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31 January 2007

Molly and George

by: Dark Wraith

When George W. Bush finally died, he found himself in a large, very nice hotel being led down a hallway of suites by none other than Molly Ivins.

"Hurry it along, there, Shrub. We've got to get you settled into the room and get your things unpacked. Dinner is always served at six o'clock sharp, and we don't want to be late."

Quite confused by the whole situation and somewhat out of breath from the brisk pace he was having to maintain to keep up, George panted, "Dinner?"

"Well, yes, George," Molly answered without looking back. "This is a respectable establishment."

"The after-life is in a five-star hotel?!" George demanded.

"Of course," Molly growled as she stopped at the door to one of the suites.

George caught up to her as she unlocked the door and opened it. He stuck his head in and looked around, "This place is gorgeous! I actually made it to Heaven even after all the things I did in my life that I knew were wrong and despicable and evil!"

Molly then patted him on the shoulder and said, "Well, Shrub, it's like this: I'm in Heaven. You, on the other hand, are now my roommate for the rest of Eternity."

Upon hearing this, George walked slowly and quietly over to the large bay windows, and after looking out for a long, silent moment into the blackness of the Infinite Void, he grunted, "Well, shit."

♦                    ♦                    ♦


Godspeed, Ms. Ivins, and thank you.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

The Harp is Tuned, This Song is Played

by: Minstrel Boy

press for the tune

"Ce-h-e sin amuh
Go bhfuil faor ar a ghuth
A' reaba mo dhoruis dunta?"

"Mise Eamonn a' Chnuic
Ta baidhte fuar fliuch
O shior-shuil sleihbte is gleannta"

"A lao ghil's a chuid
Cad do dheannfainn-se dhuit
Mara gcuirfinn ort beinn dom ghuna?
'S go mbeidh pudar dubh
Is go mbeimis araon muchta"

"Is fada mise amuh
Faoi shneachta is faoi shioc
Is gan danacht agam ar einne
Mo bhranar gan cur
Mo sheisreach gar sgur
Is gan iad agam ar aon chor
Nil caraid agam
(Is danaid liom san)
Do ghlacfadh me moch na deanach
Is go gcaithfe me dul
Thar fairrge soir
O's ann na fuil mo ghaolta"



it's the saddest song i know, good-bye Molly. I bet Mark Twain and Mencken know where the good Tex-Mex joints are.

harp and sword

RIP Molly Ivins

by: Foiled Goil

Mr. Bush, Stop the Insanity

September 26, 2002

"No. This is not acceptable. This is not the country we want to be. This is not the world we want to make.

"The United States of America is still run by its citizens. The government works for us. Rank imperialism and warmongering are not American traditions or values. We do not need to dominate the world. We want and need to work with other nations. We want to find solutions other than killing people. Not in our name, not with our money, not with our children's blood."

~Molly Ivins

1944 - 2007

Molly Ivins Columns

Make sure Congress gets the message: Americans not only oppose escalation, but are counting on Congress to block it.

by: astraea

Carry on. Do it for Molly.

Thursday is going to be a huge day of action all over the country. MoveOn members, along with members of True Majority, Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, USAction, CampusProgress and many others are working together to make sure Congress gets the message: Americans not only oppose escalation, but are counting on Congress to block it. And if enough of us get involved, we can really win this vote.

Thursday is going to be a critical day in the fight to end the war. Can you join us? Sign up for the Virtual March on Washington here.

Welcome to the Virtual March on Washington

30 January 2007

Highs, Lows, and the Elusive Middle

by: blackdog

An e- mail I sent to someone I care about awhile back.

What was the name of the little guy in Casablanca who killed the German couriers? Peter Lorre????



Who was the most beautiful woman in any Hitchcock film? Grace Kelly ???

(with Jimmy Stewart and another with Cary Grant) And what was the name of either film? Both would be better. The scene when she approaches JS is amazing: Rear Window and To Catch a Thief



What was the character name of the bad guy in that flim, from a TV show? (the former) Perry Mason



After all that shit, I hope you are doing well.



Regards. And may the lobster outside your door be ready to serve.

Then a follow-up, I really hate it when the blues set in, but I find things like this do help, at least they keep me active and not too brooding.

Well done, I remember a time when the both of us couldn't think of Peter Lorre to save our lives.

"Did you hear about those poor German couriers?"
"Yes, I did."
"I heard they were carrying letters of transit...poor devils. I hope you are more impressed with me, Rick."

"Round up the usual suspects!"

"We have a complete dossier on you."

"Are my eyes really brown?"

RICK!! RICK!! HIDE ME RICK!!

"Play it, you played it for her!"

And the best, the "hill of beans" with all of the implications.

And to see that magnificent face approaching for a kiss, and the light banter that follows, well I think I'll get a cold shower.

"How's your love life?"
"Could be better."
How's your leg?"
"Hurt's a little"
"How's your stomach?"
"Empty as a football"

Later with the Detective (Tom) that couldn't handle a snifter of warmed brandy,

"We think Thorwald's guilty."

Later:

"Do you always tell your landlord what you're up to?"

"Watch it, Tom."

Yeah, I know what I'll try tonight, best to the both of you and regards. I'll need a towel though. Woof will be fine, his toes should be twitching by 9:00pm.

Woof and I will most likely pile up on the couch tonight and watch both of these again, assuming we don't fall asleep.

Final Exam!

Who played Boo Radley in "To Kill a Mockingbird"?

"Hey, Boo."

"Miss Gina Louise, Mr. Arthur Radley. I think he already knows you."

"Atticus, Gem says this watch is for him, what have you got for me?"

"I don't know that I have anything of value for you, but there is a ring, and your mother's pearl necklace, and I have them stored in a safe place, for these are to be yours."

I'll stop now or my sinuses will fail.

One more, or maybe several, as long as my remnants of memory hold:

:"Scout, I swear you act more like a girl all the time!"

"Miss Maudy, we're having a terrible time! Gem says he won't come out of the tree until Atticus agrees to play football with the Methodists!"

"Scout, Gem! Come on in and get your breakfast!"

"Me first! Me first! Me first!"

"OK Scout, get in"

"Scout! Get out of there! Hurry Scout!"

I hope you don't mind this frivolous BS, but when the depression strikes I find this to be one of the best therapies.

The highs and lows, still working on finding somewhere in the middle.

Bush to Bush: "I will make you proud of me!"

by: Gary

null
After careful consideration, I have decided that I know why our President is such an idiot, or at the least behaves that way.

Now before the big reveal, let me paint the path that lead me to my conclusion. We must first address his lack of critical thinking, and a clearly defined stubbornness that is damn near paralyzing to the executive branch. This alone is not the answer, but a symptom of something larger; a bigger problem is the cause. There must be a motivation of some kind? There has to be something that not only causes him to make the choices he does, but gives him the blinding resolve to never change those decisions, admit he made a mistake, or take responsibility for his actions, and I think I have a possible answer:

more...

Tag, You're It

by: Foiled Goil

FBI turns to broad new wiretap method

By Declan McCullagh, CNET News.com

Published on ZDNet News

The FBI appears to have adopted an invasive Internet surveillance technique that collects far more data on innocent Americans than previously has been disclosed.


The right of the people to be secure

Instead of recording only what a particular suspect is doing, agents conducting investigations appear to be assembling the activities of thousands of Internet users at a time into massive databases, according to current and former officials. That database can subsequently be queried for names, e-mail addresses or keywords.

in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,

Such a technique is broader and potentially more intrusive than the FBI's Carnivore surveillance system, later renamed DCS1000. It raises concerns similar to those stirred by widespread Internet monitoring that the National Security Agency is said to have done, according to documents that have surfaced in one federal lawsuit, (AT&T leaks sensitive info in NSA suit) and may stretch the bounds of what's legally permissible.

against unreasonable searches and seizures,

Call it the vacuum-cleaner approach. It's employed when police have obtained a court order and an Internet service provider can't "isolate the particular person or IP address" because of technical constraints, says Paul Ohm, a former trial attorney at the Justice Department's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section. (An Internet Protocol address is a series of digits that can identify an individual computer.)

shall not be violated,

That kind of full-pipe surveillance can record all Internet traffic, including Web browsing--or, optionally, only certain subsets such as all e-mail messages flowing through the network. Interception typically takes place inside an Internet provider's network at the junction point of a router or network switch.

and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause,

The technique came to light at the Search & Seizure in the Digital Age symposium held at Stanford University's law school on Friday. Ohm, who is now a law professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Richard Downing, a CCIPS assistant deputy chief, discussed it during the symposium.

In a telephone conversation afterward, Ohm said that full-pipe recording has become federal agents' default method for Internet surveillance. "You collect wherever you can on the (network) segment," he said. "If it happens to be the segment that has a lot of IP addresses, you don't throw away the other IP addresses. You do that after the fact."

"You intercept first and you use whatever filtering, data mining to get at the information about the person you're trying to monitor," he added.


supported by Oath or affirmation,

On Monday, a Justice Department representative would not immediately answer questions about this kind of surveillance technique.

"What they're doing is even worse than Carnivore," said Kevin Bankston, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who attended the Stanford event. "What they're doing is intercepting everyone and then choosing their targets."

When the FBI announced two years ago it had abandoned Carnivore, news reports said that the bureau would increasingly rely on Internet providers to conduct the surveillance and reimburse them for costs. While Carnivore was the subject of congressional scrutiny and outside audits, the FBI's current Internet eavesdropping techniques have received little attention. [snip]


and particularly describing the place to be searched,

One reason why the full-pipe technique raises novel legal questions is that under federal law, the FBI must perform what's called "minimization."

Federal law says that agents must "minimize the interception of communications not otherwise subject to interception" and keep the supervising judge informed of what's happening. Minimization is designed to provide at least a modicum of privacy by limiting police eavesdropping on innocuous conversations.


and the persons or things to be seized.

Prosecutors routinely hold presurveillance "minimization meetings" with investigators to discuss ground rules. Common investigatory rules permit agents to listen in on a phone call for two minutes at a time, with at least one minute elapsing between the spot-monitoring sessions.

That section of federal law mentions only real-time interception--and does not explicitly authorize the creation of a database with information on thousands of innocent targets.


U.S. Constitution:
Amendments - The Bill of Rights, Article IV


Continue article here.

Please, let the Door hit you in the Ass!

by: blackdog

Great news from Arkieville, where a real loser has received his walking papers. To take from Maltilda's Rant:

http://www.matildaintherock.blogspot.com/

Don't Let The Door Hit Ya

Max and the ARTimes crew had some good news for the state and some really good news for those Arkansas residents with gills, feathers, fur, etc. It seems that Marcus Devine is on his way out as head of the laughably-named Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.

My problem with Marcus? Too much preachin' about how he was big on environmental justice and protecting our natural resources and our citizens and not enough works towards those goals. Marcus certainly represented his boss who never liked environmental whackos and figured they should be ignored until they finally ended up in the fiery pits of Hell since as he said they loved nature more than Jesus . Marcus was a tool for industry. (And I mean "tool" in all its negative connotations.)

Under his watch you could count on air monitoring that he promised to be at least two years late if it was ever even done at all. It was all kissy kissy with the polluters though. My favorite latest thing was when he refused to finalize permits for gravel mining around a pristine stream until after the mining was done specifically to prevent environmental whackos from challenging his decision in court. When the mining was done he finalized the permits saying that he valued public input.

How about this for public input, good bye Marcus and good riddance. Don't let the door hit ya on the way out.

My first comment:

blackdog said...
Back when I was doing Source Water Protection programs under an EPA grant I used to regularly attend meetings of the Arkansas Watershed Advisory Group. These meetings were attended by everyone from State and Federal government, and by several private conservation organizations. Usually about 40 or so attended.

At one of the meetings, which all had agendas, well who shows up NOT on the agenda but the buttfuck Marcus Devine. The Director on AWAG is one of his department heads, a really sweet and capable woman. At least 6 from ADEQ were there. That pious bastard strode up to the podium and announced "I'm Marcus Devine, and I'm a republican!"

All from ADEQ were looking at the floor, everyone else was simply thunderstruck. I suspect Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was spinning at 4000 rpm in his grave.

He then went on to brag about his environmental experience as a lawyer. Now I have known Dr. Phyllis and Dr. Bob who headed what used to be ADPC&E. Their backgrounds were in environmental engineering, and they had PhDs. It was a better time.

I felt sorry for Sandy Formica who heads the division of environmental preservation and chaired the AWAG meetings.

But I bet she's having a whoop and holler right now!

Marcus Devine, the most worthless Uncle Tom sack of shit to ever head up ADEQ. Hope the door hits you real hard on the ass as you exit, you bastard.

(This was not a part of the comment, maybe it should have been)

I could care less about your race, color or creed, what is important to me is what is in your spirit, heart and mind. I am attracted to people who have some caring attitude to help, the problems we face are enormous and we need all the help we can get.

My second comment, as I never get it right:

I should have added this:

http://www.awag.org/

A great organization who should be having their conference in the Rock very soon.

Also, the appointment of a worthless black republican attorney (the color makes you wonder, not that it really bothers me but it always seemed to bother him) reveals just how rotten Huckaby was as a shit-eating baptist republican.

My hat's off to all in NLR for having to suffer this tragedy.


(Again, not a part of the comment but to clarify)

The pos x-governor of Arkieville is now located in North Little Rock in a very large home furnished by donations that are hitting the fan down here. The irony of a Baptist screecher who accused others of worshiping the wrong idols but seems to place the dollar as his center.

Just heard the shrub telling an audience of manufacturing workers that they make things, and then sell them overseas. That's trade.

What a goob. Listening to that took a measure of my optimism away.

Significant Market Failure

by: Debra

Upon reading the latest attempt by the Bush administration to consolidate power and thwart the Constitution one more time, a few things sprang to mind.

One, does this sound like the behavior of people who are planning to give up power any time in the near future? Consolidating power and then leaving it for the next guy or gal, I don't think so. Especially given the current political climate, unless something drastic occurs, it will be a Democratic President.

Two, what happened to the party of smaller government? A whole new layer of political bureaucracy, appointees to oversee and ensure that there is the proper information released (or held) at the proper time. Who's paying for all this? Are they going to wear uniforms? Or just armbands?

Three, another recess appointment? Sheesh, one would think Bush had a habit of nominating incompetent people into positions of authority. Like his picks can't get by on their own merits. If they were people of color, someone would be screaming something about preferential hiring practices.

Four, just how many exemptions will the White House issue? As with most of their so called plans, you know they forgot something that will affect a significant donor. Plus, their definition of emergency seems to differ from the average person. Which makes them having more influence over health and safety a very scary issue. Almost frightening.

Debsweb


29 January 2007

Air America Sale Pending

by: Foiled Goil

Air America Radio has announced a tentative agreement to be sold to Stephen Green of SL Green Realty Group (brother of Mark Green, a NY politician and frequent Air America guest), pending the approval of bankruptcy court.

Al Franken, who may pursue a run for senator in Minnesota, will be leaving Air America on Feb. 14. Thom Hartmann will fill Al Franken's time slot.
28 January 2007

From The Guttmacher Institute

by: Minstrel Boy

PREMARITAL SEX IS NEARLY UNIVERSAL AMONG AMERICANS, AND HAS BEEN FOR DECADES


The vast majority of Americans have sex before marriage, including those who abstained from sex during their teenage years, according to “Trends in Premarital Sex in the United States, 1954–2003,” by Lawrence B. Finer, published in the January/February 2007 issue of Public Health Reports. Further, contrary to the public perception that premarital sex is much more common now than in the past, the study shows that even among women who were born in the 1940s, nearly nine in 10 had sex before marriage. (bolds are mine)

The new study uses data from several rounds of the federal National Survey of Family Growth to examine sexual behavior before marriage, and how it has changed over time. According to the analysis, by age 44, 99% of respondents had had sex, and 95% had done so before marriage. Even among those who abstained from sex until age 20 or older, 81% had had premarital sex by age 44.

“This is reality-check research. Premarital sex is normal behavior for the vast majority of Americans, and has been for decades,” says study author Lawrence Finer, director of domestic research at the Guttmacher Institute. “The data clearly show that the majority of older teens and adults have already had sex before marriage, which calls into question the federal government’s funding of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs for 12–29-year-olds. It would be more effective to provide young people with the skills and information they need to be safe once they become sexually active—which nearly everyone eventually will.”

Indeed, while the likelihood that Americans will have sex before marriage has remained virtually unchanged since the 1950s, people now wait longer to get married, so they are sexually active and unmarried for much longer than in the past. During this period, Dr. Finer concludes, young adults have an especially great need for accurate information about how to protect themselves against unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections


First off, I must thank the delightful Susie Bright for tipping me off to this study. The thing that leaps out to me is that we have yet another example of religious conservatives (or, as I prefer to call them, intrusive asshats) taking an engraved in stone falsehood as their premise. We have never been a chaste nation folks. Some of our founders (most notably Hamilton) were born out of wedlock, far many more were conceived out of wedlock and legitamized by a quick wedding. As my grandmother from Ireland used to say, "First babies can come at any time. After that, it's usually nine months." So, while the President must be robbing the treasury from somewhere (oh, yeah, he's stiffing some poor school districts that fail his testing benchmarks) to get the half billion dollars he's spending to preach abstinence to 19 through 20 year olds (using the irrepressible Ms. Bright again) who aren't going to do it anyway.

The part that makes me weary and feeling old is that they do this all the time. They start with a bald faced lie, like, "We were founded as a Christian Nation" or "The controversy surrounding Darwin's theories is clear" and then, even in the face of all the facts that prove their basic premise to be a lie they will still persist.

This is the kind of imaginary friends magical thinking that gives us an Attorney General who can deny that Habeas Corpus is a constitutional right. After all, the constitution says that it should not be suspended except under the most extreme circumstances, it never says explicitly "You have the right." Jayzus Horatio Christ Sleeping in the Goddamn Pews! Next, when confronted with a pattern of logic that leads one to realize that it wasn't explicity granted because it had its foundation in Common Law the great unwritten list of things that just are because they should be, he says "Well, I don't believe that it's so."

The facts don't care what you believe. (warning, this next part comes straight from a lecture by Victor Davis Hanson, look away if the man offends you) "History is by its nature, amoral."

Harp and Sword

cant

by: astraea

cant
n. Angular deviation from a vertical or horizontal plane or surface; an inclination or slope.
A slanted or oblique surface.
A thrust or motion that tilts something.
The tilt caused by such a thrust or motion.
An outer corner, as of a building.

*********
Look under the toe of your boot. There's a quarter there.

I find 4 leaf clovers, sometimes 5 leaf clovers... But my eye is trained to find them. It honed itself hunting shark teeth in the cliffs of the Chesapeake. You get attuned, is all.

Not that things aren't connected.

I heard a terrific explanation of quaternity someone gave ala von franz.

Axiom of Maria. A precept in alchemy: "One becomes two, two becomes three, and out of the third comes the one as the fourth."

alice puts it:

Hidden in the Fourth is the One. Find it by uniting the Two in the Third.

Which is cant for:
masculine+feminine (expressed as metal, charge, planet, lovers, etc.) -- transcending to--> divine nature/incarnation /big L love. Yin Yang stuff. Tao. It's the cornerstone of alchemy. The power to transform.

Carl Jung (and these are psychological statements: Jung is always speaking of the psychological experience) used the axiom of Maria as a metaphor for the whole process of individuation. From Sharp's Lexicon: One is the original state of unconscious wholeness; two signifies the conflict between opposites; three points to a potential resolution; the third is the transcendent function; and the one as the fourth is a transformed state of consciousness, relatively whole and at peace.

(Jung smokes his pipe and grins and me. He says, 'I was only in it for the transference.' Ah, yes, for the babes.)

The oddest things can take on the transcendent function.

There's a swing my son made by throwing a rope over a tree half-way up our front yard. It set the stage above our little stone amphitheater here to tell today's tale.

My youngest son left a chair up there by the swing. Odd old chairs left around the property here. I leave them alone. They add charm. And I'm not sure who they belong to, who sits in them. Like the old tribes in the desert, the chair is dragged from place to place that it might be a portable holy of holies. (Such was the arc of the covenant, oddly enough.) But -- this new chair sits there happily, covered with shade, the entire hill covered with great trees, all the way to the split rail fence, looking very Cold Mountain --which it is. The sun comes up here at an angle through the tall trees at the edge of the ridge. It has to slant in here, Helios, Ra, Apollo, Sun Sun Sun. He's magnificent in his coming, sending out spears and rays and solid golden ladders. Morning is a wondrous happy thing. But I noticed as I got in the car that He also found my son's chair up there in the darkness. He shines on it, sits there like a beautiful prince.

So that's who sits in that chair.

But the tale today... I stopped at a park to pick up my son from soccer practice. All around the huge field is (surprise, surprise) beauty. More Ra and his rays, mountain framed, rocks that climb the hills in tiffany and yager cut layers. I talked with another woman waiting there. She's a Richmond native, I find, and she mentions that her child goes to the local Christian School. We talk about the history around us, the war, the Reservists who have all been called up and will be gone for so long, and she says, after a pause, -- "My mom was saying the other day that she just wished that the Rapture would come and be over with!" And so I looked at her, and said what honestly came to me.

It was that scripture about the doubting Thomas, Jesus asking him if he must put his hands in his wounds to Gnow (though I think I said 'believe'). "Why can't people listen to that?" I asked her. "It's so simple. Is it the blood and wounds that are important or is the message that lives in the heart? Where do you believe? With hands and blood and eyes, or the heart? Because that's the incarnation. That's the "Rapture" fulfilled, and everyone can have it right now by letting the Christ (Ra, Apollo, Buddha consciousness, higher love, universal moral principles ...: a rose by any other name) live in the heart, without middlemen or magic books or politics. You just look into someone's eyes and see (don't you know me?) the Christ there. And you incarnate, Christ in you."

She seems to like this.

I guess she'll go ask her pastor about it.

Anyway, Temple is everywhere. You just have to recognized it.

Seems you can make whatever you like from the grail. Just better make sure you know who your grail serves.

As for my Eros cant on my webpages, I'll caution you. Priapus is often confused with Eros, and he was an object of pity, a walking parable of a huge insatiable throbbing and utterly painful wang always obscuring the way. But even Priapus has a place, a time. He carries the child over into the horrors of manhood, where the waters rage and seethe and ache -- until Eros is found within all.

Posted By deborah to the moon's favors at 1/28/2007 10:32:00 AM

Long Suffering's Mama's Broccoli Casserole

by: Missouri Mule

Now, you know that every man alive has a mama and there is some dish that his mama makes that he just purely loves, and it behooves you to learn how to make it. Long Suffering's mama is a bread-making fiend, and I could not hope in this life time ever to replicate any of her bread. When he was in sixth grade, she would make her melt-in-your-mouth homemade cinnamon rolls, and every day for weeks he took them to school and sold them to the cinnamon-roll-starved children for 25 cents each......which was a big wad of money for a grade-schooler to have back then.
Unfortunately for Long Suffering, Mama found out and punished him: She baked giant bags full of cinnamon roll and didn't let him have any and made him take them to school and GIVE them away to his former "customers." Is it any wonder he wanted to become a lawyer? Anyway, I cannot deal with yeast. It's just of those things, like backing up a six-horse trailer, after all these years, I simply cannot do, and after enough failures, I have accepted this about myself. Can't do reverse, can't cook with yeast, can't sing....oh, the list goes on and on. But I had to find something that his mama makes that I could have a prayer of whipping up with my own hands in my own kitchen, and she was sweet enough to give me a real easy one and I'm fixin' it for some friends today that traveled all the way from Australia. As they would say, "It's bloody good!"

All you do is cook 2 10-ounce packages of frozen broccoli florets and drain them. I'm using fresh today, cuz, well, it's for company. Then saute' 1 big chopped onion in about 1/2 stick of butter. Dump the broccoli and the onions into a two-quart casserole and add 1 can of cream of mushroom soup (Yippee--it's a rednecks Staple!), 1 roll of garlic cheese (they've just about quit making this stuff, so if you can't find it, just saute' some garlic with the onions and then use a bunch of regular ole shredded sharp Cheddar cheese), a 4 once can of sliced mushrooms, a can of water chestnuts, and 1/2 cup of toasted sliced almonds.
Stir all that up and then top it with Ritz (another Staple) cracker crumbs and a little butter and cook it at 350 degrees until it gets bubbly (about 30 minutes). You can double it, you can freeze it, and you cannot mess it up. I am living proof.

Happy Trails To You!

Just Do It

by: Foiled Goil



Click here.


I double-dog dare ya.

