Monday, January 29, 2007

Facts About the "Surge" In US Troops for Iraq

I just read a wonderful post at Mudville Gazette that gives a blow-by-blow breakdown on what the planned surge in US troops "is" and "isn't."

One interesting fact is that no troops are going to Iraq that were not already scheduled to go to Iraq. It's just that some are going a little ahead of time to increase the numbers rather than simply replace them.

A second interesting fact is that 70% of the civilian deaths in Iraq in recent months have been Shi'ites . . . giving the lie that al-Sadr's Mahdi Militia is the source of most of the mayhem. Sunni Baathists and al-Qaeda folks seem to be the main murders of late. This makes Iran's "bi-partisan" support of Sunni as wella s Shia "insurgents" particularly noteworthy.

The only place in Iraq that will experience any sort of significant "surge" is, of course, Baghdad. This increase in American troops in the city was made possible by changes in the political situation in the Iraqi government . . . especially as regards President al-Maliki.

Not only are the additional American troops being allowed into Baghdad but they are being allied with Iraqi security forces that are now fully trained and, in some cases, battle-tested to do most of the dirty work themselves. As President Bush said in his State of the Union Speech, the "rules of engagement" have also been changed. Until now, there has been no targeted crackdown on militia members or their leadership permitted by Maliki.

Now, however, it appears that it is the strong desire of both Shia and Sunni leaders to end this inter-sectarian violence once and for all. Each side is particulary concerned about whether they can trust the Iraq security forces and police to actually protect them from terrorist attacks and murder squads.

With the US forces working alongside the Iraqi forces the level of confidence in this matter seems to have grown considerably.

For an update on the security cooperation being hammered out between Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish leaders (a very positive development) read the news here.

Terrorist Bombing In Israel & Insight Into Fatah

You may have heard of terrorist bombing in Eilat, Israel, the other day. (You can view a video of the explosion here) Three Israelis were killed along with the suicide bomber. It was the first successful suicide bombing in Israel in nine months.

Several terrorist groups claimed joint credit for the attack, prominant among them was the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. This group is, of course, the terrorist arm of the Fatah political party that began as Yasser Arafat's PLO and is now headed by the so-called "moderate" President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. Fatah is the group that, unlike Hamas, we are expected to trust. Israel has recently agreed to release 100 million dollars in tax collections to Fatah and another recent agreement will be providing ammunition, etc. to Fatah as well . . . supposedly to help them counter-balance the military power of Hamas.

An internet release from Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade not only claims responsitibility for the attack but imiplies (in translation) that this may be just the first of many such attacks as they seek to "start the implementation of the support of the Palestinian people."

Even more important to note is the statement that the attack
. . . also comes in response to Tendes Aqsa Mosque, stressing that continued resistance until the liberation of the entire territory of Palestine, and to repel the occupiers irreversibly. (emphasis added)
What this means, of course, is that the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade (and Fatah) plan on keeping up this type of "resistance" until Israel no longer exists at all.

Keep this in mind the next time you hear talks of "peace" and "two-state solutions" from representatives of Fatah.

Personally, I believe that actions speak louder than words. In this case, at least, the words and the actions mutually support each other in a frightening way. It is, as usual, a way that does not bode well for any prospects of peace in Palestine any time soon.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Serena Triumphs at Aussie Open

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I had thought that Venus and Serena Williams had gotten tired of tennis and the exhausting and body-breaking discipline that is required to maintain top form. With multiple and recurring injuries I had expected them to sort of hang up their rackets and focus their energy in their multi-million dollar investment portfolios.

But Serena proved me wrong today when she completely obliterated the new #1 ranked player in women's tennis in the final of the Australian Open Tennis Tournament.

Maria Sharapova never had a chance as she wilted before the blazing serves and ground strokes of a resurrected Serena Williams. The final score was 6-1 6-1. The match took only 1 hour and 3 minutes to complete.

Serena spent last season on the sidelines with a serious knee injury and was ranked only #81 coming into the Australian Grand Slam event.

She proved to the world that her body and mind are still capable of playing tennis at the highest level.

