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31 March 2007

Blackberry Jam

by: Minstrel Boy

The big difference between home canned jams and the stuff you buy from the store is the amount of fruit that you taste. Properly done home canned blackberry jam will taste a lot closer to the real thing. You can use just about any berry you can think of with this recipe. I got it right off the side of the Certo® pectin box. I'm making the blackberry jam today. Tomorrow's breakfast is buckwheat pancakes!

INGREDIENTS

2 Quarts ripe blackberries
7 cups sugar measured into a separate bowl and kept on the side
1/2 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 pouch Certo® fruit pectin
1/4 tsp kosher or sea salt


Wash the berries well under lots of cold running water. Drain in a strainer lined with paper towels.

Bring canning pot half filled with water to a simmer. Wash screw lids and rubber rings very well in hot, soapy water, rinse and dry thoroughly. Pour boiling water over the flat lids in a saucepan off heat and let stand in the hot water until ready to use. Dry completely before using.

Crush the blackberries thoroughly. (i use my trusty old potato masher for this) You can, if you wish, run half the mashed pulp through a seive to remove some of the seeds. I don't, but that's just me. Measure exactly 4 cups of fruit, add the 1/4 teaspoon salt and put into a 4 to 6 qt heavy saucepan. Add the sugar one cup at a time while stirring constantly and bringing the fruit to a full rolling boil. This means that the mixture keeps boiling while being stirred. Use more, or less, sugar according to your own taste. Add the butter as you need to keep the foaming under control. Stir in the pectin and boil for a full minute. Remove from heat and take off any foam with a metal spoon.

Ladle this immediately into the canning jars, filling to within an 1/8" to the tops. Wipe the jar rims and threads. Cover with the 3 piece lids and screw down tightly. Place the jars into the canning rack and lower into the simmering water. (the boiling water should cover the jars by one to two inches) Cover canning pot and boil gently for 10 minutes.

Remove the jars from the water and cool them on a towel down to room temperature. When they are fully cooled test the seals by pressing your finger into the center of the lid. (if the lid springs back the seal is not secure and this must be refrigerated and eaten first) Those with good seals will keep on a dark pantry shelf for almost a full year.

Once you've done this a few times feel free to experiment with the recipe by adding things like grated lemon zest, fresh lemon juice, and more, or less, amounts of pectin.

You'll find that when you've mastered a skill as basic as home canned jams your courage levels and ambitions when you visit the farmer's markets will increase exponentially. You'll also find yourself damned close to unable to eat anything store bought except the most expensive imported stuff. (which, by the way, doesn't deviate from this basic recipe much at all)

(cue the 5 string banjo)

buckwheat cakes, your buckwheat cakes
along with crispy bacon
buckwheat cakes, your buckwheat cakes
are what set my heart
to achin'


el rancho harpo

A Dangerous Old Warrior for a New Era

by: Dark Wraith

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was first brought before the Congress of the United States in 1923 and was finally passed in 1972, thereby initiating what began as a seven-year period in which passage of the Amendment by 38 states would be required for ratification and consequential inclusion in the Constitution of the United States. By 1978, 35 states had passed the Amendment; but during the year that followed, it carried in no further states. Congress extended to 10 years the time period for ratification, but it passed in no further states, and so the Amendment died in 1982.

Phyllis SchlaflyThe sudden turn-around in the popularity of the Amendment was due almost exclusively to the efforts of Phyllis Schlafly, head of the Eagle Forum. In his book, Conservatives without Conscience (Viking Adult, 2006), John Dean fetes Mrs. Schlafly's tireless work recruiting thousands of grassroots volunteers, mostly women, across the United States to lobby their state legislators in opposition to the passage of ERA. Mr. Dean describes her work as virtually seminal in effectively rallying, organizing, and managing political foot soldiers--largely inexperienced as they were in political matters--to a conservative cause. Her work paid off: 35 states had passed the Amendment in a matter of fewer than seven years; and yet, even with an extension, the Amendment could not attract so much as one more state in the subsequent three.

Proponents of the Amendment have long argued that, because the United States Supreme Court has never once invoked the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th Amendment to strike down a sex-based classification, and because the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, does not elevate non-discrimination on the basis of sex to a constitutional right, only by amending the Constitution can the federal government through legislation and the courts through judicial review have the full power to consistently and effectively enforce equal protection for women as public policy throughout the land.

The parsimonious language of the proposed Amendment has not changed substantially over the years since it was first brought before the Congress. In its modern form, this is the proposed Equal Rights Amendment:
  • Section 1. Equality of Rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.

  • Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

  • Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

A revitalized effort is underway to ratify the ERA. An argument is being advanced that precedent exists for according the proposed Amendment no time limit on passage by the required 38 states: specifically, the Madison Amendment, finally ratified in 1992 to become the 27th Amendment to the Constitution, was passed by the Congress 203 years before its passage by the 38th state.

While Mrs. Schlafly and her Eagle Forum never actually disappeared, the revitalized push by pro-ERA forces has brought her back into the news and under scrutiny by progressive bloggers. Radical Russ, writing at Pam's House Blend, published an article on March 28, 2007, in which he highlighted recent remarks she made concerning her renewed work against the Equal Rights Amendment and her very conservative views on certain women's issues.

Mrs. Schlafly, at the age of 81 and with what appear to be positively archaic views on women's issues, might seem no longer relevant or threatening to the process of ratifying the ERA. To deal with her as a distraction without currency is, in my judgment, folly. In edited and expanded form, I herewith conclude this article with the comment I published in response to Radical Russ's post at Pam's House Blend.
Although I could mince few words in describing Phyllis Schlafly's positions, I would prefer to take the opportunity to set forth a warning about her.

More than a generation ago, she was responsible for stopping a momentous amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America; and by the word "momentous," I mean exactly that: the Equal Rights Amendment had momentum at a scale that, historically, indicates its approval by more than the required number of states in the statutory time period for ratification.

She stopped it dead in its tracks.

More importantly, her organizational skills set forth the model by which, across the next generation and a half, various Right-wing secular and religious single-interest groups would be able to effectively derail legislation, reframe social issues, reconstruct the federal judiciary, take over the executive and legislative branches of state governments, and ultimately redirect the trajectory of public policy in this nation at both the federal and state levels. Mrs. Schlafly is, then, a force to be reckoned with.

Furthermore, a broad branch of conservatism that is now in decline could well be revitalized by her re-establishment of the model of social change brought about by grass-roots conservatism animated by a strong (and natively brilliant) central figure. Mrs. Schlafly was, in the 1970s, considered something of a dowdy old woman, almost a self-caricature of the "church lady," without a clue about how modernity was impacting the lives of women and recasting their lives far more deeply and swiftly than laws and courts were willing to accommodate. It was in part because liberal and Leftist forces could not grasp that a fundamentally conservative woman could be the paradigm of feminist strength, even as she repudiated that characterization of and very right within herself, that she virtually single-handedly crushed what would otherwise have been easy ratification of a thoroughly reasonable, entirely necessary Amendment to the Constitution.

Progressivism does not need such a trouncing right now, especially considering that, in my judgment, the public persona of progressivism has still learned so little from the beatings it took from the late 1970s clear through until 2006. (Quite bluntly and specifically, the 2006 elections were not about Democrats winning; they were about Republicans losing.) Given a tried-and-true organizational model and a new generation of social policy leaders, the Right could very well rear its ugly head swiftly and to the utter destruction of a nascent, growing strength of progressivism that is finding a toe-hold in the politics of this last half of the first decade of the new century.

While a general disgust with her attitudes, her words, and her mind-set might well be in order, allow me this counsel in dealing with Phyllis Schlafly on a political level:

Fear her.

Then learn to overcome the fear not with outrage, not with chants, not with comforting group-think about how wrong she is, but instead with effective countervailing political action right on the battlefield she will, whether we like it or not, define. Only then can she be defeated. Maybe.

But first and foremost, fear her.


The Dark Wraith has spoken.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

30 March 2007

I Don't Remember

by: Foiled Goil

Kyle Sampson:

"I can't pretend to know or remember every fact that may be of relevance."

"To the best of my recollection..."

"I don't remember."

"I could have and should have helped to prevent this."

"I let the attorney general and the department down..."

"I failed to organize a more effective response... "

"It was a failure on my part... "

"I will hold myself responsible..."

"I wish we could do it all over again."

"I don't remember."

"I knew in my mind..."

"I regretted it."

"I don't remember."

"I knew that it was the wrong thing to do."

"I don't think it's entirely accurate what he said."

"I don't ever remember speaking to the president after the 2004 election."

"I don't remember specifically."

"I don't remember."

"I don't remember anything like that."

"I don't think so."

"I don't remember."

"I don't remember."

__________

US Attorney Scandal Timeline
29 March 2007

Showdown At The D.C. Corral

by: Foiled Goil

The Senate has passed the Iraq supplemental funding bill.

Yea 51
Nay 47
N/V 2

Passage of the Bill (H.R. 1591, As Amended)

It goes to President Bush later today.
28 March 2007

Advice To The Senate From Marcus Tullius Cicero

by: Minstrel Boy

One of the cooler things about Cicero was that he had the great good fortune to have a slave named Tiro who was the inventor of shorthand. There are a great many surviving word or word transcriptions of the things that Cicero said.

This comes from his first great legal victory. Cicero prosecuted Gaius Verres for crimes he committed while governor of Sicily. Theft of artworks, unlawful dentention and execution of Roman citizens. The crimes were numerous and heinous. The biggest hurdle facing Cicero in his prosecution of Verres was that the ill gotten gains had been used quite liberally as bribes in the case. The jury was composed of Senators and the defense counsels were Hortensius and Metellus Pius who, at the time, were both consul-elect.

Knowing that there was a very limited time for the trial (if it progressed into the new administration there would be no chance at all of a conviction) Cicero rose on the first day of court and said this:

"Gentlemen of the court, at this great political crisis there has been offered to you, not through man's wisdom but almost as the direct gift of heaven, the very thing you most need---a thing that will help more than anything else to mitigate the unpopularity of your Order and the suspicion surrounding these courts. A belief has become established---as harmful to the republic as it is to yourselves---that these courts, with your senators as the jury, will never convict any man, however guilty, if he has sufficient money.

But the character of the many I am prosecuting, is such that you may use him to restore your own good name. Gaius Verres has robbed the Treasury and behaved like a pirate and a destroying pestilence in his province of Sicily. You have only to find this man guilty, and respect in you will be rightly restored. But it you do not---if his immense wealth is sufficient to shatter your honesty---well then, I shall achieve one thing at least. The nation will not believe Verres to be right and me wrong---but they will certainly know all they need to know about a jury of Roman Senators!

Let me tell you of the impudent and insane plan that is now in Verres's mind. It is plain to him that I am approaching this case so well prepared that I shall be able to pin him down as a robber and a criminal, not merely in the hearing of this court but in the eyes of the whole world. But, in spite of this, he holds so low an opinion of the aristocracy, he believes the senatorial courts to be so utterly abandoned and corrupt, that he goes about boasting openly that he has bought the safest date for his trial, that he has bought the jury, and just to be on the safe side, he has also bought the consular election for his two titled friends who have tried to intimidate my witnesses! (at this point the consuls-elect as defense attorneys began to shout and disrupt the proceeding, Cicero wheeled on them and strode over to the defense table)

What? Did you count on my saying nothing of so serious a matter? On my caring for anything except my duty and my honor, when the country and my own reputation are in such danger? Metellus, (Metellus Pius, co-council for the defense, consul-elect, imperator of the 9th and 11th legions, triumphate for Spain, pontifex maximus, brother of the current governor in Sicily) I am amazed at you. To attempt to intimidate witnesses, especially these timorous and calamity-stricken Sicilians, by appealing to their awe of you as consul-elect, and the power of your two brothers---if this is not judicial corruption, I should be glad to know what it is! What would you not do for an innocent kinsman if you abandon duty and honor for an utter rascal who is no kin of yours at all? Because, I tell you this: Verres has been going around saying that you were only made consul because of his exertions, and that by January he will have the two consuls and a president of the court to suit him!
(Again, pandemonium erupted in the court. The defense was going apeshit, the gallery was screaming, Verres was shouting death threats and being physically restrained by the lictors of the court. When order was restored Cicero continued)

So, these are their tactics. Today the court did not start its business until the middle of the afternoon---they are already reckoning that today does not count at all. It is only ten days to the games of Pompeius Magnus. These will occupy fifteen days and will be immediately followed by the Roman Games. So it will not be until after an interval of nearly forty days that they expect to begin their reply. They count on being able then, with the help of long speeches and technical evasions, to prolong the trial until the Games of Victory begin. These games are followed without break by the Plebeian Games, after which there will be very few days, or none at all, on which the court can sit. In this way they reckon that all the impetus of the prosecution will be spent and exhausted, and that the whole case will come up afresh before Marcus Metellus, who is sitting there, on this jury.

So what am I to do? If I spend upon my speech the full time allotted me by law, there is the gravest danger that the man I am prosecuting will slip through my fingers. 'Make your speech shorter' is the obvious answer I was given a few days ago, (by Terentia his wife) and that is good advice. I shall go one better. Gentlemen, I shall make no speech at all!

That is right Hortensius, I am not going to play your game and spend the next ten days in the usual long address. I am not going to let the case drag on till January, when you and Metellus as consuls can use your lictors to drag my witnesses before you and frighten them into silence. I am not going to allow you gentlemen of the jury the luxury of forty days to forget my charges so that you can then lose yourselves and your consciences in the tangled thickets of Hortensius's rhetoric. I am not going to delay the settlement of this case until all these mutitudes who have come to Rome for the census and the games have dispersed to their homes in Italy. I am going to call my witnesses at once, beginning now, and this will be my procedure: I shall read out the individual charge. I shall comment and elaborate upon it. I shall bring forth the witness who supports it and question him, and then you, Hortensius, will have the same opportunity as I for comment and cross-examination,. I shall do all of this and I shall rest my case within the space of ten days.

Today, the eyes of the world are upon us, waiting to see how far the conduct of each man among us will be marked by obedience to his conscience and observance of the law. Even as you will pass your verdict upon the defendant, so the people of Rome will pass their verdict upon yourselves. The case of Verres will determine whether, in a court composed of Senators, the condemnation of a very guilty and very rich man can possibly occur. Because all the world knows that Verres is distinguished by nothing except his monsterous offenses and his immense wealth. Therefore if he is acquitted it will be impossible to imagine any explanation except the most shameful. So I advise you, gentlemen, for your own sakes, to see that this does not occur.

I call my first witness---Sthenius of Thermae."

The day before the guilty verdict was pronounced which would have stripped him of his citizenship and wealth Verres fled Rome for Africa. The final settlement of the things that he left behind barely covered the expenses Cicero incurred undertaking this prosecution. Cicero did, according to the laws of Lucius Cornielius Sulla, assume the Praetorian rank of Verres which assured his being allowed time to speak in the Senate.

I sent a copy of this speech to both John McCain and John Kyl. I don't think they will see the parallels to the situation of our government today that I do, but it doesn't matter. The White House is already talking about dragging the subpoena process along until they are out of office. The Senate, being mostly sheep, will probably let that happen.

Would that we had a Cicero.

harp and sword

Bush Threatens To Defund Troops

by: Foiled Goil

Bush renews vow to veto Iraq timeline

President Bush accused congressional Democrats Wednesday of meddling in Iraq war policy and setting a deadline for a U.S. pullout that would have disastrous repercussions for both countries.

As the Senate resumed debate Wednesday on a bill containing a spring 2008 timetable for bringing American troops home, Bush argued again that such a step would result in a needless delay of funds for troops. But Democrats are insisting that he'll have to accept some sort of timeline to get the money.
"Why doesn't he get real with what's going on with the world?" Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said after Bush's speech. "We're not holding up funding in Iraq and he knows that. Why doesn't he deal with the real issues facing the American people?"
Bush said Wednesday that the Democratic strategy move will not force him to negotiate. He said again that he would veto any funding legislation that includes a withdrawal timeline.
"It makes no sense for politicians in Washington, D.C. to be dictating arbitrary timelines for our military commanders in a war zone 6,000 miles away."
"If we cannot muster the resolve to defeat this evil in Iraq, America will have lost its moral purpose in the world and we will endanger our citizens," the president said. "If we leave Iraq before the job is done, the enemy will follow us here."
Bush accused lawmakers of engaging in little more than "political statements" even as money for troops will run out next month.
"If Congress fails to pass a bill to fund our troops on the front lines, the American people will know who to hold responsible," Bush said.
But Reid and other Democrats say they won't back down.
"This Congress will hold him accountable for the conduct of this war and we will have legislation that will give him every dollar he asks for, for our troops and more, but with accountability," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Dems: Bush must accept Iraq timetable
"We would hope that the president understands how serious we are," said Majority Leader Harry Reid, after the Senate voted to uphold a proposal in a war spending bill calling for the troop withdrawal.
With the Senate resuming debate on the $122 billion bill Wednesday, President Bush reminded lawmakers their move will not prompt him to negotiate, but to veto any funding legislation that includes a deadline for withdrawal.
"Rather than making all the threats that he has, let's work with him and see if he can give us some ideas how we can satisfy the wishes of a majority of the Senate, the majority of the House and move forward," Reid said.
"We have misunderstood, misread, misplanned and mismanaged our honorable intentions in Iraq with an arrogant self-delusion reminiscent of Vietnam," said Hagel (R-Neb).
Compare Iraq withdrawal measures

Compare House and Senate Iraq bills
27 March 2007

Update

by: blackdog

Just arrived home from the hospital. She had an atrial fibrillation yesterday so she has been moved to another floor closer to the cardiac unit where the quality of care seems better. You can still look into her eyes and see her, she's in there but is unable to communicate vocally. I tried to get her to answer some yes or no questions by nodding her head, and she doesn't seem able to do that either.

She suffered a colon cancer 30 years ago and had a part of her colon and rectum removed, and was later replumbed so that she only had a temporary colostomy, but that effectively destroyed her elimination functions. So she has that problem and is somewhat sensitive about it. Today she was showing signs of distress and I was trying to figure out what she needed. She patted her lower region and I asked did she need to go. She said yesss. Poorly but I got it. Called a nurse and that one was solved. She can communicate and can still think but it is so difficult to be observant enough to understand the message, but in some ways there seems to be some minor progress except for the heart problems.

The brain is such a magnificent organ, and when it is injured the results are astounding. I rely on recent research that shows that old dogs can learn new tricks, and that the autonomic processes that occur all the time may allow for new neurons and connections to offer her a measure of what she was. I have seen PET scans of hydrophilic children whose inner brain was being destroyed by the expansion of the fluid where entire brain functions were relocated to parts of the brain still intact.

I don't pretend to have a false hope, just a small one. I have worked to prepare myself for her death. And I have to add that my greatest fear is how the demise of my parents would be a potential blow to the structure of my immediate family. A selfish thought I know, but one that is staring me in the eye now. It must be a normal part of the maturation process, just one I don't approve of. My older brother should be there with her by now, I'm sure she will be glad.

Somehow the path I find myself on now requires me to look at some obvious things in a new light. Most of the posts here are of a political bent with the message usually being of how we, to borrow an overused phrase 'the people', are being screwed by the most sacred institutions we as a people have attempted to construct. I believe that we are basically social animals and require each other for the best quality of life, but our consumptive society seems to have lost that tack. The need to care for each other has been replaced by the desire to dominate each other.

Ripley, in one of the Alien flicks put it best, "you don't see them screwing each other over".

Update II.

She is now in CCU awaiting a pacemaker but the good news is that she is talking, sort of. The first speech I've heard from her since her initial surgery. If they can only get her heart under control the rest may get better. Tomorrow I'll spend most of the day with her in the CCU, it will give me a chance to read "Infidel".

I told her about the Apache prayers and she closed her eyes and smiled

I also have a job interview on the 12th next month. Go figure. While it will not make me wealthy, at least I would be back in the world.

Stormy Night

by: Foiled Goil

One cold and stormy night, a stranded traveler staggered into an inn. The innkeeper helped the man to a table, and got him some hot food. "I'm terribly sorry that I can't seat you next to the fire, sir. A private meeting is in session and the neo-cons are occupying that space."

As the man ate and warmed up, he thanked the innkeeper for his hospitality. One of the neo-cons commented to the man, "Why stranger, by the looks of you, you traveled through hell and back in order to get here."

"That's right," said the traveler.

"It is?" asked the neo-con. "Tell us then, how did you find things in hell?"

"Just like here," the man replied, "all the neo-cons are closest to the fire."

Listing To The Right

by: Debra

This week's winner in the "so not a surprise" department, is ...soo not a surprise. How could anyone have foreseen that landlords, car dealers, mortgage lenders and exercise equipment salesmen would use the Office of Foreign Asset Control's list (expanded by executive order) to screen applicants? And then deny honest Americans their services because something extremely ordinary and definitely arbitrary, matches something or someone on the list and they just want to be "safe"?
"The way in which the list is being used goes far beyond contexts in which it has a link to national security," said Shirin Sinnar, the report's author. "The government is effectively conscripting private businesses into the war on terrorism but doing so without making sure that businesses don't trample on individual rights."
Who the heck needs individual rights? This is America and she's scared. People must give up everything for safety, even liberty. Eek. the terrorists might prevent American Idol from being broadcast. Eek, eek. Your identification papers, please.

Americans are giving up everything that made us a country to be admired, to be emulated, to be a place where you can hope for a better life. We have operated with a might makes right approach to the rest of the world, while forgetting that the meek are supposed to inherit the earth. Not only do we not care for the least of us, we care not for ourselves. We are willing to believe that the government (that was supposed to be made small enough to drown in a bathtub, remember that line?) will make us safe from terrorists by making it difficult for suspicious people to conduct their lives legitimately. Sounds good until you realize that the definition of suspicious includes everyone not in the inner circle. Everyone. And the inner circle is secret.

This is the same government that was incompetent on September 11, incompetent in finding Osama bin Laden dead or alive, incompetent in planning for Iraq after they deposed Saddam Hussein, incompetent in helping the citizens of their own country who were stranded during Katrina, incompetent in rebuilding the Gulf Coast, incompetent in taking care of their wounded veterans, the list goes on.

This the same government that the average person, terrorized by their government with colorful alerts and by the media with its concurrent blaring of the latest fear propaganda, is trusting to determine the ability Americans to travel, own or rent property, purchase equipment, attend school and possibly buy food. We won't catch terrorists, but we will destroy lives and create a true underclass. Sort of like being an illegal alien from Mexico, except that it will consist of blackballed American citizens who have done nothing wrong, but part of their name matches someone who might be a problem or any other spurious excuse that can be spun at the moment.

All the lists, all the illegal spying, all the cameras, all of the sharing of information has nothing to do with combating terrorism and everything to do with controlling the populace, all of this is going to come back and haunt us.

We are so screwed and nobody notices. Until they show up on a list.

America, land of the free, I.D. cards please, and home of the brave scared.

Crossposted at Debsweb
26 March 2007

RNC Emails To Be Preserved

by: Foiled Goil

Committee Orders All RNC Emails To Be Preserved

by Scout Finch
Citing evidence that senior White House officials are using RNC and other political email accounts to avoid leaving a record of official communications, Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman sent letters today to the Republican National Committee and the Bush-Cheney ’04 Campaign directing them to preserve the emails of White House officials and to meet with Committee staff to explain how the accounts are managed and what steps are being taken to protect the emails from destruction and tampering. As noted this morning, such emails were sent in connection to the resignations of US Attorneys, but as Chairman Waxman’s letters note, they were used in other circumstances as well. In his letter to Marc Racicot, Former Chairman of Bush Cheney ‘04, Chairman Waxman describes one revealing exchange involving convicted former lobbyist Jack Abramoff:

The e-mail exchanges reviewed by the Committee provide evidence that in some instances, White House officials were using the nongovemmental accounts specifically to avoid creating a record of the communications. ln one case, Mr. Abramoff sent Ms. Ralston an e-mail on her RNC account asking her to "pass on to Karl that Interior is about to approve a gaming compact ... for a tribe which is an anathema to all our supporters" and requesting "some quiet message from WH that this is absurd." This e-mail was forwarded to Jennifer Farley in the White House Office of Intergovemmental Affairs, who apparently then warned one of Abramoff's associates about the dangers of leaving a record of their communications. According to an e-mail Mr. Abramoff received from his associate Kevin Ring:

"Your e-mail to Susan was forwarded to Ruben Barrales and on to Jen Farley, who read it to me last night. I don’t know what to think about this, but she said it is better not to put this stuff in writing in their e-mail system because it might actually limit what they can do to help us, especially since there could be lawsuits, etc. ... Just letting you know what she said."

