To All A...


My Year in Review

Back in February, I discovered the world of blogs. I don't remember how I stumbled on it, but I'm glad I did. It is fun to read the views of people from all over the world. I also became a member of Protest Warrior.

In March, I organized Operation Thank You at Keesler Air Force Base. It was held March 19 and at first those entering and leaving the base were unsure of who we were. But the thumbs up, the car horns, and the thank yous were soon flowing. It was a good experience. I created a blog around the same time. The next Operation Thank You was held in April at the Naval Construction Battalion Center. Again, it was a heartwarming experience.

Also in April, I bought my first digital camera and a new hobby was found.

In May, my pride was immense as I watched my son graduate from high school. There were tears of joy. There is nothing like watching your child march across the stage and receive his diploma.

Around July, I organized a petition drive to ask Mississippi State legislatures to enact legislation to ensure private property owners rights after the acrimonious decision by the US Supreme Court. I still have the petitions but need to find out if it's ok to send them in because many of the signatories addresses are gone.

Also, around that time, I became a part of the Project VALOUR-IT Fusileers team. It is an honor to write about this Soldier's Angels project and to be part of a group that is trying to help our wounded.

But one experience I am still dealing with is when Hurricane Katrina hit Gulfport. Four months later, the destruction is still all around. I've written hundreds perhaps thousands of words trying to articulate what it was like during the storm, and what is has been like in the aftermath. I still cannot describe the immense amount of destruction. Even the pictures I've posted really do not show it. For the only way to truly comprehend is to walk around the devastated areas and see the blank spaces that go on and on, mile after mind numbing mile.

The destruction was bad and I still have days when I cannot cope with it very well. The one thing that helps me cope is the people down here. There is a spirit and a desire to rebuild that is unshakable. When one of us is having the tears, someone steps ups with the hugs and comforting words. Each one of us tries to bolster the other. There is also so much gratitude.

For the coming New Year I am going to try to keep that sense of gratitude. That is the only resolution I'm making.


Insurance Woes

There is a battle royale going on along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Hurricane Katrina did a lot of damage and it's massive storm surge was unprecedented, at least in the last 500 years. The federal aid package that was recently passed by Congress includes aid for those who had no flood insurance and lived in areas that were not on even the 100 year flood plains maps. But another issue is at hand, can a storm surge be classified as a flood? That is at the heart of the debate. Is a wall of water driven inland by hurricanes a flood or is it something different? A storm surge is unique.

They and thousands of others are discovering that if they thought they had hurricane insurance, they were sadly mistaken.

There is no ambiguity whatsoever -- I don't know if I can make the statement any clearer than that, said Bob Hartwig, chief economist for the Insurance Information Institute, an industry trade group. It was common knowledge on the Gulf Coast that flood is not covered, has not been covered and never will be covered under a homeowners' policy.

Many local residents and political leaders argue that Katrina's enormous storm surge does not fit the usual layman's definition of a flood.

They are using the fine print in people's policies to take financial advantage of them, U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor, a Democrat from Bay St. Louis, said in an interview.

A 30-foot wall of water that is pushed in by a hurricane is, I think, the flimsiest of excuses that those people could ever find for not paying on those claims, said Taylor. It was not a flood. It was a hurricane caused by wind, and they ought to pay.

Hartwig argues that the language is clear and unambiguous. The standard homeowners policy approved by regulators in every state excludes any loss caused by, resulting from, contributed to or aggravated by flood, surface water, waves, tidal water or overflow of any body of water, or spray from any of these, whether or not driven by wind," according to sample language provided by the trade group.

Nevertheless state Attorney General Jim Hood has filed suit against State Farm, Allstate, Mississippi Farm Bureau and other carriers, trying to force them to pay up for damage from Katrina. He argues that homeowners bought their insurance for the primary purpose of insuring against any damage that could possibly result from hurricanes originating in the Gulf of Mexico.MSNBC

Those issues were first brought up in Florida. There are different issues for those whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged and had both the usual homeowners insurance and flood insurance. How do you determine what came first, the wind or the surge? There is ample evidence from available videos that the Mississippi Coast was battered by Katrina's winds long before the surge came in. It's an aggravation that people who have lost everything should not have to put up with. You pay homeowners insurance for decades without having to make a claim and then have to fight every step of the way to have the insurance companies ante up what is due.

A lot of people who had no storm surge related damages are facing an uphill battle to get the insurance companies to pay for damages caused by wind. The insurance companies which have shown record profits in past years are being very reluctant to pay what is due.

A case in point is my sister. All of her damage was caused by wind damaging her roof and causing water from the rain to damage one of her rooms. She has maintained ample coverage along with full replacement of the house and it's contents. When first surveying the damage to her home I told her she wouldn't have a thing to worry about. I said after Hurricane Elena hit, our insurance agent was out to see the damage caused by part of our roof being blown off and he wrote my ex and I a check on the spot for the damages. The insurance company is the same one she is using.

The insurance adjustor came out to her home, did a survey of the damage and my sister provided him with a CD full of pictures of the damage. Several weeks went by. She called the insurance adjustor. Somehow all of her paperwork had been lost. Another adjustor came out. A couple of weeks later, she received a check and an explanation of the settlement. The check was no where near enough to cover the damage to her home and it's contents. In reading the settlement papers, the insurance company had allowed the extravagant amount of $1.00 an hour for her to hire a carpenter!! Good luck on trying to find one that will work for that sum!

She protested the settlement and received a better one. But it still is not enough to cover all the damages. She is still fighting the insurance company. She has applied for an SBA loan and will receive one to cover the remaining costs of damages. She has had to deal with the loss of her job, the damage done to her home, cleaning up the mold and mildew from the water damage, starting a new job, and trying to keep our Mom calm. I try to help out as much as I can. She is reaching a breaking point.

You pay your insurance premiums with good faith that in the end they will promise to be like a good neighbor. Good neighbors don't try to add to your woes. They try to help you through the storms. Her insurance company has not and is still not being the good neighbor they claim to be. Her story is not unique. It is the same for a lot of homeowners.


4 Months

I want to thank Matt at Blackfive. He graciously let me post at his site. It's about the lack of media attention to the destruction Hurricane Katrina caused in Mississippi. The post is called Mississippi: The Invisible Coast. I failed to make a copy so I could post it here.

Today, it will be 4 months since Hurricane Katrina slammed into my world. The changes are extreme and heartbreaking. But there is a feeling that we in Mississippi are starting to get back to what is termed "the new normal". The Isle of Capri has opened as the first land based casino on the Mississippi Coast. The wildlife is slowly coming back. Most of the live oak trees have leaves on them again. Rebuilding has slowed down this past week because of the holidays but will resume full-speed ahead next week. And I'm happy to report that the traffic lights that were blown away during the storm at the corner of Central and Rodriguez in D'Iberville are being replaced!!

The repairs at my sister's home are almost complete. More and more of the empty spaces where homes once stood are being replaced by FEMA trailers. And good news for me. A contractor asked how my house faired. He is one I've known for years. I am still almost embarrassed to say how little it was damaged and I am so grateful for that. But I explained to him that the soffit and fascia were blown off the south and east sides. I like to fell down when he told me he would come and check it out and would fix it for me at no cost on materials or labor!! I am so amazed at people's kindness.

On the work front, I am happy to report I'm only one month behind in my work. It's amazing how much you can accomplish in just two days when your bosses have resumed their habit of going hunting! But hey, they deserve this break. Three of my 5 bosses had their homes destroyed. The others still can't live in theirs because of water damage. I admire them so much because while they are rebuilding and repairing their homes, they are also rebuilding their business. They are also grateful. They did not have to go any funerals. Nor did I.

I wish I could say that the rebuilding along the Mississippi Coast will be finished in a years time. But I cannot. There is just too much destruction and it will be years before it is all over. But the rebuilding is ongoing and more homes are being repaired and more businesses are opening.

Below are some merged before and after pictures.

Deer Island - Biloxi It will take years before it recovers.

Biloxi - Piers at the Small Craft Harbor

Biloxi - Hard Rock Cafe Casino barge

Gulfport Beach - Blue Heron

Gulfport Beach - A brooding winter's afternoon

I have over 400 photos of the destruction in Biloxi, Gulfport, St Martin, and D'Iberville. I hope to be able to show comparison photos of the destruction and the completed rebuilding and the rehabilitation of natural habitats. At times, the rebuilding will seem to go at a snail's pace but it will be done.

