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83 posts from December 2006

December 31, 2006

Was Saddam's execution a sop to Shiite militas?

The cell phone video of Saddam's execution raises troubling questions. Was Saddam hanged by Shiite militamen? If so, was his s(p)eedy death a sop to Muqtada al-Sadr? Paul Hoosen of Progressive Values writes:

This new evidence strongly suggests that the Saddam execution was rushed through to satisfy this militia group and the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and that the normal path of justice in the "new" Iraq was deliberately avoided. Saddam had more trials pending on far more serious charges and also was facing civil charges in at least one lawsuit filed in the U.S. None of these important cases are likely to be heard except for the civil suit in the U.S. now.

It did seem odd that so many people in the death chamber were shouting "Muqtada!"

Feeding and the meter

Zebra Grazes on Garbage, originally uploaded by Thomas Hawk.

Today's FlickrFind.

December 30, 2006

Saddam spectacle: The gallows is the new aircraft carrier


What better way to say "Mission Accomplished" than to execute a vanquished enemy after a show trial?

As Josh Marshall says, "This whole endeavor, from the very start, has been about taking tawdry, cheap acts and dressing them up in a papier-mache grandeur -- phony victory celebrations, ersatz democratization, reconstruction headed up by toadies, con artists and grifters. And this is no different. Hanging Saddam is easy. It's a job, for once, that these folks can actually see through to completion. So this execution, ironically and pathetically, becomes a stand-in for the failures, incompetence and general betrayal of country on every other front that President Bush has brought us."

Executing Saddam Hussein was no more meaningful than pulling down the Saddam statue after the invasion. Hussein's trial and punishment could have been an opportunity to get Saddam's crimes on the record and administer real justice to a war criminal. Like every other opportunity in this war, the Americans managed to squander it.

Human Rights Watch, a group that has been lobbying to bring Saddam Hussein to justice for 15 years found published a 97-page report detailing the miscarriages of justice in Saddam's trial.

Giving Saddam Hussein an unfair trial is the equivalent of the cops planting evidence at the OJ crime scene. If you need to cheat to get a conviction against someone who committed as many crimes as Saddam, there's something very wrong with your justice system.

Saddam wasn't hanged for genocide against the Kurds, in fact, he wasn't even tried for those crimes against humanity. Instead, Saddam was executed for his role in a government-led purge following an assassination attempt in 1982. No doubt, the Americans wanted to make sure Saddam was executed on lesser charges before he could be tried for his larger crimes against humanity in which the United States and its allies were complicit.

Lefse redux

A couple of readers have asked for a primer on the making of lefse, the traditional Norwegian potato flat bread. There's no recipe, per se. Lefse is more of a praxis. Here are some tips.

1. Humintel. Since there's no recipe, you need to study with an experienced lefse-maker. If you don't have an elderly Scandinavian expert in your family, you'll have to cultivate sources this year in time for next year's baking season. Drop by the local Norse home, or stand a few rounds at the Sons of Norway. If you get really desperate, hang out at the Ikea cafeteria. (Just don't remind your new friends that Ikea is Swedish.)

2. Special equipment. A grooved lefse rolling pin, a lefse stick, several flat pans or griddles. Some people use a special lefse griddle appliance, but I don't know what the point of that gadget is. All you need are flat non-greasy cooking surfaces, preferably several of them. Lefse is all about the parallel processing.

3. Ingredients. Starchy potatoes, all-purpose flour, salt. Don't put anything else in your lefse. As my grandmother says, "Some people will put water in to get themselves out of a jam, but then they're really in trouble." Water makes the dough too sticky.

4. Setup. Seriously consider masking your kitchen, as you would for painting. There will be flour everywhere. Take all non-essential items off the counters before you start.

5. Peel as many potatoes as you think you'll need. Five or six large potatoes is probably a good start. Cut them into sixths. Add salt to taste. Boil/steam them in a covered pot until they are very tender. Drain them well. Let them stand until they are cool enough to handle. The potatoes should be so well-cooked that you can reduce them to a fluffy pile of starch with a fork, don't let them get gluey. Taste the potatoes, add more salt if desired.