Mr. Abramoff responded: "Dammit. It was sent to Susan on her rnc pager and was not supposed to go into the WH system."
Excerpted also from the letter to Racicot:
Two congressional investigations - one by the Oversight Committee and one by the House and Senate Judiciary Committees - have uncovered evidence that White House staff have used nongovernmental e-mail accounts to conduct official government business. Such emails written in the conduct of White House business would appear to be governmental records subject to preservation and eventual public disclosure.

The Presidential Records Act of 1978 establishes that the records of a president, his immediate staff, and certain units of the Executive Office of the President belong to the United States, not to the individual president or his staff. The Act further states that the president must "take all such steps as may be necessary to assure that the activities, deliberations, decisions, and policies that reflect the performance of his constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties are adequately documented and that such records are maintained as Presidential records pursuant to the requirements of this section and other provisions of law."

25 March 2007

Lovliest of Trees, Blackberry Pie

by: Minstrel Boy

The highlight for me on our trip to the produce farms was seeing row upon glorious row of cherry trees. They were in bloom. (spring came very early here, nature beat congress by weeks) I adore cherries. I absolutely go completely, totally apeshit for cherry pies. One of my favorite pies to make is a cherry/raspberry combo pie. I got the recipe off the food network. It was the overall winner on one of their pie challenge shows. But more on that later.

First, one of my favorite A.E. Houseman poems. From A Shropshire Lad (1896)

II. Loveliest of trees, the cherry now


LOVELIEST of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.




I have far fewer than fifty springs left for walking among blooming rows of cherry trees. I was walking with the owner of the farm and produce stand. Talking about how I used to come to these farms as a kid. The young man I was walking with is the third generation of Japanese American folks to make their living on this patch of land. I told him how happy I was to see this splendor and artistry spring from one of the deeper crimes of American policy. He said that his grandparents talked about being forcibly moved from the Monterey peninsula. How one of his great uncles still volunteered for service in our army and was killed in the brutal assault on Monte Casino. Then we started talking food. The strawberries are beautiful this year. Huge, bright red and bursting with juice. The kids were walking carefully among the rows with their baskets, juice smeared over their faces. Then we moved to the blackberries. My neice came out of the blackberry rows with scratches all up and down her arms. She didn't care. She had a full basket of glorious, fat, glossy blackberries. Then we started singing "Who wants pie? Oh my, my. We're making pies tonight!" The strawberries are being dipped in chocolate, but that's another post. We'll talk about that when we take some chocolate dipped strawberries to our new farming friends.

This recipe comes from my grandmother. It is very close to the recipe that is in The Pie and Pastry Bible the difference is that Nana always kissed the berries in her pies with a little ground cloves and a sprinkle of nutmeg over the top. I'm going with Nana on this one.

INGREDIENTS

Pie Crust for a 2 crust 9" Pie
1/2 cup baker's sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons fine grated lemon zest (using meyer lemons from the trees next door)
pinch kosher salt
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 cups blackberries (if you are still doing the through the snow trudge frozen works just fine here)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
freshly grated nutmeg to sprinkle over the top of the fruit right before you put the crust on top.
a little more baker's sugar mixed half and half with powdered sugar to sprinkle over the lattice crust


Roll out your bottom crust so there's enough to cut a 12" circle and put that in the pie pan. Trim to a slight overhang, cover with plastic wrap and put it back in the fridge.

In a large, non-reactive bowl mix the all the ingredients except for the nutmeg and hand toss them gently to mix them all well and thoroughly coat all the berries. Now, walk away from it and allow it to macerate (just sit there) for half an hour so that the berries will begin to release their juices and the dry ingredients get nice and sticky. Toss gently again and transfer to the bottom shell.

Grate about half of a nutmeg over the top of this.

Because of the tremendous amount of juice that tends to bubble out of this one, I like to use a lattice crust. To make this is very simple. Roll your pastry dough out until it is around 1/8" of an inch thick and then with a very sharp knife cut it into 1/2" strips. Lay a row of strips across the pie leaving enough room for a second row between strips. Put the first cross strip down, fold the bottom strips gently back over this, lay in your second row, lay down a cross strip. Now repeat that until the pie is covered. All you have to do is fold back the strips on the bottom of each cross strip that you lay down. Trim off the edges of the strips, moisten the ends with a little water (or lemon juice, doesn't matter) tuck them under the bottom shell and crimp. Cover the whole thing loosely and refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the pastry to relax.

Preheat the oven to 425° with your rack and a lightly greased foil covered baking stone on the bottom rung. The foil is to protect the stone and the bottom of your oven from any bubbling spillover. It is especially going to happen if you are using fresh berries. You don't want to be faced with trying to blast this off your baking stone or the bottom of your oven. Small precautions taken now will save you tons of nasty work later.

Right before you put this in the oven sprinkle the top crust very lightly with the half and half mix of baker's and powdered sugar. This will carmelize on the top of the crust and work as a clotting factor to help control bubbleovers. Set the pie directly on top of the stone and bake for 30 minutes (45 minutes is what you'll need if using frozen berries but you'll need to check it after 30 anyway)
After 30 minutes put a foil ring around the edge of the pie to ensure even browning. Then, check every five or so minutes. What you want to see is a deep golden brown crust and a thickly bubbling filling. I must caution you when you take this out of the oven to not dip your finger in one of the little bubbleovers! It will stick and burn worse than napalm. (go ahead think about why I feel such a need to tell you this, then giggle at me and move on)

Cool on a rack at least 4 hours before serving with your favorite ice cream or dollops of freshly whipped cream.

harp and sword

Power Run Amuck

by: Debra

Now when you hear the phrase "he's on an FBI watchlist", you realize it means absolutely nothing since it seems that everybody and their brother can be on any one of numerous lists for any reason. Once on, it requires the act of some deity to be removed. Almost half a million people. And counting.
The 80 TIDE analysts get "thousands of messages a day," Travers said, much of the data "fragmentary," "inconsistent" and "sometimes just flat-out wrong." Often the analysts go back to the intelligence agencies for details. "Sometimes you'll get sort of corroborating information," he said, "but many times you're not going to get much. What we use here, rightly or wrongly, is a reasonable-suspicion standard."
Why does that not give me comfort? Maybe because the New York police spent so much time, money and manpower tracking innocent Americans who planned to protest at the Republican Natiional Convention.
From Albuquerque to Montreal, San Francisco to Miami, undercover New York police officers attended meetings of political groups, posing as sympathizers or fellow activists, the records show.

They made friends, shared meals, swapped e-mail messages and then filed daily reports with the department’s Intelligence Division. Other investigators mined Internet sites and chat rooms.

From these operations, run by the department’s “R.N.C. Intelligence Squad,” the police identified a handful of groups and individuals who expressed interest in creating havoc during the convention, as well as some who used Web sites to urge or predict violence.

But potential troublemakers were hardly the only ones to end up in the files. In hundreds of reports stamped “N.Y.P.D. Secret,” the Intelligence Division chronicled the views and plans of people who had no apparent intention of breaking the law, the records show.

These included members of street theater companies, church groups and antiwar organizations, as well as environmentalists and people opposed to the death penalty, globalization and other government policies. Three New York City elected officials were cited in the reports.
Those officials made the mistake of endorsing a Martin Luther King day event, which is how they got on the list. The oversight committee consists of a high (!) police official who must determine that there is at least an indication of illegal activity, which in this case was the date and an event that was cosponsored by several charities that included some of them turban people. Like it is every year. Common sense was obviously never considered but profiling was.

Well, what happens to all this information?
By searching the Internet, investigators identified groups that were making plans for demonstrations. Files were created on their political causes, the criminal records, if any, of the people involved and any plans for civil disobedience or disruptive tactics.

From the field, undercover officers filed daily accounts of their observations on forms known as DD5s that called for descriptions of the gatherings, the leaders and participants, and the groups’ plans.

Inside the police Intelligence Division, daily reports from both the field and the Web were summarized in bullet format. These digests — marked “Secret” — were circulated weekly under the heading “Key Findings.”
Hmm, circulated? We all know that once it gets into one report, it finds its way on to others, such as one of the aforementioned lists that the Washington Post mentioned.
President Bush ordered the intelligence community in 2003 to centralize data on terrorism suspects, and U.S. agencies at home and abroad now send everything they collect to TIDE. It arrives electronically as names to be added or as additional information about people already in the system.
We know from earlier in the article how some of it is processed.
Every night at 10, TIDE dumps an unclassified version of that day's harvest -- names, dates of birth, countries of origin and passport information -- into a database belonging to the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center. TIDE's most sensitive information is not included. The FBI adds data about U.S. suspects with no international ties for a combined daily total of 1,000 to 1,500 new names.
Whew! I feel safer already, don't you? Is human nature so predictable that a man who's been dead for sixteen years (my dad) correctly foresaw the rise of a police state? And that the populace would sit back quietly and let it happen? No wonder people believe that Nostradamus stuff.

Fight or flight? That's the question, though I might have to walk if I'm on one of the many lists.

Debsweb
24 March 2007

Shit Happens

by: blackdog

Latest update on my mom who is atempting to recover in hospital after a bad fall where she fractured her skull and had several sub-dural hematomas that had to be removed surgically. I am not hopeful for her revovery now since it seems that her ability to speak is severely overcome, she is 80 years old. I had always hoped that the demise of my parents would be less traumatic, but that grace seems to be denighed me.

Accidents happen so quickly and can have enormous consequences, for several people, not all of them in the immediate family.

I may be away for a few weeks as I attempt to rehabilitate my mom. For what I'm not sure. I could sure use some good words of wisdom from fellow BBB folk. Tonight I'm more than blue.

When I was a little squirt she would sing "here come the pink and blue fairies" Even with the measels or whatever, I felt better. I love her and I am worried.

Environmental Nightmare

by: Missouri Mule

This weekend marks the anniversary of the Valdez oil spill. On March 29, 1989 at four minutes past midnight the oil tanker Exxon Valdez struck a reef in Alaska's spectacular Prince William Sound. 11 million gallons of crude oil was spilled. An environmental nightmare began that would not only change Prince William Sound but the world. They'd like us all to forget. Let's not, okay?

Gotcha, Alberto

by: Foiled Goil

"Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!"
~Sir Walter Scott
Marmion, Canto vi. Stanza 17
"I knew my chief of staff was involved in the process of determining who were the weak performers where were the districts around the country where we could do better for the people in that district, and that's what I knew."

"But that is in essence what I knew about the process; was not involved in seeing any memos, was not involved in any discussions about what was going on. That's basically what I knew as the attorney general."

"I accept responsibility for everything that happens here within this department. But when you have 110,000 people working in the department, obviously there are going to be decisions that I'm not aware of in real time. Many decisions are delegated."

~Alberto Gonzales
March 13, 2007
Documents Show Gonzales Approved Firings

Last week, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said he was not involved in any discussions about the impending dismissals of U.S. attorneys.

On Friday night, however, the Justice Department revealed Gonzales' participation in a Nov. 27 meeting where such plans were discussed. [snip]

The five-step plan approved by Gonzales involved notifying Republican home-state senators of the impending dismissals, preparing for potential political upheaval, naming replacements and submitting them to the Senate for confirmation.

Six of the eight prosecutors who were ultimately ordered to resign are named in the plan.

The department released more than 280 documents Friday night, including e-mails, calendar pages and memos to try to satisfy Congress' demands for details on how the firings were handled and whether they were politically motivated. [snip]

Nonetheless Democrats pounced late Friday.
"Clearly the attorney general was not telling the whole truth, but what is he trying to hide?" said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
"If the facts bear out that Attorney General Gonzales knew much more about the plan than he has previously admitted, then he can no longer serve as attorney general," said Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, who is heading the Senate's investigation into the firings.
Added House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers:

"This puts the attorney general front and center in these matters, contrary to information that had previously been provided to the public and Congress."
Josh Marshall at TPM says:
Now we know with crystal clear proof what we really already knew a week ago: that Alberto Gonzales was lying about his role in the US Attorney Purge. So add that to the list of all the other things he's lied about.
This isn't about the AG's lies. It's not about the attempted cover-up. It's not about executive privilege and investigative process mumbojumbo.

This is about using US Attorneys to damage Democrats and protect Republicans, using the Department of Justice as a partisan cudgel in the war for national political dominance. All the secrecy and lies, the blundering and covering-up stems from this one central fact.
"A liar should have a good memory."
~Quintilian (Marcus Fabius Quintilianus)
De Institutione Oratoria
23 March 2007

Republic LOL Hypocrisy

by: Foiled Goil

Rubber-Stamping, Bush-Enabling, Foley-Protecting Hypocrites

by Bob Geiger

The Republican National Committee (RNC) on Wednesday sent an e-mail to its followers containing a personal message from Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL), the Republican Party General Chairman, and it was chock-full of unintentionally funny items.
"I have said that it is irresponsible to pronounce judgment on the replacement of the U.S. Attorneys before we have the facts. Unfortunately, some would prefer to make political pronouncements instead of getting the facts," says the e-mail, attributed to Martinez.
Now that's just hilarious coming from the same people who dogged Bill Clinton from the moment he entered the White House and looked for every reason possible to investigate him in ways that went way beyond pronouncing early judgment. Hell, I've got twenty bucks that says at some point in Clinton's presidency, Republican subpoenas forced him to produce high-school classmates who could vouch for his whereabouts on the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
"There is no question that U.S. attorneys, like all political appointees, serve at the pleasure of the President. That was true when Bill Clinton's Justice Department replaced all 93 U.S. attorneys, and it remains true today," writes Martinez. "The Democrats may feign outrage to distract from their discord on the serious issues our nation faces, but sooner or later they will have to face the real responsibilities of governing."
Martinez is totally misleading the RNC's lemming-like constituents by implying that the routine turnover of U.S. Attorneys when a president assumes office is the same as the political firings of select Attorneys in the middle of Bush's term. It's the good old GOP mislead-and-distract strategy... Hey, I guess you stick with what got you where you are, right?

It's also beyond hypocritical for a charter member of the do-nothing, rubber-stamping Republican Congress of the last few years to be lecturing Democrats on facing "the real responsibilities of governing." The country went straight into the toilet while Congressional Republicans were working abbreviated work weeks and sanctioning every lie and idiot scheme to come out of the White House and they now have the nerve to talk to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid about the "responsibilities of governing."

The only thing that crew did for oversight in the last Congress was make sure they covered for Republican Congressman Mark Foley as he turned the Capitol Hill computer network into PullDownYourPants.com.

Although, I have to admit, the cynical calculations of Martinez and the RNC are probably accurate: That most of the people getting e-mails from them and donating money to the Republicans have their glazed eyes pointed at Fox News most of the time and are too stupid to realize what nonsense they have just read.

But Martinez had the funniest line of all at the very beginning of the e-mail message:
"Alberto Gonzales is a man of integrity and high ethical standards."
Stop, Mel. You're killin' me!
22 March 2007

Shoo-Fly Pie

by: Minstrel Boy

For most of this week my place has been totally infested with kids. I love it. My niece and nephew have had the week off from school while both of their parents are at work and they have been spending the days with me. Today my nephew had a couple of his buddies over and my niece had about half of her soccer team. Being a good and doting uncle I pretty much let them have the run of the place. My niece wanted to do some more baking so we went to "The Pie and Pastry Bible" and found this. I was inspired to look for it from the comments left on Shaker Lemon Pie and, sure enough, there was a great looking recipe.

Another thing I've started doing is keeping a canister of pastry flour made up and ready to go. This makes a big difference in the texture and flakiness of the crusts. Trust me, when you're talking about pie crusts, texture and flakiness are the whole game.

Ingredients for Pastry Flour

4 cups bleached all purpose flour
2 1/4 cups cake flour




Make a half recipe of the cream cheese pie crust from the Shaker Lemon Pie for the bottom shell of the pie. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before using.

This is also a great time to teach the kids that great old Dinah Shore song.

If you wanna do right by your appetite,
If you're fussy about your food,
Take a choo-choo today, head new england way,
And we'll put you in the happiest mood. with:
Shoo fly pie and apple pan dowdy
Makes your eyes light up,
Your tummy say "howdy."
Shoo fly pie and apple pan dowdy
I never get enough of that wonderful stuff.
Shoo fly pie and apple pan dowdy makes the sun come out
When heavens are cloudy,
Shoo fly pie and apple pan dowdy,
I never get enough of that wonderful stuff!
Mama! when you bake,
Mama! i don't want cake;
Mama! for my sake
Go to the oven and make some ever lovin' sh,
Shoo fly pie and apple pan dowdy
Makes your eyes light up,
Your tummy say "howdy,"
Shoo fly pie and apple pan dowdy
I never get enough of that wonderful stuff!


Pie Ingredients

1 teaspoon Medaglia d'Oro® instant espresso powder
3/4 cup boiling water (if you have an espresso maker you can substitute 3/4 cup of made espresso coffee)
1 1/4 cups bleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup baker's sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1" pieces and chilled
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 dark unsulphured molasses (I use Brer Rabbitt® )
***HINT TIME*** if you lightly grease the inside of your liquid measuring cup before you measure the molasses you will be able to get the full measure into your recipe and will have a much easier cleanup later.


Take the pie crust disc from the refrigerator, allow it to come to room temperature for about 10 minutes for easy rolling. Roll it out to make at least a 13" circle. Transfer that to a 9" pie pan fold the excess under and crimp with a fork. Cover the shell loosely and return to the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 425° with the oven rack and a baking stone on the lowest rung.

In a small mixing bowl mix up the instant espresso, or if using made espresso put that in. You want the end result of either method to be warm, not hot.

In a food processor with the metal blade, process the flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt for a few minutes to mix well. Add the butter and pulse mix until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.

In the small mixing bowl dissolve the the baking soda and the molasses into the warm espresso. Pour this into the pie shell.

Take the flour mixture and sprinkle this evenly into the molasses mix. At first, it will just sink in but there will begin to be a fine layer of the crumbs across the top.

Bake for 15 minutes and reduce the oven temperature to 350°, protect the rim of the pie with a foil ring to prevent overbrowning and continue to bake for another 30 minutes, until the top springs back when pressed lightly in the center.

Cool on a rack and serve warm with coffee ice cream or coffee whipped cream (make your normal whipped cream but toss in a tablespoon of the instant espresso powder)

The kids went totally apeshit over this one. It made the entire house smell marvelous. During the baking and cooling process every single kid in the house came by at one point or another and asked when they would be ready. I would tell them "twenty minutes or so" and they would instantly check the clock.

The traditional Pennsylvania Dutch way to serve this is for breakfast. I'm a big time pie for breakfast guy. I don't think that the two I made today will survive that long. I'm going to the Sun's game later tonight and once my son and his girlfriend are done with their teen age raid I don't expect to find much left for the morning.

Shoo fly pie, and apple pan dowdy. . .

makes your eyes light up and your tummy say "howdy"

so who is Phil de Vellis?

by: astraea

Man Behind the Clinton Clip Worked for Obama's Net Strategists - washingtonpost.com:
"Phil de Vellis "

("Friend of the devil."*)

And wow, WaPo, nice misleading cast-of-dispersion-on-Obama choice of titles in a story where Vellis says he worked alone. ("We're just good friends," you're supposed to think.)

Reminds me of the Bush debate tapes that were send to Gore headquarters in 2000. Use them and you'd be exposed; expose them and people still think you're guilty.

Why am I reminded of this? I googled Phil de Vellis. (Oh, the places he's been.) But it was this bit during the Ohio campaign:

Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Phil De Vellis Throws Credibility Into the Blender, Blender Wins: Take 2 at blog psychobilly democrat.

Go read, and note:

[...] Okay, this time it's about Phil, really. Seems that hit piece might not have been a Brown plant, but that didn't stop the Grow Ohio dream team from seeing a golden opportunity to engage the blogosphere, something Phil promised PBD back in December. (For historical record, Phil emailed us 5 times in 4 days to start with a flourish, but has since emailed precisely zero times since December 20th.)

But folks, Phil engaged the right-wing blogs yesterday,according to the link provided at BSB. [...]
There's also a link in case righties in Phil's address book can't cut and paste from email, or prefer to do it from the internet.

I find it downright head scratching that Phil has time to compile emails of rightwing bloggers, but can't email people on his side. I guess were supposed to use that community activist blog, Grow Ohio. Also puzzling that the Brown campaign has plowed money into a web operation that has repeatedly smashed its hand in the car door. Phil's lastest outreach: clipping service for rightwing bloggers. FANtastic. [...]


Seems Phil likes attention, outing himself as creator as Hillary-You-Tube hits the bigtime. And now he's working for Obama? Associating Obama's name with this take down of Hillary?

Cloak and dagger machinations, spy vs. spy. Who knows who works for who? It's the stuff we've gotten used to on the internet. It's called trolling, yes?
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
(* Velis, devil, latvian, - 'the soul of a dead; the living dead', with variant forms like vels, vellis allowing for that.)


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


xposted at moon'sfavors
21 March 2007

The Hidden Scandal Within the Prosecutor Purge

by: Shakespeares Sister

Written and researched by Joseph Hughes of Hughes for America and Melissa McEwan of Shakespeare's Sister

Between the thousand-page document dumps, somewhat rejuvenated press corps and always up-to-the-second reporting from the progressive blogosphere, the prosecutor purge scandal is exploding at a seemingly exponential rate. Every hour, the story grows in new and different directions, and now clearly threatens the job security of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and others in the Department of Justice. Further, it now appears as though the scandal's tentacles reach into the uppermost echelons of the Bush White House, including, as recent administration controversies almost always do, Karl Rove. While the endgame of this saga is far from decided, what is already apparent is that a vital facet of the story - the administration's seeming unwillingness to comply with both the law and a fundamental cornerstone of our American system - is in danger of being lost in the shuffle of the overarching stampede. And, if we can no longer expect our government's top officials - including the top official, the president - to obey the law and adhere to the bedrock standard of open government, then the questions about whether or not we still live in a democracy are no longer so far-fetched.

Here, in concise a listing as possible, is what we now know:

more...
20 March 2007

the uncontained war

by: astraea

This month's Harpers has some of Brzezinski's remarks at the Feb. Senate Foreign Relation's Committee hearing ... here's an excerpt:

[...] most Muslims are not embracing Islamic fundamentalism. Al Qaeda is an isolated Islamist aberration, and most Iraqis are engaged in strife because of the American occupation, which destroyed the Iraqi state, while Iran, through gaining in regional influence, is itself politically divided, economically and militarily weak. To argue that America is already at war in a region with a wider Islamic threat of which Iran is the epicenter is to promote a self-fulfilling prophecy.
[...]
The painful reality is that much of this current IrIraqi regime, characterized by the administration as representative of the Iraqi people, defines itself largely by its physical location: the four-square-mile U.S. fortress within Baghdad, protected in places fifteen feet think, manned by heavily armed U.S. military, popularly known as the Green Zone.
[...]
I think our policy has unintentionally -- I hope unintentionally; maybe it was devilishly clever, but I think unintentionally -- helped Ahmadinejad consolidate himself in power and exercise a degree of influence that his position doesn't actually justify. Most Americans, when they say President Ahmadinejad, think he's the equivalent of President Bush. He's not. He's roughly a third level official who doesn't even control the military resources of the country...



An Op-Ed re his book, Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crises of American Superpower:

Brzezinski gets a second chance, offering Obama his first The Daily Star - Opinion Articles

[...] Brzezinski's real focus is the "catastrophic leadership" of the current president. Regular talk show watchers know Brzezinski's views, but he lays them out here in blistering language: The war in Iraq "has caused calamitous damage to America's global standing," "has been a geopolitical disaster" and "has increased the terrorist threat to the United States." By Brzezinski's account, what drove Bush's presidency so far off course was a combination of sunny "End of History" optimism about America's ability to impose its values with a "Clash of Civilizations" gloom about the threat posed by Muslim enemies.

The most intriguing part of Brzezinski's book is what I would describe as the Obama manifesto. (He doesn't call it that, but I don't think he would quarrel with that characterization, either.) Brzezinski argues that the world today is undergoing a "global political awakening," which is apparent in radically different forms from Iraq to Indonesia, from Bolivia to Tibet. Though America has focused on its notion of what people want (democracy and the wealth created by free trade and open markets), Brzezinski points in a different direction: It's about dignity.

"The worldwide yearning for human dignity is the central challenge inherent in the phenomenon of global political awakening," he argues. His worry is that America - enfeebled by "material self-indulgence, persistent social shortcomings, and public ignorance about the world" - may not get it.

