Thursday, August 31, 2006

Keith Olberman on Rumsfeld's "Appeasement" speech

I didn't see Olberman the other night - I was otherwise occupied. I understand it was blistering. In case you missed him, Crooks and Liars has videos of it, and also the following transcript, which I print in full:

The man who sees absolutes, where all other men see nuances and shades of meaning, is either a prophet, or a quack. Donald S. Rumsfeld is not a prophet.

Mr. Rumsfeld’s remarkable comments to the Veterans of Foreign Wars yesterday demand the deep analysis - and the sober contemplation - of every American. For they do not merely serve to impugn the morality or intelligence - indeed, the loyalty — of the majority of Americans who oppose the transient occupants of the highest offices in the land; Worse, still, they credit those same transient occupants - our employees — with a total omniscience; a total omniscience which neither common sense, nor this administration’s track record at home or abroad, suggests they deserve.

Dissent and disagreement with government is the life’s blood of human freedom; And not merely because it is the first roadblock against the kind of tyranny the men Mr. Rumsfeld likes to think of as "his" troops still fight, this very evening, in Iraq.
It is also essential. Because just every once in awhile… it is right — and the power to which it speaks, is wrong.

In a small irony, however, Mr. Rumsfeld’s speechwriter was adroit in invoking the memory of the appeasement of the Nazis. For, in their time, there was another government faced with true peril - with a growing evil - powerful and remorseless.
That government, like Mr. Rumsfeld’s, had a monopoly on all the facts. It, too, had the secret information. It alone had the true picture of the threat. It too dismissed and insulted its critics in terms like Mr. Rumsfeld’s - questioning their intellect and their morality.

That government was England’s, in the 1930’s.

It knew Hitler posed no true threat to Europe, let alone England. It knew Germany was not re-arming, in violation of all treaties and accords. It knew that the hard evidence it received, which contradicted policies, conclusions - and omniscience — needed to be dismissed. The English government of Neville Chamberlain already knew
the truth. Most relevant of all - it "knew" that its staunchest critics needed to be marginalized and isolated. In fact, it portrayed the foremost of them as a blood-thirsty war-monger who was, if not truly senile - at best… morally or intellectually confused.

That critic’s name… was Winston Churchill.

Sadly, we have no Winston Churchills evident among us this evening. We have only Donald Rumsfelds, demonizing disagreement, the way Neville Chamberlain demonized Winston Churchill.

History - and 163 million pounds of Luftwaffe bombs over England - taught us that all Mr. Chamberlain had was his certainty - and his own confusion. A confusion that suggested that the office can not only make the man, but that the office can also make the facts.

Thus did Mr. Rumsfeld make an apt historical analogy.

Excepting the fact that he has the battery plugged in backwards. His government, absolute - and exclusive - in its knowledge, is not the modern version of the one which stood up to the Nazis. It is the modern version of the government… of Neville Chamberlain.

But back to today’s Omniscients. That about which Mr. Rumsfeld is confused… is simply this: This is a Democracy. Still. Sometimes just barely. And as such, all voices count — not just his. Had he or his President perhaps proven any of their prior claims of omniscience - about Osama Bin Laden’s plans five years ago - about Saddam Hussein’s weapons four years ago - about Hurricane Katrina’s impact one* year ago - we all might be able to swallow hard, and accept their omniscience as a bearable, even useful recipe, of fact, plus ego. But, to date, this government has proved little besides its own arrogance, and its own hubris.

Mr. Rumsfeld is also personally confused, morally or intellectually, about his own standing in this matter. From Iraq to Katrina, to the entire "Fog of Fear" which continues to enveloppe this nation - he, Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, and their cronies, have - inadvertently or intentionally - profited and benefited, both personally, and politically. And yet he can stand up, in public, and question the morality and
the intellect of those of us who dare ask just for the receipt for the Emporer’s New Clothes.

In what country was Mr. Rumsfeld raised?

As a child, of whose heroism did he read?

On what side of the battle for freedom did he dream one day to fight?

With what country has he confused… the United States of America?


The confusion we — as its citizens - must now address, is stark and forbidding. But variations of it have faced our forefathers, when men like Nixon and McCarthy and Curtis LeMay have darkened our skies and obscured our flag. Note - with hope in your heart - that those earlier Americans always found their way to the light… and we can, too.

The confusion is about whether this Secretary of Defense, and this Administration, are in fact now accomplishing what they claim the terrorists seek: The destruction of our freedoms, the very ones for which the same veterans Mr. Rumsfeld addressed yesterday in Salt Lake City, so valiantly fought.


And about Mr. Rumsfeld’s other main assertion, that this country faces a "new type of fascism." As he was correct to remind us how a government that knew everything could get everything wrong, so too was he right when he said that — though probably not in the way he thought he meant it.

This country faces a new type of fascism - indeed.


Although I presumptuously use his sign-off each night, in feeble tribute… I have utterly no claim to the words of the exemplary journalist Edward R. Murrow.

But never in the trial of a thousand years of writing could I come close to matching how he phrased a warning to an earlier generation of us, at a time when other politicians thought they (and they alone) knew everything, and branded those who disagreed, "confused" or "immoral."

Thus forgive me for reading Murrow in full:

"We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty," he said, in 1954. "We must remember always that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law.

"We will not walk in fear - one, of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of un-reason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men;

"Not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were - for the moment - unpopular."

Everyone has their own Mt. Everest

Obviously, I've gotten sidetracked from my very first post in 2005 - I lost my blog for over a year, didn't find it again until April 2006, actually (okay, look. I'm blond, and I'm a grandmother. It happens. At least I know where I put my keys.)

But back to travel. I got into the travel business 15 years ago. It has always been my believe that travel is a path to peace, because when we travel - I mean REALLY travel, and get an in-depth experience where we meet people on their terms, and on their turf - our hearts are open and we bridge gaps of misunderstanding. So my goal as a travel consultant is to give people real travel experiences - at some point in the itinerary, I build in a few unique experiences that are intended to touch their hearts. Not always, but often enough.

Certain things I won't touch: extreme adventure is one. In the fall of 1995, I met Scott Fischer, of Mountain Madness. He was promoting his adventure company, and also still selling space on the upcoming May, 1996 trip to climb Mt. Everest. At about $50,000 per person, commissionable at 10%, Fischer made it sound like a walk in the park. He was charismatic, and really handsome, and I thought I could for sure find a client or two for that trip. (I did not find clients; Fischer died on Everest in a storm that claimed seven other lives, making it one of the deadliest climbing seasons ever on that mountain.)

So today, I'm reading some headlines, and I see this:
American to Be First Female Space Tourist
and I'm of mixed reaction. First, I think, rock on! You go girl! And, at $20 Million, commissionable at 10%, I wish I'd been her travel agent. In 2002, I met with a company that was promoting commercial space travel - space tourism - and I came away with ambivalent feelings. Truthfully, it is the same ambivalence I feel toward commercial (tourist) climbs on Mt. Everest.

Anousheh Ansari is Iranian by birth; she came to America as a teen. She is chairwoman and cofounder of Prodea Systems, a multi-media and digital home solutions company. She will travel to The International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft with Spanish-born, American Astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria and Russian Cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin. It doesn't get more international than this group.

She's been training since March. Her goals, her personal goals, are quite noble. "I'm hoping that not only my flight but the life I've lived so far become an inspiration for our youth anywhere in the world, especially women and girls around the world, to pursue their dream, whatever that may be," Ansari said Wednesday. I applaud that. She is a strong woman, and I am all about pursuing dreams. God knows I've done my share of that in my lifetime.

But in general, I am somewhat leery of space travel given our current administration. All I can think of is the Strategic Defense Initiative, aka Star Wars, Reagan's ill-conceived missile shield. I think about we've gone into space with a military bent, and our propensity to litter, and clutter whatever we visit - and that certain places should just be left pristine. Everest, Antarctica, Space. And then I think, why?

