Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Is it OK to Cry Now?

I don't know about you but I seem to have some limits to my sanity or at least what my brain will accept as meaningful input. If there is too much insanity coming at me I tend to run in circles and scream obscenities. You're not gonna believe this one. Oh wait, of course you will:

The Bush administration said Tuesday it will fight to keep meatpackers from testing all their animals for mad cow disease.

Not making this up! The Bush "administration" will fight to keep meatpackers from testing their animals for mad cow disease.

I am begging the universe for some rational explanation.

A beef producer in the western state of Kansas, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, wants to test all of its cows.

This is good right? Everybody's gonna want their meat from Creekstone Farms! Free enterprise and all that. Give the people what they want?

Larger meat companies feared that move because, if Creekstone should test its meat and advertised it as safe, they might have to perform the expensive tests on their larger herds as well.

The Agriculture Department regulates the test and argued that widespread testing could lead to a false positive that would harm the meat industry.

I am confused...why would Bush and company want me to eat potentially poison beef?

I'm at a loss here. But thankfully, Rick Perlstein at .common sense is not:

First, observe the contempt for liberty. When E. coli conservatives say self-regulation is preferable to government, they're even lying about that. Second, observe the contempt for small business. When a small company want to - voluntarily! - hold its product to a higher standard, the government blocks it, in part because bigger companies have to be protected from the competition, in part because a theoretical threat to the bottom line (false positives) trumps protection against a deadly disease.

There's your conservatism, America: not extremism in defense of liberty. State socialism in defense of Mad Cow.

h/t to Kos

Local Food

I've been talking a lot about food here recently and especially after I read Barbara Kingsolver's new book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I am stealing a page from their website so I can spread the word even further. It is so important for us to refocus on what we are eating and where we are getting our food that I wanted to insure everyone had the resources they need.

Whether you’re a rural or urban consumer, it’s easy to find local or regionally grown food. Below are listed some of the best web resources for locating your nearest options for local food. As the demand for local foods grows, the options will increase, so don’t be afraid to ask for local food wherever you shop. Let the manager of your local supermarket know that you would like to see local food available and that you want to know the origin of the foods you buy.

General Sites

LocalHarvest is a great starting point for connecting with local growers and finding sources for locally and sustainably produced foods. This site allows the user to search for farmers markets, CSAs, direct farm sales, restaurants, grocery stores, and other local food sources. In addition it provides forums for various farming topics. Worth a visit!

The New Farm Farm Locator provides a search resource for locating fresh local food sources, and provides the reverse: finding markets for farmers and producers

Farmers’ Markets

Probably the best option for most people is to locate an active Farmers’ Market, where farmers and growers sell their produce and value-added goods directly to consumers. Since passage of the Farmer-to-Consumer Direct Marketing Act of 1976, active farmers’ markets have grown from about 350 to well over 4000 today, or an average of 80 per state. Most urban areas host farmers’ markets from spring until fall; some are open all year. Market rules usually guarantee that the products are fresh and local. You can find your nearest farmers’ markets and local producers on the USDA farmers' market website.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

In a typical CSA, subscribers pay a producer in early spring and then receive a weekly share of the produce all season long. Many community-supported agriculture (CSA) operations allow or sometimes even require subscribers to participate on their farms; they might even offer a work-for-food arrangement.

The Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association provides CSA information and state-specific search options.

The Robyn Van En Center at Wilson College also hosts an information and CSA finder.

If you don’t have any land, in most urban areas you can find some opportunity to garden. Most urban areas also host community gardens, using various organizational protocols – a widespread practice in European cities that has taken root here. Some rent garden spaces to the first comers; others provide free space for neighborhood residents. Some are organized and run by volunteers for some specific goal, such as supplying food to a local school, while others accommodate special needs of disabled participants or at-risk youth. Information and locations can be found at the American Community Garden Association site.

The ACGA also provides links for finding community gardens.

City Farmer is a related organization for information on urban gardening in Canada.

Home Grown

Container gardening on porches, balconies, back steps, or even a sunny window can yield a surprising amount of sprouts, herbs, and even produce. Just a few tomato plants in big flowerpots can be surprisingly productive. If you have any yard at all, part of it can become a garden. You can spade up the sunniest part of it for seasonal vegetables, or go for the more understated option of using perennial edibles in your landscaping. Fruit, nut, citrus, or berry plants come in many attractive forms, with appropriate choices for every region of the country. While gardening as a topic is too broad to cover adequately in just a few links, a good starting point is at The National Gardening Association

UK Resources

In England and the UK, the movement toward more local eating is more commonly called Seasonal Eating. Here are some web sites to guide choices in the UK.

Eat The Seasons UK is a web site that offers information on what's currently in season in the UK, and provides resources for where to find products.

There are more than 500 Farmers' Markets in the UK and the National Association of Farmers' Markets provides information for locating Farmers' Markets around the Country and those found in London.

Updated: Fixed the broken link to the USDA farmer's market site.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Where We Are

There is a must read post by Ian Welsh of The Agonist over at Firedoglake. It is a very lucid analysis of where we are as a country and where the other major powers are in relation.

Cindy Throws in the Towel

This makes me sad. You fought the good fight Cindy and there is no shame in recognizing this point in your journey. Cindy did more than her part to stop the madness but there is a limit to the amount of pain and sacrifice anyone can survive. As I said yesterday we are betrayed but not beaten. There are millions of us that have the same goal of ridding ourselves of this war and the leadership that brought it upon us and that sustains it. It is not impossible.

Cindy Sheehan says goodbye to the peace movement:

The most devastating conclusion that I reached this morning, however, was that Casey did indeed die for nothing. His precious lifeblood drained out in a country far away from his family who loves him, killed by his own country which is beholden to and run by a war machine that even controls what we think. I have tried ever since he died to make his sacrifice meaningful. Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives. It is so painful to me to know that I bought into this system for so many years and Casey paid the price for that allegiance. I failed my boy and that hurts the most.

I have also tried to work within a peace movement that often puts personal egos above peace and human life. This group won’t work with that group; he won’t attend an event if she is going to be there; and why does Cindy Sheehan get all the attention anyway? It is hard to work for peace when the very movement that is named after it has so many divisions.

Our brave young men and women in Iraq have been abandoned there indefinitely by their cowardly leaders who move them around like pawns on a chessboard of destruction and the people of Iraq have been doomed to death and fates worse than death by people worried more about elections than people. However, in five, ten, or fifteen years, our troops will come limping home in another abject defeat and ten or twenty years from then, our children’s children will be seeing their loved ones die for no reason, because their grandparents also bought into this corrupt system. George Bush will never be impeached because if the Democrats dig too deeply, they may unearth a few skeletons in their own graves and the system will perpetuate itself in perpetuity.

Also, don't miss her letter, “Why I’m Leaving the Democratic Party.”

h/t to Susie

No End In Sight

The top four months in terms of American military deaths in Iraq:

November 2004: 137
April 2004: 135
May 2007: 113 and counting
December 2006: 112

Hey George, let's talk about the "surge". Hey Nancy and Harry, let's talk about doing something about it.

h/t to First Draft

Poisoning Us Slowly

You need to read a post by by Dr. Kirk James Murphy over at Firedoglake. It is the second post in a series about how the USDA and FDA are trashing what it means to be organic and the impact of GMO crops or "frankenfoods" are having now and the future impact as these modified organisms move out into the biosphere.
Currently, up to 45 percent of U.S. corn is genetically engineered as is 85 percent of soybeans. It has been estimated that 70-75 percent of processed foods on supermarket shelves–from soda to soup, crackers to condiments–contain genetically engineered ingredients”
The thing that is of concern is the the new rules for what can be called organic now include products that are derived from GMO foods. Dr. Murphy points to one non peer reviewed study that showed....
GMO corn, soy, and potatoes show toxic effects on living animals. The GMO soy (Monsanto’s Roundup-Ready soy) we grow and eat in the US is so toxic that more than half of baby rats fed with the stuff die in just three weeks.
At least a third of the states have laws on the books banning the use and planting of GMO crops but in an effort to pay off big agriculture and big chemical companies for their political support the Bush administration is planning to neutralize local control under the guise of uniformity in standards....

