Sunday, December 31, 2006

CNN Lies to You Again

How embarrassing for American journalism that we can't even get something this important right.

Riverbend has a post today on the execution of Saddam including a shame on you to CNN....

Now we come to CNN. Shame on you CNN journalists- you're getting lazy. The least you can do is get the last words correct when you write a story about an execution. Your articles are read the world over and will go down in history as references. You people are the biggest news network in the world- the least you can do is spend some money on a decent translator. Saddam's last words were NOT "Muqtada Al Sadr" as Munir Haddad claimed, according to the article below. If anyone had seen at least part of the video they showed on TV, you'd know that.


From the video that was leaked, it was not an executioner who yelled "long live Muqtada al-Sadr". See, this is another low the Maliki government sunk to- they had some hecklers conveniently standing by during the execution. Maliki claimed they were "some witnesses from the trial", but they were, very obviously, hecklers. The moment the noose was around Saddam's neck, they began chanting, in unison, "God's prayers be on Mohamed and on Mohamed's family…" Something else I didn't quite catch (but it was very coordinated), and then "Muqtada, Muqtada, Muqtada!" One of them called out to Saddam, "Go to hell…" (in Arabic). Saddam looked down disdainfully and answered "Heya hay il marjala…?" which is basically saying, "Is this your manhood…?".

Someone half-heartedly called out to the hecklers, "I beg you, I beg you- the man is being executed!" They were slightly quieter and then Saddam stood and said, "Ashadu an la ilaha ila Allah, wa ashhadu ana Mohammedun rasool Allah…" Which means, "I witness there is no god but Allah and that Mohammed is His messenger." These are the words a Muslim (Sunnis and Shia alike) should say on their deathbed. He repeated this one more time, very clearly, but before he could finish it, he was lynched.

So, no, CNN, his last words were not "Muqtada Al Sadr" in a mocking tone- just thought someone should clear that up. (Really people, six of you contributed to that article!)

Two Happy Guys

As much as I hate to post this, the Iraq casualty site is reporting that another milestone has been reached in the Great American Tragedy. 3000 American men and women have died needlessly in Iraq. Iraq is closer than ever to civil war and total collapse. We are orders of magnitude more at risk from terrorism than we were 4 years ago. The Middle East is ready to explode and yet our Nero sits in Crawford watching the world burn and rerunning his Saddam "snuff video".
And...As if that is not bad enough these two guys are eager send more of America's children into the flames. It is enough to make you scream in frustration and rage.

Update: One of the great questions on New Year's Eve is how soon is it OK to start drinking. Not too tough a question this year is it?

New Year's Edge

Here we are on the cusp of a New Year. The past year has been a trying one in many ways for all of us. There has been a tremendous negative, life-sucking force abroad in the world for a number of years and this year its effects are almost overwhelming. I don't need to iterate each and every one of the soul numbing things that are so sorely weighing on us as we reach the close of the year and it is for each of us to meet the negative energy in our own way.

The tragedy of the world today is that most of the pain is self induced by those among us who are not sensitive to interconnectedness of our world and how the pain and suffering inflicted on others reflects back on each of us. All of this unnecessary pain, in turn, causes us to react to it with bad thoughts and speech which adds to our own bad Karma. All of this unnecessary bad Karma spreads out from us and just reinforces the negative energy in the world.

As we face the New Year we should all make an effort to transform all the negative energy coming at us and reflect back positive energy instead. If enough of us try we may have an effect.

The Buddha told this parable in a sutra:
A man traveling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled, the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of a wild vine and swung himself down over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above. Trembling, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting to eat him. Only the vine sustained him.
Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away the vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry nearby. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted!

In the coming year look for and reinforce the positive and pray to whatever or whomever will listen that the forces of love and peace will begin to hold forth in this world. Have the best New Year you can make.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Looking for Balance

From CNN
Saddam Hussein will be hanged before dawn on Saturday in Iraq, before 6 a.m. (10 p.m. Friday ET), according to Appeals Judge Munir Haddad. Iraqi TV stations and Reuters news agency are reporting a similar timeframe. The former president was convicted of crimes against humanity in connection with the killings of 148 people in Dujail.
Seems to me that someone who has caused the unnecessary deaths of 2,992 Americans should face some kind of retribution. I am just saying that if Saddam can swing for 148 of his countrymen then somebody ought to be tried and possibly face the music for wasting nearly 3000 Americans. Just saying.

Let me just say here that I am against capital punishment regardless of the crime or circumstances but I really don't feel that there is a balance in the force here. Specifically, I don't think Saddam should be hanged as it is too good for him and he should live the rest of his days pondering his actions and life.

If the American media do not compare and contrast the brutal regime of Saddam to the ignominious regime of GWB then they are whores. Saddam will probably die for his actions. I am just looking for some balance here folks.

All the Hearts and Souls Lost

Riverbend has a new post up and it points out a very serious development in the ongoing disaster that is Iraq. It is not surprising that everyday more and more Iraqis are changing their opinion of the American occupation for the negative. This post tells me that we are now poisoning the last vestiges of support that we may have had. When a sensitive, thinking and loving person like this drops from the ranks of the few you might hope support us then it is obviously time we admitted our failure and begged forgiveness on the world stage from the Iraqi people and all the others whom we have failed.

My only conclusion is that the Americans want to withdraw from Iraq, but would like to leave behind a full-fledged civil war because it wouldn't look good if they withdraw and things actually begin to improve, would it?

Here we come to the end of 2006 and I am sad. Not simply sad for the state of the country, but for the state of our humanity, as Iraqis. We've all lost some of the compassion and civility that I felt made us special four years ago. I take myself as an example. Nearly four years ago, I cringed every time I heard about the death of an American soldier. They were occupiers, but they were humans also and the knowledge that they were being killed in my country gave me sleepless nights. Never mind they crossed oceans to attack the country, I actually felt for them.

Had I not chronicled those feelings of agitation in this very blog, I wouldn't believe them now. Today, they simply represent numbers. 3000 Americans dead over nearly four years? Really? That's the number of dead Iraqis in less than a month. The Americans had families? Too bad. So do we. So do the corpses in the streets and the ones waiting for identification in the morgue.

Is the American soldier that died today in Anbar more important than a cousin I have who was shot last month on the night of his engagement to a woman he's wanted to marry for the last six years? I don't think so.

Just because Americans die in smaller numbers, it doesn't make them more significant, does it?

To read it all

h/t to scout_prime

New Friends

We have two new friends on the Blogroll. Please stop by and welcome Nick from This-Is-It and Jim DeRosa from the aptly name DeRosaWorld.

Nick wandered in from MorningMartini I think and even though he appears to hail from Alabama he is most welcome here. (Full disclosure I have relatives in Alabama.) He also is a dog lover obviously so we think he is going to work out ok.

We are not sure where Jim hails from but he lives near a beach, likes John Edwards and has a category on his site for Food and Drink. How bad can he be? He seems to think my distant cousin Nigella is cool too! I still haven't gone back and read a lot of his recent posts but I will.

Now that I think about it I might have been remiss in mentioning the addition of Frederick of Mccs1977 a couple of weeks ago and for this I am kinda sorry. Better late than never.

I Might Be Slow But I'm Ahead of You

Do you ever wonder how the "Great Decider" speaks of us, the American people, when he is not surrounded by the sycophant media? Can you imagine him standing alone and staring out the window across the land with tears welling in his eyes and humbly thanking God for the privilege of leading this great nation? Do you see him kneeling by his bed at night and begging his creator for the strength of his convictions and for guidance in leading us onward and upward?

Probably not.

If you are like me you see him strutting across the room and feeling superior to us stupid savages. Just look at them, he would say, "How dare they question my leadership and my wisdom, don't they know I am God's appointed one?" "Look at the poor ignorant bastards, living from paycheck to paycheck, worrying about how they are going to pay the mortgage or the doctor's bills." "How I must suffer to lead this rabble."

Once again
he emerged from a "meeting" Thursday with his obviously incompetent National Security Team to remind us again how ignorant and stupid we are and to remind us once more how shallow we are in not being able to understand the importance of staying the course in Iraq.
“It’s important for the American people to understand that success in Iraq is vital for our own security. If we were not to succeed in Iraq, the enemy — the extremists, the radicals — would have safe haven from which to launch further attacks. They would be emboldened. They would be in a position to threaten the United States of America.”

You got that? Even though they haven't done any "decidin'" his handlers thought that we needed to have our intelligence insulted one more time. Bush himself had nothing to announce other than he had nothing to announce but his handlers sent him forth anyway just to remind us who is still "in charge."

