Saturday, December 24, 2005
I will be flying tomorrow and the next day, so I did want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy Hannukah!
DISCLAIMER: My failure to mention any other holiday celebrated at this time of year is strictly intentional.
I've been in the air quite a bit of late, which explains my sparse to non-existent blogging. I did want to take a moment to briefly address this tempest-in-a-teapot, better known as the domestic spying "controversy".
Look, I believe in the Fourth Amendment as much as the next guy. The fact is though, unless you are in a totally secure inranet environment, emails are not really that secure. Quite frankly, I feel a whole lot more secure knowing that national security types are electronically scanning this material in an effort to track down terrorists as it has been shown that this is the way they have communicated in the past.
Am I concerned that data crawlers are probably, even as we speak, looking at my emails in an effort to thwart a terrorist attack on this country? No, not really. I don't think that NSA gives two hoots in hell as to my personal business or anyone else's for that matter, unless your personal business is a threat to national security. All of this hyperventalating about our loss of civil liberties as a result of this data mining simply rings hollow. I don't think that my liberties have been curtailed in the very least, and I have not heard one instance of any of these tactics leading to the detainment of any innocent individual. If that starts to happen, then perhaps it will be time to take a second look.
We should also keep in wind that this is a war. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and I believe these measures are eminently reasonable given our past experience.
I also find it curious that, not too long ago, the buzz was about the administration's "failure to connect the dots". Now, those same people not only do not want to connect the dots, they want to make the dots off-limits altogether.
As for this report:
In search of a terrorist nuclear bomb, the federal government since 9/11 has run a far-reaching, top secret program to monitor radiation levels at over a hundred Muslim sites in the Washington, D.C., area, including mosques, homes, businesses, and warehouses, plus similar sites in at least five other cities, U.S. News has learned. In numerous cases, the monitoring required investigators to go on to the property under surveillance, although no search warrants or court orders were ever obtained, according to those with knowledge of the program. Some participants were threatened with loss of their jobs when they questioned the legality of the operation, according to these accounts.
I am no legal scholar, but in terms of sheer practicality, I fail to understand how checking for radiation levels is a violation of civil liberties! Have we gone mad?
Clearly, all of this is being portrayed as evidence that we are living in some sort of authoritarian police state and I simply do not see it. What I see is a government that has recognized a threat and is taking prudent steps to protect its citizens. What I also see are those who would stop at nothing to bring down the Bush administration, up to and including the crippling of our ability to protect ourselves.
Whose side are these people on?
Thursday, December 15, 2005
WASHINGTON - An estimated in one in 20 U.S. adults is not literate in English, which means 11 million people lack the skills to perform everyday tasks, a federal study shows. From 1992 to 2003, the nation's adults made no progress in their ability to read a newspaper, a book or any other prose arranged in sentences and paragraphs. They also showed no improvement in comprehending documents such as bus schedules and prescription labels.
The adult population did make gains in handling quantitative tasks, such as calculating numbers found on tax forms or bank statements. But even in that area of literacy, the typical adult showed only basic skills, enough to perform simple daily activities.
Perhaps most sobering: Adult literacy dropped or was flat across every level of education, from people with graduate degrees to those who dropped out of high school.
Inside the numbers, black adults made gains on each type of task tested in the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, run by the Education Department. Hispanics, though, showed sharp declines in their ability to handle prose and documents. White adults made no significant changes except when it came to computing numbers, where they got better.
The results are based on a sample of more than 19,000 adults, age 16 or older, in homes, college housing or prisons. It is representative of a population of 222 million adults.
The 11 million adults who are not literate in English include people who may be fluent in another language, such as Spanish, but are unable to comprehend text in English.
Aside from the obvious question as to why our education system is producing functional illiterates, I think that there is a very real danger here.
First, I don't think it unreasonable to expect people who reside in this country to speak English. We simply must have a common language in this country.
Secondly, it's not unusual to encounter native-born Americans who have only a passing knowledge of simple grammar and who are completely dumbfounded by multi-syllable words - and I'm talking about people with college degrees. Their knowledge of history is equally thin.
Our culture, our civilization, is a thread that stretches from our past to our present. We cannot understand the present, much less prepare for the future, without a solid knowledge of the past and literacy is the only tool available to maintain our hold on that fragile thread.
At a time when our civilization is under attack, news such as this is especially troubling. How can we expect people who do not even understand our civilization to defend it?
I just wanted to take a moment to cheer on the Iraqis and their burgeoning democracy. These are people who truly give new meaning to the word "democrat".
As for American Democrats, their actions of late mock the very name of their party.
Friday, October 28, 2005
Yes, I know, blogging has been non-existent of late. I've spent a lot of time in the air and have spent the remainder in abject laziness. My apologies to whomever may read this blog on a regular basis.
But the above mentioned story brings me out of my fortress of solitude, or bat cave, depending upon one's preference of comic book analogies. Several weeks ago, there was a rumor that VP Cheney would resign prior to the end of President Bush's final term and Condoleeza Rice would be nominated as Cheney's successor thus setting her up for a run for the big chair in '08.
I find this scenario fascinating and, while this indictment may not specifically point to such an outcome, it could well lead to it. It's early, and a presidential nomination is a long process that hs yet to even begin, but Rice may well be a candidate that I could enthusiastically support. A long shot? Sure. Then again, so was George W. Bush in October of 1997.
Thursday, September 22, 2005
I've made it no secret here that I have a deep admiration for President Bush, not only as a president but as a man. We seem to get the leaders we need at specific points in history who possess the temperment and vision to deal with whatever crisis that may confront us at that time. I think that President Bush is the right man at the right place at the right time.
He's also a man that takes his job seriously but takes himself less so. He often displays a very keen sense of humor, at times treading in areas that only a man such as himself would feel comfortable. I think this is one of those times:
(via Scott Johnson at Powerline)
President Bush spoke to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington yesterday on the occasion of the group's twentieth anniversary. The White House has posted his speech here.
The speech provides some important insight into the president's thinking at this time. Apart from the substance of the speech, I want to pause over the special quality of the man making this joke before this audience:At Tulane University, the Director of the Chabad, Rabbi Rivkin, brought teams of students to New Orleans, and southern Mississippi, and other communities hit by the storm. He called in folks to help. He didn't say, head away from the storm; he said, let's take it right to the middle of the storm area to help people. They helped rescue stranded people; they distributed bottled water and self-heating kosher meals; they cleaned up and helped salvage homes; they provided spiritual support for those who lost loved ones. And one of those rescued from New Orleans put it this way: In the days after Katrina hit, Chabad saved lives." (Applause.)
Rabbi Stanton Zamek of the Temple Beth Shalom Synagogue in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, helped an African American couple displaced by the storm track down their daughter in Maryland. When Rabbi Zamek called the daughter, he told her, "We have your parents." She screamed out, "Thank you, Jesus!" (Laughter.) He didn't have the heart to tell her she was thanking the wrong rabbi. (Laughter and applause.)
Pretty funny stuff.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
I can't say what I know what to make of this story from the Netherlands:
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands -The host of a new Dutch talk show plans to take heroin and LSD on the air in a program intended to reach young audiences on topics that touch their lives, producers said Wednesday.It would seem to be just another example of the interminable "reality TV" craze that seems to bear out Andy Warhol's prediction that "in the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes". Personally, I don't care much for reality TV, but that's just me.
The show, scheduled to premiere on late-night television Oct. 10, is called "Spuiten & Slikken," or "Swallow and Shoot Up."
I must say though, that "Spuiten & Slikken" does have a rather disgusting sound to it. It sounds like a condition that would be immediately followed by the "Dry Tortugas", no?
Oh man, it's worse than I thought.
New gullies that did not exist in mid-2002 have appeared on a Martian sand dune.The evil Bushitler regime expands it's realm of environmental calamity. First the Earth, then the solar system, eventually the entire universe!
That's just one of the surprising discoveries that have resulted from the extended life of NASA's Mars Global Surveyor, which this month began its ninth year in orbit around Mars. Boulders tumbling down a Martian slope left tracks that weren't there two years ago. New impact craters formed since the 1970s suggest changes to age-estimating models. And for three Mars summers in a row, deposits of frozen carbon dioxide near Mars' south pole have shrunk from the previous year's size, suggesting a climate change in progress.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
A story caught my eye that 2 European airlines will be testing the use of cell phones during flight. Not only do I think that this is a misbegotten idea, I think every airliner should be equipped with a jammer that prohibits the use of cell phones within the aircraft, whether it's on the ground or in the air.
As a flight attendant, this is a subject near and dear to my heart.
