Thursday, July 31, 2008

I'm Worried

I know it has been pretty quiet around here on the political front. I am trying to pay attention and keep up with what is going on but the demands of my job and the fact that the client has suddenly realized after 14 weeks that tomorrow is my last day is just overwhelming my time.

The thing is, especially after reading Billmon's post linked in the previous post. There seems to be a real possibility that the Dems are going to screw the pooch one more time and lose this thing to Karl Rove's campaign of personal destruction. Read the post and post your view in the comments. Am I just being a 'fraidy cat'? It just seems to me that we are seeing a repeat of 2004 when the Rovian message of personal destruction turned the electorate away from what were the really important issues and the reality of the world we are living in.

Heading back to Atlanta tomorrow and the end of this gig. Only a few days before Madam and I head to the UK for a big wedding and then a week or so in the wilds of France trying to relax. I just wonder what the dynamic will be when I get back? For the first time in years I am going to be out of internet no American paper and not even CNN International. It will be interesting. Needless to say the Fallenmonk will be very quiet for the first part of August.

He's Back

Welcome back, Billmon.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Could be a Pattern?

Paul Krugman has an interesting graph:

Annual rates of employment growth by President. I think I see a pattern but I could be wrong as I am only a DFH.

Friendly Reminder

The folks in California got a friendly reminder yesterday that you don't really know when some natural or man made calamity will strike. Fortunately there are few reports of serious damage or injuries from yesterday's shake. So once again your crazy blogger that thinks everybody should be prepared passes along some good information.

Meteor Blades has a post up at the Great Orange Satan that links to some good articles prepared by Kossack AlphaGeek 3 years ago, shortly after Katrina wrecked the Gulf Coast, killed nearly 2000 people and left tens of thousands stranded without power or potable water for days. AlphaGeek, a Silicon Valley technical executive with professional experience in risk assessment and disaster-readiness planning, performed a tremendous service with a five-part series on the subject.

Here are the links from Meteor Blades post:

Are YOU ready for disaster? Part 1 of 5 - Assess your risks!

Are YOU ready for disaster? Part 2 of 5 - Plan to survive!

Are YOU ready for disaster? Part 3 of 5 - Plan to survive!

Are YOU ready for disaster? Part 4 of 5 - Gear, supplies and training

Are YOU ready for disaster? Part 5 of 5 - Conclusion

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

California Gets A Shake

California got what is reported as a 5.4 quake today centered just east of L.A. No major damage or injuries being reported.

Are all you West coasties OK?

It was before noon so I'm guessing most of you were still in bed. ;-)

Happy 50th Birthday NASA

Happy 50th Birthday NASA.
Most people, when they first think of NASA, think space and that is the primary mission of NASA, but missions to the Moon and beyond are only a small part what they are about. Without NASA's scientists, our lives would be much different . Rob Sharp at the Independent lets us know some of the many ways in which NASA has rocked and changed our world. He lists 50 things brought to us by NASA.

  • Firefighter breathing apparatus
  • Freeze Dried meats and vegetables
  • Hand held Vacuums
  • Air cushion trainers
  • Longer golf shots
  • Baby food
  • Satellite TV
  • Home blood pressure monitors
  • Better brakes for our cars
  • self righting life rafts
and forty more

Don't Forget the Terrorists

My but it has been quiet on the terror front for the last 4 years but it is the summer before a presidential election so just as it was done in 2004 the Dept. of Homeland Insecurity has issued a POHA. (That's a Period Of High Alert). As good ole Tom Ridge said back then "We don't do politics at the DHS".

I don't know about you but I feel safer already.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Laughing All the Way to the Bank

Jim DeRosa at DeRosa World (a much under read blog) reminds us that at least two people are really happy for the bailouts of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac enacted over the weekend by the Congress.

Daniel Mudd, the CEO of Fannie Mae, received $11.6 million in salary, stock and other compensation for 2007. Richard Syron, CEO of Freddie Mac, took home about $18.3 million last year.

Is it fair to ask what adjustment downward is going to made in this insane compensation in light of their complete failures as CEO's? Probably not.

Painting the Walls with Mayonnaise

I used to have a friend that managed a large block of apartments. One of his biggest frustrations was when he had to evict someone and as their final act of defiance they would trash the apartment in some way before leaving. One of their consistently favorite tricks was to smear mayonnaise all over the walls. The residual oil, of course, made clean up and repainting a terribly arduous task. It is childish and speaks volumes of their social adjustment.
Guess what. A large percentage of our GOP Senators are not any more socially developed. It appears they have decided to paint the walls with mayo as the voters show them the door. This kind of behavior is inexcusable in supposedly grown and responsible Senators. It seems like they just want to leave the place so trashed that it will overwhelm the new administration.

Today, by a vote of 52 - 43, Republican Senators stuck with Tom Coburn and voted against moving forward of the Omnibus package, which included numerous vital bills sponsored by some of those same GOP Senators.

This from Harry Reid, a partial list of what was at stake:
“The same Republican Senator who continued to hold up passage of the ALS Registry Act has unfortunately done the same for dozens of other worthy and overwhelmingly bipartisan bills. Just a few of these bills include:
The Emmitt Till Unsolved Crimes bill – Which would help heal old wounds and provide the Department of Justice and the FBI tools needed to effectively investigate and prosecute unsolved civil rights era-murders.

The Runaway and Homeless Youth bill -- Which would provide grants for health care, education and workforce programs, and housing programs for runaways and homeless youth.

The Combating Child Exploitation bill – Which would provide grants to train law enforcement to use technology to track individuals who trade child pornography and establish an Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

And the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act – Which would enhance cooperation in research, rehabilitation and quality of life for people who suffer from paralysis.
“We tried to pass each of these bills separately, but those efforts have been stalled by the objection of one Senator.
Well, now 41 other Senators have stalled those efforts.

Via MyDD Courtesy of Josh Orton, here are some other bills the Republican Senators rejected today:
Senator Thad Cochran - introduced - Stroke Treatment and Ongoing Prevention Act (S. 999/HR 477)

Sen. Christopher S. Bond - introduced - Vision Care for Kids Act (HR 507/S. 1117)

Sen. Sam Brownback- introduced- Prenatally and Postnatally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act (S. 1810/HR 3112)

Sen Domenici, Pete V - introduced - Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Reauthorization and Improvement Act (S. 2304/HR 3992)

Sen Vitter, David - introduced - Enhancing the Effective Prosecution of Child Pornography (S. 2869/HR 4136)

Sen Lugar, Richard G. - introduced - Reconstruction and Stabilization Civilian Management Act (HR 1084/S. 613)

Sen Coleman, Norm - introduced - Torture Victims Relief Reauthorization Act (HR 1678/S. 840)

Sen Stevens, Ted - introduced - Ocean Exploration, Mapping & Research (HR 1834/HR 2400/S. 39)

Sen Snowe, Olympia J. - introduced - Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System Act (S. 950/HR 2342)

