Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

Oh, how I look forward to the new year, 2008, the year of a presidential election, when we hopefully, finally rid ourselves of the neocon generation. The newspapers and television have been re-capping major events of the past year and I just don't want to see them because so much politics (and Republican at that) pervades their perspective. It's time for a new, refreshing, and spirited generation to seek to make the world a more beautiful place, and I'll help them all I can. It's time for peace.

Some of these re-caps haven't been all that bad; indeed, we have many things to be thankful for in 2007. We finally pushed global warming to the forefront. Al Gore not only won an Oscar for "An Inconvenient Truth," but also a Nobel Prize for all his work on global warming. Nancy Pelosi became the first female Speaker of the House (although I'm not wowed by her service). I refuse to comment on all the "celebrity" news that dominated prime time television because I don't consider that news. I am, however, happy about the final book in the Harry Potter series. Much of the news has been depressing, including physical disasters, natural disaster, war, death, disease and poverty. But I think the one event that made me, an Idaho Democrat the happiest, was the gift we received from Senator Larry Wide-Stance Craig. You gave us an unexpected boost and I don't care whether you're gay or not, your gift is greatly appreciated.

So, Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A State Too Great for Hate?

Sweeping some of Idaho's racist problems under the carpet because it seems to belong to a small section of the populace, or because it's so nonsensical it appears unbelievable, allows the problem to persist and even grow. I believe that has happened with the racist letter that I wrote about in my previous blog (and thanks to Bubblehead for pointing out that it was eventually put on the Bonners Ferry Herald website). I was going to leave the following as a response to the other comments on the last blog, but it seemed more important to write about racism in Idaho again. I hope that many others chip in their two cents because if we want to understand Idaho, we need to understand its problems as well as appreciate its positive qualities.

Unfortunately for Idaho, although members of the Obama campaign thanked me for the information about the Herald letter, they seem to think that because the mis-information contained in this letter has been circulating for some time, and because it has been exposed and debunked elsewhere, it was not important to respond to the Herald, its publisher, and its owner. I think they missed the point, especially for Idaho if not elsewhere in the U.S. Many of the people who believe this nonsense are Republican members of fundamentalist churches who send their members in large numbers to the polls. I know for two reasons: living in a small rural town is like living in a glass house; and, I have been a poll watcher for several elections. For a newspaper to publish this kind of vitriol is encouragement for these people; thus, more fundamentalist Republicans will be at the polls voting the straight Republican ticket. But does our local newspaper, published by a Republican, and owned by a corporation whose owner and CEO is a Republican, do the citizens a service by publishing such blatant partisan letters? This paper has also published a number of opinion articles, news releases and so forth on behalf of Bill Sali. But do Democrats get their news releases published? You guessed that one. Rarely. Indeed, the publisher of this paper, in the last publication before the last election, printed an article that cast aspersions on a candidate who had a good chance of winning an Idaho Congressional seat. Did the article hurt the candidate? One cannot prove it but the candidate did lose. Not to mention the editor who supposedly was fired because he came out in favor of Jerry Brady for Governor....

But I digress... it is the blatant racism used here for political purposes that needs to be addressed. And, by the way, the Herald did not publish my response letter; instead the publisher wrote an opinion apologizing for "letting such a ill-informed, hate-filled letter run in our community newspaper." That was good. But what really puzzles me is that the letter, which wasn't on the Herald website on the printed day of publication, eventually made it there. This just provided more damaging grist against Obama and the Obama campaign. Oh, and the editor who allowed the letter to be published in the first place is still at her job....

It's bad enough that in a state "too great for hate," we do have this kind of racism. But what is really unfortunate is that we haven't addressed it strongly enough; indeed, Idaho Republicans' obsession with English as the "official language" is not only insulting to our immigrants but, I would suggest, racist as well. We do finally celebrate Martin Luther King Day in our schools, but what has occurred in the recent past with students who were educated in Boundary County (a girl thrown into a bonfire because her mother is a practicing Muslim) indicates, to me at least, that Boundary County needs more than Martin Luther King Day.... Although north Idaho has pretty much rid itself of large Aryan Nation groups, their brand of racism persists. And I believe that this occurs around the entire United States, not just north Idaho. And I think that one reason is because much of this racism comes from Republicans. A case in point: consider the action of the College Republicans at Boise State University who created anti-immigrant games and ran racist anti-immigrant ads. I have never heard nor read about a Democrat who has engaged in such racist acts. I think it's about time that the issue of racism be made a public debate, and if it takes having an Obama running for the presidency, then I, for one, am grateful he's running.

Idahoans, if you're not outraged at these acts of racism, then you aren't paying attention.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Racism in Rural America

The following letter is not only racist, but it is filled with errors, confused information, and thinly disguised hatred. It was published today in the Bonners Ferry Herald, although you won't find it in the edited, online version. Many of you may find the mistakes so ridiculous that you laugh the letter off. Please do not do this. I live in this town, this county, and have for almost 20 yrs. I try to be tolerant and objective, and although I don't know the author of this Letter-to-the-Editor, I know others like her who, in other circumstances, would give you the shirt off their backs if they could help you....and if you were white. This kind of racism finds a home in some of the fundamentalist churches in this rural landscape (and there are plenty of them). This letter is not just pathetic in its ignorance but abhorrent in its racism. And what I find even more deplorable is that the Bonners Ferry Herald even decided to publish it! Have their standards sunk as low as those of the person who wrote this letter? I have copied this letter to my blog tonight (and you can all get an original copy by buying the Bonners Ferry Herald print edition) in the hopes that whoever reads it will take offence, call the Herald, write their own LTE to the Herald, and spread the word about this kind of racism in order to bring this problem to the fore and make it a topic of discussion that we cannot ignore.

The letter:

Don’t Elect a Muslim as next U.S. President?

Barak Hussein Obama, a Muslim wants to be our next president.
How can a good Muslim be a “good American,” much less the President of the United States of America?

Politically he can’t because he must submit to the mullah (political leader) who teach annihilation of Israel and destruction of the great satin they refer to as America. Death to all who are not Muslim.

Intellectually he cannot accept the American Constitution since it is based on Biblical principles and he believes as a Muslim that the Bible is corrupt.
Philosophically he cannot because Islam Mohammed and the Iran to not allow freedom of religion. Democracy and Islam cannot co-exist. Every Muslim government is either dictatorial or autocratic.

Spiritually he cannot because when we declare “One Nation Under God,” our Christian God is loving and kind while Allah is never referred to as a Heavenly Father nor is he ever called love in the Iran. Muslims cannot be both a good Muslim and a good American. Their personal preference and allegiance is to Allah and not our Constitution, nor our God.

A state of our nation has already elected a Muslim (Obama) to the House of Representatives.

He is in the current session of Congress 2007 and during his swearing in he used the Muslim Iran instead of our Bible.

How dare we not recognize this as the evil it will bring on our nation if we allow Obama to be our next president.

Also four Senators along with many others voted against English as our official American language, Senators Biden, Clinton, Dodd, Obama, Boxer, Kerry, Kennedy, Lieferman and many more. Where is the loyalty to America?

None of these people should be leaders of our “Great Nation.” In our country people are free to believe anything they want to as well as their religious preference. But they don’t qualify to be the President of the United States of America when they don’t support or believe in our Constitution. They are not loyal Americans and talk out of both sides of their mouth.

Please use your voting privilege to keep these people out of the White House. Please do not elect them to be the President of the United States of America. This may be the most serious election our country has ever faced. Our government isn’t perfect but it’s the best one in the whole world. Let’s help keep it that way. Our vote may be a matter of life or death and liberty for all.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Face the Music and Dance

Oh boy, Larry Craig's Sunday is ruined. Front page of the Idaho Statesman. Front page of the Spokesman-Review (same Popkey article). Front page of the Times News (Magic Valley). Tucked into the Lewiston Tribune. Across the nation, from the Seattle Post Intelligencer (albeit without all the sordid details) to the Miami Herald (with the sordid details). Even the ubiquitous USA Today. The guys have kissed and now they're telling.... Not a good time to be a Republican in Idaho....not a good time to be a Republican....and so much for family values....