It isn't that I am saying people should not climb Mt. Everest. But I feel that commercial trips to this sacred mountain attract people who might not be capable, who lack the technical skills to climb it. The Sherpas know it is a sacred place; they respect this mountain. It is littered with corpses, discarded oxygen cannisters, ropes, pick-axes, other gear. It is covered with the detrius of failed attempts. Should a wealthy dentist from Texas, who has never been above 12,000 feet, be allowed to join a commercial climb to the rooftop of earth just because he can afford to pay $50,000?

It isn't that I am saying that people should not tour space. Frankly, given what we are doing to earth, eventually we'll have to start colonizing other planets (Mars) or our own Moon. (Why does OUR moon not have a name other than "Moon?") And while Ms. Ansari is not the first space tourist, she is the first female space tourist, and she's been something of a rebel. Her goals are not selfish, she really wants to make this an educational experience. Her goals, I believe, are really peaceful goals. I applaud her. She can afford the $20 million, but she intends to go to schools after her trip to talk about science and pursuit of dreams - to reach out to young people and light their personal fires.

That's what I believe travel should do to a person. Come to think of it, I wish she was my client, because she gets it. She knows that when we leave home, we need to travel with an open heart and an open mind. You go, girl. Bon Voyage.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

New Holiday: Bushtemberfest

Steve, at The Opinion Mill has created a new holiday: Bushtemberfest, aka The Festival of Fatal Fuckups. He says it is a chance to celebrate the non-accomplishments of George W. Bush, the first president to let one major American city be devastated by terrorists and allow another one to drown, all within the space of a few years. The observance will start with the anniversary of the flooding of New Orleans and climax with the anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center, during which time we will pray — loudly and publicly — that no other disasters befall us while we await the blessed day that King George and his menagerie of religious hucksters, corporate bandits and ideological grifters get their eviction notice.

I'm so ready to celebrate, that I think I'll use the word "Appease" all day, working it into every sentence I can. Go over and read his post, but I'm telling you, it's on.

The Administration's Word du jour: Appease

It seems that both Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney have decided to woo the Veterens of Foreign Wars at their convention in Reno, NV, with speeches peppered with the word "Appease."

First, let's define it, so we're on the same page:

From Merriam-Webster Online:
One entry found for appease.

Main Entry: ap·pease
Pronunciation: &-'pEz
Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): ap·peased; ap·peas·ing
Etymology: Middle English appesen, from Anglo-French apeser, apaiser, from a- (from Latin ad-) + pais peace -- more at PEACE
1 : to bring to a state of peace or quiet : CALM
2 : to cause to subside : ALLAY
3 : PACIFY, CONCILIATE; especially : to buy off (an aggressor) by concessions usually at the sacrifice of principles
synonym see PACIFY
- ap·peas·able /-'pE-z&-b&l/ adjective
- ap·pease·ment /-'pEz-m&nt/ noun
- ap·peas·er noun

Now, Mr. Rumsfeld was in Reno yesterday in a particularly combative mood. He said that that critics of the war in Iraq and the campaign against terror groups “seem not to have learned history’s lessons,” and he alluded to those in the 1930’s who advocated appeasing Nazi Germany. Now, I'm going to paraphrase Herman Goering (I've used the exact quote previously), but Goering said it's easy to get the people to do the will of the government: tell them they're under attack, and then accuse the critics and pacifists of being traitors.

But Rumsfeld, on a roll in front of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, pounded at his theme: Islamo-fascists as a "new type of fascism", and ridiculing those who oppose the war as being on the wrong side of history. Without naming specific groups or people, he compared opponents to those in England and the US who attempted to appease Hitler.

Vice President Dick Cheney told the Veterans that a recent federal court ruling finding a warrantless surveillance program unconstitutional will be overturned on appeal. He said, with the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks less than two weeks away, that it's no accident there has been no attack on US soil since we've been in Iraq. He said, I know some have suggested that by liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein we simply stirred up a hornet's nest. They overlook a fundamental fact. We were not in Iraq on Sept. 11, 2001, and the terrorists hit us anyway.

What? Did he really say that the reason we were attacked was because we weren't in Iraq? We hadn't invaded Iraq, and THAT is the reason my friend, Laura Lee Morabito was murdered? Laura Lee, and Mike Toomey, and 3000+ other innocent souls, murdered? Don't say that, Mr. Cheney. Do not insult me, and my fellow citizens, with this blatant dissemblement of the truth.

And on Tuesday, at Offutt Air Force Base, Cheney rolled out the same dog and pony show he's been using - and the Administration's favorite word, saying "This is not an enemy that can be ignored, or negotiated with, or appeased."

The first definition of appease is quite lovely: to bring about a state of peace or quiet. Calm. That is not what the Administration means.

The second definition of appease deals with hunger - not what they're talking about.

The THIRD definition is perjorative: to buy off (an aggressor) by concessions usually at the sacrifice of principles. I believe it describes this Administration to a tee. Fueled by arrogance, greed, and power, they press on at the expense of American lives; they will force their brand of "democracy" on anyone who stands in the way of a New American Century. They've deflected money to fight their war in Iraq, money that could have gone to help rebuild New Orleans.

Sometimes I get to a place of dark fear, fear of this Administration and all I can do is watch television - mindless, numbing stuff that acts like an anesthetic. My father was a Quartermaster in World War II, stationed in England. His unit helped supply the D-Day invasion. My father died in 1996; and I am grateful that he didn't live to see what our nation has become.

Will other nations stand up and put an end to this nightmare? I doubt it. We have to use our voices, our minds, our votes. Midterms are coming. Now, more than ever, voting is essential.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Katrina - one year later

Bush flies by en route to Crawford for his vacation while New Orleans and the coast of Mississippi lie in ruins. The White House says it has allocated $110 billion toward rebuilding and victim assistance; of that, $44 billion has been spent. Apparently, Bush thinks this is enough.

If you agree with me, and feel that this administration's callous disregard for the Hurricane victims is NOT enough, please click HERE to donate to Habitat for Humanity's rebuilding efforts.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Separated at Birth

Steve Carell

Iran president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Civil War Ironclads Reclassified by Administration

With a growing sense of urgency to protect the American Public, the Bush Administration has decided to reclassify the number of strategic weapons in the US arsenal as top secret.

Included are Civil War Ironclads, breast milk, formula, other beverages, and muskets.

The Freedom of Information Act has also been reclassified as a secret, because it might fall into the hands of people who actually want to know what's going on in the USA. Private Citizens might actually want to read up on some things. So, in order to protect us, last spring, 55,000 decades-old pages vanished from the public record. Oh, and the process itself was labeled an official secret.

I don't know about you, but I feel SOOOO much safer now.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Blahs

12 days in a row, no time off. And August is traditionally slow in the trave business - everyone is either on vacation, or getting kids ready for school - I usually clean my files, my desk - not this year. I've been insanely busy. I almost always find time to blog, and to visit others during the day - not this week. Not so much the week before. I've had to work.

It started with the Shampoo Bombers, of course, the busy part. I had clients stuck in London, and missed the first day of a cruise because flights were cancelled. Other clients arrived late in Stockholm, and their scheduled transfer driver failed to show up - he met their original flight, they weren't there, and he left - and it took 8 days to get compensation back from the cruise line. Then a client called because his ticket and his companion's were for different days of travel. THAT was entirely my mistake, and I almost had a heart attack. We fixed it, but it cost me a lot. I don't make a lot of mistakes at work, but when I do, they are doozies.

By the time Saturday arrived, I was barely competent to walk, let alone drive a car. But I drove, went to get my hair done, nails, prepare for my trip. A movie with friends (Trust the Man, it's new and it is very funny!). Today I am cleaining house, doing laundry, thinking about packing. Four days of work, then Friday I leave for Australia.

Truly, the world could have blown up last week and I would have been unable to think about it. So I ask this: is the reason most Americans don't think about what's really going on in the world, is that reason because they are overworked, underpaid, and exhausted?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Friday grandbaby blogging

I like to play in my pool. I can pretend to swim, and sometimes I put my face in the water and blow bubbles. Can you play in the pool?

