Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

Nii ghodzhalleh ni gozshda! Ya'll.

and please remember the wise words of John Anderson:

If you get on the whiskey.


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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Rocking and Rolling

We've had several earthquakes. One major of 5.9 (that's big), about 30K from us. Two aftershocks of 4 and change.

So far, power is on, net is connected. My daughter (the doctah) said:

"You played too many church gigs over Christmas. You should have known this would happen."

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Testing, testing... ECHO, Echo...

Television Test Pattern with Chuck Pharis as Indian Head. OITP. Site maintained by DSC Labs.

Check Out Our New Commenting System: ECHO

Haloscan has passed away. *mourns (briefly)*

ECHO is here. Long live Echo.

Echo is brought to us by a company called (or was called, I can't keep track) JS-Kit. They bought out Haloscan about a year ago. They also ran a commenting system which was much more sophisticated than Haloscan, called JS-Kit.

Haloscan was, essentially, a one-person shop. It kept getting bigger and bigger, and the code base got more and more patched. Now patches on a code base are good. That means bugs are being found and fixed. Every patch represents some weird problem solved. What wasn't happening -- I assume; I wasn't in any way in on any of the conversations, but I'm basing this on both the public conversations I have seen, and what I know from my own experience about how this works -- is that what was missing, given it was more or less a one-person shop or at least, a shop which was massively understaffed for the work-load it had, what was missing was documentation of the bug-fixes.

Therefore when JS-Kit came along and bought out Haloscan, then had a working product with LOTS of customers. And thousands and thousands of patches. None or almost none of which were documented. Which meant that each time someone wanted to hack the code, they had to figure out, from scratch -- with no real grasp of how the base code worked as they weren't the people who built it -- how the new patch interacted with all of the other patches in the section of code they were now re-patching.

Eventually it became more cost-effective for JS-Kit to force all of there Haloscan customers to either convert to their new product, Echo -- which is JS-Kit with some new bells and whistles plus a new name AND they charge for us for it -- or say, "thanks for the memories; here's your comment data; buh-bye." Even if that meant losing a good chunk of their Haloscan investment in the customer base. If even a third of the Haloscan customers came over as paying customers to the new venture, and a third of those upgraded to the more expensive version, it'll be a good deal for JS-Kit.

(Yes, GNB is doing both. We have already paid our yearly fee for the base Echo package, and a month from now when I can afford to upgrade, I'll pay for that as well. Anyone who wants to contribute to GNB, the contribute button is in the top right corner. *smiles* And yes, we absolutely could use your help. GNB has over $300 in expenses this month, ranging from the PO Box, to Echo, to dealing with licensing authorities. I'm not planning on running a full-fledged fundraising drive, but I do need a bit over $300 bucks if there's anyone out there who can help out. Donate now: $100, $75, $50, $25. Totally up to you, and thank you no matter what you choose. *smiles*)

So... we have a new commenting system. I don't quite understand it yet myself.

Please... play around in it. I'm told it will do some new and interesting things, such as let you insert YouTubes and photos into your comments. THE RULES have not changed however. NO BLOG PIMPING. If you want to mention your blog, put it on the same line with your name: Jesse Wendel

I'm not sure what else is possible with the new system. It seems you can put your photo in with your comments, but I'm not quite sure how. Perhaps someone can figure it out and tell us all?

Anyway, this is a TEST POST and y'all should feel free to TEST AWAY in the comments. Put up as many test comments as you wish, till you get the hang of the thing. Put up test YouTubes, test photos, test comments, test links, test whatever the hell you wants. This thread is for testing.

Have fun.
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Friday, December 25, 2009

Col. Robert Howard


One of the finest soldiers, and finest men you never heard about.

Click here to learn more

Hadahg anisii, itisgoh yah, bi'ii saladah.

(give him praise, honor him, he is soldier)

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Musical Interlude Before I Begin My Posada...

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Christmas Eve Open Thread

Have Yourself a Merry Little....

What ever.

I'm in the kitchen most of the day. Our traditional Christmas Eve dinner consists of Tamales, Clam Chowder, Cornbread, Salads, and my favorite Mincemeat pies, made from a noble elk like the one pictured above. I get the chowder this year too.

I also have a full slate of church services to play tonight. At the United Methodist Church at seven for the candlelight, I'm playing the guitar to back children singing "The Friendly Beasts," and backing the fine tenor of the Minister as he sings "Silent Night." Then switching to the harp to back a glorious soprano singing "Minuit Chrétian."

I get enough time to drive across town to the Catholic parish that a grip of my friends and neighbors attend to play the Midnight Mass.

My very best wishes go out to all of you this season. I am holding on to a small, dimly shining hope that Senate Republicans will be visited this night by three spirits. Only one of those visitations needs to take.

What's on ya'll's menus? Are you surrounded by family to fight with and children to spoil? If you are, get off line and go do shit like talk to them.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Cooking With Dani

First Though, She Shows Off

The lightening bolt that she saw when we were cutting the Christmas Tree sugar cookies to leave out for Santa tomorrow night. She saw that and said:

See! It's just like Harry Potter's scar!

That said, it's on to "Killer Kranberry Sauce"


4 cups (two bags) fresh cranberries
Grated peel and juice from two naval oranges
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups finely chopped crystallized ginger

Grate off the orange zest..Then, squeeze the juice from them, you can add more orange juice from another source if it is less than one full cup.

