Friday, February 29, 2008

Something Scarrier Than $5 Gas

On Tuesday, wheat closed at $22.40 a bushel on the Minneapolis Grain Exchange. A year ago it was at $5.00 a bushel. That folks is in the neighborhood of a 500% increase in the price of wheat! I know getting in the car and driving to the liquor store is important but having a crust of bread with your soup ranks right on up there in importance as well.

Global stocks of wheat are at 3o year lows and worse, U.S. stocks of wheat are at 60 year lows!

If you don't think these record prices for one of the most fundamental things in our food supply won't ripple through the entire food chain then you are living in fantasy land.

Drudge Tries to Kill Prince Harry

Try an imagine the outrage and accusations if Firedoglake or Dkos had outed details of our war in Afghanistan, putting at risk the lives of US coalition soldiers? That's what just happened, except it was the conservative Matt Drudge who did it.

There was an agreement with the media that this would be kept quiet until Prince Harry returned in another 4 weeks. This is a treasonous act and should be dealt with accordingly.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Jailhouse Rock

NEW YORK (AP) -- For the first time in history, more than one in every 100 American adults is in jail or prison, according to a new report.

The report, released Thursday by the Pew Center on the States, said the 50 states spent more than $49 billion on corrections last year, up from less than $11 billion 20 years earlier. The rate of increase for prison costs was six times greater than for higher education spending, the report said.

Using updated state-by-state data, the report said 2,319,258 adults were held in U.S. prisons or jails at the start of 2008 -- one out of every 99.1 adults, and more than any other country in the world.

You have to ask yourself why we have a greater percentage of our population in the hoosegow than any other country in the world. Are we imprisoning people that shouldn't be in jail? How many of these folks are in jail for "drugs" like marijuana? Don't you think this might be a symptom of something fundamentally wrong with our society? We are supposed, if you listen to the wingnuts, to be a "Christian" nation so WTF is going on?

When you drill into the numbers a little it becomes even more insane...
"For some groups, the incarceration numbers are especially startling," the report said. "While one in 30 men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars, for black males in that age group the figure is one in nine."
Read the above paragraph and ponder what it is saying for a minute. If you are a black man between the ages of 20 and 34 there is a 10% chance your ass is going to be in jail. That, my friends, is insanity defined.

I'm all for being tough on crime and all that but don't you think the rationale for locking someone away should be to protect the rest of society from them? If you are guilty of a victimless crime and aren't a danger to society then I seriously doubt the value of locking you up just as "punishment". I think with a little creative thought we could figure out how to get you properly readjusted. Maybe we could make sure you had a good paying job, healthcare and some of that kind of stuff? There are mountains of work to be done in this country and surely some kind of community service would be better than sitting behind bars.

He Really Was a Hack

I've commented here before on the pseudo religion known as Scientology. I wondered where the old sci-fi hack L.Ron Hubbard got the ideas and now it is apparent that he just plagiarized it from a book published in Germany in 1934. It never ceases to amaze me how many people take this crap seriously but apparently it has something that attracts them like mainstream religions attract people in hordes. I seriously doubt if this latest revelation will impinge upon the cult but I thought it interesting.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Feeling Like A Peasant? Try Pancotta

With all the bad (and getting worse) economic news I thought I might post some "peasant food" as the recipe for today. It may be peasant food but it is also wonderfully warm and pleasing while also being pretty "cheap eats". It is also a great way to use up stale bread though not the "Wonder" type bread. It needs to be a good French boule or Italian style loaf.
You will find many different recipes for this as everybody has their own little twist and you can feel free to improvise as well. Remember no rules. I've seen it with white beans and I've seen it broiled before serving . You can make it drier or wetter. Whatever blows your hair back.


This make 4 nice servings but you can halve it or even quarter it for one if you want.

3 TBsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
dried hot red pepper flakes to taste but I would start with a half Tsp
4 thick slices of Italian bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
5 cups of stock, you can use beef, chicken or vegetable
salt and pepper to taste
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmeseano-Reggiano cheese to taste (This will not be very nice if you use the floor sweepings that come in the green cardboard can. If you have to skimp on the cheese and use a domestic Parmesan then at least grate it yourself.)

Put the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, parsley, and chile and cook for a minute or so or until you can smell it. Add the cubed bread and cook, stirring occasionally until the bread is a nice golden brown. This should take about 5 or 6 minutes. Once the bread is browned add all of the stock and simmer for about 30 minutes. It will be pretty thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with the grated cheese. This is good hot but it works at room temperature as well. This needs a nice red wine especially if you used beef broth.

This tastes so good you will forget you're a peasant for awhile.

I've said this before but if you aren't making your own stocks then you can't beat the Swanson Organic stocks in the box. Low sodium and they actually taste like homemade.

Helpful Hint

Updated below:

Don't ever call Bank of America Customer Service with the expectation of talking to an actual human unless you are a master at remembering looonnng lists of options. I actually heard one I had never heard before...when the robot got to the press 6 option and that was press 9 if you want to hear more options! I lost track of how many levels of robot-attendant I went through but it seemed like a hundred. I finally got to a human who was very efficient and handled a missing transfer quickly and efficiently. Don't these companies realize what an irritation this is? I actually went to the bank in person yesterday to try and resolve this minor issue and was told that since it was done online they couldn't help me and I would have to call the online people...and don't bother outside of between 2 and 3 pm or otherwise the wait times are horrendous.

Please don't get me started on calling the cable company to report a problem and the robot starts walking through a set of make me insane. I am sure there must be a series of tones that will allow a pass but I haven't discovered them yet. Then again maybe they just wait for the sound of a head exploding and then hang up.

Updated: Andante has posted a link in the comments for all of us irritated by IVR.

Falling Snow and Dollar, Rising Oil

Snow flurries in Atlanta this morning and real snow a bit north. Not much good news on the economic front either. The dollar fell through a very important support level yesterday $1.50 = €1 and if the dollar doesn't recover quickly this could mean the free fall that many have been predicting. Not making my April trip to the UK any brighter. Ouch! This situation with the exchange rate comes on stop of yesterday's inflation (stagflation) report courtesy of high energy costs.

More bad news on the energy front as well. Oil hit yet another new high, breaking through the $101 level. While it could drop back into the $80 range there is also no reason it won't climb even more. There seems to be more upside pressure than down. Now that the $100 support level has been tested and met it will be much easier for it to go up further. These bits of further bad economic news are brought to you solely by the Shrub and his boys. This bad management needs to be a major campaign issue for the Democrats as McCain tries to take over for Bush.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Call for some Healthy Farm Bill Action

As you may or may not know the House and Senate are nearing a final compromise on the Farm Bill. There are a lot of competing proposals and as usual the special interests and big Agriculture and Big Business are lobbying to beat the band to ensure that their places at the Federal trough are secure. We need to make sure our representatives in Congress know that we want the final legislation to address our priorities for a healthier, more sustainable, and more equitable farm and food system. has an easy way for you to get the message to your Representative and two Senators. They have an automated system that will send a message to the appropriate Congress person based on your zipcode. All you have to do is fill out a quick form. The goals are:

  • Increases conservation funding by at least $5 billion to help farmers and ranchers protect water quality, support wildlife habitat, and transition to more sustainable practices.
  • Maintains the funding levels in the House bill and incorporates the best policy provisions from both bills to support beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
  • Includes the highest funding levels and best policy provisions from the two bills for farmers' markets, organic farming research and financial assistance, value-added and micro-enterprise grants, fair competition and market access, community food programs, and local food systems.
  • Does not shortchange these national priorities for a costly permanent disaster program.
  • Increases funding for nutrition assistance programs by at least $9 billion to ensure that more Americans are able to afford food.

If you don't support all of the goals fine but it is still important to let your Congress Critters know that we are paying attention. Finally, if you don't do this you are not allowed to whine about not having a local farmer's market where you can get local produce and you can't complain about the crap vegetables and stuff you find at the grocery.

Nothing Much

Some pretty severe weather rolled through the metro Atlanta area last night. I escaped any serious damage but just a mile away it sure likes something very close to a tornado did some pretty good work. Lots of rain and wind. It has now stopped raining and we just have the wind. Parts of the Metro area got a pretty good whack. This is very unusual for February...just saying.

Nothing much else going on. I'm getting ready for my next engagement which most unfortunately is going to be starting up in a couple of weeks and in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. I asked for the gig in Palermo but the European guys kept it for themselves. I think it is pretty selfish.

