How to set a cake on fire

We have two New Year’s traditions – champagne (naturally) is the first and the second is to serve flaming cake.

Usually I buy a plum pudding, turn off the lights and pour flaming brandy over it. It’s fun to watch, but plum pudding tastes like a mushy fruitcake, and even gallons of hard sauce can’t make it edible, so this year I flamed a pound cake.

Most cakes will get spongy and soggy when the brandy is poured over them, but pound cake is solid enough to take it. It was a big success. My four year old nephew demanded that I ‘set the cake on fire’ before midnight, so he could see it. He loved watching the blue flames dance around the cake (but he thought the brandy tasted icky.)

Here’s how to set a cake on fire:

1 pound cake
about a tablespoon of sugar
¼ cup brandy or rum

Slice the pound cake and sprinkle the slices with sugar (the sugar will soften the taste of the alcohol)

Pour the brandy into a shallow pan and cook it over medium heat. The minute the brandy heats up to the point where small bubbles appear, turn off the heat, light a match and set the brandy on fire.

Call everyone into the kitchen. Turn out the lights.

Very slowly, pour the brandy over the cake slices.

Welcome 2003!

It should be a good year, according to Indian mystics and bootleg CD dealers.

While traveling last September I was in Penang, in Little India, looking for any new works by Talvin Singh. I walked into a shop that had loud Bollywood-type music blaring. The salesman’s English was good – he didn’t have any new CDs by Singh, but he had about 20 other selections that he insisted I listen to. As he put the CDs into the player, he asked where I was from.

“New Jersey” I said, and got the usual blank look. Jersey isn’t the most notable state in the Union. When I explained that I lived near New York, he nodded. “September 11th” he said. “A terrible thing.”

He leaned towards me, and whispered. “The muslims ..they give their children no freedom, they can’t let them go. They want to control their children, their families, they want to control everyone, tell us how to live. We..my people, your people, from America – we all have to work together to keep our freedoms. Right?”

He didn’t wait for me to agree, he kept talking, about Muslims in Malaysia, spiritual awareness, the music industry and the works of Baba. I walked out of the store with a pile of bootleg CDs, political advice, new meditation techniques – and a prediction.

As he was calculating the sale, he said ‘you know, September 11th – our mystics predicted that something like that would happen. 2001, they told us, would be a very bad year.

“2002, 2003, all the years after that should be good, very good for America. Everything should be fine” he said as he handed me my change. “Until 2010. That will also be a very bad year. ”

Are the mystics right? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Some holiday cheer

I was going to write another post criticizing Patty Murray, Trent Lott, and extremists in both parties, but I just spent a Christmas with family and I have to wonder – why waste time talking about extremists and other losers when there are so many good things to write about – like the people who made this Christmas great. For instance, there’s:

Grandma, who watched Lindbergh’s plane fly over Ireland back in 1929. She’s celebrating her birthday this week.

Uncle Patrick, a retired fireman, who spent most of his Christmas rescuing stranded motorists stuck on the steep, snowy hill in front of his house.

My husband, Bruce & my cousin Dennis, who helped Uncle Patrick push those cars up the hill. (and Bruce who and spent long hours driving us through rain and snow to visit relatives in Long Island.)

Mom, who kept us from getting lost, and who remembered to buy the kids chocolate Santas.

Dad, who repaired everything that was broken in our house.

Aunt Liz, who made a great dinner, as always.

My son, home from college, who is willing to admit that he enjoys spending time with family.

My daughter, who, despite the traffic and the hassle, is still young enough to love a white Christmas.

We’ll be doing more driving this week, going North to visit family in Upstate New York, where the snowstorm caused horrendous power outages and traffic jams (are we dumb or what?)

If I get stuck in a snowbank somewhere and can’t post, I’ll say it now – Happy Holidays and enjoy the New Year!

Signing off

I’ve been so Grinchy lately, picking on democrats and poor old Patty Murray. I must have garlic in my soul.

Of course, garlic, like the abuse of certain Senators, can be a good thing. But it is the holiday season, and I’ve got cookies to bake, presents to wrap and guests to feed, so it’s time to take a break.

The holidays can be tiring, but every year you discover something new. This year, I’ve discovered that a strong cup of Irish coffee & gingerbread cookies are a wonderful combination – something to remember for years to come.

Senator Patty Murray resigns

US Senator Patty Murray of Washington said today that she was resigning from office. This announcement was due to the strong response by Democratic leaders to statements Murray made while addressing a group of high school students in Columbia River High School in Vancouver, Wash. Senator Murphy told the students that America should follow the example of Osama bin Laden, who is popular around the world because he builds day care centers, health care facilities, roads and schools. She also told students that the United States does not do these things. When she asked students to consider alternatives to war, she threatened that – “the cost of waging war could result in cuts to domestic programs such as Pell grants for college students”

Democratic furor over her remarks grew, fanned when Representative Nancy Pelosi publicly rebuked Senator Patty. The Democratic Whip’s criticism, and the Democratic Party’s widely reported, if tacit, desire that Senator Patty step down helped to seal the her political fate. Senator Patty apologized repeatedly, but to no avail.

