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Archive for March, 2013|Monthly archive page

Matzoh, matzoh everywhere! How to use it all.

In Recipies, Tips and Hints on March 29, 2013 at 10:24 am

About four days into every Passover, I begin struggling with the emerging problem of, “What the heck can I put matzohs in?” This is why matzohs are called ‘the bread of affliction’ in Torah. Here are a couple of fast, easy ways to incorporate more of the mass quantities of matzoh you bought a week ago into a meal.

 

We love matzoh brie (var. matzoh brei). It’s simple to make and we think of it as sort of ‘Jewish Nachos”. Just whip up a batch of homemade salsa and enjoy.

A natural progression from matzoh brei is matzoh kugel, the Passover-kosher variation of noodle kugels we Jews serve up throughout the rest of the year.

Here’s my recipe for mushroom-squash matzoh kugel:

1 box kosher for Passover matzohs

3 TBS olive oil, divided

1 1/2 C vegetable (or chicken) stock

1 large onion, small dice

1 small zucchini, thinly sliced

6-8 white mushrooms, thinly sliced

3 eggs, lightly beaten

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat an oven to 400F. Break the matzohs into small (quarter to half-dollar sized) pieces. Place them in a thin layer on a baking sheet and while the oven is heating bake them for 10-15 minutes. Be sure to watch so they do not burn. Heat 2 TBS olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Fry the onions until golden (about 8-10 minutes) and remove them to a plate. Put the remaining oil in the pan and cook the sliced mushrooms and zucchini until soft. Remove them to a plate. In a large bowl, combine the baked matzohs, onion, stock, mushrooms, and zucchini. Stir in the beaten eggs. Pour the mixture into an oiled casserole and bake for 20-30 minutes (until set and top is golden). Remove to cool slightly and serve.

This serves nicely with matzoh-crusted chicken with falafel spices.

Falafel is the consummate street food of the Middle East where it seems there is a (or two) falafel stand on every corner. Since chickpeas are out during Passover, there’s a way to enjoy the falafel experience and marry it to a wonderful Shabbat dinner. The falafel spices are available in any Middle Eastern market or mix up your own from any number of recipes found on the web. Enjoy!

1 chicken breast, per person

1 1/2 matzohs per chicken breast

1/2 tsp falafel spices per chicken breast

1 egg per 2-3 chicken breasts, lightly beaten

4 TBS olive oil for frying

Rinse and thoroughly pat the chicken breasts dry (important!). Sprinkle the chicken breasts generously with the falafel spices and gently rub them in. In a food processor, process all but one of the matzohs until they are a fine meal. Process the lone matzoh into a flour-like powder. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large non-stick skillet. Pour the matzoh meal and matzoh flour onto two, separate plates. Pour the egg(s) into a shallow bowl. Roll each chicken breast into the matzoh flour, then through the egg, and finally through the matzoh meal. Gently lay the chicken in the hot oil and fry for 5-6 minutes on each side, gently turning with tongs or two spatulas. Reduce the heat if the pan begins to scorch. Serve with lemon wedges, cucumber slices, chopped onions, and diced tomato.

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Forget mint jelly. Give me charoset.

In Recipies on March 27, 2013 at 10:42 am

Try this ‘Jewish chutney’ with your next roasted leg of lamb. It’s floral-sweet and finishes with a skyrocket blast of heat.

 

Passover tables bow under the weight of symbolic foods. One such food is charoset, symbolizing the mortar used by Hebrew slaves to join Pharaoh’s bricks of mud and straw.

Most North American Jews serve charoset based on a variation of Eastern European recipes containing apples, cinnamon, nuts, and raisins. A few years back, our Cantor shared an article Mortars Without Borders with her congregants. My now-lost copy gave a skeleton outline of charoset recipes enjoyed by Jews living in different regions of the world.

They all shared a similar fruit-nut base. The difference usually lived in the varied spices and flavorings used.

This year, I used a fiery recipe inspired by Jewish cuisine from Yemen. For a Persian variation, omit the cayenne.

Most of its ingredients are familiar. It may be a bit difficult to find jaloob (pomegranate molasses) in some areas. But, it’s simple to make from readily available pomegranate juice, sugar, and lemon juice. Just mix 4 cups pomegranate juice, ½ cup sugar, and ¼ cup lemon juice. Reduce the mixture over medium heat until it is as thick as cane molasses.

My Yemeni charoset is best made in a large mortar and pestle, but a food processor can be used too. Just be sure not to pulverize things too finely. The consistency of a good charoset should be a bit lumpy and irregular.

Here we go!

You’ll need:

1 C walnut pieces

1 TBS sesame seeds, toasted

¼ C finely chopped prunes

2 TBS raisins, minced

1 TBS jaloob

¾ tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground cardamom

2 TBS sweet kosher wine

1 C applesauce

pinch cayenne (optional)

Mix all of the ingredients well and allow to chill in the refrigerator. After trying this, you’ll forget all about mint jelly for your next lamb roast.

