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 of the reality-based community, 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 @ 3:30pm PST, 11/30/2004

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Produced, compiled and annotated by Chuck Taggart (hey, that's me!), liner notes by Mary Herczog (author of Frommer's New Orleans) and myself. Now for sale at your favorite independent record stores, or order from

"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)

October 2004
September 2004
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 Internet's most comprehensive
   and indispensible database of
   authenticated cocktail recipes,
   ingredients, reseearch and more.
   By Martin Doudoroff & Ted Haigh)

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

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
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 Plot Against America, by Philip Roth.

The Dark Tower, by Stephen King.

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
Franklin Avenue
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
No More Mr. Nice Guy!
August J. Pollak
Q Daily News
Real Live Preacher
Respectful of Otters
Right Hand Thief
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!)
Media Matters for America (debunking media lies)
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)
TAPPED (The American Prospect Online)
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.

  Tuesday, November 30, 2004
The Cocktailian.   Ssssssshhh ... it's a secret.

This edition of Gary Regan's fortnightly column aptly plugs Doc's fabulous new book, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, as well as one of the cocktails listed within. Gin, applejack, lemon, egg white ... hey, isn't that a P--

NO! QUIET! It's a Secret Cocktail ...

Tyranny of the majority of the majority.   The Rude Pundit speaks, rudely but succinctly, on the disgrace of Dennis Hastert's hijacking of democracy:

[Speaker of the House Dennis] Hastert now says he simply will not allow bills, negotiated without the participation of House Democrats and with the Senate, to come to a vote unless "a majority of the majority" supports it. So, like, with, say, the intelligence "reform" act, supported by a large minority of the majority, a majority of the minority, the Senate, the public, and (at least through lip service) the President, it will not come to a vote. In things legislative, then, as in the executive, there is no longer a democracy. There is a tyranny of motherfuckers -- unless the batshit insane nutzoids on the fringes of American politics agree, there will be no legislation passed. Simply put, nobody else matters now. Not the moderates in the Republican party, not the Democrats (who now have absolutely no power in the House), not even the President. There is no coalition, there is no compromise, nothing. [...]

So here is where we stand: every law, every budget, everything that passes through the chilled halls of the Congress must succeed because of a litmus test. The fat man has gotten his way. It's no longer the tyranny of the majority. It's the tyranny of perhaps 30% of the House of Representatives over every single one of us.

The Republicans don't want to govern. The Republicans want to rule.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, November 29, 2004
Hope you had a great Thanksgivingsk (sic), and that Uncle Turkeyclaus was good to you and left a scoop of turkey dressing on your forehead as you slept. (Now, if anyone gets that reference, you win a great big cookie).

Turkey Day was ... well, trying. The food and company were lovely, but the two hours and fifty minutes it took to get out to Corona (which until Wednesday I only thought of as "Where the feck is Corona?"). I had exactly 27 minutes to eat once the food went on the table, and then I had to drive an hour and a half to get to Northridge to do my shift at the radio station. Five hours in the car on the freeways is not the way I like to spend a holiday.

Fortunately, we had a far more relaxing Second Thanksgiving with good friends on Saturday, with the only stress being cooking (which I actually find relaxing, even if it gets tiring). We had roast turkey with pomegranate gravy (and the pomegranate juice for the gravy came from the trees in our backyard), oyster dressing, whipped sweet potatoes with Bourbon and black truffles, my sister Marie's recipe for green beans with mushrooms, caramelized onions and applewood-smoked bacon, and Joe's Molten Chocolate Marshmallow Cakes, a recipe Mary and I both found in Sunset magazine and wanted to try ("Thirteen-year-old Joe Kozal was impressed by a molten chocolate cake in a restaurant but thought he could do better. Instead of chocolate, Joe's cakes ooze melted marshmallow." Joe thought he could do better. He rules.)

Plus, there were olives of several varieties (blue-cheese stuffed Greek, herbed oil-cured Kalamatas and Lucques), crackers, Dubliner and smoked St. Arnoux cheeses and some fabulous potato chips from Tim's in Oregon -- Hot Jalapeño and Sweet Maui Onion (the latter of which Wes claims are The Best Potato Chips Ever). We drank Michel Picard Beaujolais (an ancestor of Robert and Jean-Luc Picard, no doubt), a nice Cabernet-Syrah blend from Clos du Bois, a few shots of żubrówka and a round of Szarłotkas ("Ooh, can I have a pitcher of these?" one of our friends asked.)

Not a bad Thanksgiving weekend at all, and I only have two additional pounds to lose. Hell, I can do that standing on my head.

The politics of victimization.   Via Atrios, a commentary by Mel Gilles that hits the nail directly on the head. Think about this next time you hear a Democrat weeping, wondering where we went wrong, or if you're tempted to do it yourself.

Watch Dan Rather apologize for not getting his facts straight, humiliated before the eyes of America, voluntarily undermining his credibility and career of over thirty years. Observe Donna Brazille squirm as she is ridiculed by Bay Buchanan, and pronounced irrelevant and nearly non-existent. Listen as Donna and Nancy Pelosi and Senator Charles Schumer take to the airwaves saying that they have to go back to the drawing board and learn from their mistakes and try to be better, more likable, more appealing, have a stronger message, speak to morality. Watch them awkwardly quote the bible, trying to speak the new language of America. Surf the blogs, and read the comments of dismayed, discombobulated, confused individuals trying to figure out what they did wrong. Hear the cacophony of voices, crying out, "Why did they beat me?"

And then ask anyone who has ever worked in a domestic violence shelter if they have heard this before.

They will tell you, every single day.

The answer is quite simple. They beat us because they are abusers. We can call it hate. We can call it fear. We can say it is unfair. But we are looped into the cycle of violence, and we need to start calling the dominating side what they are: abusive. And we need to recognize that we are the victims of verbal, mental, and even, in the case of Iraq, physical violence.

As victims we can't stop asking ourselves what we did wrong. We can't seem to grasp that they will keep hitting us and beating us as long as we keep sticking around and asking ourselves what we are doing to deserve the beating.

Listen to George Bush say that the will of God excuses his behavior. Listen, as he refuses to take responsibility, or express remorse, or even once, admit a mistake. Watch him strut, and tell us that he will only work with those who agree with him, and that each of us is only allowed one question (soon, it will be none at all; abusers hit hard when questioned; the press corps can tell you that). See him surround himself with only those who pledge oaths of allegiance. Hear him tell us that if we will only listen and do as he says and agree with his every utterance, all will go well for us (it won't; we will never be worthy).

And watch the Democratic Party leadership walk on eggshells, try to meet him, please him, wash the windows better, get out that spot, distance themselves from gays and civil rights. See them cry for the attention and affection and approval of the President and his followers. Watch us squirm. Watch us descend into a world of crazy-making, where logic does not work and the other side tells us we are nuts when we rely on facts. A world where, worst of all, we begin to believe we are crazy.

How to break free? Again, the answer is quite simple.


As one psychiatrist replied to the original post, "Yes, political abuse has occurred. But NEVER define yourself as a victim. Once you define yourself as a victim that becomes your identity. Define yourself as a survivor!" Yeah you rite.
Comforting, ain't it?   As long as I'm nicking stories from Atrios, I thought I'd pass along this little tidbit from the ever-entertaining and -enlightening Harper's Index, as it relates to outgoing head of the Department of Justice:

"The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved." -- John Ashcroft

Number of U.S. terror trials brought before a jury since September 11, 2001: 1

Number of terrorism convictions resulting: 2

Number of them dismissed due to a "pattern of mistakes" by the prosecution: 2

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Saturday, November 27, 2004
"Who wants a warm Martini?"   Geekboy that I am (and have been since the age of six), I couldn't help but mark today's anniversary. The very first scene ever filmed for Star Trek was filmed 40 years ago today, Friday, November 27, 1964. The episode was "The Cage", the first (failed) pilot episode, which was eventually re-edited into the excellent two-part episode "The Menagerie." The scene was between Captain Christopher Pike (Jeffrey Hunter) of the U.S.S. Enterprise, in his cabin with ship's doctor Philip Boyce (John Hoyt). The doctor came with medical supplies to see to the captain's health after a long and physically exhausting mission. As he prepared his treatment, Captain Pike looked up and said, "What the devil are you putting in there, ice?" The good doctor handed his prescription to the captain and replied with today's headline.

What a long, strange (and mostly wonderful) trip it's been.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Gimme a necta, bra!   New Orleans' own "nectar", that is -- it began life as a soda fountain flavor at Katz and Besthoff drugstores in the Crescent City (known to the locals, of course, as "K&B"). I'm just barely old enough to remember the soda fountains at K&B -- great burgers and fries, BLTs and, of course, those fabulous nectar sodas and floats.

Nectar is a New Orleans original, and I've had a hankering for it lately. Deep red, with an almond-vanilla flavor that was best described as tasting "like wedding cake", it may have died out when the soda fountains did, but still lives on as a sno-ball flavor, and has even been resurrected by a little company in Mandeville. A little Googling revealed a forum on nectar on eGullet, wonderful article from the Times-Picayune about it, and I was pleased to see that the New Orleans Nectar Soda Company is back on the web and apparently doing business again (although their PayPal shopping cart seems out of whack; I'll be calling them today to see what's up).

Pableaux Johnson, who wrote the T-P article, also says, "Folks craving the goodness of nectar closer to home might do well to check the shelves of a neighborhood grocery store. The Mandeville-based Nectar Soda Co. sells fridge-friendly six-packs of the stuff for open-and-sip convenience. The company also markets 16-ounce bottles of the syrup for those keen on mixing their own.

