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31 December 2007


by: blackdog

Spooked you, didn't I? I have learned some of the neo-con ploys lately and intend to use them to best effect.

I have a rather large firework, have had it for about two years. Always seem to fall asleep before the time comes to ignite it. Maybe tonight is the night. It is about 1 cubic foot in size, should be fairly impressive.

I will study it well inside in the light before I commit myself to such foolishness, find the fuse, judge the condition, see if it is sweating nitro, ect.

Now seeing that it is only 9:23 PM I realize that I may never make it to the midnight hour, might have to make a pot of coffee.

Coffee??! Me??! Then I'll for sure wander the halls of homes in Carlisle, endlessly howling and harrasing those that should not have chains around their necks.

The Christmas spirit is hard to break.

If I pass out tonight and don't fire off this device, maybe I'll do it on President's Day. Don't ask what my costume will be, and it will be here in Carlisle. This device is non nukular, I think.

The Murder of Osama bin Laden

by: Dark Wraith

Omar Saeed Sheikh and Osama bin LadenDuring a fairly extensive interview on Frost over the World, an Al Jazeera English program hosted by Sir David Frost, the late Benazir Bhutto made a casual, thoroughly shocking statement. The relevant portion of the interview can be watched on YouTube via this link. Her jaw-dropping claim comes at about the 2:15 mark on the video clip.

For those who do not favor watching the dead speak, what she said in a matter-of-fact way is that Osama bin Laden is dead, "murdered" (to use her word for the happy event) by Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh.

Although any self-respecting conspiracy theorist worth his salt should jump at a revelation such as this, it is most likely that Ms. Bhutto simply misspoke when she said that Omar Sheikh "murdered Osama bin Laden." More than likely, she meant that Omar Sheikh murdered Daniel Pearle, a crime for which he was convicted and sentenced to hang, although, as it turned out, he probably wasn't the man who actually slit Pearle's throat.

Conceding some hope to conspiracy-oriented folks, it is not entirely impossible that Omar Sheikh really did kill the almost pathetic Osama bin Laden, the term "almost" being the operative qualifier for "pathetic" only because our own President Bush elevated the previously worthless bin Laden to the status of leader of a non-existent nation-state worthy of being engaged in global combat by the last superpower on Earth.

It is true that the life and times of Omar Saeed Sheikh are, to say the least, interesting: he might have worked for British intelligence in the 1990s, as Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has claimed, and he might even have worked for Pakistan's very own Inter-Services Intelligence, a rather inconvenient complication when the Pakistani judiciary has deemed that the young fellow is to swing from the gallows. But even if he did play junior spook at one time or another in his life, "working for" spies is a terribly murky item on a terrorist's vita: many slithering sorts barely qualifying as humans serve as "assets" for one or more spy agencies, and it would be most surprising if Omar were the least reputable of those who have provided information to MI6 when such assistance was beneficial to both Her Majesty's secret service and the wannabe terrorist who, in Omar Sheikh's case, was just one of countless butchers in a part of the world where lawlessness is somewhat like wardrobe accessorization.

This, by the way, should be taken as a point of understanding for anyone touting the achievements of the Bush Administration in rounding up hundreds and hundreds of scrawny, brown-skinned men for permanent confinement and torture: going to South Asia to corral very mean, really nasty bad people is like going to Idaho for a bag of potatoes. You'll find them, and you will do so in embarrassing abundance. You'll be even more prolific in your claims of capture if you declare that all the dirt clumps around the potatoes are, themselves, potatoes, too. Inventing a blanket term like "al-Qa'ida" (or "al Qaeda," or whatever) to encompass every dirt bag associated with some other dirt bag connected to some total dirt bag that had something to do with the attacks of September 11, 2001, does not mean that all those dirt bags are worth even so much as the cost of the dental hygiene regimen that would make them stop looking so darned creepy. For the overwhelming majority of those idiots on which the United States has expended huge money and its respectability, the value comes in the fact that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney haul truckloads of dirt bags to the mainstream media, which immediately and compliantly declare, "Praise the Lord, there ain't gonna be no potato famine!"

Did Benazir Bhutto misspeak about Osama bin Laden? Probably, although some might consider it a little strange that Sir David, her interviewer, just sat there not having a myocardial infarction when she dropped that bombshell, but that certainly doesn't mean he already knew about the heretofore unmentioned murder of the putative mastermind of 9/11. All it means is that Sir David is British.

A more important question is this: Does it matter whether Osama bin Laden is dead or alive?

The answer to that is obvious. Of course it doesn't matter. Our murderously efficient, rag-tag, thuggish allies of the 1980s—who helped us make the Soviets miserable during their occupation of Afghanistan—transformed in the 1990s into decommissioned, armed "companies" like those that roamed the countryside in the Middle Ages after their service to kings was no longer needed. The modern day, post-useful mercenaries kept their wretched Misery Tour going only as a regional gig in the back alley club bars of awful places no self-respecting talent scout would venture. It was up to some of the more enterprising of the mercenaries-without-a-cause to figure out that marketing is everything, and the best advertising is on a billboard provided by the global presence of a superpower.

Although a few rounds of blowing up some U.S. military assets and embassies overseas was nice, breaking into the big league required, first, an inattentive defense of the American homeland and, second, a President who would help with the post-advertising name-recognition blitz.

Sadly for the Osama bin Ladens of the world, the Clinton Administration, by thwarting the Millennium Plot, denied them the big-screen show here in the United States. Gladly for those same Osama bin Ladens, Mr. Bush was considerably more willing to do a long-term co-branding deal.

The United States of America versus al Qaeda. All terror, all the time, forever and ever. Drop what you're doing, put down that Bill of Rights, another episode is coming right up after a brief break for less important news about everything else.

Alive or dead, who really needs Osama bin Laden at this point in the game? For that matter, who needs al Qaeda? Benazir Bhutto certainly didn't. The tapes clearly show that she was dropped by a lone gunman.

That's how it usually works, of course.

The Dark Wraith has spoken.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· · · · · · ·

A Merry New Year To You!

by: Foiled Goil

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days of auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll take a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne…

We'll take a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

· ·
30 December 2007

Life And Death Decisions

by: Debra

Is health care a right or a privilege? If you have health insurance, shouldn't it cover you, no matter what? Otherwise, what's the point? After the last few weeks of stories of insurance denials and their tragic consequences, why are people still paying for health insurance? A cubicle clerk with no medical training routinely makes decisions overruling the doctor.

Doctors and nurses spend years learning about the human body and the many things that can go wrong with it. All so that their professional opinions are worth less than someone who fills out forms and plays on the internet on company time. The system is broken.

Everybody should have access to decent health care. Rich, poor, young, old, white, black, male or female. Period. A person shouldn't have to pass a credit check, have a credit card, cash or insurance in order to receive medical or dental services. Having insurance is no guarantee of service if you get ill and while insurance companies don't mind sentencing a child to die due to neglect, it is against the law to abuse children. If the parents were withholding food, they would be prosecuted. Why is this different?

A healthy population is more productive and in the long run will generate more income for business, other than the insurance companies, than letting little problems become big medical issues that require an emergency room visit. That isn't cost effective at all. But it is all we have.


· ·

Yes, but He Still Does a Mean Cakewalk

by: Dark Wraith

Below is a screen capture of an article at The Nation, now also available as a repost at Yahoo! News, as well. Just read the title.

Screen capture of article at The Nation

That's right: "Obama: Mo Money, Mo Problems" is what that title says.

While not flogging what is perhaps at first glance the subtly jaw-dropping nature of this headline, it should be pointed out that Mr. Obama is what might be called in more polite circles a "non-White" fellow, so it is obvious that we should want to use words and allusions consistent with folks like that.

"Mo" is far better than "more": we all know that's how those Black people talk, what with that fiendish "r" with which they have so much trouble. Geez, being a White person, I still think of a "ho" as a pretty useful gardening tool.

"Problems": well, that one's pretty easy. "Problems" is code for "blues," and Blues music is their music; and besides, isn't "problems" what they got all the time, what with being down-and-out, and all? (That's not to say White folks can't get the "blues," too; but Caucasians wrote country music before selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors were invented.)

And that whole "money" thing—same old story: those people just don't know what to do with money even when they have it. In fact, we used to have a phrase for that kind of wealth. At least some old-timers around these parts surely remember the term "****** rich"; but decent people don't talk like that anymore; instead, they write for reputable magazines, where they use much more acceptable, even cutesy code language to prime that same, auld-timey pump of racist attitudes through The Nation and, as a consequence, the nation.

The Dark Wraith, being rather on the conservative side, is glad to see old-fashioned values still have a place in the new American century.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· · ·
29 December 2007

A Modest Proposal for Radical Change in Primaries

by: Dark Wraith

Blogger konagod published a post at his blog rightly growling about a Yahoo! News story headlined: "Iowa could make or break Democrats."

Although a news service that carries the name "Yahoo!" might, prima facie, strain credulity (unlike news stories by a journalist who calls himself "Dark Wraith," of course), we can take the claim made in the Yahoo! News article as a point of departure for discussion about the current presidential nomination primary system in the United States; and konagod does just that:
"There is seriously something wrong and flagrantly undemocratic about our election process if Iowa can 'make or break Democrats'...

"The United States has 300 million people and Iowans represent about 1% of that total, and New Hampshire about half as much.

"If these two states have that much influence over who stays and who goes, then it's obvious we need an overhaul...

"We should have one primary which includes all 50 states. All at once. And if that's not an option for whatever reason, then at least limit us to 3 primaries. Take the 20 least-populated states and have a primary, following up a week later with a second primary consisting of the next 20 least-populous states, and finish off the following week with the final ten. Give everyone a shot at this. Because nothing, absolutely nothing pisses me off as much as going to vote in my primary after my candidate already dropped out 6 weeks earlier due to a defeat in Iowa or New Hampshire."

Never being one to miss an opportunity to offer an unsolicited opinion, your host here at Big Brass Blog offered in comments an alternative, which is summarized below:

◊ Two, uniformly set days for primaries in every state.

◊ First-round primary on the second Tuesday following the first Monday of February. The top two vote-getters from each party go to the second round. In addition, each party is required to choose through an independent panel a wild card candidate to stand with the two top-dogs. The wild card can yield to another candidate if he or she so chooses; top dogs cannot (and, almost assuredly, would not).

◊ Second-round primary on the second Tuesday following the second Monday of April. The two top vote-getters and the wild card square off for each party.

◊ Winner take all for each side only if top vote-getter draws a majority; otherwise, final sudden death round of two top vote-getters from second round two weeks later.

(Yes, the smell of sports around this scheme is pungent—and I personally loath sports—but I'll tell you what: sports draws a whole heckuva lot more fans than primary politics does, and I can see the media flowing hard and fast toward the gaming, commercial aspects of and opportunities within this mechanism. It just begs for the construction of a whole "industry of excitement" around it, just like the mainstream media do with pro sports.)

This double-elimination style for the primaries would enhance interest in the process, and it could also lead to a much greater effort by both parties to ensure actual unity rather than the technical façade of numbers.

Furthermore, over a course of election cycles, a refined version of such a system could afford the nation a means by which a genuinely popular vote could be held for the President of the United States.

Personally, I think my idea is worth considering.

Professionally, I know my idea is going to get shot down about ten seconds after I push the "Publish" button, below.

The Dark Wraith now opens the floor to alternatives, discussion, and general condemnation of such a hare-brained scheme.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· ·

Presidential Omelette

by: Debra

Bush is like a kid who was left home alone. He's spent seven years destroying everything he touches, overflowing the bathtub, ignoring the rules of the house, spending all the cash on the premises after running up the credit card bill and now that the parents are on their way he's trying to clean up the house and repair the garden so they will think he didn't damage anything. The sad part is that a lot of people will fall for it, but just like Humpty Dumpty, the country can't be put back together.


· · ·

Bush To Veto Defense Bill

by: Foiled Goil

Even though Congress is NOT in recess because the Senate is holding pro forma sessions every two to three days until January 18, when lawmakers resume their work after the holidays, George W. Bush, continuing his assertion that the Constitution is just a God-damned piece of paper suggestion, has decided to veto the Defense Authorization Bill:
I am withholding my approval of H.R. 1585, the "National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008," because it would imperil billions of dollars of Iraqi assets at a crucial juncture in that nation's reconstruction efforts and because it would undermine the foreign policy and commercial interests of the United States.
The adjournment of the Congress has prevented my return of H.R. 1585 within the meaning of Article I, section 7, clause 2 of the Constitution. Accordingly, my withholding of approval from the bill precludes its becoming law. The Pocket Veto Case, 279 U.S. 655 (1929). In addition to withholding my signature and thereby invoking my constitutional power to "pocket veto" bills during an adjournment of the Congress, I am also sending H.R. 1585 to the Clerk of the House of Representatives, along with this memorandum setting forth my objections, to avoid unnecessary litigation about the non-enactment of the bill that results from my withholding approval and to leave no doubt that the bill is being vetoed.
That's right, civics fans: Bush is claiming this is a "pocket veto," as defined in Article I, section 7 of the Constitution:
Every bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a law, be presented to the President of the United States; if he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the objections at large in their journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the bill, it shall be sent, together with the objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a law. But in all such cases the votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and nays, and the names of the persons voting for and against the bill shall be entered on the journal of each House respectively. If any bill shall not be returned by the President within ten days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the same shall be a law, in like manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their adjournment prevent its return, in which case it shall not be a law.
Because the bill has so much in it for veterans and active members of the Armed Forces, Bush apparently doesn't dare sign an affirmative veto. Instead, he'll pretend it... just went away on its own.

But this bill was presented to the president for his signature on December 19th. It's been eight days since then, not counting Sundays as the Constitution outlines. Seven if you give an extra day for Christmas. Hasn't been ten days yet.

Not only that, but you may recall that the Senate has remained in session all this time explicitly to prevent trickery like this. The most oft-cited reason was to prevent recess appointments, but the pro forma sessions -- the most recent of which was held today, yes, the very day Bush claimed there was no session -- also serve to avoid adjournment, and therefore the pocket veto.

* * *

The final Defense Authorization Bill for FY 2008, H.R. 1585 was passed by the House on December 12th, 2007:
This measure will provide the necessary resources and authorities to quickly and efficiently reverse declining trends in military readiness, and will also provide our service members in harm’s way with the best gear and force protection possible. Under the conference report, our troops will get better health care, better pay, and the benefits they have earned.
Congress sent H.R. 1585, the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, to the President for his signature on December 19, 2007:

The Bush Administration had worked closely with the Congress in the development of this legislation and gave no indication prior to its passage that one section of the bill could generate a presidential veto.

Subsequently, the government of Iraq raised objections to Section 1083, in which Congress strengthened the ability of victims of the brutality of Saddam Hussein to seek compensation. The Iraqi government has warned that plaintiffs, including former U.S. POWs who had been held captive during the first Gulf War in the 1990s, might cite this section in seeking compensation from its assets currently in U.S. banks — reportedly $25 billion. The Iraqi government has threatened that, unless President Bush agrees to veto the Defense Department legislation, Iraqi leaders will immediately move assets out of U.S. banks.

Congress and the White House have been engaged in discussions about reviewing the effect of Section 1083 and considering whether additional action is warranted. Congressional leaders have indicated a willingness to consider technical corrections to resolve the Administration’s new objections, if justified.

The Administration, however, reportedly intends to move ahead and announce that the President intends to veto H.R. 1585, placing in jeopardy the military pay raise and the Wounded Warrior program endorsed by the Congress, and complicating efforts to address concerns raised about Section 1083.
"Despite the Administration's earlier support for the Department of Defense authorization bill, it appears that President Bush plans to veto this legislation, which is crucial to our armed forces and their families.

"The Defense bill passed both houses of Congress by overwhelming bipartisan margins and addresses urgent national security priorities, including a 3.5 percent pay raise for our troops and Wounded Warriors legislation to remedy our veterans' health care system. It is unfortunate that the President will not sign this critical legislation."
House vote, December 12, 2007: YEAs 370, NAYs 49, Not Voting 12

Senate vote, December 14, 2007: YEAs 90, NAYs 3, Not Voting 7

· · ·
28 December 2007

Toast to a Simon

by: blackdog

My dear friend Farmer Bob, who is not actually a farmer but a jack of many trades, mostly artistic, just lost his big blackdog. I can only hope that Simon is with my Chop and Rowd and many others in the upper Owens Valley where the river runs clear, the grass is green and the lizards are lazy.

I drink a toast to his shade, he was a good fellow. And Bob's heart is broken.

Simon was a good dog.

Tents are all Folded,

by: Minstrel Boy

The ponies are packed,
I'm leavin' this morning
Might never come back. . .

(from Goodbye, Old Paint)

No, don't fret none. I will be back. My early morning departure has been stymied by the delicate co-ordination of three households, with teenagers, and the byzantine negotiations over who sits where, in what car, and, with the teenagers especially, who is driving. I got no problem with teenagers driving my stuff. So one learner's permit is behind the wheel with me.

I foxed them bigtime though. Told them all we should be on the road by seven a.m. I told the folks on the rez that we would be leaving around nine. It's around nine right now and we're almost hitting the trail.

I am in full trailboss mode. See you after the first.

Happy new year and all that stuff.

harp and sword
27 December 2007

The Lioness Fallen

by: Dark Wraith

Benazir BhuttoBenazir Bhutto, former prime minister of Pakistan, is dead, murdered by a suicide assassin whose kill shot hit her in the neck before his bomb butchered dozens of others at a political rally. Twice dismissed as Prime Minister on largely trumped-up charges, the widely popular reformist returned to Pakistan from exile in London in the Autumn of 2007 to lead her Pakistan Peoples Party against the party of junta leader-turned-"civilian" President Pervez Musharraf. An assassination attempt against her in October failed but afforded Musharraf, citing Islamic militancy and judicial interference, part of his pre-text for declaring martial law in early November.

U.S. President George W. Bush, whose Administration has coddled the military junta while trying to assist in building a conciliatory relationship between the pro-democracy Bhutto and the authoritarian Musharraf, said of the assassination, "The United States strongly condemns this cowardly act by murderous extremists who are trying to undermine Pakistan's democracy." For his part, strongman Musharraf took the occasion to declare, "This is the work of those terrorists with whom we are engaged in war," taking advantage of the tragedy to wave the bloody flag of Islamic fundamentalism at internal forces and to remind the Bush Administration of his alliance with the United States against terrorism, a platform of fear-mongering and repression that has served both Musharraf and Bush during their respective and otherwise troubled tenures as leaders.

The White House had gambled on some means by which Bhutto could once again become prime minister of Pakistan while Musharraf retained the office of the presidency, even though Bhutto was widely believed to have been committed, with our without the help of a former dictator of her country, to assisting the United States in continuing its war on terrorism in western Asia and the Indian sub-continent. The Administration's continuing loyalty to Musharraf further reinforced long-standing questions about the extent to which the United States wishes to deal effectively with global threats to peace and stability versus merely using U.S. military power and financial resources to construct solidly loyal spheres of political influence and economic control.

