Friday, October 21, 2011

U.S. Goof in Iraq?

So the Big O announced today that all US combat troops would be pulled out of Iraq by the end of the year. That really isn't news, according to what's been previously announced. Unless the previous announcement wasn't serious and our government thought there would be some way to extend our troops' stay. Seems like the Iraqi government wasn't going for a SOF deal so we decided to pull out for real.

Just how many countries can we keep troops in after conflicts end? We've had forces in Germany and Japan since 1945; in Korea since 1950. Smaller elements in many other scattered places. I guess entrenched interests of the government establishment figure that once we get into a place, we should remain there to some extent indefinitely.

Tragedy or folly often starts at the beginning of an event but the irony is that we often don't recognize it as such until along about the end. Our great taxpayer expenditure in Iraq may turn out to have been for nothing. Why did we go to Iraq the second time, anyway? To eliminate the threat of weapons of mass destruction? We never did find any. And even if we had, what made Iraq different in this way than say, North Korea or Iran? We haven't invaded them yet but they have or are working on weapons of mass destruction. Okay, how about terrorist activity? Saddam Hussein may have allowed terrorist groups to gather or train in his country, but it wasn't a major effort and many other countries have done the same to much larger extent (Yemen, Indonesia, Syria, Iran, et al) and we haven't found it necessary to invade them. So the question still hangs in the air. What was the real reason for invading Iraq? Not for a minute do I buy the liberal claim that it was done "to get the oil." So far as I know, we didn't get a drop of it to our own benefit. Unless there's a lot more going on than our deep-digging news media know about.

Oh, did we do it to gain freedom and democracy for the oppressed Iraqi people? If you believe that, then you believe in the tooth fairy putting a silver dime under your pillow.

Prior to the US government deposing him, Saddam Hussein was what is known in geopolitics as a countervailing force. Better yet for the US, he was a countervailing force that we had some control over. For some time after the first Iraq war, we controlled the airspace over Iraq which included constant surveillance so Saddam couldn't pop any surprises. Saddam interposed a barrier to Iranian ambitions in the region. Absent Saddam's rule in Iraq, Iran is gaining great influence there. It doesn't hurt that the Iraqi leader, al-Maliki, spent lots of time in Iran during Saddam's rule. So basically what may have happened is, throught great expenditure of treasure and blood, the US in deposing Saddam paved the way for Iran to consolidate power in the region. The Iranians have got to be laughing at our stupidity.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Swedish Twist is Back at My House

No, it's not a dance, it's a baked good.

Many years ago, there was a bakery in Los Angeles named Van de Kamp's. When large grocery stores started to be built, Van de Kamp's had sections in many of the stores where they sold their specialty baked goods. After Theodore Van de Kamp died, his family sold the company to General Host Corp. which fairly soon after got out of the baking business but you may have seen the Van de Kamp name on frozen food products, like fish sticks. The bakery has been gone for decades, was only in the southern CA area but the frozen foods are sold nation-wide.

Van de Kamp's had a Dutch windmill with Delft blue and white signage as their advertising themes. Van de Kamp's had their own in-store employees who stocked the merchandise, women who wore a kind of quasi-Dutch costume to include a white apron while they were working. In my experience, they were always kindly, older ladies who would patiently answer customer questions about the product. They were a bit like the presence of a made-up Santa Claus in department stores during Christmas.

One of my favorite baked items from Van de Kamp's since I was a child in the 1950's was called the "Swedish Twist." This was three thick strands of risen dough, braided together, and coated with sugar and cinnamon. No gooey frosting like Cinnabon rolls. My grandmother introduced me to this wonderful treat but as I got older, I bought them myself at the store. Then one day some time in the late 1960's, I went in to buy one and the shelf was empty. When asked, the Van de Kamp's lady told me that the item was discontinued; it seems that the braiding was done by hand and had been deemed too costly to continue the process. The Swedish Twist did make a brief reappearance in the early '70's, then it was gone for good.

In recent years, my wife has made a kind of coffee cake she calls Monkey Bread. I've been thinking about his, and with a few suggested modifications, I asked her to use this dough recipe to replicate the Swedish Twist. She did it tonight and her version is a dead ringer for the original.