I’m all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let’s start with typewriters.
~Frank Lloyd Wright

Just horrific, blatant madness. Enough has been enough — a churlish and cowardly National Rifle Association, a despicable and misleading Wayne La Pierre, a dysfunctional, pugnacious and pandering Congress and a meddling and fawning usual majority of the Supreme Court who all huddling together create this arrant bedlam. Irrational.  Each of you know without any doubt that our country is awash with guns, an absolute disgrace, a contagion of non-hunting firearms. Feckless thoughts and prayers forever from Congress? Do you not even comprehend that that those words are flat empty?  C’mon man.

Some 90 people die from gun violence each and every day in this self annointed pre-eminent (not really) of nations. This number does not even include that over 270 souls are maimed by gunshot wounds each day nor does it parse out the vast numbers of children that are crippled (20) or killed (9) by gun violence daily. A cowardly slaughter occurs followed by typically incoherent, often pathological, statements from asinine donors, imbecilic gun lobbyists, gullible politicians, naïve citizens and others. Do the right thing, at least sometimes.  This is not nuance, which would be more aptly defined as a “subtlety” or “tinge.”

Gun bloodshed has been rampant for years. The utter reality is that there are now over 300,000,000 guns in shaky and often mentally unstable civilian hands either kept openly or surreptitiously by a third of households across this country. This number does not even include the vast arsenals of ammunition, shells and massive clips which have now become prodigious. A recent study showed that many guns were sold without a single background check. Moreover, there is absolutely no support for the claim that owning more guns deters, drops or reduces violent crime. No studies have supported that fallacious and invalid reasoning. Instead the opposite has been proven — rampant gun ownership correlates with and causes more homicides and harm to others and selves. Actually, Congress has even capitulated to lobbyists by refusing to allow the CDC or others to amass evidence of gun injuries and deaths. We keep tabs on car wrecks, cancers, foods, drinks, the flu and not guns? Really?

Just so you know, some 42,500,000 American adults (or 18+% of the adult population) suffer from some documented mental illness, enduring conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia — for which little or no treatment is received in this country. This does not even take into account people whose metal illness is not documented or should simply not be brandishing firearms. Criminals, of course, go underground through straw purchases or unlicensed buys, for inherently dangerous demons of death.

In other developed nations in the western world, gun homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings pale in comparison.  For instance, in Japan, persons die from guns at rates far less than an American chances at death by a lightning strike.  In Scotland, the chances of dying from a storm are greater than that of the very rare gunshot wound.  And so on, for more advanced western democracies…

Remember the easily debunked myth that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people?” I call nonsense (expletive deleted) on that one. Is it much more cogent to assert that “mentally ill, insane or unstable people freely and easily armed with guns and abundant ammunition kill or mutilate their victims.”  One sad state of affairs.

This makes no mention of mass shootings which now occur more than once a day according to a recent compilation of news reports. Mass shootings are sadly defined as ones where at least four or more people are left dead or injured.  Just consider the recent horrific past — at a movie theater in Aurora, a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, a manufacturer in Minneapolis, a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school, a Fort Hood army center, near the campus of UC Santa Barbara, at a movie theater in Louisiana, a military center in Chattanooga, at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, at a community college in Roseburg, Oregon, on the campus of Northern Arizona, at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs and now the carnage at a social services center in San Bernardino, California.

How long will it take for you to get off your bald headed, pale faced, nasty-tongued, flat keisters, Congress members,  while the victims’ blood palpably streams down your hands, arms, and sleeves?  Yet, you lick boots, cater to a lobbying body as daft and inane as the NRA?   It might be suggested that you get off your bums. Right now, or you will face the wrath of mothers, fathers, lovers and family members again and again.  In case you did not take note, this insanity is far beyond an epidemic stage — there is no counterpart anywhere for a supposed developed nation.

And please do not give me that Second Amendment absurdity. The Bill of Rights reads as follows: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. Whatever happened to the first two provisos, and the days of single loading, tamped down powder one-shot muskets and before assault rifles and extended, high (almost immense) capacity magazines?  In Heller, a firearm unconnected with service in a militia was used for lawful purposes, such as self-defense within a home. An extremely narrow reading of Second Amendments rights at best, and of course authored by Justice Antonin Scalia in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008).