I believe that a person's private life should remain private, but it was the Senator, himself, who took it into public places and who lied and who is such the hypocrite. I have no problem with anyone being gay, but again, the lies and hypocrisies attached to Lewd-Conduct-Man have brought embarrassment to the state of Idaho, not to mention the Republican party....

Thank goodness Idaho also has some great Democratic candidates so that we can rid ourselves of the mess that the Republican party has laid at our feet. Larry LaRocco for Craig's seat and Larry Grant, Walt Minnick, and Rand Lewis for Bill Sali's seat. It can only get better!

The 2008 election is going to be very interesting, as well as great entertainment! I can't wait...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

There's something happening here....

I think I haven't been doing enough Sudoku or crossword puzzles lately because I'm feeling mentally challenged and I'm having trouble understanding things. Like I don't understand Walt Minnick's problem with Larry Grant. Now, I only met Minnick twice, briefly, and I've heard from very good friends that he is a great guy. But I'm still not sure why he's running against Grant.

Minnick announced last week that he would be running against Grant and Lewis for the District 1 Congressional seat. Actually, his announcement came to me first through the Idaho Democratic Party, and the next day I read the announcement by Jill Kuraitis at NewWest Boise. Jill pulled out the same-ole-same-ole talk that was made public by Popkey, i.e., that Grant ran a "lackluster" campaign. My guess is that lackluster means he lost to Sali.... OMG, in a Republican state!!!, which only ended up remaining red because the Republicans had to spend so much money here on Sali's campaign that they lost candidates in Ohio and some other east coast state. So said Parag Mehta at the IDP State Committee Meeting in Kootenai County. And Cheney came to visit twice! Once in Boise and once in Coeur d'Alene. Now what major candidate EVER comes to Coeur d'Alene??? What is lackluster about drawing that kind of attention? Even Cecil Andrus endorsed him during the 2006 election. Geez, do you think that maybe "lackluster" really had nothing to do with this loss??

Now this really makes me wonder. Andrus is held as the ideal candidate who gets votes by going door-to-door, you know, real grassroots, like Howard Dean promotes. And that's what Larry Grant did. Even in Bonners Ferry. So, what's the problem? No Clinton/DLC money slinging? No big buck luster? We do not have movie star big donor types in Boundary County, but we gave what we can. And we turned out more Democratic voters than we had in years. Is that a lack of luster?

Also, in the recent past, I've heard many Idaho Democrat advisers say a candidate has to try two or even three times before they win in this state. So, Larry Grant is on his second try, but now that's not good enough. Is a second try a bit lusterless? Does that mean two or three tries are good or are they not? Does this require a whole new way of thinking mathematically so that I can't even apply it to Sudoku???

Well, they still say, that is the Boys of Boise say, that Larry Grant lost due to lackluster. Hmm, maybe that's the answer. Minnick has luster! Will somebody please tell me what that is?

Still, I remain confused. Perusing the news articles on Minnick, I have read little about issues, but a lot about Minnick's past association with big timber, the Republican party, Nixon, G. Gordon Liddy, and, thank God for small miracles, the Idaho Conservation League. Of course, that makes me wonder how he feels about the NUCLEAR QUESTION?? I ask because even though he fought the dumping of nuclear waste in Idaho, I understand Senate Candidate,Larry LaRocco, is a very good friend of Minnick. And Larry LaRocco supports nuclear energy as clean energy. That leaves me a bit wary....and gives a whole new definition to the word "clean." It also makes me wonder, why didn't Minnick try once more for the Senate seat? Is it because he is friends with LaRocco? Or does he prefer that path that Grant already paved..... Ah, the machinations of human behavior....

Anyway, I'm curious as to how ALL the candidates will handle the "tough" questions that Bonner and Boundary counties handed to Larry Grant when he first arrived. Forget the bring troops home from Iraq, we want to know when and how. And how about gun control? Health care? Does the candidate have a plan or just rhetoric? And the Right to Work? Minimum wage? Big Business tax breaks? Corporations? Corporate crime? Agricultural subsidies? Immigration? The War on Drugs? The Impeachment Question. I look forward to hearing everyone's responses, if they ever make it to Boundary County. Geographically we are the crown jewel of Idaho; however, we're not exactly around the corner.... Democrats from the south find that a trip to Boundary County is about as far away as, well, let me provide a clearer picture of distances. Boise is 361 miles from Bonners Ferry; Portland, OR is closer to Boise at 345 miles; Reno, NV is closer to Boise at only 336 miles; and Salt Lake City is only 296 miles from Boise. Think of the reverse: Vancouver, CAN is only 295 miles from Bonners Ferry; Seattle, WA is but 274 miles from Bonners; Banff, ALB is 169 miles; and Missoula, MT only 180 miles. Bonners Ferry is 2 1/2 hrs. from the nearest airport in Spokane, WA. We do not share any radio or television stations with southern Idaho. We do not share a common newspaper with southern Idaho (Bonners Ferry major media is from Spokane, WA). I'm not convinced that we're exactly in the same state, except by name and politics. In sum, we are not exactly geographically desirable to visitors from the south, and, nor are they to us.

As for the political situation, Boundary County is filled with Republicans, disgruntled Republicans, and Independents. If someone wants their vote, they had better remember the myth of Sisyphus. Or better yet, read and understand Deer-Hunting With Jesus. We have been working hard to get more votes for Democrats in Boundary County. In the last election, the Boundary County Central Committee once again made it okay to be a Democrat by putting up a billboard at the only entrance to town which read, "Had Enough? Vote Democratic." When candidates like Larry Grant, Jerry Brady, and Steve Elgar took the time to go door-to-door in our town, they also made it okay to be Democratic again. In the 2006 campaign, these candidates took the time to leave a path of luster in Boundary County, a luster they could bank on for the next election. New candidates have their work cut out for them....

As for me, a Sudoku awaits. Maybe I'll feel less mentally challenged after it's completion....if I complete it.

Friday, October 5, 2007

The More We Get Together, Together, Together...

Ah, we're so friendly in the north. Look at that, Red Lion Templin's Hotel welcoming the Idaho Democratic Party to their friendly neck of the north Idaho woods. How can you beat that?? It certainly warmed the cockles of my heart....

I just love state committee meetings. I love seeing old friends and meeting new people from places in Idaho that are as foreign to me as, well, as foreign lands and places. But when we're all in the same room together, it's like the manifestation of a whole party, one state united in common values, with other people who place a high value on democracy, and, more importantly, on people.

And, as usual, it was inspired. Our new Executive Director, John Foster, has already carved out his niche, including who he is and the direction in which he wants to lead the party. Taking his cue from the DNC, he sees clearly the much needed effort to unite all of Idaho at the grassroots level, in order to see good, old-fashioned Democratic values, Idaho values, once more take center stage in this state. He has spoken to many of us so many times it seems like he has been around for years, rather than months.

And of course, Stephanie Astorquia, our Treasurer, who is the only person I've ever met that can make money spending and accumulation make some sort of sense to me. I am in awe of her as can be seen in her impressive accounting skills and ability which leave me, big-mouth me, utterly speechless. At least once a week I give thanks for having her as our treasurer....

Always a ray of sunshine, and a person who allows no negativity to come near her, Shelley Landry, our north Idaho fieldworker, displayed her usual organizational skills and warmly greeted all of us who miss her whenever she is in the great unknown regions of District 1. Without her, I'm not sure that there could even be a united north Idaho Democratic Party.... And with Shelley, we're Democrats, we can make this work....

Chuck Oxley seemed to have a heads up on everything being said, took many photos, including the above one which he so kindly emailed to me before I even made it back to Bonners Ferry, and I'm sure he'll have plenty for us to read in his News Updates.