When the Williams sisters were at their peak, they were like powerful locomotives crushing everyone else who dared to get in their way.

Today, one of those trains came roaring back with a vengeance!

Women's tennis will be the better for it!

Welcome back, Serena!

US to "Kill or Capture" Iran's Operatives In Iraq

I have had long conversations on BlogCritics lately with Iranians who say there is no evidence that Iran wishes to destablize Iraq. It is, they say, in Iran's best interests to have a secure and stable Iraq as a neighbor.

This logic, of course, flies in the face of every objective reality that exisits. I have come to suspect that some of the folks that propogate these "talking points" are trained operatives working on the Iranian government's behalf . . . possibly formally and officially.

In any case, the United States has instituted a new set of "rules of engagement" for the agents and military personnel they have been shuffling in and out of Iraq since the coalition invation in 2003. The new policy rejects the old "catch and release" program and replaces it with "kill or capture."

There is danger and risk in this approach, of course. The danger is that American troops might kill an Irani civilian with a legitimate reason to be in Iraq. The risk is that Iran could respond by redoubling its mischief inside of Iraq with a more agressive targeting of US troops and personnel for abduction or murder.

The capture and murder of four US soldiers in the Shiite city of Karbala on January 20 may, in fact, be related in some way or another.
A senior Iraqi military official said the sophistication of the attack led him to believe it was the work of Iranian intelligence agents in conjunction with Iraq's Shiite Mahdi Army militia, which Iran funds, arms and trains.
Iran will not back down without a fight. It will push the level of violence and mayhem to the very limits. Indeed, it is in the interests of the most radical Irani leaders (including President Ahmadinajad) for the United States to attack inside of Iran.

Iran's role in Iraq is first and foremost to disrupt and destroy the effectiveness of any peace and security that might arise from the current democratic government; second, to stick its finger in the eye of the United States (which it is doing quite nicely . . . see the recent Democrat electoral victory as evidence of their success); and, three, to provoke the United States into attacking Iran directly.

I am convinced that we must not attack Iran unless provoked beyond anything our national interests can bear.

Should Iran choose to flood Iraq and Afghanistan with trained sabateurs, the entire region could crumble very quickly into total chaos . . . including similar scenarios in Palestine and Lebanon.

Response to this would be a difficult assualt on Tehran to cut out the heart of the Iranian revolutionary leadership within Iran itself.

I would rather see Iran stuffed into its box and shut tight than to give it an excuse to pour across international borders like a plague in full daylight.

This is one time when it would be best not to shout out, "Bring it on!"

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Collection of All the Mean-Spirited, Rude, Insulting and Demeaning Comments that President Bush Has Made About His Critics and Political Opponents

To my knowledge this list of rude and obnoxious personal comments made by President Bush is exhaustive. If anyone can cite any others to add to my list I would be grateful.

The list begins here . . . . .

. . . . . and ends here.

Has there ever been a President who has been vilified more persistently by so many prominent people over such an extended period of time than President George W. Bush?

Has there ever been a President who, in return, so stubbornly refused to speak disparagingly of others?

Orchid -- "Moonlight Lady"

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A close friend is moving away from Hawaii to live in the Washington D.C. area. He was kind enough to give this beautiful orchid to my family. According to the label it is a Sophrolaeliocattleya (slc) Ken Dream "Moonlight Lady." It is a unusual hybrid for which I could only find four matching "hits" on the internet.

Only one internet site showed a photo of a plant that appears quite different from mine. I suppose that hybrids can differ somewhat from plant to plant but the difference between these two is striking. If someone can tell me anything more specific about this orchid I would be grateful.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Hawaiian Petroglyphs--Kona

There is very little remaining of pre-contact Hawaiian culture. Captain Cook's "discovery" of the Sandwich Islands (as he called them) in 1778 gave him the opportunity to preserve some remarkable artifacts that would otherwise have been destroyed and lost.

Fortunately, more substantial remnants of this ancient culture, such as gravesites (which are rarely disturbed nowadays), heiau ("temple" sites), fishponds, trails and petroglyphs, remain to be seen. The largest collections of Hawaiian petroglyphs (rock carvings) are to be found on the Big Island of Hawaii.

