Sunday, August 31, 2008

September's eve

August has been a chunky month. As it comes to a close, a few thoughts.

Gustav gusting
My wife once lived on Louisiana's Gulf Coast. It's no surprise, then, that she's been keeping a close eye on Hurricane Gustav and exchanging e-mails with friends in New Orleans and Houston.


Like most Americans, I lack Mrs. KintlaLake's personal connection to this imminent natural disaster, so I've been watching local, state and federal attempts to avoid repeating Katrina mistakes. I've also noticed some residents' inflated sense of entitlement to government aid in preparing for and evacuating from the storm.

Some of us remember one particularly disturbing after-effect of Katrina -- the City of New Orleans seizing more than a thousand firearms from law-abiding citizens, guns that weren't part of any criminal investigation.

The city's reckless violation of Second Amendment rights left these citizens unarmed in the face of roving gangs, home invaders and other criminals. The National Rifle Association has filed a lawsuit against Mayor Ray Nagin and Police Superintendent Warren Riley.

As compassionate Americans, we hold the residents of the Gulf Coast in our hearts as Gustav approaches.

To Mayor Nagin and Supt. Riley: We'll be watching.

Sarah Palin
In the interest of fairness, I haven't yet seen how well Gov. Palin handles the pressure-cooker that is national politics. Fortunately for her, she has 65 days to show us what she's got -- besides her gender, ultra-conservative ideology and featherweight résumé, anyway. Unfortunately for those of us who like to apply independent critical thought to such things, 65 days probably isn't enough time.

Let's be honest about one thing, though -- viewing Sen. John McCain's choice of Gov. Palin as anything but a fourth-quarter "hail Mary" at this point is symptomatic of a serious Kool-Aid overdose.

Republican convention
For obvious reasons, the "disunity" angle was all the buzz during last week's Democratic convention. Republicans, set to meet this week, have their own problems, of course.

Sen. McCain, whose support among humorless conservatives had been hanging by the proverbial thread, apparently reinforced the tether by selecting Gov. Palin. Thing is, his choice exposed another fracture: "scorecard conservatives" vs. rank-and-file Republicans.

The former, litmus paper in-hand, labor under the delusion that they can win elections all by themselves. The latter know that a pristine conservative ticket has virtually no chance of succeeding, so they forgo right-wing idealism in favor of a relatively conservative alternative -- and a shot at a Republican win in November.

At the other political extreme, pure liberal ideology doesn't suffer from conservatives' delusion -- it's the difference between exclusivity (conservative) and inclusion (liberal). Big-tent liberal ideology dilutes identity, however, something that today's sheepish electorate craves. As a result, inclusion is a strategy that doesn't reliably deliver election-day wins -- even when it should.

In any case, this week's Republican convention has potential for true drama and divisiveness, albeit with better haircuts, real diamonds, more expensive suits and probably less weeping.

Pander-off
I despise watching politicians suck up to voters -- unless they're sucking up to me, that is.

After announcing their engagement in Dayton on Friday, Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin dropped by the Buckeye Corner on Lane Avenue in Columbus. He bought an armload of Buckeye shirts and other trinkets, and she bought an Ohio State cheerleader outfit for her young daughter.

Isn’t that just precious? Score!

Late yesterday, the Obama-Biden ticket held a rally in the Columbus suburb of Dublin -- wisely, well after Ohio State's game with Youngstown State. After congratulating the Buckeyes on their 43-0 victory, Sen. Barack Obama shouted into the microphone, "O-H!"

Immediately, 19,000 voices responded as one, "I-O!" The
antiphonal chant between candidate and crowd was repeated twice more.

In these parts, you can win a lot of votes by pandering to OSU fans, but anyone can swipe a credit card. It takes a professional suckup to lead a cheer.

Advantage: Obama.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Another season begins


By 9am this morning, Mrs. KintlaLake and I were celebrating the 26th year of Hineygate -- sipping overpriced Budweiser from souvenir mugs, rocking to the
Danger Brothers and seeing familiar faces in familiar places.

It was good to be back among friends again.

Rewind: Mike Huckabee

Back when former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was competing for the GOP nomination, I found him likeable and straightforward. I believe in the strict separation of church and state, however, and every time Gov. Huckabee crossed that line, he reinforced my hope that we never, ever elect a cleric to the office of President.

During Sen. Barack Obama's acceptance speech Thursday night, I was reminded of one issue on which Gov. Huckabee and I absolutely agree: Second Amendment rights.

Here's what Sen. Obama said:

"The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than they are for those plagued by gang violence in Cleveland, but don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals."

The Democratic nominee's reference to hunting brought to mind an interview that Glenn Beck did with Gov. Huckabee last October. Here's some of what Gov. Huckabee said.

"...the Second Amendment is not about hunting. I get so frustrated when some candidates asked about the Second Amendment, they start telling me, 'Well, I have a hunting license, and I’m a member of the NRA.' Look, so do I. It's not about the Second Amendment.

"The Second Amendment is about freedom. It's about protecting ourselves, our families, our property, and ultimately, if necessary -- I know this sounds pretty bold -- but from our own government, when they get out of control. That's what it's all about."

"...I wouldn't appoint an attorney general, as president, who didn't understand what the Second Amendment did, and it gives the rights to individuals, not to geographical locations, not to police entities. It gives that as a fundamental right, just in the same way -- if we value the First Amendment, then we have to value the Second. And I don't understand why more people, particularly in the media, who embrace, love, and herald the First Amendment, don't realize that, once you start chipping away at any of them, you chip away at all of them."

"...(the government confiscating firearms from law-abiding citizens) is an ultimate violation of my basic constitutional right to protect myself.