Not any more – the GMO labs did an end run yesterday in the House Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry, and the GMO labs won. Sec 123 of the new Farm Bill effectively precludes local control over GMO contamination.

If the Farm Bill passes with Sec 123, our sole protection against toxic GMO foods will be the USDA organic standards.

If you care about what you are eating you might want to have a chat with your congressional representatives over the Farm Bill.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

This Memorial Day finds us still at the precipice of failure as a nation, at least as far as our founding fathers envisioned and so many of us believe. We are a nation at war, an unprovoked war, that has done nothing positive for the future of mankind. We have only killed and hurt both our own and countless others. Our own soldiers that have fallen and been maimed in this unnecessary conflict deserve our utmost gratitude and reverence for the sacrifice they have made. Their sacrifice is pure and moral regardless of the impurity and immorality of the conflict that has claimed them. Their sacrifice is no less than that of all the other brave men and women who have laid their lives down before.

We are a nation betrayed. First, by George W. Bush and minions who have taken the tragedy of 9/11 and twisted it in fear to attack Iraq unjustly and who continue to use the blood and resources of our country in a needless war. They will never be forgiven. Secondly, we have been betrayed by our Democratic Congress, who have taken the "will of the people" and wasted it out of fear and political ambition. The country asked them to lead us away from war and yet they have betrayed us. Their sin is no less than that of George Bush's.

We need to take this Memorial Day and all that it stands for and use the energy and passion of our gratitude and remembrance to redouble out efforts to resurrect the majesty that once possessed this country. We need to redouble our efforts to effect change. We are betrayed but not beaten. The best you can do to honor those that have sacrificed for this country and the ideals that founded it is to put every effort into making sure that those that have betrayed our trust are not allowed to do so again.

Our leadership is not listening to us but we will be heard.

Sunday, May 27, 2007


Another mate added to the blog roll. This one is from "down under" Global Warming Watch stop in a give Wadard a shout. He has brought our attention to the online petition to get the U.S. to sign up with the G8 environmental goals. Welcome Wadard.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

How Embarrassing!

Updated below:

What is it going to take to overcome the stupidity and greed of the Bush cabal? As an American this is massively embarrassing. From the Guardian:

US rejects all proposals on climate change

The US has rejected any prospect of a deal on climate change at the G8 summit in Germany next month, according to a leaked document.

Despite Tony Blair's declaration on Thursday that Washington would sign up to "at least the beginnings" of action to cut carbon emissions, a note attached to a draft document circulated by Germany says the US is "fundamentally opposed" to the proposals.

The note, written in red ink, says the deal "runs counter to our overall position and crosses multiple 'red lines' in terms of what we simply cannot agree to". ...

The tone is blunt, with whole pages of the draft crossed out and even the mildest statements about confirming previous agreements rejected. "The proposals within the sections titled 'Fighting Climate Change' and 'Carbon Markets' are fundamentally incompatible with the President's approach to climate change," says another red-ink comment.

This is embarrassing for Mr Blair, who said on Thursday with some confidence that the US was moderating its position on climate change as the summit approached.

On the same story, The New York Times reports:

The push back by the Bush administration over the German proposal has left many European diplomats furious. "The United States, on this issue, is virtually isolated," one European diplomat said on condition of anonymity under diplomatic rules, and then added, "with the exception of other big polluters."

Both Ms. Merkel and Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain have, in private talks with President Bush, pushed for the United States to agree to the European proposal.

The Bush Administration has been pretending that it recognizes the reality of global warming but its actions are telling us a more truthful story. The United States is the planet's biggest global warming contributor and should be taking the lead in addressing the challenges we are all facing but instead Bush and his band are continuing to make us the biggest and most dangerous global warming denier. We have friends visiting this week from Northern England and they are telling us that this is the first winter that they had no significant snow and that they only had to scrape the windscreen once all winter. It is normally a daily task. As you can see from this article in the Independent, summer keeps arriving earlier and earlier in England:

Frog spawn was spotted on 25 February, 15 days earlier than a norm of 12 March. The seven-spot ladybird (Coccinella 7-punctata), common in hedgerows and gardens, was first spotted on average 16 days earlier than last year. Information for swifts is still being recorded but the trust says some of the birds were spotted in mid-April in south-east England, a month early.

The Woodland Trust said most of the sightings first occurred in the south of England and then spread northwards as the warmer weather also moved north.

Although researchers are keen to point out that the findings cannot be interpreted as a definitive guide to how the climate is changing, they say the results once again pointed to the early arrival of the season.

The trust said it was worried about the possible impact of increasingly warm springs "because the changes were so rapid".

This kind of response to the global warming crisis by my government is sorely trying my patience, not to mention my pride and sanity. Come on Bush, let's get with the program.

Update: A new visitor from "down under" Wadard at Global Warming Watch has brought to our attention an online petition insisting that the U.S. join the rest of the G8 on addressing Global Warming. Thanks Wadard.

h/t to Kos

Friday, May 25, 2007

Baby Backs with No Fire

I figured in honor of the Memorial Day weekend I would post a BBQ recipe that really isn't BBQ. I for one am a purist when it comes to BBQ ribs and I cook mine the traditional way most often but there are times when you don't have all day to slow cook ribs in a smoker for 6 - 8 hours. This method makes some damn fine ribs. You can even cook the ribs this way ahead of time and then put them on the BBQ grill and heat and sauce them up for a party.

This recipe is for one full slab of baby backs but it can be expanded easily. It will serve two or three people or me.

Make the rub. This is an important step so don't leave it out. You can shorten the time the ribs are resting in the fridge with the rub but they won't be quite as good.

You need about a 1/2 cup or so of rub for one slab o'ribs. This is my recipe but feel free to use one of your own.

5 Tablespoons of light or dark brown sugar
2 - 3 Tablespoons of good chile powder (depends on how much you like chile powder)
2 Tablespoons of paprika
2 Tablespoons kosher salt
1 Tablespoon of garlic powder
1 Tablespoon onion powder
1 Teaspoon of ground thyme
1 Teaspoon of dry mustard
1/4 Teaspoon cayenne or 1/2 teaspoon dried chipotle which will add some smokiness
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

I like to remove the "skin" on the rib side of the ribs. Just work your fingers under the thin film and gradually pull it off the ribs. This makes them absorb the rub better and makes for a more tender rib. It is not necessary though.

At this point if you like a smokier rib you can rub a couple of tablespoons liquid smoke on but it is not necessary.

Rub your spice mixture on both sides of the ribs and be liberal and rub it in good. It should be well coated and stuck to the ribs. Place the ribs(meat side down) on a big sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil that is about 8 inches longer than the slab of ribs. Fold the long edges over and crease a couple of times to make and envelope then fold up the short edges to seal it all up. Put the pouch on your roasting pan (jelly roll pan) and put it in the fridge for 8 to 12 hours or better yet overnight. Turn the packet over once or twice while it is resting.

When you are ready to cook set your oven on 350 and while it is heating open one end of your rib pouch and pour in a cup some liquid. I use 1/2 white wine and water but 1/2 water and orange or apple juice works and even plain old water with and cider vinegar. This moisture will braise the ribs. Seal it back up and slosh it around to move the liquid evenly and pop it in the oven for an hour then reduce the temp to 250 degrees and cook for another two hours.

When done drain the cooking juices out of the pouch into a sauce pan and add 1/3 cup of molasses or honey, about a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce and a 1/3 cup of ketchup and a dash of hot sauce to taste. Boil this mixture for a few minutes until it thickens. Get your ribs out of the pouch and cut them into two pieces. Glaze them with the sauce and run them under the broiler for a few minutes, repeat this until they are nicely glazed then do the bone side. If you want you can do this last step on the BBQ grill with a bottled sauce. Most of the bottled sauces are full of high fructose corn syrup which I avoid like the plague though so I don't recommended it.

Cold beer and a large bowl of homemade coleslaw and you're good.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Blank Check Time

The Senate just overwhelmingly approved the blank check for Bush's war. The Iraq spending bill passed by a vote of 80 - 14 . The following at least have a chance at my support.