I'm kind of disgusted with the Democratic primary right now and the behavior of some of the progressive blogs. It is OK to like or even endorse a favorite candidate but some of these people are wigging out. I'll leave the whole story to skippy, Frederick, Dave and Bryan. I'll stay quiet on this one except to say that I was a whole lot more excited about the potential for change when Edwards was in the game and I can't help but feel I am going to be forced to support someone who I think is the second or even third best person for President. I can't seem to shake the feeling that with either Hillary or Obama we are getting some flavor of Republican light. I hope I am proved wrong. I wanted a revolution and it now looks like a spit ball fight...if that.

To steal a thought from Joe Bageant ...
I am beginning to feel like I have a ringside seat at the twilight of America show or maybe even civilization. It is nice to know, however, that here and at some other blogs I have someone to talk to as the show plays out.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Taking Another Swing

Hold your breath because it looks like the House is going to make another attempt at fixing some of the gaps in the energy bill.

Congressional Democrats will try again next week to take away tax breaks for oil companies in order to finance renewable-energy and building efficiency projects, but success remains elusive amid a shortage of votes in the Senate.

The U.S. House of Representatives is tentatively set to vote on Wednesday on the bill, which would repeal more than $17.6 billion in tax breaks for oil and gas producers over 10 years. Consumers would gain new tax breaks for buying plug-in hybrid cars. Companies would be able to continue taking tax credits for wind, solar and other renewable-energy projects, extending breaks that expire at the end of 2008.

If these fixes make it out of the House then there is a great likelihood that it will face the " automatic filibuster" that has become the standard in the Senate since the GOP lost the majority and it will be hard to move past that. They votes are probably not there. The Senate Republicans have done everything they can to safeguard the the battered oil companies and their pitiful soaring profits. The Republicans don't care what it will cost the taxpayers now or in the future and the sure as hell don't care abut the environment.

The current tax breaks given to the oil companies are the premier example of Republican (and some Democratic) legislators placing big money contributors ahead of the interests of the American people Nothing is more important than protecting Exxon-Mobil's $40 billion bottom line. Never mind the soaring national debt. Ignore that Global warming claptrap. The wealthiest getting wealthier on the backs of the American taxpayer...priceless.

If these changes fail then under the current tax law, the tax breaks for many oil companies are set to rise in 2010.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Bluebird of Happiness

Finally have a pretty day so I got to go out and play with the new camera. Here is an Eastern Bluebird that is patiently waiting for me to go away so he can go back to the feeder.

Nader Is In

Ralph Nader has announced another 3rd party run for President. I still think he has a lot to answer for from 2000 and can't help but think this is just his huge ego talking. In his race in 2004 he only captured .3 of percent of the vote and was only on the ballot in 34 states. I think this just muddies the water. Do you think it will make a difference?

Halliburton Hell, Again

Grace over at Scriptoids has the scoop on the "real deal" in Kosovo and Serbia. If you think the Serbs are just mad because we are happy to welcome Kosovo in to the world of nations and all that happy new democracy crap then you aren't paying attention to the oil, Halliburton, Brown&Root, Deadeye Dick Cheney and all the rest.

If you can't figure out why we are building the biggest military camp constructed since Viet Nam in Kosovo and why Camp Bondsteel will sit astride a major new trans Balkan oil pipeline then we need to talk.

Grace has the poop and some very informative links.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Butter, Butter Everywhere

Culinary first yesterday for me. I made my own butter and it is pretty good and it was very easy to do. I was inspired by the latest issue of Saveur Magazine which is a wonderful magazine for foodies like me. I look forward anxiously for my new issue every month. This month virtually the entire issue is focused on butter. As usual there are some wonderful butter centric recipes as well.
Risotto alla Milanese

Hungarian Shortbread

Sole à la Grenobloise

Plus a whole lot more. I love butter and I cook with it a lot. I still use a lot of olive oil but finish a lot of dishes with butter. I probably won't make butter as a regular thing but it was interesting to watch the process and know how it's done.

No Refuge in Alcohol

The news about ethanol keeps getting worse. The plans by Shrub and company to double the U.S. production of ethanol needs to be scrapped in the worst way. The world markets for grain are being horribly distorted by the shift of corn from food to fuel. The people least able to afford it are being hurt the worst. If ethanol were really the answer it might be a little different but study after study(not to mention common sense) shows that the net is that ethanol is worse for the environment than fossil fuels.

Feb. 21 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. plans to replace 15 percent of gasoline consumption with crop-based fuels including ethanol are already leading to some unintended consequences as food prices and fertilizer costs increase.

About 33 percent of U.S. corn will be used for fuel during the next decade, up from 11 percent in 2002, the Agriculture Department estimates. Corn rose 20 percent to a record on the Chicago Board of Trade since Dec. 19, the day President George W. Bush signed a law requiring a fivefold jump in renewable fuels by 2022.

Increased demand for the grain helped boost food prices by 4.9 percent last year, the most since 1990, and will reduce global inventories of corn to the lowest in 24 years, government data show. While advocates say ethanol is cleaner than gasoline, a Princeton University study this month said it causes more environmental harm than fossil fuels.

``We are mandating and subsidizing something that is distorting the marketplace,'' said Cal Dooley, a former U.S. congressman from California, who represents companies including Kraft Foods Inc. and General Mills Inc. as president of the Grocery Manufacturers Association in Washington. ``There are no excess commodities, and prices are rising.''

Bad for the economy, bad for consumers, bad for the planet — what’s not to love?

Your Government at Work

You know what this stupid move is all about? Big GOP "game hunters" and "sportsman" like Dead-eye Dick Cheney. These guys want to be able to go out and kill wolves and they will pay big bucks to do it. The excuse that ranchers need to control the population is bullshit since the Endangered Species Act allows them control if livestock are endangered. Since 1980 over 700 gray wolves have been killed legally by ranchers and an equal number illegally by poachers. In spite of this the population is growing but it is still a fraction of what is needed to return balance back to the ecosystem. No one is mentioning the annual programs in these states to cull the herds of elk, deer and antelope that are too large for the habitat. A natural population of wolves would make this unnecessary. Currently the estimated 1,500 wolves cover a range of about 113,ooo sq. miles which is pretty scarce if you ask me. These wolves need to left alone and allowed to expand their range into Utah, Colorado, Oregon and Washington.
BILLINGS, Mont. - Gray wolves in the Northern Rockies will be removed from the endangered species list, following a 13-year restoration effort that helped the animal's population soar, federal officials said Thursday.

An estimated 1,500 wolves now roam Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. That represents a dramatic turnaround for a predator that was largely exterminated in the U.S. outside of Alaska in the early 20th century.

"Gray wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains are thriving and no longer require the protection of the Endangered Species Act," said Interior Deputy Secretary Lynn Scarlett. "The wolf's recovery in the Northern Rocky Mountains is a conservation success story."
We need to get our government back in the worst way.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Positive Move

Al-Sadr today extended the Mehdi army ceasefire that has been responsible for much of the apparent progress of the so-called "surge". It dosn't get mentioned in the traditional media or if it is, it is buried in the article somewhere and is usually only a one liner. The current "Surge Success" article on CNN does mention the ceasefire but only in passing. The bullets for the article are...

  • Iraqi official: Baghdad security crackdown has reduced violence about 75 percent
  • Small signs of political reconciliation, but many observers say they're superficial
  • U.S. and Iraqi forces turn attention to new militant trouble spots such as Mosul
  • Defense officials want a "pause" in troop pullouts to assess security situation
If you just read the bullets you get the idea that things are going well enough to celebrate. The article itself presents a slightly different picture.

"There have been significant steps forward. There's been quite a bit of progress against al Qaeda in Iraq and against other extremist elements," said Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, speaking in an interview last week with a radio station.

"But having said all that, again I want to be very cautious upfront and note that there's nobody here doing victory dances in the end zone or talking about 'turning the corner' or 'seeing lights at the end of the tunnel,' " Petraeus said. "There's still a lot of hard work still to be done."

Translation: We'll be here for a long time.

Just so you don't forget we still have troops in harm's way and as of today the death toll in Iraq stands at 3970. There have been 66 deaths of American troops since the beginning of the year.

Slower and Slower

Ever since I got the DSL installed on Monday I have been have some intermittent problems and it seemed mighty slow. I thought it was just me having to get used to DSL over cable. I decided to do some testing this morning and was shocked to discover that my download speeds were often less than 1 MB/sec and sometime even less that 100KB/S. Not so good.

After and hour or so with the AT&T folks I am now getting speeds in the neighborhood that I am paying for...5-6MB/sec. They changed some lines or something but it made a world of difference. Happier.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Cardinal Hour

Went down to make a cup of tea and looked out the kitchen window. Everybody is lined up for the feeders. I count ten cardinals at least. You have to look close to see the females but there are a few there. A gray day but made a little brighter by the colorful cardinals.

