Sunday, July 31, 2011

Do you want flies with that Satan sandwich?

Just had to throw in the best description of the debt ceiling deal, from Emanuel Cleaver, Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus: a "sugar-coated Satan sandwich."


Now that, apparently, an agreement has been reached to raise the debt ceiling, all I can really say is this: part of me is relieved, sort of, that my weekly unemployment check is (presumably) safe for now (and the unemployment, social security, federal payroll, and other payments that millions of Americans depend on); but mostly I just feel sort of sick about the whole thing. I have always believed that government has the responsibility to provide a safety net for the disadvantaged--that this, in fact, is one of the primary reasons that we have government. It seems that this principle is quickly eroding and soon will be a thing of the past. I hope I'm wrong.

Now if they could just reproduce this effect on Republicans...

Scientists in Alaska have discovered how to induce hibernation in squirrels.

The squirrels, apparently, could not be reached for comment.

Maybe Government is Targeting the Vulnerable Because the Vulnerable Are the Easiest Targets

This editorial, from a local newspaper in upstate New York, says it all in the first sentence:
If you are young, old, disabled, mentally ill, unemployed, poor or retired, you better rethink your lifestyle because government at almost every level is sending a clear message that there's not much of a future.
The second half of the editorial deals with New York state and local specifics, but the issues apply to pretty much anywhere in the US right now. Whatever happens in the debt ceiling debate, whatever kind of deal is reached, the resulting cuts are going to be massive, and the cost is going to be borne by those least able to bear it. In the words of Bob Baird, the author of the article linked above, it's obscene.

Veering to a more personal note... this whole debt ceiling fiasco, the meanness and cynicism of our "leaders" who are involved in the debate, combined with the summer heat and my own eleven months plus of unemployment, have got me in a lower mood than I have felt in quite a while. I just hope that after Tuesday, however this plays out, I can refocus, look forward to cooler weather and new opportunities, and concentrate on the many good things in life... family, nature (especially squirrels, of course!), life itself. I have been interested in Buddhism for some time, and may try to focus more on that interest. And I plan to get some more photos of Beebz, if she'll just stop trying to eat the camera every time I try to take her picture.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Financial Crisis is in the Eye of the Beholder, Mr. Toomey

Republican Senator Pat Toomey, arguing that a failure to raise the debt ceiling would not result in a default on the US debt obligations, but only a necessity to prioritize federal spending, put it this way:

You're telling us that if we have to delay a payment to the guys who mow the lawn around the Mall, that would have the same kind of impact and cause the same kind of financial crisis that would result if we failed to make an interest payment on a Treasury security... that's just not true.
Well, I would say that it would definitely have the same type of impact and cause the same kind of financial crisis for the guys who mow the lawn around the mall, and their families.

Mr. Toomey, are you even remotely aware that there are real people, outside of your elite little circle of friends and political supporters, who are not multi-millionaires and corporate executives, whose livelihoods are affected by your political games, who are worried about making their next rent and utility payments? You may not give a flying fuck about the guys who mow the lawn around the Mall, or around your house, but I can guarantee that their next paycheck has a much greater impact on their lives than your next tax cut has on yours.


Friday, July 29, 2011

Morally Grotesque

Bernie Sanders has said it best: the Republican plan for the debt ceiling is "morally grotesque." And no, the Democrat's plan is not much better. This whole debate over the debt ceiling is a fiasco, a smoke screen to draw attention away from the real critical issue facing the country, which is jobs. When there are over 14 million Americans who are jobless and looking for work (in other words, that number does not include the many who have given up completely), more than four million who have been out of work for over a year, it is obscene for our leaders to continue harping on the debt as the most pressing problem facing this country, and to suggest that the solution is to demand that the disadvantaged--the elderly, the disabled, poor families, the unemployed and their families--should be the ones to pay the price.

Any outsider following this debate would have to conclude that the government of the United States is dominated by a ruling class that is selfish, materialistic, cynical, deceitful, and cruel.