A nice summary article on Big Island petroglyphs can be found here.

One site visited most often by tourists is Puako, located and preserved within the golf course adjacent to King's Village and the Mauna Lani resort. These are by far the easiest to access and are well worth a visit.

On a recent trip to the North Kona coast I explored several of the more interesting petroglyph areas.

The new Koloko-Honokohau National Historic Park just north of Kailua-Kona has several petroglyphs. Here is a photo of one of them:

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Further up the Kona Coast is the Malama Petroglyph Trail. It takes about 20 minutes walking through scrub forest before you come to this amazing collection of over 3000 petroglyphs.

As with all Hawaiian petroglyphs no one knows exactly why most of them were carved. Here are photos of some of the Malama Trail petroglyphs (note that those outlined in white have been "vandalized" by photographers who tried to highlight the carving with paint or chalk). Click on any photo to enlarge it:

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Some carvings (not these) are clearly post-European contact. Others, representing earlier styles, could date back many hundreds of years. Not even the native Hawaiians living today can help with these ancient artifacts.

They do, however, provide a wonderful opportunity to let one's imagination work overtime!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Syria & Israel Reach Peace Settlement?--Unofficially, That Is

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Is the leopard changing its spots?

UPDATE: Haaretz is now reporting that the Israeli government is calling this peace-talk-with-Syria report a "bluff." The Israeli Prime Minister says that the first he heard of these "talks" was when he read it in the paper yesterday. Hmmm.

Haaretz has a mindblowing article in tomorrow's paper revealing details of informal, unofficial peace negotiations using "middlemen" between Syria & Israel.

Under the terms of the negotiations,

--An agreement of principles will be signed between the two countries, and following the fulfillment of all commitments, a peace agreement will be signed.

--As part of the agreement on principles, Israel will withdraw from the Golan Heights to the lines of 4 June, 1967. The timetable for the withdrawal remained open: Syria demanded the pullout be carried out over a five-year period, while Israel asked for the withdrawal to be spread out over 15 years.

--At the buffer zone, along Lake Kinneret, a park will be set up for joint use by Israelis and Syrians. The park will cover a significant portion of the Golan Heights. Israelis will be free to access the park and their presence will not be dependent on Syrian approval.

--Israel will retain control over the use of the waters of the Jordan River and Lake Kinneret.

--The border area will be demilitarized along a 1:4 ratio (in terms of territory) in Israel's favor.

--According to the terms, Syria will also agree to end its support for Hezbollah and Hamas and will distance itself from Iran.
The process broke down when Syria stated that it wanted to move into "official" negotiations with a "ministry level" official representing Israel. Israel, apparently, declined and no known meetings have taken place since.

If true, this will require a major reassessment of the potential and competing political dynamics bubbling up in the Middle East.

It also makes the recommendation of the American Iraq Work Group, who encouraged a negotiating role for Syria in Iraq, more credible.

It would also mean that President Bush, who according to the article was regularly briefed on these conversations between Israel and Syria, has been walking a tightrope of hidden diplomacy himself during the past months and years.

The big unanswered question is, of course, can Syria be trusted?

Can a leopard change its spots?

No doubt Israel is asking the same question.

There were many who did not trust Egypt's Sadat when he negotiated a peace settlement with Israel over the Sinai. But that settlement has held for many years.

On a negative side, I see no assurance that Syria would forsake any of its direct (other than via Hezbollah) meddling in Lebanon.

I will withold all judgment until this story begins to "fill out" with more information.

It may yet play out that the Arab/Sunni world will join against the common enemy they see in Iran. They know that a nuclear-armed Iran would be unstoppable without the counter-balance of Israel and the United States.

Wouldn't that be an interesting alliance!

HT: lgf

Dr. King Remembered

I don't have anything profound to say today. I just want to remember the vision and passion that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. held for God's "unalienable" gift of justice and freedom for all people.

