Thursday, August 06, 2015

On this day (how could we, how could we?)

I am sharing this email with the permission of its author, the venerable civil rights attorney Guy Saperstein, whom I am privileged to call my friend and correspondent.

(Photos via Wikipedia and CommonDreams, added by me, DNT.)

Exactly 70 years ago, on the morning of August 6, 1945, the Enola Gay, a Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber, flew over Hiroshima and dropped the first atomic bomb on humans. The bomb exploded 2,000' above the ground and five square miles of Hiroshima was completely destroyed, incinerating and killing 90,000 people; 70,000 more people would die soon after from burns and radiation. Nearly all the killed people were civilians.

Three days later, on August 9, 1945, the United States would drop a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, killing 70,000 civilians.

President Truman justified the use of nuclear weapons on "military necessity"---the need to avoid an invasion of Japan which would have cost American military lives, but, in fact, every one of Truman's military advisors and his Commander of the U.S. Army in the Far East, Douglas MacArthur, and Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, advised Truman that using nuclear weapons was not necessary to defeat the Japanese, who had a delegation in Washington D.C. negotiating for peace, and expressly advised Truman against using the bombs.

Historic records of Truman's administration later would reveal that use of nuclear weapons was never directed at Japan:  Truman's Secretary of State, James Byrnes, had convinced Truman that the Soviet Union would emerge from WWII as America's only rival and we needed to show them we had nuclear weapons and were willing to use them. Dropping the bombs on Japan was an attempt to dictate post-war terms to the USSR, not defeat Japan.  It was the beginning of the Cold War and the greatest single act of terrorism in the history of the world.

All of this has been documented by historians, most notably Gar Alperovitz in two books: Atomic Diplomacy and The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb.  Alperovitz' scholarship has stood up for 40 years.

Of course, this is not the version taught in schools and not the version popular in public conversation in America.  America doesn't do introspection.  America doesn't do contrition.  America fights terrorism, but never looks at its own acts of terrorism.

But maybe we could look at it today.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Mama Deborah's vegetable soup (stew, really)

As is my wont, usually when it's cold or rainy--obviously, it was the latter this week--I get in the mood to make soup.

Soup is a wonderful, forgiving foodstuff. Unlike baking, where you have to pay close attention to the precisely-measured amounts (of most ingredients, anyway), soup-making allows you to customize like mad. If you adore thyme, go ahead and throw in some more; if you're trying to cut back on sodium, eliminate most of the salt; if you've got a surplus of carrots lying around in the fridge, well, no-one is going to argue with the sweet, carroty flavor and extra dose of vitamin A this week's soup is offering. You can be totally creative and health-conscious while thriftily using up leftover vegetables from your last supermarket run or CSA delivery. There really aren't too many rules.

I made the soup in the photograph above this week, and a few people asked me for the recipe. I'm sort of embarrassed to admit that I don't really have a recipe, per se, but I hope they'll like what I'm offering instead: a general guideline for making one's own fabulous vegetable soup. Do it once, and you'll love the results (and process!) so much, it will become a habit, especially as fall draws near.

This was an enormous amount, as I have a big and hungry family. You should feel free to divide the quantities and add or eliminate ingredients as you see fit.

Start with a big stock pot. My beloved All-Clad pot, above, which is going on 10 years old, is actually part of gigantic shellfish steaming set. Any good, heavy-bottomed stock pot will do--you want to be able to simmer your soup without scorching it, something that can happen if you use potatoes and/or fava beans (I used both this week).

Coat the bottom of the pot with olive oil. Add a pinch of sea salt and a dash (or two or five, depending) of crushed red pepper.

Turn on the flame to low/medium and add your "mirepoix". A classic mirepoix is a mix of diced onions, celery, and carrot slices. I prefer minced garlic to onions, and there were tons of fat fennel bulbs at the market this week, so instead of celery, I cut the fennel into 1" dice (don't worry if you get a few of the leafy fronds in there, they're edible and tasty) and used those. If you can get your hands on fresh fennel, I wholeheartedly recommend using it--it imparts a delicious, sweet, faintly licorice-y flavor to the soup, and I adore that. It's also fun to nibble on raw while you're doing prep.

So, to recap, for this big batch (so far) I've used:

  • Olive oil to coat the pan
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Dash(es) of crushed red pepper to taste
  • 3 bulbs of fennel, woody stems and hearts removed, cut into 1" pieces
  • About 20 medium-ish organic carrots, sliced (however you like to slice carrots--fat, thin, French...your choice).

