the gumbo pages

looka, <'lu-k&> dialect, v.
1. The imperative form of the verb "to look", in the spoken vernacular of New Orleans; usually employed when the speaker wishes to call one's attention to something.  

2. --n. Chuck Taggart's weblog, hand-made and updated (almost) daily, focusing on food and drink, music (especially of the roots variety), New Orleans and Louisiana culture, news, movies, books, sf, public radio, media and culture, travel, Macs, liberal and progressive politics, humor and amusements, reviews, rants, the author's life and opinions, witty and/or smart-arsed comments and whatever else tickles the author's fancy.

Please feel free to contribute a link if you think I'll find it interesting.   If you don't want to read my opinions, feel free to go elsewhere.

Page last tweaked @ 2:11pm PDT, 9/30/2004

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"Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens: The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans" is a 4-CD box set celebrating the joy and diversity of the New Orleans music scene, from R&B to jazz to funk to Latin to blues to zydeco to klezmer (!) and more. Produced, compiled and annotated by Chuck Taggart. (Hey, that's me!) Pre-order from Amazon now!

Regime change for America, 2004.

Kick 'em out!

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."

-- Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States (1901-1909), speaking in 1918

"There ought to be limits to freedom."

-- George W. Bush, May 21, 1999

"You don't get everything you want. A dictatorship would be a lot easier."

-- George W. Bush, describing what it's like to be governor of Texas, Governing Magazine, July 1998

"If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."

-- George W. Bush,, December 18, 2000

"A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it."

-- George W. Bush, Business Week, July 30, 2001

Looka! Archive
(99 and 44/100% link rot)

August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004

2003:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2002:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2001:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2000:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

1999:   Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

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Buy stuff!

You can get Gumbo Pages designs on T-shirts, mugs and mousepads at The Gumbo Pages Swag Shop!

Friends with pages:

mary katherine
pat and paul
tracy and david

Talking furniture:

KCSN (Los Angeles)
   Broadcast schedule
   "Down Home" playlist
   Live MP3 audio stream

   Subscribe to the
   "Down Home" weekly
   playlist email service

WWOZ (New Orleans)
   Broadcast schedule
   Live audio stream
   (Comprehensive listings)

Air America Radio
   (Talk radio for the
   rest of us)
Joe Frank
Grateful Dead Radio
   (Streaming complete
KPIG, 107 Oink 5
   (Freedom, CA)
KRVS Radio Acadie
   (Lafayette, LA)
Mike Hodel's "Hour 25"
   (Science fiction radio)
Radio Free New Orleans
Raidió na Gaeltachta
   (Irish language)
RootsWorld's Rootsradio
RTÉ Radio Ceolnet
   (Irish trad. music)
WXDU (Durham, NC)

Cocktail hour:

The Sazerac Cocktail
   (The sine qua non
   of cocktails, and the
   quintessential New Orleans
   cocktail. Learn to make it.)

*     *     *

   The Internet's most comprehensive
   and indispensible database of
   authenticated cocktail recipes.
   A work in progress, by
   Martin Doudoroff & Ted Haigh)

The Footloose Cocktail
   (An original by Wes;
   "Wonderful!" - Gary Regan.
   "Very elegant, supremely
   sophisticated" - Daniel Reichert.)

The Hoskins Cocktail
   (An original by Chuck;
   "It's nothing short of a
   masterpiece." - Gary Regan)

Chuck & Wes' Cocktail Menu
   (A few things we like to
   drink at home, plus a couple
   we don't, just for fun.)

*     *     *

The Alchemist
   (Paul Harrington)

Alcohol (and how to mix it)
   (David Wondrich)

Ardent Spirits
   (Gary & Mardee Regan)

DrinkBoy and the
   Community for the
   Cultured Cocktail
   (Robert Hess, et al.)

DrinkBoy's Cocktail Weblog

Happy Hours
   (Beverage industry
   news & insider info)

King Cocktail
   (Dale DeGroff)

La Fée Verte
   (All about absinthe
   from Kallisti et al.)
   (Ladies United for the
   Preservation of
   Endangered Cocktails)

Fine Spirits & Cocktails
   (eGullet's forum)

Mr. Lucky's Cocktails
   (Sando, LaDove,
   Swanky et al.)

Nat Decants
   (Natalie MacLean)
   (Beverage Tasting
   Institute journal)

Vintage Cocktails
   (Daniel Reichert)

Let's eat!

New Orleans Menu Daily

Food-related weblogs:
Chocolate and Zucchini
Hacking Food
Honest Cuisine
KIPlog's FOODblog
Mise en Place
Notes from a New Orleans Foodie
Sauté Wednesday
Simmer Stock
Tasting Menu

More food!
à la carte
Chef Talk Café
Food Network
The Global Gourmet
A Muse for Cooks
The Online Chef
Pasta, Risotto & You
Slow Food Int'l. Movement
So. Calif. Farmer's Markets
Zagat Guide

Click here for a new daily recipe from Chef Emeril!
In vino veritas.

The Oxford Companion to Wine

Wally's Wine and Spirits

The Wine House

The Wine Spectator

Wine Today

Reading this month:

The Cat's Pajamas, by Ray Bradbury.

Microcosmic God: The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon, Vol. 2, by Theodore Sturgeon.

Shade, by Neil Jordan.

Listen to music!

Chuck's current album recommendations

Luka Bloom
La Bottine Souriante
Billy Bragg
Cordelia's Dad
Jay Farrar
Sonny Landreth
Los Lobos
Christy Moore
Nickel Creek
The Old 97s
Anders Osborne
The Proclaimers
Professor Longhair
Red Meat
The Red Stick Ramblers
The Reivers
Zachary Richard
Paul Sanchez
Marc Savoy
Son Volt
Richard Thompson
Uncle Tupelo

Miles of Music

No Depression


New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

San Francisco Celtic Music & Arts Festival

Appalachian String Band Music Festival - Clifftop, WV

Long Beach Bayou Festival

Strawberry Music Festival - Yosemite, CA


A Gallery for Fine Photography, New Orleans (Joshua Mann Pailet)
American Museum of Photography
California Museum of Photography, Riverside
International Center of Photography

Ansel Adams
Jonathan Fish
Noah Grey
Greg Guirard
Paul F. R. Hamilton
Clarence John Laughlin
Herman Leonard
Howard Roffman
J. T. Seaton
Jerry Uelsmann
Gareth Watkins
Brett Weston

The Mirror Project

Chuck's Photo of the Day Archive


The Amazing Adventures of Bill,
by Bill Roundy

Bloom County / Outland / Opus,
by Berkeley Breathed

Bob the Angry Flower,
by Stephen Notley

The Boondocks,
by Aaron McGruder

Calvin and Hobbes,
by Bill Watterson

by Garry B. Trudeau

Electric Sheep Comix
by Patrick Farley

Get Your War On
by David Rees

by Jonathan Rosenberg

L. A. Cucaracha
by Lalo Alcaraz

by Peter Blegvad

Lil' Abner,
by Al Capp

The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green,
by Eric Orner

by Walt Kelly

Ted Rall,
by Ted Rall

This Modern World,
by Tom Tomorrow

XQUZYPHYR & Overboard,
by August J. Pollak

Films seen this year:
(with ratings):

Cold Mountain (****)
The Last Samurai (****)

Lookin' at da TV:

"The Sopranos"
"Six Feet Under"
"Malcolm In The Middle"
"Star Trek: Enterprise"
"One Tree Hill"
"Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"
"The Simpsons"
Father Ted
"Iron Chef"
The Food Network

Weblogs I read:

American Leftist
The BradLands
The Carpetbagger Report
Considered Harmful
The Daily Kos
Anil Dash
Ethel the Blog
Follow Me Here
Ghost in the Machine
Hit or Miss
The Hoopla 500
Jesus' General
Mark A. R. Kleiman
The Leaky Cauldron
Letting Loose With the Leptard
Little. Yellow. Different.
Making Light
More Like This
Mr. Barrett
Neil Gaiman's Journal
News of the Dead
August J. Pollak
Q Daily News
Real Live Preacher
Respectful of Otters
Roger "Not That One" Ailes
Ted Rall
Sadly, No!
This Modern World
Under the Gunn
Whiskey Bar
What's In Rebecca's Pocket?

Matthew's GLB blog portal

L.A. Blogs

My Darlin' New Orleans:

Gambit Weekly


New Orleans ...
proud to blog it home.

Must-reads: (progressive politics & news)
Borowitz Report (political satire)
The Complete Bushisms (quotationable!)
The Daily Mislead (BushCo's lies)
The Fray (your stories)
Izzle Pfaff! (my favorite webjournal)
Landover Baptist (better Christians than YOU!)
Maledicta (The International Journal of Verbal Aggression)
The Morning Fix from SF Gate (news, opinions, extreme irreverence)
The New York Review of Science Fiction
The Onion (news 'n laffs)
"Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An exegesis", by David Neiwert.
Talking Points Memo (Josh Marshall)
TruthOut (William Rivers Pitt & Co.) (not the actual White House, but it should be)

The Final Frontier:

Astronomy Pic of the Day
ISS Alpha News
NASA Human Spaceflight
Spaceflight Now


Locus Magazine Online
SF Site

Made with Macintosh

Hosted by pair Networks

Déanta:  This page is coded by hand, with BBEdit 4.0.1 on an Apple G4 15" PowerBook running MacOS X 10.3 if I'm at home; occasionally with telnet and Pico on a FreeBSD Unix host running tcsh if I'm updating from work. (I never could get used to all those weblogging tools.)


Bia agus deoch, ceol agus craic.

  Thursday, September 30, 2004
The Cocktailian.   Okay, so we can't have The Professor making one of my original cocktails every week, now, can we? (Well, I'd quickly run out of them, and would have to get mighty busy!) This fortnight The Professor offers someone else's new concoction, invented at Arterra Restaurant near the Del Mar race track outside San Diego, a orangey delight fit for a thoroghbred.

The fine art of the dinner party.   David shaw offers a terrific article about the perils and joys of throwing a dinner party and how to deal with the inevitable surprises and left turns.

When we call to invite guests, we always ask, "Is there anything you don't eat or drink, anything you are allergic to or have aesthetic, political, religious or any other kinds of objections to?"

We have friends who are vegetarian -- not many, thank the Lord -- and friends who keep kosher, and one friend who says he's allergic to all California wine. But some guests are reluctant to tell you of any such restrictions, and others -- given the opportunity -- may change their mind about food or wine after they arrive and see what we've planned. That's when it helps to be flexible.

One hopes, of course, for guests who are also flexible and considerate, and we've been fortunate in that regard, though we have had guests show up an hour late from time to time.

Knowing that for some guests, L.A. traffic and the L.A. lifestyle make punctuality a somewhat more elastic concept here than elsewhere, we try to build possible tardy arrivals into our dinner parties.

We usually invite guests for 7 or 7:30 and plan to sit down to dinner at 8 or 8:30. For the folks who are on time, we always have plenty of preprandial libations and nibbles -- olives, nuts, salami, pâté, bruschetta, Lucy's home-cured salmon -- so they won't grow hungry or impatient.

We do that too -- glad we're on track with the Food Section pros.

His adventures include inviting a famous restauranteur over and having him ask if he can bring his friend Wolfgang Puck along, as well as dealing with some increidbly boorish would-be guests:

No-shows or last-minute cancellations are even worse, of course, than late arrivals. And late announcements of dietary restrictions can be especially difficult. One time, a couple called the morning of the day we were expecting them and said they were vegetarians . something they hadn't disclosed when we invited them and asked about dietary preferences and prohibitions. Lucy immediately changed her menu and sent me shopping for the necessary ingredients. Most everything was done when the couple called about 6 p.m. and said they couldn't make it.
Y'know, I try to be as flexible and accommodating as possible, but if someone pulled the above scenario, barring an excuse like serious illness or death in the family, it'd likely be a long, long time before they'd be extended another dinner invitation. Yeesh.
Outsourcing torture.   How low will they get?

The Bush administration is supporting a provision in the House leadership's intelligence reform bill that would allow U.S. authorities to deport certain foreigners to countries where they are likely to be tortured or abused, an action prohibited by the international laws against torture the United States signed 20 years ago.

The provision, part of the massive bill introduced Friday by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), would apply to non-U.S. citizens who are suspected of having links to terrorist organizations but have not been tried on or convicted of any charges. Democrats tried to strike the provision in a daylong House Judiciary Committee meeting, but it survived on a party-line vote.

The provision, human rights advocates said, contradicts pledges President Bush made after the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal erupted this spring that the United States would stand behind the U.N. Convention Against Torture. Hastert spokesman John Feehery said the Justice Department "really wants and supports" the provision. [...]

Human rights groups and members of Congress opposed to the provision say it could result in the torture of hundreds of people now held in the United States who could be sent to such countries as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan and Pakistan, all of which have dubious human rights records.

This is shameful.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, September 29, 2004
The rise of the "bar chefs".   The cocktailian revolution continues. The New York Times explores local bartenders who demand only the finest ingredients in both old and new cocktails, taking a culinary approach to drinkmaking (as well they should).

"I take a more culinary approach," said Julie Reiner, who owns the lounge, which is on 19th Street just west of Fifth Avenue, with partners. "Ever since I started bartending, I wanted to take making drinks to a different level. I prefer to make a cocktail with muddled fresh raspberries than to use Stoli raspberry vodka. I think of myself like a chef."

Ms. Reiner belongs to the new breed of serious ingredient-obsessed, purist bartenders, a few of whom actually call themselves bar chefs. And she is also one of a small but growing group that has gone beyond mere bartending and consulting to opening their own bars. In fact, Ms. Reiner said she was planning to open more bars.

Audrey Saunders, the bartender at Bemelmans Bar in the Carlyle, said that eventually, she hoped to have her own place. "There are already people out there who want to back me," she said.

Like young chefs who find investors and 60-seat storefronts to showcase their way with farm-fresh greens, heirloom pork and clever panna cottas, these bartenders are seeking to make their mark with the quality of their cocktails, not just the hype from boldface names walking in the door. Gradually they are attracting a following of connoisseurs who appreciate a well-made drink, one that deserves to be sipped for its complexity and balance.

Hey, without Stoli raspberry vodka, we woudln't have the Footloose! (We tried it with a homemade vodka infused with fresh raspberries. It was still really good.)

As we've been seeing in bars from Los Angeles to Dublin, these drinks often come with a big price tag -- up to $15 or more. But since regular crappy drinks are reaching the $10 mark (including at The Abbey in West Hollywood, where for $10 I received The Worst Manhattan I've Ever Had In My Entir Life, Inexpertly And Indifferently Made And Served), I've developed an attitude of "I'd rather pay $15 for a great cocktail than $10 for a crappy one."

President Eisenhower's son dumps Bush.   John Eisenhower, son of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and a lifelong Republican, declares that he is switching to Independent and voting for John Kerry in November.

As son of a Republican President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, it is automatically expected by many that I am a Republican. For 50 years, through the election of 2000, I was. With the current administration's decision to invade Iraq unilaterally, however, I changed my voter registration to independent, and barring some utterly unforeseen development, I intend to vote for the Democratic Presidential candidate, Sen. John Kerry.

The fact is that today's "Republican" Party is one with which I am totally unfamiliar. To me, the word "Republican" has always been synonymous with the word "responsibility," which has meant limiting our governmental obligations to those we can afford in human and financial terms. Today's whopping budget deficit of some $440 billion does not meet that criterion.

Responsibility used to be observed in foreign affairs. That has meant respect for others. America, though recognized as the leader of the community of nations, has always acted as a part of it, not as a maverick separate from that community and at times insulting towards it. Leadership involves setting a direction and building consensus, not viewing other countries as practically devoid of significance. Recent developments indicate that the current Republican Party leadership has confused confident leadership with hubris and arrogance. [...]

Sen. Kerry, in whom I am willing to place my trust, has demonstrated that he is courageous, sober, competent, and concerned with fighting the dangers associated with the widening socio-economic gap in this country. I will vote for him enthusiastically.

Republicans, to the lifeboats. Save yourselves (and all of us) while you can.

And this is even richer.   The Lone Star Iconoclast, the weekly newspaper in George W. Bush's adopted hometown of Crawford, Texas, has endorsed John Kerry for president.

The paper endorsed Bush in 2000, and this time in the course of endorsing Kerry rip Bush a new one (or two or three):

Kerry Will Restore American Dignity

Few Americans would have voted for George W. Bush four years ago if he had promised that, as President, he would:

  • Empty the Social Security trust fund by $507 billion to help offset fiscal irresponsibility and at the same time slash Social Security benefits.

  • Cut Medicare by 17 percent and reduce veterans. benefits and military pay.

  • Eliminate overtime pay for millions of Americans and raise oil prices by 50 percent.

  • Give tax cuts to businesses that sent American jobs overseas, and, in fact, by policy encourage their departure.

  • Give away billions of tax dollars in government contracts without competitive bids.

  • Involve this country in a deadly and highly questionable war, and

  • Take a budget surplus and turn it into the worst deficit in the history of the United States, creating a debt in just four years that will take generations to repay.
These were elements of a hidden agenda that surfaced only after he took office.

The publishers of The Iconoclast endorsed Bush four years ago, based on the things he promised, not on this smoke-screened agenda. Today, we are endorsing his opponent, John Kerry, based not only on the things that Bush has delivered, but also on the vision of a return to normality that Kerry says our country needs. [...]

In those dark hours after the World Trade Center attacks, Americans rallied together with a new sense of patriotism. We were ready to follow Bush's lead through any travail.

He let us down.


This gave me my second-biggest smile of the day.

And what was the biggest smile of the day?   Seeing the first big shiny press release (caution, 3.2MB PDF) for Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens: The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans! And there's a blurb on it, too!

"A hip-shaking, party-making collection of great music -- and more -- from the Big Easy."