Sen Voinovich, George V. - introduced - Appalachian Regional Development Act Amendments of 2008 (S. 496)
It was a good strategy by Reid to bundle a lot of the bills Tom Coburn was blocking but the GOP has once again pissed on the parade.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

New Hibachi

Finally going to get to give the new little hibachi a real test. Last weekend I cooked a few little pieces of rib-eye but it wasn't a true test. Tonight will bring the small lamb kabobs into play and where the little grills really shine. Those of you familiar with Yakitori style food know there is just something about cooking little skewers of meat over a hot little charcoal fire. Yakitori which means grilled bird in Japanese usually means chicken and any part of the chicken from the heart, small intestine, skin and even the tail. All on a little bamboo skewer and grilled over a little fire. Many of the Yakitori restaurants will also have other meats available for grilling as well.
I sort of got of track with the talk of Japanese because mine tonight is Greek. I got a 1.5 pound chunk of boneless leg of lamb this morning at Whole Foods and brought it home and cut it up into 3/4 inch cubes, this is smaller that what you would normally do for a kebab but the traditional size for the little skewers you get from the street vendors found outside many of the bars in Greece. This chunks are marinating now in Greek yogurt, oregano, olive oil and garlic. After a few hours they will be gloriously fragrant and ready to skewer and grill. I will use the small 6 inch bamboo skewers which, again is traditional and they fit nicely on a hibachi. If wasn't so lazy I would go out and cut some rosemary branches for skewers but the little bamboo ones will do for tonight. I have hardwood charcoal but not the olive wood stuff they use in Greece but I think it mostly in my head that it makes a difference on something so quickly cooked.
These little skewers of grilled lamb in a pita pocket with some tomato, lettuce and parsley made for many a meal when I lived in Cyprus. They were only 250p for five skewers in the sandwich and I really fell in love with them. It was a full meal and consistently good wherever you went. The little kebab stand in front of the Red Lion pub which was around the corner from my apartment would start on mine the minute he saw me come around the corner. Sitting at one of the outside tables with a hot kebab sandwich and a cool Carlsberg and watching the world go by was a favorite evening pastime.
So anyway, that is the Sunday evening menu at chez Fallenmonk. Back on the road early tomorrow morning for the final week in Asheville then home for a weekend and then off to the U.K. north of London for a wedding and then for what should be a restful week in the south of France at a friend's cottage. It should be a fairly inexpensive vacation. Airfare (business class) all on air miles, one night in the posh hotel for the wedding and then a few days with English friends before we meet some other English friends and head off on the Dover ferry for France. No cost for the cottage for the week, just food and wine and what petrol we burn sightseeing. One night in the Hilton at Gatwick (on points) and home. The biggest expense will be one night at the hotel for the wedding. Some typically British country house type place and I am expecting the room to run 150 quid or more which at the current rates will set me back $350 or more but it is just one night and these are old and dear friends and it is their oldest daughter and all that. Besides it is fun to stay in these places once in a while to see how the other half lives.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

Back for the weekend from Asheville(1 more week to go!!) and the tomatoes are about to take the place. Madam has given away a lot but now friends are starting to hide when they see her coming. I made shrimp with cherry tomatoes and whole wheat linguine last night and it didn't make a dent. So today it is a big batch of tomato basil soup and Madam can eat it all week while I am gone. This recipe is from the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten of the Food Network. I love what she does in the kitchen. No nonsense, just good food made from good ingredients. Her years as a caterer really taught her how to focus on getting the most from a recipe and her raw materials. This version of tomato basil soup with the roasted tomatoes is rich and has a depth that you won't get with just using canned or fresh tomatoes. It is definitely worth the little bit of extra effort.

Anyhow, here is what for dinner in the Monk's house tonight. This recipe calls for plum tomatoes but any ripe tomato will do as long as you don't skip the roasting part. I will put this together this afternoon after I go pick "more" tomatoes. Don't forget the crusty sour dough bread and a nice salad. I think a Pinot Grigio will be the wine.

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

3 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp good olive oil
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped yellow onions (preferably Vidalia or Walla Walla)(about 2 onions)
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) canned plum tomatoes, with their juice (try and find San Marzano tomatoes from Italy, a little more expensive but oh so good)
4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 qt chicken stock or water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss together the tomatoes, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in 1 layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.

In an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the butter, and red pepper flakes for 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown. Add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme, and chicken stock. Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, including the liquid on the baking sheet. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Pass through a food mill fitted with the coarsest blade. Taste for seasonings. Serve hot or cold.

copyright 1999, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Just a Matter of Time

The DOW fell 283 points today. How long do you think it will take before you see the headline "DOW falls 300 points on Obama speech"?

It's Good

I just got back from the client with a stop for some dinner and had my first chance to listen to Obama's speech in Berlin. Not the speech of the century but substantial and actually apolitical. It was what it needed to be, an address to a European audience with a call to global co-operation. I think it was just what it needed to be. You can't but be amazed that 200 thousand Berliners turned out to hear it live and another half a million tuned in via TV and the Internet.
Meanwhile, McSame countered by having lunch in a German restaurant in Ohio and spoke to a dozen or so supporters. How much of this excitement for Obama is driven by the visceral hatred of Shrub in Europe is up to discussion but you can't argue that the even wasn't a success. Naturally and wrongly the wingnut right is claiming that all this demonstrated love by Germans is going to hurt Obama's acceptance in the U.S. is to be expected.

It is of some concern that the McSame campaign is so bad and inept so far ahead of the election. It gives the RNC time to "send in the clowns" and rescue what is surely the most disastrous presidential campaign in modern history.

Waiting for Rain or Death

War, drought and rising food prices are continuing to ravage the horn of Africa. According to the UK-based charity Oxfam an estimated nine to 13 million people in the region are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. It hasn't rained in the area in eleven months.
It is the second serious drought in the region in three years, it says.

Oxfam is calling on donors to increase aid levels to the region.

The call follows another warning on Tuesday from the UN World Food Programme, saying that more than 14 million people in the Horn of Africa needed food aid because of drought and rising food and fuel prices.

"The cost of food has escalated by up to 500% in some places, leaving people who have suffered drought after drought in utter destitution," says Oxfam's Rob McNeil, who has just returned from the Somali and Afar regions of Ethiopia.

  • In Somalia, 2.6 million (35% of the population) require emergency assistance, Oxfam says. This could increase to half the population of the country (3.5 million) by the end of 2008. Between 18% and 24% of children are acutely malnourished
  • In Ethiopia, the government estimates 4.6 million people are now in need of emergency food assistance. This has more than doubled from 2.2 million in need of help at the beginning of this year. Some 75,000 children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition in drought-stricken areas, the government says
  • In Turkana, northern Kenya, an Oxfam survey showed 25% of children are suffering from acute malnutrition, the highest in the country
You don't see much about this in the American media since 14 million black people on the verge of starving to death isn't really a big deal in this country. You have to turn to the foreign news sources like the BBC to find out this stuff. The majority of these people live on less than $1 a day, if that and these huge increases in price for the basic foods are a tragedy.

