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Libertarian Batman: A play in three acts.

In Lifestyle on August 28, 2012 at 3:39 pm

[The Phyne Dyner talks about his attempt to have a rare, quiet Shabbat dinner consisting of a rarely enjoyed piece of grilled steak and all the trimmings. It had been a good week, punctuated by a visit to his friends at Nagi’s Mediterranean Market and an equally enjoyable visit with folks at Russ’ Optical. The former was a trip to replenish the supply of Sicilian lemon juice. The latter, was to look at men’s eyeglass frames that did not look like row upon row of black, grey, and brown rectangles…marketed to the Amish.]

Epilogue

A man wakes up in the night to hear the sounds of an obvious break-in coming from the tool shed behind his house. He dials 9-1-1 and asks for police assistance. The 9-1-1 Operator responds in a monotone: “I’m sorry. We have no available officers. Someone will assist you as soon as possible. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

The man arms himself and confronts the burglar. Holding the miscreant on the ground at pistol-point, he makes a second call to 9-1-1. “Never mind sending an officer. Send the coroner. I shot the intruder and I need someone to come and get the carcass.

Within minutes, a phalanx of SWAT officers and ten patrol cars converge on the homeowner. A police helicopter, its searchlight blazing, hovers overhead.

“The dispatcher said you shot the guy”, a cop says as the burglar and homeowner are placed in manacles.

“Yeah, well, she’s a lying b*tch. She told me that she had no available officers.”

Chapter One – Shabbos Interruptus

We had just uncorked the wine. The introductory songs to greet the Shabbat had just rolled off of our tongues. Our greyhound pranced around the table, hoping for another bit of Shabbat bread.

Suddenly, a black form flapped into the dining room from my study and the patio beyond.

“B-b-bat!” I yelled.

My wife looked at me suspiciously. She was in no mood for pranks. Her workplace was finishing almost four months of short staffing. She was tired from her week and just wanted to eat in peace.

Just then, the bat flitted over her head. At the time, it looked as big as a condor. Her eyes flew open and she jumped to her feet, screaming, “What do we do?”

I yelled for my wife to close all of the doors and to secure the dog in a bedroom. I told her to open the sliding door onto the patio deck. The first rule is always “contain the threat”. Hopefully, the bat would fly back outside, to its own Shabbat feast of mosquitoes and leave me to enjoy my steak.

My wife scampered through the house implementing my “battle stations” instructions. I kept an eye on the bat.

The winged plague (known rabies carriers) skittered into the kitchen and affixed itself to some wall art. We eyed each other from ten paces.

Her tasks completed, my wife returned to my side, always the faithful executive officer asking, “Sir. What are your orders?”

“What do we do?” my wife asked in a trembling voice.

“Jeez, do I look like friggin’ Marlin Perkins?”

My “Woman of Valor” grabbed a telephone and the telephone book. “I’m calling animal control.”

“Great idea!”

A few minutes later, the bat remained on his art-deco perch and my wife hissed that there was “No !#$$%@ entry” for animal control in the phone book. “I’m calling 9-1-1” she announced.

I heard fragments of the resulting call. Those fragments told me that the Woman of Valor was unhappy.

“They said animal control goes home at 5pm and they don’t have anyone on call. I asked what I should do and the operator told me to try calling them in the morning. Other than that, she said I could always try one of the private pest removal companies.”

Likely, the unionized dogcatchers were fatigued after a full week of playing computer solitaire and needed some R&R time to recover and catch their breath. They left promptly, according to their contract, at 5pm each night.

[Note: In truth, the city abandoned its own animal control several years ago. Now, a volunteer-based animal rescue group “provides” dogcatching services to the city. These are not “real” volunteers, they volunteer only during convenient hours. Therefore, I pretend to pay my taxes, and the city pretends to provide me with services. Just like in the old USSR.]

Now, I have lived in some pretty far-flung places that some would regard to be located on the skin just inside the anal opening of the Republic. All of them had poorly groomed guys with bad dental hygiene who were employed by the hamlet as “Animal Control Officers”. Des Moines, Iowa has a little under 400,000 inhabitants, paved bicycle trails, city swimming pools by the dozen, and a plethora of obese and waddling female clerks. I was incredulous that there was no animal control at night or on weekends.

Removing rabid bats from citizen’s homes seemed, to me, to be a bit higher on the city services priority list than are bicycle trails. It’s a public health issue. I paid $250,000 to a private medical school where I learned that rabies is a bad hombre…100% fatal once symptoms develop.

Intra Acte

[This was not my first experience with the sloth of 9-1-1 operators. I returned home one afternoon to see a scruffy young man hiding in my neighbor’s bushes. He attempted to walk nonchalantly to the street. Every time a car approached, he ducked down behind a parked car. Or, he would run up and hide in bushes surrounding a home if he had time to do so. I called 9-1-1.

“Oooo, that sounds really suspicious” said the operator in a mocking tone. Only after I secured her name and ID number did she promise to dispatch an officer to my neighborhood. The patrol car never showed up. F*ck 9-1-1.]

Chapter Two – Capitalism Unmasked

My wife picked up her phone. I kept eyes on the bat.

The telephone book informed her of a company willing to remove bats and they also listed the availability of an offered “emergency service”. A potentially rabid bat in the house fits my definition of emergency. My wife dialed the number and got an answering service.

“They promised someone would call very shortly.”

That was nearly twenty minutes ago. My wife re-called the answering service. She got a lecture on patience.

Capitalist Batman

“F*ck patience. There’s a goddam likely rabid bat in my house.”

The line went dead after she got another lecture.

Twenty minutes passed. I took the phone from my wife and dialed the number.

It went downhill quickly. I heard all about “policy”, mission statements about “dedicated service” and nothing about Billy Bob or Jimmy Joe coming to remove the flippin’ bat. The contentious twenty-five minute verbal exchange ended when my call waiting informed me that the privateer dogcatcher, Billy Bob, had finally deigned to call.

“I’ll be happy to come get your bat”, the man identifying himself as “Wade”, said politely. “But you may not like the price.”

“How much?”

“Three-hundred and eighty-nine dollars, plus tax.”

“It’s a bat. Not a grizzly bear.”

“I know”, he sounded apologetic and understanding, “…the rates really jump after 9pm. I’m really sorry about not getting to you sooner. We’re getting fifty calls a night. It’s bat season. Like I said, the rates really go up the later it gets.”

I looked at the clock and quickly deduced why the return call was so slow in coming. I also did some quick math as I watched the still-unmoving bat.

“Holy buckets, Wade, that’s a butt-load of money from bats.”

“Oh, I only go out on about ten calls per season. People don’t want to pay almost $400.”

In my best, bored 9-1-1 Operator tone I replied mockingly, “Yeah, damn cheapskate consumers.”

[This drives home my points made to Dr. LaBaume and the falseness of the “capitalism” part of “anarcho-capitalism”. Where are the legions of competing bat-removal companies? If human “evil-doers” are substituted for “bats”, this is a micro-lesson on how von Miseans fail to grasp reality. They bring to my mind, the homely girls with the stringy hair and the perpetual pimple on their forehead, who were defaulted into staying home to read “Atlas Shrugged”. Their prettier peers went out on dates and had a shaggingly good time and the homely girls wound up believing in the Randian cult of “Objectivism” until their dutifully protected girl-parts dried up in middle age. F*ck capitalism.]