I'm no Luddite, I love the technology that makes it possible to be in touch with anyone on the face of the earth by virtue of a tiny instrument weighing no more than an ounce or two. Personally, I can not imagine living without it and I literally feel naked when I don't have it with me. Travelling throughout the country for days at a time, it is no luxury-it's a necessity.
That said, I believe that there are some people that cannot be trusted to exercise common sense as to when and where they use their phone. An airplane is a very confined environment where the concept of "personal space" is temporarily suspended. One is forced to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers, often in a fully loaded plane, sometimes for hours. In this type of environment, one should expect some level of level of decorum (not to mention personal hygiene, which is another discussion altogether-ugh!) from one's fellow passengers. That level of decorum does not include engaging in am incredibly loud conversation (why do people think they have to scream?) on a cell phone that can be heard by dozens of their fellow passengers.
I can not tell you how many times I have been on the PA, giving a pre-flight safety briefing, only to be literally drowned out by some loud-mouth engaging in a cell phone conversation. Not only is that person not listening, they are also prohibiting those around them from hearing what I'm saying. To call it rude does not even begin to descibe this sort of boorish behavior. I take my job seriously, even if some passengers do not. I want everyone to know where the exits are in the event of an emergency evacuation. I want everyone to know how to operate the oxygen mask in the event of explosive depressurization of the cabin. The next time you're on an airplane, consider the fact that you are in a pressurized aluminum tube, travelling at 500 MPH at 35,000 feet. At this rate of speed and at this altitude, small problems become big ones very quickly. If you want to ignore the safety briefing, you do so at your own risk. The person beside you however, may well not share your indifference.
The worst offenders? Business people. Pompous asses who seem to insist upon discussing their business on cell phones as though it were some display of their importance. Not only am I not impressed, but neither are their fellow passengers who have to suffer through their loutish display of self-aggrandizement.
Many restaurants have simply banned the use of cell phones and even where they are permitted people have begun to get the message that their use in certain venues is somewhat socially unacceptable. In a venue such as an airplane, where that "personal space" that we value so highly is at a premium, it should be no less so.
Sunday, September 18, 2005
I couple of weeks ago, I proposed (with tongue planted firmly in cheek) that we consider pulling our troops out of New Orleans.
Now, Cindy Sheehan (with her head planted firmly in her, shall we say, rectal canal) is saying the very same thing:
"George Bush needs to stop talking, admit the mistakes of his all around failed administration, pull our troops out of occupied New Orleans and Iraq, and excuse his self from power."Maybe Cindy needs to stop talking, admit the mistakes of her all around failed freak show, pull her head out of her rectal canal and excuse herself from the public eye.
Rumors are rampant about a possible surface-to-air missle attack against an America West flight from New York to Phoenix. It's only a rumor, but a disturbing one. I'll be watching this one closely, as should we all.
UPDATE: It would appear that it was nothing but a flock of birds. I'm sure the "black helecopter" crowd will suspect a coverup, but as for me, I will accept this explanation. It is, however, a chilling scenario and one with which I would hope that someone is dealing in an aggressive manner.
Sunday, September 11, 2005
George W. Bush
Sptember 20, 2001
"The war that began for America on September 11, 2001, continues to call on the courage of our men and women in uniform and the perseverance of our citizens. The past 4 years have brought many challenges and sacrifices, yet we have much reason to be thankful and hopeful about the future. America has become more secure as terrorists have been brought to justice, two of the most brutal and aggressive regimes have ended, and freedom has spread in the Middle East and around the world. In the months and years ahead, we will continue to defend our freedom and lay the foundations of peace for our children and grandchildren."
George W. Bush
September 11, 2005
Is the Bush foreign policy one of isolationism or imperialism? One thing is certain, he is certainly changing the world, weilding power and influence more than any president in modern times. He also seems to not only defy his critics and sometimes his political base, but also the very definitions we traditionally use to label presidential foreign policy.
The invaluable Victor Davis Hanson takes a look at how President Bush may not only be changing the world, he may also be creating a new "ism" to define his approach:
For all the national angst over Afghanistan and Iraq, historians will come to appreciate that sometime after 2001 the United States embarked on a radicallyHe concludes:
different, much riskier, and ultimately more humane foreign policy - one of both
pulling in our horns while at the same time promoting risky democratic reform in
Such a complex and hard-to-define change explains why conservative realists are chagrined by its Wilsonian traits, even as leftist isolationists are equally furious that it is imperial. Mainstream out-of-power Democrats don't like what we are doing because of George Bush, while traditional Republicans stay the course mostly because it is now the party line.
But examine the policies of the last four years in some detail and the current charges about empire, hegemony, imperialism, and all the other common invective increasingly make little sense.
In some sense, the United States is reverting to its isolationist past by wanting to downsize in South Korea and Europe, convinced that our presence is only resented -and that if Germany cannot be trusted after 60 years, or if after 50 South Korea cannot take care of itself, then there is not much more we can do anyway.I implore you to read the whole thing, you will not be disappointed.
In other aspects, we are readjusting, taking the pulse of Japan and India and offering them closer ties if they wish - to allay their worries about radical Islam and Chinese expansionism, but in a way far more subtle than John Foster Dulles's globe-trotting.
By the same token, the United States intervened in Iraq and Afghanistan in the long-term hope that its terrorists and oil-dollar weapons would no longer be threats, and that by constitutional reform there, we could eventually lessen our military presence in the region.
Thus the odd spectacle of Iraqi and Afghan reformers worried that we will not stay long enough, even as the Pentagon is worried that we have stayed too long. The Saudis, Palestinians, and Egyptians are angry that we are too disengaged from them and too intimate with Iraqi, Afghan, and Lebanese reformers. Meanwhile, Muslim Brotherhood types and other Islamists say we are too cozy to autocrats even as they mobilize to subvert the elections we alone are promoting - while the fearful autocrats damn us as too naive and too readily caving in to radicals masquerading as democrats.
I don't know what we should call all of this. But so far, no foreign-policy expert has come up with a non-partisan and intellectually honest diagnosis.
Perhaps it is a Zen-like mood we are in, of gradually allowing others to come to the fore, albeit with a warning "Go ahead, make my day, and see if you can do any better on your own."
With the smoke of gunfire yet in the air, the marshal is backing slowly out of the crowded and creepy saloon, but staring down outlaws and with six-guns still drawn.
Saturday, September 10, 2005
As some of you may know, I'm a flight attendant. I'm on a 4 day trip now and will be back home in a couple of days, but now I'm enjoying the end of a long overnight. It's almost time to jump in the shower and get ready to head to the airport.
Tomorrow, I will be working two flights; one terminating at Washington Dulles and one originating there. If your flying tomorrow in or out of Dulles, I'll be the guy wearing an American flag tie with his uniform. Understand that I don't just wear it on 9/11, I wear it every day. I wear it proudly, and some of you regularly comment approvingly and that gives me enormous hope for our country.
I'll be interested to view the mood of passengers that are travelling by air on the fourth anniversary of that fateful day and I'll be watching to see what it will be. Personally, I'm not especially wary of working on 9/11 + 4, on the other hand, that was the day that transformed the unthinkable into the thinkable and rest assured, I will be thinking it.
I will be mindful of sullen, young middle-eastern men who board the aircraft, and I see many on a daily basis. Profiling? You betcha. No, there will be no discrimination practiced in any form or fashion, but their presence on my aircraft will be duly noted. I will treat them with the same cheerful attitude that is the case with all of my passengers, even though it is often not returned. Their movements, their demeanor and their mood during the flight will be subtly, but closely monitored.
If you're flying tomorrow, remember what day it is. Remember the passengers and flight crews of those four flights and say a silent prayer. The best memorial to them lies in your heart and soul. By all means, say a nice word to your flight attendant for at some level he or she is thinking the unthinkable while trying to pretend it is just another day. It is not.
Friday, September 09, 2005
Let's see, we are going to construct a memorial for American citizens aboard United Flight 93, who died at the hands of Muslim terrorists on 9/11. Brave people who, as a result of their deaths saved countless lives. Possible designs are solicited and submitted. People who deliberate about such things, deliberate.
And the winner is........a red crescent. A RED FRIGGIN' CRESCENT?
By and large, it's lovely idea. The wind chimes, the trees, the black slate wall that marks the crash site where the victims now rest. I like it a lot. It's all very lovely, right up to the point that it's a Red Friggin' Crescent.
