Monday, February 27, 2006

When Bush Falls in Love

February 26, 2006 NY Times Guest Columnist When Bush Falls in Love By SARAH VOWELL The charges of cronyism against the current administration have piled up higher than the rotting rubble in New Orleans: "Heck of a job, Brownie," is fast replacing "Way to go, Einstein" as the wiseacre-to-dummy put-down du jour. And what of Harriet Miers, the good friend/lame nominee for the Supreme Court the president defended as "plenty bright." Then there's the 24-year-old political appointee who was rewarded for working on the president's re-election campaign with a job as a press aide at NASA, where he was accused of trying to silence a top climate scientist who is, go figure, concerned about global warming. That, and he demanded that the apparently too science-y NASA Web site insert the word "theory" after every use of "Big Bang." (To be fair, he resigned after it turned out that he'd lied on his résumé about graduating from college, so he might have dropped out before his class got to the textbook chapter titled "Just Big Bang: That's What Jesus Calls It, Too.") Plus, in a word, Abramoff. All of which is appalling. At this point, five years after oil and gas lobbyists started scoring Interior Department appointments overseeing national parks and the Bureau of Land Management, I'm heartened that I can still scrape up a glimmer of dismay. And yet, there is a tiny, honest voice in my head that has never let me condemn the president too loudly for wanting to work only with his allies and friends. Because that's pretty much how I live my life, too. The other day, I was on a plane where "Good Night, and Good Luck" was the in-flight movie. I'd already seen it, but watching it again afforded me the opportunity to look beyond its grand central theme and curl up with the film's lovely periphery. Around the edges, a second, softer movie flickers, an unpretentious but sly portrait of what real camaraderie looks and feels like. By opening with a party where Edward R. Murrow and his old staff are gussied up and drinking and giggling and taking pictures with their arms around one another as a saxophone plays "When I Fall in Love," the viewer figures out right away that this is more than Murrow vs. McCarthy circa "High Noon." This guy has backup. My favorite scene starts with George Clooney as the producer Fred Friendly and David Strathairn as Murrow a couple of minutes before Murrow goes on the air with a potentially controversial report about a Red Scare flare-up in Michigan. I don't think I've ever seen a subtler, truer image of partnership. And not just in the way the two men talk to each other, either confessing their fears or joshing around or both. When Friendly counts down the seconds left until Murrow goes live, Friendly sits just off-camera and taps Murrow's leg with his pen when it's time. The gesture is mundane and loving all at once. I'm lucky enough to have a Friendly of my own. Is there anything better than figuring out what you're supposed to do with your life and getting paid to do it? Yep, doing it alongside the calm and tweedy person you regard as the brother you never had. "Good Night, and Good Luck" taps into this understandable yearning for solidarity, for affectionate toil, for a shared mission, that's also behind the allure of the founding fathers, the Boston Red Sox, the Clash. Part of me can't blame the president for his pro-crony tendencies because I also have them to an almost sickening degree. Then I remember — wait, neither I nor any crony of mine has ever slept through the soggy downfall of an entire city, or failed to track down the genocidal maniac who still has a few American items left to check off on his mass-murder To Do list, or sent our soldiers to wage a berserk war crisscrossing the most dangerous roads in the world in flimsy vehicles with the protective capability of Vespa scooters. (But my comrades and I would like to apologize for that reading we "organized" at a noisy Chinatown restaurant in '98, when the short stories were drowned out by egg roll orders.) Bonhomie, as our ex-cronies the French call it, should have its limits. Seems as if American voters picked the current president because they thought he'd be a fun hang at a cookout — a jokey neighbor who charred a mean burger and is good at playing Frisbee with his dog. What we should be doing is electing a president with the nitpicky paranoia you'd use to choose a cardiologist — a stunted conversationalist with dark-circled eyes and paper-cut fingertips who will stay up until 3 tearing into medical journals in five languages trying to figure out how to save your life. Sarah Vowell, a guest columnist, is a contributor to public radio's "This American Life" and the author of "Assassination Vacation."

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Personality DNA

Fun little test fromDogwood Tales. Is spot on for me I think. Genuine Creator

Grieving mother hits out at 'cold' phone group

And I thought my recent experience with TurboTax was bad. . . Penny Holloway thought it would be easy to cancel her murdered son's mobile account with Carphone Warehouse. It wasn't.

Ripped From The Headlines

I'm trying to write a new short story that is the culmination of news clippings I have collected that somehow jumbled up into a story in my brain. A woman dealing with her husband becoming an Elvis impersonator. The Armin Meiwes cannibal case An African Gray parrot "telling" his owner that his girlfriend is cheating Young Adults going into their rooms and not coming out for years. As you can guess, it's an odd little story, this thing I have going on between my ears right now. I'm worried that the style is a bit too arch. I'm enjoying writing it too, which makes me wonder if I am in my head and not being "visceral" as one of my playwrighting teachers used to say. (It always amused me that he used a very intellectual word to describe what he meant. I suppose I need to not worry if it sucks or not and just write the fucker. My favorite line so far: The Inspector said, “I’m afraid. . . I’m afraid. . .” He was in the habit repeating certain phrases. It was due to his owning an African Gray Parrot. “I’m afraid the babysitter has eaten your son.” Yeah. I know. I need therapy.

BA-HA-HA-HA! (That's my evil laugh)

You Are 54% Evil
You are evil, but you haven't yet mastered the dark side. Fear not though - you are on your way to world domination.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Stuart's Reality Show

"I had a great idea for a reality show. You drop students or just people you don't like, somewhere like Baghdad with some guns and you see how many of them can make it across the city."

Friday, February 24, 2006

Alaska can come too

Found this at The Gina Blog. Flippen hysterical.

Ceremony of the Keys

I was a weird kid. How many little girls do you know would actively choose to read about Cortés and the destruction of the Aztec empire? Another favorite topic was The Tower of London and all the grisly things that happened inside its walls. It had everything. Hundreds of years of history, intrigue, imprisonment, beheadings, ghosts, sex and a zoo. In fact, I just learned today that William Blake saw the tiger at the Tower menagerie that inspired his poem "The Tyger". I went in the spring when Aaron and Gina came to visit and spent a few hours there and I could easily go back and spend a few more. An old college friend is in town and Wednesday night we went to see The Ceremony of the Keys which has been done every night in some form at The Tower for 700 years. Basically it is a bit of British pomp and circumstance as they lock up for the night. But it is nifty. Standing in front of Traitors Gate, I could just imagine it full of water and a little boat drifting through the gate and the future Queen Elizabeth I lifting up her skirt to climb the steps to face imprisonment at the place where her mother had been beheaded. When we left, a woman that lives in the tower returned from walking her dogs. I can't imagine living there. All the tourists in the day and then the crush of silence at night. And it would be difficult to have parties. I don't think it would be in good taste to have a barbeque in the Tower Green.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Department of Social Scrutiny

Found a hysterical satire Web page thanks toDogwood Tales. The Department of Social Scrutiny Is sort of like America:The Book only with a British sensibility and if it is possible, even darker tone. Some of my favorite parts: "Either George Orwell or Winston Churchill probably said something really important about apathy, but we really can't be bothered to look it up right now." "The Department of Social Scrutiny has unveiled new proposals to counter the growing and unspeakably wrong practise of child identity fraud. Each year, hundreds of Britain's kids turn up to school to find their desk is taken by an adult pretending to be them. In many cases, the imposter has made convincing counterfeit copies of the child's only means of identification - a pencil case, packed lunch box or label sewn-in to the collar of their shirt, and teachers are unable to tell the difference. These attempts to fraudulently obtain services reserved for children, including meals cooked by Jamie Oliver and Metalwork lessons, must not be allowed to continue." "Work for the Government We need a team of outgoing psychopaths who are great at working under extreme pressure. No academic qualifications are necessary, but you will need to exhibit enough interpersonal and communication skills to win people’s trust shortly before you have them assassinated."

The OC Part Two

I have expressed concern regarding my recent addiction to The OC. Yes, it is a big soap opera but any show that makes a reference to This American Life can't be all bad.

G.O.P. to W.: You're Nuts!

