2016
11/15

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Carnaval de Nice for a City Healing

 

Carnaval de Nice for a City Healing

Story & Slideshow by Skip Kaltenheuser

 

Sting recently played at the reopening of the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, marking the one year anniversary of the mad tragedy there. Other healing gestures will be in Nice, recovering from August’s shock and awe from a broken mind. The holiday season will provide some comfort, but a more boisterous defiance is coming. The incomprehensible act had me recall when I joined celebrants on a different occasion, watching fireworks from Nice’s Promenade des Anglais long ago. It’s a sadness now to envision the tragedy of Bastille Day, the vulnerability of those looking skyward.

But those who know the city, and who have felt the joy of crowds on the promenade – La Prom – can also recall the city’s irrepressible spirit. Among the occasions it shines brightest is Carnaval.

Starting in the 1700’s, much of the English aristocracy wintered in Nice, drawn to the splendid coastal panorama. Egalitarian roots were planted in 1820, when a rough winter brought beggars from the north. The English dreamed up a project for them, constructing a walkway, paid for by the English barrister and reverend, Lewis Way. Christian charity at its best and most coveted.

The beautiful Mediterranean backdrop is a good fit for one of the most artful and whimsical cities in Europe. Art museums are an embarrassment of riches, from the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art to museums specific to individual artists including Matisse and Chagall, with loads more up and down the Cote d’Azur. Contemporary galleries that stretch the imagination testify to the quality of artists still drawn to the magnetic region.

Overlooking the beach It is hard to imagine a more innocent seven kilometers than when La Prom is filled with families. Baby carriages, skaters, bicyclists, skateboarders, walkers and joggers – it stays in happy motion beneath the palm trees. It is also hard to imagine a more artful place than when I was there in February of 2003, for Carnaval de Nice.

Read a carnaval snapshot  <http://www.stripes.com/travel/nice-carnival-parade-pokes-fun-at-society-1.22682>

One of Carnaval’s treats, the Batailles des Fleurs – Battles of Flowers – comprises five parades on La Prom, interspersed with other parades over a couple weeks. Twenty or so painstakingly decorated flower floats, each with thousands of stems refreshed on the design in a single day, carry costumed models throwing one and a half million or more locally grown flowers at the crowd. Floats are accompanied by artful dancers, bands, jugglers, acrobats and stilt walkers. It’s a jolting contrast, the recent tragedy and flowers flung at delighted crowds.

Satire reigns in other carnaval parades scattered over the celebration, including the parades of “big heads” and parades of a couple dozen or more elaborate two-ton floats built by volunteer artists over six months, based on winning themes submitted by cartoonists from around the world. The biggest worry was string in a can.

The satirical theme when I was there was the King of .comMedi, with plenty of hard jabs at media’s oppressive and intrusive aspects. I remember a float of a papier-mâché Larry King driving a giant tank, firing confetti from the turret with a CNN microphone at the end. Easy to reflect now on the pundits of major bellwether media that cheer-leaded for the invasion of Iraq. Shortly after that parade, the neo-diss and dats, Nut’nyahoo and the other geniuses got their way. Afghanistan was back-burnered and Iraq was invaded, unleashing waves of hell that destabilized the region, displaced desperate millions and lost the childhood of generations. It incubated Daesh and gave some broken minds wherever they might surface the illusion of higher purpose, even for massacre by lorry. As prescient was a float of a giant grim reaper with a video cam.

The port city is strengthened by its international melting pot. The loss Nice suffered won’t disappear as easily as a Carnaval’s King burned in effigy, taking away a year of woes. As with any senseless tragedy, there will always be wounds within surviving family and friends, tended to by whatever ways they find to cope. But this city’s artistic sensibilities and playful humor will survive any assault from madness. It is a perspective needed for France and Europe to avoid damaging backlash. This is a time not to diminish but to draw from the strength of people of different backgrounds finding common ground.

The 2017 Carnaval theme is the King of Energy. Perhaps global warming, another great displacement in the queue, is on the mind. It was on mine last summer, as the heat dome settled in, part of the hottest five years on record, Donald.

For counter-programming, any part of the year is a good time to uncork a lunch bottle of rose’ on the French Riviera, but if you want to join Nice poking fun at society’s foibles, check out Nice Carnaval. <http://www.nicecarnaval.com/en/>  Nice tourism, <http://en.nicetourisme.com/French tourism. <http://us.france.fr/> The 2017 Carnaval is Feb. 11th-26th.

Whenever you explore, bet on the triumph of Nice culture over those unable to grasp and embrace it. LIberte’, Equalite’, Fraternite’. That shouldn’t be a hard sell.

2016
11/15

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An Annual Ode to Turkey Day

AN ANNUAL ODE TO TURKEY DAY20161102_143540

Natural Traveler’s Review of the Thanksgiving Menu at Keens Steakhouse in New York City

By JR Rosenthal, Food Editor

Executive Chef Bill Rodgers knows a thing or two about the concept of farm to table. In planning and formulating this year’s Thanksgiving menu, Rodgers has harkened back to the culinary mantra that local and sustainable reigns supreme.

“Several of the menu items for 2016 reflect my interest in promoting local purveyors, farmers and growers, “says Rodgers, who is known for riding his motorcycle into the most remote areas to investigate the best quality ingredients. “And so I was able to find a farm in rural Pennsylvania that is cultivating Asian pears; a creamery in Vermont that produces one of the best blue cheeses in the world; and a free-range game farm in the Hudson Valley that raises the best turkeys available.”

The latter reference is to a dish that is not new to the Keens Thanksgiving Menu: The Organic Free-Range Turkey from Quattro Farms in Pleasant Valley, New York, has been a mainstay on the menu here for years. Featured in the Keens T-Day roundup last year,  this Baron of turkeys  is so delicious and complex because the birds are raised of high-quality, locally-grown feeds and treated with the deference they deserve.

20161102_154415The four new dishes this year are bound to be classics: The list includes two new appetizers—Roasted Purple Cauliflower with Whipped Goat Cheese, and Small Butternut Squash and Potato Dumplings with Brown Butter and Sage. And two new items in the soup and salad course: Chestnut Soup with Pancetta, and Mesclun Greens with Pennsylvania Pears, Bayley Hazen Blue Cheese and Candied Pecans.

Bayley Hazen is a cheese made from raw milk at the Jasper Hill Creamery in Greensboro Bend, Vermont. Bayley Hazen is the perfect blue cheese, as it evokes a creamy, buttery, grassy flavor, fudge-like texture and a psychedelic blue-grey color.

The Asian pears, produced in Coopersburg, Pennsylvania, are so succulent and subtle in flavor—the perfect counterpoint to the nutty tones of the Bayley Hazen. “I decided to add candied pecans instead of my original choice of candied walnuts to the salad, “said Rodgers, because pecans have a richer flavor that pairs perfectly with blue cheese and pear.”

Here are the chef’s descriptions of the four new items, followed by the full menu of delights served up on November 24. Enjoy!

Mesclun Greens with Pennsylvania Pears, Bayley Hazen Blue Cheese and Candied Pecans20161103_134417

Field lettuces with sliced Asian pears, watermelon radish, Bayley Hazen Blue Cheese and candied pecans dressed in a Dijon Vinaigrette made with mustard, rice and red wine vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, canola oil and peanut oil.

Chestnut Soup with Pancetta

A traditional holiday soup made with chestnuts, pancetta, onions, celery, chicken stock and milk, then garnished with crisp pancetta.

20161028_175440Small Butternut Squash and Potato Dumplings with Brown Butter and Sage

Delicate gnocchi made from roasted butternut squash, potatoes, eggs, flour, parmesan cheese, nutmeg and salt. The dumplings are sauteed with butter and finished with black trumpet mushrooms, shaved parmesan and sage butter.

Roasted Hudson Valley Purple Cauliflower with Whipped Goat Cheese

Locally grown cauliflower poached in wine, water, butter, olive oil, lemon juice, bay leaf and crushed red pepper. Roasted in a 475 degree oven and served with a combination of whipped goat cheese, cream cheese and garnished with chopped chive.

 

THE 2016 T-DAY MENU

 

Iced Relish Tray with carrots, celery, olives and house-made blue cheese dressing.

 

 

Starters (pick 1)

Iced Shrimp Cocktail

Roasted Purple Cauliflower with Whipped Goat Cheese

Grilled Thick-cut Berkshire Bacon

Small Butternut Squash and Potato Dumplings with Brown Butter and Sage

Maryland Lump Crab Cakes

 

Soup and Salad (pick 1)

Chestnut Soup with Pancetta

Mesclun Greens with Pennsylvania Pears, Bayley Hazen Blue Cheese and Candied Pecans

Entrees (pick 1)

Organic Free-Range Turkey from Quattro Farms

Two 6-ounce double Colorado Lamb Chops

King’s Cut Prime Rib of Beef

12-ounce Prime Filet

Steamed Whole Maine Lobster

Sides (all are included)

Glazed Carrots

Smashed Candied Yams

Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes

Fine String Beans

House-made stuffing (aka dressing)

Desserts (pick 1)

Pecan Pie with Bourbon Cream

Assortment of Sorbets and Ice Creams

Lady M Chocolate Cake

Pumpkin Pie with Ginger Cream

Warm Apple Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream

 

Keens Full Roast Coffee or Tea

$115 per person

$58 children under 12

 

IF YOU GO

Keens Steakhouse

72 W. 36th Street, New York City, New York 10018

Open 1 to 8:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day

Reservation Required

212-947-3636

 

 

 

 

2016
07/22

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Drinking in a heady father-son adventure: Road trip to savor craft beer in Des Moines, Chicago, and Muenster strengthens bond, brew-tasting list

Drinking in a heady father-son adventure

Thousands of beer enthusiasts stand in line in the rain awaiting entrance to Dark Lord Day at 3 Floyds Brewing Co. in Muenster, Indiana.

Thousands of beer enthusiasts stand in line in the rain awaiting entrance to Dark Lord Day at 3 Floyds Brewing Co. in Muenster, Indiana.


Road trip to savor craft beer in Des Moines, Chicago, and Muenster strengthens bond, brew-tasting list

 

By John H. Ostdick

 

MUENSTER, Indiana — The cold, dreary rain that softly pelts my son, Hunter, and me seems apt on something called Dark Lord Day.

Austin transplant Jake DeHart and friends share craft beer offerings they’ve brought to drink while standing in line at 3 Floyds Brewing Co. in Muenster, Indiana.

Austin transplant Jake DeHart and friends share craft beer offerings they’ve brought to drink while standing in line at 3 Floyds Brewing Co. in Muenster, Indiana.

 

 

Yet, the weather is doing little to dampen the good vibe flowing among the thousands of beer lovers standing in a Muenster, Indiana, queue awaiting entrance to 3 Floyds Brewing Co.

 

The 20th annual Dark Lord Day release-date extravaganza of the brewing company’s Russian Imperial Stout, which attracts fans around the world, is the focal point of our father-son, road-and-beer trip. A couple of months before, Hunter, beer manager at Pogo’s Wine & Spirits in Dallas, texted me to hold this weekend open and then plunked down the $200 apiece that reserved us a spot in this sudsy circus.

A Dark Lord Day veteran sports a knitted cup holder.

A Dark Lord Day veteran sports a knitted cup holder.

So here we are, 1,200 miles later, after a detour to craft-beer-rich Iowa, road stops along the way to pick up impossible-to-get-in-Texas craft beers and a Cubs game at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

 

The craft beer explosion has exponentially increased the number of craft breweries worldwide. In 2012, there were 97 craft breweries in the United States (craft breweries fall under a small brewery designation, which means they have annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less), according to the Boulder, Colorado-based Brewers Association, a not-for-profit industry trade group). By 2015, that number had jumped to 178, a 31.9 percent increase from the previous year (the total number of U.S. breweries — regional craft, microbreweries, brewpubs, and both large and small non-craft breweries — was 4,269 in 2015).

 

Craft-brewed beer accounts for 20 percent of the U.S. beer market share by dollars and a 12.2 percent share

As the morning stretches on, the empties of shared product are left by the curbside as the line to enter moves forward.