-- Blues Revue

Okay, so nobody really calls it the "Big Easy". But Blues Revue! It's a start!

And you can already pre-order it from Amazon! Release date October 27, less than a month. Woo!

Sorry I'm so excitable, but after a year of working on this, I think I get to be excited. So there!

I believe the Mystery Men have an opening.   As we plunge boldly forward in the era of the costumed superhero ... move over, Superman! Step aside, Spider-Man! (Although Tom and Tobey can come over to our house for cocktails anytime.) Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you ... Terrifica!

Actually, Terrifica performs a valid public service, but her superpowers put her squarely at the level of The Shoveler, Mr. Furious and The Spleen ("Wanna shee my shecret power? Pull my finger." "NO, NO, DON'T!")

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, September 27, 2004
Have no you sense of decency, sirs, at long last? Have you no sense of decency?   That question is addressed to the president of the United States and his senior adviser, speaking of despicable politics ... This morning Josh highlighted an article in the forthcoming issue of The Atlantic Monthly specifically focusing on Karl Rove -- George W. Bush's senior political adviser -- and how he conducted several past campaigns. The sources for the article included several former Rove staffers who helped organize what was described.

One of the most infamous was a race in Alabama, where Rove "launched a whispering campaign against one Democratic opponent suggesting that the candidate -- a sitting Alabama state Supreme Court Justice, who had long worked on child welfare issues -- was in fact a pedophile ...

When his term on the court ended, he chose not to run for re-election. I later learned another reason why. Kennedy had spent years on the bench as a juvenile and family-court judge, during which time he had developed a strong interest in aiding abused children. In the early 1980s he had helped to start the Children's Trust Fund of Alabama, and he later established the Corporate Foundation for Children, a private, nonprofit organization. At the time of the race he had just served a term as president of the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect. One of Rove's signature tactics is to attack an opponent on the very front that seems unassailable. Kennedy was no exception.

Some of Kennedy's campaign commercials touted his volunteer work, including one that showed him holding hands with children. "We were trying to counter the positives from that ad," a former Rove staffer told me, explaining that some within the See camp initiated a whisper campaign that Kennedy was a pedophile. "It was our standard practice to use the University of Alabama Law School to disseminate whisper-campaign information," the staffer went on. "That was a major device we used for the transmission of this stuff. The students at the law school are from all over the state, and that's one of the ways that Karl got the information out.he knew the law students would take it back to their home towns and it would get out." This would create the impression that the lie was in fact common knowledge across the state. "What Rove does," says Joe Perkins, "is try to make something so bad for a family that the candidate will not subject the family to the hardship. Mark is not your typical Alabama macho, beer-drinkin', tobacco-chewin', pickup-drivin' kind of guy. He is a small, well-groomed, well-educated family man, and what they tried to do was make him look like a homosexual pedophile. That was really, really hard to take."

Do you think this is right, Bush voters? This is okay with you? You support this means to the end of getting a candidate elected? You approve of this? Go back and look at nearly every campaign Rove has been involved with, from his 19-year-old college Republican days, when he stole letterhead from the local Democratic headquarters and printed false fliers to make the Democrats look bad, to the 2000 presidential election, where his finely orchestrated whisper campaigns during the primaries destroyed John McCain.

Josh finishes, "This is just one snippet from the piece. But when you read the whole thing, what happened in South Carolina in 2000 and what's happening now with Kerry and the Swift Boat business will all seem a lot more clear."

If Bush had any sense of decency amidst his sense of smirking entitlement, he wouldn't let Karl Rove into the same building with him; instead, he's practically made him co-president, approving of all the techniques Rove used to get him into office, many of which -- like the above -- are simply inhuman.

Republicans eliminate tax relief for the working poor.   "Fuck 'em" seems to be the attitude. They're not the rich (we want their money) or the middle-class (we want their votes), so fuck 'em.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) sided with Democratic leaders in pushing for changes in the child tax credit to ensure that millions of poor families would not see their credits shrink or disappear next year.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) and House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) opposed the move, as did Sens. Don Nickles (R-Okla.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.). That effectively scuttled changes to existing law.

The dust-up centers on an obscure provision in the 10-year, $1.35 trillion tax cut that Congress passed in 2001. That tax cut expanded the $500-per-child tax credit to $1,000, but it also made another child credit available as a tax refund to some poor families who pay little or no federal income taxes.

Such families were allowed to claim a child credit worth as much as 10 percent of their earnings over $10,000. But the 2001 law stipulated that the $10,000 threshold would rise with inflation, effectively slicing into or eliminating refunds for families whose income does not keep up with inflation. The threshold now stands at $10,750.

Because incomes at the bottom end of the workforce have largely stagnated, the rising threshold has had a significant impact, said Leonard E. Burman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute. Of the 11 million families claiming the child tax refund, more than 4 million -- with 9.2 million children -- will see their credit shrink or disappear in 2005, Burman estimated.

Read this series of articles to see the true impact of the Bush tax cuts. We're plunging into record deficits, and he and his ilk want to make their tax cuts (especially those for the rich) permanent. They must be insane.

A vote for Bush is a vote for his deficit.   Have a look at this graph. Does this represent someone who's doing a good job for our economy?

It's happening already. If they're allowed to continue, you can see how much worse it's going to get. (Via Brad DeLong)

Flip-flopper?   Via TBogg, who said, "Looks like we're going to have to play some more Follow The Money":

President Bush, under election-year pressure from Democrats and some fellow Republicans over Iraq, promised on Saturday to step up the pace of spending on reconstruction contracts in that country despite the violence.

Bush cited what he called "steady progress" in Iraq to counter warnings by his Democratic presidential rival, Sen. John Kerry, that the situation in reality was deteriorating.

Bush said more than $9 billion would be spent on contracts in the next "several months" to rebuild Iraqi schools, refurbish hospitals, repair bridges, upgrade the electrical grid and modernize the communication system, although congressional aides and some administration officials said spending would increase more slowly.

"So even administration officials are saying the Bush is lying," sayid TBogg.

Bush on Saturday also touted efforts to train Iraqi security forces. He said nearly 100,000 "fully trained and equipped" Iraqi soldiers, police officers and other security personnel were already working and that the Iraqi government was on track to build a force of over 200,000 security personnel by the end of 2005.

Documents prepared by Defense Department officials and given to lawmakers showed fewer than 100,000 would be trained by the end of this year. They also showed that of the nearly 90,000 now in the police force, only 8,169 had the full eight-week academy training.

TBogg: "Whoops! Lied again! Thank Jeebus he's not a flip-flopper. At least with a liar you know what to expect..."

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Sunday, September 26, 2004
N.Y. Times: "This is despicable politics."   Yesterday:

President Bush and his surrogates are taking their re-election campaign into dangerous territory. Mr. Bush is running as the man best equipped to keep America safe from terrorists -- that was to be expected. We did not, however, anticipate that those on the Bush team would dare to argue that a vote for John Kerry would be a vote for Al Qaeda. Yet that is the message they are delivering -- with a repetition that makes it clear this is an organized effort to paint the Democratic candidate as a friend to terrorists.

When Vice President Dick Cheney declared that electing Mr. Kerry would create a danger "that we'll get hit again," his supporters attributed that appalling language to a rhetorical slip. But Mr. Cheney is still delivering that message. Meanwhile, as Dana Milbank detailed so chillingly in The Washington Post yesterday, the House speaker, Dennis Hastert, said recently on television that Al Qaeda would do better under a Kerry presidency, and Senator Orrin Hatch, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has announced that the terrorists are going to do everything they can between now and November "to try and elect Kerry."

This is despicable politics. It's not just polarizing -- it also undermines the efforts of the Justice Department and the Central Intelligence Agency to combat terrorists in America. Every time a member of the Bush administration suggests that Islamic extremists want to stage an attack before the election to sway the results in November, it causes patriotic Americans who do not intend to vote for the president to wonder whether the entire antiterrorism effort has been kidnapped and turned into part of the Bush re-election campaign. The people running the government clearly regard keeping Mr. Bush in office as more important than maintaining a united front on the most important threat to the nation. [...]

We think that anyone who attempts to portray sincere critics as dangerous to the safety of the nation is wrong. It reflects badly on the president's character that in this instance, he's putting his own ambition ahead of the national good.

What does it say about someone who willingly votes for a person whose politics are so blatantly despicable?

Bush's "flip-flopping" charge unsupported by facts.   Typical, isn't it? Via Josh: Marc Sandalow, Washington bureau chief of the San Francisco Chronicle, decided to investigate Bush's charges "that John Kerry has waffled on Iraq policy by actually going back and reviewing his record as expressed in policy statements, speeches and votes. Not surprisingly, he found Kerry has had pretty much the same position since the whole Iraq debate started ..."

Flip-flopping charge unsupported by facts

Kerry always pushed global cooperation, war as last resort

WASHINGTON -- No argument is more central to the Republican attack on Sen. John Kerry than the assertion that the Democrat has flip-flopped on Iraq.

President Bush, seated beside Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, said Tuesday: "My opponent has taken so many different positions on Iraq that his statements are hardly credible at all."

The allegation is the basis of a new Bush campaign TV ad that shows the Democratic senator from Massachusetts windsurfing to the strains of a Strauss waltz as a narrator intones: "Kerry voted for the Iraq war, opposed it, supported it and now opposes it again."

Yet an examination of Kerry's words in more than 200 speeches and statements, comments during candidate forums and answers to reporters' questions does not support the accusation.

As foreign policy emerged as a dominant issue in the Democratic primaries and later in the general election, Kerry clung to a nuanced, middle-of-the road -- yet largely consistent -- approach to Iraq. Over and over, Kerry enthusiastically supported a confrontation with Saddam Hussein even as he aggressively criticized Bush for the manner in which he did so.

Kerry repeatedly described Hussein as a dangerous menace who must be disarmed or eliminated, demanded that the U.S. build broad international support for any action in Iraq and insisted that the nation had better plan for the post-war peace.


U.S. killing more Iraqi civilians than insurgents are.   Via Kos:

Coalition fatalities in Iraq: 1183
U.S. military fatalities in Iraq: 1048
Iraqi military fatalities: Several thousand
Iraqi civilian fatalities: At least 12,927

Number of Weapons of Mass Destruction discovered: Zero

Iraq civilian casualties mounting

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Operations by U.S. and multinational forces and Iraqi police are killing twice as many Iraqis -- most of them civilians -- as attacks by insurgents, according to statistics compiled by the Iraqi Health Ministry and obtained exclusively by Knight Ridder.

According to the ministry, the interim Iraqi government recorded 3,487 Iraqi deaths in 15 of the country's 18 provinces from April 5 -- when the ministry began compiling the data -- until Sept. 19. Of those, 328 were women and children. Another 13,720 Iraqis were injured, the ministry said.

While most of the dead are believed to be civilians, the data include an unknown number of police and Iraqi national guardsmen. Many Iraqi deaths, especially of insurgents, are never reported, so the actual number of Iraqis killed in fighting could be significantly higher.

Things are going really well, though.

Pakistan's Musharraf: Iraq war has made world "more dangerous ... not safer."   Via AmericaBlog, where John says, "Somebody get on the bat-phone to the Kerry people RIGHT NOW. THIS is their next TV commercial."

September 24, 2004 Friday

ZAHN: Is the world a safer place because of the war in Iraq? MUSHARRAF: No. It's more dangerous. It's not safer, certainly not. ZAHN: How so?

MUSHARRAF: Well, because it has aroused actions of the Muslims more. It's aroused certain sentiments of the Muslim world, and then the responses, the latest phenomena of explosives, more frequent for bombs and suicide bombings. This phenomenon is extremely dangerous.

ZAHN: Was it a mistake to have gone to war with Iraq?

MUSHARRAF: Well, I would say that it has ended up bringing more trouble to the world...

ZAHN: Has that happened in Iraq?

MUSHARRAF: Well, there are difficulties. One can't predict. Maybe the difficulties are surmounted and then it ends up with a victory, with a success. But, at the moment, we are bogged down, yes, yes indeed...

ZAHN: Do you think that the war in Iraq has undermined the overall war on terror?

MUSHARRAF: It has complicated it, certainly. I wouldn't say undermined. It has further complicated it. It has made the job more difficult.

Hey, he's a trusted ally, right? Trust him.

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  Saturday, September 25, 2004
Wednesday night's dessert.   Our friends Gregg and Mike were kind enough to bring us some nummy stuff back from their trip to San Francisco as their thanks for taking care of their house and bunny rabbit whilst they were away. I decided to use it for a dessert rather than a savory dish, and about 30 seconds of Googling helped me make it into a wonderful dessert the other night.

These are fresh figs (picked from our tree only minutes before), with buffalo ricotta cheese, drizzled with Acadiana wildflower honey, dusted with cinnamon and sprinkled with Scharffenberger Cacao Nibs.

Oh my God, it was good.

Editorial cartoon of the day.   by Jeff Danziger, via Atrios, who says, "Yep. This is the modern Republican Party."

France, Germany: "They're crazy."   Josh Marshall wrote yesterday:

In a startling development late in the presidential campaign cycle, editors of the satirical magazine The Onion have taken over the Bush-Cheney '04 Communications Office and seized at least operational control of Winger Central (WC), the office in downtown Washington near the corner of 17th and M, which sends out marching orders to conservative columnists.

The first sign of the overnight take-over came when Charles Krauthammer led off with this morning's column in the Post charging Sen. Kerry with being insufficiently respectful and supportive of America's traditional allies.

Confirmation of the scope of the takeover came later in the afternoon when President Bush denounced Kerry for dissing American allies.

"You can't lead this country" while undercutting a valued ally, the president said.

Rumors of a coming attack on Kerry for war-profiteering in connection with a secret no-bid ketchup contract for the Heinz Corporation could not be confirmed as this story went to press.

I sometimes wonder if I'm asleep, and the last almost-four years have been a long, drawn-out fever dream. Surely situations this surreal and bizarre can't really be happening.

Isn't it romaaaaaaantic ...   Yet again, Britney Spears stands as a shining beacon of the sanctity of marriage.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, September 24, 2004
Recipe of the day.   I must try this immediately. (Via Galway blog Smoke Signals.)

Guinness Stout Ice Cream

1 cup water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1-1/2 cups evaporated milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup Guinness stout

In a heavy saucepan whisk together the water and the cornstarch and simmer the mixture over moderate heat, whisking, for 2 minutes. Add the milks, the salt, and the sugar, heat the mixture over moderately low heat, whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the sugar is dissolved, and remove the pan from the heat. Let the mixture cool completely, stir in the Guinness, and freeze the mixture in an ice-cream freezer according to the manufacturer's instructions. Makes about 1 quart


If the war were in the U.S. ...   Professor Juan Cole, one of the most knowledgeable and astute observers of Middle Eastern affairs, wrote this article on his website last Wednesday, and today it was reproduced in his entirety in the Los Angeles Times. In the wake of "interim Prime Minister" Iyad Allawi's Bush-parroting speech to the Congress yesterday, I feel the need to reproduce it in its entirety:

President Bush said Tuesday that the Iraqis are refuting the pessimists and implied that things are improving in that country.

What would America look like if it were in Iraq's current situation? The population of the US is over 11 times that of Iraq, so a lot of statistics would have to be multiplied by that number.

Thus, violence killed 300 Iraqis last week, the equivalent proportionately of 3,300 Americans. What if 3,300 Americans had died in car bombings, grenade and rocket attacks, machine gun spray, and aerial bombardment in the last week? That is a number greater than the deaths on September 11, and if America were Iraq, it would be an ongoing, weekly or monthly toll.

And what if those deaths occurred all over the country, including in the capital of Washington, DC, but mainly above the Mason Dixon line, in Boston, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco?

What if the grounds of the White House and the government buildings near the Mall were constantly taking mortar fire? What if almost nobody in the State Department at Foggy Bottom, the White House, or the Pentagon dared venture out of their buildings, and considered it dangerous to go over to Crystal City or Alexandria?

What if all the reporters for all the major television and print media were trapped in five-star hotels in Washington, DC and New York, unable to move more than a few blocks safely, and dependent on stringers to know what was happening in Oklahoma City and St. Louis? What if the only time they ventured into the Midwest was if they could be embedded in Army or National Guard units?

There are estimated to be some 25,000 guerrillas in Iraq engaged in concerted acts of violence. What if there were private armies totalling 275,000 men, armed with machine guns, assault rifles (legal again!), rocket-propelled grenades, and mortar launchers, hiding out in dangerous urban areas of cities all over the country? What if they completely controlled Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Denver and Omaha, such that local police and Federal troops could not go into those cities?

What if, during the past year, the Secretary of State (Aqilah Hashemi), the President (Izzedine Salim), and the Attorney General (Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim) had all been assassinated?

What if all the cities in the US were wracked by a crime wave, with thousands of murders, kidnappings, burglaries, and carjackings in every major city every year?

What if the Air Force routinely (I mean daily or weekly) bombed Billings, Montana, Flint, Michigan, Watts in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Anacostia in Washington, DC, and other urban areas, attempting to target "safe houses" of "criminal gangs", but inevitably killing a lot of children and little old ladies?

What if, from time to time, the US Army besieged Virginia Beach, killing hundreds of armed members of the Christian Soldiers? What if entire platoons of the Christian Soldiers militia holed up in Arlington National Cemetery, and were bombarded by US Air Force warplanes daily, destroying thousands of graves and even pulverizing the Vietnam Memorial over on the Mall? What if the National Council of Churches had to call for a popular march of thousands of believers to converge on the National Cathedral to stop the US Army from demolishing it to get at a rogue band of the Timothy McVeigh Memorial Brigades?

What if there were virtually no commercial air traffic in the country? What if many roads were highly dangerous, especially Interstate 95 from Richmond to Washington, DC, and I-95 and I-91 up to Boston? If you got on I-95 anywhere along that over 500-mile stretch, you would risk being carjacked, kidnapped, or having your car sprayed with machine gun fire.

