Monday, August 29, 2011

The Ground Zero Mosque: Moving forward at 51 Park Place in New York City.

Verne Strickland Blogmaster / August 30, 2011


By Joe Klein / FrontPage Magazine / August 30, 2011

Plans for the Ground Zero Mosque are moving forward, but are proceeding more under the radar these days in order to avoid the kind of media spotlight that it received last year.

According to a New York Times puff piece about the project published on August 1, 2011, Sharif El-Gamal, the lead developer and Chairman and CEO of the Manhattan real estate firm Soho Properties, who controls the property at 45-51 Park Place, “has spent the past year trying to regroup.” He is said to be reaching out to the community to receive input into the project’s final design.

There will no longer be any imams as the public religious face of the project, such as Feisal Abdul Rauf or his successor Imam Abdallah Adhami, both of whom stepped down after their past controversial statements and radical Islamist associations were exposed.

Park51, as the so-called community center portion of the project is called, launched a new website in January 2011.  It included a link to PrayerSpace, a separate non-profit entity from Park51, whose function is to house a mosque, located at 51 Park Place, that has come to be known as the Ground Zero Mosque. PrayerSpace’s landlord is Soho Properties.

The idea is that Park51 will be the community center open to all with an interfaith space, and PrayerSpace will be the mosque for Muslim prayer services and religious programming. While fund-raising is being done separately for the mosque and the community center, according to the Times article, the same people will oversee both efforts.
Fundraising for Park51 and PrayerSpace is in the beginning stages. The current estimated cost of the project is $120 million. The sponsors have applied for a $5 million federal grant from a fund designed to rebuild lower Manhattan after 9/11, under a “community and cultural enhancement” grant program administered by the Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Corporation.

The Park51 community center portion of the project is being described as inclusive and inter-faith, which is how the sponsors intend to wiggle around the restriction that limits the grant to non-religious activities or uses.

However, when one looks under the facade of the community center, it turns out to be a tightly run Muslim-centric extension of the mosque.  The Board of Park51 consists of Sharif El-Gamal (the Chairman and  CEO of Soho Properties), Nour Mousa (a partner in Soho Properties) and Sammy El-Gamal (Sharif El-Gamal’s brother). Sharif El-Gamal’s plan is for the Board to eventually consist of 23 members, with 51% Muslims, thereby ensuring that it will be run in accordance with sharia law.
Moreover, buried in the fine print is an idea of how big the PrayerSpace (Ground Zero) mosque will be.
PrayerSpace will accommodate “over 2000 people” according to the PrayerSpace website. To put this in perspective, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in midtown New York can accommodate in the range of 2200 to 2500 people. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York and is the largest decorated gothic-style Catholic Cathedral in the United States.

One way to manifest Islamic supremacy over all other religions, especially Christianity, is by ensuring that its leading mosque in a neighborhood is larger and taller than any churches in the vicinity. Not only will the PrayerSpace mosque dwarf any churches or synagogues in lower Manhattan. It will rival the Catholic Church’s pre-eminent symbol in the United States.

The pitchmen for the mega-mosque complex are trying to transform the narrative regarding their wisdom and sensitivity in putting up their mega-mosque complex in this particular location to what they like to call a “teachable moment” on religious freedom and non-discrimination.

For example, a package for use in schools prepared by the Morningside Center for Social Responsibility, entitled “Controversy over the NYC Muslim Community Center  & the 9/11 experience,” provides “public announcement” videos for students to watch that were produced by the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR).

One such video is called “We Have More in Common Than You Think.” It uses the Golden Rule as an example of what Islam, Christianity and Judaism purportedly have in common, and it solemnly declares that “If we don’t have our rights, you don’t have your rights.” This is dishonest in two respects.

First of all, CAIR believes in neither the Golden Rule nor equal rights of all religions. Its public spokesperson Ibrahim Hooper has been quoted as saying that he would like to promote the idea of a future Islamic government in the United States – not violently mind you, but “through education.”

In 2003 Hooper stated that if Muslims ever become a majority in the United States, they will likely seek to replace the U.S. Constitution with Islamic law, which they deem superior to man-made law.
Secondly, opponents of the Ground Zero Mosque are not seeking to restrict Muslim-Americans’ right to build mosques and to pray freely there, or to take away any other rights that other Americans enjoy. We believe strongly in religious pluralism, freedom of religion and freedom of speech. But we don’t believe that tolerance or accommodation is a one-way street. With rights come responsibilities.
New York City has close to 130 mosques, two of which already exist several blocks from Ground Zero. But not in the location where one of the hijacked plane’s landing-gear assembly crashed through the roof.  And not within 350 feet of where human remains were found. Yet that is where the Ground Zero Mosque or PrayerSpace will be built.