G.O.P. to W.: You're Nuts! By MAUREEN DOWD WASHINGTON It's enough to make you nostalgic for those gnarly union stevedores in "On the Waterfront," the ones who hung up rats on hooks and took away Marlon Brando's chance to be a contend-ah. Maybe it's corporate racial profiling, but I don't want foreign companies, particularly ones with links to 9/11, running American ports. What kind of empire are we if we have to outsource our coastline to a group of sheiks who don't recognize Israel, in a country where money was laundered for the 9/11 attacks? And that let A. Q. Kahn, the Pakistani nuclear scientist, smuggle nuclear components through its port to Libya, North Korea and Iran? It's mind-boggling that President Bush ever agreed to let an alliance of seven emirs be in charge of six of our ports. Although, as usual, Incurious George didn't even know about it until after the fact. (Neither did Rummy, even though he heads one of the agencies that green-lighted the deal.) Same old pattern: a stupid and counterproductive national security decision is made in secret, blowing off checks and balances, and the president's out of the loop. Was W. too busy not calling Dick Cheney to find out why he shot a guy to not be involved in a critical decision about U.S. security? What is he waiting for — a presidential daily brief warning, "Bin Laden Determined to Attack U.S. Ports?" Our ports are already nearly naked in terms of security. Only about 5 percent of the containers coming into the country are checked. And when the White House assures us that the Homeland Security Department will oversee security at the ports, is that supposed to make us sleep better? Not after the chuckleheaded Chertoff-and-Brownie show on Capitol Hill. "Our borders are wide open," said Jan Gadiel of 9/11 Families for a Secure America. "We don't know who's in our country right now, not a clue. And now they're giving away our ports." The "trust us" routine of W. and Dick Cheney is threadbare. The more W. warned that he would veto legislation stopping this deal, the more lawmakers held press conferences to oppose it — even conservatives who had loyally supported W. on Iraq, the Patriot Act, torture and warrantless snooping. Mr. Bush is hoist on his own petard. For four years, the White House has accused anyone in Congress or the press who defended civil liberties or questioned anything about the Iraq war of being soft on terrorism. Now, as Congress and the press turn that accusation back on the White House, Mr. Bush acts mystified by the orgy of xenophobia. Lawmakers, many up for re-election, have learned well from Karl Rove. Playing the terror card works. A bristly Bush said yesterday that scotching the deal would send "a terrible signal" to a worthy ally. He equated the "Great British" with the U.A.E. Well, maybe Britain in the 12th century. Besides, the American people can be forgiven if they're confused about what it means in the Arab world to be a U.S. ally. Is it a nation that helps us sometimes but also addicts us to oil and then jacks up the price, refuses to recognize Israel, denies women basic rights, tolerates radical anti-American clerics, looks the other way when its citizens burn down embassies and consulates over cartoons, and often turns a blind eye when it comes to hunting down terrorists in its midst? In our past wars, America had specific countries to demonize. But now in the "global war on terror" — GWOT, as they call it — the enemy is a faceless commodity that the administration uses whenever it wants to win a political battle. When something like this happens, it's no wonder the public does its own face transplant. One of the real problems here is that this administration has run up such huge trade and tax-cut-and-spend budget deficits that we're in hock to the Arabs and the Chinese to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. If they just converted their bonds into cash, they would own our ports and not have to merely rent them. Just because the wealthy foreigners who own our debt can blackmail us with their economic leverage, does that mean we should expose our security assets to them as well? As part of the lunatic White House defense, Dan Bartlett argued that "people are trying to drive wedges and make this to be a political issue." But as the New Republic editor Peter Beinart pointed out in a recent column, W. has made the war on terror "one vast wedge issue" to divide the country. Now, however, the president has pulled us together. We all pretty much agree: mitts off our ports.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Go Fug Yourself

If you looking for an outlet for celebrity schadenfreude, look no further thanGo Fug Yourself. The sections on Courtney Love and Britney Spears are inspired. You will giggle for hours. And then you will be glad that their razor wit hasn't been directed at you. For example, I chopped my hair off into a bob yesterday and when Richard joined Jen and I at the pub, I waited a half-hour before I said, "Do you notice anything?" "What?" Richard said. His German accent makes him seem more droll than I think he intends. "Do you have new glasses?" "No! What is different?" He considered me. "You look good tonight." Bloody Germans. In any case, I am happy the ladies of Go Fug Yourself aren't around to mock my fashion sense as I have Herr Buettner.

Mussels

One of the foods that I cook that disturbs Stuart greatly is . I was scrubbing a batch recently and he came in and looked at me. One was open and I was tapping it to see if it would close. "Hello. Are you alive?" "They're alive? And you cook them in their little houses?" "Yep!" I said cheerfully. I stopped tapping on the shell and tossed it in the trash. "Why did you throw that one away?" "Because he's dead." He shook his head. "You are so wrong." Ever since I read Kitchen Confidential, I am rather nervous about eating mussels in a restaurant. Plus why would you when you consider the mark up on the things and how ridiculously easy they are to make at home? For a quickie Moules Marinères, I sauté shallots and garlic in butter. Add white wine. Boil. Add mussels. Shake the pan a few times. Steam seven to ten minutes. Add chopped parsley. Put mussels in bowl. Boil down the wine a little. Take off the heat and add a pat of butter. Pour over mussels. Eat. So easy and so cheap and so good. It also inspires abject horror in Stuart, which has its own pleasures. Two of my LA readers that found me through my illegal posting of New York Times Select columns, went looking for ancho chilies based on my post aboutChicken Adobado and had some problems finding it so they ended up making a mussel dish and they were kind enough to share it with me. Haven't tried it yet, but it reads delicious. Goan Warm Mussel Salad 1 cup finely chopped onions 2 tablespoons light vegetable oil 1 tablespoon finely shredded fresh ginger 1 tablespoon ground coriander 1 teaspoon turmeric 1 teaspoon ground red pepper 1/2 cup rich coconut milk Coarse salt to taste 4 pounds mussels (about 4 dozen), scrubbed clean Juice of 1 lemon 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves 2 tablespoons grated unsweetened coconut (optional) Place onions and oil in a deep pot and cook, stirring over high heat until they turn light brown, about 5 minutes. Lower heat and stir in ginger, coriander, turmeric, and red pepper. Cook for an additional minute. Stir in the coconut, salt, and mussels, and bring contents to a boil. Cover the pot and steam until the mussels open up, about 7 minutes. Transfer mussels and the sauce to a deep platter. Sprinkle with lemon juice, cilantro and, if desired, coconut. Serve immediately.

The Mensch Gap

Krugman's Monday Op-Ed. Taken with the chaser of the US reclassifying documents for no obvious reason, (other than to cover up embarrassing things the government has done, even if they happened a lifetime ago) makes for one hell of a hangover ------------------------ February 20, 2006 Op-Ed Columnist The Mensch Gap By PAUL KRUGMAN "Be a mensch," my parents told me. Literally, a mensch is a person. But by implication, a mensch is an upstanding person who takes responsibility for his actions. The people now running America aren't mensches. Dick Cheney isn't a mensch. There have been many attempts to turn the shooting of Harry Whittington into a political metaphor, but the most characteristic moment was the final act — the Moscow show-trial moment in which the victim of Mr. Cheney's recklessness apologized for getting shot. Remember, Mr. Cheney, more than anyone else, misled us into the Iraq war. Then, when neither links to Al Qaeda nor W.M.D. materialized, he shifted the blame to the very intelligence agencies he bullied into inflating the threat. Donald Rumsfeld isn't a mensch. Before the Iraq war Mr. Rumsfeld muzzled commanders who warned that we were going in with too few troops, and sidelined State Department experts who warned that we needed a plan for the invasion's aftermath. But when the war went wrong, he began talking about "unknown unknowns" and going to war with "the army you have," ducking responsibility for the failures of leadership that have turned the war into a stunning victory — for Iran. Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security, isn't a mensch. Remember his excuse for failing to respond to the drowning of New Orleans? "I remember on Tuesday morning," he said on "Meet the Press," "picking up newspapers and I saw headlines, 'New Orleans Dodged the Bullet.' " We now know that by Tuesday morning, he had received — and ignored — many warnings about the unfolding disaster. Michael Leavitt, the secretary of health and human services, isn't a mensch. He insists that the prescription drug plan's catastrophic start doesn't reflect poorly on his department, that "no logical person" would have expected "a transition happening that is so large without some problems." In fact, Medicare's 1966 startup went very smoothly. That didn't happen this time because his department ignored outside experts who warned, months in advance, about exactly the disaster that has taken place. I could go on. Officials in this administration never take responsibility for their actions. When something goes wrong, it's always someone else's fault. Was it always like this? I don't want to romanticize our political history, but I don't think so. Think of Dwight Eisenhower, who wrote a letter before D-Day accepting the blame if the landings failed. His modern equivalent would probably insist that the landings were a "catastrophic success," then try to lay the blame for their failure on the editorial page of The New York Times. Where have all the mensches gone? The character of the administration reflects the character of the man at its head. President Bush is definitely not a mensch; his inability to admit mistakes or take responsibility for failure approaches the pathological. He surrounds himself with subordinates who share his aversion to facing unpleasant realities. And as long as his appointees remain personally loyal, he defends their performance, no matter how incompetent. After all, to do otherwise would be to admit that he made a mistake in choosing them. Last week he declared that Mr. Leavitt is doing, yes, "a heck of a job." But how did such people attain power in the first place? Maybe it's the result of our infantilized media culture, in which politicians, like celebrities, are judged by the way they look, not the reality of their achievements. Mr. Bush isn't an effective leader, but he plays one on TV, and that's all that matters. Whatever the reason for the woeful content of our leaders' character, it has horrifying consequences. You can't learn from mistakes if you won't admit making any mistakes, an observation that explains a lot about the policy disasters of recent years — the failed occupation of Iraq, the failed response to Katrina, the failed drug plan. Above all, the anti-mensches now ruling America are destroying our moral standing. A recent National Journal report finds that we're continuing to hold many prisoners at Guantánamo even though the supposed evidence against them has been discredited. We're even holding at least eight prisoners who are no longer designated enemy combatants. Why? Well, releasing people you've imprisoned by mistake means admitting that you made a mistake. And that's something the people now running America never do.

Pub Quiz

I love London pubs. And it's not just because I can drink gallons of Guinness. Although, yes, okay. That's part of it. I love how the Stella goes into the Stella glass. Carling into the Carling glass. Guinness in the Guinness glass and Guinness Extra Cold in the. . . well-- you get where I am going with this. In America, at least in my limited experience living and visiting in eleven states, when you order a beer it comes in a generic beer glass. And the Guinness Extra Cold thing? How fantastic is it that you have regular cold and then extra cold? I like how you can go into a pub in the afternoon with a book or a notebook and have a pint and no one messes with you. I would never go into a bar in America by myself. Here it is like going to a Starbucks. My new reason why I love London pubs is the . It's sort of like trivia pursuit with a hundred people and food and drink in close proximity. The last two Tuesdays we have gone to the pub quiz at The Frog and Forget Me Not (Of course I would adore any pub with frog in the title.) We haven't been completely slaughtered which gives us false hope that we will win someday. I am good for answers like Martin Chuzzlewit but then I messed up recognizing the first few notes of Sesame Street. There are a lot of soul destroying answers that I am glad we don't know the answer to, like the name of chat shows or how many men Paris Hilton has fucked*. It's all good fun. *This was a joke. No pub quiz that I have attended has asked how many times Paris Hilton has played hide the salami. First, there is no way the number could be substantiated. Second, given the fact she is a cheap whore, the number is in constant flux.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Fox Confessor Brings The Flood

I've mentioned before what a big fan I am of . Her new album comes out in early March which I am really looking forward to. You can download a video where she talks about the new album, and the creative process for it on Anti's Website. If you are in a city where she is performing, I strongly reccommend that you go. She puts on a great show.