Kabseh-Spiced Lamb Roast: A new Passover or Easter tradition

In Recipies, Tips and Hints on March 27, 2013 at 10:38 am

Our Passover Seder is now a memory. And just in time for Easter’s lamb (not ham) dinners, the Phyne Dyner offers up this year’s Seder headliner to his readers. Enjoy!

 

If not for the Moorish conquest, most of Europe would likely be flavoring foods with dill and juniper berries. The subsequent exploration and exploitation of North and South America would have been equally flavorless. The Arabian empire building changed our tables (methinks) for the better.

Empire, via the spreading of Pax Americana, has been good for American tables as well.

After WWII in the Pacific, there was an explosion of Polynesian and Japanese restaurants in urban locations. During the immediate post-war years, nearly every VA loan eligible home in the suburbs stood over a ‘finished’ basement having an Pacific island-themed bar and décor. Tiki torches and faux grass huts stood adjacent to wobbly above-ground swimming pools.

Post-war immigration also spread new tastes in America.

The Vietnam War brought thousands of ‘Boat People’ among them; the Hmong and Tai Dam who introduced their own regional flavors, along with flavors from the coastal regions of Viet Nam.

War means there is always a glut of war brides, returning military personnel, and refugees bringing new tastes to American palates. As our dying empire thrashes in the Near East, those struggles have also brought new flavors to our table.

Kabseh (var. kebsa), the Saudi Arabian national dish, is one such example. My neighborhood, once of Christian and Jewish flavors, has experienced an explosion of ‘Mediterranean’ (lit. Arab) markets and shops. A trip to one is like spending a few minutes in a shuk filled with wonderful and exotic aromas and sights. The explosion of these markets has been a good thing for a ‘meat and taters’ town that suffered too long as a cultural wasteland.

Authentic kabseh is a rice-based dish containing shredded meats, like chicken or lamb. The dish gets its name (and flavor) from a blend of spices that include cinnamon, cumin, cloves, nutmeg, and bay leaf. A few kabseh recipes include ginger and saffron and it is worth noting that, like all things in cooking, every cook and chef declares their spice blend to be the most authentic.

And I found, after much experimentation, that kabseh spices also lend themselves to some fantastic roasted lamb. Actually, had I done some research, I would have learned that mandi (pit roasted spiced meat) is also a staple food where kabseh is found.

The kabseh spice mixture is similar to many used for shwarma, that delightful vertical spit-roasted meat. Kabseh spices are a bit more piquant and flowery. Consequently, they can be a bit overwhelming if thickly rubbed on chicken and not advisable at all for fish.

But, on lamb, rubbed-on kabseh spices are a real treat.

So, if you’re looking for a Passover (or Easter) meat course that will allow you to attend to making other table goodies for the festival, try kabseh-spice roasted lamb.

Here we go!

For this recipe, you’ll only need a lamb roast and two tablespoons of kabseh spices. Just follow the instructions below and you’ll enjoy a delightfully spiced bit of meat for your festive occasion.

Oven temperature is critical. I’ve found the best oven for roasting lamb starts out very hot and finishes a bit lower. For lamb, I start with a 450F pre-heat and reduce the heat to 325F when I put the meat in the oven. The result is juicy and tender. Resist the temptation to go too low with the final roasting temperature. This dish is cooked uncovered and a very slow oven will allow the meat to dry out.

Before roasting, be sure to allow the lamb (a netted, boneless leg roast works best) to come to room temperature. About 30 minutes in a 70-degree kitchen will do as a nice start. Carefully rinse the meat and pat it thoroughly dry before rubbing in the kabseh spices.

After rubbing in the spices, cover the meat with plastic wrap and allow it to stand for another 15 minutes to allow the spices to penetrate a bit. Afterward, the meat will be at just the right room temperature and the spices will be perfect.

Allow about 15 minutes of roasting time per 1/4-pound of meat. Rare lamb comes out of the oven at about 140F, medium at 150-155F, and well at 160+. Check the temperature 10-15 minutes before your anticipated ‘done’ time. Oven thermostats are notoriously inaccurate. When the lamb is roasted to desired doneness, remove it from the oven and cover it loosely with aluminum foil for resting. Allow the meat to rest for at least 20 minutes before service. Resting allows heat-displaced juices to return ‘home’ and give you a much more tender (and juicy) piece of meat.

My boyhood died. Time of death: 15 March 2013

In Editorial on March 21, 2013 at 9:52 am
Photo: Delaware Open Carry

Photo: Delaware Open Carry

I admit it. I’ve got a soft heart. My wife and I regularly share a box of tissues when watching a sad movie. I cry when my pets die.

And just when I thought life in the United Soviet Soyuz of Amerika could not be much worse than life under Stalin, I clicked on this story: http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/03/19/dad-this-picture-of-my-son-holding-a-gun-triggered-a-visit-from-nj-police-family-services/

After I finished reading the story, I laid my glasses on my desk and dabbed my eyes with my shirt sleeve. The story didn’t make me angry.

