Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Holiday Reflections: Out with the Old, In with the New

Conor MacCormack and Tom Collins

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10 (NKJV)

‘You shall not hate your brother in your heart… You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19: 17-18

“The most righteous person is the one who consents for other people what he consents for himself, and who dislikes for them what he dislikes for himself.” Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad

“The sage has no interest of his own, but takes the interests of the people as his own. He is kind to the kind; he is also kind to the unkind: for Virtue is kind. He is faithful to the faithful; he is also faithful to the unfaithful: for Virtue is faithful.Tao Te Ching, Chapter 49

It’s Christmastime again, friends: the time of year that, regardless of your religious convictions, affords us the opportunity to meditate upon those ever desirable goals that all faiths strive to attain: lasting peace, humanity and friendship upon this Earth; That we may be happy and fulfilled not only on the “other side” but upon this physical plane as well. And it is especially poignant that the countless 2012 “end of days” scenarios were to unfold several short days ago. 

While it is easy to laugh off such understandable but futile attempts to pin down the time and date of humanity’s demise it is worthy to note that many astrologists, scientists, philosophers and theologians have put forth the idea that 2012 was never to be a physical apocalypse. Rather, it is a time for spiritual and social renewal as well as a period of elevated consciousness, as the human family continues the struggle for a better, brighter future.

We hate to get “political” during this season of jolliness but we submit to you the following philosophical inquiry on the American state of affairs. How the “old order” if you will – i.e. the long entrenched socio-political/religious status quo of Big Church, Big Government and their peculiar union – is rapidly losing influence. The recent Presidential election, while frustrating for us genuine lovers of individual liberty and free association, made one thing clear to all of us:

 The Conservative Movement is an endangered species, soon to go the way of the Dodo and the Great Auk. The Religious Right is a dead duck. Soon to fade away… forever.

No, we’re not picking on religion. There will always be religion, always a search for the Truth. And rightly so. However the days of religion as a form of political clout and influence, i.e. winning votes and gaining control to enforce a particular dogma through the civil legislature and courts, are finished. Perhaps not right this moment, perhaps not tomorrow but the final days draw near.

Every year less Americans go to Church, preferring to seek refuge and enlightenment in private home prayer, private individual readings of holy books, mediation, yoga, martial arts, philosophical debate and other wholesome activities to nourish the body, mind and soul. Far more positive and empowering schools of spiritual and philosophical thought (such as Taoism, Buddhism, Christian Science, Divine Science and the countless other branches of the broader New Thought movement) are growing exponentially and planting seeds of hope across the once fruited plain. Meanwhile “mainstream” clergy – whether they are of the fire and brimstone evangelical persuasion or the apathetic church as social club variety - preach to smaller and smaller congregations each year.

How can this be so, you ask? After all, to hear Don Feder and his theocon pundit pals in Big Media tell it, America was founded exclusively as a “Christian Nation.” Ultimately, despite the slanderous and bloviating claims of the aforementioned pundits, these allegedly “wavy gravy” and “syrupy” feel good doctrines offer modern man and women far more in the way of spiritual and personal nourishment than organized “Churchianity”: namely peace, love, coexistence, respect and self-confidence for ALL people regardless of race, color, creed, class or religious affiliation. 

This sentiment is the common chord connecting all of the major world religions. It was what Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, Lao Tzu, and Confucius all taught. As harsh as a reality as it may be the teachings of Jesus outlined in the Gospels are a far cry from the man crafted doctrines, superstitions and ceremony that are routinely practiced in American churches today.

Rather than adhering to the Golden Rule (as Ron Paul so humbly recommended amidst thunderous jeers and boos from a “Christian” audience this past election cycle) “Christian” America has rarely experienced a time of true and lasting peace since the Constitution – our supposedly Divinely inspired charter – was ratified. War, slavery, genocide, racism, sexism, the subhuman treatment of the mentally ill, disabled and prisoners are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to our poor track record of adhering to Christian teachings.

Not once in our 200+ year history has one group of people (with the notable exception of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants) not been discriminated against through law, often times with the blessing and urging of Christian churches of every denomination; the pastors and leaders of which were instrumental in passing such unjust laws. Our “shining cities” are riddled with crime, poverty and despair of every variety. We condemn and revile the act of sex, one of the most natural expressions of human intimacy and affection, all the while hooting and hollering as our soldiers and war machines visit death and destruction upon Third World nations. 

Religious conservatives, whether they know it or not, go against every fundamental tenet of their respective faiths when they advocate the creation of government “initiatives” to use the force of law to make Americans of any persuasion acquiesce to their interpretation of their particular creed.

We can hear you shrieking,“Hold it there misters! I thought you said you were being positive for a change! It’s Christmas for crying out loud!”