In 2003, the United States attacked Iraq despite the fact that it was Pakistan, through the long-term, ongoing efforts of nuclear scientist and entrepreneur Dr. A.Q. Khan, which was the principal wellspring from which not only the technology of nuclear weapons was spreading, but the actual parts to build the bombs, themselves, was flowing to countries like North Korea, Iran, and Libya; but instead of crushing the operation, arresting the participants, and punishing Pakistan and its leaders for their support of this global bazaar of weapons of mass destruction, the Bush Administration, through its very own top-level officials, outed a CIA non-official cover spy, Valerie Plame, and thereby destroyed her network that was tasked to tracking these very WMD proliferators. Moreover, the Bush Administration, which now expresses outrage at the assassination of the best hope for Pakistan to emerge from years of authoritarian rule, has poured billions of dollars of aid at the corruption-riddled Pakistani leaders, even as the junta-led Pakistani armed forces have been entirely ineffective in preventing the country's western frontier from falling solidly into the hands of Taliban forces and their sympathizers, who have pumped combatants, war materiel, and ideological strength into the debilitating war of attrition being waged against U.S. and other NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Yet, despite the fact that terrorist organizations are alive and well in Pakistan, feeding allied groups and assorted malcontents that foment trouble and kill locals and American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, George W. Bush is able to keep a straight face and express outrage at one more consequence of a failed war on terrorism, which commenced with tens of billions of dollars in property damage to the largest city in the continental United States and thousands of lives lost, and now proceeds across the Middle East and into Asia Minor, western Asia and the Indian sub-continent, billowing forth with American military casualties by the thousands, deaths and injuries to indigenous peoples of the region in the hundreds of thousands, the utter collapse of moral and financial leadership by the U.S., and political instability that ripples across vast swaths of the world.

Today, that death-swollen legacy of disastrously incompetent policies made a brief stop in Pakistan for the assassination of a once and future leader, a champion who died a martyred heroine even as our own President will live on as a catastrophic failure.

The Dark Wraith has spoken.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· · · · ·

Deferred Something

by: blackdog

Now where was I? Oh yeah. Christmas at the family home that is usually so difficult. My brother had offered to cater the event before Thanksgiving and he made good on his word. As I said before, he is like me in many ways (but he's a little older) times 15 or more.

As a little kid, he was almost always my friend, never abusing me. He was one of the baddest of the badasses of the time, but only if you crossed him. He was not too big for his age but he always had incredible hand speed and was very strong, he could bench press over 250 lbs when in junior high. His thighs were and still are as large as I am, not an ounch of excess tissue. When he runs or rides, get out of his way.

Nothing really wrong with me, but I am a fraternal twin and my sister must have absorbed nouirshment from me in the womb. I was always a small fellow, but not the smallest in my classes in elementary school, I wasen't taller than my most beautiful sister until we were about 14. And she is beautiful, one of the prettiest girls to come from Arkieville. Dumbshits would always ask me "what happened to you?". I didn't have much of an answer, but I did remember every dip face that said that, still do. Oh, we were premies and both weighed about 5.3 lbs at birth. Back then, nobody even knew that I existed until my mother went into labor, after delivering my sister the attending physician hollered "there's another one comming!" which was the first inkling that I existed.

It must have been rough for my older brother, who was about 4.5 years old at the time we entered the world and to some extent, stole the show from him. But he was mostly pretty good to both of us, along with Duke the white Collie. No one could mess with my sister and I, between Duke and my brother that would be a real mistake. Many times I heard the "hoods" (gangsters of the time) say, "don't mess with him, he's little _______". And on several occasions I witnessed said "hoods" with multiple black eyes delivered by my older and most capable brother. He didn't stand for no shit, he never abused his little sister or myself, but he just wouldn't stand for anyone else to either.

Well, enough old history. My brother went on as an undergraduate at a pretty good methodist liberal arts college and then went to Japan to study at a Jesuit school, learning more than a bit of Japanese while he was at it.

We had communicated by something most younger folk don't know, air mail, using onion skin paper. I still have all of those letters. At the time, somewhere during the early 1970's with Vietnam and the vestiges of the 60's going on I had honed my skills to the point that I could simultaneously roll a joint while shifting a 4-speed with a 16 oz beer between my legs. All without a major mishap. Those were to come a little later. I did not then understand that at that most important time in my life that I was trashing my future.

But all was almost saved by my brother coming home. If you don't get the drift that I hung the moon and stars on him, well. We again began a relationship that had been inturrupted when he went to Japan. We would spend weekends fishing on an oxbow off the white river south of the bluff, and from the conversations we had I believe I deserve a minor in history. I was in heaven, and I think my older brother was too. We had really missed each other.

Then duty called after a year or so, and he went on to be the export director for a southern state, while I floundered into a wastewater lab job because i knew what a BOD was. He did well, and amazingly, so did I, although not quite as well, but that's moot.

And then just last tuesday for the first time in a few years I get to see my brother, and he's the chef in the kitchen. Minstrel, you would like this guy, he is pretty sharp when it comes to culinary stuff. My sister couldn't make it because of a stomach upset (!!!) but her kids and their kids (!!!!) did. I be a grand uncle. And for that I be proud.

You may hear about my nephew who went through the same course that Joel and Ethan Cowan went through.

Yeah, my Christmas went too well.

Now you know more about me than I should have let on.

The six cheeks can be found and inferred from the comments on other posts at this site, I hesitate to explain them now. But I am alive, so I don't gripe too much.

Light Blogging Ahead

by: Minstrel Boy

Tomorrow morning we go back to the rez. It's almost like a journey back in time in many ways. Mostly it's because when I go there I have a specific, ceremonial purpose, like this time. We are going to be bringing my new niece into the clan and the people.

She's been asking me all kinds of questions about what is going to happen. As the maternal uncle and her "Stands Beside" I have been filling her in on what to expect.

The main thing I told her to expect is that there will be a lot of people who will take one look at her and be in a place of total, unconditional love right off the bat. Despite our reputation for savage fighting we Apaches tend to be total mushballs. Especially when it comes to children.

The first thing that will happen is that we've invited the Súl (flute clan) to come to my cousin's house for a feast to meet our new addition. People will be walking up and introducing themselves by the very intricate levels of inter-relation that define clan and family. There will be singing and dancing (both traditional and stuff from the DJ, and I know that I won't be able to escape without performing a set).

After the party some of us will be leaving for the night. We will go to a kiva (a semi-subterranian ceremonial structure) and we will be searching for dreams and visions that will tell us what her medicine name will be. The medicine name is the name that is used in ceremony and council. One of the things that we will be looking for is to see if there are any of our ancestors who make it known that they have claimed her. I'm told this is something that happens very often with adoptions. My son was claimed at the age of eight in his naming by one of the very famous Apache Scouts named Nahdiil ii'yah (Dead Shot). I have never been claimed, they have only made excuses for me so far.

Once the elders have decided upon a name she will be introduced to the clan, along with representatives from other clans at yet another big ass feast and party. In theory folks who are not involved in the seeking of a name will spend that time in meditation and their own time of prayer and seeking. In practice, the party simply doesn't ever stop. It only ramps up higher when we return and the other clans make their appearance.

Which will pretty much make her officially one of us. According to the old ways at least. Since the Indian Affairs asswipes were mostly from the south during the 19th century our "who is Indian" laws have a decidedly racist tilt to them. It hasn't gotten much better. It used to be that 1/8th of your ancestry being native american was enough for the folks in washington to decide that you were Indian enough to have your land stolen, your children kicked out of school, and be pretty much considered not good enough for white society. Amounts of ancestry were never much an issue with us. There were full blood Apaches who started their lives in other nations and races. We valued clan affiliations and family ties (and those ties by marriage can be stronger than those of blood) far more than silly things like ancestry. Now is what mattered to the old ones, it's still pretty much what matters to us.

Now, though, things for the "white fathers" dealing with us have just gotten more and more complicated for them. See, there's money now. It started with gambling money, but that income has been parlayed, by some brilliant moves by men like my cousin, into things like a co-operative cattle venture, a ski resort, a lumber co-op and sawmill. So, since there's money at stake we have all of a sudden become of interest to the folks in both Phoenix and Washington. They really want to know who is who and how much of what everybody is. If they had asked our medicine singers they would have been told that they really need to go into ceremony and heal their sick fucking hearts and souls.

My new niece, with her new name will be Apache. Case. Closed. I am assured with knowing that this is by far the biggest gift we will be giving this little girl. She has been cut adrift and handled roughly by life so far. We, as her new family, her new clan, and her people will be telling her that this will stop. Now she belongs. She is cherished and of value.

There are times where I am just prouder than shit of being a savage from primitive culture.

Yexaiidela, go, deya tc'iindi

(having been prepared, he walks they say)

harp and sword

Mission Unaccomplished

by: Debra

The global war on terror isn't nearly as successful as the war of terror. The war on terror kills innocent civilians and restricts the peoples rights in a futile effort to outsmart the desperate, meanwhile the war of terror claims important victims, one right after the other. I had a bad feeling about her return from the beginning. Now Benazir Bhutto is dead (they had an obituary ready for a 54 year old woman), at the hands of one of those suicide bombers that are so popular in the Middle East. What a freakin' shame. Hopefully the damage can be contained otherwise this could be one of those World War starter situations since fanatics always prefer the extreme solution.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (Christmas at Camp David, New Years in Crawford. Tough life.), the usual confusion ensues. My Pet Goat all over again. Nobody could have foreseen, yada, yada, yada. Please don't tell me that the fall back plan isn't to leave the Middle East as a flaming ball of goo and hope it doesn't spread to our shores. But it probably is.

What exactly has the war on terror accomplished other than spending money we don't have? According to Ted Stevens, currently the Republican Senator from Alaska, the physical war is costing us 15 billion a month. Which is more than the Congressional Research Service (CRS, with obviously poor memories) estimates. You would think that our soldiers lives were as precious as those who perished on 9/11, but you would be wrong. Most of that money is being spent to buy or repair war toys because they don't think they are going to get as much money next year. I don't know why, they've gotten everything they've asked for so far.


Let's Pretend

by: Debra

That in a rational world this wouldn't be happening and that crap like this wouldn't be snuck in over the holidays. Winner of the "does doing drugs make me look stupider than a normal conservative" is Stephen Rose and his somewhat less than brilliant essay on myths about the middle class. Only a mother could love someone who thinks that $30K-100K in 2007 will pay for the same amount of living that it did in 1979 or that the decline of the middle class is because the poor didn't get richer.
Per capita gross domestic product has increased by more than 65 percent since 1979 -- growth that translates to $26,000 per household. If all that money had gone to the richest 10th of the population, it would now hold more than 60 percent of the national income. That's nearly twice as much as the super rich actually have, according to the best census surveys available.


True, fewer people today live in households with incomes between $30,000 and $100,000 (a reasonable definition of "middle class") than in 1979. But the number of people in households that bring in more than $100,000 also rose from 12 percent to 24 percent. There was no increase in the percentage of people in households making less than $30,000. So the entire "decline" of the middle class came from people moving up the income ladder. For married couples, median incomes have grown in inflation-adjusted dollars by 25 percent since 1979.
Even moms have issues with those who try to pander to their "betters" by trying to make it look like everyone but the poor made gobs of money in the last forty years, which is quite far from the truth but you have to look somewhere else for the information.
Wealth has become even more concentrated during the Bush years. Today, the richest one percent of Americans has 22 percent of all income and about 40 percent of all wealth. This is the biggest concentration of income and wealth since 1928. In 2005, average CEO pay was 369 times that of the average worker, compared with 131 times in 1993 and 36 times in 1976. At the pinnacle of America's economic pyramid, the nation's 400 billionaires own 1.25 trillion dollars in total net worth - the same amount as the 56 million American families at the bottom half of wealth distribution.
Does the babbling Rose let reality affect his opinion? Of course not, we still have the fuzzy employment statistics to suffer through. Just like wind velocity didn't exist in your first physics problem, high school and college graduates don't influence this equation either.
The claim that automation and international trade will create a large class of permanently unemployed American workers remains as fuzzy as ever. Certainly, in the churn of the modern economy, more firms are closing or reducing their labor forces. Every week for the past several years, nearly 1 million workers either quit or lost their jobs. But a slightly higher number were also hired in a typical week. At the national level, overall employment has grown slowly but steadily. And Commerce Department data show that even at the state level, including in Midwestern "Rust Belt" states, employment is up at least 14 percent since 1993, the year the North American Free Trade Agreement was passed.
But my absolute favorite was his assumption (and you know what they say about assuming), that companies weren't walking away from their commitments to retirees. Just goes to show that the WaPo doesn't read the NYTimes.
The policy, set forth in a new regulation, allows employers to establish two classes of retirees, with more comprehensive benefits for those under 65 and more limited benefits — or none at all — for those older.

More than 10 million retirees rely on employer-sponsored health plans as a primary source of coverage or as a supplement to Medicare, and Naomi C. Earp, the commission’s chairwoman, said, “This rule will help employers continue to voluntarily provide and maintain these critically important health benefits.”
So much for loyalty, it isn't like these rules start for the new hires. Nope, they apply to the people who have already paid their dues, need it the most, matter the least and have no way of changing their circumstances.

Let's pretend that America is still the place that if you work hard to make a company get ahead, that it will help you when you are old. Mind altering drugs are advised since reality is not cooperating.


· ·
26 December 2007

St. Stephen's Day

by: Minstrel Boy

In Ireland, on St. Stephen's day, young boys, especially those in the more rural western counties get dressed up in wild colors, wearing outlandish assortments of rags and bits of colored paper left over from Christmas, they find and kill a wren or other small bird and go from house to house collecting money, food, and drink for the "wake."

It's a fairly gruesome tradition, but it does have its own discrete, cheeky, charm.

Here's the tune.

I learned this one from the Clancy's and Tommy Makem.

The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,
St. Stephen's day was caught in the firs,
Although he was little his honor was great
Jump up, me lads, and give him a treat.

Up with the kettle and down with the pan
And give us a penny to bury the wren.

As I was gone to Killenaule
I met a wren upon a wall,
Up with me wattle and knocked him down
And brought him into Carrick town.


Droolin, droolin, where's your nest?
'Tis in the bush that I love best
In the tree, the holly tree
Where all the boys do follow me.


We followed the wren three miles or more
Three miles or more, three miles or more,
Followed the wren three miles or more
At six o'clock in the morning.


We have a little box under me arm,
Under me arm, under me arm,
We have a little box under me arm,
A penny a tuppence will do it no harm.


Missus Clancy's a very good woman
A very good woman, a very good woman
Missus Clancy's a very good woman
She gave us a penny to bury the wren.

harp and sword

Red State/Blue State: Capital Punishment

by: Konagod

As Phydeaux noted in the comments of this post, Texas is responsible for 60% of executions in the U.S.

Thankfully, the New York Times seized an opportunity to report on this with a front page article in today's edition.
But enthusiasm for executions outside of Texas has dropped sharply. Of the 42 executions in the last year, 26 were in Texas. The remaining 16 were spread across nine other states, none of which executed more than three people. Many legal experts say the trend will probably continue.

Indeed, said David R. Dow, a law professor at the University of Houston who has represented death-row inmates, the day is not far off when essentially all executions in the United States will take place in Texas.

“The reason that Texas will end up monopolizing executions,” he said, “is because every other state will eliminate it de jure, as New Jersey did, or de facto, as other states have.”

And when virtually all executions in the U.S. are taking place in one state, this has got to raise a few eyebrows, particularly in the Supreme Court.

Click here for a graphic showing the distribution of capital punishment around the world.

The countries in blue have abolished the death penalty entirely, while the countries shaded in brick red maintain the death penalty for certain crimes. And it's quite clear the United States is not among the progressive leaders of the world on this issue. In fact, we are bedded down with some of the most horrific purveyors of death on the planet.

From Wiki:
Executions are known to have been carried out in the following 25 countries in 2006:

Bahrain, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, North Korea, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mongolia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Uganda, the United States of America, Vietnam, Yemen.

And as mentioned in the Wiki entry, 91% of worldwide executions were carried out in only six of these countries. The U.S. was 6th in the list contributing to that 91% total -- thanks in very large part to Texas.

Crossposted from konagod

25 December 2007

Edwards can win it

by: astraea

re the below, the Republicans are ready and waiting to run against Hill and Obama. It's what they want. Swift boats and obsfucating pre-assembled fumbles all awaiting. Water buckets on every door.
I firmly believe that Edwards, given the nomination, could and would take the White House. He would do it even barring the voting machine factor: if the spread is great enough (and WE MUST TAKE EXIT POLLS. How were they ever allowed to smooze us into Diebold et al and abandoning exit polls?), the steal will be too obvious. As candidate, Edwards would be seen and heard, rather than ignored or glibly smeared (google him, blog or image; the guns for hire and trolls out in force) as he is now. Edwards is the one who speaks for and to the people, to the democracy. The Media has painted him as a $400 hair cut, end of story. The corporate controlled media, that is. Edwards doesn't work for the gloms. He works for the people. We The People.
And just on principle, why let Ann Coulter and FOX get away with dismissing him like that? All the republicans spend ten times as much a month on grease, fumigants, depilatories, face lifts, and upkeeping their strings of trophy wives. (American values!) Truth will set us free. Let it be heard.

related: Colo. Bans Most Electronic Voting Machines
Security Risks, Inaccuracy Cited; Federal Certification Process Called "Inadequate"

Urp! A Bit of Cheese?

by: blackdog

Today was the first time I've seen my brother and his wife for well, since last Christmas. With our mother being in a reduced state these days, he had offered to cook the feast this year. Now let me tell you that my older brother is me times about 15 or more.

Holly shit Batman!! Stop the presses!! Regardless of the undigested bit of potatoe I have received a visitation from the Dark Wraith this night!! On the telephone, no less! I was transfixed, thinking horribly about all of the books I have not read, physics, mathematics, english, and gawd forbid ECONOMICS!!! Now all of those books are affixed to me by a lenght of chain which I have forged, link by link throughout my life.

It is a weighty burden, one that I must master, if I can.

The Wraith, being a mystical being almost sounded human during the wonderful and lengthy conversation we had, but I was not so easily fooled. I knew that in truth I was confronted by a supernatural being who could easily eat me for an appertif if he so wanted. I could tell you stories, if I was not terrified of the implications of such. For I was warned, and that warning remains on my very soul for all time.

The frightening and hazy visions I have of this conversation will haunt me forever, the fantastic and frightening, most incredible illustrations of knowledge and wisdom, of which I am sadly lacking, hence the chain and books. All of those books, which prudence requires me now to read and attempt to understand. Such is the challenge facing me at this time, as spoken to me by the Wraith. Himself.

May whatever beings from other galaxies or universes foriegn to our own not harm me tonight, for I seek solace in sleep. With no more Wraithly visitations or visions to disturb me from the peace I seek. At least for tonight. May that undigested piece of Italian ham my brother fixed me today not precipitate any more such occurances.

I go to sleep with a better gift than some, a visitation from a truly Wraithly presense. If the visions do not drive me mad.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Or whatever.