The Yeti

The weather has been a bit gusty here. When the wind blows just right, which it has been, it catches something on the roof just outside our bedroom window. We've christened the resulting wind tunnel vibrating noise The Yeti. Arrrruuuuuuughghhhhhhhhhhhggghhhhhhh. All night The Yeti was calling out. Mix that up with the wind in the trees and you get some interesting dreams.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

TurboTax is evil and must be destoyed.

Dante was wrong. It isn't Judas, Brutus and Cassius in Satan's mouth in the final level in hell. It is the customer service staff at . Or, at any rate it should be. I've been using TurboTax online for years to do my taxes. I like it a lot. Is an easy program and it walks you through a lot of deductions that you may not be aware that you could take. Yesterday I sat down with all my forms and discovered that with a little creativity on my part, I get a refund. I get to the end where I have to pay and I can't because the online form doesn't allow for an address outside of The United States. I still have my American checking account but I changed the address to the one over here so I could get my mail. I foolishly call the customer service line. It takes me twenty minutes to explain to the man that can barely speak English what my problem is. . . (I have no problem dealing with people where English is a 2nd language. I wish I were bilingual. However when I call a customer service line, I expect a certain level of comprehension from the person I am speaking to. Call me crazy.) He tells me that I will have to buy the download product and will then need to do the taxes again. Okay. Fine. That's annoying but I'll do it. Then he tells me that the download product is more money than the online. Not acceptable. Why would I pay more when I could use the online product except for a substantial design flaw in their system? Round-round-round in circles we go. Speak to the manager. Basically tells me tough and transfers me back into the queue to speak to a technical person. There is a thirty-minute wait according to the message. I consider staying on hold but realized that there is no way this other person would help me and it will only result in my blood pressure reaching even further levels. I decide to think outside the box. I call Bank of America to see if I could switch my address on file back to the Los Angeles apartment, make the payment to Satan's minions at TurboTax and then switch it back. The guy was willing to do that. Great! I think. Can I confirm my driver’s license number? When I opened the account back in 1997 I had a Washington drivers license. I haven't had that license for ages and have given them my California license a couple of times. He refused to change the address because I could not confirm an invalid drivers license. The humor of the situation- that I changed my address from California to the UK before was lost on him. At least he spoke English.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Hunting and the VP

I've just been giggling like a little girl watching The Daily Show blurbs on the Dark Lord (Cheney) shooting incident. I've controlled myself from blogging about it because (paraphrasing Jon Stewart) it is a really easy thing to make a joke about and I also didn't want to give it any energy. What I didn't realize until today was the Veep and his sycophantic entourage where at one of those places where the animals are farm raised and then released to be killed by fat assed fucks like our Vice President, who moments before were peeling their pasty, saggy skin off their SUVs heated leather seats. That is not hunting. I'm not sure what to call it, but it ain't hunting. Before I get a nasty gram from some right-winger freak like I have in the past, my father used to hunt so I know what the hell I am talking about. I also know how to fire a weapon. I'm not good at it and I don't like it much. So say what you want. The man wasn't hunting. I think they were beyond irresponsible in how they released the information but it is much ado about nothing. It was an accident. Accidents do happen. I wish the White House Press Corps were as rabid on any number of subjects rather than this. Am I enjoying the ballyhoo? Oh, sure. It's a hoot. I just think there are much darker things happening in America that we should be frightened about. . .

One Year Old

Happy Birthday to Nicole in London. . . Happy Birthday to Nicole in London. . . Happy BIRTHday to Nicole in London. . . (big finish) Happy Birthday tooooooooooooo meeeeeeeeeee. Well not to me. But my blog is one today. I started it shortly after I heard that Yahoo was sending me to London for three months. There is only one entry in February. I think I figured since I wasn't in London yet, there was nothing to blather about. I've gotten over that now and blather away to my heart's content. It has been a weird year. It started with me not really liking my job and where I was. I was in a relationship with a very nice but passive-aggressive man who couldn't carry on a conversation with my friends and would drink my 20.00 bottles of wine and replace it with Trader Joe's Two-buck-chuck. I hated my job. Well, I didn't hate the job. I hated feeling like I never accomplished anything and what I did accomplish was never noticed and it took years for my suggestions on how to make things more better to be implemented. I was so stuck in a rut, I needed rock climbing equipment to climb out. One year later: I have traveled to five countries, moved myself and my books and my kitchen things and my clothes and my useless tchotchkes to London, and am with the sweetest (and most frustrating) man on the planet who I love very much. And, oh yeah. . . planned and executed a wedding with the end result being. . . I'm married. Guh! Be careful what you ask for. . . and all of that. But I am very happy. I'll be happier when I have a job to complain about but that will be happening soon. The blog was a way to quickly keep friends and family up to date with my little adventure and it has become in an odd little way, a sort of community. I'm now addicted to a few blogs, to the point that I sometimes repeat the funny anecdotes that they relate in their blogs to my friends. Soon there will some changes to this little space of Internet real estate. Back in September I got mydomain but I have just been redirecting it to blogspot. I've decided to switch everything over and use WordPress because it has an easy tool to move all the old posts over. My only snag is the templates that I have been adding to my FTP editor haven't been taking the images correctly. I spent all day yesterday fighting with the stupid thing. Not sure when I will unveil the new site, but when I do, all ten of my usual readers will just need to go to www.travelingtreefrog.com. I'll let you know when it's when. So, thank you all for reading my blather. It will be fun to see where the next year takes us all. . .

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

United Arab Emirates company to oversee six U.S. ports

Found this today in The State.com a South Carolina paper. Is it just me or does this seem like a really, really bad idea. . . WASHINGTON — A company in the United Arab Emirates is poised to take over significant operations at six American ports as part of a corporate sale, leaving a country with ties to the Sept. 11 hijackers with influence over a maritime industry considered vulnerable to terrorism. The Bush administration considers the UAE an important ally in the fight against terrorism since the suicide hijackings and is not objecting to Dubai Ports World’s purchase of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. The $6.8 billion sale is expected to be approved Monday. The British company is the fourth largest ports company in the world, and its sale would affect commercial U.S. port operations in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia. Critics of the proposed purchase said a port operator complicit in smuggling or terrorism could manipulate manifests and other records to frustrate Homeland Security’s already limited scrutiny of shipping containers and slip contraband past U.S. Customs inspectors. Shipping experts noted that many of the world’s largest port companies are not based in the United States, and they pointed to DP World’s strong economic interest in operating ports securely and efficiently. DP World said it won approval from a secretive U.S. government panel that considers security risks of foreign companies buying or investing in American industry. The U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which could have recommended that President Bush block the purchase, includes representatives from the departments of Treasury, Defense, Justice, Commerce, State and Homeland Security. The State Department describes the UAE as a vital partner in the fight against terrorism. But the UAE, a loose federation of seven emirates on the Saudi peninsula, was an important operational and financial base for the hijackers who carried out the attacks against New York and Washington, the FBI concluded.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

What if. . .

Robert Kennedy at the Oxnard CA airport in June 1968 My mom did a bit of digging in the attic and she found a photo that a friend had taken of Robert Kennedy a few days before he was killed. I wonder how different the world would look if he hadn't been shot. Better, worse. . . I dunno. But I like the photo so I wanted to share.

Monday, February 13, 2006

V Day approaching

Stephanie often writes things for the Reno News & Review and they had her do a Valentines Day story on how to have a good time on V Day without a sweetie. I hate V Day. Never had a good one even when I was dating someone. Stuart doesn't believe in it and it is actually a huge relief. I prefer his surprises that he often gives me. A couple of weeks ago at work he walked in with a box of green tea, handed it to me and said as he walked away, "Thought you needed some tea." On top of the tea was a jewelry box. Inside that was a silver chain with a single pink pearl and baguette diamonds charm. Today my e-mail contained a message that he had bought me a year subscription for the New York TimesSelect. Yeah. I think I'll keep him.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Smoothies

In my effort to be healthier, I've started making for my breakfast. It's a really easy way to consume three, four pieces fruit and you're done. Plus they're tasty. I despair at ever being able to cut up a mango without slaughtering it. I am remarkably untalented at figuring out where the pit is and I end up eating most of the mango before I put it in the blender. Today was a pineapple, mango, banana and plum smoothie. I tried to make Stuart drink a little of it. As you can imagine, that went well. "Drink a little." "Aggh. No! There's bits in it." "Not at the top. Drink a little." He screwed up his face so that he had more wrinkles than a Shar-pei, dipped the front of his lip into the glass and groaned, "It smells like an old hoof. And there are bits." "That's just plum skin." "Aggghhhhhhhhh."

