2005-07-30

Mark Yost and Michael Fumento: What the MSM Aren't Telling You

Mark Yost got himself in a ton of hot water with this column:
... I know the reporting’s bad because I know people in Iraq. A Marine colonel buddy just finished a stint overseeing the power grid. When’s the last time you read a story about the progress being made on the power grid? Or the new desalination plant that just came on-line, or the school that just opened, or the Iraqi policeman who died doing something heroic? To judge by the dispatches, all the Iraqis do is stand outside markets and government buildings waiting to be blown up.

I also get unfiltered news from Iraq through an e-mail network of military friends who aren’t so blinded by their own politics that they can’t see the real good we’re doing there. More important, they can see beyond their own navel and see the real good we’re doing to promote peace and prosperity in the world. What makes this all the more ironic is the fact that the people who are fighting and dying want to stay and the people who are merely observers want to cut and run.

I feel for these soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan because I’m sure they’re coming home and noticing the same disconnect that I did when I served. Moreover, stories about their families and others who are here and trying to make a difference largely go unreported.

Ever heard of Soldiers’ Angels (http://soldiersangels.homestead.com/index.html) or Operation Minnesota Nice ( www.operationminnesotanice.com)? Probably not. ...

Michael Fumento at Townhall.com writes:
Editorial page associate editor Mark Yost at the Knight-Ridder newspaper the St. Paul Pioneer Press committed a major boo-boo. He penned a provocative column on media coverage of the Iraq war, observing that from what his contacts there told him – with apologies to Johnny Mercer – the mainstream media are accentuating the negative and ignoring the positive.

Yost couldn’t have imagined he was bathing in blood and throwing himself into the shark pen. His media colleagues were merciless. “With your column, you have spat on the copy of the brave men and women who are doing their best in terrible conditions,” reporter Chuck Laszewski at the same newspaper charged in an open letter. “You have insulted them and demeaned them,” he wrote. “I am embarrassed to call you my colleague.” ...

Chuck Laszewski ought to be embarrassed to look in the mirror, but that's beside the point. Read these articles at the links, and understand why more and more Americans hold the media establishment in ever-growing contempt.

2005-07-29

Morning Report: July 29, 2005

London bomb suspects arrested. CNN: 'Three men have been arrested following police raids in west London in connection with last week's failed terror attacks in the British capital. Unconfirmed media reports, citing police sources, said two of the men were suspected bombers behind the July 21 attempted attacks on London's transit system. Friday's arrests came after heavily armed police raided two locations in west London at around 11:00 a.m. (1000 GMT). ...' BBC: 'Two more of the failed London bombing suspects are believed to have been arrested as police carried out a number of armed operations in west London. ... Police moved residents to safety during two raids, in Notting Hill and north Kensington, and made three arrests. Officers also arrested two women at Liverpool Street station, which has reopened after packages were examined. Police are still questioning a third suspect arrested on Wednesday in Birmingham. Yasin Hassan Omar was wanted as a suspect in the Warren Street Tube attempted bombing. ...' Debka: 'Two of the three July 21 bombers at large arrested by armed London police in swoops on hideouts across city, Friday July 29. Two women were also detained at Liverpool Station after struggle. Three of the four July 21 bombers are now in custody. They are two men who unsuccessfully tried to blow up a train at Oval Tube station and a bus in Hackney. The Warrren St. bomber was captured in Birmingham Thursday. Still sought is the would-be bomber who fled Shepherd’s Bush station ahead of pursuit. ...' (various)

Saddam faces questions. CNN reports: 'Saddam Hussein was called to a hearing where he was questioned about the 1991 repression of a Shiite-led uprising in southern Iraq after the Gulf War, a court official told CNN on Friday. Judge Raid Juhi, of the Iraqi Special Tribunal set up to try the jailed ex-leader, said Saddam answered questions in Thursday's session, more than 30 minutes long. The former president attended the session alone. A trial date for the former dictator will be announced soon for Saddam's alleged role in a 1982 incident, in which Shiite Muslims in the village of Dujail north of Baghdad were massacred. ...' (CNN)

Orthodox Union: Israeli troops harass religious Jews. The Jerusalem Post reports: 'The Orthodox Union, an umbrella group representing hundreds of thousands of Orthodox Jews in North America, accused the Israeli government and security forces of bigotry and religious discrimination in a recent letter sent to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Ambassador to the US Daniel Ayalon and Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz. The letter, released to the media Tuesday evening after Israeli officials failed to respond for four days, stated that, based on both media and eyewitness accounts, "Israeli government officials, jurists and police and security forces" showed an "indifference to civil liberties." ... The OU cited an incident in Ma'aleh Adumim in which police stopped a bus and removed all passengers wearing kippot [skullcaps]. "Those passengers were not even traveling to a demonstration but were simply seeking to reach their place of work in Jerusalem upon the same bus on which they travel each and every day," said the letter. The OU also accused the government of using administrative detention or house arrest against persons "merely advocating positions at odds with government policy," "baseless confiscation of drivers' licenses," and "threats and coercion against persons seeking to exercise their right of lawful travel and free association." ' (JPost, via e-mail)

Samir Hassan: Religion vs. oppression. '... A number of different [Koranic] verses clearly demonstrate that the "cause of Allah" is not to be actively pursued in any nation unless the people of that nation have collectively agreed to an accord which defines and guarantees the basic liberties and responsibilities of its citizens. Here are just a few examples: "There is no compulsion in religion." "You shall have your religion and I shall have mine." "Truth is from your Lord; if you wish, you can either believe or you can disbelieve." "Thou art not in control over them." "Thou shalt consult with them." "Intercession for all is by Allah alone." The believers in such a nation would readily volunteer to fight in defense of its lifestyle. They would also volunteer to liberate the "ill-treated (and oppressed)- Men, women, and children" of other nations....' Read the full English text of Samir Hassan's very fine article at Friends of Democracy. Arabic text is here. (Friends of Democracy)

2005-07-28

Iranian Hunger Striker in Coma

Via Free Iran, Amnesty International reports:
Manuchehr Mohammadi has reportedly gone into a coma. He had been on hunger
strike since 6 July, in protest at the authorities' refusal to grant him leave
from prison to receive medical treatment. His life is in grave danger.

His family visited him on or around 20 July, and reported that his health was
deteriorating rapidly: he was unable to walk, could barely talk or see, his
skin had turned yellow, and his eyes were sunken. On 24 July it was reported
that he had fallen into a coma.

Manuchehr has suffered serious health problems in prison, some reportedly
caused by torture and ill-treatment, and the conditions in which he has been
held. ...

Read the full item at the link. Thanks to Stefania.

Ugandan Police Attack Lesbian Activists

Via Pseudo-Adrienne at Alas, A Blog, Black Looks has this item on anti-gay government violence in Uganda:
The ugandan parliament have enacted a new anti-homosexual law and with this the Ugandan police yesterday stormed the house of lesbian activist, Victor Julie Mukassa. Victor tried to contact me today but unfortuantely I missed her call so the details on her present situation are still sketchy. However there is a report on the raid in Behind the Mask as follows:

On the night of 20 July 2005, Victor Juliet Mukasa, who is the chairperson of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), had her residence raided by the Ugandan government police officials. The officials confiscated all documentations and other materials that had homosexual content.

Unfortunately for the police contingent which was clearly intending to pounce on Mukasa, they didn't find her at home as she had not yet arrived back home from town.

On the house they found a gay activist from Kenya who works closely with SMUG. She was detained for the night. According to Kasha Jacqueline, a lesbian human rights activist, "They took her [the Kenyan activist] in so Victor and the other LGBT activists [from SMUG] would want to fetch her from the police and then they can arrest Victor specifically and or the other activists

"The police threatened to broadcast the information found in the national media and that can lead to more containment by public at large", said Jacqueline.

This purported trap to arrest for SMUG officials is suspected to be part of an elaborate plan by the Ugandan government to obliterate gay and lesbian activities in that country.

Here's a link to the original post at Behind the Mask. An update at the Black Looks post adds:
I have just spoken to Victor who has reported to the police. They were unable to detain her since they have nothing on which to charge her. She has a lawyer and the IHLHRC are supporting her case. Meanwhile she cannot go home as people near where she lives planned to attack her. Once the matter comes out in the press she will be in even more danger. She is staying and moving from hotel to hotel. Victor's human rights have been grossly violated. There was no search warrant on her home and her guest was stripped naked by the police and detained and both their lives are now in danger. All of these issues will be followed through with the support of the international gay and lesbian community and their friends.

Meanwhile, a current post at Black Looks has this:
Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) Press Release

On July 20th, an LC1 Chairman (local government official) and another man forcibly entered the home of J.M. at Kireka, who is a human rights activist and chairperson of SMUG (Sexual Minorities Uganda). They proceeded to search her home without a warrant and to mishandle her friend, a visiting Kenyan activist who they found at the home. ...

Read the rest here. And don't forget to bookmark (and blogroll) Black Looks, Behind the Mask, and IGLHRC.

PS - If you possibly can, take a moment to make a donation to IGLHRC. I just did.

Egyptian Bloggers Set to Demonstrate Again

In case you missed it the first time (which would be partly my fault, 'cuz I failed to post on it), Big Pharaoh and Egyptian Sandmonkey are organizing ANOTHER demo against terrorism - this time with official approval!

