Saturday, June 7, 2014

Palin, Fox, GOP Dishonors All US POWs By Slagging Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl

Sarah Palin, Fox News and the GOP have displayed truly stunning hypocrisy by politicizing the prisoner exchange that freed Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl after five years as a prisoner of the Taliban and attacking Bergdahl himself as a traitor. They've even attacked his family.

Sarah Palin has attacked Bowe Bergdalh personally yet again
Hiding behind her Facebook page,  Sarah Palin again slagged Sgt. Bowe Bergdalh, this time for having difficulties speaking English after not hearing a word of English during the five years he was held as a POW by the Taliban in Afghanistan. She suggested he use Rosetta Stone and learn to speak "KickAss." I refuse to link to Palin's page or promote her hash tag directly, but HuffPo has the story, including quotes from Palin's ridiculous hypocritical attack.
“Sympathizers now tell the media Bergdahl can't be held to account anytime soon because he can't be interviewed ... claiming he's forgotten how to speak English. Really?” Palin asked in a Facebook post Wednesday. “Then # Call 1-800-RosettaStone.”
Palin, and much of the GOP, have already convicted Bowe Bergdahl of disloyalty and desertion at the least and treason at the worst, despite the fact that not one of them knows the true circumstances of his disappearance or what he might or might not have said while a prisoner or whether any statements he made were a result of torture and the threat of death, tactics the Taliban is known to commonly use on prisoners and threats backed up by grisly executions, beheading is their preferred method, posted to YouTube. Some, including Fox contributors Ann Coulter and Ralph Peters, have even suggested that Bergdahl should be executed, though only one American has been executed for desertion since the Civil War.

Bob and Jani Bergdahl

The attacks don't stop with Sgt. Bergdahl. Fox News bashed Bowe's father, Robert Bergdahl, as well. Bill O'Reilly, Brian Kilmeade and other Foxers slammed the senior Bergdahl, saying that because of his long beard, "he looks like a Muslim." In fact, Robert Bergdahl and Bowe's mother Jani are conservative devout Christians who home schooled Bowe and his sister Sky. As a sign of solidarity with his imprisoned son, Robert Bergdahl swore to not shave until his son was returned to him, and for five years he kept that promise. For this patriotic act of honor the idiots at Fox have attacked him for purely partisan political reasons. The Fox Fux have so inflamed the GOP base that the Bergdahl family has received multiple death threats which the FBI is taking seriously...
William Facer, a spokesman for the FBI's Salt Lake City division, said Saturday in a statement: "The FBI continues to monitor the situation in Hailey, Idaho. We are working jointly with our state and local partners and taking each threat seriously."
Not to mention the hypocrisy of these guys with long beards lauded as GOP heroes...

Duck Dynasty Stars the Robertson Family
Apparently Palin, Fox and most of the GOP are ignorant of the fact that American POWs in Vietnam, like John McCain, often broke the US POW Code of Conduct under torture. McCain went much further than most by making disloyal statements, admitting to being a war criminal, condemning the US efforts in Vietnam and providing the VC with valuable military intelligence, all voluntarily and not as a result of torture. Why isn't the Quitta from Wasilla slagging her former running mate?  Most Vietnam POWs made varying degrees of disloyal statements, including many recorded confessions of guilt. Why is the Quitta from Wasilla not slagging them? All of the US sailors captured by North Korea in 1968 signed confessions of spying illegally. Why is the Quitta from Wasilla not slagging them?

Pueblo prisoners admit to illegal spying at a press conference in North Korea
It's not at all unusual for US POWs to be forced into making declarations of disloyalty. In fact, it's common. The military understand this. However, McCain's fellow POWs were particularity upset with McCain's actions. In his autobiography, McCain himself admits telling his VC captors soon after capture, "I'll give you military information if you will take me to the hospital." He did give valuable information and was taken to the hospital. The VC didn't know they had captured the son of the highest ranking Naval officer in Asia, Admiral John S. McCain, Sr. commander of Air Forces for Western Sea Frontier and the South Pacific Force, until McCain told them soon after his capture, in a bid to get special treatment. It worked. Unlike most American POWs, McCain did not endure years of torture at the hands of the VC. After that the VC referred to McCain as the "crown prince" of POWs and gave him special treatment while other POWs were tortured for years.

