Insider’s Guide to the Iowa Caucus

Hal Goetz leads caucus training in Knoxville, Iowa

Not long ago, I went to an Iowa caucus training. A caucus is first of all, a meeting. It’s not a primary. It’s a meeting run by a political party and funded by the party. It’s a meeting to select the party’s nominee for election and to work on the party’s goals and principles–the platform. It’s an expensive undertaking. Here is information about the caucus. Here is the platform of one party and of the other.

A caucus will have an attendance of 5-500 people, depending on where you live in the state. It is a place to register people to your party, register people to vote, and to elect delegates for candidates running for president. Each county has a specific number of delegates based on how many people voted in the last 2 elections and how many candidates from that party received votes. A caucus is paid for by the party but works with the elected official–the auditor–to get this information. There are no official candidates at this point, although many have been vying for the nomination. A caucus can elect “undecided.” However, based on your number of delegates, only so many can move forward as “viable.” A candidate may have supporters, but not enough to win a delegate. If this happens, the supporters have the chance to move to their second choice candidate. As you can imagine, there’s math involved and some rounding.

Since there were allegations of fraud in the last caucus–which turned out to be a Russian hoax–the caucus will be less meeting- like next year. Instead of counting people in preference groups and having people win over delegates, we need to collect cards. And people must sign the cards and declare who they are for early in the process. This is a departure for folks like me, who show up not knowing who they will be for and hoping to discuss things at a meeting. I for one feel that the interference in the past election, starting with the caucuses, was a serious threat. There’s a difference between free speech and perpetuating fraud.

In the past, the chair counted the people in each preference group and the results were verified with name and signature by a delegate for each candidate. The card adds an extra layer. Plus, I have to save the cards in case there is an audit. Here’s a look at the card:

The new preference card, because layers of verification wasn’t enough

I volunteered to be a temporary chair for the next caucus. My goal will be to sort people into their candidate preference groups, elect delegates to the county convention (they represent their candidate preference), adopt platform resolutions, and elect people to leadership roles. I had to have a training and will need to pass a quiz.

The Iowa caucus will be on Feb. 3, 2020. It’s the first test of a candidate’s appeal and organization. The locations will be announced, but any entity supported by state taxes in any way must permit their location to be used at no charge.

Once the caucus is over, I hope to relinquish my leadership role. I have a new book coming out, after all.

Seeking asylum

Seeking asylum has a long history. As part of the Geneva convention, people are allowed to avail a country for protection if they are being persecuted for race, religion, nationality, social group, or political opinion.

“An asylum-seeker is a person who has left their country and is seeking protection from persecution and serious human rights violations in another country, but who hasn’t yet been legally recognized as a refugee and is waiting to receive a decision on their asylum claim. Seeking asylum is a human right. This means everyone should be allowed to enter another country to seek asylum.” (source here)

“A refugee is a person who has fled their own country because they are at risk of serious human rights violations and persecution there. The risks to their safety and life were so great that they felt they had no choice but to leave and seek safety outside their country because their own government cannot or will not protect them from those dangers. Refugees have a right to international protection.” (source here)

By contrast, a migrant might leave their country “because they want to work, study or join family, for example. Others feel they must leave because of poverty, political unrest, gang violence, natural disasters or other serious circumstances that exist there.” (source here)

According to the Geneva Convention, at the moment of urgency, cooperating countries have to let asylum seekers and refugees into their country. Later, they go though a proceeding that determines if they get asylum. This can be risky because if they get sent back, they could be killed by the people they are fleeing. Asylum seekers need to present a convincing case that they were in danger in their country and had no way to find protection. They are granted temporary asylum and it is up to the government of the country where they seek asylum if they should be detained, locked up.

In the US, Trump etc has decided that ALL asylum seekers and migrants be detained. (At our expense. $$$$$$$$$$) The kids of asylum seekers and migrants are not detained so they are taken from their parents and getting sent to camps. That’s the logic. But why detain everyone? This hasn’t been done before. There are no clear guidelines for caring for the children. Some have even been put up for adoption, leading to accusations of kidnapping!

