Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sudsy Diplomacy: Dancing With the Genie

By now you probably know the story. A Harvard African-American Studies professor was arrested in his own home by a Cambridge, Massachusetts police sergeant. The case immediately blew up into a national soap opera with the President "stupidly" interjecting himself into the debate.

So how have tensions been diffused? Beer. President Obama, in an effort to bring the country together through meaningful dialog and frank discussion, invited the two parties to the White House for a beer this evening. Reports are still sketchy. I'm not sure how many beers were chugged; however, it has been reported and documented that Vice President Biden joined the table, perhaps to more racially balance the gathering or perhaps to provide some comedic relief in an awkward social setting.

When President Obama announced that he'd be having Sgt. Crowley and Professor Gates over for a beer, I became frightened. Beer is comforting. It's sneaky that way. It relaxes stodgy inhibitions and naturally opens avenues of dialog. That's what Beer wants you to believe. I know Beer. Behind its golden allure, Beer is a slippery, evil genie seeking only to peddle destruction.

According to the NY Times, the "Beer Summit" went off without a hitch sometime between 5:30 and 6:30pm.

With the pool report, we finally have the answer to the most pressing question of the day: What are they drinking? Well, for those who believed Bud Lite would be the drink of choice for Mr. Obama, they are in luck, as are those who thought Sgt. Crowley would stay with Blue Moon. Mr. Gates drank Sam Adams Light (a Massachusetts-based brew), and Mr. Biden chose a Bucklers, a non-alcohol beer.

Upon reading the actual beer selections, I am even more concerned. What most people don't understand about the commercial beer world is that Beer has developed a cadre of vessels to further its control over the hearts, minds, and souls of the world.

Some insight, carefully patched together in a checkerboard mosaic, can be drawn from the selections of each Beer Summit participant. Professor Gates chose to sip a Sam Adams Light. You might not know that The Boston Beer Company has the weight of the massive, dark Pepsico empire behind it. Sgt. Crowley ordered a Blue Moon Belgian Ale. Beer would disguise the fact that the Adolph Coors Company secretly owns and brews this elixir. The Coors Company also happens to be a serious far right-wing political organization. Beer would be well-pleased to see Coors injected into the national political scene. The President, conceding to media image pressures, chose that All-America favorite, Bud Light. Only, Bud Light isn't really an America beer any more. Last July, InBev, a Belgium brewing conglomerate, purchased Anheuser-Busch for $52 Billion. Vice President Biden chose Buckler, a non alcoholic brew from Heineken. Interestingly, after the carnage in the wake of the 2004 recall of Buckler for problems in pasteurizing, Buckler is no longer sold in Holland. Yet, it continues to be sold in America-coincidence?

Beer breeds fear; subtly, silently. It dances its way into hearts, minds, and souls of an unsuspecting and witless world. America would do well to avoid Dancing With the Genie.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Farewell Address

I won't lie. I can't stand Sarah Palin. I don't trust her. I can't stand her nasal voice or her faux sexy wink. I can't really even begin to explain how repulsed I am by her. However, I believe that her Farewell Address Sunday was absolutely one of the most fascinating speeches of the century. In it, she celebrates her hard-scrabble frontier state and her hard-scrabble frontier people. She lionizes the brave soldiers who protect us from Russia. She trumpets her devotion to the environment while she peddles "Drill Baby Drill." She speaks of ethics reforms as she's embroiled in ethics investigations. She parades her children before the cameras like Michael Jackson dangling a baby from a second story window, yet cries foul when the press writes about them. A wise politician once said that when you face adversity, meet it head on and punch it in the throat. Sarah Palin is a paradox, one that must be handled with care.

Here's the full text of her speech...

What an absolutely beautiful day it is, and it is my honor to speak to all Alaskans, to our Alaskan family this last time as your governor. And it is always great to be in Fairbanks. The rugged rugged hardy people that live up here and some of the most patriotic people whom you will ever know live here, and one thing that you are known for is your steadfast support of our military community up here and I thank you for that and thank you United States military for protecting the greatest nation on Earth. Together we stand.

