Monday, April 30, 2007

Acting Locally

Barbara Kingsolver has an article in this month's Mother Jones magazine (sorry the article is not available online). She is a terrific writer and I have enjoyed everything of hers that I have read. The article talks about her experiences in growing tomatoes and vegetables in Southwest Virginia and also links into her experiences with the Appalachian Sustainable Development non-profit that works to help organic farmers in a 10 county area in Virginia and Tennessee market their produce under the brand name "Appalachian Harvest". It really is quite a success story for the possibility of "acting locally". Last year they sold over 370,000 dollars worth of locally produced and organic produce to markets in the region. She does cover the dark side of the business as well. In 2005 when the co-op had a record crop of tomatoes ready for market truckloads of organic tomatoes produced in California by big industrial growers also hit the market at a couple of dollars cheaper than those of the Appalachian farmers. The net result is the local farmers had to "dump their product for free to local charities and the like and took a big loss. You wonder how the California produce could possibly be cheaper, considering the cost of shipping all the way across country, when Barbara reveals that under current laws the transportation costs are tax deductible for the big industrial farmers. The net effect is that the American taxpayers wound up footing the bill. With the advantages of scale and cheap farm labor the California guys win the game and all the rest of us lose. If you happen to see the magazine somewhere it is worth the price for this article alone plus, as always, MoJo is always a good read.

Barbara Kingsolver has a new book coming out tomorrow Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life being released tomorrow. I ordered mine today. It is a collaboration with her husband and daughter and the pre-release reviews are good.


Barbara Kingsolver published her first work of advocacy journalism at age 9, when her Op-Ed, "Why We Need a New Elementary School," helped pass a local school bond. She put writing aside to get a master's degree in evolutionary biology, which led to a job as a science writer, which led to a career as a freelance journalist. Journalism led to fiction; the rest is history.

"The Bean Trees," Kingsolver's first novel, was published in 1988 to great acclaim. With 2 million copies sold, it remains in print. Eleven others followed; all told, Kingsolver's titles have sold 7 million copies. Few American writers have managed to so seamlessly merge their radical politics and commercial success. "If we can't, as artists, improve on real life," Kingsolver says, "we should put down our pencils and go bake bread." Indeed, in her new book, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life," she does both.

Part memoir, part investigative journalism, part cookbook, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" is co-authored by Kingsolver's environmental scientist husband, Steven Hopp, and their then-19-year-old daughter, Camille. Together they tell the story of the year the family spent eating only food produced on or near their southwest Virginia farm. The central narrative rings with Kingsolver's characteristic biting humor; Hopp's sidebars focus on the industry and science of food production. Camille's passionate essays, informed by youthful idealism and by her sharp intelligence, also include meal plans and recipes.

I know I am going to like it.

More Truth about Melamine in Our Food Supply

Well, well, well The New York Times has picked up this story finally! It seems that only because of the the recent highlighting of the pet deaths here in the U.S. that anyone at the FDA even cared about melamine in protein supplements coming from China. Even more serious is that, evidently, this has been going on for years!

For years, producers of animal feed all over China have secretly
supplemented their feed with the substance, called melamine, a cheap additive
that looks like protein in tests, even though it does not provide any
nutritional benefits, according to melamine scrap traders and agricultural
workers here.
“Many companies buy melamine scrap to make animal feed, such as
fish feed,” said Ji Denghui, general manager of the Fujian Sanming Dinghui
Chemical Company, which sells melamine. “I don’t know if there’s a regulation on
it. Probably not. No law or regulation says ‘don’t do it,’ so everyone’s doing
it. The laws in China are like that, aren’t they? If there’s no accident, there
won’t be any regulation.”
Melamine is at the center of a recall of 60 million
packages of pet food, after the chemical was found in wheat gluten linked this
month to the deaths of at least 16 pets and the illness of possibly thousands of
pets in the United States.
So this has been going on for years and we now know that not only do the dogs and cats get this stuff but that pet food "salvage" routinely goes to hogs and chickens in this country. What does that tell you? You guessed it...there is probably a good chance that any pork and chicken you may have been consuming in the past who knows how many years was potentially contaminated as well.
And now we learn that the FDA is going to take a hands off and wait and see if anyone dies from this pork before we do anything. This is the same team that told everyone that melamine was no problem for animals, now saying that there is no need for a pork recall after tainted pork entered the food supply in the U.S.
"At this time, we have no evidence of harm to humans associated with the
processed pork product, and therefore no recall of meat products processed from
these animals is being issued," the Food and Drug Administration and Agriculture
Department said in a joint statement."Testing and the joint investigation
continue. If any evidence surfaces to indicate there is harm to humans, the
appropriate action will be taken,"
I guess the logic here is that they know we all have been eating this crap for years and nobody was the wiser so why make such a big deal out of it? Sounds good to me.

Update: McJoan at DKos has more as does Goldy at HorsesAss

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Old Fashioned Cukes and Onions

Hope everyone else has had a nice and relaxing weekend. I succumbed today to the devil in the back of my head that has been telling me since my bad experience with BBQ ribs at the Rendezvous in Memphis a couple of weeks ago to have some real ribs.
Yesterday I bought a couple of slabs of ribs and gave them a good rub with my dry rub. They rested quietly overnight and today I cooked them slowly over a nice little hardwood fire for 6 hours. I don't need to tell you how much better they were than the Rendezvous'.

The real purpose of this post is to share a recipe I remembered from my youth wihich is made for for BBQ.

4 cucumbers peeled and sliced into 1/3 of an inch slices. ( I use two of the European ones.)
1 vidalia onion cut in half and sliced very thin
1 cup of apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 tsp of salt
few grinds of black pepper
Mix it all together and chill for a few hours before serving

This is a very traditional Southern side dish and it especially nice in the spring when the vidalia onions are in season. Just dissovle the sugar in the vinegar and add the rest of the stuff. This is simple and really nice with BBQ or southern fried chicken. Don't skip the few hours of rest in the fridge though it make all the difference.

The Answer

We will have to wait and see if the idiot and chief follows through on his veto threat of the supplemental spending bill but I would like to go on record with what I think the Democratic response should be.

Fine Mr. President, if you don't like our conditions on the funding we'll just pull all funding for this disaster right now and you can use what's left of the war money we have already approved to bring our boys and girls home right now. It's are cut off.

Simplest solution is usually the best solution.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Firefox Issues

Having some Firefox problems today. Yesterday Firefox started freezing or hanging. Trying to type a comment or a post and you wouldn't see anything on the screen then all of a sudden a whole string of letters would appear. Same thing with the wheel mouse...nothing would happen then all of a sudden it would jump. I noted that even when firefox was the active program it would flash in and out of the toolbar when it doing this hanging thing. I have removed and reinstalled but nothing changed. Very strange. Using IE until further notice which is irritating since it doesn't seem to support the blogger spell checker which I need badly.

Anybody else seen this with Firefox?

One More Time. Surprised?

Shades of Ted Haggard and William Bennett! George Bush's AIDS Czar Randall Tobias, you know the guy in charge of telling us that abstinence was the only way to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and that condoms were a waste of time, has resigned.

Today, ABC News reported that the married Mr. Tobias resigned from his post as Deputy Secretary of State after admitting he was a customer of a DC escort service
Deputy Secretary of State Randall L. Tobias submitted his resignation Friday, one day after confirming to ABC News that he had been a customer of a Washington, D.C. escort service whose owner has been charged by federal prosecutors with running a prostitution operation. Tobias, 65, Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance and administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), had previously served as the Ambassador for the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief.

Here is the completely believable excuse: Tobias said he only got "massages."

Thanks for the good news Americablog

Brits Tackle Wasteful Packaging

Something Green to start the day. Our friends the British always seem to be one step ahead of us Yanks when it comes to taking a proactive stance on the environment. They are doing it with taxing cars based on fuel consumption and emissions and with package labeling to let you know the environmental impact of producing and delivering the product to market. Now they have turned their sights on wasteful packaging and the movement is gaining momentum.

The Independent started an awareness campaign earlier this year and the British public has rallied around the cause. Over 100 British MPs (Members of Parliament) have signed on to a motion to move this along under the law. It is very impressive to see what consumer demand can accomplish as it is doing in the UK. Consumers are the ones that started demanding retailers to get smart about wasteful packaging and it is working as the retailers are turning to manufacturers and producers and forcing action voluntarily. How well do you think this would work in the U.S.? A lot of American companies seem adverse to this kind of change and fight environmental change and smear environmentalists.

We can learn a lot from the Brits and their ability to be level headed and build a consensus for the benefit of society both in the UK and the world.

h/t to Americablog

Letters Carriers are Looking for Help

Last year Letter carriers collected 70.5 million pounds of food donations along their mail routes in the nation’s largest one-day effort to combat hunger. This year the drive will be May 12th, that's a Saturday.

