Friday, February 28, 2003

This kid is much, much braver than me.

Everybody go read this story in Salon (you'll have to view a flash ad) about young Israeli Jonathan Ben-Artzi, refusenik and nephew of Benjamin Netanyahu. He's been locked up by the IDF for refusing to enlist.

Since he's been in prison, Ben-Artzi's family says, a series of high-ranking officers have told him that if he'd simply let himself be drafted, he'll be stationed in a hospital and won't have to fight. But Matania Ben-Artzi, Jonathan's father (and Netanyahu's brother-in-law), says his son refused. "He told them the following," says the obviously proud father, himself a military veteran. "Whatever organization I'm going to join, I'll try to do the maximum in that organization, not the minimum. I am a pacifist. I don't want to join this organization. It does not act in my name. It's morally weak for me to be in the organization and yet to avoid doing what others are doing."

Bravo for this kid! He's much more principled than I.

Now, enough from me, I'm off to the Big Easy...
Road Trip! Woo Hoo!

I'm afraid I'm going to Mardi Gras next week.

I promise not to show up in a Girls Gone Wild video.

I may post something tomorrow if I feel compelled or get bored, but otherwise I'll be back on March 8th.

If I come back at all, that is. Hubba hubba! Let's Party!

I agree with Talk a Blue Streak. The winning design for the World Trade Center site looks like either a pile of broken glass, or a close-up of those hideous green 80's style crystals from the inside of Superman's secret "Fortress of Solitude" cave in Superman II. Or was that the third one?
Some Pondering...

Sometimes, when someone is being sarcastic, they hit on something truthful.

Mike Silverman at Red Letter Day, my friend on the "rightish" side of politics, makes this sarcastic comment about a peace movement that may become more "militant".

Brian Scrivani over at Wunderkinder has a llittle contest going on to come up with the best slogan for the new, militaristic "peace" movement.

My contribution would be "I'm fighting the Jihad for Peace!"

Now, I get the joke that Mike is making here, however, I don't think the phrase "fighting the Jihad for Peace" is really a flawed one. "Jihad" as it is often understood these days is not the correct meaning of that term. It means, basically, "struggle". Fundamentalist patriarchal pricks (seriously changing their religion around in ways that fundamentalist patriarchal pricks always do in every culture that has ever exsisted) have co-opted it to represent their eternal struggle against the evil American Satan, or whatever. It's also a buzzword overused by the media to scare us. But it's not inherently a bad term. It doesn't literally mean "horrible war with lots of suicide bombings where we try to kill lots of innocent people". "Jihad for Peace" would mean, "struggle for peace". Which is a good thing, not a bad thing.

Now, I understand that I've missed the point entirely of Mike's post. I also find alot of the people in the peace movement to be useless and annoying. (Note to hippies: you can't change the world by drumming in public and waving giant puppets around. There are plenty of ways to protest a dumb war without spelling things in giant letters with your naked bodies.) I also respect him for answering this question, and for having an answer to it in the first place. Those are some nice ideas, too bad the current administration, in their complete and utterly inelegant demand for satisfaction, seems to have used up completely the UN's trust in and goodwill towards the United States that it would help to have in order to carry out those ideas. (Holy run-on sentence, Batman!)

However, I do think it's kind of funny (in an entirely respectful way) that a person who is behind a war that we're supposedly going to fight to keep the peace is annoyed at people who are saying they are fighting to keep the peace!

I mean, I'm just sayin'.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Maybe I'm missing the point of this article?

Apparently, some blind advocates are less than pleased with Daredevil (which, by the way, is not as bad as the critics are saying. It's definitely less goofy/retarded than Spiderman was.)

From ABC, which is on some sort of a "stupid-streak" for me recently.

Some advocates are happy to see a blind superhero come to the big screen and believe Daredevil is a generally positive portrayal of the blind and visually impaired. But they also have one important message: Blind people do not need super powers to be self-sufficient and lead a normal life.

However, they do need super powers to be superheros. Daredevil is a superhero. Nobody ever said about Batman that wealthy people do not need rubber suits or secret bat-caves to be self-sufficient and lead normal lives.

Or at least, I don't think they did. But I wouldn't be surpised, now that I think about it.
Sign number 1,279 zillion that we're gonna go to war

So I had lunch with my father today and he tells me that he was recently questioned by the FBI. Again.

It's really starting to piss me off!
Afghanistan? That's soo last year!

This piece from the ABC News website tries really, really hard to sound happy and optimistic. It seems a little forced, especially when they get down to quoting people who are actually involved in Afghanistan.

Barker says it will take a lot more time, and a lot more money, to get Afghanistan back on its feet again. "President Bush made some glorious statements about a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan, and we fully agree that's exactly what's needed. But we haven't seen it."

And then there's this.

Sayed Hussain spends most of his time lingering on the side of the dusty road leading into Gardez. He has no job, and like most in the town, has no hope of finding one. "If things don't improve soon," he said, "the Taliban will come back, and people will support them again."

Hussain's threat is not an idle one. A local police commissioner showed ABCNEWS leaflets that appear almost daily in and around the town, urging Afghans to carry out a jihad to expel the American "invaders."

I caught the first episode of Bill Maher's new show on HBO the other night, and he was interviewing a Republican Congressman whose name escapes me at the moment. This congressman said that we would be liberating the people of Iraq just like we liberated the people of Afghanistan. Let's take a look at how well we liberated the people of Afghanistan.

Falling Back to Taliban Ways with Women

New Limits on Female Education in Afghanistan

U.S. Cluster Bombs Killed Civilians in Afghanistan

Repression of Women and Girls in Western Afghanistan

Afghan warlords killing at will

Afghanistan Could Fall Back Into Anarchy, Warns British Parliament

U.S. Troops Blamed in Afghan Kids' Deaths

Old Fears in the New Afghanistan

Shall I go on? After we raze Iraq like we did Afghanistan (and I honestly believe that war with Iraq will be quick and bomb-heavy, just like last time we rrazed it. I'm sure there'll be oil well fires and tanker spills this time, too.), what country's next? Iran? Syria? North Korea? Will we tromp our way across the continent, leaving a starving, poverty-stricken, huddling puppet governments teetering on the brink of anarchy in our wake? It's like a game of Civilization gone horribly wrong. Only it's real life, and there's no "cheat mode" to resort to.

Thanks to Human Rights Watch and RAWA for the links.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Geek Alert

Maybe I've been reading too much Carl Sagan, but I find this news somewhat bittersweet and poingant.

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- Pioneer 10, the first spacecraft to venture out of the solar system, has fallen silent after traveling billions of miles from Earth on a mission that has lasted nearly 31 years, NASA said Tuesday.

If only NASA had more funding. I wonder what they could do with the 32 billion dollars we just used to bribe Turkey?
Protest Long-Distance

Everybody go sign up for the Virtual March on Washington.

Monday, February 24, 2003

Iraq, Shmiraq

North Korea ups the ante.

SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea has fired a missile into the Sea of Japan, escalating a tense standoff on the peninsula as world leaders gather in Seoul for the inauguration of South Korea's new president.

This article is worth reading just to see the really melodramatic picture of Kim Jong Il with his black trenchcoat blowing in the wind.

Sunday, February 23, 2003

Thank You Jim Capozzola!

The Happy Land is now ad-free, thanks to The Rittenhouse Review!

Thank you!

I promise never to betray your investment by printing Andrew Sullivan.

UPDATE** Skippy joins me in my adulation here.
Oh, Lord...

This story would be funny if it weren' hell, it's just funny.

"First he sprayed himself," said FBI special agent Linda Vizi. "It was merely to demonstrate that he had cologne."

But the action prompted airport security to issue a code-red hazardous materials alert, which brought FBI agents, city police officers and hazardous materials specialists from the Philadelphia Fire Department rushing to the site....Two city police officers, who also came into contact with the cologne while examining its container, later went off to a doughnut shop and a 24-hour Rite Aid pharmacy in Philadelphia, officials said. When authorities found out, they ordered both stores shut for 45 minutes until the analysis was complete.

Alternate headline: "Two Cops Smelling of CK One Eat Doughnuts."

UPDATE: I'm retarded, I forgot to include the link. There it is.
The Plucky Punk goes ranting...

My father's recent trip to Israel and Palestine has really made me sensitive to bias in the media regarding the conflict. Take this story, for example.

Witnesses and hospital officials said soldiers fired at Palestinians who threw stones at them, killing two men, at least one a bystander. The army said soldiers fired at a youth who threw a petrol bomb and a man about to lob something at them.

Even if we take the word of the Israeli soldiers what we have here is a man who was killed for, at worst, seeming as though he was about to "lob" something at them. Think of the outrage that would happen in this country if white policemen in a black neighborhood shot a black man to death for seeming as though he was about to do something!

Oh wait, that's happened before, anyone remember Amadou Diallo*?

