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Rested: Yes, I am, thank you for asking. Gracie woke me up around six, but I couldn't do much about it because she was downstairs, yowling at me to come down and pet her. I yelled her name, she shut up, I went back to sleep. I was asleep before midnight last night. That's great for me. Now, if only I didn't have to work tonight. Alas.

You want pictures? Then you do the work: I was going to put up some pictures, but y'know, it's a lot of work. Pick the best ones, then crop them, then turn them into gifs or jpegs—sometimes, I just want an assistant, if you don't mind. I mean, I could put them up as is, but they're over a meg each, and I'd rather not put the load on my account, not to mention your 56k modems. (Yes, I read every one of your comments, and remember a surprising amount of them.) So, like, no, no pictures today. Maybe tomorrow. I have to go to work in a couple of hours, and I'm relaxing from my morning with Nate and Larry G. Nate got his birthday present, which was time with me at the climbing gym. All three of us had fun. We have the pictures to prove it, but, well, that's how this post got started.

IIAPM: That means "I'm in a pissy mood," and was created on Usenet, I think. I'm not exactly, but I was this morning (before getting to hang with a very cheerful six-year-old), and I have this screed in mind that will probably go up in the next day or two. Because I simply can't be happy as a blogger unless at least half my readers get in the same mood as I am when I write my screeds. Actually, I think it has to do with my personality. I love sharing the wealth, whether it is good mood or bad. Okay, not really. When I'm in a really bad mood, I hibernate. When I'm in a good mood, I give things away. And tell really bad jokes. And write funny posts. I have a funny post percolating in my head, too. The Saddam Lawyer Meeting Transcripts. I think it'll be ready to post in a few more days.

There you have the full schizoid that I am: Good Meryl/Bad Meryl. Happy Meryl/Angry Meryl. That must be why I liked Queen's black and white album so much. And why I love the Hulk. Say. Hulk needs to make another appearance here, too. Well, I'm going to have an entire week to chill and recharge. Perhaps then. And now, off to make myself dinner before work. Feel free to talk amongst yourselves while I'm gone.

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I'm tired. Fridays are one of my two most-tired days of the week. The other day is Monday. That's because I'm tired on Friday, and work all weekend. Someone, I don't remember who, had the nerve to call me up on a Monday morning and make some kind of wiseass remark after I said I was tired. I believe all I said was "I work all weekend," but perhaps the tone in my voice got, well, more than a hint of juvenile scorn to it. There was a brief silence on the other end of the line before the conversation resumed.

I think I'm fried. No, I know I'm fried. I need to recharge and relax and refresh myself. Two more days left of the Job From Hell (now mostly the Job From Heck). After Wednesday, I am free of it. Three weeks off from teaching religious school. Only one job per week? Whatever will I do?

Well, I'll be going back up to NJ the first week of January. I don't think I want to do another Katz's run, but I'm willing to meet somewhere in the City again.

Anyway. I have been doing some maintenance on this old computer, as I still don't have the new one back yet. Which made me even more tired.

I am so looking forward to sleeping in both days this weekend. God help the cats if they wake me up tomorrow.

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One issue, two papers, two views

The issue is the new trade agreement between Israel and Egypt. The slant in both papers is that it is indicative of the thaw in relations between the two countries. The Times puts the story in its international section. The Houston Chronicle treats the trade agreement as a business issue. The Times flails away at the slow thawing of frosty relations, while the Chronicle goes into the reasoning behind the agreement as more economic in nature, utilizing an opportune time to improve relations.

Here is the Chronicle's Paul Schemm explaining that a large part of the reason for the deal is the threat of China's growing economic influence to the Egyptian textile industry. The headline (and excerpts in bold) reflect that theory.

Textile crisis forces hands
The rise of China prompts Egypt and Israel to reach a deal aimed at saving clothing makers

Egypt, Israel and the United States signed an agreement Tuesday that gives products of joint Israeli-Egyptian manufacture duty-free access to the United States and may save Egypt's threatened clothing industry.

This deal also shows how the growing economic might of China is changing the world in ways that go beyond business. After years of shunning this opportunity because of tensions between the two nations, the threat of low-cost competition when textile export limits end next year, forced Egyptians and Israelis to cooperate.

