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Chicken-n-Noodles a la Carcass

In Recipies on September 28, 2012 at 8:39 am

A common chorus in email to Phyne Dyning pleads for me to offer up some “regular” food.

C’mon guys! I’m not asking you to prepare lemur fillets. This is regular food throughout much of the world where there are no Applebee’s franchises. But, I hear ya.

I’m phobic about wasting food. With all of the events of the past two weeks, I overlooked a small zucchini until it was unusable, even in soup. Seriously, the find made me a bit sad.

I hope I redeemed myself when I pulled the last Shabbat’s tattered carcass of a store-bought rotisserie chicken out of the fridge, boiled the remaining meat off of it, and made chicken-n-noodles.

[Editor’s note: Shabbat supper is our one break from our nearly meatless diet. We find that we adhere to the old saying among old-world Jews: “When a Jew eats a chicken, either the chicken was sick, or the Jew was sick.” Surprisingly, we can buy a fully cooked bird cheaper than we can buy a fresh one and roast it ourselves. I’m sure it’s full of antibiotics, hormones, and depleted uranium. But, damn. They’re good.]

Before we start, let’s go through some of the cook’s notes for this fast and easy home favorite.

If kosher is a concern, (you wouldn’t buy a supermarket chicken anyway) substitute soy milk and pareve margarine for real milk and butter. Instead of garlic, use a minced shallot for a bit milder flavor. Use the unsalted chicken broth from the cooked carcass, rather than using canned or boxed broth. And, yes, you can make your own noodles. You can make them while the broth and chicken are cooling enough to handle.

1 chicken carcass

6 C water

1 C minced onion

2 cloves minced garlic (or shallot)

3 carrots peeled and sliced

2 stalks diced celery, strings peeled off

1 ½ C frozen peas

8oz wide egg noodles

2 C milk

2 TBS butter

2 TBS flour

1 ½ tsp dried Herbes de Provence

salt (optional)

pepper

Place the chicken in a large stockpot and add water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cover. Cook for 3 hours with cover slightly ajar. Remove from heat and uncover. Ladle off 2 cups of broth and reserve. Ladle off the remaining broth (approx 4 C) and freeze or store for matzo ball soup later! Strip remaining meat from the carcass and reserve on a plate. The bones may be discarded or saved to be boiled (again!) for more broth.

Cook the pasta according to package instructions. For firmer pasta, cook one minute less than the instructions call for. Drain, rinse, and set aside.

Over medium heat in a large skillet, melt the butter and cook the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic (or shallot) until the onion is translucent. Stir in the meat and the Herbes de Provence. Mix the flour and milk well in a measuring cup and stir out all lumps using a fork. Add in the reserved 2C of broth and heat to a gentle boil. Slowly stir in the milk/flour mixture until the broth thickens. Stir in the frozen peas, then toss in the pasta. Season with salt (optional) and freshly ground pepper. Serve with dinner rolls.

Physician, heal thyself!

In Lifestyle on September 27, 2012 at 10:01 am

Whew!

The High Holy Days are over. Yesterday’s fourteen-hour synagogue marathon ended, as always, with a guy blowing into a ram’s horn. The Gates are closed for another year and, G-d willing, we’ll all live to see them open again next year. A small accident during the Ten Days made it more likely I’ll see them with you.

I was driven into the clinic one of my white-coated colleagues after a run-in with another bat in the house and, this time, after getting bitten by the damned thing. After getting one of the required jabs intended to keep me from frothing at the mouth, the doc (a former classmate) peered at me with one of those looks.

“What?” I said, half irritated.

“I’m deciding if I need to admit you.”

I laughed. “Too late”, I said, “You made the mistake of opening the door. I’m already in.”

He smiled, either at the joke, or at his foolishness in opening his door to me.

“No, I’m serious.” His face had the expression that he was not mucking about. I squinted at my old friend who provided me with the short version for his concern.

“You have extremely high blood pressure and a really nasty heart rhythm.”

“Well, that’s no big deal. I was bitten by a disease-carrying Cruise missile. You remember those clips of rabies sufferers from our infectious disease classes?”

“I’ll bet my house, car, kids, and next year’s vacation that you’re not going to come down with rabies. I wouldn’t bet the change in my pocket that, without treatment, you’ll make it six more months without an MI (heart attack), a stroke, or both. In fact, I’m considering admitting you because the odds aren’t even so good you’ll make it to your car.

I glanced at the workup his nurse provided and the numbers that were underlined (in red). They were the same as the numbers she got last week when I got the second of my many pokes in the arm.

I smiled and shook my head and closed my eyes. I sighed out something like, “Here we go.” I told him about my faithful meditation schedule, my nearly meatless diet, and my dedication to spurning grasping materialism.

“Doc? Are you going to let me help you? Or, are you going to tie my hands?” His grey-streaked beard surrounded a very unsmiling mouth. His eyes had a sad, pleading look.

He and I had been “sorta” friends many years back. He was an upperclassman who didn’t act like an upperclassman. We did clinical rounds together at the school’s various family practice clinics and spent our evenings doing admissions “H&Ps” (History and physical examinations) at a (now closed) city hospital.

“Are you going to let me help you?” was one of my own lines. It was sometimes followed by, “If you don’t want my medical advice, why do you come to see me?” He assured me that I was already doing a lot of my care. Meditation, a largely vegetarian diet, and my nearly fully self-actualized lifestyle “Probably kept you going until now.”

The problem was, I needed more. Deep inside, I knew it too.

I was trapped like a raccoon in a cage. Like the old raccoon, I finally stopped thrashing about and resigned myself to whatever was around the bend.

I nodded. He jumped off of his consultation stool and grabbed me in a bear hug. A few minutes later, I walked out of his office with a fistful of prescriptions that I was not yet sure how I would pay for. A self-actualized lifestyle does not have group major medical built into it.

Three days later, the squirrel that had lived in my chest for the past two years moved out. At first, the missing riffs and flutters bothered me. Was something ‘wrong’ with my inner furry companion?

Next, I began to hear conversations without the omnipresent ringing in my ears. I didn’t say “Huh?” anymore. The low hum had even begun to distract me from my meditations. My legs no longer swelled and I felt like doing sixty, and not the recommended thirty, minutes of cardio exercise twice a day. The constant, dull ache between my eyes vanished.

I began to feel like…

…me.

No, I’m not a convert to the school of medicine that says there’s a pill for everything and everything needs a pill. That’s wrong-minded medicine. At the same time, you can’t cure an infection with meditation and you cannot diet away appendicitis. Self-actualization creates an atmosphere for satisfaction with life, but it does not create satisfaction with life.

I got very, very lucky.

I made my way out of the clinic. And, even though my friend is a compassionate and empathetic sort of guy to all of his patients, I realized that he taken an extra effort in bringing me around and that it had made all of the difference.

It was just what the doctor ordered.

My rabbi talks about non-conformity

In Lifestyle on September 18, 2012 at 2:27 pm

This is the full text of my rabbi’s sermon on Erev Rosh Hashana. Take some time and read through it. There’s a lot of meat in the sermon to feed the non-conformist in all of us: “No matter how attractive the well-traveled road appears, don’t just follow the herd down the road. This truly is a surprising sermon from my friend, Rabbi Kaufman. I have studied extensively with him and we’ve had some very “interesting” conversations. Usually, those conversations revolved around his very progressive look at Judaism and mine, which is much more conservative. We often end our discussions agreeing to disagree.

On Sunday night, he took the bimah to lead the congregation in the Erev Rosh Hashana service. I did a double-take. As he swept through the door, I noticed he was sporting a full beard in the very traditional fashion. Then, he delivered the following sermon. I sat in amazement as my very progressive rabbi spoke passionately about tradition and avoiding assimilation. He really didn’t just follow the crowd.

All I can say is, “Kol Kavod!”

 

Prophetic Judaism – Erev Rosh Hashanah 2012-5773

Prophetic Judaism Erev Rosh Hashanah 2012-5773

Rabbi David Jay Kaufman

Israeli Author, Doron Kornbluth tells this story:

I was in eighth grade and my classmate Kevin came over to me. He told me to sit down because he had a great joke to tell me. A few of the guys were smiling.

Two polar bears are sitting in a bathtub. The first one says, “Pass the soap.”

One of the onlookers started cracking up. As he left our little group, he kept laughing and repeating the words, “I can’t, I can’t…”

Kevin looked at me and finished the joke.

So again, two polar bears are sitting in a bathtub. The first one says, “Pass the soap.” And then … the second one says … [here Kevin had to hold himself in] … the second one says, “No soap, radio!”

At this point, the entire group gathered around started losing it. I don’t mean little chuckles. I mean loud, uproarious belly laughter.

I was the only person who didn’t get the joke. And they were starting to notice. So I started laughing too. This made everyone else laugh even more.

Only later did I realize why.

Kevin and the guys had set me up with a non-joke, a punch line lacking any humor at all. The whole point was to put me on the spot. They wanted to see if I would laugh along with the group just to fit in, despite having nothing funny to laugh at.

The joke was on me. And I fell for it.

Kornbluth’s story tells us something about conformity. Most of us will conform most of the time without much thought. We follow fads, fashion trends, crowds walking down paths. If we are not paying attention, we might even follow the car ahead of us going somewhere we had no intention of going. That is why there are those warnings on construction trucks that say, “Do not follow into construction area!” Without warning road signs or horns blaring at us, we will drive on believing without question that the way we are going, the road ahead, must be good because it has been well traveled.

Few of us, when faced with the choice of the road more traveled and the road less traveled will take the latter. Most of us follow our GPS navigation devices without question, sticking to the highways. Few of us realize that we act this way, not only when driving, but in most of the things we do in our lives: how we dress, how we act in social circumstances, but also what we believe about our world in general. We go through our lives too often barely paying attention, simply doing what we have always done in the same ways that most people do them.

