Thursday, April 24, 2008

Steve Buckellew (1968-2008)

May the wind take your troubles away...

Stephen Hunter Buckellew, 39, passed away Tuesday evening, April 22, 2008, after a brief illness. Memorial service: 11 a.m. Friday at Roberston Mueller Harper. Memorials: In lieu of flowers, consideration of contributions to The WARM Place, 809 Lipscomb St., Fort Worth, Texas 76104,, in Steve's memory, is suggested. A native and lifelong resident of Fort Worth, Steve was the son of Cleveland Oren "Buck" Buckellew Jr. and Pamela Ann Hunter Buckellew. He graduated from Southwest High School in 1987 and Texas A&M University before receiving his M.S. from the University of Texas at Arlington. Steve was an intellectual with varied pursuits spanning literature, music, movies, politics, blogging, crossword puzzles, woodworking, photography, food and sports. He was also a highly talented pool player. Above all, Steve was friend to countless who will treasure the many good times enjoyed and lament the lost opportunities to share in his company. He will be deeply missed. Survivors: Steve is survived by his wife, Mary Jane Richardson; mother and stepfather, Pam and Al Esquivel; brothers and sisters-in-law, Phil and Lisa Buckellew and Bruce Hervey and Katie Barber; grandmother, Christine Wesley; parents-in-law, Jim and Ann Richardson; brother-in-law, James Richardson; and many throughout Fort Worth and beyond whom he called friends.

Published in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on 4/24/2008.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Hellscape: Iran

I know I've gone quite far with the Orwellian metaphor relating to the Bush administration. But to put things into perspective, I've been doing a little research on Iran. Iranians are very poor, despite the oil-wealth of the nation, and they have terrible drug problem with Afghani opium. Yet, they have this group called the Basij, which is basically a Hitler Youth to enforce the fundamentalist Islamic moral code.

These young folks were orignially recruited as cannon fodder in Iraqi minefields during the Iran-Iraq war of the eighties. Their role has changed quite a bit in peacetime. While they have some legitimate responsibilities like disaster relief, they mostly man checkpoints where they make sure women aren't wearing makeup, are dressed in proper hijab, and are accompanied only by male relatives. They also do other wonderful things like suppress student protests for freedom, break up mixed-gender parties, and tear down satellite dishes.

Sucks to be in Iran. So lets go bomb them to bring freedom. (Also see this article on the Iranian drug problem. We have to realize that they are frail people, just like us, despite the monolithic fundamentalist talk from our government.

The Unfortunate Mr. Quest

Stumbled on this article today while reading the news. Richard Quest, CNN International reporter, was busted in Central Park last night. From the NY Post:

CNN personality Richard Quest was busted in Central Park early yesterday with some drugs in his pocket, a rope around his neck that was tied to his genitals, and a sex toy in his boot, law-enforcement sources said.

You think he'd like a do-over? The Post, never known for being subtle, goes on:

He was reportedly once offered a position for the English-language version of the controversial Al Jazeera network, but said he turned it down because being gay and Jewish, he didn't think it would be a good fit.

This bespeaks a monolithic fundamentalist view of the middle-east (Iran has one of the biggest drug-abusing populations in the world.) But in light of current events, maybe it was the right call.

Main Street Arts Festival

The biggest and coolest festival in the Metroplex is going on this weekend. They use tickets for beer and food so you don't realize you're paying usurious prices. But I don't give a fuck. I love festivals. It's an opportunity to become anonymous in a crowd and check out the zeitgeist (as far as FW can be a gauge of the zeitgeist.)

Here's some major themes I took away from the festival:
  • Obesity - everyone is fat now, and I'm no exception.
  • Dogs - they are now carried, not walked, mostly by dickless men. (see first bullet)
  • Beer - still very popular (see first bullet)
  • Hot chicks - must have been elsewhere, I thought I was in Chicago (see first bullet)
  • Tattoos - still don't get it. Ugly. Crutch for something, maybe vapidity.
  • Live music - still the best, I don't really care what they're playing. I enjoyed the 65 year old men playing "Funky Cold Medina."
  • Art - as it should be, a matter of taste. Original art is it should be. As a knuckleheaded woodworker, it took several days/weeks to make a piece worthy of using in my own house. What am I worth per hour? (Ladies?)
  • Food - I'm exclusive to Schmidt's. They throw down great Brats and other sausages. One ticket extra for kraut. (see first bullet)
  • Babies - ubiquitous. I saw a two-year-old on a five-point leash.
  • Overall - can't think of a better way to spend an afternoon.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Blog News

My friends over at the West & Clear site generously asked if I would begin contributing to their site from time to time. The first post appeared today and can been read here. Thanks to their heightened sense of style, they added some appropriate art to my post.

