very significant addition:

Even the Palestinian Authority's Saeb Erekat spoke against Mr. Ahmadinejad: "Palestinians recognize the right of the state of Israel to exist, and I reject his comments."

Considering Iran's president states his support for the Palistinians as part of his motivation, does this move seem like a slap in the face? Surely, though this may be a simple chess move on the part of the PA. But stating it publically still matters. Pipes offers several reasons why this latest move is being met with such world condemnation:

In a constructive spirit, I offer them four reasons. First, Mr. Ahmadinejad's virulent character gives the threats against Israel added credibility. Second, he in subsequent days defiantly repeated and elaborated on his threats. Third, he added an aggressive coda to the usual formulation, warning Muslims who recognize Israel that they "will burn in the fire of the Islamic umma [nation]."

This directly targets the Palestinians and several Arab states, but especially neighboring Pakistan. Just a month before Mr. Ahmadinejad spoke, the Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf, stated that "Israel rightly desires security." He envisioned the opening of embassies in Israel by Muslim countries like Pakistan as a "signal for peace." Mr. Ahmadinejad perhaps indicated an intent to confront Pakistan over relations with Israel.


The main reason this is taken more seriously is because a nuclear Iran is no longer a question of "if" but rather of "when." Pipes's summary nails it.

And Mr. Blair later warned Tehran with some menace against its becoming a "threat to our world security." His alarm needs to translate into action, and urgently so.

We are on notice. Will we act in time?


Can the world afford not to? It is time for the world to unite to pressure Iran. If not, the world will suffer.


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