Not a pleasant post so early in the morning but this needs to be in our consciousness as we decide on our next leader. The world is bigger than the U.S. and while we represent only a few percent of the world's population we are responsible for consuming some 25% of it's resources.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Shedding the Props

Neat little tidbit in the article at Huffpo concerning "Wall Street Got Drunk" comment by Bush.

Then, making light of the foreclosure crisis, he said: "And then we got a housing issue... not in Houston, and evidently not in Dallas, because Laura's over there trying to buy a house. [great laughter] I like Crawford but unfortunately after eight years of sacrifice, I am apparently no longer the decision maker."
I guess Shrub has decided that he no longer needs the "ranch" to prop up his image as a "real cowboy". It was always a political prop and now he no longer needs it.

Update: I wonder how much money the government has spent on making the ranch a suitable place for the alternate White House?

h/t DKos

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What A Day!

This post is a vent just for the other software geeks that may stop by here. The rest of you normal and sane people can safely ignore the following.

It has suddenly dawned on the client that there are two weeks left in my engagement. They are now trying to get everything done now that has been on my action list for 12 weeks. In their rush they are changing the data feeds without telling me, putting partial files on the FTP site for my system to pick up and my workflows trying to process the data are going bananas. I finally had to get up and leave tonight with everything in a total state of confusion. My instructions...give me a complete data feed with the data as specified and let my GetHostData workflow run its normal run with no errors and we'll see where we are in the morning. Weeks of work potentially up in smoke because they thought they could take some shortcuts without clearing it with me. Everthing is backed up every 24 hours but this kind of stuff makes me crazy.
I need drink and food.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Have a Salad, Live Dangerously

Think back to when you didn't consider eating a salad a high risk behavior. It's come to that under what Historian Rick Perlstein, author of "Nixonland," calls it "E. coli conservatism" -- government shrinks and shrinks until people get sick.
The excerpts below comes from an article in the LA Times yesterday. Read the whole article if you really want to get mad about the state of our food safety.

What's clear, though, is that imports of agricultural products have increased by 78% since 1973, but inspections of those products have decreased by 78% over the same period, according to the Coalition for a Stronger FDA, whose membership includes former chiefs of the Department of Health and Human Services, of which the FDA is a part.That's a problem because the FDA itself says pesticide violations or infectious disease occur three times more often in imported foods than in domestic foods. In 1991, there were 1.5 inspections for each $1 million worth of imported agriculture commodities; in 2006 there were only 0.4.
The agency's decline started when Reagan was president. FDA food inspections plummeted from 29,355 in 1980 to 7,668 in 1989. They stayed flat during Bill Clinton's years in the White House, then jumped past 11,000 after 9/11, amid fears that the nation's food was vulnerable to terrorist attack. Food inspections have now, however, fallen to levels below that number.
[bolding mine]

Back in Asheville

Ok back in Asheville for the week. Pretty quiet here over the weekend as the promised gardens chores kept me pretty busy. Big batch of pesto made and frozen in plastic ice trays and also a big batch of tomato sauce done the same way. After they freeze you put them in zip bags and can take one or two out for a quick addition to a sauce. Great way to save having to always have fresh basil about and not having to open a whole can of tomato sauce for jsut a few tablepoons. I do the same with chicken and beef stock.
Anyhow, been driving this morning and have to get to work. We'll try and find some time later to get caught up with what's happening in the world and all the blogs.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday and Off to Home

Traveling back to Atlanta today. Looks like some of the not tropical depression is moving in here in Augusta looking at the clouds. See you guys and gals on the other side. Don't drink all the wine before I get there. Madam tells me I will have to fight my way into the kitchen through the tomatoes.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Falling Behind Even Faster

Remember back in the '90s when the the GOP thought it was so grand that they had defeated the Clinton health care plan? Since that time there have been study after study panning the state of health care in the US. We continue to fall behind country after country as the GOP and even some Dems in Congress keep kowtowing to their special interest buddies in industry in turn for campaign funds and special favors. In every one of these studies it shouts at the fact that we, in the U.S., spend more money than other developed countries for health care and we get the least. Everybody in Congress has a good health care plan(paid for by us taxpayers), they're doing just fine while millions of us pay out the nose for just marginal healthcare insurance and millions more of us have no coverage at all.

The GOP and the other fat cats keep telling us we have a free market system but if that was the case shouldn't we buyers be getting more for our money and not less? Well we aren't, and we are falling further and further behind. Now we're #42!
The United States of America is becoming less united by the day. A 30-year gap now exists in the average life expectancy between Mississippi, in the Deep South, and Connecticut, in prosperous New England. Huge disparities have also opened up in income, health and education depending on where people live in the US, according to a report published yesterday.

The American Human Development Index has applied to the US an aid agency approach to measuring well-being – more familiar to observers of the Third World – with shocking results. The US finds itself ranked 42nd in global life expectancy and 34th in survival of infants to age. Suicide and murder are among the top 15 causes of death and although the US is home to just 5 per cent of the global population it accounts for 24 per cent of the world's prisoners.

Despite an almost cult-like devotion to the belief that unfettered free enterprise is the best way to lift Americans out of poverty, the report points to a rigged system that does little to lessen inequalities.

"The report shows that although America is one of the richest nations in the world, it is woefully behind when it comes to providing opportunity and choices to all Americans to build a better life," the authors said.

Some of its more shocking findings reveal that, in parts of Texas, the percentage of adults who pass through high school has not improved since the 1970s.

crossposted at SteveAudio

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

No Time for Satire

I've decided it is time for me to briefly wade in on the New Yorker cover disaster.

First of all, I didn't find it that funny. Secondly, we on the left are virtually 'shell shocked' over the constant stream of propaganda, innuendo, distortions and outright lies pumped out by the right over the last 8 years that anything that smacks of it touches raw nerves. We are also acutely aware, it having been demonstrated endlessly, that a great many American voters are apparently not aware enough to recognize satire when they see it and file it away as a joke. The reality is that the image on the New Yorker cover will sear itself into their dimly functioning brains and that will be what pollutes what little thinking they do over the next few months until the election. Every piece they see on Faux News, which is their primary input source for misinformation, will be filtered through the image of Obama in Muslim garb, Michelle with a machine gun and the burning American flag.

Think I am being too hard on my fellow Americans? Remember that half of them voted for Shrub...twice no less and some 28% of them still think he is doing a good job. Forty percent or more are planning to vote for McSame. Think about it.

Aren't you proud of me for not calling them 'knuckle-draggers'?

Light Show

More for Space Geeks

The brightest lights in the night sky are having a get-together. On July 16th and 17th, Jupiter and the nearly-full Moon will be side-by-side in the constellation Sagittarius.

The pair rise in the southeast just after nightfall and remain visible all night long.

There is also a bonus for those of us in Europe and North America. The International Space Station is making a series of evening passes over Europe and North America and it will join Jupiter and the Moon over many towns and cities.