Calm down dear friends and settle in with a glass of eggnog. Let us finish.
Here’s the good news: Religion and spirituality endure, healthy and strong. The bad news (well, for some of you anyway): Big Church is on the ropes, taking some serious shots to the body.

Thank God… and His glorious creation, the Internet! Each and every day people from the comfort of their own homes can explore and discern for themselves the truths contained in every topic under the sun: history, philosophy, medicine, physics, astronomy, anthropology, math, language and the arts. Young people are able to interact and connect with like mined people from across the globe they wouldn’t have been able to physically visit otherwise. Young Israelis, Palestinians and Iranians are chatting on every social media network known to man on all manner of topics: life, love, sports, food, music, art, literature.

And the more they speak and interact, the more they find they would rather not fight or die over religious creeds, which in the end differ only ever so slightly. Americans, Europeans, Arabs, Africans, Asians and individuals of countless other ethnic backgrounds are learning just how much they have in common, rather than how much they do not.

 The hated filled and destructive ravings of the Old Guard no longer hold the same appeal they once did to society. The widespread adaption of creative technology has allowed enterprising nations like China, who the U.S. regularly labels and antagonizes for being a “Commie” country, to become economic powers and creative leaders in innovation. The American military state and its wily Christian mullahs must play nice, lest the Chinese decide to take their business (and the chunk of our national debt that they hold) with them elsewhere. It is ironic that Communist China, an official “Godless” state which has a horrible record of domestic repression, has more appreciation for peaceful coexistence and honest friendship with all nations than the good old Christian haven of America, land of the free and home of the brave.

As Bob Dylan once said: the times they are a changing.

And yet, the Old Ways will go kicking and screaming.

Old pal Don Feder and his Conservative Company especially.

As if seeing the hand writing on the wall, Don’s latest rant is a self-described plan for a Conservative resurgence. Ladies and gentlemen, this may sound crazy, but Old Tom (thanks to the magic of New Thought) has been in a mighty fine mood. We will briefly explore Don’s insane rantings, one last time, and then celebrate the departure of the Religious Right from the national stage by wishing them a good day and buying their train tickets home to Pleasantville. After all we have the American Left to contend with these days but with a little elbow grease, we can send them on their way with their bags packed for the lovely confines of the People’s Republic of Cambridge.

Without further adieu, let us begin. Among Don’s tired old talking points, we find the usual sad tactic of associating the Muslim religion exclusively with violence, all the while conveniently ignoring the horrifying violence featured predominantly in the dogma and literature of both Conservative Judaism and Christianity. The unspoken insinuation from this tactless tract is that somehow, by permitting supposed "Judeo-Christian" principles to define American jurisprudence, America will remain safe from the nefarious influence of SHARIA LAW (BOOGA BOOGA! TERRORISTS GOIN' GETCHA)!  In Don’s own words:

“While Islam is not about to be confused with conservatism, said collaboration leads the unwary to believe that we share common ground with a death cult masquerading as a religion. But, unlike conservatism, Islam has no respect for individual rights and representative government.”

Don, Don, Don… I really think you need to sit down and read the Bible. You say Islam is a deadly cult… well, are you aware that the Old Testament Bible is filled with genocide, murder, rape, the destruction of cities, of entire nations, incest, and the selling of women into slavery? Don’t believe me? Here’s a sample of such cruelty and barbarity which is contained in your own Jewish Torah. In this passage, a man saves his own life from a mob by feeding the mob his lover for them to rape:

“So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight. When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. He said to her, ‘Get up; let’s go.’ But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.” (Judges 19:25-28)

He didn’t even bother to seek medical treatment for her, according to this 

Here’s another sample Don, in which an Israelite leader offers his own child as a human sacrifice to God:

“And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord, and said, ‘If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, then whoever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return victorious from the Ammonites, shall be the Lord’s, to be offered up by me as a burnt-offering.’ Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah; and there was his daughter coming out to meet him with timbrels and with dancing. She was his only child; he had no son or daughter except her. When he saw her, he tore his clothes, and said, ‘Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low; you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot take back my vow.’” (Judges 11:30-1, 34-5)

Let’s not forget Don, this little gem:
“This is what the Lord Almighty says... ‘Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’” (1 Samuel 15:3)

Oh my…my…my…my… throwing stones, are we?

Don, it’s over. Kindly go away. Go ahead: read your Bible, say Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah all you want and live as you please. But get it through your head that you and the “Moral Majority” have no right to force people to celebrate Christmas (or any other Christian ceremony), say Merry Christmas or place Christmas decorations on public property at the expense of people of other faiths or creeds. As long as they’re forced to pay their taxes to “maintain” the town green, they get to express their faith too. 