Phil Butler, who had known McCain since their Naval Academy days, says of him, "John allows the media to make him out to be the hero POW, which he knows is absolutely not true, to further his political goals." Air Force lieutenant colonel John Dramesi, a highly respected career officer who was imprisoned with McCain says of him, This business of my country before my life? Well, he (McCain) had that opportunity and failed miserably." Contrast McCain's behavior in captivity with real heroes like former GOP Senator Jerimiah Denton (R-AL), also a POW in Vitenam, famously blinked his eyes in Morse code during a forced admission recorded by the VC, spelling out "Torture." It is because of the valor of so many compared with the cowardice of McCain that so many former Vietnam POWs despise the man.

The GOP hypocrisy in this case, and particularly the nonsensical ranting of Sarah Plain and the stunning hypocrisy of John McCain, is obscene. America has always done whatever it takes to get back American POWs. Never has the alleged conduct of a POW been a consideration in repatriation. The credo for American troops is "Leave no man behind." Apparently the GOP would like to change this credo to "Leave no man behind, unless Barack Obama has secured his rescue, in which case, screw the disloyal traitor. Let him rot in a Taliban prison." McCain's hypocrisy is even more extreme. Not only was John McCain himself released as part of a prisoner exchange, but just a few months ago when asked about this specific hostage trade deal, trading five Taliban commanders for Bowe Bergdahl, he told CNN's Anderson Cooper...
“Obviously I’d have to know the details, but I would support ways of bringing [Bergdahl] home, and if exchange was one of them, I think that would be something I think we should seriously consider."
McCain, who's political career is littered with flip-flops of political expediency, claims his statement then and his condemnation now of the very same deal he previously supported are somehow perfectly consistent.

One final note. The one and only claim the GOP is making that has any merit is that Barack Obama did not notify them before negotiating a deal for Bergdahl's release, but even this claim is dubious. Putting aside the fact that this deal was widely reported in the media in 2012, senior Republicans, who now claim they were blindsided, knew about this specific deal as far back as 2011...
Obama administration officials first discussed with senior House Republicans the possibility of swapping five terrorism detainees from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in late November 2011, according to senior GOP aides. 
The possible prisoner exchange was discussed again during a briefing on Jan. 31,  2012, after senior House Republicans sent two letters to the Obama administration seeking more information on the possibility of the swap, said the aides, who were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. 
...the details of the Bergdahl prisoner exchange, including the release of five specific Taliban commanders, have been public since the spring of 2012.
Late last year, State Department negotiators put together a tentative deal in which five Taliban prisoners would be transferred from Cuba to house arrest in Qatar, where their families could join them. The administration discussed this specific deal with senior Republicans in Congress for YEARS. They moved when they did because the most recent video released by the Taliban showed a gaunt Bergdahl in obvious medical difficulty and a delay might have proved fatal.
Still from the most recent Taliban video shows a gaunt, unhealthy Bergdahl
If there is any one power on which the President of the United States stands on firm constitutional ground, it is the power of the Commander in Chief of all armed forces. The law requiring the president to inform Congress of any prisoner swap 20 days in advance is prima facia unconstitutional, and Obama said so in a singing statement at the time he signed the bill. The Constitution the GOP claims to love also specifically authorizes the president, and not Congress, to conduct foreign policy. The GOP sponsored law and the subsequent squealing is nothing more than smoke and mirrors to obscure a naked unconstitutional power grab.

