EASTER EGGS & BUNNIES

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Colorful Easter eggs

It’s a tradition to hard-boil eggs or hollow them out and decorate them for Easter celebrations in many U.S. families (and families worldwide). While I was growing up, that was a given. In my own family, we took part in the egg coloring tradition, dipping eggs in a dye—that was the extent of the decorations. We parents also hid Easter jelly beans around the house for the hunt. I think our kids ate them, although today that makes me cringe because those jelly beans are pure sugar and certainly not a healthy food like real eggs, decorated or not.

What do eggs and decorating and hiding them have to do with Easter?  The egg, after all, has been associated with pagan festivals celebrating spring and new life. Decorating eggs is an ancient custom. For centuries eggs were dyed with natural ingredients from onion skins, green grass, beets, red raspberries, blueberries, and/or dark coffee. Red has been the most popular color for eggs. Some historians say that ancient Persians (Iranians) dyed hard-boiled eggs red for religious celebrations.  Red eggs also have been symbolic in Christian celebrations, representing the blood of Christ.

In some families decorated hard-boiled eggs are hidden outdoors and there’s a race for youngsters to see how many they can find. On the Monday after Easter (tomorrow) the traditional White House Easter Egg Roll will take place, an event that has occurred since 1878 under the Administration of President Rutherford B. Hayes. Participants (age 13 and younger) roll dyed, hard-boiled eggs across the grass to a finish line or post. When a whistle is blown, children use stakes or long-handled spoons to roll the eggs down the White House South Lawn. Some kids just flip the eggs toward the goal line. The one whose egg crosses the finishing line first wins the game.

Historians say that American egg hunts may date back to the 1700s and Pennsylvania Dutch immigrants who believed in an egg-laying hare called Oschter Haws (or Osterhase). Children built nests for the hare, and later went to search for the eggs that the hare supposedly left behind.

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Oschter Haws was the forerunner of the Easter Bunny, an animal that obviously does not lay eggs but is known for its fertility. After about 30-31 days, impregnated rabbits give birth to a dozen or more bunnies. Nevertheless, the Easter bunny tradition continues as nests are created for the hare/bunny in the form of Easter baskets filled with decorated eggs, jelly beans, and chocolate bunnies. What’s not to love about chocolate bunnies?

 

 

REPORTERS GOT IT RIGHT!

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Journalists at work

Over the past couple of years, I have followed news reports from reliable and professional publications like the New York Times, the Washington Post, and others, plus online cable news hosts like Ari Melber and Rachel Maddow who try to present objective information backed up by documents and guest opinions on both sides of an issue. At the same time, Trump has screamed on Fox “News” (his go-to cable propaganda outlet) or twittered in caps countless times that professional journalists are presenting “FAKE NEWS.” Now we’ve learned via Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report that “Nearly everything Trump called “fake news” turned out to be true. While news outlets might have made the occasional mistake (as they do on any story), over and over again important revelations were greeted by the president with the cry of “Fake news!” only to be corroborated by the Mueller report,” wrote Paul Waldman in the Washington Post.

Although Trump has often claimed that he has had no contact with Russians and their interference in the 2016 election, the New York Times documented 140 contacts between Trump and his associates and Russian nationals and WikiLeaks or their intermediaries. And the Mueller report revealed at least 30 more contacts beyond those already known.

News reports also noted that Trump several times ordered Mueller’s firing. But Trump called the articles fake. His claim is bogus. Documents and facts in the Mueller report underscore that Trump indeed ordered that Mueller be sacked. If you want evidence, see Volume II, Executive Summary, pages 4-6.

On page 12 in Volume II, the Special Counsel’s Office lists events that could lead to charges of obstruction, such as Trump’s “January 27, 2017 dinner with former FBI Director James Comey in which he reportedly asked for Comey’s loyalty.” However, the Office wrote that although there was a potential for charges of obstruction, those charges would depend on “an individual’s action and intent.” That could not be determined.

The entire Volume II is about obstruction of justice, complete with copious footnotes. It reads like the basis for a novel, but this is not fiction. It is sometimes full of dry, legalistic comments. But I think it’s well worth perusal—if not in one sit down, at least a little at a time. Although no legal actions re Trump were made by the Special Counsel, it will be up to Congress to determine how to proceed. Already investigations are underway, at least in the House of Representatives.