27 January 2007

Rabbitzilla and them chemicals

by: blackdog

We was a'thinkin' once that that there hawg, hogzilla down there in Georgia were such a great thang that we could find somewhere around the NCTR in Pine Bluff, that thar rabbit that we was callin' rabbitzilla that we'd heard so much about. There wern't no lettuce fer miles, we was just to the northwest of the incenerator that was dedicated to puttin' the good 'ol USA into some kind of shit with them ragheads and others on them things of big destruction or other, I thank that we'll need them thangs when the shit really hits the fan, but nobody ever listens to me. I tolt Ferd tha other day,"when tha shit hits tha fan, you'll know about it"!

Anyhow, we was a'crawl'in about the bottom of the Arkinsaw River a'lookin' fer that damn rabbitzilla, just across from them sites where them federals hold so much land and don't cause no problems, hell, they never say jack shit neither. But they's got our best interests in their hearts, cause I just know. Where waz I? Oh yeah! Rabbitzilla! Thu wind waz out 'o thu southeast, kinda out 'o the army place and there was a sorta stink to it when Ferd und I heard a thumpin' sorta sound, comin' from just beyoud some briars in the next thicket. We did our best to creep under and be quite when Ferd let's loose a loud one, I coult have kilt him.

We laid low fer awhile, and after a few, the smell passed. Then we began again to sneak on our bellies toward that a'thumpin' noise. That thar rabbitzilla was just to the southwest of us and haden't heard 'ol Ferd, nor smelled him neither. We crept as quite as we could to where we might see..., and then, thar it was! Rabbitzilla! Musta been 8 feet long with 6 foot ears! 'Ol Ferd, he put a plug in his mouth and wiped some spit on his sight, and commenced to sight in on that creature. And then the shit hit the fan, as they say.

Sirens went off over across that thar river, the Arkinsaw where that thar NCTR, whatever the heck that stands for is. That thar big damn rabbit took off like a shot and turned at the first CSEEP sign it done saw. Them are the signs down here that tell you which way ta run when tha shit hits tha fan. Me and Ferd looked at each other and then noticed some strange funcky smell, like we haden't already. That's when we started a'runnin', runnin', and runnin' some more. We was hoopin' and whoopin' and a' weezin' like cows with bad worms.

After about a mile or so, we got back to our truck, made in the good 'ol USA, a Ford by the way. Only used about a quart of oil every 500 miles. We got in that truck, fired her up and hauled butt outa there. That thar CSEPP program saved me 'un Ferd from a nasty fate, I had swallowed all the pinch I had and was out, and Ferd was out too, so we hauled ass to the first store to get more. Along the way we saw that damned rabbitzilla in a turnip patch with what looked like a WW2 gasmask on. Danged iffin' I know where he got that. Must be them danged CSEPP types.

Anyroad, that funcky smell finally passed, but my boy, the youngest, well, his do-dad shrunk down to about 1/2 inch. My daughter, she grew one about 8" the next week. Ferd and I just don't get it. We go ta church and prey alot, the wives, well there ain't no pint in askin' them, they don't know shit from shinola. Me and Ferd are goin after that damn rabbit again real soon. But we both are lookin' for are peckers, we lost 'em. Sombody got ta tell me how to make a gawddamn picture on this damn thang. I is stupid, but I'll admit to it, Ferd won't. And he is.



somewhere.http://www.arkansascsepp.com/zone_map.php

Don't Forget Lebanon in all the Fuss

by: Minstrel Boy

Mazen Kerbaj writes a beautiful blog, with free improvisational jazz (sometimes with bombs as the backing percussion), beautiful strange drawings.

Shit's hitting the fan there too. Stop in, give him a look and a listen. It's well worth the time.

Harp and Sword

Humor That Won't Be for Everyone

by: Dark Wraith

The joke that follows is not funny...

...unless, that is, you have a very quirky sense of humor, in which case, not only will you find the joke worth a laugh, but you will also be delighted by the graphic I provide in links at the end of this post. In fact, you might find out that the greatest humor of the joke is in printing out the graphic and putting it up where others will see it and say, "Uh... I don't get it."

Without further ado, here's the joke.
Three missionaries, two of them Presbyterians of good breeding and education and one a Free Will Baptist from the sticks, were captured by cannibals. They were taken to a guarded tent and thrown in.

One of the Presbyterian preachers hollered, "What are you going to do with me?"

A cannibal guard stuck his head in and replied, "We're going to fatten you up one at a time, boil you, eat you, and use your skin to make a big canoe."

Within an hour, a huge meal was served to this minister, who was quite hungry and snarfed it all down, after which he was dragged out of the tent, never to be seen again.

The second minister bawled, "Guard! What are you going to do to me?!"

The cannibal poked his head in the tent, rolled his eyes, and said, "We're going to fatten you up, boil you, eat you, and use your skin to make a big canoe."

And just like with the first preacher, this one was promptly served a huge meal, which he devoured quickly because of his hunger, after which he was dragged out of the tent, never to be seen again.

The Free Will Baptist minister had stayed silent through all of this. The cannibal stuck his head in to see why the fellow wasn't demanding to know the details of his fate and saw that the guy was just sitting there. The cannibal shrugged his shoulders and handed him the big meal.

A little later, the cannibal stuck his head in the tent, and the first thing he saw was that the meal was untouched; then he realized that the Baptist was over in the corner stabbing himself all over his back and stomach with the fork that had been provided with the food.

The cannibal yelled, "What th' Hell are you DOING?!!" to which the heavily bleeding man replied:

"Ain't nobody gonna make a canoe outta ME!"
And now, if you found that joke worth a laugh, and if you understand the underlying metaphor, please feel free to use this graphic as wall art for your home or office, or as a statement to post on your own Website.

Click here for the large version, click here for the medium version, or click here for the small version.



The Dark Wraith thanks those in the audience who are smiling.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

"When Does The Greed Stop?"

by: Foiled Goil

Minimum Wage vs Greedy Ol' Politicians

Kennedy to Republicans:

"What is it about working men and women that you find so offensive?"


From Bob Geiger:

It's a sure bet that Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) has a lot of bottled-up frustration from years of fighting the Republican party to get a simple minimum wage increase for America's families and it boiled over on the floor of the Senate Thursday night.

Angry about Republican filibustering of the minimum wage increase that easily passed the House of Representatives two weeks ago, Kennedy erupted on the Senate floor, demanding of the other side of the aisle "When does the greed stop?"

After listing many of the unrelated and pricey amendments for business that the GOP has tried to join to a minimum wage hike, Kennedy blasted Republicans and demanded to know how they can be as cruel as they are to the working poor in America.

"We have now had amendments that have been worth over 200 billion dollars… Amendments that have been offered. We've had amendments on education of 35 billion dollars. We've had health-savings amendments that will benefit people with average incomes of $112,000… We've had those kinds of amendments and we're looking at the Kyl amendment at 3 billion dollars. But we still cannot get two dollars and fifteen cents -- over two years. Over two years!

"What is the price, we ask the other side? What is the price that you want from these working men and women? What cost? How much more do we have to give to the private sector and to business? How many billion dollars more, are you asking, are you requiring?

"When does the greed stop, we ask the other side? That's the question and that's the issue."
But Massachusetts' Senior Senator -- who has seen his efforts to increase the minimum wage shot down in the Senate three times in the last two years -- really unloaded on his Republican colleagues for their utter contempt for working people in this country.

"Do you have such disdain for hard-working Americans that you want to pile all your amendments on this? Why don’t you just hold your amendments until other pieces of legislation? Why this volume of amendments on just the issue to try and raise the minimum wage? What is it about it that drives you Republicans crazy? What is it? Something. Something! What is the price that the workers have to pay to get an increase? What is it about working men and women that you find so offensive?"
And at this early stage of the 110th Congress, Kennedy has already had it with the hypocrisy that has always characterized the Republicans in dealing with Senate Democrats -- and he called them on it.
"We don’t want to hear any more from that side for the rest of this session about permitting or not permitting votes in here when you're denying it on the most simple concept of an increase in the minimum wage," said Kennedy. "We don’t want to hear any more about that."
26 January 2007

Being a Paperboy (Way Back When)

by: blackdog

This will be short as I will have to think about it tonight to make any worthwhile suggerstions. But it is about a program on Arkeiville PBS with Senator David Pryor interviewing Governor Sid McMath. Sid is no longer with us. It was an interesting time in the history of the democrat machine in the South. As a little kid I delivered the newspaper to Governor McMath and didn't know it for some months, but then one time while collecting he revealed himself and told me stories that i'll never forget. I almost fell down as i was in the presence of a Governor. In too many ways I have been lucky, and had experiences that some would want. I may or may not add to this as time goes on. Depends.

I had some great customers when I was a paperboy way back when.

One was a Mr. Gates. He would be waiting for me at the end of his long driveway at 4:30AM with a pitcher of lemonade. We would talk for about ten minutes and I would drink two or three glasses of lemonade. My 106 newspapers in my bags weighed more than I did then, I was only 11. He would tip me often with a $5 bill, a fair chunk of change back then.

The wonder of decent people gives me hope. As the Dark Wraith has posted above in his joke, we all have the ability to rise above wherever we are, if we will. A friend of mine who is a MCSW told me once that we are 75% emotive in our thinking. Why not use that to our advantage. At least those of us who can, and beware those who choose not to. Attempt to learn the difference. Sorta like the serenity prayer used by AA.

Just spoke with Farmer Bob on the phone. He's an old friend that I love dearly, I have known him for about 45 years, he had a paper route back then too. We used to spell our names backwards and attempt to pronounce them, and to this day Bob is the only name I'm aware of that is the same in the mirror. But Bob pulled a neat stunt one Christmas season, his route was in the wealthest part of the City. He put cards in every newspaper one night with a return address and showed up at school with over $120, which was a bunch in 1967. My dear friend Bob.

I'm more fortunate than I know.

Off The AP Wire

by: Minstrel Boy

Published: January 26, 2007 11:45 AM ET

BAGHDAD Contrary to U.S. military statements, four U.S. soldiers did not die repelling a sneak attack at the governor's office in the Shiite holy city of Karbala last week. New information obtained by The Associated Press shows they were abducted and found dead or dying as far as 25 miles away.

The brazen assault 50 miles south of Baghdad was launched Jan. 20 by a group of nine to 12 militants. They traveled in black GMC Suburban vehicles - the type used by U.S. government convoys, had American weapons, wore new U.S. military combat fatigues and spoke English.

In a written statement, the U.S. command reported at the time that five soldiers were killed while "repelling the attack." Two senior U.S. military officials as well as Iraqi officials now say three of them were found dead and one mortally wounded in locations as far as 25 miles east of the governor's office.

The U.S. officials said they could not be sure if the soldiers were killed as the attackers drove them to the place where they abandoned the Suburbans or afterward. Iraqi officials said the men were killed just before the vehicles were abandoned.

The daring commando team also took an unclassified U.S. computer with them as they fled with the four soldiers and left behind an American M-4 automatic rifle, senior U.S. military officials said.

The new information has emerged after nearly a week of inquiries. The U.S. military in Baghdad repeatedly declined comment on reports that began emerging from Iraqi government and military officials which suggested a major breakdown in security at Karbala site.

The two senior American military officials now confirm the reports, gathered by The Associated Press from five senior Iraqi government, military and religious leaders. The U.S. military also has provided additional details from internal military accounts.

None of the American or Iraqi officials would allow use of their names because of the sensitive nature of the information.

The U.S. officials, who had seen incident reports of the assault, said the documents indicated two of the soldiers were found in one of the Suburbans at one location and two others in a second Suburban elsewhere. The exact locations were not specified, they said.

The five Americans killed that day ranged in age from 20 to 31.

***

E&P NOTE: The New York Times last Sunday reported the Karbala incident with a key U.S. denial: "Some police commanders in Babil Province and Mr. Khazaali said one of the recovered vehicles in Elbu Alwan held three American bodies and a fourth soldier who was critically wounded. Mr. Khazaali also said that at least one additional American had been kidnapped. But American military officials said they were not missing anyone, and other police commanders in Babil said the men found in the vehicle were gunmen."

An AP story on the incident from last weekend included the following.

***

The U.S. military statement about the Karbala attack said "an illegally armed militia group" attacked the provincial headquarters building with grenades, small arms and "indirect fire," which usually means mortars or rockets.

"A meeting was taking place at the time of the attack to ensure the security of Shiite pilgrims participating in the Ashoura commemorations," said a statement from Brig. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, deputy commander of theMulti-National Division-Baghdad.

Thousands of Shiite pilgrims are flocking to the city to mark the 10-day Ashoura festival commemorating the death of one of Shiite Islam's most sacred saints, Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.

Provincial Gov. Akeel al-Khazaali, who was not at the security meeting, said the gunmen, dressed in military uniforms, were able to drive their black SUVs -- similar to those driven by foreign dignitaries -- through a checkpoint on the outskirts of the city, 50 miles south of Baghdad, because police assumed it was a diplomatic convoy and informed headquarters that it was coming.

"The group used percussion bombs and broke into the building, killed five Americans and kidnapped two others, then fled," the governor said, adding that Iraqi troops later found one of the SUVs with three bodies of uniformed men.

The U.S. military, which has said that five U.S. soldiers were killed and three were wounded while repelling the attack, denied that two U.S. troops were kidnapped.

Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a military spokesman, said all American forces "were accounted for after the action."



So, yet again we have found ourselves attacked by people who have obviously been trained by Americans, equipped by Americans, armed by Americans, who have had enough contact with the Americans that they speak English as they attack.

I keep coming back to a fragment of poetry from Aeschylus:

So, in the Libyan fable it is told
That once an eagle, stricken with an arrow,
Said, when he saw the fashion of the shaft,
"With our own feathers, not the hands of others
Are we now slain."



Harp and Sword

Spambot Attack

by: Dark Wraith

Two days ago, an exploratory spambot posted about a dozen "comments" on various threads here at Big Brass Blog. Although I was annoyed that it had successfully made it through my filters, I didn't immediately recognize that its master was learning. I should have: the first attack got one in, but an attack later that day got five comments onto one thread.

Earlier this afternoon, the attacker brought in the full arsenal. It looks like some kind of tag-team spambot: one opens the gate, and my filters go after it while its mate comes through and lays in hundreds of "comments." In fact, it looks to me as if the comment architecture you all see is never even used in the successful leg of this attack. The attack was sufficient to nearly swamp this Website.

What I've done is shut down comments except for members with passwords. I'll lift the ban as soon as I've figured out how to effectively block this latest scourge. (I have a way right now, but it would look really weird if someone were to try to comment at the wrong times of day.)

I shall provide an update to this post tomorrow, if not sooner.

In the meantime, here's a brief message for the spammer who did this:

Now it's my turn.




The Dark Wraith is in a curiously giddy mood.

What's Happening in DC?

by: Foiled Goil

Marching in DC on Saturday?

Pentagon PSYOPs directed against Saturday DC anti-war marchers.

Wayne Madsen reports:

Why Did the Pentagon Announce Its "Ray Gun" Today?

January 25, 2007 - First, the corporate media attempted to ignore the January 27 anti-war march on Washington. As the Internet and progressive talk radio spread the word about the march and groups around the nation began to mobilize their members to participate in it, the Bush administration -- now armed with all sorts of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) "non-lethal" toys, decided to stage a test of an anti-crowd microwave weapon, code named "Sheriff," in a demonstration for the media at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia.

On January 24, the military demonstrated its Active Denial System (ADS) millimeter wave directed energy beam in a test designed for the media, and hence, the public. Using enlisted airman, acting as "rioters," as "guinea pigs," a beam was directed at them from a parabolic antenna located 500 yards away atop a Humvee. The wave heated the skin of the "rioters" to 130 degrees, creating the feeling in the targets that they were being burned alive, scattering them in the process.

The military pointed out that the beam can penetrate winter clothing (which will be worn by those participating in Saturday's march) and 1/64th of an inch under the skin. As with any electronic weapon, it is clear that the "juice" can be turned up on Sheriff to cause more than a nasty skin burn, including internal organ damage, blindness, and death. [snip]

The public testing of such a weapon by the military just prior to what may be the largest anti-war march in Washington since the Vietnam War is a clear message by the Pentagon to marchers that the millimeter wave technology exists and is deployable. Psychologically, most people find the idea of being burned alive frightening and this Pentagon "show and tell" was an obvious ploy to scare away marchers, especially those planning to bring their families.


* Note: in comments *
_____

House and Senate Hearings Set

via Brad Blog:

Tuesday, January 30th - Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) will chair Judiciary Committee hearings on "Congress' Power to End a War."

Sen. Feingold will soon be "introducing legislation to use the power of the purse to end what is clearly one of the greatest mistakes in the history of our nation's foreign policy." Sen. Feingold's remarks from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting regarding the need to end our involvement in Iraq can be viewed and heard here.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007 - Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), chairman of the House Judiciary, announced hearings would be held next Wednesday in the committee on "Presidential Signing Statements under the Bush Administration: A Threat to Checks and Balances and the Rule of Law?"

See this article for media releases, scheduled witnesses and more.
25 January 2007

The Battlefield and the Nomads

by: Dark Wraith

Inbound attack helicopterWhile the mainstream media reports in almost incidental fashion that armed forces of the United States have made several lethal attacks on suspected terrorist enclaves in Somalia, some online writers in the Blogosphere have taken a more concerned view of these military forays. For example, the blogger Peter of Lone Tree, writing at BlondeSense, notes an article at World War 4 Report rather graphically describing the result of a U.S. aerial attack earlier this month in southern Somalia near the Kenyan border, a strike in which perhaps 80 people—nomads going to watering holes at night—were killed, along with livestock. It is worth noting that nomadic peoples are often night travelers, and not only because of cooler temperatures after dark: the night usually affords nomads some degree of safety because they are less noticeable. In fact, even in modern urban areas of the world, "nomadic" sub-cultures exist entirely unknown to most people, who are out only in daylight and early evening.

In response to Peter of Lone Tree's brief recap of the recent U.S. military activity in Somalia, I offered commentary at BlondeSense that I herewith post in edited and expanded form as a special analysis.

The military actions we are undertaking in Somalia are pursuant to the "Global War on Terror" (GWOT). While many, if not most, Americans understand that term largely as conceptual American policy, it is most decidedly far more specific and operational; and because it is persistently and tangibly applicable, it is altogether lethal, as well.

We truly are waging a "global war": we as a nation have declared that we stand ready to carry out military missions in any theatre, within any sovereign nation, and by any means; and not only are we prepared in a contingency sense to do so, we will do so.

That's how wars are fought. They are not about some visceral, emotional readiness; they are, instead, about planning, action, and follow-up. They are not about the rhetoric of war; they are about the actual destruction of property and the killing of people. To dismiss warhawks like Richard Cheney and George W. Bush as a blustering cowards who declined to fight the wars of their generation is to miss the point that, in our generation, they are the nexus of state-sponsored violence that can be projected anywhere in the world.

In the large sense, the U.S. troops in Iraq are not fighting "the" war. That lowly country is merely one venue—a high-profile, quite visible one—on a global battlefield. Leaving Iraq has nothing whatsoever to do with disengaging "the" war the neo-conservatives have declared with the advice and consent of the Congress.

Our fierce and war-wise President and Vice President—steeped as they are in military tradition and combat experience, of course—have said that we are in a "generational struggle". In Mr. Cheney's words, "It is the kind of conflict that's going to drive our policy and our government for the next 20 or 30 or 40 years. We have to prevail and we have to have the stomach for the fight long term." For all intents and purposes, that means our leaders have begun a war without terminus, without borders, and without any meaningful way to stop it if the strategy of opponents of the madness focus on one theatre of engagement without understanding the cancer of American hegemony that has infected the very essence of American foreign policy in ways unchangeable by the particular desires, resolutions, or passions of any given Congress.

Far more important than Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, or any other particular skirmish, be it big, long, and expensive or small, short, and sweet, is this: because the United States of America really is part of the global community, a Global War on Terror necessarily means a war that can and without any doubt will be prosecuted here every bit as vigorously and violently as it is in the darkest reaches of the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. That's what the "Global" in GWOT really means.

The United States as Empire remains on the move. It is not stopped by what might become a quagmire in one theatre of engagement, it is not abated by what might become a public hostility to its architects, and it is not deterred by what might become escalating reactive violence by those of the world greatly harmed by its ways and means.

The gathering night of Empire will proceed apace, and it will be on that darkened road into the future that the peoples of the world, including the citizens of this country, will find themselves traveling, nothing more than another horde of nomads hoping not to be noticed by the Empire's engines of death prowling the blackened skies.


The Dark Wraith welcomes America to the battlefield.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums
24 January 2007

For This I Went To College

by: Debra

Since I am barely able to pay basic living expenses (rent, food, water and heat), contributing money to a health care savings account so I can get a tax break is ridiculous. To put it mildly.

In the real world, the one that I and quite a few unfortunate Americans currently occupy, I would have to be making quite a bit more before I could get to the point where it would be worth living without something else that the crew without a clue and their disconnected brethren take for granted to start contributing, I mean paying a new tax for services that will be poorly and inefficiently rendered. Like new clothes, shoes, a decent haircut, the 60,000, 90,000 and timing belt replacement services for my car that haven't been done, car insurance and registration since I live in an area with poor public transportation to get me to the job that pays me less than I earned in 1986. Then you can add in phone and yes I do have internet, but there has to be a little bit of fun in this life, doesn't there?

I don't have cable or a big screen HDTV (13 inch regular!), no game consoles, no credit or credit cards, no stereo system and very little need for excitement. I lead a nice quiet life that I can't afford. Funny how that worked out. So, of course I believe that this latest tax scheme will benefit the people who can't afford health insurance now.

I grew up as a military brat and I've had really nice health insurance. When push comes to shove, it is the quality of the people providing the care. Period. The way to fix the health care system is not to tax people for poor service (why should I be held accountable for my practitioner's preferences? The average consumer doesn't have a medical degree, that's why they go to the doctor!) but to get back to the basics of providing preventative care and stop being a crisis society. We have an extreme national tendency to dig a well long after we are thirsty, lock the barn door after the horse has been stolen, etc.

For some reason we have managed to outsource major portions of medical care, including consideration and compassion, we are even trying to outsource the patients to different countries, and then we wonder why the system is large, unwieldy, inefficient, biased, expensive, and ineffective.

I've wanted to be a doctor since I was three years old. Health care today is nothing but a pale reflection of itself.

Debsweb

SOTU Debunking and More

by: Foiled Goil

Think Progress debunks parts of the State Of The Union with some facts.

Crooks and Liars links to a YouTube version of Sen. Webb's Democratic rebuttal and to this joint statement released by Pelosi and Reid.
23 January 2007

Quoth the Dark Wraith

by: Dark Wraith

When asked how in Heaven's name President Bush's idea of giving a tax break for health insurance premiums was supposed to help people so poor they can't afford health insurance to begin with, White House Spokestwit Tony Snow said it would "unleash market forces."

Now, here's a tip from a real, live economist (namely, your host here at Big Brass Blog). Unleashing "market forces" is like unleashing wild dogs: they're going to go after the weak and rip them to shreds; they're going to leave turds everywhere for someone else to clean up; and sooner or later, the only thing that can be done to stop their rampage is to shoot them dead.

Oh, yes; then everyone has to hear the morons who let the miserable curs loose in the first place blubber about how liberals never liked dogs anyway.


From "Quoth the Dark Wraith" for January 24, 2007, at The Dark Wraith Forums.

SOTU: Democratic Rebuttal

by: Foiled Goil

Below is the text of the Democratic Response to the State of the Union address, as prepared for delivery.
Good evening.

I'm Senator Jim Webb, from Virginia, where this year we will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Jamestown – an event that marked the first step in the long journey that has made us the greatest and most prosperous nation on earth.

It would not be possible in this short amount of time to actually rebut the President's message, nor would it be useful. Let me simply say that we in the Democratic Party hope that this administration is serious about improving education and healthcare for all Americans, and addressing such domestic priorities as restoring the vitality of New Orleans.

Further, this is the seventh time the President has mentioned energy independence in his state of the union message, but for the first time this exchange is taking place in a Congress led by the Democratic Party. We are looking for affirmative solutions that will strengthen our nation by freeing us from our dependence on foreign oil, and spurring a wave of entrepreneurial growth in the form of alternate energy programs. We look forward to working with the President and his party to bring about these changes.

There are two areas where our respective parties have largely stood in contradiction, and I want to take a few minutes to address them tonight. The first relates to how we see the health of our economy – how we measure it, and how we ensure that its benefits are properly shared among all Americans. The second regards our foreign policy – how we might bring the war in Iraq to a proper conclusion that will also allow us to continue to fight the war against international terrorism, and to address other strategic concerns that our country faces around the world.

When one looks at the health of our economy, it's almost as if we are living in two different countries. Some say that things have never been better. The stock market is at an all-time high, and so are corporate profits. But these benefits are not being fairly shared. When I graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did; today, it's nearly 400 times. In other words, it takes the average worker more than a year to make the money that his or her boss makes in one day.