It made me unbelievably sad.

When I was about eleven years old, my father (of Blessed memory) and a family friend spent several hours with me at the friend’s farm, shooting the heads off of cattails with a .22 rifle. We lived in the Detroit suburbs, so it was my first real encounter with a ‘real’ gun.

Before I was even handed the rifle, a semi-automatic of long-forgotten manufacture, I got the same instructions Pop got from his father about safe firearms handling. The entire lesson took about five minutes and then the shooting (fun) began in earnest.

I was hooked. All the way back into town, I pestered to have my own .22 semi-auto. The ‘Old Man’ just smiled and said something like, “We’ll see.” I had long ago learned that phrase meant probability was high that I would be granted my wish.

A long, slender box appeared on my bed a few weeks later. Inside was a much newer model of the rifle we had shot at the friend’s farm weeks earlier that same summer.

[NOTE: I speak vaguely about the rifle because it ‘disappeared’. Pop always kept it. It had sentimental memories of happy times that, for him, would vanish with his late-in-life misfortunes. After he died suddenly, a family member quickly snatched up virtually all of his possessions and then lost them to an endless procession of wives and ‘girlfriends’.]

In a box, on some dusty shelf, resides a photo of me with my new rifle. Facebook did not exist in the early 1960s. Instead, kids went out to play. Adults played (and shot guns) with their kids. We even drank out of the garden hose (After each other and without using hand sanitizer!). But if social media or blogs existed at the time, Pop would have most surely posted the picture of me holding my new rifle there.

The police would not have descended on our home. Child protective services would not have been notified.

A couple of years later, we moved to the (comparative) wilderness of Northern Michigan. For my thirteenth birthday, I was given a 12-guage double barrel shotgun. I still have the old gun and, aside from a few scratches from swamp brush encounters and fence-crossings, it looks like new.

My .22 and my shotgun frequently went with me to school. An always-laughing mechanical drawing teacher kept student’s guns in his coat closet. If we arrived at school too late to take the guns to his classroom, we’d just stick them in our locker until there was time to drop them off with him.

The first day of deer season was an unofficial school holiday for students who hunted deer (or ate venison, or once saw a deer). Throughout deer season, the school hallways looked like the lobby of a hunting lodge. Red (there was no blaze orange) shirts were on almost every student. Boys (and more than a few girls) sauntered through the hallways casually carrying cased high powered rifles. (Many of the rifles were ‘military style’ Garands, Enfields and Mausers brought home by WWII veteran fathers.) Bullets clanked inside of student’s pockets and, during Study Hall, they were diligently put in cartridge belts or ammo wallets; in full view of an unconcerned teacher who spent the hour sharpening his own 8-inch hunting knife.

Despite the presence of so many armed teenagers in a school, there was no SWAT team standing by in the parking lot. The principal didn’t shout lockdown codes over the school PA system (the term ‘lockdown’ having its origins in prison lingo). My bitter ‘enemies’ and I walked within inches of each other, bearing high power rifles, and never dreamed of inflicting deadly harm on each other.

I was Blessed.

Shawn Moore’s son will have a much different memory of his boyhood than mine. He’ll remember his new rifle being celebrated with the arrival of jackbooted goons on his father’s doorstep.

That’s why the story about Shawn Moore and his son made me cry.

Food and social decay, a proposal to reverse the trend

In Lifestyle on March 20, 2013 at 11:07 am

The time spent on the most basic of human social interactions has shrunk to ten percent of what it was just forty years ago. It got me thinking that it is no small wonder society is in decay.

 

“In 1972, Americans averaged two hours and forty-five minutes, per day, spent on meal preparation. In 2011, they spent…

…seventeen minutes, per day.”

I was just about to turn off the television when the above factoid crackled from its speaker as I read a book. I was so stunned (and later, disturbed) that it took me almost two hours to fall asleep. When I heard it, I sat bolt upright. I was so amazed that, by the time I found pen and paper, the announcer had moved on to other news and I missed her citation of who had made the finding.

The next day, I hustled off to do some quick research.

I never ran the citation to ground, but I found some very interesting data to distract me during my searching. Some of it is worthy of my pixels.

Between 2001 and 2004, UCLA researchers evaluated America’s use of convenience foods and the frequency they ate meals in restaurants or as take-away. According to their findings, Americans eat 77% of meals at home, but only 22% of those meals do not consist of convenience foods.

Here are some other findings from their investigation:

–       Only 59% of families ate together, even when all of the family members where home.

–       67% of families ate together when at least one member was absent.

–       During the monitoring period (three random days) only 17% ate together on all days.

–       23% of families never ate together.

–       63% of families had members eating at different times from other members.

–       50% of fathers were not home at any mealtime.

Here’s the good news:

Over three-fourths of Americans eat their meals at home.

