If you only read one article this week on robot camel jockies and Sudanese slave boys, make it this one.
Now that the slaves have been freed (sent back to Sudan, hardly a step up the freedom ladder) can we find a robot replacement for the camels?
If you only read one article this week on robot camel jockies and Sudanese slave boys, make it this one.
Now that the slaves have been freed (sent back to Sudan, hardly a step up the freedom ladder) can we find a robot replacement for the camels?
I suspect one reason so many on the right want to believe outting Valerie Plame Wilson as a spy was a negligible offense is because they haven't accepted the fact women do men's work, like spying.
The 60 Minutes piece on her career (former career, now) is fascinating, a Carré-like glimpse into the life of a female spy. I wonder how many little girls are now considering a career as a spy?
I know I would be if I were 10 years old. Secret decoder ring? Check. Blonde wig? Check. Vindictive administration officials...wait. Who let the icky boys play?!
And another thing...I wonder how many feminists George Bush created this morning with his nomination of Samuel Alito for the Supreme Court? An administration that outs female spies with one hand while it nominates men who want to take away our reproductive freedom with the other...we couldn't ask for a better recruitment tool.
Icky boys indeed.
By now everyone's opened their Fitzmas presents (I hear some bad boys got lumps of coal) but there's still another holiday coming up.
Click to enlarge. (Warning: not work safe!)
But you wouldn't know it from the weather. On Thursday I took this photo at Fountain Court in Somerset House. The weather was so warm children were stripping to play in the fountains. (A couple of the little hussies were completely nekkid. Eurotrash girls.)
And the next evening I was bedazzled by the Christmas lights on Oxford Street. If I were a scrooge I'd mention those lights are adding to global warming.
And today we toured Hughenden Manor, home of Benjamin Disraeli. More nakedness there too, and flowers blooming while trees determinedly turn colours. (Warning: that link is not work safe either. Especially if your boss is John Ashcroft.)
Flowers still bloom at Hughenden Manor. Trick, or treat?
Oxford Down sheep stare with intelligent gazes, at the Chilterns Open Air Museum.
These are the smartest sheep I have ever seen, and I've seen a lot since moving to the Ewe Capital of the World, i.e. Rural England. They are called Oxford Down sheep, on account I believe of their Oxford education.
The dog and I were walking at the Chilterns Open Air Museum a couple of weekends ago, and when these two saw us they immediately put down the treatise they were reading on EU regulations on foot-and-mouth disease and came to the fence. They stared at the antics of the dog with piercing gazes. I overheard snippits of their discussion, on "canine-human bonding rituals" and "bronze age footwear," but I confess most of it was over my head.
No cute and cuddly lambs, these. Which reminds me, fellow Brit blogger Shane has written a hymn about lambs. ("God is strange, and mysterious, and might be a wo-man with righteous shoes-") I would go to church just to hear that one. (Be sure and read the comments from the previous post which inspired it, too.)
English lads are not so dignified as their sheep, it seems.
Every once in a while I read a news story that sends a clutch of fear deep in my heart. This did it for me today.
WASHINGTON - Louisiana's public hospital system is on the verge of financial collapse two months after Hurricane Katrina and needs federal aid quickly, the head of the system said Thursday.
"We're out of money, roughly after Thanksgiving," Donald Smithburg, chief executive of the Louisiana State University Health Care Services Division, told reporters. "We are running out of time."
Many of my family members in Louisiana depend on the public hospital system. When they're sick they go to a "charity" hospital emergency room, since they, along with nearly 50 million other Americans, have no health insurance. (Quick, name another country that puts up with this.) They are still required to pay, according to their income, yet they will at least be seen after they produce the proper card.
But how soon, with layoffs expected? (Last time I went with my mom, we waited a couple of hours.) There are currently only a few of those hospitals, in the larger cities. How soon before they too close their doors?
We've spent hundreds of billions fighting phantom terrorists in Iraq, yet lack of health insurance is still killing more Americans than terrorism. Many more live in fear of getting sick, not from out of the ordinary bio-terrorism attacks but from quite ordinary viruses, heart disease, and stroke.