Friday, April 11, 2008

We Love Our Storms

As this past week has proven in spades, we North Texans are subject to some of the most violent weather in the world, and it comes at a moment's notice. Typically tornadoes give you maybe five minutes warning. What a load of shit! We're by god cheated out of a decent gallows party. When the air raid sirens go off, I barely have time to pour a scotch on the rocks, much less margaritas for the multitudes. People on the gulf coast at least have a few days notice to get down to the liquor store for some tequila and maybe hit the grocer for a modest cheese plate or something.

And it seems that the ripest time for foul weather also includes late afternoon at the office. You'd have to keep a hip-flask of Cuervo and some margarita mix in your desk while watching the beast come hither through your 25th floor western exposure. A 55 cent bag of Dorito's out of the machine doesn't do justice to the massive destructive power of a Texas-style thunderstorm.

But, yet, we North Texans love our thunderstorms. The worse the better. It's a strange kind of schadenfreude where we sit glued to the TV or the internet just hoping a tornado is going to drop somewhere. We run with a strange dour glee from office to office telling one another about the funnel cloud that was spotted just north of Weatherford as the leading edge sheets of rain alight on our plate-glass office windows.

Long time Fort Worthians see major storms as mile-markers in life; they are points of inflection. The big April hailstorm back in 80 that caused 60 million bucks worth of damage and everyone got a new roof, and the Mayfest hailstorm in 95 where fathers were jumping on top of their children to protect them, along with the colossal downtown tornado in 2000 that turned a proper office tower into a plywood obelisk for the next three years or so.

We know the cost of storms in both blood and treasure, but we have persevered and thusly wear them as a badge of honor and with a sense of humor. It's a lot like racing, we watch to see the big crash and hope everyone walks away safely.

Movie Night

I guess tonight is movie night. I've been scouring teh internets for clips from some of my favorite flicks, culling out only the best to provide to the dear reader. Here's an incredibly relevant Elizabeth Taylor in the awesome, yet jarring, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf".

The Hustler

I was chatting with a friend recently about how Oscars are sometimes given for good-not-great roles or movies, because they are making up for mistakes in the past. Scorcese winning for The Departed is a good example. It's a good movie, but it's no Goodfellas, Raging Bull, or Taxi Driver. The other example, for me, was Paul Newman winning for The Color of Money (coincidentally directed by Scorcese). I haven't looked at the list of nominees for Hud, Cool Hand Luke, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Butch Cassidy, or The Sting, but as anyone who has seen these movies surely know, he's more than a pretty face.

Predictably, my favorite Newman movies are Hud (Texas, Larry McMurtry, etc.) and The Hustler (Pool). I ran across this fantastic clip of the climax of The Hustler. Total spoiler if you haven't seen the movie which is a four-star absolute must watch movie. But if you have seen it, take ten minutes and watch the interplay between Newman, Gleason, and George C. Scott (as the embodiment of evil).

Petraeus Hypocrisy?

I saw a good bit of the Senatorial grilling of General Petraues and Ryan Crocker, and a fair bit from the House. The General (as he will be referred to, because I'm not too confident typing his last name) responded to bipartisan grilling about when we can extract our troops. His refrain, for two days, was that it will depend on the "conditions". He could never define these conditions, yet he introduced some great new terms like battlefield geometry and politco-milatry calculus.

In the end, we're still left with the same ol' open ended military commitment that could last for John McCain's 100 years. There was no shortage of catastrophizing what would happen if more than the surge troops were withdrawn (apparently conditions for this have been met.) But one thing stuck out. What if things get worse? The General said that he could not foresee adding anymore troops. This sound like a serious flaw in his "conditions based" logic.

What if the battlefield geometry and politico-military calculus called for another surge? In his testimony, he said adding more troops wasn't going to happen. So what of his lofty "condition based" theorizing? Smells like political bullshit to me. If I'm boiling some pasta and it's boiling over the pan, I turn the heat down; If it's not boiling, I turn the heat up. To me, this is "condition-based decision making". But Petraeus is apparently OK with undercooked pasta.