"And unless I'm a criminal, they have no right to confiscate anything from me, especially -- see, they’re not confiscating my firearm. Here’s what we've got to understand. They're confiscating my constitutional rights. And once they take that one away, then they can take away every other right, the right of a fair trial, the right of speech, the right of assembly, the right of worship. It doesn't stop.

"And I'm not trying to be some, you know, radical guy. I'm just trying to say that this is a dangerous precedent, and those people who defend the destruction of the Second Amendment need to think through where they're headed with that."

Right on, Governor. Μολὼν λαβέ.

Friday, August 29, 2008

All in

Oh, John, you wacky maverick.

The media are reporting that Sen. McCain is about to introduce Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate.

On issues that matter to me, Gov. Palin is an NRA Life member and believes in free-market capitalism. She's an avid off-road-vehicle enthusiast. So far, so good.

Conservatives should love her, since her stated positions generally are in-line with right-wing ideology. As a woman -- and this certainly played into Sen. McCain's calculus -- she may attract some disaffected PUMA-crats.

Prior to taking office in 2006, 44-year-old Gov. Palin served four years on the city council of small Wasilla, Alaska and six more as mayor. After a losing bid for Lieutenant Governor, she was appointed Ethics Commissioner of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

That's it. I think it's safe to say that the McCain campaign's indictment of Sen. Barack Obama as unacceptably young and inexperienced is off the table.

One more thing -- Gov. Palin currently is under investigation for abuse of power in the dismissal of the state's Commissioner of Public Safety.

For "scorecard conservatives," Gov. Palin is a great choice. For anyone who wants Sen. McCain to win on November 4th, maybe not so much.

Overload & out

I stayed up past my bedtime last night to watch the close of the Democratic Party's convention. Now this morning, I'm still sorting through what I saw and heard -- between the event itself and its historic significance, it was a lot to absorb.

Before going any further here, I'm compelled to mention the television commercial that Sen. John McCain's campaign began running before Sen. Obama's speech.

No attacks, no name-calling. No Paris and no podium. Speaking softly and looking directly into the camera, Sen. McCain said simply this:

"Senator Obama, this is truly a good day for America. Too often the achievements of our opponents go unnoticed. So I wanted to stop and say, 'Congratulations.' How perfect that your nomination would come on this historic day. Tomorrow, we’ll be back at it. But tonight, Senator, job well done."
On a night when he could've tried (probably in vain) to wrest the spotlight from the Democrats by leaking the name of his running mate, Sen. McCain took the High Road exit. His televised message was generous, the classiest of class acts.

Likewise to you, Sen. McCain, well done.

Last night's extravaganza will redefine the term "spectacle," political and otherwise.

Those big-tent Democrats rented the biggest tent in Denver -- Mile-High Stadium, which eventually would accommodate an estimated 85,000 -- and it wasn't big enough. The lines of people waiting to get in reportedly stretched for six miles. Far away, in places like New York City's Times Square, thousands more gathered to watch the event on television.

By comparison, Sen. McCain is said to be struggling to draw 10,000 for a rally today in Dayton, Ohio, where he's expected to announce his running mate.

So when you hear the GOP poke fun at the "Temple of Obama," the next time some surrogate pooh-poohs Sen. Obama's celebrity and oratory, know this: The Republican Party would sell its collective soul, at wholesale prices, for the conservative equivalent of Barack Obama -- wildly popular, smart, articulate and disciplined, a candidate who both inspires an audience and expands the base.

Over the last 25 years, professionally, I've written my share of speeches and have delivered a few of my own. Suspending my political preferences for an hour last night, I had the privilege of enjoying what I consider to be the best political speech I've ever heard.

Sen. Obama's "A More Perfect Union" address could lay claim to being better rhetorically, arguably a classic, but his acceptance speech checked every box and pushed every button. Under unimaginably high expectations, he delivered with an extraordinary mastery of medium and message.

While I wasn't persuaded, I was impressed -- Sen. Obama's performance was, in a word, brilliant, and the Democrats have every right to be pleased (and no doubt relieved) about how their nominating convention turned out. Sen. McCain and his party have their work cut out for them.

Around midnight, I traipsed down to the kitchen for a snack and found my older spawn in the living room, TiVo remote in-hand, intently watching a replay of Sen. Obama's speech.

It made me smile.

He's just 16, which means that he has more than politics on his hormone-charged plate these days, but the fact that he's interested in this campaign is a very, very good thing.

In less than two years, he'll be expressing his choices as a voter. Whatever those choices may be, and whether or not they mirror my own, today I take pride in knowing that he's already distinguishing himself from the masses -- because he's paying attention.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Conventional wisdom

For all their high profile and national importance, political conventions are undeniably hokey affairs -- and there's nothing as corny as the roll call of states.

That said, I absolutely love the roll calls.

A select few delegates, many of whom seldom (if ever) speak publicly, get to trumpet their state's endearing qualities -- from snow-capped mountains to gumbo, from native sons to sketchy claims to the same -- before announcing their delegation's votes.

It's a chance to say, "This is my home, I'm damned proud of it, and I'm gonna tell you why."

The Democrats just finished the formal nomination of Sen. Barack Obama to be the party's nominee, and they did it in unconventional fashion. The states and territories, in alphabetical order, began casting their votes. California and Illinois passed. New Hampshire and New Jersey apparently got the "unity" memo and went unanimously for Sen. Obama. New Mexico yielded back to Illinois, which yielded to New York.

Sen. Hillary Clinton then stepped to the New York delegation's microphone and entered a motion to suspend the roll call and nominate Sen. Obama by acclamation.

Looks like she got the memo, too.

The motion carried. The arena celebrated. The PUMAs sulked.

While I can't be swayed to vote for Sen. Obama come November, I also can't be ignorant of the historical significance of his nomination. As a white kid growing up in the 1960s, I saw the civil-rights movement reach its crescendo. I was a curious and politically aware sixth-grader when Dr. King was assassinated. Seated in front of my family's black-and-white Zenith, I watched television coverage of violent race riots.