Someday, I am going to make my gramma suffer for putting this picture of me on the web, but today I just have to be silly. Do you have a hat like this?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Two dangerous assaults on the First Amendment

Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

First, hat tip to Karena for finding this article in "The Lone Star Iconoclast". Sgt. First Class Donald Buswell is under investigation for stating his mind, and calling for an independent investigation into 9/11. He said, in a response to an email, I say Occums razor is the best way to deduce this ‘day of infamy’; if you weigh all options, do some simple studying you will see 911 was clearly not executed by some arabs in caves with cell phones and 3 day old newspapers! I mean how are Arabs benefiting from pulling off 911? They have more war, more death and dismal conditions, so, how did 911 benefit them? Answer: It didn’t. So, who benefited from 9-11? The answer is sad, but simple; The Military Industial [sic] Complex...

...We must demand a new independent investigation into 911 and look at all options of that day, and all plausabilities [sic], even the most incredulous theories must be examined.

This gentleman, this decorated Army career man with 19 years in the military and a Purple Heart earned because of injuries sustained in a rocket attack in Iraq, returned to his office the next day to find the locks changed, his security clearances revoked, and that he was now under investigation.

Then, Betmo links to Fla. school board seeks to remove books. The books, "Vamos a Cuba" ("A Visit to Cuba"), are children's books about life in Cuba. But a parent complained, saying the books didn't accurately depict life in Communist Cuba under Castro, and so the school district decided to remove them.

The ACLU in Florida sued to keep the books on the shelves, and U.S. District Judge Alan S. Gold ruled in July in favor of the ACLU, granting a preliminary injunction and writing that efforts to remove the books "goes to the heart of the First Amendment issue."

But the Miami-Dade County School District voted Tuesday to 5-2 to appeal Judge Gold's ruling. They'd rather ban books than consider alternate ideas.

How are these two separate items linked?

Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Without the First Amendment, we are a totalitarian country.

Important headlines

People, I have three days left in this insane work schedule - and believe me, being a travel agent has nothing to do with brain surgery, or world health, or national security, so 12 days without a day off is truly insane - so I thought I'd do a little roundup of the important headlines.

In a blatant act of Civil Disobedience Chicago restaurants defy ban on Foie Gras. Yes, it's true. Connie's Pizza thought up a Foie Gras Pizza in open defiance of a new ban set by the City Council. Harry Carey's paired it with scallops for an appetizer, and a filet for a main course. Meanwhile, Charlie Trotter stopped using it several years ago, because the ducks and geese that are used for Foie Gras are force fed through a tube to fatten their livers. The gloves are off, and lines are drawn on the table cloths. This is war, Chicago.

Speaking of war, In a declaration of independence Viacom and Paramount Pictures severed ties with Tom Cruise. Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone cited Cruise's recent behavior, but it probably had more to do with the fact that Cruise and longtime business partner Paula Wagner wanted $10M a year to cover overhead and "project development." Cruise has put signs up around his office asking for silence while he and Wagner give birth to a new location for their production company.

What was Andrew Young thinking?" First, he takes a job with Walmart. Then, he comes to Los Angeles, and says that the Jewish, Korean and Arab small-business owners in South L.A. sell inferior goods to black customers, so that Blacks should welcome Walmart into their neighborhoods. Walmart gets bent out of shape and forces Young to resign, and Georgia's Lt. Governor Mark Taylor apologizes for Young's remarks, fearing they might hurt his campaign (Young is Campaign Co-Chairman). But somebody please tell me how this distinguished Civil Rights Activist, former Ambassador to the UN, former Mayor of Atlanta, could have stooped to taking a position with Walmart as a pitchman? Erin Aubry Kaplan writes, "The biggest company in the world has grown ever-more unpopular as its worldwide exploitation of workers, including a determination to keep unions away that can be described as fascist, has become more well known."

Oh, and just in case we forget about that little fiasco in Iraq, Marines Who Served Will Be Ordered Back. The involuntary return to active duty will affect up to 2,500 reservists at a time. The Pentagon is scrambling to meet the demands of war. So they're going to be called up, and re-deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, in order to feed Bush's hunger for world domination. Seems they're having trouble getting soldiers to voluntarily retrun. I wonder why?

Sports news will have to wait. Have a lovely day.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Condom art

Glenda has put up an incredible post about Condoms as a Fashion (Social) Statement. It is gorgeous.

A human face to the tragedy of the Israeli Lebanon war

As the Lebanon war raged, David Grossman, the celebrated Israeli writer, publicly urged his government to accept a ceasefire. Just days later, his soldier son was killed by one of Hizbollah's final anti-tank missiles. This is the eulogy he read at the funeral, which I hope you read in full.

Blogger Richard Silverstein, of Tikkun Olam asks "Of what possible use is the death of such a gifted child? There is but one silver lining. If his death can persuade a single person who was sitting on the fence that peaceful negotiations should trump war–then perhaps, just perhaps, there is some small shred of meaning we can glean from his death. Of course, I willingly deceive myself in this. Uri Grossman’s death is a vast waste of human potential. It is Israel’s tragedy writ small."

Meanwhile, Israeli Reservists attack Olmert's war tactitcs. Brigadier Yossi Heiman, head of infantry and paratroopers, told a ceremony on Sunday: "We have sinned the sin of hubris." The Spearhead Brigade, a unit of Israeli Reservists just returned from Lebanon, had an open letter published in the Israeli press yesterday, stating they'd lost confidence in Israeli leadership (specifically Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz.) Peretz has called for a limited investigation, but Olmert, (looking more and more like Bush Light) says "We don't have a lot of time to talk about what happened," he said. "We have to talk about what will happen."

The Reservists wrote about a lack of indecision, which they called "the cold-feet" of the decision-makers, saying they felt they'd been spat in the face by the leadership. "The heavy feeling that in the echelons above us there is nothing but under-preparation, insincerity, lack of foresight and inability to make rational decisions, leads to the question - were we called up for nothing?"

Calling for the resignations of Olmert and Peretz, another group of Reservists conducted a protest march of about 100 people went from Castel, the site of a 1948 battle, to Olmert’s house. Reservists may freely criticize the army, and were instrumental in bringing down Golda Meir's government after the surprise Yom Kippur attack by Egypt in 1973. The growing protests in Israel have not yet reached that level of strength, but it is growing.

The Kadima/Labor coalition has been weakened; the main beneficiaries of its potential collapse would be the the right wing. In all likelihood, they will pull together to try to preserve their coalition. Still, Olmert and Kadima, who were elected on March 28 with a campaign promise of sweeping withdrawal of settlers from the West Bank, have shelved that promise as Olmert talks about rebuilding the North (where I once lived.)

But the Reservists' demand for an investigation is finding support in Parliament. Olmert is against this because such an inquiry might have legal powers to question him and other government officials. (would that lead back to the US neocons?) Yesterday, while visiting Kiryat Shmona (which was hit by nearly 1/4 of the 4000 rockets fired into Israel by Hezbollah), Olmert said "I won't be part of this game of self-flagellation." Nice.

Olmert has asked his attorney general to come up with alternatives to a formal inquiry. A governmental investigation authorized by the cabinet, for example, could be better controlled by Olmert, even if outsiders are involved, and the cabinet could decide what is published.

Public Security Minister Avi Dichter suggested that Israel pursue peace talks with Syria, a Hezbollah sponsor, even if it means giving up the Golan Heights, which Israel conquered in 1967. Olmert rejected this suggestion. He says he will not negotiate with Syria until it stops supporting Hezbollah and Hamas.

In Improvisation class we learned about the process of building vs. blocking. In Improvisation, when your scene partners makes an offer (whatever they say or do is an offer), you can build by saying "Yes, and..." or you can block by saying "No" - well, where do you go when you are blocked? I've written before about the spiritual principle of "you go first" no matter who started the conflict, you must be the change you want to see in the world. If you lay down your weapons, if you step forward no matter what the risk to extend your hand in peace, you become the thread to mend the tear in the world.

Monday, August 21, 2006

12 day work marathon

Sister and brother bloggers, I am in day 8 of 12 days without a day off at work - and today I woke up covered in hives. I don't know if they're stress, or from some suppliments I've started taking, or a food allergy (never had food allergies before) but I am covered in itchy, red, blotchy hives. Saturday was a trade show with our destination specialists, and some seminars. Yesterday was in the office, and nothing worked. Not a thing worked, so it was interesting as could be.