The not stupid Hillary and Obama voted against the bill apparently aaccording to CNN.

The 14 N0 votes:

Boxer (D-CA)
Burr (R-NC)
Clinton (D-NY)
Coburn (R-OK)
Dodd (D-CT)
Enzi (R-WY)
Feingold (D-WI)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Leahy (D-VT)
Obama (D-IL)
Sanders (I-VT)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wyden (D-OR)

This pretty much sums up the disgrace in the House.


I've got emails and I've got snail mail from Democrats wanting my support. Everyone from Boxer to Kerry and Obama, Hillary and Edwards. Hell I even have a plea from Byrd.

Here is the 411 folks.

If you don't vote NO on the supplemental spending bill that contains no time lines and no accountability for the carnage and disaster in Iraq then save your fucking postage. There are no excuses I will accept for giving Bush another blank check for murdering more of my fellow Americans in Iraq.
If you can't show me a spotless record on opposition to the occupation of Iraq then do not expect my support.
I am so disgusted with the Democratic "leadership" I could spit.

What I realize now is that all of the support I funneled to Blue America and others should have come with a refund clause. If you don't perform then I get my money back. It is the way I have to do business and it insures that I perform. I get no second chances that don't cost me a lot of money.

Damn it to hell I am not happy and don't think I will forget the failures.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Let's Just De-fund It and See What Hapens

As so often is the case, Glenn Greenwald says it best:
What does seem clear is that one of the principal factors accounting for the reluctance of Democrats to advocate de-funding is that the standard corruption that infects our political discourse has rendered the de-funding option truly radioactive. Republicans and the media have propagated -- and Democrats have frequently affirmed -- the proposition that to de-fund a war is to endanger the "troops in the field."

This unbelievably irrational, even stupid, concept has arisen and has now taken root -- that to cut off funds for the war means that, one day, our troops are going to be in the middle of a vicious fire-fight and suddenly they will run out of bullets -- or run out of gas or armor -- because Nancy Pelosi refused to pay for the things they need to protect themselves, and so they are going to find themselves in the middle of the Iraq war with no supplies and no money to pay for what they need. That is just one of those grossly distorting, idiotic myths the media allows to become immovably lodged in our political discourse and which infects our political analysis and prevents any sort of rational examination of our options.

That is why virtually all political figures run away as fast and desperately as possible from the idea of de-funding a war -- it's as though they have to strongly repudiate de-funding options because de-funding has become tantamount to "endangering our troops" (notwithstanding the fact that Congress has de-funded wars in the past and it is obviously done in coordination with the military and over a scheduled time frame so as to avoid "endangering the troops").

Only If Bush and Cheney Are Gone

Here we are this morning facing the fact that the Democrats don't have enough votes to force Bush to accept a timetable or binding benchmarks for withdrawing troops on the Iraq supplemental funding bill. The fact is that we all knew this was the case from last week’s vote on Feingold-Reid. The only "timeline" we now have is September and hundreds more will die before that point is reached. This is a shameful time for America and all of us who voted last year to change the way things are going have some serious questions about how we move our support forward. I am disappointed that the Democrats feel they have to concede to the Bush on this. I am even more upset to see the White House already crowing about having got everything that they wanted.

As it stands this supplemental funding bill lasts through the end of the fiscal year in September. Bush will need a new authorization to fund his wars for the next fiscal year and we will have another opportunity then to demand those votes to end the war. My fear is that come September we will see an effort on the part of the White House to just do more of the same. They are already laying the groundwork with various arguments about how Iraq has become a stronghold for Al Qaeda and that we cannot allow them to control Iraq.

In yesterday’s Washington Post, David Ignatius described the next “new” strategy ... We’re going to train the Iraq security forces, so that the Iraqi government can take more responsibility, while we push them to meet certain benchmarks for political accommodation. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same "strategy" we have used over and over again. Nothing new.

I have now shifted my position to the inescapable conclusion that until the country removes Bush and Cheney from office and gets a President who actually wants to end the occupation we will be in Iraq. I am now strongly in favor starting impeachment hearings immediately using the Bush/Cheney deceptions on Iraq to start followed closely by the subversion of the rule of law and civil rights at home. Granted there are several reasons why the country is not ready for impeachment, but that should not stop us from getting the ball rolling. The majority of this country is watching appalled as Iraq disintegrates and one after the other, another GOP scandal unfolds. Every poll tells us that the country wants this regime over. We need to make every effort to convince the people of this country that impeachment is the right process for bringing about the end of this unholy regime and that waiting until 2009 will requires too great a cost in lives and treasure. We cannot afford to wait.

The reality is that until Bush and Cheney are gone along with all their enablers we will be at war in Iraq and losing brave American soldiers by the hundreds. We have to redouble our efforts to shed the clear light of sanity of this administration not only with respect to Iraq but all the other scandals as well. Keep the pressure on.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Debunking the Naysayers has done a great job in compiling a list of the 26 great misconceptions about Global Warming and climate change. This is an amazingly complex subject and the naysayers have endless arguments disclaiming the facts about how our world is changing for the worst. Now with the resources at NewScientist you can find a link to a specific article that in turn link to original research that will help you understand the details and refute arguments against Global Warming.

For those who are not sure what to believe, here is the NewScientist round-up of the 26 most common climate myths and misconceptions.

There is also a guide to assessing the evidence. In the articles they've included lots of links to primary research and major reports for those who want to follow through to the original sources.

Human CO2 emissions are too tiny to matter

We can't do anything about climate change

The 'hockey stick' graph has been proven wrong

Chaotic systems are not predictable

We can't trust computer models of climate

They predicted global cooling in the 1970s

It's been far warmer in the past, what's the big deal?

It's too cold where I live - warming will be great

Global warming is down to the Sun, not humans

It’s all down to cosmic rays

CO2 isn't the most important greenhouse gas

The lower atmosphere is cooling, not warming

Antarctica is getting cooler, not warmer, disproving global warming

The oceans are cooling

The cooling after 1940 shows CO2 does not cause warming

It was warmer during the Medieval period, with vineyards in England

We are simply recovering from the Little Ice Age

Warming will cause an ice age in Europe

Ice cores show CO2 increases lag behind temperature rises, disproving the link to global warming

Ice cores show CO2 rising as temperatures fell

Mars and Pluto are warming too

Many leading scientists question climate change

It's all a conspiracy

Hurricane Katrina was caused by global warming

Higher CO2 levels will boost plant growth and food production

Polar bear numbers are increasing

Living on Food Stamps

Andante over at Collective Sigh pointed out something that really struck home for me. The "Food Stamp Challenge" and I agree with her that it should be a required part of every elected official or political appointee's indoctrination as to the impact of their policies and votes in Washington.

It takes something visceral like this kind of experience to fully impress ones' psyche with the pain that hunger and helplessness can inflict. I know I am shocked when I see what $100 gets me for food at the grocery today and I can only imagine what it would be like to only have $21 for a whole week. There were some times growing up when it was a little close and corn bread and beans were the norm. I can still remember meals that were completely sourced from the family garden and while I was not a big fan of veggies as a kid I still remember being told that that was all there was and if I didn't want to go to bed hungry I'd better eat. It didn't happen often but I do remember it.
For lunch on Tuesday, Janice Schakowsky spread flakes of tuna on two slices of white bread. Jim McGovern ate a bowl of home-cooked lentils and Jo Ann Emerson's salad was mostly shredded iceberg lettuce. "I couldn't afford the mayo," said Schakowsky, so she did not make tuna salad. Schakowsky, McGovern and Emerson -- all members of the U.S. House of Representatives -- are on what could be called the Food Stamp diet, spending $1 on food per meal, for a week. Their spell on "the Food Stamp Challenge" will end on Monday, just before the House Agriculture Committee is expected to begin overhauling U.S. farm law. Food stamps and other public nutrition programs account for two-thirds of the spending governed by the "farm bills" written every few years.
They're blogging the experience here.

