Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Architecture Wednesday: The Berwyn Mill

There are so many styles of architecture that i love, but I am especially fond of any architecture who can take an old structure--church, factory, water pumping station--and turn it into a beautiful home.
That's why I love The Berwyn Mill, a 19th-century water mill, located in Corwen, North Wales, that was transformed into a modern residence.
It shows it's age, yet it's very modern on the inside.
The DMD Group immaculately restored the 18th Century water mill with an extensive use of timber throughout the property which was a deliberate design concept to reflect the buildings original use as a working sawmill. The Mill occupies an idyllic rural position amongst 3 acres of terraced woodland, and features a landscaped garden and three peaceful woodland walks. Completing the setting, a tributary of the River Dee flows through the grounds forming a series of cascading waterfalls. 
It's rough; it's sleek; and it's currently for sale for $1.0 million.


In Baton Rouge Consensual Gay Sex Can Still Get You Arrested

Sid Gautreaux
You know how folks make jokes about the South and how backwards it all seems? Turns out, sometimes, hell, a lot of the time, it’s true. Like this story from down in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where it appears that the Sheriff’s Office has been conducting stings to find men willing to have consensual gay sex and then arresting them for, ahem, crimes against nature.

Now, there isn’t a hint that any money changed hands, so these crimes cannot be considered prostitution; these are men, adult men, consenting to have sex with other adult men in the privacy of one of the men’s homes. And yet, for the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office, that warrants arrest after arrest; at least a dozen since 2011, with the most recent occurring about two weeks ago.

These men arrested for the crimes of consensual sex, have never been prosecuted because they have committed no crime; consensual sex between two adults, two adult males, is not a crime, even in Louisiana. But still, men are being arrested and jailed and paying fines for doing nothing wrong.  

Casey Rayborn Hicks, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Office, released a statement, and she and the department clearly do not realize that they aren’t arresting criminals:
“This is a law that is currently on the Louisiana books, and the sheriff is charged with enforcing the laws passed by our Louisiana Legislature. Whether the law is valid is something for the courts to determine, but the sheriff will enforce the laws that are enacted. … The issue here is not the nature of the relationship but the location.
These are not bars. These are parks. These are family environments. Manchac Park, where the stings have largely taken place, has been known as a place where “cruising” for anonymous sex takes place, but neither talking about sex nor agreeing to sex are violations of obscenity laws.”
But the men are not having sex in the park, or in any other public place; after being propositioned by the undercover officers, the men go to their own homes, and that is where they are arrested. Apparently just having sex violates the law in Louisiana.

Except it’s not supposed to violate the law. When Lawrence v Texas—a landmark decision by the Supreme Court striking down sodomy laws in Texas, and thirteen other states, including Louisiana—then-Louisiana Attorney General Richard Ieyoub issued a statement asserting that the state’s anti-sodomy law could not be enforced, except in cases of prostitution and bestiality.

And yet, in backwards Louisiana the law stayed on the books for a sheriff, Sid Gautreaux,  who has nothing better to do than to troll parks asking men to have sex with undercover officers, to use as a weapon. And is now claiming ignorance as his excuse, with his office releasing a new statement: 
"To our knowledge, the Sheriff’s office was never contacted or told that the law was not enforceable or prosecutable."
And that lame explanation, the excuse of ignorance of the law, isn’t sitting too well with at least one Louisiana lawmaker, Baton Rouge Metro Councilman John Delgado:
“Does [Gautreaux] know that slavery is no longer around? Does he know that we have cars and no longer horse and buggies?”
Delgado is demanding apologies be issued to the 12 men who were arrested.