A quote from his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" is sufficient (for the moment) to remember the legacy he left us . . . as well as the responsibility we bear to carry on the fight:
I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the eighth century prophets left their little villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns; and just as the Apostle Paul left his little village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to practically every hamlet and city of the Graeco-Roman world, I too am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.
Much has been accomplished. Even so, injustice still awaits a prophet who will confront it with a "thus saith the Lord" and bring it to naught.

HT: Powerline

Sunday, January 14, 2007

PCUSA Moderator Joan Gray Visits MPC in Hawaii

The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA, the Rev. Joan Gray, visited Mililani Presbyterian Church today and shared a greeting and a sermon with our congregation during our morning worship.

We were pleased to have her and husband Bill as our guests. She was gracious enough to stay after for Q & A with our combined adult Sunday School classes.

The Grays were in Hawaii to share in the worship dedication (on Saturday) of the new facilities of First Presbyterian Church of Honolulu which has recently relocated to the Ko'olau Golf Club in Kaneohe.

There she received some encouraging words from fellow worship participant,

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Robert Schuller (of Crystal Cathedral fame)

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and watched the children play in several tons of "snow" trucked in for the occasion.

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Have you ever seen a Hawaiian snowman before!

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This morning she posed with myself, husband Bill and the Rev. Art Sundstrom , pastor of the Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church in Maryland who just happened to drop in for worship while on a personal trip to Hawaii of his own.

I enjoyed the time I was able to spend with the Grays. I was impressed by their acceptance of our informal hospitality.

Joan is, first and foremost, a pastor . . . but not a pastor with a big-steeple, multi-staffed church personality.

In my mind she is the right person to meet with and encourage our denomination during her two-year term as our Moderator (she was elected last June 2006 at General Assembly meeting in Birmingham, Alabama. She and Bill are from Atlanta, Georgia).

Joan is someone who cares for the church and will remind us of our need to love one another as Christ loved us, even though we may differ on many other matters. She believes that Jesus' first question in judgment will not be, "Did you stand your ground on your understanding of scripture?" but "Did you love one another?"

That, I think, is the right question to ask. A question worth asking ourselves every day.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Give Boxer a Break on Condoleezza Rice Comment

I have listened to what Senator Barbara Boxer said in hearings today in dialogue with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and I don't think it was a "slam" at all.

Here is the central quote:
"Who pays the price? I'm not going to pay a personal price. My kids are too old and my grandchild is too young," Boxer said. "You're not going to pay a particular price, as I understand it, with an immediate family. So who pays the price? The American military and their families."
When I heard this I thought that it was a little insensitive to bring up the personal marriage/family situation of Dr. Rice but the Secretary invited this level of conversation by making reference to her personal conversations and meetings with military personnel and their families.

My own read on what Sen. Boxer meant could be summarized in this way:
Neither of us have any members of our immediate families who are affected by the deployment policies of the Bush administration. I suspect that you would not be quite so sure of yourself if you did. This new deployment strategy will take a big toll on the individuals and families involved and I am not sure that this new and increased call to sacrifice is justified or has been seriously considered in this decision.
That's what I believe Boxer (who I do not admire, support or otherwise celebrate) meant to say.

I hate it when the left nit-picks the right and I also hate it when the right nit-picks the left. This is one of those latter situations.

I do, however, stand by my criticism of Rep. Neil Ambercrombie when he suggested the possibility that Secretary of State Rice was incompetent and inneffective and was tolerated by the Bush administration only because she was black and a woman.

That, I believe, did cross a line into hypocracy . . . seeing as if a Republican has said the same thing Ambercrombie would have been the first to condemn it.

In any case, I'll let the Secretary of State have the final word on the matter:
I guess that means I don't have kids. Was that the purpose of that?" Rice said. "Well, at the time I just found it a bit confusing frankly. But in retrospect, gee, I thought single women had come further than that. That the only question is are you making good decisions because you have kids?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The News Spin On Bush's Speech

CNN News online headlines

Bush admits mistakes, deploys more troops


Situation intolerable, apologies for mistakes

FoxNews online headlines

President Sets Course for 'Different' Victory in Iraq


Bush Says Failure in IraqWould Be Disaster for U.S.