The first protest in response to the terrorist murders at Sharm el Sheikh was small but drew a lot of attention. (They even made MSNBC - thank you, Glenn - and the Guardian.) Unfortunately, the demo ended prematurely when the police arrived - the demonstrators didn't have a permit.

Now, with official permission, they're ready to roll. So are you waiting for an invitation? Here it is:
A candle light vigil will be held tomorrow (Friday July 29th) from 6-9 P.M at Al Azhar Park. Permission was granted. If you are in Cairo, please come wearing white and bring as many people as you can.

Sadly, I won't be able to make it to Cairo tomorrow, but I will be following this one.

Science and Space

Shuttle roundup. NASA has issued the following release on the Space Shuttle Discovery foam incident:
RELEASE: 05-207

Statement on Foam Shedding From External Tank

NASA engineers are evaluating the loss of a large piece of insulation foam from the Space Shuttle Discovery’s external fuel tank during Tuesday's launch. Based on initial assessments, the foam -- which appears to measure approximately 24 to 33 inches long, 10 to 13 inches wide and 2-1/2 to 8 inches thick -- was seen by high-resolution camera equipment added to the Shuttle system after the loss of Columbia in 2003. The accident was caused by foam from the external tank hitting the orbiter during launch.

There was no indication the piece of foam sighted Tuesday caused any damage to Discovery. The Shuttle will undergo further inspection beginning Thursday to check for any significant damage to the orbiter.

"As with any unexpected occurrence, we will closely and thoroughly evaluate this event and make any needed modifications to the Shuttle before we launch again," NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said. "This is a test flight. Among the things we are testing are the integrity of the foam insulation and the performance of new camera equipment installed to detect problems. The cameras worked well. The foam did not.”

Discovery’s seven crew members are being updated with the latest ground team analysis of the foam loss and are continuing to take part in the inspection process.

Tariq Malik at Space.com writes: 'NASA officials have grounded the agency's remaining space shuttles after the Discovery orbiter's external tank shed chunks of foam, including one piece more than 2 feet long. The problem is similar to what occurred in the disastrous Columbia flight in 2003 and was thought to have been fixed. Space shuttle officials said that while there is currently no indication the foam contacted the Discovery orbiter, the incident should not have happened in the first place and is reason enough to put a hold on future flights. Images taken of the external tank in orbit identified the foam separation, and also detailed additional areas where the material pulled loose from its tank, they said. "Until we've fixed this, we're not ready to fly," said Bill Parsons, NASA's space shuttle program manager, during a press briefing here at Johnson Space Center. "You could say that we're grounded." ... he foam shed during Discovery's Tuesday launch originated on a protuberance air load (PAL) ramp that juts out from the orange external tank and protects vital cables, wiring and pressure lines running along its length. Current estimates place it between 24 and 33 inches long at its longest point and up to 8 inches wide.' NASA's two remaining shuttles, Atlantis and Endeavour, will not be flown until engineers fully understand and fix the problem, according to officials.

An AP article by Marcia Dunn (you can tell it's AP by the word "pessimistic" in the headline) reports:
NASA may never be able to prevent threatening chunks of insulation foam from breaking off the shuttle's fuel tank during launch, the agency's chief said Thursday, a day after future flights were ordered grounded because of the problem during Discovery's liftoff.

"We are trying to get it down to the level that cannot damage the orbiter,'' NASA administrator Michael Griffin told NBC's "Today."

"We will never be able to get the amount of debris shed by the tank down to zero," he said.

With Discovery in orbit, NASA grounded all future flights because a large chunk of foam had broken off the external fuel tank in a hauntingly similar fashion to Columbia's doomed mission. This time, NASA believes the foam missed the spacecraft, although it's being closely inspected.

"Everything that we see at this point says that the orbiter is in fact a clean bird," Griffin told ABC's "Good Morning America'' on Thursday shortly after the shuttle did a somersault maneuver to allow the crew on the international space station to photograph the shuttle's belly for signs of damage. Discovery later docked at station to deliver long-awaited supplies.

Griffin stressed in a statement late Wednesday that the current mission was a test flight and ``among the things we are testing are the integrity of the foam insulation and the performance of new camera equipment installed to detect problems."

"The cameras worked well. The foam did not," he said. ...

No new posts from Rand Simberg, but I'll keep an eye out.

On the air, in the air, into space. On a somewhat more upbeat note, Kuwaiti Girl posts some pictures of her radio rig and a story on Kuwait's first woman pilot, 19-year-old Munirah Mohammad Buruki. Also thanks to Maryam for the link to this blog by aspiring astronaut Damaris B. Sarria of Florida. The 23-year-old woman holds a degree in Aerospace Engineering from Texas A&M, has held a string of space-related jobs, and currently works for Boeing at the Kennedy Space Center. Go pay her a visit.

Of spacecraft and art museums. Some rules can't be broken. On "The L Word" (Season 1, Episode 12), Bette, the art museum director, asks the cute butch contractor Candace for an estimate on some remodeling. When Bette is taken aback by the quote, Candace draws a triangular diagram with its three sides labeled fast - good - cheap. She then imparts the following wisdom to Bette: "You can have any two of the three in combination, but you can never have all three together."

If NASA under Administrator Goldin had hired Candace as a consultant, she could have explained the self-evident folly of the slogan "faster, better, cheaper" - but it's doubtful that anyone would have listened. It took the disastrous consequences of that approach to shake things up. Let's hope that the current leadership understand that the laws of economics, like the laws of physics, are unforgiving. And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that one out.

Morning Report: July 28, 2005

NASA grounds shuttle fleet - foam causes concerns. The space shuttle Discovery successfully docked with the International Space Station, but NASA officials aren't pushing their luck. CNN reports: 'Discovery docked with the international space station Thursday as NASA tried to determine why insulating foam fell off the shuttle's external fuel tank during its launch. ... Discovery flew in an unusual upside-down maneuver before it docked so space station cameras with special lenses could take pictures of it, looking for possible damage. The images were sent from the station to NASA engineers on Earth, who will scrutinize Discovery's surface tiles and its thermal-protection system, explained Wayne Hale, deputy shuttle program manager. "Any damage will not escape our detection," Hale said at a Wednesday news conference. NASA said that during launch, a piece of tile also fell from Discovery's underside near the forward landing gear -- an area that has a redundant thermal barrier.' Foam fragments are blamed for the loss of Discovery's sister ship Columbia in 2003, in an accident where falling foam during liftoff apparently damaged the spacecraft's critical heat shield, causing the spacecraft's destruction - and the deaths of its seven crew members - upon re-entry. More to follow under "Science and Space". (CNN)

IRA: A farewell to arms. "All IRA units have been ordered to dump arms. All Volunteers have been instructed to assist the development of purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means. Volunteers must not engage in any other activities whatsoever. The IRA leadership has also authorised our representative to engage with the IICD to complete the process to verifiably put its arms beyond use in a way which will further enhance public confidence and to conclude this as quickly as possible." These are the words of an official statement from the Irish Republican Army as quoted on the BBC. British Prime Minister called the move "a step of unparalleled magnitude." (BBC)

More on Iraqi constitution. Iraq's Constitution Drafting Committee called for an emergency meeting among political and religious leaders to overcome difficulties with the present draft of the Iraqi Constitution. Omar at Iraq the Model writes: 'The main points that are going to be discussed in this conference will-in my opinion-include the shape of the federalist system of the state, the issue of considering Islam the main source of legislation, the name of the state as well as case of considering Persian ethnicity among the components of the Iraqi society. I have expressed my disagreement with the draft in the last post and actually I noticed that most of the people I met in the last couple of days share the same concerns I have and many people are disappointed by the weak performance of the CDC.
Let's not forget that many of the public opinion polls that were conducted in Iraq in the past two years showed that a maximum of 15% of the voters would favor an Islamic state, so if the Saturday conference failed in dealing with the above points I mentioned, then I expect this constitution will be rejected by the voters.' Go to Iraq the Model at the link for the full post, and don't miss the reader discussion in Comments. (ITM)

2005-07-27

Lavender Alert

Irshad Manji on London terrorist attacks. Lesbian Muslim activist Irshad Manji was invited by the BBC to issue a challenge to British Muslim leaders prior to their July 19 meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair. She wrote the following:
The 7th of July changed my community forever. Never before have I heard fellow Muslims condemn so sincerely the terror committed in our name. I thank Muslim leaders - and God - that we're finally awaking from denial.

Except on one front: the possible role of religion itself in these atrocities.

You see, the Muslim Council of Britain insists that Islam had nothing to do with the London bombings. They identify other factors - segregation, alienation - as motives for the suicide bombers. Now, I don't deny that living on the margins can harm self-esteem. When that happens, decent kids can become vulnerable to radical messages of instant belonging.

But how can mainstream Muslim leaders reject, flat-out, that religion may also play a part in these bombings? What makes them so sure that Islam is an innocent bystander?

What makes them sound so sure is literalism. That's the trouble with Islam today. ...