Chop the ginger fine.

Put the zest and orange juice, and the sugar in a large saucepan over a high flame. Stir constantly until sugar is completely dissolved and when it begins to bubble, add in the cranberries.

Reduce flame to medium, stir until the cranberries have all popped, shut off flame and stir in the ginger.

Allow to fully cool and put into a container in the fridge. This is much better if made one or two days before serving. That gives it time for the flavors to meld.

**Variations: Add a cup of toasted pecans, or other favorite nut. Use one orange and one grapefruit, or Meyer lemons. Or, anything that might strike your fancy. If you try something new and different and it sucks, toss it out and don't tell anybody.
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Monday, December 21, 2009

Tempering, Dipping, Trimming,

And, Of Course, The Messy Cleanup...

Tempering a fine chocolate is a scientific process that also depends on voodoo. Chocolate is strange stuff. Chains of complex triglycerides must be cojoled or conjured into aligning perfectly. Combinations of temperature, time, motion, and many other factors, including relative humidity must all be in place.

When it's time to dip, I put the flavor of rolled ganace I'm going to dip into the freezer. I always check the clock. About twenty minutes in the freezer makes an easier to handle truffle. Longer and things can begin to get dicey. If the ganache freezes hard as soon as it hits room temperature condensation will form, that liquid might go into the melted chocolate. That's a complete, and utter disaster. While the chocolate appears to be liquid, it is actually nothing of the sort. It is molten. Same as a metal. Same as a rock inside a volcano. It pours and flows, but it ain't liquid. Even a single drop of water introduced into the melt pot will cause it to instantly sieze, grow hard, and there is no fix for it. You have a pot of however much chocolate you spent the time and effort to melt and temper that is going to take a grip of work to put into the trash. So, the clock is watched.

To begin the tempering I chop two and a half pounds of tempered fine chocolate. I am still using Trader Joe's Pound Plus 72% cocoa mass bars. If one of the bars I unwrapped has broken temper, which you can tell by light brown blossoms of cocoa butter which has separated out of the chocolate, I set it aside to use in the next batch of ganache, ice cream, hot chocolate, or some other use. There is a technique for bringing chocolate which has broken temper back into alignment, but, in the interest of time and space, I will put that off for another time.

During this process I keep a pound or so of chopped chocolate handy at all times, temperature and consistency are paramount concerns here. I also have a pot of pure cocoa butter standing by too.

With the temperature set at 98°, when the initial chocolate is about half melted I kick in the motor on the bowl and it begins to rotate. Constant motion is all part of the process. Before I got this machine, I was tempering on marble slabs with paddles and forearms for the motion. I like my machine. My bowl capacity is a bit over four pounds. Chocolate is added until I have a good, smooth and glossy rolling ball of molten chocolate. The temperature is reduced to 88°. I add more chocolate chunks at this time to hasten the cooling and also to introduce more already aligned and tempered chocolate into the mixture.

I hold the melted chocolate at 88° for about ten minutes and drop a ball of ganache into the chocolate. I roll it around to ensure a good coat is achieved, snatch it out with a sturdy fork, give it a tap or two to knock of the excess and put it onto a plastic cutting board which has been wrapped with butcher paper. Before the chocolate shell sets any decoration like colored sugar, chopped nuts, or cocoa needs to be sprinkled on.

When the board is filled the rest of the decoration can be done. For raspberry truffles, I use red sugar sprinkles, pink and white chocolate stripes.

There is a method to the madness of decoration. First, it gives me a visual signal as to which flavor of truffle I have, but, the stripes also form a protective barrier which allow me to handle the truffles without getting fingerprints and other distracting things all over them. All through this process I am watching the dipped truffles closely, looking for dull steaks and shadows in the chocolate shells. What I want, actually what I demand, is a thin, tight, shiny shell of chocolate that fully encases the ganache. If I see the temper starting to break I will heat the chocolate back up to 98°, then cool it back down again and resume the process from there.

The board of dipped truffles is popped into the fridge for ten minutes or so to fully harden the shell and the decorations, then they are quickly trimmed and placed into two ounce paper soufflé cups, the cups put into containers and the containers into the fridge.

The only thing that changes with the flavor of truffle being dipped is the decoration.

Fresh Raspberry - Red sugar, pink and white chocolate stripes.
Crystallized Ginger - yellow sugar and white chocolate stripes.
Frangelico - milk chocolate* and white chocolate stripes
Starbuck's Coffee Liqueur - White and dark stripes
Tahitian Vanilla - White shell, white stripes
Peppermint - White shell, peppermint chunks, white stripes.

I keep at it until the refrigerator looks like this:

Added bonus is the bits of chocolate, colored white chocolates, sugars and other decorating stuff that gets trimmed from the truffles. It gets bagged to be used on whims. It will do wonderful things to morning oatmeal. My kids call it "truffle stuffle..."

*A small confession here. I really don't bother with milk chocolate at all. To make the striping that I call milk chocolate I melt some white chunks into dark chocolate.
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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling

It's Messy...
But, so. Much. Fun.
This is the sheer drudgery part of the process. Each pan of ganache makes on the high side of four dozen balls, to be dipped and turned into truffles.
Over the years, I've gotten good at it. I'm fast, and accurate. I get truffles that are close to a uniform size, with the goal being around eight truffles to a pound, without looking like they were done by a machine.
I have a good feel for what the right amount of ganache in my hand wieghs.
Fast is important though. A fine chocolate like the one I'm using will be liquid at eight degrees below body temperature. Time in the hands ruins everything.