Also, while you’re at it, forget this “Resurgence” of “Conservative” Values. It’s over. It’s done. Finito. Kaput. It’s never coming back. The rest of the world is ready to live like enlightened adults now, ready to cast away forever the stifling fear, self-loathing and guilt centuries of Big Church doctrine has brought us. I guarantee you once the shackles of bigotry, hatred and sexual repression championed by Big Church have been cast off, all these perverse crimes shall evaporate like a snowball in July. It is our hope that 2013 will be a tremendous year for the cause of peace, freedom and prosperity for all. To that we say: out with the old, in with the new!

One last thing before we say Adios, Don: whether you know it or not, you and your Conservative cohorts have been instrumental in helping us and other freedom lovers to prove our point. Merci and Bon Voyage old friend!

And last but certainly not least: Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanza and a most Happy Festivus to all!

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.Luke 2:14

* Be sure to check out my recently released first novel, Dragonheart, now available for download on Amazon.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Pearl Harbor Chicanery: How FDR Manuevered The US Into War

Despite the best efforts of statist propaganda peddlers, the historical record proves beyond a doubt that FDR intentionally baited Japan into launching their infamous attack on Pearl Harbor. The government used the orchestrated deaths of over 2,000 American servicemen as justification to enter World War II against Japan and subsequently its ally, Nazi Germany.

According to the "official" historical narratives 71 years ago today the U.S. Pacific Fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, was attacked in a surprise raid by the air wing of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Gravely labeled the "day which will live in infamy" the attack, which left over 2,000 American servicemen dead, was used as justification by President Franklin Roosevelt to officially enter the United States into the Second World War. We all know the rest of the "official" story: it was only due to American intervention that the insidious forces of fascism and Nazism were defeated, effectively ushering in an unheralded period of freedom and "democracy" the world over. The war launched the United States into position as the dominant world power, manning the ramparts as a "global force for good" against the forces of evil (with, oddly enough, our former indispensable war time ally the Soviet Union becoming the gravest threat to international security).

Any soul, who earnestly looks beyond this scripted narrative viciously guarded by the academic gate keepers and court historians in the quest for Truth, is ruthlessly smeared as an "isolationist" or a Holocaust supporting neo-Nazi. According to these folks, any one who in the spirit of honest inquiry and discernment questions the purpose behind a war that claimed the lives of 70 million people is the moral equivalent of an SS Guard stationed at Dachau, Auschwitz or Bergen-Belsen.  This writer has personally been on the receiving end of such vitriolic attacks, which are nothing more than acts of character assassination meant to stifle honest, critical debate. 

If the findings of the pseudo-historians have definitively "settled the debate," what are they afraid of? As the old saying goes, doesn't the Truth speak for itself? If the tired mantra of "Truth, Justice and the American Way" is to be faithfully adhered to must we not in the words of Jefferson "follow truth wherever it may lead," even if it challenges our long held, cherished notions?

Thankfully, despite the best efforts of those who stand to benefit by perpetuating the myth of the Second World War (which is widely acknowledged as being the inevitable product of the needless, interventionist bloodbath that was the First World War) as a "good war," the Truth has risen to the top. This is especially true of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the subsequent events that led to it. In this post, we will take a brief but thorough look at some the most explosive evidence that counters the long held claim that FDR and his administration had "no idea" about the pending Japanese assault.

In his groundbreaking book Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor, historian and World War II veteran Robert Stinnett makes the convincing argument - backed by 17 years of research - that FDR deliberately allowed the Japanese to launch 
their raid on Pearl Harbor. Roosevelt, Stinnett argues, used the carnage of Pearl Harbor as a "back door to war" that "had to be endured in order to stop a greater evil — the Nazi invaders in Europe who had begun the Holocaust and were poised to invade Europe." The Machiavellian sentiment of having the ends of stopping a monster like Hitler justify the murderous and duplicitous means utilized by Roosevelt to enter the war is downright wicked. For as St. Paul said: should one engage in "evil, that good may come?" (Romans 3:8). 

Furthermore, Stinnett says, the United States government knew up to a year in advance that the Japanese military was planning a massive military strike. The Peruvian minister to Japan contacted the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo in January 1941, telling the American ambassador Joseph Grew that "Japanese military forces were planning, in the event of trouble with the United States, to attempt a surprise mass attack on Pearl Harbor using all their military resources."

But the question could be raised: why would the U.S. be causing "trouble" for the Japanese? Weren't we simply minding our own business before they attacked us? Most certainly not. Starting in 1937 the U.S. government began supporting China, which was engaged in full scale war against the invading Japanese. Before the Japanese invasion, China had been locked in its own bloody civil war that pitted the Nationalist dictator Chiang Kai-shek against Mao Zedong's Chinese Communist Party (the U.S., the supposed opponent of communism and tyranny, equipped, trained and armed both sides from 1937 till the end of World War II.) 