The next president, Brzezinski writes, will need "an instinctive grasp of the spirit of the times in a world that is stirring, interactive, and motivated by a vague but pervasive sense of prevailing injustice in the human condition." Is that person Barack Obama? It's impossible to know. The man is still largely a blank slate. But Brzezinski has described the challenge of future American leadership with unusual clarity. If we don't pick a leader with these qualities, Brzezinski warns that we will miss our second and perhaps last chance....


Mix this with Juan Cole's notes today:

Iraqi Public Wants US Troops Out within a Year

Sunni Parliamentarian Accused of Links to Bombers


linkA poll of Iraqis commission by USA Today and several other news organizations revealed that:

"In all, 83% of Shiites and 97% of Sunni Arabs oppose the presence of coalition forces in Iraq; 75% of Kurds support them. By more than 3 to 1, Iraqis say the presence of U.S. forces is making the security situation worse."


They want the US out, but only 35% want the troops to leave immediately. The time frame for most of the others is six months to a year. There are hardly any Iraqis who want US troops in their country past August, 2008. I.e., the Iraqis would have voted for the Democrats' plan, which the Republicans shot down in the Senate.

In other results, 40% of Shiites want a theocracy governed by Islamic law and 58% of Sunnis want rule by strongman. Even among Kurds, 34% reject democracy. There may not be a majority for democracy any more.

Nearly half of Shiites and Kurds expect either a soft or a hard partition on ethnic and religious lines.

The USA Today et al. poll results are available here in pdf format.

A poll by the British Opinion Research Business organization gave strikingly different results on some issues.

One difference is that the USA Today et al. poll explicitly includes over-samples from al-Anbar Province, Kirkuk, Sadr City and Basra. Someone expert in polls should explain the divergence and why different methods were chosen and were thought appropriate. more...

-------------

The Green Zone manipulation. Walls. (And Hillary: you've stood before a wall and lauded it. This is no answer to the Palestinian question. You have to answer for this before I can support you.) Lies that lead us to war. The worn-out thinking of Imperialism that will only lead us to more war. What does it spell out, except that is exactly what Bush wants.

Meanwhile FOX NEWS is obsessing on the You Tube take-down of Hillary -- all as planned. It's so damn Freeperish:
Strength through unity, Unity through faith. We've had enough of of that dying age...



xpost robot sex, moon's favors
19 March 2007

And The Winner Is (in case you forgot for the copy of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Infidel)

by: Minstrel Boy

Stephen! He entered over at el rancho harpo and he completely held to the spirit of the contest.

Blackdog, you were a very close second. I would have most likely insisted that you read the book and pass it on to your sister. As a matter of fact, let's do it that way. Email me your shipping information and I'll send you a copy. You read it, then give it to your sister. Deal?

One of these days I'm going to figure out how to do this and not give away three or four times as many prizes as I anticipated. Then again, maybe not.
18 March 2007

the 300

by: astraea

when white horse day
held down all the earth
brilliant to see...
~Aeschylus's Persians -- lines 386-388, emc trans



Carole writes:

Subject: fresh back from Sparta


Just got back - it's actually not bad - although it would probably set L's teeth on edge - but, lucky me, I'm not all that steeped in that particular history - so I enjoyed it.

Lots of female nudity, and LOTS of gore - explicit gore - and some explicit sex -the majority with a married couple (which is odd for movies these days). The Spartans are all hunks in black spandex underwear - why they left out the armor is beyond me - maybe it was July and really hot.

And it turns out the stegosaurus are rhinos which I now have to find out if the Persians really brought along their rhinos and elephants - it is possible but I have no idea.

There's several "monstrous" sort of people in it - deformed, unusually tall, etc, which may also be historically - again, no idea, but there seemed to be a lot of them, unless there was some chemical in the water there.

Jessie was delighted that the closeups of the Persian arrows showed them accurately- their arrows were made to be particularly lethal and non-removable.

Anyways- we are home from the battlefront, and now back to work.

Carole


Think I'll wait for the DVD... Don't want to be overstimulated, lady that I am. Read Rolling Stone's review here. Excerpt:
Spears, swords and other handy phallic symbols pierce skin with startling regularity, causing great gushes of cartoon blood that make it really sticky for guys to walk in sandals. And what guys! Decked out like gladiators in a gay fashion layout, the soldiers from the Greek city-state of Sparta look gym-ready for battle in crotch-squeezing ensembles that expose as much flesh as an R rating will allow.


But yes, suffice it to say it's likely more about our own time than Herodotus's (Perseus Link). He, Diodorus, and Aeschylus are our main sources for this adventure. And they were playing to their own time, too.


The Persian Version

Truth-loving Persians do not dwell upon
The trivial skirmish fought near Marathon.
As for the Greek theatrical tradition
Which represents that summer's expedition
Not as a mere reconnaisance in force
By three brigades of foot and one of horse
(Their left flank covered by some obsolete
Light craft detached from the main Persian fleet)
But as a grandiose, ill-starred attempt
To conquer Greece - they treat it with contempt;
And only incidentally refute
Major Greek claims, by stressing what repute
The Persian monarch and the Persian nation
Won by this salutary demonstration:
Despite a strong defence and adverse weather
All arms combined magnificently together.
-- Robert Graves

******

emc writes:

Here are some of the translations about the aggressive activities of the sun in Aeschylus' "Persians."

Lines 364-65, framing Xerxes' directions to his admirals:

"When the sun ceases to burn the earth with its rays, and blackness seizes the temenos of the sky . . ."

The description of the Greek activities preparing for naval battle is also framed by the presence of the sun's comings and goings.

Lines 375-94

And not in a disorderly manner (akosmos--adverb) but with obedient hearts (phrenes) each sailor was preparing his dinner, and each sailor fastened the oar handle to the pin, well-fitted to the oar. And when the sun disappeared and night came on, each man the king of his oar departed into the ship, and every man who was master of his weapons; and one row called to the other row down the length of the ship, and they sailed as each had been commanded.
And all night long the lords of the ships kept the whole nautical host sailing continually... And night began to leave, and the Greek army did not attempt furtive escape in any way. And when white-horse sun, brilliant to see, held down all the earth, first the cry from the Greek side of good omen sounded like a song, and immediately the echo sounded back from the island rocks. And there was fear among all the barbarians, having been mistaken in their judgment. For it was not in flight that the Greeks were then singing the sacred paean, but they were rushing into battle with courage and confidence . . .

The sun's destruction of Xerxes' fragmented host fleeing back to Asia.
Lines 502-07.

Whoever rushed out before the rays of the god dispersed has been saved. For the bright orb of the sun, burning with its rays, went through the middle of the passage, heating it with its flames. And they fell upon eachother; and whoever the breath of life broke from most quickly was fortunate.

*********
see also Thermopylae: The Battle That Changed the World
*********

"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)

xpost at moon's favors

Shaker Lemon Pie

by: Minstrel Boy

I got a wonderful gift from oddjob this week. It's "The Pie and Pastry Bible" by Rose Levy Beranbaum. It is a beautiful volume. She takes great care to explain the science and reasoning behind her techniques. She also gives weight measurements in her recipes, which, when dealing with things like flour is very important. Understanding the process, the reactions and interactions of the ingredients can make a huge difference in successful cooking.

So, yesterday I'm idling around the house. Half watching the NCAA tournament and half beginning to stress out over the St. Patrick's Day performance I let myself get bullied into. So, there I am, leafing through this gorgeous cookbook when this recipe catches my eye. For those of you who are not regular readers of Shakespeare's Sister then I must explain that the term she uses to describe the regular readers and commenters there is "Shakers." So, when I normally am talking about Shakers I'm not talking about the 19th century cult that pretty much doomed itself with a commitment to celibacy, I'm talking about denizens of a delightful progressive blog.

I'm reading through the ingredients, and there, right outside my window I see my neighbor's Meyer Lemon tree heavy with fruit. I don't know about anyone else, but lately I've been trying not to argue with the happy confluence of events.

I decide to distract myself from fretting over the show by cooking. I send MedschoolGirl and her buddy Aruna next door with a bucket to cadge some lemons from the neighbors (they know they will get their issue of any good products coming out of their donation to the cause).

Just like the book suggests I divide the cooking of this pie over the course of two days.

In honor of the original Shakers, I was humming Simple Gifts.

Tis a gift to be simple
Tis a gift to be free
Tis a gift to come down where you ought to be

And when you find yourself
In the place that is right
It will be in the valley
Of love and delight

For when true simplicity is gained
To bow and to bend
We shan't be ashamed
To turn and turn
Will be our delight
Till by turning, turning
We come round right

Tis a gift to be simple
Tis a gift to be free
For the proud are cast down
Deeper than the sea
The first shall be last
And the last shall be first
And the meek shall inherit
All of God's earth

For when true. . . "


Which, come to think of it, is an excellent reminder to not overcomplicate this recipe.

Day one tasks

Make crust dough
Slice and macerate lemons.

Crust Ingedients

12 tablespoons unsalted butter (cold)
2 cups unbleached flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
4 1/2 ounces cream cheese (cold)
2 tablespoons ice water
1 tablespoon chilled apple cider vinegar


Cut the butter into small (3/4" ) cubes. Wrap in plastic and freeze until frozen solid, at least 30 minutes. Place the flour, salt, and baking powder in a reclosable gallon-size freezer bag and freeze that for at least 30 minutes.

Put the flour mixture in the food processor with the metal blade attachment and pulse a couple of times to mix the dry ingredients well and bust up and little nuggets that might have formed in the freezer. Save the bag.

Cut the cream cheese into three or four pieces and add to the flour. Pulse mix it until it resembles a coarse meal. Add the frozen butter cubes and pulse until none of the butter chunks are larger than the size of a pea. (you can root around with an ice tea spoon to thoroughly check this) Add the water and the vinager. Pulse that until most of the butter is reduced to the size of small peas. This will be a loose mix of particles and will not hold together on its own. Divide this in half. Put one half into the plastic bag you saved. While in the bag, knead this mixture from the outside by alternately pressing it with the heel of your hand and the knuckles, until the mixture holds together in one piece and feels stretchy and elastic when pulled. Wrap in plastic wrap, flatten it into a disc and refrigerate overnight. (do this with both halves of the dough)
(aside to the audience, this is, as of today my favorite pie crust, it combines a delicious flavor, is tender to the mouth but strong enough to hold the ingredients, and it is flakey )

Macerated lemons

2 Large Meyer Lemons, rinsed and lightly scrubbed
2 cups baker's sugar


Cut the lemons in half lengthwise. Slice off the ends to just where pith ends and the pulp begins, save that for twists of lemon in your espresso, or put it aside to dry, or just fucking throw it out if you're a lazy, wasteful git. With a very sharp, thin blade knife slice paper thin. Communion wafer thin. Translucent thin. Collecting all the juice while you do this, but picking out and discarding the seeds. Do this until you have two cups of lemon slices.

In a medium bowl (non-reactive of course), stir together gently the lemon slices, the juices you collected and the sugar. Set this aside, closely covered with plastic wrap at room temperature until the next day.

Day 2

Roll out the crust
Assemble the filling.

Remove the bottom crust (just so you won't stand there trying to remember shit, the bottom crust is the one you take out first) from the refrigerator, allow it to sit for 10 minutes or until it is soft enough to roll without cracking.

On a floured pastry cloth, or if you're a barbarian and don't have a treasured pastry cloth use two sheets of lightly floured plastic wrap, roll the bottom crust out 1/8" thick or less, but large enough to cut out a 12" circle. Transfer the circle to a pie pan and trim off almost even with the edge of the pan. Cover this closely with plastic wrap and return it to the refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes.

In a small mixing bowl beat 4 large eggs plus one yolk until they are well mixed and lemon colored. Stir this into the macerated lemons. Transfer this to the pie shell.

Roll out the top crust large enough to cut another 12" circle. Moisten the edges of the bottom crust with water and place the top crust over the fruit. Tuck the overhang under the bottom crust border and press down all the way around the rim to seal it. Crimp a border with a fork. Make a star of five two inch slashes with the inside edge of each slash about 1" from the center of the pie. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 1 hour before baking to chill and relax the pastry. This will maintain flakiness (in pie crust flakey is fucking king) and help to keep the crust from shrinking.

Heat oven to 450° with a baking stone or heavy baking sheet on the bottom rack on the bottom slot. Heat this for at least 20 minutes before beginning to bake the pie to ensure that your baking stone is hot all the way through.

Set the pie directly on the baking stone and bake for 15 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350° and continue baking for another 30 minutes. At this point a knife blade inserted into one of the slashes should come out fairly clean and the crust should be a beautiful golden brown. You can shield the edges of the pie with foil if you see it beginning to brown unevenly.

Cool on a baking rack at least two hours (or, like me, wait 90 minutes until you just can't stand it any more)

The maceration process with the lemons and the sugar candies the peels so they provide a slightly bitter counterpoint to the sweet/sour action.

This is a great pie. Thanks again Oddjob.






Damn Angry

by: Foiled Goil

Damn Right, We're Angry

by Paul Waldman
We can't deny it any longer. There's no point in hiding it, no point in trying to explain it away. Yes, it's true: We progressives are angry. And we no longer care if the centrist, moderate guardians of the establishment scold us for it.

Our anger is not just some vague feeling whose source we can't put our finger on. It isn't based on absurd conspiracy theories and it isn't illogical.

We're angry because of what has happened to our country, because of how we’ve been treated, and because of the innumerable crimes the conservatives have committed. We're angry at the president, we're angry at the Congress, we're angry at the news media. And we have every right to be.
[Read the entire article HERE.]
But you know what? There’s nothing wrong with being angry. Anger is the appropriate reaction to moral outrages, to crimes against our common humanity, to the actions of those who would turn our country into something twisted and ugly.

We're angry because we love America, and we care about the fate of its citizens, and we know right from wrong. And we refuse to be cowed by the bullies and the authoritarians and the hate-mongers and the liars and the hypocrites.

1983-2007 | R.I.P. Platinum Card

by: Konagod

I've been a "member" and carried a "Card" from a certain credit card company since 1983. That dates back to when I was a status symbol-obsessed youth. Since that time I have been accruing points on every purchase and never used them. I treat it like a savings account of sorts. If I ever wanted to take a free trip, the points are there. I had about 328,000 points as of this morning. That's good for quite a few trips! Too bad I never fly. I don't even like to be in close proximity to an airport.

Several years ago, probably more like 12 or 15, I was "invited" to upgrade to a Platinum card. This was before every other institution began issuing Platinum VISA cards out the ying-yang. I felt like I was part of an elite class; I felt special. Now I just feel rather stupid for playing along.

I've toyed with the idea of dumping the Card for the past couple of years. By the time I hit the bottom financially in early January I had decided to cancel my membership in this elite club when my next membership fee comes due in September. I already cancelled txrad's card in February.

Keep in mind, this Platinum card isn't cheap. It does come with some nice amenities for those with the finances to use them. A free companion ticket on certain overseas flights for business and first class flights is quite a perk. One such trip a year would offset the $395 annual membership fee for several years. But how many such trips have I taken? Zero.

After I found lucrative work again at the end of January, and txrad began working again last week, it had crossed my mind that perhaps I could hang on to my beloved Card now. I don't know why I have this completely irrational emotional attachment to a piece of plastic, and the tyrants behind it. (Ever been late with a payment to those folks?)

A letter I received this week from the Centurion has sealed the decision. I may have a job, and life may be grand again, but I have not forgotten how easy it is for situations to change, to go from rolling in the dough one day to wondering how we're going to feed the cats a week later. I'm enjoying being frugal, and honestly, I got over the Platinum status symbol honeymoon at least a decade ago.

The Centurion has informed me that my membership fee will be increasing to $450 this year. Umm, no it won't. And so, the Centurion has forced me to begin a shopping spree. Now I'm having fun.

This Creative Zen Vision:M 30 GB MP3 and Video Player is on the way. And yes, in GREEN. Why the hell not? I'm Irish! And I can start doing a Friday Random 10.


288,000 points remain. More shopping to be done.

Crossposted at konagod

boundless healing

by: astraea

These last years. This war, this loss. The divisiveness. The lies. Please: don't let it take you.

I want to share something. This past Halloween, I had a partial nephrectomy (lap) which showed a Fuhrman grade 2 cancer with no evidence of spreading. It was found incidentally after first being noted last year on a cat scan and brushed off as nothing -- a likely shadow -- by local docs.

So it was all very lucky, a chance second-chance, when they noted it again in Baltimore as they were treating me for something else. Seeing it for what it was, they got it early, which is good, because there is no treatment for kidney cancer except surgery. They told me they'd see me in a year for a repeat scan and gave my odds of recurrence as <5%.

This wasn't my first surgery. At 23 I was at Georgetown, presenting as the picture of health with a rising wbc and a pain in my gut. When they decided to go in, they found an infection in my ascending colon -- which had already ruptured. My goodness, were they surprised. Thus -- when they hear hoof beats, I'm used to being the unexpected unicorn.

My questions now are the sort that nag, things you wouldn't think of normally. If a tumor metastasizes, is it readily identifiable as arising from the kidney? I have bone on bone arthritis of one knee. (An old injury -- I ignored it and kept pushing. Invincible youth.) Of course, I worry that it's cancer. I now begin to worry that every ache and pain is cancer. After coping so well initially, I find myself sinking and afraid, reading stats. So I step back, taking to heart what a dear friend wrote me this morning. I share it because I think it's good advice for all.

___________________

One thought that does spring to mind is that if you keep your attention on where you feel you want to be you tend to head in that direction. If, on the other hand, you keep your attention on where you've been and on the down side of things, you'll tend to head more that way too.
As the Niguma quote sez, perceptions are not abandoned by discarding them or by getting embroiled in them, they are spontaneously freed when recognised as illusory. ALL of it is just display of our own awareness - how to say that properly so you'll know I'm not just sounding off? Everything that happens to each of us happens only to the one experiencing it. That's not it either. All we know about so-called reality is that it seems to be there but whenever we try to fix it - solidify it - it just slips away to being some other thing that equally seems to be there. When we let it be and let it just be whatever it is - illusion, real, dream, whatever - hope and fear dissolve and, with them, the blockages they bring. The universe is continual becoming. A river seems to be the same river, but in fact it's not: it's the continuous movement of water. Becoming is like a fountain, a pouring out out of energy display in ever pico-instant. We can modify this energy a little if we want to, but only by letting it go and striving toward what we see as good (trying to freeze it only creates ice)... It's like a mirror on one level: it reflects what you are putting out at it back at you: fear if fear, kindliness if kindliness, satisfaction if satisfaction... HOW we know is very important.
Tulku Thondup has a book called Boundless Healing which apparently now also has a CD going through the meditations in it (cf. here: http://www.tulkuthondup.com/books.htm) I think you'd be better off doing those than scaring yourself with "facts", me, personally...

Please don't take it amiss. I can't begin to tell you how precious you are. (Even if you do make me blush sometimes)

[...] Doesn't mean stop looking after yourself, taking your medication, being careful what you do and what you eat, but it does mean leaving behind a blacker past and consciously aiming for a better tomorrow... Live the result you intend. Be it. Like being the peace you would like to see.

As far as I know, it works. What "works" means, I can't tell you, but I would imagine it's something like lao-tze's, 'He who has enough is never satisfied/ He who is satisfied has enough'... You sap the sting, cut off the root... So it gets bored and buggers off.



.-_-.

--
If you don't understand that whatever appears is meditation,
What can you hope to achieve by applying an antidote?
Perceptions are not abandoned by discarding them
But are spontaneously freed when recognised as illusory.

Niguma

'Don't see how a country can produce such men as Robert E. Lee, John J. Pershing, Eisenhower and Bradley, and at the same time produce Custers, Pattons, and MacArthurs.' ~President Harry Truman

_________________
xpost at moons favors

Now Is the Time to ACT ON GLOBAL WARMING

by: astraea

Al Gore writes:
Help me send a message to Congress:
Now is the time to act on global warming.


I know from personal experience that the only thing that will make Washington really take notice and do something to solve the climate crisis is the prospect of millions of committed citizens taking action. It's time to join together and make that happen.

Sign the postcard to your representative demanding real action on global warming below and I’ll personally deliver it to Washington in March. I’ll keep you up to date on how things are going by email.


I added this:

What is more important to us than a safe place to live? Ignoring global warming is truly the same as supporting terrorism -- think about it. There are ways to wean ourselves from oil, now. It's up to you to take the leadership role. Isn't it why you first sought public office? If you haven't watched Who Killed the Electric Car yet, please do. In under two hours so many problems AND their solutions come clear. Strength! We can solve this.


A friend who has AOL keeps trying to fill out the card and it won't let her send it. She writes:

try going to the page yourself or finding another way into it.

Not only that, AOL crashes and tosses me out.

xx
ph


Is that happening to anyone else?

Deborah
xpost robot sex
17 March 2007

Why Programmers Drive People Nuts

by: Debra

A few days ago while trying to link to one of my own posts, I noticed that when I clicked on the title from the Dashboard or from Archives, that it would only show the most recent post. While the page was loading, you would see the post you asked for and then it would disappear and be replaced by the most current post.

Now, I bought this template for a whopping ten dollars because I like the idea of not having to reload the whole page every time one wanted to see a post. I was extremely pleased with it ...and then he updated it.

When I tried to load a post, it sucked up so much memory that the computer literally couldn't complete its task. And I don't even have Microsoft! No matter what I did, any posts older than a month were inaccessible except for a very time consuming method of clicking backward on an "older" link. This is my exchange with the designer.From March 6 when I first noticed it.
I don't know if it is a blogger problem or not, but the post feed is constantly updating and my comments aren't showing up. I don't get a whole lot of them, but I had just responded and then both disappeared. It happened yesterday also.

Is there a glitch somewhere? It worked great before the upgrade but it seems a little slower now. It could be my connection, but it's very strange.

Thanks
Then on March 12th, I started in earnest.

This has happened to me several times and today was extremely inconvenient. Whenever I try and only when I load one of my archives, Firefox hangs. It ties up 100% of my CPU. Firefox freezes in that I can't switch tabs. The title changes, but not the screen. The only way out is to quit and start again. I just lost a really long post that I was very proud of and am having difficulty recalling it.

Is there a glitch?
His reply.
I don't see why firefox would hang. But even if does, how can you lose a post by just viewing the archives?
My response and explanation.
Because if you can't change tabs, move the page up or down, if you are stuck on the page, you have to force quit, thereby losing all unsaved work. I was checking my archives for a post that I had written and couldn't get back to save my work. This has happened to me three times. and it only happens when I ask it to load a month. I asked it to load last November which had 45 posts and as I scrolled down the page, it froze. the mouse moved but had no effect on firefox, as I said before, the title of the tab will change but not the focus. Also, I'm trying right now to load a post through the edit posts page. I click on view, it loads the page, I see the post I'm looking for, for about two seconds and then it shows the current post. I cannot access individual posts.

I tried going in through the archives again, it was still loading from feeds.feedburner.com and www2.blogger.com, for over two minutes. The title I was looking for was near the top of the page, I clicked on the title, it loaded the post, for two seconds and flipped to the current post, again.

Do you think there is something wrong with the feeds? Also, would it be possible to just load the titles from the archives with the peekaboo option instead of the whole post? I was able to access old posts by going through the older link in the feeds post. It is the only way I've found so far. I don't really want to click back two years but that way does work.

No response so I sent this.
My readership has dropped tremendously in the last few days with only one page view. I opened it in Safari and have the same problems, plus sitemeter didn't record more than one page view, no matter how many I looked at. If people are unable to search my site, what good is it for me to maintain an archive? After all the hard work I've put into it, I would hate to take it down but I'm going to have no choice if this continues. This is very frustrating.
His response.

This is expected because page is not reloaded for every post with Neo, as I have told repeatedly in my blog. But, it doesn't mean that your readership has gone down. People may be reading several of your posts but without reloading the page. If you are highly concerned about the statistics and not the speed of your blog, you can revert back to your previous template. I will refund $10. let me know.
Now, I'm steamed. I was getting a lot of referrals for the Walter Reed stuff but nobody could access the posts because it was flipping to the most recent post. So I sent this.
It has to do with the fact that my archives could not be accessed. Period. As I said repeatedly. There was no way to access older posts except to go through your new "older" link. Most people aren't that savvy. I have wasted my whole day trying to repair the damage. I have taken the Neo template down. I had made some changes and am trying to convert my old template and having extreme difficulty.

And I knew the pages weren't reloaded for every post, that wasn't the issue. Whatever change you made on March 6, affected archive access.
This morning I received this.