As the morning stretches on, the empties of shared product are left by the curbside as the line to enter moves forward.

by volume in 2015, according to Association figures. That translated into a $22 billion business in 2015.

 

The following for 3 Floyds Brewing Co., birthed in 1996, is almost cultish. Three Floyds lives up to the brewing company’s “It’s Not Normal” slogan in strictly adhering to “the Samurai code of the German beer purity law.”  Dark Lord, an Imperial Stout brewed with coffee, Mexican vanilla, and Indian sugar, packs a punch befitting its heavy-metal label imagery.

 

The $200 ticket (strictly issued, no transfers, ID required upon entry) grants holders entrance to the festival

Once inside the 3 Floyds grounds, lines form during assigned product award times for the four bottles of 2016 Dark Lord Imperial Stout and one bottle of a rare Dark Lord variant that comes with the admission fee.

Once inside the 3 Floyds grounds, lines form during assigned product award times for the four bottles of 2016 Dark Lord Imperial Stout and one bottle of a rare Dark Lord variant that comes with the admission fee.

grounds, four bottles of 2016 Dark Lord Imperial Stout, one bottle of a rare Dark Lord variant, and a commemorative tote bag with $40 worth of food and drink vouchers for food fortifications and a bevy of brews on tap inside. For me, this adventure is a lark; for Hunter, it is lark, passion, and professional fact-and-taste gathering.

 

Festivals championing the craft beer movement are mushrooming. Beerfestivals.org recorded 1,478 such events in 2015, and the numbers keep climbing. The 2015 annual Great American Beer Festival in Denver drew 60,000 participants, who had access to product from 750 breweries. The festival is celebrating its 35th year October 6 through 8.

 

One of the early pioneers in the craft beer movement, Samuel Adams founder Jim Koch, forecast a heady

Participants move through tastings much quicker than through various lines during the Dark Lord event.

Participants move through tastings much quicker than through various lines during the Dark Lord event.

future for his industry in a 2009 interview: “Fifty years ago, a handful of California winemakers started making great wine and changed the way Americans think about U.S. wine and wine in general. Now it has a lot of respect and nobility.
“Beer is having the same metamorphosis. Twenty-five years ago, a handful of small American brewers started making world-class beer and changing how Americans think about beer. And 20-somethings are adopting beer in the same way their boomer parents adopted wine. It’s not just something they slug down — they want to sample it, know about it.”

 

That awakening is out in force in Muenster.

 

We’ve Uber-ed (parking is extremely limited) from our nearby hotel, where the desk clerk informs me that

Dark Lord tasting cups and beers come in various styles.

Dark Lord tasting cups and beers come in various styles.

founder/president Nick Floyd hung out in the lobby with fans the previous night.

Jake DeHart, his brother Josh, and some area friends — millennials all — are just ahead of us in the line waiting admittance. As we wait, they offer plastic cups and pours from the brews they have brought with them in backpacks. The products run from high lobs to baseline smashes for our taste buds. Super, thick and sweet is followed by light, sour alternatives. One guy keeps walking the line offering taste of the brews he has brought — Jake describes one heady alcohol content beer that packs a cough-medicine sweetness as “diabetes brew.”

 

Hunter Ostdick compares thoughts on various regional beers while he waits for his Dark Lord product time.

Hunter Ostdick compares thoughts on various regional beers while he waits for his Dark Lord product time.

This is Jake’s fifth Dark Lord Day, although he had to travel a bit farther this year than previous ones — he had moved to Austin, Texas, some months ago. He and his friends offer insider tips on how best to maneuver once inside — get beers to taste, food and merchandise as warranted, then seek refuge from the rain in the large concert tent until about 30 minutes before for your product time slot, when you line up again. Then taste to your heart’s content.

We do just that in cold rain, tasting brews and munching on slightly misted chorizo link sandwiches with guacamole, feta, and cilantro.

 

John and Hunter offer a selfie toast during their damp father-and-son Dark Lord Day.

John and Hunter offer a selfie toast during their damp father-and-son Dark Lord Day.

Although the crowd trends youngish and male, there are plenty of females and codgers sprinkled in. Everyone is friendly, bubbly, and into uber-sharing — of regional beer knowledge, differences in product, and their own story. I gather a deepened appreciation of how well Hunter knows his business in the process.

 

By the time we shuffle through the line to collect our 3 Floyds product, my saturated clothes are starting to meld. Hunter has indicated he’d like me to pick up Conquistador de la Muerte, a seasonal Milk Stout aged for one year in bourbon barrels with ancho and guajillo, as my variant selection.

 

Principal Park in Des Moines, home to the Chicago Cubs AAA baseball team, offers a view of the state Capitol beyond the right field fences.

Principal Park in Des Moines, home to the Chicago Cubs AAA baseball team, offers a view of the state Capitol beyond the right field fences.

Among much clamor around me, I am the sole customer for a tall, bearded staffer who stands behind the Muerte station. He smiles broadly at me in my bedraggled state, hands me a bottle, and says, “I love you, brother. Enjoy.”

 

We don’t hang in the screaming tent to listen to the lineup of six heavy metal bands playing all day. We don’t even make it that far into the wet afternoon, as Hunter has to catch a plane at Midway Airport to get home and I am meeting my brother, who happens to be hiking in Indiana, for a few days of brother bonding.  But we feel that we got our money’s worth.

 

The primitive exterior of el Bait Shop, a thriving downtown Des Moines bar that offers more than 236 drafts, cans, and bottles, camouflages the great atmosphere inside.

The primitive exterior of el Bait Shop, a thriving downtown Des Moines bar that offers more than 236 drafts, cans, and bottles, camouflages the great atmosphere inside.

Hunter allows that he “didn’t have a bad beer the entire trip.” We thoroughly enjoyed the AAA game we saw in Des Moines (go Iowa Cubs!) and a Cubs win at Wrigley.

 

The road time we’ve spent together has allowed me to further appreciate who Hunter is, more intimately see how his adult mind works, and how easily he interacts with strangers. That leaves a taste better than the most mellow of lagers.

 

 

 

A lunch customer eats at the bar of el Bait Shop in Des Moines.

A lunch customer eats at the bar of el Bait Shop in Des Moines.

THE ROAD TRIP SCORECARD

 

A look into our Stop/shop/taste bag:

 

Bier Station

Kansas City

Good beer selection, farm-to-market pretzels, Bavarian, potato rosemary, jalapeno-cheddar style, served warm with a choice of dipping sauce

www.bierstation.com/

 

The draft craft beer selection at el Bait Shop in Des Moines is staggering, in volume and quality.

The draft craft beer selection at el Bait Shop in Des Moines is staggering, in volume and quality.

Michigan-based Bell’s Brewing Co.’s Oberon Ale (a pale wheat scheduled to begin distribution in Texas in 2017)

 

Brooklyn-based Evil Twin Brewing’s Aun Mas Todo Jesus stout

 

Denver-based Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project’s Progerator, a Wild American ale with a lemony tartness

Exile Brewing Co. in Des Moines, which opened in 2012, only distributes its product on draught and in bottles throughout Iowa. California-based Zester’s Daily placed Exile fifth on its "America's 10 Best-Selling New Craft Beers" ranking in 2015.

Exile Brewing Co. in Des Moines, which opened in 2012, only distributes its product on draught and in bottles throughout Iowa. California-based Zester’s Daily placed Exile fifth on its “America’s 10 Best-Selling New Craft Beers” ranking in 2015.

Missouri-based Crane Brewing’s Grapefruit Gose, the salty, sour gose of Leipzig with an American touch of grapefruit zest

 

Ingersoll Wines and Spirits

Des Moines

Downtown location, good selection of craft beers.

http://www.ingersollwine.com/

 

Some of Chicago’s famous Old Style (to share with Dallas friends)

Hunter Ostdick enjoys a traditional Old Style beer at Wrigley Field in Chicago. First brewed in 1902, Old Style is a Chicago staple and deeply ingrained in the history and culture of the Upper Midwest.

Hunter Ostdick enjoys a traditional Old Style beer at Wrigley Field in Chicago. First brewed in 1902, Old Style is a Chicago staple and deeply ingrained in the history and culture of the Upper Midwest.

Iowa-based Toppling Goliath Brewing Co.’s pseudoSue, an American Pale Ale that is the state’s most sought-after brew

 

 

Iowa-based Peace Tree Brewing’s Kiss from a Gose, a tart golden ale twist on a classic German gose

 

Exile’s American IPA, a smack of fruity and floral aromas

 

 

John and Hunter Ostdick are able to check Wrigley Field off their list of stadiums to visit and toast a Cubs 6-1 win over the Atlanta Braves with an Old Style.

John and Hunter Ostdick are able to check Wrigley Field off their list of stadiums to visit and toast a Cubs 6-1 win over the Atlanta Braves with an Old Style.

El Bait Shop

Des Moines

An incredible beer-packed neighborhood dive, packed with a lunch crowd, many tables brewless, a testament to the quality of the food. The broasted chicken was excellent. We could have made a career out of the 236 drafts, bottles, or cans listed on its printed beer list. A list is updated weekly online (elbaitshop.com/beer-menu).  The Miller High Life Lounge, immediately next door, is a 1960s homage bar.

http://elbaitshop.com/

 

Des Moines-based Exile Brewing Co.‘s The Gigi, a smooth caramel dark lager

Hunter Ostdick records each of the new beers he tastes. The Pogo’s Wine & Spirits beer manager has tasted about 1,100 different beers to this point.

Hunter Ostdick records each of the new beers he tastes. The Pogo’s Wine & Spirits beer manager has tasted about 1,100 different beers to this point.

Toppling Goliath’s Golden Nugget, a golden, medium-bodied IPA

 

Peace Tree Brewing’s No Coast IPA, a grapefruit-kissed brew with a brooding bitterness

 

 

Fong’s Pizza

Des Moines

Asian-inspired pizzas & appetizers, where we devoured Sesame Chicken pizza and Pizza Rolls (handmade in egg roll wrappers, filled with pepperoni, Graziano sausage and mozzarella, served with marinara)

http://fongspizza.com/desmoines/

Hunter Ostdick lays out the product he brings back with him. He will savor, share, and trade the bottles of various brews.

Hunter Ostdick lays out the product he brings back with him. He will savor, share, and trade the bottles of various brews.

Iowa-based Confluence Brewing’s Des Moines IPA, a citrus-infused, piney American take on India Pale Ale

 

 

Exile Brewing Co.

Des Moines

Exile Brewing Co. in Des Moines, which opened in 2012, only distributes its product on draught and in bottles throughout Iowa. California-based Zester’s Daily placed Exile fifth on its “America’s 10 Best-Selling New Craft Beers” ranking in 2015.

Brews and a fairly extensive menu

http://exilebrewing.com/

 

 

Hannah, Bavarian Wheat and malt with citrus, banana and clove accents

 

Beatnik Sour, a tart and acidic Berliner-style Weisse

 

Blood Orange Bohemian, a fruit sour ale

 

 

Binny’s Beverage Depot

Chicago

32 Chicago locations

Good selection of craft products.

https://www.binnys.com//

 

 

3 Floyd’s Brewing Co. Alpha six pack, a bold yet balanced American Pale Ale with slight caramel sweetness and aggressive citrus hoppiness that the brewery considers its flagship beer

 

3 Floyd’s Brewing Co. Gumballhead six pack, an American wheat beer with a refreshing, crisp citrus finish

 

 

Principal Park

Des Moines

Home to Cubs’ AAA team has better craft beer offerings than Glove Life Park in Arlington.

http://iowa.cubs.milb.com/index.jsp?sid=t451

 

 

Peace Tree Brewing’s Sound Check Session IPA, easy-drinking, light hop-forward India Pale Ales; portion of each sale goes to growing music scene in central Iowa

 

Iowa-based Boone Valley Brewing Co.’s Hallagan Porter, a low-bitterness porter with slight chocolate flavors

 

Iowa-based West O Beer’s CocO Chocolate Stout, hints of chocolate, plus coffee and oats

 

Wrigley Field

Chicago

 

Old Style draft to go with our Chicago Dog

 

 

3 Floyd’s Brewing Co.

Dark Lord Day

Muenster, Indiana

Wildly unusual brews and one heck of an annual celebration

www.3Floyds.com

 

 

Standing in line (we missed the name of some walk-by pours)

 

California-based Lagunitas Brewing Co.’s Waldos Special, a honey citrus hops bomb

 

Minnesota-based Steel Toe Brewing’s Dissent, roasted malt with hint of coffee

 

Austin-based Jester King Brewery’s Foudreweizen, collaboration with Austin’s Live Oak Brewing Co.