To quote Chief Justice Warren Burger, who was appointed as a conservative justice by President Richard Nixon, the Second Amendment “has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud — I repeat the word ‘fraud’ — on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime,” and later proclaimed that “the Second Amendment doesn’t guarantee the right to have firearms at all.” In the last quarter or less century though, special interests (often paunchy members cloaked in SCOTUS black robes, with callous and scathing remarks, by slim majority votes) have sadly prevailed.

Speaking of, the same Richard Nixon, and later Ronald Reagan, proposed gutting the market of Saturday night specials, considered banning handguns altogether and simply refused to cater to gun owners who feign some inarticulate interest in assault and hand weapons. The NRA, of course, was opposed to these actions given its historically recent opposition to any gun control or restrictions.

Several previously Oval Office recordings and memos show a conservative who was often willing to feud with the NRA, even though “trusted” presidential aides fretted about political consequences.

“I don’t know why any individual should have a right to have a revolver in his house,” Nixon commented. He asked why “can’t we go after handguns, period?” He added, “I know the rifle association will be against it, the gun makers will be against it.” But, he implored “people should not have handguns.” Finally, Nixon flatly declared that “guns are an abomination.”

The lack of gun control has become a national shame. Despicable, deceptive stuff. Wall Street, Congressional hacks, the Supremes, et al. are allowed to strip those of their constitutional right to a jury trial (by arbitration) yet imagine if they these same dark folks in cloaks took away the same by barring gun ownership.

The failure of our elected few (hostages taken by the NRA), corrupt lobbyists (the NRA), and the Supreme Court to simply refuse to protect innocent victims from guns, ammunition and explosives is morally and ethically reprehensible.

Thankfully, grub overcomes guns.

FARFALLE WITH CHICKEN, SHALLOTS AND BLUE CHEESE

1/2 lb shallots, peeled and sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground black and pepper
2 T extra virgin olive oil

1-2 lbs dark hued chicken (thighs)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 T dried thyme
2-3 T extra virgin olive oil
Chicken stock
2-3 T cognac or brandy

1 lb dried farfalle
Sea salt and water

3/4 lbs blue cheese, such as bleu d’auvergne, in small chunks
A few dollops of crème fraîche and/or heavy whipping cream

Parsley leaves, chopped
Capers, drained
Parmigiano-reggiano, grated

Toss shallots in a deep, heavy skillet with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and olive oil. Then, add seasoned (salt, pepper, thyme) chicken thighs and brown. Add stock and finally some cognac or brandy. Toward the end, add crème fraîche or heavy whipping cream or both.

Remove and cut chicken into 2 1/2″ pieces.

While cooking farfalle according to instructions in a separate pot, add bleu d’auvergne and pasta al dente to skillet and cook until finished, adding chicken pieces.

Strew with parsley, capers and a sprinkling of freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano.

Yes, this is cherubic Carter pasta (sorry about the gun polemic, but it is vital).

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Oath (ōth) n., 1. a solemn usually formal calling upon God or a god to witness to the truth of what one says or to witness that one sincerely intends to do what one says. 2. a solemn attestation of the truth or inviolability of one’s words.

I am slightly breaking my silence about the reckless Republican debt ceiling crusaders performing their Barnum & Bailey act in DC’s big tent recently. Unlike a circus though, it is not really amusing to see a party wantonly intent on bureaucratic paralysis and fiscal carnage for some warped “cause” urged by rogue ideologues.

So, the mantic vows these people offered to different daddies seemed worthy of a look-see.

All members of Congress took a solemn oath to the people of this country:

I do solemnly swear or affirm that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

But, many of the very same members of Congress also signed an oath to a select few:

I pledge to the taxpayers of the district or state and to the American people that I will: ONE, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or business; and TWO, oppose any reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.

Those members of Congress that inked this other oath pledged that under no circumstance—not war, nor government debt default, nor infrastructure failure nor any national calamity—will they tolerate any increase in government tax revenues. Regardless of what happens, these members swore to resolutely oppose any tax increase, even for the wealthy, and that tax loopholes and business subsidies must remain immutably fixed without a tax rate reduction of similar size.

