Friday, December 28, 2007

Albuquerque Makes Front Page of NY Times (online)

Mikaela says:
For violence on our abortion clinics.

Dr. Boyd, who helped found the National Abortion Federation, a professional association of abortion providers, said: “After working on the abortion reform movement for 40 years, I wake up and I still can’t believe we’re still where we are. When will it stop? I’m going to have to accept the fact that I’m going to die before the rights of women are secured, and the violence against providers and staff comes to an end.”

Happy New Year.

Checking out Reed in Dallas

marjorie says...

If you're in Dallas this weekend, you can see Reed at The Barley House both tonight and tomorrow night. Here he is playing jazz one night at his home in Albuquerque. He's going to rock on Saturday night, but in Albuquerque you can catch him playing jazz pretty regularly around town.

ps: that's the guitar Reed loaned me for my guitar class. he plays it much better than i do!

Prejudice for the Holidays

Mikaela says:
Turns out Thanksgiving was not the day to be armed with response to family prejudice. I should have been prepared for Christmas.

My grandfather, much as I love him, is a racist, prejudiced, elitist old coot. Old style.

He ambushed us with talk of an article that he's promised to send all of us about how "illegal aliens" are taking over our country. Using resources they have no right to. Blah blah blah.

Nevermind that a recent study found they actually do NOT use healthcare more than anyone else, and do NOT constitute the burden for tax payers that hysterics claim to justify their positions. Nevermind that they're here because big companies want and need them to be here. Nevermind that they'd HAVE healthcare and other services if they were provided them by the companies who profit from their all-but slave labor. Nevermind that our whole system supports them being here, rests on them being here, necessitates them being here.

I figured it wasn't worth getting into it with a 90+ year old man, but what I really wanted to say is ... do you blame the people who set up the system, or do you blame the victims of that system for "taking advantage" of the system you create for them? What good does it do to blame the victim?

Oh, right. That old narrative about vilifying an easily identified population for your own wrath about the way things are. Hmmm... Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

A friend gave me the recently published book, Death of Sigmund Freud, which lays out the parallel lives of Freud and Hitler starting with the time they were both in Vienna. Hitler was a frustrated art student, begging in the streets. Freud was at the height of his analytical powers. Then Hitler goes to war, becomes a decorated soldier, and comes home a hero. He starts his rise to power and institutes his backlash against Jews. Freud barely escapes with his life and his family to England. It's a great book, actually.

What I didn't know about Freud is that toward the end of his life, he tried to figure out why people gravitate toward totalitarian leaders and/or fanatical faith. He tied it to patriarchy and said we were all looking for the ultimate father-figure -- omnipotent, all-knowing, and infallible. The Germans found that in Hitler. He argues others find it in God -- whether the invisible God of the Jews, the intimate friend in Jesus, or the righteous God of Islam. He conceded that this drive toward power greater than ourselves was stronger than all the dynamics he'd started his career fixated on as the central drives in our lives -- sex and intoxication to escape the daily anxieties we all face. He figured our need to elevate powers outside ourselves beyond our own petty lives was the biggest intoxication of all.

In the persecution of the Jews, Freud saw an excuse to let the id and the superego run rampant over the ego. There was an ecstacy to the anti-semitism that took over the world (and it was the world -- Jewish refugees were refused in almost every country they sought asylum). It was condoned by the moral righteousness people worked up beyond rational arguments about the Jews.

Freud's answer -- although not his hope, since he didn't believe we could really overcome that intense desire -- was to pull back to balance the three parts of ourselves. We must work to rein in the id & superego and reinforce our egos -- our rational selves, the ones that can see pain, feel empathy, and understand our relationship to others because we have a healthy perspective about our place in the world. We belong here, with certain rights -- but so do others.

Much of Freud's work examined the dynamics of groups, how we become mobs, how charismatic leaders take over, how much of ourselves and our rationality we lose in the process.

I heard echoes of the hysteria of anti-semitism in my grandfather's speech. I saw it in the debates among frothing of Republican presidential candidates falling all over themselves to talk about how miserable they would make the lives of "illegal aliens."

In my mind, it's a bigger danger than all our talk of Islamic fundamentalism. As Freud warned, fantatism anywhere -- in Christians, Muslims, Minute Men, or otherwise -- is the same danger.

At the same time, we cannot escape the basic human instinct toward gravitating to leadership. This is why we need Democratic candidates to pick a position and stand in it -- using reason, if we're lucky -- to argue for change.

What's at stake is history. The strength of our country is our belief in reason -- trusting individuals to use reason, trust reason, protect reason. That's the basis of progressive belief, in my mind. It's the freedom to choose. It's equal protection under the law because we are all human, endowed with inalienable rights. We are creatures of free will.

We do not have to embrace hate -- in the form of strong leaders who point to scapegoats who look different from us or believe differently than we do.

My grandfather said the article claimed all democracies in the world have only lasted two centuries -- can only last two centuries before mob mentality or totalitarianism take over.

It is time to remind revisionists that not only is that a false assertion about the past -- we can choose a different future. We can start now.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A little giving...and Where's Santa?

In the spirit of giving, we'd like to point you all to a spin on matching contributions being made to the Art Street project at Albuquerque Healthcare for the Homeless. All you have to do is watch this short video that Mudhouse Advertising put together for the project, and for each watch between now and Christmas Mario Burgos and his business partner will donate $1...up to $10,000. Nice job, Mario.

Thanks to the Journal for pointing out the Los Alamos Lab's Santa Tracking Website. Here is how they are able to keep tabs on Santa:

"The satellite tracking group from the International, Space & Response (ISR) Division of Los Alamos National Laboratory again will be tracking Santa Claus' whereabouts on Christmas Eve. To monitor Santa's progress as he races around the world delivering presents and goodies to good children everywhere, we will be using the satellite tracking dishes in the high mountains of Los Alamos, New Mexico, as well as sensors on the FORTE satellite and the most recently launched Cibola Flight Experiment (CFE) satellite. In addition, the U.S. Air Force, with nine tracking stations around the world, will also help us monitor Santa's travels.

"How are we able to track Santa with our satellite? The FORTE satellite is in a highly inclined, 70-degree (measure of the angle between the orbit plane and the plane of the Earth's equator) orbit. The satellite's altitude above the Earth's surface is 500 miles. From this orbit, the satellite travels between the latitudes of +/- 70 degrees and can monitor the whole world for signs of Santa and his reindeer crew whenever they are in view. The CFE satellite will augment the FORTE tracking. While CFE is inclined only 35-degree and is only 315 miles above the Earth, it can see parts of the Earth that are not available to FORTE to provide more persistent Santa monitoring.

"We believe that Rudoph's glowing, bright red nose puts out optical and infrared light that makes him easy to detect, allowing an optical camera on FORTE to give us a glimpse of Santa and his team. Also, the Federal Aviation Administration requires Santa to fly with a radio transponder on his sleigh, similar to what airplanes use, to ensure flight safety around the world. This transponder can be detected with the radio receiver that flies on board both the FORTE and CFE satellites."

Classic and Fabulous!

Another good website is this one: The webcams and the scrolling live messages to Santa are great. My niece was particularly interested in which reindeer would win the contest to guide the sleigh (you could vote). Rudolph pulled it out, but Blitzen gave him a run for his money.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Politics, Money, & Growing through Houses

marjorie says...