Wages and salaries for our workers are at all-time lows as a percentage of national wealth, even though the productivity of American workers is the highest in the world. Medical costs have skyrocketed. College tuition rates are off the charts. Our manufacturing base is being dismantled and sent overseas. Good American jobs are being sent along with them.

In short, the middle class of this country, our historic backbone and our best hope for a strong society in the future, is losing its place at the table. Our workers know this, through painful experience. Our white-collar professionals are beginning to understand it, as their jobs start disappearing also. And they expect, rightly, that in this age of globalization, their government has a duty to insist that their concerns be dealt with fairly in the international marketplace.

In the early days of our republic, President Andrew Jackson established an important principle of American-style democracy – that we should measure the health of our society not at its apex, but at its base. Not with the numbers that come out of Wall Street, but with the living conditions that exist on Main Street. We must recapture that spirit today.

And under the leadership of the new Democratic Congress, we are on our way to doing so. The House just passed a minimum wage increase, the first in ten years, and the Senate will soon follow. We've introduced a broad legislative package designed to regain the trust of the American people. We've established a tone of cooperation and consensus that extends beyond party lines. We're working to get the right things done, for the right people and for the right reasons.

With respect to foreign policy, this country has patiently endured a mismanaged war for nearly four years. Many, including myself, warned even before the war began that it was unnecessary, that it would take our energy and attention away from the larger war against terrorism, and that invading and occupying Iraq would leave us strategically vulnerable in the most violent and turbulent corner of the world.

I want to share with all of you a picture that I have carried with me for more than 50 years. This is my father, when he was a young Air Force captain, flying cargo planes during the Berlin Airlift. He sent us the picture from Germany, as we waited for him, back here at home. When I was a small boy, I used to take the picture to bed with me every night, because for more than three years my father was deployed, unable to live with us full-time, serving overseas or in bases where there was no family housing. I still keep it, to remind me of the sacrifices that my mother and others had to make, over and over again, as my father gladly served our country. I was proud to follow in his footsteps, serving as a Marine in Vietnam. My brother did as well, serving as a Marine helicopter pilot. My son has joined the tradition, now serving as an infantry Marine in Iraq.

Like so many other Americans, today and throughout our history, we serve and have served, not for political reasons, but because we love our country. On the political issues – those matters of war and peace, and in some cases of life and death – we trusted the judgment of our national leaders. We hoped that they would be right, that they would measure with accuracy the value of our lives against the enormity of the national interest that might call upon us to go into harm's way.

We owed them our loyalty, as Americans, and we gave it. But they owed us – sound judgment, clear thinking, concern for our welfare, a guarantee that the threat to our country was equal to the price we might be called upon to pay in defending it.

The President took us into this war recklessly. He disregarded warnings from the national security adviser during the first Gulf War, the chief of staff of the army, two former commanding generals of the Central Command, whose jurisdiction includes Iraq, the director of operations on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and many, many others with great integrity and long experience in national security affairs. We are now, as a nation, held hostage to the predictable – and predicted – disarray that has followed.

The war's costs to our nation have been staggering.

Financially.

The damage to our reputation around the world.

The lost opportunities to defeat the forces of international terrorism.

And especially the precious blood of our citizens who have stepped forward to serve.

The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought; nor does the majority of our military. We need a new direction. Not one step back from the war against international terrorism. Not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos. But an immediate shift toward strong regionally-based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq's cities, and a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq.

On both of these vital issues, our economy and our national security, it falls upon those of us in elected office to take action.

Regarding the economic imbalance in our country, I am reminded of the situation President Theodore Roosevelt faced in the early days of the 20th century. America was then, as now, drifting apart along class lines. The so-called robber barons were unapologetically raking in a huge percentage of the national wealth. The dispossessed workers at the bottom were threatening revolt.

Roosevelt spoke strongly against these divisions. He told his fellow Republicans that they must set themselves "as resolutely against improper corporate influence on the one hand as against demagogy and mob rule on the other." And he did something about it.

As I look at Iraq, I recall the words of former general and soon-to-be President Dwight Eisenhower during the dark days of the Korean War, which had fallen into a bloody stalemate. "When comes the end?" asked the General who had commanded our forces in Europe during World War Two. And as soon as he became President, he brought the Korean War to an end.

These Presidents took the right kind of action, for the benefit of the American people and for the health of our relations around the world. Tonight we are calling on this President to take similar action, in both areas. If he does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way.

Thank you for listening. And God bless America.

Source

“Three things can not hide for long: the Moon, the Sun and the Truth” -- Siddhartha

by: astraea

In the nick of time, www.wikileaks.org, WikiLeaks. To get ready, please go over to Harpers and reread Daniel Ellsberg's The Next War.



How to leak a secret and not get caught

* 12 January 2007
From New Scientist Print Edition Subscribe and get 4 free issues.
Paul Marks

Leaking a sensitive government document can mean risking a jail sentence - but not for much longer if an online service www.wikileaks.org, WikiLeaks, goes ahead. WikiLeaks is designed to allow anyone to post documents on the web without fear of being traced.

The creators of the site are thought to include political activists and open-source software engineers, though they are keeping their identities secret. Their goal is to ensure that whistle-blowers and journalists are not thrown into jail for emailing sensitive documents. That was the fate of Chinese journalist Shi Tao, who was sentenced to a 10-year term in 2005 after publicising an email from Chinese officials about the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

According to the group's website www.wikileaks.org, its primary targets include China, Russia, and oppressive regimes in Eurasia, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. It is not limited to these countries, however, and people anywhere will be able to use the site to reveal unethical behaviour by governments and corporations.

Normally an email or a document posted to a website can be traced back to its source because each data packet carries the IP address of the last server that it passed through. To prevent this, WikiLeaks will exploit an anonymising protocol known as The Onion Router (Tor), which routes data through a network of servers that use cryptography to hide the path that the packets took. Bruce Schneier, a cryptographer based in Silicon Valley, California, explains it like this. "Imagine a large room jammed full of people in which many of them are passing around envelopes. How would you know where any of them started?"

go. read. crossposted in full at the moon's favors

WikiLeaks is raising funds and testing its software. It hopes to launch in February.

From issue 2586 of New Scientist magazine, 12 January 2007, page 26


My Main Problem With Hillary For President

by: Minstrel Boy

Is this. In short, I am suspicious about her motivation. I have no idea in the blue-eyed world why she wants the job. She says "I'm in it to win it." She says this without saying why she wants to win.

I have spent long years in the vicious corriders of the Hollywood and Las Vegas music industry. I never was a star, never will be. My talents lie elsewhere. I am a well respected, nay, sought after sideman. In a business where most of the membership of my union makes less than $10K a year from playing music while at the same time over 90% of the membership is unemployed on any given day, I do quite well. You cannot operate and survive in that arena of desperate competition for every single gig without a healthy stripe of ruthlessness and a well developed killer instinct. Yes, indeed, I have not only survived but prospered. Since I'll never be a frontman (can't sing well enough, not good looking enough, don't have any compensating talents strong enough to overcome the first two) the only way I could step up in my field would be to go into producing or label management. Both of them have been suggested and offered to me. I didn't make the step because on examining my motives for going further up the food chain I could only come up with one motive powerfull enough to drive me through a whole new round of knife fights in a ring of leveled sand. Revenge. If I were in one of those positions I would have the power to initiate some well-deserved paybacks, to mete out some long delayed justice, I could become the river of pleasure, wealth, and deep pain.

The only plausible reason I can concoct for Hillary Clinton wanting to be President of the United States is that, like the executioner in The Mikado she has a "little list" of people that have slighted, harmed, derided, and opposed her and her family over the years. Payback is the only motivation I can see for her returning to the ring. During the years of Bill's Presidency she tried to give as good as she got but there were a lot of blows landed that still must sting. As a senator she has done little else beyond positioning herself for this time, this place, and this run for power.

What will she do if she gets it? I predict a period of painful bloodshed as the folks unlucky enough to be on her list of enemies (shades of Nixon) are made to squirm, grovel at her feet and finally bleed slowly.

Her over-reaction to John Edwards' Silence is Betrayal speech where her self defense was personal and vicious is only the first sign of how nasty and mean she is prepared to become in order to achieve her ends.

If she were to ask me about how to deal with the scars and nagging injuries after thirty long years in the bloody games I would tell her what I did.

Get out while you still have a soul. Move to the country. Plant a garden. Play with the dogs, and only draw your sword for the righteous.


Harp and (mostly sheathed these days) Sword
22 January 2007

Paté de Fruit

by: Minstrel Boy

I have been cooped up inside the house with two delightful young women for the last few days. It has been cold. There was even snow very close to here. Snow on the Superstition Mountains (if you've ever watch a John Wayne movie, you've seen these imposing beauties). The snow is gone now, after all, this is the desert. Anyway, I spent most of the day in a cleaning mood. But I did take some time to use a few more of the lemons my neighbor so graciously gave me. Country etiquette says without exception that if someone gives you something like fruit or vegetables from their garden you say thank you by giving them something that you make from their gift. It's the Code of the West, and the Cowboy Way. It's also going into the care package my daughter and her roomie are taking back to Medschool with them. I personally love this one. My memory is somewhat dim but I seem to recall picking this up off of an Emeril Lagasse show. It is an all around recipe, the main fruit of Pineapple substitutes well with Canteloupe, the lemon is interchangeable with lime.

INGREDIENTS

one regular ripe pineapple, crowned, peeled, cored and diced (should yield about 1.5 lbs)
1/2 cup pure pectin
2 cups baker's sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (strain through a fine sieve)
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
sugar for sanding

Grease an eight inch baking pan well (or just hose it down with cooking spray, that's what I do). In a small bowl, combine the pectin with 1/4 cup of the sugar and set aside.

Puree the pineapple cubes in a food processor until very smooth. Place that in a large, non-reactive sauce pan with the remaining 1 3/4 cups sugar, the lime juice and the lemon zest over high flame, stirring with a spoon until the sugar is fully dissolved. Bring this to a full boil, then reduce the flame to low and simmer for three minutes. Stirring constantly with a spoon.

Increase the flame to a medium high and return to a boil. Lose the spoon and switch off to a whisk and add in the pectin. Allow to boil at a medium rate, whisking occaisionally until reduced by at least a third. The resulting syrup should be very thick. As a matter of fact, I recommend wearing gloves or mitts and a stout apron while you do this because as it reaches the desired thickness it will start to spit and what it spits will stick and burn. Trust me, that hurts. Have some extra pectin and sugar available to adjust the thickness and flavor to your taste. My kids and I like this a bit more on the tart side, feel free to sweeten up as you care to do.

When reduced and quite thick transfer to the 8" pan and cool on a rack at least overnight. Remove in strips from the pan, and cut into small squares with a well oiled knife. Dredge these in the sanding sugar and serve. This is a perfect companion to Shortbread Tea Biscuits, or good to just munch on your way through the kitchen. Like a liver paté it is spreadable, and can do great things to a plain old mundane English muffin.

Harp and Sword
21 January 2007

Index Portfolio Performance during the Bush Administration's First Six Years

by: Dark Wraith

George W. Bush became the 43rd President of the United States on January 20, 2001. Until January 4, 2007, when the Democrats took control of both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, the Republicans had controlled both the Executive and Legislative branches of the federal government, save for a brief period in mid- to late-2001 when a Republican-turned-Independent caused an even split in the Senate. Over the past six years, then, the financial house of this country has been in the virtually uninterrupted hands of the GOP, during which time the federal government went from running growing budget surpluses in the last years of the Clinton Administration to bleeding hundreds of billions of dollars in red ink every year under President George W. Bush and his congressional allies. A list of other calamities of Republican rule would necessarily include, but not be restricted to, an uncontrolled and debilitating regime of trade deficits; a spiraling conflict in the Middle East; and, of course, the first successful attack by a foreign enemy on cities in the continental United States in almost 200 years.

The Republican Party, through its legislators in Congress and its President in the White House, has also overseen what must be described as nothing short of abysmal performance of the U.S. stock markets, which represent the overwhelming bulk of the value of all public ownership of American corporations. It is in the stocks traded on these exchanges that much of the wealth of the nation is invested by everything from huge pension and mutual funds to individual speculators.

Blame for the miserable performance of the stock markets over the past six years rests squarely with the GOP, which rode into office on a long-standing platform of fiscal prudence and policies tilted toward economic growth through low taxes and reduction of regulatory hurdles to business investment and growth. The Republican Party has failed, despite its blustering rhetoric and the curiously rosy data pumped out from the government agencies it controls.

As of Friday, January 19, 2007, George W. Bush had been President of the United States 2,188 days, two days short of exactly six years. Economic policy during those six years has been completely controlled by President Bush and his Republican Party members in Congress. Democrats had no control over the formulation of economic policies and the federal budgets arising therefrom. They were shut out of taxation and spending decisions by uncompromising rules and actions imposed by the Republicans, who showed no intention of or interest in consensus in governance. Responsibility for the huge federal budget deficits year after year that have hallmarked the rule of the Republicans rests squarely with their party, its legislators in Congress, and the policy-makers in the White House, including George W. Bush, himself.

The public sector has suffered the long-held hope of certain branches of conservativism that the federal government could be reduced in size, crippled in carrying out certain of its regulatory duties, and diminished in its tax revenue generating capacity. The desired goal of this political prescription of "limited government" is that, through the diminishment and degradation of the public sector, the private sector would flourish. No reasonable argument could be made that, if the private sector were indeed the great beneficiary of entrepreneurialism at its most productive, ownership in business would reflect this through substantial returns on equity. Investors in the stock markets of the United States, particularly investors abiding by prudent portfolio diversification rules and reasonable buy-and-hold strategies, should have seen appreciation in the real value of the money they invested in stocks. This is the necessary reward to induce surrender of current consumption. It is the motivation for all rational investors, be they individuals of limited means or great mutual funds: the goal of investing in the stock market is to have at a future time more purchasing power by foregoing current consumption opportunities. For many Americans, long-term investments in stocks and other securities are to the end of having some degree of financial security in retirement. For businesses, the accumulation of equity positions in other companies is in its ideal a signal of calculated judgment that gain is to be had through the long-term, expected future cash flows of acquired enterprises.

From the first day of trading, January 22, 2001, after President Bush became the 43rd President of the United States, until the last trading day, January 19, 2007, before the publication date of this article, the performance of the major stock markets—measured by the index portfolios of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the Standard & Poor's 500, and the NASDAQ Composite—has been abominable. Only the Dow Jones Industrial Average managed to achieve a positive real return on investment over the past six years, and that return was a miserly half-a-percent on an annualized basis, a level of performance that would get any fund manager taken out and shot.

January 22, 2001, was the first day of trading after Mr. Bush became President. The three major stock market indices stood at the following levels at the close of trading on that day:

January 22, 2001, Index Closing Values
     Dow Jones Industrial Average: 10,578.24
     Standard & Poor's 500: 1342.9
     NASDAQ Composite: 2757.91

At the close of trading on Friday, January 19, 2007, these same three averages stood at the following levels:

January 19, 2007, Index Closing Values
     Dow Jones Industrial Average: 12,565.53
     Standard & Poor's 500: 1,430.50
     NASDAQ Composite: 2,451.31

If an investor were to have formed a portfolio based upon each of these three indices and managed each portfolio in terms of composition and balance to mirror the relevant index, the investor would have earned the following total nominal returns on investment over the 2,188 days from January 22, 2001, to January 19, 2007:

Total Nominal Portfolio Returns over 2,188 Days
     Dow Jones Industrial Average: +18.79%
     Standard & Poor's 500: +6.52%
     NASDAQ Composite: —11.12%

Expressing these returns on an annualized (that is, "percentage return per year compounded") basis, the nominal results just presented are as following:

Annualized Nominal Portfolio Returns over 2,188 Days
     Dow Jones Industrial Average: +2.91% per year
     Standard & Poor's 500: +1.06% per year
     NASDAQ Composite: —1.95% per year

The above are nominal (that is, "not corrected for inflation") results. Taking into account the erosion of purchasing power (that is, "the effect of inflation") on portfolio values over the holding period requires adjusting each of the current values to its equivalent purchasing power value on January 22, 2001. From the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index data for January 2001, the CPI stood at 175.1, and for December 2007, the CPI stood at 201.8. The January 2007 figure can be estimated by various methods, and here, a conservative projection of 201.83 is derived from the three-month moving average of the CPI, implying an annualized inflation rate for the current month of nearly zero, based upon the average of the annualized inflation rates for the previous three months.

Expressing the closing index portfolio values as of Friday, January 19, 2007, in terms of their January 2001 purchasing power equivalents provides the following results:

January 19, 2007, Index Values in January 2001 Purchasing Power Value
     Dow Jones Industrial Average: 10,901.18
     Standard & Poor's 500: 1241.03
     NASDAQ Composite: 2126.63

The total real return on investment for each portfolio is then the quotient of the January 2001 index value when divided into the adjusted January 19, 2007, value:

Total Real Portfolio Returns from January 22, 2001, to January 19, 2007
     Dow Jones Industrial Average: +3.05%
     Standard & Poor's 500: —7.59%
     NASDAQ Composite: —22.89%

Finally, expressing these real returns on an annualized (that is, "percentage return per year compounded") basis, the total real return results just presented are as follows:

Annualized Real Portfolio Returns from January 22, 2001, to January 19, 2007
     Dow Jones Industrial Average: +0.50% per year
     Standard & Poor's 500: —1.31% per year
     NASDAQ Composite: —4.24% per year

The results above are summarized in the following chart:


The total and real returns to the selected portfolios are presented below in graphical form:



An investor forming a portfolio tracking the Dow Jones Industrial Average from the beginning of the Bush Administration in January of 2001 until January 19, 2007, would have realized a total gain in real value of the portfolio of just over three percent, which is equivalent to an annualized, compounded rate in purchasing power of the portfolio over the term of the Bush Administration of just one-half percent per year; the investor forming a portfolio tracking the Standard & Poor's 500 over that period would have suffered a total loss in real value of the portfolio of more than seven-and-a-half percent, which is equivalent to an annualized, compounded annual rate of loss in purchasing power of the portfolio over the term of the Bush Administration of about one-and-a-third percent per year; and the investor forming a portfolio tracking the NASDAQ Composite index over that period would have suffered a loss in total real value of the portfolio of almost twenty-three percent, which is equivalent to a compounding rate of loss in purchasing power of the portfolio over the term of the Bush Administration of about four-and-a-quarter percent per year.

From a well-balanced portfolio of the common stock of reasonably low-risk, very large public corporations to an equally well-balance portfolio of the common stock of relatively riskier, small-cap public corporations, common stock—the equity (that is, the "ownership") claim on corporations—has provided real returns over the course of the Bush Administration that were at best miserably anemic and more likely significantly negative.

Securities markets do not make long-term assessments of the value of the American economy based upon political biases: billions of shares of stock trade each day, and the total value of these trades is so great as to be almost incomprehensible. Over the past six years, the absolute control of the government by the Bush Administration and its Republican allies in Congress has been subject to an on-going, objective assessment by the securities markets of the United States. The result to date of this real-value assessment is that the American economy, as represented by the market values of stocks of large, medium, and small public corporations, has not grown. This is an undeniable, unavoidable fact delivered by the very stock markets whose large-scale participants by and large support the Republican Party, its goals, and its politicians.

Regardless of how large the nearly daily dose of good economic news the Bush Administration induces the mainstream media to repeat, the Administration can neither manipulate the stock market data, nor can it find a scapegoat for the broad-based, long-term depletion of private equity value its policies have caused.

The performance of stock markets has real consequences for average, working Americans. The money they invest is money they surrender using in the here and now, hoping, as they do—indeed, trusting—that their foregone current consumption will be rewarded with greater purchasing power later, very likely in their retirement years when they are no longer generating significant income through work. When the stock markets fail to provide that reward, and especially when they fail so strikingly over a six-year period, those average investors have effectively seen their decision to invest rather than consume prove to have been wrong and harmful to their self-interest. For the average Americans who plan for retirement in part or in whole based upon investments made and held in the stock market over many years, the Bush Administration's record is nothing short of catastrophic in terms of people's financial security. For most, however, the full realization of the value lost and the disrupted, nearly irreparable damage to future capital appreciation of their investments in the stock markets will come only after the era of the neo-conservatives has come fully to an end, and it will then be the grim responsibility of future politicians to do what little can be done to rectify the mess the GOP left in the wake of its shameful leadership at the beginning of this century.


The Dark Wraith will provide frequent and pointed reminders during the time to come of why the financial house of this nation is the wreck that it surely will be.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

National Sanctity of Human Life Day

by: Foiled Goil

It's True:

Bush Proclaims Sunday "National Sanctity of Human Life Day"


Bob Geiger: I swear, I'm not making this up.

In a formal White House proclamation issued Friday, George W. Bush declared January 21 National Sanctity of Human Life Day, 2007.

"America was founded on the principle that we are all endowed by our Creator with the right to life and that every individual has dignity and worth," reads the stirring proclamation. "National Sanctity of Human Life Day helps foster a culture of life and reinforces our commitment to building a compassionate society that respects the value of every human being."

And here's the real kicker: "Among the most basic duties of Government is to defend the unalienable right to life, and my Administration is committed to protecting our society's most vulnerable members," says the hypocritical statement.

Bush then goes on to brag about all the steps his administration has taken to promote his famed "culture of life" saying "we are helping to make our country a more hopeful place."


Full article here.

rolleyes
20 January 2007

Fireman Sandwiches - Lemon Marshmallows

by: Minstrel Boy

It's been a cold and rainy day. My daughter and one of her roomies are up from UofA for a long weekend and were totally bummed to be stuck inside.

This is another recipe with a family history. These sandwiches were made on a regular basis for a long time. They became "Fireman Sandwiches" the night my great aunt Nettie Peaches made them for some volunteer firefighters who were battling a blaze at a neighbor's house. They're simple, they're delicious, they're perfect for a rainy day. The lemon marshmallows is because a neighbor with trees in anticipation of tonight's wet freeze has been picking like a demon to try and save as much of his crop as he can. He brought me almost a double bushel of Meyer lemons. Be expecting lots more lemon food posts this week.

INGREDIENTS

6 French rolls (sourdough rocks too)
1 medium can Las Palmas Red Chile Sauce
1 medium brown onion diced medium
1 can of olives chopped
1 lb grated extra sharp cheddar
1 lb grated monterey jack

Heat your oven to 350°. Slice the rolls in half horizontally and pick out the center from both the top and the bottom halves. Mix all the other ingredients evenly and fill the rolls with the mixture. Put on a baking sheet that has been lined with foil (these can leak while they are baking and you'll never get the melted cheese off by scrubbing). Bake for twenty minutes or until the filling is completely melted and hot all through.

Serve.

LEMON MARSHMALLOW INGREDIENTS

Cooking Spray
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
2 (1/4-ounce) envelopes unflavored gelatin (about 2 tablespoons)
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup cool water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

Lightly spray a small baking sheet with the oil and set aside. Sprinkle with a light coating of confectioners' sugar using a fine mesh sieve.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the gelatin with the lemon juice and set aside. Place a 2-quart (non-reactive) saucepan over medium-heat, and add the sugar, corn syrup, water, salt, and lemon zest to the pan. Stir the contents of the pan occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high and continue to cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer inserted into the syrup reads 250°.

Start the mixer on its lowest speed. Remove the syrup from the stove and slowly drizzle into the bowl of the electric mixer to combine with the gelatin. Be sure to add the syrup in a slow and steady stream until it is all incorporated. Once the syrup is combined with the gelatin, begin to increase the speed of the mixer until it is on maximum. Beat the candy until the mixture becomes white in color and nearly triples in volume, about 15 minutes, a little longer won't hurt anything. It will only help to cool and stiffen the fluff.

Transfer the marshmallow to the prepared pan, and using a rubber spatula, coated with oil, spread the mixture into the pan trying to keep it even in thickness. Wet your hands and press the marshmallow into the corners of the pan, and try not to curse too much. Sprinkle with the remainder of the confectioners' sugar and allow the marshmallow to rest, uncovered, overnight.


Release the marshmallow from the pan and place on a cutting board. Cut the marshmallow into 1-inch squares and toss each piece in confectioners' sugar before serving. Marshmallows will keep for up to 1 week in an airtight container at room temperature.

You simply have to try these to appreciate how wonderfull they are.

Harp and Sword

"California Dreamin'"

by: blackdog

What a beautiful song, and so many others from the Mamas and Papas back then. Their melodies and harmonies will be remembered forever. I was lucky enough to live in California for about 8 years, should have stayed there.

Denny Doherty, again my hat is off to the shade of a remarkable musician who took me down paths that I could have never negotiated by myself. Thank you, Sir.

I go now to see if I can find an old tape and play it. Don't even get me started on "Leavin' on a Jet Plane". I'm having enough trouble as it is.

And the skies are grey.

