Author Archives: cassandraisright

It’s Not Schadenfreude…

…unless it comes from the Schaden region of Germany.

Before the main course, the amuse-bouche:  You may have noticed Chris “I Ate The Meatloaf” Christie was all over TeeVee last week to promote his book. So far it’s sold fewer than 2300 copies. You hate to see it.

Time for an appetizer:  So Dr. Oz, who I never watch because I don’t watch CNN, is running for the Senate seat currently held by Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who is retiring. There’s one problem:  Oz doesn’t live in Pennsylvania. He lives in New Jersey. Now that in itself isn’t disqualifying—my own House rep, the useless Alex “I Spent Campaign Money On A LOT of Chik-Fil-A” Mooney, didn’t live in WV at first, either.  Oz recently registered in Philadelphia using his in-laws’ address and voted absentee from that address, but somehow I think that’s going to be a problem for the party that is determined to root out voter fraud.

The whole situation is ridiculous, and his own House rep had a perfect reply to the news:

We’re Americans so we eat our salads before the entrée:  The QAnon/Stop The Steal coalition has come apart at the seams. Last week Lin Wood threw Sidney Powell (who may or may not be under investigation) under the bus. As Adrastos wrote about yesterday, Michael Flynn said on a recorded call with Lin Wood that QAnon was “nonsense” and on Monday Wood told all of us.

And now the main course:  Lauren Boebert has been telling some really weird fake stories about Ilhan Omar, and one was filmed:

There is a description of another retelling of it here.

Omar is understandably upset and Boebert won’t apologize. And then Nancy Mace (you remember her, right? She put profanity and fake antifa symbols on her property on Memorial Day and then got as much press coverage as she could) and Marjorie Taylor Greene got themselves involved:

Things further escalated Tuesday evening:

Kevin McCarthy called them in and, uh, it didn’t go well:

You know, this schadenfreude tastes pretty authentic to me.

(As delightful as I am finding all of these comeuppances, I have to say that Boebert and Greene are truly reprehensible and have put Omar’s life in danger (she played a tape of a threatening message a Boebert supporter left for her on Tuesday night), Mace is a compete fake, and it’s shameful that this is how our national legislature operates.)

The reason I am enjoying all of this is that should the Republicans take the House next year, it doesn’t look like Kevin McCarthy is going to be able to get much done. The nuts have taken the reins of power and that’s not a recipe for a successful legislative session.

This seems appropriate, no?

‘Twas The Night Before Thanksgiving

Our main course this Thanksgiving is…rest. I have been juggling several big tasks at home, and my husband was just handed a mess at work to untangle. I’m still recovering from last week and hit the wall on Tuesday.

I stopped cooking turkey as Thanksgiving dinner several years ago. We regularly eat turkey (did you know it’s a superfood?) during the year, and while I make a mean roast chicken, turkey is more unwieldy and less forgiving than chicken. My grocery store carries standing rib roasts at Thanksgiving and Christmas and deeply discounts them, so that’s become our standard fare.

I make popovers (I love popovers) and my husband decides on the rest of the menu since I don’t like vegetables. This year I’ve streamlined the process. I bought dessert this year–a cherry pie and some profiteroles—which turns out to be really sweet for me because I love profiteroles but I am not about to make them.

Because we travel to Connecticut at Christmas to see my family, we stay home for Thanksgiving. Our activities consist of watching the parade and the dog show and football (I’m not really interested in non-household favorite teams, but it’s every American’s duty to root against the Cowboys, right?).

And we’ll also be grateful for what we have and for the things 2021 has brought:  a vaccine that will allow me to see my mom and dad for the first time in 2 years, my husband’s restored health, a saner government, and renewed hope. I hope you all have a day filled with laughter, love, delicious smells and tastes, and rest, too.

Gustav Mahler is one of my favorite composers, and his 4th Symphony is one of my favorite pieces of music. The text of the last movement is a poem called The Heavenly Life from The Youth’s Magic Horn, a collection of German folk songs and poems. It’s a child’s view of heaven where food is abundant, and I’ll close with this. Here’s a link to the lyrics and an English translation. The recording of this movement was done in 1 take because the conductor, George Szell, thought Judith Raskin’s performance was perfection. It’s my favorite version of it. Joy be with you all.

happier days are here again

When I retreated from the world in August because Covid was once again out of control in West Virginia I was pretty angry at having to restart all of that bullshit again. But 3 months later, just about everything has changed. I got my vaccine booster 2 weeks ago, and although West Virginians have decided they like still spreading Covid so our rate has suddenly stopped its steady downward progress, I’m back to in-person shopping and in-person church and generally anything that allows me to keep my mask on until I’m back outside.

And along with all of this, my husband has finished his physical therapy for his torn meniscus. He’s walking without pain and has restarted walking on our treadmill. He’s also lost a lot of weight and feels so much better. He celebrated by getting his first barbershop haircut in 2 years. I did learn to clip his hair during the pandemic, but I’m not a professional and he really needed someone to smooth out the rough edges.

I’m still annoyed at the willfully unvaxxed, but I’m done hiding from them. The availability of boosters is a game changer. One of my oldest and dearest friends is in DC this week, and he took the train out to have dinner and stay with us last night. We met in graduate school and had been lucky enough to live close enough to each other to visit regularly. At one point he and his now husband lived in Silver Spring, MD while I was in DC. Even after we’d all moved again, me to WV and them to my dad’s hometown, Scranton, PA, we would visit them when we traveled to CT to visit my family. But their latest move took them far from us and I hadn’t seen him since 2018 when I went to Philadelphia for his father’s funeral. It’s been 10 years since my husband had seen him.

I am always amazed at the seamless nature of long term deep friendships. I am blessed to have a bunch of them; friends of 25, 35, 45 years. These are friendships where when you finally see each other again you immediately pick up where you last left off. These are intimate friendships where deep connections of love maintain the bonds of attachment and you can just be yourself. In other words:  it was a great evening. In a pandemic of small joys, this is a major joy and would be one even without Covid.