There is so much spin here that I am getting dizzy!

I guess a good news editor plays to his/her demographic.

CNN = Democrat

FoxNews = Republican

I report . . . You decide!

Bush Announces Detailed Military Strategy To the Enemy...Why?

Much of President Bush's speech this evening (full text here) offered a detailed look at the planned strategy of how the troops involved in the "surge deployment" will be used in Baghdad. Bush listed the numbers of American troops involved (20,000), the number of Iraqi brigades that will participate (and, more or less, where), and how they plan to clear out the city, district by district, of terrorists, insurgents and armed militia.

Am I missing something or is this the first time in history that a military commander announced the details of his battle plan to the enemy before the battle?

What gives with this? I can see al-Qaeda, Sunni insurgents and Muqtada al-Sadr taking notes on the speech, glancing through their appointment calendars and planning how to elude, evade and counter the proposed sweep of Baghdad in the coming months.

20,000 new troops to Baghdad and 4,000 to Anbar Province.

Is it possible that Bush offered a feignt (or an outright lie) tonight? Is it possible that the real battle will be fought first in Anbar with an increased force significantly larger than the 4,000 new troops mentioned?

A quick sweep through Anbar from the south to the north culminating in a sealing off of the Syrian border and a sweep back to the southeast to join the rest of the force in the Baghdad operation could wipe out most of al-Qaeda's presence, seal off their supply route and corner them in Baghdad where they would have no place to run except into Shia territory (where they would be warmly greeted, I'm sure).

Or, will the strategy in Baghdad be more of an encircling of power centers such as Sadr City and the forced confiscation of arms?

Or will the strategy in Baghdad be a pincer movement driving the Sunni Insurgents directly into the path of Shi'ite insurgents being driving into them from the opposite direction . . . and then letting them kill off each other while the American and Iraqi troops stand by and watch?

I'm fantasizing, of course, but I just cannot bring myself to believe that Bush, for the sake of national unity, or simply telling it like it is, would telegraph our counter-insurgency strategy for Baghdad in such detail as he did tonight.

There has got to be something in this that is designed to throw the "bad guys" off-guard rather than to put them "on-guard."

At least that's the way I look at it.

Anyone else have any ideas on this?

Bush Threatens to Attack Inside Iran If Necessary

Lost in the confusion of arcane statistics, detailed military strategies, mind-numbing internal Iraqi political maneuverings and a sullen, unemotional delivery, President Bush, in his speech this evening, actually found time to let Iran (& Syria) know that he will attack their meddling even if it means crossing borders into their countries to blow things up.

Few, if any, commentators have noted this telling paragraph that showed up just a little more than half-way through the speech (full text at Drudge). Here is the key paragraph:
Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity – and stabilizing the region in the face of the extremist challenge. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.
The ever-perceptive Hugh Hewitt also noticed this warning and comments:
Crucially Iran heard a hint of measures beyond the borders of Iran, though in the sort of terms that none can object to. When the president spoke of destroying the networks aiding the terrorists, he meant the Quds Brigades and the other Iranian agents at work in Iraq, and the placement of the paragraph cannot be misunderstood.
I, for one, did not misunderstand the message. I don't believe that Iran and Syria will misunderstand it, either.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

US Congressman Neil Abercrombie Suggests Condoleezza Rice "Gets a Pass" Because She's Black

Why can a liberal US Congressman get away with saying something that had previously cost a conservative talk show host his job as a television commentator?

In late September 2003, while working as a football commentator for ESPN, conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh raised the question as to whether it was possible that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was overrated because the media wanted to see a black quarterback succeed.

Limbaugh resigned from his ESPN position three days later under circumstances described by CNN as being, “amid a storm of controversy over his racially charged comments.”

In today’s Honolulu Star-Bulletin Hawaii Congressman Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) is quoted as describing U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as being
the most overrated, underperforming individual in executive authority that I have ever seen.”

“She constantly gets a pass. Who knows if the whole question of race and gender come into it, but . . .
What’s the difference between these two comments? The difference is that Limbaugh’s comment created a “storm of controversy over his racially charged comments” and he was force to resign as an ESPN football commentator.

