Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve

I don't have any grand thesis like MandT over at Adgitadiaries to bring in the New Year since I can't say it any better. These last few years and last year particularly seem like a bad dream and the coming year may be trying as well since the players are all the same.
I can say that next year is probably the last best chance we as Americans have of recapturing what should be America back from the Christianists and the Corporatists. Let's all make at least one resolution for the New Year and that is to redouble our efforts to effect change.

Happy New Year and Best Wishes for Peace and prosperity in the coming year. Thanks for all of you who stop by here once and a while and leave your thoughts. I look forward to seeing you all in the coming year.


Understanding Next Year

If you want to get your head around what we are facing with respect to the 2008 election and what has happened to our society as a result of the conservative movement and its hold on power then I can highly recommend Lambert's piece at Corrente. This is a comprehensive and definitive dissertation on where we are, where we have been and where we are going with respect to American politics.
If you want to understand what is at stake in the coming year you need to read this post a couple of times and then bookmark it for reference.

I have read it twice this morning and all I can say is that my initial support of Edwards has now distilled into a somewhat desperate support. I had begun to soften a bit and allowed how I could find it in my heart to support Clinton or Obama if it came to it. That, I see now, was just a weakening of my resolve and wishful thinking. We are in a do or die in the next year when it comes to the future of America and it is way past time to get serious. Business as usual is bad business and it is time to recognize that we are in a fight for our lives.

As Atrios says:

Shorter Candidates

Obama: The system sucks, but I’m so awesome that it’ll melt away before me.

Edwards: The system sucks, and we’re gonna have to fight like hell to destroy it.

Clinton: The system sucks, and I know how to work within it more than anyone.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Lost Weekend

Madam and I have had a "lost Sunday. We slept late, had a casual breakfast, casually and thoroughly read the paper and then proceeded to watch any number of movies on DVD. Nothing earthshaking and nothing in danger of an Academy Award but mostly enjoyable movies nonetheless. I won't review all the titles but take my word for it...miss Underdog(which only survived for about 15 minutes).

It has rained all day today here (hooray!) so it was not much of day to be out and so we vegetated. Tomorrow is the last day of the year and my last day of forced vacation. Our sales team closed some great deals in the final hours of 2007 (one of which was the biggest in the company's history) so it looks like I'll have work in the coming year so things are on the straight and narrow. I'll have something more to say about 2007 and 2008 tomorrow but for now it is only one day until the TYOTEOB.(The Year of the End of Bush) and I for one am looking forward to counting the days.

Friday, December 28, 2007

7 Habits

I stole this "lock, stock and barrel" from Perry Garfinkel at Huffpo because I wanted to share it. I at least gave him credit.

Highly Spiritual People Give Rather Than Take.
To give is indeed divine. Some research on altruism suggests people commit selfless deeds precisely because such acts make them feel good, therefore refuting the notion of selflessness. Hogwash. Is breathing selfish? If we didn't give, and give generously, we'd die. I really believe that. Giving is human nature; it's just that we forget our own Spirit-Nature sometimes. Giving can take many forms; simply paying attention to someone is a gift.

They Say Yes More Than They Say No.
Naysayers are a downer. "No" closes our hearts like cholesterol. (Naturally, this excludes saying "No" to drugs or other self-destructive, noxious or illegal behaviors.) "Yes" affirms life. People
always would rather hear yes rather no. Unless it's when you ask your doctor, "Do I have herpes?"

They See Possibilities, Not Problems.
As Shunryu Suzuki writes: "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few." And this may be the only time you hear Norman Vincent Peale quoted right after Suzuki-roshi, but there is something to the power of positive thinking, if not "The Power of Positive Thinking." Spiritual people are optimists. They believe in belief. They are the lemon-to-lemonade folks, the problems-as-opportunites advocates, the positive spin

They Walk A Mile in Your Shoes.
They understand that empathy means feeling another's pain but not so much that they take on others' pain and become another's pain. With that empathy, they tend to know exactly what to say or do for you to make you feel better. In gratitude, we say to them, "You are a saint." Even when we do not mean it literally, it is true -- literally.

They Count Blessings in Small Wonders.
They do not expect Spirit to appear accompanied by fire and brimstone and a big neon sign flashing in the sky. They are not waiting for the Big A-ha. Nor are they waiting for the cure to cancer, the job promotion, or the love of a lifetime. They appreciate the tiny details: the smile of a child, the sparkle in an old person's eyes, the morning's first ray of sunlight. While others have recommended not to sweat the bad small stuff, spiritual people savor the good small stuff.

They Give Compliments Generously, Accept Them with Humility.
There is no limit to people's need for praise and appreciation. I suspect that even Donald Trump deep down is desperate for a compliment. Spiritual people do not see people's "need" for support as a weakness or flaw. They see it as a cry for love, and they comply without hesitation. On the other hand, those who respond to a compliment with grandiose objections and deflections, who cannot accept a compliment with grace, probably feel they are not worthy of it. But they are worthy of it. Even the Don is worthy of it.

They Worship Where and When the Spirit Moves Them.
They don't need a temple or church to practice their spirituality, nor do they need a Sunday morning service at 10 a.m. They don't even need a rabbi or a priest or a lama or sensei. Their spiritual setting is a forest, a beach, a mountain top. Their setting is a movable spiritual feast, for they know the true spiritual setting is within. And it travels with, and within, them wherever they go.

And a year-end bonus:
They Laugh a Lot
Have you noticed? Santa ho-ho-ho's his way down the chimney. The Dalai Lama giggles his way to enlightenment. Alfred E. Neuman has that eternal grin. The Laughing Buddha is, well, laughing. Spiritual people are happy. Not just the smiley-face kind of happy, but the deep-down-content kind of happy. If you have trouble getting to happy, try this trick I learned years ago from no less a sage source than the musical "Bye Bye Birdie": "Just put on a happy face." The act of smiling alone triggers a happy hormonal shift, from "gloomy mask of tragedy" to "spreading sunshine all over the place." And what could be more spiritual than that?

How Low Can They Go?

Here is the CNN headline....Did Hillary Clinton Kill Benazir Bhutto? Jane at FDL has more with a H/T to Rox Populi

It is actually shameful that our traditional media can stoop so low. I guess it is not too surprising since we get this from the NY Times.

On Thursday evening, officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin to local law enforcement agencies informing them about posts on some Islamic Web sites saying that Al Qaeda was claiming responsibility for the attack, and that the plot was orchestrated by Ayman al-Zawahri, the group’s second-ranking official.

One counterterrorism official in Washington said that the bulletin neither confirmed nor discredited these claims. The official said that American intelligence agencies had yet to come to any firm judgments about who was responsible for Ms. Bhutto’s death.

They don't really care what the truth is as long as they can use the news to further the idea that Al-Qaeda is responsible for everything bad and that if we don't continue to fund Bush's adventure then the dirty Muslims will be here in no time to rape your daughters and turn your sons into towel heads.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto Assassinated In Pakistan

From Reuters:

Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated Thursday in a suicide attack that also killed at least 20 others at a campaign rally, aides said.

“The surgeons confirmed that she has been martyred,” Bhutto’s lawyer Babar Awan said.

A party security adviser said Bhutto was shot in neck and chest as she got into her vehicle to leave the rally in Rawalpindi near the capital Islamabad. A gunman then blew himself up.

Nothing out of the White House yet, but this is a bad situation. It'll be interesting to see how they handle it. There are already predictions that Musharraf will invoke martial law again and cancel elections. Bush and company have dumped billions into Pakistan without any strings attached and have absolutely nothing to show for it. The military is controlling the country and is more than likely behind the attack on Bhutto. This assassination is the final straw and leaves the U.S. nothing to look forward to in Pakistan. It is going to get bad there.

Single Payer Here We Come

For those of us rapidly approaching age 65 this is not welcome news. I, for one, fully expect to have to work several years after age 65 and possibly beyond 70 if my health permits. I would have said something different 10 years ago but after what the GOP and Bush have done to the economy over the last 8 - 10 years The outlook for retirement is pretty grim. First, the Bush economy or lack thereof has put the brakes on what I have put away for retirement and now I am just hoping to hold the line. Secondly, I fully expect a recession in 2008 if not a full blown depression that will carry over into 2010... so things aren't going to get any better.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Wednesday that employers could reduce or eliminate health benefits for retirees when they turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare.