Regarding the increasingly serious mortgage crisis our nation faces comes this pretty straightforward, and on it's face pretty simple, analysis:

"We have the fundamental problem that we built too many houses and we charged too high a price for them," says David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor's in New York. "We have to stop building houses for a while and the prices have to come down. We are trying to make sure that process doesn't derail the rest of the economy."

We live in an economy that measures it's success through "growth", which is largely measured through such indicators as the unemployment rate, job growth, and something called "housing starts." In the debate raging right now over Tax Increment Development Districts (TIDDs), those of us who think it's a bad idea to hand over large tax revenue streams to developers are labeled "anti-growth." But, frankly, I don't know how anyone with a modicum of sense could be "anti-growth" given the economic collapse that would surely follow if we stopped creating jobs. We live in a capitalist economy, after all, and the health of our community relies majorly on the existence of jobs. This of course is the reason tax subsidies are given to large corporations, and why we have other government sponsored initiatives and programs to help smaller companies succeed. In reality, having no government intervention in our capitalist economy would lead to a world of unsupportable dichotomies: beggars and kings, masters and slaves. You can catch a glimpse of what that world looks like in both the history books and the current affairs of this country--check out American slavery, the period of the industrial revolution, or the unprotected wage labor in our agricultural sector right up to today.

Obviously I'm not against public intervention in the economy. But, whenever it involves the use of public money to incentivize job creation there are serious issues that arise around accountability and transparency. These are big words that essentially are about not allowing a small group of people to enrich themselves at the public's expense. The question of how politics and profit intersect is a huge one, and not just in Albuquerque. This is the essential problem behind our push as a nation to find a way to eliminate private money from electoral campaigns. Then there's the revolving employment door...go out one side and you're a lobbying hack for big business, go out the other and you get to run campaigns or develop goverment policy. Get bored? Just step back in the doorway and come out on the flip side. We see it at the national level, and we most certainly see it in New Mexico. In fact we've seen it up close and personal when it comes to TIDDs in just the past couple of weeks. Is Marty Chavez in the pocket of developers? Is Mark Fleisher all about the money? Who knows, really? I don't know them. But that $5000 from SunCal is a lot of money. And Fleisher certainly likes that revolving door doesn't he? And what about Tim Cummins? There he is standing to profit enormously from the SunCal development, and he has no qualms about using his County Commission seat to push forward a massive tax subsidy to make it happen. Is there anything unique about any of this? I don't think so. This is a huge problem for us as a society, and I have to bugs me even more than the fact that we're balkanizing our tax base for the next couple of generations to bolster the bottom line of SunCal and Mesa del Sol.

On that point, despite what Cummins says, it isn't misinformation or lies when we point out that these TIDDs are, in fact, bolstering these companies' bottom lines. Our tax revenues are going to pay for infrastructure that these corporations are building. We're paying them directly, through a complicated shell game. And on top of that infrastructure will be built their profit making ventures: houses. And the houses will be sold at whatever price the market will bear. The city and county will use all those new houses to declare that Albuquerque is a "growth city"...a vibrant and thriving economy. But within the simplicity of those indicators lies a lot of consequences, some unintended, some completely obscured but with long-range impacts. These include in the case of TIDDs the negative impact on the State's general fund, not to mention the hit locally. But beyond this, there are all kinds of social and environmental issues with growth for the sake of growth measured in houses and their attendant highways.

Right now we're facing a real national economic crisis that derives from the unchecked housing starts growth machine. And if my memory serves me correctly, many of the same people who sounded a warning bell about the out-of-control housing market are the same people today who are labeled "anti-growth" in the face of Albuquerque's launch headfirst into incentivizing massive housing development on our west side. Rhetoric is fun. But frankly, it would be much wiser to instead take the blinders off and reconsider how growth is defined in the first place. Not to mention, we need to continue our efforts to take the money out of politics.

Friday, December 21, 2007

More Movies! Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd

Mikaela says:
I had absolutely no interest (okay, total lie, no interest other than the always-delicious, even under heavy makeup Johnny Depp) in seeing Sweeney Todd until reading this review in the Washington Post.

Now? I'm all about braving the gore to see Tim Burton in artistry action. I've always respected Burton's ability to charm the goth crowd and somehow reach middle America, or at least mainstream America, yet he's a bit ... distant for my taste. Somehow maudlin for all his darkness.

I'll throw caution to the winds, though, and try again. Helena Bonham Carter costumed a la Frankenstein's Bride? Bring it on!

A musical adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's Broadway play? Sure! Why not?

A murderous story of revenge of the have-nots against the haves? It's gotta be better than the morality tale of A Christmas Carol! Probably darker, too, which is even better to counteract the saccharine tendencies of our mostly manufactured holiday!

This season, I'm game!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Food and the tuned-out consumer

Maggie says:
This is a long post, but bear with me. I don't do long cut-and-pasting very often, but when I do it's a conscious choice and because I want to point to particular points of an article separately. And hey, at least after this long post on a near-and-dear subject I never have to rant about it this much again!

Eating can be a messy, political business. Or rather, it should be. The world of food choices is staggering right now, and my relationship with all of them is ever-changing. I find the business of food consumption to be endlessly fascinating, as are the shifting patterns of us as consumers versus them as growers and suppliers and producers. Take organics. The dangerous thing about mass-marketing organic practices is that the heart of the movement is diluted in the name of base expansion. It's a, well, organic process of change that happens when any social movement takes on broader appeal. What's lost in the name of a bigger following is a graying of the message, a rotting of the core, but the result is a bigger impact with higher numbers. How much is lost when a movement appeals to others? What do we give up in order to gain?

When it comes to food, there are countless examples of fantastic writing out there about how the organic food movement has handled the reach of its markets toward mass consumers. The "bring it to the people" approach is one embodied by Whole Foods, which frustrates purists to no end. The "I'll do that because it's financially smart, even though I don't believe in it" approach is one taken by corporations like Dole, who have successful organics divisions within their overall structure. The purists shop only at co-ops and farmer's markets, or better yet their backyards, and live their values through their food without dilution. Mainstream shoppers have more opportunities than ever before, so what is he or she to do, especially when the overall nature of how our food worlds are changing isn't understood on a larger level?

First, folks need to try and understand the framework, and we need to do a better job of communicating it. Communicating just on taste, or just on poisonous spray, hasn't been particularly effective, especially not when the entire structure is the problem and an elementary buyer will still vote with their wallet as the bottom line. The structural nature of the beast is where we lose these consumers, who might buy organic or local if mass-produced stuff isn't on sale out of a vague sense that it's better for them, but not as a rule. So how do we convey the danger of monocultures, of factory meat production, of the role we can all play as eaters and shoppers if we not just appreciate the local, but BUY local? And how long will the big guns be able to get away with what they're doing?

My head spins. Michael Pollan's, thankfully, does not.

I understand that the average consumer is not going to read The Omnivore's Dilemma, even though everyone should. However, they might read this article, in which he does a brilliant job of making those leery connections for folks in just two pages.

First, and I've screamed it before and I'll scream it again, NO ONE SHOULD BE DRINKING SUPERMARKET MILK. It's not very sexy when I ramble on about early-onset menstruation, the scarily fast rate of development among young girls and boys on levels never before seen, and how the biggest culprit sits innocently on mass-market store shelves and looks the same as it always has. Yet kids today are growing up drinking hormones and antibiotics that didn't exist in the milk that we drank as kids. Why is that? Factory meat production and the race to be more and more profitable. And don't get me started on cellophane-wrapped meat in those same stores. Sigh...