You can find out the times the ISS will brighten your sky by checking the Simple Satellite Tracker to find out when to look:

How to Survive

I wasn't being flip in my previous post about it Getting Worse. Below are some links where you can get information on what you have to do be prepared. Some of the sites are what you might expect(a little wing nutty and over the top) and constantly referring to TEOTWAWKI, or "the end of the world as we know it." but a lot of them have some good information. Filter out the wingnut and get what you need.

For what it is worth, and forgive me please for being frank, not being prepared to protect yourself and your family in case of natural catastrophe, nuclear war, or societal collapse is just plain stupid. I'm not saying you have to go overboard and be prepared to survive for six months with no outside contact but just make a reasonable effort to be prepared for a month or 6 weeks of limited access to food and or lack of utilities. It's just prudent.

READY.GOV - Make a Kit
American Red Cross - Disaster Supplies Kit List
National Security Emergencies -
National Security Emergencies (For Kids) -
Emergency Preparedness Checklists
72 Hour Kit ideas -
LDS 72 hour Emergency List
Mike's Bugout Bag FAQ
Water Storage and Purification
Survival Gear and Supplies

U.S. Homeland Security Info
READY.GOV - U.S. Department of Homeland Security
DHS.GOV - U.S. Department of Homeland Security
White House Homeland Security page
Are You Ready? - A Guide to Citizen Preparedness -
Are You Ready? - A Guide to Citizen Preparedness (text version)
CDC - Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response
American Red Cross Homeland Security Advisory System
Terrorism - Preparing for the Unexpected - American Red Cross
National Homeland Security Knowledgebase -

Popular Survivalist Websites

Noah's Ark: Emergency Preparedness Information
Captain Dave's Survival Center (bit of a wingnut but good info regardless)
How-To Survival Library
Walton's Self Reliance/Information Area
Equipped To Survive -
Frugal's Survival Library
Preparedness Nuggets Pages
Gentle Survivalist
Ken L. Holder's Preparedness Page
Equipped to Survive -
Survivalism text files -
BlueWolf Survival and Preparedness
Army Survival Field Manual FM 3-05.70
Army Survival Field Manual FM-21-76 -
Army Survival Field Manual FM-21-76 -
Army Field Manuals (full list)
Earth Changes, Survival & Self Sufficiency Links
Modern Survival Magazine - An online-only magazine
Paul T.
Survivalist Blog
Code Name Insight - Very useful links
California Earthquake Map -

Thanks to for the links

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Change of Habit

I got tired of the rut today...come back to the motel, have a drink(when I travel by car I can have my little portable bar) and check the tubes, figure out where to go for dinner, eat some marginal food(or go to Carrabba's and have a salad and soup) and come back and go to bed.
Tonight I stopped by EarthFare on the way back to the hotel and got supplies for a in room party. Organic Roasted Garlic Hummus, some very excellent jalapeno corn chips(from FoodShouldTasteGood), a tiny piece of Maytag Blue cheese and some nice crackers. I already have a bottle of very good Ravenswood Zinfandel (no wimpy wines) so I am set. It's a private little hotel room party! I've already changed into sweats, turned on the food channel and as you can see I'm munching and typing at the same time. Oh! and I also bought a bar of Dagoba chocolate- Xocolatl - dark chocolate with chiles and nibs and a small piece of it is going to go great with that Zin when I crack it. Wish you guys were here to share it.

BTW I am really pissed at the Food Network for putting the Challenge show in the 7pm slot. Not that I was such a big fan of Emeril but I watch the food network for cooking and not to watch some folks try and make impossible wedding cakes and such. I hadn't realized that Lagasse was out but I guess he is since his show isn't there any more. Tonight it is the big Mac and Cheese challenge. Gimme a break!

It's Going to Get Worse

Here is an excellent article giving a perspective on what we are likely to see this fall with respect to energy and food supplies. It is worth a read. We have only a 19 day supply of oil as a buffer for supply disruptions. Everything in our grocery stores depends on the availability of fuel for trucks. World oil production has fallen every year since 2005. It is only going to get worse.

Seriously, we all need to be looking at how we can weather a disruption in the availability of fuel and the follow-on availability of food and other products we have come to depend on.
Can your family survive two weeks or a month without having access to a grocery store? Do you have enough of the basics like rice, beans, flour, corn meal, dry milk, cooking oil, charcoal, salt and whatever else you might need in the cupboard right now? Do you have a Victory Garden? If not you are at risk. This is deadly serious. You need to really consider your preparedness. Even if you buy some stuff now that you can't use before it spoils you can always donate it to a food bank and write it off.

Remember "Be prepared, it's the Boy Scout marching song."

The Real 'Surge'

While most of us have a sense that things are not going well in Afghanistan the following puts it in a little more sobering perspective:
There have been 556 Americans killed in Afghanistan since 2001. 64 of them--nearly 12 percent--have been killed in the last six weeks.
'Bring it on Bush' is spilling the blood of our men and women needlessly. He needs to be impeached and imprisoned for lying to the American people, killing Americans in a useless war and ignoring the real threat posed by the Taliban in Afghanistan. His incompetence has allowed them to rebuild and his ill advised 'surge' in Iraq is resulting in a real 'surge' of dead American soldiers in Afghanistan.

crossposted at SteveAudio

More Good News

For all you folks out there trying to decide whether to eat or buy enough gas to get to work I have some really great news. You'll be tickled pink to know that the producer price index only went up 1.8% in June. Seriously, in case you don't follow the numbers on a month to month basis. That was the largest monthly increase since last November when it jumped 2.6%. Food went up 1.5% and energy a whopping 6%. Happy times are here again!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Day Late, Dollar Short

NEW YORK ( -- The Federal Reserve unanimously approved new mortgage lending rules Monday in a crackdown on shady practices - particularly those involving subprime loans made to borrowers with weak credit.

The agency made several substantial revisions to the proposed regulations it unveiled in December. Many of the changes acknowledged consumer advocates' concerns that the rules still contained too many loopholes that would allow shady lending practices to continue.

While not admitting that Alan Greenspan and his bunch, with the wholehearted complicity of Shrub and company, totally ignored their fiscal responsibility over the last 10 years or so CNN is reporting that (and this is really amazing) the Fed is tightening the rules on mortgage lenders. Talk about shutting the barn door!
Look at these revolutionary ideas being spouted by the Fed:

The new rules governing "higher-priced," or subprime, loans;
  • Prohibit creditors from extending credit without regard to a consumer's ability to repay the loan from income and assets other than the home's value. The lender complies, in part, by assessing repayment ability based on the highest scheduled payment in the first seven years of the loan.
  • Require creditors to verify income and assets they rely upon to determine repayment ability
  • Ban any prepayment penalty if the payment can change in the initial four years. For other higher-priced loans, a prepayment penalty period cannot last for more than two years.
  • Require creditors to establish escrow account for property taxes and homeowner's insurance. This rule will be phased in during 2010.
How revolutionary! Wait there's more:

Additional rules will apply to all mortgages, regardless of rate.