If you can leave non-perishable donations—such as canned meat, fish and soup, and cereals, pasta and rice—in a bag near your mailbox on Saturday, May 12 before your letter carrier arrives that would be great. It will be taken to the local post office and then delivered to a local food bank, pantry or shelter.

Co-sponsors of the drive are the U.S. Postal Service, Campbell Soup Company, Cox Target Media-Valpak, local United Ways, the AFL-CIO, and America’s Second Harvest food bank network.

Click here for a list of Food Drive coordinators by branch (UPDATED APRIL 1).

In 2006 the final results showed 70,493,150 pounds of food were collected along postal routes in the postal union’s “Stamp Out Hunger” food drive conducted annually on the second Saturday in May in all 50 states and U.S. jurisdictions. The food was delivered to local food banks, pantries and shelters to help needy families.Buffalo/Western New York NALC Branch 3, which collected 1,902,962 pounds of donations, was the top NALC local branch in the drive for the fourth consecutive year.

You can learn more about it here.
P.S. If you have a blog in wouldn't hurt to help spread the word.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Soul of Iraq is Giving Up

This has been addressed on other blogs but I just felt the need to step in with my 2 cents. We should be very ashamed of what we have done to Iraq. Riverbend and her family are finally leaving Iraq. While her and her family's trials are a sorrow to hear, there is something larger and more sinister and tragic in this. Riverbend and her family are surely some of the brightest and most promising people in Iraq. The fact that this young woman has managed to maintain her connection to the world through blogging with all that has happened in Iraq over the last four years is clear evidence that her family are part of the best and brightest that Iraq has to offer the world. This departure is evidence that we have managed to drive a great percentage of the people who could, with our support turn Iraq back into a real and contributing part of the family of nations. The best minds, the best people, the best hope for a future are leaving Iraq in the hundreds of thousands, many to languish in Jordan or Syria for who knows how many years. These are the people that will be required to rebuild Iraq after the depredations of Bush, in the name of American power, are over. As more and more of the best of Iraq give up hope and leave we are guaranteeing a failed state for generations. We are shamed.

On a personal note, we’ve finally decided to leave. I guess I’ve known we would be leaving for a while now. We discussed it as a family dozens of times. At first, someone would suggest it tentatively because, it was just a preposterous idea- leaving ones home and extended family- leaving ones country- and to what? To where?

Since last summer, we had been discussing it more and more. It was only a matter of time before what began as a suggestion- a last case scenario- soon took on solidity and developed into a plan. For the last couple of months, it has only been a matter of logistics. Plane or car? Jordan or Syria? Will we all leave together as a family? Or will it be only my brother and I at first?

After Jordan or Syria- where then? Obviously, either of those countries is going to be a transit to something else. They are both overflowing with Iraqi refugees, and every single Iraqi living in either country is complaining of the fact that work is difficult to come by, and getting a residency is even more difficult. There is also the little problem of being turned back at the border. Thousands of Iraqis aren’t being let into Syria or Jordan- and there are no definite criteria for entry, the decision is based on the whim of the border patrol guard checking your passport.

An airplane isn’t necessarily safer, as the trip to Baghdad International Airport is in itself risky and travelers are just as likely to be refused permission to enter the country (Syria and Jordan) if they arrive by airplane. And if you’re wondering why Syria or Jordan, because they are the only two countries that will let Iraqis in without a visa. Following up visa issues with the few functioning embassies or consulates in Baghdad is next to impossible.

So we’ve been busy. Busy trying to decide what part of our lives to leave behind. Which memories are dispensable? We, like many Iraqis, are not the classic refugees- the ones with only the clothes on their backs and no choice. We are choosing to leave because the other option is simply a continuation of what has been one long nightmare- stay and wait and try to survive.

On the one hand, I know that leaving the country and starting a new life somewhere else- as yet unknown- is such a huge thing that it should dwarf every trivial concern. The funny thing is that it’s the trivial that seems to occupy our lives. We discuss whether to take photo albums or leave them behind. Can I bring along a stuffed animal I’ve had since the age of four? Is there room for E.’s guitar? What clothes do we take? Summer clothes? The winter clothes too? What about my books? What about the CDs, the baby pictures?

The problem is that we don’t even know if we’ll ever see this stuff again. We don’t know if whatever we leave, including the house, will be available when and if we come back. There are moments when the injustice of having to leave your country, simply because an imbecile got it into his head to invade it, is overwhelming. It is unfair that in order to survive and live normally, we have to leave our home and what remains of family and friends… And to what?

It’s difficult to decide which is more frightening- car bombs and militias, or having to leave everything you know and love, to some unspecified place for a future where nothing is certain.

Richard Clarke on Iraq

Richard Clarke puts it out there pretty clearly in a Daily News op-ed on Iraq. He tackles the "fly paper" meme and pretty much eviscerates it. He very clearly shows how the Bush administration claims are both illogical and politically motivated. You need to read it as I can't summarize it so as to improve on anything he has to say in his deconstruction of the absurdity of it all. Here are a few excerpts:
Does the President think terrorists are puppy dogs? He keeps saying that terrorists will "follow us home" like lost dogs. This will only happen, however, he says, if we "lose" in Iraq.

The puppy dog theory is the corollary to earlier sloganeering that proved the President had never studied logic: "We are fighting terrorists in Iraq so that we will not have to face them and fight them in the streets of our own cities." . . .

How is this odd terrorist puppy dog behavior supposed to work? The President must believe that terrorists are playing by some odd rules of chivalry. Would this be the "only one slaughter ground at a time" rule of terrorism?

Of course, nothing about our being "over there" in any way prevents terrorists from coming here. Quite the opposite, the evidence is overwhelming that our presence provides motivation for people throughout the Arab world to become anti-American terrorists.
While we are manufacturing terrorists in Iraq by the carload we are ignoring the needed resources at home to actually do something about improving our security.
In the real world, by choosing unnecessarily to go into Iraq, Bush not only diverted efforts from delivering a death blow to Al Qaeda, he gave that movement both a second chance and the best recruiting tool possible.
How many of the increasingly fewer Bush supporters need to read and understand this before they get the picture?

h/t AmericaBlog

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Just the Tip of the Iceberg

How long ago do suppose the FDA knew about this? The GOP has gutted them fiscally but it hasn't silenced them and we deserve to know when they are going to start protecting the American food supply and keeping us informed of potential problems before it is too late. The American food supply is increasingly affected by foreign companies that can either maliciously or accidentally contaminate our food supply. While most of these companies are probably well run and take their product quality and safety seriously the fact is that they are not responsible for the safety of the U.S. food supply . That it is the responsibility of the FDA who are seriously shirking this duty.
Thousands of hogs in at least five states and poultry at a Missouri farm ate salvage pet food that had been laced with an industrial chemical, the Food and Drug Administration said yesterday , opening potential avenues for the contaminant to enter the human food supply.

Urine from hogs in California , North Carolina, and South Carolina tested positive for melamine , a chemical contained in rice protein concentrate imported from China . Hogs in New York , Utah, and, possibly, Ohio also ate tainted pet food, but their urine has not yet been tested.
I was just reading in the AJC yesterday a reader contributed column on food safety. The author was a food industry consultant and his warnings were pretty stark. Did you know that nearly 100% of the world supply of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) which is used in thousands and thousands of products here in the U.S. is produced by a handful of companies in China? There is only one company in the Europe that still manufactures it and none in the U.S. Because of the low labor costs in China this trend is increasing and more and more western producers of food supplements and additives are closing down plants because they cannot compete with China. This pet food saga is only the tip of the iceberg.

Just as we have become completely dependent on foreign clothing manufacturers, we are becoming more and more at the mercy of foreign food suppliers. We already import more than 95% of our clothing(inluding shoes) from other countries and the same situation is rapidly happening to out food industry if not directly then through additives or in the example above through feeds for animals. What about the feed for dairy cattle(milk, cheese, etc.) and chickens(meat and eggs) or even farm raised fish. If you happen to have a package of tuna on the shelf at home you might note that it too is coming from Thailand or somewhere similar. I shop for food primarily at Whole Foods where they typically identify the source and it is not my imagination that more and more it is coming from South America or Asia. You want to talk about a target for terrorism just visit your local grocery.

Just to get back on track with this contaminated pork thing. Just because the hogs that are reported to have been contaminated are isolated in five states doesn't mean that meat from those animals won't, hasn't or can't reach your dinner table. The companies that distribute foods nationally can get their meat from anywhere in the world and sell it at your local grocery and you will never know where that meat came from unless there is a problem identified after the fact.

