How to Make Borscht

Borshch with Sauerkraut from the declassified CIA files of a translated 1948 Soviet Army Cooking Manual – by Shannon Perry

This recipe was made based on the information from the book when clear or using my instincts when it was not clear at all. For example, the instructions fail to tell you which culinary herbs to add so we used parsley and dill because that would fit the soup. Likewise, it calls for adding tomato paste but doesn’t specify how much, so we guessed. Our soup turned out delicious and we regret nothing.

Part One: The Bouillon

This step is entirely unnecessary. Skip to Part Two if you’re mostly rational and have stock. We did not notice any reason to follow this instruction over using store bought or homemade stock you have on hand. But homemade stock is better.

The instructions start with a step for boiling meat, with or without bones, for 2.5-3 hours to produce something translated as “bouillon”. They do this bouillon as the base of all the soups near as we can tell. If you really care, we put 2.5 pounds of beef soup bones in about 3 quarts of water and put it on low over night in a 5 qt. slow cooker. The soup bones, in this case shank slices were cut in half, so the marrow is exposed, and all melted into the bouillon.

In the morning the meat and bones were removed from the water and the meat set aside to chop and add back to the soup later. The bones were then put back in the cooker with more water and put on high for another couple of hours. All bouillon was used in the soup eventually, and we added more store-bought stock and some water. Some of the liquid may have evaporated faster than otherwise as the air up here in Minnesota sucks all moisture away.

Part Two: The Borshch

Ingredients:

3 TBSOil or tallow
400 gramsDiced and peeled raw beets
60 gramsDiced carrots
40 gramsDiced onion
2 TBSTomato paste
600 gramsPrepared sauerkraut
4-5 quartsBeef or Chicken Stock
600 gramsDiced and peeled potato
½ to ¾ lb.Finely minced beef (optional)
1 TBSOil
2 TBSAll-purpose flour
1 TBSChopped, fresh dill
1 TBSChopped, fresh parsley
2Bay (laurel) leaves
To tasteSalt and Pepper
3 TBSWhite wine vinegar (optional)

Instructions:

1)      Make a large fire and get a good bed of coals ready for cooking on. If using a stove and being modern, omit this step.

2)      In a large stock pot, sauté the carrots and onions in oil for two minutes. Add beets and tomato paste, continue for 3 more minutes.

3)      Add 4 quarts stock and sauerkraut with juice to pot and stew over medium heat for 35 minutes. Stir occasionally so the bottom doesn’t burn. This may take some effort over the fire if you are doing this outside in winter in 4F weather.

4)      Check liquid level and add potatoes to the stock pot. You may need to add additional stock depending on preference. Make sure there is enough to at least cover the potatoes, so they cook properly. Let simmer for 15 minutes. If you are adding the meat do so now.

5)      While potatoes are softening, in a separate small pan heat oil. Sauté the fresh herbs for 30 seconds and then add the flour for another minute. Add this mixture as well as the bay leaves to the soup. Cook for another 10 minutes.

6)      Set to side of coals at this time. Add salt and pepper to taste. You may want to add additional vinegar if the sauerkraut wasn’t sour enough. Let stand for 15 minutes covered.

A pot of soup on the coals of a fire

Serve with sour cream and fresh dill on each bowl.

Special Olympics at 50

Last summer I went to the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics.

By coincidence, Chicago’s annual Disability Pride Parade is taking place on the same day as the celebration at Soldier Field. The parade moves through the Loop, up Dearborn Street to Daley Plaza, with floats and dance routines and a diverse group of marchers in terms of disabilities, race, class, and gender identity. Here, the calls for revolution are as unapologetic as the loud music. Every leader present identifies as disabled, and almost everyone behind a table handing out fliers or registering people to vote is visibly disabled. Their plan isn’t to hope for goodwill, but to demand change. The conversations are about resisting police brutality in black communities, pushing state governments to stop incarcerating disabled folks, and advocating around core issues of food, housing, and employment insecurity. 

If officials at the Special Olympics really want to lead an “inclusion revolution,” they are somehow going to have to connect to this broader, feisty community without losing their ability to appeal to mainstream, often quite culturally conservative, audiences. That challenge lies ahead. 

Here’s what we can say for now: The soccer was amazing. The teams exemplified fully integrated microcommunities. If that’s the kind of environment that the Special Olympics is fostering, it’s a good change, and one that’s long overdue. 

Down near the center of Soldier Field, I find Anne Burke, the former P.E. teacher and now Illinois Supreme Court justice, talking to a camera crew. She’s a slender, elderly woman making her way eagerly from event to event, pausing to take pictures with anyone who asks. I ask what she thinks about the shift to Unified Sports. She replies: “Isn’t that what we want to do in the whole world? These children don’t want to be special anymore; they want equality.”

Tennessee Doctors and Disability Claims

The doctors are paid a flat rate for each application file they review. How much they earn depends on how fast they work.
Thrush, like many of the doctors who contract with the state, works very fast.
In fiscal year 2018, he reviewed — on average — one case every 12 minutes.
Thrush’s productivity has paid off. He earned $420,000 for reviewing the applications of 9,088 Tennesseans applying for disability during the year ending June 30. He has made more than $2.2 million since 2013.
On average, 80 percent of the cases he reviewed were denied.
6 takeaways from this investigation: Doctors speed through disability claims, make millions.