So many other familiar faces from around the state, including the tireless southern fieldworker, Randy Johnson, the other county chairs that work so hard for the IDP, the delightful and so very hard-working House Minority Leader, Wendy Jaquet, and I know I'm forgetting others after a long but wonderful day in Post Falls (still north Idaho but almost 2 hrs. from home).

Our illustrious leader, Richard Stallings, that very kind man with a tremendous sense of political acumen and a wonderful touch of dry wit and humor, always seems to find just the right things to say. I only wish that he could visit all the counties on a regular basis because he obviously has so much leadership to impart and share in a state so geographically divided.

And of course it is always a delight to see Larry Grant, who should be Congressman Larry Grant, which may be a wish fulfilled next year. How wonderful for DNC speaker, Parag Mehta, to thank Larry, and to say what I and others said after the last election, that even though he didn't win, he made Republicans spend so much money here that the money they lost in other states made them lose Republican seats! (Well, I didn't know about losing Republican seats because of that money but I know it was due to Larry Grant and Jerry Brady that Republicans took lots of money from elsewhere and spent it in Idaho; indeed, they even sent VP Cheney to Coeur d'Alene, ID. Now when was the last time someone that high up in the US gov. came to north Idaho????) So thank you Parag for bringing that statistic up. You go, Larry!

And I was delighted to see our Party VP, Jeanne Buell, one of the most compassionate people I know who also has the political heart strong enough to push the DNC to give us such wonderful people like Parag Mehta to speak. Jeanne provides so much soul to this party, as well as organizational skills with great foresight (thanks so much for the notecards....) that I always know I'll learn some important political and humanistic skill whenever we have the chance to meet.

Finally, I want to thank the DNC for sending us Parag Mehta. He may not be the VP like Cheney, but Cheney, if he had a mind and/or a heart, could learn loads from Parag. He entered the room and took the floor with the energy of Howard Dean, the political astuteness of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and the charisma of Bobby Kennedy. I loved what he said, his presentation, his humor, his intelligence, and "the plan." I've knocked on enough doors to know that the DNC 50 state strategy can work. My only disappointment is that he couldn't have spoke on Saturday when the attendance would have been much greater. As I told him, if the DNC doesn't give more energy to north Idaho, then not only will they lose north Idaho votes, but western Montana and eastern Washington votes as well. I'm sure Parag heard me...

Well, I must get up early in the morning for another political day of delight in north Idaho. Which reminds me, if not for the tremendous efforts of Bev Moss, Kootenai County Chair, Shelley Landry, Tamara Poelstra and others of whom I do not know, then this wonderful opportunity to have a state committe meeting in north Idaho would never have occurred. So a giant HURRAH for Bev and the Kootenai Democrats! And for all of you Kootenai Democrats and precinct captains who did not attend, well, you missed out on a great and inspirational opportunity.

After another state committee meeting, what can I say but IdahoRocks! You go, my blue Idaho!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Dragnet: Larry Craig, from Olbermann

It's called "Dragnet: Larry Craig." I've had disagreements with Olbermann in the past, and I can vouch for the fact that a response from him can be very direct and biting. But in the past several months he has won a special place in my heart, so I hope he keeps on exposing the foibles of stardom, no matter how that comes about....

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

So Just What Is Craig's Political Stance?

Well, the Idaho Statesman finally released the information about their investigation of Senator Craig's purported homosexuality. Following numerous leads, and often ending up without anything substantive, the Statesman basically leaves us with a "he says/he says," so anyone reading the article can believe either the speculators or Craig, but not both. Craig denies to this day that he ever engaged in any homosexual acts, although his objections sound a lot like that now famous line, "I never had sex with that woman!" I guess it's all a matter of what constitutes sex, or in this case, what constitutes homosexual sex. Too bad it's not Ken Starr going after Larry Craig, although Craig must thank his lucky stars every day that no Ken Starr has relentlessly pursued him. I guess that "down and dirty" stuff remains a peculiar Republican trait.

Accompanying the long and informative overview is the Stateman's request for some answers to some pointed questions about his behavior, his honesty, his trust and his responsibility towards the people of Idaho:

"...Idaho's senior senator must speak candidly with the people who have hired him for more than a quarter of a century. He owes this to voters — no matter how difficult that may be for him and for his family. And voters owe Craig a chance to explain himself."

The Statesman questions his rather feeble excuse for pleading guilty,

"Craig says, in hindsight, he should not have pleaded guilty and "should have had the advice of counsel in resolving this matter."

stating that as an "educated professional" and and elected one to boot, should have had the wherewithal to go directly to a lawyer. In other words, Craig's excuse sounds lame even to the Statesman.

They also suggest that Craig's handing his senatorial business card, and asking what the police think of that, is " inexcusable abuse of power," and I totally agree with them. This situation had nothing to do with the people of Idaho. It was personal and he should not have tried to weasel his way out by virtue of his being an elected official. Nobody is above the law.

The Statesman further finds that Craig's choice of remaining quiet about his little Minnesota escapade is " unacceptable breach of trust." Craig obviously hoped no one would hear of this episode. Then again, maybe he just didn't want to make the same error he made back in 1982 when he issued a statement saying he had no involvement in the page scandal involving homosexual sex, drugs, and abuse of power, before he was ever officially accused of such activity. After twenty-five years one would think that Craig had learned when to speak up and when not to. How difficult a lesson is that?

In ending, the Statesman states,

"Yes, we have pointed questions, as many Idahoans surely do. But there's a difference between asking hard questions and making snap judgments. We ask Idahoans to await the answers before passing judgment."

I agree with this position by the Statesman, but we do have not only statements by others about Craig's engagement with them in homosexual activity, but we have a police officer who was, himself, solicited by Craig. Now is the time for honesty... unfortunately I, for one, do not expect that from Senator Craig; however, it would be a very pleasant surprise, and I remain optimistic.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Lewd Conduct Man

Well, I heard it hours ago but only just arrived home to my computer; however, the phone lines in Idaho have been burning! Ah, Republican family values... just can't get enough of them. So Senator Craig was arrested for lewd conduct in a Minneapolis airport men's room. Geez! The total lack of discretion is in itself obscene. And at his age! With a wife and kids! It doesn't get much worse (or better, as the case may be) than that.

The news is EVERYWHERE! From The Political Game to 43rd State Blues to The Mountain Goat Report to Red State Rebels, the Idaho bloggers are having a field day. There's just nothing like seeing a hypocrite get caught in the act. It must really be true that what goes around comes around....

And the national blogs are hot with the same topic. From Roll Call to Wonkette, from CNN to The Huggington Post, Craig's lewd conduct appears to be making more news than Gonzales' resignation. Well, at least Gonzales didn't give the excuse that he wanted to spend more time with his family. He came a long way but as they say, you're known by the company you keep...

So, just to summarize, according to Roll Call, who broke the story, Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) was arrested in June by a plainclothes police officer for lewd conduct in a men's public restroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, and plead guilty on August 8th to misdemeanor disorderly conduct, with a prison sentence that was stayed, a $500 fee and one year's probation. That seems to be a pretty hefty sentence for a senior senator who did nothing but tap the other guy's foot.... Maybe I'm a bit naive and I'm missing something here....

Well, I can almost hear the remarks by the Idaho Republican community: it's just an accidental brush of the foot near someone else's so what's wrong with that? Well, something most certainly must be wrong if there is one year's probation. I await further discussion and revelation....

And now I think I know why Craig had not yet declared his candidacy for the 2008 election....

Monday, July 9, 2007

Musings On A Monday Evening

I am so tired of what's happening politically and so tired of this heat wave (I grew up in the desert and never wanted to experience such heat again), that I find myself searching for some comforting topic. Certainly politics leaves much to be desired. We have the executive office of the United States stating their exclusion from any kind of oversight or accountability. Geez, how many euphemisms for a dictatorship do we have to hear before we finally understand what Bush et al are doing.

Then the nuclear issue keeps coming up, along with other very non-sustainable energy ideas. Let's face it, the world is in love with the production of waste. From computers to fashion to communication to food, we keep producing short-lived throw-away items. No wonder so many energy executives sit on both energy industry and waste industry Boards of Directors....