So I've been a little blank-brained blonde babe. So hard to have an intelligent thought when overworked with no break. However, at the trade event, I spoke with one of our hotelliers, who told me a story about a client of mine.

About three months ago I got a call from a woman who wanted to go to New Zealand, alone. She was a recent widow and it was her first trip alone. She was nervous. She had a budget. I put together an itinearary that took her to two incredible lodges and a very sweet hotel in the city - she had a set international flight itinerary, and so I had limited time. The manager of the first lodge was at our event. I mentioned her to him and he pulled me over to look at a series of photographs - all hers, many with her in them - he told me that they completely VIPed her, and that at the end of her stay, she said to him it was the first time since her husband died that she'd spent two days NOT thinking about him. It was the first time she felt she could move forward. By the end of our conversation I was in tears, I was so happy for her. And that is the reason I can do 12 days in a row, break out in hives, and still go to the office.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Helping Katrina Victims through Habitat for Humanity

If you haven't donated yet at Alicia's site, you can click here to help reach the goal. Don't forget that Alicia is giving away Greg Palast's book to the highest donation. I joined the team, and contributed, and set up a donation page.

Since Bush's government has effectively ignored the needs of Katrina victims, we have to stand up and be counted. Click the link, and be as generous as you can.

UPDATE: Hat tip to Enigma4Ever for pointing out this chilling documentary footage on the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans:

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Friday grandbaby blogging

Dress up is fun. Here I am, as Cher.

I'm a fabulous red-head. Gramma DivaJood will be happy.

I am so glamorous. Someone said I look like I've been hitting the bottle with Mel Gibson, but I am so over the bottle, all I use is my sippy cup. And I hear Mel doesn't like milk.

Just like my mommy and my Gramma, I am a Cubs Fan. They tell me it makes us strong and long suffering. They might be tin-foil hat wearers, because the Cubs are terrible. Jelly Cat is stuck. I can't pick her up. Gramma gave me Jelly Cat before I was born. It's my favorite stuffed animal. I love Jelly Cat. Is Jelly a Cubs Fan?

With Lt. Watada's Case, GI Resistance Grows

Sarah Olson reports over at alternet: Inspired by US Army First Lieutenant Ehren Watada, a growing number of GIs are resisting orders, going to jail, or going AWOL.

28-year-old Lieutenant Watada disobeyed deployment orders on June 22, several weeks after announcing his opposition to the war at a press conference. He is charged with six violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice: one count of missing troop movement, two counts of speaking contemptuously toward officials, and three counts of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman. An Article 32 hearing is scheduled for Thursday, August 17, to decide whether to proceed with a general court-martial. If tried and convicted, Lieutenant Watada could face over seven years in prison.

The Military would have us believe that Lt. Watada is the lone voice of dissent, but that is simply not true. There is a growing number of soldiers who are speaking out, and refusing orders; and in all likelihood, an undetermined number of others who feel they cannot speak out regardless of their position against this war.

Clifton Hicks, an Army Tank Driver, talks about what he calls the "wedding party incident." His unit was on patrol when they heard shooting between US armed forces and what they thought were Iraqi insurgents. While Hicks prepared to go house to house in search of the enemy, what he discovered instead was a wedding. Some of the men had been shooting rifles into the air, as is customary during family parties and celebrations. Three people from the wedding were shot; a 6-year-old girl was killed. When the platoon sergeant called the command center to report the incident, "all they said to us was 'Charlie Mike,' a stupid Army acronym for continue mission."

Hicks says, "What struck me most was just how callous we had become."

He eventually filed for and received conscientious objector status. Hicks now believes the only patriotic thing to do is to oppose this war.

Lt. Watada is a true hero, because he knows well the consequences of speaking out. Lt. Watada speaks for me. I hope he speaks for all America, and quickly.

Bush calls Muslim Terrorists "Islamo-Fascists" again

Geoffrey Nunberg is the author of Talking Right, a book about politics and language. In today's LA Times, Nunberg says Bush doesn't really know what he's talking about. Bush has used the term before, but the current use of the phrase signaled that the administration was shopping for new language to defend its policies at a time when the evocations of the "war on terror" don't seem to stem rising doubts about the wisdom of "staying the course" in Iraq.

Nunberg rightly says that this administration is attempting to link its "War on Terror" to World War II, the last "just war." He quotes Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) from last month, as he raised the specter of the Islamists' dreams of "a new, global caliphate where Islamic fascism will rule mankind," and he reminded the audience that "we had no problem understanding that Nazism and fascism were evil racist empires. We must now bring the same clarity to the war against Islamic fascism."

By lumping ex-Baathists, Al Qaeda and Shiite mullahs; Chechens and Kashmiris; Hezbollah, Hamas, British-born Asians, and the ACLU together as Islamo-Fascists, the neo-cons are attempting to turn the complexity of the world into a simple fable. (Perhaps they'll call it "My Pet Goat.")

But what is Fascism? Well, The Project for an OLD American Century lists the 14 points of fascism.

1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism.

2. Disdain for the importance of human rights.
Bush threatens to veto $442b defense bill if Congress investigates detainee abuses.

3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause. (Ann Coulter: Godless: The Church of Liberalism

4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism. Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

Funding for job training, rural health care, low-income schools and help for people lacking health insurance would face big cuts under a bill passed Friday by the House.
In a pop culture allegory of military might, three cable channels now feed news, information and entertainment about the armed services into millions of living rooms 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

5. Rampant sexism. The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy. (The whole "Gay Agenda" thing.)

6. A controlled mass media. Sometimes the media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with national security. Terror Alert Level

8. Religion and ruling elite tied together. Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.

9. Power of corporations protected. The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated. Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts. Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.
Bush's new economic plan cuts funding for arts, education
Artists from all over the world are being refused entry to the US on security grounds.

12. Obsession with crime and punishment. Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

The problem with Gonzales is that he has been deeply involved in developing some of the most sweeping claims of near-dictatorial presidential power in our nation's history.

13. Rampant cronyism and corruption. Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent elections. Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

Robert F. Kennedy's Rolling Stone Article about the 2004 election.

Remember, it's not fascism when WE do it.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Elvis has left the building

Today is the 29th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley.

On December 21, 1970, President Nixon met with Elvis Presley in the Oval Office. The pill popping rock star offered to help the president combat the rise in drug use among Americans. Elvis brought President Nixon a World War II Colt 45 pistol and several Presley family photographs as gifts. Nixon gave the King an FBI badge.

29 years ago, on August 16, 1977, Presley died of a drug overdose.

In light of this, I thought a quick roundup of headlines might be in order.

One year later, Katrina Victims are fucked again as a federal judge in Mississippi ruled in favor of the Insurance Companies, saying they don't have to pay for any of the flooding that destroyed homes in the disaster. After all, the insurance companies have already paid to cover wind damage, isn't that enough? As for the rest of ya, fuckya.

Senator Lieberman's run as an independent may just turn into a victory. Lieberman is working on a message of bipartisanship, based on blaming Lamont for the London Terrorist Plot. But good news: you can take your lipstick on a plane, as long as it is solid - no lip gloss or jars of lip stain.

Still not enough being done about AIDS. While the scientific advances are encouraging, most countries have no way of delivering treatments to people. How many ways can we say "marginalized?"

Bush is frustrated that the Iraqi Citizens "had not shown greater public support for the American mission". I'm sorry, this is a WTF moment for me. I can't say anything else. Let me go back to science.

In case you were worried, Pluto gets to remain a planet. A few other large celestial bodies are vieing for planetary status as well, so once Iraq is completely devestated, and Global Warming has innundated all the coastal regions, there will be ample room in the galaxy for the wealthy to move to and fuck up.

Okay, I have to go to work now.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Airline Humor

Thanks to Spooky Pete for these:

All too rarely, airline attendants make an effort to make the in-flight "safety lecture" and their other announcements a bit more entertaining. Here are some examples that have been heard or reported:

1) "Weather at our destination is 32 degrees with some broken clouds, but we'll try to have them fixed before we arrive.

Thank you, and remember, nobody loves you, or your money, more than Qantas Airlines."