It might be an interesting experience to see how well you could do on a buck a meal. I know it probably wouldn't last long around here. The following is from the NYDaily News last Thursday.

Despite bargain hunting, St. Vincent's Hospital Manhattan dietitian Tina Fuchs fell short on every vital food group when asked to buy a week's worth of food with only $28.

The nutritionist was challenged to see whether she could do better than Queens Councilman Eric Gioia, who has been living on the average food-stamp allotment for a single recipient for the past week.

And, though more nutritious than the Democrat's diet of Ramen noodles, cheese slices and white bread, she said her shopping cart would still lead to major long-term health problems.

"I made the most of our $28, but we haven't got what we need," she said outside Associated Supermarket on W. 14th St.

"I have the bare minimum of protein, but I fell short on grains and dairy, and really short on fresh produce."

Fuchs' produce quota was lacking despite buying lettuce, grapefruit, broccoli, apples, tangerines, carrots and collard greens - many of which were on sale.

"We should be having five cups of fruit and vegetables a day," she said. "We have maybe two. I'm losing protection against chronic diseases."

For protein, she bought fish, bargain steak and chicken - complete with bones and skin that knocked down the price.

She also had 32 ounces of milk - a quarter of her weekly needs - brown rice, whole-wheat bread, beans, oatmeal and peanut butter.

"Eating this diet long-term, I'd be concerned about heart disease, diabetes, cancer and osteoporosis," she said.

The cart full of food actually sent her $2 above budget - and was still almost 1,000 calories a day under what an average person should eat.

"Because we shopped by what was on special offer, we actually did better than I expected," she said.

"But this is nowhere near enough food. I think this proves it can't be done."

"By giving such a small food stamp allowance, we are effectively poisoning people by cutting them off from proper nourishment," said Gioia, whose diet ends today.

For a country that spends more than the rest of the world combined on guns and bullets you would think that we would first feed ourselves.

A Warning from the Butterflies

Welcome to the world we have created. First came the bees gone missing and now comes the warning from the butterflies. It may seem something trivial but it is a horrible portent of the things to come.
Britain's astounding April, the warmest on record, has produced an astounding effect in the natural world, with at least 11 species of butterfly making their earliest recorded appearances this spring in what will be seen as the most remarkable demonstration yet of the effects of climate change on Britain's wildlife.

For several years biologists have been watching warming temperatures affect living organisms, with leaves opening, birds nesting and insects emerging earlier. But what has happened in 2007 with butterflies has been quite exceptional.

Of our 59 resident and regular migrant species, 37 have now appeared, and of these, all except one (the orange tip) have emerged earlier than they would have done a decade ago, according to the wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation.

More remarkably still, 11 of them have broken all records for early emergence, some by scarcely-believable margins.
This is not a good thing.

Monday, May 21, 2007

White House is the One Irrelevant

Some idiot Bush flunky said he thinks Jimmy Carter is "increasingly irrelevant." This is so predictable from this mis-administration. Instead of actually doing something constructive about Iraq and the misguided policies that have created this crisis the Bushies attack their enemies. It is always politics and not substance. Just imagine what might have been accomplished if all this energy consumed in political maneuvering could have been put to some constructive use.

Jimmy Carter was just saying what most intelligent Americans are thinking:
In the newspaper interview, Carter said Bush had taken a "radical departure from all previous administration policies" with the Iraq war.

"We now have endorsed the concept of pre-emptive war where we go to war with another nation militarily, even though our own security is not directly threatened, if we want to change the regime there or if we fear that some time in the future our security might be endangered," Carter said.
My question for the Bushies might be ask to millions of Africans "How irrelevant do you think Jimmy Carter is?" You might focus the question on all those who have escaped Guinea Worm, River Blindness and Trachoma because he is so irrelevant. You might also ask the millions sleeping under insecticide treated mosquito nets tonight and protected from malaria carrying mosquitoes how irrelevant he his or the thousands and thousands in Africa who now have toilets. Hell, you don't even have to go to Africa. Just ask all the people living in Habitat for Humanity homes how irrelevant Jimmy Carter is.

Another question that needs to be asked of the leading Democrats in this country is why they are not out defending Jimmy Carter? Well, this is one Democrat that is defending Jimmy Carter. He is absolutely right on this, the Israelis and just about anything else he speaks upon.

Then again maybe George Bush can ponder irrelevancy while he is waiting for his Nobel Prize.

Closer to Home

This article in the Washington Post is really no surprise but it is really disappointing. Of the thousands and thousands of shipments of food stuffs and materials that eventually show up in our food the FDA is only inspecting a small percentage. What they are inspecting is showing a large percentage of "bad stuff".

Tainted Chinese Imports Common
In Four Months, FDA Refused 298 Shipments

By Rick Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 20, 2007; Page A01

Dried apples preserved with a cancer-causing chemical.

Frozen catfish laden with banned antibiotics.

Scallops and sardines coated with putrefying bacteria.

Mushrooms laced with illegal pesticides.

These were among the 107 food imports from China that the Food and Drug Administration detained at U.S. ports just last month, agency documents reveal, along with more than 1,000 shipments of tainted Chinese dietary supplements, toxic Chinese cosmetics and counterfeit Chinese medicines.

OK so what? Do you check the origin of everything you buy and eat? Can you? The reality is that a large percentage of what is available in most American supermarkets is anonymous when it comes to where it came from. Even if you wanted to avoid Chinese made or produced food you wouldn't necessarily be able to from your local Kroger or Publix. There is no law that requires food to be labeled with its origin. Whole Foods typically tells you the source of most things but as far as I know it is an exception and that doesn't apply to all the processed foods even there.

You can do something about it however and that is shift your food buying to sources closer to home such as farmers markets and local food co-ops. We have been made accustomed to being able to buy any food we want, regardless of the season, by the easily available foods from the other hemisphere. On my shopping trip through Whole Foods yesterday I had choices of apples from New Zealand and Argentina amongst others. Same with pears from Paraguay and Chile. The only lemons and limes available were from Mexico though there was a lot of stuff from California such as spinach, broccoli, carrots etc. There were hothouse tomatoes from North Carolina and green beans and corn from Florida. Kinda hard to shop locally but at least I had some choices. I could choose the tomatoes from the next state over instead of the ones from California. I bought some Georgia peaches (most of this years crop was killed from the late frost so I was surprised). I still know where everything came from and had to make a conscious decision to buy something I knew had left a significant carbon use trail to get to me.

Bottom line is that I am going to become more and more insistent in knowing the source of my food. I am going to start nagging the managers at Kroger and Publix to begin labeling their food with point of origin and I am going to be visiting my local farmers market every Saturday. I am also going to start making a bigger effort to grow some of my own food. I used to grow a big garden and freeze and can what I couldn't use fresh. I started traveling a lot and used that as an excuse but I am going to figure out ways where I can do both.

When you stop and think about where we would be if our transportation systems were compromised and we couldn't ship food across the country or the world on a whim it is pretty frightening. If we support local food producers they will grow in number if they can make a living and we won't be so dependent on people on the other side of the country or the world for our daily bread. It makes sense.

Steve over at YDD has more.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Farmer's Market

Been out this morning to the local farmer's market. Still early in the growing season so really not a lot available. Bought some nice fat local spring onions for roasting tonight and a glorious bunch of bright green local lettuce. I also bought some Florida green tomatoes for you know what. I also finally found a potted Tiny Tim tomato plant that I have been searching for. If you aren't familiar with this variety it is an heirloom cherry tomato that is very early(this one already has a dozen little green tomatoes on it) that stays nice and compact and can be very successfully grown on a patio in a nice pot. I am on my way to Home Despot to get a big clay pot and a bag of organic potting mix for it.
I hope everyone has something nice planned for the weekend even if it is only chilling out and reading a good book. The weather here in Atlanta is unseasonably cool (51 this morning) but clear and rain free. We are officially in a drought already and it is only May.

More Tears

Updated Below: Not good news.

Bush just last week.

We can debate Iraq -- and should. There should be no debate about making sure that money gets there on a timely basis so our kids can do the job we've asked them to do.