I was born early enough to see "Whites Only" signs when my family vacationed in the South, and now I've lived long enough to see a black man win his party's nomination for the office of President.

That's the best kind of convention drama I can imagine.

For this nation -- and for this patriot -- it's a proud moment.

End game (or not)

Speaking to the Democratic Party Convention last night, Sen. Hillary Clinton pitched lots of chum into the water -- from two separate buckets.

With her right hand, she dutifully shoveled pro-Obama and anti-McCain bait to the party faithful. Her left, however, was busy tossing bloody crumbs to her PUMAs -- not enough to satisfy their hunger, but more than enough to keep them hanging around the boat.


Sen. Clinton's address began selflessly enough, a full-frontal embrace of Sen. Barack Obama, but again and again she waxed wistful about her failed campaign. She repeatedly there-thered her "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsuits."
"You taught me so much, and you made me laugh, and, yes, you even made me cry. You allowed me to become part of your lives, and you became part of mine."
There are no stop signs on Memory Lane, and so Sen. Clinton's interminable "farewell tour" rolls on. Can't you just feel the catharsis?

(snif, sob)

Standing in a fractious climate of her own making, she paid only lip service to party unity. Take this attempt at cat-herding:
"I want you to ask yourselves: Were you in this campaign just for me, or were you in it for...all the people in this country who feel invisible?"
Now there's a question she shouldn't have begged.

It was answered on behalf of all PUMAs by tearful delegate Anne Price-Mills, who was interviewed by CNN after the speech:

"You know that was presidential. You know it!"

"I need (Sen. Obama) to remember that there were 18 million voices that recognized the potential of that woman to lead this country and I don’t think he’s done that."

Ms. Price-Mills went on angrily to assure the world that while she won't vote for Sen. John McCain, she may well stay home on November 4th -- unless, presumably, Sen. Obama dumps Sen. Joe Biden for Sen. Clinton.

Maybe Michelle and Barack could re-name the Obama daughters Hillary and Chelsea...

Then again, this isn't really about Hillary Clinton anymore, is it? The monster she created now needs its master only for inspiration -- and again last night, she delivered.

Sen. McCain must be pleased.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Smells like...

I'm not really a YouTube kind of guy, but this is something I just had to share.



"Because it would feel kind of sexist to call it a 'hissy fit.'"

Priceless.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Bounty in August

After a soggy June, we had almost no rain in July, historically the wettest month of the year around here.

August hasn't been much better, although one night last week, when the rest of the area saw only a trace, our rain gauge registered over two inches. We also got an unexpected downpour last night, dropping better than an inch.

In our garden, all of the herbs, with the exception of a couple of ill-timed cilantro plants, are doing well. The peas should've been thinned early on, but they still provide the occasional snack while I'm out tending the plot.

Thumbs-up on this year's crop of lettuce. Thumbs-down on the radishes, most of which again rooted up and sideways instead of down. The soil was plenty friable, so that's a puzzler.

Our lone (and quite prolific) tomatillo plant, a last-minute experiment, seems bent on taking over an entire bed. The pasillas and jalapeños are teasing us, mostly. True to form, we're still awaiting the first habaneros.

And then there are the tomatoes. Every one of our seven plants is loaded with fruit and six have grown higher than their cages -- one, in fact, is taller than I am, and I'm a tall guy. The big slicers are still green, but we've been enjoying fresh plum and cherry tomatoes for several weeks now.

Out in our compost pile, by the way, is an eighth plant, a volunteer that sprang from a few on-the-vine tomatoes we discarded last fall -- and it, too, is loaded.

In the morning, I believe I'll harvest some of those sweet-as-sugar cherry tomatoes and a jalapeño or two. I'll add some locally grown corn, shaved from the cob, along with chopped red onion, minced garlic, black beans, a few sprigs of cilantro, the juice of a lime, extra-virgin olive oil, fresh-ground black pepper and a pinch of cumin.

Tomorrow night, we feast on salsa fresca!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Epiphany


The Associated Press is reporting that Sen. Hillary Clinton is expected to release her delegates to Sen. Barack Obama at a reception in Denver this Wednesday.

Certainly not today -- not before the convention begins. Not last week, not last month. And heaven forbid, not two months ago in Unity, New Hampshire, when she endorsed Sen. Obama.

Wednesday.

No cause for alarm, however -- as long as PUMA shows up in Denver, drama is still on the convention schedule.

I can hardly wait.

Denver drama?

The anticipation is killing me.

When Democrats gavel their convention into session tomorrow, there will be nothing left to decide. Primary and caucus voters chose Sen. Barack Obama, and he picked Sen. Joe Biden -- done.

It's a climate that begs for acclamation, if not outright coronation. This convention has every reason to be an unrestrained show of unity, a week-long party the likes of which Denver hasn't seen since John Elway's helicopter.

Ah, but a pooper lurks behind the punch bowl, and it goes by the name of PUMA -- Party Unity My Ass.

PUMA and its partners-in-denial are devoted to delusion, committed to ensuring that "Hillary Clinton gets the nomination of the Democratic Party at the Denver Convention." Consequences be damned, of course.

Even Sen. Clinton herself, along with surrogates like Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, is promoting the "catharsis" that will be enjoyed by her supporters when her name is placed into nomination.

Apparently this is supposed to be an enormous psychotherapy session, not a political convention, intended to knit the deep emotional wounds inflicted by backing a candidate who didn't get enough votes to secure the nomination of her party.

My first reaction to this sort of orchestrated tantrum is, "Just stop it!" -- when you're dead, as the saying goes, you should have the decency to fall down. I've had it up to here with the whiny indignation of Lanny Davis, Harold Ickes and Kiki McLean. Get over it, already.

And then I come to my senses.