US Armed Forces and Iraqi Children

Senator John Kerry made some very absurd comments awhile ago about how our military men and women are terrorizing Iraqi women and children. Having an Ivy League education doesn't exempt you from stupidity.

Michael Yon's latest dispatch shows just how much our men and women are doing over there to improve the lives of Iraqi citizens.

Coalition troops and others are fighting to save another Iraqi child. They do this every day all over Iraq, and today we see an example of the Georgia National Guard going the extra mile.

Read the whole dispatch to see what lengths this Georgia National Guard are going to save the life of a month old baby girl.


Beer Math - This Really Works!

I recieved this via e-mail, tried it and it does work!

Don't tell me your age; you probably would tell a falsehood anyway-but the Beer Man will know!


This is pretty neat.

It takes less than a minute .
Work this out as you read ...
Be sure you don't read the bottom until you've worked it out!
This is not one of those waste of time things, it's fun.

1. First of all, pick the number of times a week that you would like to have beer
(more than once but less than 10)

2. Multiply this number by 2 (just to be bold)

3. Add 5

4. Multiply it by 50 -- I'll wait while you get the calculator

5. If you have already had your birthday this year add 1755 ....
If you haven't, add 1754.

6. Now subtract the four digit year that you were born.

You should have a three digit number

The first digit of this was your original number
(i.e., how many times you want to have beer each week).

The next two numbers are

YOUR AGE! (Oh YES, it is!!!!!)


This Move Would Make Sense

The University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Park campus in Long Beach suffered severe damage from Hurricane Katrina. None of the buildings are usable at this point. They have been there for almost 100 years on beautiful beach front property. There is a 500 year old live oak tree that is known as the Friendship Oak. A gazebo used to be around it and was a favorite gathering place for students and visitors. Some traditions are beautiful but sometimes realities need to be faced.

There are plans floating around to move the campus inland along I-10. To me, that would make a lot of sense. Not only would the campus be better protected from hurricanes, the campus would also be more centrally located.

At least college officials are planning on rebuilding or moving the location. The J.L. Scott Marine Education Center in Biloxi which is also run by USM will not be rebuilt. I can understand why.

Thousands of school kids passed through the Marine Education Center and had hands on experiences with horseshoe crabs, hermit crabs and other local marine life. The aquariums provided examples of fish such as grouper, drum fish, and even sharks.

I hope at some point someone will rebuild the Marine Education Center. But I really think that the USM Gulf Park Campus should be moved inland and in a more central location.


“There’s a Divinity That Shapes Our Ends"

I and women all over the world are constantly worried about our appearance. Men are drawn into this worry. They are usually the ones who have to come up with a fast and non life threatening answer to the dreaded question, "Does this make my butt look big?". But soon the marvels of scientific study may make this time honored question passe. A study may soon begin in Scotland in which designs, colors, patterns and fabric types will be tested to see which affects the apparent size of a woman's butt.

Dr Macintyre, a lecturer in the School of Textiles and Design at the university, is an expert on medical textiles. Her PhD thesis involved an investigation into the use of pressure garments for treating scar tissue.

She believes that her latest research project could have important implications for designers and retailers. Female volunteers wearing hundreds of types of clothing will have their bottoms photographed for the research.

Participants will then be asked to look at the pictures to assess how big or small each model's backside appears. London Times

Take heart brave men, science may very well render that most dreaded question obsolete. Of course it all depends in the end if Dr. Macintyre's study receives a grant.

Something Almost Normal

Today was one of those beautiful days when you just want to forget about work and go outside and play. Temperatures were in the mid 60's and the sun was shining after a week of clouds and rainy weather.

In D'Iberville Mississippi more and more FEMA trailers are replacing the empty spots where homes once stood. There are a lot more people around. The absence of people is what makes the destruction still around so hard to bear. But today there were people walking and jogging around the neighborhood. Even Mister Lionel has been taking his daily constitutional. He is in his 70's and suffered a stroke several years ago. He and his wife's home was one of those destroyed by Katrina's fury.

I had the windows and the door open in the trailer that is now our office building. While working, I heard the sounds of children's laughter. They were on bikes and heading toward where the plant is being rebuilt. It was good to see them again. The kids in the neighborhood used to frequent the area around the plant and an old bridge that is used as a pier in order to go fishing.

Normal life is starting to creep back slowly but steadily.

D'Iberville MS - Old Bay Bridge beside piers belong to a boatbuilder. Some of the boats that were tied there during Katrina were lifted up and knocked the railing of the bridge down. Some of the boats ended up in trees.


Is It Over Yet?

Football season drags on and on and on. I've watched one football game in the past 20 years and that was the Army-Navy game at the beginning of this month. That was actually pretty fun since the Navy team won. But professional football has got to be the most boring thing on earth. It's almost as bad as car racing. Is football season in the playoffs yet? If so, good, that means the Superbowl will be coming up and then it will be over.

Then spring training can begin for the only sport I feel is worth watching, baseball. Well soccer and tennis aren't too bad. Come January 8, I'll have to decide if I'll remain a Braves fan. I went on strike against the Braves when they traded Brian Jordan and even stooped so low as to become a Yankees fan until they signed him on again last year.

This coming season he might not be playing for them again. On January 8, he'll decide rather or not to accept a minor league contract with the Braves. I think I'll stick with the Braves this year regardless of Brian Jordan playing for them.

They seemed to play as a team last year and some of the rookies from last year better be back this year, especially Francour. Even Chipper Jones seemed to have a some team spirit last year. Of course, hope he doesn't hurt his big toe or whatever again. I did find that last year, when Chipper came up to bat and I would bad-mouth him and call him names, he seemed to hit better, even when runners were in scoring position. For some reason nothing worked in the playoffs against the Astros.

From my tone it would seem I don't actually like the Braves. I do but I have my favorite player and my least favorite player. In the latter case it's Chipper Jones. I just wish they would trade him.


Sometimes I become so engrossed in what is happening in Mississippi, I forget that there are other disasters that need to be remembered. Last year a vast tsunami swept through Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand claiming the lives of over 200,000 and leaving almost 2 million left homeless. The numbers are too vast to comprehend.

But one story can capture the grief of all those who were lost.

On Monday, about the time the waves hit a year ago, a man sat alone on Patong beach in Thailand weeping quietly as the sea gently lapped before him, belying its earlier fury. A white rose bouquet jutted from the sand nearby. He refused to talk to a reporter.Yahoo News

Last year, I didn't understand the concept of a way of life being turned upside down. This year I understand better and my thoughts and prayers are with those who are mourning the loss of loved ones.


A Time of Miracles & Hope

Today, Christians celebrate Christmas and Jews, Hanukkah. I will spend time with my family as they celebrate Christmas and tonight at sundown, will light the candles of my Chanukkiah and say the blessings for the first time.

There are those who are far from home defending our liberties. There are some who are making preparations for deployment and some are coming home. Some are recovering from wounds received. And some families are celebrating the joy of all being home for the first time in awhile.

There are some that need all of our prayers. One who is dealing with the terminal illness of a father and another who has lost a beloved sister.

This holiday season is bittersweet for me. Friday was such a good day until I drove on Hwy 90 in Biloxi. It had just re-opened Wednesday after Katrina hit. It's hard to reconcile what I saw with what it used to look like. But like many on the Mississippi Coast, it's a day by day thing. Many are thankful for the gift of FEMA trailers and are somehow managing to stuff a multitude of people in a 20ft by 30ft space. Our communities are pulling together. Many houses of faith were destroyed or severely damaged. The Beth Israel Synagogue is holding it's Shabbos services at Beauvior Methodist Church. Catholics are holding masses at Baptist churches.

The sweetness of life is coming back. For even though the destruction is horrible and the rebuilding is going to be a mammoth task, the people of South Mississippi will make it happen. It is going to take all of us down here , the volunteer groups, and federal aid. But it will only seem miraculous the way we will work together and rebuild our Coast. The true miracle is the faith, hope, and love each one of us shares with the many volunteers who can see beyond the destruction and envision the new and better Coast. L'Chaim!!

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!