Not that I want more troops, I'm just trying to illustrate his logical flaw. Any day, it might be happening how, the Mahdi army could call off the cease fire and restoke the civil war against the Badr Brigades and the Sunnis. Any day the Sunni militia could get a better offer than the $10/day we're paying them to keep quiet. This seems a very tenuous peace and our General Officer seems to have his lips firmly attached to a Republican butthole.


I think these cocksuckers don't know a fucking shit-ass thing, dickless shit-ass pussies.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Thanks for the Link

Thanks to the folks over at The Whited Sepulchre for noticing my travails over the weekend and giving me possibly the weirdest summary title ever: Briskets, Semicolons, Trial and Error.

If you haven't checked this page out, you should. They're right leaning libertartians who manage to really crank out well-written, well-thought posts that I occasionally agree with, in part, sometimes. Oh, and they have a cool banner as well.

He fancies Dennis Kucinich a short-busser, when, in fact, he's just a good ol' fashioned bomb thrower. Every presidential election needs their Ron Pauls and Al Sharptions and Dennis Kuciniches who are willing to speak unvarnished truth to the masses. They never have the cash or the party-backing, but they can get folks' thinking.

I'll defer to the owners, but I'm thinking of a Whited Sepulchre as a line in Heart of Darkness. We'll let them elaborate....

Monday, April 07, 2008

Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk

Fitting, it is. Every year I go over my NCAA bracket and I'm always tempted by the perfumed inner-thigh of Kansas. I've been a Kansas fan since Danny Manning's squad bested the unbeatable Billy Tubbs' Oklahoma team in 88. I loved Roy Williams, and Jacque Vaughn, and Paul Pierce, Kirk Hinrich and all the small white guys that could shoot threes with thier eyes closed.

But they always disappointed me in the tournament. I'd pick 'em high every year and they would inevitably fail me. So this year I did something different. I knocked 'em out early. It might have cost me my bracket, but bracket be damned.

I know getting into x's and o's is boring, but I think Kansas made a big error in the second half, after having the momentum throughout the first half, in going to zone defenses. The box-and-one against CDR didn't work and sparked one hell of a run from Memphis that left Kansas dead meat down 9 with two minutes to play. I really can't explain the rest, other than that Memphis' traditional poor foul shooting caught up with them. KU hit the clutch three to kick it into OT where they never looked back.

This was one of the best NCAA tourneys I've seen in years culminating in a fantastic up-and-down game with plenty of lead and momentum changes. Excellent way to spend a Monday evening.

Meat: Epilogue

Do you have any idea how much liquor it takes to sit outside and smoke a brisket for nigh on 24 hours? As soon as that internal temp hit 190, I wrapped it in foil, threw it in the oven to rest, and passed out. I stuck it in the fridge Sunday morning and forgot about. This ordeal had left me withered and crapulous. I spent Sunday laying around watching the two basketball games I had missed the night before and whatever I had recently recorded off Discovery or History. I didn't even open my laptop.

So it wasn't until today that I saw what I had created. Upon my initial inspection of the exterior, it looked like a proper brisket, and it smelled like a proper brisket. I located the grain direction and cut a few perpendicular slices. Proper red smoke ring, check, perfect meat color elsewhere. It was hard to cut because the damn thing was cold; I'll chalk that up to a lesson learned. And I'll be damned if the sumbitch didn't taste like a proper Texas brisket ready for a sandwich near you. I sliced up the flat (lean) part of the brisket, then roughly trimmed and chopped up the point (more marbled) to be used for chopped brisked at a later date.

After all that hard work, I'm happy to say it was a success. I've only learned about 1500 things I'd do differently, but, by god, it worked.

Semicolon Update

I'm apparently not the only soul who's about had it with the semicolon. I came by a link today, from and article last Friday, that showed some very incisive commentary on this vestigial punctuation mark. Read it here.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Meat III

This shit is wearing my tired ass out. 24 hours later it appears that the brisket is within five degrees of being done. I've learned alot in the process. I've also drank a superhuman quantity of vodka and listened to a shitload of good music. The ribs cooked flawlessly in just a few hours. But the brisket will be the piece de resistance. More later.

Adventures in Meat Smoking II

Well, last night's attempt at smoking a brisket was fraught with error. I apparently need to go down to the supermarket and shanghai some tow-headed boy scout in hopes that he can impart to me the rudiments of fire (or shall I offer a sacrifice to Prometheus?)

The smoker apparently is allied with the Bush administration in its moral absolutism. Last night, it knew only two temperatures: 7000 degrees or ice cold. My inexperience with the smoker and my experience with Tito's Vodka surely weren't helping.

