Friday, August 31, 2007

A Cup of Tea

I am going to try something a little different here and see how it is received. Each day that I can I will post ( in order) one of the one hundred and one Zen koans from the Shaseki-shu. These koans, or parables, were translated into English from a book called the Shaseki-shu (Collection of Stone and Sand), written late in the 13th century by the Japanese Zen teacher Muju (the "non-dweller"), and from anecdotes of Zen monks taken from various books published in Japan around the turn of the 20th century. Some are simple stories and some are parables and some are questions but all illustrate some fundamental principle of Zen. Some may seem senseless or useless but a time contemplating them will usually enlighten. As you will see many of the Zen teachers and masters had what appears to be rather weird senses of humor but in reality they were very serious and every thing had its purpose. I think it might be fun to have a daily whack up side the head so we shall see. Here is the first.

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. "It is overfull. No more will go in!"

"Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"

Just a Matter of Timing, Right?

For all you geeks out there that want a little more info on how completely you are being violated the following is for you. Please note that your leaders weren't exactly lying to you when they said your domestic calls weren't being monitored. They didn't specifically say anything about real time versus recording. So maybe they aren't "listening" to them in "real-time" but they are recording them and then mining them for whatever they want. I guess it is up to you to decide if there is any difference. If you only care about your right to privacy "real-time" and not a couple of minutes later then no worries, right?

First, Sean-Paul Kelley at the Agonist has received an e-mail detailing the extent of the Bush Administration's warrantless surveillance program. If that little tidbit is not enough to wad your skivvies then breeze through these details from Wired :

The FBI has quietly built a sophisticated, point-and-click surveillance system that performs instant wiretaps on almost any communications device, according to nearly a thousand pages of restricted documents newly released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The surveillance system, called DCSNet, for Digital Collection System Network, connects FBI wiretapping rooms to switches controlled by traditional land-line operators, internet-telephony providers and cellular companies. It is far more intricately woven into the nation's telecom infrastructure than observers suspected.

It's a "comprehensive wiretap system that intercepts wire-line phones, cellular phones, SMS and push-to-talk systems," says Steven Bellovin, a Columbia University computer science professor and longtime surveillance expert.

DCSNet is a suite of software that collects, sifts and stores phone numbers, phone calls and text messages. The system directly connects FBI wiretapping outposts around the country to a far-reaching private communications network.


Together, the surveillance systems let FBI agents play back recordings even as they are being captured (like TiVo), create master wiretap files, send digital recordings to translators, track the rough location of targets in real time using cell-tower information, and even stream intercepts outward to mobile surveillance vans.

FBI wiretapping rooms in field offices and undercover locations around the country are connected through a private, encrypted backbone that is separated from the internet. Sprint runs it on the government's behalf.

The network allows an FBI agent in New York, for example, to remotely set up a wiretap on a cell phone based in Sacramento, California, and immediately learn the phone's location, then begin receiving conversations, text messages and voicemail pass codes in New York. With a few keystrokes, the agent can route the recordings to language specialists for translation.

The numbers dialed are automatically sent to FBI analysts trained to interpret phone-call patterns, and are transferred nightly, by external storage devices, to the bureau's Telephone Application Database, where they're subjected to a type of data mining called link analysis.

FBI endpoints on DCSNet have swelled over the years, from 20 "central monitoring plants" at the program's inception, to 57 in 2005, according to undated pages in the released documents. By 2002, those endpoints connected to more than 350 switches.

Today, most carriers maintain their own central hub, called a "mediation switch," that's networked to all the individual switches owned by that carrier, according to the FBI. The FBI's DCS software links to those mediation switches over the internet, likely using an encrypted VPN. Some carriers run the mediation switch themselves, while others pay companies like VeriSign to handle the whole wiretapping process for them.
Tip to Brilliant at Breakfast for the links.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Ethnic Cleansing American Style

Don't miss Phoenix Woman's post over at Firedoglake concerning the "ethnic cleansing" that is happening in NOLA right now. This is Greg Palast so there is no MSM bullshit involved. Straight skinny and it is guaranteed to piss you off.

Beware of Frankenfood

I grabbed the first couple of paragraphs of an article that everyone concerned about the food that they eat should read. There is also a link a more in-depth look at 65 health risks of GM foods, excerpted from Jeffrey Smith's comprehensive new book Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods that is also a must read.

You may have heard that genetically modified (GM) foods are safe, properly tested, and necessary to feed a hungry world. UNTRUE! Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), introduced into our food supply in the mid-1990s, are one of history’s most dangerous and radical changes in our diet. These largely unregulated ingredients are in 60-70% of the foods in the US, but are well worth efforts to avoid them.

Fortunately, health-conscious retailers, distributors, manufacturers, and growers are now participating in The Campaign for Healthier Eating in America, which will eliminate GMOs from thousands of products. This will make it easier for you to feed your family a healthier “non-GMO” diet and may even end the genetic engineering of the entire US food supply. This industry-wide rejection of GMOs can be achieved by a “tipping point,” in which a sufficient number of shoppers in the US avoiding GM ingredients force the major food companies to stop using them.

Europe reached the tipping point in April 1999 and within a single week, virtually all major manufacturers publicly committed to stop using GM ingredients in their European brands. This consumer-led revolt against GMOs in the EU was generated by a February 1999 media firestorm after a top GMO safety researcher, Dr. Arpad Pusztai, was “ungagged by Parliament” and able to tell this alarming story to the press.Dr. Pusztai was the world’s top researcher in his field and a senior researcher at the prestigious Rowett Institute in Scotland. He had been working on a UK government grant to design long-term testing protocols that were intended to become part of the official European GM food safety assessment process. But when Pusztai fed supposedly harmless GM to rats, they developed potentially pre-cancerous cell growth, smaller brains, livers, and testicles, partially atrophied livers, and a damaged immune system. Moreover, the results clearly indicated that the cause of the problem was due to the unpredictable side effects arising from the process of genetic engineering itself. In other words, it suggested that the GM foods already on the market, which were created from the same process, might also create such effects. When he expressed his concern he was fired from his job after 35 years and silenced with threats of a lawsuit, his 20 member research team was disbanded, the testing protocols were abandoned, and the pro-GM establishment embarked on an extensive disinformation campaign to discredit the study’s results and protect the reputation of GM foods. But when an invitation to testify before Parliament allowed Pusztai to finally tell his story, all hell broke loose.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What'd He Say?

