New World Cranberry Salad

Scott Louie Cooks

Cranberry salad was a staple in my house growing up. This is another of my mother’s recipes, but whether it came from my Polish grandmother or not, I can’t say, so I’m assuming it’s a new world recipe. You will need a food grinder. I use my mother’s old Osterizer Mixer grinder attachment, which has a plastic housing but steel workings and grate. This can be a bit tart, so add sugar to taste, but this is best made the day before so it sits in the refrigerator to blend and mellow.

Ingredients

  • 12 oz fresh whole cranberries
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, and slivered
  • 1 orange, peeled (no pith at all should remain) and sectioned
  • ¼ – ½ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped (to taste)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (or more to taste)

Grind the fruit

In your food grinder, grind the cranberries, apple slivers, and orange sections. The key to this: in my grinder, juice will back up all the way to the opening every “round” (1 round = a couple of apple slices + a couple of orange slices + a good handful of cranberries). Stop the grinder and pour off this excess juice (can save to drink or add to a smoothie or discard). Don’t add it to the salad or it will make it too soupy.

Complete grinding the cranberries, apple, and orange (pouring off the backed-up juice between rounds) until all the fruit is ground. I usually have to pour the juice off 4-5 times.

Finish

Add the ¼ cup chopped walnuts and 1 cup sugar into the bowl and stir the salad until well combined. Add more walnuts or sugar to taste. Cover and store in the refrigerator at least overnight (it helps to pull the flavors together and tighten up the salad).

mixing the ingredients

Enjoy!

cranberry salad

Make it Your Own

If it’s only my wife and I for Thanksgiving (like this year), this is plenty. Or if having a few guests, it can be doubled very easily.

I like walnuts in this dish, but certainly any chopped nut will do such as almonds, hazelnuts, or pecans, or a combo thereof.

NOTES: On Ingredients

This is a salad and not to be mistaken for a sauce or jelly. Use only fresh whole cranberries from your produce department (like Ocean Spray) or supplier.

I strain the leftover juice through a fine mesh strainer and add two teaspoons of sugar, mixing well. Very tasty. Add a little vodka for a nice drink.

Stay Friendly and Healthy.

Shattered Utopias: The Utter Failure of Socialism

The United States is deeply divided. We all see that. Each side has its policy agenda, a truth that has not changed since our founding. What has changed is our definition of ourselves as a country and as a people.

I have believed my entire life (though I believe it’s changing) that Americans are 80% moderate, fairly equally divided between liberals and conservatives, and that 10% proclaim an extreme leftist policy and 10% proclaim an extreme rightist policy.

It’s that 80% however, no matter their disagreements, who’ve held the United States together through a national belief that our country and our democracy is more important than individual aggrandizement. We admire George Washington for many things, but most of all for his abandonment of absolute power when it was his for the taking (following the Revolutionary War) and again by walking away from power after two terms as president under the new constitution, which did not limit his terms in office. That made an exceptional general and statesman great. It set the example for almost all who followed.

No one dared break that precedent until Franklin Roosevelt in the middle of the twentieth century. I feel for him, though. After two terms in which he pulled the country out of its worst economic depression, running for a third term occurred in 1940 with the world at war and the US poised on the brink of the precipice. The people were divided then, very much so, between pro-war and anti-war sentiments. It was a dangerous time, when fascism nearly took over much of the world.

So Roosevelt won a third term and was elected to a fourth during World War II, a race he could not walk away from after D-Day (in the election year) turned the tide of war to our allies’ favor. So if we excuse Franklin for the hubris that led to the encoding by law of Washington’s precedent as a constitutional amendment, then we see a fairly unbroken string of the abrogation of power through to the modern day.

Donald Trump may or may not get to test that. This is not about that. I wish to discuss the polarization of our national pride into detrimental extremism. Hubris? Donald Trump has plenty. But he does not work alone. Seventy-one million voters think he should still be president even after a disastrous four years of lies, deceit, isolationism, tantrums, cruelty of policy (e.g., immigration) and immature vindictiveness.

I couldn’t believe the average parent would condone such behavior from a twelve year old child, much less cheer it on in their president. Remember, this man-child holds the nuclear codes, destroys alliances, ignores the pandemic, declares the death toll “it is what it is”, and so clearly resides under the thumb of Russian President Putin that our national security remains in doubt to this moment.

Many feel as I do. So I cheer on the election of President-Elect Biden and so far, his selections for high level positions seem fair and balanced.

But I still fear. I feel it in the pit of my stomach. I don’t doubt Biden will execute his office with grace, good sense, dignity, and skill. That is nearly a given (but we’ll see). I fear his political-savvy friends in the DNC will pressure him to include a great number of Socialists to high office, especially Bernie Sanders in some capacity (but not at all limited to him). I pray the Department of Labor remains with a moderate. I hope the backlash to Donald Trump isn’t more extremism, this time on the left.

I have meandered a bit to get to my point. I have just read Socialism: The Failed Idea That Never Dies by Kristian Niemietz of the Institute of Economic Affairs and I must say, someone who fears Socialism going in will be well convinced they are right. Niemietz argues against the Socialist’s apologia that the national socialistic economic policies of Russia, China, East Germany, Venezuela, Cuba, et al, that failed so spectacularly were not at all “true” socialism, as many say that real socialism hasn’t been tried yet.

Niemietz debunks this excuse on many fronts, but his most convincing argument addresses the concerns of Socialists who say that those countries (all two dozen examples) each chose a totalitarian regime (or the people had it thrust upon them) and that true socialism can only thrive in a democracy by definition. After all, you can’t distribute ownership and decision-making to the people without democratic process. The socialism was fine, they say, until totalitarian suppression squashed the freedom of group self-direction and therefore these nationalized “experiments” in socialism naturally failed.

A thesis Niemietz demonstrates has no teeth. In fact, he posits very convincingly that the above argument is backwards. People did not create a socialist economy, then choose (or have it thrust upon them) a totalitarian form of government, but rather totalitarianism springs from socialism as sure as belt-loosening follows Thanksgiving dinner.

Niemietz argues that the best intentions of social-democrats is thwarted by the very nature of socialist conventions, namely the abrogation of some individual freedoms for the good of the community. A tenet of a national socialist economy is that a commune (or collective, soviet, kibbutz, etc.) must serve the needs of the many at the sacrifice of the individual. Now, let’s not oversimplify—not all individualism is lost.

Let’s illustrate. In a free market economy, an individual (e.g., Sally) can sell goods (or work a farm, etc.) where she pleases. Due to market forces she may decide to move elsewhere. Suppose there was too much competition driving down the price of her goods. Let’s say two others created and sold the same goods. Sally could ally with them and price-fix their goods, but that is illegal in a free market system. If her goods do not sell, she has the right (indeed, perhaps the good sense) to travel elsewhere to find a market for her product.

In a commune, if Sally contributes her labor/manufacturing skill/know-how to a common enterprise, she is part of a community. Here, the contributions of the many provide the product which is either price-fixed by national mutual consent or by elected government representatives in the democracy. Sally gives up her right to set her own price or sell her own product. She gives this up freely for the benefit of the many.