I chunked a couple of logs on before I logged off for the evening about 3:30 or so. I checked it at 9am and it was stone cold, so all my internal temp measurements were thrown into a giant shitspin. I've had it going again all day and I'm still not at my desired internal temp.

There are silver linings, however. The smoker did a bang-up job of heating up some hot-links. Of course the microwave could have knocked this out in about 45 seconds, but it would be lacking the crispy exterior. And I've got a rack of ribs on, for which everything has gone very well and look and smell tasty.

I've yet to taste any of the food yet, so look forward to episode III.

Adventures in Meat Smoking

So I got this smoker. I've been wanting to start smoking briskets, ribs, pork shoulders, etc for years. Now I have the means. And tonight I'm putting words into action, by god. My wife picked up a good looking brisket rub at Pendery's today. I went to Costco to grab up a cryovac Brisket, but apparently everyone in the metroplex is smoking briskets this weekend and they were stone out. So on to Albertson's where they only had two left. I picked, of course, the biggest.

I get it trimmed up, and get the rub on, and now it's time for the fire. In reality, it was time for the fire well before this other stuff. It's the fire that's killing me. I've chopped up a bunch of pecan that fell over my fence from my neighbor's tree, so I'm good on fuel. But I'm aiming for a fire at about 225 and this son of a bitch was hot enough to forge metal. It's been burning for hours and it's still too damn hot. Of course I already put the brisket on 45 minutes ago.

Now I'm just hoping that thing will cool off a bit and I can add another log before I go to bed in a few hours.

Any advice is more than welcome... As I'm sure all the readership will be waiting with bated breath to hear about the condition of my meat, I'll shoot an update tomorrow.

Friday, April 04, 2008


I'm puttin' the word out on a matter of the utmost importance to the population. Urgent reply requested. Does anyone feel rock-solid certain and comfortable in the use of a semicolon? It's apparently an important enough punctuation mark to warrant not having to hit the shift key, while the lowly colon requires a shift. I don't know about you, but I'm on pretty firm ground with the colon.

The semicolon is an enigma to me. When I feel it may be called for, I fall into a morass of self-analysis; evaluating my writing in terms of dependent and independent clauses, transitional words, etc. I usually end up just starting a new fucking sentence.

What use is the semicolon? And why does it merit such prominent placement on a keyboard?

Again, this is truly urgent. And did I use it correctly in the second paragraph, second sentence? I have no clue.

REM Accelerates

I saw REM on Colbert last night promoting their new album Accelerate (I think that was the name). It was not the jangly McGuinn-Rickenbacker sound that Peter Buck (Tom Petty, The Plimsouls, and others) made a living off of. Although Peter was playing a fine-looking six-string Rick. McGuinn always favored the twelve-string, as I recall (and my recollection is mostly of the live shots of Tambourine Man for which he admitted stealing the beat from the Beach Boy's "Don't Worry Baby").

All that is beside the point, I was an REM fanatic in their 85-90 college radio greatness. I could probably still warble every note from Murmur, Reckoning, Fables, Pageant, Document, and Dead Letter Office (which was a compendium of B-sides and their first EP Chronic Town). They started really losing me on Green, and by Out of Time or Monster (can't remember the order), I was out of patience. I've mentioned on more than one occasion that I'm an "old shit" kind of guy, but in the case of REM, the 80s shit was way better than the 90s shit.

At long last, to the point. The new album rocks. No elaborate production. Short songs. No massive strings. Ripping guitar. See, I like to rock. And finally, it seems like REM might like to rock as well. Accelerate doesn't rock like, say, Pageant, which rocked all the way through with the exception of Swan, Swan and Flowers of Guatamala, but it definitely does rock. Cheers to them, the spirit of Bill Berry is back.

And as a bonus, I learned something. When I download from iTunes, I typically go for single songs. This is the first album I've downloaded in a long time. And what used to be my greatest complaint about iTunes and albums is now resolved. Now you get a PDF doc with all the album art and liner notes. Big step forward.

Now if I could just find an iMax theatre that had the new Scorcese-Stones movie without having to drive to Dallas.

Poll Summaries

I sincerely want to thank everyone that voted in the polls. I know some polls were slightly frivolous, while others were dead serious. I wouldn't ask for your response if I was genuinely interested in your response. I've recently made this blog public. That may or may not increase traffic, but I'll still be posting anonymous polls (and they are completely anonymous, I have no idea on anyone's votes unless I ask.) So now to the results....most important first:

Bigfoot: Vote tightened toward the end. We're inside the margin of error, so I don't think we're going to be breaking news on the Bigfoot front, despite my purposely vague question. I know we had at least one Phd in Biology or some such vote against. We also had one guy that watched a very compelling show on the Sci-Fi channel vote for. So that balances out.

