the gumbo pages

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

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

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

Page last tweaked @ 7:55am PDT, 6/30/2004


If you like, you are welcome to send e-mail to the author. Your comments on each post are also welcome; however, right-wing trolls are about as welcome as a boil on my arse.
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Looka! Archive
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May 2004
April 2004
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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.

Regime change for America, 2004.

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Joe Frank
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Cocktail hour:

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   (The sine qua non
   of cocktails.)

   (A work in progress, by
   Martin Doudoroff &
   Ted Haigh)

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
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   (Robert Hess, et al.)

DrinkBoy's Cocktail Weblog

Happy Hours
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   news & insider info)
King Cocktail
   (Dale DeGroff)

La Fée Verte
   (All about absinthe
   from Kallisti et al.)

Fine Spirits & Cocktails
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Mr. Lucky's Cocktails
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   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:
Hacking Food
Honest Cuisine
KIPlog's FOODblog
Mise en Place
Sauté Wednesday
Simmer Stock
Tasting Menu

More food!
à la carte
Chef Talk Café
Food Network
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The Online Chef
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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:

One Voice: My Life in Song, by Christy Moore.

The Ultimate Egoist: The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon, Vol. I", by Theodore Sturgeon.

Humans, by Robert J. Sawyer.

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
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


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

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

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"
"Iron Chef"
The Food Network

Weblogs I read:

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

Matthew's GLB blog portal

L.A. Blogs

My Darlin' New Orleans:

Gambit Weekly


New Orleans ...
proud to blog it home.

Must-reads: (progressive politics & news)
Borowitz Report (political satire)
The Complete Bushisms (quotationable!)
The Daily Mislead (BushCo's lies)
The Fray (your stories)
Izzle Pfaff! (my favorite webjournal)
Landover Baptist (better Christians than YOU!)
Maledicta (The International Journal of Verbal Aggression)
The Morning Fix from SF Gate (news, opinions, extreme irreverence)
The New York Review of Science Fiction
The Onion (news 'n laffs)
"Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An exegesis", by David Neiwert.
Talking Points Memo (Josh Marshall) (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.

  "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

  Wednesday, June 30, 2004
Surprise!   From The Borowitz Report:

Element of Surprise Cited As Bush Romps to Victory

Inspired by the early handover of sovereignty in Iraq, President George W. Bush employed the element of surprise once more last night, holding the U.S. presidential election four months early.

The election, about which only top Bush administration officials were notified, went exceedingly well for the president, who carried all fifty states and garnered approximately one hundred percent of the vote.

Mr. Bush's victory speech, which he had originally scheduled for eleven P.M. last night, was at the last minute rescheduled to nine P.M., once again capitalizing on the element of surprise.

In his speech, Mr. Bush admitted that he might have had a more difficult time getting reelected if the American people had actually been notified about the time and date of the voting, but added, "A win's a win, right?"

Mr. Bush's second inauguration is slated to take place on January 20, 2005, but administration officials acknowledged that it could happen "at any time."

"For all I know it has already happened," one aide said.

While the stealth presidential election seems to have cemented the Bush administration's reputation for secrecy, one aide said that some secrets were harder to keep than others: For example, everyone knows how Paul Wolfowitz gets his hair to look so great.

White House officials praised the performance of the controversial new Diebold electronic voting machines, which successfully tabulated final results from Florida before a single vote was cast.

Andy Borowitz rules. However, for something slightly more sobering, read below a couple of posts.

I got yer slogan right here.   Suzanne sent in a link to a tribute to the late, lamented "Sloganator" that once appeared on the Bush/Cheney campaign website, which they quickly yanked when they realized how much fun we were having with it.

A little Googling revealed that someone has posted a free-standing successor to the Sloganator, in which you can add your own patriotic slogan to a B/C 2004 campaign poster and print it out yourself!

For once, I think I'll rally 'round the Preznit. I can't offer him any financial assistance, since I'm a little tapped out after this week's contribution to the Kerry campaign. My own contribution is a new slogan for them. It honors the Vice-President by quoting him; said quote seems to perfectly sum up their attitude toward the world, toward the citizens of this nation, and certainly toward anyone who disagrees with them or asks them substantial questions about their doings.

And it begins...   (Via Atrios) Right now it might not be much more than tinfoil hat fodder, but for the first time someone connected to BushCo has actually uttered the words.

WASHINGTON -- The government needs to establish guidelines for canceling or rescheduling elections if terrorists strike the United States again, says the chairman of a new federal voting commission.

Such guidelines do not currently exist, said DeForest B. Soaries, head of the voting panel.

Soaries was appointed to the federal Election Assistance Commission last year by President Bush. Soaries said he wrote to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge in April to raise the concerns.

Y'know (he said, donning tinfoil hat), if something happens and they actually do try to pull this, I don't even think the lunatic Freepers will stand for it. This country had elections in the middle of World War II, and in the midst of the Civil War. If (God forbid) there is an attack before Election Day, the one thing we will need to do to hold ourselves together as a nation is to continue with elections as planned.

While playing with The Sloganator yesterday, our friend Rick came up with another B/C campaign poster that's certainly apropos.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Culinary excess  to the levels of near-obscenity exists in the palace of North Korea's psycho nutjob leader Kim Jong-Il, a "gourmet" who is perhaps the most pampered eater in the world, while the majority of the people he rules are quite literally starving.

While his countrymen scrounge for food in barren forests, Kim has spent an incalculable chunk of his nation's limited wealth feeding himself.

His wine cellar reportedly contains nearly 10,000 bottles, his library thousands of cookbooks and texts on gastronomy. Chefs have been flown in from around the world to cook for him.

An institute in Pyongyang, the capital, staffed by some of North Korea's best-trained doctors, is devoted to ensuring that Kim eats not only the most delectable but also the most healthful foods -- all the more important for the 5-foot-2 Kim, whose weight once pushed 200 pounds.

"The purpose of the institute is 100% to prolong the life of Kim Jong Il," said Seok Young Hwan, a physician who worked there and later defected to South Korea. He said 200 professionals were working just in the division that handled Kim's diet.

His sushi-chef-turned-author, who writes under the pseudonym Kenji Fujimoto, revealed that he made trips to Iran and Uzbekistan to buy caviar, to Denmark to buy pork, to western China to buy grapes and to Thailand for mangos and papayas.

Once, on a whim, Kim sent him to Tokyo to pick up a particular herb-scented rice cake. Fujimoto calculated that each bite-size cake ended up costing about $120.

Kim insists that his rice be cooked over a wood fire using trees cut from Mt. Paektu, a legendary peak on the Chinese border, according to a memoir written by a nephew of Kim's first wife. He has his own private source of spring water. Female workers inspect each grain of rice to ensure that they meet the leader's standards. (The nephew, Lee Young Nam, who defected to South Korea in the 1980s, was assassinated by suspected North Korean agents in Seoul in 1997.)

Fascinating, and a further indication of something we pretty much knew already -- Kim Jong-Il is batshit crazy.

Bonehead diplomacy.   Batshit crazy though he is, however, Kim is crazy like a fox -- certainly cunning enough to have played George Bush like a violin, and for a fool.

This week, after 20 months of doing nothing about North Korea's drive to build nuclear weapons, President Bush finally put a proposal -- a set of incentives for disarmament -- on the negotiating table. The remarkable thing is, the deal is practically identical to the accord that President Clinton signed with Pyongyang in 1994 -- an accord that Bush condemned and scuttled from the moment he took over the White House. (For more on this tale, click here and here.)

It's good that Bush has at last realized that diplomacy is the only way to solve the crisis. But he's come a bit late to this epiphany. North Korea has greatly strengthened its hand in the interim. Two years ago, its 8,000 fuel rods were padlocked under international inspection. Now, they've been reprocessed into bomb-grade plutonium.

Had Bush made the offer back when he first had the chance, Kim Jong-il probably would have taken it. Kim may take it still; his closest allies, the Chinese, are urging him to. But if he behaves the way he usually behaves -- the way any cunningly rational leader in his position would behave.he will up the ante, ask for more, and walk away with a shrug if Bush declines. And he knows that there's not much Bush can do about it.

Bush has stunningly mishandled this confrontation. He has allowed North Korea -- the most rickety spoke on his "axis of evil," a dangerous regime by any measure -- to reach the crest of becoming a nuclear power. He has dismissed numerous opportunities to nip this disaster in the bud. And now he comes up with an old formula that evades the recent shift in the balance.

In short, by his own careless arrogance, the president of the world's most powerful nation has allowed himself to be outmaneuvered by the very model of a modern tinhorn dictator.


Gettin' the hell outta Dodge.   Bob Harris, on the Iraq handover:

So. Um. Paul Bremer got the hell out of Dodge two days early, admittedly because of security concerns. ("Other than the handful of senior officials participating in the handover ceremony, which was not broadcast live on television, Iraqis had no knowledge of it as it was happening. The ceremony was so secretive that even members of Bremer's senior staff did not know about it until two hours before it began, the official said.")

Two hours later, Bremer's the hell out of there.

Thank you Baghdad! We love yyew! Good night!

Over 130,000 troops, of course, stayed behind.

So. Iraq is now a sovereign nation.


With a government nobody elected. Whose security is so fragile it had to take power in secret because of fear of massive violence. Which is likely to declare martial law any minute. Which will be enforced by occupying troops, which aren't leaving.

Things are so bad that nobody could even guarantee the security of a single public event, which was, let us remember, supposedly the culmination of purpose for the whole invasion.

I cannot believe the media is reporting any of this with a straight face.

Neither can I.

[...] What's going on right now is obviously nothing but an attempt by the Bush White House to set up someone else to take the blame for the ongoing shitstorm. Remember the American domestic politics is the only reason June 30th was ever chosen in the first place -- the date was fixed before any plan for even forming the new "government" even existed, or we had the slightest clue whom we were handing power to.
Three Marines were killed on the very first day after the handover. As Lyn asked, "What do we do now? Invade them again?"

Coalition: Vast Majority of Iraqis Still Alive.   Our administration's optimisic view, reported last Wednesday, in preparation for the scheduled handover of "sovereignty" to Iraq, which of course occurred two days early:

BAGHDAD, JUNE 23 -- As the Coalition Provisional Authority prepares to hand power over to an Iraqi-led interim government on June 30, CPA administrator L. Paul Bremer publicly touted the success of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"As the Coalition's rule draws to a close, the numbers show that we have an awful lot to be proud of," Bremer said Tuesday. "As anyone who's taken a minute and actually looked at the figures can tell you, the vast majority of Iraqis are still alive -- as many as 99 percent. While 10,000 or so Iraqi civilians have been killed, pretty much everyone is not dead."

According to U.S. Department of Defense statistics, of the approximately 24 million Iraqis who were not killed, nearly all are not in a military prison. Bremer said "a good number" of those Iraqis who are in jail have been charged with a crime, and most of them have enjoyed a prison stay free of guard-dog attacks, low-watt electrocutions, and sexual humiliation.

U.S. Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt explained the coalition's accomplishments in geographical terms.

"There are vast sections of the country where one can go outside unarmed during the daylight hours," Kimmitt said, speaking from a heavily guarded base outside of Baghdad. "Even in cities where fighting has occurred, many neighborhoods have not been torn apart by gunfire. And, throughout the country, more towns than I could name off the top of my head have never been touched by a bomb at all."

Kimmitt said the bulk of the nation's public buildings are still standing.

"Throughout the nation, four out of five mosques have not been obliterated," Kimmitt said. "That's way, way, way more than half. Also, 80 percent of the nation's treasures and artifacts have not been destroyed by artillery or stolen in the widespread looting. If we were in school, that'd be a B-minus." [...]

Iraq's new prime minister, Iyad Allawi, agreed that the situation in his soon-to-be-independent nation is improving.

"Of the 25 members of the Iraqi Governing Council, 23 survived until the group was replaced last month," Allawi said. "Nine out of 10 times, death threats against those who cooperate with coalition efforts do not end in actual murders."


(Via The Onion)

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Sunday, June 27, 2004
Carole Coleman responds.   The RTÉ journalist says, "The policy of the White House is that you submit your questions in advance, so they had my questions for about three days." In response to White House whining complaints, RTÉ replies that the news organization "totally stands over the conduct of the interview and Carole's journalism."

More outrage.   BushCo continue to attempt to politicize science.

Administration Tries to Rein In Scientists

The Bush administration has ordered that government scientists must be approved by a senior political appointee before they can participate in meetings convened by the World Health Organization, the leading international health and science agency.

A top official from the Health and Human Services Department in April asked the WHO to begin routing requests for participation in its meetings to the department's secretary for review, rather than directly invite individual scientists, as has long been the case.

Officials at the WHO, based in Geneva, Switzerland, have refused to implement the request thusfar, saying it could compromise the independence of international scientific deliberations. Denis G. Aitken, WHO assistant director-general, said Friday that he had been negotiating with Washington in an effort to reach a compromise.


No no no, can't have any scientists offering actual science that's in opposition with BushCo agenda now, can we?

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Saturday, June 26, 2004
What a gobshite.   Here's the capper to yesterday's story about the RTÉ interview with Shrub:

The White House has lodged a complaint with the Irish Embassy in Washington over RTÉ journalist Carole Coleman's interview with US President George Bush.

And it is believed the President's staff have now withdrawn from an exclusive interview which was to have been given to RTÉ this morning by First Lady Laura Bush.

It is understood that both RTÉ and the Department of Foreign Affairs were aware of the exclusive arrangement, scheduled for 11am today. However, when RTÉ put Ms Coleman's name forward as interviewer, they were told Mrs Bush would no longer be available.

The Irish Independent learned last night that the White House told Ms Coleman that she interrupted the president unnecessarily and was disrespectful.

