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The post on gluckschmerz is down here. Thanks to all of those who emailed me why you were looking for the word. —Meryl


Shana Tovah

On the eve of Rosh Hashana, I leave you with the text of the address by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom to the 58th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. It is my fervent wish that we see peace in the Middle East, and particularly in Israel, in the coming year.

The Zionist vision of Israel's founders was to bring into the world a state in our ancient homeland to serve as a haven for our people from persecution. A place where the Jewish people could fulfill its right to self-determination in the modern era. A bastion of democracy and opportunity for all its citizens.

Our founders also made a promise not just to the people of Israel, but to the people of the Middle East as a whole - to pursue peace and to work for the common advancement of our region.

I know personally the profound meaning of this historic undertaking. I came to Israel as a young refugee from Tunisia. I serve as one of hundreds of thousands of immigrants to whom Israel has granted promise and protection, freedom and opportunity, through the values and institutions of democracy.

I stand here today to reaffirm, before the nations of the world, the commitment of my country to peace.

Peace for the people of Israel is both a moral and historic imperative. "Shalom" - the word for peace in Hebrew - is central to our language and our heritage. It is how we say hello and it is how we say goodbye. It is a name we give to our children. It is my own family name.

It was our prophet Isaiah, who brought this message of peace to the world already centuries ago, when he said: "And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more".

Israel’s historic record is clear. Whenever a true partner for peace emerged, he was met with Israel's extended hand.

This was true when President Anwar Sadat of Egypt came to Jerusalem in 1977 and it was true when King Hussein of Jordan signed the Peace Treaty with us in 1994. The same is true today.

Israel stands ready to complete the circle of peace with all its neighbors. Real peace. Not just peace for the headlines, but peace which brings an end to violence and hostility, and positive change for the citizens of our region.

From this great podium - a podium shared by all humanity - I call on the leaders of Syria and Lebanon, of Iran and of the Palestinian people - to abandon once and for all their hostility towards us, and join us in building a better future for our children.

Chag Sameach and Shana Tovah. A sweet and happy and healthy new year to you and your families.

Reuters bias watch

We're instituting a new feature, where you can read the Reuters bias via just their headlines. It was inspired by Tim Blair, who found the most biased headline yet in Reuters.

For your viewing displeasure today:

Israel Reels at Pilots' Refusal to Go on Missions

Really? Imshin, Gil, Tal, Allison, are you really reeling?)

Arafat Sends Message of Peace, Israel Rejects It

Of course Israel would reject it, because Arafat, the murderer-in-chief, is the one who really wants peace, not Israel.

Hamas Rejects Talk of Ceasefire with Israel

Actually, that one was included as a compare-and-contrast object lesson. Do you think we should retitle the above"Israel Sends Message of Peace, Hamas Rejects It"? For consistency's sake, I mean.

Israel Troops Kill Gaza Youth After Bush UN Speech

That's the one that Tim found that started this whole meme. Feel free to contribute any headlines you find, and if you title your post simply "headlines," it will be easier for me to track them.

A new word

One of my readers sent me a letter about my first Said post that says, in part:

I think you mean Gluckschmerz (pleasure in misfortune) rather than Schadenfreude (sadness in happiness)

We have learned a new word today. Gluckshmerz.

Update: From Stefan Sharkansky, who, unlike me, can speak German:

Schadenfreude means "finding joy in someone else's misfortune". Glückschmerz (yes, there is a difference between u and ü, and if you can't put the umlaut on top of the u you need to put an "e" after the u - Glueckschmerz) would mean the opposite: "finding pain in someone else's happiness". The former has been around for a while. The latter, I think, is a recent invention which is play on the former.

I think I feel a new tagline coming on: The blog that actually teaches you something.

Update 3/8/05: I have no idea why "gluckschmerz" is suddenly a hot search word, but folks, feel free to check out my main page, or some of these other posts (Hulk smash!) that you may like, particularly if you're pro-Israel, or even if you just like cats (or dogs).



More goodbyes to Said

Dr. Manhattan's got a eulogy for Edward Said. Yeah, Doc, I'll atone for it in ten days, too, but I'm still not sorry he's dead.


One of the DVDs I rented for the boring parts of Hurricane Isabel (was I optimistic or what? Power? Ha!) was Chicago. Here's a three-word movie review: I'm buying it.