 

 

 

 

 

White House Whitewashing and White Nationalists

As most people know, to whitewash is a metaphor meaning to skim over or cover up crimes or scandals or to vindicate by making a token investigation or biased (if not deceitful) presentation of data. It’s happening right before our eyes and ears, if we care to watch and listen. The Trump administration, for example, has tried to cover up its involvement in dealings with Russia, an adversary, and its attempts to influence U.S. elections.

A more recent whitewash involves the findings of Special Counsel Robert E. Mueller’s investigation (now completed); Attorney General William Barr has deliberately submitted his own conclusions about Mueller’s report with statements that obviously favor Donald Trump. Perhaps some truths will appear when the report with all its redactions appears tomorrow, April 18. But I doubt we’ll learn much.

Along with whitewashing, white nationalism is a Trump priority. “The Trump administration has manufactured and exacerbated an immigration ‘crisis’ to further the president’s most consistent goal: to Make America White Again,” wrote Eugene Robinson, a Washington Post columnist, on April 15, 2019. “On almost any issue you can think of, Trump is all over the map. But there is one position on which he has never wavered: antipathy toward nonwhite immigration. From his campaign charge that Mexican immigrants are ‘rapists,’ to his fruitless quest to get funding for a border wall, to his gratuitously cruel policy of family separations, to his declaration of a national emergency, Trump has left not an iota of doubt about how he feels.”

During his presidential campaign in 2016 Trump was endorsed by numerous white nationalist and white supremacist individuals and organizations including former KKK Imperial Wizard David Duke and the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer. At first he refused to condemn these white supremacists or renounce their endorsement. Eventually, Trump called the KKK, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists “repugnant” and “evil.”

However Trump has appointed several white nationalists to various positions in his administration. Stephen Miller is the most prominent example. While in high school and college, Miller routinely disparaged multiculturalism and immigration in articles and call-in radio appearances. One high school classmate said Miller had “an intense hatred toward people of color, especially toward Latinos.” Miller was an associate of white nationalist Richard Spencer. They both attended Duke University and worked with each other to organize an event with the founder of the white nationalist publication VDARE. The publication promotes the work of white supremacists, anti-Semites and others on the radical right. Today, Miller is Senior Advisor to the President. He is an avid supporter and mouthpiece for Trump’s nationalist, Islamophobic, and anti-immigrant America First agenda.

For more details about white nationalists (former and current) in the Trump administration, check out https://elephrame.com/textbook/White-Supremacy-Trump-Admin/graphic. The site includes lists of numerous articles from multiple print and electronic sources to back up the assertions made.

 

 

 

The United States is NOT Full

 

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Immigrant workers are welcomed in many areas of the United States

“The Country is FULL.” So said Donald J. Trump as he has tried every-which-way to curtail asylum seekers from crossing the nation’s southern border. The bloated, bigoted, bloviating braggart is himself full—full of BS. Before he began his rants about stopping the flow of refugees from Central America into the United States, he proclaimed that the country needed workers, so the refugees would be welcome. But then as usual he did a complete reversal, saying the country can’t take anymore immigrants, illegal or legal, because our country has no place for them. He demanded that immigrants turn around and go home to their violence-plagued countries.

On April 12, 2019, the Washington Post editorial board wrote that Trump’s “diagnosis that the country is full flies in the face of the facts — specifically, the economy’s severe and growing labor shortages, including for low-wage and blue-collar workers, across an array of industries and regions….In March, the Labor Department reported there were 7.6 million unfilled jobs and just 6.5 million unemployed people, marking 12 straight months during which job openings have exceeded job seekers.”

In addition, the editorial board noted: “The labor shortage is sapping growth as well as state and municipal revenue. Small businesses and major corporations have sounded the alarm as the delivery of goods is delayed by a drastic shortage of truckers, and housing prices in some markets are driven up by an inadequate supply of construction workers. Mr. Trump’s admission [on April 12] that he will consider transporting new migrants to so-called sanctuary cities as a means of punishing those cities is probably an empty threat given the scheme’s blatant illegality. But if he were to fulfill the threat, he might do some of the cities an unintentional favor by providing them with badly needed workers.”

The city of Seattle, Washington, is one of those cities. Mayor Jenny A. Durkan noted: “In Seattle, we know that our immigrant and refugee communities make our city a stronger, more vibrant place. Our immigrant neighbors make up more than 18 percent of our population….They create businesses and jobs. They create art and culture. They help teach our kids, serve in law enforcement and the military, and lead our places of faith.”