It must be that Bush and the people around him believe we are so completely out of touch with reality and stupid that the majority of us don't recognize that they have completely screwed up everything that they have touched from day one in the White House, including this unnecessary invasion of Iraq.

They think we are so naive that we cannot recognize that a group of completely incompetent people pretending to be the President, Vice President, Secretary of State and National Security Adviser have lied and misled the country into a meaningless and unnecessary war.

Surely, we are so clueless that we cannot recognize that this group of faux leaders have painted us into a corner and left us with absolutely no options for getting out other than admitting the vastness of our mistake and leaving as best we can.

Obviously, we are completely incapable of understanding that no matter what we do, it is a tragedy for the Iraqi people now and for years to come and that we have managed to take an already volatile Middle East and destabilize it to the breaking point.

Bush and company really must think we are dodo's. They think that we don't remember that they ignored or discounted the advice of lots of smart and knowledgeable people in the run up to the debacle in Iraq.

I just want to say this before the end of the more time.

Hey George! Guess what? Most of us know you and your team are world class fuck-ups.

How do we know this George? It is actually quite simple. We know it because the evidence of your towering incompetence has been shoved in our face since the beginning...everyday.

We know it because as of today there are 2,992 dead American soldiers and over 22,000 wounded, all for no reason. We know it because there will be more tomorrow and the day after and the day after.

We know it because some of us can see quite clearly that you didn't have a plan for the occupation, or how to maintain order, or to stem sectarian violence.

We know it because, in spite of the best advice you didn't send enough troops and didn't provide the right equipment or enough funding.

We know because you can't account for billions and billions of our dollars and we can see quite clearly the waste, graft and criminal behavior of your buddies at Halliburton and others.

We know because our fellow Americans in New Orleans are still living in a waste land.

Finally, we can see quite clearly, all evidence aside, that you were never qualified to be the President and likewise none of your cabinet was qualified either. We can see that you are not going to acknowledge your responsibility for the mess that you have created. Unfortunately, we can see that you're not even intellectually able to deal with the staggering tragedy you and your minions have created.

We have two more years to suffer your weakness and incompetence and it pains us sorely. We do have one small request though, if it is not too much to ask. Please stop telling us that we don't understand. Stop lecturing us on what you think we can't see. The majority of us obviously can see quite clearly what you cannot. Let us suffer the next two years without being told how stupid we are from someone that is responsible for the greatest American tragedy.

Happy New Year

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Edwards In

I am extremely happy to see that John Edwards is going to make a run for the Presidency. I was getting afraid that I was going to have no choice in 2008. I like Edwards. I think he is for real. You have to like the idea that he chose NOLA for the initial announcement. He has also come out swinging.

"It would be a huge mistake to put a surge of troops into Iraq," Edwards said on ABC's "Good Morning America. "It sends exactly the wrong signal. We can maximize our chances for success by making clear we are going to leave Iraq and not stay there forever."
In his message to supporters, Edwards listed five priorities to change America. Among them: "Guaranteeing health care for every single American," "Strengthening our middle class and ending the shame of poverty," "Leading the fight against global warming," and "Getting America and the world to break our addiction to oil."

Payback is Swell

It sure is heartwarming to see the sacrifice all these GOP types have made over the last six years. Taking time away from their careers and families to carry the burden of American government. You have to give them credit.

HOUSTON (MarketWatch) — Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSA) Wednesday said it hired [former Interior Secretary] Gale Norton to serve as a counsel for the oil giant.

The move comes amid rising scrutiny on Capitol Hill of Norton’s former agency’s dealings with the oil industry.

Norton, who stepped down as interior secretary on March 31, will be based primarily out of Colorado, and will serve as general counsel for Shell’s unconventional resources division, Shell said.

Move Along...Nothing to See Here

In our continuing effort to depress you, here is another cheery story. There is, of course, no such thing as Global Warming as our GOP leadership continues to assure us. Right, explain this away.

An ancient ice shelf has cracked off northern Ellesmere Island, creating an enormous 66-square-kilometre ice island and leaving a trail of icy blocks in its wake. “It really is incredible,” said Warwick Vincent of Universite Laval, one of the few people to have laid eyes on the scene. “It’s like a cruise missile has come down and hit the ice shelf.”

The breakup was so powerful, earthquake monitors 250 kilometres away picked up the tremors as the 3,000- to 4,500-year-old shelf tore away from its fjord on Ellesmere. It broke up 16 months ago, but no one was present to see it. The scientists say they are only now making public details after piecing together what occurred using seismic monitors and Canadian and U.S. satellites. They say the ice shelf collapse, suspected to have been caused by global warming, is the biggest in Canada in 30 years and is indicative of the transformation under way on Ellesmere, Canada’s most northern land mass.

“We are seeing incredible changes,” said Vincent, whose group is studying the island’s disappearing ice shelves and their unique ecosystems. “People talk of endangered animals - well, these are endangered landscape features and we’re losing them.” The Ayles ice shelf was one of six ice shelves left in Canada, remnants of a vast icy fringe that used to cover the top end of Ellesmere. Scientists consider the Canadian shelves, located about 800 kilometres south of the North Pole, sentinels that reflect the accelerating change in the Arctic. In 2002, one of Vincent’s graduate students, Derek Mueller, discovered that Ellesmere’s Ward Hunt ice shelf had cracked in half. The researchers have also seen the sudden collapse of ice dams and the draining of 30-kilometre-long lakes into the sea.

The shelves are 90 per cent smaller than they were when Arctic explorer Robert Peary crossed them in 1906. And the Ayles ice shelf can be erased from Canada’s maps. “It no longer exists,” Vincent said.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Top Ten Myths About Iraq

If you haven't read Professor Juan Cole's Top Ten Myths About Iraq then do. This is the place to get your facts straight and understand the situation from someone who actually does understand the situation completely. No bullshit, no far out predictions, just precise and informed comment on the conflict.

The Sacrifice of the Polar Bear

While it may be too late to save the magnificent white bears there may be some redemption in their sacrifice. According to an article on the front page of The Washington Post tomorrow by Juliet Eilperin, the White House might finally be conceding the truth -- that global warming is a real problem.
The Bush administration has decided to propose listing the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, putting the U.S. government on record as saying that global warming could drive one of the world's most recognizable animals out of existence.

The administration's proposal -- which was described by an Interior Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity -- stems from the fact that rising temperatures in the Arctic are shrinking the sea ice that polar bears need for hunting. The official insisted on anonymity because the department will submit the proposal today for publication in the Federal Register, after which it will be subject to public comment for 90 days.

Identifying polar bears as threatened with extinction could have an enormous political and practical impact. As the world's largest bear and as an object of children's affection as well as Christmastime Coca-Cola commercials, the polar bear occupies an important place in the American psyche. Because scientists have concluded that carbon dioxide from power-plant and vehicle emissions is helping drive climate change worldwide, putting polar bears on the endangered species list raises the legal question of whether the government would be required to compel U.S. industries to curb their carbon dioxide output. [emphasis added]

This is encouraging but it is far too early in the game to throw up our hands in victory. This White House has a pretty dim record on following through on its commitments to actually govern. Need I even mention the response to Hurricane Katrina, the unmitigated and growing disaster of Iraq, the inept action on the Medicare prescription drug program or dozens of other instances, large and small that where this administration has totally screwed up?

Here is where we need to press our advantage in Congress. We need to make it clear to our representatives that they need to charge ahead and take the initiative on the environment and Global Warming and not wait for the White House to do so. Like I said above, we are probably too late to save the polar bear but if this glorious creature can be the rallying point for a serious and concerted effort to turn our environmental practices 180 degrees then our big white brothers will have served a noble cause.

h/t MyDD

updated: added image

War Without End

Jeff Huber over at Pen and Sword has a good analysis this morning of the Iraq situation and why we are probably looking at more of the same or worse when it comes to Iraq and the Middle East. Now that the media has bought into the meme that Rumsfeld was the reason we have failed in Iraq the neocons can push the idea that we can now "get serious" about the war.

Bush and the others like Bill Kristol and Cheney are signed on to idea that we just need more troops to get the job done and that is exactly what is going to happen in the near future. Never forget that the PNAC's goal from the beginning was to establish a permanent military presence in the Middle East and they are not going to let the debacle in Iraq sway them from their primary goal. They are talking surge and temporary now but it is already clear with their talk of a larger military that they really mean permanent.

No one in the media is asking the question about why we need a larger military. There are no other superpowers to defend ourselves against. We are it and as Jeff points out they only conflicts we are likely to face that will require a large ground force are ones like Iraq that we start ourselves. The reality is that most of our potential adversaries will call for "high tech" hardware action and not massive armies on the ground.