And getting up here I say it is the best road trip in America soaring through nature's finest show. Denali, the great one, soaring under the midnight sun. And then the extremes. In the winter time it's the frozen road that is competing with the view of ice fogged frigid beauty, the cold though, doesn't it split the Cheechakos from the Sourdoughs? And then in the summertime such extreme summertime about a hundred and fifty degrees hotter than just some months ago, than just some months from now, with fireweed blooming along the frost heaves and merciless rivers that are rushing and carving and reminding us that here, Mother Nature wins. It is as throughout all Alaska that big wild good life teeming along the road that is north to the future. That is what we get to see every day. Now what the rest of America gets to see along with us is in this last frontier there is hope and opportunity and there is country pride.

And it is our men and women in uniform securing it, and we are facing tough challenges in America with some seeming to just be Hell bent maybe on tearing down our nation, perpetuating some pessimism, and suggesting American apologetics, suggesting perhaps that our best days were yesterdays. But as other people have asked, "How can that pessimism be, when proof of our greatness, our pride today is that we produce the great proud volunteers who sacrifice everything for country?" Now this week alone, Sean Parnell and I we're on the, um, on Ft. Rich the base there, the army chapel, and we heard the last roll call, and the sounding of Taps for three very brave, very young Alaskan soldiers who just gave their all for all of us. Together we do stand with gratitude for our troops who protect all of our cherished freedoms, including our freedom of speech which, par for the course, I'm going to exercise.

And first, some straight talk for some, just some in the media because another right protected for all of us is freedom of the press, and you all have such important jobs reporting facts and informing the electorate, and exerting power to influence. You represent what could and should be a respected honest profession that could and should be the cornerstone of our democracy. Democracy depends on you, and that is why, that's why our troops are willing to die for you. So, how 'bout in honor of the American soldier, ya quite makin' things up. And don't underestimate the wisdom of the people, and one other thing for the media, our new governor has a very nice family too, so leave his kids alone.

OK, today is a beautiful day and today as we swear in Sean Parnell, no one will be happier than I to witness by God's grace Alaskans with strength of character advancing our beloved state. Sean has that. Craig Campbell has that. I remember on that December day, we took the oath to uphold our state constitution, and it was written right here in Fairbanks by very wise pioneers. We shared the vision for government that they ground in that document. Our founders wrote "all political power is inherent in the people. All government originates with the people. It's founded upon their will only and it's instituted for the good of the people as a whole." Their remarkably succinct words guided us in all of our efforts in serving you and putting you first, and we have done our best to fulfill promises that I made on Alaska Day, 2005, when I first asked for the honor of serving you.

Remember then, our state so desired and so deserved ethics reform. We promised it, and now it is the law. Ironically, it needs additional reform to stop blatant abuse from partisan operatives, and I hope the lawmakers will continue that reform. We promised that you would finally see a fair return on your Alaskan owned natural resources so we build a new oil and gas appraisal system, an is an equitable formula to usher in a new era of competition and transparency and protection for Alaskans and the producers. ACES incentivizes [sic] new exploration and it's the exploration that is our future. It opens up oil basins and it ensures that the people will never be taken advantage of again. Don't forget Alaskans you are the resource owners per our constitution and that's why for instance last year when oil prices soared and state coffers swelled, but you were smacked with high energy prices, we sent you the energy rebate. See, it's your money and I've always believed that you know how to better spend it than government can spend it.

I promised that we would protect this beautiful environment while safely and ethically developing resources, and we did. We built the Petroleum Oversight Office and a sub-cabinet to study climate conditions. And I promised I'd govern with fiscal restraint, so to not immorally burden futre[sic] generations. And we did...we slowed the rate of government growth and I vetoed hundreds of millions of dollars of excess and wtih[sic] lawmakers we saved billions for the future.

I promsed[sic] that we'd lead the charge to forward funding education, and hold schools accountable, and improve opportunities for special needs students and elevate vo-tech training and we paid down pension debt.

I promised that we would manage our fish and wildlife for abundance, and that we would defend the constitution, and we have, though outside special interest groups they still just don't get it on this one. Let me tell you, Alaskans really need to stick together on this with new leadership in this area especially, encouraging new leadership... got to stiffen your spine to do what's right for Alaska when the pressure mounts, because you're going to see anti-hunting, anti-second amendment circuses from Hollywood and here's how they do it. They use these delicate, tiny, very talented celebrity starlets, they use Alaska as a fundraising tool for their anti-second amendment causes. Stand strong, and remind them patriots will protect our guaranteed, individual right to bear arms, and by the way, Hollywood needs to know, we eat, therefore we hunt.