Now imagine that happening in your country every day. I'm sure that alot of the people in Diallo's neighborhood were murderous pimps and crack dealers that wouldn't think twice about shooting or otherwise endangering a white plainclothes policeman. Does that give the police in those neighborhoods free reign to shoot first and ask questions later? What if they went as far as the Israeli government, inflicting collective punishment on everyone in that neighborhood, keeping them locked inside their houses so they are unable to find gainful employment, turning off their water and electricity?

If those white police in that black neighborhood knew where a particularly horrible crack dealer lived, one who had gotten many wealthy white teenagers addicted, would they fire a missile at his apartment building, getting the bad guy but also 14 other random people including nine little kids? Would the chief of police call the action that resulted in the death of nine children one of his "greatest successes?"

If he did, do you think that would make teenage black boys in this hypothetical neighborhood like wealthy white people, or hate them?

In this country, we recognize the fact that if a teenaged boy becomes a ruthless crack dealer by the time he is in high school, a bunch of seriously messed up stuff must have happened to him. (Whether or not that excuses his actions is another manner, and not part of the point I am trying to make. The reason you've done something isn't the same as an excuse for doing something.)

Committing a suicide bombing is about a million times more evil than selling crack. Imagine all of the horrible things that must have happened to you in order for you to decide that becoming a suicide bomber was a good idea. Especially if your religion expressly forbids suicide. Proponents of Israel often make it seem like Palestinians wake up in the morning, drink their coffee and eat their toast, and say "Gee, it sure is cool to hate the Jews, I think I'll blow myself up in a shopping mall today!"

You can't fight the inner city drug problem by shooting people dead in the streets and blowing up houses with a bunch of little kids in them. You can, however, fight the drug problem by arresting current drug dealers, and, here's the important part, kids, keeping kids from becoming drug dealers in the first place. Is that done with collective house arrest (which is what it is, by the way, "curfew" is far too light a description) that you get shot at for violating, by keeping the populace in crushing poverty, or by bulldozing homes? No, its done with education, economic opportunity, and the building of self-esteem.

Since September 11th, 2001 I've heard the "War on Terror" compared to the "War on Drugs" in more that a few places, and I found it a horrible comparison to make. The "War on Drugs" is so badly run in the United States, that I was horrified to imagine what would happen if we fought terror in the same way. For Israel, I think it would be a step in the right direction.

*The police who shot this unarmed African immigrant, who was a Muslim, by the way, were aquitted.

Friday, February 21, 2003

I hate blogger.

I am so flipping tired of my archives dissappearing. If any blogger out there has figured out a good way to keep that from happening, please let me know.
Like Barnes and Noble would ever do this for you!

In yet another reason not to shop at scary giant faceless corporate booksellers, some small bookstores are actually watching out for your civil liberties.

"When the CIA comes and asks what you've read because they're suspicious of you, we can't tell them because we don't have it," store co-owner Michael Katzenberg said. "That's just a basic right, to be able to read what you want without fear that somebody is looking over your shoulder to see what you're reading."

These sort of privacy freaks usually just make me roll my eyes and think, "I wonder if these are the same people who worry about their TiVos telling people they're gay because they keep recording Will and Grace?" However, apparently this information is something the government is actually after.

Kramer's Books in Washington won a court order blocking independent counsel Kenneth Starr from getting records of purchases by Monica Lewinsky during his investigation of the sex scandal involving President Clinton. And the Colorado Supreme Court ruled last year for a Denver book store in its fight against a subpoena of purchase records by a defendant in a drug case.

I am now clearing out my Amazon wish list.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

I was starting to think I was crazy!

Thank God I'm not the only person who thought Chicago was a complete snore!

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Another note from Dad

Here's a statement by the Episcopal delegation of the trip to Israel my father recently participated in.



To members of our church, our communities, and our government,

We are Episcopalians who have just spent two weeks in Palestine/Israel,
Jordan, and Lebanon. Our interfaith peace-builders delegation was
coordinated by the Fellowship of Reconciliation (, and
co-sponsored by the Episcopal Peace Fellowship
( and "The Witness" magazine
( We have listened to representatives from dozens of
Palestinian and Israeli organizations working nonviolently for a just peace
in the Middle East, and have heard the stories and opinions of countless
individuals whose views on the conflict span the political spectrum.

We arrive in the U.S. deeply sobered by what we have heard and seen.

In Lebanon, Palestinian refugees with no rights ­ political or civil ­ have
entered a second half-century of existence as a forgotten people. Crowded
refugee camps, bursting at two to three times their intended capacities,
house refugees whose rights to work, own property, and travel are severely
restricted, and whose access to education and health care are minimal. We
visited and laid flowers at the mass gravesite of those who died in the
Shatila massacre of 1982, and heard testimony from survivors. We learned
that our U.S. government refuses to permit its diplomats to enter these
refugee camps.

In Jordan, we were told that the nation¹s economic, environmental and
political indices have suffered critically over the past two years, and it
was stated that the U.S. government has isolated Jordan for not having
"secured" its borders with Iraq. An arid region, Jordan has relied on
contracts with Israel to obtain its necessary water ­ it was stated that
Israel has not always honored those agreements.

Our time in Palestine/Israel was deeply troubling. On our first night in
the region, the Rt. Rev. Riah Abu El-Assal, Bishop in Jerusalem, detailed
the devastating missile attack that had struck St. Philip¹s Anglican church
and Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza just days before our arrival. Estimating the
financial loss at $500,000, Bishop Riah declared, "No one who is sane could
claim that this was a mistake; it was a huge, guided missile." Calling the
U.S. administration hypocritical for targeting Iraq through the UN while
failing to address UN resolutions that focus on Israel, the bishop stated a
phrase we heard throughout the coming days: "The root of this problem is the

We walked through empty streets in Hebron ­ a city of 150,000 Palestinians
where the only humans seen downtown are Israeli soldiers and settlers. We
visited Ephrata, an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank, where
residents told us that Palestinian parents are encouraging their children to
be suicide bombers. We stayed overnight in the homes of Palestinian and
Israeli Jewish families, ordinary people who yearn for peace and security in
this land, many of whom have given up hope of living alongside former
neighbors. We met with Israeli Jews who pointed to the militarization of
Israeli society, supported by the U.S., as causing the senseless loss of
life and vitality in their communities ­ such as the father of a suicide
bombing victim and a woman who supports young Israelis refusing military
service. We listened to doctors and psychologists detail the traumatic
effects on young and old alike, and heard concerns expressed that the
current state of violence will grow much worse if war begins in Iraq. We
met with a representative of the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, and were told
that our government is committed to the creation of a "sovereign and viable"
Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel. We saw the first stages of the
"apartheid wall," a new project to physically divide Israel and the West
Bank, which confiscates thousands of acres of land from Palestinian villages
each month.

We clearly heard that the U.S. has a critical role to play in the region.
So we have committed ourselves to working at home, in our own nation, to
press for an end to the stream of money and armaments that fuel the violence
in the Middle East. We call on our president and congressional
representatives to work more forcefully to help facilitate a just peace in
Palestine/Israel, primarily by calling for an end to the Israeli occupation
of the West Bank and Gaza. And we invite our fellow church members to join
us in this effort by:
1. calling on the State of Israel to cease its efforts to build and expand
settlements, demolish homes, humiliate Palestinians, put communities under
Closure, and indefinitely detain & assassinate alleged militants
2. calling on the Palestinian Authority to use its influence to demand an
end to suicide bombings and other attacks on Israeli civilians
3. traveling to Palestine/Israel to be a visible witness in solidarity with
Palestinians and Israelis working nonviolently to end the occupation
(especially through organizations like FOR, Sabeel (,
Christian Peacemaker Teams, and other faith-based groups) ­ we were thanked
endlessly for being there at this critical time
4. pressuring and considering the boycott of companies whose products help
entrench the military occupation

Finally, amidst great despair, we affirm both our commitment to nonviolence
and to standing with Israelis and Palestinians who hope for and work towards
the day when they will live side by side in peace and justice.

In peace ­ Michael Battle, Peter Churchill, Ethan Flad, Elisha Harig-Blaine,
Christopher Pottle, Terry Rogers, Winnie Varghese (Trip reports are
available online at
But that's the tasty wine!

Some lawmakers want to pass laws requiring French wines to have labels warning consumers that they are clarified with bovine blood.

The Post said the speaker also is exploring whether the United States should require "bright orange warning labels" on French wines that are clarified with bovine blood.
"People should know how the French make their wine, " the Post quoted Hastert spokesman John Feehery as saying.

This from the nation that invented McDonald's hamburgers, Spam, velveeta cheese, carcinogenic sweetners that taste like aspirin, and those really bloody steaks that the Texans love (talk about your bovine blood) and that gives them all colon cancer. Not to mention the nerf-like twinkie, and all the other sugar foods we give our children to the point that they all have diabetes and ADD.