Republicans were also infuriated by her remarks. Former Senate Republican leader Trent Lott issued a public statement which said:

“Like all Americans, I was disturbed by Senator Murray’s comments. They were offensive, hurtful and wrong. Worst of all, they do not appear to be isolated remarks.”

“At a time when our country should stand as one, Senator Murray’s comments serve only to divide.”

“We must continue to be a nation where people are judged by the content of their character. Standing before a group of high school students, praising a man who has murdered thousands of American citizens, is wrong in so many ways. ”

“Americans deserve leaders who will stand up for their citizens and help our nation to move forward.”

Senator Tom Daschle expressed relief that Senator Patty had decided to step down. “She took the honorable course both for his country and for her party,” Mr. Daschle said in a statement issued by his office. Teaching students that we should emulate a mass murderer, threatening them with the loss of student aid if they support the war was an divisive and uninformed act. National unity is essential as we confront the many challenges both at home and abroad.”

…..

Yes, some of the post above is fiction. The Democrats have not criticized Senator Patty Murray in any way. Unfortunately, she is still in office.

But Senator Patty did make those comments about Osama bin Laden’s ‘efforts to help the poor.’ While lying to students about Osama’s generosity (and our lack of it), she neglected to mention that bin Laden’s vision of the perfect Islamic state in Afghanistan included the horrific repression of women, the slaying of the members of rival tribes by the thousands, and the traditional Sharia-law inspired hand-chopping, hanging, and soccer-field executions. Osama’s popularity grew among Islamists after Sept. 11th, and fell when the Taliban ran like rabbits for the Pakistani border.

How did women in Afghanistan respond to to the loss of their ‘benefactor,’ Osama bin Laden? They praised “the fumigation of the Taliban pestilence and their al-Qaeda carriers”

How would women in Afghanistan describe Senator Patty? The senator, who has received more than $90,000 in contributions from the Feminist organization Emily’s list, would probably be seen as one of the typical ‘mealy-mouthed’ western feminists who collude with Islamic fundamentalists.

I wonder how the high school students responded. My son told me that when the kids in his high school were forced to listen to stupid, uninformed speakers, they would put them on the spot, ask difficult questions just to see them sweat. I hope the kids in Columbia River gave Patty Murray hell.

What about the Democrats and the media? There has been a considerable conservative outcry – but CNN hasn’t even covered the story. If there has been any response from the Democrats, it’s been pretty quiet. What will they do? Will they defend her? Or will they deal with Murray as the Republicans dealt with Lott? Will there be outrage, will the Democrats condemn Senator Patty for her remarks? Will they give Senator Patty hell?

Waiting for the Democrats to respond….waiting.

Something tells me that I’ll be waiting a long time….

[Link to Senator Murray’s remarks courtesy of Little Green Footballs]

Yet more proof of Saudi support for terrorism

Terrorism isn’t an act of desperation fueled by a desire for revenge it’s a military tactic fueled by large sums of cash – large sums of Saudi cash. Joel Mowbray, writing for the National Review, has the details. The attack in Bali cost more than $1 million.

Seven Saudis — whom U.S. officials have asked allies to keep tabs on — are dubbed the “main individual sponsors of terrorism”:

Khalid bin Mahfouz (banker): Bin Mahfouz was the CEO of the National Commercial Bank (the first commercial bank in Saudi Arabia) until 1999 — when it was discovered in an audit that he had funneled around $100 million to his brother-in-law, Osama bin Laden. (Interesting historical fact: Bin Mahfouz paid over $200 million in fines in 1991 for misdeeds when he was COO of BCCI.)

Saleh Abdullah Kamel (banker): Kamel was the co-founder and large shareholder of Al Shamal Bank in Sudan, bin Laden’s bank of choice from 1983 onward. Kamel’s bank was used extensively for al Qaeda operations, according to trials stemming from the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings.

Abdullah Suleiman al Rajhi (banker): Al Rajhi is the CEO and founder of Al Rajhi Bank, which serves as a go-between for charities seeking to funnel money to al Qaeda.
Adel Abdul Jalil Batterjee (businessman): Batterjee is the founder of the Benevolence International Foundation — and its main financier.

Mohammed Hussein al Amoudi (businessman): Al Amoudi is the chairman of one of the largest conglomerates in the Kingdom, and he has partnered with bin Mahfouz on a number of oil-related ventures. He was the president of the Al Haramain Foundation in Sudan, which was shut down for its suspected involvement in the U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa.