I would like to think that this is not the case. Would like to... But as a famous rock band once told us, you can't always get what you want.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tell Congress, and Career Builder to stop discrimination against unemployed workers

Fortunately, increasing attention is being paid to the growing number of employers who are refusing to even consider applications from jobless workers. Job listings specifying that only responses from currently employed applicants will be considered have made the situation for millions of long-term unemployed, such as myself, even more desperate than ever. Congress is considering a bill, The Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011, to outlaw such overt discrimination in job listing notices. Here is a petition to encourage your representatives in Congress to support this bill. There is also a petition that you can sign to tell and Career Builder to refuse ads from employers that discriminate against unemployed workers. Thanks for your support. Right now we need all the help we can get.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Russel Brand on Amy Winehouse

I have felt for some time now that Russel Brand is one of the most intelligent and--more importantly--most honest and "real" celebrities out there. This tribute to Amy Winehouse only strengthens this opinion. I have seldom read anything more moving or insightful, and I think it is a fitting memorial not only to Ms. Winehouse but to so many other casualties of addiction, whether famous or not.

I personally am not familiar with Amy Winehouse's music. I, like many others, knew of her mostly from reading the accounts of her long and painful decline. Having heard a little bit of her work since her death, I feel sadly that I missed out on something very special and important. Of course I realize I can still listen to her but I will probably wait a while before I think about getting any of her CDs (I guess she only completed two albums in her short career). This may be irrational, but I get a sort of ghoulish and somewhat phony feeling to think about becoming a fan of an artist just after her death.


I Am the Elephant in the Room

Another interesting article by Catherine Rampell about the seemingly unnoticed and invisible unemployment crisis from the NY Times Economix blog. I like her point about the debt ceiling debate being possibly an example of a "wag the dog" strategy by lawmakers who are afraid to address the real problems facing this country.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Breaking News: Glenn Beck is a Hypocrite!

Glenn Beck compares the youth camp that the shooting victims in Norway were attending to the "Hitler Youth" camps of Nazi Germany, and decries that anyone would "do a camp that's all about politics." And, as this article notes, forgets to mention that his own 9/12 organization held a camp for kids 8-12 years old that was all about Beck's brand of right-wing politics. Most of the kids at the Norwegian camp were at least older than the children at Beck's camp.

And by the way, how many fundamentalist churches in the United States hold summer camps for kids of all ages? You think the kids at many of those camps aren't getting a healthy dose of political indoctrination?

Squirrel Wisdom

Sometimes when it seems like nothing is going right, and the whole world is about to be turned upside down, and we don't know what to expect for the future, you just have to ask yourself: what would we do if we were squirrels? And the answer is, we would just cover our nuts and hope for the best.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Damn, he's figured out our deceptive and deadly strategy. Curse you, Mr. Robison, you are too clever for us spiritual powers and hidden sinister forces of darkness and deception!

Courtesy of James Robison, this is simultaneously one of the funniest and one of the most disturbing things I have ever read. Disturbing because, amazing as it may seem, this is pretty much in line with what many of the conservative fundamentalist right-wingers actually believe. Including some of those making a serious run at the GOP presidential nomination.


Memories, Misty Water-Colored... make that Red and Black-Colored

I recently ran across the blog Totally Texas Tech, which features photographs of the TTU campus in Lubbock--where I spent much of my childhood and early adulthood--taken by the blog's author. I'm sure that we can all think of places that are so important to us, for one reason or another, good or bad, that they have almost literally become part of us. For me, Texas Tech is one of these places. The blog is awesome--it features beautifully presented photos of both the familiar older buildings (such as the ones that I show below), landscapes, and other features, and also new construction taking place on the ever-changing campus. I'm glad that I found this site.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Isn't It Ironic, Don't Ya Think?

The following is from the Fox News Nation website:

"The Fox Nation is for those opposed to intolerance, excessive government control of our lives, and attempts to monopolize opinion or suppress freedom of thought, expression, and worship."

Funny, the fact that I am opposed to intolerance, excessive government control, and attempts to monopolize opinion or suppress freedom of thought, expression and worship... is the very reason that I am not a member of the "Fox Nation." 


Friday, July 22, 2011

The Perilous Life of the Unemployed, Part 2: Indecision

When I first started this blog it was intended to be a sort of fun and hopefully therapeutic diversion. I would talk about my pet squirrel, and whatever else came to mind, post a cute squirrel picture now and then, and it would maybe take my mind off of job and financial worries for a bit.

It hasn't exactly worked out that way. It can be hard to ignore reality, and my anger and frustration with the state of affairs in this country and the world, along with the frustration of my own seemingly interminable job search, has made its way into my postings more than I really wanted.