I don't think you told me about this archives issue. there's no way neo could affect archives. did you add archives widget to Neo (it doesn't come with one by default)? anyways, if you don't like neo, you can go back to previous template.
This is my reply to that brilliant piece of customer service.
I don't appreciate being treated like an idiot. Of course I had Archives, I had labels, I had widgets, I had formatting, Ii had no problems until your update.

I've gone back to an older template, and I am not happy with the hours of work involved. I had better things to do than to try and fix something that wasn't broken until the update. If you had checked before I took it down, and gone through the steps below, you would have known what the problem was.

Thanks for the irritation.
The amount of work that I had to put in to recover the old template and fix the additions to bring it up to speed was tremendously time consuming. It isn't about the ten dollars, it's about someone avoiding responsibility and then being patronizing and insulting when the customer needs help.

I'm up and running again, albeit rather slowly in comparison to the Neo template. The lesson here being to do everything myself if I'm going to spend that kind of time tracking down errors. Now the question is, should I link to someone who treated me this way? I linked to him and have recommended him to several people already. I hope they are happier with the service than I am.

Debsweb
16 March 2007

Shut Up Tomato Gravy

by: Missouri Mule

Now, I"m fairly certain that all of us who've grown up in this country have, for as long as we can remember, heard the old saying, "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach." But as we all know, if their mamas can cook, you gotta give them more than biscuits and gravy and well, you know, to keep'em happy and at home where they belong. I read with interest the story of a foreign born housekeeper who was summarily discharged from her position when a concealed camera revealed that she was boiling her previously worn underwear in the master's soup pot. ( I can see how she may have gotten this idea: I mean, have you ever gone with a guy who didn't, at some point in the relationship, put your panties on his head? Why, oh why, do they do this? It should be on Unsolved Mysteries.) But back to our little cook.....ahhh, it didn't work out at all like she planned, and now she's out of a job with a pretty large black mark on the ole' resume.

I'd say you'd probably be better off getting fired for stealing the guy's car than for boiling your underwear in his soup. I'm just not seeing any way to spin this into something positive. For future reference, if you are giving serious consideration to an on-the-job activity equal to or greater than boiling your underwear in your boss's soup to make him love you, stop and ask yourself the Three P's. Is is possible? For example: Is there a man on the planet anywhere who would be rendered hot for you as a result of eating underwear soup? Is it prudent? I mean, really, is this guy even worth the risk of screwing up a whole pot of perfectly good soup and landing you in the unemployment and/or deportation line, plus dying all your underwear tomato red, which doesn't even look good on you anyway, and you can't afford to buy more because you ain't got a job?!? Is it proven? Do you know anybody who's had good results from this?

If you'll stop and go through this simple drill, I think you could make him a pot of stew without underwear, and you could serve it to him......also without underwear. I'm thinking he'll go for it. But if you are still absolutely committed to cooking your underwear in something, I'd suggest using a pair of panties as a coffee filter. You'll save money on filters, of course, you'll ruin one pair, and your risk of getting caught is drastically reduced, because there's not a married man alive who ever empties the filter basket on the coffee maker.

Long Suffering is insisting that I give you this recipe, and he, in true suffering style, is relentless, and so fine, here it is. Long Suffering's Shut up Tomato Gravy:

Cook Sausage patties in a black iron skillet till done, obviously. Then remove the sausage and put it on some paper towels to blot up some of the grease. Drain the grease out of the skillet, leaving only enough to coat the bottom, add a handful of flour to the grease and cook it, stirring all the time, till it turns brown; then add about a cup of milk to the browned flour and stir it until the lumps are gone and it's thick. Then add a small can of R-Tel tomatoes., drained, stir until it's the consistency you want, crumble up the sausage and add it to all that------then spoon it over biscuits that you already made and turn around and slap the person next to you on account of it's so good, you just have to slap somebody.

Dublin Coddle

by: Foiled Goil

(Codal Duibnlinneach)

This traditional stew type dish containing pork -- usually sausages and bacon -- stock or water with onions and potatoes is believed to have originated during 1765 to 1767, the first great famine in Ireland. In Dublin itself, coddle retains its reputation as a dish that can be prepared ahead of time and left in a very slow oven while the people have to be out of the house for a while (300F for 3 - 5 hours). Serve with brown bread, whole grain bread, or soda bread.

There are many variations of this dish. This one is pretty good.

8 strips of bacon
2 large onions, sliced thin
1 medium apple, peeled and diced
4 large potatoes, peeled and diced
4 large smoked sausages, cut into pieces
2 cups chicken stock
2 tbsp. chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute the bacon in a thick-bottomed pot.

Add the onions and apples and cook until soft.

Add the potatoes, sausage and chicken stock. Cover and simmer until potatoes are tender.

Season and serve in a bowl, sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Serves six.
May the lilt of Irish laughter
Lighten every load,
May the mist of Irish magic
Shorten every road,
May you taste the sweetest pleasures
That fortune ere bestowed,
And may all your friends remember
All the favors you are owed.

15 March 2007

The Frugal Repast: Thursday Night Slop

by: Dark Wraith

Slop

It's time once again for a recipe from the Dark Wraith's kitchen. Tonight's meal is Slop.

That's right, Slop.

It's filling, it's tasty, it's cheap, and it's offensive to look at. What you don't eat tonight, you can refrigerate and heat up for breakfast or dinner tomorrow. Let's get to work, shall we?
    Ingredients
    8 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cut into half-inch cubes.
    ½ lb. bacon or turkey bacon, cut into quarter-inch strips.
    5 medium to large eggs.
    1 medium white onion, chopped very coarsely.
    1 tbsp. black pepper.
    1 tspn. red pepper.
    4 tbsp. cooking oil.


    Preparation
    • In an electric skillet at 400°F or in a regular stove-top skillet with the burner just short of High, put in the cooking oil and let it get hot.

    • Put in the cut pototoes and onions. Cover and allow to cook, turning occasionally to let the potatoes and onions brown all over.

    • While potatoes are cooking, in a smaller pan, fry the bacon pieces, stirring occasionally until they're crispy.

    • Once bacon is crisp, drain skillet and pour pieces into potatoes and onion mixture.

    • Add black and cayenne pepper. Stir well.

    • Reduce heat to 325°F in electric skillet or just above medium in a stove-top skillet.

    • Allow to cook until potatoes are soft enough to mash with just a little pressure from a spatula.

    • In a bowl, crack open the eggs and beat lightly until yolks and whites are thoroughly mixed.

    • Fold egg mixture into ingredients in skillet, carefully turning everything to get thorough mixing.

    • Cover and allow to cook another five minutes or so, stirring once or twice, until eggs are fully cooked.

    • Turn off electric skillet or stove burner and serve food in generous bowls.



The Dark Wraith has, once again, provided all the instructions anyone would need for a darned fine dinner.

Words and Music, The Irish Rover

by: Minstrel Boy

This is such a rouser that I will print the lyrics. There's a traditional audience participation thing with this song. Don't be surprised if you find the lyrics in parenthesis shouted back at'cha' it's all in good fun. Plus, you can chew them out the first time they miss their cues. I have been known to upbraid audiences that don't get into this stuff by saying

Oh, I forgot, we're in ----------. Everybody in -------- is too cool to do silly stuff like sing along. They're going to carve it on their tombstones, they never had any fun in ------------, but Lord, they were Cool.


Without any further ado. Since you have the Clancy's version of the melody immediately below I won't be botherin' to post that link.


In the year of our Lord, eighteen hundred and six
We set sail from the fair Cobh of Cork. (bragh Cork!)
We were bound far away with a cargo of bricks
For the fine city hall of New York.

In a very fine craft, she was rigged fore-and-aft
And oh, how the wild winds drove her.
She had twenty-three masts and withstood several blasts
And we called her the Irish Rover.

There was Barney McGee from the banks of the Lee,
There was Hogan from County Tyrone. (Bold Tyrone!)
And a chap called McGurk who was scared stiff of work
And a chap from West Meade called Mellone.

There was Slugger O'Toole who was drunk as a rule
And fighting Bill Casey from Dover.
There was Dooley from Claire who was strong as a bear
And was skipper of the Irish Rover.

We had one million bales of old billy goats' tails,
We had two million buckets of stones. (Big Stones!)
We had three million sides of old blind horses hides,
We had four million packets of bones.

We had five million hogs, we had six million dogs,
And seven million barrels of porter.
We had eight million bags of the best Sligo rags
In the hold of the Irish Rover.

We had sailed seven years when the measles broke out
And the ship lost her way in a fog. (Great Fog!)
And the whole of the crew was reduced unto two,
'Twas me self and the captain's old dog.

Then the ship struck a rock with a terrible shock
And then she heeled right over,
Turned nine times around, and the poor dog was drowned--
I'm the last of the Irish Rover.


Have fun with this one. The Pogues sure did.

harp and sword

Set Up for St. Paddy's Day

by: Minstrel Boy

I don't do much behind St. Paddy's day anymore. Some pals from the celtic music scene in L.A. are playing the Mesa Ampitheatre on Saturday night. They've asked me to come, maybe sit in. I'm going. They're a great bunch of kids, and it felt really good that they remembered and asked an old fart like me to join them. I'm taking MedskoolGirl and her buddy Aruna.




I love these guys. Liam Clancy is one of the most powerful singers of Irish music going. Tommy Makem (on the banjo) is a prince.

The Irish Rover is a classic.

harp and sword
14 March 2007

Open Forum of March 14, 2007

by: Dark Wraith

This is an open thread for readers here at Big Brass Blog and readers over at my flagship, The Dark Wraith Forums, who have been offered the link to this post for use during a rather testy period in which I am moving The Dark Wraith Forums from the Blogger publishing platform to the completely self-contained Nucleus content management system, which is what I use here.

As soon as possible, The Dark Wraith Forums will be departing from the poundingly incompetent hands of the folks at Blogger, which is a "service" (and I use that term quite loosely) of Google. In the wake of that glad parting of ways, I shall look back long enough to post an article in which I flame Google to such an extent that readers might want to shut off their smoke detectors while the page loads.

Alternately, I might just let the matter drop and move on. Perhaps I should put up a poll to see if readers want to see me rip Google's virtual hide from its cyberspace backside.

For now, though, I must find inner peace as I go through the process once again of building a Website that is visually attractive, content rich, and functionally (at least somewhat) usable. Failing that, I'll do the best I can, given my own hack-oriented incompetence as a Website builder.

As all of this is occurring in the background, an open thread is in order.

Speak your peace, here. No topic is off-topic. Once the sun goes down, I'll turn on the dance floor lights and show people where to kick the jukebox to make it play for free.

I should be able to get some fresh potato chips out on the snack table by later this evening, provided blackdog, Mr. Goat, and Peter of Lone Tree haven't broken into my newly securitized food pantry, complete as it is with automatic-response pain ray guns mounted in the ceiling above. I'll also be bringing out my industrial-size espresso and cappuccino maker and see if anyone wants to try my new recipe for the Double-Caffeine Vanilla-Caramel Stroke-Maker Special. I've been wanting to find out what effect that drink has on people. My cat wasn't fond of it: something about how he doesn't like curly whiskers.



The Dark Wraith turns on the lights in the party room.
13 March 2007

Shadows from a Future Arriving

by: Dark Wraith

U.S. stocks declined sharply on Tuesday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 242.66, or -1.97 percent, to 12,075.96; the Standard & Poor's 500 dropped 28.65, or -2.04 percent, to 1,377.95; and the NASDAQ Composite index slid 51.72, or -2.15 percent, to 2,350.57.

This broad-based stock slaughter occurred despite the fact that Vice President Dick Cheney was not disturbed today by an Afghan suicide bomber blowing himself up along with a whole bunch of other people within earshot range of our war-hero Veep. As I pointed out after the last plunge two weeks ago, the stock markets didn't give a rat's hind end about what had happened to disturb Mr. Cheney's Happy Place that day. More broadly, today's slam on stock prices wasn't merely the result, as some in the media have claimed, of sub-prime lenders shutting down their easy-loan money windows, either.

What's happening is the result of an accumulation of events that are, in their aggregate, deeply changing the configuration of the United States with respect to the rest of the world insofar as financial matters are concerned. Whether or not these sea changes are permanent, they are certainly long-term. Later this week, I shall offer Part Two of my series, "The Economics of Wreckage," of which Part One was published here last week.

For the time being, suffice it to note that there is good news and bad news. The good news is that we shall slowly close the trade deficits we have run for so many years, and we shall eventually close our federal budget deficits, too, the ones—quite ironically but not surprisingly—systematically racked up by the fiscally conservative Republicans over the tenure of the Presidency of George W. Bush. Furthermore, we might even see a nice little side effect of fewer illegal aliens slipping into the country, something that has frothed the mouths of populist neo-fascist commentators like CNN howler Lou Dobbs, who pretends to be for some middle-class America of which he is not a part while he foments hate against people who aren't the root of the decay this country is experiencing.

More good news, notwithstanding the posturing of Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), is that Halliburton might not be the only corporate parasite on the United States Treasury that will decide it's time to set up base in more profitable lands of far away places.

Athough we shall become a poorer nation—quite noticeably so—over the coming years, we shall make exports that are cheap in other countries, we shall—quite likely, though, with a considerable amount of pain—learn to lose our appetite for borrowed success, and we shall become less beholden to the fascists, Communists, mercantilists, and all manner of other thugs to whom we have been groveling in this new century for the money to pay for the Republicans' wildly irresponsible tax cuts and the neo-conservatives' wildly irresponsible wars.

The bad news is that we shall make cheap exports in part because we shall be the cheap labor, and the companies that hire us will be those from other countries who gathered American dollars in massive quantities during the years when we were sending greenbacks overseas by buying cheap foreign imports. We shall close our budget deficits because we will have no capacity whatsoever to afford a government that hands money to the people in social welfare programs, universal health care, or even rigorous enforcement of regulations on food, workplace safety, and a whole host of other luxuries to which we thought we might be entitled in the here and now or in some not-too-distant future.

We shall remain, of course, a sovereign nation, but ours will be the sovereignty of the weak, and this in a world of great and small predators building powerful, adventuresome armed forces, monstrous weapons, and exclusionary alliances drawn in a world soil fertile with the toxic stew of ancient sectarian religious bonds, unmitigated economic greed, and unstoppable sensibilities of destiny.

Others of this harsh world will pick up the ball our own neo-conservatives so wrongly thought was our comparative advantage. It wasn't, and the legions of the secular and religious Right simply didn't understand that. Neither did most Americans, particularly those who voted so cynically for the promised fist that never should have been raised the way it was.

On a personal, I shall perhaps live long enough to see life in America become difficult enough that the Christian extremists wagging their finger at me to live by their morally miserable code will be too busy finding food to fund their polemical demagogues. To the same extent, perhaps I shall live long enough to see people grasp that Al Gore's finger-wagging on "THE Single Most Important Issue of Our Time," isn't quite so important for an average American as finding a job that pays enough to keep body and soul together in a degraded economy where high-minded "futures" must yield to daily survival imperatives.

I might even, in my most fantastic moments of hope, imagine people coming to learn the sheer power that arises from a moderation that rejects fear-whipped policies of the extremists and embraces carefully planned, frugal behaviors of far more enduring benefit to the individual and to the society.

I shall do everything I possibly can to suppress those flights of personal fantasy; but should I fail to keep myself from a short moment of false hope, I shall, at the very least, stop myself from laughing hysterically in the aftermath of such fond weakness.



The Dark Wraith trusts that each and every reader has a good place far from the grim land of the future.


Excerpted from the unpublished "Open Forum of March 13, 2007" at The Dark Wraith Forums, which will be fully active once again once the Website has been removed from Blogger to the new publishing platform, NucleusCMS.

Yet Another Book Give Away!

by: Minstrel Boy

Hooray! This is also because I was a total failure when Blog Against Sexism day came around last week.

I have just finished a significant memoir by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She was born in Somalia, at a very young age due to her father's revolutionary politics her family became refugees. On and off living in Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, and Kenya. She chronicles her personal journey.

One of the things that impressed me was how she managed when writing about her childhood she kept the simple clarity of a child. The impressions of Saudi Arabia are given through a child's perceptions.

Her journey continues until she flees to Holland. There, she lies to avoid an arranged marriage (she has already been subjected to genital excision by her grandmother) and receives first asylum, then citizenship. She is elected to the Dutch Parliament and journeys beyond the belief in Islam.

There are many controversial opinions. She derides the inability of most Muslim immigrants to the Netherlands to assimilate or even fully benefit from the openess and culture of Holland.

She has been disowned by her family. She has been under a fahtwa order of death ever since she wrote the film by Theo Van Gogh Submission. Theo Van Gogh was shot, his throat cut, and a note vowing the same for Ayaan Hirsi Ali was nailed to his chest with a dagger.

Over and over she, in a matter of fact voice, lays out the reasons behind her opinions. She never states them as a valid, unarguable truth, but that they are her beliefs and should be discussed.

She is currently living in the United States, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, she is still under protection, around the clock, from the Dutch Secret Service.

Again, this is a significant work. The passage that describes her excision is chilling in its matter of fact presention of something so horrific.

Now, to the contest.

Name a strong, woman in your life. One who showed courage and the ability to stand against traditions, social norms, or even God and gave you that same strength when you needed to fight a good fight.

Leave your entries in the comments. I will send a copy of Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali to the winner. I can't really say what the critera for this will be, I promise that it will be arbitrary and most likely unfair. Like art and pornography, I will know what the winner is when I see it.

el ranco harpo

Generally Immoral -- Keeping Pace With Hypocrisy & Hate

by: Gary

General Peter Pace has a lot of nerve!

If ever there was a more orchestrated delivery of fag bashing for political gain, I don't know what it is? Oh wait...That's right, the GOP uses this approach to "turn out the vote." Silly me. I do remember! It was the President of the United States of America that politically vilified the gay citizens of this nation for political gain!

Well, General Pace is welcome to his opinion, and so am I!

My rock solid, 100% committed, monogamous relationship of 15 years is anything by immoral! I take great issue with the General's personal opinion, and it's relevance on the floor of the House. And I venture to believe that the feelings of this nation as it relates to committed loving relationships of this type, or any other, is that they are morally based, not immorally tainted. But you will only get this majority read on it if you strip the political rhetoric and the fear mongering from the discussion.

The GOP is a tawdry sex machine! Sex all the time! They slam sexual images down the throats of Americans to turn them off to the humanity of those having sex. They use sex as a weapon, and unfortunately with reasonably good results! Clinton's blow job. Was that not pushed on us in graphic detail that we all wished had remained private? No one wants to know about what happens in the bedrooms of others! We are too visual a species to endure that with little in the way of prompting. And Gingrich? Eww. Yes, that is offensive to many.

Gay sex. Well sure, I can see how that can be a turn off, and that is why you don't see people having it at lunch in the middle of Main Street! I find heterosexual expression to be repulsive on some level too. And please, can we talk about the image of Reverend Ted and the prostitute. Ewww. Or Jim Bakker with ANYONE?! And that's not the kinky stuff that goes on in the privacy of bedrooms all over this nation...Both the gay and the straight bedrooms! Yet hypocritical politicians use this imagery against us all the time, and too many Americans fall for it! It is amazing to me what Americans will give up to make sure people aren't having sex in any other way than missionary with the lights out, the doors locked, and the curtains drawn! I mean come on, are the varied and many sexual appetites of America really that vanilla? I don't think so! But more to the point, its not relevant!

So, in the tradition of many others that have come before him, General Pace has climbed upon his soap box and decried the sex of others, in a manner other than what he personally sees as appropriate, to be immoral. He has created the image of rampant soldier homosexuality if one gay person were allowed to openly join. He has declared it immoral for American citizens to volunteer to defend their country unless they are straight. Calling it immoral to allow gay Americans to serve is, in and of itself, immoral in my opinion.

Immoral:

  • deliberately violating accepted principles of right and wrong
  • base: not adhering to ethical or moral principles; "base and unpatriotic motives"; "a base, degrading way of life"; "cheating is dishonorable"; "they considered colonialism immoral"; "unethical practices in handling public funds"
  • morally unprincipled; "immoral behavior"
  • bad: characterized by wickedness or immorality; "led a very bad life"
  • depraved: marked by immorality; deviating from what is considered right or proper or good; "depraved criminals"; "a perverted sense of loyalty"; "the reprobate conduct of a gambling aristocrat"
    So, by my estimation, the good General is offering a criticism of patriotism when he declares a class of Americans unfit to voluntarily serve their country; selflessly offering life and limb as duty calls in exchange for protecting liberty & freedom! He calls that immoral if the one dying is gay!

    This is yet another classic, and infuriating case of political heresy in America. A hypocritical belief system gone horribly wrong at the hands of those willing to cast their patriotism to the wind in favor of power, greed, and an irrelevant and often misguided allegiance to God. When speaking of duty to country, that is the ultimate in immoral behavior in my opinion.

    Casting "sex" in the immoral pot as if it has something relevant to do with the death of a soldier for his or her country, is a petty and pathetic ploy to excite the base and demoralize the soldiers. Talk about giving comfort to the enemy!

    Gay men and women have always served this country in the military, just as they have served in every other Army the world round. And our military has always tried to force them out, like they are the enemy within. Casting them to the curb like common terrorists within their ranks. And here comes the ultimate hypocrisy; when we are at war and a draft is initiated, then your sexuality doesn't matter! So, the government doesn't want your talent, blood, sweat, and tears if you are offering it voluntarily, but if they draft you then the fact of who you do or don't sleep with doesn't matter to them? Seems to me that in a heightened time of war it would be, according to their own logic, all the more critical to keep homosexuals from serving?! That type of hypocrisy is what I find immoral General Pace.

    Moreover, I would advise you to cast that critical judgement of morality on your own standards.

    I would bet many find it immoral for you to be spending time challenging gays in the military while we are engaged in a pointless war. I find it immoral that you won't stand up and criticize the Commander in Chief for putting your soldiers in harms way without a plan to protect, arm, or remove them from Iraq! I find it immoral that you can stand idly by and watch over 3,000 honored men & women; American soldiers, die in Iraq for a war that was based on 100% fabrications! Lies! Your President lied, and your soldiers are dying for that lie; giving their lives to country, freedom, and for our democracy because it is their sworn duty to America and their own patriotic souls. You offer no high moral criticism of those wasted lives? You offer no moral high ground to the world as your boss continues his slaughter of our troops without care or consideration for the morality of his decisions?

    That General Pace is immoral behavior!

    Painting a picture of two men being intimate with one another, for the political ploy of inciting the voters...That is immoral behavior General Pace.

    Pushing your narrow and antiquated personal beliefs on this nation and her military, that is immoral General Pace.

    Ignoring the obvious hypocrisy in your arguments, especially as gay and lesbians are successfully and without incident serving in military units of other nations around this globe, that is immoral.

    Casting Americans willing to voluntarily die for the protection of their country as the enemy because you find it personally inappropriate is immoral.

    The sacrifice of a soldier for land, country, and Constitution, is not something that should be so easily vilified by you or any other leader of the military. The sacrifice of one is as great as the sacrifice of any other! Labeling a sacrifice as gay, black, Asian, Marine, Army, man or woman is minimizing and showing great disrespect for the one who made the sacrifice.

    Soldiers of every category die for America out of love and duty, and your attempts to subcategorize, compartmentalize, and degrade those motives based on your own is immoral.

    It might even be un-American.

    Vanilla Pound Cake

    by: Minstrel Boy

    Since we are in spring break week with no school and both of their parents work during the day, my niece and nephew have been spending the day, and most of the evening at my place. My niece wanted to do some baking, as usual, I said "Sure, what would you like to make?" She wanted a vanilla cake. I figured a normal white cake or a yellow cake would do, but she was adamant about the vanilla "You know, with the beans."

    A little digging through my Nana's old recipe boxes produced this. On the index card that holds the recipe is this notation Annie Peaches adored this with nut butter spread. Nana's nut butters were the stuff of legend. Especially when you remember that her food processing equipment was the hand cranked (usually kid's hands) variety. So, from Nana's kitchen, through mine, to yours.

    A note of warning. This recipe makes your house smell voluptuously sinful. You will be forced to defend your work throughout the cooling process. Cutting into these before they have cooled and settled will destroy the delightful pound cake texture and make them dry and crumbly. If you cut a slice while it is still warm from the oven you will be forced to consume the entire loaf right then and there. Forwarned is forearmed sez I.

