Saturday, March 31, 2007

Adding to the blogroll

Made a few additions. More to follow. I will mention that for a different line on the middle east check out Munaeem I found him via Cernig at NewsHog , who is a great source.

Brazil to Offer Free Internet to Amazon Tribes

This is an interesting idea. Brazil is trying to use the internet to combat illegal logging in the Amozon rain forest. I hope it works:
BRASILIA -- Brazil will offer free satellite Internet connections to indigenous tribes in the Amazon as part of its latest effort to crack down on illegal logging in the world's largest tropical rain forest.

The plan will bring Internet to 150 small communities in the Amazon and other remote areas including Brazil's Pantanal wetlands and its arid Northeast. Many villages in such areas are cut off from outsiders because they lack basic infrastructure like roads.

"Internet helped us bring in the police (when we had illegal logging in our area)," said Benhi Piyanko, a member of an Ashaninka indigenous village of some 500 people in the Amazon state of Acre. "We managed to spread the message widely. We even reached the president."

While the Brazilian government will provide the Internet access, state and local governments will have to come up with a way to provide computers so the Internet can be used.

Cake on the river

I don't feel like being too serious this morning, so I'll share a story from the last river trip.

One of the folk on the trip, EJ, celebrated her birthday on the second day of the trip. We baked a pineapple-upside-down cake.

Now, some may not be familiar with the fine art of wilderness baking (those of you who are can ignore this post). I am always amused when there's a newbie on the trip who's shocked by a fresh baked treat while camping.

The dutch oven (hereafter DO) is a wonderful invention, allowing the baking of many a gourmet dish. I only use a cast iron DO, but the aluminum ones are also workable. The real secret is managing the charcoal briquettes. The most common error I've seen is using too many coals, leading to an overcooked outside with an under done middle.

For cakes: Start by lighting 12 to 14 charcoal briquettes. Grease the DO lightly, and put cake mix in (package mix or from scratch). Arrange the burning briquettes in a ring on the lid. Some folks make the mistake of also putting briquettes under the DO, but you shouldn't do this for cakes, as the bottom will scorch before the middle is done. Briquettes on the bottom work well for meat dishes, but not for cakes.

The big secret is to be patient. DO's aren't fast. As the briquettes burn down, resist the temptation to add more. When the cake smell is emanating from the DO, wait 5 more minutes before removing the lid. Allow the cake to cool before removing it from the DO.


Friday, March 30, 2007

Can We Stop With the Beer Talk?

Mein Gott, I am so sick of the following bullshit that's being peddled (yet again) in the press:

There is a general sense in politics that it helps a candidate if he (and yes, in this case, it is definitely "he" rather than "he or she") comes across as "the guy with whom you would most like to have a beer." For example, we were often told during 2000 and 2004 that this was an advantage for Bush over Gore and Kerry. If people would rather have a beer with Bush, then that means they view Bush as more personable and homey than the supposedly stiff Gore and Kerry. Or, at least, more personable and homey to dudes.

Now this crap usually erupts much later in the "campaigns", but given the 2008 head start, it's rearing it's ugly head earlier than usual. And, frankly, I DON'T WANT TO HAVE A BEER WITH ANY OF YOU MOTHERFUCKERS! I'M ELECTING YOU TO RUN THE COUNTRY SO I CAN GO HAVE A GODDAMN BEER IN PEACE WITHOUT WORRYING ABOUT ALL THE BULLSHIT!

I have a beer with many good friends every damn day! I love them all dearly, but running the motherf*cking country? Jesus-motherf*cking-c*nt-haired Christ, all of them AND MYSELF INCLUDED, can just roughly, on a good day, manage our own fucking lives squarely; could we really be responsible for the "fate" of 300 million Americans and the prestige and standing of America in the world? I think not.

And this is not to diss on my friends, many of whom are regular pygalgia readers/posters. After all, they wouldn't want me in charge either, and I don't blame them. My episodic rants of "Kill Bush" or "Send the Twin Bush C*nts to Iraq", probably (secretly) make them happy, but who knows when I'd be calling for everyone to join to the War On Terror/Global War Against Extremists/Jihad/Whatever-the-Fuck-We're-Calling-It these days
and force them to join up.

