Monday, June 27, 2011

But that I burn much more in boiling sweat

See that white tent, just past the SUV that photobombed me? That's a fireworks tent set up in a parking lot.. It's got balloons, one sad little "Fireworks!" banner (that's the orange thing off to the right), no air conditioning, and a cheap plastic roof (whatever they're making cheap tents out of these days).

The person behind the plain wood counter in the tent is smoking. I didn't go in to look. They just always are.

We live in a desert. The temperature is going to be in the high nineties all week.

See that sign in the building beyond it? Looks like a number one? That's the logo for Page One Books, the largest locally-owned bookstore in Albuquerque. Which happens to be 30 yards away from the fireworks tent.

Because people are stupid.

I'm not a big fan of fireworks, as it turns out.

The Wallow Fire, the largest wildfire in Arizona history, spread into New Mexico around the Luna, NM area. As of today, it's 80% contained.

Update/expansion: It was started on May 29th. So far (and 24 hours later than the initial post here, it's at almost 90% containment), it's destroyed roughly 540 thousand acres. Six towns (Eager, Springerville, Nutrioso, Alpine, Luna and Blue River) were evacuated, and it's taken almost 2,000 people to fight it.

Los Alamos was evacuated because of wildfires today. The fires have, in fact, crossed over into the boundaries of the Los Alamos nuclear lab, if you're curious; that's called the Las Conchas fire, and as of today, it's eaten about 45,000 acres of the Santa Fe National Forest, and as I write this, it is zero percent contained.

The 346 Fire in Belen, NM (named after the Highway 346 Bridge, currently its northern boundary) is a mere 150-acre fire; it's destroyed 3 houses and several outbuildings, and is threatening about 150-200 more. Earlier today, they suspected that they'll have it contained by Wednesday. Of course, they weren't taking into account the 25 mph winds (with 40 mph gusts) that are kicking up.

The Horseshoe 2 fire in southeast Arizona never made it to the New Mexico border. It destroyed 223 thousand acres, but is now considered contained, as of Saturday. Crews will be downgrading to a Type 3 team Wednesday, if nothing goes wrong.

The Pacheco fire, north of Santa Fe, has only destroyed about ten thousand acres. It's been going a week and a half, and it's currently about 10% contained.

State law in New Mexico prevents them from implementing a ban on fireworks, even during one of the worst fire seasons ever.

Oh, and in case you missed it, next Monday is the Fourth of July.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Depression-era cooking... or not

Some of you may have noticed that the economy could be better. It's just a rumor at this point, but I've heard people suggest that. And if you're looking to save pennies wherever possible, here's an idea that the Trophy Wife and I have started doing, which basically goes back to the concept of "Use everything."

Now, a quick disclaimer: the Trophy Wife and I cook from scratch a lot. Which, by itself, can save you money. First, unprocessed ingredients tend to cost less. And further down the road, eating healthier can save you money in medical bills. (Plus it tastes better, unless you really suck as a cook. But that can be fixed...)

When you start to cook from scratch, you'll notice that you end up using stock a lot: beef stock, chicken stock, and even (less often, unless you're vegetarian) vegetable stock. Stock making isn't hard, and plenty of people are happy to tell you how. Here's a quick overview.

I'll tell you one thing about this stock recipe: bitch is crazy. Completely batshit. She took a simple concept, and made it cost about five to ten times what it should.

Let's start with the chicken. What the hell is she doing putting an entire chicken into her stockpot? She is literally wasting all of the meat, because it's going to add very little to the stock, and when it's done, it is literally only good for dog food (now, admittedly, the dogs will be overjoyed, but they also stick their noses in each other's butts).

What you want is the bones, cooked or not. The remaining carcass from a whole cooked chicken is perfect; with the larger stock pots, you want two. (Also, you know that turkey skeleton left at the table after the relatives descend on it like piranha's? Same thing - I think turkey and chicken stock are interchangeable, but some people will argue that. For example, the wife...) Plus, since you were only going to throw those bones away, this is pretty much free.

Now, as to the vegetables, she's once again wasting perfectly good food. And here's where, with just a little planning, we keep this stock basically free (we're paying for water, a couple of spices, and the cost of running the stove; oh, and some ice, but that comes later).

When you peel an onion, what do you do with the top and bottom ends and the outer skin? If you compost it, well, good for you; most of us just throw it out.

Likewise carrots. Most of us scrape off the outer layer, chop both ends (and the greens, if you buy them that way), and toss it. Garlic skins and the dry brown tip where it came off the bulb? The ends of celery? You just throw it away, right?