(2) On landing the hostess said, "Please be sure to take all your belongings. If you're going to leave anything, please make sure it's something we'd like to have."

(3) "There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways to leave the aircraft.

(4) As the plane landed and was coming to a stop at Auckland, a lone voice came over the loudspeaker: "Whoa, big fella. WHOA!"

(5) After a particularly rough landing during thunderstorms in Adelaide, a flight attendant on a Qantas flight announced, "Please take care when opening the overhead compartments because, after a landing like that, sure as f*** everything has shifted."

(6) From a Qantas employee: "Welcome aboard Qantas Flight X to Y. To operate your seat belt, insert the metal tab into the buckle, and pull tight. It works just like every other seat belt; and, if you don't know how to operate one, you probably shouldn't be out in public unsupervised."

(7) "In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, masks will descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child travelling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are travelling with more than one small child, pick your favourite.

(8) On an Air NZ Flight with a very "senior" flight attendant crew, the pilot said, "Ladies and gentlemen, we've reached cruising altitude and will be turning down the cabin lights. This is for your comfort and to enhance the appearance of your flight attendants."

(9) "Your seat cushions can be used for flotation; and in the event of an emergency water landing, please paddle to shore and take them with our compliments."

(10) Heard on Qantas Airlines just after a very hard landing in Hobart:

The flight attendant came on the intercom and said, "That was quite bumpy and I know what you are all thinking. I'm here to tell you it wasn't the airline's fault, it wasn't the pilot's fault, it wasn't the flight attendant's fault... it was the asphalt!"

(11) Another flight attendant's comment on a less than perfect landing:

"We ask you to please remain seated as Captain Kangaroo bounces us to the terminal."

(12) An AIrline pilot wrote that on this particular flight he had hammered his ship into the runway really hard. The airline had a policy which required the first officer to stand at the door while the passengers exited, smile, and give them a "Thanks for flying United." He said that, in light of his bad landing, he had a hard time looking the passengers in the eye, thinking that someone would have a smart comment.

Finally everyone had got off except for an old lady walking with a cane.

She said, "Sonny, mind if I ask you a question?" "Why no Ma'am," said the pilot. "What is it?"

The little old lady said, "Did we land or were we shot down?"

(13) After a real crusher of a landing in Sydney, the Flight Attendant came on with, "Ladies and Gentlemen, please remain in your seats until Capt. Crash and the Crew have brought the aircraft to a screeching halt against the gate. And, once the tyre smoke has cleared and the warning bells are silenced, we'll open the door and you can pick your way through the wreckage to the terminal."

(14) Part of a flight attendant's arrival announcement: "We'd like to thank you folks for flying with us today. And, the next time you get the insane urge to go blasting through the skies in a pressurised metal tube, we hope you'll think of Iran Air."

(15) A plane was taking off from Sydney Airport. After it reached a comfortable cruising altitude, the captain made an announcement over the intercom, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Welcome to Flight Number XYZ, non-stop from Sydney to Auckland. The weather ahead is good and, therefore, we should have smooth and uneventful flight. Now sit back and relax - SHIT! ARGHHH! OH, MY GOD!"

Silence followed and after a few minutes, the captain came back on the intercom and said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, I am so sorry if I scared you earlier, but, while I was talking, the flight attendant brought me a cup of coffee and spilled the hot coffee in my lap. You should see the front of my pants!" A passenger in Economy said, "That's nothing. He should see the back of mine!"

Cox email down again

I think I actually hate technology. My email is down again. Webmail, email, down down down. No LA Times. No NY Times. No spam. Okay, that's a good thing. No greetings from friends. Not a damn thing.

It makes me feel cut off from the world. I'm so spoiled. I remember a time when I used to enjoy going to the mailbox to open real letters, hand-written, slow to come but thoughtful, and personal. One friend and I used to include drawings in our letters. One friend and I used to send each other a postcard every day of the week - we did this for three years, and then I stopped. I stopped.

And today in this overconnected world, when email goes down, I feel cut off and isolated. The anticipation of what?

How do YOU feel when your email is down? And, did you ever love to write a real letter, choose a stamp, and drop it in the mail?

+++++++++++++++++++ UPDATE at 7:53 PM ++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Email has returned. After being down all day, it is finally fixed. Yay.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Guess what? There are WMDs in Iraq

We put them there.

Hat tip to Betmo for finding this article about US soldiers who appear to have uranium sickness from depleted uranium. The Pentagon has an arsenal with depleted uranium, "thousands of shells and hundreds of tanks coated with the metal that is radioactive, chemically toxic, and nearly twice as dense as lead."

So there we are.

Hooterville for Habitat

I just joined the team - over at Last Left Before Hooterville - to help raise money for Habitat For Humanity to build houses for Katrina victims. What a contrast to the Santa Barbara subsidised housing, ya know?

Click on the link above and make a donation. Alicia is running a contest, too.

Excuse me? Housing Aid in Santa Barbara?

Um, is it just me, or does anyone else read this and go WTF? Santa Barbara OKs Housing Aid for Folks Making Up to $160,000 a Year

In what is believed to be the last vacant lot in Santa Barbara, the City Council has given the green light to build a "housing project", a condominium complex that will range between $495,000 to $595,000. Most housing in Santa Barbara (which is built pretty much to capacity) goes for well over $1M. Oprah has a home out there worth about $50M. Is she saying "There goes the neighborhood?"

Now, "it's hard to get sympathy for people making $160,000 a year if you're down in Texas or something," said Bill Watkins, head of the UC Santa Barbara Economic Forecast Project. Any household with that kind of money is in the nosebleed section of American earners, and "most of the country would think, 'You're going to subsidize that person's house? You're kidding me.' "

But in this city — where the median home price is around $1.2 million — that person needs help. And the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara is about to become the rare public housing agency to assist the well-heeled along with the poor, to build shelter for those whose business cards come in designer leather cases and include words like "doctor," "lawyer," "director."

The dilema is keeping the working class in a rich person's city. I guess everything is relative.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Hezbollah's other war

Three distinct items provoke this post.

First, I went yesterday to a meeting of PDLA, where I met up with two blogging friends, Helen Wheels and Alicia. The President of PDLA is Marcy Winograd, as well as several other very powerful speakers from the Progressive Democrats around the LA area, were there. It was an honor to participate, as we worked through some significant issues. One of the first topics on the table was single-payer universal health care. It is insane that this country does not provide adequate health coverage, that millions of Americans cannot afford their medications, that health care has become the bastion of the very wealthy. We discussed election reform, and the debacle of the Diebold machines which. These machines use propriatary software, owned by a private company and developed by someone with 23 felony counts against him for fraud, which is beyond unconstitutional. And the discussion turned to the Middle East.

This meeting had a lot of Jewish Americans who, like me, are heartsick over what Israel's government has become. Also present was a gentleman who has a family connection to a town in Lebanon, which he fears he will never see. A motion was put forth to demand that the US stop sending arms and funds to Israel; the motion was changed to say Just as we condemn Syria for arming and supporting Hezbollah, we ask that the US stop funding and arming Israel. There was one abstention (me) because I personally cannot bear the weight of what is happening, and what we in America, have become.

The second item is two emails I received from family members. When I got home, I had an email from one of my cousins-in-law, which linked to a short film about the doctored Reuters photos coming out of Lebanon that make the violence appear worse than it is. The comment in her email said "we don't see doctored photos coming out of Israel." No, we don't. I could feel her fingers pointing at the other guy, blaming blaming and blaming. I get emails from her, and from a dear friend in Chicago who both support Israel blindly - and I understand their thinking. Without Israel, what will become of the Jews? I feel this to my bone marrow. But I also say this: Israel has lost her soul, this is not the country I once lived in.

Then, this morning, I had another email from another cousin that has a terrifying level of truth to it in its black humor:

Understanding the Media

A man in Paris saw a pit bull attacking a toddler.
He killed the pit bull and saved the child's life.
Reporters swarmed the fellow to cover the story....
"Tell us! What's your name? All Paris will love you!
Tomorrow's headline will be: 'Paris Hero Saves Girl from Vicious

The man said, "But I'm not from Paris."
Reporters: "That's OK. Then the whole of France will love you, and tomorrow's headline will read: 'French Hero Saves Girl from Vicious Dog!'"