Peter Daou and I

by: Dark Wraith

In this morning's e-mail came this message from none other than Peter Daou of the Daou Report.
I wanted to personally invite you to visit hillaryclinton.com and view Sen. Clinton's announcement that she will form an exploratory committee to run for President. And I'd like to invite you to join the senator for a live conversation with America – an unprecedented series of video webcasts beginning Monday, January 22nd at 7pm EST for three nights. We are also asking people to submit posts in preparation for the upcoming launch of the official campaign blog – one entry will be selected as our first guest post.

As you may know, I've been communicating with bloggers and online activists on behalf of Sen. Clinton since last summer and I'd like to extend an invitation to you to contact me directly with any feedback, questions, comments, criticisms, compliments, or anything else you'd like to tell the campaign as we move forward.

I can be reached here: peterdaou@gmail.com

I'd also like to say that I'm excited to be working with several colleagues who you may be familiar with: Judd Legum (who will be the campaign's research director), Crystal Patterson, and Jesse Berney.

I look forward to hearing from you…


Best,

Peter

P.S. Please feel free to pass this along to fellow bloggers.
Rather than reply to Mr. Daou in an e-mail message that would surely be lost in the enormous daily volume of electronic correspondence he undoubtedly receives, I herewith publish my reply to him as a public document for all to review and consider.
Dear Peter:

Go straight to Hell.


Sincerely,
Dark Wraith


And with that, the Dark Wraith has spoken.

Sex Offenders and Mental Illness

by: Konagod

This is why I believe sex offenders need to be studied more carefully. It's not a routine criminal situation in which you simply throw them in prison for life, or as some advocate, condemn them to death row. The sex offender registry is also fraught with problems. But when a 29-year-old man tries to enroll in school by pretending to be 12 with the aid of a 61-year-old man who supposedly also believes the man to be 12, there are clearly others issues involved than merely a sexual appetite for children.



The Yavapai County sheriff's office also said Neil Havens Rodreick II conned two men he was living with and having sex with into believing he was a young boy. One of them, 61-year-old Lonnie Stiffler, called himself Rodreick's grandfather when he tried to enroll him at Mingus Springs Charter School as "Casey Price."

It would be interesting to see video of the man. I find it hard to believe he could pass himself off to anyone as being 12.
Stiffler and Robert James Snow, 43, "were very upset when the detectives told them they had been having a sexual relationship with a 29-year-old man and not a pre-teen boy," Quayle said.

[...]

Deputies who served a search warrant at a Chino Valley home Thursday found Stiffler, Snow, Rodreick and Brian J. Nellis, 34. Quayle said Nellis was apparently Rodreick's cell mate in an Oklahoma prison, where both served time for sex offenses.

They were "very upset" the guy wasn't 12? Jee-zus! Personally, I think they should have been greatly relieved but what the hell do I know.

It's rare for me to rendered almost speechless by a piece of news so strange and twisted. Bring on the mental health professionals and let's see if they can unravel this one. I'm sure there are varying degrees of illness contributing to a desire for pre-teen sex. And with proper counseling maybe some sex offenders can get it under control. In the case of this group of men, it's beyond extreme and I'm just guessing, but returning to a normal life in society seems completely off the table.
19 January 2007

Corn Prices Putting Tortillas Out of Reach for Many Poor Mexicans. Why?

by: Konagod

This story isn't at all surprising and there will be far greater repercussions to come.

Facing public outrage over the soaring price of tortillas, President Felipe Calderón abandoned his free-trade principles on Thursday and forced producers to sign an agreement fixing prices for corn products.

Skyrocketing prices for corn on the world market have pushed up the price of the humble tortilla, the mainstay of the Mexican diet, by nearly a third in the past three weeks, to 35 cents a pound in Mexico City and even higher in other parts of the country.

Half of the country’s 107 million people live on $4 a day or less, and many of them survive largely on tortillas and beans. The price increases have riled the public to such an extent that it has created a political storm that threatens to swamp Mr. Calderón’s fresh presidency.

I would certainly shed no tears over a brief Calderón presidency but this issue is about a far greater threat.

There is a continuing debate here about what caused the price of tortillas to shoot up so quickly. Some economists blame the increased demand for corn from ethanol plants in the United States, and it is true corn prices in the States last week reached their highest point in a decade, the United States Agriculture Department said. At the same time, the cost of white corn has risen about 13 percent here over the past year, Mexican government figures show.

But Mexican lawmakers and other officials have suggested that giant tortilla companies and corn flour distributors — among them Grupo Maseca S.A. and Maíz Industrializado S.A., often known as Minsa — have taken advantage of the situation, hoarding supplies to drive prices up even more.

Both situations are probably true. Although more farmers are planting corn this year, the corn is destined for an ever-growing number ethanol plants under construction.
Inspired by soaring demand for corn to feed the growing ethanol industry, farmers across the United States are planting corn this year instead of soybeans, wheat and cotton.

Even the man who farms our land in Arkansas is planning to grow corn this year for the first time ever. He has traditionally only grown cotton, soybeans, and some rice.

Depending on the reduced levels of cotton, soybeans, and wheat farming, it will be quite interesting to see how this all plays out on the global stage as all eyes turn to corn and ethanol production to satisfy our desire and need for alternative fuels and to reduce our dependency on imported fuels.

I've never believed this particular solution was going to be economically viable, particularly when placed in the context of its impact elsewhere. We may soon realize the trade off is not pleasant.
Some farmers are contemplating planting continuous years of corn, but that can lead to pest problems and increased costs for fertilizer and seed, said Bruce Erickson, a Purdue University agricultural economist. And those fields tend to produce less each year. Most farmers rotate their crops to maintain nutrients in the soil and stop insects and weeds.

"Most scientific research shows a 10 percent drop in yield when you plant corn on corn," Erickson said. In Louisiana, the number of acres devoted to corn likely will double and could triple, said David Bollich, a grain marketing specialist with the Louisiana Farm Bureau.

"Everybody wants to get into corn this year, some who have never planted it before," he said.

[...]

Corn prices are so high, though, that it will cost chicken and pork producers more to feed their animals, and that could end up increasing prices at grocery stores.

Construction of ethanol plants is by no means limited to the United States. Fifteen are slated for construction in the Philippines in sugar-producing regions.

Pandora's Box has been opened and the beast is emerging. You have been warned. It will take years for the companies who are investing heavily in ethanol plants to recoup their investment, farmers are desperate for crops which fetch top dollar, and someone is going to pay in the end.

However, if one unintended side effect of all this is a sharp reduction in the livestock industry due to increased costs of feed or grazing land converted to farming more corn, that just might be beneficial if society can adjust to a less meat-based diet.
Last month, the United Nations published a report on livestock and the environment with a stunning conclusion: "The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global." It turns out that raising animals for food is a primary cause of land degradation, air pollution, water shortage, water pollution, loss of biodiversity, and not least of all, global warming.

Hat tip to Litbrit for emailing me that link and this appropriate comment: "Food for thought; fuel for debate, though there really isn't much left to debate when it comes to what humans have done to the planet."

Another hard lesson looms right on the horizon.



Crossposted from konagod
18 January 2007

George Questions George

by: Foiled Goil

An Impartial Interrogation of George W. Bush

Senator George McGovern at the National Press Club

Excerpts:

Well, Mr. Bush, Jr. I have some impertinent questions for you.

Mr. President, Sir, when reporter Bob Woodward asked you if you had consulted with your father before ordering our army into Iraq you said, "No, he's not the father you call on a decision like this. I talked to my heavenly Father above." My question, Mr. President: If God asked you to bombard, invade and occupy Iraq for four years, why did he send an opposite message to the Pope? Did you not know that your father, George Bush, Sr., his Secretary of State James Baker and his National Security Advisor General Scowcroft were all opposed to your invasion? Wouldn't you, our troops, the American people and the Iraqis all be much better off if you had listened to your more experienced elders including your earthly father? Instead of blaming God for the awful catastrophe you have unleashed in Iraq, wouldn't it have been less self-righteous if you had fallen back on the oft-quoted explanation of wrongdoing, "The devil made me do it?"

And Mr. President, after the 9/11 hit against the Twin Towers in New York, which gained us the sympathy and support of the entire world, why did you then order the invasion of Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11? Are you aware that your actions destroyed the international reservoir of good will towards the United States? What is the cost to America of shattering the standing and influence of our country in the eyes of the world?

Why, Mr. President, did you pressure the CIA to report falsely that Iraq was building weapons of mass destruction including nuclear weapons? And when you ordered your Secretary of State, Colin Powell, to go to New York and present to the UN the Administration's "evidence" that Iraq was an imminent nuclear threat to the United States, were you aware that after reading this deceitful statement to the UN, Mr. Powell told an aid that the so-called evidence was "bullshit"?

Is it reasonable to you, President Bush, that Colin Powell told you near the end of your first term that he would not be in your Administration if you were to receive a second term? What decent person could survive two full terms of forced lying and deceit?

And Mr. President, how do you enjoy your leisure time, and how can you sleep at night knowing that 3,014 young Americans have died in a war you mistakenly ordered? What do you say to the 48,000 young Americans who have been crippled for life in mind or body? What is your reaction to the conclusion of the leading British medical journal (Lancet) that since you ordered the bombardment and occupation of Iraq four years ago, 600,000 Iraqi men, women and children have been killed? What do you think of the destruction of the Iraqi's homes, their electrical and water systems, their public buildings?

And Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, while neither of you has ever been in combat (Mr. Cheney asking and receiving five deferments from the Vietnam War), have you not at least read or been briefed on the terrible costs of that ill-advised and seemingly endless American war in tiny Vietnam? Do you realize that another Texas President, Lyndon Baines Johnson, declined to seek a second term in part because he had lost his credibility over the disastrous war in Vietnam? Are you aware that one of the chief architects of that war, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, resigned his office and years later published a book declaring that the war was all a tragic mistake? Do you know this recent history in which 58,000 young Americans died in the process of killing 2 million Vietnamese men, women and children? If you do not know about this terrible blunder in Vietnam, are you not ignoring the conclusion of one of our great philosophers: "Those who are ignorant of history are condemned to repeat it." And, Mr. President, in your ignorance of the lessons of Vietnam, are you not condemning our troops and our people to repeat the same tragedy in Iraq?

Mr. President, are you missing the intellectual and moral capacity to know the difference between a justified war and a war of folly in Vietnam or Iraq?

Public opinion polls indicate that two-thirds of the American people think that the war in Iraq has been a mistake on your part. It is widely believed that this war was the central reason Democrats captured control of both houses of Congress. Polls among the people of Iraq indicate that nearly all Iraqis want our military presence in their country for the last four years to end now. Why do you persist in defying public opinion in both the United States and Iraq and throughout the other countries around the globe? Do you see yourself as omniscient? What is your view of the doctrine of self-determination, which we Americans hold dear?

And wonder of wonders, Mr. President, after such needless death and destruction, first in the Vietnamese jungle and now in the Arabian desert, how can you order 21,500 more American troops to Iraq? Are you aware that as the war in Vietnam went from bad to worse, our leaders sent in more troops and wasted more billions of dollars until we had 550,000 US troops in that little country?

Do you, Mr. President, honestly believe that we need tens of thousands of additional troops plus a supplemental military appropriation of $200 billion before we can bring our troops home from this nightmare in ancient Baghdad?

What is compassionate about consigning America's youth to a needless and seemingly endless war that has now lasted longer than World War II? And what is conservative about reducing the taxes needed to finance this war and instead running our national debt to nine trillion dollars with money borrowed from China, Japan, Germany and Britain? Is this wild deficit financing your idea of conservatism? Mr. President, how can a true conservative be indifferent to the steadily rising cost of a war that claims over $7 billion a month, $237 million every day? Are you troubled to know as a conservative that just the interest on our skyrocketing national debt is $760,000 every day?

And, Mr. President, at a time when your most respected generals have concluded that the chaos and conflict in Iraq cannot be resolved by more American dollars and more American young bodies, do you ever consider the needs here at home of our own anxious and troubled society?

Finally, Mr. President, I ask have you kept your oath of office to uphold the Constitution when you use what you call the war on terrorism to undermine the Bill of Rights? On what constitutional theory do you seize and imprison suspects without charge, sometimes torturing them in foreign jails? On what constitutional or legal basis have you tapped the phones of Americans without approval of the courts as required by law? Are you above the Constitution, above the law, and above the Geneva accords? If we are fighting for freedom in Iraq as you say, why are you so indifferent to protecting liberty here in America?

How Do You Win an Invasion?

by: astraea

How do you "win" an invasion? Occupation. That's what Bush means by "winning." Our troops are working for the oil industry.

Hold Congress accountable.
_____________________


ThinkProgress is keeping track of where every member of Congress stands on escalation — but we need your help. Call your members of Congress, ask their position, then email their response to:

stoptheescalation@americanprogressaction.org

Please include your real name and zip code in your email. You can reach the Capitol switchboard toll-free at 800-614-2803. Just provide your zip code or ask for your members of Congress by name.

OUR CURRENT TALLY

Totals (excludes non-voting members)

Ds Rs Indep Total
Oppose 210 31 1 242
Lean Oppose 23 19 0 42
Lean Support 0 24 0 24
Support 2 104 1 107
Refuse to Answer 5 33 0 38
Unknown 42 40 0 82
Total 282 251 2 535

______

Use their interactive table to find a representative’s position on escalation. more.

RIP, Art Buchwald

by: blackdog

He was a great satirest, political humorist and could see through the crap that is everywhere better than most. I loved reading him for many years, his death after his amazing survival from renal failure and refusal of treatment shows him to have been a very brave man.

My hat is off to his shade. I will never forget you, Art Buchwald.

http://www.bigbrassblog.com/nucleus/media.php
17 January 2007

Let the Free Market Wail!

by: astraea

All that talk about the free market. The way it will fix things, how things will thrive if only the market forces are allowed to work. Well, here it comes, the big chance. Let the free market wail! Stop giving tax breaks that favor the powerful; stop subsidizing oil.

And to be really free, to do it 'right' -- we're reality based here -- let's follow it out, all the variables. Let's make sure that all production costs are met before a profit is drawn -- as in environmental damage past and future, management of resources, and the true cost of labor. Workers don't really grow on trees and live on air. And where would production be without them? Promotion of health for workers and consumers. Education. All are essential to factor into this free market equation.

Unlimited resources, unlimited growth? Fairy tales. Let's get real.

You know what the real god of the Republican party is? The voodoo science of economics. Can they change? Well, we're watching, waiting to see.

A friend writes:

Suppose I owned a company and had an employee who consistently lied to me, undermined the work of those under him or her while shifting blame onto them, wrecked the company's reputation, and then brought the organization to the brink of bankruptcy. This is not exceptional news these days, but in this case their defense was that "God told them it was in everyone's best interest." Now suppose that the company is our beloved USA, and we, as "shareholders", have hired this man to be our CEO. I would say that censure of the President is not enough.

Fire him.


Yep. Send him down the stripey hole.

And taxes. Ask yourself, What is $1,000 to someone making $20,000 a year? What is to someone making a million? All money isn't equal, nor is it backed or earned by anything resembling equality or even anything that's real. Who decides all this? Who should? Do you think for a moment it isn't manipulated? Who gets first draw, preferred rate?

When the bottom line is all that matters, greed rules. Is this the world we want? How we spend, save, invest our money empowers something, someone. If everyone knew exactly what their 401 K and mutuals empowered, if they took moral responsibility for that, maybe the market could actually be a tool for good. And that goes beyond party, spiel, and chest thumping.


deborah
the moon's favors

___________________

And lordamighty hushmymouth. Bill O'Reilly on Colbert tomorrow!

Responsibility to Land of Laws: Impeach Geoge W. Bush!

by: Gary

I have read much on the subject of impeachment, participated in lengthy discussions with peers and foes, commented on blogs and generally paid attention to the political pulse of this action.

What it comes down to for me is a pragmatic and idealist issue of the law and the enforcement of the rules of law in our land.

I do care for strategy.

I do care for caution, and picking the right battles to ensure the right outcomes.

But I care more about America and her soul, than any maneuvers to guarantee power. Without the base respect and enforcement of our laws to the highest levels of our representative government, what do we have left? Not a democracy. Not America...Something less than America.

What our legislature is charged with is a legal responsibility to hold the executive branch in check if it should break the rules of law, no matter the cause or the reason. It is one of the greatest responsibilities of that legislative body, and not something that should be toyed with or abused.

It is my contention, outside of all contingencies, that President Bush and all those who have aided him in his war on Iraq, truth, and our Constitution should be held accountable for their various and many crimes against America; not to mention laws violated or ignored abroad.

The list of crimes is extensive.

The list of crimes is tangible.

They can be proven and prosecuted in a court of law.

No other citizen of this land would be able to spill the blood of so many based on lies without having to answer to those dead. We call that murder in America.

No other citizen of this land would be allowed to hold a person without cause, against their will, and then torture that person without prosecution. We call that kidnapping and assault. So why can our President do it?

No other citizen can spy on another citizen. We call it stalking. Not even a legitimate police agency can do it without a warrant. So why has our President done it without challenge?

The evidence of his "high crimes & misdemeanors" exists and it is hidden in plain sight. So what is the issue? Why the hesitation? Silence is definitely seen as approval by this administration, and a weapon to be seized upon for future use and manipulation.

As I have said, I care little for discussions of strategy. This is about who we are as a nation. This is about America first. Our founding documents demand that action be taken. The Bush legacy demands that action be taken. The possibility of future leaders claiming executive precedence demands that actions be taken. This not an issue of political cat and mouse, this is about the rules of law in America, and a President that has little care for them.

This is about an administration that has seized powers that were never intended for them.

This is about a President that can open a citizens mail without provocation.

This is about a President that suspended the founding wisdom of Habeas Corpus.

This is about America on a slippery slope, sliding each day closer to the predictions of Orwell and beyond!

This is about preventing America from devolving into a police state, a fascist state, or worse!

This is about my pride as an American, and yours too!

My patriotic and American soul demands justice for America! Justice against our laws. Justice for our laws! Justice for the dead...And not just in Iraq, but every dead man and woman who gave their life to protect America from those who would harm her.

If this Presidency is left unchecked, those countless Americans gave the ultimate sacrifice to their country... for nothing. Inaction is unacceptable, as it is the ultimate insult to the memory or our dead, the relevance of our laws, and the Constitution of the United States of America.

And what really burns me is that this process, this right of impeachment was so casually invoked for a President who got blown in the White House, and is so painfully avoided for a President who thinks he is King of the White House! A man with such contempt for the office of the President as to be unrecognizable as the President when stood up nose to nose against each and every predecessor. "I did not have sex with that woman" was an impeachable lie, but "WMD's in Iraq" is not an impeachable lie? How on earth is that possible?!

America, the House, and the Senate need to get their heads on straight and do what must be done to preserve this nation from destruction from within, and the only protection from that threat is the removal of President George W. Bush from office, the reversion of every signing statement, and the return of respect for the rules of law at the executive branch of our government.

That's why I want it done.

Not for any trumped up reason, but because his ego has swollen and made him a criminal in the eyes of the law. And in America, we prosecute anyone and everyone that breaks the law...Equally! That is who we are as a land of laws, and if we turn a blind eye to this administration because of timing, or fears of power shifts, seats or the like, then we have become something else...Something less than America. And that is unacceptable to me. I bet it's unacceptable to you too?!

Morbidity, Obesity and Healthcare

by: Debra

If you think not being able to fit into that outfit you just bought because you gained a few pounds over the recent holidays is depressing, being morbidly obese will kill you. When I first started working with L., (370 lbs, diabetes, high cholesterol and blood pressure, among other issues) he knew nothing about how his body really worked. He knew a lot about his disease, what drugs to take and nothing else. His doctor told him he was doing fine. I told him his doctor was full of fecal matter and that he was going to die, probably within the next few years, probably sooner.

That rocked him back on his heels, but then I'm not known for sugarcoating the truth. I get that little trait from my mother. There were no excuses, everybody dropped the ball in treating this man. He wasn't always that large. He has many doctors for his different conditions, there is more to helping a patient than writing a prescription and nobody did a single thing.

At any time while his foot doctor was scraping the dead skin off his feet and draining the leg ulcers, it could have been explained to him that the same thing that was happening to his feet was happening all over his body. That the lack of fresh blood and circulation caused the swelling that was pressing on the nerves in his feet and helping to make them feel hot and irritated all the time, when they weren't numb. That the leg muscles use the most amount of calories and walking will help them build up and use more calories so in addition to having better circulation and less parasthesia, he will lose weight. And oh, by the way, the same stagnation thing is happening to the penis which prevents it from working correctly.

The ophthalmologist could explain that swollen red vessels in the eyes are the same everywhere in the body and if the eyes aren't getting the oxygen they need, neither are other small muscles of the body, like the kidneys or the sexual organs.

When he saw his internist, she could have spent some time (a few minutes) explaining that while the drugs are controlling his diabetes after a fashion, they overall destruction is continuing, his sex life is likely never to return under these conditions and that while his parents and grandparents lived into their 80s and 90s, he probably won't live through his 60s and even if he does, his 70s will consist of doctors visits, tests and pills. Meanwhile society will shun him even as they suffer they same problems.

She could have explained that the side effects from the medications were increasing some of the problems with the little general and that if he was willing to do a little exercise, both might be mitigated. Nowhere along this path was nutrition discussed in any meaningful form. He was sent to a nutritionist who gave a piece of paper with most of it crossed out and told to eat from what was left. No wonder America is getting fatter. Not just fatter, morbidly obese.

We started his new lifestyle the weekend of Labor Day with a meal you wouldn't believe. Barbecued ribs, sweet potatoes and southern greens from Trader Joes. I took him shopping, we stood over vegetables and discussed them. We looked at packaging and how to read the labels. We discussed liquids. Thoroughly. Then I introduced him to a butcher so he would start eating cleaner foods. No additives or saline solutions. Why pay for seasoning that is bad for you. We cleaned out his spice cabinet and replaced it with stuff he would use. I gave him cooking tips.

He now tips the scales at a 304. He walks approximately four miles a day, six days a week. He once went for six weeks straight without missing a day. And I reward him with praise every chance I get. He felt bad that he cheated a little bit on Thanksgiving and Christmas (and he could tell, it made him feel bad physically). I pointed out that unlike everyone else, he lost fifteen pounds over the holidays and that is a major accomplishment.

He has had to have his medications adjusted. Twice. Today he goes back to the foot doctor. The last time he went, he had a substitute and she made fun of what he was doing, told him he was only doing it to impress me. Not that that is his motivation, but who cares? At least he's trying. His instructions are to complain about her. A true medical professional should never make fun or belittle their patient. Especially not to their face.

Losing weight is a daunting task. For those of us who want to lose twenty pounds, we act like it's the end of the world and we are being forced to suffer major indinities. When you have to lose a whole person, such as L. does, it has to be approached in a different fashion. Ten percent is our goal for each section, much easier to attain and manage and it has a built in reward system.

L. feels a sense of accomplishment every day. He makes choices that benefit him because never once did I tell him he couldn't have something. He eliminated milk from his diet, he eliminated bread. All by himself. He couldn't fit it in with what he was doing. He very rarely eats out since he found this little booklet that tells him the calories from the popular restaurants. He didn't have a clue that he was getting that many calories and still felt unsatisfied. Now he enjoys every bite of his food, because it has flavor and a richness that makes him feel his food is special, just like him. He's also saving money by eating healthier, so he can spend it on the new clothes he has to get.

Has anybody noticed besides the medical people who were oblivious in the first place? That answer is a resounding yes. He is treated with respect when he discusses food and since he can now out walk the skinny guys around him, he is getting called for better projects.

Knowing how and why is helpful to most people. Treating them like they are rats in a maze only produces a well trained rodent, not a healthy patient. If you have any questions please feel free to comment or to email me. A healthy diet is important.

Debsweb
15 January 2007

This Was What I Saw This Morning

by: Minstrel Boy

Morning FountainThis fountain was a decorative and artistic way to deal with a practical problem. There's a spring on my property that refuses to be capped. For moving water to freeze like this it had to be damn cold. Glad I wasn't camping! I took this picture this morning but had to wait until a teen ager showed up to teach me how to get it from the camera to the computer. Thanks nephew!



H&S

Awaiting the Day

by: Dark Wraith

When Donkeys Fly



This graphic may be reposted with attribute.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

Martin Luther King, Jr. - - Speech Against War

by: Foiled Goil

Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence

Speech delivered by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
April 4, 1967 - Riverside Church, New York City

Excerpts:
Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. [...] Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

Is our nation planning to build on political myth again and then shore it up with the power of new violence?

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. [...] I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.

Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken -- the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: "This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept -- so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force -- has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality.

Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says: "Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word."

We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The "tide in the affairs of men" does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: "Too late." There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. "The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on..." We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.