P.S. if you click on the picture in blogger it will go full screen. You can see the females much better.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

No Eclipse for Me

The clouds have moved into the Atlanta skies so we aren't going to get to see the eclipse tonight. I also missed the satellite flyby. So much for "Fun with Astonomy" tonight. On the upside we will get rain tomorrow.

Slip Sliding Away

There are still 19 people out of 100 in this country that still believe Shrub is doing a good job overall. When it comes to the economy there are only 14 out of a hundred. If these numbers are right then that means about 20 more people out of each hundred are awake and able to focus this month than last and that is good news. Last month 34 out of hundred approved. It is almost too low to believe.

George W. Bush's overall job approval rating has dropped to a new low in American Research Group polling as 78% of Americans say that the national economy is getting worse according to the latest survey from the American Research Group.

Among all Americans, 19% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 77% disapprove. When it comes to Bush's handling of the economy, 14% approve and 79% disapprove.

When do you think John McCain is going to have second thoughts about running for Shrub's third term?

Updated: edited for missing words and correct syntax after Madam read it all called me a moron.

Easy Pasta and Vege for Two

Pasta with Vegetable and Balsamic Glaze

Here is a foundation recipe for pasta with a vegetable that is quick and easy. Here we are using asparagus (it is coming on to asparagus season) here but broccoli, broccoli rabe, or just about anything will work. Use what you have. Just don't overcook the vegetable as the goal is a texture contrast with the pasta. If you don't have fresh basil use fresh parsley. If you don't have Pecorino Romano use Parmesan. Like garlic...then add a clove or two.
If you can't find campanelli (trumpet-shaped pasta). Use fusilli, penne, ziti or something similar, even rules though you might not want to use a long pasta like spaghetti or linguine. Don't over reduce the vinegar as it will get bitter. This recipe is for two but you could double it easily. It will take you longer to bring the pasta water to boil than to make the rest of the dish but regardless you should have a nice dinner for two on the table in under a half hour.

1/2 pound campanelli or other pasta
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar (you dont have to use the real expensive stuff here as you are going to reduce it but use a good quality vinegar)
3 TBLSP extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1/2 pound fresh asparagus cut into about 1 inch pieces, if it is real fat(larger than 1/2 inch diameter) halve it before chopping it into pieces
1 small red onion , halved and sliced 1/8-inch thick (about 3/4 cups) you can use a sweet white onion also but you lose some color contrast.
1/4 TSP ground black pepper
1/8 TSP red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 1/2 TSP lemon juice
1/2 cup shaved Pecorino Romano

1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in stockpot. Add 2 tablespoons salt Kosher salt and pasta, stir to separate, and cook until al dente. Drain and return to pot.

2. Right before you put the pasta in to cook, bring the balsamic vinegar to boil in small skillet over medium-high heat; reduce heat to medium and simmer slowly until syrupy and reduced to 2 tablespoons, 5 or so minutes.

3. While pasta is cooking and balsamic is reducing, heat 1 tablespoon EVOO in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just begins to smoke. Add asparagus, onion, black pepper, pepper flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and stir to combine; cook, without stirring, until asparagus begins to brown, about 1 minute, then stir and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until asparagus is tender-crisp, about 5 or 6 minutes total. If you are using a different vegetable adjust as necessary to maintain "tender crisp". Remember, you don't want to spend all day in the hot and fast is the rule for the vegetable.

4. Add asparagus mixture, basil, lemon juice, half of the cheese, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of EVOO to the waiting pasta in the stockpot; toss together. Divide the two portions into nice pasta bowls and drizzle 2-3 teaspoons of the reduced balsamic vinegar over each and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Done!

Like I said above this can be a starting point(or foundation) for any number of variations. One of the secrets of good cooking is learning to take what you have or is fresh in the market and using some basic skills to turn it into a new dish.

Busy Space Day

Updated below

LUNAR ECLIPSE: On Wednesday night, February 20th, the full Moon will turn a delightful shade of red and possibly turquoise, too. It's a total lunar eclipse—the last one until Dec. 2010. Sky watchers in Europe, the Americas, parts of the Middle East and Africa are favored for good views of the two-hour event. Visit for full coverage including maps and timetables, live webcasts and discussion.

SPY SATELLITE UPDATE: The US Navy's first attempt to hit malfunctioning spy satellite USA 193 with a missile could come on Wednesday night during the lunar eclipse. This is based on an air traffic advisory warning pilots to steer clear of a patch of Pacific Ocean near Hawaii just when USA 193 is due to pass overhead. Until the satellite is shot down, it remains visible to casual sky watchers during evening passes over US and Canadian towns and cities; experienced observers say the decaying satellite is sometimes as bright as the stars of Orion, making it an easy target for unaided eyes and off-the-shelf digital cameras. Details, photos and more information are available at Subscribers to Spaceweather PHONE ( will receive email and telephone alerts when the spy-sat is about to appear over their backyards.

Update: The Navy is now saying that high seas and winds my delay any attempt to shoot down the satellite. Pardon me but I would think that a ship mounted missile system should be able to launch no matter what the seas are doing. WTF kind of design is that?

Looking Like it is Almost Over

With Obama taking an 18% lead in Wisconsin and Texas looking like a tossup it is becoming increasingly clear that Obama is going to be the Democratic nominee. While I have some reservations, I can live with that. We will just keep our focus on making sure he wins the White House with a resounding mandate and then doesn't forget that he is promising change. We need change in the form of revolution and I will make sure my voice is out there making it happen.

The biggest challenge is to get him to ignore the money he has received from big business and health insurance providers particularly and get him to rethink his position on universal healthcare. It is the number one domestic issue and getting a single payer health care system in place in the U.S. will have the greatest impact in every sphere of American life. It is the big advantage the Euro community has over the U.S. when it comes to the welfare of their populations.

As the most likely next President there are huge challenges to be faced and Bush has left the piggy bank empty and then some. The economy, Iraq and Afghanistan, gutted Federal agencies and a world that hates and fears us await Obama should he walk into the White House next year. Not an easy task and one that is going to require sacrifice and pain from all Americans.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Cheney Dancing

Dick Cheney is smiling and he's probably doing an Irish jig to boot. If you have to work and pay for gas or pay for groceries but not both at the same time then this is not good news for you. Oil closes above $100 for the first time ever. Part of the oil price is because the dollar tanked which always drives up prices but some of the price increase reflect increasing demand from China and India. Prices are about to start climbing.

They'll Never Tell

Is this a great country or what? According the Supremes you can't sue over being secretly wiretapped by the government unless you can prove you were wiretapped and the only proof is in the government's hands and it is secret. You lose!We lose!

It begs the question of why there can't be a panel convened that has the proper clearance to review who was in fact wiretapped illegally and let them be notified. It might be, of course, that there were so many illegal actions that it is an impossible task. Even if it only applied to people that have made overseas calls the number would be huge. I know from experience that the government default action is to capture everything and then sort through it later. We'll never know. Well you might know when no one can explain why, all of a sudden, you are on the no fly list.

Is this a great country or what?

Christy over at Firedoglake has all the legal beagle stuff.

Major Challenge

You don't realize how many people have to be notified of a change in primary email address until you have to notify everyone. You also don't realize how many other places have to be notified like banks, airlines, rental cars, hotel chains and all the rest. Anyhow, that is what is taking my time today. Hundreds of emails and account updates. The only upside is I may reduce the amount of unwanted email along the way.

Monday, February 18, 2008

No More Cable

Spent the last few hours getting the DSL up and running and getting the wireless connected in as well. The tech support people at Bellsouth were really super(once I got past the robot). They walked me through the process of setting up the modem for bridged ethernet and reconfiguring the Linksys for DSL.
After I had everything working I decided to change the master password for the DSL account on the AT&T website and everything went toes up. Again Bellsouth tech support walked me through the pin reset process and changing passwords in the modem and wireless router. Thanks guys. Now back to normal and cooking right along.
I think everything would have been easier on the password change if my default browser was IE and not Firefox. The AT&T site wanted to launch the modem reconfigure after the password change but refused to use Firefox.

Double Flyby

If all goes according to plan, space shuttle Atlantis will undock from the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday morning, Feb. 18th, at approximately 4:30 am EST. This is good news for sky watchers across North America who will be able to witness a rare double flyby on Monday evening. Atlantis and the ISS will appear as a tight pair of lights, as bright as Jupiter or Venus, gliding in tandem across the twilight sky--an unforgettable sight. Favored cities include Los Angeles, New Orleans, Dallas, Jackson (MS), Pensacola, Philadelphia, Reno, San Diego and others. Double flybys continue on Tuesday, Feb 19th, albeit not as tight because the shuttle will be moving away from the ISS as it prepares to land on Wednesday, Feb. 20th.