In the current system in the US, honest people fleeing persecution and violence in Latin America can be detained with criminals. They can be detained for years, by the way, even if they are innocent. This is not the smartest, cheapest, or kindest policy. It lowers the moral standing of the US in the world because no other country separates parents and kids. (Although India won’t let anyone in since they never signed the Geneva convention.)

Sadly, women fleeing domestic violence or genital mutilation are not covered by the convention. People fleeing natural disaster, migrants, have the same rights as asylum seeking but in the US, those from the Bahamas are being turned away.

Right now, there are over 25 million refugees in the world. Here in the US, most asylum seekers are from China, followed by El Salvador.

In the US, asylum seekers could once refer to the highlighted document. However, it is no long available.

The Geneva Convention was created in 1951, as stories of Jewish people fleeing Nazis being turned away and later executed became known. The United States was responsible for turning many away, including a ship load on a vessel known as the St. Louis. The US signed the Geneva Convention and codified the principles in 1980. It is considered to be international law. It’s not illegal to seek asylum but, egged on by cruel policies, some seekers are called criminals. This is a violation of international law and inspires hatred and demonization across the globe.

Here is a podcast on How to seek asylum plus a heartwarming story. Here is the History of the Geneva convention.

BTW, if your state has capital punishment, as Iowa is considering, and as the US has added, you can be a refuge to to another countries such as France. Let’s hope the world gets a little more loving or there could be no place to flee to. We also need to recognize domestic violence as violence.

A Visit to Detroit with Kids

Recently, my family made a trip to Detroit with 9 kids in tow. We only had two days to spend. Here are some of the things we did:

We were on a tight budget for time and had lots of squirmy little ones, so we didn’t do any fancy dining, even though Detroit has a vibrant & competitive food scene. We ordered delivery of Detroit style pizza and took in the food trucks at Eastern Market. In addition to good food and local items (need a t-shirt?), Eastern Market is known for its murals . Art in Detroit is a combination of quirky and hopeful. Seriously, click that link.

We decided to take the Coney Dog Challenge. Despite the name, Detroit, not Coney Island, invented the coney dog (chili sauce, onions, and mustard). Two famous coney dog spots are right next to each other downtown on Lafayette Boulevard. After trying both hot dogs, what was our verdict? It was mixed. Some liked American because the dogs have a great snap to them and a delightful casing, while others found the sauce of Lafayette more savory. American has a little more room to sit and eat.

Which one?

We stopped by Sanders, in the wealthy suburb of Grosse Pointe, for ice cream, Vernors, and chocolate.

A Vernors ginger ale float
Eating shwarmas and fancy grilled cheese at Eastern market
The kids loved this one, and many others
Fun in Downtown Detroit’s Campus Martius
  • Campus Martius is Detroit’s downtown hub of activity and is the aptly marked origion of the city. The summer fun was a beach with sand and toys, plus an outdoor bar which a couple harried parents appreciated. We wandered to the riverfront, past more eye caching art work. It was a beautiful moment in The D.
Downtown fun.

Shown above are the Civil War Memorial–Michigan Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument (1872)

KAWS statue, Waiting (2018)

Spirit of Detroit (1958)

Monument to Boxer and Civil Rights Icon Joe Lewis (1986)

  • Belle Isle is the oldest aquarium and botanical garden in the United States. It holds the world’s most complete collection of gar fish. It was a quick and enjoyable visit. The kids not only marveled at the aquatic life, they lingered over the plants, everything from cactuses to Dumb Cane to Banana Trees.
Piranhas capture the attention.
Detroit’s river front
  • The Heidelberg Project (shown above) is a found object art installation that has become increasing popular. And for good reason. It’s a dynamic area and the kids were inspired to give each peice their own interpretation.
  • The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborne is the opposite of the Belle Isle attractions. It contains everything made by humans to help them travel plus an extenive array of historical furnature and historical items, including the Rosa Parks bus. We need to go back and take in the rest of this sprawing attraction.
A guide tells the story of the Rosa Parks bus. Parks became a Detroit resident and the Henry Ford museum did all it could to secure this bus for posterity.
The kids pose in front of the first school bus.