I promised energy solutions and we have, we have a plan calling for 50% of our electricity generated by renewable resources and we can now insist that those who hold the leases to develop our resources that they do so now on Alaska's terms. So now finally after decades of just talk, finally we're seeing oil and gas drilling up there at Point Thompson. And I promised that we would get a natural gas pipeline underway and we did. Since I was a little kid growing up here, I remember the discussions, especially the political discussions just talking about and hoping for and dreaming of commercializing our clean, abundant, needed natural gas.

Our gas line inducement act, AGIA, that was the game-changer and this is thanks to our outstanding gas line team, and the legislature adopting this law, 58-1. They knew, they know AGIA is the vehicle to drive this monumental energy project and bring everyone to the table, this bipartisan victory, it came from Alaskans working together with free market private sector principles, and now we are on the road to the largest private-sector energy project in the history of America. It is for Alaska's future, it is for America's energy independence and it will make us a more peaceful, prosperous and secure nation.

What I promised, we accomplished. "We" meaning state staff, amazing commissioners, great staff assisting them, and conscientious Alaskans outside the bureaucracy - Tom Van Flein, and Meg Stapleton and Kristan Cole, so many others, many volunteers who just stepped up to the challenge as good Alaskans, but nothing, nothing could have succeeded without my right-hand man Kris Perry. She is the sharpest, boldest, hardest-working partner. Kris is my right-hand man and much success is due to Kris.

So much success, and Alaska there is much good in store further down the road, but to reach it we must value and live the optimistic pioneering spirit that made this state proud and free, and we can resist enslavement to big central government that crushes hope and opportunity. Be wary of accepting government largess. It doesn't come free and often, accepting it takes away everything that is free, melting into Washington's powerful "care-taking" arms will just suck incentive to work hard and chart our own course right out of us, and that not only contributes to an unstable economy and dizzying national debt, but it does make us less free.

I resisted the stimulus package. I resisted the stimulus package and we have championed earmark reform, slashing earmark requests by 85% to break the cycle of dependency on a stifling, unsustainable federal agenda, and other states should follow this for their and for America's stability. We don't have to feel that we must beg an allowance from Washington, except to beg the allowance to be self-determined. See, to be self-sufficient, Alaska must be allowed to develop - to drill and build and climb, to fulfill statehood's promise. At statehood we knew this. At statehood we knew this, that we are responsible for ourselves and our families and our future, and fifty years later, please let's not start believing that government is the answer. It can't make you happy or healthy or wealthy or wise. What can? It is the wisdom of the people and our families and our small businesses, and industrious individuals, and it is God's grace, helping those who help themselves, and then this allows that very generous voluntary hand up that we're known for, enthusiastically providing those who need it.

Alaskans will remember that years ago, remember we sported the old bumper sticker that said, "Alaska. We Don't Give a Darn How They Do It Outside?" Do you remember that? I remember that, and remember it was because we would be different. We'd roll up our sleeves, and we would diligently sow and reap, and we can still do this to carve wealth out of the wilderness and make our living on the water, with strong hands and innovative minds, now with smarter technology. It is what our first people and our parents did. It worked, because they worked. We must be prudent and persistent and press for the people's right to responsibly develop God-given resources for the maximum benefit of the people.

And we have come so far in just 50 years. We're no longer a frontier outpost on the periphery of the world's greatest nation. Now, as a contributor and a securer of America, we can attain our destiny in the promise of our motto "North to the Future." See, the pressing issue of our time, it's energy independence, because there is an inherent link between energy and security, and energy and prosperity. Alaska will lead with energy, we will prove you can be both pro-development and pro-environment, because no one loves their clean air and their land and their wildlife and their water more than an Alaskan. We will protect it.

Yes, America must look north to the future for security, for energy independence, for our strategic location on the globe. Alaska is the gate-keeper of the continent.

So, we are here today at a changing of the guard. Now, people who know me, and they know how much I love this state, some still are choosing not to hear why I made the decision to chart a new course to advance the state. And it should be so obvious to you. (indicating heckler) It is because I love Alaska this much, sir (at heckler) that I feel it is my duty to avoid the unproductive, typical, politics as usual, lame duck session in one's last year in office. How does that benefit you? No, with this decision now, I will be able to fight even harder for you, for what is right, for truth. And I have never felt like you need a title to do that.

