Archive for June, 2012|Monthly archive page

Shabbat at the Casbah

In Recipies on June 27, 2012 at 9:49 am

Friday evenings are special in the home of the Phyne Dyner. The workweek is officially declared finished and all unfinished business is put aside until Shabbat ends. The meal on Friday evening is festive and frequently themed. Supper is eaten slowly and leisurely…as if there were all the time in the world to enjoy it.

One of our favorite Shabbat suppers is a trio of menu items from North Africa and the surrounding lands. We most recently enjoyed Moroccan-style Meatballs served with a piquant tomato-pomegranate reduction atop it, an Egyptian-style Brown Bean Salad, and a Yemeni-style Cauliflower Stir-fry. A crisp salad of multi-colored peppers with red onion finished off our feast and cleansed our palates.

Morocco gives the world a menu that features sweet spices that were once common only to Asia. The spice caravans crossed Morocco and the local folks traded meats and vegetables with caravans. They set up casbahs, or protective hostels for weary travelers and the trading commenced. Later, the Moorish conquest of Spain took spices with it and Hispanic cooking around the world now features common spices of the Moors, such as cumin and cinnamon.

Egyptians love beans. They are a staple of everyday Egyptian folk for breakfast, usually in the form of broad, brown beans served at breakfast. Beans also find their way to Egyptian tables for dinner and supper as well. They are served hot, cold, or warm and typically have bright flavored sauces that contrast with the earthy flavors of the beans.

Yemen is home to heat. In Yemen, the dishes are fiery…to scorching in intensity. Most Yemeni cooks use cayenne or fresh hot peppers to add the fire. I have a preference for heat that is barely noticeable and begins with a faint sweetness, but later can turn into a mouth-scorching inferno. Cayenne does not do that. So, I use Aleppo pepper from Syria in my Yemeni-inspired dishes.

Peppers rule the salad bar across Africa and in the Arabian Peninsula. I finished off our latest Shabbat feast with a simple salad of thinly sliced, multi-colored peppers and thinly sliced red pepper in a very basic red wine vinaigrette dressing (1:1 red wine vinegar and good quality olive oil). Be sure to soak the red onion slices in a bowl of salted water for 15-30 minutes to remove bitterness!

A couple of quick notes before we start cooking:

The meatballs may be made with any meat and they are traditionally made with lamb. I used very lean ground beef (Have you priced lamb?). I grind my own from inexpensive steaks (?!) because doing so lets me know where the beef came from. Cooks frequently use breadcrumbs and eggs as binders for minced meat patties and balls. I omit them in this recipe. The magic is in the meat and bread would tend to dull the magic. But, if you use lamb (or goat) or commercially ground meat, you may wish to add a couple of tablespoons of very dry breadcrumbs and one egg…to prevent the meatballs from falling apart.

The reduction sauce may be made with pomegranate vinegar. If that is not available, use pomegranate juice to which you add a tablespoon of lemon juice.

Okay! Let’s get cooking.

For the meatballs:

1 lb ground meat (beef, lamb, or goat)

1 medium onion, finely minced

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground sweet paprika

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground allspice

¼ tsp ground cardamom

3-4 TBS vegetable oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix all of the above items in a large bowl, using your hands to ensure complete blending of the ingredients. Place the meat mixture in a covered container and refrigerate for 6-8 hours to allow the spices to fully permeate the meat.

After the meat mixture has sat, refrigerated, for 6-8 hours. Heat the oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Form the meatballs into 1-inch balls, using your hands. Be sure to pack the meat tightly! Gently place 6-8 meatballs at a time into the pan, being careful not to crowd them. Use a spoon to roll the meatballs in the oil until they are nicely browned on the outside. Do not over cook them. After each batch of meatballs is browned, place them in a shallow, covered baking dish in a single layer. Now, you may crowd them. Set them aside as you pre-heat your oven to 300F and prepare the reduction.

For the reduction:

1 can (4oz) tomato sauce, or 6oz passata

¼ C pomegranate vinegar

2 tsp sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp allspice

2 TBS sesame seeds

Place all of the above ingredients in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until the volume is reduced by half. Stir continuously to prevent scorching. When the volume has reduced, set it aside to cool a bit. While it is cooling, toast the sesame seeds in a dry, heavy pan until they are golden. Now, spoon the reduction over the meatballs and sprinkle the top with the toasted sesame seeds. Cover, and place in the oven for 45 minutes. Uncover. There should be plenty of liquid still in the dish. If not, add a couple tablespoons of HOT water and return the dish, uncovered, to the oven for an additional 15 minutes.

For the beans:

You can start with dry beans that have been soaked overnight and cooked to firm-tender. I used a can of kidney beans once and the dish was still spectacular. Any brown bean will work, except chili-style beans (YUCK!).

1 15oz can of brown beans

2 sprigs of fresh oregano (1/2 tsp dry)

   OR 2 sprigs fresh rosemary (1/2 tsp dry)

½ onion

1 tsp ground cumin

3 large cloves garlic, minced

3 bay leaves

1 C minced scallions

¼ C chopped fresh parsley

1 C jumbo green olives, thinly sliced

1 TBS lemon juice

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Drain, and reserve, the liquid from the beans. Place the onion, cut side down, in a saucepan heated over low-medium heat. Heat until sizzling. Add the drained beans. Stir in the bay leaves and the oregano OR rosemary and simmer for about 10 minutes, add a bit of reserved bean liquid if the pan is dry. Remove the onion, herb stems, and bay leaves. Stir in the garlic, cumin, minced scallions, chopped parsley, lemon juice, olives, and a bit of salt and pepper to taste.