Sally desires to leave the cooperative (say, on the east coast) to live on the west coast. What does this do to the commune? The loss of Sally’s expertise, her labor, her contribution to the good of the whole will be missed, perhaps detrimentally to the commune. They need her participation. This was her covenant with them, after all, when her local commune was formed. Well, this is bad for the many who decide by social decree that Sally cannot move away. She is called unpatriotic to the cause, not a team player, a selfish individualist. How can she hurt her neighbors with such a selfish move?

It would be defeating to the commune to allow its skilled workers to move. One of the first characteristics throughout history of socialistic communes is that they become self-protecting and some individual freedoms must be sacrificed for the good of the many. Freedom of movement is one of the first of individual rights to go. Communes need to restrict the movement of their key players (everyone in the commune, essentially) if they are to survive.

The old, now defunct oppressive emigration policies of the USSR, East Germany (including the Berlin wall), China, etc. were manifestations that developed quickly from their socialist economies. Such restrictions were not nascent, but rather were implemented years after the advent of these totalitarian regimes.

Eastern European spokesmen stress the debt an individual owes society because of benefits received. In socialist states, it is argued … society makes a large investment in each person, .. and one should therefore repay society by remaining a working member of it.

Dowty, Alan, “The Assault on Freedom of Emigration.” World Affairs, vol. 151(2), 1988

Moving on, let’s consider Venezuela. What began with many westerners proclaiming the victory of Chavez’s socialist agenda ended with governmental takeovers, oppressive policies, and failure of the economy. Again, Socialists proclaimed this socialist experiment flawed since Chavez essentially betrayed his own utopian plan through dictatorship.

The flaw is that Chavez felt he had no choice. His later oppressive policies were reactionary to the increasing failure of the communes to govern themselves for the national benefit, which was their purpose. Good intentions devolved into state oppression because the socialistic ideal of the unselfish, community-oriented “New Man” or “New Woman” is a myth. People do not always step up to their role. Venezuelan cooperatives (which became employee-owned semi-corporations) gained higher prices by selling their goods to foreign buyers instead of supporting their local markets. These additional funds were distributed to the cooperative “owners”. This hurt the local community so much Chavez stepped in and took them all over, destroying his own dream of mass cooperation for the common good.

People don’t always cooperate the way we desire them to. People do have self-interest at heart, which is not to say altruistic efforts aren’t part of the human experience, just that people are not a homogenous set of individuals that see eye to eye and want nothing more than to work hard for their neighbor while staring at rainbows.

Generally, people are not always selfish, but necessarily self-centered (but often selfish as well). It is human nature. Socialists say that any group of people can give up such individualism for the group, but I don’t see it that way.

Niemietz’s arguments go on from there, with far more concrete examples than I can provide here. I advise anyone on the fence to buy it. I did so on Amazon. It is easy to get and reads well.

Bless Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and let’s hope that America begins to come together from the fringes towards the middle road—the safer road well-traveled. Our lives, our constitution, and our very country depends upon it.

Stay Friendly and Healthy.

Rich & Meaty Tomato Sauce

Scott Louie Cooks

This is my go-to tomato meat sauce which I’ll use on pasta (spaghetti, fusilli, cavatappi, etc.) or as the sauce for lasagna. This started from my mother’s recipe, although hers was much simpler preferring a prepared sauce in a jar to canned crushed tomatoes or fresh tomatoes. Make this versatile sauce and freeze in pint or quart containers to use anytime.

This recipe is vegetarian if you omit the ground beef and butter (and perhaps the wine—check its label). Use olive oil for sautéing the vegetables. If omit beef, butter, and (perhaps) the wine, it’s vegan.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs 80-20% ground beef (or chuck)
  • unsalted butter, but only as needed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 1 clove minced garlic or 2 cloves of roasted garlic
  • 16 oz of mushrooms (can be just white button, or use combo with cremini, shiitake, and oyster), separated into two piles: a) 10 oz (2/3) chopped, and b) 6 oz (1/3), sliced (add more or less to taste)
  • 3 oz unsalted tomato paste
  • 1½ cups of robust red wine (like zinfandel, malbec, or cabernet sauvignon)
  • 1 28 oz can unsalted crushed tomatoes
  • 2 fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • nice bunch of fresh parsley, chopped, with half reserved
  • oregano, sage, and thyme
  • 2-4 bay leaves (depending on size)
  • salt & black pepper
  • optionally add some cayenne or white pepper

Brown the ground beef

In a 7-qt dutch oven (I prefer Le Creuset), brown the ground beef over medium heat. 80% ground beef has enough liquid and fat that you won’t need oil or butter, just dump the beef into the pot. Using a wooden or plastic spatula (not metal) break up the chunkiness of the ground beef (it tends to stick together as it first cooks).

Continue to break up and turn over the beef until it is cooked and granular and most of the water has evaporated. Brown it in its own fat for some nice caramelization. Scoop out and set aside.

This is some alt text
browning the ground beef

Sauté the vegetables

There will be residual fat from the ground beef. If that’s not enough, add a Tbsp of butter. On medium heat, add the onions, green pepper, and carrots and cook until onions are translucent (about 4 minutes), stirring often. Add the garlic and the chopped mushrooms (the 2/3 portion) and stir into the other vegetables. Let the mushrooms express some liquid and evaporate off.

When the pan is sizzling again, add the tomato paste. Stir it into the vegetables and let it brown a bit. This can feel tricky as the paste may turn the bottom of your pan black, but it’s really a deep brownish-red and isn’t burning. You have to hang over the pot on this. If you suspect it is burning, stir it around and move onto deglazing the pan.

vegetables just added to pot

Deglaze the pan and add remaining ingredients

Turn the heat to medium high and add the wine. It should sizzle when it hits the pan and boil immediately. Mix it well into the veggies and paste and it will get rather thick. Be sure to deglaze, meaning scrape up all the baked-on goodness at the bottom of the pot. It should come off fairly easily.

wine thickens with the tomato past

Let the wine cook, stirring (a lazy but constant stir is fine), so that the alcohol evaporates off, perhaps a minute. Add the crushed tomatoes and chopped fresh tomatoes and stir well, bringing the whole to a simmer.

Stir in the reserved browned ground beef. Add your spices. I like to coat the top with oregano, add 2 large bay leaves (or 4 smaller ones), and sprinkle in some sage and thyme. Add salt and pepper and half of the chopped parsley. If you like, add a sprinkling of cayenne pepper and/or white pepper to add some spiciness.

bringing the ingredients together

Cook

Cover, reduce heat to low (you want this to lazily simmer). Cook for 2 hours, but check it often, at least every fifteen minutes. Make sure when it’s just covered (within the first 5 minutes) that it’s not boiling robustly which will make it burn on the bottom.

Taste, taste, taste, checking for salt and herbs. People tend to under salt, but it’s best to start with a little and add it to taste, especially towards the end of cooking.

After about an hour and a half into the cooking, start skimming the fat from the top. Due to the tomatoes, it will appear shiny red. Use a tablespoon to just break the surface to let the fat run into the spoon. Discard. Do this several times (every 10 minutes towards the end of cooking). After skimming the fat, stir up the sauce.