I didn't see it in the theaters for a number of reasons, but ohmigod, it's one of the best movie musicals ever. Even people who hate musicals will like it. Catherine Zeta-Jones is superb. Renee Zellwhatever was good, but I have a problem with women with soft, squeaky, little-girl voices, so except when she was singing or yelling, she grated on my nerves. Which is probably why I liked Zeta-Jones better. Well, that and the fact that Zeta-Jones is a superb dancer and singer. Hell, even Richard Gere could actually sing. Who knew?

I'm beginning to think that Bob Fosse's work will continue to live on long after him. I thought it would date itself, but Chicago premiered in 1975, and the dances are still great. Granted, he didn't choreograph it, but it was certainly Fosse-style. (If you've never seen All That Jazz, the autobiographical film of Fosse's, rent it. The Airotica scene alone is worth the price of admission.) And amazingly, the tunes from Chicago are ringing in my head today, particularly a number called "He Had it Coming," which was hilarious. "He ran into my knife... ten times."

Mini-review 2: Daredevil was definitely worth seeing. Whoever of you told me not to bother, I'm not listening to you ever again. Jennifer Garner was perfect as Elektra. Ben Afleck was actually pretty good as Daredevil, and overall, it was a fun movie. Bit of a slow start, but then, The Hulk flick took 45 minutes to get going. That final Elektra scene was taken directly from the pages of the Frank Miller comic, which I think I may still have. I'd forgotten it until I saw the film.

Saw The Return of the King preview. I can't wait for December to arrive. Or for the four-disc version of The Two Towers. But I think I'm going to be really disappointed when it's finally out, and I've seen all three films. Well, at least until I have a home theater system, and can watch them on a giant screen TV in my TV room. I wonder if I can put a projection TV on my wishlist?


Edward Said, your number is up

One of the pillars of the development of modern anti-Semitism, also known as Middle Eastern Studies, is dead today.


Schadenfreude? You bet your ass.

Child therapists

Nothing, but nothing cheers me up more than children.

Sarah brought the entire clan this morning for our weekly trip to the Farmer's Market, and they all decided to come inside and see Tig, who did not run screeching in fear, and actually performed tricks for them. (In spite of Heidi's doubting, I have taught Tig to stand up on his hind legs when I say "Up!" Yes, really, and yes, I'll get a picture of it someday.) Then Sarah pointed out my Hulk Hands to the kids, and along we went, bearing Hulk Hands to be shared among four children.

Rebecca smash!

Rebecca SMASH!

She's such a ham for the camera. The Hulk Hands are nearly as big as she is.

Lightening the mood

Thanks, Paul.

Dating Tips for Men, parts three, four, and five. And the wife catching him at it. (I haven't gotten to one and two yet.)


If anyone knows of any pro-palestinian rallies in the Richmond area today, point them out to me.

I'm in the mood to smash something.

Andrea, Michele, let's go find someone to beat up.

In the meantime, you folks may want to visit some of the blogs I read. Bit of a stormy day around here, I predict.



Now that's a debate

Just tuned into Fox News Channel's debate among some of the California candidates. Sure looks like an old-fashioned, knock-down, bareknuckle fistfight to me. Now that's entertainment!

Reuters: Anti-Semitism 'r' Us

Here's a trick question for you all. Which do you think I would rather do? A) Clean up cat vomit with my bare hands or B) Read any story on Israel in the Reuters news service?

God, I hate Reuters. Hate with a burning passion. Loathe. Detest. The news service that manages to disgust me on a daily basis. (Hat tip: Lair Simon.)

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Jews too lazy or busy to visit Jerusalem's Western Wall are sending their prayers by mobile phone text message to a rabbi who places a printed copy in the holy site's stone crevasses.

You just know a Jew-hating editor put in the two words in bold. Why? Gee, let's read the rest of the story and see if we can find a reference to Jews being too lazy to get to the Western Wall.

"Not everyone has the means or time to get there," said Gal Wagner on Wednesday, an official from the company that began offering the service two weeks ago for about $1.20.

The service is a high-tech alternative for Jews who traditionally put prayers or wishes in the Old City's Western Wall in the hope they will come true.

Nope, not there. Those Jews are too busy to get to the Wall. Not having the means or time doesn't mean "too lazy".

As a retaining wall of one of the biblical Jewish temples, the Western Wall is one of Judaism's holiest sites.

So far 30,000 text messages have been received. Israeli cellular phone users send the text message with their prayers to the number "1818," numbers which in Jewish tradition symbolize life. At the moment the service is not available to people living abroad.

Nope, not there, either. Nothing about laziness, no quotes, not paraphrases, nothing. Maybe here?