    INGREDIENTS

    1 large vanilla bean, split and spread
    1 cup milk, room temperature
    4 cups cake flour, sifted
    1 tablespoon baking powder (I make my own as I need it. 1/2 portion baking soda, 1/4 portions of cream of tartar and cornstarch. I've never been able to determine if I do this because it works better or if it's just another piece of evidence of my anal retentiveness)
    1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt (salted butters use iodized salt, a dessert baking nono)
    2 cups unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
    2-1/2 cups vanilla sugar (to make vanilla sugar, put the husks of scraped beans in an airtight container of sugar)
    6 jumbo eggs, room temperature
    1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract



    Heat the oven to 350°.

    Put the milk and the vanilla bean in a small pan and scald. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.


    Sift the flour again with the baking powder and salt onto a sheet of wax paper.

    Cream the butter on medium until fluffy. Cream in the vanilla sugar. (if you don't have vanilla sugar increase the vanilla extract by 2 teaspoons but be sure to put some up for the next time)

    Continue beating on medium and add in the eggs, one at a time, remembering to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure an even blending. Add in the vanilla extract.

    Remove the bean husks from the scalded milk, along with the milk skin. Use a demitasse spoon to scrape all the little vanilla speckles you can back into the milk.

    Add the sifted dry ingredients and the milk alternately. Beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat on medium until completely smooth and blended (about five minutes). (if you think that the aroma is brutally beautiful right now just wait until it hits the oven)

    Pour into three buttered and lightly floured loaf pans (baker's secret spray will do just fine here). Bake on the lowest rack of the oven for sixty minutes, or until a tooth pick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean and dry.

    Cool in the pan, on a rack for ten minutes, then turn out of the loaf pans and cool for at least another twenty minutes on the cutting board. You might as well finish the cooling on the cutting board because these aren't getting much further than that. If you are planning to give one of these away, wrap it very closely with plastic wrap. These will freeze just fine. Just make sure you thaw them out still wrapped in the refrigerator or they get soggy.

    To serve, slightly warm thin slices of pound cake and drizzle with your favorite dessert sauce, or a nice Créme Anglais. You can use this just like any sweet bread, you can use it to line a trifle. When I am feeling especially indulgent I have been known to trim off all the crusts, cut it into fingers and dip those into tempered chocolate. (there goes today's afternoon!)

    My niece thoroughly approved of the results. She said "Nana is very proud of us today."

    Indeed she is, my darling.

    harp and sword daycare service

    "DUBAI" -- to be included in 'Evil Paradises: The Dreamworlds of Neo-Liberalism,' by Mike Davis, July 2007

    by: Jersey Cynic

    As gas prices AGAIN approach $3.00 a gallon, I wonder what it will take for all of us little people around the world to find a way to become less dependent on this black gold. When will we say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH??? Are we really that addicted to oil? Of course we are and we all know it. Our First Family reminds us of this frequently. Last year in his SOTUA Mr. Bush declared that: "America is addicted to oil" and vowed to push for alternative energy sources allowing the United States to replace three-quarters of the petroleum now imported from the Middle East by 2025. Presenting his agenda for his sixth year in office, he also vowed to steer more money to scientific research and education while working to reduce health care costs.
    Lady Laura also pops up on occasion to remind us of our addition.

    How does one overcome an addiction? Well, first one has to be willing to acknowledge this addiction and then secondly, be willing to do something about it -- right? O.K. -- I'll start: "Hi, my name is Jersey Cynic, and I'm addicted to oil" -- WHO'S NEXT.....?

    All righty -- I heard you all loud and clear! We're all on the same page here. Now, together we work really hard to find solutions. Right? Hmmmmm....let's see.

    Well, the first problem is how do we get to work? We need to constantly fill up the tank to drive umteen miles away because we really fucked up everything with that whole urban sprawl set up and now "We're literally stuck up a cul-de-sac in a cement SUV without a fill-up" - James Howard Kunstler from The End of Suburbia -- HUGE PROBLEM. Does that mean we give up? I'm willing to cut back as I am sure many people are (or are forced to) also. I'm sure there are companies and individual entrepreneurs out there tyring to find alternatives. I just don't know anyone personally involved in this field to get a handle on how much effort is being put forth. Does anyone know anyone who does this for a living? I would think that by now, all of us would know plenty of people employed in this effort, since Mr. Bush has promised to push for alternative energy sources. I guess I just don't get out enough.

    Another HUGE PROBLEM is that practically everything we own is made of plastic. How are plastics made? This is a very interesting read.
    Did you know "The first synthetic plastic was made from the plant material cellulose. In 1869, John Wesley Hyatt, an American printer and inventor, found that cellulose nitrate could be used as an inexpensive substitute for ivory. The mixture could be plasticized with the addition of camphor. Celluloid, as this new material was called, became the only plastic of commercial importance for 30 years. It was used for eyeglass frames, combs, billiard balls, shirt collars, buttons, dentures, and photographic film."

    In 1951, two young research chemists for Phillips Petroleum Company in Bartlesville, Okla., made discoveries that revolutionized the plastics world.......you know the rest.

    And the other HUGE PROBLEM is that we use lots of oil to keep warm in our homes, and to heat our water, etc...... I don't know about you, but I haven't come across too many local solar panel shops in my area so I can convert.

    So, what will it take to REALLY get us to say "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore?" I am an addict. I am crying out for help. I want to quit, but it seems impossible. Oh sure, where there's a will there's a way, blah blah blah, but the odds are really stacked against us here to succeed. Very frustrating - eh?

    So, who are these "drug-lords" keeping this addiction so epidemic across the globe? Well, I found them. After spending the last few days exploring this fantasyland called "Dubai" -- you know -- the place where Halliburton is moving its headquarters -- everyone on the face of this planet should be screaming that phrase out their front doors at this very moment.

    THESE DRUG-LORDS ARE TODAY'S so-called CAPITALISTS

    Maybe when this new book by Mike Davis, et al, comes out in July, the word will get out and piss enough people off to finally say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

    "Evil Paradises" is a global guidebook to phantasmagoric but real places—alternate realities being constructed as "utopias" in a capitalist era unfettered by unions and state regulation. These developments—in cities, deserts, and in the middle of the sea—are worlds where consumption and inequality surpass our worst nightmares.

    From Amazon:

    "Davis and Monk have assembled an extraordinary group of urbanists, architects, historians, and visionary thinkers to reflect upon the trajectory of a civilization whose deepest ethos seems to be to consume all the resources of the earth within a single lifetime."

    If you would like to get a jump on the book, TomDispatch ran an article about it back in 2005:
    Tomgram: Mike Davis on a Paradise Built on Oil It's an eye-opening read (and has lots of pretty pictures!):

    "Moreover, Dubai can count on the peak-oil epoch to cover the costs of these hyperboles. Each time you spent $40 to fill your tank, you are helping to irrigate Sheik Mo's oasis.

    Today, Dubai's security is guaranteed by the American nuclear super-carriers usually berthed at the port of Jebel Ali. Indeed, the city-state aggressively promotes itself as the ultimate elite "Green Zone" in an increasingly turbulent and dangerous region.

    Sheikh Mo, who fancies himself a prophet of modernization, likes to impress visitors with clever proverbs and heavy aphorisms. A favorite: "Anyone who does not attempt to change the future will stay a captive of the past."

    Yet the future that he is building in Dubai -- to the applause of billionaires and transnational corporations everywhere -- looks like nothing so much as a nightmare of the past: Walt Disney meets Albert Speer on the shores of Araby."

    (Mo pictures here and here)

    I won't even get into the contract laborers, "legally bound to a single employer and subject to totalitarian social controls, that make up the great mass of the population. Dubai lifestyles are attended by vast numbers of Filipina, Sri Lankan, and Indian maids, while the building boom is carried on the shoulders of an army of poorly paid Pakistanis and Indians working twelve-hour shifts, six and half days a week, in the blast-furnace desert heat. Human Rights Watch in 2003 accused the Emirates of building prosperity on "forced labor." Indeed, as the British Independent recently emphasized in an exposé on Dubai, "The labour market closely resembles the old indentured labour system brought to Dubai by its former colonial master, the British."

    "Like their impoverished forefathers," the paper continued, "today's Asian workers are forced to sign themselves into virtual slavery for years when they arrive in the United Arab Emirates. Their rights disappear at the airport where recruitment agents confiscate their passports and visas to control them"

    Oh just wait til you read of all the other atrocities these slaves endure....... (3 year olds forced to be camel jockeys -- UFB)


    Newleftreview did a quite an extensive review also:
    FEAR AND MONEY IN DUBAI:

    "Dubai’s philosopher-king (one of the huge offshore island projects will actually spell out an epigram of his in Arabic script) --
    Viewed from space, 1060 Water Homes at The Palm, Jebel Ali, will read: ‘Take wisdom from the wise people. Not everyone who rides is a jockey.’

    He (Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum/aka Sheikh Mo) is well aware that fear is also the most dynamic component of the oil revenues that turn his sand dunes into malls and skyscrapers. Every time insurgents blow up a pipeline in the Niger Delta, a martyr drives his truck bomb into a Riyadh housing complex, or Washington and Tel Aviv rattle their sabres at Tehran, the price of oil (and thus Dubai’s ultimate income) increases by some increment of anxiety in the all-important futures market. The Gulf economies, in other words, are now capitalized not just on oil production, but also on the fear of its disruption."

    "According to a recent survey of experts by Business Week, ‘the world paid the Persian Gulf oil states an extra $120 billion or so last year because of the premium in prices due to fear of unexpected supply disruptions. Some cynics argue that oil producers welcome the fear of disruption because it boosts their revenues’. ‘Fear’, according to one of the senior energy analysts that the magazine consulted, ‘is a gift to oil producers’."


    So, will "we the people" stand up and SCREAM (i.e., maybe stage a world-wide "stay home for a week" kind of protest) or do what most American's do best, say screw it -- "I'm going to Disney -- I mean DUBAI" for the week.

    If it's the vaca, well, heads up -- you had better start planning WAAAAAY ahead:
    PASSPORTS ARE BEING DELAYED BY A BACKLOG OF APPLICATIONS


    crossposted at Blondesense
    12 March 2007

    Career Opportunities

    by: Missouri Mule

    Every day it seems I hear of yet another career niche I wish I'd thought of---indeed, that I am kicking myself for having not thought of first.

    Some careers, I'm afraid, I'll have to chalk up as missed opportunities. I am way too old to take up plastic surgery. Talk about your Growth Industry! With all these baby-boomers hitting menopause----get outta here! I'm so old now, it's probably to late for me to even go to beauty school. But hey, here's something I could do. Recently I have noted with interest the trendy new job of Lifestyle Coach. This is somebody (who received on-line training from the absolute genius who thought it up) you pay five hundred dollars an hour to tell you what, in their opinion, it is you ought to do in any given situation. Oh, hey, is this job made for me or what? I always know what other people ought to be doing in any situation. Always. I can't think of an exception right offhand. And here, all my adult life, I've been telling everybody what they ought to be doing in any given situation, and I've been doing it for free. And furthermore, they didn't even ask me what, in my opinion, they ought to be doing. I've been providing the same service for all my friends, clan, and acquaintances as well-----and likewise, unsolicited and gratis. I'm considering billing them all retroactively. They are seriously in arrears and getting further behind every day, since I have not slowed down in dispensing advice.

    Here's another big ass buck making idea I should investigate. With everybody getting fatter and more desperate about it with every passing minute, I am not at all surprised at the wide range of opportunities in wildly expensive boondoggles related to the fitness industry. One of my favorites is a place out west that has been visited by many high-profile persons in the public eye. For approximately five thousand dollars a week (depending on whether you want to share a bathroom with just one other person or several), you get to stay in what was formerly some body's fairly small ranch-style house; absolutely no modifications have been done on it to make it spalike in any way----it's just a dumpy little house, period. Hey, I've that! Woo-hoo!

    There you can get up at five every morning to hike eight or nine miles up a big hill, at the top of which you are given one half of an orange. Then you hike the same eight or nine miles back down the hill, at the bottom of which they give you the other half of the your orange. Then you do a little yoga or some other exercise and have lunch, which is like hot water and a carrot, and then you do some more moving around and they give you your dinnertime ration of the hot water-carrot thing. After "dinner," you go to bed in your room that you share with at least one other person------depending how much more than the basic five thousand you paid. You don't have a phone in your room and there's no maid service. I swear this is a real place and real people go there.....a lot of'em.... and pay big bucks to do it.

    I wish you would just consider the profit margin of running such an establishment out of your house. Let's say you have four bedrooms and it was a week without any Big Spenders, so you've got four people in each room at five thousand dollars a head, and all ye with more money and body weight than sense, and I will personally get your asses out of bed at five A.M. each and every day and tell you to walk ten-mile marker, where you will each be met with your half an orange, before you turn around and walk back for the other half. If you don't make it back, don't worry about your fellow inmates getting your orange, I'll eat it myself. But there will be no refunds. You will be by-God skinny by the time you leave and I'll be a rich as Rockefeller. BTW, I'll be offering finder's fees.




    "The Secret" to hapiness (Psst....it's 20 grand a year)

    by: Jersey Cynic

    From ScientificAmerica

    Imagine you have a choice between earning $50,000 a year while other people make $25,000 or earning $100,000 a year while other people get $250,000. Prices of goods and services are the same. Which would you prefer? Surprisingly, studies show that the majority of people select the first option. As H. L. Mencken is said to have quipped, "A wealthy man is one who earns $100 a year more than his wife's sister's husband."

    This seemingly illogical preference is just one of the puzzles that science is trying to solve about why happiness can be so elusive in today's world. Several recent books by researchers address the topic, but my skeptic's eye found a historian's long-view analysis to be ultimately the most enlightening.

    Consider a paradox outlined by London School of Economics economist Richard Lay­ard in Happiness (Penguin, 2005), in which he shows that we are no happier even though average incomes have more than doubled since 1950 and "we have more food, more clothes, more cars, bigger houses, more central heating, more foreign holidays, a shorter working week, nicer work and, above all, better health." Once average annual income is above $20,000 a head, higher pay brings no greater happiness. Why? One, our genes account for roughly half of our predisposition to be happy or unhappy, and two, our wants are relative to what other people have, not to some absolute measure.

    Here is the rest of the article:(Can't Get No) Satisfaction

    Now, this brings me to the recent craze over the new self-help book "The Secret" which is spreading like wild fire thanks to Oprah.

    Oprah Oprah Oprah......you've accomplished so much. You're our "national treasure". You've done an incredible amount of good. You have the power to influence the lives of millions. I remember thinking not too long ago -- "Imagine what the world would be like if Oprah were in charge...."

    (I don't know why, but Newton's 3 laws of motion just came into my mind here, especially the 3rd law:

    Whenever A exerts a force on B, B simultaneously exerts a force on A with the same magnitude in the opposite direction. The strong form of the law further postulates that these two forces act along the same line.)

    Anywho, her belief in "The Secret" explains a lot about what we frequently talk about here at Blondesense: THE MAJORITY OF PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY ARE IN TOTAL DENIAL.

    And after reading the following two commentaries, I've come to realize that Oprah probably IS in charge, but we just don't know it.

    Both of these authors have a bone to pick with her and I give each an A+ for persuasive writing.

    Chris Floyd TOTALLY rips her a new one in
    The Story of O: An Empty Spot in the Middle of American Culture. Most of his article is in reference to Peter Birkenhead's essay over at Salon - "Oprah's ugly secret" (By continuing to hawk "The Secret," a mishmash of offensive self-help cliches, Oprah Winfrey is squandering her goodwill and influence, and preaching to the world that mammon is queen.)

    And Ingrid Hansen Smythe is most eloquent in her review from The Skeptic:
    The Secret Behind the Secret. She cites examples of (Ask — Believe — Receive) vs. (Idea-Action-Results).

    And lil 'ol me thinks that the ScientificAmerica article says it all: "Much of our happiness depends on projecting what will make us happy (instead of what actually does), Happiness is better equated with satisfaction than pleasure, "because the pursuit of pleasure lands us on a never-ending hedonic treadmill that paradoxically leads to misery. "Satisfaction is an emotion that captures the uniquely human need to impart meaning to one's activities,"

    "Satisfaction can arise only by the conscious decision to do something. And this makes all the difference in the world, because it is only your own actions for which you may take responsibility and credit."

    -----------------------------------------------------------

    I don't have diddly squat
    It's not having what you want
    It's wanting what you've got

    I'm gonna soak up the sun(great video)
    While it's still free
    I'm gonna soak up the sun
    Before it goes out on me


    Gonna tell everyone
    To lighten up

    crossposted at Blondesense

    Halliburton Moving to Dubai

    by: Foiled Goil

    Halliburton is moving its corporate headquarters to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates: "an Arab boomtown where free-market capitalism has been paired with some of the world's most liberal tax, investment and residency laws" ... "to better position itself to gain contracts in the oil-rich Middle East."
    "This is an insult to the U.S. soldiers and taxpayers who paid the tab for their no-bid contracts and endured their overcharges for all these years," said judiciary committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat.

    Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, might hold a hearing on the implications, an aide to Waxman said.
    More than 38 percent of Halliburton's $13 billion oil field services revenue last year stemmed from sources in the eastern hemisphere, where the firm has 16,000 of its 45,000 employees.
    Federal investigators last month alleged Halliburton was responsible for $2.7 billion of the $10 billion in contractor waste and overcharging in Iraq.
    In 2006, Halliburton made profits of $2.3bn on revenues of $22.6bn. Last month it announced a 40% decline in fourth-quarter profit.
    Sources:

    BBC

    Associated Press, via Yahoo Finance

    Reuters, via Yahoo - Update 5

    Reuters - Update 6
    11 March 2007

    The Frugal Repast: Sunday Spam Gruel

    by: Dark Wraith

    Spam Gruel

    Tonight's dinner was Spam Gruel, a filling, nutritious meal that's relatively inexpensive and easy to prepare. The recipe is herewith offered for readers of Big Brass Blog.
      Ingredients
      1 cup water
      1 cup milk (whole or 2%)
      ½ can Spam™ or Spam™ Lite
      1 heaping tablespoon flour
      1 teaspoon black pepper


      Preparation
    • Turn stove burner to medium-high.

    • In a modest saucepan placed on burner, pour one cup of milk and one-half cup water.

    • Add one heaping tablespoon flour to the other half-cup of water and stir until flour dissolves. Add this to water and milk mixture already heating on burner. Stir frequently.

    • While sauce is heating, take a can of Spam™ or Spam™ Lite, squeeze out about one-half of contents, and slice off onto cutting board. Cover remainder and refrigerate for use at another time.

    • Dice block of Spam™ or Spam™ Lite on cutting board into one-quarter inch cubes and add to sauce heating in pan.

    • Add one teaspoon of black pepper to sauce.

    • When gruel has reach a full boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

    • Remove bubbling mixture from heat and let stand for several minutes.

    • Eat and enjoy.



    The Dark Wraith would like to hear from all who try this delightful dinner he, himself, invented.

    Review of 300 (all the good stuff said comes from teenagers)

    by: Minstrel Boy

    Well folks, I took one for the team.

    300 could have come close. Even factoring in that it was taken from a comic book, even factoring artistic license, even taking three teen age boys, it was hard to sit through.

    The history was twisted and wrong. I couldn't see a reason for that. They overdid the opposition. There weren't any elephants, had they been there the ground that was chosen would have negated any impact they might have had, yet, there were not only elephants they were cartoon elephants.

    They missed a lot of good things they could have said. In many ways the picture they gave of Sparta was closer to the "SpartaLand" that the Romans set up after defeating Philip of Macedon. The Romans also focused on the harsh training of the Spartan boys. They went straight for the Sado-Masochism without any thought of how it turned out the most feared fighting culture of the day.

    You also would have thought that the battle was the Spartan's idea. They participated at the request of their old rivals the Athenians. They only sent 300, the rest of Greece (which really wasn't an entity, it was city by city, voting to send what volunteers they could) sent close to 8,000. There was a lot of loose talk about fighting for "freedom" which was truly not a Spartan ideal. As a matter of fact their military was mostly used to keep their slaves (mostly other Greeks from Messina) in line. They were a small monarchy. Much like the American South, the slavery that they based their economy on held them back. It took so much time, effort, and military expense to keep the inefficient slave labor on the job that they missed out on a whole lot of riches to be had from trade and commerce. They were slave drivers who were content to lord over their hirelings in relative squalor all the while complaining about the effete airs and dangerous freedoms of Athens (who twenty years previously had kicked some serious Persian ass at Marathon which the Spartans declined to participate in with even a token force). They also have the Spartans talking about how the Athenians are homosexual child molestors, then go to battle wearing speedos. Historically, the Spartans made homosexual initiation part and parcel of barracks life. On their wedding nights their brides dressed like cadets. But, the whole homosexual angle was no big deal to the Greeks. As long as your inclinations didn't interfere with your married duties they really didn't care.

    It was the Athenian admiral Themistocles (who gets zero mention here) who kept the Persian fleet at bay, finally bringing the whole invasion down at Salamis. Leonidas and the Spartans made a suicidal glory stand that had little, if any, tactical or strategic impact. Psychologically they might have put some doubt in the Persian minds, some hope in the minds of the Greek allies, but, Athens still got burned.

    There is some really lurid crap about the oracles of Greek religion. Making them like pagan strippers. It's pretty rude, but, hey, nobody believes in the Olymipic gods anymore so I guess it's fair game.

    The whole movie, when they aren't fighting their cartoon fights (had they even tried to make it slightly realistic there would have been gore to spare from showing a hand to hand battle with seven foot spears and swords) is stupidly trite.

    Even some of the most historic moments were twisted around and lost their meaning.

    The most blatant of these was when they totally misrepresented the context of the laconic quip of Diekenes. In the original Heroditus account a Greek scout reports that he has seen the archers of the Persians taking their practice. He says that their arrows blot out the sun. Diekenes says "Good, then we shall have our battle in the shade." It's gallows humor. The Spartans knew they were expected to die. Every one of the Spartan similars that was at Thermopolye was the father of a son. That was what the Spartans did when there wasn't much chance of returning alive. It kept the bloodlines going. In the movie he says it angrily to a Persian envoy. Again, it was a twisting that I couldn't see a dramatic reason for.

    The teenagers loved the action and the gore. They loved the bare tits (even cartoon tits can excite these boys) on the oracle. They loved the ass kicking fire of the Spartan women (which was pretty accurate).

    I recommmend passing on this one. It's really not worth the money. The action is cartoonish and lurid. The script is stupid and factually unsupportable. The part that puzzles me is why they did it at all.

    It will be too easy to rent in about four months. After two weeks of people coming out and talking about what a dog this is it will go to cable right away, and be out for rentals soon.

    They are also making a live (real people with a minimum of CGI) version of Stephen Pressfield's Gates of Fire. Let's wait for that one.

    el rancho harpo

    Review of 300 On Hold

    by: Minstrel Boy

    I am a history geek. Stuff like the politics and tactics surrounding a battle like Thermopolye really bring this out in me. I was instantly suspicious when I saw the trailers for 300, but I figured, this might encourage some folks to find out what really happened.

    My initial feeling is that what happened at Thermopolye doesn't need any pumping up. It doesn't need a bunch of special effects. It certainly doesn't need any parallels to what's happening in Iraq. There was enough stupidity, hubris, double dealing, doomed from the start vision, and pure ass ring tailed warrior courage to spare with what really happened.

    I've read several reviews. A danger signal on a movie like this is when they talk about "gorgeous to watch," or, "really brings out the effects." Hayzeus diomio, how about talking about what goes on? Huh?

    So, here's what I did. I've lined up three teenaged boys to come with me. I'm sure that, even though two of them are also history geeks, I will get to see what the target audience feels about it.

    Coming up sometime tonight, a review of 300, with the perspective of three teenage boys thown in to mellow my curmugeonly cynical snark.


    Harp and Sword

    Modern Life

    by: Debra

    Why doesn't the dictionary in Firefox 2.0 recognize its own name or the words internet and blog? Just wondering why they couldn't have thought just a wee bit further into the future and realize that those words would become commonplace?

    While I'm wondering about things, I got DiSH installed on Friday. The picture rocked! Until I turned it on again on Saturday morning and it wanted to be hooked up to an active phone line and nothing could change its mind. So I called tech support from my cell phone and said that was all I had. They said it would be five dollars more per month. I said something unprintable and then asked "just out of curiosity, how much is my monthly bill?" "$45.97" he replied. I said that was unacceptable. They transferred me to an account rep.