At least for the next couple of years all I can see is more and more money being poured into an ever increasing military and if someone like McCain is elected in 2008 it will go on for years more. Eisenhower warned us years ago about this in his farewell address...

Now this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet, we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources, and livelihood are all involved. So is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

1961 was a long time ago but viewed from out vantage point today Eisenhower was prescient. Stop by Pen and Sword and let Jeff explain it.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Happy Boxing Day

Happy Boxing Day to everyone and also a Joyous Feast of Stephen. In most parts of Europe and all over the U.K. this is a holiday just below Christmas in importance. There are various explanations for the history but the one I like is that this is the day when the donations to the charity box in the church are distributed to the poor, Christmas being the day when the box was traditionally opened. St. Stephen's day is a celebration of the Christian Saint known as the first martyr. Most modern folks only know of it from the old Christmas carol Good King Wenceslas. Regardless of the tradition have a nice day.

Monday, December 25, 2006

New Year Next

A fairly quiet Christmas here at Fallenmonk manor. The daughter(firefighter/paramedic) had the shift today so no family holiday stuff today. We had a lovely dinner out last night at the Atlantic Seafood Company. After we shared the calamari appetizer, I had the wood grilled Ahi Tuna and the Mrs. had Sea Bass with a soy and wasabi sauce. The Key Lime Pie for dessert was superb.
A very nice experience for our first visit there. I must admit, at this point, that all my plans for a nice Christmas Eve dinner went completely astray. I had called a couple of days ago to Mythos Greek Restaurant and made reservations but it appears that Mythos had closed over a month ago and the space is now occupied by a sports bar. Who knows where I made that reservation. Imagine my surprise when we pulled up in front, our mouths watering for saganaki and lamb only to find pizza and buffalo wings. Scratch that and it was off to find an alternate dining establishment. We were lucky to find a place at the Atlantic Seafood Co.
As for the rest of the holiday weekend...Mrs. Monk decided yesterday to catch up on some movies she had wanted to see and today we actually went out to the movies. You, Me and Dupree with Owen Wilson was much better than I expected and I have to give it a thumbs up. We managed to sit through about 15 minutes of Talladega Nights and when we realized that the life force was being sucked out of us and that our IQ was declining at a rapid rate we turned it off. Awful piece of trash.
Today at the movies we saw Night at the Museum and it was very good and entertaining. I am glad I spent the time and money to go see it it is is much better than I expected. Special effects are superb and it moves along with a nice plot. Highly recommended.

RIP. James Brown

R&B and music lost one of it's founding fathers last night here in Atlanta.

From the AP:
James Brown, the dynamic, pompadoured "Godfather of Soul," whose rasping vocals and revolutionary rhythms made him a founder of rap, funk and disco as well, died early Monday, his agent said. He was 73.

Brown was hospitalized with pneumonia at Emory Crawford Long Hospital on Sunday and died around 1:45 a.m. Monday, said his agent, Frank Copsidas of Intrigue Music. Longtime friend Charles Bobbit was by his side, he said.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

Nearly midnight on Christmas Eve and Santa is on his way. He won't come while I am awake so I will do the smart thing for a change and go to bed.

A Merry Christmas to all and to all a Good Night. There are a lot of good things in the world to be thankful for and a whole bunch of things that could be better. We should take the spirit of the season and use it to energize our efforts to make sure next Christmas is more meaningful and happy for more people. Use the power of love to make the bad things go away. It is up to us.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Uh Oh! Buddhists Coming in Under the Radar

Virgil Goode of Virginia is not paying attention. There is a threat to our "values and beliefs" that is twice as large as the one posed by Keith Ellison the Democrat from Minnesota. There is only one Muslim in the new congress but there are two Buddhists. Oh My God! Hawaii's Mazie Hirono and Hank Johnson of Georgia, both Democrats and both Buddhist. Don't you find it strange the Congressman Goode is so blithely ignoring these two? Congressman Goode seems unconcerned about the Buddhist threat to American "values."

The Boston Globe editorializes:

What part of "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" does congressman Virgil Goode not understand?

Goode, a Virginia Republican, displayed his contempt for the US Constitution in a letter he sent to constituents this month, criticizing the first Muslim elected to Congress for planning to use a ceremonial Koran instead of a Bible to swear his oath of office in January. In the letter, Goode writes that the election of Keith Ellison , Democrat of Minnesota, represents a threat to traditional American "values and beliefs."...

In the 1980s, Massachusetts legislator Barbara Hildt, an Amesbury Democrat, would decline to swear the oath of office with her 159 fellow House members every two years. Her Quaker faith prohibited it, so she "affirmed" her allegiance in a separate ceremony. The Commonwealth did not crumble.

Indeed, the entering 110th Congress will feature more religious diversity than ever, with not just the first Muslim but the first two Buddhists: Hawaii's Mazie Hirono and Hank Johnson of Georgia, both Democrats. Strangely, Congressman Goode seems unconcerned about the Buddhist threat to American "values."

He should be more worried about the Buddhists. At least Muslims believe in the same God, more or less, as the Christians. We Buddhists do not "believe" generally in a god who wants to take over government and act through the GOP. We are the "Godless" ones.

Hank Johnson of Georgia became a Buddhist some 30 years ago and is affiliated with Soka Gakkai International, which has been evangelizing to African Americans, and yes, Johnson's not only among the first 2 Buddhists elected, but he's also. you guessed it, the first African-American Buddhist elected! Soka Gakkai is normally associated with right wing politics in Japan. That is not true in America though, Tina Turner, SG's most well-known practitioner is a not a right wing conservative by any stretch of the imagination.

It will be interesting to see what the two Buddhists use to take their oath of office with if Ellison has chosen the Koran. Maybe Nichiren's writings - or the Lotus Sutra? If I were a betting man I'd guess the latter.

Mazie Hirono is a member of Jodo Shu Buddhism, a sect whose general form is the largest sect in Japan, and Hawaii.

To my way of thinking I would welcome even more Buddhists into Congress. If they are following the path and are serious students we could do a whole lot worse. We sure as hell wouldn't be in Iraq right now and wouldn't be spending more on the military and defense than all the rest the world combined if there were more of the Buddha's teachings followed. My guess is that our government would be a lot more compassionate.

Artichoke Glop

We name this Artichoke Glop for some unknown reason but it is really just a Hot Artichoke Dip.

Here is quick and dirty dip recipe that has been around for years.

1 (14 ox.) can artichoke hearts ( not marinated)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup of mayonnaise
1 7 oz. can chopped chilis

Chop the artichokes a bit and combine with all the other ingredients. Put in oven proof bowl and heat in 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Serve with crackers or Melba rounds.
You can kick it up by mixing in a cup of Rondele or Alouette cheese spread. I sometimes kick up the basic recipe with a little hot sauce.

The nice thing about this is that you can always have a can of chilis and a can of artichokes in the cupboard and I consider Parmesan cheese and mayonnaise to be part of the always have list. You can always whip this up for surprise guests.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Cinnamon Stimulus

I am really not getting into the holiday mood this year. We haven't done the usual day or two of baking and we decided to hold back on the big time gift giving. Madam did decorate and we have a tree and such around. Without children and a lot of family around it is not too much fun this time of year. I saw this in the paper this morning and thought to myself that maybe a little baking would be just the ticket to get me a little ho-ho-hoier as it were.

Following is a recipe from the AJC this morning for the cinnamon rolls that you used to be able to get at Herren's in Atlanta years ago. You can get them now at the Theatrical Outfit which took over the old restaurant space. These are real simple and don't involve a lot of glaze and nuts and stuff and the key is to roll out the dough thin and then continue to work the roll of dough out so that they will be about the diameter of a half-dollar. This time of year the smell of cinnamon cooking combined with the yeasty smell of homemade bread will get you in the spirit.


The recipe for Herren's cinnamon rolls has run in the AJC several times over the years — once incorrectly. Many years ago, before anyone now responsible for recipes was even thinking of working here, the newspaper specified 1 1/4 cups of warm water, not 1/4 cup, and readers called complaining that their dough was running off the counter. Consider this a much-belated correction, from Ed Negri's 2005 memoir, "Herren's: An Atlanta Landmark." If you don't want to make dough, he says it's OK to substitute frozen dough.

