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      So you approach Muslims, talk them into taking part in “terror” plots, then announce you’ve caught a terrorist. Why, it’s just like the drug war: The U.S.  Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have targeted American Muslims in abusive counterterrorism “sting operations” based on religious and ethnic identity, Human Rights Watch an […]
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      The shooting down of Malaysian Airlines MH17 has led to a vituperative barrage in the Western media (and social media), blaming Russia.  This barrage has been fomented, in large part, by the White House, which has been relentless. Many act as if Russia is horribly in the wrong, isolated, and alone. China’s Xinhua wrote this: [...]
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Iraq: The project that will not die

Open Carry extremists in Texas

Open Carry extremists in Texas

The first significant split I had with my brother happened over Iraq.  That’s because he was struck with temporary moronity  propagated by Fox News that trickled down to all of the other media outlets by what I suspect was a small evil group of psy-ops specialists.

It’s hard to be the only scientist in the family.  I’m sure I sounded like some unpleasant klaxon harshing the “let’s go kick some Haji ass!” mellow.  Everyone in America seemed to be on the same team.  There was no talking to them. There was no proof that there were WMDs in the desert.  There was no evidence for a nuclear weapons industry.  And you could be damn sure that if there was oil to be had there, it was going to be hoarded by the companies who went in there to get it.  That last one was a particularly difficult concept to get across.  They just didn’t understand WHY you would want to withhold oil from the global market.  It just sounded crazy.

So, now Iraq is falling apart and Obama wants to sit on the sidelines and let it happen.  In a way, that’s understandable.  It wasn’t his war.  He didn’t start it.  Also, he supposedly gave a speech about it that no one can find a record of.  And there’s that Nobel he needs to live up to.

But part of the responsibilities of being the leader of the free world is having to do some pretty unpleasant things.  I never thought that the president that took over from Bush in 2008 was going to be able to walk out of Iraq on the first day.  You don’t have to be a “war monger” to realize that stabilizing a country that has been deliberately de-stabilized by a bunch of ideological and greedy nut cases is a top priority.

But I get the feeling that the Obama campaign never got over its campaign mindset.  It’s been all about being the fricking cock-on-the-walk and controlling the foreign policy to the point of strangulation lest a political rival look good.  What followed was not a serious commitment to responsible behavior  but a couple of announcements that the war was over even though the country is still a chaotic mess.  I’m as disappointed with some of the pacifism at all costs people on the left as I am with the haji-kickers on the right.  Getting out of Iraq was never going to be easy and not laying the ground work for doing so carefully is going to hurt all of us.

For one thing, we can all expect gas prices to spike now.  Yep, it’s going to happen.  And if we are on a saddle point of plunging back into recession, this is certainly going to help that along.  When oil spikes, everything gets more expensive.  Poorer people are already wondering where they’re going to get the money to feed their kids.  Imagine how that’s going to go when the already high cost of food goes even higher.  How do you get to work?  What’s going to happen to the industries that rely on tourism?

But that’s a little selfish whining from some first world citizen, right?  I mean, how would you like to be a Kurd watching as the US prepares to screw you over again 30 years later?  Or any Iraqi really who lived through the last 10 years?  And if there weren’t religious extremists in the country 10 years ago, there sure are now because there is nothing that will create dangerous extremism better than instability and economic hardship.

There’s a warning there for Americans but we’ll probably be too distracted and hypnotized to realize what it is before it’s too late.

Note to guests: shut up and eat

Paleo foods: meats, veggies, fruits and nuts

The NYTimes has an article this morning about people who dictate to their hosts what they will or will not eat for dinner:

It’s becoming harder for Americans to break bread together. Our appetites are stratified by an ever-widening array of restrictions: gluten free, vegan, sugar free, low fat, low sodium, no carb, no dairy, soyless, meatless, wheatless, macrobiotic, probiotic, antioxidant, sustainable, local and raw.

Though medical conditions like celiac disease and severe allergies have long relegated a small percentage of diners to rigid diets, more and more eaters outside this group appear to be experimenting with self-imposed limits, taking a do-it-yourself, pick-and-choose approach to restricting what they consume.