The larger world is pretty terrible at the moment so I’m going to keep my focus close to home this week and concentrate on the tangible good things in my day-to-day life, including today being our wedding anniversary. We didn’t meet until we were in our 40s and my life is immeasurably better for having met him. Joy be with you all.

The sing out writes itself:

Two Paths, Diverging

So it’s been quite a week for the Democrats with the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the real possibility of the larger social spending bill. The unemployment numbers last week were great news, and for those who have money in the stock market, the Dow hit a new record high.

This/these Democratic legislative victory/victories were the work of the greatest Speaker of the House of all time, Nancy Pelosi, and her best student, Pramila Jayapal. With sticks, carrots, logic, reason, and a little pressure they put together a bipartisan coalition to complement the bipartisan vote in the Senate.

By the way, I did not have Jayapal on my short list for next SOTH should the Democrats hold the House in 2022, but I absolutely do now. She’s great–she doesn’t get flustered, she sticks firmly to the point she wants to make, she’s upbeat, and she is committed to getting things done.

Once the bipartisan infrastructure bill gets implemented it’s going to be a daily cavalcade of ribbon cuttings and ground breakings in towns and cities across the nation. And 13 House Republicans are going to be able to take part in the festivities without being called out for lying about taking credit for something they actually voted against.

And with those votes those 13 House Republicans helped their party in the mid-terms by taking away an issue their Democratic opponents would have used against them. Given that we don’t know what’s going to happen next November, you would think that Kevin McCarthy would be happy with these representatives. Well, he’s not.

Being a Republican these days is about doing whatever you can to hurt Joe Biden and the Democrats so those 13 reps are in a lot of trouble with McCarthy, and with all of the most deranged members of the GOP. The calls immediately came out to punish the traitors and to strip them of any power in the House. And the knives are out for McCarthy and the GOP whip Steve Scalise for not being able to keep their caucus together.

That just seems like such a weird reaction from people are…politicians. It was a good political move for those 13 reps to vote with the Democrats, and now they’re going to be punished for it. I suppose I should feel a little sorry for them, but I’m not. I like schadenfreude as much as the next person.

The Republicans had their hands full too, but not with historic legislation. First Josh Hawley made masculinity the central value of the party with a weird statement about how video games and pornography were making men effete. I don’t even know what to say about it apart from assuming a lot of elected Republican seem to need a lot of therapy.

Then Paul Gosar tweeted out an awful video in which he attacked Biden with knives and killed Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. And the Republicans were completely fine with that because that’s also what they are also all about:  being truly, and unapologetically, awful.

And that’s not the end of the stuff coming from Gosar’s unhinged mind. There were other offensive and murderous videos in the pipeline:

An account claiming to be the creator of the video shared an unfinished video in which Gosar is seen as a character from another anime called “Death Note” in which the main character has the power to kill people by writing their names in a journal. Gosar is seen killing Biden, Osacio-Cortez and Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Mississippi Democrat who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee. Gosar’s congressional Twitter account follows the supposed “team” member account.

I wasn’t kidding when I said that a lot of these Republicans need a therapist.

Given the battle of the sexes that undergirds this post, I’ll give Bryan Ferry the last word:



It’s the Racism, Stupid

As I write this it looks like Glenn Youngkin is going to be the next governor of Virginia. The Democratic Party’s recriminations are of course in full swing. Let’s end all the nonsense:  it’s the racism, stupid.

Don’t get me wrong:  Terry McAuliffe was a terrible candidate but nothing in this campaign season was about policy. Our broadcast TV stations are from the Washington, DC market, so I saw ALL of Youngkin’s campaign ads. His only issue was racism and he was helped by a ginned-up astroturf protest movement against the fictional teaching of critical race theory in public schools. You’ve probably already seen the articles.

“Critical Race Theory” is the “Let’s Go Brandon” of the GOP’s campaign strategy. It’s a cowardly code name for something ugly and vulgar. And as we saw tonight, it works in places where there are a lot of racists. To wit:

And as Democrats begin their postmortem of the Virginia election, “it’s the racism, stupid” has got to be kept at the forefront of any discussion. Racism is a drug and many white Americans can’t get enough of it.

A lot of the carping I saw tonight from Democrats focused on the ongoing negotiations on the reconciliation human infrastructure bill and blamed both progressive Democrats and conservative Democrats. This is a bad take. Why? Because it’s the racism, stupid.

This is a good take:

So is this:

I haven’t agreed with him in a long time, but he’s absolutely right:

Democrats have a much bigger problem to solve before November 2022:

I have no answers, just questions:

OK, I lied. I do have one answer:  white voters are a lost cause and Democrats should stop thinking that they are the end-all and be-all for voters and candidates.

R.E.M. and Dan Rather can sing us out:

Home Sweet Home

The NBC Evening News on Tuesday ended with a story about how Ken Burns wants there to be a National Home Town Day and about how he’s getting famous people to record stuff about how wonderful their home town is. The reporter asked him if he was doing this to alleviate “the divisiveness of social media” and he said it was.

This BOTH SIDES-ing of fascism is MADE FOR TELEVISION bullshit of the highest order.

There is no doubt that the United States is in the middle of a cold civil war, with hot skirmishes unfortunately breaking out. There is only one reason for this:  a large segment of the American public has become violently radicalized. I have a carefully curated Facebook feed of actual friends and family, and I don’t subscribe to any groups or lists or whatever Facebook is offering and I still see stupid fake memes designed to get people angry. And guess what? The people who are posting these memes are indeed angry. But they’re angry over some really stupid stuff.

Here’s the most recent one I’ve seen:

I cannot find anything to be outraged about in that photo. But everyone sharing it sure is mad about it. As for me? The idea that people posting videos about their home towns is a magic bullet that will heal the nation is so stupid that it makes me as mad as some people are over $3.00/gallon gas. Me? I’d LOVE to pay that little for gas.