Read the full text at Irshad's homepage. (Irshad Manji)

Gay Palestinian wins appeal in UK asylum case. Gay.com reports: 'In one of the first judgments of its kind, a 34-year-old gay Muslim asylum seeker has won the right to make an appeal to remain in Britain. The 34-year-old Palestinian man, who can be identified only as "H.C.," lived in a refugee camp near Sidon, in Lebanon, but fled to Britain in 1998 after the video shop he worked in was blown up. The man claimed that he was told by a fellow camp resident that the shop was blown up because of H.C.'s homosexuality.
Outrage!, the gay-human rights group led by Peter Tatchell, has long campaigned on the issue and joined marchers at London's Gay Pride event in early July with placards saying, "Tony Blair deports gay asylum seekers. Shame!" and "Labour deports gays to face jail, torture and death." During an asylum appeal in 2003, the adjudicator accepted some of the Palestinian man's claims, but dismissed his plea to remain in Britain and the Immigration Appeal Tribunal refused H.C. the right to appeal.' (Gay.com)

Log Cabin Republicans denounce IRI killings. A press release from Log Cabin Republicans declares:
In the wake of news stories and photographs documenting the hanging of two gay Iranian teenagers, Log Cabin Republicans re-affirm their commitment to the global war on terror. "Like any decent human being, I am shocked and outraged by the execution of two young gay men by Iranian government officials," said Log Cabin Republicans President Patrick Guerriero. "This barbarous slaughter clearly demonstrates the stakes in the global war on terror. Freedom must prevail over radical Islamic extremism."

Log Cabin Republicans call on the United States government, as well as the broader international community, including the United Nations, to publicly condemn these atrocities. There is a special obligation for those countries with continued economic ties to the Iranian regime to speak out. "The international community should be outraged, and those countries that continue supporting the Iranian regime have a special obligation to condemn this deplorable act," concluded Guerriero.
(LCR)


Teen blogger to be released from "ex-gay" facility. The Washington Blade reports that Zach Stark, the 16-year-old blogger who wrote about his experiences in an "ex-gay" camp, is about to be released: 'Zach Stark, the Tennessee teenager who blogged about his parents’ negative reaction to his coming out, may soon be released from Love in Action, the religious facility that has been working to change his sexual orientation since the beginning of June. Early last month, a Love in Action administrator said that two male teens in the program were both enrolled for six-week stints in the “ex-gay” camp, and last week in an interview broadcast on the Christian Broadcasting Network, Zach’s father, Joe Stark confirmed his son’s identity as one of Love in Action’s clients.' Full story at the link. (Blade)

Oregon: Minnis stops gay rights legislation - but not for long. Using every technicality and subterfuge in the book, Oregon's House Speaker Karen Minnis avoided having to put the provisons of SB 1000 to a vote in Salem. But Minnis' determination to circumvent the legislative process has not stopped the progress of gay rights legislation in Oregon. The Basic Rights Oregon blog reports:
Today [Tuesday, July 26], less than one week after Speaker of the House Karen Minnis executed a "Mid-Day Massacre" of Senate Bill 1000, House Democrats introduced a new bill aimed at creating civil unions and prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, employment, public accommodations and public services.

Sponsored by State Representative Mary Nolan (D-Portland), House Bill 3508 was also drafted, similar to civil union legislation in Vermont, to broaden appeal by including "reciprocal benefits" for those individuals not eligible for a civil union or marriage.

"We're giving the Speaker of the House one more chance to do the right thing," said Represenative Nolan. "The matter of civil unions and nondiscrimination deserves a full and open debate on the floor of the House. It's not acceptable that one person, the Speaker of the House, should stand in the way and prevent the House from doing its duty. We're not asking for the Speaker's personal vote for civil unions. But we are demanding the opportunity for the whole House to debate on a matter that the Senate has already dealt with decisively." (Basic Rights Oregon)

Morning Report: July 27, 2005

Shuttle launch successful, but debris under scrutiny. Voice of America reports: 'The space shuttle Discovery successfully blasted into orbit Tuesday morning, but there are questions about some debris which fell from the spacecraft on take-off. ... As the shuttle roared into orbit on its 12-day mission, video images showed debris falling away. But it wasn't immediately clear if the spacecraft's sensitive outer skin had been jeopardized. At a news conference late Tuesday, NASA officials said a piece of tile may have come off during liftoff. Tiles have been lost on take-off during previous flights, without causing any trouble during re-entry. ... NASA officials say they will study the tapes carefully to see if the spacecraft sustained any damage.' Rand Simberg has more: 'I'm quite certain that NASA has an extensive data base of tile damage from every single flight, organized by section of the orbiter in which it occurred (and if they don't, someone should certainly be keelhauled across Atlantis), and are even now scouring it to see if there was similar damage in a similar location on some previous flight, including notes of any structural insult observed when the offending tile was removed and replaced. That, and perhaps a closer inspection by EVA, will determine the resolution of this.' Read the full post at the link. (VOA, Transterrestrial Musings)

Bird flu cause for worry? Winds of Change has this to say on a potential epidemic of avian flu (commonly called "bird flu"): 'Some of our readers will recall (a) China's dismal record of inaction and cover-up with SARS; (b) The 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic that killed 20-50 million people; (c ) Winds' article about global democracy promotion as a global development policy; it pointed out the inherent and inevitable failings of planned/ authoritarian socieites, and specifically noted their inability to react to things like avian flu pandemics as a key example of what we were talking about. It seems the chickens may be coming home to roost a little earlier than we'd hoped. Reader Eric Kansa of the Alexandria Archive Institute writes in to say: "I want to direct your attention toward avian flu, an issue that, given its scope and potential consequences, receives very little attention both in the traditional press and blogosphere. I've been following this for some time, basically the World Health Organization is doing everything NOT to raise the alert level from stage 3 to stage 5 or 6, and has tried to explain away clear cases of human-to-human transmission (these cases mean we're at Stage 5 at least). There are also LOTS of rumors China is covering up an outbreak of Stage 6 human-to-human bird flu. ... The upshot: A pandemic can breakout any time now, especially as we move into the fall (weather changes and bird migration become more favorable to flu transmission). This is really urgent." ' Joe Katzman continues: 'If we really want to "plan" for a dynamic scenario like this and get a fast fix out there, however, there's a simpler way: don't depend on a huge, elaborate system, but on fast point defense and overlapping measures. Spend about $1 million, and ship copies of SimOutbreak to every key official all around the country. In a scenario like this, fast and informed local reaction will be worth hundreds of millions in backup infrastructure. Include law enforcement and first responders in the distribution - they'll probably be the first to see the signs. Have cities like my Toronto, hit hard by SARS, share plans and lessons learned. Spend a bit of time following this yourself, on a personal level, and think about what your contingency plans might be re: your family. Spread the word. Write your representatives. Point out that the WHO is soft-pedaling this, and may fail entirely.' Read the full post for details and links. (Winds of Change)

Iraqi draft constitution raises concerns. The draft text for Iraq's new constitution doesn't sit well with Omar at Iraq the Model: 'This morning, Al-Sabah had the exclusive right to publish the current draft of the constitution. This draft will be submitted to the national Assembly to get the Assembly's approval before putting it to the October referendum. ... [Excerpted text, with Omar's comments in brackets] 1-the republic of Iraq (the Islamic, federal) is a sovereign, independent country and the governing system is a democratic, republican, federal one. [The Islamic republic of Iraq!? NO WAY.] 2-Islam is the official religion of the state and it is the main source of legislations and it is not allowed to make laws that contradict the fundamental teachings of Islam and its rules (the ones agreed upon by all Muslims) and this constitution shall preserve the Islamic identity of the majority of the Iraqi people (with its Shea't majority and its Sunni component) and respect the rights of all other religions. [This is the deadliest point if approved; Islam or any religion cannot and must not be the main source of legislation.] 9-The family is the basis of the community and the state preserves the family's genuine Iraqi identity that is based on patriot, religious and ethical values and the state also is responsible for protecting maternity and childhood and looks after the youths and provide the appropriate environment to assure the development of their skills and capabilities. [I don't know for sure what they mean by saying "the state preserves the family's genuine Iraqi identity that is based on patriot, religious and ethical values" but it doesn't sound great anyway.] ...' Read the full post for text and links to Arabic text; also be sure to follow the reader discussion in Comments. (ITM)

Rumsfeld visits Iraq. Voice of America reports: 'Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is in Iraq for an unannounced visit with American and Iraqi officials. Secretary Rumsfeld arrived Wednesday morning, with a series of messages for the country's interim leaders. ... The defense secretary told reporters traveling with him that he would urge Iraqi leaders to do more to curb what Mr. Rumsfeld characterized as "harmful interference" from neighboring Syria and Iran.' Al-Sabah (July 27) adds: 'Defense Minister [Donald Rumsfeld] revealed a new plan to be conducted in Mosul, Falouja and Baghdad, well informed sources said.The minister said that his new plan was approved by the president himself, who expressed trust in the Iraqi forces efforts.The minister blamed Syria for neglecting Iraq's demands of halting the trespasses made by terrorists, affirming that the government has strong evidences of trespassers entering the borders via three points targeting Baghdad, however he warned Baghdad of such acts that may lead to including Damascus with the same fire.As for the situation in Tallafer, he made it clear that direct interference would cost civilian casualties, a matter that Iraqis do not prefer, but he said that indirect process of about 4 to 5 weeks would end the task with minimum civilian victims.He rejected proposals of recruiting militias as a joint force with the army force stressing that the ministry doors are open for all citizens to defend the country.Concerning border problem in Um Qasr with the Kuwaiti side, he advised the Kuwaitis to be patient for the current time and dialogue would be the path way for solving any problem, describing his visit to Teheran as peace message.' (VOA, Sabah)