Finish

About 15 minutes before eating, cook the remaining mushrooms. In a sauté pan, add a Tbsp of butter, turn up the heat to medium high and add the remaining sliced mushrooms (the 1/3 portion). Stir well and let them evaporate off their water and caramelize in the butter. These will cook up quickly, so 2-3 minutes should do it. Add the mushrooms and remaining parsley to the pot.

Cook another 15 minutes, or about the time it takes for the pasta to cook. When ready to serve, remove the bay leaves.

Cook your pasta of choice, plate, top with a ladle or two of sauce and grated pecorino Romano (my favorite) or cow’s milk Romano or Parmesan. A fresh garden salad goes well with this along with crusty bread with a little salted butter or olive oil. A glass of red wine pairs well. Delicious!

Enjoy!

plated with cavatappi pasta and buttered bread on the side — add some romano, pair with garden salad and a glass of robust red wine, and you’re good to go!

Make it Your Own

Probably half of the time I make this sauce I add 2-3 cooked pork sausages cut up into bite-sized chucks. Fully cooked, I add these with the ground beef.

Instead of sauteing the sliced mushrooms near the end of cooking, roast them in the oven. Toss with some olive oil, separate out on a baking sheet lined with foil, and bake at 425° F for 15 minutes. Careful—depending on how thinly sliced they are, they will roast quickly. Check them often. When done, don’t salt them like you might if you just wanted them as-is (they make a great snack). Then substitute in at the end of cooking per above.

OR–after browning the beef and ladling it out of the pot, cook the 1/3 portion sliced mushrooms in the residual fat (add a little butter if necessary). Cook and reserve. This will save you a dirty pan later, but you should refrigerate them until needed.

Roasted red pepper flakes are a classic ingredient of tomato-based pasta sauces, but I don’t use them. I find I can control the heat better with cayenne and white and black pepper. Or add Siracha to the sauce on my plate alone and let my guests control their own heat.

NOTES: On Ingredients

I typically use a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes, but I’ve made it with 9 fresh tomatoes. This adds more liquid, so I’d add the full 6 oz can of tomato paste. My usual practice is to use canned crushed tomatoes with my meat sauce and fresh tomatoes for marinara.

Remove your whole bay leaves at the end of cooking. Whole bay leaves present a cutting or choking hazard. Bay leaves remain rigid with sharp edges even after cooking for several hours. Breaking them up is worse–now you have many pointy hazards you can’t readily pick out. I haven’t used it, but you can buy powdered.

Always cook with wine that you would happily offer to guests (or drink yourself, of course). The better the ingredients, the better the outcome of your food. About the time I’m adding the wine to the sauce, I’m pouring myself a glass. I’m the cook, I deserve it.

Stay Friendly and Healthy.

The Decline and Fall of the American Experiment

As we plunge headlong into the winter of our discontent (Covid-wise), I reflect upon our divided nation. When is being American no longer enough for some people? Our grand heritage falls short of impressing those who scream at the loss of white homogeneity (not that we ever had it), our privileged livelihoods (much of the world gains on us), and our vaunted pride of product (not that we manufacture anything anymore).

I love my country, as many in the world love theirs. It has been an American arrogance to believe everyone else wants to be here, to be American. For many immigrants, the hope of a better life drives them to seek our shores and reinforce this belief, but one should not mistake the desire for survival with a love of our culture. And many expatriates are pleased to live in other lands without loss of love for their country. I could live abroad, at least for a few years. It is not a question of escaping the United States but rather of embracing a new experience. I have the privilege of that choice. Many leave their homeland out of necessity.

We are on the verge of a historic election. Before discussing the ramifications of this event, let us consider the following factors of recent importance to the United States:

  • Growing incompetence of its leaders
  • Rising domestic power struggles
  • Widening social divisions
  • Declining health of its citizens
  • Loss of domestic manufacturing
  • Foreign encroachment on its usual power bases
  • Perceived foreign threats leading to greater centralization of power
  • Isolationism
  • Government sanctioned cruelty and corruption
  • Climate change

I have not conjured these factors out of nothing. One can look them up. They are all contributors to the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.

I review such a list with trepidation. This is history repeating itself. At its height, the Roman Empire was unassailable. It was the model of civilization. From both its citizens and those impressed from occupied territories (notably Greece), great advances in science, architecture, navigation, cultivation, engineering, and animal husbandry were made. Rome fed its citizens, provided clean water, built roads to ease commerce, entertained in vast arenas, erected cities, and created the greatest military power the world had ever seen.

Sounds all rather familiar, doesn’t it? Read the list again, knowing it’s about the Romans. It’s as good a summation of our current problems as any.

Study the past if you would define the future.

Confucius

Growing incompetence of its leaders

Need I say more? But I will. Although I was a Republican for thirty years, I changed to Independent in 2009. I could see the Republican party headed for disaster with policies I no longer recognized. Mostly, I perceived the loss of honorable dealing, of conspicuous prevarications, and most importantly, the absence of decent humanity. The last four years have validated my inner prescience (though I admit many may have perceived that years before).

I’m a moderate, described by the old saying of “socially democratic but fiscally conservative”. I was a Reagan fan. Indeed, voting in 1980 was my first presidential election as an adult. I’m still a fan of Ronald Reagan, but before you judge too harshly, remember the shock and awe of the sixties and seventies. The rising tide of moderate conservatives seemed to force the long-reigning Democrats into extremism. I do not hesitate to brand many of the high ranking liberals in Congress as socialists. I rejected their extremism and believed that the moderate brand of Republicanism was the only solution to the unending wave of ultra-liberal candidates vowing to turn America into a vast workers’ paradise of strict egality and parity. Except I was reminded of George Orwell’s Animal Farm where Napoleon the Pig declares all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. That was the rich/poor socialism of some Democrats in the seventies (I’m thinking of you, Edward Kennedy, favorite of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee). [By the way, declared socialist Bernie Sanders chillingly continues this tradition].

But look at the Republicans now. The moment John McCain passed away, Lindsay Graham lost his conscience. We can only assume the moderating influence of McCain hid Graham’s true colors, but Graham today licks Trump’s ass (sorry) and asks for more. Mitch McConnell is an everlasting a-hole. Susan Collins is a lying bullshit artist. All pale before their leader, the excretable Donald Trump.

Choose your epithet. Moron? Compulsive Liar? Incompetent Buffoon? Human Joke? I can’t decide on just one. But clearly his odd arrogance (since he’s not that smart), compulsive lying, ridiculous need for approval, say-anything-on-his-mind-no-matter-how-foolish personality has moved many to follow him blindly (admitting their brainlessness), lapping up the inane comments of their Lemming Leader like cult members following their guru.

Now it’s the Republicans who have moved to extremism, leaving moderates like myself behind. Trump’s brand of leadership smacks of fascism and he seems intent on operating like a dictator even as his legal team climbs the mountain of his lawsuits.

The election is here and closely contested. We need a change to moderation and I hope the country agrees.

Rising domestic power struggles
Widening social divisions

We are divided. No one should say we’ve never been more divided, since after all, we fought a civil war. And political party power struggles began in the terms of George Washington, for God’s sake, and continue to this day. But I remember a time when partisanship was expressed during elections, but congress worked together when the spotlight was elsewhere.