So, as we all move forward together, let's vow to keep championing Alaska, to advocate responsible development, and smaller government, and freedom, and when I took the oath to serve you, I promised...remember I promised to steadfastly and doggedly guard the interests of this great state like that grizzly guards her cubs, as a mother naturally guards her own. And I will keep that vow wherever the road may lead. Todd and I, and Track, Bristol, Tripp, Willow, Piper, Trig...I think I got 'em all. We will forever be so grateful for the honor of our lifetime to have served you. Our whole big diverse full and fun family, we all thank you and I am very very blessed to have had their support all along, for Todd's support. I am thankful too. I have been blessed to have been raised in this last frontier. Thank you for our home, Mom and Dad, because in Alaska it is not an easy living, but it is a good living, and here it is impossible to lose your way. Wherever the road may lead you, we have that steadying great north star to guide us home.

So let's all enjoy the ride, and I thank you Alaska, and God bless Alaska and God bless America.

I would like to encourage you to watch all the versions of the Palin speech. You won't forget it.

Part I

Part II

Personally though, I much prefer this version of Sarah Palin's farewell, dramatically performed by Master Thespian, William Shatner.

Chatting with the Grim Reaper

Click on the picture for a viewable option

A friend posted this on her Facebook page, and I found it to be very appropriate. We need a similar cartoon for people who throw cigarette butts out car windows.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Summer Taste Tests

As some may know, each February, I start a large number of tomato and pepper plants. This year, I had somewhere near 600 total plants. Most of them I sold or gave away.

One thing I like to do is sample varieties that are new to me. Of course, I have developed a core of varieties that I grow year in and out. Last year, for the first time, I grew a main crop variety called Momotaro. I call it Momo for short. It was successful last year, but this year, a cool and wet season so far, it has been outstanding. The tomato, which was developed and is quite popular in Japan, is, predictably, perfectly round and is a reddish pink. The taste is complex but true to my liking- not too sweet with a nice tart kick.

I have several other winners so far as well. Sungold remains the best cherry tomato I've ever tasted. While my vines aren't producing as prolifically as in years' past, the yellow busts of sweetness can't be topped. I suspect the weather has been a bit too cool for this variety.

Two other salad-sized tomatoes have really shined thus far. Tigrella and Juliet. Tigrella is a small round tomato that is tender and tasty. Its unique red, orange tiger stripes make it a real conversation piece as well. Juliet has blown up in my garden. These small inverted pear-shaped tomatoes are ripening by the bucketful. I literally can't keep up with them.

The biggest tomato so far was from one of my new varieties called Polish. This plant appears to produce few fruit, but they ones put out tend to be quite large. My Polish tomato was about two pounds. In my organic garden that's equivalent to three pounds in a chemical garden. The Polish tomato is large, ribbed, and its coloration reminds me of a Pink Brandywine.

On the pepper front, I've been disappointed so far in my sweet roasting pepper, Marconi Golden. However, another sweet variety I really like is Sweet Pickles. Looks hot, but it's not. Cubanelle continues to impress as a sweet roasting pepper. It's prolific, solidly constructed for excellent grilling, and tasty as all get out.

My new ornamental hot pepper varieties have been outstanding, especially Riot and Filus Blue. The latter was the most expensive seed I've ever purchased, approaching $4.00 for ten seeds. I grow my ornamental hots for their looks, but what most casual observers don't understand is that most of these varieties are indeed edible and are usually hotter than hot.

I'm waiting for my favorite ornamental, Trifetti, to burst forth. It reseeds every year without any assistance from me. This plant is a large bush pepper with tri-colored leaves (lime, cream, and green). The hot peppers are smallish, abundant, and dark purple turning to electric red when ripe.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in this classic.

"How long is the flight?"

"We'll be in the air for 11 hours."

"Do me a favor. Do not disturb my friend. He's dead tired."


I recently returned from a trip to the paradise of San Diego. The city is beautiful, friendly, and accessible. Everything about it was fresh and invigorating. Yet, bubbling just beneath the surface is a nervous discontent. People go about their business, but there's an unseen tension.

As we returned from our Habitat For Humanity build site, Art, our driver who now resides in Tijuana, gave us a delightful tour. I learned more about San Diego during his 20 minute tour than I did in the other seven days I spent there combined.