Detroit is a center for art and social change. I hope it continues to thrive and keep its hopeful, quirky nature. The kids loved it, had discussions about art and Civil Rights, and one who is a city girl kept remarking about the tell buildings, even though she sees tall buildings in her city. Pure Detroit gives some great tours if you want to explore some of the impressive Detroit buildings.

What is Enriched Uranium?

You many have heard of a consequence of the US dumping the Iran-nuclear deal. Iran has made enriched uranium.What is that and why should anyone care?

Uranium is a dense heavy metal that decays–meaning it’s radioactive and gives off particles and energy and transforms into a slightly lighter metal, thorium, which is also radioactive. It emits an alpha particle, the Mac truck of subatomic particles, which is also a helium nucleus. This is where earthly helium comes from! All forms of uranium are radioactive..but not the helium it emits. Don’t worry, your party balloons are safe. Uranium is unstable and thus radioactive. The word radioactive was coined by the Curies in 1898, with radio being related to ray as in a ray of light Many radioactive elements and nuclear reactions cause their surrounding to glow due to their energy. It’s slowly radioactive with all isotopes having long half-lives. It can be found in deposits across the globe.

Uranium can be made into a source of power when it undergoes fission. During fission, the core of the atom (the nucleus) is hit with a neutron and split into smaller pieces and new lighter elements are made. The lighter elements are more stable and the energy needed to hold the large unstable uranium together is released. The process is shown in the figure below. You can see that more neutrons fly out and if enough atoms of the right isotope of uranium are nearby, they split other uranium atoms. A chain reaction ensues and this keeps the energy release going. If the reaction is fast enough, a bomb is created.

Illustration showing a nuclear fission

Here’s the catch, not all forms of uranium undergo fission. Only the isotope with 92 protons and 143 neutrons in the nucleus, uranium 235 or U-235, is unstable enough to be broken in this fashion. And it’s not very plentiful. Only 0.7% of naturally occurring uranium is this isotope. And to allow for the chain reaction to occur, you need to concentrate this form of the metal. This is needed for both weapons grade and power reactor uranium but weapons grade uranium needs more concentration aka enrichment. This is not easy. Why does it take so much work? Chemical reactions occur with the outside of the atom–the electron cloud. This is an easy way to separate chemicals–by their different reactivities due to different electron clouds surrounding them.

All isotopes of uranium have the same cloud of 92 electrons. This means the isotopes have to be separated by mass. The uranium is reacted with fluoride and forms a gas, then is passed through a porous membrane which only lets the smaller 235 isotope through. Alternately, it might be centrifuged. There are a few other less efficient methods of enrichment. This process demands lots of energy. Monitoring the energy use of enrichment facilities is one way to watch to see if a country is working on producing weapons grade U-235.

What’s going on in Iran? They have used centrifuge technology to enrich uranium to a concentration of 4.5%. The allowed limit with the Nuclear Deal was 3.67%. However, it takes 90% enrichment to make a bomb because a bomb reaction must go faster with more U-235 atoms close to each other. Getting to this level is a huge challenge needing a high tech centrifuge. Yes, Iran get there if the nuclear deal remains sour for years.

Right now, the world has a surplus of enriched uranium because of the many enrichment plants world wide. What country has a surplus of weapons grade uranium? The United States. Scientists worked hard to create the bomb. Some did it unknowingly and other suffered remorse at how it was used. Scientists approved the Nuclear Deal, they supported it, and scientific collaboration is suffering at its end.

Highlighting child abuse

A while ago, I came across a message from Highlights for Children.

A kids’ magazine featuring mild rebukes of doing things such as sticking your dirty fingers in an olive jar (that would be you, Goofus) instead of using a fork (yay Gallant–you always do the right thing), had a serious statement on Twitter about what I am going to call state sponsored child abuse.