The messages are received on a computer, collated and then faxed to a rabbi at the Western Wall who is paid by Wagner's company to tear off each message and insert it between the stones of the ancient wall.

"We promise to put the message in the Western Wall within 24 hours of it being sent," Wagner said.

He added his was the first company to offer a text messaging service for the Western Wall. An Israeli company offers to put faxed messages from Jews living abroad in the wall.

Hm. Nope. So it's an editorial remark, then?


How much will you bet me that you'll never see an article in Reuters beginning, "Muslims too lazy or busy to go to Mecca..."? C'mon, any takers? Anyone?

I thought not.

Israel news: Signing your own death warrant, refusers, and bad, bad deals

They make it so blatant, how on earth can any nation on earth claim they're not terrorists?

Hamas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin said Wednesday that the Islamic terror group would not disarm, agree to a ceasefire with Israel or join Qureia's government.

Yassin, who along with other Hamas leaders has been marked for death by Israel, made a rare public appearance, addressing reporters at a Gaza City mosque. He rejected any notion of a ceasefire "as long as the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people persists.

"This is not the time to talk of a ceasefire," Yassin said, claiming the issue never came up in the discussions held between members of his group and Palestinian Prime Minister designate Ahmed Qureia.

Qureia has recently addressed the "chaos of weapons" in the Palestinian areas, but has not said what steps, if any, he would take to get illegal weapons off the street, as required by the US-backed "road map" peace plan. Qureia and other officials have said they would not use force against the militants.

Yassin said Hamas would not disarm voluntarily. "The weapons that our people carry to defend our land and our people, nobody can confiscate them," he said. "We can only talk about this after liberating the land. Taking weapons means surrender and defeat."

But the man is a quadriplegic! How can Israel be so mean as to try to assassinate l'il ol him? Oh, and when he says "after liberating the land," he's not talking about just the disputed terroritories. He's talking about all of Israel.

Also in the news today: More fodder for the Indymedia creeps.

Twenty-seven active and retired reservist Israel Air Force pilots have written a letter to the Air Force commander, Maj.-Gen. Dan Halutz, in which they stated their refusal to carry out any further targeted assassinations and any other operations in the Palestinian territories, Channel 2 TV reported Wednesday.

"We new and old soldiers refuse these illegal and immoral orders that have been carried out by the State of Israel," the letter read.

You're in the armed services, gents. You don't get to pick and choose which orders to follow. Then again, 27 out of, hm... what is the number of IAF active and reserves? I'll have to go look.

I used to think these kind of prisoner swaps were a good thing. Now I think that the Israelis need to keep the murderers in prison and hold a funeral for each captured Israeli in terrorists' hands.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Tuesday that the negotiations over the prisoner swap with the Hizbullah guerrilla group are in an advanced stage.

[...] The Hezbollah run Al Manar Satellite TV station also reported that the number of prisoners in question stood at 215, not 400 as previously reported. Many of the Palestinian prisoners in question belong to Hamas, some of them with "blood on their hands."

Hezbollah also reported that Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade leader in Nablus, Nasser Aweis, responsible for the deaths of about a dozen Israelis, might also be released in the swap. Aweis served as one of Marwan Barghouti's lieutentants carrying out dozens of attacks in the name of the Tanzim until his arrest in April 2002. the PFLP's Abdul Rahim Malouh could also be part of the swap, Al Manar reported.

They really, really need to institute the death penalty for terrorists in Israel. Then we could still have prisoner swaps, but not the release of murderers for the return of Israeli remains.

Happy hawks

Lair's got his kitty bedtime stories. I have a real-life happily ever after hawk story.

There's a hawk pair in the woods behind Heidi and G.'s house. We see and hear them regularly. Saturday, two days after Hurricane Isabel, we saw one of the hawks flying over the trees. Then it landed, and we could hear it scream. It screamed again and again, greatly disturbing the local bird population, which took wing and twittered and fluttered around nervously. G. and I were trying to figure out what was going on—was there a bird fight? We saw some ravens flying around, but they were flying away from the hawk. Finally, it hit us. G. mentioned that he'd only seen one of the pair, and that perhaps the other had been killed in the storm. That made me realize that maybe this one was calling its mate.

The hawk kept screeching, loud, penetrating, echoing screams. Then after a while it stopped, and we were rather saddened to realize that no other hawk had answered it.

On Sunday, the hawk started screeching again. And so did its mate. On Monday, we saw and heard them both. So we figure that either the hawk was signalling its mate, which had perhaps gotten blown out of their territory during the storm, or it found a new one. Either way, there's a happy hawk couple living in the woods again. Well, happy for everything but the birds and critters that make up the hawks' menu.

