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Archive for February 7th, 2016

Cream of Cod Stew, final version

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This was an ad hoc recipe, so quantities reflect my improvisation. I like a thick stew, so this is thick (not with flour, but with veg).

Pre-heat oven to 400ºF. Put about 1 lb of thick bacon on a rack and roast for 23 minutes. (Thinner bacon will take less time. Regular bacon takes about 15 minutes.) Let the bacon cool, then use scissors to cut it into square chunks and set it aside until the end.

Mince the garlic now and set it aside; it should sit for 15 minutes before sautéing.

Use a 6-qt large-diameter pot or, better, an 8-qt large-diameter pot. I don’t have an 8-qt pot, and after adding the water I had to transfer the stew to my 7-qt pot, which is not wide diameter and thus not so suited for the sautéing part.

Melt 1 stick (4 oz) butter in pot, then add, as you chop it:

Leeks (2 enormous leeks, cut in half lengthways, sliced thin—about 1.5 qt)
Salt, one large pinch
Carrots (2 large, cut into strips, then across to dice)
Fennel (1 bulb, cored, and the fronds, chopped)
Garlic (add the garlic that you earlier minced)
Celery (1-2 cups chopped)
Sweet red bell pepper (cored and chopped)


Oregano (2 Tbsp)
Smoked paprika or hot paprika (1-1.5 Tbsp)
Marjoram (1 Tbsp)
Herbes de Provence (1 Tbsp)
Dillweed (2 tsp)
Lots of freshly ground pepper

Sauté that for a while, stirring often, until it cooks down. Then add:

Kale (1 bunch red and 1 bunch green, chopped; mince the stems and use those, too)
Italian parsley (1 bunch, chopped)
Water (about 2 qt)
Penzeys seafood soup base (1 Tbsp)
Lemon juice (of 2 lemons)
1 28-oz can of San Marzano tomatoes

Simmer that for about 30 minutes, then add:

Heavy cream (about 1 c)
2.3 lbs Pacific cod cut into chunks (2.3 lbs was the package I got)
2 8-oz jars shucked small oysters with their liquid (feel to check for shell fragments)

Simmer that about 10-12 minutes. Stir in:

a good splash of sherry
the bacon chunks


Written by LeisureGuy

7 February 2016 at 4:20 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

The decline of the US empire: An interview with a veteran CIA agent

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Patrick L. Smith reports in Salon:

I first heard Ray McGovern speak on a country road in the New England hills. This was courtesy of the admirably dedicated David Barsamian, who broadcast one of McGovern’s talks on Alternative Radio in late-2013. Reception up here being spotty, I pulled over and sat watching the autumn clouds drift by for the full hour McGovern stood at the podium of a Methodist church in Seattle. I was rapt.

What a lost pleasure it is in our indispensable nation to be in the presence of someone who thinks, acts and speaks out of conscience and conviction. Even better, these were precisely McGovern’s topics that day three years back: The necessity of careful thought, of honoring one’s inner voice, of acting out of an idea of what is right without regard to success or failure, the win-or-lose of life. One way or another, these themes run through everything he has to say, I have since discovered. At an inner-city church in Washington, McGovern teaches a course he calls “The Morality of Whistleblowing.”

Born in the Bronx in 1939 and educated at Fordham (and later Georgetown and Harvard), McGovern joined the Central Intelligence Agency during the Kennedy administration, when it was still possible to think sound, disinterested analysis out there in Langley, Virginia, could be a force for good. Long story short, as McGovern likes to say, he left 27 years later, by which time the scales had fallen, and founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence—Adams being a former colleague and one of the whistle-blowers who paid his price. Not long before that AR speech, McGovern went to Moscow to give the recently exiled Edward Snowden one of his Sam Adams Awards. This is the ex-spook’s milieu: At 76, he dwells among the truth-tellers.

After many months trying to get our act together—or mine, I should say—I finally caught up with McGovern in Moscow late last year. We were both there for a conference on cross-border media and global politics sponsored by RT, the Russian variant of British Broadcasting. The venue was perfect: Russia has been McGovern’s focus since he earned his Fordham degrees. Russia, naturally, figured prominently in our exchange—along with American politics, the “deep state,” Syria and numerous other topics.