Sauté those until they're beginning to get soft, then turn down the heat to low and add:

  • 1 head of garlic, peeled, with the woody ends nipped off, then minced

Stir well, put the lid on the pot and let it all cook for a bit, checking on it and stirring every so often. The moisture from the carrots and fennel (or celery, if you're using that) will steam up and help soften everything, and it will also keep things from sticking. (But you still need a little oil to start with.)

While this is going on, you can prep your other vegetables. Meaning, it's serious wash-and-chop time.

The only real rule here is that you're going to add the harder, crisper vegetables first; softer, leafier stuff (like spinach) can wait until the end.

You'll need to have handy, at this point:

  • 3 cartons of organic vegetable broth (if you've got your own homemade stuff, use that--lucky you!)
  • 1/2 bottle of inexpensive semi-sweet white wine (like Reisling)
  • Some boiling water in the kettle, standing by alongside the soup pot: if your creation seems too thick at any point, you can splash a little in

Once the mirepoix is softening up nicely, pour in the wine. Turn up the heat a bit to bring things to a boil. Then pour in the vegetable broth. Get it all nice and bubbly.

Now add to the pot, more-or-less in this order, waiting until the bubbling resumes between each addition:

  • 2-3 tablespoons of dried sage or fistful or two of fresh sage that you've chopped
  • 1 pound, give-or-take, of new (baby) potatoes, preferably Yukon gold or other firm-fleshed potatoes, cut in half or even quarters if necessary (not red potatoes though, because they are best for mashing and you'll find they disintegrate rather quickly in soup)
  • 1  15-oz. can of organic Marzano plum tomatoes, which you've squashed in the can with your bare hands (or cut up into smallish chunks if you're squeamish), juice included
  • 1 large can of fava beans, rinsed a few times and drained (or a cup or two of fresh favas, if you can find them, again, lucky you)
  • 1-2 heads of organic broccoli, cut into reasonable-sized chunks
  • 3 large zucchini, sliced
  • 3 large yellow squash, sliced
  • 1-2 cans of organic baby peas, or a bag or two of frozen, or a pound or so of fresh petit pois if they're available (sigh)

And get all that boiling nicely. After about 20-30 minutes, once the potatoes are softening, you can add:

  • 1-2 bags (or more) of washed baby spinach.

And when that is cooking down and swirling around the other vegetables, take a big fistful of:

  • fresh thyme

...wash it well, and stir it into your soup.

(I'm trying to remember if I left anything out....)

You'll want to simmer your soup on low for a good hour or so after this; put the lid on it, but askew, so some steam escapes and it can continue to cook down. Me, I love the way this tastes the next day, when flavors have blended together nicely and the potatoes have thickened everything up. Given that your kitchen will be smelling mighty fine, though, you'll probably have to serve this soup tonight, and it will be raved about. When you're ready to do that, taste a bit and see if it needs more salt; bear in mind, you'll want to use little-to-no additional salt if you're serving your soup with an Italian hard cheese.

Yes, you can shave some pecorino Romano (or Parmesan) on top. Certain family members of mine insist on it.

And yes, you can cook some tiny soup pasta (like acini di pepe) in a separate pot, spoon some in bowls, and then ladle your wonderful vegetable soup over it--and then top with cheese (or not), too. Totally up to you and/or your crowd.

Having a hot, crusty loaf of bread and a full bottle of wine on the table though? That's pretty much mandatory.



Wednesday, May 13, 2015

I'll be on Radio or Not with Nicole Sandler today

Be sure to tune in to Radio or Not at 10:30 am, when I'll be talking all things Flori-DUH with my pal Nicole Sandler.

(The show is re-run throughout the day, and there will be a podcast available at Radio or Not.)

See you on the radio!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Edward R. Murrow, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you

The coffin of one of three young Muslims who were shot in Chapel Hill, N.C., this week was carried to a funeral prayer service on Thursday in Raleigh, N.C. Travis Dove for NYT
Newsflash: We have crazy, murderous extremists right here in America.

They torture and murder, oftentimes--to the shock of the rest of the world--spectacularly and en masse; oftentimes claiming they do it in the name of a larger cause: the voice of a deity in the heavens or the head, and even, most recently, a seething anger toward the Constitutionally-protected worshipping of any deity of choice, period.

Terrorists abroad usually have to steal their weapons and equipment, often from the people America had originally supplied them to; sometimes they finance their weapon stash by kidnapping journalists and aid workers and holding them for ransom. Here in the States, though, any crazy, murderous extremist (or group of them) with a few bucks on hand can just go to one of the more than 51,000 gun retailers currently in business. (Yes, America has more gun retailers than grocery stores.)

If these murderous people and organizations in America circulated slick propaganda videos of themselves carrying out their rapes, lynchings, and shootings (and on and on), would we be okay with having other countries start dropping bombs on us?