The policy, set forth in a new regulation, allows employers to establish two classes of retirees, with more comprehensive benefits for those under 65 and more limited benefits — or none at all — for those older.

More than 10 million retirees rely on employer-sponsored health plans as a primary source of coverage or as a supplement to Medicare, and Naomi C. Earp, the commission’s chairwoman, said, “This rule will help employers continue to voluntarily provide and maintain these critically important health benefits.”

Premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance rose an average of 6.1 percent this year and have increased 78 percent since 2001, according to surveys by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Because of the rising cost of health care and the increased life expectancy of workers, the commission said, many employers refuse to provide retiree health benefits or even to negotiate on the issue.

I read this as saying that at age 65, even if I am still employed, my employer will not have to provide any health care coverage and I will be solely at the mercy of Medicare and whatever else I can get with a limited income.

But this isn't all bad news. I can also see this as another symptom of the move toward a single payer health insurance system. If the big employers are now seeing moving people toward a government run insurance system as necessary for continued competitiveness then single payer health care is on the way.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Welcome to The Third World

Is it just me or have we gradually been slipping to the level of a third-world country in many repsects? Not that I watch the traditional media that much but you would think Oprah or somebody would have done a show about this or that we would have had an article or two in the newspaper(which I do read).

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Roundworms may infect close to a quarter of inner city black children, tapeworms are the leading cause of seizures among U.S. Hispanics and other parasitic diseases associated with poor countries are also affecting Americans, a U.S. expert said on Tuesday.

Recent studies show many of the poorest Americans living in the United States carry some of the same parasitic infections that affect the poor in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, said Dr. Peter Hotez, a tropical disease expert at George Washington University and editor-in-chief of the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Writing in the journal, Hotez said these parasitic infections had been ignored by most health experts in the United States.

“I feel strongly that this is such an important health issue and yet because it only affects the poor it has been ignored,” Hotez said via e-mail.

Just another symptom of a country without a single payer health care system where everyone has access to proper health care.

No Middle Ground

Paul Krugman has an excellent post up today over at Slate. He basically explains what he thinks the Democrats need to do win decisively next year and what they need to do afterwards. I agree with him 100%.
Here are the last couple of paragraphs...

I like to remind people who long for bipartisanship that FDR's drive to create Social Security was as divisive as Bush's attempt to dismantle it. And we got Social Security because FDR wasn't afraid of division. In his great Madison Square Garden speech, he declared of the forces of "organized money": "Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred."

So, here's my worry: Democrats, with the encouragement of people in the news media who seek bipartisanship for its own sake, may fall into the trap of trying to be anti-Bushes—of trying to transcend partisanship, seeking some middle ground between the parties.

That middle ground doesn't exist—and if Democrats try to find it, they'll squander a huge opportunity. Right now, the stars are aligned for a major change in America's direction. If the Democrats play nice, that opportunity may soon be gone.

Happy Boxing Day

Today is Boxing Day, our friends in the UK have this additional holiday the day after Christmas. It is a supposed to celebrate the day when the feudal lords made gifts to their serfs and when the contents of the church poor boxes are distributed to the needy.

In the U.S. this is the day when all the unwanted gifts are returned to the stores and the bargain hunters are out to pick over the bones of the retailers.

It is also St. Stephen's Day in honor of the first Christian martyr.

Whatever, I am still on my forced vacation but I won't be near the malls. Got a few little "honey do" chores on the agenda but nothing else is pressing. How about you?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Day

Santa has come and gone and I have my lump of coal. How about you? We woke to rain this morning...just a few degrees cooler and we would have had a white Christmas.
Everyone chill, have some more eggnog and maybe another piece of fruitcake or pannetone. Ham sandwich might be nice too! Play with your new toys or maybe even with your SO.

Ho, Ho, Ho!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

Mele Kalikimake!

Merry Christmas to all or Happy Holidays if your prefer. Should be a pretty quiet holiday around old Monk Hall this year. We had our little dinner party and did some decorating.
I'll spend part of the day baking and cooking as our friends that lost their son last week will be returning from the burial in Kentucky later today and we'll have a Christmas dinner for them to have tomorrow. They'll have a lot of family to feed for this not so joyous holiday and no time in which to prepare anything. Cheating a bit as we are going to let Publix provide the turkey breast, dressing and mashed potatoes. I'll bake a pumpkin pie and make some of my tasty sweet potatoes and some green beans with pearl onions.

Madam and I will go up and visit with the daughter tomorrow for a few hours. For that event it will be a very untraditional beef stew that I will start today since the beef has to marinate in red wine and aromatic veges overnight. It is kind of a cross between sauerbraten and traditional beef stew. It is interesting because you finish it with baby mushrooms that are fried in butter and added at the last moment along with crispy lardon made from pancetta. I created the recipe a couple of years ago while cooking for a Christmas party while staying with friends in the UK and there I had some very nice venison to use. Not available here typically but it is raised domestically over there especially in the North and makes great stews.

Anyhow, I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday. Drink responsibly and stay off the roads if you do imbibe. Remember also that calories don't count from midnight last night until midnight Boxing day as they take the holidays off too!

Update: I added the picture taken from the kitchen window on Christmas morning 2004 while staying with the above mentioned friends in Eyam, Derbyshire, UK. I thought a view of a white Christmas would be nice.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

First Day of Winter

I hope the weather is not too bad where you are today. It is the first day of winter and Christmas weekend is officially here. Madam and I had a little dinner party last night for some friends and I am afraid both of us might have had a glass too many of wine. Both of us are a little fuzzy this morning. The dinner was very nice if I do say so myself and having it caused Madam to decorate for the holidays a bit so we are somewhat decorated.

It actually rained here last night as well so we are doubly blessed. I hope everyone has a nice quiet day and whatever you do don't go near a shopping mall. It is insane.

Happy Humpback Christmas

Some good Christmas news for the humpback whales in the neighborhood. It was a bad idea in the first place as whale meat is no longer popular in Japan and the younger population there have come to see whaling in a bad light. Now all we have to do is get Norway signed up.

Japan has suspended its first humpback whale hunt in seas off Antarctica since the 1960s, its government said yesterday, backing down in an escalating international battle over the expansion of its hunt.

Japan dropped the planned taking of 50 humpbacks at the behest of the United States, which chairs the International Whaling Commission (IWC), said Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura. He said the suspension would last a year or two but that there would be "no changes" to Japan's stance on research whaling itself.

photo credit National Geographic

Friday, December 21, 2007

Winter Cheer

I don't have any cats for Friday cat blogging so I though I would substitute dogs. More winter humor.

Just Dessrts

Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of folks.

RICHMOND, Va. — Electronics retailer Circuit City Stores Inc. on Friday reported a wider-than-expected loss for the third quarter, driven by lower extended warranty sales and restructuring costs.

Shares of the nation's second biggest consumer electronics retailer tumbled 22 percent in morning trading.

"We are very dissatisfied with our third-quarter results," said Philip J. Schoonover, chairman, president and chief executive, in a statement. Schoonover said he believes the issues are "primarily self-induced" and within the company's control to improve.

The results came three days after larger rival Best Buy Co. reported its third-quarter profit jumped 52 percent, ahead of analyst expectations for the Richfield, Minn., retailer.

Two Points

You can try and put lipstick on the economic pig that is out there. You can dismiss the significance of the massive losses on Wall Street but there are a few screaming warning signs that tell the story. We won't know for a few months the complete story on how badly mismanaged the US economy has been during the Greenspan/Bush reign but here are a couple of hints.
While the company has been in business for 72 years, Morgan Stanley posts first ever quarterly loss.
Even during the Great Depression they did not report a loss but Bear Stearns has reported its first ever loss in 84 years.
These are harbingers of things to come. It is going to get nasty.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I Am a Pagan

Since the Christmas holiday was originally a pagan holiday and the Christians adopted it in an attempt to suppress the ancient religions I thought it might be appropriate to post Selena Fox's poem "I Am a Pagan". This should get you into the true spirit of the holidays! Note also that Saturday the 21 st and 22nd marks the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere(depending on where you are) which is a high pagan holiday. Finally, this (Dec 20) is the anniversary of Carl Sagan's passing in 1996 and I consider him a high priest of paganism and I don't think he would disagree. It is also very Zen.