Update: A retired Marine Corps officer tells me that it's highly unlikely that Bowe Bergdahl will ever face a court martial. Men who have served as POWs are almost never prosecuted. There will be an investigation, but almost certainly no court martial.

Friday, May 30, 2014

No, We're Not a Center-right Nation

No, we're not a center-right nation. That's a lie created and funded by the 1%. In point of fact, polling on the issues proves that we're center-left nation, and far to the left of the well financed dreams of the 1% and their bought and paid for minions in the GOP. On issue after issue the public is far to the left of the elites.

Below are the results a poll of polls commissioned by the Russel Sage Foundation, which has been exclusively dedicated to research in the social sciences since 1907.  The results clearly show a vast disconnect between the priorities of American elites, the 1%, and the majority of the American public. For the purposes of this poll, "elite" is defined as those at or near the top 1% of American wealth holders with an average income in excess of $1 million per year.

These results reflect an average of polling by a variety of leading pollsters, including Gallup, Pew and others. The contrasts between the views of the 1% and the views of the general public are truly startling. Our government is not representing we, the people. It's representing them, the 1%, who line the pockets of politicians with huge piles of sweet, sweet cash.

There is only one way to fight the influence of the 1%. Vote. Don't wait for 2016. Vote in the midterms. At this point it appears that it's a safe bet that Democrats will hold the Senate, especially as the most recent polling suggest an unexpected Democratic pick-up in Kentucky, where Allison Lundergren Grimes is leading Mitch McConnell (R), the GOP Senate Minority Leader. Ousting the Turtle Man would be a particularly sweet victory for Democrats in what appears to be a tough midterm election and would up the number the pick-ups the GOP needs to take control of the Senate to 7, which is highly unlikely.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Photos - First Look at the Wreckage

Here are the first before and after pictures. First up, this is just before being wheeled into the operating room looking surprisingly awake for 6am...

...and this is me shortly after waking up in the recovering room after more than eight hours of surgery and looking considerably less awake.

For the first part of the procedure they placed me on my back and entered through my abdomen. This picture was taken about a week after surgery. There are no visible stitches. Instead, the surgeon used self dissolving internal stitches and surgical glue, aka super glue. BTW, no I did not swallow a basketball. This swelling, known as distention, takes a while to go back down.

The next step was to close the incision in my abdomen, flip me over and work from the back. This image of the incision on my back was taken about a week after surgery. There are no stitches, instead, they used steri-strips. For scale, the tapes covering the steri-strips are just under one inch wide. A vacuum drain was attached through the hole to the right of the incision.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Are You A Starving Writer? How About A Free House in Detroit?

Okay, so this one isn't free. But plenty of others are.
There's a new program in Detroit that I totally don't want you to know about if you're a starving writer, but I'll tell you about it, anyway. WriteAHouse is a Detroit based community non-profit with the goal of rehabbing abandoned houses, one resource Detroit has plenty of, and giving them to writers. Free. No charge. Gratis.

Writers have to meet certain standards, like not being a violent felon or a total deadbeat. They also need to supply a short bio, a sample of their writing and a few paragraphs about why they deserve a free house in Detroit. They also have to agree to remain in Detroit for at least two years. WtieAHouse will lease the houses to selected writers. After two years, the writers get the deed.

I lived in Detroit for years. I went to college in Detroit. I was active in community affairs. Call me crazy, but I've been thinking of returning for some time. I am totally down with this. If you're interested, check out the WriteAHouse website, look at their pitch on crowd sourcing site IndieGoGo and follow them on Twitter (@WriteAHouse). Just remember, I got there first.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I'm Asking for Your Help

That's me during my last hospital stay
I've been debating this for some time, but necessity has forced my hand. I'm asking for help. I'm also asking that you share this with your friends who may prove willing to help. Here's my story...