The process is like this. Snatch up a glop of ganache. And, as above, do a quick moosh.

Roll, until a reasonable sphereoid forms...

Quickly finish it off into a nice sized ball. Put into the lined baking pan, with a standard sized baking pan, six truffles should easily fit across.

If you find the ganache is getting too sloppy, cover it closely, put it back into the fridge, wash your hands, dunk them in ice water, dry them completely, give it a half an hour, repeat the washing, dunking drying sequence and get back at it.

By the time I'm finished there will be around twenty four dozen balls ready to dip...

Yeah, I'm having fun.
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Friday, December 18, 2009

White Chocolate Truffles

I Know Those Aren't White Chocolate

I will have my camera back up and running, with back up batteries soon.

I was able to find two pictures of the process of making the ganache though. I will incorporate them here.

Personally, white chocolate isn't my thing. It was invented by Albert Nestlè to deal with his excess of cocoa butter after he invented the dry process cocoa recipe. He tried lots of things, face creams and such. Then he hit upon the idea of using the cocoa butter as a base for a vanilla confection.

I have tried the expensive high cocoa butter white chocolates and frankly, I can't tell the difference between them and the Guittard buttons that I buy at a cake decorating store. Some purist might argue things like mouth feel, but, dude, purists are into dark chocolate.

The people who love the stuff, love the stuff. Here's my recipe for the ganache.


3 lbs white chocolate (if it is in bar or bulk, chop it fine to faciliate
3/4 lb sweet butter
2 vanilla beans
6 egg yolks
1/3 cup
pure vanilla extract (I use my patented homemade vanilla extract. Buy yourself a
bottle of incredible Cuban Rum, I use Havana Club, split several vanilla beans
and drop them into the bottle, cap, stick on a dark shelf and forget about it
for six months)

*variations: for raspberry whites, substitute Chambord
for the vanilla extract and add 3/4 cup fresh raspberries. for peppermint: add
in 1 1/2 cups crushed peppermint candies

Put the white chocolate, the butter, and the halved and split vanilla beans into the bowl of a high power stand mixer. Place over simmering water (being careful to not allow any water into the ganache) and stir occaisionaly until melted.

Using the paddle attachment, begin to stir the melted chocolate and butter mixture. When it is absolutely smooth and you're certain that there are no lumps of white chocolate or unmelted butter, add in the egg yolks one at a time. The mixture will break, it will separate into curds and liquid. Do not despair. Keep mixing at the low speed until it reforms into a liason.

Add the vanilla extract. At this time also add any flavoring. On one batch of these last night I added crushed peppermint candies. It made the astonishingly gorgeous April's eyes cross it was so good.

When the liquid and the flavorings are added, beat on highest speed for ten minutes. Turn into lined pans, cover closely, refrigerate overnight.

Today is all about rolling the ganche into balls to be dipped. When I get the battery situation with the camera fixed I'll take some pictures of the rolling process. Regardless of the type of truffle, it is the same. Take the ganache, roll it into balls, cover closely and refrigerate to set them firm before dipping.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009


Those are Raspberry...

I was late getting into truffle production this year. Other, better paying gigs kept popping up. I was all set to start work on Sunday, but got summoned to San Diego to play a "Messiah" gig on an emergency basis by a friend. I simply could not force her to try the "Pastoral Symphony" section of that magnificent work without a harp. Getting paid union scale was a big influence on that too, but, I prefer to think of it in terms of friendship and art.

I put two dozen into the Netroots auction and thought that it might be fun to chronicle the making of them as it happens. That way the folks who bid and won will be able to see what's coming their way.

So, without further digression or ado, here's how it happens.

This is Day One. On Day One I make the ganache, which will be the center of the truffle.

The first task is to assemble the flavorings. I have

That's two pints of fresh raspberries, washed gently and allowed to air dry for as long as it takes them to be completely dry. Water is the enemy of chocolate, so, allow them to sit in a strainer, turning them gently to allow all surfaces to dry completely. Remember to do this for as long as it takes. I washed these on Tuesday night. They are perfectly clean, and perfectly dry.

Then, two cups of finely chopped Crystallized Ginger (for you ambitious types who want to make your own, it's much more flavorful)

Then I got out a bottle of Frangelico. Later I decided to go with some Starbuck's Coffee Liqueur® too. It's more of a coffee flavor than Kahlua. That bottle will make its appearance soon.

Chop up ten bars of Trader Joe's Pound Plus® 72% cocoa mass bars. This is the best value for fine chocolate that I've found. I've tried all kinds. For the money, this is what I use. Any fine, high cocoa mass chocolate will do. You need ten pounds.

A gallon of heavy cream (this is manufacturing cream, which is a 40% butterfat cream, it is the absolute bomb) and a pound and a half of sweet (unsalted) butter.
The butter is chopped into smaller chunks to facilitate the melting. It goes on the stove over a medium flame.

This is watched closely. There are folks who, when they make ganache, boil the cream. I don't. I wait until the butter is completely melted and the cream is at the ragged edge of a boil. The lower temperature makes for a creamier ganache. It's a little harder to handle, but I think that it's well worth it.