She also received a call from the White House in which she was admonished for her tone.

And it emerged last night that presidential staff suggested to Ms Coleman as she went into the interview that she ask him a question on the outfit that Taoiseach Bertie Ahern wore to the G8 summit. [Emphasis mine.]

Jesus. This is what she gets for doing her job and doing it well, instead of asking Shrub fluff questions like oh my jaysis, didn't Bertie have the most fabulous outfit on at G8? Pathetic.

Busy day!   We're off early this morning to line up to see "Fahrenheit 9/11" (our friend Rick said that yesterday there were already 60 people in line an hour and a half early; "All of the evening performances at the first screen had already sold out. They had added a second screen at the mall and a couple of those performances were sold out. By the time I got out of the theater all of the additional showings had sold out and they were adding midnight and 1am screenings at the other theaters nearby. I talked to the theater manager briefly and he said they were scrambling to get additional prints and more screens before the weekend was up ..." Wow.), then Italian food for lunch, then dash back to Pasadena for a cooking demo of Tuscan food and then dinner. Whoo!

Meanwhile, the rest of youse go see Michael's movie.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, June 25, 2004
Gore: "Democracy itself is in grave danger."   Here is the complete text of Al Gore's speech yesterday to the American Constitution Society at Georgetown University. Read it.

George W. Bush speaks to Ireland.   Yesterday RTÉ News in Ireland featured an exclusive ten-minute interview with the President of the United States, conducted at the White House by their Washington correspondent Carole Coleman (RealOne player required).

It was ... unbelievable. Yet, depressingly, completely believable. And infuriating.

He proceeded right out of the gate to blame Abu Ghraib on "a few soldiers", was incredibly rude and condescending to Ms. Coleman (who was asking pointed, incisive questions, none of which he answered), and was visibly annoyed when she declined to accept the platitudinal bullshit and tried to call him on the facts. He was on the defensive, was not cogent, and was not responsive. I was embarrassed for all of us.

I showed the interview to Wes, and he responded with a list of points that articulated what I was thinking exactly, probably better than I was planning to say it. Make sure you watch the interview first, then read his response below:

Here's my list of things about this interview that piss me off:

1. The suggestion that anyone who is upset about the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib does not "understand the values of America" (whatever that means).

2. The outright statement that anyone who is upset about the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib does not understand the difference between the actions of individual solders and "the actions of our country."

3. The unbelievably condescending manner in which he told the completely unrelated (and unsubstantiated) story about seven disfigured men whose hands were allegedly amputated by Saddam Hussein and who were surgically restored "by the generosity of America", as if it were a history lesson the interviewer should have already known well.

4. His unspeakable rudeness to the interviewer when she called him on his continual harping on Saddam's possession and use of WMDs -- which, she pointed out quite rightly, have never been found.

5. His pathetic attempt to pass of the U.S. invasion of Iraq as being somehow justified (albeit not sanctioned) by judgment of the U.N.

6. "The world is better off without Saddam Hussein," as if that's the excuse for everything.

7. Such an arrogant, condescending s.o.b.

8. Trying to have his God and eat it, too. Either his relationship with God is a personal thing that naturally informs his morality and life choices but should not be brought into matters of state, or it is a metaphysical absolute, God is on his side, and therefore he can do no ultimate wrong. I am personally outraged that he continually attempts to play this both ways.

9. "History will judge what I'm about." So I don't have to make any pretense of doing anything other than I want to do, because what people think, feel or believe today simply doesn't matter. (He's right, though; history will indeed judge him.)

10. The completely unrelated HIV/AIDS interjection. Nice use of the word "pandemic." However, she did not ask about HIV/AIDS.

11. "We [France and the U.S.] just had a difference of opinion regarding 'when you say something, do you mean it?'" Nice job trivializing a sudden, fundamental and schismatic break between two nations that have been allies for years.

12. Jesus, how many fucking times is he going to interrupt her by accusing her of interrupting him? Seems to me that she's the interviewer -- it's her job to ask questions.

I hope you link to this so people can see him unscripted, unedited and not being managed by his handlers.

I can only think that anyone in Ireland who already hated him and who watched this is going to hate him now even more than before. Anyone who was sitting on the fence certainly fell off. My Jaysis ...

I'm sorry. The majority of us didn't vote for him.

Major league asshole.   From the Los Angeles Times, Vice-President Dick Cheney, ever the class act, while on the Senate floor yesterday told a liberal Democratic senator to go fuck himself.

Leahy, a liberal Democrat, had greeted Cheney in a lighthearted way and that the vice president criticized him for Democrats' attacks on Cheney regarding ethics matters, such as alleged improprieties in Iraq military contracts awarded to Halliburton, a company the vice president once headed.

Leahy responded by objecting to Republican accusations that Democrats were anti-Catholic because they opposed a Bush judicial nominee who was Roman Catholic.

At that, sources said, Cheney responded, "Go fuck yourself."

[Expletive undeleted ... ed.]

Although the Washington Post is reporting that Cheney said "Fuck yourself" rather than "Go fuck yourself", the exact wording is less important; it's the thought that counts, right?

Major league asshole? Yeah, big time.

P.S. -- Billmon has two wonderful posts on this delightful little sentiment from the man who's a heartbeat away from a pacemaker-driven presidency; the latter is hilarious.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, June 24, 2004
Cocktail of the day.   Because what the world needs now is more rye cocktails. Because what the world needs now is more Liberals. Because I don't think a "Conservative Cocktail" would taste good. (I don't stock vitriol in my bar, anyway.)

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).

Perverse Polarity.   Paul Glastris writes in Washington Monthly:

About a decade ago, national news organizations regularly swooped in to various university campuses to report on the ideological battles then brewing there. Faculties and student bodies were bitterly divided over affirmative action, speech codes, and academic freedom. Archetypes of right (a musty old professor or a white male young Republican) and left (jargon-spouting activists or faculty members) could be found to represent the ideological poles, mutually hostile and philosophically uncompromising.

In one sense these descriptions reflected a certain objective truth: Campuses were indeed polarized. In another sense, though, they missed the story completely. The ideological gulf on campuses did not result from the right and left tugging equally hard in opposite directions. It resulted from the extremism of the academic left, which was seeking both radically to change the culture of the campus and, in many cases, to intimidate their critics into silence.

There's something similar about the way the national press has been describing the polarization of our political culture over the last few years. It is a cliché to observe that the parties have drawn further apart, the center no longer holds, and partisans on both sides have withdrawn further into mutual loathing and ever more-homogenous and antagonistic groupings. Where the analysis goes wrong is in its assumption, either explicit or implicit, that both parties bear equal responsibility for this state of affairs. While partisanship may now be deeply entrenched among their voters and their elites, the truth is that the growing polarization of American politics results primarily from the growing radicalism of the Republican Party.


Make sure you read the entire article.

The ire of the Irish.   Shrub arrives in Ireland tomorrow. The Boston Globe, the daily read for what's perhaps the heart of Irish-America, writes, "Ireland is bracing for huge anti-American demonstrations as Bush arrives for the US-EU summit. Has the long Irish-American friendship finally soured?" (Via The Green[e]house)

Twenty years ago, when Ronald Reagan visited his ancestral village in County Tipperary, most Irish people -- uncharacteristically -- bit their tongues.

Reagan's support for right-wing dictators and guerrillas in Central America and for the apartheid government in South Africa, not to mention his determination to put more missiles in Europe, made him wildly unpopular in the land of his forebears. Still, the Irish welcomed him to Ballyporeen, and cheered him when he took a sip from a pint of Guinness at a pub renamed in his honor -- even though, truth be told, some Tipperarymen privately grumbled that a Secret Service agent took the first sip and that Reagan merely used the pint as a photo prop.

But things change, even in a country where it used to be said there was no future, just the past happening over and over again. The Ronald Reagan Pub in Ballyporeen is for sale. And next Friday, when George W. Bush touches down at Shannon Airport for a United States-European Union summit, many Irish people are expected to give him their equivalent of a Bronx cheer instead of the traditional céad míle fáilte, or a hundred thousand welcomes. There were about 10,000 demonstrators when Reagan visited Ireland; Irish police say they are preparing for at least 10 times that number next week.

Determined to keep an expected crush of protesters away from Bush, the Irish police are mounting the biggest security operation in the country's history -- which, on an island that endured a fierce 30-year Irish Republican Army insurgency, says something.

While I don't expect the Taoiseach [Prime Minister] to tell him to feck off, the Irish Examiner reports that the Tánaiste [Deputy Prime Minister], Mary Harney, said that the Irish government's disagreements with US foreign policy "would be made clear to the US president at the weekend." (As if he'll care.)

Greg Greene observes in his above-referenced post on the subject, "That's right: we've fallen so far that we're hated by the Irish. Put that four-leaf clover in your pipe and smoke it." Actually, I don't think that's true. I think the Irish people are well aware of the difference between Americans and the current American government. On my most recent travels to Ireland, when the subject came up the outrage and criticism was directed entirely toward BushCo, not to me. As Christy pointed out in his RTÉ interview the other day, being against George W. Bush doesn't make you anti-American. That said, the anti-Bush sentiment is palpable.

I'm intensely curious to see what the turnout will be for the demonstrations across Ireland tomorrow night. Besides the main ones in Dublin and Clare, there are smaller protests organised in Galway, Waterford, Tralee (Co. Kerry), Sligo and at Shannon Town. I'm registered at a number of Irish news websites, and I'll post a few updates when I can.

From the Index.   I really enjoy "Harper's Index", from the venerable Harper's Magazine. Here are a few excerpts from their May 2004 index:

Number of blank votes recorded by touchscreen machines in a January election for Florida's House of Representatives : 137

Votes by which the race was won : 12

Minimum number of misleading statements on Iraq made by the Bush Administration's top officials since March 2002 : 237

Percentage of these that contradicted, made selective use of, or mischaracterized existing government intelligence : 100

Days before last year's invasion of Iraq that Osama bin Laden called Saddam Hussein a "socialist infidel" : 36

Days into the 1999 NATO bombing of Kosovo that candidate George W. Bush observed, "Victory means exit strategy" : 17 Percentage of the 958 same-sex unions granted to Vermont residents since July 2000 that have since been dissolved : 3

Percentage of U.S. heterosexual marriages that are dissolved within five years : 20

'Round and 'round it goes ...

Quotes of the day.   (Via Uggabugga) Let's all sing ... lie la lie ... lie lie lie lie, lie la lie, lie la lie ...

"Face the Nation", March 14, 2004
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, you're the ... only people I've heard use the phrase "immediate threat." I didn't. [...] if you have any citations, I'd like to see 'em.

MR. FRIEDMAN: We have one here. [...] "No terrorist state poses a greater or more immediate threat to the security of our people and the stability of the world and the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq."

"Capitol Report", June 17, 2004
GLORIA BORGER: Well, let's get to Mohammed Atta for a minute, because you mentioned him as well. You have said in the past that it was quote, "pretty well confirmed."

VICE-PRESIDENT CHENEY: No, I never said that.

"Meet the Press", December 8, 2001
VICE-PRESIDENT CHENEY: It's been "pretty well confirmed" that he did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April.

Lie la lie lie lie la lie, la la la la, lieeee ... (apologies to Simon and Garfunkel).

Oh, by the way, Dick ... it hasn't been "Czechoslovakia" since January 1, 1993.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, June 21, 2004
Holy crapola, could I really be finished?   A week ago Friday I submitted the umpteenth edit of the sequenced song list for the New Orleans box set I've been working on since last August. All things considered, I'm pretty damn happy with it. Inevitably with collections like this compromises have to be made (e.g., the band where the song of theirs I really wanted was too long, and had to be substituted for a shorter one to fit on the disc, plus a bunch of songs for which we simply couldn't get licensing), but in just about every case any substitution made ended up being the perfect substitution. Last Friday I handed in the last revision of the liner notes, and I think I'm actually done with this thing.

The official title of the box is:

"Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens: The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans".

I grant special dispensation to pronounce the name of the city "New Or-LEENS", as is allowed when in a song lyric, when saying the title of the box set, so that it'll rhyme.

The guys doing the graphics, cover art and packaging design are currently hard at work. I can't wait to see what they come up with; I worked with them on severeal ideas for packaging and was very happy with all their ideas (and happy that they slurped up a lot of my ideas too). There's nothing on the Shout! Factory site yet -- they've only got upcoming releases listed through the end of July so far, and this puppy's due out on October the somethingth.

Actually, I'm a lot more than pretty damn happy -- I'm ecstatic, incredibly excited, for this box to come out. Needless to say, I'll keep y'all informed. Maybe later, as the release date approaches, I'll post a track listing.

Cocktail of the day.   Heavens, I've got three cocktails of the day backed up. Ah well, it was a busy week last week, what with hectic days at the day job, the radio show and having to finish up the liner notes at the end of the week. I did have time for a few libations, but not much for anything else.

We had this one of the evening of Bloomsday, chosen solely for the syllable "Blooms" in its name and not because it has a single thing to do with Ireland, James Joyce or Leo Bloom; for all I know, it could be named after J. K. Rowling's publisher (I'll have to ask Robert sometime). Speaking of whom, this is a DrinkBoy original from 2003.

Licor 43 (or "Cuarenta y Tres") is from Spain, a rather sweet liqueur with a citrus-vanilla flavor and a supposedly thousand-year-old recipe of fruit juices, herbs, spices and vanilla.


2 ounces gin.
1/2 ounce Licor 43.
1/2 ounce Lillet blanc.
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters.

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.

Christy Moore press conference --   RTÉ provides a RealAudio report on Christy's press conference about the "When Bush Comes to Shove" anti-war concerts (which happened in Dublin last weekend; haven't seen any reviews yet) and the new single by himself and Damien Rice, due out in Ireland on Friday.