Those of you who know me well know I've done many benefits over the years. With your help, over a nine year period the Coat Party benefits raised many tens of thousands of dollars in cash and thousands of warm coats for Austin's homeless. Many of you may also remember SteveFest, where, with your help, we raised thousands of dollars for Steve Marangi, a friend who was dying of terminal throat cancer. With your help, I was able to give Steve a stable place to live pay his medical expenses and care for him for the last year of his life.

We did all of this together through the power of micro donations. Some chose to give more, but most gave $5 or $10, and because there were many of us working together, we were able to do great things. In every case, 100% of the money went directly to the cause. Venues waved their normal fees. Many people worked for free. It's something that to this day I'm very proud to have been a part these events. It's now time for me to swallow that pride.

Today, I'm the one who needs help. I'm hoping to use that same power of many people giving a little to help me make it through what is proving to be the hardest time of my life. With your help, I can make it through this time and once again be in a position to help myself and others.

I've had number of orthopedic surgeries over the years - a dozen knee reconstructions, a reconstructed shoulder, a double spinal fusion - as well as a fractured pelvis that kept me down for over a year. In all of these cases I was lucky enough to be fully insured. For the last three years of this period I was on COBRA. Though it cost me around $900 per month, it was well worth it, even with significant deductibles and copays. Since COBRA expired, about 6 years ago, I haven't been able to get any kind of insurance at any price, due to so many pre-existing conditions.

Fast forward to today.

About seven months ago I had a bad fall and severely injured my lower back. I spent ten days in Seton Hospital. As a result I can't stand for more than a few minutes or walk more than a few yards at a time. As you might imagine, I'm in constant pain. The fix is series of three major surgeries that will fuse all five of my damaged lumbar vertebrae into one using metal rods, screws and plates, a total of about 20 hours on the operating table.

If all goes well, I'll spend about two weeks in the hospital, then a few more weeks at an inpatient rehab facility. Most of this will be paid for through the Medical Assistance Program (MAP), but I'll still have significant costs, not the least of which is rent, food and basic necessities. I haven't been able to work for the past year and won't be able to work again for another year or so. I've lost my home of twenty-two years. I've racked up debts I can't pay and face expenses I won't be able to pay any time soon. Worse, I've lost dear friends who had faith in me that I am now unable to repay. I've tried to get various benefits, but so far haven't been able to cut through the red tape. I have no income and no savings. And so I'm asking you for help.

I know there are many far worse off and far more deserving than I. I encourage you to help those people, also, not instead of. But if you can spare $5 or $10 or whatever you can give, even if it's only a dollar or two, know that every little bit helps. I don't want anyone to give more than they afford. If you're in a position to give more, I'm in no position to refuse. I pledge to you do my best to be worthy of your support now and in the future. My problems are ultimately my responsibility. I'm just asking for a little help. If you'd like to help, but prefer to do it in other ways, please email me and I'll provide you with the information you need.

My PayPal account is tied to my email address:

You can easily send money through PayPal through the following link. You use a PayPal account or a credit or debit card.

Thank you for listening to my story. With your help the future story will be much brighter. Please don't hesitate to contact me through Facebook or via email with any questions or comments you may have. To those can help and those who can't, thank you and God bless.


John Avignone

Friday, May 17, 2013

Obama Derangement Syndrome, Part Eleventy-Eleven - Former White House Marine Liaison Officer Speaks Out On Umbrellas

Have you seen the latest POUTRAGE to catch fire in Lower Wingnuttia? Even by wingnut standards, this one is pure bat crap.

Disgraced hack Tucker Carlson's crapfest, The Daily Caller, has dived to new depths of inane asshattery with a story accusing Barack Obama of... Having a Marine hold an umbrella during a press conference in the rain.
The commander in chief of the American armed forces today forced a violation of Marine Corps regulations, so he wouldn’t get wet.
 The horror!

Apparently Lower Wingnuttia is AGHAST at Obama's TYRANNICAL DISREGARD for the HONOR of the Marine Corp! This latest poutrage erupted over a photo of two Marines holding umbrellas for Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan during an outdoor joint press conference in the rain.

