November 2013 archive

The Agreement with Iran: How the US Finally Got There

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The agreement reached early Sunday morning in Switzerland with Iran over its nuclear program is nothing short of historic. It will expand inspections of nuclear sites and loosen some of the sanctions, worth some $7 billion to Iran. It also signals a shift in American foreign relations from military might to diplomacy, something that candidate Barack Obama had said he was going to do.

(T)he flurry of diplomatic activity reflects the definitive end of the post-Sept. 11 world, dominated by two major wars and a battle against Islamic terrorism that drew the United States into Afghanistan and still keeps its Predator drones flying over Pakistan and Yemen.

But it also reflects a broader scaling-back of the use of American muscle, not least in the Middle East, as well as a willingness to deal with foreign governments as they are rather than to push for new leaders that better embody American values. “Regime change,” in Iran or even Syria, is out; cutting deals with former adversaries is in.

For Mr. Obama, the shift to diplomacy fulfills a campaign pledge from 2008 that he would stretch out a hand to America’s enemies and speak to any foreign leader without preconditions. But it will also subject him to considerable political risks, as the protests about the Iran deal from Capitol Hill and allies in the Middle East attest.

“We’re testing diplomacy; we’re not resorting immediately to military conflict,” Mr. Obama said, defending the Iran deal on Monday in San Francisco. “Tough talk and bluster may be the easy thing to do politically,” he said earlier that day, “but it’s not the right thing for our security.”

The deal has been the reactions have been hailed by many as good move for the region and the world but it has it’s critics on both sides of the political aisle.

University of Michigan Mideast scholar Juan Cole argues on his blog, Informed Comment, that “the decade-long Neoconservative plot to take the United States to war against Iran appears to have been foiled” by the deal. Unsurprisingly, congressional Iran hawks on both sides of the aisle aren’t pleased, according to Bernie Becker at The Hill. Critics accuse the administration of “capitulation,” which The Daily Beast‘s Peter Beinhart says is a gross misreading of history. Siobhan Gorman reports for The Wall Street Journal that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has indicated that Congress may try to impose even more sanctions, which the White House calls a path to war. [..]

Saeed Kamali Dehghan reports for The Guardian that the Iranian public appears to be very happy about the deal. Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu is outraged by the deal, but Israeli journalist Gershom Gorenberg writes in The American Prospect that his reaction says more about him than the deal itself. And at 972 Magazine, Larry Derfner notes that the Israeli security community is a lot more optimistic about the deal than the country’s elected officials. The BBC taps its extensive network of reporters to bring mixed reactions from around the region. And Mark Landler reports for The New York Times that the deal could “open the door” to diplomatic solutions of other regional issues.

As Juan Cole points in his article at Informed Consent, the agreement is actually an agreement to negotiate and build confidence between all the parties for the hard bargaining to come. It also is a good history of how we got from post 9/11 to now.

In 2003, the Neocon chickenhawks, most of whom had never worn a uniform or had a parent who did, joked that “everyone wants to go to Baghdad; real men want to go to Tehran.” When people have to talk about being “real men,” it is a pretty good sign that they are 98-pound weaklings.

The “everyone” who wanted to go to Baghdad was actually just the Neocons and their fellow travelers. Most of the latter were hoodwinked by the Neocon/Cheney misinformation campaign blaming Saddam Hussein of Iraq for 9/11. A majority of Democratic representatives in the lower house of Congress voted against the idea of going to war. The Iraq War, trumped up on false pretenses and mainly to protect the militant right wing in Israel from having a credible military rival in the region and to put Iraqi petroleum on the market to weaken Saudi Arabia, cost the United States nearly 5000 troops, hundreds more Veterans working as contractors, and probably $3 or $4 trillion- money we do not have since our economy has collapsed and hasn’t recovered except for wealthy stockholders. Perhaps George W. Bush could paint for us some dollars so that we can remember what they used to look like when we had them in our pockets instead of his billionaire friends (many of them war profiteers) having them in theirs. [..]

The irony is that in early 2003, the reformist Iranian government of then-President Mohammad Khatami had sent over to the US a wide-ranging proposal for peace. After all, Baathist Iraq was Iran’s deadliest enemy. It had invaded Iran in 1980 and fought an 8-year aggressive war in hopes of taking Iranian territory and stealing its oil resources. Now the US was about to overthrow Iran’s nemesis. Wouldn’t it make sense for Washington and Tehran to ally? Khatami put everything on the table, even an end to hostilities with Israel.