Here’s the bad news:

Over three-fourths of the meals prepared consist of convenience foods and the family eats just over half of them communally.

Eating and sharing food is a primal human need. Hostage negotiators have long known that success (released hostages without the use of force) are more likely to take place if the hostage-taker has been willing to accept food from the negotiator.

Take home message: “We don’t kill or maim people we share food with.”

[NOTE: I am married to the most delightful woman on the planet. Unfortunately, the poor thing cannot cook. Even convenience food challenges her. In the early days of our (long past thirty) years together, our smoke detector announced, “Dinner is served.” I took over cooking duties as a survival measure.]

I’m not a neo-conservative. Consequently, I’m not about to hold forth with nonsense like, “This the way I do it. So, everyone must do (or suffer) as I do (have) in order to be happy or successful.” The following is just ‘one way’ offered in example and with the hope readers will explore their own methods.

Let’s look at the fundamentals first.

Most of us spend our lives hurrying through one thing so we can get started on the next task (which we hurry through)…to get to the next (hurried task).

Cooking is often a hurried task for most people and meals go like this:

Get the food cooked. Get it on the table. Get it in your gullet. Get cleaned up. Do something else.

Diners sometimes end up with a bag of ‘something’ passed around eager hands as they lean over the sink to eat it. Once ‘feeding’ has ceased, the family scatters. Prepared meals, according to the researchers, typically involves opening a pouch, can, box, or bag. Stuff gets mixed in or the food is served ‘as is’. The meal is then gulped down by diners unencumbered by social contact.

Until my Buddhist friends pointed this out, I didn’t realize that the Phyne Dyning meal-style and food preparation was a mindful way of dealing with food.

Here’s how it works.

At our appointed times, we convene at respective mealtimes. Dinner (‘lunch’ in Yankee-Speak) is a quick and simple meal consisting of one or many of the following: tinned fish, cheeses, boiled eggs, pita and hummus (or herbed oils) and cups of hot (usually mint) tea. Eating light at dinner means there will be no subsequent torpor (stupor?) from waddling around, stuffed.

[NOTE: Breakfast is equally simple. Israeli salad, boiled eggs, brown rice, or oatmeal usually fills the bill.]

Supper is the highlight of the day.

We convene in the kitchen while I do the cooking. Banter about our day fills the air as I chop and slice ingredients. She runs things in and out of the freezer or fridge as I work. Prep dishes and equipment gets a washing as soon as they are no longer needed. If it is Shabbat or Yom Tov, we enjoy cocktails as I work. (As our part of mindful living, we no longer drink alcohol routinely.) When the meal is finished cooking, so is all discussion of politics and work.

At the table, our conversation is carefully limited to positive topics and happy discussions. Again, if it is Shabbat or Yom Tov, we enjoy a glass of wine or two as we eat. At every meal, our little greyhound gal entertains us with a floorshow (begging for bits of bread, if any) while we eat. Mozart, Vivaldi, light Israeli pop, or other music plays softly (barely audible) as we converse and eat.

We think it is a magnificent way to eat routinely or when we socialize with guests.

Our ancestors, in times of peace and plenty, ate and prepared meals in a similar manner.

Even in the most desperate of times, people in desperate days attempted to keep balance and internal harmony by eating and sharing food in a civilized manner. In dire times, that kind of civilized dining is often the last vestige of humanity to be surrendered to purely animalistic survival.

Conversely, I believe it is equally probable that, even in times of relative peace and plenty, when people abandon their most basic civil food behaviors, they also descend to more base manners of thinking and living.

It seems worthy of some thought.

Spending only seventeen minutes (per day) to prepare unshared food may free us up to earn more money or to spend it on (unfortunately, usually solitary) entertainments.

But I think it has cost us our humanity.

Eat, and share, your food in a mindful manner with others. It’s human nature to do so.

Take-out Asian cuisine from leftovers

In Lifestyle, Recipies, Tips and Hints on March 20, 2013 at 9:24 am

We eat a largely vegetarian diet. And just like our entirely carnivorous neighbors, we suffer from occasional gluts of leftover bits of this and that. Wasting food is anathematic to Phyne Dyners, so we make a weekly sweep of food stocks to make sure we use the stuff from open containers and search the freezer and fridge for single servings of ingredients that might otherwise go to waste.

This week’s scavenging yielded two too-small tilapia fillets, a few small carrots, a small crown of broccoli, a few cauliflower florets, the last bit of a head of garlic, the center of a head of bok choy, and a half a box of whole-wheat angel hair pasta.

In about fifteen minutes, supper was on the table.

I steamed the fish and vegetables while the pasta cooked. Then, I tossed together a Southeast Asian-inspired sauce to pour over it.

When everything was cooked, I layered the fish, pasta and vegetables in deep bowls and poured the sauce over the whole mess. It was absolutely delicious.

[TIP: When using bok choy, be sure to use the leaves too. They can also be used to wrap seasoned small fish (or shrimp) before steaming.]