What if no one had electricity for much more than 10 hours a day, and often less? What if it went off at unpredictable times, causing factories to grind to a halt and air conditioning to fail in the middle of the summer in Houston and Miami? What if the Alaska pipeline were bombed and disabled at least monthly? What if unemployment hovered around 40%?

What if veterans of militia actions at Ruby Ridge and the Oklahoma City bombing were brought in to run the government on the theory that you need a tough guy in these times of crisis?

What if municipal elections were cancelled and cliques close to the new "president" quietly installed in the statehouses as "governors?" What if several of these governors (especially of Montana and Wyoming) were assassinated soon after taking office or resigned when their children were taken hostage by guerrillas?

What if the leader of the European Union maintained that the citizens of the United States are, under these conditions, refuting pessimism and that freedom and democracy are just around the corner?

-- Juan Cole, Professor of History, University of Michigan

Sure, Messrs. Allawi and Bush, we're really succeeding in Iraq.

Unconstitutional and un-American.   What Jason said: "I see that now, our country has upped the ante, moving from shitting on people's basic rights to trying to prevent the Supreme Court from defending people's basic rights. Americans can complain all they want about the downward trajectory this place is on, but when push comes to shove, all these policymakers were either elected by us or appointed (and approved) by the people we elected. And if we continue to elect and approve asshats who'd rather pillage the Constitution than read it -- or worse, not vote, and let others choose our fate for us — then we're to blame." Couldn't have said it better myself.

My feeling for those who would write and vote for a bill to unconstitutionally attempt to restrict the Supreme Court from hearing cases challenging the inclusion of "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance is the same that I had for Ku Klux Klansman David Duke. During Duke's sole term in the Louisiana legislature he only authored one bill -- to reduce the penalty for assault to a $25 fine for anyone convicted of assaulting someone who was burning a flag.

The definition of irony?   Via Brian (and thanks!), an article in the Washington Post containing a link to the full text of Bush's speech to the U.N. in which he says:

We know that dictators are quick to choose aggression, while free nations strive to resolve differences in peace.
Says Brian, "If I remember right from grade school english, that's the literary device known as irony, right?"


Quote of the day.   I'd love to hear Peter Jennings say something like this:

"As of yesterday, the Bush administration still hadn't found the source of the White House leak that outed a woman as a CIA operative. To recap, here are the things President Bush can't find: The source of the leak, weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Osama bin Laden, the link between Saddam and Osama bin Laden, the guy who sent the anthrax through the mail, and his own butt with two hands and a flashlight."

-- Tina Fey, anchor of Weekend Update, "Saturday Night Live"

Bad, bad bunnies.   When I was a kid, the ultimate punishment (short of a spanking) was the dreaded ... Tabasco On The Tongue! This was reserved for those rare occasions when I dared to use a "bad word" or, horror of horrors, mouth off at my parental units. It's the New Orleans equivalent of Washing Your Mouth Out With Soap. Eventually I began to feel really sorry for all those other kids all over the world; when they said "fuck" in front of their mommas they had to taste soap, but I got to taste Tabasco. From my perspective of hindsight I can say that Tabasco tastes far, far better than soap.

I must have had a sassy little mouth, because I seem to have developed quite an affinity for Tabasco, and nowadays I go through it by the gallon (I mouth off a lot less, but I swear a lot more).

Fortunately for Danish farmers, Danish bunnies seem to have not developed this affinity.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, September 22, 2004
Bush lies about what Kerry said, and Peter Jennings calls him on it (QuickTime video clip). Here's the transcript:

JENNINGS: We were struck today by a very pointed attack by President Bush on John Kerry. First of all, this is what Mr. Bush said:

BUSH: We agree that the world is better off with Saddam Hussein sitting in a prison cell. And that stands in stark contrast to the statement my opponent made yesterday when he said that, uh, (purses lips, shakes head) the world was better off with Saddam in power. I strongly disagree.

JENNINGS: And this is what Mr. Kerry actually said:

KERRY: Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who deserves his own special place in Hell. But that was not, that was not in and of itself, a reason to go to war. The satisfaction -- (audience applause) -- the satisfaction that we take in his downfall does not hide this fact: we have traded a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure.

Bush is a cold, calculated, practiced, pathetic liar. Good job, Peter. Keep it up.

Another New Orleans musician leaves us.   Legendary jazz trombonist Waldren "Frog" Joseph, Sr. passed away in New Orleans on Sunday, aged 86.

He played in Papa Celestin's and Paul Barbarin's bands, among others, and was the father of sousaphonist extraordinaire Kirk Joseph of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and trombonist Charles Joseph.

If you're in New Orleans, you may wish to know that the public is invited to attend a viewing Friday from 7 p.m. until 10 p.m. at Tharp Funeral Home at 600 Moss St. On Saturday, a jazz funeral Mass will be held at Corpus Christi Catholic Church at 2022 St. Bernard Ave. Viewing will be from 8 a.m. until 10 a.m., followed by the Mass. Burial will be in St. Louis Cemetery No. 3 at 3421 Esplanade Ave.

And the Dirty Dozen strikes up "Just A Closer Walk With Thee" ...

May the wind take your troubles away.   Very good news ... Jay Farrar is reforming Son Volt after a five-year hiatus:

Midwest-based Son Volt, with songwriter Jay Farrar at the helm, will begin recording their fourth full length album at the end of September. Following a five-year hiatus, with the exception of the April 2004 recording of "Sometimes" for the Alejandro Escovedo tribute album, multi-instrumentalist Dave Boquist, bassist Jim Boquist and drummer Mike Heidorn will reconvene at Farrar.s St. Louis studio.

Speaking about the "Sometimes" session, Farrar says: "It felt like we hit the ground running when we recorded Al's song for Por Vida. Five years seemed like five days at that point. It proved that more recording and performing as Son Volt is something that should happen."

As this revered band reconnects, a unique glimpse inside the Son Volt sessions will be offered. Beginning October 1, a webcamera will be placed in the studio to capture a day of pre-production and 16 days of recording. The webcamera can be accessed at and will feature streaming photos that refresh every 5 seconds.

At this point I was beginning to think it'd be Jay solo for good, as the last interview I read with Heidorn said he was done with the music biz (and especially with touring). I'm very, very happy to hear this. (That track on the Escovedo tribute is great, too.)

The webcam thing is fascinating, although I expect I'd get bored with it pretty quickly without audio.

The L.A. Times discovers food blogging.   Well, better late than never. The article's not too bad, catches a few great individual pages (such as The Table of Condiments that Periodically Go Bad, which is printed out and magneted to our refrigerator) and a couple of great weblogs, Sauté Wednesday and Chocolate and Zucchini, but misses or ignores tons of others.

Her really good find, however, which I kinda forgot about, was The Julie/Julia Project, in which blogger and home cook Julie Powell chronicled her year of cooking her way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, making every single recipe during that year. I should go back and read that whole thing (although the article says Julie got a book contract, so maybe I can just get it then). The article makes its best point here:

The dullness of everyday life is an inescapable fact of the blogosphere. What set Powell apart from many food bloggers is that her story had an arc: a beginning, a middle and a satisfying, Cinderella-like ending. After she chronicled her cooking of 536 recipes in 365 days, she got a book contract and gave up her weblog. The majority of food bloggers, whether they are professional writers or talented amateurs or semi-insane ranters, offer no narrative apart from what they cooked and what they ate.

When a good writer chronicles his life, it is art. When an amateur feels the need to chronicle his life by listing what he made or ate for dinner each night, often the best that can be said is that it's touching. In the world of food blogs, you may be touched and find some great recipes in the bargain.

Really good food writers place their chronicles of cooking and dining into the context of a life, which (for instance) is one of the reasons why I always enjoy reading the columns by my friend Meredith Brody, former food writer for the Los Angeles New Times and currently for the SF Weekly. (Read her stuff, then go up to the city and eat!) Also, I'll go through my library tonight and later this week I'll post a list of some food-related titles that I enjoyed, and that you might enjoy too.

Frosty beverage of the day.   Today's L.A. Times Food Section also featured a recipe for a yummy looking drink, non-alcoholic no less, kinda of like a virgin Mojito, that's a signature cooler at Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken's restaurants Ciudad and Border Grill. It looks like just the thing to help take the edge off the beastly hot and dry Santa Ana winds, which are supposed to start blowing in the next day or so. (I hate da Sanna Anas ... too dry! I miss da humidity!)

Ciudada Minty Lime Cooler

1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 packed cup mint leaves
1/3 cup sugar, or more to taste
16 ounces (2 cups) club soda
4 mint sprigs
4 lime wedges

Blend the lime juice and mint in a blender until the mint is finely chopped. Remove from the blender and stir in the sugar.

Add ice to a tall 12-ounce glass. Add one-quarter cup lime-mint mixture and one-half cup club soda to each glass. Stir to combine. Garnish with fresh mint and a lime wedge.

These'll look great in our new Mignon Faget Fleur-de-Lis Tumblers, too. (Um, I'm sure a few lil' squoits o' rum wouldn't hoit, now, would it?)

Voter terrorism.   From Salon: "For decades, Republicans have mounted highly organized operations to discourage minorities from voting. Experts say there's no reason to believe this year's presidential campaign will be any different."

[During the 2003 Philadelphia race between John Street, the African-American incumbent Democrat, and Sam Katz, the white Republican challenger,] in an attempt to intimidate African-Americans and deter them from showing up at the polls, the Katz campaign, or one of its associates, put together a team of men dressed in official-looking attire -- dark suits, lapel pins bearing insignia of federal or local law-enforcement agencies -- and sent them into areas of the city with large black populations. According to Sherry Swirsky, a local antitrust attorney who is active in Democratic politics and who worked as an election monitor that day, the men carried clipboards and drove around in unmarked black vans.

"Some of them were just driving around neighborhoods, looking menacing," Swirsky recalls. "But others were going up to voters and giving them misinformation about the kind of I.D. they needed in order to vote. The truth is, you don't need any I.D. to vote. But they were telling them they needed a major credit card, a passport or driver's license. They were telling them it was risky to vote if they had any outstanding child support bills. Imagine the menacing presence of a bunch of big white guys in black cars who look like they're law-enforcement people telling you all these things."

Swirsky has monitored several elections in Philadelphia and elsewhere and headed the Democrats' presidential recount effort in New Mexico in 2000. But what happened in Philadelphia, she says, is the most sophisticated election intimidation campaign she's ever seen. It was not a sick prank by one or two racists but instead a systematic effort that required planning and not-insignificant outlays of money (the uniforms, the vehicles and the men, some of whom were reportedly recruited from out of state). "There was such a level of coordination there that if its objectives were not improper, I would say I admired it for the professionalism," she says.

Swirsky met dozens of voters who were intimidated by strange men in uniforms; in a survey of black voters taken after the election, 7 percent reported being accosted by voter-intimidation efforts. "I talked to a number of them and tried to assuage their concerns," she says. "I told them they should go out and vote: 'Those people were wrong. You don't need that kind of identification. No, you're not going to get arrested if you owe child support and you go out to vote.'" But despite her efforts -- and even though, in the end, Street won the race -- Swirsky is certain that many black voters stayed away from the polls that day.

The voter-intimidation campaign that Republicans mounted in Philadelphia was not an anomaly. Instead, it marked a routine occurrence in American elections, a national scandal that rarely makes the front page. The sad fact is that voter-intimidation efforts aimed at minorities have been carried out in just about every major election over the past 20 years. The campaigns are almost always mounted by Republicans who aim to reduce the turnout of overwhelmingly Democratic minority voters at the polls. Now, in what's shaping up to be a razor-thin presidential election, Democrats across the country are pointing to what occurred in Philadelphia as an example of what they have to fear from Republicans this election year.


If you're not a Salon Premium member, sit through the commercial and read this one.

The Rise of Pseudo Fascism, Part 1.   Last Sunday journalist David Neiwert began what's shaping up to be an excellent six-part series. Here's his first article, "The Morphing of the Conservative Movement". An excerpt:

When trying to make sense of the seemingly inextricable political morass into which descended, one of the real keys to understanding our situation is realizing that conservatism and the "conservative movement" are in fact two entirely different things.

Conservatism, like liberalism, is not a dogmatic philosophy, but rather a style of thought, an approach to politics or life in general. It stresses the status quo and traditional values, and is typified by a resistance to change. Likewise, liberalism is not relegated to a discrete "movement" but rather describes a general politics that comprises many disparate concerns.

The "conservative movement," however, is a decidedly dogmatic political movement that demands obeisance to its main tenets (and exiles those who dissent) and a distinctly defined agenda. Movement followers proudly announce their membership. (In contrast, there is no .liberal movement. worth speaking of -- just a hodgepodge of loosely associated interests.) Importantly enough, their raison d'être has transformed from the extenuation of their "conservative" impulses into the Machiavellian acquisition of power, usually through any means necessary.

[...] When movements like this take shape and gain real power -- and especially when they consolidate complete control of the reins of power, as the conservative movement has done in the past four years -- they often take on a real life of their own, mutating into entirely separate entities that often bear little resemblance to their root values. In the process, they almost always become travesties of their original impulses.

Certainly, one only needs review the current state of affairs to recognize that the "conservative movement" -- especially as embodied by the Bush administration -- has wandered far astray from its original values. Just how "conservative" is it, after all, to run up record budget deficits? To make the nation bleed jobs? To invade another nation under false pretenses? To run roughshod over states' rights? To impose a radical unilateralist approach to foreign policy? To undermine privacy rights and the constitutional balance of power? To quanitifably worsen the environment, while ignoring the realities of global warming? To grotesquely mishandle the defense of our national borders?

Mind you, it is not merely liberals who have observed this transformation. It includes a number of longtime conservatives who remain true to their principles as well.


[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, September 21, 2004
Everything tastes better when wrapped in bacon.   Tom Fitzmorris posted a recipe for Chicken Livers with Bacon and Pepper Jelly in the New Orleans Menu Daily the other day, and although I'm not the world's biggest liver fan, this looks so good that I can't resist trying it, and will soon. The idea of tossing the chicken livers in pepper jelly, purloined from The Praline Connection, sounds great. Wrapping them in bacon instantly makes them good, right? Then he said, "This is absolutely spectacular served over a plate of red beans and rice", as an alternative to sausage." Intriguing!

Taking the Footloose to another level?   We tried a fabulous infused vodka last night. I've been meaning to try the three vodkas produced by St. George Spirits under the Hangar One label -- "Buddha's Hand" Citron, Kaffir Lime and Mandarin Blossom. There's one out now that I hadn't seen before: Fraser River Raspberry, which will be an annual release in limited editions. They only infuse the vodka with the berries in the spring when they're at the height of their season, distill and then add more fresh juice to the finished product.

The resulting vodka is beautifully reddish, unlike the clear Stolichnaya Razberi, with an intense, very fresh aroma and flavor. It's quite different from the Stoli product, and we couldn't wait to see how it worked in a Footloose Cocktail.

It works beautifully, with the nose being very similar to a classic Footloose (if a little more fresh berrylike), a deeper color and a clean, powerful flavor. It's still recognizably a Footloose, yet it's different -- perhaps a Top Shelf Footloose. We'll definitely be trying it again, but as this stuff is nearly $40 as compared to about $16 for the Stoli product (which makes a perfectly fine Footloose), we probably won't use it all the time.

Tom Tomorrow's "This Modern World".   What if there'd been a Democrat in the White House on 9/11?

What is Bush hiding?   E. J. Dionne, in The Washington Post:

It is to be welcomed that President Bush wants to clear up questions about his National Guard service. He wants more details out there, and good for him. This story should be laid to rest, and the one person who can do it is named George W. Bush.

Up to now, Bush has been interested in a rather narrow aspect of the story. He wanted Dan Rather and CBS News to come clean about whether they used fake documents in reporting on the president's Guard service back in the 1970s.

"There are a lot of questions and they need to be answered," Bush told the Union Leader in Manchester, N.H., last week. "I think what needs to happen is people need to take a look at the documents, how they were created, and let the truth come out."

I couldn't agree more. And apparently CBS came to the same view. CBS messed up, and yesterday, Rather fessed up. He said the network could no longer stand behind the documents. There will be much hand-wringing about the media in the coming days, and properly so.

But what's good for Dan Rather, who is not running for president, ought to be good for George Bush, who is. "There are a lot of questions and they need to be answered." Surely that presidential sentiment applies as much to Bush's Guard service as to Rather's journalistic methods.

[...] But, most important, there is only one reason the story about Bush's choices during the Vietnam years persists. It's because the president won't give detailed answers to the direct questions posed by the Times story and other responsible media organizations, including the Boston Globe. Their questions never depended on the discredited CBS documents.

Bush could end this story now so we could get to the real issues of 2004. It would require only that the president take an hour or so with reporters to make clear what he did and did not do in the Guard. He may have had good reasons for ducking that physical exam. Surely he can explain the gaps in his service and tell us honestly whether any pull was used to get him into the Guard.

But a guy who is supposed to be so frank and direct turns remarkably Clintonian where the National Guard issue is concerned. "I met my requirements and was honorably discharged" is Bush's stock answer, which does old Bill proud. And am I the only person exasperated by a double standard that treated everything Bill Clinton ever did in his life ("I didn't inhale") as fair game but now insists that we shouldn't sully ourselves with any inconvenient questions about Bush's past?


There are a lot of authenticated documents that beg these questions as well.

Politics first, Americans last.   With yet another execution of an American in Iraq by al-Zarqawi, one must look back at this story from last March and wonder why it didn't get more attention in the press and from the public -- it seems The Regime seems to be more interested in their own political agenda than in protecting Americans and fighting terrorism.

With Tuesday's attacks, Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant with ties to al-Qaida, is now blamed for more than 700 terrorist killings in Iraq.