Simple Joy

As I was watching Cash in the Attic on BBC America the other night, I could understand the parents joy of finally getting their 32 year old son out of the house. The mom was ecstatic when her son pulled out of the driveway on his way to his new apartment. That makes me feel somewhat better that I'm almost ecstatic that my 19 year old son is going to be gone for a few days.

Don't get me wrong, I love him very much. We both know that he is at that stage when he's going to leaving home soon.

Of course my good feelings could be the result of the antibiotics I was prescribed for Katrina Cough finally kicking in. Whatever, I'm feeling good and full of energy. Now I can prepare to celebrate Hanukkah and get the some last minute Christmas shopping out of the way for my grand-nieces and grand-nephews. I can't believe I've waited this long to do my shopping.


It's a Blogversary

Esther and Rory of Outside the Blogway are celebrating their one year anniversary of blogging.

A special treat for Esther and Rory!

The baby panda at the National Zoo makes its first foray outside. Yahoo News

Colors of the Season

Tree decorated by Katrina with lights swept from a house

Shrimp vats

The blue, red, yellow, and orange pieces of the cold storage rack system are going up piece by piece

The beautiful color of plywood means that soon the concrete will be poured for a wall that will protect the new building. The metals walls are designed to blowout during high category hurricanes. The shrimp peelers and graders will be up 17 feet on the second floor. Hopefully this will ensure minimal downtime and less cost in future hurricanes. Construction should be completed by May.

The Imperial Palace Casino in a Mississippi winter sunset

PROGRESS - One Has Reopened

Imperial Palace Casino is the first casino in Biloxi to reopen after Hurricane Katrina hit. Right now traffic is backed up on the I-110 and Imperial Palace officials have said they cannot hold any more people.

Yesterday, Biloxi opened two lanes on Hwy 90. Repairs have been completed on the Popps Ferry Road bridge and it was reopened today.



The Breauxs and His House Band

I met Lynn Breaux a couple of years ago. He lives in New Iberia LA. He wrote a program that was specifically geared for the shrimp industry and we keep in touch, especially when hurricanes hit his neck of the woods or they hit mine. He also has a band called His House Band. He, his wife and child are the band members. Today he sent me a copy of their newest song.

It's a Christmas song called Welcome to Our World. It's in mp3 format so you'll need a program like MusicMatch to be able to listen to it.

Go to His House Band to find out more about this family. Or to click here to download a copy of Welcome to Our World.

Crime Doesn't Pay

Sunday, a man in South Africa who robbed a couple at knife point found out that crime doesn't pay. Security guards gave chase to him and his accomplice. One ran into a zoo and climbed into an enclosure which housed two Bengal tigers. His body was found later. The two tigers will not be put done.

Zoo officials have said the Bengal tigers will not be destroyed because they were blameless. The tigers had been fed on Saturday and so did not eat the man because they were not hungry, according to media reports Fox News


The National Hurricane Center has downgraded Hurricane Katrina from a Category 4 to a Category 3 as it made landfall. By their best estimate because so many gauges were broken or inoperable, they have to study other indirect instruments to give basically what amounts to a best guess. The winds of Katrina along the Mississippi Gulf Coast were not the major problem. Much damage was caused by the wind far inland in Mississippi, even as far as Laurel Mississippi where some houses were damaged or destroyed. Laurel is about 100 miles inland on the eastern side of the state.

The problem that towns such as Lakeshore, Waveland, Bay St Louis, Pass Christian, Long Beach, Gulfport, Biloxi, Gautier and Moss Point Mississippi faced was the brutal storm surge. In prior posts I had stated that the storm surge was anywhere from 40 ft to 20 ft along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The storm surge even affected Mobile and Bayou La Batre Alabama, which is around 100 miles from Katrina's landfall.

The NHC is also having to guess at the storm surge.

A precise measurement of the storm surge produced by Katrina along the northern Gulf coast is complicated by many factors, including the widespread failures of tide gauges. Additionally, in many locations, most of the buildings along the coast were completely destroyed, leaving few structures within which to identify still-water marks. Survey crews are still collecting data and conducting analyses as of this writing, without yet an explicit attempt to separate out the surge component of the high water mark measurements that are also a result of waves and, to a lesser extent, tides. An unofficial storm tide (actual level of sea water) observation of 28 feet at the Hancock, Mississippi Emergency Operations Center suggests that the storm surge produced by Katrina was as high as about 27 feet at that location. This observation provides an indication of the magnitude of the event, and comparable surge heights could have occurred along other portions of the western and central Gulf coast of Mississippi. The surge appears to have penetrated at least six miles inland in many portions of coastal Mississippi and up to 12 miles inland along bays and rivers. The surge crossed Interstate 10 in many locations. Katrina produced a lesser but still very significant storm surge along the eastern Gulf coast of Mississippi and along the coast of Alabama. Observations suggest the storm surge was about 10 feet as far east as Mobile, Alabama where Katrina caused flooding several miles inland from the Gulf coast along Mobile Bay.

Although the storm surge was higher to the east of the path of the eye of Katrina, a very significant storm surge also occurred west of the path of the eye, but the height of the surge is uncertain, in part because tide gauge observations along the southeastern coast of Louisiana were very limited and incomplete. As the level of Lake Pontchartain rose, several feet of water were pushed into communities along its northeastern shore from Slidell to Mandeville, Louisiana. The surge severely strained the levee system in the New Orleans area. Several of the levees and floodwalls were overtopped and/or breached at different times on the day of landfall, although the specific times and exact causes of failure remain uncertain as of this writing. The surge overtopped large sections of the levees during the morning of 29 August east of New Orleans, in Orleans Parish and St. Bernard Parish, and it also pushed water up the Intracoastal Waterway and into the Industrial Canal. The water rise in Lake Pontchartrain strained the floodwalls along the canals adjacent to its southern shore, including the 17th Street Canal and the London Avenue Canal. Breaches along both the Industrial Canal east of downtown New Orleans and the 17th Street Canal northwest of downtown appear to have occurred during the early morning on 29 August, possibly even before the eye made initial landfall in Louisiana. Breaches along the London Avenue Canal north of downtown appear to have occurred later that night. Overall, about 80% of the city of New Orleans flooded, to varying depths up to about 20 feet, within a day or so after landfall of the eye. Following the setbacks caused by additional flooding associated with the late September 2005 passage of Hurricane Rita to the south, the Army Corps of Engineers reported on 11 October 2005, 43 days after KatrinaÂ’s landfall, that all floodwaters had been removed from the city of New Orleans.

The massive storm surge produced by Katrina, even though it had weakened from Category 5 intensity the previous day to Category 3 at landfall in Louisiana, can be generally explained by the huge size of the storm. Katrina had on 29 August a large (about 25-30 n mi) radius of maximum winds and a very wide swath of hurricane force winds that extended at least 75 n mi to the east from the center. Even though Hurricane Camille (1969) was more intense than Katrina at landfall while following a similar track, Camille was far more compact and produced comparably high storm surge values along a much narrower swath. Also, Katrina had already generated large northward-propagating swells, leading to substantial wave setup along the northern Gulf coast, when it was at Category 4 and 5 strength during the 24 hours or so before landfall. In fact, buoy 42040, operated by the National Data Buoy Center (NDBC) and located about 64 n mi south of Dauphin Island, Alabama, reported a significant wave height (defined as the average of the one-third highest waves) of 30 feet as early as 0000 UTC 29 August. This buoy later measured a peak significant wave height of 55 feet at 1100 UTC that matches the largest significant wave height ever measured by a NDBC buoy. Overall, Katrina's very high water levels are attributable to a large Category 3 hurricane's storm surge being enhanced by waves generated not long before by a Category 5 strength storm.

Tide gauge failures, buildings destroyed and the best scientific instruments destroyed and the people at the NHC are left with best guesses. I am sure at some point the initial guess of a 27 foot storm surge will be revised higher. For the simple reason being, in the town of D'Iberville a house that had 3 inches of water in it during Camille had 7 feet of water in it during Katrina. Hurricane Camille's storm surge was 25 feet. D'Iberville is about 30 to 40 miles from where Katrina made landfall. The size of a hurricanes storm surge reduces the further away it is from the eyewall.