Wael Hamza Julaidan (businessman): Julaidan is the chairman of the Muslim World League in Pakistan and of its financial arm, Rabita Trust. That, and he’s a cofounder of al Qaeda.
Yasin al Qadi (businessman): Al Qadi is an investor in several front companies, and he is the head of the Al Haramain Foundation.

The report principally covers the financial side of al Qaeda, if for no other reason than because money serves as the cornerstone of the terrorist network. The main al Qaeda operations of the last four years — including the U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa, 9/11, and the recent Bali bombings — cost a collective $1 million or more. Though the materials and logistics necessary to carry out the actual attacks may be inexpensive, the bulk of the money (some 90 percent) goes to cover the costs of infrastructure.

But the biggest expense to propagate the growth of radical Islam is not paid for directly by al Qaeda, but by Saudi Arabia: the madrassas that that churn out rabid young Islamic fundamentalists primed for jihad. If nothing else, Saudi Arabia’s continued insistence on fueling the spread of Wahhabism raises perhaps the ultimate question about whether the House of Saud is a friend or foe: “How can a war against terrorism succeed while the United States has excluded or preserved countries such as Saudi Arabia, which tolerates the emergence of fundamentalism, sometimes instrumentalized [its] goal, and today has become [its] sanctuary?”

The Saudis still have good friends in the State Department.

The good news is that Mowbray is no longer being threatened by State, and victims of 9/11 are suing the Saudis for billions. The bad news is that terrorism is still well-funded. Saudi money is still funding the growth of Islamic fundamentalism and the State Department is still on their side. More than a year after Sept. 11, nothing has changed.

How many people will die in the next Saudi-funded attack? How many people in the Saudi-funded State Department give a damn?

Passaic riverrun

Doing a random search, I found this fan site, sopranoland.com. They have closed-caption transcripts from the first and second seasons. They don’t read like screenplays, they read like poems – stream of consciousness. If James Joyce had grown up in Jersey, he could have written this…

“Hey! Put the heat up. Today! Oh, fuck! Fuck! What’s the matter? Spider. So, kill it. Uh-uh, you do it. Come here and kill the freakin’ thing. Come here. No way. No, c’mon. It was a leaf, you freakin’ idiot. Mister. Yeah. Some man here to see you. Who? The police. Be right back. Did you let them in the house? Warrant. Warrant. How do you say it in fuckin’ polish? Agent Harris. Who’s your friend? I’m detective Harold giardina. From the essex county task force. Well, I’m pleased to meet you. But if you don’t have a warrant, could you get the fuck out of my house ’cause I’m kind of busy. I can see that. Oh, you’re a comedian. Is that how you broke your nose? Tony, we could have phoned. We paid you the courtesy of a visit. We want you to come down to the station to talk. To talk. About Matthew Bevilaqua. Dad? Take the backboard out of the cabana. I’ll be down there in a couple of minutes. Look a lawyer up, come in one on one, it’s your call. Just name a time at your convenience. On your way out, you think you can roll the garbages down the hill? Tomorrow is pick up day…”

“…If they had enough to pinch you for, there’d be bars between us right as we speak. So, why do they want me to go down there? Lock you into a story, any story. So, later at trial, any contradiction’ll sink you. Are we gonna go? Did you say you’d go? Please. Alright. Procrastinate. Let me get our ducks in a row. In the meantime, keep your cool and go the speed limit. Don’t give them an in. What’d I just say? Don’t give them an in. Are you alright, tony? This is some bad shit here. What’s up, anthony? How did this happen? Mid-life crisis? You can talk to me..”

“…(Carmela) the mothers last year said we should end senior night at sunrise at long beach island. That way they can dance, they’ll do the scavenger hunt and the liquor stores’ll be closed. We count noses. Yeah, okay. Jesus, is that the time? I’m gonna barely get natalie to tap. Chris, need a ride? No, my brother’s coming to pick me up. Eric took my car to a fencing meet. Alright, next week, my house. We’ll tie up the loose ends…”

Crickey!

Conservation and the preservation of animal habitats have been used by the western elites for years to chase indigenous people off their own land in Africa. Guardian writer George Monibot doesn’t blame conservationists for this tragedy – instead, he blames nature programs. According to Monibot, these programs sell us a lie of unspoiled wilderness – and that lie has destroyed lives. As a result, TV addicted tourists pour into African countries, demanding that natives be chased off their land.

According to George, Sir David Attenborough’s lies have caused major damage. Does this also mean that the Discovery Channel and Steve Irwin, the Australian snake & crocodile handler, are also to blame? Whoo – crikey!