Thankfully it looks to be a slow week this week and that is a good thing. Went to the orthopedic surgeon yesterday about the pain I have been having in both my Achilles tendons especially the right. He took one look at the swollen ankle and shook his head. Achilles tendinitis for which you can do little but rest. So my daily walk is out for who knows how long as is my bicycle. Evidently if you don't treat it and just try and work through the pain you can rupture the tendon and then there is nothing left but surgery. It is probably going to be a chronic problem that I am just going to have to learn to live with. I already struggle with my weight and not being able to walk is going to make that a tougher battle for sure. This getting old stuff is for the birds!

While I am whining...I finally succumbed to the relentless pressure from someone who shall remain nameless and had my hearing checked last Thursday. Not good news on the hearing front either...65-75% hearing loss at the high end of the normal human hearing range but only 10-20% loss on the low end. I can hear but the high frequencies are what give you clarity and the ability to sort out and focus on specific sounds like speech in a noisy room. All those years working in the paper industry have evidently taken their toll. I wore ear protection when needed but it probably only slowed the damage. I am sure the loud music of my youth had nothing to do with it. Anyhow... my hearing aids should be here Thursday.

BTW, If you ever have to buy hearing aids and want the "state of the art" but want them to be discrete and "completely in the canal" instead of those big "behind the ear"things be prepared for a heavy hit to the pocket in thousands apiece. The good news is that with these digital/programmable devices I will have completely normal hearing again. As my Dad used to say about his hearing aid "He could hear a gnat pee on cotton!" and his were the old analog ones that suffered from feedback and all sorts of other problems. We shall see.

The hard of hearing thing reminds me of an old joke...
A man and his hard of hearing wife were pulled over by a policeman. As the cop came up to the driver's window he said "Do you know your were doing 55 in a 45 zone?". The wife piped up and screeched "What'd he say? "He says I was speeding." says the man. "You know you also have a tail light out." says the cop. "What'd he say? " the wife screeched again. "I have a tail light out." he says as he hands the cop his license. "I see you're from Arkansas" says the cop "I had the worst sex of my life there once." "What'd he say? " shrills the woman. "He says he thinks he knows you."

All The Children Left Behind

The Class of 2007 posted the lowest SAT averages in several years, according to scores released this morning. Scores from the second year of an expanded, three-section college-entrance test declined by double digits in Maryland and the District, by five points in Virginia and by seven points nationwide, compared with the previous graduating class.

Education leaders said the modest decline reflected an ever larger and more diverse population of students taking the test. More blacks, Asians and Hispanics took the SAT in this year's graduating class than in any previous class; two-fifths of test takers are now minorities.

This is really not good news and I think it reflects on us all. Everything from the Britney's and Lindsay's to Faux news and the crap you see on TV is obviously not having a positive influence on a large portion of our young folks. The article blames some of this on the increase in minorities and to those for whom English is a second language but I think there is more to it than that.
It used to be that business managers complained about the lack of technical skills in new folks coming into the workforce but in the last few years it has switched to a lack of competency in writing and expressing themselves verbally. I know I see it pretty much everyday just in the email I receive from some of the younger folks I work with. I can only see this getting worse. Not that the SAT scores are the be all and end all of measuring our kids intelligence and ability but they are clearly an indicator.
If you have not seen the video of Miss South Carolina attempting to answer a question at a beauty pageant that is floating around will make you cringe.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Gonzales Gone

Buh-Bye Al. Been a nightmare knowing ya! Week is starting off good so far!

Update: Rumor has it the Chertoff will replace him! If that is the case the it is going to be a real contest to pick the biggest loser of the two. Chertoff and his FEMA buddies are having a hard time accounting for nearly half of their budget. This is a good choice for AG?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Concert for Bangladesh

I watched the video of the concert tonight on PBS and it really brought back some memories. 1971 was the beginning of my realization that what I had been told was real all my life was merely a vague description of reality. The Concert for Bangladesh was a "spiritual" experience for me and it will always loom large in my memory. It was the first such "charity" concert on such a grand scale and by today's standard would be considered an abject failure since it only raised about a quarter of a million dollars. Record and later video and DVD sales added to this but it was still pretty modest.

Eric Clapton was in the throes of his heroin addiction and nearly missed the whole thing but still played the solo to "My Guitar Gently Weeps" to perfection. Bob Dylan did a masterful performance of "Blowing in the Wind" and George Harrison was amazing. Truly a memorable experience. If you have never watched the concert then you should.

That's the Ticket. More Prisons

I guess this is one way to do the job...imprison the whole country.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 24 — The number of detainees held by the American-led military coalition in Iraq has swelled by 50 percent under the troop increase ordered by President Bush, with the inmate population growing from 16,000 in February to 24,500 today, according to American military officers in Iraq.

Nearly 85 percent of the detainees in custody are Sunni Arabs, the minority faction in Iraq that ruled the country under the government of Saddam Hussein, with the other detainees being Shiite Muslims, the officers say.

It kind of looks like we are targeting the Sunnis doesn't it and they are the minority. What a mess!


Last day of training and it will be quite a relief not to have to roll out of bed at 5am every morning and face the traffic to the office, not to mention being out in this heat. Yesterday morning due to some down power lines at a major intersection between me and the office it took me one and a half hours to drive the 14 miles from door to door.

Activity here should return to a more normal state. It is also frustrating working on the office network where a portion of my blog friends are blocked for various reasons and where the network blocks a lot of content such as YouTube.

Everyone have a nice day.