Have you seen "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban"?   If so, then read this immediately. It's feckin' funny.

(I share in author Cleo's disclaimer; I loved the movie too, but this parody is still funny.)

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, June 16, 2004  ::  The Bloomsday Centenary
Happy 100th Bloomsday!   Today is the 100th anniversary of the events of James Joyce's novel Ulysses, the single day during which his characters Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus took their respective journeys through Dublin. There's a lot going on, including a five-month ReJoyce Dublin festival, a scholarly symposium, plus on the other hand lots of grousing from people like author Roddy Doyle, who finds Joyce's work overlong, overrated and unmoving. Only you can decide.

Now that I'm in my forties, older and presumably wiser (ha!), I'll have to take another crack at Ulysses. I tried it in college, and I couldn't manage it. I do love Dubliners (I just got a six-CD unabridged reading of it by Irish actor Jim Norton (a.k.a. Bishop Brennan from "Father Ted"), and ultimately enjoyed A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man when I was a senior in high school. Even though Roddy can't be bothered, I think this year might be a good time to give Leo and Molly another crack.

Marco Mannino, 1952-2004.   I was shocked to read in the Times-Picayune that one of my old music teachers in high school passed away a week ago last Friday. He was primarily a substitute when I was there, rather than a full-time teacher (his dad, Frank J. Mannino, was our band director and one of my best music teachers), but I do remember him well. Multiple myeloma is a terrible way to go, and it was far, far too soon. My heart and condolences go out to his entire family. So long, Marco ...

Cocktail of the day.   Yesterday was Wes' turn, and once again he came up with a classic that neither of us had ever gotten around to trying. This is a wonderful old chestnut, and back in the day it even called for its own glass, the Delmonico glass. They're rare as dodo's teeth nowadays, but a whiskey sour glass is pretty much the same thing.

The combination of the two main base spirits might sound unlikely at first, but it was really delightful. Make sure you get a nice lemon twist with lots of oil in the skin, and express that oil onto the surface of the drink when you twist -- that flavor component is important.


1 ounce gin.
1/2 ounce brandy.
1/2 ounce dry vermouth.
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth.
1 dash orange bitters.

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.

But of course, we already knew this.   In spite of the never-ending stream of falsehood from Cheneybush, the 9/11 Commission finds that there was "no credible evidence" of a link between Iraq and al Qaeda in the attacks against the United States.

Quel surprise, for the thousandth time.

"When Bush Comes to Shove" change of venue.   News from Damien Rice's mailing list ... the new single "Lonely Soldier", a new song about peace by Christy Moore and Damien Rice, will be out next Friday 25th June, Ireland only. If you're interested, email or ring Mulligan Music in Galway and see if they'll let you pre-order or something. Tell Mike I said hi. You can also order directly from Damien's website.

'lonely soldier'
featuring - lisa hannigan, tomo & shane fitzsimons

track listing
1. lonely soldier (featuring Christy, Damien, Lisa, Tomo & Shane)
2. lonely soldier (acoustic version with Christy & Damien)

this is a non profit cd
all proceeds go to the Irish anti-war movement to help promote a greater awareness of the futility of war

the rrp of the single is €2.95. please do not pay more than €3 it.

this is not an anti-military song
it's not an anti anything song

Also, more importantly ... for those of you reading in Ireland (there are probably at least three or two of you) who are planning to go to the Irish Anti-War Movement's "When Bush Comes to Shove" concert (featuring Christy, Damien, Kíla, The Revs, Katell Keineg and more) this Saturday, in case you hadn't heard, it's moved form the Point Depot to Vicar Street. (I wonder how they're going to manage that ... apparently it's already sold out, and the Point seats 8,500, and Vicar Street seats only about a thousand. Hmm.) Anyway, whoever's going, ya lucky feckers, have a great time. I wish I was going with you.

The Fairy is free!   You may wish to take a moment to interpret that header as you will, but you're likely wrong. The fairy to whom I'm referring is La Fée Verte, the Green Fairy, the old nickname for absinthe. Nearly a century after starting the anti-absinthe hysteria by unjustly blaming the powerful spirit for a murder, the Swiss parliament voted 142-13 to re-legalize absinthe.

This is good news. Now, maybe Swiss absinthes like La Bleue won't cost two-feckin'-hundred dollars a bottle.

Shameful.   The Los Angeles Times featured on its front page today an article about former soldier Spc. Sean Baker where he recalls the beating he received at the hands of his fellow soldiers in Guantánamo, and how he's been "abandoned by the military."

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Cocktail of the day.   This is a variation on Johnny Mitta's Rose Cocktail. As much as I liked it, I knew that I'd like it better if I changed a major ingredient. With certain exceptions, like Martinis and Vermouth Cocktails, I tend to prefer Lillet blanc to dry vermouth more often than not. With that substitution, I added one more ingredient to help balance the drink now that the herbal tang of the dry vermouth is no longer there. And yes, it looks almost just like a Rose cocktail (perhaps a little redder), but since it's a new and separate drink it gets its own picture. We don't want any of our cocktails to get jealous, now, do we?

I am not fond of royalty (certain water polo players excepted), so this drink is not named after any actual people whose primary occupation seems to be to think that they're better than everyone else. (As the song says, "I cry out 'Republic!' and allegiance to no crown.") It is, however named for figurative royalty -- Wes' first niece, who was born two weeks ago last Thursday. They're her initials.


2 ounces Lillet blanc.
1 ounce kirschwasser.
1 teaspoon raspberry syrup.
2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters.

Combine with cracked ice in a shaker or mixing glass.
Stir for no less than 30 seconds, then strain into a
cocktail glass. Rose petal garnish optional.

That's just ...revolting.   I love hamburgers. Properly done, well-grilled with good beef and the right toppings, a burger rise above lowbrow food and becomes one of the comforting delights of American cuisine. Unfortunately, the hamburger has been sullied by the likes of McD*n*ld's and most of the rest of the fast-food chains that contribute their artery-clogging, gut-expanding offerings to this increasingly obesogenic society. Still, I'll always go for a good burger, within the confines of my diet and in definite moderation. I love 'em.

There are limits, though. There are lines one crosses in which a nice, friendly, good ol' hamburger becomes something so over-the-top as to be grotesque. For instance ... ladies and gentlemen, I present you ...

I've been seeing and hearing commercials for these, extolling the alleged virtues of not only the product but of the people who can eat "A POUND OF ANGUS BEEF!!" (A pound? What idiot would eat a pound of beef at one sitting? A proper serving would be three or four ounces.) Extolling the alleged virtues of it being as big or bigger than four McD*n*ld's Quarter Pounders with Cheese, or seven of their plain regular cheeseburgers. It's just as big or bigger, so it must be better! (Seven of those cheeseburgers? I'd puke, probably.) Just about everyone I know who's seen or heard one of these commercials is appalled. I'm still trying to decide if this is worse than their nauseating "If it doesn't get all over the place, it doesn't belong in your face" campaign.

These monstrosityburgers are the product of the fevered minds in the dungeons test kitchens at Carl's Jr., a mainstay of the southern California fast-food scene. I have eaten at Carl's Jr. exactly three times in my life (three different restaurants, in two different states). Within a few hours of each meal I felt extremely ill, and due to those three strikesI don't think I've patronized a Carl's since around 1985. (The cramps and trots, plus their namesake founder's right-wing politics were more than enough to keep me away.) Something like this isn't going to beckon me back.

Their marketing department is hard at work trying, though. "The 1 lb. Double Six Dollar Burger was designed specifically for our core hungry, young guy target audiences," says Brad Haley, executive vice-president of marketing for Carl's Jr. (Um, yeah Brad ... soon to be your core, hungry young fat guy with heart disease target audience.)

Let's look at the nutrition information for this behemoth, shall we?

Calories: 1,420.
The average healthy adult should take in approximately 2,000 calories per day. This amounts to 71% of that in one item in one meal, and that doesn't count the inevitable fries and highly sugary soda that's bound to be consumed along with it.

Calories from fat: 910.
No more than 30% of one's calories should come from fat. In this item, the calories from fat come to 64%.

Total fat: 101 grams.
Smilin' mighty Jesus H. Christ on a rocket-powered motorbike ... over a hundred grams of fat. A 2,000 calorie-per-day diet would allow 65g of fat for an entire day. A highly active teenage boy who's very athletic and eats 3,000 calories per day might be able to get away with this, except for the fries and all the other fat he'd likely eat in a day, but then there's ...

Saturated fat: 44 grams.
This is more than double the amount of saturated fat you should have in one day. In one burger.

Cholesterol: 245 milligrams.
Daily vale for cholesterol should not exceed 300mg, and you're getting 80% of a whole day's value in one component of one meal.

Sodium: 2,390 milligrams.
That's only 10mg shy of your entire recommended sodium intake for an entire day.

Total carbohydrates: 62 grams.
Probably all from the white flour in that Gargantuan bun.

Dietary fiber: 3 grams.
Probably from the lettuce and pickle ... daily recommended values esay there should be 11.5g of fiber per 1,000 calories. Not here!

Sugars: 17 grams.
That's a lotta sugar for a burger ... 1-3/4 teaspoons. Plenty ketchup, I suppose. Add a "medium" Coke to that (which is 32 ounces, or one quart) and you add about 30 teaspoons of sugar.

Protein: 64 grams.
DRV for a 2,000 calorie diet is 50g of protein.

Weight Watchers points: 36.
As of this morning I weight 162 pounds, and until I reach my weight loss goal I get 22 total points per day. When I reach my goal and go onto the maintenance program, I'll probably get 26 or so, and when I started the program at 198 lbs, I got 24 per day. This one burger is 1.5 times the total amount of food I was supposed to have in an entire day.

Carl's should hire the characters from that movie where an ad agency hired mental patients to write their slogans, and they were honest, direct and effective. This burger's slogan would have to be, "Are you a big fat pig? Wanna be one? Boy, have we got the burger for you!!"

If you saw the wonderful film "Super Size Me", you watched Morgan Spurlock eat a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese and a Super Size Fries, and then about 40 minutes later barf it up through his car window. This burger is supposedly twice the size of that.

Who on earth would actually want one of these? What's behind this? Feederism? Mere gluttony? I don't get it.

Even more appalling, in a way, is Carl's Jr.'s attempt to capitalize on the low-carb diet craze with their latest offering, pornographically depicted in all its cheese-oozing glory on signs outside every one of their outlets ... the Low Carb Breakfast Bowl! It consists of:

... from bottom to top, includes two scrambled eggs, a sausage patty, a slice of Swiss cheese, and a "Loaded Omelet" made with sausage, crumbled bacon, diced ham, and cheddar cheese. The product is topped with more crumbled bacon and shredded cheddar cheese -- all packaged conveniently in a 20-oz plastic bowl.
Well, it is certainly as advertised, only 5 grams of nasty, awful, Satanic carbs! First the good news, now the not-so-good ... it weights in at 315g, almost three-quarters of a pound of food. A mere 2 grams of dietary fiber. Nine nundred calories, 660 of which are from fat (that's 73%, if you don't want to do the math). Fat content is 73 grams, 33 of which are saturated fats (that's 45%, better than that burger but still too much). Sodium content, 2,050 mg.

I don't care what the late Dr. Atkins says, this isn't good for you. There are too many calories and too much fat for one meal.

Don't be suckered in by this kind of advertising bullshit. Fast-food chains like this don't care about your health, they want to separate you from your money. If you're on a reduced-carbohydrate diet, do it and be well; be healthy and eat real food!

Just how bizarre have things become?   Take this quiz from and find out. Here's a cheat sheet on how to ace it -- for most of the questions just pick the most bizarre, absurd, mindbogglingly unlikely answer, and that'll be the right one.

(To be fair, the subject of #7 applies to every president, wherever he or she goes, and has since the 1950s. The irony and incongruity of the scenario is unaffected, however.)

Oh, the scandal.   Quel surprise. The Knight-Ridder reportage has a better headline: GOP refusing to allow testimony on Halliburton spending. I'm shockeditellyoushocked.

Mike West arrived in Iraq last September as a labor supervisor, one of legions of workers hired by oil services giant Halliburton Co. to help rebuild the battered country. And at his boss's direction, West filled out timecards saying that he worked 12-hour days, seven days a week, in camps with evocative names such as Anaconda and Al Asad.

But over the next two months, West said yesterday, he probably put in no more than a week's worth of labor. The rest of the time, West and others hired by the company loafed, read books and grew frustrated about the lack of work, he said.

When he complained about the apparent waste, West said, he was told not to worry about costs: Halliburton would make a profit no matter what happened. "I really saw no purpose for us being there," West said. "I don't know why Halliburton was hiring all these people."

From the second story link:

Halliburton Inc. paid high-priced bills for common items, such as soda, laundry and hotels, in Iraq and Kuwait and then passed the inflated costs along to taxpayers, according to several former Halliburton employees and a Pentagon internal audit.

Democrats in the House of Representatives, who are feuding with House Republicans over whether the spending should be publicly aired at a hearing on Tuesday, released signed statements Monday by five ex-Halliburton employees recounting the lavish spending.

Those former employees contend that the politically connected firm:

-- Lodged 100 workers at a five-star hotel in Kuwait for a total of $10,000 a day while the Pentagon wanted them to stay in tents, like soldiers, at $139 a night.

-- Abandoned $85,000 trucks because of flat tires and minor problems.

-- Paid $100 to have a 15-pound bag of laundry cleaned as part of a million-dollar laundry contract in peaceful Kuwait. The price for cleaning the same amount of laundry in war-torn Iraq was $28.

-- Spent $1.50 a can to buy 37,200 cans of soda in Kuwait, about 24 times higher than the contract price.