Judaism and its prophetic tradition in particular teach us precisely not to do this. We are not supposed to assimilate, to lose our identity. We are supposed to stand out, to miss work and school for the holidays. We are supposed to be respectful of the religious traditions of others, but not to adopt them simply to fit in with those of other faiths. Historically, this has been one of the major criticisms leveled against Reform Jews by those adhering to tradition. In many places, Reform Jews held Sabbath services on Sunday mornings, dressed just as any other people who were going to worship on Sunday might dress, and prayed in the vernacular, English or German, rather than in Hebrew or Yiddish. For Reform Jews, it was the content of the services and the meaning of the prayers that were most important to maintain, not necessarily keeping age-old customs for tradition’s sake.

Reformers believed that modernity required some changes as did necessity, but it also required that we remember timeless values, not forgetting those essential ideals that form the basis of our Judaism. We are supposed to stand up for what is right and good in the midst of wrong and evil for certain, but in the midst of acceptance and comfort as well.

The Rabbis [Pirkei Avot] teach us, “In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man,” which we take to mean that, “In a place where people are acting inhumanely to one another, we should strive to act humanely.”

We are to be the voice that cries out “Hope!” from the midst of the wilderness of despair.

We are also the ones who cry “Never Again!” while all too many notice nothing going on.

We are the ones who in the face of daunting challenges recite the words of Rabbi Tarfon, “It is not up to you to finish the work, but neither may you desist from it.”

Too often these days, we do not pay much attention to the world around us. We are so busy moving on the highway of life that the things going on around us are but a blur. Today, a day on which we read of a divinity who said “No! Do not lay a hand upon the child…,” in my opinion demonstrating that our God did not wish for Abraham to conform to the standard practices of his age by sacrificing his first born son, let us reconsider and perhaps reclaim the prophetic tradition.

How do we go about doing that? I have some ideas as does our tradition. I will begin by briefly addressing the nature of Biblical Prophecy. Then I will discuss the Prophetic Judaism that formed the basis of Reform Judaism for much of its history. Finally, I will address the need to rekindle the prophetic voice today. As I will note, challenging conformity is part of the very essence of Reform Judaism.

The Biblical Prophets

Among the favorite topics of the prophets was the relationship between God and the people Israel. When the people were thriving but forgetting to worship God properly or were worshipping the gods of other peoples, conforming to local customs, the prophets warned the people to correct their behavior or there would be consequences. However, the prophets also preached hope at times when conformity meant living in hopelessness. When the people were suffering and saw no light in the future, the prophets reassured the people that God would return them to a position of blessing. These messages of faith offered by the prophets were not as important to Reform Judaism as a third message, that of social consciousness, which is also found throughout the prophetic works.

Prophetic Judaism

If you look up the origins of Reform Judaism, you would find that while Reform Judaism does consider itself based upon modern interpretation of the meaning and values of the Torah, it has historically been more focused on the Prophetic Tradition. Reform Judaism is not Halakhic, based in Talmudic interpretations of the law like Orthodox Judaism or in modern interpretations of it such as Conservative Judaism, but primarily is a religious tradition based upon the ethical and moral imperatives of the Jewish tradition. Many of those imperatives are found the Torah, such as the one etched in stone on the side of this building, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Many more of these imperatives are found in the prophetic works.

The rabbis who led the development of Reform Judaism through the 19th Century expressed belief in what was called “The Mission of Israel.” These rabbis believed that unlike every other religious people, those who had chosen to call themselves Jews took up the prophetic mantle to challenge conformity and to bring light into a world filled with darkness.

The Mission of Israel was based on the words of the prophet Isaiah [42].

I, Adonai, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant people and a light unto the nations, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

While we, today, have largely, if not completely rejected, the idea that God chose us as a people for a special purpose in life, Classical Reform Judaism believed that Jews were chosen to carry out the Mission of Israel. Our mission required that we be dispersed among the nations, no longer in the land, and no longer had anything to do with a sacrificial Temple cult. To make that very point, many congregations came to call their places of worship, “Temples.” Our offerings are our prayers and our good deeds.

Moreover, Reform Judaism came to embrace working in partnership with those of other faiths and welcoming Jews-by-choice into our midst in large numbers. The Mission of Israel became not a mission for Israel as a nation, but for those who chose to associate themselves with the Jewish people. Chosen-ness came to be applied not in its traditional sense of God choosing us, but of us choosing to do this work, to follow these imperatives. We, Reform Jews, are all Jews by choice.

As Reform Jews, we took on the voice of the prophets and sought to act out their ideals.

With the industrial age and gross disparities of wealth and power in Europe and America, the prophetic vision took on greater import. Events such as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire focused attention upon the flaws of a society where conformity meant workers accepting abuses, a society in which half of the population, women, were unable to vote, and wealthy families such as the Vanderbilts, Carnegies, and Rothschilds lived in luxury beyond imagination while workers suffered and too often died to make a pittance in unsafe factories.

George Vanderbilt’s estate in western North Carolina, completed in 1895, required that a three mile long spur rail line be created so that the massive amount of stone and other materials needed to could arrive at the site. Constructed on 125,000 acres near Ashville, the home sat on four acres of floor space and had 250 rooms, 34 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and 65 fireplaces. The basement alone would house a swimming pool, gymnasium and changing rooms, a bowling alley, servants’ quarters, kitchens, and more. It was one of the very first homes, if not the first, to have electricity. In New York City, multiple families lived in the same small squalid apartment.

As immigrants came to America by the millions before and after World War I and as the entire world faced the Great Depression, the message of the prophets became more and more relevant.

At convention in Columbus in 1937, the Reform rabbis put forth a platform containing a powerful vision of the Mission of Israel. These words still ring true for those of us who see Tikkun Olam, the repair of the world, as of vital importance.

We regard it as our historic task to cooperate with all men in the establishment of the kingdom of God, of universal brotherhood, justice, truth, and peace on earth. This is our Messianic goal.

In Judaism religion and morality blend into an indissoluble unity. Seeking God means to strive after holiness, righteousness and goodness. The love of God is incomplete without the love of one’s fellowmen. Judaism emphasizes the kinship of the human race, the sanctity and worth of human life and personality and the right of the individual to freedom and to the pursuit of his chosen vocation. Justice to all, irrespective of race, sect or class, is the inalienable right and the inescapable obligation of all. The state and organized government exist in order to further these ends.

Judaism seeks the attainment of a just society by the application of its teachings to the economic order, to industry and commerce, and to national and international affairs. It aims at the elimination of man-made misery and suffering, of poverty and degradation, of tyranny and slavery, of social inequality and prejudice, of ill-will and strife. It advocates the promotion of harmonious relations between warring classes on the basis of equity and justice, and the creation of conditions under which human personality may flourish. It pleads for the safeguarding of childhood against exploitation. It champions the cause of all who work and of their right to an adequate standard of living, as prior to the rights of property. Judaism emphasizes the duty of charity, and strives for a social order which will protect men against the material disabilities of old age, sickness and unemployment.

This lofty inspiring language is all but gone in the similar document produced in Pittsburgh in 1999, where much more generic language has replaced it, but the meaning is still clear: Reform Judaism should be significantly about challenging social norms, rebelling against conformity to standard practices that may be unhealthy for us or for society, and acting upon the prophetic imperative to repair the world. Yet, for too many of us, it is not so today.

Meeting the Challenge

So how do we get there? How do we meet the challenge of bringing Prophetic Judaism back to the forefront of Reform Judaism and, more so, into the lives of Reform Jews? How do we find that prophetic voice again?

Mahatma Ghandi is reported to have said something that is often repeated these days in a political context, “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” Waylon Lewis, the Buddhist founder of the Elephant Journal, which is not connected to the Republican party, but rather to the spirituality of India, notes that Ghandi did not actually say those words, though they look good on a bumper sticker. What Ghandi actually said was:

If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.

We, each of us, can impact our world. Individually, we can make a difference. The rabbinic literature teaches us [Pirkei Avot], “mitzvah goreret mitzvah, averah goreret averah,” “a good deed will bring about another good deed, a curse will bring about another curse.” If all of us were to change our behavior to enact good deeds on a regular basis, our world will change. This philosophical point of view is not by any means new. The Torah portion that we will read on Yom Kippur tells us that the choice is ours:

What I am commanding you this day is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it…I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.

Every year, I am struck by a profound contrast between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. On Rosh Hashanah, we read of Abraham’s test and that an angel of God had to call down to Abraham twice to stay his hand, “Avraham! Avraham! Lay not a hand upon the child.” While on Yom Kippur, we are told that the power to choose life “so that we and our children may live” is ours. What brings about this change?

The ram’s horn. We wake up. The choice was always there. The choice is always there. Sometimes we simply go through life conforming without thinking, obeying without questioning. The shofar wakes us from our stupor and demands that we pay attention. In a sense, our Mission as Reform Jews is to be that shofar for humanity.

The reality is that most of us go through life not looking for problems, not veering from the road more traveled, not looking for what is missing in our lives or in our society, but should be present. We do not wish our own comfortable lives to be afflicted, nor to afflict the comfortable.

We often do not like what the prophets have to say. But we should care what they have to say. We should listen to that challenging voice. It makes all of us try harder. It reminds us that while we know that feeding the hungry is something that we should do, perhaps we do not do it regularly or enough. It reminds us that while we may be concerned about whether or not to buy the giant screen high definition television or settle forjust the large screen one, that some people do not even have books to read and have never had the opportunity to watch television. It reminds us that as we sleep soundly, ourbellies full, in our mosquito free beds, there are those who sleep in caves or even in the open air, having had little or nothing to eat for days, and do not even own mosquito nets to keep them safe from deadly diseases.

Maimonides, Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon, offered us this challenge during the High Holidays:

Wake up you sleepers from your sleep and you slumberers from your slumber. Search your deeds and return in penitence.