— Jim Auchmutey

Herren's Cinnamon Rolls

Makes 60-80 rolls
Prep time: 40 minutes, plus 2-plus hours resting
Baking time: 18-20 minutes

1 cup milk

1/4 cup butter (cut into slices)

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

2 packages yeast

1/4 cup warm water

4 cups flour, sifted

2 cups sugar

4 tablespoons cinnamon

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted

Boil milk in a heavy saucepan. Add sliced butter, sugar and salt and set aside to cool. Transfer to electric mixer fit with dough hook. Add yeast to water and stir into milk mixture. Add flour, about half at a time, and beat well (dough can also be mixed by hand). Let rest for 15 minutes. Knead until smooth. Place dough in a buttered bowl, cover with cloth and let rise until double in size, about an hour.

In a bowl, combine the 2 cups sugar and cinnamon. Lightly butter two 13-by-9-inch baking pans and sprinkle with sugar mixture.

Divide dough into 4 equal pieces. Working with one piece at a time, roll out dough on a lightly floured board to about 1/4 inch thick and about 8 inches square. Lightly brush surface with melted butter. Sprinkle sugar mixture generously over entire surface. Starting at one side of the square, roll up dough into tube. Continue rolling back and forth until it's about 12 inches long. Cut into wheels about 1/2 inch wide and place flat in the pans, so that there's just a little space between them. Do not overcrowd pan. Brush the tops with butter and sprinkle with sugar mixture. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour to rise.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool 1 minute, then promptly remove rolls to prevent sticking.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

American Gulags for Children

Pachacutec has an important post up up at Firedoglake this morning here. It is a must read for for the holidays and it is an important call for action. Right here in our country, on American soil, in Texas and Pennsylvania hundreds of children are imprisoned with their families and with just Christmas a few days away are looking at a very bleak holiday indeed. This is a tragedy and must be corrected now.

Latina Lista has been doing fantastic work on the story of the truly evil ICE roundup of immigrant children and families, which has in many cases left American citizen children effectively orphaned. Now, we learn of American concentration camps for brown people, holding hundreds of children, just in time for Christmas, here on mainland American soil. As allied forces liberated Europe after defeating Germany, the undesirables of the Nazi regime were set free. Who will liberate these people?

Here is part of what Latina Lista has to say:

One of the more disturbing stories that surfaced after the Swift meat plant raids was how too many children were left without a parent and/or farmed out to friends and families with no immediate word on how they will be reconnected with their mami and papi.

But if news filtering out of one of the newly designated immigrant detention centers for families is any indication, no undocumented parent is going to open their mouth and claim their children if the whole family is going to be subjected to what is becoming known as the first known concentration camp on American soil in the 21st Century.

The T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas (on the outskirts of Austin, Texas) is a private detention facility operated by Corrections Corporation of America. It and a smaller center in Pennsylvania are the only two facilities in the country that are authorized to hold non-Mexican immigrant families and children on noncriminal charges.

What does this mean?

It means that at the Taylor facility of the 400 people "held" there, 200 are children. And all are families that can be held there for whatever length of time without due process conducted in a timely manner.

To top it off, as long as the men, women and children are held there, the facility's operator draws a daily profit - per person.

The children range in age from infants on up.


Jeans and t-shirts have been replaced with jail uniforms; children are issued uniforms as soon as they can fit into them — and everyone must wear name tags, even the babies.

Lawyers are reporting that the families are receiving substandard medical care and becoming ill from the food being served them. Children are losing weight and people are complaining of migraine-type headaches.

Those clients who are asylum seekers, say the lawyers, are continually suffering trauma on top of the trauma they've already undergone in their home countries - all without receiving any kind of psychological treatment.

Originally, the detention facilities were touted by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff as a way to keep families together while waiting for their cases to come up for court review.

Well, they are accomplishing that goal - to the exclusion of being allowed any outside contact with the rest of the world, aside from those who have lawyers.

The plight of these families caught in a government-sanctioned Hell is slowly spreading (Texas Civil Rights Review, Austin's American Statesman Editorial,American Statesman article) but with Christmas less than a week away these families truly need a miracle to let them know that the outside world knows that they are there — not to mention, the children who need to know that Santa or Los Tres Reyes, or the other Holiday entities observed by those who are not Mexican or Latin American, will know where to find them.

This is crushing information and this kind of stuff being done by my government makes me insane and ashamed. If you have a few minutes in all the rush of the holidays it would make an impact if you took some time this holiday season, while congress is out of session and your representatives are back home, to contact the local offices of your senators and congressmen and tell them this is immoral, unAmerican, and it has to stop. If you wanted something truly good for the soul to do this holiday season, this is it. Please act. These families and children have no hope without you.

Thanks Carl

Yesterday was the 10 year anniversary of Dr. Carl Sagan's passing. He was one of the major influences in my life and how I approach the way I look at the world. He, in many ways, was like a Zen master. With Dr. Sagan, you didn't need mysticism, or magic or any supernatural explanation for the things in the world to inspire and delight. The simplest things in the world when seen through his eyes were wondrous and fascinating. Whether it was astonomy, biology, chemistry, or physics everything was astounding when seen with Carl's guidance. The thing about Carl was that he was fascinated and awed by the universe not because it was cool science but because it was fascinating to understand our place in it and how intertwined everything was.
Carl Sagan knew that understanding the Universe and our place in it couldn't help but to cause us to marvel at it and therefore love and cherish it. This wonder and awe make working to protect and preserve it instinctive and natural. It made us understand that by preserving it we are also preserving ourselves. I truly believe that Carl Sagan wanted, more than anything, for us humans to recognize the necessity of surviving and finding our proper balance with the rest of the universe. He wanted us to grow, evolve, understand and find a completeness with the universe. He desire was us to stay alive and grow out into the universe and fulfill our destiny as an integral part of the whole.

Thank you Dr. Sagan for opening my eyes to the wonder surrounding us all. My life is more complete because of you.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

How Long Can You Tread Water?

Is it hot in here or is just me?

Preliminary data from the Met Office, Britain’s national weather service, and the University of East Anglia indicate that 2006 has been the warmest year in Britain since record-keeping concerning weather conditions began in central England in 1659.

Trees are sprouting leaves in Switzerland. And low-altitude ski resorts across the Alps look more like springtime meadows. “We are currently experiencing the warmest period in the Alpine region in 1,300 years,” Reinhard Boehm, a climatologist at Austria’s Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics, told the Associated Press in Vienna.

Boehm was one of the authors of a European Union-funded climate study that found similar warming periods in the 10th and 12th centuries. But, he said, it’s warmer now, and “it will undoubtedly get warmer in the future.”

No Confidence

After reviewing the synopsis of 'The Decider's" news conference I have come to the conclusion that we need a change to the Constitution that allows the Congress or either house to issue a 'Resolution of No Confidence' with respect to the Executive Branch. There are a lot of other democracies or constitutional republics like ours that have this ability.

This would be stronger than a censure and less severe than impeachment but would be a strong statement with respect to the governance offered by the President.

I am open as to whether such a vote of 'No Confidence' would require a new election as it does in other countries.

We are now at a point in this failed presidency and at such a record low in public confidence that I believe we need something to get George Bush's attention.

Anybody have any thoughts?

Updated: Just added a few thoughts after I hit the publish button.

Direct quotes from you know who at today's press conference:

"I'm willing to follow a path that will lead to victory…"

"…put a path in place that will lead to success."

"We'll accomplish our objectives."

And what, exactly, is this path of which you speak? Can you show us the way?

You have objectives? Is there a list? Can we get some detail and the steps you plan on taking to achieve them?

Since we have had three years of a downward spiral in Iraq, can you share with the American public any hint as to when we might actually be starting down this "path"?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Stay the Course only Bigger and Better

I am getting very frustrated with this whole mess. Bush says he listens to the military and is not micro-managing the war in Iraq and yet he states the following on the same day that the Joint Chiefs say that increasing troop strength is not the answer. What this tells us, of course, is that Bush is lying once again when he says he listens to his commanders in the field and that he has absolutely no idea what to do next. Hey shithead...first you need to stop digging.

The following is from the Washington Post today concerning and interview with the Emperor.

President Bush said today that he plans to expand the size of the U.S. military to meet the challenges of a long-term global war against terrorists, a response to warnings that sustained deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan have stretched the armed forces to near the breaking point.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Bush said he has instructed newly sworn-in Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to report back to him with a plan to increase ground forces. The president gave no estimates about how many troops may be added but indicated that he agreed with suggestions in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill that the current military is stretched too thin to cope with the demands placed on it.