Kalispell, MT is someone’s home town. Lisa Rein wrote about the clashes between Trumpers and residents in The Washington Post on Monday. Here’s a representative part of it:

Hostility over the November election, the coronavirus and social movements have left a trail of bad blood among old-school Republicans, backers of the former president, increasingly vocal Democrats and out-of-state transplants, convulsing everything from the school district and the public library to daily interactions.

This is no longer the place people here felt they knew, with its pride in a civil style of independence, not just from Washington but from animosity. Local businesses, politicians and ordinary people now find themselves navigating angry confrontations, and a nuanced political tradition of splitting tickets on Election Day has given way to partisanship that propelled a Republican sweep of races for governor, president and Congress in November for the first time in two decades.

The town is a hellscape. And it turns out that Rein left out an important piece of context:  the town has become a haven for white supremacists. I came across this piece by Dam Froomkin.

On Twitter, I complained of the extraordinary contortions Rein went through to make it sound like the “angry confrontations,” and “partisan recriminations” she describes are somehow everyone’s fault — that the “fracture” is an affliction the community is suffering from, rather than the direct result of right-wing zealots run amok.

And that was before I learned that the area has long been a notorious destination for white nationalists – a “cradle for sometimes-violent anti-government activity,” as the Associated Press put it in 2011 — which somehow never came up at all.

Rein briefly engaged with me on Twitter. I had suggested that she was avoiding the obvious, to which she responded: “Lol. Which is….?”

I asked: “Do you have a lot of examples of non-Trumpists behaving badly? Do you think anyone is at fault other than these racist, grievance-filled conspiracy-spewing bullies?“

She replied: “The story is nuanced as are the politics but thanks for reading :)-”

After I expressed my view that there was nothing remotely nuanced about either the facts or the politics,  I asked her if she felt  “under some obligation to turn in a ‘nuanced’ piece instead of one that flatly chronicled the destruction wrought by right-wing extremism?”

She replied: “Nope. I felt an obligation to tell the truth,” followed by the emoji for “grinning face with smiling eyes.” And that’s the last I heard from her directly.

Froomkin’s piece also linked to stories about how Kalispell has become a mecca for white supremacists and hosts a Who’s Who of those losers.

None of that important context is included in Rein’s story because it ruins the BOTH SIDES! trope. See, the problem isn’t the Trumpers banning books or prohibiting transgender girls from playing sports or following school board officials out into the parking lot or sending them threats. The problem is the people who speak out against fascism.

I’ll close out this discussion of the failure of the media with this epic fail from CBS News (translation:  “CBS News doesn’t know where La Palma is.”):


The first time I read John Irving’s novel A Prayer for Owen Meany I was younger, Catholic, and not quite connecting with the narrator’s obsession with the Reagan administration. This time around my husband and I are listening to the audio book while on long car trips and like the narrator I am older, Episcopalian, and obsessed with the actions of a presidential administration, although in my case it’s the George W. Bush administration.

I’ve written a few posts about the Afghanistan war and the 2 Iraq wars and yesterday another piece of that shameful mess came to the foreground with the death of Colin Powell. I remember the first time I saw him on television as the leader of the invasion of Panama. That invasion was absolutely wrong and it launched his career.

After Bush left office, Powell had a pretty good racket going. He said the right things to defend Barack Obama and he didn’t vote for TFG. But he never left the Republican Party until the 1/6 insurrection. Everything else that the GOP allowed TFG to do—banning Muslims, separating immigrant families on purpose and losing their contact information, putting immigrant children in camps, conspiring with Russia to throw the 2016 election, all of it—was fine with him. Some hero.

Powell was the only person who could have stopped the war in Iraq. He knew what he was telling the United Nations was a lie, and he did it anyway. And because of his seemingly sterling reputation, he was believed by others in the US government, and that disastrous, wasteful war that damaged so many people (and the US economy) began.

A confidence man is someone who gains your trust before they knowingly defraud you. Powell was the Bush administration’s confidence man. He had meticulously worked his way up the ranks using his keen political sense to obtain incredible power. People really trusted him, even though he had led an illegal invasion of another country.

And because so many people in the press, in politics, in the military, and in academia had staked their careers and reputations on the Iraq war, they held up the lies as truth even after the truth itself came out.

John Irving has the last word:

I know what my grandmother used to say, whenever she saw or read anything that was just a lot of bullshit. Owen picked up the phrase from her; he was quite lethal in its application, our senior year at Gravesend. Whenever anyone said anything that was a lot of bullshit to him, Owen Meany used to say, “YOU KNOW WHAT THAT IS? THAT’S MADE FOR TELEVISION—THAT’S WHAT THAT IS.”

I want it all and I want it now

I’m really out of sorts and anxious these days, and I’m kind of angry about it, to be honest. We just spent 4 years being terrified of what TFG and Mitch McConnell would do and although I’m not as fearful as I was then, I am still pretty fucking anxious.

I know that big legislation takes time and negotiation and posturing, and that politics is the art of the possible. But watching the Democrats put Joe Manchin’s and Kisten Sinema’s faces on milk cartons so they can start talking is making me anxious. There’s a year left before the election and there is still other work that has to be done on voting rights, and that is going to take several months too.

I call Manchin’s office every week, and usually have to leave a message. I ask him why he can’t just help the people of this state. I tell him I honestly don’t understand how hungry, sick, poor, underemployed people aren’t part of the reason he’s in the Senate. All of this is made worse because I follow my home state senators, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, on Twitter, and they—Murphy especially—are so reasonable, sensible, and people-focused. I know my calls to Manchin don’t mean a damn thing to him, but at least I’m on the record.

I’m disappointed that there are so many Democrats who are so timid about fixing this country. Joe Manchin is just a lightning rod for a bunch of his fellow senators and some House reps who hide behind his metaphorical skirts. I know that the voting public is a center left electorate. I know that presidents make huge proposals that they expect to be trimmed down (the art of the possible at work), and that major legislation takes a long time to come together, so this is normal, but I still want more.