Return. Make teshuva, a turning. Find the right direction, not just the well traveled one. Stand up for what you believe to be right and good in the face of pressure to conform. Then we may reclaim the Prophetic voice and we can renew the Mission of Israel to bring light unto the nations.

“No soap! Radio!” really isn’t funny.

To quote the poetRobert Frost, when he spoke about making a choice between following a road already worn flat by the feet of many or forging his own path:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

L’shanah Tovah Tikateivu! May you be inscribed for a good and happy year.

 

Phyne Dyner’s take on cooking shows.

In Reviews on September 14, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Phyne Dyning is going on a very brief hiatus to celebrate Rosh Hashanah. This is a heads up because I didn’t want my reader (intentionally singular) to get anxious if my regular scratchings aren’t there when expected. L’shanah tova!

 I love (most) cooking shows and I got hooked on them in the days of The Frugal Gourmet and (faux) Cajun cook, Justin Wilson. A yellow notepad and pen is an absolute necessity whenever I sit down to watch my favorites.

Today, you’ll learn what I watch.

First, a disclaimer: I am not a chef, although I have cooked professionally without title.

Consequently, this will not be a review on anyone’s cooking ability. I have never (knowingly) eaten anything prepared by any of the hosts mentioned and it is a certainty that each one of them is a maestro in a kitchen. If you want food reviews and critical looks at professional cooks, served up by a non-professional/non-chef, head on over to the Pesky Diner’s blog.

Kitchen Nightmares

This is the only one of Gordon Ramsay’s cooking shows I can stomach for more than a few minutes. The concept is brilliant and it gives viewers a behind-the-dirty-kitchen door look at how disgusting many swill-house kitchens can be. I have seen quite a few.

I always feel a bit bad for the owner. It takes guts to put your mistakes on national television, like politicians do. The featured joint is usually a feature because the local death panel (local diners) decreed that it must die. By the time Ramsay rides over the hill to rescue the place, the owners have resorted to all sorts of icky shenanigans to keep the doors open.

Between fits of cursing, Ramsay entertains us by spitting out food while emitting thespian-esque gagging sounds. If he could muster up a fart or two, he’d do it…but his head would likely cave in.

Ramsay suppresses his natural tendency toward being an arse just long enough to make his show tolerable. But, he still comes off as an arrogant little wanker in need of a thrashing. Presumably, in Kitchen Nightmares, he does so out of tough love: As if Judge Judy ran a substance-abuse counseling clinic.

One failing restaurant owner killed himself after his place was made into a Ramsay feature. Chef Ramsay denies responsibility. A lot of failed business owners commit suicide without Ramsay’s help. I agree.

Worth watching only if re-runs of Punky Brewster have been displaced by weather bulletins out of Peoria.

 Hell’s Kitchen

“The winner of this season’s Hell’s Kitchen will be given the opportunity to become the executive chef at my newest restaurant inside the walls of the glamorous Hanoi Hilton.”

With large doses of Pepto-Bismol, I can get through just under ten minutes of this show.

This is Gordon Ramsay at his arse-holiest. If you like watching YouTube videos of people being decapitated or small animals being mutilated, you’ll love Hell’s Kitchen.

The contestants come from the same parentage as the Japanese folk who are willing to eat something gawd-awful in exchange for a few minutes of screen fame.

As with a Kitchen Nightmares, this show also has a history of suicide: A failed contestant from Texas killed herself. Ramsay denies any responsibility. Failed reality show contestants, yet professionally successful, chefs and caterers commit suicide quite frequently. I agree.

After watching an entire episode, I considered slitting my own wrists.

Hitler would have loved this show. I don’t.

 Master Chef

The third in the unholy trilogy of Ramsay’s US offerings is Master Chef. In the show, Chef Ramsay is joined by two more notables in a venue, I am sure, he sees on par with the Three Tenors.

The show highlights, naturally, Chef Ramsay as the chief inquisitor and bastard…errr…master chef.

Restauranteur and vineyard owner, Joe Bastianich joins Ramsay and Chef Graham Elliot as they reveal to a parade of pretty outstanding home cooks that there is no Easter Bunny or “happily ever after” to be found in Ramsayland.

Bastianich is a cardboard cutout of his cardboard mother, Lydia Bastianich, who has her own (self-patronizing) show on public television. Chef Elliot appears to have retained some humanity and he often seems less willing than Ramsay or Bastianich to rip the still-beating hearts out of demoralized contestants.

I could see Ramsay as he brainstormed the show: “I know, let’s take some home cooks who love cooking, love food, and love to share it…and dash their f-ing dreams.”

A lot of the home cooks appearing on the show are spectacularly talented and I love watching them work, so long as the television sound is muted against Ramsay’s ongoing self-aggrandizement. I only caught the final episode for 2012. Runner-up, Josh Marks, was pure cooking pleasure in motion. I watched this guy with a lot of respect for his skill and devotion to the art of cooking. It was like watching a self-taught Yo Yo Ma. The winner was a young woman with total vision loss. She was inspiring to watch, but her cooking was less adventurous and challenging than Josh’s. I’m sure Ramsay pulled her cane out of her hand and pushed her down the stairs on the way out.

I know of no related suicides. These contestants are made of stronger stuff that the ones who volunteer to be abused in other Ramsay offerings.

Hitler and Pol Pot would have loved this show. Me? No thanks!

America’s Test Kitchen

 I’ll stay up late to watch this. It has every element I love in a cooking show.

Cooking: Not only do the chefs prepare some great dishes, they keep preparing them (off screen) until they get a version that is fantastic. Most of the meals are homey and familiar to home cooks. Best of all, the show shares the perfect version’s recipe with viewers so they can later claim bragging rights in front of their family and guests. Unlike most other cooking shows, the chefs also tell about their failures. It gives the show a very human touch and one that many other cooking shows could use. The show also offers up a bit of the science that is behind what happens in a pot or pan. Very cool stuff.

Equipment: Want to find out if you need that expensive, digitally controlled whisk? Watch the show and look at what the cast uses. Granted, the show is sponsored by manufacturers. But I’ve not seen a lot of partiality and the “best” equipment is not always synonymous with “most expensive”.

Cast: Host, Christopher Kimball, looks out of place in a kitchen. He’s painfully thin for a cook (Look at his old photos, he’s done a lot of work to lose a bunch of weight!) He identifies himself as an “aging hippie” and this conflicts sharply with his contemporary, accountant-like appearance.

He’s joined on the show by a cast of excellent chefs. My favorite is Julia Collin-Davison who has a bubbly personality and, despite being all business in the kitchen, comes across as a person who dearly loves to cook. She would be my runner up to Chef Jacques Pepin as the cooking professional with whom I would love to sit and enjoy a glass of wine.

Jack Bishop and Adam Ried top off the main cast members. Bishop often perplexes Kimball by presenting food items for tasting where price and name often do not correspond to “good”. Ditto, for Ried.

America’s Test Kitchen is brilliantly done.

Simply Ming 

Chef Ming Tsai hosts his fusion Asian cooking show with flair and humanity. Tsai comes across as one of the nicest guys in the kitchen.

His recipes are easily copied, and modified. He uses ingredients most people have access to and relies on pretty standard kitchen techniques. The dishes I’ve co-opted from him have always been spectacular and simple to prepare. My yellow notepad is always in reach whenever I watch him.

When I began collecting background information about the people behind my favorite shows, I was happily stunned to learn that Chef Tsai’s humanity is real. He’s an advocate for restaurants to disclose the presence of known allergens in their dishes and he published a cookbook that lists the known allergens in each one. What a mensch!

Tommy Tang’s Easy Thai Cooking

Chef Tang is an amiable man. He grins as quickly as he can chop an onion.

His show, however, is often a bit hard to follow. Thai cuisine is one of my favorites and I’d love to cook more of it. The problem with Tang’s show is that he often cuts away from a key part of the preparation or he gets sidetracked during his presentations. That’s too bad. It’s tough to learn Thai cooking from a presenter who is as easily distracted as a squirrel with ADHD.

Tang’s travelogue presentations of Thailand are a joy. The man is immensely proud of his heritage and showcases Thailand as a place other than rows of ten-sheet hovels and child brothels. I always enjoy a trip with Chef Tang as he sprints around Thailand.

Pack your running shoes. Tommy Tang can hustle!

It’s watchable and entertaining. Unfortunately, it’s not a great place to learn new cooking skills.

Food Trip with Todd English

This is a show that is largely about watching Todd English eat.

A recipe shows up occasionally, but the show mostly centers on Chef English opening his enormous maw and shoving food in. Then, he closes his eyes and smacks his lips.

Todd English looks at a plate of anything as if he had just come in from traveling west with the Donner Party.

The guy is a spectacular chef and cooking is why I watch cooking shows. Unfortunately, there is little cooking to be seen on this show. It should be called, “Watch Todd English Eat Stuff”.

The show follows the dismal example of Equitrekking (also PBS). The Equitrekking hostess must be related to a PBS television executive (or major donor) somewhere. The show consists of “Me: Sitting on a horse”, “Me: On a horse in (fill in location)”, “Me: Talking to other people on horses…etc.

This is food porn for gluttons. Maybe I’m wrong, but I find no enjoyment in watching one person eat: “My Dinner with Andre” where Andre didn’t show up.

Jacques Pepin (Essential Pepin and Fast Food, My Way)

This man is brilliant, affable, and modest. He may be the only living example of a modest Frenchman and he is the wonderful exception to the unfortunate, stereotypical image of the French.

Chef Pepin comes from a modest upbringing. Many of his recipes are from his childhood and he frequently tells viewers how his mother made versions of his classic dishes by using meat most people of the day would not buy. I like that. It gives this French master a lifelike feel.

You can always tell a superbly talented person by their modesty. Chef Pepin presents basic cooking techniques to viewers in a way that is not condescending. I learned to efficiently clean leeks from watching him over the years. Every time he dices an onion, he goes through the steps meticulously so that the newest viewer gets an opportunity to learn the right way to do something. When you watch him, you get a feeling how important he feels about getting people to love cooking.