 

Inside

 

Gumballhead, American wheat beer with a crisp citrus finish

(“brewed with boatloads of Amarillo hops”)

 

Zombie Dust, intensely hopped and gushing Pale Ale

 

Yum-Yum, a Pale Ale with just the right malt backbone to support an explosive juicy hop profile

 

Dark Lord, Russian Imperial Stout brewed with coffee, Mexican vanilla, and Indian sugar

 

Deesko, a Munster-style Berliner Weiss — a tart, summer brew

 

LazerSnake, an old-fashioned Indiana Pale Ale, brewed with special Bavarian hops

 

 

Midway Airport bar

 

Chicago-based Revolution Brewing’s Anti-hero IPA, a four-hop blend that imparts bitterness and massive floral/citrus aromas

 

 

FOR FURTHER CONSIDERATION

 

Searching for your adventure at beer-related events?

 

Check out:

http://www.ratebeer.com/events.asp

or

http://www.beeradvocate.com/events/calendar/

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016
07/22

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A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE INNER SANCTUM OF RED SOX NATION & THE FENS OF BOSTON

Dombrowski

Dombrowski

THE NATURAL TRAVELER INTERVIEW WITH RED SOX GM DAVE DOMBROWSKI

By JR Rosenthal, Editor

 

Theres an old saying that its always sunny in Kenmore Square in Boston. Fenway Park is to Kenmore what Notre Dame is to the Left Bank of Paris. This diverse Boston neighborhood basks in the shadows of the Green Monster, where memories of Ted Williams and Tony Conigliaro mingle with the present-day legends of David Ortiz and Pedro Martinez. On a hot, humid and electric-bright sunny day, NT traveled to Fenway Park to chat with Dave Dombrowski, in his first year as Red Sox President of Baseball Operations and recognized as the architect of the great teams in Montreal, Miami (World Series titles in 1997 and 2003) and Detroit. 

 

NATURAL TRAVELER: How has your job changed since you left the Detroit Tigers to join the Red Sox as the head of baseball operations?

 

DAVE DOMBROWSKI: I am now only focused strictly on the baseball side rather than both business and baseball.  We have a club president here in Boston (Sam Kennedy) who handles the business operations and we work well together. I am still aware of the business side based on the baseball perspective, but now I can focus on baseball and that’s really what I was looking forward to here in Boston.

 

NT: When you were with the Florida Marlins and building the two championship teams (1997 and 2003), were you involved with both business and baseball?

 

DOMBROWSKI: After John (owner John Henry) came on board in Miami he asked me to handle some of the business operation as well as baseball. For the most part I was only making baseball decisions with the Marlins.

 

NT: And when the Tigers job came up there was a business component from the beginning?

 

DOMBROWSKI: I came in as club president and so that naturally meant doing both jobs. One of the things I really enjoyed was attending the major league baseball meetings, sorting through all of the issues. With the Tigers I was generally the only person who went to the meetings, but here in Boston John Henry goes to the meetings, as does owner Tom Werner and Sam Kennedy, our Club President and business expert. And so the MLB meeting this past May was the first time in 25 years I didn’t attend. But I’m fine with that because focusing on baseball operations is what I wanted to be doing.

 

NT: How important is chemistry in putting a team together on the field that will mesh in the clubhouse?

 

DOMBROWSKI: I am not so much concerned about chemistry; it’s more that I am very concerned about a player’s makeup. You are trying to put together guys who represent the organization in a positive way—that they play hard and are good in the clubhouse. This is a passionate media market and the scrutiny on a daily basis is tremendous. You have to have players who can handle that scrutiny and some guys can’t. And then you hope the good chemistry comes together. We are lucky that we have good young players and veteran players like Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia who can offer some guidance and also to lead by example.

 

NT: So in looking to make trade-deadline acquisitions the goal is to bring in players who can help the Red Sox win and also be good in the clubhouse?

 

DOMBROWSKI: For example, when we signed David Price during the winter I knew that he was a great clubhouse guy because I had him with the Tigers. And so I knew he could fit in and lead by example and handle the Boston market. Craig Kimbrel, who we traded for during the off season, also had the reputation of being a great clubhouse guy. I didn’t know him personally, but Frank Wren (Vice President of Baseball Operations) here in the front office had him in Atlanta; he knew Kimbrel could handle the pressures and rise to the occasion. Free agent signing Chris Young is another great makeup type of guy in the clubhouse, and so the ability of a player to both excel on the field and fit in with the team is always the goal in acquiring talent.

 

NT: How do you deal with Ortiz having such a great final season, and then trying to replace those offensive numbers for next season?

 

DOMBROWSKI: The thing I’ve learned is to not get too far ahead of yourself. I just want to get through the 2016 season before tackling the question of how to replace Ortiz. Let’s look at how our minor league guys develop this season and who might be available through trade or free agency. But right now I want to focus on enjoying this season and the fact that he is still a phenomenal player.

 

NT: Could he change his mind about retirement?

 

DOMBROWSKI: He gave a lot of thought to this decision. He is not just a great player; he is a championship player. He is focused on winning a World Championship. I take people at their word and he has said he is retiring after this season and that’s how I am approaching this situation.

 

 

NT: Coming to Boston must be such a great opportunity. Was it a tough decision to join the Red Sox over the other options available?

 

DOMBROWSKI: When I left Detroit last summer there were several jobs open, and I was told by a few other teams there would be jobs open down the road. But at this stage of my career the Red Sox position was perfect. I knew the owner John Henry and he is a great person to work for and that counted for a lot in making the decision.  Boston is a great baseball city. The franchise has a lot of prestige and tradition. Once I talked to the Red Sox I was convinced that this was the perfect place to work.

 

NT: How great is the tour of Fenway Park?

 

DOMBROWSKI: I was talking to some people who were taking the tour recently and we agreed that you get goosebumps from the thrill of walking into Fenway. I have been in the game for a long time and yet it’s still so exciting to come to work here every day. I can’t imagine a better place to celebrate the tradition of baseball and what makes it so much fun.

 

TAKING THE FENWAY PARK TOURFenway_Park_2009

IF YOU GO: The one-hour tour is led by experienced guides who know everything about the history of Fenway Park. It is tremendous fun and a unique opportunity to explore the nuances of baseballs most historic landmark.

The cost of the tour will vary depending on when you want to go, and so call the Red Sox at 617-226-6666 to determine your best option and its price.

Hours:  9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The last tour leaves at 5 p.m. on non-game days. On game days the last tour departs three hours before game time. Tours depart at the top of each hour.

Special Arrangements: Tours are handicap accessible.

Bilingual tours are available in Spanish and Japanese with advance notice.

tours@redsox.com

617-226-6666

boston red sox.mlb.com/ballpark/tour.jsp

 

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2016
05/20

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Aliens Among Us: A Visit to the Montreal Botanical Gardens & Insectarium

Aliens Among Us

A Visit to the Montreal Botanical Gardens & Insectarium

By Ken Aiken

Photos by the author

Click here for a link to more photos from this article

Beetle mania: The diversity of their color makes beetles the jewels of the insect kingdom

We have only a vague idea about whom we share this planet with.  Unknown creatures live among us from the equator to Arctic regions, in remote wilderness areas as well as our biggest metropolitan centers.  Gaze at almost every depiction of extraterrestrials and there’s an uneasy feeling of the almost familiar, while sci-fi movies of the last half century have shown aliens with features we’ve been taught to fear.  Yet fact is indeed stranger than fiction, and life is more bizarre than even the most ardent sci-fi fan can imagine.

Over five million species – that’s 80% of all animals on our planet–are arthropods, creatures with external skeletons, segmented bodies, and jointed appendages.  Seventy-two new species of arthropods—including 20 of spiders and 43 of ants—were officially identified in 2011 alone.  One of these newly identified creatures is a cockroach that can jump like a grasshopper, but relax: it lives in South Africa. A recent expedition to the remote Mekongga Mountain region in Indonesia netted what is now known as the Garuda wasp plus numerous other flies and wasps that are in the process of being identified.  In contrast, four new species of bees were discovered in New York City this last year.  A bumblebee first discovered in 1913 and last identified in 1956 was rediscovered in 2011 while a six-year-old Normal School student in New Zealand found a “living fossil” legged worm in a park.  These are the easy to find arthropods, insects and arachnids—who knows what lurks in the depths of the world’s oceans?

There is no doubt that insects are strange.  They lay eggs—a concept we readily grasp—but then go through a larval stage of growth before metamorphosing into radically different forms as adults.  At an early age we learn that caterpillars make cocoons then turn into butterflies or moths.  In reality the growth cycle is far more complex and varied, but this is about as much as most people ever learn about insects.  Furthermore, how many people even know what the “woolly bear caterpillar” becomes as an adult? (Isabella Tiger Moth) or that in Arctic regions the woolly bear lives for up to 14 years, freezing solid and thawing out each year? (go ahead: experiment at home).  Some 15,000 -20,000 species of butterflies are known, but there are between 150,000 to 250,000 species of moths.  The vagueness of these numbers suggests how little we actually know.

One way to learn more is by attending the annual “Butterflies Go Free” event at the Montreal Botanical Gardens from February 16 to April 29.  The Insectarium rears numerous species of butterflies and moths in their breeding program and acquires eggs from others.  The eggs are hatched and the caterpillars reared during the winter.  The chrysalis and cocoons are then moved to one of the large public greenhouses during the depths of winter.  When the butterflies and moths emerge flowers are in bloom and the public is invited to attend this harbinger of spring.

The Monarch is one of the longest-lived butterflies and its epic yearly migration is one of the wonders of the natural world

The Insectarium is part of the Montreal Botanical Gardens and the day I visited it was swarming with preschool children.  Bugs aren’t scary to young children and a large group was completely engaged with a staff member who was talking about spiders.  I hung around just to see if she was going to present one of their live tarantulas, but she abstained–it probably would have been too much for the parents.

Atlas moth (Attacus atlas) or Cobra moth is the world’s largest moth with wing span of 10 inches

Portions of the Insectarium’s collection of 150,000 mounted specimens are showcased, but the terrariums with living creatures proved to be far more interesting.  Phasmatodea–the name comes from the Greek meaning apparition–is an order of insects with camouflage so good they actually look like leaves or twigs.  The Indian or Laboratory walking stick grows to almost 20 inches and even knowing that the large terrarium contains these creatures it takes a few minutes to discern one, then a couple more to recognize that over a dozen of these creatures are within three feet of my face.  While most of the 2,500 known species live in Asia, the “walking stick” is common to oak forests in the eastern United States and can be found at least as far north as southern Vermont—but only if you have very sharp eyes and considerable patience.  Little is known about wild species, however over 300 kinds are reared in captivity and frequently are kept as pets with numerous websites providing instructions for their care and handling.

Another extraterrestrial-looking creature is the praying mantis.  I can testify that wild ones will stay with you for two or three days if you feed them.  Scott Cromwell, a photographer from Oklahoma has taken this even further by placing his pet Dead Leaf, Violin, and Ghost mantises among dollhouse miniatures and photographing a series he calls “The Day in the Life of Mantis.” Easy to rear in captivity the Insectarium has several species of mantis—and of course even more as mounted specimens.

A mantis lying in ambush

There’s a hive of honeybees and a rather large ant farm.  Both exhibits are set up so colony behavior can be safely viewed without disturbing their labors.  The hive also has the additional purpose of pollinating acres of flowers in the botanical gardens.  Honeybees are the most obvious of the ecological/symbiotic relationships we have with insects.  Without them we would be unable to raise the crops that provide food for our daily tables.  However, most insects don’t thrive in captivity and so myth and mystery surround even the most common ones.