Art also shared bits of his story with us. When he was younger, Art told us that he served with distinction aboard the USS Midway which is permanently moored in San Diego Harbor. I asked him about traveling to Tijuana, and he brightened up and told us that it was a wonderful city. I asked him if it was a dangerous place, since that's what we had been told. Art assured us that Tijuana was a perfectly safe place. He explained that it was much more affordable to live there than in San Diego.

It struck me as ironic that Tijuana was affordable while California lives on IOU's.


"Do you remember when I told you I'd kill you last?


"I lied."

Arnold Swartzenegger starred in the movie Commando. His character, "Matrix," rescues his daughter by slaughtering hundreds of hapless Latino soldiers. The whole thing was sort of like an I.O.U. fulfilled.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Live From the NEA Convention in San Diego

Reporting Live from the NEA Convention in San Diego

I’ve just completed my second day in San Diego for the National Education Association Convention. It’s been a whirlwind of activity after activity.

We, the five members of my Roanoke County traveling group, flew from Roanoke to San Diego on Tuesday. We began our travels on a 4:30pm flight from Roanoke to Charlotte to Dallas to San Diego. The trip was long and mostly uneventful. We arrived in San Diego at midnight, exhausted.

The very next morning at 7:30 PST, my roommate-Bud- and I joined a group of about fifteen others to work two Habitat for Humanity job sites. My site is called “The Libby Lake Build.” Over the next two years or so, Habitat plans to build twenty median income houses there. Each house has between 1300 sq ft and 1800sq ft. That’s a lot bigger than their normal project, and the clients have more means than usual. Basically, they are trying to make median houses affordable to people with less means.

I spent the day at Libby Lake becoming intimate with a wheel barrow. I’d load it with dirt, take the load over a bumpy ungraded house pad to what will eventually be a landscaped area behind a backyard retaining wall. Then the wheel barrow would travel up an intense ramp to the dump zone. We were joined by a group of youth and their two leaders from a service camp youth service organization based out of Canada. The high schoolers, who were mostly from the Northeast USA, are in the midst of spending 23 days in LA and San Diego doing service projects and going on fun excursions. Other than slightly damaging my shin when the wheel barrow bucked me, I survived the day and helped haul about 40 cubic yards of soil into its new home. We had a math teacher working in our crew who helped create that estimate.

That evening, the VEA delegation was treated to dinner at our hotel. Afterwards, we had an auction to raise money for our political action committee. My job was to spell the chief auctioneer about midway through. As I waited, I thought and thought how I would grab the crowd’s attention when I went to the microphone. There were about 100 people in the room when I stepped up to the mic. “Bar the doors!” I said. “I’ll guess your age or weight. Age within two years; weight within five pounds.”…the room went dead silent and people just stared at me as if I were completely nuts. So I moved on and proceeded with the auction with very little attempt to have humor. I swear, that line usually has the ladies rolling on the floor and laughing hard.

Wednesday morning, we started the day with a state caucus meeting and breakfast at our Omni Hotel. The hotel, which adjoins Petco Stadium-Home of the Padres, is quite lovely. After the caucus, everyone headed across the street to the convention center to attend a town hall style meeting with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. He spoke to us for about a half hour then answered questions from a panel and from regular NEA members. During that time, we all agreed to work together and listen to each other so that we could constructively forge creative and concrete solutions to the crisis in education.

On the way out, we threaded our way through anti-abortion protestors who were shouting at us and displaying large posters with pictures of aborted fetuses. These people were repulsive, abhorrent, and incredibly un-Christian. A truck circled the convention with signs plastered on its sides which indicated that members of the NEA were condemned to Hell. I wonder what God thinks of their tactics? Interestingly, NEA has no position on abortion, either pro or con. It does support a woman’s choice, so I suppose that’s why these people weren’t happy. Despite their anger, rage, and rudeness, I would still teach their children.

I spent my afternoon, hanging out on the patio beside the pool at the hotel working on my Facebook farm. I’ve neglected it somewhat on this trip and had to harvest my crops and replant. In the evening, our group took off to the Hard Rock CafĂ© for a nice dinner. Then I spent the evening walking along the harbor down to the USS Midway, which is permanently moored in the harbor. Overall, it was a very full day. Thursday brings the official opening of the representative assembly where about 10,000 delegates from all across American will gather in one room and hash out our positions on vital education issues.