The Neoconservatives threw the Iranian proposal in the trash heap and mobilized to make sure there was no rapprochement with Iran. David Frum, Bush’s speech-writer, consulted with eminence grise Richard Perle (then on a Pentagon oversight board) and Irv Lewis “Scooter” Libby (vice presidential felon Richard Bruce Cheney’s chief of staff), and they had already inserted into Bush’s 2002 State of the Union speech the phrase the “axis of evil,” grouping Iran with Iraq and North Korea. Iran had had sympathy demonstrations for the US after 9/11, and, being a Shiite power, feared and hated al-Qaeda (Sunni extremists) as much as Washington did. But the Neoconservatives did not want a US-Iran alliance against al-Qaeda or against Saddam Hussein. Being diplomatic serial killers, they saw Iran rather as their next victim.

In many ways, Washington politics is still stuck in that neoconservative world.

MSNBC’s All In host Chris Hayes discusses the agreement with several guests  Iranian-American journalist and author, Hooman Majd, Ambassador Christopher Hill and Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY).

In another segment, Chris and his guest Matt Duss, Middle East policy analyst at the Center for American Progress, discuss how diplomacy with Iran is just the latest blow to the neoconservatives.

When George W. Bush was appointed as president in 2001, there was a moderate government in Iran. If it had not been for the Supreme Court, this would have been resolved 10 years ago and so many would not have needlessly died.

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Happy Holiday Celebrating the Massacre of the Indigenous People of North America.  I hope that you and your family and friends are happy and safe with plenty to eat and be thankful for.

On This Day In History November 28

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

November 28 is the 332nd day of the year (333rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 33 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1970, George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” is released.

Late Night Karaoke

Thanksgiving and Hanukkah with Stephen Colbert

Guess Who’s Coming to Thanksgiving Dinner?

Stephen’s DVD allows every family to experience the joy of having him as a guest of honor at Thanksgiving.  

5 x Five – Colbert Holidays: Thanksgiving

Stephen celebrates Thanksgiving by drawing Nancy Pelosi hand turkeys, cooking with Martha Stewart and pardoning a turkey.

5 x Five – Colbert Holidays: Hanukkah

Stephen celebrates Hanukkah because he has a lot of Jewish friends, and he doesn’t care who knows it.  

Have a happy, health and safe holiday, everyone.

What’s Cooking: Don’t Throw That Turkey Carcass Out

Republished and edited from November 25, 2010 for obvious timely reasons.

I know by tomorrow tonight you will be sick if looking at the remnants of dinner, especially that turkey carcass but you aren’t done with it yet. I’m going to walk you through making turkey stock.

First you will need a big pot, I mean big like the one you use to cook spaghetti big, at least big enough to hold the turkey carcass and cover it wiht water. Mmmm, say about 8 quarts big. I know you have one somewhere.

Next your going to peel an onion, slicing off the top but leaving the stem part intact. Cut it in half through the stem. Gather some whole carrots and a few celery stalks (don’t cut off the leaves that’s where the most flavor is). Peel some garlic, as much as you’d like (we like a lot) but at least two cloves, leaving it whole. Take some of the herbs that you used to season the turkey with and three or four bay leaves and set it aside in a bowl for a minute.

Now, put the turkey in the empty pot to make sure it fits. If it doesn’t you have a couple of  choices the easiest of which is to cut the carcass into sections so it fits into the pot you have. Now that it fits, put it on the stove and fill it with cold water using a pitcher (this gets heavy that’s why you’re doing it this way), covering the turkey . Add all the veggies, cover and bring to a full boil. Turn down the heat and let it simmer for about 3 or 4 hours, stirring occasionally and scraping the loose meat off the bones.

With most of the meat off the bones, remove the bones with a large slotted spoon or scoop and discard the bones. If it’s cold enough out side where you are, put the pot outside to cool. If it’s cold enough the fat which will float to the top will solidify and can be easily removed with a spatula.

Now strain the stock through a sieve lined with cheese cloth. Discard all those vegetables, the flavor is now all in the stock. Add new vegetables; chopped carrots, cubed potatoes, thinly sliced celery, soup greens such as kale, collards, chopped savoy cabbage or escarole, sliced onions, fresh herbs, and last but not least, pasta.

If you have a lot of stock, it can be frozen. I save the pint and quart plastic containers from the Chinese take out. They are also useful to put chicken and meat bones so my talented cats can’t get into them.  Bones are not good for kitties.

The stock is also great for making Risotto with Wild Mushrooms. You’ll need

* about 8 cups of stock. If you don’t have enough turkey from your stock, College Inn makes a very good Turkey broth but it won’t be as good as yours.

* 2 cups of Risotto or Arborio Rice

* about 3 tbsp of Olive Oil

* 3 tablespoons of butter, unsalted

* 1 pound of fresh wild mushrooms such as portobella, crimini (baby portabella) or shiitake. I like shiitake best but usually use half and half. The mushrooms should be cleaned with a soft paper towel or soft brush.

(I have a soft brush just for mushrooms. I also have a truffle slicer. 😉 )

* 2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves, chopped, or 1 tbsp dried

* 2 tablespoons fresh flat leaf (Italian) parsley, the other parsley, curly, is very rarely used in cooking. Its mostly a garnish.