As usual, Monibot is full of it. Yes, western influence is to blame. First, western colonists murdered and ‘resettled’ the native people – now western eco-colonists are working to preserve lion habitats in the Serengeti. Driving around the unspoiled areas in their land rovers, living out scenes from ‘white mischief’, these ‘conservationists’ profit at the expense of tribes like the Masai, whose lives and traditions are being destroyed.

George Monibot, shares the eco-colonist’s belief that poverty is good for the native people, and that wealth and consumption leads to depression. Of course, he doesn’t blame the eco-colonists for anything. He doesn’t blame the environmentalists’ ideal, that all animals should live within pristine sanctuaries for the situation. He doesn’t blame the greens’ condemnation of hunting, even by native tribes, for the problem. Instead, he targets Sir Attenborough. The article has to be read to be believed. Unfortunately, Monibot is no expert at spin – this silly attempt to misplace the blame falls flat.

For some sanity, here are the voices of the Masai, who don’t share Monibot’s concerns, and who have absolutely no grudges against Sir David.

..and a story of a guardian of the lions who might have been eaten by one of his charges – if the Masai hadn’t intervened.

Defending the Sauds after 9/11 | Richard Cohen in the Washington Post

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Saudi Switcheroo

Saudi Arabia, the home office of oil and a key American ally in the Middle East, is being bashed with abandon. In right-wing circles, there is a palpable hankering for the overthrow of the ruling House of Saud or, at the least, for treating the kingdom as a pariah state — maybe not part of the axis of evil but more problem than solution. Just what and who will replace the ruling family is not mentioned. It just could be an anti-American regime, something like Iran’s.

In the United States, Saudi-bashing has reached a ludicrous stage. A casual newspaper reader would be forgiven for concluding that somehow Princess Haifa al-Faisal, the wife of the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar, passed money to two of the 9/11 terrorists. But her link to them turns out to be so tenuous, so virtually nonexistent, that it amounts to a parody of guilt by association.

For the record, here’s what happened. It appears that Princess Haifa contributed money to a Saudi woman in California who said she needed funds for medical services. Some of that money may have been passed to a Saudi man who, in turn, may have helped two of the 9/11 terrorists rent an apartment in San Diego. Put the local grocery store on the list too. It may have extended the two Saudis some credit.

Yet from Congress and the media came an outcry that set the Saudis back on their heels. It seemed not to matter that for Princess Haifa to have knowingly aided the terrorists, she would be committing suicide by checkbook. The 15 terrorists of Saudi nationality were the sworn enemies of her family. (Her father was the late king.) Prince Bandar himself could be the poster boy for everything the terrorists hate — a cosmopolitan, cigar-smoking, sybaritic downhill skier who, for a time, effectively moved the Saudi embassy to Aspen. Ain’t no way Bandar is going to give a nickel to anyone who’s going to take away his Cohibas.

The current anti-Saudi frenzy is just the latest example of Congress and the federal bureaucracy doing their irresponsible thing — and the media merely taking it all down. It happened not too long ago with China. You will remember how serious it was — a downright threat to the American way of life — that Bill Clinton’s reelection campaign had gotten some money from people in China. You would think Clinton had sold the Washington Monument to Beijing.

You will remember, too, that dangerous, pernicious spy, Wen Ho Lee, a scientist at Los Alamos, the top-secret weapons lab. He had given America’s most valuable nuclear secrets — the “crown jewels,” they were called — to the Chinese. Yet in the end, Lee was never tried for espionage — and, on second thought, maybe China did not have the crown jewels after all. Sorry.

As with China, it’s downright impossible to say anything nice about Saudi Arabia. It’s an authoritarian regime. Its human rights record is abysmal. It has no freedom of religion. It treats women abominably. It punishes criminals with amputations and beheadings. It sanctions anti-Semitism under the guise of anti-Zionism. The government is sometimes cooperative, sometimes not, in assisting the United States in fighting terrorism. Some wealthy — as well as ordinary — Saudis have helped fund Islamic radical organizations, including al Qaeda. Osama bin Laden himself is a Saudi.

But it is what it is: a feudal society feeling its way into modernity. Its government is the product of its culture — not something imposed from elsewhere. If it is reformed too fast — and it is reforming a bit — it could go the way of Iran (remember the shah?) or Iraq (remember the king?). Whatever happens, it’s not going to be a democracy. There are, with the exception of the so-called Zionist entity, none of those in the Middle East. Reform, as Louis XVI found out, can cost you your head.

The current impatience with Saudi Arabia, the compulsion to somehow hold it accountable for terrorism worldwide and, in particular, for the events of Sept. 11, 2001, emits the ugly scent of intolerance — both cultural and religious. The Saudis have much to answer for, but in the vitriol of the criticism and the refusal to make distinctions (Princess Haifa, for crying out loud!), so do some others.