Gautreaux's office is now saying they will no longer enforce the out-dated law, and will work with state legislators to have it removed from the books. But that doesn’t explain the hows and whys that the sheriff’s office targeted these men, nor does it explain their strange explanation for doing so:
“The Sheriff’s Office has not, nor will it ever, set out with the intent to target or embarrass any part of our law-abiding community. Our goal is to Protect and Serve the public. When we receive calls from the public about lewd activity near our children, we have to respond. Our park operations, conducted at the specific request of the BREC Park’s Ranger, were an attempt to deter or stop lewd activity occurring in the park near children.
The deputies in the cases were acting in good faith using a statute that was still on the books of the Louisiana criminal code. The deputies used a statute that they felt fit the situation in order to remedy the concerns of the parents and park officials. The deputies presented sworn affidavits of probable cause, a set of circumstances that would lead a normal person to believe that a crime has been committed or will be committed, to judges for review. In the cases we have reviewed, the judges set bond, in effect concurring that there was probable cause for arrest. To our knowledge, the Sheriff’s office was never contacted or told that the law was not enforceable or prosecutable.
In hindsight, however, we feel we should have taken a different approach. We will consult with others in the legislative and judicial branches to see what can be done to remove this law from the criminal code that each deputy receives and to also find alternative ways to deter sexual and lewd activity from our parks.
We want to reiterate our intent in these cases. It was NEVER to target a certain segment of our population. It was only in response to parents, park officials and members of the public concerned that our parks were not safe. When we receive reports of public masturbation, sex and other lewd activity in a park where children are playing, me MUST take these concerns seriously. Our intent was honorable, our approach, however, is something we must evaluate and change.
The Sheriff’s Office is not concerned with what consenting adults do in private residences. We are concerned with what is going on in public, especially a public place frequented by children. In light of new information, we feel that we need to work with our deputies to provide them with better resources and training to deal with these issues in more appropriate ways. It is very important to us that the public understands our intent and agenda was safety and never prejudiced toward any group.”
They never intended to target gay men, they just approached gay men and asked if they wanted to have sex, went back to the man’s apartment with him, and then placed him under arrest using a law that has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Back.Wards. And this is why the South gets a bad rap.

Another One: AJ Betts

AJ Betts killed himself; he was just sixteen.

His mother, Sheryl Moore, is hoping his story will put an end to the bullying that she said ended his life.
"It must have been really horrible, if my son got to the point where he would hurt my husband, my daughters and I to take his own life."
Moore said she will never know exactly how horrible the bullying was.
"We had no indication that anything was wrong. He is the happiest kid I've ever met. Everybody who meets him says that."
Like most bullied teens, AJ put on a brave face, a tough exterior, and learned to smile to hide the pain. But now his family is learning that AJ, after being outed at Southeast Polk High School last year, was a target because he was gay. His friends said AJ was constantly ridiculed not only for being gay, but also because he was half African-American and born with a cleft lip.
"He's different. He doesn’t add up to what they're used to."—Noah Lahmann, AJ’s best friend
Different. Made for being taunted and teased to the point of taking his own life just to make it stop.

The only word from authorities at Southeast Polk High is that they can’t say if AJ ever reported being bullied.

Maybe he didn’t report his bullies because he thought officials wouldn't do anything about it. See, AJ Betts wasn’t the first; he was the fifth student from Southeast Polk High school to commit suicide in the past five years. 

So maybe, when the numbers start piling up and more teenagers take their own lives, maybe then the good people at Southeast Polk High will try harder to find out why. Until then, I guess high school students are disposable.

What's This? Church Sanctioned Same-Sex Marriages from 100 AD?

Serge and Bacchus, in a same-sex marriage ceremony
First, a little business: There will be more of ‘This Is A Republican, Part __’ soon because, well, you know Congress is just full of ‘em. But, I needed a good Silkwood Scrubdown™ after all those posts yesterday and then I stumbled across this story; the perfect story to add to one’s arsenal in the discussion of same-sex marriage versus ‘traditional marriage’.

So, let’s go …..

John Boswell, a Catholic scholar at Yale, twenty years ago published a book packed with evidence that same-sex marriages were sanctioned by the early Christian Church during an era commonly called the Dark Ages.

Apparently they weren’t all that dark.