Instead, keep a bowl above your cutting board (or in the sink, or by your feet as you sit on the floor in your lonely cell; wherever you cut the stuff up), and stick the peelings in that. When you're done, put them in a ziplock bag and shove it in the freezer. Every time you cut up vegetables, pull out the bag and shove in the new stuff. When it gets full, use a marker to put the month and year on it, and shove it to the back of the freezer.

The only real tips about what vegetables to include are pretty simple.
• You don't want to put things like potato peelings into the bag. For one thing, what the hell are you doing not eating the peel? For another, starch doesn't add anything to stock, except to thicken it more than you want.

• Bell peppers are in the same family as their hotter cousins ( jalapeños, habaneros and the like), and all the heat in those peppers comes from the membranes and seeds inside. It's just bitter in the bell pepper, but who needs that?

• When you overcook cabbage (like, say, boiling it for hours), it breaks down and throws out sulfur compounds. Which doesn't improve your stock at all.

• Beet stalks turn the stock a bright red, or reddish-brown. We like that. You might not.
By the time you need stock again, you pull out a bag or two (depending on the size of your stockpot), throw in the bones, one or two bay leaves and a handful of peppercorns, and run that sucker up to a boil. Back off the heat until it's at a bare simmer, and let it go for several hours.

The description we used when we asked our kids to check the boil every so often was "the Bog of Eternal Stench" from Labyrinth: one bubble breaking the surface every few seconds, rather than a rolling boil. And basically, the stock is done when the bones break easily to fingertip pressure when you fish one out; in fact, if you've extracted all the connective tissue, they pretty much crumble to the touch.

We usually take two days to boil this stuff: if you trust your stove, you can let it boil overnight, but depending on your household situation, you might be risking a fire (or boiled cat, which is a completely different flavor). We just ice the stock down overnight (see below) and restart it in the morning.

The next secret they don't tell you? Don't try to skim the fat off while it's hot. Our method is that we bought a set of three stock pots. We lay out newspapers, and carefully pour the big pot through a colander into the medium pot ("carefully" being the important word - it's boiling hot). Then we lid the pot, stick it in a cooler on a folded towel (it's a plastic cooler - think about it) with two ten-pound bags of ice emptied around it.

(Alton Brown suggests some frozen water bottles in the stock, too: your choice. One other trick, though. Leave the colander draining above the stock pot until it stops dripping juicy goodness, and then you can throw the solids out. For that matter, you can compost them, if that's how you roll. Personally, I use a fork - it's still hot, remember - to pick out the biggest chunks of meat, and carefully separate the meat from the remains of the bones. And then I put it the meat in a plastic container in the fridge, and supplement the dog's food. They seem to approve.)

That was my next biggest problem with the video, by the way; right after using whole chickens instead of just bones. If you stick a big pot of boiling hot liquid into your freezer, you're going to defrost your freezer and ruin anything else in there. Plus, frozen fat doesn't come off nearly as easily.

The next day, you peel off the yellowish-brown disk of fat off the top, and do what you want with it. We put a little schmaltz on the dog's food once any boiled chicken runs out. They seem to appreciate it.

The fat's going to come off in chunks, not as a disk. Don't let that bother you, all the little pieces float. You need a good-sized slotted spoon, a little patience, and a container for the fat.

Then we pour it into small ziplock bags, one cup per bag. (If you use more, go for two cups per bag - again, your choice.) We freeze it flat on cookie sheets and store it until we need it.

I've seen people say you can freeze it into ice cube trays, so you have convenient one-tablespoon cubes. Which is great if you use one tablespoon of stock at a time. Also, if it's a plastic ice-cube tray, don't ever plan to use it for ice again. Oils and any remaining fat will be happy to bond with the plastic, and unless you're drinking iced chicken soup, that might be an issue.

By the way, this same method can be used for beef stock; in our case, we've used both beef bones and ox tails (until the price started going up). But lately, we've found the cheapest thing on the market: hooves, often labeled as "beef feet" around here. Since they're nothing but collagen, they make the most amazing stock.

And finally (you could probably have worked this out), you can make vegetable stock, which only takes a couple of hours and there's no fat to mess with.

And if you're really into composting, you can recycle the remaining vegetable matter one final time. (I don't, but I support the idea.)