The U.S. government's policy of antagonism toward the Japanese only intensified from there. As Laurence M. Vance writes in his must read essay "Rethinking the Good War":

"The United States supplied munitions, arms, and aircraft to British, Chinese, and Dutch forces in the Pacific. China received millions of dollars worth of loans. Twenty-four U.S. submarines were sent to Manila. Roosevelt sent U.S. naval vessels on cruises into Japanese waters. He refused to meet with the Japanese prime minister, Prince Konoye, leading to the rise of Tojo. Secretary of State {Cordell} Hull issued a provocative ultimatum to Japan on November 26, 1941, that he knew the Japanese government would reject: "The government of Japan will withdraw all military, naval, air and police forces from China and Indochina."

Vance continues:

"The United States waged economic warfare against Japan. The 1911 Treaty of Commerce and Navigation with Japan was abrogated on January 26, 1940. Based on the Export Control Act of July 2, 1940, Roosevelt restricted exports of aviation fuels, lubricants, melting iron, and scrap steel beginning on July 31. On October 16, 1940, an embargo took effect on all exports of scrap iron and steel to overseas destinations other than Britain. All Japanese assets in the United States were frozen on July 25, 1941. On August 1, 1941, a final embargo on all oil shipments to Japan was instituted. Japan was allowed to build up its oil reserves just enough to enable it to go to war."

All of the above mentioned policies taken by the Roosevelt administration either had their genesis in or were affirmed by the "McCollum memo" of October 7th, 1940. It was authored by Lieutenant Commander Arthur McCollum, who served as the head of the Far East desk of U.S. Naval Intelligence. In the memo, McCollum outlined the following actions to provoke Japan into committing "an overt act of war" against the United States:

A. Make an arrangement with Britain for the use of British bases in the Pacific, particularly Singapore
B. Make an arrangement with Holland for the use of base facilities and acquisition of supplies in the Dutch East Indies
C. Give all possible aid to the Chinese government of Chiang-Kai-Shek
D. Send a division of long range heavy cruisers to the Orient, Philippines, or Singapore
E. Send two divisions of submarines to the Orient
F. Keep the main strength of the U.S. fleet now in the Pacific[,] in the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands
G. Insist that the Dutch refuse to grant Japanese demands for undue economic concessions, particularly oil
H. Completely embargo all U.S. trade with Japan, in collaboration with a similar embargo imposed by the British Empire

The finishing move was made when Roosevelt ordered the U.S. Pacific Fleet, starting in April of 1940, to relocate from the West Coast to Pearl Harbor. When Vice Admiral James Richardson, the commander of Pacific Fleet at the time, objected to the relocation Roosevelt relieved him of command. But even Richardson's replacement, Admiral Husband Kimmel (who would later be unfairly scapegoated for his supposed gross incompetence for Pearl Harbor), voiced his concern regarding the weak defenses of Pearl Harbor.

From this small sampling, it should be abundantly clear that the noble yarn of the "Surprise at Pearl Harbor" is nothing but wishful thinking at best or an outright lie at worse. If the easily verifiable evidence outlined above doesn't move you then consider this: even the U.S. government, which in the past repeatedly denied that there was foreknowledge of an attack on Pearl and smeared serious investigators as conspiracy nutjobs, has in recent years been forced to admit that there is more to the story. A Congressional investigation in 2001 effectively cleared the names of Admiral Kimmel and General Walter Short, the commander of Army forces in Hawaii, both of whom had been wrongly assigned the bulk of the blame for the attack at Pearl Harbor:

"Numerous investigations following the attack on Pearl Harbor have documented that Admiral Kimmel and Lieutenant General Short were not provided necessary and critical intelligence that was available, that foretold of war with Japan, that warned of imminent attack, and that would have alerted them to prepare for the attack."

For those of who remain skeptical, I invite you to view the well done BBC documentary posted at the bottom of this article, as well as this essay by Robert Stinnett, whose work is cited above. I'll leave you with a thought from Laurence Vance's earlier quoted essay:

"From the American point of view, World War II is basically considered to be the Good War for two reasons: Pearl Harbor and Hitler.

But setting aside for a moment the facts of Roosevelt's duplicity and culpability, as well as the U.S. provocation of Japan: Was it necessary for 405,000 American soldiers to die to avenge the 2,400 (1,177 were from one ship, the USS Arizona) who were killed at Pearl Harbor? Was it moral to incinerate hundreds of thousands of civilians in Japanese cities because Japan bombed the Pearl Harbor Naval Base, a military target? And setting aside for another moment the folly of U.S. intervention in World War I, which prevented a dictated peace settlement and paved the way for the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles, thus facilitating the rise of Hitler: Was it necessary that tens of millions were slaughtered to prevent Hitler from slaughtering millions? Was it wise to join forces with a brutal dictator like Stalin, who had already killed millions, with the result that he enslaved half of Europe under communism?