This is ugly and will get uglier trust me on that. We are at high risk and there is no one doing anything about it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Pleasant Evening

Bachelor tonight as Madam is out. Decided to eat my leftover dinner on the deck and was rewarded for doing so. Not only were the slow cooked beef short ribs especially succulent after resting for a couple of days in their rich sauce of wine and tomatoes but I had multiple visitors while I sat quietly enjoying my meal.
First came three white tail deer, a young male and a doe with youngster. They were busy sampling the new young shoots on the buffet around the yard and didn't seem to care that I was watching. I introduced myself, even sharing my real name, but such a gracious welcome was not returned in kind. Sometimes, in the right atmosphere, sharing your real name with another species will allow them to trust you enough to respond in kind. Regardless, my offer of mutual trust was not accepted by these three. It is understandable however. Here they are trying to scratch out a living in the middle of a metropolitan area of millions of people and Jumping fences and dodging traffic day in and day out. Gotta make you a little cranky. It does me.
While the deer moved off into the woods beyond, who should wander in but Mr. Raccoon. He too was interested only in what might have been left by the birds, squirrels and chipmunks and none to ready for a pleasant chat. He was much less sanguine about my presence and kept giving me the eye. He cased the joint and had a hearty drink from the bird bath before continuing on his nightly rounds. I was pretty sure that the look he gave me as he crossed the fence was for not replenishing the suet in the feeder. I will do it in the morning since he has been known to remove the feeder from its hanging and consume an entire cake of Peanut Delight in a single evening. Shouldn't encourage such gluttony.
An interesting evening and a reward for my attention in maintaining an attractive natural habitat for the wildlife. I must admit that the frequent trips to the bird seed store for another bag of sun flower seeds, dried corn, peanuts and suet make me hesitate at times but it is then that I remember the short episodes like this evening when I get a chance to connect.

Wrong Again Barack

Barack Obama gave his big foreign policy speech yesterday. "There are five ways America will begin to lead again when I'm President," he said. Here they are:
  1. Get out of Iraq (but responsibly!)

  2. Increase the size of the Army and Marines by 92,000 soldiers and teach 'em some Arabic. Get support from other countries when we fight wars of choice.

  3. Get serious about stopping the spread of nuclear weapons.

  4. Rebuild our traditional alliances. Understand that things that affect other countries also affect us.

  5. Double the foreign aid budget.

Whoa Nelly! I have a real problem with #2 which suggests that Obama is planning on conducting more foreign occupations or wars of choice in the future when he is President and is thinking of ways to make them run more smoothly than the current war of choice. Am I the only one that thinks even considering the possibility that America will once again elect to invade some other country just because we want to is an unthinkable idea and is not something we should plan on doing?

The United States already spends more on defense that the rest of the world combined...what the hell do we need more soldiers and marines for anyway? We need a bigger military only if we're going to occupy more countries and I'd just as soon that we didn't occupy any more foreign countries, thank you very much. If we have a larger military this will simply encourage us to use know the old "we're paying for it we might as well use it argument".

We might well be faced with a defensive war in the future but seriously, who is going to attack us that will require us to have even more military? I am no expert but I would venture to say that we could probably defend ourselves with maybe one quarter of the standing military we have now. Especially with all the fancy hardware we have.

The other four statements are just common sense and you can't really argue with any of them except maybe the last. Just increasing foreign aid unconditionally is a little broad and I would probably clarify it a little. Maybe qualify it to say that this foreign aid would not include military hardware and other crap that will encourage more war and death. I might also add that countries receiving foreign aid from the U.S. would have to answer for their behavior with respect toward human rights, environmental awareness, labor conditions and the living conditions for ALL of the people in their respective country. I'm picky that way. Sorry Israel.

The second statement, however, scares the hell out of me and by itself is enough for me to say no way will you see my support Obama. This, of course, goes without saying for any other candidate that presupposes America will continue the reign of global terror beyond the current debacle in Iraq. No thanks. Should not have happened this time. Sorry world. Sorry Iraq. Won't let it happen again.

Death for Nothing

While we are at it.

BAGHDAD - Nine U.S. soldiers were killed and 20 were wounded Monday in a suicide car bombing against a patrol base northeast of Baghdad, the military said.

The attack occurred in Diyala province, a volatile area that has been the site of fierce fighting between U.S. and Iraqi troops, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias, according to a statement.

The nine Task Force Lightning soldiers died of injuries sustained in the blast, which also left 20 soldiers and an Iraqi civilian wounded, the military said.

There were a bunch more people killed in Iraq today but these are the Americans. They try not to highlight the rest so you very often don't anything beyond a casual mention of it.

An Angry Soldier, Wife and Mother

This pretty much says it all. I can't add anything meaningful to it. Can you?
Via Bump and Suburban Guerrilla.

Let me tell you something: unless you’ve been there, you don’t know a god damn thing about it. It you haven’t been shot at in that fucking hell hole, SHUT THE FUCK UP!

How do I dare say this to you moronic war supporters who are “Supporting our Troops” and waving the flag and all that happy horse shit? I’ll tell you why. I’m a Marine and I served my tour in Iraq. My husband, also a Marine, served several. I left the service six months ago because I got pregnant while he was home on leave and three days ago I get a visit from two men in uniform who hand me a letter and tell me my husband died in that fucking festering sand-pit. He should have been home a month ago but they extended his tour and now he’s coming home in a box.

You fuckers and that god-damn lying sack of shit they call a president are the reason my husband will never see his baby and my kid will never meet his dad.

And you know what the most fucked up thing about this Iraq shit is? They don’t want us there. They’re not happy we came and they want us out NOW. We fucked up their lives even worse than they already were and they’re pissed off. We didn’t help them and we’re not helping them now. That’s what our soldiers are dying for.

Oh while I’m good and worked up, the government doesn’t even have the decency to help out the soldiers whos lives they ruined. If you really believe the military and the government had no idea the veterans’ hospitals were so fucked up, you are a god-damn retard. They don’t care about us. We’re disposable. We’re numbers on a page and they’d rather forget we exist so they don’t have to be reminded about the families and lives they ruined while they’re sipping their cocktails at another fund raiser dinner. If they were really concerned about supporting the troops, they’d bring them home so their families wouldn’t have to cry at a graveside and explain to their children why mommy or daddy isn’t coming home. Because you can’t explain it. We’re not fighting for our country, we’re not fighting for the good of Iraq’s people, we’re fighting for Bush’s personal agenda. Patriotism my ass. You know what? My dad served in Vietnam and NOTHING HAS CHANGED.

How many tears are enough? How much outrage is enough? I thought I had seen the last of senseless war when Vietnam ended and the American psyche was burned with the image of wasted lives and useless conflict. I cannot even verbalize the pain and despair this unnecessary war brings me. What a disgrace for America, it must end now.

Monday, April 23, 2007

No Compromise

It looks like Harry Reid is going to take this fight over troop withdrawal into the public arena. After his remarks over the weekend:

The military mission has long since been accomplished. The failure has been political. It has been policy. It has been presidential.

I understand the restlessness that some feel. Many who voted for change in November anticipated dramatic and immediate results in January.

But like it or not, George W. Bush is still the commander in chief — and this is his war.

Only the president is the odd man out, and he is making the task even harder by demanding absolute fidelity from his party.

If the president disagrees, let him come to us with an alternative. Instead of sending us back to square one with a veto, some tough talk and nothing more, let him come to the table in the spirit of bipartisanship that Americans demand and deserve.

The White House transcript says the president made those remarks in the state of Michigan. I believe he made them in the state of denial.

We have this from the AP via Huffpo:
WASHINGTON — Defying a fresh presidential veto threat, the Democratic-controlled Congress will pass legislation within days that requires the beginning of a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq by Oct. 1 and sets a goal of a complete pullout by April 1, 2008, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Monday.

In remarks prepared for delivery, Reid said that under the legislation, the troops that remain after next April 1 could only train Iraqi security units, protect U.S forces and conduct "targeted counter-terror operations."

Reid knows he has the American public behind him on this and he has carefully chosen his words to let everyone know the score "But like it or not, George W. Bush is still the commander in chief — and this is his war." This is only way we are going to have the spoiled child claiming to be the President either capitulate to the demands of the American people or go down in flames. We need to repeat this mantra over and over. This is Bush's war and Bush's failure and it has been from the beginning. To continue on is insane by definition. It is Bush that must work with Congress and not the other way around.

Saint Georges Day

Today is St. Georges Day and is particularly important to me since he is my namesake. It is not celebrated in England as much as it used to one time is was right up there with Christmas as a major holiday. There is even talk of replacing St. George as the patron saint of England with St. Alban. Anyhow, enjoy your holiday and if you see any dragons give me a call.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

There Should be Outrage

I haven't really waded in on the whole guns and freedom whirlwind that is circling the Virginia Tech tragedy. But the reality is that there is an elephant in the room and it shouldn’t be ignored.