John Boswell
Boswell, a historian and Catholic who studied the late Roman Empire and early Christian Church, was doing research, and reading all sorts of legal and church documents from the Dark Ages, when he found something: dozens of records of legitimate religious church ceremonies where two men were joined in a marital union; he also found that these were the same rituals used in performing marriages between men and women. Boswell says he found almost no records of lesbian unions, but that may have more to do with the fact that society was male dominated and most records, legal and religious, were recorded regarding men.

Boswell, who died from complications of AIDS in 1994, took all his information and published it in a book called Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe, which comes out next month, for the first time, in a digital edition. In addition, Boswell had published and earlier work in the 1970s called Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century.

In his book, Boswell shows how the rituals and ceremonies changed and grew, from "merely a set of prayers " in the earlier Middle Ages to its flowering as a "full office" by the twelfth century that involved "the burning of candles, the placing of the two parties' hands on the Gospel, the joining of their right hands, the binding of their hands . . . with the priest's stole, an introductory litany crowning, the Lord's Prayer, Communion, a kiss, and sometimes circling around the altar."

From Boswell’s research:
The burial rite given for Achilles and Patroclus, both men, was the burial rite for a man and his wife. The relationships of Hadrian and Antinous, of Polyeuct and Nearchos, of Perpetua and Felicitas, and of Saints Serge and Bacchus, all bore resemblance to heterosexual marriages of their times. The iconography of Serge and Bacchus was even used in same-sex nuptial ceremonies by the early Christian Church.
So naturally, the Christian Church, the Catholic Church, and many religious scholars criticized both the book and Boswell, but there is no dispute that his information was based on fact and actual records from the time period. But that doesn’t explain how these marriages have been forgotten by history? How do we not know of these stories?

The Church. In the 13th century, the Christian Church decided to reframe the idea of marriage as being a union created for the purposes of procreation, and churches and religious scholars worked hard to suppress the stories of these same-sex unions. Still, that kinda shoots down that whole ‘marriage has always been one man and woman and has never EVER changed’ rant we so often hear, eh? I mean, the Church itself redefined marriage at least once that we know about, so I say let’s redefine it again.

And Boswell claims that since we have redefined and redefined marriage over these last thousand years or so, it makes the issue all the more complicated. It’s become almost impossible for historians to recognize 1800-year-old gay marriage documents when they see them because, oftentimes, these documents refer to uniting "brothers" — which, at the time was a way of describing same-sex partners in Rome. These marriages, before the rewriting by the church of what constitutes marriage, were not based on procreation, but upon wealth-sharing. Marriage often referred to a non-sexual union of two people’s wealth, or of a family’s wealth, and Boswell does concede that some of the documents he found do, in fact, refer to the non-sexual joining of two men's fortunes; but he did believe that some were akin to what we call today same-sex marriage.

Which makes for an interesting argument today; many in the legal field believe Boswell’s books and research form a valid argument for legal same-sex marriages because they clearly show that marriage has changed and evolved over the course of the centuries, and it hasn’t always been a one-man-one-woman arrangement.

So, were these same-sex unions in the middle ages the same thing as today's same-sex marriages?  Who knows; at the time homosexuality wasn’t as taboo as it became in later years, so people at the time may not have viewed two men forming a union as anything out of the ordinary. But it does make an interesting argument, the least of which is the fact that marriage has changed over the years, and that the Christian Church instituted that change around the 13th century redefining marriage for purposes of procreation—which effectively snuffed out the previously accepted unions of two men, or two women, uniting in marriage.

So, we’ve come almost full circle, haven’t we? Same-sex marriages are on the rise, and the idea that marriage is not solely based on procreation may be coming around again; marriage is the union of two people, committing their lives to one another.

Sadly, John Boswell died before same-sex marriages became legal, but I’m guessing he’d be very happy to know that now gay couples are marrying, and that the same-sex couples who legally married throughout history, have their marriages recognized.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

This Is A Republican, Part 5: Pat McCrory

Pat McCrory, Governor of North Carolina, has announced that he will sign into law a Republican-backed bill making sweeping changes to how and when North Carolinians can vote. McCrory praised the bill at a press conference, saying it will restore faith in elections by requiring voters to present government-issued identification at the polls.