Guns for Students: I think we can safely infer that, among our demographic, college kids shouldn't be packing heat.

Grandparents vs. Drinkers: by 2:1 people would rather run the gauntlet of folks that my have had a couple of pops than octagenarians.

Gladiators vs. Clean Athletes: by 2:1 folks would rather see clean athletes than cheaters. Good luck. I guess Hollywood stars shouldn't have plastic surgery either.

Hillary at first was clearly electable, but the more she threw her kitchen sink at Obama, the worse her electability numbers, ending up about 50/50 in this demo. As an anti-Republican and an Obama supporter, I think she and her husband are carrying too much baggage. Recent polls say the same. It's becoming more and more evident that with her this is a campaign of ego and destiny rather than what's best for America.

Obama is a little less than 2:1 electable. There's still a block out there that doesn't feel like he can pull it off. Anecdotally, my conversations with Democrats still think that America won't vote for a black man.

We've got a couple still open, so please participate.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

More Devo

I'm sifting through the video archives of Devo on YouTube and couldn't resist posting this inteview with Jack Cafferty about 25 years ago. As anyone that ever glances at CNN in the afternoons, Jack Cafferty now plays the role of the cynical Fred Mertzish uber-serious editorialist. And he looks the part.

But back in 1982, he was very much trying for the dashing Chip Moody look, except he just couldn't pull it off. What I found funny about this video was not Devo, but Jack, who may have well been Ed Sullivan talking to Elvis in the fifties. He was trying so hard to be cleverly condescending while keeping his newsman's objectivity. Of course the Gerald is smart enought to know the game. Here's Jack, with Gerald and Mark from Devo 25 years ago

Most Underrated Band Ever

Devo. To wit:

And I'm not ashamed to admit I have my own energy dome. Caught it their last show in Dallas at the Fair Park August, I believe.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Dating Demographics?

Are you a single male looking for love in DFW? Your screwed, pal. Check out this graph.

Looks like you should close up shop and move to Memphis or Atlanta.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Gas Prices vs. Profits: Huh?

I've been blogging about this for years. If I weren't so lazy, I'd link to all the previous posts. I freely admit that I don't understand the world of high finance. I have friends that have that intuitive ability which I lack.

But this oil business seems to me to be straight supply and demand (and maybe this is where I'm fucked). Granted there's a scarcity factor, but I don't know how deeply it's inolved in this play.

So I'm willing to be educated. But I smell collusion at the pump. And here's my rationale:

OPEC is setting prices. So the raw material cost, so to speak, is the same. I don't think any refiner has such a techonlogical advantage over another that would lead to markedly cheaper refining costs. Transportation costs are also about equal. And therefore, the prices at the pump are about equal give or take a few cents on the gallon that may vary on location marketing and upstream efficiencies.

But the kicker is that they're all making humongous profits. While raw material costs are as high as they've ever been, they're all making out like King Farouk

How can this be? Given a basic business like making spark plugs (I'm no economist by a long shot), but if raw material cost rises, it will cause a rise in prices, but no rise in margin. Producers will raise prices but maintain profit and pass the increased raw materials cost to customer. Some customers will be unwilling to pay the increased price and look to other vendors, who may reduce margins to gain business. This is the free market.

But on the street, when people need gas there seems to be little separation between gas prices. Every oil company is recording record profits when oil prices are at an all time high. This makes me think that I'm being taken advantage of. Surely, there is some oil company that's willing to lower their margins, and thus reduce gas prices, to gain volume business. But this never seems to happen, which, to me, flies in the face of the free market.

We live in a cut-rate, dollar-store universe. Everything is price-sensitive. People will go to Wal-Mart (despite the smell) to buy their Pringles for ten cents cheaper. Tightwads and coupon clippers abound. So why can't the oil company that's made the lowest, yet windfall, profits cut their margin by a few basis points, which would surely drive all the cost-concious consumers to their door?

This is not even Harvard Business School thinking, it's Biz 101 at TCC. Unless....there's collusion. And we've got to find a competitor to stop this collusive monopoly.

Chasm of Defense Funds

From the Washington Post:

Government auditors issued a scathing review yesterday of dozens of the Pentagon's biggest weapons systems, saying ships, aircraft and satellites are billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule.