Chapter Three – Batman Rises

Wade and I chatted amiably for a few minutes. We discussed the pros and cons of different bat-capturing techniques. I thanked him for his time and he bid me success (and safety) as he took leave so I could deal with the flying, (likely rabid) mammalian interloper in my kitchen.

My “Woman of Valor” looked at me warily. “So, is he coming?”

“No. We’re on our own.”

She looked pissed, but her executive officer demeanor returned quickly. “What will you do?” (“What are your orders?”)

“What would John Galt do?” I asked in reply.

She held up a middle finger.

I retrieved my heavy lineman’s gloves, a huge plastic jug with a screw top, and put on my heavy, canvas and waxed barn coat. No bat, short of Dracula, could bite through my armor.

A few minutes later, the bat glared at me with its beady eyes from within his plastic execution chamber. He would never fly free again. I screwed the top on and pitched the jug, avec le bat, into the dumpster. I closed the sliding door and locked it. No more bat visitors until I got around to finding where the last one got in.

I sat down and finished my, now stone-cold, steak dinner in pissed off silence. My wife picked at her plate, tunelessly humming the Batman Theme.

Postscript

Self-reliance rules the day. The state coddles its listless voluptuaries with amusements, bike trails, and pogey-bait for the Yuppies. In the vacuum left when the state abandons the common cause, predatory capitalism takes root, or libertarian socialism (voluntary, shared, mutual assistance) steps up.

It’s a mixed bag for the self-reliant individual. We are cajoled by the state into setting aside the emergency provisions we may need to care for ourselves for up to seventy-two hours. We put aside more than just the officially recommended dozen cans of tuna…

…and worry if our preparedness will be perceived by the state as “a military-style stockpile”.

F*ck bats.

From the Flyover Press: “Society in a Collapsing Empire”

In Lifestyle on August 28, 2012 at 11:51 am

[Dr. Jimmy T. “Gunny” LaBaume runs up an anarcho-captialist flag from atop his hill at Flyover Press (quicklink at the top of this page). “The Gunny” is a retired full professor of economics (Sul Ross State University) and he presents economic philosophy in a way designed not to make the reader’s eyes glaze over. LaBaume concluded just under thirty years (months short of full retirement) in the United States Marine Corps. As he puts it, “I got tired of committing treason.” LaBaume and I agree on many things and we disagree on many others. His offerings are not for the timid or for those who have been conditioned to recoil at the use of “forbidden” words. His personally authored material is thought provoking and he does yeoman’s work to glean a variety of work from libertarian writers and present those works to his readers. In gentlemanly fashion, LaBaume has graciously given Phyne Dyning permission to re-publish articles, such as the following piece. Phyne Dyning has reciprocated with permission for Flyover Press to re-publish its libertarian ramblings as well.]

 

Society in a Collapsing Empire

Morris Berman is a prolific writer on the social decline of the American Colossus and a fellow expat to Mexico. In Dark Ages America and Why America Failed: The Roots of Imperial Decline, he details the sordid mess the empire finds itself in. His conclusion is true; there will be no happy ending. At least, not for the indoctrinated, self-centered, materialist masses who failed to note the writing on the wall.
Indeed, without valiant role models, today’s youth have degenerated into a pack of animals, not surprisingly since they are taught that they are animals. Not unlike how the US Government uses social networking to overthrow foreign regimes, teenagers trash and rob businesses by the hundreds in coordinated Facebook fashion.
Quoting social scientists before him, Berman begins with the hustler mentality of the average American and the solitary goals of self-indulgence and compulsive consumerism. Where once there were family, friends and culture now resides a “technopoly” or a “totalitarian technocracy” which “eliminates everything else”.
[Editor’s Note: Self-indulgent narcissism is best exemplified in “social media” like Twitter and Facebook. Friends are no longer real people with whom we have built rapport and common ground. Instead, “friends” are now collected like Boy Scout merit badges on a Facebook page. Small businesses and megacorporations, even funeral homes, pester Facebook users to “like” their business and, thereby, create a virtual scalp for the business to dangle from its saddle.]
Where people are treated like machines and cultural life forms bequeathed to the “sovereignty of technology.” Where if one is not very careful, the virtual world and (social) network lead one to isolation “because if you are at home alone with a screen, that’s where you are.” Where brain function takes on the characteristics of the telecommunication device. Where the Internet teaches malleable users to skim read and not contemplate, permanently fragmenting the thought process and ability to attach oneself to a thought or idea. Yes, we are all guilty at times of being sucked into the Internet Matrix. Nevertheless, a studies point out the obvious: “people who are constantly online can develop mental disorders“.
[Editor’s Note: The corporatocracy has co-opted computer programmer language and has inserted it into the workplace lexicon. Workers (machines) are exhorted to “network” and “multi-task”. MilitarySpeak from the plutocracy’s imperial legions has invaded the vernacular as well. People and things are not “placed” or “sent”. They are “deployed”.]
Essentially, we get a nation of aggressive, rude, zombie, techno-boor buffoons. Berman contrasts the clash-of-civilizations between the Civil War North and South. One can spy the same differences between a place like the USSA and Mexico today, although even that is rapidly in a state of flux. The Northerner robot is “coldly burning spirit, tenacious, egotistic, cold” and with “frozen imagination.”
Comparing this mentality, I recall passing through O’Hare airport recently. I asked a food stand operator and her co-worker, who had the register open and was counting currency, if she would give me a dollar’s worth of change so I could make a phone call the old fashioned way. She immediately went into an incoherent rant, something about “no authorization…manager” and that I had to make a purchase.
[Editor’s Note: How true! Dare to ask a robotnik clerk to make some sort of concession to make a sale and he/she will immediately launch into a tirade about “policy”. I vow, in my next employee-driven enterprise, to fire any staffer who dares to utter “It’s policy” to a customer.]
In Mexico I recall a $2.50 taxi ride I once took to work where the driver so enjoyed our conversation on life in America that he waived the cab fare, which I of course paid.
Americans today eye one another with dollars signs, asking what’s in it for them. True compassion and care for the other can be a rarity. You get fired from your job for saving lives, such as this lifeguard on a Florida beach. I have also witnessed immigrants from traditional societies convert to this ruthless religion of money worship. Instead of giving freely or accepting gifts without thought, they would in all seriousness ask: “why is this person giving me this, what is it they really want?”
Berman notes how “social gatherings in the North invariably have an agenda” with an “ulterior motive lurking behind it and that motive is business.” Down here in the Mexican South, we’re just happy to break bread with one another, no strings attached.
[Editor’s Note: I noticed this phenomenon in Israel where strangers share a trestle table in a restaurant or bar. Nothing is expected, except a place to sit, and the proximity of other diners is not regarded as an opportunity to “network”. I learned this the hard way many years ago when I smiled broadly and introduced myself to an Israeli couple who sat across from me at such a table. “We’re here to listen to music and enjoy our beer…” the man said “…not to have a business meeting.”
 The future belongs to those who are civilized, honorable and practical, like this young teenager who is building his own home with his own two hands. It also belongs to the benevolent. Go buy that troubled man on the street a hot meal and have a chat with him. Remember to do something nice for someone every day, it will bring joy, laughter and add an extra day to your life. Demonstrate to the state that private charity beats out government handouts, especially when a country like the USSA decides in its usual grand inept fashion to do stupid things like “promote American food assistance programs among Mexican nationals.”
[Editor’s Note: And there it is! The future does belong to those who are civilized, honorable, and practical. Stop having money drafted from your pay for the United Fund and, instead, practice individual and personal charity directly to those in need. Get to know the impoverished, the suffering, and the marginalized. They do not exist because you, in a benevolent moment of isolated guilt, make a check mark on an HR authorization for a deduction from pay. PPS: Here is an area where I must disagree with the author. Poor, is poor. The location where an unfortunate was born does not impact their eligibility to get charity from me. A person’s allegiance should not be based upon where he/she emerged from the womb. “Citizenship” is automatic branding of ownership by the state.]