I basically don't have a problem with hunting and owning guns and therefore don’t want to ban guns entirely. However there is a lot to agree with in Elayne Boosler’s furious rant over at The Huffington Post. I don't agree with it completely but you cannot ignore the facts. You have to ask yourself why the media isn't presenting the entire picture of the gun question. Yes, we know a bunch of innocent people were gunned down by a mentally ill kid but what does it mean in context with America's love affair of guns and killing?

The number of children under the age of 17 shot by guns in America every year is greater than the gun-related deaths of children in all the industrialized nations of the world COMBINED.


3,300 Americans have died in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last four years. 120,000 Americans have been shot to death in America in the last four years. Where is the outrage? If we can elect a new congress based on its commitment to end the war overseas, we can elect a congress committed to end the war here at home. End both wars.

To highlight the hypocrisy of the situation Boosler concludes her piece up by noting the idiocy when the President responds to the Supreme Court decision that refuses women a medical procedure even when it may be life-saving.

“Today’s decision affirms that the Constitution does not stand in the way of the people’s representatives enacting laws reflecting the compassion and humanity of America. This affirms the progress my administration has made to defend the “sanctity of life”.

I encourage you to read Ms. Boosler's piece at Huffpo. You don't have to agree with her every point but you should ask yourself some serious questions about the whole gun ownership thing in this country.


Two new additions to the blogroll. Andante at Collective Sigh and Bryan at Why Now? I have been remiss in not adding these two fine folks before now. Welcome.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Lee Iacoccoa and the Clueless Bozos

This is mighty refreshing. It is about time someone in Lee's class decided that he had had enough of the the insanity that is today's American government. These are the people that need to be speaking out. Thank you Lee Iacocca.

Here is an excerpt from Iacocca's new book - read the entire excerpt:
Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, "Stay the course."

Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic. I'll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out!

You might think I'm getting senile, that I've gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore. The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignore the Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war on a pack of lies. Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy (thanks, but I don't need it). The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we're fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions. That's not the promise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I've had enough. How about you?

I'll go a step further. You can't call yourself a patriot if you're not outraged. This is a fight I'm ready and willing to have....

Why are we in this mess? How did we end up with this crowd in Washington? Well, we voted for them—or at least some of us did. But I'll tell you what we didn't do. We didn't agree to suspend the Constitution. We didn't agree to stop asking questions or demanding answers. Some of us are sick and tired of people who call free speech treason. Where I come from that's a dictatorship, not a democracy....

On September 11, 2001, we needed a strong leader more than any other time in our history. We needed a steady hand to guide us out of the ashes. Where was George Bush? He was reading a story about a pet goat to kids in Florida when he heard about the attacks. He kept sitting there for twenty minutes with a baffled look on his face. It's all on tape. You can see it for yourself. Then, instead of taking the quickest route back to Washington and immediately going on the air to reassure the panicked people of this country, he decided it wasn't safe to return to the White House. He basically went into hiding for the day—and he told Vice President Dick Cheney to stay put in his bunker. We were all frozen in front of our TVs, scared out of our wits, waiting for our leaders to tell us that we were going to be okay, and there was nobody home. It took Bush a couple of days to get his bearings and devise the right photo op at Ground Zero.

That was George Bush's moment of truth, and he was paralyzed. And what did he do when he'd regained his composure? He led us down the road to Iraq—a road his own father had considered disastrous when he was President. But Bush didn't listen to Daddy. He listened to a higher father. He prides himself on being faith based, not reality based. If that doesn't scare the crap out of you, I don't know what will....

I have news for the gang in Congress. We didn't elect you to sit on your asses and do nothing and remain silent while our democracy is being hijacked and our greatness is being replaced with mediocrity. What is everybody so afraid of? That some bobblehead on Fox News will call them a name? Give me a break. Why don't you guys show some spine for a change?

Had Enough?

Hey, I'm not trying to be the voice of gloom and doom here. I'm trying to light a fire. I'm speaking out because I have hope. I believe in America. In my lifetime I've had the privilege of living through some of America's greatest moments. I've also experienced some of our worst crises—the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War, the Kennedy assassination, the Vietnam War, the 1970s oil crisis, and the struggles of recent years culminating with 9/11. If I've learned one thing, it's this: You don't get anywhere by standing on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to take action. Whether it's building a better car or building a better future for our children, we all have a role to play. That's the challenge I'm raising in this book. It's a call to action for people who, like me, believe in America. It's not too late, but it's getting pretty close. So let's shake off the horseshit and go to work. Let's tell 'em all we've had enough.

Roasted Vidalia Onions

Bonus recipe! Since in the previous post I mentioned Vidalia Onions I thought it might be nice to give you a really simple way to roast these babies. This is really simple but makes a fine side dish to a grilled steak or the like.

Heat your oven to 400 degrees F.

I use a jelly roll pan but any large flat non stick pan with a lip will do. I also line the bottom of my pan with parchment paper to save on cleanup hassles. Serves 6 people.

3 large Vidalia onions ( I have used the Walla Walla onions when Vidalias weren't available)
olive oil
kosher salt
black pepper

Peel and halve the onions so that the root is on one end and stem is on the other. You might say cut them at the equator with the stem end being the north pole and the root end being the south pole. This is important in how they hold together in cooking. Carefully cut an X in the root and stem ends down about a 1/3 of inch. Coat the cut side of the onions with olive oil and sprinkle with some salt and pepper and place them face down on the pan and then oil and salt and pepper the root and stem ends which should be facing up now.
Roast these in center of your 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes or until they begin to brown some what and are tender. This is good and cheap eats.

If you want potatoes with your meal you can do the same thing with them. I like Yukon gold but plain old russets will work fine too. Wash the potatoes and pat dry. Cut them in half and oil and season them like you did the onions putting them face down on the same pan with the onions. They will be done in the same forty minutes that the onions take. I use this same method for potatoes a lot and it also works for squash, large carrots, beets etc. It is called the "400 for 40" method and is a good way to roast vegetables of all types.

Remember to think outside the box with these recipes. Sometimes for a change I will add a different seasoning to the onions or potatoes or both. Paprika, Coriander, Curry, Chipotle, whatever.

Braised Cabbage

Here is the weekly recipe. In keeping with my Southern roots I am going to focus on typically Southern foods for most of the recipes here. Another thing I want to focus on is cheap and simple, since that was a driving force in a lot of Southern cooking.

Braised cabbage is a wonderfully simple and tasty dish and I honestly don't have it enough. This recipe calls for onions which you can leave out if you want but which I think give it an additional dimension. This time of year the Vidalia onions are in season which are really nice with it. You can get a head of cabbage for under a buck most of the year and a couple of onions for another buck so you can put this on the table for pretty cheap. It goes great with pork but can live with roast beef or baked chicken nicely. Some good buttermilk cornbread is a nice addition as well.

There have many a meal served in the South where the only thing served was boiled or braised cabbage and cornbread, corn pone or johnny cakes.

3 tablespoons of bacon fat, unsalted butter or olive or canola oil
2 medium yellow onions halved and sliced less that 1/4 inch thick
1 large head of green cabbage cored and cut into 1 inch by 2 inch pieces
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a large dutch oven or other large pan with a lid cook the onions in the fat or oil for about 5 minutes until limp. Add the cabbage and stir to mix with the onions. Add a teaspoon of salt and about a half teaspoon of black pepper. Reduce the heat to low and cook tightly covered for 30 to 40 minutes until the cabbage is nice and tender.
Since the cabbage cooks in its own juices it concentrates the flavors nicely. The bacon fat is the traditional fat used but butter and oil are acceptable, you just won't get that hint of smokiness in the background that the traditional recipe has.

This recipe makes enough for 6 nice servings. Enjoy.

Friday, April 20, 2007

I'm Sure it Will Work This Time

Last August the Bushies came up with a brilliant new plan to stop the violence in Iraq (well almost new) by building a wall around the Al-Dora neighborhood in Baghdad. It was being paraded around as the new answer for security since the surge in U.S. forces dubbed Operation Forward Together had failed miserably. The reality is that it had been tried over and over and over again in Iraq, and each attempt had failed.

The American and Iraqi armies on Tuesday, August 15, started building a wall around Al-Dora, a neighborhood in southern Baghdad. Soldiers have erected prefabricated concrete walls in order to "prevent terrorists from entering," according to the American army. [...]

The objective is to "clean Baghdad before Ramadan" at the end of September.

Get ready for it. Yes, you guessed it the Bush administration via the Pentagon has announced that it is building another wall to enhance security. Isn't there a definition of insanity that says something about doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?

A U.S. military brigade is constructing a three-mile-long concrete wall to cut off one of the capital's most restive Sunni Arab districts from the Shiite Muslim neighborhoods that surround it...