It is always the storm surge in hurricanes that causes the most damage and takes the most lives. Hurricane Katrina has be labeled as Category 3. The last Category 3 to hit the Mississippi Coast was Elena in 1985. There was widespread damage and some flooding. But nothing like we saw in that b@tch Katrina. Elena killed 4 in Florida and destroyed 250 homes before hitting Mississippi. Katrina killed 238 in Mississippi and destroyed 68,000 of the homes along it's coast.


The Power of Energy

Revenge: a dish best served cold and with humor.

Energy Video may not be work safe.

How Still We See Thee Lie?

Bethlehem, that supposedly sleeping little town that traditionally is said to be the place of Jesus' birth is not so sleepy. As Christians make preparations in Bethlehem for Christmas, they are still having to contend with Palestinian gunmen.

BETHLEHEM, West Bank - Palestinian gunmen briefly seized Bethlehem city hall, overlooking the Church of the Nativity, on Tuesday in a jarring interruption to Christmas preparations in the traditional birthplace of Jesus.

The incident, five days before Christmas, was another sign of growing lawlessness in Palestinian territories and the turmoil within Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction ahead of a January parliamentary election.

About 20 gunmen from Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades fanned out on rooftops and in the offices of city hall, firing several shots in the air and forcing workers out. They demanded money and jobs for about 320 members.MSNBC

This conjures up images of when the Palestinians went on a rampage in 2002. They stormed into the Church of the Nativity. A little background information is needed to understand why this is so upsetting.

...The group [Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group] does, however, support the widespread accusation that Islamic militants specifically chose Christian homes as firing posts during fighting near Bethlehem in 2002.
"The belief of Islamic extremists that Westerners sympathize more with Christian suffering has led some militants to initiate shooting from Christian areas like Beit Jala, in order to force an Israeli reprisal," the group wrote in a 2004 report.

For Mr Eid, a Muslim, the root of the problem is "the lack of a culture of minority rights" in the Palestinian territories.

"Muslims believe in resistance - and Christians also do, but in a non-violent way. We know they are less violent than the Muslims. It seems we are not giving the Christians the opportunity to express their opinion," he says.

"It makes me sad that they are suffering from their Palestinian brothers, as well as from the occupation."...Solomonia

Christians, as minorities in Palestinian controlled Bethlehem have few rights and are frequent targets of Muslim Palestinians. Land is stolen from them. They are beaten. They are driven from their homes.

Living amidst a xenophobic Muslim population plagued by endemic violence bordering on anarchy, the Christians have shrunk to less than 1.7 percent of the population in the Palestinian areas. “Tens of thousands have abandoned their holy sites and ancestral properties to live abroad, while those who remain do so as a beleaguered and dwindling minority," Weiner said.Clarity&Resolve

I know the unrighteous members of Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade have pulled such stunts as these in Gaza. What is so alarming about this is that it was so close to the Church of the Nativity and seems to forbode more violence on the horizon, perhaps directed at those trying to celebrate Christmas peacefully. There is little tolerance for those of other faiths when those of the Islamic faith are in control. Sometimes the choice is you die or pay the jizyah.



My little HPM407 digital camera is pretty nice. The only drawback so far is that I can't change lenses. It also has settings that can be changed. I've been experimenting with the black and white setting, the ISO speed, and a few others. I've also attempted to shoot the moon. My neighbors gave me some strange looks when I was standing in the dark, holding my camera up to the sky and taking pictures. I really need to get a camera where I can use a zoom lens that has great range. Hope you enjoy.
Clicking on images will enlarge them

Sunset Blvd - D'Iberville MS

Central Ave - D'Iberville MS The machines to the right of the tree are salvaged shrimp graders.

The moon framed by an oak tree.

Brown Pelican - Gulfport behind Grand Casino, empty shrimp docks in background

I cannot resist taking pictures of birds or trees or the beach.


The Problem With Terrorists

Back in October, members of the Presbyterian Church USA meet with members of that oh so reasonable group of murderers known as Hizbollah. The PCUSA has been one of the more vocal Christian groups urging divestment from Israel. I wonder if their minds will be changed after the Hizbullah's Al-Manar TV Symposium was held on November 29 at the Lebanese Government University.

Some of the topics discussed:

Mediator: "The Arab regimes have all accepted the establishing of a Palestinian state on the territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In other words, the 1967 borders only. They believe that the reality and the balance of power do not allow more than that at this stage. Do you support this 'realism,' or do you adhere to what has come to be known as the historical, original Palestine? Let us... Let us... Go ahead."

Student 1: "My name is Hisham Sham'as, and I study political science. I just want to say everyone is talking about..."

Mediator: "Please address the question."

Hisham Sham'as: "The state shouldn't be only within the 1976 borders... Or rather, 1967... Israel must be wiped out."

Mediator: "You mean, reviving the motto of erasing Israel from the map."

Hisham Sham'as: "Israel should be completely wiped out, so the Palestinians will have a country to return to."

Mediator: "If someone tells you this motto is unrealistic, how would you respond?"

Hisham Sham'as: "There is no such thing as unrealistic. Just as Israel... Just like Hitler fought the Jews - We are a great Islamic nation of Jihad, and we too should fight the Jews and burn them." MEMRI

Perhaps these people and Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can say such outrageous things because of the long history of Arabs with Nazism and Hitler. Take the case of Haj Amin Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem:
Haj Amin had given in to his hatreds early. He was charged with incitement in the pogrom that erupted in Jerusalem in April 1920, and he became a fugitive from justice, hiding in Transjordan. Ironically, he was brought back by a British Jew, Herbert Samuel, the British high commissioner for Palestine, who made him mufti. The mufti'’s machinations helped ignite the notorious killings of 1929, when religious Jews were driven from Hebron, where Jews had lived for centuries.The mufti lost his post following the riots of 1936, whereupon he went to Lebanon and then to Iraq, to maneuver, abortively, against the British. It was from there that he fled to Berlin and into the arms of Hitler.

In the 1930's people did nothing while Germany was applying special laws against Jews and denying them their rights. Nothing was done when the concentration camps that killed 6 million Jews began operating. Borders were closed against a desperate people.

Little is being said today about the UN's outrageous Day of Solidarity with Palestinians when a map was used from 1948 that did not show Israel. Little outrage is shown at the almost dailyoccurrencee of terrorist attacks against Israel.

Why is there no outrage against the murders of these innocent people by terrorists? Is it because these innocents happen to be Jews? Why is there no outrage that groups such Hizbollah, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Fatah, and a long stream of terrorist groups call for the destruction of Israel and actively plan and execute terrorists attacks against innocent Israeli citizens? Is anti-Zionism now the new anti-Semitism?

In the 1930's very few people stood up and denounced what was going on in Hitler's Germany. Today, there are few governments that voice outrage against what Israel faces. Many actually condemn security measures that the Israeli government must enforce to stop the deluge of those attempting terrorist attacks. On November 29, 1947, UN Resolution 181 was passed. It called for an Israeli state and a Palestinian state. Israel accepted and the Palestinians rejected it. Every since then the Palestinians have rejected any peaceful resolutions, the last being the Oslo Accords.

The tone against Israel is getting ugly. The UN could not bring itself to condemn the latest terrorist attack in which 5 Israelis were killed. Why? Because Algeria objected to Islamic Jihad being named and telling Syria to close the group's offices. These are the neighbors Israel has. A very tiny country faced with hostility from all borders who hassuccessfullyy defended itself against invasion many times. It has also managed to have a vibrant society with an advancedtechnologyy based economy.

More people and governments must condemn the daily onslaught that Israel faces. Terrorists must be called what they are, murderers, and not given the romantic name of militant. Hizbollah and the other terrorist groups must know by all that their words and actions will not be tolerated. There is some hope. The EU and the US Congress have both said that if the terrorist group Hamas wins in the Palestinian elections, aid may be cut.

Mississippi Happenings

Mississippi gets a lot of bad press. A lot of people think it's a state full of racist, ignorant people that don't even know what a book is and much less have actually read one. I had to put up with that attitude when I visited one of my young cousins in Chicago. When I started discussing T. H. White's books with her, her perception changed. She later admitted that she was surprised that my sister and I actually wore shoes.