  • Creditors and mortgage brokers cannot coerce a real estate appraiser to misstate a home's value.
  • Companies that service mortgage loans are prohibited from engaging in certain practices, such as pyramiding late fees. Also, they must credit consumers' loan payments as of the date of receipt and provide a payoff statement within a reasonable time of request.
  • Creditors must provide a good faith estimate of the loan costs, including a schedule of payments, within three days after a consumer applies for any mortgage loan, including home improvement loans or refinancings. Currently, these estimates are only required for home-purchase loans. Consumers cannot be charged any fee until after they receive the early disclosures, except a reasonable fee for obtaining the consumer's credit history.
  • In advertisements, companies must include additional information about rates, monthly payments and loan features. The rule also bans seven deceptive practices, such as saying a rate is fixed when it can change.
Don't you feel better now that you know your government is on top of the situation before it turns into a crisis? Assholes!
Oh! and this whole financial crisis is in your mind. Get real!

Right Here in River City

While I am all for everyone being to keep their homes in this crashing market I just want to know how much it is going to cost me and my fellow taxpayers.

Via Bloomberg:

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson put the weight of the federal government behind Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the beleaguered companies that buy or finance almost half of the $12 trillion of U.S. mortgages.

Paulson, speaking on the steps of the Treasury facing the White House, asked Congress for authority to buy unlimited stakes in and lend to the companies, aiming to stem a collapse in confidence. The Federal Reserve separately authorized the firms to borrow directly from the central bank.

The announcements followed weekend talks between the firms, government officials, lawmakers and regulators, after Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac lost about half their value last week. Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke are trying to prevent a collapse that would exacerbate the worst housing recession in 25 years and deepen the economic slowdown.

The operative and most troubling part of that statement above is the phrase "buy unlimited stakes". This means if stockholders don't respond positively on these statements and start bidding up the price of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac then the Treasury will buy as much as necessary to keep the companies afloat. This may be a good thing. I don't know as I am not a financial expert. The Fed can print money but sooner or later we taxpayers are going to be on the hook for paying it back. Take the current U.S. Government debt of 9 trillion bucks and add to it the $5 Trillion in liabilities carried by these two you just effectively more than doubled the national debt. That's just a little troubling especially when you note that even with the promise of someone with deep pockets promising to shore up the stocks the market for both these babies was off 5% for Fannie and 8.3% for Freddie today. These guys are down 75% for the year!
You will note, however, that when things were looking good neither of these companies shared with you but when things are bad because of mismanagement you get the bill. As Krugman says, "Privatize the profits, socialize the liabilities". We are so screwed!

We've Hit the Million Mark!

Wanna bet yours truly is on it and maybe twice, once with my middle initial and once without?

WASHINGTON, DC - The nation's terrorist watch list has hit one million names, according to a tally maintained by the American Civil Liberties Union based upon the government's own reported numbers for the size of the list.

"Members of Congress, nuns, war heroes and other 'suspicious characters,' with names like Robert Johnson and Gary Smith, have become trapped in the Kafkaesque clutches of this list, with little hope of escape," said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "Congress needs to fix it, the Terrorist Screening Center needs to fix it, or the next president needs to fix it, but it has to be done soon."

A Crime Any Way you Look At It

Here's "Bring 'em On" Shrub in September 2004

The Taliban no longer is in existence.


Taliban insurgents carried out a bold assault on a remote base near the border with Pakistan on Sunday, NATO reported, and a senior American military official said nine American soldiers were killed.

The attack, the worst against Americans in Afghanistan in three years, illustrated the growing threat of Taliban militants and their associates, who in recent months have made Afghanistan a far deadlier war zone for American-led forces than Iraq.

This is monumental failure 'writ large'. What a tragedy...and the only ones paying the price are our soldiers.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hibachi Madness, Hibachi Peace

I have been looking everywhere I go that sells BBQ grills for an old fashioned hibachi. The little cast iron miracle grill. I had one in Hawaii and I cooked hundreds of great meals on that little sucker. They were cheap and simple but did the job when it came to putting some serous fire under some food. I haven't been able been able to find one anywhere so I turned to the net and found what I was looking for at Amazon...actually a few of what I was looking for.

I opted for the Lodge Sportsman. It was a little more expensive but I know Lodge stuff and knew it would be a solid investment. It came while I was out of town last week but I haven't had a chance to light it off. I was counting on this evening but we are being plagued by intermittent thunderstorms and I might have to wait another week for the inaugural. Yeah, I know I just got a super-duper Infrared gas grill for Father's day but there are just some things that have to have a real fire underneath them and a little hibachi is just the thing for the two little rib steaks I have in the fridge. Isn't it cute? Almost Zen like in it simplicity and focus on function and purity of action.

The Monk's Potato Salad

It's summer time and time for outdoor eating and picnics and all that stuff. One of my 'mostest' favorite things is a good potato salad. After years of research and experimentation I think I make some very good potato salad--you be the judge. There are actually two variations because you can't always get good small red potatoes and you can almost always find Yukon Gold nowadays. Besides the cooking and prep of the potatoes the recipes are the same. The secret is marinating the potatoes while they are still warm in a vinaigrette either overnight or for an hour or so before final assembly.

14 small boiling potatoes, such as red bliss, about 2 1/2 pounds, scrubbed well
2 3/4 pounds of small Yukon Gold potatoes

6 hard-cooked large eggs, roughly chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion or white Vidalia
1/3 cup finely chopped celery
1/3 cup finely chopped green or red bell pepper
3 Tblsp sweet pickle relish (optional)
3/4 cup good mayonnaise (Hellman's is my favorite but Duke's is good too)
1 Tblsp prepared mustard ( I like Gulden's Spicy Brown but any mustard works)
2 tablespoons chopped Italian or flat leaf parsley leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

For the marinade:

1 Tblsp red wine vinegar
3 Tblsp extra virgin olive oil(preferred) or other light oil such as canola or peanut
1 tsp Dijon mustard
pinch of kosher salt
few grinds of black pepper

Place the potatoes in a nice size pot and add enough cool water to cover by 1-inch. salt the water with a couple of tablespoons of kosher salt. (hint: always start potatoes in cool water and bring to the boil) Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until the potatoes are just tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. If using red potatoes --drain, cool, then cut the potatoes into halves or quarters depending on size as you want the end result to be bite size. If using the Yukon Gold then drain and cool to the touch and peel and cut the potatoes into 3/8 inch slices and these slices will break up some in the marinating and final prep.

While the potatoes are cooking make the marinade. This is just a basic vinaigrette and if you are too lazy to make it or don't have the ingredients then you can substitute 4 Tblsp of a bottled Italian salad dressing. Once the potatoes are cooked and prepped but still warm, toss them with the marinade in a large mixing bowl and set aside to let them finish cooling. Stir them once in a while while you are doing the rest of the prep. Once the potatoes are good and cool(you can cook the potatoes the night before and let them marinate overnight which is even better) combine them with all the remaining ingredients and gently toss to combine. Refrigerate the salad several hours before serving to allow the flavors to blend. I usually garnish the salad, once it is in its serving bowl, with thin strips of roasted red pepper or lacking that a dusting of paprika and maybe a few sliced stuffed olives.