The hot cream and butter is dumped over the chopped chocolate and allowed to sit for five minutes.

Gently stir it until dark, smooth, and glossy.

Divide into four plastic wrap lined pans.

Add the flavorings.

For the ganache that's flavored with a liqueur I use 1/3 of a cup. This will make about four dozen truffles. This means someone would have to eat two dozen truffles to get an ounce of liqueur. It's about flavoring, not about alcohol.

Cover the ganache closely with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least overnight.

Now I got to get busy with the white chocolate ganaches. I'll post that when I'm done. Expect delays and stuff with that. I broke down and gave the beautiful April her Christmas present of diamond earrings early. She's parading around the house wearing them, and nothing else...

Bye for now.
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Friday, December 11, 2009

Clowns to the Right of Me, Jokers to the Left

Winding down 2009 is an emotional experience, that is certain. This has been one hell of a roller coaster year. From the heady experience of going to Inaugration with 2,000,000 other people high on hope, to the closing of the restaurant I worked for, to the opening of my own company, money stress, economic collapse, the tea-bagger summer, the wars, the slow disasterous weakening of the health care bill... it has been exhausting.

I don't know about you all, but for me reading about the senate has become one of the saddests and most frustrating things that I do. How can we be getting so little done for american people AND be in charge of the house the senate AND the White House???

And then there are the folks on the right- the racists, the crazies, the confused and the top of the heap are the malicious ones using fear and hate to hold together their diminshing base. Climate denial on the rise, Sarah Palin running around the country whipping up the birthers again, gun toting racists at political rallies... I swear it is enough to drive a progressive off the cliff.

The Nobel speech this week was great. Maybe it is aspirational but I want to believe that this first year was one of transition and then we will really work on the change and progressive improvement part in the coming year. Whatever the case I am more than eager to leave 2009 behind.

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Monday, December 7, 2009

“Why Bank of America Fired Me” - a True Story

Comment thread is open.

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

'Fourteen days to seal history's judgment on this generation'

From The Guardian:

Today 56 newspapers in 45 countries take the unprecedented step of speaking with one voice through a common editorial. We do so because humanity faces a profound emergency.

Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security. The dangers have been becoming apparent for a generation. Now the facts have started to speak: 11 of the past 14 years have been the warmest on record, the Arctic ice-cap is melting and last year's inflamed oil and food prices provide a foretaste of future havoc. In scientific journals the question is no longer whether humans are to blame, but how little time we have got left to limit the damage. Yet so far the world's response has been feeble and half-hearted.

Climate change has been caused over centuries, has consequences that will endure for all time and our prospects of taming it will be determined in the next 14 days. We call on the representatives of the 192 countries gathered in Copenhagen not to hesitate, not to fall into dispute, not to blame each other but to seize opportunity from the greatest modern failure of politics. This should not be a fight between the rich world and the poor world, or between east and west. Climate change affects everyone, and must be solved by everyone.

The science is complex but the facts are clear. The world needs to take steps to limit temperature rises to 2C, an aim that will require global emissions to peak and begin falling within the next 5-10 years. A bigger rise of 3-4C — the smallest increase we can prudently expect to follow inaction — would parch continents, turning farmland into desert. Half of all species could become extinct, untold millions of people would be displaced, whole nations drowned by the sea. The controversy over emails by British researchers that suggest they tried to suppress inconvenient data has muddied the waters but failed to dent the mass of evidence on which these predictions are based.

Few believe that Copenhagen can any longer produce a fully polished treaty; real progress towards one could only begin with the arrival of President Obama in the White House and the reversal of years of US obstructionism. Even now the world finds itself at the mercy of American domestic politics, for the president cannot fully commit to the action required until the US Congress has done so.

But the politicians in Copenhagen can and must agree the essential elements of a fair and effective deal and, crucially, a firm timetable for turning it into a treaty. Next June's UN climate meeting in Bonn should be their deadline. As one negotiator put it: "We can go into extra time but we can't afford a replay."

At the deal's heart must be a settlement between the rich world and the developing world covering how the burden of fighting climate change will be divided — and how we will share a newly precious resource: the trillion or so tonnes of carbon that we can emit before the mercury rises to dangerous levels.

Rich nations like to point to the arithmetic truth that there can be no solution until developing giants such as China take more radical steps than they have so far. But the rich world is responsible for most of the accumulated carbon in the atmosphere – three-quarters of all carbon dioxide emitted since 1850. It must now take a lead, and every developed country must commit to deep cuts which will reduce their emissions within a decade to very substantially less than their 1990 level.

Developing countries can point out they did not cause the bulk of the problem, and also that the poorest regions of the world will be hardest hit. But they will increasingly contribute to warming, and must thus pledge meaningful and quantifiable action of their own. Though both fell short of what some had hoped for, the recent commitments to emissions targets by the world's biggest polluters, the United States and China, were important steps in the right direction.

Social justice demands that the industrialised world digs deep into its pockets and pledges cash to help poorer countries adapt to climate change, and clean technologies to enable them to grow economically without growing their emissions. The architecture of a future treaty must also be pinned down – with rigorous multilateral monitoring, fair rewards for protecting forests, and the credible assessment of "exported emissions" so that the burden can eventually be more equitably shared between those who produce polluting products and those who consume them. And fairness requires that the burden placed on individual developed countries should take into account their ability to bear it; for instance newer EU members, often much poorer than "old Europe", must not suffer more than their richer partners.