The Government Accountability Office found that 95 major systems have exceeded their original budgets by a total of $295 billion, bringing their total cost to $1.6 trillion, and are delivered almost two years late on average. In addition, none of the systems that the GAO looked at had met all of the standards for best management practices during their development stages

That says it all. But I will elucidate. I'm guessing that none of these systems have anything to do with embedded human intelligence amongst terrorist organizations or preventing loose nukes from former SSR's, but rather they are designed to fight another cold war against China that will line the pockets of Lockheed while doing nothing against our real enemy. Our military budget is a scandal within a scandal. Eisenhower is rolling over in his grave.

War Manifestito

The one thing in this war and the coverage of this war that bothers me to no end is how American-centric it is. Every news channel had big reports last week about 4000 dead. We lost multiples of that at Okinawa alone in a week, not to mention the loss of life in the Civil War. It seems to me that because this war doesn't include conscripts, just volunteers shanghaied under stop-loss and other fine print, we Americans don't feel the loss as we might have in Vietnam (when any young man might be drafted.) There's really not that many kids dying, so who cares? The US is not vested in a war until there are really serious casualties, especially if they are conscripts.

But what about life in general? Iraqi deaths are immeasurable, but to Americans they are either ignorant or ambivalent. You rarely hear about the cost of this war to the Iraqi, who, believe it or not, is just as much as person as any American. You only hear the party line that we've invaded to secure their freedom. Meanwhile, conservative estimates put the Iraqi loss of life around 100,000 and liberal estimates are closer to 600,000. Refugees by the millions have poured into neighboring countries. I've heard numbers associated with Syria and Jordan, but Iran has certainly had its own share as well. Iraqis that stay live in a poor state with Baghdadis getting but one hour of electricity per day. Their drinking water is disease-ridden filth and they shit in the streets. Employment, such as it is, is rare. Those employed are targets for assassination by militia.

I don't mean to say that life under Saddam was a piece of cake or that freedom doesn't come without a price. I've been watching the HBO series on John Adams lately and learned that freedom does certainly come with a price. The American Revolutionaries decided on their own to be indepenent and free, not at the gun-barrel of a superpower like France. But John Adams' freedom was his own choice and his fellow countrymen were free to disagree and take up arms alongside the British as Tories.

I think it is astoundingly arrogant to think that we can decide others' fate without their input. In the case of the Iraq war, we substituted the plebiscite of the Iraqi people with nefarious politicking by Ahmed Chalabi and many other untrustworthy informants. As a result of their input and the policy decisions made by those who's opinions were shaped by Chalabi and curveball, we've displaced millions, and killed hundred-thousands without hearing their voice. Who knows what they may have chosen? There were other options other than outright invasion. What if, this time, we really assisted the Shi'a with a coup, instead of leading them to the slaughter like we did after the first Gulf War? Our decision making seems not only arrogant, but anti-democratic.

I'll state again that our invasion of Iraq has been the greatest present ever to our enemies in Iran and our enemies in Afghanistan. GW was duped. General bin Laden caught General Bush in the pincer movements of all pincer movements. Bush's team of idiots was flat outsmarted by a dude living in a cave, and a tin-horn dictator.

Getting back to the genesis of the enterprise, the war was never about freedom and the "domino effect" in the Middle East. That was something Cheney made up after he didn't find his precious WMD's. This war never was about terrorism, that's just the rationale given now by McCain which is really just a result of unintended consequences. "The US ran into a morass in Iraq, that's a friendly place for us terrorists to go blow them up," so goes the al-Qaida thiking.

But Bush now contends we're fighting terrorists, surely to stoke up the flag on the lapel crowd (I'm frankly offended that the flag has been co-opted by the right, but that's another post). This is hogwash. Al-Qaida makes up much less than 10% of the violence, many studies agree. But this is Bush's only political move to keep his numbers from dropping far below Carter or Nixon. Keep conflating 9/11 with Iraq. It worked in 2004 with an assist from Fox. I'm waiting to see if McCain stoops to this level.

So why the hell are we there?

Maybe it's just geopolitics and we need airbases? Seems like the new "State of Forces" agreement (which is really a treaty that should be ratified by the Senate) aims for permanent bases.

Maybe it's a Shakespearean tale of revenge against a vile dictator that put out a hit on Daddy?