As soon as my mental state allows, I will continue the story about my brother, but the shock to my system from the visitation of the Dark Wraith prevents my concentration at this time. I seek curative measures. Now where is that beer?

The Last Word On Christmas

by: Debra

I meant to post this earlier!

For your reading pleasure during this holiday season . . . smile MERRY CHRISTMAS (In Legalese):

Please accept without obligation, express or implied, these best wishes for an environmentally safe, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, and gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday as practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice (but with respect for the religious or secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or for their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all) and further for a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated onset of the generally accepted calendar year (including, but not limited to, the Christian calendar, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures). The preceding wishes are extended without regard to the race, creed, age, physical ability, religious faith or lack thereof, choice of computer platform, or sexual preference of the wishee(s).


Whereas, on or about the night prior to Christmas, there did occur at a certain improved piece of real property (hereinafter "the House") a general lack of stirring by all creatures therein, including, but not limited to a mouse.

A variety of foot apparel, e.g., stocking, socks, etc., had been affixed by and around the chimney in said House in the hope and/or belief that St. Nick a/k/a/ St. Nicholas a/k/a/ Santa Claus (hereinafter "Claus") would arrive at sometime thereafter. The minor residents, i.e. the children, of the aforementioned House were located in their individual beds and were engaged in nocturnal hallucinations, i.e. dreams, wherein vision of confectionery treats, including, but not limited to, candies, nuts and/or sugar plums, did dance, cavort and otherwise appear in said dreams.

Whereupon the party of the first part (sometimes hereinafter referred to as ("I"), being the joint-owner in fee simple of the House with the party of the second part (hereinafter "Mamma"), and said Mamma had retired for a sustained period of sleep. At such time, the parties were clad in various forms of headgear, e.g., kerchief and cap.

Suddenly, and without prior notice or warning, there did occur upon the unimproved real property adjacent and appurtenant to said House, i.e., the lawn, a certain disruption of unknown nature, cause and/or circumstance. The party of the first part did immediately rush to a window in the House to investigate the cause of such disturbance.

At that time, the party of the first part did observe, with some degree of wonder and/or disbelief, a miniature sleigh (hereinafter "the Vehicle") being pulled and/or drawn very rapidly through the air by approximately eight ( cool reindeer. The driver of the Vehicle appeared to be and in fact was, the previously referenced Claus.

Said Claus was providing specific direction, instruction and guidance to the approximately eight ( cool reindeer and specifically identified the animal co-conspirators by name: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen (hereinafter "the Deer"). (Upon information and belief, it is further asserted that an additional co- conspirator named "Rudolph" may have been involved.)

The party of the first part witnessed Claus, the Vehicle and the Deer intentionally and willfully trespass upon the roofs of several residences located adjacent to and in the vicinity of the House, and noted that the Vehicle was heavily laden with packages, toys and other items of unknown origin or nature. Suddenly, without prior invitation or permission, either express or implied, the Vehicle arrived at the House, and Claus entered said House via the chimney.

Said Claus was clad in a red fur suit, which was partially covered with residue from the chimney, and he carried a large sack containing a portion of the aforementioned packages, toys, and other unknown items.

He was smoking what appeared to be tobacco in a small pipe in blatant violation of local ordinances and health regulations.

Claus did not speak, but immediately began to fill the stocking of the minor children, which hung adjacent to the chimney, with toys and other small gifts. (Said items did not, however, constitute "gifts" to said minor pursuant to the applicable provisions of the U.S. Tax Code.)

Upon completion of such task, Claus touched the side of his nose and flew, rose and/or ascended up the chimney of the House to the roof where the Vehicle and Deer waited and/or served as "lookouts." Claus immediately departed for an unknown destination.

However, prior to the departure of the Vehicle, Deer and Claus from said House, the party of the first part did hear Claus state and/or exclaim: "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!" Or words to that effect.

Happy Christmas

by: Foiled Goil

War is over…

If YOU want it.

· · · · · · ·

A Kona Christmas

by: Konagod

Some Robert Earl Keen for the holiday, and a personal photo below the fold.

24 December 2007

Christmas Wrapping

by: Debra

Merry Christmas!

Comfort Ye, My People

by: Minstrel Boy


Comfort ye,
comfort ye My people,
saith your God;
speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem;
and cry unto her,
that her warfare is accomplished,
that her iniquity is pardoned.

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness:
-Prepare ye the way of the Lord:
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be exalted,
and every mountain and hill made low,
the crooked straight and the rough places plain.

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light;
and they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death,
upon them hath the light shined.

For unto us a Child is born,
unto us a Son is given,
and the government shall be upon His shoulder;
and His name shall be called
The Mighty God,
The Everlasting Father,
The Prince of Peace.

All my best wishes of the season go to you and all you whom you love.

harp and sword

Christmas Wish

by: Foiled Goil


Lord, bid war's trumpet cease;
Fold the whole earth in peace.

~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

23 December 2007

American Lawyers Defending the Constitution

by: Foiled Goil

Lawyers Stepping Up

The Nation:

We are lawyers in the United States of America. As such, we have all taken an oath obligating us to defend the Constitution and the rule of law…. We believe the Bush administration has committed numerous offenses against the Constitution and may have violated federal laws…. Moreover, the administration has blatantly defied congressional subpoenas, obstructing constitutional oversight …. Thus, we call on House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers and Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy to launch hearings into the possibility that crimes have been committed by this administration in violation of the Constitution…. We call for the investigations to go where they must, including into the offices of the President and the Vice President.
Over one thousand lawyers – including former Governor Mario Cuomo and former Reagan administration official Bruce Fein – have signed onto the above statement demanding wide-ranging investigative hearings into unconstitutional and potentially criminal activity by the Bush administration.
“This lawyers' letter […] – it's a way of saying to Congress, ‘You need some backbone. You need to have a serious investigation, wherever it might go, on these issues that really have taken the United States out of the mainstream of human rights.’ It's absolutely critical…”

· · · ·
22 December 2007

Christmas Wishes a'la Edna

by: blackdog

Spousal Unit suggested I post something so the picture of the Huckabee kid would be pushed further down the screen and this blog would be safe for opening without turning one's stomach. So here is a Christmas wish list.

For Mike Huckabee: We wish that he would get enough money stashed away by big tobacco, musical instrument manufacturers, and the Osbornes that he could drop out of the race and retire to his home in dogtown without having to resort to "Wedding registry" to stock the house.

For Governor Beebe: We wish that, like the Grinch's heart, his testicles would grow three sizes so he would 1)work on increasing the severance tax on natural gas producers in Arkansas, and 2) hire however many more DEQ folks are necessary to ensure said producers stop trashing the state.

For PSC Chairman former Dogtown City Attorney and soldier going to Iraq Paul Suskie: A safe trip with all of your time spent inside whatever camp you are sent to. And high scores on HALO 3 while you are there. Be safe boy!

For Momma Duggar and Daddy Duggar and everyone else: A break of at least seven months without a new kid or one on the way.

For Tommy Robinson: Assuming he is going to prison our wish is that they send him to one better run than the jail when TR was in charge of it. Hopefully no one will be wailing on his head with a phone book in order to beat a confession out of him.

For the North Little Rock School District: A year when the consent decree is tossed out.

For Mayor Hays: A good year for the hydro plant that produces enough millions to fund his give aways to developers.

For George W. Bush: A fast year so he can not do too much more damage.

For Dick Cheney: A good cleaning service to get the smell of sulphur and brimstone out of his recently burned offices.

For Representative Boozman: Enough honesty to admit he voted against the funding bill that provided pork for NW Arkansas instead of voting against it and then bragging about how much bacon he brought home.

For our Senators: A reminder that you swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, and that means for everyone not just rich folks, campaign supporters, or those who you agree with.

For our readers: We wish you the best holiday season ever. We wish you health and wealth and wisdom. Thanks for stopping by.

This is from a great blog,
If you are the least bit curious about Arkieville, this will fill you in.

Different Day, Mostly The Same Crap

by: Debra

Over a year has gone by since we changed the deck chairs on the Titanic, also known as the Demowienies taking "control" of Congress. As most people have noticed, nothing changed. Absolutely nothing. Bush is still running the country into the ground; his cronies are still increasing their portfolios at phenomenal rates; the poor are even poorer and now have even more competition for the bottom of the economic ladder; New Orleans is being remade into a city that the former residents can't afford; and even more corruption, lying and cover-ups have been revealed. See what you get when impeachment is off the the table? If we do have an election next year, they all need to be replaced with people who really will represent us, not rage and cave, or even worse, bluff and fold.

Anybody who thinks that the tapes were the only thing withheld from the 9/11 commission, is not dealing with a full deck. And people wonder why conspiracy theories abound. No matter what Bill Maher believes, I come from the school of if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it ain't a goose.

The little Christmas tree that could...bring a tear to my eye. That was a great story. How many Americans would have kept a tradition that long and under such difficult circumstances?

My family knows this one well. Dad died on the Fourth of July and mom had her stroke on Christmas Eve. Don't you just love the holidays?

I've been following this study since I was in school in the nineties. We have learned so much about Alzheimer's from one guy's need to do a thesis.
However many kids these nuns may have terrorized in their youth, what they have done for the rest of us is very much appreciated.

Bigger. Faster. Better. No, it's not the Bionic Woman or the Six Million Dollar man. It's the collection and collation of biometric data on people who haven't done anything wrong, they're just breathing and they might be a little brown. Will this information be put to good use? Somehow I doubt it. What I don't doubt is that we are at 665 and aren't aware that a really bad number comes next.


· · · ·
21 December 2007

A Winter's Night

by: Foiled Goil

Song For A Winter's Night

Sung by Sarah McLachlan
Written by Gordon Lightfoot

YouTube Video

20 December 2007

Notes While Dipping the Whites

by: Minstrel Boy

I am a hard core, dark, bittersweet chocolate loving man. I have always pooh-poohed the whole white chocolate thing. I only developed this recipe because the people who are into white chocolate are so into it. Usually people who claim milk chocolate can be shamed into trying the real thing and they get hooked right away.

The difference in this batch to all the others is the Tahitian Vanilla. The flavor literally explodes into your mouth. But, listen to this from the man who made the vanilla possible Maheanuu Tane:

The Vanilla comes from the Island of Raiatea, and was grown, harvested, and dried by my daughter's father in law. For those out there who do not know about vanilla, it is the seed pod of an Orchid (V. tahitensis). The work is very intensive as each flower must be married (hand pollenated). Absolutely no insecticides, or chemicals of any kind are used in the growing and care of the plants. When the beans are ripe, they have changed from a dark green to a lighter lime green with black blotches on the skin. At this time the beans are picked and wrapped in muslin to be laid out in the sun during the day and watched constantly. Each evening every bean is massaged to break down the walls of the pod and allow the oil to mix well in the bean pod. They are kept dry and warm during the ripening and drying process and the air is heavy with the wonderful smell of vanilla. When I said that it was work intensive, I mean it. The vines flower over the period of a couple of weeks and during that time they must be hand pollenated individually within the first 5 days or you will not have a set from that flower. All of the older Tahitians where I live are very capable of pollenating several thousand flowers a day, while I kill more flowers than I pollenate.

Here's what happens in your mouth when you eat these. First with the straight whites you simply get a big jump of flavor that will even radiate up into your sinuses with the orchid's redolent and voluptuous aroma. It's the same sensation as when you are eating a perfectly made horseradish sauce, except without the pain. It's a big, huge, beautiful flavor.

Moving to the white gingers, you get the very same explosive vanilla shot, but it is followed by first a hint, then a whisper, then a statement of the ginger. The ginger eases into the flavor experience and then finishes it decisively.

If you thought that both strength and complexity were enough for one mouth to experience, you were wrong. The way that the raspberry whites work is the same but reversed. Here, the first flavor that jumps is the delicate twinge of the raspberry. Softened, as if in a bowl of clotted irish cream. Then, subtly building the vanilla comes on. The vanilla is the final taste, and aftertaste here.


harp and sword

White Chocolate Stuff and Contest Announcement

by: Minstrel Boy

The production of three flavors of white chocolate truffles was almost derailed last night too. I'm working all in a tizzy of disappointment from the multiple roadblocks to finishing up the dark truffle production and while working while distracted (something no responsible cook should ever do) manage to slice about a half inch gash in my right little finger. Blood ensues. No problem. Your correspondent is tough. I get the blood slowed down, flush the gash out well with lots and lots of clean water, take a tube of super glue and, as Emeril would say, BAM! No blood. Toss a rubber glove over the bandaids and off we go.


3 lbs white chocolate (I use Guittard buttons)
3/4 lb sweet butter
4 pods Tahitian Vanilla, halved and split lengthwise
(this stuff makes something that was merely good astonishing)
6 egg yolks
1/3 cup of water

You'll need a heavy duty stand mixer for this. I have a big, burly white Kitchenaid that I treasure. It comes with me much like my two favorite guitars. (OK, I don't take it on vacations and stuff but you get the idea)

In the bowl of the stand mixer put the white chocolate, the butter, and the vanilla pods. Place this into a larger pot, containing simmering water, over a medium flame. Stirring occaisionally, until all the butter and chocolate bits are melted and smooth. Transfer to the stand mixer using the paddle attachment and begin to stir on lowest speed. Add in the egg yolks one at a time. Keep a very close watch, because once the egg yolks are in there will be a separation of the butter as the egg yolks bind to the white chocolate, it will take on a curdled look. Do not be alarmed, alchemy will commence shortly. Just watch the mixture closely and keep your hand on the speed control to avoid any slopping over. While the mixture is at the curd stage is the best time to remove the vanilla pods and scrape out any residual little flecks of vanilla caviar. The pod husks can then be discarded. They have too much butter fat in them to be dried and used for vanilla sugar. When that is done add in the 1/3 cup of water. This will tighten and smooth out the mixture, when there is no further danger of sloppage (if that's not a word it should be) increase the speed to the highest setting and whip for at least ten minutes. Transfer to a pan lined with plastic wrap (I use Press 'n' Seal® that stuff rocks) and cover closely. Refrigerate overnight.

Next day, roll the ganache into balls that are slightly larger than the balls used for the dark chocolate truffles.

To melt white chocolate I use the microwave method. A good amount of white chocolate chips into a big mixing bowl and in the microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir, 30 seconds more, stir, then increments of 20 seconds three times stirring in between, then 10 seconds at a time until smooth. You want it melted and smooth but not hot. Dip the ganache balls.

Variations can be made by substituting any favorite liqueur for the water or adding in such flavors as move you like this time I made

Raspberry Cremes: Substitute 1/3 cup Chambord liqueur for the water and add 1 cup of frozen raspberries.

Crystallized Ginger Whites: Add in 1 cup of diced crystallized ginger.

That's the white chocolate recipe. Since it doesn't require any tempering it is something anybody with a stand mixer can accomplish.


Because of his deep and abiding love for the white chocolate truffles, and also because of this little gem, the winner with a vote here and there and a vigorous, if somewhat tawdry defense of his life and lifestyle, the winner of the dozen truffles is

The Dark Wraith.

There are some who might figure that since he publishes the Big Brass Blog where I am a contributor that there was some collusion going on. Not so, says I. I have no problem at all exposing corruption and collusion when it occurs. Christ I am a jingle whore and have no illusions about my reputation. I've already been bought and sold more times than cheap beads at a swap meet. Really, and truly, if there had been any decent attempts at bribery, if there had been any offers of corruption I would have taken them and gleefully succumbed.

I will be packing what truffles I can get off today. As soon as the replacement parts come in I will remake what needs to be made and get truffles off to everybody who so graciously ordered them.

Thank you for your indulgence and understanding. I guess my lesson is that this particular holiday is going to be about a beautiful little girl who has found her way into our family, to the exclusion of other, more trivial subjects. Everything else was a sideshow and a distraction. People and the message of the season, which ever season you celebrate, are what is important.

Enjoy your holidays. Enjoy your families, the ones you were born into, and the ones you created around you.

Kishmesh Jooni.

Harp and Sword

O Little Shill

by: Dark Wraith

Link to the YouTube video

Link to the WMV format file


O Little Shill

O little shill from Crawfordsville,
how much can one man lie?
With that creep, your weirdo Veep,
you've made Baby Jesus cry.

Yet in your dark, blank mind,
you think you've done alright.
Saudis attack, so you blast Iraq,
while taking our ev'ry right.

O little shill from Crawfordsville,
how dumb do you think we are?
Tax cuts for ev'ry, rich greedy bitch,
while I'm livin' in my car.

Yet in your dark, bleak mind,
you think you've done alright.
The dollar tanks, to you give thanks;
the federal debt's outta sight.

O little shill from Crawfordsville
What else can you do wrong?
Outing spies and constant lies;
you're tokin' on a big ol' bong!

Yet in your dark, drunk mind,
you think you've done okay.
The world moves on, and we are gone:
China sold us on eBay!

The Dark Wraith takes a bow.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· ·

House Acts For Veterans

by: Foiled Goil

Veterans Guaranteed Bonus Act of 2007

December 18, 2007:

Unfortunately, members of the armed services who are wounded while on active duty are not receiving their full bonuses because their service was prematurely cut short.

The Veterans Guaranteed Bonus Act, H.R. 3793, will correct this problem by requiring the Department of Defense to provide veterans who have been discharged due to combat-related wounds with full payment of remaining bonuses within 30 days of discharge.

It was reported in November that the Department of Defense has demanded reimbursement from some wounded veterans for their enlistment bonuses:

Wounded Vet Told To Pay Back Bonus
CBS News - November 21, 2007
The Veterans Guaranteed Bonus Act (H.R. 3793):

Guarantees that service members who die or are discharged for disability will not be required to repay any portion of their bonus;

Mandates the DoD to provide full bonuses to any service members who die or are discharged for disability; and,

Requires bonuses to be paid within 90 days of discharge.

HEART Act (Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Act)
The House also passed the HEART Act (Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Act), H.R. 3997, which provides $2 billion in tax relief for military families:

This bill will make permanent essential tax relief for our military families, including tax relief under the Earned Income Tax Credit, incentives to make sure that reservists called up for active duty do not suffer a pay cut, and more low-interest home loans for veterans.

Make tax relief for families of soldiers in combat under the EITC permanent. The bill makes permanent current law to include combat pay as earned income for purposes of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). At the end of the year, soldiers’ families working to get into the middle class will be denied needed tax relief if combat pay is not counted for purposes of receiving the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Make sure that reservists called up for active duty do not suffer a pay cut. Provides a tax credit of up to $4,000 for small businesses who continue to pay their National Guard and Reserve employees when they are called up to serve. According to a DOD survey, 55 percent of married Guard members and reservists suffer a loss of income when being called to active duty.

Make it easier for veterans to become homeowners. The bill would make thousands of veterans eligible for low-interest loans by making changes to the qualified mortgage bond programs used to help veterans achieve homeownership.

Make permanent other tax provisions to relieve economic hardships for military families. For example, the bill makes permanent IRS provisions to:

· · · ·
19 December 2007

The Pefect Antidote for the 4-Hour Viagra-Induced Hard-On

by: Konagod

It would have to be Time Magazine's Person of the Year. Thanks Petulant. That's as refreshing as a cold shower in December.