But he hasn’t seen one of the bill’s key provisions.

An Associated Press reporter asked the Republican governor how three particular provisions of the bill — ending same-day voter registration, trimming the period for early voting by a week and eliminating a program that encourages high school students to register to vote in advance of their 18th birthdays — would help prevent voter fraud.

And McCrory answered by talking about two other sections of the legislation: a measure that directs counties to make early voting available for more hours during the abbreviated early voting period and a provision forbidding lobbyists from passing campaign donations from their clients directly on to lawmakers.

McCrory was then asked again about the three provisions and how they would prevent voter fraud, and he responded by saying he had long been concerned about same-day registration, which allows voters to cast a ballot immediately after presenting elections officials with proof of their name and home address.

McCrory was then asked specifically about the provision ending pre-registration by those under 18 and said, "I don't know enough, I'm sorry, I haven't seen that part of the bill."

The bill he’d just said he would sign; hasn’t read it, doesn’t know some key provisions, but, hey, it’s gonna get some ink from him.

Pat McCrory. Seriously, North Carolina? Seriously? You’ve got a governor passing bills he hasn’t even read.

This Is A Republican, Part 4: Steve King

Steve King, the Congressman from Iowa, and one of the most prolific moronic douchebags in Washington, who will say anything, even when he knows it’s all made up in his tiny little head.

He was the one, you may remember, who Tweeted out that his offices in Washington were being overrun by illegal aliens and demanded help from anyone. Turns out the “aliens” were actual legal Americans, the sons and daughters of undocumented immigrants, who came to his office to ask why he wanted to deny them a future in this country.

And now, because King never met an undocumented immigrant who wasn’t a drug dealer or criminal, is stepping into it again. This time he said:
They [the children of undocumented immigrants] “aren’t all valedictorians; they weren’t all brought in by their parents; for every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that they weigh 130 pounds, and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”
Yes, for every immigrant here doing the right thing, there are, according to King’s statistics, 100 more crossing the deserts with bags after bag of pot.

So, well, this was bound to happen. His offices are now being inundated with cantaloupes.

Last week, three young students dropped off the fruit while asking to speak with king about his vicious, and incorrect, statements. And who can blame them after King said that many of those so-called Dreamers are involved in the drug trade.

But that isn’t all he’s said. Last year he compared immigrants to dogs, stating that the United States has the pick of the litter; in 2006 he showed up on the House floor with a model of an electrified fence that he proposed should be built along the U.S.-Mexico border to deter illegal immigration, noting that we already do something similar with livestock.

Dogs. Livestock. Drug mules. That’s how King views every single undocumented immigrant in the country. Every.Single.One.

Now, I'm sure some undocumented immigrants are racing across the deserts carrying drugs, but, I think, for every one of them, they are probably hundreds of Americans and others doing the exact same thing, but Steve King has no problem with those folks.

It's just the brown-skinned ones with the accents.

And while some in the GOP—notably Cryin’ John Boehner and Demonic Eric Cantor—have called King’s cantaloupe rant “wrong” and “inexcusable” just last month the House passed a King amendment to the Homeland Security spending bill that calls for defunding a temporary deferred action program created last year that offered Dreamers a temporary reprieve from deportation.

Yes. Because they’re drug mules, they’re animals, they don’t count. At least not in the eyes of a Steve King.

This Is A Republican, Part 3: Paul Ryan ... With a Hint of Mittsy

I’ve often said we dodged a bullet in 2008 when Obama bested Grampa McCain at winning the White House; and not just because the Mama Grizzly Bore™ would have been a heartbeat away from the presidency but because McCain is crazy.

But we dodged an even bigger bullet in 2012, when Obama took on Mister One-Percent, Mittsy Romney, and his lapdog Paulie Ryan, and sent both of them to the loser’s corner.