The transformation will be costly, but many times less than the bill for bailing out global finance — and far less costly than the consequences of doing nothing.

Many of us, particularly in the developed world, will have to change our lifestyles. The era of flights that cost less than the taxi ride to the airport is drawing to a close. We will have to shop, eat and travel more intelligently. We will have to pay more for our energy, and use less of it.

But the shift to a low-carbon society holds out the prospect of more opportunity than sacrifice. Already some countries have recognized that embracing the transformation can bring growth, jobs and better quality lives. The flow of capital tells its own story: last year for the first time more was invested in renewable forms of energy than producing electricity from fossil fuels.

Kicking our carbon habit within a few short decades will require a feat of engineering and innovation to match anything in our history. But whereas putting a man on the moon or splitting the atom were born of conflict and competition, the coming carbon race must be driven by a collaborative effort to achieve collective salvation.

Overcoming climate change will take a triumph of optimism over pessimism, of vision over short-sightedness, of what Abraham Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature".

It is in that spirit that 56 newspapers from around the world have united behind this editorial. If we, with such different national and political perspectives, can agree on what must be done then surely our leaders can too.

The politicians in Copenhagen have the power to shape history's judgment on this generation: one that saw a challenge and rose to it, or one so stupid that we saw calamity coming but did nothing to avert it. We implore them to make the right choice.

This editorial will be published tomorrow by 56 newspapers around the world in 20 languages including Chinese, Arabic and Russian. The text was drafted by a Guardian team during more than a month of consultations with editors from more than 20 of the papers involved. Like the Guardian most of the newspapers have taken the unusual step of featuring the editorial on their front page.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Obama: President's Address on Afghanistan and Pakistan

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
December 1, 2009

Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation on the Way Forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Eisenhower Hall Theatre, United States Military Academy at West Point, West Point, New York

8:01 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening.  To the United States Corps of Cadets, to the men and women of our Armed Services, and to my fellow Americans:  I want to speak to you tonight about our effort in Afghanistan -- the nature of our commitment there, the scope of our interests, and the strategy that my administration will pursue to bring this war to a successful conclusion.  It's an extraordinary honor for me to do so here at West Point -- where so many men and women have prepared to stand up for our security, and to represent what is finest about our country.

To address these important issues, it's important to recall why America and our allies were compelled to fight a war in Afghanistan in the first place.  We did not ask for this fight. On September 11, 2001, 19 men hijacked four airplanes and used them to murder nearly 3,000 people.  They struck at our military and economic nerve centers.  They took the lives of innocent men, women, and children without regard to their faith or race or station.  Were it not for the heroic actions of passengers onboard one of those flights, they could have also struck at one of the great symbols of our democracy in Washington, and killed many more.

As we know, these men belonged to al Qaeda -- a group of extremists who have distorted and defiled Islam, one of the world’s great religions, to justify the slaughter of innocents. Al Qaeda’s base of operations was in Afghanistan, where they were harbored by the Taliban -- a ruthless, repressive and radical movement that seized control of that country after it was ravaged by years of Soviet occupation and civil war, and after the attention of America and our friends had turned elsewhere.

Just days after 9/11, Congress authorized the use of force against al Qaeda and those who harbored them -- an authorization that continues to this day.  The vote in the Senate was 98 to nothing.  The vote in the House was 420 to 1.  For the first time in its history, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization invoked Article 5 -- the commitment that says an attack on one member nation is an attack on all.  And the United Nations Security Council endorsed the use of all necessary steps to respond to the 9/11 attacks.  America, our allies and the world were acting as one to destroy al Qaeda’s terrorist network and to protect our common security.

Under the banner of this domestic unity and international legitimacy -- and only after the Taliban refused to turn over Osama bin Laden -- we sent our troops into Afghanistan.  Within a matter of months, al Qaeda was scattered and many of its operatives were killed.  The Taliban was driven from power and pushed back on its heels.  A place that had known decades of fear now had reason to hope.  At a conference convened by the U.N., a provisional government was established under President Hamid Karzai.  And an International Security Assistance Force was established to help bring a lasting peace to a war-torn country.

Then, in early 2003, the decision was made to wage a second war, in Iraq.  The wrenching debate over the Iraq war is well-known and need not be repeated here.  It's enough to say that for the next six years, the Iraq war drew the dominant share of our troops, our resources, our diplomacy, and our national attention -- and that the decision to go into Iraq caused substantial rifts between America and much of the world.

Today, after extraordinary costs, we are bringing the Iraq war to a responsible end.  We will remove our combat brigades from Iraq by the end of next summer, and all of our troops by the end of 2011.  That we are doing so is a testament to the character of the men and women in uniform.  (Applause.)  Thanks to their courage, grit and perseverance, we have given Iraqis a chance to shape their future, and we are successfully leaving Iraq to its people.

But while we've achieved hard-earned milestones in Iraq, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated.  After escaping across the border into Pakistan in 2001 and 2002, al Qaeda’s leadership established a safe haven there.  Although a legitimate government was elected by the Afghan people, it's been hampered by corruption, the drug trade, an under-developed economy, and insufficient security forces.