* 2 large shallots chopped or a small onion

* 2 cloves of garlic, chopped.

* 1/2 cup dry white wine, something you would drink with the risotto.

* 2 tablespoons of fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the broth in a sauce pan and keep it warm over low heat.

Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet and add the garlic. Fry until it just begins to color, then add the mushrooms and tarragon. Season to taste with salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat two tablespoons butter in a separate skillet. Soften the shallots in the butter. Add the rice and saute for a couple of minutes, stirring, so the rice becomes coated with the butter. Add the wine and bring to a boil. When it has evaporated, add one-half cup of the hot chicken stock.

Keep adding the hot broth, one-half cup at a time, to the rice. Continue until the rice has absorbed nearly all the liquid. The rice is done when it is creamy, but al dente.

Stir in the remaining butter, the mushrooms and the Parmigiano Reggiano. Mix gently, garnish with a few leaves of tarragon and serve.

Bon Appétit!

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On This Day In History November 27

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

November 27 is the 331st day of the year (332nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 34 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1703, a freak storm over England, that had begun around November 14, peaks.

The unusual weather began on November 14 as strong winds from the Atlantic Ocean battered the south of Britain and Wales. Many homes and other buildings were damaged by the pounding winds, but the hurricane-like storm only began doing serious damage on November 26. With winds estimated at over 80 miles per hour, bricks were blown from some buildings and embedded in others. Wood beams, separated from buildings, flew through the air and killed hundreds across the south of the country. Towns such as Plymouth, Hull, Cowes, Portsmouth and Bristol were devastated.

However, the death toll really mounted when 300 Royal Navy ships anchored off the country’s southern coast-with 8,000 sailors on board-were lost. The Eddystone Lighthouse, built on a rock outcropping 14 miles from Plymouth, was felled by the storm. All of its residents, including its designer, Henry Winstanley, were killed. Huge waves on the Thames River sent water six feet higher than ever before recorded near London. More than 5,000 homes along the river were destroyed.

Eddystone Lighthouse is on the treacherous Eddystone Rocks, 9 statute miles (14 kilometres) south west of Rame Head, United Kingdom. While Rame Head is in Cornwall, the rocks are in Devon.

The current structure is the fourth lighthouse to be built on the site. The first and second were destroyed. The third, also known as Smeaton’s Tower, is the best known because of its influence on lighthouse design and its importance in the development of concrete for building. Its upper portions have been re-erected in Plymouth as a monument.

The first lighthouse on Eddystone Rocks (first picture above) was an octagonal wooden structure built by Henry Winstanley. Construction started in 1696 and the light was lit on 14 November 1698. During construction, a French privateer took Winstanley prisoner, causing Louis XIV to order his release with the words “France is at war with England, not with humanity”.

The lighthouse survived its first winter but was in need of repair, and was subsequently changed to a dodecagonal (12 sided) stone clad exterior on a timber framed construction with an Octagonal top section as can be clearly seen in the later drawings or paintings, one of which is to the left. This gives rise to the claims that there have been five lighthouses on Eddystone Rock. Winstanley’s tower lasted until the Great Storm of 1703 erased almost all trace on 27 November. Winstanley was on the lighthouse, completing additions to the structure. No trace was found of him.

Late Night Karaoke

What’s Cooking: Fried Turkey

For the more daring and adventurous cooks

Republished from November 23, 2010 for obvious timely reasons.

By now you should have defrosted that frozen turkey and it should be resting comfortably in the back of you refrigerator. If you haven’t, getteth your butt to the grocery store and buy a fresh one because even if you start defrosting today, your bird might not be defrosted in time. I discussed the how to cook your bird to perfection in a conventional oven, now for a method that’s a little daring, deep frying.

Alton Brown, is one of my favorite TV cooks. Good Eats funny and informative, plus, his recipes are easy and edible. I’ve done fried turkey and while I don’t recommend it for health reasons, once a year probably wont hurt. Alton’s “how to” videos are a must watch on safety tips, how to choose a turkey fryer, equipment and, finally, cooking directions. If you decide to try this, please follow all directions carefully and take all the safety precautions.

Below the fold are recipes and more safety tips.

Bon Apetite



What’s Cooking: Carving the Bird

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Now that we are all geared up to cook the turkey to a turn. Forget the Saturday Evening Post pictures of Dad carving the bird at the table, that’s for magazines and movies. Trust me, it makes a mess and there is hardly enough room at the dining table, not to mention the danger of doing this on a slippery platter.

To start you need a sharp carving knife and a sturdy cutting board on a large surface. The New York Times invited Ray Venezia, master butcher and Fairway Market meat consultant, who demonstrates how to carve and plate the turkey.

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