C I V I L    M A R R I A G E    I S    A    C I V I L    R I G H T.

A N D N O W I T ' S T H E L A W O F T H E L A N D.


Sunday, September 26, 2021

Sunday Drive: Mascagni, Intermezzo

For this first fall Sunday, the lovely, mellow Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana:

 

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Friday, September 24, 2021

Horsefeathers

Just want to say I think this uproar over the mounted Border Patrol in South Texas is a whole lot of hooey - a mindless, kneejerk reaction by a lot of la-de-da city types who wouldn't know which end of a horse to talk to.  I've looked at the video of the alleged "horrific" incident and I don't see anybody being whipped or "run over" or injured.  One guy fell back in the river when a horse bumped him, but the water was only knee deep - he wasn't hurt.  And if anybody was popped - this point is not certain - with the end of a pair of reins, that might sting a little bit, but that's not at all the same as being whipped.  

(To break it down for the horseless:  reins are attached to the horse; there's only a foot or two of loose rein to twirl; you can't get enough swing or leverage to really whip some one that way - it's geometry.)

In other words, this is fake news, in my opinion.  Here's a report from a fact-checking team at WJXT in Jacksonville, Florida, that shows and tells what really happened:

   

Mounted police, by whatever name they may be called, are nothing new - they have been and are regularly used for crowd control not only in the wide-open spaces of Texas, but also in most big cities - like New York and Washington, to name but two. Horses can go, and go quickly, where bicycles, motorcycles, and automobiles cannot go, especially on uneven terrain. Seems to me what the Border Patrol was doing was a very reasonable and, yes, humane method of coping with a difficult situation.  It's nothing new, and nothing horrific, people. Grow up. 

Mention should be made that the Border Patrol are federal, not state employees, enforcing the law of the land.  Now whether it is morally right or wrong to expel those particular illegal immigrants, most of them homeless families in desperate need, is a different question, and worthy of humanitarian concern - which should have already been carefully considered by the powers that be in Washington before this crisis arose.  Though really, it's a moot point, now that the encampment has been cleared.

But I will say I am very, very disappointed in President Biden's ranting response to a misleading line of uproar in the press. "They will pay for this!" he says - who will pay?  For what, exactly?  How?  Sounds a lot like the mindless, emotional stuff we used to hear from his predecessor. Seems to me Old Joe doesn't quite have a grip on the facts of the matter, which are perfectly obvious to me and probably to most other Texans, and to most everybody who's ever ridden a horse, for that matter.  

But now the President has taken away the Border Patrol's horses.  That is just a damn dumb thing to do.  They need those horses down there for all sorts of reasons.  I wouldn't be surprised if all the BP agents quit.

Don't let me down, Joe. I voted for a smart President, or at least smarter than the last. Be one, please. 

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Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Pork Boys Do Summer

Some recent dinners chez nous.  This is more for the convenience of M.P. and myself to show our relations online, but you all can look too, if you want.  All the food was made from scratch by M.P., except as noted.  Click on any pic to enlarge.


Above and below, our 4th of July dinner.  Note the table runner and "firecrackers" carefully assembled from paper napkins for a festive flair.  The main course was sausage dogs covered with chili, chopped onions, mayo, and grated cheese.  Sides were French fries, onion rings, fiesta corn, and a bit of guacamole with some new little crackers, Ritz Crisp & Thins - very tasty, very nice.


And a 4th of July cake, too - chocolate, maybe - I think:


Another time, M.P. made a delicious bowl of 7-layer dip:


And yet another time, it was ham-and-cheese crepes for dinner, with cheesy toast and broccoli a la polonaise (i.e., topped with breadcrumbs and grated egg):


Continued after the jump--

Saturday, September 11, 2021

The End of an Era


A U. S. Marine grieves at the memorial of a comrade killed in Afghanistan, 2012

Ben Rhodes, an American political commentator and former Deputy National Security Advisor to President Obama, writes in the Guardian:

Most importantly, the abandonment of Afghans to the Taliban, and Biden’s occasionally callous rhetoric laying the blame on Afghan security forces, who had fought on the frontlines for years, evoked a sense of national shame – even if that emotion should apply to the entirety of the war, and not simply its end. Indeed, in the chaotic days of withdrawal, the predominant concerns in US politics often had little to do with Afghans. The evacuation of Americans, the danger of Islamic State Khorasan Province, and the loss of US service members eclipsed the gargantuan Afghan suffering. Overwhelming public support for Biden’s decision, though undercut by dissatisfaction with the process of withdrawal, confirmed Biden’s core instinct: the thing most Americans agree upon is that we went to Afghanistan to take out the people who did 9/11 and prevent further attacks, and it was past time to abandon the broader aims of post-9/11 foreign policy, no matter the subsequent humanitarian cost.

In short, Biden’s decision exposed the cavernous gap between the national security establishment and the public, and forced a recognition that there is going to be no victory in a “war on terror” too infused with the trauma and triumphalism of the immediate post-9/11 moment. Like many Americans, I found myself simultaneously supporting the core decision to withdraw and shuddering at its execution and consequences. As someone who worked in national security, I have to recognise the limits of how the US can shape other countries through military intervention. As someone who has participated in American politics, I have to acknowledge that a country confronting virulent ethno-nationalism at home is ill-suited to build nations abroad. But as a human being, I have to confront how we let the Afghan people down, and how allies like Britain, who stood by us after 9/11, must feel in seeing how it all ended.