Kick Ass NY Times Editorial

Here's hoping red state people are starting to say no to the Koolaid. -------------------------------------------------- The Trust Gap We can't think of a president who has gone to the American people more often than George W. Bush has to ask them to forget about things like democracy, judicial process and the balance of powers — and just trust him. We also can't think of a president who has deserved that trust less. This has been a central flaw of Mr. Bush's presidency for a long time. But last week produced a flood of evidence that vividly drove home the point. DOMESTIC SPYING After 9/11, Mr. Bush authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on the conversations and e-mail of Americans and others in the United States without obtaining a warrant or allowing Congress or the courts to review the operation. Lawmakers from both parties have raised considerable doubt about the legality of this program, but Attorney General Alberto Gonzales made it clear last Monday at a Senate hearing that Mr. Bush hasn't the slightest intention of changing it. According to Mr. Gonzales, the administration can be relied upon to police itself and hold the line between national security and civil liberties on its own. Set aside the rather huge problem that our democracy doesn't work that way. It's not clear that this administration knows where the line is, much less that it is capable of defending it. Mr. Gonzales's own dedication to the truth is in considerable doubt. In sworn testimony at his confirmation hearing last year, he dismissed as "hypothetical" a question about whether he believed the president had the authority to conduct warrantless surveillance. In fact, Mr. Gonzales knew Mr. Bush was doing just that, and had signed off on it as White House counsel. THE PRISON CAMPS It has been nearly two years since the Abu Ghraib scandal illuminated the violence, illegal detentions and other abuses at United States military prison camps. There have been Congressional hearings, court rulings imposing normal judicial procedures on the camps, and a law requiring prisoners to be treated humanely. Yet nothing has changed. Mr. Bush also made it clear that he intends to follow the new law on the treatment of prisoners when his internal moral compass tells him it is the right thing to do. On Thursday, Tim Golden of The Times reported that United States military authorities had taken to tying up and force-feeding the prisoners who had gone on hunger strikes by the dozens at Guantánamo Bay to protest being held without any semblance of justice. The article said administration officials were concerned that if a prisoner died, it could renew international criticism of Gitmo. They should be concerned. This is not some minor embarrassment. It is a lingering outrage that has undermined American credibility around the world. According to numerous news reports, the majority of the Gitmo detainees are neither members of Al Qaeda nor fighters captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan. The National Journal reported last week that many were handed over to the American forces for bounties by Pakistani and Afghan warlords. Others were just swept up. The military has charged only 10 prisoners with terrorism. Hearings for the rest were not held for three years and then were mostly sham proceedings. And yet the administration continues to claim that it can be trusted to run these prisons fairly, to decide in secret and on the president's whim who is to be jailed without charges, and to insist that Gitmo is filled with dangerous terrorists. THE WAR IN IRAQ One of Mr. Bush's biggest "trust me" moments was when he told Americans that the United States had to invade Iraq because it possessed dangerous weapons and posed an immediate threat to America. The White House has blocked a Congressional investigation into whether it exaggerated the intelligence on Iraq, and continues to insist that the decision to invade was based on the consensus of American intelligence agencies. But the next edition of the journal Foreign Affairs includes an article by the man in charge of intelligence on Iraq until last year, Paul Pillar, who said the administration cherry-picked intelligence to support a decision to invade that had already been made. He said Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney made it clear what results they wanted and heeded only the analysts who produced them. Incredibly, Mr. Pillar said, the president never asked for an assessment on the consequences of invading Iraq until a year after the invasion. He said the intelligence community did that analysis on its own and forecast a deeply divided society ripe for civil war. When the administration did finally ask for an intelligence assessment, Mr. Pillar led the effort, which concluded in August 2004 that Iraq was on the brink of disaster. Officials then leaked his authorship to the columnist Robert Novak and to The Washington Times. The idea was that Mr. Pillar was not to be trusted because he dissented from the party line. Somehow, this sounds like a story we have heard before. • Like many other administrations before it, this one sometimes dissembles clumsily to avoid embarrassment. (We now know, for example, that the White House did not tell the truth about when it learned the levees in New Orleans had failed.) Spin-as-usual is one thing. Striking at the civil liberties, due process and balance of powers that are the heart of American democracy is another.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Slightly worried

Making dinner for Stuart and Preston. One of my all time favorite cookbooks of the many I own is Rick Bayless' Mexico: One Plate at A Time. One of my favorite dishes in it is Pollo Adobado Con Papas or in English-- Red Chile-Marinated Chicken Roasted with Potatoes. It is really flavorful, a little spicy, slightly unusual because you roast the chicken butterflied. . . I always get compliments when I make it. I hit a snag today when looking for dried ancho chiles. You can walk into any supermarket in LA, hell you can walk into a 7-11 and find dried ancho chilies. I wasn't in the mood to search high and low so I went into one of the Caribbean shops nearby and bought a bag of wicked looking little chilies that are impossible to deseed. I made the adobo and when I tasted it I shrieked. Seriously. Even the air in the kitchen is spicy from the marinade. I am using less on the chicken than I normally would and I usually marinate it overnight but I figured a half hour is good enough. The directions tell you to pour the reserved marinade over the chicken and the potatoes for the last ten minutes, but I think I will skip that step. I think it will be okay. I hope it is okay. Can you be arrested for assaulting someone with overly spicy food? Update: Thank God. It was not only edible, it tasted good. Next time I'm using ancho chiles.

Smoking Dutch Cleanser

February 11, 2006 Op-Ed Columnist Smoking Dutch Cleanser By MAUREEN DOWD Vice President Dick Cheney bitterly complains that national security leaks are endangering America. Unless, of course, he's doing the leaking, tapping Scooter Libby to reveal national security information to punish a political critic. President Bush says he will not talk about specific security threats to America. Unless, of course, he needs to talk about a specific threat to Los Angeles to confuse the public and gain some cheap political advantage. The White House says it has done everything possible to protect the homeland. Unless, of course, it hasn't. Then it can lie to hide the callous portrait of Incurious George in Crawford as New Orleans drowned. The attorney general can claim that torture and warrantless wiretapping are legal, and can mislead Congress. Unless, of course, enough Republicans stand up and say, as Arlen Specter told The Washington Post, that if that lickspittle lawyer thinks all this is legal, "he's smoking Dutch Cleanser." The president doesn't know the Indian Taker Jack Abramoff. Unless, of course, W. has met with him a dozen times, invited him to Crawford and joked with him about his kids. The Bushies can continue to claim that the invasion of Iraq was justified because Saddam was a threat to our security. Unless, of course, he wasn't, and the Cheney cabal was simply abusing the trust of Americans to push a wild-eyed political scheme. At the Bush White House, the mere evocation of the word "terror" justifies breaking any law, contravening any convention, despoiling any ideal, electing any Republican and brushing off any failure to govern. Asked yesterday by Senator Susan Collins why the administration had reacted in slo-mo on Katrina, with "people dying, people waiting to be rescued," Michael Brown replied that if FEMA had declared that a terrorist had blown up the 17th Street Canal levee, "then everybody would have jumped all over that and been trying to do everything they could." Instead of just going after the 9/11 fiends, as W. promised with his bullhorn, the president and Vice President Strangelove have cynically played the terror card to accrue power and sidestep blame. They have twisted our values, mismanaged crises, fueled fundamentalist successes and violence around the world, and magnified a clash of civilizations. It used to take an Israeli incursion to inflame the Arab world. Now all it takes is a cartoon in Denmark. W. and Vice have wasted hundreds of billions of dollars, turning Iraq into a terrorist training ground, leaving the 9/11 villains at large, and letting cronies and losers botch the job of homeland security. Brownie, one of the biggest boneheads in U.S. history, considered the homeland security chief, Michael Chertoff, so useless that he deliberately didn't call him right away about the suffering in New Orleans. "The culture was such that I didn't think that would have been effective and would have exacerbated the problem, quite frankly," Brownie told the Republican senator Bob Bennett, who called the statement "staggering." A telephone call to his boss, Brownie said, "would have wasted my time." The doofus who frittered away lives e-mailing colleagues about being a "fashion god" and wondering how he looked on television may have just been engaged in self-protective spin. Or has the Homeland Security Department simply created another set of paralyzing turf battles? The most dysfunctional man in government is calling the government dysfunctional. W.'s sophomoric "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job" line makes even Brownie cringe. "Unfortunately," the former FEMA chief complained, "he called me 'Brownie' at the wrong time. Thanks a lot, sir." In the new Foreign Affairs, Paul Pillar, who was a senior C.I.A. official overseeing Middle East intelligence assessments until October, says the obvious conclusion that should have been drawn from the intelligence on Iraq was that war was unnecessary. He says the White House "went to war without requesting — and evidently without being influenced by — any strategic-level intelligence assessments on any aspect of Iraq." He calls the relationship between the intelligence community and the policy makers — you guessed it — politicized, damaged by bureaucratic rivalries and dysfunctional. A final absurd junction of dysfunction was reached on Wednesday, when Republican Party leaders awarded Tom DeLay with a seat on the Appropriations subcommittee overseeing the Justice Department, which is investigating Jack Abramoff, including his connections to Tom DeLay. Perfect.