Variations: An interesting twist is to add 6 slices of crisp bacon, leave out the pickle relish and instead of the mayonnaise and mustard dressing use a good ranch dressing(about a cup). Makes a completely different but very good potato salad.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

New Trick with Cherry Tomatoes

I had mentioned that I would be inundated with cherry tomatoes this week when I returned from Asheville. It was a safe prediction. I was trying to figure out something to do differently with them when I remembered that I had bought a nice big container if good Greek Feta cheese a couple of weeks ago and thought I might try it with some tomatoes that had been warmed in a quick saute. You get warmed cherry tomatoes a lot in France for breakfast and I really like them and I have a lot of cherry tomatoes to eat so why not for dinner.

Here's the trick I discovered. This recipe/technique is for two people. Two hands full of nice ripe cherry tomatoes. Put them in a medium saute pan with a bit of olive oil over medium heat. Meanwhile, chop up a couple of tablespoons of fresh basil(flat leaf parsley would work as well). Crumble up about a half cup of Feta cheese(I use the real stuff from Greece but domestic or French should work as well). As soon as the tomatoes are heated through and before they begin to break up, sprinkle in the basil or parsley and the feta cheese. The cheese will quickly melt and form a lovely sauce. The cheesy and salty flavor of the Feta is a perfect combination with the tomatoes. I will definitely use this technique again with other fresh vegetables. I always seem to have some Feta around as it keeps really well if it is kept in its brine.

I'm Getting Cheaper but I Still Have My Pride

I had to struggle to get of bed this morning after finding out my value as a human being was down a million bucks since Shrub showed on the scene.
It is just plain hard getting excited about the future when you see your valued going down, down, down. Calling me worthless is going to take on a whole new meaning.
The "value of a statistical life" is $6.9 million in today's dollars, the Environmental Protection Agency reckoned in May — a drop of nearly $1 million from just five years ago.

The Associated Press discovered the change after a review of cost-benefit analyses over more than a dozen years.

Though it may seem like a harmless bureaucratic recalculation, the devaluation has real consequences.

When drawing up regulations, government agencies put a value on human life and then weigh the costs versus the lifesaving benefits of a proposed rule. The less a life is worth to the government, the less the need for a regulation, such as tighter restrictions on pollution.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Another Antarctic Ice Shelf on the Verge of Collapse

I don't know if you are keeping track but this is just another of in a long line of disappearing ice shelves. In the past 30 years, six Antarctic ice shelves have collapsed completely -- Prince Gustav Channel, Larsen Inlet, Larsen A, Larsen B, Wordie, Muller and the Jones Ice Shelf. On the map the Wilkins Ice Shelf is on the left near where you see Bellingshausen Sea. All the Global Warming deniers be damned. This is not a normal thing and is progressing a lot faster than even predicted a few years ago. Just another canary in the mine giving us a peep of warning. Listen Up!

PARIS (AFP) New evidence has emerged that a large plate of floating ice shelf attached to Antarctica is breaking up, in a troubling sign of global warming, the European Space Agency (ESA) said on Thursday.

Images taken by its Envisat remote-sensing satellite show that Wilkins Ice Shelf is "hanging by its last thread" to Charcot Island, one of the plate's key anchors to the Antarctic peninsula, ESA said in a press release.

"Since the connection to the island... helps stabilise the ice shelf, it is likely the breakup of the bridge will put the remainder of the ice shelf at risk," it said.

Wilkins Ice Shelf had been stable for most of the last century, covering around 16,000 square kilometres (6,000 square miles), or about the size of Northern Ireland, before it began to retreat in the 1990s.

Since then several large areas have broken away, and two big breakoffs this year left only a narrow ice bridge about 2.7 kilometres (1.7 miles) wide to connect the shelf to Charcot and nearby Latady Island.

The latest images, taken by Envisat's radar, say fractures have now opened up in this bridge and adjacent areas of the plate are disintegrating, creating large icebergs.

Not All Bad News

It wasn't all bad news in the Senate yesterday. Senator Ted Kennedy arrived back in the Capitol to vote on the Medicare bill, which passed by a veto-proof 69 - 30 margin. A few weeks ago Kennedy's vote could have been critical as Senate Republicans blocked any movement on this legislation by only one vote. The GOP action on Medicare, or lack thereof, resulted in a huge backlash. Doctors were irate and the AMA has been running ads against Republican Senators across the country. Obviously, Republican Senators got the message that their action wasn't making some very wealthy people very happy. As always with the talks.

Not surprisingly Shrub was happy about the FISA bill as it will probably save him from a prison sentence, but he is threatening to veto the Medicare bill. Interestingly, Mr. Straight Shooter was the ONE Senator who didn't vote today on Medicare. According to The Hill McSame wouldn't even say how he would've voted. Now that is what I call leadership! Of course, McShrub has his own private form of Medicare in the form of a very wealthy wife.

Nice Knowing You Fourth

Yesterday's Senate vote on FISA was not a surprise. We knew they were going to throw the 4th Amendment in the trash. The fight isn't over yet and while this battle is lost for now, there are more to fight. One thing yesterday's vote firmly established however, is that it should convince you or anyone else that the idea that our leaders are going to "lead" in the fight to preserve our civil liberties and preserve the Constitution is complete bullshit. Barack Obama and all the others are only going to step up and do the right thing when we give them a reason to do so and not until we do so.

We, as U.S. citizens, need to come together in a purposeful coalition and create the political climate where to do anything less than support our Constitution and the sacred rights of its citizens is the only way a politician can survive and keep his or her job. Until we make it the "smart" thing to do politically the politicians are going to listen to other interests and not the American people.

What can you do now?

  • Donate to AccountabilityNowPAC through ActBlue
  • Pledge to return on August 8 when they detonate the money bomb
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  • Spread the word by placing one of these logos on your web page

It doesn't matter if you are a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Independent, or Green or any other of the myriad constituencies in this countty. It is to all our advantage that we insure we hold politicians to their oath to uphold the Constitution. Upholding the founding principles of our country is not partisan. It is necessary if we are to preserve and cherish this union.

h/t Firedoglake

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Just a Little Humorous

I am working in the Purchasing Department here at the client and a typical example of some small functionary making a decision that is, on its surface, not that important but actually has a huge impact.
About 2pm I heard "a discouraging word" from one of the buyers standing at the copier. These people are heavy copier users. It seems that someone, and no one is sure who, had all the copiers set to prevent more than a certain number of copies per day. No one was told. The message on the machine says "Daily Copy Limit Exceeded" and just quits. I could not help but laugh. What makes it even funnier is that this copier is also a scanner and fax machine and those functions are suspended as well. No faxing of Purchase Orders, no scanning of PO's to email, nothing. The whole department shuts down for the rest of the day.

What Constitution?

Isn't amazing how the GOP can so completely show their ignorance or even their total disregard for the Constitution? It is no wonder the current administration so blithely tramples over it at the drop of a hat.