TN doctors deny disability and get paid. 

An Internet of Kindness

What if Twitter was the happiest, most loving, supportive place on the Internet? It could be, I found out, if you join BTS, the Korean Supergroup, and their ARMY. From The Current

“BTS fans, and there are millions on Twitter, kept coming by to tell me about Tata, to suggest I check the band, to laugh with delight at my confusion, and to share increasingly cute gifs and emoji. They seemed so kind. They kept apologizing for bothering me, but wanted me to know that the band did good work, preached a message of self-love, and performed righteously great music. It was a lot nicer than arguing about the 2020 Democratic Primary.”

Climate Change and Housing

Houses on stilts are a way to mitigate coastal climate change. But they aren’t accessible.

When Superstorm Sandy flooded Liz Treston’s home on the South Shore of Long Island, she worried her wheelchair would prevent first responders from rescuing her. So Treston, a quadriplegic, wrote her Social Security number on her arm with a Sharpie, so they could at least identify her body.

She survived, but once the floodwaters receded, officials pushed residents of her Long Beach neighborhood to rebuild their houses on stilts. Treston went along, fearing that if she didn’t, her flood insurance premiums would jump. And, she was told, if her house stayed at ground level, the next storm would turn it into a bowling ball, knocking over the homes around it.

So Treston raised her house 13 feet (4 meters) off the ground, and had enough money to install an elevator. But now she finds the homes around her are mostly off-limits. “I can’t visit anyone in my neighborhood, because they’re all up in the air,” she said.

When we talk about disability and climate change (as I did here), this is the world we’re heading towards.