Syrup and soda are available at Dorignac's, Langenstein's Metairie Road store and most Sav-a-Center stores. Call (877) 463-2827 or e-mail for information."

He was also kind enough to provide some "nectar sipping spots", places in the Crescent City where you can go and have a soda the old-fashioned way:

Sophie's Ice Cream, 1912 Magazine St. (504) 561-0291
Tuesday- Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Closed Monday

Creole Creamery, 4924 Prytania St. (504) 894-8680
Sunday-Thursday, Noon to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Noon to 11 p.m.

Plum Street Snowballs, 1300 Burdette St. (504) 866-7996
Monday-Saturday, Noon - 9 p.m., Sunday, 2 - 9 p.m.
Closed Oct. 15 through March 15

Ah, Plum Street. I couldn't even begin to count the number of huge Chinese takeout tubs full of finely shaved ice and syrup I've had there over the years. There you won't get a soda or a float, but a gorgeous sno-ball drenched with nectar syrup and topped with a frightening amount of sweetened condensed milk. Heaven.

Finally, for do-it-yourselfers, I managed to find some homemade nectar recipes, neither of which I've tried yet. They both look pretty close, at least, and I think that over the Thanksgiving holidays I'll try them out.


3 cups granulated sugar
1-1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
2 tablespoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon red food coloring

Bring sugar and water to a boil over medium heat. Let mixture cook about 8 to 10 seconds. Cool. Add vanilla, almond and coloring. Makes about 1 pint.


3 cups sugar
6 cups water
1 can sweetened condensed milk
4 tablespoons vanilla extract
4 tablespoons almond essence
2 teaspoons red food coloring

Over low heat dissolve sugar and water. Bring to a boil. Cool. Add the condensed milk, vanilla extract, almond essence and red coloring. Stir well. Store in refrigerator. Makes about 1-1/2 quart.


Nectar syrup
Sparkling/carbonated water or seltzer (NO sodium!).

Pour an inch or so of nectar syrup into a tall glass. Fill with sparkling water and ice. Stir to mix.


Nectar syrup
Vanilla ice cream
Sparkling/carbonated water or seltzer (NO sodium!)

Pour an inch of nectar syrup into a tall glass. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream and sparkling water. Stir to mix. Serve with a scoop of ice cream on top or whipped cream and a cherry.


2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup nectar syrup (homemade or purchased New Orleans Nectar®)
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar, or to taste.

(For this recipe you may want to experiment with the amount of sugar.)

In a heavy saucepan bring whole milk and heavy cream to a boil, reduce to a simmer and then remove from heat. Stir in nectar syrup and put the milk mixture to the side.

In a separate bowl whisk egg yolks with sugar until smooth. Return milk mixture to heat and bring to simmer again, slowly whisking in the egg yolk mixture. Strain the combined mixture through a fine-mesh sieve and cool. Proceed according to your ice cream maker's instructions.

Makes 1 quart.

That oughta keep you busy for a while. Happy Thanksgiving!

UPDATE: Okay, I made up a batch of both syrups. Recipe no. 1 seems to be the one; I wasn't all that thrilled with no. 2, but maybe with tweaking (like more sugar, less water) it'd work.

Most importantly ... DO NOT use club soda! Use sparkling/carbonated water only, with a sodium content of 0. Club soda contains salt and sodium bicarbonate, and that really throws off the flavor of the nectar. (We really gotta get one of those nifty seltzer bottles ...)

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Mixing the bison.   I found a page containing recipes for cocktails made with Żubrówka, although most of them (other than a version of the Szarłotka they call "Wild Apple") look a little iffy -- too many liqueurs. I have an idea I'm working on, though ... I'll let you know.

How your Congress does business.   This is from several weeks ago, but it's still timely and is likely to become more so in January, with the Republicans gaining only a handful of seats but now thinking they've got a complete lock on everything, ignoring the rest of the legislature and 55 million other Americans.

Dismayed that the technology company Accenture had located its headquarters in Bermuda, thereby avoiding paying hundreds of millions of dollars in US taxes, the House Appropriations Committee voted 35-17 this summer to strip the firm of a $10 billion Homeland Security contract.

It was a rare moment of bipartisan agreement and an important victory for those who decry corporate tax loopholes. But it didn't last long. The Rules Committee, the all-powerful gatekeeper of the Republican leadership, prevented the measure from reaching the House floor. In a further show of its power to pick and choose what the full House can vote on, the Rules Committee allowed the House to vote on a ban on future Homeland Security contracts to overseas companies -- but let the $10 billion flow to Accenture, which spent $2 million last year lobbying the government.

The Accenture episode is emblematic of the way business is conducted in the 108th Congress, where a Republican leadership has sidelined legislation unwanted by the Bush administration, even when a majority of the House seemed ready to approve it, according to lawmakers, lobbyists, and an analysis of House activities. With one party controlling the White House and both chambers of Congress, and having little fear of retaliation by the opposing party, the House leadership is changing the way laws are made in America, favoring secrecy and speed over open debate and negotiation. Longstanding rules and practices are ignored. Committees more often meet in secret. Members are less able to make changes to legislation on the House floor. Bills come up for votes so quickly that elected officials frequently don't know what's in them. And there is less time to discuss proposed laws before they come up for a vote.


The Democrats need to get some serious backbone going, and be a true opposition party. Their job for the next two years (at least) is to oppose, and to represent the 55 million plus.

Psst, people ... the earth is round, not flat.   A CBS News poll shows that the majority of Americans believe in creationism, or some form of it, rather than in evolution.

We're in big trouble.

Psst! George!   When at a multinational summit while you're meeting and being photographed with several major world leaders, ya might wanna check and see that the ol' barn door is closed.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, November 22, 2004
My new Polish love ...   is named Żubrówka.

Or "bison grass vodka", which is perhaps a bit easier to pronounce than "zhu-BROOV-ka". I'd been meaning to try this stuff for a while, since our friends Gregg and Mike had brought us some back from Paris. It's the classic traditional Polish vodka, infused with native bison grass, which gives it an extremely distinctive flavor and straw-green color. Dr. Cocktail has been singing the praises of it for ages, while telling us the American brands have been artificially flavored for a while. Apparently bison grass contains coumarin, a substance with anticoagulant properties that's also responsible for much of its flavor.

Waiting for an occasion, I suppose, we never cracked open the bottle of Żubrówka that's been in our freezer since the boys brought it from Paris, but opportunity presented itself for a taste last night. We had dinner at Warszawa, the excellent Polish restaurant in Santa Monica, before heading to McCabe's to see the Savoy Family Band play. It had been years since I'd been, and it was even better than I remember -- bacon wrapped plums, crispy potato pancakes, grilled kielbasa sausages, pierogis of every description, beef stroganoff, thick pea soup with smoked ham and marjoram, smoked fish salad with dill ... and Żubrówka! There it was, listed on the spirits menu, and what better time to try it than before a Polish meal. It arrived in a little vodka glass, ice cold right from the freezer.

I know a true Pole would scoff at me, but instead of knocking the whole thing back, I took a healthy sip first, as I wanted to savor it and get the entirety of the aroma and flavor.

Oh, my.

I instantly fell in love with this stuff. Spicy, yet almost sweet but not syrupy like a liqueur; paradoxically, it was dry yet reminded me of candy -- traces of caramel and nougat and vanilla. It also tasted like green herbs, but not medicinal. I tasted flowers, and lemon, and even a touch of coconut (!), and so many things going on in there. This stuff's dangerous. I immediately wanted more.

I've never read Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge, but in it one character describes the flavor of Żubrówka as smelling of "freshly mown hay and spring flowers, of thyme and lavender, and it's soft on the palate and so comfortable, it's like listening to music by moonlight." I can dig it.

After enjoying our Polish meal and two-plus hours of the finest Cajun music to be heard, the very first thing we did when we got home was to crack open our bottle of authentic Polish Żubrówka. The difference between the domestic Polish and European version and the type produced for export to America is that the most authentic Żubrówka has a long blade of bison grass in the bottle, and the American version doesn't due to USDA regulations. Apparently there's also some artificial flavoring involved as well, although I'm not certain about that now (at least one website claims that true bison grass vodka is now legal in all 50 states). The French bottling, which we had, looks like this.

It was goooooood. It was ... well, it was like the stuff we had at the restaurant, only a bit more complex, certainly subtler. It was great. However, once we run out of this stuff (and it won't be long), I think that for the time being I'll still be happy with the American-export version.

They say that if you travel to Poland and start drinking with the locals, don't ever try to outdrink them (unless you're Russian, and then only maybe). I'd better be very careful. If I'm in Warszawa or Cracow, drinking with locals, and they bring this stuff out, I'm a dead man ... 'cause it's so good I would have no incentive to stop unless I become unconscious.

Na zdrowie!

Cocktail of the day.   From what I understand, most if not all Poles would consider the consumption of Żubrówka in a cocktail as being a crime, an offence against decency, utter blasphemy. It's to be consumed ice-cold, alone and quickly. However, my research seems to have uncovered an exception ...

This drink, which translates from Polish as "apple tart" and is also sometimes called "Tatanka", appears to be the one exception to the prohibition against mixing Żubrówka with anything else, and seems to be looked upon fondly. We'll be trying one of these as soon as I get home.

(pronounced "shar-WOT-ka", I think)

1 ounce Żubrówka (Polish bison grass vodka).
3-4 ounces apple juice.
Lemon wedge.

In a heavy rocks glass, build over ice and stir.
Garnish with the lemon wedge.