    I explained to her that I had ordered the basic service for $19.99 a month for ten months, that I didn't really need Showtime but had been given it for three months, a PVR and local channels and that my installation fee would be refunded on my first months bill. She told me that program was no longer available. That I now had the America's Top 100 instead of 60 and if I wanted to reduce my bill I could get rid of the PVR and the local channels. I said "That's called bait and switch, for crappy service like that I could go back to Comcast." She explained to me that the company who did the installation had made a mistake and was using old paperwork. I'll say. After looking at it carefully, I spotted the letters SBC, which was the incarnation of AT&T before it became Cingular and after it was AT&T. All in the space of six years.

    They are going to swap out my dual PVR that I didn't ask for and give me the single, in 8-10 weeks I'll receive a coupon in the mail and once I send that back in, they will take ten dollars a month off my bill for ten months. I feel used and abused, with no idea if I'm getting my installation fee back. They reset the satellite signal and I had tv again.

    So later I'm watching Comedy Central and the screen goes black. What now? After reading the manual I realize that I have a V-chip in the tv, whose remote is missing. I finally get into the proper menu and sure enough, TV-MA was blocked. Not any more.

    Mom set the only manual clock before we went to bed, the cell phones and Mac sprung forward by themselves and I pushed the DST switch on the iHome. All done. Just like Y2K, much ado about nothing. How come the dictionary didn't object to Y2K?

    Debsweb

    Empty Epithet

    by: Foiled Goil

    Those Who Do Not Support Our Troops

    by Ryan McVay

    How many would argue against "supporting our troops"? Needless to say, it would take the most grandiose expression of stupidity to defend such a position in our current political climate. [snip]

    Why, therefore, is this wildly obnoxious, superfluously meaningless, inherently empty, yet sinisterly dangerous epithet being engendered as a public weapon to disenfranchise the expression of various political viewpoints? If apprised on its functionality in public discourse it becomes evident that the utterance of the phrase "support our troops" is a tactic of diverting conversation from concrete, measurable political actions that transpire in our physical world by governmental appointees and representatives, towards theoretical, abstract, warped, intangible, emotionally-charged mental constructions and hostile rhetoric that do not lead to any productive outcome. It is not necessarily a deliberate maneuver on the part of politicians to confuse the issue, although that possibility should not be ruled out. Its function in our society however, is exactly that, and it is dangerous.

    The root of its danger derives from its unsubstantiated hollowness, as it has never been thoroughly, publicly defined or its meaning commonly accepted. "Support our troops" is often understood as showing positive affirmation of the current administration's occupation policies abroad or protecting the lives of the troops by bringing them home. But the rationale of these two opinions are imbedded in innumerous possible scenarios, ignored histories, misunderstanding and manipulation that should demand a more detailed explanation of the epithet rather than blind adherence to it. [snip]

    I find it not only vile but also deceitful that the Bush administration has repeatedly pushed for cutting VA funding, reducing veteran's healthcare benefits, raising costs of treatment, decreasing access to medical care, raising eligibility requirements for benefits, cutting "imminent danger" pay and family separation allowances, and charging veterans for rations at Fort Steward amongst other things. As one who values actions over words, given the disparity between his legislation and his rhetoric, it is extremely difficult for me to accept that our president truly supports our troops.

    I might affirm an increase in military funding if I was assured it would go to equipping and caring for our personnel. However, I have great reservations believing this will happen after watching the Lockheed Martin Corporation's net income increase from 500 million at the end of 2002 to 2.52 billion at the end of 2006; Northrop Grumman Corporation from 64 million to 1.52 billion; The Boeing Company from 492 million to 2.21 billion; Raytheon Company from -640 million to 1.28 billion; and of course everyone's favorite Halliburton who's net income was a stunning -998 million dollars in December of 2002 to 2.348 billion dollars in December of 2006. Now of course these are all numbers and figures, and markets change, and statistics don't represent the realities on the ground, and one must take into consideration the inflation rate. So taking them into account, perhaps it's best described as downright criminal, greedy, perverse, atrocious and hypocritical. If that were not enough, through all of this, our government is still unable to scrape together enough money to provide combat troops with body armor, armored Humvees, or mice-free veteran's housing. [snip]

    Let's focus on making good decisions, evaluating our actions and their affects and not imprison ourselves with the fear of not "supporting our troops." [snip]


    Full article here.
    10 March 2007

    TMI

    by: Foiled Goil

    Too Much Info, Newt! Sex, God, and Praying

    You could almost feel sorry for Focus on the Family founder James Dobson (if he weren't so self-righteous, judgmental, and intolerant) since he is often called on like a priest in a confessional to hear the admissions of those who seek absolution. Some of this stuff has to make him nauseous. [snip]

    When former Georgia congressman Newt Gingrich needed to unload (no pun intended) about his extramarital affair, he selected Dobson to interview him. This urge to purge is politically motivated, undoubtedly. Seems Newt is testing the base of the Republican Party, airing his cheating past to see if an admission to indiscretion will hinder a run for the presidency.
    "There are times that I have fallen short of my own standards. There's certainly times when I've fallen short of God's standards," said Newt.
    Oh, what perfectly chosen words. The mention of "God" is particularly priceless. [snip]

    Certainly, the Religious Right (RR) will lap up Gingrich's casting off of sin. Especially this:
    "There were times when I was praying and when I felt I was doing things that were wrong. But I was still doing them. I look back on those as periods of weakness and periods that I'm not proud of."
    eek

    Simply put, I don't want to hear about Newt's doing the nasty with anybody. You see, I'm a very visual person. The image of Gingrich's boinking is repulsive enough, but that picture in my mind of his praying while boinking is really too much to bear.

    The Pardon Problem

    by: Dark Wraith

    I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, formerly the Chief of Staff to Vice President Richard Cheney, was convicted last week on four counts of lying to FBI investigators and a grand jury about when he disclosed to outside sources that Valerie Plame was a non-official cover CIA operative. The most serious of the charges upon which he was convicted was obstruction of justice in the investigation of the circumstances that led to the outing of Ms. Plame, whose husband, Joseph Wilson, had investigated and publicly debunked claims by the Bush Administration that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had tried to procure partially processed uranium from Niger.

    The White House had been using the mainstream media, particularly certain reporters like Judith Miller of The New York Times, to promote a largely false case for waging war on Iraq based upon claims by Administration officials that Saddam was seeking to procure, develop, and deploy nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons of mass destruction. Evidence put into the record at Mr. Libby's trial confirms long-standing suspicions and open allegations that the White House, faced with challenges to the credibility of its representations regarding the Iraqi dictator, engaged in a systematic pattern of revenge upon critics who had evidence or belief that the Administration's case was, at best, overblown and, at worst, entirely fabricated. The outing of Ms. Plame sent a strong signal to the intelligence community that taking public exception to the White House would be at the high risk of professional and possibly even personal harm: an exposed undercover operative, as well as his or her contacts, faces permanent, possibly life-threatening dangers after being revealed, and few career employees, especially those working in law enforcement at the national or international level, would be willing to bear such dangers merely to express a judgment in dissent to the highest ranks of a powerful, single-minded, vengeful Executive Branch.

    Mr. Libby has vowed through his attorneys to seek a retrial and, failing to obtain such, has vowed to appeal his conviction in federal court. In fact, the appeal of the conviction is automatic; but the point of Mr. Libby's stance is that he will not take the adverse judgment of the federal jury lying down. The arguments he will set forth in seeking retrial are still to be fully formed, as are the arguments that will be placed before the Court of Appeals. As a matter of statistics, the likelihood of Mr. Libby being granted a retrial are slim, and the prospect that an Appeals Court will find substantive error in the trial is even more so.

    In the absence of relief in retrial or appeal, Mr. Libby faces a maximum of 25 years in prison and a fine of one million dollars. While it is unlikely that the presiding trial judge, Reggie Walton, will "throw the book" at the convict, it is equally unlikely that Mr. Libby will altogether avoid serving prison time and paying a huge amount of money in fines. As a so-called "white collar criminal," and especially one who served at the behest of a sitting President of the United States, Mr. Libby's prison term would be served in a minimum security facility (with thanks to Richard Crane for pointing out that the camp originally suggested in this article is now closed). While nothing like living as a free person, the convict serving time in such a facility certainly does not suffer many of the deprivations and physical dangers that those serving in higher-security prisons face day in and day out. Although references to 'minimum security golf resorts' abound (one prison administrator describes his minimum security facility as "Camp Cupcake"), Mr. Libby would probably prefer to choose his own golf courses and foursome partners, so he'll make every effort to avoid what would otherwise be a stint in the gilded confines of a minimum security federal prison, comfortable as it might be.

    Absent the retrial or overturn of his conviction on appeal, Mr. Libby's only chance of avoiding the certain, permanent stain of being a convicted felon and the near-certain, fairly long pain of confinement is an official pardon for his criminal acts by the President of the United States. Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution reserves to the sitting President the privilege of "Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States except in Cases of Impeachment." The language is clear, simple, and without recourse by those who might object to any particular case in which the President has granted clemency. Presidents, including the incumbent, have used this power with greater or lesser liberality, particularly in the waning days of their Administrations, when personal political backlash would be minimal or when legacy of mercy was being burnished. The constitutional provision is given procedural specificity by Part 1 of Title 28 of the Code of Federal Regulations, which sets forth the way in which a convict may seek, through the Pardon Attorney in the Department of Justice, clemency from the President. While quite specific, the statute is entirely non-binding upon the President, who may, at his or her discretion, choose to partially or wholly circumvent the process set forth therein. Even at that, though, it is quite likely that Mr. Libby, having exhausted all personal avenues of possible exoneration, would follow the steps prescribed in Title 28, provided President Bush had not already pardoned him.

    While many commentators have expressed the opinion that a Presidential pardon (the highest of possible grants of clemency) is almost certain for Mr. Libby, such mercy granted by Mr. Bush would be highly problematic for those in an Administration hoping that the conviction of Mr. Cheney's former Chief of Staff is the official end of the so-called "Valerie Plame Scandal."

    Any pardon Mr. Bush would grant Mr. Libby would have to be broad in scope, expressly protecting the latter from future prosecution on charges related to, but separate from, those for which he was just convicted. Such protective wording of a pardon would be along the lines of "...any and all acts carried out in the course of duties." While not rising to the level of so-called "blanket" immunity (exempting the individual from prosecution for any prior acts), such a pardon would have the effect of being an extraordinarily broad "use" immunity to keep any future investigation from leading to charges against Mr. Libby for what he did for and at the behest of higher White House officials. In other words, in any future trials involving White House officials who were part of the smear campaign against Valerie Plame and her husband, Mr. Libby's pardon would have to ensure that he would not face "jeopardy" in both the common and legal senses of that word.

    But therein lies the problem: in any future legal proceeding, be it at the level of a federal grand jury, in a District Court, or before a congressional commmittee, Mr. Libby could not decline to respond to any question by invoking the Fifth Amendment, which would otherwise protect him from being compelled to give self-incriminating statements. Mr. Libby could, in fact, not incriminate himself in any manner that would lead to jeopardy for him.

    Worse, if he were to decline to speak fully and truthfully anyway, he could at a minimum be charged with contempt of court and quite probably also be charged with obstruction of justice; and no such charges against him would be covered by the Presidential pardon because they were ex post acts in transgression of law and were committed subsequent to his "official duties" since he is no longer an officer of the Executive Branch.

    Even future claims by Mr. Libby of defects in his memory of certain events would surely lead to punishment because that defense had already been rejected at trial and could not be revisited by Mr. Libby in future proceedings. To do so would virtually ensure a finding of contempt of court were he to persist in representing that he could not remember when events occurred.

    Granted a Presidential pardon, then, Mr. Libby would be an extraordinary legal danger to those in the White House who directed, participated in, or subsequently obstructed the investigation of the Valerie Plame Scandal. A Presidential pardon broad enough to protect Mr. Libby would turn him into a veritable treasure trove of information awaiting responsible congressional and law enforcement authorities willing and able to fully extract from him what he most certainly knows about the possible criminal acts of Administration officials who, in their wildly imaginative case for war, used the power of their offices to wreck those who knew they were lying.

    Key, however, to Mr. Libby's possible future role as an informant with no meaningful right against self-incrimination is a thorough investigation, followed by a comprehensive prosecution of all involved. That federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was inadequate to that large, grave, and necessary work must not disabuse other officials of what is not merely their constitutional duty, but is more to the point their moral obligation to right this one of many wrongs committed by an Administration unfettered by any internal sense of its own responsibility to adhere to the rule of law.



    The Dark Wraith encourages President George W. Bush, in the spirit of mercy and friendship, to pardon I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

    Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums
    08 March 2007

    A Word for Dick: "Resign"

    by: Foiled Goil

    McGovern: Cheney Must Go

    Says Libby's conviction points to vice president's involvement in CIA leak


    By John Nichols, Capital Times, Madison, WI

    George McGovern has a word for Vice President Dick Cheney: "Resign."

    Responding to Tuesday's conviction of Cheney's former chief-of-staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, on charges of obstruction of justice, perjury and lying to the FBI - after a trial that revealed Cheney's intimate involvement with a scheme to discredit a critic of the administration's war policies - the former congressman, senator and presidential candidate said it was time for the vice president to go.
    "What we have learned about how he has conducted himself leaves no doubt that he should be out of office," McGovern says of Cheney. "If he had any respect for the Constitution or the country, he would resign."
    And if Cheney does not take the liberal Democrat's counsel?
    "There is no question in my mind that Cheney has committed impeachable offenses. So has George Bush," argues McGovern. "Bush is much more impeachable than Richard Nixon was. That's been clear for some time. There does not seem to be much sentiment for impeachment in Congress now, but around the country people are fed up with this administration."
    "I think this is the most lawless administration we've ever had," he says of the Bush-Cheney team.
    "The war was begun in clear violation of the Constitution," McGovern says. "There was no declaration of war by the Congress. Secondly, it's a flagrant violation of international law: Iraq was not threatening the United States in any way. Yet, the United States went after Iraq. The president and vice president got away with it, at least initially, because they were willing to exploit the emotional power of the 9/11 attack to achieve their goal of getting us into a war in the Middle East."
    McGovern, a decorated World War II veteran, approves of U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold's suggestion that Congress should look into employing the power of the purse to force the administration to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq.
    "Frankly," the former senator says, "I would support anything that would get our troops out of there."
    "I think that the greatest deficiency in our politics these days is the fact that our leaders fail, by and large, to remember our history," says McGovern.
    A close second is the caution of the current political class. McGovern calls the Congress "lily-livered" for failing to check and balance Bush and Cheney on the war.
    "I feel an obligation to speak up when I see these flagrant things happen," says McGovern. "I can't be silent when President Bush and Vice President Cheney choose to disregard the Constitution. Maybe if there were other people in the White House, I could slow down a little. But I can't do that as long as this administration is in charge."
    Submitted by davidswanson, After Downing Street dot org

    Lost Art

    by: Missouri Mule

    My grandmother had a stack of notes beside her telephone. As she'd spend her mornings listening on the local party line, she'd write.
    I doubt that there was hardly a soul in her little community who didn't receive at least one card of thanks from Grandma. If you ran the snowplow past her house that day, you got a thank you note. If you delivered the mail through the muddy paths that we called country roads, you'd get a thank you letter from Grandma. Jobs that seemed the natural course of things and part of the occupation's duties were duly rewarded by a short note of thanks.
    "Every good act is a choice," she'd tell me. "When a baby's born he's selfish. He'll grab the drumstick off you plate. You've got to learn to be nice." and she made sure that when people acted the way they should they were thanked for it.
    "It's not the size of the deed," said Grandma. "It's the fact that you did it. There's few things in the world that couldn't be cured just by people doing the right thing."
    For most folks, thank you notes have sadly gone the way of Grandma's corset and waffle maker. Letter writing for any purpose has lost ground to emails and short hand text messages:"thnx 4 th G8 time last ngt. callme b4 u leave this a.m."
    An entire generation has learned to write like a robot with hiccups. The act of taking the time to sit down and write a note, apply the stamp and walk it to the post office has become a relic.
    Grandma used to send out thank you notes for birthday gifts received, Christmas presents, encouraging phone calls, uplifting sermons, well-run meetings, and even an occasional crisply fried piece of chicken. She once wrote her neighbor saying, "Vera, you probably know this, but you've raised two of the best boys in our community. I'm sure that seeing the fine young men they've become is thanks enough, but I just wanted to add my little thank you for making the world a better place by the way you raise kids." When Vera died, her sons said that they found the yellowed note tucked under the front flap of her bible. It has rested there some 30 years as a constant reminder of friendship, and an encouragement.
    Isn't it interesting that among the cherished artifacts found stuffed in desk drawers and purses are the crumbling remnants of thank you notes? They serve as portable little reminders that Yea, you're doing the right thing and it is appreciated.
    It's not difficult to look around and find reason to feel gratitude. Just a mile from where I sit, the Stark family is sending their son on his second tour to Iraq. Reggie didn't have to go. He's a bright boy who could be making a successful way in any line of work he chose, but he's always had his heart set on the armed forces. He's an expert in defusing bombs and he thinks his skills might save lives . Has anyone thanked him?
    My friend Kay is a secret agent. She has a standing order at two of our local nursing homes, having left word at the desk to call her in case of "emergency." To Kay, an emergency means a bed-ridden resident who's gone without visitors for over a week. When Kay gets the call, she's off like a shot. And perhaps the most remarkable part of Kay's ministry to the lonely in that many of the folks she visits forget that she came five minutes after she's gone. That matters little to Kay. For that one moment they were loved. She once told me, "That's rather selfish, don't you think? To want to be remembered for doing something good?" I wonder if any one's thanked her for bringing that one moment to life.
    The opportunities to thank someone are everywhere....the teacher who laughed with understanding instead of slamming your son up against the back wall as he deserved when he said something inappropriate in class, the coffee shop waitress who rises early to serve you at your leisure, even the husband who (compared to a couple others) isn't really so bad.
    Before Grandma died I had the chance to talk to her about the hundreds of thank you notes she'd sent over the years. She moved her oxygen line out of the way, learned over to me and said, "Tell the thruth, it was partly selfish. You got no idea that good it does a person to give thanks."
    Therapy. Grandma spent a lifetime giving thanks for her own therapy. How totally cool. And another reason to practice the art of appreciation.

    Affirm This

    by: Debra

    Sigh. How can so many people be so clueless? Actually it's more like being deliberately cruel and obtuse. Forty years of affirmative action and they feel the need to outsource racial diversity at the university level? Twenty five percent of black students are immigrants. Great, just great. Maybe if people hadn't been in such a hurry to dismantle the public education system while enjoying their tax breaks and concentrating the wealth in upper class suburban neighborhoods, blacks from outside the country wouldn't be considered "more polite, less hostile and more solicitous".

    Aah, it becomes clear. Having recent interactions with gentlemen from Kenya and Sierra Leone, I can say that the reason they are more polite is because they have real news outside of the US and these men are more than aware that they can be shot at any time. No questions asked. Until later.

    Less hostile? That's easy. If people haven't been suspicious of every move you made all your life, it's easy to be less hostile. If you grew up in a world where people didn't cross to the other side of the street, hold their purse tighter or follow you around in a store, you are much less likely to feel like you are being judged with every breath you take.

    Solicitous. Probably on a par with other students from outside the US.

    If we spent more time and money on the elementary school system, the college problems would take care of themselves. Knowing the basics enables you to learn the more complicated stuff. Teaching rote memorization does not develop critical thinking but it does keep the class quiet. We have a looming crisis in this country and it won't be noticed until it's too late. Just like the outsourcing of valuable middle class jobs, this is another way to keep the populace under control.

    So, I guess Obama is black, at least according to the racial diversity requirements for college.

    Debsweb
    07 March 2007

    Open Letter to 110th Congress -- It's Time to Impeach!

    by: Gary

    Actually, it's well past time...But...

    I just sent this off to some members and the Washington Post.

    Honorable House & Senate Members of the 110th Congress:

    I am writing today to again inquire as to why impeachment hearings have yet to be initiated?

    I am unclear as to how a congressional body can jump to impeach a President over what should have been a private infidelity, but can't bring itself to focus the same energy and resolve when a President & Vice President have clearly broken not one law, but several laws? As a land of laws and Constitutional principles, it seems fairly clear to me that your elected responsibility to America and her citizens is to investigate at the least, and impeach at the most. Actually, prison time would be the greatest and surest relative punishment for the several and many violations of our Constitution. Even treason is not off the table as far as I can tell; at least for the Vice President?

    In any event, my issue today is with the delay.

    I was wondering if you were seeking some sort of signed invitation to impeach Bush & Cheney? Then yesterday I was it was all but delivered to you by way of a jury in the Scooter Libby trial. America, that jury, and at least 29 towns in Vermont know that this administration has broken the law, and violated its oath to America. Bush & Cheney have violated our Constitution and the laws of this land with such complete and willful disdain as to call into question their very status as American statesman.

    Bush & Cheney have spied on citizens without the approval of courts, and with total disregard for the opinions of lawmakers, citizens, and the law. They thumbed their noses, claimed "protecting you from terror" and went on their way. Not only did you not stop this practice, you didn't offer any punishment, punitive or otherwise for the behavior. Silence and non-binding resolutions are approval. Loud opposition, binding resolutions, and floor votes are strong messages that warn them to stop or face greater penalties.

    Bush & Cheney purposefully orchestrated the exposure and leaked identity of an active, in the field, covert CIA operative named Valerie Plame in order to discredit her husband. They put our national security at risk in two ways. First by exposing this agent, and second by exposing her so that we would end up at war in Iraq for bogus artificial reasons. This deliberate act, exposed by a jury yesterday, is a clear and key violation of the law. Two reasons for removal lie at the foot of this scandal. One...For VP Cheney, the deliberate order to undermine Joe Wilson by outing his wife. Surely this rises to the level of "high crimes & misdemeanors?"

    Second, and more troubling in many ways, is the fact that this series of actions was key to the Administration's selling the Iraq war to both the Congress and the American public. It was the worst of lies! A series of well planned myths that have resulted in countless American deaths, many more Iraqi deaths, and the destabilization of a region. The resulting civil war is the new breeding ground for Al-Qaeda and the terrorists we were supposedly destroying. Instead, we have created more, and put our democracy in even greater peril. Surely, lying to start a 400 billion dollar war with no purpose that is mired in the blood of our dead soldiers is worthy of a charge of "high crimes & misdemeanors?"

    Torture. In this land of liberty, freedom, and a great democracy, how can we stand idly by with an Administration that condones and finds torture necessary? How is it that we can so casually violate US Law and international treaties without challenging those that are breaking the laws? Is that the nation we have become? Is that representative of the flag, the country, and the land that you and I both love so dear? Torture and the lack of Habeas Corpus is something you hear of in other countries. It is something you expect from, and supposedly we killed Saddam for?! Torture is the thing of Gulags, not "Purple Mountains Majesty," or at least that is what I was taught America stood for; not so under Bush & Cheney. This is yet another inconvenient law they have actively ignored, and you barely addressed it.

    Is water-boarding a citizen, an alleged "suspect," or anyone else a legal and legitimate practice of America? I don't believe so...That is not the reason I respect the Red, White & Blue of our flag. Does torture make you proud our "more perfect union?" Seems this is one more notch in the belt of impeachable offenses. And if it seems like that to me, and to 29 other entire TOWNS in Vermont, how has it escaped your attention?

    What about signing statements, Katrina ravaged America, and countless other legal issues?


    What about declaring judges unfit to rule unless they rule with the President? What about firing and undermining federal attorneys when they disagree with you? Do you not see the inherent problems with these issues and how they work to undermine our democracy, civil rights, and the balance of power?

    I am offering you are written invitation, a voter approved resolution; permission if you will, to launch a binding and comprehensive investigation into the abuses of law and power of President George W Bush & Vice President Dick Cheney. They have brought our nation low without response or action. It is time for this failed Congressional policy to change. That is part of why we voted a democratic majority into office. It is your responsibility as the legislative branch to hold power in check and return balance to our democracy.

    I care little for reasons, motives, or legislative strategy in this matter. If you ignore the actions of Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, then you are as guilty of crimes against America as they are. Inaction is not an option! It is your Constitutional obligation and responsibility to investigate, and if necessary and required by the evidence, punish this administration. It's not optional, our system of government demands it of you!

    So please accept this letter as official notice of what is expected of you as elected representatives of the people.

    As graciously as I can,

    G.


    Specifically, this was sent to Speaker Pelosi, Senators Casey & Specter, Represetative Peterson, and Senator Hagel.

    Who will you write to today?! Find your reps contact info here.
    06 March 2007

    BREAKING: Verdict

    by: Dark Wraith

    I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former Chief of Staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, has been found guilty on four of five counts of lying to a federal grand jury and FBI investigators.