First of all, the more contentious the Democrats' convention, the more damaged the Obama-Biden ticket, and the less likely we are to see four years (or eight) of entitlements-on-steroids and the trampling of our Second Amendment rights.

Never mind the issues, though -- just the sheer entertainment potential of an estrogen-charged revolt in Denver is tantalizing. Will there be a walkout? Will there be a second ballot? Will former Pres. Bill Clinton's faint praise for Sen. Obama damn the nominee to defeat? Will every delegate get a "Participant" ribbon?

The mind reels.

As embarrassing as it'd be to see thousands of adults behaving like a bunch of incorrigible three-year-olds, I enthusiastically endorse a furiously raucous Democratic Party convention. Melodrama would be ideal; drama will suffice.

Short of all-out fistfights, I'd be satisfied if the party spends the next seven days planting big, wet, sloppy kisses on Sen. Clinton's ass -- I mean, how else will her poor, suffering supporters be able to begin the healing process?

Catharsis -- catch it!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Thunderclap

It's official -- Sen. Barack Obama has tapped Sen. Joe Biden to be his running mate.

Most of what I have to say about this, I
said a few days ago. For Sen. Obama and the Democratic Party, choosing Sen. Biden appears to be a smart play. For those of us who treasure our Second Amendment rights, it's disturbing news. A lot can (and will) happen over the next 73 days, including Sen. John McCain's choice of a running mate and both parties' conventions in just the next two weeks.

And the thunder rolls.

Friday, August 22, 2008

One better

A couple of weeks ago, I went shopping for a toothbrush. In the middle of the dental-care aisle was a virtual forest of choices -- literally thousands of devices, each promising to solve everything from gum disease to high gas prices.

Some spun, some vibrated, and some did both. Some played music. A number of them featured a tongue scraper, for anyone who actually does that sort of thing. Short handles, long handles. Straight handles, bent handles. Handles with a squiggle that wiggle in the middle.

If this is starting to sound like Dr. Seuss, that's exactly how it felt.

The closest I could come to an ordinary toothbrush was a two-dollar model with a piece of soft rubber, resembling a chunk of bath mat, nestled among its nylon bristles. I have no idea why it's there.

For the most part, "new and improved" is pure hype, nothing more. Just as I was about to make "simpler is always better" a personal rule, however, I discovered an exception.

I generally carry my keys clipped to a belt loop with one of those not-for-climbing aluminum carabiners. It's convenient, albeit noisy, and it eliminates the wad in my pants pocket. Most important, it helps me avoid the embarrassment of inadvertently tripping my car alarm or, worse, our home's security system. (Don't ask me how I know this.) Besides, these novelty 'biners are so cheap that they've become common giveaways.

Simple, functional and free. What could be better?

Enter the S-Biner™ by Nite Ize.

As the name suggests, its stainless-steel frame is shaped like the letter, and the S-Biner features two spring-loaded gates. Five sizes and three colors are available. Like cheap carabiners, S-Biners can be used to dangle key rings, water bottles, knife sheaths and the like.

Price? Between two and four bucks, depending on the size.

I've been using a couple of S-Biners for about a month. In addition to being sturdier and more secure than novelty carabiners, I've found them much easier to clip and un-clip. I'm impressed, and more than a little surprised.


I also agree with Backpacker magazine, which honored this humble little widget with its 2008 Editors’ Choice Award, when it said that S-Biners "rival duct tape and super glue in the cost-to-versatility department."

The S-Biner is better because it works better without being unnecessarily complicated or tarted-up. That's what makes it a real improvement, and I'll gladly pay a few bucks for that.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Storm front

With three National Rifle Association members in our household, we get all of the organization's magazines. This month's issues seemed unusually hefty when they arrived in yesterday's mail.

I picked up my copy of American Rifleman and began leafing through it. Advertising sales are good, it appears, and the editorial content is substantial this time around. In all three publications is a two-page spread exhorting me to oppose the candidacy of Sen. Barack Obama, complete with six (count 'em) corresponding tear-out cards for me to distribute to my fellow gun owners.

Anyone who values our Constitutional right to keep and bear arms should fear the prospect of an Obama presidency. Unlike typical election-year fear mongering, however, the NRA's campaign is based on facts -- drawing from both Sen. Obama's record and his rhetoric.

The association's latest volley is "Barack Obama's Ten-Point Plan to 'Change' The Second Amendment":

Ban the use of firearms for home defense.

Pass federal laws eliminating your Right to Carry.

Ban the manufacture, sale & possession of handguns.

Close down 90% of the gun shops in America.

Ban rifle ammunition commonly used for hunting & sport shooting.

Increase federal taxes on guns and ammunition by 500%.

Restore voting rights for five million criminals including those who have been convicted of using a gun to commit a violent crime.

Expand the Clinton semi-auto ban to include millions more firearms.

Mandate a government-issued license to purchase a firearm.

Appoint judges to the U.S. Supreme Court & Federal judiciary who share his views on the Second Amendment.

That list is distilled from "On the Second Amendment, Don’t Believe Obama!" (pdf), which should be required reading for every American gun owner. The expanded version includes 16 citations validating the NRA's pessimism.

Supporters of Sen. Obama will counter with what he's
said on the campaign trail -- "I am not going to take guns away from anybody" -- but the NRA isn't fooled by such pandering, and neither am I.

This week, in advance of the major parties' conventions, attention has turned to the nominees' choice of running mates -- the so-called "veepstakes" -- and both campaigns are making sure that certain names get a lot of chatter. For gun owners who need another reason to oppose Sen. Obama's candidacy, here it is:

Joe Biden.

It's by no means certain that Sen. Obama will tap Sen. Biden, but reportedly he's a leading candidate -- and if he were to get the nod, it'd be the worst possible news for Second Amendment supporters.