-- Knowingly paid subcontractors twice for the same bill.

[...] Last month, a dozen truckers told Knight Ridder that Halliburton sent them back and forth across Iraq with empty trailers more than 100 times.

And would you believe ... Rep. Thomas M. Davis, the Republican chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform, decided not to include this testimony in today's hearing about contracting in Iraq. It only came to light because of one Democrat.

Henry Waxman is my hero.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, June 14, 2004
Irish artists to record anti-war protest song.   It's been too long ... I think we need to have protest songs back once again. I can't think of a better bunch to bring it about than these folks ...

Irish artists young and old have joined forces to record song in aid of protests against US President George Bush's forthcoming visit to Ireland, it was announced today.

Folk singer Christy Moore and songwriter Damien Rice will debut the track "Lonely Soldier" at an event organised by the Irish Anti-War Movement (IAWM).

A host of prominent musicians will perform at the concert, hoping to promote the Stop Bush campaign.

Moore said the right to protest was incredibly important.

"The world seems to have become a more frightening place in recent years and freedoms are being eroded," he said.

"This man coming to Ireland with all the baggage he brings means the people of Ireland's freedoms are being eroded as well.

"Irish musicians have always lent their voices to music and issues. It's great to see people who do become involved and do get up on platforms to make their voices heard."

He described Little Soldier as a "beautiful, simple song" which offers an alternative view.

Can't wait to hear it.

In the meantime, give a first or repeat listen to Christy's brother Barry (aka Luka Bloom)'s song, "I Am Not At War With Anyone".

Cocktail of the day.   It was a bit hot this weekend, and we had been out running errands and dragging crap out of the garage all day Saturday. I decided something extra-refreshing was in order. I can't remember where I first heard of this variation of the Brazilian classic, but I got the inspiration to make one when someone gave us a pile of beautiful little kumquats the other day. It was mighty, mighty good.

Kumquat Caipirinha

2 ounces cachaça (or white rum for a kumquat caipirissima).
4 kumquats, halved.
1/2 lime, cut into quarters.
1 tablespoon sugar.

Seed the kumquats if possible, without losing any juice. Combine the kumquats, lime and sugar in a mixing glass and muddle thoroughly until sugar is dissolved into the juice. Add cachaça (or rum), top the mixing glass with a metal shaker and seal; shake for about 10 seconds. Pour contents into a double Old-Fashioned glass, and add more ice if necessary.

If you haven't seeded the kumquats, now would be a good time to fish out all the floating pips with a spoon before serving. Since the whole kumquat is edible, you can also fish out the crushed kumquat shells and snack on them after you finish your drink. Tangy and delicious!

It ain't just me, babe.   Top story, yesterday's Los Angeles Times:

Retired officials say Bush must go.
The 26 ex-diplomats and military leaders say his foreign policy has harmed national security. Several served under Republicans.

By Ronald Brownstein, Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- A group of 26 former senior diplomats and military officials, several appointed to key positions by Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, plans to issue a joint statement this week arguing that President George W. Bush has damaged America's national security and should be defeated in November.

The group, which calls itself Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change, will explicitly condemn Bush's foreign policy, according to several of those who signed the document.

"It is clear that the statement calls for the defeat of the administration," said William C. Harrop, the ambassador to Israel under President Bush's father and one of the group's principal organizers.

Those signing the document, which will be released in Washington on Wednesday, include 20 former U.S. ambassadors, appointed by presidents of both parties, to countries including Israel, the former Soviet Union and Saudi Arabia.

Others are senior State Department officials from the Carter, Reagan and Clinton administrations and former military leaders, including retired Marine Gen. Joseph P. Hoar, the former commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East under President Bush's father. Hoar is a prominent critic of the war in Iraq.

Some of those signing the document -- such as Hoar and former Air Force Chief of Staff Merrill A. McPeak -- have identified themselves as supporters of Sen. John F. Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. But most have not endorsed any candidate, members of the group said.

It is unusual for so many former high-level military officials and career diplomats to issue such an overtly political message during a presidential campaign.

A senior official at the Bush reelection campaign said he did not wish to comment on the statement until it was released.


Yeah, no kidding. I'm sure that the statement will be described by the Bush campaign as something akin to blasphemy.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Saturday, June 12, 2004
Cocktail of the day: Cocktailian redux.   This evening (after a nine-hour day of home improvement shopping and clearing crap out of the garage) we made Dave Wondrich's recent recommendation, the 1920s-era Rose cocktail, as featured in last week's "Cocktailian" article. Oh my. It's exquisite. You simply must try it.

We find this drink to be far superior when you use raspberry syrup made by either Smuckers or Knott's Berry Farm. We like the Torani product, but it's blown away by the jellymakers' products.

The Rose
(Johnny Mitta, Chatham Hotel, Paris, 1920s)

2 ounces Noilly Prat dry vermouth.
1 ounce kirschwasser.
1 teaspoon raspberry syrup (or red currant syrup if you can find it).

Combine with cracked ice in a shaker or mixing glass.
Stir for no less than 30 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass.
No garnish specified, although I'd use a washed organic rose petal.

Yum yum yum!!

Quote of the day.   Hee hee.

"I blame gay marriage."

-- Atrios, regarding Rush Limbaugh's third divorce.

Way to uphold those family values.

Quote of the day, part deux.   Day before yesterday, in an email from a friend:

Finally, it might just be as I said to [my husband] when Reagan died: "I'm having trouble summoning up how mad I was at him for all those years. Compared to what we have now, he just doesn't seem that bad."

"He was, though," [he] said. "He really was that bad."

But man, am I nostalgic for that kind of bad.

It's come to that.

As Wes said, "And that, you know, is one of the saddest commentaries I've heard on The State of Things As They Are Now."

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, June 11, 2004
Today, let's have a national day of mourning for Ray Charles. (1930 - 2004) R.I.P.

Lucky Old Sun

Up in the mornin'
Out on the job
Work like the devil for my pay
But that lucky old sun got nothin' to do
But roll around heaven all day.

Fuss with my woman, toil for my kids
Sweat till I'm wrinkled and gray
While that lucky old sun got nothin' to do
But roll around heaven all day.

Dear Lord above, can't you know I'm pining, tears all in my eyes
Send down that cloud with a silver lining, lift me to Paradise

Show me that river, take me across
Wash all my troubles away
Like that lucky old sun, give me nothing to do
But roll around heaven all day.

(Thanks for sending that, Dave.)

Fantastic new Uncle Tupelo site debuts.   This one was a long time coming. My friend Michael Pemberton, St. Louis native and adopted New Orleanian, was the first big UT proto-fan that I met. He's also thoroughly knowledgeable about the band, with them having been a local band for him back in the day. Michael's been talking about working on a truly comprehensive UT compendium and putting it on the web for years, and finally ...

Factory Belt is here.

Big, exhaustive and with everything you always wanted to know about Uncle Tupelo but were afraid to ask -- lists of live performances, many with songlists; posters; photos; articles and much, much more. It's wonderful. Thanks, Michael!

The Cocktailian.   In Gary Regan's fornightly visit to our favorite bartender ... a 1920s drink from Paris leaves our hero The Professor feeling in the pink.

The drink, involving French vermouth, kirschwasser and raspberry syrup, looks fabulous. I can't wait to try this one. Tonight!

Planxty's Live 2004 reviewed.   Sarah McQuaid in Ireland's Hot Press has a review. It's subscriber-only, so I'll post an excerpt:

From the first spontaneous roar from the crowd as O'Flynn's rock-solid pipes make their entrance on "The Starting Gate", it's evident that something magical is afoot. The four mesh together as though they'd never been apart, especially when Moore, Irvine and Lunny join in rich three-part vocal harmony on "The Good Ship Kangaroo". And always at the musical centre there's O'Flynn, his whistle and pipes a massive, deep-rooted core around which guitars, mandolins, bouzoukis and bodhráns dance in contrasting rhythms that intertwine delicately with nary a clash.

All the classics are represented -- "Arthur McBride", "Little Musgrave", "Raggle Taggle Gypsy", "The Blacksmith" -- this latter segueing into "Black Smithereens", a Balkan-inspired riot of syncopation with pipes and strings alternating in call-and-response stype. O'Flynn's solo turn on the slow air "The Dark Slender Boy" is a high point, as is Irvine's haunting "The West Coast of Clare".

If you were lucky enough to be there, this recording will take you back. If you weren't, close your eyes while you listen to it ... or better y et, get hold of the DVD and watch it in a darkened room. Don't be surprised if you find yourself whooping and shouting along with those fortunate punters in the audience.

I've never been such a fortunate punter before in me life.

She gives the CD a rating of 9.5 out of 10. I can't imagine what the half-point deduction was for, except maybe for its not being an entire concert's worth and therefore too short. Maybe I could go along with that.

Buy this CD and DVD. I'm tellin' yas.

Heads up, New Yorkers!   You are not going to want to miss this show, believe me. Deacon John is New Orleans at its finest.

Classics of New Orleans music, a jump blues orchestra, arrangements and performances by Allen Toussaint, Wardell Quezergue, plus Dr. John, The Zion Harmonizers, Henry Butler, Sista Teedy Boutté ... jeezus! Get thee to Lincoln Center!

Ten foods you should never eat.   (Via Matt) Actually, I'll have very little trouble avoiding just about all of these, but ...

Who knew Bugles were so bad for you?! Fried in coconut oil?! Good lord!

As for No. 10, Denny's "Grand Slam Breakfast" ... when I was in college I ate one of those, and within two hours was violently ill, quite literally writhing on the ground in agony. That was about 18 years ago, and I haven't had once since. Don't plan to again, either.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, June 10, 2004
Tonight on "Down Home".   I'll be debuting the brand-new Planxty Live 2004 album, so if you're in the States and you're curious, tune in at 88.5 FM in Los Angeles or via our web site just before 7:00pm Pacific time. I'll start with the first track off the album, then a little later in the show I'll do a set of Irish music with at least two more Planxty tracks. Tune in!

Cocktail of the day.   No, it's not a New Orleans cocktail, despite its name, but it oughta be. Very French, deceptively simple with only two ingredients, but one of those wonderful examples of cocktail alchemy as the various flavor components of the ingredients play off each other. Although after one sip you might think this had been invented in the Crescent City in the 1930s, you'd be wrong; it was invented in 2004 by Robert "DrinkBoy" Hess of Seattle. Boy, do we like this one, Robert ...

French Quarter

2-1/2 ounces Cognac (or other brandy).
3/4 ounce Lillet (blanc).

Combine with cracked ice in a shaker or mixing glass.
Stir for no less than 30 seconds.
Garnish with half a lemon wheel.

If you're anything like me (and I have what I consider to be a rather high tolerance for spirits), you'll be rather well-buzzed after just one of these. Faites attention.

New art by Tom Tomorrow.   Tom's been working his ever-brilliant fingers to the bone:

You can get it on a t-shirt, or lots of other swag. Buy, buy, buy! He has several wonderful designs for sale -- the two boys who sold me my Gryffindor-coloured necktie in the theatre lobby after I saw Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban particularly liked this t-shirt, which I was wearing at the time.

(Yes, I bought a Gryffindor necktie. Other than the books, it's the only Potter tchotchke that I could possibly buy without embarrassment. Yeah, we already know I'm a geek, but it's actually a nice tie, dammit.)

Nothing good.   Oh yes, bit by bit, it gets worse. (Via Wes.)

Military interrogators at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been given access to the medical records of individual prisoners, a breach of patient confidentiality that ethicists describe as a violation of international medical standards designed to protect captives from inhumane treatment. [...]

There is no universally established international law governing medical confidentiality. But ethics experts said international medical standards bar sharing such information with interrogators to ensure it is not used to pressure prisoners to talk by withholding medicine or by using personal information to torment a detainee. [...]

How military interrogators used the information is unknown. But a previously undisclosed Defense Department memo dated Oct. 9 cites Red Cross complaints that the medical files "are being used by interrogators to gain information in developing an interrogation plan." Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the commander of the facility at the time, denied the allegations, according to the memo.

Jeezus ....

Let's not forget ...   Amidst all the hagiographies, canonization and deification efforts regarding the late 40th president of the United States, and before the Bush-declared national day of mourning, let's try to keep a few things straight. As many have pointed out (unfortunately, though, almost none in the national media), what should be an attempt to lay a former president to rest has turned into a frenzy of worship that's got people simply making shit up.

The haziest area seems to be the cries of "He personally ended the Cold War!" Did he? Well, not exactly, but we can praise him for his willingness to work with Gorbachev, whose policies of glasnost and perestroika seem to have the upper hand there:

The Gorbachev factor -- too often overlooked in this week of Reagan-hagiography -- was crucial. If Yuri Andropov's kidneys hadn't given out, or if Konstantin Chernenko had lived a few years longer, Reagan's bluster and passion would have come to naught; the Cold War would probably have raged on for years; indeed, Reagan's rhetoric and actions might have aggravated tensions.

[...] Gorbachev returned to Moscow persuaded that Reagan -- who had earlier struck him as a "caveman" honestly had no intention of launching a first strike against the Soviet Union, and he made this point clear to the Politburo. He could continue with perestroika, which involved not just economic reforms but -- as a necessary precondition -- massive defense cuts and a transformation of international relations. He needed assurances of external security in order to move forward with this domestic upheaval. Reagan gave him those reassurances. Subsequent conversations between his foreign minister, Edvard Shevardnadze, and Secretary of State George Shultz reinforced his confidence.

In the last couple years of the Reagan administration, Reagan would propose extravagant measures in arms reductions. His hawkish aides would go along with them, thinking the Soviets would reject them (and the United States would win a propaganda victory). Then, to the surprise of everyone (except perhaps Reagan, who meant the proposals without cynicism), Gorbachev would accept them.

