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Archive for November, 2011

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Last night's Republican Presidential debate on CNN

Last night’s Republican Presidential debate on CNN

I am waiting for the numbers to see how many people watched the Republican debates with Wolf Blitzer last night on CNN.  I think the timing was curious. Wouldn’t Friday night have been much better or even next Sunday? I watched most of it but admit I fell asleep just as it was ending, not because the debate was boring (I thought it was the most substantive so far), but because I was so tired from running to school for a Thanksgiving Assembly, working, then heading to Sam’s Club for a chafing dish,  to Trader Joe’s for a turkey that was not only defrosted but already brined and finally, to Jerry’s for their wonderful homemade pie crust that I love. Hello, men in charge?  A lot of women will be busy the Tuesday night before Thanksgiving!

There were so many curious things about this debate.  Not just the timing.  Why I wondered, didn’t they reference Paul Wolfowitz and tell us that he was a deputy Secretary of Defense under George W. Bush when he got up to ask a question about whether the U.S. can still afford foreign aid?  If the end game in the debates is to educate the public, then educate the public.  No one confuses a debate sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation with a town hall meeting where REAL people ask the questions, but if you have an insider like Wolfowitz at the mic, who not incidentally was a major architect of our engagement in Iraq, I think you are obligated to tell the audience who he is.

In terms of initial reactions and winner versus losers, I think the winner was Jon Huntsman with Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney tied for second.  There is no denying that Huntsman knows his stuff and as a former Ambassador to China, last night was his moment to shine.   Take the exchange between he and Romney over troop withdrawal in Afghanistan.  Romney is calling for a phased pull out while Huntsman believes we’ve achieved our goal of driving the Taliban from power and executing Osama bin Laden.  Huntsman stood up and stood out for questioning Romney, really forcefully at one point, whether we can afford to keep 100,000 troops in Afghanistan with our economy imploding at  home.

Huntsman  said, “Our biggest problem is right here at home. So I have to say that our biggest problem is right here at home. And you can see it on every street corner. It’s called joblessness. It’s called lack of opportunity. It’s called debt, that has become a national security problem in this country. And it’s also called a trust deficit, a Congress that nobody believes in anymore, an executive branch that has no leadership, institutions of power that we no longer believe in.”

Huntsman asked, “How can we have any effect on foreign policy abroad when we are so weak at home?”

“We have no choice,” Huntsman said. “We’ve got to get on our feet here domestically.” 

I thought the loser was Herman Cain.  He looked like he was visualizing post-it notes from a debate prep session when he repeatedly referred to Iran being “mountainous.”  (I can just see the notes cribbed from Wikipedia; Capital: Tehran, Official language: Persian, President: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Terrain: mountainous) The question was whether the U.S. would bomb Iran in support of a pre-emptive strike by the Israelis.   Repeatedly saying, “I would need to see a clear plan and be confident that we could win because the country is mountainous,” didn’t really cut it.  Huntsman did have the guts to say trying to get support from the UN for additional sanctions won’t work because 1) Iran already has the nukes and 2) we already know China and Russia aren’t going to support more sanctions.

By the way, I know it is suddenly hip to be a funny Republican, with Michelle Bachmann going on Jimmy Fallon and Huntsman doing Saturday Night Live, Romney,  is and always has been really funny.  I like his line last night when he chided Cain that, with Syria’s 7 or 8,000 tanks, maybe a “no drive zone” would be more effective than a “no fly zone” there.

Gingrich has emerged as a favorite of some moderate Republicans recently. He took the far right to task over immigration saying he would send illegal immigrants back who had arrived recently but isn’t going to break up families who have been here 20 or 30 years.  He further went out on a limb to distance himself from the neo-cons by suggesting the military can’t afford weapons systems that take 15 years to make and that yes, even the Pentagon’s budget needs some trimming.  Rick Perry put the big Texas hat on when he said Leon Panetta would resign if he were “a man of honor” over the recommendations he’s made to slash the Defense budget.

The next debate is Dec. 3 on Fox News with Mike Huckabee as moderator.

Click here for latest headlines as of 11/22

surging gingrich claims top spot in new gop poll/

disgust but no surprise at supercommittee failure

Peta Thanksgiving Ad targets Kids

Peta Thanksgiving Ad targets Kids

Has Peta gone too far? Comparing eating turkey to eating the family dog?  You decide.  And I wouldn’t recommend talking about this with young kids but for older kids, it could be a neat launching point for that burred line between advocacy and sensationalism. Check out this ABC News report :

Cranberry, caramel and almond tart

Cranberry, caramel and almond tart

This recipe, that I found on, was adapted by Maury Rubin, City Bakery. While it doesn’t sound easy, it does sound yummy!