So okay, early-onset menstruation can't be the slogan. But how about the record rate of staph infections, some of them very deadly, in hospitals? Now that's something that has been grabbing headlines and morning talk-show chatter. Pollan:

The first story is about MRSA, the very scary antibiotic-resistant strain of Staphylococcus bacteria that is now killing more Americans each year than AIDS — 100,000 infections leading to 19,000 deaths in 2005, according to estimates in The Journal of the American Medical Association. For years now, drug-resistant staph infections have been a problem in hospitals, where the heavy use of antibiotics can create resistant strains of bacteria. It’s Evolution 101: the drugs kill off all but the tiny handful of microbes that, by dint of a chance mutation, possess genes allowing them to withstand the onslaught; these hardy survivors then get to work building a drug-resistant superrace. .... a new and even more virulent strain — called “community-acquired MRSA” — is now killing young and otherwise healthy people who have not set foot in a hospital. No one is yet sure how or where this strain evolved, but it is sufficiently different from the hospital-bred strains to have some researchers looking elsewhere for its origin, to another environment where the heavy use of antibiotics is selecting for the evolution of a lethal new microbe: the concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFO.

The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that at least 70 percent of the antibiotics used in America are fed to animals living on factory farms. Raising vast numbers of pigs or chickens or cattle in close and filthy confinement simply would not be possible without the routine feeding of antibiotics to keep the animals from dying of infectious diseases. That the antibiotics speed up the animals’ growth also commends their use to industrial agriculture, but the crucial fact is that without these pharmaceuticals, meat production practiced on the scale and with the intensity we practice it could not be sustained for months, let alone decades.

Public-health experts have been warning us for years that this situation is a public-health disaster waiting to happen. Sooner or later, the profligate use of these antibiotics — in many cases the very same ones we depend on when we’re sick — would lead to the evolution of bacteria that could shake them off like a spring shower. It appears that “sooner or later” may be now.

If that's not bound to get soccer moms' attention, maybe bees will. The mystery of the decline in honeybees captivated folks over the summer. Where have they gone? What's wrong? Pollan has some answers that should shake up folks who still think agriculture doesn't affect the average person, or that our choices as consumers affect only our own wallets:
...whatever turns out to be the immediate cause of colony collapse, many entomologists believe some such disaster was waiting to happen: the lifestyle of the modern honeybee leaves the insects so stressed out and their immune systems so compromised that, much like livestock on factory farms, they’ve become vulnerable to whatever new infectious agent happens to come along.

You need look no farther than a California almond orchard to understand how these bees, which have become indispensable workers in the vast fields of industrial agriculture, could have gotten into such trouble. Like a great many other food crops, like an estimated one out of every three bites you eat, the almond depends on bees for pollination. No bees, no almonds. The problem is that almonds today are grown in such vast monocultures — 80 percent of the world’s crop comes from a 600,000-acre swath of orchard in California’s Central Valley — that, when the trees come into bloom for three weeks every February, there are simply not enough bees in the valley to pollinate all those flowers. For what bee would hang around an orchard where there’s absolutely nothing to eat for the 49 weeks of the year that the almond trees aren’t in bloom? So every February the almond growers must import an army of migrant honeybees to the Central Valley — more than a million hives housing as many as 40 billion bees in all.

They come on the backs of tractor-trailers from as far away as New England. These days, more than half of all the beehives in America are on the move to California every February, for what has been called the world’s greatest “pollination event.” (Be there!) Bees that have been dormant in the depths of a Minnesota winter are woken up to go to work in the California spring; to get them in shape to travel cross-country and wade into the vast orgy of almond bloom, their keepers ply them with “pollen patties” — which often include ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup and flower pollen imported from China. Because the pollination is so critical and the bee population so depleted, almond growers will pay up to $150 to rent a box of bees for three weeks, creating a multimillion-dollar industry of migrant beekeeping that barely existed a few decades ago. Thirty-five years ago you could rent a box of bees for $10.

In 2005 the demand for honeybees in California had so far outstripped supply that the U.S.D.A. approved the importation of bees from Australia. These bees get off a 747 at SFO and travel by truck to the Central Valley, where they get to work pollinating almond flowers — and mingling with bees arriving from every corner of America. As one beekeeper put it to Singeli Agnew in The San Francisco Chronicle, California’s almond orchards have become “one big brothel” — a place where each February bees swap microbes and parasites from all over the country and the world before returning home bearing whatever pathogens they may have picked up. Add to this their routine exposure to agricultural pesticides and you have a bee population ripe for an epidemic national in scope...

“We’re placing so many demands on bees we’re forgetting that they’re a living organism and that they have a seasonal life cycle,” Marla Spivak, a honeybee entomologist at the University of Minnesota, told The Chronicle. “We’re wanting them to function as a machine. . . . We’re expecting them to get off the truck and be fine.”

Pollan comes full-circle to his original point, which is that the word "sustainable" is about to become as neutral as "puppies" or "clouds," if it's not already.

We’re asking a lot of our bees. We’re asking a lot of our pigs too. That seems to be a hallmark of industrial agriculture: to maximize production and keep food as cheap as possible, it pushes natural systems and organisms to their limit, asking them to function as efficiently as machines. When the inevitable problems crop up — when bees or pigs remind us they are not machines — the system can be ingenious in finding “solutions,” whether in the form of antibiotics to keep pigs healthy or foreign bees to help pollinate the almonds. But this year’s solutions have a way of becoming next year’s problems. That is to say, they aren’t “sustainable.”

From this perspective, the story of Colony Collapse Disorder and the story of drug-resistant staph are the same story. Both are parables about the precariousness of monocultures. Whenever we try to rearrange natural systems along the lines of a machine or a factory, whether by raising too many pigs in one place or too many almond trees, whatever we may gain in industrial efficiency, we sacrifice in biological resilience. The question is not whether systems this brittle will break down, but when and how, and whether when they do, we’ll be prepared to treat the whole idea of sustainability as something more than a nice word.

And this long story brings me back full-circle to my original point, which is that the average consumer, while doing better by at least knowing what organics mean in part, is still making choices with limited information, misunderstanding, and thinking only about how much things cost.

I want people to understand that the way the majority of Americans currently eat is not natural, or inevitable, or justifiable in any way. Americans have become so disconnected from their food that many people forget products aren't born on grocery-stores shelves, meat isn't wrapped in plastic from the start, and there are entire boardrooms deciding for us what we should eat, and it's never for our own benefit. Eating the mass-produced way isn't good for our bodies, our environment, our neighbors, our animals, or anyone except corporations developing processed foods or agribusinesses growing it. And doing it for your wallet is increasingly less justifiable, too.

I understand the constraints of limited funds and how much pressure they can put on daily choices like what to have for dinner. I understand that a single mom working two jobs doesn't necessarily have time to cook fresh food from scratch, even if it's cheaper in the long-run. I understand that we're all at fault that rural America eats more fast food and is more obese than urban America. I think we should also all be part of that solution. Folks who must eat with their wallet, I'm not speaking to you. But to the vast majority of Americans who can afford to eat better and smarter: why aren't you?

Americans have got to understand, first, the fallacy of food pricing. A walk down the aisles of Smith's or Food Lion or Albertson's is literally the most subsidized walk one can take. None of those prices are real, and instead show false market prices that hide the cost of gas, the cost of transport, and the missing costs of agribusiness subsidies, land deals, and corporate padding. Food prices in places like Whole Foods (however problematic their corporate structure is) and co-ops are much closer to the actual price of food. We're so used to cheap food we can't even fathom real food prices anymore, and it's hurting us more each day.