I know that it would appear that I bear some malice toward Islam. And, quite frankly, if one were to think that, one would not be far from the truth. This is not to say that I hate all Muslims (I am so tired of having to stipulate that). I do think however, that from Islam sprang forth the murderous ideology that lilled 3,000 Americans on 9/11 and continues to kill Americans to this day. It is an ideology that continues to murder and maim innocent people worldwide for no other reason other than that they are not Muslims. It is an ideology that also continues to murder Muslims whose only crime is not being the right kind of Muslim. These facts are simply inescapable. I could go on and on, but I've posted extensively on this subject, feel free to check the archives.
Back to the subject at hand. This design is wholly inappropriate. Whether from ignorance or oversight, it is simply inappropriate. That people who died at the hands of monsters, intoxicated by a strain of noxious Islamic ideology should be memorialized by the very symbol of the faith that spawned that ideology is inappropriate in ways that boggle the mind.
Symbols mean things. If they didn't, we wouldn't construct memorials.
Thursday, September 08, 2005
More than 200 detainees in Guantanamo Bay are in their fifth week of a hunger strike, the Guardian has been told.
Statements from prisoners in the camp which were declassified by the US government on Wednesday reveal that the men are starving themselves in protest
at the conditions in the camp and at their alleged maltreatment - including
desecration of the Qur'an - by American guards.
Do you think we could divert the food they're not eating to people on the Gulf coast that really deserve it?
NEW ORLEANS - When their homes began to sink in Katrina's floodwaters, elders in the quarter here known as Uptown gathered their neighbors to seek refuge at the Samuel J. Green Charter School, the local toughs included.
But when the thugs started vandalizing the place - wielding guns and breaking into vending machines - Vance Anthion put them out, literally tossing them into the fetid waters. Anthion stayed awake at night after that, protecting the inhabitants of the school from looters or worse.
"They know me," he said. "If a man come up in here, we take care of him."
In the week after Katrina pummeled the Gulf Coast, Anthion and others created a society that defied the local gangs, the National Guard and even the flood.
Inside the school, it was quiet, cool and clean. They converted a classroom into a dining room and, when a reporter arrived Monday, were serving a lunch of spicy red beans and rice. A table nearby overflowed with supplies: canned spaghetti, paper towels, water and Gatorade, salt, hot sauce, pepper.
At its peak last Wednesday, 40 people called the second and third floors home. The bottom floor was under water. Most of those taking up residence at the school were family, friends and neighbors of the poor, forgotten niches of this community.
As the days passed, most chose to be evacuated by the Coast Guard who, they said, came every day to help ferry out the elderly and sick, and to leave water, food and clean clothes for whose who preferred to stay.
By Monday, just 10 diehards remained at the school.
Disillusioned, maybe. Disoriented, perhaps. Determined, without question.
In the week after Katrina devoured the Gulf Coast they ate, slept and bathed here, aided by the Coast Guard supplies. Men slept on the third floor, women on the second, using blankets and cots they brought from home.
It all worked out according to the plan of Allen Smith, 55, a Persian Gulf war veteran known to the group as "Sarge." Before Katrina pummeled the area, he advised neighbors to seek shelter in the school.Sarge said he knew the school he had once attended would be safe and at least the third floor would remain dry.
That's what happened when Hurricane Betsy devastated New Orleans in 1965. Sarge, who was 15 at the time, joined his family and about 200 other people who used the school for shelter.
"I just took the idea from them," said Sarge. "And it worked."
So as Katrina made its approach on New Orleans, they gathered blankets and canned food, bleach and cleaning supplies, a radio and a good supply of batteries, and began moving their stash to the school. They decided to rely on the building's supply of paper towels and toilet paper.
In the days after the storm, the Samuel J. Green school also served as their base for helping others in the neighborhood.They waded through filthy water to bring elderly homebound neighbors bowls of soup, bread and drinks. They helped the old and the sick to the school rooftop, so the Coast Guard could pluck them to safety by elicopter - 18 people in all.
All the while, they listened to radio reports of the calamity at the Superdome and the Convention Center. They heard that evacuees were dying and left to rot. There were reports of looting, gunshots, rapes, and no food or water. "There was no way we were going down there, to be treated like that," said Sarge.
Life at the school seemed far more civilized.
Clad in a white apron and plastic gloves, Greg Avery, a 53-year-old photographer on normal days, scooped hot beans onto a plate. Sierra Smith, an 8-year-old boasting a head of perfectly combed ponytails, handed them out to her neighbors with a smile.
She had been Avery's helper all week - between card games of Old Maid and Crazy Eights with her grandmother.
As we spend months and years sorting out what went wrong, I certainly hope that we spend at least as much time focusing on what went right - and why. Humanity does not spring from government, it springs from within ourselves.
9/11 New York and New Orleans Provide Useful Contrasts
As we approach the fourth anniversary of 9/11, while simultaniously dealing with the toxic swamp that was once New Orleans, contrasts between the two are instructive. At the very least, these contrasts show how far we have come and how much some of us have learned.
First, and most obviously, is the speed at which Bush critics placed the President in the role of Scapegoat-in-Chief. In 2001, it literally took months to place the blame squarely at the door of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This time, the sky had barely cleared before the carping began.
We have learned that some mayors and governors are simply people who fill ceremonial positions, like the King and Queen of Mardi Gras parades, and should not be expected to implement the plans they made for such a disaster or to recognize that disaster when it is clearly apparent to anyone with a television. Mayor Giuliani, Governor Pataki, the NYPD and FDNY saw themselves as first responders and within hours of the attacks they merged seamlessly with the well being of the citizens foremost in their mind. Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco are still in disagreement as to what should be done as to the evacuation of the remaining citizens of New Orleans more than 10 days after the hurricane, but they do seem to speak with one voice when it comes to shifting blame to the federal level.
Unfair you say? Certainly, the situation in New York was confined to a few city blocks while the catastrophe in New Orleans is city-wide. On the other hand, 9/11 was totally unforseen and it happened in a matter of minutes. Hurrincane Katrina was tracked for more than a week bearing down on a city that has been dreading just this scenario for generations. Is it unfair to expect more from the Mayor of New Orleans and the Governor of Louisiana than what we have seen?
The difference is leadership-New York had it and Louisiana doesn't. In the wake of 9/11, Giuliani and Pataki were inspiring. In the wake of Katrina, Nagin and Blanco are just depressing, and with each passing day they become more so.
New Orleans should be placed under federal authority, with overall suprvision given to General Honore. He's a native and, most importantly he's a leader. If Nagin and Blanco care more about their people than their political careers (which are pretty much over anyway, or should be) they would step aside and not only allow it, but embrace it. Perhaps Bernie Kerik, former New York Police Commissioner, could be brought in to build a police force in New Orleans that has the trust of the people. Perhaps Rudy Giuliani could be brought in as a consultant in an effort to reform a city government long known for its corruption, and maybe in the process he could teach them something about leadership.
Sunday, September 04, 2005
It's been a long, tragic week with many more ahead of us as we come to grips with the far reaching effects of this catastrophe called Katrina.
What we need is something to make us smile, or even laugh so hard we shoot whatever we are drinking out of our nose, and our old buddy Sean Penn delivers! (via LGF) You just can't make this stuff up:
Efforts by Hollywood actor Sean Penn to aid New Orleans victims stranded by Hurricane Katrina foundered badly overnight, when the boat he was piloting to launch a rescue attempt sprang a leak.Penn had planned to rescue children waylaid by Katrina's flood waters, but apparently forgot to plug a hole in the bottom of the vessel, which began taking water within seconds of its launch.
The actor, known for his political activism, was seen wearing what appeared to be a white flak jacket and frantically bailing water out of the sinking vessel with a red plastic cup.
When the boat's motor failed to start, those aboard were forced to use paddles to propel themselves down the flooded New Orleans street.
Asked what he had hoped to achieve in the waterlogged city, the actor replied: "Whatever I can do to help."
With the boat loaded with members of Penn's entourage, including a personal photographer, one bystander taunted the actor: "How are you going to get any people in that thing?"
I've written a lot about Katrina's effect on New Orleans, mainly because I have some ties there. This is not to ignore or discount the swath of utter destruction this storm visited upon Mississippi and Alabama and the resulting loss of life.
Maybe there is an additional reason that I have tended to focus upon New Orleans. I'm not from "Hurricane Country" and the destruction from these storms that I have seen, admittedly, has been restricted to television viewing. I expect to see piles of rubble that were once buildings, upended trees and large boats sitting atop houses or strewn about far inland like so many toys. These are the images that give me a mental picture of the incredible power of a hurricane and the fragility of our physical surroundings. The next day, the sun comes out, the rubble is cleared, the dead are buried and the process of rebuilding broken lives begins.