If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Now let us begin.
14 January 2007

Two Hundred Dollar Chili

by: Minstrel Boy

Yeah, second year in a row the Charger's season came down to the leg of their kicker and the second year in a row they went home. Of course, the defense totally folded in the fourth quarter. They started throwing the ball and quit handing off to LT, a whole bunch of reasons that all had the result of me losing $200. On top of that I had to make dinner AND just got finished doing the dishes. It was, all in all, a great day. Good games, good friends, good food, friendly wagers, what the hell? I had a great time.

As requested by friend blackdog, here's the chili recipe. I won't bother with the cornbread because I use the recipe on the side of the box. Except when I use my bread machine, then I use the recipe that came with the machine.

The biggest difference maker you can do with chili con carne, is to make your own damn chili powder. The stuff that's been sitting on a shelf in your pantry for gawd knows how long is crap. Throw it out now. Never buy the stuff in a can again. Just do it. You'll thank me as soon as you've used this stuff once.

MINSTREL'S HOMEMADE ROCKET FUEL CHILI POWDER

3 ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded and sliced
3 cascabel chiles, stemmed, seeded and sliced
3 dried arbol chiles, stemmed, seeded and sliced
2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (the best stuff comes from Spain)

p.s. you can substitute any dried whole chilis you want for this. Chipotles are smoked and dried whole jalapenos and they will ad both extra heat and a nice smokey tinge.

Put the chilis and cumin into a cast iron (or non-stick) pan over a medium-high flame. Cook, while agitating or moving around with a wooden spoon until you smell the cumin toasting. That should be four or five minutes. Which is enough time for New England to score almost 11 unanswered points. Bastards. Remove from the heat and the pan and allow to cool completely.

Once the chilis have cooled off to the point of San Diego's secondary in the fourth quarter (that's really below room temperature, so let it go at room temp). Put all the ingredients into a blender and run it on annihilate until a fine, dusty powder forms. Be sure to let the powder settle for at least a minute before you open the lid and put into an airtight container. (I use an old jar) This will stay volatile and good for around six months. You cannot increase the shelf life by refrigerating it. If it's chilled it will condense and get more moisture than you want and it will get all lumpy and nasty. Like San Diego's blocking schemes.

Now that you have the chili powder ready, you're all set to go.

Now comes the chili part. This is a very basic, very good, honest chili con carne. There's a whole big debate about whether or not to have beans in it and still call it chili. I leave that whole issues to people who actually give a rat's ass. I don't. If I'm in a bean mood, I put in beans. If I'm not, I leave them out. It's your chili, do what you want.

INGREDIENTS

3 pounds stew meat (any red meat, or combination of meats will do just fine)
2 teaspoons peanut oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 (12-ounce) bottle of beer, preferably a medium ale (this helps control bitterness)
1 (16-ounce) container salsa (whatever's on sale)
tortilla chips, crumbled (bottom of the bag stuff works great for this)
2 chipotle peppers canned in adobo sauce, chopped
1 tablespoon adobo sauce (from the chipotle peppers in adobo)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin

Put the meat in a large mixing bowl and toss it with the oil and the salt. Set aside for a little while (about as long as it takes you to hunt down your wallet to pay off the foolish bet you made on the damn football game).

Using a 6 quart pressure cooker over a high flame, brown the meat in batches until brown evenly all around. About two to three minutes. When the meat is browned put it into a bowl that is lined with paper towels to drain.

When the meat is all browned use the beer in the cooker to deglaze the pot. Scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the meat back to the pressure cooker along with the salsa, tortilla chips, chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, tomato paste, chili powder, and ground cumin and stir to combine. Lock the lid in place. When the steam begins to hiss out of the cooker, reduce the heat to low, just enough to maintain a very weak whistle. Cook for 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully release the steam. Serve immediately. If you talked any shit about your team, this is a far, far, finer dish than crow.

Wait'll next year. (which means I'll probably lose more money)

harp and sword (and losers)

"In the name of God, do your duty! In the name of God. Believe Tom Robinson."

by: blackdog

On the eve of a holiday that I believe celebrates a man of unusual strength and devotion, the equal to Gandhi or even the Christ, I bow my head for a moment.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a man with a purpose, who was bound to know that many were after him and might succeed in their plan. To all that are of minority status in any way, be it racial, economic or whatever, stand tall. There have been heroes in this world we can be proud of regardless of who they are or what we think they are.

We are all human beings, and we belong to each other ultimately.

One of the best lines from that flick that really gets to me:

"Hey Boo!"

"Ms. Gina Louise, Mr Arthur Radley."

More tomorrow when my eyes are cleared.

A Couple of Rough, Tough, Men of the West

by: Minstrel Boy

It's about a half an hour before dawn this morning. I'm in my kitchen looking out at the solid frosting from there to the barn. I'm thinking about the trip into the hills I have planned with The God of all Ropers. It sounded like such a good idea. Something interesting to break out of an emotional sinkhole. I cowboy up and go out to the barn. The breath of the horses is coming in thick clouds. The thermometer on the side of the barn says 28°. Now I know that some of you back in the midwest and the northeast have been under the grip of the icestorms and other harsh weather. I know that 28° and clear probably sounds pretty damned good to you right now. But, in my defense, these plans were made when the highs were hitting the top of the 60's and the lows weren't dipping past 45. The God of all Ropers pulls his rig into the yard. He's bundled up like Nanook of the fucking North. I ask "How're your critters holding up in this cold snap?" He says "Fine." I'm figuring crap. Got us a he man here to deal with. "Want some coffee?" "Had some back at the house, but if you're offering."

We go into the nice, cozy, warm house where there's a fire going, blazing and snapping merrily away.

Me: "We really weren't expecting it to be this cold. Think it might be raining by tonight?"

Him: "Weathergirl said no."

Me: "She's a lying bitch most of the time."

Me: "Here's your coffee. Just describe again the lay of the land around this mine."

He does just that. Giving a pretty good account of the landmarks and the elevation. The fact that there's a natural water tank and a spring right near the mouth of the mine.

Me: "Can you be a little more specific about the opening? Were there any timbers framing it? Were there any metal tools lying about?"

Him: "Why do you ask that?"

Me: "Because it doesn't sound like a white man's mine, that's all. If it's an Indian site we can't go in. We have to map it out and notify the BLM, the Tohono O'odam elders, and ASU so they can all check it out. We don't want to be kicking up dust and disturbing history ya know."

Him: "Hadn't thought about that."

Me: "It's just damned cold. I know you're the God of all Ropers and stuff. I don't think there's anyone going to be talking shit about us if we pass on this little trip. Did you see that movie Brokeback Mountain? Those boys went camping out in the cold and it flat ruined both of their lives."

Him: "Goddamn it, I just blew coffee out of my nose."

Me: "Tell you what. There's football on all day. Call your wife and daughter. Tell them when they're up and about to come on over. We'll make a day of it. Your girl can play the big old grand piano to her heart's content. We can ride around the ring if we have to ride at all. We can keep a fire going and I'll make up a big batch of chili and cornbread."

Him: "I know one of the guys plays line for the Patriots. He's a big cutting horse guy. I'd kinda like to watch that game."

Me: "I'll take the Chargers straight across for $200."

Him: "Done."

Him: "Shit. Now comes the hard part."

Me: "Do what?"

Him: "Before I left my wife said it was too damned cold to be riding out in the hills. She said we were being stubborn and stupid, and more interested in not wimping out in front of the other guy than in our own comfort and safety."

Me: "I just wimped out. Blame me."

Him: "I still have to tell her she was right about the too cold part though."

Me: "You're tough, you can take it. Tell her about the chili and the cornbread. She'll understand that."

Him: "Where's the phone?"


warm and cozy el rancho harpo

Sizing Things Up Or the Lack there Of

by: Missouri Mule

One's perception of one's personal size, I have discovered, is heavily influenced by the style of one's private equipment. That is to say, persons with the popular guy style apparatus will visualize themselves one way--tall--while for persons with the equally popular girl style of rigging, the desirable image can fluctuate from time to time. Guys never waver. They always want to be tall and indeed will claim to be, obvious facts to the contrary. I know this because I am six feet tall and I have never personally met a man who admitted being under five-nine. I can be standing right next to him, looking smack down at the top of his head, and if the subject of height comes up--which is so often does in my presence--he will invariably say that he is five-nine, which would make me at least seven-two. In our midst at the time of this conversation can be another woman who is five-four, and the tops of their heads will be exactly level. The guy will stand between the two of us girls and say with a completely straight face and utter conviction in his heart that he is five-nine. Me and the girl will exchange glances, wordlessly communicating to each other that this guy obviously thinks that we are either dumb as a box of hair or blind or possibly both, but he's happy with his imagined stature, so we let him keep it.

I do understand this overwhelming desire to ignore the truth about one's size. I have always harbored a desire to be five-two. While I was making up impossible stuff to wish for regarding my person, I also wanted to weigh a hundred and five pounds, blue eyes, big tits, and little feet. Oh, and I wanted to be able to sing as well. Fate was not kind. The last time I was five-two I was in the third grade, but I probably didn't weigh a hundred and five until I was much much older. I was a very tall kid. I am still very tall. The red hair... well, I have it once a year, but for the most part my natural color is semi-blondish grey; it is completely natural. I didn't pay to have it dyed that way. I have not ever found it necessary to wear a minimizer bra. In fact, if I could figure out how to wear two Wonderbras, I would. And my feet. Oh, my feet. The feet I would have given myself are just the cutest little thangs! The feet I would have given myself would just make you cry, they're so precious. People would wonder how I could even walk on these feet, they are so very teeny-tiny. The only thing tinier on my body, if I were designing it, would be my tee-tiny ole butt; it would be like one of them little tiny baby Lima beans. I cans say one good thing about the actual size of my feet. It certainly is a mercy there's that much of me folded under... otherwise, I would be seven-two.

A really nutty thing women do, indicating a severe distortion problem, is apparent in the clothes we buy when we have lost some weight. In our minds, before the weight loss, we were behemoths, which may or may not be founded in fact. However, once even a minimal weight loss has been achieved, we are positively elfin and we will race out and buy clothes to prove it. We will buy clothes to put on our new bodies that, had we just recently risen to our present weight, we wouldn't dream of putting on and going out in public. Since we are on our way down the scale, we think we are Tyra Banks, and our lust for tiny spandex dresses is boundless. I have a friend... you have one too, I'm sure--who insists on wearing the very smallest-size clothes that she can actually squeeze herself into and zip up all the way. If that zipper closes, honey... it fits. Doesn't matter that the pleats and pockets are all stretched out and she can't move her arms, and that there's fat poking out between the buttons. If she can fasten a size-four around her girth, then she's a by-God-size four, and that's all there is to it. She would look great in a size ten, but she just lo-o-o-oves that number four. Of course, to people who don't know her, she looks like she has probably recently gained fifty pounds and can't afford to buy clothes to keep up with her rapidly expanding behind. All she can see in her mind's eye is the magic number four. Her mind's eye apparently can't see the woman in the mirror. We need to get her together with the guy who's five-nine. I bet they could imagine a wonderful life together.
13 January 2007

Meet the Grandparents

by: Konagod

Imagine my surprise recently when I received a large green envelope from my mother containing these two photos. I will now share with you, dear faithful readers, some family history.

These are my mother's parents from northeast Mississippi. This grandmother died before I was born although I believe my mother may have been pregnant with me at the time. My grandfather lived well into his 90s. I don't recall when he died. But I knew him well enough.


more...

Elk Shanks Osso Bucco

by: Minstrel Boy

I've been battling one of my periods of black mood. Some of it comes from identifiable stuff, some of it's bog simple depression. I have found one of the finer antidotes to be doing something.

About three spreads over from me lives The God of all Ropers. Homeboy's famous. He has mostly retired from the rodeo circuit that he completely dominated for nearly twenty years. He runs some Corriente stock on his place. He has a herd of 3 Bars quarter horses that makes working cowpokes dance little jigs when they see them. 3 Bars quarter horses are almost their own breed. They are built like Bulldogs. He, like me, also has too much time on his hands. He called me yesterday while I was in the "wallowing in self pity" phase of my depression and told me about what looks like an abandoned turquoise mine out in the Santans, and asked if I would like to pack in with him and give it a look. I said "Hell yes." I also threw in an invitation for dinner tonight for his family (wife, teen aged daughter who my son describes as "babe-alicious") I told him I had some elk in the freezer and asked if that sounded good. He said "Boy, Howdy!" (which is cowboy for yes)

Osso Bucco is one of the signature dishes of Italian cuisine. It is normally done with veal shanks. I like the elk (or venison) even better. The shanks are bigger, the flavors are more intense. There is also none of that whole "raised in a tiny pen and force fed" thing that seems to surround veal.

INGREDIENTS (to serve six)


12 Elk shank slices (the meaty part, cut into 1 1/2" slices, have your butcher do this, it's safer)
all purpose flour
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 medium onions, chopped fine
4 carrots, peeled and chopped fine
4 stalks of celery chopped fine (be sure to string them, it's just nicer that way)
6 cloves of garlic finely chopped (don't be afraid of using more either)
4 medium tomatoes, coarsly chopped
2 stalks fresh cilantro
2 stalks fresh thyme
1 bay leaf (to be tied together with the cilantro and thyme)
Beef Stock
Dry Red Wine (I am serving a Chateau Neuf du Pap tonight and that's what will go into the dish, I think God's wife is the only one drinking)

Gremolata ingredients

1/2 cup cilantro, coarsly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
zest of one whole lemon
one glug olive oil

Put the Gremolata ingredients into a mortar and beat the crap of them with a pestle. Set this aside.

Dredge the shank slices thoroughly in flour. Heat a heavy cassarole dish on the stove with enough olive oil to cover the bottom and sear the slices to a deep golden brown. Dump the excess oil and wipe out the dish. Take a little more oil, add the onions, carrots and garlic and cook until slightly softened. Add in wine to almost cover and cook unitl the wine is reduced by at least half. Add in the shank slices and the chopped tomatoes, add the tied herbs, add beef stock to just cover and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to a nice, steady simmer, cover and cook slowly for at least two hours (when done, the meat should be quite tender but the shanks should not be at disintegration stage yet). About every fifteen minutes, turn and baste the shanks.

To serve, remove the meat slices, if the broth is watery reduce it further. You can also take 1 teaspoon of Cornstarch dissolved in a half cup of the broth and then stirred into the pan, but I prefer a straight reduction. Take a nice sized flat bowl, like one you would use to serve a hearty soup or stew and put some mashed potatoes in the center. Plop two shanks per person in the bowl, spoon the pan stock over that, sprinkle with the Gremolata. Have lots of sourdough baguettes with EVOO and balsamic vinegar for dipping. Be sure to set the table with tiny spoons which can be used to scoop out the rich and flavorful marrow for smearing on a hunk of bread.

(for dessert I'm opening a couple cans of my famous Canned Peaches served over a sinfully rich Vanilla Ice Cream.)

Since The God of all Ropers is close friends with a certain country singer (who's coming to town soon and I am plotting to be backstage) I plan to regale them with my celebrated version of Amarillo By Morning done on the Celtic Harp. I play the harp well enough that it will compensate for my crappy singing. I hope.

Harp and Sword

The Moment of a Comet

by: Dark Wraith

Comet McNaughtAt left is a morning picture of C/2006 P1, "Comet McNaught," so named for Robert McNaught, who found it as a faint smudge on a photograph taken in early August 2006 at the Siding Spring Observatory. The comet, a small celestial body making a brief visit to the inner solar system, is traveling on a trajectory that is making it one of the brightest of its kind in decades.

On January 12, Comet McNaught reached perihelion at only 16 million miles from the sun, which slung it around to emerge for people on Earth as an evening flare quietly shining in the low southern skies. It has a round, fuzzy head of volatile gas and dust, and a short, slightly delta-shaped tail of dust particles falling away. In the coming nights, it will be visible later into dusk, but it will be getting fainter as it slips away from the sun and Earth. Soon, it will be too dim to see with the naked eye.

Because it came in on such a tight trajectory, the sun's gravity has probably given the comet so much additional speed that it now has "escape velocity" from the solar system. That means it will never return. It will cruise out into the cold, stark emptiness of interstellar space, where it will forever slip through the bright darkness of faint galactic gravity fields and soft star winds, nothing but a tiny speck of ice and dust never again to be seen by human eyes, almost certainly never again to be sensed by any sentient being like us.

But we saw it; and in that almost meaningless moment when it was warmed by the sun, it was simply beautiful. If that matters when you think about comets, then let it matter when you think about yourself.
12 January 2007

Veteran's G.I. Bill

by: Debra

Right now I wish Jim Webb was my Senator, but I'll settle for him being from my dad's home state. Finally, somebody with some sense and a real desire to help the veterans. When the G.I. Bill became a program that you had to contribute to in order to realize a benefit, it was no longer a way for the enlisted to get an education after discharge from the military.

When I joined, I received the grand total of $315 a month, with food, clothing and housing included. That is if you didn't mind eating mystery food (sometimes only identifiable by the sign below it), looking like a green pickle (different shades for different events!) or sleeping with forty other women in a large room that connected to three other matching bays by way of a community bathroom. That being said, there is still no way I would have been able to contribute a hundred dollars a month, hoping that by the time I got out, there would be enough to get a college education. It just isn't a realistic expectation for the average young person and history bears this out.

If you haven't been in the military it is very difficult to understand how different life is for a veteran, and that doesn't even have to be one that has been in a war zone. Life is different. I was a dependent, then active military and back to being a dependent before I became a civilian and I have to say, there are things that still don't make sense to me. Especially in the workplace.

A real GI Bill makes it possible to adjust back into society. It allows you to experience the feelings of progress and accomplishment in a somewhat structured environment because nothing else is organized in your life. Civilian life is so ...flexible, and that can be very frustrating to someone who has had a sustained period of order. Plus, now you have to pick what to wear every day.

Veterans deserve our support in this matter and everyone should encourage their Representatives in Congress (Boxer, Feinstein and someone I don't remember at the moment) to support Mr. Webb's bill and ensure that this measure passes. Quickly.

That Montgomery thing is a farce.

Debsweb
11 January 2007

"Mr. Bush, This Is Madness"

by: Foiled Goil

Bush's legacy: The president who cried wolf

Olbermann: Bush's strategy fails because it depends on his credibility

Special Comment By Keith Olbermann
Updated: 8:53 p.m. ET Jan. 11, 2007


Excerpts:
Only this president, only in this time, only with this dangerous, even messianic certitude, could answer a country demanding an exit strategy from Iraq, by offering an entrance strategy for Iran.

Only this president could look out over a vista of 3,008 dead and 22,834 wounded in Iraq, and finally say, "Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me" — only to follow that by proposing to repeat the identical mistake ... in Iran.

Only this president could extol the "thoughtful recommendations of the Iraq Study Group," and then take its most far-sighted recommendation — "engage Syria and Iran" — and transform it into "threaten Syria and Iran" — when al-Qaida would like nothing better than for us to threaten Syria, and when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would like nothing better than to be threatened by us.

Mr. Bush, the question is no longer "what are you thinking?," but rather "are you thinking at all?"

"I have made it clear to the prime minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended," you said last night.

And yet — without any authorization from the public, which spoke so loudly and clearly to you in November's elections — without any consultation with a Congress (in which key members of your own party, including Sens. Sam Brownback, Norm Coleman and Chuck Hagel, are fleeing for higher ground) — without any awareness that you are doing exactly the opposite of what Baker-Hamilton urged you to do — you seem to be ready to make an open-ended commitment (on America's behalf) to do whatever you want, in Iran.

Who is left to go and fight, sir?

Who are you going to send to "interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria"?

Laura and Barney?

The line is from the movie "Chinatown" and I quote it often: "Middle of a drought," the mortician chuckles, "and the water commissioner drowns. Only in L.A.!"

Middle of a debate over the lives and deaths of another 21,500 of our citizens in Iraq, and the president wants to saddle up against Iran and Syria.

Maybe that's the point — to shift the attention away from just how absurd and childish this latest war strategy is, (strategy, that is, for the war already under way, and not the one on deck).

We are going to put 17,500 more troops into Baghdad and 4,000 more into Anbar Province to give the Iraqi government "breathing space."

Mr. Bush did not mention that while our people are trying to do that, the factions in the civil war will no longer have to focus on killing each other, but rather they can focus anew on killing our people.

Because last night the president foolishly all but announced that we will be sending these 21,500 poor souls, but no more after that, and if the whole thing fizzles out, we're going home.

The plan fails militarily.

The plan fails symbolically.

The plan fails politically.

Most importantly, perhaps, Mr. Bush, the plan fails because it still depends on your credibility.

You speak of mistakes and of the responsibility "resting" with you.

But you do not admit to making those mistakes.

And you offer us nothing to justify this clenched fist toward Iran and Syria.

In fact, when you briefed news correspondents off-the-record before the speech, they were told, once again, "if you knew what we knew … if you saw what we saw … "

"If you knew what we knew" was how we got into this morass in Iraq in the first place.

The problem arose when it turned out that the question wasn't whether we knew what you knew, but whether you knew what you knew.

You, sir, have become the president who cried wolf.

Your assurances, sir, and your demands that we trust you, have lost all shape and texture.

They are now merely fertilizer for conspiracy theories.

They are now fertilizer, indeed.

The pile has been built slowly and with seeming care.

Mr. Bush, this is madness.

© 2007 MSNBC Interactive

the fossil driven self-combusting engine

by: astraea

There's no doubt now. Welcome to the Project for the New American Century. Iraq is just a staging ground.

All the changes that have swept over us. With no real debate, the Patriot Act passed into law, 25 October 2001, a mere 45 days after 911. The size of a phone book, who got to read it before it was introduced? Who in Congress could have, most given so little time? Who would dare -- public opinion being framed as it was at every possible moment -- debate it?

Moreover, who wrote the damn thing? And most important of all -- when? A tome of such sweeping depth, importance, power and, as we've experienced, sinister possibilities, couldn't have been drafted in such a sort period; not without an ideology that considered its potential with great care. Tell me. How is this not -- truly -- plotting to subvert the Constitution? Regardless of any possible suggestion that there was any connection or culpability for the tragic events of 911 -- and maybe a third of Americans are still thinking this -- was someone not "awaiting the hour" (as if to strike) to set this act into law, into all its subsequent motions, by merely having this work in process?

The justification for these extremes was framed as if we were in time of war. Yet Congress declared no war. To this day, Congress has declared no war, and the invasion it did agree (with reservations) to fund had no connection to the events of 911.

How innocent we were. Remember? God Bless America they shouted from the Senate steps. How good of them to command God.

Hubris.

Pray for love. Pray for wisdom.


"Listen, Moirai (Fates) ... hear our prayers ... send us rose-bloomed Eunomia (Good Order in civic government) and her bright-throned sisters Dike (Justice) and garland-wearing Eirene (Peace), and make this city forget its heavy-hearted misfortunes." - Greek Lyric V Anonymous Fragments 1018 (from Stobaeus, Anthology)
10 January 2007

The Age of War

by: Dark Wraith

Wednesday evening, January 7, 2007, the President of the United States went before the American people to lay out his plan, what the Administration calls the "New Way Forward," to turn what is becoming a catastrophic U.S. involvement in Iraq into something other than the ominous and evident defeat looming ahead. Five brigades comprising 20,000 additional troops will be inserted into Baghdad, tours of duty for soldiers already there will be extended, and $1.2 billion dollars in new U.S. aid will be used for infrastructure and jobs programs in the war-ravaged country. The President is requesting another $5.6 billion in funds to pay for the troop surge, itself.

The Democrats who control Congress, joined by an increasingly vociferous group of Republicans, are on record opposing this escalation of the American-Iraqi War. According to CNN.com, the extent of formal plans on Capitol Hill to block the President's initiative are thus:
"[S]enators are working on a nonbinding resolution opposing more troops... The House plans to raise a similar resolution."
Such is the materially meaningful scope of countervailing force currently confronting President George W. Bush and his neo-conservative war-makers.

In a January 4, 2007, Special Analysis published here, I wrote the following:
Mr. Bush is going to get his wish: we'll stay; and for now, not only will we stay, but he will escalate this American-Iraqi War.

And the Democrats will not cut off funding for the war...

[W]e'll stay in Iraq... until we're bloodied beyond recognition of our hubris, beyond recognition of our preeminence, beyond recognition of our once unquestioned status as the leader of the free world; and then we shall leave. We shall leave, not when we want to, not when we need to, not when we've had enough, but instead when we are no longer relevant to the history of the future of Iraq and perhaps no longer greatly relevant even to the history of the future of places far from that awful land.
The will to end a bad war is insufficient: war, once born, has a life of its own. Both those who embrace it and those who oppose it stand in the shadow of its thrall. Mr. Bush bids that we walk deeper into its consuming flames, and so we shall. What strength we have to turn away is insufficient compared to the weakness already within our leaders to fight the vortex pulling us deeper into the maw of that which will be our undoing.