Contrary to what seems to be Polish popular opinion, I think that Żubrówka would make an excellent cocktail ingredient. Only two exist in CocktailDB, and I've already got some ideas.

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  Sunday, November 21, 2004
A yacht?   The lame duck Congress just passed a $388 billion spending bill to keep financing of government programs for this fiscal year. Y'know, so we could avoid shutting down the government and all 'cause we don't have enough money, what with this expensive war and the tax cuts for the rich and all.

I want you know know what they're spending it on, too.

The Senate voted 65-30 for the legislation late on Saturday that sets aside funds for a range of priorities including a presidential yacht, foreign aid and energy. It is one of the final pieces of work for the 108th Congress and they may return to finish a spy agency overhaul before the end of the year.
A presidential yacht.

Let's say that again. A presidential yacht.

As Atrios put it, "Families are taking donations to send body armor to their kids and Bush gets himself a presidential yacht?" We live in a country where a woman ill with cancer has to have a garage sale to try to raise money for her treatment, because she can't afford it and can't afford any kind of health insurance (not that anyone will insure someone with a "pre-existing condition" of cancer, 'cause they won't). Even the British Queen got rid of her yacht so that her luxury wouldn't be paid for with public money. Even if it involves repurchasing the one that Carter got rid of, we're not in any position to be giving Dear Leader a yacht.

(UPDATE, 11/22: Apparently it is to buy back the Sequoia, for $2 million ... "Because there was no debate on the matter, there is no way to know whether President Bush wants the yacht and, if so, what he plans to do with it.")

This is on the heels of the hugely deficit-ridden Republican government deciding that instead of cutting back on expenses and actually paying off its debt, it just raises its own credit limit by $800 billion -- "Though an increase in the debt ceiling was never in doubt, Republican leaders in both houses of Congress postponed action on it last month, until after the elections, to deprive Democrats of a chance to accuse them of fiscal irresponsibility."

Because ... they didn't want you to know how fiscally irresponsible they were.

Oh, and the Republican Congress also cut college grants and loans for nearly 100,000 lower-income kids, plus scuttled a bill to provide intelligence reform that was recommended by the 9/11 Commission.

Have a nice four years.

A family's struggle, a nation's shame.   I'm going to post in its entirety the Steve Lopez column from the Los Angeles Times I linked above. In case you skipped the link, don't skip this.

The fliers were left on bulletin boards and windshields all over Main Street in Alhambra, and a small ad ran in the Penny Saver too.


When I called the phone number on the flier, Hortensia Tamayo told me she was tearing through her house on Sherwood Avenue, looking for things to sell this weekend so she could help with her big sister's rent and medical bills.

"She beat breast cancer and lymphatic cancer at the age of 50, going through chemotherapy even while she was a student at USC," Tamayo, 32, said of her sister, Marina Tamayo Higgins. "She just graduated from the nursing school, and now it looks like she's got bone cancer. And she has no health insurance."

I was reminded of a column I did 20 years ago in San Jose. The newspaper ran two small classified ads in which a man and woman were selling their gold wedding rings, and each ad had the same phone number.

When I called to ask about it, the couple told me their toddler son was seriously ill and the health insurance had run out. They had just lugged their dining room set into the front driveway and that was for sale too.

You would think that in 20 years, we might have made some progress in fixing a problem that brings shame to the United States.

Fat chance.

After two decades of political gum-flapping and national hand-wringing, the problem is only worse, with 40 million uninsured Americans. Even the insured are up in arms, driven mad by an aggravatingly inept system that is more about profiteering than delivering medicine and saving lives.

"What else can we do?" Hortensia Tamayo responded when I asked about the family's yard sale this weekend.

Hortensia, a social worker, said her house is a mess now that she has torn every room apart, gathering up clothing, picture frames, books, purses, jewelry, candles, shelving, shoes.

"Some of it is new stuff I haven't even used yet, but I think I can do without," she said.

On Thursday morning, Marina and several family members visited the QueensCare Family Clinic on York Boulevard in Eagle Rock. A family acquaintance had suggested Marina might be able to find help there.

Marina, with short-cropped, reddish hair and signs of weariness showing around her eyes, filled out several forms and sat in the waiting room with two sisters, her daughter and her mother, all of them holding their breath. It was only a few months ago that Marina finally got a clean bill of health after a year of fighting cancer. But after a recent checkup, the news was not good.

"I've got growths on my pelvis and my ninth thoracic vertebra," she said with a mix of fear, resignation and hope.

Maybe there's still a chance it's not cancer, I said.

She smiled appreciatively, but she said she knows too much about oncology and about her own body to be optimistic.

"I've got the splitting headaches again," Marina said, "like someone is slicing through my head with a knife. Just like last time. I think the cancer has metastasized to the bone."

The family, with roots in Boyle Heights, is buoyed by Marina's obstinacy and determination. She still tries to do for herself and insisted on driving to Thursday's appointment, even though she was bedridden just the other day.

She's been fighting back with an organic, macrobiotic diet and herbal treatments, the only remedies she can afford. Her late husband, a Vietnam vet who suffered from the effects of Agent Orange, died a few years ago, and Marina lives on a small military check and whatever help her four daughters and other family can lend.

"My whole life," Hortensia said, "I can remember her talking about wanting to be a nurse."

It took seven years for Marina to complete the nursing program -- including a final year in which she was undergoing chemotherapy -- because she worked while going to school.

After graduating from USC last spring, Marina is only a board test away from realizing her dream. But she can't get help from the industry she wants to serve.

She had health insurance through USC while she was a student. But it lapsed once she completed her studies, and now no one will cover her because she's sick.

"I've got a preexisting condition," she said, repeating the explanation she's heard over and over. "They treat you like you've got leprosy. You've got cancer? It's tough toenails. I'll tell you one thing. When I get through this, I will not sit quietly. I will do whatever I have to do about this problem."

After she was called in to see a doctor, Marina's family sat in the busy waiting room talking -- and at times joking, to keep from going crazy -- about the sad state of healthcare in the world's richest nation. Marina's 72-year-old mother, Hortensia Flavia Tamayo, runs a small jewelry store in Los Angeles with her husband, and said the family went without healthcare for years before they could afford Kaiser.

"We're all willing to pitch in and help pay for a healthcare plan for my sister," said the younger Hortensia, who has been calling one foundation and public agency after another, begging for help. "It's outrageous. We're willing to buy insurance for her, and we can't."

"It just means more stress for my mother," said Priscilla, 24. "I think it just makes her sicker. She's sick and can't get treatment? Come on!"

When Marina returned to the waiting room after seeing a doctor, she told her family there was good news and bad.

The bad news was that QueensCare could take her on as a patient only if she had cervical cancer or recurring breast cancer. Her disappointed little sister, Hortensia, cracked that maybe they should pray for a return of the breast cancer.

The good news was that QueensCare could get her a referral to County-USC Medical Center for some tests, but there was no guarantee she would be able to get timely treatment there. Medi-Cal was a possibility, Marina said, but it could take two or three months to qualify.

"That's too late," the younger Hortensia said.

Marina responded with a sigh, and that same look of fear, resignation and hope.

(The yard sale will be held Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 3010 Sherwood Ave. in Alhambra. Anyone wishing to buy or donate goods can drop by or call Hortensia at (626) 272-9478 or her sister Cecilia at (323) 262-4768.)

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  Thursday, November 18, 2004
Quote of the day.   Unbelievable, yet unsurprising. (Via Wes.)

[Republican lawmakers] fixed the rules so that Democrats cannot use our rules against us.

-- House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R-TX), under threat of felony indictment, on his party's rule change to protect his leadership position in the event he is indicted

Wes says, and I concur, "Because of course we never meant those rules to apply to us, only them. Does he even know what he sounds like?" Are these the "moral values" you voted for, Republican voters?

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Shame, hypocrisy, disgrace.   The Republicans seem dismissive of the idea of rules, laws and what's right; they only seem interested in power, and maintaining their grip on it. This includes changing the rules when it suits them.

Today the Washington Post reports that "House Republicans approved a party rules change Wednesday that could allow Majority leader Tom DeLay to retain his leadership post if he is indicted by a Texas grand jury on state political corruption charges."

"If they make this rules change, Republicans will confirm yet again that they simply do not care if their leaders are ethical. If Republicans believe that an indicted member should be allowed to hold a top leadership position in the House of Representatives, their arrogance is astonishing," [House minority leader Rep. Nancy] Pelosi said.
I wonder if DeLay will be forced to step down if he's convicted. Or imprisoned. I wonder what it takes to actually make these people feel shame. Would it be Edwin Edwards' speculation of the only way they'd get 'em would be to catch them "in bed with a dead girl or a live boy?"

"Music is not a loaf of bread."   Wilco's Jeff Tweedy talks to Wired's Xeni Jardin about music downloading, and why it's good for the band, and for the music business.

By the way, don't miss the online stream of Wilco's concert of last Monday at the Fillmore in San Francisco.

Brad Bird of The Incredibles, on story.   Good interview in The Onion's A.V. Club, via Wes, who says, "He gets it."

Onion: Do you have a theory about why it's so hard for Hollywood to understand the value of a good, solid story?

Brad Bird: Film is an expensive medium. It's hard and expensive to get a bunch of people together to operate all this equipment to create the illusion of a dream. The more fantastic a dream is, the more machinery needs to be involved. Businessmen want to feel secure in their investment, especially when they're spending millions of dollars, so they're constantly trying to avoid the scary reality that a story is an ethereal thing. It's too vague. It's too ill-defined. No one wants to hear, "Who knows? I think this will work." Which is basically what films are. They're gut instinct, you know, "Let's give it a shot." Any good filmmaker will tell you that they don't know what's going to succeed. They're just trying to make a good film, and hopefully it'll catch. All of the best movies are ones that defied a certain amount of conventional wisdom.