WASHINGTON—Former secretaries of state James Baker III and Warren Christopher say the next time the president goes to war, Congress should be required to say whether it agrees. The co-chairmen of a bipartisan study group have proposed legislation that would require the president to consult lawmakers before initiating combat lasting longer than a week, except in cases of emergencies.


Article I, Section 8

The Congress shall have Power ...

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

H/t the Great Orange Satan

Jupiter at its Brightest

For all of you space geeks...don't overlook the fact that the planet Jupiter reaches maximum brilliance this week, on July 9th, when it makes its closest approach to Earth for all of 2008. If at sunset you look low and southeast just above the horizon for a beacon of light brighter than any star you will be able to spot Jupiter rising for an all-night transit across the southern sky. During this close approach, Jupiter makes a great target for backyard telescopes. Even with a small telescope you should be able to see the planet's cloud belts, its four largest moons, and the Great Red Spot, an anti-cyclone twice as wide as Earth. Interestingly, just a few days ago, the Great Red Spot ran over a sibling, the Little Red Spot, and may have actually destroyed the smaller storm.

You can get more information at

The picture above is from Amateur astronomer Tilemachos Athanasiadis sends this picture from Greece. It shows Jupiter and the Milky Way shining over the dark form of Mount Olympus, "the throne of Zeus," he points out. To highlight the Milky Way's faint star clouds alongside much brighter Jupiter, he used a Canon 400D set at ISO 1600 for a 300s guided exposure.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Same Old Chicken Dance

Not that it is any surprise but our glorious leaders decided that the best thing to do about our environmental crisis is nothing. Once again they pushed out change to another generation. The world needs decisive leadership and this is what we get. They will spin this as a great step and a global agreement but it is just hollow rhetoric. Looks like our grandchildren will get to do all the work while they are choking and starving.
"The G-8 nations came to a mutual recognition that this target — cutting global emissions by at least 50 percent by 2050 — should be a global target," said Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who announced the endorsement.

The G-8 last year at a summit in Germany pledged to consider the 2050 target, and this year's Japanese hosts had hoped to solidify that commitment at the meeting in Toyako, northern Japan.
This is, as usual, too little, too late. We should have started 30 years ago and had a target of yesterday to reduce emissions by 50 percent. You might notice also that they didn't say what the basis is for the 50% reduction. Is it 2000 or 1950 or 2010? Makes a big difference.

I Coulda Told Ya!

When I returned from Beijing last year I coughed and hacked for weeks. I said at the time that I couldn't see any way that the Chinese government would meet the WHO air quality limits in time for the Olympics. The BBC has been following up...

Just a month before the start of the Beijing Olympics, the city is still failing to meet international air quality standards, the BBC has found.

When Beijing bid for the Olympics in 2001, it said its air would meet World Health Organization (WHO) standards.

The BBC put this to the test using a hand-held detector to test for airborne particles known as PM10.

We found that the city's air failed to meet the WHO's air quality guidelines for PM10 on six days out of seven.
Anyone want to make a bet on how long it takes the U.S. media to criticize the Chinese over this?

Why is Shub Going to the Olympics?

I am hearing all kinds of claptrap about Shrub going to the opening ceremonies of the Olympics and it is unusual as most sitting presidents only attend the opening of games on their own soil. Chimpy's excuse is that it would be an "affront" to the Chinese people.

Bullshit! The reality is that the Chinese have told him that he will attend and no ifs, ands or buts. The Chinese have financed his little Mastercard war and own his ass several times over and that is the only reason he is going.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Like Lambs to Slaughter

It looks like our incompetent buddies at the DHS have cooked up the ultimate scheme to keep us DFH's in line when we fly.

A senior government official with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has expressed great interest in a so-called safety bracelet that would serve as a stun device, similar to that of a police Taser®. According to this promotional video found at the Lamperd Less Lethal website, the bracelet would be worn by all airline passengers.

This bracelet would:

• take the place of an airline boarding pass

• contain personal information about the traveler

• be able to monitor the whereabouts of each passenger and his/her luggage

• shock the wearer on command, completely immobilizing him/her for several minutes

The Electronic ID Bracelet, as it’s referred to as, would be worn by every traveler “until they disembark the flight at their destination.” Yes, you read that correctly. Every airline passenger would be tracked by a government-funded GPS, containing personal, private and confidential information, and that it would shock the customer worse than an electronic dog collar if he/she got out of line

You notice, of course, that they are doing a "Carlin" and calling this thing an Electronic ID Bracelet when, in fact, it is nothing more than an Electroshock Bracelet. Granted that this is from the Times but all the links check.
I surely can't imagine letting some airline flunky strap one of these suckers on me or one of my family. Not only can it shock into immobility but it can be used to torture. Who is going to have the control device or will everyone in the freaking airport have one? If you are an old science fiction buff like me you will remember a story from many years ago about imprisonment with a collar that not only tracked the wearer but could be commanded to explode and decapitate when it was determined necessary. This is not far off that. This is what the idiots at DHS are thinking about. Next thing you know part of the standard equipment for flight attendants will be cattle prods.

h/t DailyKos

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Sunday in the Garden

Nice quiet Sunday...a little gardening and a little rest. Spent the bulk of the day yesterday smoking some baby back ribs and a beef brisket(grass fed). The ribs were for last night and they were mighty nice along with some canned vegan baked beans kicked up with a caramelized Vidalia onion and some fresh chopped parsley, potato salad and cole slaw. Did I mention the fresh Georgia peach tart just out of the oven with some Hagen Daz vanilla ice cream?

The brisket will have to wait until next weekend though. Picked some lovely and perfectly ripe tomatoes this morning that are just screaming for pizza. The whole wheat pizza dough is bubbling away and I just picked the fresh basil that will go into pesto for the pizza. Slices of fresh tomato over the top of the pesto then sprinkled generously with fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. It's only two o'clock and I am getting hungry all ready.

Anyhow, off to Asheville again tomorrow morning for another week. At least this week we will be doing user acceptance testing and most of my work will be answering questions and facilitating the testing. Shouldn't be too rough.
Thought I would share a couple of pictures I took this morning in the garden. As you can see the lilies are happy and the sweet 100 tomatoes are promising to inundate in a week or two.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Independence Day

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Happy 232nd America!

We are a little off the mission right now but it looks like we have a new skipper coming aboard. Next 4th will look a lot more promising.

This half page ad ad appeared yesterday in the New York Times h/t to Firedoglake

July 4, 1776 - 2008

When in the course of human events the government becomes destructive of the ends for which it was established, it is the Right of the People to alter it and demand restoration of those Constitutional Principles that have so long assured their Liberty, Safety, and Happiness. Therefore, on the anniversary of our Independence, we offer this new declaration for our times.

The history of this president is one of arbitrary usurpations of power, the effect of which is to establish tyranny through false promises of gerater security.

He has created a multitude of secret programs and sent swarms of petty officers to spy on Americans in a misguided effort to combat foreign terrorism. He has invested these agents with sweeping new powers to monitor our conversations and ransack our personal papers and effects without judicial supervision or any reason to believe -- as the Constitution requires -- that a crime has been committed.