Still haven't thought of another country with no national health insurance? I can't either, and I've searched for the last half hour.
Driving home last night from London, I listened to the 10 p.m. news on the radio. They were discussing Harriet Miers' withdrawing her name as Supreme Court nominee, wondering if it was a lack of qualifications, a lack of support from the religious right, or both that terminated her nomination. Then they discussed the indictment frenzy—will he, won't he—but I got home and went inside before that discussion was over.
And today, the lead story on The Guardian's website is "White House crisis grows" and there's a continual feed proclaiming "Dark days at White House —AP".
Walking down The Strand yesterday, I saw a t-shirt in a shop window with something nasty to say about Bush.
The average Brit knows more about the goings on at the White House, 5000 miles away, than they do about the daily activities in Ambridge, where the fictional radio drama "The Archers" takes place.
America has become Britain's soap opera.
Just thought I'd share that.
I reported yesterday the Plame investigation was taking a serious turn, as rumors of bus throwing (and variations thereof including wolf throwing) have permeated the blogosphere, which, let's face it, is where real crimes are reported these days.
Today I read Scooter Libby is on crutches. Obviously he survived his turn under the bus, which is really no surprise considering Dick Cheney, the man who in a fit of vice presidential pique reportedly threw him under the bus, walks with a cane. (Not to mention, has survived about a dozen heart attacks.) Really, this man should be in a convalescent home instead of an undisclosed location. Has he resigned yet?
And more disturbing, bloggers are now being tossed under moving vehicles! Steve Clemons, who does some fine reporting at The Washington Note, was—get this—hit by a car yesterday. (Someone reported seeing Cheny on a Vespa nearby, but that's probably just waspish rumor. Has he resigned yet?)
Steve reports he is well, and already is back to reporting all the news in the Plame investigation. Way to climb out from under the bus, Steve! (Cute photo, too. Neck braces are all the rage these days, aren't they?)
I have decided to take precautions myself, as there are rumors of bus throwing spreading to this side of the Atlantic. (Dave reports on what sounds like a near miss.) I would hate to see the dark nether regions of a double decker, you know what I mean?
So I'm taking the train today, and veering away from any packs of wolves I happen to come across.
(Note: I was tempted to flag this story "DEVELOPING HARD" but Blogenlust tells us that's banned from the lexicon. What phrase will they ban next?!)
In food news this week...not much on my plate, since I'm glued to the news like everyone else, waiting for indictments and bus assaults.
Speaking of terrorists: Blue Gal has more about yellow cake.
Foodie says the cost of food is rising. It's still cheap in the U.S. compared to the rest of the world, and we won't even talk about petrol.
Parke Wilde has a couple of interesting tidbits (pun intended): The sponsor of the "cheeseburger bill" was unable to vote on account of he was in the hospital being treated for a heart condition. And Jamie Oliver is heading to New York, to clean up school lunches. Sorry, no more donkey bollocks for you, dears.
Here is something all vegan jetsetters must have: A vegan passport! Translates the phrase "does this contain donkey bollocks?" in 20 different languages. Or something like that.
Finally, I clicked on this LA Times article, thinking it would extol the benefits of green tea. Instead, it extolled the benefits of the Chinese economy. Nothing to do with food, but fascinating all the same.
It's just been one of those rare weeks, when food was not the first and last thing on my mind every day.
Has Cheney resigned yet?
Soft Polenta with Corn and Sage, no longer your mawmaw's grits.
In the South, I grew up thinking grits made a fine supper. Now they're called polenta, and served in the best restaurants. This recipe, with shallots, corn fresh from the cob, and sage sauteed in sherry and olive oil, is a perfect accompaniment to a hearty fall menu.
Who was that crazy Italian who first discovered if you stirred cornmeal in simmering water long enough, it turned into creamy polenta? Then he had to go and ruin it by shaping it into slabs and frying it in oil. What's the point, when the soft version is so good? And almost as comfortable as the gold standard of comfort food, mashed potatoes.
There's a lot of stirring involved, but what can be better on a cold day than standing over a hot stove, stirring a pot of
This CIA leak investigation is getting serious. Now it appears someone, or perhaps two someones, have been—get this—thrown under a bus! Can you say "attempted murder"? Or maybe something more colorful: How about "fitted for concrete shoes"?