The image behind the latest wingnut poutrage
The Daily Caller claims it's against Marine regulations to hold an umbrella...
According to Marine Corps regulation MCO P1020.34F of the Marine Corps Uniform Regulations chapter 3, a male Marine is not allowed to carry an umbrella while in uniform. There is no provision in the Marine Corps uniform regulation guidelines that allows a male Marine to carry an umbrella.
This, of course, is complete and utter nonsense. Marines are not allowed to *carry* umbrellas in uniform, but there is no regulation that prohibits *holding* an umbrella for someone else.

But DC goes even further down The Stupid Hole. Not only do they completely misinterpret Marine regulations, they go on to claim that not even the President of the United States can order a Marine to hold an umbrella without the express permission of the Commandant of the Marine Corps.
Not even the President of the United States can request a Marine to carry an umbrella without the express consent of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, according to the Marine Corps Manual.
Apparently Tucker's wingnut loon writers and editors can't quite grasp the meaning of the term COMMANDER IN CHIEF.

I know someone with extensive experience with Marines holding umbrellas for dignitaries. My father was a captain in the Marines. He was stationed at 8th & I in Washington, DC, and served as a White House aid under Eisenhower. When I ran this story by him, he couldn't believe anyone would make a fuss over something so common.
"It's standard practice to hold umbrellas for visiting dignitaries and the president and vice president. We did whatever we could to make dignitaries comfortable."
Asked about the claim that the president can't order a Marine to hold an umbrella, he said...
"That's absurd. Of course he can. He's the Commander in Chief. He could order a Marine to stand at attention in his skivvies, if he wanted."
From 'Full Metal Jacket,' actual Marine drill instructor R. Lee Ermey runs drill in skivvies
So, there you have it, straight from the mouth of a Marine who was in charge of the White House Marine Corp detail. Like so much of the poutrage out of Lower Wingnuttia, the entire story is just one huge, steaming pile of Tucker.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Cheap Guy Tip #73 - Rack of Lamb Genghis Khan

Rack of Lamb Genghis Khan, as served at The Lark
Okay, so rack of lamb isn't exactly cheap. But it is delicious. For a special feast, it's hard to beat a rack of lamb. This rack recipe was the favorite dish of Genghis Khan and dates back more than 900 years. This version is from Marcus Haight, currently a professor at a prestigious cooking school. For 17 years, Marcus was the Chef de Cuisine at The Lark, a 4 star restaurant in Bloomfield Hills, MI. Before that, Marcus put in time at both Le Bec Fin and at Les Francais, with my mentor, Jean Banchet. For decades, Le Bec Fin and Le Francais have been considered by most experts to be the two best French restaurants in the US.

First up, Marcus' recipe exactly as he wrote it. After that, some of the secrets that take this dish from great to spectacular.

Rack of Lamb Genghis Khan - Serves 6

3 lamb rack (8 ribs each), trimmed, silverskin removed
1 cup Hoisin sauce
Lamb marinade

Place the lamb and marinade in a plastic bag, tie and place in refrigerator for 48 hours. Remove lamb from marinade and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before cooking. Brush with hoisin sauce. Place lamb on rack in shallow roasting pan and roast in a hot over (450 degrees) for 15-25 minutes for rare lamb, depending on the size of the racks, or longer for a greater degree of doneness. Let rest 6 to 7 minutes before carving.

Lamb Marinade

1 cup onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
3 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup honey
3 teaspoons curry powder
1.5 teaspoons cayenne pepper, ground fine
2 teaspoons Coleman's mustard powder
2 teaspoons black pepper, ground
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup water

Combine all ingredients

I don't like to mess too much with recipes that have been around for 900 years, but there are a few tips that can greatly improve this already great recipe. First off, forget the oven. You can't get the kind of carmelization that makes this dish work (see photo) in a home oven. By far the best way to cook this dish is over hardwood burned down to coals. Alternately, grill over a charcoal or gas grill with wood chips to add smoke flavor. For either method, a very hot covered grill with the racks placed for indirect heat work best. If you're cooking over an open pit, keep the racks to the sides and out of the direct heat. You want it hot, not flaming.