Some group-dining devotees say they are happy to adjust as the occasion demands. In April, Coco Myers, a writer who avoids gluten and lactose, invited a fish-averse friend to a dinner party in East Hampton, N.Y., hosted by a couple who don’t eat red meat. A few days earlier, the hostess (Scott O’Neil, a painter and an amateur cook, who had been planning a seafood stew) e-mailed Ms. Myers to ask about problem foods.

“Sometimes I go to dinner parties, and you just deal with what you get, right?” Ms. Myers recalled. “But she put it out there.” So she compiled a dietary no-fly list: no fish, no gluten, no lactose.

Ms. O’Neil was up to the challenge. “Nowadays I always ask, because there’s so many things people don’t eat,” she said. She swapped the stew for a mixed grill with chicken, scallops, salmon and tofu, rounding it out with rice, an asparagus-topped salad and an upside-down rhubarb cake.

This is an excellent way to ensure that social gatherings will become increasingly rarer or BYOM (bring your own meal).  I can’t even imagine who does this.  Who calls up or emails the host of a dinner party and dictates their food choices?  Presumably, there will be something on the table that niche diners can eat.  They shouldn’t be making unreasonable demands.  Otherwise the host has to cook several different meals or carefully structure one that doesn’t offend anyone.

Call me old fashioned or fascistic but I think it’s rude for people to do this.  I try to stick to a paleo diet because my triglycerides are a bit on the high side.  That means, I eat the meat/fish and the veggies.  But if someone is having pasta that night, I eat the pasta.  If it’s not a food allergy and one portion isn’t going to clog your arteries, eat it, dammit. And I *never* call or email ahead of time with my paleo list.

I admire the patience of the hosts in this article.  The one who got a bunch of special requests the day of the dinner after having sent out invitations days before should have told them tough titties. It’s a dinner party, not a restaurant.  How insensitive and selfish do you have to be to ask your host at the last minute to accomodate your extra specialness? What one diner adamantly objects to may be the thing that another diner can’t live without.  I think that’s what annoys me the most about this trend.  Sure, you may not eat the tartiflette with the bacon, cream and gooey cheese but the person sitting next to you might *love* that recipe.  If you can’t be satisfied with the vegetables, salads and apple caramel tarte for dessert, and have to impose your dietary restrictions on everyone, you’re not just inconveniencing the host, you could be ruining dinner for everyone else.  I’ve always seen dinner parties as a rare opportunity to eat what I might otherwise not cook for myself.  It’s an adventure, not an ordeal. Twenty years ago, this never would have happened.  You would have gone to the party and eaten what was on your plate or pushed it around and settled for the good company.

If you don’t like that solution, make your own bento box of carefully chosen gluten free, meatless, sugarless, raw veggies and bring it with you where you can consume it conspicuously and mark yourself as the self-righteous, morally superior person you are.

On the menu tonight: French bistro-esque salad with green beans, potatoes, thin slices of country ham, tomatos, capers and olives in a homemade shallot vinaigrette.

Time to watch out! It’s my 8:30s … or Why I Don’t Keep the Good Stuff in the House

My rules (I won’t eat between meals, I won’t take seconds, I’ll strictly-avoid added sugar & I’ll drink at least 2 liters of water a day) serve me pretty well most of the time.  They act like a protective shield around my body — keeping temptation away. So I don’t (mostly) have to use will power.  Which is good since I don’t have much.

But, I’ve noticed that almost every night at about 8:30 p.m. I find myself rummaging around in the kitchen, looking for something good. A sweet treat.  A COOKIE.  Ice Cream …. even (pause) … a marshmallow.

8:30 is a witching hour of sorts in my house.  That protective shield evaporates.  And I’m helpless. I swear, It’s not a pretty thing.

Luckily the grocery shopping happens in mid-afternoon when that shield is up and at it’s most powerful.  You should see me in the grocery store.  All the bad stuff lines the aisle right inside the door but, I breeze right by.  Candy?  Nope. Cookies – naw! Chocolate powder?  Cake mix? Sugared Cereal? Rice Crispie Treats? …. No, no, no & no! It’s all there, right inside the door.  You can’t get to anything else until you pass that.

(whew! just typing it out exhausted me)

I admit it.  I have my weak moments.  But, I’ve found a way to work around them by limiting my access to tempting treats at home.

What about you?  Whatever your goals, are they always strong enough? Or do you get tempted by something you don’t really want to eat anymore? How do the 8:30s (whenever that is) affect you?