Abercrombie, on the other hand, “gets a pass.”

I wonder why?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

A Little Dark Humor from an Iraqi in Baghdad

Where Date Palms Grow (an Iraqi writing from Baghdad) has a post he calls, "The Dummies Guide to Become an Idiot on International News."

The post shows that you can find humor almost anywhere if you look for it!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Maliki Will Attack Militias--Maybe I Was Right After All

Last Wednesday I posted on a report from the Strategy Page that American and Iraqi forces were starting to go after al-Sadr's militia. No confirmation of this report ever surfaced. The "72-hour rule" was imposed and now, today, at the last minute, al-Maliki declares that he is going to go after al-Sadr's militias.

I am intrigued that Strategy Page seemed to know this before al-Maliki knew it but nonetheless the announcement, while way overdue, is very welcome.

No doubt, as Captain Ed suggests, the timing is related to a two-hour video consultation between President Bush and Maliki this morning . . . a conversation that no doubt could be summed up as, "fish or cut bait."

I also expect that this will be part of the "new strategy" that Bush will present next week. Right now it looks like the strategy will be, for better or worse, "surge lite."

Friday, January 05, 2007

U.S. Army Tries to Get Dead Soldiers to Re-Up

It seems as if dying once for your country is not enough, anymore. AP reports that even dead soldiers are being recruited to re-enlist for military service.

The story states that the U.S. Army recently sent out letters to 5,100 former military officers who recently left the service.

Included in this mailing were 75 soldiers who had "left the service" because they had been killed while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. In addition, letters were sent to 200 soldiers who had "left the service" due to wounds and injuries received while on active duty.

In response to this horrific blunder the Army has issued an apology to the families and has explained that, while their records are kept up-to-date, this mailing used an old list by mistake.

I hope that this incident does not reflect any sense of desparation in meeting the potential need for a "surge" in the number of deployed troops widely expected to be announced by President Bush next week.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

New Year's In Hawaii -- Complete With Rays, Sharks & Sunsets

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New Year's Eve Sunset in Hawaii

As we do each year my wonderful wife and I spend New Year's Eve staying at a nearby hotel or resort. We do this (along with hundreds or thousands of other folks who live on Oahu) just to get away from the smoke from fireworks and firecrackers (which are legal in Hawaii).

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A "domesticated" Ray at Ihilani Resort

This year we stayed at the Ko Olina Beach Resort. On New Year's Eve we walked a few blocks to the nearby Ihilani Resort to see what the higher-class folks were doing! Here they have pools filled with tropical fish and, as you can see from the pictures, rays and Hammerhead Sharks, too! Both are very creepy in their own, unique ways. The rays were especially interesting in the early evening when they became very active, lifting their heads out of the water to look around.

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An Ihilani Hammerhead Shark

Sunset came shortly after our visit to the sharks and rays. It was, as usual, just another beautiful Hawaiian sunset. It was very romantic too. I only took this one photo. The rest of the way back to our own resort I was busy holding hands with my wonderful wife! What a nice way to say "Good-bye" to 2006.

Happy New Year's and Aloha!

Los Angeles Prepares for Mass Evacuation In Response To Doomsday Prediction

Most people simply laugh at Pat Robertson when he claims prophetic revelations from God. But, by unanimous vote, the Los Angels City Council last night decided that it wasn't going to take any chances.

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On Tuesday, Robertson declared that, during a recent prayer retreat, God had told him that there would be a massive terrorist attack on the United States in 2007 that would result in "mass killings" in "major cities" affecting "millions of people." According to Robertson the attack will take place "sometime after September."

"I'm not necessarily saying it's going to be nuclear," he said during his news-and-talk television show "The 700 Club" on the Christian Broadcasting Network. "The Lord didn't say nuclear. But I do believe it will be something like that."

Hickock Williams Wilde, a member of the Los Angeles City Council, said that the Council could not, in good conscience, ignore this potential disaster prediction.

"It could happen," he said. "We have to keep the best interests of the good people of LA as our highest priority. If it means moving them all to Eastern Nevada for a few weeks this coming Fall then that is what we will have to do to keep everybody safe and secure."