Yields: 1 9-inch tart or 12 4-inch tartlets

13 tablespoons (1 stick plus 5 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 tablespoon heavy cream

1. Let the butter sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, until malleable.

2. Place the powdered sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer. Add the pieces of butter and toss to coat. Using a paddle attachment with a standing mixer, combine the sugar and butter at medium speed, until the sugar is no longer visible.

3. Add the egg yolk and combine until no longer visible.

4. Scrape down the butter off the sides of the bowl. Add half of the flour, then begin mixing again until the dough is crumbly. Add the remaining flour and then the cream and mix until the dough forms a sticky mass.

5. Flatten the dough into a thick pancake, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours before preparing to roll out the dough.

6. Lightly butter a 9-inch pastry ring (or fluted tart pan) and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a nonstick Silpat pad.

7. Once the dough has thoroughly chilled, cut it in half, then cut each piece in half lengthwise. Rotate the dough 90 degrees and repeat, until you have 16 equal pieces. Work quickly with the dough so that it remains chilled. Sprinkle your work surface with a thin layer of flour. Knead the pieces of dough together until it forms one new mass and shape it into a flattened ball. Flour a rolling pin and sprinkle flour again on the work surface underneath the dough. Roll out the dough into a circle one-eighth-inch thick.

8. To easily transfer the dough into the ring or tart pan, fold it in half gently, then in quarters. Move the folded dough to the tart ring or pan, with the point of the dough in the center, then unfold it, gently patting the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the ring. Trim the edges so that they are flush with the top of the ring. Dock the dough with a pastry docker or prick the dough all over with a fork.

9. Put the baking sheet and pastry ring into the freezer for 1 hour.

10. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the baking sheet and ring in the oven and bake 20 to 25 minutes or until the dough is lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature before filling.

Filling and assembly

1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into eight pieces
1 cup granulated sugar
1 3/4 cup frozen cranberries
2 cups unblanched sliced almonds

1. Keep (or preheat) the oven to 350 degrees. Measure the cream and butter into a saucepan and heat it over low heat. When the butter has melted completely, remove from heat.

2. To make the caramel, spread the sugar evenly in a perfectly dry, deep 10-inch skillet and place it over medium-low heat.

3. The sugar should turn straw-colored, then gold and then a nutty-brown caramel after about 10 minutes. If the sugar cooks unevenly, gently tilt or swirl the pan to evenly distribute the sugar. Remove from heat and slowly whisk the cream and butter into the sugar, which can splatter as the cream is added (long sleeves are a good precaution). If the caramel seizes, return it to the heat and continue to stir until it is smooth and creamy. Strain the caramel into a bowl and cool it for 30 minutes.

4. Stir the frozen cranberries and the almonds into the caramel and mix until all the fruit and nuts are coated. Spoon the filling into the partially baked tart dough mounding toward the center.

5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the juices and the caramel are bubbling slowly around the edges. Remove from the oven and let stand for 1 hour, then gently lift the tart ring off the pastry.

6. Carefully transfer the tart to a serving platter. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Click here for headlines as of 11/21

Democrats saying Obama should stand down so Hillary can run /

Major League Baseball player stabbed to death in Netherlands /

If you’re living check to check, check this out before Black Friday


The Mom Vivant / Ask Huguette Clark. It isn’t that hard to spend 170 million dollars.

How Huguette Clark, reclusive copper heiress, spent her fortune


It’s amazing how fast you can run through $170 million these days, all without leaving your hospital room.

Court documents filed in a legal battle over the $400 million estate of Huguette Clark shed light on how the reclusive and eccentric mining heiress–who died in May at 104 after spending the last 22 years of her life in a hospital–spent her fortune. Clark’s relatives–the descendants of her father, William Clark, a copper and banking tycoon and U.S. senator who was born before the Mexican War of 1840–are expected soon to challenge her will, which cut out her family entirely.

Among the revelations in the court documents, MSNBC reports:

• Since 1996, $170 million–or $1 million a month–was spent from Clark’s personal account or from an account controlled by her lawyer and accountant, who held legal power of attorney during that period. Both the attorney, Wallace Bock, and the accountant, Irving Kamsler, are reportedly being investigated by law enforcement for their handling of the fortune.