Dragonflies don’t sting, nor can they stitch a person’s mouth closed, and I’ve rescued dozens of large ones using bare hands. They’re voracious carnivores with huge mandibles so I assume that they can bite or at least pinch, but none have ever done so. The bulk of their diet is mosquitoes so I wonder why haven’t humans nominated them for insect of the year?  Perhaps, because ignorance begets fear.

In truth, very little is known about most of the insects—or arachnids– we think we know.  It has recently been discovered that in some spiders the central nervous system comprises up to 80% of their body weight (compared to 2-3% for humans).  Also paper wasps—hornets to most of us—have the ability to recognize individual faces of hive members as well as their own species. Both wasps and spiders are armed with toxic poisons and neither looks anything like our own kind so we tend to kill them before they can hurt us.

Scorpions are thought to be among the first land creatures. This one, with a spider visible in the background, was trapped in amber 40 million years ago

There are over 100,00 species of arachnids, which also includes scorpions, ticks, and mites.  Nine species of Dolomedes—fishing spiders– exist in North America.  In New England we call them “dock,” “wharf,” and “water” spiders and they are common along streams and lakes.  I don’t wear eyeglasses when swimming so my contact with these exceptionally large spiders –with huge fangs–frequently occurs at arms’ distance.  Good thing they aren’t aggressive!  Literature lists them as having a body up to two inches long, but I frequently encounter larger specimens.  Unlike many species of tarantulas, fishing spiders don’t flourish in captivity and they are very quick so despite being much more common they actually are far less familiar.

Despite our nightmarish fears, most spiders pose no threat. Yes, there are Black widows, Brown recluses, and Hobos but then again some of the largest and scariest tarantulas actually make good pets. I do allow a small number of spiders to live with me unless they build webs, reside in my bedroom, or grow to large for piece of mind.  You might say I’ve accepted the inevitable since most of us are never more than 10 feet from a spider regardless of where we live or how frequently we vacuum or spray insecticide.  I’m not extremely comfortable around them but most people tend to be arachnophobic so it was fascinating for me to witness the Insectarium staff introducing them to very young children.

Arthropods populated Earth’s seas 550 million years ago (MYA).  Some of the earliest creatures to venture from the seas onto dry land are thought to be scorpions, centipedes, and millipedes with the earliest known insect fossil dating to 396 – 407 million MYA.  Advanced insects–including dragonflies with wingspans of up to 3 feet–appear in the fossil record during the Carboniferous 362-290 MYA and beetles show up 318-299 MYA. The earliest dinosaurs and first mammals come along during the Triassic 245-208 MYA.  By the time Tyrannosaurus Rex appeared dragonflies had been flitting about for almost 300 million years and virtually unchanged by evolution they are still doing so!

Arthropods have been around for over 550 million years while the earliest known humanoid fragment has been dated at a mere 5.2 MYA. Homo erectus doesn’t appear 1.8 MYA and the earliest Homo sapiens (not even “modern man”) dates back only 500,000 years or less than 1/100th of a percent as long as arthropods have been on this planet.

The next time you see a dragonfly doing its aeronautic magic or look into its big multi-faceted eyes, recognize it as being a true earthling.  If you want to see an alien, all you have to do is gaze at your own reflection.

IF YOU GO:

Montreal Botanical Gardens and Insectarium,

401 rue Sherbrook Est —at the corner of Sherbrook East and Pie-IX facing the Olympic Stadium.  Pie-IX Metro station (green line) and follow the signs to Jardin botanique and Insectarium.  (514) 872-1400

Open: to May 14th, 9-5, Tues.-Sun.   May 15 – Sept. 6, 9-6, every day.

Admission includes gardens, greenhouses, and Insectarium:  spring/summer, Adults $14/$16.50; Seniors & students $10.50/$12.50; Ages 5-17 $7/$8.25; and Ages 2-4 $2/$2.50

Butterflies Go Free:  Feb. 16-April 29, 2012

Montreal Biodôme

Four great North American ecological systems under one roof.

4777 ave. Pierre-De-Coubertin – across from the botanical gardens and at the foot of the Olympic Stadium tower (just walk from the gardens).  Viau Metro station (green line).     (514) 868-3000

Open:  same schedule as the gardens and Insectarium.

Admission: similar to summer season above BUT special package combinations that include the Botanical Gardens and Insectarium or the Olympic Tower are also offered.

Olympic Tower Observatory – the tallest inclined tower in the world.  You can’t miss it.

2016
04/28

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Southern Fried Charm: 7 Tantalizing Questions for Texas Chef Blythe Beck

SOUTHERN FRIED CHARM

 7 TANTALIZING QUESTIONS FOR TEXAS CHEF BLYTHE BECK

By JR Rosenthal, NT Food Editor

How do you go from following the straight-and-narrow path of Catholic School to becoming a Reality TV star on a show called “The Naughty Kitchen with Blythe Beck?” In search of the answer to this stumper, we journeyed to Texas equipped with nothing more than a Texas-sized appetite and a few bottles of hot sauce in the trunk of a 1965 pink Cadillac Fleetwood—just in case!

The color pink is an important talking point for Beck. Pink Magnolia, her relatively new restaurant venture in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas, has quickly become one of the best Southern-Style restaurants in the USA. The food reflects a ‘naughty’ quality (such as creamed corn made with cream cheese) and the simple genius of braising mustard greens in Schlitz malt liquor.

Beck is no stranger to serving up finesse food that’s vibrating with texture and flavor. She has cooked at such Dallas-area hot spots as the Mansion on Turtle Creek, Hector’s on Henderson and Central 214 at the Hotel Palomar. In everything she cooks–in every possible way, she’s always able to demonstrate that rare blend of passion, fun and raw talent.

NATURAL TRAVELER:  How would you describe your educational background? Did you go straight to cooking school out of high school?

 BLYTHE BECK: It all began at an All-Girl Catholic college, where my primary concern was going to Mass and getting my academic work done. I didn’t have any cooking background, but I knew how to order food to bring back to campus for the girls. I was the queen of take-out; I always ordered the grilled chicken salad. I developed this special relationship with the woman who took my phone order; she was impressed with my polite, chatty personality and out of the blue she offered me a job. When she told me I’d make enough to pay for my beer I decided to give the restaurant business a try.

NT: Did you get to cook right away?

BECK: I had to talk my way into working in the kitchen because initially the idea  was that I would only work in the front of the dining room as a hostess. But I was determined to cook and talked my way into the back where I knew I belonged.

NT: You didn’t really know how to cook exactly so what enabled you to wing it as a chef?

BECK: I had a decent instinct about making comfort food because my mom was an excellent chef, and I grew up around delicious, homemade food. One day I was learning how to make biscuits and I had this epiphany about my career path because I made the perfect biscuit. I knew I was finally great at doing something, that it was my calling, and that’s when I made a commitment to becoming a chef. That biscuit changed my life.

NT: You are one of the most successful alums from the University of North Texas. I am assuming that experience really helped you build a base of knowledge.

BECK: It was such a great program and I am so blessed that I had the opportunity to learn from and work with so many talented and inspiring people. My association with the school means so much to me. I’ve cooked with many talented chefs and a lot of great people but it all started at the University of North Texas.

NT:  After working at so many cool restaurants, what’s your favorite thing to eat?

BECK: It’s a toss-up between my mom’s spaghetti with turkey meatballs and Asian Crawfish that’s cooked with lots of garlic and star anise. I could eat it every day and still love it.

NT: Is there a food you won’t eat?

BECK: Foie gras! I hate the look, the smell, the texture. I don’t like anything about it.

NT: You are regarded as one of the most gifted chefs in the world when it comes to Southern cooking. Since you are good at everything in this genre, could you  say that you have a signature dish?

BECK: The Center-Cut Chicken Fried Ribeye with Beer Braised (made with Schlitz Malt Liquor) Mustard Greens, Naughty Creamed Corn (fresh corn cooked with butter, white wine, cream and cream cheese), and Bacon Red-Eye Gravy. I came up with this because I have always wanted to see what else I could fry! Texas is home to Chicken Fried Steak and I wanted to be a part of that legacy, so I created my own!

NT: Great flavor combinations seem to take your dishes to another level. How did you figure out the components of this dish?

BECK: When it came to the flavor combinations I went back to my roots. Our neighbor made greens all the time and I wanted to make them my own so I added the Schlitz. Ms. Dottie in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, taught me to make creamed corn and then I put my spin in it. And Red-Eye Gravy is a Cowboy tradition, and so why wouldn’t I put it on my baby! I guess the Chicken-Fried Ribeye is truly my love letter to the South.   

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2016
02/27

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Roadside Attraction Postcards from Washington, DC

Musings on an Election When It Might Finally Hit the Fan

Part of Last Conversation Piece by Juan Munoz, by the Hirshhorn Museum. Its conspiratorial feel, with panicked outsiders, seems apt for Washington.

Part of Last Conversation Piece by Juan Munoz, by the Hirshhorn Museum. Its conspiratorial feel, with panicked outsiders, seems apt for Washington.

by Skip Kaltenheuser

 

CLICK ON PHOTOS TO VIEW LARGER

 

Greetings from Washington, DC!  Tasked with castaway political thoughts for this photo essay, I see the real roadside attractions looming large are the presidential contenders. There’s peril waxing wise in this arena. Look back to the starting gate. How silly the oracles’ certitudes look now. So this political meander is of quick and dirty drive-by shootings. Allow me to lean on a few prior scribbles with shelf life to flesh my points out. I’ll also refer to a few other quick reads.

A disclosure (no such thing as “full disclosure”). And a writer’s query. How much has my political perspective changed much since I came to Washington in ’79? Not much. Before getting into topics tangential to finance sector influence, I should say I’m not dispassionate. I’m writing up a personal experience to expose what even so-called community banks now get away with. It’s not pleasant, discussing my family upended by hogs in suits. My near-99 year-old mother recently lost her Iowa family farm, and much more, and I’m committed to write about it. The farm disappeared at the intersection of egregious bank misconduct and of jaw-dropping government indifference.

I take no pleasure noting Democrats are in the vanguard of Potterville as much as Republicans. The troubling saga includes what I believe to be compromised government officials running interference for a bank. It’s topped off by a greedy bankruptcy trustee who, with the imprimatur of DOJ, turned bankruptcy protection into an oxymoron to further his own gain. What I believe most people outside bureaucracy’s bubble would recognize as corruption was then covered up by the US Trustee Program. What’s really going on out there for the little guy in the bankruptcy system? Interested media, reform groups and legislators, get in touch.

A class act on the street for many years, the owner reliably dapper in a tan suit and panama hat. Always wanted to ask where he wintered, and how this came to be. Missed opportunities aplenty.

A class act on the street for many years, the owner reliably dapper in a tan suit and panama hat. Always wanted to ask where he wintered, and how this came to be. Missed opportunities aplenty.

Also, I’m considering a larger project, perhaps a book, giving voice to families derailed by deceptive banks that got away with it. No promises, I suspect the numbers are large, but folks with stories of what predatory banks did to them while government went ho-hum, drop me a note.

They say a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged. Not if mugged by a bank. Help throw some light on what’s happening across the country under media’s radar.

Back to risky political observations that could fly apart at any moment.

First off, everything old is new again.  We repeatedly hear how much has changed in the Republican race.  Here’s a column assessing a Republican primary debate in 2012, scribbled for an international lawyer crowd.

<http://www.ibanet.org/Article/Detail.aspx?ArticleUid=30075CEE-CE12-4969-AFF8-15CA18E8220E>

It was all there before –  the Muslim-baiting, the kowtow to Sheldon Adelson, the bellicosity to Iran, the bought and paid for ideologies.  What’s really changed, other than some cast members – the Not Ready for Primary-Time Players – and an American knockoff of Berlusconi demonstrating how to do mischief right?  How wondrous freeing oneself from fear of misspeaking must be.  Other contenders envious of Trump’s free and easy must crave just a little dab of Tourette’s to slide over that hump. Wait, I hear Cruz’s tower of Babel slipping into gear.