Tip O’Neill was a long time Speaker of the House known for his deal-making across the aisle. I believe Nancy Pelosi could be the same kind of Speaker but for the reticence of the conservative Republicans who seem hell-bent on parroting Trump’s childish attacks. Trump has one mode: my way or the highway, and he’s emboldened Republicans to adopt that attitude.

Why else would Lindsay Graham pronounce a moratorium on Supreme Court confirmations in 2016 (because of the impending election), declaring this the bi-partisan policy of the Senate, then turn around and rush through the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett? Graham showed himself to be a totally partisan, back-stabbing, lying sack of excrement. Ah, c’est la vie.

Black lives matter, except to racists, which seemed to have emerged from the wood work recently. This only means they were quietly there all along, but Trump has emboldened their proclamations as well as some trigger fingers. The peaceful demonstrations in support of BLM have been impressive even if Trump calls in our national armed forces to fight our lawful citizens.

The #MeToo Movement brought much sexism to light and I hope it’s not sidelined during the BLM push for real change. We need both movements to succeed as we build a better society. Women need a direct path through the glass ceiling so that equal pay for equal work is more than a slogan. And we must end sexual discrimination, intimidation, and assault.

Most women take care of themselves. But why should they even live with the threat when all a man has to do is grow up, seek an enlightened perspective, and act like a decent human being? It’s simple, guys.

Yeah, we’re divided. We must find common ground, folks.

Declining health of its citizens

Our obesity epidemic is no joke. Consequent health issues are rising. Diabetes claims lives. How has this happened?

Perhaps we should blame our general affluence. Perhaps it’s cheap, fast food that seems 99% fat. Perhaps it’s a general American malaise that set in post-WWII. I’m open to suggestion, but let’s be clear: our health is declining, we have one of the highest incidence of heart disease on the planet, and preventable health problems may claim more lives than anywhere on the planet (but I’m not sure about that).

Any way you look at it, we have eaten ourselves into premature death. While being an American citizen has its privileges, our neo-new-world entitlement brings easy access to food, a fear of losing our place, subsequent despair, and binge-eating as a temporary comfort substitute. When some of our poorest citizens can become obese off of food stamps, we aren’t destined to lose our sense of entitlement any time soon.

Loss of domestic manufacturing

Once domestic manufacturing declines, a country’s citizens rely more and more on imported finished goods. Look at where we are with Chinese products. I don’t fault China, nor do I fault businesses who reduce expenses by using Chinese labor.

Consider what it takes to ship thousands of tons of raw materials overseas, have it assembled, and shipped back in finished form. Why would any business do that? Clearly, American wages have so outstripped reason that when massive shipping expenses are factored into foreign labor costs, it is still cheaper to manufacture abroad.

We are a proud nation. We believe in our manifest destiny. And we want an ever higher standard of living until we’ve priced ourselves out of the market. We’re privileged. But this is endemic of our entire society. I don’t blame skilled laborers for wanting a better life. But our culture has so indoctrinated us into the stress of preserving our birthright that we’ve been blinded to the obvious consequences of our actions.

Our leaders may have seen it, but they cater to the masses. And the masses want more and more, and they want it cheaper. They don’t care about quality anymore, all the while assuming they can maintain their life style through protectionism instead of competition.

We’re not getting it back. And now we’re dependent on Chinese manufacturing which is what has Trump so upset. Also, China is a natural competitor of Russia and since the Russian leader Putin owns our president’s ass, Trump toes the line.

Foreign encroachment on its usual power bases
Perceived foreign threats leading to greater centralization of power
Isolationism

I’ve lumped these three into one discussion since they are separate but dependent issues. Many Republicans today decry the power of the European Union seeing our close allies as competitors. To be different, to be foreign threatens white America’s entitled conservatives. They might lose their jobs (can’t compete so won’t compete), they might have to share taxpayer services (the poor pay less taxes so they are less deserving), and they might have to adapt to living among those who are culturally different than themselves.

Domestic manufacturing declines so that emerging nations benefit, but that threatens our perceived world superiority. We want high paying jobs that are protected by law even if our economy can’t sustain it.

The reaction is to elect a president that will take care of them, no matter how detrimental to the country or their future. They want relief (temporary comfort) now. And they will sell out our country while waving their flags if it means their elevated standard of living is assured. Those foreign threats must be defeated, even if we destroy our alliances in the process.

So our president rules by decree. This is a trend that has been going on for decades, so I won’t pretend it’s new, but that’s the point. Our current president simply exhibits the epitome of rewriting law by executive order. Congress has to fight to keep its check-and-balance rights even as many Republican senators spit upon the constitution in the name of defending it. How did we get here?

The current regime believes to truly protect the privileged citizens, we must isolate. Nothing could be more disastrous for our country. The world has shrunk. We are part of a global economy, one now driven through multiple sources and not just the United States. Our slice of that global economy has shrunk even as its production has soared. The world is better off today than yesterday, and I hope it’s better off tomorrow. At a time we should embrace the new reality of our place in the world, we are pulling away in the misguided lie that isolating ourselves will not only protect our way of life, but ensure its continuance.

We are self-destructing before the world’s eyes.

Government sanctioned cruelty and corruption

I’ve written before of the corruption of this White House. The swamp has only risen during Trump’s tenure. And about half of all Americans seem complacent, which is silent affirmation. Have we become of a nation of criminal enablers?

This isn’t all about Trump. Following 9/11 the US sanctioned the use of torture upon detained persons. Fortunately, bad press shamed a moderation of these practices (if it truly did) but even today the level of intimidation and physical pain infliction allowed by law are higher than at any time post Geneva Convention. As we accept such practice, we lose our humanity.

Perhaps it’s that indoctrination that caused many conservatives to applaud the use of family shattering separations for potentially illegal detainees. It takes a sick mind to conjure such torture upon mothers and children, even sicker minds to enact the practice. I am left abhorred and speechless that little provision was made to fix the issue and reunite children to their mothers so that any claim that this was a threat-induced “tough love” approach is rendered specious.

So far, 14 Trump aides, donors, and advisors have been indicted or imprisoned. These are Trump’s promised “best people”. But we know the reality is that the best people resigned from the Trump administration in disgust and despair. They’ve left in droves, so that Trump has gotten what he wants—morally questionable yes-men (and women) who will lie with the same fluidity as their leader. He’s assembled a cabinet whose purpose seems to be to take advantage of the perks of office to the extent they can manage without getting caught for malfeasance and/or collusion (treason, really). Excuse me as I go throw up.

Climate change

This has been listed as a factor leading to the decline of the Roman Empire. Rome was built and prospered in an age of unprecedented climate stability that favored agriculture. As its populations grew, so, too, grew its harvests and the empire fed itself without major interruption for several hundred years.

That dependable weather came to an end. Droughts and cold spells became more commonplace. Volcanic activity increased. And if coincidentally or dependently, plagues suddenly killed huge swaths of the population.

Two of the worst pandemics were the Antonine Plague (160s AD) and the Plague of Cyprian (240s AD). It seems unknown exactly what bugs caused these pandemics, but historians have suggested smallpox or possibly bubonic plague. Both events rocked the empire to its core.