The sauce is an adaptation of a peanut sauce I make in which to dip goi cahn, those delightful Vietnamese spring rolls filled with vegetables and rice noodles (and fish or shrimp if you like). Both versions combine the earthiness of peanuts, the pungency of garlic, the sweet tanginess of hoi sin, and the fire of chilies.

Be sure to make enough. After one bite, you’ll want to slather it on like whipped cream over pumpkin pie.

So, get poking around in your provisions. The sauce works wonderfully with almost anything you can stir fry, steam, or grill.

You’ll need:

2 large cloves garlic, smashed into paste

¾ C hoi sin

¾ C water

3 TBS cider vinegar

1 to 3 TBS Sriracha sauce (to taste)

3 TBS creamy peanut butter

1 TBS canola oil

Smash the garlic into a paste using a mortar and pestle. Heat the oil in a small saucepan or skillet over medium heat and fry the garlic in the oil for about one minute, or until its aroma ‘blooms’. Reduce the heat to low-medium and stir in everything except the Sriracha. If the sauce appears too runny, dissolve a teaspoon of cornstarch in a tablespoonful of cold water and stir it into the sauce. Raise the heat until the sauce is just simmering and stir in the Sriracha, tasting frequently if you add more.

‘A judge’ sentences Commoner-beating, lying (uniformed) thug

In General Information on March 15, 2013 at 4:12 pm

kickyourasspd

Today, ‘a judge’ handed a disgraced Des Moines, Iowa police officer (redundant terms) some harsh justice. For his role in beating two Commoners and then repeatedly lying to cover it up, John Mailander got…

Mailander (Photo: Des Moines Register)

Mailander (Photo: Des Moines Register)

…two years of probation and $2000 in fines and ‘surcharges’. Feral (not a misspelling) prosecutors literally begged ‘a judge’ for leniency and got it.

[NOTE: Coverage in today’s Des Moines Register was used to prepare this screed. The Register did not name the sentencing judge. Phyne Dyning will, therefore, use the identifier ‘a judge’ throughout this piece. That’s why news reporting should always be left to professionals.]

Sentencing was a tender moment of reconciliation between the defendant and his prosecutors.

Dautovic (Photo: Des Moines Register)

Dautovic (Photo: Des Moines Register)

His tag-team partner, Mersed Dautovic, got a whopping (pun intended) twenty months in the federal pokey. And, let’s not forget, some fines (and probably ‘surcharges’ too). He’s currently enjoying his whopping (pun intended) five years of state prison time on charges related to the incident.

Dautovic’s attorney unsuccessfully argued throughout his trial that the former officer’s actions were reasonable, given his perceptions of an unknown threat coming from the fogged-up car.

[Dautovic’s attorney also argued that his client over-reacted because of PTSD subsequent to growing up in war-plagued Bosnia. I was once startled by a moose. Can I go around beating people up at random?]

Mailander, per victim, was fined about the same as a Commoner could expect for failing to provide a pet with adequate food or water. Mailander’s $2000 fines and ‘surcharges’ are chump change compared to the $500,000 of confiscated Commoner currency (taxes) made in a city settlement with his victims.

How did the rogue cop (redundant terms) get such a sweet deal?

Mailander pleaded guilty to his state charges of assault, lying in official reports, and lying in court proceedings. In exchange for his testimony against his fellow thug, feral (not a typo) prosecutors agreed to allow him to serve his state time in a comparatively more cushy federal prison.

[NOTE: Mailander and Dautovic subsequently asked for, and got, complaints against their victims for ‘assault on a police officer’. Those charges were vigorously pursued by the county prosecutor. Uncharacteristically, both accused victims were found not guilty of the charge.]

Earlier this week, U.S. District Judge John Jarvey handed Mailander a sentence that included only four months’ home confinement (surfing internet porn) and three years’ probation.

The County Prosecutor in the case, Jeff Noble, was quoted by the Register. “If we were to follow through on the plea agreement… Mr. Mailander (now) would be subject to more severe consequences than his more-culpable co-defendant, Mr. Dautovic.”

How wonderfully convenient. If you’re a Commoner-beating thug in a uniform, what’s not to like about such a deal?

What happens if a Commoner ‘resists’ a cop, even one acting unlawfully? After your mandatory beat-down, you’ll get mandatory jail time. And, disproportionate sentencing of Commoners who run afoul of edicts happens every day.

Official Ass-Whooping License

Official Ass-Whooping License

That isn’t justice.

Des Moines Police Chief, Judy Bradshaw, had this to say about the sentencing and in condemnation of police brutality by her former officers: [This space intentionally blank]  

Therefore, I propose a perfectly libertarian sentence, in addition to the pitiful one handed down today by ‘a judge’.

Shunning. Or, if that’s too Amish-sounding, try the Jewish equivalent חרם (cherem or herem).