It is time to rethink the Good War."

It most certainly is.

* Be sure to check out my recently released first novel, Dragonheart, now available for download on Amazon.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Cooking Up Some Serious Holiday Cheer

With the holidays now upon us I thought it would be wholly appropriate to share an excellent piece highlighting the true reason for the season: cultivating "peace on earth and good will to men."  This simple yet profound sentiment can be fostered in the most unlikely of places - the kitchen! In her article "Dishing Out Peace and Goodwill" Dr. Georgianna Donadio - the award winning author of the bestselling book Changing Behavior and a featured Huffington Post blogger - highlights the efforts of Chefs4Peace, a private organization founded by Christian, Jewish and Muslim chefs, that is committed to "exploring cultural identity, diversity and coexistence through food." The organization's philosophy is firmly rooted in the principles of peaceful coexistence and voluntary interaction articulated in the Golden Rule, which cuts across all religious, political and racial boundaries. Chefs4Peace understands that no government mandate or decree can plant the seeds of peace in the hearts and minds of individuals:

"Chefs For Peace is indifferent to politics, religion, or skin color. Our aim is to bring people together; we understand the power of food as a bridge to mutual acceptance and see peace as a delicious possibility. Our message is simple: only real people living and working together, not politicians, will create peace on the ground. For us, peace happens every day, in the kitchen and around the table!" (Emphasis added.)

I have had the great pleasure of collaborating with Dr. Donadio on similar pieces. You can download a free excerpt from her book at www.changingbehavior.org. Here is the full text of Dr. Donadio's thought provoking article:

Looking at the state of the world at large, it can be difficult to see much reflection of the up-coming holiday sentiment of "Peace on earth -- goodwill towards mankind." In its place we find war, conflict, hostility, political corruption, crime, greed and pending financial collapse.
Daily news headlines dampen the message of the Yuletide. Thankfully there are, and always have been, organizations and individuals that demonstrate when our intentions are focused on peace-making and global welfare, we as a world community can live together in harmony.
Food has often been a starting point for community building as well as peace-making. Many decades ago, in 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower signed into law the "Public Law 480", which was expanded and renamed under President Kennedy as "Food for Peace." In 1961, Kennedy redefined the program and set the tone for food as peace-keeping by saying, "Food is strength, and food is peace, and food is freedom, and food is a helping to people around the world whose good will and friendship we want."
Food as we know is one of the critical factors, along with water and shelter, for our survival. It is also a central part of human relationships and cultures. The holiday season is well-marked with food as the centerpiece of our festivities, celebrations and gatherings.
In keeping with the theme of food as a reality and metaphor for our survival, a remarkable organization, Chefs for Peace, is showing us once again the power of food as an effective agent for social and political change. A Jerusalem based multi-cultural group of chefs use food and cooking to demonstrate that living together peacefully is possible for all, no matter what faith or cultural difference they may have. The group includes Arabs, Jews, Christians and Muslims all working together to prepare meals for celebrations, galas and culinary competitions. They share their love of food and nourishing others to transcend any differences between them and have created a respectful and trusting partnership within this visionary group.
Chefs for Peace began in Jerusalem in 2001, by its founder Kevork Alemaian and a group of Jewish, Muslim and Christian chefs. It is a non-profit organization "committed to exploring cultural identity, diversity and coexistence through food...[that] understands food -- its preparation, sharing, and enjoyment -- as a powerful means of creating a bond with others and revealing that which is valued by all three faiths: food, family and friends... peace happens every day, in the kitchen and around the table!" The members believe that rather than leaving it to politicians to enact change and bring about peace, it will take "real people living and working together to create peace."
Their unique cuisine reflects their belief in the value of blending various cultures and that sharing a simple meal is an act of peace and community. While the notion of "breaking bread" or sharing the nourishment of food as peacemaking is not a new one, the Chefs for Peace actively demonstrate how peace and good-will making through shared nourishment is a welcome and refreshing example of how this basic human need can heal and unite.
As the holiday season comes upon us, it is good to reflect upon on our family and community celebrations can serve to nourish and foster goodwill for all. In this spirit, here is the Chefs for Peace recipe for Fresh Figs stuffed with Mushrooms and Pecans -- something healthy and new to serve up for the holidays; a recipe that celebrates various cultural appetites with its unique combination of seasonings.