In the end, Reagan and Gorbachev needed each other. Gorbachev needed to move swiftly if his reforms were to take hold. Reagan exerted the pressure that forced him to move swiftly and offered the rewards that made his foes and skeptics in the Politburo think the cutbacks might be worth it.

We can, at least, praise him for his willingness to work with Gorbachev.

As for the gushing "He was the most popular president ever!" ... he wasn't.

The reason Reagan is remembered as being such a popular president is because for whatever reason any time any media person talks about Reagan they remind us that "he left office with the highest approval rating of any modern president." While this was true at the time, if you only look at the last poll (63%), which included an apparent last minute expression of popular goodwill for an aging retiring president, instead of doing something a bit more reasonable like averaging the final 3 or 6 polls (Reagan - 54, 53, 54, 51, 57, 64; Eisenhower - 61, 68, 65, 58, 59, 59). A 3 poll average would give Reagan 57.3 and Ike 58.66. Or, a 6 poll average would give Reagan 55.5 and Ike 61.66.

Of course, the statement is no longer true, as Bill Clinton left office with the highest approval rating as judged by the final poll (65). His final 6 polls were 58, 63, 60, 66, 65, 66. A 3 poll average would have given him 65.66 and a 6 poll average would give him 63.

But, more to the point the phrase "he left office with the highest approval rating of any modern president," which appears to have been inserted into the official script of every anchorperson in the country (yet again, Judy Woodruff said it), and which has been said for years, to the casual listener implies something even grander than (the now not even true) "his last poll was the highest ever!" What most people come away thinking is that "Reagan was the most popular president ever!" Now, there's no single way to determine that, but an obvious way would be to take the average, in which he does quite poorly.

People remember Reagan being a popular president because the media have been telling us that for years. It's really quite simple.

Let's see what some of his family, former colleagues, fellow travelers, journalists and members of his administration once said (via a post on MeFi):

"Poor dear, there's nothing between his ears." -- Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, in 1988, at a US-Soviet summit in Moscow.

"He has the ability to make statements that are so far outside the parameters of logic that they leave you speechless" -- Patti Davis, Reagan's daughter.

"They told stories about how inattentive and inept the President was... They said he wouldn't come to work -- all he wanted to do was to watch movies and television at the residence." -- Jim Cannon, Republican aide to Howard Baker, reporting on the inner conversations of Reagan's staff.

"What do you do when your president ignores all the palpable, relevant facts and wanders in circles? I could not bear to watch [Reagan] go on in this embarrassing way. I buried my head in my plate." -- David Stockman, Reagan's White House budget director.

"He talks about the glory of war, but you have to ask yourself, where was he when wars were being fought that he was young enough to fight in them? World War II, and the Korean war. Where he was was in Hollywood, making films, where the blood was catsup, and you could wash it off and go out to dinner afterwards." -- John Stockwell, former high-ranking CIA officer and station chief under Reagan.

"It's our fault. We should have given him better parts." -- Jack Warner of Warner Brothers, on hearing of Reagan's election as governor of California.

"What planet is he living on?" -- French President François Mitterand, referring to Reagan while in conversation with the Canadian Prime Minister.

"Reagan doesn't always check the facts before he makes statements, and the press accepts this as kind of amusing." -- Jimmy Carter, 1984.

"The president of the United States is a doddering space cadet..." -- Leslie Stahl, a reporter who met and interviewed Reagan several times during his presidency.

Finally, a let's-bring-everyone-down-to-realism editorial cartoon by Kirk Anderson of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. There's no link to it on their site (nor on his just yet), but I received a low-quality scan of it in email yesterday. Here's the text of the cartoon with its title ...


He tripled the national debt, but he had such CHARISMA!

He supported apartheid, but he was ALWAYS personable!

He backed Saddam, but he made us feel GOOD about ourselves!

He crushed worker rights, but he was someone you could sit down and have a beer with.

Star Wars turned out to be an expensive fantasy, but he had that INFECTIOUS OPTIMISM!

He backed death squads throughout Central America, but he always looked for the best in everyone.

He looked the other way when Salvadoran allies raped American nuns, but he had that SELF-DEPRECATING HUMOR!

He confused old movies with foreign policy, but he was always QUICK WITH A JOKE!

He traded arms for hostages and diverted money to drug-running death squads, but he never lost his SUNNY DISPOSITION!

It's right to be sad that another human being died of such a terrible disease (which may well be cured one day if the current president, who claims to idolize him, stops blocking the research that could result in the cure); it's not right to sweep all this under the rug. Respect for the dead is one thing -- dishonesty, either by overt false statement or passively by omission, is another thing entirely.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, June 9, 2004
Outrage overload.   I'm approaching critical mass.

Watergate was nothing. A little burglary and a cover-up. Now we've got an administration justifying torture, discarding the rule of law and inventing legal justifications to keep them from being prosecuted for war crimes; we have a president who apparently thinks (or at least is being told by his minions) that he's above the law and can set any or all of it aside when he feels like it. We have the most criminally corrupt administration in this nation's history.

Prison Interrogators' Gloves Came Off Before Abu Ghraib
After American Taliban recruit John Walker Lindh was captured in Afghanistan, the office of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld instructed military intelligence officers to "take the gloves off" in interrogating him.

The instructions from Rumsfeld's legal counsel in late 2001, contained in previously undisclosed government documents, are the earliest known evidence that the Bush administration was willing to test the limits of how far it could go legally to extract information from suspected terrorists.

What happened to Lindh, who was stripped and humiliated by his captors, foreshadowed the type of abuse documented in photographs of American soldiers tormenting Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

At the time, just weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. was desperate to find terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. After Lindh asked for a lawyer rather than talk to interrogators, he was not granted one nor was he advised of his Miranda rights against self-incrimination. Instead, the Pentagon ordered intelligence officers to get tough with him.

The documents, read to The Times by two sources critical of how the government handled the Lindh case, show that after an Army intelligence officer began to question Lindh, a Navy admiral told the intelligence officer that "the secretary of Defense's counsel has authorized him to 'take the gloves off' and ask whatever he wanted."

Lindh was being questioned while he was propped up naked and tied to a stretcher in interrogation sessions that went on for days, according to court papers.

... over a series of interrogations -- at a school at Mazar-i-Sharif, at Camp Rhino in Afghanistan and aboard a Navy ship -- he was kept in harsh conditions, stripped and tied to a stretcher, and often held for long periods in a large metal container, the government and defense agreed during his legal battle.

In court hearings and legal papers, his attorneys complained that he was deprived of sleep and food, that his leg wound was not treated, and that for 54 days he was neither allowed legal assistance nor told that his father had retained lawyers on his behalf in San Francisco.

The military, in contrast, has maintained in previous court documents that Lindh was treated well and that he was read his rights under the Miranda law against self-incrimination.

Atrios said it best: "Arrest Rumsfeld."

The band of brothers who saved the world during World War II wouldn't have done this. In fact, they didn't. German POWs were treated extremely well, and I recently read an example of a letter written by one to his American captor, thanking him for his kind and humane treatment (and this, after we had seen all that the Nazis had done).

Next, Billmon on presidential powers:

The Wall Street Journal has a long front-page story ... that demolishes a few more pathetic fragments of the Abu Ghraib cover-up -- this time by tracing the cover-your-ass legal trail directly to Donald Rumsfeld.

[I]n March of 2003, on the eve of the Iraq invasion, Rumsfeld asked for, and received, a 100-page legal memorandum that specificially sought to establish a legal basis for use of what the Red Cross now calls "practices tantamount to torture".

There are many creepy things about the Journal's description of the report -- things that leave me with the distinct impression the drafters could have graduated with honors from the University of Berlin's law school, circa 1942. For example:

Civilian or military personnel accused of torture or other war crimes have several potential defenses, including the "necessity" of using such methods to extract information to head off an attack, or "superior orders," sometimes known as the Nuremberg defense: namely that the accused was acting pursuant to an order and, as the Nuremberg tribunal put it, no moral choice was in fact possible." (emphasis added.)

But what's really striking about the report -- and have implications that probably go way beyond the war against terror -- are the sweeping claims of executive power it makes. The idea that no man, even the president, is above the law appears to be one of those "quaint" notions that no longer has any place in American jurisprudence:

To protect subordinates should they be charged with torture, the memo advised that Mr. Bush issue a "presidential directive or other writing" that could serve as evidence, since authority to set aside the laws is "inherent in the president." (emphasis added)

Jesus Christ.

Law professor Michael Froomkin analyzes the torture memo (via Lyn:

On pages 22-23 the Walker Working Group Report sets out a view of an unlimited Presidential power to do anything he wants with "enemy combatants". The bill of rights is nowhere mentioned. There is no principle suggested which limits this purported authority to non-citizens, or to the battlefield. Under this reasoning, it would be perfectly proper to grab any one of us and torture us if the President determined that the war effort required it. I cannot exaggerate how pernicious this argument is, and how incompatible it is with a free society. The Constitution does not make the President a King. This memo does.
The man said it himself, when he was only the president-elect, although you thought he was kidding back then, didn't you?

Transition of Power: President-Elect Bush Meets With Congressional Leaders on Capitol Hill
CNN transcript, Aired December 18, 2000 - 12:00 p.m. ET

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I told all four that there were going to be some times where we don't agree with each other. But that's OK. If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator.

I don't just want them thrown out of office in November. I want to see them indicted, convicted, imprisoned. The lot of them. I can hardly wait until the indictments in the Plame case come out.

Uber-icky.   "I like that word," says Wes, who sent in the following DVD news tidbit about which we're both excited and a bit uber-creeped-out:

You'll never look at TV the same way again. Coming on August 24th is David Cronenberg's uber-icky cult classic Videodrome, which will be presented for the first time ever in a new director-approved, uncut and unrated version. Boasting a new 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and Dolby Digital mono track, extras include audio commentaries with director David Cronenberg, director of photography Mark Irwin, actors James Woods and Deborah Harry, "Forging the New Flesh" 30-minute featurette on the makeup effects, "Fear on Film" 26-minute roundtable discussion from 1982 (with filmmakers David Cronenberg, John Carpenter, John Landis, and Mick Garris), "Samurai Dreams" complete and unedited faux Japanese AV feature seen in the film, the "Camera" short film by Cronenberg from the Toronto Film Festival,a promotional featurette, a still gallery, theatrical trailers, and essays by film critic Carrie Rickey and Videodrome expert Tim Lucas. Retail will be $39.95.
My old roommate Bill worked on "Videodrome" in the effects shop when we were in college, and not long after I went to visit him at the shop. He showed me some of the life castings, prosthetic effects and latex appliances for the "Videodrome" special makeup effects, and even though they weren't attached to anyone they were still creepy and disturbing. Brr. Can't wait for this one.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, June 8, 2004
Planxty: Live 2004.   It's here. Arrived on Saturday, mailed to me by Christy Moore's sister Anne in Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare -- it seems she handles merchandise mailings from his web site orders. (Incidentally, I put the names together and realized that Anne's husband Davoc is the fellow from whom I bought some vintage Irish whiskey labels on eBay a while back. I'd been dealing with the Moore family for weeks now and didn't even know it. Thanks, Anne and Davoc.)

It's taken me a few days to digest it all, to immerse myself in it, to revel in it. I tore apart the package, immediately put the CD into the living room stereo and cranked it up as loud as my speakers would allow. I closed my eyes and just stood there in the middle of the room, leting the music wash over me. I was instantly teleported back to Dublin just three-and-a-half short months ago, and hearing that first set of tunes again got me emotions churning once more -- my scalp was tingling, and as soon as the pipes kicked in I got all weepy again. The CD is, it goes without saying, sheer joy.

As regular readers (and radio show listeners for the past 16 years) can probably tell, I'm very passionate about music. It's rare, though, for anyone's music to move me emotionally the way Planxty's does. Christy's great and powerful force, his humor and his delicacy as a singer; Dónal's brilliant arrangements, and his complex, interweaving, spiderweb-like interplay with Andy's mandolins; Andy's gentle voice and great songs; and, of course, Liam O'Flynn's piping, which got the tears flowing the first time I ever heard him.

Ehh, I'm such a softie.

Lucky 13 tracks on the CD plus a bonus, and 16 on the DVD (the track arrangement differs slightly, and there are performances from various nights between the two), plus 3 bonus tracks for a total of 19 separate songs altogether. I ripped the CD tracks for my iPod, then used Audio Hijack Pro to make MP3s of the songs from the DVD that weren't on the CD, rearranged them to correspond with the song order of the particular concert we saw, and it's only off by two. Damn good enough.

It's fair to say that the inspiration behind the Planxty reunion was the documentary about them made for an RTÉ series called "No Disco", by a young man named Leagues O'Toole. He was trying to make Planxty's music more well-known to a younger generation, but little did he realize that the film had a great impact on the band themselves, who truly seemed to have no idea how highly they were revered. Finally Christy said, "Lads, the time seems to be right; if we're going to do it, we'd better do it now or we'll all be dead." Here are League's notes from the CD:

Amongst other things, the year 2004 will be remembered for the public re-assembling of Planxty for twelve concerts -- two in Glór, Ennis, in the music heartland of Country Clare, and ten in the plush confines of Vicar Street Dublin -- their first live performances in twenty-something years. This is an event of some considerable historical and cultural magnitude, rendered all the more pertinent given the seamless realignment of Dónal Lunny, Andy Irvine, Liam O'Flynn and Christy Moore.

Surreptitious rehearsals in Paddy Doherty's Spa Hotel in Lisdoonvarna the previous October had revealed to the Planxty players that the chemistry was alive and well and ready to blow. And so it did, as each night the music tumbled magically from their fingers, smiles stretched across our faces, heads bobbed, feet tapped. Christy 'hupped,' and we all set adrift on a musical journey that would sail us through the full gamut of emotions.