I don't want a President I can have a beer with - at all. I want a President that can govern, that has the foresight to see what issues are facing America: short-term and long-term, and can rally both the people and the legislature to support his/her view. I want a President that will level with the American people, and not equivocate. If I have to drive only 3 days a week because we're out of gas, then fucking tell me we're out of gas and let me deal. If we can or cannot provide health care insurance to the 47-60 million Americans that don't have it - I want a fucking CONCRETE answer WHY - not just platitudes about market forces and insurance industry pablum. If I need a certain presciption drug that is only provided by one manufacturer (who has written off development costs in the 1990s, but still charges full price), then I want the government to tromp in like Tony Soparno, put their foot on those companies balls and step down HARD until they give in.

I want our government to stop dilly-dallying around with the state of energy in this country. I mostly gave up driving my car; I changed all my lights to CFBs; I don't even run my heat in the winter (ask my girlfriend if you think I'm joking). Now, I'm not asking for a subsidy, but what about a little gov't action? Raise the fucking CAFE standards! Make incandescent bulbs illegal (like CA is doing)! Force research into alternative energy - to the tune of, I don't know 75 billion a year, instead of 1.5 billion?

I want my government to make it possible that everybody has a decent living wage. I know for a fact that I can never buy a house in my own hometown, unless my mother dies and leaves me lots of dough. And me?, worrying about buying a house?! I have several friends that are worried about dental work - which means they can't eat properly - which means they aren't as healthy as they should be - which means they are not performing at their maximal economic ability (for all you dumb-fuck Republicans that say tough shit, I'd remind you that they are not performing at their maximal output for you because they're too much in pain and worrying about their chipped tooth). I'm not saying free open-heart surgery for all, but when a colleague is having trouble because of a chipped f*cking tooth! then I'd say you're not doing your jobs.

Damn, I'm barely getting started on a rant and I haven't even mentioned international issues yet. Let's just say, that I'd be scared flying to HAWAII, which, as many of you governmental types don't know, is part of the United States! I've got to take off my shoes, have someone run a wand over my balls, and maybe even go through the "I can see your bones" detector just so I can visit another Americna state. I'd go visit San Diego, but I'm sure I won't be allowed to in a couplpe of years, unless I have a government-issued ID.

Anyway, this rant has gone on enough, and has varied from my major idea - that I'm so sick of politicians pandering to the "generalist" amongst us. Frankly, I want the politicans to take a stand - even if I don't agree with it. Maybe it's the early campaigning season or something, but I, like you, am goddam tired of it all.

dumpster divePART 3

Hi. I am stuck in the year 2013. What happened is i fell into a wormhole-dumpster i mistook as a regular one. In hindsight, shoulda had the new guy take out the trash that day...
(dear reader, perusing prior posts on this site, regarding Zymurgian's involuntary perigrination, or dumpster dive, may unfurrow yer brow.)
So, after having crawled out of that "dumpster", only to be whapped about by horrific wind, i met this cool chick who rescued me via some personal-teleportation device everyone apparently wears these days. I've only been in the future awhile, folks, but so far i've gleaned that, by 2013, vehicles have been rendered superfluous.! According to Jenisalaamefer, it all started seven years ago, with the personal cell phone craze. Now, in 2013, when you want to actually go somewhere(physically) all you gotta do is press a few buttons on a cell-phonish descendent called an i-trover. Oh, and did i mention that the future has no pavement? No more roads. Just fields of thick, verdant grass. But the gusters suck. And it's pretty fuckin hot, all the time, over here.

Friday-not a cat

Muqtada Al-Sadr

Of the many things that aggravate me, one is the administration and media tendency to oversimplify and demonize our opposition. This is especially true in the case of Muqtada Al-Sadr. Notice how he is always identified as the "radical" cleric. But "radical" as opposed to what? If you only listen to the administration, he's some evil super-villain. But the reality of Al-Sadr is a great deal more complex. He does oppose the American occupation of Iraq, but his Mahdi army has not engaged in full-scale insurgency against us (yes, there have been incidents with some factions, but nothing compared to what could happen if his estimated 80,000 trained fighters mobilized). He does want Iraq to become an Islamic theocracy, with himself in power, but he is also a modern capitalist. He has opposed Iranian intervention in Iraq, but has accepted Iranian aid. Thus far, he has played the politics of the new Iraq rather deftly, controlling 30 seats in parliament. He is again calling on his followers to engage in peaceful resistance, this time on April 9th to commemorate the fall of Baghdad.

The latest statement was read to worshippers during Friday prayers at a mosque in Kufa, a holy Shiite city south of Baghdad where al-Sadr frequently led the ritual. It also was read to thousands of worshippers in Baghdad's Sadr City Shiite district, a stronghold of his Mahdi Army militia.