And of course the endless War on Drugs keeps ruining the lives of young people, minorities, and low income people, keeping many of them in prison much longer than murderers are kept, costing the taxpayers zillions of dollars, and invigorating crime and criminal regimes. I may as well beat my head against the wall for the same headache I get just thinking about this inane, self-serving, irresponsible, and not scientifically based policy on drugs. Does anyone really care that crime, taxes, and negative social stigmas would be greatly reduced, or even disappear, if we just got rid of the War on Drugs????

One of my happiest moments, and being, essentially, a positive person, came this week with the announcement by Jim McDermott, that he has added his name to H. Res. 333, calling for Articles of Impeachment against that ego-maniacal draft-dodging crook, VP Cheney. Thank you Senator McDermott: your insight, integrity, and responsibility to the American people is exemplary in a world gone mad.

So, all that being said, I found my comfort today in the banal, making Monday Lunch for my working friends as well as for myself. And it was a good lunch! Yummy, Scottish Highland Beef and homegrown spinach risotto with lots of garlic and onions and fennel and oregano. A basic green salad with Spanish sherry vinaigrette included tomatoes, cucumber and Bulgarian feta. I couldn't resist a rosemary and garlic foccacia to accompany this feast. And for dessert, cherry clafouti, the classic French, early summer dessert, that all French women have memorized, just like Americans with their burgers on the barbecue.

And following lunch delivery, I worked again (well, volunteered again) at our new International Visitor Center, which provides me with the opportunity to meet people who, passing through our beautiful neck of the woods, stop to ask about Boundary County, about our environs, and about traveling beyond our horizon. I love to tell them about this region that I love so much!

It's so wonderful that the small miracles and beauties of life are still there to be appreciated.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Idaho People, Idaho Values, Idaho Democrats

I have been very remiss in not writing about the June 23rd, north Idaho Democratic Rally. The weather could not have been better. The bratwurst was delicious. And the company was wonderful. How could any Idaho Democrat not luxuriate in the company of other Idaho Democrats....

The gathering began at noon, but our very own Shelley Landry, as well as Cheryl Halverson, Benewah County Chair, were ready, willing and excited to be greeting our guests!
Our entertainment was an Elvis impersonator who, before the festivities really began, found the friendliest Democrat in the state!
Everyone took advantage of the new Executive Director, John Foster, and I'm sure he had more ideas about how to improve the Democrats' position in north Idaho than there were brats on the barbecue. We also welcomed Larry and Pam Grant, of course our own Jeanne Buell, and notice that "...oln County" sign in the background? Well that's Lincoln County, Washington! Yes indeed, Democrats from Spokane County, Lincoln County, and northernmost Stevens County all showed up to lend support, as well as share in Democratic values. See, eastern Washington isn't all Republican....

Rand Lewis, local resident and candidate for Idaho's first U.S. Congressional District, carries on a semi-serious discussion with Shoshone County's, Jerry White (Idaho Legislative District 2 Vice-Chair, as well as County Assessor), and Idaho Legislative District 1 Chair, Bob Marley.
Two long-term, hard-working, diligent and loyal Democrats from Boundary County, Elsie Hollenbeck (State Committeewoman) and former Senator Tim Tucker.
Again, Senator Tim Tucker getting his political fix with Boundary County Naples Precinct Captain, Lisa Robbe-Soults.
Not that I'm so biased, but the Boundary County Democrats, you know, Boundary County, Crown of Idaho, were well represented, along with Bonner County's Jim Ramsey (former Legislative District 1 Senatorial candidate). From left are Fred Hendrickson (Vice-Chair), Tim Tucker, Alice Hendrickson, Scott Soults, and loyal friend and mascot, Kia.

Don't think for a minute that Elvis would be hard-pressed to find his biggest fan, our own Jeanne Buell. Whatever he's singing obviously pleases Shelley as well.
And where would we be without some delicious food and hard-working cooks at this rally. A big thanks to Dave Larsen and Steve Foxx!
Well, finally, yours truly with her dear friend and Vice-Chair (I think of him as co-chair), the man who keeps track of the fund-raising, issues, and all the important stuff, Fred Hendrickson.

Idaho's U.S. Congressional District 1 candidate, Larry Grant, after reading a list two pages long of Bill Sali's latest idiocies as a congressional representative (check Red State Rebel's diary at the DailyKos), took a few moments to explain why an Elvis impersonator is important to Pam and himself. Wondering why? Well just ask him about the red Ford Mustang....
Finally, a special thanks goes to Kootenai County Chair, Bev Moss, pictured here with husband, Steve. Bev brings new life and new enthusiasm to north Idaho Democrats and helps to demonstrate what a viable and formidable group we have the potential to be.
I've probably thrown in way too many photos for most people, but this was an event that drew north Idahoans together in a way that hasn't been seen before the break up of the unions. North Idaho used to be a Democratic stronghold. When I go door-to-door talking to people, everyone's concerns turn out to be Democratic concerns, yet they're voting for the wrong party, or worse, no party at all. It's time for north Idaho to turn blue, again, and, for the rest of Idaho, if you're not blue already, please join in the movement to turn Idaho blue!

Idaho People, Idaho Values, Idaho Democrats! It's time to return home to the party that supports Idaho workers. Go Democrats!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Larry Grant Keeps The Turkeys Away

For those of you who have read some of my previous blogs, you know full well how I feel about the wild turkeys that reek havoc in my yard and garden. Recently, two GIANT toms have been attempting to fight their own reflections in my sun room window. Well, the strategic positioning of my "Larry Grant for Congress" yard sign proves that Larry Grant does know how to keep the turkeys away! No more toms. Thank you, Larry!

Speaking of Larry Grant, I got my Walt Minnick poll call today. How convenient to be both a blogger and an anthropologist: not only am I familiar with why the person is asking what, but I get to write about it! However, I'm still not certain why Minnick would support Larry Grant and then take off on his own for a run at the same position. But what do I know? I live in north Idaho, and obviously a long history of disconnect is about the only connection between Boise and north Idaho. At least Betsy Russell over at the Spokesman makes some connections, but maybe that's because she's in an even odder position: reporting on north Idaho, based on politics and news in Boise, while residing in, and working for a major newspaper in eastern Washington. I certainly have a lot of respect for that gal!

So, back to Minnick. Is it the "old guard," seeing how exciting the new guard is, wanting to get back into politics? Is it denial that Larry Grant could have lost his initial race because Idaho is, in fact, a RED state? Is it greed? Is it bold, objective reasoning? I never knew who Walt was until I was down in Boise in the spring. So, I defer to my friend, Tim Tucker's observation, and assume that this is a really nice, savy guy. But I still don't understand his motive. And if the motive is something out of Popkey's diatribe, then I'll have to completely disagree.

Also, what is all this running for the big ticket slates when our counties are filled with Republicans? If we cannot fill our local offices, county commissioner seats, city councils, local health organizations, local civic organizations, and so forth, then how does anyone think that we'll be able to elect a big ticket Democrat into office?

Finally, a request to Howard Dean, the DNC, and the IDP. I don't think we're going to be successful in turning north Idaho blue if we cannot attract a major candidate to north Idaho, say, to Coeur d'Alene. I say this not because we need the popularity, but because we're so much the bastard step-child. And we are not alone. Democrats from western Montana and eastern Washington feel the same way. So who comes to town? why Dick Cheney! And the Republicans win north Idaho again. And what Democratic candidate comes here? What representative of the Democratic National Committee comes here? Hillary raises money for herself by visiting the big stars in Sun Valley. We have big stars in District 1 too, but do they ever do anything to help the state in which they own a home? And people wonder why Idaho is red.....

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Whose Odds?

