21 July 2008

I know, I know

I totally suck.

I still haven't finished posting about my trip.

Hoping to get back here tomorrow and do just that.

12 July 2008

Jukebox John

What a great name that is for the presumptive Republican nom who flops about more than a fish out of water.

Jukebox John changes his tune every few minutes

Now for your reading pleasure, the official list of McCain Flip-Flops. An astounding 61 in total thus far.

National Security Policy

1. McCain thought Bush’s warrantless-wiretap program circumvented the law; now he believes the opposite.

2. McCain insisted that everyone, even “terrible killers,” “the worst kind of scum of humanity,” and detainees at Guantanamo Bay, “deserve to have some adjudication of their cases,” even if that means “releasing some of them.” McCain now believes the opposite.

3. He opposed indefinite detention of terrorist suspects. When the Supreme Court reached the same conclusion, he called it “one of the worst decisions in the history of this country.”

4. In February 2008, McCain reversed course on prohibiting waterboarding.

5. McCain was for closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay before he was against it.

6. When Barack Obama talked about going after terrorists in Pakistani mountains with predators, McCain criticized him for it. He’s since come to the opposite conclusion.

Foreign Policy

7. McCain was for kicking Russia out of the G8 before he was against it.

8. McCain supported moving “towards normalization of relations” with Cuba. Now he believes the opposite.

9. McCain believed the U.S. should engage in diplomacy with Hamas. Now he believes the opposite.

10. McCain believed the U.S. should engage in diplomacy with Syria. Now he believes the opposite.

11. McCain is both for and against a “rogue state rollback” as a focus of his foreign policy vision.

12. McCain used to champion the Law of the Sea convention, even volunteering to testify on the treaty’s behalf before a Senate committee. Now he opposes it.

13. McCain was against divestment from South Africa before he was for it.

Military Policy

14. McCain recently claimed that he was the “greatest critic” of Rumsfeld’s failed Iraq policy. In December 2003, McCain praised the same strategy as “a mission accomplished.” In March 2004, he said, “I’m confident we’re on the right course.” In December 2005, he said, “Overall, I think a year from now, we will have made a fair amount of progress if we stay the course.”

15. McCain has changed his mind about a long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq on multiple occasions, concluding, on multiple occasions, that a Korea-like presence is both a good and a bad idea.

16. McCain said before the war in Iraq, “We will win this conflict. We will win it easily.” Four years later, McCain said he knew all along that the war in Iraq war was “probably going to be long and hard and tough.”

17. McCain has repeatedly said it’s a dangerous mistake to tell the “enemy” when U.S. troops would be out of Iraq. In May, McCain announced that most American troops would be home from Iraq by 2013.

18. McCain was against expanding the GI Bill before he was for it.

Domestic Policy

19. McCain defended “privatizing” Social Security. Now he says he’s against privatization (though he actually still supports it.)

20. McCain wanted to change the Republican Party platform to protect abortion rights in cases of rape and incest. Now he doesn’t.

21. McCain supported storing spent nuclear fuel at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Now he believes the opposite.

22. He argued the NRA should not have a role in the Republican Party’s policy making. Now he believes the opposite.

23. In 1998, he championed raising cigarette taxes to fund programs to cut underage smoking, insisting that it would prevent illnesses and provide resources for public health programs. Now, McCain opposes a $0.61-per-pack tax increase, won’t commit to supporting a regulation bill he’s co-sponsoring, and has hired Philip Morris’ former lobbyist as his senior campaign adviser.

24. McCain is both for and against earmarks for Arizona.

25. McCain’s first mortgage plan was premised on the notion that homeowners facing foreclosure shouldn’t be “rewarded” for acting “irresponsibly.” His second mortgage plan took largely the opposite position.

26. McCain went from saying gay marriage should be allowed, to saying gay marriage shouldn’t be allowed.

27. McCain opposed a holiday to honor Martin Luther King, Jr., before he supported it.

28. McCain was anti-ethanol. Now he’s pro-ethanol.

29. McCain was both for and against state promotion of the Confederate flag.

30. In 2005, McCain endorsed intelligent design creationism, a year later he said the opposite, and a few months after that, he was both for and against creationism at the same time.