No Worries Says the GOP

As Georgia sets new records for consecutive days of above 100 degree weather and new records for days above 90 degrees and is suffering from a drought that has us with only half of our normal rainfall for the year you will be glad to know that an all Republican (with one exception) committee of our state house has concluded that Global Warming is not real and therefore the State of Georgia should not have to take any action to address it. It just warms the cockles of my heart to know that our elected officials are being so diligent in looking out for our best interests.

Now that the GOP has put all the nasty fears of Global Warming and all the associated nightmares to rest once and for all I think it might be a good time to shop for a little bigger car. I hear there are some pretty good incentives for Suburbans out there. Shame they are going to stop making the Hummer.

Just for the record this is the state that brought you Newt, Bob Barr and Saxby Chambliss.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Could Be True

This email from Joe Trippi is very interesting and probably very close to being correct.

To: Interested Parties
From: Joe Trippi
Re: Karl Rove's Worst Nightmare

You may have seen Karl Rove's recent attacks on Hillary Clinton in the news.

This is a page straight out of his tired old playbook—Rove is attacking Hillary Clinton because he doesn't want John Edwards to win the Democratic nomination.

Rove knows that Democrats will rally around whomever he attacks—so he attacks the candidate he thinks Republicans can most easily defeat.

It may seem backwards, but Rove and his cronies did the same thing last time around. In 2004, they were scared of John Edwards, so they attacked John Kerry.

Don't take it from me—take it from Rove's own lieutenant on the Bush-Cheney 2004 reelection campaign, Matthew Dowd:

"Whomever we attacked was going to be emboldened in Democratic primary voters' minds. So we started attacking John Kerry a lot in the end of January because we were very worried about John Edwards." [Los Angeles Times, 8/19/07]
Rove and the Republicans want our opponents to win—because they know John will be the strongest candidate in the general election.

We may not be the richest campaign—but John is the strongest candidate. This time around, the candidate with the boldest ideas for changing America—the candidate who can take on the special interests in Washington, D.C. and win—is also the most electable. We know it—and the Republicans know it, too.


It is no secret that John is the only Democratic candidate who can beat any of the Republican candidates hands down. Just look at the polls conducted by Rasmussen Reports—a major national polling firm—over the past few months. They show that John is the Democratic candidate who consistently beats all of the Republicans' candidates in head-to-head match-ups in battleground states—and by the widest margins.

Rove and the Republicans are seeing the same numbers we are—and drawing the same conclusions. So Rove is using his sneaky, underhanded tactics to try and trick Democrats into rallying around a candidate who won't be as strong as John in the general election.
A large majority of Dems have already said that won't vote for HC and polls show Edwards has the best chance of getting cross over votes.
It is worth considering.

One Thing That Was Not Our Fault

This is a quote from Bush's speech yesterday. Have you seen anyone in the media other than a blogger call him on it? NPR had such luminaries as Max Boot on yesterday afternoon to "analyze" the speech and none of the "experts" called it the lie it is.
"Whatever your position in that debate, one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens," Mr Bush said, mentioning reprisals against US allies in Vietnam, the displacement of Vietnamese refugees and the massacres in Cambodia under Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge."
The president of the United States is actually blaming his own country for the Cambodian genocide. Just to be clear, Pol Pot's rise to power was enabled by U.S. war policies in SE Asia but it surely wasn't enabled by our withdrawal from Viet Nam and for the record it was the newly created communists who ended the genocide in Cambodia. How can the MSM let Bush get away with this crap?

Desperation Time

Very interesting development coming out of the White House. Seems Ari Fleischer is heading up a group that will be spending big bucks in an ad campaign to cover the President's butt on Iraq. Christy at Firedoglake has all the details but I thought this part was especially interesting.
Mr. Fleischer said the central message of Freedom’s Watch is that “the war in Iraq can be won and Congress must not surrender.” The ads will run as Congress is awaiting the Sept. 15 release of a report from Gen. David Petraeus that will evaluate progress in Iraq.
Christy has dubbed the campaign "Buy George Bush a Legacy" campaign which I think pretty much hits the nail on the head. The thing is that Bush has already built his legacy as the worst president in history it is just that he was hoping for something a little more positive.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Who Needs Healthy Kids?

George the Lesser very much against kids getting needed health care.

Evidently he will not only will the veto congressional efforts to give medical care to more kids, he is going to make it even harder for them to get it under the existing laws.

Talk about a compassionate conservatism. This guy is welding links on to his bad karma chain in double time.

Something to Brighten Your Tuesday

Americans earned a smaller average income in 2005 than in 2000, the fifth consecutive year that they had to make ends meet with less money than at the peak of the last economic expansion, new government data shows.

While incomes have been on the rise since 2002, the average income in 2005 was $55,238, still nearly 1 percent less than the $55,714 in 2000, after adjusting for inflation, analysis of new tax statistics show.

The combined income of all Americans in 2005 was slightly larger than it was in 2000, but because more people were dividing up the national income pie, the average remained smaller. Total adjusted gross income in 2005 was $7.43 trillion, up 3.1 percent from 2000 and 5.8 percent from 2004.

Total income listed on tax returns grew every year after World War II, with a single one-year exception, until 2001, making the five-year period of lower average incomes and four years of lower total incomes a new experience for the majority of Americans born since 1945.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Instant Insanity

I am horribly busy this week along with the commute to and from the office and the all day class room ordeal I have several other things "in the fire" that I am trying to find time to take care of. Trying to catch up with all that is going on and trying to stop in and see what my blog mates are doing is basically an impossible task. If, like me, you need at least 7 or so hours of sleep a night then you have to cut something. In just the short time I have had tonight, (while the chicken roasted) I now know that police departments around the country are having a bullet shortage because of the Iraq war. Hurricane Dean is going to make serious hay in the Yucatan and no one in the main stream media is prepared to admit that Iraq is lost and has been for some time. Is it just me or is the bad news outweighing the good? I know the rule "if it bleeds it leads" but I seem to get the impression that there is just not enough good news with the necessary sex and violence to balance out the bad news that doesn't require sex, at least, to be on the front page.