You can receive telephone and email alerts when the spacecraft are about to fly over your backyard by subscribing to Spaceweather PHONE ( or look for flyby timetables at Heavens Above ( And should you miss the event, visit for images and movies.

Nothing to Worry About, Really!

Not only do we have the massive "dead zone" in the Gulf but since 2002 they have begun appearing in the Northwest. Marine researchers appear to have figured out the cause of the massive low-oxygen "dead zones" that have reappeared off the coast of Oregon every summer since 2002:

"We couldn't believe our eyes," [Jane] Lubchenco said, recalling her initial impression of the carnage brought about by oxygen-starved waters. "It was so overwhelming and depressing. It appeared that everything that couldn't swim or scuttle away had died.

Upon further study, Lubchenco and other marine ecologists at Oregon State University concluded that that the undersea plague appears to be a symptom of global warming. In a study released today in the journal Science, the researchers note how these low-oxygen waters have expanded north into Washington and crept south as far as the California state line. And, they appear to be as regular as the tides, a lethal cycle that has repeated itself every summer and fall since 2002.

"We seem to have crossed a tipping point," Lubchenco said. "Low-oxygen zones off the Northwest coast appear to be the new normal."

....If this theory holds up, it means that global warming and the build-up of heat-trapping gases are bringing about oceanic changes beyond those previously documented: a rise in sea level, more acidic ocean water and the bleaching of coral reefs.

Don't worry about it though. Ignore that fact that this is/was a major fishery. Definitely nothing to worry about.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sunday Evening Notes

It's Sunday evening and my state and federal taxes are complete and filed electronically. I get almost 2 grand back from the Shrub and Sonny. Yes, I bit the bullet and did the taxes today. I use TurboTax so it is as easy as I think is possible and they have even made it faster this year. Good product and good company.
Serious weather here in Hotlanta. We are currently under a tornado warning and it has been raining and blowing to beat the band. As my grandfather used to say "it's raining like a cow peeing on a flat rock". Crude yes...descriptive yes.
Getting used to the new satellite TV thing and I definitely made the right decision. Great picture, good selection and less expensive...what's not to love. Madam has been devouring, in order, How the West was Won, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Sands of Iwo Jima, and currently They Were Expendable.
Me, I'm cooking, and tonight we are traveling the Southern Italian route with a baked Manicotti. Nice tubes of Barilla manicotti stuffed with a blend of ricotta, eggs, Reggiano, and fresh herbs and covered in a simple tomato and basil sauce. A little roquette salad and we have dinner.
We did Mexican last night at a place just up the road. I had the Poblanos Relleno and Madam had fish tacos. Hers were good and mine not bad but I think they just make cheese relleno ahead and then slather them with chicken or beef depending on what is ordered. It makes for too much cheese.
I also purchased a new camera yesterday. I was going to get it as a self Christmas present but I couldn't pay cash for it(not in the budget) so I passed up some good sales. President's Day comes around and I have done a diligent job of putting away some shekels in the wish can.
I am now the proud owner of a Nikon D80 DSLR, 18-55 zoom and a 55-220 VR zoom. If the weather had been better today you might have been subjected to some photos. Lots of camera and lots to learn but it is going to be fun.
Manicotti is signaling done with both aroma and the pesky time. Later.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

What are Grits Anyway?

One of my English commenter's asked me to explain grits.
The Southern United States is also known as the "grits belt" and is basically all the states across the South from North Carolina to Louisiana. Grits are merely ground corn. In earlier times almost every town of any size has a gristmill where the local people would bring their corn to be ground into meal for baking. After grinding the meal was passed over a screen with the finer grind falling through and the coarser meal left behind and these coarser bits of corn became known as "grits".
Grits as served in the South is merely a porridge made by mixing these grits with water and cooking them for 20 minutes or so until tender. These are invariably breakfast food and just served with a little butter. I personally like my sunny side up egg served on top of the grits and then mix the yellow of the egg into the grits. I also like a couple of dashes of Tobasco on grits. Mixing cheddar cheese into the grits right at the end of cooking is another popular variation.
You can go upscale with grits and you find lots of restaurants along the the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina offering BBQ Shrimp and grits. Typically these grits have been prepared with milk and or cream instead of water and they are very nice.
If you are into Italian food you have probably had grits only them "eye-taluns" call grits polenta and they usually serve it a bit thicker than we do down south. Either as polenta or grits it is a good hearty food.
If anyone is interested in recipes for grits(such as low country BBQ Shrimp and grits or anything else just leave me a comment and I will post a couple. If it is one thing I know how to cook it is grits and as a matter of fact it might be the first food I ever cooked.

Note: Sometimes people call grits(which is simply ground corn) "hominy grits" which is something a little different in which the corn kernels are first treated with lye (nixtamalized) and rinsed creating hominy which is then dried and ground. Cooked the same way but not true Southern grits.

16th Century Art Too Racy for the Brits

I can see this happening in the U.S. but I thought the British were a little more broad minded. If they find a painting like this offensive then I must have been mistaken. I thought we had cornered the market on the John Ashcroft's of the world.
London's transport authority has refused to display a poster featuring the 16th-century "Venus" by German artist Lucas Cranach the Elder, saying it is overtly sexual.

The painting, which depicts a golden-haired, milky-skinned woman cocking her hips behind a transparent veil, is one of 70 works due to go on display at London's Royal Academy of Arts on March 8.
I personally would rather see this displayed in the tubes that some of the adverts you see. Shame on you LTA!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Of Missles and Satellites, Oh My!

The official story of why are we planning to shoot down an "out-of-control, school-bus-size U.S. spy satellite is that it's carrying 1,000 pounds of toxic fuel that could kill lots of people somewhere in North America... if doesn't burn up on reentry. Not so fast there boys:

The announcement set off an immediate debate on defense blogs and among experts who questioned whether there is an ulterior motive. Some experts said the military is seizing an opportunity to test its controversial missile defense system against a satellite target.

But others noted that the Standard Missile-3 has successfully been tested against warhead targets, which are far smaller than the satellite.

"There has to be another reason behind this," said Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Henry L. Stimson Center, a liberal arms-control advocacy organization. "In the history of the space age, there has not been a single human being who has been harmed by man-made objects falling from space."

....[Gen. James] Cartwright said that the Aegis missile system aboard the cruiser would fire an SM-3 missile with a heat-seeking nose that destroys its target by hitting it, not blowing it up. The missile, known as Block III, was developed primarily for intermediate missile defense against warheads coming in at low altitude. The Navy has spent the past three weeks modifying missile software normally set for hitting much higher targets, he said.

Asked whether the plan is really an attempt to test the Aegis system as an anti-satellite system — which would be a very controversial step internationally — Cartwright said the amount of special modifications being done to the programs used to guide the system would "not be transferable to fleet use."

The operative sentence here that sets off all kind of alarm bells for me is "the Navy has spent the past three weeks modifying missile software". While I am not a software guru not a missile control guru, I didn't fall off the turnip truck last night. Modifying control software is not an easy thing to do. This is especially true when you consider that the Aegis software was probably in development and testing for years with probably 100,000 or more man hours spent in testing. There is something fishy here but we might just have to wait until the aftermath to discover the truth.
One idea is that the tracking of the satellite is more accurate than they are letting on and instead of "somewhere in North America" they have a much more accurate estimate of exactly where this Greyhound bus sized full of hydrazine is coming down and they are trying to prevent a serious incident. Just a guess but there has to be some good reason to try and modify a thoroughly tested missile guidance system in an insane three weeks time. Just saying.

Big Change

I am sitting here waiting for DirectTV to show up. I am dumping Charter cable for good and going satellite. Tired of the expense and tired of the marginal quality.

I got my latest charter bill this week and it went up again. I checked back and sure enough this was the second increase in 6 months. More for the programs, more for the equipment. When I reviewed what I was spending for "communications" that being telephone, long distance, cable, internet and Madam's cell it totaled to over 2 grand a year! WTF! Not to mention this months Consumer Reports rated Charter at the bottom in quality, selection and customer satisfaction and DirectTV at the top right behind Verizon Fiber(not available here in Atlanta).
Fortuitously an offer showed up from AT&T for bundling DirectTV with my AT&T services. I called them and we reviewed my situation. The bottom line is that adding DirectTV to my AT&T local and long distance and adding DSL instead of cable internet I save over a grand a year plus I get more channels, better quality, more HD channels, DVR and $250 in rebates.
I get to go through the hassle of notifying the universe of the personal email change but for that kind of money and the additional benefits who cares?
Today will be the TV and I should receive the DSL hardware on Monday. Bye Charter!