Climate change along the Eurasian steppe caused the Huns to migrate for greener pastures, displacing the Goths (and others) who overran the Roman territories.

How will climate change effect our American experiment? I can’t say unless the extremists predicting the submersion of the east and west coasts are correct. Ice is melting at an alarming rate around the poles. Will this precipitate more disease, more erratic weather, more drought or more wetland?

Grim?

If we are in a spiraling decline, can it be reversed? Our privileged culture in American has changed us and it’s not easy to change again. We don’t have to go back, only forward, but not as a nation of unhealthy, self-important citizens braying for protectionism. We must embrace our new world, reinforce our alliances, open our hearts, speak the truth as best to our knowledge, and use common sense.

If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.

Henry Ford

Stay Friendly and Healthy.

Spartan Roasted Potatoes Au Fromage

Scott Louie Cooks

Spartan potatoes are a favorite side dish that goes with any roasted meats, steaks, sausages, or chicken. The “Spartan” simply means a classic combination of SPinach and ARTichokes, to which I add roasted garlic and leeks. Plus I love cheese so any au fromage is a winner.

Ingredients

  • 2 russet potatoes, washed, skin-on, cleaned of eyes and rough spots
  • salt and black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil (as needed to coat the potatoes)
  • rosemary, chopped finely if fresh, or powdered if dry
  • ½ Tbsp unsalted butter
  • ½ cup chopped leek (can use a little more if you like the taste)
  • 3-4 cloves roasted garlic (or use 1-2 cloves of fresh minced)
  • 1 bunch spinach, cleaned and mostly de-stemmed (about 8 oz)
  • 1 14 oz can whole artichoke hearts, cleaned of tough leaves and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2-3 Tbsp sour cream (to taste)
  • 2 Tbsp grated romano cheese (or pecorino romano or parmesan, etc.)
  • chopped parsley
  • paprika
  • 6 oz grated extra sharp cheddar cheese

Roast the potatoes

Preheat the oven to 425° F.

Slice the potatoes in ¼ to ½ inch thick rounds, trying to maintain a consistent thickness between the slices. In a large bowl, wash the potato slices to remove some of the starch, and drain. Lightly salt, tossing to distribute. Drizzle olive oil over the slices and mix up the slices with your hands, coating them as evenly as possible on all sides.

Distribute the slices on a foil-lined baking sheet. Lightly dust with rosemary. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the slices are somewhat browned on top and soft to a fork, i.e., ready to eat but not overdone.

Make the spartan filling

Over medium heat, sauté the leek in the butter. When just soft (1-2 min—leeks cook quickly), add the roasted garlic and mash and mix into the leeks. Add half the spinach leaves and let wilt, then do the same for the second half. Add the chopped artichoke hearts and mix until all is combined and well distributed (spinach tends to clump together) and remove from heat.

Make the cream sauce

Whisk the sour cream into the heavy cream. When mixed, add the grated romano cheese and whisk until combined.

Assemble the dish

Preheat oven to 325° F.

Into a glass 10×6 inch casserole dish (or your near same size equivalent), add a little of the cream sauce to barely coat the bottom. Swish the dish around to coat. Then layer half of the roasted potatoes along the bottom, piling them up as needed (may make 2 layers). Then sprinkle a little salt and pepper (not too much, or omit this step entirely, as the cheeses add a lot of salt already). Sprinkle some chopped parsley over the potatoes, then dust with paprika as if coating deviled eggs.

Scoop in the spartan filling to create the next layer. Cover with the remaining half of the roasted potatoes, layering as needed. Sprinkle more parsley and dust with more paprika. Carefully pour the cream sauce all over the spartan potatoes, ensuring it goes down all the sides and into the middle. Top generously with grated extra sharp cheddar cheese.

Bake

Bake at 325 for 30-40 minutes, or until the top is crusty and golden. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes.

Enjoy!

Make it Your Own

Try substituting a hearty vegetable instead of potatoes for this dish, such as french endive or cauliflower. Instead of roasting, I would sauté the sliced endive with a little sugar to caramelize it. For cauliflower, you could simply steam the cauliflower if using florets, or sauté or roast the cauliflower steaks if using half inch slices.

To turn Au Fromage into Au Gratin simply mix the cheddar cheese with seasoned bread crumbs and distribute over the top of the dish before baking.

NOTES: On Ingredients

I keep an herb garden in the summer and I dry the leftover herb in my perpetually cool unfinished basement during the winter. Rosemary sprigs dry very nicely hanging by twine from a rafter. I also dry-hang thyme, sage, and oregano. If they dry properly, they will last forever (well, years). I take a few sprigs at a time, remove the dried leaves, and grind in a spice grinder (aka coffee bean grinder). Fresh is even better or if you have dried sprigs, grind them up.

I use Kerrygold unsalted butter for cooking and Kerrygold salted butter for the table. It’s just the best although Land O’Lakes does in a pinch. Never use margarine, which is oil that’s been emulsified to act like butter, but it gets the Razzie. Since trans fats are banned by the FDA, margarine is better for you than in the past, but still, butter wins the Oscar for taste every time. If concerned, use a little less or for a recipe with 2 Tbsp of butter, use 1 Tbsp butter, 1 Tbsp of a healthful vegetable oil like olive oil. I use this technique often anyway.

Leeks are a great onion substitute. When you want a mild but still very oniony flavor, leeks are best. If you want mild and less oniony, use shallots. If you want a full onion flavor, use an onion.

Roasting garlic is easy and tastes great. I use Jacques Pepin’s technique of slicing the whole garlic bulb through its middle, without slicing through and separating the halves. Then propping it open, I pour olive oil into its center, then shut the halves. I place the garlic bulb in a square of foil and wrap up all the edges so they meet at the top and seal it with a twist. Then roast in the over at 425° F for 30-40 minutes (careful—ovens vary, so at 30 minutes you might want to pull it out, carefully open the foil while minding the heat, and make sure it’s soft but not burning up). When done, let cool, unwrap and the gooey goodness can be squeezed out of the cut bulbs and used for a milder garlic flavor on toast, in dishes like this one, or any way you want. Wonderful.

Careful with cans of whole artichoke hearts, meaning they are not always ready to eat from the can (or jar). I prefer packed in water and not marinated. Drain off the liquid, then gently squeeze each heart to remove more liquid and test an outer leaf by pulling it off and seeing if the top is too tough to bite into (much less chew). Often the bottom half is soft and delicious while the top is still tough and unpleasantly chewy. Usually only one layer may be like that (or not at all). Check each one before quartering it and you have ready to eat artichokes in your fridge for salads and other dishes (like this one).

Stay Friendly and Healthy.

The American (Food) Crisis

These are the times that try men’s souls.

Thomas Paine’s words ring true today. The year 2020 (and perhaps beyond) will live in the infamous waste heap of better forgotten ages. Pandemic fear spreads its own form of contagion across the globe. As of this writing, with over 230,000 dead in the US alone (over 1.1 million worldwide) and new cases peaking, we face a crisis of historic proportion. Our unpreparedness cost lives, our lack of response costs lives, and some of our citizens’ refusal to take simple prophylactic steps (just wear a mask already, idiots) costs lives.