Best column on "anti-Zionism" ever

I wish I'd written this:

Say what? Anti-Semites? Who, us anti-Zionists? Us? We have nothing against Jews as such. We just hate Zionism and Zionists. We think Israel does not have a right to exist. But that does not mean we have anything against Jews as such. Heavens to Mergatroyd. Marx Forbid. We are humanists. Progressives. Peace lovers.

Anti-Semitism is the hatred of Jews. Anti-Zionism is opposition to Zionism and Israeli policies. The two have nothing to do with one another. Venus and Mars. Night and day. Trust us.

Sure, we think the only country on the earth that must be annihilated is Israel. But that does not mean we have anything against Jews as such.

Sure, we think that the only children on earth whose being blown up is okay if it serves a good cause are Jewish children. But that does not mean we have anything against Jews as such.

Sure, we think that if Palestinians have legitimate grievances this entitles them to mass murder Jews. But that does not mean we have anything against Jews as such.

Naturally, we think that the only people on earth who should never be allowed to exercise the right of self-defense are the Jews. Jews should only resolve the aggression against them through capitulation, never through self-defense. But that does not mean we have anything against Jews as such.

We only denounce racist apartheid in the one country in the Middle East that is not a racist apartheid country. But that does not mean we have anything against Jews as such.

We refuse to acknowledge the Jews as a people, and think they are only a religion. We do not have an answer to how people who do not practice the Jewish religion can still be regarded as Jews. But that does not mean we have anything against Jews as such.

Read the rest. Via Lair Simon, who got it from Spoons.

Disaster mismanagement

Getting back to FEMA, state preparedness, and the aftereffects of Hurricane Isabel, I'm still giving our government agencies a D.

Let's put in a few caveats: I understand that Isabel knocked down thousands of trees onto thousands of power lines, which will take many, many thousands of man-hours to fix the damage. I comprehend that you cannot fix it all in one day, even though Virginia Dominion contracted thousands of extra workers from as far away as Canada to help their regular workforce cope with the damage. In fact, I wasn't griping because I didn't have power. I am bothered by what I see as a lack of disaster preparedness by Americans overall.

Now, contrary to some of my angry letter-writers' beliefs, most Virginians were prepared for Isabel. They bought candles, batteries, stocked water, ice, and got ready for a power outage. But I'd like Cindy A. to tell me how to make ice last more than a day in a freezer or a cooler. How can I extend the water I've prepared for my disaster to last longer? Should I just add water to my water to dilute it? I'll use the taps that don't work, perhaps? Beginning to get the big picture here?

And when my food spoils for lack of coldness, and the stores are all closed or out of vital supplies due to the hurricane, should I just conjure food up from thin air, or will wishing really hard make some appear? How do parents feed their children when their stored food runs out? Shall we just call them idiots for not being prepared with a one-week supply of non-refrigerated food for a family of four? Sure, let's do that, okay, Cindy? Those idiots! Yes, that's constructive criticism. That really helps them feed their children.

This is where FEMA and the state must come in and do their real jobs, which are to help our citizens during times of emergencies and disasters. And that is what I think has been lacking. I do not believe Virginia is nearly prepared enough for disaster, and I do not believe that the federal government has our backs covered, which is ultimately what the federal government is for.

Only one Richmond-area hospital was open in the days immediately following Isabel. And it had no water for two days. How can you close a hospital? This was an emergency, and the hospitals closed? That's disaster preparedness? No, that's an abomination. No backup plans for local hospitals? I am losing confidence in my adopted state.

Cindy pointed out that this was a well-forecast hurricane. It certainly was, which makes the response on the part of various agencies even more pathetic. And I'm not the only one to think so.

"I don't think we're communicating like we should," said one state official who asked not to be identified. Too many times federal, state and local officials have acted - or reacted - on the basis of poor information, while "FEMA is worried about keeping the headlines down rather than . . . fixing the situation," he added.

"There were some bumps in the road [Sunday] for sure," said a state spokesman, speaking of problems coordinating delivery of water and ice between the federal, state and local authorities.

Yesterday, the federal government brought 83 tractor-trailer trucks of drinking water in from out of state, but Virginia got only 30 of the 70 trailers of ice authorities requested.

"We'll take what we can get," said Dawn Eischen, state Emergency Management Department spokeswoman. "It appears that the best [FEMA] could do today was 30."