    He was found not guilty on one count of making false statements.

    The guilty verdict is subject to automatic appeal.

    The verdicts by charge were as follows:
      Guilty
    • Obstruction of justice in a federal investigation

    • Making false statements to FBI investigators (re: conversation with journalist Tim Russert)

    • Committing perjury to a federal grand jury (re: conversation with journalist Tim Russert)

    • Committing perjury to a federal grand jury (re: conversation with journalist Matthew Cooper)


      Not Guilty
    • Making false statement to FBI investigators (re: conversation with journalist Matthew Cooper)

    Mr. Libby faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and one million dollars in fines.
    05 March 2007

    Hillary Runs Left To The Gays: "I Am Proud To Stand By Your Side"

    by: Gary

    Hillary Clinton speaks at HRC and declares herself a strong ally of the LGBT Community! How refreshing to hear a candidate speak for our rights instead of purely against them, or in vague terms that barely reference them, or work to completely avoid the issue. She has declared herself proudly against the Federal Marriage Amendment. And I quote:

    "We will not stand idly by when anyone tries to write discrimination into our Constitution"
    "We want to make sure that all Americans in committed relationships have equal benefits, from health insurance & life insurance, to social security & property rights, and more. It is wrong that so many people are unable to care for those they love; to leave them their homes & belongings, to ensure they can see a doctor, to visit them in the hospital when they are sick. These are fundamental rights, and we will continue to push until they are equally available."
    Now, this stops short of declaring all committed relationships fully equal, but it is the most encouraging rhetorical step forward I have heard in a very long time. Certainly, this is the strongest step towards equality that has ever been offered by a serious contender for the White House. The "Domestic Partnership Benefits & Obligations Act" should it be passed would be a very positive step in the right direction, but it only extends to Federal employees. Obviously, that is problematic, but I think it a strategic move forward in an increment that has both the possibility of passing, and the least number of hurdles. I am thinking of it in terms of "baby steps." Admittedly that may be naive, but the rhetoric she offered was clear and resolute. If and when she becomes President, she will be our ally, not our adversary.

    "You will always have an open door to my office in the White House."
    I think few declarations could be more clear. Hillary definitely wants the support of the LGBT community. She is unafraid to offer it before she enters the White House, and is willing to bravely promise her support once she is there.

    She also came out strongly against her husband's failed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" legislation. Progress is clearly manifesting itself in the former, and possibly future Clinton Administrations.

    "Courage, honor, patriotism, and sacrifice; the traits that define our men and women in uniform have nothing to do with sexual orientation."
    Calling an end to, and rightfully claiming a part in the demise of this ridiculous policy is but another positive step for equality in America.

    Other high points included support for adoption rights, ENDA, and the passage of the Federal Hate Crimes Legislation.

    I am not ready to throw my full support behind any Presidential candidate, but for now Hillary has me in her corner. She is offering just the sort of "partnership" that the LGBT community needs if we wish to see equality in our life times. Her words are strong and carry power with them. The mere fact that she is drawing a line of equality in the sand with logical arguments to our credit is enough to offer great potential momentum to our rights as a community. She speaks of making us full American citizens on paper, not just by birthright.

    That works for me.

    You can see the entire speech on YouTube at this link.

    Enjoy and share! I think we have a horse in the coral that could win the race, and she has chosen to wear the proud colors of the rainbow.
    03 March 2007

    The Economics of Wreckage, Part One

    by: Dark Wraith

    This is the first of a three-part series on macroeconomic financial effects of the Presidency of George W. Bush. On Tuesday, February 27, 2007, stock markets around the world dropped precipitously, led into the vortex by China, where the Shanghai Stock Exchange lost almost nine percent of its value. Major stock indices in the U.S. followed suit, wiping out recent gains that had brought forth breathless praise from the mainstream media about near-record highs that were nothing more than a brief, illusory departure from the pattern of abysmal real returns that common stock portfolios have offered investors over the past six years.

    This first part of the series is the latest in a continuing program of index portfolio analyses that have been an on-going project here at Bg Brass Blog. Readers who have followed previous installments may recall that negative or miserably weak positive returns on equity index investments have been the typical outcome of these calculations in the past. Only in the last installment, published just after the sixth anniversary of President Bush's inauguration in 2001, did even one of the major indices, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, register a barely positive annualized real rate of return over the six years, and the decline in that and the other U.S. indices served to bring all three of the averages surveyed here back into line with the overall negative performance they have displayed over the tenure of the Bush Administration.

    This first part, then, is a reminder to all who would offer even a modicum of praise for the Bush Administration's record as the steward of the American economy. Financial markets do not lie. They do not fabricate numbers, nor do they manipulate quantitative outcomes to suit the public relations purposes of the neo-conservatives; instead, the inflation-adjusted returns on investment in the three major stock indices of the United States calculated and presented below deliver the stark, objective assessment generated from trillions and trillions of trades involving nearly incomprehensible amounts of money: the Bush Administration has been an engine of financial depletion of the value of claims on ownership in American companies publicly listed by the three largest, most comprehensive stock indices.

    The second part of this series will provide a standard, relatively simple macroeconomic model of the distribution of spending that comprises the total national income of a country, and that model will be applied to explain the way in which the United States government has financed hundreds of billions of dollars in deficit spending through the use of its trade deficits, particularly those it has run with China, which has for years deliberately manipulated the exchange rate of its currency, the yuan, with the U.S. dollar to the end of causing American greenbacks to flow to the central bank of China, which then used those dollars to finance the staggering budget deficits the Republicans have created year after year.

    The third part of the series will review the dynamics by which the U.S. trade deficits with China have fostered the conditions the Bush Administration exploited to maintain abnormally low tax rates concomitantly with profligate spending, particularly on wars of opportunity. That third installment will conclude with the explanation of why the Shanghai stock market necessarily had to crash and what will be the likely consequences of recent economic events on the long-term prospects of a United States weakened by the irresponsible incompetence of the Bush Administration and its Republican cohorts who, until just recently, served as the exclusive, if unworthy, stewards of a nation that could have been far better off than it will be as the incontrovertible result of their time in power.


    Responsibility Assigned
    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.

    The Republican Party, through its legislators in Congress and its President in the White House, has overseen the 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.

    The GOP has no one but its own elected representatives to blame, notwithstanding any possible obfuscation by its elected representatives or their apologists in the mainstream media or among the tap-dancing ranks of the Right-wing punditry brigade. Republican economics has been a failure: it is based upon budget deficit-driven fiscal stimulus financed by trade deficits that have had the effect of causing the sell-off of the American capital base, which America's trading partners have then lent back to the United States government to finance its budget shortfalls. The irresponsible policy pursued by Mr. Bush, the Republicans in Congress, and their neo-conservative pseudo-intellectual backers is a twist on Keynesian economic policy prescriptions, but true Keynesians would never have abided fiscal health-draining deficits for more than a short period of time, and they never would have even so much as suggested hocking the American economy to an enormous, mercantilist-Communist country that has cynically, systematically distorted exchange rates to draw American dollars and jobs from America's shores.

    Index Portfolio Performance during the Bush Administration to Date
    As of (and including) Friday, March 2, 2007, George W. Bush had been President of the United States 2,233 days. As pointed out above, 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. Similarly, the Republicans have no one but themselves to blame for what is shown below to have been an unconscionable erosion of the purchasing power of dollars invested in the three largest U.S. stock indices over the six years that George W. Bush has been President of the United States.

    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, March 2, 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 abysmal: all three indices have delivered negative real returns on investment over the term of the past six years.

    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 Average10,578.24
    Standard & Poor's 5001,342.90
    NASDAQ Composite2,757.91


    At the close of trading on Friday, March 2, 2007, these same three averages stood at the following levels:

    March 2, 2007, Index Closing Values
    Dow Jones Industrial Average12,114.10
    Standard & Poor's 5001,387.17
    NASDAQ Composite2,368.00


    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 2,233 days from January 22, 2001, to March 2, 2007:

    Total Nominal Portfolio Returns from 1/22/2001 to 3/2/2007
    Dow Jones Industrial Average14.52%
    Standard & Poor's 5003.30%
    NASDAQ Composite-14.14%


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

    Annualized Nominal Portfolio Returns from 1/22/2001 to 3/2/2007
    Dow Jones Industrial Average2.24%
    Standard & Poor's 5000.53%
    NASDAQ Composite-2.46%


    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 January 2007, the CPI stood at 202.4. The February 2007 figure can be estimated by various methods, and here, a conservative projection of 202.76 is derived from the three-month moving average of the CPI, implying an annualized inflation rate for the February of 2.2 percent, based upon the average of the annualized inflation rates for the previous three months.

    Expressing the closing index portfolio values as of Friday, March 2, 2007, in terms of their January 2001 purchasing power equivalents provides the following results:

    March 2, 2007, Index Values in January 2001 Purchasing Power Value
    Dow Jones Industrial Average10,461.55
    Standard & Poor's 5001,197.94
    NASDAQ Composite2,044.97


    The total real return on investment for each portfolio is then the quotient of the January 2001 index value when divided into the adjusted March 2, 2007, value:


    Total Real Portfolio Returns from 1/22/2001 to 3/2/2007
    Dow Jones Industrial Average -1.10%
    Standard & Poor's 500-10.79%
    NASDAQ Composite-25.85%


    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 March 2, 2007
    Dow Jones Industrial Average-0.18%
    Standard & Poor's 500-1.85%
    NASDAQ Composite-4.78%


    The results above are summarized in the following table:

    Index1/22/01 Index Level3/2/07 Index Level3/2/07 Index Level in 2001 $sTotal Nominal Return on InvestmentAnnualized Nominal Rate of ReturnTotal Real Return on InvestmentAnnualized Real Rate of Return
    Dow Jones Industrial Average10,578.2412,114.1010,461.5514.52%2.24%-1.10%-0.18%
    Standard & Poor's 5001,342.901,387.171,197.943.30%0.53%-10.79%-1.85%
    NASDAQ Composite2,757.912,368.002,044.97-14.14%-2.46%-25.85%-4.78%


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




    As is plainly evident, real returns on investment in three large U.S. stock indices, representing as they do the majority of ownership value in publicly traded U.S. corporations, have been negative. Investing in even the very largest, presumably safest public corporations would have led to an actual loss of money in real terms, and that loss would have been worse by investing in smaller-cap public companies through the NASDAQ Composite.

    In practical terms, the numbers above mean this: an investor putting $100 on January 20, 2001, into a portfolio of the Dow Jones 30 Industrials and maintaining the index balance until March 2, 2007, would now have the purchasing power of $98.90; an investor doing the same but investing in the Standard & Poor's 500 would now have the purchasing power of $89.21; and an investor doing the same but investing in the NASDAQ Composite index would now have the purchasing power of $74.15.

    Investing in stocks, particularly in well-balanced portfolios, is supposed to create capital appreciation in real terms over a long period of holding time; instead, over the course of the Bush Administration, investments in well-balanced, standard index portfolios have resulted in real purchasing power erosion of dollars invested.

    This is objective evidence, accumulating over more than six years, of fiscal mismanagement on a scale that will be felt for generations to come. This, then, is objective evidence of a degraded future for the United States, whose citizens will labor mightily under the after-effects of economic degradation caused by men and women in Washington who posed as prudent, fiscal conservatives, but instead acted in a more economically reckless manner than any American leadership in decades.

    This series will continue in the next installment with a survey of the national income allocation model, which will be used to explain the way in which the Republicans propelled the economy far too long on funds borrowed from overseas investors who got their money to make the loans by bleeding the American economy of both its greenbacks and its jobs.


    The Dark Wraith trusts that readers will stay tuned.

    Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

    Death By Chocolate

    by: Minstrel Boy

    the preface by John Ballinger

    Brad Parker was sitting in his bookshop in Williamsburg, Virginia, examining a copy of the 1511 edition of Vitruvius that someone had offered to sell him, when he glanced up to see Antoine Rustermann standing in the doorway of Parker's rare books.

    "Come quickly," he said to Brad and then ran across the small brick patio that separated the bookshop from Rustermann's restaurant. Brad had never seen Antoine so upset and quickly followed.

    Brad found Antoine in the restaurant's garden room, next to a table where the eminent rare-book dealer, Antonio Raimo, sat slumped forward, his head on the table, the victim of an apparent heart attack.

    Brad rushed over and felt in vain for a pulse. "Did the waiter present Mr. Raimo with the bill?" Brad asked.

    "No, we were just having dessert," Jennifer Raimo, Tony's wife, answered.

    "Death By Chocolate," said Antoine in a dazed monotone. It was the first time Brad noticed how suspiciously thin and fit Antoine was for a world-class chef.

    "That was what Tony ordered," Jennifer explained. "He's not much around the kitchen, and he tried in vain for the last two months to make the dessert from a recipe in the Death By Chocolate cookbook. Seeing a slice of it perfectly prepared was apparently too much for his system."

    "We'll have to rule out poison," Brad said, wrestling the fork from Raimo's clenched fist. "I'd better have a taste."

    "I'll help," Jennifer replied.

    Charles Cadbury, the homicide detective, came five minutes later.

    "What happened here?" he asked.

    "Death By Chocolate," Antoine replied.

    But, by then, the evidence had disappeared.
    Don't let this recipe overwhelm you. Like a great many of the finest desserts, think of this as a series of separate, discrete tasks which can be spread out to avoid overload. Day 1: Prepare the chocolate brownie, and keep refrigerated until the cake assembly. Day 2: Bake the cocoa meringue, and store in a dry place at room temperature. Prepare the Mocha Rum Sauce, refrigerate until 2 hours before service, then bring to room temperature. Day 3: Prepare the chocolate mousse (which must be refrigerated a minimum of 2 hours before assembling the cake), mocha mousse, and ganache, then assemble the cake and graciously accept your accolades. For this serving I combined days one and two, but for our purposes here I will approach the recipe on a day by day basis. I am saving the bad news for the very last.

    Day One: Chocolate Brownie Ingredients

    4 tablespoons unsalted butter
    1/4 cup all purpose flour
    2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, broken small
    2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken small
    3 eggs
    1 cup baker's sugar
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1/4 cup sour cream

    Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt onto a piece of waxed paper and set aside.

    Melt the chocolates and butter by placing them in the microwave (use a bowl that won't blow shit up) on high for 30 seconds, then stir, and use intervals of 10 seconds until smooth and glossy.

    Place the eggs, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the balloon whip. Mix on high until slightly thickened (about 90 seconds). Add the melted chocolate and mix on medium for another 30 seconds. Add the sifted ingredients and mix on low for 10 seconds, increase to medium speed and mix for 10 seconds, add the sour cream and mix on medium until fully blended. (about 20 more seconds)

    Turn the batter out into a buttered and floured 9-by-1 1/2" cake pan and bake at 350° for 30 minutes. (this particular brownie recipe is so loaded with chocolate and fudgy decadence that you'll never pass the clean toothpick test just know that 30 minutes will do the trick) Cool on a rack in the pan for 5 minutes, turn out onto a cake circle. After about 30 minutes it should be cool enough to slice horizontally. Wrap each brownie round closely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the morning of the assembly. First thing on the morning of the third day, take the brownie rounds out of the frige and allow them to come to room temperature.

    (if you bake this in an 8" square pan it makes the best brownies in the world. the moist texture makes them perfect for shipping to friends but i prefer to bake them at home and use them as lures for company)

    See? Day 1 wasn't all that tough now was it?

    Day Two: Cocoa Meringue & Mocha Rum Sauce

    Cocoa Meringue Ingredients

    4 egg whites
    1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
    1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
    1 & 1/4 cups baker's sugar
    2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa, sifted
    1 tablespoon cornstarch

    Preheat over to 225°. Using a 9" cake round as a guide, trace a circle on a sheet of parchment paper cut to fit a baking sheet. Place this with the pencil marks down on the baking sheet.

    Put the 4 egg whites, the cream of tartar, and the salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the balloon whip. Beat on high until soft peaks form. Gradually add 1 cup of the sugar while continuing to whip on high. Keep mixing until stiff peaks form (shouldn't take more than two minutes). Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to fold in and thoroughly combine the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons of sifted cocoa, and the cornstarch. Fill an untipped pastry bag with the meringue and pipe a 3/4" wide spiral towards the outside of the circle.

    Bake at 225° for 15 minutes. Lower the temperature to 200° for 2 hours and 45 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack and allow to cool for a full hour before handling. When thoroughly cooled cover loosely with plastic wrap and store at room temperature somewhere safe (beware having your meringue dented by passing fingers i usually avoid the whole temptation thing by putting it up high in the pantry).

    Mocha Rum Sauce

    6 ounces unsalted butter
    1 1/3 cups baker's sugar
    1 1/3 cups heavy cream
    8 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa, sifted
    3 tablespoons Havana Club® rum (sue me, the commies make the best hootch, but you can substitute Meyer's or Mount Gay if you don't know a smuggler)
    1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    4 teaspoons instant coffee
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

    Heat the butter in a heavy 2 1/2 quart saucepan over medium heat. When melted, add the sugar, heavy cream, sifted cocoa, 2 tablespoons of the rum, and salt. Stir with a whisk to combine all smoothly. Bring this to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and allow to simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes, stirring occaisionally. Remove from the heat and whisk in the instant coffee, vanilla extract, and the remaining tablespoon of rum, and stir until smooth. Put this in a tightly closed container and refrigerate until the next day, allow to come to room temperature before you assemble the cake.

    Day two wasn't all that tough either was it?

    Day Three: Chocolate Mousse, Mocha Mousse, Chocolate Ganache and ultimate assembly

    Hint Don't forget to take the brownie rounds, and the Mocha Rum Sauce out of the refrigerator now. You want them both at room temperature when you assemble this beauty.

    Chocolate Mousse Ingredients

    6 ounces bittersweet chocolate broken small
    1 1/2 cups heavy cream
    3 egg whites
    2 tablespoons baker's sugar

    Use the microwave technique to melt the chocolate until smooth and glossy.

    Put the heavy cream in the well-chilled bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the well-chilled balloon whip (putting them in the freezer for half an hour does the job nicely) and beat on high about a minute until soft peaks form.

    Whisk the egg whites in a large stainless steel bowl until soft peaks form. Add the 2 tablespoons of sugar and continue to whisk until stiff. Add about a quarter of the whipped cream to the chocolate and whisk quickly to thoroughly incorporate. Fold this into the egg whites. Then fold the remaining whipped cream gently into that. Cover closely with plastic wrap (Press'n'Seal® simply rocks for this) and refrigerate until cake assembly. *note* at least two hours, three is better, four is perfect.

    Mocha Mousse Ingredients

    14 ounces bittersweet chocolate busted up
    4 ounces unsweetened chocolate busted up
    1/2 cup water
    4 tablespoons instant coffee
    2 tablespoons sifted cocoa
    5 egg whites
    2 tablespoons baker's sugar
    3/4 cup heavy cream

    Time to break out the double boiler now, heat about 1 1/2" water over medium high heat in the bottom and put the chocolates, the water, the instant coffee and cocoa in the top half. Cover tightly and let heat for 6 to 7 minutes, uncover and stir until smooth.

    Put the egg whites in the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the balloon whip. Whip on high until soft peaks form, then, while still mixing, gradually add the two tablespoons of baker's sugar. Continue on high until stiff peaks form.

    Whip the cream by hand in a chilled bowl until stiff. Fold about a quarter of the egg whites into the melted chocolate mix, then fold into the whipped cream. Now fold the remaining egg whites in gently until thoroughly combined. Set aside.

    Chocolate Ganache Ingredients

    1 1/2 cups heavy cream
    3 tablespoons unsalted butter
    22 ounces bittersweet chocolate broken small

    Heat the cream and the butter over a medium high flame in a saucepan until it is right at the edge of a boil. Pour it over the chocolate pieces in a large stainless steel mixing bowl, allow it to stand untouched for 5 minutes, stir until smooth, cover closely with plastic wrap (ganache skin is yeuchey) and set aside.

    Now, the only part remaining is to combine these six separate items (three of which are out of the park home runs all by themselves) into a final home game of the season, bottom of the ninth, two out, bases loaded, down by three, full count home run that gets you into the hall of fame on the first ballot.

    Take your trusty 9 inch springform pan and put it on a baking sheet. Set the top half of the brownie rounds inside the pan, top side up. Ladle 1 1/2 cups of the ganache into the pan over the brownie. Using a very sharp serrated knife (being carefull because this is brittle) trim the cocoa meringe so that it will fit tightly into the pan. Place the meringue, top side up, inside the pan on top of the ganache, pressing gently to eliminate air pockets.

    Spoon the mocha mousse on top of the cocoa meringue, spreading evenly. Place the remaining brownie round, bottom side up, on top of the mocha mousse. Put this whole assembly into the freezer for 30 minutes.

    Remove the cake assembly from the freezer and use a cake spatula to go around the edges of the pan to release the cake from the springform. Pour the remaining ganache over the cake and use the cake spatula to spread the ganache evenly over the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate this for 15 minutes to set the ganache firmly.

    Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip with the chocolate mousse. Pipe a circle of stars along the outside edge of the top of the cake. Continue piping circles of stars in concentric circles until the entire cake is covered. Refrigerate this for at least 4 hours.

    To serve, use a very sharp serrated slicing knife that has been heated in boiling water and wiped dry to slice into 8 servings. Repeat the heating and wiping with each cut you make. Flood the bottom of a 10" diameter plate with 3 to 4 tablespoons of the mocha rum sauce then put the slice of cake at the center of the plate.

    As you enter the room look at the anticipation on the faces of your guests. See their eyes begin to shine and widen. Audible gasps are common. Exclamations of "Oh my!" "Holy Shit!" "Look at that!" will be said. Acknowledge them politly as you serve. Then sit, take up your fork, and pause. . .ever so slightly. Look at them as they try to restrain themselves and maintain a semblance of decorum. Then tear into this. Every bite is exquisite. The interplay of the strong and subtle flavors, the contrast of the textures is a sublime espression of the chef's art. Don't expect any more compliments for a while (although I figure moans of pleasure and guilt are the best and most eloquent compliments).

    And to close with the bad news. Each slice of this cake contains 1,354 calories. You're due at the gym lardass.

    el rancho lardass

    The Terms of Politics

    by: blackdog

    Reading an article in the Guardian, "The Winter of Conservative Discontent," I couldn't help but notice what I thought was a most excellent comment. About how the labels of 'conservative' or 'liberal' have been so horribly misused and misunderstood by so many, thanks mostly in my opinion by the lack of any clear thinking by most.

    Correction

    The lack of clear thinking is a function of the never ceasing rants of the shills who for some reason or other get access to the media and have brought it to the lowest level ever, so that the term 'journalist' may soon vie with 'politician', 'used car salesman', or 'lawyer'.

    Sometimes you really reap what you sow.

    Here is the comment:

    It seems to me some labels have been co-opted, usually by those in opposition to the premises upon which the original was founded.

    Conservative=Liberal, in the original sense (i.e. Locke, Burke, Adam Smith). Those who questioned the wisdom of government's attempted imposition of values, either religious or economic, were at some point classified as Conservatives when in fact they were originally described as Liberals.

    Now, we have the Christian right(a term useful as a label, but, in my view, a far more heterogenous entity than is typically perceived) described as 'conservative'. In fact, the ideology expressed by, say, the Moral Majority types is contradictory to viable 'conservative' values.

    With my libertarian tendencies, I find similarities between my own and the Conservative=Liberal viewpoints, yet if I were to describe myself as 'conservative' I would be viewed as one who supported hypocrites like Swaggert, James Baker and Falwell.

    I, therefore, find the premise of this piece by Hillyer as flawed from the outset. I, indeed, do not see a candidate at present that expresses truly Conservative=Liberal ideals. I don't necessarily consider that as a good situation, as an honest debate about the role of government from all perspectives could be productive. I think, to label the Christian right as 'conservative' just because they form a substantial voting bloc in the Republican party is a mistake, for their policy goals are, if anything, in clear contrast to the original values expounded by those who were once considered Conservatives.

    I guess my point here is that if one is to use a 'label' as a descriptive term, my preference would be to label accurately.