But NBC News has learned that long before the war the Bush administration had several chances to wipe out his terrorist operation and perhaps kill Zarqawi himself . but never pulled the trigger.

In June 2002, U.S. officials say intelligence had revealed that Zarqawi and members of al-Qaida had set up a weapons lab at Kirma, in northern Iraq, producing deadly ricin and cyanide.

The Pentagon quickly drafted plans to attack the camp with cruise missiles and airstrikes and sent it to the White House, where, according to U.S. government sources, the plan was debated to death in the National Security Council.

"Here we had targets, we had opportunities, we had a country willing to support casualties, or risk casualties after 9/11 and we still didn't do it," said Michael O'Hanlon, military analyst with the Brookings Institution.

Four months later, intelligence showed Zarqawi was planning to use ricin in terrorist attacks in Europe.

The Pentagon drew up a second strike plan, and the White House again killed it. By then the administration had set its course for war with Iraq.

"People were more obsessed with developing the coalition to overthrow Saddam than to execute the president.s policy of preemption against terrorists," according to terrorism expert and former National Security Council member Roger Cressey.


Read on ... more plans made, more plans spiked by the White House. Do you feel safer?

A nation of victims.   Clinical psychologist Renana Brooks writes in The Nation about something Kerry's going to have to watch out for in the debates: "Bush is not regarded as a great speaker. But he is a master at using negatively charged emotional language as a political tool."

George W. Bush is generally regarded as a mangler of the English language. What is overlooked is his mastery of emotional language -- especially negatively charged emotional language -- as a political tool. Take a closer look at his speeches and public utterances, and his political success turns out to be no surprise. It is the predictable result of the intentional use of language to dominate others.

President Bush, like many dominant personality types, uses dependency-creating language. He employs language of contempt and intimidation to shame others into submission and desperate admiration. While we tend to think of the dominator as using physical force, in fact most dominators use verbal abuse to control others. Abusive language has been a major theme of psychological researchers on marital problems, such as John Gottman, and of philosophers and theologians, such as Josef Pieper. But little has been said about the key role it has come to play in political discourse, and in such "hot media" as talk radio and television.

Bush uses several dominating linguistic techniques to induce surrender to his will. The first is empty language. This term refers to broad statements that are so abstract and mean so little that they are virtually impossible to oppose. Empty language is the emotional equivalent of empty calories. Just as we seldom question the content of potato chips while enjoying their pleasurable taste, recipients of empty language are usually distracted from examining the content of what they are hearing.

Dominators use empty language to conceal faulty generalizations; to ridicule viable alternatives; to attribute negative motivations to others, thus making them appear contemptible; and to rename and "reframe" opposing viewpoints. Bush's 2003 State of the Union speech contained thirty-nine examples of empty language. He used it to reduce complex problems to images that left the listener relieved that George W Bush was in charge. Rather than explaining the relationship between malpractice insurance and skyrocketing healthcare costs, Bush summed up: "No one has ever been healed by a frivolous lawsuit." The multiple fiscal and monetary policy tools that can be used to stimulate an economy were downsized to: "The best and fairest way to make sure Americans have that money is not to tax it away in the first place." The controversial plan to wage another war on Iraq was simplified to: "We will answer every danger and every enemy that threatens the American people." In an earlier study, I found that in the 2000 presidential debates Bush used at least four times as many phrases containing empty language as Carter, Reagan, Clinton, Bush Senior or Gore had used in their debates.


Look for it, and see through it.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, September 20, 2004
Kerry-oke a smash!   Without advertising support from this time, and with a fraction of the bakers at the previous "Bake Back the Country" fundraising bake sale, the folks at pulled in a whopping $4,282.21 at Saturday's event, with $755 coming from The Fat Pack's table! (Unfortunately Wes and I couldn't make it ... waaah.)

The "Kerry-oke" singing went well too, with Rick, Steve and Dave belting out new versions of classic songs, a few of which I'll reproduce here. Feel free to sing it to the world for fun and/or fundraising purposes.

"We Will Survive"
to the tune of "I Will Survive, by Gloria Gaynor
New lyrics by Rick Garman

At first we were afraid
It was all our fears
Kept thinking we could never live with you for four more years.
But then we spent so many nights
Thinking how you did us wrong
And we grew strong
And we wrote this little song.

And so you're here
From the far right
You just walked in, stole the White House without a fight.
We would have screamed a little louder
And increased the voter rolls
If we'd have known for just one second you'd be ahead in any polls.

Go on now go!
Walk out the door
Just turn around now
'Cause you're not welcome anymore
Weren't you the one who lied to us about Iraq?
Did you think we'd crumble?
Did you think we'd hide under a rock?

Oh no, surprise!

We will survive.
As long as we know how to vote we know we'll stay alive.
We've got strength, for goodness sake
And we've got cookies we can bake
And we'll survive
We will survive! (Hey hey!)

More songs from Kerry-oke coming later.

"Remove Bush" swag now available in our shop.   The other day I had an idea, and put up the first two new products in The Gumbo Pages Swag Shop in about three years ... and the first not to feature the web site logo (thank Gawd).

Even though my own UNIX skills are minimal, I had a progressive UNIX geekboy moment and came up with the following, available on t-shirts and stickers:

(Somebody please correct me if I got the syntax wrong. I don't think I did, though. I once accidentally issued a command like this, while in the wrong directory, and it worked very, very well indeed ... shudder)

All profits from the sale of this t-shirt or sticker will go to the Democratic National Committee. Buy buy buy, you geeks!

The media, then and now.   Excellent cartoon by Ted Rall.

Oh, and a new XQUZYPHYR & Overboard, too -- "Exactly what does Bush do?"

Shrub grows a testicle.   It's beginning to look like there will be three debates after all. I suspect the real reason is that he's not as far ahead as he'd like everyone to believe.

"The Bush campaign didn't want to do the town hall because they really didn't trust the process for identifying uncommitted voters," said a Republican source familiar with the talks. "But things are going so well for them and so poorly for Kerry that they didn't want to give Kerry an opportunity to change the subject and say that Bush is afraid of debates. Bush not doing debates or dragging out the debate on debates could have been played by the Kerry campaign as arrogance."
Uh, could it be because it is arrogance, and in fact Kerry is not doing poorly, and is in fact tied with Bush in a dead heat when you use pollsters who do not weight the sample with a preponderance of Republicans, and because Bush actually didn't want a town hall format because he wouldn't be able to get everyone to sign loyalty oaths this time? As Digby put it, "if the president were really 13 points ahead, he would not have agreed to three debates. This is, after all, a president who has faced the press in formal news conferences fewer times than any president in history. He would not subject himself to three sessions of unscripted questions if he were confident he had it in the bag."

Today's spam poetry.   Good thing I was fixing my spam filter (which was erroneously catching some legitimate mail), or I would have missed this.

warriors tangent honored Anabaptist parse
fabulously upturns welcomes Lombard locate

What are Soft Tabs that everyone is talking about?
A Soft Tab is an oral lozenge, mint in flavor, containing pure
Tadalafil Citrate that is placed under your tongue and dissolved.
Easy and imperceptible to take.
Take just a candy and become ready for 36 hours of love.

. This is most modern and safe way not to cover with shame
. Only 15 minutes to wait
. FDA Approved

Get more information

stoves Mennonites outlawed curiosity Asiatic
heritages around depraved encampment beholds
Christian empires unfit worse fulfilled

Wes and I were wondering ... what the hell is the point of all that blather? Is it really supposed to foil spam filters? If so, it doesn't work terribly well.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Saturday, September 18, 2004
What I think happened.   It has by no means been proven that CBS' documents are forgeries. If they are, however ... I'm beginning to see it like this:

White House communications director Dan Bartlett declined to challenge the authenticity of CBS' documents. (When asked if they were fake, he said, "I'm not saying that at all. I'm just saying that the fact that documents like this are being raised when, in fact, all they do is reaffirm what we've said all along, is questionable." CBS was foolish to take that as an authentication; it was a classics non-denial denial.)

Documents are released without seeing the originals (another bad move on CBS' part). Content of the documents is widely acknowledged to be true, but this is brushed aside because thee documents are almost immediately attacked (first by a freeper and Republican activist who seemed awfully quickly well-prepared to challenge them) as being forgeries. If it turns out the documents are forgeries (and it's looking like that's the case), then whatever the documents are about -- the widely acknowledged charge, confirmed by multiple sources, that Bush did get special treatment getting into the Guard and that he didn't fulfill his obligations -- gets completely obliterated by the forged documents.

The way it's beginning to look to me is that the White House didn't actually say the documents were forgeries because they knew they were forgeries. The ensuing brouhaha gets rid of all the allegations against Bush with regards to his lack of Guard service. The issue goes away and makes their opponents look bad. All beautifully done, all orchestrated from the West Wing by Karl Rove ... who has, of course, completely wiped his fingerprints from all this, as he's done with every political dirty trick he's pulled since he was in college (Another link, apologies for Godwin violation).

Ever since this began and there were allegations of forgery, this has stunk of his involvement, because it would make absolutely no sense for someone who's anti-Bush to forge these documents. I'm apparently not the only one who think so, either.

I feel the need to quote Teresa again: "I deeply resent the way this administration makes me feel like a nutbar conspiracy theorist."

Bush on Iraq:   It's as if he's saying, "Who you gonna believe? Me, or your lyin' eyes?"

(The first of two posts today lifted from Josh.)

In denial.   Related to the above, the second of Josh's posts from yesterday, which needs to be read in its entirety:

We're helping the Iraqi people build a new democracy.

Pessimists can say what they want. But that's what they said about the occupation of Germany and Japan.

We're safer with Saddam in prison; America is safer. The critics are pessimists.

These aren't quotations. But phrases like these are the stock phrases of the president and the rest of his campaign. They filled the recent Republican convention in New York. Actually, on Thursday President Bush was speaking in exactly this vein: "Freedom is on the march."

But as yesterday's piece in the Times made clear, that's exactly the opposite of what the government -- or rather the people in the government paid to analyze these things -- actually believes. A new and still highly classified National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq says that the best case scenario for the country over the next eighteen months is drift, along more or less the lines that it's at right now. The worst case scenario is all-out civil war. The middle ground is spiralling extremism and fragmentation -- basically a continuation of the evolution, or rather devolution, we've seen over the last year.

There have been a raft of new findings over the last week or so which dramatize or confirm this finding. But the truth is we don't really need anyone to tell us this.

It's always possible to posit 'optimism' up until the point when the whole place actually erupts spontaneously into hellfire. But to any thinking individual it's clear and it's been clear for some time that our whole enterprise in Iraq is going extremely poorly, by pretty much every concievable measure.

And yet the president just says none of this is true. Things are going well. Yes, things are difficult, he says. But we're on the right track and things keep getting better. Dan Bartlett today said that Democrats are just showing their pessimism: "President Bush gets his briefings from commanders on the ground. He has reason for his optimism because of the enormous amount of progress we have made."

The president is simply in denial. Or he's willing to keep burning through the US Army and the Marine Corps to avoid admitting the failure of his policies or even the obvious fact that the situation in Iraq is deteriorating terribly.

Today another suicide bomber just exploded himself in Baghdad, killing at least a dozen people. The country is continuing the slide into chaos and violence. President Bush says we're on the the right track. Freedom is on the march.

Words and excuses meet incompetence, chaos and death. That's what this election is about.

We're sending Americans to Iraq to die for a colossal mistake.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, September 17, 2004
The Cocktailian (and shameless ego-boo).   In yesterday's edition of Gary Regan's fortnightly column on cocktails, our hero and cocktailian bartender The Professor receives a visit from John and Fiona Hoskins of Cambridge, England (hey, I have two friends in Cambridge called John and Fiona Hoskins ... what a coincidence). They bring him the recipe for a new drink named after themselves, called the Hoskins Cocktail (hey, I made up a drink called the Hoskins for my friends too!), created by their friend Chuck Taggart (hey, that's me!).

A few months back Gary asked for submissions of new cocktails, and I promptly sent him the Hoskins; he'd been kind enough to publish Wes' Footloose and my Lillet Tomlin in the past (the former in his book The Joy of Mixology, the latter in a December issue of Nation's Restaurant News last year). Guess he liked it. (We neglected to tell him that we moved from Pasadena to Eagle Rock, though.)

Thanks, Gary. What an absolute delight!

Editorial cartoon of the day.   "The Sad Truth", by Stuart Carlson of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Why forge?   Via Xymphora, via News Dissector:

Assuming for the moment that the CBS documents are forgeries, but, as the former secretary of Lieutenant Colonel Killian says, accurately reflect his thoughts and are likely based on the contents of his original notes (and watch for reports of this in the disgusting American media to simply say the documents are forgeries, without reference to the vital fact that the contents are substantially true), why would the forger go to all the trouble of making a forgery? If he had access to the original notes, and he must have had such access in order to make substantively accurate forgeries, why not send them to CBS?

The only reason you would make a forgery, and a forgery which was discovered with very suspicious speed and detail, is if you were trying to undermine the credibility of the content of the notes. If you knew the substance of the notes was going to be released, and might be an election issue, releasing the notes yourself in a forged form is the perfect way to diffuse the crisis. Everyone is now watching the spectacle of the alleged shenanigans, and completely ignoring the substantive issues raised by the notes.

Read the whole digest at the News Dissector link.

Supporting our troops.   Respecting them, too. Is this how a nation expresses its gratitude toward those serving in its armed forces? (Also via News Dissector)


Practices of questionable legality are being used to bully soldiers in the US military. The Rocky Mountain News revealed "Soldiers from a Fort Carson combat unit say they have been issued an ultimatum -- re-enlist for three more years or be transferred to other units expected to deploy to Iraq.

"Hundreds of soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team were presented with that message and a re-enlistment form in a series of assemblies last Thursday, said two soldiers who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"The effort is part of a restructuring of the Army into smaller, more flexible forces that can deploy rapidly around the world...

"'They said if you refuse to re-enlist with the 3rd Brigade, we'll send you down to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, which is going to Iraq for a year, and you can stay with them, or we'll send you to Korea, or to Fort Riley (in Kansas) where they're going to Iraq,' said one of the soldiers, a sergeant."

Lou Dobbs of CNN picked up on the story interviewing retired general BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE, U.S. ARMY (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST. They got into an exchange about how the U.S. military is being held hostage; to re-enlist or else!

Whoo, they really know how to nab the veterans' vote, don't they?

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, September 16, 2004
Close, close call.   Holy crap.

Ivan the Terrible
Click to enlarge (775K). Photo: NOAA.

This Washington Post article has a terrible headline but is pretty good. It tells us that New Orleans is basically a doomed city, that it will be destroyed by a hurricane one day, that a direct hit by a Category 3-5 storm is the worst potential natural disaster in America, worse than The Big Quake in southern California, and that there could be 50,000 dead by drowning. I just hope it doesn't happen until after I'm dead.

Cocktail of the day.   What else?

This is a stealthy drink. It sneaks up on you. Cocktailwise, it's at least a Category 3, heading into Category 4 territory if you have more than one.

Hurricane Cocktail

1-1/2 ounces light rum.
1-1/2 ounces dark rum.
1 ounce orange juice.
1 ounce lime juice.
4 ounces passion fruit nectar.
2 teaspoons grenadine.

Combine ingredients in a large cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until icy cold. Half-fill a hurricane glass with ice, then strain drink into glass. Add ice to fill. Garnish with a "flag"; i.e., orange slice and cherry on a cocktail pick.

Did Kerry really vote for Bush's war?   From the Al Franken radio show weblog, via Kos:

Here's what Bush said in 2002:

Q: Mr. President, how important is it that that resolution give you an authorization of the use of force?

BUSH: That will be part of the resolution, the authorization to use force. If you want to keep the peace, you've got to have the authorization to use force. But it's -- this will be -- this is a chance for Congress to indicate support. It's a chance for Congress to say, we support the administration's ability to keep the peace. That's what this is all about.

Okay, once again:

BUSH: It's a chance for Congress to say, we support the administration's ability to keep the peace. That's what this is all about.

Remember? Bush said he wanted the authorization to use force so that he'd have a strong bargaining chip at the United Nations--and that the U.N. would get new inspectors in, and that, maybe, this would lead to Saddam disarming without a war.

That's why Kerry voted for the resolution. As he said at the time,

Let me be clear, the vote I will give to the President is for one reason and one reason only: To disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, if we cannot accomplish that objective through new, tough weapons inspections in joint concert with our allies.

And we did get new, tough weapons inspections in joint concert with our allies. And then Bush blew it by invading anyway.

It wasn't just possible to support the resolution without supporting Bush's war -- avoiding war was the specific reason Bush gave to support the resolution. There's nothing incoherent about Kerry's position. Bush blew it. The resolution had the effect (getting inspectors back in) that Kerry had intended. He was right. W was wrong.

(Oh, and when Bush's spokesman says "John Kerry voted for the war" -- it's a lie.)

Kos adds, "This whole 'flip flop' mess seems vastly misguided when Kerry's 'war vote' is seen in the proper light, doesn't it?"

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, September 14, 2004
Oh shit.   Mayor Ray Nagin has asked for a voluntary evacuation of New Orleans. My family's heading west, to the Lafayette area. I hate to wish this thing on anybody else, but I really, really hope it doesn't hit New Orleans. The Gulf Coast isn't a big bowl, like New Orleans is.

Follow hurricane news here.

Be safe, y'all.

UPDATE: -- It's looking like a hit between Gulfport and Mobile, but New Orleans is not out of the woods by any means. Hurricane force winds extend for 100 miles from the eye, and we're going to get slammed pretty good. One of my sisters, who's a nurse, has to work, so she'll be riding it out. Everyone else is already in Lafayette and environs.

From Rick, here are some quotes from tourists, from an AP story on the evacuation of New Orleans. "That city really has an effect on people," he says.