The recipes presented by Chef Pepin are usually French classics. Some are easy and some are painfully difficult. There are recipes for every viewer’s ability.

Sometimes, despite his efforts, Chef Pepin takes off like a bolt of lightning. His charming French accent becomes unintelligible and, as a French-speaker, I find myself wishing he would just cut away to French entirely. But then he’ll take a sip of (always present) wine and slow down. The man, despite his occasional forgetting that he has people watching, tries desperately to convey his sincere interest in teaching people at home how to prepare food. I have a feeling that Chef Pepin would just look on with intense sorrow if he were to witness the horrors Chef Gordon (Gorgon?) Ramsay inflicts on cooks.

Chef Jacques Pepin’s shows are “must see” television. Bring your yellow notepad.

“Happy cooking!”

 Let’s Dish

This is another of my favorites. Chef Christopher Koetke presents a wide variety of recipes and techniques in an easy-to-follow and engaging way.

He should. Chef Koetke is the Dean of the Culinary School at Kendall College.

Despite his easy-going on-air personality, he seems to harness a fierceness for perfection that probably reduces his novice charges to jelly. He executes kitchen techniques with precision and, like Chef Pepin, he forces himself to slow himself down to human speeds as he works.

The recipes range from simple to moderately complex. A yellow notepad is a must. A word of warning: If you go to the Let’s Dish page on the Live Well Network’s website, watch the segment for the recipe you want to try. Then, print it. The printed recipes often leave out instructions and the list of ingredients can get confusing. Besides, the show is a pleasure to watch.

If I ever went to a culinary school to perfect my home techniques, I would make a run to learn from Chef Koetke.

This is good stuff!

Mexico – One Plate at a Time

This is the place to go if you want to learn about Mexican cuisine. It’s not all tacos!

Chef Rick Bayless is another of those wonderfully modest presenters. The man loves Mexican food and is anxious to spread his knowledge about it, and many Mexican-themed topics, to his viewers. When I first started watching him, he seemed like a “regular guy” who got a show simply because he has a flair for cooking Mexican food. The man’s biography is stunning! I was shocked. True modesty reflects true greatness.

The recipes are easy to follow. My yellow notepad gets a workout. While watching the show I learn “why” as well as “how”.

After my sojourn in West Texas, I was a bit put off by Mexican food. It always seemed greasy, over-seasoned, and slathered in what often looked like (and tasted like) scorched transmission fluid. Despite the huge population of first and second generation Mexican-Americans, West Texas has some of the worst examples of Mexican food on the planet.

Mexico – One Plate at a Time re-ignited my love for Mexican food.

The show has only one drawback: Chef Bayless’ daughter, Lanie.

Lanie shows none of the passion for cooking that her father has. She’s more of a distraction than an enhancement. Standing around woodenly while her father talks breathlessly about Mexican cuisine, one gets the impression that “Sweet Lanie” is there only because she’s not yet really decided what to do with her life. I wonder if her presence is sort of an occupational rehab. The show would be better without her and I hope that, if Chef Bayless is trying to ignite something in his daughter, that he would do it behind the scenes.

It’s a good show, if you can ignore the muffin-topped girl plodding listlessly around behind the star.

 Steve Raichlen (Primal Grill, etc.)

Chef Steven Raichlen is the master-apparent of everything grilled. He presents a variety of cooking techniques…grilling is not just tossing something over coals…and he does so in an engaging manner.

The recipes are simple and the show features many foods some people would never consider cooking over an open flame. The host lacks a bit of the modesty I enjoy in television cooks, but he’s not insufferable. Perhaps he doesn’t lack modesty? Perhaps it’s just that he’s confident? It takes guts to cook food over raw fire. There are a lot of variables you can’t control. Doing it on television takes real guts.

I’m always puzzled by the array of smoking grills, seemingly unattended, behind Chef Raichlen as he cooks the featured meal. Obviously, the show is not shot in California and Al Gore would probably go into cardiac arrest at the size of Primal Grill’s carbon footprint.

It’s “good” watching, but not spectacular. Men will have to shave after watching…there’s that much testosterone in each episode.

Katie Brown’s Workshop

This isn’t a true cooking show. There’s artsy-fartsy crafting too (Ick!).

Katie Brown was born too late. Her television persona is that of a consummate, bubble-headed hippie girl. Her show presents the Bohemian lifestyle (Think pastel scarves draped over a busted lampshade.) that is the essence of Phyne Dyning. Sure, she gets a bit syrupy. But she has an endearing earthiness as a base.

Brown came from modest beginnings. Her bio lists her birthplace as Petoskey, Michigan; a place well familiar to the Phyne Dyner. She exudes the simple mannerisms of folks in Northern Michigan, before it became a playground for the retired wanna-be rich and well-heeled fleeing Detroit, Flint, and Saginaw. If Brown were not married to a television producer, her show probably would not exist and she would probably be quite happy running a storefront eatery and thrift shop.

Her shows frequently have a pediatric theme where she builds or bakes things kids like to eat or create. If I were a young mother or father, this show would be a must-see.

Brown’s current life is much different than her past one. But there’s none of the “I made it…na-na-na” attitude that usually erupts in formerly modest folk who now live out heavily Tweeted lives inside suburban McMansions. Brown’s co-hosts and guests are typically “regular folks”, including one particularly charming, but ditsy, little blonde waif. Watching The Katie Brown Workshop is like getting invited for lunch at a young couple’s first real house.

I hope not, but I get the sense that Katie Brown is heavily managed and packaged. She remains a “fun” person, but it sometimes appears that she misses driving her famous “red Ford Pinto, filled with curry”.

It’s a fun show and one you should catch if you have your own band of crumb-crunching heathens underfoot.

Ta-da!

That’s it. Those are the Phyne Dyner’s favorite (and hated) cooking shows. Like broccoli, mine may not be your favorites and you may adore Gordon Ramsay.

But that’s life. We can agree not to agree.

There’s a world of cooking fun that is virtually free for the taking. These shows give me the best way to love, rather than dread, mealtime.

For those who do not know, I assumed full cooking duties just months into marrying a woman who has been the lone jewel of my life…my “Woman of Valor”. She has accompanied me on a, sometimes, rocky journey that has carried her across America and onto three continents for well over thirty years.

Unfortunately the poor lady cannot cook, even if Gordon Ramsay held her at gunpoint. But I can’t do the things she can do. Despite her being culinarily challenged, she watches almost all of these shows with me.

I’m lucky that way.

 

 

From Flyover Press: “Is It Time to Come Home?”

In General Information on September 14, 2012 at 2:06 pm
I’m not a real fan of Buchanan, but even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
In his editor’s comments to his Flyover Press subscribers, Dr. LaBaume correctly asks Mr. Buchanan, “What’s this ‘we’ and ‘our’ crap? Bingo! I have no interests in Libya, Egypt, or any of the other fly-blown places where uS embassies are under siege. If it were left up to me, the troops would be home tomorrow and foreign aid would be limited to whatever funds people having interests in those places would be willing to pony up for themselves. Israel? Jews, and friends of Jews, would have to cough up the dough. Israel would be forced to become a true Jewish homeland with automatic rights to citizenship for all Jews, not just the ones who wear funny fur hats and refuse to work for a living. Israel would be set on a level playing field with the Palestinians and both groups would learn to peacefully co-exist or perish. The American state, not the American people, is to blame for most of the nonsensical murder going on in the region. Buchanan, except for co-opting me and like-minded libertarians into the state umbrella, hit this one out of the park.

By Patrick J. Buchanan
Is it not long past time to do a cost-benefit analysis of our involvement in the Middle and Near East?
In this brief century alone, we have fought the two longest wars in our history there, put our full moral authority behind an “Arab Spring” that brought down allies in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen, and provided the air power that saved Benghazi and brought down Moammar Gadhafi.
Yet this week U.S. embassies were under siege in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen, and U.S. diplomats were massacred in Benghazi.
The cost of our two wars is 6,500 dead, 40,000 wounded and $2 trillion piled onto a national debt that is $16 trillion, larger than the entire U.S. economy. And what in heaven’s name do we have to show for it?
We face pandemic hatred of our country from Morocco to Pakistan. The sight of American flags being ripped to shreds and burned by mobs has become so common over there we seem almost to have gotten used to it.
What are the roots of that Arab and Islamic hatred?
Osama bin Laden in his declaration of war against us gave three reasons as his casus belli.
His first reason for war was the presence of U.S. troops on the soil of Saudi Arabia, sacred home to Mecca and Medina. His second was the U.S. sanctions on Iraq then said to be causing the premature deaths of as many as 500,000 Iraqi children.
Third was U.S. support for Israel, seen in the Arab world as a colonial implant to humiliate them and deny to the Palestinian people their right to a nation of their own.
Lately, new causes of Arab and Muslim hatred of us have arisen.
The first is what devout Muslims regard as our immoral and decadent culture, which they see as a threat to their societies and their young.
The second are the Islam haters and baiters in America and the West who deliberately provoke them with insulting and blasphemous portrayals of the Prophet and their faith.
While the U.S. bases in Saudi Arabia have by now largely been closed, and the United States is largely withdrawn from Iraq and the sanctions there have all been lifted, America is not going to change herself to accommodate their world.
Support of Israel is the declared position of both parties. And, though Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rightly called the crude amateur film “Innocence of Muslims,” which caused the latest anti-American rioting, both disgusting and reprehensible, we are not going to repeal the First Amendment, which protects provocateurs and pornographers.
Yet, worldwide, there are hundreds of millions of Muslims for whom their faith is their most priceless possession. They live it. They will die for it. And not a few will kill for it.
Others will seize upon real or imagined insults to that faith to excite the crowds to expel us from their world.
And some Americans will accommodate them by using books, films and videos to manifest their contempt of Islam.
So we have here an irreconcilable conflict.
The Islamic word, especially across the Arab region, is undergoing a transformation, a Great Awakening. Muslims from Nigeria to Mali to Ethiopia to Sudan to the Maghreb and Middle and Near East are growing more militant and more hostile toward Christianity and other faiths.
And as we are not going to change our position on Israel, or our culture, such as it is, or our First Amendment, clashes between us are inevitable.
Perhaps the best course of action for America is to lower our profile in that region, bring most of our diplomats and troops home, and let these people work out their destiny themselves.
Second, given the costs and consequences of our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and intervention in Libya, let the Syrians settle their war themselves. There is no guarantee the fall of Bashar Assad, given the jihadist and al-Qaida presence in the forces seeking his overthrow, will be an improvement for the United States.
Third, the United States should tell the Egyptian government that its failure to provide security for our embassy was an outrage, that if we cannot see them as a friendly government with common interests, we will not hesitate to cut off aid and warn U.S. citizens not to travel to Egypt.
Without U.S. aid and Western loans and tourists, Egypt’s economy would sink with President Morsi in the wheelhouse. We must make it clear to them that, denied the respect our nation deserves, we are willing to pull the plug on his regime.
The Middle East appears to be undergoing a sectarian and tribal conflict not unlike our Thirty Years’ War from 1618 to 1648. As they stayed out of our Thirty Years’ War, let us get out of theirs.
If they will not protect our embassies from mobs who come to burn our flag, let us lower the flag ourselves and bring Old Glory home.