Mittsy would have been awful because he never met an issue onto which he couldn’t come down on both sides, and Paul Ryan is no better.

Paul Ryan is a hypocrite.

Let’s start at young, not-yet-in-office, Paul Ryan: the Paul Ryan whose father died when he was a boy. The Paul Ryan who received Social Security benefits until his 18th birthday because of his father’s death. The Paul Ryan who, wisely enough, saved those benefits to help pay for his education at Miami University—a publicly ­funded school. The same Paul Ryan who saved and used those benefits and now calls Social Security a Ponzi scheme.

Unless it benefited him. Hypocrite.
  • The man who prides himself on small government, less government, used government aid—for which he was entitled—to pay for public school education.
  • The man who seems to champion the ‘private sector’ over government but has never had a job in the private sector; he has only worked for the government.
  • The man who prides himself on being a fiscal conservative and yet voted to fund both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while voting for the Bush Tax Cuts.
  • The man who voted for, and lobbied for, stimulus bills under the W Regime; he also voted for the $152 million stimulus package passed under W in late 2008.
  • The man who then publicly condemned the Obama stimulus package less than a year later, and then sought to receive some of those stimulus funds for his home district.
  • The man who voted for Medicare Part D—passed in a W Regime—which has cost the American people trillions of dollars.
  • The man, the fiscal conservative, small government Republican, who voted for the seven-hundred-billion TARP — Wall Street — bailout; and voted to bail out the auto industry, too.
  • The man who has voted for some $1.8 trillion in defense spending over his Congressional career.
  • The man who keeps pushing for a budget that would cut taxes and then asks for $554 billion more in defense spending.
  • The man who, along with some 16 other republican hypocrites—see their names below—and yet secretly pursued Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion dollars while hypocritically slamming the law in public.

Hypocrite. Paul Ryan.

And then let’s toss in some Mittsy and his latest flip-flopping hypocritical lie. Romney, possibly still stinging from his loss last November, is unable to come to terms with one of the reasons he didn’t win the white House: his 47% comments.

Here’s his quote:
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what… These are people who pay no income tax..."[M]y job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
He now says what he said was that the "Democrats have 47 percent, we’ve got 45 percent, my job is to get the people in the middle, and I've got to get the people in the middle.'"
Except go back and reread his original verbatim quote and see that his memory isn’t accurate.

Then he says the remark was taken out of context: 
“The president said he's writing off 47 percent of Americans and so forth. And that wasn't at all what was intended. That wasn't what was meant by it. That is the way it was perceived.”
Uh huh. Mittsy is clearly flip-flopping. Again.

Like I said at the top: Dodged a bullet.

And now, here are those other GOP hypocrites who hate Obamacare, and yet are seeking Obamacare for their constituents:
  • Senators Kay Bailey Hutchinson and John Cornyn of Texas.
  • Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia.
  • Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi.
  • Senators Mark Kirk and Rob Portman of Illinois.
  • Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.
  • Representatives Mary Bono, Jerry Lewis, and David Valadao Mack of California.
  • Representatives John Barrow and Johnny Isakson of Georgia.
  • Representative Gregg Harper of Mississippi.
  • Representative Lee Terry of Nebraska.
  • Representative Steve Pearce of New Mexico.
  • Representative Bob Gibbs of Ohio.
  • Representative Kirsti Noem of South Dakota.
  • Representative Michael McCaul of Texas.

via Forward Progressives and Occupy Democrats

Mittsy Hypocrisy via Mother Jones

This Is A Republican, Part 2: John Boehner

It’s always kind of a stretch to call someone the ‘worst ever’ at any job, because you can always go back in history and find someone even more despicable, but I think it might be safe to say that John Boehner will definitely be on that list of the ‘worst ever’ Speakers of the House—and he might very well take the top spot.

He’s the leader of the Congress, which, as of today, has the lowest approval rating ever; it seems just 6% of the American people think that Boehner and Congress are doing an ‘excellent’ or even a ‘good’ job. Now, not to brag, but I betcha I could take over as Speaker and get that number up, maybe to a seven, or eight, but it’d go up.