One word of warning: this is not a method for the anal-retentive cook who obsessively measures every last grain of salt. Our vegetable mix is different every time, which can subtly change the stock. But if you're not a professional cook, making 500 identical dishes every day, this probably isn't going to matter to you. It's that little bit of chaos that keeps things interesting.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A crashing Boortz

Radio talk-show host Neal Boortz picked up a little press last week, and now he's complaining about it. So this week, he gave a big ol' non-apology. I'm going to reprint a big chunk of it here (interesting punctuation issues and all) to be sure I'm not taking him out of context.
As examples we'll use the Huffington post, a well known leftist website, and another named, a website with the slogan "The revolution will not be televised; whatever in the world that means, that titled their little bit about me thusly: "Atlanta Talk Show Host Codes Race Killings." Both of these websites printed the following quote from me:
"This town is starting to look like a garbage heap. And we got too damn many urban thugs, yo, ruining the quality of life for everybody. And I'll tell you what it's gonna take. You people, you are - you need to have a gun. You need to have training. You need to know how to use that gun. You need to get a permit to carry that gun. And you do in fact need to carry that gun and we need to see some dead thugs littering the landscape in Atlanta.
Well ... that wasn't exactly all I said. Here's the part they left off:
"We need to see the next guy that tries to carjack you shot dead right where he stands. We need more dead thugs in this city."
These websites, you see, wanted to portray me as having called for people to simply get guns and start killing blacks. They didn't include the beginning of my comments where I referenced two violent carjackings in Atlanta, nor did they see fit to include that part of my statement that related to self defense. No surprise. If you have an agenda to push, you do whatever editing is necessary to keep your message on point...
OK, so there's his basic message, or so he claims. It's all right to kill somebody, if you think they're robbing you. You know, basic libertarian, Second Amendment stuff. This isn't a healthy trend (ask Bernie Goetz), but I digress.)

Now Boortz takes a while complaining about his treatment by the "liberal media," until we get to this.
(Ed) Shultz picked up on my comments from Media Matters and then ... before he played it on his MSNBC show ... he did a little creative editing. My comments related to self defense, but Schultz, like other critics, needed to get the self defense aspect out of the way so that he could portray me as, in his words, as "reckless, stupid and racist" and to tell his audience that I had "advocated murder in the streets of Atlanta." You can't say that I was advocating murder if it's clear that I'm talking about defending yourself from a carjacker --- so that part was taken out. Here, again, is what I said:
You need to know how to use that gun. You need to get a permit to carry that gun. And you do in fact need to carry that gun and we need to see some dead thugs littering the landscape in Atlanta. "We need to see the next guy that tries to carjack you shot dead right where he stands. We need more dead thugs in this city."
See? That makes it all better.

He follows that with more whining about how badly he's mistreated by the "liberal media," and he'd like an apology. And he's not a racist, but he doesn't care if you call him one.

And then he says this.
Here's a nasty little secret for you. Pretty much every time the Atlanta media reports a violent crime in the city; whether it's a rape, an assault, a shooting, a carjacking or the murder of three people who worked in a car wash that doubles as a rap music recording studio, (no kidding this happened last week), one of the first thoughts that will cross most people's minds is that the perpetrators were young black males. I'm sure this is the case in most other large urban areas. Sometimes these initial impressions will be false, but not that often. Are these thoughts racist? Do these first impressions occur because of some deeply held belief that young black males are genetically predisposed to commit crimes? Hardly. These initial impressions are brought about by recognition of the fact that young black males are engaged in criminal activity in numbers way out of proportion to their percentage of the population - a recognition that there is a culture of crime and violence in the urban community. Yes, I can give you some statistics. You might not like them, but they're there for you to develop on your own, if you care to, using FBI crime data.
See? He's not racist! Everybody is, and he's just saying it for them!

And then he abuses statistics for a while, to show that most crime is committed by blacks and hispanics. Now, it would be rude of me to point out that these are the same statistics used by Klansmen to show that they aren't racist, they're only protecting their own kind!

And burning crosses (but that's just a hobby).

Instead, I'm just going to ponder the statistics he didn't use. The one from the Atlanta police, that shows that crime in Atlanta has been dropping steadily. In fact, crime in all of Georgia has been dropping for the last 30 years (a few indicators spiked in the early 90s, probably due to the influence of Vanilla Ice).

What other statistics does he ignore? Well, how about the fact that two-thirds of the population of Atlanta is black. So, just off the top of my head, I'd say that there's a good chance that two-thirds of the criminals are black. But that's just me.

And the rest of his statistics are equally idiotic. They're debunked or explained on a regular basis, but they're still quoted. By racists, who refuse to admit that their statistics are crap.

Nor is this the first time Boortz showed his racist side (and again, nice long quotes to let you get everything in context).

So, yeah, I think I'm more than happy to label him as a useless, bigoted fucknozzle, and racist to his evil little core.

Slow Club - "Two Cousins"

If I'm honest, I think the song's a little boring. The dancers, though?

What the hell is that? There's a little tap, a little soft-shoe, a buck-and-wing on and off, and some honest-to-Bojangles shuffle. Maybe some dance historian can break this down, but I can't.

So... um...

This what y'all get up to in the country?

Y'all need a hobby, son.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

What you could've said, but didn't.