I've been waiting and waiting for Popkey's grand exposure of Larry Craig, but so far it seems that instead, the best he can do, is to find another Larry to disparage, and that is Democrat Larry Grant. This seems to me to be a bit like beating a man when he's down. I guess like many others in gentrified southern Idaho, Popkey believes people expected Larry Grant to sell his soul to some hotshot political advisor, call in the big bucks from the big government that Idahoans love to hate, and shelve his intelligence for some quick sound bytes.

Well, when Larry first arrived in north Idaho, a number of us showed up to ask some serious questions. We already believed the war in Iraq should end immediately. We had daily upset stomachs over the Bush administration's progression towards stamping out civil liberties. And we took our role of Democratic candidate support very seriously. In spite of all these serious hesitations, Larry Grant won us over.

He did so because if he didn't have all the facts, he refused to give trite answers to our questions. Instead he went back to southern Idaho, thought about the issue, did some research, and then returned with a well-thought out and thorough answer.

His steadiness, his thoughtfulness, and his friendliness caused people to remember him, remember what he said, and really think about how well he would represent Idahoans and Idaho interests in the US Congress. I mean, how could any Idahoan not like this guy? He's from Fruitland, married to his high school sweetheart (which she is), has achieved great success, lived away from Idaho but maintains his roots here, and he's always persuasive while never being manic. Plus, he really wants to help the Idaho little guy, or everyman, or whatever you want to call him/her.

Perhaps his supporters may be faulted for liking him too much, thus blinding themselves to the possibility of a Sali win. Perhaps more money would have done the trick. But perhaps Larry Grant really did the best with all that he chose to do, and that the Republican right was still just a bit too afraid of change to vote for Larry.

As for some of Popkey's arguments, well, I, for one, am not so enamoured of the Democratic Congressional Caucus and I don't know that I would want to be indebted to them for services rendered. Secondly, I am also not enamoured of Dean Haagenson who has made his money off of real estate and growth, two areas that have left many a local complaining about property taxes, traffic, and unregulated growth. He may talk about the struggling economy of the 1980's in his defense of current growth, while conveniently forgetting about the Republican breakup of the unions thanks to an emphasis on privatization.

Popkey also criticizes Larry's campaign manager, who, based on my personal experience, was always on top of everything and available for any questions. Popkey conveniently never mentions Larry's blogger, Julie from Red State Rebels, who almost single-handedly catapulted Larry into national attention and brought interest to this race on the DailyKos. Also, I don't know which country fair, house party, or Rotary Club meeting Popkey attended while Larry Grant was present that caused him to quip about Grant's "discomfort with retail politics," but it obviously wasn't in Idaho's far north, where Larry always seemed at ease as well as having the ability to put others at ease as well.

Finally, I think that any Democrat who is "grieving and resentful" is more a figment of Popkey's imagination than any reality I know of. I may be in Idaho's far north, but I'm not stupid enough to fall for "the arrogance and political deafness" of some newspaper writer who decides to dump on a very viable, popular, and well-liked Democratic candidate.

Perhaps Popkey went after Larry Grant because his several month stint looking for the dirt on Larry Craig left him so bereft of the kind of political information he sought.... I just bet that Popkey's trying to distract attention from his failed mission....and in doing so he's not doing the Democrats any service.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Ah Ha! The Perfect Bread!

Well, I finally found the recipe for a perfect loaf of bread. It seems it's all over the web: it's the No-Knead Bread adapted by Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York, published in the New York Times thanks to Mark Bittman. And even better, you can even watch the YouTube video on how to do it, thanks to Bittman and Lahey.

I have to admit that I cheated, however. Instead of the yeast I use my sourdough starter. Works great! My friend, Rosemary, used the actual recipe but didn't have time to bake it for 48 hrs. It still came out great! I've added more flour and less flour and doubled the recipe as well (now I really appreciate all the cast-iron cookware that I have). I do prefer bran over semolina for keeping the dough from sticking to my kitchen towel, although I like the flavor of the semolina better.

I love the flavor, the hard crust, and the tender inside. I especially love the crumb! That crumb is exactly what I have been looking for! I've also discovered that even though the bread occasionally sticks to the towel, creating a pre-baking gash, this only prevents the bread from rising as high as usual, as well as cracking, but the flavor is still great and the texture is just a bit chewier, which is something I like as well.

Yummy! All those holes! Thank you Jim Lahey and Mark Bittman and all you other wonderful chefs on the web! Now I make this every 2-3 nights! Let it rise until early morning when my cats meow for breakfast, then 2 1/2 hrs. later, into the oven. By lunchtime I have my favorite bread.

This does not mean, however, that I have quit making my other breads. Every bread has it's place and sometimes I do like the tighter crumb. But just making this bread, the sourdough, and even my old fashioned rolls has taught me much about bread making. I've learned how the long rise can really help with the crumb I want. I've learned how to get those rolls to rise a bit more once they hit the oven. And I've learned how hot an oven really needs to be by cooking in cast-iron.

My husband loves this bread. I brought a "sunken" (stuck to the towel) double loaf to my girlfriends' birthday party and not a crumb remained. My Monday lunch customers love the bread. And since my dentist reads my blog, I even brought him a loaf.

So, if you haven't made this bread yet, now is the day to get started!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Nothing Says Summer Like A Farmer's Market

I've been away, both to Seattle and into my garden. Actually the garden has taken the most time because weeds and dandelions were strangling its beauty. Fortunately, with a stiff back, sore hands, and several pairs of gloves later, most of the weeds have been plucked away. I also had a major setback when I put my seedlings outside too soon. Oh yes, horror of horrors, I lost all my celeriac, several tomatoes, all but two physalis, and most of my leeks. However, since I'm a true believer in global warming, I'm also convinced that we will have another long summer, so I'm starting again. Hopefully the sun, long days, and tons of fish fertilizer will do the trick. It doesn't matter if that's a pipe dream, it makes me happy.

In case it is a pipe dream, however, and wanting all that food, I'm off to the Farmer's Market this morning. Of course, I always arrive early, because I want the greatest choice before it's all gone. And the goods will disappear ever more quickly as the summer wears on. So at 7:30am (the market opens at 8am), I grab my basket and my money and drive into downtown Bonners Ferry, to the visitor center and city parking lot, and head determinedly into the midst of the market.

My first stop is always Marsha's Cottage Garden. Marsha has the BEST vegetables! Every fall I order pounds of onions, leeks and carrots to carry me through the winter. And her garlic braids are awesome! In springtime, she always has lettuce, mixed bags of spring greens, spinach, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, and many, many starts of veggies, herbs, and flowers.

Usually next door to Marsha is Judy, with a wonderful and huge variety of plants and flowers, all of which grow in our wonderful northern climate. Being quite creative, Judy also makes jellies, mustards, vinegars, and the most divine soaps and lotions. My favorite soap is "Northern Lights." I think this is an emotional sell for me because occasionally we can actually see the northern lights from Boundary County. How amazing is that!

And that's just the beginning of all the wonderful stalls to visit. I also like to stop by Sora's for a lemon cream scone, spanikopita (spinach filled Greek pastry), perhaps some organic bread (although I usually make my own bread), and occasionally, on a Farmer's Market special occasion day (with live entertainment, food contests, and other delights), some of the special lunches she brings like homemade soup. Gail always has flowers and other plants to buy, as well as mixed bags of lettuce and other vegetables. But it's her flower arrangements that really cause everyone's eyes to grow big!

That's not the end of our wonderful Farmer's Market. From Peggy's canned jams, jellies, and pickles to homemade cake donuts to the absolutely over-the-top, locally raised Yak meat, the Boundary County Farmer's Market has it all!

You would think that after all these stops, for purchases and for socializing, I would be on the road home. But there's one more important stop on Saturday mornings (on other mornings as well) and that's at Under the Sun in downtown Bonners Ferry. So I stroll from the Farmer's Market to the next block over, and stop by Under the Sun for my morning organic double latte. Yummy! But the coffee and the food are just the beginning of this wonderful, unique store, which just opened about a year ago by Shelly Yount, her very supportive husband, Jack, and their three gracious and delightful daughters.