Should the Democrats be unable in the months ahead to find the wherewithal to stop this madness, waste not every ounce of energy in rage at their impotence, but instead reserve a modicum for pity of their ignorance: when first they had their chance to draw a sword against the god of war, perhaps they truly believed that a "non-binding resolution" was a weapon.



The Dark Wraith welcomes America to a war without end that cannot be stopped by a leadership without courage.

What I Did While the President Was Bullshitting the Rest of the Country

by: Minstrel Boy

I had much more important things to do. First off, my eleven year old niece usually stops off at my house after school in the afternoon. She stops by to say hello and practice the piano (and the drums now too). We goof around and she often helps me out at the barn and even in the truck patch. She's a great kid. The relationship of the maternal uncle is one of the most important family connections in traditional Apache culture. As the uncle it's my job to make sure that she knows there is always an adult who is completely on her side. Even if I think she's done something wrong, I'm on her side. That's how it works. Before she left to go home this afternoon I got a call from my sister saying that they had something come up with my nephew that required them to go to the high school. Could the girl stay with me? Of course she can.

We goofed around. Fed the horses, picked some veggies from the garden, played with the dogs, went in and fixed dinner. I looked at the clock and it was Presidential bullshitting time. I decided to watch the Spurs/Nuggets game instead. I like Alan Iverson a lot more than George Bush. As a matter of fact A.I. would probably make a better president. I mean, after all, he's been in the league for a while now and he hasn't lost his temper and killed Dick Bavetta for some of the stupid game changing calls he makes, but I digress. I like Tim Duncan more than George W. Bush too, but he's from the Virgin Islands and couldn't be President. We could make an amendment to allow it but that would open the door for both Arnold and Henry Kissenger. Better to leave that door closed.

Since the big screen TV and the HD box are best viewed from the kitchen that's where we were. My niece loves sports. She's a gritty little striker in her local soccer league and loves baseball too. She started really getting into the game. I told her when the Nuggets come down to Phoenix we'll work it out with her parents so she can come to the game with me.

Being a multitasker, while the game was on we decided to make cookies. Not just any cookies mind you, but cookies with a family history. These are "Pal" cookies. My youngest sister was a real surprise to my folks. She came along well after we thought there weren't going to be any more kids. She was very bright, and growing up in a house that was mostly full of people that were way older than her she was also very articulate. She wanted to do big people stuff. She didn't just want older brothers and sisters, she wanted Pals. One of the things she would do with me was cook. One time while we were making these particular cookies she said "We're doing this together because we are pals. These are my Pal Cookies." They've been that ever since. My niece said "Let's make some Pal Cookies." I said "Of course my darling."

INGREDIENTS

3/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup baker's sugar (regular ganulated will do)
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (and I do hope that you're grinding your spices fresh by now)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (dried and ground works here though)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
brown and baker's suger mixed half and half

Cream the butter and sugar together in a stand mixer on medium. Reduce the speed to a stir and add the molasses and the egg. Mix at a stir until smooth. Add the dry ingredients, one at a time and increase the speed to medium again. You should have a beautiful, fragrant dark brown soft dough that begins to clean the side of the bowl. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate overnight.

(We're going to do this part tomorrow afternoon)

Heat the oven to 375° and take the dough from the fridge. Pinch out and roll it into one inch balls, roll the balls in the loose half and half mixture of brown and white sugar and put onto a well greased baking sheet. Bake for about 12 minutes. This makes about four dozen. Have plenty of milk or Earl Grey tea handy.

The Spurs won. I bet the President was his usual stupid lying asshole self. My niece and I had a great time.

El Rancho Harpo

Appropriate Response

by: blackdog

Got a pot of Great Northerns heat'in up so I can have an appropriate response to the press conference of the shrub tonight. And since I live in the Grand Prairie, there are no large rocks for me to throw at the television. It will be a test of my psychic endurance, a term I heard a long time ago from Roger Ebert describing his reaction to the first "Alien" flick.

Should be a flick "Neo-Cons vs Alien". My guess is that the plotline would be that the aliens would just go home. They have no interest in absorbing idiots, that would effectively destroy their ability to become more intelligent. Can you imagine the larval stage of the alien opening up and leaping at a television screen with Tony Snow on it? That might be counterproductive for the alien.

To imagine that the shrub could possibly suffer an attack from such a formidible species would guarantee that the attack would fail, the shrub's negative qualities would drain all of the collective intelligence of the hive. Instead of laying more pods, the queen would begin strumming her lips with her fingers and singing "born in Amurika".

Someone mentioned in a comment I read today somewhere that they had studied poker and the subtleties of the players alot, and that they were going to look for the examples of lies from the shrub, based on it's facial expressions, use of language and body posture. Was that called "ways"?

I will too, although I am not a good poker player, twice in my life I have been dealt 4 aces in a five-card stud game. Both times my resulting grin could be seen for thousands of miles.

Go now to watch the news which may or may not be interesting, and I promise tonight to not pee on the TV.

UPDATE!!!

Just watched some idiot (retired) General George Keene (sp?) speak about how the "surge" would "increase the life-quality of Iraqis".It was ABC.

Good gawd, I'm now primed for anything.

I'll update this tonight again assuming that I still have a functioning brain.

Update 2!

The shrub looked reasonably well tonight but still an idiot. What concernes me is that this excuse for a human is so detached from reality. And how empty
this message is.The medication tonight must have been of a high quality, the shrub could actually read a telepromptor and except for it's awful "nukular" references almost sounded like it had it's shit together. Why some can't pronounce "nuclear" is a bit of a mystery to me. It's not that difficult.

I will sleep tonight with some measure of problems, but what I listened to tonight will go away. The shrub will continue to place us in Harm's way.

Update 3

The shrub showed almost no emotion in it's screach tonight. Read the telepromptor well, and failed to give one iota of any clue to what it's plan really is. I hate this pos.

Cascades of Folly

by: Minstrel Boy

I have, for a long time now been a volunteer rider for any local Sherrif's department Search and Rescue. I have many reasons for this. The main reason is that this is something I can do to help out. I have good, strong horses that are fiends of endurance (they're Arabs and a mustang). My mustang can cheerfully carry a great deal of things that will be needed instantly upon finding someone who has been lost. Water, lots of water, a full on medical kit, a radio, all the things you need to start making a lost person's chances of survival better. She also doesn't need to be ponied to a rider when we are on the search. She will always keep us in sight and maintain her connection with her herd. That's important when minutes are turning into hours and hour are turning into days.

I also have more than a little experience in surviving extreme situations and conditions. When some folks look out on the Sonoran Desert they see a wasteland and a hostile place. I see a playground and a grocery store. It's the same with the mountain forests where I live. It doesn't mean that I'm careless or reckless when I'm out in the wild, far from it. It means that I have knowledge and skills that will enhance my chances of survival, and these same skills translate easily into finding someone who doesn't possess those skills.

One of the concepts we talk about constantly is the "Cascading Folly" situation. Where one poor decision, one that usually would be innocuous all by itself leads to other decisions based upon that first little, tiny mistake. This often leads to a disasterous conclusion. When the environment is one that can be hostile to the unknowledgable, like the desert, the disaster often comes swiftly and without mercy. ****small desert tip**** if you're lost and thirsty in the Sonoran Desert don't go lopping the top off a barrel cactus expecting to find a water cooler. Much like drinking sea water the juice and pulp of the cactus will probably induce kidney failure as your body tries to filter out the impurities. You'll also probably cut yourself to shreds trying to get to something that has a good chance of harming you more than it will help. *****end tip ******

Over and over we find the bodies of people who make that one little mistake. They try to move when they should stay put, they seek shelter when they should stay in the open. In the case of moving "for help" (that's how they always put it) there are many things to be considered before doing that. The first consideration should always be "is there likely to be somebody trying to find me?" If that's the case, stay put. You'll be easier to find that way. I'm a pretty good tracker. I'm not one of these supernatural gifted types that can track a bumblebee over concrete in a hailstorm, but I'm a better bet on finding someone out there than most. I've hunted both animals and men, animals are harder. So let's start this cascade off by having somebody panic and leave their car which has broken down on a not very well traveled road. They will start to walk along the side of the road, usually in one direction or another. If they don't know for certain where the closest crossroad or inhabited place would be, the cascade of folly has just picked up a little momentum. Away from their disabled car they are a person by the side of the road walking where rational regular people don't do things like that. Getting away from the physical explanation of what the fuck they are doing there has just diminished their chances of having a random driver stop and pull over to help them. Catching on the way it works? (sure we are! good, because that's not what I came here to talk about)

Iraq has been a perfect storm of Cascading Folly. Because it was wrong from the start it has had little, if any, chance of ever being anything but a horrendous disaster.

Take the current stuff people are saying about "the surge." One of the things that drives me nuts is when they talk about "The Iraqi Government." What they have there is not a goverment by any stretch of the imagination. Every thing they talk about where they expect the Iraqi government to "step up" or "take action" or "assume authority" is doomed. It's fucking doomed because There. Is. No. Such. Government. If Maliki were to walk the streets of Bagdhad he would be killed. Just like the Aztecs killed Monteczuma. Maliki would be safer walking the streets of Bedford-Stuy with bags of crack taped to his ass and his pockets overflowing with money. There. Is. No. Such. Thing. As. An. Iraqi. Government.

If the President uses "Iraqi Government" at any time when he's speaking, everything that proceeds from there is a further and deeper Cascade of Folly.


Thus endeth the lesson.

Harp and Sword

O!-bama

by: Dark Wraith

Barack Obama bare-chestedSenate Democrat from Illinois Barack Obama, often discussed as a possible contender for the 2008 Democratic Presidential nomination, was recently photographed while swimming at a Hawaiian beach. A somewhat revealing photo of the slender young political superstar frollicking in the surf is featured in the current issue of People magazine in a section devoted to pictures of what the publication calls "Beach Babes." When asked by the Washington Post about the beefcake shot, Obama was reported to have said, "Stop looking at it!"

In our continuing efforts here at Big Brass Blog to bring readers news and commentary worthy of a sophisticated, worldly audience, your opinion is vital, lest this online publication descend into a pit of licentious online salaciousness. Hence, you are herewith invited to participate in the poll below, and you are further encouraged to speak your mind in comments on this breaking, top-end story.

Is the bare-chested picture of Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) newsworthy?

  — Poll results —

America's Enemies

by: Debra

Are located within its borders and wear the cloak of authority with the hood of arrogance, the gloves of money and power and the jackboots of racism and hatred. All to protect us, of course.

I have been an isolationist for most of my life. Not in the way that we should close our borders and treat everyone that wants to come to this country as a criminal and not worthy unless they have melanin impaired skin, but that we should take care of the problems of our own citizens before we impose our will and wisdom on the world.

The front in the global war on terror is the United States. We attract it (September 11, as we will hear many times tonight), dispense it (Haditha, Abeer Hamza), and condone it (killing Palestinians in their homes or on the beach is ok by us). Never, never do we take responsibility for our contributions to the instability of the world and we still have the hubris to believe that the rest of the world is wrong. Every time and every instance.

Not only do we not take responsibility for our actions as a country, we have a leader who feels that he is above the people (who elected him), Congress (according to the Constitution an equal part of the triad government we used to have), the Constitution (just an old piece of paper) and we won't even get into world opinion. The buck will never stop at the current White House, unless it is to collect interest on its way to a campaign donor or major corporation.

Supposedly the President is in my camp. I don't really believe that anymore than I believe that we are camping. He can sex up his intelligence all he wants, but it won't change the fact that Iraq had nothing to do with September 11. Saddam Hussein is dead (and that will come back to haunt us), the Iraqi army is standing up, at least until they get shot at, there are no weapons of mass destruction, and the administration has changed Generals more times than Darth Vader, so why are we still in Iraq?

There is no graceful way out of this debacle and there never will be. We can continue to throw good money after bad, increase the body count for both us and the Iraqis by sending in more troops that won't help the situation and we are still going to have to bring the troops home eventually. Like most of America I would prefer that it was sooner rather than later because we can't fix what we broke and we are only making it worse.

The administration doesn't understand the situation in the Middle East and never will because to them they all look alike and it's the religion that is different. They are used to America where the religion is relatively consistent but the people don't look similar at all, you can tell the ones who are going to cause trouble because they have different colored skin, or so the theory goes.

The only advantage I can see in having the troops in Iraq is that it prevents dear Leader from using them against the people of the United States.

So far.

Debsweb

Escalation: Not The Answer

by: Foiled Goil

Escalation is Not the Answer:
Time for Congress to Act to Ensure Real Change in Iraq


Address of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, January 9, 2007

Excerpts:
It's an honor for me to be here at the National Press Club. I had hoped to speak today about health care and my agenda as Chairman of the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. I will speak to those concerns on another day soon, but an issue of grave importance requires our immediate action. President Bush will address the nation tomorrow about his decision to send tens of thousands of additional American troops to the war in Iraq. That war is the overarching issue of our time, and American lives, American values and America's role in the world are all at stake. If ordered into battle, we know our brave men and women will serve us with pride and valor, just as they have throughout this troubling war. All Americans will support them fully, as will those of us in Congress. We will always support our troops in harm's way.

The President is Commander-in-Chief, but in our democracy he is still accountable to the people. Our system of checks and balances gives Congress – as the elected representatives of the people – a central role in decisions on war and peace.

Today, therefore, I am introducing legislation to reclaim the rightful role of Congress and the people's right to a full voice in the President's plan to send more troops to Iraq. Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts will introduce similar legislation in the House of Representatives. Our bill will say that no additional troops can be sent and no additional dollars can be spent on such an escalation, unless and until Congress approves the President's plan.

Our proposal is a straightforward exercise of the power granted to Congress by Article I, section 8 of the Constitution. There can be no doubt that the Constitution gives Congress the authority to decide whether to fund military action. And Congress can demand a justification from the President for such action before it appropriates the funds to carry it out.

This bill will give all Americans – from Maine to Florida to California to Alaska and Hawaii – an opportunity to hold the President accountable for his actions. The President's speech must be the beginning – not the end – of a new national discussion of our policy in Iraq. Congress must have a genuine debate over the wisdom of the President's plan. Let us hear the arguments for it and against it. Then let us vote on it in the light of day. Let the American people hear – yes or no – where their elected representatives stand on one of the greatest challenges of our time.

Until now, a rubber stamp Republican Congress has refused to hold the White House accountable on Iraq. But the November election has dramatically changed all that.

Over the past two years, Democrats reached for their roots as true members of our Party. We listened to the hopes and dreams of everyday Americans. We rejected the politics of fear and division. We embraced a vision of hope and shared purpose. And the American people voted for change.

The American people sent a clear message in November that we must change course in Iraq and begin to withdraw our troops, not escalate their presence. The way to start is by acting on the President's new plan. An escalation, whether it is called a surge or any other name, is still an escalation, and I believe it would be an immense new mistake. It would compound the original misguided decision to invade Iraq. We cannot simply speak out against an escalation of troops in Iraq. We must act to prevent it.

Our history makes clear that a new escalation in our forces will not advance our national security. It will not move Iraq toward self-government, and it will needlessly endanger our troops by injecting more of them into the middle of a civil war.

Some will disagree. Listen to this comment from a high-ranking American official: "It became clear that if we were prepared to stay the course, we could help to lay the cornerstone for a diverse and independent Asia… If we faltered, the forces of chaos would scent victory and decades of strife and aggression would stretch endlessly before us. The choice was clear. We would stay the course. And we shall stay the course."

That is not President Bush speaking. It is President Lyndon Johnson, forty years ago, ordering a hundred thousand more American soldiers to Vietnam.

Here is another quotation. "The big problem is to get territory and to keep it. You can get it today and it will be gone next week. That is the problem. You have to have enough people to clear it… and enough people to preserve what you have done."

That is not President Bush on the need for more forces in Iraq. It is President Johnson in 1966 as he doubled our military presence in Vietnam. Those comparisons from history resonate painfully in today's debate on Iraq. In Vietnam, the White House grew increasingly obsessed with victory, and increasingly divorced from the will of the people and any rational policy. The Department of Defense kept assuring us that each new escalation in Vietnam would be the last. Instead, each one led only to the next. Finally, in 1968, in large part because of the war, Democrats lost the White House. Richard Nixon was elected President after telling the American people that he had a secret plan to end the war. We all know what happened, though. As President, he escalated the war into Cambodia and Laos, and it went on for six more years. There was no military solution to that war. But we kept trying to find one anyway. In the end, 58,000 Americans died in the search for it.

Echoes of that disaster are all around us today. Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam.

The President may deny the plain truth. But the truth speaks loudly and tragically. Congress must no longer follow him deeper into the quagmire in Iraq. I recognize the President's almost certain determination to persist in his failed course. It appears that he will not listen to the views of Congress or of the American people. It is disappointing that he seems ready – even eager – to reject the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. Instead of heeding the growing call for genuine change, he has used the time since that report to root out dissent in his own Administration and in our armed forces.

This Congress cannot escape history or its own duty. If we do not learn from the mistakes of the past, we are condemned to repeat them. We must act, and act now, before the President sends more troops to Iraq, or else it will be too late.

The legislation that we will introduce today is brief but essential. It requires the President to obtain approval from Congress before he sends even more American soldiers to Iraq. And it prohibits the President from spending taxpayer dollars on such an escalation unless Congress approves it.

Our proposal will not diminish our support for the forces we already have in Iraq. We will continue to do everything we can to make sure they have all the support they truly need. Even more important, we will continue to do all we can to bring them safely home.

The heavy price of our flawed decisions a generation ago is memorialized on sacred ground not far from here. On a somber walk through the Vietnam Memorial, we are moved by the painful, powerful eloquence of its enduring tribute to the tens of thousands who were lost in that tragic war that America never should have fought. Our fingers can gently trace the names etched into the stark black granite face of the memorial. We wonder what might have been, if America had faced up honestly to its failed decisions before it was too late. I often pause as well at Section 60 in Arlington National Cemetery. Those from Massachusetts who have fallen in Iraq lie there now in quiet dignity. Each time, I am struck by the heavy price of the war in their young lives cut so sadly short.

The casualties are high. The war is long. The time is late.

But as Tennyson said, "Come, my friends. 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world."

Those words speak clearly to all of us today.


Visit Ted Kennedy.com for the full text of this speech, and much more.

* * *

From an email:

For too long Congress refused to hold the White House accountable for its failed policies in Iraq. It endangered the lives of our brave young men and women in uniform for a civil war that has no military solution.

No more...

If you care about changing direction in Iraq, now is the moment to act...

Tell the president that we will not allow an escalation in Iraq without the people's consent -- support this legislation now...

Please add your name to the list of Americans who demand a voice in the debate over escalation...

Please sign our petition supporting this important legislation:


Our Decision

Thank you,
Edward M. Kennedy
09 January 2007

Malibu Moment Redux

by: Minstrel Boy

As soon as I heard about the firestorm in Malibu I called my friend that I was such a smart ass with to find out if his place had been harmed or threatened. It, glady, had not. Not this time anyway. I asked him if he had thought about what I had said on new year's day during all the furor and he said yes. He also said that when he remembered it he started to laugh out loud. The police who had come to tell him to be on evacuation standby thought he might have gone a bit mad on them.

el rancho harpo

The Manufacturing Giant

by: blackdog

I'm listening to the CEO of GM talking about how this new "hybrid" vehicle at the latest auto show, not to be put into production until 2009 will get the corporation back into some semblance of shape. Who the hell is he kidding?

A corporation that along with Ford and to some extent, Chrysler put their bets on 6000 lb SUVs that usually haul ass along the fleaways at 85 mph, getting about maybe 14 mpg, but their operators feel safe, due to the extreme mass of the pos they are driving. Never forget about that big damn semi that outweighes you by better than a factor of 10. The layoffs and plant closings are nothing short of spectactular, a bunch of fools that only look at the quarterly profit reports and fail to see the cliff that they have been approaching for some time.

Never forget that SUVs are classified as trucks, and do not have to meet more stringent safety standards that cars do. This was a no brainer, the automobile manufacturers (mostly American) could now increase their profit margin at your expense. Plus, the reliability and resale value of American autos was always in the shitter, compared especially to the Japanese competition that has really arrived on the world stage. Don't get me wrong, the quality of all autos has increased but the Japanese have led the way. Seems like there was some UChicago Professor named Denning. Made a big noise about quality control in manufacturing.

Does anyone remember American cars in the 60's? They usually had huge engines, were heavy and had poor suspensions, with even worse tires. Disc brakes? Usually not. But they would haul ass in a straight line. The insurance industry might have had something to say about all of this. Alot of kids were being smashed in autos with close to 400 HP and bad brakes, handling and tires. Why were clocks even put in them then? They wouldn't run for more than an hour.

During all this time, the Europeans and most especially the Japanese were working on exports to the USA. They succeded getting their foot in the door by selling a product that people enjoyed driving, handled well and was as reliable as anything produced here, plus had better fuel economy when gas was really cheap. Also at this time they were really working on quality control, again especially the Japanese.

Now here we are with Toyota siting pretty to become the #1 manufacturer of automobiles in the world. Anyone surprised? The domestic (?) automakers are laying off tens of thousands and shutting down production facilities while the Japanese and Europeans are building them here. My thought is that the UAW and Management never really got it right, but my blame is mostly on Management. They consistantly blead the operation for their gain and always fought tooth and nail against the troops in the trenches that ultimately make or break an operation.

I'm not any sort of specialist in these areas, but with CEO's making out typacially like they do now, even in failing corporations it seems that any idiot can see reality. We used to have some fair legislation on the books for this, where has it gone?

There are not enough McDonalds for all of us.
08 January 2007

Wesley Clark (stolen from the Washington Post)

by: Minstrel Boy

The Smart Surge: Diplomacy

By Wesley K. Clark
Monday, January 8, 2007; Page A15

The odds are that this week President Bush will announce a "surge" of up to 20,000 additional U.S. troops into Iraq. Will this deliver a "win"? Probably not. But it will distract us from facing the deep-seated regional issues that must be resolved.

The administration views a troop surge of modest size as virtually the only remaining action in Iraq that would be a visible signal of determination. More economic assistance is likely to be touted, but absent a change in the pattern of violence, infrastructure enhancement simply isn't practical.

Yes, several additional brigades in Baghdad would allow for more roadblocks, patrols and neighborhood-clearing operations. Some initial successes would be evident. But how significant would this be? We've never had enough troops in Iraq. In Kosovo, we had 40,000 troops for a population of 2 million. That ratio would call for at least 500,000 troops in Iraq; adding 20,000 now seems too little, too late.

Further, U.S. troops so far have lacked the language skills, cultural awareness and political legitimacy to ensure that areas "cleared" can be "held." The key would be more Iraqi troops, but they aren't available in the numbers required. Nor are the Iraqi troops reliable enough for the gritty work of dealing with militias and sectarian loyalties. Even if militia fighters in Baghdad can be temporarily suppressed, they could redeploy to continue the fight in other areas.

What the surge would do is put more American troops in harm's way, further undercut the morale of U.S. forces and risk further alienating elements of the Iraqi populace. American casualties would probably rise, at least temporarily, as more troops appeared on the streets -- as happened in the summer when a brigade from Alaska was extended and sent into Baghdad. And even if the increased troop presence initially frustrated the militias, it wouldn't be long before they found ways to work around the neighborhood searches and other obstacles, if they chose to continue the conflict.

Other uses for troops include accelerating training of the Iraqi military and police. But vetting these Iraqi forces for loyalty has proved problematic. So neither accelerated training nor adding Iraqi troops to the security mission can be viewed as though a specified increase in effort would yield an identical increase in return.

The truth is that the underlying problems are political, not military.

Vicious ethnic cleansing is underway, as various factions fight for power and survival. In this environment, security is unlikely to come from smothering the struggle with a blanket of forces -- and increasing U.S. efforts is likely to generate additional resistance, especially from Iraq's neighbors. More effective action is needed to resolve the struggle at the political level. A new U.S. ambassador might help, but the administration needs to recognize that the neoconservative vision has failed.

Well before the 2003 invasion, the Bush administration was sending signals that its intentions weren't limited to Iraq; "regime change" in Syria and Iran was often discussed in Washington. Small wonder then that both countries have worked continuously to feed the fighting in Iraq.

Dealing with meddling neighbors is an essential element of resolving the conflict in Iraq. But this requires more than border posts and threatening statements. The administration needs a new strategy for the region, before Iran gains nuclear capabilities. While the military option must remain on the table, America should take the lead with direct diplomacy to resolve the interrelated problems of Iran's push for regional hegemony and nuclear power, the struggle for control of Lebanon, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Isolating our adversaries hasn't worked.

Absent such fundamental change in Washington's approach, there is little hope that a troop surge and accompanying rhetoric will be anything other than "staying the course" more. That wastes lives and time, bolsters the terrorists and avoids facing up to the interrelated challenges posed by a region in crisis.