At first I thought it was out of control rhetoric, clichés run amok...but now the news is all over the blogosphere. There's obviously a bus somewhere in D.C. with tattered Brooks Brothers lapels dangling from its mudflaps.
The question is, whose?
Crooks and Liars early on reported it was Tim Russert who was thrown under a bus. (They also report David Gergen adding the tantalizing details that "the wheels are coming off the administration.") But Tim was on Meet the Press just the other day, and wasn't even bruised, so I doubt he had any close encounters with fenders.
Then there are reports it was Rove who threw Libby under the bus, or vice versa. Firedoglake even has a photo! (Who'd have thought someone named Scooter could do so much damage to the front end of a bus?)
More recently Scotty McClellen was accused of tossing Rove and Libby under a bus. (The same bus? Or would it take two buses?) I doubt this report, however: I've seen Scotty, and I've seen Rove, and I think Scotty would have a hard time heaving that heft under a bicycle, much less a bus.
RJ Eskow seems to think the crime was committed on the high seas. (No word yet on the whereabouts of Col. Mustard.)
In what seems to be a case of copycat crime, Times reporter Judy Miller was also thrown under a bus, (or possibly a train) but by now bus-throwing is so common the Times doesn't even bother to cover the story.
Not even the highest levels of government are immune from the accusations. There are reports—get this—that it's Cheney himself who's involved in the bus throwing! From no less a source than The Plank:
And if they did, does that mean that Cheney is throwing his chief of staff under the bus?
The account also contains a clue as to the whereabouts of the bus:
Loyalty is a two way street.
This story raises some obvious questions. Would Cheney, who now walks with a cane, be strong enough to chuck his chief of staff under a bus? Or did he enlist the aid of the parasitically-named David Wurmser? And isn't a guy named Scooter just asking to be thrown somewhere in the region of a bus?
One thing's for certain: The wheels of justice will continue to turn. Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will get to the bottom of this.
Unless he's thrown under a bus.
Dick "Other Priorities" Cheney needs a spanking. Now.
When Dick Cheney's not outing CIA agents, he's fighting for their rights. Their rights to commit torture, that is.
He wants the legislation recently passed by 90 members of the Senate which specifically forbids torture, to exclude the CIA:
The proposal, which two sources said Vice President Cheney handed last Thursday to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the company of CIA Director Porter J. Goss, states that the measure barring inhumane treatment shall not apply to counterterrorism operations conducted abroad or to operations conducted by "an element of the United States government" other than the Defense Department.
And Cheney's no wimp, either, when it comes to fighting for agents' rights to torture:
Cheney's meeting with [Senator John] McCain last week was his third attempt to persuade the lawmaker, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, to accept a less broad legislative bar against inhumane treatment.
Nor has he given up fighting against the original bill forbidding torture:
Other sources said the vice president is also still fighting a second provision of the Senate-passed legislation, which requires that detainees in Defense Department custody anywhere in the world may be subjected only to interrogation techniques approved and listed in the Army's Field Manual.
There are plenty of reasons why Dick Cheney must resign, but this is the most compelling. It's one thing for some yahoo in Texas to go round advocating torture but when the words are written on vice presidential letterhead, the United States has lost any credibility to protest when its own citizens are tortured.
Not only is torture "quaintly" forbidden by the Geneva Convention but information gathered by torture is highly suspect, and acting on this "intelligence" endangers other lives.
John McCain knows this—he learned it when he himself was a prisoner in Vietnam.
Dick Cheney never served in the military, despite a draft that claimed thousands of his contemporaries—he had "other priorities," he's claimed, priorities which including making millions recently from his Halliburton stock.
It's time for him to find new priorities. Now.
Resign, Dick. Your time's up.
Dear Gordon Ramsay,
I see on the BBC website that you've had some difficulty finding women who cook. I have no idea why you'd want to, since it's high time women found their way into the boardroom instead of the kitchen, but you seem to have been searching:
"I've been visiting ladies' houses up and down the country with our film crew and you would be amazed how little cooking the girls are doing," the chef said ahead of the launch of his latest television show.