US Admiral on Nuremberg trials: “kangaroo court” and “hypocritical hocus pocus”

In Reviews, Shameless plug on September 12, 2012 at 11:43 am

[Editor’s note: Now, for something a little different.

 Last night, I finished re-reading “Twenty Million Tons Under the Sea”. The book is about submarine warfare during WWII. It was written in 1956 by Rear Admiral Daniel V. Gallery, USN. I’m not generally drawn to read books about wars or battles. But as a former sailor and the son of a sailor, I love reading about the seafaring life and about ships. Admiral Gallery’s book is written in the postwar “Aw shucks” style that was common before gratuitous gore and rampant obscenity took the place of skillful storytelling. The book has a most surprising epilogue, considering the time in which it was written and by whom it was written. That epilogue is (partially) presented below. I think you’ll be surprised as well. Enjoy!]

 “…Seventy percent of all the officers and men who served in the U-boat fleet went to the bottom of the sea with their boats. This is an almost incredible casualty rate. In the Pacific the personnel loss rate for our submarines was only one-third as great. Well trained military outfits have mutinied in the face of much less. It takes a high calibre (sic) of leadership in the officers’ corps, good discipline, and high morale to keep on fighting despite such brutal losses. It’s too bad such valor was wasted in an evil cause.

…After World War I, all great nations agreed that the submarine was an uncivilized weapon which should be outlawed – just as we all now agree the atom bomb should be. But to outlaw an effective and useful weapon requires more mutual confidence and trust than civilized nations have ever had in each other. The great maritime nations who had little to gain and much to lose from the unrestricted submarine warfare against merchant vessels were perfectly willing, between wars, to declare this form of warfare uncivilized and to ban it. But they wouldn’t outlaw submarines completely because they might want to use them against each other’s war ships next time they had to settle their differences in the traditional way employed by the human race ever since Cain settled his with Abel in the Garden of Eden. With this in mind, the great powers, including the United States, foisted off on a gullible world the London Treaty of 1930, saying that if submarines were ever used against merchant ships again, they would follow the Rules of Prize Warfare.

These rules, drawn up originally in the days of sailing ships were as obsolete in 1930 as sailing ships, and everybody who agreed to them knew this. Nevertheless, the United States put its signature on this pious hokum, and (like everybody else) kept right on building submarines.

This hypocritical stuff went down the drain during the first week of World War II. The Germans sank the “Athenia” and the British armed all merchantmen, ordered them to report submarines by radio, and to ram them – things which were impossible in the good old days of sail when Prize Rules originated. Before long, both sides threw the book away and went to unrestricted submarine warfare the same as in World War I, each side piously claiming it was simply retaliating against the other.

 “’Terrorism’ is what we call the violence of the weak, and we condemn it; ‘war’ is what we call violence of the strong, and we glorify it.” Sydney J. Harris – American journalist and columnist

 

When the U.S. got into the war, our submarines in the Pacific operated the same as the Germans did, and sank six million tons of ships. We torpedoed without warning and left survivors to their fate. That’s the only way submarines can operate. Admiral Lockwood, who commanded our submarines in the Pacific, tells the story with a few words in the title of his book, Sink ‘Em All. Naval officers were not at all surprised by any of this. War is a brutal business and no amount of wishful thinking by bubble-headed statesmen between wars will make it otherwise.

When the statesmen louse up their job so badly that they have to have the military men pull the chestnuts out of the fire for them, a lot of innocent bystanders are going to get hurt. When nations, by mutual consent, decide to ignore the Commandment “Thou shalt not kill.” It is very difficult for the military leaders to restrict killing to just the right people.

 “Fuehrers will cease to plague the world only when the majority of its inhabitants regard such adventurers with the same disgust they bestow on swindlers and pimps. So long as men worship the Caesars and Napoleons, Caesars and Napoleons will duly rise and make them miserable.” Aldous Huxley – English author

 

…You might think that since our submarines fought the same way the Germans did, we would sweep the question of Prize Warfare under the rug after the war and say no more about violation of the laws of war at sea. Our naval officers were perfectly willing to do this, but our statesmen and lawyers were vindictive. When the war was over, they insisted on trying the German Admirals Raeder and Doenitz at Nuremberg as war criminals for permitting their submarines to do exactly what ours did. A justice of our Supreme Court (ed – Robert H. Jackson) prosecuted them and tried to hang them. To our eternal shame, we convicted the German Admirals of violating the laws of war at sea and sentenced them to long terms of imprisonment: Raeder to life; and Doenitz to ten years.

 “…any lawyer worth his salt will tell the suspect in no uncertain terms to make no statement to the police under any circumstances.” Justice Robert H. Jackson

 

“We are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final.” (ibid)

 

[Editor’s note: Admiral Gallery takes several sharp pokes at Justice Jackson. On the Court, Justice Jackson was a proponent of state’s rights and the rights of the accused. Gallery had virtually no kind words for Justice Jackson. Perhaps, and I do not honestly know, Admiral Gallery knew of Jackson’s leanings and found his duplicity, when it came to German naval officers, intolerable.]

This kangaroo court at Nuremberg was officially known as the “International Military Tribunal.” That name is a libel on the military profession. The tribunal was not a military one in any sense. The only military men among the judges were the Russians. Some military titles are listed on the staffs of the secretariat and prosecution counsel, the these belong to a lot of lawyers temporarily masquerading in uniform as military men.

Nuremberg was, in fact, a lawyer’s tribunal, although I can readily understand why the legal profession is ashamed to claim it, and deliberately stuck a false label on it.

I’m glad our real military men had nothing to do with the travesty on justice that the lawyers and “statesmen” conducted at Nuremberg. Raeder and Doenitz simply did their duty to their country in World War II, trying to straighten out the mess that their politicians got them into as all military men are sworn to do. Our politicians and lawyers set a rather stupid precedent when they tried these officers for carrying out the orders of their own misguided politicians.

Actually, the decision to court-marshal (sic) the German military brass was on par with the “unconditional surrender” blunder, which prolonged rather than shortened the war. From now on, Nuremberg gives enemy military leaders good reason for fighting to the last bullet than trying to negotiate surrender of a hopelessly lost cause. There certainly is no use for surrendering if you know you will be hauled up before a kangaroo court and hung, as most defendants were at Nuremberg.

After all, Doenitz did surrender six days after he stepped into Hitler’s shoes following the paperhanger’s suicide. He couldn’t have surrendered any sooner without leaving millions of Germans in East Prussia to the Red savages.

Even today, few people realize that the German Navy, in the last days of the war, evacuated several times as many residents from East Prussia as the British Navy took out from Dunkirk. As soon as Doenitz got his people to safety in West Germany, he surrendered…but one of the charges on which our Supreme Court presecutor tried to hang him was that he prolonged the war!

Had the German people seen fit to try their own military leaders for losing the war, I might go along with that. Or if our statesmen had insisted on hanging the Nazi politicians and had felt that a mock trial was necessary before doing it, I could see some logic in that. But our politicians and lawyers were undermining their own authority when they convicted the German generals and Admirals. After all, one thing the much maligned military brass must do, in a democracy as well as a dictatorship, is to swallow their convictions, if any, and do as they are told by the politicians.

Editor’s note: For those readers who are scowling at the writer’s words because of the Holocaust’s perpetrators, Admiral Gallery offers some relief in the following.]

…I have no sympathy for the sadists who operated the death camps at Buchenwald and Dachau. They should have been shoved into their own death chambers and liquidated quietly by the first military commanders to lay hands on them while the rest of us looked the other way. I even approve of their final hanging. But I do not approve of the baldfaced hypocritical hocus pocus by which our statesmen try to justify it legally. The mass murderers at the death camps operated on the basis that might was right, and so did we when we hung them (emphasis added).

At Nuremberg, mankind and our present civilization were on trial, with men whose own hands were bloody sitting on the judge’s seats. One of the judges came from the country which committed the Katyn Forrest massacre and produced an array of witnesses to swear at Nuremberg that the Germans had done it. Maybe crimes of such magnitude as those charged at Nuremberg should be left to the Last Judgment for punishment.

…Doenitz’s conviction on charge three – violation of the laws of war at sea – was an insult to our own submariners. Admiral Doenitz requested early in the trial that our own Admiral Nimitz be summoned as a witness in his defense to testify about how our subs operated in the Pacific. Our Supreme Court prosecutor had to hem and haw and to back water fast when that hot potato was tossed at him. Admiral Nimitz (God Bless him for the honest seafaring man that he is) finally submitted a sworn statement, answering questions put to him by Doenitz’s counsel and said that our submarines in the Pacific waged unrestricted warfare the same as the Germans did in the Atlantic.