So, it's amazing the number of places I live in the country. 11 different states today alone. I got my list from here, of the first eleven people from the House of Representatives to step on their metaphorical (and Weiner's pictorial) dicks.

Their latest trick, by the way, is to demand your nine-digit zip code, but that's not hard to get around. Look up a map of their Congressional district on Google (I like these, but that's just me), find a business in whatever city is completely inside that district. That gives you an address and phone number, and if you don't already have the full Zip+4, look it up.
Dear (insert Congresscritter here)

You made at least one major misstep in the last two weeks.

Would you please stop and think for a second, and ask yourself why the Republicans have managed to build up their power base for the last two decades? It's actually not hard to figure out: message discipline and solidarity. The Republicans work together.

Now, Anthony Weiner had his little scandal, and what did you do? You called on him to resign. Think about that for a second. What are you going to do if he's replaced by a Republican?

Please point out to me what laws Anthony Weiner broke. Or which women he had sex with? You can wave your hands around and say "Well, it was a distraction" all you want, but you know what? Now he's resigned. And it's still a distraction.

If he was going to resign in embarrassment, he would have done that anyway. If you needed to tell him how you felt, you could have closed the door and told him in private. Do you really think that standing in front of a microphone and telling the world how you felt did a damned thing? Really?

Anybody who might have been swayed by your declaration of "family values" (or whatever that was) wasn't going to vote for you anyway.

If you wanted to say nothing, you could have gone with something like this:
"This is a distraction. I have better things to talk about."

"Weiner did something stupid. I think his voters should be allowed to decide how they feel about it."
If you wanted to say nothing and still get some airtime for it, you could have made a slightly stronger statement, maybe something with an edge to it.
"Weiner's penis doesn't reach into my district."

"This is between him and his wife. Come back to me when Weiner commits a crime, OK?"
Or maybe you could have made a point out of the whole situation.
"I feel sorry for his wife, but I don't see what this has to do with the Republicans trying to destroy Social Security and Medicare."

"Have you asked Senator Vitter his opinion? You didn't? Well, when you do, follow it up by asking if he's embarrassed to say things like that."

"It's interesting that this comes up when the Congressman was trying to investigate the conflict of interest case of a Supreme Court justice. I also think it's interesting that you'd fall for this obvious distraction. Do you chase little toys on a string, too? Are you distracted by shiny objects?"

"Any chance we can get back to a subject that matters? No? OK, how about this? I'll worry about a sex scandal when the Republicans stop hiring hookers and paying off husbands."
Or you could even have made an entire comedy act out of it.
"Are you still on Weiner's penis? Really? Why are you so interested in another man's crotch? Are you proud of the work you're doing? When you go home at the end of the day and your wife asks 'What did you do today, dear?' do you respond with 'Well, I was all over a congressman's johnson! I reached right in there, and I groped around, but I didn't really find anything new today. Nothing juicy, anyway.' What does your editor say about this fixation of yours? Is he a supporter? 'I want more penis! We need 24-hour coverage of Anthony Weiner's crotch! This is big! Really big! I want to work this story until it explodes!' Do you have any questions about something important, or can you not think of anything today except penises?"
You know what this really would have taken on your part? A little courage. That's all. You could have stood up to the forces trying to tear apart our country, instead of turning around and attacking the people on your own side.

To put it more bluntly, Anthony Weiner showed the world that he has balls. What did you show?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Memes from the Wingnuts

A very common attitude among the right-wing websites is a dismissive attitude about anyone who points out when the economy went to hell - "Oh, you can't stop blaming Bush, can you?" The term "all Bush's fault" is often used as a perjorative to indicate someone is blindly liberal, and is particularly common in the comments.

This is a meme they've been trying to push since January 21, 2010: scorn for anyone who suggests that Bush might have been involved in tanking the economy. Even though Bush isn't particularly popular among conservatives, it's difficult for them to let go.

After a decade (or more) of upper echelon conservatism pushing for a united front (even against all logic), it's hard to break ranks and argue against core positions. So they continue to make excuses and avert their eyes.

It's all about core positions: if Bush was wrong about the tax cuts for the rich, then the tax cuts should end. But if tax cuts created jobs, Bush would have had record low unemployment, instead of hemorrhaging jobs. If deregulation was a good idea, then the free market would fix itself, instead of collapsing.

To admit Bush was wrong, conservatives have to admit they were wrong. So, instead, the idea is treated with scorn, in the hopes that it will go away.

But sadly for them, it hasn't worked:
...the American public isn’t blaming Obama for the current economy, with more than six in 10 respondents still saying he inherited the country’s economic problems from his Oval Office predecessor.

Also, while a combined 47 percent believe George W. Bush and his administration are "solely responsible" or "mainly responsible" for the current economy, just 34 percent in the poll say the same of Obama and his administration.
It's very sad. All that work, for nothing.