6. Put the potatoes in the bowl of a standup mixer with the dough hook. With the mixer running on low-to-medium speed, gradually add the flour until you get a dough that looks stiff enough to roll out. This is where you need your experienced lefse-maker's advice. This year, it took about 2 parts potatoes to 3 parts flour to get a dough that we could roll out.

7. Divide the dough into manageable chunks. Shape these into logs on a floured work surface. These logs should be about the diameter of a tennis ball. You're going to slice off pieces of dough from the logs to roll out.

8. Heat up your flat cooking surfaces. Medium-low heat is about right. Don't grease the pans.

9. Slice off a piece of dough a little thicker than the palm of your hand. Dredge the piece in flour and roll it out to the thickness of a tortilla. My grandmother uses two rolling pins: An ordinary smooth rolling pin for the actual rolling and the traditional scored rolling pin for the final decorative pass on each side.

10. Slide your lefse stick to transfer the finished lefse to the hot griddle. Cook for a minute or two, then lift up the edge with the stick to see if it's turned golden brown yet. If not, give it a little more time. When you think it's ready, flip it over and cook the other side. The second side should take less time to cook than the first. If you notice bubbles forming in your lefse, smack them down with the stick. (This is fun.) Finally, transfer the finished lefse to a rack to cool.

11. Repeat steps 9 and 10 until you've cooked up all your dough. If you find you can't roll out the dough because it's too sticky, you may need to put the dough back in the mixer and add more flour. If a workable dough starts to get sticky, it may help to chill the dough for a few minutes before you resume rolling.

12. When the lefse are cool, transfer them to a cookie tin. Refrigerate them until ready to serve.

December 29, 2006

Freelance journalists fight Army subpoena

Two freelance reporters, one a well-known Iraq-based blogger, are fighting subpoenas to testify in the court martial trail of the first officer to refuse deployment to Iraq:

SAN FRANCISCO Two freelance journalists are fighting subpoenas by the Army to testify at a court-martial proceeding against a soldier who refused to go to Iraq.

The Army ordered Sarah Olson and Dahr Jamail to testify Jan. 4 against 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who is charged with missing troop movement and four counts of conduct unbecoming of an officer.

The conduct charges stem from interviews Watada gave to Olson and other reporters in which he criticized the Bush administration and the Iraq war. Jamail covered an August anti-war rally where Watada spoke. The Army wants the reporters to testify in order to verify the statements attributed to Watada in their stories.

The reporters claim the subpoenas threaten press freedoms. [AP}

You can read Jamail's Iraq blog here. Jamail's attorney won't say whether he plans to appear in court.

Drug warlord Mel Sembler drops Pumpgate charges

The former head of a chain of abusive drug treatment centers has dropped key civil charges against the man who tried to auction off Sembler's discarded penis pump on eBay.

Maia Szalavitz has the full story.

Maia is the author of Help At Any Cost, an outstanding book on the burgeoning "bootcamp" industry for troubled teens--a brutal and largely unregulated industry that Mel Sembler helped to pioneer with his "Straight, Inc." network of drug treatment programs.

Hockey Trivia

Hockey Trivia, originally uploaded by Lindsay Beyerstein.

Canadian holiday fun.

Liberal blogger fundraising for Iraq reporting

Terry Welch of the Nitpicker has big plans for 2007. Welch plans to upgrade the blog, move into podcasting, and take a reporting trip to Iraq or Afghanistan. (Welch is a veteran who served in Afghanistan.)

Welch is currently working on a series about writers who were right on Iraq. His latest interview subject is Paul Krugman.

Please help the Nitpicker go where Jonah Goldberg fears to tread.

December 28, 2006

She's not having seconds

Mom Kimchi Grimace, originally uploaded by Lindsay Beyerstein.

Another scene from the great chocolate-covered stuff taste-test. I believe Mom is sampling the red kimchi flavor.

Loren Samples Chocolate Kimchi