New Orleans is different. The calm after the storm brought about an excruciatingly slow slide into oblivion. The morning after Katrina passed, the talk was how the ol' Big Easy dodged another bullet. A little superficial wind damage, but nothing more. The I-10 freeway over the lake suffered major damage, but the city was virtually intact. As the day wore on, it became increasingly clear that this was a city that was terminally ill. As New Orleans felt the relief of dodging The Big One once again, The Big One had delivered a mortal blow that was all but unnoticed at first and the city began to die, not with the anticipated bang, but with a whimper. It's all so surreal, so un-hurricane-like.
I've heard Katrina's destruction on the gulf coast of Mississippi and Alabama likened to a nuclear blast, smashing everything in her path and doing her killing swiftly. In New Orleans, Katrina is waging what could be likened to biological warfare, killing slowly and inflicting a protracted misery on those who are currently survivors. Those survivors, however, may well fall victim to her insidious wrath in the near future. In Mississippi and Alabama, the killing is done. In New Orleans, the killing is still in process.
The two faces of Katrina is something that we will not soon forget.
Politics and Disaster Make for Deadly Bedfellows
When the bodies are pulled from the waters that were once was the city of New Orleans and the long process of reconstruction is finally started, questions will still remain as to the performance of those in whom the citizens of New Orleans and Louisiana placed their trust.
This revealing story from the Washington Post paints a picture, not only of the unfolding human tragedy, but the petty politics that may well have exacerbated it. While the headline trumpets "White House Shifts Blame to State and Local Officials", the story itself tells a far different story:
Behind the scenes, a power struggle emerged, as federal officials tried to
wrest authority from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). Shortly
before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal
memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New
Orleans, a source within the state's emergency operations center said Saturday.
The administration sought unified control over all local police and state National Guard units reporting to the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request after talks throughout the night, concerned that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law. Some officials in the state suspected a political motive behind the request. "Quite frankly, if they'd been able to pull off taking it away from the locals, they then could have blamed everything on the locals" said the source, who does not have the authority to speak publicly.
A senior administration official said that Bush has clear legal authority to federalize National Guard units to quell civil disturbances under the Insurrection Act and will continue to try to unify the chains of command that are split among the president, the Louisiana governor and the New Orleans mayor.
Louisiana did not reach out to a multi-state mutual aid compact for assistance until Wednesday, three state and federal officials said. As of Saturday, Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said.
"The federal government stands ready to work with state and local officials to secure New Orleans and the state of Louisiana," White House spokesman Dan Bartlett said. "The president will not let any form of bureaucracy get in the way of protecting the citizens of Louisiana."
Blanco made two moves Saturday that protected her independence from the
federal government: She created a philanthropic fund for the state's victims and hired James Lee Witt, Federal Emergency Management Agency director in the
Clinton administration, to advise her on the relief effort.
It's not as though this disaster is a surprise, quite to the contrary. It has been the Sword of Damocles, hanging over the collective head of New Orleans, literally for centuries and it was common knowledge to everyone who lived thcategory catagory 5 Katrina bore down on a direct path for the city, virtually assuring it's destruction, the Governor and state officials were concerned about the political motives of the Bush administration? At the very least, the administration had a plan that may well have saved many lives, whether there was a "political motive" behind it or not.
Now, the administration that urged a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans on Friday, some 48 hours before Katrina hit, is being criticized for "slow action" by the very same people who rejected his offer of assistance?
The physical destruction of New Orleans, given its circumstances and the terrible fury of Katrina, was unavoidable. The still unfolding human tragedy is something that, in my opinion, could well have been at least mitigated had the Governor shown more concern for the citizens of Louisiana and less concern for political appearances.
This is a story that should be watched very closely in the months to come. As the waters recede in the Big Easy to reveal the horror of what has transpired there, the people will demand answers. Those answers, like what lies beneath the putrid floodwaters, will not be pretty.
UPDATE: Don Singleton has written a very extensive post, complete with numerous links on the above subject. His conclusion?
It seems pretty clear that Blanco was doing everything possible to avoid asking for the help that the President is now being blamed for not providing immediately after Katrina struck.
Since 1878 Posse Comitatus has prevented the the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines from operating on US soil. An exception is made for National Guard troops under the control of state governors, and I believe the governors can request military support (such as National Guard troops from other states), but they must explicitly request them.
Does anyone want the President of the United States [Democrat or Republican]
to decide to deploy active duty military, reserves, or National Guard from other
states without the specific request and approval of the Governor of that state?
Indeed, I do not.
Thursday, September 01, 2005
As our troops are increasingly in harm's way, shouldn't we consider pulling out of New Orleans? Isn't the real reason for our concern the fact that so many oil refineries are in the region? Haliburton and Bush's oil buddies stand to make a lot of money as a result of our invasion of New Orleans. I mean, New Orleans was a pretty dangerous place prior to our military invasion and it appears that our "invasion" has only exacerbated an already dangerous situation. The "insurgents" are snding us a message and the message is that they do no want us there. Is the free flow of oil from the Gulf worth the life of one American life? What's our exit strategy?
All together now: No blood for oil!
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
I don't know if anyone has made this connection, or even if anyone should, but here it is.
Remember the Kevin Costner movie "Waterworld". Yes, I know that you have been probably been trying to forget it, and now I have rendered all of that effort for naught, but work with me here.
Apocolyptic scenario of a world covered by water. A lawless place where life is cheap. Marauding bands of warlords are the only authority, and they oppress the poor souls who were unforunate enough to have survived.
Doesn't this sound a lot like New Orleans? It's like life imitating art, albeit bad art, but art nonetheless.
UPDATE 09/01/05 8:30 AM Evacuation at Superdome suspended as shots fired at military evacuation helecopters. Yeah, that's the way to get back at the man, that'll teach him!
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Yes, I said below that looters should be shot. Certainly some leeway should be afforded in cases of food, especially in a dire situation such as this, but anytime a state of emergency exists, it should be clearly stated as part of the emergency order. After reading this, I see no reason to chnge my position.
By ALLEN G. BREED Associated Press Writer
With much of the city emptied by Hurricane Katrina, some opportunists took
advantage of the situation by looting stores.
At a Walgreen's drug store in the French Quarter, people were running out with grocery baskets and coolers full of soft drinks, chips and diapers.
When police finally showed up, a young boy stood in the door screaming, "86! 86!"
-the radio code for police-and the crowd scattered.
Denise Bollinger, a tourist from Philadelphia, stood outside and snapped pictures in
"It's downtown Baghdad," the housewife said. "It's insane. I've wanted to come here for 10 years. I thought this was a sophisticated city. I guess not."
I saw a similar scene in a grocery store on TV. Scores of people, grinning from ear to ear, mugging for the camera as they cheerfully looted the contents of the store. Their total lack of shame is what I find most unnerving. They weren't hungry people in search of food, they were people who clearly felt that the rules of civilization had been suspended and they were gleefully taking advantage of it. It's said that the veneer of civilization is thin, but frankly I think that gives these animals far too much credit. As if to prove my point, the story continues:
Around the corner on Canal Street, the main thoroughfare in the central business district, people sloshed headlong through hip-deep water as looters ripped open the steel gates on the front of several clothing and jewelry stores.
One man, who had about 10 pairs of jeans draped over his left arm, was
asked if he was salvaging things from his store.
"No," the man shouted, "that's EVERYBODY'S store."
Looters filled industrial-sized garbage cans with clothing and jewelry and floated them down the street on bits of plywood and insulation as National Guard lumbered by.
Mike Franklin stood on the trolley tracks and watched the spectacle unfold.
"To be honest with you, people who are oppressed all their lives, man, it's an opportunity to get back at society," he said.
Monday, August 29, 2005
Musings on Disaster
Well, the destruction of New Orleans did not happen. Hurricane Katrina, having weakened slightly and veered east, did not deliver the biblical smiting of The Big Easy that was being predicted. The Mississippi and Alabama Gulf coast is a mess with restoration of power and return to normalcy likely to take weeks. or more. I would hope that loss of life will be low, but those figures are still emerging. It could have been far, far worse.
The news coverage was as saturating as the rain with scores of obligatory reporters standing in the wind and torrential rain at 45 degree angles so as to not be blown over by the gail. I always find it a bit silly, but I guess that it does give one an idea of the conditions and I guess that is the real point of reporters.
There were reports of looters in New Orleans which, alas, is not unexpected. Looters should be shot on sight. Seriously. I'm not bloodthirsy, and I do not think that the penalty for theft of property should be death, but I've always felt that looting in the midst of an emergency such as this is far worse than theft. People who would use a natural disaster such as this as an opportunity to pillage the possessions of those who have fled to save their lives simply give up their right to live in civilized society.