Serve warm, directly from the stove, or set aside to cool to room temperature for service.

For the cauliflower:

1 small (or ½ large) cauliflower, cut into chunks (not florettes)

5 Roma tomatoes, quartered

1 large onion, chopped

2 TBS vegetable (or peanut) oil

4 large garlic cloves, minced

¾ tsp ground cumin

¼ tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp ground turmeric root

½ C chopped cilantro

2 tsp lemon juice

½ to 1 tsp Aleppo pepper (or 1/8 to ¼ tsp cayenne)

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven on the stovetop over high heat. Stir fry the onion until it begins to brown. Add the cauliflower and continue stir-frying until the onion turns dark brown and brown spots form on the cauliflower. Stir in the garlic and reduce the heat. Stir continuously to prevent the garlic from burning. Add the Aleppo pepper, cumin, ginger, and turmeric root. Gently fold in the tomatoes and season with a bit of salt and pepper. Cover, and finish cooking with the meatballs in the oven for 15 minutes or on the stovetop over medium heat for about 8 minutes (until the cauliflower is firm-tender). At service, drizzle a bit of lemon juice over the cauliflower-tomato mixture and sprinkle the top with the chopped, fresh cilantro.

This meal doesn’t need a starchy base, like rice or couscous. But, you can make the meal go further for a large group by adding a starch. Color the rice or couscous with a few saffron threads for a truly festive look.


Persian Fruit Pilaf

In Recipies on June 19, 2012 at 2:51 pm

I’ll continue my hot weather tribute to all things minty with a recipe having origins with noted Middle Eastern cooking guru, Faye Levy.

Levy published the original version in Feast from the Mideast (HarperCollins 2003). Her original Persian-style version uses peaches for the fruit portion of the salad. I went with a more Israeli-themed variation using orange segments. Both versions are visually stunning and are true summertime heat busters.

I have made other variations of Levy’s original by using a dash or so of ground cardamom…a floral spice favored in Persia. I have also substituted pine nuts or roasted sunflower seeds for Levy’s sliced almonds. And, when my usual stocks of mint are running short, I substitute a dash of cinnamon and allspice for the mint.

No matter how you build this salad, it has a variety of opposing tastes and textures that make it a delightful stand-alone meal. The crunch of nuts and the firmness of the chickpeas contrast well with the slightly softer texture of the corn kernels and the velvety texture of the cooked rice. The tartness of the fruit and lemon juice dressing gives a wonderful contrast to the natural sweetness of the cooked onions and carrots.

So, celebrate summer with a cool rice salad!

You’ll need:

(Note: My substitutions and suggestions follow the or indicator.)

3 TBS olive oil

1 large, sweet onion finely chopped

1 carrot in small dice

1 rib of celery in small dice

1 ½ C long-grain white rice, uncooked

3 C hot water

salt and fresh-ground pepper

1 tsp dried mint or ½ tsp each allspice and cinnamon

1 tsp dried dill or ½ tsp ground cardamom

1 C cooked (or canned) chickpeas, drained

1 C cooked or canned sweet corn

1 lb sliced peaches (or 2 drained cans Mandarin oranges)

2 TBS lemon juice or lime juice

3 TBS minced chives or scallion tops

½ C roasted sliced almonds, or roasted sunflower seeds, or pine nuts


Heat about 2 TBS of oil in a large, deep (covered) skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onion and sauté for about 8 minutes, or until golden. Remove half of the onion and add the remaining oil and the diced carrot and celery, sauté for another minute over medium-low heat. Add the long-grain rice, stirring it to ensure it becomes evenly coated. Cook for 2-4 minutes or until the rice turns milky opaque. Add the hot water and 1 tsp salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook for about 18 minutes or until rice is tender.

Fluff the rice with a fork and remove from the heat. Gently fold in the reserved onions, corn, chickpeas, mint and dill (or other spices). Allow to completely cool. Dice the peach slices and gently toss them into the rice mixture or add drained Mandarin oranges. Drizzle with lemon or lime juice, generously scatter nuts or seed on top and then garnish chives or minced green onion tops.

 Serve at room temperature. This dish is extremely satisfying and the amount made will feed about six hungry people.

How To Kill

In Editorial on June 19, 2012 at 10:06 am

“Renal failure is a good way to go. You just go to sleep,” said this angel of death.

It took me a few days to get caught up sufficiently to sit down and read Joe Klein’s article “How To Die” in Time magazine (June 11, 2012).

First impression?

While Klein is a journalist, the piece contained more self-therapy than journalism. Throughout the article, Klein clearly attempts to assuage his guilt at being his parent’s “death panel”; a phrase Klein repeats often throughout it. As a journalist, Klein should know that journalism, real journalism, is never produced to be self-therapy.

Second impression?

Disdain for Klein, as a fellow Jew, for his becoming a useful idiot for the state.

Early on, Klein made much of his heritage. Yet, there was precious little evidence of Jewish behavior throughout his telling of the murder of his parents. He seemed a little annoyed at having his interview with Senator Grassley interrupted during the prologue to his murder story. His brother was absent, living in Asia. His concern about the placement of a feeding tube for his mother revolved around his need to keep her alive long enough to say “goodbye” to her.

But my real disdain for Klein revolves around how easily, despite his at least probable exposure to Jewish ethics, he listened to the coos of angels of death (the Geisinger doctors).