I think it is obvious that the "good news" folks have a marketing problem and that nudity and gratuitous sex needs to become a focus. Girl Scouts selling cookies is OK but nude Girl Scouts selling cookies is really news.

Heads Down

Training this week so it is going to be pretty quiet in these parts. Have discovered that several of my normal sites to visit each day are blocked by the my company's web interface. Americablog for gay and lesbian content and Why Now? for Games???. I'm going to ask the Dir of IT why this is or is just a robot program. Anyhow taking a quick break for lunch. Might see you guys this evening.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Quick Gazpacho with Fresh Tomatoes

Enigma4ever asked me for a 'fresh tomato' version of Gazpacho so here is a slightly modified version of a recipe that appeared in 'Cooks Illustrated' a few years ago. I usually add a couple of stalks of celery to the recipe as well since I like the added texture. I also add a couple of tablespoons of fresh basil which I finely chop by hand since I always have some in the garden in the summer.

Quick Food Processor Gazpacho

The recipe recommends using Welch's tomato juice for the recipe and it is the best. Traditionally, diners garnish their gazpacho with more of the same diced vegetables that are in the soup, so cut some extra vegetables when you prepare those called for in the recipe.
This recipe makes a large batch but it keeps well in the fridge for a few days.

Makes about 3 quarts, serving 8 to 10
3 ripe medium beefsteak tomatoes or other fleshy tomatoes just make sure they are very ripe (about 1 1/2 pounds), cored and quartered (I like to peel mine but it is not necessary)
2 medium red bell peppers (about 1 pound), cored, seeded, and cut into rough 1-inch pieces
2 small cucumbers (about 1 pound), one peeled and the other with skin on, both seeded and cut into rough 1-inch pieces
1/2 small sweet onion (such as Vidalia, Maui, or Walla Walla) or 2 large shallots, peeled and minced (about 1/2 cup)
2 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons table salt
1/3 cup red wine vinegar

ground black pepper
5 cups tomato juice
1 teaspoon Tobasco sauce (optional)

extra virgin olive oil for serving

1. Process tomatoes in work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade until broken down into 1/4- to 1-inch pieces, about twelve 1-second pulses; transfer to large bowl. Process peppers and cucumbers, separately, until broken down into 1/4- to 1-inch pieces, about twelve 1-second pulses; add to bowl with tomatoes. Add the onion, garlic, salt, vinegar, and ground pepper to taste. Let stand until vegetables just begin to release their juices, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato juice, hot pepper sauce, if using; cover tightly and refrigerate to blend flavors, at least 4 hours and up to 2 days.

2. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper, and serve cold, drizzling each portion with about 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil and with desired garnishes (chunks of veggies, steamed shrimp, chunk of avocado, croutons, etc.). (Can be covered and refrigerated up to 2 days.)

Garlic Bread Bonus
As a bonus here is the secret to great garlic bread. Depending on how much you like garlic take 4 or six peeled cloves of garlic and roast them in a small pan for a few minutes on top of the stove until they soften a little and you can smell them. This light toasting will soften the flavor a bit and you won't have that 'raw' garlic taste. Mash them with a fork and a small amount kosher salt and then blend them with a stick of softened unsalted butter and two teaspoons of good olive oil. You can add a couple of tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese as well, but it is optional. Use the spread on some good French or Italian bread and toast under the broiler. It is amazing what the quick toasting of the garlic does to the flavor. Once you try it this way you will be spoiled.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Afternoon Delight

Look who came by yesterday afternoon for a drink from the birdbath and a little munch on the hosta. I looked up from the kitchen sink and there she was. It is continuing hot and dry here. It must be awful thirsty out to have this lady come out in broad daylight for a drink. Between the birds, chipmunks, squirrels and now deer I am having to fill the two birdbaths in the morning and the late afternoon.
Busy day to day so it will probably be a little quiet around here but I just wanted to share this photo before I forget I took it.

Oh, and if you have any kind of stock or mutual fund investments I advise you not to look at what has happened to them in the last 30 days. Very depressing I must say!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Summer In a Glass

I made another batch of Gazpacho yesterday. Madam had a covered dish luncheon today and elected to take it as her contribution. I, of course, made extra. As I mentioned a while back, you shouldn't miss this time of year when everything is available locally and more importantly very fresh to take advantage of the season's great gifts. Nothing I can think of is more refreshing when the temperature outside is in the triple digits than this ice cold soup. There are recipes everywhere but you don't have to use one. Fresh ripe tomatoes, cucumber, onion. red/green pepper, celery, garlic a dash of Tobasco and some red wine vinegar and salt and fresh herbs to taste. No rules

Throw in some good crusty bread and a cool glass of white wine and you are ready to rock. If you like add some cold steamed shrimp or lump crab meat and you have a glorious, and healthful lunch that will take some of the wilt out of your pinafore.


Horse's Mouth My Ass

If you need any confirmation from the Bush mis-administration on how little they care about what we think, this should put any doubt aside. While we all wait for the "big" September report, not so patiently, each day brings us more news of the carnage in Iraq and the death of more of America's sons and daughters. You know the report that Bush has been telling us we should wait for before making any decisions about what to do next in Iraq. Well, the White House is writing the damn report.

From today's Los Angeles Times:
Despite Bush's repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government.
We knew the general was going to pump sunshine up our kilts but at least he should be allowed to screw us personally. I, for one, am more than a little tired of taking it from Bushco and was looking for a little variety.

It should also be noted that the LA Times buried this huge revelation at the end of the story. Thanks for the heads up guys.

Smile When You Look Up!

If you happen to be one of those who sun bathe in the buff because you have a big tall fence around the pool... might want to reconsider....
The U.S.'s top intelligence official has greatly expanded the range of federal and local authorities who can get access to information from the nation's vast network of spy satellites in the U.S.
The decision, made three months ago by Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell, places for the first time some of the U.S.'s most powerful intelligence-gathering tools at the disposal of domestic security officials. The move was authorized in a May 25 memo sent to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff asking his department to facilitate access to the spy network on behalf of civilian agencies and law enforcement.
Big brother will soon have it so that you cannot have a private moment anywhere. Pretty soon will you not only have to look around before you scratch your private parts but look up as well.