There's also frozen pizza, Pop Tarts, ranch dressing, pickled pig's feet, green ketchup, blue french fries (yes, I actually saw those at the grocery store the other day), canned pasta, and the Cheeto.

Take a drive through any part of rural Texas and you'll smell the process that is used to created the beef we consume so often. The United States is the kingdom of factory farming and processed food, and for Feehery and Hastert to get all grossed out about a process that the French themselves apparently banned a few years ago is beyond arrogant and hypocritical.

But, I'm sure they had fresh apples they picked themselves and washed in mountain springwater for lunch that day, so can speak without reservation.
A note from my Dad

Just in case anyone was interested, and if anyone reading is from New Mexico.


AsSalaamu Alaikum Brothers and Sisters;

There is presently a situation right now going on in our New Mexico State Legislature for the passing of a bill House Memorial 10:

This bill is totally one-side, does not speak to the terrorism that Israel is inflicting on the Palestinian people.

As many of you know I have just come back from Palestine and have fisrt hand seen the situation there myself. It has been very difficult for me to even speak about the situation in a few words, but I know that I must and must do it very strongly. To sum up here is what we witnessed and heard about (myself and the interfaith delegation of christians and jews) the Israeli government perpitrating on the Palestinian people:

Curfews, checkpoints, use of collective punishment ofnthe population, unemployment (65-75%), massive injury (40,000), home demolitions, settlements, hunger and malnutrition among children, The WALL, destruction of agricultural land, trees, administrative detention, incursion, stress and trauma of the children and mothers, inability to travel, lack of access to religious sites, water confiscation, sniper towers, hopelessness, lack of rights of education, lack of and prevention of medical treatment, use of Palestinians as human shields, preventing international observations of Jenin, Hebron, Gaza and other cities after invasion, political assassinations, the genral lack of civil rights for Palestinian residents.

This Bill in no way mentions any of these violation of Palestinian civil rights and terrorists acts that are being conducted by the Israeli government, or loss of over 3000 Palestinian lives since the start of the second Intifadah. We should expect our state legislature to be fair and balanced in its view of any situation. I am assuming that most of these legislatures do not really know what is going on in Palestine and are just jumping on the terrorist band wagon.

I implore all of you in our community, please do something against this bill. At minimum call the state legislature representatives below and express your concerns against the passage of such a bill in New Mexico and that they take a fair and knowledgeable view of this situation.
I have posted the bill below and the phone numbers and emails of these legislatures. Please call every single one of them and express that you are against thw passage of such a bill in New Mexico. There is support against this bill from many of the non-muslims, in fact most of the support against it is presently from the non-muslims. The muslims from our community must speak out and be heard and take a stand!!!!!! This is a time where we can locally make a difference for our brothers and sisters in Palestine and all you have to do is make several phone calls write several emails.
Please I implore you as Allah -fearing Muslims to make this effort!

Here is the information below


Mimi Stewart Chair 505 986-4341 /
Dona G. Irwin Vice Chair 505 986-4242 /

Fred Luna Member 505 986-4329 /
Rory J. Ogle Member 505 986-4450 /
Jim Trujillo Member 505 986-4254 /
Luciano Varela Member 505 986-4435 /
Jeannette O. Wallace Member 505 986-4452 /
W. C. Williams Member 505 986-4454 /

Please be either phone or email your concerns to these state legislature. Please be direct yet use your intelligence in making a response. Anger will not change minds but incitful thought and true facts can and will influence these people to not pass this House Memeorial. This is a chance for everyone muslim and non-muslim to do something for your Palestinian brothers and sister by just emailing and some phone calls. Please respond to this.

I also ask the students of the MSA , the Board Members of the Islamic Center of New Mexico to respond with calls and emails and to respond directly as organizations.

Please pass this email on to muslims and non-muslim that you know in the Albuquerque community. May Allah guide us to have the courage to support our Palestinian brothers and sisters to peace and justice.


Abdul Rauf
General Secretary
Islamic Center of New Mexico

The House Memeorial Bill is listed below and speaks for itself.


46th legislature - STATE OF NEW MEXICO - first session, 2003
Robert White


WHEREAS, the ongoing threat of terrorism since September 11, 2001 has hurt the economies of New Mexico and the United States, damaging tourism and creating a negative economic atmosphere; and
WHEREAS, the ongoing threat of terrorism at home and abroad has required enhanced security for our citizens and diverted local, state and federal resources from other critical domestic programs; and
WHEREAS, the United States and Israel are engaged in a common struggle against terrorism; and
WHEREAS, Palestinian organizations are conducting an organized and deliberate campaign of terror aimed at inflicting as many casualties as possible on the Israeli population; and
WHEREAS, the Palestinian campaign of terror includes the use of suicide bomber attacks; and
WHEREAS, Israel has lost nearly seven hundred lives to the Palestinian campaign of terror, which as a percentage of their population would equate to the United States losing thirty thousand lives in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001; and
WHEREAS, Yasser Arafat and others in the Palestinian leadership have failed to live up to their commitment to nonviolence as set forth in the Oslo Accord; and
WHEREAS, forces directly under Yasser Arafat's control have murdered scores of innocent Israelis; and
WHEREAS, documents obtained from the offices of the Palestine authority demonstrate that the authority provides support for acts of terror, including suicide bombings; and
WHEREAS, Israel's military operations are an effort to defend itself against the ongoing acts of terror and are aimed at dismantling the terrorist infrastructure;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO that it express its solidarity with Israel in its fight against terrorism; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that it urge all parties in the region to vigorously pursue efforts to achieve a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.


Admittendly the bill doesn't sound so bad on the surface, but it completely fails to take in account the suffering the Israeli government has caused. Anyone wondering about the acts of Israel that need to be addressed is ways other that expressing solidarity can read this account from an Israeli rabbi. Via Cursor.
If we go to war with North Korea, will they bring M*A*S*H back on the air?

Another one for the why-Iraq-and-not-them-files.

North Korea defiantly declared Monday that it would triumph in its nuclear standoff with the United States, and South Korea's president warned that Pyongyang's weapons program could start an atomic arms race in Northeast Asia.

Also this.

In an apparent attempt to force direct dialogue with the United States, North Korea threatened on Tuesday to abandon the armistice that ended the Korean War five decades ago, accusing Washington of planning an attack.

Also, read this CNN article.

Pyongyang has ratcheted up tensions on the Korean peninsula another notch with threats to quit the armistice which ended the Korean War.

Accusing the United States of violating the 1953 agreement, North Korea's army says it will "immediately take all steps to cope with it" .

I wonder if Alan Alda is available?
This is why I love New Yorkers

Salon has an excellent article about the "non-march" (they were denied the permit by the city) for peace in New York this weekend that touches on several things that I've been mulling over since September 11th, 2001.

Yet even as demonstrators declared that they were standing with the world -- and especially with Germany and France, whose opposition to war with Iraq in the U.N. was commended on sign after sign -- the event was filled with the burnished spirit of New York. Although there were marchers from across the country, locals predominated, many angrily rejecting the way they say the administration has hijacked their city's grief. "The New York that I knew growing up is coming back," said Brian Ferreira, a 24-year-old substitute teacher from Queens. "For a long time we've been in a docile mourning state." The Bush administration, he said, is "trying to profit off our loss."

I've always thought that the "Red" parts of America was using September 11th against the "Blue" part of America, of which New York, the city that was attacked, is a central part. One only needs to look at the writing s of Ann Coulter on the subject to know that for sure.

Go read the article. You'll have to click through a few screens of ads, but it's worth it.

Thursday, February 13, 2003


Teror alert level plaid, or polka-dot, or whatever it is, is apparently based on yet another lie.

Feb. 13 — A key piece of the information leading to recent terror alerts was fabricated, according to two senior law enforcement officials in Washington and New York. ...... This piece of that puzzle turns out to be fabricated and therefore the reason for a lot of the alarm, particularly in Washington this week, has been dissipated after they found out that this information was not true," said Vince Cannistraro, former CIA counter-terrorism chief and ABCNEWS consultant.

You start to get the feeling that the people being questioned by the government are making it up as they go along.
Isn't it Ironic...

The most ironic headline, ever.

Freedom of Information Act training video is not released to public

(AP) -- The Defense Department has produced a training video that instructs its staff on how to handle requests under the federal Freedom of Information Act. But don't request a screening; the video itself is secret.

"It seems ironic, very ironic," said Mike Ravnitzky, a writer for American Lawyer magazine whose request for the video was turned down in November. When he appealed, the Defense Department denied the request again, citing the Freedom of Information Act's trade secret exemption.

Alanis Morrisette's songwriters were not available for comment.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Well, I've always thought so myself.

How Republican Are You?

brought to you by Quizilla

Via Body and Soul.