I Heart Paul Krugman

Thought the man was brill for years. On a whim I ran his name in one of the search engines and his Princeton Web site had this at the start: "If someone reading this site wants to get in touch with me for radio, TV, karaoke, whatever, I run such things through. . ." and then it listed his agents. . . I think I want to invite Paul Krugman to karaoke. No, not really. -- Well, I do, but I have no balls to invite him to a night of karaoke in London where I am the only one in the band that could speak to the Fuckedupitness of American economics, fools gold verisimilitude of the Bushies and the general sad state of affairs in the old U S of A. Plus I'm not smart enough to hang. So, since I can't ask Paulie to sing " Pour Some Sugar On Me", I will post his last NY Times you need to be paying the big bucks -isn't that BS? for Times Sellect column. Thanks to J. Zeccola for forwarding it. ------------------------------------------------- February 10, 2006 Op-Ed Columnist The Vanishing Future By PAUL KRUGMAN At this point we've had six years to grow accustomed to Bush budget chicanery. (Yes, six years: George W. Bush's special mix of blatant dishonesty and gross irresponsibility was fully visible during the 2000 presidential campaign.) What still amazes me, however, is the sheer childishness of the administration's denials and deceptions. Consider the case of the vanishing future. The story begins in 2001, when President Bush was pushing his first tax cut through Congress. At the time, the administration insisted that its tax-cut plans wouldn't endanger the budget surplus bequeathed to Mr. Bush by Bill Clinton. But even some Republican senators were skeptical. So the Senate demanded a cap on the tax cut: it should not reduce revenue over the period from 2001 to 2011 by more than $1.35 trillion. The administration met this requirement, but not by scaling back its tax-cutting ambitions. Instead, it created fictitious savings by "sunsetting" the tax cut, making the whole thing expire at the end of 2010. This was obviously silly. For example, under the law as written there will be no federal tax on the estates of wealthy people who die in 2010. But the estate tax will return in 2011 with a maximum rate of 55 percent, creating some interesting incentives. I suggested, back in 2001, that the legislation be renamed the Throw Momma From the Train Act. It was also obvious that the administration had no intention of abiding by its concession to fiscal prudence, that it would try to eliminate the sunset clause and make the tax cuts permanent. But it quickly became clear that the budget forecasts the administration used to justify the 2001 tax cut were wildly overoptimistic. The federal government faced a future of deficits, not surpluses, as far as the eye could see. Making the tax cut permanent would greatly worsen those future deficits. What were budget officials to do? You almost have to admire their brazenness: they made the future disappear. Clinton-era budgets offered 10-year projections of spending and revenues. But the Bush administration slashed the budget horizon to five years. This artificial shortsightedness greatly aided the campaign to make the 2001 tax cut permanent because it hid the costs: since budget analyses no longer covered the years after 2010, the revenue losses from extending the tax cut became invisible. But now it's 2006, and even a five-year projection covers the period from 2007 to 2011, which means including a year in which making the Bush tax cuts permanent will cost a lot of revenue — $119.7 billion, but who's counting? Has the administration finally run out of ways to avoid budget reality? Not quite. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, until this year budget documents contained a standard table titled "Impact of Budget Policy," which summarized the effects of the administration's tax and spending proposals on future outlays and revenues. But this year, that table is missing. So you have to do some detective work to figure out what's really going on. Now, the administration has proposed spending cuts that are both cruel and implausible. For example, administration computer printouts obtained by the center show that the budget calls for a 13 percent cut in spending on veterans' health care, adjusted for inflation, over the next five years. Yet even these cuts would fall far short of making up for the revenue losses from making the tax cuts permanent. The administration's own estimate, which can be deduced from its budget tables, is that extending the tax cuts would cost an average of $235 billion in each year from 2012 through 2016. In other words, the administration has no idea how to make its tax cuts feasible in the long run. Yet it has never, as far as I can tell, allowed unfavorable facts to affect its determination to make the tax cuts permanent. Instead, it has devoted all its efforts to hiding those awkward facts from public view. (Any resemblance to, say, its Iraq strategy is no coincidence.) At this point the administration's budget strategy seems to be simply to ignore reality. The 2007 budget makes it clear, once and for all, that the tax cuts can't be offset with spending cuts. But Bush officials have decided to ignore that unpleasant fact, and let some future administration deal with the mess they have created.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Fag hags seeking fag

Watching the opening of the Olympics. The women holding the names of each country are wearing these fantastic white ball dresses with a black pattern at the bottom. I said to Jen that I liked the dresses. She said, "I once went to a drag ball in a dress similar to that. I went as a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be Carol Burnett." Later when they were talking about luge I said, "How do you get involved in that sport? It's not as if you can go out and spend your weekend luging." Jen said, "I figure that you have already tried every other way to die." They started to play Gloria. Jen snorted, "Are they playing Gloria? Oh, that's terrible. Do you know Eurovision? It's filth. It's fantastic. It's like watching Showgirls. Have you seen Showgirls?" "Not all the way through. We should have a Showgirls party." "Yes! But we need to have gay people there." We looked at each other in horror. "We don't know any gay people here!" "How is that possible?" "We need gay boyfriends! I haven't not had a gay boyfriend since I was eighteen." I nodded. "Me too! That's why I have been so sad. We need to go out and find gay boyfriends." "We're fagless fag hags!"

Phone conversation

(Nicole’s mobile rings. She answers it.) STUART: Thomas! What are you doing? NICOLE: Sending out e-mails and calling about ads on Gumtree. STUART: You listened to me and you’re looking at Gumtree? Ahhh. . . NICOLE: I always listen to you. God, you make me feel like I’ve just been sitting around, taking your money and eating bon-bons. STUART: I never said that, but now that you would mention it. And surfing the Web. NICOLE: Surfing the Web? STUART: You’ve just been sitting around, taking my money, eating bon-bons and surfing the Web. NICOLE: Bite me. I’ll have you know, I already have two interviews for Monday. One is for a delicatessen in Chelsea. I called, said, I’m calling about the ad on Gumtree. They said, Would you like to come in for an interview. (laughs) STUART: What is the other interview? NICOLE: Oh, it’s terrible. It’s so bad I hope I get it because of the stories that I would get. STUART: Wah? NICOLE: You go up to people in bars, offer to give them a head massage and then they pay you what they think the massage was worth. You get to keep half your earnings. STUART: You’re kidding. NICOLE: No! Isn’t it terrible! It’s fantastic. STUART: No way you’re doing that. I’ll hit the roof. NICOLE: What about my getting a job? STUART: I didn’t tell you to take a piss. No. You’re not doing that. NICOLE: Okay, I won’t rub strangers heads for money. STUART: Good. NICOLE: There was also an ad for an artist that was looking for a nude model. I was thinking about doing that. What do you think? STUART: Sure, that would be fine. But you aren’t doing head massages in bars. That’s just, just. . . agggh.

The Spanish Prisoner

Looks like my money troubles are over. Out of the blue, I just got an e-mail from a very nice man in Ouagadougou telling me that there is some unclaimed money and if I send him my account number we can share it! How fantastic! . . .The Spanish Prisoner is one of the oldest con games out there. Well they're all old aren't they? Con Men & whores. --------------------------------- BANK OF AFRICA (ANNEX) BILL AND EXCHANGE DEPARTMENT, BP4901 01 OUAGADOUGOU 01,BURKINA-FASO. Dear Sir, I am the Bill and Exchange(assistant) Manager of Bank of Africa (Annex),OUGADOUGOU BURKINA-FASO.You will be suprised how i got your contact,I got it from the internet.In my department I discovered an abandoned sum of USD$18.2 MILLION US Dollars(EIGHTEEN MILLION,TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND US DOLLARS). In an account that belongs to one of our foreign customer who died along with his wife and two children in february 2002 in kenya airways plane crash. Since we got information about his death, we have been expecting his next of kin to come over and claim his money because we cannot release it unless somebody applies for it as next of kin or relation to the deceased as indicated in our banking guidelines but unfortunately we learnt that all his supposed next of kin or relation died alongside with him in the plane crashleaving nobody behind for the claim. It is therefore upon this discovery that I in my department now decided to make this business proposals to you and release the money to you as next of kin or relation to the deceased for safety and subsequent disbursement since nobody is coming for it and I don't want this money to go into the bank treasury as unclaimed Bill. The banking law and guidelines here stipulates that if such money remains unclaimed after four years, the money will be forfieted into the bank treasury as unclaimed fund. The request of foreigner in this transaction is necessary because our client was a foreigner and a Burkinab can not stand as next of kin to a foreigner. I agree that 30% of this money will be for you as foreign partner, inrespect to the provision of a foreign account, and 70% would be for me , after which I shall visit your country for disbursement according to the percentages indicated. Therefore to enable the immediate transfer of this fund to you as arranged, you must apply first to the bank, and send your account number, your private telephone and fax number for easy and effective communication and location where the money will be remitted. Upon receipt of your reply, I will send to you by fax or e-mail the text of the application. I will not fail to bring to your notice that this transaction is100% hitch-free. As all required arrangement have been made for the transfer. You should contac me immediately as soon as you receive this letter. Trusting to hear from you immediately.I expect your urgent reply. Best regards. MR.ALIYU KARBIEN. BILL AND EXCHANGE (ASSIST.)MANAGER,BANK OF AFRICA(ANNEX), OUAGADOUGOU, BURKINA-FASO.WEST AFRICA. N.B: I WANT YOU TO ACT AS HIS NEXT OF KIN,SO THAT WE CAN SHARE THE MONEY.