The second food pricing reality we need to wrap our heads around is that food prices are increasing, quickly. Americans are used to paying only a tiny fraction of their cost of living toward food, and that's not a realistic percentage compared with the rest of the world. Here's where climbing food prices get really interesting, though: as pressure increases to end/change the subsidy program that rewards huge agribusiness in our country and gas prices continue to reach historic highs (and let's not be foolish - they will only continue to reach new highs), we're going to see the cost of a supermarket trip continue to increase. Since so-called "speciality" stores specializing in food with more realistic prices are not as dependent on these factors, they will begin to seem like a more attractive and realistic option for more and more Americans. I look forward to being able to talk about structural problems with modern food consumption when the playing field is more even.

But then what? Will we see corporations influence the organics market until it, too, is predominantly mass-produced and flown/trucked in from a far-away locale? Will eating organic come to mean nothing when the only true produce is bought and sold at a farmers market? Will consumers say screw it, and go entirely local? How would a more local eating palate affect the way we cook? How can we continue to tap into local food markets to provide food for schools, prisons, cafeterias, the needy, and more? There are so many ways to provide better food at a lower cost, really the stuff of a thousand more posts just as long as this one. It can be done, but it's going to take work.

I could go on and on about this, obviously. But I love this debate, and I love the ever-changing choices and discussions they inspire.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

MMM...good movies!

Maggie raves:

Juno... SWOON!

It's the opposite of No Country for Old Men, which you know I also loved. Look at me showing my range!

Brilliantly cast and written. Such a charmer.

More later... I'm hoping to finish "Atonement" before I get on a plane so I can check out the movie over the break, but in the meantime a few of us have been having a fun movie chat over on MySpace (provoked by our fearless leader Gene), if you feel like finding us.

Swooning, swooning, swooning....

Go be swooned yourself.

Huckabee Horror

Mikaela says:
Okay, the latest Huckabee news has me mystified on several levels.

Here's the story as reported by Democracy Now:

In a 1998 children’s book that also equated environmentalism with pornography, Huckabee wrote: “It is now difficult to keep track of the vast array of publicly endorsed and institutionally supported aberrations—from homosexuality and pedophilia to sadomasochism and necrophilia.” Asked about the comments, Huckabee campaign research director Joe Carter said: “No way is he saying that homosexuality is like having sex with dead people. That’s not it at all.”
Okay, problem #1: Since when has necrophilia been publicly endorsed and institutionally supported? Where exactly is that? I wanna make sure I never die there!

Problem #2: This is a kids book!?! What kind of weird, bad assumptions is he making about kids that any of them would 1) want to read this and 2) be helped by reading it??? SCARY! Makes me fear for his Adult Book! (Turns out, this is NOT a children's book, but rather a book inspired by a school shooting. Big difference, and shame on the media for confusing that vital distinction)

Problem #3: This man is running for President? You've got to be kidding me. This little paragraph is not an aberration, either. It's part of a pattern of intolerant speech and restrictive ideology. Don't believe me? Don't take my word for it: Take Huckabee's.

  • Huckabee in 1998:"I hope we...take this nation back for Christ"
  • Huckabee on AIDS in 1992: he proposed that people with the disease be quarantined.
  • Huckabee on the role of women in society in 1998 (a big year for this hater): endorsement of an ad affirming the Baptist teaching that a "wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband"
Mother Jones also looks into the pattern of Huckabee's thoughts in his 1998 book, Kids Who Kill: Confronting Our Culture of Violence:

[Huckabee] drew a rather harsh picture of an American society starkly split between people of faith and those of a secular bent, with the latter being a direct and immediate threat to the nation [because of their immoral and destructive behavior].

Huckabee argued that school shootings were the product of a society in decline, marked (and caused) by abortion, pornography, media violence, out-of-wedlock sex, divorce, drug use, and, of course, homosexuality. Huckabee and his coauthor bemoaned the "demoralization of America..."

Abortion, environmentalism, AIDS, pornography, drug abuse, and homosexual activism have fragmented and polarized our communities.

He slammed those Christians who accept a "misguided version of 'tolerance'" and do not voice outrage at cultural deterioration... He denounced "radical ideological secularism," and he declared, "in the name of civil liberties, cultural diversity, and political correctness, a radical agenda of willy-nilly moral corruption and ethical degeneration has pressed forward." ....

The legal commitment of ideological secularism to any and all of the fanatically twisted fringes of American culture—pornographers, gay activists, abortionists, and other professional liberationists—is a pathetically self-defeating crusade that has confused liberty with license.

Huckabee approvingly quoted a "pastor-patriot" of the early 1800s [my emphasis] who said, "Every considerate friend of civil liberty, in order to be consistent with himself, must be the friend of the Bible." ...

Huckabee ... also groused about unnamed "modern government-sponsored social engineers," claiming that "virtually every dollar poured into" government social programs "has only made matters worse." With such a remark, he was planting himself firmly in the government-is-the-enemy camp.

Huckabee claimed that "equality in the workplace has ironically worked against women in innumerable ways" ... [and] heaped scorn on those who advocate [for it].

So what to do about a culture that breeds kid killers? Faith is more important than policy or politics, Huckabee argued.

Men who have rejected God and do not walk in faith are more often than not immoral, impure, and improvident (Gal. 5:19-21). They are prone to extreme and destructive behavior, indulging in perverse vices and dissipating sensuality (1 Cor. 6:9-10). And they—along with their families and loved ones—are thus driven over the brink of destruction (Prov. 23:21).

Kids Who Kill presented a black-and-white perspective: environmentalists, homosexuals, civil libertarians, supporters of social programs, advocates of workplace equality, and nonbelievers are on the dark side and allied with the forces of decline; people who believe in the Bible are the decent Americans. In 1998, Huckabee was claiming a religion-oriented cultural war was under way in the United States and he was happy to be a warrior for his side.

Okay, so I realize he's not alone in thinking all this. And I realize that if you believe what he believes, you want to do something about it. But if you believe that faith is more important than policy or politics, why stop being a minister and become a politician who will shape ... policy?

I understand the underlying goal is to dismantle government and its social services, but doesn't the hypocrisy keep him up at night? Not liking current policy because it allows for the things he abhors, and government shouldn't have that role, so instead he's going to change the rules so that it does what others abhor?

It's this Catch-22 that drives me crazy. If you really believe that government should stay out of social policy, then KEEP GOVERNMENT OUT OF SOCIAL POLICY. Trust the individual to make the right choice for themselves, and leave it between him/her and his/her God. Right? Isn't that the point, here? Even the Bible supports the idea of free will, so let's embrace it and its implications. The very idea of using a tool you don't believe in -- policy and politics -- to legislate your personal beliefs? BAD IDEA.

In my mind, there needs to be an acknowledgment of the difference between "institutional support" of some behavior or other and government protection for individual freedom. It's the basis of our entire system -- our country -- our founding as a nation with liberty and justice for all, not just those who believe as we do.

The Right is smart to appropriate the protection of freedom and civil liberties, calling them "social activism" and equating them with moral decline and corruption. It's working. But I still believe that freedom and liberty protects your right to religious freedom AND sexual freedom, and I trust that there are a fair number (please, please a majority!) of folks who see that, too. We are a nation of plural beliefs; the day that we stop protecting that freedom is the day America ceases to be a nation of liberty, nevermind justice.