Give this magazine credit for knowing the science of hardship, neglect, and stress on kids. Kids and baby mammals in general are not resilent as some claim. They are sensitive to stress. When raised in situations where resources are lacking females suffer from lack of brain development, leading to attention problems. In other words, things like poverty and war can harm the brain of a young female, making her less able to make good decisions and be less resilent in the future. Being raised by a stressed mom can create many problems for the offspring: depression, anxiety, attention problems and PTSD later in life. Good nutrition and dependable dads can help nuture brain development and ensure proper social skills. Allowing children to experience malnutrition and trauma, such as the trauma of war and poverty or even physical punishment, can affect genes, making future generations more likely to be unable to cope with stress. What helps? Anti-poverty programs including food assistance work! They protect children and familes. But due to the deep, genetic trauma of poverty and stress, we can’t expect insantaneous results. Lack of nurture becomes nature.

Even for well-nourished children, being removed from a loving home and sent to boarding school, as happened with the children of Dora Jordan and King William when they parted, can cause trauma. As I researched and wrote Wolves and Deer, I was struck as to how much the ten children suffered at the parting, even as their father became King and lavished them with titles and riches.

Because of this research, I was sad to read that recently, babies and young children have been taken from parents and sent to Michigan via Bethany Christian Services, a group with local ties. Even worse, some have been put into camps that have appauling conditions.

Scientific groups have sounded the alarm on the devistating blow back the world will suffer because of family separation and failure to nuture children. Of course, one way to desensitize your population is to make them suspicious of science. But will anyone ever be suspicious of Highlights for Children? I hope not.

How I Got My Real ID

For those of you familiar with my Unstable States dystopian series, you’ll recall that in the nation of Cochtonia, people don’t vote and get scanned regularly with a No Regrets device. As detailed in Mixed In, this scanner was developed to allow people to check sex partners for diseases, but it quickly became used by the Vice Patrol to check them for “deviance” instead. We haven’t reached this point yet here in the US, but we do have The Real ID. (Click link for official description)

The Real ID is supposed to provide better security at airports and other places, and who doesn’t want better security? However, critics say that the 9-11 hijackers had plenty of ID (some faked) and this didn’t stop them. The National Academy of Science pointed out numerous problems with having a National ID. The new type of ID not only resembles restrictive IDs used in Russia, but provides a nice hackable data base with plenty of our personal information.–including images with facial recognition! We all know that not much has been done to prevent hacking.

The Real ID has been in the works since 2005. “Republican Cong. F. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin is to blame. In February 2005, he attached the Real ID Act to a defense appropriations bill. No one was willing to risk not supporting the troops by holding up the bill, and it became law. No hearings. No floor debate. With nary a whisper, the United States had a national ID.”

According to the government “On May 11, 2005, President Bush signed into law the Emergency Supplemental Appropriation for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 2005 (H.R. 1268, P.L. 109-13), which included the “Real ID Act of 2005.” Title II of Real ID—“Improved Security for Driver’s License’ and Personal Identification Cards”—repeals the provisions of a December 2004 law (P.L. 108-458) that established a negotiated rule making process to create federal standards for driver’s licenses and instead directly imposes prescriptive federal driver’s license standards.”

It will be required by 2020, just in time for the election. Will it affect voters? Yes, in some states you will need a real ID to vote: CO, GA, MD, NM, MS, NE, SD, TX, UT, VT, and WY. Some states are automatically granting enhanced driver’s licenses as Real ID stand-ins: Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, and Washington are states that currently issue EDLs. (For more information on EDLs, please go to www.dhs.gov/enhanced-drivers-licenses-what-are-they.) And there’s a lurking danger–the federal government doesn’t like some states’ Real IDs and are declaring some of them invalid. California is one of these states.

It’s estimated that in 2020 millions of people will not be able to vote or will be discouraged from trying to vote due to Real IDs,

I went to get my Real ID at the DOT this week. Here’s what I had to bring with me:

You must apply in person to get a Real ID. The DOT comes to Pella two times a month and provides services from 9am-4pm. Otherwise, you have to drive to the county seat. No problem for me but if a person is not a driver, it could be.