The Times doesn't mention the above. In fact, the word "China" doesn't appear at all in the Times article.Their headline: "Melting Icy Egypt-Israel Relations Through a Trade Pact," on a news analysis story in the International section, positioned prominently on page A3 of the print edition. Nor does the Times mention this:

With the quotas set to end next year, textile and clothing factory owners in Egypt are already reporting a decline in orders as buyers look for better deals.

"It is a matter of life or death for thousands of workers and investors," Hossam Eddin Gabr, a business leader in Port Said, told a local monthly business magazine. As a major textile city, Port Said will be covered by the agreement, along with areas in Alexandria and Cairo.

The Chronicle goes on, barely touching on the Azzam Azzam issue. Granted, you can point out the difference between a business article and an international news analysis, but, well, that's exactly my point. The Times chose to make this a political topic. The Chronicle looks at the issue as mostly economic. And while you can make an argument for the political aspect, it seems to me that the overwhelming reason behind this treaty was the fear that Egypt would lose an industry that brings in over a quarter of their industrial income. More from the Chronicle:

Though Egypt and Israel have had a peace treaty for 25 years, it was often described as a cold peace, with economic and social relations between the countries kept to a minimum. The advent of the latest violence in the Palestinian territories in 2000 only worsened matters.

The move comes in the context of a warming in relations between the two countries following Egypt's aid in the peace process and the release of an Israeli imprisoned for espionage.

"There is a change in the atmosphere in the Middle East," exulted Ehud Omert, Israel's Minister of Industry and deputy prime minister at the ceremony.

The agreement creates seven qualifying industrial zones in Egypt. Companies there can export duty- and quota-free to the United States, as long as the products have nearly 12 percent Israeli content, which can include packaging.

This trade initiative was started by the Clinton administration in 1996 as a way of strengthening the peace process and was originally meant to allow Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians to participate in Israel's long-standing free trade agreement with the United States.

Only Jordan took advantage of the agreement and ended up receiving massive investment from Asian textile and apparel companies looking for easier access to the U.S. market. In five years, Jordan's exports to the United States jumped from $37 million to an estimated $670 million in 2004.

That last graf is rather interesting, though the Clinton-haters aren't going to like it at all. A program that Bill Clinton started is actually working, and working well—for Jordan. The Egyptians have been watching Jordan reap the bounty and increase trade to the U.S. by simply taking advantage of a trade agreement requiring a little work with Israel. The bottom line is the bottom line. Egypt's textile business is in grave danger, as the Chronicle article details (and the Times article mostly ignores).

Egyptian businessmen originally ignored this opening, preferring not to deal with the Israelis. Egypt exported some $550 million worth of cloth and clothing to the United States in 2003 under a system of quotas established globally in 1974 called the Multi-Fiber Agreement.

That agreement is to expire in 2005, at which point lower-cost competitors like China or India will be able to export unlimited quantities. That would be a blow in a country where over a million people work in the textile industries, which make up 27 percent of the industrial output.

"Clothing exports to the U.S., in particular woven apparel, are expected to decline dramatically after the quotas are lifted in January 2005," warned a recent study on the Egyptian textile industry by the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt. China stands to increase its share of the global textile trade from 20 percent to 50 percent, a recent World Bank report suggested.

If China doubles its percentage of the textile trade, current textile leaders are going to lose. I'm not an economist, but I do understand that this is a zero-sum game. One would think this is an important enough fact for the Times to mention. But they're too busy biasing their coverage against Israel to include all of the facts, I guess.

Now, if you're still reading, here is the Times' coverage. The most offensive excerpt:

The third factor is the re-election of President Bush. Arab leaders hold that American presidents in their second terms care more about the judgment of history than the judgment of the Jewish lobby, and hence are more willing to press Israel.

There is no cite for that quotation. It is offered as common knowledge. And while it is common knowledge that many Arab dictators are Jew-haters and pass along anti-Semitic lies (the Syrian dictator Bashar Assad is the one I seem to quote the most), that doesn't absolve the Times for passing along this drek.

Also in the Times article was this paragraph, along with a contextual problem I pointed out about the rest of the media only last week.