This decision is 180 degrees out of synch with virtually everyone in the country. Nobody except the two corporate whores McCain and Lieberman and a fringe of deranged keyboard commandos think increasing the number of American feet on the ground is a good idea. Fred Kagan over at AEI has had the idiot's ear for a few weeks now and it seems as if his warmongering and fantasy land assessment of our chances for a successful outcome in Iraq are taking hold.
I am afraid we are very near to reaching a point where the Congress just has to cut Bush's water off to a drip. No money. No Love. Just oversight.

Makes Sense To Me

I'm beginning to like this guy. Here is Harry Reid on the Huffington Post.

Frankly, I don't believe that more troops is the answer for Iraq. It's a civil war and America should not be policing a Sunni-Shia conflict. In addition, we don't have the additional forces to put in there. We obviously want to support what commanders in the field say they need, but apparently even the Joint Chiefs do not support increased combat forces for Baghdad. My position on Iraq is simple:

1. I believe we should start redeploying troops in 4 to 6 months (The Levin-Reed Plan) and complete the withdrawal of combat forces by the first quarter of 2008. (As laid out by the Iraq Study Group)

2. The President must understand that there can only be a political solution in Iraq, and he must end our nation's open-ended military commitment to that country.

3. These priorities need to be coupled with a renewed diplomatic effort and regional strategy.

I do not support an escalation of the conflict. I support finding a way to bring our troops home and would look at any plan that gave a roadmap to this goal.

It's been two weeks since the Iraq Study Group released its plan to change the course and bring our troops home. Since then, the President has been on a fact finding tour of his own administration -- apparently ignoring the facts presented by those in the military who know best. The President needs to put forth a plan as soon as possible, one that reflects the reality on the ground in Iraq and that withdraws our troops from the middle of this deadly civil war. whitesq.jpg

The Last Leaves

The last of our allies in the world will soon be turning it's back on us as well. George Bush's incompetent leadership has now managed to drive our oldest and most trusted ally into the arms of others. We will soon be alone in the world to suffer the consequences of our long nightmare with Bush. His legacy will still be a burden on our grandchildren's children.

"A distancing of the U.K. from the U.S. and a closer relationship with Europe are requirements of the post-Blair foreign policy," the London-based international affairs institute said in London today.

The report, by Victor Bulmer-Thomas, who steps down as director of Chatham House on Dec. 31, is aimed at stimulating debate about the direction of U.K. foreign policy after Blair retires. Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, the ruling Labour Party's finance minister since 1997, is favorite to take over.
Christy over at Firedoglake has a great post about the long term effects of the Bush 'experience' on the U.S. standing in the world. As usual it is a good and informative read.

P.S. I know I said I was working hard on stuff today and I thought I was. Unfortunately, the client needs to make some tuning changes on their Oracle database and until they do I am adrift. My process keep failing to run and until they do I have no data to analyze so I am in "Hurry Up and Wait" mode which I learned how to do in the Navy quite well.

Not Good News

The Producer Price Index which measures core inflation pressure took it's biggest jump in decades last month. This is not good news for the economy.

Economists had been expecting a rebound in wholesale prices following two months of big declines. However, the 2 percent jump was four times bigger than the 0.5 percent increase they had forecast. Even excluding volatile energy and food prices, core inflation posted a 1.3 percent advance, the biggest jump in 26 years.

This jump is a big change from the consumer price index which was flat in November. This has actually been declining for the recent few months. Most of this disparity is because of energy costs, which went down in the consumer number but were up 6.1 percent in the November survey of wholesale prices.

Combine these numbers with what we are seeing in the housing industry coupled with the inverted yield curve in the bond market and you are looking at all the warning signs of recession. I wouldn't be surprised if the Fed cranks up interest rates after the first of the year and that might just push us over the edge into a full blown recession. Gird thy loins folks it may be a rough ride.

Off to Be the Wizard

Another day where I have to go into the office. Doing some pretty intense data analysis for the next couple of days. I am trying to convince one of our largest clients that my application will produce a better forecast and recommend stocking a better set of service parts than his homegrown system. I don't know the exact number but we have been perfecting our algorithms for 6 years and probably have a couple of hundred thousand man-hours of development and testing in ours. They are being used by the biggest companies in the world very successfully and I still have to spend a couple of weeks proving their worth to this client who freely admits that he is failing to do a good job with his methods. I guess that is some kind of job security.
So anyway, going off to play the wizard again today so not much activity here until early evening. Off to fight the Oracle dragon!

Monday, December 18, 2006

All I Can Say

It has been a very busy day and I am just now winding down and getting a chance to blog around and see what everyone is about. My quicky previous post hooked one anonymous commenter who didn't see the snark flag flying but I have responded and he or she should know that I am dead serious when it come to protecting the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and I only joke about denying someone the right to vote.

Anyhow, I have been wandering the Internet and reading all the great writing and reaping the fruit of some really good thinkers. I don't agree with everything I read but it does stimulate the thought processes.

I have nibbled at the edges of this with several posts in the last few weeks but my thinking is starting to congeal around the perimeter and I am going to try again to express one more time the part of the misgivings and fears I have about the near term for America.

First of all, somewhere in the backwaters of my mind, I have been reserving some measure of deference or respect or false hope or insanity in hoping that George W. Bush will overcome all of his shortcomings and rise, at least part of the way, to his position as leader of the greatest country on earth. I have now reached the point where I believe that the last shred of hope for a revelation of humanity on the part of George W Bush is dead. I am struggling now with how to define my total lack of hope with respect to this pseudo man. How do you quantify the soulless contempt this Bush has shown for human life both American and Iraqi? How can you put into words pregnant enough with venom your disgust for his dismissal of the will of the American people and their complete repudiation of his failed adventure in Iraq? What words are poisonous enough to reflect the insanity now that he's contemplating an escalation and sending more American children to a death in a far away land that hates us and our presence?

I tolerated a lot of people chiding me to patience and respect arguing that he was basically a solid man of faith stubbornly defending us from the horror of Islam. I don't get much of that any more as I think these folks are coming to the realization that he's a dangerous psycho and will carry all of us to hell with him. If rumor holds true he is going to go in exactly the opposite direction that all of the world, America included, wants him to go? I knew in the true mind that he would do it so I can't say that I was for real and for true surprised but the impending and brutal reality of what is to come is truly unthinkable.

So here we are. Bush is a criminal failure whose unwillingness to admit he's wrong has killed thousands of America's best and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians contemplating killing thousands more.

What are we to do? Impeachment is a bad idea, not because I don't think he's a criminal and not because I don't think he doesn't deserve it. Impeachment is messy and time consuming and I want the Democrats using this opportunity to begin to change things. I want a minimum wage law passed. I want my civil rights back. I want to consider a single payer health system. I want some damn governing and oversight and I want it now. They can't do both. They can't pursue impeachment and still be the government we voted for. America is facing a crisis and the world is facing a crisis. The world is rapidly racing to destruction. Across every continent are vicious fires trying to melt away human rights and meaningful lives. We need to put out the fires first. Later, if we have time, we will impeach this despicable excuse for a man.

Let's investigate and document the crimes of this administration. Let's educate the public and find out just how much damage has been done to the Constitution and our way of life. We have to know where are so we can start putting things right. Maybe if we do the job of documenting the crimes of Bush and Cheney we will have a mandate from the American public to excise this cancer from the American dream but we should wait until it is the only thing left to do.

Finally, I do not relish the thought of saying that the President of the United States is not worthy of our respect. It strains my soul to have to say that my country is ruled by humanity's worst nightmare. However, facts are facts and the reality is that, based upon his performance so far and his obvious contempt for the will of the American people and the Constitution it is all I can say.

New Test Requirements

An editorial in the AJC this morning got me to thinking about our responsibilities as citizens. We require immigrants applying for citizenship to take a test on their knowledge of "the fundamental concepts of American democracy". Why shouldn't we all have to re-qualify on a regular basis?

We should have to pass a citizenship test as part of our filing of income taxes every year.

The facts are really depressing. A recent survey showed that although 52 percent of Americans could name at least two characters on "The Simpsons" only 28 percent could tell you two of the freedoms protected by the First Amendment. Sad. Another recent survey showed that 77 percent of Americans knew at least two of the Seven Dwarf's names but only 24 percent could name two Supreme Court Justices. In September the Annenberg Public Policy Center found that just two-thirds of Americans polled could identify all three branches of government and that only 55 percent were aware that the Supreme Court could rule laws passed by Congress unconstitutional. Finally, and the worst shame of all, is that fully 35 percent thought that the President had the Constitutional right to have the "final say" over Congress and the Judiciary.

Here is a question. Do you think it is right that these people have the right to vote?