Economic Policy

31. McCain was against Bush’s tax cuts for the very wealthy before he was for them.

32. John McCain initially argued that economics is not an area of expertise for him, saying, “I’m going to be honest: I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues; I still need to be educated,” and “The issue of economics is not something I’ve understood as well as I should.” He now falsely denies ever having made these remarks and insists that he has a “very strong” understanding of economics.

33. McCain vowed, if elected, to balance the federal budget by the end of his first term. Soon after, he decided he would no longer even try to reach that goal. And soon after that, McCain abandoned his second position and went back to his first.

34. McCain said in 2005 that he opposed the tax cuts because they were “too tilted to the wealthy.” By 2007, he denied ever having said this, and falsely argued that he opposed the cuts because of increased government spending.

35. McCain thought the estate tax was perfectly fair. Now he believes the opposite.

36. McCain pledged in February 2008 that he would not, under any circumstances, raise taxes. Specifically, McCain was asked if he is a “‘read my lips’ candidate, no new taxes, no matter what?” referring to George H.W. Bush’s 1988 pledge. “No new taxes,” McCain responded. Two weeks later, McCain said, “I’m not making a ‘read my lips’ statement, in that I will not raise taxes.”

37. McCain has changed his entire economic worldview on multiple occasions.

38. McCain believes Americans are both better and worse off economically than they were before Bush took office.

Energy Policy

39. McCain supported the moratorium on coastal drilling ; now he’s against it.

40. McCain recently announced his strong opposition to a windfall-tax on oil company profits. Three weeks earlier, he was perfectly comfortable with the idea.

41. McCain endorsed a cap-and-trade policy with a mandatory emissions cap. In mid-June, McCain announced he wants the caps to voluntary.

42. McCain explained his belief that a temporary suspension of the federal gas tax would provide an immediate economic stimulus. Shortly thereafter, he argued the exact opposite.

43. McCain supported the Lieberman/Warner legislation to combat global warming. Now he doesn’t.

Immigration Policy

44. McCain was a co-sponsor of the DREAM Act, which would grant legal status to illegal immigrants’ kids who graduate from high school. Now he’s against it.

45. On immigration policy in general, McCain announced in February 2008 that he would vote against his own bill.

46. In April, McCain promised voters that he would secure the borders “before proceeding to other reform measures.” Two months later, he abandoned his public pledge, pretended that he’d never made the promise in the first place, and vowed that a comprehensive immigration reform policy has always been, and would always be, his “top priority.”

Judicial Policy and the Rule of Law

47. McCain said he would “not impose a litmus test on any nominee.” He used to promise the opposite.

48. McCain believes the telecoms should be forced to explain their role in the administration’s warrantless surveillance program as a condition for retroactive immunity. He used to believe the opposite.

49. McCain went from saying he would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade to saying the exact opposite.

Campaign, Ethics, and Lobbying Reform

50. McCain supported his own lobbying-reform legislation from 1997. Now he doesn’t.

51. In 2006, McCain sponsored legislation to require grassroots lobbying coalitions to reveal their financial donors. In 2007, after receiving “feedback” on the proposal, McCain told far-right activist groups that he opposes his own measure.

52. McCain supported a campaign-finance bill, which bore his name, on strengthening the public-financing system. In June 2007, he abandoned his own legislation.

Politics and Associations

53. McCain wanted political support from radical televangelist John Hagee. Now he doesn’t. (He also believes his endorsement from Hagee was both a good and bad idea.)

54. McCain wanted political support from radical televangelist Rod Parsley. Now he doesn’t.

55. McCain says he considered and did not consider joining John Kerry’s Democratic ticket in 2004.

56. McCain is both for and against attacking Barack Obama over his former pastor at his former church.

57. McCain criticized TV preacher Jerry Falwell as “an agent of intolerance” in 2002, but then decided to cozy up to the man who said Americans “deserved” the 9/11 attacks.

58. In 2000, McCain accused Texas businessmen Sam and Charles Wyly of being corrupt, spending “dirty money” to help finance Bush’s presidential campaign. McCain not only filed a complaint against the Wylys for allegedly violating campaign finance law, he also lashed out at them publicly. In April, McCain reached out to the Wylys for support.