"I renew my call for the occupier (the United States) to leave our land," he said in the statement, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press. "The departure of the occupier will mean stability for Iraq, victory for Islam and peace and defeat for terrorism and infidels."

Al-Sadr, whose militia fought U.S. troops in 2004 but has generally cooperated with an ongoing U.S.-Iraqi security push in Baghdad, blamed the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq for the violence raging in the country, lack of services as well as sectarian bloodshed.

"Four years on and Iraq is still without water, electricity, fuel, security, safety and, furthermore, it is in the middle of sedition," he said in the statement, which is dated March 25 but was only issued Friday.

"As if this was not enough, the occupier also isolated Iraq from the Arab and Muslim worlds, so much so that all foreign nations have ceased to care about an Iraq lying in ruin," it added.

Al-Sadr has been a vocal critic of the U.S. presence in Iraq since the very beginning, rallying tens of thousands of supporters in mass anti-American protests since his Sadrist movement rose to prominence in 2003 as the protector of impoverished Shiites.

"You, oppressed people of Iraq, let the entire world hear your voice that you reject occupation, destruction and terrorism," he said in calling for the April 9 demonstration.

"Fly Iraqi flags atop homes, apartment buildings and government departments to show the sovereignty and independence of Iraq, and that you reject the presence of American flags and those of other nations occupying our beloved Iraq. Keep them there until they leave our land," he said.

I'm not saying that Muqtada is in any way a good guy, but he's not quite the demon that the media portray. His vision of Iraq is only a threat to America if our intent is to have Iraq be a client state. Simply put, he's fighting for an independent Iraq, which from another perspective would make him a patriot. It is important to understand his words and goals, rather than to simply paint him as a demon.
In reality, we may have to deal with Al-Sadr for a long time. He's made himself a power player, and we might be better off working with him than trying to eliminate him.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

200th post

So here we are at 200 posts, one day over 2 months of blogging. Almost looks like a real blog.
I started this blog as a place to say whatever I felt a need to say- in other words, a pure vanity blog. I invited some people who's intelligence and wit I respect to join in posting, and I'm grateful that Sweaterman and Zymurgian have added their unique voices to this humble blog.
I may not say anything about the "blog issue" of the day, often because I feel that I don't have anything of substance to add to the discussion. There are a lot of smart people in blogtopia (y,sctp) doing a lot of important work, and I salute them. But I'm not going to try to be like them. I'll just be me (did I mention "vanity blog"?).
There's a "grading" of blogs as "a-list", "b-list", etc. This blog is somewhere down on the "u-list" or "v-list", and I'm happy with that. I really appreciate the support and comments that we've gotten. It's like making new friends. Folks like Fixer, Monkeyfister, Demeur, and Badtux have become the friends I've never actually met but I'm always happy to hear from.
So, to my few readers, thanks for stopping by. Hope you find something worthwhile, and please feel free to comment.

A Quick Hit

This is cheating, but I'm posting a pic so I can get to the next post to say something else.

March Madness

Great cartoon found at The Alternate Brain, and stolen fair and square.

The Myth of Voter Fraud

Good article in the WaPo that shoots down the right-wing myth of voter fraud. As people close to me know, I work every election as an inspector (and have since I was of legal voting age). I do this because I believe strongly in democracy. I'm very outspoken on political issues most every day, but on election day I have to be completely impartial. In my almost thirty years as an election worker, I have never seen any incident of deliberate voter fraud. Sure, some people you see show up at the wrong polling place or who are unclear on the registration requirement. But those things don't constitute fraud.

Allegations of voter fraud -- someone sneaking into the polls to cast an illicit vote -- have been pushed in recent years by partisans seeking to justify proof-of-citizenship and other restrictive ID requirements as a condition of voting. Scare stories abound on the Internet and on editorial pages, and they quickly become accepted wisdom.

But the notion of widespread voter fraud, as these prosecutors found out, is itself a fraud. Firing a prosecutor for failing to find wide voter fraud is like firing a park ranger for failing to find Sasquatch.

When the Rethugs talk about "voter fraud", they really mean "people who are
likely to vote against them".

As an aside, if anyone reading this is not registered to vote I would urge you to register. For our democracy to work it must include as many people as possible. Democracy is still the least bad form of government invented.