Photo credit: Dmitry Astakhov/AFP/Getty Images

Putin, 55, whose party recently won a big victory in parliamentary elections, is riding high on an oil-fueled economic boom and soaring popularity from a no-nonsense approach that has restored national pride with a big military build-up and verbal attacks on the West reminiscent of the Cold War.

We'll see where this is going soon enough.


Graphic source: FreakingNews.

Crossposted from konagod

18 December 2007

A Disturbance In The Force

by: Minstrel Boy

has occured. I was talking about my new tempering machine with the manufacturer's rep and it appears that I need a new part called a drive gear motor. I've ordered it, but they don't have them in stock and they close for Christmas on the 22nd. My son has dispatched the tiny pound and a half machine from Arizona on overnight. I will then go into round the clock production until it's done. I'm going to try and limp through another eight or so dozen today (2 doz done so far, but it's slow and tedious). We'll see what transpires. I will get them shipped as soon as I can.

harp and sword

Judge Orders Hearing On CIA Tapes

by: Foiled Goil

Judge Henry Kennedy Orders Hearing On Destroyed CIA Tapes

A judge on Tuesday scheduled a hearing into whether the CIA violated a court order by destroying videotapes of the harsh interrogations of two terrorism suspects.

U.S. District Court Judge Henry Kennedy, who in 2005 had ordered the government to preserve information on prisoner mistreatment at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, set the hearing for Friday, overriding government objections.

Lawyers for a group of Guantanamo Bay inmates had requested the hearing to learn whether the government had complied with the preservation order.

The CIA last week disclosed that it had destroyed hundreds of hours of interrogation tapes, prompting an outcry from congressional Democrats and human rights activists. The sessions recorded on the tapes were believed to have included a form of simulated drowning known as waterboarding, which has been condemned internationally as torture.
The CIA said it destroyed the tapes lawfully and did so out of concern for the safety of agents involved if the recordings were ever made public.

The White House as repeatedly denied that the United States tortures terrorism suspects.
Associated Press
U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy rejected calls from the Justice Department to stay out of the matter. He ordered lawyers to appear before him Friday morning.

In June 2005, Kennedy ordered the administration to safeguard "all evidence and information regarding the torture, mistreatment, and abuse of detainees now at the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay."

Five months later, the CIA destroyed the interrogation videos.
David Remes, a lawyer who represents Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo Bay, asked for the court hearing. He said the government was obligated to keep the tapes and he wants to be sure other evidence is not being destroyed.

"We want more than just the government's assurances. The government has given these assurances in the past and they've proven unreliable," Remes said. "The recent revelation of the CIA tape destruction indicates that the government cannot be trusted to preserve evidence."

Kennedy did not say why he was ordering the hearing or what he planned to ask. Even if the judge accepts the argument that government did not violate his order, he still could raise questions about obstruction or spoliation, a legal term for the destruction of evidence in "pending or reasonably foreseeable litigation."

The Justice Department did not immediately comment. Its lawyers are working with the CIA to investigate the destruction of the tapes and had urged Kennedy to give them time to investigate.

Remes urged Kennedy not to comply.

"Plainly the government wants only foxes guarding this henhouse," Remes wrote in court documents this week.

· · ·

Truffle Contest Posted at Harp and Sword

by: Minstrel Boy

Click Right Here

vote early and often. it's like a old chicago election that way.

Iraqi Gays Facing Tougher Life

by: Konagod

Chalk up one more group in Iraq who are who are facing tough times since the American-led invasion: gays and lesbians.

And while that probably isn't a big surprise, it certainly speaks volumes about our "progress" in building a safe, Democratic Iraq where freedom and equality rule.
Mohammed, 37, has been openly gay for much of his adult life. For him, this has meant growing his hair long and taking estrogen. In the past, he said, that held little danger. As is true throughout the Middle East, men have always been publicly affectionate here.

But, at least until recently, Mohammed and many of his gay friends went one step further, slipping into lovers’ houses late at night. And, until the American invasion, they said, Iraqi society had quietly accepted them.

But being openly gay is not an option in the new Iraq, where the rise of religious extremism has left Mohammed and his gay friends feeling especially vilified.


In 2005, Iraq’s most revered Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, issued a fatwa, or religious decree, calling for gay men and lesbians to be killed in the “worst, most severe way.”

He lifted it a year later, but neither that nor the recent ebb in violence has made Mohammed or his friends feel safe. They yearn to leave Iraq, but do not have the money or visas. They agreed to be interviewed on the condition that their last names not be used.

These extremists are an unpleasant lot, for sure.
His hand drifted to his newly shorn hair. He had lopped it off days earlier. There had been reports of extremists stopping long-haired men, shearing their hair and forcing them to eat it.

At least 400 people have been killed in Iraq since 2003 for being gay, according to an Iraqi gay rights group.

And some in the American military are not really helping matters with their adolescent condescending attitudes toward gays.
The American invasion was expected to usher in better times.

“We thought that with the presence of Americans, life would become paradise, that Iraq would be Westernized,” Mohammed said. “But unfortunately the way things were before was so much better than where we are now.”

One night shortly after Saddam Hussein fell, American soldiers burst into the apartment that Mohammed shared with his two brothers. They were looking for insurgents, but took one look at Mohammed, with his long hair and shapely body wrapped in a robe, and teased him, he said.

“What are you, a lady man?” he remembered them barking. “A boy? Or a girl?” They turned to one of Mohammed’s brothers, “Who is this?” they asked, “Your girlfriend?”

Being gay in Iraq now keeps them constantly on the move seeking safety. Not surprisingly, many of them want out of Iraq.
One of Mohammed’s friends, a 25-year-old law student named Rafi, said he was especially desperate to get out of Iraq. It is a sentiment shared by millions of Iraqis, but Rafi believes his future here is especially bleak. The influence from Iran is growing, he said. And in Iran, homosexuality is often punishable by death.

“I want to get out, but not just out of Iraq, out of the Middle East,” Rafi said, “to a country that has respect for human rights. And for us.”

Good luck. And if you are casting an eye on the United States, I'd wait until January 2009 -- at least.

Crossposted from konagod

17 December 2007

Support The Writer's Strike

by: Debra

It really doesn't matter how much of a cost savings the networks think they are going to have due to the Writer's strike and the increased reliance on reality shows, that will dry up soon. While America may be a superficial nation in more regards than are seemly, reality television is only attractive to those who like to see others suffer and fail. That glow will pall soon. Perhaps if networks would let new shows air more than once or twice, they wouldn't have to produce so many pilots. Some shows are so bad that the don't need more than one or two airings before being canceled, but shows like Firefly were canceled even though they had a loyal following.

I worked at Universal for several years and the one thing that was made clear to me, even more that years of television watching, is that the majority of shows are made for the lowest common denominator. That doesn't require much talent from anyone involved. Heroes was a brilliant show last year, but when they dumbed it down at the beginning of the season it lost viewers. I watched the first year of Desperate Housewives but three episodes into the second season, I was done. Brilliant writing, not notations from executives trying to homogenize everything to increase viewership, is the key. This explains my love of the third season of Babylon 5, Battlestar Galactica and other "arc" shows.

The Writer's strike is having an effect because the writers are valuable. Actors, directors and studio heads can, and have, been replaced and the shows have continued successfully. Usually when you replace the head writers or creators, the show goes down hill and gets canceled. Bionic Woman is the current example.

I miss The Daily Show and the Colbert Report, they need to come back so we have truth in news again. I know they are supposed to be comedy shows but they are the only ones who bother to comment on the important stuff that is glossed over by the news organizations in their efforts to be the Bush administration's mouthpieces.

The holidays will be over soon and then the networks are probably going to notice a big drop in viewership as people rediscover talking with friends, playing with their kids and pets or surf the internet for entertainment and intellectual stimulation. Paying the writers a decent wage and continuing to pay them every time the shows are aired, no matter what medium, is the smart thing to do. Trying to keep all the money for themselves will leave the studios all dressed up and no where to go. Not even to the awards ceremonies.

Barn Fever

by: Missouri Mule

After being iced and snowed in for a week, I need to ride. This morning I have saddled my big, steady gelding, Copy. He and I will cruise through the pastures looking for anything amiss. I hear a crack and look over the corral where the stud colt snorts after sending a sharp kick the way of the Yard Dog, who has gotten careless. The colt's ears are not back. His hind foot has knocked a big chip out of the corral pole behind him, but he is not mad, has not really targeted Yard Dog, he has simply renewed a "no-trespassing" sign.

I study the colt, coming-four in the spring, started this fall under saddle just enough to tell me that my work will be cut out for me. He is not wild. He accepts my advances, my touching and currying and picking up of feet casually enough. But there is something indifferent about him, something suggesting a pledge to a higher calling and somehow above this messing with ropes and cinches, longeing and driving, my usual early steps in training a colt. His back is short, his withers high, his chest deep but not wide, with the inverted "V" between the front legs the old timers prized for endurance. His disposition may be questionable for a breeding stallion, but I already have an excellent breeding stallion. Although I will probably breed this colt to a few mares, he really has a different mission. He is my Pegasus, I his Bellerophon. Before him the hills will shrink, and the rocky trails will be velvet under the his lope. Some crystal day we will leave early and crest the hills of the Ozarks while the morning sun kisses the summer frost on the grass.

But this work morning I will ride the mundane Copy. I brace my leg for the moment when it will bear my weight alone, insert my foot into the stirrup, and swing into the saddle. He turns to my neck rein and steps smartly in the snow towards the job at hand. I must remember not to sell Copy short, for he is a fine horse. The first few rides on the stud colt have spoiled me a little, they've been as my daughter says, "Scary but fun" for the stud colt is a Ferrari. Copy is an Oldsmobile. But there is something to be said for the steadiness and strength of Oldsmobiles.

The sun is out. This is a happy time. I stop Copy on the South side of a big tree in a patch of sunshine and get off for a moment. We both soak in the sun. Seldom do I wish I still smoked, but standing in the sunlight, leaning back on Copy, the mares and their foals in front peering at me through an opening in the trees, I feel the rare exception. I mount Copy and ride nonchalantly into the woods to check the fences. All is well. I head Copy back to the pasture gate. I put him in the cross-ties, replacing his bridle with a mesh nosebag into which I've poured a coffee can of grain. He munches while I unsaddle. The stud colt come up to the corral fence and sticks his nose over for a bite, which I give him, holding a bucket up until he fills his mouth completely. I turn towards the house, anxious for the coffee, my ration.

I turn once to look at the stud colt. We face each other twenty feet away, joining eyes. If the sun last, and in spite of the poor footing in the coral, I might ride him later today, then I remember the quickness of the stud colt. Half glad my feet are frozen, I walk to the house.

Lieberman Endorses McCain for President

by: Dark Wraith

Abandoning all remaining pretense of being other than an opportunistic shill angling for a VP nod, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), nominally caucusing with Democrats in the U.S. Senate, is endorsing Republican Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in the GOP fossil's lackluster bid for the White House.

Lieberman, McCain, and Co.

The Dark Wraith will refrain from descriptions of what fates befell wanton traitors of earlier eras.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· · · ·
16 December 2007

Sound, Fury, and a Curious Clutch of Questions

by: Dark Wraith

The Bush Administration and its new, unitary executive-lovin' Attorney General are telling the Congress and even a federal judge to back off their investigations of the destruction of those CIA torture tapes; but House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-TX 16th) says he'll be issuing subpoenas next week.

First of all, it is always nice to see the occasional congressional Democrat acting like he has a spine, but we all know what's going to happen: Bush and his new little slave, Michael Mukasey, at the Justice Department are simply going to refuse to comply with the subpoenas, and that will be the end of the matter, except for the obligatory sputtering by outraged Dems who will once again find out their own, personal answer to the question, "Who's your daddy?"

Now, moving beyond the Washington nonsense that's going to end in another successful White House whitewash, it would be nice if someone—anyone, for Heaven's sakes—would ask the really interesting, perhaps most telling question of all.

Since so few others are stepping up to the podium to make a big thing about this, here goes. Any fool in his right mind at the CIA could have figured out that telling the whole world about video tapes of government-sponsored torture being destroyed would cause a firestorm with a side of righteous indignation; so why on earth would CIA Director Hayden have stirred up such a hornets' nest by bawling about the tapes being destroyed when hardly anyone would ever have known that the tapes existed in the first place?

Readers who deduce the answer to that question might want to ask the follow-up: Who was it (or, more accurately, who were they) who forced Hayden's hand so incredibly effectively?

That follow-up question, by the way, leads to one further question: Is that all they got? (The answer is most likely, "Nope"; but we'll just have to wait and see, won't we?)

The Dark Wraith was wondering when this Administration would start showing some nuance in the treacheries within its hermetically sealed confines.

· · · · ·
15 December 2007

Impeding CIA Tapes Investigations

by: Foiled Goil

Judge urged not to ask about CIA tapes

Associated Press:
The Bush administration told a federal judge it was not obligated to preserve videotapes of CIA interrogations of suspected terrorists and urged the court not to look into the tapes' destruction.

In court documents filed Friday night, government lawyers told U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy that demanding information about the tapes would interfere with current investigations by Congress and the Justice Department.
Kennedy ordered the administration in June 2005 to safeguard "all evidence and information regarding the torture, mistreatment, and abuse of detainees now at the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay."

Five months later, the CIA destroyed the interrogation videos.
The administration has taken a similar strategy in its dealings with Congress on the issue. On Friday, the Justice Department urged Congress to hold off on questioning witnesses and demanding documents because that evidence is part of a joint CIA-Justice Department investigation.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey also refused to give Congress details of the government's investigation into the matter Friday, saying doing so could raise questions about whether the inquiry was vulnerable to political pressure.
AG denies details in CIA tapes inquiry

Associated Press:
Attorney General Michael Mukasey refused Friday to give Congress details of the government's investigation into interrogations of terror suspects that were videotaped and destroyed by the CIA. He said doing so could raise questions about whether the inquiry is vulnerable to political pressure.

In letters to leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary committees that oversee the Justice Department, Mukasey also said there is no need right now to appoint a special prosecutor to lead the investigation. The preliminary inquiry currently is being handled by the Justice Department and the CIA's inspector general.

"I am aware of no facts at present to suggest that department attorneys cannot conduct this inquiry in an impartial manner," Mukasey wrote to Sens. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the top Democrat and Republican, respectively, on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Meantime, Senate Republicans blocked a bill Friday that would restrict the CIA's interrogation methods. Already passed by the House, the bill would require the CIA to adhere to the Army's field manual on interrogation, which bans waterboarding, mock executions and other harsh methods.
Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike angrily denounced Mukasey's refusal, which they said blocks congressional oversight of the Justice Department.

Additionally, lawmakers from both parties accused the Justice Department of obstructing a House Intelligence Committee inquiry by advising the CIA against cooperating.

"Earlier today, our staff was notified that the Department of Justice has advised CIA not cooperate with our investigation," House Intelligence Chairman Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, and the panel's top Republican, Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, said in a joint statement Friday.

"We are stunned that the Justice Department would move to block our investigation," Reyes and Hoekstra said. "Parallel investigations occur all of the time, and there is no basis upon which the Attorney General can stand in the way of our work. ... It's clear that there's more to this story than we have been told, and it is unfortunate that we are being prevented from learning the facts. The executive branch can't be trusted to oversee itself."
In a letter Thursday to CIA Director Michael Hayden, the House panel had asked the CIA to hand over by Friday all documents and cables regarding the interrogation tapes and their destruction. Based on the Bush administration's response Friday, it appeared likely the administration also would block testimony by acting CIA General Counsel John Rizzo and Jose Rodriguez, the former head of the National Clandestine Service. Both have been summoned to testify to the committee on Dec. 18. Rodriguez ordered the tapes destroyed.

Leahy said he was disappointed that Mukasey denied the details to his committee — even in a classified setting.

"Oversight fosters accountability," Leahy said. "This committee needs to fully understand whether the government used cruel interrogation techniques and torture, contrary to our basic values."

· · · · ·
14 December 2007

R.I.P. Ike Turner

by: Minstrel Boy

(this was a comment i left over to Bad Tux, the Snarky Penguin's)

about five years ago, i turned a young drummer friend over to ike. the kid had monsterous chops but he needed to learn the business. he needed to learn to be a professional. ike fucking schooled him. i never worked for, or with ike. i only knew him after he sobered up. thing was, if in the last ten or so years, if you worked for ike, you fucking worked. and you got paid. ike flat handled shit. club owners and producers didn't even think about stiffing ike. ike. would. cut. them. if you worked for ike you got paid what you were told you would be paid. and you worked.
other folks had to get day gigs to get by. not if you worked for ike.

ike knew how to put on a show. every tune, every note, every move was studied and chosen for effect. ike was a showman, a dying breed.

he is missed.

Goodbye Ike. I bet it won't be very long at all before you school a proper Doo-Wop line with those angels. God, Jesus, please take Ike, and try not to piss him off.

harp and sword

First Impressions from Conference Call with SEIU President Andy Stern

by: Dark Wraith

A full transcript or link thereto of the conference call in which I just participated with Service Employees International Union President Andy Stern will be available on Monday, but I wanted to provide a brief follow-on from my post of December 14, 2007, "Friday Teleconference Questions for SEIU President Andy Stern," to give readers here a sense of my take on what Mr. Stern had to say.

Andy SternThe call began in earnest with Mr. Stern giving a few opening remarks principally addressing a central concern of his, which is the income inequality in the United States and the relationship between closing the widening income gap and the effectiveness and pervasiveness of unionism in the country. He is, of course, correct that income inequality is a serious problem: after the disparity between the wealthiest and poorest Americans peaked in the year 2000, the income share of the top one percent of Americans again hit a high in 2006, matching its 1929 level. Going even further with the point, while median income in the United States has risen a paltry 17 percent since 1980, income of the top 0.1 percent (that's one-tenth of a percent) has quadrupled; and to continue hammering on the matter, according to Harper's Index, the percentage of people living at or below half of the federal poverty level has jumped 32 percent since 2000.

Point taken: income inequality is large and growing in the United States. Andy Stern believes that unions are part of the solution, but he also holds that the federal government must support workers, and politicians must be more responsive to their concerns—projected, at least to some extent, through union representation—and less accountable to corporations and their executive interests which benefit so greatly from this ever-increasing income disparity.

To that extent, the last question I asked Mr. Stern was whether or not he would support my idea of a President-appointed Labor Czar to oversee labor issues in the United States. It is one thing to promote new laws—and I argued that we have quite a substrate, old as it is, of pro-labor law in this country—but it is quite another to bring under the authoritative portfolio of one federal official the mass of wide-ranging, unequally enforced regulatory infrastructure that turns those labor laws into real action at the level of workers and their workplaces. Mr. Stern, if I may be so bold as to state this, agreed: he suggested a position from the Office of the Vice President, an idea I think has merit, given that OVP has acquired under Vice President Dick Cheney substantial power that is largely robust to Congress and even the President.