    Schusterian: While I'm on the topic of 'labels', here's another anecdotal example of why I inherently suspicious of them. My father's parents were immigrants from German communities along the Volga River. Catherine the Great encouraged deutchvolk to emigrate to this area. These "Volga Germans" were subjected to tribal animosities vis-a-vis the local Russians(and vice-versa). One rule of these German communities was to never be caught alone after dark, to suffer the consequences was death. My father's father related an incident where a Russian strayed into their village, and was subsequently whipped to death with bridles. While it may be revealing for me to reflect that I am but three generations removed from such an act, it does explain why my grandparents opted to emigrate to the US, ultimately to the Big Horn River valley, where they of course were labeled as 'Rooossians'. Them, to put it bluntly, were fighting words. To this day, if someone were to call my 81 year old father a Roossian, there would be hell to pay.

    I always perk up when I see your moniker on a thread for I know I'll see a reasoned and knowledgeable perspective. Were it not for posters like you, CiF would be just another blog filled with ill-tempered, ranting comments. I must now venture on a quest to find a water pump for a 49 Dodge flathead 6. I love junkyards, so my Saturday afternoon will be enjoyable, for one man's junk is another's treasure....


    This is from a commenter who goes by 9milerancher. The link to the article is here In the Guardian.

    This comment illustrates well what I have read from the Dark Wraith about how the conservative and liberal labels just don't work very well to describe anyone. I firmly believe that it is possible to be a liberal conservative or a conservative liberal, or any combination of any labels. As human beings, at least some of us are somewhat more complicated than this. I defy anyone to describe fully anyone else.
    02 March 2007

    Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss

    by: Foiled Goil


    Oh, The Places You'll Go!

    Congratulations!
    Today is your day.
    You're off to Great Places!
    You're off and away!

    You have brains in your head.
    You have feet in your shoes.
    You can steer yourself
    any direction you choose.
    You're on your own. And you know what you know.
    And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.

    You'll look up and down streets. Look 'em over with care.
    About some you will say, "I don't choose to go there."
    With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
    you're too smart to go down any not-so-good street.

    And you may not find any
    you'll want to go down.
    In that case, of course,
    you'll head straight out of town.

    It's opener there
    in the wide open air.

    Out there things can happen
    and frequently do
    to people as brainy
    and footsy as you.

    And when things start to happen,
    don't worry. Don't stew.
    Just go right along.
    You'll start happening too.

    OH!
    THE PLACES YOU'LL GO!

    You'll be on your way up!
    You'll be seeing great sights!
    You'll join the high fliers
    who soar to high heights.

    You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed.
    You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.
    Wherever you fly, you'll be the best of the best.
    Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

    Except when you don't
    Because, sometimes, you won't.

    I'm sorry to say so
    but, sadly, it's true
    and Hang-ups
    can happen to you.

    You can get all hung up
    in a prickle-ly perch.
    And your gang will fly on.
    You'll be left in a Lurch.

    You'll come down from the Lurch
    with an unpleasant bump.
    And the chances are, then,
    that you'll be in a Slump.

    And when you're in a Slump,
    you're not in for much fun.
    Un-slumping yourself
    is not easily done.

    You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
    Some windows are lighted. But mostly they're darked.
    A place you could sprain both you elbow and chin!
    Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
    How much can you lose? How much can you win?

    And IF you go in, should you turn left or right...
    or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
    Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
    Simple it's not, I'm afraid you will find,
    for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

    You can get so confused
    that you'll start in to race
    down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
    and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
    headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
    The Waiting Place...

    ...for people just waiting.
    Waiting for a train to go
    or a bus to come, or a plane to go
    or the mail to come, or the rain to go
    or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
    or waiting around for a Yes or a No
    or waiting for their hair to grow.
    Everyone is just waiting.

    Waiting for the fish to bite
    or waiting for wind to fly a kite
    or waiting around for Friday night
    or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
    or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
    or a sting of pearls, or a pair of pants
    or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
    Everyone is just waiting.

    NO!
    That's not for you!

    Somehow you'll escape
    all that waiting and staying.
    You'll find the bright places
    where Boom Bands are playing.

    With banner flip-flapping,
    once more you'll ride high!
    Ready for anything under the sky.
    Ready because you're that kind of a guy!

    Oh, the places you'll go! There is fun to be done!
    There are points to be scored, there are games to be won.
    And the magical things you can do with that ball
    will make you the winning-est winner of all.
    Fame! You'll be famous as famous can be,
    with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.

    Except when they don't.
    Because, sometimes, they won't.

    I'm afraid that some times
    you'll play lonely games too.
    Games you can't win
    'cause you'll play against you.

    All Alone!
    Whether you like it or not,
    Alone will be something
    you'll be quite a lot.

    And when you're alone, there's a very good chance
    you'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
    There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
    that can scare you so much you won't want to go on.

    But on you will go
    though the weather be foul
    On you will go
    though your enemies prowl
    On you will go
    though the Hakken-Kraks howl
    Onward up many
    a frightening creek,
    though your arms may get sore
    and your sneakers may leak.

    On and on you will hike
    and I know you'll hike far
    and face up to your problems
    whatever they are.

    You'll get mixed up, of course,
    as you already know.
    You'll get mixed up
    with many strange birds as you go.
    So be sure when you step.
    Step with care and great tact
    and remember that Life's
    a Great Balancing Act.
    Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
    And never mix up your right foot with your left.

    And will you succeed?
    Yes! You will, indeed!
    (98 and 3 / 4 percent guaranteed.)

    KID, YOU'LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!

    So...
    be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
    or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,
    you're off to Great Places!
    Today is your day!
    Your mountain is waiting.
    So... get on your way!


    ~ Dr. Seuss

    Theodor Seuss Geisel
    March 2, 1904 – September 24, 1991

    going down on gore

    by: astraea

    The Right is quaking in their boots that Gore will run. They've started on him early with smears of wide-brush variety. You know that Commie, Armand Hammer, had Gore Sr. in his pocket? And the fabulous Gore family fortune came from Occidental Petroleum.

    The Gore's were also tobacco farmers. Until Al's sister died of lung cancer.

    So. Sins of the father? Iran Contra, Carlyle, anybody? Even -- let's not go there -- skull & bones? Oh, blather. It's endless, this game. I mean, who owns stock in Ford, shades of Jew-hating Henry?

    In the archives, I find this from The Nation. Note the date, 2000. Here we have the publication most trusted by progressives (which killed me at the time; I mean they had Chris Hitchens, for godsake) serving up the (guilt-by-association) lurid details.

    Whatever. What do Hammer and Gore Sr. have to do with what this AL GORE has been researching and working to wake us up with for the last 30 years? With the science, truths needed now, our power to save things fading by the moment? Nothing.

    What about family money. Anyone look into their own closet? What wealth doesn't have blood on it?

    That nasty, sticky, problematic oil. But with W, the lurid tale is different. Because it was W hisveryself who was involved. Who acted. Who got away with things. But hardly a peep in the mainstream in 2000. And who was telling us about this, Harken, etc.? Who was going down on W? Mother Jones, standing tall and faithful, bless her heart.

    And then there was Enron.

    Note that the Gore-y smear is being trumpeted by the usual suspects, the links collected with care to fertilize inquiring minds by the hired guns of our favorite Free Republic.

    xposted at robot sex

    Lunar Eclipse Tomorrow Night!

    by: blackdog

    Saturday night comes a lunar eclipse, for all who have the right weather conditions I recommend it, a beautiful sight.

    Several years ago when I lived in Scott on a surprisingly mild winter night we had a great lunar eclipse. At the time I had a Cave 6" f/8 Newtonian reflector with 1/25th wave optics and 1" shafts on an equatorial mount, with 6" setting circles. I had attached a piggyback mount for my camera, a Pentax ME and I had a 150mm lens, if I recall it was around f/5 something.

    The Pentax had an air bulb attachment that had a peculiar mishap that helped me alot, with the camera ready and pointed at the target I could whop the airbulb sharply and the mirror in the 35mm camera would rise, but the shutter still hadn't thrown. Then you had the ability to allow a few seconds for the vibrations to die down before opening the shutter. And with reasonably careful alignment of the mount, I could get up to 10 minute time exposures without any obvious tracking error. (With the 150mm lens)

    Anyhow, the Moon was in Orion that night, my sweetheart was with me, and the Moon was a really dark red. I took several exposures with the last being ten minutes, it seemed longer at the time. If I recall those exposures were on ASA 400 ektachrome that could be "pushed" to 800 ASA but I didn't do that, this was slide film, and I wanted to see just what we had wrought.

    A few days later the slides were ready and I ploped them into my projector for a look. They ware spectacular. The 5 minute exposure was the best, All of the H2 and O3? nebula were visible in the Orion Arm, with the Moon exposed just right, and very red. The X and I were very pleased that evening.

    My brother and I used to go out west of Little Rock to a field just off the Arkansas River with a great western horizon and practice on planets and the Moon using the "hat trick". To avoid any problem with the vibration that may be imparted to the scope by the action of the camera's moving parts, just hold a black felt hat over the aperture for a few seconds, and then start the exposure by removing the hat.

    Now this was 30 years ago, no computers and no digital CCD imaging devices, but my brother is a bit of a genius, and his help was appreciated greatly by me. We had a blast doing that. I wish I could do it again, but the eyes aren't what they used to be.

    I always wanted to get into longer time exposures, messing with the emulsion to speed it up, dry ice and the other techniques. That was to remove the "reciprocity failure" property, and actually attached a 60mm F/12 refractor as a guide scope, but I could never afford the drive correction mechanism required, but I still had a shitpot lot of fun.

    The biggest problem I faced then was that I would tell many friends where we where going to be, and in the middle of an exposure here they would come with their bright lights on. Oh well, get another roll of film and try again!

    The best link I have for the approaching lunar eclipse is:

    http://spaceweather.com

    A great site with great information.

    My weather forecast for tomorrow is for great visibility, I won't put up my big scope, but I will have my 12x80's on a tripod.

    One night with that scope at Peppers Lake with an unusually dark night I was able to see the string of stars that showed the connection between M-51 and 52 the "Whirlpool". You're nor supposed to do that with a 6". That scope externally may have looked like crap, but it's optics were superb. And I had some damn good 1.25" eyepieces.

    Liz, get out there tomorrow night with your C-8 and get busy!

    And to all others, just get out there and observe if you can, Minstrel, I wish I had your viewing site. It should be a relaxing expierience. Especially with a big chunk of chocolate expresso fudge cake!
    01 March 2007

    Less is Less; NOT More! -- NJ Civil Unions in Pennsylvania

    by: Gary

    They mean nothing.

    Unless you are willing to move your life, your job, and your home to New Jersey, there is no such thing as protection for you and your partner in Pennsylvania. That would be one of the key reasons Civil Unions at the state level mean little or nothing to me. While they are fine within the home state lines, how do they help me if one or both of us has to travel for work, for vacation, or just because we want to? They don't. They aren't fully portable. Marriages are, and that is why anything else doesn't even qualify as "marriage light" to me.

    According to the Pocono Record:

    "Will gay couples in Pa. seek civil unions in N.J.?

    BETH BRELJE
    Pocono Record Writer
    February 28, 2007


    Liz Bradbury's partner of 19 years, Patricia Sullivan, was injured in a traffic accident. She followed the ambulance to the emergency room. Doctors didn't know if Sullivan was going to live.

    Bradbury wanted to be in the hospital room, but a nurse stopped her because she was not family. "You have to let me in the room!" she argued. It was one of several similar conversations she would have that day.

    Fortunately, Bradbury keeps a power-of-attorney paper in her pocket just in case. With the paper she was able to gain access to the room. But she says if it had been her husband, nobody would have questioned her.

    Bradbury kept watch over Sullivan in the hospital that night, all the while "scared some anti-gay person would tell me to leave."

    In some states, power of attorney would not have been enough to get into the room. The couple avoids those states."
    Having to "avoid" states that aren't friendly to civil unions, and or basic legal documents defining powers of attorney, is not an acceptable solution. In fact, nothing could be more unacceptable! Why should I have to curtail the states I visit in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, "one nation" under God or otherwise?! I am a tax paying, law abiding American citizen, and my rights shouldn't be infringed on just because of my partner's gender. Laws in this nation are to be ignorant of class, creed, color, and any other subcategory. Laws in America are to be administered equally to all citizens. In America membership has it's privileges, and as a member they are mine to claim!

    And this is not an issue that will be simply solved at the state level. Even now according to the article some couples who live in PA but work in NJ are getting partner benefits from the NJ employer for their PA lover. This will surely cloud the waters of boarders. And as I am a resident of PA, a state that recently tried to enact one of those hideous anti-marriage equality laws; you know the one..."nothing that resembles marriage or attempts to recreate it's protections will be legal"...That kind?! Well, if ever there was something that will force a backlash with the wingnuts, this kind of loophole in the system is just the thing.

    That is why I say that all discussions of marriage equality at the state level are just bullshit distractions. They aren't progress, they're pacifiers. Distractions designed to take the pressure off the federal legislature, and push the "tough" decision to the state. It's easy to pass the buck, it's scary for them to stand up and do the only thing that they know is right and are afraid Americans will see as wrong. Federal legislators are terrified of the backlash from the vocal minority if they grant legal equality to all Americans, so they pass the buck and the states take the heat.

    It makes no sense to me!

    The federal government grants the legal protections of your state issues marriage license. Sure, each state may have a few special things it will do for a married couple, but it's not the 1,138+ protections and rights that are documented as conferred by the federal government upon the execution of a marriage license. This is the federal ball of wax, and if the states were doing their jobs they would kick this ball back into their court where it surely belongs.

    The time for state level discussions, fights, and rhetorical hat tricks is over. It is time that the Congress got it's act together and while they are busy overturning the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" bullshit of the Clinton era, they should start working towards marriage equality for all Americans. They can start by explaining to America that marriage is a legal construct decorated by an optional discretionary religious ceremony. You get married without a church, but you can't go to the church for a wedding without a licence; that's just a party.

    The Land That Time Forgot

    by: blackdog

    (AP) Undercut with mine shafts and buried under bleak, gray mountains of lead waste, this Oklahoma town is in the middle of one of the nation's worst environmental nightmares.

    Cave-ins and sinkholes have swallowed up homes and children. The creek runs a ghastly orange with acidic mine water. And the air and soil are polluted with lead dust.

    Thousands have moved out because of the dangers. In a couple of years, only a few residents could be left in a city that peaked at about 20,000 around World War II. Already, Picher is getting down to a hard core of holdouts.

    Read all about it at Raw Story.
    ====================================

    I remember when a student took me on a ride over to Pitcher OK to show me what may be the best example of an environmental situation gone bad, back in the early 90's. The town had a look about it as if it was still in the dust bowl and depression. But the saddest part was the old mine chat piles. They were huge, reminded me of some mountains in the mojave. I saw some of the surfacing minewater that had several bright colors, and the entire scene was as if you were on another planet. And not a damn thing has been done so far to remediate this diaster.

    If anyone wonders why I tend to quit, I've been fighting this shit all my life and have very few victories. It is amazingly difficult to get locals to even deal with their issues. But this shitheap may be feeding into one of the deeper aquifers that is the source of many springs in northen Arkieville, the Roubidoux. I say may feed, the understanding of groundwaters is poorly thought out.

    But the fact that literally mile after mile of artificial tunnels now filled with water that has become acidified and is full on metal ions, and leaches into the groundwater is amazing, since we as a people tend to forget about our past.

    I suggest the Groundwater Project, which puts out the recharge report on a regular basis. The shit is about to hit the fan in many more ways than one. I am not optomistic.

    For some reason I can't find my link to the recharge report, but any search engine should.

    Next I may bring up the toothless wonders in the KS, OK, AR local who grew up with a little more lead than they should have. You can bet the mine owners didn't have to put up with that.

    Chocolate Espresso Fudge Cake

    by: Minstrel Boy

    I don't know how the rest of the world deals with stuff. But here, at El Rancho Harpo when I get tired of wallowing in my misery I take action, sometimes drastic action to blast myself out of the funks I am prone to inhabit.

    At Christmas one of the most welcome gifts I received came from litbrit with a copy of the out of print cookbook "Death By Chocolate" by Marcel Desaulniers, a fucking gawd of a pastry chef. It is one of the finest works on how to work with this magical, mood-altering substance.

    Anyway, when the malaise came knocking last night, I didn't bury myself in a book or flail around at my harp, I went into the kitchen.

    This one grabbed my eye and I went to work. When I was finished I invited some friends over for coffee and cake this afternoon.

    INGREDIENTS

    CHOCOLATE CAKE

    4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, broken small
    8 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons unsalted butter (measured melted)
    2 cups plus 2 teaspoons cake flour
    2 teaspoons baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or sea salt, the important part is not iodized)
    2 cups very tightly packed light brown sugar
    4 eggs
    1 teaspoon pur vanilla extract
    1 cup water
    1 cup sour cream

    ESPRESSO GANACHE

    1 cup heavy cream (manufacturing cream from Smart & Final is the absolute bomb)
    2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    2 tablespoons baker's sugar (very fine granulated)
    8 ounces bittersweet chocolate broken small (Trader Joe's Pound Plus® 70% cocoa mass bars)
    1 tablespoon instant espresso powder

    CHOCOLATE ESPRESSO BUTTERCREAM

    8 ounces bittersweet chocolate broken small
    2 ounces unsweetened chocolate broken small
    2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
    1 pound unsalted butter (at room temperature)
    5 egg whites
    1 cup baker's sugar

    Heat oven to 350°.

    Heat around 1 inch of water in the bottom of a double boiler over medium heat. In the top part melt 4 ounces of the unsweetened chocolate, stirring the whole time, until totally melted and smooth. (or use the microwave, but with this recipe, because there is going to be a lot of individual meltings I decided to go with the double boiler method. Having the already at temperature water on the stove just made it seem easier to me)

    Lightly butter the inside of two 9-by-1 1/2" cake pans. Flour with 1 teaspoon of cake flour, shaking out the excess into the two cups remaining cake flour. Sift that with the baking soda and salt onto wax paper and set aside.

    Combine the brown sugar and 8 tablespoons of butter in the bowl of a stand mixer (use the paddle) and beat on low for 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat on high for 2 more minutes. Scrape it down, beat it 2 more.

    Add the four eggs, one at a time while beating on high. Give it at least thirty seconds on high between each egg, when all the eggs are in beat on high for another 2 minutes. Add the melted chocolate and the vanilla, reduce the mixer to low, and beat on low for another minute.

    Heat 1 cup of water to a boil. While you're waiting for the water to boil, with the mixer on low add a third of the sifted dry ingredients and a third of the sour cream. Beat for 30 seconds. Repeat that until all the ingredients are incorporated, add the cup of boiling water and beat it all together for at least 30 more seconds. Remove the bowl from the stand and use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides down and work the batter thoroughly to ensure absolute smoothness.

    Pour into the prepared cake pans and bake 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans on a rack for fifteen minutes, invert onto cake circles (you can get these at any high end chef's supply, or just cut your own out of cardboard) and refridgerate uncovered while you make the ganache and the frosting.

    For the ganache, heat the cream, 2 tablespoons of butter, and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a heavy 2 1/2 quart saucepan over a medium high flame, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring this to the brink of a boil (if you let it boil it will bubble over and you will have a totally gross and ugly mess that will defy all your attempts to clean from this moment forward, go ahead, guess how I figured this part out). Pour the cream immediately over the chocolate chunks and the espresso powder in a stainless steel or glass mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or just plop a plastic cutting board over the top of the bowl and leave it alone for ten minutes, then stir until smooth and glossy. If any of this gets on your fingers during this part of the process licking them is an appropriate first step of the cleaning. Don't forget to wash with soap and dry thoroughly after though. Keep this at room temperature while you make the buttercream.

    Go back to the double boiler with another 8 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, 2 ounces of the unsweetened chocolate and 2 teaspoons of espresso powder in the top half (which you of course washed and dried scrupulously, and I mean completely, one little tiny smidgen of water will ruin everything) Heat while stirring until completely smooth and melted. Set aside.

    Put the pound of butter in the bowl of the stand mixer, beat on low for 2 minutes, increase to medium and beat for another 3. Scrape down and beat on high until light and fluffy, about 5 to 6 minutes. Move to a large stainless or glass mixing bowl.

    Back to the double boiler with the 5 egg whites and cup of baker's sugar in the top half. Gently whisk the egg whites with the sugar over the hot water for about 5 minutes. If you have an instant read (or even better one of those tricked out laser no touch beauties) thermometer you want a reading of 120°. Transfer the hot egg whites to the bowl of the stand mixer (this time use the baloon whip) and beat on the highest level until stiff peaks form. Remove the bowl from the mixer.

    Fold the melted chocolate into the butter, using a rubber spatula gently to thoroughly combine. Slowly, gently fold in the whipped egg whites into this until completely mixed. Set aside at room temperature.

    To assemble the cake use a long slicing knife to trim off the top and make the cake rounds completely level (SNACK TIME!). Slice each round horizontally to make 2 equal layers. Place the top layer of the cake into a closed springform pan. Evenly spread 1 1/2 cups of the chocolate espresso buttercream over the cake in the springform. Place the bottom layer of the first cake onto the buttercream and press gently into place. Pour 1 1/4 cups of the ganache over the cake layer spreading the ganache evenly to the edges. Refrigerate the remaining ganache. Place the top layer of the second cake on top of the ganache and press gently into place. (this is a pretty resiliant cake but there's no call for roughness) Spread another 1 1/2 cups of the buttercream evenly over this layer. Place the final cake round, cut side down, onto the buttercream and gently press into place.

    Cover the cake and pan closely with plastic wrap and put in the freezer for an hour.

    Remove the cake from the freezer and with the thin metal blade of a cake spatula cut gently around the sides of the pan. Release the springsides and place the cake on a frosting spindle. Fill a pasty bag fitted with a large star tip with 1 1/2 cups of the buttercream. Fill another bag with a medium star tip with the remaining ganache. Evenly spread the remaining buttercream around the cake.

    Alternate rings of buttercream and ganache stars until the top of the cake is completely covered, if there's still more left in the bags pipe a row of stars around the bottom. Refrigerate the cake at least an hour before cutting and slicing.

    Cut the cake with a serrated slicer that has been run under hot water and wiped dry for each slice. Allow to come to room temperature (five to ten minutes) and serve. I like to garnish this with some whipped cream and chocolate shavings. I served it with demitasse cups of espresso with a twist of lemon.

    Update

    One of my guests for coffee and cake was my Cousin, the brilliant attorney. They have reached a settlement on the rancher and the title dispute. The rancher's family will be granted residence rights in perpetuity (when the Indian side of a treaty says stuff like "as long as the grass grows" we mean that shit) for a yearly payment of 20 beef cows and 400 silver dollars. The family will be entitled to free medical care at the reservation clinics, is invited to participate in our collective free range cattle operation as a continuing partner, children of the family which are enrolled in college are welcome to apply to the reservation's program of tuition assistance with the same considerations given to Apache applicants, they can bring raw timber from their leasehold to the Apache sawmill and have it processed at cost plus 4%, they will refer any offers to buy the land to the Apache nation who will have final say on any sale or transfer. In the case of a sale the family and the White Mountain Nation will split the proceeds with 70% going to the family and 30% to the Apache. There's a lot more technical legalese and tiny little conditions and codicils involved with this deal, but my cousin is very proud of being able to hammer out an agreement where every party involved feels they have been treated justly and been well served. I am very proud of him myself. It really made the work I did making this cake seem all the more appropriate.

    p.s. It tasted like at least three of the seven deadly sins done all at once.

    harp and sword

    Bush Rebuke Scheduled for New Orleans

    by: Minstrel Boy

    From Humid City

    from a tip by Shakespeare's Sister (link on the bar at the right, up there at the top)

    JOIN THE KATRINA SURVIVORS’ REBUKE OF PRESIDENT BUSH
    2:00 PM THURSDAY MARCH 1
    SAMUEL GREEN SCHOOL
    2319 VALENCE ST.
    (Near Freret and Napoleon)
    NEW ORLEANS

    New Orleans Needs Federal Aid, Not Presidential Photo-Ops.
    Mr. President: Katrina Survivors Do Not Welcome You, We Rebuke You!

    We live in a devastated city and you are a big part of the reason why it sill sits in ruins. Your administration has abandoned our children by savaging their public schools. Your administration has tortured our working class people by refusing to reopen the city’s public housing developments. And your administration is fully complicit in placing our uninsured in harms way by ruthlessly pursuing the privatization of local public healthcare in the aftermath of Katrina. And, finally your administration is guilty of sending our sons and daughters of to war for oil and empire just when we need them most to help us rebuild our community.

    Mr. President, we, Katrina Survivors all, do not welcome you to our city, we rebuke you!

    Sponsored by Survivors Village, United Front For Affordable Housing.
    (504) 587-0080



    Today, I can't think of a single person more deserving of rebuke.