Paybacks Are Hell

With all the news focused on Rove and the gazillion toys being recalled by Mattel I don't want anyone to forget that the real and continuing story is still in Iraq.

A series of bomb attacks killed over 200 Iraqi civilians yesterday. 300 more Iraqis were injured in the attacks:

"We are still digging with our hands and shovels because we can’t use cranes because many of the houses were built of clay," said the mayor. "We are expecting to reach the final death toll tomorrow or day after tomorrow as we are getting only pieces of bodies."

The hits keep coming for our sons and daughters too as another day also brings another wave of American deaths:

[T]he U.S. military reported the deaths of nine more U.S. troops, five of them in a helicopter crash.

The CH-47 Chinook copter went down near Al Taqaddum Air Base during a check flight after undergoing maintenance, the military said. The aircraft did not appear to come under hostile fire, the military said.

The U.S. military also said three U.S. soldiers died from injuries they suffered Monday when an explosion went off near their vehicle in Nineveh province in northern Iraq. And a U.S. soldier was killed Tuesday in western Baghdad, the military said.

The deaths bring to 3,692 the number of American military personnel who have died in the Iraq war. Seven Department of Defense contractors have also been killed. Forty-one U.S. troops have been killed so far in August.

And this from McClatchy:

BAGHDAD — Despite U.S. claims that violence is down in the Iraqi capital, U.S. military officers are offering a bleak picture of Iraq’s future, saying they’ve yet to see any signs of reconciliation between Sunni and Shiite Muslims despite the drop in violence.

Without reconciliation, the military officers say, any decline in violence will be temporary and bloodshed could return to previous levels as soon as the U.S. military cuts back its campaign against insurgent attacks. [...]

[W]hile top U.S. officials insist that 50 percent of the capital is now under effective U.S. or government control, compared with 8 percent in February, statistics indicate that the improvement in violence is at best mixed.

U.S. officials say the number of civilian casualties in the Iraqi capital is down 50 percent. But U.S. officials declined to provide specific numbers, and statistics gathered by McClatchy Newspapers don't support the claim.

The number of car bombings in July actually was 5 percent higher than the number recorded last December, according to the McClatchy statistics, and the number of civilians killed in explosions is about the same.

Each day gets worse as we continue to spiral into hell. There is no salvation for George Bush and his enablers for this. I truly hope that the righteous God that he professes to believe in mets out his appropriate punishment when the time comes. If his God is truly just it will be a horrible thing.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Navajo Code Talker Day

Today is National Navajo Code Talker Day. Without these Native Americans and their sacrifices in WWII things would have been a lot worse. Who knows WWII may have lasted as long as the Iraq disaster. Today is also the anniversary of the Japanese surrender ending WWII.

I took this picture last year on our tour of Monument Valley. This Burger King and it's Code Talker Display is near the entrance to the reservation and the entrance to the Monument Valley National Monument.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sen-nen no Midori

As you can see I am not traveling this week and can spend a little time on the tubes. I also get to do some of the other things that I am deprived of while traveling like cooking, trying to educate myself on and obtain some level of skill with traditional blues on the guitar and enjoying my addiction to Japanese tea(only one of my admitted addictions BTW).

The title of this post is the name of one green tea. Shoju Sen-nen no Midori(Pine Thousand Years of Green) is a style of tea that became popular in the 12th century in Japan and is still enjoyed today. It is what is known as a Matcha tea and is made from Ken-cha tea which is shade grown. It is a powder tea and is one of the teas used in the beautiful tea ceremony. In case you are wondering about the Pine Thousand Years name. It refers to the Zen expression which means that change occurs both when you are attempting to move forward as well as when you are not attempting to move at all. It is a very important concept in Zen as well as being important in becoming a Jedi master. If you remember your Star Wars you will remember Yoda telling young Luke "Do not try, do!"

My personal favorite green tea is Gold Sen-cha. Sen-cha is the most popular type of tea in Japan. Immediately after the leaves are picked, they are steamed, rolled and dried until they become like a green needle. In the summer I take a cup of almost boiling water and steep a heaping teaspoon of leaves for about a minute. I then strain it over a big glass full of ice for a wonderful glass of iced green tea. You can put a bit of honey in it as well if straight up is too bitter for you. You will find that as you drink more the contrast of sweet, bitter and green is best without any additions. If you use fully boiling water it will make the tea more bitter as well.

Anyhow, my bread should be risen by now and ready to be formed into a loaf and it will not wait. I think a big tall glass of iced green tea is in order as well. Then maybe a little guitar practice.

If you have trouble finding quality green tea where you are(they have some good ones at Whole Foods) there is a web site where you can find the best that Japan offers and you can order it. It is Maeda-en. I recommend buying your tea loose and not in "tea bag" form. You will get a much higher quality that way. In Japanese grocery stores you will almost always find a big bin of loose Sen-cha where you can fill your own metal tea box and it is a way to guarantee you are getting the quality of tea you want.

Rove Away Why?

Everybody by now has learned that Karl Rove is planning to slither away from his position as Chief Destroyer of All Things Good and Moral at the end of August. What is bothering me that no one is looking beyond this fact into why, all of a sudden, Bush's right hand man is out of the way.
I personally feel that one of the multiple investigations that has his name tied into it is getting too close and the White House doesn't want him on the payroll when the shit hits the fan. My bet is either the Abramoff scam or the firing of Iglesias investigation is going to nail him. Not only do they not what Rove in the White House but I imagine him being "no longer staff" is believed to be insulation for "the decider" as well.

I have learned the hard way over the last six or so years to never ever take anything from this bunch at face value. Everything has a political motive behind it.

Number 42 With a Bullet!