Dancing Midgets

So the kibosh has been officially put on the temp job at Stuart's work. I can understand Legals problem but ugh. What really sucks is I had an interview for another temp job that I blew off because I had this gig. Real job doesn't start until March 27 but luckily I read the fine print wrong and my payday will be April 25th and not in May. Need to find another temp job until then. It's not the working that has me down. It's the looking. I found this ad today on Gumtree. Oh, if I was fifteen inches shorter! We are having a huge dance / house music event in the 21st February 2006. We need some "tiny dancers" to make the evening go with a swing. If you can dance and stand 4ft 6 or less, we would love to hear from you. Please send a photo.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Fridge

Scott suggested posting a photo of fridge contents. Along with my disdain of British washing machines,, I think the refrigerators blow too. I'm used to big American fridges that are a rarity here. Yes I know I am being an obnoxious ugly American. Give me my big car! Big Fridge! Big Mac! So the fridge is really a fridgette shared between three people. Sometimes it gets a bit crowded. There's some room now because S drank the case of beer that he had in there. My stuff: Half bottle of white wine I use for cooking. (yes really. I hate white wine. I know I will be an alcoholic when faced with the choice of not having a drink or a glass of white wine, I choose the wine.) Habanero Hot sauce Organic Plain Yogurt Lettuce Carrots Red Pepper Radishes Cucumber Tomato old lemon I need to toss onions miso paste horseradish capers parmesan cheese butter sundried tomatoes in olive oil mayo mustard Left over lamb (Yes, I made the lamband it was fabulous. See? I used a horseradish mustard with fresh rosemary and minced garlic paste. The one mistake I made was following the instructions on the package. I like my lamb on the rare side. Some Brits- no, not all- don't consider food to be food unless you overcook the shit out of it.) Preston's stuff: broccoli yellow pepper limes left over noodle stir fry butter soy sauce pesto green curry sauce sweet chili dipping sauce piri piri sauce cheese grapefruit juice rose's lemon and lime marmalade black bean sauce (2) coriander (cilantro) olives mayo mustard Stu's stuff: margarine laughing cow cheese spread muller yogurt To fully understand the horror of his yogurt you need to look at the packaging and the ingredients. One of them is called, "Blueberry Manhattan Cheesecake- American Classic" One side has the crunchy bits that you mix into the "yogurt". The ingredients are (and I am not making this up): yogurt, water, blueberries, sugar, wheat flour, glucose-fructose syrup, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, modified maize starch, fructose, dextrose, inverted sugar syrup, flavorings, salt, stabilisers, locust bean gum, guar gum, citric acid, digestive biscuit. May contain nut traces.

My seduction style

Got this from Library Bitch. I know all these little quiz thingies are silly, but they are fun.
Your Seduction Style: Sweet Talker
Your seduction technique can be summed up with "charm" You know that if you have the chance to talk to someone... Well, you won't be talking for long! ;-) You're great at telling potential lovers what they want to hear. Partially, because you're a great reflective listener and good at complementing. The other part of your formula? Focusing your conversation completely on the other person. Your "sweet talking" ways have taken you far in romance - and in life. You can finess your way through any difficult situation, with a smile on your face. Speeding tickets, job interviews... bring it on! You truly live a *charmed life*

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

What did I get wrong?

You Passed the US Citizenship Test
Congratulations - you got 9 out of 10 correct!

Paypal

Im-ing with Jolie and she said that I should add the Paypal button- So as a joke, I have. If however, it results in any increase in income, I will not complain. If you look to the right, the donation button is just before the Burt US Terror Alert. This brings up a problem I have been having with the blog so if there are any smart people out there that can help me out, please let me know. I use a Mac and my page looks great on it no matter what browser I use, even IE. When I use IE on a PC my profile and links slip halfway down the page. Any ideas?

Job

My start date won't be until March 27th. >Sigh< By my calculations, by the time I get my first paycheck, I will be into Stuart for 2,500 to 3,000 pounds. Probably more. Is this the worse part of the for better or worse thingy? The one thing that is interesting, my start date is my anniversary of arriving here a year ago. Not that that means anything, but it is interesting. I should put a little button on the blog for paypal donations. Or I can stand on the high street with a sign. WILL WORK FOR KEBAB

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

"Law & Order" star tunes in to Marvin Gaye movie

It's funny, For years I have been hoping that they would do a Sam Cooke biopic and I thought that Jesse Martin would be a perfect choice. I always guessed that between the needle drop and the rather unsavory and unresolved details of his death that the film would be a legal nightmare. But oh well-- They took my actor. He will be Marvin, which is still rather groovy. ------------------------ Hot on the heels of hit films about Ray Charles and Johnny Cash, a project about the final years of Marvin Gaye is set to begin production in May. "Sexual Healing," an independently financed drama starring "Law & Order" cop Jesse L. Martin as the late Motown icon, will shoot in Hungary and Germany. Lauren Goodman will direct from her own script. The movie chronicles Gaye's self-imposed exile in Europe after years of battling drugs, domestic issues and label headaches. There, he was rescued by a promoter who helped Gaye record his biggest-selling album, "Midnight Love," which yielded the monster comeback hit, "Sexual Healing." ADVERTISEMENT Gaye's life was cut short the day before his 45th birthday in 1984, when his father killed him. "More than just being the voice of a generation, Marvin Gaye proved to be its very heartbeat," Goodman said. "As a filmmaker, I was drawn to tell the story of a human being who was never fully realized, one with faults and foibles and an uncommon grace expressed every time he picked up the microphone." Various producers have spent years trying to make a movie about Gaye. Originally, the project was intended to cover a larger portion of his life but was refocused on his final years because of rights issues with his Motown-produced records. Music biopics are a hot genre these days with the success of 2004's Oscar-winning "Ray" and 2005's Oscar-nominated Cash movie "Walk the Line." Martin most recently starred in the feature adaptation of the hit musical "Rent." Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

NOT FAIR

I've been sitting in my pajamas all day - which yes, thank you I know is pathetic . . . reading and listening to KPCC online (NPR news station based in Pasadena.) They just announced that is going to be 87 degrees there today. 87!!!!!!! It's 41 to 52 here today which I know is balmy compared to Zmeinogorsk (13-20, Smederevo (20-25) and Boston (22-37). . . but. . .WAAAAAA. Okay Yes. I'm moaning. For my Celsius readers 87 F is 30.5 C. . .

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Preston is back after five weeks in Oz. I was the only sober one in the house last night. She drank a bottle and a half of red and S downed at least five Rolling Rocks while we watched a few episodes ofBlack Books and The Muppets. Somewhere in the middle while Preston was passed out on the sofa, inadvertently mooning us with the crack of her ass, S reprogrammed her phone into Turkish. Later in bed S told me that he put frozen food into her bed. This frightened me. I have a lot of food in the freezer. "What specifically did you put in her bed?" "I don't know. A leg thingy." "My leg of lamb! You put my lamb in her bed! You go get it. Go get it right now. That was too expensive to waste. That's a week of food for me. It cost fifteen quid!" "You spent fifteen pounds on a hunk of meat?" "Do you know how many meals I can get out of that?" "It's like the Farmers Market all over again." "No it isn't. It's actually cheaper when you see how many meals you get out of it." "You're going to eat lamb for a week." "No I'm not going to eat it for a week! I'll eat it for a few days and freeze the rest. I have done this before." "Okay." "Now go get it out of her bed!" "I didn't put in her bed." "Oh. What did you do?" "Put some shoes and my pants in there." (Pants=underwear) I waited until he was asleep and snuck down to look in the freezer to make sure my lamb was safe. It was but S's pants were now in there as well. I chuckled to myself and shut the door. This morning S brought the pants upstairs. "Preston put them in the freezer." I giggled. "I know." "Agghhhhhh. You didn't take them out?" Later Preston was disappointed when she heard that the underwear wasn't frozen solid. I told her that she narrowly escaped the leg of lamb. She was impressed. "Wow...That would have been like waking up to a horses head. . . Godfather style. I declare shenanigans!!!!!" I have a feeling that I will become a friendly fire casualty. . . from both of them.

Good News- Bad News

Good News. I have had the last two days off from the temp job because we are waiting on legal to sign off on my being there. It came out that I am "friends" with S and my having access to confidential HR files could be bad. Bad News. I have had the last two days off from the temp job. . . and I have a feeling they will decide to not have me come in at all. Good News. Got the soft copy of the offer letter for my job that begins in mid-March. I start out getting 25 days vacation. (Oh, the benefits of working in Europe!) Bad News. Like most Europeans, payday is once a month around the 25th. If I start after the cut off point of around March 8th (they haven't told me my start day) my first paycheck won't be until May. 25th. That's over one hundred days away. Good News. It will be warmer when I get paid. Bad News. All my paycheck will go to S paying back the money he is floating me. Good News. We decided to go to Portugal over Easter break. S found a cheap flight to Porto and I found a cheap hotel that will cost 50 quid each total for three nights. Bad News. We are going to Portugal and we are having yet another trip where I need to lean on S to cover me. I currently have a debt that is comparable to that of the United States deficit. Good News. They have really great red wine in Porto. And really good Port as it were. Funny how that works. Kind of how there is good champagne in Champagne. . . Bad News. "Hello. My name is Nicole and I am an alcoholic." "Hello Nicole. . ."

Monday, February 06, 2006

Kitties

Garbo Even before I dumped two of my cats, Garbo and George on my parents, they were already pushing the cat population in their home with three felines. There was a stretch where George and Zach where peeing on everything. Mom took them to the vet and they are now on kitty Prozac and there have been no problems. My nephew took some of the pictures. I miss having a kitty. Although not being in the middle of an allergic attack all the time is rather nice too. . . George Garbo and Jake George on my bed Jake, Zach and George George on the bookcase

Sunday, February 05, 2006

I can't think up a headline that distills how angry I am.