It is a cruel irony that this is the second time the US has lost interest in Afghanistan. The first time was in the 1990s, after much of the mujahideen we supported to defeat the Soviets evolved into dangerous extremists, plunged the country into civil war, and led to Taliban rule.

The final verdict on Biden’s decision will depend on whether the US can truly end the era that began with 9/11 – including the mindset that measures our credibility through the use of military force and pursues security through partnerships with autocrats. Can we learn from our history and forge a new approach to the rest of the world – one that is sustainable, consistent, and responsive to the people we set out to help; that prioritises existential issues like the fight against the climate crisis and genuine advocacy for the universal values America claims to support?

What I Say:  The twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, following close on the heels of the Afghanistan withdrawal, certainly does mark the end of an era - a nice, neat convenience for future history teachers - and the way forward is not at all clear.  The political divisions in this country have reached a horrendous frenzy now, exacerbated by the covid pandemic, that will not easily be tamped down.  There is a level of savagery and hysteria, not to mention widespread ignorance, arrogance, and sheer gullible superstition, on the tribal extremes of both the left and the right.

Before you start to contradict that last statement - was the anarchy at the Capitol on January 6th any more brutal than the nationwide anarchy that occurred last summer?  If you condemn the one, you must condemn the other.  In my view, both are equally nauseating and frightening, symptomatic of a dangerous, possibly fatal illness in the American body politic.  As Mr. Lincoln said - A house divided against itself cannot stand.  We have been warned.

As to foreign affairs, I hope all my truckbuddies will recall that the whole Afghan mess was the creation of the Bush-Cheney administration - and that Democrats criticized it from the very start, along with the shameful, senseless, needless war in Iraq that was based on Bush-Cheney's lies about non-existent "weapons of mass destruction."  It was necessary, and right by all standards of earthly justice, to hit back against the evil men who attacked our cities and mercilessly killed three thousand of our citizens on 9/11.  But it was not at all necessary to destroy two governments and colonize a Little America in the most inaccessible, inhospitable region on the other side of the world, at the cost of so many lives, so many dollars, and the respect and goodwill of nearly all the world.

Biden is responsible, as he himself has said repeatedly, for last month's frantic, shameful evacuation from Kabul - but we must remember that it was Bush-Cheney who dug us into that hole in the first place, against all reason and history and common sense, with glib Madison Avenue phrases like "regime change" and "nation building" - which are simply code for invasion, occupation, and control by a puppet government.  This has always been clear to those of us who had eyes to see it for what it was - Vietnam 2.0.  It was never about giving the Afghans what they wanted - it was all about giving them what we wanted for them.  And a cash cow beyond the wildest dreams of the military-industrial complex.

Continued after the jump . . .

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

What I'm Watching: Refreshment Through the Years (1939)

1938 Coke ad

A short Technicolor history of carbonated waters and the Coca-Cola Company, produced for showing in the Coca-Cola pavilion at the 1939 World's Fair.  Do you remember when bottle caps were lined with cork?

 

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Sunday, September 5, 2021

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Sunday Drive: It Is Well with My Soul

The familiar hymn, written in 1873.


Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.


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Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Kudos to Moulton and Meijer

Read the joint statement by Moulton and Meijer about their trip to Kabul.

Your Head Trucker generally believes in obeying the law and following the rules - but there is an exception to every rule, especially when the exception clearly serves the greater good - especially if there's a chance of saving lives.  It seems to me that the secret trip to Kabul by Representatives Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Pete Meijer (R-Mich.) is just such a praiseworthy exception, and deserves high commendation.  (It should be remembered that Meijer is one of only ten Republicans who voted to impeach Trump last January - a very brave act, indeed.)  And as far as I can tell, no law was broken.

Moulton and Meijer are both army veterans who already served a number of years in Afghanistan and Iraq; they know the situation over there from the perspective of the soldier on the ground, not a fat cat lolling around in a cushy Washington office.  They undertook this trip into deadly chaos at their own risk, and not at the taxpayer's expense.  They stayed at the Kabul airport only 14 hours, and flew out on a plane that had empty seats.  No one was deprived of a chance to get out of Afghanistan, and they gained valuable first-hand views of the crisis, which ought to be appreciated by their fellow lawmakers.

The idea that this was some kind of "ego trip" is patently ridiculous - I wonder if the reporter who wrote that glib phrase has ever put his or her pretty little ass on the line for anyone.  And the other inane claim that their visit "diverted resources" from the evacuation effort is equally laughable - what exactly is that phrase supposed to mean, anyway?  Does anyone think these combat veterans were being chauffeured around in a gold-plated limo, and banqueted with champagne and caviar and dancing girls?  Inside an armed compound at the airport - essentially, a fort under siege?  Seriously, people.