There's a rogue nation that possibly has nuclear capabilities and poses a threat to United States civilians. Too bad it's not Iraq.

Why is this Axis of Evil nation subject to "diplomatic solutions" but Iraq is war-worthy?

Is there oil in North Korea? Really, I'm just wondering.

Then again, if this is what we do when we go to war, maybe we have to wonder if any situation is war-wothy. Especially since the war in Afghanistan, and I don't want to sound repetitive here folks, has accomplished nothing.
I have made the world a better place.

This webspace is the number one result for Google search "I hate Ann Coulter". I have never been so proud.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

I am a bad person!

I can't belive I actually did it. There was nothing else on TV! Brian was taking a nap! I was really bored! Who am I fooling, there's no excuse for what I've done.

I actually watched an episode of American Idol.

I feel so dirty...

That said, I will admit to being very refreshed by the fact that the big fat dude and the chubby girl got the best compliments from that British guy. All the rest of the "contestants" were 18 year old, skinny, overly stylish people of varying skill levels, and it was nice to see the ones who were actually talented, and yet not perhaps the most tiny and cute, get all the attention.

Sheesh. Next thing you know I'll be watching Joe Millionare.

Monday, February 10, 2003

And he's back!

My father returned from Israel safe and sound Saturday, so I can stop obsessing over it. It looks like he left just in time, too. The apartheid he described is so alien, so unbelievable to me. He describied to me having to lie about being a Muslim in order to have access to a mosque in Hebron where Abraham is said to be buried. I'll have some more information on his trip after I visit with him. I'm just glad he's back.

Saturday, February 08, 2003


Everybody go to Line Noise's site and help them save the Baron!
Embarrasingly Revealing Internet Quiz Result of the Week

Fit fit fits.
You will perish of fits. Repeat this to yourself:
"Things can work out even if I don't get
my way. Things can work out even...."

What horrible Edward Gorey Death will you die?
brought to you by Quizilla

heh heh. Via Sisyphus Shrugged.

Friday, February 07, 2003

Boycott Pepsi: It's Gross Anyway

No More Mister Nice Blog draws to my attention the fact that Pepsi is not only limp and insipid in flavor, they are also a bunch of raging hypocrites. Apparently, they dropped foul-mouthed rapper Ludacris as a spokesman, but retained Ozzy Osbourne. Because, you know, Ozzy Osbourne is so not foul mouthed. Could their decision have been motivated by anything else? Hmmmm....

Personally, I still haven't forgiven them for dumping Madonna over the racially-charged "Like a Prayer" video, that showed Madonna dancing in front of burning crosses and making out with a black Jesus. (That was Pepsi, right?)

Of course, their most henious crime was to create (in response to Coca-Cola's delicious, nectar-of-the-gods Vanilla Coke) the most deadly poison known to man. That's right, I'm talking about Pepsi Blue. Yuk.

While I laugh at the fact we've moved to distract-the-populace-alert level puice, or fuscia, or whatever, (and just in time to sneak in a new Patriot Act! How conveeeeenient!) this news actually makes me nervous.

The State Department advised nonessential U.S. diplomats and family members on Friday to leave Israel, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Private U.S. citizens also were advised to leave those countries and Americans were cautioned not to travel to Israel.

Meanwhile, my father is still travelling through Israel and Palestine.
I'm Black, Italian, Cuban, Chinese, and Spaniard, and I'm proud.

Salon has an interesting piece from a few days ago (it's been busy lately) about, to use an exceedingly crude term, "race-mixing". As the product of at least four ethnicites (my antecedents include at least 3 interracial couples) who is married to a white man it's a subject that's, let's say, dear to me.

So when Audrey Edwards of Essence magazine says

"For Black women, one of the inequities on the current playing field has been the rate at which Black men are marrying outside their race," she says.

I find myself getting extremely offended. Her comment makes it seem that Black men are the only men Black women have access to. (More basically, it makes it seem that women are in competetion for men, as a limited resorce or something, an idea that is beyond backwards to me, but is another issue.)

Read the article. I have some thoughts on this issue that I'm having trouble congealing into something pithy to say. (Probably too excited about the idea of going back to school...yay!) Definitely though, anyone who is at all concerned about the "thinning out" of blackness by interracial marriage is polishing the rails on the Titanic.
Completely personal news no one really cares about....

...but I just had to share.

I'm going back to school! Yay! I got re-admitted! Now I just have to come up with 5,000 freaking dollars by September....donations, anyone? (kidding)

Thursday, February 06, 2003

New WTC Designs

I know I'm behind on this one, but here are the two finalists of the designs being considered to replace the World Trade Center. I prefer the THINK design, the other one seems much too angular, like a pile of broken glass.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003


Another update from my father's trip. As I read this, the main thing that keeps coming to mind, is why the hell aren't all of these nonviolent protest groups ever on the news in the U.S.? Why doesn't Little Green Footballs (which I will not link to here) ever talk about any of these groups? Are we so bloodthirsty as a people that we only want to hear about suicide bombings and the shootings? Wouldn't news of civil disobedience in Jerusalem make just as many people watch CNN?

I guess not. How sad.


Via Body and Soul I find that Muslim blogger veiled4allah (I like her cute little hijabbed-woman icons) has written about the possibility of Palestinian civil disobedinece. Go Read.


Friday January 31: Jerusalem

"We refuse to be enemies. The time has come to end it."
This was clearly the theme for the day, perhaps the theme for all people
tired of war and the suffering it brings. We started the day at St.
George's College, our home base in Jerusalem. Rimon, our guide, took us
on a walking tour of a portion of the Old City, which is located in East
Jerusalem. As we entered the gate through the Old City's massive walls,
numerous onlookers called out to friends and to us in amazement. As we
passed by, one man shouted, "First Group in Jerusalem -- UNBELIEVABLE!"
In the past couple years, this historic city that has been a magnet for
tourists of all faiths has seen very few visitors.

Nevertheless, the markets were teeming with merchants selling everything
from fruits and vegetables to stockings and belts. We passed by a home
recently purchased by a Christian family for one million dollars. As is
the case everywhere, the price of real estate is affected by location,
and, in this City, also by politics and religion. Rimon told us that it
is very hard to be a Christian in East Jerusalem: merchants in the
Palestinian areas of the market place will not sell to Christians. Our
walking tour took us to the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and
the historical site where Christ was crucified. Several of us took time
to pray at this ancient and holy place. Religious feelings run high in
this city: it is an incredible irony that the key that opens this
Christian church is in the possession of a Muslim family! Our brief
tour concluded at the historical site of the tomb owned by Joseph of
Arimathea in which Jesus is said to have been buried.

The delegation climbed into our familiar white van, our second home, to
go stand in solidarity with the Women in Black. Women in Black is a
group of Israeli women formed in 1988 who demonstrate every Friday at
midday at a busy intersection in Jerusalem with signs in Hebrew, English
and Arabic that say "Stop the Occupation." There were about thirty
demonstrators this day when we arrived. Our group spread out among them
so that we could also talk with them while demonstrating our support.
Some people driving by shouted words of encouragement while others
vented anger with less complimentary language. The group is part of
Coalition of Women for a Just Peace, an Israeli/Palestinian
collaborative effort. The several organizations in the Coalition engage
in a variety of activities, including monitoring the behavior of the
Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) at checkpoints, supporting men in the armed
forces who refuse to enforce the occupation, and engaging in non-violent
civil disobedience. As founder and long-time activist Gila Svirsky
spoke to us after the demonstration, four teenage girls demonstrating in
support of the occupation tried to disrupt her presentation by standing
directly behind her and singing a song in Hebrew. Gila turned to them
and politely informed them it was inappropriate to act in such a rude
manner, and they moved away in respect. All the while Israeli soldiers
stood watch over us, with armed men on the ground and on rooftops. Gila
ended her talk by saying this conflict is not between Palestinians and
Israelis; rather, it is between Palestinians and Israelis who want
peace, on the one hand, and Palestinians and Israelis who refuse to
compromise with one another, on the other hand.

Afterward, over lunch, we listened to Mike, originally from Washington
State, who has lived and worked for a non-governmental organization
(NGO) in the Occupied Territories for the past three years. He shared
his experiences in Ramallah during several incursions by the IDF in
March and April, 2002. Each incursion was different. While Mike was
there the level of military action and control ranged from curfews that
allowed people to go to work, to invasive but non-violent home to home
searches, to breaking down doors, firing bullets into homes and
destroying furniture. The area was without water for nine days and water
pipes were purposefully dug up. Mike said that during those two months
if someone broke curfew they would be shot: one of his neighbors went
out on his porch during curfew and was shot in the leg, and another who
went to pull the first one off the porch was shot in the stomach.
Essentially the incursions left no infrastructure available for the
Palestinian Authority to exercise any authority or civilian control.