I am a Pagan.
I am a part of the whole of Nature.
The rocks, the animals, the plants, the elements are my relatives.
Other humans are my sisters and brothers, whatever their races, colors, ages, nationalities, creeds, or sexual preferences.
The earth is my Mother and the sky is my Father.
The sun and moon are my Grandparents, and the stars my ancestors.
I am part of this large family of Nature, not the master of it.
I have my own special part to play and I seek to play that part to the best of my ability.
I seek to live in harmony with others in the family of Nature, treating others with respect, not abuse...

I am a Pagan.
I pay attention to the seasons within myself - of beginnings, growth, fruition, harvest, endings, rest, and beginnings again.
Life is a Circle with many cycles...

I am a Pagan.
I acknowledge that the Divine is everywhere in the energy of life.
I am Animistic. I sense the life force in the oak tree on the hill, in the herbs in the garden, in the birds singing at my window, in the boulders on the hill, in myself, and yes, even in "things"such as my car and computer.
I understand that everything has its physical and non-physical aspects. The physical and spiritual are deeply intertwined, not separate, and one is not better than the other.

I am a Pagan.
My worship is one of communion, not groveling.
I share my views with others when I sense it is right, but I do not proselytize - there are many ways, not one way, of spiritual growth.
My holy places are under the open sky ... in the Stone Circle in the oak grove on the top of the mound ... on the Vision Rock on the high cliff ... in the Garden in the fields ... in the Sweat lodge by the stream ... by the clear pool of the Sacred Spring ... in the Rainbow Cave in the valley.
Yet my worship can be anywhere ... my magick circle is portable.
I can call to the four quarters, to the earth and sky, and to the central spirit point wherever I may be.

I am a Pagan.
I journey to the Otherworld in my dreams, my meditations... I fly with my consciousness through time and space.
I return with insights.
I go between the worlds for healing, growth, and transformation.
Psychic perception is a natural, not supernatural, part of my daily life.

I am a Pagan.
I attune myself to the four elements of Nature - Earth, Air, Fire, Water - and to the fifth element, Spirit, which is the force that connects all.
I see these elements as parts of my self - my physical body is my earth, my intellect my air, my will my fire, my emotions my water, and my inner self is my spirit.
I endeavor to keep myself healthy and in balance in all these parts of Self.

I am a Pagan.
I hear the cries of Mother Earth.
I see the pollution of the air, the soil, and the waters.
I see the games being played by nations with the fire of nuclear weapons.
I see spiritual pollution, too - selfishness, hatred, greed for money and power, despair.
I sense these things, but I sense, too, a cleansing, healing energy manifesting on the planet at this time.
I know that I can help bring the planet into greater balance by seeking balance in my own life.
I know that my attitudes and my way of living can make a difference.
I endeavor to be a channel for healing and balance.

I am a Pagan.

Why So Many?

This is silly but I have been stewing on this since yesterday when I had to run to CVS for some things. I travel so much and spend so much time in hotels that I rarely have to buy things like shampoo. I finally used up the regular bottle of shampoo I use on weekends at home so shampoo was on my list. I was amazed at the variety of shampoo on the shelf...there must have been hundreds. All of a sudden the rainbow of bottles and flavors just leaped out at me as a perfect symbol of the absurdity of what we have become in this country.

Is there really a need for so many varieties of shampoo. Are we all so particular and different that we need some special quality in a shampoo? Can't the chemical companies or whoever get it right? They can't take all the different formulations(if there are any) and come up with the best shampoo that they can make? Can't they make a shampoo that cleans your hair as well as it can be cleaned and just leave it at that. I'll even let them make one with conditioner and one without. Surely, if they just had to produce one or two shampoo's they could save a lot of money on production and advertising and we could all get a good shampoo for a reasonable price.

While I am at it...what is the deal with toothpaste? Can't Colgate and P&G make a single good toothpaste that is the best toothpaste they can make. Maybe offer it in mint and cinnamon but do they have to make it such a bewildering mess to choose a toothpaste? I just want the best toothpaste modern science can make and that's all.

There, I got that off my chest.

Celebrate the New Energy Bill

Here is a little more Holiday cheer. This is in honor of the new Energy Bill Shrub signed yesterday.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Well, Shrub signed the pathetic energy bill today and is taking credit for making sweeping changes in environmental policy. Not too sweeping actually. You see the Chinese passed mileage standards for their vehicles four years ago that are more aggressive than our new "sweeping" ones and they apply to individual vehicles not fleet averages like ours. Did I mention that theirs go up to 38 mpg next year. The automakers are very happy with our delayed requirements and Big Oil is really tickled especially since we didn't remove their 13 billion in tax breaks either. Oh yeah, Big Oil and Big Coal, and Big Chemical won this energy bill big time.

Let's review what happened with the energy bill:

  1. The House and Senate each voted through energy bills. The Senate's had a CAFE boost and a Renewable Fuel Standard; the House's had a Renewable Energy Standard and a tax package to take subsidies from oil companies and give them to renewable energy.
  2. Nancy Pelosi battled for months with John Dingell, finally securing his support for a CAFE increase.
  3. The House then passed a bill that had all the provisions in it -- CAFE, RFS, RES, and tax package.
  4. The White House threatened a veto. Republican Senators whined.
  5. Reid put the bill up for a vote; it failed.
  6. Reid stripped out the RES but not he tax package and put it up for another vote -- it failed 59-41 to overcome a filibuster threat.
  7. Reid stripped out the tax package and passed the bill more or less the way the Senate originally passed it: CAFE an RFS.

The White House's sole involvement in this process was to threaten Nancy Pelosi, vowing to veto any bill that didn't do exactly what Shrub's idiot "20 in 10" plan does, and no more. Republicans in Congress, as they have for seven long years now, went along lockstep with his wishes. The American people and the world loses another. We will have to wait until TEOB (The End of Bush) before we have a chance at any meaningful energy package. Once more the worst President in history has made his mark and it sucks.

Christmas Around the World

As public service and at the risk of not being politically is how you say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in some other languages. Some are a mouthful.

(Albanian) - Gezur Krislinjden
(Argentine) - Feliz Navidad Y Un Prospero Ano Nuevo
(Armenian) - Shenoraavor Nor Dari yev Pari Gaghand
(Bohemian) - Vesele Vanoce
(Brazilian) - Feliz Natal e Prospero Ano Novo
(China - Cantonese) - Gun Tso Sun Tan'Gung Haw Sun
Sing Dan Fai Lok

(China - Mandarin) - Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan
Sheng Dan Kuai Le

(Croatian) - Sretan Bozic
Èestit Boiæ i sretna Nova godina

(Czech) - Prejeme Vam Vesele Vanoce a stastny Novy Rok
(Danish) - Gledlig jul og godt Nytt Aar
(Dutch) - Vrolijk Kerstfeest en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar
Dutch (Netherlands) - Prettig Kerstfeest
(Filipinos) - Maligayang Pasko
(Finnish) - Hauskaa Joulua
Hyvää joulua ja Onnellista uutta vuotta
(French) - Joyeux Noël et heureuse année
(Gaelic-Irish) - Nolag mhaith Dhuit Agus Bliain Nua Fe Mhaise
(Gaelic-Scot) - Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Mhath Ur
(German) - Frohe Weihnachten und ein glückliches neues Jahr
(Greek) - Kala Khristougena kai Eftikhes to Neon Ethos
(Hawaiian) - Mele Kalikimake me ka Hauloi Makahiki hou
(Hebrew) - Mo'adim Lesimkha
(Hindi) - Shubh Christmas
(Hungarian) - Kellemes Karacsonyi unnepeket
Boldog Karacsonyl es Ujevl Unnepeket

Kellemes Karacsonyt Es Boldog Uj Evet
(Icelandic) - Gledileg jol og farsaelt komandi ar
Gledlig jol og Nyar

(Indonesia) - Selamat Hari Natal
Selamah Tahun Baru

(Iraqi) - Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah
(Irish) - Nollaig Shona Duit
(Irish) - Nodlaig mhaith chugnat
(Italian) - Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo
Buone Feste Natalizie
Buon Natale e felice Capodanno

(Japanese) - Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto
(Korean) - Chuk Sung Tan
Sung Tan Chuk Ha.