Because that's exactly what many in American media are calling for right now: Crazy murderous extremists are doing crazy, murderous, extreme things in Iraq and Syria, so let's go to WAR! (Again.)

Charles Krauthammer and Morning Joke are just the most baldfaced and risibly ignorant-sounding of the chattering lot.

What concerns me: the insidious influence of the quiet, "polite", well-remunerated chatterers--the nascent Judy Millers, and the ones who work for networks either owned by defense contractors or heavily advertised-on by same; many of whom, amazingly, moonlight as corporate speech-givers and de facto lobbyists. And have the nerve to call themselves journalists, all the while tut-tutting about the "black eye to our profession" they seem to think has occurred because the odd one among them got caught lying a bit too obviously.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Anti-Choice, therefore Anti-Health and Anti-Women

Go read Natasha Chart's heartbreaking piece at RH Reality Check, entitled I Had an Ectopic Pregnancy, and Anti-Choice Laws Could Have Made My Experience Much Worse.

It's stunning, and infuriating, that in addition to the heartbreak and fear a woman goes through when facing something like this, she must now think about things like, Is this hospital going to provide me with *actual* medical care, or are their decisions going to be guided by the misogynistic laws of a church I don't even belong to? Consider, for a moment, that in some regions of this great country, Catholic-controlled hospitals are all that are available if you need obstetric/gynecologic care--unless you wish to embark on some long-distance travel--and you'll begin to realize how commonplace this predicament has become.

How commonplace? The news is bad:
Between 2001 and 2011 the number of Catholic-sponsored or affiliated hospitals increased by 16 percent, while the overall number of hospitals nationwide declined. In 2011, one in ten acute-care hospitals were Catholic-sponsored or affiliated. That same year, 10 of the 25 largest hospital systems in the country were Catholic-sponsored. 
With the rise of Catholic hospitals has come the increasing danger that women's reproductive health care will be compromised by religious restrictions. The Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (the Directives), issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), govern care at these facilities. The Directives prohibit a range of reproductive health services, including contraception, sterilization, many infertility treatments, and abortion care, even when a woman's health or life is in danger. Moreover, they often restrict even the ability of hospital staff to provide patients with full information and referrals for care that conflict with religious teachings.
Are we or are we not living in the twenty-first century?

It needs to be said, over and over until everyone in the country (especially those who occupy the governors' mansions and state and national legislatures) gets it: By placing the prevention of pregnancy termination ahead of safeguarding a woman's health and, even, her life, you are stating in no uncertain terms that women are not people, and our very lives are of diminished value. It's that simple. Trust that women are fully-realized human beings endowed with natural rights to control our own bodies and health--that we are people--and the absolute necessity of protecting choice becomes obvious.

This is supposed to be a nation of laws, not a nation of churches.

But this is the reality:

Photo via ACLU Blog of Rights; graphic via


My friend Sara Robinson recommends the excellent blog Catholic Watch, which follows and reports on the various ways the church influences and controls healthcare in the United States.

They write:
The Catholic bishops are imposing their moral values upon Catholics and non-Catholics alike through their control of Catholic hospital and medical systems, which are heavily financed with taxpayer dollars. 
In WA State, almost half of the acute care hospital beds (a proxy for the health care system more broadly) are now subject to the "moral authority" of three Catholic bishops. These bishops oversee medical policy and employment practices for all Catholic "health care ministries," which now includes hospitals, labs, physician practices, hospices, and even insurance companies. These bishops oppose same-sex marriage, birth control, "direct" abortion in all cases - even to save the life of the mother, fertility treatments, and Death with Dignity. 
A recent article in Mother Jones showed that Catholic hospitals contributed 2.8% of total patient gross revenues as Charity Care, which is lower than the industry average of 2.9%.
CatholicWatch is committed to safeguarding patient and taxpayer rights and protecting our health care system from theocracy-based medicine.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Boko Haram terrorists slaughter hundreds--perhaps thousands--of Nigerians; US cable news too busy in Paris

Photo via The Telegraph

Here are terrorists brutally murdering--burning alive!--not just dozens, but as many as two thousand human beings in Baga, Nigeria. Same week as the AQAP attack in Paris. Just more deadly by orders of magnitude (and they're busily wiping out people in Cameroon now).

And yet... Did you see 24/7 cable news coverage of this horrific slaughter, as we saw of the Paris murders?

Can you guess why? Go on, guess.


Amnesty International has details. Awful, sick-making details. And satellite shots that give one a clearer appreciation for the scope of these shocking attacks (click to enlarge):