I found out about this from We Move To Canada. The US Army has been hiding the reasons some women have died in Iraq. They were dieing of dehydration in their sleep. How is this possible you ask? They weren't drinking water in the late afternoon. Why not? Because they didn't want to do to the latrine in the middle of the night. Well we all know how annoying that can be, but why would they put their life in danger? Because the odds were high if they went to the latrine in the middle of the night, they would be raped. If I get one comment from ANYONE saying that this proves that women don't belong in the army. . . Grrrrrr. Military Hides Cause of Women Soldiers' Deaths By Marjorie Cohn t r u t h o u t | Report Monday 30 January 2006 In a startling revelation, the former commander of Abu Ghraib prison testified that Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, former senior US military commander in Iraq, gave orders to cover up the cause of death for some female American soldiers serving in Iraq. Last week, Col. Janis Karpinski told a panel of judges at the Commission of Inquiry for Crimes against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration in New York that several women had died of dehydration because they refused to drink liquids late in the day. They were afraid of being assaulted or even raped by male soldiers if they had to use the women's latrine after dark. The latrine for female soldiers at Camp Victory wasn't located near their barracks, so they had to go outside if they needed to use the bathroom. "There were no lights near any of their facilities, so women were doubly easy targets in the dark of the night," Karpinski told retired US Army Col. David Hackworth in a September 2004 interview. It was there that male soldiers assaulted and raped women soldiers. So the women took matters into their own hands. They didn't drink in the late afternoon so they wouldn't have to urinate at night. They didn't get raped. But some died of dehydration in the desert heat, Karpinski said. Karpinski testified that a surgeon for the coalition's joint task force said in a briefing that "women in fear of getting up in the hours of darkness to go out to the port-a-lets or the latrines were not drinking liquids after 3 or 4 in the afternoon, and in 120 degree heat or warmer, because there was no air-conditioning at most of the facilities, they were dying from dehydration in their sleep." "And rather than make everybody aware of that - because that's shocking, and as a leader if that's not shocking to you then you're not much of a leader - what they told the surgeon to do is don't brief those details anymore. And don't say specifically that they're women. You can provide that in a written report but don't brief it in the open anymore." For example, Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski, Sanchez's top deputy in Iraq, saw "dehydration" listed as the cause of death on the death certificate of a female master sergeant in September 2003. Under orders from Sanchez, he directed that the cause of death no longer be listed, Karpinski stated. The official explanation for this was to protect the women's privacy rights. Sanchez's attitude was: "The women asked to be here, so now let them take what comes with the territory," Karpinski quoted him as saying. Karpinski told me that Sanchez, who was her boss, was very sensitive to the political ramifications of everything he did. She thinks it likely that when the information about the cause of these women's deaths was passed to the Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld ordered that the details not be released. "That's how Rumsfeld works," she said. "It was out of control," Karpinski told a group of students at Thomas Jefferson School of Law last October. There was an 800 number women could use to report sexual assaults. But no one had a phone, she added. And no one answered that number, which was based in the United States. Any woman who successfully connected to it would get a recording. Even after more than 83 incidents were reported during a six-month period in Iraq and Kuwait, the 24-hour rape hot line was still answered by a machine that told callers to leave a message. "There were countless such situations all over the theater of operations - Iraq and Kuwait - because female soldiers didn't have a voice, individually or collectively," Karpinski told Hackworth. "Even as a general I didn't have a voice with Sanchez, so I know what the soldiers were facing. Sanchez did not want to hear about female soldier requirements and/or issues." Karpinski was the highest officer reprimanded for the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, although the details of interrogations were carefully hidden from her. Demoted from Brigadier General to Colonel, Karpinski feels she was chosen as a scapegoat because she was a female. Sexual assault in the US military has become a hot topic in the last few years, "not just because of the high number of rapes and other assaults, but also because of the tendency to cover up assaults and to harass or retaliate against women who report assaults," according to Kathy Gilberd, co-chair of the National Lawyers Guild's Military Law Task Force. This problem has become so acute that the Army has set up its own sexual assault web site. In February 2004, Rumsfeld directed the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to undertake a 90-day review of sexual assault policies. "Sexual assault will not be tolerated in the Department of Defense," Rumsfeld declared. The 99-page report was issued in April 2004. It affirmed, "The chain of command is responsible for ensuring that policies and practices regarding crime prevention and security are in place for the safety of service members." The rates of reported alleged sexual assault were 69.1 and 70.0 per 100,000 uniformed service members in 2002 and 2003. Yet those rates were not directly comparable to rates reported by the Department of Justice, due to substantial differences in the definition of sexual assault. Notably, the report found that low sociocultural power (i.e., age, education, race/ethnicity, marital status) and low organizational power (i.e., pay grade and years of active duty service) were associated with an increased likelihood of both sexual assault and sexual harassment. The Department of Defense announced a new policy on sexual assault prevention and response on January 3, 2005. It was a reaction to media reports and public outrage about sexual assaults against women in the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan, and ongoing sexual assaults and cover-ups at the Air Force Academy in Colorado, Gilberd said. As a result, Congress demanded that the military review the problem, and the Defense Authorization Act of 2005 required a new policy be put in place by January 1. The policy is a series of very brief "directive-type memoranda" for the Secretaries of the military services from the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. "Overall, the policy emphasizes that sexual assault harms military readiness, that education about sexual assault policy needs to be increased and repeated, and that improvements in response to sexual assaults are necessary to make victims more willing to report assaults," Gilberd notes. "Unfortunately," she added "analysis of the issues is shallow, and the plans for addressing them are limited." Commands can reject the complaints if they decide they aren't credible, and there is limited protection against retaliation against the women who come forward, according to Gilberd. "People who report assaults still face command disbelief, illegal efforts to protect the assaulters, informal harassment from assaulters, their friends or the command itself," she said. But most shameful is Sanchez's cover-up of the dehydration deaths of women that occurred in Iraq. Sanchez is no stranger to outrageous military orders. He was heavily involved in the torture scandal that surfaced at Abu Ghraib. Sanchez approved the use of unmuzzled dogs and the insertion of prisoners head-first into sleeping bags after which they are tied with an electrical cord and their are mouths covered. At least one person died as the result of the sleeping bag technique. Karpinski charges that Sanchez attempted to hide the torture after the hideous photographs became public. Sanchez reportedly plans to retire soon, according to an article in the International Herald Tribune earlier this month. But Rumsfeld recently considered elevating the 3-star general to a 4-star. The Tribune also reported that Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, the Army's chief spokesman, said in an email message, "The Army leaders do have confidence in LTG Sanchez." Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, President-elect of the National Lawyers Guild, and the US representative to the executive committee of the American Association of Jurists. She writes a weekly column for t r u t h o u t.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Lottery

The Euro lottery was up to something crazy like 187 million Euros, so of course I had to buy a ticket. I never buy lottery tickets. The odds are higher that you will die by being consumed by man-eating lions than you will win the lottery. The odds are higher that Tom Cruise will renounce Scientology and admit that he is gay. The odds are higher that the Democratic Party will grow a set and all the Bushies will be in jail in a year. I had a feeling though. A, "I should buy a lottery ticket" feeling. After all someone is going to win. Why not me? Last night an hour before the deadline, I left the pub in search of a newsagent and I bought a ticket. This morning I checked the numbers- and would you believe it! I'm a winner! Three numbers. Which means I won £13.70. Take out the six quid for four lines on the ticket and I am up £7.70. YEAH!! I can see that this is how they suck you in. That next week I will think, I should buy a lottery ticket. Must. Resist. Must. Not. Give. In. . .

Friday, February 03, 2006

Krugman- State of Delusion

February 3, 2006 Op-Ed Columnist State of Delusion By PAUL KRUGMAN So President Bush's plan to reduce imports of Middle East oil turns out to be no more substantial than his plan — floated two years ago, then flushed down the memory hole — to send humans to Mars. But what did you expect? After five years in power, the Bush administration is still — perhaps more than ever — run by Mayberry Machiavellis, who don't take the business of governing seriously. Here's the story on oil: In the State of the Union address Mr. Bush suggested that "cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol" and other technologies would allow us "to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East." But the next day, officials explained that he didn't really mean what he said. "This was purely an example," said Samuel Bodman, the energy secretary. And the administration has actually been scaling back the very research that Mr. Bush hyped Tuesday night: the National Renewable Energy Laboratory is about to lay off staff because of budget cuts. "A veteran researcher," reports The New York Times, "said the staff had been told that the cuts would be concentrated among researchers in wind and biomass, which includes ethanol." Why announce impressive sounding goals when you have no plan to achieve them? The best guess is that the energy "plan" was hastily thrown together to give Mr. Bush something positive to say. For weeks administration sources told reporters that the State of the Union address would focus on health care. But at the last minute the White House might have realized that its health care proposals, based on the idea that Americans have too much insurance, would suffer the same political fate as its attempt to privatize Social Security. ("Congress," Mr. Bush said, "did not act last year on my proposal to save Social Security." Democrats responded with a standing ovation.) So Mr. Bush's speechwriters were told to replace the health care proposals with fine words about energy independence, words not backed by any actual policy. What about the rest of the speech? The State of the Union is normally an occasion for boasting about an administration's achievements. But what's a speechwriter to do when there are no achievements? One answer is to pretend that the bad stuff never happened. The Medicare drug benefit is Mr. Bush's largest domestic initiative to date. It's also a disaster: at enormous cost, the administration has managed to make millions of elderly Americans worse off. So drugs went unmentioned in the State of the Union. Another answer is to rely on evasive language. In Iraq, said Mr. Bush, we've "changed our approach to reconstruction." In fact, reconstruction has failed. Almost three years after the war began, oil production is well below prewar levels, Baghdad is getting only an average of 3.2 hours of electricity a day, and more than 60 percent of water and sanitation projects have been canceled. So now, having squandered billions in Iraqi oil revenue as well as U.S. taxpayer dollars, we've told the Iraqis that from now on it's their problem. America's would-be Marshall Plan in Iraq, reports The Los Angeles Times, "is drawing to a close this year with much of its promise unmet and no plans to extend its funding." I guess you can call that a change in approach. There's a common theme underlying the botched reconstruction of Iraq, the botched response to Katrina (which Mr. Bush never mentioned), the botched drug program, and the nonexistent energy program. John DiIulio, the former White House head of faith-based policy, explained it more than three years ago. He told the reporter Ron Suskind how this administration operates: "There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus. ... I heard many, many staff discussions but not three meaningful, substantive policy discussions. There were no actual policy white papers on domestic issues." In other words, this administration is all politics and no policy. It knows how to attain power, but has no idea how to govern. That's why the administration was caught unaware when Katrina hit, and why it was totally unprepared for the predictable problems with its drug plan. It's why Mr. Bush announced an energy plan with no substance behind it. And it's why the state of the union — the thing itself, not the speech — is so grim.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