There were also reports of price gouging. The penalty? Revocation of the business license, statewide, of anyone found to be profiteering off of the misery of others for a period of no less than 5 to 10 years. It would be nice of local businesses would reduce their prices for a time in order to assist the community in getting back on it's collective feet, but raising prices because they feel they have a captive clientele is simply unacceptable. A business that sees an event such as this as an opportunity to increase their bottom line waives its right to do business in that community.
These incidents though, are but anomalies. As we so often see, disasters such as this tend to bring out the best in man, rather than the worst. People instinctively extend their hand to help a stranger and strangers thus become friends. Those who weathered the storm together and will now share the grim and difficult task of putting their lives back together will share a distinct bond that they did not share yesterday.
Catastrophes such as this reveal our innate nature, for better or worse. For the overwhelming majority of us, they reveal strength and courage we did not know we had as well as compassion we thought long buried by cynicism. When whatever storm we are struggling against is over, we emerge from it as stronger, wiser people. When the clouds part, and the sun finally emerges, the warmth is felt not only on our face, but also from the depth of our soul.
Perhaps that's the point.
UPDATE 8/30 9:00 AM: Fox News is now showing the first video of the morning after in New Orleans and conditions are far worse that we had previously been led to believe. Most of the city is flooded, the mayor saying 80%, with the water continuing to rise due to levee breaks. Emergency response is nearly no-existant due to the ever rising water and martial law has been declared. There is no potable water electricity or telephone service and officials are now questioning how long they "will be able to sustain life in the city". Some 10,000 people are holed up in the Superdome and conditions there continue there continuing to deteriorate.
As New Orleans is a city built below sea level in the first place, these flood waters are unlikely to recede naturally which would lead one to believe that the situation these will continue to worsen. Mosquitos, disease and the increasing toxicity of the flood water are concerns that immediately loom large.
New Orleans seems to be descending into hell, God help them all.
Sunday, August 28, 2005
TARGET: NEW ORLEANS
It appears that catagory 5 hurricane Katrina is on target to render historic devastation in New Orleans. Mandatory evacuation has been ordered and "catastrophic" damges are expected. Phrases such as "the worst natural disaster in American history" are being used.
A "perfect storm" of unprecedented purportions has set it's sights on The Big Easy and a direct hit is expected.
My wife is from New Orleans and for years she has told me of "the big one" that was destined to hit and it looks as though New Orleans' worst fears are about to become grim reality. My thoughts and prayers are with you all as you leave your homes to the ravages of this monster. And to those who choose to remain, may God have mercy on your souls.
I don't think this is hype-I think this is the real thing.
Saturday, August 27, 2005
"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived."
Gen. George S. Patton
While he was not without foibles, General Patton had keen perspective on human nature and the nature of war. Along with his knowledge of history, these qualities were probably the key ingredients that made him the legendary leader and strategist he became. One need only read his quotes to be awestruck with his economy of language and his incisive and inimitable grasp of hard, cold reality.
In reviewing the above quote, I cannot help but wonder what he would have to say about the media's morbid fascination with the "body count" in Iraq. I wonder what he would say about how they tend to focus more on our dead soldiers than they do the live ones and the incredible job they are doing against daunting odds. I have no doubt that his verbal riposte would be swift, devastating and, no doubt, very colorful indeed.
But on the subject of perspective. My cousin wrote me the other day and brought up a very interesting point. In 2002, there were 17,638 murders in the United States. Yes, in the most prosperous nation in the history of mankind, a nation enjoying domestic "tranquility" nearly 18,000 people were murdered in just one year. In Iraq, over a 2 year period, we suffered 1,900 combat deaths in the midst of a war. Certainly one could mathematically make the case that 18,000 among a population of 280 million is a far smaller number than 1,900 among some 120,000 Americans in Iraq, but then again you are contrasting a nation at peace versus a nation at war. I don't know how one would mathematically weight the war and peace factor in order to obtain a more valid comparison, or if that is even possible. I must say though, it does provide perspective.
But let's look at a comparison that provides even more perspective. John Hinderaker at Powerline wrote a fascinating piece about another 18,000 deaths. These were the deaths of military personnel suffered in accidents and training exercises between 1983 and 1996. He writes, in part:
We are conducting an experiment never before seen, as far as I know, in the history of the human race. We are trying to fight a war under the auspices of an establishment that is determined--to put the most charitable face on it--to emphasize American casualties over all other information about the war.
Sometimes it becomes necessary to state the obvious: being a soldier is a dangerous thing. This is why we honor our service members' courage. For a soldier, sailor or Marine, "courage" isn't an easily-abused abstraction--"it took a lot of courage to vote against the farm bill"--it's a requirement of the job.
Even in peacetime. The media's breathless tabulation of casualties in Iraq--now, over 1,800 deaths--is generally devoid of context. Here's some context: between 1983 and 1996, 18,006 American military personnel died accidentally in the service of their country. That death rate of 1,286 per year exceeds the rate of combat deaths in Iraq by a ratio of nearly two to one.
That's right: all through the years when hardly anyone was paying attention, soldiers, sailors and Marines were dying in accidents, training and otherwise, at nearly twice the rate of combat deaths in Iraq from the start of the war in 2003 to the present. Somehow, though, when there was no political hay to be made, I don't recall any great outcry, or gleeful reporting, or erecting of crosses in the President's home town. In fact, I'll offer a free six-pack to the first person who can find evidence that any liberal expressed concern--any concern--about the 18,006 American service members who died accidentally in service of their country from 1983 to 1996.
The point? Being a soldier is not safe, and never will be. Driving in my car this afternoon, I heard a mainstream media reporter say that around 2,000 service men and women have died in Afghanistan and Iraq "on President Bush's watch." As though the job of the Commander in Chief were to make the jobs of our soldiers safe. They're not safe, and they never will be safe, in peacetime, let alone wartime.
What is the President's responsibility? To expend our most precious resources only when necessary, in service of the national interest. We would all prefer that our soldiers never be required to fight. Everyone--most of all, every politician--much prefers peace to war. But when our enemies fly airplanes into our skyscrapers; attack the nerve center of our armed forces; bomb our embassies; scheme to blow up our commercial airliners; try to assassinate our former President; do their best to shoot down our military aircraft; murder our citizens; assassinate our diplomats overseas; and attack our naval vessels--well, then, the time has come to fight. And when the time comes to fight, our military personnel are ready. They don't ask to be preserved from all danger. They know their job is dangerous; they knew that when they signed up. They are prepared to face the risk, on our behalf. All they ask is to be allowed to win.
It is, I think, a reasonable request. It's the least that we--all Americans, including reporters and editors--can do.
None of this is to say that we should take the deaths we have suffered in Iraq lightly, but the endless clicking of the abacus of death to which we are being subjected by the media is not only unhelpful - it is dangerous. It weakens our will as a nation and, sadly, I cannot help but believe that this is exactly the point.
I have no idea how it feels to lose a child, but I would think that it is probably the most difficult and painful experience imaginable. I have lost my parents, but burying one's parents is within the realm of natural order. Burying one's child is not.
In Cindy's eyes, Casey Sheehan will always be her child and I would expect no less. In reality though, Casey was a young adult who joined the military and reenlisted in 2003 fully knowing that his unit was to be sent to Iraq. He was killed when his convoy was attacked even though, as a mechanic, he was not compelled to be part of the convoy. He volunteered for the convoy to be with his comrades, fully knowing it was a combat situation. He was an honorable man.
Did Casey Sheehan believe in our mission in Iraq? In reality, we will never know. People on both sides seem to want to make assumptions as to Casey's motivations, assumptions that support their own beliefs about the Iraq war and I'll not engage in this sort of gruesome ventriloquism. What we do know is that Casey walked into the situation which took his life with his eyes fully open. I think that it would be unreasonable to assume that a young man who served in the military, then reenlisted with the knowledge that Iraq would be his destination would be unaware of the personal risk that is the nature of war. The very fact that he was there does give us some indication.
For Cindy Sheehan to forever see Casey as her defenseless child is natural, though I would hope she will eventually will see him as the honorable man he was. For the press and the left wing anti-war movement to glom onto and use Cindy Sheehan and her grief to their own ends is not only unseemly; it's thoroughly disgusting.
As this continues to play out, it seems that it is all about Cindy. Yes, I feel sympathy for any mother who has lost her child, but are we no forgetting the nearly 1,900 men and women who have lost their very lives? Who speaks for them? Who speaks for those men and women who enlisted in the military for the expressed purpose of serving in Iraq because they deeply believe in the mission? I'm sorry to have to ask this question, but is Cindy speaking for Casey, or is she speaking for Cindy?