After lunch we made a short stop to visit the Western Wall of the Temple
Mount in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City before heading to a meeting
with Rabbi Arik Ascherman, a member of Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR).
Rabbi Ascherman grew up in the U.S., and told us that as a part of his
upbringing it was assumed that being Jewish meant being concerned about
international human rights and social justice. When he moved to Israel
he was shocked by two things. "First, there were no bagels!" Second,
and obviously more important, what he considered to be core Jewish
values were not shared by most Israelis, particularly Orthodox Jews. He
spoke of the RHR's work in resisting the demolition of Palestinian
homes. The rabbis literally stand in front of Palestinian homes to
prevent bulldozers from destroying them. He said that Jewish tradition
teaches that in time of war there is a red line we dare not cross.
Israel, in his opinion, appears to be crossing that line. Rabbis for
Human Rights now considers the occupation to be a human rights issue.
Within the context of the occupation, Israel's policy will always be
endangering Palestinian babies to provide security for Israelis in their
cities. Rabbi Ascherman reflected that the "greatest challenge today is
how to restore hope" (a reoccurring theme in our meetings with both
Israelis and Palestinians). He believes a majority on both sides want a
negotiated compromise, but a larger majority on both sides believe there
is no one to talk to on the other side. Jewish tradition, he said,
teaches us to look at the work as perfectly balanced scales. He
encouraged us to do whatever we can to tip the scales in the right
direction, to bring balance back to this troubled region.

We then attended a Shabbot (Sabbath) ceremony at the Kol Hanishma
Synagogue. It was Friday evening at sundown and observant Jews were
preparing to observe the Sabbath. The beautiful chanting of the service
brought our minds into a different space. Following the ceremony we
were met by Israeli families who had volunteered to host us for Shabbot
dinner and an overnight in their homes. Each of us had a different
experience, but all of us were welcomed and embraced by our hosts. Our
discussions ranged from politics and religion to family and hobbies and
even jokes that could be understood across cultures. We fell asleep
tired yet inspired by the examples of courage we had seen displayed
throughout the day.

Saturday February 1: Bethlehem

The drive between Jerusalem and Bethlehem should only be fifteen
minutes, but it took our group well over an hour. We first tried to
approach Bethlehem from the main road, but a long line of cars at the
Tantur checkpoint made us choose an alternate route. The newspapers
stated yesterday that the curfew in Bethlehem had indefinitely been
lifted, but that was obviously not the case. When Rimon spoke to the
soldiers at the checkpoint, he was told that our group of Americans
could pass by on foot. Our driver and our guide, however (both Israeli
citizens, but Palestinians), would not be allowed to enter. Rimon
commented to us in frustration, "Checkpoints are not about security.
Checkpoints are meant to humiliate Palestinians." We then took a
circuitous journey over Israeli bypass roads, through the hills of
neighboring Palestinian villages, cutting through a convent/winery - to
get to the other side of the checkpoint, just five minutes from where
we'd begun. At one point our large van and a semi truck faced off on a
one-lane mountainside dirt road, and with other cars and trucks behind
each of us, it took twenty minutes for the right-of-way to get handled.
A treacherous slope on our left, belied by lovely olive orchards planted
on picturesque terraces, kept some of our minds occupied. Finally we
made it into Bethlehem, and once inside the city, we continued this game
of "Tom and Jerry" by avoiding military jeeps via back streets. Nasser,
our driver, received an enthusiastic round of applause when we finally
made it to our meeting.

Our day was primarily spent in meetings with three nonviolent conflict
resolution programs in Bethlehem and the neighboring village of Beit
Sahour. The leadership of all of these organizations have spent time in
Israeli jails for their activism. Their stories of imprisonment and
family separations were heartbreaking, but their commitment to
nonviolence is relentless. We heard repeatedly that their
inspiration/hope is that they have to live, they and their families have
a right to live.

Our first dialogue was with Sami Awad of Holy Land Trust, whose uncle, Mubarak Awad, is well-known for his
leadership in the nonviolent resistance movement during the 1980s. The
organization emphasizes making internationals aware of the level of
oppression experienced by Palestinians through programs like "Journey of
the Magi," an interfaith walk form Baghdad to Bethlehem, and the
Remember the Innocents campaign that marks King Herod's directive to
slaughter of newborn babies in Jerusalem. In these programs they
emphasize the "holiness" of this land and the peace and justice
traditions within the religions of the book. One of their latest
projects has been providing nonviolence training to former members of
the Tanzeem - the military faction of Fatah, the political organization
affiliated with Yasser Arafat.

After lunch we met with Zoughbi Zoughbi of Wi'am - the Palestinian
Conflict Resolution Center Wi'am facilitates
nonviolent conflict resolution practice and conflict "mediation" in the
absence of a civil authority. An example of their work is sending teams
into conflict zones to effectively resolve conflicts between
Palestinians and Israelis as well as within the Palestinian community.
Their commitment and language were theological and centered on just
relationships. A repeated theme during Zoughbi's talk was identity.
"We all have multiple identities. We could all be the oppressors and
the oppressed. We don't want to justify our negative behavior by
claiming victimhood." He emphasized how stereotyping is prevalent on
all sides of the conflict and his mission is to educate people to stop
the stereotyping. "It leads to demonization of others and becomes a
legitimate reason to annihilate."

After a day of encouraging talks by leaders of the Palestinian
nonviolent resistance, Ghassan Andoni at the Palestinian Center for
Rapprochement captivated us with a careful
analysis of what had worked and failed in the past Palestinian struggles
for independence and a powerful vision of what might work now and in the
future. Acknowledging his own one-time role as a violent fighter who
spent years in prison, he now envisions an empowered Palestinian people
coming together with limited help from internationals to claim their
rights as a people. His vision includes a cohesiveness that has yet to
exist within the movement and which has been intentionally sabotaged in
the past. Andoni was clear that any such movement is years and years
away but begins with an international presence and comes to fulfillment
in the Palestinian people understanding the power and necessity of a
unified and strategic resistance. He does not believe that time has
come yet, but as a seasoned veteran of many campaigns now believes that
nonviolence is the only way.

Other activities for the day included a visit to the Ibdaa Cultural
Center in Dheisheh refugee camp and homestays with Palestinian Christian
families in Beit Sahour.

Sunday February 2: Escape from Curfew and Hebron

We awoke the following morning to news that the Israeli Army had imposed
a curfew on Bethlehem/Beit Sahour. Their mechanism for announcing this
curfew was via loudspeaker on a military jeep driving through the
streets of Bethlehem at 4:30 a.m. Some of us heard gunshots during the
early morning hours too. When our hosts dropped us off at 8:30am, we
were urgently pushed onto our van with news that we only had minutes to
leave Bethlehem. Our van had once again been denied entry into
Bethlehem, but he had pleaded the soldiers to give him just ten more
minutes to enter and pick us up. It was a great relief when we all got
on the van and zoomed out of the city. Of course we are not the only
travelers to have left Bethlehem in a rush, but the irony of the
situation was not observed over the tension of the situation imposed by
the curfew.

Unable to worship in the Church of the Nativity as planned, we instead
drove back to Jerusalem and members of the delegation chose from among
three Christian congregations for Sunday worship (Roman Catholic and
Lutheran churches in the Old City, and St. George's Cathedral in East
Jerusalem). We then decided to roll the dice and travel to Hebron
despite a curfew on the city. Rimon said that if we were denied entry
at two regular checkpoints, this time he would not attempt a back
route. The situation in Hebron is too tense and he did not want to
place us in any jeopardy during a curfew.

Rimon's persuasive way with words gained us a successful entry at the
first checkpoint we encountered. In our three hours in Hebron we
observed no tanks, many soldiers, armed settlers, and most of all, a
devastated and abandoned city. As we passed through the northern part
of the city, we were impressed with the emptiness of the streets. Only
a few persons ventured out of their homes to do essential business and a
few children were outside playing-all ready to run back inside their
homes at the first sighting of the IDF. Many of the homes were large
and attractive, inhabited by highly skilled Palestinian construction
workers and craftspeople who, over many years, had constructed their own
houses. The aging parents of the family usually live on the ground
floor and their adult children and grandchildren occupy family
apartments on the upper levels. In spite of the IDF incursions on the
population, regular skirmishes with Hamas or other factions and the IDF,
as well as curfews which last for days and often weeks at a time, this
ancient town of about over 100,000 somehow sustains itself. It is not a
"third world" city.