I love Mississippi because it is a state that has a lot quirks. One of those being Wayne Brown, the director of the Mississippi Department of Transportation. Plans have been drawn up to replace the Ocean Springs - Biloxi Hwy 90 bridge that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. There is one hold-out to the proposed high-rise, six lane bridge, the city of Ocean Springs. A little background is needed for Ocean Springs. It is the coastal city with the mostest moonbats. The MDOT plan for the proposed bridge is taking into account several factors, the expected future growth and the marine traffic that passes underneath.

Here is a letter to the editor that Wayne Brown wrote in response to the latest protests by the Ocean Springs mayor:

The status of

Highway 90 bridges

Katrina's fury did blow, Highway 90 bridges did go;

MDOT hand, Did prepare a plan;

Cities three, Thereon did agree;

Supervisors five, Also jive;

With prompt reply, Federal Highway does comply;

To build bridges high, So ships may ply, While cars go by;

A lovely mayor with pride, Asks for a path so bikes may ride;

She so did pine, For lights so fine;

She decreed a bridge at ground, Where water and waves sound;

She also did rail, For an under-trail;

With canny duty, She sought bridge beauty;

with backs to wall, MDOT conceded all;

The mayor for four lanes then did plead, MDOT saw a six-lane need;

The mayor pouts, and seeks outs;

Traffic is bleeding, MDOT is proceeding;

While artists few, Sputter and spew.

Southern District Highway
Commissioner, Lucedale

I was laughing when I read this and thought it was a great response. Just one of the things I love about Mississippi.


Senator Cochran Got 'er Done

Senator Thad Cochran was able to get much needed relief for the Mississippi Gulf Coast. While it wasn't the $34 billion requested, it was more than the $17 billion initially proposed by President Bush.

WASHINGTON - A $29-billion Katrina relief deal -- including a bailout of Mississippi's thousands of uninsured flood victims -- was struck between the Senate and House on tonight and is expected to be passed before Congress leaves for the year.SunHerald

The $29 billion includes funds for homeowners who did not have flood insurance and whose homes were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina's storm surge. I hope people understand that the majority of those homeowners who did not have flood insurance were told they did not need it based on the flood plain maps provided by the federal government. A lot of those homes were not even in areas prone to floods every 100 years. These funds will be put to good use.

Road and bridge repair can begin. Fire and police stations can now be rebuilt. City halls, courthouses, and libraries can be rebuilt and repaired.

I was very disappointed that President Bush did not offer his support and that the GOP faction had to be overcome. Senator Cochran, Governor Barbour, Senator Lott, and Congressman Taylor all had to work hard to convince the rest of Congress that these funds were needed.

There has been a lot of discussion at some sites that Mississippi should not look to Congress for help to rebuild. Again, I ask the question, "Why not?" Are we not American citizens? Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama suffered a natural disaster. One that will probably not be seen again for a 100 years or more. And before I start hearing the howls about the casino industry, they and several other so-called 'sin' businesses were excluded from the $8 billion tax break package approved yesterday.

One more thing I would like to add, all the wonderful volunteers who have been pouring into Mississippi are appreciated so very much, as are the generous donations. The SunHerald had a wonderful editorial the other day called The Invisible Coast. It was written as a response to how the media has for the most part forgotten us in Mississippi and Alabama. It is worth reading the whole thing but I wanted to share this excerpt because it expresses my sentiments also:

On the third day after Katrina crushed us, this newspaper appealed to America: "Help us now," the headline implored. America answered with an outpouring of love and help. That response saved us then.

Our plea to newspapers and television and radio and Web sites across the land is no less important today: Please, tell our story. Hear the voice of our people and tell it far and wide.

We are here. Do not forsake us.

We are no footnote.

And one more thing...

Thank you. To every out-of-state volunteer, to every friend and family member who has sent supplies or prayers, we sincerely thank you.

And we ask that you do one more thing: Call your senators and your congressional representative and ask them to support additional aid for South Mississippi's recovery.

We couldn't have gotten off our knees without you. But we can't get back on our feet without federal help.

The editorial was printed a couple of days ago but read the whole thing. The last sentence says it all, we need the federal help to get back on our feet.

Dancing Talent

Watch this amazing video.


Does Any One Else See Anything Wrong With This?

I was scanning Yahoo News and came across the following title of a news article:

Iran Could Be Sanctioned for Riling Israel

By CONSTANT BRAND, Associated Press Writer 7 minutes ago

Iran's president has said Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth, moved to Europe, denies the Holocaust happened and when the EU finally gets around to discussing sanctions, the best title this nitwit could come up with is that Iran could be sanctioned for "riling Israel".

The writer seems to believe that Israel does not have a right to be concerned about Iran's statements, especially coupled with Iran's ongoing nuclear program.

At least the EU leaders and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recognize the danger.

"I haven't seen any evidence that Iran is interested in a deal that is going to be acceptable to an international community that is extremely skeptical of what the Iranians are up to," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told The Associated Press in Washington.

Rice predicted the United States would have enough votes at the
U.N. Security Council to impose international sanctions against Iran but hinted she was waiting for other nations to join such an effort.

"We also recognize that it is important for others to also come to the conclusion that we've exhausted the diplomatic possibilities," she said.

EU leaders warned that the bloc was losing patience in mediating the standoff. "The window of opportunity will not remain open indefinitely."

Someone needs to stop Iran's nuclear program, it's mad president, and it's mad mullahs. The Middle Eastern despots have learned well the ways Saddam Hussein was able to skip around sanctions. The world has a few scant months before Iran's nuclear program will be capable of producing nuclear weapons. There is no time to allow for Iran to toy with sanctions the way Hussein did. The only thing that will work is to take out Iran's nuclear program. If Israel has to do it alone to avoid being "wiped off the face of the Earth", the world needs to be quiet. The Jewish people have already lost 6 million in one Holocaust. No one should condemn them when the tools to accomplish another are taken out of the hands of a madman and mad mullahs. It is still my hope that the US will join in on any missions to take out Iran's so called "peaceful nuclear program".


Exercise Regimen

You know during the winter months you tend to pack on a few extra pounds here and there. There are numerous ways to combat this. There's yoga, running, StepMasters, and all sorts of things for humans to do in order to lose those pounds and inches. But what about penguins? All they want to do is stay still because in their natural habitat it's too cold for them to make the effort to move.

Those penguins in their natural habitat can be forgiven. But what about the ones in zoos? They just want to stand around in the winter months and seeing how they are feed daily, they tend to get a little rotund. The Asahiyama Zoo in Hokkaido Japan has a solution. The poor penguins are twice daily forced to march for 30 minutes.

For Those Who Don't Get It

Yesterday, Iraqis went to the polls in the millions and received their badge of courage, the purple finger. In this country, a cloudy day will stop some people from voting but even amid sporadic gunfire and some RPG's, the Iraqis were determined to vote and vote they did.

This is how it will continue. By taking the children along, they learn the freedom of having a say in government. A new generation now lives in freedom.

These happy faces say it all.

Iraq the Model has updates from all across Iraq in his post We got our purple finger!

The men and women in our military service believe in their mission. They are doing a fantastic job and have brought freedom to a people long suppressed by a brutal and murderous dictator. I salute those men and women and I salute the Iraqi people.

The pictures are from Yahoo News


Stripped Bare

I feel stripped bare by what Hurricane Katrina has done. I did not think it possible that the destruction that I saw in D'Iberville and Biloxi could be any worse. But what I show in Gulfport this past Saturday still haunts me and will for a long time. The sad thing is that the further west you go along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the worse it is. If Gulfport is that bad, I cannot imagine what Long Beach, Pass Christian, Bay St Louis, Waveland, and Lakeshore look like.

Every time I turn around there are constant reminders of Hurricane Katrina. Most days I can deal with it. Some days, it takes a supreme effort to just do the daily things.

It's a constant roller coaster of emotions. Yesterday there was joy and sorrow. Joy that the parts to rebuild the racking system at the cold storage started coming in and that the placement of rebar and the building of the concrete forms is speeding along for the rebuilding of the factory. Then there are the calls from long time retail customers that cry when they learn of the destruction of the seafood market and tell you "Bless your heart and we love you" and your only response can be "We love y'all too".

Even placing long distance phone calls out of state is a reminder. When talking to people you haven't talked to since the hurricane hit, there is a pattern, first there is the joy that we're still around and then the sadness at the destruction.

