Saturday, April 2, 2022

Ethical international relations

        Sometimes I try to analyze complex systems, to articulate cause-effect laws and to describe mechanisms accounting for them.  For example, what is evil, and what are its causes?

  Basic drives to preserve and enhance the self characterize all living things: single cells, plants, animals, families, species, religions, ethnicities, geographic regions.  Selves typically relate to nonselves (others) competitively, predatorially and/or selfishly.  Thus, our natural drives often cause suffering.  Unnecessary or unjust suffering is evil.

    Generosity toward offspring is common and constitutes preserving and enhancing the self.  Truly altruistic relations among non-spousal adults are rare.

Typically we, ourselves, lack the empathy to appreciate the evil done to others.  We are even thrilled by the sight of competitors, enemies and perpetrators harmed by our agents (military,  law enforcers).  We even dream of inflicting such harm.  Concern for our enemy’s suffering seems unpatriotic.  Concern for a perpetrator’s suffering seems misguided, though perfectly consistent with understanding of scientific determinism.

Sadly, my tribe has made many harmful mistakes over the years.  For example, we as White People should have treated non-whites more justly for centuries.  We as Americans should have behaved more rationally in Palestine, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Grenada, Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Lybia and Syria.  Many of our actions were in response to and for the sake of wealthy insiders.  Some were criminal.  Many could have been avoided by application of ethical standards, including Just War Principles, UN Charter and Geneva Conventions.

Our sanctions of Venezuela are irrational and spiteful.  We, the USA, are causing unnecessary and unjustified suffering in Venezuela, and that makes our actions evil.  By the way, their economic woes are due to the oil-price drop and amateur leadership, not communism.  The Russia embargo might eventually raise oil prices and help Venezuela.  It would be in our interest to help them get their oil industry up and running.

Likewise our sanctions of Cuba for the past two decades are irrational and spiteful.  Their attempts at managed economy haven't threatened us or anyone else for several decades.  Back in the Bay-of-Pigs and Missile-Crisis days, we had real conflicts, but that might have been avoided had we respected Cuba's sovereignty.

We should reconstruct our relations with these two struggling neighbors along ethical lines.

Monday, March 28, 2022

The Ukraine War

Some thoughts about the Ukraine war:

    It seems to me that the Russian convoys could have been stopped just inside the Ukrainian border, had there been a little forethought.  

    1. Ukraine should have placed tank barriers near the border crossings decades earlier, certainly after the Crimean invasion.  Many barriers could have been permanent and others could have been positioned when the threat became imminent, not to obstruct domestic traffic prematurely.  An array of disabled tanks and trucks on and about the border-crossing roads would be a barrier to those lined up to invade.

    2. Ukraine should have built up an arsenal of anti-tank/anti-truck drones, as soon as such weapons became available.  All too late, they are using drones effectively to drop explosive darts on the vulnerable tops of tanks.  Drones could deliver a wide variety of non-destructive and non-lethal vehicle-stopping and personnel-stopping bomblets.  These would be essentially radio-controlled fireworks that scatter Gorilla Glue on windshields and other vision ports as well as on personnel and door parts, or that spread itching powder and nauseating odoriphores on or in vehicles.

    3. Ukraine should have installed anti-aircraft weapons around its cities to be manned by trained teenagers and women.

    4. Ukraine should have accumulated a substantial fleet of fighter planes and pilots over the post Soviet years, these planes being stored beneath reinforced concrete surfaces and tested systematically.

    5.  There was a time when access to the Black Sea might have been a reason for Russia to conquer south-east Ukraine.  That reason seems invalid now that Russia has Georgia.

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Cream of asparagus soup

Based on Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen

2 cups water with 2 cubes bouillon, or 2 cups stock.

1½ cup chopped onion

6 tblsp butter

6 tblsp flour

1 tsp dill weed

1½ lbs fresh asparagus

4 cups scalded milk

1 tsp salt

white pepper

dash of tamari

1 tsp curry powder

Break off and discard tough asparagus bottoms.

Chop asparagus stalks and cook them with onions in butter, salting lightly.

After 10 min when onions are translucent sprinkle in the flour.

Continue to cook on low heat 8 minutes.

Add stock or bouillon water.

Cook with stirring until thickened ~ 10 min.

Homogenize thoroughly.

Over low heat, add dill, salt, white pepper and tamari.

Heat very gently.  Makes about four quarts.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Mama Lilo’s Oxtail Soup

In two large liberally oiled skillets (preferably cast iron) braise >4 pounds of oxtail segments, all sides deeply brown.  Avoid smoking.  Big segments present 6 sides, middle-size segments present four sides, and finger-size segments are cylindrical.

As they finish, put them in a >3-gallon pot on low heat.


Green half of a leek tied in a sheaf.

Several pieces of celery cut in 5-in lengths

1 celery root in 1/2-in slice

In the now meatless skillets saute mixture of:

3 adult yellow or sweet onions, peeled and sliced

1 garlic bulb =12 cloves peeled and sliced

1 large green bell pepper, cleaned and sliced

6 minipeppers, cleaned and sliced or 1 big red bell pepper

The white half of a leek ½-in sliced

3 carrots sliced longituinally

1 tblsp tomato paste

Deglaze thoroughly into pot of brazed oxtail segments

Add 1 gallon water

Add 2 10-oz cans of beef consume

Add 4 cubes beef bouillon and 2 cubes chicken bouillon.

In a gewurzkugel (gewurzball) to hang in the pot, place 1 bay leaf

6 peppercorns, 4 cloves, handful of parsley stems.

(Keep leafy parsley to add after cooking)

Add hot water to about 2-in below rim of pot, cover and boil slowly for 6 hours, then leave on burner until cool enough to proceed.