Maybe it's just hubris. We didn't feel like Afghanistan was enough of a retaliation for 9/11 and we just needed to kick some more ass (Henry Kissinger's viewpoint).

Maybe it was just a power grab for Iraqi oil. If that's the case, I'd like to know who was getting Iraqi oil before the war (Russia, China?) and who is getting the oil after the war (ExxonMobil)?

Maybe Bush's second SOTU speech was true and he seeks to spread democracy around the world, like god told him to do. And he's a moral absolutist that sees just good and evil. Eh, no.

Truth is...oil. We wouldn't give a shit about Iraq if it wasn't for oil. And given his presidential charge, he may be right. Oil is the blood of our livelihood. Not just cars, but manufacturing (here or elsewhere), consumption, you name it, petroleum is in it. The American economy, and therefore the American life doesn't exist these days without oil from the Persian Gulf.

I believe this calls for a Manhattan Project for this century. Tell me where to join up.

War Chaos + Movies!

From this AP report,

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had promised to crush the militias that have effectively ruled Basra for nearly three years.

Why is Bush running around proclaiming the brilliance of "THE SURGE" when the second largest city in Iraq has been run by a renegade militia for three years? How has the US allowed the main petroleum port in Iraq to be run by the Iraqi mafia and varying militias for three years? If "THE SURGE" was so successful (which it wasn't because it didn't achieve any of its goals), why didn't our hawks propose a "SURGE" in Basra. The answer is, of course, we're out of troops and if we extended tours, there may be a mutiny. Our coalition allies, the Brits, apparently turned the whole beehive over to the militias and retreated to their bases. God, what a clusterfuck.

Why is anyone surprised that war movies like "Stop-Loss" are tanking at the box office? We've seen nothing but war chaos for five years...maybe six or seven. Why would anyone go to see a movie about more war chaos. Movies are escapism. It takes a minimum ten years before people are willing to see movies about a failed war. Witness The Deer Hunter, or even later the first real portrayals of Vietnam, Platoon and Full Metal Jacket.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Another War Lie

In the last few weeks or so, it's become clear that "THE SURGE" may not be all that McCain/Bush made it out to be. General Petraues may not be the genius everyone thought.

The real reduction in violence was supplied by you and I, the American taxpayer, in the form of bribes. We payed off Sadr for a cease-fire, we paid off the Sunni's to stop the civil war and oppose the Iraqi formed al-Qaeda, and we've paid zillions to the Iraqi government which runs the Badr Brigades (and is pretty much run by Iran) the other main militia in Iraq.

So, like an episode from the Sopranos, we must have missed a payoff this week and people got pissed. What kind of money is it going to take to make these people stop fighting? How long will our tax money be taxed by Iraqi militias? I don't think that quagmire has ever been as appropriate as now.

What to do? Keep bribing? It's fucked. Back out? That's fucked too. We're fucked ten ways till Tuesday. Our bumbling ignoramus president brought about our downfall, and it appears that we will elect his step-brother.

McCain's rhetoric is wrong (retreat, and all that), but his basic principle, in my opnion, is right: we started all this this shit, regardless of right or wrong, and if we back out it's going to be anarchy (and the British retreat in Basra will serve as the object lesson). Al-Qaeda is our enemy. They were not in Iraq before the war but they are now. The only reason Sunnis are opposing them now is because were paying bribes. If we, and our bribes, leave, then they have a new safe-haven. We can shift troops to Afghanistan, but then Al-Qaeda will just go to Iraq. We're fucked of our own doing.

Anyone have any good solutions?

I read something very interesting the other day about the Iraq conflict that expresses just how motherfucked we are. I believe it was said by shitass number one, Ahmed Chalabi, who probably had more to do with getting us into this mess than we realize. He said something along the lines of this: your best friend is allied with your enemy, and your enemy is allied with your best friend.

To translate: He said something along the lines of this: your best friend (elected shiite Maliki government) is allied with your enemy (Iran) , and your enemy (Al-Qaeda) is allied with your best friend (Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt).



I went to Lambert's on White Settlement for lunch on Friday. It was great. I was with someone who hates Grady Spears with the white-hot passion of a thousand suns, and this person had nothing but compliments. I always thought a club sandwich was a club sandwich, but they've got something up there that absolutely transcends the description. I had a delicious prime-rib sandwich with havarti and horseradish, with some arugula. It was accompanied by some pretty delicious fries; as it happens they make all their fries, chips, and bread there from scratch.