If you might be in a similar situation it might not hurt to check and see what bundling all your services with a single provider will get you. AT&T is offering some good incentives to get all of your business but so might some other providers.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Spy Satellite Fun

For all you geeks out there. From

Malfunctioning spy satellite USA 193 has been in the news lately because of expectations that it will reenter Earth's atmosphere in March and turn into a spectacular fireball. Reentry has not yet begun, but sky watchers are already noticing the satellite as it zips over Europe and the United States shining as brightly as a first or second magnitude star. Typical photos are shown on today's edition of

In fact, USA 193 may never reenter--at least not in one piece. Today, the Pentagon announced it will attempt to blast the satellite with a missile before its orbit decays. This would lessen the chances of dangerous satellite debris and fuel reaching the ground while increasing the population of space junk in low-Earth orbit.

Would you like to see USA 193 with your own eyes? It is about to make a series of evening appearances over many US towns and cities, beginning this weekend and continuing until the Pentagon intervenes. Flyby timetables may be found at Heavens Above ( You can also receive telephone and email alerts when the satellite is about to fly over your backyard by subscribing to Spaceweather PHONE: .

Nirvana Day

I shouldn't let this day pass without also noting that in the tradition of many Mahayana Buddhists it is the observance of Nirvana Day. This is an observation of the Parinirvana -- death and entry into Nirvana -- of the historical Buddha. While the entire concept of Nirvana and the Buddha is not amenable to words there is a poem that strikes me as something close.

High Flight

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds...and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of...wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

This was written by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.,an Anglo-American aviator and poet who died as a result of a mid-air collision over Lincolnshire during World War II.

Dearest Pig

Sorry to have started the day of St. Valentine with such a depressing story but it is what first came across the screen. Here is something a little lighter.

In honor of this day for the Patron Saint of couples, bee keepers, epilepsy, lovers, plague, travelers, and several other disparate groups I offer a old term of endearment that you can use with your SO today. Pigsnye which comes from the Glossary of Tudor and Stuart Words by Walter Skeat,1914. It means darling: "a dear little [pig's] eye". Commonly used as an endearing form of address to a girl. [Charles Dickens called his wife 'dearest mouse" and "dearest darling pig"]. The use of this term will surely make your companion quite "bobbersome". [elated: in high spirits] John Brockett, Glossary of North Country Words, 1825.

Tonight, in honor of the day, I will serve a nice soufflé au fromage made with Gruyere, a nice roquette (arugula) salad. The wine will be a nice effervescent Prosecca from Italy and yes there just happens to be one pot de creme au chocolat left that will be shared.

Do you have a special Valentine's meal?

In Your Name

Nicholas Kristof has an op-ed in the NY Times this morning that is extremely upsetting. Yeah, I know we have been doing bad things in Gitmo for years and a lot of the "prisoners" aren't really guilty of trying to kill us but were just unlucky enough to be in the wrong place when the "liberators" came along but when it gets this specific and you can put a name and details on the absolutely unbelievable things being done in our name as Americans it gets your stomach in knots.

The most famous journalist you may never have heard of is Sami al-Hajj, an Al Jazeera cameraman who is on a hunger strike to protest abuse during more than six years in a Kafkaesque prison system.

Mr. Hajj’s fortitude has turned him into a household name in the Arab world, and his story is sowing anger at the authorities holding him without trial.

That’s us. Mr. Hajj is one of our forgotten prisoners in Guantánamo Bay.

After Mr. Hajj was arrested in Afghanistan in December 2001, he was beaten, starved, frozen and subjected to anal searches in public to humiliate him, his lawyers say. The U.S. government initially seems to have confused him with another cameraman, and then offered vague accusations that he had been a financial courier and otherwise assisted extremist groups.

Most Americans, including myself, originally gave President Bush the benefit of the doubt and assumed that the inmates truly were “the worst of the worst.” But evidence has grown that many are simply the unluckiest of the unluckiest.

Some were aid workers who were kidnapped by armed Afghan groups and sold to the C.I.A. as extremists. One longtime Sudanese aid worker employed by an international charity, Adel Hamad, was just released by the U.S. in December after five years in captivity. A U.S. Army major reviewing his case called it “unconscionable.”

Mr. Hajj began his hunger strike more than a year ago, so twice daily he is strapped down and a tube is wound up his nose and down his throat to his stomach. Sometimes a lubricant is used, and sometimes it isn’t, so his throat and nose have been rubbed raw. Sometimes a tube still bloody from another hunger striker is used, his lawyers say.

“It’s really a regime to make it as painful and difficult as possible,” said one of his lawyers, Zachary Katznelson.

Mr. Hajj cannot bend his knees because of abuse he received soon after his arrest, yet the toilet chair he was prescribed was removed — making it excruciating for him to use the remaining squat toilet. He is allowed a Koran, but his glasses were confiscated so he cannot read it.

You would think that in a country with so much information flowing on radio, TV and the Internet that I would have heard about Mr. Hajj before this since I do pay attention. Wrong! Something is terribly wrong. Oh, and John McCain thinks this is OK.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

How to "Un-Torture"

Via the Washington Post we discover that the FBI has been trying to "untorture" the six suspects that they want to kill in the big show trial the Shrubbery has planned.

The Bush administration announced yesterday that it intends to bring capital murder charges against half a dozen men allegedly linked to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, based partly on information the men disclosed to FBI and military questioners without the use of coercive interrogation tactics.

The admissions made by the men -- who were given food whenever they were hungry as well as Starbucks coffee at the Defense Department's Guantanamo Bay prison -- played a key role in the government's decision to proceed with the prosecutions, military and law enforcement officials said.

FBI and military interrogators who began work with the suspects in late 2006 called themselves the "Clean Team," and set as their goal collecting of virtually the same information the CIA had obtained from five of the six through duress at secret prisons.

Via Crooks & Liars
John D. Hutson, a retired Navy rear admiral and former judge advocate general. “Once you torture someone, it is hard to un-torture them. The general public is going to be concerned about the validity of the testimony.” …
That pretty much sums it all up in my book!

Where Did the Democrats Go?

From Firedoglake:

The US Constitution and the principle that no one is above the law suffered a numbing setback, Tuesday, when every Republican Senator, Independent Joe Lieberman and 18 faux Democrats voted to gut the Constitution's Fourth Amendment, one of the most important bulwarks again tyrannical government since 1789. The Senate voted 68 - 29 to ratify the President's massive illegal spying program and provide immunity for the telecoms who invaded the privacy of millions of innocent Americans.

The Fourth Amendment has been handed down to us unchanged for over two centuries:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.


Not one of the 49 Senate Republicans stood up for the Fourth Amendment. And there are nearly 20 weak Democrats who simply cannot be relied upon to stand against the Republicans when fundamental rights are at stake.

These Democratic Senators will forever be remembered as having failed their oaths to preserve and protect the Constitution on one or more key votes. Bayh, Inouye, Johnson, Landrieu, McCaskill, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, Stabenow, Feinstein, Kohl, Pryor, Rockefeller, Salazar, Carper, Mikulski, Conrad, Webb, and Lincoln. Whitehouse voted to mitigate the worst provisions, but ultimately voted for the Bill; Feinstein voted against stripping immunity but then voted for the bill.


As Jane said yesterday, it's up to the House to stop this disgraceful bill. Sign the petition to tell them not to cave like the Senate did.

More from C&L, emptywheel, Glenn Greenwald, ACLU, and two Constitutional heroes, Feingold and Dodd

Read the whole thing and then sign the petition.

Free Recipes, Good Cause

Thanks to a tip from Michelle at Bleeding Espresso we are informed...

Barilla has compiled The Celebrity Italian Cookbook (with Mario Batali, David Tutera, Stanley Tucci, Marisa Tomei, Debra Messing, Natalie Portman and Chris Daughtry), which is free to download here; until February 29th, Barilla will donate $1 for each cookbook downloaded to America’s Second Harvest, the largest domestic hunger relief organization in the United States.
This is a good deal! Free Italian recipes and for each download a $1 to a great charity. Get yours now!

All Hail Snoopy!

Since Madam and I are both beagle people (though we are currently beagleless) we stayed up and watched the whole thing. He's a real beagle all right!

NEW YORK (AP) — Start dancin', Snoopy. You're out of the Westminster doghouse.