The writer, a retired Army general and former supreme allied commander of NATO, is a senior fellow at UCLA's Burkle Center for International Relations.


You can visit General Clark's WesPac Securing America to read other things he's saying about this and he also has another page available called Stop The Surge where you can email the White House to voice your displeasure.

I have written emails and snail mails today telling my elected representatives (Harry Mitchell, John (the vile) Kyl, and John (maverick my half breed ass) McCain) that any support I have ever been able to give to them will turn instantly into active, vocal and monetary opposition to anything they ever try to do in public from now on if they don't move heaven, earth and hell itself to stop this fucking madness.


Harp and Sword

Perilous Crossroads: A Devastating Scenario

by: Foiled Goil

Regional Nuclear War Could Devastate Global Environment

Environmental News Wire:

December 11, 2006 - Even a small-scale regional nuclear war could disrupt the global climate for at least a decade, produce as many fatalities as all of World War II, and impact nearly everyone on Earth, according to two new studies presented today at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

The two studies represent the first quantitative assessment of the consequences of a nuclear conflict between small or emerging nuclear powers, said Professor Owen "Brian" Toon with the University of Colorado-Boulder. [...]

Toon says even the smallest nuclear powers today likely have 50 or more Hiroshima-sized weapons. The world's first atom bomb used in war was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945 during World War II, killing an estimated 140,000 people. Roughly 62 million people died in World War II.

"The current buildup of nuclear weapons in a growing number of states points to scenarios in the next few decades that are even more extreme than those considered in this analysis," he said.

While a confrontation among emerging nuclear powers might be geographically constrained, the environmental impacts likely would be worldwide, the studies found.

"Considering the relatively small number and yields of the weapons, the potential devastation would be catastrophic and long term," said Toon.

The results represent the first comprehensive analysis of the consequences of a nuclear conflict between smaller nuclear states. [...]

Toon said the current combination of nuclear proliferation, political instability and urban demographics "forms perhaps the greatest danger to the stability of human society since the dawn of man."

Currently, about 40 countries possess enough plutonium, uranium or a combination of both to construct substantial nuclear arsenals, the researchers said.

Using computer tools originally developed to assess volcano-induced climate change, the researchers generated simulations depicting potential climatic conditions that a small-scale nuclear war could bring about.

The estimates are based on current nuclear weapons inventories and population densities in large urban regions and took into account scenarios of smoke emissions that urban firestorms could produce, Toon said.

The scientists modeled the effects on each country using 50 Hiroshima-sized nuclear weapons to attack the most populated urban areas of an enemy nation.

"While there is a perception that a nuclear build-down by the world’s major powers in recent decades has somehow resolved the global nuclear threat, a more accurate portrayal is that we are at a perilous crossroads," said Toon.

Toon led the studies, working with University of California-Los Angeles Professor Richard Turco, and Rutgers professors Alan Robock and Georgiy Stenchikov.

Fatality estimates for such a regional conflict ranged from 2.6 million to 16.7 million per country, said Toon, chief author of one of the two studies titled "Atmospheric Effects and Societal Consequences of Regional Scale Nuclear Conflicts and Acts of Individual Terrorism."

"Considering the relatively small number and size of the weapons, the effects are surprisingly large," said Turco, a co-author on both papers who formerly headed a research team that included Toon and Carl Sagan and which developed the original concept of "nuclear winter."

The second paper, titled "Climatic Consequences of Regional Nuclear Conflicts," looks at the effects of the smoke produced in a regional war between two opposing nations in the subtropics, said lead author Robock.

A cooling of several degrees, for example, would occur over large areas of North America and Eurasia, including most of the grain-growing regions, Robock said. "Like earlier nuclear winter calculations, large climatic effects would occur in regions far removed from target areas or countries involved in the conflict."

The scientists compared the effects of regional nuclear war with the 1815 eruption of the Tambora volcano in Indonesia, the largest eruption in the past 500 years, which triggered what has become known as the "The Year Without a Summer."

The Year Without a Summer in 1816 included killing frosts and crop losses in New England as well as crop failures, food shortages and famines in Europe from wet and cold weather.

But Tambora's disruption lasted for only one year, while the new simulations show a limited nuclear conflict would be much more severe, according to the authors.

In a nuclear exchange involving 100 15-kiloton weapons, just 0.03 percent of the total explosive power of the world’s nuclear arsenal, they said the resulting smoke would cause large amounts of carbon particles to remain in the stratosphere for up to 10 years, triggering unprecedented climate change.

The two studies were first published November 22 in the online journal "Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions."

Neo-Con End Run

by: Dark Wraith

The Sunday Times is reporting that Israel is in the planning stages of a military airstrike on Iran's nuclear production facilities. The newspaper cites multiple, although unnamed, sources for its story, even though Israel is denying that any such operation is being planned. The Times claims the attack will involve warplanes that will first use conventional bombs to blow deep craters above the hardened, underground facilities, followed by low-yield nuclear bombs to carry out the actual destruction of the huge industrial bunkers. CNN.com reports that Israel has not received prior approval by the United States for such a strike on the three targets under consideration.

Map of central Middle EastDespite the absence of explicit approval by the White House, such an attack would work to the advantage of the Bush Administration, facing as it now does a hostile Congress with a Democratic majority already talking publicly about ways to wind down American involvement in Iraq. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi yesterday intimated that Congress might even go so far as to deny funding for the President's soon-to-be-announced surge of as many as 20,000 more American troops into Iraq, a warning the Right-wing Weekly Standard claims "...makes the House Democrats the party of defeat, the party of surrender." If Israel were to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran, however, congressional Democrats would face the prospect of de-funding American military operations in Iraq at the same time a spiraling conflict would get underway right next door in Iran.

Sunburn missileFew doubt that Iran would retaliate, and one of its most likely first actions would be to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which 20% of the world's oil is shipped from the Persian Gulf to the open seas. Iran has mined the waterway before. Furthermore, as described here and elsewhere, Iran has missile batteries lining its coasts, weapons that would make lumbering oil tankers the oil-bearing equivalents of enormous sitting ducks. While Israel's single-strike plan to end Iran's nuclear ambitions might be successful—a single strike was all it needed to destroy Iraq's Osirak nuclear complex in 1980—the rest of the world would be left to deal with a humiliated, enraged Persian state lashing out in some cases indiscriminately, but in other cases quite pointedly at Israel's putative backer, the United States.

A single Iranian Sunburn missile fired at a U.S. warship in the Persian Gulf would drag the United States into war with Iran. Keeping U.S. troops stationed in neighboring Iraq from involvement would be next to impossible, especially if Tehran saw opportunity in goading weakened, under-staffed ground forces in provinces close to the Iraqi border with Iran.

With such a spiraling conflagration exploding in the Middle East, the Democrats in Congress might find little support for using the congressional power of the purse to turn U.S. policy in the Middle East away from military solutions. In fact, if anything, even a limited fight the U.S. might have with Iran would require both large infusions of additional troops into the theatre as well as many billions of dollars in new money to pay for those troops, their weaponry and support materiel.

Far from ending the American-Iraqi War, the Democrats just might find themselves having to go along with massive increases in funding for a regional war of which the Iraqi theatre was only the first and perhaps the least bloody phase.



The Dark Wraith invites readers to contemplate the situation into which Congress—indeed, the United States, itself—might very well be led shortly.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums
07 January 2007

No Stench Today

by: blackdog

I will lay off picking on London for a while to point out a very unsustainable practice that has been developed here in the USA all by ourselves. Water usage, the production and use of it. Most people have no clue where their potable water comes from and could care less, even though it is instrumental to commerce and society at large. They also don't have a clue where their sewage goes, sorta like "Scotty! Beam this into deep space!", when the usually chrome plated lever is applied. And it makes a familiar noise, no beeps and squeaks.

Amazingly I read today that Al Gore, the rightful 43rd President of the United States went straight to Tricia Nixon at the funeral of President Ford, hugged her and congratulated her for the environmental work of her father, President Nixon. Now remember that in 1971 the EPA was created, I don't remember all the details but it did happen. Of course the Congress was Democrat, but Nixon signed the bill into law. And for all the foibles of President Nixon, he was not the shrub.

Anyway a set of national priorities was set in place, the Clean Water Act was one of the first, with NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) being established to set standards for pollutant discharges to receiving waters of the USA. At the time there were way too many pipelines dumping raw (uncooked?) sewage into the waterways of the nation. There were an awful lot of conservative bidness types at the time that ranted and raged over the cost to business, how jobs would be lost if industries were forced to literally clean up their act, and that did happen to some extent, but a new industry was created that has become a multi-billion dollar operation that we now take for granted. Dark Wraith, did you call this stop loss?

I remember as a kid going with my parents to Washington DC back when LBJ was the big cheese. We went through Charleston WV and the smoke was evident for miles before we came into the City. The major river, who's name I don't recall had more colors than a rainbow with piles of foam everywhere. Great fishing hole, just don't strike a match. Not to pick on West Virginia, this was typical of any City with industry in the USA at the time. We were through lack of care ruining our natural environment at a rapid pace, but the new Federal Agency and the NPDES program made a major difference.

Surface water quality became much better as Cities built treatment facilities that worked and required industries to hook up to said treatment facilities, Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTWs) under the requirements of Federal Law, the aforementioned NPDES program. This was such an amazingly effective program that within 20 years the nations waterways were once again usable for recreation and as a raw (uncooked?) water supply. Not all of them, but the achievement was incredible. The NPDES program through EPA was working. Not that it was the final answer, but it was a great start.

The nation went on in the 70's and 80's over severe objections (consistently from republicans) to enact numerous other regulations such as CERCLA, RCRA, the Safe Drinking Water Act, so many others. The idea was that if we spend the resources here, millions may not end up in the hospital. Not quite like fight them over there or we'll fight them here, but this approach really worked. The number of people in this nation and worldwide that were spared horrible medical predicaments and death may well be measured in the millions.

Now we are at a watershed event, no pun intended. We simply use too damn much water and abuse it horribly. Dumping it down the drain with no thought of tomorrow. The current mis-administration is actively working to reduce environmental quality standards at the risk of human lives. As I noted in a comment somewhere around here, how many times do we get the chance to not learn a valuable lesson. Evidently several.

Conserve dammit! Think globally and attempt to act locally! Get involved in your local government and make your voice heard! Politely, of course. As individuals we are not very much, but collectively we can make things happen. It is our duty.

For the Record

by: Dark Wraith

"Lives in the balance"
by Jackson Browne
Original release: Asylum Records, 1986



I've been waiting for something to happen
    For a week or a month or a year
With the blood in the ink of the headlines
    And the sound of the crowd in my ear.
You might ask what it takes to remember
    When you know that you've seen it before
Where a government lies to a people
    And a country is drifting to war.

And there's a shadow on the faces
    Of the men who send the guns
To the wars that are fought in places
    Where their business interest runs.

On the radio talk shows and the T.V.
    You hear one thing again and again
How the U.S.A. stands for freedom
    And we come to the aid of a friend.
But who are the ones that we call our friends—
    These governments killing their own?
Or the people who finally can't take any more
    And they pick up a gun or a brick or a stone.

There are lives in the balance,
    There are people under fire,
There are children at the cannons,
    And there is blood on the wire.

There's a shadow on the faces
    Of the men who fan the flames
Of the wars that are fought in places
    Where we can't even say the names.

They sell us the President the same way
    They sell us our clothes and our cars
They sell us every thing from youth to religion
    The same time they sell us our wars.
I want to know who the men in the shadows are
    I want to hear somebody asking them why
They can be counted on to tell us who our enemies are
    But they're never the ones to fight or to die.

And there are lives in the balance,
    There are people under fire,
There are children at the cannons,
    And there is blood on the wire.
06 January 2007

Elk Tenderloins With Roasted Vegetables

by: Minstrel Boy

First you have to go hunt the elk. That's the hard part. It's also the fun part if you like stuff like that as my son and I do. Our hunt this year was very productive. We both brought in nice sized four to five year old bucks. The hides were given (along with some of the choice cuts) to some of the old folks on the rez. That's how we do things. This did however leave us with two tenderloins. I had a request from "shades of blue" in beautiful Hawaii for a recipe that included roasted vegetables. Since there's not a great big chance of finding venison in Hawaii I would imagine that you could substitute a pork tenderloin without much problem at all. Also, since you're trying to lose weight (and succesfully too!) I would think that you could do without the Cumberland Sauce. I have made peace with being the amount of overweight that I am (about 30lbs mostly gut paunch) to where I can enjoy something as perfect on a roasted hunk of venison as the Cumberland Sauce is.

INGREDIENTS

3 lbs boned and trimmed elk tenderloins
2lbs carrots, cut into 2 inch pieces (or just use the baby guys in the little sack)
2 lbs russet potatoes, cut in half
2 onions, cut into wedges
2 lbs rutabegas or turnips cut in half
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 teaspoon cracked pepper
fresh sage leaves, bruised (rubbed between the palms)
fresh rosemary leaves, bruised
several cloves of garlic peeled and smashed

Heat your oven to 425° then spray the roasting pan down with non-stick spray (if you're using a well seasoned cast iron roaster like I do don't bother with the spray). Put the roasting pan over a high flame on the stovetop, add a splash of olive oil and sear the tenderloins well. About 4 minutes per side (all four sides).

Then add the vegetables around the tenderloins. Sprinkle them evenly with the oil, add the rosemary, sage and pepper, toss in the garlic and roast in the oven uncovered for forty minutes to an hour. This is game meat so you are wanting it fully cooked. The internal temperature should be at least 165° and the vegetables should be tender.

Take the pot from the oven and remove the tenderloins. Allow them to rest at least five minutes. This will allow the juices to work back into the meat and it won't run all dry when you slice it this way. Toss the vegetables and the pan juice around together, salt to taste and put into a nice serving bowl.

Slice the tenderloins into medallions about 1/4" thick and cover with

Cumberland Sauce INGREDIENTS

zest of one valencia orange, minced
1 cup dry port wine, or madeira
juice of 1 orange (do the zesting part first, it just works better this way)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup currant jelly (again, I swear by Trader Joe's house brand for this)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated ginger,

Boil over a high flame the zest and the wine volume is reduced by a third. Add remaining ingredients and cook over a medium flame until jelly is melted. You can also add raisins to this, they are a nice touch. If you do, add them into the wine with the zest for the whole reduction and mingling of flavors thing.

Cumberland sauce is one of my favorite things for a game meat. It's acid enough to cut some of the gamey quality (although the backwoodsman in me kinda likes that) without being overpowering like a Bordellaise or Bernaise. It also rocks out loud if you crumble some bleu cheese over the tenderloins while they are resting, then you get that whole, velvety sharp cheesy thing going all through the meat when you slice it.

Served with a nice French Onion Soup and fresh baguettes. This is truly a meal worth the going out into the woods and hunting down part.

Harp and Sword

Doughnuts and Banking

by: Dark Wraith

Eight years ago, in the final days of his work as a consultant, Aaron was desperately hoping for one more payment from a client, one that hadn't paid in months and one with which Aaron's consulting relationship was falling apart anyway. Desperate for money—any money—to stave off eviction and hunger, Aaron prevailed upon a gentleman who had previously been associated with the client corporation, and that decent, upright, Christian fellow finally agreed to wire some. Aaron called his bank every couple of hours for several days thereafter, and he finally got confirmation that funds had been received. That man who had no good reason to take care of a little bit of some client's bill had come through. Aaron's humiliation at having had to beg like some street person was set aside as he quickly wrote checks to pay bills.

As it turned out, the wired funds had, indeed, come through, but they wouldn't be available for several business days. The checks Aaron wrote bounced. Non-sufficient funds charges mounted, returned check fees piled up, and Aaron faced the possibility of criminal charges. What had been enough to get him right with just about everyone turned into a deficit of about six hundred bucks.

That was the end of all relationships Aaron would have with financial institutions.

It wouldn't be long before he would return, as he had too many times, to the streets. Old cars that were dangerous to drive when they could actually move, occasional use of the hidden key at a friend's apartment to grab some food and a shower, even less frequent groveling for a couple of bucks from brothers when they'd gotten over being mad about the last time he'd bummed five dollars. Mostly, Aaron kept going by using good-hearted people who didn't have the common sense or the willpower to tell him to go away forever. It was the whole nine yards of crash and burn: an irresponsible life of being a leech on society and on the people who thought they were helping.

Before the time of the Keynesian economists, those of the old Austrian school held sway, what we now call the "Classical" economists. One of their many tenets was that all unemployment (and underemployment) is voluntary. Aside from exceedingly rare, wholly incapacitated individuals, all people can find work. It might not be what they like, it might not be what they want, it might not pay what they think they're worth, it might disrupt their lives, their families, and their greater hopes; but some kind of work is always, always available. No one can plead destitution with a straight face of no personal responsibility whatsoever for his or her wretched lot. Aaron knew his economics, and he knew very well, despite his progressivist leanings, that the Classical economists were dead-on right about people like him.

Things got better for Aaron once he was given the keys to the run-down, inner-city, small, two-year school where he'd been teaching. The $7.50 per classroom hour was nothing compared to those keys, which meant that a couch in the Winter and a hot shower in the basement every morning was available. Lots and lots of challenging work was there, too, teaching across the curriculum, running the education side of the school, having to deal with every manner of educational, social, and mental health deficiency imaginable in a student body—what more could a person ask for?

The Classical economists were right, at least when it came to one White man whose life of sublimated excuses for being a loser finally yielded to patience, persistence, and a willingness to do what others wouldn't for a little paycheck.

Eventually, because of fool-hardy response to a personal, family matter, Aaron would leave that school and city; and from there, he would eventually return to near-destitution. Being coldly objective about it all, he probably wanted it that way: even though he was leaving a more-or-less physical home, he was returning to a much older home of his, the one he had first gotten used to in his adolescence and to which he had returned, over and over again, in his adult life.

A man can't fall to his death from a valley. The high places are for people too foolish to know what could happen up there.

Getting teaching work wherever he could, Aaron was making a meager go of it, though, where he had landed. The teaching gigs—finally supplemented as they were with a little janitorial-type work—were promising to put enough money in his pockets to stave off even the scent of desperation.

But then, last week, Aaron made a stupid mistake.

Many employers these days simply will not pay by physical checks. Aaron had been using a friend's account in another state as the depository institution for his payroll checks, but he'd been getting worried about this, not because of the friend's integrity, but because those checks were crossing interstate lines, and the cumulative effect of those regular transfers had the potential to cause his friend trouble with an increasingly aware, aggressive, and paranoid federal government. It was a miracle the IRS hadn't already made a move, and the prospect of those transfers triggering Homeland Security's thugs was beginning to worry him terribly.

Aaron decided it was time to make his peace with financial institutions by getting himself a checking account into which his paychecks could be direct-deposited. His long-held fears about the banking system convinced him that it probably wouldn't be a good idea to go near a regular bank, much less wander into one and beg for the favor of an account, but one credit union looked promising. His status as a teacher meant he would qualify without a hitch, or so he thought as he wallowed in his fantasy of becoming a big-people-type-person once again, after all these years. He put some gas in his car, drove to main location, tied his hair back, and headed in the doors.

The credit union building was really nice on the inside. It even smelled like an old-fashioned bank. The floor was carpeted, and right there in the lobby were several big, open boxes of doughnuts. Aaron thought to himself, "Those are for people who can't live without stuff that isn't good for them."

To the left in the lobby were the teller windows. The ladies behind the counter looked friendly. They even greeted by name several customers walking in. Straight ahead were the desks where visitors could get information, apply for loans, and open savings and checking accounts. (Actually, credit unions cannot offer real "checking accounts" in the sense that banks can; instead they offer "negotiable order of withdrawal" accounts on which check-like instruments called "drafts" or maybe ever "cheques" can be written, but that's a nearly moot point these days, so the accounts are called "checking" here.)

Aaron had already downloaded and filled out the checking account application form from the Website of the credit union, and he'd filled it out. This would probably help the people at the credit union know how great he would be to have as a customer.

A young lady sat down with Aaron, and the two of them talked briefly before she began to key the information from his form into her computer. She asked him for his driver's license so she could make a photocopy of it pursuant to provisions of the Patriot Act, and she asked him for something he'd received by mail to establish that he lived where he was representing he did. Aaron was ready with everything needed. The lady made the photocopies, pushed a few more keys on her computer, and shuffled some papers around; then she said, "I'll be right back."

"Ah, cool," Aaron thought. "This is where she goes back, gets the forms for me to sign, gets my temporary debit card, and all that."

Aaron sat there reading the brochures, looking around, thinking about which doughnut he should go for. He had glanced at a clock as the lady was getting up to go in the back. When he checked it again, a little too much time had gone by. It was only five minutes, but that was too long.

Mildly happy thoughts he had been tossing in his mind simply vanished, replaced with a spiraling chain of fear-driven observations and wild conclusions.

"God, what was I thinking, coming in here?... Security. That guy who casually stepped out of an office down that corridor. He's plain-clothes. Concealed carry. No, he won't shoot; doesn't have it in him, not without going all tunnel vision. He'd clutch... Lobby exit. Five seconds—tops—to my car. Broken driver-side door. Been that way for two years. Just jump in through the passenger side like always, get the keys in the ignition while I'm climbing across. Straight forward through the grass back out to the road... Look at those customers going up there begging for their money. Do they have any idea of how precarious this banking system is? Do any of them know what's going to... What in the God's name is she doing back there? Calling someone? Cops?... Did she give me back my stuff? Oh, thank God, she did. That was stupid of her. She wasn't very friendly... Doughnuts. I'll get that long one with the white icing on the way out... I need to leave right now. Here I am, sitting here like I think there's some chance this is all going to work out great. What in the Hell was I thinking coming in here?! Now I've gone and made a total mess for myself... I want to see my cat."

The lady returned with her paperwork. She sat down and started the routine: "Okay, we'll have you sign a couple of documents, and I'll get you some checks you can use here to withdraw money."

Aaron's head cleared instantly, "Oh. Well, when do I get a debit card?"

The lady didn't even bat an eye. "We're going to have you on what we call a 'restricted account' for six months. You'll have those checks you can use to withdraw no more than a hundred dollars at a time, as long as you maintain a balance of no less than three hundred dollars. Those checks won't be good anyplace else, of course."

Aaron was getting more focused. "Those are the 'cashing checks' listed in that brochure, the ones you charge twenty dollars each to cash, aren't they?"

She nodded: "Yes. As I said, we'll review your account in six months to see if we can take some of the restrictions off it at that time."

Aaron persisted: "So, I get no debit card, I get no checks to pay bills with, I get access to my own money only in one hundred dollar increments at twenty dollars per withdrawal, this credit union gets free use of my funds—no less than three hundred dollars of it at any given time—and I get no more than a promise of a 'review' a half-a-year from now."

"That's the best we can offer someone with no credit records for so long," she answered.

Not being given to lecturing people who can do nothing but carry out their duties according to the rules if they want to keep their own jobs, Aaron resisted his driving desire to explain to the hapless woman that even most religions no longer exact painful penitence from outsiders who want to join.

Aaron's short indulgence in hysteria had completely lost its irrational edge. Yes, once that lady saw his unexpectedly blank seven-year credit record, she followed procedure by going to the back where her supervisors were. She told the security guy to keep an eye on the situation, so even though he was able to see everything in the lobby from his security monitors, he casually came out to get a quick visual ID.

And yes, those people waiting to transact their business at the teller windows really are all suckers, standing like so many condemned in a slowly closing noose of a banking system that will progressively flow further and further against their interests and well-being in the months and years ahead.

And yes, willingly—maybe even a little excitedly—Aaron trying to join the milling masses of customers of the modern banking system was stupid, stupid, stupid. Everything about him that woman had keyed into that computer was now irretrievably passed into the ocean of information being collected, aggregated, and mined by all manner of governments, corporations, and other creepy organizations and unaccountable individuals.

Aaron knew better than to make any more fuss. "I do apologize for this inconvenience, but I can't accept these terms," he said, looking slightly down. Although he has aged—a few lines in his face and some grey in his hair have robbed him of most of the charm he once used to no small effect in turning people's hearts—his smile, the smile of a defeated child just wanting to go home, was still enough to prevail upon her to tear up the paper copy of the credit report she was holding.

"I really am grateful to you for taking the time to work with me," he said as he glanced up at her.

"Oh, that's alright..." she replied, cutting herself off before she reciprocated with the apology of her own she wanted to give.

Aaron got up and departed. He didn't take any doughnuts on his way out. Those are for people who can't live without stuff that isn't good for them.