Eight more American troops were killed in Iraq, seven of them on a single day, the US military said Saturday, amid raging violence and a desperate search for three captured soldiers.

The time for debate is over and actually ended with the invasion and failure to find massive stores of WMDs. The thing to do is bring our troops home starting months ago. This insanity is crushing the life out of Iraq and our country. Oh and BTW George they are not YOUR kids.

Update: BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The U.S. military added on Sunday more U.S. soldiers to the list of those who died in attacks on Saturday, bringing the number of American soldiers killed since Friday to 15.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Faster and Faster

Just when we needed some good news we find out that atmospheric warming is probably going to go faster than previously thought. Most of the models of the atmosphere are based up the assumption that the Southern ocean around Antarctica would continue to absorb or sink about 25% of the human output of carbon (CO2) that it historically has. Whoops! New data point.

The Southern Ocean around Antarctica is so loaded with carbon dioxide that it can barely absorb any more, so more of the gas will stay in the atmosphere to warm up the planet, scientists reported Thursday.

...."We thought we would be able to detect these only the second half of this century, say 2050 or so," [said researcher Corinne Le Quere]. But data from 1981 through 2004 show the sink is already full of carbon dioxide. "So I find this really quite alarming."

What this means is that when you look at the ranges the scientists give for Global Warming you need to think on the high end and maybe a little higher.

Then there is this little tidbit:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Vast areas of snow in Antarctica melted in 2005 when temperatures warmed up for a week in the summer in a process that may accelerate invisible melting deep beneath the surface, NASA said on Tuesday.

A new analysis of satellite data showed that an area the size of California melted and then re-froze -- the most significant thawing in 30 years, the U.S. space agency said.


They found evidence of melting in several areas, including high elevations and far inland in January of 2005, when temperatures got as high as 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius).

Have a nice day!

No Middle Way

I am really disappointed that the Democratic leadership is weakening on the timetables for Iraq. This is not a good sign and the exact opposite of what needs to happen. It doesn't seem to matter though as it is apparent that Bush will not accept anything less than complete surrender and a blank check from Congress. Bush and company, weak souled and spineless bastards that they are, think that negotiation is a sign of weakness and therefore will only settle for complete conciliation from the Democrats.

The Democrats tell Bush that the timetables they were going to include in the legislation - supposedly the part of the legislation that Bush doesn't like - will only be optional and that Bush can waive them at any time. This, of course, makes them meaningless but Bush still said no!

This is a major concession on the part of the Dems and one that frankly makes me pretty irritated. The reality is that Bush doesn't care about changing course. To change course would be to admit that he is and has been wrong all along and that is something his warped ego will not permit. He is the war president and the decider. He is the tough guy and anything that threatens that sick reality is not to be allowed. It is only thousands and thousands of lives after all.

Bush's rejection of this frankly cowardly offer should tell everyone that meeting Bush part way will never work and that the only solution is the drastic one. Remove funding except for withdrawal immediately and de-authorize the AUMF.

Bush Shows Us How to Support the Troops

Does the White House think no one in this nation reads or do they think no one cares? This is so preposterous it is breathtaking. The Democrats are trying to bring military pay levels more into line with civilian levels and that is why they are adding .05% to the average civilian pay increase of last year and additional .05% each year thereafter until 2012. Even then military pay will be still lag. We won't even mention the insulting death benefits that are in place now.

From Daily Kos

The Democratic House has included to provisions in its version of the defense authorization bill for 2008 that would give troops a 3.5 percent pay raise as well as increasing the level of benefits for survivors of slain soldiers and civilians employees. The Bush administration's reaction?

Bush budget officials said the administration "strongly opposes" both the 3.5 percent raise for 2008 and the follow-on increases, calling extra pay increases "unnecessary."

VoteVets' Jon Solz responds:

In the veto threat against the National Defense Authorization Act, the White House says they're opposed to two things: Increased survivor benefits of $40 a month to spouses of those who lost someone in military service, and a pay increase to all personnel, across the board, just half a percent higher than what the President endorsed.

Excuse me?

The President just vetoed legislation so he would be able to send more troops into the middle of the Iraqi religious civil war - without end, mind you - but is against increasing benefits to the spouses of those lost, or a pay increase to those who are serving? If there's a more fitting definition of 'outrage,' I'd love to see it.


Update: You can see the whole of the administration's objections to the DoD authorization at Speaker Pelosi's blog, The Gavel. They include opposition to price controls for prescription drugs under the military’s health care plan for military personnel and their dependents and contract accountability provisions.

New Bulbs Yet?

I was reminded by an article in the paper yesterday about compact fluorescent bulbs. If you haven't already replaced all the old incandescent bulbs with these it is really time to do so.

Some facts:

These bulbs last 10,000 hours as opposed to the 1,000 hours for a regular incandescent bulb. The CFLs produce the same amount of light as an incandescent but at a fraction of the energy cost. It is estimated that over the 10,000 hour life of the bulb they will save you $50 in electricity.

If everyone in the country switched over to CFLs the estimate is that we would save $18 billion in electricity costs per year. That's a bunch.

Not only would we save a bucket of money we would eliminate the need for 80 coal fired power plants which would, in turn, reduce fossile fuel use by approximately 158 million tons per year.

Granted these new CFLs are expensive but they really are a good value and a real boon for the environment. You don't have to do it all at once but maybe one or two every pay day or even just replace one incandescent a month. Every little bit will help.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Even Blind Squirrels

The light is coming on(or going out) for more and more people. From Editor and Publisher. It just must be that some of us are quicker to figure it out than others. What do you think the trigger was? Interesting comparison between Dems and Rethugs as well. Must be that some of the Repubs have a lower tolerance for Kool-Aid addiction than some.

NEW YORK What's going on? Gallup reports today a sudden plunge in its regular "satisfaction" index. Only 25% of Americans now say they satisfied with the state of their country -- down 8% in just one month -- and one of the lowest ever measured.

"The current 25% satisfaction level is very low by historical standards," Gallup explained. "Since Gallup first asked this question in 1979, the average percentage of Americans saying they are satisfied with conditions in the country is 43%."

Iraq continues to weigh the most on minds. "Even though skyrocketing gas prices may contribute to the public's sour mood this month," the organization revealed, "the issue is not mentioned by an especially high percentage of Americans as the nation's top problem."

The latest poll finds 45% of Republicans saying they are satisfied, compared with only 12% of Democrats. Over the past month, satisfaction fell more among Democrats, suggesting that some of them may be souring on their party's actions or inactions in Congress.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


The park where I try and take my walk everyday is consumed with blooming honeysuckle. It is along a great percentage of the trail and right now it is in full glory. The perfume from the flowers is overpowering in places. We Southern boys don't really acknowledge the change to spring until we can smell honeysuckle.

As with many smells it triggers childhood memories. I used to spend hours pulling the flowers apart ever so gently trying to capture the minute drop of nectar that might sweeten the end. It is sobering to think of how much simpler life was in those days. Your big trial for the day was how much nectar you could get from the honeysuckle. Today the world is teetering on the edge of complete destruction and on any given day the thought of a tiny drop of honeysuckle nectar is almost incomprehensible in comparison to today's challenges. Then again honeysuckle nectar may a good measure for how well out stewardship is progressing.

How diminished will we be when the honeysuckle doesn't bloom anymore?

Been Busy

Been busy with this and that so it really hasn't been happening here. Yesterday my daughter came to spend the day and help me with all the garden and yard chores that have piled up. We got the beds at the end of the driveway planted in Lantana and got the bed by the garage all fixed up with new Mexican Heather. We also tackled the front bed under the bay window. Out with the Nandina and in with Hellebores and Astilbe(sp?). Both are shade lovers and this bed is on the north side of the house and almost never gets direct sun. She loves to garden and is much more agile than I so it takes much less time to get a project done with her on the team.

I did take an hour or so this afternoon and make my first batch of cheese. Mozzarella and it was very nice and very easy. I'm a little surprised at the amount of whey that is left out of a gallon of milk after you extract the 1 pound of cheese out of it. Milk probably weighs about the same as water which I think is about 9 pounds per gallon so the percent yield is pretty low. The thing is I hate to waste all that is left. I did use a cup of it to make pizza dough but all the rest is down the drain.