The “Little Corporal” Syndrome

In Editorial on August 28, 2012 at 10:56 am

[I recently ended my two-year old moratorium on Wal Mart that was triggered by the chain’s “partnership” with Big Sis Napolitano’s Department of Homeland Security (Sieg Heil!). The widely touted program of “If you see something, say something” never fully materialized and Napolitano’s leering face vanished from Wal Mart video screens without the sounding of trumpets. Wal Mart is staffed, and patronized, by scrabbling masses simply trying to get by on the pittance left after the ruling class is finished pilfering from the worker’s purse.]

 

In the years after the Holocaust, good people pondered a central question. It was not, “How could human beings design genocide?” Instead, they asked, “How could the people who committed mass murder bring themselves to do it?”

The question was answered well over forty years ago in the now famous Milgram and Stanford experiments. Nice people are capable of doing terrible things if they believe there is a rational reason to do terrible things and if a person in authority tells them it is necessary for them to commit the terrible act. Egged on by the authoritarians, wholesome people willingly follow instructions of, “You must do it. It is in the interest of the whole. And, it is for the good of the person you are hurting.”

And then there are those whom Holocaust researcher and author, Daniel Goldhagen called “willing executioners” and the “ordinary men” of whom his peer, Christopher Browning, wrote. (“Hitler’s Willing Executioners” – Goldhagen and “Ordinary Men” – Browning)

A homicidal state (a redundant term) recruits its most willing of willing executioners from the ranks of, as I call them, “Little Corporals”.

In any military organization, soldiers having the rank of corporal sit perched upon the lowest rung of authority. For the functional, but intellectually challenged, corporal is as high as they will ever rise in the military hierarchy. Content to simply follow orders and perform the least amount of work possible, these individuals do not see themselves as being marginally fit for leadership roles. They perceive their status as one of honor and, above else, an authority with a minimum of responsibility.

Little corporals exist outside of the military environment as well. They are the minions of bureaucrats, content to follow orders and lord their authority over others.

A good friend of mine lives in a sleepy, West Texas town of about seven thousand souls. He had business to conduct at city hall and swept past a sign resting on a tripod just inside the doors that essentially ordered all comers to, “Sign In & State Your Business”. Perched on a dunce stool next to the sign, was a uniformed policewoman.

When my friend breezed past the sign, the blue-suited goon-ette stirred from her perch and informed him, “Everyone must sign in.”

My friend responded with impeccable logic: “Is there a law mandating me to sign in? Who made this law? When did we vote on the law? Why would there be a law ordering me, one of the seven thousand owners of this building, to sign a roster simply to visit one of the people in the building who, essentially, work for me?” He then told the goon-ette to call her boss and inform him that she was arresting a citizen for failing to sign the building’s guest register. He concluded his business within, asked if he was free to go, and departed unmolested and un-shot.

He got off easy for his transgression. It is the little corporals who will shoot someone over any disobedience to their gods of authority.

One subtype of little corporals rises from the masses of marginalized and brutalized. This phenomenon, according to Holocaust researchers, created the capo system within concentration camps. It also led to Jews willing to join the Jewish Ghetto Police.

“It is far better to rule in Hell, than to serve in Heaven” they rationalized.

It is not from only the bullied where little corporals have their origins. These are individuals who have never been trusted with authority, but worship authority as though it were a living, breathing deity. This subtype of little corporal is the most dangerous of the two.

They are eager to please and will follow any illogical edict, issued by their beloved masters, with precision and ruthlessness. They are trained attack dogs who are willing to rip other human beings apart for a bit of liver treat or a pat on the head.

As with all things, little corporals exist as hybrids and they are the most abundant of the species. My wife and I ran into one over the past weekend.

Bent on enjoying a celebratory steak supper, we dallied into a local Wal Mart after we noticed we were out of charcoal. We purchased a twenty-pound bag of charcoal and a few small items as well. The smaller items were placed in a plastic sack by the clerk and the coal rested, un-bagged, in the front of the basket. We prattled on as we made our way to “Checkpoint Charlie” at the store’s exit.

At the checkpoint, stood a man-child of about seventeen. He wore black trousers and a white golf shirt. [Note: The next genocide will not be carried out by men wearing serge uniforms and tall boots. The killers will wear neat, little golf shirts with a logo or a clever acronym stenciled on its back.] At the child’s waist, fastened to his belt, rode a police-style radio connected to an ear-bud microphone. A few, sparse tangles of peach fuzz hung from his chin and, on his head, was perched an unnaturally glowing blond tangle of hair in the style of the alleged Batman Movie mass murderer.

Juggulos

This Joker had opted for a more Aryan-Juggulo look.

The boy stepped in front of my cart and I drew it back to avoid colliding with his five-foot, four-inch form. Devoid of upper body mass, he did his best to thrust out his chest.

[Note: Homicidal states typically recruit the youth into the ranks of its little corporals. The average age in Pol Pot’s murderous cadres was fourteen. Additionally, Wal Mart has a virtual no-prosecute policy for petty shoplifters stealing less than twenty dollars worth of merchandise. Like the grown up TSA goons they emulate, the exit guards at Wal Mart are all kabuki theater for the masses.]

“Do you have a receipt? I need to see your receipt!” he barked.

I heard, “Paperin Jude! Haben sie einen blauschein?”

Slowly, I reached into the pocket of my “man-bag” and pulled out a receipt. It was the wrong one.

“Do you, or do you not, have a receipt?” The boy glared at me and a sprig of the chrome-yellow hair flipped forward.

“Yes, it’s in my bag somewhere. I did not anticipate being accosted by the Wal Mart’s Hitler Youth and I so irresponsibly stuffed it in my bag. You’re not going to shoot me, are you?”

“You must show a receipt for any item not in a Wal Mart bag.”

My wife looked at him and observed with impeccable logic, “My purse isn’t in a bag and I don’t have a receipt.”

In reply, the child quirked his lip in annoyance and as if to say: “I’m in charge here. Do you not see my white golf shirt? Do you not see my radio and its ear-bud with which I can summon the killer angels?”

I looked at him with an amused expression. A man pushed a cart containing an un-bagged 48-inch flat-screen television past the checkpoint and its unnoticing sentinel. My equally un-bagged eight-dollar bag of charcoal was not the issue. The passing five hundred dollar television was not a concerning issue to the boy.