Apparently, Chuck, it's not as simple as requesting FEMA's help to get what you want. Now I'm not saying that FEMA isn't doing its job. I'm pointing out how difficult it is to meet the public's needs during a very large emergency, and that's what Isabel is—hundreds of thousands are still without power today, and tomorrow will be a week since Isabel hit.

Residents coped. Businesses helped. Many were grilling their meat in their parking lots and selling it to customers. Bottled water was donated by the private sector as well as FEMA: Wal-Mart and Home Depot donated water, which was distributed at fire stations. Churches opened their showers to people who had no water. Overall, there was precious little looting or profiteering. But again, it's nearly a week, and hundreds of thousands of people have no power.

Five years ago, an ice storm hit central Virginia. Many residents went days, some went weeks, without power—in the middle of winter, when freezing to death was a real risk. Dominion Power and the state of Virginia have had five years to plan for a disaster the scope of the ice storm. Their response to Isabel says to me that they have failed miserably.

A hurricane is not an unexpected disaster. There's no question of if one will hit. The only question is how bad it will be. So how difficult is it for states in hurricane paths to have disaster management programs ready to go?

Our Department of Homeland Security is supposed to help prepare our citizens for emergencies. It's the reason it was created, and why so many agencies were brought under its aegis, including FEMA. And yet, I am still unimpressed with its response to a disaster that has spread over several states and needed much federal assistance.

This was only a hurricane. I shudder to think what could happen if terrorists attack successfully again. They don't broadcast their path for two weeks, like Isabel did.

Update: Chuck's got a good response (but there was one hospital open, Chuck—the one my friend works in). I may just steal some of his points in my letter to the editor of the Times-Dispatch.

Home again, home again

So I'm finally back in my apartment, with my broadband connection (I am so not kidding about all you MT bloggers with bloated, overloaded pages that take forever to load at 56k; it's going to be my next crusade, and you will all lose, trust me on this one and give up now), the cats, the silence (for some reason, it's really quiet out—perhaps many of my neighbors did what I did and gave up on the neighborhood to stay with people who actually had electricity), the lack of flooding (thank heavens for that), the fact that I missed the F1 tornado that hit the area this morning, coming far too close for comfort, Byrd Park and the area around it (I should end this sentence, look at how long it's gotten), and, er, I forgot where I was going with this.

I have a few more pictures that I'll post later. Heidi did learn to use a chainsaw (sorry, no pictures of that), and it was rather interesting and very unsettling to stand with her two days ago while we lopped off some branches of the tree that had been resting on her fence. Stinky, too. The exhaust just flies all over everywhere, doesn't it? P-U. Anyway, yesterday we cut the limbs off a tree that was sliding further into the road that wasn't on her property, but that's what you do if you have a chainsaw these days. Then she went to a neighbor's house and chopped up a fallen oak and a small pine so the neighbor's 20-year-old son wouldn't have to do it with an axe, or with a chainsaw sans lessons. Then it was time for me to finish packing and say goodbye, a prospect received with great sadness by Sorena, who would probably have me move in if she could think of a way to achieve it. Six days was enough for me, and I'm sure enough for Heidi and G. I was their houseguest since Thursday afternoon, after all. Plus, there are cats to take care of, floors to vaccuum (I never did get to that before the storm), etc., etc.

So I get home, and discover something I already knew: Cats are the laziest creatures on the planet. I left an extra food dish on the landing of the stairs where Tig now sleeps, since he's developed some kind of phobia about my room and washes his tail compulsively whenever he enters now. Of course, the extra food dish was completely empty, as was the bathroom sink that I had left with water, because neither cat could be bothered to come downstairs and eat and drink as long as it was available upstairs. We have now put a stop to that practice; calories must be expended in order to gain more of them.

There was a cricket in one of the water bowls. I was about to toss it down the sink when it started doing the backstroke. I thought it over, and poured it outside in front. Here's hoping it's smart enough not to come back inside, or it will suffer the fate of its brethren, whose body parts I find all over the floors regularly.

My freezer is empty, and I'm trying to decide on whether to take that two-hour drive up to Rockville, MD, to get some kosher meat, or wait another few weeks and just get it at my regular NJ butcher shop, as it's family birthday time soon. I'm thinking no to Rockville.