I did make a pizza to celebrate my new cheese. Basically a Pizza Margherita with nothing but some thinly sliced tomatoes, olive oil, basil and the fresh mozzarella. Store bought tomatoes but we'll soon fix that. Even with the tomato limitation it was very good, if I do say so myself.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Soon to be Fruits of My Labor

Here is the new vegetable bed. Two days worth of hard labor (at least for a 56 year old chubby like me) and everything is in the ground and ready to start making me some homegrown tomatoes and peppers. Just about finished...all that needs doing is the mulch but I ran out of spit. Hauling in a little over 100 cubic feet of topsoil(1 cubic foot bag at a time) was a chore not to mention four trips to Home Despot. Load the bags on the gurney(24 each trip), roll them to the truck, load the truck, unload the truck at home and then dump each bag into the bed. Throw in 10 cubic feet of composted manure and 5 cubic feet of perlite and you are then officially "cream-crackered" as my English friend says.

I know that sounds expensive and it was, as the total project came in at 320 bucks plants included. If you have ever tried to grow anything in Georgia red clay then you know why I went to the trouble and expense. I could have filled the bed with a couple of dozen garden cart loads of garden soil from the back of the lot but I figured I would do it right instead of cheap. Besides I wasn't too keen on carting all that soil up the hill from the garden. Starting clean with no weed seeds, no cutworms, no nematodes etc. and it will be used for a few years at least. As madam cracked this morning, "Those better be some pretty good tomatoes for that price."

Now begins the patient wait. Just so you'll know( I will post pictures as things proceed.) in the front are 4 Rutgers, on the right are 2 Granny Cantrell followed by a Pruden's Purple. In the center behind the Rutgers are 2 Brandywine and another Pruden's. Down the left side are 2 Nardello sweet pepper and 2 Garden Surprise (green) peppers and then 2 Relleno peppers. In the back is one heirloom Italian eggplant. I also scattered in some Sweet Basil and Italian Parsley.

Goat Cheese Tart

Made this tart last night for dinner. It is very nice and pretty simple to make. The tart shell will be the challenge for most people but it is really is quite easy with a food processor. This recipe is from Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten of the Food Network. We just had a nice salad of mixed greens with a mustard vinaigrette and some nice chardonnay with it and it was a delightful meal. Yeah, I know it has a stick and a half of butter but that is spread between 6 slices, and I did replace the heavy cream in the recipe with plain kefir. BTW this dough recipe is a good one to have in your repertoire. It is known in French as a Pate Brisee and is a classic recipe for pie crusts, tart shells and other things that need a nice flaky crust and I have been using it for years for recipes like this. If you need to make a two crust pie just use 2 and a half cups of flour, 2 sticks of butter, a level teaspoon of kosher salt and about a 1/4 cup of ice water. If I am making a sweet pie or tart I will add a couple of tablespoons of sugar in as well. Get this recipe for crust under your belt and you will never be afraid of pie crust again.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the board
Kosher salt
13 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, divided
3 to 4 tablespoons ice water
3/4 cup chopped shallots (3 to 4 shallots)
10 1/2 ounces garlic-and-herb soft goat cheese
1 cup heavy cream. note: I wanted something a little lighter so I substituted plain kefir for the cream but plain milk or even buttermilk would do as well.
3 extra-large eggs
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the crust, put the flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Cut 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) of the butter into large dice, add to the bowl, and pulse until the butter is the size of peas. With the machine running, add 3TBLSP of the ice water all at once and process until the dough becomes crumbly. Don't over process. Dump the dough out on a floured board, gather it loosely into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Note: you can do this a day or two ahead and the dough will be fine. This rest in the fridge is just to let be butter re-chill and the dough to relax

Blind baking the tart shell.
Roll the dough on a well-floured board and fit it into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable sides, rolling the pin over the top to cut off the excess dough. Butter 1 side of a square of aluminum foil and fit it, butter side down, into the tart pan. Fill the foil with rice or beans. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the beans and foil from the tart shell, prick the bottom all over with a fork, and bake for another 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of butter in a small pan and saute the shallots over low heat for 5 minutes, or until tender. Place the goat cheese in the bowl of the food processor and process until crumbly. Add the cream, eggs, basil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and the pepper and process until blended.
Scatter the cooked shallots over the bottom of the tart shell. Pour the goat cheese mixture over the shallots to fill the shell (if the shell has shrunk, there may be leftover filling). Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the tart is firm when shaken and the top is lightly browned. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and serve hot or at room temperature.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Friday Night Pain

Okay, I have the frame built for my tomato and pepper bed. It took me about 6 hours this afternoon to get it all together but it is done. The biggest issue was the slope of the area where I have decided to put it. The change in elevation is about a foot over the 8 foot span so the first course of landscape timbers took a couple of hours. The other three courses were snap after I got the first one in and level. I now have an 8'x8' box of landscape timbers all ready for dirt.

My years of non gardening are showing this evening in the aches and pains. No matter how much exercise you think you get it does not work the same muscles you use with a shovel and hoe. the bending and lifting from today's construction project are letting me know tonight. tomorrow the task is to fill the frame with about a 100 cubic ft of dirt and we are ready to plant tomatoes and peppers.

Friday Notes

Busy day today but a couple of notes. Don't forget that tomorrow is the Postal Carriers food drive so leave some canned or non breakable(no glass) food by your mailbox tomorrow for the post person.

Did I mention that there is a website for the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle with lots of pictures and excerpts from the book. There are also some great recipes by Camille.

Finally, I am going to try a new cooking experience as soon as my stuff arrives from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company . I am going to add cheese making to my repertoire. I will post about my experience and results. Yes, it is all part of the experience with the above mentioned book but also something I have always wanted to do. I have made "cheese" from plain yogurt by letting it drain in cheese cloth for a day or so and it is really nice and I am pretty sure I remember my grandmother making something like cottage cheese when I was tiny. Anyhow, I am going to learn to do it if for no other reason than it sounds fun. It will also add another survival skill that may come in handy some day soon. There is even a recipe for making your own mozzarella cheese in the recipes on the above mentioned website if your interested.

Off and running for the day but we'll be back.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

End it Now and Bring Our Children Home

It is going to be very interesting to see who in the House today votes today to send our troops to die for a country that doesn't even want us there. From the Associated Press:
A majority of Iraqi lawmakers have endorsed a bill calling for a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops and demanding a freeze on the number of foreign troops already in the country, lawmakers said Thursday.

When are the Republicans and especially Bush and Cheney going to get the goddamn message? These people are "sick and tired" I said "sick and tired" of struggling through the disaster that our invasion and occupation of their country has caused. We have made all the enemies we need for generations in the Middle East and created more than enough new terrorists. End it and bring our children home.

I Succumbed

I couldn't help myself. As you know I have been reading Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and her talk of planting her garden and then the first fresh homegrown tomato were too much for me. This morning I went to Whole Foods and what is displayed but a whole variety of heirloom tomato and pepper plants. Tomato varieties I remember from my childhood like Rutgers, Brandywine, Granny Cantrell and Pruden's Purple. Peppers like Nardello and Garden Sunshine. All heirloom varieties so I can save the seed if I want and replant next year. Most of what is available in the garden centers are all the hybrids like Big Boy, Early Girl and Better Boy which make a pretty good tomato but are all F1 hybrids which means the seeds won't carry the traits of the parents so you won't know what you will get.

Another thing about the heirloom varieties is that they have already run the gauntlet of natural selection. Our ancestors selected seeds from the best of their tomatoes season after season and these are the plants that have already battled pests, bad weather and poor soil and still produced good crops. Granted they don't ship well and won't all be the same size or necessarily the brightest red but they will taste good when fresh from the vine.

The only issue now is where to plant them. I think I will have to take the area over by the western fence and build a couple of beds 8'x8' or so and make this my tomato and pepper patch and not try and rescue some of my old garden at the back of the lot. Maybe next year that will be reclaimed to garden for potatoes, beans, corn, squash, cabbage, broccoli and all the rest. I have about a half acre cleared of trees at the back of my lot where I used to garden. Mother nature has reclaimed it for weed but I keep it knocked down and a couple of weekends and my mighty 30 year old Troy-Bilt tiller can make it a garden once again.