"They said get out, but I can't change my flight, so I figure I might as well enjoy myself," said George Senton, of Newark, N.J., who listened to the music (at Cafe du Monde). "At least I'll have had some good coffee and some good music before it gets me."

Tourist Dee Barkhart, a court reporter from Baltimore, was drinking Hurricane punches at Pat O'Brien's bar. She thought about leaving as the storm approached, but decided against it.

"I looked into earlier flights, but they were hundreds of dollars more and I wasn't sure I could switch flights," she said. "I figure I'm happier sitting here drinking hurricanes than sitting at the airport worrying about them."

On a single day.   Here's the text of a recitation from Christy Moore, a brilliant recording of which is included in his release of earlier this year, The Box Set: 1964-2004, recalling one day during the Irish famine, one hundred fifty-seven years ago today.

On A Single Day

A list of exports from Cork Harbour
On a single day --
The fourteenth of September, Eighteen Forty-Seven --
Ran as follows:

147 barrels of pork,
986 casks of ham,
27 sacks of bacon,
528 boxes of eggs,
1,397 firkins of butter,
477 sacks of oats,
720 sacks of flour,
380 sacks of barley,
187 head of cattle,
296 head of sheep, and
4,338 barrels of miscellaneous provisions,
On a single day,
The ships sailed out from Cork Harbour
With their bellies in the water.
On a single day in County Galway,
The great majority of the poor located there
Were in a state of starvation,
Many hourly expecting death to relieve their suffering.

On a single day,
The Lady Mayoress held a ball
At the Mansion House in Dublin
In the presence of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
Dancing continued until the early hours,
And refreshments of the most varied and sumptuous nature
Were supplied with inexhaustible profusion.
On a single day.
On a single day.

It's about time this little country of ours had a bit of peace.

Go mbeidh síocháin libh.

The web page is up!   Shout! Factory have put up a "coming soon" page for my New Orleans box set project, "Doctors, Professors, Kings & Queens: The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans". Due out on October 26th! Mark your calendars! Recipe of the day.   Last night, after an annoyingly long commute thanks to one accident (and about 11,000 stupid lookie-loos), I arrived home to the dreaded question, "So, what's for dinner?" Having made no plans whatsoever, it's time for Make A Reasonable Dinner With Whatever's On Hand In the Pantry. Turns out I had all the ingredients for an Italian classic and didn't even know it (until I did a few minutes of research).

You might think this sounds weird (Wes took one look and then thought, "Wait a minute, this smells like tuna fish"), but it's really, really good. It's even better if you use whole wheat spaghetti, in my humble opinion (and better for you, too).

If you don't want to use butter, just use all olive oil instead, but it tastes much better with the butter (and you're only getting 1/2 tablespoon per serving, which is only 1.5 Weight Watchers points; a small price to pay for the pleasure of that flavor).

Spaghetti con Tonno
(Spaghetti with Tuna)

8 ounces spaghetti (try it with whole wheat spaghetti)
6 ounces canned (or pouch) tuna
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened.
2 tablespoons good fruity extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Drain the tuna and flake it thoroughly in a large pasta bowl. Add the oil, butter and cheese and mix thoroughly, until it's evenly mixed and the tuna is finely flaked.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions, add the hot pasta to the tuna mixture and mix thoroughly, so that the tuna is evenly distributed. Season with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.

YIELD: 4 servings

I served this with some lovely green beans -- take 1 pound of fresh green beans, snap off the ends and snap them in half. Wash, then place in a bamboo steamer and set aside. Slice 1 red or yellow onion and cook over low heat in 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil until soft and caramelized, about 20-30 minutes. Thinly slice 6 cloves of garlic and add to the onions for the last 5 minutes or so, drizzling in a little more oil if necessary. When you're preparing the pasta, place the steamer on top of the pot for the last three minutes, then add the beans to the onions and garlic. Raise the heat to medium-high, add the juice of one large lemon; stir and cook until the lemon juice is somewhat reduced, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle a little more olive oil over if desired, and serve with the pasta.

Is science fiction about the future anymore?   The question is asked over at /.; I ask, was it ever, necessarily? That age-old question we've visited here and many other places: What is sf? The article referenced in the /. post tries to paint a bleak picture (although it is true that sales are slumping), but it's overwrought. Despite what Vernor Vinge describes as "The Singularity" -- i.e., a time occurring in around 15 years when "the rate of technological change has become so rapid that it will be impossible to predict what might come next" -- I think there will always be speculative fiction, or rather, fantastic fiction. The stuff in 20 years might not be what we'd expect to read nowadays, but it'll be there.

On a related note, there was an excellent article in Locus entitled "Global to Local: The Social Future as seen by six SF writers". John Shirley moderates a discussion between Cory Doctorow, Pat Murphy, Kim Stanley Robinson, Norman Spinrad, Bruce Stirling and Ken Wharton regarding, as Shirley asks, "What will life be like on a daily basis for my son and grandson?"

What's a few trillion between friends?   The Washington Post reports: "The expansive agenda President Bush laid out at the Republican National Convention was missing a price tag, but administration figures show the total is likely to be well in excess of $3 trillion over a decade."

A staple of Bush's stump speech is his claim that his Democratic challenger, John F. Kerry, has proposed $2 trillion in long-term spending, a figure the Massachusetts senator's campaign calls exaggerated. But the cost of the new tax breaks and spending outlined by Bush at the GOP convention far eclipses that of the Kerry plan.

Bush's pledge to make permanent his tax cuts, which are set to expire at the end of 2010 or before, would reduce government revenue by about $1 trillion over 10 years, according to administration estimates. His proposed changes in Social Security to allow younger workers to invest part of their payroll taxes in stocks and bonds could cost the government $2 trillion over the coming decade, according to the calculations of independent domestic policy experts.

And Bush's agenda has many costs the administration has not publicly estimated. For instance, Bush said in his speech that he would continue to try to stabilize Iraq and wage war on terrorism. The war in Iraq alone costs $4 billion a month, but the president's annual budget does not reflect that cost.


Oops. We forgot to mention that part, didn't we? Of course, we wouldn't dream of trying to deceive the American public, would we?

Heh ... le oops.   Little Mattie Drudgie tried to help out his pal Dubya by posting a 1968 document from his military file, which apparently didn't exactly have the desired effect.

Attempting to bolster President Bush as he continues to stonewall questions about his Texas Air National Guard service, Internet gossip Matt Drudge posted a 1968 document from Bush's military personnel file Monday afternoon that purports to buttress a long-ago claim by Bush that he served not only in the Texas Air National Guard but in the Air Force as well. Although this "exclusive" Drudge posting is a trivial sidebar to the larger story of Bush's absence from two years of military service, the document itself -- presumably provided to Drudge by a Republican operative -- turns out to be an incriminating piece of evidence against Bush's case.

Bush's 1978 assertion that he served in the Air Force is "an embellishment, but not a lie," one former Air Force pilot says. Yet the story soon disappeared from Bush's official biography -- perhaps the best indication of his camp's recognition that the Air Force claim stretched credulity. (Not that the story of his military life then grew more accurate: During the 2000 campaign, Bush's official bio, scrubbed and rewritten by Hughes, said he flew F-102 planes in the Guard until 1973. Of course, that's untrue: Bush walked away from flying in 1972 never to return, an event he has yet to explain.)

For example, in his 1968 statement, Bush pledged to maintain "satisfactory participation" with his Guard unit, which meant fulfilling "satisfactory performance of assigned duties at 48 scheduled inactive duty training period days and 15 days filed training annually." Failure to do so meant being transferred to active duty, and the possibility of being sent to Vietnam. But in both 1972 and 1973, Bush failed to meet that participation standard.

White House aides have pointed out that while Bush may have missed some mandatory drill dates, he made them up later, earning enough annual points for a satisfactory rating. But the makeup points he earned -- some of which appear to be highly dubious -- counted only toward his retirement benefits, not his participation ratings.

What's more, those points were based on a calendar year, from January to December, while the "satisfactory participation" requirement was based on the military's fiscal year, from July to June. And according to the Bush records released by the White House, he failed to meet the required "48 scheduled inactive duty training period days" in both 1972 and 1973. Bush showed up for duty so infrequently during those two years that his commanders couldn't complete mandatory annual ratings of his service. Yet the son of a prominent political father faced no disciplinary action.

Kerry volunteered to go to Vietnam. Bush weaseled his way out of the National Guard commitment his daddy's friends got him so that he could weasel his way out of serving in Vietnam. Now, which one seems to be a more trustworthy commander in chief? Which one seems to be a more trustworthy person?

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, September 13, 2004
It's worse than you think.   And it's getting worse every day. Don't miss the narrated photo gallery entitled "Portraits of Mourning", and the gallery entitled "Death Near Baghdad".

Meanwhile, American attack helicopters fired into a crowd on live television yesterday, killing 12 -- including an Al-Arabiya reporter. Here's the video from the BBC.

A television journalist was shot dead as he made a live broadcast from Baghdad yesterday when United States helicopters fired on a crowd that had gathered round the burning wreckage of an American armoured vehicle.

Mazen al-Tumeizi, a Palestinian working for Al-Arabiya, one of the main Arab satellite television channels, was among 12 people -- all believed to be civilians --- killed in the incident on Haifa Street.

From Le Monde:

The most serious incident yesterday took place in Haifa street, on the right bank of the Tigris. One of several US patrols is trying to locate the artillerymen who have been firing since dawn on the Green Zone. A boobytrapped car approaches a Bradley armored vehicle and explodes. The six US soliders inside, all of whom are wounded, manage to escape the burning vehicle but come under Kalachnikov fire. They withdraw. In the muzzle of the tank cannon, insurgents plant the black and yellow flag of Tawhid wal Jihad, the group led by Abu Mussab Al-Zarkaoui, a presumed Al Qaeda leader in Iraq.

Once the small arms fire ends, a crowd of curious onlookers assembles. People stare at the scene, stupefied.

Rather than sending in ground reinforcements to recover the Bradley, the US military dispatched combat helicopters. Even though by now there are only civilians in the street, some of whom are dancing and singing in celebration next to the burning hulk of the Bradley, the helicopter launches its missiles at them to "avoid looting of sensitive equipment" and to "avoid harming the Iraqi people." At the end of the day, the Iraqi Health Ministry reports 13 dead and 60 wounded in Haifa Street.

The first journalists on the scene are casualties. A correspondent for Al-Arabiya TV of Palestinian origin, Mazen al-Toumeizi, is killed while two Iraqi reporters, one a Reuters cameraman and the other a photography for the Getty agency are wounded.

Incredibly, the wire services are reporting the US gunships are launching more missles on downtown Baghdad and that a city curfew has been imposed.

I have one friend and one family member in Iraq. This is not going to make them -- or us -- any safer. As Alexander said over on Daily Kos, "Tell me again why they hate us? Oh, I remember: it's because we love freedom."

Welcome to Bush's America.   (Or, at least, Bush's Alabama, because an un-American, unconstitutional outrage like this would be highly illegal in California.)

Phil Gaddis, a factory owner in Moulton, Alabama, fired a factory worker for refusing to remove a Kerry bumpersticker from her car after he insisted she do so.

No place for politics.   Lyn says, "Read this. Now imagine it was your wife, your sister, your friend. It could happen to any woman. And realize why what the radical right wing is doing is wrong for this country, wrong for freedom, wrong for health, and most emphatically wrong for women." Amen, sister.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Saturday, September 11, 2004
Get your stories straight, eh boys?   This Knight-Ridder story examines how the so-called "Swift Boat Veterans" are now a huge political machine with a $7 million budget. It also describes how they all rehearsed their statements:

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth was registered with the IRS on April 23. Its early expenditures included money for a Dallas-area private investigator, Tom Rupprath. [SBV co-founder Roy] Hoffmann said Rupprath's job was to find vets and collect their stories so that a single account could be presented to the public.

"If everyone was saying something different it could be confusing. We wanted one version of the truth," Hoffmann said.

In other words, we needed to make sure all our bullshit stories matched.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, September 10, 2004
Jazzfest update.   Looks like Quint is safe, for this year at least. We can hope that this scares him into shaping things up, though.

After flirting with hiring a new company to produce the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the board of the foundation that owns the annual springtime event voted Thursday night to negotiate a new contract with Festival Productions Inc., the company that has produced the festival since its inception 35 years ago.

"We're delighted to have received this vote of confidence from the Board," said Quint Davis, president of Festival Productions Inc.-New Orleans and producer/director of Jazzfest, in a prepared statement. "They conducted a comprehensive national search and concluded that Festival Productions is the best company for the job. We look forward to establishing an even more productive relationship with the Board, one that allows both the Foundation and the Festival to flourish for a long time to come."

Even though Festival Productions will continue producing the event, next year's festival is likely to look and feel a bit different than in the past. More corporate sponsorship is likely, perhaps even a choosing a title sponsor that would add the term "presented by" after the Jazz and Heritage Festival name. Don Marshall, the new executive director of the foundation, would like to see changes in the layout of the festival, better facilities and a broader definition of Southern roots bands represented at the seven-day event. The nighttime concerts, a source of losses this year that weren't affected by rain, also likely will be rethought next year. Widespread marketing of the festival is likely for the first time to turn around three years of attendance declines.

The one thing I fervently hope is that they do not water down the music of the festival with mainstream pop acts just to get bodies inside the Fairgrounds. Quint ... Sting has nothing to do with either "Jazz" or "Heritage".

Uglesich's cookbook, coming soon!   It's a hole in the wall, the very definition of a dive, in a crappy neighborhood in New Orleans and only open for lunch on weekdays. It's also the home of some of the best food in the city, and deserves every bit of its legend.

It is, of course, Uglesich's, still going strong after 80 years, and with its future in doubt, interest in the restaurant has gotten rather intense.

Thousands of people have been asking for a cookbook for the unique dishes served there. In October, when the restaurant reopens after summer vacation, it'll be here.

John Uglesich, son of the couple who runs Uglesich's, doesn't work in the restaurant or cook, but now he is an integral part of the Uglesich story. John has written [the cookbook], which is as quirky as the restaurant itself. This could be the only New Orleans cookbook ever written without a single dessert recipe, since Uglesich's has never served them.

Through Uglesich's Restaurant Cookbook (Pelican Publishing Co., $24.95), the rest of the country will meet John's parents, who talk to the customers as they enter the tiny 10-table seafood restaurant. Anthony discusses orders with patrons, jots them down and gives customers handwritten numbers to hold while they await the next open table; Gail works behind him, filling drink orders.

"I think one of things people will get out of it is a better understanding of my parents," John said of his book. "It's easy to walk in and place an order and think, 'I know Anthony and Gail' ... After people read it, they will know the amount of work they've put in, and the changes they've made."

They're married to each other, he writes, but they're also both married to the restaurant.

"Uglesich's Restaurant Cookbook" tells the story of one family's evolution in local cooking and dining. This was a po-boy shop started in 1924 by a Yugoslavian immigrant who served fried egg sandwiches, the first recipe in the book, for a nickel.

When we took over, we changed," said Gail. "We kept the po-boys and fried seafood plates but put in appetizers and soups and started sauteing and grilling . . . We changed it to fit today."

Recipes for best-selling specialties such as shrimp Uggie, Paul's fantasy, and barbecue shrimp and oysters are here, along with the No. 1-selling appetizer, shrimp and grits.

Don't look for the remoulade sauce or the blue cheese dressing used on the fried oysters, though; those sauces might end up bottled. (Yay!) Ehh, I'm partial to my own remoulade sauce, anyway.

Man, October's gonna be a big month -- Uggie's cookbook, Doc's Vintage Spirits book ... oh, and my box set!

Cocktails of the day, and a rating system.   My friend Michael has been near-obsessively charting and following the path of Hurricane Ivan. I think his worry that it might actually become a Category 5 storm and hit New Orleans was beginning to get the best of him, so he began to quaff cocktails as we went along, to help assuage his nerves. He had a rather interesting choice of drinks, too -- ones with names that reflected the path of the hurricane:

Camp Grenada

1-1/2 ounces Campari.
1/2 ounce Grenadine.
2 ounce grapefruit juice.
1 ounce pineapple juice.
3 ounces chilled 7-Up.

Shake and strain into an ice-filled collins glass. Add the 7-up, garnish with fruit, and serve.

At first I thought I'd substitute club soda for the 7-Up, as I find almost all soft drinks to be way too sweet. Michael said he substituted Diet 7-Up, since that was all he had on hand, which worked well because it would definitely have been too sweet otherwise. "It was really, really good," he said. I'd recommend a diet lemon-lime soda that's sweetened with Splenda rather than the vile aspartame that Diet 7-Up uses, such as Hansen's.

When the storm moved just north of ABC -- Aruba, Bonaire and the Curaçao Islands), we got this one: "To celebrate the island of Curaçao, and address my own consternation over this huge fucking storm ..."

The Fretful Martini

3 ounces gin.
1/2 ounce blue Curaçao.
1 dash Angostura Bitters.

Shake well with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with an olive.

I'm curious to try this. Michael didn't like it, because he came to the realization that he really doesn't like Angostura Bitters (poor sod). Given the relatively poor quality of most blue Curaçaos these days, I'd be tempted to use Cointreau and a drop of blue food coloring instead.

Moving along: "Spooky, spooky hurricane. The Dominican Republic and Haiti look to be above the brunt of the winds, but the outer rain bands are beginning to give them a good soaking. In their honor, I'm going to go with my motto of 'it's always noon somehwere' and try this:"


1-1/2 ounces dark rum.
1-1/2 ounces Curaçao.
Splash fresh lemon juice.
Splash simple syrup.

Combine ingredients over ice in an Old Fashioned glass. Add a cherry and stir.

I worry this might be a bit sweet as well. It sounds good, but I'd try cutting down on the Curaçao and/or leaving out the simple syrup. (The original recipe called for 2 splashes of "Sweet and Sour Mix", but we don't recognize the existence of that bottled crapola in our world, and would in fact have made our own from fresh lemon/lime juice and simple syrup.)