Iran: Woman burns self on threat of return to prison. Free Iran quoting Iran Focus: 'A 30-year-old woman set herself on fire outside a justice department office in southern Iran on Monday evening, eye-witnesses reported. The unidentified woman was on temporary parole from prison in the southern city of Marvdasht and had gone to the justice department to request an extension of her prison leave. When her application was rejected, she attempted to commit suicide by setting herself on fire. She is reportedly in critical condition. A Marvdasht resident reached by telephone said it was rumored in town that the woman had been brutally treated by prison guards. Prison conditions in Iran have become the focus of international concern after the publication of a report by an internal investigative body of Iran’s judiciary. The report discovered serious cases of torture, solitary confinement, long-term detention without trial, and other abuses.' (Free Iran)

Iran: Two gay youths executed by hanging. The islamist entity continued its 26-year crime spree against the Iranian people with the hanging of two teenage boys. Free Iran reports: '(Amnesty International): On 19 July 2005, an 18-year-old, identified only as A. M. and a minor, Mahmoud A, were publicly hanged in the north-eastern city of Mashhad. According to reports, they were convicted of sexual assault on a 13-year-old boy and had been detained 14 months ago. Prior to their execution, the two were also given 228 lashes each for drinking, disturbing the peace and theft. (AFP): A Swedish gay rights group called on the government to immediately halt all deportations of homosexuals to Iran, saying two young men were hanged there this week for committing a "homosexual act." "There are clear examples that homosexuals are killed in Iran for their sexual orientation. I think the Swedish government is extremely cynical when it sends gays and lesbians back to Iran," Soeren Andersson, head of the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL), told AFP. The two men, one of whom was under 18 years of age, were hanged on Tuesday, officially for raping a 13-year-old boy at knife-point, but Andersson said it was possible that they had in fact only had sex with each other.' Read the thread for full details, links, and coverage from gay activist groups. (AI and AFP via Free Iran)

2005-07-21

New to Blogroll: Jinnderella

Islam, folklore, English horsemanship, romance, science/fiction, and anti-idiotarianism are a few of Jinnderella's passions at Hot Needle of Inquiry. Oh, and she's a real hottie in a bathing suit. (But don't let that influence you.) Sadly, Jinn seems to be taking a break from blogging. Hopefully she'll be back. Meanwhile, take your time perusing her thoughts. Oh, and in case you were wondering about that name ...

Let's blogroll!

What'cha gonna do when the well runs dry? Emily at Strangechord gives an excellent analysis of the age of peak oil:
President Bush has been briefed on the end of cheap oil... have you?

We will soon start seeing ads put out by Chevron for its new campaign: Will You Join Us. Rather than advertising some new "high-performing" gasoline, this campaign is a public admission of the end of cheap oil and a PR move designed to get YOU, Mr. and Ms. Public, to consider the oil companies your allies as the shit hits the fan over the next few years. Get ready for a probable economic downturn this winter.

For those of you still in the dark (I blogged about peak oil a few months ago), here it is in a nutshell: there's strong evidence indicating that the globe may have reached peak oil, which means we've pumped out half of the world's known supplies. While one's first reaction is "So? That means one half is left," the bad news is that after peak, oil is much more difficult and expensive to extract and refine. Thus, the oil we've been using for the past 70+ years has been the light, sweet, "gusher", cheap stuff. The explosively exponential rise in human population over the past 70 years has been predicated on cheap, easily accessible oil. In fact, economic growth as we know it is dependent upon cheap energy. Think of everything from auto transportation, small and large-scale shipping, plastics, medical infrastructure, industrial agriculture that uses huge quantities of petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides, etc. Did you know that for every one calorie the average American consumes, more than ten calories of fossil energy went into putting it on her plate? Well, things are about to change radically.

Here's the kicker - there is no combination of renewable and alternative fuels that could possibly ramp us up to present levels of consumption in the short period of time we have. ...

Read the whole thing at the link. Also at Emily's blog: the "Women's Land" concept isn't only in southern Oregon ... here's a village in Kenya called Umoja (Unity), an all-female community where 'women have the money and decision-making power to choose education for their children.' Follow Emily's post to the link at Feminist Majority ... and don't forget to bookmark Strangechord.

What is an idiotarian? Winds of Change has the answers.

More centrists speak out. I've already plugged Nadz ("None of the Above"), but I can't resist mentioning her again here. Despite its curious features, this creature is surprisingly reasonable. For those who don't grasp the concept of "centrist", Michael J. Totten draws you a picture.

Echoing George Galloway's now-famous rant against Christopher Hitchens, Drink-Soaked Trotskyite Popinjays for War takes this post's "Best Blog Title" award - an honor it shares with this blog by Grace Davis.

Finally, MJ continues to roast but that doesn't stop her from offering some great links. Beware Seat 29E. No info, though on what to do about the problem of a hippo on your keyboard. Well, maybe next time.

Nadz on Leaving the Left

... without joining the Right. Once again, Nadz demonstrates why she's one of my favorite bloggers with this post:
I've been feeling cranky and disillusioned lately, both with world politics and with people on both sides of the political aisle. I suppose this happens to everyone eventually, given how depressing the news tends to be. The result, however, is that I am becoming a hard-core centrist. Firmly in the middle, radically open to both sides of an argument, devoted to the reasonable compromise, and a believer in "none of the above".

I'll explain:

Why I left the Left:

Shortly after the Iraqi elections, I became extremely disillusioned with the Left. Despite the fact that something important and significant had clearly happened, no one wanted to give Bush credit for anything, and so they downplayed its success. They blame every problem around the world with American foreign policy

Furthermore, while my liberal friends try to label themselves as enlightened and non-prejudiced towards Arabs, they also seem to be under the impression that we are a separate alien species that doesn't want or value freedom and democracy. It's just not in our culture, apparently, and we enjoy being told what to do. I'd tell them to look at the links on the side of my blog and see if any of those Arab bloggers don't want democracy, but they'd just say that we're all brainwashed by the Neocons. Not only do we reject freedom, but we're also stupid, it seems.

Finally, in an effort to appear multicultural and politically correct, many on the Left either ignore or downplay the plight of women in the Middle East and the Muslim world. They use a variety of arguments to say that we're not oppressed, that the problems are exagerrated, and that sexism is all relative, anyway. Women like Sohane Benziane were being killed in France - burned, stoned, beaten - while feminists stayed quiet for fear of being labelled ethnocentric or racist. What will it take for them to realize that this is about human rights, not culture?

Why the Right sucks, too:

Can you say hypocrisy? While people on the far Right are quick to condemn the treatment of women and gays in the Arab world, they apply a different attitude towards those issues at home. They lament the lack of women's rights in Afghanistan while they sneer at feminists, accuse women's lib of destroying the family unit and fight to ban gay marriage. They fail to see the connection between women's rights abroad and women's rights at home. ...

Go read the whole thing at the link. And don't forget to bookmark Nadz Online.

Morning Report: July 21, 2005

Breaking: Bombs strike London tube. CNN reports: 'Four "explosion or attempts at explosions" have been reported on three London Underground stations and a bus, two weeks after the July 7 terror attacks, the city's police chief has said. Scotland Yard also said they were looking into an "incident" at University College London Hospital (UCL), where armed officers have been deployed. Witnesses reported policemen with flak jackets entered the hospital along with dogs. Sky TV reported that police said they were searching that hospital for a man wearing a blue shirt with wires protuding from a hole in the back. UCL hospital is near Warren Street station, where police said one of three small devices detonated. The other blasts were reported at Oval and Shepherd's Bush stations. Thursday's blasts came two weeks to the day since bombs on three Tube trains on a bus killed 52 people and four of the bombers. ...' Debka adds: 'UK police commissioner has stated there is no evidence of chemical agents in the bombing and attempted bomb attacks on London’s transport Thursday, July 21, two weeks after the first al Qaeda rampage. He said one person was injured. Police drew weapons at end of Downing Street outside UK prime minister’s office and took a man away. A would-be suicide bomber appears to be on the run. Three Tube stations, Warren Street, Shepherd’s Bush and Oval, were evacuated, five main lines suspended over the bomb incidents. The bus was in the east London district of Hackney. One of the would-be suicide bombers appears to be on the run. At Warren Street, a witness on an incoming train reported an exploding rucksack in the hands of a young man and strange-smelling smoke. Police suggest he may be the suicide bomber who got away after a premature detonation. Later, armed police entered University College Hospital on an operation and cordoned it off.' (CNN, Debka)

Sudan regime guards harrass Rice aides, reporter. Fox News reports: 'Security forces in the Sudanese capital manhandled U.S. officials and reporters traveling with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, marring her round of congratulatory meetings with leaders of the new unified government. Rice demanded an apology, and got it. "It makes me very angry to be sitting there with their president and have this happen," she said. "They have no right to push and shove." Rice made her remarks to reporters after she and her entourage boarded an airplane to fly from the capital to a refugee camp in the Darfur region. At the camp, she said the United States would hold the Sudanese government to account if it fails to end the refugee crisis. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the Sudanese foreign minister responded to Rice's demand for an apology by telephoning her aboard the plane to express regret for the incidents at the ultra-high-security residence of Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir. Twice, Sudanese guards' hostility toward members of Rice's entourage devolved into shouts and shoving. As Rice's motorcade arrived at the residence, armed guards slammed the gate shut before three vehicles could get in, including those carrying Rice's interpreter and other State Department officials who were supposed to attend her meeting with el-Bashir. After protests, the officials were eventually allowed in. But guards repeatedly pushed and pulled Rice senior adviser Jim Wilkinson, and at one point he was shoved into a wall. ... Once Rice's traveling group was inside, the guards tried to keep reporters out of a planned photo shoot of Rice's meeting. When reporters were finally allowed in, they were elbowed and guards repeatedly tried to rip a microphone away from a U.S. reporter. They were ordered not to ask questions, over State Department objections. When NBC diplomatic reporter Andrea Mitchell tried to ask el-Bashir a question about his involvement with alleged atrocities, a scuffle broke out. Guards grabbed the reporter and muscled her toward the rear of the room as State Department officials shouted at the guards to leave her alone. "Get your hands off her!" Wilkinson demanded. But all the reporters and a camera crew were physically forced out.' (Fox)

Oregonians rally for justice. An estimated 800 to 1,000 activists - including the present writer - assembled at Oregon's state capital in Salem, calling on State House Speaker Karen Minnis to end her obstruction of Senate Bill 1000, which would ban discrimination against lesbian, gay, and transgendered Oregonians and would enact civil unions for gay couples. Details to follow at Dreams Into Lightning.