The ambitious project is a sign of how far the U.S. military will go to end the non-stop bloodshed in Iraq.

I read the article twice and the only thing I can see that is different about this farce is that the Pentagon is now describing it as creating "gated communities." I wonder if "swim and tennis" are included?

h/t to dKos for some of the links

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Back in Atlanta

Thirteen plus hours and many miles later I'm back but too frazzled to do anything but announce my safe return. I will do my duty to the blog world tomorrow morning. Goddess! there are a lot of trucks on the highway...especially I40.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

This is Success?

There has been a lot going on in the world the last few days while I have been otherwise occupied and without a high speed connection to the tubes but from what I can see between the horror at Virginia Tech, the appalling decision of the Supreme Court, the continuing saga over the US attorneys, and the usual crap that boils up out of this administration(bald eagles, no negotiated drug prices, etc.) it's not surprising that the majority of America is a bit glassy eyed. While it does not have the lead in the headlines on CNN or ABC or any other major network... since their job is to trivialize the disaster at VaTech, the hell hole in Iraq is getting worse since the "Surge" is not better. This is, of course, completely contrary to what we are hearing from the Bushies. Hello folks, yes it is unbelievably heartbreaking with all that that is happening here at home but Baghdad is exploding.

Suspected Sunni insurgents penetrated the Baghdad security net Wednesday, hitting Shiite targets with four bomb attacks that killed 183 people — the bloodiest day since the U.S. troop increase began nine weeks ago.... Nationwide the number of people killed or found dead was 233, which was second only to a total of 281 killed or found dead on Nov. 23, 2006. Those figures are according to AP record-keeping, which began in May 2005.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration has jimmied every statistic in an effort to try and extract some semblance of "progress". Today's and this week's violence should put and end to the theory that the massive escalation of US forces is a solution for what is happening in Iraq.

U.S. officials have reported a decrease in sectarian killings in Baghdad since the U.S.-Iraqi security crackdown was launched Feb. 14. But the past week has seen several spectacular attacks in the capital, including a suicide bombing inside parliament and a powerful blast that collapsed a landmark bridge across the Tigris River. The number of bodies dumped in the streets of Baghdad also has risen significantly.

Is this the Surge that Bush was looking for? A surge in the rate of Americans dying?A surge in number of Iraqis dying? A surge in rate in which the the US-backed government is crumbling? He is lookin for Surge..we got surge.

Next Target - Bald Eagles

A little later tee time today so I am getting a chance to cruise a bit. Nearly the first thing I stumble on is this bit of insanity.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to drop the U.S. national bird from the federal list of threatened and endangered species in June.

Environmentalists and scientists widely support the move because of the species' success since a 1972 ban on the pesticide DDT and since it was protected by the Endangered Species Act in 1978.

Still, many eagle experts are worried, warning that the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the law that will protect bald eagles after delisting, does not adequately shield the nesting trees and feeding perches eagles depend on.
What I want to know is who exactly are the "environmentalists and scientists" who are supporting this because Reuters conveniently neglected to mention them by name in the article? Why so you suppose these so called "environmentalists and scientists" aren't mentioned? I wish I had time to figure out which bunch of GOP businesses were set to make money off this. I am beginning to think that the goal of the Bush administration is to destroy everything before they leave office. Seriously, can someone explain to me why we need to remove these birds from the list?

Monday, April 16, 2007

A Little Slow

We're here. First day of golf was pretty bad and I am refusing to post my score. Very poor connection via the Sprint wireless so posting from here is going to be light to non existent. Weather has blessed us.

Terrible tragedy today at Virgina Tech, my brother's alma mater and also his son's. Tech is very close to where I was born in Western Virginia and where my mother still lives. There is no way to lighten the burden of those involved. We just have to send them our best thoughts and redouble our efforts to make America a nation without automatic weapons available to the public.

Go Long, Go Strong

It was a possibility a mere six or so years ago you could legitimately get away from calling we in the progressive liberal world out of the mainstream of American politics. Those days are over and probably for a long time. If you can't point to anything else about the Bush presidency as a success you can at least point out that he has almost singlehandedly empowered the Democrats. The issue now is to get the Democratic politicians to grasp the fact that the majority of the country has come around to what those of us on this side of the political spectrum have been saying for way too many years. In today's New York Times Paul Krugman thinks that the Democratic politicians -- and their consultants -- should actually listen to the majority of America on the issues of Iraq, healthcare and stem cells and dozens of other topics. The media still tends to discount us as the extreme, but now the reality is that we are the mainstream:
It took an angry base to push the Democrats into taking a tough line in the midterm election. And it took further prodding from that base — which was infuriated when Barack Obama seemed to say that he would support a funding bill without a timeline — to push them into confronting Mr. Bush over war funding. (Mr. Obama says that he didn’t mean to suggest that the president be given “carte blanche.”)

But the public hates this war, no longer has any trust in Mr. Bush’s leadership and doesn’t believe anything the administration says. Iraq was a big factor in the Democrats’ midterm victory. And far from being a risky political move, the confrontation over funding has overwhelming popular support: according to a new CBS News poll, only 29 percent of voters believe Congress should allow war funding without a time limit, while 67 percent either want to cut off funding or impose a time limit.
And, as Krugman explains, GOP candidates have a base that is out-of-touch on key issues. But that's not true for the Democrats, if they can ever grasp it:
Democrats don’t have the same problem. There’s no conflict between catering to the Democratic base and staking out positions that can win in the 2008 election, because the things the base wants — an end to the Iraq war, a guarantee of health insurance for all — are also things that the country as a whole supports. The only risk the party now faces is excessive caution on the part of its politicians. Or, to coin a phrase, the only thing Democrats have to fear is fear itself.
This is the time for boldness. It would be a true disaster to be too cautious at this point in American history. Americans knows what is important and have firmly stated their positions as is quite evident from the most recent mid term elections and the most recent polls. We are in desperate need of leadership and we need a leader who can take us where America needs to be.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Arkanasas bound

Nothing serious again this morning just the travelogue. Today is one of the most boring drives in the U.S. (it's a tie with the drive from Macon to Savannah on I10) and this is the drive from Memphis to Little Rock on I40. Miles and miles of rice fields to start and then more farm country. Only one spot with any scenery and that is short. From Little Rock to Bella Vista is not too bad as you are climbing up the plateau. Off we go across the Mississippi and westbound.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Post Wedding Thawing

It was a lovely wedding all except the part where it was 42 degrees and everybody was dressed for about 30 degrees warmer. Madam and I had to bail early as both of us were beginning to shake uncontrollably. The event was held outdoors at the Ornamental Metal Museum here in Memphis which sits on a bluff overlooking the 'Big Muddy' and even though we were under a tent it was wicked cold. The poor bridesmaids were beginning to turn several shades of blue before the service was over. Standing virtually half naked in the wind blowing off the Mississippi in the evening must have been brutal. I was dressed in coat and tie and I was miserable. Madam, who has zero tolerance for cold was brutalized. We finally had to break down and grab a cab back to the hotel before the wedding cake was even cut. Madam's first act when back in the hotel room was to soak her feet in a hot tub. Even though it is now just past nine in Memphis she is wrapped up in the bed and gently snoring after finally getting the deep chill off. I shall follow shortly though I felt the need for a little 'medication' first. At least the rain stopped and there were no least close by.

Saturday in Memphis

Morning all. More drivel this morning. Going after breakfast to the Peabody next door to watch the duck parade. Every morning and afternoon they roll out the red carpet and the ducks come down the elevator from their rooftop homes and march out to the fountain for the day to the tune of the "King Cotton March". It is quite the sight. Then it is off to the Gibson Guitar Factory on Beale street for the tour which I have never done.

Less than ideal weather today but we have umbrellas so it is off.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Rendezvous BBQ Ribs Report

Ok, I have finally had the ribs at Rendezvous in Memphis. For years I have been challenged when I claimed the ribs from the original Corky's location were some of the best ribs(outside of my own) that I have found. Have you tried Rendezvous they say and I have to admit, no I haven't.

That era is over and I can now definitively say that Rendezvous ribs don't measure up...not even close.

There are two key attributes to a properly cooked BBQ pork rib and if the ribs fail either of these they are not, by definition, BBQ ribs. Being a life long Southern boy and a BBQ aficionado and a BBQ master in my own right, I know ribs.

First of all a properly cooked rib has to be slowly cooked over an open fire that has at least some hardwood as one of the fuels. Hickory is the standard and anything else is just making do. I've used applewood and other hardwoods but hickory is the best. One of the results of cooking the ribs over an actual hardwood fire is that the meat develops a thin red coloration just under exterior called a 'smoke ring'. If your ribs don't have this distinctive thin red coloration just under the crust then they really haven't been cooked over a hardwood fire. Rendezvous ribs have no 'smoke ring' and you can't taste any of the distinctive bite that real smoke from a hickory fire brings to the party. Sorry!