I'm in the airline business and a few months ago I had the privilege to fly with a pilot, a Captain, who was taking a leave of absence in order to enlist in the Army and has volunteered to go to Iraq. Assuming that he was going to be flying, I asked him if he was going to fly fixed wing aircraft or choppers. He replied that he was not enlisting to fly. He was going in as as an infantryman, a buck private, a "grunt" as he described it. Why? Because he has a burning desire to do his part in a mission in which he deeply believes. This is a man with an excellent job, an enviable job by anyone's standards, who is putting it all on hold so that he can risk his life as a foot soldier in Iraq. His local newspaper got wind of his enlistment and wanted to do a big story, but he specifically asked them to respect his privacy. Why? Because he did not see himself as anything special, and he felt that for him to be portrayed as such would somehow diminish the sacrifices of all of the others serving their country in Iraq. His quiet dignity was humbling, but it made me proud to be part of a country that produces such individuals. I will never forget him and I pray to God that I will one day fly with him again.
Who speaks for him?
Who speaks for the thousands of brave men and women, who have seen combat in Iraq, and have reenlisted because they believe in our mission? Should those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in an endeavor that they find worthy of that sacrifice be used in an effort to turn their pursuit of success into failure?
Ms. Sheehan has been said to have "the ultimate moral authority" to speak against the war because of the loss of her son in that war. There is, however, no such "moral authority" afforded those who are actually fighting the war; those who risk their lives 24-7, those who are enlisting and reenlisting in droves. There has also been no such "moral authority" afforded those parents and spouses of men and women killed in the Iraq war who are in support of our actions there. "Moral authority" seems to be a commodity that exists only in the eyes of the beholder.
Cindy Sheehan's grief has become a bizarre public spectacle and her increasingly outlandish statements have attracted an equally bizarre group of supporters from white supremacist, neo-Nazi David Duke to 60s flower-child icon Joan Baez to Al Sharpton to Pat Buchanan - a motley group if there ever was one. Her family has distanced themselves from her and those who wish to share the spotlight, shed upon her by a compliant media, have enthusiastically filled the void and are cheering her on. When the carnival ends and the spotlight is darkened, I can only hope that someone close to Cindy will be there for her when reality sets in because her new "friends" will long since be gone in pursuit of the next spotlight.
This isn't about Cindy Sheehan, nor is it about Casey Sheehan. It's about our media's seeming inability, or rather refusal to understand concepts such as sacrifice, honor and duty. Have they, in the interest of balance, sought out a grieving parent of one of the fallen who is proud of the sacrifice that their son or daughter chose to make and given them like coverage? Well, no they haven't and I find especially egregious in that I would suspect that there are a lot more grieving parents who honor their children's sacrifice and the cause in which they believed than there are Cindy Sheehans - thank God.
Cindy's 15 minutes are used up and her grief is beginning to look suspiciously like self-promotion. I have no doubt that her loss is unimaginably painful, but it is no more painful than that of the parents of any other dead soldier in history. Poignant, yet not unique. I wish she would go away now and find some way to recover her dignity and a more positive way to express her grief other than abject hatred of her country, her president, the Jewish cabal, et al. For God's sake, David Duke has rushed to her side, is this the company she wants to keep? I just wish she would go away now and allow a grateful nation to honor her son, even if she refuses to do the same, for Casey Sheehan was an honorable man.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Well, it Could Very Well Be.
Via LGF comes this very powerful and introspective column by Youssef M. Ibrahim in the Middle East Times concerning the crossroads at which Muslims now find themselves. I reprint it in it's entirety without comment, but with great respect for this man's courage.
Opinion: THE MUSLIM MIND IS ON FIRE
Youssef M. Ibrahim July 26, 2005
DUBAI -- The world of Islam is on fire. Indeed, the Muslim mind is on fire. Above all, the West is now ready to take both of them on.
The latest reliable report confirms that on average 33 Iraqis die every day, executed by Iraqis and foreign jihadis and suicide bombers, not by US or
British soldiers. In fact, fewer than ever US or British soldiers are dying since the invasion more than two years ago. Instead, we now watch on television hundreds of innocent Iraqis lying without limbs, bleeding in the streets dead or wounded for life. If this is jihad someone got his religious education completely upside down.
Palestine is on fire, too, with Palestinian armed groups fighting one another - Hamas against Fatah and all against the Palestinian Authority. All have rendered Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas impotent and have diminished the world's respect and sympathy for Palestinian sufferings.
A couple of weeks ago London was on fire as Pakistani and other Muslims with British citizenship blew up tube stations in the name of Islam. Al Qaeda in Europe or one of its franchises proclaimed proudly the killing of 54 and wounding 700 innocent citizens was done to "avenge Islam" and Muslims.
Madrid was on fire, too, last year, when Muslim jihadis blew up train stations killing 160 people and wounding a few thousands.
The excuse in all the above cases was the war in Iraq, but let us not forget that in September 2001, long before Iraq, Osama Bin Laden proudly announced that he ordered the killing of some 3,000 in the United States, in the name of avenging Islam. Let us not forget that the killing began a long time before the invasion of Iraq.
Indeed, jihadis have been killing for a decade in the name of Islam. They killed innocent tourists and natives in Morocco and Egypt, in Africa, in Indonesia and in Yemen, all done in the name of Islam by Muslims who say that they are better than all other Muslims. They killed in India, in Thailand and are now talking of killing in Germany and Denmark and so on. There were attacks with bombs that killed scores inside Shia and Sunni mosques, inside churches and inside synagogues in Turkey and Tunisia, with Muslim preachers saying that it is okay to kill Jews and Christians - the so called infidels.
Above all, it is the Muslim mind that is on fire.
The Muslim fundamentalist who attacked the Dutch film director Theo Van Gogh in the Netherlands, stabbed him more than 23 times then cut his throat. He recently proudly proclaimed at his trial: "I did it because my religion - Islam
- dictated it and I would do it again if were free." Which preacher told this guy this is Islam? That preacher should be in jail with him.
Do the cowardly jihadis who recruit suicide bombers really think that they will force the US Army and British troops out of Iraq by killing hundreds of innocent Iraqis? US troops now have bases and operate in Iraq but also from Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman.
The only accomplishment of jihadis is that now they have aroused the great "Western Tiger". There was a time when the United States and Europe welcomed
Arab and Muslim immigrants, visitors and students, with open arms. London even
allowed all dissidents escaping their countries to preach against those countries under the guise of political refugees.
Well, that is all over now. Time has become for the big Western vengeance.
Visas for Arab and Muslim young men will be impossible to get for the United States and Western Europe. Those working there will be expelled if they are illegal, and harassed even if their papers are in order.
Airlines will have to right to refuse boarding to passengers if their names even resemble names on a prohibited list on all flights heading to Europe and the United States.
What is more important to remember is this: When the West did unite after World War II to beat communism, the long Cold War began without pity. They took no prisoners. They all stood together, from the United States to Norway, from Britain to Spain, from Belgium to Switzerland. And they did bring down the biggest empire. Communism collapsed.
I fear those naive Muslims who think that they are beating the West have now achieved their worst crime of all. The West is now going to war against not only Muslims, but also, sadly, Islam as a religion.
In this new cold and hot war, car bombs and suicide bombers here and there will be no match for the arsenal that those Westerners are putting together - an arsenal of laws, intelligence pooling, surveillance by satellites, armies of special forces and indeed, allies inside the Arab world who are tired of having their lives disrupted by demented so-called jihadis or those bearded preachers who, under the guise of preaching, do little to teach and much to ignite the fire, those who know little about Islam and nothing about humanity.
Youssef M. Ibrahim, a former Middle East correspondent for The New York Times and energy editor of the Wall Street Journal, is managing director of the Dubai-based Strategic Energy Investment Group
What's the difference between terrorism in Northern Ireland and terrorism in the Middle East? Well, there isn't any. A mad Arab shouting "Allah Akbar" before he blows up a bus in Tel Aviv or London and an IRA operative planting a bomb on on a bus in Ulster muttering "Free Northern Ireland" in a lovely Irish brogue are two peas in an ignoble pod.
Perhaps the IRA has peered into the mirror and found their own heinous acts to be indistiguishable from those of the Islamists. Then again, maybe it's just another empty promise. Whichever is the case, this is a major step and a most welcome one. I look forward to real action as a follow up to this dramatic announcement.