WINTER CLASSES FOR MEN

From my friend Margee. This gave me no end of amusement. . . WINTER CLASSES FOR MEN AT THE LEARNING CENTER FOR ADULTS REGISTRATION MUST BE COMPLETED BY  January  31, 2006     NOTE: DUE TO THE COMPLEXITY AND DIFFICULTY LEVEL OF THEIR CONTENTS, CLASS SIZES WILL BE LIMITED TO 8 PARTICIPANTS MAXIMUM.   Class 1 How To Fill Up The Ice Cube Trays --- Step by Step, with Slide Presentation. Meets 4 weeks, Monday and Wednesday for 2 hours beginning at 7:00 PM. Class 2 The Toilet Paper Roll --- Does It Change Itself? Round Table Discussion. Meets 2 weeks, Saturday 12:00 for 2 hours. Class 3 Is It Possible To Urinate Using The Technique Of Lifting The Seat and Avoiding The Floor, Walls and Nearby Bathtub? --- Group Practice. Meets 4 weeks, Saturday 10:00 PM for 2 hours.   Class 4 Fundamental Differences Between The Laundry Hamper and The Floor --- Pictures and Explanatory Graphics. Meets Saturdays at 2:00 PM for 3 weeks. Class 5 After Dinner Dishes --- Can They Levitate and Fly Into The Kitchen Sink? Examples on Video. Meets 4 weeks, Tuesday and Thursday for 2 hours beginning At 7:00 PM! Class 6 Loss Of Identity --- Losing The Remote To Your Significant Other. Help Line Support and Support Groups. Meets 4 Weeks, Friday and Sunday 7:00 PM Class 7 Learning How To Find Things --- Starting With Looking In The Right Places And Not Turning The House Upside Down While Screaming. Open Forum. Monday at 8:00 PM, 2 hours. Class 8 Health Watch --- Bringing Her Flowers Is Not Harmful To Your Health. Graphics and Audio Tapes. Three nights; Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 7:00 PM for 2 hours. Class 9 Real Men Ask For Directions When Lost --- Real Life Testimonials. Tuesdays at 6:00 PM Location to be determined. Class 10 Is It Genetically Impossible To Sit Quietly While She Parallel Parks? Driving Simulations. 4 weeks, Saturday's noon, 2 hours. Class 11 Learning to Live --- Basic Differences Between Mother and Wife. Online Classes and role-playing. Tuesdays at 7:00 PM, location to be determined Class 12 How to be the Ideal Shopping Companion Relaxation Exercis! es, Meditation and Breathing Techniques. Meets 4 weeks, Tuesday and Thursday for 2 hours beginning at 7:00 PM. Class 13 How to Fight Cerebral Atrophy --- Remembering Birthdays, Anniversaries and Other Important Dates and Calling When You're Going To Be Late. Cerebral Shock Therapy Sessions and Full Lobotomies Offered. Three nights; Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 7:00 PM for 2 hours. Class 14 The Stove/Oven --- What It Is and How It Is Used. Live Demonstration. Tuesdays at 6:00 PM, location to be determined. Upon completion of any of the above diplomas will be issued to the survivors.

Damn that Groundhog

By DAN NEPHIN, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 32 minutes ago PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. - Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, but it was hard to find a complainer in the crowd on Gobbler's Knob, where the morning temperature was well above freezing and Thursday's high was expected to hit 48 degrees. There were a few boos at the groundhog's prediction of six more weeks of winter, but most of the hundreds of revelers instead turned the event into an impromptu Pittsburgh Steelers rally. Fans in football jerseys sang "Here we go Steelers," and members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's Inner Circle — the top-hat- and tuxedo-wearing businessmen responsible for carrying on the groundhog tradition each year — threw black and gold Steelers "Terrible Towels" as they waited to rouse Phil from his burrow. The furry forecaster may be popular, but the Pittsburgh Steelers are playing in the Super Bowl on Sunday. "It's been really wonderful. This is just a ball. I'm having so much fun," said Nancy Durr, who came from Paxton, Neb., to the small western Pennsylvania town about 65 miles north of Pittsburgh to celebrate her 50th birthday. She had been outside awaiting Phil's arrival since about 2:15 a.m., a rub-on Punxsutawney Phil tattoo on each cheek. Others latched on to the Phil frenzy for a publicity boost — for just about anything, from global warming to the lottery. The National Environmental Trust said it's groundhog-suit-wearing human "will ignore his shadow and will instead rely on global warming evidence to forecast an early spring." The American Physiological Society was offering experts to discuss "What Punxsutawney Phil can teach us about surviving massive blood loss, preventing muscle atrophy, and more." The Pennsylvania Lottery even has Gus, "the second most famous groundhog in Pennsylvania," who implores lottery players to "keep on scratchin'." None of those things are really what Groundhog Day is about, said Mike Johnston, a member of the Groundhog Club's Inner Circle. Punxsutawney Phil is nonpolitical and can't speak anyway, Johnston said. Each Feb. 2, thousands of people descend on Punxsutawney for a little midwinter revelry, celebrating what had essentially been a German superstition. The Germans believed that if a hibernating animal casts a shadow Feb. 2 — the Christian holiday of Candlemas — winter will last another six weeks. If no shadow is seen, legend says spring will come early. According to the Groundhog Club, Phil has now seen his shadow 96 times, hasn't seen it 14 times and there are no records for nine years. The last time Phil failed to see his shadow was in 1999.

Times Select

I haven't dropped the cash yet to have a New York Times Select membership yet. A freind that does keeps me in Op-Eds so I give you Maureen Dowd and Sarah Vowell. . .

Didn't See It Coming, Again

February 1, 2006 Op-Ed Columnist Didn't See It Coming, Again By MAUREEN DOWD Washington The White House should hire an anthropologist. Corporations have begun hiring anthropologists to help them improve product designs and interpret markets. And clearly, the Bush foreign policy team doesn't understand any of the markets where it is barging around ineptly trying to sell America and democracy. The brand value of America has been in steady decline. The state of the union is sour but the state of the world is chilling, thanks to a hideously ham-handed Bush foreign policy crew that was once billed as a seasoned "dream team." The more the White House tries to force-feed democracy to tempestuous parts of the world, the more it discovers that you may be able to spin and scare voters in the U.S., but the Middle East is not so easy to manipulate. W. believes in self-determination only if he's doing the determining. Fundamentalists in America like to vote for Mr. Bush, but elsewhere they're violently opposing him. It's stunning that nearly four decades after Vietnam, our government could be even more culturally illiterate and pigheaded. The Bushies are more obsessed with snooping on Americans than fathoming how other cultures think and react. One smart anthropologist reinforcing the idea that "mirroring" — assuming other cultures think like us — doesn't work would be a lot more helpful than all of the discredited intelligence agencies that are costing $30 billion a year to miss everything from the breakup of the Soviet Union to 9/11 to no W.M.D. to Osama's hiding place to the Hamas victory. Bush officials keep claiming they couldn't have anticipated disasters — from the terrorist attacks to Katrina — even when they got specific warnings beforehand. Busy building up the fake nuclear threat in Iraq, they misplayed the real ones in Iran and North Korea. In London Sunday, Condi Rice admitted that all of our diplomats and spies were caught off guard by the Hamas win. "I've asked why nobody saw it coming," she said. "It does say something about us not having a good enough pulse." Instead of paying the Lincoln Group millions to plant fake newspaper stories in Iraq, the Bush team might try reading real newspaper stories here. Instead of simply believing any fact that makes him feel self-important, the president might try reading history. Like many other presidential candidates I've interviewed, W. said he liked Winston Churchill. But if he really had read Churchill, he would at least have understood that the Middle East never turns out the way you expect. Churchill, who called Iraq "an ungrateful volcano," would not have been surprised by the new WorldPublicOpinion.org poll showing that close to half of Iraqis approve of attacks on American forces. The State of the Union is a non-event. But Bob Woodruff and his cameraman, Doug Vogt, being blown up by a roadside bomb has forced the media to focus on what the Bushies try to hide — all the injured and maimed coming home from Iraq. Mark Landler's Times piece noted that the ABC journalists came to the hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, "on a military transport plane carrying 31 wounded soldiers — about a normal daily influx for this hospital." As Denise Grady wrote in The Times, the survival rate in Iraq is higher than in other wars, but the wounds are multiple and awful: "combinations of damaged brains and spinal cords, vision and hearing loss, disfigured faces, burns, amputations, mangled limbs, and psychological ills like depression and post-traumatic stress." The Oilman in Chief lecturing us last night, after five oblivious years, about being drunk on oil, now that Halliburton and Exxon are swimming in profits — Exxon's revenues were bigger than the gross domestic product of either Saudi Arabia or Indonesia — was rich. A more honest TV moment was Christiane Amanpour labeling Iraq "a black hole." The "spiraling security disaster," she told Larry King, had robbed Iraqis of hope, "and by any indication whether you take the number of journalists killed or wounded, whether you take the number of American soldiers killed or wounded, whether you take the number of Iraqi soldiers killed and wounded, contractors, people working there, it just gets worse and worse." But, hey, how could the Bushies have known that occupying a Middle East country — and flipping the balance of power from one sect to another — without enough troops to secure it could go wrong? Who on earth could predict the inevitable?