Second, the proteins in the connective tissue surrounding the ribs(and in any Southern BBQ) must spend so much time at just over 117 degrees to break down into that luscious jelly like substance that replaces the need for fat in the meat. Holding the ribs at this temperature requires very slow cooking at temperatures between 200 and 250 degrees for hours and hours. This slow cooking also removes the superfluous fat from the meat and breaks the connection to bone. If the meat on the ribs isn't moist but not greasy and doesn't pull cleanly from the bone then the "low and slow rule" hasn't been followed. Rendezvous failed on this test as well.

It was, overall, a disappointing experience and I can only imagine that they are a victim of their own success. I would suspect that a thousand or more people troop through the place on any given night and the wherewithal is just not there to do it right. Too bad that so many people leave Memphis thinking that these are the standard for Southern BBQ ribs.

The bottom line is that the best ribs I have found in Memphis are at the Corky's out in Germantown (the original). You have to do them yourself if you want them better.

Off and Running

The Mississippi delta was shining
Like a National guitar
I am following the river
Down the highway
Through the cradle of the civil war
I'm going to Graceland
In Memphis Tennessee...

Madam and I are off to guess where this morning for a wedding tomorrow and then off for a few days of R&R up on the Arkansas plateau right on the Missouri line. Just a quickie as we'll head back on Thursday. Going to try and play a couple of rounds of golf and got the 'good' news this morning that my golf buddie's handicap is up in the mid teens so I won't be too far off the pace. He is normally a single digit handicap and it makes me look even worse than I am.
I'll try and check in here off and on and may have something fun to report. You folks play nice and stay safe.

And yes I have already promised Madam that we will cruise Elvis Presley Blvd and Graceland. She considers is some kind of high crime and all if you are in Memphis and don't at least drive by.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

We're In the ZOO!

Honestly, step back a couple of feet and look at this week's news. It looks like reality is being written by the same gifted folks that produce the Onion.

Bush says it is wrong to not support the troops and fund them thus allowing them to come home on time after 12 months. Before the paint is dry on that lie the Pentagon announces that every lucky son of a bitch in Iraq is going to an extra 3 months in which to get themselves blown up.

Dick 'head' Cheney calls Speaker Pelosi's visit to Syria "bad". Hello Dick...everybody in the free world is calling for the U.S. to open talks with the Syrians. You're just mad because your dog thinks she is smarter than you.

The 'surge' is going so well that for the first time bombs are going off in the Green Zone, Don't worry though they are not killing too many of our children only the brown ones.

Since forever it seems the White House mafia has been using the RNC mail system to avoid disclosure of 'sensitive' documents and the associated White House players. Hey GOP, don't be surprised if they eventually show up. I might be a little picky but this seems an awful lot like obstructing justice not to mention an out and out crime.

I could go on and on but why bother?

Round and round

Ever have one of those days where you keep racing but don't seem to get anywhere? Trying to get ready to head to Memphis tomorrow for a weekend wedding and then on to Arkansas for a few days with friends. Might actually get some golf in as well.
All kinds of chores and errands are getting in the way today. Car serviced, packing, Trader Joe's for a case of 3 buck Chuck for our friends and on and on. It is already 330p and still have things to do.
Really glad I got the Chicago trip done last week as I would have been snowed on 'bigtime' this week. Hope we have some decent weather over the weekend in Memphis as this is going to be an outdoor affair.
Back to the chores. There will be something a little more substantial here tonight right now the sun is shining and all that so off we go.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Looking for an Out

This is too rich for actual words... but via Peter Baker and Tom Ricks at The Washington Post, we learn that

The White House wants to appoint a high-powered czar to oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with authority to issue directions to the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies, but it has had trouble finding anyone able and willing to take the job, according to people close to the situation.

Former NATO Commander Marine General John J. "Jack" Sheehan, was among those evidently offered the job and he had this to say about why he and others are spurning the White House advances;

Sheehan said he believes that Vice President Cheney and his hawkish allies remain more powerful within the administration than pragmatists looking for a way out of Iraq. "So rather than go over there, develop an ulcer and eventually leave, I said, 'No, thanks,' " he said.

Ignoring the fact that Bush, who has evidently tired of the CaC role cannot by law delegate that Contituional responsibilty we have the White House actively trying to do so. WTF!

Kurt Campbell, a Clinton administration Pentagon official who heads the Center for a New American Security, said the difficulty in finding someone to take the job shows that Bush has exhausted his ability to sign up top people to help salvage a disastrous war. "Who's sitting on the bench?" he asked. "Who is there to turn to? And who would want to take the job?"

If you're of my generation you probably remember the hippie posters that asked "What If They Started a War and No One Came?"

Well, here we are with not ONE but TWO wars that nobody wants to run. If you ask me, we might be seeing the beginning of the end. Barney is about to lift his leg and anoint his master's shoe. It's about time!

H/T to Firedoglake for the links and stuff.

Wait a Minute!

Just a day after president Bush said that extending the tour for troops in Iraq was unacceptable he goes and extends the tour of troops in Iraq. This is just another in the never ending signs of just how badly the escalation is going, the Pentagon is having to stretch our already-spread-too-thin forces even more.

WASHINGTON, April 11 — All active-duty Army troops now in Iraq or Afghanistan or headed to either country will serve 15-month tours of duty, up from the usual 12-month tours, effective immediately, the Pentagon announced today.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates called the change "a difficult and necessary interim step" and said it would at least give soldiers and their families more predictability than they have now.... Mr. Gates said the impetus for the increase in Army combat tours had come from the service’s leaders, who saw a demand for "more clarity and fairness."

As strains on the military have increased, some soldiers home from Iraq and Afghanistan have had to go back before a year’s rest. At least now, General Pace said, soldiers will know when they are coming and going. He said they would be able to "sit around a dinner table and know on such-and-such a date," and plan their lives accordingly.

Remember this load of crap the Bush dumped just a day ago? Here is what bunny pants had to say yesterday:

The bottom line is this: Congress’s failure to fund our troops will mean that some of our military families could wait longer for their loved ones to return from the front lines. Others could see their loved ones headed back to war sooner than anticipated. This is unacceptable. It’s unacceptable to me, it’s unacceptable to our veterans, it’s unacceptable to our military families, and it’s unacceptable to many in this country.

Hello, at least get on the same page with your squads of liars. You can't say something one day and then have your minions contradict you the next without at least some of us taking notice. What a maroon!

New Destination

Supposed to go the Braves game tonight but bad weather put the brakes on that. Instead we decided to try a new restaurant in town called "Little Alley". The owner and most of the staff seem to be from South Africa(Durbin) and they have created a wonderful little place here. They focus on "tapas" which I love. We went through a large part of the menu and they were all wonderful. Personally, a much better time than I would have had at the ball game. This is an official endorsement.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

King of Something

Update below:

It really isn't just me. I know I am intolerant and whack the boy king a lot but George W. Bush has somehow decided that his lot in life is destroying lives instead of saving them. Once again he has made it clear that he'll veto the stem cell bill once again if it passes the Senate this week. It's already passed in the House. He really is a heartless bastard and it really does seem that he is trying for some record. I guess if you are total failure in everything you try and do then being recognized as the biggest asshole ever to hold high office is something.


H/T to Bobby at BBWW for the additional info and link.

From the Times of London:
Diabetics using stem-cell therapy have been able to stop taking insulin injections for the first time, after their bodies started to produce the hormone naturally again.

In a breakthrough trial, 15 young patients with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes were given drugs to suppress their immune systems followed by transfusions of stem cells drawn from their own blood.

The results show that insulin-dependent diabetics can be freed from reliance on needles by an injection of their own stem cells. The therapy could signal a revolution in the treatment of the condition, which affects more than 300,000 Britons.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Secret My Ass!

There is a book flying off the shelves of bookstores around the country. Oprah has covered it at least twice on her show. It is called "The Secret" and claims to hold the answer to life's deepest mysteries. It has sold more than 1.3 million copies in the United States alone. It is written by an Australian TV producer Rhonda Byrne. I haven't read the book but I have read enough about it to understand how dangerous it truly is.

Here is the secret..."The Secret" is, very simply, the "law of attraction." Despite it's claim of revealing hidden wisdom "for the first time in history," the concept dates back more than 3,000 years to early Hindu teachings that "like attracts like." The author writes "Everything that's coming into your life you are attracting into your life, You are the most powerful magnet in the universe . . . so as you think a thought, you are also attracting like thoughts to you."