One angel of death, likely motivated by the possibility of getting a share in a cost saving redistribution bonus, murmured to Klein, “I noticed your mom has a do not resuscitate order (DNR) in her file, but your dad doesn’t. Should we add it on?”

Klein countered that his father saw old age as “a reversible condition” and would want (original author’s emphasis!) to be resuscitated.

I found this most disturbing. The son had knowledge of his father’s desire to have his life prolonged through medical intervention, when possible.

The angel of death batted aside the last known wishes of the old man. “You know”, he cooed, “that he broke two ribs when he fell in the bathroom last week. He’s very frail. If we tried to resuscitate him we’d probably break the rest of his ribs.”

Despite the fact that doctors frequently cause all sorts of bodily mayhem in often, successful resuscitations, even in otherwise young and healthy patients, the risk of a few broken ribs offset the elder Klein’s right to live (or die) in accordance with his wishes.

When Klein’s father later developed renal failure, a previously consulted non-Geisinger physician was approached for a medical opinion. The author gushed over the doctor’s “Geisinger-like candor” when the physician suggested that nothing medically be done for the dying, but stubbornly still-living, man.

“Renal failure is a good way to go. You just go to sleep,” said this angel of death.

For Jews, there is no “good” way to die. Dying is a bad thing. It is inevitable, but because it is inevitable does not make the mechanism of one’s dying a “good” thing.

By this doctor’s logic, no medical intervention should be offered to sick children; since they are eventually going to die anyway…as long as their deaths are “good” ones where they don’t suffer (at least visibly).

The angels of death had now set in motion all of the stage pieces that would pave the way to make their killing chambers available for the next, potentially bonus-yielding, dying patients.

While the author made much of his mother’s dementia as the justification for his interventions on behalf of the Geisinger angels of death, his mother was lucid enough to say, “I love you” at the end.

Such lucidity also suggests she may (Jews are always encouraged to look on the bright side) have had the ability to actively participate in her care; even minimally to the point of saying “I want to live” or “I want to die”. The spark of life still glimmered in Klein’s mother, despite the efforts of the angels of death. Even in the most Reform Jewish tradition, she should have been given, at a minimum, a chance to make a decision about her own fate!

But, the angels of death had already stamped “Denied” on any wishes she may have articulated. As every statist bureaucrat knows: “What the bureaucracy has set in motion, neither man, nor G-d, can forestall.”

The bureaucracy of pencil pushers and computer models had decreed that Mrs. Klein must die for the sake of bonuses potentially doled out to the Geisinger care panel who earned those profits by denying her care.

The end eventually came for Klein’s father. After telling his father that his mother had died (killed in accordance to the Geisinger plan), there was this exchange between dying father and his manipulated son:

“You did that (provided a bit of wine with the old man’s dinner)? That’s amazing, I really appreciate what you’re doing.”

The elder Klein clearly had an ability to recognize good from bad and to recognize kindnesses. I found myself wondering if the son ever told the old man, during these lucid periods, that he had opted not to give his father a choice about life-saving resuscitation and that he had decided renal failure was a “good” way for his father to die?

I envisioned the mercurial senior Klein, upon being given such news, exploding with: “You did what? You decided what? Who gave you the right? Don’t I get a say in this?”

No, the angels of death had decreed. Max Klein must die. There were financial costs and potential bonuses to be considered.

It was difficult for me as I approached the final paragraph of Joe Klein’s article. His father had always been a difficult man and a father who, at times I am sure, was difficult to love.

Klein told his father that he loved him. And this, this, was the most warming part of Klein’s sad telling: “I could have been better,” the father replied.

That short statement was a finest example of the Jewish concept of the first step in repentance, teshuva: Acknowledging one’s failings in a particular area of living or in one’s relationships. Max Klein, demented to the presumed point of being unable to participate in his medical care, was taking the most difficult step in Jewish atonement!

How could his son, who took so much pride in his heritage that he published a photo from his bar mitzvah in his article, be so blind to a basic concept of Judaism? Was he selectively ignorant of Jewish principles? Was he so selfish? Didn’t he remember anything from Hebrew School or when he studied for his bar mitzvah?

Despite my disdain for Joe Klein’s participation in the murder of his parents, I have some compassion for him.

He is not the first, and will not (sadly) be the last person to be tricked by angels of death or unwittingly forced to participate in the demise of fellow humans. He is certainly not the only Jew who did so.

The architects of the Holocaust also did away with “life unworthy of life”.

The most diabolical of their machinations were steps in which their victims either assisted in their own demise, or where they were tricked into believing lies told by their murderers.

“Is a blue work permit better than a yellow one?”

“They said we will be re-settled in the East. They would not waste us. We are a valuable work source.”

A city Judenrat (Jewish Council) would be provided with rations for only a fraction of the city’s Jewish population, these leaders often decided who would eat and who would starve. Council members were to deliver quotas of fellow Jews for deportation to the gas, or suffer death themselves.

Who will live? Who will die? Terrible questions!

Joe Klein, as a Jew, should have known this. At best, Klein succumbed to the phenomenon demonstrated by Dr. Stanley Milgram: People will do something, even harm another, if some person in authority says it in the interests of good, the majority, or even the victims themselves.

Final impressions?

Joe Klein was duped.

But he is not alone in history. The angels of death have worn hospital lab coats before. The Nazi Aktion T 4 euthanasia program bears a discomforting similarity to the Geisinger death model profiled in the Time article.