It's about to get worse

In the Middle East. When I want to understand Middle East politics, I turn to Juan Cole, The latest debacle is the loss of the support of Saudi King Abdullah on Iraq. This does not bode well for any chance of reducing the sectarian violence. I'll let Professor Cole explain:
Saudi King Abdullah said on Wednesday at the opening of the Arab League meetings, "“In beloved Iraq, blood is shed among our brothers while there is an illegitimate foreign occupation and a hateful sectarianism that is threatening to develop into a civil war . . .”

King Abdullah followed up on these harsh criticisms of the US by cancelling his
planned appearance at a White House dinner in April. The Saudi royal family is
fit to be tied that Bush gave Iraq away to fundamentalist Shiite parties that have close ties to Iran.

Although the Saudi statement is remarkable for its brutal frankness and coldness toward the United States, its real significance is its slam of the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Abdullah has not only said that the US presence is an illegal occupation, he has said that the al-Maliki government is nothing more than
Shiite sectarian hegemony. The Saudis are known for their behind the scenes
diplomacy and their public discretion. King Abdullah is hopping mad, to talk this way. It augurs ill for US-Saudi relations. Abdullah is also angry that Bush is letting the Palestine issue fester and that he pushed for open Palestinian elections but then cut off the Hamas government once it was elected. Abdullah thinks Bush is pursuing irrational policies, the effect of which is to destabilize the Middle East. He is so angry that he sounds a bit like Iraqi Sunni fundamentalist leader Harith al-Dhari, who is connected in some shadowy way with the Sunni guerrillas fighting the US

Can Shrub and co. do anything right? They seem to be determined to make a bad situation worse, and the threats towards Iran are escalating daily.

Hello, Mr. Renzi

Well, I guess that one way to get more visitors is to call your congress critter "corrupt". I see by the old sitemeter that every time I post a reference to Rick "carpetbagger" Renzi, I get visits from "". Thanks for noticing, and please feel free to leave a comment.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Target: Renzi

So the Dems are targeting our own pet corrupt rethug congress critter, Rick "carpetbagger" Renzi. Good for them.

Emboldened by the turnovers, the party now is targeting another veteran Republican, Rep. Rick Renzi, and is attempting to implicate him in the controversy stemming from the firing of eight federal prosecutors.

Democrats had already begun to target Renzi on ethics issues before the U.S. attorneys firing controversy broke. In a January memo, Democratic Congressional
Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) identified Renzi's seat as
one of his top targets because of alleged ethical indiscretions.

Another Brick in the Wall

"Congressional Research Service Clamps Down On Public Distribution"
More Government secrecy, I see. Mustn't let the public know where their tax dollars are going or who earmarks how much for pork barrel projects.

In what is being characterized by subordinates as an act of "managerial dementia," the Director of the Congressional Research Service this week prohibited all public distribution of CRS products without prior approval from senior agency officials.

"I have concluded that prior approval should now be required at the division or office level before products are distributed to members of the public," wrote CRS Director Daniel P. Mullohan in a memo to all CRS staff. "This policy is effective immediately."

While CRS has long refused (with Congressional concurrence) to make its electronic database of reports available to the public online, it has still been possible for members of the press, other researchers, and other government officials to request
specific reports from the congressional support agency.

But now, "to avoid inconsistencies and to increase accountability, CRS policy requires prior approval at the division level before products can be disseminated to
non-congressionals," Director Mullohan wrote.

While this is far from the worst abuse out there, it's one more brick in a wall to block accountability. It stinks.

Oil Quiz

Found this interesting quiz on oil in the world. I did pretty well, getting 10 of 12. I expect Sweaterman will ace it. Go here to test yourself:

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Finding the heedle in a naystack

I'm searching for a new thing to say, but it's not happening. So here's another pic from the river.

dumpster dive PART 2

This post will not make a damn bit of sense to you, if you are not already familiar of how Zymurgian happens to be posting from the year 2013. Please scroll down a few posts, to insure yer understanding of this one, if you care to.