We are simply asking Sharif El-Gamal and his cohorts to empathize with the suffering of families and friends who lost loved ones on 9/11 and with the feelings of those who survived the horrors of that day.  Do the project sponsors really believe that seeking federal money meant to help rebuild lower Manhattan after 9/11 is appropriate for use on a Muslim-centric entity controlled by a Muslim-majority board and which will adjoin, and be under common control with, a mosque that is slated to match or exceed the capacity of the seat of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York? Is there no other site in lower Manhattan that could accommodate PrayerSpace and the Park51 community center?

Instead of trying to outdo the capacity of St. Patrick’s Cathedral so near the hallowed Ground Zero site, the Ground Zero Mosque sponsors should emulate what the Catholic Church decided to do when objections were raised to the building of a convent adjacent to the walls of Auschwitz. They followed the Golden Rule and moved it.

Conservative GOP congressional candidate Ilario Pantano reports on recent activity in his campaign.

 By Verne Strickland / August 29, 2011

At the recent August meeting in Wilmington of the New Hanover County Republican Party, we caught up with Ilario Pantano, conservative GOP candidate for the North Carolina Seventh District Congressional seat. Here is part of our interview:

VS:  It’s obvious that you and your volunteers are charged up and getting right to the task of winning the 2012 GOP primary and election for the Seventh District.  And there seems to be no shortage of energy this early in the election season.

I’ve been a long-distance endurance athlete for a long time. I’ve got a good perspective on this type of regimen, being a sniper, run marathons, having done Iron Man – a 140-mile race – and competing in intense physical activity for thirteen hours. It’s painful, it’s grueling, it’s relentless. 

It’s kind of like what a campaign is early in the process.  We have nine months until the primary, more than that until the general, and yet we are being recharged every day by wonderful young men and women, and you’ve seen it in this room tonight, the kind of support and energy that we get. We are fueled by grace, and we are driven by volunteers that are motivated and dedicated, and we’ve been doing neat things.

We just finished a four-part series – a class on the Constitution held in our office. It’s been really wonderful. People who have attended gained a great deal. We will be doing classes now on the theory of the origins of the Constitution, classes on faith and the founding fathers, classes on policy, Obamacare, the economy, debt. 

We had a great conference recently with former New York Congressman Joe DioGuardi, and you did a nice write-up on him, talking about debt and the pressing need for financial reform in Washington. Joe was a popular headliner at the Grand Opening of our Volunteer Office on Market Street.

We are trying to educate people, but you know, this is a long process. It’s a slog. But it’s worth it. And it’s worth it everyday, and there’s uncertainty everyday, and challenges, which we find in every enterprise, which every American knows, wondering if they will continue to have a job, and be able to pay their bills, and we go forward in faith, and good things happen. We’ve been blessed with terrific volunteers. They keep our office buzzing. It’s exciting and stimulating to everyone involved.

I’d like to mention a couple of other things. I was in Greenville a couple of weeks ago, where NC FIRE and ALIPAC were protesting the fact that the Mexican Consulate was doing a voter registration and matricular ID card drive, which means that the Mexican Consulate, a foreign government, was operating in Greenville, and they were issuing ID cards to illegals so that they could get American welfare benefits. This is on-going. 

I went and saw it for myself. I have copies of the forms and documentation – USDA agricultural forms that announce in Spanish: “VOTE! IT'S YOUR RIGHT” pins in Spanish, paid for by the N. C. State Board of Elections, reminding  illegals that it’s their right to vote. Well, no it is not. So let’s just be clear about that. But this whole voter drive for illegals is a travesty, and we want to stop it right in its tracks.

Also, I will be up in New York on 9/11 at Ground Zero in a protest of the mosque. I was up there last year as well, joining with a group of patriots speaking at the event.. So I am privileged to be invited back to the 2011 event, the tenth anniversary of this heinous attack on America by radical Muslim jihadists. I’ll have reports on that, and will make those available to you for your followers on USA DOT COM. So we're busy, working hard, enjoying the mission, and getting our message out there to the people.