Over the last several years, the Taliban has maintained common cause with al Qaeda, as they both seek an overthrow of the Afghan government.  Gradually, the Taliban has begun to control additional swaths of territory in Afghanistan, while engaging in increasingly brazen and devastating attacks of terrorism against the Pakistani people.

Now, throughout this period, our troop levels in Afghanistan remained a fraction of what they were in Iraq.  When I took office, we had just over 32,000 Americans serving in Afghanistan, compared to 160,000 in Iraq at the peak of the war.  Commanders in Afghanistan repeatedly asked for support to deal with the reemergence of the Taliban, but these reinforcements did not arrive.  And that's why, shortly after taking office, I approved a longstanding request for more troops.  After consultations with our allies, I then announced a strategy recognizing the fundamental connection between our war effort in Afghanistan and the extremist safe havens in Pakistan.  I set a goal that was narrowly defined as disrupting, dismantling, and defeating al Qaeda and its extremist allies, and pledged to better coordinate our military and civilian efforts.

Since then, we've made progress on some important objectives.  High-ranking al Qaeda and Taliban leaders have been killed, and we've stepped up the pressure on al Qaeda worldwide. In Pakistan, that nation's army has gone on its largest offensive in years.  In Afghanistan, we and our allies prevented the Taliban from stopping a presidential election, and -- although it was marred by fraud -- that election produced a government that is consistent with Afghanistan's laws and constitution.

Yet huge challenges remain.  Afghanistan is not lost, but for several years it has moved backwards.  There's no imminent threat of the government being overthrown, but the Taliban has gained momentum.  Al Qaeda has not reemerged in Afghanistan in the same numbers as before 9/11, but they retain their safe havens along the border.  And our forces lack the full support they need to effectively train and partner with Afghan security forces and better secure the population.  Our new commander in Afghanistan -- General McChrystal -- has reported that the security situation is more serious than he anticipated.  In short:  The status quo is not sustainable.

As cadets, you volunteered for service during this time of danger.  Some of you fought in Afghanistan.  Some of you will deploy there.  As your Commander-in-Chief, I owe you a mission that is clearly defined, and worthy of your service.  And that's why, after the Afghan voting was completed, I insisted on a thorough review of our strategy.  Now, let me be clear:  There has never been an option before me that called for troop deployments before 2010, so there has been no delay or denial of resources necessary for the conduct of the war during this review period.  Instead, the review has allowed me to ask the hard questions, and to explore all the different options, along with my national security team, our military and civilian leadership in Afghanistan, and our key partners.  And given the stakes involved, I owed the American people -- and our troops -- no less.

This review is now complete.  And as Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.  After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.  These are the resources that we need to seize the initiative, while building the Afghan capacity that can allow for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan. 

I do not make this decision lightly.  I opposed the war in Iraq precisely because I believe that we must exercise restraint in the use of military force, and always consider the long-term consequences of our actions.  We have been at war now for eight years, at enormous cost in lives and resources.  Years of debate over Iraq and terrorism have left our unity on national security issues in tatters, and created a highly polarized and partisan backdrop for this effort.  And having just experienced the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the American people are understandably focused on rebuilding our economy and putting people to work here at home.

Most of all, I know that this decision asks even more of you -- a military that, along with your families, has already borne the heaviest of all burdens.  As President, I have signed a letter of condolence to the family of each American who gives their life in these wars.  I have read the letters from the parents and spouses of those who deployed.  I visited our courageous wounded warriors at Walter Reed.  I've traveled to Dover to meet the flag-draped caskets of 18 Americans returning home to their final resting place.  I see firsthand the terrible wages of war.  If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake in Afghanistan, I would gladly order every single one of our troops home tomorrow.

So, no, I do not make this decision lightly.  I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda.  It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak.  This is no idle danger; no hypothetical threat.  In the last few months alone, we have apprehended extremists within our borders who were sent here from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to commit new acts of terror. And this danger will only grow if the region slides backwards, and al Qaeda can operate with impunity.  We must keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and to do that, we must increase the stability and capacity of our partners in the region.

Of course, this burden is not ours alone to bear.  This is not just America's war.  Since 9/11, al Qaeda’s safe havens have been the source of attacks against London and Amman and Bali.  The people and governments of both Afghanistan and Pakistan are endangered.  And the stakes are even higher within a nuclear-armed Pakistan, because we know that al Qaeda and other extremists seek nuclear weapons, and we have every reason to believe that they would use them.

These facts compel us to act along with our friends and allies.  Our overarching goal remains the same:  to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future.

To meet that goal, we will pursue the following objectives within Afghanistan.  We must deny al Qaeda a safe haven.  We must reverse the Taliban's momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government.  And we must strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan's security forces and government so that they can take lead responsibility for Afghanistan's future.

We will meet these objectives in three ways.  First, we will pursue a military strategy that will break the Taliban's momentum and increase Afghanistan's capacity over the next 18 months.

The 30,000 additional troops that I'm announcing tonight will deploy in the first part of 2010 -- the fastest possible pace -- so that they can target the insurgency and secure key population centers.  They'll increase our ability to train competent Afghan security forces, and to partner with them so that more Afghans can get into the fight.  And they will help create the conditions for the United States to transfer responsibility to the Afghans.

Because this is an international effort, I've asked that our commitment be joined by contributions from our allies.  Some have already provided additional troops, and we're confident that there will be further contributions in the days and weeks ahead. Our friends have fought and bled and died alongside us in Afghanistan.  And now, we must come together to end this war successfully.  For what's at stake is not simply a test of NATO's credibility -- what's at stake is the security of our allies, and the common security of the world.