Despite this, we convicted Admiral Doenitz on the charge of violating the laws of war at sea. If the old gentleman ever gets out of jail, I hope I never meet him. I would have trouble looking him in the eye. The only crime he committed was that of almost beating us in a bloody but “legal” fight.

…The Nuremberg trials placed a solemn stamp of approval on a code of war at sea which wee not only didn’t follow ourselves in World War II, but which may embarrass us in the future.”

[Editor’s final comments: Gallery’s frankness took a great deal of courage to put to pen in 1956. Politicians, being of an unchanging breed of swine, had the same level of contempt for the truth in 1956 as they do in 2012.

 But we also have some porcine characteristics. When evil men fly airliners into American skyscrapers we hypocritically call it “terrorism”. When evil men (politicians) order American military men to guide armed drones to bomb weddings, birthday parties, and neighborhoods we, with straight faces, call it “fighting a global war on terror”.

 I remain perplexed that good men and women will sign up to risk their lives, or risk being maimed, because of some incompetent ‘sumbitchin’ politician couldn’t conduct “diplomacy”. They call the American president the “Commander in Chief” of the military, despite the fact none of any of the recent ones could lead three sailors on shore leave into a whorehouse.

 If you vote for any politician, you’ve got blood on your hands when (not “if”) he/she screws things up. When you vote, you are appointing someone to be your proxy in some officially sanctioned (“legal”) bloodletting or murder.

Eleven years later…

In Editorial on September 11, 2012 at 4:20 pm

“When we see a blow struck, we go on and think no more about it: Yet every blow aimed at the most distant of our fellow creatures is sure to come back, some time or other, to our families and descendants.” (Walter Savage Landor 1775-1864)

Eleven years have passed and another eleventh day in the month of September settles over a fearful and vengeful America. Each year, and this one was no different, Americans are reminded how evil men flew passenger aircraft into skyscrapers filled with innocent civilians. In response America has, with equal evil, sent forth unmanned aircraft to bomb and strafe weddings, birthday parties, and neighborhoods filled with innocent civilians. The Talmud instructs: “He who takes a life is as though he killed an entire world.” America’s indiscriminate killing not only destroys the future worlds of its victims, it breeds hatred and thoughts of revenge among the survivors who will, if given the chance, retaliate in kind.

It’s time to end this madness, if we can.

What if? Just, what if? America has not been the innocent victim? President Bush cannot leave our borders out of a reasonable fear that he will be abducted, a la Josef Mengele, and hauled before a court to answer for war crimes. Barack Obama entirely ripped whole portions of the Constitution to shreds with the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012. Innocents are hauled from their American beds by black uniformed shock troops and the following eleven years bode even worse for civil liberties. So, where are we? Are we good? Or, are we evil? If we are not good, but not entirely evil…what can we do?

In May of 2003, Dr. Lawrence Britt released the results of his examination of fascist regimes and compiled his list of Fourteen Defining Characteristics of Fascism. His list, with editor’s notes is the subject of Phyne Dyning’s September 11th Memorial Edition.

Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism – Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

PD: I seldom recall seeing a flag flown at half-staff (half-mast) during my childhood or as a young man. Today, you can end up having forearms like Popeye if you heed gubernatorial admonishments to fly your flag at half-staff in memory of so-and-so or this-and-that. I used to keep a VFW calendar because it showed the major patriotic holidays when citizens were encouraged to fly their flags. It became useless when, during some months, flying the flag became a near-daily obligation and I stopped flying flags anyway.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights – Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

PD: Human rights? Today, the emphasis is on “security” and “public order”. In retaliation for fanatics who flew airliners into skyscrapers, killing innocent civilians, America sends unmanned drones to bomb and shoot up weddings, birthday parties, etc…killing innocent civilians.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause – The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

PD: “Terry-wrists” are a conveniently vaporous, continually useful threat. If the enemy cannot be a goat-herding peasant living in a distant and backward lands…surely our next door neighbors might be possible threats worthy of watching.

4. Supremacy of the Military – Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

PD: Every September, the ongoing orgasm of nationalism becomes a full frenzy homage to the military and police. “On September 11th, say ‘Thank you’ to a police officer, a fireman, or a member of the military.” Even community memorials to the dead from the 2001 attack are turned into an orgy of lovemaking to instruments of state violence. No thanks!

5. Rampant Sexism – The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.

PD: Everything Dr. Britt observed here is fundamentally correct if we look at right-wing politics. Does that mean that the state collectivists get a pass on this one? Absolutely not! America’s left-leaning fascists (state socialists) holds to a belief that people must be cared for by the state. Public schools, meals-on-wheels, government welfare, and other programs are always presented as institutions designed to preserve the family.

6. Controlled Mass Media – Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

PD: I wish people would abandon the misconception that the media is either “controlled by the right” (e.g. Fox News) or that it is “controlled by the left” (e.g. CNN). The fact is, the media universally bows and scrapes to the state. Almost universally in the media, there is never a “bad” public works program or a “bad” system of distributing stolen money (taxes) as grants.

7. Obsession with National Security – Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

PD: This one is obvious on its face. The most useful boogeyman for the state is one that “can be anyone”. Fifty years ago, it was the communists. Today, the “enemies of freedom” are even more nebulous…terrorists.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined – Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.

PD: Here again, Dr. Britt perhaps over-examines the right wing of fascism. The right often speaks of religion-centered morality…which is typically fundamentalist Christian in nature. But the left does not get an easy pass. The leftist fascists steer away from making moral decisions based on one particular religion. Instead, the whole of religion gets co-opted. Religion is not G-d based. Religion IS the state and its various ministries and petit officials.

9. Corporate Power is Protected – The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

PD: This is the very definition of fascism. Each election cycle, the candidates gush homey-sounding claims that they are pro-business. They are not talking about Joe’s Grocery down the street. The claim is a half-lie because the “business” they seek to protect are the ones who actually hold the strings of power.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed – Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

PD: Again, Britt appears to give the leftist-fascists a pass. Labor unions have devolved to become corporations unto themselves. When a union presses to disenfranchise a worker who chooses not to be a union member, the union is no better than the corporate suits who seek to build “profits” off of the back of the worker.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts – Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.

 PD: State-mandated education and centralization of education policies are mistresses of the fascist state. Higher education and academia are only valued by the fascist state if education and academia forwards the fascist cause. However, any academic who questions the natural order of the fascist state is subject to censoring or arrest.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment – Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

PD: The American “criminal justice system” has devolved into vengeance. The state cajoles citizens into believing that everyone is a potential criminal. Fair treatment of the accused has virtually vanished. Prime time television is an ongoing homage to police authority and it promotes a “resistance is futile” doctrine where all criminals are captured and the state always wins.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption – Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

PD: And there is no more guilty party than the office of the President of the United States. The executive office now declares wars unilaterally, shreds due process rights, and ignores the sovereignty of borders entirely at will and without oversight. The executive appoints unelected “tsars” to head up bureaucracies where the bureaucracy acts as its own judge and jury via administrative law. In 1969, and it has only gotten worse since then, Richard Barnet completed a study of the top four hundred decision makers in the postwar (WWII) national security system. He found that “most have come from executive suites and law offices within shouting distance of one another in fifteen city blocks in New York, Washington, Detroit, Chicago, and Boston”. Nepotism, cronyism and tribalism runs American fascism.

14. Fraudulent Elections – Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

PD: It is more eloquent to quote Noam Chomsky’s 1971 work “Government in the Future”: “Unfortunately, you can’t vote the rascals out, because you never voted them in (in the first place). The corporate executives and corporation lawyers and so on who overwhelmingly staff the executive (assisted increasingly by a university-based managerial class) remain in power no matter whom you elect. And, furthermore, it is interesting to note that this ruling elite is pretty clear about its social role.”

 One need only look at the state response to the Occupy Movement at the behest of Wall Street bankers and other swells.

 Eleven years later, the presidential election is perceived by many Americans to be an entirely rigged process. It does not matter whom you vote for, the result will always be the same. The only way to effect change is to 1) Register to vote and, then, 2) Don’t vote. No matter how enthusiastic their small numbers of acolytes may be, no matter how vocal, a low voter response underscores the illegitimacy of the office. Not voting is your best, only voice to stop the latest statist madness that we have lived under for eleven years.

Meditation: The (un)medication for the mind

In Lifestyle on September 7, 2012 at 11:12 am

 

I’ve been meditating now for almost two years. Two years does not make one a veteran Zen-master by any means. Neither does fifty years. It doesn’t work that way. In Soto-style Zen, enlightenment is achieved spontaneously and it can happen (or not happen) at any time. If enlightenment comes, okay. If enlightenment does not come, okay. In two years of non-seeking, I have learned to be aware for mere moments and that contents me.

Free your mind. Your ass will follow.

Living as a free man in an unfree world can be frustrating beyond measure. Striving to abandon the continually grasping, consumerism mentality is a challenge when you are incessantly bombarded with admonishments to buy something. Politics? If you make the mistake of taking American politics any more seriously than the three-ring circus it is, your mind will race.

At some point, you must acknowledge “it is what it is” and you can do so if you are willing to work desperately to create a liberated mind.

“Shikata ga nai”

Shakata ga nai, is a Japanese phrase meaning “it must be done” and it became a virtual motto for Japanese-Americans when they were forced into American concentration camps during WWII.

Expanded, the phrase can be taken to mean, “That which cannot be overcome, must be endured.” Enduring is surviving.

The alternative is death.

Each time we are faced with an event or individual who threatens our lives, our fortunes, or our sacred honor…we have a choice. We can endure and hope to overcome. Or, we can allow the event or individual to write the final chapter of our lives.

In meditation, one can be free in a prison and one can be healthy when terminally ill. Meditation helps us to endure.

