Monthly Archives: July 2004

The best political speech of my generation

Much as I would like to believe that Kerry is going to (probably is right now – I don’t have TV so won’t know until later) make a better speech, in my heart I know that the best political speech of my generation has already been delivered. Not necessarily the most presidential, not necessarily even the most liked or most ‘successful.’ But the best, and the one that says it the best and the one that shows why the real heartbeat of America has nothing to do with trucks and everything to do with immigrants.

Barack Obama may well be president himself oneday. I certainly hope so (although it would be nice if we could have a woman president before then, too – maybe a Clinton/Obama ticket in 2012?)

Here is the speech in full because it deserves to be read.

“On behalf of the great state of Illinois, crossroads of a nation, Land of Lincoln, let me express my deepest gratitude for the privilege of addressing this convention.

Tonight is a particular honor for me because — let’s face it — my presence on this stage is pretty unlikely. My father was a foreign student, born and raised in a small village in Kenya. He grew up herding goats, went to school in a tin-roof shack. His father — my grandfather — was a cook, a domestic servant to the British.

But my grandfather had larger dreams for his son. Through hard work and perseverance my father got a scholarship to study in a magical place, America, that shone as a beacon of freedom and opportunity to so many who had come before.

While studying here, my father met my mother. She was born in a town on the other side of the world, in Kansas. Her father worked on oil rigs and farms through most of the Depression. The day after Pearl Harbor my grandfather signed up for duty: joined Patton’s army, marched across Europe. Back home, my grandmother raised their baby and went to work on a bomber assembly line. After the war, they studied on the G.I. Bill, bought a house through F.H.A., and later moved west all the way to Hawaii in search of opportunity.

And they, too, had big dreams for their daughter. A common dream, born of two continents.

My parents shared not only an improbable love, they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an African name, Barack, or ”blessed,” believing that in a tolerant America your name is no barrier to success. They imagined me going to the best schools in the land, even though they weren’t rich, because in a generous America you don’t have to be rich to achieve your potential.

They are both passed away now. And yet, I know that, on this night, they look down on me with great pride.

I stand here today, grateful for the diversity of my heritage, aware that my parents’ dreams live on in my two precious daughters. I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that, in no other country on earth, is my story even possible.

Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation — not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy. Our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’

That is the true genius of America — a faith in simple dreams, an insistence on small miracles. That we can tuck in our children at night and know that they are fed and clothed and safe from harm. That we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door. That we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe. That we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution, and that our votes will be counted at least, most of the time.

This year, in this election, we are called to reaffirm our values and our commitments, to hold them against a hard reality and see how we are measuring up, to the legacy of our forbearers, and the promise of future generations.

And fellow Americans, Democrats, Republicans, Independents — I say to you tonight: we have more work to do. More work to do for the workers I met in Galesburg, Ill., who are losing their union jobs at the Maytag plant that’s moving to Mexico, and now are having to compete with their own children for jobs that pay seven bucks an hour. More to do for the father that I met who was losing his job and choking back the tears, wondering how he would pay $4,500 a month for the drugs his son needs without the health benefits that he counted on. More to do for the young woman in East St. Louis, and thousands more like her, who has the grades, has the drive, has the will, but doesn’t have the money to go to college.

Now don’t get me wrong. The people I meet — in small towns and big cities, in diners and office parks — they don’t expect government to solve all their problems. They know they have to work hard to get ahead — and they want to.

Go into the collar counties around Chicago, and people will tell you they don’t want their tax money wasted, by a welfare agency or by the Pentagon.

Go into any inner city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can’t teach our kids to learn — they know that parents have to teach, that children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white. They know those things.

People don’t expect government to solve all their problems. But they sense, deep in their bones, that with just a slight change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life, and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all.

They know we can do better. And they want that choice.

In this election, we offer that choice. Our Party has chosen a man to lead us who embodies the best this country has to offer. And that man is John Kerry. John Kerry understands the ideals of community, faith, and service because they’ve defined his life. From his heroic service to Vietnam, to his years as a prosecutor and lieutenant governor, through two decades in the United States Senate, he has devoted himself to this country. Again and again, we’ve seen him make tough choices when easier ones were available.

His values — and his record — affirm what is best in us. John Kerry believes in an America where hard work is rewarded; so instead of offering tax breaks to companies shipping jobs overseas, he offers them to companies creating jobs here at home.