Remember the Federal Assault Weapons Ban that ran from 1994 to 2004? We've taken to calling it the "Clinton Gun Ban," but it'd be more accurate to call it the "Biden Gun Ban" -- because Sen. Biden, not Pres. Bill Clinton, was the architect of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, of which the ban was a part.

Under an Obama-Biden administration and with a Congress controlled by a Democratic majority, it wouldn't be long before we'd see an even more oppressive ban, among other sweeping restrictions. Gun ownership wouldn't be outlawed, per se, but it'd be regulated to the brink of prohibition.

Waving Heller in our elected representatives' faces would be futile -- the Supreme Court left room for "reasonable restrictions," and our legislature runs on a much faster track than our courts. By the time a challenge would rise to the high court, the damage will have been done.

So, to be blunt about it, if Sen. Obama wins in November, we're screwed. If he brings Sen. Biden along for the ride, we're colossally screwed. And although I'm no disciple of Sen. John McCain, I'll hold my nose and vote for the GOP nominee.

Speaking of Sen. McCain and the veepstakes, by the way, if he were to choose either Democrat-turned-independent Sen. Joe Lieberman or former DHS Secretary Tom Ridge (who's pro-choice), he'd virtually ensure an Obama victory. Sen. McCain already has a slippery grip on his "conservative base," and he'd surely lose that grip with either of those choices. On November 4th, miffed conservatives would stay home in droves.

By the first of September, probably sooner, we should know what each party's ticket will look like. If it's Obama-Biden or Obama-Clinton versus either McCain-Lieberman or McCain-Ridge, I have a pretty good idea of what we'd do here in the KintlaLake household -- raise some cash and buy what'll be unavailable or prohibitively expensive under an Obama administration.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Refrigerator pickles

Out in our small garden, this year's crop of cucumbers has been a disappointment.

Two of the vines gave up early on, and I've yet to determine why. The remaining two plants, while not producing as we'd hoped, so far have yielded six healthy fruit.

Last night I made a batch of cold-pickling brine (water, white vinegar and salt). This morning I harvested the cucumbers, plus a handful of jalapeño peppers and some fresh dill. With the addition of a few store-bought ingredients (garlic cloves, black peppercorns and red-pepper flakes), today I put up three jars of refrigerator pickles.


Obviously, these pickles are ridiculously easy to make -- the hardest part is seeing them in the refrigerator every day while waiting for them to reach their full potential. Since we're still polishing off two jars from last year, I think we can wait.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Wings

My earliest memory is of an airplane ride.

I remember flying to Florida with my family aboard a TWA Lockheed Constellation at the age of two-and-a-half. A few years later, I made the first of many trips to the observation deck at Akron-Canton Airport, where I spent hours watching planes take off and land and learning to love the smell of jet exhaust. I used to beg a local farmer to take me up in the Cessna he kept in his barn. I pored over books about air combat and collected pictures of aircraft of all kinds.

I never did fulfill my dream of becoming a pilot. I don't even travel by air that much anymore. But I still love flying machines -- so when our county airport hosts its modest air show every August, I'm there.

Under this morning's brilliant sky, my wife and I made the short drive to the air field. We spent the first couple of hours strolling the flight line, ogling and photographing mostly vintage aircraft.

Big-band music played over the public-address system. Silver-haired men in crisp uniforms patiently answered questions about their planes. Older men leaned on canes, staring silently at this plane or that, lost in their memories.

After the presentation of colors and a tribute to our nation's fallen warriors, the show took to the skies. A pair of barnstormers thrilled the crowd with their aerobatics, followed by a wing-walker and, of all things, an evil-looking Mig-17. A KC-135 tanker from the nearby Air National Guard base pinned our ears back with a 300-knot pass low over the field, followed by a stunning demo by an F-16.

Then, as a P-51 roared skyward to join the F-16, my wife and I looked at each other and smiled. We knew what was next: the USAF Heritage Flight.

It wasn't the first time we'd watched this moving aerial tribute -- the Mustang and the Falcon, a pair of warbirds separated by two generations, flying wingtip-to-wingtip. As they passed low over our heads, goosebumps became tears of pride. It happens every time.

I'm a patriot with a pulse -- no apologies. If you don't understand, I won't be able to explain it to you.

Today's show came to a close with a "V for Victory" pass by a B-25 and six T-6s. Spectacular.

A lot of years have gone by since my first ride on that Constellation, but deep-down, I'm still just a kid who loves airplanes.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The shame of Detroit

We've all been taught that when addressing a letter to a public official, it's often proper to precede the person's office with "Hon." -- which stands, of course, for "Honorable."

Unless, that is, we're writing to
Kwame Kilpatrick. Few have done more to dishonor their office, their constituents and the calling of public service than the megalomaniacal mayor of Detroit.

His personal and official transgressions are well documented. Hosting a wild party, featuring strippers, at the mayor's mansion. Persistent rumors linking him to the murder of one of those strippers. Sanctioning smear campaigns against police officers who sought to expose his impropriety. Appropriating a Harley for his personal use from the Detroit Police. The now-familiar affair with his chief of staff, characterized by steamy text messages. Earlier this year, his indictment on ten felony counts, including perjury and obstruction of justice.

The
list is long -- those are just highlights. It's likely that Kilpatrick has been a bad actor since birth, but it's certain that he's been shaming his city since taking office in 2002.

So why the hell is this guy still the mayor of Detroit?

That's the most obvious question -- especially among those of us watching this train wreck from afar -- but it's not the only one.

Why did the Michigan Chronicle, the state's oldest black newspaper, only this week call for Kilpatrick to resign his office? Why hasn't Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm removed Kilpatrick from office? What has Detroit's City Council been doing for the last six-plus years? Are the city's power-players actually intimidated by the mayor's mother (a U.S. Congresswoman and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus) and his aunt (a state legislator)?