My instinct is to say, "This guy has no CHANCE of being President! Surely no one would vote for a hate-speech-spewing, ideologically driven, social fascist." Then I remember that he got elected Governor.

Holy crap.

Marjorie and I went to go see former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor last week. She made a big fuss about the real problem with our government today is the lack of cordiality between folks who disagree. We're so polarized, and so nasty about it, that nothing gets done. As though all our problems are caused by the acrimony of our fights.

She didn't seem to give any credit to the fact that we're polarized at the most fundamental level -- fighting for what freedom really means, and what the government's role is in protecting it, and how that should happen.

Of course it gets nasty! These are our most cherished and closely held beliefs! On both sides!

I agree things would be better if we could debate things calmly -- we'd be able to hear each other much better -- but in my mind, that can't happen until both sides acknowledge the real fight we're having -- not the surface issues that are really just the tip of a giant iceberg, but the iceberg itself -- the one we're all heading toward at a fast clip -- the one that's melting not quite fast enough to save us from certain shipwreck.

Who's got the lifeboats? Oh, right. The rich. The powerful. And we won't hear a thing about it thanks to the recent FCC ruling allowing media consolidation into the hands of the rich and powerful.

It's a pretty pickle, isn't it? Oh how I wish we weren't locked in the jar.

Hey, kid! You, Bush! Stop tapping on the glass! Can't you read the sign? It bothers the ones inside.

War Nation

marjorie says...

Monahan points out an interesting Steve Pearce quote found in the Valencia County News-Bulletin:

"Pearce said he would not vote to bring home the troops until the job is done and predicts that American troops will continue to have a presence in the Middle East as they have been since World War II in Germany and Japan and in South Korea after the Korean conflict.

"We fought that war in the '40s, and we still have troops in Germany and Japan 60 years later," he said. "We still have troops in Korea 50 years later. So I think, 50 years from now, we'll still have some troop presence in Iraq and in the Middle East."

Well? Nice to see someone being honest about it. This is what all the Bush folks believe, and frankly, I figure most other Republicans as well as Democrats believe it also. Why else would we spend so much money building all those military installations? We're a war nation. Our economy depends on it. And I suspect our collective sense of ourselves does as well.

Stocking Sunrise

Knox-Henderson December morning

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Hard at Work

Mikaela says:
Well, I don't know what's wrong with these ladies, but I'm HARD AT WORK, which is how I found out that Peter Jackson is now going to make not one but TWO Hobbit movies, prequels to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy that pretty much rocked my world.

Not sure why they couldn't stretch Hobbit to THREE movies, cause jeez, as long as you're shooting filler ... Go for the full trilogy!

But ok, Peter, if you want to be an underachiever, I guess that's okay with me. Ha ha.

Can you imagine? A whole new duo of eye candy!

The real shame is that the cast will be so different. Maybe they'll flash forward to Viggo? Will Gandolf be the same???

Feeling Maggie

marjorie says...

Like Maggie, I'm having a hard time focusing this morning. I think its the time of year, but it seems I'm already on vacation. I guess I could write a long post about last night's City Council endorsement of corporate welfare, or the fact that NM is in fact solidifying it's nuclear weapons production role in our world rather than rolling it back, or I could dive into the ins and outs of the socio-economic battles ahead of us in 2008.

But really, I'd rather just fantasize about the (real) inter-galactic battle raging at this very moment, or the fact that Pam's gonna make it (yea!!), or simply daydream about the first week in January.

Here's a picture for you Maggie, I think you've seen it before. Circa 1930, it's perfect in every way, and most certainly one of the more cheerful quilts I've ever had.

It's only Tuesday

Maggie groans:
Never in the history of The Onion has a single post summed up my attitude better than this one: It's Only Tuesday.

Tuesday's arrival stunned a nation still recovering from the nightmarish slog that was Monday, leaving some to wonder if the week was ever going to end, and others to ask what was taking Saturday so goddamn long.

"Ugh," said Wagner, echoing a national sense of frustration over it not even being Wednesday at the very least.

According to suddenly depressed sources, the feeling that this week may in fact last forever was further compounded by the thought of all the work left to be done tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, and, if Americans make it that far, possibly even Friday, for Christ's sake.

Fears that the week could actually be going backwards were also expressed.

Not sure what my problem is. Maybe I'm still recovering from last night's office holiday dinner at Stephan Pyles, which featured an outrageously decadent ten-course tasting menu and really required a full day's rest after it was over. Wow.

Maybe I'm freaking out about so many Christmas gifts left to find, and so little time. Or maybe my mom's note is getting me worked up about not being home yet to help out: "Get ready for an all-night wrapping party when you arrive!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Maybe I honestly feel like it should be September 22, or October 12, or maaaaybe November 9, but certainly not December 18. Didn't I just move here last week?

Maybe I haven't seen enough movies this fall. Maybe I haven't read enough books. Maybe it's that I still haven't been to the Sixth Floor Museum. Maybe it's that the "check engine" light just came on in my car. Maybe it's that I never finished the Sunday Times this weekend.

Maybe I just need a nap.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Form-Based Code and Other Planning Ponderings

Mikaela says:
If you haven't been following the under-the-radar "debate" about adding Form-Based Code to the City's bag of planning tricks, you can read a great summary of the public information meeting December 8 by Ben Roberts, with whom, it turns out, I think I shared an English Lit class way back ago. (Such. A. Small. Town.)

Unfortunately, I couldn't go to the meeting because the County scheduled the summary session of the design charrette for the Ditches-with-Trails prototype for the same day.

Here are a few off-the-cuff reactions to the proposed Form-Based Code thing:

  • Ben's main question, of who's pushing for this and why (who pays? who benefits?) is still unanswered.
  • In general, the Form-Based Code movement is brought to you by the same folks that brought you picket-fence communities, as though the only thing developers want to build anymore is sea-side condos connected by sidewalks to a public square with a post office. All the hubbub about giving more freedom for different neighborhoods to look different is a bunch of hooha. They'll try to make one design code fit all, you just wait. And it won't be one that fits most. The folks who seem to be advocating this thing are for higher-density, mixed-use development, which is great for some, not great for others. In some sense, Euclidean Zoning provides more flexibility, because it doesn't tell you how to design, it just says you can't house one use near a use that conflicts with another. Is there an opportunity to relax those strict lines between uses for C-1 and O-1? Sure. But let's talk about that, versus throwing out the baby, the bathwater, and the regulations protecting them both!
  • Which brings me to my biggest question about how to protect nearby residents from uses that could fit themselves into a generic design-code place but that shouldn't really be there. There are many uses that can be adapted to have minimal daily impact on their neighbors that still pose safety risks if all hell breaks loose. If the Form-Based Code erases the public notice process, or constricts the public process to talk through what risks uses pose and how each company is addressing them to the satisfaction of the City and their neighbors, I think we lose a powerful opportunity for oversight and safety. The developers of a Solid Waste Transfer Station may believe they pose absolutely no risk and have no impact on their neighbors, whereas the neighbors might disagree and like some discussion of what's safe, what level of impact is really acceptable, etc. Same for most businesses and the ratio of acceptable traffic impact, for example. While standard Euclidean Zoning is not the best or most flexible solution for many things, it's basic intention to protect the public safety and welfare is vital, and in my mind, Form-Based Code not only doesn't do better -- it eliminates protection. What do you want ultimate control over? How the building next to you looks, or whether it contains a business that poses a safety hazard for your family? I mean, really.