The man said, "I'm not from France, either."
Reporters: "That's OK also. All Europe will love you. Tomorrow's
headlines will shout: 'Europe's Hero Saves Girl from Vicious Dog!'"

The man said, "I'm not from Europe, either."
Reporters: "So, where ARE you from?"
The man said, "I'm from Israel."
Reporters: "OK... Then tomorrow's headlines
will proclaim to the world:

'Vicious Jew Kills Family Pet!!!'"

The cousin who sent this to me shares my feelings about the need for an immediate cease fire, but, like me, recognizes this growning hatred of Jews - yes, Jews - internationally. I do not feel safe. I have the Bush Administration to thank for this.

The third item is an article from today's New York Times, Hezbollah's Other War, by Michael Young, who is the opinion editor of The Daily Star, an English-language newspaper published in Beirut, and a contributing editor at Reason magazine. The article begins:

One evening earlier this summer, Lebanon’s most popular satire show, ‘‘Bas Mat Watan,’’ broadcast a sketch showing an ‘‘interview’’ with Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader and secretary general. ‘‘Nasrallah’’ was asked whether his party would surrender its weapons. He answered that it would, but first several conditions had to be met: there was that woman in Australia, whose land was being encroached upon by Jewish neighbors; then there was the baker in the United States, whose bakery the Jews wanted to take over. The joke was obvious: there were an infinite number of reasons why Hezbollah would never agree to lay down its weapons and become one political party among others.

But it was the rapid reaction to the satiric sketch that sent the more disquieting message. That very night, angry supporters of Hezbollah closed the airport road with burning tires — a warning that they could block at will the main access point in and out of the country — and marched on mainly Sunni, Druse and Christian quarters in Beirut. In a Christian neighborhood, they clashed with the son of a former president and his comrades, and several youths were taken to hospital.

Young's article is long, but it focuses on the cynical manipulation of Lebanon by the radical Shi'ite para-government. Today, Lebanon lies in ruins. Lebanon has always been an open, tolerant, secular mix of Muslim, Christian and Druse. The Muslims were a mix of Sunni and Shi'ite. Hezbollah grew out of the Shi'ite Muslims:

Hezbollah’s dependence on Syria and dominance of local Shiite politics were long in the making. In the early 1980’s, the ‘‘Party of God’’ was a loose collection of shady militant groups organized and trained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and dedicated to fighting Israel. After vanquishing its Shiite rival, the Amal movement, in fierce street fights, Hezbollah established its headquarters in the southern suburbs of Beirut. When the civil war ended in 1990, with Syria in effective control of the country, it was virtually the only armed group allowed to retain its weapons. The official rationale was that it needed those weapons to continue fighting Israel’s occupation of the south. But Syria had its own reasons to keep Hezbollah armed: as it negotiated with Israel for the return of the Golan Heights, the Assad regime wanted all the military leverage it could get.

Syria uses the Shi'ites (and Hezbollah) the same way the US uses Israel: as cannon fodder. Syria supplies arms and funds to Hezbollah, and the US supplies Israel. Israel believes she is defending herself against those who would wipe her off the map.

Even though Israel has focused her wanton and terrible attacks on primarily Shi'ite neighborhoods, leaving the Christian, Druze and Sunni areas mostly intact, the images out of Lebanon focus blame on Israel and Israel alone. But within Lebanon, depression among the Maronite Christians, Druze and Sunni Muslims has settled in, and those with the means to emigrate are doing so. There is anger at both Israel and Hezbollah, and there will be retribution. As one Hezbollah combatant recently told The Guardian: ‘‘The real battle is after the end of this war. We will have to settle score with the Lebanese politicians. We also have the best security and intelligence apparatus in this country, and we can reach any of those people who are speaking against us now. Let’s finish with the Israelis, and then we will settle scores later.’’

Young refers to the "hubris" of Hezbollah. What is happening within Lebanon is a fracturing of this once tolerant country. In a recent speech, Nasrallah said Hezbollah was fighting on behalf of all Lebanese - a slightly conciliatroy tone. With hundreds of thousands of his brethren displaced from their homes, with Lebanon already facing an estimated $2.5 billion in direct losses, with Hezbollah having alienated many of its countrymen, even as it has fired off its prize weapons in a war of little benefit, maybe Nasrallah saw something he hadn't earlier: that his party may not always be the only party to hold the weapons. Faced with his intransigence, unable to peacefully settle their differences with Hezbollah, Lebanon’s other communities will likely rearm. The result may be a return to civil war. And if that happens, nothing will put Lebanon — let alone liberal Lebanon — back together again.

And here we go: lines are drawn, sides are taken. Blame is assigned. Each side refuses to see the humanity of the other side. This is a struggle that is older than all of us, and who started this current bonfire is frankly irrelevant, although there is enough blame to go around to all sides. Now is the time to seek solutions, and solutions are not what the neo-conservatives want at all.

Daniel Levy, who was a member of the official Israeli negotiating team at the Oslo and Taba talks and the lead Israeli drafter of the Geneva Initiative, writes in Ha'aretz In 1996 a group of then opposition U.S. policy agitators, including Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, presented a paper entitled A Clean Break:
A New Strategy for Securing the Realm
to incoming Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The "clean break" was from the prevailing peace process, advocating that Israel pursue a combination of roll-back, destabilization and containment in the region, including striking at Syria and removing Saddam Hussein from power in favor of "Hashemite control in Iraq." The Israeli horse they backed then was not up to the task.

Ten years later, as Netanyahu languishes in the opposition, as head of a small Likud faction, Perle, Feith and their neoconservative friends have justifiably earned a reputation as awesome wielders of foreign-policy influence under George W. Bush. And Bush believes that force is the answer to most problems.

The key neocon protagonists, their think tanks and publications may be unfamiliar to many Israelis, but they are redefining the region we live in. This tight-knit group of "defense intellectuals" - centered around Bill Kristol, Michael Ledeen, Elliott Abrams, Perle, Feith and others - were considered somewhat off-beat until they teamed up with hawkish well-connected Republicans like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Newt Gingrich, and with the emerging powerhouse of the Christian right. Their agenda was an aggressive unilateralist U.S. global supremacy, a radical vision of transformative regime-change democratization, with a fixation on the Middle East, an obsession with Iraq and an affinity to "old Likud" politics in Israel. Their extended moment in the sun arrived after 9/11.

Finding themselves somewhat bogged down in the Iraqi quagmire, the neoconservatives are reveling in the latest crisis, displaying their customary hubris in re-seizing the initiative. The U.S. press and blogosphere is awash with neocon-inspired calls for indefinite shooting, no talking and extension of hostilities to Syria and Iran, with Gingrich calling this a third world war to "defend civilization."

Meanwhile, the destruction in the Middle East (Lebanon, Iraq) shows consistently that the neo-conservative agenda is not working at all. Levy writes "The sight this week of Secretary of State Rice homeward bound, unable to touch down in any Arab capital, should have a sobering effect in Washington and Jerusalem." The Bush Administration's agenda has cause more hatred against Americans, and Jews, making the world less safe. Yes, I am assigning blame. My finger points home.

Israel must reconsider her alliance with the Neoconservatives and the Christian Right if she is to survive. Again, Levy writes "The largest "pro-Israel" lobby day during this crisis was mobilized by Pastor John Hagee and his Christians United For Israel, a believer in Armageddon with all its implications for a rather particular end to the Jewish story. This is just asking to become the mother of all dumb, self-defeating and morally abhorrent alliances."

Israel has an opportunity to redirect American policy in the last two years of the Bush Administration. This may be difficult, as Israel has always relied on the US to put on the brakes. But now, Israel is 58 years of age. Israel now must be the rational country and stop the insanity without the influence of an outside source. Israel must find her soul, now, and define what it will be as a nation.

And we, in America, need to restore our own soul. We need to return to a nation that values human dignity, and act as a nation of peace.

Cross posted at My Left Wing.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Friday grandbaby blogging

It is hard work being a toddler. There are so many things to play with. Look, it's a slip and slide, just out of the box. Mommy and daddy haven't set it up yet, but I can still play with it! Upside-down, I see you!