And, as in business, when a company does the wrong thing, you blame the boss, and the boss of Congress is Cryin’ John Boehner, who apparently can’t even get his own party to work with him.

Remember when he offered his ‘Plan B’ to avoid that Fiscal Cliff thingy? He had to pull the legislation because House Republicans, his own team, wouldn’t pass it.

He hasn’t passed the Jobs Bill that he’s been talking about for over four years now; I recall him saying jobs was priority one, and yet here we sit, years later, and no jobs bill.

But, he has had time to try and repeal Obamacare thirty-seven times, all of them unsuccessful. No jobs and no success after 37 attempts at repeal.

He also spent the last four years—notably the entire Obama first term—harping about an “immediate debt crisis” only to suddenly admit there really is no such thing. But, hey, he talked about it and talked about it to stir fear in the American people so that he could get Obama out of office and yet he even failed at that.

And what about the Tea Party? Boehner is an ardent supporter of the group, and now they seem hell-bent on tearing the GOP into shreds. He pushed and pushed Tea Party candidates into office—they captured the House in 2012 on the promise of ousting Obama … which we know failed—and now all the Tea Party looks like is a bunch of nuts in a nuthouse.

And Benghazi? Boehner was one of the most vocal GOP Hellhounds in trying to manufacture a conspiracy to take down Obama, or use it to attack Hillary Clinton before she takes the White House in 2016, but all he has proven is that most Americans don’t believe him, and Obama’s approval ratings continue to rise.

And then there’s the Debt Ceiling, and the doubling of the student Loan Interest rates, the GOP threat to raise taxes on the 98% while lowering taxes for the top 2%.

This is what the leader of the GOP in Congress is doing; and even his own party wonders just how bad he is at his job.

via Forward Progressives

This Is A Republican, Part 1: Nikki Haley

We’ve all heard about Virginia’s Republican Governor, Bob McDonnell, who is under fire—and rightly so—for receiving cash and gifts from a tobacco executive, right? And we’ve all heard McDonnell apologize for the embarrassment that he and his family brought to the state, right?

Well, he ain’t the only Governor, and Republican, who has allowed wealthy benefactors to lavish him with generous gifts. South Carolina’s own, Transparent Nikki Haley, has, according to her own disclosure forms, accepted tens of thousands of dollars worth of tickets and suites at sporting events over the past two years; and most of those gifts come from people who have business with the state.

Unethical say what?

In Haley’s mandatory 2012 and 2013 Statements of Economic Interests, the governor reported receiving hundreds of gifts, large and small, with the most significant items—from people identified only as “friend/supporter”—being access to their Clemson Football Suites. These little gifts totaled $58,000 over two years.

Now, to be fair, while many states prohibit interested parties from giving gifts to elected officials or cap those gifts at a nominal maximum, South Carolina law does not; still the state does say that no one can “directly or indirectly, give, offer, or promise anything of value to a public official, public member, or public employee” with the intent to influence their official responsibilities.

And yet six of Nikki Haley’s benefactors are members of Clemson’s board of trustees: David Dukes, John “Nicky” McCarter Jr., E. Smyth McKissick III, William Smith Jr., Joseph Swann, and the board’s chairman, former Speaker of the South Carolina House, David Wilkins.

And since Haley took office, and began getting those tickets and suites at Clemson games, the university has benefited greatly. Clemson relies on state funding for about 10% each year, and after several years of declining state revenue, Clemson just received a several-million-dollar increase once Nikki Haley took office.

Uh huh.

And now Clemson is set to receive yet another hefty boost this year. And while the university has not gotten everything it’s wanted from the Haley gubernatorial offices, she has provided Clemson with another key perk: she has repeatedly loaned her state plane to Clemson’s president and its football recruiters and only stopped doing so when state legislators objected.