Scotty beams up. James Doohan, known to "Star Trek" fans as Engineer Scott, has died. MSNBC reports: 'James Doohan, the burly chief engineer of the Starship Enterprise in the original "Star Trek" TV series and motion pictures who responded to the command "Beam me up, Scotty," died early Wednesday. He was 85. Doohan died at 5:30 a.m. at his Redmond, Wash., home with his wife of 28 years, Wende, at his side, Los Angeles agent and longtime friend Steve Stevens said. The cause of death was pneumonia and Alzheimer's disease, he said. Doohan's ashes will be sent into space in accordance with his wishes, his agent said. The family has planned a private service.' (MSNBC)

2005-07-19

Update - Music Notes

I had a busy weekend, catching the Epoxies Saturday night at Portland's all-ages club Loveland (formerly Meow Meow). The Epoxies were great! So were the Phenomenauts, who also appeared that night.

Sunday night I saw the Indigo Girls at the Oregon Zoo. Another great show! Emily appeared in an AC/DC tee shirt (heh). They're incredible live - it's amazing that two women with acoustic guitars can carry such a big sound. The opening act, Brooklyn's folk band Girlyman, also appeared with the Indigo Girls for a few songs (an Indigo Girls trademark). Amy kicked out some great new material, including the anti-bigotry anthem "Let It Ring".

I've just ordered pianist Jeanette Alexander's new CD, "Walk In the Sun". Jeanette's music is simply lovely and well worth a listen. "Linden" (from her sublime second album, "Still Point") is one of my absolute favorite instrumental pieces, along with Alice Coltrane's "Jagadishwar" (from her recent release, "Translinear Light"). I'm glad I checked Jeanette's website, because my usual retailers weren't carrying the new release and I wouldn't have found out about it otherwise.

Morning Report: July 19, 2005

British political, Muslim leaders unite against terrorism. Voice of America reports: 'Senior British politicians and Muslims leaders have met to discuss how they can work together to confront Islamic extremists in the aftermath of the recent terrorist bombings that killed 56 people in London. About 25 members of the British Muslim community met for 90 minutes Tuesday with Prime Minister Tony Blair and leaders of the opposition Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties to discuss the terrorist issue. Following the talks, Mr. Blair said there is agreement to form a task force of Muslim leaders who can interact with disaffected youth and steer them away from those who call for violence. "There is a strong desire to have people from the community, able to talk to the Muslim community, particularly young Muslims in their community, and confront this evil ideology, take it on, and defeat it by the force of reason and argument," he said. One of the Muslim participants, lawmaker Shahid Malik of Mr. Blair's ruling Labor party, said his community is ready to tackle the problem. "There is a profound challenge," said Mr. Malik. "I think everybody here is up for that challenge. I think we recognize we've got to work better at confronting those evil voices, as minute as they are, within our communities." The Conservative party leader, Michael Howard, says the Muslim community must take the lead in combating potential terrorists in their midst. ...' (VOA)

Iraqi constitution committee member killed. Debka reports: 'Mijbil Issa and two bodyguards were shot dead Tuesday, July 19 in drive-by shooting near Baghdad’s Green Zone. He was one of 15 Sunnis appointed to 71-man constitution drafting committee. Two have quit following threats from insurgents.Earlier, 13 Iraqis were killed in Baquba when gunmen in two cars ambushed a minibus carrying local workers to the US base in Baquba northeast of Baghdad.'

Omar Fadhil: First Muslim state had secular constitution. Citing Iraqi blobber Samir Hassan (Arabic), Omar at Iraq the Model notes 'a very important point that apparently most Muslims had forgotten; it's the important fact that the in 1st constitution written for a dominantly Muslim society (and by no less than the prophet himself) there was no mention of Islam as the official religion of the state! Muslims somehow dropped this document from their history even though it was named the "Paper" - which suggests it was written to be declared and published, not ignored and forgotten. This state established by the prophet at Yethrib was named "Al-Madina" (which means "The City") and was based on a kind of civil governance free from coercion or oppression. The constitution protected this right for groups and individuals. There is no reference anywhere in the "Paper" to the state's religion or that of its ruler. ...' Read the full post for links to complete English and Arabic text. (ITM)

Belmont Club on antifascist movement in Britain. Wretchard at The Belmont Club offers excerpts from Unite Against Terror, a site featuring British writers - many of them from the left-of-center community - who take a strong stand against terrorism and fascism. (Belmont Club, Unite Against Terror)

2005-07-18

Oregon: SB 1000 Rally this Wednesday

Oregon gay rights activists will be rallying this Wednesday evening in Salem to support Senate Bill 1000.

Basic Rights Oregon provides the details:
Can ONE person really overrule the will of the Senate, the Governor, the House and the Majority of Oregonians?

Speaker of the House Karen Minnis thinks so. She’s acting more like a monarch on a throne than a fair arbiter of democracy, pledging to lock SB 1000 in a legislative dungeon where it will never see the light of day.

Don't be fooled: there is support for SB 1000 in the House. But, Speaker Minnis says SB 1000 will never come to a vote in “her” chamber. Her chamber? Apparently she has forgotten that she doesn’t own that seat—the people do!

Tell Speaker Minnis: She doesn't own the House of Representatives—the people do! And the people want an up or down vote on SB 1000 before this session ends!

The rally will begin at 6 PM in Salem on the front steps of the Oregon State Capitol (900 Court Street NE in Salem).

I called my district representative, Mitch Greenlick, today, and expressed support for the measure. The receptionist assured me that Greenlick would support SB 1000 ... "if he gets a chance to vote on it."

2005-07-17

Portland Log Cabin Chapter Seeks Members

A Portland, Oregon chapter of Log Cabin Republicans is currently forming and we are seeking members. If you live in the greater Portland area (Oregon and southern Washington), are GOP-affiliated, and support fairness and freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered Americans, please contact me either through comments or via e-mail. (That's my e-mail link up there in the right-hand corner of your screen).

Log Cabin Republicans believe in
low taxes, limited government, strong defense, free markets, personal responsibility, and individual liberty. Log Cabin represents an important part of the American family-taxpaying, hard working people who proudly believe in this nation's greatness. We also believe all Americans have the right to liberty, freedom, and equality. Log Cabin stands up against those who preach hatred and intolerance. We stand up for the idea that all Americans deserve to be treated equal-regardless of their sexual orientation.

More at the LCR website.

Oregon residents, you probably already know that SB 1000 - Oregon's civil unions bill - has passed in the Oregon State Senate by a healthy margin of 19-10. Now it moves on to the House, where it enjoys strong support ... but will be opposed by House Speaker Karen Minnis.
Now the fight moves to the Oregon House where Speaker Karen Minnis has pledged to kill the bill.

Don't be fooled: there IS support in the House for this bill. SB 1000 is supported by the Oregon Senate, the Governor and a majority of Oregonians.

Call your representatives now and urge them to support SB 1000 and call on Speaker Minnis to bring it to an up or down vote on the House floor immediately.

Read the rest at Basic Rights Oregon ... and call your State Representative this week!

The Washington Blade has this report on Oregon's SB 1000.

2005-07-10

Journey to America

With the sounds of Sixteen Horsepower blasting from the speakers of Michael's black Chrysler LeBaron, Michael Totten and your present writer took off early Friday morning to escape the comfy enclave of Portland, Oregon. Soon the firs changed to pines and we were out of Ecotopia and heading straight for the heart of the Empty Quarter. It was Michael's idea. Michael is a native of Oregon and a travel addict, and there are few places in the Northwest he hasn't seen; for this trip, he wanted to visit Pyramid Lake and The Playa in Nevada. I agreed to go along, not having a terribly clear idea of where these places were, but fairly sure that a trip out of town would be fun, and might do me some good. It was, and it did.

Cross the Cascades, and the land is drier, the climate harsher, the life unforgiving. But already I'm lapsing into cliches. I want to describe the land as "barren", but it's not entirely true, and anyway I don't think you can really understand the idea of "barrenness" unless you have actually worked on a farm, which I have not. So instead I will say that the land is bare. In lush areas like the Willamette Valley, you don't spend much time thinking about the land (again, unless you work the land yourself) because you never really see the land. What you see is the stuff that grows on the land - grass, trees, utility poles, roads, houses, office buildings. Out there, though, you see the land itself. You see dirt. You look down at the ground and there's dirt, sand, rock, or salt, with a smattering of low scrubby plants or spindly pine trees, and the occasional stretch of road, a few telephone poles, and maybe a couple of buildings here and there. Then you look up, and there's the Western sky, which is famously "not cloudy all day" - it's just sky and nothing but sky, not blanketed by couds or smog or trees or buildings. And sandwiched ridiculously in between, there's you.