Shelly and Kaylon order much of the unique gifts, cookware, baby, seasonal, and other items in the store. Kendall is primarily responsible for food, and most of it is DELICIOUS! From Greek salad to your choice of sandwich on homemade bread to a variety of soups, all organic!!! this place is a very popular stop for lunch. Kynsie is always on top of clothing, shoes and just everything that's fashionable, and that includes her own choice of clothes every day! The shelves are filled with old and new, all very tastefully coordinated, and although they have their areas of expertise, everyone in the family contributes to this store's delightful and attractive atmosphere. So check out the outside tables and wares, Kendall's and Kynsie's friendly greetings, and Shelly and Jack taking a brief respite in the dining area. And don't miss Under the Sun the next time you're in downtown Bonners Ferry!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Who's Busy in North Idaho?

No, I haven't been on vacation or out of town; instead I've been in my garden planting all the food I need to sustain us during the winter. I've also been editing a friend's book, spending way too much time at the local auction, and perfecting my skills at making bread.

As for current events, I'm very happy to learn that Otter has told the DEQ to develop a greenhouse gas inventory, and, as quoted in The Statesman, it will "serve as the central point of contact for coordination and implementation of greenhouse gas reduction efforts." Both Red State Rebels and New West Boise applaud Otter's commitment, but I remain cautious about this pro-environment step by a historically anti-environment Representative, now Governor, and wolf-killer wanna-be.

I never used to be such a sceptic, and I try to remain positive, but daily doses of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, and books like Greg Palast's Armed Madhouse (an excellent review of which is at The Smirking Chimp), have led me to doubt many of the actions and motives of Republicans, as well as most of the mass media.

For more on current events in Idaho (and occasionally elsewhere), as well as other great Idaho activities and observations, nothing beats the weekly round-up as reported at 43rd State Blues.

Moving on to my other activities, I did find some interesting books at the auction. I was quite pleased at winning the bid for Tales Told in Holland, although it wasn't exactly a steal.... Even though its condition only rates a "Good," still, the color is great with no writing inside. I acquired it for the lovely illustrations by Maud and Miska Petersham. A real gem from the auction is Life's Picture History of World War II which is in "Very Good" condition although the slip case is not. The photos, illustrations, and text capture the everyday reality of that war and war in general. So many photos, one could spend hours perusing it, unless, like me, the images of war become too much. My final acquisition is one which is fun for me: a first printing of The Complete Scandinavian Cookbook by Alice Johnson. After my trip to Norway last year and Sweden some years back, I've fallen in love with Scandinavia. What better way to learn a culture than through its food?

I know you're all dying to hear about the bread. I do believe that I have the perfect recipe now, but weeds are calling me so that will have to come next time, hopefully with a photo.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

A Thunderstorm in Boundary County

If you have reached this blog through I do not know the person who owns the webiste, nor do I have any association with that person. I have asked that my blog link be removed from that website.

I've hesitated to write this blog because it's rather a blight spot on north Idaho. However, rotten apples are in every barrel and in the Boundary County public school system some rotten apples seem to be making the rest of the barrel smell rotten, which is not fair.

This has to do with the services being received, or not, as the case(s) may be, for students who qualify for Special Education services. Some of the Special Ed teachers attempt to provide exemplary service; unfortunately it's steadily beginning to look like their best efforts are being thwarted by both the head of Special Ed. and the Superintendent. This could be the result of chauvinistic bias, laziness, under budgeting, or just plain abuse of administrative positions. Let me provide the facts so that all readers may access the codes and laws and talk to these people themselves.

Turning to Partnerships for Inclusion, a north Idaho business that provides information, training, one-on-one teaching, and some advocacy, a number of parents reported, complained, and/or requested help in getting Boundary County Special Education to provide legally-mandated services for their children. A number of these children were spending less than two hours per day at school because the services were either so inadequate or just not being offered.

With another school levy rapidly approaching, the head of Partnerships for Inclusion asked the Superintendent to speak about the levy to approximately 13-15 parents who had concerns with Special Ed. services. The parents' disillusionment hit its acme when the superintendent said he felt that the head of Special Ed. was doing a good job because he consistently comes in under budget. So, money is more important than children. Good job, supe! With that kind of logic, you don't even need to wear a button that says, "I'm a Republican."

Because of the large number of complaints by parents, including several who actually moved out of the school district in order to get mandated services, CO-AD (Comprehensive Advocacy, Inc.), offered to provide an information and training class to the community on Saturday, May 5th. CO-AD's purpose is, as their website states, "Assisting people with disabilities to protect, promote, and advance their legal and human rights, through quality legal, individual, and system advocacy." About 40 people showed up for this event, including parents, teachers, and interested community members. It was, in many ways, a success for both the community and the parents.

But get this, the Boundary County Superintendent and head of Special Ed., refused to send out a mailer telling the parents of Special Ed. children that the meeting would take place! The Superintendent claimed that the statement on the flyer, "Do you have problems accessing a Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE) for your child?" was "misleading or questionable."
Say what?!

First, as an educator, an administrator for education, and a representative of public education, why would you not welcome extra education for your parents, teachers and community? Secondly, I would think that this visit by CO-AD was an opportunity to discover how well the school's Special Ed. program was working, identify problems, and find solutions. Third, sending out the mailer and attending the meeting would have been good PR for future levys. And finally, CO-AD was "...designated by the governor as the Protection and Advocacy System for the State of Idaho." Why would any educator deny information about this legal service, provided by the State for people with disabilities! I can think of only one reason: guilt.

The list of complaints is long and was discussed at length at the CO-AD meeting. Many of these complaints were specifically directed at the head of Special Education in Boundary County. Some of these included outright denial of services, shifting blame to the children and parents, and a chauvinistic stance towards women. Mothers have long been advised to bring their husbands with them when meeting with the head of Special Ed. Complaints have also been made about the high school principle. I know from personal experience that Special Ed. or not, the principal will sit in a student's classroom, day after day, and just stare at the student as a means of intimidation. More specific complaints were also offered. The more challenging the child, e.g., lower IQ, depression, ADHD, the more complaints heard. This is a difficult and terrible situation that includes inappropriate or ignorant behavior at best and human rights and ADA violations at worst.

However, a silver lining now exists under this cloud of problems, denial of legally-mandated services, and egregious behavior. The parents have learned how to organize in order to act as a team. They have learned about the avenue of utilizing the School Board. And they have seen the community support that surrounds them. Hopefully, the end result of all this will be a school district that in the future will be able to laud its Special Education program.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Killer Chocolate

While reading the Seattle Times Editorials this morning, I was reminded of yet another egregious move on the part of the corporate food monster. So, still on the subject of food, I forgot to mention in my last blog that corporate candy industries, like Hershey's, have petitioned the FDA to allow them to reduce the amounts of cocoa butter and cocoa solids in chocolate in order to substitute cheaper ingredients! And what do they want to substitute? Partially hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners, and milk substitutes. Yuck!

And why? Economics, of course. As if they don't make enough money.... They've already acquired the California boutique chocolate maker, Scharffen Berger; San Francisco chocolatier, Joseph Schmidt Confections; and Ashland Oregon's Dagoba Organic Chocolate. Furthermore, companies like Hershey's and M&Ms/Mars, who dominate the $13 billion dollar chocolate industry, buy most of the Ivory Coast cocoa which uses large scale child slave labor on its plantations. These children live in dire poverty, are overworked, suffer tremendous amounts of pollution, and are part of an outlandish system of slavery. But I guess child slavery meets the economic demands of these corporate giants. As does the request to make chocolate, well, not chocolate.

Gary Guittard, President of Guittard Chocolate Co. is certainly outraged with these corporate recommendations, which he makes quite clear with his Don't Mess With Our Chocolate website. As the site explains, the comment period to the FDA has been extended to June 25th. They also describe what you'll see on the comment page, including the docket which reads:
2007P-0085 - Adopt Regulations of General Applicability to all
Food Standards that would Permit, within Stated Boundaries, Deviations from the
Requirements of the Individual Food Standards of Identity
Sounds pretty scary to me! Especially since we have recently learned about the benefits of the flavenoids and antioxidants that are present in chocolate! The addition of the trans fats would certainly cancel out any benefits. What are these people thinking of??? Oh yeah, economics.