(Editor’s note: The concept of being mentally free while imprisoned has motivated many of America’s gulag-masters to prohibit prison meditation groups. What they don’t know, is that meditation can be done without outward signs that one is meditating. It’s not all sitting in a semi-Lotus position!)

Meditation is not prayer

I pray, as a prayer session, at least three to four times daily. If you count my hastily added, spontaneous implorings to G-d, the daily number rises to the hundreds.

My prayer sessions follow the formulaic rules from my Siddur and include my conscious thoughts about the prayers and supplications as I recite them. I think about each word as I say them, whisperingly, to my G-d.

In meditation, there is no contemplation of words or thoughts. I simply strive to be.

No, meditation is not the emptying of my mind and an attempt to escape the world. Quite the opposite! My meditation makes me more aware, un-judging, and it makes me more part of my world.

Each fifteen-minute session is my chance to examine what passes through my mind without having to critique those passings. The thoughts simply come and go. I strive to let thoughts go by without considering whether or not they are good, bad, rational, irrational, or even if I should be thinking about thinking them. My thoughts simply are.

No, that’s not right. Thoughts cannot be. Thoughts are not real. A thought cannot harm (or help) you because “it is what it is”…a thought.

Embrace the noise

When I first began regular meditation, I sought out a quiet and comfortable surrounding. If the weather is pleasant, my back deck looks over a park-like back yard. Birds chirp and insects hum by my ear. And then, an ambulance or fire truck screamed by and my meditation got “interrupted” by the cacophony of city noises. I had not yet learned to “embrace the noise”.

Noise is part of our world. In meditation, we seek to become more aware of our presence on the world. To be disturbed by a screaming police siren during meditation is to have evaluated the sound to be unpleasant. Now, I strive to notice the siren and then let the sound pass without evaluating it or attaching a “good” or “bad” label to the sound. It is simply…sound. Unlike thoughts, sounds are. We should notice sounds. They are a real part of the world. The thoughts about the sound are never real. They are only thoughts.

Making peace

Much of our personal suffering arises only from our thoughts. We hash over, and re-hash, arguments or disturbing personal events. We long for a happy time in our memory. The thought of the happy time makes us smile. Then, when we realize the happy time is only a memory, we pine for the happy time.

Therefore, memories of good things and bad things disquiet the mind.

Let’s look at this logically.

Thoughts are not real. Things that are not real cannot harm us any more than an imaginary dagger. If things that are not real cannot harm us, why do we allow our thoughts to disquiet our minds? It is irrational to give form and substance to thoughts and it is equally irrational to allow thoughts to evoke the same physiological “fight or flight” response in our body.

There’s nothing ethereal about what I just wrote and it does not contain any “profound understanding”. It is merely logical…and rational.

Just think of the calm you can achieve for yourself when you stop allowing thoughts to disharmonize your inner peace.

Cheating death

Let’s look at a subject that’s supposed to be hard. Death.

Thoughts of our own death are one of the most disquieting of all thoughts. If one’s religious training taught you not to fear death because death ends in a “going to a better place” your death thoughts can still disquiet you. “It’s not ‘dead’ that bothers me so much as ‘the dying part’ of death.”

Over the past two years I’ve read accounts of men and women who, when faced with inevitable death by violence or illness, remained calmly serene and aware right to the moment of death. Their thinking goes something like this: “I’m not dead yet.”

Pretty simple, no?

Until we die, we are not dead. Until we are dead, why would we torment our minds with dread? Remember, that dread is only a thought and a thought cannot harm us.

“Yeah, but the knife in my murderer’s hand will.”

Yes. But if a death is entirely unavoidable and inevitable, it is futile to be disturbed by it. Of course, one should fight off a murderous assailant if at all possible. But recognize at least that avoiding all death is impossible.

“Ain’t none of us getting out of this alive”, an old Texas judge told me once.

It’s true.

If you can come to grips with the worst thing life has to offer, then you can certainly prevail over the more trivial events and adversaries.

Try a dose of the (un) medication

America is a psychotropic drug, pill-popping nation. “Mother’s little helper” now has hundreds more potent siblings. All of these drugs are marketed with a stated intent to help patients deal with their thoughts.

(Editor’s note: Isn’t there a horrid irony present within adverse effects warnings for anti-depressants that list ‘increased thoughts of suicide’ as a potential side-effect? Crap! Depressed people commit suicide and doctors are prescribing drugs that can increase or facilitate suicidal thoughts.)

Why not deal with thoughts naturally? Why don’t people just ignore thoughts for what they are, phantasms without form or substance?

(Editor’s note: I paid a private medical college a LOT of money to teach me that there are many unfortunate people whose mental illness results from chemical or structural defects in their brains. Medication or other intervention may be appropriate for these people. But most people could deal with anxiety, mild depression, and other problems quite safely using meditation rather than medication.)

No, I’m not advocating that people walk around entirely ‘blissed out’ or that they should not prepare for adverse events, save resources, or defend their person from attack. There is a Hebrew phrase for someone who simply exists and trusts “what will be will be” and who trusts everyone to do his/her best. The phrase is chasid shoteh, or “a pious fool”.

Preparation is vital. Worry, however, is not.

Why worry if you are unprepared financially, physically, or that you have not set aside resources for the coming hard times in America? You’ve done the best you can. Worrying will not create more financial resources or physical stamina. Worrying, in fact, is detrimental and often results in mental inertia.

Meditate! Be! Move!

It will make all of the difference.

Eat your (Japanese-style) veggies!

In Recipies on September 7, 2012 at 9:23 am

I don’t know why I didn’t try this before. We love all of Asian cuisine. At least the menu items we can eat because it doesn’t contain stuff like eels, snails, insects, or other treyfe. Usually, my Asian-inspired cooking results from a quick scan of the fridge and a determination that there are quite a few odd ends in the veggie bin.

I recently surveyed the bin and found two carrots, two green peppers, two stalks of celery, a little bok choy, a bunch of green onions (the tops were starting to wilt), and half of a broccoli crown. My onion container had contained half of a yellow onion and I finally found a use for the lone clove of garlic that dwelled under the full head I had just purchased.

Normally, these odd ends get stir-fried and seasoned with a pungent curry. But as I stood at my prep table looking over my cache of veggies, my eyes swept over a bottle of Takara-brand mirin (cooking sake). (For readers unaccustomed to the lingo of all things mirin, turn to my page Blame it on the Yase Nobe for a more complete discussion of mirin.) Takara mirin, for those for whom such things matter, is “OU” kosher too!

A dash back to the fridge confirmed that I still had bit left from a hand of ginger, so the menu was set.

Let’s make some Japanese-inspired vegetables!

You can use almost any vegetable for this dish. I came very close to using a small zucchini I had. But I wanted more “crunch” and zucchini gets the opposite of “crunch” when cooked.

Here’s what I used:

2 green peppers cut in bite-size pieces

2 carrots peeled and cut into matchsticks

2 stalks of celery (remove ribs with a vegetable peeler)

3 parts of bok choy (white and light green parts) cut bite-sized

½ crown of broccoli cut into medium florets

1 bunch green onions (tops removed) in 2” pieces

½ cup mirin

1 TBS vegetable oil

1 ½ tsp minced ginger

1 small clove garlic in fine mince (optional)

Cooked white rice or rice noodles

Heat the oil in a wok or deep skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, toss in the hard vegetables first and stir-fry them. Then add the softer ingredients a minute or so later and stir-fry them. Reduce the heat to medium and, while the skillet is still quite hot, stir in the garlic (if using) and the ginger. Remove the skillet from the heat and allow it to cool a bit. You want to reduce the mirin and not simply boil it off. Test the pan with a few drops of mirin. It should steam but it should not vanish in a puff of steam. If the pan is cool enough add all of the mirin and return the pan to medium heat. The mirin should boil gently. When it is reduced to just over a couple of tablespoons of volume and the liquid has thickened slightly, remove the skillet from the heat and serve the vegetables over a bed of cooked rice or noodles. Serve with a good fish sauce, chili sauce, and soy sauce to add at the table.

A wonderful variation of this vegetarian meal is to lay a steamed fillet of tilapia on top of the vegetables and rice. Cups of hot tea or warmed sake can make this modest meal special enough for dinner guests.

Kampai!

“Dear Phyne Dyner…” (We finally opened our mail.)

In Intro to Libertarianism on September 5, 2012 at 12:17 pm

The High Holy Days are almost here and that means it’s also time for the Phyne Dyner to sweep the cobwebs out of his mailbox. I only publish letters/comments I feel may appeal to the general readership. If your letter doesn’t get quoted or published, don’t get your scivvies in a bunch. Letters getting “hot topic treatment” are those that ask questions or seek clarification of a libertarian viewpoint or cooking technique.

One of the hot topics was Phyne Dyning’s decision to bring his readers postings from Dr. Jimmy T. “Gunny” LaBaume’s email newsletter, The Flyover Press.

[Editor’s note: “Agreeing to disagree” is fundamental to any libertarian belief system. Prior to adding Dr. LaBaume’s material, I prominently declared that he and I disagree on many subjects. Readers who also disagree with him should subscribe to his newsletter and then contact him directly. Unless your question is grievously stupid, he’ll answer you. The following is intended only to flesh out the thoughts of the Phyne Dyner.]

From “Rachel”: You claim to support feminism, but guide your readers to LaBaume’s site where he states, “We believe that radical feminism is one of the largest contributors to the destruction of our civilization’s fundamental building block–the immediate family.” What gives with your inconsistency?

Rachel, I don’t propose to speak for LaBaume. Equality of rights is a cornerstone of libertarian socialism. Therefore, men and women are equally endowed with rights. “Radical” feminism, in my opinion, is essentially a female-centric doctrine or a female superiority belief system and is inconsistent with the egalitarian principles of libertarian socialism.

(Also) From “Rachel”: Flyover Press, in its opening page “manifesto”, states its author(s) oppose abortion because it is “murder”. You’ve said manty (sic) times that you support a woman’s right to choose. Which is it?