We drove through south-central Oregon, one of the most sparsely populated regions of the lower 48. We passed through Lakeview, with its big wecome sign depicting a genial cowboy waving to newcomers. We passed a big body of water, Goose Lake, on our right. We cut through a conrner of California and passed into Nevada. You can tell immediately where the California highway ends and the Nevada road (using the term somewhat loosely) begins. And from there on it was nothing but sand and mountains until we got to Pyramid Lake.

I took a camera but somehow didn't feel moved to take many photographs. Michael did, and I'm sure he'll post these on his blog before long. I'm looking forward to seeing them myself. (Update: they're here.) We made Pyramid Lake by late afternoon. The lake is big, and lies entirely within a Paiute reservation - as Michael said, on of the few good pieces of land the Indians got. We hit the lodge at about 5pm, after ten or eleven hours driving, and went down to get a good look at the lake.

Pyramid Lake is said to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the Western Hemisphere, and baby, they ain't kidding. It's a magnificent turquoise blue, and surrounded by sand and mountains. There are no high-rise hotels or any of that crap. The lodge we stayed at adjoined a general store / saloon / casino, which serves as the area's cultural center. Over a can of Miller beer (to my chagrin, I'd made the mistake of asking the barmaid what they had "on tap"), Michael and I unwound after the trip. I ordered dinner, which consisted of a basket of onion rings.

Now I have to say a word or two about food in the West. Quite simply, there isn't any. That is, if you're spoiled on the kinds of food you can get in Portland or San Francisco or Seattle, there is no food in the West. Period. What you can get is deep fried everything, and hot dogs. That's it. Oh, and omelettes, if you're lucky. My entire diet for the whole trip was two cheese omelettes. (I counted myself fortunate because the second one - eaten in Gerlach, home of the Burning Man festival - actually contained vegetables.) The concept of a salad just does not exist.

But that's part of leaving Ecotopia. The food - or whatever they call that stuff - quite literally goes with the territory. As Michael explained it, people in the West don't see Nature as benign because it is not. It is something to be wrestled with, mastered when possible and accommodated when it cannot be mastered. Michael pointed to an area that some of the early settlers had attempted to irrigate in the hopes of growing crops. Not only had it not worked, he explained, the attempt had actually made the soil even worse, resulting in whole expanses of lifeless sand, devoid of even the local vegetation. Nowadays people take the more pragmatic approach of importing truckoads of canned and frozen foods from elsewhere. This is why you're gonna have a tough time finding that organic vegetarian burrito you're hankering for (or even a celery stick), and it's why you don't have to spend a whole lot of time looking for a recycling bin to dump that plastic pop bottle in when you're done with it. Why, after all, should man respect nature? Does nature respect man?

We sat for a while in the saloon as evening came on. Local men and women - heavyset, somehow cheerful and melancholy at the same time - laughed and gossiped and shot pool. I bought a few items at the store; the girl behind the counter, who was pretty and simply cheerful, wished me a pleasant evening. Someone turned on the jukebox and we endured a godawful song about "the drinkin' bone's connected to the party bone"; after that we heard a surprisingly compelling number, "Holy Water" by Big and Rich. I turned in at about 9:30; Michael stayed up a little later to work on a piece for Lebanon's Daily Star.

I was talking about the land. The mountains are stony, rugged, and refreshingly solid-looking (not like the ones around here, which will occasionally blow up on you). We drove by a number of lakes - a few, like Goose and Pyramid, actually had water in them. Most did not. There is a curious custom of charitably naming a dry lakebed "Lake So-and-so" when the "lake" has been a flat expanse of dirt for countless years. They're even labeled that way on the map: "Coleman Lake (dry)", "Alkali Lake (dry)". And when I said dirt, I really meant dirt and salt; in some places the ground is literally white. It's the most amazing, humbling thing to see.

And this brings us to the Playa. We left the lodge at Pyramid Lake early to get there. I thought Michael was crazy for wanting to go at all, but I'm glad we did. Playa means beach in Spanish, and a beach implies sand, which the Playa certainly has. A conventional definition of "beach" generally involves the presence of an ocean as well, and thus implies water; this element, once again, is absent from the Playa. But it wasn't always so: in prehistoric times, that whole region used to be underwater, a huge inland sea; so the name (like the names of the waterless "lakes") is not entirely a misnomer.

The Playa is a huge expanse of dry sand and mud. In the hot summer months, it's dangerous to drive across because the temperature can get to over 120 degrees Fahrenheit. In the cool winter months, it's dangerous to drive across because the sand is wet an your car can get stuck. We were lucky: we got there when the temperature was mild and the ground was mostly dry. Still, we didn't venture out too far; I had vivid memories of my armored vehicle getting stuck in Saudi sabkhas "back in the day", and Michael's LeBaron didn't have a winch cable or recovery vehicle handy.

So there we were: the geographical center of nowhere. There is something therapeutic about just going out into the wasteland for a while. We got out of the car, and, without a word, wandered slowly away in separate directions, and simply stayed there for about an hour - standing, sitting, just letting the noise and chatter drain away. I did a quiet breath meditation for about 20 minutes. We took turns looking through the binoculars, noticing how the mountains seemed to float above their mirror image on the horizon.

This was a trip to the part of America we rarely get to see from where we live. It was a chance to purge some of the accumulated mental chatter and garbage, and to remind ourselves just how small we are and how big the world is. Standing on the caked clay of the Playa, surrounded by the mountains and the invisible coastline of what had once been a sea, we were probably as close to standing on Mars as either one of us will get. Eventually some clouds did start moving in from the west. Over the peak of one of the mountains, one of those strange, flying-saucer-shaped clouds hovered and then dissipated. It is at moments like these that you truly feel like an alien on your own planet.

Yet little more than a hundred years ago, that trip itself would have been science fiction. To drive a horseless motorcar, traveling a mile a minute, into the middle of a desert that even the Indians dreaded? And to do it as easily as we listen to recorded music out of a box, or write for a newspaper on the other side of the globe. And then there's Nevada itself: the land where our own Government tested atomic weapons, turning whole stretches of the desert into glass.

I've written elsewhere about the role of the wilderness in American spirituality. It is one thing to read about these things in books, and quite another to experience them for yourself. Michael's choice of Sixteen Horsepower for the ride was a good one, because their lonely and unforgiving sound perfectly captures the spirit of the landscape. Outside of the car, though, the only music is silence.

Why should man respect nature, if nature does not respect man? Because we have no choice. Nature is big, the wilderness is big, the world is big, and we are small. In such a world, it is very difficult to believe in a Sunday-school deity, some guy named "God" with a long white beard and a bag of gifts for good girls and boys. G-d is not a man, and if we expect human qualities from the Spirit we will only be disappointed.

On a hot July day more than 250 years ago, a Connecticut preacher used these memorable words:
"There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God." By the mere pleasure of God, I mean his sovereign pleasure, his arbitrary will, restrained by no obligation, hindered by no manner of difficulty, any more than if nothing else but God's mere will had in the least degree, or in any respect whatsoever, any hand in the preservation of wicked men one moment. ...

Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell.

The very fabric of our world is held together by forces hanging in the most minute balance. The strong nuclear force is, to within a miniscule fraction, exactly enough to keep the protons in the nucleus of an atom from flying apart, repelled by their neighbors' electric charge. Were this balance to falter for even an instant, we would be annihilated in a flash. Humankind, having discovered the secret to upsetting this balance, now possesses this frightening power. With each generation, the consequences of our successes and our failures, our virtues and our sins, become greater. And the wilderness is still there, no less hostile. It gives us room to wander, room to get lost, and abundant room to die. So we are tempted to treat the wilderness as harshly as it treats us.

But if, as Jonathan Edwards believed, we are all in imminent danger of destruction, then our exile in the wilderness also gives us the liberty to find the spiritual materials of our own salvation. We must do this for ourselves; it will not be handed to us. Every one of us, from the moment we're thrust screaming into this world until the moment we're taken from it, faces this same exile. And every one of us faces the same task.

Why should man respect nature, if nature will not respect man? Ask instead how humankind may best show respect for the Power that lies beyond nature, and that lies inside each of us as well. Ask how to act in the face of the undisguised Nothingness, from which everything emerges and to which everything will one day be driven home. Nature makes no choices and asks no questions. Nature cares nothing for man because it is only the veil before the Void. Humans alone have the power to seek the presence of that nameless Source, to walk in its ways, and to honor it.

We got home at about 11:30 last night. I'm not gonna lie to you, it was good to be back in the land of fresh salads, micro-brews, Starbucks, and Powell's Books. Back in the rich and civilized climate of Portland, it feels like another world altogether. We can get the best clothes, the best books, the best food, and the best coffee. We have safe streets, comfortable weather, a pleasant city park, and a respectable college. We have all of the best things in life.

And we're living on top of a volcano.

2005-07-08

New in the Dreams Into Lightning Universe

Newly posted:

My father's musical horizon expands in Fiji at Pacific Memories. For those just joining us, his unpublished WWII memoir runs to a total of 14 chapters; I'm up to chapter 6 now. Dad served in the 146th Field Artillery Battalion, 37th Infantry Division in the US Army during the war.