The two Praetorians are now back in the ranks of being Commoners. Decent, respectable Commoners should not sell to them, buy from them, employ them, house them, or even speak to them. Since ‘a judge’ did not have the balls to remove them from society with a punishment fitting their breach of trust, society has the right and duty to exclude them.

Libertarians vs Conservatives on Guns

In Editorial, Intro to Libertarianism, Re-blogged from Flyover Press on March 15, 2013 at 11:26 am

If you read nothing else today, read this fine piece gleaned from the libertarian site LewRockwell.com and re-blogged by our friend running FlyOver Press.

A comment about the piece (naturally).

I strongly disagree with Mr. Crovelli in one respect. I believe gun ownership is strongly symbolic. Gun ownership and those precious little carry permits are freedom totems (or freedom fetishes). They are totems/fetishes because they symbolize a freedom that does not really exist in America. In a country that confiscates over 50% of what everyone earns, has the power to press diligently raised children into military bondage, monitors conversations, and can indefinitely detain (and kill) its own citizens; they persist in entertaining the delusion that they are ‘free’…so long as they are PERMITTED to carry a concealed pistol or PERMITTED to own a black, semi-automatic rifle. If these deluded gun owners were truly ‘free’ they could opt out of taxation, opt out of draft registration, and espouse whatever beliefs they hold without fear of being served with a National Security Letter or of being turned into pink mist by a drone. If they were truly free, they could simply walk away from a costumed “Papers, please” official and leave him to slapping his truncheon against his palm in impotent frustration. For many (damn near all) gun owners, their military look-alike rifle or their government permission slip to carry allows them to travel to Freedom La-La-Land where their slave-chains magically disappear.

Mr. Crovelli aptly points out the absurdity that exists within the conservative’s concomitant worship of our military, the fear of their military, and their assertion they need AR-15s in case they need to fight our military. It is also an absurdity that conservatives frequently call the enforcement caste ‘heroes’, but they want their guns just in case those heroes turn on them. I imagine the conservative’s relationship with the state to be much like a serial rapist and a nymphomaniac going camping…neither one gets much sleep.

by Mark R. Crovelli

Few issues highlight the gaping philosophical divide between libertarians and modern conservatives more starkly than the issue of guns. This might seem counterintuitive, because libertarians and modern conservatives often stand shoulder to shoulder against liberals and progressives to defend individual gun rights. The convenient alliance between modern conservatives and libertarians in the political trenches, however, conceals a fundamental and serious philosophical disagreement.

In order to fully grasp the division between libertarians and modern conservatives on this issue, it is important to understand why libertarians and conservatives think gun rights are so important. At the most general level, both libertarians and modern conservatives agree that all men have a natural right to defend themselves against aggression. More specifically, every man has a natural right to repel with violent force any unjust aggression against his life or his property. Libertarians and modern conservatives do not defend individual gun rights out of some bizarre and loony obsession with a 200-year-old piece of parchment called “The Constitution.” On the contrary, they hold that the Constitution of the United States merely articulated something about man’s nature that has always been and always will be true.

The logical implication of this, both libertarians and modern conservatives agree, is that individuals have a natural right not just to defend their lives and their property against aggression from individual murderers and thieves, but that they have a natural right to defend themselves from unjust aggression by government. Hollow indeed would be the right to self-defense if it did not include the right to defend oneself against aggression by government – including one’s own government, because governments have killed and robbed exponentially more people than have private criminals. Recognizing this fact, libertarians and modern conservatives agree that the natural right to self-defense must include a right to defend oneself against unjust government aggression, and that doing so usually requires more than simply a stick or a slingshot. A population armed with modern guns is not easily cowed, robbed, or massacred unless governments resort to wildly immoral and indiscriminate tactics or weapons of mass destruction.

So far so good. Libertarians and modern conservatives agree that the right to keep and bear arms stems from the natural right to defend oneself against aggression, including unjust aggression by governments. From here on out, however, libertarians and modern conservatives scarcely agree at all, and the conservative position on guns becomes more and more self-contradictory and absurd.

Libertarians hold that armed individuals are indeed capable of effectively resisting and defending themselves from aggression by their own government. If this were not so, then there would be no point whatsoever in defending the right to bear arms so vehemently. If individual gun ownership does not offer a real and substantial defense against our own government, and guns are merely symbolic or for hunting or self-defense against burglars, then why the big fuss over laying down our M-14’s and AR-15’s? Why not, as the Vice President suggests, keep only double-barreled shotguns for hunting and defense? Why would we care about losing the ability to own an AR-15 any more than we care about losing the ability to buy incandescent light bulbs? The government is constantly restricting our ability to buy and sell all types of things, so what makes guns so sacred if they can’t even effectively be used to defend ourselves against our own government?

The libertarians’ answer is that well-armed populations can indeed effectively defend themselves against their own governments, and this is precisely why we value the right to own powerful firearms so dearly. Gun ownership is not merely a symbol, but a real and effective means for people to protect their lives and property from private criminals and from tyrannous government. The libertarian understands that the nature of asymmetrical warfare today is such that even very small bands of determined and principled people can fight a purely defensive war against a vastly more powerful foe and come out victorious. In fact, in a guerrilla fight, the odds are in favor of the smaller group of determined and principled fighters, as the U.S. and Soviet militaries discovered in Afghanistan.