As for takeout ideology – the Tea Party, the CATO Institute, etc…  It distracts us from the aims of the elite that ordered it, just as magicians get us to watch the wrong hand.  Here’s a scribble trying to make sense of the Tea Party in 2010.  <http://www.ibanet.org/Article/Detail.aspx?ArticleUid=F9BFA8BD-DAD1-49FA-AF1A-CC663E804342>

Since then Jane Mayer has detailed how it’s done in her insightful new book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.  Catch the book, but at least catch this review by Bill McKibben.  <http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2016/03/10/koch-brothers-new-brand/>

The Kennedy family, joined by crowds lining the road crossing Memorial Bridge by the Lincoln Memorial, says good-bye again, this time for Senator Ted.

The Kennedy family, joined by crowds lining the road crossing Memorial Bridge by the Lincoln Memorial, says good-bye again, this time for Senator Ted.

 

I’m tempted to update update this imaginary Washington, DC carnival, where Donald Trump made an early appearance.  It’s an exorcism of the last presidential race, though many players are still in play.  How would you update it in your imagination?

<http://www.travelingboy.com/archive-travel-guest-carnival.html>

This is the carnival DC ought to emulate.  Catch satire and a slideshow from Basel, Switzerland.

<http://www.travelingboy.com/archive-travel-guest-carnival.html>

Trump this! I admit to guilty pleasures when Trump pops out a truth, as with the Bush administration’s deceptions backing the invasion of Iraq and our being asleep at the switch before 9/11. After Republican boos came forth, I wished Trump had hopped on a talk show recalling what the Bush White House did to Ambassador Joe Wilson and to his wife Valerie Plame, then a CIA agent.  Wilson refuted Bush Administration claims on Saddam’s use of Niger yellowcake, his report one of at least three major reports drawing the same conclusion, all ignored and buried. Trump could point to the obvious animosity Saddam held toward Al Qaeda, that he’d have nothing to do with them. And he could refer to a Pulitzer-winning book by Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower, Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, which underscores the government’s bumbling and negligence.

Instead, Trump started shuffling back. Who knows what comes next? In a world that loves irony, what if Trump the Performance Artist known as The Donald becomes President Trump and decides to prove he’s not a paper tiger? His own bit of shock and awe, abroad or at home?

I’m curious as to what Trump will do to Rubio, the establishment’s most recently anointed contender. Hypocrisy can’t lay a glove on the shame-proof Trump, but If Rubio has such skeletons in his closet, he’d best lock them up tight before Trump, skilled at timing, dances them onto the stage when the establishment least expects it.

Whether or not Trump runs aground, the takeaway on his success is that large swaths of Republicans are so rattled by the slings and arrows of misfortune that it doesn’t matter if Trump’s brand of populism is a shape-shifter, his certainties mercurial. Fans will still see in him what they want to see, a champion who’ll tell the power brokers to toss off their power levers. Other Republican contenders aren’t convincing when they warble about it.  Trump’s fans like hearing what they know, that the fix is in, that they’ve been played for chumps by an elite with a stacked deck. If Trump ends up playing them for suckers too, at least he brings entertainment value.

Portion of the '30's painting by muralist Cueva del Rio that winds up the staircase in the Mexican Cultural Institute. This section portrays the Festival of the Flowers in Tehuantepec. The mansion and it's spectacular rooms, one with an annual Day of the Dead display, and photography gallery are well worth a look. Pick a majestic room and linger with a book.

Portion of the ’30’s painting by muralist Cueva del Rio that winds up the staircase in the Mexican Cultural Institute. This section portrays the Festival of the Flowers in Tehuantepec. The mansion and it’s spectacular rooms, one with an annual Day of the Dead display, and photography gallery are well worth a look. Pick a majestic room and linger with a book.

But the rank and file ought to be reminded that while Trump says he isn’t beholden to special interests, he is a special interest. Think this billionaire wants to pay more taxes so they can get some relief?

Does the Republican establishment really think Romney, with his family’s past off-shore holdings and enviable tax rates, is the messenger to speculate on Trump’s taxes? Mr. “Self-Deport” should be the walking cue card warning of xenophobia? Maybe Romney fantasizes being drafted if other candidates vaporize.

When I first tuned into Trump, I wondered what’s behind what seems information processing delays. Odd, matched with a demeanor that’s a little speedy for a near-septuagenarian. Thinking on his enthusiastic ambiguity, he reminds me of speech patterns of con artists who let their marks fill in the blanks with what they want to hear. That’s likely still a part of it, but Timothy Egan in the NY Times recently made a great case for sleep deprivation. Interesting.

<http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/26/opinion/a-unified-theory-of-trump.html?ref=opinion&_r=0>

Or maybe Trump’s a master craftsman at brainwashing, the dark side of the populist force at work. Something’s working for him. Take notes, Charlie Sheen, you could’a been a contender. Winning!

<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pipTwjwrQYQ>

In the independent realm, Mike Bloomberg’s sounding the political depths.  Some of his issues deserve respect, but hasn’t Wall Street enough champions running? He doesn’t like losing, or improving Trump’s chances, so thin odds he’ll run just for amusement. At least he’s training his media guns on discrediting Trump.  Expect more pieces like this, on the fizzle of Trump’s international sizzle.

<http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2016-02-24/a-look-inside-trump-s-global-deals-exposes-trouble-in-many-spots>

Three Bull Moose fans avert their gaze, unable to watch Teddy bomb another presidential race.

Three Bull Moose fans avert their gaze, unable to watch Teddy bomb another presidential race.

Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, Bernie is threatened by the death of a thousand slice-and-dice talking points by Hillary’s minions. They’re well-placed in the media echo-chamber, including pundits financially tied to Hillary’s campaign and to super-pacs supporting her.

<https://theintercept.com/2016/02/25/tv-pundits-praise-hillary-clinton-on-air-fail-to-disclose-financial-ties-to-her-campaign/>

Most critiques boil down to “single issue candidate”, “how does he pay for it?”, and “the Republican Congress will pour molasses on him”.

They’ll pour molasses on Hillary, too, as they do on President Obama. But if Bernie actually won, a number of seats would likely change in Congress, despite the gerrymandered districts that give the Republicans the House despite their losing the collective popular vote. We dream of a corrective algorithm that fairly redraws districts based on the census, letting the chips fall where they may. But that dream requires courageous state legislators. In any case, if Bernie triumphs, a sea-change cometh. Regardless, odds of Republicans losing the US Senate are decent. Voter turnout takes the prize.

How does Bernie pay for it?  C’mon. We’re way beyond flirting with the Roaring Twenties wealth gap.  Adjustments are in order. That’s how to pay for needed infrastructure projcts, public college tuition, further improving health care and other investments in our future. According to the Institute for Policy Studies, the twenty (!!!) richest Americans own more wealth than the bottom half of all Americans – the bottom 152 million in 57 million households. The wealthiest tenth of one percent owns more than a fifth of US household wealth, triple the percentage that rarified crowd owned in the 1970’s.  Put differently, that top one-thousandth of Americans owns about what the bottom 90 percent of Americans own together. <http://www.ips-dc.org/billionaire-bonanza/>

An article in Scientific American notes that contrary to what most Americans think, American is the most unequal of Western nations, with far less social mobility than Canada and Europe. The Walton family is richer than 42% of American families combined. The bottom 40% of Americans have three tenths of one percent of US wealth. Not a misprint. Three tenths. Of one percent.

<http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/economic-inequality-it-s-far-worse-than-you-think/>

Part of a memorial to Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi (radio), in the historic Mt. Pleasant neighborhood, where I logged many years. The woman atop the memorial was called The Wave by sculptor Attilio Piccirilli. Alas, the celebrated Marconi joined the Italian Fascist Party, and was made President of the Royal Academy of Italy by Mussolini.

Part of a memorial to Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi (radio), in the historic Mt. Pleasant neighborhood, where I logged many years. The woman atop the memorial was called The Wave by sculptor Attilio Piccirilli. Alas, the celebrated Marconi joined the Italian Fascist Party, and was made President of the Royal Academy of Italy by Mussolini.

Many believe this disparity is greatly understated, that a tremendous amount of top tier wealth is not accounted for, that it’s hidden in off-shore holdings or shell companies, undervalued, etc…

Peel off some of this distortion, and reorient priorities, shucking waste like the F-35 fighter. We can find some money for Bernie. He might have to modify some plans as he goes along, everyone must, but there’s money.

Meanwhile, in the last fifty years the CEO/worker pay ratio has gone from 20-to-1 to 354-to-1. Maybe some CEO’s could take a haircut and put that money into apprenticeship programs.

Bernie’s a single issue candidate? Bull. The rigging of our country by our campaign finance system, flaming democracy long before the Citizens United accelerant was poured on, is far and away the biggest issue. Because it affects every other issue. It distorts every market, every decision on priorities. And it fertilizes a mindset attracting public servant “temps” aiming to flee Congress and government for big money in lobbying and legal jobs.

Here’s a column from the last election considering what the well-heeled want as they practice the low art of the thinly-disguised bribe.

<http://www.ibanet.org/Article/Detail.aspx?ArticleUid=9B74D8B6-54B2-4D0D-B919-8DB8607D874E>

Side effects of this rigging even extend into state courts, where the lion’s share of court decisions affecting our lives take place, in states that have some aspect of judicial elections, a majority of states. The result of the election money grab is that decisions are increasingly tilting against individuals in favor of corporations and their lawyers. You don’t think that widens the wealth gap? Also impacted are issues ranging from environmental regulation enforcement to drawing legislative districts. Here’s a column on equal justice slipping away.

<http://www.ibanet.org/Article/Detail.aspx?ArticleUid=FE73C853-AE68-4DE1-BFE2-F85320E3A0C9>

The Breadline by sculptor Georg Segal, part of the expansive FDR Memorial. One of FDR's quotes there, "THEY WHO SEEK TO ESTABLISH SYSTEMS OF GOVERNMENT BASED ON THE REGIMENTATION OF ALL HUMAN BEINGS BY A HANDFUL OF INDIVIDUAL RULERS... CALL THIS A NEW ORDER. IT IS NOT NEW AND IT IS NOT ORDER."

The Breadline by sculptor Georg Segal, part of the expansive FDR Memorial. One of FDR’s quotes there, “THEY WHO SEEK TO ESTABLISH SYSTEMS OF GOVERNMENT BASED ON THE REGIMENTATION OF ALL HUMAN BEINGS BY A HANDFUL OF INDIVIDUAL RULERS… CALL THIS A NEW ORDER. IT IS NOT NEW AND IT IS NOT ORDER.”

Fundraising is big business in Washington, a vested interest in many quarters including media advertising. It takes on a life of its own as much as the military-industrial complex. Indeed, there’s ample crossover to that complex. In 2016, the cost of the presidential election alone is expected to exceed $5 billion, doubling that of 2012. That $27 dollar average contribution for Sanders is remarkable for the dent it’s made. But the big money and the dark money aren’t going away, any more than are the politicians raffling off their favors with a quiet wink.

If you believe, as I do, that the biggest threat to this country’s stability is the rapidly growing political clout of the finance sector, then steps must be taken to fracture that political power. Here’s a bit on finance sector influence, also written the last presidential campaign cycle. Again, nothing’s changed except it’s worse.

<http://www.ibanet.org/Article/Detail.aspx?ArticleUid=04939AA6-939C-450C-A33F-2BB8B89ED4BC>

If you’d permit another digression, I interviewed Ralph Nader in 1999, for Bank Director magazine. Consider how prescient Nader was as to where the unshackled finance sector was taking us. Here’s text.

<http://www.bankdirector.com/magazine/archives/4th-quarter-1999/nader-speaks-out>

Sunrise on the Potomac. Kayak, canoe or motor under the bridge and around the bend from Georgetown. The next stretches of river seem as far from the city as any stretch, with great blue herons and other water fowl exceeding their quota of fish. Once there, anchor past small islands of boulders at sunset and enjoy the unfolding evening.