For more information on former U.S. Congressman, author and conservative activist Joe J. DioGuardi, go to this USA DOT COM link:

To visit the Pantano for Congress headquarters, go here:

GOP officials banned from Labor Day Parade in Wisconsin -- by union hierarchy!

Verne Strickland Blogmaster / August 29, 2011


First Posted: 8/29/11 08:34 AM ET Updated: 8/29/11 11:26 AM E
WASHINGTON -- A group of Wisconsin union officials has voted to ban Republican politicians from a local Labor Day parade, underscoring how partisan the state has become in the wake of this year's clashes over collective bargaining rights.

The Marathon County Central Labor Council, which sponsors the parade, includes some 30 local unions.
Council President Randy Radtke said in a statement on the group's website that politicians are only welcome at the festivities if they have demonstrated support for workers' rights.

"It should come as no surprise that organizers choose not to invite elected officials who have openly attacked worker's rights or stood idly by while their political party fought to strip public workers of their right to collectively bargain," Radtke said.
"It is a time for working families to come together to celebrate their hard work and a time where we recognize the labor movement for all they have given us -- the weekend, the 40 hour work week, child labor protection, a safe work environment."

In February, the 14 Democratic members of the Wisconsin state Senate left the state to deny their GOP colleagues a quorum and prevent them from pushing forward Gov. Scott Walker's (R) controversial budget repair bill, which stripped most of the collective bargaining rights from public employees.

Through a last-minute budgetary maneuver, Republicans were able to pass the measure. All but one GOP state senator voted for it.

On the federal level, Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) represents Wausau. In a statement to local ABC affiliate WAOW, Duffy's office decried the labor council vote. "Having walked in this parade in past years,

Congressman Duffy was hoping that for a moment, we could set our differences aside and simply have some fun in a family-friendly event," a Duffy spokesperson said.

"[The congressman] walks in a lot of parades, and staff called to register a spot last week and was informed in colorful language that no Republicans were being allowed to participate this year," added Duffy Chief of Staff Brandon Moody in an email to The Huffington Post. 

During the winter's budget fight, the congressman praised Walker but tried to keep his distance from the governor's stance on collective bargaining. In February, the editorial board of the Wausau Daily Herald called his reluctance to weigh in "just plain lame."

Radtke said the reaction to his decision has been mixed, with "some negative comments but mostly it has been overwhelmingly positive."

Other politicians who won't be welcome at the parade include state Sen. Pam Galloway (R-Wausau) and state Rep. Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon).|main5|dl1|sec3_lnk1|90427

Military gets ready for new era: Open Door policy for gay men and women.

Verne Strickland Blogmaster / August 29, 2011

Former Charlottean among officers training troops to prepare for end of 'don't ask, don't tell.'

By Franco Ordoñez

  • Capt. Guy Allsup, a former Charlottean, speaks to new recruits at Fort Jackson in Columbia about policy on gays in the military. T. Ortega Gaines -
COLUMBIA In less than four weeks, openly gay men and women will be able to serve in the U.S. military.
At Fort Jackson, it's Capt. Guy Allsup's job to ensure that recruits in Charlie Company now realize a soldier is a soldier: gay or straight.

On Monday, the 29-year-old Charlotte Country Day graduate walked 231 nervous basic training recruits through scenarios.

Soldiers won't be asked their sexual orientation. After Sept. 20, they won't be kicked out of the armed services simply for acknowledging they are gay. Hand-holding and other forms of public affection on base won't be tolerated. That goes for a guy and girl, or a guy and a guy.

"Does anybody think that this is going to be a drastic change for deployed soldiers?" Allsup called out to the group.

"No, sir," they yelled.

"Someone give me a reason why not," Allsup said.

Pvt. Umberto Werner, 18, of Fayetteville, Ga., stood at attention. He looked straight ahead, clutching his M-16.

"Sexual orientation has nothing to do with our mission, sir," he said.
"I'll buy that," replied Allsup.

Sessions like these are happening at military bases across the Carolinas, the U.S., and in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Pentagon says it has already trained more than 2 million men and women in uniform.

The 18-year-old policy expires after years of emotionally charged debate about whether gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve in the military. Some troops say the repeal could be a distraction on the battlefield; others contend it violates their personal and religious beliefs.

Interviews last week with troops at Fort Jackson in South Carolina, and Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, reflect the mix of emotions about ending "don't ask, don't tell."