Contrast this consistent libertarian position with the absurd position of the modern conservative. The modern conservative holds two contradictory ideas about guns simultaneously. On the one hand, he is likely to agree with the libertarian that individual gun ownership is not merely symbolic, but rather a real and effective means for the American people to protect themselves against aggression by their own government. At the same time, however, he is bound to say that a strong military is needed to protect the American people against foreign threats. In other words, the modern conservative implicitly believes that our guns are insufficient to protect us against the Chinese or the Irish or whomever.

The absurdity of these two positions should be patently obvious, because if the American people are capable of effectively defending themselves against aggression by their own government – the most powerful and heavily armed government in the history of the world – then the American people obviously don’t need help from a military to defend them against aggression from relatively dinky powers abroad! The modern conservative would have us believe that We The People are capable of repelling the aggressions of the most powerful government in the history of the world, but that we somehow miraculously lose this capacity if the soldiers or politicians we are confronting have a different uniform or speak a different language.

While the modern conservative is bizarrely capable of simultaneously entertaining these two contradictory positions in his head, it should be obvious that only one of them can possibly be true. If the American people are not capable of effectively defending themselves from their own government with their guns, then gun ownership is merely symbolic and surrendering our AR-15’s to Barry Obama is completely meaningless. If, on the other hand, the American people are indeed capable of defending themselves against their own insanely powerful government, when they finally choose to do so as the libertarian asserts, then the extravagant and wasteful military that they finance is totally superfluous and unnecessary, because no foreign government can possibly pose even a fraction of the threat to the American people that the powerful American government and military do.

The modern conservative has gotten himself into this quandary because he has allowed himself to become irrationally terrified by nonexistent foreign bogeymen that are no real threat to him (as if the Chinese or the Iranians could ever be a threat to Coloradoans!), while ignoring the massive danger to life and property that his own government poses. He has ignored the history of the 20th century, a century in which people were slaughtered by the tens of millions by their own governments, and has allowed irrational fear of Koreans, Afghan shepherds, communists, Vietnamese, Chinese and Iranians to overwhelm his rational thinking. His fear has blinded him to the phenomenal hatred that his own government has engendered around the world by meddling with, terrorizing, and killing people everywhere. He has forgotten the danger of a standing army that the Founders warned us about, and he has lost confidence in his own ability to defend himself.

Thus, when the government finally comes for the modern conservative’s guns, he will no doubt puff out his chest and scream out that he’d rather die than surrender them. However, the modern conservative’s irrational fear of foreigners and his idolatrous love affair with the American military will prevent him from putting up much of a fight. After all, the military and the chickenhawk politicians that lead it around are what the modern conservative believes keep him safe and “free.” His delusional belief in the invincibility of the American military will paralyze him with fear of ever defying it. In the end, he will surrender his arms, and he will learn to call it “freedom” in due time.

At that point, the fight will be left to the true lovers of liberty, the libertarians, who understand the fragility and absurdity of the fascist American economy, the unsustainability of the American military empire, and the perfect beauty and justness of individual liberty.

Further tales of the Mad Sheriff of Johnson County

In Editorial on March 13, 2013 at 12:29 pm
Pulkrabek (Web photo)

Pulkrabek (Web photo)

Remember Lonny Pulkrabek?

He’s the anti-gun fanatic who parades around Johnson County adorned in a sheriff’s costume. He’s the anti-gun zealot who illegally clamored for protected student information, held by the University of Iowa, whenever a U of I student applied for a concealed carry permit.

Presumably to deflect some of the unwanted attention, the embattled Pulkrabek is helping the editorial board of the Des Moines Register to haul up a straw man holding a false flag to do away with Iowa’s “shall issue” concealed carry laws.

Salameh (KCRG-TV)

Salameh (KCRG-TV)

After Taleb Hussein Yousef Salameh shot up officers attending to a complaint at his mobile home [Salameh was shot and killed.], Pulkrabek and the Register immediately began howling, “What if he had a concealed carry permit?”

The Register and Pulkrabek are fast-bound accomplices raking for a solution to the non-problem of Iowa’s “shall issue” concealed carry permit system. Both are howling about the ‘lack of ability’ for sheriffs to decline issuing a permit to unworthy candidates and how sheriffs ‘may’ be forced to issue carry permits to mentally ill people and unapprehended criminals.

Left out of every Register article in its ongoing anti-gun series and op-eds, is the fact that sheriffs do have the ability to decline a permit. They simply need to present evidence that the candidate is unsuitable in court.

You know, via due process.

Pulkrabek and the Register apparently don’t care much for due process.