But business is all based on conventional wisdom. There are far-thinking businessmen who manage to see things new ways and think ahead of the curve, but they're always in the minority. Most people are playing catch-up. Any time Hollywood can glom on to the illusion of security, they go for it. So if two films have been made where the lead character was wearing a red shirt, and they both succeeded, you can bet they're going to slap a red shirt on their guy in the new film. "Red shirts! They like red shirts nowadays!" Well, no, they don't. It's a coincidence. Now, everybody thinks that if they buy a computer, they are guaranteed success. You can buy a computer. You cannot buy a surefire story. That requires instinct, and instinct is scary. So they do anything to give them the placebo they need to make it through the night, what with the large amount of money and resources they're rolling the dice on. Because they don't like the idea that they're rolling the dice.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Six days off, and boy did I need it. There were wonderful meals to be had, and relaxing to be done. I'll write about the former as the week progresses, but first, I might as well catch up on some old news from a few days ago, but first ...

"The West Wing" is brilliant, and sad.   I know, I know, I'm four years behind the times. But it came on opposite "Star Trek", and was pre-TiVo (at least for me), and I just never got into the habit of watching it, despite all my friends telling me it's the best show on TV.

Thanks to Michael I got the first season DVDs for my birthday, and Wes and I have started watching it. Goddamn, what a great show. Brilliant, sparkling writing, terrific ensemble acting, and superb characters including a President of the United States who's intelligent, thoughtful and who has people around him who'll tell him what he needs to hear, not what he wants to hear.

I watch this show and it almost makes me want to cry, to think of the kind of people we could have in the West Wing, if only real life were more like TV sometimes.

Let's party!   A lot of us tend to be very loyal to our hair stylists. Once you find a good one, God forbid you let him or her go. You end up going to some stranger, then twenty minutes and forty dollars later, you look like the subject of a B. Kliban cartoon captioned, "Victims of foreign haircuts."

Wes drives all the way to West Covina (which I still call "Left Covina", as an old classmate from there used to) to get his hair cut. On the last several trips I've taken to tagging along, primarily because the salon is located right next door to a huge, wonderful Japanese market called Marukai, filled with all sorts of nifty, exotic stuff to buy.

Gorgeous sashimi-grade fish, tons of Japanese ingredients (we stock up on wasabi and spicy rice crackers), plus things that we barely have an idea of what's inside. The prime example is a brand of potato chip we've fallen for. All we knew was that it was indeed some kind of potato chip, but with nothing but Japanese on the label it was a bit difficult to tell what kind ... except for the mouth-watering picture of what looked just like Chinese barbecued pork. "We must try these!" I cried. Sure enough, they're Chinese barbecued pork flavored potato chips. What mad genius.

There's also a lot of Hawaiian products, the Japanese being terribly fond of Hawaii and all. Chocolate covered macadamia nuts, these yummy sweet Maui onion potato chips (yeah, I know, chips again), and varieties of SPAM that I never knew existed (Turkey SPAM? SPAM with bacon? Who knew?) -- plus store-made SPAM musubi, of course. The one major coup was a Hawaiian brand of passion fruit jam, which we recently served on crostini with Tasmanian Roaring Forties Blue Cheese, which was a flavor combination made in heaven's heaven.

On our last trip to Marukai (where I dropped nearly a hundred bucks, including four jars of that jam), I saw one thing that made my jaw drop. You see lots of Asian products that Western folk might consider "weird" (dried cuttlefish snacks, for instance), but this one struck me as particularly bizarre:

Nothing says 'Let's party!' like lil' baby crabs...

It wasn't just that they were crabs. I love crabs, me. It was that they were little teeny tiny baby crabs, covered in sticky sugary soy something with sesame seeds, sold to be served as a beer snack, and the strangest bit of all ... the slogan "Let's party!"

'Cause, y'know, nothing says "let's party" to me like little roasted baby crabs.

I had finished my shopping and was loading the groceries in the car by the time Wes was all done being coiffed. "We have to go back inside Marukai," I said. "I need to get my camera out of the trunk. There's something inside I want to photograph, but I don't want to buy." "What is it?" he asked. "C'mon in and see," I said.

I showed him, sitting on the shelf in all its glory, next to some other strange "Let's party!" snacks. "Oh my God!" he exclaimed. "You don't want to buy that?!" I must confess I wasn't terribly enthusiastic, even though I'm an adventurous eater, and even though I love crabs. These were ... well, whole little crabs, shell and all, and I didn't get the impression that they were soft shell crabs. (Well, they're supposed to be crunchy, aren't they? Beer snacks are supposed to be crunchy, and soft shell crabs aren't necessarily crunchy. It wouldn't be "Crunchy Frog" if you took the bones out, now, would it?)

A couple of pokes in the ribs, and what the hell ... we bought 'em.

We went back through the line and had the same checkout lady as I had before. She eyed our purchase warily. "Uh ... you like these?" she asked. "Well, I don't know yet. We're going to try them. Why, do you like them?" "Oh no!" she blurted, then made a face and actually shuddered. "I don't try!" Then she quickly qualified that with, "Allergic." Ah. I see.

Well, if we're going to eat them, dammit, we're going to do it right. Some good Japanese beer, a Shonen Knife record, and a bowl o' crabs.

As it turned out, we had one out of three. No Shonen Knife (iTunes mix instead), and we figured on cocktails instead of crabs (no complaints there, I suppose). A couple of Saturdays ago when we had some friends over for cocktails -- Mother-In-Law Cocktails, Hoskins Cocktails, Footloose Cocktails, Blue Moons, Lillet Tomlins, Aviations, Corpse Reviver No. 2s, Perfect Pears, a Grande Bretagne Cocktail No. 1 (from Charles Baker's Gentleman's Compmanion), not a bad batch all in all -- and dinner, between the bacon-wrapped dates and the shrimp and mirliton remoulade ... there were crabs!

Let's party!

There was rampant skepticism among the guests, so only Damon tried them, along with Wes and myself. We'd been keen on cracking open the Crabby Party Park since we bought it, and were eager to take the plunge. I went first.

I have to admit, they started off really well -- nice 'n crunchy (of course), with a tangy, sweet soy glaze and a nice bit of nuttiness from the sesame seeds. However, deep within a nice, protective bubble of crab shell, was a tiny, desiccated, chewy and extremely fishy little ball of dried, processed, sitting unrefrigerated in a plastic bag for god knows how long since it left Japan, crab.

Here goes... Ohhhkayy ... not so much.

Umm, no, not so much.

Wes' reaction was similar.

Er, um ... Well, actually ...

As it turned out, after his second crab, Wes decided that they weren't so bad after all, and would probably taste better if they were served with beer, as they were undoubtedly meant to be beer snacks. "I kinda like 'em, actually," he said. However, I note that no further wee-crabbage was consumed that evening, nor since.

The next crab dish was appreciated far more, I think -- a nice plate of Crabmeat Maison à la Galatoire's (called "crabmeat ravigote" elsewhere in New Orleans), and another fabulous batch of Stuffed Eggplant Soup with shrimp and andouille. Not a bad meal at all, but I think we'll skip the Party Time Crabs next time 'round.

It buuuuuurrrnnnsssss!   No, not that, Miss Coco Peru. I'm talking about cheap vodka, the kind down on the bottom shelf, the kind that sometimes comes in a plastic jug, the kind that should really only be used for disinfecting surfaces and not for actually drinking.

A bunch of brave and intrepid souls, true lovers of science of whom Dr. Momus Alexander Morgus would be very proud, performed an experiment in which they attempted to determine that putting cheap, rotgut vodka through a Brita water filter would actually make it drinkable. The results were astonishing ... although I'm not sure I'm ready to try it myself.

Bush orders CIA purged of liberals.   That's a great policy -- get rid of all of your suspected political opposition from your intelligence agency (an agency that's actually supposed to be unbiased and apolitical), and replace them with people who are only going to tell you what you want to hear. As a commenter on dKos said, "[D]oes this sound like the behavior of a democratically elected leader of a free nation?"

The White House has ordered the new CIA director, Porter Goss, to purge the agency of officers believed to have been disloyal to President George W. Bush or of leaking damaging information to the media about the conduct of the Iraq war and the hunt for Osama bin Laden, according to knowledgeable sources.

"The agency is being purged on instructions from the White House," said a former senior CIA official who maintains close ties to both the agency and to the White House. "Goss was given instructions ... to get rid of those soft leakers and liberal Democrats. The CIA is looked on by the White House as a hotbed of liberals and people who have been obstructing the president's agenda."

Well, he'll come to regret this, I think; the agents who are purged, once they're out, are going to talk.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, November 11, 2004
No posting 'till Monday, probably. I'm taking a few days off to celebrate the birthdays of Kurt Vonnegut, my favorite writer (who's 82 today) and Leonardo DiCaprio (who's 30 now ... and how old does that make me feel). Oh, and mine, too. Jeez, I wasn't nearly finished being thirty-twelve yet, and now they want me to be thirty-thirteen ...

I've got relaxing to do, great meals to eat, and cocktails to drink. See y'all Monday.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, November 10, 2004
That was quick.   What did I say yesterday about an indicator of what we can expect? Bush nominates as his new attorney general his administration's primary advocate of torture.