Presumably we'll have something Jamaican in the next day or so. I hope everyone on that island stays safe and gets through it all right.

In the midst of all this, our friend Steve, in his continuing explorations through the world of cocktails, asked if there was a potency scale for cocktails that is similar to the one for hurricanes, measuring not sophistication of flavor but destructive potential. Here's the one I came up with:

Category 1 cocktail:
Wine-based cocktails, such as the Vermouth Cocktail, Lillet Tomlin, and any drink that has little or no spirits (only or primarily wines and liqueurs).

Category 2 cocktail:
Cocktails heavy on liqueurs, milk and/or cream; the so-called "girl drinks" or "ladies' drinks" (which can still do a lot of damage, not unlike a Category 2 hurricane with its 96-110mph winds).

Category 3 cocktail:
Classic cocktails, such as Manhattans, Martinis, Margaritas, Daiquiris, et al.

Category 4 cocktail:
Tropical drinks, tall and heavy on strong rums: Hurricane, Zombie, Scorpion, Navy Grog, et al.

Category 5 cocktail:
Any drink which is more concerned with its strength than with how it actually tastes. Any drink containing Everclear, Bacardi 151 and/or Jägermeister. Any drink invented by a college student. Skylab, Purple Jesus, Hand Grenade, and their ilk.

Michael liked my scale, but disagreed on a few things. "Mine is maybe more of a 'wussy scale' than a straight intensity scale." Here it is [my comments in brackets]:

Category 1: Drinks That Will Get You Carded
Weak, typically sweet mixed drinks popular with teens, such as Fuzzy Navels or anything where wine is the main alcohol (except "breakfast" drinks, see below).

Category 2: Girl Drink Drunk
Similar to Chuck's Category 2. Creamy drinks, often with ice cream or lots of crushed ice, that are more shake-like or milk-like than booze-like. Also "breakfast" drinks like the Mimosa and Kir Royale, which are saved from Category 1 wussiness because they are typically drank early in the day. Also most tropical drinks and daiquiris, since as typically served they hide the taste of the small amount booze included in them (but, see Category 4). ["Kids in the Hall" fans might particularly like this category.]

Category 3: Basic Mixed Drinks
This is what most people think of when they think of a mixed drink, with between 1/3 - 1/2 distilled spirits (80-100 proof) and the rest some type of mixer. Jack and Coke, gin and tonic, screwdrivers, margaritas, etc. [I must note that although this category would include Margaritas as made at most establishments, a real Margarita belongs in category 4, as it is meat to be a proper cocktail consiting of tequila, Cointreau and fresh lemon/lime juice only, and no feckin' bottled mix.]

Category 4: Moderate Destruction Cocktails
Cocktails that are mostly distilled spirits (80 to 100 proof), typically served up and chilled. The Martini, the Gibson, the Manhattan, etc. I'll also include strong tropical drinks here. If you can taste the rum through all the sweetness, it will definitely lead to Moderate Destruction. I'll even include the Skylab here.

Category 5: Extreme Destruction Cocktails
Similar to Chuck's Category 5. Stupid cocktails that aren't intended to taste good but are simply intended to get you very drunk, very fast. The booze equivalent of Dave's Insanity Sauce.

We could be on to something here. First the Richter Scale, then the Scoville Scale, now the Taggart-Pemberton Scale?

UPDATE: Now that the hurricane has continued to move: "I feel awful for the people in Jamaica, having a Category 4 storm hit an island in the middle of the night is truly a nightmare.

"To mark the approach of the one-eyed monster, I'm going to try a Jamaican Cyclops."

3 ounces gin.
Splash of Jamaican rum.
Splash of red wine.
A few dashes of orange bitters.

Shake over ice, serve up in a chilled cocktail glass with a cherry garnish (that's the "one eye" bit).

Like Ivan, I'd call it a strong Category 4, but with signs of weakening (from the wine). I just made this up, so it has a good chance of being awful.

Caveat imbibor.

Bush smears Jesus.   Well, not yet, but he would if he were running for president. Via Atrios ... and who knew MAD magazine was doin' stuff this political, and this funny?

Bush vs. Jesus

Debunking wingnut claims.   Hunter, at Daily Kos, just about completely takes apart claims that the Texas ANG documents are forgeries.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, September 9, 2004
"This is not America. This is not my home."   Bob Harris talks about his flight back to the U.S. from Istanbul, where he was pulled from line before boarding, body-searched and detained, for no apparent reason.

White House lied, covered up documents; Bush AWOL.   Surprise.

Kos reports:

"For the past several months, the White House has claimed it had released all relevant documents pertaining to Bush's military records in response to the Associated Press' Freedom of Information Act request for the materials.

"Well, at one point they claimed a fire had destroyed a good many of the records, but dogged persistance by the AP's lawyers turned up most of the disputed docs. But not all. Amongst the documents the White House swore up and down didn't exist -- two documents released hours after tonight's 60 Minutes report.

The White House released memos Wednesday night saying that George W. Bush was suspended from flying fighter jets for failing to meet standards of the Texas Air National Guard.
"Oops. Busted.

"So what goods did 60 Minutes have on Bush?

  • "A memo ordering Bush to take a physical.

  • "A memo discussing 'options of how Bush can get out of coming to drill from now through November.' And that due to other commitments 'he may not have time.'

  • "A document suspending Bush for 'failure to perform to U.S. Air Force/Texas Air National Guard standards and for failure to take his annual physical as ordered.'

  • "A memo from Bush's squadron commander where 'he is being pressured by higher-ups to give the young pilot a favorable yearly evaluation; to, in effect, sugarcoat his review. He refuses, saying, "I'm having trouble running interference and doing my job."'

"And while Republicans are working to discredit Ben Barnes, who admitted to pulling strings to get rich-boy Bush into the guard (at the expense of some poor shlub who was instead sent to Vietnam in his place), the records are much tougher to fight off.

"For example, the Bush campaign has argued that Bush didn't need to report for the physical, since he was no longer on flight status. The document ordering him to report for the physical directly contradicts their excuses.

"Meanwhile, the flight suspension was ordered for more than just missing the physical, but for 'failure to perform to (USAF/TexANG) standards.'

Larry Korb, an assistant Secretary of Defense under President Reagan has reviewed the Mr. Bush's record and believes he did not fulfill his contract.

"Essentially, Bush gamed the system to avoid serving his country the way that most of his contemporaries had to," Korb said.

"It's time for Bush's backers to admit reality -- their Golden Boy shirked his duty to his nation. These slime dare question Kerry's Vietnam heroism, while their own boy was playing pool volleyball with 'ambitious secretaries'.

"And let's not forget that Bush was supposed to finish out his Guard duty when he took off for Harvard business school. He claimed he 'worked things out with the military'. But the Boston Globe exposed that lie Wednesday morning:

On July 30, 1973, shortly before he moved from Houston to Cambridge, Bush signed a document that declared, ''It is my responsibility to locate and be assigned to another Reserve forces unit or mobilization augmentation position. If I fail to do so, I am subject to involuntary order to active duty for up to 24 months... " Under Guard regulations, Bush had 60 days to locate a new unit.

But Bush never signed up with a Boston-area unit. In 1999, Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett told the Washington Post that Bush finished his six-year commitment at a Boston area Air Force Reserve unit after he left Houston. Not so, Bartlett now concedes. ''I must have misspoke," Bartlett, who is now the White House communications director, said in a recent interview [...]

"The Ben Barnes thing is subject to debate, and partisans will line up on the obvious sides (like they have with the Swift Boat Liars). But the official documents uncovered by 60 Minutes (despite the White House's attempt to cover them up)? There's no way to spin those away. The facts are there in black and white."

[Back to Chuck] ... I just heard a Bush official speaking on NPR, calling all this "dirty politics" on behalf of the Kerry campaign. "Dirty politics?" This coming from BushCo? Whoever said that must have a pair of brass balls the size of basketballs; it's the encyclopaaedic definition of pot, kettle, black.

False vs. true.   Via Josh, "a sage piece of commentary from Kevin Drum that shouldn't get lost in the mix":

This story is a perfect demonstration of the difference between the Swift Boat controversy and the National Guard controversy. Both are tales from long ago and both are related to Vietnam, but the documentary evidence in the two cases is like night and day. In the Swift Boat case, practically every new piece of documentary evidence indicates that Kerry's accusers are lying. Conversely, in the National Guard case, practically every new piece of documentary evidence provides additional confirmation that the charges against Bush are true.
"That really is the heart of the matter," says Josh. "But in telling fashion it's a distinction many miss." Josh has had excellent coverage on all these developing issues, so head on over to his site and read it all ... including these comments from one of his readers, who acknowledges that even though the Bush service allegations now appear to be true, they're a losing issue for the Dems, and that Kerry needs to hammer home these points:

1. Bush is A TERRIBLE LEADER IN THE "WAR ON TERROR". He has failed in the hunt for Osama, misdeployed resources, and put off allies who are key to our long-term success against terrorism. Look beyond the macho swagger of Bush and see that he is completely screwing up this incredibly important long-term battle.

2. Bush and the neocon puppet masters deceived the nation into Iraq, then completely blew the execution of a horrible war, costing us more than a thousand soldiers and billions of dollars, killing countless innocent Iraqis, and creating a disastrous and extremely dangerous situation for America for years to come.

3. Bush has blown the economy.

4. Kerry is the man to put America and the world on course for a better future.

"Kerry must not only make these points," he says, "he must be pissed off about them."

Chicken George.   Heh. Via Atrios:

So, Bush is scared to face questions by regular folks because some of them may come from "partisan" people. What does this tell us?

First, it reaffirms what we know -- that his audiences and their questions are pre-screened.

Second, it reaffirms that Chicken George is indeed a chicken, frightened of the people he's supposed to govern.

And, finally, it tells us that Chicken George is scared the people will ask him tougher questions than the press corps will.

This is the man who's supposedly tough enough to win "the war on terra", to protect us from terrorists? Apparently he doesn't believe he can even protect himself from hardball questions.

George Bush by the numbers.   From the UK Independent, four years of double standards:

$50 million Amount granted to the commission that looked into the Columbia space shuttle crash.

$5 million Amount a 1996 federal commission was given to study legalised gambling

$3 million Amount the White House was willing to grant the 9/11 Commission to investigate the 11 September attacks.

We'll revisit some of these other numbers periodically.

Are you better off now than you were four years ago?   Well, are you? Let's look at the charts:

Doesn't look like, does it? (Via Mike)

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, September 8, 2004
Coward.   Bush is apparently afraid to debate John Kerry three times, and weasels out of the second scheduled debate, which was to take place with a town meeting format in the battleground state of Missouri. His handlers are well aware that the empty suit will collapse if people get to ask him real questions.

Jazzfest at the crossroads.   More on this week's decision by the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation regarding who will produce Jazzfest next year. It's potentially a huge deal, as this is the city's biggest (and signature) festival. My big hope is that it doesn't end up as a pissing contest between the foundation and the new producers, and that whatever changes are made aren't too jarring to those of us who've lived and breathed Jazzfest for many years. Certainly Quint Davis and Festival Productions could have done lots of things better, but it's an inherent quality in many New Orleanians to be instantly suspicious of change.

As the producer of Jazzfest for more than three decades, Davis has emerged as the festival's public face. Often seen clad in eye-popping shirts bearing images of Bob Marley or some other music icon, he is omnipresent during Jazzfest week -- appearing on television, hustling around the Fair Grounds in a golf cart, announcing artists on the main Acura Stage. His vast network of contacts and friendships, forged over nearly four decades of producing festivals and tours around the globe, has informed every Jazzfest.

Some prominent musicians say they cannot conceive of Jazzfest without Davis.

"I don't think it would be Jazzfest," said Art Neville, keyboardist of the funky Meters and the Neville Brothers. "I don't see how you could have it without Quint and his people. He's part of the beginning of this thing. It's New Orleans history."

For more than 15 years, the Radiators have closed out Jazzfest on its final Sunday opposite the Fair Grounds infield from the Neville Brothers.

"Quint has been a champion for New Orleans music in general and the Radiators in particular," the band's Dave Malone said. "He (helped) start Jazzfest to resurrect the careers of people whose careers had pretty much gone away. I can't even fathom what it would be like without Quint's involvement."

We find out tomorrow.

Room at the tomb.   This is an extremely cool story -- jazz musician Paul Barbarin, whose family have been a longtime musical dynasty in New Orleans, has granted access to their family tomb to local musicians -- rich or poor -- who want to be buried there.

"People just want to do something for musicians who have done so much for the city," said Rob Florence, president of the preservation group Friends of New Orleans Cemeteries ...

"If you're from New Orleans, you want to be buried in New Orleans," said [Ernie K-Doe's] widow Antoinette, who operates K-Doe's namesake bar. "It's good to have the musicians buried in one place so people don't have to go all over to look for them."

Vocalist Lloyd Washington will be the first to be interred in the musicians' tomb after it's dedicated next month. "He was an early supporter of the idea, performing at a benefit last year where revelers tossed cash into a velvet and sequined coffin that half a dozen 'pallbearers' paraded across the dance floor." Only in New Orleans ...

Another way to help New Orleans' musicians.   The first way, obviously, is to go out and see and hear lots and lots of live music in New Orleans -- this puts money in the musicians' pockets and food on their tables. Another way is to keep in mind that almost none of these people, our city's most precious living cultural resource, have health insurance.

The New Orleans Musicians' Clinic is a non-profit occupational medicine and wellness partnership offering comprehensive health care to our musicians. It's the first of its kind in the U.S., providing care for over 800 musicians and their families. Visit the web site for more information and, especially, to make a donation.

The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick,   by R. Crumb (via Brendan)

"Philip K. Dick was a writer of science fiction. In 1982 he died suddenly of a stroke. His books often dealt with the illusory quality of reality as we know it. In March 1974 Dick saw what he later described as 'a vision of the apocalypse,' and spent the rest of his life trying to understand what he had experienced. Was it the onset of acute schizophrenia, or was it a genuine mystic revelation, and then again, is there any difference??"
Not your average comic.

The Curse of Dick Cheney.   A Rolling Stone article, via BoingBoing, who say, "This profile of Cheney is frightening. The only hope it offers is that every President to have Cheney involved in its adminitration has failed to be re-elected. I knew the guy was bad, but if all the allegations in this article are true, he's singlehandedly hamstrung all the offices of the military and intelligence in the US:"

Over at Defense, competent intelligence professionals were purged in order to ease the way to war. Douglas Feith, brought in under Rumsfeld to serve as undersecretary of defense for policy, applied an ideological test to his staff: He didn't want competence; he wanted fervor. Col. Pat Lang, a Middle East expert who served under five presidents, Republican and Democratic, in key posts in military intelligence, recalls being considered for a job at the Pentagon. During the job interview, Feith scanned Lang's impressive resume. "I see you speak Arabic," Feith said. When Lang nodded, Feith said, "Too bad," and dismissed him.
Mini-quote of the day -- Gen. Tommy Franks, referring to Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, quoted by Bob Woodward in his book Plan of Attack:

I have to deal with the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth almost every day.

Quote of the day.   What would it be like to have an articulate president, I wonder?

I wasn't surprised by Bush's economic policies, but I was surprised by the foreign policy, and I think he was, too. The real distinction of this Presidency is that, at its core, he is a very weak man. He projects himself as incredibly strong, but behind closed doors he is incapable of saying no to his biggest financial supporters and his coalition in the Oval Office. He's been shockingly malleable to Cheney and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and the whole New American Century bunch. He was rolled in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. He was too weak to resist it.

I'm not of the school that questions his intelligence. There are different kinds of intelligence, and it's arrogant for a person with one kind of intelligence to question someone with another kind. He certainly is a master at some things, and he has a following. He seeks strength in simplicity. But, in today's world, that's often a problem. I don't think that he's weak intellectually. I think that he is incurious. It's astonishing to me that he'd spend an hour with his incoming Secretary of the Treasury and not ask him a single question. But I think his weakness is a moral weakness. I think he is a bully, and, like all bullies, he's a coward when confronted with a force that he's fearful of.

His reaction to the extravagant and unbelievably selfish wish list of the wealthy interest groups that put him in the White House is obsequious. The degree of obsequiousness that is involved in saying "yes, yes, yes, yes, yes" to whatever these people want, no matter the damage and harm done to the nation as a whole, that can come only from genuine moral cowardice. I don't see any other explanation for it, because it's not a question of principle. The only common denominator is each of the groups has a lot of money that they're willing to put in service to his political fortunes and their ferocious and unyielding pursuit of public policies that benefit them at the expense of the nation.

-- Al Gore, The New Yorker, issue of September 13, 2004.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, September 7, 2004
Quote of the day: Vote for us or die.   Cheney actually says it:

It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States.
Uh, excuse me, you son of a bitch -- as I recall, 9/11 happened on your and your boss' watch.

TBogg sums it up thusly: "Nice country you got there. Be a shame if anything happened to it."

How does one describe this kind of behavior? Let's check Messrs. Merriam and Webster, shall we?

Pronunciation: 'ter-&r-"i-z&m
Function: noun
: the systematic use of terror -- a state of intense fear -- especially as a means of coercion
He's not hurling bombs (other than verbal ones) but his behavior certainly seems intended to create a state of fear as a means of coercion, doesn't it? As one of Atrios' commenters put it: "It's time for the electorate to let Mr. Cheney know that the United States does not negotiate with terrorists."

Kos says, "Candidates that expect to win don't resort to such fear mongering. They're still running scared." They're scaring me too, not by making me afraid of terrorists with this bullshit, but afraid of them. They will say anything and do anything to stay in power. I shudder to think what they'll try next. Keep 'em scared, just like Goering said.

For these men I have naught but a great and terrible loathing ...

Zoinks.   Grenada's getting slammed.