About 14,000 gay service members have been discharged since "don't ask, don't tell" was enacted in 1993. But in 23 days, gays and lesbians will no longer have to hide their sexual orientation or pretend they're straight.

They will still lack some benefits. Gay couples will not be eligible to live in family housing or receive health benefits for their partners because of the federal Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1996.

Pvt. Brandon Eleby, 19, of Durham, was raised by his godmother, who is gay. He echoed other recruits, who said the change is less dramatic for their generation, which has grown up with a more high-profile gay community.

"I never saw it as a big deal," said Eleby, who graduated this spring from Hillside High School.

Allsup, a UNC Charlotte graduate, served 14 months in Iraq. While stationed in Sadr City, one of the most dangerous parts of Baghdad, Allsup said a member of his unit came out to him.

"At one point, he said, 'Hey, Guy, I'm homosexual,' " Allsup recalled. "I said, 'Got it.' And we moved on."  Knowing the soldier was gay, Allsup said, made no difference in their relationship. 'You feel like a new person'

Many gay soldiers will finally be able to serve without fear of losing their jobs, current and former service members say.

"I've looked forward to this day since the day that I raised my hand and joined the service," said a 42-year-old captain at Fort Bragg. "I lost a seven-year relationship when I joined the Army. 'Don't ask, don't tell' played a huge role in the end of the relationship."

The captain, who asked that his name not be used because the policy is in effect until Sept. 20, said he will no longer need to censor himself when he talks about weekend plans or is asked whether he and his "wife" would like to come over for dinner.

"That feeling of a burden is going away," said Jonathan Hopkins, a former Army captain who was honorably discharged in August 2010. "It's like carrying a heavy rucksack for 20 miles. You feel like a new person when you take it off."

Hopkins, who is on the board of OutServe, a network of anonymous gay service members, said training sessions like those conducted at Fort Jackson have been professional.

The anxiety surrounding the end of "don't ask, don't tell" is similar to that felt in 1976, when the first women enrolled at the military academies, said Aubrey Sarvis, the executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

"Some thought it would be the fall of West Point and the Naval Academy," he said. "They're still standing."

Mixed feelings at Fort Bragg

A Pentagon survey of 115,000 service members last year found that 70 percent of U.S. troops said gay men and lesbians who are out could serve without a negative effect. Thirty percent predicted "concerns about the impact of a repeal."

At Fort Bragg, some critics of the repeal said it would add to the burdens on soldiers, officers and their families, who are stressed from repeated tours of duty in multiple wars.

Sgt. Shawn McClellan of the 82nd Airborne Division said he might be in Afghanistan when the repeal takes place. He hopes his unit's soldiers will be focused and disciplined.

But he worries that younger, less experienced ones will be affected. It's not only about sexual advances, he said. McClellan, 25, of Linden, N.C., said soldiers could be distracted by the gossip if word spreads that a member is gay. A soldier could also be picked on and targeted for being gay.

"It can take away from the mindset that they're at war," he said. "...I think it also makes our country look weaker."

Other Fort Bragg soldiers disagreed. While some are still leery of the change, Pvt. 2nd Class John Clifton, 22, said the Army is too large for everyone to have the same opinion.

"If everyone keeps true to the Army values, it shouldn't matter," he said. "Regardless of the relationship, you're not allowed to show public displays of affection. ... You're more worried about each other having your back instead of looking at your back."

Spc. Marquea Hoyett, 24, of the 82nd Airborne, said most concerns are overblown. Hoyett, who is bisexual, said a gay soldier is just as likely to take a bullet for a fellow soldier as a straight one.

"There are a lot of gay people in the Army," she said. "We're already in here. Has it affected anything? We're still fighting for our country."

Marines 'most resistant'

Of all services, the Marine Corps has least welcomed the repeal. In a Pentagon survey, nearly 60 percent of Marine respondents said their unit's effectiveness "in a field environment or out at sea" would be negatively affected by repeal.

A Marine corporal who is based at Camp Lejeune but deployed to Afghanistan said she was not surprised by the survey results.

The 23-year-old Charlotte high school graduate, who is co-leader of the N.C. chapter of OutServe, estimates there are about 400 gay or lesbian Marines based at Camp Lejeune, near Jacksonville, N.C.

In email interviews, she said she came out to her unit and hasn't felt any backlash. Some asked why she hadn't come out sooner, and told her: "I have tons of girls that I can introduce you to."