That is why I am going to advocate for a citizenship validation test on all Federal Income tax returns. You have to pass it or your right to vote is revoked until you do. Nothing too tough. A few First Amendment questions. A few questions on Constitutional Law and maybe throw in a few Magna Carta questions as well as a few landmark law questions like the Civil Rights Act and such. Questions everyone who votes should be able to answer.

You know maybe if we had some sort of pre-qualification for voting in this country we might have a different leader right now. That is not a bad thing to contemplate as you ponder the testing.

I expect your support on this.

Monday, Monday

We are around just busy with work stuff. Hope everyone had a great weekend and are all ready for the slide into the holidays and a new year. Is it 2007 already? Time flies when....
Back later after I get all the real work put away. Gorgeous day here in Atlanta and it sure doesn't seem like it is almost Christmas when you see 70 degrees and sunshine in the middle of December.
What me worry?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Local Color

If you would like to see how some of the historic homes here in Roswell, GA are decorated for Christmas. You can go to this link and play the Windows Media File. In the last home, Bulloch Hall is Madam Monk's effort using the Alice in Wonderland theme. For a moment you even get to her showing a pop up book. She has been decorating in this home for years as the representative of the Historical Society and each year is a different theme for the whole house. This year it was children's books and Madam is an Alice enthusiast. This year she even went to the Alice shop in Oxford, England to get stuff for the room while she was visiting friends in the U.K. She is also notorious for hiding Elvis somewhere in the decorations each year and part of the deal is trying to find "The King". This year he is in the chess set with all the Alice characters and of course he is in the King's position.

P.S. Bulloch Hall is on the National Register of Historic Places and is famous both for being one of the few antebellum homes in the south to survive Sherman's march to the sea and for being the family home of Mittie Bulloch who married Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. and became the mother of President Teddy Roosevelt.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

We Need More

We need more voices like Bill Richardson. He came out today and spoke the truth about John McCain. The call for more cannon fodder in Iraq is insanity and it is against the will of the vast majority of the American people and equally important the rest of the world. There is absolutely no way we can win in Iraq(whatever win means) using military force. McCain and his chorus of Lieberman and Graham are still absolutely wrong as they have been for four years. Iraq is toast, we fucked it up big time, screwed, blued and tattooed. Thank goodness there are some that will speak out against this insanity. Thanks Bill Richardson.

“The leading advocate for escalating the war is Senator John McCain. I have served with John in Congress and I respect him. But John McCain is wrong, dead wrong to think that we can solve Iraq’s political crisis through military escalation.”

“There are no quick or easy answers to the crisis in Iraq. Our choices are between bad options and worse ones. Some prefer military escalation. Some choose staying the course. These options are illusions. The only realistic choice we have is to stand down militarily and let the Iraqis stand up and face the political crisis which only they can resolve.”


I get links from Christy at Firedoglake and from Sumo at Sumo Merriment and it generates not one comment. More people comment on a single post at Firedoglake than stop by here in a year and a link generates no activity at all? I tested Haloscan and it seem to work. Very strange.
Things are usually pretty quiet around here on the weekend but jeebus what a wasteland.
Granted I insist I don't blog for the comments but it does kinda feel good when you know someone actually reads some of the stuff you post and it is especially nice when you can engage someone in a conversation and exchange ideas. Looks like I am going to have to take off the gloves and actually write something meaningful here.

Friday, December 15, 2006

How Bush the Grinch Stole Christmas

Christy Hardin Smith aka ReddHedd at Firedoglake is on the warpath over the ICE raids around the country and the resultant chaos and tragedy for the children involved. I am going to quote almost the entirety of her post since only Redd can spit fire like this... and she has already posted a follow-up. When an ex-prosecutor and new mother gets cranked up about the responsibilities of the law and children in cases such as this, especially when it seems this is lot of show boating on the government's side you can expect some fireworks. Here they are:

So, let's see what we have here: a meat-packing company with a history of skating immigration laws (and allegations of them having some sort of scheme to import illegal workers from Guatemala) skates out of this scot free thus far.

Meanwhile, a mere nine days away from Christmas, these kids get the present of their parents being seized and hauled away, unable to contact them to let them know they are okay — with no time to make arrangements for their children's care.

And, in one case, a mother who was nursing her child is dragged off and cannot be located, while the child is left to deal with the consequences of being weaned against it's will by governmental agents. Which, as someone who has breastfed a child, is not something that should be done aburptly — and can have serious health consequences for the child, considering those first few months of breastfeeding provide the best portion of immunity protection and DHA for the child's developing brain [...]

Family values party, my ass.

If they were truly concerned with these childrens' welfare, they would have coordinated with local authorities and social services supervisors so that mechanisms were in place for temporary foster care placements and other service implementation, including the mound of paperwork that will now need to be processed to get these kids medical cards, temporary food and clothing assistance and other help — because they are US citizens and CHILDREN, and ought not be simply left standing outside their homes with no one to care for them. That is unconscionable and yet another example of piss poor planning by the DHS. Heckuva job, Mikey!

Beyond that, though, background checks, priors checks and other considerations will need to be taken into account for adults who are, at least temporarily anyway, caring for these children who have been left behind. The last thing you want is for these kids to be taken in by some seemingly caring adult…who happens to have a long history of pedophelia or violent tendencies or what have you. (Yes, I have been down this road before in abuse and neglect cases…and you do not even want to know what can happen to children in a placement that turns out to be a nightmare.)

That authorities in Texas are saying "Not my problem. The Feds are going to have to deal with this." is frightening — because the Feds are likely passing the buck right back to the locals. Which means the kids have had to scramble to find an adult to care for them on their own…and that can often lead to the very thing that no child should ever — EVER — have to survive.

And that is just for starters. According to the Dallas article, Texas authorities have no idea how many children may actually be stranded and/or affected by this. Well, that's encouraging, isn't it?

You tell 'em Christy.

Going Forward Wrongly

It is looking more and more like Bush is going to try and 'double down' in his effort to salvage his vision of a legacy in Iraq. St. John McCain is calling for more troops and so is Lieberman.
The calls for 40,000 thousand more troops in Iraq and $100 billion more to surge and 'win' is a most vicious pipe dream on the part of the neo-cons and Bush.

The problem in Iraq is a 500,000 man job and an additional 40,000 feet on the ground is just going to piss the Iraqis off. I guess it is human nature not to admit defeat but to think that we have any choice in what is going on in Iraq is delusional. There are 27 million Iraqis, and some 6 million of them in the Sunni Arab areas. 40,000 US troops is a drop in the bucket. Some of the insiders have now decided that the US should try to destroy the (Shiite) Mahdi Army. We might have had a chance and marginalizing them 3 years ago but since that time the Mahdi Army has grown and is now an urban social movement. It is almost impossible to destroy such a movement by conventional military means. If Bush takes this track we will see a real disaster compared to the last four years.

We have come to the point where all you can say is that we are now officially in an 'elective dictatorship". In spite of the overwhelming call for backing out of Iraq issued by the voters in November we are looking at just the opposite. We are currently spending $2 billion a week in Iraq according to recent estimates but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Both the Army and the Navy are saying they each need an addition $20 billion next year to fix the damage caused by the war and replace equipment and the Air Force is looking at a shortfall of $160 billion over the next 6 years. This is on top of the current $514 billion dollar defense budget. This is more spent on defense than the rest of the world combined. We now hear that Bush is going to ask Congress for an additional $100 billion early next year for Iraq. It is absolutely insane.

We are closing in on 3,000 American soldiers dead in Iraq and over 22,000 wounded. The illusion that there is a military way out of the quagmire is seen by the American public for the delusion that it is and they voted to end it. We are now about to see George Bush ignore the clear will of the people and continue to stay the course. I never wanted to live in an empire.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

American Travesty

Commenter T.G. pointed out this article by George Monbiot which ran in The Guardian on 12/12 concerning abuse being administered by Americans against Americans and others. Here is a little taste.

Last week, defence lawyers acting for Jose Padilla, a US citizen detained as an “enemy combatant”, released a video showing a mission fraught with deadly risk – taking him to the prison dentist. A group of masked guards in riot gear shackled his legs and hands, blindfolded him with black-out goggles and shut off his hearing with headphones, then marched him down the prison corridor(1).

Is Padilla really that dangerous? Far from it: his warders describe him as so docile and inactive that he could be mistaken for “a piece of furniture”. The purpose of these measures appeared to be to sustain the regime under which he had lived for over three years: total sensory deprivation. He had been kept in a blacked-out cell, unable to see or hear anything beyond it. Most importantly, he had no human contact, except for being bounced off the walls from time to time by his interrogators. As a result, he appears to have lost his mind. I don’t mean this metaphorically. I mean that his mind is no longer there.