John Kerry believes in an America where all Americans can afford the same health coverage our politicians in Washington have for themselves.

John Kerry believes in energy independence, so we aren’t held hostage to the profits of oil companies, or the sabotage of foreign oil fields.

John Kerry believes in the Constitutional freedoms that have made our country the envy of the world, and he will never sacrifice our basic liberties, nor use faith as a wedge to divide us.

And John Kerry believes that in a dangerous world war must be an option sometimes, but it should never be the first option.

You know, a while back, I met a young man named Seamus in a V.F.W. Hall in East Moline, Ill.. He was a good-looking kid, six two, six three, clear eyed, with an easy smile. He told me he’d joined the Marines, and was heading to Iraq the following week. And as I listened to him explain why he’d enlisted, the absolute faith he had in our country and its leaders, his devotion to duty and service, I thought this young man was all that any of us might hope for in a child. But then I asked myself: Are we serving Seamus as well as he is serving us?

I thought of the 900 men and women — sons and daughters, husbands and wives, friends and neighbors, who won’t be returning to their own hometowns. I thought of the families I’ve met who were struggling to get by without a loved one’s full income, or whose loved ones had returned with a limb missing or nerves shattered, but who still lacked long-term health benefits because they were Reservists.

When we send our young men and women into harm’s way, we have a solemn obligation not to fudge the numbers or shade the truth about why they’re going, to care for their families while they’re gone, to tend to the soldiers upon their return, and to never ever go to war without enough troops to win the war, secure the peace, and earn the respect of the world.

Now let me be clear. Let me be clear. We have real enemies in the world. These enemies must be found. They must be pursued — and they must be defeated. John Kerry knows this.

And just as Lieutenant Kerry did not hesitate to risk his life to protect the men who served with him in Vietnam, President Kerry will not hesitate one moment to use our military might to keep America safe and secure.

John Kerry believes in America. And he knows that it’s not enough for just some of us to prosper. For alongside our famous individualism, there’s another ingredient in the American saga. A belief that we’re all connected as one people.

If there is a child on the south side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child. If there’s a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for their prescription drugs, and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it’s not my grandparent. If there’s an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties.

It is that fundamental belief, it is that fundamental belief, I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper that makes this country work. It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams and yet still come together as one American family.

E pluribus unum. Out of many, one.

Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters, the negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.

The pundits, the pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq.

We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America. In the end, that’s what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or do we participate in a politics of hope?

John Kerry calls on us to hope. John Edwards calls on us to hope.

I’m not talking about blind optimism here – the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don’t think about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about something more substantial. It’s the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs. The hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores. The hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta. The hope of a millworker’s son who dares to defy the odds. The hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too.

Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope! In the end, that is God’s greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation. A belief in things not seen. A belief that there are better days ahead.

I believe that we can give our middle class relief and provide working families with a road to opportunity. I believe we can provide jobs to the jobless, homes to the homeless, and reclaim young people in cities across America from violence and despair. I believe that we have a righteous wind at our backs and that as we stand on the crossroads of history, we can make the right choices, and meet the challenges that face us.

America! Tonight, if you feel the same energy that I do, if you feel the same urgency that I do, if you feel the same passion I do, if you feel the same hopefulness that I do — if we do what we must do, then I have no doubts that all across the country, from Florida to Oregon, from Washington to Maine, the people will rise up in November, and John Kerry will be sworn in as president, and John Edwards will be sworn in as vice president, and this country will reclaim its promise, and out of this long political darkness a brighter day will come.

Thank you very much everybody. God bless you.

IMBB #7 – Dumplings

‘Is My Blog Burning?’ is now a monthly event for sure. The seventh edition of this collective blast of creative cooking is on the topic of dumplings.

After a quick query to the founders of the event and a little online research, I am reassured that gnocchi qualify as dumplings so I will probably make them. I made a rash promise to try to make gnocchi that are better than Marcella Hazan’s spinach and ricotta gnocchi. Since this is realistically impossible – she is a professional with decades of experience after all – I intend to try, fail and have a lot of fun…

Heart of Darkness

I wonder what that headline evokes in my readers? How many think of Joseph Conrad? How many think of Africa? How many think of great evils? How many simply think of the night?