Via Michael, here's a little light reading on our new attorney general nominee:

White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales's Texas Execution Memos: How They Reflect on the President, And May Affect Gonzales's Supreme Court Chances, by John W. Dean, FindLaw columnist and former Nixon administration counsel

The man behind all the bad decisions, by Robyn E. Blumner, St. Petersburg Times

I suppose Bush could have done worse -- I kept hearing William Pryor's name bandied about. Gonzales is more moderate (socially, at least) than Ashcroft and doesn't appear to be as much of a religious nutjob, but he seems to be dedicated to strenghening the powers of the executive branch and the office of the president, and I find that an alarming threat to our system of checks and balances.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, November 9, 2004
Yes, we're all perfectly safe now.   Lest anyone dance a joyous jig that the odious John Ashcroft has resigned as Attorney General, given that George W. Bush thinks that his 51% of the popular vote consists of a "broad mandate", I doubt that Ashcroft's replacement will be much more interested in the Constitution and in our civil liberties than his or her predecessor. We can only hope, but I'm not holding my breath. Know this, though -- whoever Bush chooses will be an indicator of what we can expect from the spending of his self-described "political capital" for the next four-plus years, including Supreme Court nominees.

However, we can all take comfort from one of Mr. Ashcroft's parting remarks, from his five-page letter of resignation to the president:

"The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved."
Wow ... so in case you hadn't noticed, we're now no longer in danger from either nasty criminals or evil terrorists! Gee, I guess he did a better job than we all thought. Relax, everybody. We're safe.

(Oh, and as August points out, "[u]nder four years of John Ashcroft heading the Justice Department and over three years since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States of America has not convicted a single person of terrorism."

That's one pricey shroom.   I've only been fortunate enough to have fresh white truffle twice in my life. It was expensive, but not nearly as expensive as this record-priced $41,000 truffle, weighing in at 2.4 pounds (that works out to about $1,067 per ounce).

I once paid about $25-30 each for three little black truffles about half the size of a ping-pong ball. They presented them to me in a plain little brown paper bag -- porous, of course. As I was driving home, the intense perfume emanating from the bag was so intense and intoxicating that I nearly crashed the car. I couldn't imagine being anywhere near a nearly two-and-a-half pound white one ...

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, November 5, 2004
Voting machine error gives Bush 3,893 extra votes in Ohio.   And that's just in one precinct.

Rick writes in, "A little math before you read this... Bush won Ohio, therefore winning the presidency, by 136,000 votes.

"There are 7,575 precincts in 88 counties in Ohio.

"If the error below happened at 35 of those precincts, or less than 1/2 of 1% of the total number of precincts in the state, then John Kerry won Ohio."

An error with an electronic voting system gave President Bush (news - web sites) 3,893 extra votes in suburban Columbus, elections officials said.

Franklin County's unofficial results had Bush receiving 4,258 votes to Democrat John Kerry (news - web sites)'s 260 votes in a precinct in Gahanna. Records show only 638 voters cast ballots in that precinct.

Bush actually received 365 votes in the precinct, Matthew Damschroder, director of the Franklin County Board of Elections, told The Columbus Dispatch.

State and county election officials did not immediately respond to requests by The Associated Press for more details about the voting system and its vendor, and whether the error, if repeated elsewhere in Ohio, could have affected the outcome.

Bush won the state by more than 136,000 votes, according to unofficial results, and Kerry conceded the election on Wednesday after acknowledging that 155,000 provisional ballots yet to be counted in Ohio would not change the result.

The Secretary of State's Office said Friday it could not revise Bush's total until the county reported the error.

The Ohio glitch is among a handful of computer troubles that have emerged since Tuesday's elections.

In one North Carolina county, more than 4,500 votes were lost because officials mistakenly believed a computer that stored ballots electronically could hold more data than it did. And in San Francisco, a malfunction with custom voting software could delay efforts to declare the winners of four races for county supervisor.

BoingBoing reader Joe adds:

A computer glitch in a Columbus, Ohio precinct gives Bush an extra 3,893 votes. Makes you wonder what other mistakes the computer made that we haven't found.

I'm a computer programmer and quality assurance tester for a software company in Cleveland, so I know a thing or two about computer glitches. Where there's one glitch that's obvious, there are about 10 others that slip by unnoticed until it's too late.

Whether what Rick suggests is true or not, I cannot say. However, do you not see why every vote must be counted, and why every electronically-generated vote that does not have a verifiable paper audit trail must be re-checked?

Mandate, shmandate.   Conservatives gleefully post the following county map of the United States to demonstrate their so-called "mandate" for Bush:

Forget the winner-take-all motif for a moment, and remember that we do not elect by county or by square mileage, but by the number of people who vote. If you want a clearer picture of that the counties and states really look like in terms of the percentage of the population who voted and for whom, you'll see that we don't live in a sea of red in this country, but in an ocean of purple:

Everyone, including the administration, would do well to remember this. It's not as red as you think it is.

Titanic will founder. It is a mathematical certainty.   An article in today's Washington Post (with out headline courtesy of Wes):

Analysts Call Outlook for Bush Plan Bleak
Too Much Deficit, Not Enough Revenue
President Bush signaled yesterday that he would add personal investment accounts to the Social Security system, simplify the tax code without raising taxes and cut the budget deficit in half, all before he leaves office in 2009.

Ambitious as those promises are, they may be mathematically impossible, budget and policy analysts say.

"It doesn't seem like we're going to see any tightness in U.S. budget policy anytime soon," said Rebecca Patterson, senior currency strategist at Wall Street giant JPMorgan Chase.

Bush pledged early this year to halve the deficit in five years, a promise he renewed yesterday. "I would suggest [deficit hawks] look at our budget that we've submitted to Congress, which does, in fact, get the deficit down, cut in half in five years," Bush said.

But in an independent analysis of that budget, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded it would not fulfill that promise. The deficit in fiscal 2004, which ended Sept. 30, was $413 billion. Under Bush's plan for spending and taxes, the deficit would be $258 billion in 2009. If anything, that may understate the size of the deficit in coming years because it does not include any additional costs for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Pentagon is expected to seek an additional $70 billion early next year.

Moreover, the president's budget does not include the cost of a Social Security reform plan that includes the personal investment accounts Bush is demanding. Under such a plan, workers would be allowed to divert one-third or more of their share of Social Security taxes into stocks, bonds or other investments.

Because the diverted money would otherwise have gone to existing Social Security beneficiaries, the funds would have to be made up through additional government borrowing or spending cuts. A CBO analysis of one of the plans drafted by Bush's Social Security commission concluded the near-term cost would be $104.5 billion in 2005, rising to $146.6 billion in 2009.


Be careful what you vote for, folks.

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  Thursday, November 4, 2004
"Ain't no best. They all good." The delights of the poor boy.   Los Angeles Times travel writer Brady MacDonald tromps through New Orleans looking for the best poor boy sandwiches. It's a noble quest, but one that could cause considerable damage to one's waistline (I gotta split 'em wit' someone now, me). It's a pretty good article, and he hits most of the main places. He makes the mistake of including muffulettas in an article about poor boys, though, and he misses out on the joys and delights of a hot sausage poor boy wit' cheese at Gene's on Elysian Fields and St. Claude. Not a bad effort, though.

Quotes of the day.   Oy. Already he starts.

Now that I've got the will of the people at my back, I'm going to start enforcing the one-question rule. That was three questions. [...] Again, he violated the one-question rule right off the bat. Obviously you didn't listen to the will of the people.

-- President Bush, during his first post-election press conference today

It's gonna be a long, long four years.

I will reach out to every one who shares our goals.

-- President Bush, ibid. (emphasis mine)

Atrios: "Translation: My way or the highway. Alternate translation: You're either with us or against us. For Democrats in the Senate: Any 'compromise' you try to achieve on various bills inevitably gets stripped out by DeLay's goons in the conference committee. Amendments should be written as land mines (metaphorical, of course) for the Republicans to trip on, not because any of them will end up being law. For Democrats in the House and Senate: If you vote for the Republican agenda, you cannot later credibly criticize it. That's just the way it is..."

Soldiers describe looting of explosives.   Los Angeles Times, this morning:

In the weeks after the fall of Baghdad, Iraqi looters loaded powerful explosives into pickup trucks and drove the material away from the Al Qaqaa ammunition site, according to a group of U.S. Army reservists and National Guardsmen who said they witnessed the looting.

The soldiers said about a dozen U.S. troops guarding the sprawling facility could not prevent the theft because they were outnumbered by looters. Soldiers with one unit -- the 317th Support Center based in Wiesbaden, Germany -- said they sent a message to commanders in Baghdad requesting help to secure the site but received no reply.

[...] The soldiers, who belong to two different units, described how Iraqis plundered explosives from unsecured bunkers before driving off in Toyota trucks.

The U.S. troops said there was little they could do to prevent looting of the ammunition site, 30 miles south of Baghdad.

"We were running from one side of the compound to the other side, trying to kick people out," said one senior noncommissioned officer who was at the site in late April 2003.

"On our last day there, there were at least 100 vehicles waiting at the site for us to leave" so looters could come in and take munitions.

"It was complete chaos. It was looting like L.A. during the Rodney King riots," another officer said.

He and other soldiers who spoke to The Times asked not to be named, saying they feared retaliation from the Pentagon.

That's funny. BushCo keeps saying they were already gone by the time we invaded. Why do you suppose they would say that?

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  Wednesday, November 3, 2004
It ain't over until it's over, y'all.