A cast of odd characters starred each night: lusty blacksmiths, murderous Lords and adulterous Ladies, mighty mariners, raggle taggle gypsies and shillelagh-wielding latchecos. There was drama, laughs, slagging, jubilation, reflection and love coming from every corner of the room. The songs and tunes came to us from decades and centuries gone, from 17th century harp music, to the singing of John Reilly, to the priceless pages of the PW Joyce Collection.

"The Starting Gate" eases us into the music with delicacy and intricacy, quickly introducing that building block technique that marks so much of Planxty's music; the blissful bouzouki-mandolin marriage, the otherworldly whistle, the drone, the raspy guitar, the thump of the bodhrán. And in the middle of this melée is Liam O'Flynn, whose knife-edge precision piping raises a roar from the audience and elevates the music to the high heavens.

On his solo piece, "The Dark Slender Boy", a mood of pin-drop rapture cloaks the room as Liam bends yearning notes and stretches whirring drones into this profoundly mournful music. In contrast, on "The Clare Jig' his pastoral whistle dances gleefully between the double-bodhrán attack of Dónal and Christy.

There are some fantastic stories told within the songs performed here. "Arthur McBride" is an anti-conscription / anti-war song, and one which resonates as much with Planxty's virgin audience as it does with veterans of the '70s. here, Andy Irvine calls upon his colleagues to back him up on a suitably rousing rowdy-dow-dow chorus. The nine-minute-plus "Little Musgrave" is a poetically written fable of love, lust, infidelity, jealousy, murder and remorse -- the words to which Christy Moore found scattered on the floor of an auctioneer's in the early '70s. This particular rendition captures the singer in majestic free-flow.

We rarely discuss Planxty without referencing the unusual new flavours, arrangements and instruments they brought to traditional Irish music. In a demonstration of their peerlessly inventive verve, they stitch "Blacksmithereens" (a tune based on Andy's first impressions of Balkan music) onto an old English folk song, "The Blacksmith". This fiery performance is driven by Dónal Lunny's robust, rhythmic bouzouki and underpinned by Liam's dramatic phrasing, which prompts another round of hollering from the congregation.

The loudest roar though is reserved for one of the most celebrated segues in traditional music -- that invisible bridge from "Raggle Taggle Gypsy" to "Tabhair Dom Do Lámh". And who could deny Andy's "West Coast of Clare", a lament of unrivaled pathos that has heads bowed in contemplation right across the venue. It's rare to see an audience so possessed. It's little wonder they received standing ovations every night upon entering and exiting the stage. Nights like those in January and February of 2004 have been wished for, dreamt of and fantasized about by thousands of Irish music fans for over two decades. We arrived excited, anxious and downright nervous -- there was a lot at stake: memories, expectations and reputations. We left smiling, speechless and wondering would we ever see their likes again.

It was a good start to the year.

Ah, you're right there ... it was something I wished for, dreamt of and fantasized about for, oh, about two decades. It was a dream come true. Thanks to this album, I relive that amazing night every time I listen to it, especially when I hear the opening set of tunes, "The Starting Gate." After the first measure I'm right back at Vicar Street in Dublin, and a fair share of the emotions I felt at that long-awaited moment well up in me again.

Fair play to ya, Leagues. Couldn't have said it better myself.

Planxty: Live 2004 is without a doubt my very top recommendation for this year, and won't be topped by anyone. It's available on CD and DVD (both of which are essential) via Christy's web site; in my opinion, that's the best place to get it. Sure, you could get it from somewhere else, but if you did you wouldn't be getting it from Christy's sister. There's something special about getting it from family.

Uh, Mr. Bradbury, sir?   Ray Bradbury is one of my favorite writers. I've loved his books since I was ten years old. I respect him. I like him, having met him at a book signing.

That said ... I think that until he can demonstrate to us that he secured William Shakespeare's permission to entitle his wonderful novel Something Wicked This Way Comes, he needs to shut up and quit bitching about Michael Moore and "Fahrenheit 9/11".

My my my, some people sure 'nuff do get crotchety when they get old ...

The latest Republican outrage.   (Thanks, Barry.) An AP wire report on Salon says:

Churches that mistakenly mix religious and political activity would face reduced fines but keep their tax exempt status under a provision in a corporate tax bill the House is to consider this week.

The proposal, which could invalidate the strict separation of religion and politics in current tax laws, was introduced by House Republicans the same week President Bush's re-election campaign targeted 1,600 Pennsylvania congregations to recruit voters.

Critics fear it would give politicians a pass to flout the rules without putting religious organizations at risk.

The mammoth bill, the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004, would impose reduced fines against churches and other places of worship that inadvertently allow political activity on their properties more than twice a year. On the third violation, the religious organizations would lose their tax exemption for one year.


"Mistakenly", my ass. This is a bold and desperate attempt to let them use conservative churches as political action committees, and is as cynical and wrong as David Duke's sole bill in his brief term in the Louisiana legislature reducing the penalty for assault to a $25 fine if the assaultee was burning a flag.

I will personally pay for the water and throat spray for the Democrats who must filibuster this if it gets to the Senate.

Andrew Sullivan's hero.   Uh huh. Gobshite. (Michael Bronski, nicked from Tom Tomorrow:)

Throughout all of this Ronald Reagan did nothing. When Rock Hudson, a friend and colleague of the Reagans, was diagnosed and died in 1985 (one of the 20,740 cases reported that year), Reagan still did not speak out. When family friend William F. Buckley, in a March 18, 1986 New York Times article, called for mandatory testing of HIV and said that HIV+ gay men should have this information forcibly tattooed on their buttocks (and IV drug users on their arms), Reagan said nothing. In 1986 (after five years of complete silence) when Surgeon General C. Everett Koop released a report calling for AIDS education in schools, Bennett and Bauer did everything possible to undercut and prevent funding for Koop's too-little too-late initiative. By the end of 1986, 37,061 AIDS cases had been reported; 16,301 people had died.

The most memorable Reagan AIDS moment was at the 1986 centenary rededication of the Statue of Liberty. The Reagans were there sitting next to the French Prime Minister and his wife, François and Danielle Mitterrand. Bob Hope was on stage entertaining the all-star audience. In the middle of a series of one-liners, Hope quipped, "I just heard that the Statue of Liberty has AIDS, but she doesn't know if she got it from the mouth of the Hudson or the Staten Island Fairy." As the television camera panned the audience, the Mitterrands looked appalled. The Reagans were laughing. By the end of 1989, 115,786 women and men had been diagnosed with AIDS in the United States -- more then 70,000 of them had died.


[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, June 7, 2004
Cocktail of the day.   I thought about trying to concoct this one recently when I heard the old song, and thought "hey, that's a good idea ... you put de lime in de coconut and drink 'em both up." Certainly relieved my bellyache. The name of the drink comes from the singer.

The Harry Nilsson

2 ounces Brazilian cachaça or white rum.
Juice of one lime.
1-1/2 ounces coconut syrup.
Dash Angostura bitters.
Club soda to fill.

In a tall Collins glass, combine cachaça or
rum, lime juice and coconut syrup (for a stronger
and less sweet drink, use coconut rum instead).
Add soda to fill, dash bitters and stir. Garnish
with a lime wheel, and relieve de bellyache.
Doctor's orders.

Now that I think about it, that alternate version featuring cachaça and coconut rum instead of the coconut syrup would probably kick your ass. That's 3.5 ounces of spirits. Maybe coconut rum instead of cachaça or white rum, then the lime juice, bitters and soda. Caveat imbibor -- I haven't tried any of the alternate versions.

This is a very refreshing drink.

Fine awt.   A few weeks back Wes and I went to a science fiction and comic book convention in Pasadena (yeah, I know, we're geeks), primarily to get Ray Harryhausen's autograph on his new book (which we didn't get, because they ran out of them), but we did find a bunch of other neat stuff to haul home. Perhaps the neatest was from some kid named Angelo who was offering to draw caricatures for free. Yep, free. (My favorite price.) He works shows and parties, and asked only for tips and donations, which he freely admitted were entirely optional. We were so entertained by his result (he caught our likenesses rather well, we thought) that we actually gave him a pretty big tip.

Wes was wearing his "Mars Attacks!" t-shirt, so Angelo placed us on the surface of Mars, being besieged by marauding Martians ("AAAACK! ACKACKACK! AACK ACK ACK!"); we're only seconds from being disintegrated.

Weeee ... come ... in ... peeeeace!
Now dat's fine awt. (I especially like Angelo because he made me just as tall as Wesly, when I am in fact five inches shorter. Must be some anomalous Martian effect on height ...)

So, an alligator walks into a restaurant ...   No, not a setup for a joke. An alligator walked into a restaurant. If it had been in Louisiana instead of Florida, we might have said, "Mais, how convenient!" and ended up with Alligator Sauce Piquante as the daily special.

Are they insane?   Apparently so -- the Republicans are now attacking Kerry by saying he's out of touch with most Americans because he's rich:

The Bush-Cheney campaign this week stepped up its assault on Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) for being a rich guy. No, make that for being a really, really rich guy. "Most Americans can't afford yachts, private planes, thousand dollar haircuts or homes in Nantucket," Republican National Committee spokesman Jim Dyke said in a news release announcing a new video game on the RNC Web site. The game is called Kerryopoly. It's similar to Monopoly, but the properties belong to the Kerry family.
Do they not realize that we all know how rich the Bush family is? I'm not sure any of their slimy tactics has reeked of desperation as much as this has. Billmon again:

Actually, Kerry isn't the one with all the dough, it's his wife -- the widow of the late Republican Senator and ketchup heir John Heinz. I guess Kerry's real crime, from a Bush family point of view, was marrying above his station -- and, of course, vacationing in Nantucket, as opposed to someplace earthy and down home and full of regular folks, like, say, Kennebunkport.

But I like the idea of creating a game to match each candidate's personal history. You could easily design one called Bushopoly -- all players would start with a $1 million trust fund, but would still end up in bankruptcy after the first turn. Then the bank would pay off all their mortgages and give them each a $100,000, interest-free loan.

Or you could have Cheneyopoly -- each time you landed on one of the ultilities, you'd get a $10 million bonus and an unlimited get-out-of-jail-free card.

Or how about a special Middle Eastern edition of Risk -- let's call it "Insane Risk" -- in which the players try to invade and conquer the region's major oil producing nations?

Oh wait, the Republicans have already created one of those ...

Right wing penetration of mainstream media.   How it works -- a superb post from Leah at Corrente, via Atrios. The slimy attacks on Democratic supporter George Soros (whom the editor of the Moonie Washington Times called, on Sean Hannity's show, "a Jew who figured out how to survive the Holocaust") didn't just come from Hannity's show; the line was traced to attack swill posted on the National Review Onilne, through the RNC chairman directly to Hannity's spew-fest.

Another particularly galling part of the post was this recollection from Leah:

We've heard a lot about Bush-hating. We'll hear a lot more. Just to help you keep it all in perspective, let me remind you of the kind of civilized discourse to which President Clinton was treated on almost every day of his eight years in office.

This is an editorial from the Orlando Sentinel; I'll give you the URL, but since I'm not sure if it is still available, I'm going to reproduce the whole of it.
An Evil Man, An Evil Decision
by Charley Reese
of The Sentinel Staff
Published in The Orlando Sentinel, Dec 20 1998

In a bizarre way, this past week reminded me of a line from an old Kevin Costner movie in which the wicked Sheriff of Nottingham, in a rage, shouts at one of his aides, "And cancel Christmas!"

Bill Clinton has done his best to do that. In a season in which Christians celebrate the son of God's message of peace and love, Clinton has forced the American military to kill innocent people in Iraq to distract the American public from Clinton's own law-breaking.

Clinton is an evil man. His administration is corrupt from one end to the other and is riddled with liars.

The decision to bomb Iraq was clearly designed to postpone the impeachment vote. It was a put-up job from start to finish.

Note these facts: Iraq did not throw the arms inspectors out. Richard Butler, the little weasel and stooge for Clinton, deliberately set up a confrontation by trying to crash his way into the Ba'ath political party headquarters, knowing that he would be refused.

What, after all, did he expect to find?

A missile in a file cabinet?

(The editorial continues inside comments section)

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Sunday, June 6, 2004
Remembering Ronnie Reagan.   Alzheimer's is a sad and terrible way to go. May he rest in the peace that his current cadre of followers have striven to deny to this world.

I think the best way to memorialize Reagan is by making a donation to an AIDS charity or AIDS research organization, in his name. Also, remember Reagan in the way his widow Nancy specifically requested -- by making a donation to research foundations working on embryonic stem cell research. Please do so.

While it is proper and decent to bow one's head and offer a thought or prayer for the dead, the near-deification that's just beginning is already going over the top. It's not inappropriate to keep a few realities in mind, as Billmon eulogizes:

I found it hard to hate Reagan -- even though I detested most of what he stood for, believed and sought to do. Yes, he was as ignorant and stubborn and incapable of rational thought as our current president, but he wasn't arrogant -- or at least, he didn't come across as arrogant. He lacked Bush's infuriating sense of entitlement, and his nasty temper. Reagan smiled, he didn't smirk. [...]

I'll leave the pluses and minuses of Reaganomics for the historians. At this late date, it's hardly worth arguing about. Reagan's foreign policies, on the other hand, still make my blood boil, even after all these years. His decision to challenge the Soviets on every front -- which, given the senility and paranoia of the Breshnev-era Soviet leadership, could easily have led to war -- is, of course, relentlessly promoted by the conservative propaganda machine as the masterstroke that ended the Cold War. In reality, it was the end of the Cold War (made possible by Mikhail Gorbachev's rise to power) that headed off the disaster that Reagan's recklessness might otherwise have triggered.