Hope or rage?   In his column today, Andrew Tobias points out the differences between the keynote addresses at the two political conventions this summer:

It's very "last week" -- and the Bush bounce is already pretty well gone (that was fast) -- but did you actually see Zell Miller's speech at the Convention? It was noteworthy because it was billed as the KEYNOTE address, just as Barack Obama's was in Boston five weeks before. But where Barack's was filled with hope and inspiration for the future, Zell's was so angry it wasn't just angry or even angry, it was scare-the-children, purple with RAGE.

Because (as Jon Stewart so aptly put it), after four years of controlling the White House and Congress and the Supreme Court, they have a lot to be angry about, and not gonna take it anymore!

How dare anyone run for president against George W. Bush ... a man who has lost more jobs on his watch than any president since Herbert Hoover, who has rolled back environmental regulation and fought to impede stem cell research here at home and around the world. A man who played right into the hands of Osama bin Laden by (a) ignoring all the warnings he was given, beginning at Blair House January 7, 2001 ("a tremendous, immediate" threat to the United States); (b) letting bin Laden get away when we had the chance to kill or capture him at Tora Bora; and (c) inflaming much of the Middle East (thereby helping to recruit thousands of new terrorists) by rushing into war in Iraq without adequate world support and without a plan to win the peace. How dare the Democrats want a change, Zell seemed to be asking.

And then, a little later, he challenged CNBC's Chris Matthews to a duel. (I assume you know this, but in case you missed it, I am not making it up.)

The Republicans want this guy? Hey -- take him!

Speaking of "The Daily Show", Jon Stewart thoroughly and hilariously shredded Miller the other day. I'm sorry I missed it live, but we can all (and must all) watch it now.

Atrios slaps some sense into us.   I was surprised as anyone to find myself reposting quotes from Andrew Sullivan twice in the last week. However, Atrios reminds us what Sullivan's really made of:

Look, there are moderates and open minded Republicans whose opinions we can respect and whose opposition to the Bush administration is more than welcome, but Andrew Sullivan is not one of those people. Andrew Sullivan is one of those people who, as Charles Pierce has suggested, should simply be shunned by all decent people.

In the immediate aftermath of September 11th, Sullivan wrote this:

The middle part of the country -- the great red zone that voted for Bush -- is clearly ready for war. The decadent Left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead - and may well mount what amounts to a fifth column.

This is something he's so proud of that he's included it in the "greatest hits" section of his blog.

Sullivan was literally concerned that the "decadent Left" was plotting treason against the country, desiring to aid and abet terrorists. And, with this began the mission by armchair warriors everywhere to do what they imagined was their duty -- to hunt down and destroy anyone who was insufficiently enthusiastic about whatever the latest Bush administration policy was. This warblogger mission was, in their eyes, a noble mission. At least as noble as, say, enlisting. Thus began the process of the marginalization of anyone who would seriously question the course of this "war on terror." Disagreement with the Bush administration became disagreement with "America." People who were "anti Bush" became "anti America" and "pro terrorist."

You reap what you sow. If the patriotically correct police had been a bit more concerned with the actual battle against terrorism, instead of whatever Susan Sontag wrote that week, they may have noticed that the administration was diverting money and resources away from Afghanistan and towards Iraq. They may have noticed that the desire to go to war in Iraq -- something the warbloggers such as Sullivan who, having been disappointed by the premature ejaculation of the conflict in Afghanistan eagerly joined -- would ensure that their first pet war would be a disaster both for us and for the people of Afghanistan.

Then we got to pet war two. Sullivan and ilk called us appeasers...


Quote of the day, second string.   This was the QOTD, until Dick's knocked it over. Still, what the f- ?!

But let me tell you what else we need to do. We need to do something about these frivolous lawsuits that are running up the cost of your health care and running good docs out of business. We've got an issue in America. Too many good docs are getting out of business. Too many OB/GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country. See, I don't think you can be pro-doctor and pro-patient and pro-hospital and pro-trial lawyer at the same time. (Applause.) I think you've got to make a choice. My opponent made his choice, and he put him on the ticket. I made my choice. I'm for medical liability reform now. In all we do to improve health care, we will make sure that health decisions are made by doctors and patients, not by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.

-- George W. Bush, Poplar Bluff, Missouri, September 6, 2004.

Oooo-kayyy ... obstetricians and gynecologists are unable to practice their love on the ladies because of trial lawyers like John Edwards? Via MeFi, here's the only appropriate response.

However, as Kos points out, Mel Martinez, Bush's hand-picked Senate candidate in Florida, is a trial lawyer. Remember, it's okay if you're a Republican!

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Saturday, September 4, 2004
Denying our troops a secret ballot.   Just what the fuck is going on in this country?

Members of the military will be allowed to vote this year by faxing or e-mailing their ballots -- after waiving their right to a secret ballot. Beyond this fundamentally undemocratic requirement, the Electronic Transmission Service, as it's known, has far too many problems to make it reliable, starting with the political partisanship of the contractor running it. The Defense Department is making matters worse by withholding basic information about the service, and should suspend it immediately.

The Defense Department is encouraging soldiers to use absentee ballots or fax votes directly to local officials, when possible. But it also provides an alternative: Omega Technologies, a private contractor, will accept soldiers' faxed and e-mailed ballots on a toll-free line, and then send them to the appropriate local elections office. Handling ballots is always sensitive, but especially so when, as in this program, they are not secret. An obvious concern is that votes for a particular candidate could be reported lost in transit, or altered.

Omega Technologies is not an acceptable choice to run the program. Its chief executive, Patricia Williams, has donated $6,600 in this election cycle to the National Republican Congressional Committee, and serves on the committee's Business Advisory Council. And while everything about the conduct of elections should be open to public scrutiny, Omega is far too secretive. In an interview, Ms. Williams refused to say who would handle military votes, and whether they could engage in partisan politics. "I will not allow the public to invade the privacy of the employees of Omega," she said.


I cannot believe that any conscience-bearing Bush voter or undecided voter could possibly think this is acceptable or right.

Setting (bad) records.   Molly Ivins, points out some records:

We have already lost more American soldiers (488) in Iraq in 239 days of this year than we did in 287 days last year (482), when there was a war on and before our mission was accomplished.

The grind of the numbers is so relentless. Price of oil -- pressing $50 a barrel. Poverty rate -- increased again, third year in a row. Number of Americans without insurance .-- increased again, third year. Part of the "vibrant economy" Bush touts daily now. And the news from Iraq just keeps getting worse and worse.

Then ...

Unnumbered weirdness by John Ashcroft (it's too hard to keep count): The Department of Justice has asked the Government Printing Office "to instruct depository libraries to destroy five publications the department has deemed 'not appropriate for external use.'" Of the five publications, two are texts of federal laws. They are to be removed from libraries and destroyed, making their content available only to those with access to a law office or law library, according to the American Library Association. All the documents concern either federal civil or criminal forfeiture procedure, including to how to reclaim items that have been confiscated by the government during an investigation.

I don't know how you feel about living in a country where the citizens are not allowed to read the law, but I find it ... surprising.

I don't find it surprising, coming from these people. What I find it is un-American.

Fire them. Make it a landslide.

Pay attention, veterans (especially wounded and disabled ones).   Here are what the Republicans apparently think of your Purple Heart -- click image to enlarge (via Atrios):

"Mary", posting in Atrios' comments thread about this, says she received this from a largely apolitical friend the other day:

My father earned a bronze star in WWII for his service in the Philippines. When he finally returned home after two years in combat, a desk jockey in New Jersey denied him and his men a pass to return home for Christmas. Dad scooped up a bunch of passes and sent his men home for the weekend; they all reported back for service. AWOL charges against Dad were dismissed, especially due to his exemplary combat record. I have never forgotten that someone who put his life on the line for this country had to deal with an officious person who spent the war in the comfort of home, a person who valued protocol over people.

The Republicans in power have systematically attacked all veterans who stood in their way. John McCain was attacked. Max Cleland was attacked. John Kerry was attacked. All three men served with honor; all three men paid a personal and a political price.

George Bush's father served as a combat pilot in WWII. When questions arose about his service in the war during the 1988 race, the Democratic nominee, Michael Dukakis, squelched the attacks. He was repaid for this honorable gesture with the Willie Horton attack ads. During Vietnam, George W. Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard. His records of service are spotty at best and there are no fellow servicemen rushing to his support, but he served. John McCain is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, saying that we should not make Vietnam an issue in this campaign. Amen. No one has more right to say that than Sen. McCain. Still the attacks and their repercussions persist at a time when the real issues (national security, economy) are being ignored.

Mary adds, "This is from a guy who ordinarily would support a Bush platform -- ex-military, fiercly Catholic. The Rethug tactic will backfire."

Listen, veterans and servicemembers -- these people don't give a shit about you, your service, your wounds, your needs, your life. They'll use you as necessary to remain in power, and that's all.

Still undecided?

UPDATE, 9/5: Atrios posts: "1,100 wounded in Iraq in August. One doesn't know what wounded means, exactly, but we know that it's frequently quite bad. Amputations. Blinding. Brain Damage." And the Republicans pictured above mock such injuries and maiming with Purple Heart Band-Aids.

"Ownership" society.   In email this morning Steve said, "I think I've figured out what the Republicans mean when they talk about creating an "ownership" society. They say they want people to own their own health care, own their own Social Security. But what they're really saying is, if you need help of any kind in any way, hey, you're on your own!"

Editorial from the Los Angeles Times:

After 27 years of work, Dave Parker lost his job at a small electronics sales firm in Orange in October 2001. A 1986 federal law called COBRA, requiring insurers to continue offering employer-based coverage to employees who have lost their jobs, kept Parker's insurer from dropping him. But that didn't stop the insurer from "customizing" his policy to address his heart condition -- a personal touch that boosted his premiums by 39%. Later, his premiums soared further, and this year his insurer doubled his co-payments and raised his premiums by an additional 16%.

Welcome to President Bush's ideal of "added choice" in healthcare.


Another Steven replied, "There's another more political aspect to Bush's "ownership." By shifting people off the Social Security and Medicare rolls (I guess you could call it "outsourcing" them) it turns from them from universal entitlements -- very hard to dismantle, because just about everyone feels a connection to them -- to "special interest" programs. Given all the times the GOP compared W to FDR, it's perhaps ironic that his big domestic initiative could change the New Deal to No Deal.

But then, what do you expect from a man who called Zell Miller a "discerning" Democrat?"

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, September 3, 2004
Cocktail of the day.   Christ, I need a drink.

Chuck's Basic Old Fashioned

Assemble ingredients and build:

Heavy-bottomed double Old Fashioned (rocks) glass.
3 ounces rye whiskey (you may substitute Bourbon).
1/2 - 1 teaspoon sugar syrup, according to taste.
3 dashes Angostura bitters.
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters.
1 dash orange bitters.

Stir. Add Maraschino cherry with stem, optionally
garnish with orange slice. Quaff.

Then make another one.

Complex facts, shmomplex facts.   Steve opined in email as to how Shrub plans to stimulate the economy -- by causing a boost in TV sales after millions of people like our friend Rick put their foot through the screen after watching his convention speech. (Wes recommends the latest Panasonic flat-screen plasma models.)

Calvin Woodward of the Associated Press offers an excellent critique of said speech.

President Bush's boast of a 30-member-strong coalition in Iraq masked the reality that the United States is bearing the overwhelming share of costs, in lives and troop commitments. And in claiming to have routed most al-Qaida leaders, he did not mention that the big one got away.

Bush's acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention on Thursday night brought the nation a collection of facts that told only part of the story, hardly unusual for this most political of occasions.

He took some license in telling Americans that Democratic opponent John Kerry "is running on a platform of increasing taxes."

Kerry would, in fact, raise taxes on the richest 2 percent of Americans as part of a plan to keep the Bush tax cuts for everyone else and even cut some of them more. That's not exactly a tax-increase platform.

And on education, Bush voiced an inherent contradiction, dating back to his 2000 campaign, in stating his stout support for local control of education, yet promising to toughen federal standards that override local decision-making.

"We are insisting on accountability, empowering parents and teachers, and making sure that local people are in charge of their schools," he said, on one hand. Yet, "we will require a rigorous exam before graduation."

On Iraq, Bush derided Kerry for devaluing the alliance that drove out Saddam Hussein and is trying to rebuild the country. "Our allies also know the historic importance of our work," Bush said. "About 40 nations stand beside us in Afghanistan, and some 30 in Iraq."

But the United States has more than five times the number of troops in Iraq than all the other countries put together. And, with 976 killed, Americans have suffered nearly eight times more deaths than the other allies combined.

Bush aggressively defended progress in Afghanistan, too. "Today, the government of a free Afghanistan is fighting terror, Pakistan is capturing terrorist leaders ... and more than three-quarters of al-Qaida's key members and associates have been detained or killed. We have led, many have joined, and America and the world are safer."

Nowhere did Bush mention Osama bin Laden, nor did he account for the replacement of killed and captured al al-Qaida leaders by others.

Nothing but the same old story. Get rid of him.

Weasel.   (Via Kevin) The Bush campaign seems well-aware that their candidate runs on zero substance -- they appear to be weaseling out of a third debate with John Kerry, and so far are agreeing to only two. Kerry says he's willing to debate every week.

More speech analysis.   Plenty to do today. For starters, here's a reality check from the Post:

[Bush] offered an idea that had been proposed by Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards: targeted tax breaks for geographical areas hit hard by difficult economic times.

But some of Bush's proposals, including revisions to the Social Security system and new types of "lifetime savings accounts," have been gathering dust for years. Some daunting barriers stand between the president and what he has dubbed his "ownership society," including a record budget deficit and rancorous partisanship in Washington.

... Revising the Social Security system to give younger Americans the option of investing part of their tax contribution would be the most dramatic piece of his second-term domestic agenda. "We must strengthen Social Security by allowing young workers to save some of their taxes in a personal account," Bush said in his prepared speech, "a nest egg you can call your own and government can never take away."

But Bush pledged to seek adoption of that proposal four years ago, and so far it has gone nowhere because of strong political resistance.

Bush's plan to create personal investment accounts to augment the existing system would require the diversion of some Social Security payroll taxes that otherwise would have gone to existing retirees and other beneficiaries. Given his promise not to cut those benefits, that diversion will have to be made up, probably through borrowing that would only add enormously to the government's $4.3 trillion public debt.

In other words ... uh, I don't think so, no.

Here I go, quoting Sullivan again, about whom Kos says "his transformation into a Democrat fascinates me"):

I look forward to someone adding it all up, but it's easily in the trillions. And Bush's astonishing achievement is to make the case for all this new spending, at a time of chronic debt (created in large part by his profligate party), while pegging his opponent as the "tax-and-spend" candidate. The chutzpah is amazing. At this point, however, it isn't just chutzpah. It's deception. To propose all this knowing full well that we cannot even begin to afford it is irresponsible in the deepest degree. I've said it before and I'll say it again: the only difference between Republicans and Democrats now is that the Bush Republicans believe in Big Insolvent Government and the Kerry Democrats believe in Big Solvent Government. By any measure, that makes Kerry -- especially as he has endorsed the critical pay-as-you-go rule on domestic spending -- easily the choice for fiscal conservatives.
And Saletan at Slate:

For $2.4 trillion, guess what word -- other than "a," "and," and "the" -- occurs most frequently in the acceptance speech George W. Bush delivered tonight.

The word is "will." It appears 76 times. This was a speech all about what Bush will do, and what will happen, if he becomes president.

Except he already is president. He already ran this campaign. He promised great things. They haven't happened. So, he's trying to go back in time. He wants you to see in him the potential you saw four years ago. He can't show you the things he promised, so he asks you to envision them. He asks you to be "optimistic." He asks you to have faith [...]

Recession. Unemployment. Corporate fraud. A war based on false premises that has cost us $200 billion and nearly a thousand American lives. They're all hills we've "been given to climb." It's as though Bush wasn't president. As though he didn't get the tax cuts he wanted. As though he didn't bring about postwar Iraq and authorize the planning for it. All this was "given," and now Bush can show up, three and a half years into his term, and start solving the problems some other president else left behind.

Who's still undecided?

Debunking Republican bullshit.   Courtesy of Hesiod:

1. John Kerry's Defense Defense: Setting his voting record straight -- Fred Kaplan.

2. Bush Insults Kerry's Intelligence: The president's latest attack is even more dishonest than the last -- Fred Kaplan.

3. More Bush Distortions of Kerry Defense Record --

4. Did Kerry Oppose Tanks & Planes? Not Lately --

5. Claim: Senator John Kerry "voted to kill every military appropriation for the development and deployment of every weapons systems since 1988." Status: False --

Have fun!

More from Howard Kurtz at the Post:

What should the press do when a convention speaker stands up and hurls charges that are somewhere between exaggerated and false? ... [I]sn't it part of the journalistic mission to provide a reality check?

Zell Miller provided a classic test case... "In their warped way of thinking, America is the problem, not the solution. They don't believe there's any real danger in the world except that which America brings upon itself through our clumsy and misguided foreign policy."

Really? Didn't Clinton send troops to Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo? Didn't most Democrats vote to support the Iraq war?

"Senator Kerry has made it clear that he would use military force only if approved by the United Nations."

Yes, Kerry did say that -- to the Harvard Crimson back in 1971. He's long since repudiated the remark.

"Kerry would let Paris decide when America needs defending."

I don't even know what to say about that. French President Jacques Chirac with a veto over Kerry administration policy? I must have dozed off when Kerry mentioned that in one of his speeches.

Saletan, in Slate:

If the convention speeches are any guide, Republicans have run out of excuses for blowing the economy, blowing the surplus, and blowing our military resources and moral capital in the wrong country. So they're going after the patriotism of their opponents. Here's what the convention keynoter, Miller, said about Democrats and those who criticize the way President Bush has launched and conducted the Iraq war:

"While young Americans are dying in the sands of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrats' manic obsession to bring down our Commander-in-Chief. Motivated more by partisan politics than by national security, today's Democratic leaders see America as an occupier, not a liberator." ...