The 1939 German extermination program decided who would live, and who would die, based solely upon the opinions of three medical experts who noted their findings on a wholly objective questionnaire. Geisinger replaces the questionnaire with computer algorithms.

The questionnaires were distributed to mental institutions, hospitals, and other institutions caring for chronically ill patients. Patients deemed to be “life unworthy of life” (or for whom recovery was deemed futile) were either killed directly by phenol injections to the heart or by gradual starvation.

There is a difference.

The Nazi program killed for an aberrant ideology surrounding the superiority of an Aryan race. The Geisinger program kills for profits, bonuses, and for the state-sanctioned principle of “medical cost containment”.

I fear the Nazis are back…and this time they’re worse than ever.

Cool off with mint!

In Recipies on June 18, 2012 at 9:54 am

If I were to create a list of my favorite things, my herb garden would feature near the top. By midsummer, my window boxes are overflowing with thyme, basil, oregano, and a few others. A large pot of mint swings in a hanging planter where it gets a perfect balance of rain, shade, and sun. A single plant provides me with (literally) bushels of cool and sweet-tasting peppermint.

It’s a good thing that I usually have a bumper crop of mint. I use a lot of it. Whatever mint is not used when directly harvested goes into my dehydrator for winter use.

Today, as I sit to tap out my weekly scrawl, the temperatures in America’s Ukraine of Iowa are expected to best the triple digits. Wonderful!

What better time to enjoy mint?

My Devoted Dozen (or so) readers will recall my previously published recipe for tabouleh. It is the signature dish of summer and I often make it during our overly long winters to brighten the gloom. Bulgar wheat with lavish amounts of mint and parsley and seasoned well with cumin and lemon juice is just too good to keep solely for summer.

Today, as the mercury screams for the top of your thermometer, go back and enjoy my recipe for tabouleh. While you’re at it, why not enjoy mint in a few other ways?

Touareg (Moroccan Tea)

Mint is added to a plethora of drinks and foods throughout the Middle East, the European Mediterranean coast and across North Africa. Israelis and their neighbors enjoy mint in their lemonade, a taste which seems intuitively acquired. Throughout the Arab world, alcoholic drinks are forbidden to those who follow Islam and mint tea substitutes for beer, wine, and liquor. (Interestingly, when mint is in short supply, wormwood…the stuff of absinthe…is frequently substituted for mint.)

The basic ingredient for touareg is good quality green tea (free trade certified please). Morocco is one of the world’s largest import customers for Chinese green tea.

Next, one needs mint. Lots of mint.

Brew up a pot of green tea and enjoy its grassy, floral bouquet. Many aficionados pour a bit of hot water over the leaves first and then discard it. It is claimed that doing so washes away any bitterness.

Traditionally, a huge handful of mint leaves and stems are pushed into the teapot and allowed to steep. Sugar (in varying amounts from “generous” to “massive”) is typically added before adding the mint. I add my sugar in the glasses (never cups). After the tea and mint has brewed for 3-6 minutes, it is poured into small glasses. Pouring the tea from a height is dramatic and adds an elegant froth to the drink, marking the pourer as a tea master.

Now, take your tea to a shady spot outdoors and fire up some shisha in your hookah.

Ahhhh…relaxation at its best.

Kharnabeet maklee

This is a minty favourite from Lebanon. Cauliflower florets are most typically used. But I have enjoyed this with broccoli florets as well. You will need to make up the dipping batter as the oil in a deep fryer heats to about 375F.

Some cooks blanch the cauliflower before dipping it. I have found doing so only adds a step, takes more time, and the batter does not adhere nearly as well. Unless the cauliflower florets are carefully dried, they also cause massive oil spatters when they cook. I simply cut the florets a bit smallish and they cook wonderfully.

First make up the batter. This version makes enough to liberally coat about half a head of cauliflower. That’s plenty to enjoy as an evening nibble.

You will need:

¾ C flour

2 eggs

1 C (loosely measured) flat-leaf parsley, minced

1 C (packed) fresh mint, minced

¼ C very finely minced onion

½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground allspice

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

a bit of water (and an ice cube)

 In a bowl, mix all of the ingredients…except the water and ice…into a paste. Now, add a bit of cold water to make a batter that is just thicker than pancake batter. The batter will thicken a bit as you use it, so add in a small ice cube. The ice keeps the batter cool and also melts to add a bit of water as you use the batter.

Use a salad fork to dip each floret into the batter. Allow any huge excesses of batter to drip off and then move the floret to the hot oil. Fry until golden and the florets float to the top of the oil. Avoid whacking great clumps of fried cauliflower glob and do not crowd the florets in the oil. Cook the remaining cauliflower in batches, removing each cooked batch to drain on paper towels.

This is a great snack finger food. Enjoy it traditional-style by serving it with a small bowl of lemon juice to dip each piece in. It is also quite tasty when dipped in tahina (calories!) or in an Asian-inspired mixture made of equal parts of rice wine vinegar with mirin (sweet Japanese cooking wine).

Turn your patio or deck into a casbah and chase away the summer heat with mint.

SPECIAL EDITORIAL: Citizens can fight back…only in Indiana

In Editorial on June 13, 2012 at 12:00 pm

In Fort Dodge, Iowa a city police officer was recently given a term of probation (???) after telling a woman he met in a bar that he would arrest her for drunken driving unless she had sex with him.

Imagine coming home and finding a uniformed police officer sexually assaulting your struggling wife or daughter. You retrieve a firearm and shoot the officer to death in the middle of his forcible felony. You are subsequently charged with murder of a peace officer and you are sentenced to death in accordance with federal law.