The issue was my disobedience and my failure to grovel to a little corporal. I am convinced that, had I just pushed past the kid and, were he armed, he would have shot me in the back and subsequently lied in an official report about a felonious assault on my part. “He had a heavy bag of charcoal. I was in fear for my life.”

After about ten minutes of painfully slow searching, I located the demanded receipt in an exterior pocket of my bag. The boy looked at it and glanced at me. Hatred and contempt burned in his blue eyes.

“Am I free to go. Or, will the Wal Mart SWAT team be here soon to haul me to a top secret Wal Mart gulag outside of Bentonville, Arkansas?”

“Yes, you may go.” The boy studied my face for the still-missing signs of submission to his authority. He showed no concern about the two-dozen shoppers (potential criminals all) who had breezed by his post while he interrogated me about the origin of my bag of charcoal.

As we passed through the exit, an elderly woman with a bird feeder pole approached the young Einsatzgrupper.

“Do you have a receipt for that?” he barked.

Blame it on the yase nobe…

In Recipies on August 20, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Yase nobe (yasseh NOH-be) is a variety of Japanese soups made with vegetables, fish, chicken, onion, and mushrooms (also pork and prawns, if non-kosher is okay) cooked at the table. It is akin to (identical) to suimono or, if noodles are used (as with Vietnamese pho or Chinese ramen), udon.

You say toe-MAY-toe, I say toe-MAH-toe.

The stuff is seriously good and the prep and cooking is a fun time for a small group of adults. (This can get dangerous AND messy for kids.)

My food history source tells me that this dish was a favorite of the nobles and samurai classes. The upper crust would eat the ingredients as they came out of the broth and the remainder (if any) was tossed into the broth and distributed to the servants and lower caste people.

Once you start cooking this, you’ll see how polite behavior was requisite around the samurai’s eating mat. Sake is a great accompaniment. But don’t get bokeh (mental haze) as it takes some dexterity to cook and eat this.

Today’s yase nobe can be cooked in a wok or in a very large electric fondue pot. It takes a reasonable amount of care not to get tangled in the cord or spill the alcohol burner while you cook. If you do, yell “BONZAI!” and then call the fire department or paramedics.

Like much of Japanese table cuisine, yase nobe gets extensive prep beforehand. The ingredients are cut, the broth is made, and the sauces are concocted and then moved to the table for cooking.

Each guest skewers (on a fondue fork or bamboo skewer) one or more ingredients and plunges it (them) into the simmering broth. After a minute or two, the food is withdrawn and dipped into a variety of sauces and allowed to cool. Tiny bowls of rice can accompany the meal and the foods are gently placed on the rice after dipping. When all of the ingredients have been cooked, the broth is divided among the guests and enjoyed as an après-dinner soup. It makes for a fun evening and one that can be challenging if guests enjoy traditional small cups of warm sake as part of the meal.

I use store-bought chicken or vegetable broth because my homemade broth often has herbs and spices (from the chicken carcass used to make it) that are not Japanese or would clash with Japanese stylings.

Another backbone ingredient is mirin.

Mirin is similar to sake, but with a slightly lower alcohol content. Incidentally, sake is actually a beer and not a wine. Mirin for the broth is hon mirin (“true” mirin) and mirin for the sauces is shio mirin (“salty” mirin). Non-alcoholic mirin, or mirin-gu chomiryo (“mirin-like seasoning”) may be substituted for either. If you lack access to mirin a sweet sauterne wine may be used.

Your list of ingredients should read like what is left at the bottom of your fridge at the end of the marketing week:

Meats: Chicken, beef, or pork.

Fish: Salmon, tuna, cod, whiting, etc.

Vegetables: Zucchini, turnips, carrots, green onion, bok choy, and mushrooms

Tofu, shrimp, crab, sweet potato, etc. can all be used.

Okay, let’s make some yase nobe!

2 qt chicken, vegetable, or fish broth (preferably unsalted)

½ C mirin (hon mirin)

pinch, white pepper

1” long piece of ginger, minced

1 garlic clove (optional), minced

3 C bok choy, chunks

1 turnip, peeled and cut into ¼” slices

4 carrots, peeled and cut into 2” matchsticks (thick)

8 green onions, white and pale green parts 4” long

8-12 mushrooms (white button or shitake), bite-size

2 whiting fillets, cut into bite-size pieces

1 8oz salmon fillet, cut into 1” cubes

1 4oz tuna steak, cut into ¾” cubes

1 small zucchini, halved and cut into 1” chunks

1 C (cooked) rice per guest

 Parboil the turnip and carrot sticks for 2-3 minutes. Reserve 2 ½ C of the cooking liquid. Run carrots and turnip under cold water and set aside.

In a medium saucepan combine: Vegetable-cooking liquid, mirin, broth, and ½ of the ginger and the garlic if using. Add pinch of white pepper. Bring to the gentle boil and remove from heat. Transfer the mixture to a wok or fondue and keep at a low simmer.

Prepare the dipping sauces and arrange the other ingredients on a decorative tray. Pass out skewers, forks, or chopsticks. HINT: Keep a pair of small tongs handy on a plate to rescue foods that fall off forks or skewers into the broth.

Sauce 1: 2 TBS mirin plus 2 TBS soy sauce

Sauce 2: 1 TBS wasabi powder plus lemon juice/water (50:50) to make thick paste

Sauce 3: 1 TBS rice vinegar, 1 tsp sugar, rest of the ginger

Put the sauces in small ramekins or dipping bowls.

Pass the tray of foods around the table and allow guests to cook what they like. Or, make up trays for each guest. Give each diner a bowl of rice. Pass the dipping sauces around as you go. While you wait for something to cook, sip a bit of warm sake and enjoy your guests. When the tray of food is cooked serve the broth in the rice bowls. If there is a bit of food left uncooked, toss it all in the pot and let it cook before serving.

TANOSHIMU! (“Have a good time!”)

“TANOSHIMU!”

Introducing: Flyover Press vs “My Cold Dead Hands”

In Editorial, General Information, Intro to Libertarianism, Shameless plug on August 19, 2012 at 5:21 pm

[Editor’s Note: Dr. Jimmy T. “Gunny” Labaume is a retired professor of economics. He struggled to survive almost 30 years as an imperial trooper in the Marines and finally ‘up and quit’ when, “I got tired of committing treason”. He writes passionately about individual freedom from the perspective of an anarcho-capitalist of the von Mises school. In a bit of irony, Labaum’s question, “What will it take?”, sounds much like what libertarian socialist, Mikhail Bakunin, was saying when he stated:

“Anyone who makes (only) plans for after the revolution is a reactionary.”

The point is: A lot of libertarians make (and write extensively about) bold designs for the world “after the state has been vanquished”, but they are often murky on how to bring about the end of the state or even how to live as freely as possible while the state still exists.]

Here it is, Phyne Dyners, your link to one line of subversive thought. I’ve known “Gunny” (Dr. Jimmy T.) Labaume for almost ten years. I’ve been an email subscriber to his “FlyoverPress” for almost as long. (You have to knock on his electronic door, and ask, to be put on his subscriber list.) A word of warning if you knock on that door and ask to be admitted to his online anarcho-capitalist university…

…If you are lukewarm about your natural rights or if you harbor sacred cows about the “necessity” of the state, you’re not going to enjoy his stuff. If certain words cause your panties to bunch up, do yourself a favor and go back to Rush or the Huffington Post.