He has further claimed the power to disregard legislation that Congress has passed.

He has suspended the laws and treaties against torture, authorized the kidnapping of mere suspects, and transported hundreds of prisoners beyond seas so that no independent judiciary could question the legality of their mistreatment.

He and his supporters in Congress have granted amnesty to the officials who unleashed torture and humiliation upon helpless prisoners, to the disgrace of our nation.

He has denied these prisoners access to attorneys, family, and friends and has claimed the right to try them before military tribunals specifically designed to disregard the most basic principles of law.

He has imprisoned thousands of lawful immigrants for months without charges, under brutal conditions, until his agents, rather than independent courts, decide that they posed no threat.

He has wrapped his usurpations of power and his deprivations of liberty in thick cloaks of secrecy, thereby showing contempt for the rule of law and the proper functions of Congress, the courts, and the press.

At every stage of these oppressions we have sought redress, but our petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.

We, therefore, resolve to resist these usurpations by all lawful means at our disposal. We insist that the powers of our national government be shared by all branches of that government and not concentrated in one alone. And we call upon Congress, the courts, and the press to reassert their constitutional functions and restore the promise that is America.

To these ends, we mutually pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

It Crosses the Line

Just blew in from Augusta. Made it down and back on 3/4 of a tank. My average fuel consumption runs around 28.5 if I keep it at 70 mph and falls to 26.5 or 27 when I cruise at 75. Had to stop and fill up at the corner Quik-Trip where regular unleaded was $4.059. This is the same station I filled up last Sunday at for $3.979 so gas went up 8 cents in less than a week. I never thought it would cost me $60 to fill up my little car!

How are you guys looking on the price of gas?

There is some good news...there were lots of tomatoes to pick when I got home!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

You Decide

I was sitting in the bar tonight having my usual soup and salad and as is predictable they had Faux News on. They were covering the rescue of hostages held in Columbia for 5 years and surprisingly enough the rescue coincided with McSame's visit. Imagine that!

McCain goes to Colombia.

Coincidentally Colombians launch an operation to rescue Americans held hostage for 5 years.

It is my patriotic duty to ask why they picked this particular moment to rescue these hostages and what, over the last five years prevented this operation.

Is it a coincidence?

You decide. Inquiring minds want to know.

Fire Threatens Tassajara Zen Center

While it is probably not important to most who visit here (except MandT) I copy a post from Barbara's Buddhism Blog

Wildfires sweeping Big Sur have threatened Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, a mountain retreat affiliated with the San Francisco Zen Center. Garrett Therolf writes for the Los Angeles Times that the remote Zen center is being threatened by fire on three sides. This morning a blaze jumped a fire line just south of the Zen center and consumed 10 acres before firefighters got it under control.

The San Francisco Zen Center reports on its web site that most of the staff and crew of Tassajara evacuated on Wednesday. However, according to Therolf of the L.A. Times, some monks have remained behind to fight the fire if necessary. You can read updates on Tassajara at Sitting With Fire.

Tassajara is the oldest Japanese Soto Zen monastery in the United States. It was established in 1966 by the San Francisco Zen Center while Shunryu Suzuki was abbott. It is located in the Ventana Wilderness inland from Big Sur.
Tassajara Mountain Zen Center is the oldest Japanese Soto Zen Monastery in the U.S. and it's impact on my universe is significant to say the least. Let's hope mother nature spares this cherished place. If not then we look to nature which sometimes requires fire to renew and invigorate. The spirit that is Tassajara is far beyond a fire.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Small World

I had my usual stop in at Carrabab's for a salad and some soup for dinner. I sit at the bar just to save the hassle of getting a table and I usually find someone to talk to as well. This evening I noticed that the gentleman next to me was eating European style and asked him where he was from. Louisiana was the first answer but originally from Turin, Italy. Conversation somehow led to my work with a European car company and he mentioned something about living in Finland and owning a Volvo. I mentioned that I had spent some time in Kuopio, Finland in my previous life when I worked for Measurex. To make a long story short, while we didn't recognize each other, we worked together in Finland installing a system on a paper machine oh so may years ago. What are the odds?

A VP for McSame?

John Cole points out, quite correctly, that if being a jet jockey and a Vietnam vet is all you need to be President then a perfect VP for McCain would be our friend from California Randall "Duke" Cunningham.
During his service, Cunningham and his Radar Intercept Officer “Irish” Driscoll became the only Navy aces in the Vietnam War, flying an F-4 Phantom from aboard aircraft carriers, and recording five confirmed kills. He was one of the early graduates of the Navy’s TOPGUN school that taught dogfighting techniques to F-4 Phantom pilots and Radar Intercept Officers (RIOs).
Considering his rather shaky political career and criminal bent, I would say his a perfect representative of today's GOP. General Clark is still catching shit over his 'non insult' to McBush. It's enough to make you scream.

Standing by What He Said

Updated below:

I suppose all of you have seen and/or heard about the faux flap some in the media are creating over General Wesley Clark's comments about McSame. The GOP and media are trying to make McBush's military service off limits as a campaign issue. Ignore the fact that he was nearly last in his class at the Naval Academy and that while being a POW and a veteran are reasons for respect, they don't make any difference in his qualifications for President. Good for General Clark. Because he's right. Even though the Obama campaign quickly tried to distance themselves from the issue and dissed the comment, he should stand by what he said. The media can damn well take another look at exactly what General Clark said and then try and tell us where he's wrong or disrespectful. Here is what Clark said today:
There are many important issues in this Presidential election, clearly one of the most important issues is national security and keeping the American people safe. In my opinion, protecting the American people is the most important duty of our next President. I have made comments in the past about John McCain's service and I want to reiterate them in order be crystal clear. As I have said before I honor John McCain's service as a prisoner of war and a Vietnam Veteran. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands and millions of others in Armed Forces as a prisoner of war. I would never dishonor the service of someone who chose to wear the uniform for our nation.

John McCain is running his campaign on his experience and how his experience would benefit him and our nation as President. That experience shows courage and commitment to our country - but it doesn't include executive experience wrestling with national policy or go-to-war decisions. And in this area his judgment has been flawed - he not only supported going into a war we didn't have to fight in Iraq, but has time and again undervalued other, non-military elements of national power that must be used effectively to protect America But as an American and former military officer I will not back down if I believe someone doesn't have sound judgment when it comes to our nation's most critical issues.
Every word is the truth and there is absolutely no disrespect or denigration of McSame's service. This love affair the media has McBush is very tiresome. Let's deal and with the issues and the truth and quit trying to fly wing man folks. The country is facing serious issues and we deserve a media that tells the truth. They had no problem allowing all the lies about Kerry's service get traction and you see where that got us.

Update: Steveaudio finds a petition from votevets applauding Gen. Clark for telling the truth, and listing things that McSame's POW experience doesn't make him qualified to deal with.

Updated to correct some stupid spelling mistakes.