• Au Nain Bleu, a doll and toy shop in Paris, was paid $2.5 million between 1997 and 2006. A friend of Clark’s said her dolls were “her closest companions.”

• Theriault’s, an auctioneer of dolls, received $729,000 between 1997 and 2009.

• Clark paid a combined $60 million to the IRS and in New York state income taxes, since 1996.

• A charity that built a controversial security system for Jewish settlers in the West Bank received $1.85 million in donations. Bock’s daughter lives in the settlement protected by the system.

• Bock’s law firm received around $250,000 a year, and Kamsler around $90,000. If Clark’s will is allowed to stand, both men would receive much more–more than $8 million–as beneficiaries and as executors of the estate.

• Clark’s private nurse, Hadasah Peri, received a $5 million lump-sum payment, and around $131,000 a year.

• Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, where Clark lived even though for most of that time she wasn’t sick, received about $4.9 million since 1997, or around $1,000 a day.

• Clark’s closest friend, Suzanne Pierre, who served as her social secretary, received almost $12 million.

• Clark spent $3.75 million on taxes and co-op fees to maintain her unoccupied 15,000-square-foot Fifth Avenue apartment. She also paid more than $100,000 a year on property taxes for her New Canaan, Conn. country home.

Both Bock and Kamsler have declined to comment on their management of their accounts, but their representatives have said the men acted honorably in complying with Clark’s wishes.

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That is one

That is one “hot” hot potato! Or the debt deal that is being allowed to die.

I really don’t like to be cynical but this latest spiel around the debt deal has me wondering if both sides would rather duck the decision making all together and let the automatic cuts kick in so they can each hide for political cover.  After all, any cuts that come from the super committee would go into effect immediately.  Automatic cuts won’t kick in until 2013 or until after next year’s elections.  I’m not sure either side really wants to he holding that ball if the so called Hail Mary pass they are looking for comes to light between now and the super committee’s deadline this Wednesday.  Democrats don’t want to admit they took a whack at Medicare and Social Security.  Republicans don’t want to be blamed for enacting a national sales tax or allowing deep cuts in defense spending.  At least if the across the board cuts of 1.2 trillion dollars kick in, which they will if a compromise isn’t achieved by Wednesday, each side can claim to have held the torch for its core constituency.  Each side is afraid to ignite the base when I would argue they should be afraid to tick off the Moderates.  Next year is going to boil down to moderate voters, to the Republicans who voted for Obama because they believed he was a smarter Democrat who understood we can’t afford to alienate business with an unemployment rate of 9% or who voted for him because they wanted to be part of a historic moment. It’s going to boil down to conservative Democrats who have to admit things aren’t better, they’re worse.  Those conservative Democrats who believe in doing good but not at the expense of doing well are ripe for the picking right now.  They can’t afford their mortgages or the mandates the Obama administration has put on their businesses.  Funnily enough, this latest version of a moderate voter is only moderate in its ability to switch hit between both parties.  It’s their allegiance to the extremes that has been mitigated.  Their sentiments are anything but moderate.  They are mad.  Which is why Congress’ approval rating now matches the unemployment rate – 9%.  The cuts will kick in across the board.  The entitlement programs that are running out of money have to be addressed. Instead of blaming big business for our problems, we need to give the business community the confidence to create jobs.   The next President will be the guy or gal who has the nerve to say that and not the candidate who panders to the extremes.  Here’s to the candidate who speaks practically and not politically.

Defense panel leader vows to fight 500 billion in military cuts

What happens next if debt deal fails? 

This is a great article from the New York Times that compares the debt deal, that is slowly dying while Americans are conveniently distracted by Thanksgiving, to a round of fantasy football.   I would just be shocked if anyone involved found it enjoyable.


Is Pizza a vegetable?



An agriculture spending bill released by Congress earlier this week had a surprising nugget in it.  The bills asks the federal government to label a couple of teaspoons of pizza sauce as a full serving of vegetables.  Currently, a slice of pizza counts as one serving of vegetables. But that’s assuming there is a half cup of tomato sauce on the slice.  Food companies have spent more than 5 million dollars lobbying the government to lower its standards from a half cup of sauce, which is a lot to put on a single serving, to a few tablespoons.  Could be fun to ask your kids what they think.

Click here for latest headlines as of 11/17



80 is the new 65 when it comes to retirement