(Part of the reason there isn’t going to be more, is because of the weird quasi-contract that Manchin and Chuck Schumer secretly drew up over the summer. It’s a very puzzling document but Luppe B. Luppen, aka @nycsouthpaw on Twitter, has started a series that is worth your time.)

And the other problem I have is at I want it NOW!!! I have gone full Veruca Salt, it’s true. (And this reminds me that I still want to officially rename our girl kitty from Rey to Veruca. We named her as a shy quiet kitten who was the runt of the litter. As she matured she is a tiny beauty who has plenty of sounds to express her desire for all of it and all of it now!)

I am SO TIRED of waiting for the advisors to TFG to get perp walked off to jail for refusing to respond to a subpoena. And I know that there are politics embedded in the law in cases like this, and that because of that things have to move slowly. But damnit, these people need to start answering questions!

As I was thinking about songs about waiting, this fantastic song I forgot about came to me, and so Hall and Oates will sing us out:


The War on Reality

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m an active, longtime member in a politics forum that draws a mixture of liberals and conservatives. The community has moved with its parent forum to different hosts, and then spun off as a stand-alone forum after TFG was elected. It was a lively place which died because of staff indifference to updating the software, a glitch that meant no one could sign up for 4 years, and the wholesale retreat of every right winger over the summer of 2020 as the signs of TFG’s impending loss because visible.

The community has migrated back to a space on the parent board, which means that there is a fresh crop of right wingers to contend with. I have to say that there is one constant with these people, and that is that they are irretrievably stupid. If I had to compare their sheer stupidity to a natural phenomenon, it would be a black hole. Nothing intelligent comes out of them, and to get to close to them is to have all of the intelligence sucked out of you.

Still, it’s fun to toy with them because they say some unintentionally hilarious things. Plus if you get them mad enough, they end up getting suspended because instead of going for a simple insult like “stupid”, they have to go straight for sexual slurs and gendered insults. Some of the slightly smarter ones stick to sexist language which keeps them off the suspension list until one of the women mods comes across their posts and then they get a vacation. (Also imagine me earnestly responding to them and warning them that they are going to get suspended if they keep it up and their doubling down in response to my very good advice. Believe me, I have earned the title of Cassandra.)

So I’ve been reading today about the debt ceiling impasse and so of course I started a discussion about it. A flurry of wingers began responding to me, and when I brought the discussion down to the most basic level—what is the debt ceiling?—none of them could answer the question. None of them. But they could tell me that no politician cares about any of us and that they have plenty of money and if the US fails to raise the debt limit, all of those politicians would be fine.

This is the level of political discourse in this country—a chunk of Americans don’t think they need to spend any time at all learning about current events, but instead spend that time repeating stuff that isn’t true and which, because of its underlying nihilism, further decreases their desire to educate themselves about current events. So they ask less and less from journalists, and journalists tailor their work to this bunch of lazy nihilists.

If your audience will believe anything because they’re incapable of critical thought and disinclined to fact check their prejudices, then why spend time trying to educate them? Why not entertain them while feeding them a false narrative that they will happily internalize? For example if you’re The View, you invite Alyssa Farah, one of the biggest propagandists on the Trump administration’s paywall, on to sell her lies. And boom! an insurrectionist enabler goes mainstream.

The other propagandist who got a bunch of air time last week was Stephanie Grisham, who openly admitted that she just lied to all of us whenever she felt like it, and that she carefully managed TFG’s press appearances in order to maximize his propaganda push. All of this is being sold to us totally normal.

It’s not. The 1/6 insurrection is still ongoing. Those of us who are still able to think for ourselves have to double our efforts to make sure that truth is promoted and that lies are marginalized. Hillary Clinton addressed this this week:

I hope she’s right.

Aimee Mann gets the last word:

It’s The Little Things

Covid is still spreading where I live, the Biden infrastructure plan is being slowed down by…checks notes…the Democrats, the deficit ceiling deadline is looming, the Big Lie is pushed incessantly, ahhhhhhhhhhhhh I need a general timeline cleanse.

So let’s savor a few recent joys. First, on Tuesday General Milley stuffed Tom Cotton into a locker. Watch it as many times as you need to:

Also on Tuesday, a herd of goats that a local Kroeger kept as their weeding crew got loose and roamed the streets in the Buckhead section of Atlanta:

Keeping with the zoological theme, 5 zebras escaped from a Maryland farm on August 31, and they are still roaming Prince George’s County:


I support every dunking on anti-vaxxers, and the drier the humor, the better:

OK, I feel better—hope you do too.

I’ll let Taylor Swift sing us out. I know we’re supposed to only like her newest, serious (and beautiful) stuff, but this song is pure pop perfection:

The Picky Eater Cooks

People who have seen photos of things I cook on social media are always surprised to learn that I’m a picky eater. I’m not “picky” as in no additives or arbitrarily restricted items, but “picky” as in I don’t like a lot of foods. I cook for my household of 2, and my husband isn’t a fan of eating the same thing every night, lol, and so I’m a picky eater in an omnivorous household.

I learned to cook from my mom at home. My sisters and I would sit at the kitchen table and peel and chop vegetables, or measure oil or sugar for cake batters, or grease baking pans with the wrappers from sticks of butter. We learned how to cook in an organized, fun way and we are all good cooks now.

I started cooking new things when I went to grad school. I had a few classes, the class I TA’d for, and lots of reading and free time. I used that time and my meager budget to master the basics—because while we were sous chefs for my mom, she was very protective of her stove and didn’t want us making a mess on it. I had a great cookbook too:

I have no idea where I got it, but I’m pretty sure I still have it.