She said Marines are more accepting of a female who is a lesbian, but the majority of Marines are men and they have a tougher time accepting a male Marine who is gay.

"In their eyes, male Marines are 'manly,' " she said. "They are brothers and should not be involved with homosexual conduct."

Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos was one of the most vocal opponents, arguing it could be a distraction at a time of war. But during congressional hearings, Amos said Marines would follow the law.
"I want to be clear to all Marines: We will step out smartly to faithfully implement this new law," Amos said in a training video.
Religion still an issue

After a full day of drills in 90-degree heat at Fort Jackson, the members of Charlie Company filed into the large classroom with cement walls. Most of the soldiers are in their late teens and early 20s.

Allsup and 1st Sgt. Joseph Mulready, who helped conduct the training session, acknowledged that some of their recruits may be uncomfortable around gay soldiers. Recruits were told they are free to believe what they want, but cannot let their beliefs infringe on their duties.

There were a few chuckles during the nearly two-hour class. A couple of recruits were ordered to the back of the room for calisthenics after falling asleep. But most listened attentively, clutching their M-16s, and stood at attention when answering Allsup's questions about religious differences, discrimination and sexual harassment.

Pfc. Jessica Reyes, 22, asked whether the change in policy would be grounds to be released after Sept. 20, because she and others signed their Army contracts when "don't ask, don't tell" was in effect. After the session, she said some recruits discussed whether they could leave the Army because the repeal violated their religious beliefs.

Allsup told the recruits that when they joined the Army they "gave up the ability to be different from the crowd" - a civilian. They signed up to be soldiers, he said. They signed up to accept the ethical and moral foundation that governs the Army.

"Did anyone raise their hand and say, 'I swear I will only serve under 'don't ask, don't tell?' "
"No, sir," they yelled.
Franco Ordoñez: 704-358-6180. Follow him on Twitter @FrancoOrdonez
  • devildog1775
    The primary purpose of the military is to violently execute political goals that cannot otherwise be effected through diplomacy and other non-violent avenues of approach (sanctions, boycotts, etc.). We exist to destroy those who would threaten our political and economic existence. Any change to the military, whether it is in training, equipment, doctrine or social norms, should be to enhance the lethality of our Armed Forces. Marines are trained to fight as a team, not as individuals. If you look at something as simple as the construction of sectors of fires in a defense, you understand immediately that the primary goal of individual fighting positions is to protect your team members to the left and right of your position. It is not to defend your front. Your front is covered by your buddies to your left and right. In other words, trust and reliance on your team members are absolutely essential. Marines live together – at times in conditions that most civilians would find completely uncivilized – sleep together, eat together, shower together and even defecate together in open slit trenches, in order to accomplish the mission. It is a very strange relationship they share because their lives are so open and interconnected. During combat, the intensity and necessity of that relationship grows. You must believe that your team members have your survival and well-being as the second-highest priority during battle. Notice that I said "second-highest priority." The top priority of any military action is to accomplish the mission. When Congress or the military attempts to inject social engineering, specifically open homosexuality in the ranks, into this relationship, it is a disaster in the making. Now, instead of mission accomplishment being the top priority, it is individual rights and relationships that become the priority. I find it to be very ironic that Congress and the president are choosing to deal with this issue in the midst of a two-front war on global terrorism. It is very revealing that the top military concern of the Democrats is allowing open homosexuality into the ranks rather than defeating the enemy in our wars.It is truly a sad day in our history when the most talked about issue of our Armed Forces, in the midst of two wars, is about the sexual preference of soldiers. I think it is a sign of just how self-centered and immature the "adults" who lead our country have become. We are more concerned about satiating our sexual desires than we are about ensuring the very survival of our civilization.

    Sunday, August 28, 2011

    Cape Fear Storm Aftermath -- We lick our wounds, count our blessings. It could have been worse.

    By Verne Strickland / USA DOT COM / Sunday, August 28, 2011

    In downtown Wilmington on a sunny Sunday morning, lawn mowers and leaf blowers were cranking up. Irene is but an ugly memory, and an indelible one -- the calm after the storm.

    But as I flipped on the news channels this morning I was embarrassed and ashamed to realize that I was thinking, "This is going to be one helluva spectacle!"