Saturday: Banging

The siding guys arrived a little before 9am.  They’re banging on the house right now.  The walls are vibrating.  The side of the house that needs to be replaced is right outside Brooke’s bedroom so I warned her there would be some noise.  But teenagers are like chrysallises.  She’s sleeping right through it and will probably emerge at the crack of noon to go foraging.

In the meantime, I’m emptying my instapaper queue again this morning.  Let’s see, what do we have here:

1.) I LOVE apartmenttherapy.  If you’ve never visited the site you really need to.  Apartmenttherapy is inspiration for decorators on a budget, a place to check out new gadgets, a resource for greener living and growing kids, and kitchen/cooking site.  They also appear to have a social conscience.  I’ve seen more than one post hinting at sympathies to the Occupy movement.  Here’s another.  An apartmenttherapy editor, Sara Gillingham-Ryan, who lives close to Zuccotti park documents the kitchen and food of Occupy Wall Street.  Her piece reaffirms my own impression of Zuccotti during the fall.  It was a vibrant, welcoming place that attracted visitors off the street to come in, find community and talk about what was going on.  Therefore, it was radical, dangerous and had to end.  But don’t worry, Spring is Coming.

2.) I hear they have snow in Davos this year.  If you have the time and money, you might want to check out the “luxury” igloo hotel at Davos.  The concept is interesting.  I just don’t think I would refer to temperatures lower than 68° F as a luxury.  Your mileage may vary.  I think that Occupy has a remote outpost at Davos as well and that Jeff Jarvis was going to go visit.  Check his twitter stream to see if he made it.

3.) Or not.  Twitter just announced that it would abide by the laws in countries where there are proscriptions on certain kinds of twitters.  You mean the effective kind?  Just askin’.  Which is what Jeff Jarvis is getting at in his tweet this morning on Twitter’s announcement:

@jeffjarvisJeff Jarvis
My problem w/#Twitter’s new national capability is that it is a slippery slope of censorship. We need to know its principles.

It’s all part of a pattern.  SOPA, PIPA, Twitter.  Someone has it in for the internet and wants to stomp it dead, dead, dead.  Oh sure, it wouldn’t go away.  But it would devolve into a place where companies sell you stuff on every corner of every page.  You could use it as a reference tool, maybe.  Or as a media consumption device.  Sort of like a giant TV with a zillion channels, all carefully regulated for your protection.  God help you if you try to incite a little insurrection and accidentally reference a bit of copyrighted material.

I think the powers that be suddenly realized that the internet gave people the opportunity to communicate without a filter and circumvent billions of dollars of thought shaping ads and screed.  Well, we can’t have that.  Here comes the crackdown.  This could be the end of a brilliant 20 year experiment that many of us cut our grown up teeth on.  Or it could mean a new opportunity for creativity.  If all that copyrighted material is suddenly off limits, we may see a boom in new, creative content that is royalty free, er, except to anyone in the media.  I’d love to see that kind of intellectual property agreement.

But sooner or later, the bastards will get what they want by buying the right lawmakers.  It goes without saying that we need to get rid of them and it starts at the top with Obama.  No, no, don’t try to scare me with Newt Gingrich.  There are times when you have to stop being afraid that you will not succeed.  There are third party candidates out there.  Pick one, everyone get behind that person and pull.

4.) Jay Rosen says that Republican voters are living in a different reality:

So I’m not saying that the Democrats and progressives are the ones who are in touch with reality, while conservatives and Republicans are not. (But I guarantee you some will read it that way.) I’m saying that the tendency toward wish fulfillment, selective memory, ideological blindness, truth-busting demagoguery and denial of the inconvenient fact remains within normal trouble-making bounds for the Democratic coalition. But it has broken through the normal limits on the Republican side, an historical development that we don’t understand very well. That is, we don’t know the reasons for it, why it happened when it did, or what might reverse it. (We also need to know the degree to which it is a global phenomenon among conservative parties in mature democracies, or an American thing.) Political scientists: help!

I think wish fulfillment is at the core of the religious Republicans’ worldview.  If you are wishing soooooo hard that the Rapture is going to come and destroy all of your enemies and family members who wouldn’t listen to you, then what does it matter how crazy your politics get?  Any thought that leads you closer to that eventuality is permissible.