Wake up and smell the coffee folks!.
A baby born in the United States in 2004 will live an average of 77.9 years. That life expectancy ranks 42nd, down from 11th two decades earlier, according to international numbers provided by the Census Bureau and domestic numbers from the National Center for Health Statistics....

Forty countries, including Cuba, Taiwan and most of Europe had lower infant mortality rates than the U.S. in 2004....

"Even if we focused only on those four things, we would go along way toward improving health care in the United States," Murray said. "The starting point is the recognition that the U.S. does not have the best health care system. There are still an awful lot of people who think it does."
Every time you have some conservative, Faux News junkie tell you you how great the medical care is in this country you can quote this article. The number one focus for the NEXT administration after extricating ourselves from Iraq is a national health care system with a single payer model like the one used in France or some of the Scandinavian countries. The wealthiest(or was) country in the world should not be 42nd in life expectancy and 41st in infant mortality. Absolutely unacceptable! Not to mention embarrassing.

Friday, August 10, 2007

No Tubes

My "Tubes" have been non existent most of the day. Now that they are back I am too sleepy to do any thing but say good night. My electronic thermometer has --.- on it so I guess it is really hot still. Last I looked it was 99.5. Sleep tight and we'll see you in the morning. BTW did you know the expression "sleep tight" came from the days of rope beds where you had some control over the firmness by how tight you pulled the rope that held the mattress.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Just Trust Us! Right!

Winding up my week here in Indianapolis and while waiting for my application to finish another test run I stopped in over at Kos to see what was happening. Kagro-X gives us an example of how we can trust the big Telcos like AT&T not censor content and that we shouldn't be concerned about "net neutrality" because we can trust them to do the right thing. Any time we hear a big corporation tell us to just trust them to do right by the public we should laugh and shake our heads.

According to the band's web site, Pearl Jam's Lollapalooza webcast was censored by sponsor/webcaster AT&T:

When asked about the missing performance, AT&T informed Lollapalooza that portions of the show were in fact missing from the webcast, and that their content monitor had made a mistake in cutting them.

During the performance of "Daughter" the following lyrics were sung to the tune of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" but were cut from the webcast:

  • "George Bush, leave this world alone." (the second time it was sung); and
  • "George Bush find yourself another home."

But really, who cares, right? Just a bunch of DFHs whining about the fact that the world is at the mercy of the worst president in American history. Boo hoo!

But yes, there are larger implications. Even for you. Clean-cut American, working-class hero that you are:

AT&T's actions strike at the heart of the public's concerns over the power that corporations have when it comes to determining what the public sees and hears through communications media.

Aspects of censorship, consolidation, and preferential treatment of the internet are now being debated under the umbrella of "NetNeutrality." Check out The Future of Music or Save the Internet for more information on this issue.

Most telecommunications companies oppose "net neutrality" and argue that the public can trust them not to censor.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Balloon Wednesday

Interesting drive into the client this morning. Coming down from the North along I70 West. There were probably 25 or 30 hot air balloons scattered across the clear morning sky. THe sun was just over the horizon and lit them up in bold contrast to the sharp blue. Beautiful sight. There was even one shaped like a big Pepsi can. The Indiana state fair begins today so that must have something to do with it. Regardless, I just love seeing them drift across the horizon.

Madam reports a scorcher in Atlanta yesterday and another on tap for today. I think it got to 97 here in the heartland but should be a little hotter today. CNN forecast 114F for parts of the central Carolinas which will make some Tarheels stick to the pavement.

Oh, in case you are wondering the theme for the Indiana State Fair this year is guess what? Corn, who would have thought!

Everyone stay cool today.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Is There No End?

Thought I would take a quick break for the rest of the lunch hour and scout around a little bit. A mistake it seems. Things are getting worse in Iraq every day.

Not only is the Bush-backed government falling apart but the American death toll is climbing again. This from Reuters :
Off the battlefield, Iraq's crumbling national unity government was in crisis after five secularist ministers said they would boycott cabinet meetings until Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki addressed demands they first gave him in February.

The move means that 17 ministers, nearly half the cabinet, have now quit or are boycotting government meetings. The main Sunni Arab bloc pulled out last week and ministers loyal to Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr withdrew in April.
Meanwhile, our soldiers continue to bear the brunt of Bush's failed Iraq policy. U.S. deaths are spiking:
August, however, is now on track to be one of the bloodiest months of the year, suggesting a resurgence in militant attacks.

Three U.S. soldiers were killed when a roadside bomb hit their convoy south of TBaghdad on Saturday, the military said, while a soldier was killed in the capital on Monday by a powerful roadside bomb of a type Washington says is being supplied to Shi'ite militias in Iraq by Iran.

Four other soldiers were killed on Monday in Diyala province, where U.S. troops have launched a summer campaign against militants using the area as a staging ground for car bomb attacks in Baghdad.

President George W. Bush has warned that August will be a bloody month for U.S. forces in Iraq as militants try to influence the debate over the war in Washington, where Democrats in Congress want troops pulled out within months.
Yes, we were warned that it would get bad in August as if it was some kind of inevitable fact of life but warning us doesn't make it right or justify it in any way. Each of these deaths both American and Iraqi is just another testament to the idiocy and shallowness of the current administration. They shouldn't be happening at all. None of the 3,679 deaths are justified and none of the 26,000 plus wounded are either. None of the nearly 1 trillion dollars spent are justified and none of the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqi.