Fellow Councilmember, LaShawn Trujillo, added that, "From my perspective, this whole issue revolves around the Bush administration's lies about WMDs and their racist policies against affirmative action and immigration. That's why so many disenfrachised young Muslims are so angry at the United States and why so many of them expect Israel to do something terrible that will point the blame on them instead of revealing the truth about the money-grubbing, oil-craving, air-polluting, Haliburton-loving corrupt-Republican leadership we have had in Washington D.C. for the last six years."

Los Angeles City Council Chair Phillipe Gasçon agreed, adding that, "The Rev. Dr. Robertson has made many such predictions over the years and backed up his claims by saying, 'I have a relatively good track record.'

"Last May Robertson said that God told him storms and possibly a tsunami were to crash into America's coastline in 2006. We didn't get hit with a tsunami, but last spring's heavy rains and flooding in New England seemed to confirm that what the Lord had told him was right on the money. I, for one, was convinced, and the rest of the Council agreed that we shouldn't take any chances."
When asked for a comment, Los Angeles Mayor Barbie Streidant confessed that, while she wasn't convinced that the City Council's decision was the correct one to make, it seemed obvious that Robertson must have been thinking of Los Angeles when he used the phrase "major city."

"There may be other 'major cities' in the country," she said, using her fingers to make quotation marks aroung the words, 'major cities,' "but only LA fits that description in the full sense of that phrase."
Preparations are already being made to create the world's largest parking lot just south of Ely, Nevada. A city spokesperson added that they are also trying to find enough tents and porta-potties to accommodate everyone.

The LA City Transporation Department also issued a statement assuring everyone that, even during the evacuation period, all of the area's freeways would be left open for anyone who might be driving north from Mexico.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Have U.S. & Iraqi Troops Begun Taking Out Al-Sadr's Militia?

The Strategy Page (which blogger Dean Barnett deems to be "reliable") reports the following:

December 30, 2006: Saddam Hussein was executed by hanging . . .

December 28, 2006: Without much fanfare, much less a press release, the government and Coalition troops have gone to war with Moqtada al Sadrs Mahhi Army militia. Leaders are being arrested or killed. The raids are being carried out with overwhelming speed and force, so that pro-Sadr gunmen have little chance to put up effective resistance . . .

Some American commanders are urging that several additional brigades of U.S. combat troops be brought in for a few months, to back the Iraqi security forces, as the Shia militias are taken down. The most dangerous part of this plan is now, with the well armed and motivated militias still intact. But once the organizations are broken, and arms, records and leaders seized, the problem will be largely a police, not military one.
I don't know what to make of this story, partly because the Strategy Page offers a total of zero links to support it.

If the story is not true then it doesn't matter.

If the story is true, then it matters a great deal.

The de-fanging of al-Sadr is, at this point in Iraq's history, the most important step in attaining any lasting, genuine peace or stability for the new government.

Sadr's Shi'ites represent the best-armed and largest destablizing presence in the current unrest. They also represent some of the more prominant links to Iran's meddling.

With the Shi'ite independent power significantly diminished I would like to think that Sunni insurgents would be encouraged to lay down their arms for two good reasons: 1. They would no longer have to defend themselves or retaliate against the Shi'ite provacateurs, and; 2. They would have hard evidence that the national government is both even-handed in dealing with Shi'ites and Sunnis alike and would feel more inclined than in the past to trust the government with providing the Sunni's with some measure of security.

Since the recent attempt to form a Kurd/Sunni/moderate Shia coalition to counter the current government headed by the Shi'ites and Maliki was nixed by al-Sittani (because he did not want to divide the Shi'ites against one another) I cannot imagine that this assault on al-Sadr's militia could be taking place without Sistani's blessing or clearly-stated neutrality on the matter.

This, too, would show the possibility of rapid change in the current crisis from bad to better (instead of the recent trend from bad to worse).

As always, I am an optimist in this new development. But I will hold off on any genuine enthusiasm until I read some indepemdent confirmation of this still-unprovinanced report.