As a Torah-believing Jew, base my personal legal code around its premises. According to Torah (and rabbinic scholars), abortion is not murder because the unborn “child” is not a child (having rights) until it emerges from the mother’s body. Therefore, an unborn child does not have rights, including the right to life. Still, abortion is a tragedy because it destroys a potential life. But then, so do some forms of birth control. But, remember, the main point is that the state has no business in personal reproductive choices…none. BTW: Nor does the state have any business deciding who can marry who. If a person is opposed to same-sex marriage, the solution is simple…don’t have one. Marriage is essentially a contract between two people. The worries about men marrying prepubescent children (or dogs and horses if the state does not regulate marriage) are unfounded, since they cannot enter into binding contracts.

From “J.W.”: I understand your libertarian viewpoints, but I don’t get your attitude toward the police or the military as individual members. Why can’t you support the troops?

Because it is wrong; unless there is state-ordered conscription. Even then, draftees have a choice. I see enlistees (and people who choose to become professional edict-enforcers) as dupes of the state. I was once a dupe. I also, as a child, once believed in the Tooth Fairy. Asking me to “support the troops” (or police) is akin to demanding that I return to believing in the Tooth Fairy. At the risk of being accused of proving Godwin’s Rule, you are asserting that it would have been morally right to “support the troops” of the Third Reich. No, it would not.

From “Sam”: I don’t understand libertarian “socialism”. Socialism created mass misery for millions and it is inconsistent with libertarianism.

Sam, you are thinking of state socialism. Socialism works every day among peaceful people. If you belong to a church, synagogue, gun club, Rotary, Lions, or other civic organization, you are practicing voluntary socialism. You can quit any of those organizations at will (or they can toss you out). Socialism (and capitalism) becomes evil when participation in socialism (or capitalism) is mandated by the state.

From “T.R.”: The Flyover Press says America “was founded on the moral principles of Christianity”. Do you agree that America is a “Christian nation”?

Yes and no. America’s moral principles largely come from biblical sources. The Christian Bible is a descendant of Torah. In fact, Jesus specifically said that he (lower case is deliberate) did not come to change “one dot” of the Law of Moses. But even that point is moot. America was founded by individuals who were almost entirely Christian. To their immense credit, they did not specifically encode Christianity (or any religion) into the nation’s constitution.

(Also) From “T.R.”: You don’t like “anarcho-capitalism” and call yourself a “libertarian socialist”. Why and why?

Dr. LaBaume and I had an off-line discussion on this topic. The father(s) of anarcho-capitalism embraced much of what is (today) called libertarian socialism. Because of the times in which they lived, and the disfavor held for all things “socialist”, they referred to their philosophy as “anarcho-capitalism” instead of libertarian socialism. I have no beef with anarcho-capitalists, provided they don’t seek to impose their system on me. In libertarian reciprocity, I will not seek to impose my socialist ideas on them.

[Editor’s note: I believe voluntary economic socialism to be vital in the establishment of any anarchist society. Pooling resources (voluntarily) creates opportunities for an emerging society to take root. Once rooted, participants may (again voluntarily) evolve their society into one where capitalism predominates or where socialism persists.]

(Also) From “T.R.”: Do you foresee a coming revolution in the USA? Will it be peaceful or will we repeat another (un)Civil War.

I have no crystal ball. But I see huge changes coming at us as a people and as a nation. I believe there will be pockets of violent revolution in America that will be quickly (and brutally) suppressed by the American state. As a libertarian, I believe our personal response to the state must remain an individual choice. As an anarchist, I believe deeply in the peaceful resolution of differences between parties. That said…I am not a pacifist. Had Gandhi lived in Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Russia, rather than in British colonial India, he would have been unknown…executed and rendered to ashes almost as an afterthought. Mankind has a natural affinity for liberty. Our job, as I see it, is to plant the seeds for recovery of liberty after the revolution and to give heart to our fellows during the intervening years of oppression. I think the Occupy Movement represents America’s greatest hope and it reflects how other people, in other nations, rebelled peacefully against their own, tyrannical states. I see pockets of violent resistance in the future. They will be quickly (and brutally) suppressed (systematically killed) by the American state’s Praetorians. My job is to spread libertarian thought through peaceful resistance and by educating others. The best thing we can do to perpetuate the state is to violently resist and thereby give the state any opportunity to say, “See! These people are dangerous. We’ll protect you.” Also, if one is violent in pursuing liberty, it is hard to convince those on the fence that the end result of any proposed libertarian revolution will be peaceful. As you know, most people sit on the fence.

From “Dick”: If anarchism (the real name for libertarianism) is a superior form of organization for societies, can you name anyplace where anarchy has been successful?

Every time an anarchist society has emerged, the greater state surrounding it has brutally suppressed it. The Paris Communes thrived until statist French brutally put it down. The Spanish Communes were thriving until statist Spaniards did likewise to them. If you are expecting history books, written with the consent of the state, to say “nice” about anarchism, you are naïve.

From “Gail”: I think alot (sic) of people are put off by the term “anarcho” and “anarchist” because of its association with violence. Don’t we need some kind of government to avoid descending into anarchy?

“Anarchism” or “libertarianism” has no association with violence. Any such association is the result of the state repeating a big lie loud enough and long enough. “Government” is not evil. Government is merely cooperation between individuals according to mutually agreed-upon rules. In the absence of government, there is no “descent into anarchy”. There is a descent into chaos if there is no mutual agreement for peaceful resolution of individual differences. We have “government” (in the USA) that is absent of any semblance of mutual agreement on rules. If you do not consent to follow rules (enacted by the bureaucracy or by mob “democratic” choice) the government will send men with guns to kill you, put you in chains, or to toss you into a cage somewhere until you “voluntarily” (heavy sarcasm) choose to follow the rules of “government”.

A government is only legitimate when it governs with the consent of those it governs. That 51% constitutes a majority in a democracy does not take away that the 51% has voted to take away the rights of the dissenting 49%.

Look at the American state’s disinformation program about anarchism in the United States. Many people are awakening to find that the system they have unwittingly supported is a dismal failure and the “economy” it created is entirely vaporous. Consequently, the state’s toady press is bellowing how “dangerous anarchists” are being interdicted by the state’s “heroic” police forces. In truth, the “dangerous anarchists” are usually mental midgets who have been manipulated by police controllers to act out or plan “acts of terror”. Real anarchists do not embrace terror as a mechanism for change. Think about it: If a person’s moral compass says it is wrong to use violence to impose his/her will upon another, how could they ever resort to violence?

[Editor’s note: In a representative democracy, the electorate chooses people from the population to make difficult decisions on behalf of the people. Ideally, these chosen people must consider the rights of the minority whenever the majority supports some measure. That means, even if the majority wants something desperately (like “free” health care), the representatives can decline to follow their wishes if acceding to them would somehow deprive the minority of some right or of a portion of their property. When the people’s representatives simply bow to the will of the majority and then hide behind excuses that they now “only follow the enacted law” government becomes “state”. Unfortunately, any elected representative usually succumbs to the intoxication that comes with holding the reins of public power and, in order to get re-elected, they will bend to the will of the majority. Any person seeking to become an elected representative of the people must be carefully examined for the presence of a spine. Washington D.C. has become, in its entirety, a nest of invertebrates.]

And finally!

(Also) From “T.R.”: In your piece, “A Taxing Unfairness” you seem to be calling for taxation of churches. I thought libertarian “whatevers” were opposed to taxation. Are you flipping, or flopping?

Libertarians oppose any situation where the state gives advantages to one business over another. It is, therefore, a gross unfairness that someone is exempt from theft (tax) because he buttons his shirt collar in the back. Not taxing houses of worship turns them into dutiful disciples of the state. Go inside any church on Sunday and you’ll find people clamoring for more state and its leaders urging submission to the state’s authority. At its front, you’ll find a flag…a symbol of the state’s omnipresence and omnipotence, even in the face of G-d.

Is it “flipping or flopping” to promote taxation of churches? No. If one seeks to raise the ire of an entire population, it is vital to equally oppress them. Once everyone is equally oppressed, the masses will be more willing to rise for better terms. As is, the state benefits by playing favorites because it pits one person (or group) against another and doing so acts to dissipate the anger that would otherwise be directed against the state. As Emily Bronte astutely observed, “The tyrant grinds down his slaves and they don’t turn against him, they crush those beneath them.”

We live as the animals in “Animal Farm” where all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others. Once the inequity affects a critical mass of people, we can look forward to our redemption into freedom.

Ironically, this is saying that we should hasten our own oppression. Is it an oxymoron to say this? I don’t think so. There is virtually no chance that members of the ruling class will awaken one morning and say to each other over breakfast, “I say. We have been brutally unfair. What say we give it all up in the name of equal rights and opportunity for all?”

[Editor’s note: One area where LaBaume and I disagree is in our definition of “property”. I embrace the definition given by Mikhail Bakunin: Property is whatever a worker creates with his own hands (labor). One “buys” land. One does not “create” land. Therefore, all land is the property of all. Only the improvements we place on it through our own work is our property. We can defend, however, the property upon the unowned land. Therefore, it is reasonable for a person to have vicarious land “ownership” so long as he does something on the land. An area I explored with another anarcho-captitalist is Bakunin’s disdain for laws of inheritance. Since “property” is only that which we create with our hands, one cannot bequeath (or inherit) property. A corpse  has no property rights, obviously. So “ownership” terminates with the death of a property owner. However, one may give away one’s property at any time and he may draft a property transfer to whomever he chooses to take effect “one minute prior to my actual death”. It seems nonsensical to assume a world where inheritance does not exist. It was once considered nonsensical that inherited titles of nobility would become passe. Of the Colonial militia, the British Crown once said, “Without men of title to lead, there will be no ‘army’. Who will lead in a mob?”]

And, with that, I’m knackered.