I wrote it because it was what popped into my mind on reading this wonderful article about what John Kerry has really done over the years politically speaking and how that connects to the seamy underbelly of the intelligence community, drugs and threads through the Nixon, Reagan, Bush and Bush presidencies. This is the kind of person we want to take the long, careful look into underhanded political practices that this country so desperately needs.

Two Melodies: Burger Quartet and a Fox Hunt

It was time – time for IMBB that is. Time for the grill. Time for smoke and flame and wood and charred meat and primeval smells. Time to return to the vast temperate zone forest of the world, covering Europe, North America, Asia. Time to hunt, to grill the spoils over the fire. Time to kick back with a cold beer and reflect on the hunter part of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle.


So I made burgers – about the most processed, most removed from tearing raw flash from the bone, most removed from the old, slow life revolving around the seasons, most global corporate machine food that there is.


The Hunt

I went to the store and bought the best looking ground round I could find and also some very fine ground lamb and ground turkey. I also hunted down (with much more difficulty than I should have had) some dried cranberries, some major grey’s mango chutney, some shallots, some cilantro, some nice italian bread and some applewood smoked bacon. Everything else I needed could be obtained by gathering.


The Gather

In the garden I rapidly gathered some tomatoes, some arugula, some fresh sage. I had what I needed and was ready to grill.


The Fire

Fire is a magical thing, new come into our world anthropologically speaking. It transforms food from the mundane, the public health menace, the smelly into magical creations that delight the senses and healthily nourish the body. It’s also just plain fun.


There are lots of options for grilling. Using a grill pan over a range is clearly not an option when you live in California, have no air conditioning and it is ninety degrees outside. In fact, cooking on the nice grill on our range is also not really an option, plus gas grilling is for when you are in a hurry. When you have some time and want to savor the process there’s only one way – charcoal. Actually, wood is good too, so that is technically two ways, but you end up at the same place either way – a pile of glowing embers.


I chose a midway point. I used lumpwood charcoal, the kind that looks like chunks of wood that happen to be made of charcoal. I piled up the chimney starter and let it rip and then dumped the results twenty minutes later into a mixed pile of more lumpwood charcoal and some mixed wood (poplar and apple wood) and let it burn for another fifteen minutes or so until I had lots of glowing embers and some active flame left.


Now we cut back in time to when I returned from hunter-gathering. I made four separate kinds of burger.


Burger number one – the BLT burger.

This burger was made from minced applewood smoked bacon, minced sundried tomatoes, salt, pepper and about one and a half pounds of ground round. Fold it all together as gently as possible so that it is well mixed but not heavily worked. Form gently into patties about three inches across and almost an inch thick in the center. Grill on an oiled grill very hot for about four minutes a side until just cooked through.


This was surprisingly ordinary. Oh well. We live and learn.


Burger number two – as yet unnamed.

This burger was made from about a pound and a half of ground turkey, a cup of dried cranberries, about two tablespoons of finely minced fresh sage, salt and pepper and a little olive oil to keep it moist. Grill as for burger number one.


A BIG success – recipe still needs a little work but this was a winner – a REALLY good burger.


Burger number three – the greek lamb burger.

Made from a pound and a half of ground lamb, a quarter cup of red wine, four finely minced shallots, half a bunch of cilantro finely mined, half a cup of kalamata black olives finely minced, salt, pepper, a little olive oil for moistness.


Surprisingly bland for those ingredients – could work out but needs a lot of work on how to make it more lamby and more greek.


Burger number four – the kashmiri burger.

A pound and a half of ground round. Half a jar of major grey’s mango chutney. A teaspoon of kashmiri masala paste. Half a bunch of cilantro diced. Four minced shallots. Salt, pepper.


By far the most subtle of the burgers. At first many thought it disappointing. But it grew and grew until it became the favorite. Well worth the effort and perhaps some more tinkering.


I provided ketchup, mustard, tomatoes, lettuce, arugula, salt, pepper, french bread and hamburger buns and people did what they wanted to make the burger. No cheese because I wanted feedback purely on the burger taste, but we may add feta to the greek burger mix next time since several people mentioned it as a possible fixer-upper.


And in good old American rabble-rousing tradition, we held this all together with a potluck and a political dinner/discussion about the lies, distortion and bias of Fox News. For more on that, see Outfoxed.