McGovern is approachable on the way to avuncular, as readers will see, but the preference for simplicity and plain speaking masks an impressive erudition. He is a linguist well read in several languages; his grasp of history, recent and otherwise, is thorough. He is an ecumenical Catholic whose frame of political reference is defined by nothing more exotic than the Constitution—a document he sees as having less and less bearing on what we do and how we live. I have rarely heard anyone of his intelligence and background use the “f” word when describing our national direction, and I do not refer to the carnal activity.

McGovern and I spoke at length in a Frenchified sitting room at the Metropol Hotel, famed seat of the Bolshevik government for a couple of years after the 1917 revolution. What follows is the first of two parts.

In the speech that eventually put us in this room together, you talked about Kennan [George Kennan, the noted diplomat and Princeton scholar] as a one-time hero of yours and then implied a change of mind—a certain, perhaps, betrayal—and noted that remarkable quotation: “We no longer have the luxury of altruism and world benefaction…. The day is not far off when we will have to deal in straight power concepts.”

Can you talk about Kennan as hero and then the betrayal you felt as the years went by? Does the quotation explain American conduct abroad today?

The respect I had for Kennan came from his earlier books and, of course, his writing from Moscow, where he pretty much invented containment policy. It appeared to me then that the Soviet Union was enlarging its area of control not only in Eastern Europe, but elsewhere. I thought he was right on target in explaining how to deal with the Russians. Being chief of the Soviet foreign policy branch at CIA in the ’70s, that was the Soviet Union I knew. It was always an amazing thing for me to think back, “Wow, we’re talking ’47 [when Kennan published his famous “X” essay in Foreign Affairs, titled “The Sources of Soviet Conduct”] and here we are in ’77 or whatever. That’s a pretty good read on the way these people behave.”

At the same time, I had a respect and knowledge of Russian history. My master’s degree is in Russian studies, so I knew not only the language but a good bit of history. So it was kind of a love/hate relationship, where I had grown to know and respect the Russian people, they being very much like the Americans. When I was in Moscow, if I lost my way or needed directions, they’d get on the bus with me, for Pete’s sake! I felt sort of tormented by what had become of the rulers there.

I could understand through a glass dimly, why this was a natural reaction to what they saw President Truman and his successors do.

I think we could have done more—and could do more—to understand, from a Russian perspective, the sensation of being surrounded. This is to put the point too mildly.

If you know a little bit about Russian history, you’re aware that it’s a very sad history. It starts millennia behind other histories. People don’t know that the Slavic peoples who emerged from the area in and around Kiev and what is now Belorussia—they had no written language until the 9th century! A.D.!

Remarkable. Did they have an oral literature?

They had an oral literature. “Slovo o Polku Igoreve” [“The Song of Igor’s Campaign”] was one of their major epic poems. It rivals “The Odyssey” and “The Iliad.” It’s a really beautiful thing, except they had no way to set it down in writing. And so two Greek priests, Cyril and Methodius, go up in the 9th century, and they say, “These people are incredibly bright and prosperous. They’re prosperous—and this is kind of a mind leap for most people—because the Norse, from Norway and Sweden, traded with the East all the way to Istanbul by coming through the series of rivers of which the Dnieper [which flows through Russia and empties into the Black Sea] was one. A great deal of so-called civilization and some wealth had accrued there. So they go up there and they say, “Well, that sounds like kai. Let’s make that sound a kai (or “k”). That sounds like the Latin V. That one sounds like Hebrew. That one doesn’t sound like anything, so let’s manufacture a character for that.” And they put the [written] language together. This we call “Cyrillic,” of course.

In 988, Knyaz Vladimir, the prince of Kiev, decides that, now they have a language and now they can write down their liturgy, “Let’s become Christians.” This may be a little overstated, but it happened almost like this: One Sunday he said, “All right, everybody out into the river, we’re going to get baptized.” And now they’re part of the Western world—part of the Eastern Rite, of course, but still part of civilization all of a sudden.

You go straight to the point, Ray. There’s no understanding anything without a grasp of its history—which, of course, is the American failing over and over again.

Well, what happens next? The Mongol hordes invade Russia and stay for two centuries. Two centuries and 20 more years. We’re talking Genghis Khan, right? They live under what they call “the Tatar yoke” for those centuries. As we’re coming out of the Dark Ages into the Renaissance in the West, they’re still fighting major battles with the Tatars. They finally drive them out of European Russia, and what happens? In come the Swedes! In come the Lithuanians and the Hanseatic League!