My sister wrote some amazing work during her too-short life; much of the material she left behind was written in her teen years. At Wilderness Vision I've posted some more of her poetry, which is simply breathtaking. At the new page, Iridescence, there's a story about an old man and a cat that you won't soon forget. Stephanie entered that piece in the 1980 Scholastic competition; she wrote it when she was only 14 or 15.

I'll be away for the weekend; see you next week.

2005-07-07

Iranian Leaders Speak

The Iranian Opposition Leadership has released two statements, with more to come.
DECLARATION No. 1 June 29, 2005

After years of non-unified an uncoordinated struggles of Iranian freedom fighters, the National Assembly of IRI Opposition Leadership has been established representing freedom lovers and political activists from inside and outside of Iran. The goal of this Assembly is to support the people of Iran in replacing the IRI with a democratic and secular type of government. This Assembly requests your attention and the attention of organizations under your supervision to the reasons of illegitimacy of IRI and its recent so-called “Presidential elections”.
...
Declaration Number 2 The National Leadership Assembly for Opposition to IRI
Subject: 18th of Tir (July 9th)

When 18th of Tir comes along, we remember 18th of the month of Tir of the year 1980, when the daggers of the summer sun accompanied the brave-hearted Iranians who wanted Iran and Iranian people to be proud. We remember that clouds of malevolence brought about thunderstorm of death and those brave-hearted ones remained only on the page of the history of love for homeland. When 18th of Tir arrives, we also remember the year 1999 and another generation of passionate women and men of this land, this time students and youngsters and how did each one of them only borrow golden daggers from the sun of the summer sky as symbols of pureness and freedom so they could wipe out darkness and filthiness. ... At the threshold of the 18th of Tir, to the political prisoners’ families, we say that you are not alone; we shall convey your voices all throughout the world with whatever means we can access. To the dark minded rulers of the Islamic Republic, We say that you can not shoot love, you can not chain truth. Freedom will arrive and in its saddlebag will bring gifts of dignity, welfare, and security to all of us Iranians.

National Leadership Council:
Mr. Reza Kermani, Temporary President - Iran
Ms. Homa Ehsan, Temporary Vice President – USA
Dr. Kourosh Sadri, Temporary Spokesman – Italy
Mr. Kiumars Farhoumand, Temporary Secretary – Sweden
Mr. Mohammad Ghassem Amin, Temporary Treasurer– USA

I'll be away on July 7, but my thoughts will be with the Iranian peopl on 18 Tir and every day.

Irshad Manji, Amy Ray in Curve Magazine

The current print issue of Curve features two of my heroes: Muslim reform activist Irshad Manji, and Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls.

Malinda Lo's interview with Irshad Manji (p. 30 of the August 2005 print issue) introduces the Toronto lesbian, who lives with her partner Michelle Douglas, and stresses Manji's contention that "unlike most religions in which fundamentalism is relatively marginal, in Islam, literalism is mainstream and challenging it is forbidden." The solution Manji proposes is a return to the Islamic tradition of ijtihad, or critical thinking. Speaking of the reactions of young Muslim women to her revolutionary message, she says: "They're the ones who've said to me, 'We know that we have the least to lose and the most to gain by being leaders of our communities now, so thank you,' and they tell me, 'tell us where we can sign up to do more." She hopes to found an institute where Muslims can engage in open dialog about the issues of the day. "You don't need to choose between one or the other, Muslim or thinker ... you can, in fact, be both." It's great that Curve is giving Irshad the press she deserves.

Amy Ray's new solo album, "Prom", deals with "the dance between gender and sexuality, man and woman, youth and adulthood, authority and rebellion," as Margaret Coble quotes the Indigo Girls singer. The cover art, featuring a double exposure of Ray, should clue you in to that. Amy Ray (who looks much better without the mustache) talks in the interview about her first crush - "I couldn't see anything but this woman; it was all-consuming ..." and about herself: "I have a very strong male energy ... but I don't feel a stranger to my female side, or estranged from my female body." This helps us understand Amy's enlightened attitude toward transgender people, which I posted about here.

Amy Ray is also very perceptive about understanding different kinds of repression/oppression. In one of the MWMF interviews, she says, "It's not really male privilege if it's somebody who has been treated like a freak for their whole life" - meaning that feminists should not assume that every male-to-female TG person has had it easy living as a man. In the Curve interview, she talks about learning how femme lesbians also experience discrimination within the lesbian community, because they "aren't seen in [their] queerness all the time".

A former girlfriend of mine - also a high femme - made a similar comment about the gay scene during the 1970s and 80s. She said that for gay men, hypermasculinity was the rule - "they all looked like the Village People" - while for women, butch was cool and femme was not. It was as if femininity, either in women or in men, was seen as a liability.

Amy Ray's comment about "queerness" might seem a little strange, because, Don't gay people want to be accepted by society? The answer is yes, but nobody wants to have to choose between being themselves and being accepted. And nobody wants to have to choose between being accepted by the (nonminority) society, and being accpeted by their own (minority) in-group. This is the importance of individual liberty - including, most fundamentally, the freedom of self-identification and -expression. (In fact, I would argue that an enlightened understanding of gender is essential for any future vision of feminism that seeks to move away from the victimhood mentality ... but I'm getting ahead of myself. That's a subject for another post.)

Curve has, once again, given its readers a lot to think about: this time with the views of two women who reject religious dogma, political correctness, and victimology.

Let's Blogroll - London Roundup

Where they can put those bombs. It's not a blog, but the London News Review writes:
What the fuck do you think you're doing?
This is London. We've dealt with your sort before. You don't try and pull this on us.

Do you have any idea how many times our city has been attacked? Whatever you're trying to do, it's not going to work.

All you've done is end some of our lives, and ruin some more. How is that going to help you? You don't get rewarded for this kind of crap.

And if, as your MO indicates, you're an al-Qaeda group, then you're out of your tiny minds.

Because if this is a message to Tony Blair, we've got news for you. We don't much like our government ourselves, or what they do in our name. But, listen very clearly. We'll deal with that ourselves. We're London, and we've got our own way of doing things, and it doesn't involve tossing bombs around where innocent people are going about their lives.

And that's because we're better than you. Everyone is better than you. Our city works. We rather like it. And we're going to go about our lives. We're going to take care of the lives you ruined. And then we're going to work. And we're going down the pub.

So you can pack up your bombs, put them in your arseholes, and get the fuck out of our city.

Hat tip: the incomprarable Sully.

"It" happens. Here's Hitch:
... It will be easy in the short term for Blair to rally national and international support, as always happens in moments such as this, but over time these gestural moments lose their force and become subject to diminishing returns. If, as one must suspect, these bombs are only the first, then Britain will start to undergo the same tensions—between a retreat to insularity and clannishness of the sort recently seen in France and Holland, and the self-segregation of the Muslim minority in both those countries—that will start to infect other European countries as well. It is ludicrous to try and reduce this to Iraq. Europe is steadily becoming a part of the civil war that is roiling the Islamic world, and it will require all our cultural ingenuity to ensure that the criminals who shattered London's peace at rush hour this morning are not the ones who dictate the pace and rhythm of events from now on.


"Where did the explosion happen?" "Everywhere." In a poignant and eloquent piece, Johann Hari explodes some myths about islamist terrorism:
Anybody who tells you these bombers are fighting for the rights of Muslims in Iraq, occupied Palestine or Chechnya should look at the places they chose to bomb. Aldgate? The poorest and most Muslim part of the country. Edgware Road? The centre of Muslim and Arab life in London and, arguably, Europe. Does anybody need greater evidence that these Islamic fundamentalists despise Muslims who choose to live in free societies, and they would enslave Muslims everywhere if they were given the opportunity? ... But in the end London – the most vibrant, liberal, cosmopolitan city on earth – will not be defeated by a few bomb-throwing thugs, however vicious. This city was attacked by fascists before, and it will be attacked by fascists again. We will bury the dead and choose to not to live in fear.


Baldilocks: no such thing as a chickenhawk. Baldilocks writes: 'To the Islamist, all are targets, "infidel" and Muslim alike (there are plenty of Muslims in London, no doubt). From Sudan to Iraq, this is quite obvious. I submit that, in the War on Terror, there is no such thing as a “chickenhawk.”' Watch her post for updates, and read Tim Worstall's post about what the terrorists just don't quite get.

Beth at My VRWC wears her heart on her sleeve.

DCat unsheaths her Razor Sharp Claws: 'You have no scruples and you will never win! All of the people saying this is like Vietnam haven’t got a clue what real terrorists are like! They don’t care that you are calling this war like Vietnam! They don’t even care about you period! Ok people it is time to wake up now and stop spewing off garbage and disagreeing with what is really going on here! This is not the time to be proud of your liberal choice. You won’t have that choice if AQ had their way!'

Ocean Guy is reminded of scenes in Israel, but worries that 'in the long term, they will soon forget, just as so many have forgotten September 11, 2001.'

And finally, Michelle Malkin has the best ongoing roundup of London news. So why are you still here?

London's Mayor Ken Livingstone on Terror Attacks

Ken Livingstone made the following statement on the terrorist attacks against his city:
Mr Livingston criticised the blast as an "indiscriminate attempt at mass murder" and had strong words for those who committed the act.