At long last, a beagle is America's top dog. Baying and barking to his heart's delight, Uno lived up every bit to his name Tuesday night, becoming the first of his breed to win best in show at the nation's biggest canine competition.

"He's a people's dog, a merry little hound," handler Aaron Wilkerson said.

A sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden that called and chanted Uno's name stood and roared when he was picked as numero uno. He got right into the act, jumping on Wilkerson and confirming his other title: noisiest in show.

Years from now, it'll be known as the "ah-roo!" heard 'round the ring.

The only breed consistently among the nation's most popular dogs for nearly 100 years, a beagle had never won in the 100 times the Westminster Kennel Club had chosen a winner. That changed when judge J. Donald Jones pointed to this nearly 3-year-old package of personality.

Photo: (AP Photo/Peter Kramer)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Money Talks Again

Updated to add this link to Greenwald who, as usual, covers the details and the impact.

Well, it looks like the money spread around by the telecom lobby did the job it was supposed to.
Via TPM:

It a not so surprising vote today a majority of senators, and a large number of Democrats, think the telecoms should not suffer the hazard of accountability for cooperating with the administration's warrantless wiretapping program. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) took to the floor last night to give a speech asking, "This is our defining question, the question that confronts every generation: The rule of law, or the rule of men?" The resounding answer: the rule of men.

The Senate voted on the Dodd/Feingold amendment, which would have stripped retroactive immunity from the surveillance bill just now. The final tally was 31-67; crossing over to vote nay were Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ken Salazar (D-CO), Tom Carper (D-DE), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Jim Webb (D-VA), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Kent Conrad (D-ND), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).

Note: I corrected this to show that Bayh is from Indiana not Iowa.

It is also important to note that the Feinstein "exclusivity" amendment to the FISA revision failed by a vote of 57 to 41 , thanks to another "painless filibuster" of precisely the type we were promised would not be tolerated on this bill. What this really means is that the Senate has voted to say that although they were passing a law governing surveillance, it was OK if Shrub decided that he didn't like it he could make up his own law instead. From Kagro at KOS

Exclusivity -- the purpose of the amendment that "failed" -- meant simply this: that the law they were passing was the law, and it was the governing authority for how surveillance could be conducted in America.

The Senate just rejected it, so that means that they're passing a law, but if a president decides later on that he thinks there's really some other controlling authority besides the law, that's OK.

Can someone remind me why we gave the Democrats the majority in Congress? While the House bill still doesn't contain immunity there is a very slim possibility this is not a dead issue but considering the majority in the Senate we are screwed.

Atlanta is Far Enough North

Bobby over at BBWW noted this morning the brutally cold weather in International Falls, MN where it fell to 40 below F. It reminded me of my couple of short stays in the Aleutians off the Northern Coast of Alaska. It was the dead of winter and 40 below was a regular occurrence and when you add in the wind it caused a chill factor of 60 or more below. If you have never experienced such extreme weather it is really hard to relate how brutally cold it is.

You can't take a deep breath outside or it will freeze your lungs and for safety it is wise to use a warmer over you mouth to preheat the air before you breathe it in.
You always have to put your gloves on before you touch the doorknob leading to outside or your bare hand will freeze to the metal.
There is absolutely no moisture in the air as the cold air cannot hold it. Inside the windows are covered with a thick layer of ice as any moisture in the air from breath or whatever instantly freezes on the glass.
Unless you have a heated garage you have to have special block heaters on your car to keep the oil from freezing into fudge and even then gasoline becomes kind of jelly like and may or may not flow through the fuel lines.
We had a weather station in a large Quonset hut out away from the main station that had a very good kerosene heater that ran a full blast all the time. The interior of the hut was over a hundred F at the ceiling but we could keep our food frozen by just keeping it on the floor under the bunk. The temperature difference from the bottom bunk to the top was over 80F. You had to keep your feet up off the floor while you worked or potentially suffer frostbite. You can imagine the 50 yard trek out to the weather instrument box every three hours for measurements.
The mail and supply planes that came almost daily would have to leave their engines running for the hour or so they were on the ground or else they would freeze.

The icing (pun intended) on the cake was that I and a few others were sent there on temporary duty from Honolulu to repair a special antenna array which meant we were having to work outside. It took us over two weeks to repair it as we could only work outside for about 20 minutes at a time and then come in to warm up for an hour or so. Try and imagine working on radio cables (like your TV cable only a little bigger) with arctic rated mittens on.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Speaking of Fritters

The previous recipe for pineapple fritters is really stretching the definition of fritters. I thought it only proper to give you a real recipe for fritters just for balance. This isn't fancy food and depending on your circumstances the milk may be hot water and the egg may be a wish. These things are called by a bunch of different names...Johnny Cake, Journey Cakes, Hoe Cakes, Corn Pone, Shawnee Cake, Jonikin and more but they are really just a simple fried cornmeal cake. In the South we typically use white corn meal but yellow works just fine... just don't use self rising meal or you'll have cornbread of sorts.

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup hot milk
  • 1 tablespoon shortening(of course the traditional shortening was lard but canola oil or even butter will work here)
Mix the dry ingredients, then stir in the remaining ingredients. It is important that the milk is hot as it makes the texture. Drop by the serving spoon full onto a hot, greased griddle or iron skillet and fry to golden brown on both sides. Serve with butter and syrup as for pancakes, or serve as a bread with butter. One traditional Southern way of eating them is to break them into a bowl and cover them with buttermilk and eat them like cereal. Hey, I said it wasn't fancy. This recipe should make enough for 4 to 6 people. Once cooked and cooled these critters keep pretty well and that may be why they are called "journey cakes".

While we are talking about corn fritters there is also a traditional way to use fresh corn to make similar little cakes. These are great when you have fresh corn and can cut it right from the cob. You can use frozen or canned corn as well but something gets lost in the translation.

Fresh Corn Fritters
Beat 2 eggs with a cup of all purpose flour, 1/2 cup milk, 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp of baking powder(or use a cup of self rising flour and omit the baking powder). Add a cup or so of fresh corn just off the cob(or frozen thawed or canned drained). Fry by the tablespoon full in hot oil until golden.

That is the basic recipe but no one is telling you that you can't add some chopped scallion or jalapeño or maybe a dash of chili powder to the recipe. Some grated cheese isn't a bad idea...maybe some sharp cheddar or even Parmigiano Reggiano. No rules.
If you would like to use buttermilk in the recipe then replace half the baking powder with baking soda.

Pineapple Fritters

I used the term "fritter" today in a reply to a comment and somehow committed to post a recipe for pineapple fritters. Strange how that happens.
Here it is. This recipe came from my mom and I have no idea where she got it. Madam loves them and they are tasty in a Krispy Kreme kind of way. Sweet and fried which is pretty much a formula for a lot of Southern dishes. Mom used to serve them as a side dish with ham or other pork dish( I didn't say Spam...I just implied it.) and I can live with that. They can also stand on their own as a dessert. They are really simple to make other than the bother of frying and no they are not heart healthy.

Pineapple Fritters

1 cup of all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup of milk
1 large egg
1 TBLsp of sugar
1 small can of crushed pineapple drained with juice reserved

Mix all of the above together and fry by dropping teaspoons full in hot oil. Cook until golden. Don't crowd the pan and put the cooked fritters in a serving bowl keeping them all warm until you have cooked all the batter.

Take the juice from the pineapple and mix it with 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 TBLsp unsalted butter, 1 TBLsp of flour and heat this in a small pan until it thickens and is syrupy. Pour this over the fritters and serve.

Lots of People

If you don't stop by Joe Bageant (Deer Hunting with Jesus) every once in while to see what he is discoursing on you might miss something pretty good. The link is to a post labeled Nine Billion Little Feet and it is discussion about population. Whilst I don't agree with everything he says, on balance he is pretty close to the mark. It is a little long but worth the read.

Deadly Crazy

I see the next event of using terrorism for political gain is on the way. First, I don't support the death penalty for any reason and second these guys have been in our hands for years and now before the election we are going to have a big show trial. This is another disgusting attempt to distract from all the lies and screwed intelligence and utter failures of this administration.

Fear Is the Mindkiller

This story is getting big play at the UK Guardian. It is not getting play in the U.S. media.

The US administration is pressing the 27 governments of the European Union to sign up for a range of new security measures for transatlantic travel, including allowing armed guards on all flights from Europe to America by US airlines.

The demand to put armed air marshals on to the flights is part of a travel clampdown by the Bush administration that officials in Brussels described as “blackmail” and “troublesome”, and could see west Europeans and Britons required to have US visas if their governments balk at Washington’s requirements.