So Ivan Grozny, Ivan the Terrible, was a pretty terrible guy, but at least he got those guys together and said, “Look, if we don’t get rid of the Westerners we’re going to be in deep kimchi. He probably said it a bit differently. [Laughs]

So they did, and finally Russia proper congealed around Moscow and later Petersburg.

My point is simply this: by the time Peter the Great came along at the very end of the 17th century, he’s primed, he’s going to be the czar, but he knows about the West. That’s another little-known fact. Do you know what he does? He goes incognito down to the wharfs of Rotterdam and spends two years working on the wharfs just to see what it’s like. He finds out, “Wow! This is a pretty neat place and they’re pretty civilized.” So he comes back and, of course, he overdoes it: “Everybody shave off the beard, and we’re going to use scythes rather than sickles.” So he has a lot of opposition, but by the time Catherine the Great comes [in 1762], when we’re having our Revolution, she’s able to consolidate Russia—all the way down to, and including, Crimea—for the first Russian port that was ice-free. Sevastopol, as you’ve heard about it in the news lately.

All I’m saying here is that when you appreciate Russian history—we haven’t even gotten Napoleon and Hitler. It was mentioned just today, I’ve seen figures between 20 million and 27 million Russians perished when Hitler invaded.

I’ve understood 27 million.

Well, that’s what Peter Kuznick [director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University] used today. I think the Russians say 26 million or 27 million. And the West seems oblivious to this. The supreme indignity, in my view, was on the celebration of D-Day this past June, 70 years after D-Day, there was some discussion as to whether we should invite the Russians. Can you imagine how the Russians felt about that?

“He who is insulted is not defiled. He who insults another is the one defiled.”

Long story short, when we talk about Ukraine now, American history, in the media, begins on the 23rd of February, 2014, when, as the Washington Post headlined the article, “Putin had early plan to annex Crimea.” What are they citing? There’s a documentary out. Putin admits that he got his national security advisers around him on the 23rd.

That was just after the coup [the American-cultivated ouster of Viktor Yanukovich in Kiev].

It was the day after! So I say to my friends, some of whom are very well educated, what’s wrong with that headline? What happened on the 21st? They really don’t know! And these are educated people.

Anyhow, when I saw that happen, I said, “My goodness, not only is this a direct challenge to Russia, but it was sort of pre-advertised. They say the revolution will not be televised, well this coup was “YouTube-ized,” O.K.? Two and a half weeks before?

You mean the famous Vicky Nuland tape. [Nuland is Assistant Secretary for European Affairs; Geoffrey Pyatt is U.S. ambassador in Kiev.] . . .

Continue reading.

Read the whole thing. I’ll blog the second part when it’s published.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 February 2016 at 1:52 pm

Posted in Government

The costs of capitalism: Professor Who Helped Expose Crisis in Flint Says Public Science Is Broken

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The US has been bombarded for decades with statement and arguments about the benefits of capitalism, how it fosters innovation and efficiency and entrepreneurship, but we see much less about the costs. Most people are aware that there is no such thing as a free lunch (a sentiment capitalists in general strongly endorse), but we don’t often get a direct look at the tab we run up eating capitalism’s lunch. We see glimpses: the high price and low quality of care (in general) at for-profit hospitals compared to non-profit hospitals, the communities devastated and sometimes destroyed when a corporation moves all the jobs to some region that pays lower wages (thus boosting corporate profits), and so on.

In The Chronicle of Higher Education Steve Kolowich inteviews Marc Edwardswho describes the costs of the capitalizing of science in academia:

When Marc Edwards opens his mouth, dangerous things come out.

In 2003 the Virginia Tech civil-engineering professor said that there was lead in the Washington, D.C., water supply, and that the city had been poisoning its residents. He was right.

Last fall he said there was lead in the water in Flint, Mich., despite the reassurances of state and local authorities that the water was safe. He was right about that, too.

Working with residents of Flint, Mr. Edwards led a study that revealed that the elevated lead levels in people’s homes were not isolated incidents but a result of a systemic problem that had been ignored by state scientists. He has since been appointed to a task force to help fix those problems in Flint. In a vote of confidence, residents last month tagged a local landmark with a note to the powers that be: “You want our trust??? We want Va Tech!!!”