I let the cats out this afternoon, and discovered that someone's dog is running around unleashed. It's a little blue dog that sort of resembles a small pit bull. I chased it away early this afternoon, and figured that was that. A few hours later, Tig was out on the patio and the door was closed. I heard a bark, then a yip of pain, and ran out to see Tig totally puffed up, as pissed as I've ever seen him, and a dog running away top speed. Something tells me Tig was telling the dog who owned the patio. I tried to shoo Tig inside, and man, am I glad I was holding the TV remote, because Tig hissed at me, slapped it out of my hand with his paw, and made me contemplate what my hand would have looked like if it hadn't been holding the remote.

Then the triumphant kitty went inside and marked the great occasion as he always does: He went to his food dish and ate. Yep. I'm back.



Thailand fights terrorism, makes tasty takeout, too

The Thai police prevented an attack on an El Al counter and airliner by Al Qaeda. Everyone go out and patronize your local Thai restaurant tonight in thanks!

Police in Thailand three months ago arrested a man suspected of planning an attack on an El Al plane or against Israeli travelers in the country. Channel Two television, which broke news of the arrest Tuesday night, said the man is a suspected member of Osama Bin Laden's Al-Qaida terror organization. The suspect's nationality and identity remain undisclosed.

The suspect was arrested when Thai police spotted him photographing an El Al counter at Bangkok International Airport, Channel Two said. Investigators found in the suspect's residence relatively detailed plans for a terror attack. Apparently, his plan was to either destroy an El Al plane with an anti-aircraft missile, or to attack passengers in the airport with gunfire or explosives.

Thai authorities passed Israel information about the investigation. In response, security at Bangkok airport has been tightened and changes to minimize the risk of a missile attack put in place, security sources say.

It's more than a little unsettling that the El Al terminal was vulnerable, as El Al is generally considered to be the safest airline in the world. Here's what the article has to say about that security:

As with El Al terminals in other airports overseas, security at the company's facility in Bangkok International Airport combines local and Israeli personnel. Armed Israelis guard the route which leads passengers from security counters in the airport to the plane.

Generally, Israeli security personnel are concentrated in areas where El Al passengers cluster. When a plane is parked, awaiting passengers to board, most Israeli security personnel patrol the terminal area where passengers gather before entering the plane, with only one guard watching the plane itself. As passengers move toward the plane and board, the guards follow, so before the plane flies, it is surrounded by Israeli security men.

It's open season on Jews by Al Qaeda, but we sort of figured that out when Bin Laden went, "Oh, yeah, and Palestine, too!" during one of his why-I-like-to-blow-stuff-up videos.


The power came on last night, according to some of the neighbors. Apparently, my court is the only one in the complex that has power. I'm not complaining; my refrigerator made ice again, the AC is working, and I'm planning on going back to Heidi's and getting the rest of my things. I brought the computer with me just in case. And may I repeat: Nearly every single weblog I read sucks at 56k. You all need to cut back on the images, background gifs, and excessive length of posts available.

In any case. Sleeping at home tonight. In my own bed. It was wonderful to have somewhere else to stay, but it's been nearly a week. Time to let them have their lives back, and get back to mine.

More about FEMA very soon, now that I'm on broadband again.



In FEMA's defense: Letters from readers

A few of you have pointed out some valid issues regarding my previous post. From Chuck Simmins:

Part of the problem is the misconception of what FEMA is supposed to do. This link is a FEMA press release about what they are and have done. Note in the following that Virginia has to make the request:

The Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has delivered almost 150,000 pounds of ice and 28 semi-trailers of water for distribution by the Commonwealth as part of the significant resources deployed to Virginia in the aftermath of Hurricane Isabel. More resources will be deployed as requested by the Commonwealth of Virginia.

"To assist in the recovery from Isabel, FEMA is delivering the material requested by Virginia," said Under Secretary Michael D. Brown, Under Secretary for Emergency Preparedness and Response. "We have already begun providing water and ice to be distributed by the Commonwealth with more to follow."

'Virginia received a major disaster declaration on Sept. 18, 2003, allowing for the release of federal disaster funds and emergency resources.

So far, FEMA has met Virginia's request for water and ice with approximately 142,000 pounds of ice and 28 trucks of water delivered to regional distribution points. The Commonwealth then distributes the water and ice throughout the state. Virginia made additional requests for water and ice for delivery tomorrow and FEMA is working to meet those requests.

Someone who requested that I not publish his/her letter made some good points, which are made less politely in the following letter by Cindy A.:

In your own words: "But many people also didn't do something as simple as pick up an extra few dollars cash on Wednesday, when the weather was still bright and sunny out. Or fill their vehicle's gas tank. Or check to make sure their flashlights actually worked."