After a fun day in the sun, it's time for snuggles with mommy.

Thursday, August 10, 2006



Kvatch does have a viable solution here!

The world at war

Last night, I was sitting in one of my regular AA meetings, and the reading was "We Agnostics." This is a chapter in the Big Book that addresses the evolution of faith among alcoholics and why a spiritual path is necessary. We read the chapter, then we went around the room for comments.

I was one of the last people to comment; and I listened to the women in the meeting talk about their personal journeys. Some focused on Religion. There was a bible-thumper who talked about God as a person, a human being. Some talked about their own journey from agnosticism, and how in their early sobriety they found God in the words "Good Orderly Direction."

Some focused on the simple truth that the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, if we work them, create a massive psychic and spiritual change in us which make us act and think differently than we had as drinking alcoholics. This difference is demonstrated by the truth that we do not drink when before we were unable to stop; and we have become patient, tolerant, loving and kind, when before we were self-centered in the extreme.

And then it got to me. The basic core teaching of all the major religions is patience, tolerence, kindness, and love. So where do we go wrong? Religion in the hands of small minds drives hatred, fear, intolerance and greed. Power in the hands of small minds nurtures hatred, fear, intolerance and greed. I talked about my own journey from belief to faith which are actually two different things. I have faith in a power greater than myself that helps me to act differently than I did before AA. I am kind when I would rather be nasty. I am patient when I'd rather cut you off in traffic. I am tolerant when I when I would rather tell you to not leave your house, let alone the country and you should NOT travel. I am loving when I would rather smack you upside the head. I take direction from a sponsor in AA.

But I look at the world: the Middle East is in flames over some strips of land that, given the pace of Global Warming, will be under water in not all that long. Mullahs kill shepards for not diapering their goats. Jews who should know better dropping bombs on their neighbors who in turn drop bombs on them who in turn drop bombs on them who... A moran at the helm of the US government who listens to hateful, evil, greedy people who claim to have a direct pipeline to God - but God doesn't want hate; God wants people to be patient, kind, tolerent and loving.

So what causes this? Hatred is a form of insanity. And insanity always seems to speak with a voice of authority that sanity doesn't have. Sane people consider options; sane people listen to other opinions; sane people recognize and respect other points of view.

The Aboriginal people of Australia know that we are simply caretakers of the earth. Why do we, of European or Middle Eastern descent think we OWN things? We destroy what we supposedly own so we can have more stuff.

Flights between the US and the UK are at the highest security alert level; other flights are at the second highest level; everything else remains yellow. We are closing in on mid-term elections. I have been saying for several years that there will be some kind of major terrorist event close to the mid-term elections in order to re-up the fear factor. Lieberman lost; next thing we know we have terrorists in London trying to get on planes with liquids, when mixed together, will explode. Let's talk about the timing of THAT!

But it comes down to hatred, and fear, and entitlement, and addiction to power. Greed. Oil. We are destroying the earth, and we are being destroyed as people by a handful of people driven by "justifiable" whatever. EVERYONE points a finger of blame at someone else because it is easier than taking responsibility to find solutions. What difference does it make who started what in the Middle East? It doesn't matter. What matters is that they stop, and find a way to talk to each other. Because very soon, there will be nothing left to talk about.

My prayer, daily, is for this insanity to stop. My action is to talk to others; to work for change, to work for peace.

Important new security measures at airports

Limits on Carry-On Baggage

Travel Policy For US Carry-On Baggage
Effective immediately, all liquids are prohibited from being carried on flights within the United States. Please do not bring these items with you. These include shampoo, conditioner, other styling products; toothpaste; contact lens or eye solutions; or bottled water. IF YOU ARE IN DOUBT, ERR ON THE SIDE OF CAUTION

Travel Policy For UK Carry-On Bagggage It's important to remember that the most restrictive policies only apply to flights from the U.K. to the United States.

Effective immediately all cabin baggage must be processed as checked baggage and carried in the hold of all passenger aircraft departing from or connecting through airports in the United Kingdom (UK). This policy also applies to any aircraft departing the United States traveling to the UK.

The following measures apply to all passengers starting their journey at a UK airport and to those transferring between flights at a UK airport and from anywhere connecting in the US to the UK.

Nothing may be carried in passengers' pockets. Passengers may only take the following items through the airport security checkpoint, in a single (ideally transparent) plastic carrier bag:

pocket size wallets and pocket size purses plus contents (money, credit cards, identity cards, etc. but not handbags)
travel documents essential for the journey (passports and travel tickets)
prescription medicines and medical items sufficient and essential for the flight (a diabetic kit for example), except in liquid form unless verified as authentic.
spectacles and sunglasses, without cases
contact lens holders, without bottles of solution
for those travelling with an infant: baby food, milk (the contents of each bottle must be tasted by the accompanying passenger) and sanitary items sufficient and essential for the flight (wipes, creams, disposal bags)
female sanitary items sufficient and essential for the flight, if unboxed
tissues (unboxed) and/or handkerchiefs
keys (but no electrical key fobs)
There will be no liquids or gels allowed to/from the UK. Duty free from the UK will not be allowed, however, duty free onboard will continue.

All UK transiting passengers will be required to check any carry-ons they bring to the airport regardless of origination. For passengers who have already left the US and will be connecting in the UK, they will not be allowed to use the transit area in the UK airports and will be routed back to the ticket counters to check their carry-on luggage.

For the customers affected by this new policy, we will waive excess baggage fees for customers who arrive at the airport for connections in the UK or who are departing from the UK and must now check their carry-on baggage.

Additionally, we will offer the following options for customers with tickets issued no later than August 9, 2006 for travel to/from/through the UK - no fee will apply for all changes made before September 1, 2006:

If you choose not to travel, we will allow for a refund (in the form of a travel voucher for non-refundable tickets)
You may change your origination travel date to travel as late as September 1, 2006
You may change your destination OR cancel your reservation, however, fees will apply if your reservation has not been changed/your ticket has been reissued by September 1, 2006
If you are traveling on an AAdvantage award, we will refund the miles to the applicable account with no reinstatement fee, OR allow for a change of destination in correct redemption inventory
For complete details and assistance with changing your travel plans, contact our Reservations personnel at 1-800-433-7300 within the United States or Canada. If you are calling from outside the United States or Canada, please check our Worldwide Reservations Numbers page for Reservations contact information.

Policy For Travel To/From Beirut, Damascus Or Tel Aviv
American Airlines is allowing customers to change their travel plans if their itinerary includes flights on American Airlines connecting to or from Beirut, Lebanon (BEY), Damascus, Syria (DAM) or Tel Aviv, Israel (TLV). With this policy, you may change your travel date up to 14 days later than originally ticketed.

For complete details and assistance with changing your travel plans, contact Reservations at 1-800-433-7300. For Reservations contacts outside the United States, please see our Worldwide Reservations Phone Numbers page.

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Current Travel Notices
The following locations may experience irregular operations due to circumstances described below. Please check for updated information. Also, please check our Suggested Arrival Times page to allow enough time to arrive at the airport before your departure.

Boston, MA (BOS) - Please allow at least an additional 30 minutes travel time to the airport as the I-90 tunnel to Logan Airport is currently closed. Please visit for updates and alternate routing.

Chicago Midway, IL (MDW) - Please allow extra travel time when departing from Chicago Midway Airport, as construction in the area near the airport may cause delays in reaching the airport.

Dayton, Ohio (DAY) - Please allow extra travel time when departing from Dayton International Airport, as construction on highways leading to the airport may cause delays in reaching the airport.

Delhi, India (DEL) - Checkin time must be 3.5 hours in advance of departure time due to airport congestion and security checks.

New York Kennedy, NY (JFK) - Please allow extra travel time when departing from JFK, as parking in front of terminals 8 and 9 is closed, and terminal construction at the airport may cause road delays.

Tegucigalpa, Honduras (TGU) - Due to construction in the parking area for Toncontin International Airport, please allow additional time when departing from this location.