Every one of these charges is demonstrably false. When Bush addressed Congress after 9/11, Democrats embraced and applauded him. In the Afghan war, they gave him everything he asked for. Most Democratic senators, including John Kerry and John Edwards, voted to give him the authority to use force in Iraq. During and after the war, they praised Iraq's liberation. Kerry has never said that any other country should decide when the United States is entitled to defend itself.

But the important thing isn't the falsity of the charges, which Republicans continue to repeat despite press reports debunking them. The important thing is that the GOP is trying to quash criticism of the president simply because it's criticism of the president. The election is becoming a referendum on democracy.

Jonathan Cohn, in The New Republic:

A critic could credibly describe Senator Zell Miller's speech to the Republican Convention as angry, misleading, or both. But to dwell on either the tone or veracity of Miller's text somehow misses the point given the scene that unfolded at Madison Square Garden last night. In an address originally billed as a critique of John Kerry's national security credentials, Miller essentially branded the Democrats as traitors because they haven't fallen in line with President Bush on all matters of national security. It was one of the most vile political speeches in recent American history, every bit as offensive as Pat Buchanan's infamous call in 1992 for "religious war" and, perhaps, a little more disturbing. Buchanan's speech, after all, was an assault on decency. Last night Miller declared war on democracy.

For several days now, Republicans have hammered away at John Kerry's qualifications to be commander-in-chief, arguing that he's too indecisive, too dishonest, or simply too wimpy to keep the country safe from terrorists. And make no mistake: That's a perfectly legitimate claim to make in a presidential campaign, whether you agree with it or not. Indeed, arguing over which presidential candidate would do a better job of protecting America is precisely the argument America should be having this year...

Never mind all the inconvenient facts that get in the way of that narrative, like the fact that Democrats actually showed Bush enormous deference after 9/11, bestowing bipartisan support upon both the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq. (Remember, it was precisely Democrats' acquiescence to the Iraq war that fueled Howard Dean's insurgency.) And never mind that, on those occasions when Democrats did fight the president, it was precisely because Democrats believed their approach (spending more on homeland defense, using ground troops in Tora Bora, building a stronger international coalition, etc.) would actually make America safer.

Hesiod offers yet more, from The Daily Howler, catching Zell-nut in another "flight of hypocritical fancy."

How completely did Miller deceive them? Laughably, he scolded Kerry for "trying to shut down" the Apache helicopter -- which Dick Cheney, then Secretary of Defense, tried to shut down in 1989! Here's a bit of Senate testimony from August 13 of that year:

CHENEY (8/13/89): The Army, as I indicated in my earlier testimony, recommended to me that we keep a robust Apache helicopter program going forward, AH-64.I forced the Army to make choices. I said, "You can't have all three. We don't have the money for all three." So I recommended that we cancel the AH-64 program two years out.

That's our Zell! He ridiculed Kerry for opposing a system that Cheney himself tried to stamp out! But so what? Cheering delegates didn't know that. They were being entertained by our biggest fake, and mere facts wouldn't mar his performance.

As Hesiod said, "Priceless. Truly priceless."

Pay attention, undecideds.

Shrub's missing year.   Via Salon: The widow of a Bush family confidant says her husband gave the future president an Alabama Senate campaign job as a favor to his worried father. Did they see him do any National Guard service? "Good lord, no."

Untrue lies.   Like a good Republican, Arnold Schwarzenegger is making shit up too. In the aftermath of a ridiculous convention speech full of stupid lines from his movies instead of real issues, he's being taken to task by his fellow Austrians for telling Republican delegates that "he saw Soviet tanks in his homeland as a child, and left a 'Socialist' country when he moved away in 1968, all of which is historically untrue.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, September 2, 2004
Batshit crazy.   Oh man. As Atrios put it, "We couldn't have hoped for a bigger convention fuckup from the Republicans than we had [last night]." Zell Miller was a complete wingnut, then compounded his nuttiness and completed his meltdown by going on MSNBC after his screed, expressing his desire to challenge Chris Matthews to a duel and telling him to shut up. (Hey, who said there's no such thing as bad publicity?) Good Lord.

One has to wonder, though, in these tinfoil hat days -- did Rove want him to sound like a loon, so as to make Cheney and Shrub sound better? I wouldn't put anything past him.

Following that, Dick Cheney -- who while he represents truly astonishing progress in robotics technology also has all the charisma of a diseased tree stump -- stoked the fires with scaremongering and a speech full of distortions (amidst a days-long parade of playing very loose with facts).

"President Bush delivered the greatest tax reduction in a generation, and the results are clear to see."

Indeed, they are: A net loss of one million jobs, stagnant wages, the stock market in the doldrums, and consumer confidence on the decline.

On health care, he said, "President Bush is making it more affordable and accessible to all Americans."

What's he talking about? A new government report just came out showing that 45 million Americans are without health care--more than ever before. And the cost of health care, for those who have it, keeps rising, with Americans having to shell out more for deductibles and premiums.

Cheney also praised No Child Left Behind, which is a disaster for school systems around the country.

That was it. He said nothing more about what Bush did domestically.

Well, when there ain't nothin' to say ...

Economy? What economy? It's all terror, terror, terror! Ooga booga!

The theme of the Republican convention on Wednesday night, as on the previous two nights, was unmistakable: Be afraid of terrorists, and be very afraid of John F. Kerry's ability to fight the terrorists.

On a day when the official theme was economic opportunity, Sen. Zell Miller (Ga.), the keynote speaker, made no mention of the economy. Instead, he delivered a derisive indictment of the Democratic presidential nominee, saying Kerry would arm the military with "spitballs" and "outsource our national security" to Paris. Miller, a disaffected Democrat, said that Kerry's words "encourage our enemies" and that Democratic leaders are "motivated more by partisan politics than by national security."

Vice President Cheney, in his speech Wednesday night, devoted fewer than 100 of his nearly 2,700 words to the economy, instead launching an extended attack on Kerry's ability to fight terrorists.

Boo! Osama! Duct tape!

Like other speakers before him, Cheney compared the threat we face today to the threat we faced from "the Nazis during World War II and the Soviets during the Cold War."

But those threats are not comparable. The Nazis could have conquered America; the Soviets could have annihilated America. Al Qaeda, which must be vanquished, can do neither.

But fear is Cheney's trump card. And he plays it at every turn.

However, as many have noted, he did well in that he actually declined to eat a baby on camera, although he looked like he wanted to ...


The Cocktailian.   This week The Professor chases a chill with an inspired quaff -- The Algonquin cocktail, an early favorite of Wes' and mine, 'cause as we say, what the world needs now is more rye cocktails.

Fruit of the vine.   The Los Angeles Times' Jerry Hirsch got one of those "be careful what you wish for" dream jobs -- being a wine taster and judge at the L.A. County Fair.

My teeth are stained an inky black. My tongue is hot and dry. My head is foggy. No matter how much I spit out, it's impossible not to get a buzz going when sampling 50 wines. It's 10 a.m. on the final day of the Los Angeles County Fair's Wines of the World Competition. I have already ruled on dozens of white vintages this May morning, and now there are at least 20 glasses of red wine before me. Syrah, Merlot -- they all start to taste the same.
I should have such problems.

However, it can get nasty:

Most judges don't talk when tasting, to avoid prejudicing the views of other panel members. In our group, there was an exception to the rule . it was fair to give a warning about a DNPIM wine. For the uninitiated like myself, that means "do not put in mouth." It is a wine that is so bad it can be ruled out by smell alone. I missed just such a warning in the middle of a large flight of 34 Cabernets. The experience was not unlike aspirating Coca-Cola through the nose.

[Wine Master Peter] Marks, who by now had been elevated in my eyes from mentor to guru, gave me a knowing nod and said, "Brett infection." Huh?

Apparently, this wine had been infected with a Brettanomyces, a type of yeast that is found naturally on grapes but can be a big spoiler. In concentration, it gives off a number of nasty aromas and flavors, which Marks used words like "plastic Band-Aid," "vomit" and "fecal" to describe.

Mmm, redolent of swine, reminiscent of the 1989 Château de Outhouse.

Corn Syrup Nazi: Everybody knows one.   Via Sauté Wednesday ... "Did you know that there are over 10 teaspoons of sugar in that can of soda?!" And you just have four of them, and you're complaining that you can't lose weight. Honey, nix the soda ... and just about everything else containing high fructose corn syrup, cheap and completely empty calories that, frighteningly, supply up to 20% of the caloric intake of most of America's children. (Comments in brackets by Bruce Cole of SW.)

Paul Newman's Pasta Sauce Ingredients: Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste), Diced Tomatoes, Corn Syrup, Salt, Soybean Oil, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Spices, Onion, Garlic, Citric Acid
[Paul, man, that is just embarrassing.]

Planters Dry Roasted Peanuts Ingredients: Peanuts, Salt, Sugar, Cornstarch, Monosodium Glutamate Flavor Enhancer, Gelatin, Corn Syrup Solids, Paprika, Other Spices, Dried Yeast, Onion Powders, Garlic Powders, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Natural Flavor
[Wait a minute - you put corn syrup - on my peanuts! In God's name, why?]

Yoplait Go-Gurt Ingredients: Cultured Pasteurized Grade A Milk, Sugar, Nonfat Milk, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Modified Corn Starch, Kosher Gelatin, Tricalcium Phosphate, Potassium Sorbate (To Maintain Freshness), Carrageenan, Natural And Artificial Flavor, Colored With Carmine.
[You think sodas are making kids fat? Guess how many of these sugar tubes get downed every single day during school lunch?]

Awash in corn syrup: The Chart.

Nothing will happen until we all start reading labels, declining to buy foods that are filled with cheap high fructose corn syrup and telling the food conglomerates that we're doing so.

Raful Neal: 1936-2004.   Another Louisiana musician gone ...

Famed Bayou bluesman, singer/harmonica player Raful Neal, died Wednesday, September 1, after a long bout with cancer. He was 68. With his relaxed vocal style and behind-the-beat harmonica playing, he was considered one of the best bluesmen to emerge from the south Louisiana area, bringing the sounds of the region to a worldwide audience. Neal was the patriarch of the famed Neal clan: nearly all of his children are blues musicians, including recording artist Kenny Neal.


So long, Mr. Raful.

Quotes of the day.   All this begs the question: Is he just nuts, or did they meet his price? At this point, one can only ask him how dare he accuse John Kerry of "flip-flopping", the big feckin' hypocrite.

My job tonight is an easy one: to present to you one of this nation's authentic heroes, one of this party's best-known and greatest leaders -- and a good friend.

He was once a lieutenant governor -- but he didn't stay in that office 16 years, like someone else I know. It just took two years before the people of Massachusetts moved him into the United States Senate in 1984.

In his 16 years in the Senate, John Kerry has fought against government waste and worked hard to bring some accountability to Washington.

Early in his Senate career in 1986, John signed on to the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Deficit Reduction Bill, and he fought for balanced budgets before it was considered politically correct for Democrats to do so.

John has worked to strengthen our military, reform public education, boost the economy and protect the environment. Business Week magazine named him one of the top pro-technology legislators and made him a member of its "Digital Dozen."

-- Sen. Zell Miller, introducing Sen. John Kerry at the Democratic Party of Georgia's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, March 1, 2001 (link from Miller's own website).

(Oh, I'll bet he's not a "good friend" anymore. I'll bet he has no good friends left other than the ones who paid him his thirty pieces of silver, and they're only using him.)

For 12 dark years the Republicans have dealt in cynicism and skepticism. They've mastered the art of division and diversion, and they have robbed us of our hope. Let's face facts: George Bush just doesn't get it.

-- Sen. Zell Miller, at the 1992 Democratic Convention.

(Psst. Zell. They still do, and he still doesn't.)

Normally I am not in the habit of posting quotes from Andrew Sullivan; however, today I think last night's delicious debacle is best summed up by one of their own:

Zell Miller's address will, I think, go down as a critical moment in this campaign, and maybe in the history of the Republican party. I kept thinking of the contrast with the Democrats' keynote speaker, Barack Obama, a post-racial, smiling, expansive young American, speaking about national unity and uplift. Then you see Zell Miller, his face rigid with anger, his eyes blazing with years of frustration as his Dixiecrat vision became slowly eclipsed among the Democrats. Remember who this man is: once a proud supporter of racial segregation, a man who lambasted LBJ for selling his soul to the negroes. His speech tonight was in this vein, a classic Dixiecrat speech, jammed with bald lies, straw men, and hateful rhetoric. As an immigrant to this country and as someone who has been to many Southern states and enjoyed astonishing hospitality and warmth and sophistication, I long dismissed some of the Northern stereotypes about the South. But Miller did his best to revive them. The man's speech was not merely crude; it added whole universes to the word crude.

-- Andrew Sullivan, September 2, 2004.

Thank you, Zell, for showing the people what the party you're shilling for is all about. It's apparently the only thing you're still good for. It'll be all the more joyful when a progressive, African-American woman takes your Senate seat in November, too.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, September 1, 2004
Photo of the day.   Kendrick, Magazine Street, New Orleans, August 2004.


I had just finished brunch with my sister at Sugar Magnolia on Magazine Street. This little boy was outside, watching me take a few photos. "Hey, what kinda camera is that?" he asked. "It's a digital camera -- look, you can see the picture on the little screen on the back right after you take it, see?" He looked. "Hey, that's neat! Digital, huh? ... We got digital cable!"

(Oh, while we're on the subject of photos, I've finally submitted a photo to The Mirror Project, taken at the koi pond in Wes' sister's back yard.)

We love you, Scotty.   The long-time "Star Trek" fan in me (since age 6) really wished he could have played hooky from work yesterday and gone to this -- James Doohan, "Star Trek"'s Chief Engineer Montgomery "Scotty" Scott, who's 84 and suffers from Alzheimer's and a number of other ailments, made his final public appearance as his star on Hollywood Boulevard's Walk of Fame was unveiled. In attendance were three other members of the Enterprise's bridge crew (although not its captain and first officer); Jason DeFillippo on has some terrific photos of the event. (I think I would even have enjoyed going to the farewell convention, although as a rule I generally find Star Trek conventions entirely too geeky for my taste.)

George Takei ("Lt. Hikaru Sulu"): "This is a galactic day in this town full of stars. We've gathered from throughout this planet to say congratulations to you, Jimmy. We love you and we thank you for your luminous talent. We thank you for the gift you have given us of that unforgettable character, that ingenious and beloved engineer that was able to fix anything."

Nichelle Nichols ("Lt. Nyota Uhura"): "He's a wonderful friend, a beautiful person. There is no one better than he, and no one more deserving. We all love this man."

Walter Koenig ("Ensign Pavel Chekov"): "This star is a recognition of a man's talent, his endurance and the effect that he's had on people all over the world."

Not only was he a very endearing actor who created a wonderful character, he was inspirational to a a great many people who became engineers because they were inspired by his performances; according the the convention web site, a recent poll at the Milwaukee School of Engineering showed that half of the students said they were inspired to study engineering because of Scotty. (I didn't become an engineer -- no aptitude -- but 25 years ago we named our dog after him ...)

Take care, Scotty, you miracle worker.

New Beausoleil album in two weeks!   Beausoleil (avec Michael Doucet) have been one of my all-around favorite bands for over 20 years, not just my favorite Cajun band. They have a new album coming out in a couple of weeks, their 27th overall and their first in five years, and it's terrific. Gitane Cajun (or, "Gypsy Cajun") is due out on Vanguard Records on the 14th, although I've had a DJ promo copy for a while now. Nine originals and a bunch of covers from the Cajun and Creole greats (Lawrence Walker, Canray Fontenot, et al.) There's even a song entirely in English, which I think is a first for this band (they've had some English lyrics before, but as I recall they were all in bilingual songs).

More so than just about anyone else, these guys have brought Cajun music to the American masses. Dewey Balfa may have been one of the first to play it outside Louisiana, but Beausoleil was pretty much the first to get it outside folk festivals. Their music is firmly rooted in the Cajun tradition, yet is not strictly traditional music -- their sound is influenced by Creole music, New Orleans styles, jazz, Caribbean rhythms, Tex-Mex, rock 'n roll and the blues, while still remaining very, very Cajun.

Via Josh, here's an interview with Michael Doucet about the new album, his views of Cajun music and why so many of the songs are about death, hard times and lost love:

"I'm sick of these songs about 'Let's be a Cajun' and 'Let's eat gumbo and let's zydeco' or some nursery rhyme," said Doucet. "I wasn't into stuff like that.

"The old Cajun songs are about death and I think we're getting away from that. I didn't do this to be Cajun or zydeco or anything else. This is just BeauSoleil."

It's not just Cajun songs, either. Look through the depth and breadth of traditional music -- especially ballads -- and you'll see that most of them are about hard times, lost love and death (especially murder; there's a whole subgenre of traditional murder ballads). Most people had no mass entertainment; they entertained themselves, and they sang about what they knew.

Frankly, I'd rather hear about that than the vast majority of what passes for pop music these days.

Quotes of the day.   Well, which is it? (Via Lyn, Josh, et al.)

"We have a clear vision on how to win the war on terror and bring peace to the world."
-- George W. Bush, July 30, 2004.

"I don't think you can win [the war on terror]. But I think you can create conditions so that the -- those who use terror as a tool are -- less acceptable in parts of the world."
-- George W. Bush, August 29, 2004.

In one month. And they accuse Kerry of flip-flopping? Jesus Christ. These people have their heads so far up their asses they'll never see daylight again. Once again I hear Chief from Apocalypse Now ... "You don't know what the hell you doin', do ya? DO YA?!!"

Josh adds, "We're told that later today the president will be commenting on whether the war between Oceania and East Asia is winnable."

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