From there I went off into the working world for a bit and moved to Boston. I ended up at a job where we loved to socialize outside of work together (a great group of scientists at Tufts Medical School). I invited the group over for dinner in my tiny studio and began to meal plan since one of my friends was a vegetarian who also ate fish. So I made filet of sole and a big pot of ratatouille. The one difficulty was that I don’t like vegetables, so I had to cook the pot solely via my nose. Everyone was amazed that I made it without tasting it. They absolutely loved it and insisted I bring the leftovers to work the next day since I wasn’t going to finish them myself. The rest of the lab got to taste it, and my informal career as a cook of things I don’t like to eat was launched.

Then it was back to grad school in DC and once again I had classes, a TA workload, and a ton of reading, so I perfected my tomato sauce, became an ace cookie baker, and mastered Arista di Maiale, a Tuscan pork roast studded with garlic and herbs, which became the centerpiece of my annual New Year’s Eve dinner. One year I was crazy enough to make my own buche de noel (Yule log cake) from scratch. And I bought my first popover pan. By this time I had traded the Penny Pincher cookbook for The Joy of Cooking.

Eventually I traded in school for work, and my cooking became minimal again, except for pots of bone broth that I’d make from the bones of the chicken breasts and thighs I ate just about every night. And then I moved from DC to the eastern panhandle of West Virginia after I got married and my 3 hour each way commute took away all of my cooking time, even after I got a few telework days each week.

When my workplace downsized and scores of us lost our jobs, my husband and I decided I’d lose that terrible commute and I began cooking again. I had an annual New Year’s Day dinner where I worked on my reverse sear prime rib roasts and began making popovers again. I roasted lots of chickens (and made lots of bone broth—after all, “waste not, want not”).

I started going to our local, excellent farmer’s market and learned how to cook with the various kinds of produce I didn’t see in the local grocery store. I made strawberry-rhubarb compote (that I didn’t like to eat), learned you could roast radishes, made pickles, peeled kohlrabi for salads, and learned to cook the leafy greens of the American south that I wasn’t exposed to growing up in a Polish-American household in Connecticut.

Because I wasn’t exhausted from my commute, I had time to become active in my church. My parish loves to eat. And we love to cook, so I once again started making things I didn’t actually like, but I knew others would. One of the prettiest dishes was an egg and cheese tart with vegetable rosettes.

And I also reinvented the ratatouille had been making from my Boston days, taking it from a stove top dish to an arranged baked dish that is now one of my signature dishes (along with my squash pancakes, which I also don’t eat, lol).

When the pandemic hit it became harder to get complete grocery orders, so when I was able to get everything I needed for a new recipe, it felt like a victory. This salad was one of the new salads I made since we weren’t eating out at all. Finally getting a mango was to make this mango/tomatillo/tomato/jalapeno salad was like finding the Holy Grail.

Local heirloom tomatoes called for making this crustless tomato tart.

Cooking colorful, beautiful dishes has been a way for me to deal with my anxiety during the pandemic (how bread making helped is another post). I won’t stop cooking food I don’t actually like after it’s over, but least then I’ll be able to share it with friends. I look forward to that day. Joy be with you all.

[The cover photo is the hot sauce shelf in our fridge. I thought it was funny since I ID as a picky eater. It’s also the banner of the blog I started but never pushed on because I don’t like recipe sites that function as diaries and until a friend posted this site––I didn’t think it was a kind of blog that people would want to read.]

Anticipation Is Keeping Me Waiting

I spent Tuesday morning watching the red carpet show at the Met Gala. I realized how much I missed sparkles and elaborate hairdos and beautiful jewelry on display. I have a coterie of friends who love couture (even if none of us can afford it) and we spent the day going through photos from the event as we had time and then discussing them in a private Facebook chat.

Watching a bunch of people absolutely delighted to get dressed up and have fun was an excellent distraction. Seeing so many people of color walk the red carpet, and sharing designs from their friends and partners livened up both the festivities and the parade of dresses. Reading about the hand-sewn dresses that took hundreds of hours of work turned them into works of art by hundreds of artisans.

Right now I need escapism. The covid situation right now in West Virginia is dire. Cases are higher than they were at the pre-vaccine peak, and more people are seriously ill. The governor, who is an idiot, refuses to do more than pathetically plead with people to get vaccinated. I’m back to staying away from people again. Many of you know the feeling.

On top of this, the last few years have been rough times for my husband and me:  job losses, a life-threatening (as in 24 hours to live if left untreated) illness that required months of recovery, a debilitating injury that is also requiring months of physical therapy. I remind myself every day that in the grand scheme of things I have nothing to complain about as these are all problems that have been or will be solved, and that I have plenty of shelter, food, medical care, etc. But as my mom once said “Just because other people have it worse than you do, it doesn’t mean that what is happening to you isn’t real, too.”

I also need a real escape. Because of all the tribulations of the last years we had to cancel vacations, and so haven’t been away since January 2013. Yeah. So in a leap of faith we decided to split a longer trip we were going to take next year into 2 parts and head to the Florida Keys in January to get caught up on vacation time and to begin the preliminary steps of our next house hunt.

Life is different when you start to have things to look forward to. I love the anticipation of a trip as much as the trip itself, and I try to learn as much as I can about where I’ll be so I can make the most of the trip, so I’ll read about the area we’re staying in, research local restaurants, bars, and music venues. I’ll learn about the unique things that you can only do there, and find the places that the tourists don’t go. My husband went to college in Florida, and he studied oceanography, so he spent a good bit of time snorkeling and SCUBA diving in the Keys, so he’s in charge of the geography lessons and the forays into neighborhoods we might like to live in.

Plus I am a parsimonious New Englander, so tracking down flights and hotel rates is one of my superpowers (you should have seen the color-coded spreadsheet I made for our wedding/honeymoon where I ranked the ships, the rooms, the ports, the number of days at sea, etc.). Because of everything we’ve been through over the last few years, I also made the decision to treat ourselves to little luxuries along the way—a more relaxed flight and the hotel I liked the best from my research. It’s a lovely property on a marina, with a beautiful pool area and the constant hum of fishing boats and pleasure boats of every size. We’re going to spend some time doing nothing, too. Ahhhh.