So I am trying to work out just how I want to focus this blog. Should it be a political rant blog? A squirrel blog? Something in between? Or something else entirely? I might try out a few ideas in the coming days/weeks/months to see what feels right. And of course Beebz will always have her say as well.


Things that I wish I hadn't seen sitting on the pharmacy counter part 1

Don't let this guy get behind you. This has to be the most disturbing pharmaceutical company freebie I've ever run across.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

One more thought regarding the death of a (reformed) white supremacist in Texas

Mark Stroman died at 8:53pm last evening.

If his death accomplished anything, it is to bring attention to the message of Rais Bhuiyan. He apparently was able to help Mr. Stroman find some measure of peace before he died. And I hope that Mr. Bhuiyan and others will continue in their efforts to bring the end of the death penalty, and to help others find peace through the power of forgiveness and compassion.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Just a thought regarding the death of a white supremacist in Texas

As I type this, Mark Stroman is scheduled to be executed in the Texas death chamber in two minutes for a 2001 killing spree against people he believed were of Middle Eastern descent. I am categorically opposed to the death penalty, and, rather than explain the reasons why, I want to ask anyone who sees this to read something written by Mr. Stroman's surviving victim, a Bangladeshi immigrant named Rais Bhuiyan. Mr. Bhuiyan survived a gunshot would to the face, was left blind in one eye, and has petitioned the Texas appeals board to commute Stroman's death sentence. A devout Muslim, he speaks in a spirit of forgiveness, peace and compassion that we should all learn from and try to emulate, regardless of what faith or set of beliefs we follow.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

We wouldn't want the homeless to eat anything cooked haphazardly in someone's home when they could be getting professionally prepared restaurant food out of a dumpster...

This story comes from my hometown, courtesy of KCBD News channel 11.

Margaret Luger and her husband have fed the homeless every Monday in downtown Lubbock for two years, with food that they purchase at their own expense and prepare in their home. This Monday, the city stepped in and shut them down due to a violation of the local health code which prohibits serving food in public that was prepared in ones home kitchen. Apparently, the health department had received a complaint about the group of homeless people gathering to receive the food.

Of course, I'm sure the fact that they were homeless had no bearing on the decision to shut the operation down. I just love this quote from the city health inspector: "We're out here to make sure food is handled correctly and no one gets sick." As if the biggest health threat facing a group of people living on the street in 100 degree plus summer temperatures is contamination from a home cooked meal offered by a couple out of the kindness of their hearts.

The saddest thing about this is that in this time of obsessive budget cutting by the government, the homeless and other disadvantaged groups will be having to rely more and more on private charities and well-meaning individuals like the Lugers for help. This is not a good sign of things to come.


I will not be shedding any tears for Borders

I looks like Borders is the first corporate casualty of the rise of the e-reader.

When I first moved to Charlotte in 1997, I took a job for a few months at Borders Books and Music on Sharon Road, just down the street from Southpark Mall. This was strictly to fill in the gap until I found what I hoped would be better long-term employment. I can think of very little positive to say about the company, or about the eight months that I spent there as an employee. It is true, I have never seen a better selection of books at any other store. On the other hand, I hate that so many locally owned bookstores have been driven out of business by Borders and its twin, Barnes and Noble.

What I remember most about Borders is the somewhat hypocritical way that the chain tried to cultivate a "progressive" public image--not only by stocking fashionably obscure, intellectual, and edgy titles alongside the expected bestsellers, but also by encouraging employees to dress down in jeans and t-shirts and display their tattoos and piercings, presumably an attempt to replicate some of the casual and "hip" atmosphere of the independent booksellers that Borders had displaced.

Of course, this "progressive" company, like most big chain retailers, paid its employees abysmally low wages and offered utterly inadequate benefits. At the time that I was employed there, a rumor was circulating of an impending attempt to unionize the store. The management responded with the expected mix of veiled threats and anti-labor propaganda to convince us that we would all be better off without union representation, as if they were in any position to decide for us.

Of course, it is tragic that over ten thousand Borders employees will be joining the ranks of the 14+ million unemployed in this country. But as for the company itself and its stores, I will not be mourning its passing.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Cute Woodland Vole Picture of the Day

Kaleb and I saw one of these from the car this morning. Wish I had had my camera with me.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Perilous Life of the Unemployed, Part I: Health Care

When I lost my job last August, one of the first and most difficult challenges that I and my family faced was living without health insurance. The United States is virtually alone among the "industrialized" countries of the world in taking the bizarre position that adequate health care a privilege rather than a right.