Labaume and I agree on much and we disagree on quite a bit too. When we disagree, I have to give him credit for making me think.

In recent weeks, Labaume has been asking the “from my cold, dead hands” crowd, “What will it take? (For you to move from talking, to doing, in response to the growing police state.)

His question (challenge) made the hair stand up on the back of my neck: Was he advocating anti-government violence?

I have two rules of thumb about people who incite violence: 1) The inciter is either an agent of the state, or he is a useful idiot provocateur for the state; or, 2) The inciter is mentally unbalanced. Like everyone else, I get out of the way of a crazy man.

Then, I understood his challenge.

There are a lot of folks gussied up in t-shirts stamped with the Gadsden Flag. Go to any gun range and there’ll be at least 9 out of 15 shooters (universally obese and loud) carrying on about how they’ll blow “all them Yoo En bastards and their commie sympathizing slugs to Hell when they come for my guns”.

Labaume’s point was/is, “You’ve been fine with all of the other incursions on your liberty, so far. Why should I believe that you’ll even show up?”

It’s a good point.

Very few of the “cold dead hands” crowd ever bothered to send a sternly worded letter to the editor under their own names. They scrape and bow to the state for concealed carry permits. They submit to background checks to buy a gun. In short, there is not much in their history to suggest that, if the bullets fly, they’d show up, dressed up in their Cheaper Than Dirt surplus cammy-jammies with/or without their tricked out AR-15, AK, or SKS.

Compare the dismal record of the “from my cold dead hands” crowd of NRA members to the record of Megan Rice…err, make that Sister Megan Rice.

Sister Megan Rice (New York Times Photo)

Rice strongly believes in civil disobedience and has been arrested no less than 50 times for bucking the state on peace issues. Her last arrest was last week, when she and two companions broke into the Oak Ridge, Tennessee site where the central state assembles parts for its most fearsome nuclear weapons.

Two “youngsters”, aged 57 and 63, accompanied Sister Megan as she waited for the heavily armed facility guards; whom we are supposed to believe would magically intercept America-hating jihadists. (They had a hard time finding an elderly Catholic nun and two senior citizen hippies in tie-dye t-shirts!)

I’ll see your “Don’t tread on me” bumper sticker and raise you my 82 year-old nun. How big do your balls feel now?

Okay, I understand, we’re all pretty law-abiding (peaceful). We’ve got jobs, families, pets, and a bass boat. We’re not really looking forward to a stint in Uncle Barack’s Iron Bars Inn.

But can’t you do something to bolster your “cold dead hands” credibility?

I know, let’s start easy.

The latest, local state fundraiser involves the use of red light cameras and mobile (photo) speed traps. These “automated enforcement devices” are almost universally hated by libertarians. How can you fight back?

If the profit goes out of a venture, it will likely go away.

How?

Drive a consistent 5mph below the posted limit and stop making right turns on red.

Check your local vehicle code and you’ll learn that “right on red” is not mandatory. Your state law likely says (as here in Iowa) you “may” turn right on red, not “shall” turn right on red. Then, stop making right turns on red at ALL stop lights (You never know where the next state fund-raiser will be!)

The mook behind you is laying on the horn? So what? Let him get a ticket because the goon behind the camera isn’t cutting breaks that day.

Driving 5mph protects you pretty well against getting a speeding ticket. All we have is the word of a bureaucrat who says there’s an 11mph “grace” before tickets are generated.

“Hey guys! We’re running a little short on the budget, let’s cut the grace to 7mph and just not tell anyone.”

Think they won’t do it?

Let the jerk in the car behind you, the one flashing his lights and “drafting” you like a NASCAR racer, pass you up and get the ticket.

You can even put on your camo and yell, “Sic semper tyrannis!” or “Wolverines!” if you need feel like Mad Max or a real freedom fighter.

The point is, do something. Just taking one step in the cause of something you believe will make you bolder to take the next step.

Nuns know this.

Now, let’s up the ante:

Uncle Barack made sure we’ll all have health insurance. Uncle Barack wants his health plan to be streamlined and efficient.

About 50% of Americans, and about 99% of “cold dead hands” people don’t want Uncle Barack running the colonoscopy clinic.

At the same time, Uncle Barack wants all doctors and other providers to have easily accessed electronic medical records. Eventually, Uncle Barack hopes to “securely store” your medical records in his kryptonite-lined safe, right next to the Federal Reserve notes in helicopter-ready bags…

And probably guarded by the same jokers who couldn’t find the aging hippies or a nearly mummified nun as they read Psalms and hung up peace banners at a nuke facility.

Sounds like a health plan that the “cold dead hands” guys would probably not want to see happen.

What to do? What to do?

Let’s start by obfuscating the system.

If your doc is using electronic records, take some time to make sure his records are accurate. At your next appointment, take about an hour or two to fill in all of the blanks. Be sure the clinic is full of sick people first. Go back and change your answers a few times. Ask LOTS of questions of the doctor’s staff.

“I once had a boil on the end of my penis. Is that a sign of something I should put down?”

You get the idea?

Next?

Encourage people not to vote in the upcoming presidential (s)election.

The lesser of two evils is still an evil, no? If you can’t go into a voting booth without holding your nose, don’t go in.

It is not (yet) against the law not to vote. C’mon, this is easy stuff!

Keep a little journal of your acts of civil disobedience. Bring it to the next match at the gun range. Pull it out of one of the many pockets on your wannabe BDUs and pass it around.

Maybe then, just maybe, you’ll have some credibility.

Until then, a nun owns your ass.

Phyne Dyning evaluates: Pet Rider (as seen on TV)

In Reviews on August 14, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Dogs love riding in cars and the Pet Rider seat protector seems like an as seen on TVproduct that just couldn’t miss. After all, dog hair is scientifically designed to, unlike Super Glue, stick to anything forever. If only the heat-resistant tiles on the space shuttle were attached by using dog hair.

The trunk of the car is where old bed sheets go when they die. They are periodically resurrected for a trip to the vet or whenever one of the hounds gets a car ride. A sheet, draped haphazardly on the seat, offers some protection from dog hair, slobber, and the gobs of “stuff” greyhounds can pack between their toes.

When I saw the Pet Rider, late one evening on the tee-vee, I thought it would replace the 30 (or so) sheets we’ve kept for dog use. Its $10 price made it a candidate for a Phyne Dyning test ride.

The results were…meh.

Pet Rider is not a bad product and it’s not a great product either.

The packaging says the Pet Rider “fits every car and SUV”. This is true.

What the package (or the tee-vee advertising) doesn’t say is, “Pet Rider may not attach to the seats of every vehicle.

Unless your car has rear seat headrests, or some other do-dad to loop the Pet Rider securing straps to, you end up draping it over the seat in identical fashion to those deceased bed sheets.

Not good.

The material seems sturdy and the workmanship (probably Chinese slave labor) is adequate. The zipper zips and the hook and loop closures (for seat belt fasteners) work well. The securing straps seem underpowered and it’s possible that the weight of a very large dog would simply tear them loose.