Even though she has her physics a little backward, when it comes to magnets, it's opposites that attract, it is supposed to be the power behind geniuses such as Plato, Newton, Beethoven and Einstein. It's purported to be the ultimate shortcut to success and the American dream. Anyone who wants it badly enough can be a multi millionaire or even president. It is odd that nothing about hard work, talent, education or even luck is mentioned but if you are to believe "The Secret" all you have to do is "put in your order in with the universe." Ask. Believe. Receive. It's just that easy!

As usual all of the hard core believers fail to remember that every coin has two sides and that there is an ominous implication to accepting Byrnes' promise. If bad things happen to you, it's all your fault. As surely as your thoughts can bring you health, wealth and love your thoughts are also the cause of your illness, poverty and misery.

I am not making this up! This inverse reality is spelled out very clearly: "The only reason why people do not have what they want is because they are thinking more about what they don't want than what they do want." Follow this twisted logic to its end and you find that everything that happens to you is your fault. The soldiers dying in Iraq are to blame for their own deaths, all the people in New Orleans who lost their homes...right again, not thinking the happy thoughts. On the surface this might sound harmless enough but there is something very sinister hiding behind the glitzy self help screed. It is spelled out quite clearly in the book:

"Imperfect thoughts are the cause of humanity's ills."

"The only reason any person does not have enough money is because they are blocking money from coming to them with their thoughts."

Do you see where this is going? It's the age old scam of blaming the victim, of creating the impression that there is some external agency to blame for the condition of the world. The devil is the cause of sin in the world. Accept the truth(AKA Jesus, God, Allah, etc.) and the world will beat a path to your door. You are weak and a sinner and cannot be expected to walk the straight and narrow all the time. That is why Jesus died on the cross, don't you know, so that you could sin without worry and as long as you accept Jesus into your life and acknowledge your wickedness you will rise up to heaven when the trumpet sounds. Hallelujah! This whole misplaced philosophy, while attractive and comforting, excuses the pain and suffering of the world by some abstract excuse that people get what they deserve. This sham allows people to blame the victims for their lot in life and relieves one of any responsibility for anything outside of themselves. This is a bad thing.

This is the philosophy of separation and exclusiveness that, in reality, is the root cause of all the pain and suffering in this world. This is very subtle but very insidious. I can ignore the pain and suffering in Darfur because it is something outside of me and caused by some lack of the people there. They obviously aren't thinking positively. If they were truly good people then God wouldn't let this happen to them.

This thinking is the tragedy of modern religions whether they be Christian, Muslim or whatever. It surely isn't the teaching of Jesus or Buddha. Who realized that as long as we kept ourselves separate from the universe and everything in it we would suffer. "The Secret" is just another excuse to reinforce the ego and separate ourselves further from the peace that is found in accepting our oneness with everything around us. The starving child in Darfur, the dying soldier in Iraq, the homeless man in New Orleans or the drowning polar bear in the Arctic are diminishing the universe and therefore diminishing me for I am not separate from them nor they from me.

The way of the Buddha is to know yourself,
To know yourself is to forget yourself,
To forget yourself is to be awakened by all things.

Genjo Koan

Failing Here, Failing There

You probably know that America has the largest per capita prison population of any civilized country anywhere. You also probably have heard one of the tragedies of incarcerating all these people is that if they weren't hardened criminals when they went in then they are likely to be when they are released. Prisons in America are a very effective training ground for new criminals. Apparently, the same thing is happening in Iraq:

Iraqi officials also struggle with a crowded system where prisoners can languish as long as two years before getting a trial. But they say the Americans have allowed militants to flourish in their facilities.

"It looks like a terrorist academy now," said Saad Sultan, the Iraqi Human Rights Ministry's liaison to U.S. and Iraqi prisons. "There's a huge number of these students. They study how they can kill in their camps. And we protect them, feed them, give them medical care.

"The Americans have no solution to this problem," he said. "This has been going on for a year or two, we have been telling them."

This is just another example why we are better off leaving Iraq immediately and another example of adding to the problems that the people of Iraq are facing that didn't exist before we got there. The longer we stay the worse it is going to be.

Indian Pudding

I offered and MandT took me up on how to prepare a traditional Indian Pudding. I am not sure how much this really has to do with "Native Americans" but I can imagine that when my ancestors were being saved from their folly by the natives they were offered some variation of a slowly cooked cornmeal dish made with suet and possibly dried fruit or berries. The "Indian" version was probably the result of just having corn mush cooked over an open fire for hours and sweetened with what was at hand.
This recipe is very old fashioned and today you find myriad variations. This one is basic and was first published in a cookbook by Lydia Maria Child, The American Frugal Housewife first published in 1829. I got this recipe from Julia Child's book Julia Child and Company published in 1979. Julia says they are from a different line of Childs.

This recipe makes about 6 cups of pudding and makes a simple but wonderful dessert with the addition of a little lightly sweetened whipped cream or even vanilla ice cream. Not too shabby with a traditional cooked English custard sauce either.

1/4 cup of corn meal (stone ground is best)
2 cups of cold milk (you can use low fat)
2 or 3 Tb of butter or beef suet
1 tsp kosher or sea salt
2 tsp powdered ginger (make sure it is still fragrant)
1/2 cup of dark unsulphured molasses
1 tart apple, peeled, cored, coarsely grated (should be about a cup)
1 cup of additional milk

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Put the cornmeal in a heavy bottomed 2 quart sauce pan and gradually whisk in the 2 cups of milk. Put the pot over medium heat, add the butter, salt, ginger and molasses. Gradually bring to a boil stirring with the wire whisk to make sure it is nice and smooth. Once at the boil add the apple and then simmer for about 15 minutes more stirring frequently to keep it from scorching on the bottom. You should wind up with a think porridge like mixture.
Pour your pudding mixture in into a buttered 2 quart baking dish and set it uncovered in the middle of the hot oven and cook for 20 minutes or until it bubbles. Stir it and add 1/2 cup of the additional milk and blend it in. Clean the sides of the dish with a heat proof spatula and return the dish to the oven turning down the temperature to 250 degrees and cook it for another hour and a half to two hours. Remove from the oven and stir as before scraping down the sides as well. This time pour the additional 1/2 cup of milk over the top but don't stir it in. It is going to form a dark skin on the pudding as you cook it for another 3 or 4 hours.
This needs to be served warm so if you are not ready to serve it can be kept covered in a warm oven for a while.
Serve this thick brown sauce like dessert with the whipped cream, ice cream or custard. I imagine in the old days it was just served with some heavy cream and maybe some sugar.
You can make this ahead a day or two and just reheat in a water bath. This is earthy and elemental and a far cry from the sweet desserts we know today.

I know this seems like a long time from beginning to end but actual hands on is small. This is slow food and you cannot get the same result by speeding up the process as many modern recipes try and do. This is way our ancestors cooked, trying to make the best out of some lowly ingredients. It is worth the trouble.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

No Miracles

Since this past weekend was unusual in that the Christian and Orthodox Easters coincided I had some glimmer of hope in the back of my mind that that many people all focused on redemption, sacrifice and love might somehow move the universe a little more towards sanity. Maybe not enough of them really have faith in what they profess...whatever, it didn't happen, even after the Pope kicked in.
It was a very deadly weekend:
Thousands of Iraqis streamed to the holy southern city of Najaf on Sunday in response to a call by fiery Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr for a big anti-American protest on Monday.

Sadr, who blames the U.S.-led invasion for Iraq's unrelenting violence, has urged Iraqis to protest on the fourth anniversary of the day American forces swept into central Baghdad.

"In order to end the occupation, you will go out and demonstrate," Sadr, who accuses U.S. forces of deliberately fomenting civil strife in Iraq, said in a statement.

Four American soldiers were killed in attacks south of Baghdad on Sunday while another two died from wounds suffered in operations north of the capital, the U.S. military said.

The toll makes it a deadly weekend for American troops after four soldiers were killed in an explosion near their vehicle in Diyala province north of Baghdad on Saturday.
If you are still counting that is 10 more American lives full of promise that are no more. The hate builds and builds and the Iraqi and American bodies pile higher and higher. The darkness of this tragedy touches another 10 families here in the U.S. and who knows how many more in Iraq. This debacle must end is not soon enough, yesterday was too late. There might be some salvation if we could point to anything at all positive about this mess but we can't. There is nothing, absolutely nothing to temper the pain and horror of what Bush has done in our name.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Milestone Week

This week marked a milestone for the Fallenmonk. We passed the 20,000 site visits mark. The actual mark was probably last month some time since I screwed up sitemeter in the transition to the new blogger but it is at least an official number.

Thanks to all of you who stop by on a regular basis and especially those of you who comment. I'll try and keep it interesting enough here for you to keep calling.

Have a great weekend and don't over eat on the Peeps.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Them are Grits!