And howsabout John “Nicky” McCarter Jr., one of Haley’s benefactors? His company, Defender Services, Inc., a Columbia, SC-based staffing company, has received some $300,000 worth of state contracts since The Transparent Nikki Haley took office. And, before that, as a state representative, Haley voted for McCarter’s 2010 reappointment to the Clemson board of trustees.

One hand washes the other, and gives free plane trips and free suites at college football games.

Two of Haley’s other ‘benefactors,’ Dukes and Wilkins, are partners in the Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough lobbying firm. Nelson Mullins, as a treat for supporting Haley, received a$60,000-a-year contract extension with the state last March to provide federal lobbying services for Coastal Carolina University.

Haley’s other gifts included a $1,700 basketball ticket from health care magnate Vivek Garipalli, a $2,500 painting from artist Jeffrey Callaham, and $100 in earrings from a benefactor listed as “unknown.”

Jewelry from ‘unknown.’

The saddest part of the Haley story is that she has made ethical government and reform a major push for her administration while she takes gifts and then magically allows the gift-givers to make money off the state of South Carolina. In fact, Haley has pushed a bill to “determine whether South Carolinians get to know who is paying their legislators, and whether legislators get to continue to police themselves” and in a recent speech uttered these words:
“Never has there been a time where the people of South Carolina wanna see [SIC] ethics reform. Never has there been a time where the people of South Carolina deserve to see ethics reform. Never has there been a time where elected officials are gonna be held accountable and we’re gonna see that happen… We need to show the people of the world that we don’t have issues in South Carolina, that we are not afraid of ethics reform, and that we’re gonna pass a strong ethics reform bill this year.”
Still, there is no evidence that they violated South Carolina’s lax ethics law, it’s hard to believe that the suites did not provide these people with both access to the governor and goodwill from her that the average South Carolinian would not enjoy.

But that’s out Nikki, and that’s your Republican party.

Monday, July 29, 2013

HGTV Star and Food Network Star! A Recap and Rant...Part Eight

At long last Design Star is over so let's focus on Food ... Network Star!

Okay, so we’re down to the Final Five! Final Five! which is not different from Final Six! Final Six! except there’s one less person; but, hey, it makes for good TV, I guess, so let’s rip ….

This is all about the pantry, and using what you have in the cupboard to make a meal; of course, this being TV, everyone’s pantry features Special K® cereals and treats. My pantry doesn’t make the cut, unless you count Quaker Oats® and Mom’s Best Cereals Toasted Wheat-fuls®, but hey, let’s see what the cheftestants can do.

Damaris: She’ll be tasked with breakfast, so I first thought, ‘Bowl of cereal.’ Which is why I won’t ever be on the show. But Damaris thought Special K® Multi-grain Cereal crusted French Toast. Cutie Alton Brown tells Damaris that her downfall is that she doesn’t teach as much as talk. Her 1-minute camera presentation was good, but there wasn’t a teaching moment. Still, Alton he liked her French Toast.

Rodney: He’s got breakfast, too, and so he automatically thinks ‘pie.’ I think is you say sushi to Rodney he thinks pie; if you say pet food to Rodney he thinks pie. I get it. He thinks pie; so he’s doing a Special K® Popcorn Chip Pie with ham’n’eggs and cheese sauce. Alton tells Rodney his challenge is to impart a useful tip to the audience. Rodney’s camera challenge goes smoothly, but when Alton says, ‘What about the tip?’ Rodney replies, ‘The crusted catfish I talked about.’ Except, um, he didn’t talk about the catfish at all. Alton thought the breakfast pie was so-so.

Nikki: She’s giving us lunch, A salad with eggplant and Special K® Red Berry Cereal croutons. Alton said she lacks authority in her presentation and needs to fix that. But then, the trouble starts when she leaves her croutons in the oil and they turned in Burntons®. So Nikki scrambled, ending up with a salad with Special K® Red Berries and topped with Special K® Cereal. She ran out of time on camera and, while Alton liked her salad, he did not find her authoritative.