The state of Indiana took measures to prevent such a travesty of justice when they enacted a law empowering citizens to use force, including deadly force, against any public official (including police officers) who are engaging in conduct involving the imminent use of unlawful force.

The law was specifically written to cover conduct by any public official because the United States Supreme Court has held that a citizen has virtually no right to use force against the police, even if the police are acting unlawfully.

When one considers the growing citizen anger over growing complaints of police brutality, enactment of such a law was inevitable. And, while sober reflection says that the new Indiana law will be struck down, a clear message has been sent to the ruling elites:

“We have had our private places pawed upon by your agents at the airports, we have suffered extra-judicial punishment by blue-suited criminals using Tasers, our property has been confiscated through the state’s manipulation of civil law, and our women have been raped by the very officers charged with protecting them. Peaceful demonstrators have been pepper-sprayed, heads of war veterans have been pulverized by fired tear gas projectiles,  and innocent citizens have been handcuffed and detained for hours…simply because they were in the proximity where a crime was committed. We’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore!”

Nothing has changed since 1776.

Americans remain a people willing to suffer state intrusions of light and transient cause. But they are showing impatience and intolerance with an emerging long train of abuses and usurpations pursuing invariably the same object (which) evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism. And, as any civilized people is bent to do, they have sought a just and lawful remedy to their condition.

The Indiana amendment to their Castle Doctrine should be seen for what it is…an angry petition to the state that it respect the sovereignty of man…or else.

Failing that, at some point, the people will realize that such petitions and warnings are futile. They will not ask the state’s permission to take the life of a uniformed rapist…they will simply take matters into their own hands and mete out justice.

The American state now has only two choices: 1) The “Smart Choice” where the state reins in official thuggery and thievery and the state agrees to rule with the consent of the governed, or 2) The “Stupid Choice” where the omnipotent state crushes all who oppose it through Draconian laws enforced by brutes who would otherwise be unemployable.

Far from being elated by events in Indiana, I am deeply concerned by their implications. Indiana has laid down a gauntlet. The state holds power only through intimidation, violence, and coercion. Indiana has threatened the root of state power by making its agents physically responsible for the unlawful violence in which they trade.

The state, being stupid by nature, is most likely to pick up the tossed gauntlet.

It’s time to ban Tasers

In Editorial on June 13, 2012 at 10:51 am

According to Taser aficionados, the devices offer a “less-than-lethal” alternative to police and jail officers attempting to subdue uncooperative citizens. An “uncooperative citizen” is typically one who fails to “Get on the f-ing ground!” fast enough for the blue-suited thug wielding the Taser. Tasers have also been “deployed” by sadistic officers as a means of punishing citizens convicted of Contempt of Cop in streetside tribunals.

 Fifty-two police officers were summoned to a scene where their fellow gang members participated in the pepper-spraying, clubbing, Tasering, and the ultimate death of Marylander, Carl Johnson. Allegedly just for fun, officers also punched Johnson repeatedly in the face and threw him over a highway guardrail.

According to an article in the Baltimore Sun Johnson, 48, and his wife were on their way home two years ago from Bible study (I kid you not!) when he crashed into a tree as the result of a diabetic reaction. According to police, Johnson became “combative” and the fifty-two dispatched officers believed themselves to be in danger from the actions of the lone architect.

“The person failed to respond to officer commands. Officers feared for their safety and appropriate force was used to bring the person under control.”

The above line is becoming as predictable as “shot while trying to escape” in Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia.

Carl Johnson had no criminal history. He is survived by his wife of 27 years, a son, and his parents.

Last week the man’s widow, Linda Johnson, filed a multi-million dollar wrongful death suit against her husband’s alleged killers and the state-run street gangs (police agencies) that employed them.

[Editor’s note: I do not use “weasel words” to exempt the “majority of good police officers”. There are so few “good officers” that they are virtually extinct. Today’s police officers are simply brutish thugs in the state-legal street gangs that purged their ranks of the decent, law-abiding, and constitutional rights-respectful men and women who once filled their shoes.]

And then, there’s this…

Sixteen year-old, 105 pound, Colin Heffley was seen staggering down a Fort Dodge, Iowa street on a cold February night this year. Two Fort Dodge police officers intercepted Heffley, who attempted to run away. Heffley was “subdued” and charged with public intoxication. He was released to his parents…

…who found a Taser barb still embedded in the boy’s foot.

According to news reports, the officer’s dash-camera recorded the two officers later laughing about their role in the incident.

“The person failed to respond to officer commands. Officers feared for their safety and appropriate force was used to bring the person under control.”

Heffley’s parents complained to the troubled Fort Dodge Police Department.

[Editor’s note: “Troubled” may be an understatement. One Fort Dodge officer was recently placed on probation (?) for sexually assaulting a woman whom the officer threatened with a drunk driving arrest unless she consented to having sex with him and another is currently under suspension and facing criminal charges for stalking his former girlfriend, burglarizing her apartment, and assaulting her new boyfriend therein. “Organized crime syndicate” seems to fit.]

In 2009, the Fort Dodge newspaper, The Messenger-News, dutifully wrote a slobbering piece defending Tasers. The Messenger cited research completed by William Bozeman, an emergency medicine researcher at the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. For his study, Bozeman looked at cases supplied by three law enforcement agencies that indicated only three serious injuries resulted in 1201 “deployments” of a Taser device.