It is getting to the point where I am not sure I want to know.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Cannon Fodder

Strange days. I am in a Hilton north of Indy a bit and it is very strange. Evidently there is a big rock concert tomorrow somewhere near so the hotel is well populated with a lot of groupies and others associated with same. There are also a lot 18 year old plus or minus young men wandering around. You know, T-shirts and baggy shorts with flip flops. I asked around and discovered that most of these young men are poised to enter the military tomorrow. Evidently the recruiters have them gather here at the Hilton and put them up for night and treat them to a complimentary buffet in the restaurant before they ship them off to die for George Bush. When I had to report for my service way back in '68 we were told where to be to catch the train to boot camp and if we didn't report we were AWOL. My how times have changed.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Indy Again

Off to Indy again today. According to the paper last night today is supposed to be a zoo at the airport. Based on airline bookings there should be about twice the number of originating passengers at Hartsfield today. Instead of the usual 25,000 or so they are expecting as many as 54,000. There are always a lot of connecting passengers that don't impact security but these are people starting out in Atlanta. That means the security lines will be a nightmare. Even though there are probably 20 lines of metal detectors it is always somewhat backed up. Ought to be a lot of fun. I do have the advantage of going through the premium travelers line which gets me to the front a bit quicker.
Anyhow, I'll check in with the tubes a little bit later in the day. Maybe I won't be so irritated with the Dems for caving in on the FISA thing by then. What a bunch of gutless wimps!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Phoenix is Pretty Good

Saw the latest Harry Potter flick this afternoon and it was good. Definitely not something any fan would want to miss. They left a lot of the book out which as the tomes get heavier and heavier is the price we are going to have to pay to see Harry and Hermione on the big screen.

Also bought the latest book today as Kroger had it at 40% off. Madam will get first crack at it. Looking forward to it as it is getting hard to avoid the spoilers.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Bush Has a Good Idea

Updated below:

This is interesting.

Associated Press
Aug. 3, 2007 09:30 AM

WASHINGTON - President Bush said Friday that Congress must stay in session until it approves legislation modernizing a U.S. law governing eavesdropping on foreigners.

"So far the Democrats in Congress have not drafted a bill I can sign," Bush said at FBI headquarters, where he was meeting with counter terror and homeland security officials. "We've worked hard and in good faith with the Democrats to find a solution, but we are not going to put our national security at risk. Time is short."

The president, who has the power under the Constitution to keep Congress in session, said lawmakers cannot leave for their August recess this weekend as planned unless they "pass a bill that will give our intelligence community the tools they need to protect the United States."
Under Article II. Section 3 he has the Constitutional authority to do so:

Section 3. He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in case of disagreement between them, with respect to the time of adjournment, he may adjourn them to such time as he shall think proper; he shall receive ambassadors and other public ministers; he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed, and shall commission all the officers of the United States.
The question is why was this urgent need to modify FISA only brought up at the end of the session? There, as always with this bunch, has to be some political reason. Is the White House attempting to preempt taking any responsibility for the Minnesota bridge collapse or is just a screen to get Abu Gonzales some breathing room. Could be that they are trying to amend the FISA rules so that they can claim they were legally spying on Americans all this time when the truth actually comes out. Gotta be something other that what it appears to be.

Another question is why would Bush take away his opportunity to make recess appointments and why would he make the GOP members of Congress miss the August recess and the opportunity to do some serious fund raising? The Dems are way ahead in raising money and the GOP needs the opportunity to try and close the gap.

If Bush wants to keep the Congress in session through August then that will just give them more time to work on Articles of Impeachment for Abu and inherent contempt for Miers and Rove.

Seems like a good idea to me.

Update: About the time I posted this seems the actual reason for this sudden rush to amend FISA popped up.

According to the Post, the reason for the administration’s feverish effort to get legislation to expand its surveillance powers under FISA is that earlier this year a FISA Court judge declared a key portion of the administration’s program illegal. The ruling of course was secret. And it seems that until now the White House had kept this information hidden form Congress.

So why are we finding this out now? Well, that’s another interesting story. Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) went on Fox News Tuesday night and discussed the whole thing. But the very existence of the ruling is highly classified. So it seems he publicly revealed highly classified information.

Pretty much what could have been suspected.

Just Waiting to Happen

I hate to say I told you so but here it is in black and blue. The Star Tribune is reporting tonight that the Minnesota Department of Transportation knew the Mississippi River Bridge was in serious need of repair…and didn’t act:

Structural deficiencies in the Interstate 35W bridge that collapsed Wednesday were so serious that the Minnesota Department of Transportation last winter considered bolting steel plates to its supports to prevent cracking in fatigued metal, according to documents and interviews with agency officials.

The department went so far as to ask contractors for advice on the best way to approach such a task, which could have been opened for bids later this year.

Read the whole thing. It’s frightening...and did I mention that the head of the Minnesota Dept. of Transportion is GOP Lieutenant Governor Carol Molnau chosen replacement for GOP Governor Pawlenty. I think some heads should roll for this. How many other bridges in the nation are in the same shape? Do you regularly cross a bridge or bridges in your daily travels? I do and don't think I won't think about this as I do.

Thank You - Mother Nature

Mother Nature hasn't rested while I was off in the heartland. I came home to another good crop of beautiful tomatoes that are calling for possibly an Insalata Caprese or even a nice batch of my favorite Gazpacho. Then again there is the possibility of Pizza Margherita. I must admit that they are starting to exceed my ability to do them all justice since I am traveling all week and Madam just doesn't cook while I am not home. Anyhow, I hope you are getting the chance to enjoy some fresh homegrown tomatoes or at least some locally grown ones from your local farmer's market. This is the season to enjoy them as they won't get any better.

The picture is just a sample of the harvest to show the varieties. If your interested, the two on the right are Granny Cantrell which is a heritage tomato relative of the hybrid beefsteak and a glorious tomato with lots of flesh and a rich taste that screams for a little fresh basil and olive oil. In the back on the left is another heritage variety called Brandywine which is no slouch either when it comes to flavor. The two smaller ones on the left are the old standby Rutgers, a heritage tomato developed by the Campbell Soup Company for its consistent size and flavor and it makes a wonderful marinara or puttanesca sauce. Are you hungry yet?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Doesn't Last Forever

Home safe from the heartland. I mentioned somewhat snarkily (not a word) in my post on the bridge disaster how we could have used some of the money we have spent on killing brown people for no good reason on keeping our infrastructure functional and safe. Well, while I was flying home the intrepid Meteor Blades at DKos did the hard work and documented what I inferred.