It's been more than 100 days of this. There is the worry that Congress is not going to come through this session for the $34 billion that is sorely needed to rebuild. City halls were destroyed. Police and fire stations were destroyed. Libraries were destroyed. Utilities are still being repaired. The whole electric grid will need to be repaired and even though all those who can have power now have it, there is still a lot of work to be done.

And the homes, the 68,000 in Mississippi that were destroyed. Half of them were not even on the 100 year flood plains much less on the flood plains that require flood insurance for a mortgage. Then there are the precious lives lost. In Mississippi, 238 lives were lost. The majority were elderly who chose to stay in their homes believing they were safe based on what Hurricane Camille had done in 1969. Almost every day there is a special obituary memorial of someone who died during Hurricane Katrina.

Even taking a lunch date is no break. For then you learn of the destruction of the house that his father built with his own hands 50 years ago. And you learn that all of his equipment he used for his business was destroyed.

You call your family and friends and for a few brief moments there is an absence of Katrina but it creeps in after awhile, for the favorite game in the South is did you hear, and so more Katrina stories are shared.

The traffic jams are horrendous because two major arteries are out of commission. Hwy 90 is still closed in Biloxi and the two bridges at either end mean people from Ocean Springs and Bay St Louis have to travel circuitous routes. The same for those that rely on Popps Ferry Road. Next to I-110, this is the busiest route into Biloxi and the bridge is still out.

Hurricane Katrina has stripped my life and the lives of over 300,000 Mississippians bare. Even though stores are open, there is still a scarcity of goods at times. Going to places like Mobile helps and then it doesn't. You escape for awhile but then you come back to the reality.

At times there is doubt that we'll be able to rebuild. For the most part that doubt is unspoken but in discussing it with others, the doubt is there at times. When I have seen miles and miles of destruction, I believe it's a natural reaction.

My heart aches for my city of Gulfport and the lives of the people in it. It aches for everyone on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Hurricane Katrina brutalized us and some of the scars are unseen. It has stripped us bare. But in doing so has exposed strengths that were unknown. The first and foremost is the strength of the community down here. There's a realization that we're in this together and that it's going to take all of us to rebuild. Then there's the strength of faith. There is also the realization that so many people have come from places like Virginia, Canada, California, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, and all corners of the country to volunteer their time to help us. We are not alone and that also gives me and so many others strength. The continued prayers of so many also help us.


Help Rebuild the Dreams and Ideas

I love to read and read a lot. I've spent a lot of time inside the libraries on the Gulf Coast. My favorites were the Gulfport Main Library and the Biloxi Main Library. All of the books and research materials are gone at both of these libraries because of Hurricane Katrina. The Biloxi Main Library, while not gutted had water in it that destroyed everything. The Gulfport Main Library was gutted and the windows were blown out on the second floor. All the books were damaged. Many ended up in Jones Park across Hwy 90. When I was there a couple of weeks, there were still books scattered across Jones Park. The water had washed the ink away thereby erasing the dreams and ideas that were enclosed.

I've only mentioned two libraries in Harrison County that were destroyed. The Kudzu Files has the figures of what was lost and how you can help rebuild our precious libraries.

Below is what the Gulfport Main Library looked like two weeks ago. When I drove by this past Saturday, nothing had changed.

H/T: Random Fate

Time for Action

If you haven't called your Congressmen about supporting our troops, today and tomorrow are the days to do it. Aides are still in their offices and will pass on your message. I called mine at 5:30pm CST.

TOMORROW is the Christmash Ambush -- the day that MoveOn will deliver their Cut & Run petitions to Congress. Have your representatives heard from you yet?

Call now: 1-888-818-6641 (toll free Capitol switchboard)

And tell 'em SMASH sent ya.Read the rest of this post at The Indepundit to find out why this is so important.

Get on the phone and show your support for the great job that our men and women are doing in Iraq and across the world. Let them know that to pull out prematurely will be disastrous. Let them know that our men and women serving over there support their mission and are winning. Thursday, the Iraqis continue the democratic road they have been on for the past year. You too have a voice in government. Exercise those vocal cords and counter MoveOn.org's defeatist message. Call now. Or you can e-mail or fax your Congressmen. For e-mails, you can go to this site for House of Representatives and this site for the US Senate. Both sites will be able to provide you with local numbers to call and fax numbers.

And So It Goes

Recently there has been a lot of violence in Sydney Australia. For the most part the media there is saying it's racial in nature but from on the scene posts, it's more than that. A little background, men of a Mediterranean background have been hassling women in bikinis at the beach and being plain rude. Some of those men severely beat two lifeguards. The local surfers at these beaches grew tired of the daily hostility shown. Now it's escalating. In addition to smashing cars and hitting a woman on the head with a cricket bat the other day, these men of a "Mediterranean background" have attacked a Christmas program at a local Catholic school.

I am quoting Skylark'’s comments which she shared with us after watching some late news on TV:

At a Catholic school in Western Sydney called Saint Joseph'’s some children were having their annual Christmas concert in which the parents applaud their children'’s magnificent efforts in trying to hit the right not and so on.

Well, some carloads of ‘Men of Middle Eastern appearance rolled up and started to abuse the parents and children.

When the people had rushed inside the hall - some gunshots were fired. The holes are still in the building (and some cars parked outside got the bullets holes as well).

At least they did not shoot anyone - so we can all rest assured. The local Cardinal Pell who is friends with all the heads of religious groups in Sydney looked ashen and shaken on TV and lamented the religious violence that had produced this. Well -he said the r word. Read the rest here.

Catholic school kids celebrating a school program are attacked and shots are fired and still the media and some leaders insist on calling it racial. It's not racial and it's not a culture clash.

Let's see the toll so far, 40-50 cars trashed, two lifeguards beaten, a woman hit with a cricket bat, school children and their parents attacked and fired upon at a Christmas program. It doesn't sound like these particular members of the "Religion of Peace" got the message they are supposed to be peaceful and embarked on a peaceful inner journey. I am worried about those in Sydney who I consider to be blogging friends. I hope they will be safe.


First Lady Visits Gulfport Seabee Base

Today, First Lady Laura Bush was an honored guest at a children's Christmas party held at the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport. It brightened the children's day and she outshone Santa Claus. She was sweet enough to add personal notes to the letters the children had written to their parents deployed overseas. Mrs. Bush is always a class act and helped spread Christmas cheer to the SeaBees and their families. Way to go Mrs. Bush! Read about it at WLOX.

What Honor?

So called 'honor killings' are on the uprise in Europe. These killings occur when a Muslim family feels as though a daughter has acted improperly. In most cases it involves nothing more than a daughters wish not to accept an arranged marriage or for the horrible crime of kissing a male in public or holding his hand.

From most accounts Manna Begum and Ghorbani-Zarin were deeply in love and Manna became pregnant. What does any family do in these circumstances? Is the first thought to kill them? That was what happened in this case. Ghorbani-Zarin was brutally murdered by Manna's two brothers. Manna was forced to have an abortion. Today some justice was meted out to her two brothers and her father.

Mr Justice Goss described it as a cold-blooded killing, adding that “the sooner the term honour killings are seen for the grotesque misnomer they are, the better”. He told Ali, a Bangladeshi-born waiter: “Far from vindicating your family’s honour you have permanently dishonoured your family with the stain of murder.”

His two sons, Mohammed Mujibar Rahman, 19, and Mamnoor Rahman, 16, who stood alongside Ali in the dock at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, were jailed for a minimum of 16 and 14 years respectively.

The older boy held the victim down while Mamnoor, who was only 15 at the time, stabbed him so furiously that the tip of the knife snapped. TimesOnLine

A bright engineering student was brutally murdered to appease some warped sense of honor. Judge Goss is correct. The term honor killing is grotesque. Women in the West choose who they fall in love with, who they want to marry, and what they want to do with their lifes. Women all over the world should have the same rights. It's called freedom.

The 155th Coming Home

Another 126 members of the Army National Guard's 155th Brigade Combat Team arrived in Gulfport yesterday. This is the second wave in as many days of those returning from Iraq. There are signs all along the streets of Gulfport welcoming these men and women home. They are proud of what they accomplished in Iraq.

"It's a big relief and a joy to be home," said Sgt. Anthony Sheets of Louisville. "I'm glad we had an opportunity to go and help the world and the people of Iraq. Now, I'm going to take off a lot of time and do a lot of hunting and fishing."