However, as we drove further into the heart of the old city, the streets
became even more deserted and we encountered trenches, concrete blocks
or large mounds of dirt which blocked the major streets. It was
necessary to weave through back streets until we reached our host: Art
Gish, a volunteer member of an organization called Christian Peace Teams
(CPT) Wearing a bright red CPT hat, Art
welcomed us warmly and escorted us to the CPT apartment in the center of
the old city. Along the way he shared with us some of his story and
experiences. Art is from Athens, Ohio and since 1995 has spent two
months every year acting as an international observer and "getting in
the way" of violence (the CPT mandate). For instance, CPT volunteers
will stand in the middle of clashes to prevent violence from
escalating. Art has, on more than one occasion, told a soldier to stop
abusing a civilian and usually they listen to him and stop. He
described this as the "Grandmother Effect": there are certain things he
explained that no one, including a soldier, will do in front of their
grandmother. Art made it clear that CPT is on the side of whoever the
gun is pointed at. He would protect a Palestinian from an Israeli
soldier and a Hebron settler from a Palestinian. On one occasion CPT
members rode on a bus route in Jerusalem after two consecutive suicide
bombings within a one week period. CPT has also provided counseling
to Israeli soldiers in Hebron who are sometimes ambivalent about the
role of the IDF in this region and are struggling with the consciences.

Hebron has been under curfew for 80 days - an unbelievable situation.
Walking through the rubble-filled streets, we saw gunshot holes
everywhere and inflammatory graffiti. Art noted that new barriers have
gone up in the last few days, extending the reach of the IDF. We stepped
over a dead dog on an eerily quiet street. Hebron is a ghost town.

From the roof of CPT's apartment we viewed the section of the city that,
by diplomatic agreement, was entrusted to the protection and oversight
of the Israeli army. These 1200-1500 Israeli troops are stationed in
Hebron to protect the settler population that is estimated, at present
time, to be 200-400 persons. From our vantage point we witnessed the
empty and battle ravaged remains of many ancient buildings (some over
800 years old). The devastation of this area (about 20 percent of the
city) was profound with shells of buildings, some burned out, others
marked heavily by shrapnel. Amidst these ruins and debris we could see
the pockets of newly constructed Jewish settlements-all illegal and in
violation of negotiated agreements between Israel and Palestine and key
UN resolutions.

While a few Palestinian families appeared at the windows and doors
within this desolate area, Jewish setters, carrying M-16s and other
weapons walked quite freely or drove their cars along the streets. At
the ancient mosque/temple which is surrounded by a wall build by Herod
the Great in the first century a.d. we prayed for peace in a circle in
front of Jacob's tomb. We prayed that the steel wall which was erected
between the Muslim and Jewish section of this ancient center of worship
might some day be safely removed. We prayed for peace. One person of
our group used the words from a Bruce Springsteen song in prayer: "May
our faith bring you faith; May our hope bring you hope; May our love
bring you love."

As we walked out of Hebron we came across a well maintained street, with
a red brick sidewalk similar to what you would find in the U.S. Art
tells us the U.S. government paid to rebuild the street on the condition
that the area be reopened. The street is completed but the area has not
been reopened. On our way out of Hebron we returned to the checkpoint
where a soldier boarded the bus. He was amazed to find anyone coming to
Hebron. He exclaimed in disbelief as he left the bus: "Tourists to

From Hebron we traveled to the Israeli Ephrata Settlement. Again our
van was boarded by an armed guard as we entered the settlement, although
this individual did not appear to be a soldier. We were met by Ari and
Hashi, members of the settlement, which was founded in the late 1970's.
Ari and Hashi showed us a video prepared by Palestinian Media Watch.
Their purpose was to inform us what is broadcast on the Arab television
media that does not reach CNN or other major U.S. media networks. The
video concentrated on T.V. programming that the producer claims urges
Palestinians children to take part in violence and become martyrs. At
least one member of our group could not watch the video and left. Our
dialogue with them following the video was different from the dialogue
we have had with all the other groups with whom we have met. Our
questions arose out of all that we have seen and heard on this trip, and
it was a difficult conversation. Hashi told us that he is thirsting for
peace and can accept a Palestinian state as long as it is not a threat
to Israelis. Both of them wanted the Palestinians to recognize that
Israelis are here to stay and that Israel has the military power to get
rid of the Palestinians and has not done so.

Ari and Hashi described several incidents that shapes their view of the
conflict. In March 2001 two suicide bombers attacked the settlement.
One was killed before the bomb exploded, the other was killed by their
own bomb. Last week the settlement was attacked by use of a bomb
strapped to a donkey. The bomb was detonated by remote control. A
friend of Ari was injured but fortunately no one was killed. We left
unsatisfied with our dialogue with them. Several members of the
delegation approached them individually as we re leaving, expressing
their own thoughts and concerns.

The van brought us back to St. George's for dinner. However much to our
surprise, Henry Carse, the Director of Special Programs at St. George,
invited us all to his home on the campus for drinks and snacks (even
popcorn!). The 45 minutes of pure social time was greatly appreciated.

These were the words of Gila Svirsky, an organizer of the Women in

Art did not tell us his age, but he must be at least 65. The only
display of authority he carried with him is his red CPT baseball cap.

Monday, February 03, 2003

Updates from the Interfaith Peace Builders

This is the group my father is travelling with...and these are the first update I've recieved (thanks, Augie!) I'll post more as I get them.

Report #1:

"Tell everyone we are human beings, we are human beings."

Those were the words we heard today from Hanan--a Palestinian mother from Shatilla refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon.

Orientation, ranging from goals of the delegation, guidelines of dialogue, and conversations on nonviolence could not have prepared us to receive that statement. We started this journey at the Fellowship of Reconciliation headquarters in Nyack, NY on Friday January 24. ( We are a Muslim, Christian, Jewish group of sixteen individuals from all over the United Statesóteachers, social workers, an attorney, priests, a rabbi, professors, public work director, journalist, playwright, environmental consultant, and social activists.

We left New York on Saturday evening minutes after learning that Israeli missiles had struck an Episcopal church and hospital in Gaza. We then also immediately learned that there had been a suicide attack in Jerusalem the day before.

We were met in Amsterdam by members of United Civilians for Peace--a European coalition working on nonviolent responses in the Middle East ( We were touched by their kindness in taking time to meet us. United Civilians is preparing to bring a delegation of leading Dutch government officials to the Middle East, and is lobbying the European Union for a just solution to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. We departed for Amman, Jordon and arrived at 1:00 A.M. Monday morning. Our guide for the next day, Mohamed Nablusi, met and thanked us for coming to the region during a pivotal and difficult time. He shared with us his perspective for a peaceful resolution. He said that if there is a war in Iraq, there will be a great impact on his people. Mohamed said that Jordon is suspect from the U.S. administrationís point of view because it has not closed its borders with Iraq. However, he explained that Jordon has no food or money to send to Iraq. Many of us realized that we had not previously given much thought to how this coming war, or the 1991 Gulf War, had affected Iraqís neighbors. Clearly Jordanians had.

While in Amman, we visited the King Abdallah mosque. It was built in 1989 and holds up to 5,000 men. For a number of people in the delegation, it was their first time inside a mosque. As we toured Amman, we prayed for peace at a range of religious and cultural settings. On a lighter note, our guide pointed out Embassy Row, which for millennia had been the home of Bedouin tribes and is now "home of the rich, wealthy, and thieve people." As we drove past the fortress-like U.S. Embassy, our guide warned us not to take pictures as our bus would be stopped and our cameras confiscated. Fortunately, a Bedouin tent or two can still be found in the neighborhood! At lunch, in the shadows of an ancient Roman theater, we spent specific time preparing for our journey to Lebanon and Israel/Palestine. Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, co-leader of our delegation, emphasized that we should be prepared to enter a place where, for Palestinians, "Death prowls the rooms of every house. Every single person has someone in their family that was tortured, beaten, shot, killed--everyone." She continued, "Jews are a people who are constantly in mourning. Every Jew has someone in their family that was killed." On Monday evening, after eating dinner (what many of you had expected to be our ëlast supperí) at Reem Al-Bawadi ( we continued on to Lebanon.

This morning, we were oriented to the situation of Palestinians in Lebanon with a visit to Norwegian Peoples Aid (NPA). NPA has been working in Lebanon since 1982, mainly with refugees. They provide vocational training, education scholarships, childcare, and advocacy for refugees. Director, Wafa Yassir shared with us a power point presentation prepared at the request of the U.S. Embassy.

There we learned that there are 3,874,738 refugees registered with the UN Relief & Works Agency (UNRWA). One-third of them are in refugee camps. Ten percent of the registered refugees live in Lebanon. In Lebanon, the refugees have no rights, social or civil, even though they comprise eleven percent of the population. The Lebanese will not allow the Palestinians to become citizens, since that will shift the balance of sectarian power that has ruled the country since the 1930s. Palestinians are not allowed to build permanent structures, to own property, or to do any work other than menial tasks, and are specifically excluded from 72 professions.

A reoccurring theme of the day was that the situation has gotten much worse in the camps. Access to education is extremely limited - Palestinians had once been known as the most highly educated people in the Arab world, and now illiteracy has grown to 13% of adult men and 26% of women. 60 percent of Palestinians live under the poverty line; 42% are unemployed; and one out of five suffer from a chronic health problem. The Lebanese government does not provide health care and refugees can not be licensed as physicians.