1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/3 cup minced onion
1/3 cup minced cremini mushrooms
1/3 cup minced toasted pecans
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, divided
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
Pinch of cloves
1/4 cup tamarind paste
1 cup water
2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar, or to taste
3 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
12-14 fresh figs
1. In a medium sauté pan, heat butter and olive oil. Add onion and mushrooms and sauté until golden and tender, about 10 minutes. Add pecans and half of cardamom, allspice, and cinnamon. Add a pinch of cloves, plus salt to taste. Stir well, cooking until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
2. Add remaining cardamom, allspice, and cinnamon to pan (without cleaning it), plus tamarind paste, water, and sugar. Blend well with a whisk, and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat and continue cooking, stirring often, until sauce becomes smooth and velvety, about 5 minutes. Whisk in mascarpone cheese until smooth and sauce is heated through. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and more sweeteners, if desired.
3. Slice top 1/2 inch of figs almost all the way through, but still attached. Use a 1/4-teaspoon measuring spoon to dig out fig flesh; put in a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons fig flesh to mushroom mixture and mix well. Stuff figs with mixture, overfilling slightly. Place stuffed figs in pan with sauce, spooning sauce over them. Bring to a gentle boil; then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes.
PER SERVING (1): 103 cal, 38% fat cal, 5g fat (2g mono, 1g poly, 1g sat), 5mg chol, 1g protein, 16g carb, 3g fiber, 8mg sodium

* Be sure to check out my recently released first novel, Dragonheart, now available for download on Amazon.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Reflections

Modern Americans are severely lacking in gratitude, something the initial wave of Pilgrim settlers in the New World had in abundance.
"Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations." (Psalm 100)

It was in the spirit of gratitude, captured in the inspired words above penned by the Psalmist, that the Pilgrim colonists at Plymouth celebrated the storied "first" Thanksgiving feast with Wampanoag Indian Chief Massasoit and 90 members of his band (while long touted as the first such celebration in America, history documents that the Spanish held many such feasts throughout the 16th century in the New World.) A branch of English Christian Dissenters the Pilgrims had first left England for Holland in 1609, seeking religious freedom from the oppressive dictates of the established Anglican Church. Fearful of losing their English cultural identity through isolation in Holland and eager to alleviate their economic hardships, they set out for the New World in September of 1620. Arriving in November of that year the intrepid party of settlers composed and signed the Mayflower Compact, establishing a "civil Body Politick" for what would become the Plymouth colony.

Between the time of their landing at Plymouth and March 1621, only 47 colonists survived the illnesses contracted on the overseas voyage and the harsh weather conditions of that first winter. If it had not been for the charity of Massasoit, who donated a large portion of his tribe's food stores to the colonists, and Squanto, who taught them how to grow corn and catch fish, the colony would have likely starved to death. To celebrate their providential survival through the winter, the colonists designated a day of celebration and thanks after their first harvest. To supplement the paltry crop yields of that harvest (the colony would not experience consistently bountiful harvests until 1623, when they switched from a communal farming system to a privatized model) the colonists hunted for game and shared in Massasoit's own abundant larder. As Edward Winslow, one of the colony's early leaders, noted of the celebration:

"Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruits of our labor. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which we brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others."

The Pilgrims indeed had much to be grateful for. They had survived the winter in a strange and foreign new land, established a stable form of government, secured their freedom to worship according to the dictates of conscience and made peace with the Indians. Providence, it seemed, had blessed their efforts and rewarded their humble spirit of gratitude. This small yet enduring strain of appreciation has played a vital role throughout America's colonial and subsequent national history. In 1777, as the Revolution raged, the Continental Congress issued the first national Thanksgiving proclamation which read:

"FOR AS MUCH as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for Benefits received, and to implore such farther Blessings as they stand in Need of: And it having pleased him in his abundant Mercy, not only to continue to us the innumerable Bounties of his common Providence; but also to smile upon us in the Prosecution of a just and necessary War, for the Defense and Establishment of our unalienable Rights and Liberties; particularly in that he hath been pleased, in so great a Measure, to prosper the Means used for the Support of our Troops, and to crown our Arms with most signal success..."

12 years later, with the young republic's independence secured and the new Constitution ratified, President George Washington issued a similar call to his countrymen to show gratitude for the myriad and manifold blessings the Almighty had bestowed upon the infant nation:

"Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me " to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness":

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favor, able interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us."

 Sadly, as enduring as the strain of gratitude has been throughout the winding course of American history, it has been inconsistent with often times devastating consequences. Some forty years after that peaceful and jovial first Thanksgiving in Plymouth with the Wampanoags, the descendants of the Pilgrim fathers displayed a startling ingratitude toward the peace their forebears worked to maintain with Massasoit before his death in 1661. The new found hostility toward the Indians helped to fan the flames of what would become King Philip's (or Metacom's) War, still held to be one of the most blood soaked conflicts in America's history. It was ingratitude toward the principles of the Revolution (individual liberty, state sovereignty and voluntary association among them) that drove the adherents of Alexander Hamilton's noxious centralist philosophy, Abraham Lincoln among them, to viciously assault liberty through a needless and bloody "civil" war.