Yes, there are a lot of Muslims in the UK and in other areas of the EU. So what? You identify known terrorists and you don't let them fly. The article goes on to say that the U.S. is threatening to make EU citizens apply for permission to fly to the U.S. before they can even purchase a ticket. In other words a visa will be required, if not in form but in concept.

The problem is that our system of figuring out who the bad guys are is completely screwed and we have thousands and thousands of people on the NO FLY list that shouldn't be. Has someone got a plan to fix Don't forget that the real danger(if it exists) is from our porous borders north and south and thousands of un-inspected shipping containers that hit our ports everyday and then roll merrily throughout the country. Did I mention the total failure of the Shrub to even minimally improve security at most chemical plants in the U.S.? How about our water supplies?

Fear is the only game the Bush administration has to justify more and more erosion of our civil liberties. Then again, knowing their incompetence in every aspect of governance it would probably be prudent to be a little tightass about it all.

Fun With the Internet

Thanks to a tip from Jim DeRosa I visited the site Bleedingespresso. An American expat living in Italy. I haven't had time to explore the site completely but it looks like it is a good one. Especially since Michelle is a cook and shares some her newly acquired local recipes. I've add her to the blogroll and we'll see what develops. As I told Jim I love to see what some of the expatriots are doing since I have more than once thought of joining them.
Anyhow, one of the things I saw on Bleedingespresso was a widget called Feedjit which posts information on who is visiting the site in real time. Way cool! I have added it below the blogroll and let's see what happens.

Friday, February 08, 2008

What You Worry?

Remember when the CDC was supposed to be there to protect you?

For more than seven months, the nation’s top public health agency has blocked the publication of an exhaustive federal study of environmental hazards in the eight Great Lakes states, reportedly because it contains such potentially “alarming information” as evidence of elevated infant mortality and cancer rates.


The Center for Public Integrity has obtained the study, which warns that more than 9 million people who live in the more than two dozen “areas of concern”—including such major metropolitan areas as Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee—may face elevated health risks from being exposed to dioxin, PCBs, pesticides, lead, mercury, or six other hazardous pollutants.

In many of the geographic areas studied, researchers found low birth weights, elevated rates of infant mortality and premature births, and elevated death rates from breast cancer, colon cancer, and lung cancer.


“This research is quite important to the public health of people who reside in that area,” [retired rear admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service and former assistant administrator of ATSDR Barry] Johnson said of the study. “It was done with the full knowledge and support of IJC, and many local health departments went through this in various reviews. I don’t understand why this work has not been released; it should be and it must be released. In 37 years of public service, I’ve never run into a situation like this.”

One of the many benefits that have been the result of the Shrubbery and friends is that the CDC 's mission has been changed from protecting you to protecting the Shrub misadministration and big business. Their primary goal is to keep the public in the dark so that we won't fly off the handle and insist on regulations, legislation or enforcement detrimental to their financial interests. You can bet the Shrub knows who his friends are. This new mission makes them responsible for keeping vital health and safety information from millions of Americans. What we don't know won't hurt us right...or at least until the next administration.

I wonder if they will use the same excuse they used for not telling us how dangerous it was to fly?

H/T Susie

Hold Your Breath

One of my co-workers ( one of the few non-wingnut ones) alerted me to the following.

The Washington Post reports that U.S. Customs officers have been asking some travelers to open their laptops and hand over their passwords so that the data on the hard drives can be inspected.

As my coworker said, it is getting really hard to keep up with all the civil liberties lost in the name of homeland insecurity, but I'm pretty sure I would have remembered reading something about the dissolution of the 4th Amendment.

Amendment IV
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

China Rejoicing Over Stimulus Plan

So what do I see on the front page of the AJC this morning? Great! Congress has reached a “compromise” on the economic stimulus package. Reading further it turns out Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi dropped the part that includes extended unemployment benefits and food stamps. Fancy that, our good Congresscritters dropped the only part of the stimulus plan that actually had some chance of actually stimulating the economy. What we have instead is a deficit increasing package that will mostly benefit Chinese workers.

They did add a few token breadcrumbs so we will feel good about the whole thing.

The deal came yesterday after the Senate added low-income seniors and disabled veterans to the list of people who would receive money under a package previously approved by the House, then approved the bill, 81 to 16. The House took up and passed the Senate measure last night in a 380 to 34 vote, ensuring that checks would begin reaching recipients by mid-May.

Why am I not surprised?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

One Thing

With Mitt the Flip out of the race that leaves only McBlame with a chance at the nomination. I guess we have learned one thing with respect to the GOP race and that is that the ditto heads won't follow Rush off a cliff. It is going to be very interesting to see where the Christofascists and the Minutemen wind up. Maybe they will wind up following Ann Coulter's lead and voting for Hillary.

Then again maybe Huckleberry will go independent and form a Party of the Prophet or something.

Tornado Help

We were lucky in Atlanta as the storm had lost the energy of the jet stream by the time it reached here. All we got was some rain and an occasional roll of thunder. Many in the South weren't so lucky and while we have all been distracted by the politics (I see Obama has raised $6 million since Tuesday!) a lot of people are in trouble and need help. This post from Monkeyfister gives you some guidance if you are able to help.

The Toll Is At 54 And Rising…

Tragic. I pray that peace, kindness and hope can find each and every one of those touched families.

I’ve been looking around for some local centralized relief group/agency… Someplace.

Right now, I recommend the:

American Red Cross
Mid-South Chapter

1400 Central Avenue
Memphis, TN 38104

United Way of the Mid-South phone in a donation at (901) 433-4300.

They take DIRECT donations, so you can skip all the National-level waste and delay, AND they serve nearly every community in the effected radius.

I don’t ask for much from my readers, but I sure would appreciate some link love on this post– or better yet– if you’d work-up something of your own linking to the Mid-South Red Cross Chapter to help this area get back on it’s feet, re-building, and healing. It’d mean an awful lot to many. A bit of a small-blog swarm would be a mighty thing.

Thanks in advance.

Reports are that many of the food banks are bare and so it is pretty dire. Do what you can and if you can't help financially how about reposting this message on your blog so as many people see it as possible.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

What's Next?

As you can see I have launched my work project into the ether for comment. I think the key commenters are in Chicago for a client kick-off this week and may be snowbound if the weather reports are accurate for Chicago. Anyhow I have some time to talk about politics and what I see going forward.

All the talk on the nets from the "netroot gurus" are saying the yesterday was Obama's but after looking at some of the key races and digging a little I am not so sure that is really so true. I think the battle for California tells the tale. Obama lost California and he lost it big. This loss comes after both campaigns pulled out all the stops there.

Factor 1: Hillary Clinton won the gay, Latino, Asian, married, senior and younger vote. These are groups which she has not been so strong with in the past. She didn't take the African American, young white male and the wealthy vote(159-400K$/yr) vote. Hillary also won decisively in the hard-to-reach areas of Southern California and Central Valley. Both campaigns did their best in California and Hillary won.

Factor 2: Think about it. Obama has had all the media coverage for the last couple of weeks. We had the Kennedy endorsements (including California's First Lady Maria Shriver) not only did he lose California but in Massachusetts by 14 points. He also got a lot of celebrity endorsements which did seem to help the vote but it did get his name on TV. The Move-On endorsement(as wrong as it was) was probably a factor in Obama's recent surge.

Factor 3: Obama has a lot more money to spend that Hillary and that's a plus. The downside is that all of the endorsements from the "establishment" are going to make it difficult to continue to inflate his "change" message. We are also going to see the campaign shift to more traditional themes and turn more detailed and this a plus for Hillary. From the beginning she has had the upper hand when it comes to the "wonkish" part of campaigning.

While I could be surprised by the votes coming down the pipe, and yes Obama does have some momentum, I have a hard time thinking that this whole contest will not go right down to the convention. A lot is going to depend on what the media want. If they decide they want a Clinton/McCain showdown in November then that is more than likely what we will see. If they think Obama/McCain will sell more Preparation H then that is what we'll see. It will be very interesting to see how the traditional media try and drive the game.

Regardless of who gets the nomination I think the Dems should be very proud of the two candidates we have vying for the nomination. Both are worthy and while I think Hillary is the one who would be more prepared to start taking action on Day 1 I will support Obama if he is the nominee. My ideal would be to see him spend two terms as VP under Hillary and gain some experience and temper and be ready to take the reins in 8 years.

Besides Politics

While everyone was justifiably focused on the political races yesterday there were other things going on, most notably around the economy. Economists are finally singing from the same song book and it is not a happy tune.