Shake fluid from gewurzball into soup and discard gewurzball solids.

Using tongs, pick vegetables off the sunken layer of oxtail pieces and transfer them to a colander in a bowl.  Examine carefully for small bony discs which must be removed.  Place the vegitables in a round bowl and puree very thoroughly, perhaps with a little water.

Using tongs, transfer meat and bones to a glass bowl.

Tilt pot slightly and try to transfer last bits of meat and bone from bottom of pot to this glass bowl, which can now go into refrigerator.

Pour from the big pot to another big container through a sieve.  Discard bone bits.

Put one cup flour and 1/2 stick of butter in the big pot and gently roast while scraping and mixing constantly until the flour is light brown.  To this rue add half of the stock and boil.  Add remainder of stock.  Return the main volume to the big pot and mix.

Add the pureed vegetables and mix.

Add more bouillon and ground black pepper to taste. 

Now schmeck.

Monday, February 21, 2022

Mama Lilo’s Minestrone

Derived from recipe in Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen

3 full size sweet or yellow onions pealed and diced

12 mini bell peppers, red and yellow

1 full size large green bell pepper

1 whole large garlic bulb with 12 cloves peeled, sliced and diced

1 cup 1/5-inch-sliced carrots

1 leek, white part

2 cups 1/3-inch-sliced celery

saute veggies in 1/4 cup olive oil

add 1 quart chicken broth

add 1/3 cup chopped parsley

add 28-oz can of pealed & roasted Marzane tomatoes, rince in with V8

add 1 tblsp Kroger Italian Seasoning

add 1 tsp dried basil

add 1 tsp dried aregano

add 2 crumbled Knorr chicken bouillon cubes

add 1 tblsp chicken Better Than Bouillon

add 1.5 cups canned garbanzo beans

add 1/4 cup red wine

Cook until carrots are tender

add ½ cup dry Orzo noodles and cook until desired dente

We add some water to make it more fluid.  Still tastes rich. We end up with about 1.5 gallon.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Perilous People

To me, “evil” is unjust and avoidable suffering and its causes.  Evil now taints many honest, responsible, generous, loyal, talented, creative, helpful, intelligent people, including those to whom I am deeply indebted for years of tranquility and joy.  To be specific, evil taints all Republicans since the party morphed from conservative to deceptive, seditious and racist -- since it ceased respecting truth and loving justice.  The gifted people of whom I speak are now endangering democracy and peace.  Not one Republican has apologized for the Jan-6 attempt to end America's experiment with democracy.  Judging from their media appetites, they are hostile to evidence and reason.  They'd rather follow a messiah than analyze socio-ethical dynamics.  Some fear economic repercussions of intellectual independence.  The compassionate people who volunteer to help victims of storms, fires, earthquakes and famines are the same people who now threaten democracy.

The places where I felt meaningful and experienced joy during the past quarter century were Woodmont Christian Church and Bellevue Christian Church.  There I was inspired to care about and help the disadvantaged, I gladly volunteered time and resources to upkeep of the church buildings, and I was welcome to exercise my love of music, for example: orchestrations, bands, and singalongs.

But now I’m afraid to expose my thoughts in those places for fear of driving congregants away and for fear of demoralizing the old and sick who deserve to feel worthy as they face their dooms after lives of faith and decency.

Friday, November 5, 2021

My bluegrass quest

Since I was 4 years old, I have dreamed of playing in a band.  In high school, I was in a group of square-dance pickers – Bill Brown, Starkey Duncan, Ben Adams, Joe Collier, Fred Beasely, my brother Barney and two others.  After highschool, we went our ways and lost track.  Fifteen years later, Bill Brown assembled a group of friends to play a square a dance at Brentwood Academy, where he was headmaster.  At the time, I was trying to learn banjo, which turned out to be the only melodic instrument in his band.  The highlight of the evening was Jerry Reed joining in for a couple of songs.  That band included Bill’s brother Larry, Allen Wallace, the Singing Harwell boys, Rob, Jonny and Coleman, and me.  Next time we met, there was an extremely talented banjo player, David Hickman, who would be our star.  Soon we had Tom Shriver and Sam Shannon.  Alex Shipley joined later.   In 1976, we were invited to perform a stage show on the War Memorial Plaza for the Bicentennial Arts Celebration.  Riding to that gig, Coleman started talking about a sign in the Union Station that read “Outbound Freight”, and suddenly the band had a name.

The OBF was invited to perform at numerous civic events.  They played the same songs at every gathering, so I sought opportunities to sit in with groups on stage at various Nashville taverns: Dusty Road, Station Inn (the Red and Birdie era), Golden Nugget, Bluegrass Inn, Kindly Keep it Bluegrass, Trinity Lane x Dickerson Rd.  I played with some country pickers in a VFW dance band.  One of them died of a gunshot wound received when wooing a married woman.  One of them had an interest in Nashville’s dirtiest dive, “The Wigwam”, and he dragged us down there a couple of times after VFW gigs.  It was on 3rd Ave next to Cathy’s Massage Parlor on one side and worse on the other.  The 300-pound proprietor was always in overalls, shirtless and seriously malodorous.  He was proud of his ability to draw a pistol out of the cash register if needed.  He often slept the night on a pool table in the back room, parked in the middle, so people wouldn’t fall through the 2'x2' hole, covered also by a rug to keep out varmints and cold.

The Wigwam people asked me to perform in a special event to be filmed for a documentary.  The song was new to me, so I faked my way through it, embarrassingly.  I saw and heard the result for the first time several weeks ago.  The man smoking and drinking in the foreground was Townes VanZandt:  Heartworn Highways.