This is being done to an American citizen who has been held for years without having his day in court. The government dropped the "dirty bomb" charges and are now holding him on some vague helping terrorist charge. This, of course, after the Supreme Court made them. This is not getting any play in the media and so therefore most Americans aren't even aware that this is happening. While Padilla is a high visibility situation this kind of torture is going on in prisons around the country and has been for years. Here is another excerpt from the Monbiot article"
But Padilla’s treatment also reflects another glorious American tradition: solitary confinement. Some 25,000 US prisoners are currently held in isolation – a punishment only rarely used in other democracies. In some places, like the federal prison in Florence, Colorado, they are kept in sound-proofed cells and might scarcely see another human being for years on end(9). They may touch or be touched by no one. Some people have been kept in solitary confinement in the United States for more than 20 years.

Only if you read The Guardian and other foreign papers and websites are you going to be made privy to this stuff. If you rely on the American press you are going to be a "Low Information" person. Go the site and read the whole thing if you are in the mood to be really pissed off.

Amazing Bloody Catastrophe

This quote from Timothy Garton Ash in The Guardian pretty much sums up the situation as far as I can see.

What an amazing bloody catastrophe. The Bush administration's policy towards the Middle East over the five years since 9/11 is culminating in a multiple train crash. Never in the field of human conflict was so little achieved by so great a country at such vast expense. In every vital area of the wider Middle East, American policy over the last five years has taken a bad situation and made it worse.

If the consequences were not so serious, one would have to laugh at a failure of such heroic proportions - rather in the spirit of Zorba the Greek who, contemplating the splintered ruins of his great project, memorably exclaimed: "Did you ever see a more splendiferous crash?" But the reckless incompetence of Zorba the Bush has resulted in the death, maiming, uprooting or impoverishment of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children - mainly Muslim Arabs but also Christian Lebanese, Israelis and American and British soldiers. By contributing to a broader alienation of Muslims it has also helped to make a world in which, as we walk the streets of London, Madrid, Jerusalem, New York or Sydney, we are all, each and every one of us, less safe. Laugh if you dare.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Made it Back

Even though someone ate the bread crumbs I had left to follow home I made it back. Actually caught and earlier flight and got upgraded to boot. A good travel day overall. Getting caught up on the other stuff.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Not the Answer

Steve Bates over at Yellow Doggerel Democrat has the following factoid from Neal Pierce in a post about the "Drug War".
There are 2.2 million Americans behind bars, another 5 million on probation or parole, the Justice Department reported on Nov. 30. We exceed Russia and Cuba in incarcerations per 100,000 people; in fact, no other nation comes close. The biggest single reason for the expanding numbers? Our war on drugs — a quarter of all sentences are for drug offenses, mostly nonviolent.

This is really a pretty depressing piece of information. While I was in the service in the early 70's I spent some time as a drug counselor and got the opportunity to witness first hand the things in peoples' lives that lead them to try and solve them with drugs. It didn't take me long to realize that the "War on Drugs" was a joke. Punishment and incarceration addressed none of the problems that enabled drug use. It didn't even remove the subjects from exposure to drugs as they were just as available in jail or prison. We, as a society, are doing a great disservice to those in our society who turn to drugs for answers when we ignore the root causes and think that punishment is the answer. This is stupid. We could probably save ourselves a lot of tax money if we shifted our focus to the societal pressures that lead to drug abuse and addressed some of the fundamental causes instead.

Band-Aid Moment

My work here is finished and I am safely ensconced in the Marriott. I have been watching the goings on at CNN. So far I have seen Hillary, Dennis, Al, Obama and Jim Bakker's evangelical punk son. It is all rather depressing. I only watch CNN when I am trapped in hotel rooms with no Food Channel so it is always rather shocking when you really start seeing the content that serves so many Americans their daily diet of news. It is no wonder that "low information" is the perfect definition of most Americans. That must be why I spend so much time in the blogosphere. (the blogger spell checker doesn't like "blogosphere" btw).

Not really a point to this post other that some random thoughts on what is bubbling through my head tonight, so don't expect a memorable treatise on anything special.

What is becoming clear is that the Bush administration has decided that the best way to deal with the ISG report is to let it die a slow death and not even address "Finding A New Way Forward" until after the holidays. I think they are hoping that some miracle happens between now and then and there won't be a need for radical change or in other words that "stay the course" will make more sense after we have stuffed and spent ourselves into oblivion between now and 2007.

More and more I am sensing that the Dems are going to fail us on Iraq when they engage in January. Pelosi is saying that she will not use the budget knife to castrate Bush's war and is signaling that we will continue to approve funding for the misadventure. This, I think, is a mistake. If Bush gets his funding he will continue to try and "win" this thing even though most Americans have joined us traitors on the progressive left in knowing that this is no longer and never has been a militarily winnable "thing". The day we invaded Iraq for no reason we lost.

No, I think we are at the point now that we have to realize that we are dealing with the equivalent of an alcoholic and we have to stop enabling him. We have to let him hit the bottom and look up from the gutter and finally internalize the reality of his predicament and then ask for help. Never forget that he is just a "dry drunk" who has never addressed the issues and personality flaws that lead him to medicate himself into oblivion for the first 40 years of his life.
If the Democrats vote to continue funding for this fiasco then they have just bought themselves a used and thoroughly screwed up war from GWBush. If they fund it they own it.

We are at the point now where we have to make some very hard decisions and the first one is to stand aside and say no more. We will pay to bring the troops home but we will not pay to have them stay for one minute more than is necessary for a sane and safe withdrawal. We have been shown over and over that the Iraqi are not going to "stand up" and we are now just spending lives and treasure training the people who will try and kill us and their countrymen next week or month.

The idea that we can find a non-military solution by trying to find a "good Shiite faction" to support and then use them to marginalize Sadr is just wishful thinking. We have spent the last couple of years training and equipping his army. We are already seeing Sunni neighbors react to this possibility with threats of funding Iraq Sunni and calling for armed conflict against Shiites. It is too late to pick sides in Iraq. We have now reached the point where our only viable alternative is to cut our losses and apologize to Iraq and rest of the world for our foolishness and false bravado.

This is not going to be easy but sooner or later you reach those "band-aid" moments where you just have to do it fast and get the pain out of the way as quickly as possible.

Still Here

I am still here but just very busy. They should have scheduled me for a couple of more days here. Two days is just not long enough to gather enough information and tweak and test. Looks like it will be another 13 or 14 hour day and I will still have to leave somethings undone.
I did manage to get a backup of the client's database and will be able to continue testing after I leave. The only trouble is that this client is the last one on this version of software and I will be testing on the latest which is packed with a lot more functionality than the installed one. Interestingly, I can run the entire client application on my laptop faster than their server based version runs.

Oh well so much for techy talk. Good weather for this trip...high fifties in the afternoon which is very nice for this time of year in Mass. Could be cold and snowing.
In the small amount of news I am catching while getting ready it looks like things are still in the toilet in Iraq with 60+ blasted this morning while standing around looking for work. I bet their families are really glad that Bush is looking for a "New Way Forward". I am afraid to say that I have to constantly guard myself from getting hardened to this daily dose of bad news. It is really easy to start accepting the constant barrage of tragedy as the status quo. I am sure the Whitehouse crowd is expecting and counting on a large number of Americans to become desensitized to this ongoing tragedy and that is why they are so angry at the media for reminding us daily that the war is still going on. Of course, the media is not doing a very good job of really showing us the depth of the insanity and pain the Iraqi people are experiencing and it is not really hitting home as it should. The front page of the papers and the first thing on the evening news should be on the loss of American and Iraqi lives.

Well, time to get my self in gear and get to the client. Fortunately it is just around the corner from the hotel and I don't have to get out on the turnpike. Traffic is pretty brutal at rush hour around here.

Everyone have a great day.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Hitting the Road

Updated below:

On the way to Boston in a bit. Looks like I'll have some decent weather for the couple of days there. A couple of interesting things happening in the news today.

Cold-Cash Jefferson has won his runoff. WTF?

Shuttle Discovery is away safely. Way to go.

the Iraqi president rejects the Baker report. Coulda told ya!

See you on the flip side.

Update: Here we are in Westborough Mass. If you are planning a trip to Boston in the near future be prepared for the worst traffic nightmare you can imagine. Once you leave the Ted Williams tunnel you are going to be in the middle of the big dig and it has been taking steroids. There are multiple turns and switchbacks pointing to 90W but just when you think you are getting there there is another turn. Seemed to take forever. Just a warning.