(Lithuanian) - Linksmu Kaledu
linksmu sventu Kaledu ir Laimingu Nauju Metu

(Norwegian) - God Jul Og Godt Nytt Aar
(Peru) - Feliz Navidad y un Venturoso Año Nuevo
(Philippines) - Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon
(Polish) - Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia i szczesliwego Nowego Roku
(Portuguese) - Boas Festas e Feliz Ano Novo
Feliz Natal e propero Ano Novo

(Romanian) - Sarbatori Fericite. La Multi Ani
(Russian) - S prazdnikom Rozdestva Hristova i s Novim Godom
(Serbian) - Hristos se rodi
(Serb-Croatian) - Sretam Bozic. Vesela Nova Godina
(Spanish) - Feliz Navidad y prospero Año Nuevo
(Swedish) - God Jul Och Gott Nytt År
(Turkish) - Noeliniz Ve Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun
Yeni Yilnizi Kutar, saadetler dilerim
(Ukrainian) - Srozhdestvom Kristovym
(Vietnamese) - Mung Le Giang Sinh. Cung Chuc Tan Nien
(Welsh) - Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda
(Yugoslavian) - Cestitamo Bozic

Winter Cheer

In honor of Altanta being named number one in robbery nationwide.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

More Humanity

New Jersey has banned the death penalty!

In signing the bill, Gov. Jon Corzine called it a “momentous day” and made the Garden State the first state to ban capital punishment since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated it in 1976.

Corzine on Sunday commuted the sentences of eight men sitting on the state’s death row. They will now serve life in prison without parole, according to the governor’s office.

“It’s a day of progress for the state of New Jersey and for the millions of people across our nation and around the globe who reject the death penalty as a moral or practical response to the grievous, even heinous, crime of murder,” Corzine said.

This is a super "Christmas present". Of course, there are still a lot of states left to come out of the dark ages and there is still the question of my country torturing people but this is definitely a positive thing.

Down the Rat Hole

There is something deeply wrong in this country and a very clear example of it is displayed rather clearly in the growth of the defense budget. It is absolutely staggering. When you put it up against all of the things in this country and the world that could be solved with just a bit of money it makes my blood boil. Health Insurance, hunger, education, infrastructure decay, homelessness and myriad more are just sitting there waiting for the money that is being frittered away on defense and we are not talking about the 10 billion a month being wasted in Iraq and Afghanistan either.

Lorelei Kelly of Democracy Arsenal puts it all in perspective. Again not counting the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan:

Last week, both houses of Congress approved the conference report on the Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Authorization bill, H.R. 1585. The bill includes $506.9 billion for the Department of Defense and the nuclear weapons activities of the Department of Energy....The amount of Cold War lard is truly astonishing, especially given the fact that the military itself is hollering from the hilltops that it can't be responsible for all of our national security needs and that today's problems just don't have military (read "Cold War weapons systems") answers.

....Keep in mind, today's defense spending is 14% above the height of the Korean War, 33% above the height of the Vietnam War, 25% above the height of the "Reagan Era" buildup and is 76% above the Cold War average

In fact, since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the annual defense budget — not including the costs of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan — has gone up 34%. Including war costs, defense spending has gone up 86% since 2001.

The golden question is defense against whom? Are we spending all this money trying to defend ourselves from a bunch of rag tag Muslim extremists? How much does the bill for "Homeland Security" add to the pile?

h/t Kevin at Washington Monthly

Something Positive

Senator Dodd spent 10 hours on the floor of the Senate yesterday in spite of the 76 to 10 cloture vote to grant immunity to the telecoms for the unwarranted spying on Americans since before 9/11. Harry Ried finally pulled the bill until we have a stay. Thank you Senator Dodd.

Thanks to the 10 Democratic Senators who stood up for our Fourth Amendment rights yesterday.
Boxer - California
Brown - Ohio
Cantwell - Washington
Cardin - Maryland
Dodd - Connecticut
Feingold - Wisconsin
Harkin - Iowa
Kerry - Massachussetts
Menendez - New Jersey
Wyden - Oregon

The other 76 Senators who voted to ignore your rights under the Fourth can go to hell.

Christmas Fallout

Not a good day yesterday. We found out that the only son of friends committed suicide Sunday. As you can imagine they are totally destroyed. I didn't know this but evidently the relatives are responsible for cleaning the scene. Since this was a large caliber incident and there is a mess, I spent the afternoon yesterday helping them by locating companies that are certified to do this kind of work. Surprisingly, there are quite a few.

It always seems that the holiday season increases this kind of thing. This is the second suicide in as many days where we new the family. Anyhow, today I will make a big batch of leek and potato soup for the family and all the relatives that are coming in. In the south the first thing that happens when there is a death in the family is that people start bringing in food and neighbors start organizing meals.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Good News on Cancer?

GlaxoSmithKline may be onto something very good:

GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s drug Tykerb, in an unexpected finding, cut the number of breast cancer stem cells by half in 30 patients, and two-thirds were cancer free after follow-up treatment with other therapies.

The finding, reported today at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in Texas, supports the newest theory in cancer, that a tiny number of stem cells lurking within tumors are the driving force that fuels their growth. Researchers from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston said the finding may be a first step toward changing the way cancer is treated.

This seems like great news for breast cancer victims and maybe others with cancer.

Dan Fogelberg RIP

We lost the physical Dan Fogelberg yesterday morning, He died quietly at home in Maine with his wife.
Seems appropriate that we remember him with the lyrics to one of his songs about the season.

Same Old Lang Syne
Met my old lover in the grocery store
The snow was falling Christmas Eve
I stole behind her in the frozen foods
And I touched her on the sleeve

She didn't recognize the face at first
But then her eyes flew open wide
She went to hug me and she spilled her purse
And we laughed until we cried.

We took her groceries to the checkout stand
The food was totalled up and bagged
We stood there lost in our embarrassment
As the conversation dragged.

We went to have ourselves a drink or two
But couldn't find an open bar
We bought a six-pack at the liquor store
And we drank it in her car.

We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to now
And tried to reach beyond the emptiness
But neither one knew how.

She said she'd married her an architect
Who kept her warm and safe and dry
She would have liked to say she loved the man
But she didn't like to lie.

I said the years had been a friend to her
And that her eyes were still as blue
But in those eyes I wasn't sure if I saw
Doubt or gratitude.

She said she saw me in the record stores
And that I must be doing well
I said the audience was heavenly
But the traveling was hell.

We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to now
And tried to reach beyond the emptiness
But neither one knew how.

We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to time
Reliving in our eloquence
Another 'auld lang syne'...

The beer was empty and our tongues were tired
And running out of things to say
She gave a kiss to me as I got out
And I watched her drive away.

Just for a moment I was back at school
And felt that old familiar pain
And as I turned to make my way back home
The snow turned into rain --

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I Asked For It.

Well, I whined about the weather last week. Complained about the 70's. Today it never crawled above 38 and the wind is pretty much constant. The front did bring in some rain yesterday and at times it was pretty heavy. The weather folks say had .93 inches yesterday which is nice. Tonight will see the low twenties. Pretty radical change from just two days ago.

Madam and I are off to see a Celtic Christmas Music thing at Emory U. tonight. The chill in the air should make it seem more the season. I have a hard time keeping positive this time of year. I enjoy things about the holiday but a lot of the really special stuff seems to have gone away. Not having a lot of immediate family left is a big part of it I guess but there is also a sense of panic or something that I see in everyone that really brings me down. Gotta buy, gotta have.

Spent the better part of the afternoon taking the PC out of Madam's work room. She wasn't using it and it was just cluttering up her desk. Still a nice Dell P4 with a good sized HD. I guess it will go to Goodwill or something. If anyone needs a good PC speak up. I did wipe the hard drive to nothing using the internal ATA security erase so it is spanking clean. I did learn something today about hard drives. All of the recent drives made over the last few years have an internal security erase built in that is normally disabled by the system bios. There is a freeware utility that will let you use it (HDDerase) and it meets all standards for wiping a disk and is actually more secure than many of the programs that just overwrite everything. Cool.