But being right in these cases has not made Mr. Edwards happy. Vindicated or not, the professor says his trials over the last decade and a half have cost him friends, professional networks, and thousands of dollars of his own money.

The infrastructural problems go beyond the public utilities of certain American cities, he says. In an interview with The Chronicle, Mr. Edwards said that the systems built to support scientists do not reward moral courage and that the university pipeline contains toxins of its own — which, if ignored, will corrode public faith in science.

The following interview has been edited and condensed.

Q. I just came back from Flint, and it may not come as a surprise to you that you’re something of a folk hero there. What do you think about that?

A. It’s a natural byproduct of science conducted as a public good. Normal people really appreciate good science that’s done in their interest. They stepped forward as citizen scientists to explore what was happening to them and to their community, we provided some funding and the technical and analytical expertise, and they did all the work. I think that work speaks for itself.

Q. Scientific studies by university-affiliated researchers, namely you and Mona Hanna-Attisha, were a big part of what broke this case open. On the other hand, it took a Flint resident writing to a professor in Virginia to start the process of finding out that there was lead in the drinking water. Do you see this as an academic success story or a cautionary tale?

A. I am very concerned about the culture of academia in this country and the perverse incentives that are given to young faculty. The pressures to get funding are just extraordinary. We’re all on this hedonistic treadmill — pursuing funding, pursuing fame, pursuing h-index— and the idea of science as a public good is being lost.

This is something that I’m upset about deeply. I’ve kind of dedicated my career to try to raise awareness about this. I’m losing a lot of friends. People don’t want to hear this. But we have to get this fixed, and fixed fast, or else we are going to lose this symbiotic relationship with the public. They will stop supporting us.

Q. Do you have any sense that perverse incentive structures prevented scientists from exposing the problem in Flint sooner?

A. Yes, I do. In Flint the agencies paid to protect these people weren’t solving the problem. They were the problem. What faculty person out there is going to take on their state, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency?

I don’t blame anyone, because I know the culture of academia. You are your funding network as a professor. You can destroy that network that took you 25 years to build with one word. I’ve done it. When was the last time you heard anyone in academia publicly criticize a funding agency, no matter how outrageous their behavior? We just don’t do these things.

If an environmental injustice is occurring, someone in a government agency is not doing their job. Everyone we wanted to partner said, Well, this sounds really cool, but we want to work with the government. We want to work with the city. And I’m like, You’re living in a fantasy land, because these people are the problem.

Q. Now that your hypothesis has been vindicated, and the government has its tail between its legs, a lot of researchers are interested.

A. And I hope that they’re interested for the right reasons. But there’s now money — a lot of money — on the table.

Q. Not as much as some of them would like. I heard a lot of people say they thought that a zero might have been missing from the grant moneythat the University of Michigan made available.

A. Right. But the expectation is that there’s tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars that are going to be made available by these agencies. And some part of that will be directed toward research, so we now have a financial incentive to get involved. I hate to sound cynical about it. I know these folks have good intentions. But it doesn’t change the fact that, Where were we as academics for all this time before it became financially in our interest to help? Where were we?

Q. Now, of course, when you walk around Flint and ask people about the reassurances they’re hearing now, they don’t believe anybody. When is it appropriate for academics to be skeptical of an official narrative when that narrative is coming from scientific authorities? Surely the answer can’t be “all of the time.”

A. I’m really surprised how emotional this interview is making me, and I’ve given several hundred interviews. What these agencies did in [the Washington, D.C., case] was the most fundamental betrayal of public trust that I’ve ever seen. When I realized what they had done, as a scientist, I was just outraged and appalled.

I grew up worshiping at the altar of science, and in my wildest dreams I never thought scientists would behave this way. The only way I can construct a worldview that accommodates this is to say, These people are unscientific. Science should be about pursuing the truth and helping people. If you’re doing it for any other reason, you really ought to question your motives.

Unfortunately, in general, academic research and scientists in this country are no longer deserving of the public trust. We’re not.

Q. I think of that rock with the spray paint on it that says, “You want our trust??? We want Va Tech!!!” That’s a vote of confidence in you at the expense of confidence in anybody else. Is that a happy piece of graffiti in your eyes? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 February 2016 at 12:12 pm

Nice appreciation of Bob & Ray

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In the NY Times, Jason Zinoman has a nice appreciation of Bob & Ray.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 February 2016 at 9:47 am

Posted in Comedy

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