Racism has been raised to an awareness perhaps not seen since the civil rights movements of the sixties. Our president has given the green light for racists to come into the light. Now he encourages plots against our elected officials and seems to condone their murder because they disagree with his beliefs.

The U.S. election is less than a week away. I don’t wish to wax political in this article since that is not my focus. Let us simply hope for a reasoned outcome, a necessary correction, with no mistake: we must face our future selves and children without shame in the here and now of this election. Let’s get it done with the Common Sense of Human Decency. They must reign once again.

No doubt, 2020 is the year of the American Crisis. Racism, Covid infection and potentially life-altering presidential elections aside, we have arrived at a crossroads of identity. Not in black versus white, or democrat versus republican, but in our food identity. Yes, food.

Since WWII we have sustained a continuous and favorable comparison to the rest of the world in one remarkable and life-sustaining area: the Quality of our Food.

Surely in the last thirty years the gap has narrowed. With innovations in food preservation and high speed transport moving even perishable items safely around the globe, developed nations have achieved a status quo of equality. Is our food demonstrably safer than Europe’s? I’d think not. And BRIC is catching up quickly.

But in the decades that made up the post war era, the United States could anecdotally declare its food quality superiority without argument. The USDA, FDA, and other agencies strove for ever higher standards in food sourcing, preparation, and distribution. It is an American success story. Who looks at a can of corn now and wonders at its degree of botulism? I pop open a can and eat them without boiling, “fresh” from their sealed container, enjoying them cold on salads. A daredevil, you wonder? The odds are seriously in my favor.

No one would have done that just thirty or forty years ago. In fact, the contents of factory-processed tin cans would be well boiled before eaten. Pressing on the lid was required practice to check if the center had “popped”, meaning it had lost its seal and spoiled. We may do that today, too, but it’s not nearly so essential. Back then, a forgotten palpation of your lid was a death-defying act of lunacy.

We can take our modern food quality for granted. We are faced, after all, with understaffed agencies overseeing the food corporations who ever strive for greater market share or lower costs, i.e., rising profits.

Case in point: though administered to farm animals (or put in feed) in the late forties, the non-medical antibiotic craze blossomed in the fifties and sixties as a means to increase per animal meat production. While critics warned of increasing bacterial resistance over the next decades, it wasn’t until the seventies that the FDA attempted (unsuccessfully) to ban certain antibiotic use even while it proliferated throughout the world. The eighties and nineties saw little change.

It wasn’t until the FDA issued voluntary guidelines on antibiotic use amid the growing consumer tendency towards unadulterated/organic foods that non-medical antibiotic usage declined. Still, well into the twenty-first century, use of antibiotics in farm animals is not illegal in the U.S. and on the increase in other developing nations as their standards of living increase and their demands for meat rise proportionately.

It’s not all about food safety. I protest any false advertising or other trickery aimed at separating dollars from consumers. The most disgusting practice is pumping chickens with salt water or chicken stock (or some combination of water, flavorings, salt, and binding agents). The chicken can retain up to 15% of this liquid (some research raises that number). Producers claim that modern lean chickens are less tasty and therefore salt and other flavorings are necessary to add taste lost by having less fat.

Chickens are also chilled in vats of water to inhibit bacterial growth and can absorb the liquid, anywhere from 3-8% of the chicken by weight.

Both practices mean that the chicken you are buying is not the chicken that was slaughtered—it’s been enhanced by producers justifying their lack of ethics with nefarious claims that adding flavor is necessary to attract consumers. You pay for that water. You’re buying water at the per pound price of chicken. A lot of it.

Fry a chicken nowadays and you know what I mean. The water comes out in the pan and the chicken braises in it before it browns. Then a decent percentage of your chicken by weight evaporates, shrinking the meat.

You’re paying for that and receiving an inferior product as well. Not to mention all the added sodium you’re ingesting. And the pumping needles used have been tagged by the FDA as potentially disease-spreading.

These chickens can still be labeled as “Natural” and “Organic” since salt, stock, and water are natural ingredients. WTF? Can our government be asleep to allow these moral crimes to go unpunished? Where are our consumer protections?

It is possible (in fact, it’s becoming more popular) to air-chill chickens, which is shown to reduce contamination (vs. soaking with other chickens in a vat of liquid) and we need a law prohibiting meat-pumping of stock or salt water or frickin’ kerosene into our food. You’d object to that last one, wouldn’t you? Where do you draw the line?

It’s not just chickens. Pork and beef are similarly treated. Bake a pot roast lately? Have you noticed how much water/stock comes out of the beef? Our government claims that leaner meat has more liquid naturally. Perhaps that’s true, but if so, it’s always been true. My mother cooked super-lean beef cuts because they’re cheaper. A well done steak was tough enough we called it “Boot”. It didn’t emit a pan full of liquid. Thanks, USDA. In this, your attitude is reprehensible and irresponsible.

So let’s move on to advertising. Bait and switch is illegal. Yet companies can advertise the very best showing of their product in spite of the fact that all of the good stuff has been pushed into view (as in enchiladas or pockets) or deli meat overflows the sandwich (sub places) or all the fillers like rice and pasta have been covered over artfully by the thin layer of meat and vegetables you’re willing to buy in the first place.

If I purchase frozen food based on a commercial then what comes out of the oven or microwave should have a passing resemblance to the image implanted in my mind.

Sub franchises may have their own rules, but when the mother company offers evidence of its overflowing sandwiches, then every franchise owner should be accountable to meet the standard of the advertising. This can be hit or miss, but who’s policing this? Of course, consumer beware, and you can take your hard-earned dollars to the shop next door if you please, but come on, how many young people take that to heart? Just look how popular Pizza Hut is.

Hey, Pizza Hut may not falsely advertise, but buying a pan of inch thick pizza dough with a smear of toppings and calling it “deep dish” is egregiously misleading. And I’m not targeting young people as not adept with their money (perhaps no one is better at enforced frugality), but the mendacious doublespeak seems to wash off them as long as their bellies are filled. Correct me if I’m wrong.

All I’m saying is that we deserve better. Companies large and small want your money. From the local butcher with his heavy thumb on the scale to the conglomerate corporations abusing chickens for profit, our government turns a blind eye to the lust for business profit. I’m all for companies making money. Profit itself is not a dirty word. In fact, the correct quote is not “Money is the root of all evil”—that’s insane. It’s “The love of money is the root of all evil”—quite a different thing.

When those in our government allow the runaway pursuit of this money lust at the cost of our food quality and the expense of consumers, they perform a disservice to their constituents.

Of course, there is an election coming up….

Stay Friendly and Healthy.

The Rising Swamp of Trump’s Doublespeak

Trump campaigned to “drain the swamp”. We all know what that meant—watching politicians wade waist deep into the awful muck of the stagnant bayou that is our Congress and witnessing the facile, inept, and outright foolish acts of our political leaders who scam taxpayers for profit or fear.

Shouldn’t we clean that up? Could this outsider break the good old boy system and drain the swamp for sound, commercial-style best practices and strong, tacitly untainted leadership?

Sounded good. So…?