The Dark Wraith hopes readers have enjoyed this story.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums
05 January 2007

Bubbleworld

by: Foiled Goil

Tomgram: Dreyfuss on Bush's Wizard-of-Oz Iraq Plan

Every now and then, you have to take a lesson or two from history. In the case of George Bush's Iraq, here's one: No matter what the President announces in his "new way forward" speech on Iraq next week -- including belated calls for "sacrifice" from the man whose answer to 9/11 was to urge Americans to surge into Disney World -- it won't work. Nothing our President suggests in relation to Iraq, in fact, will have a ghost of a chance of success. Worse than that, whatever it turns out to be, it is essentially guaranteed to make matters worse. [...]

Consider the "new way forward," then, just another part of the Bush administration's endless bubbleworld. And check out exactly what madness to look forward to in next week's presidential address via Robert Dreyfuss...

The Surge to Nowhere
Traveling the Planet Neocon Road to Baghdad (Again)
By Robert Dreyfuss

Like some neocon Wizard of Oz, in building expectations for the 2007 version of his "Strategy for Victory" in Iraq, President Bush is promising far more than he can deliver. [...] Last week, having spent months -- if, in fact, the New York Times is correct that the review began late in the summer -- consulting with generals, politicians, State Department and CIA bureaucrats, and Pentagon planners, Bush emerged from yet another powwow to tell waiting reporters: "We've got more consultation to do until I talk to the country about the plan."

As John Lennon sang in Revolution: "We'd all love to see the plan." [...]

What's astonishing about the debate over Iraq is that the President -- or anyone else, for that matter, including the media -- is paying the slightest attention to the neoconservative strategists who got us into this mess in the first place. Having been egregiously wrong about every single Iraqi thing for five consecutive years, by all rights the neocons ought to be consigned to some dusty basement exhibit hall in the American Museum of Natural History, where, like so many triceratops, their reassembled bones would stand mutely by to send a chill of fear through touring schoolchildren. Indeed, the neocons are the dodos of Washington, simply too dumb to know when they are extinct.

Yet here is Tom Donnelly, an American Enterprise Institute neocon, a co-chairman of the Project for a New American Century, telling a reporter sagely that the surge is in. "I think the debate is really coming down to: Surge large. Surge small. Surge short. Surge longer. I think the smart money would say that the range of options is fairly narrow." (Donnelly, of course, forgot: Surge out.) His colleague, Frederick Kagan of AEI, the chief architect of the Surge Theory for Iraq, has made it clear that the only kind of surge that would work is a big, fat one.

Nearly pornographic in his fondling of the surge, Kagan, another of the neocon crew of armchair strategists and militarists, makes it clear that size does matter. "Of all the 'surge' options out there, short ones are the most dangerous," he wrote in the Washington Post last week, adding lasciviously, "The size of the surge matters as much as the length. … The only 'surge' option that makes sense is both long and large."

Ooh -- that is, indeed, a manly surge. [...]

At the same time, it may also be too much to expect that the Democrats will really go to the mat to fight Bush if, Kagan-style, he orders a surge that is "long and large." Maybe they will merely posture and fulminate and threaten to… well, hold hearings.

If so, it will be the Iraqis who end the war. It will be the Iraqis who eventually kill enough Americans to break the U.S. political will, and it will be the Iraqis who sweep away the ruins of the Maliki government to replace it with an anti-American, anti-U.S.- occupation government in Iraq. That is basically how the war in Vietnam ended, and it wasn't pretty.

Read more at Tom Dispatch.
04 January 2007

On "Troop Redeployment"

by: Dark Wraith

As the Democrats assume the mantle of congressional power, some within the progressive community here in the United States are calling for a rapid and complete exit of U.S. troops from Iraq. Described in euphemistic terms as "troop redeployment," this proposal has been advanced by some Democratic members of Congress, most notably those in the Out of Iraq Caucus, some of whom have called for an aggressive, 60-day timetable for complete withdrawal of all American forces.

Although a swift and total departure would, in many ways, be desirable, both Minstrel Boy of Harp and Sword and I have commented on the historically well-documented potential of full-scale withdrawals for wholesale slaughter of the retreating troops. The idea that technology, force size, or any combination of those and other factors can materially affect what is evidently a persistent military phenomenon is dangerous when operationalized as the extent and substance of an overall exit strategy.

It was the neo-conservatives who believed that they could get away with and be successful in defying the body of war knowledge and the grave advice of the prosecutors of war, and they have been proven disastrously wrong. That is a cautionary tale for any military planner of any stripe in considering the odds of having military history not rear its obstinate head in a modern armed conflict.

As random, capricious, and senseless as war seems, it is a process subject to laws, principles, axioms, and theorems that are, in any given nation in any given era, at best only partially understood. To dispense with the precious shards of genuine near-certitude we possess is to walk a road to ruin—or, more to the point, to run a highway of redeployment to wreckage.

Full-scale retreat—and that's what we're talking about here—is very likely to result in a swift, appalling loss of life, both to American soldiers running the killing box corridors out of Iraq and to large numbers of non-combatants in the path of their flight.

Troops can withdraw in an orderly manner; but when they begin to panic under hit-and-run raid after bloody, hit-and-run raid upon their flanks and rear—especially with so many new American boots being pushed into the Iraqi sands by Mr. Bush's new "surge and accelerate" plan—panic will blow in, and that will set the stage for the bloodbath of a rout. Order and discipline evaporate into the overwhelming heat of desperation for survival, and the shattering columns become so many individuals waiting their turns to die, even as they furiously, then blindly, spray the land and sky with what remains of their ordnance.

No, we will not bug out of Iraq. The same generals who are now being set aside by Mr. Bush because they diplomatically tried to disabuse him of his "New Way Forward" initiative would have been the commanders steadfastly rejecting a wholesale pull-out of American troops, and such stance would have had nothing to do with the consequential fate of the people of Iraq, but rather with the American soldiers, whose security and safety take precedence over local concerns in matters of troop movements.

Mr. Bush is going to get his wish: we'll stay; and for now, not only will we stay, but he will escalate this American-Iraqi War.

And the Democrats will not cut off funding for the war. They're not quite so naïve, knowing as they do that, if they were to deny funds for military operations in Iraq, the very first people to suffer would be the GIs on the ground there. Right now, the Commander-in-Chief has lost the support of the soldiers, and that is extraordinary. But if that same Commander-in-Chief, a man given to straw man arguments anyway, is handed a rallying cry that his hands have been tied by the Democrats, those same troops who now disrespect him will turn ugly really fast, and their wrath will not be directed at their leader, but instead at the politicians who were obviously responsible for taking away their bullets and chow.

But far, far worse than that prospect is this: take away materiel and even food from a massive, in-field force of soldiers, and that force could easily, in the virtual blink of a news cycle, turn into the single most frightening beast that nature can muster from the howling depths of humanity at its worst. Strangle the Pentagon, and the Pentagon will pass the garrote right down to the GIs cooking in their miserable tents. Make those troops suffer like that and watch them turn into one giant pack of starving wolves. You want atrocities? You haven't seen atrocities like those committed by trained, desperate men with rifles and knives.

No, we'll stay in Iraq. We'll stay until we're bloodied beyond recognition of our hubris, beyond recognition of our preeminence, beyond recognition of our once unquestioned status as the leader of the free world; and then we shall leave. We shall leave, not when we want to, not when we need to, not when we've had enough, but instead when we are no longer relevant to the history of the future of Iraq and perhaps no longer greatly relevant even to the history of the future of places far from that awful land.

We may then come home to do our soul searching, our national finger-pointing, and our collective denial of that which we did and that which we would have done again were this not to have been our death knell as Empire.


The Dark Wraith has spoken.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

The Stench of Civilization, Pt 2

by: blackdog

The great equalizer. Organic carbon expelled by all lifeforms known, and most languages of advanced primates (!) have several terms for it.

I used to ask students why we as humans are the only creature on the planet that would take a fairly good source of raw water and purify it to impeccable levels only then to defecate and urinate in it. Well, that avoids the real history that the stench of civilization followed.

Agriculture and animal husbandry allowed humans to live in villages which became towns and then cities. Commerce and bidness followed with a host of possibilities for the populace that had nothing to do with survival. We had arrived as a species that was ordered, at least in Christian terms, to subdue the planet, which we did, but in a funny way. At that time our children were lucky to get through their first year, if you had to see a medical practitioner, gawd help you.

But we're beyond all that now, Pasteur has shown the existence of a vast new area of biology with implications for the Sciences and Medicine that would never look back. The difficult part is to continue to look forward. Major cities around the world in the 19th Century had populations of over several million, and the one common denominator was that they all stank and the death rate from water-borne illness was out of sight. The Romans had figured out how to make aqueducts for fresh water and sewers to pass spent water downstream, but somebody else is always downstream.

What's not so funny is that this practice continued for over 1800 years, until we began to understand the truth of infectious disease and the fecal-oral route of the pathogens. When cities were smaller, there were industrious fellows that hauled "night soil" out to the farmlands at night, but as the cities grew ever larger this became logistically impossible. The solution at the time was to simply dump this crap under your house. As cities grow they tend to grow vertically: witness "underground Atlanta" or the catacombs of Paris. This implies that natural flowing streams tend to be covered and become sewers. There used to be a Fleet River in London that became Fleet Street, with the remnants of the stream flowing underneath it. With the incredible amount of organic carbon undergoing anaerobic decomposition in an oxygen-depleted environment and the resultant production of CH4 and H2S, both very explosive, ships on the Thames were actually sunk on occasion by cannon shots from the Fleet Street sewer by the explosion of the methane and hydrogen sulfide.

One ferry that sank on the Thames with several hundred passengers lost every person on board. It was determined that they all died from hydrogen sulfide from the river. There was no fishing on this part of the Thames. No fish, period.

More in #3. And don't forget, this wasn't that long ago.

Check out the history of the Sewers of London. And Paris. And don't forget to check out plumbers.com... the pen offer is great.
03 January 2007

I Am Not the Only Smart Ass in My Family

by: Minstrel Boy

Which is something that comforts me and hardly anyone else. My cousin, is an attorney for our nation. He had every opportunity to take his degrees (U of A/Harvard Law) and cash in big time. He chose to come back to the rez and work for our people. His main reasoning was that as a gay man he gets a lot less shit (like, none) for that on the rez. He also enjoys taking on dumbass county, state, and federal attorneys and turning them green.

He called me this afternoon to tell me about a conference he had today. The Apache wars in Arizona were not all that long ago. They were a vicious and brutal time in the history of our state. During that turmoil a lot of things like reservation boundries and treaty issues that were supposed to be decided law went up for grabs to what ever hand could take and hold them.

He has been trying to negotiate with one rancher who claims title to a large section of land that my cousin feels clearly was granted to the Apache in 1845, and again, at Geronimo's first surrender. The rancher is claiming all kinds of things, but mostly it comes down to "squatter's rights." Here is the exchange that took place this afternoon as related by my cousin, the brilliant attorney.


Rancher

"My family has been on this land ranching for over one hundred and thirty years!"

My Cousin

"Then you understand our problem exactly. Good."





Harp and Sword

The Stench of Civilization, Pt 1

by: blackdog

For some reason I felt the need to expound on an issue of necessary infrastructure that is required by the structure of our society.

Once upon a time, and not that long ago, the leading cause of death on the entire planet was water-borne illness. Specifically, well not really, dysentery--invading organisms of the bowel that upset the ability to regulate water. Death due to complications of dehydration. Oh, by the way, the leading cause of death in the Third World is still dysentery.

As long as we were running around hunting and gathering there was not much need for any health services. You could be expected to live maybe 40 years and contribute offspring to the continuation of the species; but then someone figured out how to do horticulture, and we domesticated goats, dogs, and later, cattle and cats. The ancient equivalent of an atomic bomb. Everything changed.

Now, instead of ranging around the territory hunting and gathering, we could form communities where we could stay all the time. This had an effect on several aspects of evolution: numerous creatures that had never paid us much attention now did because, instead of roaming around, we were fixed, and our wastes were a bonanza for them. I am referring to the rat, mouse, cockroach, and several others. I've heard them called "camp followers," but it would seem to me that they really came into our lives when we settled down into an occidental lifestyle.

As the communities grew over time, the problems of such a close proximity to each other began to become large. Instead of a violent death on the move, the issue of parasitic predation from a concentrated population came to the fore. Infant death rates, never something to brag about in a wild environment, became horrendous in what were becoming cities. It's always the young and older (relatively speaking) that suffer the most.

For thousands of years, this was the normal condition of humanity. The luckier ones were in small villages or the countryside alone where this pestilence did not get to them. The Black Death was a classic. Bubonic Plague. Spread not by water, but by fleas on rats, and at the time, cats were looked upon as being satanic. Oops. Nothing like a little too much religion getting in the way of reality. But cholera, yellow fever, and so many other diseases were striking down so many that to me it is amazing that we survived this period. We bred better than rabbits. We had to.

Then something amazing happened: in Italy and other parts of Europe came an awakening, after throwing away all of the knowledge from the Middle, Far and Near East, Western Europe became the center of learning in the present world, but don't let the Church get your number. Several hundred years later comes a fellow named Pasteur. What a thinker, and a Frenchman no less. Discovered microbes, the bane of "civilized" existence. Seems like I remember the concept of "spontaneous generation."

From here came most of the major advancements in our ability to live long enough to have to worry about more exotic diseases like cancer.

Next installment, if anyone is interested, is how we began to deal with our waste, which we still have a major problem with.

Malibu Moment

by: Minstrel Boy

On a comment thread at Blondesense on Global Warming I left a comment about something I said over the New Year's Holiday while at Malibu.

First off, I don't live in Malibu. I sometimes get to work for people that do. Sometimes, they even let me stay in the big house.

What got to me here was that I'm in a gated, guarded estate, within a gated, guarded community. I'm watching football, doing all that American New Year's Day stuff, and I hear my host (and boss and friend) waxing all poetic about the dangers and hardships of living in Malibu during an El Niño year. I mean, jeezus horatio christ on a motherfucking skateboard, he was using Malibu and hardships in the same goddamn sentence.

Having no reputation as being somebody who will hold his tongue, I horned in on the conversation. Saying:
That's because you guys didn't do any basic research. Didn't the realtors tell you that Malibu is a Chumash word? It is. It means don't fucking live here white man."
Even if it ended up costing me future gigs it would have been well worth it, just to see the looks on their faces. As luck would have it, I have another gig coming up with my host/boss/friend in two weeks.

Harp and nearly Unemployment checks

"Surge and Accelerate": A Note on the Republican-Democrat Support Axis

by: Dark Wraith

As President Bush prepares to address the nation to announce his intention to send 20,000 more American troops to Iraq in his "surge and accelerate" plan to turn the tide on the deteriorating situation there, criticism of what appears to many a counter-productive escalation of an increasingly unpopular war is mounting. Among the most vociferous of Mr. Bush's critics in the mainstream media is MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann, who minced no words in his January 2, 2007, commentary condemning the troop surge plan. (The YouTube version of the video has been posted by litbrit of The Last Duchess on her site and cross-posted by her at Shakespeare's Sister.)

During his latest firey excoriation of Mr. Bush, Mr. Olberman took several opportunities to strongly criticize John McCain, who has publicly stated his support for the troop surge. A brief cut-away during Olberman's message showed footage of Sen. McCain standing at a podium with five other people. That film was shot in Baghdad several weeks ago during a congressional fact-finding mission. The still-frame below shows some of the participating members of Congress at a news conference held during the trip. Sen. McCain is at the podium making clear his support for sending more U.S. soldiers to the war-wracked nation.

McCain and Lieberman in Baghdad expressing support for troop surge

The woman on the far left in the frame is Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who aligned herself with a number of other Republicans in declaring her opposition to sending more troops to Iraq, although Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), seen in the frame immediately to the right of McCain, expressed both his shock at how much the security situation in Baghdad had deteriorated and his full backing for sending more soldiers there.

The man standing between Collins and McCain is Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), who was quoted in a Washington Post article as saying, "We need more, not less, U.S. troops here [in Iraq]." In favoring the troop surge, Sen. Lieberman has distinguished himself as one of the few remaining ostensibly "liberal" or even "moderate" politicians in Washington publicly supporting what Mr. Olberman of MSNBC describes as a war initiated by a "...President [who] does not have any idea what he's doing - and [for whom] other Americans will have to die."

Given Sen. Lieberman's abandonment of the Democratic Party and his long-standing and very visible support for President Bush on matters of national security, the Connecticut Senator's alliance with McCain on escalating the American-Iraqi War may fuel speculation of a McCain-Lieberman "national unity" Presidential ticket in 2008, which would afford the American people a clear opportunity to elect yet another President and Vice President for whom other Americans would have to die.


The Dark Wraith will leave to readers such conclusions as may be warranted about Sen. Lieberman's continuing ties to an increasingly marginalized wing of the GOP.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

Dire predictions, cheerfully made

by: Waveflux

He sees dead people...or really, really wants to, at least

The upside to predicting the worst is that should your ominous warnings come to pass, you look like a prophet whose every word must be heeded. Should the unimaginable - that is, nothing - happen, you get to smile and say, "Sometimes I miss." Such are the standard tactics of radical Christian cleric Pat Robertson, the archconservative evangelist whose self-touted status as God's chief correspondent is rivaled only by the vindictiveness and disaster lust inherent in his "prophecies." So what's God sayin' today, Rev?

Evangelical broadcaster Pat Robertson said Tuesday that God has told him that a terrorist attack on the United States would cause a "mass killing" late in 2007.

"I'm not necessarily saying it's going to be nuclear," he said during his news-and-talk television show "The 700 Club" on the Christian Broadcasting Network.

"The Lord didn't say nuclear. But I do believe it will be something like that."

Robertson said God told him about the impending tragedy during a recent prayer retreat.

God also said, he claims, that major cities and possibly millions of people will be affected by the attack, which should take place sometime after September.
The God of the Fathers was a bit stingy on the details, eh? Interesting that a deity famously possessed of omniscience - i.e., perfectly and eternally knowing all things which can be known, past, present, and future - couldn't provide more specific intelligence on which cities and precisely how many people would be affected by the predicted attack, or even whether a nuclear device would be involved. It's possible that God doesn't sweat such details, though it's much more likely that Mr. Robertson has been listening only to the echoes of his own voice in the unlit recesses of his squirming brain. We should all hope so, for the only alternative left us is that God is addled, spiteful, and ultimately uncaring - that is, cast perfectly in the image of His loudest television prophet.

(Cross-posted at Waveflux.)
02 January 2007

The better generation

by: blackdog

For about the seventh time I'm watching "Saving Private Ryan". Why has this become such a crontroversial flick? I have an Uncle who drove a tank in France during the batle of the bluge for Pattons's 3rd army but he doesn't like to speak about it much. I have another Uncle who has died but was in the Navy in the Pacific Theater and actually met his brother in the Phillipines after VE day.

This was the last time that the Congress of the USA declared War on another country. Only Congress can do this. Its called the Constitutition. The War on crime, the war on drugs, the war on poverty, ect.. I'm sick of this war crap. Only the Congress can call this.

Eternal war. Seems like I read a book about this and it was not fun. I can't remember the name now, my blackdog has his face on my leg and wants pets. The protagonists name was Winston. I'll get there in a few, I hope.

Anyway, the truth is that many are serving for all the wrong reasons. I support the troops as long as they have a manageable objective, something they can carry out. Without that, i cannot support their actions.

I guess that makes me a democrat. Or at least an American.

Test Post with YouTube Video of Polar Ice Cap Retreat

by: Dark Wraith

In a post last week, I promised that site changes would be coming. Those alterations have now been completed. Trust me when I note that altering the cascading style sheets for six color templates was the least of the difficulties. Each of the gradient backgrounds—a total of five per template—had to be taken apart so one piece could be stretched and another piece contracted, then everything re-assembled. That was 30 exercises in mind-numbingly painstaking graphical manipulation with objects that were, for the most part, around 2000 pixels wide but only three to six pixels in height. Lordie! but I shouldn't drink as much coffee as I do.

This was all to the end, mind you, of expanding the middle column, the one where articles appear, to a width that could better accommodate graphical content at decent size. Specifically, YouTube videos embed at a native width of 425 pixels, which is larger than the old middle column could handle. My rebuilding should now allow those YouTube videos to fit in snugly at the original dimensions of 425x350 pixels.

I think I've done it right. To find out for sure, I am offering a brief YouTube video, "Arctic Ice Abrupt Withdrawal - Present to 2040," with apologies to those still on modem connections to the Internet and those reading via RSS feed. Otherwise, enjoy.

Freedom

by: Debra

The America of my youth is gone. I'm not scared of dying (much) from a terrorist incident, but from being caught up in a police state where a badge and a gun (not necessarily from a police officer) signifies justice and authority, while help for the common citizen is naught.

As time goes on, more and more of what made this country great has been lost, either sold to corporations who shipped the jobs offshore, eliminated services under the guise of tax reduction, used the National Guard and Reserves and wasted them and their equipment in a foolish war and now privatizing the police force without all those pesky protections that the Bill or Rights used to afford the common man. It still does, as long as you are melanin impaired and can afford the service.

This article in the WaPo highlights the changes in law enforcement and how the police are outnumbered by private security officers. And what a frightening picture it is. I guess if you're one of the 25% who believe Jesus is returning to Earth this year you don't have to worry about anything.

Jolly Roger is also on top of this, he found another article about how the chaplaincy of the military is 50% composed of radical Christians and the influence they are beginning to have. Maybe that little slip of Herr Bush right after September 11 wasn't really a slip at all. Maybe it is a Crusade.

It's absolutely fascinating in an abstract way to watch America become a fundamentalist society. Knowing that they will have to and are prepared to use, force, to achieve their goal of returning us to a time of female subservience, a very restrictive economic structure and a segregated society. The younger generation may be waiting for the old people to die off so they can have a more liberal society, but I don't think that strategy is going to work. If they don't stand up before the takeover is complete, it could be generations before freedom returns to America.

The freedom to express yourself. The freedom to travel within the country and not just your neighborhood, or to and from work. The freedom to feel that your thoughts and beliefs, whatever they may be, may be expressed in the privacy of your own home without fear of government intrusion. The freedom to change your mind. The freedom to choose; lifestyle, career, religion, or whether or not to have children. The freedom to require that your government honor the Constitution, not treat it as an old piece of paper.

Brave men and women have died for us to have those freedoms and in some instances still do. From our Founding Fathers to the soldiers and journalists of today, they have paid the ultimate price for us to have those freedoms, maybe we should exercise them before they're gone forever? Hmm?

Debsweb

Say NO To Bluster's Last Stand

by: Foiled Goil

Say NO To Bush's Last Stand

by thepen

Before the coming of George Bush and his shadow president Dick Cheney, the greatest military blunder in American History was thought to be Custer's Last Stand. It did not take a lot of hindsight to know that general Custer's vain assault on a much larger force of better-armed native Americans would come to no good end. [...] But in his supreme arrogance Custer believed that HE knew better than his own best sources of intelligence. We all know the result of that one.

How uncanny are the parallels to the current situation in Iraq? The neocon ideologues who seized dictatorial control of our government brushed off all contrary advice and manufactured intelligence to support their case. They dismissed any challenge to their vision of the absolute power of American military dominance as a matter of right. They fired any underling who dared to try tell them the truth, that deposing Saddam would lead directly and inexorably to an Islamic theocracy, if not a sectarian civil war. They used the power of their crony associates in the corporate media to smear any public critic. And they are still doing it.

In case you had not noticed, the very first act of new secretary of defense was to order more troops to Kuwait to enable sending more of those serving there to guess where ... Iraq. In other words, the self-anointed "decider" has already decided, to defy the will of the American people, their Congress, and the entire rest of world, for all it matters to him. In his mind, this is another one of those "done deals". The only thing that's taking so long to make the official announcement is the difficulty of yet another con job on us, with public opinion moving ever more forcefully in the opposite direction. Most of the remaining rubber stamp members of Congress are already coming down with a major case of cold feet, thanks to your voices, but George Bush does not care. [...]

The primary difference between him and what Bush has done is that Custer did not wreck the ENTIRE U.S. Army, Custer did not mortgage our whole economy for generations to come, and unlike Bush, he actually had the courage to enter mortal combat himself even one time.

You see, our child king has already declared that as long as he is president he is not budging an inch from Iraq. Take him at his word. You heard him say it. He is determined to take this country down with him in a pique of stubborn ignorance. He will not go out without a final surge of insanity and horror, and the only thing that can possibly save us all, and our future, is to finally stand up and hold him accountable for his high crimes and misdemeanors, enough to impeach every president who has ever served. [...]

And all that is required for it to happen is for enough of us to all speak out at the same time, to our members of Congress, in letters to the editor our newspapers, and it WILL be so. When Custer's Crow scouts told him in unison that he was out of his mind he let them go. It's not only time to let George Bush go, we must MAKE him go. NOW.


Hold him accountable. NOW.
____

UPDATE:

Keith Olbermann's commentary on "Sacrifice"