Maybe. Maybe not.

Perhaps the biggest flaw in the Pet Rider is…

…Oooo, that smell!

The fabric has an overpowering chemical odor that is akin to the smell of melted rubber with a few mothballs thrown in.

As I worked for about an hour to find something to affix the Pet Rider’s securing straps to, my throat began to burn and I got a slight headache. The doors were open and there was a decent, little breeze. I can only imagine the strength of the odor in a hot car with the windows rolled up.

In fairness to the Pet Rider, the smell is not unique to it. We bought a collapsing wagon at Costco for use at area farmer’s markets. The cloth on the wagon had that same smell. So, despite our intent to store the handy cart in the back seat of the truck, we ended up storing it in the garage.

After discounts and coupons, I paid about five bucks for the Pet Rider. My truck has rear seat headrests and the A/C quit working years ago. The open windows should help with the smell and the Pet Rider fits and fastens perfectly. And, unfolded, it lines the trunk of the car nicely for those annual trips to redeem beverage bottles. Its usefulness (barely) outweighs the benefits of returning the thing for a refund.

Would I pay $10 to $25 for the Pet Rider? Nope.

But if you can find Pet Rider for five bucks or less, buy one.

Get stuffed…vegetables!

In Recipies on August 8, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Garden vegetables are in full swing at the house de Phyne Dyning. Our own produce is coming in from our microgarden and generous friends and neighbors have been sharing their bounty with us as well. The cucumbers are slowing up a bit, but the tomatoes and eggplant are just getting ready for liftoff. The birdies are eyeballing our row of sunflowers in anticipation of the oily seeds they’ll produce.

The “problem”, faced by many hobby gardners, is what to do with so many vegetables coming available so suddenly?

A lot of folks serve stuffed vegetables. The stuffing often adds ground meat or, at least, chickpeas, for texture. This recipe, from a friend in Israel, uses a stuffing made from parts removed from the vegetables when they are hollowed out.

A large zucchini presents a dilemma for summer cooks. Called “marrows”, they can be seedy and tough and cooking one whole often gives a result on par with a football filled with oatmeal. Removing the innards from a marrow and then cooking it down with other vegetables, spices, and herbs drives out the excess moisture and yields a very tasty filling for a big zucchini.

A word of warning: This recipe makes enough to feed an army of hungry kibbutzniks. It doesn’t freeze well either. So plan on having multiple days where the dish is either the main course for a meal, or where a stuffed vegetable shares a plate as a side dish. Another warning: This can be a fair amount of work to prepare. It’s a modest meal, but it is not something you will want to whip up after a day of hard work.

Stuffed veggies can be flavored with a wide variety of herbs and spices. You can either make one version with which to fill the hollowed vegetables, or you can divide up the innards and flavor them with single spices (or herbs), or a combination of herbs and spices. Yes, it’s that versatile!

Here are a few suggested herb/spice pairings: Cumin and turmeric, curry powder, cinnamon and cardamom, cardamom and curry, oregano, oregano and basil, or just basil. If you can find ras al hanout (a Moroccan spice blend), try mixing ½ tsp of it with a generous pinch of allspice or cinnamon. It makes a wonderful, Moroccan-inspired meal.

Or, be inventive and mix up something you might like.

When I make stuffed vegetables, I select veggies that are on the large side. They are easier to hollow out and they’re easily cut into portions so everybody can have a little of everything from the pot.

Let’s state making some stuffed veggies!

You’ll need:

1 marrow (zucchini 3-4” dia) cut into 3-4” lengths

1-2 large, sweet onions (peeled)

1-2 sweet red (and/or green) pepper

1-2 large baking potatoes, scrubbed

4 large garlic cloves, mashed

4 TBS tomato paste

1 large tomato, diced

1 TBS chopped parsley (or cilantro)

4 TBS olive oil

2 TBS lemon juice

herbs and spices (from the above list)

salt and pepper

Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling. Add the potatoes and cook for about 2 minutes. Then, add the onions and cook for another 5 minutes. Finally, add the marrow and cook for an additional 5 minutes. The vegetables should be barely tender. [NOTE: I had a bit of success cooking the potatoes in a microwave on the “baked potato” setting and stopping the cooking a bit early.] Remove the vegetables from the water to a large platter and allow them to cool. While the veggies are cooling, mash up the garlic, core the peppers (by slicing off their tops and chopping the tops), and chop up the herbs.

When the cooked vegetables are cool enough to handle, use a small spoon or vegetable corer to remove their centers, leaving their walls about 3/8” to ½” thick. [A melon baller works great!] You may have to carefully use a knife to ‘work up’ the insides of the onions and potatoes for removal. BE CAREFUL! Reserve all of the removed into a large bowl.

 Pre-heat an oven to 375-400F.

Stir the garlic, tomato paste, diced tomato, herbs and spices, parsley and cilantro, and 2 TBS of the olive oil into the bowl of veggie innards and add the chopped pepper tops. Mix well by tossing gently. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.

Arrange the hollowed out vegetables into an oiled oven-safe baking dish or pan. Use a spoon to fill each vegetable with the seasoned, spiced, and herbed veggie innards. Spoon any left over vegetable mixture around the stuffed vegetables. Splash the lemon juice over each stuffed vegetable and season the tops with a bit of salt and pepper. Finally, pour (or spoon) the remaining olive oil over each stuffed vegetable.

Bake the vegetables for 40-45 minutes, or until the stuffed vegetables are tender. If the stuffed peppers are getting too soft, remove them and set them aside until service. The oiled tops of the stuffing should turn a pleasant, golden brown when it is done.

Serve with hard bread or pita to sop up the juices.

[COOK’S TIP! I am becoming very fond of “tomato paste in a tube”. It always seems like I never use a full can of tomato paste and freezing it was a hassle. The stuff in a tube solves the problem. You must use the paste, once opened, within 3 weeks of opening. But that’s fine…I use tomato paste regularly.]

Land of the (not so) free…

In Editorial on August 7, 2012 at 3:44 pm

The United States the highest documented incarceration rate in the world, according to the International Centre for Prison Studies. In 2009 the United States had an incarceration rate of 730 prisoners for every 100,000 citizens.

“Freedom hating places” like Iran had 333 per 100,000 and the People’s Republic of China had 122 per 100,000. China has, roughly, four times the population of the United States and you are less likely to be snatched off the street by the mutaween (Iranian religious police) than you are to be snatched off the street by one of America’s crime-fighting heroes.

The “they hate us for our freedoms” refrain appears to be pretty hollow. Maybe, just maybe, they hate us because they’re afraid of our government? Maybe they don’t want US-style justice because US-style justice…isn’t justice?

And, as though it weren’t bad enough to be hauled off to the calaboose for playing dice, the good ole US of A has brought back that Dickens favorite, the Debtor’s Prison.

Gold old days!

The Wall Street Journal (2011) reported that two-thirds of the “free” states within the United States permit delinquent debtors to be jailed for not paying their bills. Even more problematic, is that the paperwork used by banks to shuffle folks off to the workhouse, are filled with inaccuracies and errors.

Ooopsie!