Many candidates make suspect comments in their bid for the White House, that’s nothing new. But has a campaign promise been so malignantly touted and so egregiously claimed, yet emerged as so blatantly false?

President Carter campaigned that he’d never support a foreign dictator (paraphrasing: “…those antithetical to our principles”) then asked Congress to support Argentina, Nicaragua, Thailand, South Korea, and the Philippines, all of which were under dictatorships or totalitarian regimes accused of human rights violations.

Sr. President Bush said famously, “No new taxes” then proceeded to raise taxes to prop up the failing economy.

While I strongly believe neither president served the American public well, I would grudgingly admit both made choices which, in their mind, overrode what they promised in a false hope it promoted the common good.

What is so obvious to anyone with a brain is that Mr. Trump acts as if he never made any promises, or rewrites history to make his promises belie the current facts. In his mind, he can do no wrong because no wrong was done. He knows he doesn’t mean what he says. Most of it is improvised idiotic babble anyway—and there’s the old saying that if you can’t remember what you said, it must have been a lie.

Short of draining the swamp, Trump has knowingly (even laughingly?) filled it with the worst litany of criminals since Harding’s administration (or substitute Grant’s or Nixon’s). Anyone with ethics, a decent moral code, or a conviction of choosing right over wrong is ousted and subject to such undeserved vitriol you’d find a seven-year-old’s name-calling mature by comparison. Vile, childish tantrums regularly issue from the leader of the free world.

Now trump believes mail-in voting is as allegedly fraudulent as his own business dealings, except … wait for it … when it’s in his own best interests. Then mail-in voting is like a well-oiled machine, somehow transformed from impossibly corrupt to skillfully adept.

And thank goodness for self-interest, eh? I mean, since GOP elected officials (senators, congressmen, governors, state reps) are panicking over such claims, afraid they would lose elections because Republican voters might take Trump seriously, Trump changed his tune somewhat. Now he offers that a state like Nevada’s postal service is unprepared for the crush, while claiming that Florida is completely ready. Hmm, Nevada against Trump (amazingly), Florida for Trump (quelle surprise).

But back to the swamp, now up to our chins.

Let’s talk emoluments (and who doesn’t like to?).  There exist these couple of clauses in the constitution, a document btw Trump repeatedly uses to wipe his ass (damn those patriots), whereby Trump attaches powers to himself he doesn’t have or bends faithful meanings to his will in perverse, even criminally insane ways. To wit: his near decision to send troops to police our American cities against all authority to do so; and spitting on people’s first amendment rights when he thinks he is looking bad [Ed. note to Mr. Trump: that’s more often than you even realize] by tear-gassing US citizens peacefully demonstrating so he can have a ridiculous (I mean, stupidly ridiculous) photo op at a church where he doesn’t regularly attend services. To Trump, even a steeple backdrop and the Christian bible are simply props for his Orwellian propaganda of doublespeak.

Then there are the many, many, many—a crazy number of many—hundreds, even thousands (as of this writing) lawsuits against him and his cronies (meaning, his cabinet members, advisors, and administrators—all whom we trust are running our government for us in the most efficient, decent, and correct way—LOL). Many of his associates are in jail, going to jail, or under serious threat of jail time.

Trump’s allegedly fraudulent schemes stretch so deeply in so many directions and are uncovered so quickly that state district attorneys across the nation play Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus as office background muzak and smile maniacally at their burgeoning political careers.

Draining the swamp? It’s up to our eyeballs.

Drain the swamp. Let’s examine what Orwell said:

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.

–George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language”, 1946

Clearly Trump worships at the Orwellian altar, but with a perverse sense of his duty to the American people. Orwell sought to shine a light upon the ridiculous doublethink and newspeak (later collectively known as doublespeak) of his novel 1984 where the populace is ruled through propaganda while believing they are freely engaged in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. His novels are meant to educate us against the use of these devices and to clean up our own act in the process. Orwell abhorred the use of doublespeak, e.g., where firebombing a village is “pacification” and genocide is “ethnic cleansing”.

Trump can say the US numbers against COVID-19 are better than the world’s, that we’re “winning” when we’re losing, that testing should be decreased because indeterminate “books” and “manuals” say so. He claims mail-in voting is fraught with fraud when there is no evidence for such a claim. He denies collusion and then colludes with foreign powers, notably the Russians (what does Putin have on Trump?).

He wants to postpone the November national election, for what? … as a means of making us “freer” perhaps?

What is really important in the world of doublespeak is the ability to lie, whether knowingly or unconsciously, and to get away with it; and the ability to use lies and choose and shape facts selectively, blocking out those that don’t fit an agenda or program.

–Edward S. Herman, Beyond Hypocrisy, 1990

Trump is stealing our liberties, instilling fear of outsiders, moreover using fear to breed hate all while claiming he is making American great. That is not a great America. That a good 30-40% of Americans agree with this is staggering and sad, for me and for them.

Anyone can make a mistake. To all the Trump supporters out there, it’s time to put right this egregious error and make peace with your fellow citizens, and those yet to be citizens, including those you may think of as non-mainstream, but are progressing as mainstream as anyone else: those that are LGBTQ+ who have already lived through too much pain and hate and only want to bring love and acceptance into our hearts.

We all have foibles, we all err. We say that is human, but to be truly human is to err and correct, to catch the mistake and make it right. That’s progress. That’s the American way—at least, should be the new American way. We can all make that happen.

Equality. Tolerance. And shitcan the Doublespeak, please. We’re way past 1984, people.

Stay Friendly and Healthy.

Golly Gomer Gohmert, Stupid Enough to Die For?

I’m at a loss. I have this question, you see, that no one will answer or else I receive many conflicting answers, usually along party lines. It’s simple in its clarity, yet deeply influential to the health of the country. Seems like everyone would admit the truth, then pull together for the good of humankind.

Alas, this is my question: Has the average stupidity of the American people plummeted in recent years?

I could phrase it as multiple choice:

  1. Yes, obviously
  2. Yes, but only among Republicans
  3. Yes, but only among those under thirty years of age
  4. No, the pandemic is a hoax perpetrated by the Fake News cabal whereupon 150,000 Americans sacrificed their lives for the sake of a scam (as well as 500,000 more worldwide). Yes, that’s some dedicated conspiracy.

This disease can kill you. Possibly, this disease will kill you. Sure, the weak among us are most vulnerable, but this has no age limit, no race limit, no party line. It’s insidious as it creeps from person to person, infecting rational people and turning them into incoherent nutcases.

I’m not speaking of Covid-19. This frightening disease is Stupidity-Now.

What happened to common sense? I understand irrationality from someone’s panic-induced hysterical outburst, but nowadays seemingly (that’s the key) normal people are calmly speaking to cameras or standing upon the Capital steps while professing strong beliefs that six hundred thousand to a million worldwide deaths is nothing to concern oneself with, that the CDC and experts like the brilliant Dr. Fauci are plain wrong or overwrought, that somehow the Democrats have conjured up this plague as an election year ruse, or that lots of people die from the flu every year so what’s all the fuss over a million more?

I’m at an age where I look upon our youth with forlorn hope anyway, trusting that the natural maturation process of the homo sapiens species will snap some sense into these people at some point so they can take over the reins, more or less, just as generations of forlorn hopes have done before them.