In Pella, I waited for about 40 minutes and had to pay $10 and get a new photo taken. My Real ID will come in the mail in a week or so. I had a passport, but to get it, I had to get a new official birth certificate and pay for that (since I was born out of state in Michigan), a photo, and pay for that, and pay for the passport. How do poor people get a Real ID? I wrote Homeland Security (in charge of the Real ID rollout) and asked this question. I’ll update when I get an answer.

What’s the problem? Isn’t this a simple upgrade from the IDs we have now? Not simple for everyone. Many people do not have or need photo IDs. Rural people were often born at home and don’t have birth certificates. Some people have their names spelled wrong on their birth certificate or suddenly find they were not legally adopted and must pay hundreds of dollars in fees to comply. People who have recently gotten divorced/married or moved to a new state report making multiple trips and headaches to get their Real ID. In Kansas, not only have there been problems, but only 40% of people have a Real ID. Some people have expired licenses and don’t drive. Over 80% of people in the US have flown at least once and 50% have flown recently.People can use a Passport as an alternative for flying. However, it’s taking longer to get passports due to lack of staff. And once again, I ask–what about poor people?

Here in the US, about 11% of the population has no ID of any kind. There are ministries and non-profits to help poor people get IDs, which are needed for things such as welfare and getting married. The real ID has made this a time eating and burdensome process. Is there help in Iowa? If so, I can’t find it

Some people worry that Real ID will create two tiers of people–those who have a real ID and those who don’t. It seems a little dystopian, don’t you think?

Click here if you need help obtaining a Real ID.

Dead Zone: Not Iowa Nice

Life here on Earth has it all figured out. Plants consume carbon dioxide and water and pump out oxygen and carbohydrates. Animals consume carbohydrates and pump out carbon dioxide. It works beautifully when in balance. When out of balance, it creates spots where no life exists called Dead Zones. Dead Zone sound like something from a Stephen King novel. In reality, they are found in watersheds. The cause: lack of dissolved oxygen in the water.

Dissolved oxygen gets into water when it rushes and tumbles. How does it leave water? It gets used up by animals and by decomposition.

When fertilizer from fields runs into the water, it causes algae to grow.

No problem, right? The algae will put oxygen in the water. It does, until it dies or until the excess algae chokes out other vegetation and kills it. Decomposition uses oxygen. The oxygen levels fall and animals die due to the lack of it, just as in the Death Zone of Mt Everest where the lack of oxygen is due to lower air pressure. Just like Everest climbers, aquatic animals try to get to areas of higher oxygen…they try to swim away and also gulp air at the surface. But they become lethargic and eventually will suffocate.

Of all crops, corn uses the most fertilizer. Therefore, its production is responsible for most of the Dead Zone. This map shows where most of the fertilizer us used in the Mississippi. Because fertilizer is mostly nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, these areas are labeled “Nitrogen Hot Spots.”

The problem is acute when fresh water from farm fields containing fertilizer washes into the Mississippi. This water streams into the Gulf of Mexico-salt water–and sits on top of it because salt water is heavier.

Dissolved oxygen levels should be around 10 ppm for healthy water. Click here to check your local dissolved oxygen levels.

Sadly, the Dead Zone is projected to reach record levels this year, due to all of the flooding in the midwest.

What can be done to prevent this problem? One solution is to restore flood plains. No till farming and cover crops are other solutions.

Another is to follow the 4 Rs of nutrient stewardship.

  • Right fertilizer source at the
  • Right rate, at the
  • Right time and in the
  • Right place

However, crop farmers are not the only ones to blame for this. In fact, lots of the pollution comes from meat and dairy operations. Personally, I try to limit my meat and dairy consumption and when it comes to eggs and chicken, I buy local…but it’s not easy for me.

The Dead Zone and agricultural pollution is a huge issue for Iowa. Because of all the animal feeding operations, Iowa is number one in poop...and the excess nitrogen in the form of nitrates that comes with it. New evidence shows that this does more than cause the Gulf Dead Zone. It contributes to cancer, including thyroid cancer which is very common in Iowa, colorectal cancer, ovarian cancer, and many birth defects and pre-term birth. We need more regulations of these pollutants. We need to reduce our dependence on corn and corn ethanol in Iowa. We need more regulations on animal feeding operations–many of them are owned by China. Did you know that there is more chicken shit in Iowa than people shit? None of it has to go through sewage treatment! Not a pretty picture.