Hot off the grill

The next IMBB event is coming up next Sunday the 18th and it is one of my favorite activities of all time, grilling, so I am going to have to come up with some special dishes and specialties. naturally I will include my infamous grilled bread that will soon be sweeping the nation and the world as people discover how easy and how good it is!

But I have already made that many times before. I think a grilled lamb dish and a vegetable dish are in order and I may even try to manage something I have never done before – a grilled dessert.

Obviously I am back from vacation. We had a swim meet Sunday – for Amelia only – and it was a pentathlon (all five events – fly, back, breast, free and IM) and you total the times. Amelia came third overall in her age group!

Then today the downstairs toilet clogged up finally and for good, so I got to spend the day basically covered in sewage disassembling it so I could get to the sewer line into the floor and clear out the three foot length of root that was blocking it and then wash everything including myself down with bleach and then put it all back together again and then wash with bleach a second time and then tidy up and then take a long shower. Ugh! But the job is done…


We’re going to the lair. The lair of the bear.

That means we are going to our family camp in Pinecrest in the Sierras where we will go hiking, kayaking on and swimming in the lake. We will watch ridiculous variety shows. We will be fed – quite well actually. We will sit around campfires and talk of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings. Anything rather than talk about contemporary politics!

So I won’t be writing anything here for a week. I might have a nice picture or two of some nice places though. One of our regular trips is to the small river that goes 200 feet through a cavern and we hike up there, swim and inner tube through it and then have a brunch of crepes and strawberries.

It’ll be a nice break. In the last two days I have finally and completely finished the gutters, repaired a huge break in our water main (our side of the meter, so our responsibility) that created an artificial spring in our front yard overnight, completed a fair amount of the freelance consulting work I am doing (not enough to replace a real job though), packed for this trip, fixed the pool, etc.etc.

See you in a week and a day.

Lies, Damn Lies and…

not statistics (well, not until November anyway).

You have to try this.

‘Making good use of the things that we find…’ – The Wombles

A few of my readers (OK, there ARE only a few readers 😉 ) will recognize the title of this post and have at least a vague idea what I am talking about. Everyone else will be lost. It helps if you were brought up in England and were a child during the late 60’s and early 70’s. Then you’d know who Uncle Bulgaria was and, in fact, what a Womble was.

I should explain. I have always had a ridiculous fondness for the Wombles because they supposedly live(d) on Wimbledon Common in South West London. I went to school across the road from Wimbledon Common and recall with absolutely no fondness whatsoever being forced to go on cross country runs in the rain along its horse paths. The rain and the horse paths are significant details as is the fact that our shower and cleaning facilities at school were inadequate.

Anyway, the Wombles was a television show populated by little furry creatures called Wombles that lived on Wimbledon Common and practiced recycling as an avocation and art form – ‘…making good use of the things that we find, the things that the everyday folk leave behind…’

And that is what I often find myself doing in the kitchen – making good use of the things that I find.

Our green bean plants have been doing well this spring, so the other day I made one of my favorite side dishes of all time – stir fried green beans with chopped smoked almonds. It’s a great accompaniment to any meat and also goes surprisingly well with asian food if you add a little soy sauce, chili and ginger. I made these to go with the pork and apricot dish a week or two ago as well, but the beans keep coming and keep wanting to be used…

Photo of Stir-fried green beans with smoked almonds copyright 2004 Owen Linderholm

Stir-fried green beans with chopped smoked almonds

Carefully remove the ends of a pound of green beans (blue lake work well, but any kind, including runner can be used) and if necessary the side strings. Chop a cupful of smoked almonds coarsely into pieces about a third of an inch cubed. Get a good skillet or wok very hot and add a tablespoon of whatever oil you normally use to stir fry – I use olive oil because I am too lazy to buy more than one kind of oil, but canola, safflower or peanut would be better. Once the oil is nice and hot, just before it gets smoky, tip the green beans in and fry, stirring for about three minutes. Then add the almonds and cook for an additional 30 seconds. They’re ready!

Another nice ‘Womble’/leftover dish was made with the roast pork from a previous post. I made a pork and arugula crostini with some really nice italian bread, olive oil, arugula leaves, red pepper jelly and a thin sprinkle of salt. Here’s a picture.

Photo of Pork and arugula crostini copyright 2004 Owen Linderholm