Meanwhile, this dates back to the inauguration, but it fits.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

It is possible that a certain amount of brain damage is of theraputic value. (Dr. Paul Hoch, 1948)

Does anybody remember how newly-elected Kenyan-Marxist-in-Chief Barack Hussein!! Obama took our young children and brainwashed them, turning them into politically-correct socialist zombies? Well, neither do I, but it was one of the many fascinating fancies falling from the fetid, feculent field of fantasy which we laughingly call the "mind" of Michele Bachmann.
I believe that there is a very strong chance that we will see that young people will be put into mandatory service. And the real concerns is that there are provisions for what I would call re-education camps for young people, where young people have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward and then they have to go to work in some of these politically correct forums.
So, why do I bring up this particular Ambien-fueled nightmare? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because of this.
Tea party group offers summer camp

TAMPA — Here's another option now that the kids are out of school: a weeklong seminar about our nation's founding principles, courtesy of the Tampa 912 Project.

The organization, which falls under the tea party umbrella, hopes to introduce kids ages 8 to 12 to principles that include "America is good," "I believe in God," and "I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable."
See? Good Christian values. Remember when Jesus said "No, that’s mine, and I don’t have to share it with you!" (I think it was in the Book of Newt somewhere.)

Why isn’t the Left Wing freaking out over this? Well, possibly because we’re not paranoid and delusional.

But what kind of high-quality teachers will they be learning from at Camp Teabagger?
"We want to impart to our children what our nation is about, and what they may or may not be told," (conservative writer Jeff) Lukens said. He said he was not familiar with public school curriculum, but, "I do know they have a lot of political correctness."
You have to admire the honesty, anyway. "I don’t know what they’re learning, but here’s what I think they’re learning. Because I listen to Michele Bachmann."

And they’ll be doing fun activities, too!
Children will win hard, wrapped candies to use as currency for a store, symbolizing the gold standard. On the second day, the "banker" will issue paper money instead. Over time, students will realize their paper money buys less and less, while the candies retain their value. "Some of the kids will fall for it," Lukens said. "Others kids will wise up."
Not that any of the children will be tempted to eat their "gold." Meaning that the paper money will buy more than the "gold," if only because there’s more of it around.
Another example: Starting in an austere room where they are made to sit quietly, symbolizing Europe, the children will pass through an obstacle course to arrive at a brightly decorated party room (the New World). Red-white-and-blue confetti will be thrown. But afterward the kids will have to clean up the confetti, learning that with freedom comes responsibility.
Actual lesson learned? Don’t throw confetti.
Still another example: Children will blow bubbles from a single container of soapy solution, and then pop each other's bubbles with squirt guns in an arrangement that mimics socialism. They are to count how many bubbles they pop. Then they will work with individual bottles of solution and pop their own bubbles. "What they will find out is that you can do a lot more with individual freedom," Lukens said.
And they’ll learn this because.... um... Jesus!

(Let’s be honest: I have no idea what the hell that little exercise is expected to teach these kids. Except that they’ll probably make them clean it up like they did with the confetti, because, remember, with great idiocy comes great responsibility.)
"We've had classes for adults," said Karen Jaroch, who chairs the Tampa 912 Project.
"And for some reason, the confetti didn’t go over as well as we’d hoped."
Jaroch said the group might try to bring its curriculum to the public schools during Constitution Week in September.

"We definitely teach the Constitution, especially during Constitution Week," said Linda Cobbe, a school district spokeswoman. She said the district would need to make sure (the Tampa 912 Project) does not have a political agenda
Yeah, so that will go over well, right? How could a project started by Glenn Beck possibly have a political agenda, right?

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Your history lesson for a Sunday

You know, if you wander around the religious end of teh Intartubes, there are a couple of arguments that it's hard to avoid. One of them is that atheists have killed more people than the religious ever could, and that true believers in Christ are much more peaceful than the immoral masses of the godless.

"Now, see, all the great mass-murdering dictators and tyrants through history were atheists! Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, all of them!" They especially love Dinesh D'Souza's idiot rant.
Whatever the motives for atheist bloodthirstiness, the indisputable fact is that all the religions of the world put together have in 2,000 years not managed to kill as many people as have been killed in the name of atheism in the past few decades.

It's time to abandon the mindlessly repeated mantra that religious belief has been the greatest source of human conflict and violence. Atheism, not religion, is the real force behind the mass murders of history.
And they love their little atheist roll-call: "All the great mass-murdering dictators and tyrants through history were atheists! Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, all of them!"