[Editor’s note: The devil is in the details in such studies. Taser victims frequently suffer life-threatening head injuries when they are suddenly rendered limp by Tasers. The assertion that these are not deaths attributable to Tasers is similar to an assertion made to my friend, a Chernobyl widower, by a Soviet death certificate clerk: “Your wife died of heart failure, not because of the reactor explosion.” This was technically true. The poor man’s wife suffered radiation poisoning which lead to heart failure. As far as the Soviet paper-pusher was concerned, the woman’s failing heart caused her death, not the reactor explosion or the ensuing radiation.]

Amnesty International cites that 334 Americans died after being Tasered between 2001 and August of 2008. Fifty of these deaths were determined by medical examiners to have resulted directly from Taser shocks. Amnesty International is also alarmed by the ability for Tasers to be used illegally to administer covert punishment to detainees (citizens in the custody of American police).

Most studies investigating the safety of Tasers have been completed by the industry producing them or by agencies using them.

Tasers are “unsafe at any speed”

 A study commissioned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation showed that ten percent of Tasers they tested delivered electrical currents exceeding levels the industry claimed to be impossible for the devices.

In 2007, The Journal of Trauma, Injury, Infection, and Critical Care published the results of a study using animal models (swine).

Investigators stated about the “proven” safety of Tasers: “These devices utilize time-varying DC currents that evoke strong, repetitive contractions in most or all of the somatic musculature. The mechanism by which this occurs and the pathophysiologic effects of these discharges are poorly understood (emphasis added).”

Do high school graduate cops and their bureaucrat leaders know something about physiology that physiologists (doctors) do not know?

Here is a direct quote from the article on the conclusions of the 2007 medical study:

“Immediately after the discharge, two deaths occurred because of ventricular fibrillation. In this model of prolonged EID exposure, clinically significant acid-base and cardiovascular disturbances were clearly seen. The severe metabolic and respiratory acidosis seen here suggests the involvement of a primary cardiovascular mechanism.”

 Here’s the layman’s translation:

“Two pigs died immediately after being Tased because the Taser stopped their hearts from beating properly. Tasing causes heart problems directly and they also cause severe chemical imbalances that can disrupt normal heart function.”

Here’s the version for the Jersey Shore faithful: “Tasers bad.” (fist-pump) “Tasers kill.” (fist-pump)

A North Carolina jury awarded a $10M judgment against the manufacturer of Tasers. A Ventura County (California) jury awarded $1M to a citizen who suffered injuries after being Tasered; Remember, Tasers not only kill and injure directly, Tased persons frequently strike their heads on the ground when they are Tased. In Missouri, a municipality agreed to a $2.4M settlement with the family of a man who died after being Tased. A Taser manufacturer was ordered to pay over $1M in compensatory damages and $5.2M in punitive damages to the survivors of Salinas, California Taser victim, Robert Heston.

There are many, many more.

But there is good news for citizens!

In May 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a lower-court ruling that could expose police to liability for the inappropriate use of Tasers that included a 2004 incident in which three Seattle officers used the stun gun on a pregnant woman (who refused to sign a traffic ticket) during a traffic stop.

Because Tasers are lethal and can lead to subsequent lethal injury, they have no place as an intermediate weapon used (hopefully stated) as an alternative to other forms of deadly force.

Tasers should be banned from use by civilian policing agencies and there are steps that should be taken immediately until they are fully banned.

If a police officer (or armed citizen) fires a “warning” shot from a firearm in an incident were the use of deadly force is not justified, the officer or citizen may be charged with unlawful use of deadly force.

Because Tasers can (and do) kill, they belong in the realm of deadly force. Officers who indiscriminately use Tasers solely because the officers are mild bed wetters and are easily frightened should be charged with unlawful use of deadly force. Officers who use Tasers to illegally punish subdued citizens should be charged with felonious assault or attempted murder.

And now, thanks to the recent actions of the Supreme Court, Taser victims are empowered to sue individual officers using Tasers because the officer is unduly alarmed or because he/she is a sadist.

Fish (Or shrimp) soup with leeks, carrots, and onion

In Recipies on June 11, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Just because it is summer in America’s Ukraine (Iowa) doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enjoy a steaming bowl of soup for a modest meal!

It’s been a while since I offered up a recipe. This extremely healthy one has origins with Chef Jacques Pepin. Chef Pepin has a cooking career spanning four decades and I enjoy watching him on Public Television. Chef Pepin’s recipe differs somewhat from mine. The biggest difference is my substitution of cod loin chunks for his use of shrimp. But if your Invisible Friend has no edicts against eating seafood, by all means, try this with a dozen very large shrimp. I used a bit more vegetable and an extra cup of water. I also added a modest amount of dry thyme to my version. Chef Pepin relied on fresh, flat-leaf parsley for his total herbal contribution. Either version is splendid and is delightfully simple to prepare for a modest supper!

You will need (* denotes my version substitution):

1 ½ C diced yellow onion

1 ½ C finely diced celery (with leaves)

1 C diced carrot

2 C cod loins cut in ¾” chunks (or 12 large de-veined shrimp)

3 C water

2 C chopped leek (pale green and white parts)

1 TBS anchovy paste* (omit if using shrimp)

1-2 TBS red wine vinegar

½ tsp Aleppo* or other red pepper flakes

½ tsp dried French thyme*

1 large handful flat-leaf parsley

salt and freshly ground black pepper

 Bring the water to a boil in a large, deep skillet. Stir in the onion, celery, carrot, leek, and anchovy paste. Reduce heat to low-medium and cover. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the cod chunks or shrimp. Re-cover and cook an additional 3 minutes. Stir in the red wine vinegar, pepper flakes, and thyme. Scatter the parsley over the shrimp or fish and rec-over. Cook gently at a very simmer until the shrimp are pink and firm or until the cod begins to flake with a fork. The veggies will remain colorful and a bit crunchy. Do not over-cook! Check seasoning and serve in deep bowls or crocks. Accompany with crusty bread and a nice wine of your choosing.