The title comes from a very old joke which I will not repeat here. Today's Food Friday topic is the much maligned and misunderstood Southern food staple the lowly grit.

Grits are just coarsely ground dried corn or corn hominy. The are also known in Italy as polenta. Most people outside the South haven't tried them and if they have traveled through the South and eaten breakfast at a typical meat and three place down here and answered yes when queried, "Ya'll want grits with them eggs?" then they probably also don't like them. The regular old Southern breakfast grits is an acquired taste for sure. I personally just mix them in with my over easy cackle berries and give them a good dose of salt and pepper as otherwise they don't really taste like much. This doesn't have to be the case though. The following recipe for Cheese Grits and the Spoon Bread variation are adapted from a recipe from Elizabeth Terry the chef/ owner of Elizabeth's on 37th in Savannah which is must visit if you are ever in that wonderful town.

Soft Cheese Grits
6 cups of water
1 and 1/2 cups of Grits ( I prefer coarse ground yellow grits or cornmeal or if you are looking for a specific brand Bob's Red Mill brand Polenta or you can use just regular Quick Grits which are white)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of minced garlic
1 and 1/2 ounces of sharp Cheddar cheese, grated which should be about a half cup
1/3 cup of light cream or half and half

In a large pan over medium heat bring the water to a nice boil and then add the grits slowly to the boiling water while stirring to prevent lumps. Add the garlic and salt. Reduce the heat and simmer covered for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally. The grits should be nice and thick and soft at this point. Now is when you whisk in the cheese and cream. Once the cheese is nicely incorporated you are ready to serve. If you need to keep these them for awhile you can keep them in a water bath for an hour. The grits will thicken as they sit so if need be you can thin them back to the original consistency with a little hot water and a gentle whisk.

These grits are good all by themselves but they truly shine as a backdrop for a spicy shrimp dish. Once classic combo you see on the Georgia coast is BBQ shrimp. This is terribly simple. Take a couple of pounds of shelled and deveined shrimp (this is for six). Take some of your favorite BBQ sauce (homemade or bottled) and put it in a saute pan and thin it with a little white wine so it makes a nice sauce, bring it to a simmer and toss in the shrimp and quickly cook them in the sauce (don't over cook!!!) until they just firm up and curl. You might add a couple of shots of your favorite hot sauce as well (I do). Divide the warm grits into six nice sized shallow bowls and then divide the shrimp as well among the six bowls placing the mixture on top of the grits. Garnish with something fun like red and green pepper confetti and a some parsley and you are ready to go.

Another great way to serve shrimp with these grits is to make a cajun variation of the BBQ Shrimp. Saute 1/2 cup each of celery, green pepper, onion and a minced clove of garlic in a couple of tablespoons of butter in a nice big skillet until they soften. Sprinkle in a Tablespoon of flour or so and cook for a minute. Add a teaspoon of hot sauce, a couple of shakes of Worcestershire sauce and then a cup and a half of dark stock(veal or beef), or cup of chicken or vegetable stock and a half cup Madeira )or even a cup and a half of brown sauce or gravy from the jar or bag, I won't tell). Stir to thicken and then add 2 pounds of peeled and deveined shrimp and cook over medium heat until the shrimp are just done. Serve this the same as with the BBQ shrimp.

The grits make a great background for all kinds of similar dishes and really add a nice mellow harmony to spicy dishes. I won't mention that they can also extend a meager portion of expensive shrimp or meat into a nice filling dish. The recipes above are generous for six and could be extended to 8 and still be a nice meal with a salad thrown into the mix. Use your imagination and you could find all kinds of things to serve atop the grits. Did someone say a melange of sauted assorted mushrooms in a nice thick Madeira sauce? It is about fiddlehead ferns in a Dijon wine sauce?

Oh Yeah!

The spoon bread variation on this dish is nice as well and will work just as well as the foundation of a dish like the shrimp dishes above. Make the above grits recipe and instead of serving it as is stir in 4 lightly beaten large eggs (make sure you temper the eggs or you'll have scrambled eggs and grits). 1/4 tsp of ground nutmeg. Pour this mixture into an 8 quart buttered casserole or souffle dish and bake for 30 minutes in a 400 degree oven. This needs to be eaten right from the oven. Spoon bread, by the way, is one of my favorite things in the whole world and this is a good and easy variation. Spoon bread is the white man's shortcut for make a traditional native American corn pudding which, if done properly, takes hours. If anyone would like to know how to make the real deal (Indian pudding) let me know.


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Wake Up Lady

My afternoon loll in the Crown Room is just about over. I have managed to catch up with several of the regular blogs and add my two cents into the ether. I was just thinking though about the slip of Hillary and the rise of Edwards and Obama and it comes to me that up until now I think Hillary was just planning to ride into the WH on name recognition and a river of money.

Guess what Hill, you are going to have to show us what you are made of and why you should be President instead of someone else. What makes you different? We need leadership and we need it now and what makes you the person to provide it?

Need I mention...the same questions apply equally to all those who would deign to be the Democratic nominee for President of what's left of the United States of America or should I say what will be left of the United States of America.

Have I nice evening all who stop by...I gotta go catch a plane.

Going From Bad to Worse

I lied..sort of. Things changed and I had to drop a colleague off at O'Hare for an earlier flight which precipitated me have a couple of hours to kill before my 6pm flight. So here I am in the Delta Crown Room and all dug in for the 3 hour wait to fly.
The first thing I did, naturally, was to check the blog and there was PoP of Morning Martini gently chiding be about jumping the gun a little with me previous "Some Good News" post. As usual she was right and I was unaware of the bad news about recess appointments.

While Bush's recess appointment of Sam Fox was pretty offensive, the other two recess appointments the he made are in reality probably worse. I mean seriously, how much damage can Sam Fox do as the ambassador to Belgium except maybe piss them off so much they embargo their glorious beer and chocolate?

First, Bush also appointed Andrew Biggs to serve as the next deputy commissioner of Social Security, despite the fact that Biggs is an aggressive advocate of privatizing the Social Security system. He was nominated in November and immediately ridiculed by Senate Democrats. Basically Bush is now saying, with this appointment, is that he no longer will even consider negotiating the reform of the system. In other words, screw you Dems and screw you America.

If Biggs were not a big enough slap in the face he also appointed Susan Dudley to oversee federal regulatory policy at the Office of Management and Budget. This is a woman famous for her anti-regulatory career at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs holds sway over federal regulatory agencies like the EPA and helps set regulatory policy for a wide range of issues, from workplace safety to water quality….

As the director of regulatory studies at the industry-backed Mercatus Center she has worked to oppose vital public health regulation as a “hidden tax” that hinders profits.

Among her list of targets have been EPA health standards for smog, opposition to lower-polluting cars and air bags, She even opposed stronger regulations for arsenic in drinking water. I am not sure why but the Senate had some concerns about her nomination.This is probably the worst of the recess appointments and will have the greatest potential for immediate harm to the environment and the welfare of the American people. The White House not only doesn’t care about the concerns of the Senate, it has also demonstrated that it doesn’t care about the welfare of the American people or even the constitutional nomination process. I guess that is really no surprise is it?

You were right PoP, now I am really mad. I keep asking myself how much more damage he will do before we rid ourselves of him and he doesn't disappoint. Every week, hell almost daily, he reaches new depths.

Some Good News

Last day in the heartland for a while I think. Going to try and make it back to Atlanta this afternoon. Should be an interesting day for travel on the last day before the Easter weekend.

Been watching CNN this morning as I do my wrap up presentation power points. I bet Bush is really pissed that the Iranians have proven themselves as another country that treats its prisoners better than the U.S. and moved the situation back from giving George an excuse to pick a fight. Now Bush is going to have to find something else to use as an excuse.

It is also neat to note the slapdown Bush got from the Supremes this week. Slowly but surely the tide is turning to favor Mother Earth. Don't get too excited though...Exxon-Mobil still has a lot of money and are still determined to see that our grandchildren get the opportunity to see the death of our planet in a slow and painful way.

Off to the client and airport....see you all later.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Joys of Travel

Good morning all. Here we are in the heartland and facing a radical change for the worst in the weather. Packed for spring and now instead of 50's and 60's I am looking at low 30's and snow flurries. Going to be a cold one today! All you folks in the eastern half of the nation are going to feel it too, so no smirking. They are even predicting the possibility of frost delays for Augusta and the Masters. Very strange weather.

The conference room we are using this week at the client is in the basement and there is absolutely zero cell service and no access to the internet so it is going to be quiet here until late this evening or even longer. Strange how you become used to having access all the time and how isolated you feel when you can't even use the cell phone to get email. I guess I am a "technovictim".

Everybody stay warm today and put a couple of bricks in your pocket if you go out as it is going to windy, windy for the next day or two.