(Incidentally, next time you see somebody make that argument – and you will – you probably ought to suggest that they leave Hitler off of it. He was a good Catholic, had a special relationship with the Pope, and the SS Wehrmacht all had Gott mit uns - "God is with us" - on their belts. Suggest they look up the term "Reichconcordat.")

And there's always the obvious question: did any of these people actually commit crimes "in the name of athiesm"? Or because they were power-mad lunatics? It’s a subtle difference, after all, but it’s a fairly important one.

But D'Souza's little conceit blatantly ignores the most obvious of historical facts: he conflates the increases in weapons technology with atheism, ignoring the simple fact that the march of time bears more responsibility for the number of deaths than any decrease in spirituality.

But remember, these are people who aren't especially good at critical thinking, for the most part. So someday you, like I did, might run into someone who mangles the concept into the following artistic rendering:
"people like you (Christians) are the cause of wars over all the centuries" ?
Are you serious? Care to name a few of these wars? I think you will quickly realize that this is NOT the case. Unless you are referring to Muslims and Jihad, Catholics and crusades, or am I missing something here? As a matter of fact it is people like YOU (Atheists) that have killed far more people than any other "holy" wars have. (Stalin, etc)
China, North Korea, etc is killing Christians and locking them up.
So you couldn’t be anymore wrong.
And if you do, permit me to do some of the research for you.

Just for giggles, I’m not even going to count the Inquisition, which wasn’t a "war" so much as a church-supported terrorist organization; but really, thanks to George W. Bush, an argument can be made that the "War on Terror," as pursued since the Twin Towers fell, is equally as much like a war as the Inquisition.

But that would require more of the aforementioned "critical thinking," so let's avoid it. Instead, we'll just stick with the easy-to-identify, troops-killing-each-other type wars. Now, of course, all wars have a political aspect to them, but if the troops are strongly religious, and are killing others because of their religious beliefs, that can fairly easily be considered a "religious war," right? (This is not, by any means, an exhaustive list.)

1. The Crusades are the obvious first choice. But are you aware that there were a series of them (nine numbered ones, plus several lesser Crusades) over a 300 year period? It's not like they were a fad or something; they were a big deal for much of the 11th, 12th and 13th Centuries.

2. Henry the VIII wanted a divorce from Catherine of Aragon, but the Catholic Church wouldn’t do that for him. So in 1534, he declared himself supreme head of the church in England, eventually leading to the English Reformation, the British throne bouncing from Protestant to Catholic and back to Protestant again, and uncounted thousands of the dead.
2a. Although in Northern Ireland, "the Troubles" really date back to the Reformation (you remember, Henry VIII and like that), the Catholic nationalists and the Protestant unionists in Northern Ireland didn’t actually settle things until the "Good Friday Agreement" of 1998.
3. In 16th Century France there was a series of wars between Roman Catholics and Protestants (known as "Hugenots"). These were collectively known as the "Wars of Religion" (seems pretty straightforward to me). They are generally agreed to start with the Massacre of Vassy in 1562, and kind of ended with the The Edict of Nantes (1598), although the Hugenots and Catholics kept fighting for the next two centuries.

4. The Thirty Years War in the the Holy Roman Empire (1618-1648) decreased the population of Germany by 15 to 30 percent. This was a religious war fought between the Catholics, Lutherans and Calvinists, and is considered the worst civil war in European History.

5. In 1850, a rebel in Qing Dynasty China named Hong Xiuquan, a Christian convert (and you know how those born-agains are, amirite?) decided that the first three of the Ten Commandments (he used the Protestant translation) were directly in conflict with having a ruling class that claimed the "Mandate of Heaven." So Hong established the "Taiping Heavenly Kingdom" (also known as the "Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace") with its capital at Nanjing. The Taiping Rebellion was eventually crushed by the Qing forces, but not before an estimated 20 million people were killed. The Guinness Book of World Records rates this as the "bloodiest civil war."

6. Admittedly, the Indonesian occupation of East Timor was kind of brutal, but only 40 percent of East Timorese were Roman Catholic prior to the 1975 Indonesian invasion, with the rest belonging to one or another indigenous religion. Today the number is over 90 percent. The East Timorese separatists used their Roman Catholicism as an expression of national identity to make them distinct from Muslim Indonesia.

7. In 1987, Slobodan Milošević, backed by the Serbian Orthodox Church, committed genocide against the Catholic Croats and the Muslim Bosnians, based strictly on their religious views (and the fact that he wanted to set up his own tyrannical rule – there’s always a political component in these things).

Remember, though, that facts aren't really going to do anything to change the mind of the True Believer; it's kind of fun to throw them in the faces of the ignorant and gullible.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

American "exceptionalism"?

Well, Rick Santorum, everybody's favorite frothy mixture, came out a few days ago to explain how "America was a great country before 1965."