Speaking for his fellow guardsmen as well as himself, Sgt. 1st Class Ralph Pee of Kosciusko said, "Everybody was really ready to get home. I know we did a lot of good over there, but it was just time for us to get back. It's just great to be here. That's the only word I can give."

Gen. Ike Pylant, assistant adjutant general for the Mississippi National Guard, said. "It's a lot better over there since they were there. They did a good job and really helped to rebuild many schools and much of the infrastructure. We're just sorry we're not going to be able to get all of them back before Christmas."SunHerald

The 155th has 4,000 members, 3,500 are from Mississippi. Last year 24 were killed in Iraq, 14 of those from Mississippi. All of the members should be home sometime after the New Year.

Welcome home guys and job well done!!

Of Dominoes and Sparrows

A few weeks ago, a poor little sparrow minding his business was shot and killed. What was his crime? He upset a few dominoes that some people had set-up for a competition. People in the Netherlands and across the world were upset about the poor fellows demise. But the poor little fellow is soon to be part of a display at the Rotterdam Natural History Museum. The man who shot this poor defenseless little bird has been fined $200.00 for shooting a protected species.

According to the BBC News report the little guy will be displayed atop a box of dominoes.


Shell Shock

I suppose I'm going through another one of those times when I just can't shrug the destruction of my hometown off. Sometimes I wonder why I subject myself to go out to all those places that have been destroyed and take pictures. I mean it brings a sense of loss to see all those places gone that had such fond memories. I suppose it's a form of shell shock. Every street that you turn down, you don't know what to expect. But the pictures are a way for me to work through the shock and I've noticed that I'm starting to get back to my normal self most days. One thing that b@tch Katrina taught me was to be thankful for all I have because in one day it can all be taken away. Someone at work told me to go out somewhere and have some fun and I said all the places I used to go are gone. The beach was always my thing, whether in Gulfport or Biloxi, I was there most weekends. But yesterday, when I went to the beach in Gulfport, it was different from my previous visits, there were people there and that has done me more good than anything. It's the people that bring it to life. As long as people continue to come to the beach, all is well.

Gulfport Beach - Hwy 90

Grand Casino - Gulfport - The last time I was there was back in July when my aunt came to visit. We had a three hour supper full of laughter, sharing family stories.I played around with the light exposure on this one

East Elementary School - I used to get into trouble when I went to this school. Too much time staring out the windows and watching the dolphins in the Sound.

This sign says it all.

No news for me today. I am working through this stuff. Can't even get away from it watching Comedy Central, every other joke is about Katrina. Tomorrow will be better.

My Bro's 'Hood

Yesterday was the first time I've been down to see my brothers and their neighborhood since Hurricane Katrina hit. It was only a couple of weeks ago that the city of Gulfport opened Hwy 90. I thought the barbed wire would be gone but it's not. My brother's home was one of the very few south of the railroad tracks that had no water in it.

One of the roads leading up to my brothers house.

One of the many containers from the Port of Gulfport. These containers contained anything from bananas, pineapples, frozen chicken, frozen pork, industrial paper rolls, and clothing. The chicken and pork are proving very difficult to clean up. Fortunately, where I was, most of the containers seemed to just have clothing or industrial paper rolls.

This child's toy brought a sense of poignancy about what I was looking at.

Some of the homes that had extensive damage had FEMA trailers in front of them. These people are still waiting for one.

This house was washed from it's foundation. It's about a half-block from my brothers.

One of my brothers, Mike, and their home. The water was underneath their home and caused some buckling of the floors due to wave action but did not make into the house. They are very fortunate, because the house across the street from them had a lot of water damage.

The barbed wire. It bothers me that this is still up now that Hwy 90 is open.

Heading back toward the beach, the wasteland.

My family was very fortunate. All of our houses are standing. The one that had the worst damage is being repaired. Three of us were unemployed because of the places we worked at were either heavily damaged or destroyed outright. I am very lucky that I can continue to work at my old job at reduced hours. The other two have found good jobs elsewhere.

Yesterday wasn't too bad as far as seeing all this destruction for the first time. I was thinking about it and it hit me. In my previous forays, there was a lack of people. Yesterday, there was more traffic on Hwy 90 and there were people at the beach. In fact people were taking pictures of me walking along the beach!


Not One Word

We all know that it needs to be done. It's just a matter of who will have the courage to actually carry it out. You don't let madmen play with dangerous things much as you wouldn't let a child play with matches. And Iran is set to have a very dangerous weapon capable of aiming at the heart of Israel and some European cities. With the recent arms deal with Russia, they'll soon have the capability of a better air defense. So not one word from anybody or any country when Israel takes out Iran's nuclear program.

ISRAEL's armed forces have been ordered by Ariel Sharon, the prime minister, to be ready by the end of March for possible strikes on secret uranium enrichment sites in Iran, military sources have revealed.

The order came after Israeli intelligence warned the government that Iran was operating enrichment facilities, believed to be small and concealed in civilian locations.

Iran's stand-off with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over nuclear inspections and aggressive rhetoric from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, who said last week that Israel should be moved to Europe, are causing mounting concern.

The crisis is set to come to a head in early March, when Mohamed El-Baradei, the head of the IAEA, will present his next report on Iran. El-Baradei, who received the Nobel peace prize yesterday, warned that the world was losing patience with Iran.

A senior White House source said the threat of a nuclear Iran was moving to the top of the international agenda and the issue now was: What next? That question would have to be answered in the next few months, he said. TimesOnLine

Someone needs to do it and soon. Israel has a right to be concerned because when the Madman of Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has said Israel needs to be wiped off the face of the map or moved to Europe. The recent terror attacks at the Israeli shopping mall and the increased activity by Hizbollah have come after leaders of Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and the Popular Front for the Liberation Of Palestine were in Iran to meet with Iran's Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki. Not one word when Israel takes out Iran's nuclear program and it would be nice if the US and some brave European countries flew side by side with them on this mission.

Democracy in Action

We can be an effective voice and by democracy in action can change more hearts and minds of Americans.

I've always been a swing voter, but I cannot vote for cowards, traitors or fools. True, there are rational voices in the Democratic ranks. Sen. Joe Lieberman isn't just a politician — he's a statesman of great moral force. Sen. Clinton, too, has tacked to a sensible course on Iraq — if for pragmatic reasons.

Still, not one high-profile Democrat has called publicly for the removal of Howard Dean, the terrorist cheerleader, from the helm of their party. And Dean doesn't even have the spine to stand behind his own recorded words, waffling that he didn't mean exactly what he meant the way he meant it when he said it.From The Indepundit site

Lt Smash says it's time to get organized. Mission Five: Staff Work is a call for volunteers to organize the information incoming from the other missions.


Luna Sea, Garsia, Indians, & Mardi Gras Dreams

Below are some more of the pictures I took around Biloxi after Hurricane Katrina.

Biloxi - The name of this shrimp boat in the bank parking lot is the Luna Sea. A reliable source has said she went through the Hard Rock Cafe parking garage in the background on the right.

Biloxi - What's left of the Porter Ave Pier. I liked the message, garsia dios. Thanks are being given to God. For lives saved and for the generous help and volunteers from across the US and Canada.

Biloxi - Moran's Art Studio - I used to enjoy myself looking at the wonderful paintings and prints by these talented local artists who are all related. When they did an expansion almost 20 years ago, an Indian burial ground was discovered.

Biloxi - The front of this house on Porter Ave was torn off. I felt like a voyeur looking in and seeing the damage but the Mardi Gras beads on the light fixture caught my eye.

Clicking on images will enlarge them

Standing Orders

There has been on onslaught of Congressional leaders and the Democratic National Chariman calling for a withdrawal from Iraq. Some going as far as to say our troops are terrorizing women and children in Iraq. Our men and women in the military are doing a terrific job in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places around the world. To have Howard Dean make comments such as "The idea that the United States is going to win the war in Iraq is just plain wrong," is insulting to the men and women who are so valiantly fighting for our freedoms. We are winning over there.

Lt Smash has issueed standing orders to counter this ongoing onslaught and is asking us to spread the word that this kind of defeatism must be stopped.

Mission One: Call Congress. He has some links for you to be able to call your Congressmen.