California Pigeons come equipped with cell phones and backpacks

According to an article in today's LA Times, a combined art/technology project is equipping pigeons with tiny back packs and cell phones and letting them roam the skies in Northern California. The equipment will monitor smog and other air pollution, and then transmit the data back to a "pigeon blog" website. The project is intended to get people to think about the health hazards of air pollution.

Beatriz Da Costa, an assistant professor of arts, computation and engineering at UC Irvine, was inspired by a century-old photo of a homing pigeon wearing a tiny spy camera. The birds have a long history of military service — and some received medals for their World War II heroics.

Now, pigeons have entered the Digital Age. Da Costa and two graduate students spent a year developing bird-sized cellphones, GPS tracking devices and air pollution monitors. (Sorry, still no sign of a pigeon iPod.)

PETA is opposed to this - they feel that the backpacks are too heavy (they weigh less than 1/10th of the birds' weight) and might cause injury. But the pigeons are racing pigeons, and considered to be well-trained athletes in peak condition.

I wonder if they're going to test positive for testosterone afterward?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Meet Thelma Arnold

A Face Is Exposed for AOL Searcher No. 4417749, and it is Thelma Arnold. Detailed records of her searches (and over 650,000 other Americans) were released by AOL to some academic researchers. It underscores how vulnerable we are made by our internet searches and how dangerous it is for companies like AOL, Google, Yahoo, Dogpile, and others, to compile this data.

The obvious reason for compiling our searches is for focused, annoying, advertising and sales. But, but but: the unintended consequences of all that data being compiled, stored and cross-linked are what Marc Rotenberg, the executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a privacy rights group in Washington, called “a ticking privacy time bomb.”

Earlier in the year, the Justice Department tried to subpoena search records from Google and other search engine companies. Google successfully fended off this demand in court. AOL and Yahoo complied. The Justice Department claimed it was trying to protect children against internet predators.

Does she look like an internet predator? Maybe she's a terrorist. No? Well, Thelma is a 62-year old widow who lives in Georgia. “My goodness, it’s my whole personal life,” she said. “I had no idea somebody was looking over my shoulder.”

Oh, and by the way: Ned Lamont beat Joe Lieberman. Are you listening, Georgie?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

August 8, 1974

On Prime Time Television, Richard Nixon announced his resignation as President of the United States, effective at noon on August 9, 1974. What began as "a second rate burglery" ended with the Judiciary Committee voting to recommend Impeachment to the full House for a vote. Nixon resigned before that vote could be taken.

Nixon complained that he was being persecuted for something everyone else had done. And, yes, that's true to some extent. The idea of an "Imperial Presidency" has its roots after World War II, and the growth of exective authority has allowed Presidents to wield excessive power. Lyndon Johnson allowed the FBI to spy illegally on anti-war activists and Civil Rights protesters.

But today, on the anniversary of Nixon's resignation, we look at an Administration that brings abuse of power to a whole new level. The Cheney-Specter National Security Surveillance Act of 2006 (S.2453) constitutes a virtual declaration of war on the Constitution. Bush's excessive use of Signing Statements circumvents laws. Excerpts from the U.S. Constitution of the United States of America:

Article I, Section 1, All legislative powers (laws) shall be vested in a Congress of the United States which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Article II, Section 1, The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.

Section 3, ‘‘he (the president) shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.’’

Bush lied about Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq in order to invade. We are embroiled in an illegal war in Iraq; we've brought about destruction, devastation, and we've led the world to the brink, all over oil.

It's 3:46 PM in Los Angeles. In Connecticut, polls close soon in a primary that the whole world is watching. We stand at a turning point. Let peace, and good judgment, prevail.

(cross posted at My Left Wing)

Operation Preaching to the Choir

I have always been political. I grew up at a time when people became polarized over Viet Nam and it made me very, very political. My leanings in college were radical activist, but I tempered them when I joined my first political campaign - I was one of the "Clean for Gene" McCarthy supporters. I recall a bus trip to Scranton to identify McCarthy voters. After I dropped out of college, I moved to Israel, and lived on a Kibbutz for a year. I got married, we moved back to the States, and I became active working for former Congressman Abner J. Mikva in some of the closest Congressional campaigns imaginable. I remained active, but in lesser capacities, until I moved to California and found myself living in the Beach Cities where I was surrounded by Republicans; some wealthy, some skin heads, some just too confusing. After 9/11 I found myself unable to speak my fears because of the people who surrounded me.

Then I got an email from my friend Alicia about her experience singing on Neil Young's Living with War album. I started tentatively to blog, and found more people who shared my fears, and voice. Now, Alicia has done it again with a new blog, Operation Preaching to the Choir. Here is her comment: "I have come to understand that there is a large segment of the population that, because of their emotional need, will follow this administration wherever it goes; that there is nothing awful enough that would change the minds of these people, if they have chosen to believe in these self-appointed authoritarians. If George Bush says black is white (and he does!) then that's what they'll believe. Facts, logic and reality have no place in their worldview. As Richard Pryor once said, "Who are you going to believe - me or your lying eyes?"

But I also understand that this segment is not the majority, and I am not going to attempt to change the minds of these people. The ones I'm concerned with right now are the people like me - the ones who believe in peace, in social justice, in America as it was intended to be, but are not active because they don't understand that it is necessary. I want to 'preach to the choir'."

This is so simple - one method she suggests is to carry around whatever book you are reading as a way to open conversation. That's so non-threatening, but it also makes people aware. Already, I am seeing changes and inroads. My formerly Republican friend was just back east for a wedding - she just called me, we're meeting tonight for dinner. Her big news? She went, with her Republican sister-in-law, to hear Al Gore do his presentation. She said they both walked out energized, convinced they have to take action!

One person talking to another, in conversation, to find solutions. Let's get out there! Let's preach to the choir that hasn't found their voice.

Hate has no place in the Media

If you didn't sign this petition at Helen Wheels, then do it here. It is a petition to get hate spewing right wing pundits like Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly off the air. Take a minute to sign, and pass it on to others.

Prudhoe Bay Oilfield

It's August. British Petroleum has announced they're shutting down their oil production from Prudhoe Bay while they repair 70% of corroded pipeline covering a 20 mile stretch. Prudhoe Bay Oilfields supply about 20% of the oil to California refineries. Back in March, after an oil spill, BP was ordered by the US Government to inspect the pipes and they are under Grand Jury investigation over pollution.

Traders in New York's oil market got nervous over the closures, and the cost of crude jumped to almost $77 a barrel. That will affect prices at the pump (love my hybrid). Could the price of gas go over $4 a gallon? Hmmm.

The War in Iraq has now exceeded $300,000,000,000 which is more that I can actually say out loud. The war in Iraq is about control of oil. BP has not said how long the repairs to the pipeline will take, nor when they will re-open.

Timing is everything.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Sore throat

Not a good thing when you earn your living on the phone. Had a client cancel a cruise because the original itinerary changed. It is no longer calling on Beiruit, and it won't go to Lybia either, because US Citizens are once again not allowed to enter Lybia. That changes on a regular basis, but my client was disappointed because he wanted the original itinerary.

Now, because it is work, I can't really say "Listen, buster, have you been reading the papers? There's a war on and Beiruit is getting hammered."

I had been working on a really long pre-cruise and post-cruise land program for him, to go to Israel and Egypt in great depth. He said "Egypt would probably be okay, but I think Israel might be a little uncomfortable."

Ya think?

So he cancelled, and had me re-book him on another cruise line, another itinerary, that doesn't visit any place currently at war.

Another lady called to book another cruise, and she just started talking politics to me - total stranger, mind you - about this heartbreaking disaster in Lebanon and Israel. She said (total stranger from the Middle West) that she thinks it is really a fake war to keep people from paying attention to Iraq. Then she said "I don't mean fake in the sense that it isn't real, but I mean fake because the killings there make people not think about what we are really doing."

I thought, damn, this lady took a full on risk with me! Still, I'm at work, and I cannot do that discussion on the phone. But it has been my day for cruisers who want to go to the Middle East.

Just got off the phone with another one. Meanwhile, my throat is just screaming - I don't want to talk, I don't have a thought in my brain, I want to get popsicles and really do nothing.