"This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty and the powerful; it is not aimed at presidents or prime ministers; it was aimed at ordinary working class Londoners, black and white, Muslim and Christians, Hindu and Jew, young and old, indiscriminate attempt at slaughter irrespective of any considerations, of age, of class, of religion, whatever, that isn't an ideology, it isn't even a perverted faith, it's just indiscriminate attempt at mass murder, and we know what the objective is, they seek to divide London. They seek to turn Londoners against each other and Londoners will not be divided by this cowardly attack," said Mr Livingston.

He then had a message for the terrorists who had organised the explosions.

"I wish to speak through you directly, to those who came to London to claim lives, nothing you do, how many of us you kill will stop that flight to our cities where freedom is strong and where people can live in harmony with one another, whatever you do, how many you kill, you will fail."

Hat tip, again, to Gay Patriot.

Blair on London Attacks

British Prime Minister Tony Blair released this statement:
This has been a most terrible and tragic atrocity that has cost many innocent lives. I have just attended a meeting of the government's Emergency Committee, received a full report from the Ministers and the officials responsible. There will be announcements made in respect of the various services, in particular we hope the Underground, insofar as is possible, and rail and bus services are up and running as swiftly as possible.

I would like again to express my profound condolences to the families of the victims, and to those who are casualties of this terrorist act. I would also like to thank the emergency services that have been magnificent today in every respect. There will of course now be the most intense police and security service action to make sure that we bring those responsible to justice. I would also pay tribute to the stoicism and resilience of the people of London, who have responded in a way typical of them.

In addition I welcome the statement that has been put out by the Muslim Council of Great Britain. We know that these people act in the name of Islam, but we also know that the vast and overwhelming majority of Muslims, here and abroad, are decent and law-abiding people who abhor this act of terrorism every bit as much as we do.

It is through terrorism that the people that have committed this terrible act express their values, and it is right at this moment that we demonstrate ours. I think we all know what they are trying to do - they are trying to use the slaughter of innocent people to cower us, to frighten us out of doing the things that we want to do, of trying to stop us going about our business as normal, as we are entitled to do, and they should not, and they must not, succeed.

When they try to intimidate us, we will not be intimidated. When they seek to change our country or our way of life by these methods, we will not be changed. When they try to divide our people or weaken our resolve, we will not be divided and our resolve will hold firm. We will show, by our spirit and dignity, and by our quiet but true strength that there is in the British people, that our values will long outlast theirs. The purpose of terrorism is just that, it is to terrorise people, and we will not be terrorised.

I would like once again to express my sympathy and my sorrow to those families who will be grieving, so unexpectedly and tragically, tonight. This is a very sad day for the British people, but we will hold true to the British way of life.

Thank you.

Dreams Into Lightning salutes the heroic people of London and extends the deepest sympathy to all who lost their lives in this most foul murder.

President Bush on the London Attacks

The Chief spoke briefly but eloquently at the G-8 summit in Scotland on the terrorist attacks on London:
I spent some time recently with the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and had an opportunity to express our heartfelt condolences to the people of London, people who lost lives. I appreciate Prime Minister Blair's steadfast determination and his strength. He's on his way now to London here from the G8 to speak directly to the people of London. He'll carry a message of solidarity with him.


This morning I have been in contact with our Homeland Security folks. I instructed them to be in touch with local and state officials about the facts of what took place here and in London, and to be extra vigilant, as our folks start heading to work.

The contrast between what we've seen on the TV screens here, what's taken place in London and what's taking place here is incredibly vivid to me. On the one hand, we have people here who are working to alleviate poverty, to help rid the world of the pandemic of AIDS, working on ways to have a clean environment. And on the other hand, you've got people killing innocent people. And the contrast couldn't be clearer between the intentions and the hearts of those of us who care deeply about human rights and human liberty, and those who kill — those who have got such evil in their heart that they will take the lives of innocent folks.

The war on terror goes on. I was most impressed by the resolve of all the leaders in the room. Their resolve is as strong as my resolve. And that is we will not yield to these people, will not yield to the terrorists. We will find them, we will bring them to justice, and at the same time, we will spread an ideology of hope and compassion that will overwhelm their ideology of hate.

Thank you very much.

Thank you, Mr. President. Source: The Corner; hat tip: Gay Patriot.

Morning Report: July 7, 2005

Terrorist bombs strike London. At least seven coordinated explosions struck the transport system in London, England. An unknown number of people have been killed; current estimates put the toll at at lest 45. BBC: 'At least two people have been killed and scores injured after three blasts on the Underground network and another on a double-decker bus in London. UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said it was "reasonably clear" there had been a series of terrorist attacks. He said it was "particularly barbaric" that it was timed to coincide with the G8 summit. He is returning to London. An Islamist website has posted a statement - purportedly from al-Qaeda - claiming it was behind the attacks. Home Secretary Charles Clarke said blasts occurred between Aldgate East and Liverpool Street tube stations; between Russell Square and King's Cross tube stations; at Edgware Road tube station; and on a bus at Tavistock Square. The Queen said she was "deeply shocked" and sent her sympathy to those affected.' BBC radio currently cites eyewitness accounts of at least ten fatalities. Debka: 'According to unofficial estimates, at least 45 died in the terrorist bombings of London trains and buses and 150 were seriously injured out of a total of 1000 wounded. Red alert declared in France, Italy, Germany and Spain. New York places transport system on high security status. DEBKAfile’s counter-terror experts confirm that on the morning of Thursday, July 7, London came under a large-scale al Qaeda assault exceeding in scale the March 2004 rail attacks in Madrid. A least seven coordinated bomb blasts hit metro stations and trains in central London close to the City financial district as well as buses. The London underground service was shut down and central London bus lines suspended. Because the trains and buses were crowded, the number of casualties is massive, taxing London hospitals to their limit. At only one of the tube stations attacked, Aldgate East, 90 casualties are reported. The bomb blitz was timed for the first day of the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland. Its message: al Qaeda will dictate the world’s agenda – not the leaders of the world’s industrialized nations, especially US president George Bush.' Norm Geras has updates. Current information at Command Post GWOT and Command Post Global Recon. (various)

Desert Storm veteran, activist Michael Donnelly remembered. Michael Donnelly, a native of South Windsor, Connecticut and former Air Force pilot who retired with the rank of Major, died on June 30 from the effects of ALS. Donnelly maintained, despite initial denials from the US Government, that his degenerative illness was service-related; in 1998 he published a book, "Falcon's Cry", which detailed the problems of veterans suffering from the various illnesses collectively known as Gulf War Syndrome. Candace Taylor of the Journal Inquirer reports: 'He began a 15-year military career that included stints as an F-16 pilot and instructor. He received four Air Medals and other honors during his service. Donnelly was an Air Force fighter pilot during the Persian Gulf War in 1991. In 1996, at age 36, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS -- commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease -- while on active duty. ALS is a progressive degenerative disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, eventually causing the loss of all muscle function. After his diagnosis, Donnelly became a champion for Persian Gulf War veterans battling ALS and other diseases that he believed to be war-related. In his 1998 memoir, "Falcon's Cry," he described tens of thousands of veterans suffering from illnesses related to the war and their struggle for recognition. The government initially denied a link between Gulf War service and ALS. But Donnelly spent six years campaigning in Washington, D.C., at the Pentagon and the Department of Veteran Affairs. Finally, in 2001, Veterans' Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi acknowledged scientific data that showed Persian Gulf War veterans are more than twice as likely as other veterans to develop ALS. Principi acknowledged Donnelly's efforts in the cause and announced that the Veterans Administration would grant full benefits to all Gulf War veterans with ALS.' The local paper's tribute says: 'Maj. Michael W. Donnelly had charisma. He had courage. And even though he knew he was dying, he never lost his sense of humor. "Even when he was dying, he was making jokes," his sister, Denise Donnelly, said Friday. Maj. Donnelly, a retired Air Force pilot and Gulf War veteran, died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, on Thursday at Manchester Memorial Hospital surrounded by his friends and family. He was 46. "He had a presence that filled the room," Denise said. As the ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, progressed, Donnelly was no longer able to speak or move. But even when his only means of communication was blinking his eyes, Denise said Donnelly's vivid personality was always there. "His whole person was present in his eyes," she said. After being stricken with ALS while serving in the Gulf War, Donnelly became a champion for veterans who battled illnesses linked to military service. ...' Donnelly left this letter for the people of South Windsor: 'An open letter to the Journal Inquirer and the people of South Windsor: I would like to thank the staff of the Journal Inquirer for the years of tireless and impassioned support you have provided in getting the word out about the high rate of ALS among Desert Storm veterans. It was in large part due to your unstinting coverage of this issue that we were able to achieve recognition of the connection between ALS and service in the Gulf War. In December 2001 the Veterans' Administration acknowledged this connection and opened the way for scores of Gulf War veterans to receive the benefits they earned and also to millions of dollars of federal research money. Thank you. I also want to thank the town of South Windsor for your abiding support. ... In his farewell to baseball speech Lou Gehrig said he considered himself to be the luckiest man on the face of this earth. Only now do I understand what he meant. - Major Michael W. Donnelly, USAF (retired)". A friend of the Donnelly family who attended the funeral reports that Donelley's father gave a stoical, moving, and uplifting eulogy: with the smile never leaving his face, he described how the angels might sound as they took the role of "air traffic control" and guided Michael's soul on its final ascent into heaven. (Journal Inquirer, personal telephone conversation)