Since I have type II diabetes and depression, and my wife and son also have health issues, one of the first places I went after I got laid off was the social services office to apply for Medicaid. No luck! It turns out that since my son was 18 years old, we no longer qualified for this program. I was given a paper that listed low-cost, sliding-scale clinics where we might see a doctor and receive discounted prescriptions. For every one of the numbers that I called, I got the same response: We are booked solid, we are not accepting new patients, you can try back in case something opens up, but don't hold your breath.

The problem, I realized, was that just as the US economy had gone in the toilet and the unemployment rate had risen to over ten percent, the funding from the government for health care programs for the unemployed and underemployed had plummeted. This is just another of the many catch-22s of American government: just when services are most needed, they become least available.

In late December I became so ill that Karen insisted on taking me to the emergency. It turned out that I was suffering from diabetic ketoacidosis--because I had not been able to afford my insulin and other medications, my blood glucose level was so high that my urine had filled with ketones. If Karen had not talked me into going to the hospital, I could have fallen into a coma and died within hours.

It was only after this trip to Carolinas Medical Center that one of the hospital's social workers was able to make some phone calls, pull some strings, and get my family into a sliding scale program for office visits and prescriptions. I will always be grateful to the staff of this outstanding hospital for accomplishing this. However, the fact that it took over four months and a potentially deadly medical crisis to be able to get assistance, and it is disturbing to me to think how many people in situations similar to ours still are without any resources at all for their health care needs.

What is most galling of all is that in a country with the incredible resources and wealth of the United States, the prevailing view is that health care is a commodity to be bought and sold on the market, instead of a basic right that is available to all persons.


The complacency of the unemployed

Another thoughtful article on the political complacency of the jobless from the NY Times Economix blog.

My take is that as unemployment benefits were extended out to 18 months or more, a greater number of the unemployed have held that things would turn around and the economy would improve before their benefits ran out. It seems likely that as we go into next year's election campaign, and simultaneously more of the jobless see their benefits expire, unemployment is going to become a huge issue. This will be the time when we could see greater radicalization of the long-term jobless. At least I hope so.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Happy Birthday to My Baby!

Today is my beautiful wife Karen's birthday. Our son Kaleb got her a baby bearded dragon.

"I am not a gecko, and no, I do not sell insurance!"


Tuesday, July 12, 2011


On Tuesday mornings I volunteer at Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte. In the lobby area of the hospital there is a large glass cage containing several of these very colorful finches.

The name of this species escapes me at the moment. I pass them every time I go into the hospital, and always pause for a minute or two to watch them. The cage is spacious and kept very clean and well supplied with perches and nests.

Catch-22 of the Day

Many hiring companies systematically exclude unemployed workers from consideration when hiring. This is an abhorrent practice that makes the job search process seem even more hopeless and frustrating for millions of unemployed workers. Thankfully, Congress is considering legislation that would ban this discriminatory practice and help even the playing field for jobless Americans. Let's hope that Congress does the right thing and acts quickly on this very much needed legislation.


So this is what you get for following instructions and doing your job?

I had a feeling that it would come to this. Juror number twelve has left Florida and is in hiding, with more likely to follow her, especially if their names are made public. This is what happens when the media selectively hypes up whichever case that is deemed most lurid and fans the flames of public outrage with wall-to-wall coverage of every grisly detail.

Nancy Grace, a former attorney who should understand the judicial system, nevertheless declared this woman guilty before her trial even began. If any of the jurors, or Ms. Anthony herself, is gunned down by some self-appointed vigilante, I believe Nancy Grace and the producers of the trial coverage at CNN Headline News will share responsibility for helping create the atmosphere of hysteria that surrounds this case.

I also believe that if Ms. Grace feels any sense of public responsibility, she should go on TV now and ask her fans not to commit any acts of violence or harassment against anyone related to this trial. It would only be the decent thing to do.


Problem? What Problem?