That seems to be what it's all about these days: money. But don't get me started on money, debt, and economics, because that is certainly enough to cloud my day. Indeed, a rapid mood change is required: I think I'll have some chocolate....while it's still the chocolate that I know and love. Oh, and is good for me too!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Eating Locally

Not everyone agrees with me, but I do think of North Idaho as a bit of food heaven. I know, having lived in both places, that cities like New York and Los Angeles offer a more vast and greater variety of food, some of it as organic as what I have in North Idaho. I guess the biggest difference here is that I'm so close to the origins of my food. Now, I certainly could not go long without spices, chocolate, cheeses, etc., from faraway places, unlike those mavericks of eating locally, Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon, who, having read that the ingredients of the North American's typical meal came from 1500 miles away, decided to eat only food grown within a 100 mile range of their home in Vancouver, Canada. I could do the occasional 100-mile dinner or 100-mile day, and I do try to eat locally produced food: Scottish Highland Beef, Yak, game, pigs and lambs raised by friends, eggs, fish, produce and veggies. So, at the height of spring planting, I think about local food, although lacking grain mills, exotic cheeses, and ocean fish, I still stretch beyond my 100 mile limit. But that may change....

Reading last week about all the problems we are currently experiencing with our global food supply, I have become even more concerned about what agribusiness is doing to the global food chain and more convinced than ever that a renewed emphasis on a local and sustainable food supply is not only necessary but attainable as well.

First we discover that the FDA knew for years about the possibility of, and complaints about e-coli in spinach and salmonella in peanut butter. Add that to the terrible situation with tainted pet foods: foods containing melamine which, until the pet food caused kidney failure in pets, was thought to be okay in low quantities. So much for the corporate quality of research for pet food. However, now it turns out that the FDA still thinks melamine in low quantities is not a contaminant for people....but oh, wait, it turns out that it may be, as 6,000 hogs, and perhaps some chickens from China have become "contaminated" by melamine and cyanuric acid. So the hogs will be killed but no word on the chickens....and especially no word on what consumption of these hogs and chickens would mean for people.

Hungry yet?

It turns out that China has been experiencing food contamination problems for some time, and the U.S. is just another case of what happens with poor quality control and product regulation. China's food problems should be worrisome to American consumers, especially those who shop at Wal-Mart, where one can now buy good old American, as well as organic food, imported from China. Thanks to overgrown, huge corporate monopolies, it appears that many of our food products may not only carry the potential to be contaminated, but are not even the product companies say they are! So much for organic!

Finally, I read about how bisphenol A (BPA) leaches from its polycarbonate baby bottle into the milk inside. The FDA knows this and has for years, but has not yet determined if that's bad for people. Right. We all now have BPA in us and many scientists have demonstrated that the chemicals leached from plastic disrupt our endocrine system, as so well-described and documented in first the book, and now the website, Our Stolen Future.

You know, eating locally is beginning to look more and more like something feasible and sensible. I hope that Idaho Democrats absolutely, and all other Idahoans as well, realize how valuable our natural resources, like our agriculture, water, air, forests and more, contribute to Idaho's ability to be a bit of heaven on earth.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Earth Day, My Birthday

Most of my friends think it appropriate that I share my birthday with Earth Day. That's because they see me as someone with her feet firmly planted on the ground. And, of course, since this entire conservative town seems to know me as one of the token (that means I'm not afraid to speak up) environmentalists, that contributes to the appropriateness of sharing the day. I also have a good friend whose son has known me for nigh unto 30yrs., who, haven't not seen me for awhile, asked his mother if I was still an "earth mother." No, I don't walk around in long flowered skirts with graying child-flower hair, but I guess having brought him donuts on a regular basis when his mom and I were in graduate school together, somehow made me an earth mother. But the best part about sharing my birthday is that it imparts in me a sense of peacefulness that comes, I think, from my belief that the environment, or Mother Nature, if you will, always carries with it the cycle of life which endures in time. Of course the environment changes, and can change even more because of the human carbon footprint (I think that's a nice euphemism for obsession with economics), but I'm not sure that the result of human activity will destroy the earth; rather, it will destroy human life on earth. That's just a thought, and one which I'll put away for now because I rather enjoy my birthday and I don't allow negative karma to intrude on my day.

No blog for several days because we were at a book sale in Seattle. I think we should have stayed another day because even though the books in our area of specialization were not great, I did feel that I was honing in on the good ones and I could have filled my coffers even more with an extra day. Alas, our plans did not allow the extra day so we flew home yesterday, much to the happiness of our cats and kits.

I did come across a decent first edition of Gregory Bateson's Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity. I think that Bateson was probably one of the most brilliant thinkers of this past century, and just hasn't been "found" yet by a greater public audience. Although known in some circles as the man who wooed Margaret Mead while she was in the field in with her husband, Reo Fortune, with the result of Mead leaving Fortune and marrying Bateson, his writings and his intellect are the true trademarks of a thoughtful, innovative and far-sighted career. I just love being able to sell his books.

I also found some other noteworthy firsts: Braudel's two volume set of The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II; Levi-Strauss' The Origin of Table Manners; Fawn Brodie's authorized biography of Tolkien (that's for my son); Lewis' The Ship Would Not Travel Due West (couldn't resist because of my years as a sailor); a Fine copy of Cornelisen's Women of the Shadows; and several others. And I bought up several copies of Kenneth Read's The High Valley, a classic as well as a beautifully well-written ethnography of New Guinea. All in all, a good book buying spree.

I finished off my birthday celebration with a delicious dinner: baby lettuce salad with feta cheese, avocado and a sherry vinaigrette; Scottish Highland chuck roast braised in a provencal sauce and served over roasted garlic mashed potatoes; and to accompany, a delicious Argentinian merlot from the Mendoza region. No dessert, however, because while in Seattle I ate way too much of the most ethereal lemon tart from 60th Street Desserts and Delicatessen.
It was so good, that I'm even making lemon/almond tartlets for Monday lunch tomorrow.

Happy Birthday Earth Day!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Elusive, Perfect Bread Loaf

Monday lunch was pretty good yesterday. I made Navy Bean soup with ham (yup, finally used up the end of the Easter ham), and I thought it was delicious, although I haven't heard back from any of my customers. I must be part Tuscan because I could eat beans almost everyday.... For the before, or after, depending on one's dining pleasure, I also made a green salad with cucumber, sweet onion, Blood Orange, feta cheese and a sherry vinaigrate. Then everyone received a wonderful bread, thanks to A Hunger Artist, made into individual rolls. And for dessert, after much deliberation (more like an incompetent Iron Chef wringing her hands while asking herself what should I make, oh what should I make?), a trifle with chocolate-orange pound cake, triple sec (on the cake), blood orange zabaglione, and whipped cream sweetened with blood orange zest. I could have eaten all that zabablione by myself in one sitting so I gave the extra away. What will power!

About the bread, however. It still didn't have the air pockets, holes, open crumb, or whatever you call it that I want in a bread. It was tasty. And one of my friends said she preferred the white rolls because this bread was a bit chewy. I took that as a great compliment because I've been trying to get some more "chew" in the bread. Everyone else seemed to like it fine, although one person said they couldn't tell the difference. Oh well, we all have our specialities. Anyway, I now have become a bit more obsessive about making the perfect loaf, well, a perfect loaf for my likes, so I turned to some of my cookbooks in an attempt to discover the "hole" problem.

Elizabeth David, one of my favorite food writers (even her cookbooks make delightful reading), proved disappointing only because I couldn't figure out the key word she used for "crumb, holes, or whatever she calls it." This key word bit frustrated me immensely. I must confess that I didn't re-read all of English Bread and Yeast Cookery in my search for air pockets so I imagine that the answer may be in there somewhere. Thus, I somewhat failed myself.