So anyway, it looks my weekend is committed to building two nice beds and getting these tomatoes and peppers in the ground. Who knows I may have enough room for some other goodies when I am through.

Call for Calls

This from AmericaBlog

The House will vote today on the next Iraq bill. This should be the next bill to rein in George Bush. This should not be a bill that gives Bush a blank check to continue his disastrous war.

The Republicans are going to try a procedural trick to weaken the bill. Democrats cannot enable the GOP games. John explained the games -- and the consequences -- last night:
Yes, while the Republican leaders of the House and Senate are publicly claiming that they won't give Bush a blank check, they're maneuvering behind the scenes to do just that. And while Republican members of Congress are supposedly laying down the law for Bush in private meetings, on the House floor they're going to give Bush everything he wants and needs to continue the war indefinitely.

If that happens, then we need to hang this war, and hang every lost life and every wasted dollar, around the neck of every Republican and conservative Democrat who betrays our troops and our country tomorrow.

Please call your member of Congress and raise unholy hell. Tell them that they'd better vote against giving Bush a blank check when the Iraq supplemental comes up for a vote tomorrow. You can call now and leave a message on their machines. You can find your rep via the House Web site, use the zip code box in the upper left hand corner to find your rep.
The key votes will be:
H.R. 2237 is Rep. McGovern's bill to mandate the redeployment of most American forces from Iraq. This bill deserves a YES.

The "Blank Check" vote will be on a Republican procedural gimmick called a "motion to recommit" from Rep. David Dreier, which would provide funds for the war with NO conditions. No Blank Check. Vote No on the Dreier Motion. Any Democrat who votes for this motion is voting to give Bush a blank check -- with NO accountability.

H.R. 2206 is the final vote on the Iraq Supplemental war funding bill.
The main number for the U.S. House of Representatives is: 202 224-3121. Members need to hear that they cannot give Bush a blank check for Iraq. Enough already.

If you can find sometime today to call your representatives in Congress and let them know you do support the continued funding of the mess in Iraq without strict accountability for George Bush it would be great.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Planning Ahead

Requiring all of our new customers over the last couple of years to allow us remote access to our system and database or better yet hosting the application for the customer is paying off big time right now. I am working three accounts this week and not having to travel (which wastes a lot of time that would otherwise be productive and more importantly billable). I am effectively about 2.5 people for work stuff and also able to say at home and do the helpmate thing for Madam.
Even not having to commute to the office (I have an SSL VPN) actually probably adds a day to my productivity and really saves on the stress not too mention the gasoline ($2.89/g today in Atlanta) saved. Not having to travel to the client's location and not having to commute into the office is probably gaining me 3 days worth of time. This is good.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Another Try

It looks like the House Democrats are getting close on the the next Iraq bill:
House Democrats may push ahead this week with a new war spending bill that would provide money for combat operations through midsummer, with the rest of the funds sought by President Bush withheld until commanders in Iraq provide a report on conditions there.

Senior Democratic officials say the proposal, which is still being put together and could reach a floor vote by the week’s end, is an attempt to provide the Pentagon with the money it needs while keeping pressure on Mr. Bush over his conduct of the war.

The House leadership had made no final decision, but aides said Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, was leaning toward the approach, which was developed by Representatives David Obey of Wisconsin and John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, two senior Democrats on the Appropriations Committee.

Congressional officials said that so far, the proposal had not met serious opposition from the party’s antiwar wing or from more moderate Democrats anxious about being accused of not financing the military.

It does not include the timeline for withdrawal that drew Mr. Bush’s veto of the initial $124 billion bill, but it would require a second vote by Congress to release the bulk of the money.
I am not to keen on the idea that it doesn't have a firm time line but I could be convinced that the second vote requirement for most of the money meets the criteria. If you haven't noticed the Republicans are panicking . They're running in circles and scream obscenities , but it looks like that are going to stand by George Bush for the moment. They all know the war is lost and was a mistake from the git go but they just don't have enough spine to step out there and say so. The Republicans know that Bush have never had a plan to deal with Iraq and that the Democrats do. If this upcoming bill is the best that can be had then at least we are giving the Republicans another opportunity to stand up and declare their support for Bush. We need to do this over and over until we have soldiers coming home for good.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Home Care

Sorry for the lack of posting today but I am playing nurse to Madam who had some minor foot surgery this morning. Everything went fine and it only took about 45 minutes. She has to keep the foot elevated and I have to administer ice every few hours. The thing that is going to drive her crazy(ier) is that she is not allowed to drive for a few weeks since the surgery was on the right foot.

All stocked up with Ginger ale and stuff so it just hanging out and being solicitous.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Wrapping Up the Weekend

Twelve more Americans died in Iraq this weekend. "At least 44" Iraqis were killed today. Tragedy:
Roadside bombings proved deadly for U.S. forces on Sunday. One in Diyala province killed six Task Force Lightning soldiers and a journalist accompanying them. Three soldiers were killed in separate roadside bombings _ two others on Sunday and one on Friday, the military said.

Two Marines were killed Saturday in combat in Anbar province, a Sunni insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad, the military said, and a soldier died Sunday in a non-combat related incident.

The deaths raised to at least 3,373 members of the U.S. military who have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
This is what we get from letting George Bush run a war...nothing positive only tragedy.

The Farm(Not) Bill

I mentioned that I was reading the new book by Barbara Kingsolver about her families attempt to have all of the their food come from local sources for a year. It is called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and while I am only in Chapter 2 it is fascinating reading and I am learning stuff I should have already known. I am a very serious person when it comes to food. I love to cook and the less processed and pre-manipulated my food is the better. I love cooking from "scratch" and I am a big supporter of the slow food, organic and buy local movements. I avoid buying food where I can't identify the source and for that reason spend more on my food than many who always go for the cheapest and/or easiest.

So that brings us to the upcoming Farm Bill. The NYTimes Magazine last week had a great (but too short) article on the upcoming farm bill and its vast and multifaceted effects on our lives in everything from health to economics to trade. While no one much pays attention to it the farm bill it probably has more widespread effect on our lives than any other law the Congress passes. This huge, complicated, and completely regressive farm bill has influences that extend far beyond farming and actually has very little to do with effective agricultural policies. It is mostly concerned with politics, lobbying, and narrow agribusiness interests.

The NYTimes explains,
Processed foods are more "energy dense" than fresh foods: they contain less water and fiber but more added fat and sugar, which makes them both less filling and more fattening. These particular calories also happen to be the least healthful ones in the marketplace, which is why we call the foods that contain them "junk." Drewnowski concluded that the rules of the food game in America are organized in such a way that if you are eating on a budget, the most rational economic strategy is to eat badly — and get fat . . . For the answer, you need look no farther than the farm bill. This resolutely unglamorous and head-hurtingly complicated piece of legislation . . . sets the rules for the American food system — indeed, to a considerable extent, for the world’s food system.
The way it sets those rules is by providing huge subsidies for corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, and cotton.
For the last several decades — indeed, for about as long as the American waistline has been ballooning — U.S. agricultural policy has been designed in such a way as to promote the overproduction of these five commodities, especially corn and soy . . . The result? A food system awash in added sugars (derived from corn) and added fats (derived mainly from soy), as well as dirt-cheap meat and milk (derived from both). By comparison, the farm bill does almost nothing to support farmers growing fresh produce. A result of these policy choices is on stark display in your supermarket, where the real price of fruits and vegetables between 1985 and 2000 increased by nearly 40 percent while the real price of soft drinks (a k a liquid corn) declined by 23 percent. The reason the least healthful calories in the supermarket are the cheapest is that those are the ones the farm bill encourages farmers to grow.
This bill is not just an American farm bill either. It has global effects. The subsidies we give out corn, soybean and wheat farmers allows them to sell their products on the world market for less that it costs to produce them and thereby lowers the world prices for these commodities.
To speak of the farm bill’s influence on the American food system does not begin to describe its full impact — on the environment, on global poverty, even on immigration. By making it possible for American farmers to sell their crops abroad for considerably less than it costs to grow them, the farm bill helps determine the price of corn in Mexico and the price of cotton in Nigeria and therefore whether farmers in those places will survive or be forced off the land, to migrate to the cities — or to the United States. The flow of immigrants north from Mexico since Nafta is inextricably linked to the flow of American corn in the opposite direction, a flood of subsidized grain that the Mexican government estimates has thrown two million Mexican farmers and other agricultural workers off the land since the mid-90s. (More recently, the ethanol boom has led to a spike in corn prices that has left that country reeling from soaring tortilla prices; linking its corn economy to ours has been an unalloyed disaster for Mexico’s eaters as well as its farmers.) You can’t fully comprehend the pressures driving immigration without comprehending what U.S. agricultural policy is doing to rural agriculture in Mexico.