Sunrise on the Potomac. Kayak, canoe or motor under the bridge and around the bend from Georgetown. The next stretches of river seem as far from the city as any stretch, with great blue herons and other water fowl exceeding their quota of fish. Once there, anchor past small islands of boulders at sunset and enjoy the unfolding evening.

When Hillary was First Lady, I wrote admiringly of her after watching her in the basement of a row house in Adams-Morgan as she gave awards and a thoughtful talk to excited microfinance entrepreneurs.  They’d been brought in for an international microcredit conference, and Hillary’s support was touching. Someone who gets it, I thought, who knows what reasonable access to capital means to the underprivileged.

But Hillary also gets what access to policy levers means to the finance sector, and what that means to candidates. The Clintons have always gotten that.

In one 16 month period ending last May, the Clintons earned 25 million dollars for 100 speeches, half of them by Hillary, according to FEC filings.

Why would Goldman Sachs or anyone pay Hillary five thousand or more beans per minute for speaking to them? Nothing new or insightful a politician can say is worth that amount of money, nothing riveting and novel in subsequent speeches. That kind of money is paid for only a few reasons, primarily thanking someone for past actions and influencing someone’s future actions. Maybe greasing revolving doors between the finance sector and key government positions. There’s limited value to bragging rights on hearing what everyone knows is a kowtow speech run once more through a speechwriter’s grinder, other than showing off the implicit influence and largess of paymasters that others might covet.

I wish Hillary would share those emerald-embedded platinum words. So far she won’t. I doubt there’s a Romney-esque 47% sinker there, but I’ll bet there’s plenty to make Hillary’s recent Wall Street comments sound like lip service is all that’s moved toward Bernie. According to Politico, Hillary’s comments in one speech to Goldman Sachs included calling “banker-bashing” “foolish” as she defused Wall Streets role in the economic meltdown, saying “we all got into this mess together.”

Who's lobbying up there in the Capitol Dome? Back when separation of church and state was in better shape, gods from ancient mythology, as George Washington rises to the heavens in glory flanked by frolicking females. Well, why not? The Apotheosis of Washington was painted at the end of the Civil War by Contantino Brumidi. Figures are fifteen feet tall, so they can be seen from 180 feet below. The painting covering the concave eye of the cast-iron dome is 65 feet in diameter. Lie on the floor with a telephoto lens or binoculars and take this marvel in.

Who’s lobbying up there in the Capitol Dome? Back when separation of church and state was in better shape, gods from ancient mythology, as George Washington rises to the heavens in glory flanked by frolicking females. Well, why not? The Apotheosis of Washington was painted at the end of the Civil War by Contantino Brumidi. Figures are fifteen feet tall, so they can be seen from 180 feet below. The painting covering the concave eye of the cast-iron dome is 65 feet in diameter. Lie on the floor with a telephoto lens or binoculars and take this marvel in.

Come to think of it, they did all get into this mess together. Rubinomics. Bill Clinton’s Secretary of the Treasury, Robert Rubin was kindly donated by Goldman Sachs. After deregulating the finance industry, Rubin returned to Wall Street, earning $126 million from Citigroup in the decade that included the financial meltdown and the taxpayer bailout of Citigroup. Thank you. Thank you very much.

We’ll always be indebted to Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone for knifing through public relations gauze with his graphic imagery of Goldman Sachs as a vampire squid.
Taibbi is among those who’ve written on how Goldman Sachs successfully uses the revolving door to salt the upper tiers of government(s).  And if you want to drill deep, “Money and Power…” by William Cohan reveals in detail Goldman’s style and influence, and the scandal of what’s legal.

Goldman Sachs did get dinged recently for five billion dollars to resolve serious questions from Federal and state authorities over its sale of mortgage-backed securities. Sound like a real comeuppance? In 2010 alone, Goldman gave out over three times that much in bonuses. After all, they had to retain the talent that destroyed many trillions in assets of the little guy. Any jail time for those deceptions that garnered the ding? Nope. But the large-sounding number is a big PR splash for DOJ.

That’s a holdover from Eric Holder’s real legacy, kid gloves for banks. Hands-off Holder is now back making millions as a partner at Covington & Burling, a law firm servicing the biggest cheeses in the finance industry. Basically, Holder is part of a DOJ firm within a firm, as a half dozen other top officials at DOJ have also landed there.

Ever wonder what happened with the deadline Holder announced a year ago at the National Press Club as he packed up to migrate to a corner office in the the law firm he always knew he’d return to? Responding in part to a Q. I’d submitted on the lack of prosecutions, including of small banks, he announced a deadline for US Attorneys to submit potential cases against banks responsible for the economic crisis. That deadline came and went last mid-April. Forget specific cases, DOJ won’t even say if a significant number was submitted, or if any significant number will go forward. Any bets on how many are in the pipeline as the statutes of limitation roll on?

Cherry blossoms lining the Tidal Basin, visitors' favorite photo op. Fragile and often ill-timed in an increasingly weird climate, but walking beneath them provides a circular onslaught of beauty.

Cherry blossoms lining the Tidal Basin, visitors’ favorite photo op. Fragile and often ill-timed in an increasingly weird climate, but walking beneath them provides a circular onslaught of beauty.

It’s not just banks. DOJ prosecutions of all white-collar crimes are the lowest in two decades. Who else tasked with financial enforcement is looking ahead to their post-public servant riches?

<https://news.vice.com/article/how-eric-holders-corporate-law-firm-is-turning-into-shadow-justice-department>

Catch an insightful NY Times essay by Senator Elizabeth Warren explaining how enforcement of all kinds can be gutted by putting the insincere and self-serving in key roles in federal agencies.

<http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/29/opinion/elizabeth-warren-one-way-to-rebuild-our-institutions.html?ref=opinion&_r=0>

Here’s Senator Warren’s new report, Rigged Justice, backing her essay with the twenty worst enforcement failures last year.

<http://www.warren.senate.gov/files/documents/Rigged_Justice_2016.pdf>

Remember, a hands-off tone is set entirely within the executive branch. No Congressional molasses need be poured. Consider the revolving door payback for fundraising, for speaking fees, for foundation contributions.

By the way, a year ago a Washington Post analysis showed the largest chunk of corporate donors to the Clinton Foundation was the financial services industry.

<https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/clintons-raised-nearly-2-billion-for-foundation-since-2001/2015/02/18/b8425d88-a7cd-11e4-a7c2-03d37af98440_story.html>

Public protests showcase democracy's strength. Son and a chum, trying to make sense of 2006 following the early years of shock and awe. Shocked yet?

Public protests showcase democracy’s strength. Son and a chum, trying to make sense of 2006 following the early years of shock and awe. Shocked yet?

Single issue, indeed.

Dwelling on payback, if you want to grasp the number of favors awaiting Bill and Hillary’s thank-you notes, read

Inside the Clinton Donor Network <https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/clinton-money/>, a Washington Post investigative piece last fall. It details the billions fundraised by the Clintons over four decades, for elections and for their foundation.

The range leaves one in awe. Foreign interests and those who advocate them are thick in the donor mix.

Consider Haim Saban, Israeli and American billionaire who rose from the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers to owner of Univision and loads more. He’s been the Clinton’s largest contributor over the years, donating and raising many millions for Bill and Hillary, and millions more for the Clinton Foundation.

Several months ago, Saban called for the US government to racially profile Muslims. He did all he could to oppose President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. Saban founded the Center of Middle East Policy, which should say something about its honest broker credibility. As it should about the Saban Center for Middle East Policy he founded at the Brookings Institute. Saban served on President Clinton’s Export Council, advising on trade issues. He and his wife had several sleepovers in the White House. Read up on Saban’s past efforts to derail investigations of pro-Israel lobbyists for espionage and to get a preferred congresswoman to head the House Intelligence Committee. <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/21/us/politics/21harman.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss>.

The most popular repeat luncheon speaker at the National Press Club? Dolly Parton. Easy.

The most popular repeat luncheon speaker at the National Press Club? Dolly Parton. Easy.

Donors at Saban’s level know how to play Washington like a violin.  How does one escape worry that this highly lucrative pro-Likud bird chirping for decades in Bill’s and Hillary’s ears impedes cutting square deals in the Middle East peace process?  That it might dampen efforts in a Hillary presidency?  There are many elements to past failures of the Middle East peace process, I’m not accusing Bill Clinton of throwing the fight because of Saban or others. But the will to succeed is everything in really tough challenges. It isn’t hard to undermine pushing boulders up a hill. Think what damage a perpetually failing peace process has done to Middle East stability and to this country’s image, and what that has cost.

Perhaps Diogenes was really seeking an honest broker.

A couple digressions in the foreign policy realm, on the future of US influence abroad and on corruption in Afghanistan, both sadly with evergreen shelf life.

<http://www.ibanet.org/Article/Detail.aspx?ArticleUid=B459B5FF-80FB-488A-BA3F-63BFD4B2BBAC>

<http://www.ibanet.org/Article/Detail.aspx?ArticleUid=6053d632-7235-43bc-bb4a-77477a7ded40>

At least we know Hillary would never turn to the likes of Kissinger for advice. Wait, what’s that?…

Outside looking in, what many in Washington, of all walks, secretly feel they're always doing. Thirteen floors up at the National Press Club Building, trying to give the incredible shrinking Fourth Estate a clearer view of the world.

Outside looking in, what many in Washington, of all walks, secretly feel they’re always doing. Fourteen floors up at the National Press Club Building, trying to give the incredible shrinking Fourth Estate a clearer view of the world.

Hillary’s African-Amercan firewall confuses me. Plenty have written on the Clintons’ roll in ham-handed welfare reform and overkill legislation on crime. And thanks to a clever young protester, Ashley Williams, attention is paid to the ultimate dog whistle, bringing young “super-predators” “to heel”. Political personas seeking to look tough on crime and tough on welfare have played havoc with lives in a host of ways. Kind of like looking tough on foreign policy.

But what always creeped me out was was the execution of Ricky Ray Rector just before the 1992 New Hampshire Primary. To signal how tough he’d be on crime, then Governor Clinton returned to Arkansas to preside over the execution. Rector’s murder of a white policeman was horrific, but after the mentally-ill Rector tried to blow his brains out, he was so mentally feeble that he put aside the pecan pie in his last meal so he could finish it later.

Now read up on Marc Rich, and consider a different quality of Bill Clinton’s mercy. And a bellwether of Holder’s legacy.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/crime/2013/07/02/marc_rich_presidential_pardon_how_eric_holder_facilitated_the_most_unjust.html

Meanwhile Bernie, who in the early sixties was a Chicago organizer for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), gets snide comments from Hillary surrogates that they never met him in the South. Or that his non-southern African-American backers are “a remove” from the South. Yeah, there was no segregation up North. Getting arrested in Chicago is always a ticket to fun and games.
 
Catch the annual DC Blues Society Festival, all day Saturday on Labor Day weekend, free at Carter Baron Amphitheater. In Rock Creek Park, a wonderful National Park filling a deep valley in the middle of the city. Couldn't live in the city without it.

Catch the annual DC Blues Society Festival, all day Saturday on Labor Day weekend, free at Carter Baron Amphitheater. In Rock Creek Park, a wonderful National Park filling a deep valley in the middle of the city. Couldn’t live in the city without it.

One tip, Bernie. Don’t knock on Al Sharpton’s door for an endorsement. He stuck to script way too long in the Tawana Brawley hoax, derailing the lives of the families of police officers and of a prosecutor accused of rape and kidnapping, all of them innocent. Until Sharpton publicly apologizes, it’s painful to see candidates provide him a shred of credibility. Stick to class acts like Harry Belafonte and Spike Lee, and to people who speak from real tragedy.

 

Mo’ money and prisons. Until last fall, and waves of criticism, Hillary was taking money from bundlers from the private prison industry, an industry that recently got notice for shoddy treatment of warehoused undocumented immigrants. Here’s a column tangential to those with vested interests in expanding prison populations.

<http://www.ibanet.org/Article/Detail.aspx?ArticleUid=408FEE48-9037-4596-A6B1-015691C99834>

A couple memories of different views on fundraising.