Anyhow, gotta go get dressed for the show. Hope the rest of your weekend is nice.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Shopping = Bad Idea

I had to go get some new shoes today(Madam required). So the New Balance store is over by the big North Point Mall in one of the satellite shopping strips. Mission accomplished with minimum pain and even took a turn through Crate&Barrel which was a couple of doors away.

Madam then sprung the trap. Since we are so close let's look in the mall for I don't know what. We went to the mall! Not pretty and not rewarding (well the Victoria's Secret window was nice). Anyhow we survived it with no broken bones and managed to find the couple of must have things that justified braving the crowds for (A "Pink Cadillac" dish thingy for the Elvis bedroom(yes we have one) and a sticker that says "Elvis Presley Blvd". I can live with having the sticker since that is the street in Memphis where I got my one and only lifetime ticket( for doing 35 in a 30 zone). Laugh if you want.

Anyhow, that was the Christmas mall experience and I am just glad it is all over. The only problem I have now is the special on the Nikon D40x SLR with a pair of Nikon zoom lenses they have at Wolf/Ritz Camera. Must be strong.

Some Good News

This is a very good sign and makes for a bright piece of news to end the week.

BALI, Indonesia (CNN) -- The United States made a dramatic reversal Saturday, first rejecting and then accepting a compromise to set the stage for intense negotiations in the next two years aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions worldwide.

The U.N. climate change conference in Bali was filled with emotion and cliff-hanging anticipation on Saturday, an extra day added because of a failure to reach agreement during the scheduled sessions.

The final result was a global warming pact that provides for negotiating rounds to conclude in 2009.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the pact "a good beginning." "This is just a beginning and not an ending," Ban said. "We'll have to engage in many complex, difficult and long negotiations."
While rhetoric at such conferences is often just words, a short speech by a delegate from the small developing country of Papua New Guinea appeared to carry weight with the Americans. The delegate challenged the United States to "either lead, follow or get out of the way."

Friday, December 14, 2007

What Do The Have On Reid?

Should be an interesting day in the Senate. Supposedly, Harry Reid will bring a FISA fix bill to the floor today, this is supposed to be a bill that corrects some of the worst problems with the Protect America Act. That's the bill that Congress rushed through last August just before recess because of some fake "threats" supposedly by al Qaeda.

Here is the deal. Yesterday, the Senate received a closed door briefing from DNI McConnell, and AG Mukasey. I can't imagine what kind of sunshine was pumped up kilts by McConnell and Mukasey in order to scare the Senators this time? What dire calamity will befall America if the Telcos don't get retroactive immunity? Maybe Osama will steal Christmas. The administration is dead set on granting retroactive immunity to the Telcos and I can imagine will do anything to keep the whole story on the back burner.

The show is all about Telco immunity this time and the choice is Harry Reid's. He has a choice of which of two bills he can bring to the floor. The Intelligence Committee reported out their "fix" of the bill which includes Telco amnesty. The Judiciary Committee reported one that doesn't include it.

Fourteen members of Reid's caucus, including all of the presidential candidates, are on record expressly asking Reid to to make the FISA bill passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) the base bill to be considered on the Senate floor. That's the one that doesn't include amnesty. Or he can bring the bill that the administration wants to the floor that will be more likely to keep the record of illegal spying by this administration hidden from the courts.

Word has it that Reid is going to reject the request of his fellow Democrats, and bring Telco amnesty to the floor in the form of the Intelligence Committee bill. I have absolutely no idea why he thinks this is a good idea. Remember that Chris Dodd has stated his intent to place a hold on any amnesty bill, and even mount a potential filibuster by his own caucus. Reid intends to offer the Judiciary bill as an amendment to Intelligence committee bill which pretty much means it will fail. You really have to ask yourself whose side Reid is on.

Here's what the NYT editorial page has to say:

Mr. Bush, of course, wants fewer, not more, restrictions and wants those powers to be made permanent. He also wants amnesty for telecommunications companies that gave Americans’ private data to the government for at least five years without a warrant.

Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, seems intent on doing the president’s bidding. He has indicated that instead of the Judiciary Committee’s bill, he may put on the floor a deeply flawed measure from the Senate Intelligence Committee that dangerously expands the government’s powers and gives undeserved amnesty to the telecommunications companies. The White House says amnesty is intended to ensure future cooperation but seems truly aimed at making sure the public never learns the extent of the companies’ involvement in illegal wiretapping.

That will leave Democratic senators like Christopher Dodd and Russ Feingold in the absurd position of having to stage filibusters against their own party’s leadership to try to forestall more harm to civil liberties.

If Reid does go this way he will not only be going against Feingold and Dodd but also be going against Senators Biden, Clinton, and Obama, all of whom promised to support Dodd's filibuster, if it became necessary.

I have a real fear that Reid is not going to stand up to Shrub on this and I would sure like to know why. We need some real leadership in the Senate and this would be a good place to start.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Not Positive

Somewhat in a bad mood today. The lack of action on the part of the Dems in Congress, Bush vetoing himself silly just to be strong on everybody. Weather is backwards(It's 70+ here). The Bush regime is making an ass of itself again in Bali and in general things are in a bad state.

I think what I need is a good impeachment! Nancy Pelosi has said that the Dems have more important things to do that waste time impeaching the Shrub and Darth Cheney but I am beginning to think that the reality is saying something else. The reality is that the Democrats aren't accomplishing anything. The Republicans are opposing every Democratic initiative and Bush is vetoing everything else...even the highly bi-partisan S_CHIP bill. The Dems continue to just whine about their slim majority and having their hands tied by the GOP. The thing is with impeachment "off the table" they don't have any leverage. I think it is time to run that flag back up the pole and see if it will get some attention. Seriously, what have we got to lose? If there is a serious threat of impeachment "on the table" then maybe Shrub and company will think twice about thumbing their noses at everything the Dems offer. Like I said, What's to lose?

Anyhow, I am still on forced vacation and really not accomplishing much of anything. Some reading, fiddling around on the guitar, cooking and exercise is about it. Made a batch of traditional onion soup yesterday which is always good. I even made the effort to go out and get some proper Gruyere for it. Now if we could get the weather a little cooler everything would be great.

Tonight I deal with the leftover chicken from my "Chicken in a Pot" event so it will be individual Chicken Pot Pies as they are a favorite of Madam's. I know you are excited to hear about that.

Well, this is a brilliant and incisive post...sorry for the rambling.

Double Rats on AOL

I mentioned a while back that I had spent the better part of a day bringing the local Historical Society into the century by getting them up and going on DSL. They were using AOL for email and have been for years. Now I have them set up on Outlook Express(no comment) but there is one problem. Since they were using AOL all of their contacts are in AOL mail and there is no provision that I can find to export them in any way that I can get them moved to Outlook. Bummer! You can import all day into AOL but way.
I am going to have to spend a couple of hours creating a manual CSV file of their contacts in AOL so that I can import them into Outlook. I am hoping I can capture their contacts webpage with Grab-It and then just do a little cutting and formating. We shall see.

If anyone knows a better way I am all ears.

Update: I should have said "Snag-It" not "Grab-It".

One More Time

There is not a lot of news about this but if you dig you can find it.

WASHINGTON - President Bush vetoed legislation Wednesday that would have expanded government-provided health insurance for children, his second slap-down of a bipartisan effort in Congress to dramatically increase funding for the popular program.
This needs to hang over the head of every Republican candidate for office, in every district, in every state, from school board on up. This is who the GOP are and they should pay for it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Sports,Sex, Sugar and Saturated fats

Thanks (I think) to the ever gracious Grace at Scriptoids we have been pointed to a very interesting article. Grace recommends an accompaniment of scotch or bourbon and not tequila.

Excerpt from Joe Bageant’s A Feral Dog Howls in Harvard Yard.