Grilling instead of roasting takes a little extra care. Keep a careful eye on your racks. Use an instant read thermometer to check for doneness. Lamb is best served rare to medium rare. For rare, pull the racks when the internal temperature in the middle reaches 120 degrees. For medium rare, 130. Medium (just a touch of pink), 140. Well done, don't even bother making this dish. It's a waste to overcook lamb.

After removing the racks from the grill, let rest about 10 minutes before carving. Separate the rib chops into individual rib portions, serve.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Schadefreude - Darrell Issa's Car Alarm Company Is Doomed

The convergence of automobiles and smart phone technology spells the end of the line for high end car alarm companies like Viper.
I was recommending a phone tracking/recovery app, AntiDT (Anti Droid Theft) to a friend on Facebook and I had an interesting thought. With smart phone technology being integrated into cars, and powerful free tracking/recovery apps like AntiDT available for both Android and iOS, there's no point in expensive car alarm systems like a Viper any more. This video shows what AntiDT can do...

Your smart phone equipped car will call your cell phone, text you and email you if it's stolen. You'll be able to track your car on your phone or computer in real time using GPS and cell tower data. Not only will you be able to remotely shut down your car, you'll be able to take a picture of the thief and even lock him in. With the exact location, the cops will be there in minutes. All for free.

Gosh, that's sure going to be tough on high end alarm makers like Viper. Probably drive 'em right out of business. What a shame. If I sound facetious, it's because the company that makes Viper alarms was founded by and is still owned by none other than wingnut PITA extraoridinaire Rep. Darrell Issa, R-CA, chair of the powerful House Oversight Committee and source of endless BS investigations based on every wacky wingnut conspiracy theory poutrage du jour.

Jeez, that's tough, Darrell. Bad luck. My heart's pumpin' pisswater for ya...

Update: A friend brought up a good point I didn't address in the post...

"There's a lot to be said for an alarm blaring to dissuade a thief who just smashed in your window to not be too thorough when rifling through your car looking for stuff to take."

Very true, but it's a virtual certainty that a new car equipped with smart phone technology will also have at least a basic, very loud, alarm. Combined with smart phone tech, this is still enough to seriously impact Viper's business. Sure, they can still sell alarms for older cars, but their bread and butter market - expensive new cars - goes away. I doubt they can survive on legacy cars only.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Draft Stephen Colbert For Pope!

Did you know any practicing Catholic in good standing can become Pope? Yep, it's true. It's also true that pressure has been mounting on the Catholic Church for some time, now, to select a Pontiff from the New World. That's why good friends of ours started a grass roots Facebook campaign to draft practicing Catholic in good standing Stephen Colbert to be the next Pope. From the draft Colbert page...


The time has come for a New World Pope. Draft Stephen Colbert for Pope!
It's a little known fact that any practicing Catholic in good standing is elligable to become Pope. It's also a little known fact that Stephen Colbert is a practiciing Catholic in good standing. It's also a fact that for decades, now, pressure has been mounting on the Church to select a Pope from the New World.

Given this convenient coincidence of facts, the answer is obvious. The time has come.

Draft Stephen Colbert for Pope!

Draft Stephen Colbert for Pope is not affiliated with Stephen Colbert, drafting, the Catholic Church or any other person, thing, idea or organization. 
We couldn't be more proud to be the first to bring you this exciting development. Who better than Stephen Colbert to become the next Pontiff?  Stop by today and "Like" this page, then pass it on to every upright ambulator you know! Acording to little known by-laws of the Vatican, if the draft Colbert page gets 1 million likes, Stephen automatically becomes the next Pope. As far as we know...