One problem may be that you were looking for "girls" who cook; my daughter is too busy running track, playing basketball, and studying for her pre-calc tests to spend much time in the kitchen, but she did bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies to raise money for her Model UN team. I suspect other girls are equally busy, yet, if pressed, could handle a spatula every bit as well as the lads.
Likewise, many of the "ladies" I know are too busy banging away at the glass ceiling to spend much time in the kitchen; that's why I'm glad there are strong men like you who are willing to feed us when we get home from a tough day at the office.
Still, I am troubled by this observation:
"Seriously, there are huge numbers of young women out there who know how to mix cocktails but can't cook to save their lives, whereas men are finding their way into the kitchen in ever growing numbers.
"Trust me, I am only telling you what I have discovered."
You need to put down your mini-torch and get out more. Why, just last night I tossed together soup from scratch, without even one of your recipes to guide me! No cocktails though; I ordered my husband to open a bottle of wine. I served it with some leftover risotto, again, made from scratch using the fresh veg in my fridge—fennel, green beans, artichoke hearts. (Sorry, I didn't write down the recipe, but I could probably whip it up for you if you're interested.) And every Wednesday I post recipes here on my blog; maybe you and those legions of cooking men could get some ideas on how to feed a real woman. (Hint: tofu is the new white meat.)
I am (sadly!) by no means an exception. The other night I was invited to dinner (by a woman who wasn't even trying to "save her life") and was served a fine meal of pasta with marinara, grilled eggplant, marinated leeks, and a couple of salads; plus she'd grilled some salmon. I didn't see a tin or a box in sight, nor one of your cookbooks. I do trust you, though—I'm sure you rarely let that misogyny cloud your vision.
However, I am a little concerned about these men you say are "finding their way into the kitchen". Remember, the kitchen is not a play area; Sardines on Toast Sorbet is not actual food. If this trend continues, I fear for our tastebuds. Perhaps you should use your influence to halt experiments of this type among your fellow mates. There are plenty of convenience foods available at Waitrose now; no need to serve snail porridge to the missus after she's put in a full day at the office.
So, you and your film crew are welcome to stop in any time as you trek across the country. You'll be starved, and "pastilla of pigeon leg, pistachio, cocoa and quatre épices" won't really do, now will it? (You can invite Heston, too. He might appreciate a decent meal, though I won't promise cocktails.)
But please, leave your misogyny at the door. Otherwise I can't be responsible for where my melon baller ends up.
I see U.K. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is in Alabama with his U.S. counterpart (for now), Condi Rice. CNN reports Alabamians are puzzled as to why they should care. They'd never heard of Mr. "Shaw" and have no idea that cricket is an interminable game of sport either. The self-selecting "poll" on the CNN website reports a mere 40 percent of Americans can name the British foreign secretary, and I bet a more scientific sampling would indicate a lot fewer Americans know who the leaders of their closest ally are.
I suspect my readers are a bit better informed than most Alabamians*, though , so I'll give you all a little quiz:
1. Who is the Minister of Defence, our Donald Rumsfeld, and how do you spell "defense"?
2. Who is the Vice Prime Minister, aka Deputy Prime Minister, and why is his name Mud around here? (Hint: it has something to do with this.)
3. Who is likely to be the next Tory leader? (Half credit if you get his first name only.)
For the overachievers, a bonus question: Who is Gordon Brown, and what blogger has a wee crush on him?
I had no idea things were so bad over there. But it's strange how mesmerizing it is to watch.
Chauntecleer ignored the warning signs of avian flu, which included strange dreams.
I came across a story my daughter wrote in seventh grade, about the famous rooster Chauntecleer:
Once there was an old, poor but healthy widow who lived in a small cottage with her two daughters and their animals. In her yard she had a colorful rooster named Chauntecleer who was the most accurate crower in the land. Chauntecleer had seven hens. His favorite was Pertelote. He sang to her every morning because at this time animals could speak.