Solutions will not be easy and won’t come as long as Iowans are complacent about the issue. Last year, almost none of my students had even heard of the Dead Zone. Iowans consider themselves “Iowa Nice” because they are superficially polite. But being ignorant of pollution is not very nice, is it?

Sadly, all of this rain and flooding will be a disaster for water quality. Here is a great article with more information.

The viral blast from the past

Recently, Iowa has joined the ranks of states who have seen cases of measles, a viral disease entriely prevented by vaccine. Before a vaccine was developed in 1963, millions of people caught the diease each year. Brain swelling and death were the most serious side effects. In 2000, public health officals believed the United States was free of measles. However, in 2019, we have seen more cases than in 1994. Click here for a map and more information.

On Twitter, Dan Rather mused “Perhaps the anti-vaccine movement and the resurgence of overt racist rhetoric have something in common. As firsthand knowledge of the horrors of lynchings, the Holocaust, the scourge of horrific diseases fades with time, we forget that deadly pestilences demand our vigilance.” Some of this is true. Young parents haven’t measles. Except for cases of extreme flu and HIV, people have forgotten how horrible viral diseases can be, with their resistance to antibiotics. You can’t kill a virus because it isn’t alive. It needs your cells to reproduce. How does your body fight a virus? It has to assemble the correct chemicals to take it down and to do this, it has to learn about the virus through exposure. Vaccines provide this training.

Much of the disinformation here in the United States is associated with Russian disinformation campaigns. We even have a crop of politicians going against doctor’s advice on vaccines and other important health issues. I’ve encountered locals who invoke their own version of god to justify ignoring doctors’ advice.

People are even refusing to vaccinate their pets. Who is most likely to believe this misinformation? “A (rural) middle age, Midwestern man with high-school diploma, low income and a tendency not to think his vote matters much: this is the identity of the average American anti-vaxxer,” However, on social media, the typical anti-vaxxer is female, sheltered, and has a sense of persecution. Because they believe they are being persecuted, arguing with them makes them cling to their beliefs even more.

It comes as no surprise that a number of these people are simply complacent. Some might engage in “magical thinking” –the hope that something is out there beyond simply what we know at this time. Both complacency and magical thinking go together to create a “it can’t happen to me” attitude. I asked a doctor in a city which has seen a measles outbreak if the cases were mostly poor people. He said, no, poor people in general appreciate medical care and trust doctors. They also know bad things can happen. This epidemic has roots in the middle class.

Thanks to scientific advances, some viral killers have been almost entirely wiped from the face of the Earth. Polio is one of those killers. Although it was always around, it spread as an epidemic in the early 1900s with break- outs occurring each summer. In the United States, the epidiemic reached its peak in the summer of 1950 with 57,628 cases, 3,145 resulting in death and 21,269 were left with some form of paralysis.

Treatments included keeping the joints warm and moist by wrapping the patient in wet wool and moving the joints to prevent paralysis.

Some patients suffered chest muscle paralysis, could not breathe on their own and were put into a ventilator known as the iron lung. Each device cost as much as an average home.

Infant in iron lung

At the University of Pittsburgh, Jonas Salk launched what was then the largest human trial in history, injecting nearly 2 million American kids with a potential vaccine. His method, made from an attenuated virus, was funded by public donations via the March of Dimes. When it was announced that his vaccine worked, Salk was hailed as a humanitarian hero. You can read more here.

In 1952 Salk give vaccine to his family. In 1955, the vaccine given to the public for free. By 1994, polio was mostly wiped out.

Famed CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow asked Salk who owned the patent to his vaccine. The scientist replied: “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”

A friend of mine remembers contracting polio in 1955, two months after the vaccine was annouced.