Bonus Lesson!

My “Devoted Dozens” of Phyne Dyners will recall that I learned how to quickly clean mud and sand from a leek by watching Chef Pepin. Here are the steps:

Using a sharp knife, trim the tough dark outer leaves at the point where they are just beginning to turn pale green, starting at the root end. Move further up the leek, trimming off the darker portions of the inner leaves as they are revealed. Now, make a cut through the leek (parallel to the length of the leek) beginning about 1 inch from the root end all the way to the end of the leaves. Rotate the leek 90-degrees and make a second identical cut. The leak will now look “sorta” like a cheerleader’s pom-pom. Carefully rinse the leek under running water, spreading your pom-pom apart as you rinse. When the leek is clean, chop it for use in recipes. Nice and easy, eh?

Perspectives on “illegal” immigration

In Editorial on June 7, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Editor’s note: I know nothing about the “Galilee Diary” blog. Several times a month, I meet my very treasured friend, Jerry, for a morning of coffee and religious/political discussion. Jerry is a (very) liberal Democrat within Reform Judaism and I am a classical liberal (libertarian socialist) with conservative Jewish roots. We have much in common and a lot in opposition within religious-political philosophy. Jerry forwarded this editorial from the Galilee Diary to me a few days after our last morning chat. It’s a worthwhile read and it is sobering for those of us who (attempt to) live a modernly relevant Torah-obedient life. I have added emphasis to portions I found particularly salient to the secular issue of illegal immigration and the sacred commandment to show kindness to the stranger. Enjoy!

 June 6, 2012 | 16 Sivan 5772
Marc J. Rosenstein
Discuss on Our Blog

“You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt.”

(Exodus 23:9)

“We fight world Jewry as one has to fight a poisonous parasite…”

(German army manual, 1939)

“We will not allow illegal immigration to spread like a cancer in our society.”

(Miri Regev, Knesset Member, at south Tel Aviv rally)

Recently, I finished a meeting at HUC at the end of the day and was offered a ride to Tel Aviv, thus shortening my trip on public transportation to the Galilee.  I accepted, but it turned out that the driver didn’t know Tel Aviv streets so well, and we got lost in the alleys surrounding the Central Bus Station.  At one point we rounded a corner and found ourselves surrounded by Border Patrol troops, and squad cars all flashing.  As we proceeded we found ourselves driving between clusters of scared-looking African refugees on one side of the street, and angry Jews with megaphones on the other side.



We were in the midst of one of a series of recent demonstrations by veteran Jewish residents of the poor neighborhood around the bus station, calling for the expulsion of the growing number of Eritrean and Sudanese refugees who have moved in (the next day it turned violent, a day of broken glass). This campaign was given a boost by a couple of recent high-profile crimes, some of which were apparently committed by refugees.   (Israel lets the refugees who are caught stay in Tel Aviv, pending asylum proceedings, but to discourage more refugees from arriving, they are forbidden  to work; hence the motivation to support themselves by illegal activities).

It is tempting to feel righteously indignant when confronting a public campaign that uses explicitly racist rhetoric, led by respectable leaders of mainstream political parties.  We are appalled by the language and its historical echoes.  But then, the demonstrators remind us, these miserable refugees are not exactly streaming into the middle class communities that are bastions of liberal self-righteousness.  So driving down the street that day I sensed that there was enough misery and powerlessness to go around on both sides, and while I have no problem criticizing the demagogic exploitation of that misery, it seems clear that that exploitation is no party’s monopoly.

As long as the world is divided into poor and rich areas, oppressed and free states, there will be people trying to move to a better  place.  Whether on the Mexican border, or  in rickety boats crossing the Mediterranean, or crawling across the Sudanese  desert, the world is full of “huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” and those who have achieved (or inherited) prosperity and freedom feel threatened by this human wave.  It is not rational  to open all the gates, and it is not humane to keep them all closed.

Devising a moral policy is a huge challenge that has vexed the western world for a century and more. It is no easier here in Israel than it is in Texas or in Italy, and we seem to be no better at responding to this challenge than anyone

United States of America

else. When we had no state, it was easy to criticize the behavior of those peoples who had them, especially when they wouldn’t let us in (for which we continue to criticize them).  Now that we have one, a little humility would be in order.  (Editor’s note to the last sentance: AMEIN!)

Introducing: Phyne Dyning’s “T-Ball Awards”

In General Information on June 6, 2012 at 12:46 pm

Everybody’s a winner!

Who hasn’t heard of T-Ball?

T-Ball is that wonderful sport for little tykes where, instead of a pitched ball, the batter’s target sits stationary atop a post. The ball is so-positioned to ensure that every batter hits the ball. At the conclusion of the game every player is declared a “winner” and is made the recipient of a colorful ribbon or plastic trophy.

America has become the T-Ball Nation. Everyone here is a winner, whether or not they even play the game. Nobody needs to expend effort and there are no scores kept to damage the fragile egos of the losers. Players need only show up to claim their trophy. And, if showing up is inconvenient or a hardship, America will mail the awards to the recipients.