Other cities have also welcomed immigrants. They include Atlanta, Georgia; Baltimore, Maryland; Oakland, California; Phoenix, Arizona; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Tallahassee, Florida, and big cities like Chicago and New York City. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently estimated that about half of the nation’s farmworkers are unauthorized, and 15 percent of construction workers are undocumented. In the service sector, which would include jobs such as fast food and domestic help, the figure is about 9 percent.

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Immigrant workers needed in construction jobs

There is a common belief that immigrants do work that most Americans refuse to do. But that’s not the crux of the issue. Instead, many employers in construction and service industries prefer to hire undocumented immigrants because they do not have to pay their healthcare, pensions, workers compensation, and other benefits that many American workers expect. In short, many unemployed Americans will do almost any job available if they are paid a decent wage with benefits.

 

 

FOOD WASTE

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There’s plenty of food in the U.S., but a lot of it is wasted.

It’s spring cleaning time and you or someone in your household sets out to clean the refrigerator. Check those packaged products with a “use by” date long past. Out they go, along with some moldy bread. A half quart of milk smells funny—it’s curdled and sour. Down the drain it goes. Wilted lettuce doesn’t look appetizing so it joins the other food throwaways, along with food items you just don’t want anymore.

When I clean out my refrigerator, I often think about my mom and her “waste not, want not” maxim she lived by. Once, while visiting, I cleaned out her refrigerator and found quite a few items that were no longer edible (her eyesight was failing at the time). One of the items was a head of cauliflower that had been in the refrigerator so long that it was sprouting purple flowers! Of course, the cauliflower ended up in the garbage.

Americans throw away 63 billion tons of food each year, and 43 percent of that comes from U.S. households. A Natural Resources Defense Council study found that 68 percent of household food that is trashed is still edible. “In the United States, over one-third of all available food goes uneaten through loss or waste….When food is tossed aside, so too are opportunities for healthier communities, economic growth, and environmental prosperity.” So states the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Along with households, restaurants, supermarkets, school cafeterias, and other food service industries contribute to the tons of food waste. Restaurants usually throw away leftovers at the end of the serving day. Donating edible leftover food can be risky if it is not properly refrigerated or served in a safe environment. In addition, unless places like those sheltering the homeless are nearby, delivering food is not cost effective for a restaurant.

People who frequently “eat out,” can reduce food waste by ordering smaller portions or taking home leftovers to consume the next day (or before food ends up spoiled and is tossed into the garbage). Supermarkets are able to salvage some foods by donating damaged cans and cartons of food to charitable organizations serving the “food insecure”—the term government official use for hungry people. At least 40 million Americans are food insecure

On April 3, 2019, the Washington Post published a feature about “food insecure” students at Woodland Elementary School in Elkhart, Indiana. At the school, needy students receive free or reduced-price lunches, but on the weekend their families have little food. To address the problem, Woodland School is participating in a pilot program, a nonprofit called Cultivate. Through the program, leftover cafeteria food is used to create frozen meals that food insecure students can take home to eat over the weekend. Social workers and Cultivate determine which students are most in need. The students receive insulated backpacks and eight frozen meals to eat over the weekend.

Before the Woodland program, Cultivate had started piloting a school-lunch program at Madison STEAM Academy in South Bend, Indiana. “The group provides weekend meals for 100 students at that school, and the food comes from donors such as the University Of Notre Dame, a partner, as well as local event spaces and catering services,” the Post reported.

Two federal government programs that help hungry families and individuals is the Agricultural Department’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (SNAP) and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. These are federally funded and the programs have been under scrutiny by the Trump administration. But I won’t get started on that!

 

 

 

YOUR WANNABE KING

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A guy who covets a crown is in U.S. federal office–no name needed.

To repeat an earlier blog, in early April 2019, your wannabe king, threatened to close the border between Mexico and the United States, and then after hearing all the complaints about the negative economic effects such a closure would bring, he withdrew his threat. Then he demanded that Mexico stop illegal immigrants at their southern border.

“If for any reason Mexico stops apprehending and bringing the illegals back to where they came from, the U.S. will be forced to Tariff at 25% all cars [actually vehicle parts] made in Mexico and shipped over the Border to us. If that doesn’t work, which it will, I will close the Border,” he wrote in a tweet.

The guy who wants to be king says the country “can’t take anymore” asylum seekers—men, women, and children that he has claimed “aren’t people,” they’re “animals.” They are NOT animals. Most are desperate people, legally seeking refuge in the United States, which is allowed under federal and international laws.