59. McCain was against presidential candidates campaigning at Bob Jones University before he was for it.

60. McCain decided in 2000 that he didn’t want anything to do with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, believing he “would taint the image of the ‘Straight Talk Express.’” Kissinger is now the Honorary Co-Chair for his presidential campaign in New York.

61. McCain believed powerful right-wing activist/lobbyist Grover Norquist was “corrupt, a shill for dictators, and (with just a dose of sarcasm) Jack Abramoff’s gay lover.” McCain now considers Norquist a key political ally.

And while I realize there are some who believe these constant flip-flops are irrelevant, I respectfully disagree.

10 July 2008

A bit more about my trip

First, I have some ladies I need to call out.

I want to say, Pearl, JoJo, and Eque your voices are missed on hot topics. We are having a good time, but y'all are seriously missed.

Let's talk about food! This isn't in any order, I'm just gonna talk about the pictures as they posted.

Yes ladies and germs, those are truffles and that is my friend's hand. These truffles had not been processed in any way as yet. They were delivered about an hour before our visit took place. Lucky us because this enabled us to see what happened with them after the delivery.

A huge wheel of Parmesan. Now, I know not all of us can afford to have an ginormous wheel just hanging around, but for those in the industry or those at home who do have the ginormous wheel hanging about, we would take the cooked pasta and dump it into the Parmesan bowl, stir it about and then serve. Quite tasty.

This is the outdoor pizza oven. It's handmade, not pre-fab. It was like porn to my friend and I. This is Cristiano's station during the outdoor wedding stuff.

Now you get to meet Cristiano. Very nice guy. He said that somewhere on YouTube there is a video of him doing karaoke of Renato Zero. He spoke some English, more than we did Italian. He wanted to come back with us to the states. The girl is Cristina. Very nice, but very controlling. Either she thought our Italian speaking skills directly correlated to our cooking skills, or she was afraid she would get the blame if we screwed something up. Her name was constantly being screamed. Cristina where is...Cristina do... Very sweet girl though.

Here is Igor the chef with Cristiano. Igor spoke less English than did Cristiano, but it sure made for an interesting time. A whole lot of hand gestures and sounds, but a lot of trading as well. Come si dice and Come dite xxx in Italiano. He got more aggravated with my friend since my friend is used to hearing 'what do you want me to do now chef' so he is used to being the master, not the visitor.

This is something I will never understand. The region I was in had this odd affinity for hot dogs. Not with chili, cheese, mustard and onions (or however you make them). Nope, here you have some appetizers topped with hot dogs and olives. They also make pizza with hot dogs on them. To each his own. The guests liked them though, so that's all that matters.

This is Marco. Very sweet guy. He spoke the most English, so there was a lot of 'MARCO' going on. What was so funny, was the first time I heard them scream for him, being the smartass I am (and my friend-it was simultaneous) we hollered back 'POLO'. Apparently that is fairly universal as everyone in the kitchen had a laugh.

This is the fish counter at the local Conad store. Ok, my friend and I are totally juvenile because every time we drove past a Conad store, we giggled and said under our breath, gonads. Anyway, the fish counter was awesome. Actually, the fish counter at most of the markets we went to was awesome. Don't know if you can see it, but that's a whole freakin swordfish. SWEET

An action shot of my friend. He was manning the grill. A huge piece of Ahi tuna and then some mortadella. Now, he and I don't eat cooked tuna. If we do, it's been lightly seared. The people at this wedding, not so much. They were horrified at first. It killed him to cook it so much, but what ya gonna do.

This was at a supermarket. I forget the name of the market, but would you get a load of that hunk of mortadella. It was 12' long and weighed in at 2,300 pounds. It was quite tasty too.

Fresh pasta. Perhaps they have companies doing this in the US, but I don't personally know of any, so it was way cool to me. The restaurant has a fresh pasta supplier. The pasta was brought in a couple of hours before it was needed. They brought raviolis (various stuffings), spaghetti, rigatoni, farfalle, you name it, was was brought in. Too damned cool

Now, I don't have any pictures of the pizza, but it was certainly to die for. I don't usually like thin crust, at least not American style thin crust. This was wafer thin, crisp as could be, and of course, cooked in a huge pizza oven that was powered by wood. It's not the one in the picture above, this was inside the restaurant. It was probably 8 or 9 feet deep, if not more. Tomato sauce was used, but the pizza wasn't drowned in sauce like it is here. If pizza around here was like this, I'd actually eat pizza more than once in a blue moon.