But taken together, these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011.  Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground.  We'll continue to advise and assist Afghanistan's security forces to ensure that they can succeed over the long haul.  But it will be clear to the Afghan government -- and, more importantly, to the Afghan people -- that they will ultimately be responsible for their own country.

Second, we will work with our partners, the United Nations, and the Afghan people to pursue a more effective civilian strategy, so that the government can take advantage of improved security.

This effort must be based on performance.  The days of providing a blank check are over.  President Karzai's inauguration speech sent the right message about moving in a new direction.  And going forward, we will be clear about what we expect from those who receive our assistance.  We'll support Afghan ministries, governors, and local leaders that combat corruption and deliver for the people.  We expect those who are ineffective or corrupt to be held accountable.  And we will also focus our assistance in areas -- such as agriculture -- that can make an immediate impact in the lives of the Afghan people.

The people of Afghanistan have endured violence for decades. They've been confronted with occupation -- by the Soviet Union, and then by foreign al Qaeda fighters who used Afghan land for their own purposes.  So tonight, I want the Afghan people to understand -- America seeks an end to this era of war and suffering.  We have no interest in occupying your country.  We will support efforts by the Afghan government to open the door to those Taliban who abandon violence and respect the human rights of their fellow citizens.  And we will seek a partnership with Afghanistan grounded in mutual respect -- to isolate those who destroy; to strengthen those who build; to hasten the day when our troops will leave; and to forge a lasting friendship in which America is your partner, and never your patron.

Third, we will act with the full recognition that our success in Afghanistan is inextricably linked to our partnership with Pakistan.

We're in Afghanistan to prevent a cancer from once again spreading through that country.  But this same cancer has also taken root in the border region of Pakistan.  That's why we need a strategy that works on both sides of the border.

In the past, there have been those in Pakistan who've argued that the struggle against extremism is not their fight, and that Pakistan is better off doing little or seeking accommodation with those who use violence.  But in recent years, as innocents have been killed from Karachi to Islamabad, it has become clear that it is the Pakistani people who are the most endangered by extremism.  Public opinion has turned.  The Pakistani army has waged an offensive in Swat and South Waziristan.  And there is no doubt that the United States and Pakistan share a common enemy.

In the past, we too often defined our relationship with Pakistan narrowly.  Those days are over.  Moving forward, we are committed to a partnership with Pakistan that is built on a foundation of mutual interest, mutual respect, and mutual trust. We will strengthen Pakistan’s capacity to target those groups that threaten our countries, and have made it clear that we cannot tolerate a safe haven for terrorists whose location is known and whose intentions are clear.  America is also providing substantial resources to support Pakistan’s democracy and development.  We are the largest international supporter for those Pakistanis displaced by the fighting.  And going forward, the Pakistan people must know America will remain a strong supporter of Pakistan’s security and prosperity long after the guns have fallen silent, so that the great potential of its people can be unleashed.

These are the three core elements of our strategy:  a military effort to create the conditions for a transition; a civilian surge that reinforces positive action; and an effective partnership with Pakistan.

I recognize there are a range of concerns about our approach.  So let me briefly address a few of the more prominent arguments that I've heard, and which I take very seriously.

First, there are those who suggest that Afghanistan is another Vietnam.  They argue that it cannot be stabilized, and we're better off cutting our losses and rapidly withdrawing.  I believe this argument depends on a false reading of history.  Unlike Vietnam, we are joined by a broad coalition of 43 nations that recognizes the legitimacy of our action.  Unlike Vietnam, we are not facing a broad-based popular insurgency.  And most importantly, unlike Vietnam, the American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan, and remain a target for those same extremists who are plotting along its border.  To abandon this area now -- and to rely only on efforts against al Qaeda from a distance -- would significantly hamper our ability to keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and create an unacceptable risk of additional attacks on our homeland and our allies. 

Second, there are those who acknowledge that we can't leave Afghanistan in its current state, but suggest that we go forward with the troops that we already have.  But this would simply maintain a status quo in which we muddle through, and permit a slow deterioration of conditions there.  It would ultimately prove more costly and prolong our stay in Afghanistan, because we would never be able to generate the conditions needed to train Afghan security forces and give them the space to take over.

Finally, there are those who oppose identifying a time frame for our transition to Afghan responsibility.  Indeed, some call for a more dramatic and open-ended escalation of our war effort  -- one that would commit us to a nation-building project of up to a decade.  I reject this course because it sets goals that are beyond what can be achieved at a reasonable cost, and what we need to achieve to secure our interests.  Furthermore, the absence of a time frame for transition would deny us any sense of urgency in working with the Afghan government.  It must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security, and that America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan.

As President, I refuse to set goals that go beyond our responsibility, our means, or our interests.  And I must weigh all of the challenges that our nation faces.  I don't have the luxury of committing to just one.  Indeed, I'm mindful of the words of President Eisenhower, who -- in discussing our national security -- said, "Each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration:  the need to maintain balance in and among national programs."

Over the past several years, we have lost that balance.  We've failed to appreciate the connection between our national security and our economy.  In the wake of an economic crisis, too many of our neighbors and friends are out of work and struggle to pay the bills.  Too many Americans are worried about the future facing our children.  Meanwhile, competition within the global economy has grown more fierce.  So we can't simply afford to ignore the price of these wars.