There are up to 250,000 provisional ballots still to be counted in Ohio. There are 1.6 million absentee and provisional ballots still to be counted in Florida. Every vote must be counted, and then we'll sit back and see where we are.

UPDATE, 9:45am: It's over. Kerry conceded.

I'm torn on this ... in one sense, if it's a complete wash, then a concession from Kerry prevents a repeat of the prolonged agony of 2000 (and I must admit, I didn't think I'd be able to take another 11 days of this). But all the votes still haven't been counted.

Keep your chins up. Start preparing for '06 and '08.

UPDATE, 1:00pm: Bush says, "America has spoken ... the result is now clear -- a record turnout and a broad, nationwide victory." Broad? I don't think so. Perhaps if you include the people who didn't bother to get out and vote, but for the people who did, it doesn't look so broad when you put it into visual terms, courtesy of Jesse at Pandagon:

Josh Marshall:

And then there's this from [Bush's] comments today: "We've worked hard and gained many new friends, and the result is now clear -- a record voter turnout and a broad, nationwide victory."

This is the touchstone and the sign. A 'broad, nationwide victory'? He must be kidding. Our system is majority rule. And 51% is a win. But he's claiming a mandate.

"A broad, nationwide victory"?

It would almost be comical if it weren't for the seriousness of what it portends. This election cut the nation in two. A single percentage point over 50% is not broad. A victory that carried no states in the Northeast, close to none in the Industrial midwest is not nationwide, and none on the west coast is not nationwide.

And yet he plans to use this narrow victory as though it were a broad mandate, starting right back with the same strategy that has already come near to tearing this country apart.

I agree with Jesse, who said, "It's going to be a long four years."

Still proud.   (Thanks to Steve for sending in this reminder.)

Liberal (lib'&r &l)

adj 1: showing or characterized by broad-mindedness; "a broad political stance"; "generous and broad sympathies"; "a liberal newspaper"; "tolerant of his opponent's opinions" [syn: broad, large-minded, tolerant] 2: having political or social views favoring reform and progress 3: tolerant of change; not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or tradition [ant: conservative]

n 1: a person who favors a political philosophy of progress and reform and the protection of civil liberties [syn: progressive] [ant: conservative]


Don't mourn ... organize!   Joe Hill's words ring true to me this morning. BushCo had four years to organize their masses, and we didn't really get started until the Dean campaign a year and a half ago. Clearly we have more work to do. We can have a week or so to lick our wounds and (in my case) let the stomachache go away. Then it's time to get busy. The '06 midterm elections are only two years away.

First, don't forget the Democratic National Committee, and let's make the first order of business as getting rid of Terry McAuliffe. I keep hearing a buzz for getting Howard Dean to head the Democratic Party. The more I think about it, the more I like it.

Here are some other organizations we're going to need:

The American Civil Liberties Union

People for the American Way

Human Rights Campaign

I'll gather more links and start a new sidebar in a day or so.

Simple but effective.   Via Wes, who says "another take on the Why of it all." William Saletan writes in today's Slate:

Why you keep losing to this idiot.

George W. Bush [has won] re-election. Yeah, the lawyers will haggle about Ohio. But this time, Democrats don't have the popular vote on their side. Bush does.

If you're a Bush supporter, this is no surprise. You love him, so why shouldn't everybody else?

But if you're dissatisfied with Bush -- or if, like me, you think he's been the worst president in memory -- you have a lot of explaining to do. Why don't a majority of voters agree with us? How has Bush pulled it off?

I think this is the answer: Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity.

Bush is a very simple man. You may think that makes him a bad president, as I do, but lots of people don't -- and there are more of them than there are of us. If you don't believe me, take a look at those numbers on your TV screen.

Think about the simplicity of everything Bush says and does. He gives the same speech every time. His sentences are short and clear. "Government must do a few things and do them well," he says. True to his word, he has spent his political capital on a few big ideas: tax cuts, terrorism, Iraq. Even his electoral strategy tonight was powerfully simple: Win Florida, win Ohio, and nothing else matters. All those lesser states.Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Hampshire.don't matter if Bush reels in the big ones.

This is what so many people like about Bush's approach to terrorism. They forgive his marginal and not-so-marginal screw-ups, because they can see that fundamentally, he "gets it." They forgive his mismanagement of Iraq, because they see that his heart and will are in the right place. And while they may be unhappy about their economic circumstances, they don't hold that against him. What you and I see as unreflectiveness, they see as transparency. They trust him.

Now look at your candidate, John Kerry. What quality has he most lacked? Not courage -- he proved that in Vietnam. Not will -- he proved that in Iowa. Not brains -- he proved that in the debates. What Kerry lacked was simplicity. Bush had one message; Kerry had dozens. Bush had one issue; Kerry had scores. Bush ended his sentences when you expected him to say more; Kerry went on and on, adding one prepositional phrase after another, until nobody could remember what he was talking about. Now Bush has two big states that mean everything, and Kerry has a bunch of little ones that add up to nothing. If you're a Democrat, here's my advice. Do what the Republicans did in 1998. Get simple. Find a compelling salesman and get him ready to run for president in 2008. Put aside your quibbles about preparation, stature, expertise, nuance, and all that other hyper-sophisticated garbage that caused you to nominate Kerry. You already have legions of people with preparation, stature, expertise, and nuance ready to staff the executive branch of the federal government. You don't need one of them to be president. You just need somebody to win the White House and appoint them to his administration. And that will require all the simplicity, salesmanship, and easygoing humanity they don't have.

The good news is, that person is already available. His name is John Edwards. If you have any doubt about his electability, just read the exit polls from the 2004 Democratic primaries. If you don't think he's ready to be president -- if you don't think he has the right credentials, the right gravitas, the right subtlety of thought -- ask yourself whether these are the same things you find wanting in George W. Bush. Because evidently a majority of the voting population of the United States doesn't share your concern. They seem to be attracted to a candidate with a simple message, a clear focus, and a human touch. You might want to consider their views, since they're the ones who will decide whether you're sitting here again four years from now, wondering what went wrong.

In 1998 and 1999, Republicans cleared the field for George W. Bush. Members of Congress and other major officeholders threw their weight behind him to make sure he got the nomination. They united because their previous presidential nominee, a clumsy veteran senator, had gone down to defeat. They were facing eight years out of power, and they were hungry.

Do what they did. Give Edwards a job that will position him to run for president again in a couple of years. Clear the field of Hillary Clinton and any other well-meaning liberal who can't connect with people outside those islands of blue on your electoral map. Because you're going to get a simple president again next time, whether you like it or not. The only question is whether that president will be from your party or the other one.

Good god, has it really come to this? We have to be like them in order to win, to "keep it simple, stupid" because we can only appeal to Americans if we avoid intellect, nuance, education, subtlety? Fuck.

I'm with him about Edwards, though. He had my vote in the primaries, and I'd vote for him again.

"The national fissure remains deep and wide."   One thing I'm convinced John Kerry would have done was take the steps necessary to heal this wounded country, or at least give it a start. He would have made moves to the center, and tried to reach out to the other half of the country.

Bush isn't going to do this. He gained access to the White House based on a loss of the popular vote, a one-vote majority of the Electoral College and installation by partisan members of the Supreme Court. Afterwards he governed as if he had a wide mandate from across the country. Now he doesn't have to worry about winning another election; he doesn't even need to please his own electorate. He doesn't give a crap about popular opinion, particularly that of the 42 million plus people who didn't vote for him. He said just the other day, astonishingly, that he does not believe the nation is divided. (This is, apparently, because his administration "creates its own reality.")

The Los Angeles Times published an article and poll today with the same headline as this post.

After four turbulent and tumultuous years, President Bush expanded his support but still divided the country along many of the same lines as in his narrow and disputed victory in 2000, exit polls of voters found Tuesday night.

With the final result in Ohio on hold until officials counted large numbers of provisional ballots, Bush stood on the brink of victory over Democrat Sen. John F. Kerry in another photo-finish election that sharpened the cultural divides that have increasingly defined American politics over the last generation.

With Republicans maintaining control of both chambers of Congress, Bush could be in position to aggressively press his agenda if the final states fall his way.

Whichever way the race tilts in the end, the result in the presidential race appears to have changed remarkably little from the historically narrow split in 2000. When all the votes are counted, it appears possible that as few as three or four states may switch from one party to the other since the last election.


It's going to get worse before it gets better.

Cocktail of the day.   'Cause some of us really need a drink today. (Not too many, please.) An apt repeat from last June:

Liberal Cocktail

1-1/2 ounces rye whiskey.
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth.
1/4 ounce Amer Picon (Torani Amer).
1 dash orange bitters.
Lemon twist.

Combine with cracked ice in a shaker or mixing glass. Stir for no less than 30 seconds, then strain into a cocktail glass. Express the oil from a lemon twist onto the surface of the drink and garnish with the twist.

This is a really good drink.

If you're serious about cocktails, I once again highly recommend picking up a bottle or two of Torani Amer. It's a wonderful product, and even though some esteemed and learned friends will disagree with me, I use it for cocktails that call for Amer Picon. It's not exactly the same as the Picon of old was, but it's close enough (and it it's close enough for all those California Basques for their Picon Punch, it's close enough for me). It's only about $10 a bottle, and you can order it online from Beverages & More.

Post-election Morford.   I hadn't got a chance to read this yet, but Wes emailed it to a bunch of our friends this morning, saying, "Many of you may already have seen this today, but I thought it worth sharing. Mark Morford's style may not work for everyone -- hey, some days I can barely take him -- but he's passionate and usually makes a thought-provoking point, albeit after rambling around for a while. In the third paragraph from the end, he touches again on the central idea of a column he wrote some weeks/months back, and which I mentioned last night to the group while in throes of election angst, namely: maybe the pendulum simply hasn't swung far enough yet.