Other prisoners are consigned to empire dungeons simply because they dare to disagree with a bureaucrat.

Take the case of Michael Salman.

Salman, a born-again Christian who found Jesus (metaphorically) in prison, endeavored to build up a ministry and build a church in Phoenix, Arizona. His neighbors objected and Salman he became embroiled in a fight with them. His “nice” neighbors made fun of his jailhouse conversion and they hooted and pointed at his past as a gang member.

Let me get this straight.

A gang-banger goes to prison, gets religion, becomes a pastor, builds a church…

…and this is a bad thing?

Isn’t that what convicts are supposed to do? The early American model for jails and penitentiaries gave the convict a Bible and plenty of time to study it. They called their churchy jails, “reformatories”.

To be clear, Salman was not sent to Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s “Tent City” and forced to wear Sheriff Joe’s trademark pink undies because he was building a church.

Crazy man with a gun.

[It is worth mentioning that Arpaio built up an enormous sheriff’s posse where volunteers can assist Sheriff Joe with traffic control or they can elect to help Arpaio with his investigation into the birth certificate of President Barack Obama. Yes, Arpaio is that f*ckinig nuts and he carries a gun.]

Salman was sent to Arpaio’s gulag because he persisted in holding church services and Bible study at his house, which did not comply with building codes, as required for churches.

The thinking of the court that sent Salman to jail must have gone along these lines:

“He’s a reformed gang member with a history of gun violence. He thumbed his nose at a judge who ordered him to comply with codes. Let’s send him to jail where he can re-associate with gang members and violent men.”

Yeah, that’ll teach him.

[It is worthwhile to point out that the majority of the inmates held in the inhumane conditions in Arpaio’s Tent City have not been convicted of any crime. They are waiting for their turn at the American court (“Bring those guilty bastards in here.”) system.]

Hey, what’s a good police state without a few sadistic jailers to keep the inmates in line?

So, re-capping for readers:

America has more prison inmates than any other country in the world. To become a guest within the walls of those prisons you can: kill someone, rob someone, fail to pay a bill, or willfully refuse to put ground fault intercepting plug-ins in your bathroom.

Yessiree, it makes me mad enough want to write a letter to my senator in favor of ‘Murica marching off to deal with those freedom hating, slanty-eyed Iranians!

I don’t need much…

In Intro to Libertarianism, Lifestyle on August 7, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Let’s regulate ourselves into freedom?

[Government exists solely for one group of people to control others against their will. Whenever someone has the inner drive to control someone, they often ask their fellow citizens to justify the “need” to possess some item or perform some act. Most often, these folks have already decided there is no legitimate need for someone to own something or do something they don’t own or do themselves. It is an absurd thought process to believe that regulation of other people should be based on whether or not you, yourself, “need” something. As a male, I have no need for tampons. But, because I have no legitimate need for tampons, should the state prohibit me from owning or buying a “a stockpile” of tampons?]

One of my close friends is a party line Democrat. I hesitate to call him a liberal, since his political philosophy is not liberal; he is a true believer in the state. Despite the chasm that separates our political beliefs, we are good friends and we enjoy our email-based discussions. Current events make for fodder in nearly every one of them.

[So as not to pick on my state-worshiping Democrat friends, I will stipulate that an significant percentage of state-worshiping Republicans are guilty of what I’m about to disparage below.]

The killings in Aurora, Colorado dominated for a while. Then, we moved on. The subject of killing again took center stage after a gunman attacked Milwaukee Sikhs as they assembled for worship in their temple.

“For the life of me”, wrote my friend, “I don’t understand gun people.” He knows well that I am an avid target shooter and the subject of gun control is one that deeply divides us.

“Nobody needs assault rifles for anything except killing and, even if they can justify having a military-style weapon, they have no need for magazines holding hundreds of rounds.”

He lurched off to attack the flimsy nature of any stated need to possess 6,000 rounds of ammunition.

Sensitive to my beliefs, he closed with, “I know you don’t agree and that you own some of these things. I just don’t understand why you think that you need them. Do you, HONESTLY (sic) need them?”

I replied with one of my shortest, and now standard, answers to folks asking that same question:

“No. I do not need them.”

When he did not immediately reply, even to gloat in victory for “sensible gun control”, I almost called him to check on his welfare. I anticipated that my unexpected response may have been the final straw for his chronic heart condition.

I don’t need this.

That was yesterday.

No, I thought, I do not need guns…

…or anything else.

But, it’s obvious that a lot of people feel entitled to demand others to produce explanations of why they need any number of items.

Several months ago, we were guests at a tea hosted by friends. After we parked the aging Yom Kippur Klipper, our host asked, “Why do you need such a big pickup truck?”

When it came time to plant our container garden, I began looking for cheap five-gallon pails in which to grow a few veggies. I hunted around a discount store without success. Finally I asked a clerk where I might find some five-gallon buckets.”

“Maybe Home Depot. We do have 3-gallon pails. Why do you need five-gallon buckets?”

Don’t need this either.

When I was explaining to an elderly family member that I had been busily making and storing vegetable and chicken stock, she asked, “Why do you need so much stock?”

Listen to people these days:

“Pit bulls are dangerous dogs. I don’t know why anyone needs to have such a dog.”

“The speedometer on that motorcycle goes up to 160mph. Why does anyone need a bike capable of those kinds of speeds?”

…or this.

“That restaurant serves 32oz steaks. Why does anyone need that much food?”

“A 48oz take away soft drink. Nobody needs to have that much pop.

“Two people live in that 4800 square-foot house. Why do they think they need such a big place?”

“Why does anyone need 280 television channels?”

“Why do people need smart phones (an oxymoron)?”

…or this.

Usually, people asking “why do you need” have their own prejudices against whatever you use, buy, or favor and expect you to rise in defense and state a need, which they will evaluate for validity.

Don’t do it.

You’ll never satisfy them. They will simply swat away whatever justifications you state.

And, around-and-around-and-around you’ll go.

My friend didn’t reply, because there was nothing for him to reply to. If he had posed his question in person, I suspect my answer would have made his mouth work as frantically as the mouth on a beached carp.

There are a lot of people interested in why we need things they don’t need. And, because they are certain we don’t need them, they feel the need (oh, the irony) to restrict or ban us from having them…they call it “regulation”.

Let’s look at those five-gallon buckets.

I was planting an eggplant in one when I looked at the 24-font, Arial Boldwarnings plastered on its side. For folks with short attention spans, a graphic of a toddler plopped headfirst into a bucket drives home the point…”kids can

…or this.

drown in these”.

There’s even an “Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” by the Consumer Product Safety Commission within the archives of the Federal Register (July 8, 1994) detailing the now-implemented rules requiring the danger notice (in English and Spanish) on all five-gallon buckets.

Why would anyone need such a dangerous device as a five-gallon bucket?

Clearly, only professional painters, the police, and the military have a legitimate need for such big and dangerous buckets.

For chrissake…”It’s for the children!”

There was even a move to ban EverClear from the shelves of Iowa liquor stores a few years back. The logic?

…or this.

“There’s no legitimate reason for regular people to buy high-proof spirits like EverClear.”

Why do people need anything?

They don’t.

If the people don’t need anything, why not ban everything?