The legacy of Reagan's policies in the Middle East, meanwhile, are still being paid for -- in blood. The cynical promotion of Islamic fundamentalism as a weapon against the Soviets in Afghanistan, the alliance of convenience with Saddam Hussein against Iran, the forging of a new "strategic relationship" with Israel, the corrupt dealings with the House of Saud, and (perhaps most ironic, given Reagan's tough guy image) the weakeness and indecision of his disastrous intervention in Beruit -- all of these helped set the stage for what the neocons now like to call World War IV, and badly weakened the geopolitical ability of the United States to wage that war.

But all this pales in comparison to Reagan's war crimes in Central America. We'll probably never know just how stained his hands were by the blood of the thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of defenseless peasants who were slaughtered in the Guatemalan highlands, or the leftist politicians, union leaders and human rights activists kidnapped and killed by the Salvadoran death squads, or the torturned in Honduran prisons, or terrorized by his beloved contras.

Did Reagan's men covertly support these murders? Or did they just look the other way? Did Reagan ever know just what kind of charnel house he helped create? Or did he live completely in his fantasy world of freedom fighters and "founding fathers"? Either way, it was in Central America that Reagan most clearly earned that nickname the hippies pinned on him back in Berkeley: "fascist gun in the West." [...]

So, while Reagan -- like the entire decade of the '80s -- has faded into history, I certainly won't mourn his passing. And I suppose I'll just have to grit my teeth and do my best to ignore the glowing tributes and bipartisan praise we'll be subjected to over the next few days -- just as I did when Nixon died. The ritual deification of Ronald Reagan has become one of the essential bonds that holds the modern Republican Party together -- not to mention a lucrative fundraising vehicle for some of its leading lights. The rest of us will just have to make the best of it.

To me, the tremendous conservative nostalgia for Ronald Reagan is a sign of a movement that is, if not in decline, then poised on the cusp of it. It's an implicit admission that the golden age, when a conservative ideologue like Reagan could win the support of an overwhelming majority of Americans (and not just the instinctual cultural loyalty of red state America) has passed away.

The contrast with Bush the younger -- desperately scrambling to avoid defeat in a bitterly polarized electorate -- is painfully clear. In it's obsessive desire to glorify Ronald Reagan, the conservative movement is retreating psychologically into its own past. Its a sign that the political era that opened the night Reagan was elected may also be nearing its end.

To which I can only say: Rest in peace.

Raising a few points to augment Billmon, we'll start with Jeff, who reminds us amidst the deification by the right and the childhood nostalgia of Generation Y:

Thousands of Americans died of AIDS because of him, and his economic policies shot the deficit through the roof and left a mess for his successors to clean up.
Via Kos, Josh Green:

Reagan is, to be sure, one of the most conservative presidents in U.S. history and will certainly be remembered as such. His record on the environment, defense, and economic policy is very much in line with its portrayal. But he entered office as an ideologue who promised a conservative revolution, vowing to slash the size of government, radically scale back entitlements, and deploy the powers of the presidency in pursuit of socially and culturally conservative goals. That he essentially failed in this mission hasn't stopped partisan biographers from pretending otherwise. (Noonan writes of his 1980 campaign pledges: "Done, done, done, done, done, done, and done. Every bit of it.")

A sober review of Reagan's presidency doesn't yield the seamlessly conservative record being peddled today. Federal government expanded on his watch. The conservative desire to outlaw abortion was never seriously pursued. Reagan broke with the hardliners in his administration and compromised with the Soviets on arms control. His assault on entitlements never materialized; instead he saved Social Security in 1983. And he repeatedly ignored the fundamental conservative dogma that taxes should never be raised.

All of this has been airbrushed from the new literature of Reagan.

And DailyKos writer D.H.:

I have no interest today in attacking Reagan's legacy; in fact, I wish to praise him for his prescience in recognizing that Mikhail Gorbachev was a dramatically different man than the line of tired apparatchiks he succeeded. Reagan recognized that this was a man that he could bargain with, a man who wanted to make the world a safer place, and place less vulnerable to a nuclear war that would destroy all life as we know it. In short, Reagan looked into Gorbachev's soul, and knew this was a man the U.S. could and should trust.

But Reagan's greatest achievement -- his work with Gorbachev, including arms reduction treaties and the resulting lowering of tensions between the superpowers, which allowed Gorbachev to begin the reforms that led the Soviets to relinquish control over Eastern Europe and paved the way for Yeltsin's final destruction of the Soviet system -- was pursued against the advice of some of the most hawkish Republicans in his administration and in Congress. So tonight, as we live in a world where the danger of nuclear war is much lower than it was in 1985, when Reagan and Gorbachev first met, let us praise Reagan for ignoring the advice of those who said bargaining with Gorbachev would endanger the safety of the free world, especially then-Defense Department official Richard Perle and then-Wyoming Congressman Dick Cheney.

These days, the problem isn't so much Reagan and his works, but the works of those who call themselves his followers. The current crop almost makes Reagan look like a moderate..

To paraphrase Christy ... "hey Ronnie Reagan, I'm black and I'm pagan, I'm gay and I'm left and I'm free. I'm a non-fundamentalist environmentalist, go now and rest in peace." Although, Ronnie, you should be prepared -- there might be several thousand Central Americans on the other side of the river, waiting to ask you some questions.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, June 4, 2004
The NOPSI Cookbook is back.   NOPSI (or simply "Public Service", as my folks used to call it) was the big monolithic company in New Orleans that provided electricity, gas and water service, as well as running the transit system (now handled separately by Entergy, the MTA, et al.). They used to slip recipes into their monthly bills, and after a while these were compiled with others into a big cookbook that was used to raise money for the United Way. Now, after being out of print for ages, and albeit with a new name, it's back. (Thanks, Greg!)

"Get the NOPSI Cookbook ... It gives you the basics for making real New Orleans food."

The books are 200 pages, containing 1,300 recipes. Eight of those are gumbos. [N.O. United Way marketing coordinator Carroll] Summerour said when she wrote the first information for its promotion, her computer's Spellcheck function balked at just about everything: "jambalaya, café brulôt, mirliton casserole... Spellcheck must not have originated in New Orleans," she said.

My fascination with this book was further enhanced by a phone conversation with Esther Covington, who is soon moving to Florida to be near her grandchildren. Covington was born and raised here, and started work in the early 1950s at NOPSI as a graduate home economist in its home service department. She is packing her many recipe pamphlets and booklets, written and tested and used in the live demonstrations that the home economists gave for the public.

Many of those recipes wound up in the cookbook.

"That book is about the closest you will find to real New Orleans home cooking," Covington said. "Nothing like that had ever been published, because New Orleans people kept their New Orleans secrets in New Orleans. It was like a bible. And you don't break the commandments." She laughed.

From Woodstoves to Microwaves: Cooking with Entergy is available for $19.95 plus $3 shipping and handling from The United Way of Greater New Orleans. The books and publishing rights were donated by Entergy, and all the money goes to charity. It's a great book for a good cause.

The spelling bee is fixed!   Fixed! Corrupt! A scam! Appalling! Shocking!

Okay, not really ... but our friend Steve pointed out that the winning word -- "autochthonous" -- was in fact's Word of the Day yesterday ... the very day before the finals of the Spelling Bee took place! Coincidence? I THINK NOT! Quick! Call a Congressional investigation! (Actually, that's futile; the Republicans would only block it, as is their wont.)

Word of the Day for Tuesday June 2, 2004

autochthonous \aw-TOK-thuh-nuhs\, adjective: 1. Aboriginal; indigenous; native. 2. Formed or originating in the place where found.

For cultures are not monoliths. They are fragmentary, patchworks of autochthonous and foreign elements. --Anthony Pagden, "Culture Wars," [1]The New Republic, November 16, 1998

"I thought of the present-day Arcadians, autochthonous, sprung from the very earth on which they live, who with every draught from a stream drink up millennia of history and legend." --Zachary Taylor, "Hot Land, Cold Water," [2]The Atlantic, June 17, 1998

Autochthonous derives from Greek autochthon, "of or from the earth or land itself," from auto-, "self" + chthon, "earth." One that is autochthonous is an autochthon (pronounced \aw-TOCK-thuhn\).

Seriously, it's a wild coincidence, ain't it? It's particularly so when you consider that probably not one of us have ever used the word "autochthonous" in a sentence, nor was even aware of its existence, and it pops up in rapid succession two days in a row.

Actually, the bigger news was not the kid who won with "autochthonous", but the kid who came in second with "alopecoid" -- he was apparently so nervous (or something) that he fainted before attempting to spell the word. He seems to be more famous than the actual winner. He's fine, but I hope he stays that way -- if the kids he goes to school with are anything like the little feckers I went to school with, he'll be mercilessly harrassed about his little moment for the rest of his school days.

President Harkonnen?   Someone posting in the comments section of the always stupendously excellent Whiskey Bar pointed toward an essay by novelist Frank Herbert in which he describes the genesis of the Dune novels:

[T]here are analogs in Dune of today's events -- corruption and bribery in the highest places, whole police forces lost to organized crime, regulatory agencies taken over by the people they are supposed to regulate. The scarce water of Dune is an exact analog of oil scarcity. CHOAM is OPEC.
The commenter continued, saying that "going by that, the Americans as a whole would be the Corrinos, the ruling family of the empire, and the U.S. military the Sardaukar. The Bush family would make excellent Harkonnens, the powerful, corrupt group who gained power and influence through CHOAM and have designs on the Empire itself. We don't seem to have anyone filling the House Atreidies role so far though. I do have images of Al Gore playing Lawrence of Arabia in Iraq, but that's probably just a beautiful dream." Later, Jérôme Guillet posted, "France is the natural Atreides, of course." Heh.

Karl Rove as Piter de Vries? Who'd be the Beast Rabban, Cheney or Rumsfeld? Someone who's good with Photoshop should show us how Baron Bush would look with red hair.

The spice oil ... must ... flow ...

The Covert Kingdom   Joe Bageant, who grew up in a fundamentalist Christian family, writes of a looming danger that he sees to be far more potentially dangerous to American freedom than Islamic fundamentalism -- that's Christian fundamentalism.

Read the whole thing, disturbing as it is, and especially the last line. While it may seem shocking on the surface, I have to agree -- my tolerance of someone else's religious views ends when there's a threat that said views could be imposed on me against my will.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, June 3, 2004
Busy news day.   Things are beginning to get very interesting. (Mostly nicked from Atrios):

CIA Director Tenet Resigns.
"For personal reasons," he says. (Horse puckey.) Fall guy, or first domino to tumble? "Gore speech victim #1," says Atrios. (Heh.)

Pennsylvania political push for Bush could cost churches tax break
Read the First Amendment and the law, you idiots.

President Bush's re-election campaign is trying to recruit supporters from 1,600 religious congregations in Pennsylvania -- a political push that critics said Wednesday could cost churches their tax breaks.

An e-mail from the campaign's Pennsylvania office, obtained by The Associated Press, urges churchgoers to help organize "Friendly Congregations" where supporters can meet regularly to sign up voters and spread the Bush word.

"I'd like to ask if you would like to serve as a coordinator in your place of worship," says the e-mail, adorned with the Bush-Cheney logo, from Luke Bernstein, who runs the state campaign's coalitions operation and is a former staffer to Sen. Rick Santorum, the president's Pennsylvania chairman.

"We plan to undertake activities such as distributing general information/updates or voter registration materials in a place accessible to the congregation," the e-mail says.
No, actually ... illegal. Not legal. At all. (Santorum ... feck.)

Bush lies, says "I was never angry at the French."
What he says now, and what he said and did one short year ago.

Bush lies about knowing Ahmed Chalabi.
He says, "My meetings with him were very brief. I mean, I think I met with him at the State of the Union and just kind of working through the rope line, and he might have come with a group of leaders. But I haven't had any extensive conversations with him." Stories and photographs tell otherwise.

Bush seeks a lawyer to represent him in CIA-Plame leak criminal probe
Welly welly welly welly welly welly well. "It is illegal under U.S. law to disclose thte name of a covert agent who has served outside the country in the previous five years." Indeed. And ...

Why he might need a lawyer.
If Bush had prior knowledge of the leak, if he knew after the fact who did it, and given that knowledge did not come forward, he could be charged with being an accessory after the fact or with "misprision of a felony." Skip over the misdemeanor; that sounds like a high crime to me.

Josh Marshall: "For my part, Tenet strikes me as a sort of tragic figure. Under his tenure the CIA got many things wrong about Iraq -- though largely by making estimates in the direction his critics, who now want him sacked, embraced. (A person who's intimately knowledgeable about this intel stuff recently told me that their sense was that the CIA would have gotten a lot of the basic intel stuff wrong without any help from Chalabi.) Then, on top of these errors, the White House added further gross exaggerations, which in many instances Tenet tried to knock down.

"Now he's the fall-guy for it all, in all likelihood made to take the fall by the true bad-actors.

"Having said all that, beside the possibility that the White House's favored Iraqi exile was an Iranian agent, that the spy chief just got canned, that the OSD is wired to polygraphs, and that the president has had to retain outside counsel in the investigation into which members of his staff burned one of the country's own spies, I'd say the place is being run like a pretty well-oiled machine.

Yep, very interesting indeed. All it'll take now is for a mere handful of people to do the right thing.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, June 2, 2004
Oh, to be a Republican.   This arrived in Monday's email from our friend Haven. Not only should this be pointed out far and wide, but it also needs to be written on the end of a large wooden board, so that certain people can read what's written on the board, then the board can be used to smack them in the middle of their forehead. (Snap out of it!)