We here in modern America find ourselves in a similar (if not slightly worse) scenario. A significant number of people do not have an iota of gratitude for anything: the food on their tables, the roofs over their heads, the love of family and friends and most especially liberty. Fueled by unquenchable mindless consumerism, fostered in large part by the criminal corporate/state cartel, most Americans are simply too blind with lust to appreciate even the tiniest of life's blessings. The fact that a large number of these Americans profess to be Christians only makes it all the more tragic.When coupled with the rampant gossip and back biting that are all too common in many "churches" today, is it any wonder that many people rightly want nothing to do with the hypocrisy that passes for Christianity today? Is it any wonder that these United States are on the precipice of complete financial and moral bankruptcy? 

If we desire to discover the root cause of our nation's ills, look no further than the sin of ingratitude that has taken hold in these United States. For as St. Ignatius of Loyola astutely observed:

"It seems to me, in light of the divine Goodness, though others may think differently, that ingratitude is one of the things most worthy of detestation before our Creator and Lord, and before all creatures capable of his divine and everlasting glory, out of all the evils and sins which can be imagined. For it is a failure to recognize the good things, 
the graces, and the gifts received. As such, it is the cause, 
beginning, and origin of all evils and sins. On the contrary, 
recognition and gratitude for the good things and gifts received is greatly loved and esteemed both in heaven and on earth." (Emphasis added)

This Thanksgiving weekend, let us reclaim our sense of gratitude and give thanks to the Great Creator who has blessed us with so much. Let's be thankful for all of His magnificent gifts, among them life, love, peace and liberty. Let us remain faithful and appreciative of what the Good Lord has graciously bestowed upon us and not take them for granted. Ingratitude is simply nothing more than "repaying evil for good" (Genesis 44:4). Something to remember before falling into a tryptophan induced coma.

* Be sure to check out my recently released first novel, Dragonheart, now available for download on Amazon.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

No Treason

The original secessionists... or traitors, if one adheres to the  Linconite /Neocon philosophy of government

What timing: with Steven Spielberg's cinematic ode to "Father Abraham" due to hit theaters soon, a wave of secession fever has gripped the nation! Oh the horror!  Almost immediately after the reelection of Barry "the Drone King" Obama, thousands of Americans from 30+ states (at the time of this writing) have flooded the "We the People" page of the White House website with petitions to peacefully secede from the Union. 

While I have some suspicions regarding this development (given the fact that calls for secession occurred en mass only after Barry's victory, perhaps orchestrated as a way for the lamestream media to further paint freedom minded Americans as "racist neo-Confederates") it is nonetheless encouraging to see such a fundamental liberty principle being given time in the national spotlight. Not surprisingly the usual centralist suspects have been swift to pounce upon such political heresy. The neocon scribblers at The Weekly Standard have even proposed a counter petition for the Obama Administration to strip the citizenship of anyone who signs a secession petition as "traitors" to the country.

As is always the case, a quick perusal of the historical record (which is a far cry from the statist propaganda peddled as historical fact in public schools and colleges) will debunk the noxious assertion of secession as alleged treason. Let us begin our examination with that most heralded of documents, the Declaration of Independence, which states the following on the very nature and purpose of government:

 "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." (Emphasis added.)

The principle of secession certainly falls under the umbrella of "altering and abolishing" a totalitarian government, as the Continental Congress did in dissolving "the political bands" which had connected them to the British Empire. As Jefferson so eloquently wrote in the Declaration's closing paragraph:

"We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled... solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. (Emphasis added.)

The concept of state sovereignty was arguably the bedrock principle of the American experiment. It was enshrined in the 10th Amendment to the Bill of Rights, which was doggedly championed by the Anti-Federalists in response to the despotic potential in the Constitution drafted by Hamilton, Madison and the other Federalists at the Constitutional Convention:

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

This includes the Natural right to "alter and abolish" any form of government that fails to protect life, liberty and property and no longer enjoys "the consent of the governed." Several states explicitly reserved the right to secede from the Union in their Constitutional ratification documents. 

"That the powers of government may be reassumed by the people whensoever it shall become necessary to their happiness..."

"WE the Delegates of the people of Virginia, duly elected in pursuance of a recommendation from the General Assembly... DO in the name and in behalf of the people of Virginia, declare and make known that the powers granted under the Constitution, being derived from the people of the United States may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression, and that every power not granted thereby remains with them and at their will..."

"That the powers of government may be reassumed by the people whensoever it shall become necessary to their happiness; that every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by the said Constitution clearly delegated to the Congress of the United States, or the departments of the government thereof, remains to the people of the several states, or to their respective state governments, to whom they may have granted the same..."