Returning to the earlier part of the conference call, Mr. Stern fairly thoroughly (given the time frame in which we were operating) responded to my question concerning the erosion of union power in the United States. It is his contention, to quote him, "Let workers make their own choice." In other words, removing barriers to unionization efforts is the best way to ensure that workers will make the choice that it is in their own best interest. To the extent that unions have lost the esteem of American workers, Mr. Stern made the pithy comment, "The best way to change your image is to change reality."

Not bad.

I had a chance to plug Part Two of my series, "The Economics of Wreckage," wherein I graphically demonstrated (indeed, I virtually flogged) the point that the erosion of real wages in this country is not something that has suddenly occurred under the Bush Administration; it is, instead, a decades-long phenomenon that I did my best to show was the result of sustained neo-Keynesian policy: as long as the average price level rises at a rate faster than that of workers' wages and salaries, those people have to work harder—that is, continually increase their productivity—in order to maintain their standard of living. My graphs clearly, unarguably show that this is exactly what has been going on for years and years: average wages have unquestionably lagged overall price increases, and that's why productivity has been going up while wages, themselves, have never actually made any inflation-adjusted headway.

I'm not sure I fully understood that Mr. Stern had addressed this point in his opening remarks and in responses to questions before mine. He is surprisingly mindful of the do-nothing Congress of the present era, describing policy as "hopeless, clueless, and planless," but he is also knowledgeable of the long-term problem that this economy does not reward the common workers nearly as much as it does the executives of corporations and the generally wealthy. He believes that part of the answer, although not a panacea, is essential change in tax policy as well as legislative action that strengthens the hand of unions in bargaining for better wages and benefits.

Mr. Stern seems to be of two minds insofar as the current Congress is concerned. He charitably notes, perhaps reasonably, that the Democrats' "skills are a little rusty," which goes to some length in explaining why they have been so unable to wrest control of the legislative agenda from the minority Republicans, especially in the U.S. Senate. On the other hand, he distinguishes between the many Democrats on the Hill who show little initiative and those like Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) who are far more forward-leaning not just in their rhetoric, but also in their legislative agenda.

I should at this juncture suspend further attempts to sort through my notes on the conference call and allow the transcript, which will be published Monday, to speak for itself. In summary, it was more interesting than I had expected: the SEIU president's answers were framed to stay on-point, but he was extemporaneously able to field a variety of questions dealing with everything from immigration to education. Whether or not he is, as SEIU promotional literature asserts, a new kind of labor leader remains to be seen in the years ahead. For my own part, I would be delighted just to see an old kind of labor leader make a comeback.

Then again, I'm sort of a romantic when it comes to the occasional knock-down, drag-out fight between strike-breaking corporate thugs and union guys on a picket line.

The Dark Wraith looks back fondly on a by-gone era.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· · · · ·

To Err Is Human - To Arr Is Pirate

by: Foiled Goil

Kidd's ship found off Dominican island

Associated Press
A U.S. underwater archaeology team announced Thursday it has likely discovered the shattered remnants of a ship once captained by the notorious buccaneer William Kidd off a tiny Dominican Republic island.

The barnacled cannons and anchors found stacked beneath just 10 feet of crystalline coastal waters off Catalina Island are believed to be the wreckage of the Quedagh Merchant, a ship abandoned by the Scottish privateer in 1699, Indiana University researchers say.

"When I first looked down and saw it, I couldn't believe everybody missed it for 300 years," said Charles Beeker, a scuba-diving archaeologist who teaches at Indiana University. "I've been on thousands of wrecks and this is one of the first where it's been untouched by looters."

Beeker said the wreckage has been aggressively sought by treasure hunters, including a group with a permit from the Dominican government to scour Catalina for remnants of the ship, which historians believe was scavenged of treasure and burned shortly after Kidd abandoned it.

The Dominican government has licensed the U.S. university to study the wreckage and convert the sea floor where the cannons and anchors are marooned into an underwater preserve, where it will be accessible to divers and snorkelers.
The scattered cannons and anchors, partially hidden by swirling sand, were first spotted by a local man who reported his discovery to the Dominican government, according to Francis Soto, director of the National Office of Subaquatic Heritage and Culture.

The Indiana University team then examined the wreck at the request of the Caribbean country's government.

The find will likely reveal key information about piracy in the Caribbean and about the elusive Captain Kidd, according to John Foster, California's state underwater archaeologist, who will participate in the research.
Historian Richard Zacks, who wrote a book about the seafaring privateer called "The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd," said the Scotsman had captured the 500-ton Moorish ship in the Indian Ocean but left it in the Caribbean in 1699 as he traveled to New York to try and clear his name of criminal charges.

Kidd failed to convince authorities of his innocence and was hanged in 1701 in London, Zacks said. His body was suspended in a gibbet, a kind of cage, on the Thames River as a warning to other privateers.
"The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd"

Hardcover available at: Amazon

Paperback available at: Barnes and Noble and Borders

Book review: Shiver me timbers!

· · ·

Thursday Night Aromatic Diversion

by: Dark Wraith

Long-time commenter and friend OddJob passed along the link to a challenging article by Andrew Sullivan in the Atlantic Monthly. Mr. Sullivan offered the link to an article on the Website of ABC Boston affiliate channel WCVB, where we learn of a company called, which will use DNA to find its clients prospective dating partners with the appropriate "natural odor," which will make for "healthier children and a more satisfying sex life."

My response to OddJob is herewith offered to readers of this fine blog.

You see, OddJob, this is why I've pretty much given up on science: if I need a good whiff of sweat—be it armpit, hoof, mouth, navel, intergluteal cleft, sagging jowl, manparts, or whatever—I just go down to the university gym. It's all there; and it's all there in abundance, a veritable cornucopia, if you will, of olfactory pleasures and pains sufficient to elicit from the most sublime of Homo sapiens sapiens the canine craving for a roll in the roilingly rotting.

Concentrated, even: a genuine distillation of all that is brutishly attractive, true and primal. The wellspring of Eau de GawdAlmighty.

And where's the thrill of the hunt in paying some service to deliver the stuff right to your door? Indeed, who is the person not titillated by the much-anticipated Mystery Funk that sooner or later attends any meaningful relationship of even modest intimacy?

What more powerful motive is there than the unspoken, "Yo! What the hey was that?" to cause the explorer to go back and find out once and for all what anatomical process could have produced such watering of eyes and invigoration of spirit?

Gracious. I would go so far as to posit that rare is the occasion of light-hearted, fraternal towel-twacking that didn't begin with the ancient, deeply epistemological question, "Who farted?"

Science can go only so far in resolving such matters. At the end of the day, we must turn away from technology and seek answers with the noses that a wise Creator—She Who Thinks of Everything—gave us.

The right choice is evident: smell deeply; in the aftermath, bark if you must; then go back for another round.

The Dark Wraith has thus and sufficiently responded to the latest assault by modernity on sensibility and sense.

· ·
13 December 2007

Feds Take Aim at Al Sharpton

by: Dark Wraith

The Rev. Al SharptonWhile continuing a nearly seven-year run of finding nothing whatsoever about the Bush Administration worthy of sweeping investigations and lightning-fast execution of wide-ranging subpoenas, the Justice Department has issued and executed subpoenas of 2004 Democratic candidate Al Sharpton's financial and business records going all the way back to 2001. Supposedly, this investigation has to do with the Reverand Sharpton's 2004 White House bid, but the subpoenas appear to be very broad, targeting his non-profit and for-profit businesses, personal records, and other documents and effects, as well as nearly a dozen of his assistants who must testify before a federal grand jury.

According to, an FBI agent declined to comment, a spokesman for the agency could not be reached, and no one at the Internal Revenue Service would respond.

The New York City-based Sharpton claims he is the target of political retribution; and, while law enforcement authorities typically do not comment extensively on cases at this stage of investigation, the uniform silence by agencies involved in the execution of the subpoenas is somewhat unusual.

Whether or not Sharpton is, indeed, the subject of a political witchhunt, FBI and Treasury Department investigators would be wise not only to avoid answering their telephones, but they might also be well advised to stay off the back streets of New York City.

It's one thing to obfuscated when journalists are involved; it's quite another to say "No comment" to the friends of a New York guy you've just taken down.

The Dark Wraith is glad to see the Justice Department on the job, making America safe from the scourge of rabble-rousing preachers of color.

· · · · ·

Senate Judiciary Committee Votes To Hold Bolten And Rove In Contempt

by: Foiled Goil

Lawmakers vote to hold Bolten and Rove in contempt

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted on Thursday to hold two top aides to President George W. Bush in contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate in its probe of fired federal prosecutors.

On a largely party-line vote of 11-7, the Democratic-led panel sent contempt citations against White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove to the full Senate for consideration.

As with many of Bush's battles with the Democratic-led Senate, the president may ultimately prevail since his fellow Republicans may be able to block the citations with a procedural hurdle.

Bush has claimed executive privilege to protect aides from complying with congressional subpoenas demanding documents or testimony in an investigation into the firing last year of nine U.S. attorneys. The committee has rejected his privilege claim as unfounded.

· ·

Democratic Knaves Cave

by: Dark Wraith

Congressional Democrats are caving in and giving President Bush another $70 billion blank check for his war.

Meanwhile, the Democratic candidates are rather obviously and embarrassingly shifting their focus, now avoiding too much talk about the war and the surge and all that because the mainstream media is pumping out the propaganda that Mr. Bush's surge worked and everything's getting all better in Iraq.

It's just a miracle! As of December 12, only 3,888 American soldiers have died in that Mesopotamian hell-hole.

The tragic, if funny, part is that the top Democratic candidates for President strut on stage, braying about their "foreign policy" experience; yet, not one of them has the brains to recognize that what's happening in Iraq with the Sunnis and the Shi'ites is a classic lull for re-arming and regrouping that just about any fighting force would have done long before now.

Not only are Democrats in Congress demonstrating every day that they're too gutless to stand up to Bush and his Republican thugs on the Hill, but now their putative leading contenders for the Presidency are proving that they're too stupid to know what a powder keg looks like even when the fuse to it is sizzling right in front of their eyes.

The Dark Wraith would like to have just one lousy day without a good excuse for being nihilistically cynical.

· · · · ·

GOP: Grand Obstructionist Party

by: Foiled Goil

Muscle Flexing in Senate: GOP Defends Strategy

New York Times via Truth Out
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, operates with near-robotic efficiency when it comes to negotiating budget figures in public, consistently refusing to answer questions that would ever commit him to a specific number at the bargaining table.

So it was more than a little telling when Mr. McConnell laid down his mark in the current budget fight on Tuesday, informing the Capitol Hill press corps that he was ready to offer Democrats a deal, $70 billion in war financing with no strings attached and a total budget identical to President Bush's proposal.

In other words, the Republicans should get virtually everything they want. And he was not kidding.
Mr. McConnell and his fellow Republicans are playing such tight defense, blocking nearly every bill proposed by the slim Democratic majority that they are increasingly able to dictate what they want, much to the dismay of the majority leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, and frustrated Democrats in the House.

In fact, the Senate Republicans are so accustomed to blocking measures that when the Democrats finally agreed last week to their demands on a bill to repair the alternative minimum tax, the Republicans still objected, briefly blocking the version of the bill that they wanted before scrambling to approve it later.

For the Democrats, it was a perfect example of why they have taken to calling the G.O.P. the "grand obstructionist party." The Democrats send out daily tallies of the number of Republican filibusters, which the Democrats say will set a record.
The Republicans are not shy about their strategy, which they say is merely exercising the minority's right to filibuster, which has existed since the earliest days of the Senate. Nor are they shy about standing with Mr. Bush, who now threatens almost daily to use his veto to back up the strategy.

But there are also risks. The latest New York Times/CBS News poll found that the stagnation in Congress has made an impression. Just 21 percent of Americans say they have a favorable view of Congress and 64 percent disapprove. And the two parties have been unyielding, calculating that voters will blame the other side.

For some lawmakers, especially those facing re-election, the danger is palpable.
Democrats say the Republican stance, especially on spending, is reckless and aimed at shutting down the government.
By the calculation of Mr. McConnell and other Republicans, voters will reward them for stopping the Democrats from doing all sorts of things that the Republicans view as foolish.
In the meantime, Mr. McConnell and the Republicans, with Mr. Bush's support, effectively have a stranglehold on the Senate. That has in turn created bitterness between Democrats in the Senate and House, where Democrats have a larger majority and more leverage.
Mr. McConnell, of course, said it was up to the Democrats to work things out, whether on spending or any other measure, in a way that Republicans would accept.

12 December 2007

Friday Teleconference Questions for SEIU President Andy Stern

by: Dark Wraith

I have been invited to join a Friday morning telephonic conference with Andy Stern, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the fastest-growing union in North America, which represents approximately 1.9 million workers in about 100 occupational categories in the United States and Canada. In advance of the discussion, I have submitted questions as the basis for the question-and-answer session with Mr. Stern, and I herewith offer those questions to readers for their consideration. A follow-up post will be published subsequent to the teleconference.

My first of three questions to you Mr. Stern, has to do with the erosion of union strength: in numbers, in composition, in political support, and in judicial consideration, organized labor has waned considerably as a force in the architecture of American society, and this has occurred over a long period of time. Arguably, the decline had its roots in the years immediately following World War II, when the country turned to the political right, with anti-labor hallmarks that included the Labor-Management Relations Act of 1947 and the damaging accusations of communist infiltration leveled against unions in the 1950s. Furthermore, President Ronald Reagan's brute-force approach in dealing with PATCO in 1981 was effectively a declaration of war by the United States government on any union that dared cross it, and this ultimately emboldened both corporations and the judiciary in a long-term shift in the balance of power between a government-corporate alliance on the one hand and unions on the other.

The rate of union membership has been in a long-term decline, falling from 20.1 percent in 1983 to a current level of about 12 percent. (The erosion of the membership base actually goes back clear to the 1950s, though). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, government employees have a rate of union membership of more than 36 percent versus private sector union membership rate of 7.4 percent, meaning that unionization is almost five times as high in the sector of the economy where the ability of unions to project their most effective bargaining tools, those involving work-related actions, are at their weakest. Furthermore, in terms of composition, union membership stands at an overall rate of 13 percent, but for women, at only 10.9 percent, meaning that those who are the most likely to be the victims of wage suppression and, indeed, discrimination are about 15 percent less likely to be directly represented at the bargaining table, even though they are more represented in the service sector: the problem is that this is the sector where wages are historically quite low and most likely to lag overall inflation.

My question to you is simple: In your judgment, how can the erosion of union membership rates, the disparity in union representation, and the long-term political hostility to unions in this country be turned around; and what, specifically, is your plan to contribute to this much-needed effort?

My second question involves my experience as a college teacher. I am simply stunned by the lack of knowledge students have of the history of labor movements in the United States. This is not merely a matter of minor gaps in knowledge of names and dates; this is, instead, a thorough absence of any grasp whatsoever of organized labor activities and the battles that have been fought in the streets, in the halls of power, and in the courts. There is little chance, in my informed judgment, of making this nation's electorate receptive to pro-labor legislation, and more fundamentally, to a pro-labor orientation, if we are producing one generation after another that has no sense of history in this regard.

The only way to rectify this is through a concerted, sustained, comprehensive program of support for education initiatives in primary and secondary schools to get the message across; and not just once, but over and over again through deep infusion into students' minds that the American experience is very much the labor experience, and that those kids to whom we are telling the story of labor are, themselves, going to grow up to be part of a workforce in which a fundamental, irreconcilable adversarialism will always exist between what they need and deserve as their just compensation for their labor and what their employers will want to grant them.

My question to you is this: How do you see the Service Employees International Union, specifically, and unions in this country, generally, addressing the need to foster a pro-labor, pro-union attitude in America's youth in the years when they would be most receptive to the development of such attitudes as part of their educational experience?

My third and final question to you concerns healthcare. Without going into the fatiguing and overwhelming statistics on the multi-dimensional challenge facing the United States in the coming decades with respect to dealing with spiraling healthcare costs, a graying population, and a government already facing out-years budget deficits of staggering proportions, let me focus on the role of labor unions in crafting a workable, if difficult, model. Consistent with my own suspicion of sweeping, comprehensive solutions, especially ones that involve a government that can turn on a dime from beneficent to brutish, it seems to me that the internationalization of unions, especially an internationalization into countries with younger labor forces that could make healthcare plans actuarially very sound, would be a powerful tool for union recruiting in the United States, as well as a way to make labor standards in other countries, particularly those in developing nations, far better than they are now. Offering Americans a more sound, more secure healthcare coverage basis (with, perhaps, an umbrella provided by the federal government) would attract dues-paying workers here at home; bringing higher labor standards to other countries would afford workers there a better life; and globalization of labor unions would make them politically more robust to the particulars of any given government in any given country and could, in fact, become a bulwark against tyranny. As grand as all of that sounds, I would submit that, unless unions in the United States are willing to reach out, take control of the labor side of globalization, and use it to their advantage for their members, then that globalization is going to remain in the exclusive control of corporate interests and the governments bought and paid for by those anti-worker interests.

What are your thoughts on this?

# # #

For those unfamiliar with SEIU, below is a YouTube promo for the president of the union, Andy Stern.

Again, the Dark Wraith will publish a follow-up post, which will include the substantial elements of Mr. Stern's responses.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· · · · ·

Family Values

by: Debra

In my family, lying was not tolerated. Neither was fudging the truth or playing one parent against the other. Penalties were swift and harsh, ensuring that we never made the same mistake again. Unfortunately, the crew without a clue who are currently running the country into the ground weren't raised in the same way. It's sad how with all of their education they are still ruled by their reptilian brains.
Feith told Jeffrey Goldberg in The New Yorker that “My family got wiped out by Hitler, and ... all this stuff about working things out — well, talking to Hitler to resolve the problem didn’t make any sense to me. The kind of people who put bumper stickers on their car that declare that ‘War is not the answer,’ are they making a serious comment? What’s the answer to Pearl Harbor? What’s the answer to the Holocaust?”
And Osama been Forgotten (again!) doesn't make the list? What's up with that? Meanwhile in secret prisons around the world we were using and filming torture excuse me, enhanced interrogation techniques, on people who were severely wounded by gunfire and people think it's okay because their prison wasn't specifically mentioned by a judge? If it's wrong in one prison, it's wrong in every other. Dad didn't let us split hairs like that.
The CIA destroyed the tapes in November 2005. That June, U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. had ordered the Bush administration to safeguard "all evidence and information regarding the torture, mistreatment, and abuse of detainees now at the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay."

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler issued a nearly identical order that July.

At the time, that seemed to cover all detainees in U.S. custody. But Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the terrorism suspects whose interrogations were videotaped and then destroyed, weren't at Guantanamo Bay. They were prisoners that existed off the books — and apparently beyond the scope of the court's order.
Ahh, the humanity. Or lack thereof. What bothers me the most about this is that it was so widespread. So many people went along with the program, never questioning themselves or their orders but all too willing to put to the question anybody that fit a certain profile. By deciding that people were guilty and trying to get information by any means necessary to confirm their suspicions, any moral high ground was lost to the dustbins of history. Just like every other debacle of this Bush league administration, no one could have anticipated that the truth would eventually come out.