One of my Dad’s favorite sayings was “Wishing doesn’t make it so.” He must have driven social conservatives nuts with that kind of clear thinking. {{snicker}}

***************************

Argghhhh!  It’s always something.  The siding looks like a perfect match, even though it’s vinyl and the rest of the house is aluminum.  But the trim was ordered in the wrong color.  They delivered white, I need Navajo White.  It’s in the covenant.  And even if it were the right color, we’re a box short.  So, it’s not going to get finished today.  It’s on the side of the house that is not visible to the street but *is* visible to my neighbor, the cul-de-sac busy body and general itch with a B.  She’s got me fined before when I left cabinets on the sidewalk from my kitchen demo.  Most of them got taken by Craigslist foragers but there were two that were not and I pulled my back last summer so I couldn’t lift them to the dumpster, which I am not allowed to leave them in anyway.  $25.00/day until I could get someone to help me get rid of them.  You would think that someone so obsessed with the condition of the neighborhood would lend a helping hand.  No, not this one.  It’s much more fun to leave nasty anonymous notes on your neighbors door and sic the association on them.   I can just picture the fine that will be in my mailbox if the siding is left unfinished one second longer than Mrs. NebbyNose can tolerate. I can not *WAIT* to get out of NJ and the damn townhouse association strike force.

Happy Labor Day: Outstanding in the Field

A couple of days ago, the BFF and I decided to blow a wad of cash, shaking our tiny fists in defiance at the vindictive economy gods.  And for the better part of a lovely day, we ate, drank and were merry at an Outstandinginthefield event.  The idea of Outstandinginthefield is to reunite the diner with the earth and to give thanks to the people who bring you food- the farmers.  The Outstanding crew travel the country in an old bus and set up feasts in fields and by streams and next to the ocean.  Anywhere there is a connection to the land.

Our dinner was held at Mosefund Farm in Branchville, NJ.  The farm is an experiment of sorts in raising Mangelitsa pigs.  These are pigs only a mother could love.  Dark, hairy and chock full of high quality pig lard, lovingly infused with fennel and black pepper….

Here, piggy, piggy! (Bwahahahahahahhhh!)

Er, where was I?

Z-Food Farm in Lawrenceville also participated, contributing delicate tomatoes, tender beets and eggplants. The chef, Scott Andersen, was from Elements in Princeton.  The wines that were paired with the dishes were from Alba Vineyards here in NJ.  New Jersey makes good wines?  Who knew?

The guy who started it all, Jim Deneven, a farmer hat wearing (and incredibly hot) chef from California said the idea grew from his encounters with farmers at local farmers’ markets he visited to shop for his restaurant.  He got to know them, visited their farms and had a few dinners around the Bay area.  Then he bought an old bus and voile!  Restaurant on the Road!

Jim and Leah give thanks to the farmer before dinner

Just before dinner, he talked about farming and food to the approximately 200 of us foodies and people with too much money.  Someone asked him about other companies who have followed in his footsteps and have hosted dinner in the fields.  What makes Outstandinginthefield different?  Now that I think of it, it sounds like something an investor would ask, which wouldn’t be inconsistent with the clientele.  Jim explained:

“We’re different because you can’t do this kind of event well without paying your people well”

Jim hires chefs and cooks from around the country and the world.  For months at a time, the eight of them live on a tiny bus.  And these well trained cooks do this to serve the diners, not to cook for them.  And he pays them well because they are good at what they do and it is obvious that they are enjoying themselves learning from the farmers they meet, the various chefs they work with and the service they perform.  Jim explains that many of the other companies who do farmer dinners rely on cooks and servers to volunteer their time.  But paying well does show in the final details.  The farmer who hosted told us that the Outstandinginthefield crew were very well organized and prepared.  They came at 10:30am to set up and the farmer didn’t have to lift a finger.

Bring your own plate

The food was delicious.  The farmer, Michael, a full time personal chef who raises pigs on the side, was interesting and inspiring.  Jim and his sidekick Leah, the organizer, were wonderful, highly efficient and had really done their homework.  And the servers, who put their cooking careers on hold to travel the country by cramped bus to wait on spoiled foodies, were outstanding.

Take a day off, guys.  You earned it.

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