“I was 5 and had a terrible headache. We called the local doctor We didn’t have insurance so the doctor kept me at home and he had 2 Blue Cross nurses come over evey day to help my mom help. I could not move so my mom had to boil wool blankets and wrap me in them, then they had to exercise every joint in my body to loosen them. This was every day. Most people were in the hospital in an iron lung. Since we were poor, I was at home. It took about 2 months of constant exercising joints and boiling blankets to keep the joints loose. I was unable to move at all. This was 1955 about 2 months after the vaccination. I have had problems with moving and bones. I spent 2 months at the Shriners Hospital straightening some bones especially in my feet. Still have issues with my back. ” She adds, ” I hope parents will vaccinate their children.”

Most (98-99%) people do vaccinate their kids. However, confidence in vaccines is falling in the US. One thing compounding this problem is the profit motive in medicine. Health care costs have risen faster than incomes in the United States. They slowed after the Affordable Care Act was implimented, sadly misinformation about the act has been widespread. Although the reasons are complex, health insurance is a major factor for our skyrocketing costs. Bottom line: it’s easy to convince people that the health care industry doesn’t care about them, only about money. If you look at health care billionaires, none of them have come up with a cure. It’s no surprise that one reason given for not vaccinating is that doctors and pharmaceutical companies just want to make money. This needs to change. Another problem is the flat funding for public health over the past few years. This needs to change.

The measles outbreak is an example of public misinformation as well as a consequence of government’s failure to adequately fund public health.. As a new election season gears up, look for candidates who put you and your family’s health first and make sure to vote for those who give accurate information. The way things are going, vaccinations could become illegal some day. Can you imagine health care workers thrown in jail for vaccinating people? Don’t let it happen.

Can you spot the E. coli in this contaminated water?

1919: lonely hearts club killer

A recent news article about a man with four wives at one time was accompanied by a photo of a man few would consider handsome.Yet he was able to sweet talk four women he met on social media and weasel his way into their hearts and bank accounts, gaining $20,000 from one victim. Yet he will face no jail time! He’s not the first unassuming man to take advantage of women, nor will he be the last. The year 1919 saw the arrest of such a man–the year’s most notorious serial killer.

During WWI, the nation of France suffered the loss of over 1 million men. Most casualties were junior officers and a large proportion came from the countryside. Although women had stepped into men’s roles during the war, the country hadn’t granted them full rights. Women were unprotected without a man–and not well protected from men either.

Although married to his cousin, Henri Landru saw opportunity in this situation of inequality. Between 1912 and 1919, he took out newspaper matrimonial advertisements. He had several locales and aliases and I will tell about his last.

Using the name Georges Dupont, he rented a villa in Gambais, south of Paris and bordering the Rambouillet Forest. The villa was surrounded by walls and boasted a large garden. It was close to the cemetery, the Seine, and far from neighbors. Despite its remoteness, neighbors recalled dark smoke from the chimney on occasion. At his villa, he entertained women, ten or more, all widows in their 40s. They and their bank accounts were never seen again. (Click here for a map of the region and vacation rentals.) All in all, he may have killed twenty women.

Landru was described as “nice but shabby” and his attempts at chivalry were noted as grossly exaggerated. He enjoyed dressing as an eighteenth-century nobleman, eschewing love at first sight, and bestowing flowers and compliments on lonely women. Young Annette Faucher met him through her infatuated aunt. She recalled, “He made me sit in a chair and uncoiled my hair. He went down on his knees, took my hands, fixed me with his eyes, and said, ‘Annette, I am your master, you belong to me.'” She added,”he must be the devil.”

Investigations into Landru began when a policeman noticed sparks and thick smoke coming from his chimney. It was a warm day. A woman was missing. His home and yard were searched. Coincidentally, Monsieur Henri had documents referring to single woman–all of them missing. Landru claimed he had purchased furniture from them. The only corpses on site were three strangled dogs and one cat. To be fair to Landru, French citizens did on occasion burn their possessions during the war, rather than have them seized by the Huns. Police were convinced he was a murderer, wooing lonely women and robbing them. They combed through his villa and dragged a nearby pond. They found a bone fragment from an eye socket and a stocking. Part of a shinbone was found under wall next to the cemetery.