If there is one bright spot in the bleak absurdity of slogging along in our new totalist American state, it is that ordinary working Americans are undisciplined as hell. We are genuine moral and intellectual slobs whose consciousness is pretty much glued onto an armature of noise, sports, sex, sugar and saturated fats. Oh, we nod toward the government bullhorns of ideology, even throw beer cans and cheer when told we are winning some war or Olympic sports event. But when it comes right down to it, we could generally give a rat's ass about government institutions and are congenitally more skeptical of government than most nations, especially nations that get things like good teeth and free higher education for their tax dollars.

Surely, there are governmental facts of life no working American can escape, like the IRS, but no ordinary person is dumb enough to actually trust political parties, banks, the courts or the news media. Born with the organizational instincts and global awareness of a box turtle, we take the most torpid political path -- we call it all bullshit, pay lip service, vote occasionally, then forget about our government altogether until April 15th of the next year.

As inhabitants (you couldn't really call what we practice citizenship) of a nation that is essentially one big workhouse/shopping compound, American life is simultaneously both easy for us and rather dangerous to the rest of the world. For instance, when the corporate state's CBS-ABC-CBS-FOX-NBC-XYZ television bullhorns told us some warthog named Saddam Hussein blew up the World Trade Center and probably fixed the NFL ratings too, Tony the electrician said, "Well, OK then. Sure, go ahead and bomb the fucker." Then he flicked to the Home and Garden Channel, where the guy in the plaid shirt is explaining how to get a skylight installed without leaking. Thanks to American industrial molecular science, there's yet another new sticky stuff miracle from Dupont, a tube of which costs about as much as the entire friggin roof. After the obligatory Dupont public relations sponsored tour of the plant where the goo is cooked up, plaid shirt guy gives "application instructions," meaning he tells you how to squirt it out of the tube. And somewhere along the line, between the plant tour and watching the goo dry, Tony gave "informed consent" to the war in Iraq without even knowing it, or for that matter, giving a shit….

Finish reading “A Feral Dog Howls in Harvard Yard“ here.

Why Do You Want To Poison Our Soldiers?

Do I laugh or cry?.
Hundreds of thousands of holiday cards and letters thanking wounded American troops for their sacrifice and wishing them well never reach their destination. They are returned to sender or thrown away unopened.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks and the anthrax scare, the Pentagon and the Postal Service have refused to deliver mail addressed simply to "Any Wounded Soldier" for fear terrorists or opponents of the war might send toxic substances or demoralizing messages.
You would think that after sending our troops into an open ended war based on a lie with insufficient manpower and the wrong equipment and with no exit strategy or even a plan for victory that even if a few poisoned oatmeal cookies got through it wouldn't be that big of a deal.

Let's Get Moving

Things aren't going so well on the environmental front. The Bush administration is still doing everything it can to keep a consensus from developing and moving the nations of the world forward. Granted India and China are being contrary as well, but progress has to start somewhere. Unfortunately, some of the big sticks we could use against those two countries have been wasted by the economic and political fallout from the Iraq disaster.

Thomas Fuller and Peter Gelling of The New York Times are reporting:

Over the weekend, officials from the United Nations, backed by the European Union and many developing countries, offered a draft plan for talks over the next two years, including a statement that dangerous warming can be avoided only if industrialized countries cut emissions by 2020 to levels 25 to 40 percent below those of 1990.

But on Tuesday the United States remained firmly opposed to such language. ...

The Bush administration opposes including hard targets at this stage in the talks. Other countries, including Japan and Canada, are beginning to side with the United States on the need for any new climate agreements to include meaningful steps by fast-growing countries like China and India. And calls for concrete limits have consistently been refused by those nations. ...

"The situation is so desperately serious that any delay could push us past the tipping point, beyond which the ecological, financial and human costs would increase dramatically," said Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general.

Countries have a choice between a comprehensive agreement or "oblivion," he said.

Remember James Lovelock?. He's the first guy who warned us about chlorofluorocarbons and their effect on the ozone layer. Here's what he told Rolling Stone two months ago:

By 2020, droughts and other extreme weather will be commonplace. By 2040, the Sahara will be moving into Europe, and Berlin will be as hot as Baghdad. Atlanta will end up a kudzu jungle. Phoenix will become uninhabitable, as will parts of Beijing (desert), Miami (rising seas) and London (floods). Food shortages will drive millions of people north, raising political tensions. "The Chinese have nowhere to go but up into Siberia," Lovelock says. "How will the Russians feel about that? I fear that war between Russia and China is probably inevitable." With hardship and mass migrations will come epidemics, which are likely to kill millions. By 2100, Lovelock believes, the Earth's population will be culled from today's 6.6 billion to as few as 500 million, with most of the survivors living in the far latitudes -- Canada, Iceland, Scandinavia, the Arctic Basin.

Unfortunately, Mr. Lovelock says that it's too late. There's nothing that can be done about it. We're already so far down the global warming path that the swing of the pendulum will take too long to correct the damage we have done. Even if Lovelock is wildly wrong and 5.5 billion aren't missing from the world population by 2100. Maybe only 2.5 billion are dead. Even this die off will be horrific. There is a bright side though. Reducing the human burden on the earth by a half or more may enable the earth to recover from some of the damage we have done.

You can take Mr. Lovelock's predictions at face value and give up or take them as a worse case scenario. I chose the latter. I think most people in the world know we can do something to mitigate the already terrible damage we have done to the ecosphere. Most people think that we can change and adapt into a more harmonious relationship with the planet. The big problem lies with world leaders who are refusing to address the issues head on. The biggest tragedy is that it is our leaders who are pretending this is just another trade issue or other unimportant treaty squabble that will sort itself out in due time. This is drop dead serious and if our leadership doesn't take the forefront on global warming now then generations of humans already born will find themselves living in a virtual hell of starvation, war and death. I may live to see the beginning of the end but if things don't begin to change radically soon I sure as hell don't want to the much of it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Wisdom of the Elders

For those of you not regular visitors over Adgitadiaries, M and T have another worthy post that shouldn't be missed. The drivel I post over here is so much less than what you will find on a regular basis over there.

But, hey----in the end run, those of us who heralded the Revolution of the 60’s, thinking it would bring a New World Order, were wrong for all the right reasons. The right reasons were true to The Age of Aquarius. The old order that has undermined America for nearly half a century is killing the golden goose, and we are living through the last gasps of road kill. “To the crooked wits of tyrants when they call” we say ‘bring it on.' We’ve been there before and willingly pay the price again. Millions of us are patriots, diverse in mindset and opinion, but we share in common loyalty to the foundations of our common union, mindful of the treasures of our freedoms and the beloved Republic for Which They Stand.

Talking Jesus Action Figure?

I'm sorry but I am afraid I am the bearer of very sad news.

If you were planning on getting a Talking Jesus Action Figure this Christmas (or whatever) you're almost out of luck. Walmart has completely sold out of the toy and has "very limited supply," according to the manufacturer's spokesperson, Joshua Livingston.
I know Jesus would be very pleased that his action figure is so popular. I wonder if you are allowed to keep him in the same toy box with Barbi? I think they missed the mark though by not having stigmata and a crown of thorns. Then again maybe that will be in the follow-on accessory kit along with a real simulated wooden cross. Just think of the marketing potential for an ass accessory and what about a disciple collection. Maybe some magic loaves and fishes or how about a water to wine magic kit?

It boggles the mind.

Tighten Up!

I have mentioned several times here that I am becoming increasingly pessimistic about the near term U.S. economy. There is no good news coming down the pipe, employment, housing, fuel, food all are seeing bad news. I think any prudent person should be preparing for some serious hard times in the next 6 or 12 months. I am not the only one whistling past the graveyard.

Fifty of the 52 economists surveyed expect the Federal Open Market Committee to trim its target today for the federal-funds rate, the rate charged on overnight loans between banks. Only two see the Fed holding the rate steady at 4.5%.

Some 61% say a quarter-percentage-point cut would be right; 27% say the Fed should cut rates by a half-point. Only 12% say the Fed should stand pat.

The economists, on average, now put the chances of a recession at 38%, the highest in more than three years, and up from 33.5% in November. They also reduced forecasts for U.S. economic growth across the board. They expect the nation's gross domestic product to grow at an annualized rate of 0.9% this quarter, down from 1.6% in the previous survey, with six economists expecting either a negative or a flat reading. Three economists project an economic contraction in the first quarter, with the average growth forecast at 1.5%, down from 1.9% in November.