"Anyway, for what it's worth..."

Oh dear God please not again.

Oh dear God please don't let it be all convoluted and depressing and messy and stupid and please don't let it all embarrass us on an international level all over again even more than it already has and even more than it already is and even more than we've endured lo these past four debilitating and soul-crushing years. Hello? Please? Is it already too late?

Why yes, yes it is.

And lo and behold, it was apparently another completely tortuous and entirely knotted presidential election, unfinished until the wee hours and reeking of E-voting suspicion and exit-poll miscalculation and it all came down to, what? Ohio? Are you serious? What a thing.

And now Kerry's conceded and the white flag has been raised and we are headed toward the utterly appalling notion of another four years of Bush and another Republican stranglehold of Congress and repeated GOP chants of "More War in '04!"

Which is, well, simply staggering. Mind blowing. Odd. Gut wrenching. Colon knotting. Eyeball gouging. And so on.

[...] It simply boggles the mind: we've already had four years of some of the most appalling and abusive foreign and domestic policy in American history, some of the most well-documented atrocities ever wrought on the American populace and it's all combined with the biggest and most violently botched and grossly mismanaged war since Vietnam, and much of the nation still insists in living in a giant vat of utter blind faith, still insists on believing the man in the White House couldn't possibly be treating them like a dog treats a fire hydrant.

Inexplicable? Not really. People want to believe. They want to trust their leaders, even against all screaming, neon-lit evidence and stack upon stack of flagrant, impeachment-grade lie. They simply cannot allow that Dubya might really be an utter boob and that they are being treated like an abused, beaten housewife who keeps coming back for more, insisting her drunk husband didn't mean it, that she probably had it coming, that the cuts and bruises and blood and broken bones are all for her own good.

And this election, it might be all be very amusing, in a Mel Gibson-y, blood-drenched hamburger-of-Christ sorta way, were it not so sad and dangerous. It might all be tolerable and cute, in a violence-engorged, sexist, video-game-y sorta way, were it not so lopsided and wrong.

This election's outcome, this heartbreaking proof of a nation split more deeply and decisively than ever, it simply reinforces the feeling among much of the educated populace: It is a weirdly embarrassing time to be an American. It is jarring and oddly shattering and makes you rethink what it really means to be a part of this country. The answer: It doesn't mean much at all. Not really. Not anymore.

This is the common wisdom on the progressive Left. Those first four toxic Bush years? A fluke. A phantasm. A stolen election. A gaff, a mugging, a crime. But this? An election this close makes you reconsider. Maybe, after all, we aren't nearly as far along as we think. Maybe we're not all that sophisticated or nuanced or respectable a nation as we sometimes dare to dream.

Maybe, in fact, we're regressing, back to the days of guns and sexism and pre-emptive violence, of environmental abuse and no rights for women and a sincere hatred of gays and foreigners and minorities. Sound familiar? It should: it's the modern GOP platform.

Here's the thing: for tens of millions of us, it is simply unconscionable that we could possibly be led for another four years by a small and spoiled little man who has very little real idea what he's doing and even less of how the hell he got there. It would be funny, in a Adam Sandler, toilet-humored sort of way, were it not so poisonous and depressing. And yet it looks like we're stuck with it, like a shard of glass buried deep in the eye.

And the rest of the world? Well, it can only watch us and shake its collective head and wonder just what the hell is wrong with us, why so many millions of us would even consider re-electing the world's most inept and war-hungry and insanely inarticulate man to four more years of unchecked power, why our much-hyped much-coveted supposedly ultrasuperior democratic system is so very deeply blotchy and knotty and spoiled.

So then, to much of Europe, Russia, Asia, Canada, Mexico, the Middle East -- to all those dozens of major world nations who want Bush out almost as much as the educated people of America, to you we can only say: We are so very, very sorry. We don't know how it happened, either. For tens of millions of us, Bush is not our president and never will be. That's how divisive. That's how dangerous. That's how very sad it has become.

The GOP steamroller appears to be just too powerful, just too well oiled and blood soaked and fear inducing to be stopped just yet. After all, the Right has been working on this master plan and building their takeover strategy for about forty years. It's gonna take those of us working for change and progress and raw spiritual juice a little more than one or two years to dissolve it away like the cancer it so obviously is.

Apparently, there are lessons yet to be learned. Apparently, we must hit some sort of new low between now and 2008, attain some sort of seriously vicious status in the world before we will snap out of it. You think?

This much is clear: We are not, with a grim Bush victory, headed for buoyancy and friendship and sincere hope for something new and refreshing. We are not, with another four years of what we just endured, headed toward any sort of easing of bitter tension, a sense of levity, or sexual openness, or true education, or gender respect, or a lightness of spirit and of step.

Maybe the best we can hope for, at this ominous and slightly sickening moment, is one hell of a lot more patience.

Quote of the day.   There was a sound of thunder.

His face was cold. His mouth trembled, asking: "Who -- who won the presidential election yesterday?"

The man behind the desk laughed. "You joking? You know very well. Deutscher, of course! Who else? Not that fool weakling Keith. We got an iron man now, a man with guts!" The official stopped. "What's wrong?"

Eckels moaned. He dropped to his knees. He scrabbled at the golden butterfly with shaking fingers. "Can't we," he pleaded to the world, to himself, to the officials, to the Machine, "can't we take it back, can't we make it alive again? Can't we start over? Can't we--"

We can't take it back. This isn't Ray Bradbury's stepped-on Jurassic butterfly. You asked for it, you got it.

Be careful what you wish for, America.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, November 2, 2004  ::  Election Day
I do not believe this darkness will endure.   This is it. People ... do the right thing today. Talk to everyone you know in this nation -- family, friend, acquaintance -- and get them to the polls to bring this country around. It is no exaggeration to say that the future of this country, and the future of the world, hang in the balance. Four more years of George W. Bush and his cronies will be disastrous for both.

I'm voting for Kerry-Edwards on Tuesday! Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the president who led this country to victory against fascism, said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Bush, Cheney and their ilk want your fear. They cultivate it. It's their only cash crop. It's all they have. They want you to be constantly afraid. It's the only way they can deceive you into voting to return them to office after four years of utter failure and historic disaster.

Don't give in to fear. Believe that we have a chance to reclaim this country. Believe that America can move forward, not backward. Believe that the power of government can truly be in the hands of the people. Believe that we can reclaim a respected place in the community of nations. Believe that our constitution will always enshrine rights, not remove them. Believe that we can be safe without inflicting needless wars. Believe that education and health care are more important than waging needless wars. Believe that we can be free.

John Kerry for President.

Be of good cheer.   In the words of the Godfather of Soul, "I feel good." I have hope that today will mark the beginning of this country's healing. I believe that with gentle persistence, achieved with a gesture of friendship and not animosity, that we can heal the wounds of this divided nation and help those who blindly supported the incumbent truly see what the last four years have wrought. I think that a really good way to start would be to take Teresa's advice:

1. Be of good cheer. If that means not watching the news, don't watch it.

2. Polls. Don't trust them. Spread the word. They tell us it's closer than it is because it exhausts us.

3. Draft. If anyone asks, say yes, of course they will. They're not conscripting troops now because they calculated that it would damage Bush's chances in this election. That's why 40% of our troops in Iraq are National Guard and Army Reserve units that were never meant to be thrown into combat in elective overseas wars. That can'?t go on. The GAO itself says they can't raise enough troops that way. Spread the word about the draft, too.

4. Tell people about the teams of attack lawyers, and Kerry's post-election plans. Raise their spirits.

5. Bush & Co. are really good at making people feel crushed. If you feel crushed, it isn't because the world is an awful place; it's because you're picking up Radio Bush. It's temporary.

6. Be of good cheer.

Relax. It's going to be all right.

A community of believers.   Last night Mary, Steve, Wes and I headed to a neighborhood Kerry rally in Silver Lake, just a few miles from home. There were a couple hundred enthusiastic Kerry supporters, lots of signs, and a huge number of passing automobiles, the vast majority of whom honked, flashed their lights, cheered and waved in support. We implored them to get out and vote today. (That's me in the upper left shot, standing to the right of Steve.)

Speakers included state Assemblymember Jackie Goldberg (Dist. 45, next door to ours), local Democratic headquarters officials (who said that this one Silver Lake office alone had made 24,000 GOTV calls to likely Kerry supporters in swing states), a couple of actors who lived nearby (including Patricia Arquette, who was passionate and emotional but was correctin her own self-deprecating statement that she wasn't a terribly good public speaker) and a couple of musicians. Granted, it wasn't like being at a 120,000-strong rally featuring Bruce Springsteen, but it felt good to be there, on the last night before The Big Day.

As I mentioned, overwhelmingly positive support from passersby, although we had a half-dozen or so cries of "Go Bush!" or the like (we waved back and blew kisses), but one woman shrieked something unintelligible and then threw something at us from her car window. It turned out to be a large handful of baby spinach leaves. I have so far been unaware of the use of baby spinach leaves as a weapon of assault, and I was additionally miffed that she didn't even bother to throw any bacon, mushrooms, Gorgonzola cheese or balsamic vinaigrette at us as well.

The wait.   I don't think I was ever so happy to wait in a line.

Wes and I got up early this morning and hit the polls at 7:05am. There was a long line already. We saw several of our neighbors, and met some new ones. The mood was jovial, upbeat, nervous but hopeful.