Of course the danger of planning so far in advance is that you have no idea how feasible the idea really is. January brings snowstorms. Covid might not die down after the Delta variant dies out. I don’t care. I’m going to enjoy my anticipation, and then I’ll enjoy my vacation. I hope that all of you who also need an escape are able to take one in the near future, too. Joy be with you all.

9/11:  History in a Vacuum

I never watch any 9/11 anniversary television coverage. I was in DC on 9/11 and for all of the months after it. I watched the Pentagon burn from the roof of my office building, just a few blocks from the White House. It was a terrifying day and I’m not here to relive it.

But Americans love to relive it. And somehow the round number of 20 has ramped up coverage to take over this entire week. We should absolutely remember those who died and the bravery and selflessness of the first responders who risked and gave their lives so others could live. We should remember the family members left behind.

The 9/11 commemorations always happen in a vacuum. One moment the United States is minding their own business going about a Tuesday, and the next moment the nation is under attack. It’s treated as if the country were sucker punched on the street for no discernible reason.

When you remove 9/11 from its previous context it becomes a cheap way for people who never put their lives on the line, ever, to spend the run up to it and the day itself policing how people feel about it and making it into some kind of patriotic holiday. But it’s the removal of the post 9/11 context that does the most damage.

9/11 was the result of complete carelessness by the Bush administration which was tight with the Bin Laden family to the point of getting them out of the country to shield them from having to provide necessary information. It was the excuse for the Bush administration to launch a war in Afghanistan so they and their cronies could make billions, and then to launch another, even more pointless war in Iraq, to further enrich people like Eric Prince, where the United States committed war crimes.

And it was all sold to us as a triumphant exercise of democracy, and if you opposed it you were asked “what is wrong with you?” I just got asked this question yesterday when someone asked me about 9/11 and I told them the stuff I’ve written here.

Well fuck all that. 9/11 should be a day of introspection and apology to the first responders left without medical care. It should be a day of thanks and asking forgiveness of the men and women who went to Afghanistan and Iraq and came back with mental and physical injuries. It should be a day to apologize to the families who lost people, in the towers, the Pentagon, in PA, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and who were left to fend with cancer and other illnesses after their service and sacrifice. It should be a day to castigate those member of Congress who refused to fund healthcare for first responders.

And it should be a day to do some serious work on beating our swords into plowshares.

A Confederacy of Dunces

The crap that American women have been dealing with got even worse on Tuesday. Not content with ending abortion in Texas, Greg Abbott assured everyone that women in Texas who were raped didn’t have to worry about any resulting pregnancy because he was going to “end rape” in Texas.

I don’t know about you, but that wasn’t a particularly reassuring statement, given how little most men in power care about rape in this country. In fact, my first thought was that he was just going to decriminalize rape. My second thought was the same thing. Ugh.

Because Abbott is the gaffe that keeps on giving, today he also revealed his complete ignorance about a woman’s reproductive cycle. See, he confidently told everyone that 6 weeks was more than enough time for a woman who was pregnant to get an abortion. I mean, it’s a whole month and a half, right?

Well, here’s the thing:  the 6 week marker (or the 1 month marker, or the 3 month marker), is measured back from the first day of the woman’s last period. And since menstruation (if you’re not on hormonal birth control) is erratic for most women, lots of women wouldn’t even know at 6 weeks that they’d missed a period.

This reminds me of this story:

An Idaho lawmaker received a brief lesson on female anatomy after asking if a woman can swallow a small camera for doctors to conduct a remote gynecological exam.

The question on Monday from Republican state representative Vito Barbieri came as the House State Affairs Committee heard nearly three hours of testimony on a bill that would ban doctors from prescribing abortion-inducing medication through telemedicine.

Dr Julie Madsen was testifying in opposition to the bill when Barbieri asked the question. Madsen replied that would be impossible because swallowed pills do not end up in the vagina.

“Fascinating. That makes sense,” Barbieri said, amid the crowd’s laughter.

The more I read men’s comments about abortion, the more I realize that a lot of men have no idea of how a woman’s reproductive system works. It’s peak Dunning Kruger at work.

And there is some hope that there is a legal basis to undo the Texas law. I’ll let Laurence Tribe explain it:

In the Grendel’s Den case, the unbridled veto power interfered not with a service to which anyone had a constitutional right, like abortion, but just with serving liquor. It was simply being governed by someone unaccountable to nobody that offended the Constitution. In the Texas case, even a judge or justice convinced that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and that there is no constitutional right to end a pregnancy would need to confront the long line of precedent establishing that due process of law, enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not permit, to quote the court in Grendel’s Den “delegate[ing] to private, nongovernmental entities power to veto … a power ordinarily vested in agencies of government.”

As the court said, it is difficult in such situations to imagine “any ‘effective means of guaranteeing’ that the delegated power ‘will be used exclusively for secular, neutral, and nonideological purposes.’ ” As one of us wrote in 1973 in defending the court’s Roe v. Wade ruling, abortion is particularly fraught with deeply religious as opposed to secular concerns and commitments. Just because the religion clauses are not directly implicated by the Texas scheme, it doesn’t follow that the long line of decisions into which Grendel’s Den fits becomes irrelevant in the effort to legally defang the Texas abomination.

Let’s see what happens next.


If I Were King of the Forest

I’m going to cut to the chase:  the Republican Supreme Court justices are cowards. Their order came out under the cover of night—and on a night where much of the country was riveted by the complete havoc the remnants of Hurricane Ida were wreaking on the East Coast—and it was unsigned.

They didn’t hold a hearing or consult with legal and medical experts. They didn’t address the substance of the Texas law or even attempt to identify any constitutional issues. They gave an unsubstantiated and unrelated reason to deny the request to block the enforcement of the law, and then they skittered back into the darkness like the intellectual cockroaches they are.