In the spirit of T-Ball America, Phyne Dyning is awarding its own T-Ball Awards to those whose mediocrity stands tall above the complacency of others.

Here we go!

Our first Phyne Dyning T-Ball Award goes to America’s “heroes”.

Wearing an army black beret was once an honor earned by its elite Airborne Rangers. Today, they’re plopped on the heads of everyday clerks, REMFs, and BOLOs. Everyone in the army today is a “winner”. And, as every T-Ball player knows, every winner is a hero.

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes came under fire for his comments on the everyday use of the word “hero”. Hayes intemperately opined that he felt uncomfortable using the word because it may become a justification for future wars. He’s terribly close to being right.

The ratio of support troops to combat troops has bounced from 4:1 during WWII to 7:1 in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Vietnam, the ratio was around 5:1. It literally takes an army of paper-shuffling clerks and bakers to support a squad of trigger-pullers.

The real shame does not belong to Chris Hayes. The shame belongs to those who have done time in the military as Rear Echelon Muther-F*ckers and who fail to correct the folks at home who call them “heroes”.

The real heroes seldom lived to hear themselves called “hero”.

The same goes for the stay-at-home folks manning police cars, fire trucks, ambulances, classroom desks, or those who shuffle papers. They are not “heroes”.

But in T-Ball America all of them are “heroes” and they are worthy of the Phyne Dyning T-Ball Award for Heroism.

You’re finished! You’re out at Faber. No more fun of any kind! – Dean Wormer

Most school administrators would gladly suffer the “irresponsibility” of recently graduated seniors at Kenowa Hills High School in Walker, Michigan.

Walker is a suburb of Grand Rapids.

In many American schools, police officers patrol the hallways and man metal detectors in hopes of deterring the youthful criminal element from bringing firearms to school. Drug-sniffing dogs pant and paw around student lockers and teachers practice “lock down drills” on par with maximum-security penitentiaries.

Katie Pennington, the principle at KHHS, threw an admirable hissy-fit when about sixty or so of her graduating seniors decided to bicycle to class en masse on the last day of school. Pennington harangued the kids for their “irresponsible conduct” and threatened to deny them attendance at their graduation ceremony.


Pennington and her minions of flying monkeys had decreed a “zero tolerance policy” for last day of school pranks. Pranks: Stuff like: toilet paper in the trees, lockers super-glued shut, and cherry bombs in the toilets…to outright

Principal Pennington

criminal conduct and vandalism such as: spray painting the school, breaking windows, and even beating up a hated teacher.

Pennington’s “irresponsible” young charges went so far as to ask a police officer to provide an escort for the bicycling students. Their ad hoc graduation bicycle parade was preceded by a golf cart and an enormous banner proclaimed eternal student pride in being alumni of the “Kenowa Hills High School Knights”.


[The Walker PD officer was later subjected internal investigation by its Chief of Police Catherine Garcia-Lindstrom for his “failure” to bring the planned bicycle ride to the attention of his bosses.]

It’s nuts! Most people realize it’s f-ing nuts.

So, Pennington and Garcia-Lindstrom will share this week’s Phyne Dyning T-Ball Award for Best Dramatic Performance.

Shared Justice Awards for Law Enforcement

Phyne Dyning awards its T-Ball Award for Justice to two Iowa law enforcement agencies:

The Chariton (Iowa) Police Department garnered its share of the award for retaining Sgt. Tyler Ruble on the force after complaints surfaced about Ruble allegedly tasing a mentally disturbed woman as his own form of punishment. The City of Chariton has refused to answer the complaint. It was later learned that Sgt. Ruble was the subject of Sheriff’s Department investigation for domestic assault with injury.

Des Moines Police Department is likely to remain a top contender for a share in the Phyne Dyning T-Ball Award for Justice…simply because its officers are becoming a regular feature of local news show crime beats.

No, the department isn’t profiled for solving cases. Rather, its officers are becoming regular fodder for indictments.

Chief Judy Bradshaw continues to keep a low profile after an active duty lieutenant and his wife, a former DMPD officer were indicted on fraud charges involving real estate.

Congratulations, Chief Bradshaw, you’re a winner!

Old Chinese saying: Fish rot from the head down.

Speaking of head…

Des Moines Public Schools Superintendent, Nancy Sebring, sounds like a fun gal.

According to steamy emails Sebring sent via school technology, Sebring carried on an extramarital affair and detailed some of her bedroom gymnastics and fantasies in those emails.

Sebring had just resigned from her DMPS position and accepted the role of fearless leader for the Omaha schools.

Hell hath no fury like an Iowan scorned seems to be at play here.

The Des Moines Register wasted no time in releasing details from Sebring’s erotic email account.

Sebring had already resigned and there was no public interest in releasing the emails, except for their titillation value. Phyne Dyning surmises that the Register was playing a game of, “If Des Moines can’t have her, we’ll set it up so Omaha won’t take her.”

Absent of such mal-intent, the publication of Sebring’s erotic fantasies was, at the least, mean-spirited action by the folks at the Register.

Sebring subsequently resigned from her new job in Omaha.

So much for the fair-mindedness of Iowa.

In recognition of the Register’s above and beyond the call of (yellow) journalism with regard to Ms. Sebring, Phyne Dyning is pleased to award the Des Moines Register the Phyne Dyning T-Ball Award for Journalism.

 There they are: This week’s winners at American T-Ball.

Remember, the standards for winning are minimal…okay, they’re non-existent. So, stand up for mediocrity everywhere by vying for your very own Phyne Dyning T-Ball Award!