Overall, this region goes for simplicity. You aren't hit smack in the face with basil, oregano, marjoram, garlic, onion, etc. The typical dish had either onion or garlic, but not both. A little chiffonade of basil and that was it, well, except for the salt and pepper. It was very different than I expected, but still wonderful.

Torte al testo. I can't say enough about this tasty little sandwich. It's kind of a thick flat bread, slice it to where you can stuff it, then shove prosciutto and cheese inside. Put on the griddle, flat top, skillet, or whatever and heat until the cheese is melty. Addicted is a good word. They did many other tortes. At a festival we went to one night, I had one that was stuffed with Italian sausage and collard greens. Bliss.

Semi-freddo made with Baci candy. Gelato made with Baci. Baci period. It's a creamy dark chocolate with a hazelnut center. YUMMMM. The word Baci means kiss.

Ok, so, I guess that's it for now. I'll post more in the coming days. After my trip though, I'm really having to force myself to be on the computer for more than 30 minutes or so. One can live without the computer for two weeks and live to tell the tale.

08 July 2008

Took me long enough

Ok, I'm finally ready to blog.

My trip was fantastic. I've been home now since Friday night. Getting back into the groove here. It's taking a lot of my energy to do that. I know, it sounds silly, but I'm having a lot of internal fights with myself. After 2 weeks there, I know that is where I belong.

The natural beauty is just amazing. Coming back to my flatland just isn't the same. The history that surrounded me was so hard to wrap my brain around. I was staying in a place that is over 1000 years old. The wall surrounding the city was built before Christ walked the earth by the Etruscans. Walking the streets that St. Francis walked is chilling and calming at the same time. I was in a constant state of wow. Every morning, stepping outside and seeing this:

When I was ready for a cappuccino in the morning or a drink at night, I'd sit here, under the umbrellas. Half the town would congregate here. Having a gelato, caffe, panini, or drink.

Sitting in front of The Palazzetto Del Podesta where the coffee bar is located, we would be looking at San Crispolto church and the fountain. Our residence was located next door and to the left of San Crispolto church. San Crispolto (or Crispolito) is the Patron Saint of Bettona.

It was really interesting how so many would gather at the Palazzetto to sit and chat. Everyone would be there, discussing the days events. Sometimes there were other tourists there, you could hear them speaking in French or German, but the rarity was someone speaking English. Then one night sitting at the caffe, my companion had gone inside to get us another drink and this older gentleman commented to me 'lovely night we are having here'. It was a very thick Scottish brogue and a bit hard to understand, but after only hearing my companions voice in English, it was a wonderful sound. I wish I would have taken a picture of Mario. He was born in Bettona and full-blooded Italian, but for whatever reason, he moved to Scotland at a very young age. He was back in Bettona to visit his sister and brother-in-law. You could tell he was missing the English language as well. He loved to sit with us and chat. He was at least 80, walked with a cane, and had had a couple of strokes over the last few years.
As our day was over, this is the door we would go through to get to our apartment. The door is the front door of my friend's home. You may not be into that type of stuff, but the craftmanship was just beautiful. The two women are Ola on the left (our hostess) and her neighbor lady, never did catch her name.

The last thing we would see at night before bed (well, night is relative, it was typically early morning)

So, in the next few days, I'll post some more photos and tell about those.

While there, I really missed ice and A/C. Now that I'm home, ice and A/C really aren't that big of a deal.

05 July 2008

Finally home

We returned home on July 4. We left June 19. To say I'm exhausted would be an understatement. I will be posting pics and talking about our trip, but it will likely be a couple of days. I head out in a few to get my daughter from camp and then I'll have all of her washing plus mine; not to mention recovering from the jet lag.

nice to be home, but wishing I was back in Italy.

Ok, I have to put up some pictures, so here is a teaser.

The beautiful view from the balcony of our apartment.

This view is from Cinque Cerre, a street in Bettona. It is about 1.5 miles further up the mountain our village is located on.

Brogal Vini vineyards. Absolutely gorgeous.