People who have the courage of their convictions don’t do stuff in the dark, anonymously, and while everyone else is focused on something else. People who believe in their ideas present them in public, with facts, and take questions and criticism. People who are proud of what they do seek publicity for their actions.

I hate cowardice. I hate it so much when people do something they know is wrong and then they hide away instead of defending their actions.

It’s been a rough week and seeing how much Republican men hate women has been the main reason for it. I don’t know if men can understand how demoralizing, frightening, and infuriating the last few days have been. Right now in Texas a woman who is raped or is the victim of incest has to carry any resulting child to term unless she has a cycle that is 100000% regular.

There is no logical explanation for this apart from an extremely pernicious expression of sexism. I think Adam Serwer had the right take on it and his tweet can have the last word:



Friday Catblogging: May The Force Be With You

Finn, our Russian Blue, is half of our dynamic rescue duo. He has a beautiful sister, Rey, who is a Russian Black. He was a problematic kitten at the shelter where I volunteered in the pre-plague days, and he fell in love with me. Four years later he is a loving, talkative, intelligent alien being, I mean cat. Always adopt instead of shopping.

Adrastos Update

From Adrastos:

Dr A, Claire, and I are fine. Just hot and sweaty. There was minimal damage to our house but the power is still out. Absent a return of power, we’ll be going to some friends in the Shreveport area tomorrow.

I’ll have more to say by Saturday.

That is all.

The American Taliban is Ascendant

There’s a new milepost on the country’s journey to be the American version of A Handmaid’s Tale. Last night the Supreme Court allowed a new Texas anti-woman law to take effect. This law prohibits abortions after 6 weeks, and so effectively outlaws most abortions in Texas.

I say “anti-woman” because that is what the anti-choice movement is these days. It’s not actually about stopping abortion. It’s about actively punishing women for being women, and especially for being sexually active without their permission. The movement went mainstream when TFG casually said that if abortion were made illegal, women who had abortions should be prosecuted.

His communications team later told us that he meant the doctors who performed illegal abortions should be prosecuted, of course. And of course TFG, who paid for abortions right and left, isn’t actually opposed to abortion. He was merely parroting the far right hate speech of the dregs of humanity who advised him, and he deliberately said that as a signal to his reprehensible followers.

The anti-woman movement currently holding the GOP in thrall is rooted in the forced birth movement, which itself is centered not on the baby that is born, but on punishing a woman for her sexuality. This in turn is rooted in the legalization of birth control.

There has been a century-long battle for women to regain a modicum of control over their reproductive health. Abortion was legal in this country until 1880 when the efforts of the AMA, coupled with fears of white “race suicide”, and the suffrage movement led–male–doctors to take abortion out of the hands of pregnant women and midwives and move it into the newly emerging “professional” realm. Female reproductive issues were moved from the home to the doctor’s office, women lost their previous autonomy over their own bodies. It’s also important to note that abortion has existed in all cultures since the beginning of humankind.

Part of the rationale the AMA provided for its push to take over women’s reproductive health was how dangerous abortion was, but instead of working to find safe ways to help women to terminate pregnancies, it instead chose to push to ban the practice altogether. This makes sense against a context of where gynecologists–men–were doing things like arbitrarily removing women’s uteri to cure their “hysteria”; i.e., their growing willingness to stand up for themselves. An uppity woman was a “hysterical” woman, and the cure, obviously, was to remove her uterus. Abortion wasn’t legalized again until 1973. Remember, birth control between married couples was ILLEGAL until 1965, and illegal between unmarried couples until 1972.

The introduction of The Pill, and the subsequent decriminalization of birth control, were watershed moments for women (and just think for a moment that birth control was illegal for a long, long time). On a social level, it allowed women to control their sex lives in an entirely new way. No longer afraid of a nearly inevitable pregnancy, single women turned the tables on men and began to make their own sexual choices, shattering the previous dynamic. The ripples from this transformation are still being seen now. It’s the basis for the increase in slut-shaming sexually active women, only now it’s moved from just single women, to now include married women as well.

On an economic level, delaying motherhood allowed women to get college educations and to begin to compete with men in the larger workforce, and not just the pink collar ghetto. The reactionary movement to ban birth control–because that is where the anti-woman movement wants to end up–is rooted in 2 things:  the desires to wipe out the economic gains of women over the last 50 years and to restore the previous sexual dynamic.

Feldt says, “When you peel back the layers of the anti-choice motivation, it always comes back to two things: What is the nature and purpose of human sexuality? And second, what is the role of women in the world?” Sex and the role of women are inextricably linked, because “if you can separate sex from procreation, you have given women the ability to participate in society on an equal basis with men.”

And today we’re a day closer to that goal.

Coda:  Some commentators are pointing out the bounty aspect of the Texas law and positing that the law will be overturned because that’s clearly illegal. That provision is a Trojan horse, the Harriet Miers dangled in front of you so you don’t smell the poison of the Samuel Alito. The American Taliban is fine with cutting that part out. For now.

And so here are. Bowie gets the final thought.

O Captain! My Captain!

The news media found new life last week when Joe Biden began withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan. Finally they had the sensational story with a simple plot that drew clicks and eyeballs. And even better, Biden’s approval rating took a hit this week allowing them additional hand-wringing opportunities to opine about how his legislative agenda was now in jeopardy.

Why would Democrats refuse support for programs that would be a huge boost to their campaigns next fall? It didn’t make sense to me, but it did to a bunch of conservative House Democrats who saw this as a heaven-sent chance to hold the rest of the Democratic caucus hostage.

Under the banner of striking while the iron was hot, Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and his Sabotage Squad insisted that the vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill be held ASAP, completely bypassing the agreement between progressives and conservatives. How bad were the optics on this? Mitch McConnell said he was rooting for them to tank the entire deal, including the bill he himself had voted for.