Well, it's out now and even some of Bush's staunchest supporters are willing to question the administration's behavior.
House minority leader John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, told reporters yesterday that he supports a thorough congressional inquiry.

"I think that we need to get to the bottom of why the tapes were made, why they were destroyed, under what authority were they made, and under what authority were they destroyed," Boehner said.
I'm thinking of teaching Shadow some doggie tricks, now all I have to do is figure out how to use the Demowienies ability to roll over and play dead as an example.


· · ·

Second Road Trip

by: Minstrel Boy

back to San Diego, this time to pick up my 40 lbs of 70% cocoa mass chocolate, then pick up 15lbs of white chocolate buttons, and some decoration supplies. We will be in production mode come Friday.

Third stop on the way out of town is to see the bone doctor dude again. I was telling him about the week coming up where I need to be at something approximating full strength, able to spend time on my feet and stuff. He's mainly a sports doctor so he understands me when I say "I gotta play this game." I'm going to be getting a series of cortisone and some other voodoo stuff injected in the hip, knee and the arch of my left foot. He says that a series like that will cost me one day of inactivity on Thursday, but once the site trauma calms down (they take these needles about the size of irrigation pipe and cram them deep into the joints) I should be able to sustain pretty normal levels of activity for a couple of weeks, without having to resort to heavy duty pain killers and stuff like that.

After that our plan is three fold. He wants to try a resurfacing job on the hip. He thinks that by building up parts of the chunk that got shot off and then hosing down the existing joint surface he can approximate something that will last me for a while, thus putting off the eventual replacement for a few years. On the knee he wants to try "microfracture" surgery. That's the one that Amare Stoudamire and a lot of the basketball players have had. What they do is to go into the cartilage surface of the knee (that's the part that's been wearing steadily away with me) and they make a series of small, microscopic fractures in the surface. The theory (since proven in practice) is that in the process of naturally healing these tiny little cuts the bigger areas of wear will be resurfaced too. It takes about a year for the surgery to really show results, but hey, talks between the WGA and AMPTP have been suspended while the producers try to find some negotiators who aren't taking large quantities of LSD and other club drugs. They might have to move the negotiation site because the producer's team has already worn out the supply of teen aged hookers from both sexes on Sunset. They're thinking maybe San Francisco would be a better site. The producers are foolish to think this. The hookers in San Francisco were unionized by Margo St. James back in the 70's. They. Hate. Them. Some. Scabs.

The foot stuff going on will be done by an orthopaedic specialist who does nothing but feet and ankles. She's a friend of my regular bone guy and has worked on some pretty famous feet, both sports types and some well known dancers. I see her right after the new year.

So, more road work today. Rest tommorow. Then, it's truffle game time.

Put me in coach. I'm ready.

harp and sword
11 December 2007

Pinning Tales On Donkeys

by: Foiled Goil

Congress has been stymied by Bush, Republicans

President George W. Bush wants it known the U.S. Congress has been asleep at the switch since Democrats took over in January. The only problem is that he and his fellow Republicans have flipped off the switch at nearly every turn, Democrats say.
As they excoriate political opponents, Bush and his fellow Republicans in Congress have successfully stopped most major Democratic initiatives this year.

They have staged an unprecedented number of "filibusters" in the Senate, where Democrats do not have a big enough majority to end debate. The few times that wasn't the case, Bush used his veto pen to kill Democrats' top priorities, like ending the Iraq war, expanding health care to children from low-income families and expanding stem cell research.
The legislative deadlock might get even worse next year, as election campaigns for Congress and the presidency get into full swing.

Ethan Siegal of the Washington Exchange, a private group that tracks Congress, said of Republicans' opposition tactics: "The template for trying to get into power is to make sure the party in charge doesn't have many legislative successes."

But even many Republicans think accusations of a "do-nothing" Democratic Congress won't be enough for their party to win back their majority status in the November 2008 elections.
Democrats quickly fulfilled many of their 2006 campaign promises, raising the minimum wage for the first time in a decade, implementing stalled recommendations of the commission that investigated the September 11 attacks and trying to stop ethics abuses that plagued Congress during years of Republican leadership.

Republicans blocked many other measures.

A top domestic priority -- reforming U.S. immigration law -- was buried by conservative Republicans in the House. On foreign affairs, Republicans killed repeated moves to bring combat in Iraq to an end, despite Americans' disenchantment with a war now in its fifth year. Anti-war feeling was a driving factor behind the Democrats' success in last year's elections.

Popular legislation to expand stem cell research to help cure diseases such as Parkinson's was vetoed by Bush, as was a bill to deliver health care to more children from low-income families.

More recently, the House passed an energy bill that would improve automobile fuel efficiency for the first time in 32 years but Senate Republicans, heeding a White House veto threat, stopped it.

And Bush has veto threats on the remaining bills to fund the government through next September.

He recently told Arkansas business leaders: "You're fixing to see what they call a fiscal showdown in Washington."
House Democrats Pull Budget Offer

Washington Post via Truth Out
The GOP is negotiating in bad faith, Obey says.

A Democratic deal to give President Bush some war funding in exchange for additional domestic spending appeared to collapse last night after House Appropriations Committee Chairman David R. Obey (D-Wis.) accused Republicans of bargaining in bad faith.
"Absent a Republican willingness to sit down and work out a reasonable compromise, I think we ought to end the game and go to the president's numbers," Obey said. "I was willing to listen to the argument that we ought to at least add more for Afghanistan, but when the White House refuses to compromise, when the White House continues to stick it in our eye, I say to hell with it."
"It is extraordinary that the president would request an 11 percent increase for the Department of Defense, a 12 percent increase for foreign aid, and $195 billion of emergency funding for the war while asserting that a 4.7 percent increase for domestic programs is fiscally irresponsible," Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) said.


DoJ Probe of Torture Tapes Tainted by Attorney General's Past

by: Dark Wraith

With the Bush Administration now refusing to answer further inquiries about White House knowledge of or involvement in what could end up being a criminal case, the Justice Department, along with the CIA, has launched a preliminary investigation into the destruction of the CIA tapes of detainees being tortured.

The Justice Department is headed by Michael Mukasey, formerly a federal judge with a telling story from his tenure on the bench. On October 2, 2001, Judge Mukasey had a young man named Osama Awadallah brought before him. Mr. Awadallah was one of the many young Arab gentlemen rounded up like so many cattle in the wake of 9/11. At his hearing, Awadallah's counsel told the judge that their client had been brutally beaten during "interrogation" at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan and that he had massive bruises under his orange prison jumpsuit. Without so much as asking Mr. Awadallah to unzip the suit and prove his claim, District Court Judge Mukasey, presiding over a trial court, which is specifically established to the purpose of the finding of facts, said, "As far as the claim that he was beaten, I will tell you that he looks fine to me."

Michael Mukasey: A respected man with such clarity of vision that he can see right through thick clothing; a federal judge who was not to be bothered with the trifling of whiners who did not like being beaten like dogs; an attorney general of the United States who is now in charge of an investigation of a criminal conspiracy involving torture, destruction of evidence, and obstruction of justice.

A minor pair of footnotes are in order. First, despite the assurances of family that Mr. Awadallah had no terrorist ties, Mukasey ordered him held indefinitely, as the judge did with other Arab men who had been rounded up. Second, a subsequent medical examination of Mr. Awadallah did, indeed, find the bruises from blunt force trauma on his body.

Now, as head of a key federal department that will investigate the disappearance of tapes of CIA interrogators torturing Arab men, Mr. Mukasey will perhaps have the opportunity to find out why, instead of destroying the evidence of criminal acts, the torturers didn't simply make their victims wear orange jumpsuits so the attorney general could assert that the detainees look fine to him.

The Dark Wraith trusts Mr. Mukasey won't be a whiner if he's ever rounded up and beaten to a pulp just because of something like, oh, say, his religion.

· · · · · ·
10 December 2007

A Yearly Gripe

by: Minstrel Boy

with me is most of the "new christian" music. Usually it's a combination of bad music and bad religion. A friend stopped by with a song she wants to sing at her church and is wanting me to play backup. My gripe with this song is typical of my gripe with both this kind of music and this kind of faith.

Here's my short version of the song. . .

We start out with nice, light holidayish full of baroque filigrees stuff and the lyrical theme is along the lines of Oh, look at the lovely stable, see the beautiful star, there in a lowly manger, how happy we all are. . .

then there is an abrupt change to dischordant crashing and jangling minors and the voice tone switches to sound like Korn with a hangover


Give me Pretorius, Luther, Mendholsson, Bach, Handel and the other tried and true classics of the holiday. Lest any of you think that I'm a faithless bah humbug Grinch I must also report that I have already agreed to accompany my 12 year old nephew who has been taking guitar lessons for three whole months when he plays "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer" and "Silent Night" at his church Christmas weekend.

(Phrasing note to carolers and other non-musician types who will be singing this year. In most carols you can glean great phrasing tips from the punctuation of the song. It's God Rest Ye Merry, (pause) Gentlemen, NOT God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen just thought you should know. It won't cost you a cup of cocoa on my porch but there are purists out there)

harp and sword
09 December 2007

Key Democrats Knew, Did Not Object to U.S. Torture Policy

by: Dark Wraith

Updated Decemeber 10, 2007, at 4:00 p.m. EDT Here's the joke for the evening: What's the difference between a Republican and a Democrat? The Republican thinks you're too stupid to care; the Democrat thinks you're too stupid to know.

It turns out that Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Jane Harman (D-CA), and Sens. Bob Graham (D-FL) and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV), were all extensively, thoroughly, and fully briefed in 2002 by the CIA about its overseas torture programs. Moreover, not only did none of them raise any objections other than for a minor, mealy-mouthed whine from Harman, but apparently someone in the group wanted to know if the CIA could push any harder on the detainees.

Words cannot even begin to adequately describe these appalling conspirators masquerading as some kind of actual opposition to the outrageousness of the Bush Administration.

The Republicans were right: leading Democrats knew all along that the United States was violating federal law, flouting international treaties, and acting against civilized standards of conduct; and here those pandering, craven conspirators—yes, conspirators—are, now acting like somehow they're not every bit as culpable and, indeed, guilty.

Now, be sure to go out and vote for some more Democrats. Let's take this country back from the Republicans. Let's put it in the hands of people who can still make you believe their lies.

Whatever gets you through the night, people.

The Dark Wraith is delighted to have made it to a century that offers no illusion of daylight.

Update: Pelosi Statement on Washington Post Report on Congressional Briefing of Administration Interrogation Techniques

Washington, D.C. -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued the following statement on a report in today's Washington Post about a congressional briefing on Administration interrogation techniques:

"On one occasion, in the fall of 2002, I was briefed on interrogation techniques the Administration was considering using in the future. The Administration advised that legal counsel for the both the CIA and the Department of Justice had concluded that the techniques were legal.

"I had no further briefings on the techniques. Several months later, my successor as Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, Jane Harman, was briefed more extensively and advised the techniques had in fact been employed. It was my understanding at that time that Congresswoman Harman filed a letter in early 2003 to the CIA to protest the use of such techniques, a protest with which I concurred."

# # #

The following, derived from commentary on the comments thread of the original story here at Big Brass Blog, is the writer's rebuttal:

First, let's go with Rep. Pelosi's statement: "The Administration advised that legal counsel for the both the CIA and the Department of Justice had concluded that the techniques were legal."

She saw the techniques for herself, including what by any legal standard is torture, and she is now claiming that, because counsel for those conducting and supporting the torture told her it was legal, she is not culpable.

That dog don't bark; that dog don't even whimper.

Absolutely not. She says she was briefed; her defense of her legislative conduct subsequently is thus: CIA lawyers, supported by John "Geneva Is Quaint" Yoo at Justice, told her they were doing legal things.

Now, let's get to the beauty: "[M]y successor as Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, Jane Harman, was briefed more extensively..."

Caught and headed for the frying pan, Rep. Pelosi insists that the other furry creature is really the one we want for dinner.

And by the way, claiming she "...was briefed on interrogation techniques the Administration was considering using in the future" would make her a conspirator before the fact (were I to believe her now that she needs to spin what she seemed unable to recall until her enemies handed her her own two-faced backside). Conspiracy before the fact is considerably more serious than conspiracy after the fact.

The Dark Wraith wonders exactly who's handing these Democrats the shovel they're using so effectively to dig their own graves.

· · · · · · ·

Republican Obstructionists

by: Foiled Goil

House passes energy bill but Bush set to veto

The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed an energy bill that would boost vehicle fuel economy requirements by 40 percent by 2020, raise ethanol use by five-fold by 2022 and impose $13 billion in new taxes on big energy companies.

The centerpiece of the 1,055-page Energy Independence and Security Act is an increase in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards to 35 miles per gallon (15 km per liter) by 2020, the first congressional boost in fuel rules since 1975.

The plan -- an amalgam of energy priorities driven by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- passed by 235-181 in a mostly party-line vote.

But it faces resistance in the Senate and the White House says it will reject the measure in its current form.
Senate Republicans and the Bush administration say they will block a final bill if it includes a $21.5 billion tax package and a mandate for utilities to get 15 percent of their power from renewable sources like wind and solar by 2020.
Historical Opportunity To Reform Energy Policy
“Today, America consumes 21 million barrels every single day, most of it from unstable regions of the world. That’s one billion American dollars going overseas – every day – to pay for our oil addiction. Those 21 million barrels we will use today – and the 21 million-plus barrels more we’ll use tomorrow – has created a three-pronged crisis: It threatens our economy, our national security and our environment.
“With gas prices well above $3 per gallon, and working Americans spending more than ever just to make their commute to work, the time to act is now. With home heating prices at record highs and the cold winter months now upon us, the time to act is now. With the threat of global warming growing by the day, the time to act is now.

“This energy bill tackles each of these challenges by addressing both sides of the crisis: consumption and supply. On the consumption side, it increases the fuel efficiency of cars and tucks for the first time in 30 years – to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. Think about that.
“But consumption is just half the battle. On the supply side, this energy bill requires for the first time that 15 percent of our electricity comes from renewable sources. What’s more, this Renewable Electricity Portfolio rewards innovation by allowing States like Nevada – which have already taken the initiative and are national leaders in renewable electricity – to sell their excess product to other states. It makes an unprecedented commitment to American-grown biofuels by increasing the renewable fuels standard to 36 billion gallons by 2022 – which will not just reduce our addiction to oil, but create American jobs as well. And it repeals billions and billions of dollars in tax giveaways to big oil that exports product from overseas and invests it instead in tax incentives to produce clean, renewable energy right here at home.”
Obstruction Alert - 58 and Counting

The “R” is for Roadblock:
Bush Republicans continued their record-setting obstruction today [December 7, 2007] by blocking consideration of an energy bill that would increase fuel efficiency standards in cars and trucks as well as providing new tax incentives to increase the production of renewable fuels. Bush Republicans have forced 58 cloture votes this year, fast-approaching the record of 61 for a two-year term. It is clear from their actions that Bush Republicans are more interested in blocking progress than doing the work of the American people.

Bush Republicans blocked bill to improve America's energy independence, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote renewable energy sources:
Energy bill hits road bump in Senate

Associated Press:
Senate Democrats searched for a compromise on energy legislation as Republican leaders made clear Friday they will oppose oil industry taxes and a mandate for utilities to use more wind and solar-generated electricity.

The sharp divisions within the Senate over the taxes and renewable fuels mandate surfaced when Democrats fell seven votes short on a procedural vote, 53-42, as the Senate began considering an energy package approved by the House on Thursday.
Republican lawmakers, as well as the White House, have been most critical of $13.5 billion in taxes imposed on the five largest oil companies under the House-passed bill. It's part of a broader $21 billion tax package that senators are trying to rework.

Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said Friday while "some modest changes" could be made in the tax provisions, the taxes are "an essential, necessary component" because they pay for a wide range of clean energy programs, from capturing carbon dioxide from power plants to extending short-term tax credits for solar and wind energy plants and commercial development of cellulosic ethanol.

Democratic leaders were leaning Friday toward dropping divisive requirement for utilities to produce 15 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources such, wind, solar or biofuels.
A concern to some senators is that the widely supported increase in automobile fuel economy to 35 miles per gallon by 2020 — a centerpiece of the House-passed bill — could fall victim to the disputes over taxes and the mandates to the electricity industry.
The 110th Congress:

Senate — Democratic Accomplishments and Republican Obstructions

House — Passed Legislation

House — Veto Watch:
Faced with a Congress working to take America in a new direction, President Bush — who vetoed nothing during his first five and a half years in office — has now vetoed 5 bills and threatened to veto 43 more. The Democratic-led House of Representatives has passed legislation to address the toughest challenges we face — working together to defend our country, restore accountability, grow our economy, strengthen our families, and preserve our planet, most with a bi-partisan majority. Unfortunately, in many cases, the President has been a stubborn opponent of progress for the American people on these key issues.
In critical instances, the President and his Republican allies in Congress have stubbornly stood in the way of progress.

· · ·
08 December 2007

What is The Reason For The Season?

by: Debra

My childhood memories of Christmas are much different than the holiday that is celebrated now. It was about getting together and sharing. I remember carolers coming around and everyone standing in their doorway to listen to them. People baked cookies, gave them hot drinks and waited for an encore. I always wanted to do that but it had already started to fall out of fashion by the time I was eleven. We still caroled, but we were carted around on the back of a flatbed truck that was covered with hay. Nobody worried about insurance issues and nobody fell off the truck.

Nowadays I can't remember all the words, they've just become jingles that you hear in the background of tv shows and movies, nobody sings the whole song anymore. Rudolph is all right, but Hark the Herald Angels Sing could really rock if you had enough people and somehow We Three Kings of Orient Are became We Four Beatles From Liverpool Are. We were so innocent back then.

I miss the cookies and the warmth. I miss hanging out with people who were excited and happy about the holidays, where you went to people's homes and enjoyed their hospitality and learned about their traditions and they came to your house. The world actually felt more peaceful for a few weeks. It was awesome.

Now, it's nonstop commercialism. It starts slowly at first, just a few decorations start to appear, a few holiday looking serving dishes show up in the store and then by Halloween, bam! full steam ahead. Anything that can be sold has a commercial, there is no other explanation for the chia pet and its many incarnations.

Advertisers resort to subtle and not so subtle exhortations to buy something for everybody you know or have some type of contact with so you won't feel guilty for forgetting someone who might buy you a gift. By the time they get around to advertising diamonds during sports events, it's become a nonstop lollapalooza, a frenetic shopping extravaganza. And there are still the buy a car and put a ribbon around it so they know you love them commercials to suffer through. Like the people who can afford to buy a Jaguar are watching television.

Once Christmas became the season that retailers made their profit for the year, that was when it became the war on Christmas. The battle shouldn't be about whether one should say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays (both are appropriate), it should be about what happened to the sentiment that used to accompany it. Goodwill toward man and all that. A time to celebrate with family, friends and great food, to create memories filled with smiles, laughter and warm moments.

Not fighting for parking spaces or the last "got to have" item on the shelf. And it certainly isn't about how much money you spent.