As I said above, I have been focused on food for a long time and thought I had a pretty good understanding of the market and the supply chain and at least a grasp of some of the issues surrounding the food I eat and how it is produced. I am rapidly understanding that I am pretty ignorant and if I think I am ignorant what about your average grocery shopper?

The food industry in this country, starting with the so called "farm bill" is a disaster and it is making us unhealthy not to mention fat and it allows dangerous foods (which we've seen with alarming frequency lately) to reach our tables. Not only is it killing us it is screwing up the agricultural economies of developing countries and wreaking havoc on the environment. We all need to wake up and smell the coffee in this country. We are letting a very small handful of Congressmen and an equally small group of agribusiness people set the rules. If we can create a 15 billion dollar a year organic food industry we can probably begin to take notice and make sure our elected representatives know that we expect the farm bill to actually do something positive about the food we eat. That means starting to wean big agribusiness from the huge commodities subsidies and figuring out ways to encourage farmers to grow more real food. It is a terrible thing to know that of every dollar the average American spends on food only 15 lousy cents actually gets to person who put the seed in the ground and nurtured it to maturity. The other 85% goes to the processors and other middlemen. Damn shame.

The picture above was taken on one of my forays into the weekend market along the Rhone in Lyon last year.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

No Po, Yes Bad

Don't worry, be happy! Nothing to see here folks just move along. You say they've reduced the price on that SUV you've had your eye on? Getting a little warm in here honey...why don't you crank that air conditioner down another notch.

ROME — Italy declared a state of emergency in northern and central regions on Friday due to fears of drought following unusually warm and dry weather.

Farmers have been fretting as Italy’s largest river, the Po, has dried up in recent months. The river, running west to east across northern Italy, feeds the broad Po valley which accounts for about a third of the country’s agricultural output.

Environment Minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio said the state of emergency had been declared as a precautionary measure. It came a day after neighbouring France imposed water rationing in several of its regions, also in fear of drought.

Italy’s hottest winter in 200 years meant snowfall was light in the Alps, with little snow-melt to swell the Po. Then a hot, dry spring set in, with temperatures in April approaching levels usually seen in June.

If you are unfamiliar with the Po river, it feeds the area in Italy famous for such things a Parma hams, Parmigiana Reggiano cheese and a hundred other great food products of Italy.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Stir-Fried Tofu and Bok Choy in Ginger Sauce

I deference to my musings over becoming a vegetarian I thought this Friday's recipe ought to be something vegetarian.

This recipe was published in the Cooks Illustrated cookbook The Best Light Recipe.

Ginger Sauce
6 tablespoon low-sodium vegetable broth
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

14 ounces extra-firm tofu (or firm) see notes below about pressing.
2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons dry sherry
3 medium garlic cloves , minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
3 scallions , white parts minced and green parts cut into 1/4-inch lengths
5 teaspoons peanut oil or vegetable oil
1 pound bok choy (1 small head), stems and leaves separated, stems trimmed and cut crosswise 1 inch thick, leaves torn in large pieces
2 carrots , peeled and cut into 2-inch matchsticks

Doing the Stir-Fry
Place the tofu in a pie plate and set a heavy plate on top of it. Weight the plate with 2 heavy cans (such as 28-ounce cans of tomatoes) and let drain for 15 to 25 minutes.
Cut the drained tofu into 1/2-inch cubes and then toss the tofu with the soy sauce and sherry in a medium bowl.
In a separate, small bowl, combine the garlic, ginger, scallion whites, and 2 teaspoons of the oil.
Heat 1 more teaspoon oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add the tofu and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 4 to 6 minutes.
Transfer the tofu to a clean bowl.
Add 1 more teaspoon oil to the pan and return to high heat until shimmering. Add the bok choy stems and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer the stems to a clean bowl.
Add the remaining teaspoon oil and the carrots to the pan and cook until crisp tender, about 2 minutes. Return the bok choy stems and the leaves to the pan, and toss until the leaves begin to wilt, about 30 seconds.
Clear the center of the pan and add the garlic mixture. Cook, mashing the garlic mixture into the pan with the back of a spatula, until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Stir the garlic mixture into the vegetables. Add the scallion greens and tofu and toss to combine. Whisk the ginger sauce to recombine, then add it to the pan and bring to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and toss until all the ingredients are well coated with sauce and sizzling hot. Serve immediately.

Notes: One pound of baby bok choy may be used in place of regular bok choy if available; simply quarter it lengthwise.
Pressing the tofu expels moisture, which helps the tofu to achieve a golden brown exterior. It is important to use firm or extra-firm tofu in this recipe.

Per serving: Cal 240; Fat 14 g; Sat fat 2 g; Chol 0 mg; Carb 16 g; Protein 15 g; Fiber 4 g; Sodium 1070 mg

Oily Food

I received the latest Barbara Kingsolver book yesterday Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and have already jumped in. Just from the first few pages I can see that it will be as enjoyable as her other books. This book is written in collaboration with her scientist husband Steven Hopp and her daughter Camille. Steven contributes little sections of science for the book and the first one is called "Oily Food". When I come across a really interesting one I will scan it and share with you.

Here is Oily Food by Steve Hopp
Americans put almost as much fossil fuel into our refrigerators as our cars. We’re consuming about 400 gallons of oil a year per citizen—about 17 percent of our nation’s energy use—for agriculture, a close second to our vehicular use. Tractors, combines, harvesters, irrigation, sprayers, tillers, balers, and other equipment all use petroleum. Even bigger gas guzzlers on the farm are not the machines, but so-called inputs. Synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides use oil and natural gas as their starting materials, and in their manufacturing. More than a quarter of all farming energy goes into synthetic fertilizers.

But getting the crop from seed to harvest takes only one-fifth of the total oil used for our food. The lion’s share is consumed during the trip from the farm to your plate. Each food item in a typical U.S. meal has traveled an average of 1,500 miles. In addition to direct transport, other fuel-thirsty steps include processing (drying, milling, cutting, sorting, baking), packaging, warehousing, and refrigeration. Energy calories consumed by production, packaging, and shipping far outweigh the energy calories we receive from the food.

A quick way to improve food-related fuel economy would be to buy a quart of motor oil and drink it More palatable options are available. If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week. That’s not gallons, but barrels. Small changes in buying habits can make big differences. Becoming a less energy-dependent nation may just need to start with a good breakfast.
The highlighting is mine. That is really a lot of energy that could be potentially saved. I know it is not practical or even possible for everyone to acquire locally produced food but if we just keep some of these facts in the backs of our minds when we go to our local market we might just opt for the slightly more expensive or even the slightly less attractive locally produced or organic choice instead of the one that has been trucked across the country or flown in from across the world. We might select the fresh loose green beans instead of the convenient frozen ones.

Individually these kinds of decisions aren't a big thing but collectively they can amount to something. It is worth thinking about and while I knew there was a lot of energy consumed in our vast food distribution network I am a little surprised at the magnitude.

Also don't forget the other big plus to buying locally and organically. Every time you chose the less energy intensive way to eat it is like yelling "Fuck You!" at Dick Cheney, George Bush and all their fossil fuel cronies. Isn't that worth something?