Bean Day

The French Chicken in a Pot was very nice. I will do that again. No real fuss and not a lot of mess to clean up just the dutch oven. You don't get the crispy skin but I usually don't eat the skin anyway. The meat was juicy and fall off the bone tender. The jus left in the bottom of the dutch oven was brilliant with the concentrated chicken flavor and the slow cooked aromatics.

Today is traditional Boston Baked Bean day. I inherited my great grandmother's bean pot and it's a beauty. The beans, onion, molasses, mustard and salt pork are already in the oven and in about 8 hours we will have one of the truly great dishes. Again, like the chicken, the long slow cooking is the secret. My mouth is watering already.

Boston Baked Beans

The beans can be made ahead. After cooking, cool them to room temperature and refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Serves 4 to 6

4 ounces salt pork , trimmed of rind and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 ounces bacon (2 slices), cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 medium onion , chopped fine
1/2 cup mild molasses
1 tablespoon mild molasses
1 1/2 tablespoons brown mustard
1 pound dried small white beans (about 2 cups), rinsed and picked over

Table salt
1 teaspoon cider vinegar

Ground black pepper

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 300 degrees. Add salt pork and bacon to 8-quart Dutch oven; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and most fat is rendered, about 7 minutes. Add onion and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 8 minutes. Add 1/2 cup molasses, mustard, beans, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, and 9 cups water; increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil. Cover pot and set in oven. Bake until beans are tender, about 4 hours, stirring once after 2 hours. Remove lid and continue to bake until liquid has thickened to syrupy consistency, 1 to 1 1/2 hours longer. Remove beans from oven; stir in remaining tablespoon of molasses, vinegar, and additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

This recipe is again from Cook's Illustrated. Simple but absolutely the best and most traditional.

NOTE: I actually follow this recipe if I am in a hurry but on days like today when I have all the time in the world I make the following changes. I used my antique bean crock. I presoak my beans overnight and I lower the cooking temperature to 250. I think the slower cooking makes them better. Instead of the 9 cups of water you will need 3 cup of boiling water added to the soaked, rinsed and drained beans. Sometimes halfway through cooking you may need to add a little more. This slower cooking seems to keep the beans intact better and they don't get all mushy from boiling like they do in a hotter oven.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Just What I Want

I think I mentioned I am being forced to burn some excess vacation between now and the end of the year. You can only carry over a week and I have 4 plus. So anyhow I am futzing around just doing fun stuff. One of the things I do for entertainment is cook and with no deadlines or conference calls I can tackle things that take a little longer to do. Unfortunately, I'm also on a diet since my bi-yearly checkup last Friday. Bummer. I normally don't weigh myself at home and I must say I was surprised at what I weigh and no, I am not telling. I'm not complaining because I seriously need to lose some pounds before the April trip to the UK and maybe I can lose some of these medications required to keep my blood sugar under control. I even bought an exercise bike over the weekend and have, so far, gotten some good miles in.

The effort to lose weight is going to put a little cramp in what I can experiment with in the kitchen but you can still cook light and still cook well.

One of my favorite foods is roasted whole chicken. Nothing fancy...just a high quality bird cooked properly. The latest Cook's Illustrated has an intriguing recipe for cooking a whole chicken in a dutch oven dry with just a an onion and some garlic and a low oven. It's a French method called poulet en cocotte. I usually braise or roast a chicken but this sounds good and I will report in as that is goal for today. BTW I am a charter subscriber to Cook's and I also subscribe to their website. It is one of the best recipe resources and they are also continually testing everything from olive oil to tomato paste as well as equipment. I highly recommend both for serious cooks.

Here is the recipe.

French Chicken in a Pot.

The cooking times in the recipe are for a 4 1/2- to 5-pound bird. A 3 1/2- to 4 1/2-pound chicken will take about an hour to cook, and a 5- to 6-pound bird will take close to 2 hours. We developed this recipe to work with a 5- to 8-quart Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid. If using a 5-quart pot, do not cook a chicken larger than 5 pounds. Use the best chicken available, such as a Bell & Evans. If using a kosher chicken, reduce the kosher salt to 1 teaspoon (or 1/2 teaspoon table salt). If you choose not to serve the skin with the chicken, simply remove it before carving. The amount of jus will vary depending on the size of the chicken; season it with about 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice for every 1/4 cup.

Serves 4

1 whole roasting chicken (4 1/2 to 5 pounds), giblets removed and discarded, wings tucked under back (see note)
2 teaspoons kosher salt or 1 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion , chopped medium (about 1/2 cup)
1 small stalk celery , chopped medium (about 1/4 cup)
6 medium garlic cloves , peeled and trimmed
1 bay leaf
1 medium sprig fresh rosemary (optional)
1/2 - 1 teaspoon juice from 1 lemon

1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat until just smoking. Add chicken breast-side down; scatter onion, celery, garlic, bay leaf, and rosemary (if using) around chicken. Cook until breast is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Using a wooden spoon inserted into cavity of bird, flip chicken breast-side up and cook until chicken and vegetables are well browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove Dutch oven from heat; place large sheet of foil over pot and cover tightly with lid. Transfer pot to oven and cook until instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees when inserted in thickest part of breast and 175 degrees in thickest part of thigh, 80 to 110 minutes.

2. Transfer chicken to carving board, tent with foil, and rest 20 minutes. Meanwhile, strain chicken juices from pot through fine-mesh strainer into fat separator, pressing on solids to extract liquid; discard solids (you should have about 3/4 cup juices). Allow liquid to settle 5 minutes, then pour into saucepan and set over low heat. Carve chicken, adding any accumulated juices to saucepan. Stir lemon juice into jus to taste. Serve chicken, passing jus at table.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Where Is The Moral Compass?

In light of the article today in the Washington Post that reveals that the Democratic Congressional leadership was complicit in the ongoing torture conducted by the CIA in the last 5 or 6 years all I can say is that I am rapidly losing hope that we can right the grand ship that was America. We have wrung our hands and pointed fingers at Shrub and his enablers and at the complicit GOP thugs in the Congress. Now we find that it is not just the extreme right that enables and condones torture but that the apple is rotten through and through. How can we hope to turn from this abysmal course when all that drive the bus are guilty of paving the way to hell?

With this revelation we have now reached the nadir of American moral substance. We no longer have the right to chasten others for the abuse of human rights. We no longer have the right to expect nor demand our soldiers be treated in accordance with the Geneva conventions. We no longer have the right to expect American civilians traveling abroad be treated fairly by foreign governements. We are completely and despicably morally bankrupt.

We at least used to have the excuse that this was just Shrub and company and just give the Democrats a chance and we'll make right. This last 7 years is just a small blip on the great tradition of respect for human rights and democracy that has been the hallmark of our great country. Oh no, this is all lost to us now. An apology to the rest of the world is not enough when we are so black. All I can think of is Walt Kelly's “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

As usual Glenn Greenwald is all over this:

Just look at how compromised Congressional Democratic leaders are when it comes to those charged with exercising "oversight" over our intelligence communities. And one finds this with almost the entire list of Bush abuses.

Whether it's the war in Iraq or illegal surveillance or the abolition of habeas corpus and now the systematic use of torture, it's the Bush administration that conceived of the policies, implemented them and presided over their corrupt application. But it's Congressional Democrats at the leadership level who were the key allies and enablers, never getting their hands dirty with implementation -- and thus feigning theatrical, impotent outrage once each abuse was publicly exposed -- but nonetheless working feverishly the entire time to enable all of it every step of the way.