A growing number of top economists believe that the U.S. economy has now toppled into recession. ... The Institute of Supply Management said that activity in the service sector declined for the first time in nearly five years. This report also indicated that employers are cutting staff.

The ISM index tracks activity in the service sector, which is a larger portion of the economy every year. When the index falls below 50, it indicates a decline in the service sector. Yesterday, the index dropped to a very low 41.

Economists took the latest report as a sign that problems are no longer restricted to just housing and manufacturing.

"We're definitely seeing conditions spread to more parts of the economy. The big drop in business activity, that's a huge red flag," said Gus Faucher, director of macroeconomics for Moody's

Meanwhile, Wall Street jolted downward with a 3% fall in all the major indexes and overnight overseas indexes fell.

For some time now the economists have been emphasizing the positives and discounting the negatives but I think they finally realize that most of the signals are trending down.

"That's what recessions do. They come upon you all of a sudden," he said. "When you look back at history, you're struck by how even-keel it is until the bottom just falls out."

Yesterday afternoon Krugman revisited the ISM index and...
The ISM non-manufacturing report came in today, and it’s bad. As I suggested in an earlier post, we should take this seriously: the same report called the upturn in employment in summer 2003, so the fact that it has fallen off a cliff should worry us.
Krugman has a nice graph of the relationships between the ISM index and the monthly change in employment and updates his post with...
Fwiw, the best-fit relationship says that this month’s report portends a loss of 137,000 jobs next month. You don’t want to take that too seriously, but it’s appropriate to cry “eek”.

It is not looking too good folks and even though the U.S. indexes are up some this morning I think it is safe to say we are in for some continuing bad news. The reality is that with Shrub in the White House and the cloud of his massive budget proposal hanging out there there is little good news to hang your hat on.

Hot Races

Pretty amazing primaries yesterday. Two great candidates and no clear winner. What is impressive is the number of Democrats turning out to vote. Bodes well for November regardless of the nominee. Looks like the later primary states like Texas and Ohio are going to get to play in the game this time around.

Huckleberry doing so well is a surprise and rather depressing, especially knowing he took Georgia. Doesn't speak well for the general intelligence in these parts, does it?

Hunker down day here in Northern Atlanta. I noticed that it was really "green" out at sun up when I was feeding the birds and squirrels(it has warmed up enough that the chipmunks are awake too). Usually "green" is a warning of bad weather and sure enough the TV is warning of bad thunderstorms and possible tornadoes. Memphis and Arkansas got whacked last night.
Gotta finish up my project and get it distributed this morning so not much wandering the nets until after lunch sometime.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Back From the Polls

Update below:

Well, I voted. The polls were pretty busy for midmorning and there seemed to be a lot of young voters which should be good for Obama. The polls are saying he will take Georgia. I imagine the black vote will be a factor here. I resisted the urge to jump on the Obama personality bandwagon and voted for Hillary. Don't think I didn't think long and hard about it. Yes, John Edwards was on the ballot but I resisted the temptation to make a statement.

Working on a deadline for a work project that I have to present tomorrow so I won't be spending a lot of time here today other than responding to any comments that may appear. I am making good progress so I may get some slack time later.

Madam and I also have an appointment with the attorney today to sign updated wills, POA's and a new Durable Health POA for each of us. I have read it very carefully and I really have to be out of it before Madam can pull the plug so I won't have to keep looking over my shoulder every time I sneeze! Just kidding... it is good thing to have so there won't be any questions on what my wishes are when I am at the point of shedding this veil of tears.

Update: I had one other thought just about the time I hit the publish button and that is...the males have been running things for a long time and we are in a pretty sorry state. It might be sexist or whatever but there is something appealing about giving the ladies a chance. That may sound flippant but I am deadly serious.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Liberal Dilemma

Yes we have a liberal dilemma! You all know I was a big supporter of John Edwards and if his name is on the ballot tomorrow in Georgia I will be hard pressed not to vote for him. There are things about both the remaining candidates which are attractive. Obama and his rhetoric and youth and Hillary with her experience and razor focus on what she thinks is right. I am having a hard time. It is hard not to get caught up in the excitement over Obama with the Kennedy endorsements and all and since I seem to be on the fence in my thinking I am going to have to steal a march from MyDD. Todd focused on Paul Krugman's concerns about several of Barack Obama's positions . First there is Obama and on his treatment of Social Security:

Lately, Barack Obama has been saying that major action is needed to avert what he keeps calling a "crisis" in Social Security -- most recently in an interview with The National Journal. Progressives who fought hard and successfully against the Bush administration's attempt to panic America into privatizing the New Deal's crown jewel are outraged, and rightly so.

Krugman has also identified Obama's stimulus package as the least progressive of the Democrats' plans:

The Obama campaign's initial response to the latest wave of bad economic news was, I'm sorry to say, disreputable: Mr. Obama's top economic adviser claimed that the long-term tax-cut plan the candidate announced months ago is just what we need to keep the slump from "morphing into a drastic decline in consumer spending." Hmm: claiming that the candidate is all-seeing, and that a tax cut originally proposed for other reasons is also a recession-fighting measure -- doesn't that sound familiar?

Anyway, on Sunday Mr. Obama came out with a real stimulus plan...[H]is stimulus proposal is similar to those of the other Democratic candidates, but tilted to the right.

One of my key issues and why I was supporting Edwards is healthcare and Krugman has a big issue with Obama's health care proposal which does not include an individual mandate and thus is not universal. Obama claims that health care under his plan would be affordable and therefore would permit the uninsured to buy in.

Krugman has a serious problem here.

Why have a mandate? The whole point of a universal health insurance system is that everyone pays in, even if they're currently healthy, and in return everyone has insurance coverage if and when they need it.

And it's not just a matter of principle. As a practical matter, letting people opt out if they don't feel like buying insurance would make insurance substantially more expensive for everyone else.

Quoting MyDD :

"If you'd like specifics as to the difference a mandate makes, take a look at this chart Krugman posts on his blog citing a study by leading health care economist Jonathan Gruber, which outlines the vast difference in both coverage and cost of a mandate plan vs. a non-mandate plan. Upshot: non-mandate plans cover only about half the uninsured and, subsequently, the cost per newly insured is $4400 vs. $2700 under a mandate plan. No wonder Senator Clinton has taken to touting it as her prime point of distinction with Senator Obama."

An then there is Krugman's indictment of Obama's non-mandate strategy:

From the beginning, advocates of universal health care were troubled by the incompleteness of Barack Obama's plan, which unlike those of his Democratic rivals wouldn't cover everyone. But they were willing to cut Mr. Obama slack on the issue, assuming that in the end he would do the right thing.

Now, however, Mr. Obama is claiming that his plan's weakness is actually a strength. What's more, he's doing the same thing in the health care debate he did when claiming that Social Security faces a "crisis" -- attacking his rivals by echoing right-wing talking points.

Quoting MyDD again:

"Krugman wrote that on November 30, 2007. Remember what I said about Krugman's prescience? Cut to Krugman's February 1st post on his blog titled "Obama Does Harry and Louise Again" in which he draws our attention to a particularly problematic mailer from the Obama campaign that uses a not so subtle anti-government message to criticize Clinton's plan:

The way Hillary Clinton's health care plan covers everyone is to have the government force uninsured people to buy insurance, even if they can't afford it.

Ohhh, big government baaaad. But that's not the worst of it. Krugman updates his post:

Ezra Klein adds a screenshot of the original Harry and Louise ad -- they've obviously deliberately copied it. Just to remind everyone, Harry and Louise were the center of the vile smear campaign the insurance lobby waged against health care reform in 1993 -- and this time a Democratic candidate is doing the smearing for them. [...]

I know that Obama supporters want to hear no evil, but this is really, really bad.

So one has to wonder, when trying to differentiate himself from his rivals on various domestic issues, why does Obama go consistently to the right? Krugman nails it."

Your going to say I'm putting too much weight on what Krugman thinks and that may be true but no one in the media has been on target about the effects of the Bush economic policies since 2000 than Paul Krugman and that gives him a lot of credibility with me.

The final point I would like to make is that whoever gets the nomination and hopefully wins the White House it is going to be a sorry job. Ugly even. Obama's reach across the aisle and build a bipartisan consensus talk is scary. We have seen what bipartisan looks like for the last 10 years and I don't think it will work. When is comes to the down and dirty politics that will be required to put this country back on the right track I think Hillary might be the better in-fighter. She is tough and smart and has had a long time to thicken her skin and sharpen her nails. I am not necessarily looking for the nice guy or gal or the person I would like to have a drink with. We have seen where that got us. I want a cunning alley fighter and I think Hillary matches that description better than Obama.