Most important, perhaps, is this: Although the citizens of Detroit can be excused for succumbing to Kilpatrick's charm, however crude, in 2001, how could they be foolish enough to re-elect him in 2005?

The answers to those questions spread blame far, wide and thick -- but the citizens of Detroit and the people of Michigan have the same answers, and yet have responded with all the outrage of a potted plant.

Putting aside miscreant Kilpatrick for a moment, consider that this is a city and a state suffering greatly from the collapse of American manufacturing. Detroit's unemployment rate of 9.7%, like Michigan's 8.5%, leads the nation. The city's poverty rate is over 30%. More than 75% of Detroit youth won't graduate from high school.

When we ask the same questions again -- Where are city and state government? Why don't citizens demand better? -- we get the same docile replies. The same absence of outrage. The same resignation to a bad situation getting worse, much worse.

Make no mistake, Kwame Kilpatrick is a problem child who deserves to be locked up until the sun stops shining, but he's not the problem. He's not even a poster boy for the problem. He's a product of the problem.

Kilpatrick is the creation of an impressionable, ignorant and impotent citizenry. Had his constituents been less easily fooled, his misbehavior would appear only on the police blotter, not on the front page.

The citizens of Detroit got the government they deserve. We all do.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bringing the bear home

As I write this, and despite an EU-brokered ceasefire, there are reports of a Russian armored convoy advancing either toward the Georgian capital of Tbilisi or toward a hotspot near the South Ossetia border, depending on who's doing the reporting. While the U.S. sends humanitarian aid, Russia's foreign minister tells Washington that it must choose between "virtual project" Georgia and partnership with Moscow.

It's a complex situation, not easily reduced or explained, but one thing is clear -- this isn't a bunch of kids lobbing rocks at each other. This is a real war, one that threatens to unravel a region that doesn't need any more instability.

Here in the U.S., we've heard all about how this conflict is raising Cold War anxiety that Americans haven't felt in a generation -- but that sort of reaction, it seems to me, ignores how much has changed since the breakup of the Soviet Union.

This is a very different world. Let's act like it.

Criticizing Russia for invading a sovereign nation, however, is nothing more than self-righteous bunk. The U.S. no longer holds the moral high ground. I can't remember the last time we did.

So what's left? Well, we could have a high-minded discussion of the geopolitical ramifications of Georgia being admitted to NATO or Russia being dismissed from the G8. Should the U.S. get more involved, or is this an EU problem? Maybe the shutdown of three Georgia pipelines will drive oil prices back up, maybe it won't. Did Russia err by invading, did Georgia underestimate its neighbor, or did both miscalculate? Will Ukraine be next?

It's all very fascinating, considering our "safe" distance. We have no say, of course, in what Russia and Georgia do. Truth is, even as U.S. citizens we have virtually no control over our own government's response to the conflict. That's right -- in the grand global scheme, our personal opinions don't matter and our individual actions have no effect.

I'm not suggesting that we should be either silent or paralyzed -- it's always wise to be aware of what's happening in our ever-shrinking world, and often we can join with others to effect change. Still, I believe it's much wiser to bring those heady global issues back home.

Think about it: If the Russia-Georgia conflict is serious (and it is) and if the instability spreads (and it could), we will feel the effects. In fact, this regional upset, combined with other events and actors, may be the shadow of a global political and economic shift -- and should that shift expose (as I believe it could) the U.S. as overextended and underpowered, our life stateside will change.

With an eye on world events, then, we say what we must and do what we can. We speak and act where we can have an effect. We nurture and prepare our families. We put our energy into our communities.

Most of us will never see a geopolitical negotiating table. Our work -- the truly important work -- begins at the kitchen table.

Monday, August 11, 2008

'Silver Lining Syndrome'

Just before the sun came up this morning, the temperature here in central Ohio was 55°F -- and because it's mid-August, we call that "chilly." Had it been March, we'd be calling it "balmy."

When our frame of reference changes -- even when the facts don't -- so does our description. It's part of our never-ending quest for context. And that's fine, as far as it goes.

It's the same reason that Americans are being urged to dance a national jig over gasoline that costs only $3.81 a gallon -- because last month, we were paying a record $4.11. Over the same period, the price of oil has dropped from $147 to only $114.

We seem to have forgotten that a year ago, oil was $70 and gas was $2.77. Or that in late 2003, when a gallon of gas cost $1.55, the price of a barrel of oil hadn't yet broken the $30 mark.

So cancel the cake, send the band home and, for cryin' out loud, take that silly hat off your head -- the cost of commuting to work, taking a vacation, harvesting our food and hauling goods to market is nearly 250% of what it was just five years ago, and you want us to party?

Someone needs to tell the government and the news media that one month's perspective is useless -- there's nothing here to celebrate.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Lawn seating, ears bleeding, warm greeting

When my wife and I heard that our favorite local band, McGuffey Lane, would be playing a free outdoor concert last night in a neighboring town, we didn't have to think twice.

Arriving a few hours early, we found the stage in a corner of the village park. We set up our folding chairs in a prime spot, then headed off to grab dinner from vendors pitched around the concert venue.

Another typical small-town festival, with the usual menu of funnel cakes, lemon shakeups and deep-fried everything. The prices, however, caught us by surprise -- two weeks ago and less than ten miles away, we'd paid twice as much for the same fair fare.

Toting coney dogs and onion rings, we returned to our chairs in front of the stage, where another local band was performing a strange mix of covers, from Led Zeppelin to Donna Summer, from 4 Non Blondes to B-52s.

They were, in a word, awful.

As much as I hate to say that about any musician, "awful" doesn't begin to describe how bad they were. This wasn't let's-get-up-and-leave bad. I'm talking please-somebody-suffocate-me-with-a-tennis-ball bad.

