Sunday, April 30, 2006

Iraq Oil

Why does Iraq have such a problem with forming a new government? Well if I could answer that question in full detail than I probably wouldn't be blogging. But I found a very succinct paragraph that gives some insight into the question.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Moses and the 10 Commandments Reintroduced

World War II was raging in Europe and the Pacific while I was sitting in my Sunday School class at Gethsemane Evangelical Lutheran Church on Twenty Eighth Street, Detroit Michigan. It was in the early 1940’s. I found myself looking at my lesson on the Ten Commandments. The lesson was printed on a 5” by 7” two page folder. There was a colored drawing of Moses standing on a rugged, jagged rock. His long beard was flowing in the wind. His extended arms held a flat rock. It was a tablet with two arches on the top and straight sides and bottom. On one side were three Roman Numerals I II and III. On the other side was IV through X.

My teacher said they were the Ten Commandments and Moses got them from God on the mount. I think that was the first time I heard the word mount for mountain. But anyway, I was told that I had to keep these commandments. They were to be obeyed. And most important, everyone had to keep them too because they came from God.

Fast forward to current times, while reading “Losing Moses on the Freeway: The 10 Commandments in America” by Chris Hedges I found what these sacred commandments do for everyone when followed and not routinely ignored.

Hedges was a foreign correspondent that covered several wars for nearly two decades. In the prologue of “Losing Moses on the Freeway” he points out the benefits of the Commandments when they are kept and what evil results when they are ignored and cast aside.

Hedges said: The commandments guide us toward relationships built on trust rather than fear. Only through trust can there be love. Those who ignore the commandments diminish the possibility of love, the single force that keeps us connected, whole and saved from physical and psychological torment. A life where the commandments are routinely dishonored becomes a life of solitude, guilt, anger and remorse. The wars I covered from Central America to Yugoslavia were places where the sanctity and respect for human life, that which the commandments protect, were ignored. Bosnia, with its rape camps, genocide, looting, razing of villages, its heady intoxication with violence, power and death, illustrated, like all wars, what happens when societies thrust the commandments aside.

The commandments do not protect us from evil. They protect us from committing evil. The commandments are designed to check our darker impulses , warning us that pandering to impulses can have terrible consequences. “ If you would enter life,” the Gospel of Matthew reads, “keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17). The commandments hold community together. It is community that gives our lives, even in pain and grief, a healing solidarity. It is fealty to community that frees us from the dictates of our idol, idols that promise us fulfillment through the destructive impulses of constant self-gratification. The commandments call us to reject and defy powerful forces that can rule our lives and to live instead for others, even if this costs us status and prestige and wealth. The commandments show us how to avoid being enslaved, how to save us from ourselves. They lead us to love, the essence of life.

Thank you, Chris Hedges for reintroducing me to the 10 Commandments.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Tax War

After reading Seymour M. Hersh’s essay “The Iran Plans: Would President Bush go to war to stop Tehran from getting the bomb?” in the New Yorker magazine, April 17, 2006, I became somewhat depressed. In the piece he reports that there is a debate between the pentagon and the white house as to whether we should use a nuclear bomb in Iran to stop them from getting the Bomb. Well my initial response was ‘That’s ridiculous!’, ‘That’s ludicrous!’. Then I concluded that it was just plain crazy to use a nuclear bomb to stop someone from making one.

Then I asked why were so many insiders talking to Hersh? Perhaps it was not just to inform Americans as to what is being planned but to let the Iranians’ hear some of the speculation too.

Hersh’s column was a bit too much for me to handle. So I but some thought into a way to slow our president and congress from hyping another war. So here’s my idea.

Tax war. Let’s start by imposing a tax on the cost of the Iraq war which is over $274 billion. That turns out to be $1099 [click 'Entire U.S. 'box on the right then select 'per person']for each person in America. Congress would direct the IRS to require every tax return to include a separate section for the Iraq War Surcharge. The surcharge would total $1099 times the total number of persons in the household. A separate check would have to be submitted for the surcharge.

Currently we went to war on borrowed money and as the war continues we will borrow more money. Some day we and my grandchildren will be taxed for this war. But maybe if we have to pay the bill now for this war, just maybe, the American voters will not be so quick to support another war.

Well I can dream can’t I? It sure beats dwelling on Hersh’s “The Iran Plans”.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Chocolate Orange Torte

Last night I attended a Passover dinner. I was asked to bake the Chocolate Torte the one I made last year. Well sometimes I can't remember what I had for breakfast let alone what I baked last spring for Passover. I got out one of my favorite cookbooks, "A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking" by Marcy Goldman and looked in the Passover Feast of Freedom, the Exodus chapter and there it was the chocolate Orange Torte recipe. It follows this post. By the way I find worshiping at a dinner most rewarding. The traditional foods of course were served and the liturgy provided their meaning. Also the other guests brought dishes that were most delicious and flavorful. To be sure all of them met the ingredient requirements for this Feast of Freedom.

Chocolate Orange Torte

¾ lb. (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter or unsalted Passover margarine (not whipped style)
¾ C sugar
1 C orange juice
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
6 lg. eggs

Raspberry or Strawberry Sauce (optional)
1 (10 oz.) package frozen raspberries or strawberries, defrosted
1 -2 tablespoons sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350˚ F. Line the bottom of a 9- inch springform pan with parchment paper.
2. In a heavy saucepan over low heat, or using a double boiler, melt the butter or margarine, sugar and orange juice, stirring to blend.
3. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, stirring to melt.
4. Cool very well, then whisk in the eggs until thoroughly incorporated.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 45 minutes. The cake is done when the top has a slight crust and seems set. If the cake rises too fast (that is, if the top is forming a crust yet the center seems uncooked), reduce the heat to 325˚ and let the cake more slowly.
6. Cool to firm up the cake while still in the pan. Then place in the refrigerator for several hours. Serve cold or at room temperature.
7. For the berry sauce, combine the berries with sugar in a food processor. Process until smooth. Add more sugar for a sweeter sauce. Before serving, dust the cake with unsweetened cocoa powder.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Gordon Parks A Treasure for Humanity

A couple of years ago I saw an exhibition at the DIA (Detroit Institute of Arts) featuring black and white photographs by Gordon Parks. It showed that he was an artist of the first order. He passed away recently but with much gratitude his art remains. At Legends Online there is a quote that made me reflect on how people choose to live their lives so differently. Some choose to enrich life and others choose to destroy it. Legends Online quotes Gordon Parks:

"Those people who want to use a camera should have something in mind, there's something they want to show, something they want to say...," Parks explains. "I picked up a camera because it was my choice of weapons against what I hated most about the universe: racism, intolerance, poverty. I could have just as easily picked up a knife or a gun, like many of my childhood friends did... most of whom were murdered or put in prison... but I chose not to go that way. I felt that I could somehow subdue these evils by doing something beautiful that people recognize me by, and thus make a whole different life for myself, which has proved to be so."