Chauntecleer was sitting on his perch next to Pertelote when he told her about a terrible dream he had about a fox who wanted to eat him. Pertelote told Chauntecleer to ignore his dreams and that she cannot love a coward. She told him the causes of nightmares and that she would heal him of them. Chauntecleer argued that dreams really were significant...
[they argue some more...]
...Chauntecleer told her that he still loved her and that he would ignore his dream just for her, and then he went into the yard because he saw some corn.
The end of the story is lost, but there are hints here that suggest that by ignoring his dream, Chauntecleer was caught off guard by H5N1, the avian flu epidemic that wiped out his flock.
No word on the condition of the widow.
Global warming can't come soon enough.
John Amato at Crooks and Liars posted an interview with Lawrence O'Donnell, one of the savviest political observers around. While he agrees with me that Condoleezza Rice is the likeliest replacement for Dick Cheney, (who, for those of you who don't subscribe to Conspiracy Weekly, will inevitably resign) he also thinks there's a distinct possibility that Colin Powell would come in from the cold to take the job, with the understanding that he would be the next Republican nominee for President.
O'Donnell talks about the enormous popularity Powell enjoys from the American public. He's absolutely right. I was talking to a woman last night who basically said her vote for George Bush was really a vote for Powell.
Not only would Powell be the most formidable opposition the Democrats could face in '08, but a Powell vice presidency would immediately send Bush's popularity soaring. I don't want to give them any ideas, but the best thing they could do to deflect the damage wrought by incoming indictments would be to redirect the public's attention. Colin Powell moving into Dick Cheney's office would move the Rove/Libby story to page nine. Colin and Alma would be Washington's new power couple, while George and Condi eat pretzels and watch West Wing in the East Wing.
And there's the jury problem too, which Colin, as an African-American, would solve as easily as Rice, thus holding out the possibility of a hung jury around the time Americans head to the voting booths next November.
Despite these advantages, I don't imagine he's measuring the Naval Observatory garage for his Volvos. Why?
Because without Rove advising him, Bush tends to go with his gut, but he's essentially gutless and prefers a loyal wingman. Or woman. Colin Powell simply doesn't pass the loyalty test. George Bush values loyalty over ideology, over poll numbers, over anything, and Condoleezza Rice plays loyalty the way she plays Rachmaninoff.
Powell, on the other hand, has had a hard time hiding his disdain for the
neanderthals neocons. Now his chief of staff has spoken out harshly against the administration, and so far Colin hasn't refuted a word of it.
And Powell has been known to buck his commander in chief, when the commander in chief is named Clinton. Read David Halberstam's War in the Time of Peace for an account of his balking on the Balkans. As an active duty military officer, he also bucked his president politically, on the gays-in-the military issue.
But those medals on his chest act as Teflon, with Democrats unwilling to play swift boat politics. Despite his contemptible performance at the UN, Colin Powell is still America's favorite untested politician, and if he decides to stop tinkering on his Volvos and rejoin the administration, Democrats can start measuring themselves for subzero parkas. We'll be out in the cold a long, long time.
Cutting corners, but never quality, here at WDIK:
Natalie at Philobiblon has compiled the Carnival of Feminists inaugural post. (These blog "carnivals" are popping up all over the place. For those of you not aware, they're compilations of posts on a particular subject.) High time someone did this for feminists, and Natalie deserves a place in herstory for coming up with the idea.
There's a lot to read there, all good stuff, plus she was kind enough to include my piece on Judy Miller. We thank her.
After that, check out Chris at CRN, whose amazing dog has a thing for cats. Beautiful writing, and a beautiful dog. We salute you, Zeke.
More compelling reading, posted by commenter Bryan: Brown Equals Terrorists. Click on "link one" and read about how hard it is to take photos while being brown. (My daughter, a photo student, tells me she hears stories like this all the time.)
Finally, I spent a fascinating few minutes reading Ray McGovern's piece at No Quarter this morning. Not only is Ray a good writer, with a knack for finding the compelling components in an admittedly convoluted conceit, but he's also pretty good at Connect-the-Dots. Turns out the frog marching should begin with Dick Cheney. (Still not convinced? Then read this.)