I'd pretty much written of this location as cursed, when so many previous occupants have failed. These guys might have something. Parking is a bitch, so it's handy that they have a valet alternative. It's not terribly expensive at lunch however. The sandwiches are all under 10 bucks, and when coupled with a $2 iced tea is not that bad a deal for this quality. We didn't settle for iced teas, of course, and had four bottles from a very limited wine list. We also sampled all five items from the appetizer menu and all were deemed good. Corn muffins were abundant and tasty.

You should know, in case you order the queso as an appetizer, that the accompanying peppers are serranos, not jalapenos. One of the members of our party made this mistake and learned an invaluable lesson.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Reader Creativity Contest

A Special Award awaits the reader who can most creatively explain the following two sentences (source article here):

A scheme that trades one male status symbol for another has achieved a large rise in the number of men undergoing vasectomies in a bandit-ridden region of central India.

Shivpuri district in the state of Madhya Pradesh, an overpopulated area renowned for its machismo culture, has started to offer fast-tracked gun licences for those who agree to be sterilised.

Tactical vs. Strategic

In the current debate about the effectiveness of "THE SURGE" in Iraq, I think an important point is being missed. As anyone that's ever taken an management course knows, there's a big difference between tactical and strategic plans. GW Bush, our first MBA president, from Harvard no less, should know the difference:

Tactical thinking focuses on means and narrow ends, not global ends, and sees things through a relatively short time period. It is narrow in scope, and affects few functional areas.

Strategic thinking employs tactics. There is a parent-child relationship where a strategy seeks the end; and tactics provide the means to that end. Strategic thinking is broad and has a long time horizon.

The "end" that we are talking about is a stable Iraq with political reconciliation. The Bush folks have enunciated this end in many various ways throughout our five years of war, but with respect to "THE SURGE", they did what any proper businessperson would do. They established benchmarks and timetables (to evaluate the accomplishment of these benchmarks.) This is Management can't manage what you can't measure.

The tactics employed were a combination of military ("THE SURGE") financial assistance, and diplomatic efforts to effect accomplishment of 18 goals (the strategic "end"). All of this was beat to death in the press right after the 2007 SOTU speech with the promise being that we'd have concrete evidence of results in the early summer of that year.

Well, the deadline was extended into September (which might have got me fired as a project manager). And when Petraeus and Crocker reported back to the government in September, only a couple of the 18 goals that had been promised to the American taxpayers to be complete months before had been accomplished. September was six months ago and there is still very minor progress on those 18 goals that were layed out after the SOTU speech in January of 2007.
This can been seen only as a massive strategic failure.

Yet, the government and Republican nominee have been shouting from the hilltops about the success of "THE SURGE". Let me remind you that "THE SURGE" was but one tactic employed to achieve those 18 goals, two or three of which may have been accomplished. Other tactics were dimplomacy and financial assistance.

But yes, violence is down, and there has been an achievement of a narrow end. This narrow end was but one component for accomplishment of the strategic end. Reduce violence so that the government can achieve reconciliation. The politicians claim that "THE SURGE" has been a success. As more and more information filters out from the Iraqi morass, it seems the "financial assistance" may deserve more credit that "THE SURGE". I've heard more and more that the additional US troops have helped a little, but the bribes we've been paying to former militia are helping much more. All the while the US economy heads for recession. We're paying blood money to keep people peaceful. That does not sound like a lasting peace.

But yet again, the goalposts have been moved. Instead of admitting that the strategic end of the 18 goals declared in January 2007 has been a failure, we're being told that one tactic of the overall strategy worked. McCain has taken this as his clarion call for election. But the questionable success of one tactic does not make a strategic victory.

Suppose I were to introduce a new line of shoes. I had a marketing person with a brilliant campaign where people flocked to stores to check out the shoes. Yet when people tried the shoes on they were uncomfortable and did not buy them. The performance of the marketing person is superior (tactics), but the performance of the offering is terrible (strategy). (We could have paid them money to wear the shoes, but how long could we do that without going broke?)

Basically, John McCain and George Bush are running around telling everyone that "THE SURGE" worked, but we didn't sell any shoes.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


As I lifelong resident of Fort Worth, I was unfamiliar with the history of Pendery's. I just knew it was one of the best smelling stores I've ever entered and our ouside freezer is full of the familiar bags of spices and blends.

Pendery's is a spice merchant extraordinaire, specializing in chile blends. They have an excellent catalog, but that is no substitute for the retail store, which has been in FW for 140 years give-or-take in various locations. Check out this article to learn about their history. Or hit their website here.