When I started scribbling, one of the first politicians I interviewed was Bill Proxmire of Wisconsin, then chair of the Senate banking committee. Few positions have more potential for fundraising. I asked him how he dealt with money in politics. He said in his last election he spent two hundred bucks, mostly on stamps mailing back contributions. His constituents knew he was like The Untouchables. Proxmire couldn’t be bought. And he always won by big margins.

I once asked the chief of staff of Senator Alan Cranston how his boss dealt with fundraising. He deadpanned, People think if they give you a lot of money, they’re buying influence, but all they really buy is access. Cranston was later damaged in an influence scandal involving a bank.

I think Bernie’s running a little closer in spirit to the Proxy model. Hillary,…

Everyone in Washington professes to be in your corner. Some actually are, fight nights at the DC Armory. But they don't take the head shots, up close and brutal. As this fight progressed, one photographer wept behind her lens.

Everyone in Washington professes to be in your corner. Some actually are, fight nights at the DC Armory. But they don’t take the head shots, up close and brutal. As this fight progressed, one photographer wept behind her lens.

Here’s a fine recent read from the New York Review of Books on how the Clintons prime the pump for the Clinton Foundation, and in turn how the foundation primes the pump for the campaign.

<http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2016/01/30/clinton-system-donor-machine-2016-election/>

Bernie’s not a tilt at the windmill. If it’s Bernie vs. Trump, I bet Bernie will garner more independents than Trump. And more than Hillary would pick up against Trump.  After Trump exhausts calling Bernie a socialist, Trump’s low on ammo. But Hillary presents a wealth of targets.
 
Think back to the two-for-one Clinton presidential offering in 1992. People forget that the Clintons ought to call third-party candidate Ross Perot “Uncle Ross”. It was Perot’s distaste for George Herbert Walker Bush, a former CIA Director who claimed to be “out of the loop” on Iran-Contra, that determined where Perot trained his sizable firepower. In 1996, Bill’s opponent was Bob Dole, who has a great class smart-ass sense of humor but at his core was Nixon’s hatchet man. After moving to DC I kept my Kansas voter registration for years so I could vote against him. Hillary is skilled and smart, but there is not a proven legacy of Clinton campaign juggernauts. 2008, not so great.
 
Most folk, millennial women in particular, instinctively know voting for someone primarily because of gender, race, creed, ethnicity or sexual preference is the flip-side of voting against someone primarily for the same reasons. When I voted for President Obama twice, his being mixed-race was a non-factor. Despite disappointments like Holder, I thought and still think Obama was the best choice. I believe that’s how a growing majority of Americans ultimately choose who gets the top job. Apologies to Gloria Steinem.
As Bernie channels Teddy Roosevelt in the bully pulpit, his voice rings true against The Big Money.
A small glider plane, the Space Shuttle Discovery, in one of the giant hangers at the Air & Space Museum "annex" near Dulles Airport, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA. Check for shuttle transport from Air & Space on the National Mall.

A small glider plane, the Space Shuttle Discovery, in one of the giant hangers at the Air & Space Museum “annex” near Dulles Airport, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA. Check for shuttle transport from Air & Space on the National Mall.

It’s a precarious leap of faith to envision the Clintons biting the hands that lifted them into the oligarchy.
Torrents will pour forth on Trump realities.  But people will also learn more of those pulling levers behind Hillary’s curtain.  And of their resemblance to the heavies in The Big Short and 99 Homes.
 
If Hillary takes the nomination, her slogan might be Lie back, close your eyes, and think of the Supreme Court.
Critically important, but I’m not sure that’s the stuff of revolution.  Or of voter turnout if cynicism flies off the charts.
Now I’ll wait for my musings to implode as the race progresses.  Thanks for your indulgence and best luck to the country.

 

SK

Get a little dizzy up close and personal at the Washington Monument

Get a little dizzy up close and personal at the Washington Monument

A BIT OF TOURISM, AS THIS IS A TRAVEL SITE.  Peruse the DC tourism site at <www.washington.org>.  Show up early for the free nightly 6 PM offerings at the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center. Most performances are archived for online viewing. I took my daughter to 240 or so before she said “Tilt”. Gurgle your aorta with soul food at the Florida Avenue Grill.  Try the new cuisines that have proliferated in DC, befitting what is now a truly international city, such as Gary Lee’s Las Canteras Peruvian Restaurant and Bar in the Adams-Morgan neighborhood.  Cheap but tasty and healthy? The Amsterdam Falafelshop there. That neighborhood also has lively music offerings from Madam’s Organ, the Bukom Cafe and others, but endless tunes also reverberate throughout the city, including the U-Street and H-Street corridors.  Seek out eclectic local bands like the ska-styled The Captivators, <www.thecaptivatorsband.com>.  Explore the vibrant small and regional theater scene.<http://dctheatrescene.com/>  And so much of DC is free – museums, etc… – you can’t beat it for a busman’s holiday.

Book review:  If you seek a rollicking dark view of Washington, frighten yourself with “Presidential Puppetry” by venerable journalist Andrew Kreig. You’ll hide under the bed. <http://www.presidentialpuppetry.com/>

Often overlooked by visitors, the grandeur of he Library of Congress is well worth the price of admission. Freebie, like many of Washington's better offerings.

Often overlooked by visitors, the grandeur of he Library of Congress is well worth the price of admission. Freebie, like many of Washington’s better offerings.

It's Chinatown, Jake.

It’s Chinatown, Jake.

Waiting for a plaster mask to dry, Day of the Dead at the Mexican Cultural Institute.

Waiting for a plaster mask to dry, Day of the Dead at the Mexican Cultural Institute.

2016
02/16

Category:
Uncategorized

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Vicksburg National Military Park: Reliving A Critical Civil War Campaign

Vicksburg National Military Park

By John H. Ostdick

 

All Photos Copyright 2015 The Write House: John H. Ostdick

 

Reliving A Critical Civil War CampaignVicksburg campaign map

Vicksburg National Military Park Provides Long Gaze into Key Historical Window

 

 

Billowing, bright cotton ball clouds dot a pale blue sky above the Vicksburg National Military Park as my wife and I turn into its parking lot on the back half of a soft, fluttering day being pursued by a swamping fall storm.

 

Originally, we had planned to make the 16-mile drive through the park first thing the next morning but the slogging rain we had been driving east through was scheduled to visit here overnight, and we decided to alter our schedule. We were glad to have the leisurely, dry time here.

 

The Civil War imposed major scars on this nation, both physically and spiritually. Hundreds of structures were enlisted as makeshift hospitals for the wounded, private homes became battle headquarters, and a myriad of other sites directly affected. The National Park System is caretaker of hundreds of memorials, battlefields, and military parks associated with the war.

 

The Vicksburg National Military Park is one of the most compelling, detailing the many aspects of a critical campaign waged here on a 200-foot bluff about the Mississippi River beginning in 1862. Whether a visitor dwells over many of its 1,300 statues, buildings, and markers, or just stops occasionally for more intensive scrutiny of its highlights, there are rewards aplenty. Military strategy and historical figure buffs get plenty of juice during the tour but even the uninitiated are transformed into another historical reality.

 

Union president Abraham Lincoln and his Confederate counterpart, Jefferson Davis, were of the same mind on the importance of Vicksburg, Bob Zeller wrote in Hallowed Ground Magazine in 2013. (Zeller, co-founder and president of The Center for Civil War Photograph, has written or contributed to eight books on the Civil War.)

 

“Here is the Red River, which will supply the Confederates with cattle and corn to feed their armies,” Zeller quotes Lincoln as saying during a November 1861 with some senators and military personnel. “There are the Arkansas and White Rivers, which can supply cattle and hogs by the thousands. From Vicksburg, these supplies can be distributed by rail all over the Confederacy. Then there is that great depot of supplies on the Yazoo. Let us get Vicksburg and all that country is ours. The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket. I am acquainted with that region and know what I am talking about, and valuable as New Orleans will be to us, Vicksburg will be more so. We may take all the northern ports of the Confederacy, and they can still defy us from Vicksburg.”

 

Zeller also quotes Confederate President Jefferson Davis as saying. “Vicksburg is the nail head that holds the South’s two halves together … the Gibraltar of the West.”

 

Vicksburg’s tall bluffs and hills protected it from the raging waters of a flooding Mississippi. A local newspaper editor once described it as a “city of a hundred hills,” and its Civil-War-era residents usually spoke of going “up” or “down” to visit neighbors. In addition to providing a tremendous natural defense, it offered a myriad of spots from where Confederate troops could bombard the Union vessels deployed in the rivers about it.

 

Enriching The Drive

 

Some pre-visit National Parks site reading and a driving-tour CD of the Park (sold at the main office, an informative bargain) prove especially valuable, as the running narrative, with built-in directed stops for get-out-of-car-and-explore moments, allows the imagination to recreate places and moments critical to immersion into the history here.

 

For example:

 

  • The man leading the defense of Vicksburg was not of the south at all. John C. Pemberton, a West Point-trained engineer and native Pennsylvanian, chose to fight for the Confederacy in deference to his Southern-born wife.

 

  • Understanding the heavy fire that Brig. Gen. John Thayer’s men faced while trying to storm a Confederate-held hill is more vivid as we walk through the six-foot deep trench they dug under the road at Thayer’s Approach to provide cover from Confederate fire.

 

  • At first blush, it is unconceivable that all of the devastation here occurred on such a tree-dotted canvass. Indeed, that was not the case: The upper terrain at the time of the siege was virtually treeless. Most ridge tops had been cleared for farming and roads prior to the war, and the remaining forests cleared for use in building the defenses around Vicksburg once the conflict started. (The trees now present in the park are the result of erosion-prevention measures taken by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.)

 

  • Gen. William T. Sherman ordered an assault against the high ground of Chickasaw Bluffs north of the town early in the campaign, which brought nearly 1,800 Union casualties, compared to just more than 200 Confederate ones. Those losses, as well as the strong Confederate defensive position, prompted Grant to devise a siege plan designed to cut off the town from all supply (the plan that is still studied today as a classic example of how to conduct siege warfare). Reinforced to more than 70,000 strong, the Union forces for weeks dug zig-and-zag trenches to escape the aim of Confederate snipers while working steadily closer to Pemberton’s positions.

 

  • Inside Vicksburg, civilians seeking shelter from cannon shelves huddled in hot, air-deprived caves. As food supplies dwindled week by week, horses, dogs, cats, and reportedly even rats became part of the diet for soldiers and civilians alike. Union troops were generally able to retreat into shaded areas for rest, where they enjoyed able supplies. Cut off from re-supply, Confederate troops had little shelter from the sun and eventually fed on mule meat and a tawdry staple of pea bread, a basic grounding of peas into a powder, mixed with water and salt to form a bread with a rock-hard exterior and mushy flavorless interior.

 

  • The rose bush-splashed grounds of the Shirley House, the only surviving wartime structure in the Park, seems oddly out of place among the monuments here. The soldiers dubbed the structure the White House; it served as headquarters for the 45th Illinois infantry, who members dug hundreds of shelters around it to protect themselves from Confederate artillery fire. Mrs. Shirley, who had refused to leave her home, found herself between the two opposing forces at the outset of battle. She hung a white flag in the window but she and her son were quickly escorted to a ravine below her house, where they lived in a cave.

 

  • There is a reason the granite-and-marble Illinois Memorial in the Park, as the state had by far the most Union soldiers involved in the campaign. The Illinois State Commission that oversaw the project mandated that no device indicative of war appear on the monument. Dedicated in 1906, the memorial walls bear 60 bronze tablets with the names of all 36,325 Illinois soldiers who participated in the Vicksburg Campaign, arranged by regiment.

 

 

Describing the Terror

 

A portion of a May 31, 1863, letter from Minnesota unit combatant William G. Christie, written to his father, James, illustrates the fury played out here (letters from the Minnesota Historical Society collection include misspellings that occurred in original documents).

 

Dear Father,

 

 I will try in this letter, to describe one of the Grandest sights, I ever saw.