Debsweb and IIRTZ

· ·

Time Magazine Conflates Destroyed Torture Tapes, 'Conspiracy Theorists'

by: Dark Wraith

Time magazine, Media Whore Edition

Referring to the tapes the CIA destroyed of men being tortured by American interrogators, the title of the Time magazine story on the matter is thus: "The Destroyed Tapes: A Boon for Conspiracy Theorists."

Isn't that just special?! The principal crime is torture; the subsequent crime is destruction of the incontrovertible evidence; and the continuing crime is obstruction of justice in not revealing the existence of the tapes, and then not disclosing their destruction. With all of that as backdrop, Time magazine's editors—noses high in the air of preening respectability—frame the whole, monstrously ugly story as the essential nourishment for all those loony 'conspiracy theorists' out there.

In their faux appearance of objectivity, these same mainstream news media outlets—and not just Time—make little or no effort in their own voices to roundly debunk the utterly ridiculous claim by CIA Director Michael Hayden that the video tapes had to be destroyed lest they be leaked and imperil the lives of the torturers who were filmed executing their craft. Instead, the media uniformly leave that task to quotes by outraged Democrats, thereby framing the matter as a politicized controversy rather than as a pattern of criminal acts that, taken as a whole, constitute a conspiracy in the legal sense of that term, a term Time has ensured carries in the matter the lack of seriousness with which "conspiracy theorists" should be taken.

The august editorial ranks of the mainstream media notwithstanding, however, civil and criminal proceedings are likely to result on the separate acts as well as on the acts as part of an overall scheme: the withholding of the tapes from relevant investigatory bodies, including the 9/11 Commission and committees of the House and Senate, the destruction of the tapes in 2005, and the withholding until now of the fact that the heretofore unknown tapes were destroyed may be simply too much for the dismissive wing of the reputable media, still doing what it can to curry favor with the Bush White House, to help sweep under the rug. In the event that serious legal consequences befall those involved, Time magazine and other reputable media outlets may find it necessary to find terminology other than "conspiracy theory" to denigrate those alleging a pattern, scheme, and overall plan to mislead and lie to the American people and investigators. Perhaps Time might want to consider something along the lines of "America-hating terrorist supporters." At the very least, such a description will ensure that the important people at the magazine will retain their access to the White House officials who are, at least in the eyes of Time magazine, more credible than damning evidence and glaring truths.

The Dark Wraith, for the record, does not subscribe to news magazines published and written by shills.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· · ·
07 December 2007

A Dramatic Innovation

by: Minstrel Boy

Thanks to reader, commenter, and fellow squid veteran Maheanuu-Tane with his generous gift of beautiful Tahitian Vanilla Pods (wait until the truffles start rolling they are going to flat burst with vanilla flavor) I made a simple, but impressive innovation to the Angel Food Cake

When I had my egg whites all separated and ready to go I had this flash of inspiration. I went to the cupboard where the vanilla beans are stored in their airtight jar and took out four of those precious items. I cut them in half and then split them lengthwise. I took a small, silver demitasse spoon and scooped out the little black flecks of vanilla "caviar" into the egg whites. Then I took another jar and put the husks into that, covered it with baker's sugar and capped it tight. Next time I use sugar it will have this glorious taste and lovely scent.

As I type this I'm listening to Linda Ronstadt sing "Lo, How a Rose E're Blooming" with me backing on the harp, it's a very sparse and austere rendition that sounds cold and wintery. My mouth is still sore, but my nose if full of the vanilla specks baking away in the oven. I'm thinking about how at least one little girl has found her way to a place of love and safety. That will be enough for me right now. You can have your wars and your rumors of wars. I have a little girl to bake for and to spoil shamelessly. I got a totally unexpected royalty check from ASCAP today. I don't even keep track of their payments because it's been so long since I did those songs and they have become small checks that have no set schedule. This was an out-of-the-blue drop of $250. I instantly decided to blow it all buying new stuff for my new niece. She was brought to my sister with the clothes on her back and very little else. We're going shopping and will change that.

My heart is full. Kishmesh Jooni (beautiful christmas in western apache)



The vanilla in the cake rocked. Rocked. Out. Loud.

harp and sword

Short Rant

by: blackdog

Got alot of catching up to do. Got home last week, attempted to logon, and nothing, not squat. Called my local ISP and was informed that they had cut my town and another out of their service and that I had been notified of this 3 weeks earlier by USPS mail. Well, sorry boys, I never seen this one.

Without my knowledge, my ISP had pulled the plug and dumped whatever users they had due to "loosing money" in those towns. Suddenly my nylon staging and coffee cans were out of order. Was I pissed?? You bet.

Maybe with the best of intentions, although I tend to doubt it, they intended to inform all of their customers about the planned plug pull, but I was lost in the shuffle. So I did the only thing I had to do, called the BBB and the AG to complain about the situation. Not that I expect much from agencies that once upon a time were consumer oriented, but come on.

So I was so damn pissed off that I actually did a strange thing, I got onto a DSL server with my local phone company. That took a while, the account wasn't activated until yesterday and I actually had to drag all this crap out from the wall and physically install new stuff. Then the fun part began, getting the "wizard" in windows to know it's first name and do the nuts and bolts. Well of course it couldn't, computers are still pretty stupid, making myself and some others look pretty bright by comparison.Even those that have advanced degrees in stupid. I still prefer to call it stoopid.

Not that I was entirely successful in getting all the software bullshit sorted out without TS, but finially I seem to be on-line and functioning again. I can only assume that is a good thing. The connection seems vastly quicker than what I had, and this is mostly a test. Instead of nylon staging I now seem to have highly stressed piano wire.

Pardon while I get some suds. My newly refurbished guts demand some, and my liver makes requests too.

I will be catching up, as I alluded to at the beginning, and so far my anger is just simmering.

Mess with me now, you damned utilities!! Whatever happened to consumer protection? Did it die along with the remnents of the hippies?

The Bloody Cheek of These Bastards

by: Minstrel Boy

The defense put forth in the destruction of the videotapes made by the CIA is that they needed to protect the identity of covert operatives.

Does anyone else out there think of Valerie Plame and call Bullshit?

Bullshit. Bullshit. Bullshit.

p.s. Glenn Greenwald calls bullshit without actually cursing.

harp and sword

Friday Random Ten

by: Minstrel Boy

Today is a great day. My sister, the nurse who lives in central California, has been doing foster care for a while. She's a great mom and her son has moved out and is embarked on a successful career and she needed an outlet for her mom chops.

Now though, things have changed. She got a little girl a couple of weeks ago. The social worker brought her to my sister on purpose. This beautiful little 8 year old has been being kept in conditions which can only be described as Dickensian, but has somehow managed to keep a decent outlook and view of life. My sister has begun the adoption process, and is bringing the girl down to meet some of her new family. Since my new digs are fairly central I will be hosting an informal get together. Last night, I made two mincemeat pies. Ok, only one of them has survived intact from breakfast, but there's a pie plus another 4/6ths of a pie.

This morning's project is to be at Costco when it opens to get that furry butterscotch mechanical horse which is supposed to be the hot, hot, hot toy of the season. Then, back into the kitchen to make an Angel Food Cake, or, maybe two. Anyway, here's the soundtrack from my kitchen. I just tracked through a random slice of ten.

The Bells of Rhymney - - - Pete Seeger
Dead Or Alive - - - Woody Guthrie
Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out - - - Bessie Smith (King Oliver on Cornett)
Louisiana Man - - - Doug Kershaw & Professor Longhair
Day After Tomorrow - - - Tom Waits
Get Behind The Mule - - - John Hammond
Simple Song - - - Sly and the Family Stone
Going Down - - - Lou Reed
For You - - - Bruce Springsteen
Nice Girls Don't Stay For Breakfast - - - Julie London (honey, please pass the jam)

Bonus - - -

No Mo' Cane on This Brazos - - - Leadbelly

I normally don't crosspost the random tens, but since there's family news today, an exception is made.
06 December 2007

Keith O. On The Chicken Little Neo-Con Job

by: Foiled Goil

Neocon Job

Keith Olberman, Special Comment:
There are few choices more terrifying than the one Mr. Bush has left us with tonight.

We have either a president who is too dishonest to restrain himself from invoking World War Three about Iran at least six weeks after he had to have known that the analogy would be fantastic, irresponsible hyperbole -- or we have a president too transcendently stupid not to have asked -- at what now appears to have been a series of opportunities to do so -- whether the fairy tales he either created or was fed, were still even remotely plausible.

A pathological presidential liar, or an idiot-in-chief. It is the nightmare scenario of political science fiction: A critical juncture in our history and, contained in either answer, a president manifestly unfit to serve, and behind him in the vice presidency: an unapologetic war-monger who has long been seeing a world visible only to himself.

After Ms. Perino's announcement from the White House late last night, the timeline is inescapable and clear.
In August the President was told by his hand-picked Major Domo of intelligence Mike McConnell, a flinty, high-strung-looking, worrying-warrior who will always see more clouds than silver linings, that what "everybody thought" about Iran might be, in essence, crap.
In August, any commander-in-chief still able-minded or uncorrupted or both, Sir, would have invoked the quality the job most requires: mental flexibility.

A bright man, or an honest man, would have realized no later than the McConnell briefing that the only true danger about Iran was the damage that could be done by an unhinged, irrational Chicken Little of a president, shooting his mouth off, backed up by only his own hysteria and his own delusions of omniscience.
The Chicken Little of presidents is the one, Sir, that you see in the mirror.
Today, as evidenced by this latest remarkable, historic malfeasance, it is inescapable, that Dick Cheney is either this president's evil ventriloquist, or he thinks he is.
Would that we could let this President off the hook by seeing him only as marionette or moron.

But a study of the mutation of his language about Iran proves that though he may not be very good at it, he is, himself, still a manipulative, Machiavellian, snake-oil salesman.
And we are to believe, Mr. Bush, that nobody told you any of this until last week?

Your insistence that you were not briefed on the NIE until last week might be legally true -- something like "what the definition of is is -- but with the subject matter being not interns but the threat of nuclear war.

Legally, it might save you from some war crimes trial... but ethically, it is a lie.

It is indefensible.

You have been yelling threats into a phone for nearly four months, after the guy on the other end had already hung up.

You, Mr. Bush, are a bald-faced liar.
You not only knew all of this about Iran, in early August...

But you also knew... it was... accurate.
Tonight: hanged by your own words... convicted by your own deliberate lies...

You, sir, have no business... being president.


Good night, and good luck.
Full Text

MSNBC Video (follows a short ad).

Crooks and Liars also has the full text and video.


House Passes Energy Independence & Security Act

by: Foiled Goil

From The Gavel:

House Passes Energy Independence and Security Act

The House has passed the Energy Independence and Security Act by a
vote of 235-181.

A detailed summary of the legislation can be read here.


all homily, no grits

by: astraea

I see Huckabee supports Bush's PEPFAR plan for fighting HIV/Aids. a major flank of which is the "ABC approach (Abstain, Be faithful, and correct and consistent use of Condoms." Abstain. We know how well that's worked for earthly creatures. Nothing like a sermon. And then the money for condoms has been cut. So. More fairy tales, more winging it. All homily, no grits.

More phone calls from from the mutated xtain right's Jayzus-god, the demi-urge handmaid of the current crop of TeeVee-star preachers. Aftre all, 2012 is acomin', the Rapturous TeeVee Jayzus, a great pie in the sky. Don't be left behind!

Nota bene, re Matt Taibbi:

But Huckabee is also something else: full-blown nuts, a Christian goofball of the highest order. He believes the Earth may be only 6,000 years old, angrily rejects the evidence that human beings evolved from "primates" and thinks America wouldn't need so much Mexican labor if we allowed every aborted ­fetus to grow up and enter the workforce. To top it off, Huckabee also left behind a record of ethical missteps in the swamp of ­Arkansas politics that make White­water seem like a jaywalking ticket.

All of which begs the question: If this religious zealot's rise represents the end of corporate dominance of the Republican Party, is that a good thing? Or is the real thing even worse than the fraud?

btw, that evolution from primates thang. Darwin, evolution, science never says or even implies that (science being a model, ever evolving itself from the practice of empiricism). All it says is that humans and primates have a common ancestor. No monkey's uncle about it.

Toxic Toys

by: Foiled Goil

Shoppers get resource to check toy safety

Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Parents want toys to stimulate mental development -- not put it at risk thanks to the presence of toxic chemicals.

But federal rules and agencies do little to restrict or monitor for the presence of lead, cadmium and plasticizing chemicals.

To help shoppers worried about toy safety, a coalition of environmental groups Wednesday are releasing a database of more than 1,200 toys and other children's products that were tested for the presence of potentially dangerous chemicals.
In the past year, millions of toys were recalled over safety concerns -- many because they contained levels of lead in their paint exceeding federal limits. There are no limits for other chemicals that could pose harm, or for lead that's incorporated into a product, such as lead that's added to vinyl as a stabilizer.

The study by environmentalists, which was coordinated by the Michigan-based Ecology Center, found that more than one third of toys tested contained lead, and 17 percent had lead levels above the legal limit of 600 parts per million. Other chemicals tested for were the metal cadmium, chlorine, arsenic and mercury.

"It's not our intention to alarm parents, but when parents have this kind of information, they can make sure they're minimizing their children's exposure," said Ivy Sager-Rosenthal of the Washington Toxics Coalition, one of the groups involved with the study.
Toy-Safety Data Released On Web Site


Parents worried about toy safety after a record year of recalls can now look through a list of more than 1,200 items that a coalition of public interest groups has tested for lead and other harmful chemicals, though toy industry officials say the list may cause unnecessary alarm.

The coalition, led by the Ecology Center of Ann Arbor, Mich., found more than 200 items that contained unsafe levels of lead, as well as hundreds of others that had little or no lead. The results are scheduled to be released today in an online database at
Toy hazard recalls from the Consumer Product Safety Commission

Toys recalled for lead from US Recall News

· ·

Democracy for the New American Century

by: Dark Wraith

Rant & GrowlIt is high time for Rant & Growl as a formal, serialized platform upon which the host can address one trivial issue or another with a distinct lack of decorum.

This edition of Rant & Growl departs upon a non-linear tangent from a comment made by the bright, outspoken, and astute blogger Dusty of It's My Right to Be Left of Center and The Sirens Chronicles. Dusty, by the way, is also a contributing writer at The UnCapitalist Journal, a Dark Wraith Publishing property. (And, yes, using the word "property" to describe something having to do with 'uncapitalism' does, indeed, smack of deliciously disingenuous intellectual irony even to your host, who happens to own Dark Wraith Publishing and, therefore, The UnCapitalist Journal. Just let it go; it's too complicated to explain, even to myself.)

Setting aside the trifling, and with sincere apology to Dusty for using her comment as the launching pad for a sub-orbital flight to Rantland, here is the fuel for the current high-octane blend of my personal fusion of progressivism, paleo-conservatism, and plain old insufferability. Dusty's comment is immediately followed by the rhetorical flatus of my opinions:

Voting should be more than a right, imho. [I]t should be something that everyone must take part in, or fear legal reprisals.

There are complications with the plan to make voting a legal requirement. First, in most parts of the country, registration to vote exposes the registrants to the prospect of being called to jury duty. Aside from what could be argued is a citizen's duty to serve on juries, many people have legitimate fears about jury service. I have known two people in my life who lost job opportunities because of protracted jury duty. Furthermore, at some point I plan to describe what I, myself, will do if called to jury duty. In summary, I shall be most fortunate if the presiding judge doesn't jail me for what I say during the voir dire conducted by some assistant DA twit. I most definitely will not be seated as a juror, that's for sure; and I strongly suspect that I will not even be thanked for showing up and sharing my opinions about the law.

More to the point of a law mandating that every citizen vote, though, the very last thing I want is for virtually all of the adult citizens of this country to exercise their franchise. We live in a nation where intelligence, education, and relatively simple reasoning skills are abysmal and declining rapidly from there.

You folks don't believe me? I've spent nearly three decades of my life doing reparative work on what the primary and secondary schools of this country pump out and call "graduates." Less generously, I've spent nearly three decades of my life doing reparative work on what the parents of this country pump out and proudly call their progeny, a ghastly litter of ragamuffins who have been at the hands of ill-trained, lazy, ignorant men and women who use a combination of brutish force and wretched negligence in the hopes of fostering something more morally, intellectually, and spiritually upright than they, themselves, ever were or ever could be.

It is bad enough that a lot of the howlingly, willfully stupid people vote as it is. Do you know how many people go to the polls and just pick names at random or because they saw a sign in someone's front yard?

This is the inconvenient truth of our "democracy": we are led by those who can get the most mainstream media face time and are the meanest and most aggressive in their campaigning. To put more incompetent voters into polling booths is to ensure that the disaster of the current White House resident will become more and more the rule.

Look at what we're going to elect as the next President of the United States of America. Not one of the major candidates of either party wants to be in the same galaxy with a conversation about bringing the rule of law to retributive, blind, unwavering justice on the cabal that has driven this country into ruin through the past seven years. Not one candidate would dare say to the American people, "We're going to have a Come-to-Jesus Meeting where every elected official, unelected bureaucrat, control-freak theocrat, radical Right-wing judge, rank-and-file torturer, and garden-variety parasitic cretin of this new American century will get hauled into court, exposed for exactly what he or she has done, and then get carted off to a nice, long prison term."

The American people don't want anything to do with that kind of examination that might very well expose the mean, cruel, ignorant beast within the American psyche. It's better to just walk away because that lets us all off the hook so we can MoveOn as if that same monster will not inevitably and swiftly come back and tear us even further asunder down the road in about one or two election cycles.

Trust me on this: giving democracy to the ignorant does not make the ignorant responsible; it makes the democracy nothing but an expression of mob rule. Now, here's a little nugget of wisdom to that effect:

When it comes to ruling wisely, mobs suck.

That's right, they suck. Exhibit A: America, circa early 21st Century.

Life would be easier if the United States would simply follow the recommendation of Aristotle, who believed that democracy flourishes best when only the best are allowed to participate. In practical application for the new American century, let the way forward be thus: we the enlightened find the candidate with the most generous bribe money consistent with otherwise responsible policies and a reasonable expression of support for mythical American values, Israel, and whatever fads entertainment celebrities are hawking for the day. We then—with a completely straight face and furrowed brow of responsible confidence—announce to the American people that we have appointed to the Presidency a God-fearing person who likes the death penalty, hates terrorists, approves of the law, and has an opposite-sex marriage partner for penis/vagina sex exclusively for procreative purposes (except on rare occasions when the happily married couple can otherwise stomach the site of one another grunting in the nude).

We establish official guidelines for groups to be hated in rotating fashion so no single class of people should suffer too long. Furthermore, even though they're all fakes, we assure the citizenry that the cameras we're putting in every home in America are for each person's own good; and if anyone balks, we repeatedly say, "Think of the children." We should also promise to have law enforcement personnel be above the law so cops can continue to be the thuggish brutes most civilian Americans wish they, themselves, could be.

Real democracy? Of course that plan set forth above isn't real democracy; but, then again, how many people would actually notice? As long as the television and radio keep on pumping drivel, as long as the sports scores keep rolling, and as long as responsibility is the mantra for someone else's life, the majority can be allowed to live in an illusory crêche where private sloth miraculously has no mirror image in the public body.