Definition of a Liebermanite

marjorie says...

In some of my previous posts I've questioned whether certain candidates would be "Liebermanites" if they were elected to the Congress. In case you weren't clear about my meaning, you can read this to see for yourself.

I hope the Democratic Party never makes the mistake of putting forward someone like this man for VP again. And regarding the person I posed the question about, I think in the past few weeks it's abundantly clear that he is not a Liebermanite.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Mmm... good movies!

Maggie says:
We caught No Country for Old Men last night and are still reeling today from its harrowing stillness. Wow. It's hard to imagine another movie this year catching No Country for Best Picture, which is more Coen Brothers brilliance than I could've hoped for. Not to mention, No Country's performances are career-defining for everyone involved. Javier Bardem - always stellar - is simply spectacular here. Josh Brolin is a revelation. Tommy Lee Jones reminds me exactly why The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada is so phenomenal, and why I need to see it again. So watch No Country, now. And if its merits aren't enough of a reason, you can always just see it for Albuquerque.


No Country for Old Men was filmed in New Mexico, and parts of Albuquerque are on full display throughout the film. Downtown is shot up and bloodied during one of Bardem and Brolin's fights to the death, and East Central sits in for a seedy El Paso locale later on. Some folks have decried the fact that today's downtown ABQ looks like 1980 Texas, but the setting really is nailed here. Maybe it's a good thing for ABQ's politicians, planners, and place-makers to see how the city appears to others, even if it won't incite much change.

It was fun for the two of us, though, tucked away from a cold Dallas thunderstorm in a packed movie theater, to see two remarkable actors running down the very ABQ streets that we once walked to see each other. It's feeling increasingly forever-ago that we both lived in the Duke City (just about a year exactly, actually). Seeing those places on screen last night, though - in the most remarkable movie I've seen in ages - put a huge grin on my face, however bloodied they were on film.

And that it was followed up by the best cinematic take on self-bullet removal I've ever seen? Perfect.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Go Buckeyes!

marjorie says...

I've all of a sudden shifted into Texas mode. The thought of Santa Fe is appealing this weekend, but I'd much rather be in Waco watching our home town team battle it out for the State Championship. That's right: Texas High School Football, 3A State Championship!!

We all know what they say, and it's all true: just getting to this moment is a monumental achievement. Not to mention, this small East Texas town has sent an amazing number of young men to big universities on football scholarships over the past four years. So whichever way it goes, it's still all good.

Both teams are offensive powerhouses, so it's going to most likely come down to a strong defense. As Coach Traylor says:

“Our defense is going to have to have a mindset this week that is just totally different,” admitted Traylor. “It is going to be a battle of absolute will. At some point they think you’re going to say, I surrender. Our defense has just got to be so physical, and just hang in there and keep battling.”

It may be snowing in New Mexico, but I'd much rather be making the three hour trek to Baylor with my folks and the rest of town tomorrow. I'll have to settle for listening in. It's going to be a tough game, but I think our Black Flag Defense can pull it out. Go Buckeyes!


Mikaela says:
Well, I'm on a roll. Much as my Scrooge-post makes me out to be agonized every second over this whole Christmas thing, I'm really not spending much time on it. Really!

Instead, I'm trying, as always, to keep some perspective. Actually, to keep multiple perspectives!

This morning, I'm thankful to Maggie's niece for reminding me that Christmas holds wonder for many people. And I'm thankful, as I often am, for the jarring perspective from the fascinating and mysterious "Or Does It Explode" blog that focuses on bringing freedom to the Middle East -- from a grassroots effort of communities to change in the ways they choose, versus our version -- democracy at the point of a gun.

I try not to make assumptions about who this blogger is, but the questions keep coming -- Is it someone inside a Middle East country? In America? In Europe? A woman? A man? A student? Multiple people? Not sure, and I'm not sure I want to know. I try to take the articles for what they're worth and just be thankful for a slightly different perspective than I get from anywhere else -- a window into a world that my country only fears. It's telling to me that the blog chooses not to reveal any "about me" information. What a world! What courage to write from the belly of a beast that has no "outside." You tell me. From which country would it be safe to write from this perspective? And if it is from inside Tehran? Think of the consequences if the blogger were ever exposed!

From a few days ago, this story on a student protest in Iran. Didn't hear about it? Me, either. As I said, this blog is a great reminder that the news we get is not the news of the world. We are not the center. We are hardly leaders in any way!

This morning my heart-felt solidarity goes to these young women in Iran, risking their lives, most likely, to protest for their freedom and independence. As the mysterious blogger says, "You go, girls! Keep it coming."

Spotted in Dallas

Maggie spies:

It's Christmas in Dallas, which means big $ at the mall and big $ in your front yard, if you have one. So imagine, then:

  • A rented luxury bus, where beer and wine flowed freely and pizza boxes were plentiful, touring Dallas' best real estate under the guise of checking out their Christmas lights. (Did I mention I was on this bus?)
  • Neighborhoods packed with buses and limos doing the same thing. Is this a new trend everywhere, or just in Dallas?
  • Folks spilling out of our bus, drinks in hand, to pose with a front yard's toy soldiers and life-size nativity characters. Irony noted. (Did I mention I was in that group photo?)
  • In one of Dallas' toniest 'hoods, an American flag made solely from Christmas lights with a phrase underneath. I steeled myself for the worst "patriotic," pro-war expression possible, but when the bus pulled around, saw this instead: "One Nation, Many Faiths." Talk about a pleasant surprise.
And for the celeb-hungry among us:
  • Angie Harmon, Christmas shopping at Highland Park Village in full-length fur, as spotted by my NC best friend, who was in town to make sure I'm surviving the Texas transition.

In hopes of giving Mikaela some holiday cheer

Maggie offers:

My adorable niece, Taylor Rae

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Stinking to High Heaven

marjorie says...

We haven't touched on it much here, but one of the big controversies in Albuquerque at the moment is the issue of Tax Increment Development Districts being created on massive tracts of undeveloped land. Just this week, powerful politicians are stepping up to bat for SunCal, the company that wants to develop 50,000 acres with the help of tax payer money. First we had our Mayor veto'ing legislation passed at the City Council barring future creation of TIDDs in "greenfields" and then we had County Commissioner Tim Cummins going on a completely over-the-top rant about "social engineering" and "liars spreading misinformation" at the County meeting the other night that created 9 TIDDs for SunCal.

As the Journal pointed out this week, Marty Chavez is quite cozy with SunCal, as evidenced by his recent campaign manager also being employed by SunCal's lobbying firm. I wish they had also pointed out the large sums of money donated to Marty by SunCal just this year as well. As in, $5000! This morning is the kicker in a Journal editorial, where they basically connect the TIDDs to us poor voters thusly:

"Now the familiar refrain comes from the Chávez camp. It's believable— if you can believe that a roster of successful companies are being suckered by lobbyists, instead of the suckers being voters with little access."
Gee, I really don't think I could have said it better. Now, if only the Journal would revisit the subject of all that land Tim Cummins owns out there on the westside, which he is actively developing. He stands to make a BUNDLE out there, and he should have recused himself from the vote on Tuesday night just as he did regarding the Tempur Pedic IRB. As to "social engineering," maybe he ought to turn the mirror on himself.

The powerful and their land development deals really stink to high heaven a lot of the time.

It's wrong to deport children

marjorie says...