Sixteen hours ago, we set out to see these conditions for ourselves with a visit to the Shatilla refugee camp in Beirut. U.S. diplomats will not enter this camp or any of the other eleven refugee camps in Lebanon. We arrived in a light rain, but nevertheless the streets were flooded and pedestrians carefully moved their around massive puddles and heavy, plodding traffic. Our visit included time at the Gaza Displacement Center in the adjacent Sabra neighborhood with a group called Popular Aid for Relief & Development (PARD).

We stopped to visit the mass gravesite of the victims of the September 1982 massacre in Shatilla by Lebanese Christian Phalangists. It is acknowledged by the Israeli government that Ariel Sharon, who was in command of Israeli forces in that region that day, permitted the Phalangist forces to enter the camp for the slaughter that took place. 3,000 people were reported missing, but only 1,500 bodies were recovered. The small memorial site, which marks the mass grave of the victims, felt like a vacant lot in the middle of a big city - a thriving food market sat right in front of the gate. Our guide brought a bouquet of flowers, but we could not reach the memorial as the site was flooded. It was a powerful experience, and we found it especially moving to be there on the day of the Israeli national election, when Ariel Sharon, leader of the right-wing Likud Party, was running for re-election as prime minister (at the time of this report, exit polls show that Likud is expected to win by a large margin).

We entered the Beit Atfal Assamood Cultural Center and School, and walked up four flights of stairs, past dozens of bright classrooms with singing children. A woman named Hanan greeted us. After sharing her work at the center she appealed to us, "Iím a mother, not a monster. Tell people I am not a terrorist. We love our children; we would never push our children to die!" Then Hanan introduced us to two survivors of the Shatilla massacre. The first, Siham, told us how she saved her brother from being taken away by the Israeli military. "An Israeli brigadier said they were being taken to the Phalangists, who know how to get you how to say where the PLO is." She insisted on taking her brother off the military truck. When she came home, they discovered that her father had been murdered with an axe-blow to the head on the street. He was 65 years old. "Not only the fighters were killed, but anyone who got in their way."

(At this moment, the lights in the building went out. Two women went out and brought battery-operated lamps into the room so we could continue our meeting.) Im Mohammed, the second survivor, lost 16 members of her family that day. She had been taken with hundreds of others to the stadium. The men were taken away. A woman told her to go to Shatilla because men and boys were dead in the streets. She cried as she recounted, "I found two of my sons, my brother, my son-in-law, a cousin, and 12 other members of my family. I found them among the dead. I canít forget it. Even if you have a dozen children, you can not replace a lost child. Politicians can not understand the human feelings and human suffering." We cried with her. A Muslim woman, she ended with, "Donít forget that Jesus Christ is Palestinian. Christianity came from this area, and we are proud of that."

From there we visited Borj El-Barajneh, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut, where we:

ate a delicious homemade Arabic lunch on a rooftop
met with Abou Bader, the head of the Popular Committee of the camp (a position roughly equivalent to mayor, or a city manager in a "Class B" city!)
toured Haifa Hospital, which serves an area containing 50,000 people with 58 beds in 23 rooms, 24 doctors
National Association for Vocational Training & Social Services , which trains an average of 400 people a year in over 30 trades
We also heard from Olfat Mahmoud, director of the Womenís Humanitarian Organization (WHO) and former Red Crescent nurse . She reported to us a high incidence of cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and domestic abuse. When asked what she believed was the greatest problem facing women in the camps, she cited depression, noting there are no mental health services available. We were stunned to learn that there are 700 cases of cancer in the camp, for which there are no treatment, not even painkillers. She talked of two young women with breast cancer, one who died just a few days ago.

Our day ended with a visit to the Al-Jana Center (Arab Resource Center for Popular Arts), where we first met with Jaber Suleiman. He represents AIDOUN, a worldwide coalition working on the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees to their homeland. "The Right of Return is deeply rooted in the ëbeingí of the Palestinian people," he said. The Right of Return is an internationally accepted principle, adopted by the UN in Resolution 194 and affirmed in more than 100 other General Assembly resolutions. He is also the co-chair of the committee to present the case against Ariel Sharon in the Belgian courts on behalf of 23 plaintiffs. We discussed this at length.

Finally, we met with Moaítaz Dajani, director of the Al-Jana Center. The Center provides resources in the arts for Palestinians to express themselves through creative writing, film, painting, photography, and other art forms. They have published two films, one about childrenís dreams and the other about their nightmares, the latter being closest to their reality. He read to us the concerns of the children, expressed in a book, "I Wish I Were a Bird." They included, "In time I will be free," "To love or not to love," and "To be a suicide bomber or not."

Friends and family, we started writing this report at 10 pm, Tuesday night. It is now 2:15 am. We have already had a powerful trip, and it has just begun. We look forward to sending our next report, which will inshaíallah be shorter! Keep us in your prayers, and pray for a just peace in the Middle East.


Here's Update 2


January 29, 2003: Beirut and South Lebanon

Our first visit of the day was to the Institute of Palestine Studies which was founded in Beirut in 1963, is an independent
nonprofit research and publication center that works to support
scholarly work that strives to preserve Palestinian culture, articulate
a Palestinian identity in exile, and to struggle for the freedom of the
Palestinian people. It is not affiliated with any political
organization. Two of their researchers offered us an extensive
political analysis of the laws and civil rights of the Palestinian
diaspora, and we ended our visit with a short tour of their library.

After our meeting at IPS, we drove approximately an hour and a half
south along the beautiful Lebanese coastline to the Bourj al-Shamali
refugee camp outside the
historic biblical city of Tyre, which is very close to the border with
Israel. Along the way we passed groves of oranges and lemons and fields
of dates that lined the Mediterranean coast. Like our first day in
Lebanon, this was another cool, rainy day.

Because of the camp's proximity to the Israeli border, the people there
live under constant surveillance by the Lebanese military and are only
allowed to enter and exit the camp through one gate. There are
Palestinians in the camp who have literally spent their entire lives
within the camp's small confines. Furthermore, the Palestinians are not
allowed to bring inside the camp's walls articles such as building
materials, furniture, or anything else that would be used to create a
sense of permanence. Apparently, even the light fixtures and light
bulbs have to be smuggled in. The reality of this isolation was a
stark contrast with the refreshing air we smelled coming from the nearby
sea and countryside.

Once inside the camp, we were met by a nurse in the health clinic who
explained to us the minimal level of dental and health care available to
refugees. In the last fifty years, Bourj al-Shamali's population has
dramatically tripled from 6,000 to 19,000 refugees - a terrible burden
for the small geographic area. As a result, health care workers are
limited to managing injuries and chronic illnesses, and don't have the
resources to educate and work towards prevention.

We were then met by Abu Assim, the director of the Beit Atfal Assmoud
Center, who offered some introductory remarks about the needs and
obstacles of the community inside the camp. His center is trying to
address these problems by providing alternatives for the children and
youth in the camps, such as: computer skills, music classes, exercise
programs, and summer outings. Young men who had once participated in
these programs as children are now the leaders. The center's activities
are extremely limited by lack of funds. Prior to the current intifada,
the PLO was the primary donor; however, now these financial resources
are no longer available. The center's social services are healthy and
important, but some of our group had the sense of being in a prison,
where programming is offered to entertain prisoners rather than top
provide the tools and teaching that are essential to live independent

We were then divided into two groups to tour the camp. One of the
highlights of Group One was entering a room full of musical instruments,
where two of our delegates and a young Palestinian man performed
together a stirring traditional Palestinian song on drums and bagpipe!
While walking through the camps treacherous narrow alleys, Group Two
came upon a wailing young woman who had just learned of her
grandfather's death. Overcome with grief, she was carried away by
community members. Soon afterward, Group One saw the casket being
carried away by two young men in preparation for an immediate burial,
which follows Islamic tradition. Moments later the announcement of the
death to the entire camp could be heard over loudspeakers.

We drove back to Beirut quietly filled with the contrast of the horrific
stories of occupation and the living people of all ages asking us again
why they have been forgotten by the world.