There is a subset of House Democrats which doesn’t seem to have a complete understanding of the difference between representatives and senators. The size of the House means that the individual influence of any 1 representative is diluted, especially when compared to the power an individual senator has. So while Joe Manchin can extract concessions, it’s much more difficult for even a group of representatives to do the same.

And the Sabotage Squad had an additional wrinkle in their plans—appeasing them meant antagonizing the other squad, thus stopping all forward movement of both bills in the House. There was no way that Nancy Pelosi was going to put up with that nonsense.

As we learned last week from numerous think pieces, Afghanistan is the place where empires go to die. And Speaker Pelosi is the Afghanistan of the House of Representatives. Waves of rebels have gone to their ideological deaths at her capable hands. (Remember how Seth Moulton was going to be the next Speaker of the House? Yeah. Although he didn’t seem to learn from his lesson since he jetted off to Afghanistan to create more headaches for Biden.)

Poltico covered the story on Monday as Pelosi offering a deal to Gottheimer. That same framing was repeated, as if Pelosi were actually worried that it was all going to go south. Then on Tuesday night, a day after the panicked Politico piece, word came that all the needed votes were complete and the 2-track plan was still intact.

Not only that, but there was no actual deal:

Nancy Pelosi is the most consequential Speaker of the House in the 20th century, and so far in the 21st century as well. Her political acumen led to the passage of the ACA. She masterminded the 2018 midterm election strategy that returned her to the Speaker’s chair. And now she’s going to pass the bulk of Joe Biden’s legislative agenda before the 2022 midterms. I’m going to miss her leadership when she steps down as Speaker after this Congress. I hope she changes her mind.

 I Won’t Forget

Our fearless leader has written 2 thorough and excellent pieces about the Afghanistan War and how we got where we are. If you haven’t read them, please do:  here and here. I have some thoughts, too.

There sure are a lot of familiar faces on the TeeVee over the last few days, blathering on about Afghanistan and tut-tutting over President Biden’s decision to get the hell out of, well, hell. They seem to think they have a blank slate for selling their snake oil. Well, I remember who they are and what they did.

In 1990, Iraq annexed Kuwait and we were supposed to feel it was justified because Kuwaiti women weren’t allowed to drive. Hey, it was going to be awesome! The US was going to beat back these sexist bullies and Kuwaiti women would be able to drive!

In reality there was no reason for the US to go to war with Iraq. But there was plenty of incentive for the Saudi-loving Bush family to protect their monster friends’ oilfields which were close enough for the invading Iraq army to take over. And so the propaganda machine took over. A DC public relations firm, Hill & Knowlton, funded by the Kuwaiti government, began pumping out disinformation to convince Congress to authorize war.

The nadir of the lying was the Congressional testimony of a nurse who said she saw Iraqi soldiers take babies out of incubators and throw them on the floor. This was all it took to convince Congress to go to war. The truth was that she was a member of the Kuwaiti royal family lying and playing a role. But the damage was done.

George H.W. Bush set a deadline of midnight January 16, 1991 for US demands to be met. On the evening of January 16 I attended an interfaith peace service at National Cathedral that culminated in a silent candlelit protest walk to the White House. Houses along Massachusetts Avenue had candles in their windows, and residents stood in their front yards holding candles in solidarity. Of course it didn’t work. But I won’t forget what happened.

The Iraq War was advanced by even more egregious lies and a news media drunk on ratings. Taking their cue from CNN’s non-stop coverage of the Gulf War, this time all of the networks threw in big time. And the Republicans had upped their propaganda approach:  instead of a Kuwaiti royal playacting to tug on the heartstrings of unsophisticated rubes, this time the government made sure reporters got to go play soldier, complete with flak jackets and Jeep rides with the troops. War was exciting! There were big guns!

I didn’t buy any of it. Just like in 1991, I wholly opposed this war because it was all fake news. I took a lot of crap for telling the truth then but the Iraq War was wrong. It was founded on lies related to the 9/11 attacks and it was sustained by media outlets who put profit over truth. And eventually the whole house of cards collapsed.

Now that Biden has taken the steps to end 30 fucking years of wars built on lies, fought by other people’s sons and daughters and designed to make money for people who are already obscenely wealthy, all sorts of stuck pigs are squealing. A bunch of cowards who won’t make their names public are whispering to reporters at the outlets that are the most complicit in repeating the propaganda of rich people with power—CNN, Politico, Axios—about how it’s not their fault. Multiple sources looking to cover their asses after they put their fingerprints all over the Afghanistan fiasco are now bleating self-interested lies to organizations that love to uncritically print pre-digested GOP talking points.

People who perpetuate lies are always angry when their lies are uncovered and they will scramble to drown out the truth by making more noise. I’ll let Jack Mirkinson have the last paragraph as he excoriates some of the worst people liberals made heroes by not thinking critically enough during the Trump years:

But too many in our media cannot seem to admit this, and too many outlets are rolling out the red carpet for the usual gallery of unrepentant hawks. In the Washington Post, Max Boot called the withdrawal “the worst U.S. foreign policy failure since the fall of Saigon in 1975,” which would be news to anyone with even a passing familiarity with the Iraq War, and wondered (yet again) why the U.S. couldn’t just keep troops in Afghanistan forever. NPR decided it was a good idea to ask John Bolton what he thought. In the Atlantic, Tom Nichols told readers, “Afghanistan is your fault,” castigating the American people for demanding an end to the war:

Biden was right, in the end, to bite the bullet and refuse to pass this conflict on to yet another president. His execution of this resolve, however, looks to be a tragic and shameful mess and will likely be a case study in policy schools for years to come. But there was no version of “Stop the forever war” that didn’t end with the fall of Kabul. We believed otherwise, as a nation, because we wanted to believe it. And because we had shopping to do and television to watch and arguments to be had on social media.

So Biden was right to end the war but Americans are still the villains because we care about shopping. Makes sense. Maybe what is happening is the fault of the people who have presided over this calamity for 20 years?

The last word goes to Depeche Mode: