Month: August 2004

527s 

I’m really sick of this tit-for-tat regarding 527s. You know what 527s are by now. You should. As a result of the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance bill signed into law by President George W. Bush on March 27, 2002, we now have the same president calling for a ban on these groups he helped create.

I think it’s best if we use the president’s own words from a speech he gave immediately after signing the bill into a law.

“This law will raise the decades-old limits on giving imposed on individuals who wish to support the candidate of their choice, thereby advancing my stated principle that election reform should strengthen the role of individual citizens in the political process.”

“I believe individual freedom to participate in elections should be expanded, not diminished; and when individual freedoms are restricted, questions arise under the First Amendment.”

“I also have reservations about the constitutionality of the broad ban on issue advertising, which restrains the speech of a wide variety of groups on issues of public import in the months closest to an election. I expect that the courts will resolve these legitimate legal questions as appropriate under the law.”

I have to say I agree with the president’s comments two years ago. His regime’s solution of banning all 527s reeks of censorship and may be unconstitutional. The solution, however, is simple. Any advertisement aired over the public airwaves (owned by the public and managed by the FCC) would have to be approved by a bipartisan committee with representatives from all political parties. Only unanimously approved ads could run. That’d keep it clean.

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El Rinconcito 

That’s what an Internet translation Web site says the Spanish phrase painted on the wall above El Rinconcito’s bar means. Positive vibes infuse the place on the western edge of downtown Nampa. Painted in the foyer is another sign, “We reserve the right to serve you,” which is a positive way of putting it. You know the place is authentic from the smells, the décor and the attitude.

Dropping by just after the main lunch rush on a Friday afternoon we had a booth table wiped clean for us and sat down to a fresh basket of chips and some of the hottest salsa we’ve found. Muy bueno!

The drips on my forehead from the spicy salsa were welcome. I haven’t had my scalp quiver from spicy Mexican salsa since my last visit to Texas. The chips weren’t the light and crispy kind; they had a heavy corn weight to them.

My lunch companion and I ordered big. Based on recommendations from other staff members, we splurged on chile rellenos (relleno means “backfill” in Spanish), burrito Colorado (marinated chunks of beef in a chile sauce), a bowl of chile verde (green chile sauce with pork) and an enchilada ranchero. A flavorful cup of vegetable soup, full of more vegetables than the Saturday market downtown, started off my companion’s meal, a welcome respite from the salsa. All the food came out piping hot and we slowly picked at the cooler edges before digging in.

The burrito Colorado was mild compared to the salsa, but the complex and subtle flavors from the gravy smothering the rice and beans were sublime. About that word “gravy:” I grew up in Texas and New Mexico, where the numerous sauces that stewed, simmered, smothered and sautéed my Mexican dishes were all referred to as gravy. So, despite some people’s negative attitudes about anything called gravy, deeming it one step above grits on the white-trash scale, I use the term with respect. Anyone who elevates a good gravy by calling it a “sauce” is just putting a fancier label on it. (Now I’ll hear from the professional chef’s out there. I just know it.)

As the plates kept coming we feared we had ordered too much food. But with each delicious bite we knew we would finish the whole feast. The chile rellenos were lightly breaded and served simmered in a cheese sauce. Again, like the burrito Colorado the subtle flavors were delicious, once the tongue adjusted to the hot temperatures of the plate. Slowly but surely, we downed everything.

I usually reserve judgment on a place until a few days later, after contemplating how the meal sits and, most importantly, if I still want to go back once I am hungry again. I recall that I made sure I ate every last drop of gravy, every piece of rice, every last dollop of refried beans by using the remaining chips in the basket. That’s a good sign. And later that afternoon, in my darkened office my brain fell into a nice trance and a nap ensued.

I want to drive over to Nampa right now and get a big plate of enchiladas. It’s worth a trip out of the grid.

–Bingo Barnes likes to swap his ego for his id on Sundays.

Yellowstone hike Wrap up and going to jail 

Days in backcountry: 4

Miles hiked: 43

Times crossed continental divide: 6

Biggest hill: 25

Times rained on: 5

Times hailed on: 2

Wildlife seen: 1 deer

Tracks seen: one coyote, one bear cub

Wolf packs heard howling: 1

Fish caught: 0

Hikers seen on trail: 23

Horses seen on trail: 7

Geysers seen erupting: 1

Blisters: 5

Numb toes: 6

Times almost vomited from exhaustion: 3

Mosquitoes that bit me: 1,000,000

Joy once I got back to the truck: priceless

I’m going to jail and I need your help. No, you won’t see my mugshot on the Ada County Web site yet, but I still need bail. For years I’ve avoided the Jail & Bail fundraisers, coming up with excuses to avoid the charade of being arrested and interrupting valuable work time. I’m afraid my time has come and I am now committed. At least this one doesn’t involve the embarrassment of police coming to arrest me at the office. Nope, with this one I have to turn myself in.

The local March of Dimes chapter will be holding their fundraiser the day this paper comes out, Wednesday, August, 18. At noon I will turn myself in at the Outback Steakhouse on Overland and await you, our dear readers, to come and bail me out. Apparently my bail has been set at $1,000 so I need 1,000 of you to donate $1, 200 to donate $5, or 20 of you to donate $50. Just come on down and pay my bail during lunch. I’ll give you one of my french fries.

The March of Dimes funds important research, grants and education to further the mission of improving the health of Idaho’s babies by preventing birth defects and infant mortality. In an average week in Idaho 392 babies are born, 40 of them premature. Forty-seven babies are born to mothers who receive inadequate prenatal care and three babies die before their first birthday. That’s per week! Help the March of Dimes lower those numbers and help me get out of jail. Think of the children. Besides, I don’t want to become somebody’s jailhouse wife.

If you read this after my incarceration you can still donate to the March of Dimes. Just call 336-5421.

Chiang Mai Thai 

For the longest time in my life I recall wanting to eat a specific ethnic food by country name only–Chinese, Italian, Mexican. Then I learned about the intricacies of distinct regions and I began to enjoy distinguishing the regional cuisines that together make up these genres as a whole. Chinese food expanded into Hunan, Szechuan, Mandarin and Cantonese styles. I grew fonder of Northern Italian rather than Sicilian cuisines. From my time living in Bali I learned the differences between Javanese and Balinese cooking and grew to enjoy Singapore- and Malay-styled cooking on occasion. But until my research for this article, I was unaware of the four distinct styles of Thai cooking.

Thailand is the largest producer of rice in the world so it’s no wonder that rice is the main staple of all Thai dishes. It is also the only South Asian country to never have been colonized so you don’t have Western- influenced dishes such as French-inspired Vietnamese dishes or British-inspired Indian curries. Perhaps the greatest influence on Thai cuisine came from the Chinese, who have immigrated to Thailand for centuries and make up about 10 percent of the population.

According to Thailandlife.com, central region Thai food is characterized by smooth tastes with slight sweetness and is highly decorative in presentation. Rice is the staple along with many soups one finds in restaurants like tom yam kung. Other main dishes typical of the central region include Thai style omelettes, platoo (herring), fried beef and roasted pork. The northern style uses mainly locally available produce and a variety of chili sauces and sausages, all leaning more toward the salty end of the taste spectrum. In the northeastern part of the country plates are similar to the north but usually with more fried meats. The southern style of cooking tends to be the hottest in spice with the variety of curries and chiles.

When dining at a Thai restaurant you will encounter some of the same words on the menu. Knowing the basic definition of these will make your dining experience much more fulfilling. Tomrefers to soups. Yam is spicy salads. Kung or koong is shrimp. Gai is chicken. Pad or pat is stir-fried or sautéed. Prick or prik is chilies. Pat refers to stir-fried while Neung is steamed. Pla is fish and nam means water or liquid. With this knowledge in hand I went for lunch at Chiang Mai Thai.

The restaurant was pleasantly full for lunch when I darkened its doors. I began my lunch with one of the biggest Thai iced coffees I’ve ever had and an order of fresh rolls (not fried and aptly named as they were extremely fresh). The menu had quite a few Chinese dishes and a large lunch special selection (served with rice and soup of the day) plus some standard favorites. I wanted something spicy and stir-fried so I ordered the Pad Prik King. I was overwhelmed by the freshness of the dish containing green beans, straw mushrooms, carrots, red and green bell peppers, peas, ginger, kaffir lime leaves and pork. A bite into the ginger will open your eyes wide to the flavor. Since I was eating alone I couldn’t try my dining buddy’s dish but I observed some fantastic looking dishes on other tables. I want to return to enjoy more of the kaffir lime and lemongrass infused dishes. The service was quick and extremely friendly–you couldn’t ask for more. I now have a third Thai restaurant to enjoy in Boise.

–Bingo Barnes owns a hidden library of Chips episodes.

Hiking 

By the time you read this I should be 20 miles from any road in the continental United States. I will have donned my brand-new hiking boots, stuffed my new backpack, worn in my brand-new moisture-wicking pants and shirts and will be applying fresh moleskin to my half-dollar-sized blisters. By this time I hope to have seen a bear–from a respectably safe distance–and caught a small cutthroat trout in a tributary of the Bechler River with my fly rod. I will have crossed the continental divide three times in less than two hours and will be eating rehyrdrated beans. My bourbon stored in brand-new Nalgene bottles will probably be gone and I will most definitely smell in places that shouldn’t be smelled by respectable people anyway.

I’ve been looking forward to my backcountry Yellowstone adventure since February. My friends are tired of hearing about it. My publisher is tired of seeing maps spread out across the kitchen table and paying the credit card bills for bear repellent. I’ve clipped and trimmed everything down to shed unwanted ounces from my load. I feel I prepared sufficiently but perhaps at this very moment I am cursing myself for bringing the camera instead the coffee pot.

I’ve never seen Yellowstone before. People I’ve spoken with say it’s great, that I’ll be “blown away” by the beauty, wildlife and grandeur. A few geysers, some wildlife, some fishing in the Madison River–I anticipate a good time.

Of course, the horror stories abound and there might be reason to be fearful. One report says that there is a four-year cycle for high levels of grizzly bear births. Guess what? This year is one. There’s reason to fear the bear. A Yellowstone Park employee was mauled in June by two adult grizzly bears. But looking at the scientific reports of grizzly bear distribution it seems the area of our hike is in a relatively low bear population area of the park. While everyone is always worried about the bears, personally, I’m more afraid of moose.