Poll workers also told us that the books containing the lists of registered voters in our precinct were a lot longer than in 2002.

I keep reading that the lines are this long and way longer, all over the country. The New York Times predicts a record turnout. I hope this can only mean good luck for our side.

I feel like Ripley in the shuttle at the end of Alien. "You ... are ... my lucky ... star ... you ... are ... my lucky ... star ... lucky lucky lucky lucky lucky ..."

What to do today.   Rather, what not to do today.

Don't believe anything until it's certain. Don't believe exit polls. Don't believe network projections. Don't believe anything you hear from Republicans, whose thuggish precinct operatives are reportedly wearing angry scowls today. Don't believe anything you hear on Fox News or from from people like Drudge (who should just be ignored until he goes away).

Don't believe anything unless it's an Associated Press vote count report. The AP has stringers stationed in every county elections board in the country, and they will only be reporting confirmed counted votes. That's all that matters today.

Quote of the day.   Quoth hizzoner ...

Don't believe any false rumors unless you hear them from me.

-- The Hon. Victor A. Schiro, then-Mayor of New Orleans, 1965.

John Kerry in New Orleans.   New Orleans musician Tony Green wrote this letter to OffBeat magazine, which appears in the current issue:

On March 31, 2003, my group Tony Green and Gypsy Jazz were hired to perform at Latrobe's On Royal for a fund raising dinner for a then unknown candidate seeking the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. Latrobe's is located cattycorner to the 8th District Police Headquarters in the French Quarter. Ironically, the building was named after Benjamin Latrobe, the architect who not only designed this Royal Street landmark but was also responsible for the renovations done on the White House in Washington, D.C. back in 1824. All this wonderful history was lost on me at the time as my interests were primarily focused getting to the gig on time, setting up and hoping that the rest of the musicians will show up.

While I was in the process of assembling the sound system, etc., a well dressed man in your standard issue gray business suit, burgundy tie and shiny shoes comes up to me to inquire about the odd looking guitar resting against my chair. This is most unusual as normally in these situations the musicians are treated as musical wallpaper, not to be noticed and especially not to be talked to!

I explained to this kind fellow who expressed a genuine interest in my instrument, that this handmade guitar was created by a French luthier named Maurice Dupont. It is a copy of the original Selmer Maccaferri, the archetype of the acoustic jazz guitar and utterly associated with the playing of Django Reinhardt. I explained that this instrument is forever linked with Django's style and with the movement that has come to be known as gypsy jazz.

Our conversation straddled many musical subjects until the gentleman was summoned by someone across the room. I commented to the other musicians (who had finally showed up) about what a nice person that guy was.

After finishing with our first set of gypsy jazz music, all attention was focused on the front of the room where the very same guy who was chatting so amicably with me was now standing on a very wobbly wooden chair about to give a speech.

"Wow!" I said. "What is that guy's name?" "John Kerry" said my friend.

After the senator delivered a rousing burst of political eloquence to his captive audience, I tried to get close enough to congratulate him and give the man a free Tony Green CD but he was unfortunately swarmed by a thick mass of Democratic groupies.

I inquired to the powers that be as to what is the normal procedure for mailing a Tony Green/Gypsy Jazz CD to Senator John F. Kerry in Washington D.C. I figured that my chances were probably slim to none, especially with all the anthrax scares that were going on back then that the man would ever receive my gift. Well, he did receive the CD, and here's an excerpt from that letter:

I apologize for the delay of this letter. However, I have only recently received the wonderful CD you sent me. As a security measure, all items sent to the Senate have to go through a lengthy screening and irradiation process and quite often items never make it through in one piece. However, I am very happy to report that Gypsy Jazz survived!

I very much enjoyed your performance in New Orleans and I look forward to hearing you play live again. Meanwhile, thanks again for your thoughtful memento of my trip.

Sincerely, John F. Kerry

I don't think anyone would ever be able to tell a story like this about the other candidate.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, November 1, 2004
Apparently I was on CNN yesterday.   We got home last night to this email from Steve:


They just ran a segment called "Grassroots Cooking" about political-angled cuisine, and the first half of the segment was about the Silverlake Bake Back the White House bake sale, the first one in August that we all participated in. So there it starts, with Chuck's "A few bad apples" t-shirt and all of us singing Dave's "No CARBS" song! Close-ups and everything! And then they had some stuff with wonderful Shana, the organizer, and then two of the signs I wrote and printed out ("No Cookie Left Behind" and "All Baked Goods Made With LIBERAL Amounts of Sugar and Butter") with the reporter guy incorporating both of those lines into his voice over patter!

Might want to tune in to the channel today as I expect they'll be re-using the segment ... but even if you don't see it:


(For those of you who were not there with us, sorry, but just had to brag since we're busting our buttons ... and this time it has nothing to do with how much we ATE at the bake sale!)

I wasn't able to find the video online, but apparently Mary and Steve have it on tape. In the days of celebration after the election, I'll see if I can digitize it for our amusement. Woo, I love doin' my part!!

Federal judge says, "No thugs in our state."   It's about time.

A federal judge issued an order early Monday barring political party challengers from polling places throughout Ohio during Tuesday's election.

U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott found that the application of Ohio's statute allowing challengers at polling places is unconstitutional.

She said the presence of challengers inexperienced in the electoral process questioning voters about their eligibility would impede voting.

Dlott ruled on a lawsuit by a black Cincinnati couple who said Republican plans to deploy challengers to largely black precincts in Hamilton County was meant to intimidate and block black voters.

Now, Ohioans ... get out and vote these crooks out of office.

Powell: U.S. losing Iraq war.   Today's issue of Newsweek, via a report in Salon's War Room column, reports:

Secretary of State Colin Powell has privately confided to friends in recent weeks that the Iraqi insurgents are winning the war, according to Newsweek. The insurgents have succeeded in infiltrating Iraqi forces "from top to bottom," a senior Iraqi official tells Newsweek ... "from decision making to the lower levels."

This is a particularly troubling development for the U.S. military, as it prepares to launch an all-out assault on the insurgent strongholds of Fallujah and Ramadi, since U.S. Marines were counting on the newly trained Iraqi forces to assist in the assault. Newsweek reports that "American military trainers have been frantically trying to assemble sufficient Iraqi troops" to fight alongside them and that they are "praying that the soldiers perform better than last April, when two battalions of poorly trained Iraqi Army soldiers refused to fight."

If the Fallujah offensive fails, Newsweek grimly predicts, "then the American president will find himself in a deepening quagmire on Inauguration Day."

From the Newsweek article itself:

Sgt. Jonathan Scarfe, a broad-shouldered U.S. Marine with a square jaw and a 5 o'clock shadow, is trudging through a small town near Fallujah. On the opposite side of the street, taking his cues from Scarfe's movements, is Hussein Ali Jassim, who commands a small unit of the new Iraqi Special Forces. Scarfe says he trusts Jassim implicitly -- which is more than he can say for most Iraqi National Guardsmen, less-trained locals thought to be collaborating with the insurgents. "The ING guys usually slept outside during the summer," says Scarfe. "When they slept inside, you knew a mortar barrage was coming." At one intersection, children laugh and shout as Jassim, who sports a small, well-trimmed mustache, distributes candy. But a young Iraqi across the street smirks and makes an obscene gesture. "These people," says Scarfe, "will let us walk right to our death."
But things are really going well in Iraq, according to the President.

U is for Undemocratic.   Via Chris K., from Publishers Weekly's email newsletter:

Who would have thought that wearing a fairly innocuous T-shirt promoting a children's book would result in a mild-mannered college professor being kicked out of a political rally? (Only the quick response of a man who appeared to be a Secret Service agent allowed the professor to re-enter the event.)

The odd incident occurred earlier this fall in Wheeling, W.V., when John Prather, a mathematics professor at Ohio University, wore a T-shirt promoting D Is for Democracy: A Citizen's Alphabet by Elissa Grodin, an October title published by Sleeping Bear Press, to a rally for President George W. Bush.

The front of the T-shirt replicates the flowery cover art for the children's book, which includes a caricature of Uncle Sam. The back of the T-shirt features a verse taken from the book, "Q is for the questions all of us should ask. Taking part in democracy is every citizen's task." Sleeping Bear handed out 6,000 of the T-shirts to booksellers and librarians at BEA, ALA, the regional trade shows and other events. Prather was given the T-shirt by a librarian friend.

Prather reports that he passed through the first security check at the Bush rally without incident. But at the second security check, the campaign worker checking IDs read his T-shirt and stopped him. Prather was taken aside and asked if he supported President Bush's re-election. When Prather responded that in fact he did not, he was escorted from the building.

Outside, a man that Prather assumes was a Secret Service agent (he wore an earpiece and looked serious), stopped Prather and asked if he were leaving the event of his own free will. When Prather responded that he was not, the Secret Service agent escorted him back into the building and he was able to hear President Bush speak after all.

David Swan, Sleeping Bear Press sales and marketing director, was surprised that someone would be kicked out of a political rally for wearing a T-shirt advertising a children's book.

"This book is so nonpartisan," he said. "That someone took offense at a T-shirt promoting a book encouraging children to ask questions about democracy highlights the fact that people need to read this book. D Is for Democracy is about engaging in conversation with one another about the principles our country is founded on. That campaign worker needs to read this book."

When this PW Daily reporter wore a D Is for Democracy T-shirt to a rally for John Edwards in Duluth, Minn., yesterday, nobody commented upon the message. In fact, other attendees at the rally encouraged this reporter to stand near the front of the stage.

--Claire Kirch

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