SO WHO'S FAULT IS THEIR SITUTATION??? If they don't have drinking water or medication they are idiots. This hurricane was well forecasted. If they don't have what they need, well - so let the herd be thinned as far as I am concerned.

But yet, you blame FEMA and your local Disaster Management, for all the woes that have resulted from Hurricane Isabel. And I am sure there is some room for constructive critism, but consider this:

Are you and your neighbors prepared to take the necessary steps (mostly financial) to put your electric service lines underground so that in the future a hurricane won't be able to knock your power out for an extended length of time? And do you attend the open meetings of your local Emergency Services Committees to voice you thoughts? You've lived through this, you seem to think you know what needs to be in place. Are you going to get involved in the planning? Or do you just blog about what a failure it all is and leave the actual work to someone else???

Sadly, in today's society, most Americans look to someone else to take care of them. Regardless of the situtation. As a member of 2 different Emergency Prepardness Committees, and the founder of the local business prepardness and recovery group I can tell you that no one can or will be able to take care of you, except for yourself. I would strongly suggest that since you see such glaring problems, that you take the time to get involved and make a difference.

Here where I live, earthquakes are the issue. In my city, the hard fact is, when the "big one" hits, we will be completely on our own for a minimum of 7 to 10 days. Completely on our own. What federal or state services that are available will be sent to the larger metropolitian areas. We will be the last to get help. The best estimate of the experts is that we will have between 45% - 65% failure rate of residences, and have a significant number of dead to deal with, as well as many, many wounded. We will have no electricity, no natural gas, no gas for autos, except for what is in the community service stations and that will be held for emergency service vehicles and generators. Thanks to the committees I belong to, we have several programs in place to deal with this eventually. We have a complete MASH type hospital, capable of serving our entire community population of 235,000 in storage in the basement of our Sheriff's station. We have 27 storage containers placed in 27 different accessable lots that contain medical, food and other supplies, including temporary housing, generators, etc.. We have asked the local pharmacies to stock a minimum of 2.5 weeks of all medicines (in ample supplies to take care of their patients) and the list goes on and on. I have spent my time teaching local business men how to make their business as safe as possible, what to keep on hand for their employees needs, and to make them understand what they can do to rebound and get back to work as quickly as possible. You can't get a community back on it's feet if it's business are not working.

In an emergency, we will for certain have problems. There will be things that we have not thought of. People will suffer. THAT IS WHY IT IS CALLED AN EMERGENCY. But we have done our best. And believe me when I say that the 99+% of the people who live in this town, and never, ever think about their survival will be damn glad that people like me did. And we won't be sitting around bitching about FEMA or someone else.

Now - where do you stand, with those who do the job, or those who bitch???

P.S. - I am not a nurse or medical person, fire or police person, nor do I work for the city or any other government. I'm a typesetter. If I can get involved, you can too. I strongly encourage you to do so.

Gee, Cindy, we typesetters have some kind of attitude. (Atex and A-M Varityper here; remember them?) You're right about some things. I know we need to take care of ourselves, and I am one of those people who bottled water, checked my flashlight and batteries, got extra cash, and, in fact, did everything except fill the tub with water because, well, I forgot. I was heading over to my friends' house no matter what, where I knew they had a wood stove, charcoal grill, and all the supplies I'd need. I brought my own flashlight and candle. And I wasn't exactly blaming FEMA. I was considering that I don't think Americans really are prepared for emergency situations very well. I do think that it's human nature, just as it's human nature to bitch about things. And Chuck showed me that I did need to do a bit more research, but I rather thought that as well. (I was in a pissy mood this afternoon; is that a good enough excuse?)

However—we need to be more prepared. During World War II, every town had civilians in charge of air raid drills making sure every town knew what to do. Perhaps it's time our towns instituted the Civilian Defense once more. You're right, we do need to be more involved, and more proactive. Especially those of us who don't live in an earthquake zone, and who aren't as prepared for disaster management.

Disaster Management: Grade D

It's now the fourth day without power for 40 percent of Dominion Virginia customers, including more than 300,000 in the Richmond area—of which I am one. I'm extremely fortunate that my friends have power and water, a guest room, and the kindness to put me up until the power returns to my apartment.

Overall, I think our disaster management teams are a disgrace. I think we're in a lot of trouble if Al Qaeda manages to pull off another attack, and I think that a determined terrorist group could do more damage to the U.S. economy by merely targeting power stations or a series of transformers in highly populated areas rather than running a plane into the Capitol Dome.