Sunday, July 24, 2005
Islamic Disconnection From Reality is the Real Problem
So, who is responsible for the London bombings? No, it wasn't radical Muslims per se, they were provoked. According to Osama Saeed, spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain, it was Tony Blair. The fact that Blair did not sufficiently prostrate himself and Britain before the altar of Islam triggered those attacks. Furthermore, Mr. Saeed is quite aghast that Mr. Blair has the audacity to even suggest that the greater Muslim community in Britain should make an effort to reign in the madness in their midst.
How does one even begin to understand people whose existance is so disconnected from the real world?
In my more pessimistic moments, I become increasingly doubtful that we can avoid a literal religious war on Islam. While I am sure that there are truly reasonable and moderate Muslim voices who decry the mindless violence and the hate that sanctions it, I'm afraid that the voices of the apologists and the enablers are creating a din louder than reason itself.
In the West's quest for tolerance, we have allowed the intolerant into our midst and they have rewarded us with death, destruction and mayhem. They demand tolerance of their ways in our land, but afford us none in theirs. Theirs is a one-sided bargain, designed to subvert our culture's offer of freedom into our culture's subjugation. They simply will not abide by our rules of civilized behavior and have pledged themselves to our destruction and the imposition of their narrow codes of behavior upon us.
Is not what we call "radical Islam" a sub-sect of Islam as a whole? Do not all Muslims bear some responsibility to do everything they can to quash those who use use their common faith as a pretense for wanton violence? Is their loyalty to fellow Muslims more powerful than the faith itself? To answer in the affirmative to these questions is to admit the defeat of Islamic moderation and the radicalization of Islam as a whole.
In a stunning display of denial, Osama Saeed, in his column in the Guardian lays the blame of radical Islam in Britain at the feet of Tony Blair and, in a larger sense, the West as a whole. He writes:
Faced with the events of the past two weeks, it would be the easiest thing in the world for me to say the Muslim community must do more to combat terrorism. Many community figures have done just that.
Shahid Malik MP told the Commons: "The challenge is straightforward - that those voices that we have tolerated will no longer be tolerated." This raises the question: did we really hear people planning violence in this country but do nothing about it?
The position of Muslim organisations and mosques has been consistent for years. Killing civilians is murder, and a crime in Islam. We have consistently said that Muslims must help the police to track down those responsible.
This is why I've found it strange that many Muslim leaders have offered to look deep within our community now. It's a tacit admission of negligence that I simply do not accept. The prime minister has of course welcomed this attitude. Indeed he
has led from the front, ratcheting up the rhetoric against Muslims, laying the
responsibility solely on us. "In the end, this can only be taken on and defeated
by the community itself," he said last week.
He says that "We have consistently said the Muslims must help track down those responsible", and in the very next sentence he says "This is why I've found it strange that many Muslim leaders have offered to look deep within our community now." Why does he find this strange, in view of the fact that Muslim bombers just murdered more than 50 people in the heart of London? He seems to want credit for Muslim leaders assisting in the investigation, and at the same time he castigates the same leaders for doing so.Would Mr. Saeed have us believe that the type of religious extremism happens in a vacuum, without any knowledge whatsoever of anyone in the Muslim community at large? I find this hard to believe. Saeed's utter rejection of the obvious, that the moderate Muslim community just might be helpful in ferreting out the radicals, reveals him to clearly be part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
The equivalent of criticising the Pope? Excuse me, but the Pope is widely and routinely criticized all of the time! Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular are not only the subject of criticism in the West, but the icons and symbols of both Catholicism and Christianity are regularly defiled in the worst way in the interest of "free expression" and "art." This has been the case for years and there has not been a single incident, not one, of an offended Christian, taking a life for what he or she considers blasphemy. Should Islam be protected from the indignities of free speech that Western religions regularly suffer? How do you think the Muslim "community" would react to an art exhibit that featured a Koran submerged in a container of urine and pig blood?
Mr Blair has attacked the idea of the caliphate - the equivalent of criticising the Pope. He has also remained silent in the face of a rightwing smear campaign against such eminent scholars as Sheikh al-Qaradawi - a man who has worked hard to reconcile Islam with modern democracy. Such actions and omissions fuel the suspicion that we are witnessing a war on Islam itself. If there is any thought that Muslims are fine but their religion can take a hike then Mr Blair should know that we will never be in the corner, in the spotlight, losing our religion.
As far as the "eminent scholar" Sheikh Al-Qaradawi, a quick Google search revealed a BBC piece that indicates he is not, exactly the moderate voice of reason as portrayed by Mr. Saeed. An excerpt from a BBC piece on Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi :
It is particularly his views on suicide bombings that has courted controversy,
but mainly in the West.
He has distanced himself from suicide attacks in the West but he has consistently defended Palestinian suicide attacks against Israelis.
Recently he told Al-Jazeera that he was not alone in believing that suicide bombings in Palestinian territories were a legitimate form of self defence for people who have no aircraft or tanks.
He said hundreds of other Islamic scholars are of the same opinion. In this respect, he is very much in tune with what the vast majority of people in the Arab world believe.
Defending suicide bombings that target Israeli civilians Sheikh A-Qaradawi told the BBC programme Newsnight that "an Israeli woman is not like women in our
societies, because she is a soldier.
"I consider this type of martyrdom operation as an evidence of God's justice.
"Allah Almighty is just; through his infinite wisdom he has given the weak a weapon the strong do not have and and that is their ability to turn their bodies into bombs as Palestinians do".
Despite his popularity, Sheikh Al-Qaradawi is not without his critics in the
Some see his regular preaching on Al-Jazeera as an uncritical regurgitation of Islamic dogma out of touch with the modern world.
So, this is what passes for moderation in the eyes of Osama Saeed? It would appear that the eminent Sheikh's efforts to reconcile Islam with modern democracy is, shall we say, situational at best. This moderate voice who is, in the words of Osama Saeed, a victim of a "rightwing smear campaign" seems to have no problem with suicide bombers killing innocents - as long as they are Jews.
Before the recent elections in Iraq, the only democracy in the Middle East was in fact, Israel. Are Palestinians denied the right to vote in Israeli elections? Well, no. In fact, all Israeli citizens have the right to vote, regardless of their religion and some 19% of the citizenry is non-Jewish. Arabs serve in the Israeli parliament. Are Jews afforded similar liberty in Muslim countries? Saudi Arabia will not even allow a Jew entrance to their country.
Despite the crocodile tears that the Arab world seems to shed for the Palestinians, they have done little other than use them as cannon fodder in their war on the Jews. The fact is, Palestinians are considered "personna non grata" in the Arab world. When the UN proposed the creation of Israel in 1948, a partitioned state of similar size was also proposed for the Palestinians. The Jews accepted the plan and the Arabs rejected it, and ever since then the Arab world have used the "Palestinian issue" to justify their hatred of the Jews. This is a good article that details the history. The wealthy Arab states have paid the families of these suicide bombers and have done their best to fuel the Palestinian hatred of the Jews, while doing nothing constuctive for their alleged "brothers."
By putting the onus on Muslims to defeat terror, the prime minister absolves
himself of responsibility. Muslims are not in denial of our duties, but who are
we meant to be combating? The security services had no idea about all that has
gone on in London, so how are we as ordinary citizens to do better?
It is not Muslims but Mr Blair who is in denial. He was advised that the war in Iraq would put us in more danger, not less. Silvio Berlusconi has admitted Italy is in danger because of his alliance with Bush; Mr Blair should do the same.
Jack Straw has just apologised for Britain's role in the Srebrenica massacre. This is a welcome development, but these apologies need to be extended to Britain's explicit roles in creating the injustices in the Muslim world - from the mess that colonial masters left in Kashmir to the promising of one people's land to another in Palestine. We need to recognise our past mistakes and make a commitment not to repeat them. Western leaders are outraged about London but show no similar anger for other atrocities across the world. What happens abroad matters to British Muslims as much as what happens here.
The British Muslim response is to engage politically, as we did in our opposition to
the Iraq war, when we tried to keep our country, as well as innocent Iraqis, safe. We'll continue to try to win the arguments.
Unfortunately, a handful of individuals have eschewed this to carry out the attacks in London. You can regard these acts as part of Islam, or as an irrational reaction to injustice taking place in the world. If it's the former you have to explain why this started only 12 years ago and not 1,400. To us it is evident that it is the latter, so we're batting the ball back in your court, Mr Blair.
As expected, it all comes down to Iraq. But if the London bombings of 7/7/05 were about Iraq, what were the attacks of 9/11/01 about? What about the bombings in Saudi Arabia, or more recently, the bombing in Egypt?
Where was he when hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were being unceremoniously murdered and buried in mass, unmarked graves. Did he speak out when the corpses of children and mothers still clutching their children were being exhumed? Where has he been for the decades that Saddam raped and pillaged Iraq? Does he even notice the zeal with which Iraqis have embraced their fledgling democracy?