My most charitable observation would be, "They looked like they were having a good time," but no band that bad should be allowed to have that much fun -- ever.

They played long by 20 minutes.

About an hour after the torture ended, McGuffey Lane took the stage, and immediately became engaged in a frustrating tug-of-war with the sound guy, who couldn't seem to route the right audio to the band's monitors -- a lingering curse from the opening act. Although the scene threatened to get ugly at one point, eventually the problem was solved (or at least tolerated), and the band played on.

It's been a long time since I first took in a McGuffey Lane set at the old Zachariah's Red-Eye Saloon, and I've already paid tribute to its influence on my
musical odyssey. Last night's performance proved that "The Lane," after three decades' time, is better than ever.

I had the pleasure of working with lead singer and guitarist John Schwab in a professional capacity several years ago, and we became friendly. Now, whenever my wife and I attend one of John's shows, whether he's solo or with the band, he never fails to give us a personal shout between songs.

After the first set last night, we ducked backstage to say hello, and John greeted us with his customary hugs, warmth and humor. Mrs. KintlaLake and I had just stepped away to allow others to have a moment with him when our older spawn and three of his friends showed up, and we'd hoped to introduce them to John.

The six of us hovered for a minute or two, ultimately deciding that the crowd was too big and time was too short to impose -- but apparently John had been keeping an eye on us, and as we were leaving he called us back. He took the time to greet each of our next-generation companions before bounding back onto the stage.

That brand of kindness is rare in this world -- John, you have my respect and my gratitude.

McGuffey Lane's second set was brilliant, as expected. Driving home, we basked in the warm glow of the evening's experience, vowing to let less time pass before catching another show.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Sharps: BHK Small Work Horse

This morning, I headed west into the city to spend a few hours at the Columbus Gun Show.

Bringing a knife to a gunfight may be a bad thing, but I see nothing wrong with bringing a knife home from a gun show, so today I bought a "Small Work Horse" crafted by the folks at southeastern Ohio's Blind Horse Knives.

I happened to swing by the BHK table early in my tour of the show, and I quickly connected with Dan Coppins, a guy from Cambridge who was more than willing to talk sharps with me. A few minutes later, partner L.T. Wright of Steubenville joined the conversation and, between the two of them, I learned a few things -- both about BHK's designs and about knives in general.

The BHK Small Work Horse will occupy a niche I've been looking to fill for some time now -- a compact, straightforward fixed-blade knife that's as able on a casual hike as it would be in a survival situation. Candidly, I'd been leaning toward either the Bark River Mini Canadian or Mikro Canadian, but the BHK Small Work Horse struck me as the perfect "tweener."

Like all BHKs, the Small Work Horse is a basic, no-nonsense design. It's well finished and feels good in my hand. The green canvas Micarta scales, which are easily interchangeable with other colors and materials, offer a good grip, and I like the clever "blind" lanyard hole at the end of the full tang. The 1/8" D2 steel should make this knife a real worker.

That's the next step, then -- to put this knife to work, that is -- and I'm looking forward to it.

Feet of clay, judgment to match

I'm not going to spend much energy on the news that former Democratic Party presidential candidate John Edwards had an extramarital affair with a campaign worker -- I'll simply offer the perspectives of two sharp political strategists.

First, Democrat Paul Begala:

"...this is not a sin unique to politicians. It even happens to preachers, it even happens to teachers, it even happens to football coaches. It happens, you know, all across our culture."

"...there's a larger loss of faith in institutions, whether it's big business, whether it's certainly in this government. But keep in mind, you know, John Edwards did not order that anyone be tortured. He did not violate the Geneva Convention. He did not forge a document to lead us into a war. He cheated on his wife."

And from Republican Alex Castellanos:

"This is not just an issue of human perfectibility. We all fall short.

"It is an issue of trust and trust in our leadership."

"We live in a culture where you go into an elevator and you punch those 'close door' buttons and you kind of think they're phony. The thermostats in office buildings now, you know, some are fake."

"We live in a culture where we're increasingly distant from reality. Country Crock spread, it's not from the country, it doesn't come in a crock. One name, two lies.

"And increasingly, we're looking for what's real in our culture. And I think especially in an uncertain time like this, you know, how can you believe the promises?"

Revelations about what a politician does in the bedroom, per se, don't sway my voting decision.

I do, however, place a high value on sound judgment -- and for me, speaking as a citizen, the significance of Mr. Edwards’s personal indiscretion pales in comparison to his stunningly poor judgment.

Friday, August 8, 2008

I scream, you scream

Remember Baskin Robbins, the ice-cream chain that three-upped Howard Johnson's 28 flavors many years ago? Only three HoJo's restaurants survive today, but BR still boasts more than 5,000 stores.

Last year, Baskin Robbins began running a series of amusing, unconventional TV commercials. My favorite: At a kids' soccer game, a coach shouts an encouraging bribe to his team -- that Baskin Robbins sundaes await them if they win. (Works for me.)

The coach's exhortation gets the attention of one of the spectators, a typical soccer mom with an obvious craving for an ice-cream sundae. After a moment's hesitation, she dashes onto the pitch and kicks the ball halfway to Canton, Massachusetts.

Then, flush with adrenaline, she bends down toward a kid on the opposing team, gets right up in his grille and lets out with a war-cry scream:

"In your FACE!"

The very first time I saw that spot, I nearly fell out of my chair laughing. I found it fun and edgy, a rare gem on the sanitized wasteland that is American television -- which guaranteed, of course, that it wouldn't last long.


The revised version of the commercial, which debuted last week, begins with the coach's bribe and continues through the mom's energetic kick -- but instead of trash-screaming at the kid, she trots to the sideline and meekly high-fives a couple of other soccer parents.

From what I've gathered, Baskin Robbins deleted the scream scene after hearing from people who whined that it was "creepy," even "abusive."