"I'm glad we made it" says Jenisalaamefer, my first acquaintence of 2013, and my valiant rescuer from a deadly windstorm, or "guster", as they say these days. " My i-trover is low on batteries. We barely escaped the water-plunder hordes."
Yer what? The what hordes?" Her wierd purplish silver eyes, this future chick, they widen in an expression of wonder and exasperation, perhaps fear. Jenisalaamefer (huh?) clad in white robes, with some kind of i-poddish thing on a hemp necklace astride her resplendent bosom, doesn't know what to make of me any more than I do of her...
Or of how I was just taking out the trash, moments ago, and the fucking dumpster decided to fling me to the year 2013! I try telling her this.
"Well, she sighs, "I can tell you have a scrotum and a penis, and nobody has that equipment downloaded anymore. You don't even have an i-trover on! Cyber-Hiitites would rip you a new third eye for that, dumbass! And you are also stupid enough to be out during a guster, without propper sheathing."
I'm wearing Carharts and a hoodie. "Well, this garb was fine for 2007."
Jenisalaamefer tosses her splendiferous auburn locks and giggles. " There is so much that Allahjesu has willed since yer day. Did you guys have homebrew in 2007? Probably not huh? Well I just bottled a decent batch of IPA. Wanna homebrew?
Perhaps 2013 doesn't totally suck. Anyway, posting from the future is tough. I will inform you of my predicament as I am able, Google willing- Insh'Allah-Amen.

Iran attack on?

Don't know if this is credible, or deliberate disinformation. I'm unclear as to why the Russian military would be leaking this at this time.
Operation Bite: April 6 sneak attack by US forces against Iran planned, Russian military sources warn
WASHINGTON DC, -- The long awaited US military attack on Iran is now on track for the first week of April, specifically for 4 am on April 6,
the Good Friday opening of Easter weekend, writes the well-known Russian journalist Andrei Uglanov

Via the ever brilliant Monkeyfister:

Monday, March 26, 2007

More Pics

Because I can:

The job pays what?

The things people will do for money. I heard this story on the BBC, and went WHA? You taped three live crocodiles to your upper body? And this pays how much?
Jerusalem- A Palestinian woman was caught trying to smuggle three crocodiles from Egypt into the Gaza Strip via Rafah BorderCrossing, it was revealed Sunday...
the smuggler tried to cross Thursday into Gaza with thethree crocodiles taped to her
upper body...

She related that she wanted to sell the reptiles to a local zoo.
Unfortunately, there aren't pictures with the story.


Back in the late '90's, I read a great book titled "The Fourth Turning", by William Strauss and Neil Howe Basically, the book discussed the cycles of history and how they could be predictive of the future. Written in 1997, the authors declared that we were heading into a cycle of crisis within 10 years.
Strauss and Howe base this vision on a provocative theory of American history as a series of recurring 80- to 100-year cycles. Each cycle has four "turnings"-a High, an
, an Unraveling, and a Crisis. The authors locate today's America as midway through an Unraveling, roughly a decade away from the next Crisis (or Fourth Turning). And they recommend ways Americans can prepare for what's ahead, as a nation and as individuals.

I bring this up because of the many posts on economic, enviormental, and militaristic threats that we face in the near future, and how to get through them.

People support new efforts to wield public authority, whose perceived successes
soon justify more of the same. Government governs, community obstacles are
removed, and laws and customs that resisted change for decades are swiftly
shunted aside. A grim preoccupation with civic peril causes spiritual curiosity to decline. A sense of public urgency contributes to a clampdown on “bad” conduct or “anti-social” lifestyles. People begin feeling shameful about what they earlier did
to absolve guilt. Public order tightens, private risk-taking abates, and crime and substance abuse decline. Families strengthen, gender distinctions widen, and child-rearing reaches a smothering degree of protection and structure. The young focus
their energy on worldly achievements, leaving values in the hands of the old. Wars are fought with fury and for maximum result.
I wish I had a copy of the book with me today, as it has become quite prophetic.

San Juan pics

Here's a few photos from the San Juan trip. As I downloaded these, I was reminded that I really should take notes when I take pictures so that I remember which is which.

I'll put up more soon, but these should let you have a glimpse of the scenery.

I'm Back

Aah, the joy of the river. I'm back from seven glorious days on the San Juan river. I'll post some pics after I download them from the camera, but I've got a lot of gear to clean first.
Short trip description: Mexican Hat to Clay Hills, six people, four boats, some weather, great food, beautiful scenery, and beer. Two of the people on the trip are geology professors, so it was a great learning opportunity (I took geology 101 around 30 years ago, and the bits of information I've learned since are rather incomplete). The rapids were a blast.
The other beautiful thing was seven days of NO news. It was a mind cleanser. I'm a bit of a politics/news junkie, but I felt no withdrawal symptoms. Reading the news this morning, I realized how healthy it was for me to just get away from it for a while. The evil bastards will keep on being evil bastards, whether I'm paying attention or not. While it is important to keep fighting them, sometimes it's important to take care of your own sanity by stepping away. I feel refreshed.
But I do have a lot of gear to clean. More later.

Sunday, March 25, 2007