    Right away I asked God to forgive me. Had I forgotten the actual fear I felt as Irene bore down on the Cape Fear seacoast, snapping the end off of a fishing pier, carving up the shore, battering seaside communities and economies, causing mandatory evacuations, and claiming several lives?

    But now our brothers and sisters to the north were under the gun. I shifted my prayers to them.

    It was bad enough. But it could have been worse.

    As I joined the networks at mid-morning, I saw a scene I hadn’t expected. The storm observers on The Weather Channel anchor desk seemed deflated, sloppy, even bored.

    Jim Cantore looked forlorn as he stood on a mostly deserted street in New York's Battery Park. An occasional pedestrian ambled by. He noticed that a man’s hat had blown off. “I can’t chase that hat for you right now,” he said apologetically.

    Cantore, champion storm chaser, seemed almost at a loss for words. Adrenalin-infused descriptions like “fierce”, “awesome”, “unprecedented”, and “catastrophic” suddenly didn’t apply anymore.

    Ever the showman, Cantore made the best of the situation, pointing out, “You can see the camera on our van shaking a little from the wind.” He hopefully turned to the scene behind him. “Those trees over there look okay, and you can see the limbs and leaves moving some.”

    For him, standing forlorn before a breathless national audience, there were suddenly no more dire emergencies to describe, no more worlds to conquer, no more clenched teeth and taught muscles as he bravely braced himself against nature’s fury.

    In a New Bedford harbor, a CNN reporter, given a fifteen-minute live window, directed the camera to a 30-foot sailboat that had broken loose from its moorings, and now bobbed up and down as it banged against the wooden dock.

    “Looks like the deck railing is taking some punishment,” the reporter intoned. He had drawn a “crowd” of three or four boat captains who kept blocking his videographer’s shot of the damaged sailboat. Our reporter shooed them aside. We got a good close-up look at the bent railing.

    On Long Island Beach, a woman field reporter threw back the hood of her rain slicker and complained to the live camera, “Look at this. It will take me a week to get my hair untangled again.” A jogger in shorts trotted by behind her. Several gawkers leaned again the boardwalk railing.

    Close by, though, flooded Long Island streets were revealed. The Red Cross reported that 4,000 were in shelters. It looked pretty bleak there. A car in water up to the chassis was being pushed by several men. I think it was their car. The clean-up would be a monumental task.

    Believe me, folks, it was getting to be lean pickin’s for the weary news crews, who are to be commended for risking life and limb to cover the story. But the biggest emergency now for these television news teams was that there were no immediate emergencies to report.

    The storm radar on the television screens now began to lose the splattered red, orange and yellow colors that somehow made your pulse quicken. Now there were mostly bright green swirls cast by remaining rain bands and squalls.

    As Irene exited northern cities, storm chasers followed in a state of panic, clutching at the dregs of drama that remained.

    Now flooding and power outages took center stage. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie went on live television, reporting that 650,000 in the state were without power, and “hundreds” of road were still shut down. He said damages there would run into the “billions”.

    A two-mile boardwalk in one Jersey community was completely destroyed. But on the “positive” side, tolls would be exacted again by Monday on major highways, casinos would reopen in Atlantic City, a nuclear plant would power up again, people who weathered the storm in shelters would soon be moved out, and a big post-storm surf competition was being planned.

    Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (who is a man I greatly admire) came on live television to caution that it wasn’t all over by a long shot. “Just because the rain and winds have cleared out, flooding is a major concern. We have a lot to do yet.”

    As the day wore on, in Massachusetts, Irene left some keen parting shots in the late rounds, lashing coastal waterways with bursts of storm winds.

    Here in North Carolina, meanwhile, NC Emergency Management reported an estimated $400 million in storm damages, and five fatalities were confirmed. On the Outer Banks, 76 emergency rescues had been logged. In Wilmington, the upscale enclave named “Landfall” basked in some fleeting national publicity.

    By any measure, this event was historic. What else could have caused a virtual total evacuation of America’s largest city? What else could have caused Saturday soap opera staples to be bumped?

    So, as Irene, now the dethroned Queen of Storms, huffed her last few puffs and high-tailed her way toward the Canadian border, U.S. East Coasters from Maine to Florida licked our wounds and counted our blessings.

    I recently read the Psalms of King David, who unashamedly sought God’s help in times of trouble, and thanked Him for blessings undeserved.

    I do the same on this Sunday, August 28, 2011. Praise the Lord. Amen.