I'm often struck by the degree to which legalism permeates the way some people approach life. We are incredibly fortunate as a society to be so oriented toward the rule of law. It provides us a lot of protection. Nonetheless, our laws are simply man-made rules, not mandates from God. This is why we are always passing new ones to provide more nuance, or simply eliminate old ones. And this is why we have a long-standing tradition of civil disobedience in this country as well. To change the law often requires we change public perception first.

I don't always understand at first why a particular law may be harmful, because it doesn't affect me. I need people to point things out much of the time. Then there are other times when I have what I call my legal gut check. You know, everyone experiences it I think: "This is just wrong."

Which gets me back to the beginning. It's odd to me that some people are so wedded to the refrain "It's the law." As with the fellow in Roswell who referred an 18-year old pregnant high school student to the Feds, who then deported her.

Asked if he thought school-based officer Charlie Corn acted appropriately when he checked Karina Acosta's immigration status during a minor traffic stop, and subsequently referred her to immigration authorities, Roswell Police Chief John Balderston said:

"Does it matter— an 18-year-old? Where do we say no, that we are not going to enforce the laws of our land?"

Well, I say this is just wrong. Not to mention, it's racist also.

It's wrong because children grow up here without papers. Regardless of what you think about their parents, they had no choice in the matter and this is their home. Borders and laws be damned.

It's racist because it's easy for many white people to think this way when these immigration laws will never come close to affecting them or their families. I can see that some people enshrine legalism as their point of reference regardless of the outcome, which is problematic enough. But Balderston exposes himself when he goes on to say:

"It's not just people coming from Mexico, we have concerns about Middle Eastern men," Balderston said. "If we don't check (immigration status), if we turn our back, we are doing our country a disservice."

No, Balderston, your attitude does us a great disservice.

It's reported in the article that no one seems to know where Karina is at the moment. Well we need to find out. She deserves better, and so does her baby.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Great Marty Quote

As told to the Albuquerque Journal, on why he won't run for the U.S. House:

"Chávez, in a telephone interview, blasted the U.S. House of Representatives and said that jumping into the race for the open, Albuquerque-based seat is "not an option."

"The House is "not a place where I want to be," said Chávez, who late last week unexpectedly abandoned his short-lived bid for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.

"He said Tuesday that while the Senate remains a place where "individuals of substance gather," the House— whose members face re-election every two years, compared with six-year terms for senators— is "not a place for ladies and gentlemen any longer. ... They play a type of politics (that) I think is destructive.""

Open Source Christmas Lyrics

Mikaela says:
I've pretty much been in a funk since Halloween. Maybe the slide into dark days, maybe the cliff edge of two major projects ending, maybe the impending doom of family holidays...

As a steam release valve, in my idle moments, I'm pondering lyrics to a sarcastic family Christmas ballad that incoporates the phrase, "Why yes, Mom, we'd be happy to come over for yet another holiday celebration tomorrow."

Got a running list of things you hate but have to sign up for? Send them to me.

Some ideas to whet your whistle:

  • Christmas w/ mom
  • Christmas w/ dad
  • Christmas cards
  • Christmas plays
  • Christmas church service
  • Christmas shopping
  • Christmas decorations
  • Christmas movie re-runs
  • Christmas muzak
  • Expectations of Christmas cheer

Growth talk

Maggie says:
Fascinating tidbits around the web regarding growth:

  • The Times Freakonomics blog offers several thoughtful responses to data that shows more of the globe now living in cities than rural areas, and what implications that shift might contain. Check it out for musings from James Howard Kunstler, Dolores Hayden, and more. Yummy stuff, and varied person-to-person. How Should We Be Thinking About Urbanization?
  • This morning on NPR, Juan Williams reported on a recent trip to China that dug into Chinese fears that U.S. consumers are backing off from Chinese-produced products. The best part of the piece, however, dealt with development in Beijing leading up to the Summer Olympics. Williams quotes a local developer saying that because Beijing has no controls equivalent to U.S. building standards and zoning regulations, developers are making huge profits off the race for made-for-TV modernization in Beijing. In a quest to look the part come summer, Beijing is promoting growth via a municipal structure wherein employees are rated and paid based on how much economic growth comes out of the projects approved in their districts. The mind boggles at the implications there, and of how it would all look crumbling down in a disaster during the Olympics... with the cameras rolling, of course. Yikes. (Bonus: Juan telling his wife to remember to breathe during their visit to the Great Wall because of how thick the pollution was, and wondering how in the world athletes will be able to perform in '08 given the smog, a widespread concern.) China, a Display of Stunning Economic Activity.

MMM...good books!

Maggie says:
Last month I read The United States of Arugula: The Sun-Dried, Cold-Pressed, Dark-Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution, and I still miss it. I can't remember the last time nonfiction has been such a complete pleasure to read. I tend to go for more painful subjects, so this was a guilty pleasure in the best way possible.

David Kamp is a fantastic writer, and he presents the tale of American food in a lively, witty, self-deprecating manner that endlessly charms. Kamp's knack for detail, cultural commentary, and use of choice quotes helps us follow the journey of food through the last two centuries, learning boatloads of trivia and obscure foodie knowledge along the way. For readers who can be seduced by food, this is a book for you, as stuffed full of personalities, romance, and tempers as it is supply, demand, and profit.

To me, the shock is in the timeline. I was consistently floored by how recently everyday foodstuffs like olive oil, salsa, balsamic vinegar, and fresh herbs were entirely absent from the American eating experience. Kamp quotes Californian chefs smuggling seeds in from Europe to (finally!) grow fresh herbs in this country, New York articles explaining the novelty of pizza (including how to pronounce it) to readers just fifty years ago, and the bounty of Jello-related recipes in mid-century women's magazines that reflect the so-called miracles of canned and processed foods. Without too much idolatry and a great sense of humor, Kamp helps us appreciate the sheer adventurousness and bravery of some of our food leaders like James Beard, Julia Child, and Craig Claiborne without ever losing his sense of perspective. He eases us into the world of French-dominated cuisine and how long it took - and why - for the United States to craft its own food identity, one that looked much more like its population. Through decades of intense change, we follow menus being crafted based on what's local for the first time ever, gender shifts in the game of food-talk, the raucousness of drug-fueled kitchens, the bite of restaurant reviews, and the rise of the "restaurant as entertainment" destination. Kamp's keen eye never skips a beat on entrepreneurship, food marketing and appeal, and the lifestyle/home shifts that enabled and spurred all this change.

To me, food is inherently political, and this outrageously fun read allows that perspective as much as it promotes snob-appeal ponderings. It's a great taking-off point for serious thinking about shifts in local produce and sustainability (read this, then The Omnivore's Dilemma), and you'll learn loads of fluff as well as practical knowledge along the way. This book is all about indulgence, learning, getting hungry, and yes, laughing out loud. My experience with "The United States of Arugula" is best summed up by the comment of a close observer: "I think you're purposely reading that so slowly because you don't ever want it to end." So true.

Torture, Sex, & Moral Indignation

marjorie says...

This may be the best Tom Tomorrow I've seen. Click on it for a bigger version.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

December Skies

Eric Francis says:
Here's your Horoscopes for the Holidays...

Aries (March 20-April 19)
Usually we humans don't look back. At least here in the Western world, particularly in the United States, we have a disdain of history and we disregard the past. As an Aries, you are born under one of the most forward-thinking signs, but the long Mars retrograde that began in your sign last month is taking you on a deep review of the past: how you felt in the past, what influenced you, and most of all, what has contributed to your sense of unease or vulnerability. You may feel like you don't want to go some of the places that Mars is taking you. You may be inclined to think that the past is over and therefore you don't want any part of it. But how we feel about the past is what limits us in the present. Take these opportunities to resolve what has been left unresolved for so long. Be mindful of the depth of your feelings, including your frustration and most of all, your desire to express yourself. What is the emotional knot that holds you back? Now is the time to untangle it.

Cancer (June 21-July 22)
You've always placed a high value on durable relationships, but you are about to discover why that is so. For as much as you want and need love and companionship, the world has a way of making sure you wait for them, and that you take it slowly when they are available; and in recent years, the delays have seemed unbearable. Yet you do not need to confuse delays with denial. Even in our world where time can do so much damage, eventually time becomes our most significant tool. In physical reality, time is really all we have. Therefore, the only sane or practical way to use time is as a resource. That being said, it is the present and not the future that has an extraordinarily compelling property. Please do not shrink from the moment: rise to it, meet it consciously, meet it boldly. If you discover a reason to doubt yourself, consider at least two reasons that you have to be self-assured. In the coming weeks, people are likely to be taking a lot higher view of you than you usually have of yourself. Go past believing anything anyone says; make sure you match their vision of you with a vision of your own.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22)
So much of your energy in recent years has been invested in creating a safe and dependable security base. Yet at least you believe that such is possible. In that time you have come to depend on something deeper than yourself to provide that security. You have put your roots deep into the ground, deep into the world, and solidly into the soul of the world. As a Virgo, you are blessed with an organic spirituality that is one with your most practical worldview. You are now being called upon to go beyond both of these things, and begin to express yourself in ways that push past the limits of your hang-ups. You are destined to care less what people think of you; less about how your parents might respond if they knew the real contents of your mind; and less indeed about what your children would think, if you have any. Caring about these things has only served to block your creative process, your sexual independence and your drive to be free and celebrate your life. Forget about being safe for a while. That is a ruse. All that counts now is whether you enjoy your life, and that is a worthy goal.

Sandra Day's legacy

marjorie says...

Thanks to DfNM for posting Al Gore's Nobel acceptance speech, and for pulling out this quote:

"Seven years ago tomorrow, I read my own political obituary in a judgment that seemed to me harsh and mistaken - if not premature. But that unwelcome verdict also brought a precious if painful gift: an opportunity to search for fresh new ways to serve my purpose. Unexpectedly that quest has brought me here."

I agree with Al Gore that it was a mistaken, and premature, decision. But I also think it was profoundly mistaken that it was decided by the Supreme Court in the first place. I hope that we never again find ourselves in a position where the Supreme Court decides the Presidency. I'm not a scholar, but from my lay perspective the Supreme Court is becoming increasingly polarized along political lines, with that particular instance forever going down in our history as setting a dangerous precedent. And I fear it will forever be attached to Sandra Day O'Connor in the minds of progressives. I think this is unfortunate, because she's a brilliant woman who fell on our side of the equation in her decisions on plenty of occasions. Maybe someone will ask her about that decision in 2000 when she speaks on Thursday night at the Kiva Auditorium. I wonder if her perspectives on it have evolved over the past seven years. Regardless, I think her legacy is strong and look forward to hearing what she has to say.

Spotted in Dallas

Maggie spies:

Us, unphotogenically captured at the Iron & Wine show at The Palladium last night.

ps: I told you so

Link of the day

Maggie says:
A recent Feministing post kicks so much ass that all I can say is, go read it.

Feministing: There's nothing rebellious about purity

Taking on recent articles equating father-oriented "purity balls" as a revolutionary approach to girl-power, Jessica brilliantly opines:

"Pop culture tells women that their bodies are public property and that they have to be sexual in order to be desirable and loved. Purity balls and the like tell women that their bodies are private property (though not our own of course--our bodies belong to our fathers, husbands, and the men in our life) and that they have to be virginal in order to be desirable and loved. In either case women's sexuality belongs to everyone but women. There's nothing counter-cultural or cutting edge about that."

Feministing nails it again.

Monday, December 10, 2007


marjorie says...

Trona, California 2006

This is a direct repost from Alterdestiny. Erik has a "Historical Image of the Day" series that is great. Every week he posts pictures that span the centuries. Always very interesting. Given the current brouhaha about the Mormons I thought this one was particularly interesting. Click on it to see it large.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Whirling Dervish Quilt

marjorie says...

I call this the whirling dervish quilt. More often you hear it called some variation of cobweb, or spiderweb. As you can tell, it was windy the day I took the picture.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Blogging Marty Chavez

marjorie says...

I'm really trying to stay above the fray today. I even tried to change the subject to gender. But I just can't help it. Marty Chavez dropping his Senate run is BIG news. For progressives who for years have felt attacked by Marty, it's a big sigh of relief. Not because we thought he'd win, but because we feared he might.

It isn't pleasant to contemplate working for Marty when time and again he's insulted you, not acknowledged the good work you do (or worse, co-opted the good work you do), all the while piling on one act after another to undermine the progressive vision so many in this city have.

But contemplate it I have been. While I know in a primary contest I would have supported Udall, over the past couple of months I've also been trying to wrap my head around the positives of Marty Chavez over Heather Wilson in a Senate race. We all know there are plenty.

At this moment in time, I want to be gracious and say "Thanks, and good luck Marty." And, ok, consider this spot right here my moment of silence. But then of course, I realize he's still Mayor and tomorrow will undoubtedly continue to act out in the way he always has. Anyhow, for now let me just point out some classics in the blogosphere here in Albuquerque. It's a lovefest out there (and aren't we all just a little...umm...strangely fascinated with the guy?).

In the Duke City Fix comments, we have recipe suggestions for a Marty Martini...Coco has the highlights: "Misterhinkydink suggested Fabreze, sliced beets and sen-sen. Proportions are irrelevant. And Freekboy chimed in with equal parts vodka and bullshit."

Over at Democracy for New Mexico, Barb tells it like it is:
"Walk away from the computer for an hour and so and look what happens. One of our wildest dreams comes true. Guess he couldn't find enough campaign donors. I still can't quite believe it. Marty giving up? On anything? The reactions he got to his run in the Dem primary for U.S. Senate must have been harsh indeed. Not only from bloggers, but from the heavyweights in the Party and beyond. Talk about the ultimate slapdown."

And LP at NMFBIHOP is in fullbore speculation mode:"Will he go back to his ill-fated race for governor? Doubtful. Chavez had a reason for dropping out of the race for governor, and I'm not sure if all that much has changed for his reasoning; ...So that means Marty is done politically after his second term as mayor ...? ...Nope. He might run for a third term as mayor, challenging the term limits."

From Jim Baca: "I think maybe he had a compass he was looking at too, and it said he couldn't win. Marty is not a stupid politician and he knew that his hard campaigning got him nowhere fast and things weren't likely to start working no matter how much he tried."

From Scott at Burque Babble: "What a great week it's been! And what a great way to go into the weekend! Work-schmerk, soul-deflating, schmoul-deflating...let's party!"

The rightwingers at The Eye reflect on "The Almighty" must check out the comments (Tell me, how is it that there is so much unity about Marty across the spectrum in this city? Something to think about, in a self-reflective way perhaps). "There's no doubt that today The Almighty has fallen. The only remaining questions are how far and what kind of vengeance he will mete out while serving out the rest of his term."