The doctrine of states' rights was repeatedly invoked in the years immediately after the Constitution was ratified, when the reigning Federalists sought to break free from the constraints placed upon the federal government by the Bill of Rights. In 1798 after President John Adams signed the Alien and Sedition Acts (the latter act made it a crime to publish "false, scandalous, and malicious writing" against the government or politicians), Thomas Jefferson authored the Kentucky Resolutions to challenge the blatant suppression of free speech. He wrote:

"Resolved, That the several states composing the United States of America are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government; but that, by compact, under the style and title of a Constitution for the United States, and of amendments thereto, they constituted a general government for special purposes, delegated to that government certain definite powers, reserving, each state to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self-government; and that whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force; that to this compact each state acceded as a state, and is an integral party; that this government, created by this compact, was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself, since that would have made its discretion, and not the Constitution, the measure of its powers; but that, as in all other cases of compact among powers having no common judge, each party has an equal right to judge for itself, as well of infractions as of the mode and measure of redress." (Emphasis in original.)

This branch of states' rights philosophy, which would become known as nullification or interposition, was used by the heavily Federalist New England states during Jefferson's presidency to protest his unpopular Embargo Act in 1807. In 1814, during the War of 1812 they even held a convention in Hartford, Connecticut to discuss the possibility of seceding from the Union. Unlike his successor Lincoln, President James Madison did not use military force to deal with these would be "traitors." He was most likely following the advice of his friend Jefferson, who stated in his First Inaugural Address:

"If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it." (Emphasis added.)

In the years leading up to the so called Civil War many Northern states passed "personal liberty laws" that nullified the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, which presumed to give federal law enforcement officers the authority to conscript citizens to aid in the recapture of runaway slaves (this abomination was supported by none other than the "Great Emancipator"). The Northern states of Ohio, New Hampshire, Maryland, New York and Connecticut all passed laws to outlaw the branches of the unconstitutional Bank of the United States located in their respective jurisdictions. Far from being a sectarian ploy invented by "racist Southerners," the doctrine of states' rights was a valued national principle that was taught to cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

 William Rawle, who was George Washington's choice to be the first U.S. Attorney General and a renowned legal theorist in post colonial America, in 1825 authored the book A View of the Constitution, which served as one of the primary legal texts used at West Point. In Chapter 32 of his book Rawle had the following to say on secession:

"The principle of representation, although certainly the wisest and best, is not essential to the being of a republic, but to continue a member of the Union, it must be preserved, and therefore the guarantee must be so construed. It depends on the state itself to retain or abolish the principle of representation, because it depends on itself whether it will continue a member of the Union. To deny this right would be inconsistent with the principle on which all our political systems are founded, which is, that the people have in all cases, a right to determine how they will be governed...

The secession of a state from the Union depends on the will of the people of such state. The people alone as we have already seen, hold the power to alter their constitution. The Constitution of the United States is to a certain extent, incorporated into the constitutions or the several states by the act of the people... To withdraw from the Union is a solemn, serious act. Whenever it may appear expedient to the people of a state, it must be manifested in a direct and unequivocal manner. If it is ever done indirectly, the people must refuse to elect representatives, as well as to suffer their legislature to re-appoint senators. The senator whose time had not yet expired, must be forbidden to continue in the exercise of his functions." (Emphasis added.)

Despite the overwhelming historical evidence, nationalists and collectivists on both sides of the political spectrum continue to wail about how invoking states' rights is somehow part of a grand conspiracy to re institute slavery as well as a form of high treason. Firstly, as I mentioned previously, the states' rights principle of nullification was used by numerous Northern states against the Fugitive Slave Act. Sure doesn't sound like the agenda of a "neo-Confederate" to me. Secondly, if these flag waving patriots want to stick to their principles, they should abstain from commemorating Independence Day which was an act of (you guessed it) secession from Great Britain! 

Since Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson are all traitors in their eyes for supporting secession they should apply that label to their heroes Washington, Madison, Jefferson and Franklin. And just because the Union was able to militarily subjugate the South by waging total war against it doesn't mean that the issue of secession is "settled." Contrary to Dishonest Abe's assertion, might does not make "right." 

The bottom line is, supporting state sovereignty or states' rights doesn't make you a card carrying member of the KKK. One can support the Confederacy's historic, legitimate right to leave the Union without endorsing the horrid institution of slavery. Lysander Spooner, the famed New England abolitionist and entrepreneur, certainly did. In his famous treatise No Treason, Spooner wrote:

"Thus the whole Revolution [of 1775–1783] turned upon, asserted, and, in theory, established, the right of each and every man, at his discretion, to release himself from the support of the government under which he had lived. And this principle was asserted, not as a right peculiar to themselves, or to that time, or as applicable only to the government then existing; but as a universal right of all men, at all times, and under all circumstances."

For the final time, folks: Secession is NOT treason.

* Be sure to check out my recently released first novel, Dragonheart, now available for download on Amazon.