“So help me God,” huh? Seems more mephistophelean. Almost every House Republican and most Republican Senators made a pledge to another master that actually nullifies part of their oaths of office. Despite their solemn oath to the citizenry, their blind allegiance lies with some private concern most voters did not even realize existed. When these same politicians officially swore to their country to “bear true faith and allegiance” to their country and the Constitution “freely” and “without any mental reservation,” they were prevaricating.

Oaths are not subject to venial side deals, and swearing to uphold both covenants is both duplicit and complicit. Pledging away an oath is forked tongue stuff. Almost like taking an oath “to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth; so help me God” with a parenthetical ending that whispers “well, just sometimes, when it suits me.”

Meanwhile, on to more eternal, and less childish, thoughts. My youngest is drifting about Santa Barbara this week…lucky soul. Today, he revelled in the awe inspiring marine mammal life in the Channel, replete with big blues, breaching humpbacks, cavorting dolphins and sea lions. Others lurked unseen below the surface, including halibut which reigns with local fishermen. It seemed an apt vicarious pick.

The California halibut is a species native to the Pacific coast, from Washington to the Baja, and is much smaller than its more northern cousin. They have small scales that are embedded in their skin, with both eyes located on one side of the head. They start life with an eye on each side, but very soon the left eye migrates to the right. The darker top side is olive green to dark brown, while the underside is white which is an adaptation to conceal the fish from predators.

Quenelles have become associated more with a shape, not so much an ingredient. These delicate dumplings are formed into ovals similar to eggs with spoons using ice creams, sorbets, rice, potatoes, cheeses, vegetables, poultry, fish and meats.

HALIBUT QUENELLES WITH SAFFRON AND FENNEL BEURRE BLANC

Pâte à choux
1/2 C water
4 T cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Pinch of sea salt
3/4 C all purpose flour
3 large eggs, room temperature

In a medium heavy saucepan, combine the water, butter and salt and heat over medium high heat. Whisk occasionally, then once the mixture boils immediately remove from heat. Add the flour and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until a smooth dough forms and the mixture comes away from the sides of the saucepan; return to low heat and continue beating until it dries out and pulls away from the pan, about 1-2 minutes.

Scrape the dough into a bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with a flat paddle. Beat the eggs into the dough, one at a time, beating thoroughly between each one. It is important to make sure that each egg is incorporated into the batter before adding the next. The dough should be well aerated and ultimately have the consistency of very thick mayonnaise. Make sure the pâte à choux is well chilled before you combine with the fish.

Quenelles
1 1/4 lb skinless, boneless halibut filets, cut into 1″ pieces and chilled
3/4-1 C heavy whipping cream
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Grating of fresh nutmeg

Put the fish, pâte à choux, salt, pepper, nutmeg and some of the cream into a chilled food processor bowl fitted with a cold steel blade and blend until smooth. Process by pulses, scraping the sides with a spatula. If the mixture seems stiff, add more cream in small doses until the mixture holds it shape well like a mousse. It should be able to shape well in a large spoon.

Bring salted water in a deep heavy skillet to a slow simmer. Never allow the water to move beyond a bare simmer as you cook.

With a large (2 T) wet spoon, dip out a rounded mass of the cold quenelle paste. Smooth the top of the paste with the bowl of an inverted second large wet spoon. Then slip the second spoon under the quenelle to loosen it and drop it into the simmering liquid. Repeat with the rest of the paste. The idea is to shape the mousse into ovoids and gently place in the simmering water. Dip the tablespoons into cold water after shaping each quenelle. Poach them uncovered for 15-20 minutes. When done, they should have almost doubled in size and should be able to roll over easily in the water. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on towels.

Beurre Blanc
2 C dry white wine
1 C champagne vinegar
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of freshly ground white pepper
1/2 C fennel bulb, finely minced
Pinch saffron
12 T (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces

Boil wine, champagne vinegar, salt, pepper, fennel and saffron in small saucepan over medium heat until liquid is reduced to 4 tablespoons, about 15 minutes. Whisk in half the butter, piece by piece, until it forms a creamy paste. Set saucepan over low heat and continue vigorously whisking in a piece of butter at a time just as the previous piece is almost fully incorporated. The sauce should have the consistency of a lighter hollandaise. Remove from heat, season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm, so it does not separate.

Spoon a layer of sauce in shallow soup bowls. Arrange a couple of quenelles on top and spoon some more sauce over them. Serve.