You'll be pleased to hear no more contorted constructions from me; I'm heading into London later, to attend a lecture by David Starkey on The Monarchy. I'm told to expect lots of blood, but I'm especially interested to learn the telltale signs of a monarchy about to fall.
I'll skip right over the rumors flying about indictments, resignations, and winged pigs and explain why Condi Rice will be the next VP. When there are indictments, there are trials, trials by juries, and in Washington, this means juries largely made up of African-Americans.
The problem? Currently the Bush administration is enjoying a 2% approval rating from African-Americans. Therefore, when Dick Cheney resigns (as history records he will) Condi Rice will be nominated and approved by the Republican Senate as the new VP. Not because anyone really cares about the fates of Karl Rove and Scooter Libby (or even Mary Matalin or Steven Hadley) but because Republicans fighting for reelection in '06 cannot afford a guilty verdict, which would be seen as an indictment of the collective moral fiber of the entire Bush administration. A hung jury is the best they can hope for, and some will expect to achieve that by nominating an African-American as VP.
While the blogosphere is salivating over the prospect of indictments, they mean nothing if the defendants are never convicted. So, for now, I'm remaining in the refusing-to-count-chickens camp. But the next time Condi goes shopping, it may be to buy curtains for her new house.
My days of grousing about the absence of well-stocked HFS's may be at an end. It came to my attention yesterday that Whole Foods has stores in the UK. They are known here as Fresh and Wild and six are located in London, one in Bristol (a 2 hour drive from here).
The nearest is in Notting Hill, not far from a Sudanese restaurant I'd like to try. But I'm not getting my hopes up; most UK counterparts of US stores turn out to be smaller and less well stocked than their mother stores. (Asda, for instance, is a pale imitation of WalMart.)
I've also heard of an Asian grocery store, located near Hanger Lane. They can expect a visit from me soon also. Life here may be bearable after all.
In other news, Newsweek has more on Super Foods. Yes, they're all plant foods. Pomegranates help ward off prostate cancer (and seed spitting contests help ward off boredom) and apples we've discussed already. But did you know ordinary spices contain health bennies too? Two tablespoons contain as many anti-oxidents as 10 servings of fruit. Pass the cinnamon, please.
George Monbiot in The Guardian gives us good reason to avoid Brazilian beef:
...I do not believe that British beef farmers have a God-given right to stay in business. We shouldn't be eating beef at all. Because the conversion efficiency of feed to meat is so low in cattle, there is no more wasteful kind of food production. British beef producers would be extinct were it not for subsidies and European tariffs. Brazilian meat threatens them only because it is so cheap that it can outcompete theirs even after trade taxes have been paid. But if it's unethical to eat British beef, it's 100 times worse to eat Brazilian.
Read on to learn why, but included in the reasons: Not only is beef production destroying the Amazonian rainforest, but the foot and mouth outbreak in Britain several years ago originated in slops fed to pigs, slops that included Brazilian beef.
Foot in mouth not only resulted in the slaughter of countless herds of cattle, but now we've learned the suicide rate for the veterinarians is higher, partly due to FMD. And Arse Poetica reminds us why we need to save the rainforests.
The Gristmill Blog has more on how you can save the environment. Turns out it's soy easy!
Breakfast of Champions:
"I hadn't the heart to touch my breakfast. I told Jeeves to drink it himself." —P.G. Wodehouse
(Bad puns entirely mine.)
Tired of the doctor coming round? Make Applelicious Bread and keep her away.
It's apple season, which is reason enough to eat apples. But Dr. Steven Pratt offers another:
Even humble apples have been looking stellar in studies showing that they reduce the risk of asthma and may help prevent lung cancer. "There's a tremendous amount of good data on apples," he says. "It just somehow never gets to the public."
(In other news, it has been reported that an apple a day can keep the doctor away, but others say it's the lack of health insurance that's the problem. Form your own opinions.)
I'd bought a couple of huge Bramleys, and it turned out one was enough for this recipe. Maybe I'll use the other to make this. And then I'll buy some more and make KathyR.'s Apple Butter. And after that I'll take Anna's suggestion and pour myself a glass of port and slice a Egremont Russet.
Because next up is flu season.