Back in Beirut, we entered the front gates of the American University of
Beirut It was like entering a portal into an entirely
different world. In contrast to the very limited choices the young men
we had met with in the refugee camp that morning, AUB was filled with
young people and professors talking and laughing, couples walking hand
in hand, and Starbuck's coffee. Third year sociology student Dima and
two other students led us on a very pleasant stroll around the campus on
the banks of the Mediterranean, but some of our group were deeply
troubled by the contrast in cultures that coexist in such close

Our day ended with a guided bus tour of downtown Beirut led by Ghassan,
who works for an independent election monitoring committee. He
explained the demarcation of the Green Line - a street that marked the
border during the 1975-90 civil war between the Christian ("East") and
Muslim ("West") Beirut. The 15 year war was fought in a densely
populated urban area and devastated a city once known as the "Paris of
the Middle East." Ghassan indicated that Beirut had never been a
segregated city before the war, and a sign of new life is that Muslims
and Christians are no longer afraid to live on either side of the Green
Line. The massive devastation of the war is still plainly visible:
mortar and bullet holes, scarred facades, and crumbling mortar and stone
stood in stark contrast to the newly renovated luxury residences and
shops. Again, the relative prosperity of the city was a shocking
contrast to the constant policing of and resources denied to the camps,
much like the contrast of poverty and wealth experienced in U.S. cities
(which very few of us experience in the course of one day).

January 30: From Beirut to Jerusalem

The day began for most of us at 4:00 a.m. as we arose to prepare for a
5:00 a.m. bus ride to the Beirut airport. Our flight left at 7:30 a.m.
but it was necessary to arrive early to get through the security checks
at the airport. We arrived in Amman, Jordan around 8:30 a.m., tired and
hungry. Our guide from Guiding Star Travel met us at the airport and
escorted us through customs. We were off to the West Bank and Israel by
bus across the Allenby Bridge which spans the Jordan River. Although it
was a quick bus trip to the Jordanian border control we waited quite
some time there as our passports were checked. This wait was nothing
compared to the wait we encountered at the entrance to Israel. We
waited for more than an hour in the bus outside the entrance building
before they signaled that we could enter.

Once inside we went through security checks of our luggage and persons
which took a considerable amount of time. One of our group noted that
almost all the Israelis working at the border entry were very young.
One of our Jewish delegates who speaks Hebrew led the way, establishing
a rapport with the Israeli officials. Except for the long wait, our
entry was non-eventful. The entire process took about three and a half
to four hours.

We left the entry control center and headed east for Jerusalem. Our
guide told us that today was the first day in two years that Jericho was
open. That meant that outsiders, other than those who live in Gaza and
Israeli citizens, were able to travel into Jericho and those who live
inside were able to leave. Our guide told us that, "It is easier for me
to go to the United States than it is to go to Jericho." We immediately
asked to go to Jericho, even if it was only for a short drive through.
Jericho is on the way to Jerusalem and since we had not eaten lunch, or
much of a breakfast other than airline food, we were eager to find a
place to get food. We stopped for a short time to order lunch which we
took on the bus and headed toward Jerusalem. Although we asked to see
the famed biblical wall that once surrounded Jericho, it no longer

On the way to Jerusalem our guide informed us how the Palestinians are
controlled in their travel from one area of the West Bank to another.
Israel is building miles and miles of bypass roads that can be used only
by Israeli settlers in the West Bank. If a Palestinian jumps a wall to
shorten his or her trip, they are taking the risk of being caught. Last
week a Palestinian man whom he knew was caught doing just this and was
beaten and urinated upon by three Israeli soldiers. A tunnel is being
built for settlers that will make it easier for them to get from the
settlements into Jerusalem without going through the countryside and
being subjected to checkpoints as all the Palestinians must do. We
traveled through the portion of the tunnel that was complete, a tunnel
Palestinians cannot use. We also observed first-hand the armed check
points that are situated outside each of the towns we passed through.
Concrete blocks narrow the road or highway to a single lane and vehicles
are required to stop.

We finally arrived at St. George College in Jerusalem where we are
staying for most of our time in Israel/Palestine. After a short break
(our delegation leaders drive us without much rest!) we met with Jeff
Halper, coordinator of Israeli Coalition Against House Demolitions, who gave us a briefing on what he calls the "Matrix
of Control." Jeff presented an overview to orientate us to what we
would be hearing and seeing. He told us, "In a conflict situation no
one talks with you, everyone is trying to convince you."

What follows is a short synopsis of what Jeff said: Before the 1993 Oslo
peace process, Palestinians had free access to entire country. Only
with the peace process did country close in and become a prison. Today
Palestinians are locked into West Bank and Gaza. They need a permit to
go anywhere. Israel however denies it has an occupation and is the only
country in world that takes this position. Israel position is that
occupation occurs only when a sovereign state governs another sovereign
state and that the West Bank and Gaza are not a sovereign state. Since
March/April of 2002, Israel is in process of reoccupying West Bank. All
towns and cities are blockaded and under curfew. Curfew varies in
severity and length.

Jeff said that Israel's response to the intifada is "not a matter of
defeating Palestinians but putting them into their place." The Israeli
government takes the position that Palestinians live their by
sufferance, not by right. This is key to the way Israel relates to
Palestinians. The occupation is very abstract to the average Israeli
citizen who is concerned with security. Jeff advocates a solution that
involves a regional federation, much like what is occurring in Europe.
He believes that the underlying problems are regional not local. He
envisions a "two stage solution" (compared to the "two state solution"
that is often discussed). In the first stage, a viable Palestinian
state must be created. In the second stage, people in Israel,
Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt would remain citizens of their own
countries but could live and work wherever they wanted to in the region.
Under such a system, Jeff argues that a Palestinian citizen who lived
and worked in Israel would not be threat to Israel. Jeff finds no one
discussing such a two stage solution although as a delegation we heard
similar comments in meeting with Palestinians in Beirut. He has written
about this intriguing "two stage" proposal, and it should be available
on their web site.

At the close of yesterday, we met for over an hour with Bishop Riah, the
Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem. Bishop Riah thanked us for coming to the
city during a time when many do not consider making the journey and
expressed appreciation for our willingness to listen to him.

On Saturday, January 24th at 2:15am - less than one week ago - St.
Philip's Church in Gaza was struck by an Israeli "guided" missile. This
is the incident we had heard about the morning of the day we departed
for our trip. This type of weapon is laser guided, has cameras on board
and can be guided while in-flight, and yet it struck directly on the
roof of the church and formed a crater only feet from the altar. The
explosion destroyed 40% of the roof, all of the glass in the entire
campus (including stained glass over 100 years old), and cracked several
of the church's walls. In addition, the explosion caused over $500,000
damage to the hospital that is operated by the Diocese. The hospital's
x-ray machine was one of several pieces of equipment lost. Clearly
marking the church and hospital were the Anglican flag and the Red Cross
flag. It was reported by witnesses that immediately after the explosion
two helicopters flew by to survey and film the damage. These facts,
combined the fact that no official apology has been issued by the
Israeli government, has prompted some here to say that the strike was
meant as a message to the outspoken Anglican Church.

The Bishop spoke about how it is these incidents that do nothing to
prepare the way for peace and healing. He expressed his frustration
with Israel's continued support for President Bush's call for war
against Iraq, which he says will undoubtedly prove to be detrimental to
both Israel and the U.S. He noted that when bombings occur in Israel,
the U.S. is quick to issue condolences, however when Israel lashes out
against Palestinians, there is rarely a comment.

The Bishop called for an end to violence on both sides of the conflict.
He expressed his opinion that the root cause of the violence is Israel's
occupation of Palestinian land. He urged the U.S. to put pressure on
Israel to follow UN resolutions just as the U.S. has lead the
international community in putting pressure on Iraq - otherwise the
government can be labeled as hypocritical. He also called on President
Bush to reserve himself "a page in history" by showing credibility and
leadership in pressuring Israel to come to the table and comply with all
U.N. resolutions. The Bishop says that he keeps the President in his
prayers that he will "wake-up one day refreshed with humanity." When
asked about the forgiveness of one's enemies, the Bishop responded that
it was the role of Christians to forgive, but to act in a way that will
bring our enemies to justice so that they may become one in Christ.

Saturday, February 01, 2003

No Pluckiness or Snarkiness about this news...

Space Shuttle breaks apart in flames over Texas

Feb. 1, 2003 | CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- -- Space shuttle Columbia broke apart in flames 200,000 feet over Texas on Saturday, killing all seven astronauts just minutes before they were to glide to a landing in Florida.

Oh no....


I wanted to add a few thoughts before turning in for the night. One of the things that I find so depressing about this tragedy is that these astronauts were not on a commercial or military mission, they were on a mission that was in pursuit of scientific research, things that could have potentially enriched all of our lives. Salon has a mini-article about some of the 80 projects they were working on.

I am very, very sad for the loss of the astronauts, but I am also sad for the setback to the American space program that I'm sure this represents. Hopefully a cash-strapped NASA won't be forced to abandon the Space Shuttle fleet. Or, perhaps they can use this as an excuse to design a better, more reliable, more advanced vehicle. I find that doubtful, due to both popular opinion's likely backlash against NASA, and the current econimic situation. (Thanks alot, GW.) Ironically, I was reading about the future of NASA just last night in the Carl Sagan book Pale Blue Dot.

At least this has taken my mind off my father, campaining for peace in the occupied territories.