A quick scan of the front pages of the CNN and MSNBC websites this morning finds neither site with a single story focusing on the crisis of unemployment. Stories on the negotiations over raising the debt ceiling focus, of course, on the battle over whether or not to increase revenues to help bring down the debt. Republican politicians and business leaders are clinging to the utterly surreal notion that if we just give even more to the already wealthy and cut services to the other ninety percent, that everybody will end up happy. Of course "everybody" meaning everybody that they hang out with. The rest of us are invisible.

Of course, as Michele Bachmann reminded us a few days ago, why do the poor need help from the government when all they really need to do is have more faith?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The thing is

I really do feel a sense of emptiness when I think about the ten months and counting since I lost my job. There are people all around me contributing, taking care of their families, paying their bills, living normal lives. And here I am applying for jobs, sending out resumes that disappear into some black hole never to be heard from again. And some days, like today, I get so angry that I can't stand to think about it, but then later on I have to wonder if it really is just something wrong with me? I worked for over twelve years for the same company before I went in to work last August 13 and left less than an hour later with no job. A stable work history, a job lost by no fault of my own, classes taken during my period of unemployment to increase my skills, and it all counts for nothing. And then, by the prevailing logic in this country, if I suggest that maybe the government ought to do something to improve the situation, then I am a lazy freeloading socialist who wants to take the hard-earned money of others by raising taxes. Whatever. I just want to be able to feel a sense of security for my family, to be able to feel some semblance of self-worth, and to live in a society that places some value on shared responsibility and common interest.


Seems like time for a cute baby squirrel picture

How's this...?


There Are 14 Million of Us, We Are Not Invisible and We Will MAKE You Look At Us!

This article from the NY Times hit me like a sledgehammer between the eyes this morning. I am literally shaking with anger as I write this.

14 Million Unemployed.

And, the Times says, we are invisible. The politicians don't see us. The Tea Party doesn't see us. The middle class doesn't see us. And the wealthy and the corporations damn sure won't look at us.

14 Million.

They've managed to disperse us, to discourage us, to make us feel ashamed, to convince us that it's our fault. They have told us that if we demand our rights to a decent job at decent pay that we are socialists, as if there is any shame in that. They have sold us on the lie that if we just give more to the privileged, that it will trickle down to us, as if we are no better than dogs under the table of the rich begging for scraps.

14 MILLION. I am one of those 14 million, and I've been as guilty as anyone of complacency.

Why are we not out in the streets? Why are we not marching on Washington? Why are we not getting in their faces and demanding--DEMANDING--that they see us?

14 Million.

Thank you NY Times for printing this article and waking my ass up. Maybe if more of us would wake up something just might change.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Today's cute squirrel picture!

This picture teaches a very important lesson: always leave plenty of food around for the squirrels!

Paul Krugman on NPR

Dropped my son off at work a little while ago, and switched the radio to WFAE, where I was happily surprised to catch an interview with Paul Krugman on the Whad'ya Know Radio Hour. The show is available here . It is labeled as the July 2 show (apparently WFAE, the Charlotte NPR affiliate, must broadcast the show a week behind schedule) and the Krugman interview should be in the second 1/2 hour segment.

I'm not a big fan of the Whad'ya Know Radio Hour... to me it's sort of a less funny version of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me... but this interview is worth giving a listen. To me, there is no stronger advocate for the long-term unemployed than Paul Krugman, and given that he has a reputation as somewhat introverted, I thought he was surprisingly funny and engaging in the live interview setting.


Friday, July 8, 2011

RIP Betty Ford

I was only ten years old when Gerald Ford took office as President after Richard Nixon's resignation, and 13 when his short, almost accidental presidency ended. Of Ford's time in office I remember almost nothing but a few early Saturday Night Live skits. I am probably not alone among my generation in feeling that Betty Ford was in some ways a much more memorable and influential public figure than her husband (and I have a feeling President Ford would not mind at all reading that... he always seemed like a humble, down-to-earth sort of person who valued and respected his wife's work).

What I remember about Betty Ford was her outspokenness and determination for causes such as the Equal Rights Amendment and Breast Cancer awareness. But most of all, as the child of a WWII veteran and alcoholic who died way too young, I wish that someone like Mrs. Ford could have come along a generation earlier, to do what she did to chip away at the stigma and shame that addicts face in admitting ones weakness and asking for help. It may not have helped my father, but it couldn't have hurt.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ridiculous tax break of the day

I think a little healthy class warfare might not be a bad idea right now. Seriously.