2018 Writing in Review

I had a weird year in terms of writing. It started off normal, then I had a mental health crisis, then I had a professional crisis (brought on by my own harmful actions), then I continued to be in mental health crisis and I stopped writing much, then I got help, then I started writing, then my mom died and we had other family crises and I just kept writing faster, and now here we are.
I had 79 pieces published this year, down from 93 last year (thanks summer crisis brain!). 67 at Pacific Standard, 2 at HuffPo, 1 at CNN, 1 at NBC News, 2 at The Nation, 1 at Chronicle of Higher Ed. 
  1. Fire, Flood, and Being Disabled in the Age of Catastrophe (Huffington Post, 12/22/18)
  2. The Five Paragraph Essay Must Die! (Pacific Standard, 12/21/18)
  3. The Death Penalty Goes Local (Pacific Standard, 12/21/18)
  4. Alice Walker and Thomas of Monmouth (Pacific Standard, 12/20/18)
  5. Restraint and the Murder of an Autistic Child (Pacific Standard, 12/20/18)
  6. Free Speech Unless You are Pro-Palestinian (Pacific Standard, 12/12/18)
  7. George H. W. Bush and The ADA (Pacific Standard, 12/6/18)
  8. Ocasio-Cortez and the Politics of Digital Intimacy (Pacific Standard, 11/30/18)
  9. Kevin Kruse and TwitterStorians (Pacific Standard, 11/28/18)
  10. The Art of Stimming (Pacific Standard, 11/27/18)
  11. A last meal with my mom (Washington Post, 11/21/18)
  12. People with Down syndrome are not animals (Pacific Standard, 11/16/18)
  13. Grievance Studies and the Humanities (11/8/18)
  14. Voting Rights Now (Huffington Post, 11/8/18)
  15. Gun Reform, not Mental Illness Stigma (Pacific Standard, 11/5/18)
  16. Interview: Sarah Blahovec for NCIL (Pacific Standard, 11/5/18)
  17. The Kentucky Terrorist (Pacific Standard, 10/29/18)
  18. Dear Sarah Palin: Disabled Kids Ain’t Props (Pacific Standard, 10/25/18)
  19. #HimToo and Male Victims of Sexual Assault. Even me. (Pacific Standard, 10/19/18)
  20. Texas Wants to Kill Kwame Rockwell (Pacific Standard, 10/17/18)
  21. MN AG: Ellison vs Wardlow (Pacific Standard, 10/15/18)
  22. Beat ICE, Run for Sheriff! (Pacific Standard, 10/11/18)
  23. Interview: Bruce Schneier (Pacific Standard, 10/9/18)
  24. Interview: Maysoon Zayid (Pacific Standard, 10/8/18)
  25. Me and My Depression (Pacific Standard, 10/1/18)
  26. Neglect and Indifference in Hurricane Maria (Pacific Standard, 9/28/18)
  27. Interview: Mary Robinette Kowal (Pacific Standard, 9/20/18)
  28. Norm Macdonald and Down Syndrome Jokes (Pacific Standard, 9/19/18)
  29. Did Trump call Jeff Sessions “Retarded?” (Pacific Standard, 9/15/18)
  30. Can Uber and Lyft Become Accessible? (Pacific Standard, 8/31/18)
  31. Disability Groups come out against Kavanaugh (Pacific Standard, 8/20/18)
  32. Climate Struggle and the Hugos (Pacific Standard, 8/17/18)
  33. Introducing CAP Disability Justice (8/14/18)
  34. Facebook Fails on Free Speech (Pacific Standard, 8/2/18)
  35. Can We Save AP World History? (Pacific Standard, 7/26/18) 
  36. On the Trail with Billie Sutton (Pacific Standard, 7/24/18)
  37. Hospitals and Disabled Patients (Pacific Standard, 6/29/18)
  38. First they came for Immigrants, and Lewandowski said womp womp (CNN, 6/20/18)
  39. Interview: John Ross Bowie on Speechless (Pacific Standard, 6/20/18)
  40. Advising as Customer Service (Chronicle of Higher Education, 6/13/18)
  41. USA’s “Colony” and Resisting Fascism (Pacific Standard, 6/8/18)
  42. Disability and Disaster: We’re not Ready (Pacific Standard, 6/1/18)
  43. Don’t Ban Straws (Pacific Standard, 5/31/18)
  44. Interview: Nicola Griffith (Pacific Standard, 5/21/18)
  45. Interview: Richard Painter (Pacific Standard, 5/17/18)
  46. Koch on Campus (Pacific Standard, 5/11/18)
  47. Texas Principal Jokes About Cops Murdering A Student (Pacific Standard, 5/8/18)
  48. Arizona Strike (Pacific Standard, 5/3/18)
  49. Abolish ICE (Pacific Standard, 5/1/18)
  50. Fight the Alt-Right Terrorists (Pacific Standard, 4/30/18)
  51. INTERVIEW: Kelly Baker (Pacific Standard, 4/24/18)
  52. The Right-Wing Plot on Student Government (Pacific Standard, 4/20/18)
  53. Sci-Fi and Assistive Tech (Pacific Standard, 4/18/18)
  54. How to Hold Academic Predators Accountable (Pacific Standard, 4/17/18)
  55. Regulate Sinclair (Pacific Standard, 4/12/18)
  56. Deaf President Now Changed America (Pacific Standard, 4/11/18)
  57. White Supremacists are Radicalizing (Pacific Standard, 3/26/18)
  58. #MeToo and the Commodification of Women’s Pain (Pacific Standard, 3/24/18)
  59. Stephen Hawking’s Legacy: Health Care and Social Supports (NBC News, 3/15/18)
  60. No, The Irish Were Not Slaves Too (Pacific Standard, 3/15/18)
  61. Higher Ed Has 99 Problems and NYT Op-Ed Columnists are One (Salon, 3/9/18)
  62. Lawmakers Make Schools More Dangerous (Pacific Standard, 3/6/18)
  63. How Would Democrats Protect The Environment? (Pacific Standard, 3/5/18)
  64. Repeal the Second Amendment (Pacific Standard, 2/26/18)
  65. Lemony Snicket and Sexual Harassment (Pacific Standard, 2/21/18)
  66. Retailers Attack the ADA (Pacific Standard, 2/14/18)
  67. Trump’s Brain (The Nation, 2/13/18)
  68. The New Gerber Baby. So what? (Pacific Standard, 2/13/18)
  69. Down syndrome and Anti-Choice Propaganda in Ireland (2/8/18)
  70. Don’t Watch the Superbowl (Pacific Standard, 2/2/18)
  71. Your Pills are Spying on you (Pacific Standard, 2/1/18)
  72. IQ Tests and the Death Penalty (Pacific Standard, 1/25/18)
  73. Interview: ADAPTer Anita Cameron (Pacific Standard, 1/22/18)
  74. Unrest and Talking about Suffering (Pacific Standard, 1/16/18)
  75. ICE keeps Raiding Hospitals (Pacific Standard, 1/15/18)
  76. #MeToo is Not a Witch Hunt (Pacific Standard, 1/9/18)
  77. The “Stahl Standard” for Mental Health and Politics Reporting (Pacific Standard, 1/4/18)
  78. Republicans use Fear of Eugenics to Attack Reproductive Rights (The Nation, 1/4/18)
  79. Companies that exploit disabled labor have a friend in Jeff Sessions (Pacific Standard, 1/3/18)

I am not a lizard person

New on anti-Semitic myths and the dangers they pose. From Thomas of Monmouth to David Icke’s lizard people, there’s a long history of people making up bizarre stories about Jews. Those stories, when allowed to proliferate, get us killed.

To be extremely clear, this is all dangerous nonsense. There does seem to have been a boy named William who was murdered in Norwich in the 1140s. The culprit remains unknown, according to the most recent scholarship. There was no international Jewish conspiracy to murder Christian children in the Middle Ages (nor was there in antiquity, nor is there today).
Also, the first time I taught this text in a classroom, a wide-eyed student exclaimed, “I had no idea this was true!”
The lesson is that no matter how preposterous a conspiracy theory, if you don’t frame the material carefully, at least some people will believe it. When enough people believe these kinds of narratives, Jews or other marginalized people tend to get murdered. Neutrality, just letting the material speak for itself, only serves the anti-Semites.