In another upbeat move early in December, Azam Azam, an Arab Israeli businessman convicted of spying for Israel, was released after serving 8 years of a 15-year sentence, and six Egyptian students captured by Israel were also sent home.

The contextual problem is that there is no context whatsoever. The above paragraph makes it seem like Israel regularly swoops down on innocent Egyptian students and imprisons them. In fact, the six "students" were indicted in September, accused of plotting to hijack an IDF tank and kill its crew.

And then we have this, which needs to have a side-by-side comparison. First, the Times:

A demonstration outside the Journalists Union drew fewer than 50 protesters, but their sentiments echoed the popular mood.

"It is not possible that we should reward Israel for its crimes by making an agreement," said Muhammad Waked, who identified himself as a member of an antiglobalization group in Egypt, adding that the only people who would benefit in Egypt were rich factory owners.

The prevailing sentiment was that the agreement was yet another attempt by the United States to make Israel more palatable to the Arab world. Economic issues here often come secondary to the emotional desire to see some sort of overall settlement that will return occupied lands, particularly the holy mosque in Jerusalem, and find some solution for millions of Palestinian refugees stuck for generations in camps.

Now, the Chronicle:

"Most of the garment and apparel manufacturers are extremely happy," confirmed Hany El Habibi, the head of Sahara group, a textiles industry consulting firm, ''except for the ones not in the areas that have been accepted."

In fact, aside from a small protest against the agreement in Cairo, the complaints about the deal have come from people who wanted a broader agreement. Textile workers in the industrial towns of Ismailiya and Mahalla el Kobra demonstrated on Tuesday, demanding that their towns receive qualifying industrial zones as well.

Notice how the Times says the small group of protesters are the "popular mood," while the Chronicle points out that only a small group of protesters are against the agreement. But that would spoil the Times' underlying point: That the Arabs do not want peace with Israel under any circumstances.

I guess we should just wait and see what happens in the next few months. In spite of my tendency to actually believe the Times article is right, I have hope in my heart that there will be peace.

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Do they or don't they? Will they or won't they?

If anyone out there can see signs that the palestinians really want peace with Israel, raise your hand. Because I simply can't figure out which way the rabbit will jump. Presented, for your education, the following articles:

Abbas denies seeking end to armed struggle
Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Mahmoud Abbas Wednesday denied calling for an end to the armed struggle against Israel.

"I don't want my comment on the demilitarization of the uprising to be misunderstood ... All I meant is that we are in a phase that does not necessitate arms because we want to negotiate," Abbas said in Riyadh where he ended an official visit Wednesday.

There's also this:

Abbas: No to resettling refugees
PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) on Wednesday rejected a new Israeli initiative to resettle Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and neighboring Arab countries.

"Any proposal regarding the resettlement of the refugees is completely rejected," Abbas told reporters in Saudi Arabia.

And, of course, the violence has not stopped, either in Gaza or in other parts of the territories:

Five Israelis were wounded, two of them moderately, in two shooting incidents last night on the Kissufim-Gush Katif road. Israel Defense Forces soldiers killed two of the terrorists.

This, of course, is in addition to the tunnel bomb that killed five Israel Druse soldiers in Gaza over the weekend. Apparently, Hamas has launched a new offensive in Gaza, which includes deadly mortar attacks on settlements. You know, the mortars that the anti-Israel press like to say are inaccurate and "usually" not fatal. Tell that to the victim's husband.

And on the Egyptian side, they want peace. No, they don't. Yes, they do. (Read that last link, it's in the Arab News. When the Arab News is mentioning Egypt and Israel in the same breath as the word peace, it's significant.)

So the upshot is: Are we truly on the cusp of peace in the Middle East?

Beats the hell out of me. Talk is cheap. Let's wait and see what happens.

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Loyalty tests

Is anyone else as pissed off about this article as I am?

A French Jewish doctor was one of the senior physicians who treated Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, while he was admitted at the French military hospital south of Paris, a senior French government official has revealed.

The doctor was updated about Arafat’s condition even when the Palestinian leader was still at the Mukata in Ramallah. He was also one of the doctors who were summoned to Arafat’s bed in the night when the PA chairman dove into an irreversible coma.