Saeed cares little about "innocent Iraqis" or Palestinians for that matter, they are mere props he and his ilk use to explain Islamic barbarism in their unquenchable hatred for the Jews and, by extension, the United States. Perhaps the barbarism is a stuggle for the heart of Islam itself, a struggle in which moderation seems to be the first casualty. In either case, there is little we can do to placate an implacable enemy.
Mr. Saeed spends the entire column attempting to tar Tony Blair, all the while conspicuously avoiding any specific criticism of the bombers themselves. In the end, he invites us to "regard these acts as part of Islam, or as an irrational reaction to injustice taking place in the world."
Naturally, he chooses the latter and the fact that he casually dismisses bombings of innocent citizens as "an irrational reaction to injustice" speaks volumes.
To me, the evidence of the former is growing. In his questioning as to "why this started only 12 years ago and not 1,400", he not only presents a false choice (Islamic terrorism goes much farther back than 12 years) but unwiitingly reveals the problem at the heart of Islam - the abject refusal to acknowedge the history of atrocities that have been committed by Muslims combined with a refusal to forget those atrocities committed against Muslims. He demands apologies, but offers none.
The purpose of Saeed's column is to defend Islam and to explain the "reasoning" behind the wholesale murder of innocents that has become the face of Islam and he fails miserably. Oddly enough, his attempt unveils Islam as something of a decrepit belief system showing signs of internal rot brought about by its inability to accept or move beyond its barbaric past. Nursing every wound inflicted for 1,400 years, a significant percentage of Muslims have chosen to engage in, or support unspeakable savagry in an effort to turn the clock back to the "golden age of Islam."
The path to a golden age is not lined with beheaded corpses, burnt bodies, smoking holes where once stood proud skyscrapers or twisted metal hulks littered with body parts that were once were busses and trains. On the contrary, that is a path to oblivion at the hands of those upon whom you visit those horrors.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Star Trek's "Scotty" Dies at 85
Montgomery "Scotty" Scott was the one guy that you could always depend on, the one guy who was always up to the challenge. He was the guy that backed up Kirk's bluster that it could be done, disproved Spock's logic that that it could not be done and allayed McCoy's trepedation at even trying. He did it with his absolute faith in the Starship Enterprise, NCC-1701. James Doohan created the character of Montgomery Scott, whose unyeilding love of technology revealed something about humanity and man's realationship with his creations.
Yes, he was only a character on "Star Trek" but I, for one, will remember him fondly. Farewell Mr. Scott, and may ye rest in peace.
President Bush has finally had the opportunity to nominate a Justice to the Supreme Court and from all accounts he's quite a pick. Conservatives whose opinions I respect and who know far more of such things than I are elated and I will defer to their judgement.
Once again, Bush had played his hand deftly and has left the "Bush-Chimp is an idiot" crowd scratching their heads as to their next move.
I have no doubt that the moonbat left will leave no stone unturned in their effort to sully this man's reputation and portray him as a drooling, right-wing knuckle dragger, intent on the very destruction of the republic, but that's pretty much a given. They would have been similarly seething had Bush picked Solomon himself. Their efforts will be for naught and will reveal them as the petty, partisan hacks that they are.
Unless he's shown to be running a kiddie-porn crack house in his basement, he will be confirmed by a wide margin.
Unocal backs sweetened $17 bln Chevron bid
PHILADELPHIA/SINGAPORE (Reuters) - U.S. oil producer Unocal Corp. endorsed a sweetened $17 billion takeover offer from Chevron Corp.
, preferring it to a higher bid from China's state-run CNOOC Ltd. <0883.hk>.
, the second-largest U.S. oil company, raised its stock and cash bid to $63.01 per share from roughly $60, turning up the heat in an international battle for producing assets as strong demand and tight supply hold crude oil prices near record levels.
The improved offer for Unocal, which has assets stretching from Myanmar to the Gulf of Mexico, was forced on Chevron by an all-cash, $67-a-share bid from CNOOC worth $18.5 billion.
As I said before, the prospects of China being in control of our second largest oil company was simply unacceptable. It would appear that the Unocal board felt the same way. I don't know whether their decision to take a lower bid was based on patriotism or if the administration quietly prodded them to do the right thing, but the right thing was done.
On a related note, while we fight the good fight in the Middle East, I would hope that we keep a very wary eye on the Far East at the same time. China is looking ambitious, perhaps seizing what they see as our distraction as an opportunity and North Korea is, well, protecting its standing as the planet's preeminent Lunatic Nation-State. To say these are dangerous times would be an understatement.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Arthur Chrenkoff reveals the UN Terror Alert System:
I don't know about you, but to me it looks more like reality than parody.
Forgive me, but I simply must unburden myself of the rage I feel toward those who engage in an ever-growing assault on the English language. No, it's not the endless use of terms like "24/7" or "inside the box" or "outside the box", tedious though they may be. It's not ebonics, for in the end I would like to think that foolishness such as this will collapse under its own weight.
The scourge that surreptitiously threatens to scuttle the very framework of the language is apostrophe abuse. Yes, it's the wholesale insertion of apostophes in order to mistakenly indicate plural! This madness must stop! Note the definition of apostrophe:
The superscript sign ( ' ) used to indicate the omission of a letter or letters from a word, the possessive case, or the plurals of numbers, letters, and abbreviations.
Now, read the beginning of this ABC News story:
The Hershey Company -- one of the nation's best known candy company's -- may not have Willy Wonka's golden tickets, but it does have a secret weapon: a Cherry Cordial Creme Kiss.Is it not self-evident that this should be companies? Is it too much to ask that people who write for a living actually know how to write? This is no isolated case, I am endlessly bombarded by ads in the newspaper hawking "Camry's" and "Corolla's" for sale and I am left to search for the possessive or contraction that would justify the employment of the apostrophe, to no avail.
Certainly, I have committed grammatical errors for I am an imperfect creature constantly striving to improve. I do, however, respect the apostrophe for its contribution to the language and feel it my duty to speak up against its abuse.
Having made that point, I can now resume grousing about more weighty matters. I thank you for your indulgence.
Tom Tancredo illustrates that Republicans can hold their own with Democrats in the area of outlandish rhetoric:
DENVER - A Colorado congressman told a radio show host that the U.S. could "take out" Islamic holy sites if Muslim fundamentalist terrorists attacked the country with nuclear weapons.
Rep. Tom Tancredo made his remarks Friday on WFLA-AM in Orlando, Fla. His spokesman stressed he was only speaking hypothetically.
Talk show host Pat Campbell asked the Littleton Republican how the country should respond if terrorists struck several U.S. cities with nuclear weapons.
"Well, what if you said something like - if this happens in the United States, and we determine that it is the result of extremist, fundamentalist Muslims, you know, you could take out their holy sites," Tancredo answered.
"You're talking about bombing Mecca," Campbell said.
"Yeah," Tancredo responded.
The congressman later said he was "just throwing out some ideas" and that an "ultimate threat" might have to be met with an "ultimate response."
There are things that you say over a few adult beverages when you're blowing off steam with friends and then there are radio interviews. Obviously, even after 7 years in Congress, this guy still doesn't know the difference.
And guess what, according to his website he's on the International Relations Committee!
Monday, July 18, 2005
From today's Washington Post:
FBI agents monitored Web sites calling for protests against the 2004 political conventions in New York and Boston on behalf of the bureau's counterterrorism unit, according to FBI documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.
The American Civil Liberties Union pointed to the documents as evidence that the Bush administration has reacted to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States by blurring the distinction between terrorism and political protest. FBI officials defended the involvement of counterterrorism agents in providing security for the Republican and Democratic conventions as an administrative convenience.
The documents were released by the FBI in response to a lawsuit filed by a coalition of civil rights, animal rights and environmental groups that say they have been subjected to scrutiny by task forces set up to combat terrorism. The FBI has denied targeting the groups because of their political views.
"It's increasingly clear that the government is involved in political surveillance of organizations that are involved in nothing more than lawful First Amendment activities," said Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU. "It raises very serious questions about whether the FBI is back to its old tricks."
All of the ACLU hypervenilation over this seems way overblown and their knee-jerk reaction is not only predictable but it highlights their increasing irrelevance. Note that the story says that the FBI has been doing no more than "monitoring" websites. They haven't been intercepting email, hacking into computers or fondling the contents of anyone's underwear drawer. They are simply reading material that has been put on websites with the intention of people reading it. Since when is reading what is written for public consumption considered "surveillance?"