It's a bullshit phrase, meaningless and patently false.  As experienced soldiers, they surely blended right in with the rest of the troops, who were no doubt glad that at least two of our elected representatives actually came to see with their own eyes exactly what is happening - instead of just mouthing about it back home for the TV cameras, spewing empty words and promises, and generally just making shit up. 

And Congressmen have visited war zones many, many times before in our history - it's really part of the checks and balances of our system of government - the legislative branch checking up on the executive, often with good reason.  Cf. Vietnam.  Now we have what is about to become a humanitarian disaster of the first magnitude - shouldn't somebody check it out, and not just take the Administration's word for it? If the story checks out, okay, no harm done.  If not - Congress has a duty to act in the best interests of the nation.

Also ridiculous is the idea that their secret visit "put our troops and diplomats at higher risk."  What fucking moron wrote that propaganda?  HOW can anybody in Kabul airport be at any greater risk than they already are??  Where the enemy controls the entire government, other terrorists are at large in the country, and everyone at the airport could be shot up or blown up at any moment?  This journey to the most dangerous spot in the world was a selfless act, not a selfish one.

I say, Good job, guys.  You are real patriots.  Thank you for your service.

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Sunday, August 22, 2021

Sunday Drive: Sleep Walk

Once upon a time . . . 

The beautiful tune that calls to mind long-ago summer dreams, as performed by the great Chet Atkins and Leo Kottke in 1987:


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Friday, August 20, 2021

The Pork Boys Do Chicken Fricassee

M. P. took a break from Sunday dinner duty last weekend and handed me the job.  I decided to try a dish known across the South under one name or another, but that I had never made myself.  I consulted a lot of cookbooks, ancient and modern, before embarking on this adventure - at the bottom of this post you will find the hundred-year-old recipe that was my starting point.  The essence of it is, you first lightly brown your chicken pieces in some oil, then simmer them in a dark gravy (roux + chicken bouillon) until they are very tender:  an hour and a half to two hours will do.

Then you serve the chicken and gravy over rice, and there you go.  We didn't take any pictures, but it so happens that the fellow in this video - which I found the day after I cooked my chick frick - does it almost exactly the way I did, so you can get a good idea of what we ate.  M.P. licked his plate clean, which tells you all you need to know.

 

From the Picayune Creole Cookbook, New Orleans, 1921:

Caution: Unfortunately, this recipe omits the roux, which is essential; the dish will not be nearly as brown or as tasty without it.


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Sunday, August 15, 2021

History Repeats Itself

Is it just me, or does anyone else think the chaotic fall of Kabul is a monumental fuck-up?

And the blame for whatever is happening there right now is squarely on Biden's shoulders.  Though the last three presidents also bear responsibility for this long, ghastly misadventure on the other side of the world.

I am proud of our troops, who by all accounts have done an excellent job in a bad situation - but I am deeply ashamed of the waste of lives and money and goodwill in Afghanistan these twenty years.

I remember the pictures of the fall of Saigon, and today's events seem to be a rerun of that debacle.

Not that I ever wanted us to be in Vietnam OR in Afghanistan; but there's a good way to leave and a bad way.  Again we see the same lies, the same denials, the same "alternate facts" that clearly are at odds with the images on the TV screen.

I remember very clearly sending off a hot email to George Bush when he sent the troops to Afghanistan, reminding him that the Russians had tried for twenty years to pacify those people without a shred of success, ditto the British before them, and what made him think we could do any better?

Alas, my words fell on deaf it ears, apparently.  Now, for all we expended in that far-off wasteland, there is only blood and sorrow and shame to show for it.

I am completely disgusted.  Nauseated.  Mortified.  What a black day for America.  Again.

When will they ever learn? 


Update, 8/16/21:
  President Biden spoke from the White House this afternoon on the situation in Afghanistan, putting the best face possible on a colossal 20-year mistake. He states plainly that it is hopeless to pour men, machines, and money into a faraway country whose own government is corrupt, divided, and unwilling to defend its own people in a civil war that the United States has no business meddling in. These are the glaringly obvious truths it took American leaders 20 long years to admit in the Vietnam debacle. 

 

At least Biden is stating them plainly here and now, saying at the 4:45 mark, "I stand squarely behind my decision." And at 6:30, "We gave [the Afghans] every opportunity to fight for their future. We could not give them the the will to fight for that future."  No, of course not - it wasn't their dream of the future, only an outsider's idea.  You simply can't live someone else's life for him - whether speaking of individuals or nations.  It goes deeply against the grain of human nature to be reduced to a mere puppet, even if it is for his own good.  That 's not liberty, is it?

Vietnam, Vietnam, Vietnam! If I foresaw this, living in obscurity far out on the Texas prairie twenty years ago, why did no one in Washington?  What the hell is wrong with people?

When will they ever learn?


Update, 8/17/21:  Jonathan Steele has written a fine opinion piece in the Guardian on the lessons of history in Afghanistan that is worth reading.

Also noteworthy:  The Guardian's editorial on the manifest unfitness of Boris Johnson for his office:  "When events demand stature, Mr Johnson always shrinks to the occasion, and the vacuum where leadership should be diminishes Britain in the eyes of the world."  Quite.


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