A busy two days so posting will be light. Have fun out there.

Saturday, December 09, 2006


Saturday night and nothing much going on in the Fallenmonk household. Very cold here today and that is challengingMadam has gone to bed and yours truly tried to watch several different movies on cable but all of them just didn't ring the bell. It still amazes me that I have over a 100 channels to choose from and regularly cannot find anything of interest.

Spent a good part of the day putting together my power point presentation for Monday and Tuesday. This client is running a fairly old version of our product and I am tasked with convincing them that they should upgrade. There have been some revolutionary changes in the product since they implemented and I am seriously concerned about having enough time to cover all the stuff.

Not looking forward to flying to Boston tomorrow. The flight is not too bad but getting out of Boston and to the client in Westborough is brutal. The big dig is still very much a presence and as a results there are a lot of changes from my last visit.

Interesting note: my roundtrip airfare from Atlanta to Boston is only $168. My hotel in Mass is 169/night. What is wrong with this picture?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Just Do It

If you have you ever gone to bed hungry or were not sure if you could feed your family their next meal then quit reading this post right now and go over to the Campbell's Soup “Click for Cans” website. I won't cost you anything and you can vote for your favorite NFL team in the process. The city whose team wins will get a major donation to the city's food bank from Campbell's. The details are on the website.

A missed paycheck or worse a lost job, an illness, or any number of other things can cause us to have to rely on the kindness of neighbors. The bread line is closer than any of us would like to admit. From personal experience I can guarantee you that you know someone who is using (or has used) a food bank or food pantry to make ends meet. I am no stranger to the giant logs of process cheese or the canned chickens passed out by the government. They got my family through some hard times.

While I could care less about the NFL, I do care about hunger and so does Campbell's. They are a major corporate donor to food banks all year long not just during this promotion.They have a serious corporate commitment to fighting hunger.

Make sure and bookmark the site as you can vote once a day. P.S. If you know how to clear cookies in your browser you can vote more often :-) . And know that regardless of which team you vote for, you are helping someone in need. It's worth a minute of your time, once a day, for the next week.

This is so easy anyone can do it. Give it a try. Campbell's Soup “Click for Cans” website.

h/t to the All Spin Zone via Susie

Frigid Day in Hotlanta

21 degrees in Atlanta this morning which is pretty unusual. Been out to feed the birds (and squirrels) and to thaw out the bird baths. The squirrels had gathered up sticks and had a little fire in an old clay flower pot and five or six were huddled around and just looked at me while I filled the feeders. Their tails come in handy on these kind of days as they can use them as little scarves. It always amazes me that the tiny little bare legs on the chickadees and wrens don't just seize up on these kind of days. Should warm up a bit later and we might even see a more normal 45 or 50.
Time for a cuppa tea.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

More Good News on the Future

WASHINGTON - In a "sneak peak" revealing a grim side effect of future warmer seas new NASA satellite data find that the vital base of the ocean food web shrinks when the world's seas get hotter.

And that discovery has scientists worried about how much food marine life will have as global warming progresses.

The data show a significant link between warmer water — either from the El Nino weather phenomenon or global warming — and reduced production of phytoplankton of the world's oceans, according to a study in Thursday's journal Nature.

Phytoplankton are the microscopic plant life that zooplankton and other marine animals eat, essentially the grain crop of the world's oceans.

Study lead author Michael Behrenfeld, a biological oceanographer at Oregon State University, said Wednesday that the recent dramatic drop in phytoplankton production in much of the world's oceans is a "sneak peak of how ocean biology" will respond later in the century with global warming.

"Everything else up the food web is going to be impacted," said oceanographer Scott Doney of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. He was not involved in the study.

"What's worrisome is that small changes that happen in the bottom of the food web can have dramatic changes to certain species at higher spots on the food chain," Doney said.

Mr. Clean Strikes Again

Oh My! The Bush administration has just discovered that we have lowered lead pollution in our atmosphere by some 90 percent in the last quarter century and are quickly stepping in to correct this grave situation. Bush EPA officials assured the media that we can quickly reverse this trend and get the levels back to the levels we enjoyed twenty five years ago. (snark)

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Bush administration is considering doing away with health standards that cut lead from gasoline, widely regarded as one of the nation’s biggest clean-air accomplishments.

Battery makers, lead smelters, refiners all have lobbied the administration to do away with the Clean Air Act limits.

A preliminary staff review released by the Environmental Protection Agency this week acknowledged the possibility of dropping the health standards for lead air pollution. The agency says revoking those standards might be justified “given the significantly changed circumstances since lead was listed in 1976″ as an air pollutant.

The EPA says concentrations of lead in the air have dropped more than 90 percent in the past 2 1/2 decades.
h/t to Susie

Turd Polishing

UPDATED below with Russ Feingold's comment on the ISG(h/t Atrios via Kos)

Ok…I have had some time to digest The Iraq Study Group report and my considered opinion is that it is worthless, outside of a total repudiation of the Bush execution of this war of choice. If you are one of those few that still harbor some hope that magic is possible in Iraq then this report may come as a shock. We now have it confirmed by “experts” that "Stay the Course" is a massive failure and that Iraq is all but lost. The report’s purpose, which was to legitimize “Official Washington” inside the belt-line opinion and reconcile it with the rest of the countries’, is now complete.

You would think though, that with all the time on their hands the “experts” on the panel would have helped us understand how Iraq fits into the big picture. How does continuing the course in Iraq impact our national security? While the report does touch on how serious the Israel/Palestine conflict is and the need for the U.S. to engage countries in the region it doesn't address how our global foreign policy is affected or how the Iraq war has damaged our international legitimacy and our long-term national security. The only acceptable aspect of the report is that it confirms and legitimizes what we on the progressive, anti-war left have been saying for years not because it's anything new or especially insightful.

What is difficult to understand is whether the ISG report represents merely incompetence or just a lack of courage on the part of Baker and Hamilton. I had mistakenly understood the purpose of the report as an effort to put a fresh set of eyes and brains on the problem and define the current situation in Iraq, its impact on our global position and then how to best move forward. As I suspected, we have been sorely used once again. Everything about the report is merely political positioning and a hackneyed attempt by the current ruling elite to make whatever solution the best “political” solution. They seem to give a whit about the fact that on the day they released the report 10 American soldiers died in Iraq.

Instead of looking at the disaster in Iraq through the clear lens of reality and then letting the observations drive the conclusions they fell back on the political. They didn’t make the hard decisions that are required by this debacle and instead addressed the political positions and potential political ramifications of the various options. Instead of offering the best solution or options they chose to offer what they thought would be most politically saleable. Instead of just telling us the truth and spreading a clear and understandable picture of the situation for all of us to see they chose political expediency. These “experts” took eight months to tell us what we all already knew…Iraq is a mess and as Al Gore says the “the worst strategic disaster in American history”.

Finally, if it’s hollowness and political “chicken dancing” were not enough the report has no muscles. Because it is a product of political pressures and not reality it is spineless. Bush and Cheney can now just cherry pick the least politically onerous parts and create some hybridized version that let’s them do what they want and still claim that they are adhering to the report. If you need any proof of exactly how Bush is going to respond to this report I only have to point toward the 9/11 Commission Report. If you’ll remember, the Bush administration resisted the commission until they had no choice and then picked pieces from it while ignoring the most important suggestions and now claim to have implemented it. This is a precedent I fully expect to be followed in this case.

Here we are again. We have waited 8 months for this report and once again we are left with nothing but essentially a political “chicken dance”. Bush and Cheney will do exactly what they want under the cover of this report and what we will have is essentially “Stay the Course” redux. What we have witnessed is an exercise in what is known as “Turd Polishing”.

UPDATE: Here is what Russ Feingold has to say about the report.
The fact is this commission was composed apparently entirely of people who did not have the judgment to oppose this Iraq war in the first place, and did not have the judgment to realize it was not a wise move in the fight against terrorism. So that's who is doing this report. Then I looked at the list of who testified before them. There is virtually no one who opposed the war in the first place. Virtually no one who has been really calling for a different strategy that goes for a global approach to the war on terrorism. So this is really a Washington inside job and it shows not in the description of what's happened - that's fairly accurate - but it shows in the recommendations. It's been called a classic Washington compromise that does not do the job of extricating us from Iraq in a way that we can deal with the issues in Southeast Asia, in Afghanistan, and in Somalia which are every bit as important as what is happening in Iraq. This report does not do the job and it's because it was not composed of a real representative group of Americans who believe what the American people showed in the election, which is that it's time for us to have a timetable to bring the troops out of Iraq.
I rest my case.