Mission Two: Talk Radio Call your local or the national talk radio shows and voice your opinion about supporting the men and women who are in the field serving our country with honor.

Mission Three Letters to the Editor Write your local newspapers and Lt Smash's post has good tips on how to address the issue.

This brings us to today's mission:

Mission Four: Write Congress

Below are a few of the many excellent tips for writing to your Congressmen:


If you've completed the first three missions, this one should be simple. But it's also the most important yet, so take some time to do it right.


1. Research your Representative's votes on National Security issues here.

2. Compose your letter. Include your address and phone number, the date, and your Congressman's mailing address. (Proper format can be found here). Open your letter with the simple salutation "Dear Mr. (or Ms.) ______".

3. Your letter should have three concise paragraphs. The first paragraph should be one or two sentences stating directly your position: "I am writing to urge you to reject any proposal for a premature withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq."

Do what you can in order to stop defeatists such as Pelosi and Murtha. And let's begin to hear more senators such as Senator Joseph Lieberman:
I have just returned from my fourth trip to Iraq in the past 17 months and can report real progress there. More work needs to be done, of course, but the Iraqi people are in reach of a watershed transformation from the primitive, killing tyranny of Saddam to modern, self-governing, self-securing nationhood--unless the great American military that has given them and us this unexpected opportunity is prematurely withdrawn.

The Iraqis are set to vote again this month. They are well on their way to having a stable, democratic society and to pull out now will lead to unstability. Write and call your Congressmen, write letters to the editor, and engage on talk shows and show true support for our men and women of the military and their mission.


History is a fascinating subject and lately a lot has been on television about the Crusades that Europeans under took during the Medieval Age and were for the most part a response to the encroachment of Islam. Little has been said about how Islam was spread. While the European Crusades were at times barbaric, they are no match for the crusades done to spread Islam.

Historical facts say that Islam has been imperialistic and would still like to be, if only for religious reasons. Many Muslim clerics, scholars, and activists, for example, would like to impose Islamic law around the world. Historical facts say that Islam, including Muhammad, launched their own Crusades against Christianity long before the European Crusades.

Today, Muslim polemicists and missionaries, who believe that Islam is the best religion in the world, claim that the West has stolen Islamic lands and that the West (alone) is imperialistic.One hardline Muslim emailer to me said about the developed West and the undeveloped Islamic countries: You stole our lands and then he held his finger on the exclamation key to produce a long string of them.

Thus imperialism, a word that has reached metaphysical levels and that is supposed to stop all debates and answer all questions, explains why Islamic countries have not kept up with the West. The emailer did not look inwardly, as if his own culture and religion may play a role. Instead, it is always the West's fault.

Westerners even academics accept the notion that the West alone was aggressive. It seems that Islam is always innocent and passive. It is difficult to uncover the source of this Western self-loathing. It is, however, a pathology that seems to strike Westerners more than other people around the globe. This anti-West pathology shows up in Westerners hatred for the European Crusades in the Medieval Age.

The above is from The American Thinker who has a good timeline and the tactics that were used to spread Islam. It was not a peaceful spread. Since it's inception, Islam has for the most part used the sword to spread it's message. Some balance and prespective is needed when viewing the European Crusades and it's response to this spread.


A Poem That is Different

Yesterday was the 64 th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. I thought about what happened that day "that will live in infamy" as stated by FDR and also the "we have awakened a sleeping giant" as spoken by Yamamoto. The men who answered their country's call were a special group and deservedly are called "The Greatest Generation".

The men and women who serve in todays military are a special group also. And as I read A Different Christmas Poem at Blackfive's it made me so grateful that we have men and women who sacrifice so much to stand guard over us. Please go and read it.

How To Wrap a Gift

Having trouble deciding what to give this year that one person who is so very special in your life? Or maybe having a little trouble just picking out the right wrapping for that very special gift? There maybe a solution to both problems.

It's the Gift, Not the Wrapping
By Jeff Westover

It began as a simple, thoughtful gift.

Back in 1964, Larry Kunkel's mother thought he'd appreciate a nice new pair of moleskin pants.

He didn't.

Living in Minnesota, the pants were prone to stiffness in the freezing weather of the winter months. So Larry pawned the pants off on his brother-in-law, Roy Collett, as a gift the very next Christmas.

But Roy didn't care for them either. So he returned the favor and the pants the following Christmas.

And thus the game began.

Each year, as Christmas approached, Larry and Roy contemplated those pants. For the giver, there was delight in knowing that possession of the pants would no longer be theirs for at least a year.

For the receiver, it meant another Christmas morning of knowing exactly what one of the wrapped presents beneath the tree would contain.

One year, as Roy looked forward to his turn as the giver, he took their merry game to a new level by tightly twisting the pants into a "wrapping" of a 3-foot-long, 1-inch-wide galvanized pipe.

Perhaps Roy was merely trying to trick Larry into thinking that he was getting something new, for a change. Or perhaps he was merely hoping to end the gag once and for all by making the pants impossible to give again. We may never know Roy's intentions. But we do know what happened as a result.

The next Christmas morning, Larry surely giggled at the picture of Roy struggling to untangle a 7-inch square bale of wire, in which resided the infamous and unwanted pants.

With a credit now to both of them in demonstrating ingenuity in the annual exchange of the gift, the stage was now set for their legendary yuletide gift-giving exploits to grow more and more ridiculous with each passing season.

They did not disappoint.

There were, however, some ground rules. They agreed, for example, that the pants could not be damaged in their packaging or delivery. They were duty bound to use only "legal and moral" methods of wrapping. That meant, one could suppose, that "wrapping" the pants inside of a cadaver or booby-trapped to explosives was out of the question.

Nevertheless, their schemes each year became more and more creative.

Roy raised the stakes by placing the pants into a 2-foot square shipping crate filled with stones and strapped shut with steel bands. Larry countered by mounting the pants inside of an insulated window and shipping them off to Roy, complete with the 20-year warrantee.

Soon, their annual gift-giving exploits began to attract attention. The United Press International first told their story in 1983 and updated the world on the next chapter each Christmas for years.

One year, Roy stuffed the pants into a coffee can which he had soldered shut. Then he buried the can into a five-gallon container of reinforced concrete.

Larry responded by entombing the pants into a 225-pound steel ashtray made from 8-inch steel casings. He even personalized the unique gift by putting Roy's name on the side. Roy must have been so proud. How he retrieved the pants without burning them with a cutting torch remains a secret.

Perhaps the work of cutting free the pants put Roy into an industrious mood. He next secured the pants into a 600-pound safe and then welded the door shut.

Larry took one look at the safe and decided then and there to do Roy one better. He put the still nearly-new pants into the glove box of a 1974 Gremlin. Then he had the car crushed into a 3-foot cube, placing a cheery note of where to find the pants inside the automobile.

This happy tradition seemed to get bigger and bigger each year. Roy once secured a huge used tire that was once housed on a piece of heavy construction equipment. It was eight feet high and two feet wide. He filled it with 6,000 pounds of concrete after placing the pants inside and tagged the outside with the merry sentiment, "Have a Goodyear".

The next year, UPI gleefully reported that Larry wrapped the pants inside of a 17 foot red rocket ship that weighed 6 tons after being filled with concrete. Complicating matters was the fact that the ship contained 15 concrete filled containers, one of which actually contained the Christmas pants.

Roy was undaunted. He devised a 4-ton Rubik's Cube, constructed of kiln-baked concrete covered with 2,000 board feet of lumber.

Following the puzzle theme, Larry returned the pants the following year inside of a station wagon filled with 170 steel generators all welded together. Since their rules stipulated that the pants had to be retrieved undamaged, Roy faced several months of disassembly in just trying to find them.

As so it continued until 1989 when the complexity of their wrapping finally damaged the pants and ended the well-documented game. Roy, working to wrap the pants in 10,000 pounds of jagged glass, inadvertently ruined the pants when molten glass being poured over the container holding it all burned them beyond recognition.

Sadly, Roy put the ashes in an urn and sent Larry a final note: "Sorry, old man here lies the pants. An attempt to cast the pants in glass brought about the demise of the pants at last."

Twenty-six year and untold tons of material later, the legend of the Christmas pants only grows larger. Larry and Roy's exploits have been duplicated in measure by fun loving folks from all over