As is Marcy Wheeler:
  • Frankly, I think our intelligence oversight has put the Administration in as difficult a position as John Yoo has. That is, by signing off on something (and, as the WaPo describes, in several cases encouraging it), our Congressional intell leaders gave the Administration the legal sanction to torture. And now, after years of it, they're trying to shut it down. Shutting it down is far overdue--that has to happen. But we're now in the difficult place of condemning, as a society, practices that our society sanctioned as legal just a few years ago.
  • We need to find a way to make intelligence oversight useful. On every major revelation like this, we have had at least one Democratic leader who objects to illegal practices. Yet that person is virtually helpless to respond.
  • And for that matter, we need to get better intelligence leadership. As I showed yesterday, Jello Jay's first instinct when hit with one of these revelations is literally to parrot the script of the CIA. That's not oversight. If nothing else, this revelation needs to spark a call for real leaders in Intelligence, not the script-reader in the Senate and and not someone whose brother is the CIA torture master's buddy in the House. I nominate Russ Feingold and Rush Holt.

This nation has a lot to answer for before the rest of the world. Ugh.

I am sure more of the liberal blogs will have more and better posts on this but I couldn't let this pass without expressing my deep shame at what has become of the country I love. Shame on all of us for letting it happen.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Iranians Play The Next Card

The Iranians have chosen to up the ante and have decided to ditch the dollar.

Iran, the second-biggest producer of crude oil in the Middle East, has "completely halted'' all oil transactions in dollars, the state-run ISNA news agency said, citing Oil Minister Gholamhossein Nozari.

Looks like these guys are going to take the game to the next level After the release of the NIE this week the US is going to be hard pressed to respond with full-scale war. If you remember that were a lot of people that thought one of the unsaid reasons for the invasion of Iraq was Saddam's move away from the dollar. Not only have the Iranians ratcheted up the game but they could not have picked a better time to withdraw from dollar based oil. This is going to have an impact on the rest of OPEC...

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has set up a team to study pricing oil in another currency, the INSA cited Nozari as saying. The measure is designed to prevent further losses in revenue to oil exporters, ISNA reported.

The group's findings will be announced at the next OPEC meeting, Nozari said, according to ISNA.

I don't fully understand the economics of oil trading and what effect more of OPEC shifting away from the dollar will mean but I have a strong feeling it can't be too good for the dollar and our economy. Iran making this move may be the crack in the dike that allows others to move out as well. It is also germane to understand that because of Bush and Condi's misguided diplomacy we have managed to alienate even more of our Euro buddies. The recent push by ShrubCo to have more sanctions by our allies against Iran all the while knowing that their weapons program was defunct was a major slap in the face that won't soon be forgotten.

This might be the nudge that will put the U.S. into a depression instead of a recession next year.

27 Years Already and Still Missed

Today is the anniversary of John Lennon's murder by Mark Chapman. It happened on Dec 8, 1980. It is sobering to think that none of the kids in high school today and even a lot of the kids in college weren't alive in the same time as John Lennon. The world is a lesser place without him. We could use his spirit right now.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Hubbard's Hooey

The Germans are getting ready to ban Scientology. They currently only recognize it as an organization not a religion and this is the next step to ridding Germany of it altogether. It is about time someone took a positive step toward putting this bunch of claptrap into its proper place.

L.Ron Hubbard was a hack science fiction writer who stumbled upon a collection of hooey that other people, for some unknown reason, felt compelled to accept as some kind of religious insight.
The whole thing is bullshit of the highest order and Hubbard went to his grave laughing at the idiots whole sucked it up lock, stock and barrel. He didn't mind counting the money though.

The whole "movement" is a huge embarrassment to thinking humans and it is embarrassing as well that the Germans are the first to recognize it as the claptrap it is. Scientology more than other belief systems pushes the adherent farther and farther away from accepting the universe and the infinite power of living in the now. It is egocentric and destroys the personality.

Full disclosure. I have friends that follow it and we have reached an "unsaid" agreement that I won't discuss it with them. We have had a few episodes, years ago, where they tried to defend it and failed miserably. In the interest of friendship it is a verbotten subject when we are together.

I know, I know as a practitioner of Zen I should let it be but for some reason it just really pisses me off and it makes me mad when I see my friends accepting the precepts so willingly and without any clear thought and meditation. These are otherwise smart and wonderful people and I guess it pains me to see them wander so far from the clarity and peace.

The Goddess knows we all need more clarity and peace in our lives.

Publishing the Sutras

Tetsugen, a devotee of Zen in Japan, decided to publish the sutras, which at that time were available only in Chinese. The books were to be printed with wood blocks in an edition of seven thousand copies, a tremendous undertaking.

Tetsugen began by traveling and collecting donations for this purpose. A few sympathizers would give him a hundred pieces of gold, but most of the time he received only small coins. He thanked each donor with equal gratitude. After ten years Tetsugen had enough money to begin his task.

It happened that at that time the Uji River overflowed. Famine followed. Tetsugen took the funds he had collected for the books and spent them to save others from starvation. Then he began again his work of collecting.

Several years afterwards an epidemic spread over the country. Tetsugen again gave away what he had collected, to help his people. For a third time he started his work, and after twenty years his wish was fulfilled. The printing blocks which produced the first edition of sutras can be seen today in the Obaku monastery in Kyoto.

The Japanese tell their children that Tetsugen made three sets of sutras, and that the first two invisible sets surpass even the last.

Free Guns to Good Home

CBS News has acquired the November 30th Inspector General Report on Iraq, also known as the "Management of the Iraq Security Forces Fund in Southwest Asia - Phase III.

You thought the billions in cash was the only thing that cannot be accounted for? Not only are we out billions of dollars in cold hard cash but it turns out those missing billions probably were driven away by fully armed "Iraqi Security Forces" in dump trucks and tractor-trailers.....provided by the US Army courtesy you and me. From CBS News:

Auditors for the Inspector General reviewed equipment contracts totaling $643 million but could only find an audit trail for $83 million.

The report details a massive failure in government procurement revealing little accountability for the billions of dollars spent purchasing military hardware for the Iraqi security forces. For example, according to the report, the military could not account for 12,712 out of 13,508 weapons, including pistols, assault rifles, rocket propelled grenade launchers and machine guns.

Italics mine.

Let me get this straight...the U.S. military can only account for less than 800 of 13,500 weapons they have supplied to the "Iraqi security forces." What did they do just open the warehouse and issue everyone a basket and a chit for whatever they wanted? Do the weapons we issue not have serial numbers or was it nobody could find a pencil? Is it fair to question whether these missing weapons are now being used by the insurgency against our forces?

This kind of crap just blows my mind. When I was on the Navy pistol team in Hawaii I had to sign for every bullet I was issued and I had random checks that the pistols I was issued were still in my possession and properly stowed and maintained. You would think the Iraqis would have had to at least sign a receipt or something for a whole damn rocket launcher. I wonder if this whole weapons issue mess was managed by contractors and not the military. This just is just too big a screw-up for me to think it was pure military alone.

Pearl Harbor Day

Today is the day we remember Pearl Harbor so take a moment and think about the event and the events that followed. My late father was a Pearl Harbor survivor so this is one observance I try and not miss.

Up early and off to the doctor. Later.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Home Again

All done and safely back home. No major problems but there were some tense episodes when the client had to be reminded of decisions made 8 weeks ago that somehow didn't fit current thinking but nothing that was the proverbial "show stopper" or "deal breaker".

Somehow, in the middle of the day, I decided it was time to have a cold. Started sneezing and snuffling and voila I am colded. Can't take any OTC drugs because I have a Dr's appt in the morning at 0730 for the 6 month HA1c and lipids blood tests. Gotta be fasting and I don't want to take anything that will fudge the tests. My first choice with a cold is Alka-Seltzer Plus which drives up the BP so I definitely don't want Madam Doctor to have high BP to whack me with.

I will just suffer.

I realized this week that I was behind the PTO curve for the year and now with only about a hundred hours of work hours left in the year I have to burn 140 or so hours of vacation or lose it. Net is that starting tomorrow I am on vacation until 2008 and I still lose a week of PTO. Bummer.

I'll check in here tomorrow after Madam Doctor chews me out about my weight, BP, lack of excercise, and general overall health or should I say lack of it. It will take a day or two for the HA1c and Lipids to come back so I probably won't get yelled at for those until next Tuesday. I got kudos on the last lipids test as all the cholesterol numbers were in the green. Not so good on the Hemoglobin A1c as I evidently didn't do a stellar job of controlling the blood glucose over the last few months. I have been trying to do better, especially when it comes to the HFCS, so we will just have to see .