Now, in context, he chose 1965 because that was the year that Medicare and Medicaid were put in place. Funny how that was the same year that America passed the Voting Rights Act of (weird how that works) 1965, and Martin Luther King's march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery.

Yes, children, Sesame Street is brought to you today by the word "dog-whistle."

I suppose I could also bring up the Fair Housing Act of 1968, but flogging that horse won't make it run again, will it?

I mean, it's an easy speech to fisk, full of lies and misquotes, but, you know, on second thought, there's a whole line of horses lying there, and maybe one will be motivated to stagger a few steps.

Until 1965 and Griswold v. Connecticut, there were still parts of America where it was illegal for married couples to use contraceptives (of course, Frothy probably thinks that was a sign of America's decline).

Until 1963, it was still legal to pay women less than men for doing the same job (as opposed to sneaking it in, like they do now).

In 1964, the US passed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, and in 1965, we began air raids in North Vietnam and Communist-controlled parts of the South; on March 8, the first American combat troops arrived in country (I think my father began his first tour there two years later).

Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965, but I have no evidence that Santorum would admit to supporting it.

Leslie Ann Warren made her TV debut in Rogers and Hammerstein's Cinderella in 1965 (as if that wasn't bad enough, it cleared the way for her to co-star in the Christopher Atkins disco vehicle A Night in Heaven almost 2 decades later, and that is unforgiveable).

At the Newport Folk Festival in July 1965, Bob Dylan went electric, which many saw as the death of folk music (others accept that it had already died a horrible death three years earlier when Peter, Paul and Mary recorded Lemon Tree).

And Lyndon Johnson signed the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 in October, which prevented the US from using racial quotas to determine immigration policy; maybe that was what whipped Santorum into a froth.

In general, I'm having a hard time seeing what was so wonderful about America before 1965. Unless you were a white male.

Like Rick Santorum.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Albuquerque skies

The sky was gray again tonight. It's been going on almost a week now.

We first noticed it Thursday evening. As we got out of the car, I sniffed and said, "Huh, somebody's grilling." (As a life-long allergy sufferer, if I can smell something, it's strong.)

The Wookie shook his head. "No, there's a housefire somewhere in town. We were smelling it at the store." We shrugged in unison and went in.

But the smoke didn't go away.

As it turns out, Arizona's on fire. The third largest fire in Arizona history is over 200 miles away, and is still managing to screw up our lives.

I smelled smoke all evening Thursday, and then on Friday, I noticed a fine layer of pollen on everything. Until I took a deep breath, and realized that it was from trees that would never throw out pollen again.

It was interesting on Friday. Irritating on Saturday. And sincerely annoying on Sunday.

Guess what? We're going into Tuesday now.

I suspect that this is what it was like in Venice when Pompeii went down for the count: all the irritating smoke, but none of the exciting lava and fear for your lives.

It's giving people health issues, it's causing flights to be diverted away from the airport. Health officials are warning asthma sufferers to stay indoors. Not that everybody can.

I went out to help the Trophy Wife (an asthma sufferer) get into the house, and got soot in my eyes, blinding me for a few seconds. And it's not as bad here as some parts. The west side of the city (including places like Rio Rancho and Belen, who really don't want to admit that they're suburbs of Albuquerque) apparently has ash falling like snow in places, according to people who live there.

And the sky is gray, every morning and every evening.

It's basic physics, really. As the sun rises, the particles in the air warm, and can rise into the sky with the breeze and blow elsewhere. The sky clears. But as the sun goes down, things cool off and the particles sink.

And everything is gray once again.

Perhaps it's a metaphor for life.

And death.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Whose side is this guy on? (+ video is back!)

The man in the video is ex-American Adam Yahiye Gadahn (formerly Adam Pearlman - go figure), spokesmodel and operative for al Qaeda. If the sound is a little muddy, I suspect they had to keep editing out the sounds of NRA members spontaneously combusting.

The NRA has always opposed keeping guns out of the hands of terrorists, and closing the gun-show loophole.

Why does the NRA hate America? Why are they working with terrorists to destroy our country?

Update: Apparently, Youtube took down the video for violating their terms of service. (And, really, I suppose that telling people to go to gun shows and buy guns to wage jihad should be a violation of their TOS...) Fortunately, it's hosted elsewhere. Crooks and Liars, for instance.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Weiner's wiener

Dear Representative Weiner,

I appreciate everything you've done for America, and more so since Alan Grayson was pushed out: you’re outspoken, you aren’t afraid to call a lie what it is, and you aren’t scared to stand up for your convictions. We can't afford to lose you.

You’re probably aware that your penis is in the national news right now. See, this is the kind of "news" that even the less-partisan networks love – it's got strippers, it’s got scrotal references, it has somebody in a position of power looking bad. They're not going to let it go easily.