Now the man who aspires to be an authoritarian monarch, says the asylum law should be overturned and security people at the U.S-Mexican border should ignore the law; he says if judges tell border guards they must obey the law, just say “‘Sorry, judge, I can’t do it.’” He also wants to reinstate the zero-tolerance policy, which the wannabe king had withdrawn after much public criticism.

“Under the zero tolerance policy, DOJ prosecuted all adult aliens apprehended crossing the border illegally, with no exception for asylum seekers or those with minor children,” according to the Congressional Research Service. “Criminally prosecuting adults for illegal border crossing requires detaining them in federal criminal facilities where children are not permitted…..Administration officials and immigration enforcement advocates argue that measures like the zero tolerance policy are necessary to discourage migrants from coming to the United States and submitting fraudulent asylum requests.”

If zero tolerance is applied, parents would be referred for prosecution and the children would be placed in the custody of a sponsor, such as a relative or foster home, or held in a shelter (actually cages in many cases). The would-be king also wants this policy applied to asylum seekers.

This present-day aspiring King George III has said he wants families separated even if allowed admittance at a legal port of entry and are legal asylum seekers. The wannabe king says families should be separated even if they are seized within the United States. He thinks the separations will deter immigration.

Yet, asylum seekers could become part of the much needed labor force in numerous U.S. industries, such as agriculture and construction. In the agriculture industry, millions of undocumented immigrants are already at work, picking apples and grapes, or in the fields harvesting tomatoes, lettuce, and other produce. These workers not only labor long hours at jobs that most American citizens don’t want, they pay taxes on their income.

Mary Jo Dudley of Cornell University noted that the “Department of Agriculture estimates that about half of the nation’s farmworkers are unauthorized.” She pointed out that 15 percent of construction workers “lack papers – more than the share of legal immigrants in either industry. In the service sector, which would include jobs such as fast food and domestic help, the figure is about 9 percent.” Your king-in-the-making has long employed illegals at his golf courses and Mar-a-Lago resort.

So what is you potential king going to do if all these undocumented workers are expelled from the USA? We have no way of knowing what he will do next.

But there’s something WE can do: Vote Him and His Ilk Out of Office.

 

 

 

 

Taking a Break

An ancient proverb advises us that “a wound from a knife heals, but from a tongue never.”

black handled kitchen knife on beige wooden pallet

An ancient proverb advises us that “a wound from a knife heals, but from a tongue never.” If only that adage could be inscribed on a plaque and placed in Trump’s office, not that it would have an effect on his insulting, offensive, racist tongue.

As I read that proverb, I decided to take a brief break and ignore Trump and trumpians for a while. In my book on food superstitions from around the world, I included a bunch of fantasies about knives and a lot of other things about cutlery and foods. So here’s the scoop (or slice?) on knives that can bring good or bad luck.

First: if you make your own bread, be advised not to cut it with a knife when it’s hot out of the oven. That’s bad luck. But it’s okay to break off pieces of the loaf. Or perhaps you buy sliced bread. There is a caution about those slices. If, like most people you take a knife and butter the slice, it could accidentally slip from you hand and land on the floor. If so, let’s hope it is buttered side up. Otherwise, if it smacks buttered side down, it is no joke. Not only do you have to clean up the mess, but you also have to worry—if you are superstitious—that adversity awaits you in the future.

To avoid adversity with knives, don’t go looking for a paring knife or carving knife in a field or on the road. Who knows why ANYONE would do that? But to find one is supposedly a potent for bad luck. You’ll also suffer adversity, superstition says, if you use a knife to spear a piece of bread and pass it to someone else. And don’t give a knife as a present to someone or you could lose a friendship or love. (An aside: about the only bad luck from my gifts of kitchen knives are cut fingers.)

Bad luck also comes when you play “spin the knife.” Lot of us have played “spin the bottle” but spinning the knife? Well if that’s your game, be careful. If the knife stops and the blade is directed at you, it signals doom or death. Oh my!

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Like polite partners, the knife and fork are placed side by side

Another way to avoid bad luck has to do with placement of a knife and fork on your plate. Don’t cross the utensils because that will bring sorrow and misfortune or spark an argument. But you can prevent any ill effects if you pick up the knife, and while holding it vertically, tap the handle end on the table three times. Well, now that should catch the attention of others at the table. Y’all listen up!

To simplify matters, just place the knife and fork side by side on your plate. In restaurants that is a signal to most servers that you are finished with your meal and he or she can remove the plate. Dessert anyone?