I can’t think of a reason people, other than professional painters, roofers, chimney sweeps, or utility workers, need a ladder over five feet tall.

“Why do you need this twenty-food extension ladder, sir?”

Why do we need cars capable of going more than 20mph? Why is twenty the magic number for auto speed? When you consider that 35,000 to 40,000 Americans die each year in auto crashes, limiting the speed of impact would likely reduce “the carnage”.

Why do gun nuts need more than ten bullets in a gun at a time?

Why are ten bullets magically able to be safer for society? Why not nine? Why is eleven more lethal and, therefore, unacceptable?

Depending on how “activist” one wants to become about acetaminophen, (Tylenol) is lethal at doses larger than three to six grams. That’s a handful of 500mg tablets. Unless someone taking such a dose (or giving it to another person) receives treatment in 6-8 hours, only a liver transplant will save the victim. I can buy a case of Tylenol without causing much commotion.

Yes, there are folks who want to move Tylenol to the Rx-only column! “Why does anyone, except licensed professionals need to be able to buy such a drug?”

We don’t.

So…I don’t need this either.

And here we go again.

I don’t need my guns, my pickup truck, my iPod, my homemade chicken stock, this blog, or anything else. I could live quite happily without any of those things.

On the other hand, there are a lot of people who cannot live in peace without knowing why I need them.

It must suck to be them.

One nation, under surveillance…

In Editorial on August 1, 2012 at 1:15 pm

One nation, under surveillance, with liberty permitted to some.

We have become the Mrs. Kravitz nation. You remember Mrs. Kravitz from the 1960s Bewitched television sit-com?

Her window blinds were permanently tented from her persistently raising them in order to watch her neighbors. She just knew her neighbors were “up to something”

In a nation of busybodies, “something” is never a good thing to be up to.

The busybodies are feeding their surveillance fetish with a wonderful “law enforcement tool”, the Automated License Plate Reading System (ALPRS).

ALPRS uses a simple character recognition program coupled to an infrared camera. The camera takes a picture of a license plate, the picture is digitized and the patterns in the digitized alpha numerics of the plate are matched to a database of license plate numbers. The system retains the GPS location where the photo was taken, along with the date and time. ALPRS can scan and retain thousands of license plates in a matter of minutes. ALPRS has mobile capability and can be mounted on police cars as they prowl the streets, highways, and parking lots of America. Stored data and photos can be retained indefinitely, only limited by whatever laws may exist.

Law enforcement administrators say ALPRS helps them snare drivers with expired license plate, scofflaws with outstanding fines or warrants, and even “terrorists”, “known terrorists”, and “suspected terrorists”…along with similarly reviled “gang members”, “known gang members”, and “suspected gang members”.

Are we expected to believe that a police officer, alerted to the expired registration on a car parked at a casino, is going to sit patiently waiting until the owner completes his gambling inside…so the officer can write him a ticket for the expired tags?

Let’s put aside all conjuring of an Orwellian dystopia and look at ALPRS for its misuse potential.

“Law enforcement” is not synonymous with “law abiding”. Even the most complacent among us must admit that there are rogue police officers and rogue agencies. NYPD’s surveillance of Muslims outside of NYPD jurisdiction comes to mind.

McCarthy

In the not too distant past, law enforcement agencies cooperated with politicians (or acted on their own) to compile and maintain “enemies lists”, intimidate dissenters, and catalog the activities of “subversives”, “communists”, and other “undesirables”.

Nixon, J. Edgar Hoover, and a plethora of lesser McCarthys have an urgent need to know what people are doing.

Therein, is the most concerning and the most likely abuse of ALPRS.

“I wonder who’s at the Planned Parenthood protest?”

“Hey, doesn’t that plate on the car parked in front of the gay bar belong to that traditional values preaching minister?”

“Let’s see who’s at the gun show over at the fairgrounds!”

“Shawnequa Williams? In this neighborhood? She doesn’t belong here?”

The system suffers from the disability of all technology. It is dumb and can be spoofed.

Ersatz license plates can be easily produced by a photo editing program. Real license plates can be photographed and reproduced into life-size copies…or real plates can be “photoshopped” into real plates.

Simply attach the phony plate to a car of a similar make and model. The process is so common, it already has a name: car cloning.

Nixon

Since criminals don’t obey laws, why would they shun placing a copy of a law-abiding citizen’s license plate over their own? Why would a power-hungry politician (criminal) refrain from staging his/her opponent’s car in an embarrassing location and then “leak” the sighting (backed by a photo) to an eager press?

Remember, photos make for compelling evidence!

The Bible-thumping preacher finds himself defending against allegations that he frequents gay bars. Photos of license plates belonging to “known” criminals and terrorists are found with regularity at local gun shows. Political foes of all sorts can also be reliably placed at the scenes of crimes.

Ten O’clock News has learned from a law enforcement official, speaking on conditions of anonymity, that a candidate for the US Senate may be frequenting a home, known by police, to be a distribution point for illegal drugs and a hangout for local prostitutes. There IS a photo of the candidate’s car and license plate. Photo experts have determined that the photo has not been altered. And, the encoded GPS location of the photo shows it was taken in front of a house that is under continuous police surveillance because of the ongoing criminal activity there.”

Was the photo altered or faked?

Of course not. Only the subject of the photo was altered…not the photo.

Want to create a day of excitement for someone?

J. Edgar Hoover

Simply recreate a license plate from a recent news story about a murder, drug deal gone bad, or terrorist attack. Now make a reproduction of the plate and affix it over the real plate of someone you don’t like.

A well-intentioned officer, equipped with ALPRS, scans the car and he and his comrades complete a “felony stop” on the innocent victim of your prank.

“We apologize for any inconvenience. Our officers followed proper technique.”

And, they did.

The system is also dependent upon the integrity of its operator. In some states, license plates are a system of letters before numbers. In others, the numbers precede the letters. The system will alert to the presence of characters, without respect to the order they are in. So, an incompetent or malicious officer can create “reasonable suspicion” to stop and search a car with plates “ABC 123” because a “known” criminal is in the database with a plate reading “123 ABC”.

Ooopsie!

“Okay, there are some problems. But ALPRS is a useful tool for law enforcement.”

There have been many “useful tools” for law enforcement that have been abused. Some of those “useful tools” have been struck down by America’s judicial branch.

Blocking a street with police cars and detaining everyone on the street while officers photograph through windows of homes would be a “useful tool” as well.

“These systems are in use in other countries.”

Yes. Fine. Move to one of them.

“Everybody’s doin’ it, doin’ it” is not a reason to do something.

In some countries, the military patrols the streets. That doesn’t mean America should patrol its streets with the military.

In some countries, one may be held in jail until he confesses. Confession will lessen the severity of the imposed penalty.

In some countries, phones are tapped without judicial oversight.

And, a lot of countries disdain the use of ALPRS.

The Federal Court of Germany, a nation with a culture celebrating obedience and order, held that retaining ALPRS information “not destined for a specific purpose” (i.e. prosecuting traffic or registration violations or tracking terrorists) was a violation of German law.

Compare that German court’s finding to the planned use (lets use the popular “deployment”) of ALPRS in the United States of America, the “freest country on earth”.

It gives one a bit of pause.