I mean, if you are making billions of dollars already, then what possible difference could another $4B give or take a $B make in your life?


Cute baby squirrel picture of the day...


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

British squirrel acrobats!

Here are some great squirrel pics from a British newspaper, courtesy of Kandalaka, a city squirrel from New York who has a popular Twitter feed.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Verdict

Two thoughts come to mind on the Casey Anthony verdict. First, although I haven't been following the case as closely as many have, it seems to me that there is a huge difference between saying "I'm sure that lying slut killed her daughter," and proving beyond a reasonable doubt that she killed her daughter. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is a pretty high standard, and I don't think that standard was met.

Second, I'm almost glad that she was found not guilty, just because I know that it is really pissing off Nancy Grace.


Monday, July 4, 2011

Here's What it Should Look Like

Oh, and here is what Clapp Park lake should look like...

Dust Bowl II?

I grew up in Lubbock, a city of about 200,000 in the southern part of the panhandle in west Texas. Like most of Texas, the area around Lubbock is experiencing the worst drought in decades. So far this year, Lubbock has received 1.10 inches of rain (as of July 4), compared with over eight inches in the first half of a normal year.

This recent picture shows a lake that is in a park about five blocks from the house where I grew up.
As a child I used to play and hang out in Clapp Park, and am very familiar with this lake. Although it is not unusual for water levels to rise and fall periodically in the small lakes that dot the landscape around Lubbock (the regional term is "playa lakes"), depending on rainfall patters, the water would typically extend close to the line of trees in the background of this picture, covering most of the area that is now covered with grass.

The area around Lubbock is one of the largest and most intensive cotton producing regions in the world. The ongoing drought will no doubt have severe and lasting impact on the local economy as the cotton crops are devastated. It is also causing severe stress with the local wildlife.

I understand that no single weather event, or even a series of events, can be taken as evidence for (or against) the reality of climate change. But when you look at the pattern of extreme weather that is occurring, fitting the models that scientists have been laying out for years, I don't see how anyone can question that major changes are taking place.


Uh.... OK

Let's take a break from all of this angst and anger with.... squirrel porn!


You Can Deny the Truth, But It's Still the Truth

Here is an awesome summary of responses to the global warming deniers.

It floors me how so many people can be misled so easily into thinking that global warming is anything but established reality. I am sure that those who are responsible for the campaign against climate change science are well aware that global warming is real, but have a financial stake in fighting policies designed to reduce carbon output. What is most discouraging to me is that so many in this country have never been taught or encouraged to think critically, do not understand how to distinguish scientific evidence from myth, and are oblivious to the sources of the information that they accept as "fact".

This is the same situation that creates the all too familiar demands that creationism (or its proxy, "intelligent design") be taught alongside the "theory" of evolution in high school biology classrooms.


Friday, July 1, 2011

Recipe for Spicy Beans and Peppers

This is a delicious vegetarian dinner that Dan and Karen often enjoy. It's very easy.


1 bag of dried pinto beans
1 bag of dried small red beans
(you can really use any combination of dried beans you want. Dan often uses black beans instead of the red beans)

2 or 3 large bell peppers (I like the red ones, or a combination of colors red, green, yellow, etc)
3 or 4 jalapeno peppers (or other hot peppers such as serrano, or if you are brave, add a habanero pepper finely minced)
1 sweet yellow onion such as Vidalia
2 cans of diced tomatoes
1 level teaspoon of cumin
1 heaping teaspoon of chile powder
1 heaping teaspoon of cinnamon

Put the beans in a large pot (Dutch oven) and cover with water to about twice the depth of the beans. Bring the water to a boil, then cover and turn heat to low and simmer for 1 hour. Add more water if needed, bring to a boil again. Turn heat to medium-low, add the spices and a little salt, cover and cook for 1 hour.

Cut the peppers and the onion into small pieces.* If using habanero remove the seeds and mince very fine. Add the peppers and onion, and the canned tomatoes, to the beans. Cover and cook on medium-low for an additional 1/2 hour.

Serve over couscous or quinoa. Dan and Karen also like to make burritos with the leftovers.

*Note: At this step, you should give the tops of the bell peppers, including the stem and the pulpy part with the seeds on the inside, to your squirrel. She will love it! If you do not have a squirrel living with you, you can put the bell pepper tops outside for the squirrels.