To be a Republican in 2004, somehow you have to believe...

1. Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary Clinton.

2. The United States should get out of the United Nations, and our highest national priority is enforcing U.N. resolutions against Iraq.

3. "Standing Tall for America" means firing your workers and moving their jobs to India.

4. A woman can't be trusted with decisions about her own body, but multinational corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind without regulation.

5. Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you are a conservative radio host. Then it's an illness and you need our prayers for your recovery.

6. The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay.

7. Group sex and drug use are degenerate sins unless you someday run for governor of California as a Republican.

8. If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won't have sex.

9. A good way to fight terrorism is to belittle our longtime allies, then demand their cooperation and money.

10. HMOs and insurance companies have the interest of the public at heart.

11. Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy. Providing health care to all Americans is socialism.

12. Global warming and tobacco's link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools.

13. It is okay that the Bush family has done millions of business with the Bin Laden family.

14. Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush's daddy made war on him, a good guy when Cheney did business with him, and a bad guy when Bush needed a "we can't find Bin Laden" diversion.

15. A president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable offense. A president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid defense policy.

16. Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which, of course, includes banning gay marriages and censoring the Internet.

17. The public has a right to know about Hillary's cattle trades, but George Bush's Harken Oil stock trades are none of our business.

18. You support states' rights, which means Attorney General John Ashcroft can tell states what local voter initiatives they have a right to adopt.

19. What Bill Clinton did in the 1960s is of vital national interest, but what Bush did in the '80s is irrelevant.

20. Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is communist, but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.

21. Affirmative Action is wrong, but it's fine for your Daddy and his friends to get you into Yale, the Texas Air National Guard, Harvard Business School, part ownership of Harken Oil, part ownership of the Texas Rangers, the Governorship of Texas, and then have the Supreme Court appoint you President of the USA.

They control (or heavily influence) all three branches of government, and the country has gone mad.

What the f...?   I know I keep saying it gets worse and more surreal every day, but ... every day, it gets worse and more surreal:

WASHINGTON, June 1 -- Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi leader and former ally of the Bush administration, disclosed to an Iranian official that the United States had broken the secret communications code of Iran's intelligence service, betraying one of Washington's most valuable sources of information about Iran, according to United States intelligence officials.

American officials said that about six weeks ago, Mr. Chalabi told the Baghdad station chief of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security that the United States was reading the communications traffic of the Iranian spy service, one of the most sophisticated in the Middle East. According to American officials, the Iranian official in Baghdad, possibly not believing Mr. Chalabi's account, sent a cable to Tehran detailing his conversation with Mr. Chalabi, using the broken code. That encrypted cable, intercepted and read by the United States, tipped off American officials to the fact that Mr. Chalabi had betrayed the code-breaking operation, the American officials said. American officials reported that in the cable to Tehran, the Iranian official recounted how Mr. Chalabi had said that one of "them" -- a reference to an American -- had revealed the code-breaking operation, the officials said. The Iranian reported that Mr. Chalabi said the American was drunk.

I'm still debating what's more bizarre -- the Pentagon's Iraqi servant boy selling them out to the Axis of Evil, or some drunk slob spilling his guts to said Iraqi. Given the situation, I suppose there wasn't much else for the silly bastard to go but get drunk, was there? Why aren't the neocons and ShrubCo shrieking "Treason!", do you suppose?

Eleven more seats.   Stephanie Herseth has won the special Congressional election in South Dakota. She shouldn't have trouble holding on to her seat in November, and then we just need eleven more Democrats in order to take control of the house. C'mon, people, we can do it ...

Imagine my surprise.   I'm shocked. Shocked, I tell you. Shocked.

A newly unearthed Pentagon e-mail about Halliburton contracts in Iraq on Tuesday prompted fresh calls on Capitol Hill for probes into whether Vice President Dick Cheney helped his old firm get the deals.

The e-mail, reported by Time magazine, provided "clear evidence" of a relationship between Cheney and multibillion-dollar contracts Halliburton has received for rebuilding Iraq, Sen. Patrick Leahy said.

"It totally contradicts the vice president's previous assertions of having no contact" with federal officials about Halliburton's Iraq deals, Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said in a conference call set up by John Kerry's presidential campaign. "It would be irresponsible not to hold hearings."

It was only "deferred" pay, though.

A journal entry by Neil Gaiman, (one of my favorite writers), in which the author finally has The Conversation with his daughter. A lovely story, indeed.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, June 1, 2004
Fareweel, auld freend.   In 1988, at a wee shop on the Isle of Skye, I spent more money than I'd ever spent up until then for a single bottle of liquor. It was a bottle of Talisker Isle of Skye Pure Highland Malt Scotch Whisky, distilled in 1956 and bottled only a few weeks before my arrival in Scotland (that made it a 32-year-old, in case you don't want to do the math). Last night, we finished it off. It was time.

My four days on the Isle of Skye were absolutely magical (remind me to write about them one day) and included a quest to visit the piping musuem (a.k.a. The Skye Piping Centre) on the Duirinish Peninsula, a ways north up the B884 almost all the way to the end of the road at Dunvegan Head. I really love the Highland pipes (shut up) and was determined to visit the museum, but everyone I mentioned it to said the same thing: "Och, the museum's rather boring, really. You'll be through the whole thing in about ten minutes." Stubborn Irish-American bastard that I am, I declined to listen.

I ended up having a lovely lunch at a wee restaurant (whose name escapes me) just outside Dunvegan, and just a bit down the road was an even more wee thatched cottage with a sign out front that simply said "The Whisky Shop." Well, that's too intriguing not to investigate. I walked over, opened the door, ringing the attached bell.

It was a long, narrow space, with the counter at the far end. Wall to wall, floor to ceiling, bottles of whisky, very few of which I'd even heard of at the time. (Even now, I'll bet there were some obscure ones you rarely see over here.)

I chatted with the very nice proprietor for a while, then asked him to show me something wonderful. Without hesitation he directed my attention to two bottles on shelves right next to the register, with newly-typed description cards below. "It's our own malt, from right here on the island," he said. "These whiskies have just come out of the oaken casks and were just bottled a few weeks ago." There were a 34-year-old 1954 vintage and a 32-year-old 1956, the former considerably more expensive than the latter. I asked him what they were like, and he knocked off a rather florid description of the '54; when he tried to describe the '56, though, he was actually speechless for a moment, searching for the right words. Finally he said, "It's absolutely glorious."

The sensible part of me didn't want to spend that much money, particularly since it was late in the trip and I was running low on cash. We continued to chat, and he asked me what I was up to for the day. When I told him, he said, "Well now, I wager you'll find the piping museum to be a bit boring -- you'll get through the whole thing in about ten or fifteen minutes." Sigh. Thanks, but I think I'll go up anyway.

It was a lovely drive, up along the mountains of Beinn na Creiche, Ben Ettow and Ben Skriaig, through Colbost, Borreraig and Galtrigill, up to the Skye Piping Centre just about at the end of the road. It was fairly boring, and I was finished with it in about ten or fifteen minutes. Sigh.

As I drove back, I passed The Whisky Shop again, and without a conscious thought my hands quickly turned the wheel until I was back in my same parking place from earlier. In through the front door, making that little bell ring ... to be greeted by booming laughter from behind the counter. "I knew you'd be back," said the proprietor, who had already wrapped up a bottle of the '56 Talisker for travel. I thought, "Feck it," and tossed my credit card on the counter. How long will it be before I'm ever here again, and when will I ever have the opportunity to drink a thirty-two-year-old whisky that isn't even exported from the island? There isn't anything I can buy that'll make me remember my experiences on Skye more than that bottle.

I decided to hold on to the bottle unopened, and to wait for an appropriate occasion to present itself before I opened it. Six years it sat sealed, wrapped in bubble wrap inside a padded envelope on the floor against the wall in the very back of my closet (well-protected against earthquake, don't ya know) ... six years. Sometime in 1994 an occasion presented itself, and I smacked myself on the head for not having opened it a bit earlier. Off came the cap, and a wee dram went into the glass.

It was ... absolutely glorious.

I kept that bottle for a total of sixteen years. It didn't come out of its hiding place very often -- sometimes for very special occasions, sometimes to share with close friends. This was The Good Stuff, not casually consumed. Now it's 2004, a new century, in a new house and with life going in all kinds of interesting directions. I had about two inches of that whisky left, and I began to worry that with so little left in the bottle its quality might begin to deteriorate. Plus, we had new whiskeys to try -- from Ireland we'd brought back a bottle of Midleton Very Rare, the 2003 bottling (of which we are the owners of numbered bottle No. 56). This was a splurge -- Midleton is perhaps the finest of blended Irish whiskeys, being a blend of 16- to 24-year-old single malts personally chosen and blended by Master Distiller Barry Crockett. On their recent visit to Los Angeles, our friends with whom we stayed in Galway brought over a bottle of Bushmills 21-Year-Old Malt, matured in Bourbon and sherry barrels and finished in Madeira casks, so we're pretty good for fine sippin' whiskey. I decided it was time to put my old friend Talisker to bed.

We had a few friends over yesterday evening, quaffed some Moscow Mules and Cocktails à la Louisiane, scarfed down some red beans 'n rice (it was Monday, after all) and for a postprandial tipple, out came the My poor bairn ... Talisker. There was enough left in the bottle for exactly five one-ounce servings, down to the very drop -- ma auld freend knew exactly how many Scots whisky drinkers would be there, no doubt. Into each single malt glass went a wee drop of Gleneagles Mineral Water (bottled at the natural source in Blackford, Perthshire, Scotland) to open up the flavour. We toasted to 1956 (the birth year of one of our guests), and sipped.

Yer man's still right -- what a glorious drink, going down as smooth as the finest silk. The nose featured honey, vanilla and honeysuckle notes; on the palate it's slightly smoky without overwhelming the lingering notes from the nose; on finish, you get a whiff and spray of the sea. Now it's gone.

Fine spirits are meant to be drunk, not hoarded. I'd had this one long enough, and it was high time to enjoy it and move on. It would have been far worse if I'd saved it for so long that the remaining amount had deteriorated in quality. Besides, he had a worthy successor -- while it might not be a 32-year-old, that 21-year-old Bushmills was pretty amazing in its own right.

I'm never throwing that bottle away, though.

(In the unlikely event you need to translate the post headline, try The Online Scots Dictionary.)

Please sir, I want some more!   When I was a kid in my mid-twenties, travelling around Ireland and Scotland for a month on a tight budget, I didn't think that splurging on whisky was necessarily a great idea. Faced with the absolute gloriousness of that '56 Talisker, though, I decided not to give it a second thought, and did The Bad Thing With The Credit Card. Easy peasy.

As I recall, at the time that whisky cost me £85, which at 1988 exchange rates was about $144 (adjusted for inflation and current lousy exchange rates, it'd be about $257.15 in today's dollars ... feck). That was a pretty penny back then (still is), and it took a wee while to pay off that credit card bill -- that not being my only deferred expense, of course. While writing the above post with the empty Talisker bottle next to my computer, I decided to do some Googling and see if there was any chance that that whisky was still available and, if so, how much it would cost.

I quickly found myself at The Whisky Exchange, which has a catalogue section with many rare and old bottles for sale. They had, in fact, an entire page devoted to Talisker. Listed right there was the current price, and a tempting link that said "Buy". I looked at the price for a minute, thought ... well, that's a lot, but that doesn't necessarily seem so bad. Then I did the conversion from sterling into dollars ...

The listed price, with the VAT removed for us non-E.U. residents, was a mere £339.57 per bottle, which at today's rate of exhange for the pound sterling comes out to $624.04. Europeans subject to VAT pay £398.99 per bottle, or $732.72.


Um, maybe we'll just stick with that Bushmills 21 for the time being, a bargain at about 15% of the price. (If I win da Lott'ry, though, I'm buyin' a case of that stuff.)

Fountain of suet?   My friend Diana forwarded the following obituary from the Los Angeles Times, which was notable for one particular comment about the life of the deceased:

Ramona Trinidad Iglesias-Jordan, the world's oldest person and the last human being on Earth born in the year 1889, died Saturday of pneumonia in Rio Piedras, a suburb of San Juan, Puerto Rico. She was 114 years and 272 days old. [...]

One sister of Iglesias-Jordan lived to the age of 103, and a brother lived to 101. She is survived by two sisters, aged 94 and 89. "The real secret was in the genes," [Gerontology Research Group investigator Robert] Young said of Iglesias-Jordan's longevity, discounting her own attribution to always cooking with pork fat.

Ignore her advice at your own peril, Mr. Young.

Where are people like this today?   Where are the people like Archibald Cox, with the integrity and balls to stand up to a renegade president and make him answer to the people for his violations of the law? We need such a person today, more than ever.

From Bush, unprecedented negativity.   The Washington Post reports on the blitz of negative attack ads aimed at John Kerry in states where the Democrat is campaigning, attacking him for his purported opinions, postions and former votes. Apparently it's the greatest number of negative ads ever; in fact, Shrub has more pictures of Kerry on his own website than he has of himself. Thing is, most of the Bush ads' claims are utter bullshit, or at best grossly misleading. Quelle surprise.

So desperate, they are. So very desperate.

Quote of the day.   Say it again, Al.

In December of 2000, even though I strongly disagreed with the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to order a halt to the counting of legally cast ballots, I saw it as my duty to reaffirm my own strong belief that we are a nation of laws and not only accept the decision, but do what I could to prevent efforts to delegitimize George Bush as he took the oath of office as president. I did not at that moment imagine that Bush would, in the presidency that ensued, demonstrate utter contempt for the rule of law and work at every turn to frustrate accountability.

-- Al Gore, May 26, 2004.

The man who should be president ...

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