Pulkrabek favors returning to an issuing system where the sheriff had virtually absolute power to deny a citizen his or her right to carry a concealed firearm. Under that system, sheriffs used concealed carry permits as political tools or as fundraiser prizes.

I don’t know if Pulkrabek abused the old system for political or financial gain. I do know under the old, good-ole-boy system, Pulkrabek, an untreated hoplophobe, denied virtually all applicants who came to him for permits.

He now claims he would have been ‘forced’ to grant Salameh a permit had he sought one.

According to an article published in the Register, under current law Pulkrabek claimed, “Iowa law would have forced him to grant it”.

Well, pants on fire!

Here are the facts.

If Pulkrabek had evidence that Salameh was dangerous or mentally ill, he would have been ordered to present that evidence in court if Salameh appealed. As with a criminal prosecution, Pulkrabek would have the burden of proof.

No hearsay allowed. Cross-examination is permitted. Lying is perjury. A judge, not Pulkrabek, would have made a determination on Salameh’s application.

Pulkrabek doesn’t seem to care much for a system where due process is required before he can strip a serf of his rights.

As the student information scandal suggests, Pulkrabek doesn’t seem to care much for privacy laws that apply to him. Neither did Stalin. What good is being a dictator, even a sheriff-dictator, if you can’t dictate?

There’s more.

In Iowa, to purchase a handgun, you must obtain permission from the sheriff to do so. Every criminal knows this and it is why criminals are extremely diligent in following the applicable pistol-purchasing laws.

Salameh applied for, and was granted, permission to purchase a handgun by Pulkrabek.

Upon hearing such, I imagine a warm, yellow stain began to spread across Sheriff Pulkrabek’s costume pantaloons.

Then, quick as a weasel, politician Pulkrabek may have realized that this fact had legs for an anti-gun rant.

And, since the public and Register editorial board are collectively as dumb as a bag of hammers about Iowa gun laws, Pulkrabek endeavored to confuse Iowa’s pistol purchase permit laws with those pertaining to concealed carry.

According to law, an Iowa sheriff has almost no ability to arbitrarily deny a purchase permit, beyond the reasons for a denial under a federal background check. In nearly all cases, the purchase permit is a ‘must issue’.

The concealed carry permit is not a ‘must issue’ permit on par with the purchase permit. If the sheriff has reasonable grounds to deny an application, the applicant may appeal to a judge to hear his side. The judge, as in all cases before him/her, judges the sheriff’s assertions for their reasonableness.

Out of misplaced remorse, political ambition, or a need to sweep illegal information sharing under the carpet, Pulkrabek appears to be dishonestly attempting to claim he would have been forced to grant Salameh a concealed carry permit, had he applied for one.

That is 100% false.

A judge, not Pulkrabek, would have made the determination. And, since Salameh is dead, the issue is closed.

That’s not good enough for the apparently phobic and megalomaniacal Pulkrabek. He wants people to fret that there might be unstable people getting concealed carry permits.

He knows they’re out there.

He knows he should be empowered to deny carry permits, due process be damned.

Paranoia? Megalomania? Phobias?

Will somebody please disarm Sheriff Pulkrabek? By his own criteria, I suspect that he’s as mad as a hatter. Heaven knows what he’ll do with his gun.

Cherán, Mexico leads the way!

In Lifestyle on March 13, 2013 at 9:58 am
Cherán, Mexico (Web photo)

Cherán, Mexico (Web photo)

According to an article in today’s Christian Science Monitor (13 March 2013), the citizens of a small town in the hills of the Mexican Michoacán state got fed up with drug-related crimes and violence. To solve their late crime spree the villagers…

threw out the police.

The villagers were tired of illegal loggers speeding through their town. Because many of the loggers had connections to drug cartels, villagers who complained sometimes disappeared, with more than a few found dead.

At first, the women of the village mobilized the men to gather along the roadway where the loggers traveled. Using only rocks, sticks, and machetes the men ‘detained’ four errant loggers and ‘impounded’ their trucks.

The police intervened…

…on behalf of the loggers.

The townsfolk tossed the police out of town, along with the rest of the loggers and all of the local politicians.

At first, the Mexican government was outraged and snorted, “There’s no rationale for a group of people taking justice into their own hands and going above the law.” Six months later, because tradition and autonomy is the law for Purépechans indigenous to the region, Mexico gave Cherán its autonomy.

There was no social breakdown, no chaos, and no ‘anarchy’. Indigenous guards, appointed by the villagers according to tradition, now keep the village peace.

According to the article, kidnappings and attacks are a thing of the past.

The guards are a casual lot.

Dressed in black cargo pants tucked into boots, black t-shirts, and with rifles slung over their chests, they enjoy gaily colored churros as they man a checkpoint. And while most of the guards prefer not to be identified, eighteen year-old Santiago Rodriguez wants the lawless element to know who he is.

“If someone wants to come and get me, fine,” he says. “What they were doing almost destroyed Cherán. And that’s why I’m here.”

Bravo! Viva Cherán!