Landru in court

This was enough to arrest him in April 1919. As the police drove away with him, angry women pounded on the car. He met his end via guillotine.

Is this his head? From: https://allthatsinteresting.com/henri-landru

You can read more about him here. He’s been the subject of fiction and non-fiction. Perhaps his head is in a museum.

I’ve posted about how much things have changed since 1919. We know about vitamins. We know about antibiotics. We brush our teeth. Women can vote. We can’t cure lonely hearts. And misogyny still has a grip on us, with nearly 90% of women reporting harassment. Sexist attitudes prevail, particularly in the South. Sexism and authoritarianism go hand in hand. What do authoritarian societies do? They take away women’s rights.

Landru was referred to as a Bluebeard. Bluebeard was a man in a French folk tale who killed a series of wives. He had an unsavory blue beard but kindly women convinced themselves that it wasn’t so bad. One has to wonder if things like war and lack of women’s rights are orchestrated to give bad men access to good women. And ladies, we need to ask ourselves why we have such low standards. Be familiar with signs of a bad man. Things must change.

Much of the information for this post came from this source.

The Lost art of Aspic

Flavors pop in this raspberry walnut combination in honey aspic was made from gelatin, fruit, nuts, a teaspoon of honey, and a half cup of water.
Eggs, celery, dill, red peppers and salt flavor this savory aspic.

Recently I wandered into the Detroit Institute of the Arts to take in their newest exhibits. As always, they were impressive, but a trip to the third floor and the displays on late 17th century France left a lasting impression. Specifically, a computerized rendition of an aristocratic multicourse meal and the use of aspic in nearly every course had me wondering–what ever happened to aspic? The last I’d thought of it was a 70s album titled Lark’s Tongue in Aspic--the title being a reflection of the enormous waste associated with the greediest people consuming an esoteric portion of beautiful creatures.

A trip down aspic memory lane reveals much about this touted dish, which fell from aristocrat grace as soon as it evolved into Jell-O. Aspic is a gel made from boiled bones or shells. Veal, pigs, and seafood were popular sources of aspic. Aspic making was a time consuming process back in the day but provided a collagen rich medium to suspend and preserve savory and sweet items. Chemically, the bones are broken down into collagen fibers which hook up with each other, not as bone strands but as a cross linked gel. Click here for more information and drawings. It’s a little like making slime or Silly Putty, but this process is much older and unlike the slime or putty–which you’d never want to eat– gelatin is full of useful amino acids. It’s nutritious.

Aspic artistry lent itself to colorful displays that were bursting with flavor–and zero carbs holding it together. It could even be applied to individual bites as a thin preservative coating because aspic seals out air and bacteria.

Along with the aspic came the mold, and the gorgeous display of a shimmering aspic packed with a mixture of delights. Even into the 60s, when aspic gently fell into unpopularity, these molds were proudly hung in the kitchen of many homes.

According to this excellent article, aspic inched towards mass production and lost snob appeal when chemist Peter Cooper devised dried, prepackaged, easy to dissolve gelatin in 1845.

Fifty years later, he sold his patents to a cough syrup company. The owner advocated this as a dessert base and his wife developed the sugary version named it Jell-O. It didn’t take off as a product until it was sold to a more savvy businessman in the early 1900s. Once aspic became Jell-O and widely sold, aspic faded into near obscurity. Now people take collagen powder to restore their skin when they could easily be embracing the age old art of aspic. Does gelatin aid digestion? Many experts think it does. Other virtues attributed to gelatin include better skin elasticity and increased bone strength.

If you want to make your own aspic which looks like a horrific process, here’s a site with a recipe.

For more information on Jell-O and its history, go here.

There are plenty of aspic recipes out there. Tomato aspic is a Southern dish. It looks like something to serve on Halloween but I’m sure it’s healthy.

A new aspic enthusiast, I prefer to start with packaged sugarless gelatin and add my own inspiration. Your creation will set up in about 4 hours is surprisingly filling and satisfying. Happy aspicing!