It's not just bridges. As the American Society of Civil Engineers Infrastructure Report Card 2005 points out, we're $1.6 trillion behind in infrastructure investment. That, by the way, is the amount of tax cuts Mister Bush tried to get passed in 2001, before he had the Global War on Terrorism™ with which to shape his legacy. Congress "compromised" and gave him only $1.35 trillion, tax cuts that writer Robert Freeman once labeled a "national form of insanity."

What the ASCE's report points out is that bridges aren't our only problem:

Dams (D+) Since 1998, the number of unsafe dams has risen by 33% to more than 3,500. While federally owned dams are in good condition, and there have been modest gains in repair, the number of dams identified as unsafe is increasing at a faster rate than those being repaired. $10.1 billion is needed over the next 12 years to address all critical non-federal dams--dams which pose a direct risk to human life should they fail. ...

Drinking Water (D-) America faces a shortfall of $11 billion annually to replace aging facilities and comply with safe drinking water regulations. Federal funding for drinking water in 2005 remained level at $850 million, less than 10% of the total national requirement. The Bush administration has proposed the same level of funding for FY06. ...

Schools (D) The Federal government has not assessed the condition of America's schools since 1999, when it estimated that $127 billion was needed to bring facilities to good condition. Other sources have since reported a need as high as $268 billion. Despite public support of bond initiatives to provide funding for school facilities, without a clear understanding of the need, it is uncertain whether schools can meet increasing enrollment demands and the smaller class sizes mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act. ...

Transit (D+)Transit use increased faster than any other mode of transportation--up 21%--between 1993 and 2002. Federal investment during this period stemmed the decline in the condition of existing transit infrastructure. The reduction in federal investment in real dollars since 2001 threatens this turnaround. In 2002, total capital outlays for transit were $12.3 billion. The Federal Transit Administration estimates $14.8 billion is needed annually to maintain conditions, and $20.6 billion is needed to improve to "good" conditions. Meanwhile, many major transit properties are borrowing funds to maintain operations, even as they are significantly raising fares and cutting back service. ...

Wastewater (D-) Aging wastewater management systems discharge billions of gallons of untreated sewage into U.S. surface waters each year. The EPA estimates that the nation must invest $390 billion over the next 20 years to replace existing systems and build new ones to meet increasing demands. Yet, in 2005, Congress cut funding for wastewater management for the first time in eight years. The Bush administration has proposed a further 33% reduction, to $730 million, for FY06.

Can I remind you that the tax cuts Bush managed to get from Congress were about 1.35 trillion dollars and that is money we should have been using to keep our house in order. Add to that the already 600 billion dollars we have spent in Iraq and which will grow to over a trillion dollars very soon and the 25 billion in additional farm subsidies to already wealthy farmers and, well you can do the math. I was being a smart ass in the previous post but I really was dead serious. We are going down the wrong path in so many ways I have become convinced that every additional day in office for Bush brings us ten years of recovery effort after he leaves. Note that I am talking about the stuff that has a solution, regardless of how painful and not those that have no solution like Iraq. Iraq adds another dimension to the problem of living out the rest of the century which I fear we as a nation will not do.

Delusional Bulllshit, Exactly!

Time for a bit on the environment and Global Warming. There is an excellent and somewhat strong article by Jeff Goodell in Rolling Stone called "Ethanol Scam."

Here's a taste of what Goodell has to say about the ethanol hype:

This is not just hype -- it's dangerous, delusional bullshit. Ethanol doesn't burn cleaner than gasoline, nor is it cheaper. Our current ethanol production represents only 3.5 percent of our gasoline consumption -- yet it consumes twenty percent of the entire U.S. corn crop, causing the price of corn to double in the last two years and raising the threat of hunger in the Third World. And the increasing acreage devoted to corn for ethanol means less land for other staple crops, giving farmers in South America an incentive to carve fields out of tropical forests that help to cool the planet and stave off global warming.

So why bother? Because the whole point of corn ethanol is not to solve America's energy crisis, but to generate one of the great political boondoggles of our time. Corn is already the most subsidized crop in America, raking in a total of $51 billion in federal handouts between 1995 and 2005 -- twice as much as wheat subsidies and four times as much as soybeans. Ethanol itself is propped up by hefty subsidies, including a fifty-one-cent-per-gallon tax allowance for refiners. And a study by the International Institute for Sustainable Development found that ethanol subsidies amount to as much as $1.38 per gallon -- about half of ethanol's wholesale market price.
We really need to pay attention to the hype around this whole ethanol thing. Big agribusiness and other corporate carnivores are taking the nation to the cleaners with it. We will be very sorry if this whole scam doesn't get squashed for con game it really is. This is a very good source of ammo for those wishing to throw some water on the fire around ethanol.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Bridges and Other Things

Came back from dinner and turned on the TV to the disaster in Minneapolis. Know that bridge well from many trips to the area. Not a good way to end your evening commute. I am sure there will be suggestions of terrorism but I think this is just another example of our failing infrastructure. I mean you can't keep up the maintenance and inspections on all the bridges when you are spending all your money killing brown people in the name of freedom can you. Snarky and unsympathetic to the unfortunate people killed or injured in this tragedy but whether we like it or not it is the truth.

On the lighter side. Found out today the client thinks I should return next week...for what I don't know but they are paying the bills. Anyhow, trying to make a hotel reservation discovered that the Hilton downtown where I normally stay is completely booked and even overbooked. I started looking around and the same applies to every downtown hotel and many others. Turns out the Assembly of God is getting together in Indy next week and evidently there are a lot of 'em. Too bad I couldn't get a room here as I would have had the bar to myself. I did manage to get a room at the Hilton North which mean a commute and no client corporate rate so they will get to pay an extra 80 bucks a night for having me come back.

Out of here tomorrow for the weekend and some rest. Been a hard week and I really pushed thinking I was going to have to get everything done this week. I would have paced myself if I had known I had another week. Now I just have to figure out how to keep myself my busy next week or at least give the appearance of it.