Look at the latest disasters to hit the nation. The blackout earlier this summer showed that there is no practical evacuation plan for Manhattan and the New York area. If I lived in Manhattan or on Long Island, I'd go out and buy an inflatable raft large enough to carry me and my family, and keep an extra canister or two to inflate it. You sure as hell can't get out the usual access points during a catastrophe.

As far as I can tell, FEMA is great if you want to get the money to fix your home up after disaster has hit. Where were the FEMA teams when Virginians and Carolinans needed water, food, batteries, ice, and flashlights? Granted, Hurricane Isabel was nowhere near as deadly as many natural disasters, but it was an overarching disaster for, say, families with small children, the elderly, the handicapped, people who are on constant medication or needs constant medical attention. And it's a major discomfort and pain in the butt for the rest of us.

On the flip side, we should all be prepared for emergencies. Many people were prepared, or got the things they needed in the final days. But many people also didn't do something as simple as pick up an extra few dollars cash on Wednesday, when the weather was still bright and sunny out. Or fill their vehicle's gas tank. Or check to make sure their flashlights actually worked.

Someone said somewhere that our civilized behavior is only a thin layer, and that if a true disaster strikes, you'll see rioting, looting, and rampaging in places like Manhattan. I was extremely skeptical of that line of thought. But after four days without power, and looking at a week before it's fully restored, and thinking about people who aren't lucky enough to have friends like Heidi and G., I'm starting to think there may be trouble ahead.

And trust me, neither a visit by Tom Ridge nor President Bush makes me any more confident that my power is going to come back on any sooner. America has gotten far too soft and complacent. You'd think 9/11 would have been a bigger wake-up call.

P.S.: My Hurricane Isabel accounts: start here and scroll down, or start here and scroll up.



Axis of Isabel: Updates

I haven't been home yet today, but I expect the power is still out. The phone service is. You don't even get the courtesy of one of those messages telling you the service is out. You simply connect and get nothing.

The Richmond area is coming back to life. The Times-Dispatch has the best coverage around here. It's about the only game in town. Not too many cities are multiple-newspaper cities any more, and no, you can't count USA Today. But there are still many areas without power, some even right down the street. We have no idea why we were the first on the grid to be fixed, and we're not complaining. Apparently, local markets are grilling their meats and selling them low-cost to folks who have no power to cook their won. Even so, most of the food vendors in the area stand to lose a lot of money this month.

Heidi and G. and I are extremely pleased that the Noisy Generator Neighbors behind are still without power. Payback for making it harder for us to sleep the other night, although Noisy Generator Neighbors to the east got their power back, making my rest a bit easier, as the guest room faces east.

Religious school has been canceled this morning. My synagogue has no electricity or water. Services were canceled Friday and Saturday as well. On the other hand, Bingo is on, as the Bingo hall is in a part of town that has power and water. Lucky for me, I'm not working Bingo tonight.

In a way, I feel like I'm on vacation again, visiting Heidi for a few days and heading back to NJ after my time off is done. Only I'm driving to Richmond every day to check on the status of my apartment and cats, pick up more clothes and objects like my old metal Coleman cooler (the one with the bottle opener built into the handle), and listen to the latest rumors from the neighbors as to when our power will be restored. Then I load up the car and come back here, where things are getting back to normal except for the massive amount of meat that still needs to be cooked. And the three bags of charcoal on the patio. And the five gallons of bottled water on the counter.

Yesterday morning, we boiled water on my propane-powered hibachi to make coffee. This morning, the familiar sound of grinding beans filled the kitchen, and the espresso maker did its usual thing. I think it may be time for me to admit defeat over at my apartment and grab the last of my breakfast-making materials (I think I left a loaf of bread in the fridge) and bring them here. I've no idea when I can go home to sleep. It's a crap shoot.

Wind Rider's blogging from hijacked computers at Circuit City, and I'm not sure how the rest of the Axis of Isabel is doing. It's not so easy to surf at 56k and by the way, fellow bloggers? You're bandwidth hogs. Try surfing without a cable modem or DSL and see how little you like the wait for loading that occurs on most blogs.

By the way, the Axis has been updated with the latecomers who emailed me after I lost power. Go see how everyone else fared.


Last week's blogs are archived. Looking for the Buffy Blogburst Index? Here's Israel vs. the world. Here's the Blogathon. The Superhero Dating Ratings are here. If you're looking for something funny, try the Hulk's solution to the Middle East conflict, or Yasser Arafat Secret Phone Transcripts. Iseema bin Laden's diary and The Fudd Doctrine are also good bets if you've never been here before.