“He was called to treat Arafat because of his qualifications, as every different specialist made his own diagnosis”, the source told Maariv. “However, it is a sensitive matter that should not be discussed at length”.

The doctor asked not to be identified, close associates of the doctor said. They added that despite his Jewish identity, his loyalty to the State of Israel and his wish to assist Israel in any way he can, he refused to divulge any information on Arafat’s condition to Israeli officials.

I have a few questions. WTF is this doing in Ma'ariv? What, an Israeli newspaper has to prove that not all Jews are suffering from dual-loyalty complex? It's an article proving the dual-loyalty charge is false? It was written by a French reporter? What does this article mean? What Israeli officials asked him to divulge information? Who wrote this piece of crap, and why?

What, we need an article like this to castigate ourselves? It isn't bad enough the world is doing it for us?


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Zooming along at Kbps

There is simply no bearing 56k any more. Well. My decision to rent my cable modem from Comcast has really paid off. I'm on my third one now, cleverly named "Cable Modem 3" by the folks at Comcast. I wanted to call it Fried Cable Modem, but I decided to just click the submit button and move along. They keep getting smaller, too. The next time I need a new one it's probably going to be the size of a cell phone.

I have a brand-new APC battery backup/surge protector. It has a slot for my RJ45 cable. But I have an embarrassing admission to make: I have no idea how to run the cable through the UPS and then into my computer. Is there a cable link I'm missing? There's no "In from antenna" and "Out to TV" ports listed. So if lightning hits my cable again while I'm surfing, I'm still not protected.

However, I know that there are millions of techies out there, and some of them read my blog, so just tell me what I need to get, and I'll get it.

The computer is in the shop. I'll know on Thursday if it's repairable. I'm betting not, what with my hearing a great big "CRACK" and the screen going blank, but hey, you never know.

Lynn and I were trying to figure out if this was some kind of message, because, well, I was trying to do a mitzvah when my cable was struck. I was making up Chanukah presents for my religious school students. That's why I was on the HP. I was using their Image Zone software (which so totally rocks for digital photography) to make up a sheet of pictures that I was going to print out on photo paper, with a Chanukah background. So I'm thinking it was a random act of violence by Mother Nature, who should frankly be ashamed of herself, the mean old bag.

On the other hand, it's the greatest excuse of all for my losing the Wizbang Weblog Awards: I was struck by lightning and couldn't get out the vote in the last two days. That Patterico guy stole the election! Cheat! Cheat!

No, not really.

Anyway. I'm back on cable modem speeds, and will be back to normal blogging later this afternoon. Let this be a lesson to all of you: Don't ever have your cable modem connected to your computer, and you'll never have your computer fried by lightning.

Wait. That didn't come out right.

Actually, the real lesson to this is: If you don't have a UPS, you'd better have homeowners' insurance with a low deductible. It looks like I'm only going to be out $250 over this. Of course, there's the mental anguish of watching my brand-new computer die in front of my eyes, and the guilt of having to listen to my mother's voice when I told her what happened to her gift, but hey, the nightmares ought to stop in a year or two.

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Acts of God and other things

All I can say is, if you're going to have a freak lightning bolt strike with absolutely no warning (it was only raining, there was no thunder or lightning earlier), hit your cable, fry your modem, and take our your brand-new HP Pavilion ZD7000 laptop with the 17-inch widescreen monitor that was a gift from your 74-year-old mother, if you don't have a surge protector, at the very least, you'd better have homeowners' insurance.

I have a tenant renter's policy, with a $250 deductible.

It's covered.

Thank goodness.

That's why there's been nothing since Saturday. And now, I am going out to buy a surge protector guaranteed to protect against lightnting strikes, and get my cable modem replaced by Comcast. I rent my cable modem. I'm on my third modem from them. I think I've gotten my money's worth.

When I'm back on cable, I'll be back. Meantime, I'm off to Best Buy to have their staff look at the computer so I can send my insurance company a letter that says, "Ohmigod, lightning struck this computer!"

Do me a favor. Lay off the admonishments about surge protectors in the comments. I am not quite as fried as my computer, but this was a crappy, crappy weekend. But thankfully, it has a happy Monday ending.

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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 is also a good bet if you've never been here before.