Turning to Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads, I found some descriptions that mentioned those unattainable holes, but, alas, I again found no specific direction. Finally, I picked up Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Bread Bible, and after finally figuring out that, to her anyway, my air holes are referred to as the "crumb," I did find some suggestions and information on why I didn't have the crumb I sought, and how to get it.

With appropriate bibliographic details (Beranbaum, Rose Levy. 2003. The Bread Bible. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. p. 303), I quote the information:

"One of the great challenges of making rustic loaves is producing the type that boasts big holes, such as the baguette, ciabatta, and pugliese. I have found that what produces this desirable crumb is:

> An acid dough (use of a dough starter and long cool rising)
> Underdeveloped gluten (from less mixing time)
> A high water percentage, to create a very wet dough
> A slow rise
> Gentle shaping
> An overnight rise of the shaped dough in the refrigerator."

Well, I have failed in the acid, mixing time, and gentle shaping categories. I think I can correct all of those, but the gentle shaping will be tough. For me, kneading bread dough is rather meditative. Oh well, sometimes change is good. I was especially encouraged by her suggestions when I read that it took her nine tries before she finally achieved the big holes necessary in ciabatta. Okay, I love to eat bread, so nine tries is actually promising....

The Bread Bible is a very good cookbook, but I will be the first to admit that I am daunted by recipes that go by weight. I don't have a great scale, and, I just cannot see those old Italian grandmothers actually weighing their ingredients. It's somehow anomalous to have to weigh ingredients for something that has been successfully made, without written recipes, for hundreds of years. But maybe, just maybe, since I don't have an old Italian grandmother standing over my shoulder, I'll just have to weigh in order to achieve the perfect loaf. I'll let you know what happens when I try again....

Monday, April 16, 2007

With Deepest Sympathy

Today I am so devastated by the tragic massacre at Virginia Tech, that I can only begin by saying my thoughts, my sympathies, and my heart are with all those who tragically suffered, lost loved ones, and feel lost, themselves, in all attempts to try and come to grips with how, and why, this unbelievable massacre occurred.

I thought, of course, of Columbine, and I cried too after hearing the interview with the father who lost his son in the Columbine shooting, who said it felt like having his heart ripped out. I cried when I heard about a meeting tomorrow "in order to begin the healing process." I doubt that anyone really heals because every emotion returns when another tragedy occurs. I think of all the people looking for answers, and I know that there are both too few and too many lines of reasoning.

And I thought of the kind of world in which we live, where violence has become so pervasive that we stop thinking about it. I am sickened by the animal abuse reported today at The Mountain Goat Report. What kind of person would perform such a sick and evil act? I am sickened by our President, who, after lying in order to start the war in Iraq, called the bombing of one of the oldest cultures, city, and people, "shock and awe." That's right up there with Nazi's putting up the slogan "Arbeit macht frei" (work makes you free, or makes freedom), at the entrance to a number of concentration camps. Or the molestation, murder and kidnapping that occurred with the Groene family in Kootenai County. And the ruling that no flag-laden coffins of our fallen soldiers should be shown in any public place. And I could go on and on, and so could so many.

Today I wanted to write about a staple of life, my bread baking activities. Instead, I find myself writing about the loss of life, in a world, that at the moment, seems completely mad.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

North Idaho Democracy Dinner

Last night four Boundary County Democrats (that's me, too) attended the North Idaho Democracy Dinner, which is a yearly Kootenai County Democrat fundraiser. Held at the Coeur d'Alene Casino in Worley, it included a wonderful buffet dinner, an opportunity to chat with a variety of northern Idaho Democrats, and a chance to bid on baskets of treats, donated by individual northern counties with the proceeds going back to the respective county. Now how cool is that!

It was emceed by Councilman Mike Kennedy who brought some humor to the sad state of political affairs in the U.S. today. Mr. Cliffored SiJohn, of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe of Idaho, gave a warm, thoughtful, and inspirational Invocation. The wonderful friendship between the tribe and the Democrats should be an example for counties who do not share a similar relationship. Idaho Democratic Party Chair, Richard Stallings, provided an informative and personable introduction to the main speaker, Jim Hansen. Jim delivered a thought-provoking and motivational speech that spoke to the grassroots. Using his personal background and his recent campaign for Idaho's 2nd District Congressional race, he spoke about the necessity to form grassroots' relationships in every town in Idaho, with as many people as possible. His position, which also forms the philosophical foundation upon which United Vision for Idaho is built, bases itself not on big money hoopla and rich-folk donations, but on whatever it is that individuals can give in order to build a movement and a political way of thinking that begins with people, people at the grassroots. Of course money is also important, as Hillary Clinton has so blatantly pointed out. But I think the U.S. populace is changing, and individuals have become more important than money, just like they should be more important than corporations. Paul Wellstone and Howard Dean, and groups like Moveon, have made this abundantly clear. Grassroots Idaho will turn Idaho blue!

The evening ended with Kootenai Country Chair, Bev Moss, announcing the winners of the 2007 Art Manley Lifetime Achievement Award, Bob and Eileen Riddle, who have, without a doubt, given so much, so often, to the Idaho Democratic Party. Bev also announced the winners of the silent auction baskets. I enjoyed myself and it's always nice to be able to speak with the folks in the party, the potential and announced candidates for upcoming elections, and just other north Idaho Democrats. Given the driving distances amongst the counties, the price of gas, and just about everybody's work schedule, I think the regional communication that has begun amongst the counties will be a real asset for future elections.

I cannot finish without a special thank you to Shelley Landry, the Northern Field Organizer, whose creative thinking provides a new framework in which to voice our Democratic concerns (who else, upon learning that someone is a Republican, would then ask, "But are you a happy Republican?"), the energy enough to constantly touch base with all the counties in District 1 (which runs the length of the state), and, on top of that, get us to begin working not just as individuals, or individual counties, but as a cohesive whole. (Has she been teaching Jim or has he been teaching her????) You go, girl!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

An Almost Perfect Bread

Yesterday was Monday Lunch day and I finally had the opportunity to make a terrific loaf of bread from a recipe I originally found at Michael Ruhlman's blog, as posted by guest chef Bob del Grosso. The original recipe, with photos, left me with some questions, so that's what my comments contained. Well, Bob was considerate enough to email me his response, and I'm so happy he did because the bread was very, very tasty. It's still not exactly like the artisan breads I can buy elsewhere, but I'm getting there. Now if I can only learn how to achieve those great air pockets inside the loaf, I'll be very happy.

Anyway, I used the bread to make sandwiches, yes, leftover Easter ham, Swiss cheese, homemade Dijon mayonnaise, and lettuce, served with one of my home-canned dill pickles. Oh, that wasn't the end of lunch. I also made winter squash soup with chipotle pepper. Actually it was a beautiful golden Hubbard squash, that I had bought last fall at the Farmer's Market from my friend, Marsha. I am very impressed that it kept so well, for this long, in my root cellar! I began with a mirepoix, added garlic and a chopped, canned chipotle in adobe sauce, mixed in some flour, then added homemade chicken stock and the pre-cooked squash. Before serving, I mixed in some creme fraiche. I loved it. I hope my customers did too.

Dessert this week was simple: some chewy oatmeal raisin cookies as well as some chocolate chippers. My son had come home from university for Easter and I had to make some of his favorites....

Soon it will be my birthday and I'm finally going to get a digital camera! Once that happens, perhaps I'll also be able to figure out how to add photos to this blog. In the meantime, if you want to see how the bread looks, you'll have to visit Bob's blog, A Hunger Artist. And if you love cooking like I do, check out Ruhlman's blog which receives numerous comments, hosts guests (like Bob del Grosso as well as Anthony Bourdain), and lists his books, all of which I highly recommend. For that matter, I like Bourdain's books as well.

As you can see, cooking is one of my favorite activities so I really like Monday Lunch day....