Color me disappointed, if not surprised.

It's not unusual for an advertiser to respond to complaints by re-working (or pulling) a spot. Caving to political correctness is just part of doing business in today's hyper-sensitive marketplace.

It often seems that ninnies rule that marketplace. I fear that someday they'll rule the world.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

'I don't think this damn thing is safe'

If you're inclined to cast your lot with Sen. John McCain, here's a question: Am I the only one who's reaching for nose clips and a personal flotation device?

As I've said before, I favor Sen. McCain -- not out of conviction or confidence, but by default. After critically considering the alternative, especially on entitlements and gun control, I can't bring myself to vote for Sen. Barack Obama.

That's not exactly a ringing endorsement, is it?


Press me further and I'll even suggest that Sen. Obama has demonstrated a better aptitude for leadership and a far better grasp of the issues.

The Republican Party, which historically owns matters of fiscal policy, will nominate a guy who's admitted to being clueless about economic issues. And despite Sen. McCain's war-hero status, the presumptive nominee talks more like a cocky fly-boy than a Commander-in-Chief, risking the GOP's customary advantage on national security.

Sen. McCain has his computer-illiterate, old-guy-next-door demeanor and Sen. Obama has his cultural savvy and polished rhetoric. The Democratic Party's presumptive nominee is too inexperienced to lead, according to his long-tenured Republican opponent, but every day I watch Sen. Obama handle himself with more aplomb.

For Sen. McCain and his supporters, none of this is good.

Whenever I see the candidates these days, it's clear that the rigors of campaigning have taken a toll on both. Especially over the last two weeks, Sen. McCain looks to me like he just went 12 rounds -- and lost. I don't care how old and spry his mother is, he's off his sharp, straight-talking game. Way off.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but seriously, can you picture this guy after four years in the Oval Office? Do I hear eight?

The wearier Sen. McCain gets, the less of him I see. Oh, that's John McCain behind the microphone, all right, but I'll be damned if I hear the spirited candidate of even six months ago.

Instead, it seems, he's become a surrogate for his surrogates, a regular Charlie McCarthy, spouting shallow right-wing chestnuts and little else.

Equating Sen. Obama with Paris Hilton and Brittany Spears? Handing out "Obama Energy Plan" tire gauges to the press? Expecting me to tremble at the mention of "tax-and-spend liberal"?

Again, this isn't good.

Without a doubt, Sen. McCain's biggest hurdle is President George W. Bush. I don't think he can put enough distance between his campaign and the bumbling Bush administration without discarding conservative and loyalist voters -- and surrogates -- that he desperately needs.

For all the ineptitude and dysfunction, I still see a couple of ways for Sen. McCain to win.


The first would be a contentious Democratic Party convention, and that seems more and more likely. Just today, Sen. Hillary Clinton hinted that she wants her delegates-in-denial to be heard in Denver, and that she hasn't yet decided if she'll ask that her name be placed into nomination. Especially if Sen. Obama makes a misstep (as perceived by wailing Clintonites) in choosing a running mate, he might lose support he'd never get back.

Sen. McCain's second chance for victory is Americans' ultimate reluctance to elect a black man with a foreign-sounding name to the office of President -- and honestly, just saying that disgusts me. My natural pessimism about human nature leads me to believe that some voters still suspect that Sen. Obama is an unpatriotic Muslim socialist -- enough, maybe, to swing the election in Sen. McCain's favor.

I sure hope it doesn't come to that.

I plan to vote for Sen. John McCain on November 4th. Considering my choices, it's what I have to do.

And no, I'm not happy about that -- not one bit.


(About the title of this post: Groucho Marx used to tell the story of a man who was about to be hanged. A priest asked the man, "Have you any last words to say, before we spring the trap?" To which the condemned man replied, "Yes, I don't think this damn thing is safe.")

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Requiem, reclamation

Yesterday, Forbes published an article entitled, "America's Fastest-Dying Cities."

Naturally, the old Rust Belt dominates the list, and as a native Buckeye myself, it saddens me to see four Ohio cities in the top ten. It's the first entry on the list, however, that gets my attention:
Canton-Massillon, Ohio.

That's where I was born and raised.

During my Heartland childhood, I always knew that I lived at the center of the nation's industrial base. After graduation, many of my classmates spurned college in favor of returning to family farms or, with the right connections, stepping into high-paying jobs in the mills.

Stainless steel, industrial bearings and plastics. Tires and auto assembly. Meat-packing, jelly and potato chips. In return for honest labor and union dues, the promise of employment for life.


The family farm, as I knew it in my youth, vanished 20 years ago. While a handful of manufacturing jobs and nominal "corporate headquarters" remain, most are mere tokens, nothing more than public-relations placeholders for multi-national operations.

What's left is a gash across Middle America, a wound that's still bleeding jobs, talent and the vitality that once staked a proud country to its bright future. Worst of all, it's become infected with the despair of a generation increasingly unlikely to finish high school.

If we're looking for villains, sure, we can point bitter fingers at heartless capitalists, incompetent government and impotent unions -- but assigning blame changes nothing.

The shelves at the company store are bare and probably offshore. We can't (and shouldn't) rely on our government to rescue us. Organized labor, without workers to organize, is an anachronism.

It's time to close the scrapbook on our memories of mills and milking parlors that built and nourished a nation. Those days are gone, and pining for them won't help us.

The task of rebuilding our cities, towns and countryside falls to those who stayed and those of us who came back. Yes, we're older now, older than the rest of the country, and maybe we're wise enough to see what kind of economic tomorrow we need to create for our Heartland, our home.

We can once again lead America into its future, but this time we'll do it by example, not as a supplier. Whatever we do over the next decade -- everything we make, raise, grow and teach -- we must do for ourselves.

We need to reclaim the Heartland for our own.