 

This morning at three o’clock, the Batteries of Gen. Grant’s Army at his Place, oppened at once on the doommed city of Vicksburgh, And the effects of such a sight allmost defies description. The line extends some eight miles round the Beseiged town. There is Artillery enough on this line to shoot from one to the other.

 

Now just stand with me on the Point where our Battery is Placed, and see the vivid flashes of the Guns, like lightining, and the showers of shell, as they made there quick curves through the air, hissing and hurtling, and finnally explodding with a report almost as loud as the Gun. The air waved like the sea, and vibratted with a horse murmuring sound, while the valleys were filled with the loud thundering sound of the detonation of the firing of the motors Boats, on the River and the flash of there shots, were seen on the Backgroun exactly like lightening,

 

But still there is one phase of the scene I have not spoken of and that is the Burning of the fuse, in each shell, while they are going through the air. The fuse burns, with a blue light, and looks to say the least very Devilish.

 

A Costly Terror

 

Standing in silence next to the line of cannons at the De Golyer Battery, named in honor of Capt. Samuel De Golyer, who lost his life here while directing the 12th Michigan battery, the sheer volume of the terror unleashed at its ongoing target, the Great Redoubt on the hill above (a redoubt is an enclosed square or rectangular earthwork with four fronts and four angles).

 

Before Pembleton rode out to work out a surrender to Grant on July 3, 1863, the battle for Vicksburg imposed some excruciating damage: Of the about 110, 000 forces involved (77,000 Union and 33,000 Confederates), the Union forces reported 806 soldiers killed, 3,940 wounded, and 164 missing or captured, while the Confederate troops lost 805, had 1,938 wounded and 29,620 missing or captured.

 

The 116-acre Vicksburg National Cemetery contains the remains of 17,000 Civil War Union soldiers, a number unmatched by any other national cemetery. Seventy-five percent of the dead are listed as unknowns. Rounded, upright headstones mark the graves of the known soldiers, while small, square blocks, etched with a grave number only, designate the burials of the unknowns.

 

Confederate dead from the Vicksburg campaign, originally buried behind Confederate lines, were later re-interred in the Vicksburg City Cemetery (Cedar Hill Cemetery), in an area called “Soldiers’ Rest.” About 5,000 Confederates, of which 1,600 are identified, have been re-buried there.

 

Each state that supplied forces to the campaign was given opportunity to make its own memorial to the men who fought here. Unlike many of the southern states that suffered from crippled economies for years after the war concluded, their Union counterparts soon enacted monuments.  In 1903, Massachusetts was the first state to erect a memorial to its soldiers.  The styles of the various monuments differ because many were not installed until much later.

 

The National Cemetery System, enacted in 1862, decreed that  “…the soldiers who shall die in the service of this country…” (which, at the time, meant those in the Union Army) could be in its cemeteries. In 1873, Congress extended the right of burial in National Cemeteries to all honorably discharged Union Civil War veterans. Confederate veterans became eligible for interment in National Cemeteries only if they later served the United States in the Indian Wars or Spanish-American War. There are some exceptions, which include Confederate prisoners interred in Arlington National Cemetery (originally given civilian burials), and three Confederate soldiers known to have been mistakenly buried in Vicksburg National Cemetery in the 1860s.

 

The cemetery also accommodated local veterans of the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, and the Korean conflict before being closed to interments in 1961.

 

Pemberton officially surrendered to Grant July 4. It was an excruciating day for the suffering people of Vicksburg.  The city would not celebrate the Fourth of July as a holiday again until well into the 20th century.

 

Standing on the hills here on lazy afternoon, the only sounds hints of the outside world faintly making their way from surrounding highways, the aura of loss rides on the buffeting breeze. This is not a place for celebrating, but honoring.

 

 

For more information, visit Vicksburg National Military Park.

2015
11/22

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FLASH FIRE Q & A: Wes Lieberher

FLASH FIRE Q & A

This is the first in an ongoing series of provocative grill sessions with some of the best chefs in the world. This month we bring you Wes Lieberher , Executive Chef at Beer Belly in Los Angeles.

INTERVIEW CONDUCTED BY JR Rosenthal, Food and Wine Editor, www.naturaltraveler.com.

 

  1. Do you have a favorite go-to dish to have with drinks?

 

If we are talking alcoholic drinks, I’d have to say my favorite thing to eat with a beer is cheese and charcuterie. My favorite cheese is Rogue Smokey Blue Cheese and my favorite charcuterie is Speck Prosciutto. If it’s a full meal I’ll go with braised short rib, for sure.

 

  1. Culinary Inspiration : What or who got you started with cooking?

 

Me earliest memory of making food was pulling all the condiments out of my mom’s pantry and mixing all of them together in different combinations. It’s actually pretty funny I’m writing a sauce book because that’s really where it all started. I started cooking in restaurants out of necessity for a job and was told I was good at it, but I really didn’t enjoy at first. It wasn’t until I went to work for Chef Jason Gleichman in downtown Philadelphia that I realized how many possibilities there were in making food. I eventually became Executive Chef of his restaurant.

 

  1. Favorite color?

 

Black. But since my wife keeps telling me that black is a shade not a color, then my next favorite color is red.

 

  1. Favorite restaurant?

 

I don’t really have a favorite restaurant of all time, but my favorite restaurant at the moment is Osteria La Buca at Wilton Pl and Melrose Ave in LA. My favorite restaurant in Philly is Heritage, which is run by my buddy Chef Sean McGee.

 

  1. Best meal you’ve ever had: when, where, and why?

 

This was a tough one to think of, but I let my mind drift and it keeps taking me back to one moment. I was about 10 years old at my home in PA and my Aunt Jan was visiting from Louisiana. She made this monsterous lasagna that was filled with all kinds of cheese and I remember the middle was lined with Velveeta. It was probably the best thing I’ve ever tasted as a kid. I wouldn’t say overall best meal because of all the food I’ve discovered since then, but it is such an amazing food memory that the reaction I had really was for the best meal I’ve ever had. I think about it all the time.

 

  1. Favorite food city?

 

Philadelphia of course! Come on…cheesesteaks, roast pork, pretzels, pork roll, scrapple….and the amazing restaurant scene.

 

  1. Favorite condiment?

 

MAYO!! Just kidding. When I read this question out loud my wife said “Oh, that’s easy for you! .Mustard!” I do adore mustard. All kinds of mustard. But I also love BBQ sauce. No particular brand. I just love making it and eating it.

 

  1. Favorite movie?

 

Another tough one because I’m obsessed with movies. If I had to pick one movie to watch before I kicked the bucket it would be The Goonies.

Runners up…Die Hard, National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, The Breakfast Club, Real Genius, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Red Dawn, Blues Brothers, Big Trouble in Little China. I’ve literally spent countless hours of my life watching these movies alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2015
11/16

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DOUBLING DOWN ON THANKSGIVING

DOUBLING DOWN ON THANKSGIVING

By JR Rosenthal

Food and Wine Editor, NT Traveler

It’s been said that you have to wait 364 days to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner, and this culinary form of purgatory (a long one!) tempts both patience and self-restraint—in truth, November 26 is the only day on the 2015 calendar that allows for the type of Roman-debauchery style of dining that would make Caligula and Babe Ruth proud.

As always at Natural Traveler, the goal is to champion the menu at Keens Steakhouse in New York City, the best steakhouse in New York. I don’t make this claim without having had more than 50 dinners at Keens over the past two years. Every menu item has been sampled and analyzed. Each dinner special (the smoked 12-ounce Filet, for instance,) enjoyed for its excellent quality (hand-selected USDA Prime) and an uncanny ability for the broiler chef to turn out a dish that’s cooked exactly to the doneness one desires.

Keen’s Executive Chef Bill Rodgers is like the Rock of Gibraltar at Thanksgiving: He rolls out of bed at 3 a.m. on Turkey Day to insure th20130905_133511at all of the turkeys, Filets, Prime Ribs, Lobsters and Lamb Chops are prepped for a marathon day of dining pleasure.

Here, in order of the author’s preference, are the items on the 2015 Keens Turkey-day menu. As needed, I will quote Chef Rodgers to explain or expand upon a special dish.

 

ICED RELISH TRAY

Yeah, I know what you are thinking: Who cares about the relish tray? At Keens, though, it’s a big deal. The crisp celery, vibrant-orange carrots, tangy-green olives and house-made blue cheese dressing (with large chunks of imported blue cheese) are the perfect jump-start to the meal.

STARTERS (Select 1)

Twice-Baked Stilton Puff: A new item for Thanksgiving and so here are a few comments from Chef Rodgers: “This is a savory Stilton soufflé made with Tuxford and Tibbit Stilton, eggs, sugar, milk, flour, butter, nutmeg and chives. We serve it with a Sauce Mousseline (hollandaise). It is twice-baked in the sense that each soufflé is first baked and then allowed to cool at room temperature. They are then warmed and sauced to order.

“One of our waiters who grew up in Paris told me that this is a traditional dish served in a French home for a special occasion, “said Rodgers, “and another great element of the dish is that it won’t fall immediately like a traditional soufflé.”

Roasted Pumpkin with Figs, Arugula and Ben’s Herb Cream Cheese: A melding of the savory flavors locally-made Ben’s cream cheese, the peppery notes of the arugula, the sweetness of the figs, and the seasonal freshness of the pumpkin.

Grilled Thick-Cut Berkshire Bacon: A bacon-fest that exceeds the quality of the bacon served at Peter Luger, as the Berkshire pork ramps up the flavors to another dimension. Berkshire pork was bred for the King of England, and is noted for its darker color (pink-hue), rich flavor and marbled character. The bacon is served with cherry tomatoes for a hint of acid and watercress.

Iced Shrimp Cocktail: This is a lighter starter; it has a fresh, subtle flavor and is served with an exquisite horseradish-infused cocktail sauce.

Maryland Lump Crab Cakes: The crab stands in the forefront—as it should, with a  minimal amount of breading or filler.

SOUP/SALAD (Select 1)

Three Mushroom Soup: Another new offering from Chef Bill’s bag of tricks: Says Rodgers, “This is a savory blend of Shiitake, Cremini and domestic mushrooms pureed with chicken stock, sherry and cream.”

Iceberg Wedge: The best blue-cheese dressing I have ever had, with chunks of blue cheese and just the right ratio of richness to the crisp, fresh-from-the garden iceberg lettuce.

MAIN DISHES (Select 1)

Organic Free-Range Turkey from Quattro Farms in Pleasant Valley, New York: This is not your grandmother’s dried- out turkey that puts you in a daze. Chef Rodgers butters these beauties and cooks them to perfection. Quattro Farms produces the best organic turkeys available in New York State. Established in the early 1900s, this family-owned business produces all-natural free-range poultry and game. The animals are raised humanely and fed high-quality, locally-grown feeds. The turkey is served with a dressing that’s made with chicken stock and speaks to the savory goodness to complement a perfectly-cooked turkey.

King’s Cut Prime Rib: As good a prime rib that was ever served in any restaurant. The USDA Prime cut gives you the marbling, flavor and tenderness that you’d expect from the top house of beef in NYC.

Colorado Double Lamb Chops: The farms of Colorado produce the best lamb anywhere (including New Zealand), and on your holiday plate you will get two 6 ounce double lamb chops served with house-made minted lamb jus.

Prime Filet Mignon: I’m not a big fan of Filet, but this 12 ounce USDA Prime version packs so much flavor that you won’t miss the turkey one bit.

Steamed Whole Maine Lobster: Delicate lobsters that are sourced from the Maine waters and then cooked to perfection. The excellent service staff will then crack the shells and serve you the delicate meat at the ready; for once, you won’t have to fight for your lobster or wear a stupid apron.

SIDES COME WITH ALL MAIN DISHES

Glazed Carrots

Smashed Candied Yams

Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Fine String Beans (Haricot Vert)

DESSERTS (Select 1)

Warm Apple Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream

A selection of Sorbet and Ice Cream

Pumpkin Pie with Ginger Cream

Lady M Chocolate Cake

Coffee and Tea are included

$115 per person

$55 for children under 12

If YOU GO

Keens Steakhouse

72 W. 36th Street

New York City, New York 10018

212-947-3636

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