Russell: Given dinner, Russell makes a steak salad with potatoes crusted with Special K® Popcorn Chips. Alton reminds Russell that he always starts strong but peters out at the end. He also ran out of time, and had a habit of looking off-camera, like maybe trying to find the exit, but Alton liked his food.

Stacey: Also fixing dinner from the pantry—something she tells us she does every day so she has this ‘in the bag’—Stacey comes up with Special K® Vanilla Almond Cereal Crusted Chicken. Alton tells her she comes across as guarded and fake on-camera and Stacey tells us she’s a hugger, but her hugs look a little like shoves … Get back! Once again she’s good, giving good information, but comes across, to me, as aloof. Alton, however, liked her presentation and her food, so Stacey survived the I Got This In The Bag elimination.

Filling in for Bobby Flay—thank the culinary gods—is Robert Irvine, who, apparently featured Stacey’s diner on one of his ‘Restaurant Impossible’ episodes. Stacey now feels the pressure to win again.

The challenge will be to take some old, old, menu items from Phil Traini’s restaurant in Long beach and reinvent them to save the business from going under. Stacey, as out5 Mentor Challenge winner, gets to pick the dish she wants, and to assign the others to her competitors.

Rodney: Stacey gives him Chicken Cacciatore with Pasta and Rodney thinks, yes, pie. He stuffs pie dough with chicken and tomato sauce and then … give me a minute I threw up in my mouth again … he deep fries it. He does manage to entertain the judges, along with Phil Traini and his two managers, but sadly the dish looked awful, and didn’t taste much better.

Damaris: She apparently hates steak—something we have in common—so naturally Stacey gave her Beef Tournedos with Mushrooms and Mashed Potatoes. She reinvented the dish as Filet Mignon with Roasted Shiitakes and Smashed Potatoes. Her presentation is cute and funny, but lets’ face it, she made steak and potatoes.

Stacey: She gave herself the Crab Stuffed Halibut and Baked Potato, and then turned it into a Crab Cake Halibut Roulade with White Truffle Roasted Potatoes and Green Beans. The judges, and restaurant diners liked it but Phil Traini and his managers said she comes across as fake. Uh oh.

Nikki: As much as Damaris hates steak, and was given steak, Nikki hates Salmon so Stacey gave her Salmon with Onion and Pepper relish and Rice Pilaf. Nikki turned that into a Meat-on-the-Side Pan Roasted Sliver of Salmon atop a Broccoli Cake and surrounded by about two pounds of Rice. And while her food was so-so, when she was asked about her Pilaf, and whether or not it was an actual r=pilaf, she said, ahem, “rice pilaf is rice with stuff in it.’ Yeah, that’s what I expect from my Food Network stars.

Russell: He was the only one happy with what he was given: Chicken Stuffed with Feta and Spinach and Rice Pilaf. And he goes to town, creating a Spinach Wrapped Chicken poached in Onion-Vermouth Broth with Lemon Risotto. His dish, and his presentation, pleased the judges and the diners.

Damaris did nothing special, though she was fun to watch. So-so food on a plate.

Rodney was fun, but his food was a Deep Dish failure. He’s memorable and fun and, as Irvine said, nuts, but his food is inconsistent.

Nikki overloaded her plate with rice, and under-loaded her presentation with a lack of knowledge. Rice with stuff in it! I’m still giggling at that. They love her POV [Meat on the Side] but feel she lacks confidence and knowledge.

Stacey was another chef who made a good dish, but now swarms of people, not just the judges, are calling her fake. She’s called articulate and polished, but too guarded.

Russell created the winning dish and offered up a very good presentation, so naturally he gets the win and ….

Nikki, the girl with the strong POV but no real knowledge is sent packing.

I thought Russell really outshone the other chefs by truly reinventing the dish. I mean, I want him to get a show and make that chicken dish so i can learn how to do it.

Stacey. Even when she says she’s a hugger you can feel her cringe at the idea.

Damaris is sweet and, well, yeah, that’s all.

Rodney. He should have gone home because while Stacey might be able to learn to be real, Rodney’s food is often really bad.

What did YOU think?