All told, by the time I took office the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan approached a trillion dollars.  Going forward, I am committed to addressing these costs openly and honestly.  Our new approach in Afghanistan is likely to cost us roughly $30 billion for the military this year, and I'll work closely with Congress to address these costs as we work to bring down our deficit.

But as we end the war in Iraq and transition to Afghan responsibility, we must rebuild our strength here at home.  Our prosperity provides a foundation for our power.  It pays for our military.  It underwrites our diplomacy.  It taps the potential of our people, and allows investment in new industry.  And it will allow us to compete in this century as successfully as we did in the last.  That's why our troop commitment in Afghanistan cannot be open-ended -- because the nation that I'm most interested in building is our own.

Now, let me be clear:  None of this will be easy.  The struggle against violent extremism will not be finished quickly, and it extends well beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan.  It will be an enduring test of our free society, and our leadership in the world.  And unlike the great power conflicts and clear lines of division that defined the 20th century, our effort will involve disorderly regions, failed states, diffuse enemies.

So as a result, America will have to show our strength in the way that we end wars and prevent conflict -- not just how we wage wars.  We'll have to be nimble and precise in our use of military power.  Where al Qaeda and its allies attempt to establish a foothold -- whether in Somalia or Yemen or elsewhere -- they must be confronted by growing pressure and strong partnerships.

And we can't count on military might alone.  We have to invest in our homeland security, because we can't capture or kill every violent extremist abroad.  We have to improve and better coordinate our intelligence, so that we stay one step ahead of shadowy networks.

We will have to take away the tools of mass destruction.  And that's why I've made it a central pillar of my foreign policy to secure loose nuclear materials from terrorists, to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and to pursue the goal of a world without them -- because every nation must understand that true security will never come from an endless race for ever more destructive weapons; true security will come for those who reject them.

We'll have to use diplomacy, because no one nation can meet the challenges of an interconnected world acting alone.  I've spent this year renewing our alliances and forging new partnerships.  And we have forged a new beginning between America and the Muslim world -- one that recognizes our mutual interest in breaking a cycle of conflict, and that promises a future in which those who kill innocents are isolated by those who stand up for peace and prosperity and human dignity.

And finally, we must draw on the strength of our values -- for the challenges that we face may have changed, but the things that we believe in must not.  That's why we must promote our values by living them at home -- which is why I have prohibited torture and will close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.  And we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom and justice and opportunity and respect for the dignity of all peoples.  That is who we are.  That is the source, the moral source, of America’s authority.

Since the days of Franklin Roosevelt, and the service and sacrifice of our grandparents and great-grandparents, our country has borne a special burden in global affairs.  We have spilled American blood in many countries on multiple continents.  We have spent our revenue to help others rebuild from rubble and develop their own economies.  We have joined with others to develop an architecture of institutions -- from the United Nations to NATO to the World Bank -- that provide for the common security and prosperity of human beings.

We have not always been thanked for these efforts, and we have at times made mistakes.  But more than any other nation, the United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades -- a time that, for all its problems, has seen walls come down, and markets open, and billions lifted from poverty, unparalleled scientific progress and advancing frontiers of human liberty.

For unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination.  Our union was founded in resistance to oppression. We do not seek to occupy other nations.  We will not claim another nation’s resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours.  What we have fought for -- what we continue to fight for -- is a better future for our children and grandchildren.  And we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and access opportunity.  (Applause.)

As a country, we're not as young -- and perhaps not as innocent -- as we were when Roosevelt was President.  Yet we are still heirs to a noble struggle for freedom.  And now we must summon all of our might and moral suasion to meet the challenges of a new age.

In the end, our security and leadership does not come solely from the strength of our arms.  It derives from our people -- from the workers and businesses who will rebuild our economy; from the entrepreneurs and researchers who will pioneer new industries; from the teachers that will educate our children, and the service of those who work in our communities at home; from the diplomats and Peace Corps volunteers who spread hope abroad; and from the men and women in uniform who are part of an unbroken line of sacrifice that has made government of the people, by the people, and for the people a reality on this Earth.  (Applause.)
This vast and diverse citizenry will not always agree on every issue -- nor should we.  But I also know that we, as a country, cannot sustain our leadership, nor navigate the momentous challenges of our time, if we allow ourselves to be split asunder by the same rancor and cynicism and partisanship that has in recent times poisoned our national discourse.
It's easy to forget that when this war began, we were united -- bound together by the fresh memory of a horrific attack, and by the determination to defend our homeland and the values we hold dear.  I refuse to accept the notion that we cannot summon that unity again.  (Applause.)  I believe with every fiber of my being that we -- as Americans -- can still come together behind a common purpose.  For our values are not simply words written into parchment -- they are a creed that calls us together, and that has carried us through the darkest of storms as one nation, as one people.

America -- we are passing through a time of great trial.  And the message that we send in the midst of these storms must be clear:  that our cause is just, our resolve unwavering.  We will go forward with the confidence that right makes might, and with the commitment to forge an America that is safer, a world that is more secure, and a future that represents not the deepest of fears but the highest of hopes.  (Applause.)

Thank you.  God bless you.  May God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

                                   END                  8:35 P.M. EST
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