So the word is that you tweeted a picture of Weiner's wiener to a coed. I don't care what the reality is, the rumor is that your cock is flopping across the internet. You should probably deal with that.

And unfortunately, you're hurting yourself a little bit, too. Dealing with this like the Republicans do (deny, shuffle your feet and feign outrage) would only work if Democrats had a dedicated network pushing their agenda (* cough * Fox) and a battery of top-rated right-wing radio blowhards lying to the public.

I'll admit, the fact that Andrew Breitbart was the first person to air the story makes me instantly assume that it's a lie. Unfortunately, you aren't really coming across in interviews well with your "I can't win answering questions" attitude. And I've got to say, when you go on Rachel Maddow's show, and instead of saying "that's not me," you say:
"Well, it could be or it could have been a photograph that was that's taken out of context or manipulated or changed in some way... So, maybe it did or maybe it's a photograph that was dropped into an account from somewhere else, I mean, I can't say. I don't want to cast this net wider by saying it's someone else."
That just doesn't look good. Kinda makes me itchy, and I'm on your side.

Instead, perhaps you should point out the following fascinating information, turned up by Charles Johnson over at Little Green Footballs.
Apparently it’s possible for anyone to post a picture to anyone else’s account at the picture hosting site — without a password. The trick is to email a picture from a Blackberry to the user’s email address, with the word “@subject” in the text. This results in the picture being posted at yfrog — and a tweet being posted at Twitter with a link to the picture....

It turns out that you don’t have to email from a Blackberry — you just need to use MMS to send the picture, from any device that supports the protocol. I’ve now confirmed that this technique also works on an iPhone... It also turns out that this is not really a security hole in yfrog; it’s a documented feature that’s been public knowledge for at least 2 years.
Interestingly, yFrog has since closed off access to this particular "feature."

There's more to it, but I'll let you do your own research. In the meantime, stay strong, and for the love of G_d, just say "That's not me. I have a penis, but that one isn't mine."

See? Was that so hard?

Update: No answer (not that I expect one - they never call, they never write...), but I'm finding my eye drawn to more stories about the Crotch of Doom, which I'd been ignoring up to now.

For instance, Joseph Cannon has some interesting points, on lawsuits, the origin of the picture, and why the GOP is pulling this particular chain as hard as they are (you know, outside of the obvious...)

And he did it without help...

Dr Jack Kevorkian* died today at age 83 of natural causes.

I'm not positive, but I believe that is the definition of irony.


* In case you spent the 90s in a methadone-induced haze, Dr Kevorkian helped over 130 patients with terminal illness die with dignity. This apparently made him a bad person in the eyes of... well, probably the Catholics, and anyone without a shred of human decency. Because of his humanitarian efforts, he was arrested several times and served eight years in jail.

Update: Fixed the picture issue. Of course, in the meantime, I found this one.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

People not up over "Man Down"

Some people really need to work on their priorities.

Apparently, a number of advocacy groups with names like the "Parent Television Council" and the "Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence" are a little bit cranky with R&B singer Rihanna, who, in the course of her video for "Man Down," shoots a man who raped her.

Let me start off by saying that I don't listen to R&B. Go back to its roots, back when it was still "rhythm and blues," sure, I'm right there. But I'm old. There's no hop in my hips: I listen to a wide range of music, but there's two areas of the musical color wheel that I prefer to avoid and one of them is the area called "R&B," especially where it bleeds over into the "rap" shades.

So if I was going to be forced to listen to a song by Rihanna, it was a nice surprise that she went back to her reggae roots for this one. So yes, I wasn't harmed by the experience of watching it all the way through.

I have two thoughts on the subject.

First of all, I've admitted several times that I, perhaps, have a somewhat... unusual relationship with the concept of life being "sacred." (As in "yeah, not so much.") Perhaps that skews my reaction to this video. But I really have no problem with the concept of a woman killing someone who raped her.

But further than that, I think we need to remember February, 2009. When a 911 call ended with Rihanna being to the hospital with injuries that were described as "horrific." She'd been dating a useless bag of dicks named Chris Brown, who, apparently misunderstanding the traditions of Valentine's Day, gave her a litany of injuries that the 21-year-old Rihanna would be unlikely to forget: bite marks on one arm and both hands, a split lip, bloody nose, and contusions on both sides of her face.
Brown reportedly fled the scene of the incident on foot with the keys to the rented silver Lamborghini the couple was driving in following the alleged attack, leaving Rihanna "beaten really badly and hysterical" by the side of the road... "Rihanna didn't want anyone to touch her, she was in so much pain."
Given that, if anybody should be allowed to release a video like "Man Down," I think it's Rihanna.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm willing to stand by that theory.