I know the average eighteen to twenty-two year old has, shall we say, a flexible concept of mortality with little fear he’d survive a zombie apocalypse, much less a flu-like pandemic. But I wonder at the total disregard he has for everyone else. Have we bred a generation of the most selfish, self-obsessed sentient minds since the Romans said, “Hey, let’s call it an empire.”

How can anyone, young or old, rationalize jeopardizing their parents’ health, or their grandparents’ or friends’ health? Lives are at stake. Get covid and you may not know it for two weeks as you spread it among everyone you love. Your mother may die simply for the sake of your thoughtless narcissism.

Many are doing the right thing. The point is everyone needs to pitch in. Some cannot protect us from the all. The evidence lies at Governor Santorum’s Retirement Home of Death where his motto is “Your golden years may be shorter than you think.” As governor, how do you sign an order opening up business knowing you are sentencing some of your constituents to death? In some misguided notion of the greater good? “You, sir, must give your life so that our young men and women may frolic at the beach. Uh, sorry for the inconvenience.”

I understand the economy is in freefall, some people are really hurting for money (I mean food on the table, keep the lights on hurting) and businesses are closing in dire financial straits. Still, we must remember that we have weathered the Great Depression and many economic downturns throughout American history. It is fraught with pain. We can get through it.

Yet Trump and his Republicans believe a healthy economy is worth the deaths of hundreds of thousands, as long as they’re old and near the end of life anyway. Once our young adults start expiring in like numbers, I’m sure that policy would change. He has a lot of voters in that demographic, after all.

So what are we to do—like, wear a mask?

Doh! Of course. It may not stop the spread, but it provides some shield against the rain storm of droplets bearing Covid-19 that are ejected from your face with every sneeze.

Covid doesn’t just wander from your body, rising from your skin like an astronaut floating from her berth as weightlessness is achieved. It wants to stay with you. It likes you. You feed it. It only leaves involuntarily when the pleasant mucous it’s wallowing in is ejected by a violent muscle spasm of your throat and chest.

Once free on the open air, Covid wants someone else. So containing much of the spray helps you prevent the disease in others. A mask’s greatest benefit is to everyone else.

Not selfish enough? Am I a deviant, thinking of others when the order of the day is act like Trump and push my own comfort and agenda no matter the consequences to the people around me?

Fortunately, most people are doing the right thing (now and, I hope, in November).

Which brings us to Representative Gomer, I mean, Louie Gohmert, R-TX. This lawmaking pinnacle of our legislature is so convinced NOT wearing a mask is the intelligent thing that he met with White House staff (notably Attorney General Barr) as he was carrying the disease. He is Covid-19 positive. Upon hearing the news, he returned to his office to spread more pestilence. He wanted to thank his loyal staff members and, possibly (who can be sure?), to bequeath them a gasping and lonely death.

As of this posting, AG Barr is being tested for coronavirus. I don’t wish this disease upon anyone, but AG Barr tries my moral compass. In fact, it’s spinning like a plane’s altimeter as it plummets to earth. Well, true north is in there somewhere.

I only wonder—think Barr visited The Donald after his close talk with Gomer? Well, here’s crossing my fingers.

Stay Friendly and Healthy.

Send Out the Clowns

The moment Donald Trump descended the escalator to announce his candidacy for president of the United States, you knew this was a joke. No one would elect this clown. Self-respecting Republicans would see through his pompous, uninformed rhetoric and sympathetically pat his combed-over head while grousing about the lack of a decent candidate. But they’d vote for one of the uninspiring but compos mentis challengers and hope for the best.

Strangely, and I still don’t understand it, conservatives elevated Trump in the primaries and rallied around him for the general election, enough for him to win against (I’ll admit) the stupidest choice under the circumstances the Democrats could have made in Hilary Clinton. I grudgingly voted for Clinton (I had voted for her husband, after all, when I was a Republican) only because I was physically repulsed by the inane blob of human skin (well, some of it is of a human-like substance) running against her.

It’s not that I don’t like his looks, that would be shallow and true and more to the point, moot. It’s not that I don’t like his policies in all their infatuated, illogical, cruelly backward, and monumentally ignorant glory. And it’s not that I don’t like his manner of speaking as uninformed, delusional, and childish as he is. It’s not any of that, for that’s my opinion and while good enough to decide my vote, there are those who agree ideologically with him and everyone’s entitled to their view.

No, my issue with The Donald, and this is where I deviate from his supporters, is his inability to articulate a decent thought, which makes me wonder if he can have a decent thought. He craps all over the constitution (how any American puts up with that I can’t understand—talk about gun control and people wave the sacred parchment more dearly than they hold their children), is imperious in his disregard for hard won human freedoms, and challenged to understand simple logic, like not ingesting household disinfectants to fight the flu.

What does it mean? I struggle to attribute his every utterance to a simpleton’s mind. Is it too easy to say he’s a perpetual seven year old who’s entrusted with nuclear codes and the good, responsible management of American lives? Paraphrasing Théoden: How did it come to this?

I search for a meaningful answer, hoping at some point Mr. Trump acknowledges his shortcomings (we all have them—well, maybe not in the same degree) and grows up a bit. To admit a flaw, to say you were wrong—these are not evidence of weakness but rather a demonstration of human decency and the willingness to find strength in fault. Alas, Mr. Trump seems incapable of such a human expression, dooming himself to uselessness and the likelihood that once he’s kicked out of office (which he’ll have to be), he’ll be considered the worst, most ineffectual, ridiculous president we’ve ever had. And that includes Millard Fillmore.

Worse, he hires sycophants in brazen shows of camaraderie, insists on their absolute loyalty to any inanity he utters, then vilifies these “friends” of his when they deign to disagree. After all of the musical chairs, we have left the most egregious yes-men willing to deconstruct American policy and the ideals we have strived to achieve over centuries.

Harassment of LGBTQ+ individuals and more to the point, removing freedoms and protections they have died for, is revolting in the least. Who are they hurting? The world needs more love, not more hate. Get over it.

And to promote a fascist, internal police state over black lives signals a moral decrepitude that should have vanished from American life long ago. But it’s always there in some, hopefully the few, but anymore, it’s hard to say. #blacklivesmatter

When Trump announced his plan to send US troops into the states for crowd control, effectively suggesting the creation of a police state, every conservative, let only every single American should have clutched their constitution and vowed: We made a mistake. Never again.

Never again.

Stay Friendly and Healthy.

Copernicus and the Zen of Attitudinarianism

Discussing the value of modern art has reminded me of the truly annoying: the rarefied religion of pomposity. In one of my recent posts, I mentioned Woody Allen’s frustration with the pompous ass in line behind him during a scene in Annie Hall. I know how he felt. I’ve had my fill of pompositude, where individuals from all branches of the arts and sciences have tested the levels of pompousness a human can endure. At times, their snobbery compels them into a state of pomposuration on par with nirvana. Nothing can touch them and they have nothing left to learn. Thus they achieve the highest state of the neo-pomposer: Attitudinarianism.

With just the right pose, the truly pompous can make themselves believe the most idiotic, small-minded, ridiculous nonsense the human mind can conjure.

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