The will of the People? I am certainly in favor of it; but only in moderation and most decidedly only by responsible committee.

The Dark Wraith has thus set forth his platform for election reform.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· · · · ·
05 December 2007

Dental Work Menu

by: Minstrel Boy

McCann's Irish Oatmeal. Not "quick" or anything like that, but simply about the best tasting oatmeal you can have. It takes about twenty minutes to stir up a decent porridge. Serve with a pat of butter, a couple teaspoons of honey, douse it down with buttermilk.

Soft. Filling. Tasty.

harp and sword (now swiftly becoming "house of jello")

You & I

by: Missouri Mule


Keep this quote in mind as Hillary and the rest of the pack tell you what "they" are gonna do for you. Or is that "to you?
Remember, government has no money. But it does have the power to take your money that you worked for and give it to someone else. Hillary is never asked, nor does she explain, where she plans to get the money for her health care plan. She chides Obama for excluding 6% of Americans from his plan. Is she afraid she and Bill will be excluded? Or Bill Gates?
Only two people in the entire country pay taxes, you and I. If I don't pay, you pay. If you don't pay, I pay. I often hear "tax those big corporations". Businesses, whether Mom and Pops, Greasy Spoon, Big Oil, GE, Microsoft, or Wallyword, pay no taxes. All taxes paid by business is simply another cost of doing business. It is included in the price of goods and services and that tax is once again paid by who else? You and I.
I just read that the new lady governor of Alaska passed a huge new tax on "Big Oil". Of course the oil companies fought the increase tooth and nail. But that was a sham battle to show how hard our politicians fight for us. Both the oil companies and the politicians know the tax will be a cost of business and will be added to the price of gasoline and who will pay? You and me. Because only people have money and only people pay taxes.
Our taxes would be much lower if the politicians would be honest and tax us directly. The way it is done now requires business to collect those taxes and send them to the government. The problem is all the collections costs money. That cost, too, is passed onto you and I. I have never seen the figures on this cost but, I would wager that it runs into the billions annually. Who pays? You and I.
Another advantage to being taxes directly is that we would actually see the any increase on our next pay check. And I would bet money, marbles or chalk we would be less inclined to reelect these big spending politicians.

Ground Lost, Turf Unclaimed in Dem Race

by: Dark Wraith

The latest USAToday/Gallup poll gives evidence of what USAToday describes as a "significant" loss of support by Hillary Clinton, whose support has dropped by about 11 percentage points, from 50 percent all the way down to 39 percent in a little over a month; but neither of her leading rivals has picked up much if any of her loss: over the same time period, Barack Obama gained a modest two percentage points, from 22 percent to 24 percent; and John Edwards, after a slide from from 15 percent in October down to 12 percent in November, returned to 15 percent.

According to the poll, none of the other Democratic candidates is currently pulling more than four percent support, which indicates that, overall, Democratic voters are becoming less committed to any particular candidate as they begin to pay attention to what more candidates have to say and become more aware of things they might not favor in the candidate they previously supported. The loser in this political horse race is, unsurprisingly, the front-runner, who increasingly becomes the target of the other candidates' focused criticisms. As the primary season approaches, the task for Mrs. Clinton will clearly be to stop the erosion of her base of support and begin to regain the confidence of those who have drifted away from her camp but are not yet particularly committed to any other candidate.

The following graphics are drawn from polling data by USA Today. They show likely Democratic voters' sentiments toward each of the three leading candidates.

Poll results for Hillary Clinton, middle October through early December

Poll results for Barack Obama, middle October through early December

Poll results for John Edwards, middle October through early December

The charts above show that, while each of the top three candidates has garnered an increasing percentage of likely voters with unfavorable feelings toward her or him, only Clinton has actually had a drop-off in favorable sentiment, although the loss is barely within the range of the poll's margin of error.

A month from the dateline of this article, the Iowa caucuses will be held, and significant swings can happen in voter sentiment between now and then; however, the tide does seem to be turning away from Clinton, and continued loss of support through December could spell a closer result in Iowa than the Clinton campaign thought possible just a month ago.

The challenge for the other Democratic candidates is to find the resonance with voters that will draw them, first, to favorable sentiment and, from there, to active support at the ballot box. The lackluster performance of both Obama and Edwards in taking advantage of Clinton's loss of support could bode well for one of the dark horse candidates able to step into the spotlight and seize the opportunity to gather momentum absent from the campaigns of Clinton, Obama, and Edwards.

The Dark Wraith will deliver further data results and analysis in the days ahead.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· · · · ·
04 December 2007

Banking Robbers

by: Foiled Goil

Credit-card cos. defend practices

Associated Press
Credit-card executives on Tuesday deflected congressional criticism of their practice of using falling credit scores to charge customers higher interest rates.

Industry critics say it's another example of abusive, confusing credit-card practices that can push consumers deeper into debt.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee, said customers who consistently pay on time are getting whacked by credit-card issuers that raise such rates without an adequate warning or a clear notice.

"The bottom line for me is this: when a credit card issuer promises to provide a cardholder with a specific interest rate if they meet their credit card obligations, and the cardholder holds up their end of the bargain, the credit-card issuer should have to do the same," he said Tuesday.
Levin's subcommittee, which has been investigating the industry, looked at how credit-card issuers raise consumers' rates, to as high as 30 percent, when their so-called FICO credit scores decline — even if they've paid credit-card bills regularly and promptly. In many cases, consumers have little notice of the increased rate, which are automatically triggered by declines in FICO scores for reasons left unexplained, the subcommittee found.

In some cases, just opening another account, such as a department store credit card, could trigger the downgrade in credit score.

In one of the cases cited by the subcommittee, Marjorie Hancock of Arlington, Mass., wound up with interest rates on her four Bank of America credit cards of 8 percent, 14 percent, 19 percent and 27 percent, even though her credit risk is the same for all four.
US banks urged to 'clean up' credit card practices

Agence France-Presse
US lawmakers urged some of America's largest financial companies to "clean up" their credit card practices Tuesday, amid an ongoing congressional probe of charges and fees imposed on consumers.

Senate subcommittee on investigations chairman Carl Levin said few Americans were aware of how the industry's complex credit-rating system can harm their financial health.
Lawmakers also heard testimony from Americans battling to pay off their credit card debts who voiced frustration at surprise interest rate hikes and intimidating bank representatives.
US credit card debt has soared in recent years to 877.1 billion dollars in 2006, up over 100 billion dollars from 770.5 billion in 2003, according to the Federal Reserve.
Lawmakers expressed concern that some banks use a process called Universal Default to justify sudden and sometimes sharp interest rate hikes on credit card bills.

Under Universal Default, a bank can automatically hike a consumer's interest rate if they are late paying a bill to an unrelated third party such as a department store.

But the term is a cause of dispute between some lawmakers and consumer groups who use it and banks who say they rely on "risk-based repricing."
"The credit scoring process is akin to a black box; no one knows exactly how it works or what lowers a score, yet it has become the primary driver of interest rate increases for tens of millions of Americans," Levin said.
The American Bankers Association (ABA) meanwhile warned Congress that new legislation could have "unintended negative consequences," and said it was a myth that Americans were drowning in credit card debts.
Watch for credit card interest changes

Associated Press
Check your holiday credit card bills closely.

Some credit card companies are raising interest rates on good customers even if they pay down their balances, on time, every month. The reason they cite is that the customer's credit rating has fallen elsewhere.

That was a rude surprise to Janet Hard a stay-at-home mother of two teenage boys from Freeland, Mich.

Depending on her husband's salary as a steamfitter while she raised the children was financially difficult, Hard said, especially with college tuition on the horizon. To keep the family's finances in balance, Hard said she paid more than the minimum payment on her Discover card every month, plus an $8.00 Internet fee.

Or so she thought.

In February, Hard noticed that despite her payments, the balance was "barely moving."

A phone call to Discover solved the mystery, but not the problem: The company had increased her interest rate from 18 percent to 24.24 percent after running a spontaneous credit report that showed her other credit card balances and available credit on inactive accounts put the family at a higher risk of defaulting on their payments.

Most stunning, $3,478.39 out of $5,618 in payments had gone to Discover for interest accrued over the previous two years, Hard told the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Tuesday. On a monthly level, about $176 out of her $200 payments went to finance charges. In the past year alone, Hard had paid $2,400 but reduced her debt by only about $350.
The panel's chairman, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., is sponsoring legislation that would restrict credit card interest rate to certain instances — such as at the conclusion of a low, introductory rate period, contracts that have variable rates and when a cardholder violates the agreement with the issuer.
With Americans weighed down by some $900 billion in credit card debt — an average $2,200 per household — practices of the very profitable industry have been ripe for scrutiny by the Democratic-controlled Congress. The Federal Reserve is paying attention as well and planning to require credit-card issuers to give customers at least 45 days' notice before raising interest rates and to provide clearer information on fees.

03 December 2007

More On the Fuel Standards Bill

by: Konagod

Ford's CEO says they can handle it, although Bush will probably veto it. And I'm sticking with what I said last Saturday.

Now, the twist. Emphasis mine:
Ford Motor Co. will meet the tougher federal fuel economy regulations Congress wants to impose by 2020 without having to abandon any of its lower-mileage truck or sport utility vehicle lines, Chief Executive Alan Mulally promised on Monday.

As I said, this bill, as "historic" as it may be, is but a very tiny step over a long period of time. And apparently, even this small step may not escape getting Bushwhacked.
Environmental groups and many lawmakers hailed the deal as historic. But the White House is bothered that the bill lacks strong incentives to boost use of renewable motor fuels like ethanol and would require electric utilities to generate more power from renewable sources like solar energy and wind.

"In fact, it appears Congress may intend to produce a bill the President cannot sign," Allan Hubbard, the top White House economic advisor, warned on Monday in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

It's not that he "cannot" sign it; it's that he won't sign it. This is baffling. Solar and wind require no resources such as farmland, equipment for harvesting, fertilizers, and... {ahem}.. fuel to power the equipment to harvest and then convert crops to fuel.

And never mind how the large scale production of crops for ethanol rather than food might impact prices in our food supply, and not just corn. With farmers potentially shifting away from other food crops, the ripple effects could be enormous.

Crossposted from konagod.

The Golden Compass

by: Minstrel Boy

I really wasn't going to pay much attention to this. It looked like another big budget fantasy epic that was supposed to enthrall and enchant us this holiday season. Then I got a rambling, interspersed with LARGE CAPS email from my ex-brother-in-law who, dig this says, I FORBID YOU TO TAKE MY CHILDREN TO THIS MOVIE (his caps and his words exactly). Since my ex-brother-in-law is a devout attender of a church whose website feels the need to devote an entire page to saying that they don't encourage the handling of snakes. Think about why that disclaimer would be so important to them for a moment. Ok, that's enough religious icky, time to move on, my ex-brother-in-law is also a jerk. A controlling, pompous and self righteous jerk. Luckily he's a smart enough jerk that he does try not to piss me off in person. He goes for email.

So here's the deal. The Golden Compass is supposedly anti-god (although if it's anti the god of the bastards who have been calling for the censorship that's usually a sign that it would be pretty cool with me) and he does not want his children exposed to atheistic ideas. Of course, they are allowed to hang out with me. But, let's not go there right now.

I've just finished ordering the trilogy of books. He, of course, hasn't read them. I will. I might even go see the movie. I figure they're pissing off all the right folks.

Here's what I don't get. I don't get it the same with all manner of fundies. I don't get it when a religion that declares itself to be the only, indisuputable truth in the universe feels threatened by a book by Salman Rushdie. I don't get it when they can simultaniously condone genocide in Darfur, yet be insulted by a teddy bear's name. I don't get it when the folks who are supposed to be servants of this all powerful, all knowing, all seeing gunfighter in the sky are completely flipped out by cartoons (I include Jerry Falwell's lawsuits against Larry Flynt and Hustler in this group).

I mean, if this truth is so powerful, and undeniable, how come they can be so very threatened by a mere book? Why are they sent into such paryoxms of insensible contempt prior to investigation?

Expect a book report later folks.
Oh, yeah, note the wiggle room my ex-brother-in-law left me. He forbids the movie. He forgot to forbid the books. (snicker, giggle)

harp and sword

Has Sen. Craig Taken Other Stances?

by: Foiled Goil

Paper: 8 men claim encounters with Craig

Associated Press:
Eight men say they either had sex with Sen. Larry Craig or were targets of sexual advances by the Idaho lawmaker at various times during his political career, a newspaper reported.

One of the men is the former escort whose allegations disgraced the Rev. Ted Haggard, former president of the National Association of Evangelicals, the Idaho Statesman reported Sunday.

The newspaper identified four men and reported details of the encounters they say involved Craig. It also reported the accounts of four other men who did not agree to be identified but who described sexual advances or encounters involving the conservative Republican, who opposes same-sex marriage and has a strong record against gay rights.
The newspaper acknowledged that its report was not based on definitive evidence but said it also found no evidence to disprove the accounts of the four identified men. It said it reviewed the senator's travel records, which put him where the sex is alleged to have taken place, and did background checks on those making the allegations.
The report is the Statesman's latest on allegations about Craig's sexual background since his June arrest in an airport men's room sex sting operation was reported in late August.

Statesman Editor Vicki Gowler said the newspaper spent several months checking the backgrounds and details of the men's stories.

"We believe it's important for you to know what we've learned and to hear the men's own words," Gowler said.

02 December 2007

Are You Proud To Be An American?

by: Debra

Why? It can't possibly be because we shine the light of freedom throughout the world. Our hubris knows no bounds, as in approaching infinity. Our government gives less than a flying fart about the sovereignty of other countries. The crew without a clue believes they have the right to kidnap anybody they want, anywhere they want, whenever they want. They don't even have to ask permission first, because just like FISA, extradition just takes too long. Of course if the tables were turned, there would be screaming and hollering on a scale that would probably cause some of the never right wingers to just stroke out.

Which is what I almost did when I read this pitiful story. And they wonder why they can't recruit qualified people. Prosecuting PTSD veterans for trying to kill themselves. What? Is she being punished because all the others were successful and she wasn't? Every aspect of the story is atrocious, especially this part.
But outside the Pentagon, the military still largely deals with mental health issues in an ad hoc way, often relying on the judgment of combat-hardened commanders whose understanding of mental illness is vague or misinformed. The stigma around psychological wounds can still be seen in the smallest of Army policies. While family members of soldiers recovering at Walter Reed from physical injuries are provided free lodging and a per diem to care for their loved ones, families of psychiatric outpatients usually have to pay their own way.
That's right. We kick them when they are down and out and then punish their families financially. Support those troops!

Slap a band-aid on the problem another ribbon on the car. Wear another bracelet. That'll help the situation.


· ·
01 December 2007

New From the World of Truffles

by: Minstrel Boy

I'm on day 2 of making the crystallized ginger for the truffles and it struck me that I had neglected to inform ya'll of one of my favorite cheats on that recipe. That happens with me a lot. It's one of the reasons I have never felt I was a very good teacher. Especially with things that I do almost without conscious thought, like playing guitar, harp or riding a horse. Because I do it working from muscle memory I will often leave out a cruicial step, not because I am planning to sabotage anyone, it's just that I do it without thinking.

Here's the cheat code that I forgot to include in the original recipe. If you start day 2 early in the morning, you can do the step for day 3 late at night. So although I am doing to the fifteen minutes of simmering right now. I intend to do the next thirty minutes of simmering along with the addition of the final two cups of sugar tonight.

I had been a little troubled by the way it took 7th sister an extra day when she followed my recipe as written.

Sorry for costing you a day m'dear.

harp and sword


by: astraea

What assumes unlimited resources? Unlimited need? What works for a time and then becomes a cancer? Ah! I know.
Holy holy holy. They've made it a religion. Why? When symbiosis is the principle of what endures.

I have been trying to think of the earth as a kind of organism, but it is no go. I cannot think of it this way. It is too big, too complex, with too many working parts lacking visible connections. The other night, driving through a hilly, wooded part of southern New England, I wondered about this. If not like an organism, what is it like, what is it most like? Then, satisfactorily for that moment, it came to me: it is most like a single cell. ~Lewis Thomas, wiki

Lawmakers Reach Deal for 40% Improvement in Fuel Efficiency

by: Konagod

Sounds good, right? So why does it piss me off?

For starters, because the auto industry has until 2020 to reach that goal. Granted, that's less than 13 years from now (scary thought), but some automakers are already producing vehicles which meet or exceed that goal.
The proposal, which would require automakers to achieve 35 miles per gallon on average, is similar to a measure that was passed in the summer by the Senate but was bitterly opposed by the auto companies, who argued they did not have the technology or the financial resources to reach that goal.

Tough shit. I'm pretty damn tired of listening to Detroit whine about what they can and cannot do, while the rest of the world seems to have far less resistance to improving efficiency. I have about as much compassion for Detroit as I do for someone living in an abusive relationship who has the ways and the means to get out, but chooses not to.
European auto companies, for example, must average 40 miles per gallon and China requires a 35 m.p.g. standard. Automobiles sold in those countries are generally smaller and less powerful than the most popular models in the United States, however.

In Europe, of course, it might have something to do with the fact that prices at the pump are about twice as high as in the US. And I cannot predict fuel prices 13 years down the road, but are we going to be better off if we're still driving vehicles powered by non-renewable fuels, getting 35 mpg, and paying perhaps $6 a gallon? Or $8? Who knows. But given the growing thirst for fuel in the developing world, and at home, it probably won't be $3.29 -- I'd stake my reputation on that.

Unless automakers can come up with the technology for vastly improved efficiency, far more than 40%, then Americans must adjust their vehicular appetites, and move away from the popularity of muscle cars, trucks, and SUVs. And about the only thing which will force a change of that magnitude is higher prices at the pump.

Removing all federal subsidies would be a good start. We'd start to see more realistic fuel prices immediately. This would have to include some form of tax relief to lower income families, and tax breaks for people who purchase the most efficient vehicles, until such time as we can phase in vehicles powered by alternative means.

Unfortunately, the compromises in this legislation still protect the oil industry.
The compromise should ensure passage in the House, although the Senate may insist on changes. It does not appear to include provisions, like $16 billion in new taxes on the oil industry, that drew a veto threat from President Bush.

The latest version of the measure, if it becomes law, will force wrenching changes on the American car companies, from design studios to new-car showrooms to executive suites. Automakers now have to achieve 27.5 miles per gallon on cars, a figure that has not changed since 1984, and 22.2 miles per gallon for light trucks, including minivans, sport utility vehicles and pickups. Under the compromise, the companies will retain the distinction between the classes of vehicles, but must still meet a combined 35 m.p.g. fleetwide standard.

This legislation is a bit like showing up at a New Year's Eve party at 4:00 AM on January 1st. Given that the standards for cars have not changed since 1984, this bill should have passed in 1997, not 2007, and we'd still be three years away from having to achieve it.

Put me down as one who feels these new standards are going to be rendered moot, long before 2020.

Crossposted from konagod.